Oct 272000
 

Approach to the Game – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, October 29, 2000: This is a big game. Strike that – this is a huge game. If the Giants win on Sunday against the Eagles, they may find themselves all alone in first place (depending on what transpires in the Redskins-Titans game on Monday). If they lose, they will drop to third in the NFC East behind Washington and Philadelphia. A home division game is always important, but this one is bigger than usual.

Screw the 0-3 record after the bye with Jim Fassel running the ship; the press was making a big deal out of the fact that Fassel was winless in week two and three before this season too. The players know what is at stake and have no reason to come out flat.

This game will be far more difficult than the last Giants-Eagles game, despite being at home this time. The Giants kind of snuck up on the Eagles in the first game and the Giants’ offense hit its stride that week. It has been down hill for the Big Blue offense ever since. New York needs to change that around this week. They also will need a top-notch defensive performance from everyone due to the absence of Jason Sehorn at right corner. The Eagles’ special teams can also be dangerous.

Giants on Offense: What it all boils down to is that the Giants need to put more points up on the board. The Giants haven’t cracked the 20 point barrier since week two. That’s pathetic. What makes it even sadder is that the Giants have the weapons to be much more explosive. They have a solid offensive line and running game this year. What is killing them are the breakdowns in the passing game at quarterback, wide receiver, and tight end. Enough is enough guys – you’ve had your little slump; it’s time to earn your paychecks.

If you remember from my week two preview, the Eagles are a very aggressive, attacking defense. They love to disrupt the rhythm of their opponent by sending a lot of guys at the quarterback and running back. But that can sometimes work against them too. The way to beat an over-aggressive defense is through the use of misdirection. Cutbacks, counters, reverses, and draws tend to work in the running game if executed properly. In fact, the Redskins completely fooled the Eagles a few weeks ago when they started the game with a reverse – this helped to slow down Philly’s pursuit much of the first half. If a running game is established, screens and play-action are very effective (as New York proved in the first encounter).

It will be interesting to see how much Head Coach Jim Fassel and Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton commit to Ron Dayne this week, after his impressive performance before the bye. Tiki Barber is more well-suited to the type of misdirection running plays (and screens) that I identified. But the Eagles can also be run on with the straight-ahead power game – Dayne’s strength. The answer probably lies in wise and timely employment of both. Will they start off with Dayne or Tiki – who will set the tone first for the other?

We do know this: the Eagles will seek out to stop the Giants’ running game by crowding the line of scrimmage. They will be more wary of the cutback when Tiki is in the game. They hope to force the Giants’ passing game to beat them. To be very successful on offense, the Giants need Kerry Collins, his receivers, and his tight ends to get their collective heads straight. We know they can do it. We saw it in the second half of 1999 and all throughout the preseason. We also saw them do it in week two and much of week three. Fassel and Payton need to get Collins in sync and feeling confident about himself again. I would do this by throwing early to TE Pete Mitchell and FB Greg Comella. Mitchell was not available in week two and most of the rust from his health-enforced absence throughout the preseason and early part of the season should be gone. Mitchell can be a very difficult customer for linebackers to cover. It’s also generally and easy read and throw for Collins to make to hit Pete. Same story with Greg Comella. Often times a defense will be slow to pick him up coming out of the backfield. Once Kerry has completed a few passes to these two and got the strong safety’s attention, then it will be time to take some shots down the field. Again, the Eagles are an aggressive defense (including their secondary) so double-moves and play-action often work if the quarterback is given time. Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard both scored off of double-moves in the first contest against Philly.

The Giants may also want to get some of their lesser-used weapons some more action. Ron Dixon needs to touch the ball more – period. Dan Campbell is a better receiving tight end than is given credit for. Sending him out for a pass in short-yardage could burn Philly. Joe Jurevicius finally began to see the ball more two weeks ago – he needs to break some more big plays.

For the offense to click, a few things must happen: (1) don’t turn the ball over, (2) Collins and his receivers must rebound in a big way, (3) the coaching staff needs to keep Philly off balance with well thought out game plan, and (4) the Giants must run the ball effectively. For the latter to happen, the Giants must get a strong performance out of the offensive line, tight ends, and fullback in the blocking department. The big match-up everyone has been writing about in the press all week is DE Hugh Douglas versus LT Lomas Brown. Brown did OK against him last time after a shaky start. But to me, just as critical are the battles between defensive tackles Corey Simon and Hollis Thomas and the Giants’ guards. RT Luke Petitgout and TE Howard Cross versus DE Brandon Whiting (who is subbing for the injured Mike Mamula) and SLB Barry Gardner is also big. The guy who really hurt the Giants last time was MLB Jeremiah Trotter. Comella or OC Dusty Zeigler need to get a hat on him.

Giants on Defense: The good news is that HB Duce Staley is out. The Eagles have employed HB Darnell Autry and HB Brian Mitchell in his absence. These two have not proved to be as productive. But New York must not become too complacent against the running game. The Eagles still try to run the ball a great deal and the last thing the Giants need is for Autry and Mitchell to get going. The big re-match up front will be DE Michael Strahan versus RT Jon Runyan. DE Cedric Jones needs to hold the corner on his end against LT Tra Thomas. Inside, expect to see Keith Hamilton, Christian Peter, and Cornelius Griffin battle it out with LG John Welbourn, OC Bubba Miller, and RG Jermane Mayberry.

I would think the Eagles would attack the Giants in two ways. First by throwing short at TE Chad Lewis (who hurt the Giants in week two) as well as the backs (Mitchell, FB Cecil Martin, reserve FB Stanley Pritchett in particular). Philly will most likely test SLB Ryan Phillips a great deal in this capacity. Jessie Armstead and Mike Barrow need to play well in coverage as well – especially since with Sehorn out, SS Sam Garnes’ attention will be more focused on the deeper portions of the field. Take away Lewis and you take away QB Donovan McNabb’s security blanket. If I’m Defensive Coordinator John Fox, I think I may game plan something special for Lewis. This is one reason why I wouldn’t blitz too much – the Giants need the linebackers covering the underneath routes.

The other way to go is to attack New York’s secondary deep. WR Torrance Small is back and the Eagles like the speed of rookie reserve WR Todd Pinkston. With Sehorn out and CB Reggie Stephens ailing, look for Philly to go after Dave Thomas, Emmanuel McDaniel, and the nickel back (be it Andre Weathers or Ramos McDonald). Shaun Williams and Garnes need to help out these guys in a big way. The Eagles are not particularly strong at receiver; the big question is how strong are the Giants with Sehorn out? We’ll find out soon.

Of course it’s also critically important not to let McNabb beat you with his feet. He is a very slippery customer back there and the Giants’ rushers will have to maintain disciplined pass rush lanes. This makes it more difficult to get after the quarterback, but it is necessary in this case.

My goals would be to (1) stuff the run, (2) keep McNabb in the pocket, and (3) cover Lewis.

Giants on Special Teams: The big concern here is coverage on kick and punt returns by Brian Mitchell. The former is the larger issue due to the short kick-offs the Giants are getting from Brad Daluiso (it has yet to be decided whether Jaret Holmes or Daluiso will kick on Sunday). Mitchell has broken a number of returns for scores this year and the Giants were terrible two weeks ago against Dallas covering kick-offs. The Giants also need to do a better job of breaking some returns of their own.

Oct 182000
 
New York Giants 19 – Dallas Cowboys 14

by David Oliver

Game Overview: So what did you expect? Once again, the Giants new offense, like the old, tried hard to find a way not to win the game. The defense, however, after having been humiliated and criticized for lousy play and no spirit in Tennessee, has now strung together 10 solid quarters, and in the words of Dave Thomas, “recognizes the tradition here” and is determined to do some things “to make the old teams proud of us.” Coach Jim Fassel said it was “a good win for us”.

He acknowledged it wasn’t “all clean”, but that the Giants had run the ball and “got the ball in the end zone”. He was impressed that the team showed it would “fight to the finish”. He told us that Dallas had found a way to win the tight games on the road, but “we won this one”. He was ‘happy to find a way to win’ and that the game “goes in the win column”.

Game day, partly sunny, 75 degrees, more like 90 on the field. Close, offensively boring game. Special teams for the Giants came close to screwing up a good win. Any time a team has 5 interceptions there should be a basket of points – the Giants offensive basket has holes aplenty. It was a coming out party for the Great Dayne – fat, slow, powerful and a future all-Pro running back. The Tiki Man is a multiple threat and flashed it everywhere today. Kerry Collins is beginning to look a lot like Dave Brown. Interesting stat from last night’s NFL Comedy Hour – Coach Fassel’s teams are second in terms of fewest turnovers. Hmmm! Now if they were only second in points scored.

Dallas had time of possession advantage – narrow- 30:42 to 29:18, but only one big play, the kickoff return, well actually they had 5 kickoff returns for 205 yards and only 269 total yards on offense. How bout them special teams? The G-Men had 311 total, 203 rushing and 108 passing. Kerry Collins was 14-out-of-25, with a long of 22 to Ike Hilliard. Joe Jurevicius had 4-for-25 yards, long of 10; Ike 3-for-42; Greg Comella 2-for-19; Amani Toomer 2-for-17; Tiki Barber 2-for-15 and Pete Mitchell1-for-1, but a very big 1. It was a classic misdirection, well executed and he was standing totally alone in the end zone. The Giants need more play action in the red zone. Talking to one of my buddies yesterday and he suggested moving Comella to tight end. Sounds plausible because without Pete there is very little production from the Giants’ tight end position.

Dayne rushed 21 times for 108 yards, several very impressive, shedding or carrying tacklers. Tiki had one beauty of 47, otherwise was well defensed. KC scrambled a little and had 22, but made one ill-advised slide when the Giants needed yardage. Dave Brown deja vu. No QB will ever be considered a leader by managing a game – the good ones sell out.

Five wonderful interceptions, Shaun Williams, Mike Barrow, Dave Thomas, Jason Sehorn and Reggie Stephens. Sehorn’s was costly as he was once again injured, Barrow’s was great, Aikman never saw him and it just went right to him. He was laughing about it in the locker saying he was praying that he would catch it – he says he’s so bad with the ball his teammates teas him during practice. Reggie is stepping up. Together with Emmanuel McDaniel, they are developing nicely. In the locker, Reggie told me he is just working hard that “no one gave him a chance coming out of school” but the Giants, that he is learning from everyone, including McDaniel and Andre Weathers (who he told me has a great football mind and even though he is not playing has great insights). Reggie told me “he is not going to let anyone take my will”. He also told me this is a unit effort that the guys are “talking” and “trying to do some things”.

