Sep 261997
 

Approach to the Game – New Orleans Saints at New York Giants, September 28, 1997: Injuries and inconsistent line play have really hampered the Giants’ offense as of late. Regardless, Fassel and the offense must play with the hand that they have been dealt and start once again to put some points on the score board. Much will depend on the play of the offensive line. The defense played very well last week, but must continue to do so if the Giants are going to start stringing some wins together. In particular, the high-priced cornerbacks need to start making some game-turning plays. On specials, the kicking game must get back on track. It would be nice for the Giants to get some of the same type of fan support and noise level the Rams received last week — but don’t count on it. So much for home-field advantage.

Giants on Offense: The Giants desperately need to get their running game going on Sunday. Roman Oben (6-4, 310lbs), Greg Bishop (6-5, 315lbs) , Ron Stone (6-5, 330lbs), and Scott Gragg (6-8, 325lbs) have the size, strength, and athletic-ability to play better than they have been playing and get more movement at the line of scrimmage. It’s just a matter of focusing and getting it done. If Gragg and Derek Engler struggle on Sunday, Fassel and Matsko might be quick to insert Jerry Reynolds and Lance Scott into the line-up — both of whom have received work with the first unit this week at practice. The Saints have a good pass rushing defensive line, led by DT Wayne Martin, who picked up four sacks and was named the NFC’s defensive player of the week for his play last weekend. Last year, Martin did a real number on Rob Zatechka. To keep the Saints from teeing off on Brown like the Rams did, the line must start opening up some holes for Tiki Barber. Barber doesn’t need much room, but he can’t be dodging tacklers in the backfield. Another way to slow down the rush is to run screens and draws.

It also seems like opposing defenses are starting to focus heavily on the backs coming out of the backfield for the Giants — as they should. Fassel should get his tight ends more involved to keep these linebackers and safeties honest. If Howard Cross can’t make plays as a receiving threat, it is time to get Aaron Pierce down the field. Pierce has the athletic-ability to stretch a defense down the middle of the field, but for some reason, Fassel has chosen to stick more with Cross. Until the Giants start hurting teams with the tight end, opposing defenses will focus their attention elsewhere.

The loss of Ike Hilliard has really hurt the Giants as Thomas Lewis and Amani Toomer failed to take advantage of their chances last week. Teams can now afford to focus more on Chris Calloway. Interestingly, Fassel has decided to start Kevin Alexander at split end this week, rather than Amani Toomer. Calloway and Toomer both play flanker and Fassel did not want to move Chris back to split end. When given a chance, Alexander has made plays for the Giants. He’s not a tall guy, but he is fast, quick, and he’s aggressive in going up for the ball. Toomer had better not sulk too much. The Giants play a lot of 3- and 4-WR sets, and if he doesn’t want to fall further down on the depth chart, he had better start sounding like a team player. Make some plays Amani! Everything else will sort itself out. Calloway will be up against the Giants’ old nemesis Eric Allen. Chris was far too quiet himself last week. He’s a better player than that. Alexander will face second-year man Alex Molden.

Finally, yes the line has to block better, but Tiki Barber has to start making some plays. He’s an elusive, explosive back, but Giant fans have only seen a tiny bit of what he can do. Get him out on screens more. Also, when Charles Way has the ball in his hands, good things happen. With the injury to Hilliard, Way should become more of the focal point of this offense. The Saints can be run on — if the blocking is there.

Giants on Defense: We hate to sound like a broken record, but the Giants are playing another young quarterback who can be rattled easily this week and once again, the key is to take his security blanket away: the running game. HB Mario Bates killed the Lions last week. The Giants’ front seven played incredibly well against the Rams, but they can’t let up this week. In particular, Keith Hamilton and Robert Harris must continue their fine work inside. Chad Bratzke’s tour of the best left tackles in the game makes another stop this week with Willie Roaf on the agenda. Bratzke played well in St. Louis, but we’d like to see Cedric Jones continue to see more playing time. His confidence level seems to be growing. At linebacker, Jessie Armstead is a play-making machine, but he needs some help from his fellow linebackers. The two Corey’s always seem to be a step too slow on the blitz. Corey Miller will have the huge task this week of making sure he gets a good jam on dangerous Saint TE Irv Smith. The Giants must be careful to keep an eye on Smith, especially Sam Garnes. Widmer has to do a good job in diagnosing the ground game, getting off his blocks quickly, and shutting down Bates before he gets going. Scott Galyon was instinctive against the Rams, but needs to finish better.

The Saints have the type of wide receiving corps that Jason Sehorn and Phillippi Sparks SHOULD shut down. Both Jason and Phillippi need to start making some interceptions. If the Giants can shut down the run, take away the underneath passes to Irv Smith and the backs, and get after Heath Shuler on the pass rush, they may force him into some bad decisions. Heath is a young quarterback who tends to bird-dog too much and get down on himself when things aren’t going right.

In general, the confidence level of the Giants’ defense is growing as they continue to learn the new system. The Saints are the type of team the Giants’ defense is capable of dominating if they play with the type of intelligence and emotion they played with last week.

Giants on Special Teams: No team in the NFL can afford breakdowns in their special teams. Brad Daluiso needs to get his head straight and fast. Brad Maynard is a far, far better punter than he showed last week, especially when it comes to nailing opponents inside the 10 yard line. David Patten will replace Thomas Lewis in the kick return game. He must show a little more instinctive running and elusiveness than he did in the preseason. If given a crack, he can go all the way. Amani? Run up the field please as soon as you have the ball. Stop dancing around and stop running towards the sideline. How long has it been since the Giants have blocked a kick or punt?

Sep 241997
 
St. Louis Rams 13 – New York Giants 3

Overview: This was truly a terrible football game, as two pathetic offenses, and more specifically, two pathetic offensive lines, struggled mightily to move the football and put points on the board. The heart of the Giants problems on Sunday was the poor play of the offensive line. The running backs had no holes to run through and Dave Brown had little time. Yet despite all of this, the Giants were in this game until very late due to the superb play of the defensive front seven. Week after week, for the last three years, this team continually finds a way to lose football games. One week, the offense plays well, but the defense falls apart; the next week, the defense plays well, but the offense lets the rest of the team down. At 1-3, those few optimistic Giant fans out there should forget about any playoff berth. What we should focus on is evaluating the true talent level of the players, and the development of the new offensive and defensive systems. Due to injuries, poor drafting in the first round, and inexperience, this is not a good football team.

Quarterbacks: Many fans are going to lay the blame on this one on Dave Brown again, but we beg to differ. Brown had little time, no running game to help him out, and receivers who had trouble getting open. The tone for the offense was set on the first Giant offensive play when there was a mix-up on the exchange to the running back and Dave Brown was knocked out of the game due to a blow to the head. Danny Kanell came in and missed an open Amani Toomer by throwing too high. Danny was then sacked and fumbled the ball away. With the running game struggling, Danny couldn’t get the team moving on his next possession either. When Brown returned, the Giants’ offense was continually hampered by poor run blocking and stupid penalties that kept erasing positive gains and/or setting the Giants back in more and more unfavorable down-and-distance situations. With all the three-and-outs on offense, and one long Ram drive in the second quarter, Brown and the offense hardly had the ball for most of the first half.

