Dec 311999
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, January 2, 2000: Any realistic chances the Giants had at making the playoffs ended with their disappointing performance against the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday. The Giants now need to beat Dallas and hope against hope that the Cardinals can beat the Packers in frozen Lambeau Field. But don’t feel sorry for this group of players. They did it to themselves. They were the ones swept by the Cardinals and Redskins. They are the ones who let a game slip away from them against New England. They are the ones who could have maintained control over their own destiny last week.

Let’s get one thing straight. Jim Fassel will be back in 2000. All this speculation on who should coach the Giants next season is ridiculous and counter-productive. The decision has already been made. It looks like Defensive Coordinator John Fox won’t be going anywhere this year either…not after his unit played very uninspired football in 1999. The time has now come to figure out what the Giants have and don’t have in terms of the players on the field. The offense took some big strides this year in the passing game, but regressed in the ground game. Much of that had to do with injuries and inexperience. Holes have started to appear in the defense. Injuries were a factor there, but there is also a need to upgrade at several positions.

I will talk some about the match-up against Dallas, but most of this preview will be spent on some of the key personnel questions that must be answered this offseason.

Giants on Offense: Dallas is very tough defensively because they combine big, strong defensive linemen with fast linebackers and a dominant strong safety and right cornerback. The speed that they have in the back seven allows them to not only effectively cover wide receivers, but also underneath targets such as tight ends and halfbacks. WR Amani Toomer will most likely be effectively shut down by CB Deion Sanders. HB Tiki Barber will have a hard time getting away from the quick linebackers, especially Dexter Coakley. TE Pete Mitchell has two sprained ankles and is a shell of himself right now. One guy Giants’ fans should keep an eye on is MLB Randall Godfrey. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He’s fast and he can play inside and outside. The best way to attack Dallas is to get your ground game going and then use play-action to go after the weaker parts of the back seven (the left corner, free safety, nickel back, and strongside linebacker). However, Joe Montgomery is most likely playing with broken ribs and will be very limited. FB Greg Comella (hamstring) is also ailing. HB Sean Bennett may be the man on the spot. The Giants need big games from Ike Hilliard and the third wide receiver. Up front, Luke Petitgout is pushing RT Scott Gragg and may see some action against DE Kavika Pittman. LT Roman Oben, who will a free agent this offseason, faces improving rookie DE Ebenezer Ekuban. Defensive tackles Chad Hennings and Alonzo Spellman can cause problems in the middle of the defense against both the pass and the run.

Quarterback: Kerry Collins is obviously the most talented quarterback the Giants have had since Phil Simms. It’s not even close. However, Kerry has to prove that he is a tougher customer in the pocket and cut down on his killer mistakes if he is ever to be a championship caliber player. Kent Graham will likely stay around one more year as the principle back-up. The big question is do the Giants draft or sign another player to take over for Mike Cherry? Do they consider taking a quarterback in the first or second round?

Running Backs: HB Joe Montgomery looks like a player, but is he the kind of guy defenses will worry about? He may or may not. Joe runs so hard that injuries may be a constant occurrence with him. Regardless, the Giants must think about their depth. LeShon Johnson should be gone. How well will Gary Brown come back from knee surgery and is he too expensive to keep? Is Sean Bennett a complete player? The Giants may be best served by looking at halfback long and hard in the draft. At fullback, will Charles Way ever come close to his 1997 form again? If not, can the Giants afford to cut one of their very few offensive leaders?

Tight End: TE Howard Cross wants to continue to play, but it may now be in the Giants’ best interest to let him go. I would give Dan Campbell more playing time and make a strong push for TE Shannon Sharpe – who has shown interest in joining the Giants. The Giants have really been hurt by the injuries to Mitchell down the stretch.

Wide Receivers: WR Amani Toomer had a breakout year and Ike Hilliard showed his run-after-the-catch ability once he had an accurate passer throwing the ball to him. However, the Giants still lack a true gamebreaker. Will Brian Alford ever develop into that role? His time is running out. Joe Jurevicius has tremendous size and deceptive speed, but he has really disappointed this year. David Patten continues to remain invisible once the regular season starts. Can the Giants afford the “luxury” of drafting a wide receiver high or signing an expensive one as a free agent?

Offensive Line: Most of the offensive questions and problems lie here. The Giants’ hierarchy has not done a very good job in recent years in effectively judging their talent in this area and this has cost the team dearly. One thing is quite clear, Luke Petitgout will be given every opportunity to win a starting tackle job on the team. My gut tells me that it will be right tackle and that does not bode well for Scott Gragg – a player who will be making far too much money in 2000 to be kept as a back-up. If Luke works out, the right side is set with him and RG Ron Stone. But can the Giants afford to assume that Luke can handle the job? Can they afford to sign a high-priced free agent only to have him sit if Luke can do the job? See the dilemma? LT Roman Oben will be an unrestricted free agent. The Giants probably want to keep him, but for what kind of contract? He had a down year in 1999, but young left tackles with quick feet and long arms are hard to find. LG Mike Rosenthal is a steady player and if he can get stronger, he should improve as a run blocker. But what is his upside? Ideally, the Giants would want to sign a OT/OG veteran swingman just in case one of the two youngsters from Notre Dame don’t work out. Then there is the center spot. Personally, I would strong consider scrapping the players who are there and starting over by signing a veteran to start and drafting a rookie to groom for the future. Brian Williams is nearing the end and may retire. Engler is a journeyman. Depth is an issue too. How much of a future do Lance Scott and Toby Myles have?

Giants on Defense: If you can shut down the Dallas running game, you can pretty much control their offense. That is easier said than done however. HB Emmitt Smith is having an excellent year behind a big and talented offensive line. RT Erik Williams always gives DE Michael Strahan problems. LG Larry Allen faces DT Keith Hamilton and is widely regarded as one of the very best offensive linemen in the game. DE Cedric Jones battles the huge LT Flozell Adams. That will be a key match-up as the Cowboys are bound to target much of their ground game in that direction. Also, with Strahan and Hamilton having their hands full with two Pro Bowlers, Jones must get a pass rush of his own going. DT Christian Peter battles the weak link – RG Everett McIver – but Christian simply hasn’t been able to get much penetration in weeks. The linebackers of the Giants must have a good game against the run. They will have to play off blocks quickly and get to Smith and his back-up/third down back Chris Warren. When QB Troy Aikman puts the ball up, get a hat on him. He really doesn’t like to get hit much. Aikman’s targets include the speedy Rocket Ismail and rookie Jason Tucker. CB Conrad Hamilton needs to play better this week and shut down Ismail. The Rocket is also a threat on the reverse. Aikman still likes to throw to his tight ends (David LaFleur and Eric Bjornson) quite a bit and that means our linebackers and strong safety must play well. The Cowboys often like to move Bjornson outside like the Giants do with Mitchell. Aikman often looks for LaFleur in the redzone – he has seven touchdowns. Deion Sanders has become more of a factor in the offense in recent weeks – both as a decoy and target. FB Robert Thomas is a converted linebacker who has improved by leaps and bounds and looks like a real player.

Defensive Line: The lack of a consistent pass rush from the down four killed the Giants this year. Michael Strahan had a terrible year. Hopefully, he will bounce back with renewed dedication and in a healthy state. Cedric Jones is a decent player and he is improving, but will he ever become a impact rusher from the right side? I doubt it. Inside, Keith Hamilton is an above average player, but Christian Peter looks more like a back-up. Robert Harris is high-priced and injury-prone. The Giants could let him go, but they will miss him if they do. George Williams and Ryan Hale look more like pluggers in the Peter mold. Upgrading the defensive line must be a priority in the draft. I very much doubt the Giants will be able to afford a top defensive lineman in free agency.

Linebackers: The Giants need to upgrade team speed here. WLB Jessie Armstead can’t do it alone. MLB Corey Widmer seems out-of-place in today’s speed game. So does SLB Ryan Phillips (restricted) who doesn’t flash the pass rush skills to compensate for his mediocre pass defense and decent run defense. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Giants sign a veteran linebacker in free agency – someone like Randall Godfrey of the Cowboys. Pete Monty (restricted) could be a factor inside. Scott Galyon (unrestricted) will probably depart for a chance to start on another team – he’s strictly a weakside guy. The status of Marcus Buckley probably depends a lot on what happens to Phillips and Galyon. O.J. Childress may help out, but at least one body must be drafted.

Secondary: The Giants have a lot of unsigned guys here. SS Sam Garnes (restricted) wants to be paid like one of the best safeties in the game. I wouldn’t do it. I like Sam a lot, but he doesn’t make enough impact plays to be considered one of the best. Plus, what if strong safety really is Shaun Williams’ best position? FS Percy Ellsworth (unrestricted) lacks speed and may be let go so the faster and better tackling Williams can start. If Percy leaves, the Giants are only left with Lyle West and would have to add a player. Corner is a mess right now. Jason Sehorn should be better after a full training camp; the hope is that he comes close to his 1997 form. Phillippi Sparks and Conrad Hamilton are unrestricted free agents. One gets the sense that Sparks doesn’t really want to be here and may price himself out of New York. I feel keeping Hamilton is essential. Depth is a concern too. Andre Weathers will be coming off knee surgery. Jeremy Lincoln (unrestricted) is not really what one is looking for. Emmanuel McDaniel flashes good coverage skills, but needs to tackle better. Bashir Levingston could surprise. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Giants take a corner high in the draft.

Giants on Specials: Dallas has one of the best, if not the best, special teams coaches in the league. The Giants outplayed them in this phase earlier in the season and won the game because of it. They may need a similar performance this week. The Giants’ kickoff coverage was an embarrassment last week and kick returter Jason Tucker – a homerun threat – has to be licking his chops. His short kickoffs are not helping matters at all. Deion Sanders is the most dangerous punt returner in the game. P Brad Maynard needs to be very careful with his punts. Ideally, he wants top hangtime and direction and not allow Deion to return a single punt. Dallas was embarrassed by Tiki Barber the last time these two squads met and they will be looking for redemption. I was sure Bashir Levingston was going to take a kick back all the way this year. I guess I was wrong.

Dec 291999
 
Minnesota Vikings 34 – New York Giants 17

by David Oliver

Twas the day after Christmas
And all through the Meadowlands
Not a Giant was stirring
Even in their own house.

The Y2K bug hit Giantdom early and hard, on both sides of the ball and the bench. As I drove up Sunday morning, I was apprehensive, fearing that Eric was right and the Giants, bruised and battered, would tank the last 4 games. The Rams game was very disheartening. The team seemed to wither in the end and played lackadaisical football. A performance like that against the Vikings and the it would be ‘sayonara’ to the playoffs.

So I tried something different as I passed Philly, Land of Broken Dreams. No doo-wop this trip. I popped in a Bruce Springsteen CD, New Jersey tough. What a mistake. War was powerful, Darlington County wistful. But his monologue narrative Vietnam tune talking about the relationship between a father and son and generational change – wow. It was blue collar simple. The son keeps hearing from the father how the army will make a man of him. Then he takes off for three days for his draft physical. When he comes home, father asks, “Where were you?” He replies, “Taking my draft physical.” Father asks, “What happened?” Son says “I failed.” Father says “Good.” Memories flooded in, of those times. Although not the same, my own experience was similar as years later I found out my dad had a suitcase packed in the closet, just in case we would be taking a northern vacation. But that’s another story.

What really hit home, was home, and the Giants going nowhere, so my mind wandered. It’s always this way between Christmas and the First. The Boss reminded me of a big, beefy Irish kid I knew, before he was the first of my classmates lost in Nam. An athlete, a popular guy, whose dad was also the prototypical Irishman, big and gregarious and successful. In all these years, I have never forgotten both of them, sitting in the cafeteria at the Seton Hall, friendly and alive. Living and working near and in D.C., I ran past the Wall three or four times every week. But I never visited. One Christmas, Sandy (my wife) and I visited the tree. I said, “What the hell, we’re here, let’s go.” It was a warm, drizzly, misty night, with a soft light. We hit the statute and I started crying. Don’t ask why, if you weren’t around then you would never understand. Sandy took me by the hand, asked his name, looked him up in the book and led me to the Wall – I never stopped crying, but I was thankful for her that night. Brian Conlon, hero. I’ve never been back.

The connection here. It’s always about coming home. It’s about joy and sorrow, it’s about family, it’s about the New York Football Giants. It’s fearing another January without football; it’s fearing a wash-out in the Meadowlands. Here it is, the dawn of a New Millennium, with a team that remains a mystery. Who is the heart? Who is the soul? Who the brains of leadership? Like Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road, we fans are hoping the Wizard has some answers, for us and our team.

The game started at 1:02 pm, EST. The weather – temp. 32, increasing cloudiness, wind out of the southwest at 12 mph, wind chill 11 – Giants weather. The stats, very deceptive. First downs- Giants 25, Vikings 18; fourth down eff. – Giants 3 of 5- 60%; total net yards – Giants 344, Vikings 378; rushing yards – Giants 76, Vikings 174; passing yards – Giants 268 Vikings 204; throws/comp/int – Giants 51-31-1, Vikings 22-11-2; time of possession, Giants 37:35, Vikings 22:25. Who would you say won this game? Nothing could be further from the truth.