Defense was again the name of the game and Michael Barrow was the leader. He told us in the locker that he wasn’t doing anything special, but that there was “power in unity”. He said it’s no longer just Michael Strahan and Jessie Armstead, that “guys were stepping up and making plays” including the guys off the bench. He told me that “we’re getting better” and that “I’m getting comfortable”. He quoted from Scripyure about “Redeeming the time” and that this is his guide. Barrow was teased about Cedric Jones saying that Barrow had drawn up the sack play in the dirt, and Barrow blushed and told us CJ ought not to be giving him credit, or saying that, after all “we play these guys again”. How overpowering was his performance? 12 combined tackles to go along with the interception. Jessie added 8, Thomas 7, along with his interception and an overall very good game, Strahan had 7 with a couple of very nice stops, Williams had 6 with his interception and played a solid game. Christian Peter, Keith Hamilton, Jones and Ryan Phillips had 5 each, with Hamilton making his obligatory 1 dumb play. But they clogged the middle all day and are doing the job. Ryan Hale saw a lot of action and Big George Williams played end, spelling CJ, without any noticeable drop off.

McDaniel had 4 tackles, and 2 passes defensed, Sehorn and Stephens had 1 interception and 1 pass defensed. On specials Thomas had 3 tackles and Lyle West 2 tackles.

The game was not exciting and thank goodness Coach Campo did not bring in Randall Cunningham as it might have been different. I am seeing the end of another great QB. Aikman can still beat you with 1 of 10 great plays, but he no longer has the ability to create 9 of 10 great plays. He did not help the team today, although his receivers are different and Emmitt Smith did not pick them up and carry them in the second half.

In the first quarter the Giants had 2 possessions, neither amounting to much. On the second, the Giants had a fake punt called, but the snap was mishandled so it was kicked – 14 yards, Jason Whittle downfield on the kick.

In the second quarter the Giants scored. There were three Dayne runs, a short pass and the pass to Pete. The drive started on the Dallas 21 following the Thomas interception. There wasn’t much else to write about. Dallas had the ball for 36 plays, the Giants for 28.

The third quarter saw two field goals. The first drive started on the NY 20, Dayne for 6, Barber for 47, Ike for 14, Comella for 11, Dayne lost a yard, Dayne lost 4 yards Inc to JJ. What happened to the play action? What happened to the motion? What happened to the blocking?

The second field goal. Drive began on the NY 35. Dayne for 5, Ike for 22, Tiki for 9, Dayne for 4, Tiki for 5, Tiki for 2, inc to Tiki, field goal from the 20. Dallas then put together a nice drive for a score.

Fourth quarter, Giants TD, 2 pt attempt failed. This drive followed the Barrow INT. Started on the Dallas 31. Pass to JJ for 7, Tiki for 1, pass to Comella for 8, pass to JJ for 4, Dayne for 4, Dayne for 3 and the TD. After that it was Cowboys on O and Giants on D. The Cowboys mounted a 15 play drive that drove from their own 23 to the Giant 22, punctuated by the Keith Hamilton roughing the passer penalty. CJ had a very big sack here. Barrow said he told the guys “they are not going to score on us” and that all the anxiety was gone, all the fear, the defense knew it would hold.

The Giants had the ball 12 times, never more 4 minutes 15 seconds. 7 drives ended in pints, one at the half, two TDs and two field Ggals. The Giants had clear time of possession advantage only in the 3rd quarter.

So who played well, who didn’t? Obviously game balls go to the secondary as a unit. They were in Aikman’s lanes all day and although Troy threw the ball 42 times with 22 completions for 211 yards, the INTs killed the Boys. So the secondary deserves the kudos. I talked to Dave Thomas afterwards and he was all smiles, talking about the “defense stepping it up” and how Coach Fox was letting them know. That team unity started with Coach Fox and how it was a big thing. He said it started back in camp with Coach fassel, the golf outing and the movie and how the guys were buying in. I asked him how this D compared to Jax and he told me they had totally different schemes. Here, he said, “there was a lot more pressure on the corners”, that in Jax, the corners can sort of depend on others for some plays. He also noted the “tradition” here. That Jax just had College but here in NY it was the Giants and the defense. Many players talked about the tradition – Tennessee really hit home. He said “he understood the fans attitude” that they paid and wanted to be entertained and wanted a winner and he reflected about how if you made a bad play here the fans had you on the next plane out of town, but if you made a good play, they would cheer and scream encouragement. He told me he was doing everything to get better and would keep working hard.

The defensive line did it’s job. Emmitt Smith had only 61 yards and Warren had 4. Solid run stopping by the front 7. Barrow was like a man possessed, he was everywhere on the field making plays. Strahan stepped it up also. Big George Williams deserves credit for spelling CJ without any loss in quality.

The offense is a different story. One telling note. On the KC slide I noted an offensive player (or two) walk off the field shaking their heads. I haven’t seen this since Thomas walked off shaking his head about Dave Brown. KC may be losing his guys. He has been a study in offensive impotence and ineptitude. Forget porous line, his line is doing the job. He has developed lock arm and not throwing the long pass until his receivers are clear. He can hit the short pass, but 119 yards is a pathetic performance. I’m not sure what it is but he is afraid to make a mistake. Sound familiar???

The receivers work hard. With Tiki in the game, someone is usually always free but KC is getting rid of it before the play develops. Of course, a drop here or there does nothing to inspire confidence.

The line is blocking well. On many occasions, KC had time to wait but hit the short man, which, of course, played to Dallas’ speed on defense.

Play calling is still developing. It is slightly inconsistent and skewered. I would like to see Tiki and Dayne in the backfield at the same time. I would like to see more play action. Someone said the classic WCO is b-o-r-i-n-g; that it is dink, dink, run, dink, dink, run then go up top. The Giants version is dink, dink, dink, run, run, run, dink, run, punt, punt, punt, punt. The Giants need more production, less management from the QB position. KC needs to stand up and make some plays. I stand by my analysis that the Giants have a potentially explosive offense. I also stand by my analysis that the team will go only as far as KC takes it, even with the return of the monster defense, of which we should all be proud.

(Box Score – Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, October 15, 2000)

 

Oct 132000
 

Approach to the Game – Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, October 15, 2000: Ten games left in the marathon of the regular season. There is no time or reason to contemplate what has already transpired other than to learn from mistakes and move on. It’s time to re-energize the offensive attack. The talent is there; it’s simple matter of executing. What it boils down to is this – make a play. As BBI contributor SOTI said in this week’s editorial report in “News and Notes,” all it might take is one individual to jump start the entire machine. Defensively, the Giants should not feel too giddy about themselves just yet; after all, Atlanta isn’t very good on offense. There is room for improvement in all aspects of pass defense and the Cowboys are a very good running team. Coverage on special teams is improving, but it’s past time to get the return game going.

This is a VERY important game. It is division game at home. In the grand scheme of things, it is far more crucial than the two previous contests against the Titans and Falcons. That being said, it is up to the coaching staff to ensure that this team is not too tight – that could negatively effect the performance. This team is better than Dallas. Now go out there, have some fun, make some plays, and chalk up another win.

Giants on Offense: The offense looks too tense to me. They need to lighten up and have some fun. Stop thinking about what could go wrong and start believing in what is possible. These players must not forget how well they moved the ball when everyone was executing properly. They have the strong-armed quarterback who can throw the ball with great accuracy; they have both the pounder and quick-strike threat at halfback; they have a fullback who can make plays catching the ball out of the backfield; they have both a tight end who can block and one who can catch; they have wide receivers who can make big plays; and they have an offensive line that pass protects well and plays smart. The talent is there…it’s time for a breakout game.

The Dallas defense has some good players, but they are not a very strong unit right now. The linebackers are VERY fast, but also very light. The strong safety is outstanding, but the corners are questionable. For some reason, their talented defensive linemen have had problems defending the run thus far in 2000.

To me, the game plan screams a heavy dose of Ron Dayne and the wide receivers. As I said, the Dallas linebackers are fast and quick, particularly WLB Dexter Coakley and MLB Dat Nguyen (who returns this week from a knee injury that has sidelined him for several games). These guys, along with SS Darren Woodson, are fast enough to beat the blocks and penetrate on outside runs and cover the underneath receivers such as Tiki Barber and Pete Mitchell. Don’t fool around – pound Ron Dayne at the middle of the Dallas defense. Also, don’t make it too complicated for the Heisman Trophy winner…keep it simple and let him aggressively attack the hole. I don’t think Tiki is going to have too much success running outside on these guys (though having more mobile linemen such as Lomas Brown, Glenn Parker, Dusty Zeigler, and Luke Petitgout this year may help). A real key will be the ability of the linemen, tight ends, and FB Greg Comella to engage the linebackers at the point of attack quickly and not let them run around or out-quick the blocks. If guys like Stone, Zeigler, and Comella can get a hat on the linebackers, it is trouble for Dallas; but if they miss the blocks, then penetration can disrupt the entire play.

The Cowboys know the Giants will be running the football at them from the get-go. They know the Giants’ offense is at its best when it runs the ball. They also are aware of their poor defense reputation against the run. We’re going to see Woodson and the linebackers crowding the line of scrimmage. Thus, as I’ve argued on many occasions in the past, shouldn’t the Giants do the opposite of what is expected? In this case, I say no. Dayne is exactly the kind of running back who could be a real problem for Dallas to defend. What’s more, why not keep trying to run the football until the Cowboys can prove they can stop it? This game simply provides too good of an opportunity to finally get Dayne a 25+ carry afternoon. Let him get into a rhythm with the offensive line, tight ends, and Comella.

