New York Giants 41 – New York Jets 28
Overview: What made me the happiest about this win is that the offensive players not only produced big-time, but they really seemed to have some fun out on the playing field finally. The offensive unit has been so uptight all season that I think it seriously affected their performance and undoubtably their confidence. If the Giants’ offense can build on this game, then the players will start believing in themselves even more and their confidence will elevate. Confident football players – and confident teams – win.
It’s too bad that the Giants allowed themselves to be swept by the Redskins and Cardinals. That, combined with the unbelievable injury situation, makes it unlikely the Giants will make the playoffs. It does seem clear that Head Coach Jim Fassel is now staying. However, there was a big transition against the Jets as Quarterbacks Coach Sean Payton was giving play-calling responsibility. Fassel says this has become a permanent move.
If 1999 is remembered for anything, it may be remembered as the year that the Giants finally found their first legitimate franchise quarterback since the departure of Phil Simms. Kerry Collins is the real deal.
Quarterback: Magnificent. Truly one of the most impressive quarterbacking performances in a game that I’ve seen from ANY Giants’ quarterback. Collins was on fire from the get-go and may have only thrown 3-4 poor passes the entire game. His numbers speak volumes: 17-of-29 for 341 yards, 3 touchdowns passing, 1 touchdown running, zero interceptions. Collins’ vision, reading of defenses, quick release, and accuracy were most impressive. Time and time again, he hit receivers right on the mark and hit them in stride so they could do damage after the catch. Collins’ led the Giants on three first quarter scoring drives that gave the G-Men a 17-0 lead that the Jets never recovered from. On the first drive, he hit Ike Hilliard for a 33-yard pass-and-run that set up a 41-yard field goal. On the second drive, Kerry found Ike again over the middle for 34 yards. He then scored a lot of points with his teammates by running down field to block a defensive back on a double-reverse to David Patten – a play that went for 27 yards. On the third drive, he found WR Amani Toomer for a first down, and Amani spun away from his man and outran the defense for a 61-yard scoring play. “Kerry threw it to my back hip,” said Toomer, “which gave me the opportunity to make the turn and get away.”
What I thought was the most impressive – and important – drive was the one that came right after the Jets scored to cut the lead to 17-7. Collins led the Giants on a 9-play, 71-yard drive. The big play was a deep pass to Amani Toomer that CB Aaron Glenn interfered with. Collins then found TE Pete Mitchell for 14 yards on 3rd-and-9. His quarterback sneak put the Giants up 24-7 and took the life out of the Jets. But Collins wasn’t done. Right before halftime, the Giants moved 46-yards in 11-plays to set up a 31-yard field goal. On that drive, Collins once again found Hilliard – this time for 29 yards. He also hit Ike for six yards on 3rd-and-4.
The excellent passes and points kept coming in the second half. There was a 16-play, 67-yard, 9-minute drive in the third quarter. Key passes were Collins to Ike for 9 yards on 3rd-and-8 and Collins to Mitchell for 10 yards on 3rd-and-10. Kerry finished the drive by finding Toomer for a 9-yard touchdown on an excellently thrown fade pass. That drive gave the Giants a 34-7 lead.
After two scores brought the Jets to within 13 points, Collins drove the final nail into the coffin when he hit Toomer in stride for an 80-yard touchdown on a go route. For the game, the Giants were an amazing 13-of-19 on their 3rd down conversions and Collins had the most to do with that.
Collins did miss some throws. A couple of his deep passes were off the mark and out of bounds. He also missed a wide open Pete Mitchell over the middle. He also doesn’t look real comfortable when on the move. But that is nit-picking. Against a good Jets’ defense, Collins looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
Wide Receivers: Finally, the kind of game I’ve been waiting for from Toomer and Hilliard. Even though Toomer put up bigger numbers and all three touchdown catches, it was Hilliard who got the day started with his work over the middle on crossing routes. It just wasn’t the fact that Ike did a nice job getting open, but he showed some fine run-after-the-catch ability all day long. His 33- and 34-yard receptions set up the Giants first 10 points. He had a 29-yard reception on the Giants’ last scoring drive of the first half too. Ike finished the day with 6 catches for 121 yards (averaging 20.2 yards-per-reception). Toomer had a monster day and demonstrated some fine straight-line speed on his two long scores of 61- and 80-yards. He also did a real nice job of keeping his feet in bounds on the fade pass for a score. Toomer finished the day with 6 catches for 181 yards (averaging 30.2 yards-per-reception) and 3 touchdowns. David Patten did a nice job on his 27-yard reverse.