In the second half, the running game continued to struggle, but Brown was more successful hitting receivers on shorter stuff over the middle, especially to FB Charles Way. The Giants began a number of drives, but every time they got something going, a penalty would set them back. Brown had a chance to take the lead as he threw a little too late on a deep fly pattern to Kevin Alexander, but the Rams’ safety made a great play coming over and making the interception. If Brown had thrown, the ball slightly sooner, a TD pass would have resulted. He also put too much air under the ball and underthrew an open Chris Calloway on another deep pass in the 4th quarter. However, for the most part, Dave showed a lot of guts and toughness as he was repeatedly put in difficult down-and-distance situations, yet stood tough in the pocket and delivered the ball despite getting hammered by the Rams’ defense.

Offensive Line: If Giant fans are looking for scape goats, blame this unit. They were awful on Sunday. No one on the line could get a push on the Rams’ defensive line on running plays and pass protection took a step backwards after a solid effort against the Ravens. The line was passive and confused — a terrible combination. Mental mistakes only exacerbated matters. RT Scott Gragg was flagged repeatedly for false starts and a personal foul penalty. Greg Bishop made an incredible stupid play by hitting a Ram defender in the back after the play for another personal foul. Derek Engler’s shot-gun snaps were continually off the mark — one skipping along the ground and reaching the fullback, rather than the quarterback. RG Ron Stone struggled all game with DT DeMarco Farr. Roman Oben did a decent job on Leslie O’Neil at times and struggled at other times. RB’s Tiki Barber and Tyrone Wheatley continually ran into a brick wall up front and the Giants faced far, far too many 2nd-and-long, and 3rd-and-long situations in this game. Unless the offensive line gets it act together, the Giants will continue to flounder on offense this year. Unfortunately, there isn’t much help on the horizon. The only back-ups capable of replacing starters are Jerry Reynolds and Rob Zatechka. The injury to Brian Williams is really hurting the entire line. Either through free agency or the draft, the Giants need to come up with a new starting guard and better depth here next year.

Tight Ends: With all the problems the Giants are having running the football, Howard Cross and Aaron Pierce must accept some of the blame in the blocking department. Cross caught one ball on an outlet pass, but couldn’t come through on his two other chances. If we were Fassel, we’d get Aaron Pierce in there and see what he can do as a receiver. Right now, opposing offenses do not fear the tight end for obviously good reason and are thus allowed to focus more on the running backs coming out of the backfield. On many passes to the backs, there was one and many times two Ram defenders well-positioned to stop the play. Hitting the tight end over the middle would help deter such quick coverage on the backs as the linebackers and safeties would have to defend more of the field. The Giants need to draft a tight end high next year.

Receivers: For the most part, invisible. Amani Toomer and Thomas Lewis did absolutely nothing all game. Dave Brown and Lewis looked like they miscommunicated on two plays, and based on Dave’s reactions, it would seem Lewis was at fault. Inexcusable! We’ve given up on Thomas. We were delighted to see Kevin Alexander enter the game and make some plays. He caught a deep pass on a sideline route, but was called out of bounds. However, his aggressiveness in going up for the ball is nice to see from a Giant wideout — something Lewis should learn. Kevin then made a big play to pick up a first down later in the game. Chris Calloway made a couple of nice catches, but is he really the guy you want in your #1 wide receiver? The Giants really miss Ike Hilliard. Pray that Toomer or Alexander come on, or the team will have to spend another high draft pick here next year.

Running Backs: FB Charles Way was the Giants’ offense. Indeed, he’s the only player besides Alexander who we thought had a good game on offense. Way is a sure-handed target for Brown with a little wiggle to make the first defender miss after the catch. Fassel should try to get the ball into his hands at least 10-15 times each game. Way also looked good running the ball, despite the poor blocking up front. Tiki Barber was knocked out of the game for a short period of time after a vicious hit, on a play where he fumbled once again (though, this time he had a decent excuse). Barber never had a chance with the ball in his hands as there was often no place to run. Many times he was hit in the backfield before the play even started. Same story with Tyrone Wheatley. Ram penetration had him cutting and avoiding tacklers BEHIND the line of scrimmage.

Defensive Line: Superb game from this group. Keith Hamilton had a monster game as he gave the Rams’ interior line fits all day on both running and passing plays. “Hammer” was in Rams’ QB Tony Banks’ face most of the game and picked up yet another sack. Keith also made an incredible play leaping over an offensive lineman to nail Lawrence Phillips for no gain on a 4th-and-inches play in the first quarter. It looks like the Giants made the right move in re-signing Hamilton for five years. Robert Harris was strong against the run, and picked up a “garbage” sack after pressure from Michael Strahan flushed Banks in his direction. Believe it or not, DE Chad Bratzke beat Orlando Pace badly to the inside and sacked Banks on the three-yard line of the Rams — a play on which Banks fumbled and if the Giants had recovered, they probably would have won the game. Even DT Ray Agnew played well defending the inside run. DE Cedric Jones saw a little playing time, and although he wasn’t a factor in rushing the passer, he was tough against the run too.

Linebackers: Along with Keith Hamilton, OLB Jessie Armstead was the star of game on defense. Armstead was all over the field in pass defense, in playing the run (often nailing the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage), and picking up a sack. Armstead is a sure-tackler and a difference-maker. Along with Keith Hamilton, Michael Strahan, Phillippi Sparks, and Jason Sehorn, he gives the Giants a good foundation to build around. Corey Widmer also had a strong game, defending the inside the run. On the other hand, Corey Miller missed a couple of sacks. He also got caught too far outside on one of the Rams’ few big positive runs of the game. Interestingly, Scott Galyon replaced Marcus Buckley in the nickel. We like Scott a great deal due to his quickness and instincts, but Scott had a rough game. He missed an easy sack too and was beat in coverage by Amp Lee on a big play for the Rams.

Secondary: Decent game, but the Giants really needed someone to step up here and come up with some turnovers. Phillippi Sparks had a great game in coverage, but missed an interception that he would have returned for a TD (and probably won the game). Jason Sehorn only had a so-so game. He didn’t hurt the Giants, but didn’t make the kind of plays you expect from a high-priced cornerback. He was beat a couple of times on short out patterns and also was beaten deep (but luckily the ball was overthrown). SS Sam Garnes looked good helping out on deep coverage, but dropped his chance at an interception too. Percy Ellsworth made a nice play by knocking the ball away on one play, but he was late in helping out Sehorn on the incomplete deep pass. Tito Wooten was quiet. Conrad Hamilton replaced Thomas Randolph in the nickel but was beaten by Amp Lee on one play.

Special Teams: Brad Daluiso missed another 41 yarder. He also missed a 54-yarder. We can excuse him for the latter, but not the former. He’s walking on thin ice. P Brad Maynard did not punt particularly well. Kick and punt coverage was strong. Amani Toomer still dances too much on his punt returns. Thomas Lewis was OK on his kick returns, as was David Patten on his only chance.

Sep 191997
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at St. Louis Rams, September 21, 1997: Two young, desperate teams will be battling to reach the .500 mark on Sunday. One team will succeed, the other will be 1-3. In the words of Al Davis, “Just win baby.”

Giants on Offense: Dave Brown and the Giants’ offense made some real progress last week. The important thing now is to keep the momentum going. Head Coach Jim Fassel and his staff have decided to accelerate the learning process for the offensive team and so far they have responded. Key to this success is the continued development of the offensive line. However, while the pass blocking has come along, the run blocking is still a sore spot. The five men up front need to get more of a push. Strangely, Fassel hasn’t run much behind his two biggest linemen who also have the most experience playing together: RG Ron Stone and RT Scott Gragg. If we were Fassel, we’d issue a steady diet of running plays in this direction. The defensive line of the Rams is not quite as imposing as the last few the Giants have faced, though the Rams do have a trio of active linebackers in Mike Jones, Robert Jones, and the underrated Roman Phifer. However, this group can be run on if the guys up front get the job done. The Giants can’t afford any let-ups like the offensive line had against Jacksonville.