The way I see this game is this: so much depends on Dayne finally getting it in gear and the offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage better in the running game than it has done the past three weeks. RT Luke Petitgout faces DE Alonzo Spellman (with Ebenezer Ekuban out – one of their better pass rushers). However, on many running plays, Howard Cross will be called upon to handle Spellman. RG Ron Stone matches up against DT Leon Lett – who can still be disruptive. The Stone-Lett battle will be huge. LG Glenn Parker gets DT Chad Hennings and LT Lomas Brown faces RDE Greg Ellis. If the Giants do decide to run Dayne heavily (and I think they will), this will also be a very important game for TE Dan Campbell when the Giants go to two-tight end sets. If Campbell and Howard Cross can win their battles with ends or linebackers, the running game will find the going much easier. The Cowboys have some interesting reserve linemen too in DT Brandon Noble and DE Peppi Zellner.

However, if Dallas is really crowding the line of scrimmage and bringing up more guys to defend the run than can be blocked, then it will be time to go up top. First the bad news. The Dallas linebackers are so athletic that they can be difficult to beat in coverage. I don’t think the passing game to Barber and Mitchell will be particularly productive this week. This includes screens (unless the Giants catch Dallas in a blitz). The place to go with the ball in the passing game is the wide receivers. RCB Ryan McNeil has the size to match-up very well with Amani Toomer…but Toomer is a better player and he is due for a big breakout game. Ike Hilliard will most likely be covered most of the game by our old friend Phillippi Sparks. Sparks’ strength is zone coverage now due to declining speed, but Ike eats up zone coverage. I’m not sure Phillippi has the quickness to stay with him on underneath routes…and I’d run a double-move on Sparks and slip Ike behind him after working the ball in front of him. (Do keep in mind, however, that Sparks is a good run defender – yet another reason to eschew the outside running attack). I would also like to see the Giants get Ron Dixon on the field on some deep routes against Sparks while Ike works the slot. I think Dixon creates more match-up problems for Dallas than Joe Jurevicius does. He is also a better player.

Giants on Defense: It all starts with stopping Emmitt Smith. Dallas has a very big and powerful offensive line that could give the Giants’ run defense problems. We all saw that the Titans were able to wear New York down with their big offensive line. Run defense will be a premium this week. The battles up front are all critical. DE Michael Strahan will go to war once again with his old nemesis RT Erik Williams (who he has long considered his toughest opponent). DT Christian Peter must out-play RG Solomon Page (though we may see a heavy dose of Cornelius Griffin here). The best conflict may be between DT Keith Hamilton and LG Larry Allen (who many consider the best guard in all of football). On paper, one expects Allen to have the upper hand here. Keith needs to win his share of the skirmishes. Then there is DE Cedric Jones versus monster-sized Flozell “the Hotel” Adams. Jones needs to use his quickness (both hands and feet) to out-maneuver Adams – both against the run and pass. Jones needs to step it up this week.

Of course, the linebackers will also be very important in run defense. WLB Jessie Armstead and MLB Mike Barrow must make more impact plays. Shooting gaps and nailing Smith for a loss would be a big start. These two must evade the lead block of FB Robert Thomas. This is the type of game that SLB Ryan Phillips should play well in. His strength is taking on big blocks at the point of attack. Dallas will undoubtedly attack the linebackers in coverage as other teams have done in recent weeks with success. Thus all three must, particularly Phillips, must improve their play in this department. Troy Aikman likes to throw to his tight ends – especially Jackie Harris (though David LaFleur is also an option). HB Chris Warren is also very dangerous coming out of the backfield.

When Dallas throws deeper down the field, the good news is that Troy Aikman has been struggling a bit and may be looking over his shoulder at Randall Cunningham (I don’t think it would be in the Giants’ best interest to knock Aikman out). The bad news is that WR Raghib Ismail returns this week after being injured. He is a speed demon who Jason Sehorn will have to keep under control. CB Dave Thomas will also be tested by WR James McKnight, who can also haul it. Thomas needs to play an aggressive game (that’s his strength), but he must also be careful not to let McKnight fly by him for a cheap six. Our safeties will also be very important, not only in defending the pass, but also supporting the run against Smith. The Giants need a consistent game out of Williams (and I’d like to see him start smacking guys again this week coming over the middle). Garnes needs to make some impact plays.

We all know how important the pass rush is. With a heavier rush last week, the Giants found it much easier to defend the pass and pick off some balls. Strahan, Jones, Hamilton, Peter, Griffin, and Hale must get some pressure on their own. It can’t always come from the linebackers and secondary (though it will help to have Barrow back this week as he is a good blitzer). Here’s Eric’s old refrain again…stuff the run, get after the passer. Let’s also get some more turnovers!

Giants on Special Teams: Dallas has one of the very best coached special teams in the league. But last year in the Meadowlands, the Giants’ special teams won the game with Tiki Barber’s game-breaking punt return. The Giants have not returned a kick or a punt for a touchdown since that game…we’re due.

Oct 112000
 
New York Giants 13 – Atlanta Falcons 6

Overview of the Game: It wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was downright ugly. This game reminded me a lot of the Giants’ teams when Dave Brown and Danny Kanell still played here. But a win is a win and it definitely feels good to chalk up another conference game. Looking at the big picture, it is important to realize that the Giants have already finished half their road games and have chalked up a 3-1 away game record. Six of their remaining ten games are at home.

4-2 sounds great, but the Giants are going to have to play a lot better offensively if they are to put together a really good season. The problem remains their inability to put up points. The Giants’ defense is not good enough right now to carry a team that consistently struggles to reach the 20 point mark in a game.

Giants on Offense: What is the problem with the offense? In my opinion, the problems are resting largely with the passing attack. Specifically, I think QB Kerry Collins, WR Amani Toomer, and WR Ike Hilliard have been in a funk for the past few weeks. Personally, I just feel it’s a slump that all three will get over, but until they do, the entire offense will struggle. Opposing teams have learned to bottle up the running attack by crowding the line of scrimmage and daring the passing game to beat them. It is the same old problem the Giants have suffered since Phil Simms left. The good news is that Collins has demonstrated the ability to put up big passing numbers. So have Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer. We’re not talking about potential here, but real ability. But for whatever reason, all three have contributed to a stagnating offensive performance.

On one play it will be a dropped ball, on another it will be a poor pass, on another it will be a penalty. These kind of self-inflicted mistakes are drive killers and there are only so many drives in a football game. If these mistakes are not made, the drive continues and there will be more chances to make big plays and score. When these mistakes are not made, fans laud the offensive play-calling and the ability of their players. When the mistakes are made, the drive stops and fans start questioning the play-calling and why so-and-so isn’t getting more touches. Well, you can’t touch the ball more when you are sitting on the bench because you couldn’t sustain the drive in the first place. The Giants were 1-of-12 on third down against the Falcons. You can’t move the ball when you don’t convert on 3rd down.

Just a bit of history to keep the situation in perspective a bit. I’m not trying to compare the 2000 Giants to the 1986 Giants. The latter team had an incredible defense – this team doesn’t. But that 1986 offense didn’t really move the ball very well consistently until Phil Simms started playing better down the stretch. Don’t forget the “ugly” wins against the Raiders (14-9), Cardinals (13-6), Cowboys (17-14), Eagles (17-14), and the (12-17) loss to the Seahawks before “The Pass” (4th-and-17 against the Vikes). Kerry Collins has the ability to break out of this funk, and he certainly has better receivers than Simms had.

Quarterback: Kerry Collins (14-of-25 for 151 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions) continues to look uncomfortable to me. He hasn’t been in a rhythm since the Bears’ game. The million dollar question is why? He was very sharp in camp, in the preseason, and in the first three games – including a very aggressive and blitz-happy Eagles’ team. But for whatever reason, he is in a slump right now. For example, to start the game in Atlanta, he came out and hit Greg Comella coming out of the backfield with a very nice pass (incidentally, this play has become one of the Giants’ most consistent calls in their play book) for a first down. Ron Dayne then picked up four yards. On second down, Collins started drifting back from the pocket when he couldn’t find the open man. There was absolutely no pressure on him, but he left the pocket and this caused him to receive pressure and he had to throw the ball away. This is where his occasional jumpiness hurts him. Then on third down, he badly overthrew Toomer on the left sideline. The Giants punt, but get the ball back when the Falcons muff the punt. The Giants picked up a first down on the ground. After two more carries, they found themselves in 3rd-and-3. Collins tried to hit TE Pete Mitchell on a short out, but the ball was batted down at the line (I also thought it was a poor decision on the part of Collins because Pete was well covered by a defensive back on the play). But the Giants got another break when Atlanta got called for a penalty on the field goal attempt and the drive continued. The Giants scored by running the ball twice.

It’s not all Collins’ fault. He is making some very good throws…passes that none of the Giants’ quarterbacks since Simms could have made. But his accuracy is sagging a bit. He and the offense was also very much hurt by the play of his receivers (more on that below). Kerry was very sharp on the Giants’ second (and last) field goal drive – looking very much in command of the two minute drill. Only some questionable play-calling in the redzone kept the Giants out of the endzone.

Collins started off well in the second half with a nice looking screen pass and a well-thrown ball to Hilliard against tight coverage. After two runs, the Giants found themselves in 3rd-and-7 and Kerry threw a perfect pass to Toomer, but Toomer was called for offensive pass interference and the drive was stopped. Drive number two of the second half stalled when Collins tried to squeeze a slant pass into Amani Toomer on 3rd-and-7, but the ball was knocked away. Drive three started off with a swing pass to Tiki, but two subsequent Tiki runs could not pick up the first down; drive over. Fourth drive (right after the Armstead interception): Giants ran Dayne on a wide sweep to the right (dumb), then picked up a couple on an inside run to Dayne; on 3rd-and-long Collins missed Ike over the middle (might have been his worst pass of the game). Fifth drive: first play the ball is thrown slightly behind Dan Campbell, but the ball bounces off both his hands and is picked off. Sixth (and last) drive: starts off with a very nice screen pass to Barber (good block from Ron Stone). Then Dayne picks up a first down on two back-to-back runs. Collins slightly underthrows Toomer on a fleaflicker. After a Tiki run for four yards, Collins hits Toomer for a first down, but Toomer is called for offensive pass interference again. Drive ends on an incomplete pass to Ron Dixon on 3rd-and-16.

