Nov 261999

Regular Season: Giants Lead Series 73-38-2

Approach to the Game – Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants, November 28, 1999: Games don’t get any bigger than this. If the Giants lose this one, they can basically kiss off any chance at making the playoffs. The Giants need to go 5-1 or 4-2 down the stretch. They have proven the last two years that they are capable of doing that, but they can’t think in those terms. Focus on the Cardinals. Worry about the other teams later. If the Giants do that and play inspired, competitive football and concentrate on one opponent at a time, everything else will sort itself out.

The Giants can do it! Now, let’s get it done!

Giants on Offense: One gets the sense that the Giants’ quarterback carousel of the last three years is about to finally end. Dave Brown to Danny Kanell to Kent Graham. None of these guys had it. QB Kerry Collins has the arm, accuracy, quick release, and competitive desire that one looks for. He still is a work in progress as he is still straightening out his mechanics, rebuilding his confidence, and learning the offense. But if the Giants are going to make a playoff push, offensively it will have to come on his right arm and the legs of Tiki Barber.

Collins did not play very well in his last and only start – ironically against these very same Cardinals. Supposedly, he’s a different quarterback now. Back in October, he looked somewhat confused, indecisive, and jumpy in the pocket. Kerry did not look like that against the Redskins so let’s hope that continues. Of course, the ultimate goal is to put points on the board. If Kerry can lead the offense in a way that puts 20+ points on the board, the Giants will be successful.

The receivers no longer have any excuses. They have a good quarterback in there who can get the ball to them. Make plays – big ones. It’s long since time. WR Ike Hilliard will probably be locked up against CB Aeneas Williams. Aeneas is one of the very best in the business, but Ike was the 7th pick in the draft and it is time for him to deliver against top flight competition. He should be able to do some damage in the intermediate range with wide receivers Amani Toomer and David Patten driving defenders off deep. Toomer faces Tom Knight – that’s a match-up that Toomer should win. No excuses. Look for Patten to play a big role against the nickel cornerback. Underneath, when the Giants need a big third down conversion or no one is open, dump the ball off to Pete Mitchell. With Collins throwing the ball, and Hilliard, Toomer, Patten, and Mitchell catching it, the Giants should be able to finally move the ball on a consistent basis.

HB Joe Montgomery has been practicing this week and may play. But the guy who has to lead the Giants to the promised land is Tiki Barber – both as a runner and receiver. No sense protecting him from wear and tear now. There are only six games left and each game is critical. Tiki has become the playmaker the Giants envisioned when they drafted him. Get the ball in his hands as much as possible. If he needs a breather, I would bring in Montgomery or Sean Bennett. LeShon Johnson is simply not getting it done.

The offensive line has to get its act together now too. These guys should realize that they are not only fighting for their team’s future, but their own professional future. There were whispers in the press this week that Luke Petitgout may find his way back into the line-up if LT Roman Oben continues to struggle. DE Simeon Rice gave Oben fits the last time they played, but Roman has a good history against Rice otherwise. That is obviously a key match-up. Keeping DT Eric Swann at bay is important too. Normally, Swann plays over the right guard. RG Ron Stone has historically done a good job against him. Thus, the Cards may move Swann over rookie LG Mike Rosenthal. OC Brian Williams will most likely be forced to help out. The other defensive tackle is Rashod Swinger. The Giants simply must handle him with one blocker. Luckily for RT Scott Gragg, DE Andre Wadsworth is out. He needs to dominate DE Brad Ottis.

The Cards’ linebackers are active, but they can be run on. MLB Ronald McKinnon and SLB Rob Fredrickson have a ton of tackles, but they are not real strong at the point of attack. They can run sidelines to sidelines however. Grind the ball at them. The Cards are also missing their normal starter on the weakside – Zack Walz. His replacement, Patrick Sapp, is a journeyman.

Giants on Defense: Dave Brown starts for the Cardinals, but Jake Plummer will most likely make an appearance since Brown is ailing and has struggled a bit. Regardless, the first key is to shut down the run. The Cardinals no doubt will try to emulate what the Redskins did last week. HB Adrian Murrell is very capable of taking over a game. It is up to the defensive line and linebackers to shut him down and make Arizona one-dimensional. DE Cedric Jones faces rookie LT L.J. Shelton. There is no reason why Cedric should not dominate this match-up. Same with DE Michael Strahan versus RT Anthony Clement. DT Christian Peter faces journeyman RG Lester Holmes and DT Keith Hamilton will battle it out against LG Chris Dishman. The Giants should, and must, dominate the line of scrimmage. It’s time for Strahan to get his head out of his ass and make some big plays. Same with Cedric.

The linebackers need to rebound this week too. Jessie Armstead should have a lot of frustration to release after being criticized for his comments about the offense after last week’s loss. I look for him to have a big game. MLB Corey Widmer and SLB Ryan Phillips need to make a positive impact. The Cards like to throw to their halfbacks (Murrell and Pittman) and tight ends (Terry Hardy). Coverage as well as run defense will be important. Don’t allow Dave Brown or Jake Plummer to get into a rhythm. With nickel backer Marcus Buckley (leg/concussion) ailing, I would think we might see a lot of Scott Galyon – a guy I like a lot – this week.

The Cards’ receivers usually give the Giants fits. CB Jason Sehorn and CB Phillippi Sparks will face tough tests in WR Rob Moore and WR Frank Sanders, respectively. A huge match-up will be WR David Boston (who killed the Giants back in October) versus the nickel back – be it Jeremy Lincoln or Emmanuel McDaniel. The Giants need to get after the quarterback in order to prevent Arizona from really exploiting this mismatch. Ball-hawking Percy Ellsworth and hard-hitting Sam Garnes can also have an impact here.

Giants on Special Teams: The Giants have to win this battle. With KR Bashir Levingston (concussion) out, David Patten has a chance to make some plays here too. Tiki Barber is having a good year returning punts and may break one if his blockers give him some room to operate. Cards’ PR Mac Cody is dangerous as is KR Mario Bates. Downfield coverage will be key and the Giants may activate S Tre Thomas and/or LB O.J. Childress from the practice squad to help out.

Nov 241999
Washington Redskins 23 – New York Giants 13

Editor’s Note: I watched the game on the Giants’ sidelines with David Oliver – who through his diligent efforts was able to secure me a field pass. From this vantage point, I was able to keep an eye on events on the field that I would never have been able to see at home watching the set. At the same time, the ground level view did restrict my ability to monitor a great deal of the action, particular on the far side of the field. It is important for readers to recognize that fact when reading this review. Also, I was able to visit the lockerroom after the game and hear some of the comments made by the players and Head Coach Jim Fassel. I would like to personally thank both David – a true character and gentleman – as well as the Giants for allowing me such access. One of the treats for me was watching former Giants’ great LB Sam Huff coming out to meet Wellington Mara before the game on the field.

Overview: The playoff aspirations of the Giants took a serious blow by being swept by the Redskins. Let’s be brutally honest – the game was not as close as the score would indicate. The Redskins very easily should have had 16 more points if it weren’t for a bone-headed fumble on the goalline and three missed field goals. Yes, the offense certainly deserves much, if not most, of the blame for the defeat. You just can’t afford to turn the ball over five times. However, the front seven of the Giants’ defense was pushed all over the field and dominated by Washington’s offensive line. The best team on the field won and it was not our boys in blue. The Redskins were more physical, they made fewer mistakes, and they played smarter.

The bad news is that the Giants now find themselves at 5-5 overall and 3-3 in the division. They have yet to play the tough part of their schedule. If they are to give themselves a legitimate shot at the postseason, the very worst they can afford to do in the last six games is 4-2 and they may have to go 5-1. That’s going to be a tall order to fill.

The good news is that the offense does show some signs of life. I think they are real close now to being respectable. The big question is will it be too little too late?

Defensive Line/Linebackers: These guys were handled up front by the Redskin offensive line for most of the day. Aside from a few plays near the goalline, where the Giants tended tighten it up, HB Stephen Davis had a field day running the ball down the Giants’ collective throats. Davis ran left, he ran right, and he ran right up the gut. All were to blame on defense. Washington was able to pitch the ball towards DE Cedric Jones’ (4 tackles) side with great success, but they were also able to run right at DE Michael Strahan (5 tackles). Michael was largely controlled by RT Jon Jansen again. Oh sure, Strahan made a few plays against the run and had a couple of nice rushes (but no sacks). But one expects more from the self-proclaimed best defensive end in the game – especially against a rookie. A few times, Strahan was moved to the right side, but he did not do much against LT Andy Heck either. In the lockerroom after the game, Strahan went off on a reporter when the reporter had the “audacity” to ask him about his matchup with Jansen. He was not in a good mood to say the least.

Inside, DT Christian Peter (1 tackle) had a rough day against Tre Johnson and his flankmates. I spotted him getting crushed at the point far too often. DT Keith Hamilton (1 tackle) held his ground better, but only in relative terms. There was not enough penetration and I thought he would have a better day against Brad Badger. The Redskins were more physical and they wore down the Giants’ front four. It was obvious. Strahan and Hamilton yapped a great deal all week leading up to the game, but they didn’t back it up on the playing field.

The linebackers played poorly too. MLB Corey Widmer (7 tackles) was nowhere to be seen on a few inside runs that were broken for big yardage. On one play, I spotted him taking himself completely out of the play and leaving a big gap for Davis. WLB Jessie Armstead (9 tackles) made a couple of plays in the backfield, but was far too quiet. He, Widmer, and SLB Ryan Phillips (5 tackles) were often punished up front by the big Redskin line. They also had problems keeping track of FB Larry Centers who really gave the Giants fits in the passing game. In the lockerroom, I was very disturbed listening to Armstead and Widmer taking shots at their offensive teammates and saying that the defense did it’s job despite giving up so much yardage on the ground. Armstead and Widmer, in separate conversations, both said the defense should basically be applauded for holding the Redskins to 16 points. I’m sorry but these two are wrong and it is sad to see two defensive “leaders” argue their case in such a way. Yes, they only gave up 16 points, but the Redskins very easily should have had another 16. And just as importantly, Washington controlled the field position war, the clock, and the tempo of the game.