In terms of running the ball, starter Tiki Barber needs to hold onto the ball. Tiki has developed a bad case of “fumblitis.” If this continues, he will cost the Giants dearly. Tiki also needs to concentrate better at catching the ball first before running with it. We’d run more inside on the Rams than outside, but much of that will depend on the blocking success or failure of LG Greg Bishop, OC Brian Engler, RG Ron Stone, and FB Charles Way. It will also be interesting to see if Tyrone Wheatley receives as much playing time as he did last week, when he provided a real spark to the offense. Wheatley would probably aid his playing time situation immensely if he broke off a big run.

The Giants will face one of their old nemesis in Defensive Coordinator Bud Carson. Carson’s old tactics against the Giants were to stack up against the running game and force the Giants to beat his defense with the pass. That might not change on Sunday. If we were Fassel, we wouldn’t tinker with success. Keep the tempo and style of play going that the Giants started using against the Ravens — with the addition of a few new wrinkles of course. When the Giants get the ball into Charles Way’s hands, good things happen and we’d keep passing to him more. Thomas Lewis and Amani Toomer made some plays last week, but it’s time for them to make some big plays by getting deep and scoring or scoring with a run after the catch. CB Todd Lyght is St. Louis’ best coverman and he is usually lined up against the opposition’s best receiver (Chris Calloway?). Thus, much of the spotlight will be on Lewis and Toomer. Where oh where are the tight ends? Does Fassel really believe they are this bad or are they just not getting open? A deep seam pass to Pierce might help open things up outside for the receivers and keep the Rams’ safeties honest.

Giants on Defense: The Rams can be explosive offensively. The key, as always, is to first shut down the running game. The Rams are putting together a decent offensive line, but it is not in the same league with Jacksonville and Baltimore just yet. The Giants desperately need more production out of Chad Bratzke. The Rams have been phasing in LT Orlando Pace and Bratzke will only face him about half the game. Unfortunately, Pace outweights Bratzke by about 50 pounds and that could be a real mismatch in the running game. The Giants will have to be careful with runs to the left and Armstead will have to come up big by playing off blocks quickly and making the play. Same story with Corey Widmer. Keith Hamilton, Robert Harris, and Michael Strahan have played solidly, but can’t rest on any laurels. Lawrence Phillips has taken a lot of heat in the media, but he still is a workhorse who can break a game open. Shut him down and get him frustrated. Then get after the passer.

QB Tony Banks is an exciting, up-and-coming player, but like all young quarterbacks, he can be confused and encouraged to force the ball. The best way to rattle a young quarterback is with pressure up front. So far, the Giants have had only so-so success with their new blitz packages, but we wouldn’t give up just yet. Send a linebacker and/or defensive back on occasion. In obvious pass rush situations, the Giants don’t seem to be getting much heat with their base four. It might be more prudent to take Bratzke out of the line-up and bring in Ryan Phillips. Cedric Jones could possibly also help matters, but his knee is still ailing.

In pass defense, the Giants’ high-priced secondary is just not getting it done. Phillippi Sparks should have the rust off from missing a few weeks with hepatitis. He needs to start making plays like the Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback he is supposed to be. Same story with Jason Sehorn. Fortunately for the Giants, Ram WR Isaac Bruce will be out of the lineup. Unfortunately, Eddie Kennison will still play. Kennison is a big-time gamebreaker and the Giants should focus much of their defensive efforts on him and TE Ernie Conwell, who is Banks’ security blanket. The Giants (Miller?) need to jam Conwell at the line and the safeties need to do a much better job of covering the tight end than they did last week. Just as importantly, the secondary needs to start creating some more turnovers.

Giants on Special Teams: This phase of the game really cost the Giants last week. The Giants must get their kicking game in order. We know we keep harping on punt and kick coverage, but this is often where games are won and lost. The Giants have done a decent job in this department thus far in 1997, but the good special teams units play well throughout the year. No letups! On the other hand, a big punt or kick return by Toomer or Lewis would really help the Giants win a game. Ram rookie punter Will Brice has struggled and Toomer might have a chance if he runs UP the field.

Sep 171997
 
Baltimore Ravens 24 – New York Giants 23

by David B.

Overview: This loss was a heartbreaker. One that we should have had. This is an example of a game where the optimists and pessimists will be clearly divided as to what to take from this game. What else is new. Since everyone knows my biases, I will try to put this loss into context. This was a day where the Giants did many things right, but the few things they did wrong cost them the game.Successful teams make the plays the Giants didn’t make. To take it to the next level, the Giants must make those plays and find ways to win rather than ways to lose. However, this was the most complete game the Giants have played under Fassel. But for two missed FGs and a blocked extra point, the mistakes the Giants made would not have cost them the game. On the whole, there was real progress on offense and a lot of spirited play from the defense. If they can begin playing this way consistently, they will start to turn things around. In this game, the Giants controlled the clock for 35:51. They ran the ball much better and sustained drives. The OL was reasonable. The WCO spread the ball all over the field and used 9 different receivers. Brown had a good day. We gained 390 total yards and 29 first downs. The came back from behind. Continued success in the redzone. But we lost, so it means nothing, right? Well . . . if last week’s loss was a step backwards, if you consider the big picture this was a step forward regardless of the loss. Y’all remember the big picture, don’t you: In our best-case scenarios, there were going to be seven losses, and most of which would probably come early. Fassel has stated publicly that wherever he’s been, it has taken at least five or six weeks for things to start clicking consistently. Playoffs were a longshot. Make no mistake, this loss hurts like hell, but if you keep it in perspective, the team is progressing on schedule.

Quarterbacks: Anyone want to blame Brown for this one? For the most part, and especially as the game wore on, he had adequate time to throw. He made the most of it. Dave had one of his best days at QB going 28-46 and 269 yards. 1 TD, no INTs. He also ran the 2 minute drill very well. He hit 9 different receivers and looked very comfortable and confident running the offense. There were a few errant throws–the kind you never talk about when discussing other QBs, but he made the plays he needed to make.

Running Back: The Giants ran the ball pretty well. Barber got 91 yards and a TD, and Wheatley got 49 yds and a TD. The problem? For all his excitement, Tiki Barber is an adventure every time he gets the ball. He is quite capable of fumbling away the game at any point in time. On one play, after a long run, the Baltimore Defense had stopped him and were pushing him backwards. He coughed up the ball and a defender scooped it up and was on his way to an easy TD. The only thing that saved the play was the officials had ruled “forward progress.” There will be time the officials won’t bail Tiki out. On another occasion, he fumbled the ball, but it went out of bounds. Barber MUST learn to put the ball away. Other backs his size can do it, why can’t he. The thing that will be remembered in this game is the 3rd-and-1 that the Giants didn’t make that set up the 41 yard FG that Daluiso missed. Barber was stuffed cold on this play, but I blame Fassel for this one. (See the section on Coaching) Another thing I’ve noticed about Barber is that even when he runs inside, which isn’t often, as soon as he’s through the first hole, he looks immediately to cut back outside, and at least twice, it looked as though there were more yards to be gained by staying inside. This bares watching. Wheatley got his first real action in this game and he ran pretty tough. He ran both inside and outside. On a play that pissed me off a lot (because of it’s selection), Fassel faced a 3rd-and-short and again went to that pitchout play to the HB. But this time it was Wheatley and it worked. TW made it around the corner and picked up some tough yards by out-muscling defenders. Wheatley was stuffed a few times, but eventually punched in a TD at the goal line. I’m not a big fan of backfield-by-committee, but Wheatley needs to get the ball more. Charles Way was not much of a factor as a ball carrier, but he caught a short TD pass from Brown.