Wide Receivers: Terrible. First let’s start with Amani Toomer (1 catch for 17 yards) who just simply hasn’t been playing well. He not only killed one drive but not catching a pass from Collins, but his deflection was then picked off. He also killed two more drives with very costly pass interference penalties. Toomer is one of the Giants’ very best players. But you wouldn’t know it if you watched him this season. Amani did make a very good effort on his 17-yard reception. Collins was forced to step up into the pocket on the play and was being hit just as he threw – Toomer made a very strong leaping catch. This was a big play on their first field goal drive.

Ike Hilliard (2 catches for 25 yards) dropped yet another pass. These drops are now past the point of ridiculousness and it is time for the coaching staff to force Ike to spend extra time after practice catching balls. If this continues, the Giants should consider benching him for a game to get his head straight. Drops are drive killers and take away scoring opportunities. With the Giants driving late in the first quarter for their second score on their second drive, Hilliard dropped a perfectly thrown pass from Collins right over the middle of the defense. Ike would have either made the first down or been just short of it inside the 15 yard line. Instead, a 3rd-and-ten resulted and when Jurevicius was held short of the sticks on the next play, the Giants had to settle for a field goal. Ike did look pretty sharp on his 17-yard double reverse early on the same drive, where he showed better speed than I thought he had.

Ron Dixon (1 catch for 9 yards) made a great catch on a slant where he was popped just as the ball arrived. His effort to fight for the first down after the reception was impressive too and kept alive the first field goal drive (sadly, the Giants only 3rd down conversion in the game). WR Joe Jurevicius (1 catch for 7 yards) continues to be a non-factor.

Tight Ends/H-Backs: Dan Campbell was hit right in the hands by a Collins pass but the ball deflected off his mitts and was picked off on a play that could have cost the Giants the ball game. It occurred while the Giants were trying to run out the clock and it was good call by the offensive board of strategy. The play was there, but Campbell didn’t bring the ball in. Yet another mistake that stopped a drive.

The Giants really need to get Pete Mitchell (no catches) involved more over the middle. I’m not crazy about plays that send him parallel to the line of scrimmage like the attempted 3rd down pass to him on the first drive (this used to be a Dan Reeves specialty with Howard Cross). Get Mitchell over the middle running curls, ins, and crossing patterns against the under coverage.

Running Backs: FB Greg Comella really isn’t a very strong run blocker. As I’ve pointed out a number of times, he doesn’t seem to be able to blow linebackers out of the hole on running plays. So on plays where the linebacker is really aggressive and comes up to attack Greg, the play often gets jammed up at the line of scrimmage. However, Greg does do a good job of getting to the blocker and engaging him. So on plays where the linebacker is more passive, he is much more effective. He’s also much better at blocking smaller guys on the perimeter of the defense where he uses his good speed (for a fullback) to get out quickly ahead of Tiki or Ron. Greg’s big value to the team is his pass receiving ability (4 catches for 43 yards on Sunday). Greg has become a sure-handed security valve for Kerry Collins – the kind of play I expected Pete Mitchell to be this year. The little passes to him out of the backfield against the linebacker have become the Giants most consistently successful play.

Tiki Barber (14 carries for 50 yards, 5 catches for 50 yards) is one of the Giants’ most explosive players. He needs to touch the ball at least 15-20 times per game. However, I think it is time for him to pass the torch to Ron Dayne (12 carries for 31 yards and one touchdown) as the feature back carrying the ball. For one, I am worried about the wear-and-tear occurring on Barber. He seems to be getting dinged up more and more. Secondly, I think Barber is much more effective as a change of pace back after the defense has become accustomed to Dayne. Dayne’s statistics are deceiving. The Giants were having good success pounding the ball up the middle with him throughout the game. Indeed, this was the best I’ve seen him at making yardage after first contact. Dayne was very powerful breaking tackles and dragging defenders for an extra yard or two on almost every carry. I would have featured him more in the second half of the game by feeding him the ball regularly inside until the Falcons stopped it – then I would have brought in Tiki as the change of pace back.

My other problem with the use of the backs is that I’d like to see Tiki used more as a receiver. Yes, the Giants call a lot of screen and swing passes to him, but I’d like to see more passes over the middle or down the field against the linebacker (like the Rams use Marshall Faulk). His passing plays are just too predictable right now. The swing pass to him on 3rd-and-4 with the Giants inside the 10 yard line at the end of the first half was a stupid call. The Giants had a chance to go up 17-3 there. The Giants did have an excellently set up screen the picked up sizable yardage on the Giants’ first drive of the second half, but the play might have gone for even farther if Barber had stuck with his blocking linemen.

Offensive Line: Outstanding in pass protection. No sacks given up and very little pressure. The problems largely came in the run blocking area. As I’ve repeatedly said, the Giants are not a move-them-out kind of line, but for some reason, they were having more success this week running Dayne between the tackles than they were trying to hit the outside run on the right side. Ohh, the right side. The Giants are running too much to the right. It’s becoming far too predictable and I’m sure opposing defenses are now stacking up against them to the right. Perhaps it is fear that Lomas Brown can’t move his man off the line of scrimmage, but if the Giants don’t start running more to the left, I’m afraid they won’t break many big runs. They will also struggle until the passing game gets the defense to back off the line some – there were too many plays where there were more defenders to block at the point-of-attack than bodies to block them.

RT Luke Petitgout had some problems. He was beaten inside on one pass rush and called for holding on the play. This penalty took away a first down completion to Toomer that would have gotten the Giants out of a big hole near their own goal line. To make matters worse, Luke was flagged for moving before the snap two plays later – these penalties stalled a drive before it even got a chance to get started (at a point where the Falcons were already down 10-0). He was also flagged for being illegally down field on a long pass attempt to Jurevicius. Luke had some very sharp blocks on plays where he pulled to his right. On one running play on the Giants’ last scoring drive, he took out two defenders (incidentally, this was the Giants’ best running play of the game). LT Lomas Brown has really solidified the blindside of the quarterback of the Giants – you never heard a peep out of his man this week.

Giants on Defense: Let’s get one thing straight – the Falcons are NOT very good on offense right now mostly because their offensive line is a mess. But Chris Chandler is a good quarterback and can look outstanding if you give him time. He has some decent targets (wide receivers, a good tight end, and an H-Back) and a solid running back. It was very possible that the Falcons could have gotten untracked this week if the Giants’ defense did not play with intensity and aggressiveness. Thankfully, they did. Most gratifying was that the Giant defenders were absolutely punishing. I don’t think I’ve seen more big hits from a Giants’ defense since the 1990 playoffs. The highlights to me were the play of CB Jason Sehorn, FS Shaun Williams, and the aggressive game called by Defensive Coordinator John Fox who blitzed Chandler repeatedly. Three crushing consecutive hits on Chandler from blitzing defenders Shaun Williams, Ryan Phillips, and Dave Thomas forced Chandler from the game. And the life of his back-up, our old friend Danny Kanell, was made pretty miserable too. All told, the Giants’ defense picked up four sacks, countless pressures, and two interceptions. Most shocking, was that the Giants held the Falcons to 13 yards rushing – the lowest in Falcon team history.

Defensive Line: Very strong against the run (can’t get much better than holding Jamal Anderson to 12 yards on 12 carries). Better against the pass this week, but there is still room for improvement. What impressed me the most this week was the intensity that DE Michael Strahan (3 tackles, 1 sack) was playing with. There were many plays where he was successfully blocked on the pass rush, but you could tell that he was fighting and scratching on every play and not letting up. The Falcons also seemed to pay more attention to him than some other teams by having the H-Back chip on him. As the game wore on, Strahan pressured Kanell more and more until he may have made the defensive play of the game by sacking Kanell on second-and-goal on the Falcons’ last desperate drive to tie the game. That was a big-time play where he simply exploded by the reserve right tackle. Strahan may have also saved another TD by hitting Kanell just as he threw the ball right after Collins’ first interception. Shawn Jefferson was wide open on the play, but the ball fell harmlessly incomplete due to the hit as he was throwing. Strahan’s pressure on Kanell also forced to him to make a bad throw on 3rd-and-10 after Collins’ second interception.

Who also impressed me (before he was forced to leave the game with a knee injury) was DT Keith Hamilton (2 tackles, 1 sack). If you have a tape of the game, I suggest you watch the intensity Hamilton lined up with every snap. His right hand twitching and back foot pumping in anticipation of every snap. Both he and DT Christian Peter (2 tackles) really jammed things up inside while Strahan and DE Cedric Jones (3 tackles) couldn’t be moved off at the ends. Peter had one good-looking pass rush where he crushed Chandler just as he released the ball and Hamilton picked up another sack. Jones leveled Kanell a couple of times just as he threw the ball, including on the play where Armstead intercepted Kanell.

Cornelius Griffin (2 tackles, 1 sack) saw a lot of playing time at tackle even before Hamilton was hurt (and also at end). There was one early rush opportunity where he was knocked right into Strahan and he actually helped the Falcons block Strahan, but as the game wore on, he made his presence felt more and more. He knocked down two balls at the line of scrimmage and chased the ball very well on outside runs. He and Jones nailed Anderson for a loss on a play where Dave Thomas made a good play in run support, forcing Anderson back inside. His best play of the game came in a 3rd-and-long pass rushing situation where he played nose tackle on a three man rush. He beat the double-team block right at the snap of the ball and sacked Kanell for an 11-yard loss. DT Ryan Hale (1 tackle) also played quite a bit in the second half too.

Linebackers: Better this week, but still a bit weak in coverage. WLB Jessie Armstead (1 tackle) picked off a Kanell pass and made a couple of nice plays on Anderson runs that were stopped behind the line of scrimmage (I thought he should have been credited with two tackles). Pete Monty (5 tackles, 1 sack) made a very strong play on the Falcons first play from scrimmage where he pursued Anderson down the line and stuffed him right in the hole – a textbook play. He and Phillips ran by Anderson on an inside blitz during Jamal’s best run of the game (a 9 yarder on their first drive of the game). He did have problems in coverage. I think (but am not sure) that Monty was supposed to have covered Anderson on his swing pass that picked up a first down on the same drive. I also think Monty got suckered on play-action and let Kozlowski get behind him on the Falcons’ first drive of the second quarter. He later got flagged for holding on Kozlowski in the redzone on 2nd-and-13. Kelly beat him for good yardage in the third quarter and he got beat by the fullback on the last drive. On the positive side, Monty picked up an easy sack when he blitzed when the Falcons had an empty backfield (and thus there was no back to pick him up). Good call by John Fox. Ryan Phillips (3 tackles) had good coverage on the tight end on the first Atlanta pass of the game, holding Kelly to a short gain. Kelly later got past him on the last drive of the game for a first down. Phillips did smash Chandler in the pocket on a blitz in the first half just as Chandler unloaded the ball.