Robert Smith rushed for 146 yards on 16 carries, with a long of 70. Joe Montgomery led the Giants with 55 yards on 19 carries and a long of 12. Most of them came in the first quarter. Jeff George wasn’t outstanding, he was workmanlike, picked the Giants apart and never got his uniform dirty. He was only 10 of 21 with a long of 37. But Randy Moss threw a TD strike of 27, longer than any Giants completion. Carter caught 5 passes for 131 yards, on one leg. Toomer and Barber did well for the Giants, catching 9 and 8 respectively, mostly shorter passes.

On defense, the Giants made 33 tackles with 17 assists – not a very busy day. Ellsworth had a combined 11 of those. When your safety makes 20% of the tackles, you know it’s been a long day. Jessie, playing at about 60% still made 6 tackles, but really wasn’t part of the game after the first quarter. That’s the good news. The rest of the story – no pass rush, no cornerback play and the safeties playing catch-up all day. Did we have any linebackers out there except Jessie? I don’t know because they weren’t in evidence. We have gone to a very conservative read and react scheme to help the corners – but the result was to help George, who doesn’t like being hit and pawed. He rolled out three times, other than that it was like a light practice for him.

The Vikings won the toss, elected to receive and were held. The Giants then had one of their monster drives. Monty for 8, Monty for 3, Monty for -2. Then Collins to Toomer for 10, Monty for 3, Monty for 5, Collins to Toomer for 10. Monty for 12, Monty for 8, Monty for 1; Tiki for 4, Tiki for 1, Monty for -1, Collins sacked. Result – field goal – 3 points from a drive that went 65 yards in 15 plays and took 8:35.

The Vikings were held again, and punted. The Giants had 4 plays and punted. Then it fell apart. George to Carter for 37 yards over Hamilton. George to Moss for 25 yards over Hamilton. George to Carter for 17 yards over Lincoln. Hoard up the middle for 3, TD. No pressure, no corners, no middle defense, too easy. The next Giant series, a couple of short runs, a couple of passes, a couple of incomplete, 2 sacks and a fumble (recovered by Oben). Field goal. 8 plays, 43 yards 4:09, 3 points.

The Vikings then drove to the endzone, but Lincoln made a nice interception on one of the few passes that George threw down all day.. Giants go nowhere, punt. The Vikings take over with 4 minutes left in the half. 2 runs, a 19 yard pass to Glover, Smith bursts up the middle for 15, 2 minute warning. Incomplete pass, 16 yard completion to Carter, Smith run for 14, Hoard on a 1 yard TD run.

At the half, the game was effectively over. The defensive line, with the exception of some early Keith Hamilton, could exert no pressure – it couldn’t even contain, as Smith ran up the middle several times. The linebackers were a major disappointment. Everyone knew about the corners, little was expected, little was shown. Conrad Hamilton was beaten several times, although he came up on run support several times. Lincoln epitomized the play when he chased down Smith on his long TD run, then love tapped him instead of leveling him out of bounds – why spoil a good run with something as messy as a real tackle.

The Giants took the third quarter kickoff – short pass, run, short pass, run, real short pass, short run, pass, run, short pass, sack, missed field goal from the 22. The Vikings went nowhere and punted. Then the interception. The first Viking play was the Randy Moss to Carter TD pass – Ellsworth, either because of injury or careless play, was trailing. Both of these guys are on one leg so it should have been even up. This drive took 8 seconds. So much for ball control.

The next Giant possession was the season in a nutshell. Collins to JJ for 18, Tiki run, incomplete, run for no gain, pass for 5 yards, pass for 3 yards, pass for 9 yards, incomplete, pass for 7 yards, incomplete. The Giants are on the 25, the score is 21 to 6, it is the end of the third quarter, the Giants kick a field goal. Run up the white flag, forget who is calling the plays, why bother with a fourth quarter? The Giants have successfully traded field goals for TDs all day.

The final quarter was a total disaster. The Vikings ran the kickoff back 85 yards for another TD. Blanchard was cold-cocked and lay on the turf with an Excedrin migraine. The Giants playoff hopes laid down right next to him. And yet, back they came. Incomplete, pass, pass, incomplete, incomplete, pass, pass (holding penalty), pass for a loss, incomplete, pass to Tiki for 15, pass to Ike for 19, incomplete, pass to Ike for 8, pass to Ike for another 8, then from the Viking 2, run, run, run nowhere, pass to Mitchell for the TD. Collins up the middle for the 2 point conversion. Another 16 play, 69 yard, 6:59 drive.

Next series, Smith takes the ball, runs through the middle, cuts to the sidelines and motors 70 yards. The Stadium empties rapidly. The Giants had the ball 3 more times. A lot of incomplete, no scores.

The Giants had the ball for more than 10 minutes in 3 of the 4 quarters. Giant possessions went like this; field goal, punt, field goal, punt, half, missed field goal, int., field goal, TD, downs, downs, game over. The Vikings got an 8 second TD, a 22 second TD and 2 3 minute drives. Talk about explosive.

Observations – the Vikings blocking schemes looked like an impenetrable wall – rarely was there a blue shirt in the picture after the first quarter. Giants blocking shows holes, but most of the blocking was done from the backside, catching the Vikings as they were turning back up field. DT John Randle was too fast for Rosey, Engler was abused, no one else did anything outstanding. Oben did keep Dolman from getting that sack he needs to cap off a great career. Collins was playing uninspired. The Rams hangover continued. He is getting hit and apparently does not react well to physical abuse. Frankly, we were overmatched in line play. Steussie and Stringer are behemoths. Smith is a physically large back – I was surprised walking out the tunnel next to him to see how really tall and square shouldered he is. Glover is a big, physical tight end, Jerry Ball is still a horse and his line mates are very quick. Chris Carter is a great receiver – he always manages to get free. Moss didn’t have to do anything, but he threw a beauty of a pass. Interesting, last week Jim Fassel said he wasn’t going to show the Giants the game film. I opined that the Vikings would watch it, and I’m sure they did. And they saw what they needed. Right now, with all our injuries, the Giants are not a four quarter team.

The Giants at this stage are no longer a running team. They are a decent short range passing team with no explosion. Opponents will trade field goals for TDs anytime and it is obvious that the Giants lack the ability for the killshot. Most disturbing, no fire on the field or the bench. Fassel smolders, Fox is holding it together with bailing wire and chewing gum, McDuff has shot his wad. A sense of resignation has hovered over this team except for the Jets game. Too many injuries, too many QB changes, too many conservative calls – passivity is the trademark of a collection of individuals, it is not an element of team dynamics. When you have LT, you can settle for field goals. Without him, you had better risk it all for TDs.

I talked to several players after the game, but there really isn’t much to say. The most noteworthy comments were offered by Beshir Levingston, “Same plays, same plays.” And my friends, the same results. HAPPY NEW YEAR and may the force be with us at draft time.

Dec 241999
 

Approach to the Game – Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants, December 26, 1999: Two games left in the regular season. Two victories and the Giants are in the playoffs. No sense worrying too much about these games. If the Giants beat the Vikings and the Cowboys, they deserve to be in. If not, they don’t. My message to the team would be this: don’t screw around. Be aggressive and go for the jugular.

Giants on Offense: Head Coach Jim Fassel and play-caller Sean Payton could go the conservative route and try to control the tempo of the game and the time of possession battle by running the ball down the throats of the Vikings. Nonsense. Score early and often by going up top. I’d come out throwing against a banged up Viking secondary that is one of the worst in the league. In fact, the Vikings are dead last in pass defense. Put the game in the hands of QB Kerry Collins, his receivers, and the pass blocking of the offensive line. Again, if they don’t do the job, then the team doesn’t really deserve to stay alive. FS Orlando Thomas is out and will be replaced by second-year man Anthony Bass. WR Ike Hilliard will face rookie CB Kenny Wright. WR Amani Toomer is matched up against CB Jimmy Hitchcock – a guy who is not playing very well. The nickel back this week most likely will be WR Robert Tate – yes, he is a wide receiver. Tate held up decently at times against Green Bay last week, but the Packers were also able to exploit him some. The Vike linebackers aren’t real strong in coverage. Collins should get the ball into the hands of his playmakers – Toomer, Hilliard, Mitchell, and Barber. This also could be a big game opportunity for wide receivers Joe Jurevicius and Brian Alford. Get up early, get the crowd excited, and make the Vikings throw to catch-up. This will help the defense as it will make Minnesota one-dimensional.

Of course, for all this to happen, the line must give Collins and his receivers time. The Vikings like to move the very disruptive John Randle around. Last week, he was back at defensive tackle and he most likely will stay there this week as the Vikes will want to match him up on rookie LG Mike Rosenthal. Randle has the quickness to give Rosenthal problems. He also will try to get into his head by yelling at him all game – Randle is a foul-mouthed trash talker (and an asshole). I hope Mike plants him. LT Roman Oben will match up against the old pass rushing veteran Chris Doleman. Doleman still has some pass rush left in him and Oben will have to be on the top of his game. The rest of the line is average and RG Ron Stone and RT Scott Gragg should control their opponents. OC Brian Williams (knee) is less than 100 percent, but will try to play as long as he can. He should help out with the blitz pick-ups and keeping an eye on Randle.

Go for the throat Sean and put these turkeys away fast.

Giants on Defense: Just don’t let WR Randy Moss beat you. Easier said than done. The Vikes have a good offensive line, a quarterback with more talent than anyone in the league, and plenty of weapons. But it is Moss that can take over a game. Double Moss. Unless the Giants move CB Conrad Hamilton over to cover him, it will be CB Jeremy Lincoln who will be given the task to face Moss. Obviously, if this is the case, FS Percy Ellsworth must dedicate himself to helping Lincoln out. That means Hamilton must be relied on to cover the very talented, but gimpy, Chris Carter (or WR Jake Reed when Carter is out). Nickel back Emmanuel McDaniel will have a big size disadvantage against Jake Reed (I might be more comfortable with Shaun Williams on him). WR Mathew Hatchette is also a very underrated player. SS Sam Garnes will have to help out where needed. What the Giants really need is their defensive backs to make some interceptions. Aside from Doug Flutie’s “Hail Mary” pass, the Giants haven’t picked off a pass since the game against Washington.

A big match-up could be SLB Ryan Phillips against TE Andrew Glover. If Phillips can keep Glover quiet, than Garnes can concentrate on the receivers. WLB Jessie Armstead (knee) is gimpy and has to be replaced at times by Scott Galyon. MLB Pete Monty could get another chance to shine this week as Corey Widmer’s back is still acting up. The defensive line and linebackers certainly don’t want the Viking running game with halfbacks Robert Smith and Leroy Hoard to become a factor. Smith is a silky smooth outside runner; Leroy is the pounder in the middle.

The pass rush of the Giants has been very disappointing. The big question is do the Giants blitz often and risk the big play? I’m not sure I would, but they may be forced to take their chances. QB Jeff George is a very accurate and strong-armed passer. I doubt the wind will bother his throws much. However, George is not the toughest guy in the world and will fumble when hit too. It is very important for the defensive line to be able to mount some kind of a pass rush. The beat-up Michael Strahan faces mammoth RT Korey Stringer (who can’t be bullrushed). Michael will have to get his outside pass rush going – something he hasn’t done this year. DE Cedric Jones faces talented LT Todd Steussie, a guy who has had an inconsistent year. DT Keith Hamilton battles perennial Pro Bowl RG Randall McDaniel; DT Christian Peter will duke it out with RG David Dixon. OC Jeff Christy is the man in the middle – he’s a savvy guy in picking up the blitz and making the right line calls – and another Pro Bowler.

Let’s be honest. The Giants are very beat up on defense right now and the Vikings are a very explosive offense. It is not a pretty picture. But the defense can still dictate the outcome of this game by playing tougher and with more passion. They need the help of the fans in the Meadowlands to keep their spirits up. But if Giants’ history has taught us anything, our defense often can surmount impossible odds and win ball games. Let’s hope they have one of those efforts in mind this weekend.

Giants on Specials: I keep saying it, but if the blockers give punt returner Tiki Barber and kick returner Bashir Levingston an alley, look out. At the same token, P Brad Maynard should not give Randy Moss an opportunity to return a punt. Kick it near the sidelines please! Coverage on kickoffs will be huge again as PK Jose Cortez is gone and Cary Blanchard once again assumes those chores.

Dec 221999
 
St. Louis Rams 31 – New York Giants 10

Overview: The score was close at one point in the third quarter (10-3), but that was no indication of how the game was actually going. The Giants were clearly outplayed by a very talented St. Louis team. Indeed, the superiority of St. Louis’ team speed was most alarming on both sides of the ball. The Rams were faster and quicker. And aside from LT Orlando Pace, they also played smarter. The Giants made far too many mistakes against a team that they could not afford to make them against.