Tight Ends: Howard Cross, Pete Mitchell, and Dan Campbell did a decent job run blocking. Campbell did miss a block that got Montgomery nailed in the backfield and his also was flagged with a false start, but otherwise, he generally helped in the running game. So did Cross. Mitchell caught 4 passes for 46-yards and did an excellent job of fighting for a couple of key third down conversions on scoring drives.
Running Backs: The success of Collins and the receivers could not have been accomplished if it were not for the fine work HB Joe Montgomery did in running the ball. Indeed, if was the running of Montgomery that forced the Jets’ defenders to play closer and closer to the line of scrimmage and thereby opened up passing lanes for the receivers and Collins. Montgomery did not break any big runs, but his constant pounding (mainly between the tackles) wore down the Jets. Unlike LeShon Johnson, Montgomery finds the hole and shows some instinctiveness in doing so. He’s mainly a no-nonsense power guy, but he has a little bit of elusiveness and just enough speed to get outside. What I was most impressed with was the effort he played with, especially when picking up some key first downs. There were some down moments. He did fumble – on a play that he made a great effort to dive for a first down. I also felt he didn’t read his blocks well on a couple of runs. But for a guy who has hardly practiced – let alone played – this year, his performance was remarkable. Indeed, if I have one criticism of the coaching staff, it is that Montgomery should have been spelled – especially late in the game. Joe is not used to the pounding and it was evident he was wearing down himself. He finished the day with 38 carries for 111 yards (a 2.9 yards-per-carry average) and 1 touchdown. Sean Bennett re-injured his knee after his only carry (for four yards). HB Tiki Barber carried the ball four times for only nine yards. He also fumbled the ball after a pass reception and was lucky the ball rolled out of bounds.
Offensive Line: The line played very well and was helped by strong, professional performances from Collins and Montgomery. There were no penalties and only one sack (after an aborted roll out pass). For the most part, Collins had plenty of time to survey the field and it was obvious the Giants were controlling the line of scrimmage on the pass and run. That dominance faded a bit in the second half and it seemed as if the Jets were throwing everyone up at the line in desperation. The loss of Brian Williams didn’t help matters either. Kudos to the guards – Ron Stone and Mike Rosenthal – in particular. This was the line’s best game of the season.
Defensive Line: It is real hard to fairly evaluate the front seven in this game as the large lead and the patch-work secondary forced Defensive Coordinator John Fox to scramble and move some people around. With the Jets often playing 3- and 4-wide receiver sets and the absence of cornerbacks Jason Sehorn and Phillippi Sparks, Fox felt it best at times to keep eight back and only rush three. The Giants did defend the run very well early on in the game and held HB Curtis Martin to 4 yards on six carries. The rush defense was never really tested after that, except for a WR-reverse that DT Keith Hamilton stuffed for a loss, due to the big lead on the part of the Giants. DE Michael Strahan (2 tackles) made a couple of nice plays against the run in the backfield, but he rarely got near the quarterback (again, he was matched-up against a rookie). DT Christian Peter (4 tackles) did a great job of sniffing out a couple of screen passes and shut those down. DE Cedric Jones (3 tackles, 1 sack) impressed me with his hustle. He kept working at rushing Lucas after he was pushed wide of the pocket and his hard work was paid off with a sack and forced fumble. He also snuffed out a screen and was spotted hustling down field after ball carriers. Still, the pass rush from the front four was very disappointing and QB Ray Lucas had far too much time to throw – especially given the obviousness of the passing situations. Reserves Bernard Holsey, Ryan Hale, and George Williams saw playing time. Other than one play by Holsey where he defended a draw play, they did not really distinguish themselves.