Defensive Backs: Outstanding games by CB Jason Sehorn (6 tackles, 6 passes defensed, 1 interception) and FS Shaun Williams (8 tackles). Sehorn looked like the Jason of old. He had a huge play early in the game where he picked off a pass in the endzone and returned it 32 yards – saving certain points. He almost picked off another pass later in the game – where if he held on, he would have scored. On the very next ensuing play, he made a picture-perfect defensive play by coming over the receiver and knocking the ball away. One of his lesser-noticed plays may have been a pass to the fullback who was wide open for what looked to be a first down. Jason came out of nowhere to keep the fullback just short of the sticks. Sehorn also knocked down Kanell’s last desperate 4th down pass in the endzone. His run support was also excellent as he forced a few outside runs back inside to the pursuit. Great game – hopefully, he can build on it.

Shaun Williams looked like a Ronnie Lott-clone out there in the hitting department. Not once, or twice, but three times he had highlight-reel smacks that caused me to rewind the tape a number of times just so I could watch and listen to these hits again. The first came on a blitz where he knocked Chandler off his feet; the second was a big hit on Kozlowski on a short completion; and the third came against Shawn Jefferson in the 4th quarter on another short pass. If Shaun keeps this up, opposing receivers will become more tentative running in the middle of the Giants’ zone coverage. Shaun was also super aggressive in run defense, making a superb play on an outside run where he not only forced the play outside, but he then beat the block, and made the tackle on top of that.

Dave Thomas (1 tackle) was very quiet for the most part (and that is a good sign). He did make two bad plays however. He missed the jam on one play where he was playing tight to the line and the receiver was able to get quickly behind him and Shaun Williams for 35 yard reception on a fade. The play was not Williams’ fault because Thomas is supposed to jam the receiver and give Shaun time to get over there. Of course, the big mistake was the 24-yard pass interference call near the very end of the game that could have cost the Giants the contest. It was nice to see Dave play the receiver aggressively (he was not beat on the play), but his hand-checking was a little too obvious. Thomas’ blitz and big hit of Chandler was the last straw and sent the starting quarterback to the bench.

SS Sam Garnes (6 tackles) was quiet. Nickel back Emmanuel McDaniel (3 tackles) was flagged with a very costly illegal contact penalty on 3rd-and-16 – dumb play. He was lucky that Kanell didn’t spot Tim Dwight behind him late in the game. The good news is that he did a good job on Dwight for most of the game, including coming up and making a very strong open field tackle on a quick swing pass to Dwight.

Special Teams: The Giants gave up one big kick return (35 yards) to Tim Dwight after their opening drive touchdown, but the coverage teams really settled down after that and excelled. Brandon Short and McDaniel made very strong open field tackles. So did Lyle West who also did a great job of recovering a fumble on a punt that helped to set up the sole touchdown. Reggie Stephens made an outstanding play by downing a Maynard punt at the two-yard line in the 4th quarter.

P Brad Maynard did not punt well. And even though his poor first effort led directly to the fumble, his play certainly is not commendable. PK Jaret Holmes hit both of his field goals, but his kick-offs were not as impressive as last week. Ron Dixon didn’t look very sharp returning kicks and his poor returns put the Giants in bad field position a couple of times (a Lyle West block in the back also hurt there). Tiki Barber could only gain six yards on his only chance at a return.


Analysis of the Offensive

by Chris Jacobs

Lomas Brown 87%:
Did an excellent job pass blocking, run blocking is another story. Earlier this season they were using him more to influence block, or what they call zone blocking in the NFL. He did a lot of that for Barry Sanders who made a career off the sprint draw. Anyway, they’re asking him to do more drive blocking, and it’s not really his strength.

Glen Parker 85%:
Like LB, had a better game pass blocking than run blocking. (I’ll have more comments on the problems with the running game below). There was one play that his man beat him with an inside swim move forcing Collins to throw it away.

Dusty Zeigler 90%:
Can’t say enough good things about this guy, he hasn’t really had a bad game yet. While I didn’t grade the line individually last week, I know he wasn’t really blowing guys off the ball the last 2 weeks but he was back to his old self putting guys on roller skates. (May have something to do with the level of competition). I actually feel sorry for the opposing DT when he and Stone double him, well, unless it’s a Redskin. I really think out of all he off-season acquisitions, DZ was the best pickup.

Ron Stone 92%:
I know I’m beating a dead horse here, and I haven’t looked back at the earlier reviews but this guy just can’t get to a linebacker. Don’t get me wrong, he had a solid game, and I still think he’s the best lineman the Giants have. But he’s just not fast enough to get the linebackers, part of it has to do with the play faking when they pass, but I’ll elaborate on that later. Pass blocking he played a perfect game.

Luke Petitgout 82%:
I think he got hurt at some point during this game, he played great in the first half and then just didn’t seem himself in the second half. Did a good job in pass protection but really struggled with the run blocking, like everyone else did, but it was a different kind of struggle. Like I said, I think he’s hurt but I didn’t see him on any injury report, and I didn’t read anywhere that he was hurt.

The Problem with the Offense:
I know all the players and coaches are saying they can’t explain what’s wrong with the offense, and I don’t really know if I know either, but I have an idea. This is just my opinion, but I’ve been reviewing a lot of tape on these guys, and I can tell you that at the snap, you tell by the body language of the backs and Collins whether it’s going to be a pass or a run. They aren’t selling the fakes, and that’s all there is too it. The backers are flying to the line of scrimmage if it’s a run, and they are immediately dropping on the pass. I can’t explain why the receivers can’t catch, or why there is no deep passing game, but I can tell you the play faking is terrible and they need to work on it.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons, October 8, 2000)
Oct 062000
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons, October 8, 2000: Alright, enough of this crap. It’s time for the LEADERS of this team to stand up and be counted. It is time for QB Kerry Collins, WLB Jessie Armstead, DE Michael Strahan, HB Tiki Barber, MLB Mike Barrow, WR Amani Toomer, SS Sam Garnes, LT Lomas Brown, and LG Glenn Parker to elevate the play of the entire team by (1) playing well themselves and (2) grabbing their teammates by the face mask and saying, “Follow me and let’s kick some ass.”

I don’t give a damn about the match-ups this week (though I will point them out for my audience) and neither should the players. Just beat the man in front of you. You’re better than this and now go out there and prove it.

Giants on Offense: The casual observer will say the most important thing for the Giants’ offense to get back on track is to get the running game going again. And that is very true. However, I firmly believe for that to happen Kerry Collins is going to have to get out of his current funk and get back to ACCURATELY and DECISIVELY throwing the football. Only in this way will the Giants force opposing defenses to stop crowding the line of scrimmage against Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne. Collins has looked too sheepish…he’s got to step forward and exert his WILL on this team…a “This is my team and I’ll be damned if anyone is going to stop us attitude.” If adversity strikes during the game (and it always does), don’t become unglued and start making dumb mistakes. Remember your fundamentals and hit the open man! Head Coach Jim Fassel concurs: “I don’t want him to throw a couple of interceptions (and become cautious). I want him to go back and hit that foot and chuck it, throw it with assertiveness and confidence.”

Now, the guy I would use heavily is H-Back Pete Mitchell. For a variety of reasons, the Giants haven’t been able to get Mitchell into the flow of the offense. This has to stop. Mitchell is too smooth for most linebackers to cover and too big for most safeties to knock off stride. Sending him out in the 8-12 yard range should be a “gimme” almost every time. I would also send him deep once or twice down the seam. By getting Mitchell involved in the passing game, the Giants will accomplish two things: (1) they will force the linebackers and safeties from being less aggressive in run defense, and (2) they will help prevent these same defenders from helping out on the wide receivers.

Another guy I’d like to see get involved in the passing game is Tiki Barber. Yes, I know the Giants are already throwing to him. But I don’t think they have used him enough early in the game. Many of his receptions have come in the last couple of games when the Giants are already facing a big deficit. Tiki is a nightmare for linebackers to cover. I love the screen pass, but the Giants should not just run this with him. Get Tiki down the field. If you can match him up on a linebacker or strong safety, a big play very may well develop. WLB Keith Brooking, perhaps the best Falcon defender, is out. MLB Jessie Tuggle is starting to feel his age. SLB Henri Crockett is solid, but unspectacular.

Alright, now we have a rhythm going with our intermediate passing game and Collins is starting to feel good about himself because he is making a lot of easy completions underneath. The linebackers and safeties are starting to play back on their heels some. Let’s take some shots deeper down the field to Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, and Ron Dixon. The Falcons are still expecting run so let’s not give it to them yet. Use play action. Cornerbacks Ray Buchanan and Ashley Ambrose are fine players, but so are the Giants receivers and with the safeties still looking run, these are match-ups the Giants should win (their safeties do little to inspire regardless). Before you know it, New York is up 7-0 and it was all done through the air.

Next possession. You may even want to start off on first down one more time throwing the ball just to create some more doubt, but now it’s time to get the running game going, and specifically Ron Dayne. Tiki has shown some wear and tear (i.e., the kick to his knee) and I think it would be wise to get the Dayne Train moving full speed. Pound the ball now. It won’t be glamorous or exciting, but it will take the life out of the Falcon defense. Ron started to hit the holes more aggressively against the Redskins, but seemed to regress in his very few carries last week. Ron, just take that damn ball and attack the defense like you did at Wisconsin. Stop thinking and just react naturally. The Falcons have an OK front seven, but it is nothing special. LT Lomas Brown faces DE Brady Smith (who’s big claim to fame was humiliating Roman Oben at the Senior Bowl with three sacks); LG Glenn Parker faces DT Ed Jasper; RG Ron Stone faces the talented but ailing DT Travis Hall; and RT Luke Pettigout faces 1999 first rounder Patrick Kerney. The rest of the league has started to notice that the Giants like to run right behind Stone and Pettigout. Most of the left side game now seems to consist of Tiki cutting back or pitch outs where the Giants attempt to seal the corner with the tight ends and fullback. The Giants need to diversify a bit more, but the bread and butter will remain running behind the right side. Thus Luke and Ron must bring their “A” games and punish their respective opponents. Parker and FB Greg Comella need to lead the halfback effectively into the hole and Dayne needs to attack the defense aggressively through that hole. No indecision – just go.