But the Giants need to forget this game quickly and focus completely on the Vikings. Nothing else matters right now.

Quarterback: One of the Giants’ big problems in the first quarter was that they barely had the ball. Two quick three-and-outs proved extremely costly. This not only prevent the Giants’ offense from getting into any kind of a rhythm, but it kept putting the ball back into the hands of the dangerous Rams’ offense. Indeed, the Giants were lucky only to be down 10-0 at halftime, but by then, they were still in a catch-up mode. It didn’t help matters that QB Kerry Collins regressed this week. Collins continues to display a major league arm and quick release. Some of his throws against the Rams were superb like his deep pass to HB Tiki Barber along the sidelines. He also continues to show the ability to make an accurate throw when under pressure even when his mechanics are wrong. But too often on Sunday his mechanics were off. I got the sense the Collins was pressing at times and that he was falling back into some bad habits with his footwork. Kerry wasn’t given much of an opportunity to throw the ball down the field in the first half (due to the three-and-outs and the emphasis on the ground game early). But too often in the second half, his sloppy mechanics led to less-than-ideal throwing accuracy (for example, his underthrow to FB Greg Comella on a deep route). BBI contributor Tom in NY also posted the following in Pete’s Corner on what Head Coach Jim Fassel said about Collins’ performance:

Fassel was on with Mike and the Mad Dog for his weekly spot this afternoon…He said that Collins’ errors yesterday were caused by two reasons – First,he was getting hit often early on in the game and started trying to get rid of the ball too quickly rather than allow the plays to develop, somewhat of a natural but deadly reaction. Second, he was throwing the pass to receivers who were covered because on the same or similar routes earlier in the game they had been open and he had successfully completed the pass to them. This was the reason for the 1st interception – Fassel said the RB was wide open due to a different coverage that Collins did not read.

The first interception was truly a killer. It turned the game from a 10-3 affair to a 17-3 one. While watching the game, a fellow BBI’er pointed out to me that he thought that WR Ike Hilliard and Collins seemed out of sync on that play. Indeed, that looks like that is exactly what happened. “If Kerry holds the ball until Ike comes out of the break, it goes as a big play for us,” said Fassel. “I felt going into this game we couldn’t afford to turn the ball over at all. But not only did we turn it over, we gave them points off the turnovers. You can’t do that and hope to beat them.” “We just didn’t get the timing down on it,” said Quarterbacks Coach Sean Payton. “I know it looks like Kerry threw it right to the safety, but that wasn’t the case. Ike made a stutter move that Kerry wasn’t expecting.” “It’s just something we haven’t worked on. It’s a move Ike likes to make and it’s a good move,” said Collins. “I’ll have to keep that in the back of my mind from now on. It’s something we’ll get down the longer we get to work together.”

On the second interception (both of which were returned for touchdowns), Collins tried to squeeze the ball in between LB Mike Jones and the defensive back. Jones made a heck of a play and scored. The game was out of hand at that point, but Kerry has to be a tad more cautious with his throws. In both games where the Giants were getting blown out (the second game against the Cards and this one), Collins tried to do too much with the football. It’s tough because in such situations everyone on defense in playing pass.

Wide Receivers: The Giants seemed to be in a “max protect” mode – meaning that they often only had two wide receivers on the field in order to keep extra bodies in to block the rushers. Some pro football analysts such as ESPN’s Ron Jaworski are a big fan of this strategy. What it does is give the quarterback and the receivers more time to complete a pass down the field. However, it can also work against you in the sense that it is often tougher to get single coverage or create mismatches – especially against a nickel back. It seemed obvious that the Giants (Fassel and Payton) didn’t think the Giants’ offensive line could handle the Rams’ rushers (including blitzers) on their own.

It’s tough for me to tell what is going on all over the field when I am watching the game at a neighborhood bar (as I usually am), but I think what the Rams were doing was doubling Amani Toomer and covering Ike Hilliard with Pro Bowler Todd Lyght. On the Giants’ second possession, Amani was tightly covered on a short out designed to pick up the first down and he couldn’t make the catch. The Giants were forced to punt for the again after only three plays. With the attempt to get the ground game going and the lack of first down conversions, the receivers didn’t impact much at all in the first half. With six minutes left before halftime, the Giants finally began to move the ball – coming off their own goalline at the six yard line. Toomer got open for 27 yards. Collins then handed off to HB Joe Montgomery, who was running left, and he then tossed the ball back to WR Amani Toomer who threw the ball. Toomer was fortunate that the defender interfered with Ike as the ball was intercepted. The penalty would have set the Giants up inside the 30, but Amani was flagged for hitting the interceptor out of bounds. Statistically, Toomer finished the day with excellent numbers (9 catches for 162 yards). But too many of these yards came when the game was out of reach. WR Ike Hilliard (5 catches for 51 yards) was too quiet. He scored late on a touchdown, but that was another case of too little too late. No other Giants’ wideout caught a pass. Brian Alford was in the line up and he actually was sent deep. The play almost connected. It’s too bad that Brian seems incapable of running any other kind of route.

Tight Ends: I don’t know if it was his gimpy ankle, quality pass coverage by the Rams, or if he was called onto block more than normal, but Pete Mitchell had very little impact in this game. Two catches for 16 yards from one of you major weapons is not going to get it done. I also spotted him getting tossed aside rather easily on one running play at the point of attack. TE Howard Cross made a superb block on Barber’s 30-yard jaunt off the left side on 3rd-and-1.

Offensive Line: Not a particularly strong performance in terms of the ground game. The Giants’ offensive strategy seemed clear – use the ground game to control the time of possession and shorten the game. This is a credible strategy if the line and backs do their job. However, the offensive line just couldn’t get a consistent push. What really hurt was on the Giants’ first possession, facing a 3rd-and-1, RT Scott Gragg could not sustain his block against DE Kevin Carter and Montgomery was nailed in the hole for no gain. This set a bad tone for the offense. To be fair, Gragg did an admirable job on Carter. But he had help much of the day. Gragg just doesn’t do it for me. I like my right tackles to be maulers who can consistently drive smaller defenders off the line of scrimmage on running plays. I’m willing to sacrifice top notch pass protection if my tackle can do that. But Gragg just doesn’t get enough movement for my tastes. Another area that is hurting is at center. Derek Engler is just not getting it done. He’s just not a very powerful or agile player. The run blocking on the left side was particularly weak as every Tiki Barber outside run in that direction (other than the 30-yarder) was shut down at the point of attack. LT Roman Oben kept his man quiet on the pass rush for the most part, but unacceptably allowed Grant Wistrom to sack Collins on a rollout to the right. LG Mike Rosenthal was flagged for the first time, but it was a very costly one. He was called with an illegal chop block after Ike Hilliard had picked up a first down on 3rd-and-5. This would have given the Giants the ball at St. Louis’ 36 yard line with only a few minutes to go before halftime, but the play was called back. RG Ron Stone, the only guy who is really playing well, made a major snafu by tripping up Collins on 3rd-and-goal.

Running Backs: HB Joe Montgomery (12 carries for 41 yards, a 3.4 yards-per-carry average) could not get untracked. He had a few very nice looking inside runs for modest gains, but his blockers, particularly in short-yardage, left much to be desired. Montgomery was stuffed on the aforementioned 3rd-and-1 play, but he also was hit in the backfield on 2nd-and-goal in the third quarter. Joe is a no-nonsense bruiser. I love the way he can find and hits a hole. There was one left-side run where I didn’t think there was any running room, but somehow Joe felt a hole developing and squirted through. What Joe lacks is explosiveness. He’s a bread-and-butter back, he’s not going to make many big plays for you.

HB Tiki Barber (5 carries for 33 yards, a 6.6 yards-per-carry average; 3 catches for 43 yards) played well. He had a big run for 30 yards on 3rd-and-one on the Giants first scoring drive. On that same drive, he also caught an 11-yard pass on 3rd-and-10 and made a real nice 22-yard catch on a deep pass along the left sidelines on a play where he almost scored. Last week, I was soundly chastised by a BBI contributor for not paying more attention to the blocking efforts from FB Greg Comella. I must admit that I didn’t do enough of that again this week. However, Comella made a superb catch on 4th-and-short despite getting nailed by a defender. He also got open deep on a passing attempt that Collins underthrew.

Defensive Line: What in the world has happened to the pass rush??? This is what I think. For one, I think all the rushers in the past benefitted from a scheme where Defensive Coordinator John Fox sent a lot of blitzes (from a variety of directions) at the quarterback because of the confidence he had in the cornerbacks. With all the injuries at cornerback, the Giants simply can’t risk blitzing as much. I don’t buy the Chad Bratzke argument. Bratzke is missed, but the problem is greater than that. Michael Strahan (1 tackle), for whatever reason, is not playing as well. Indeed, he looks like a shell of himself right now. DT Robert Harris may not have always put up good numbers, but he is very athletic and got a push on the quarterback. That very threat caused offensive lines to pay attention to him. Christian Peter (3 tackles) never gets off the line and the opposition never worries about him on passing plays. Thus, their attention can be entirely focused on Strahan (who isn’t play as well anyways) and DT Keith Hamilton (4 tackles). DE Cedric Jones (1 tackle, 1 sack) is a better run defender than Bratzke, but he is not as quick or sudden on the pass rush. Most of his sacks have come from hustle.

Obviously, the Rams controlled the line of scrimmage, particularly on passing plays. QB Kurt Warner had too much time to not only look for his first receiver, but often his second and even sometimes third guy. Hamilton made a very costly mistake by roughing Warner after the Giants’ defense had held on 3rd down deep in Rams’ territory. This penalty prevented any last attempt by the Giants to cut into the 10-0 lead before halftime.

Linebackers: Aside from Jessie Armstead, the quickness of the Rams’ receivers (including HB Marshall Faulk) really exposed the Giants on underneath routes. It looked to me that the Giants mainly stuck with zone coverage against St. Louis. But time after time, Rams’ converted short tosses into big gains by running by Giants’ defenders. Guys like MLB Corey Widmer (3 tackles) and SLB Ryan Phillips (5 tackles) looked like their feet were planted in cement. BBI contributor bw in dc spotted Phillips getting killed by the pulling RG Adam Timmerman on one play. Ryan also dropped a sure interception that he might have scored on. Widmer inexcusably missed an easy fumble recovery that would have prevented three points. The guy who really killed New York was Marshall Faulk (6 catches for 97 yards, 16 rushes for 68 yards). Time after time, the Rams picked up valuable real estate by throwing to Faulk. At certain times, he looked like he wasn’t even covered. Like I said in my preview, I would have manned Jessie Armstead (2 tackles) up on him – but perhaps the zone coverage of others prevented that.

Defensive Backs: This game never should have been as close as it was in the third quarter. The Rams dominated the Giants offensively. They had 181 passing yards in the first half – despite six drops. One of the drops was a perfectly thrown pass to WR Torry Holt over CB Jeremy Lincoln (6 tackles) in the end zone. The corners didn’t play awful. And they certainly were not helped by the lack of a pass rush. The game plan seemed to be to play zone coverage deep and force the Rams to throw short. The Rams did this, but the Giants didn’t make the necessary tackles. For example, Az-Zahir Hakim TD catch was a short pass. CB Emmanuel McDaniel (8 tackles) whiffed on the attempted tackle and Hakim was off to the races. This turned a manageable 17-3 deficit into an insurmountable 24-3 score. The Rams also did a good job of finding the soft spot in the zone coverage at times – especially with Torry Holt. The Giants did keep Isaac Bruce (2 catches for 39 yards) under wraps, but Hakim (3 catches for 79 yards), Holt (5 catches for 70 yards), and Faulk picked up the slack. Too many weapons! Lincoln did a good job of forcing Holt to fumble (Ellsworth recovered). But aside from that Ellsworth (5 tackles) and Garnes (5 tackles) continue to remain too quiet. Their lack of deep speed showed up big time on Hakim’s run. Shaun Williams was flagged with a holding call that allowed the Rams to keep their first scoring drive alive after a 3rd-down stop. CB Conrad Hamilton was back and it was great to see him in there. Pound-for-pound, he is the best hitter on the Giants and he really walloped one Rams’ receiver forcing and incompletion. He got beat for one TD, but he had tight coverage on the play.

Special Teams: P Brad Maynard (5 punts for a 39.8 yards-per-punt average) remains far too inconsistent. Every excellent punt seems to be matched with a poor effort. PK Cary Blanchard missed a 42-yarder. PK Jose Cortez really helped out on kickoffs. He didn’t get any touchbacks, but he, combined with the fine coverage, kept the Rams’ dangerous return game at bay. Punt coverage was also strong. Blocking on kick and punt returns remains a problem area. Tiki Barber and Bashir Levingston could not break one.