Reserves such as DT George Williams, DE/DT Bernard Holsey (1 tackle), and LB Marcus Buckley (2 tackles) saw quite a bit of action. I even spotted DT Ryan Hale in there for a couple of plays. Williams isn’t a play-maker, but I like the intensity he brings to the defense when he is out there.

Defensive Backs: The secondary had a decent day, but they really were not tested much with Washington able to grind it out on the ground so successfully. Indeed, the defensive backs had to make far too many tackles against the run given the poor play of the front seven. CB Jason Sehorn (4 tackles) was beaten badly on a double-pump, hitch-and-go route. He was able to recover a bit, but didn’t turn around for the ball and was flagged for and interference penalty that put the ball on the one yard line. CB Phillippi Sparks (8 tackles) also was flagged in the end zone, although I thought he had good coverage on the play. Aside from that, the receivers were generally held in check. Both Sehorn and Sparks were also very solid in run support. CB Jeremy Lincoln seemed to play well in the nickel. CB Emmanuel McDaniel (2 tackles) was in there a bit and held his own too. SS Sam Garnes (3 tackles) was often forced to attempt to clean up the mess in front of him with the the line and linebackers getting controlled. Still, I expected to see him make more plays closer to the line. Perhaps he was preoccupied with TE Stephen Alexander – who was held relatively quiet this time.

It’s tough for me to criticize FS Percy Ellsworth (8 tackles) too harshly. Regular readers know that I have taken my shots at him in the past. His bone-headed personal foul penalty took away any final chance the Giants had at tying the game. He also missed a few tackles very badly – uninspired efforts to say the least. But the guy was a warrior out there playing the game on a broken foot. His team needed him out there and he sucked it up. Once again, he showed that instinctive ability to read the quarterback and come away with a key interception too.

Quarterback: QB Kent Graham (3-of-12 for 36 yards, 2 interceptions) was forced to leave the game with his second concussion of the year, but Fassel said after the game he was strongly considering making the switch at that point in the game regardless. Graham was crushed right in front of me on the first drive of the game. It was vicious hit and he didn’t get up right away. I didn’t think Kent played poorly and he was victimized by some dropped passes. But he wasn’t overly sharp either and seemed once again reluctant to pull the trigger and toss the ball near tight coverage.

Kerry Collins (13-of-21 for 221 yards, 1interception) was noticeably more accurate, more decisive, and more confident. While immobile, he does have a quick release and some of the throws he was making were big league. I thought his best pass of the night was the deep out to Amani Toomer that converted a 3rd-and-long and set up the Giants’ sole touchdown. CB Darrell Green had tight coverage on the play, but Kerry gunned the ball in there perfectly and Green never had a chance. Kerry had thrown another perfect pass on the preceding play to HB Sean Bennett down the sidelines. I thought it was clearly a touchdown but the refs ruled that Bennett dropped the pass. (It was right in front of us and I don’t know what the official was watching – and we let him know it too. Ironically, the sideline judge gave us a little smile when he saw the play on the big screen – I think he agreed with us). Collins also did a good job of doing something that I’ve been calling for – hitting TE Pete Mitchell in stride while he is moving forward. Mitchell was able to pick up decent yardage after one catch over the middle. After the game, Collins said to a group of us that he thought his best pass was the pump-and-go to Hilliard near the end of the half that went for 46 yards. This play cut Washington’s lead to 10-6.

It wasn’t the perfect throws that so impressed and encouraged me however. It was the fact that I felt that Kerry was much more comfortable and less jittery in the pocket than he was in Arizona. The rush didn’t seem to bother Collins and that is very, very important in his development. It is very obvious that Kerry has a good chemistry with David Patten – both guys played together throughout the summer on the second team. Strangely, Collins somewhat disagreed with this assessment when David Oliver asked him about it after the game. All I know is that Patten was at his best in the preseason when Collins was at the helm. In the Redskin game, Kerry was hitting Patten just as he was coming out of his break. These passes were coming against Darrell Green and Champ Bailey. They were major league passes and the type of throw that Graham has been reluctant to release.

The big problem for Kerry in the game was the center-quarterback exchange. This is often a problem when a quarterback switch is made and a center and quarterback don’t have much experience working together. However, after the game, Collins would have none of that. He said that the exchange is the most basic play in all of football and that that should never happen. I admired the way he accepted responsibility. In watching his mannerisms and listening to his responses, one comes away with the impression that Kerry is a very confident young man. He answered all the quarterback controversy questions the way he should have and was very diplomatic. But you can tell that he is dying to get in there for good. Kerry firmly believes that the offense is not that far away from being productive. I came away inspired by his confidence.

Wide Receivers: The starters were too quiet against Champ Bailey and Darrell Green. Ironically, it was David Patten who gave these two the most problems. Hilliard (4 catches for 101 yards) got open deep near the end of the half and responded on the pump-and-go. But he simply doesn’t have the speed to break a game open. His stats were somewhat bloated by the last catch of the game. Aside from Toomer’s big third down catch that I alluded to above, he was a non-factor except for two plays where he was interfered with. If Amani ever wants to be considered one of the best in the game, he has to make plays on a consistent basis and not disappear for long stretches. He never seems to get wide open for some reason.

Joe Jurevicius (1 catch for 11 yards) had a horrible game. I think he dropped at least three passes that he should have caught – one which he tipped up into the air and was intercepted. I have been very, very disappointed in Joe. I felt strongly he was one of the best receivers in the draft two years ago and I have been very encouraged by what I have seen of him in camp. But he simply is not focusing enough on the field. His best play of the night was becoming a defensive back and knocking away Collins’ worst pass of the night – a pass that was almost intercepted by Green. Right now, David Patten (3 catches for 51 yards) is clearly playing better than Jurevicius and it is Patten who should be seeing the bulk of the playing time. After the game, Collins said Joe had a rough game, but that he still has a lot of confidence in him. Perhaps Joe will respond with his fellow alumni in there.

Patten is one of the Giants’ most explosive players due to his speed. Regardless of what Kerry says, I think he has a special relationship with Collins and expect some big plays to result very soon.

Tight Ends: Every time I see TE Howard Cross interacting with his teammates up close and personal, I come away with the impression that this guy means much more to his team than his meager receiving statistics. Howard is a character and a leader. One only had to see him coming over to LG Mike Rosenthal right before kick-off and joking with him in an effort to settle down the obviously nervous rookie. Cross is widely regarded as one of the funniest guys on the team, yet he is a competitor who hates to lose. Cross was very defiant of the boos cascading down on him and his teammates when the Giants’ offense was introduced before the game. Every team needs a guy like Howard and he remains one of my favorites.

Pete Mitchell (3 catches for 30 yards) started off on a down note by dropping a Graham pass and tipping it up in the air where it was intercepted. Pete settled down after that and made a positive contribution. Still, I was expecting him to be more of a factor in the game.

Running Backs: HB Tiki Barber (10 carries for 44 yards, 4 catches for 46 yards) ) is the best player on the offensive side of the ball right now and one of the best players on the team. What stood out to me more than anything else on the ground level was the fantastic job he did on blitz pickups. He absolutely clobbered a blitzer on the goalline and saved Kerry Collins’ life on the play where Toomer was interfered with for the second time on the Giants’ lone touchdown drive. It was one of the hits of the game. On another play where Dana Stubblefield cleanly beat Rosenthal, it was the 195 pound Barber who took out the 320 pound defensive lineman. Pass protection from running backs is immensely underrated aspect of the game and Tiki should be congratulated for his technique and courage.

Another area that I am very impressed with Barber is the toughness that he is running between the tackles with. Not only is he unafraid to mix it up inside, but he continues to show good balance and break tackles. In the fourth quarter, it was the running of Tiki combined with the passing of Kerry that got the Giants back into the game and swung the momentum in their favor. He had a real nice run that initially started towards the right, but he broke it back to the left for good yardage. The shuttle pass to him on 3rd down was another huge play. After the game, Barber was one of the last guys to walk off the field as insults rained down from Skins’ fans. I applauded him from the sideline in an effort to let him know that I thought he played very well.

I also thought that FB Charles Way (8 carries for 26 yards) played one of his best games of the year. His block on the shuttle pass is the one that sprung Tiki. He broke off a nice right-side run for good yardage, but I thought his best run of the night was the one right up the middle after the Skins’ turnover on the goalline. The crowd was going crazy and Washington was looking to hold the Giants down there and force them to punt before the half ended. Not only did Way’s run prevent that strategy from working, but it also enabled the Giants to open up the offense and generate points of their own before halftime. It was Way who scored the Giants’ touchdown on another right side run over Ron Stone and Scott Gragg.

HB LeShon Johnson (2 carries for 5 yards) was a non-factor.

Offensive Line: Inconsistent. Actually, I thought most of the line played decently. There were a few breakdowns in pass protection, but at times the line gave the quarterbacks a good pocket to throw from. Of course the big mistake was LT Roman Oben’s poor effort against DE Ndukwe Kalu on a play where Kalu sacked Collins from the blindside, stripped the ball, and DE Marco Coleman returned it for a touchdown. It was the play of the game. The regular right end, Coleman, gave Oben problems on too many plays. I don’t know if Oben is struggling with new Offensive Line Coach Jim McNally’s technique, if his knee is bothering him, or he is simply regressing, but Oben is having his worst year.

For his first time out, I thought LG Mike Rosenthal did an admirable job. I saw him whiff on one block (the one Tiki picked up) and he was also knocked way back into the backfield on a running play by Stubblefield. But there were no big disturbances coming from his man. In the lockerroom after the game, I said to Mike that I thought he did well. He responded that his man beat him a few times. I told him that for his first time out, I thought it was heck of a job. I also mentioned that our readers are very interested in his progress. Mike seemed genuinely thankful for my comments. David Oliver has a good rapport with Rosenthal and we intend to keep track of him.