Atlanta’s defenders see what is going on. They start swarming more and more aggressively to the point of attack. “No way we let this Heisman Trophy winner get going on us,” they yell. But wait, where the heck is the ball? Dayne doesn’t have. That kid Dixon does and he’s going the other way on a wide receiver reverse. Damn that guy is fast and he’s heading down the sideline. 14-0.

The sparse crowd is already booing and the Atlanta defense has no idea what is coming next. Game, set, match.

Giants on Defense: These Giants’ defenders know the legacy. They hear it all the time. This is the team of Sam Huff, Arnie Weinmeister, Emlen Tunnell, Andy Robustelli, Harry Carson, George Martin, and Lawrence Taylor. The heart and soul of this team has almost always been defense. The Ghosts of the Past are there because we fans remember them and we expect that legacy to be upheld. On Sunday, the Giants’ defense needs to forget about the previous two games and just go out there and kick some butt. Stop worrying about this or that…dictate the game to your opponent. You know what Atlanta will do. They like to run the ball with Jamal Anderson behind FB Bob Christian and H-Back Brian Kozlowski. QB Chris Chandler then likes to use play-action to get the ball deep down the field to his wide receivers (Shawn Jefferson and Terance Mathis). They also have a new weapon in impressive-looking TE Reggie Kelly. The Giants are going to have to keep Sam Garnes on him or get a much better job out of the linebackers in coverage this week. But they KNOW what will be coming. Play smart, stuff the run, cover the receivers, and get after the passer. Ohh, the pass rush…

We all know the problem. DE Michael Strahan is underperforming, DE Cedric Jones seems to have left his pass rush at Oklahoma, DT Christian Peter never had a pass rush, and DT Keith Hamilton is being double teamed. The first five games are history and nothing can be done about that. These four guys have to get their act together and get after the quarterback. BE RELENTLESS – this is something that their position coach remarked was missing so far from this group this year. Chandler is not a mobile quarterback and he is playing behind a make-shift line that was just re-structured before last week’s game. Jones faces the sternest test vis a vis LT Bob Whitfield. But there is no reason for Strahan not to dominate rookie RT Michael Thompson. Domination doesn’t just come in the form of sacks, but also penetration against the run as well as CONSISTENT pressure on the passer. Let him know you are there. Peter faces a rookie in RG Travis Claridge. Defensive Coordinator John Fox needs to take advantage of these two young guys by blitzing a lot from the left side of the defense.

But for the blitz to work effectively, the Giants need to cover Kelly and their third-down specialist Tim Dwight. The match-up between Dwight and the Giants’ nickel corner is HUGE. It will be interesting to see if Emmanuel McDaniel keeps this job and responds to his poor game last week. Andre Weathers, who is recovering from a knee injury, may replace him. CB Dave Thomas will also be much more severely tested this week by a passing game that likes to throw the ball down the field. So whether he has Mathis or Jefferson, he needs to do a credible job. But their jobs will all be made much easier if the Giants can get after Chandler. Hit him and force him to get rid of the ball before he wants to (it is not all about sacks). Make him make poor decisions and let’s get some turnovers.

Again, the keys…stuff Anderson, don’t get suckered by play-action, cover Kelly and Dwight. Combine those things with a consistent pass rush and you will have a victory.

Giants on Special Teams: The most important aspect will be punt coverage on Tim Dwight and kick coverage on Darrick Vaughn and Dwight. Vaughn is averaging over 33 yards a kick return. Dwight is always dangerous. The Giants need PK Jaret Holmes and P Brad Maynard to come through with booming kicks again and solid coverage down the field. Cutting down on penalties in their own kick and punt returns would help. It’s time for Tiki Barber and Ron Dixon to start breaking some returns.

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Tennessee Titans 28 – New York Giants 14

Game Overview: How depressing! It’s not so much the outcome of the contest, but the lack of effort put forth. The game wasn’t as close as the score. The Giants were out-played by a team with better player, out-coached by a team with better coaches, and out-hustled by a team that plays with more hustle and passion.

I think the Giants may be the bleakest 3-2 team in the history of the NFL.

But before we dive too far into the minutiae of this particular game, let’s take a look at the big picture. I am usually wary of reading too much into one win or one loss. My biggest pet peeve with the media (especially the national media) is how fast they will jump on or off a bandwagon after a week’s action. The Giants pretty much dominated three mediocre teams and then in turn were dominated by two playoff teams. That seems to suggest that the Giants lie somewhere between these two opposite poles. But I think the Titan game represented something different as well. How can the Giants come out so flat against the AFC Champions – especially after they got embarrassed last week at home on national television? Head Coach Jim Fassel hollered at his players on Thursday after practice about their lack of focus and intensity, but they seemed to have ignored him. Remember, they ignored him and the owner in the season finale last year too. That’s never a good sign.

Last night, having had my fill with a generally crappy football day, I turned off the late game and put in a tape of a movie of mine that I hadn’t watched in years, Patton. Early in the film, George C. Scott (Patton) turns to Karl Malden (Omar Bradley) and says, “When I get through with them, they (his troops) will lose their fear of the Germans. I only hope to God that they never lose their fear of me.” And that’s the problem with Fassel. The players obviously don’t fear him. Oh sure, they like him, but I challenge anyone to actually suggest that they fear the man. Fear is the all-powerful motivator. People will bend over backwards because of fear, not because of some warm fuzzy feeling.

But let’s not just throw stones at Fassel – his assistants are to blame too (more on that below). So are the players. Jessie Armstead is the heart of the team and he admittedly shows up flat? What the hell is that? Where is the leadership on this team? Where are the play-makers? Is there a Pro Bowler among this group? I don’t think so. And the attitude just flat out sucks. All talk. “This is a wake up call…blah, blah, blah, blah.” No heart and they crumble at the first sign of adversity. Just give me my paycheck please. I’d rather watch a bunch of no-name rookie free agents who get paid the league minimum. At least they would sell out on every play – and the results wouldn’t be much different.

Giants on Offense: What offense? In the first half, the Giants went three-and-out on their first three possessions. The fourth ended in a fumbled snap. The fifth ended with an interception. Two first downs for an entire half – the first coming with only minutes before halftime! One yard rushing and 44 yards passing for an entire half of football! The Titans are good, but they aren’t that good. Hell, Kent Graham and the Steelers did better last week. The Giants’ 17:14 time of possession for the game was their lowest since the figure started being kept in 1980.

Let’s start with Offensive Coordinator Sean “the Genius” Payton. What are the Giants offensively? They are not a smash mouth team – they are a finesse West Coast Offense. The Titans are a smash mouth team very similar to the old Giants’ teams under Bill Parcells. The last thing you want to do is to start trying to run the ball straight at them from the get-go, especially when they are crowding the line of scrimmage. This plays right into their hands. Luke Petitgout, Dusty Zeigler, Glenn Parker, and Lomas Brown are not maulers. The strength of their game is angle-blocking and being in the right spot to shield the ball carrier from the defender. Can you imagine if Bill Walsh and his old 49ers teams tried to power the football at the Giants’ defenses under Parcells? You would have laughed your ass off. What Payton should have done was try to loosen the defense up by throwing the ball – and not just to the receivers, but to Tiki Barber and Pete Mitchell. Once the safeties had backed off, then the Giants should have hit them with the run. That’s what the West Coast Offense is all about – it’s what teams like St. Louis and the Vikings do. What the hell happened about all this talk from Fassel and Payton about passing when they expect you to run and visa versa? Poor game plan – it didn’t fit our personnel.

Perhaps what this teams needs is to hire a disciplinarian who will clean house and put together an offensive line that fits Ron Dayne’s skills. Move Luke Petitgout to left tackle, put Mike Rosenthal at left guard, and sign or draft a power right tackle.

Now for some brief comments on player performance:

  • Quarterback: Kerry Collins (17–of-36 for 197 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions) is regressing. And it is not simply a matter of him playing against a much better quality of opponent. He is forcing the ball again and his accuracy is waning. A team can not win a championship if the quarterback crumbles at the first suggestion that the game may rest on his arm. For every excellent throw on Sunday (and there were a few), there were some terrible passes (most notably the interceptions). Kerry looks confused again. The fumbled snap is inexcusable.
  • Offensive Line: Terrible run blocking, but the game plan didn’t play to their strength. This is a finesse line, not a slug-it-out unit that can dictate its own terms to the opponent. Luke Petitgout badly missed a block on a 3rd-and-2 play that forced the Giants to punt. The pass blocking was not too bad. Petitgout did an admirable job on DE Jevon Kearse, holding him to no sacks and two tackles. Actually, LT Lomas Brown had more problems with DE Kenny Holmes (and Kearse on one play). Given the situation (being down quickly 14 and 21 to nothing), the pass protection was surprising given the fact that Tennessee was pinning their ears back.
  • Wide Receivers: Four drops – all costly. Amani “Give Me the Damn Ball” Toomer (5 catches for 81 yards) dropped a perfectly thrown deep pass from Collins early in the game. That play was a momentum killer. Ike “I apparently don’t want the damn ball” Hilliard had yet another multiple drop game. It’s time to set up the passing machine in his garage at home. Now even Ron Dixon (no catches) is getting into the act, by dropping a 3rd down pass for what would have been a first down. Joe “Eric’s first round wide receiver” Jurevicius (1 catch for six yards) is a second round bust. Maybe it’s time to sit down one of the starters for Thabiti Davis – at least he’ll catch the ball.
  • Tight Ends: TE Dan Campbell did a nice job on his one-yard touchdown reception on 4th-and-goal. Poor blocking and not a factor in the passing game. Great job by the coaching staff getting Pete Mitchell (no catches) into the flow of the offense.
  • Running Backs: “Thunder and Lightening”? The Macarena fad lasted longer. Does anyone want a refund on the t-shirt? Kerry Collins (3 carries for 19 yards) outrushed Tiki Barber (5 carries for 2 yards), Ron Dayne (3 carries for 1 yard), and Greg Comella (1 carry for 4 yards). Subtract Kerry’s 13 yarder and the Giants rushed for 11 yards on 11 carries. Great. Greg was also flagged for holding.

