New England Patriots 23 – New York Giants 22
Overall: This the final game of the season, most resembled the opener against the Bills. The Giants began the game superbly against a clearly favored AFC East opponent, a win seemed in the bag, and of course they blew it. A 22-0 half-time lead seemingly evaporated as the Patriots put together just enough big plays to eke out the game by one point. But folks, I’m going to take a different approach to this game review, putting a spin on it I have yet to hear.
From a Giant fan’s perspective, Saturday was mighty enjoyable. An entertaining afternoon that offered the best of all scenarios. The Giants represented themselves well, played almost all facets of the game with excellence, and still improved their draft position enormously. We watched Brown play his best game yet, the offensive line gel and Strahan and Bratzke dominate as the defense showcased their development. In the end, it was Terry Glenn, the man the Giants should have selected, Parcells, Bledsoe and Meggett who nervously pulled off the sneaky comeback.
There are reasons for optimism, however. George Young has gotten with the program and now has a plan working for this Cap-Agency era. Saturday afternoon shed more light on some of the players and things like potential and quality of character. There are some budding roses on this team, growing together. Reeves admits so much when he said, “this is the hardest working, most enjoyable group I have ever coached”. Hey maybe the psychological tests do have some merit. The current nucleus inspires one to look forward to Fassel era. He will come in here, rearrange some parts and come out with a better whole. Look for a much more cohesive and balanced offense around here, next year. Just as important is for the D to continue it’s progress and takes that “next step”. A couple of propositions I will mention below, are hopefully considered when the new staff assesses the team.
Finally G. Young must reaffirm our faith in the top level of this organization (one only needs to look at the Jets to realize the Young-Boisture and co. structure is solid). George must A) Hire Fassel immediately after a couple of quick interviews, while imparting on him the need to hire a defensive guru who knows what to do with the current components B) Draft an impact player with the #1 and a solid starter with the #2 C)Resign a few restricted Giants and look for a key free agent or two aggressively, hoping you get one.
QB: OK, the restructuring starts with QB and ebbs throughout the entire Giant offensive scheme. Brown will be rejuvenated under any new system, but he will especially benefit from the tutelage of Fassel. Fassel has been a success with QB’s throughout his career coaching. He will get the most from Brown and will be able to best assess his abilities. Kanell will add an interesting dynamic. The coach will assuredly be testing his goods at back-up, looking to evaluate immediately if he’s got a challenger. Surely Fassel will keep a trained eye on Danny.
As Dave showed Saturday, he is capable of delivering a commanding ball with accuracy. He played an awesome first half and his play should have yielded even more points then it did. Brown will capitalize on the semi-west coast style of offense Fassel likes to run. His approach mixes a simpler running attack, with the short passing game – two-step drops and slants – and downfield patterns. He is a believer in making teams pay for keying on the run. Expect more passes to the TE’s and backs and a quicker, multi-dimensional offense. This will put Brown in a position to achieve while still relieving pressure from him.
Backs: Charles led the Way rushing effectively and catching 3 for 50 yards. Next year be prepared to see Way catch three times as many balls. Downs proved he could spell the feature backs, but he does not have the size and moves to be much more than a reserve. I expect Fassel to breathe new life into this group, by changing and adding to their roles.
TE’s: No impact from the TE’s, although Cross made a number of solid blocks during two drives in particular. Pierce will receive a great opportunity next year as the H-back should go the way of the flanker.
Receivers: Lewis was sterling on that 35 yard grab and impressed throughout, displaying oodles of talent and speed. Then to cap off his day, he drops the pass that puts them in position for the winning field goal. Actually look on the bright side, thank you Thomas for helping the Giants move up three or more picks in the draft. Calloway makes a good possession receiver and blocker. The Giants are clearly missing another fast WR. Can you say Rae? Expect vast improvement with the new offensive scheme, as long as they stay healthy and add another threat. Aside from the two mentioned and Toomer, the rest should be gone.