The rest of the line did alright. The big problem remains opening up big holes for the running backs. I thought RT Scott Gragg and RG Ron Stone were solid. Stone did miss a block on Coleman on a trap. OC Brian Williams looked spent after the game. I think he is still trying to get accustomed to the rigors of a 16-game season again.

Special Teams: The punt coverage unit gave up a big return to Brian Mitchell. P Brad Maynard had a solid all-around day – finally. PK Cary Blanchard converted both his field goal attempts, but he remains dreadfully short on his kickoffs. He also hit one out-of-bounds – a big no-no. Kick returns by Bashir Levingston were decent, but he did put the ball on the ground. Fortunately, Bernard Holsey recovered. Tiki Barber wasn’t able to return a punt.


by David Oliver

It sounds a whole lot better than `Skins do Giants – Again! But my friends that is what actually happened. Strip off the veneer from this antique and you find the story is just plain old. Sure, we were totally hosed by the officiating; yes, the defense ONLY gave up 16 points; and, ok, the offense again underperformed, but this Tale of Two Cities begins only with “it was the worst of times”, and ends with 2 defeats at the hands of – them. When you read the statements coming out of Giantdom about how close the game was, the statements out of `Skinsdom about how they should have scored 50 points again, including Norv’s remarks to Sonny and George that the game wasn’t really that close, and you wonder what planet these guys are on. The truth, as always lies somewhere between. It wasn’t a blowout, or `skins domination, but then, we were never really in it – it was a tease, a barker’s come on, a very twisted way to spend a Sunday evening.

The real unfortunate part of the whole event is that the pencil necks in the media have succeeded in extracting several painful statements about the offense from a few high profile members of the defense. Right at the very time when we need the D to stand tall and get the job done, a very artful deflection is taking place- blame placement. Believe me, I know the technique. Working for the Feds that’s all we get; the pretty boys stub their toes and ==it flows downhill. Thank goodness, it is not all of the D, many of whom are more than willing to stand up and acknowledge that yes, the O is struggling, but that WE, as a TEAM are not getting the job done.

Eric will give you the blow-by-blow; I’ll play Boomer E. today. Did Bennett score? Well, in the end it didn’t matter because we did score a couple of plays later. But rightness in the universe demands an analysis – for future reference. There were 4 of us in the End Zone, two video guys and 2 still guys. Both still guys said score, both video guys were unsure. We were all sure he had the ball in the air; that to me constitutes score – the plane was broken. Bobbling? Well, that referee has better eyes than my lens, because my photo shows no bobble. I asked Sean about the play, and he told me they had run it 2 or 3 times in practice this week. He said “I lost it in the lights for a second…I thought I had it…I felt my feet come down and my back hit…he came through and swiped it out…”

Were our linemen, particularly Strahan, being held? Absolutely, obviously and methodically. And they were screaming at the officials pleading for a call. But between Tag’s power and Dan’s money, ain’t nobody getting a call in this City. But that’s not the whole story. For example, when I talked to Percy Ellsworth he was very low and felt that he had let the team down- which I believe he did not. He had the interception and many chase tackles, playing with a broken foot. He made a dumb mistake, but other things cost the team that win. But Percy said that the D would come back, “We have to, nobody’s going to tag in for us…this is a long season, a long, crazy season…we’re just one game out…it’s a crazy season…” I asked him about the trash talking on the field and he told me there’s a lot going out there, but you leave it on the field. He told me, “There’s just a lot of things going on out there.”

Corey Widmer acknowledged that misdirection plays hurt the D. He said, “They were running away from the safety and the defense over shifted, hoping that the scoop backs would come up and keep the backside closed, but they were popping it.” Corey said “Misdirection could either be great or just the worst thing in the world for you, offensively speaking, because there is a lot of movement in the backfield and you could get stuck for a loss real quick, but we weren’t getting there enough.” In the red zone our D is outstanding. As Corey said, “It comes down to points. I’d give up 400 yards rushing, as long as we score more points than they do, just 1 more point.” Corey felt if there was a bright point in the game, it was “having them come down, and not giving up the points. It’s pretty easy to concede 3 points, but we were still coming hard, even on the PATs (points after) , and that was a big factor, it still gave us a shot in the end.” Talking about the emotional level of the game, he acknowledged that each week the D has to notch up the emotional fervor, that “the defense has always been the one to set the stage.” Someone said to Corey that it looked almost as if the D was begging for help from the O. He said, “…coming in against that defense…you know the defense (Giants), is going to hit them in the mouth, but you need some help…we’ll all have to hit them in the mouth…in these kinds of games, the emotional are running so high that…you have got to respond…there are critical points, when you are driving, etc.,or at some point in the game…the defense is just as guilty (the penalty) you have to know where you are…this is the stuff you learn when you’ve been in the league for a few years…” But he said, “we’re professionals. Regardless of what we did the week before, the defense is going to step up every week.”

Mike Rosenthal was tired after the game and certainly would have enjoyed it more in a victory. When I said, Hey, big guy, how did it feel?, he answered in a team way “We needed a win here, we needed to come out and play well…we just came up a little short, but it’s a long season and we have to keep on plugging and plugging…we have to go back and review the film and improve.” I asked him if he felt he held his own and he told me, “Some plays good, some plays bad; I’ve just got to minimize the bad and get more good.” I asked if it felt strange to be replacing his college buddy? He said, “We’ve been best friends through this whole ordeal, through the NFL draft, through College and being out here. He’s been great. Last night he called me and told me what to expect and I really thank him for that.”

Kerry Collins was pumped up after the game and spent a long time answering questions – about everything – I was waiting for someone to ask him what stocks he thought we should all invest in. He said “I play fast…sometimes I get excited…I can’t wait to get the ball and get back and throw it…but you have to take care of things first.” This by way of talking about the fumbles. He didn’t duck – he said they were inexcusable for a professional and he would work on it. I asked if he and David Patten had something special and he said “To be honest, I haven’t worked that much with Patten…but for whatever reason it just kind of works out well. It happened in pre-season, in Baltimore…the important thing is to develop that rapport with all the guys.” He said much more Sunday night, enough to convince me, the last sceptic, that he may be ready.

Well, there’s a lot more but it’s time to wrap up. Hold on to your hats, boys and girls, the tilt-a-whirl is starting up. We have 6 games left, against top-flight opponents. We’ll just have to see how good the defense really is – we know they can talk- now can they hold someone to 10 or fewer points? And is Old Timer or Ralph C correct – which QB is Moses and can he lead us to the Promised Land – and enter himself? Can KC hold the ball as well as he throws it? As they say in the pits, “It’s Fassel time!”

Oh, by the way, somehow the Giants found out that Eric has never been to a winning game. Not only was I told I should have left him in the parking lot with a radio, but I was asked if there was any connection between his residence in Virginia and… well, you know, was there more than just bad officiating at work here? I’m also told that the next time I bring him, they have a special place for him, right between Hamilton and Peter and in front of Corey Widmer. After all, they don’t want him to miss the action on the far side of the field. HAPPY THANKSGIVING AND REMEMBER, GIVE THANKS, WE ARE FANS OF THE GREATEST TEAM IN THE GREATEST SPORT ON EARTH. GOD BLESS!!!


RUSHING — GIANTS, T.Barber 10-44, Way 8-26, L.Johnson 2-5, Collins 4-(minus 3). Washington, Davis 33-183, Hicks 5-14, B.Johnson 3-8.

PASSING — GIANTS, Graham 3-10-2-36, Collins 13-21-1-221. Washington, B.Johnson 17-29-1-158.

RECEIVING — GIANTS, Hilliard 4-101, T.Barber 4-46, Patten 3-51, P.Mitchell 3-30, Toomer 1-18, Jurevicius 1-11. Washington, Centers 6-69, Fryar 3-10, Davis 3-5, Jenkins 1-30, Thrash 1-25, Connell 1-16, B.Mitchell 1-2, Westbrook 1-1.

PUNT RETURNS — GIANTS, None. Washington, B.Mitchell 3-33

KICKOFF RETURNS — GIANTS, Levingston 2-59, Patten 2-53, Comella 1-14. Washington, B.Mitchell 1-17, Thrash 1-14.

TACKLES-ASSISTS-SACKS — GIANTS, Armstead 9-0-0, Ellsworth 8-0-0, Sparks 8-0-0, Widmer 5-2-0, R.Phillips 5-0-0, Strahan 5-0-0, C.Jones 4-0-0, Sehorn 4-0-0, Garnes 3-0-0, Galyon 2-0-0, McDaniel 2-0-0, Buckley 2-0-0, Hamilton 1-0-0, Holsey 1-0-0, Peter 1-0-0, Levingston 1-0-0, Way 0-1-0. Washington, Shade 8-0-1, Smith 4-1-0, S.Barber 4-0-0, Green 4-0-0, Coleman 3-0-1, Cook 3-0-0, Biley 3-0-0, Thrash 2-1-0 Kalu 2-0-1, Mason 2-0-0, Wilkinson 2-0-0, Evans 1-0-0, G.Jones 1-0-0, Lang 1-0-0, McMillian 1-0-0, Stubblefield 1-0-1, Centers 1-0-0, Denton 1-0-0.

INTERCEPTIONS — GIANTS, Ellsworth 1-26. Washington, Green 1-25, Smith 1-0, Shade 1-0.

MISSED FIELD GOALS — Washington, Conway 38 (WR), 50 (SH), 27 (WR).