Wide Receivers: A better performance from this group, and the ball was spread around a lot. The Baltimore secondary was getting banged up, and these guys took advantage of playing against the backups. I believe there were only two drops, which is far more acceptable than the 5-7 we usually average. Lewis made some nice catches and no real blunders. Toomer had a decent day — his best as a pro. They even threw a jump-ball fade to him in the corner of the endzone (finally) which he caught, but couldn’t keep his feet in. I believe Calloway had one drop but was effective otherwise. Kevin Alexander made one great catch at a key moment.

Tight Ends: One catch for Pierce — remember him? One for Cross where he made some nice YAC, which prompted the announcers to comment “he looked like Mark Bavaro on that one.” Uh, no. Let’s not even mention those two guys in the same breath. It was one catch in one game.

Offensive Line: They struggled a bit early, but for the most part they protected Brown and gave him adequate time to throw the ball. Brown still had to rush several of his throws, but he wasn’t running for his life. The run blocking was probably better, but unreliable, and they still don’t seem to be trying to run behind Stone and Gragg — the supposed strength of the line. Individually, I don’t remember hearing Oben’s name called, which is what you want. Bishop had a rough day. Zatechka replaced him in short yardage situations.

Defensive Line: This was supposed to be the big key to the game. Our DL against a huge Baltimore OL. The Giants DL played very well. They harassed Testaverde all day and sacked him once. Strahan was terrific getting several key plays. I believe Hamilton has grown up. He’s battling every down and is making a difference. Harris and Bratzke were solid, but not as flashy as Strahan and Hammer. Jones didn’t play because of his injury.

Linebackers: The Giants played a lot of nickel, but Armstead was his usual active self and made some big plays. They sent Markus Buckley in on a dog, but he’ was unable to get there in time. A quiet day for Widmer, and I never even noticed Miller. Pete Monty made a nice stuff at the goal line, but Baltimore punched it in on the next play.

Secondary: Boy it’s nice to have Sparks and Hamilton back. Baltimore has the 3rd best offense in the league and Jackson and Derek why-can’t-we-draft-guys-like-that Alexander, are excellent WRs. Our DBs had trouble containing these guys. Sehorn completely blew his coverage on Alexander on Baltimore’s first TD. Alexander was absolutely alone in the endzone. Baltimore picked on Randolph all day and at 6’4,” Jackson ate his lunch. I thought the idea was to have Sehorn on the big guys. Alexander did well on Randolph too. Randolph did however break up a play on a lesser WR (don’t remember the name) later in the game. Sparks played well. They stayed away from him for the most part, but he was involved in a few big-play saving tackles. Garnes was in for a while, but seemed invisible. Wooten had a crap pass interference called on him that eventually cost the Giants a TD, but the refs were calling non-flagrant PI all day on both teams and it evened out. Ellsworth had a nice pick on a play where the Baltimore WR didn’t fight for the ball.

Special Teams: We’ve had strong days from special teams in the past, but this day it cost us the game. The morning press has the team NOT blaming Brad Daluiso for the loss. The team MUST take that attitude for team unity, but we don’t. BRAD DALUISO COST US THE GAME. Sure, the Giants defense could of held Baltimore on the last drive, but that’s simply unrealistic. Missing that FG deflated the whole team. Further, had Daluiso not missed the other FG, or had the extra point blocked (which was not his fault) the Giants win the game. Of note, Daluiso missed both FGs from the same hash mark. Further, Brad Maynard was the holder on the FGs. I don’t know if this spooked Daluiso or not, but Kanell had been his holder until this game. Personally, I’ve never been sold on Daluiso. His outstanding numbers last year were largely due to an offense that couldn’t get TDs in the redzone, hence he had a lot of chip shot FGs. He’s terrible outside the 40 in regular season play, but he’s all-world in preseason when the games don’t count. Frankly, with all the league kicking changes in the offseason, I was surprised that Daluiso survived our coaching change. There’s a rookie in Miami kicking really well and he kicked Nedney out of Miami. His name is Olindo Mare. Why can’t we get guys like that? (Note from Eric: Mare was actually on our practice squad last year — looks like we kept the wrong guy.) Brad Maynard was bothered by a mild hip flexor but punted pretty well. The blocking broke down on the PAT attempt which allowed the PAT to get blocked. In 2 point conversions, the Giants missed one and made one.

Coaching: A mixed bag. JF showed us the WCO and we finally got a glimpse of how effective the offense can be when it works, and it will only get better. Our production in the redzone reads like a misprint. However there are a few things Fassel needs to get through his head. Most important is this: Tiki Barber is NOT a short-yardage back. Sending Tiki into an 8 man front on 3rd and 1 cost the Giants the game just as much as Daluiso’s miss. You can say that Daluiso should have made the kick, but with Way available, why send Barber into the pile without a FB on 3rd and 1? In this situation, sending Way alone, Barber behind Way, even the QB sneak are ALL better options than the play that JF called. It will be interesting to see how Hampton fits into this mix when he returns. he’s perfect for short yardage situations. JF is overly enamoured with Barber, but Barber is an all-or-nothing back. He’ll break the game or break your heart. Fassel MUST learn when NOT to use Barber. On the plus side, his game plan controlled the clock, got us 29 first downs, and was effective in the 2 minute drill. He also got the team to come from behind after a slow start. During the week, JF made it know to the team that “people quit on him in the JAX game” and if they did it again, they be playing elsewhere the following week. Fassel is a rookie HC too, and he too will improve.

Sep 121997
 

Approach to the Game – Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants, September 14, 1997: In terms of confidence in the head coach, the new offensive and defensive systems, and their own ability, this is a huge game for the Giants. After looking very good in week one, the Giants looked dismal last week. With adversity has come negative press and fan “support”. Only two weeks into the season, people are questioning Fassel, Brown, and the overall talent level on the team. 2-1 sounds a lot better than 1-2 and would quiet some of the nay-sayers.

Giants on Offense: Where is the West Coast Offense (WCO)? When we say it was lacking last week, we are not pointing to an inability to move the ball. After all, problems moving the ball should be expected when learning such a radically different system. If it was simply a matter of a lack of execution, we would understand. However, last week was not merely a lack of execution. The Giants ran a more traditional offense. The tempo that Fassel stressed all during camp and the preseason was visibly lacking. There were few passes to the backs out of the backfield and tight ends. There were few quick 3- and 5-step drops. That has to change this week. This is the offense the Giants started to become comfortable with in the preseason and what worked for them, especially Dave Brown. What the Giants don’t need is a continued lack of belief in themselves in terms of their ability to move the ball.