Linebackers: WLB Jessie Armstead (7 tackles, 1 sack) was forced into coverage for most of the day and performed very well in that role. There were times when he actually was covering wide receivers. Armstead also came up with a big sack on Lucas on one of the few occasions the Giants got near Lucas. Pete Monty (1 tackle) started for Corey Widmer inside, but was limited because of all the multiple-wide receiver formations the Jets ran. Much of the time he was on the sidelines. He did not look out of place out there however. SLB Ryan Phillips (2 tackles) badly missed an easy sack on 4th down. I also spotted him getting beat in coverage on one play. I keep saying it, but LB Scott Galyon (6 tackles) simply has a nose for the football. He was very disruptive (along with Strahan) on one Martin rushing attempt and was active in coverage.
Defensive Backs: What a mess! With Sparks and Sehorn out, the Giants’ defensive backfield was a patch-work unit that barely scrapped by. It seemed clear that there was a great deal of confusion at times and the Giants were also very luckly that Lucas missed some wide open receivers deep for what should have been long touchdowns. If this were a close game, things could have gotten really ugly. I thought CB Jeremy Lincoln (3 tackles) played alright. He was flagged for a very questionable 47-yard pass interference penalty, but was generally solid. CB Emmanuel McDaniel (4 tackles) was burned by Keyshawn Johnson on an out-and-up for a touchdown (FS Percy Ellsworth was late in getting over too on that play). CB Bashir Levingston (2 tackles) and S Brandon Sanders (5 tackles) were pressed into service and played a great deal. Sanders was flagged with a costly 15-yard face-mask penalty. SS Sam Garnes (6 tackles) and Ellsworth (1 tackle) were quiet. The most disappointing element of the defensive backfield play continues to be the lack of interceptions.
Special Teams: P Brad Maynard is just too inconsistent. What is his problem? He punted 3 times for a terrible 31.3 yards-per-punt average. Punt coverage was good, but kick coverage is continually being hurt by PK Carey Blanchard’s short kickoffs. At least, he’s a good field goal kicker (hit both of his attempts). Aside from one muffed punt that he recovered, Tiki did a decent job as a punt returner, returning 6 for 95 yards (a very good 15.8 yards-per-return average). There was way too much confusion on two kick returns where it looked like both returners were fighting for the same ball. The Giants need to get that sorted out. Blocking on kick returns was mediocre. Bashir Levingston came very close to breaking a big return.
THERE WAS A LOT OF LOVE……..
by David Oliver
Roll the tape: we are here at the Meadowlands in December. The day has dawned grey and dreary with a steady falling rain; the field is wet and slippery, it is dark and cold. Gang Green repeatedly turns back Rodney Hampton from the goal line….hey, wait a minute, roll the tapes on fast forward. It is December 5, 1999 – the Millennium is rapidly approaching. The day dawns sunny and warm; imagine 60 degree December temperature for the battle of the Meadowlands – a battle as memorable as the invasion of the Normans in 1066 and that famed rumble at Hastings. But there was this feeling hovering over the Stadium; maybe the holiday spirit, maybe the collective peacefulness of despair among the fans of two beleaguered teams; maybe something stronger – the peaceful presence of a mother’s love. Those of you who were there must have felt it – it was a day of celebration, even at the start; it felt good to be in the warm sun; it felt good to be with friends and family; it just felt good.
I know Pat from Inside Football did a little survey last week, asking the BBI family if we preferred hard-core football or fluff; and, of course, the resounding answer was hard core football (after all what self-respecting football fan is going to vote for fluff). Shame on you, Pat, for characterizing the soul of the game as fluff. Her colleague, who I shall refer to as Fluffy 1, thinks fans and readers might be interested in more than just game analysis. I tend to agree, so I am Fluffy 2. Before we start the battle, let me say this: those of you who are interested in merely Xs and Os – take up Chess – imagine an analysis of a Chess match. Football is more than just lining up and knocking down the other guy. Let me explain. Football is the last domain of the real man, the hunter, the warrior, the competitor who fights within a structure. It is the ultimate bonding experience; war without death; the hunt without bloodshed. It is domination and intimidation; it is geometry and history; it is focusing the brain on controlling the emotions and the senses. Real men know this; feel this. And real women are attracted to the purity of the game because they are the ultimate masters of the real man. They sense the goodness in those very qualities that make the game appealing, courage, performance, the development of a strong body and keen mind. It is surprising to me that more women are not fans, because nothing is more manly than football. So I’ll let Eric concentrate on the hard core aspects and I’ll do the fluff. And this game was about fluff as much as performance, because performance was the culmination of so many things.