Nov 191999

Regular Season: Giants lead series 75-54-4
Post Season: Series tied at 1-1

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Washington Redskins, November 21, 1999: It is these kind of games that make football the great game that it is. Giants and Redskins – two historic foes battling out for first place in November. What more could you want? What more do you need to get up for this game? To say this contest will have huge ramifications is an understatement. If the Giants are to entertain any hopes of winning the division, they simply cannot afford to be swept by the Skins. That would give the Giants three losses in the division and, more importantly, they would lose all tie-breakers to Washington.

But there are even deeper ramifications for the franchise. If the Giants don’t win the division, they might have hard time making the playoffs as a Wild Card. In the short-term, QB Kent Graham’s starting job would be in jeapordy. In the long term, so might Jim Fassel’s head coaching position.

Let’s crank it up and play some football. May the better team win.

Giants on Defense: 50 points? The hurt from that will take a long time to go away. Yes, the Giants were missing some important cogs on defense that day, but they also didn’t play very well or with emotion. The Redskins poured salt in the wounds by running up the score. Don’t believe otherwise. It’s payback time.

This game, as most NFC East games, will be decided by strength in the trenches and passion on the playing field. Cedric Jones, Keith Hamilton, Christian Peter, Michael Strahan, Jessie Armstead, Corey Widmer, and Ryan Phillips – these are the guys who have to dominate. Control the line of scrimmage and brutalize your opponent. Take no prisoners. The Redskins have a fantastic passing game with a number of viable targets such as WR Albert Connell, WR Michael Westbrook, TE Stephen Alexander, and FB Larry Centers. But it is their strong running game that makes it all work. HB Stephen Davis is having a monster year running behind an offensive line that has surprisingly played very well. As much as the Giants should fear the passing game, if they don’t stuff Davis, then they will be in for a world of hurt. A key match-up will be back-up OG Brad Badger versus DT Keith Hamilton. DE Michael Strahan needs to have an impact game. Last time these two teams met, rookie RT Jon Jansen embarrassed him. DT Christian Peter will face the very big and very tough Tre Johnson. The Skins like to pull Tre to the left and WLB Jessie Armstead will have to do a better job of playing off the blocks than he did last time too. DE Cedric Jones will match up against LT Andy Heck. Jones should be able to do some damage there – it is time for Cedric to make some impact plays.

Two guys on the spot will be MLB Corey Widmer and SLB Ryan Phillips. Both need to be active against Davis, but both also have to be very aware of Centers and Alexander on short-to-intermediate passes. Redskin Head Coach Norv Turner has targeted the underneath coverage of the Giants the last couple of times these teams have faced. He is very confident that Centers and Alexander can expose the Giants there. Alexander had a huge game against the Jints earlier in the season. Centers has been calling for the ball more and Turner may grant him his wish this week. Watch out for these match-ups. In passing situations, I’d rather see guys like Marcus Buckley and Scott Galyon in there.

QB Brad Johnson is one of the very best quarterbacks in the league. He can (and has) put up huge numbers. Johnson is a veteran who does a good job of reading defenses, has a quick release, and is accurate. The Giants absolutely must make life difficult for him by getting into his face. The onus will lie heavily with Strahan, Jones, Hamilton, and Peter. The more the Giants blitz, the more chances they will have to take in coverage. That means Alexander or Connell might get free. This game will be won or lost in the trenches.

In the secondary, the presence of Alexander will probably keep SS Sam Garnes busy. Garnes should be a factor in run support too. The gimpy FS Percy Ellsworth returns to the starting line-up. Brandon Sanders was nowhere to be found on two deep passes last week and the presence of Percy should help to stabilize things. Let’s hope he doesn’t re-injure the foot. Westbrook has a broken wrist, but says he will play. Michael has given CB Phillippi Sparks fits in the past. Two years ago, the Giants had Jason Sehorn follow him with great success. I wonder if they will do that if Westbrook plays. Connell is having a breakout season and can get deep. He had his way with CB Jeremy Lincoln back in September. Lincoln will have his chance for redemption with CB Andre Weathers and S Shaun Williams out. Jeremy is now the nickel corner. You know the Skins will be looking to target him with passes to wide receivers Irvin Friar or James Thrash.

A word of caution for the defense. They will be pumped up looking for revenge. They will be aggressive – perhaps too aggressive. There lies the danger. Turner is a big fan of misdirection and trick plays against aggressive defenses. Watch out for reverses, double-reverses, halfback options, screens, the option, and draws early. If the Giants can survive the early storm, then they can start to wear the Skins down by punishing them with physical play.

Giants on Offense: The Giants are not particularly well suited right now to take advantage of Washington’s biggest defensive weaknesses – which is run defense. This is a game where the presence of Gary Brown or Joe Montgomery would be very beneficial. Washington has two very talented cornerbacks who have the ability to limit the damage that WR Amani Toomer and WR Ike Hilliard can do. Thus, more pressure will be on the others to make plays. That is not to excuse Toomer and Hilliard either – both are being paid very handsomely to make plays against ALL competition. CB Darrell Green is not having one of his best season and Champ Bailey is a rookie who is prone to making mistakes at times.

The way I would attack Washington would be to go after their linebackers in pass defense. The one guy I’d tried to stay away from is WLB Shaun Barber – a former defensive back who can cover like Jessie Armstead. It was Barber who scored on the Giants earlier this year. But MLB Derek Smith and and SLB Greg Jones are not as strong in coverage. The Giants should try to lock up TE Pete Mitchell, HB Tiki Barber, or HB Sean Bennett on these guys. This is also a game where there will be pressure on Joe Jurevicius or David Patten make big plays against the nickel back – another weak area for Washington.

But obviously, the Giants need to put together at least a viable threat on the ground. Jim Fassel says that New York will continue to operate from the spread as long as the crowd noise is not too loud. The spread offense could help to open up holes up front if the line does it’s job. The big match-up there will be rookie LG Mike Rosenthal versus DT Dana Stubblefield. Mike has the bulk and strength to handle Dana, but he is green as you can be and the Skins will look to exploit this by running stunts and blitzes up front – not only to confuse Rosenthal, but to prevent Brian Williams from helping him out. LT Roman Oben should be able to control DE Marco Coleman. RT Scott Gragg faces DE Anthony Cook, who replaces Kenard Lang this week. Cook is a better run defender, but not as strong on the pass rush. It is absolutely essential for RG Ron Stone to keep DT Dan Wilkinson quiet. Wilkinson has suffered with back spasms this week.

Right now, Tiki Barber is the Giants best runner. The spread offense is better suited for him if he is to play a lot. LeShon Johnson ran very well last week, but must do a better job of holding onto to the ball. If these two can’t pick up important yardage on the ground with the help of the line, tight ends, and FB Charles Way, then the Skins will be able to shut down the receivers. It is essential to get the running game going. I would look for New York to come out passing, then switch back to the run – especially if they get the lead.

A lot of pressure will be on Kent Graham this week. This is probably the most important game of his career – even without a quarterback controversy. But he also knows that Kerry Collins is on the verge of taking his job. Graham needs to play with the kind of confidence and rhythm that he played with in the second half last week. Graham doesn’t want to make killer turnovers, but he has to put points on the board. The Giants simply cannot afford another slow start. The confidence of the Redskins’ defense is sagging. Don’t give them any hope.

Giants on Special Teams: The Redskins are having a rough year on special teams, especially on their coverage units. Bashir Levingston and Tiki Barber can make a real impact here. P Brad Maynard needs to get his act together and put together a complete game. PK Cary Blanchard is in position to haunt the team that cut him. Returner Brian Mitchell is having a down year. Let’s keep it that way.

Nov 171999
Indianapolis Colts 27 – New York Giants 19

Overview: This is a game the Giants could have won. Indeed, I think they should have won it. But too many breakdowns on defense, too many penalties, and a colossal blunder on special teams hurt. Yet despite all of that, the Giants still could have come away with a victory if it were not for all the dumb turnovers – four in all.

The good news is that while the Colts are one of the best teams in the NFL, the Giants stood their ground. They made a spirited comeback after finding themselves in a 24-6 hole and the offense showed some signs of life.

Defensive Line: I thought the defensive line generally played a decent game. Except for one major breakdown, HB Edgerrin James was held at bay. On that one big play – a 72 yard run that set up a field goal – James shot by DE Michael Strahan and SLB Ryan Phillips and was off to the races. Other than that single play, James did not do much damage on the ground and the run defense was fairly strong all around – weakside, strongside, middle. Where the Giants were somewhat lacking was the pass rush. Though there were moments when the Giants were able to hit Manning, they were not able to sack him. Strahan (5 tackles) was often double-teamed, but often still got some pressure. DT Keith Hamilton (3 tackles) flashed at times in the pass rush too, but it was not nearly enough. Aside from a rush or two, DE Cedric Jones (2 tackles) was too quiet. He chased Manning out of the pocket on one occasion and forced him to throw an interception, but Jones wasn’t blocked on the play. DT Christian Peter finished with 2 tackles.

Linebackers: Again, generally strong in run defense, except for the aforementioned Strahan-Phillips breakdown. Pass defense was a different story as Edgerrin James and the tight ends gave the Giants problems. It seemed as the Giants were better off in pass defense when they didn’t blitz as QB Peyton Manning did a great job of finding the open receiver. James got loose for 33 yards on one pass play when he was locked up on MLB Corey Widmer (4 tackles) and Widmer looked sadly comical in trying to cover him. That play set up their second touchdown. Their first touchdown was also aided by a James’ reception – this one 19 yards. WLB Jessie Armstead (6 tackles) made a key hit that prevented a 3rd down reception. Marcus Buckley (4 tackles) saw quite a bit of action in pass defense and defensed one pass. Phillips finished with 3 tackles.