All that being said, in order to take pressure off of Brown and their own defense, the Giants need to start running the ball much better. That all starts up front. Power and attitude. In particular, whoever plays left guard (Bishop or Reynolds) will have their hands full with DT Tony Siragusa. Derek Engler will also have a difficult time with the very mobile MLB Ray Lewis (Charles Way needs to come through blocking him too). The offensive line must start creating more movement up front and Tiki Barber, Charles Way, and Tyrone Wheatley need to run instinctively and with passion. Too many times last week the Giants were faced with 3rd-and-long situations. We’d like to see a little more running up the gut as Lewis and OLB’s Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper are active in pursuit, but can be run on with straight ahead power. If the run blocking isn’t there, then Fassel must go to the short passing game. The Ravens have some truly gifted defenders, but most of them are very young and inexperienced. Boulware is a defensive end playing linebacker. Challenge him with passes to the tight ends and backs in his zone. Do so on first down when the Ravens will be least expecting pass. Get Aaron Pierce more involved in the passing game.

With Ike Hilliard out, Thomas Lewis, Chris Calloway, Amani Toomer, and Kevin Alexander need to step it up. No more critical drops, trips, poor routes, etc.! Get open and catch the damn ball. Brown needs to drop back quickly, make his read, and fire the ball. WCO — 3- and 5-step drops. Slants, screens, crossing patterns. The line must give him time. Gragg will face Boulware and that could be a problem. Oben has played two decent games in a row, but must do it again this week against Michael McCrary. However, if the pocket does breakdown, Brown can’t get flustered and start making some poor decisions, like he did last week. Stand tough and show a greater pocket presence! If the play isn’t there, throw the ball away. The running backs must be aware of the potential blitz as Boulware, Lewis, and Sharper can get to the quarterback. Tiki may have problems if he forced to take on Boulware in particular.

Giants on Defense: For the second week in a row, the Giants face a huge and talented offensive line — a line that gave the Giants problems in their preseason match-up when HB Jay Graham ran the ball. No matter how long they are on the field, the Giants’ defense must be tough against the run. Hamilton, Harris, and the linebackers need to jam things up in the middle, and the safeties need to support better than they did last week, especially Tito Wooten. Both Strahan and Bratzke will be dramatically out-sized by their respective opponents, Orlando Brown and Jonathan Ogden. They will have to out-hustle these guys and play with better technique. If the Raven running game gets in gear, the Giants will be in real trouble.

The Ravens have one of the more dangerous passing attacks in football. Michael Jackson and Derrick Alexander are big play receivers who can get deep. Thankfully, Phillippi Sparks will return this week — let’s hope he’s in game condition for four quarters. Vinny Testeverde has put up big numbers for a few seasons now, but he can be rattled if pressured. The problem there is the Giants did a very poor job of rushing the passer against a quality line last week. They get another quality pass protecting line this week. Michael Strahan needs to step it up another notch as do DT’s Keith Hamilton and Robert Harris in the pass rush department. The Ravens aren’t quite as strong in the middle of the line as they were last year with the departure of Steve Everitt. DE Chad Bratzke gets the unenviable task of facing another top-notch tackle this week in Ogden — but that does not excuse him from making plays. If he can’t get near the passer, perhaps it would be better to give Cedric Jones more game experience. Of course, some timely blitzes would help matters, but the Giants don’t want to become too exposed too often as Testeverde and his receivers can get deep.

Giants on Special Teams: Kick and punt coverage is improving, but must continue to do so. The Giants are not good enough yet to lose the special teams battle and still win the game. Brad Maynard did a superb job punting last week — if he keeps this up, he will warrant some serious Pro Bowl recognition. What would be nice to see is a game-turning, positive play from our special teams — i.e., a blocked kick or punt, or big punt or kick return.

Sep 101997
 
Jacksonville Jaguars 40 – New York Giants 13

Overview: Perspective. You are never as good as you look when you win and never as bad as you look when you lose. The Giants got crushed by a Jacksonville team that had its third string quarterback starting the game, but Giant fans need to keep things in perspective. The Giants are 1-1, with the first win being the more important game because it came against a division opponent. What this game did show is there are a few areas where the Giants need some dramatic improvement and/or personnel upgrades if they are going to compete with teams like Jacksonville in the future. It will also be very interesting to see how Jim Fassel and his staff deal with the adversity resulting from this game. How the Giants respond next week against the Ravens will tell us a lot about this coach and this team.

Quarterback: Not good. This is Dave Brown’s second game that counts this year and Dave was not impressive for the second week in a row. Strangely, this was a very poorly called game by Fassel. This did not look like a West Coast Offensive (WCO) game plan. In fact, this looked more like a Dan Reeves game plan. The Giants were lethargic getting to the line. All offseason, Fassel stressed an upbeat tempo, but there was no upbeat tempo in this game by the Giants on offense. The Giants were slow getting to the line and the offensive players seemed like their collective heads were in the clouds all day. This offensive team was not ready to play this game and much of that responsibility must lie directly on the door step of the offensive coaching staff. There were far too few quick drops, quick passes, slants, screens, passes to the backs, passes to the tight ends — in effect, not enough WCO. The good news with Dave was that his deep passes were more on target. He was a hair off target on a deep throw to Amani Toomer that would have gone for a TD, but the ball hit Amani in the hands and Amani left his feet too soon. Brown was also victimized by two other drops from Amani and one from Calloway. However, Dave was not sharp, did not show good pocket presence, and at times looked too much like last year (i.e., a deer caught in headlights). He also made too many poor decisions by throwing into double- and triple-coverage. There was some pass pressure on Dave, but for the most part, he had a decent amount of time to throw the ball. There were far, far too many three-and-outs — just like last year. The offense lacked a certain smoothness and a tempo that Fassel demands. If Brown is ever going to be an effective quarterback in this league, he must get into the type of rhythm he got into in the preseason. 3-step and 5-step drop — then fire the football. Don’t do too much thinking or hesitating. We aren’t sure if the problem was with the receivers getting open, receivers running the wrong routes, or with Brown holding onto the ball too long, but Brown’s timing with his receivers was not good.

Running Backs: Of course, Brown would greatly be helped if the Giants could start running the ball. The rushing “attack” of the Giants was pathetic on Sunday (only 39 yards). Yes, much of the blame must lie with the offensive line, but Tiki Barber (11 carries for 17 yards) did not run very instinctively in this game either. On one sweep on 3rd-and-4, he had the blocking, but he didn’t cut back when he should have. He should have easily picked up the first down, but didn’t and the Giants had to punt once again. Here the play-calling seemed strange too. On third-and-one, Fassel had Tiki run a sweep and Tiki was nailed for a big loss. Never run wide on 3rd-and-1! Stupid call. In fact, the only ones we want to see carry the ball in short yardage are Charles Way or Rodney Hampton — and up the gut! Tiki’s going to be a very good back for the Giants, but he has to run tougher, break some tackles, and hold onto the football. His 2nd quarter fumble led directly to the go-ahead TD by Jacksonville and took a lot of wind out of the Giants’ sails. He did make a nice catch on a deep pass, but strangely the game plan didn’t call for many passes to him. Charles Way had an outstanding outside run, but Fassel tried to run him too much to the outside on Sunday. Way simply isn’t quick or fast enough to turn the corner on a regular basis. Where were the passes to Charles on Sunday? Tyrone Wheatley didn’t play until very late when Tiki was forced to leave with an arm injury. Granted it was garbage time, but Wheatley played with an aggressiveness that one likes to see. Fassel needs to get him into the game more often.