O-Line: High quality output from this unit Saturday. Pass protection was excellent in the first half and better than many said in the second. The run blocks were there, even for Way who didn’t have the luxury of a lead blocker. Although the Giants were unable to push-it in, on the first drive, holes were opened throughout the rest of the game. Brian Williams had a strong performance as did both guards – Stone and Smith. Bishop held his man at bay for most of the contest. Gragg was a bit less effective, specifically in the second half and during the Pats early goal-line stand. Expect an addition or two during the off-season. Then it will be all up to the coaching staff. There is work to be done and decisions need to be made. Oben, Zatechka? Do they just say good-bye to a still effective, inexpensive, classy veteran in Smith? Does Bishop move back to guard if the Giants take a LT? How do they accelerate Gragg’s progress? Questions, questions.
The D as a Unit: The defense as a whole was top-notch and could move into the upper class next year, with some minor tweaks and a big addition. These guys came to play, as did the offense. The difference was that the first half offense surprised us, where the defense just confirmed what they have been demonstrating all along. There are some hard workers on this defense, along with some budding talent. Let’s start with the line.
D-Line: Strahan had one of his best games since the earlier parts of the season. For someone who had only a few assists, Mike made a huge impact, man-handling the double team and helping the rest of his teammates absolutely squash the run. His pressure was the cause of the two sacks. Bratzke was the recipient of one of the sacks, but he certainly earned the tally with a strong but quick outside rush. Chad had another super solid game, and slipped his blocks often to meet opposing rushers. The play of the Ends served to completely eliminate any yardage on the ground. At DT, Harris played quite well and Agnew actually had his best game as a Giant. However, the DT’s were not quite up to the task of sustaining the pressure on Bledsoe during the second half. It will be either at DT or Strongside LB that the Giants must add a complete player.
LB’s: Armstead is the type of player we love. He was competing because there was another team on the field and that is all that mattered. Jessie has been the most consistent performer in the front seven and has become one of the best LB’s in coverage. Consistently he stops guys in front of him on short passing routes. Get ready for him to have a Pro Bowl year, next season. The careers of Armstead, Strahan and Spark’s are entering full bloom. Widmer also continued to improve this season, to the point where he is no longer a weakness in this defense. Miller who has a lot of potential, should be challenged next year by an even more talented guy who possesses the instinct, power and intangibles that just have not surfaced enough with Miller.
Secondary: Alright, you made it this far, now time for my most radical proposal. Bucking the trend, instead of lavishing over the play of Sehorn at corner, my advise is for the next coach to replace Sehorn with Randolph and Hamilton at CB. Hold it, before you question this statement consider the Giants weakest link in the secondary and then look at Sehorn’s size and skill. Sehorn should be moved to safety to supplant Campbell and take advantage of his natural skills. I submit, Sehorn’s best position would be safety. He is smart enough (witness the INT against Glenn), a much better tackler than anyone thought, and would be a terror on the safety blitz. The best unit on this club would get better also because Randolph, Sparks and probably Hamilton are all better covermen. Sehorn has gotten a lot of media play because he is a good tackling, risk-taking corner who gets thrown at a ton. He has had the opportunity to be seen, make plays and also blow some. He is vulnerable to quick receivers get behind him on occasion. As a safety next season, I believe Jason will still have the opportunities, but will be less of a risk and should provide better coverage up the middle than Campbell does. As Terry Glenn learned, it is better to pick apart the Giant zone up the middle or just run past the slower safeties up the seam. Remember though to credit some phenomenal play by Bledsoe and Glenn before blasting Hamilton and Wooten too much. Wooten is just not a good cover guy and neither is Jesse, while Hamilton is not as effective in the zone. With the Corners the Giants have, the secondary is just crying for centerfielders like Percy and Sehorn.
Specials: Daluiso ended the second half of the year perfect, though he was not challenged with the short FG’s. His kickoffs were not nearly as long as the last two weeks. He did the job and has a young strong leg. He’ll be back. Horan had a stellar day too, but outkicked the coverage we guess on the Meggett return. Seriously, the coverage team blew the game, giving the Pats the quick break they needed to change the course of the game. It was going to be tough to drive on the D twice more.
Coaching: The game said nothing more about Reeves except to prove he is a good coach, who did not fit into what has been a very effective system. Dan had some interesting things to say during the Monday morning press conference. His comments about a difference in philosophy regarding draft day saying the Giants pass on guys because they don’t do well on the psych. tests was revealing. He also said he wasn’t sure he was ready to continue, but he will keep all ears open to any team in the NFL. Sounded like a guy who is about to make his last go round. We wish him well, he’s a good man.