GIANTS/RAMS

by David Oliver

What an interesting weekend. I used Priceline to successfully get a low fare to St. Louis, stayed in the Marriott with the team (which cost more than the airfare), returned on a full-fare flight thanks to some schmoozing by a fellow fotog who plied the counter agent with Tiki Barber photos and beat the inclement weather home. Before I get too carried away, I also saw another of those games that only the Giants seem capable of playing; alternately very good/not so good; very courageous/kind of wimpy; worthy of the playoffs/shameful . Yep, an early season throwback.

Read here-NEWSFLASH-the Rams are for real; but we are at least 3/4ths as good. I heard Dick Vermeil in a Sunday pre-game show saying that he hoped the Giants showed up with their A game so the Rams could show everyone just how good they are. The Giants sort of brought their A game, well, maybe their B game, and the Rams did show everyone – except for the Giant players, who appeared unimpressed – just how good they are.

On my outgoing Chicago-St. Louis flight, my seatmate was on her way from Shanghai to St. Louis to meet her boyfriend’s parents. Actually, it was her boyfriend from her freshman year in college. She had gone to China, he had gotten married, had two children, been divorced and somehow they met again in New Orleans after a 15 year separation. She was very excited and nervous. I can tell you all about her parents, his parents, their sisters, the mid west, his wife and a whole lot more. Towards the end of the flight she leaned over and whispered to me “and we haven’t even had sex yet.” I’ve been married for over 30 years now, so I understood that part – it was the telling me that threw the curve. As she was coming all the way from Shanghai, I didn’t want her to be disappointed so I gave her the hotel number for the photographer from INSIDE FOOTBALL, gave her his name as mine and got off that plane as quickly as possible.

Next up I’m on the Metrolink downtown (cheap transit) and I run into one of my plane partners – from Washington. He flew to St. Louis to attend a party that night – same hotel. Strangely enough we leave together Monday morning. I’ve been followed in a number of countries for a number of reasons, but I’m really puzzled as to why the Chinese Government would follow me to St. Louis to A Giants/Rams game. I think I’m suffering from Millennium fever.

Ok, I know, you want to hear about the game. Here it is-ooh! Ouch! Uh! Uuhhh! Damn! Do you get the idea – it was as physical a contest as I’ve seen this year. When Orlando Pace and big George Williams started Sumo wrestling on the carpet, we knew on the sidelines that it was going to be a long afternoon. Look at the photos: see Hammer meet the point of attack time after time; feel the air leave your lungs as Comella levels one of the blue and yellow striped macaws – a late hit – but what a beauty. All we saw was this body go flying across the rug. Look at that Ram offensive lineman grabbing inside Hammer’s face mask trying to digitally redo his dental work, and look at Peter sitting on the bench totally drained.

Game ball to Peter who never gives up and never gives in; maybe his stats aren’t great but he’s always going 110%. Give us 10 other guys like him and we are a winning team. Game ball to Toomer for going over 1000 yards the tough way. Game ball to Montgomery who has the demon in his eyes and then goes over to the bench to thank and cheer on his offensive linemen. Game ball to Ron Barnes – he tends to so many walking wounded that he qualifies for the Clara Barton award.

General observations – Kerry Collins did not have a good game. He does not walk on water, is not in the same echelon as the greats. He is the QB and the Giants will live or die by the focus and concentration he brings to the game – which was somewhere else on Sunday. The most telling play was the interception on the pass to Hilliard. “Ike,” Kerry said, “made another move I didn’t anticipate.” What could have been a huge play for us was a huge play for the Rams. Want an excuse – the QB and the receivers are still learning each other’s moves. Spare me. The key here is focus (put Kent Graham in here and we would have the boo birds screaming, `he’s not starter material.’) Kerry admits to playing fast and excited. There is nothing wrong with that – until the ball is going the other way. Which leads to my next observation – tendencies. The Giants have had success the past two weeks because they changed their tendencies. The Rams showed how well they are coached and how good they are because they studied these changes, recognized the new tendencies and met them head on. It’s not about play-calling, it’s about play-making. The Rams, frankly, outplayed the Giants.

The Giants tries some misdirection plays – more than usual. As Corey Widmer told us after the Redskin game, misdirection can be wonderful, or leave you with a lot of backfield hits. The Giants have now lost the misdirection battle both ways. The Rams either recognized the formations or just flat out beat their men, but either way they stuffed us again and again. The power running game is not yet in high gear – read Roman Oben’s interview in last week’s INSIDER. Without it, opposing teams are still cheating and beating us with 7 plus 1. The Rams are good – don’t doubt it, but the Giants can match them if they elevate their line play and running game.

The Rams first TD – it wasn’t. I was standing right next to the goal post. The receiver was elevated and had no body control. He would not have come down on his own so he couldn’t be pushed out. He was tackled on the lateral plane. The refs in this game were bad, they lost control of the game and made many wrong calls, followed by silly make-up calls after being lectured by both coaches. There are other examples by why belabor the obvious.

The third period started Tiki, Tiki, then three plays decided the contest. First and goal, KC is looking straight into my eyes standing behind the goal; I am secretly pleading, pound it in here. If you throw on first down, with no running game established, a play-fake won’t work. If you miss, then 2nd down is a certain run. With no quick sprint receiver and no towering tight end, a roll pass is left. The Rams are too good to be beaten by this. So on second down, they load it up. On third down, Kerry is stepped on or trips, winds up on his duff, and you could feel the Giant air leave the Arena. If we pound 4 times and score, the air leaves from the other side.

After that it was the Ram receivers catching 8 yard passes and running wild, or the Rams secondary catching our 8 yard passes and running wild. As one paper said, the Giants stayed around just long enough to make it interesting. Who never gave up? Christian Peter and Hammer and Montgomery. Holsey and Ryan Hale got some valuable minutes in relief, as did Scotty Galyon at the end. Most incensed Giant – Iron Mike Rosenthal, after being called for a chop block. It took his position coach, film from upstairs and three of his teammates talking to him on the bench to calm him down. Most confused Giant – Jeremy Lincoln, who kept staring at the replay screen trying to figure out how those little dink passes resulted in TDs. Most depressed Giant – Bashir Levingston, who is aching to break one, but as he says, `same plays, same plays.’

The most disconcerting part of the loss is that no one seemed really upset. It’s as if the team wanted to look good, but never felt it could win. But the Rams were clearly the better team by the score, and maybe even attitude. As Jessie Armstead said, “You’re not in a situation to downgrade anyone when you didn’t win the game…They had a lot of different weapons, we went against them and our defense made some plays and they made some plays on offense.” When asked about the team’s feeling, he said, “All the guys realize the main objective now is Minnesota…Minnesota is not going to come into Giants Stadium and lay down for us…We have to put this behind us and keep moving.” When asked about the talking and pushing and the team’s composure, he said, “That’s football. If you are looking for excuses, write down for an excuse…all that talking back and forth…they won the game…Those guys came out there with an attitude and we had an attitude…They just made more plays than us today.” Jessie, as always, was a man. When asked if the Rams were beatable today, he said, “You can’t say something like that when you didn’t win; we didn’t win so I think that would be disrespect for the game when you say something like that.”

O.J.Childress told me, “It was real fun” being up on the team. I asked him what he thought of the environment at the TWA Dome and he said, “It’s nice. I like how they did the pre-game…and I saw some of my old teammates.” If you didn’t see it the pre-game intros had fireworks and used flashing bright yellow lights and smoke, which gave the players a silhouette effect coming from the tunnel. Very WWF, but fan pleasing. O.J doesn’t think he’s going to get anything but special teams action because he came up so late, but he said, “I’ll be here in the off season. I’d love to come back here so as long as they keep me here, I love it here.”

Jeremy Lincoln told me, “With a team like that you can’t make mistakes….they capitalize on mistakes…Hakim, that should never have happened…that was a 5 yard route that turned into a 65 or whatever, it should have been 10 or 15 yards at the most…” He also said, “They’re great running after the catch…We knew coming into the game that we had to really swarm around them…We watched film, watched the Tennessee game…We were there, they just escaped.” I asked him what he thought of Warner and he said, “Good poise, good poise, made good decisions out there; we put him under a little pressure now and then but he came back, he didn’t rattle.” I then asked him about the chemistry in the secondary, with so many changes and he told me, “It hasn’t been as bad as people seem to think…because we all know what to do…We play a complex defense, our defense is not that easy…Fox puts pressure on us to learn the defense and know the defense or he won’t put you out there…and that’s how it should be.” He also told me, “There’s a fine line between a good and a great corner.” I answered by saying there’s a fine line between a good and a great football player. He said “exactly” and we both laughed.

As Eric already reported Coach Fassel said the team wouldn’t even be shown the Rams film as “There’s nothing to learn.” I’ll wager a week’s wages that the Vikings will look at that film and they will learn a lot. Now it’s up to the Giants to come out Sunday and tackle – we know they can hit. And Kerry had better be focused – the next two weeks will show whether he is for real, or will the inconsistency of the past 3 years show up as more than just a phase. I know many BBI faithful believe he is the second coming of Y.A, but I just returned from Missouri, and as they say, he needs to show me. Bart Starr was on ESPN last night and he was saying that what makes a great QB is his ability to win the big one. This is a very interesting game on Sunday, Jeff George vs. Kerry Collins. Whoever wants it more better show up.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY CHANUKAH, HAPPY KWANZA TO ALL. Spend some time with your families and keep in mind what the season is all about. Until next week.

Dec 171999
 

Regular Season: Rams Lead Series 22-9
Post-Season: Series Tied 1-1

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at St. Louis Rams, December 19, 1999: After last week’s dramatic victory over the heavily favored Bills, there is a natural tendency to feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. The Giants can’t afford the luxury of those feelings. The high-flying, high-scoring Rams are next on the agenda and all the positive ramifications (no pun intended) gained from last week’s win could be quickly lost with a defeat to St. Louis. The Bills are a very tough team. The Rams are far better. They are talented and playing with a great deal of confidence. It will take the Giants best game of the year to beat them. The odds makers have determined that the Rams are double digit point favorites. They certainly don’t think the Giants have a chance. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • The makeshift secondary held its own last week. But the Rams’ receivers are downright scary. Tory Holt and Isaac Bruce each had 100-yard receiving games last week. Az-zahir Hakim had a 100-yard game two weeks ago. These three present problems for teams with healthy, quality corners. It is expecting quite a bit for Jeremy Lincoln, Emmanuel McDaniel, and Shaun Williams to keep these three under raps.
  • The Giants’ defense has been taken to task three times by the two quality offenses that it has faced this year – the Redskins and Colts.
  • The Rams’ defense keeps opposing ground games under wraps, gets after the quarterback, and forces turnovers.
  • The Rams need this game to secure the home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
  • The Rams are undefeated at home and the best team in the conference at 11-2. Some have questioned the caliber of their competition. But they have not only beaten teams often, but they have beaten them badly.
  • No team in the league has given the Giants more problems in the history of the franchise. The Rams lead the regular season series 22-9. To make matters worse, the Rams are psyching themselves up to beat the Giants in order to silence their critics about beating quality teams.

The Giants have a chance at two great opportunities this weekend. First, they can gain a tremendous amount of respect around the league and the national media by defeating St. Louis. Second, and more importantly, a win will put them in even a better position to lock up a playoff spot for themselves. In fact, they will keep alive the slim chance that they can win the NFC East still and receive a playoff bye. If they lose, those opportunities go out the window.

Giants on Offense: The goal of the Giants’ offense this week is two-fold – not only to score, but to keep the Rams’ offense off the field by dominating the time of possession. The obvious tool is HB Joe Montgomery. It is imperative for Joe and the offensive line to take control of the game. The task won’t be easy. The Rams’ defense ranks first against the rush and they have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 15 consecutive games. A bit of that is because other teams have fallen so far behind St. Louis, but they are not an easy bunch to run on. The strength of the run defense is on the strongside with DE Kevin Carter (probably the best all-around defensive end in the game) and DT Ray Agnew. But the weakside tandem of DT D’Marco Farr and DE Grant Wistrom is undersized by NFL standards. This is where I would attack the Rams. LT Roman Oben and LG Mike Rosenthal need to control these two and allow FB Greg Comella and OC Derek Engler to get out on the linebackers (of if Engler takes on Farr, allow Rosenthal to do so). Farr and Wistrom can be tough because of their quickness. But they can be mauled if you lock onto them. Of course, the Giants can’t ignore the strongside; a big match-up will be RT Scott Gragg against Carter. If Gragg and TE Howard Cross can control the corner, the Giants may be able to do some damage in that direction as well. RG Ron Stone will probably be left alone to handle Agnew, who has played very well for the Rams since leaving the Giants. You know Agnew will be up for this game.

If the Giants can’t run or if they fall far behind in the score, they will be in trouble. Carter has 14 sacks and putting Gragg into constant obvious pass-rushing situations is not a pretty picture. The defense has 48 sacks and 23 interceptions on the year. Much of their success has come because opposing teams fall behind and become predictable. The Giants must avoid falling into that same trap.