Wide Receivers: Terrible. Chris Calloway made a few good grabs, including a TD catch, but dropped a ball on a play-action pass from Brown. He also lost his footing on a play over the middle and the ball was picked off. And Calloway was the bright spot. Ike Hilliard made a wonderful sliding catch of a low Brown pass that set up the Giants’ first score, but Hilliard suffered a serious neck injury on the play and didn’t return. Amani Toomer dropped three balls, including a deep TD pass. The problem with Toomer on this play is that he left his feet instead of running through to the ball. Toomer also dropped a seven yard out on first down. In the WCO, the passing game is the heart and soul of your game plan. You need to have receivers who can catch the ball on a consistent basis. Right now, Thomas Lewis (who fortunately didn’t drop a pass this week) and Amani Toomer drop too many passes. Dropping three passes in one game is inexcusable. If Toomer wants more playing time, he has to hold onto the ball. If not, then Fassel should get Kevin Alexander in there.

Tight Ends: Where is Aaron Pierce? He’s in the game quite a bit, but the Giants never pass to him. Howard Cross had a costly fumble in the two-minute drill that prevented the Giants from scoring and also set up a last second field goal for Jacksonville. This offense desperately needs an offensive threat at tight end. Unfortunately, we will have to wait until the offseason for this to happen.

Offensive Line: The run blocking is still not there, but the pass blocking is getting better. The biggest problem on Sunday was, like last year, the Giants were faced with too many 3rd-and-long situations. Situations where the defense can pin their ears back and rush the passer. Roman Oben played a very decent game against Clyde Simmons and Tony Brackens. Sure, he had help on a lot of plays, but he didn’t really hurt the team. Scott Gragg was beaten cleanly on one sack and Derek Engler did not chip his man before going out to block on a screen (a play that also resulted in a sack). There were other times where Brown was harried and rushed, but for a team fighting to catch-up most of the game, the pass blocking was surprisingly good against a good pass rushing team. There were too many mental errors however. Gragg jumped offsides as did Bishop (who also had a costly holding penalty). But where the Giants really need to start getting their act together is in the run blocking department. The Giants simply can’t expect to rely on their passing attack so much — especially with Brown still feeling his way in a new offense.

Defensive Line: This group just wore down as they were on the field far, far too long. For three quarters, the defensive line was very strong against the run. Both Keith Hamilton and Robert Harris did a good job of jamming things up inside and Chad Bratzke and Mike Strahan did a very good job fighting off blocks of the Jaguar superb offensive tackles. What was really lacking, however, was the pass rush. Keith Hamilton picked up a sack and forced fumble, but it was more on a hustle play than good pressure. In the pass rush department, Boselli simply handled Bratzke. Strahan also didn’t do much against Searcy, which was somewhat surprising. Where the Giants seemed to have great success last week was with rushing four linemen and sending a linebacker. They didn’t do enough of this this week. In fact, there were times when the Giants only sent three down linemen — that’s not going to get it done against Jacksonville. It seemed as if the Giants kept expecting the Jacksonville quarterback to screw up and they were afraid of giving up the easy play to him. Instead, by not rushing him more aggressively, they gave him too much time in the pocket and thereby allowed him to gain confidence. Big mistake. With the heat and the amount of time the defense spent on the field, the second team defensive line played quite a bit. Bernard Holsey, Christian Peter, and Ray Agnew all saw significant playing time, but like the first teamers, while they did alright against the run, they could not rush the passer effectively.

Linebackers: Solid game by the linebacking unit, especially in run defense. Corey Miller was aggressive in tracking down the ball carrier in backside pursuit and Jessie Armstead was all over the field once again. Corey Widmer is still sometimes too aggressive in pursuit and gets hurt by the cutback, but he did a nice job of stuffing things up inside. Widmer did not have a good game in coverage and was burned badly on one screen pass. He did make a nice open field tackle on another short pass on a back later in the game, however. Armstead left the game with a leg injury and Marcus Buckley was fairly solid in replacing him.

Secondary: Horrible game by Thomas Randolph. Randolph, as we have been complaining for years, plays far too off the ball and does not look back to the quarterback quickly enough on the deep stuff. His very flagrant holding penalty nullified a Giant interception in the endzone and led directly to a Jacksonville TD run a couple of plays later. Mathews rarely looked to Sehorn’s side as he constantly converted first downs and big plays by throwing against Randolph. Why does Randolph, a guy with tremendous speed, play so far off the ball? It just doesn’t make sense. Randolph was 10 yards off the ball on 3rd-and-4!!! Where would you throw the ball? On two deep passes by Mathews, and granted they were beautiful throws, Randolph had tight coverage but didn’t turn around quickly enough to knock the ball away and both plays resulted in huge completions for Jacksonville. Thomas let his defensive mates down on Sunday. Jason Sehorn was burned on one deep pass and was fortunate the pass was off the mark, but he played well in coverage otherwise. Where he really screwed up was not holding his contain in short yardage — a play that was bounced outside by the running back for a TD. Sam Garnes and Tito Wooten were not very noticeable. Tito does get an “F” for effort on his “attempted” tackle of a Jaguar running back late in the game on another score. He didn’t show a lot of heart on that play. Brandon Sanders saw some action and looked good. Robert Massey made a solid tackle that saved a first down, but also got burned for a first down. Thank God Phillippi will be back next week.

Special Teams: Kick and punt coverage was very good, with Brandon Sanders hustling down the field on a regular basis. Thomas Lewis had one good kick return, but showed terrible decision-making by bringing two deep kick-offs out back-to-back. Amani Toomer didn’t do much in the return game. He still dances and/or hesitates too much. Brad Maynard did a wonderful job kicking the ball — he looks like the real thing. The Giants were not hurt by their special teams on Sunday.

Sep 051997
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Jacksonville Jaguars, September 7, 1997: When the schedule first came out, this match-up looked like a sure loss for the Giants. However, coming off an impressive win against Philadelphia, the Giants are playing with increased confidence and Jacksonville has some injury problems at the quarterback position. Regardless, the Jaguars are a championship-calibre club playing on their own turf. They will also be fired up to avenge the loss of their starting quarterback to the Giants in the preseason. It will be very interesting to see how the Giants react to this hostile environment against a tough team. Can they avoid the emotional roller-coaster that many young teams fall victim to? The Giants had better not be resting on their laurels from their last game.

Giants on Offense: Here we go — it’s time to launch the West Coast Offense (WCO)! Last week, Philly’s familiarity with the WCO and their coverage-ability largely dissuaded Jim Fassel from utilizing much of what they worked on in camp: the short passing game to the backs, tight ends, and wide receivers. This should change this week. Attack, attack, attack must be the battle cry. The Jaguars have a very well rounded defense with excellent players in their line (Lageman, Jurkovic, Brackens, Simmons, Pritchett, Wynn), linebackers (Hardy, Schwartz, Robinson), and secondary (Thomas, Hudson, Hall, Figures). Like the Giants, they are a very young and aggressive defense. Fassel would be wise to try to take advantage of some of this aggressiveness by running a lot of misdirection plays as well as screens and draws.

At quarterback, because of unfavorable fan support, Dave Brown may actually perform better on the road this year than at home. Brown was a little wild last week and we look for him to settle down somewhat this week, if given time by the offensive line. Brown has to be careful to disguise his shorter passes to his backs better — he obviously doesn’t want to give up any gift interceptions and scores. We’d also like to see the slant more as well as some screen passes — two plays which the Giants practiced a lot in camp.