Giants on Defense: Perhaps Defensive Coordinator John Fox is trying to get Jim Fassel fired. Either his players are dumb as dirt (to use a kind word) and don’t listen to him and his staff, or they were poorly prepared. All the Titans do is throw to their tight ends and backs and yet time and time again on Sunday, these guys were not covered or covered by players who should not have been in position to cover them. Last week, it was Sam Garnes on Irving Fryar. This week it was Ryan Phillips on Frank Wycheck and Eddie George. You just don’t put Phillips in that position in the first place! Hell on George’s late third down reception in the 4th quarter when the Giants are trying to get the ball back, why was Phillips even in the game? There is no excuse – it’s stupid football.

The Giants gave up four TD drives: 9 plays/80 yards, 19 plays/98 yards, 9 plays/80 yards, and 14 plays/80 yards. They converted 14 of 20 third down attempts. That’s absurd. Just look at the 19 play drive:

  • 3rd-and-8 from the Titans’ 4: George gains eight yards on carry where he runs through Sam Garnes.
  • 3rd-and-3 from the Titans’ 19: George runs up the middle for three yards.
  • 3rd-and-8 from the Titans’ 24: McNair passes 17 yards to WR Derrick Mason against nickel corner Emmanuel McDaniel.
  • 3rd-and-8 from the Titans’ 43: McNair passes to Mason for 13 yards.
  • 3rd-and-10 from the Giants’ 44: McNair passes to TE Erron Kinney for 17 yards.
  • 3rd-and-8 from the Giants’26: McNair passes to George for 19 yards.

Six third down conversions, most of them long yardage. Six first downs. The Titans hit the Giants’ undercoverage all day when they weren’t throwing the ball against the nickel back. Then they pounded Eddie George straight at the defense with good results. One of the poorest efforts I have ever seen from a Giants’ defense that lacks any superior talent. Michael Strahan, Jessie Armstead, and Jason Sehorn are all overpaid and overrated. Same with Sam Garnes and Mike Barrow.

  • Defensive Line: Very sporadic pass pressure and run defense. The tone for the day was set when the Titans drove 80-yards down the field on their first drive for a touchdown, helped by three inexcusable off-sides penalties by Keith Hamilton (2) and Christian Peter (1). Eddie George (125 yards) had little trouble gaining ground inside or outside. Ernie Accorsi needs to think about waiving DE Michael Strahan (1 tackle, 1 sack) after the end of the season. If he wasn’t being paid like he is, he would be considered a solid defensive end in this league, but Strahan is being paid as one of the best defenders. When a beat-up, pass blocking tight end plants you, you should think about giving back most of your signing bonus. He played at both ends, but it didn’t matter. Cedric Jones (7 tackles) was pushed around way too much on outside runs. He gets no pressure on his pass rush. The Giants have a 4-3 defense where their weakside rusher has zero sacks for the season (and very little pressure). Oh, and he was playing against a back-up for much of the game. That’s just great. The inside duo of Hamilton (6 tackles, 1 sack) and Peter (5 tackles) were more active, but it wasn’t enough. I will say this – Hamilton is being double-teamed quite a bit and he is still fighting. The late hit call on him was BS. DT/DE Cornelius Griffin (1 tackle) got some good pressure on one pass rush from the right end side.
  • Linebackers: Absolutely terrible, both against the run and the pass. The coverage on the tight ends (10 catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns) was virtually non-existent. Same story with Eddie George (4 catches for 52 yards). The Giants knew they would throw to these guys and yet they left them wide open! How does Jessie Armstead (5 tackles), the leader of the team, come out flat for this game? Mike Barrow (6) tackles missed much of the contest with a neck stinger. Ryan Phillips had seven tackles, but I spotted him getting crushed on one outside run on an important third down and he was just terrible in coverage. Pete Monty (5 tackles) finally got a chance to play with the base defense and didn’t take advantage of it.
  • Defensive Backs: SS Sam Garnes (7 tackles) got a big 4-year deal in the offseason, but when is the last time you said to yourself, “Garnes made a hell of a play there.” When is the last time Garnes made a play? Getting run over by Eddie George like that on 3rd-and-8 coming off of the goal line isn’t supposed to happen to “one of the best run defending safeties in the league.” He also is probably to blame for many of those completions to the tight end. You can ship this Fassel ass-kisser out of New York too. FS Shaun Williams (6 tackles) almost made a pick down on the goalline and had one big hit that caused an incompletion. The starting corners were pretty solid. Jason Sehorn (9 tackles) and Dave Thomas (2 tackles) both knocked down long balls when they were locked up one-on-one and Thomas almost came down with the pick. Sehorn was faked out of his jock strap by McNair on one CB blitz and Thomas couldn’t bring McNair down on another. Run support by either wasn’t very strong either. The real culprit in the secondary was nickel back Emmanuel McDaniel (4 tackles) who was abused by WR Derrick Mason for multiple key receptions. He was so bad that he had to be replaced by Reggie Stephens who promptly gave up a reception to Mason. (Derrick finished the day with 6 catches for 103 yards – and he isn’t even a starter).

Special Teams: This is the only aspect of the team that seems to be improving. PK Jaret Holmes (three kicks into the end zone/two touchbacks) was a big improvement over Brad Daluiso in the kick-off department. P Brad Maynard punted well all day, both in his long drive attempts and positional efforts. The coverage teams did a great job on one of the most dangerous kick and punt returners in the game. Ron Dixon screwed up royally by trying to be too cute and letting the ball roll too close to the end zone instead of playing it safe and downing the ball. He came back on the next effort and made a superb effort to down the ball. Dixon had a 37-yard kick-off return that gave the Giants’ offense good field position. Dan Campbell was flagged for holding on one return. Jack Golden almost (and should have) blocked a punt.


Analysis of the Offensive

by Chris Jacobs

As I started to grade the film I decided that letting everyone know how each lineman graded out in this game would not only be moot but redundant. They all graded somewhere between 80 to 90% so what’s the point. So what I have done was gone over each play in the first half to try and find where the breakdowns occurred, it’s not always the O-lines fault. There were only 17 plays in the first half anyway.

First Series:

  1. Trips right, tight left, toss sweep to Tiki. Four guys were in the backfield before Tiki got the ball. No one was blocked on the play.
  2. Swing pass to Barber. Nice gain. But Campbell lets Kearse run right around him similar to the flea flicker sack the previous week. They need to work on Campbell’s pass blocking.
  3. Ok, 3rd and 2. Hilliard is alone on the right with the D-back 10 yards off him. This is a no brainer right? Wrong, Pete Mitchell in the flat for one yard. Bad decision by Collins, really bad.

Second Series:

  1. Toomers drop, would have been a 35 yard gain to the Tenn 25, it was only 7-0 at this point and could have made it a very different game. If you want the ball, catch it.
  2. Quick throw to Toomer, gain of 4, good play. Would have been perfect on 3rd and 2.
  3. Third and 6, run the same play where Toomer dropped the ball. Toomer lets himself get jammed. To the untrained eye it looked like a bad throw, it wasn’t.

Third Series:

  1. Iso up the middle to Dayne. Blocked perfect, wide open if you cut it left, LB steps up and knocks Comella back into Dayne sheds him and makes the tackle. If Dayne has such great vision and quick feet he should have recognized this and cut left and picked up 10; if it were Tiki he would have gained 20.
  2. Pass protection is good, Collins panics and dumps it to Mitchell who’s back is turned, meanwhile both Ike and Toomer are open to the left. Bad decision by Collins, his wheels are starting to come off.
  3. Blitz, pressure from everywhere, Collins gets hit by 2 guys at once. Incomplete pass. Comella was called for holding.

Fourth Series:

  1. Quick slant to Toomer 13 yards. (Sarcastic cheer)
  2. Play fake, good protection, Collins throws to Hilliard on the sideline who drops the ball. But as Matt Millen pointed out, Toomer was wide open in the middle of the field. Bad decision by Collins.
  3. I-formation, quick dive to Comella for 5. Tiki faked the sweep. Good idea, give yourself a third and 5 instead of 3rd and 10.
  4. Ok, 3rd and 5 down by 21, 2 minutes left. Toss sweep Charles Way. Sorry bad flashback. Actually I liked this play. They lined up in that tight trips formation that the usually run out of. The 3 recievers cris-crossed at the line, outside guy runs a 5yd in, middle guy goes up the sideline, outside guy runs a short post. The linebackers smelled run and stepped up right away. JJ would have been wide open on his 5yard in across the middle. Good play, but, fumbled snap.

Fifth Series

  1. Pass protection good 26 yard gainer to Ike. Good play all around.
  2. Shotgun, trips left, Toomer right, Tiki in the backfield. Kearse jumps offsides and Collins dumps it short to JJ. Bad decision by Collins, if they jump offsides, throw it long, your down by 21, take a shot.
  3. Pass, Lomas completely misses his man and Luke holds Kearse. Fumble but Giants recover.
  4. Interception. Collins threw the ball falling backwards even though the pressure wasn’t that bad. I would love to ask him who he was throwing this one to. It seemed like Toomer but Dixon was open deep, I think he was trying to get it to Dixon but I’m not sure.

I was listening to the FAN and Jim Fassel said, “We have to match the opposing teams intensity.” That’s a really good point. I felt that by making that point, he was blaming himself. I remember when I was young, I grew up with three brothers, we were all fairly well behaved but lets be honest, four boys, we had our bad moments. Every time my Dad yelled at us, individually or as a group, my grandmother would blurt something out in Italian. I didn’t know what she was saying, and if I asked, she wouldn’t tell. Years later I asked her and finally she told me, “The fish stinks from the head” (it sounds much nicer in Italian). She was obviously taking a shot at my Dad there, but he did a good job, we all turned out alright. Anyway, let me get back to the Giants and I’ll make my point. This is Jim Fassel’s team, he’s had 4 years to rid of players he didn’t want, and has had 4 drafts and free agency periods to replace them. This is his team, if he wants intensity, he needs to get intense himself. Being a coach isn’t always knowledge of the X’s and O’s, it’s how to get the best effort out of a group of guys. This is a talented team, he needs to find what motivates them. Every time I see a player screw up and yell at the TV, I can faintly hear my grandmother…the fish stinks from the head.