But make no mistake about it, the Rams are going to score points on the G-Men and therefore the pressure will be on the Giants’ offense to keep pace. The running game can’t do that alone. This will be a very interesting game to watch the Giants’ passing game and see if it can handle the pressure. “We set out to have intentions of being one of the more respected groups in the league,” WR Ike Hilliard says. “Now we’re in a position to do something special, and that comes along with the work, time and effort.” Well Ike, here is your chance – along with QB Kerry Collins, WR Amani Toomer, TE Pete Mitchell, HB Tiki Barber, and anyone else who wants to get in on the act. This is a great opportunity for all, especially since they can be compared to the pace-setters on the opposite sidelines. One guy who can have a big impact is Tiki Barber. Barber has become a real nightmare for linebackers to cover one-on-one – especially since the downfield passing game is now forcing linebackers and safeties to drop deeper. With Marshall Faulk getting all the attention in the pre-game hype, could this be a message game from Tiki? LB Mike Jones is very solid in coverage, but I’d like to see Tiki matched up on LB Todd Collins, who is better moving forward than in reverse. The Giants also need continued strong play from the banged up TE Pete Mitchell who will often face Jones. The very presence of Pete and Tiki help the receivers get open.

One gets the sense that a lot of people out there are just waiting for QB Kerry Collins to fall on his face. If history is any lesson, he is certainly due for a bad game. But Kerry’s mechanics are far better than when he came to New York. He also is playing with a lot of confidence right now. There is a lot of pressure on him. Kerry is being counted on to carry this team right now and because of the hole the Giants dug for themselves, there is no room for error. That’s tough. But he can keep winning the skeptics over with strong games. One thing he must be very wary of is turning the ball over against the Rams’ ball-hawking defense. The turnover battle will be crucial.

If the line gives Kerry the time and Kerry plays well, the Giants’ receivers should be able to do some damage against the St. Louis secondary. CB Todd Lyght is a very good coverage man and run defender and he leads the team with six interceptions. However, he can be over-aggressive at times and a double-move on him might result in a big play. I would try a pump-and-go on him at least once. Todd plays on the left side of the defense, but it will be interesting to see if the Rams keep him on Ike or move him around to cover Toomer. RCB Dexter McCleon is average. SS Billy Jenkins can be exposed in coverage. FS Keith Lyle is out with an injury and the Rams’ nickel package isn’t real strong. David Patten and/or Joe Jurevicius will probably have a chance to make big plays. But again…all this depends on the line and Kerry. If the Giants fall far behind, it will be difficult to give him time to throw and Rams’ back seven can think nothing but pass.

Giants on Defense: The Giants simply cannot allow the Rams to score quickly and often – but that is exactly what they have been doing all season. St. Louis has the number one rated offense in the league. They are first in passing; fifth in rushing. By no means are they one-dimensional – just like the Redskins and Colts – and that spells trouble for New York.

If the Giants were healthy, they’d undoubtably play closer to the line of scrimmage to stop HB Marshall Faulk and attempt to make the Rams one-dimensional. Defensive Coordinator John Fox may attempt to do that still. But that is asking a lot of a beat up Giants’ secondary. WR Isaac Bruce is one of the very best in the game. Rookie WR Torry Holt is the best receiver coming out of the draft. These two will be a nightmare for cornerbacks Jeremy Lincoln and Emmanuel McDaniel to cover. McDaniel will also have a size disadvantage against Holt. To make matters worse, WR Az-zahir Hakim is as quick as a water bug – the very type of receiver that gives nickel back Shaun Williams problems. There were comments in the newspaper this week that the Rams don’t seem to think much of the coverage-ability of the Giants’ safeties. Look for surprising QB Kurt Warner (an incredible 34 touchdown passes) to throw deep time after time after time. They may even run quite a few 4-WR sets with Ricky Proehl or move Faulk outside. It will be a minor miracle if the Giants don’t get burned quite a bit. Tackling in the secondary will be extremely important as almost all the Rams’ receivers (and Faulk) are superb run-after-the-catch players.

So do the Giants play it safe and drop more guys into coverage and force the Rams to drive the length of the field in smaller chunks or do they go the opposite route and blitz the heck out of Warner and try to take him out of his game? Very tough question. Last week, Fox surprised me by coming at Flutie and he got away with it. I doubt he can do that again. I think the what the Giants should do is operate a variety of unconventional defenses utilizing nickel personnel such as S/CB Shaun Williams and LB Scott Galyon. If CB Conrad Hamilton can make it on the field, this would help to free up Williams some – but that might be asking too much. Playing more of a nickel-type defense will put a lot of pressure on the run defense. Faulk (1,180 yards) averages over five yards a carry and he can take over a game. However, he is just as dangerous as a receiver (66 catches, 720 yards) and playing the nickel would help keep him under wraps there. The one thing I would do is keep WLB Jessie Armstead on him all day long. Faulk is Warner’s security blanket. Jessie is one of the very few linebackers in the league who can cover him. The Giants also need SLB Ryan Phillips to hold down the fort in pass coverage against the tight end or fullback. This is a game where Marcus Buckley will be missed.

The surest way to shut down an opposing passing attack is to get after the passer. But can the Giants get enough pressure on Warner without too many risky blitzes? Thus far this season, the pass rush of the front four has been very disappointing. DE Michael Strahan has been playing better in recent weeks, but the Giants need to have him have a breakout game. He faces RT Fred Miller. DT Christian Peter will match up against the very tough RG Adam Timmerman. Christian has been getting absolutely no rush against opponents and that is killing New York and hurting Strahan. It’s time for both of these guys to step it up. DT Keith Hamilton will probably be double-teamed on passing plays by OC Mike Gruttadauria and LG Tom Nutten. DE Cedric Jones faces monster LT Orlando Pace. The secondary and linebackers really need the front four to play their game of the year. They need to control the line of scrimmage against the run and get after Warner. Be tougher and more physical than their opponent. If they don’t, it will be a long day.

Giants on Specials: Kick returner Tony Horne is leading the league with a 32.4 yards-per-return average and two touchdowns. Newcomer PK Jose Cortez and the coverage unit will be under a lot of pressure to keep him under wraps. Hakim is likewise a very dangerous punt returner and has taken one the distance this year. PR Tiki Barber and KR Bashir Levingston can do some damage against this group if their blockers give them some room to operate.

Dec 151999
 
New York Giants 19 – Buffalo Bills 17

Overview: In what may have been the team’s most complete game from an offensive, defensive, and special teams point-of-view, the Giants kept alive any fleeting playoff aspirations with their dramatic 19-17 win over the very tough and determined Buffalo Bills. Indeed, if it weren’t for a fluke interception by a defensive lineman on a tipped pass, this game might not have been close. But instead of giving up, the Giants showed some real character by deciding to go out and win the game despite the huge momentum changer. The Giants still need a minor miracle to sweep their last three regular season opponents, but at least they are off life support. There is no time to bask in the glow of this win. The Giants must quickly get ready for the Rams – the team with the best record in the NFC.

Quarterback: This was a character game for Kerry Collins. Last week he put up the big numbers in an easy win, but this victory tells us more about his character, determination, and ability to get it done in the crunch. With just over two minutes left in the game and the ball at their own 36 yard line, Collins got his team into field goal range in a pressure-packed situation. The crowd was deafening and the Bills were coming all out. Collins walked into the huddle and told his teammates, “We’re going to take the ball down and win this game.” His biggest throw was his short pass to HB Tiki Barber over the middle on 3rd-and-15 that picked up a first down and allowed the Giants, with one more play, to get the ball into field goal range. Other highlights on the day for Kerry included 10-play, 67-yard drive right before halftime that culminated with a quick touchdown throw to Amani Toomer with three seconds left on the clock. There was also a 12-play, 57-yard drive that set up Cary Blanchard’s third field goal. Collins finished the day going 23-of-44 for 240 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.

Collins was not as sharp as he was last week. His accuracy was not top notch and quite a few of his throws were off the mark. But he is still the most accurate quarterback on the team since 1993 and opposing defenses really fear his ability to go deep. What is amazing is that he is often able to complete a pass when he is forced to throw off his back foot due to pressure in his face. One area where he has improved nicely the last couple of weeks is his decision-making as to when to throw the ball away. He is not forcing the football as much. He did have one pass that was intended for TE Pete Mitchell that was almost intercepted. He also had another costly fumble from center. DT Marcellus Wiley’s interception, a huge momentum-changer, came off a batted pass and was more of a fluke play. Kerry is growing and is entering the prime of his career. It is these kind of close, nail-biting wins where he leads his team from behind that will help his confidence grow by leaps and bounds.

Running Backs: HB Joe Montgomery (20 carries for 77 yards, a 3.9 yards-per-carry average) looks like the real deal. The Giants were able to run far better against the Bills than I expected and Montgomery had much to do with that. The line did a credible job blocking for him, but often he was forced to generate positive yardage on his own through his own sheer will and power, or by putting on some nifty moves – especially on some inside runs. There was one 10+ yard run where he ran over a number of tacklers on a play that was very “Bavaro-esque.” Joe is very strong in short-yardage situations and can often move the pile by himself. It is becoming increasingly obvious that Montgomery is the only running back that the opposition fears running the ball on the team. The only thing that concerns me a bit with Joe is that he runs so hard that I’m afraid he is going to hurt himself.

HB Tiki Barber (4 carries for 6 yards; 8 catches for 90 yards) did most of his damage catching the ball. Barber could have turned out to be a goat against the Bills. He danced around far too much on a screen pass right before Collins’ interception on a play where he might have scored on. He also dropped a pass on a play where he was wide open over the middle. But Tiki made a number of huge plays in the passing game, none bigger than his 3rd-and-15 reception on the Giants’ game-winning drive. He also had a key 27-yard reception on the Giants’ first field goal drive, a 13-yard reception on 3rd-and-11 on the TD drive, and a 14-yard catch on the the third field goal drive. Barber’s blitz pick-ups were once again very strong. FB Greg Comella only carried the ball once for no yardage. He’s not as good of a blocker as Charles Way, but he is speedier. I am somewhat surprised that the Giants haven’t passed to him yet as he does have excellent hands.

Wide Receivers: The receivers were far less active than last week, but they played a decent game over all. Ike Hilliard (6 catches for 62 yards) made a number of key receptions underneath deep coverage and used his run-after-the-catch ability to pick up key yardage and first downs. He had an important 20 yard reception on the drive right before halftime. My only complaint on him was that it looked like he pulled up on a deep pass from Collins when he saw the safety running over to hit him. Amani Toomer (3 catches for 35 yards) made a real nice play right before halftime by holding onto a quick throw from Collins after he was smashed by another defensive back – the play resulted in the Giants’ sole touchdown on the day. I felt he was interfered with on his first long-ball attempt, but he still should have caught the ball. The pass interference penalty he caused later in the game was big. Joe Jurevicius made a real nice play on a catch-and-run where he picked up 12 critical yards on the Giants’ winning drive. David Patten remains surprisingly quiet after his big game against the Redskins a few weeks back. Brian Alford was active, but did not play.

Tight Ends: Pete Mitchell (5 catches for 41 yards) is simply one of the most important cogs in the Giants’ offense and it is blatantly obvious that Collins looks for him in many critical situations. Mitchell has become Collins’ security blanket – a role that we envisioned for him back in August. Mitchell is the leading receiver among NFC tight ends. He’s not a strong runner after the catch, but he moves the sticks and keeps drives alive. What used to be three-and-out for the G-Men is now becoming 1st-and-10. On the Giants’ TD drive, he had a key 12-yard catch on 3rd-and-6. Howard Cross couldn’t get open on his one pass receiving attempt and the ball was knocked away. His run blocking was so-so this week.

Offensive Line: Given the level of competition and the fact that OC Brian Williams was out, the line played a wonderful game. It’s strange, but this is the third year in a row that the line seems to get its act in gear only after the mid-point of the season. LT Roman Oben played his best game of the season. All-Pro DE Bruce Smith was largely kept quiet all afternoon and Oben deserves almost all of the credit. Oben was flagged with a false start, but otherwise played a superb game. Incredibly, LG Mike Rosenthal still has not been flagged yet and his pass protection this week was once again very strong. Indeed, the Giants did not give up a sack to the Bills. I would like to see more pop from Mike in the running game, but that may come with time. He doesn’t look out of place either when moving in space, despite his athletic limitations. OC Derek Engler was up-and-down, but given the situation and competition (Tedd Washington), I was generally pleased. He was shoved around on a few plays and had two penalties called against him (an illegal block down field and a holding call). He also seemed to miss the snap count on another play. But overall, he generally didn’t hurt his team. RG Ron Stone had yet another solid performance. Stone is the Giants’ most consistent and best lineman this year. He was flagged with a holding call that I thought was a bit ticky-tacky. RT Scott Gragg was solid in pass protection. However, he simply does not generate enough movement in the ground game. Given his size and strength, he should be able to bulldoze defenders more often.