The running back situation has become an interesting area to watch. Tiki Barber, the incumbent, played very well last week, although he needs better concentration in terms of catching the ball. Reserve Tyrone Wheatley saw practically no action last week and it will be interesting to see if Fassel gets him into the game against the Jaguars. Watch for some draws to the elusive Barber as well as more passes to him out of the backfield. Charles Way, who will eventually become a major weapon in this offense, may be called upon to help out Roman Oben on the line this week. Until Oben settles down, Way will be limited.

At wide receiver, Chris Calloway starred last week as both Thomas Lewis and Ike Hilliard showed some nervousness. We look for a strong game from Ike — especially since he’s playing at home. Lewis needs to get his act together. He’s a true talent if he can just shake away the lapses of concentration. Brown still isn’t overly accurate when throwing deep and we’d stay away from these type of passes against the Jaguars. Slants, crossing patterns, and “legal” picks are the type of plays we’d focus on. Is this the week the Giants surprise the opposition with passes to the tight end? Howard Cross and Aaron Pierce will be matched up against Kevin Hardy — no easy feat.

Of course none of this matters unless the Giants can get the job done up front. With their problems at quarterback, look for Jacksonville to take some risks on defense and try to force some turnovers and cheap scores. Jacksonville likes to zone blitz regardless — things will most likely be really turned up this Sunday. Thus, the line MUST come through if the Giants are to win. In particular, the Gragg (who will play against Lageman) and Oben (who will unfortunately line up against Tony Brackens and Clyde Simmons) need a strong game. Moreover, the interior trio of Stone, Engler, and Bishop, as well as the backs, must be very alert to extra men coming on the blitz. Look for the Jaguars to try to take advantage of Engler’s inexperience at center. In the run blocking department, the line (particularly Engler) and Charles Way must get out quickly to engage Jacksonville’s active linebacking corps. If they don’t, the running game will come to a halt.

Giants on Defense: So much will depend on whether or not Rob Johnson plays on Sunday. Let’s pray the Giants’ defense doesn’t relax regardless of who plays as we all know how well back-up quarterbacks usually do against the G-Men. With his quarterback injured, look for Tom Coughlin to go with the power running game bigtime on Sunday. That means a big back (Natrone Means and/or James Stewart) behind a huge and talented Jacksonville line. Power football — just the way Parcells used to run it. The key, as always, will be how well our defensive line plays. Mike Strahan and Chad Bratzke don’t get Jermane Mayberry and Troy Drake this week — they get Leon Searcy and Tony Boselli, respectively. Searcy and Boselli are two of the best in the business and both Strahan and Bratzke have their work cut out for them. Inside Robert Harris and Keith Hamilton really need to pick up the slack. Hopefully, these two won’t get too involved in a personal war with Jaguar OC Dave Widell (a war of words started earlier this week). If they do, then Widell has already won half the battle. The focus should be on the ball carrier — not the blocker. If the Giants are unable to shut down the Jaguar running game, then it won’t matter who is playing at quarterback and Jaguar play-action will kill the Giants.

When the Jaguars do pass, the Jacksonville quarterback will have a very talented receiving corps to throw to. Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell are superb receivers who torched the Giants bigtime in the preseason. Remember, Phillippi Sparks is probably still not going to play. Jason Sehorn, Thomas Lewis, and Robert Massey need to come up big. Rob Johson has an excellent arm and can burn teams deep. However, don’t be surprised if Jacksonville keeps things simple and emphasizes more passes to the backs and tight ends (Derek Brown and Pete Mitchell). James Stewart is an excellent receiver out of the backfield. Thus, a premium will be placed on the play of Armstead, Widmer, and Miller against the pass this week too (and the nickel linebacker, be it Buckley or Galyon).

Giants on Special Teams: Like last week, if the Giants are to win this week, they must outperform their opponent here. Brad Daluiso needs to hit the damn kicks when they count. Thomas Lewis had a superb return last week, but we are still wary with the way he carries the ball. Most importantly, we still haven’t shaken the memory of the Giants’ coverage teams being torn apart in the preseason. We can’t allow any big returns this week.

Sep 031997
 
New York Giants 31 – Philadelphia Eagles 17

Game Overview: As Bill Parcells used to say, a 16 game season is more of a marathon than a sprint, and thus Giant fans should keep this win in proper perspective. Nevertheless, the Giants 31-17 win over the Eagles was both impressive and very important. Indeed, if it weren’t for some costly Giant miscues and some truly remarkable catches by the Eagle receivers, this game would have been a blowout for New York. Most importantly, with the Giants’ 21 point second half lead quickly slipping away at the hands of back-up quarterback Rodney Peete, this Giant team showed that, unlike its recent predecessors, it would not let this game get away from them. This is the league’s youngest team and every win early in the season is critical for developing its confidence and belief in itself.

Quarterbacks: Dave Brown (13-for-27, 193 yards, no interceptions) had a so-so game. The good news was that he led the Giants on two TD drives — one finishing on a TD run by himself and the second finishing on a TD pass to WR Chris Calloway right before halftime. Really David should have had two more TD tosses. He hit a wide open WR Thomas Lewis on a play where Lewis should have scored on a long TD pass, but Lewis tripped over his own feet after making the catch. Then in the third quarter, Brown hit WR Ike Hilliard right in the hands in the endzone, but Ike dropped the ball (the Giants had to settle for a field goal). In the first quarter, Fassel called a marvelously designed play that had Brown faking a reverse to Hilliard then rolling right and tossing the ball over the head of the leaping safety to a wide open FB Charles Way who was off to the races — a 62 yard play that set up the Giants inside the Eagles’ 10 yard line. Brown then scored a few plays later on a called quarterback draw right up the middle (a play from the old Reeves’ playbook). Where Brown looked very sharp was on the drive right before halftime. Running the two minute offense, Brown threw an excellent deep sideline pass to HB Tiki Barber, who was well covered. He then made a clutch TD throw as time was running out to Chris Calloway — however, Calloway “saved” Brown on this play by making a wonderful one-handed grab as the pass was slightly off the mark. He also made a really sharp pass to Ike Hilliard on 3rd-and-17 which set up the Giants’ field goal in the third quarter.

The bad news was that Brown’s accuracy was not as impressive as it was in the preseason. Part of this we blame on opening day jitters in front of a somewhat hostile “home” crowd. However, there were times in the game where Brown looked uncomfortably like last year as it seemed the pressure of the game got to him, especially in the second half when the Giants needed to put together some first downs in order to run time off the clock. There were too many three-and-outs in the second half and one could see Head Coach Jim Fassel trying to settle down Brown on the sideline. Indeed, the Giants’ passing offense seemed to be missing the quick timing it had throughout camp and the preseason. Perhaps it had to do with the receivers having problems getting open, perhaps it had to do with indecision on the part of Brown, perhaps it had to do with the playcalling — but whatever the reason, it was fairly obvious that many of the plays lacked a certain smoothness and that Brown was well off on a number of his second half passes.

Regardless, a win is a win and in the end, that is all that truly matters. Eagle Head Coach Ray Rhodes and Defensive Coordinator Emmitt Thomas know how to defend against this type of offense and some credit must be given to them. For Brown and his offensive teammates, putting 24 points on the board against a tough defense has to help their confidence. Just as importantly, with more experience in this offense, things should get even better.