Defensive Backs: Not a great game for this unit. WR Marvin Harrison (6 catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns) gave CB Phillippi Sparks fits. What made matters worse was that FS Brandon Sanders was often nowhere to be found in providing deep coverage support. On the Colts’ first touchdown drive, Phillippi was flagged with a 27-yard pass interference penalty (he also was flagged with a costly holding call). On the same drive, he was then beaten for a 19-yard score. “Put all the blame on me,” said Sparks, who finished with 7 tackles. “I’m the veteran and I should’ve seen it coming. I should’ve known better.” Sparks and Sanders were later badly beaten on a 57-yard strike from Manning to Harrison. “I take full responsibility,” said Sanders (7 tackles). “I let the guys down. We had (Harrison) contained, but those two plays were the game. You can say it was the fumbles, but take away those 14 points and we win the game walking away.” But the poor play didn’t stop there. CB Jason Sehorn was burned badly for what should have been a long score but Manning overthrew his receiver. Sehorn’s “tackle” of James on his long run was pathetic. He should have simply shoved him out of bounds. SS Sam Garnes (4 tackles) was steadier, but the tight ends kept getting open for key receptions and Garnes is at least partly to blame there. The vaunted secondary did not live up to its reputation on Sunday. CB Jeremy Lincoln (2 tackles) was quiet and that is good.

Quarterback: It was a game of two halves for QB Kent Graham who looked pretty miserable in the first half (7-of-18 for 38 yards), but who came on in the second. He finished the day with a respectable 27-of-50 for 253 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. In the first half, it was the same old Graham as he held onto the ball too long and was inaccurate. He showed some life in the hurry up at the end of the half when the Giants were attempting to take the lead, but a pass slightly thrown behind WR Ike Hilliard was tipped and intercepted. Graham does seem to do better when he is in a hurry-up mode and this was further demonstrated in the second half when the Giants used the hurry up a great deal. Kent finally seemed to get into a rhythm and the Giants started to move the ball both on the ground and in the air. What really hurt, however, was the interception thrown in the endzone that was intended for WR Joe Jurevicius. I think Kent was hit on the play, but the ball was thrown far too much to the inside. Earlier in the game, he had Ike Hilliard for what could have been a long touchdown, but the ball was overthrown (and Ike looked like he stuttered earlier in the route). Another endzone pass to Toomer was thrown too far outside.

But the second half was mostly positive. Kent finally gave Toomer a chance to make a play deep and Amani responded with a 33-yard touchdown reception. On that drive, Kent had also hit Toomer for 15 yards and Jurevicius for 18. Graham threw yet another touchdown pass to Pete Mitchell (who he looking to more and more finally) after Mitchell had dropped a perfectly thrown TD pass the play before. Graham had the Giants moving once again at the end of the game in a desperate attempt to tie the score, but it was not to be as Mitchell fumbled the ball away. The good news is this was one of Graham’s better efforts of the year and it may be a performance the Giants can build on.

Offensive Line: I didn’t think this unit played as poorly as some others did. In general, I thought Kent had a decent amount of time and there were some good holes for the backs to run through. The big problem remained the penalties. LG Luke Petitgout was flagged three times (two holding, one illegal man down field); RT Scott Gragg had a false start; LT Roman Oben was flagged with holding; OC Brian Williams was flagged with holding; and RG Ron Stone was flagged for holding. Too many penalties. On the positive side, Oben did a nice job of keeping DE Chad Bratzke fairly quiet. He and Luke also did a decent job on left side runs. Indeed, the entire line improved its run blocking this week as the backs were finally able to find some daylight. RT Scott Gragg spend too much time on the ground for my taste. He has to play more a more aggressive and physical game. He isn’t terrible, but I wonder how much longer he will be in New York. Luke had some problems with DT Ellis Johnson in pass protection. To be fair, Johnson is a very underrated tackle and has given older veterans problems with his rush. Graham did have decent protection for most of the day, despite a lot of blitzing from the Colts.

Running Backs: As a group, this was probably the Giants’ best effort of the year. Tiki Barber looks like his old self. He is running with vision, moves, and surprising power at times. He finished the day with 9 carries for 57 yards (a 6.3 yards-per-carry average). His 15-yard scamper was key on the Giants’ second field goal drive. Tiki showed a nice burst on one left side run and some decent toughness on a couple of inside runs. He also caught the ball 4 times for 15 yards. When I was watching him, Tiki did a good job on the blitz pickups. I thought HB LeShon Johnson finally showed some vision and power too. He had five carries for 36 yards (a 7.2 yards-per-carry average) and two catches for nine yards. However, his fumble after an excellent run late in the fourth quarter proved very costly. “I thought I was in the open and all of a sudden someone tomahawked the ball and pretty much caught me off guard,” said Johnson. “At this level, you have to be prepared for everything, and I just made a bad mistake.” Johnson also missed a block on a blitz. FB Charles Way finally broke a longer run – for 17 yards. This play helped to set up the first Giants’ points of the day. He finished with 5 carries for 23 yards (a 4.6 yards-per-carry average).

Tight Ends: Pete Mitchell had 9 catches for 62 yards, but he would trade all of that for not fumbling on the final drive of the game. With the Giants driving and attempting to tie the game, Mitchell fumbled the ball away. “I caught the ball and I tried to elude a guy and I wasn’t covering the ball like I should,” said Mitchell. “That’s what happens. It shows that we have a lot of fight and we’re not going to give up, but I feel bad I let everyone down like that.” Pete also dropped an earlier touchdown pass, but redeemed himself on the very next play with a 7-yard TD reception. The good news is that Kent Graham is finally looking more and more in his direction and Mitchell is responding. I would like to see the Giants get the ball in his hands with him moving forward and not just stationary however. TE Howard Cross helped to open holes for the running game.

Wide Receivers: One of my biggest disappointments this year is the fact that Ike Hilliard is not making more plays. I blame some of this on Kent Graham for not getting the ball to him. But at the same time, when given a chance, Ike has not come through with flying colors either. His drop/tip of a Graham pass at the end of the half cost the Giants at least a field goal (and the lead). “I’ve got to catch that ball,” said Hilliard. “Kent put the ball in there and I didn’t make the play.” He showed more life in the second half and finished with 6 catches for 71 yards, including a real big 3rd-and-10 conversion on the last TD drive. Still, I expect more from him. WR Amani Toomer was very quiet until the second half too when he came alive on the Giants’ first TD drive. He caught one pass for 15 yards and then caught the 33-yard touchdown pass. Toomer does a great job of positioning himself on the long ball and getting his hands on the pass – the Giants should use this play more. Joe Jurevicius had a key 18-yard reception, but I thought he could have turned into a defensive back and knocked away Kent’s second interception.

Special Teams: P Brad Maynard’s at least once-a-game shanks are hurting the team and against the Colts, it killed them. Maynard tried to directional kick out of the end zone and the result was a 36-yarder with no hang time that was returned for a touchdown. The play was a killer and inexcusable. Also inexcusable was the play of some of the coverage men on that punt. In particular, I have no idea what David Patten was doing as he watched the returner run right by him. Tiki Barber had a couple of decent returns, but Bashir Levingston and David Patten could not get untracked as there seemed to be few lanes to run through. PK Cary Blanchard hit both his field goals, but his kick offs continue to be painfully short (although he did a nice job of placing them).


by David Oliver

I think I need a bye week. Yesterday’s game took as much out of me as it did the players. First, my wife was away for the weekend so I had to doctor our sick cats; one is diabetic and needs two shots a day, the other has a thyroid problem and needs two pills a day. What that means is that I had to get up at 5 am, drive to the Meadowlands, work the game, and then drive home. Second, to watch that game, a very winnable game, must have been bad on TV; it was God-awful on the field. There were so many highs and lows, and such disappointment at the end that I left totally enervated and exhausted.

But it was pleasurable driving past Philadelphia and although I didn’t listen to the sports radio there, I tipped my hat to the Eagles for doing us the large favor of exposing the ‘Skins. I did pick up a little of the talk show in Bal’mer and it sounded as if they were talking about us. Good defense, shaping its personality, no offense, and three big question marks going into the draft, QB, running back and receiver. Now, our situation is not quite so dramatic, but similar. Then picking up the paper today and reading the review of the ‘Skins game, it was our mirror image- just reverse O and D. Oh. Leonard Shapiro did the review of our game and it was pretty balanced. I think most everyone saw it the same way.

In a nutshell: the first half was a desultory affair, with our pumped up D holding the vaunted offense of the Colts in check. The only Colt TD was set up by a bad call- one of many by the officials, on a deep pattern on the visitor’s sidelines. Philippi Sparks was called for interference on an underthrown pass, for a bump which appeared to have been made when the play was over. But the O was boring; just plain boring. It did position us for 2 field goals. Then at the end of the half, moving in for another score, the Giants actually went for it; and the pass was intercepted. Now, a lot of folks were saying, ‘just kick the field goal.’ A case of damned if you do- the Giants play-calling was aggressive, wide open, just not executed properly- that is becoming the story for these Giants. JF was asked about it in his Press Conference and told us that he is not afraid to be aggressive, but he told the guys, if we go for it, you can’t let them catch it. Take the pass interference penalty, anything, just don’t let them get it. So the pass goes inside, when it should have been outside and our guy was not in position to fight for it. Ergo, Tito burns his old team.

I think I have to put down the camera because I am just a lousy photographer. I was struggling to take pictures because I just didn’t see anything. It’s always unnerving when the newspaper guy next to you, with a big 600mm or 400mm 2.8 lens has his finger down on the shot button and is taking 6 rolls of photos when you have 5 shots. You just stand there and say, what is he seeing that I’m not? Ah, the wonder of money!

The third quarter was a disaster. The three amigos killed us- they ran, passed and caught over, under and through our D. Game story. The D played its ass off for the first half and the final quarter, but disappeared in the third quarter. By way of explanation, you will hear, the Colts are a great team, the three amigos are supermen, and so on. But folks, this is a very beatable team. I’ve seen them twice- the Jets D held them in check, and so did ours for most of the game. But here is the rub; we have talent, ok, but Marvin Harrison has greatness. Time after time, he is open, short and long- it’s not just a matter of routes, it’s a matter of talent. Peyton Manning has presence; he was hit but never sacked, and with all the pressure we managed only one pick when he was flushed and threw to Sam Garnes while he (Manning) was on the run. And James plays like a number 4 pick. And I say this to contrast him to a couple of our first rounders, one a number 5 and the other who we had rated as an 8 or 9. Both of whom play – what shall we say, OK!- no I don’t accept that, we are not getting enough from our first rounders, except for Ike Hilliard.