Defensive Line: Very strong game against the run, far too inconsistent against the pass. I felt that DE Cedric Jones (3 tackles, 1 sack) played a very good all-around game. Unbelievably, he had yet another sack and forced fumble (his fourth of each in the last three games). What was very encouraging was that this play was more of a legitimate speed rush sack than a “garbage sack” where the quarterback holds onto the ball too long. It also came against John Fina, one of the better left tackles in the game. Cedric was the most consistent down lineman throughout the game supplying pressure on QB Doug Flutie too. Jones did a great job sniffing out a screen pass in the 4th quarter and was generally very stout against the run. DT Keith Hamilton (3 tackles) made two huge back-to-back plays late in the game in short yardage. Facing 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1, Hamilton’s refusal to budge turned the ball over on downs and allowed the Giants to have a chance to win the game. DT Christian Peter (1 tackle) remains invisible on the pass rush, but was strong against the run. He, along with Hamilton, helped to keep the offensive line off of MLB Pete Monty. DE Michael Strahan (5 tackles, 1 sack) played a strong game against the run, but was too quiet on the pass rush – except for a few flashes late in the game. Strahan did come up with a fumble that Jones’ forced and also batted a ball down at the line. He gets extra marks for toughness by playing on that knee. I spotted DT Ryan Hale in there on one play, but he couldn’t get off the line. DE Bernard Holsey saw some spot duty as well, but he did not make an impact.

Linebackers: Decent all around game. WLB Jessie Armstead (3 tackles, 1 sack) gets high marks for playing on a knee that was obviously giving him some problems. He did a nice job of tracking down Flutie for a sack on one of his infamous scrambles. He also was fairly strong in coverage. SLB Ryan Phillips (5 tackles) dropped an easy interception on the Bills’ first field goal drive – as did Armstead. Phillips also got exposed in coverage on a 3rd-and-10 pass by the tight end on a play that enabled Buffalo to score their sole touchdown. Why Phillips was in the game in that situation is beyond me. Ryan and MLB Pete Monty (6 tackles) did play the run well however as the Giants held the three Bills’ halfbacks to 51 yards on 22 carries (a 2.3 yards-per-rush average). Indeed, there didn’t seem to be a drop off at all with Monty in there for the injured Corey Widmer. Scott Galyon (2 tackles) was very lucky that his offsides penalty preceding Keith Hamilton’s two big stops did not cost the Giants the game.

Defensive Backs: Incrediably, cornerbacks Jeremy Lincoln (4 tackles), Emmanuel McDaniel (4 tackles), Bashir Levingston (2 tackles), and Reggie Stephens (2 tackles) held their own and kept the Bills from making any major plays in the passing game. There were some close calls. There were two times early in the game that Bills’ receivers got wide open deep and if Flutie had been accurate, this game would have been far different. But after that, it seemed as if Flutie was unable to exploit what should have been obvious mismatches. Lincoln did a nice job on a couple of deep passes, including a heart-stopper on the Bills’ second-to-last offensive play. Jeremy was all alone with WR Eric Moulds deeps (why??????), but Lincoln knocked the ball away. CB Emmanual McDaniel impressed me with his tight coverage underneath and S/CB Shaun Williams (3 tackles) got stronger as the game progressed (although he was one of the guys beat deep early). His tight coverage and almost pick on the Bills’ last drive forced the receiver to interfere offensively with him and pushed Buffalo farther back – a huge play in the game. He deserves a tough guy award for playing in the game with a 102 degree temperature. Bashir Levingston looked sharp at times and played with spunk. He intercepted Flutie on the last play of the game (one word of advice Bashir – run out of bounds next time). FS Percy Ellsworth (2 tackles) and SS Sam Garnes (2 tackles) were once again very quiet. Where was either one of them on the deep pass that Lincoln knocked away?

Special Teams: PK Cary Blanchard hit one of the biggest field goals in the 1990’s for the Giants with his unbelievable 48-yarder to win the game. What was unbelievable about the kick is that he hit it with plenty of leg to spare (without the aid of the wind) and right down the middle. This coming from a guy who can’t get the ball to the 10 yard line on kickoffs. Indeed, it was only (but very significantly) Blanchard’s continued embarrassing short kick-offs that otherwise marred a masterful performance (four field goals including a 42-yarder). Blanchard’s last kickoff and the poor kick coverage that went with it almost gave Buffalo a shot at a winning field goal attempt of their own. Punt coverage was generally solid. There was one good return by Kevin Williams, but that was aided by two illegal blocks that were not called for some reason. Bashir Levingston made a play that was very reminiscent of former special teams ace Reyna Thompson when he nailed the returner on a punt coming out of the end zone – it was a very big play in the game. P Brad Maynard (5 punts for 46.6 yards) had a strong all-around game and was a factor in the win. PR Tiki Barber couldn’t get untracked with the fine punting from the Bills’ punter – although he did fair catch one ball that I felt he could have returned. KR Bashir Levingston keeps coming close to breaking one.

TEAM STATISTICS:

                              NYG            BUF
                           --------       --------
FIRST DOWNS                    20             13
Rushing                         6              5
Passing                        12              8
Penalty                         2              0
3RD-DOWN EFFICIENCY          6-16           7-17
4TH-DOWN EFFICIENCY           0-0            0-2
TOTAL NET YARDS               334            237
Total plays                    72             63
Average gain                  4.6            3.8
NET YARDS RUSHING              94             76
Rushes                         28             28
Average per rush              3.4            2.7
NET YARDS PASSING             240            161
Completed-attempted         23-44          15-32
Yards per pass                5.5            4.6
Sacked-yards lost             0-0           3-23
Had intercepted                 1              1
PUNTS-AVERAGE              5-46.6         4-44.5
RETURN YARDAGE                133            176
Punts-returns           1-minus 2           3-30
Kickoffs-returns            4-101           5-94
Interceptions-returns        1-34           1-52
PENALTIES-YARDS              6-40           6-63
FUMBLES-LOST                  1-1            1-1
TIME OF POSSESSION          31:11          28:49

PLAYER STATISTICS

Missed field goals: Buffalo (Steve Christie 39, 48).

NY Giants rushing: Joe Montgomery 20-77, Kerry Collins 2-7, Tiki Barber 4-6, Amani Toomer 1-4, Greg Comella 1-0.

Buffalo rushing: Doug Flutie 6-25, Antowain Smith 6-19, Jonathan Linton 8-17, Thurman Thomas 8-15.

NY Giants passing: Kerry Collins 23-44 for 240 yards, 1 INT, 1 TD.

Buffalo passing: Doug Flutie 15-32 for 184 yards, 1 INT, 1 TD.

NY Giants receiving: Tiki Barber 8-90, Ike Hilliard 6-62, Pete Mitchell 5-41, Amani Toomer 3-35, Joe Jurevicius 1-12.

Buffalo receiving: Eric Moulds 3-55, Andre Reed 3-40, Thurman Thomas 2-35, Bobby Collins 2-20, Peerless Price 2-16, Kevin Williams 2-10, Sam Gash 1-8.

SCORING

1ST QUARTER:

BUF – FG, STEVE CHRISTIE 50 YD, 5:44. Drive: 8 plays, 55 yards in 3:30. Key plays: Flutie 36-yard pass to Moulds to Buffalo 49; Flutie 9-yard pass to K Williams on 3rd-and-4 to New York 36. BUFFALO 3-0

NYG – FG, CARY BLANCHARD 42 YD, 10:35. Drive: 8 plays, 46 yards in 4:51. Key plays: Collins 9-yard pass to Mitchell to New York 39; Collins 27-yard pass to Barber to Buffalo 29. NY GIANTS 3, BUFFALO 3

2ND QUARTER:

NYG – FG, CARY BLANCHARD 21 YD, 2:51. Drive: 6 plays, 24 yards in 2:39. Key plays: Strahan recovery of Flutie fumble at Buffalo 28; Montgomery 13-yard run to Buffalo 10. NY GIANTS 6-3

BUF – TD, THURMAN THOMAS 23 YD PASS FROM DOUG FLUTIE (STEVE CHRISTIE KICK), 13:09. Drive: 6 plays, 52 yards in 3:20. Key plays: Flutie 8-yard pass to Gash on 3rd-and-1 to New York 35; Flutie 9-yard pass to Moulds to New York 26. BUFFALO 10-6

NYG – TD, AMANI TOOMER 14 YD PASS FROM KERRY COLLINS (CARY BLANCHARD KICK), 14:57. Drive: 10 plays, 67 yards in 1:48. Key plays: Collins 12-yard pass to Mitchell on 3rd-and-6 to New York 49; Collins 13-yard pass to Barber on 3rd-and-11 to Buffalo 39; Collins 20-yard pass to Hilliard to Buffalo 14. NY GIANTS 13-10

3RD QUARTER:

NYG – FG, CARY BLANCHARD 21 YD, 10:32. Drive: 12 plays, 57 yards in 5:47. Key plays: Montgomery 2-yard run on 3rd-and-1 to Buffalo 50; Collins 14-yard pass to Barber to Buffalo 36; Montgomery 14-yard run to Buffalo 6. NY GIANTS 16-10

4TH QUARTER:

BUF – TD, JONATHAN LINTON 2 YD RUN (STEVE CHRISTIE KICK), 5:26. Drive: 6 plays, 22 yards in 2:40. Key plays: Wiley 52-yard interception return to New York 22; Flutie 13-yard pass to Collins on 3rd-and-10 to New York 9. BUFFALO 17-16

NYG – FG, CARY BLANCHARD 48 YD, 14:20. Drive: 9 plays, 33 yards in 1:29. Key plays: Collins 12-yard pass to Jurevicius to Buffalo 46; Collins 15-yard pass to Barber on 3rd-and-15 to Buffalo 36. NY GIANTS 19-17

Dec 101999
 

Regular Season: Bills Lead Series 5-2
Post-Season: Giants Lead Series 1-0

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Buffalo Bills, December 12, 1999: This game is filled with built-in excuses for the Giants if they fall to the Bills on Sunday:

  • It is looking likely that Jeremy Lincoln and Emmanuel McDaniel may be the starting cornerbacks. Nickel pass defense becomes a huge concern if Shaun Williams can’t play.
  • There is a huge mismatch with back-up center Derek Engler facing the immovable nose tackle Tedd Washington. Running the ball between the tackles – Joe Montgomery’s strength – may prove very difficult.
  • The upstate New York weather – which the Bills are used to – should be a factor and the Bills have a very boisterous and supportive home crowd.
  • The Bills are number two in the NFL in yards allowed and number four in points allowed.
  • Not counting the Superbowls, the Bills are 13-1 against the NFC East in the 1990’s.
  • The Bills are 9-1 after bye weeks. The bye has allowed them to rest up, heal some injuries, and spend extra time preparing for the Giants.
  • Most significantly, the Bills are a talented and well-coached team that is in second place in the toughest division in the AFC.

You know what? Excuses are for losers. The Giants’ approach to this game must be the same as if this were a playoff game. The playoffs don’t start in January for the Giants; they started last week. The Giants probably cannot afford to lose another game if they want to enter the post-season tournament. Ironically, with the defense ailing, any late season surge might fall upon the shoulders of the offense. Can the offense carry this team? We are about to find out.

Giants on Offense: The great dilemma for the Giants is this: How can they run a balanced attack against the Bills if they cannot run the ball between the tackles? Last week showed how much the simple threat of a running game helped to open up the passing offense. Will the Bills linebackers and safeties not have to worry about the run because of the Tedd Washington versus Derek Engler match-up? Derek is 300 pounds; Tedd is closer to 400. Undoubtably, Derek will need double-team support from one of the guards. If the double-team can’t move Washington off the line of scrimmage, then the Giants will be limited in the ways they can attack the Bills. “Not many people have moved (Washington),” Head Coach Jim Fassel says. “He takes up three parking spaces.” “He’s the perfect player for that scheme,” said LG Mike Rosenthal. “He’s a real clogger, a run-stopper. Moving him is going to be a big challenge.” The gimpy Roman Oben versus DE Bruce Smith contest doesn’t help matters. Oben may need help and I would suggest that TE Howard Cross spend much of the afternoon over in that direction during passing situations. DE Phil Hansen is an underrated performer in his own right and it will be important for RT Scott Gragg to handle him on his own. The Giants can ill-afford for Gragg to need support on his side of the field.

The basic question is this – do the G-Men come out running or throwing? If they throw, how much will the wind and cold be a factor? I think I would be tempted to run it off right tackle. Run Montgomery behind RG Ron Stone, Gragg, Cross, and FB Greg Comella. Pound the ball at Hansen and SLB Sam Rogers. Both are good run defenders, but I don’t think the Giants can count on Oben moving Smith off the line. If the Giants can extend some drives, Tedd Washington isn’t the best conditioned athlete in the world and you can wear him down.