There were more people roaming the sidelines before, and during the game, than I can remember in a long time. It had the feel of a Jerry Jones extravaganza. And there were as many reasons as people. Bobby Valentine showed up and spent the game near the Giants bench. An engaging personality, who posed for photos with every single person who asked. During the game, I had a short conversation with him and he said he was here because his friend (Jim Fassel) was under siege, and he Bobby Valentine , wanted to show his support. What a wonderful friend. Danny Aeillo was here again and went up into the stands to pose for photos with the Giants crazies who line the tunnel entrance to the field. It was a love fest, and I’ll tell you why a little later.
When the Giants entered the tunnel, there was a lowing rumble, much like longhorns on a stampede. The bell started ringing their announcement and the fans went crazy – no boos, no indifference, it was a welcoming screaming, joyous noise of emotional support. The players were bumping and head-butting each other and the look in their eyes was determination. It reminded me of an old Fellini movie 8 and r, the scene where Mastroanni, dressed in black cape and hat dreams he is in a car tunnel (like the Lincoln tunnel); he is standing atop the cars and cracking his bullwhip. The scene on Sunday was the same; it was as if Jim Fassel was atop these warriors, driving them into the sunlight and victory. The other emotion; it felt as if JF’s mother’s spirit was here in the Stadium – she was saying good-by to her son and telling him ” everything will be OK.” It was truly that kind of Sunday. There was an emotional catharsis, the like’s of which haven’t been here since LT and Phil and Bavaro and Tuna. Yes, Tuna, here again, but on the other side of the emotional coin. How central he has been to the Giants and Giants’ fans. During the post-game Press Conference, the inevitable question was put to JF about losing his mother and the strain. He almost broke down; for one brief instant his eyes watered and he told us that yes, it had been hard, but that he felt his mother was watching the game. If you don’t think football is about emotions, if you don’t think it’s hard being a real man, if you don’t think this team and these fans didn’t rally around something inexplicable, but palpably present; you have no soul and will never understand the game.
On the way home last night, I could scarcely contain my joy. I put the car on cruise control because my feet were dancing to the Cleftones, the Hearttones, the Crests and I just wanted to hold my wife in my arms and dance like I did as a teenager. Thank you Philadelphia for making the trip pass quickly; I would thank you more if you had beaten the Cardinals yesterday, but that would be asking too much of Philly, wouldn’t it. It never fails to amaze me how this team can plunge me into the depths of despair for so long and with one explosion of football power make me feel like I could conquer the world. Hell, I didn’t even realize I was tired until I was nearing Baltimore.
More about emotions. The guys out there yesterday were a strange combination; there were a lot of really young players, guys who haven’t experienced the ugliness of losing and bad football every year. They want to win and they want to contribute. It is their emotional uplift which is driving the older dogs to will their broken bodies to keep making blocks and tackles. The new Giants are good: Montgomery and Comella and Rosenthal and Bashir Levingston; Whittle and Campbell and Bennett, an army of unheralded and unknown cornerbacks and safeties, Ryan Hale and Holsey and Scott Galyon – they will be the nucleus of the return to glory. Don’t forget thenew Phoenix of the Meadowlands – Kerry Collins reemerged, cleansed in the dewy bath of the Hackensack, newly risen as a person and a player. Sort of like Vinny on the other side, but more reminiscent of Y.A. Tittle who came from another place in another time and lit up the scoreboard.. Kerry is here and Kerry did the job. As he said, “so much has happened to me in the past couple of years. I’ve done a lot of work, and really tried to get myself back on track, these are the kind of games that you ultimately see as the end of the rainbow… so I’m going to enjoy this, it’s been a long road for me, but I feel very good about how things are coming along here.” Kerry has done it – he looks confident, the younger guys have no hang-ups or questions about his leadership. He is now the QB.