Now the O. Booed loudly and regularly throughout the game, cheered mightily in the fourth quarter. Time after time, these guys came a-knocking; but freak miscues prevented victory. Pete Mitchell, who afterwords said he remembers dropping one once in Jacksonville, put the ball down – fate. LeShon breaks free and puts the ball down-destiny. The O line- each and every one caught with a holding penalty, totally exhausted, struggling throughout, gives Kent time to throw and opens holes in the fourth quarter. And the frustrated, dispirited crowd responded by cheering them on, chanting for the O to go, and leaving feeling that yes, they lost, but damn they opened it up and they tried- and that always hits home with the Meadowlands faithful. To try and to fail is not the same as to just plain lose.

The locker room following a loss is never pretty. The guys are tired and frustrated; they clear out fast. There is high tension among team officials because these guys are highly spirited, like athletic thoroughbreds, and you never know when the emotions are going to boil over. For the first time in my life, I had an athlete scream at me, embarrass me and generally make me feel like an idiot. I have interviewed race car drivers and Jet boat drivers, often minutes after a life-threatening accident. Track stars, jockeys and on and on, and all are understanding, patient and mostly affable. I have never had a football player call me out because I don’t ask embarrassing questions, I’m not interested in controversy and I rarely even talk about a game after a loss.

Somehow, I struck a wrong chord with Michael Strahan, a player I have always admired. I asked him a simple – or what I thought was a simple question – do you miss Harris? My thoughts were to get him away from the game and focus on some human interest – Michael was very big in camp about team unity and presence and comradery. He started screaming at me, telling me to “get out of here”, and that that “was the dumbest question he had ever been asked.” He yelled, something to the effect that here was guy out there busting his ass, etc. It dawned on me that he was talking about Christian Peter. I wasn’t; I was talking about Harris – his locker room and his personality absence. Well, I apologized, but keep in mind, Michael is a giant of a man – I am only 6 ft tall, but I tip out at around 250 and I haven’t backed down from any man in over 35 years. I kept talking and I think Michael may have realized he overreacted because he then said yes, Harris was a great guy and his personality was missed, etc. – but he remained agitated. It bothered me all the way home and I decided I will honor Michael’s request. I will ask him no more questions, I will stay away from him, I will take no more photos of Michael Strahan. I may have asked an inartful question, but he misunderstood. I’m standing there in kneepads, dead tired and he goes off. Screw it- sometimes this isn’t worth it.

I also talked to a few other guys, one a younger player who wants badly to contribute. He feels he has some talent, but is chafing because the game plan is so restrictive. Many of the coaches in this League are technique guys- they have seen a lot, know what works and try to mold their players. There are many talented players out there who never make it in the NFL because they are naturally talented and have difficulty changing to adapt to techniques. I try to listen, preach patience and give these guys a chance to vent.

JF was very forthright in his post-game. He said he wasn’t interested in stats- this game was a loss and that’s what concerned him. He said he had stressed winning the battle of turnovers and special teams and he was obviously disappointed and frustrated because the Giants did neither. He said “we didn’t do enough right today to win that ballgame.” He told us they kept fighting and were never out of it, but it still comes down to penalties, etc.

He acknowledged changing a few things in the fourth quarter, like going to the no-huddle, and spreading out the offense, which helped the team run the ball better. I asked him if we could look forward to seeing the fourth quarter offense through the rest of the year, and he said “well, I hope so, I want us to move the football…do you think I play it close to the vest for stupid reasons, no, if we open it up we have to be smart with the football..if we turn the ball over, we can’t recover.” I also said that it didn’t appear as if the Giants were beaten by a better team, but that they had beaten themselves. I said every lineman had a penalty and asked if he could tell us what was happening out there. He responded, by telling me he wished he could explain it and the said maybe you should ask them (in the locker room).

Nuff said for this week. I’m worn out and I really need to step away for a while. I’m heading to Phoenix tomorrow morning.

Nov 121999

Regular Season: Tied at 5-5
Post Season: Colts lead 2-0

Approach to the Game – Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants, November 14, 1999: It wasn’t pretty, but the Giants managed to put together a 5-3 record during the first half of the season. This start should ensure that New York will be in playoff contention until at least mid-December. But even their diehard fans know that if the Giants are to make the playoffs, they will have to play better. There are no more Saints and Eagles on the schedule; there are plenty of teams with playoff aspirations of their own. It’s November – the month that playoff teams begin to find their stride and set the tone for the remainder of the season. It’s time for the players and coaches to pick up their intensity and bring some glory back to this flagship franchise.

The Colts are a better team than the Giants because they are a more balanced team. They have an explosive offense and an improving defense. But the better team doesn’t always carry the day. Intangibles can play a huge role in determining the outcome of a contest. The Will is a very powerful concept. Just ask the 1990 Giants team. Teams can impose their Will on others by playing intense, physical, and smart football – they can win games by simply wanting it more than their opponent. The Giants need to set the tone early against the Colts and impose their Will upon them.

Giants on Defense: Setting the tone starts with the very heart of the Giants team – the defense. Punish Indianapolis. Play NFC-style football and beat them up physically. Hit QB Peyton Manning often. Gang tackle HB Edgerrin James. Hurt WR Marvin Harrison every time he touches the ball. Play the type of physical, aggressive, in-your-face defense that the 1990 Giants did in San Francisco. The Colts have excellent talent on the offensive side of the football, but they are still young. They may not be prepared for the intensity of playoff football in November.

The fate of this game largely depends on the front seven on defense, and particularly the front four. Defensive ends Michael Strahan and Cedric Jones, as well as defensive tackles Keith Hamilton and Christian Peter, need to play stout against the run and get after Manning in passing situations. First, the most important thing will be to take away the running game and make Indy one-dimensional. That won’t be easy. Fortunately for the Giants, they got a taste of what is to come when they faced Eagle HB Duce Staley a couple of weeks ago. Edgerrin James is a big back who is equally adept at running between the tackles as he is outside of them. He can run with power or put on a move or two. The key is to give him no place to run. Fill the holes forcefully and then get a bunch of hats on him. Hit him hard. James is apt to fumble. But do gang tackle. If the Colts get their running game going, it will be a long, long day. Instrumental in run defense will also be the play of the linebackers of course. It is time for MLB Corey Widmer to have an impact game. He will be on the spot taking on blocks inside and flowing to the ball on outside runs. WLB Jessie Armstead will be tested, along with DE Cedric Jones, on the weakside. Jessie’s strength is not taking on blocks directly, but out-quicking his intended blocker and getting to the ball carrier. It will be interesting to see what the Giants do on the strongside. James is such a dangerous pass receiver, that one is tempted to play Marcus Buckley in lieu of Ryan Phillips. However, Phillips is the better run defender. The Colts may alter their plays depending on who is in there. Regardless, Buckley and Phillips will be under the spotlight to play a well rounded game.

Stopping James as a receiver, as much as a runner, is critical. I would keep Armstead on him all day long. Jessie is probably one of the few linebackers in the league who can cover him. If the Colts can get James locked up on Phillips, it could get ugly. Besides, the other linebackers and SS Sam Garnes will have their hands full with TE Ken Dilger, one of the better tight ends in the game. Jam Dilger at the line and don’t allow him a clean release. TE Marcus Pollard is a solid second-stringer as well.

With the secondary of the Giants beat up and missing three of their top seven defenders (Percy Ellsworth, Conrad Hamilton, and Shaun Williams), the defensive backs may be in for a tough time. Manning is an intelligent performer with a quick release. He normally does not make the dumb mistake and does a remarkable job of reading defenses for one so young. Still, the Giants need to try to confuse him by mixing up their coverages and keeping him off balance. The Colts’ receivers are very quick and very fast. Allow them a clean release and to run freely throughout the secondary and you are asking for trouble. Get in their face at the line of scrimmage and jam them. Yes, one risks giving up a big play, but I think that is a risk that needs to be taken. Defensive Coordinator John Fox may take the opposite route and try a bend-but-don’t-break approach and look to punish the receivers after they catch the ball in front of the corners. We’ll see.

The big match-up will be CB Phillippi Sparks against WR Marvin Harrison, who may be the most dangerous receiver in the game today (apologies to Randy Moss). Sparks doesn’t have the speed to stay with Harrison, so he will need help. Unfortunately with safeties Percy Ellsworth and Shaun Williams ailing, that help will have to come from inexperienced overachiever Brandon Sanders. That could get ugly. If I were Fox, I’d be tempted to move Jason Sehorn around to follow Harrison, just like the Giants did with Michael Westbrook two years ago.

But the match-up problems don’t stop there. With Conrad Hamilton and Shaun Williams out, nickel defense becomes a problem. When the Colts go to a 3-WR set, covering WR Jerome Pathon or starter Terrence Wilkins in the slot could be a big problem. Cornerbacks Andre Weathers and Jeremy Lincoln will have to step it up.

Of course, pass defense becomes much, much easier if the Giants can get into Manning’s face. Manning hasn’t been sacked (or hit) much this year due to fine offensive line play and his quick release. But if the Giants jam his receivers at the line and/or provide solid coverage – thus forcing him to hold onto the ball a second more – the Giants may get to him. But the pass rush will largely have to come from the front four. This is a big game for all four of these guys in terms of the pass rush. It’s time, in particular, for Strahan and Jones to start making more of an impact. Timely blitzes can help matters too, but you don’t want to live with the blitz against the Colts.