The other route would be use the passing game to help open up the running game. Hopefully, the weather conditions won’t hurt the passing game too much. Much of the onus will be on QB Kerry Collins of course. Kerry played extremely well last week, but that was last week. Collins readily admits that a lack of consistency, especially after strong performances, hasn’t been his strong suit in the past. “It’s great to do it for one game, but let’s see if we can do it on a consistent basis,” Collins says. “Hopefully we can keep doing the things we’re doing.” What helps is that the offensive players got a taste of success last week and that has to help their confidence. “I think our confidence is real high,” says Kerry. “We feel like we’re playing real well. We feel like we’re a confident football team and a confident offense. That (confidence) is going to give us the best chance to do the kind of things we do. As long as we maintain that attitude, we’ll be all right. Hopefully the days of all the turnovers and not being able to move the ball is over for us.” But the Bills have one of the best defenses in all of football and the Giants are sure to experience some real hardships on Sunday. How will the offensive players react to a negative situation? How enduring is this new-found confidence? We’re going to find out.

When putting the ball up, the Giants may want to attack the linebackers as much as they attack the secondary. The strength of the Bills’ linebacking corps – which is one of the best in the NFL – is moving forward, not in reverse. Isolating HB Tiki Barber or FB Greg Comella on a linebacker may pay big dividends. So will Pete Mitchell if his bum ankle isn’t bothering him too much.

The good news for the Giants is that the Bills’ secondary isn’t a top unit. If Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer can put together another strong performance this week, big plays should result. Consistency – there is that word again – will be key. Toomer is likely to be matched up on CB Thomas Smith. Smith is the Bills’ best guy in the secondary (and an upcoming unrestricted free agent for you Sparks-haters out there), but he sometimes plays too far off the ball. The other corner, Ken Irvin, is average. Ike Hilliard needs to eat him up. The safeties are good tacklers and hard hitters, but they can be exposed in coverage somewhat too. SS Henry Jones is starting to slow down and Kurt Schulz makes plays more on attitude than ability. The nickel back is a good one – first rounder Antoine Winfield. That does not bode well for David Patten. Perhaps it would be wise to see if Joe Jurevicius can make some plays against the much shorter Winfield.

The bottom line is this: I don’t think the Giants will have much success running the ball this week and therefore I think the passing game will suffer. I would be very surprised if Collins and the Giants don’t take a step back. Turnovers could be a problem again. However, if the Giants are able to move the ball and score points, then that will speak volumes about Collins, the entire offensive unit, and new play-caller Quarterback Coach Sean Payton.

Giants on Defense: If the Giants’ defense was healthy, they could win this game by themselves. But with the top four corners likely out – Sehorn, Sparks, Hamilton, and Weathers – and a gimpy Shaun Williams, QB Doug Flutie has to be salivated at the possibility of hitting big plays with throws to the explosive WR Eric Moulds and WR Peerless Price. The steady possesson guy and Hall of Famer Andre Reed can still make plays as well. The men on the spot will be Lincoln and McDaniel. The Giants also need SS Sam Garnes and FS Percy Ellsworth to help pick up the slack. There is a lot of pressure on S/CB Shaun Williams to play and to play effectively, despite missing so much time with a hamstring injury that he could re-injure at any time. Not a pretty picture. The Giants need a good pass rush to help the secondary, but if they blitz, that will only place more pressure on the secondary. Live by the blitz… You know what I’m getting at. How many risks does Defensive Coordinator John Fox want to take? My guess is that he will play it conservatively and make the Bills drive the field and hopefully make a mistake. Unfortunately, Flutie is a veteran who makes few mistakes.

Not to sound like a broken record, but the Giants first must make the Bills one-dimensional by shutting down the running attack. HB Antowain Smith is the main man, but he has a nagging turf toe. Smith is capable of taking over a game, but you can also frustrate him. The defensive line, linebackers, and secondary must ensure that he does not get untracked. One key will be to follow the lead of FB Sam Gash. Gash is one of the best, if not the best, blocking fullbacks in the league. Where Gash runs, Smith is sure to follow. It will be important for all the defenders to defeat their blocks quicky and get to the ball carrier.

When the Bills put the ball up, the backs as much as the receivers will be a concern. Gash is a threat as receiver and 3rd down back Thurman Thomas will be back this week (lucky Giants). There has been talk in the press that WLB Jessie Armstead will shadow Flutie. I wouldn’t do that. I would keep Armstead on Thomas when Thomas is in the game. I would have LB Scott Galyon shadow Flutie. Of course, when Thomas or the other third down back, Jonthan Linton, isn’t in there, then Jessie can pursue Flutie. The coverage of Ryan Phillips and the middle linebacker (be it Corey Widmer or Pete Monty) will also be important.

The whole shadow question is huge. In the games I watched the Bills, it has been the feet of Doug more than anything that has kept drives alive. Indeed, if it weren’t for Flutie’s feet, the Bills would stink on offense. Don’t let Flutie move around! Easier said than done. All defensive linemen – especially ends Michael Strahan and Cedric Jones – must keep containment. Breaking down and making sure, crisp tackles will be critically important. The Giants can ill-afford any key whiffs or over-pursuit.

This is a game the guys up front must win. It is time for Michael Strahan to earn his paycheck.

Giants on Specials: If the Giants can keep the score close, then special teams will prove decisive. Bashir Levingston and Tiki Barber have an opportunity to keep their teams alive for playoff consideration. Coverage units must put the clamps down on KR/PR Kevin Williams who can break a game open. This game could possibly become one of field position – especially if the weather is sour. Brad Maynard then would be on the spot. I would also strongly suggest activating PK Jaret Holmes if possible.

Dec 081999
 
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.

Dec 031999
 

Regular Season: Series tied at 4-4

Approach to the Game – New York Jets at New York Giants, December 5, 1999: What kind of players do the Giants have? How talented are they? What kind of personality do they have? How important is The Game in their lives and how important is winning? Do they really care?

What about the coaching staff? Can Head Coach Jim Fassel get it done? Do the players respect him and do they fear his reactions if they do not perform? What kind of tactician and strategist is he? How good are his assistants?

What about the personnel department? Why can’t they find top quality especially on the offensive side of the ball? Are they overestimating their same players again when they become free agents? How much influence do those who have a history of poorly evaluating talent still have in current and future decisions?

Will the Giants get within a sniff of the Superbowl in the next ten years?

These are all questions that have preyed on my mind this week. These are questions that many, many Giant fans are asking. They desperately want to know if there is light at the end of the tunnel or is this it? Is this as good as it will get for a long time? It is not just the losing this season that hurts, but the losing that has been going on here since Bill Parcells left. Between then and now, we have seen three head coaches and only one playoff win. There have been one 5-11 season, two 6-10 seasons, and two 8-8 seasons. We look like were heading in that direction again. A whole lot of mediocrity! It wears on you and tests your faith.

Look at the 1998 draft. The Giants got Shaun Williams (who looks like he will remain a back-up on this team), Joe Jurevicius (who was recently demoted below a free agent from the Arena League), Brian Alford (a guy the Giants gave up a #3 and a #4 for, but who can’t even show well enough in practice to get activated), Toby Myles (back-up who is not even pushing the struggling Roman Oben), Todd Pollack (waived), and Ben Fricke (waived). No starters from an entire draft!!! Only Williams is pushing a starter. That is unacceptable. Fans call for Fassel’s head, but what about the scouting department?

As for the coaching staff, let’s start with Fassel. He seems like a great guy. Intelligent, well-organized, communicative, proud. The players seem to really like him. You’ve got guys like John Elway and Phil Simms who swear by him. But the nagging questions just don’t go away. Granted, he doesn’t have a lot of talent to work with, but top coaches seem to be able to scheme around that to a certain extent. Where are the adjustments – especially after the half? When is the last time you got the impression that he out-coached his opponent? Why are there so many penalties year after year? Is he the type of coach who makes the players very uncomfortable when they lose a game? Should he be calling the plays or should Quarterback Coach Sean Payton?

Then there is his staff? Defensive Coordinator John Fox seems to have had a difficult time keeping control of his players the last couple of weeks. Norv Turner has outcoached him twice. Is Offensive Line Coach Jim McNally helping or hurting the linemen? What about Wide Receivers Coach Jimmy Robinson? Is he helping or hurting the development of the young guys?

Then there are the players. We have heard comments from TE Pete Mitchell and HB Tiki Barber that there are guys on offense who don’t prepare hard enough. QB Kerry Collins says he doesn’t feel a closeness on offense. There seems to be a serious lack of concentration in terms of the number of penalties and dropped passes. How hard is the offensive line working at it? How hard are the receivers trying to get open? Is there a sense of urgency – that any and every play can determine the outcome of a game? Why do the offensive players seem so passive and soft? There seems to be a serious lack of confident, physical, powerful, talented players on that side of the ball. And what about the defense? Sacks are way down, turnovers are way down, and excuses are way up. Shut up and play. One never heard so much chatter from Harry Carson and George Martin. And I don’t want to hear that you are tired about hearing about players from the past. That is the legacy of this franchise. Their history is your history. It defines the franchise, the media, and the fans. To allow the Arizona Cardinals to come into your house and beat you in a game that you HAD TO HAVE (i.e., a playoff game) is sickening.

I just hope the players realize how much Giants’ fans care about this game. Yeah, New Yorkers can sound like a bunch of mean-spirited, overly-critical, know-it-alls, but they are loyal and will reward you greatly if you are so deserving. They know good football when they see it.

Giants on Offense: Let’s keep it brief this week. All eyes will be on QB Kerry Collins, HB Joe Montgomery, and FB Greg Comella. Is this the backfield that starts the season on opening day next year? Collins needs to be more consistent and cut down on the turnovers. If he does so, he and the team will be fine. Montgomery is in a tough position because he has had virtually no reps at all this year in practice and he will be facing a stingy run defense in the Jets. Not having Charles Way to lead the way won’t help matters. But Greg Comella made a number of nice blocks last week and he is a good receiver out of the backfield. Both the new guys also need to focus on ball security. The key is to do some damage on the ground. The Giants are far too one-dimensional right now. Without a viable running game, the passing game and the entire offense will struggle. Reviving the running game must be a huge goal for the remainder of this season and the offseason.

Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard have to do more. Period. They have four touchdowns total between them. Take the damn ball to the house. You guys have a quarterback who can deliver the ball to you and make you look good.

I hope the offensive linemen all realize that they are playing for their job security right now. All of them. Players may be cut after the season and new bodies will certainly be brought in.

Giants on Defense: Shut up!!! Play the game and determine the outcome of the game in a positive way. Tampa Bay’s defense is doing that. Dictate the game and impose your will on your opponent. Don’t celebrate after you make a good play on first or second down, but only after you have finished them off on third down (and fourth down if need be). Defense is simple. Stuff the run, make you opponent pass, get after the passer and shut down the receivers. You are bound to see a large dose of HB Curtis Martin on Sunday. Take him out of the game and then get after QB Ray Lucas. A lot of your luster has been lost this season – you can only get it back by earning it.

Giants on Special Teams: This will be a huge factor in the game. Parcells realizes how important special teams are. The Giants can win or lose the game here.

Dec 011999
 
Arizona Cardinals 34 – New York Giants 24

Overview: At the end of last year’s Giants team highlight film, Head Coach Jim Fassel is addressing his team after the season finale against the Eagles – a victory that evened the Giants record at 8-8. The Giants had just barely missed the playoffs. In this section of the tape, Fassel tells his team that they fell a little bit short in 1998, but that the same thing is not going to happen in 1999. That piece is followed by DE Michael Strahan running off the field and yelling to the camera that things will be much better in 1999. Guaranteed. Well, both men were wrong.

BBI contributor Joey in VA said it best in a thread he posted on “Pete’s Corner”: “We stink! Since the Giants put forth no effort in the front office or on the field, I won’t put any effort into my post. They just plain stink.” “Stink” is being polite. To put forward that kind of effort against the Cardinals when your season is hanging in the balance demonstrates that this team has little talent, leadership, drive, and character. It’s not just the losing. It’s the way they are losing, where they are losing, and who they are losing to:

  • The Giants are not just bad, they are boring.
  • To regularly allow opposing teams come in and dominate you on your home turf (Redskins, Colts, Cardinals) is absurd and insulting.
  • Swept by the Cardinals and Redskins??? And in such a decisive way? Give me a break!

I blame the front office, I blame the coaches, I blame the owners, and I blame the players. (You’ve heard me do this before – I’m just venting). Guess what Giants’ fans? We have to put up with yet another December of meaningless football. And it doesn’t look like it will get better any time soon. The defense is noticeably on the decline. There is no running game to speak of. The receivers are overrated. The front office does a below average job of acquiring talent. Does anyone fear for their job? Does anyone really care?

This is the team of Mel Hein, Em Tunnell, Charlie Connerly, Sam Huff, Phil Simms, and Lawrence Taylor. It is team with six world championships. And to watch this organization become an ongoing joke in the league is very painful. This team is no better than it was when it started rebuilding in 1994. Six years wasted. Poor drafting, poor free agent decisions, poor coaching, poor play.

A meaningless December…there have been too many seasons like this in the 1990’s.