There was talk on the sidelines during the first Giant drive that JF was not calling the plays, a fact he later confirmed in the Press Conference. Much had gone on this week, which we will never hear about. Some folks very close to JF spent time with him convincing him to make this and other moves, hoping to help him save a season and a job. To his credit, he listened. Other secret scuttlebutt was that Michael Strahan had given the pre-game speech; that he had once again apologized to his teammates; that he then lit into them and lifted their emotional level. Michael as team leader, challenged the team and they responded. When I asked Coach if his team leaders were stepping up and helping, he answered with a definitive yes.
Time for hard core guys. Fancy this, a Giants team with a 300 yard passer, TWO 100 yard receivers and a 100 yard rusher, and a partridge in a pear tree. 25 first downs, 68% efficiency on third downs, 490 net yards, 75 offensive plays, 6.6 yards per play average and 36 minutes possession. As one commentator said, sounds like the SF 49ers of Montana and Rice. And there were no interceptions. Can we find anything bad. Well, maybe the punting. Three punts for 94 yards, with a long of 48 – average 31.3, but a net average of only 22.1. On defense, Jessie had seven tackles and one beautiful sack on a speed rush where he looked like LT. Garnes had 6 tackles and a pass defensed. And he and Percy were done dirty by an official on a pass interference call that looked as if everyone was fighting for the ball. Hamilton had 5 and Peter 4. Even Bashir Levingston played corner and had a tackle and assist. Go Bashir. On specials Galyon and Comella had 4 and 2 tackles.
Two particular series characterized the day for the Giants so I’m giving them to you in detail. The seventh possession was the longest drive. It took 7.26 minutes, for 16 plays. It started on the Giants 33, went 67 yards and resulted in a TD. It went like this: Montgomery for -1; Monty for 3; Collins-Hilliard for 10; Collins, inc.; Collins, inc.; Collins to Mitchell for 10; Monty for 2; Collins to Mitchell for 9; Monty for 2; Monty for 11; Monty for 3; Collins , inc.; Collins to Toomer for 9; Collins, inc.; Monty for no gain; Collins to Toomer for 9 and the TD. Then there was the quick strike drive. Monty for -1; Barber for 1; Collins to Toomer for 80 yards and TD; time 28seconds.
Noteworthy plays: David Patten’s end around for 27; Toomer dragging his toes on the TD in the corner of the end zone; Toomer making his two long runs; Hilliard making first down catches at critical times; Pete doing his thing; Monty scoring and doing his chest thing; the blocking up front, especially Stone for repeatedly making holes, Gragg for elevating his play and Rosey and Oben for sealing the left side. BW played strong and when he was hurt, Collins went over his replacement for the score. On defense, Jessie’s sack was awesome. Peter made several tough plays. The pressure from the front 7 had Lucas confused, bruised and unable to get going until the game was out of hand. On the other side, credit to Keyshawn who is one great player and would look good in Blue. Chrebet also never quit. On one late score, there was a mixup in the Giants secondary and Fox was screaming at Sanders as he came off the field.
There was so much in the Press Conference and the locker room that I simply can’t get it all in. But, of note are Fassel’s remarks on turning over the play calling to Shaun Payton and Skipper. JF said he told them he was going to be an advisor, and that they did an outstanding job. But he said he told the team, “Gentlemen, it doesn’t matter about the play-calling, it matters how you execute that play.” He also said that he thought “all phases of our game were sound, physical and tough.” He praised Joe Montgomery and credited him for doing much to open up the offense. He said, “if you can run the ball, you can get people singled up.” The thing that allowed the receivers to have a big game was “our ability to run the football and keep us in manageable situations and make them defense us for the run.” On the game plan, he said, “We were going to pound it, we were going to be patient with it. We knew we were going to have to run it to be able to open some other things up.” JF indicated that it was relief not to have to spend the night before worrying over the play book. He thought he would get out of it and “stay in the role of analyzing, evaluating and managing the game, seeing different things…” Coach was asked if a game like this took some pressure off and put the team in the right direction. He answered “I’ll sleep a lot better tonight. I need some good things to happen in my life.” I asked him to follow up on that and he said, “From the standpoint of pressure and anything else on me, I don’t worry about that… my whole focus is to keep us playing right…and all the aspects that go along with it. We need something good to happen and I told them anything in your life you want, you’ve got to fight for it. They fought for it today and I think it will go a long way in helping this team with their confidence and where we are going to go from here.”