Giants on Offense: The Giants also have very little chance to win this game unless they start generating more points. The Colts will score on the Giants. The Giants simply cannot afford another unproductive offense day – not against this team. The man who may spark the offense with his big-play ability is the frequently criticized Tiki Barber. Barber is growing in confidence and seems to have regained his quickness and tackle breaking ability. No, he is not a power back and should not be compared with one. But he has home run speed and elusiveness. His biggest challenge in this game will be to hold onto the ball – both catching it and preventing fumbles. “It’s up to us now to get some points,” says Barber. “We’re going to have to against Indianapolis because we know they’re going to. They have a lot of weapons, and we have to counter that in whatever way we can. We don’t necessarily mind the defense making it easy for us, but we don’t want to keep putting them under so much pressure.”

The way teams have been defending the Giants of late is largely ignore their running attack and loading up against the receivers down the field. That is one of the reasons why QB Kent Graham has had a hard time getting the ball to WR Amani Toomer, WR Ike Hilliard, and TE Pete Mitchell. They simply are not afraid of LeShon Johnson and Charles Way. It will be up to Tiki, and possibly Sean Bennett, to change that. It’s also time for LeShon to stop running like a rookie, follow his blocks, read the holes, and break one.

The guy really in the hot seat is Graham, who is obviously playing very conservatively. He is also getting that message from his coach. “We can’t go out there Sunday and turn the ball over and keep going three and out if we want to win this game,” said Head Coach Jim Fassel. “This is a hell of a matchup. Any time you get a matchup like this, with our defense and their offense, unless one side just totally dominates, other factors are going to come into play and decide the game.” I have no problem with playing it safe on offense, especially when you have a very good defense and talent weaknesses on the offensive side of the ball. Heck, that’s how the Giants won it all in 1990. However, you have to play smart as well. Graham is taking far too many sacks instead of throwing the ball away. He also seems a tad overly cautious to me – afraid to take any chances. That’s not how he got the job done in 1998 and he should remember that. If the Giants fall behind in this game – which is likely – the onus will be on him to bring the team back with his right arm. Poise, accuracy, and leadership will be the keys. Kent has to get back to the confident, aggressive play that he demonstrated during the 5-1 finish last year. He has to stop looking over his shoulder. Kent also has to get the ball into the hands of his play makers: Toomer, Hilliard, Mitchell, and Barber.

The Colts are improving on defense, but they are not as scary as some of the teams the Giants have already faced. The receivers ought to be able to do some damage against the defensive backs and linebackers. In particular, it is time for Toomer and Hilliard to make more game-deciding plays. “We’ve executed well in practice all year,” says Hilliard. “It’s a matter of doing it in a game. We have the talent. We have the great schemes. It’s just a matter of going out and executing it.” CB Tyrone Poole is a quick and fast player, but Toomer should be able to use his height against him. CB Jeff Burris is solid, but not special. Hilliard should be able to get open against him with some regularity. The safety combo of SS Chad Cota and FS Jason Belser is pretty strong. I would think the Colts would keep Cota on Pete Mitchell, but if Mitchell gets locked up on the linebackers, Graham has to go that way.

This is all moot unless that the offensive line starts kicking some tail. LT Roman Oben has struggled with injuries (knee/hamstring) and he faces an old friend in DE Chad Bratzke, who has been playing very well and has seven sacks. But Oben is capable of shutting him down. He certainly is able to exploit him when the Giants run the ball. LG Luke Petitgout had a rough game last week and I look for him to rebound – though he will face the tough DT Ellis Johnson who combines decent size with quickness. RG Ron Stone will be up against DT Tony McCoy. Both tackles can get after the passer, but both have had problems with the run in the past too. RT Scott Gragg will face DE Shawn King. The linebackers are quite average. The Giants can push these guys off the line of scrimmage if they play their game. Getting solid blocks up front from OC Brian Williams, FB Charles Way, and the tight ends will be key.

There are a couple of guys who I’d like the Giants get the ball to – one is WR Joe Jurevicius, who I feel continues to be vastly underutilized. The other is 3rd string TE Dan Campbell. I think the Giants could sneak Campbell past a linebacker in a short yardage situation and get a big play out of it.

Giants on Special Teams: Giants have to keep punt/kick returner Terrence Wilkins under control. The game could be decided here. And it could be decided by Bashir Levingston – just a feeling.

Nov 031999
New York Giants 23 – Philadelphia Eagles 17 (OT)

Overview: How appropriate was it that the Giants exorcised some haunting ghosts in Philadelphia on Halloween of all days? In what will be regarded as one of the franchise’s most memorable wins in its long and storied 75 year history, the Giants rose from the dead to steal a win against a team and in a city that has often broke the hearts of Giants fans.

Incredibly, the Giants stand at 5-3 (3-2 in the division) and are all alone in second place in the NFC East. But let’s not get too excited Giants’ fans. The 5-3 record is indeed misleading. The second half of the schedule is not filled with teams the likes of the Eagles and Saints, but the Redskins, Colts, Vikings, and Rams. The Giants have to get much better offensively quickly. If they don’t, a second half collapse is likely to result.

Defensive Line: I continue to start off the game reviews with the defense because this side of the ball is doing its job. However, it didn’t look like it would start out that way during the first half against the Eagles. Philly’s mediocre offensive line was controlling the line of scrimmage, opening up decent holes for HB Duce Staley (who gained nearly 100 yards in the game – mostly in the first half) and providing QB Doug Pederson with better than average pass protection. Most disturbing was that it looked as if the Eagles players were out-hustling the Giants. New York seemed to be going through the motions as evidenced by the numerous missed tackles and generally lackadaisical play. There wasn’t enough intensity and there certainly wasn’t enough gang-tackling as time and time again Duce gained significant yardage after contact. The linebackers were just as much to blame as the defensive line. Fortunately, the defensive line seemed to pick up their intensity and technique after intermission as the Giants held the Eagles scoreless in the second half of the game. DE Michael Strahan (4 tackles) was largely invisible against an opponent that he dominated only a few weeks ago. Yes, there were times when he faced double-teams, but I also spotted him locked up one-on-one against Lonnie Palelei in pass rush situations, yet he couldn’t get to Pederson. He did make one very nice play by running Staley down from behind on the backside for a loss. Of course, he combined with DT Christian Peter on the play of the game by intercepting a deflected pass in overtime and returning it 44 yards for the game-winning touchdown. DE Cedric Jones (1 tackle) was way too quiet. I did spot him doing a nice job of forcing running plays wide on occasion, but he just isn’t making enough noise on the pass rush. DT Keith Hamilton (5 tackles, 1 sack) was inconsistent. He too was kept too quiet for most of the contest, but late in the game, he forced the crucial fumble that set up the game-tying touchdown. DT Christian Peter (3 tackles) made two huge plays – he blocked a late field goal attempt that would have sealed the game for Philly and he is the one who deflected the pass that Strahan intercepted. DE Bernard Holsey (3 tackles) made a big play by nailing Staley for a loss on the play preceding the interception.

Linebackers: These guys have played better too. It seemed as if Philly was testing Jesse Armstead’s sore ribs early and often by running straight at him – often with good success. But Armstead gutted it out and finished the day with 7 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 interception. MLB Corey Widmer (3 tackles), SLB Ryan Phillips (4 tackles), and nickel backer Marcus Buckley (1 tackle) should have been much more active, along with the secondary, in making gang-tackles. Too often Duce was spotted breaking initial contact because the initial tackle was not made and no one was on the spot to clean up.

Defensive Backs: CB Jason Sehorn (5 tackles) played one of his worst games of his career against the Eagles. Not only was he burned for a long touchdown very late in the first half against a journeyman wide receiver with no speed, but he was exploited at least on a couple more occasions for key first downs. Disturbingly, these were all against inferior receivers and a quarterback who was often hanging the ball. CB Phillippi Sparks (6 tackles) played better, especially when it came to his tackling. But he and Sehorn often played too far off the line of scrimmage in situations where tighter coverage would have been wiser. I don’t know if this is the fault of the players or the coaches. SS Sam Garnes’ stats (11 tackles, 1 sack) look good, but I didn’t think he played particularly well. He missed too many tackles – often times looking like he was trying to get on Sportscenter by making the highlight reel hit intead of the sure tackle. Too often, he was out of control when approaching the ball carrier, including the time when he almost sacked Pederson in the endzone for a safety. The guy who I thought played amazingly well given the fact that he just signed was FS Brandon Sanders (8 tackles). I’m sure Sanders made mistakes in coverage, but he was a rocket out there, laying the wood on anything that moved. And unlike Garnes, he was also making the sure tackle. Sanders was one of the few Giant defenders who played with the appropriate intensity throughout the entire game. CB Andre Weathers (1 tackle) saw quite a bit of playing time. He got burned early in the game, but seemed to settle down after that – although he was involved in a coverage mix-up with another defender later in the game. He recovered the Staley fumble inside the 10 yard line.

Quarterback: When an offense is on a roll, too much credit often goes to the quarterback. When an offense doesn’t click, too much blame is thrown in his direction. But let’s make one thing brutally clear – regardless of how much one likes Kent Graham as a person, he simply is not playing well at all. “Kent didn’t play well yesterday,” said Head Coach Jim Fassel. “He made some decisions you just can’t make.” No kidding. Most bothersome is Kent’s continued insistence on holding the ball for far too long. The Giants’ offensive line is not playing well, but too many of the sacks and hits that Kent is taking is because he is holding onto the ball far too long. Kent is a very bright guy, but he is not playing very smart right now. He probably would argue that it is better to be safe and sure and not make a big mistake, but a quarterback can’t afford to think like that and be successful. Graham is playing so cautiously that it seems as he is afraid to throw to a guy unless he is wide open. I simply refuse to believe that the Giants’ wideouts are being that blanketed down the field. It was blatantly obvious – and I do mean obvious – that almost everytime Graham went back to pass, he was hesitating to pull the trigger. He would then start to panic a bit as he felt the obvious pressure that would start to arrive. Indecision resulted on almost every passing play. Should I risk throwing it? Should I take off and run for the first down? Should I scramble for extra time? A quarterback in this league simply does not have the “luxury” of having that much time to debate the options. Most damning was the sack he took at the end of the half in a situation where a quarterback simply cannot afford to take a sack. Most comical – and indicative – of his day was the play where he started running for what would have been an easy first down, but he decided to throw the ball after his passed the line of scrimmage. It wasn’t even close. Dumb.