Running Backs: HB Tiki Barber (20 carries for 88 yards and one TD; 3 catches for 32 yards) played well, but not as impressively as some would have you believe. Barber is a quick, elusive back who seems to make the big run or get stuffed at the line of scrimmage. What is needed from him is more consistent and regularly occurring plays for positive yardage. Right now, for each 20 yard run, there seems to be too many plays for 1 or 2 yards. Of course, much of this must be blamed on the inconsistent run blocking. Tiki’s best run of the day came on the Giants’ scoring drive right before halftime as he showed moves, cutback ability, and an ability to break tackles. He also made a wonderful deep sideline catch on the same drive. While Tiki didn’t fumble, we’d also like to see him protect the ball a little better when running in traffic. He also is still dropping too many short passes.

FB Charles Way wasn’t used as much offensively as he probably normally will be later in the season as many times he was kept in the backfield to help out Roman Oben. Way did have a 62-yard catch-and-run that set up the Giants’ first touchdown.

In a move that speaks volumes, Tyrone Wheatley saw no action with the offense except for one play where he did not touch the ball.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: Aside from Chris Calloway, not a good game from this group, which much is expected from. Calloway (4 catches for 42 yards) had a very good game. Not only did he make the one-handed TD grab, but he also made a leaping catch of a high Brown sideline pass where he outfought the Eagle defender for the ball. Poor Thomas Lewis. In the preseason, he dropped a sure TD pass from Brown and in this game, he caught a sure TD pass, but tripped over his own feet with no Eagle defender around him. Obviously, Thomas (1 catch for 34 yards) has the talent, but he’s having some problem upstairs — if you know what we mean. Ike Hilliard made a fantastic grab on a crossing route where he got hammered as he caught the ball, but dropped two other passes, including a TD — we attribute this more to opening day jitters as well. Amani Toomer saw some action, but he and Brown seemed to be on different pages on a deep route into the endzone — based on Brown’s reactions, it seems as if Toomer ran the wrong route.

Like the preseason, the tight ends were not passed to much. Howard Cross dropped one pass in heavy traffic, but came through later in the game with a tough catch with a defender all over him. Aaron Pierce played quite a bit, but was not passed to.

Offensive Line: A fairly solid game, though Roman Oben had some rough moments with DE Mike Mamula. The good news was the Giants “only” gave up two sacks — though Brown was under heavy pressure at other times. Interestingly, Oben was having more problems with Mamula’s inside moves than his outside stuff. However, for a first time starter on opening day, Oben didn’t do too bad. Greg Bishop gave up a sack as well, but was solid for most of the game. Derek Engler was not a liability, and aside from a false start penalty on Gragg, the right side was very strong. Right now, we’re actually more concerned about the Giants’ run blocking than their pass blocking. If the Giants are going to become a playoff contender, they can’t become one-dimensional — they need to be able to run the ball as well as pass it.

Defensive Line: Give Defensive Coordinator John Fox and his staff credit — the Giants played a wonderful defensive game, despite the fact that the Eagles tried to take advantage of the Giants’ losses at cornerback by employing multiple wide receiver sets throughout the game. The line played a very strong game. Amazingly, the Giants picked up nine quarterback sacks, although many of these came in the waning moments of the game as the Eagles were desperately attempting to make a comeback. As a matter of fact, early on in the game, the Giants’ pass rush was lacking as Ty Detmer had too much time to complete passes. However, as the game progressed, Detmer and then Rodney Peete were running for their lives. Against the run, the Giants were very strong early on, but let up somewhat during the Eagles’ comeback in the late third and early fourth quarters. Nevertheless, despite what the statistics indicate, the Eagles’ running game never really hurt the Giants. As for the specifics, both DE Michael Strahan and DT Robert Harris played extremely well. Strahan picked up 2.5 sacks and was strong against the run for the most part. He and OLB Corey Miller did get pushed too far outside on one big Watters’ run, but for the most part the Eagles couldn’t pick up significant yardage to the right side. Harris had a very strong game. Indeed, Harris was found at the bottom of the pile in many thwarted Eagle rushing attempts up the middle. In the pass rush department, he picked up 1.5 sacks and regularly exerted pressure up the middle. Playing quieter games were DE Chad Bratzke (1 sack) and DT Keith Hamilton (1 sack). Bratzke was both up-and-down in the run defense department. Most of the time, he played strong and strung plays wide or made the tackle. However, he got pinched inside on one big Eagle run to the left side. Hamilton had a fair game in the run defense and pass rush department, but he wasn’t as active as Harris. Surprisingly before he was forced to leave the game with a knee injury, DE Cedric Jones played quite a bit and didn’t look too bad. DT Ray Agnew played a lot as well and was fairly solid.

Linebackers: OLB Jessie Armstead was hitting machine all day as he made a number of highlight-reel hits on both defense and special teams. Jessie was handled by FB Kevin Turner on one run, but did well in coverage, against the run, and on the blitz. He’s turning into a real player and leader on defense. Corey Miller (1 sack) came free on one blitz too and just barely missed sacking the quarterback again on another play. Miller had superb coverage on Turner in the endzone, but was outfought for the ball and the play resulted in a TD. Corey Widmer was sent on a number of inside dogs and his pressure of Peete led directly to Garnes’ interception and TD return. Widmer also did well in getting over to cover the flats. Either Marcus Buckley’s hip is still bothering him or Scott Galyon has moved ahead of him on the depth chart as Galyon has now become one of the Giants’ nickel linebackers (along with Armstead). Ryan Phillips played late in the game and picked up a sack.

Defensive Backs: Very strong game for this group, even without Phillippi Sparks and Conrad Hamilton. Really the Eagle comeback was more the result of some spectacular catches by Eagle wide receivers than breakdowns in coverage. CB Robert Massey played a lot due to the fact that the Eagles played multiple WR sets much of the game, and he didn’t disappoint. Both Jason Sehorn and Thomas Randolph did a good job covering their men, though Randolph still plays too far off the ball and Sehorn still has problems in the tackling department. The Eagles picked up a first down on 4th-and-long late in the game because Jason wasn’t aggressive enough attacking the Eagle receiver after he caught the ball. Sehorn was sent on quite a few blitzes and picked up a sack. Randolph got obliterated on a number of runs to his side, but at least he stuck his nose in there.

Sam Garnes was not that noticeable for most of the game (and that’s usually a good thing for a defensive back), but he made the play of the game when he thwarted the Eagles’ comeback by picking off Peete at the Giants’ five yard line and returned the ball 95 yards for a touchdown. Tito Wooten was around the ball the whole game, both against the run and the pass. Percy Ellsworth made a couple of nice sticks and was also generally around the ball.

Special Teams: The Giants outplayed the Eagles in this department and this was a large factor in the win. Thomas Lewis redeemed himself when he broke the opening half kick-off and returned the ball to inside the Eagles’ 10 yard line — much credit must be given to the blocking on the return as Lewis had a huge hole to run through right up the middle of the field. Kick coverage, a real sore spot in the preseason, was very strong. Aside from one near game-turning punt return, the Giants also did well in covering punts, as Jessie Armstead and David Patten made nice plays. Patten may have saved the game with his hustle running across the field to knock the Eagle punt returner out of bounds on Philadelphia’s one big return. Frustratingly, after a perfect preseason, Brad Daluiso showed once again that he cannot make the long kick on a consistent basis as he missed a 48 yarder. He also came awfully close to missing the one field goal he made. Brad did well on his kickoffs, however. Brad Maynard punted well on all but one of his punts. Amani Toomer continues to do too much dancing and runs to the sidelines on all of his punt returns.