Quarterback: If there was one bright spot in this game, it was the flashes of brilliance that QB Kerry Collins demonstrated. In the second quarter of this game, he made throws that haven’t been seen by a Giants’ quarterback since Phil Simms was around. In that quarter, Collins was in complete control as the offense snapped to life and moved down the field on two impressive drives. The first drive was highlighted by a 22-yard toss to Amani Toomer down the left sideline, a 12-yard throw to TE Pete Mitchell (a remarkable throw under duress), and an absolutely perfect 33-yard seam pass to Ike Hilliard. The Giants got the ball back with little time in the quarter due to poor play by the defense. Nevertheless, Collins drove the Giants 66 yards in 1 minute and 49 seconds to set up a field goal. On that drive, Kerry hit David Patten for 18, Tiki Barber for 11, Toomer for 10, and Hilliard for 19. Let’s be honest fellas, there was some tremendous quarterbacking going on there and Collins was making plays that Dave Brown, Danny Kanell, and Kent Graham could only dream about. I think we’ve found our quarterback. There will be some rough moments and growing pains, but as long as Kerry doesn’t lose his confidence and keeps on the straight and narrow, he has a bright future.

The bad news for Kerry was the first quarter. It was clear that Collins was a little too pumped and this was negatively affecting his play. So was the wind in the Meadowlands. That’s something he will only get used to with time. In the first quarter, he only completed 1-of-9 passes for 11 yards. Collins was not just off, but he was way off. But with a quarter under his belt and the wind behind his back, Collins launched the onslaught mentioned above. The third quarter started off inauspiciously when Collins’ perfect throw to Amani Toomer was tipped and intercepted. On the very next drive, Collins was sacked and stripped of the ball. These turnovers proved very costly, but Collins is only partly to blame. Toomer did not make the catch and LT Roman Oben practically whiffed on DE Simeon Rice. Collins was also victimized in that quarter by Hilliard’s clean drop of a perfectly throw deep pass over the middle – a play that might have gone for a long touchdown.

In the fourth quarter, and this time passing into the wind, Collins led the Giants on another touchdown drive that cut the score to 20-17 with plenty of time in the game. On that drive, Collins made key passes to Hilliard, Mitchell, and Toomer. But alas, the defense could not hold yet again and by the time the Giants got the ball back, the game was already over. Kerry then tried to do too much and turned the ball over twice with two interceptions. The latter a very poor decision on a screen pass that was returned for a touchdown. Collins finished the day 22-of-45 for 298 yards, 1 touchdown passing, 1 touchdown rushing, and 3 interceptions.

Wide Receivers: It is the plays not made by the receivers that still tick me off. The non-catch by Toomer caused Collins’ first interception. Hilliard dropped a perfectly thrown deep ball in the third quarter when the Giants were desperately trying to get the offense moving again. These guys have to make these plays!!! There was another drop, on the right sideline on a low (but catchable) pass. The numbers look respectable: Toomer (6 catches for 87 yards) and Hilliard (4 catches for 72 yards), but I expect more. Toomer’s best catch of the day was a fly route where he out-fought the defender for the ball. David Patten was quieter than I expected – catching only two passes for 21 yards.

Tight Ends: Once could feel DE Simeon Rice get closer and closer throughout the game. Why oh why did not Fassel adjust and put TE Howard Cross on the left side to help LT Roman Oben out? If Cross is only kept in to block, at least put him on the side where most of the trouble is coming from. TE Pete Mitchell had a good day in the receiving department, catching five passes for 47 yards. Cross made a wonderful block on Bennett’s touchdown run.

Running Backs: Why the hell is HB LeShon Johnson (3 carries for -2 yards) starting? He has brought absolutely nothing to the table all year. The Giants simply cannot run the ball. Going into this game, Gary Brown was still the leading ground gainer on this team and he has been on injured reserve for weeks!!! Tiki Barber or Sean Bennett should have started this game. Next week, Joe Montgomery should start. Running LeShon wastes valuable snaps. And I also did not like the play calling after the good kick return from Patten or the fumble recovery by Strahan. That was the time to take a shot deep, not run the ball. Even a high school coach knows that. HB Tiki Barber (10 carries for 37 yards) didn’t run as well this week as he has been running. There was too much wasted motion by attempting to juke tacklers. He needs to be more decisive than that. Tiki (3 catches for 64 yards) also made a highlight reel catch and run for a 34-yard touchdown with the game out of reach. Too bad. On that play, he did an incredible job of keeping his balance after being smashed by two defenders. Running the hobbled Charles Way (1 carry for 0 yards) on an outside play boggles the imagination. HB Sean Bennett (5 carries for 16 yards), looked good on one inside draw for nine yards and his touchdown sprint to the right corner where he showed some real speed. The Giants also finally got the ball into his hands on a screen again (for six yards). FB Greg Comella saw the bulk of the playing time at fullback and did a nice job of blocking. He got flagged with a BS holding call earlier in the game, but he leveled his man on Bennett’s touchdown run.

Offensive Line: For much of the game, the offensive line did a decent job of giving QB Kerry Collins enough time. There were a few breakdowns on inside rushes and blitzes and Collins’ quick release saved him a number of times. But as the game wore on, it become clear that DE Simeon Rice was gaining the advantage over LT Roman Oben. Rice not only sacked Collins twice, but he forced two fumbles, and recovered one of those. On a few plays, Oben didn’t even slow him down. There was an attempted cut block (which I hate) on one play. For whatever reason (injury, laziness, poor technique) Oben is simply not moving his feet quickly enough or keeping his very long arms extended properly. LG Mike Rosenthal held up reasonably well. Some of those inside hits on Collins came from his area – but that will come with time. I thought OC Brian Williams, RG Ron Stone, and RT Scott Gragg played solid games.

Defensive Line: Solid against the run for the most part, but far too quiet against the pass. The front four did a reasonably good job of stuffing the run this week, especially near the goalline. The Cards only averaged 2 yards rushing per attempt. But the defensive line seemed to wear down a bit in the fourth quarter when it mattered the most. Most disturbing was the lack of pass pressure once again. DE Michael Strahan (7 tackles) made a couple of nice plays in the backfield against the run, but he is just not making an impact rushing the passer this year. Mike is getting a pressure here and there (one which led to an Armstead sack) – and there are times when he is being held and it should be called – but he has to get to the passer. That is what he is being paid to do. DT Christian Peter (2 tackles) has been far too quiet since the second game against the Eagles. He just isn’t a pass rusher and the Giants really miss Robert Harris inside. He helped to gum things up inside on the run, but it wasn’t enough. DT Keith Hamilton (2 tackles) hasn’t done enough against the quarterback either. His stupid roughing the quarterback penalty cost the Giants’ 3 points in the first quarter. DE Cedric Jones’ stats (7 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) look better than he played. On one of those rushes, he wasn’t even blocked. But at least he made some plays.

One of the key problems for the entire Giants’ defense is the front four is not playing dominating football this year as in the previous two years. Strahan is having an off year, Bratzke is gone, and Harris is on IR. Throw in inconsistent performances by Hamilton and Peter and you have a very ordinary defensive line.

Linebackers: Not a real good effort here. One thing that kept bothering me during the game, especially in the second half, was that it was clear that the Cards were looking to pass short on first down in order to set up a short running situation. But time and time again, the linebackers were surprised by this. Dumb. MLB Corey Widmer (6 tackles) made one real nice play in the hole against HB Adrian Murrell, but those kind of plays are too infrequent for Corey. I’d like to see Pete Monty (4 tackles – with some good work in short yardage) see more action. WLB Jessie Armstead’s numbers (15 tackles, 1 sack) look very impressive. But those were very quiet tackles except for a play here or there. SLB Ryan Phillips (4 tackles) was burned badly by TE Johnny McWilliams for a key touchdown. I thought Scott Galyon (3 tackles, 1 sack) played the best of the bunch. He has a real nose for the football and did a very good job in pass defense, forcing several incompletions.

Defensive Backs: The defensive line isn’t special anymore; neither are the cornerbacks. Is it any wonder why the defense is struggling? In a curious move, Defensive Coordinator John Fox had CB Phillippi Sparks (10 tackles) move over to the right side and cover WR Rob Moore. I didn’t like this move. First, Sparks is not on familiar territory on that side. Secondly, I didn’t think Moore deserved such special treatment. In fact, the move seemed to backfire on the Giants as Moore ate Sparks up. He finished the day with 7 catches for 102 yards. Time and time again, when Dave Brown or Jake Plummer needed a critical completion, he got it by throwing against Sparks. Sparks was beaten badly on a pump fake for 44 yards. Sparks also had an equal shot at the ball on Moore’s touchdown catch, but Moore outfought Phillippi for the ball. CB Jason Sehorn (5 tackles) had a relatively quiet game, but that was largely because all the action was at Sparks. He has yet to make an impact play all year. CB Emmanuel McDaniel (3 tackles) got exposed inside on one play that put the ball down near the goalline. SS Sam Garnes (8 tackles) and FS Percy Ellsworth (5 tackles) were quiet. More big plays from this vaunted secondary is needed.

Special Teams: Inconsistent punting once again from Brad Maynard. PK Cary Blanchard continues to be terribly short on his kickoffs and his kickoff out of bounds after the Giants had cut the score to 20-17 was a killer penalty. David Patten had once good return on a short kickoff, didn’t make good decisions on his other chances. Tiki Barber, like in the running game, was too hesitant this week returning punts. Punt and kick coverage was OK. Jeremy Lincoln was flagged with a couple of holding penalties as was FB Greg Comella.


TEAM STATISTICS

                             ARI            NYG
                           --------       --------
FIRST DOWNS                    23             20
Rushing                         8              5
Passing                        13             14
Penalty                         2              1
3RD-DOWN EFFICIENCY          4-12           3-11
4TH-DOWN EFFICIENCY           0-1            0-0
TOTAL NET YARDS               291            334
Total plays                    73             67
Average gain                  4.0            5.0
NET YARDS RUSHING              69             52
Rushes                         34             20
Average per rush              2.0            2.6
NET YARDS PASSING             222            282
Completed-attempted         23-35          22-45
Yards per pass                5.7            6.0
Sacked-yards lost            4-29           2-16
Had intercepted                 0              3
PUNTS-AVERAGE              4-36.5         6-42.2
RETURN YARDAGE                156            132
Punts-returns                4-39            3-8
Kickoffs-returns             4-55          7-124
Interceptions-returns        3-62            0-0
PENALTIES-YARDS              2-22           6-50
FUMBLES-LOST                  4-1            2-1
TIME OF POSSESSION          35:17          24:43

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Missed field goals: Arizona (Chris Jacke 44).

Arizona rushing: Mario Bates 16-37, Adrian Murrell 15-28, Dave Brown 1-4, Jake Plummer 2-0.

NY Giants rushing: Tiki Barber 10-37, Sean Bennett 5-16, Kerry Collins 1-1, Charles Way 1-0, LeShon Johnson 3-minus 2.

Arizona passing: Dave Brown 11-17 for 126 yards, 0 INT, 0 TD, Jake Plummer 12-18 for 125 yards, 0 INT, 2 TD.

NY Giants passing: Kerry Collins 22-45 for 298 yards, 3 INT, 1 TD.

Arizona receiving: Rob Moore 7-102, Frank Sanders 6-73, Adrian Murrell 5-50, Johnny Mcwilliams 1-9, David Boston 1-9, Mac Cody 1-5, Terry Hardy 1-2, Joel Makovicka 1-1.

NY Giants receiving: Amani Toomer 6-87, Pete Mitchell 5-47, Ike Hilliard 4-72, Tiki Barber 3-64, David Patten 2-21, Sean Bennet 1-6, Greg Comella 1-1.

TACKLES-ASSISTS-SACKS — Arizona, Knight 6-3-0, Lassiter 6-1-0, McKinnon 4-2-0, A.Williams 4-1-0, Tillman 4-0-0, T.Bennett 3-1-0, Rice 3-0-2, Fredrickson 3-0-0, Sapp 2-4-0, Burke 2-2-0, Sears 2-0-0, McKinley 2-0-0, Rhinehart 2-0-0, Rutledge 1-2-0, Drake 1-1-0, Ottis 1-1-0, Chavous 1-0-0, Swann 1-0-0, Holmes 1-0-0, McCleskey 1-0-0, Maddox 0-1-0. GIANTS, Armstead 11-4-1, Sparks 9-1-0, Garnes 6-2-0, Jones 4-3-2, Strahan 4-3-0, Sehorn 4-1-0, Widmer 3-3-0, Elsworth 3-2-0, Phillips 3-1-0, Galyon 3-0-1, Monty 3-1-0, K.Hamilton 2-0-0, McDaniel 2-1-0, Holsey 2-0-0, S.Bennet 2-0-0, Barber 1-0-0, Comella 1-0-0, Thomas 1-0-0, Peter 0-2-0, G.Williams 0-2-0, Gragg 0-1-0, Whittle 0-1-0.

INTERCEPTIONS — Arizona, Swann 1-42, Fredrickson 1-23, A.Williams 1-(minus 3).