My plea to Kent would be this: Stop playing afraid. If you continue to do so, you are going to lose your job. The odds on the defense and special teams continually bailing you out are not likely. Play with the cocky attitude that you did at the end of 1998 and during the 1999 preseason. This is your chance; don’t blow it.

My plea to Fassel is this: If Kent keeps playing afraid, then you have to bench him. You, of all people, should know that a quarterback can’t succeed in this league without confidence.

Kent’s stats for the game (26 of 42 for 240 yards, 1 touchdown, and no interceptions) look very respectable on the surface. But Graham is not getting the ball into the hands of his big play men, namely Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer. He was far too inaccurate on top of his indecisiveness.

Offensive Line: The offensive line is not playing well. But I don’t think matters are being helped by the play calling. I have a fraction of the experience and knowledge that the coaches in this league have – a miniscule fraction. I’ve never played or coached the game (other than intramural college football) and by no means do I consider myself an expert. But if you ask me and many other Giants fans who I watch the games with, the playing calling on running plays is just far too predictable.

First, let’s get a few random observations of mine out on the table. Very few teams in the league are running the ball well this year. Much of this has to do with the superior defense that is being by many teams. With all the chaotic blitzing and movement by opposing defenses, it is almost impossible to get plays well blocked. The Giants are not the only ones having trouble in this department. On top of that, the Giants have been hammered with injuries to their backs. They also have a rookie playing left guard who is struggling and apparently none of the reserves are any better. LT Roman Oben is having his worst year as a Giant. OC Brian Williams isn’t the same player he was.

Let’s also look at Fassel’s history with the Giants. I and others have mentioned that we don’t get the sense that he has a very good feel for the running game – of who to play and when and what type of plays to run at specific moments. I still wonder. But Fassel’s 1997 and 1998 Giants did run the ball well. The Giants did run a power running attack in the second half of 1998 – an attack that would have made Bill Parcells proud. So Fassel can do it.

I just do not understand this obsession with running to the left. The Giants rarely seem to run right. If you ask my novice opinion, the two best offensive linemen on the team right now are RG Ron Stone and RT Scott Gragg. If you throw in the run blocking of Howard Cross, the Giants should be able to grind out positive yardage in this direction. I also don’t understand the need for all the intricate movement up front. If you ask me, there is too much pulling and trapping. If the line is making so many mental mistakes (as seems to be implied by post-game interviews), then why not keep things simple and play things straight up? Maybe I’m just too naBBI contributor bw in dc said during the game, “I’d love to play Fassel in the game of Battleship.” Yes, it is that predictable. Plus, why run behind the weak side of your line? Oben is struggling; Luke is a rookie. “Stubborn and stupid,” as bw in dc also said.

Maybe Fassel knows something that we don’t. If he does, then we are in a lot of trouble.

As for the specifics in the game, LG Luke Petitgout struggled. “Luke Petitgout didn’t play well yesterday,” said Fassel. “He was out for awhile and he regressed. But he’s a tough kid and that’s what I like about him. He’ll be OK.” It just wasn’t Luke’s run blocking, but too often, Petitgout was being powered back into the pocket. He was flagged with holding and a false start. LT Roman Oben did not really shine either. He was flagged with a 15-yard face-mask penalty and did not sustain his blocks long enough. Inside, the Eagles gave the Giants a lot of problems with inside blitzes. Either Brian Williams or one of the guards wasn’t picking these up, or the backs were deficient in their responsibilities. Perhaps it was the design of the play too.

A key play in the game came when the Giants needed to pick up first down on 4th-and-1. Instead of running wide or running to the left as the Giants so often do, Fassel called a play where he had Charles Way carrying the ball right between Stone and Gragg and a first down resulted. Let’s see some more of this!

Running Backs: As honest as we were with Graham, let’s be honest about HB LeShon Johnson. LeShon is just not instinctive. It’s almost as if he is running with his eyes closed. He is not a patient runner and he certainly doesn’t read his blocks very well. Johnson’s idea of running the ball is running at full speed in a certain direction and it doesn’t matter who or what is in the way. Johnson carried the ball 14 times for 31 yards (a pathetic 2.2 yards-per-carry). Some of that was the blocking; some of it was the play calling; but some of it is Johnson too. On the positive side, LeShon does look much better catching the ball and finished the day with 4 catches for 35 yards. FB Charles Way (5 carries for 16 yards) made a heck of a block on Johnson’s lone impressive run – his touchdown. HB Tike Barber carried the ball once for 4 yards and caught 4 passes for 43 yards. Both Barber and Way also dropped a pass each.

The Giants don’t have a lot of options at running back. Gary Brown is out for the season. Joe Montgomery is out at least another 3 weeks and it will take him longer than that to get back into the flow again. Picking off someone from waivers is not an ideal option because they don’t know the system. HB Sean Bennett is not a strong inside runner. LeShon is not instinctive. Fassel might be forced to start using Tiki a lot more.

Tight Ends: The tight ends played well and had an important role in this game. Pete Mitchell caught 6 passes for 41 yards, including the game-tying touchdown. See Jim what happens when you use him in the red zone? I still find it unconscionable when he is pulled from the game in such situations or on third down – the latter was done often on Sunday. “Stubborn and stupid” rings in my ears. Surprisingly, Howard Cross was active in the passing game and made 3 catches for 31 yards, including a difficult diving catch between two defenders. He was flagged for holding on the very next play however. TE Dan Campbell continues to impress in the blocking department.

Wide Receivers: Ike Hilliard (3 catches for 33 yards) and Amani Toomer (1 catch for 25 yards) are simply not being involved in the offense enough. I tend to blame Graham more for this as he seems to be reluctant to fire the ball down the field unless someone is open. The announcers keep saying the receivers are covered, but when cameras are placed on the receivers down the field, they look open to me. “Open” in the NFL is not “wide open.” All a receiver needs is a step in this league in order to considered “open.” Graham badly overthrew a “wide open” Toomer for a long touchdown. Prior to this regular season, Graham’s strength seemed to be his deep passing game. But too often now his deep passes are off target (including far too many that don’t even land within the playing field). Joe Jurevicius had one catch for 12 yards – the Giants should use him more on out patterns – something he seems to becoming more comfortable with. David Patten remains invisible despite extended playing time.

Special Teams: PK Cary Blanchard missed what could have been a very costly 34-yard field goal. His kickoffs are terrible and are not helped by poor kick coverage. The Giants gave up too much quality field position on their kickoffs on Sunday. P Brad Maynard remains inconsistent. It always seems like one of his early punts are shanked and then he settles down and does well. Punt coverage was only so-so. The Giants gave up a big return to Rossum (where Maynard saved a touchdown), but otherwise did well. Tiki Barber rarely had a chance to return a punt as the blocking on the gunners was poor. Bashir Levingston looks real explosive on his kick returns, but he thus far shows LeShon Johnson-like instincts when running the ball – in other words, he needs to make a move or two. But he is decisive and a kick returner needs that attribute. David Patten had a nice 26-yard return and it seems as if a healthy competition might be developing between these two. Christian Peter saved the day with his block of a field goal – his second of the year.


RUSHING — GIANTS, Graham 4-40, L.Johnson 14-31, Way 5-16, Barber 1-4. Philadelphia, Staley 26-97, Turner 2-7, Pederson 2-6, Bostic 1-2.

PASSING — GIANTS, Graham 26-42-0-240. Philadelphia, Pederson 18-28-2-256, McNabb 1-2-0-0.

RECEIVING — GIANTS, Mitchell 6-41, Barber 4-43, L.Johnson 4-35, Hilliard 3-33, Cross 3-31, Way 3-21, Toomer 1-25, Jurevicius 1-12, Graham 1-(minus 1). Philadelphia, C.Johnson 8-84, Small 4-119, Staley 3-32, Broughton 2-8, Jells 1-8, Turner 1-5.

PUNT RETURNS — GIANTS, Barber 2-10. Philadelphia, Rossum 4-38.

KICKOFF RETURNS — GIANTS, Levingston 3-79, Patten 1-26. Philadelphia, Bieniemy 3-72, Rossum 1-21.

TACKLES-ASSISTS-SACKS — GIANTS, Garnes 8-3-1, Sanders 4-4-0, Armstead 5-2-1, Sparks 6-0-0, Sehorn 5-0-0, Hamilton 2-3-1, Strahan 3-1-0, Phillips 2-2-0, Holsey 2-1-0, Peter 2-1-0, Widmer 0-3-0, Jones 1-0-0, Monty 2-0-0, Bennett 1-0-0, Buckley 1-0-0, Comella 1-0-0, Gaylon 1-0-0, Maynard 1-0-0, Way 1-0-0, Weathers 1-0-0. Philadelphia, W.Thomas 8-2-1, Darling 5-3-0, Dawkins 5-2-1, Trotter 2-5-0, Hauck 1-4-0, Jefferson 3-1-1, Martin 1-3-1, Caldwell 4-0-0, Taylor 3-0-0, Harris 2-1-0, H.Thomas 2-1-0, Whiting 2-0-0, B.Johnson 1-0-0, Moore 2-0-0, Reese 1-0-1, Rossum 3-0-0, Bieniemy 2-0-0, Palelei 1-0-0.

INTERCEPTIONS — GIANTS, Armstead 1-4, Strahan 1-44. Philadelphia, None.

MISSED FIELD GOALS — GIANTS, Blanchard 34 (WR). Philadelphia, N.Johnson 33 (BK); Akers 59 (SH).