I asked Mike Rosenthal if he was still feeling like a rookie and he said, “Yes, I definitely feel like a rookie. Each week things kind of come better to me and I feel more comfortable. Now it’s a matter of keep on improving and getting better and better.” I told him I could see of McNally’s techniques setting in and he said “Oh, yeah, he’s been harping on me all week.”
Sean Payton said that play calling was a staff effort. That half the staff did the run, half the pass and they all came together. He complimented Wide Receivers Coach Jimmy Robinson and Tight Ends Coach Dick Rehbein. It was obvious that the new found attention is not going to his head, he’s one of a unit. When asked if any one aspect had `his fingerprint on it’, he told a few of us that, “All those plays we called, there was no invention today. Prior to the game, everyone knew what the game plan was and it was just a matter of deciding when and where and down and distance.” Dave Klein asked him if there was any one play that had been changed for today, or reused after an absence. Sean said, “One of the things, maybe we did a little different today, is when we got into the third down area, we changed up some of our tendencies, and Jets Defensive Coordinator Bill Belicheck…we were concerned with his nickel defense…so we tried to stay out of the third and longs, the same old cliches you hear everybody say it, but when you get into third and 8 or 9 it is tough in this league, picking up the dogs and putting a lot of pressure on the line.” I asked him what he liked about the offense and he told me, “I like the guys up front and I think our skill guys are playing well and I think we can continue to mix up our run and play action pass. The execution is important. Every week you hear people say that. We have some guys up front that can get off the ball and play real well, and Pete Mitchell is doing a great job on third down, our receivers are playing real well.”
I talked to Greg Comella for the first time and came away even more impressed than when watching him play. You know, there was a thread in “Pete’s Corner” last week about which of these Giants can you really like – I like a lot of them. Ryan Hale and Mike Rosenthal are gentlemen and great kids – I would be proud to call them both son. Bashir and David Patten are characters and really great personalities and they are welcome to the family. Roman Oben is a class act and would fit into any corporate boardroom that I am familiar with. Greg Comella is another of these “quality” guys. He is direct and has the bearing of a military man. He is articulate and thinks carefully about his responses. He told me, “If we’re talking about winning games around here, that means doing whatever it takes; that means playing special teams, starters giving that little extra…the key is team, that has to be the focus, the focus can’t be myself, the focus can’t be personal accolades, it’s always got to be what can I do to help make this a better team, a winning team .” I asked if he was going to be one of the guys stepping up and he told me “Absolutely, when you are a guy on all four special teams, and especially right now with our backs being down…it’s a responsibility for each and every one of the backs to step in there and take their game to another level. It’s not good enough, now, just to go out there and be good because we have some key guys down. We have to pull together even more.” I asked him what he liked about this team. He said “…what I saw out there today was the spirit, the emotion, the energy with which the game was played, I don’t care at what level you play, the game is and always will be about the emotion and the physical aspect of the game. That’s what I liked out there today. Guys were having fun.” I told him that it felt as if there had been an emotional outburst and he again said, “Absolutely, we’ve been here…you have to, you have to, to win in this league, each and every week it’s a new opponent, each and every week you are going against paid professionals, so the only way to be a winning team is to play with that type of enthusiasm, that type of emotion, that type of excitement…” I asked how he liked running with JOMO and he said he liked running with Joe. I asked how he liked running behind Big Mike and he said “Oh, yeah, he’s coming along nicely.”
I could go on about Kerry Collins and what he had to say, and so on but I’ve shot my space three-fold. I just wanted to share some insights with you and let you know the deep feelings this team has for each other and the coaching staff. Win or lose, as Coach Fassel said, they’ll be out there fighting. The new guys are bringing excitement; the play calling, no matter how the protestations to the contrary sound, was different. Sean Payton brings a new dimension to the offense. Now the Coach can concentrate on “managing the game” and managing the team. After all, this is his team, held in trust for us.