REMEMBER THE TITANS

by David Oliver

No, the movie isn’t about those Titans, nor even the NY Titans, but the TC Williams High School Titans in Alexandria, VA. TC Williams was a perennial powerhouse in football until recent years. Keep in mind that Virginia was not a very progressive state in race relations until late into the 60s and the early 70s. Williams was an integrated team, a team that relied on athletic ability, not skin color. It was a shining example of the New South for a brief period of time. And TC Williams probably could have played the Tennessee Titans as well as did the NY Giants yesterday.

I am writing this report only for those who did not have the opportunity to see the game. There isn’t much to say. In the past 5 years, I haven’t been this down – even when the Skins rolled up 50 points last year, the Giants appeared to have some fight in them. Maybe there was a flu epidemic we haven’t heard about, maybe someone has cast a spell on the blue uniforms, maybe Tennessee is just that much better.

I got up at 4 a.m. (So did my very precious wife who drove me to the airport, then came got me at night) to make a 6:30 a.m. flight to Nashville. There were 6 passengers on the plane, three of us going to the game, both my traveling mates Titans fans. They started it off, saying they expected a close game, that the Titans hadn’t been productive all year, that Eddie George hadn’t gotten out of the blocks. It continued at the airport in Nashville, the bus driver on the way downtown, the doorman, and every assortment of Titans fans I encountered – a close game, maybe a field goal, they couldn’t wait to see “Thunder & Lightning”. Jeesh! I didn’t expect a Giant victory, but I did expect a close game. This whole thing about the motion offense, “Thunder & Lightning,” the new Giants is turning out to be just another Urban Legend.

Something appeared wrong from the get go. The Giants came out of the tunnel strangely; Coach was angry already and hollering at the troops to move their asses, to get set, to get out for the intros. Couldn’t quite place it, but it wasn’t right. A divergence – the new stadium is nicely done – similar to Raymond James in Tampa; but it is located across the river from town, with limited parking for the fans, so they have to find parking in town, walk down to the bridge, cross over and into the Stadium. In NY they would need respirators every 200 yards. Once you get there, the people are as friendly as can be. Smiling and friendly. But cheap – this is the worst stadium for treatment of photographers that I have ever visited. There is a rigid class structure for those who report sports. The pencil-necks who sit on their asses upstairs get treated as if they are royalty. They are dined and comforted. The working classes, field rats, are banned from most press lounges. The Giants take very good care of us, nonetheless. We get parking privileges, there is a room at field level, there is a buffet style spread before the games and a sandwich, drink and ice cream at half time. In short, we may not be first class citizens, but we are citizens. The Jets give full access, so does Philly, the Florida Stadiums are pretty good. The Redskins suck, the Ravens sort of such – well, you get the picture. Of course we don’t show up for the meal, but we are at the Stadium 3 to 4 hours in advance and we do work. If you think it’s easy come on down some time and carry the equipment, run up and down sweating or freezing, yadda, yadda, yadda. Tennessee – a banana and water. Screw the Titans, I hope the river floods and takes the whole operation somewhere down below.

I’ve avoided it as long as possible, but HOW BOUT THEM GIANTS? Seventeen minutes of possession, bumbling, stumbling, physically beat, mentally beat, unprepared and humiliated. And that is the kind version. The fans who were there, and there were some, remarked afterwards, back at the hotel, at the airport, that it looked from the stands, as from the field that the Giants were simply not prepared – they appeared to be sucking wind from the start. I can tell you this – in my lifetime I have been privileged to see great teams, great individual players, great team and individual efforts. Sports performances are very much like works of art – Bob Costas said it about Michael “Golden Shoes” Johnson. Great sports performances appeal to the aesthetic sense in us. Dan Marino, John Elway, LT were masterpieces. Well, Eddie George will be in that class, if not already. I have never seen a running back who physically punishes people such as Eddie G. Maybe John Henry Johnson of the Steelers back in the 1950s. I remember him knocking at least 1 or 2 Giants out of the game every time they played. George is the most physically powerful runner I have witnessed in person in my lifetime.

When he wasn’t running over people, he ran around them. As tough as Jason Sehorn is, we actually caught him shying away at one point in the game. It usually took at least 3 Giants to make the stop. CJ made one nice penetration tackle, I think he stopped George with a submarine tackle, but then again it could have been Rodney Thomas. Air McNair showed the Giants what a motion offense was all about – he also showed what a durable, mobile QB could do for an offense. And the Freak – even an under the weather Freak showed flashes of what he is about. He gobbles up huge chunks of real estate, chases down the ball carrier, approaches the game as seek and destroy. But don’t compare him to LT – he’s not in that class, no one is. Talking to some of the knowledgeable Titan fans, I was told that the Freak is the nervous sort – they told me to watch him on the sidelines, pacing, spitting up almost wretching with anxiety. He is a Super Bowl player on a Super Bowl team, but he is not another LT. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Methuselah Bruce Matthews, line stud. Still tickin and still lickin – pistol whipped a couple of Giants. Their other offensive House is a mammoth guard named Zach Piller – made several key blocks. Did the Giants create some new all pros for the Titans? Yep, Derrick Mason looked like the second coming of Jerry Rice. He beat Dave Thomas so badly, that the Giants sent in Manny McD. Oops! Manny was torched by Mason for a score. In came Reggie Stephens. Just an inch saved Reggie from the same fate as a McNair pass bounced off Mason’s finger tips. Then there was Chris Sanders, who turned Sehorn every which way but loose in the first half, or was it Williams? I don’t know, they all looked so bad out there that it is difficult to apportion fault. On defense, Blaine Bishop just keyed on KC and was in position a lot. He killed the final Giants gasp with a nice INT on a KC heave to nowhere.

Homage paid where homage is due. The Titans are a damn fine team. The Giants played mediocre ball. But, then, as my seatmate on the way home said, weren’t the Giants supposed to be a mediocre team this year? Yes, I guess they were. And as Sean Payton cautioned last April, don’t expect instant success, the whole package needs time to jell – that is, if it isn’t broken apart by November. Did any Giants players perform well? Well, Mike Barrow deserves the heroism award. Injured early, sitting on the bench with his jersey off, and told by the doctors to sit it out, he was arguing with the medical staff and at one point could be seen pulling his jersey over his head saying he just wanted to be ready – he got back in and played his heart out. Christian Peter dug and dug and dug again, just couldn’t get it quite done. Ryan Phillips played about the steadiest game for the backers but was often out of position. On offense, Ron Dixon has that youthful spirit, the will to win. He made several rookie mistakes – like failing to down a punt on the 2 yard line and taking his eye off the ball late in the game and dropping a pass, stopping a Giants’s effort. But this kid has legitimate super star quality. He will be a very good player and he has heart, game heart. The mistakes can be corrected, just so they don’t break his spirit. Other than that, only individual plays stood out. There were NONE, no game performances.

It has been said at BBI, by myself and countless others that this team will go only as far as Kerry Collins carries it. KC has again shown that he is not a top echelon QB. He is inconsistent at best, performs well against lesser opponents, but frankly chokes against the big boys. He played three quarters in a daze. Clear as a bell, on the fumble, he was already looking at the defense before the snap.. He had short passes deflected at the line, he threw into the ground, and without an open Tiki he appeared lost in the offense. I know it sounds harsh, but guys who make more than 5 million a year must produce. Guys who are drafted high in the first round can’t be just good. The Giants have major investments in KC, Sean Williams, and CJ which are so far performing like the NASDAQ. Mr. Tisch is a good businessman – he can’t be happy with the mounting losses in his human investments. These guys must step up and they aren’t. Keep in mind, Dave Thomas may be a convenient whipping boy, but he is a journeyman corner, playing only because the Coach likes his toughness – he was never a blue chipper, so don’t focus on him. There are so many under performers on this team that it is a short sellers paradise. For the game, the QB position was a negligible.

The tight end position , without a healthy Pete Mitchell, is a disaster. I have not ever called for Howard Cross to sit, but after this game, it is time. He does nothing that another, younger better receiver couldn’t do. And it becomes painfully obvious when you watch an average overachiever like Wycheck, or a mountain of a man like Erron Kinney perform. Kinney could have caught 20 balls had they chosen to throw to him. Somebody on the Giants defense is too used to practicing against Howard Cross and forgets that tight ends are supposed to catch the ball – tight ends kill our defense. Why? The Giants need to scour the rolls and get one of these Arena guys – forget undersize players – the Giants need a huge, ambulatory pass catching tight end. Dan Campbell made a nice catch on the TD pass. Sit Howard and get Dan in the game. Sean Payton’s motion offense needs another weapon and this is it. More productivity out of the tight end position, please.

The line – I can’t wait to see Chris’ evaluation. It seemed as if the Titans just overloaded the box, keyed on Tiki and shut the Giants down. As good, as tough, as gutsy as Comella is, the Gash thing is beginning to look like a major mistake. It often appears as if there are 15 defensive players on the field. For all the motion, the Giants run basically the same play with Tiki and a fast, over pursuing defense has gotten the pattern. I don’t think the line is playing badly, they are just overwhelmed.

The receivers – Amani got it going late in the game. He laid out for some catches, made some nice effort grabs. Same with Ike. Dixon has the tools, he just needs experience. I wouldn’t worry about the mistakes – put him on the field the entire game, he belongs in the lineup. JJ simply can’t find a place. He is so much promise, so little delivery. Typical Penn State skill player product. The Giants miss the Derrick Mason type receiver – David Patten almost got there, but didn’t. They need the streaker who can just flat out beat the defense. Seems simple doesn’t it. Get a big, pass catching tight end and a speed long baller and the whole offense clicks into gear.

The running backs. Whoa! Where is Thunder? Play the Big Fella. Let him pound it 25 times a game, hell the offense couldn’t be worse, could it? And how about this for progress: Joe Montgomery actually got to dress up for the game – still on the bench, but at least dressed. I don’t know about the talent, but I do know he has the fire. The Giants need fury right now, they badly need someone to stand up and say I’m not going to lose, follow me, to kick some ass. Joe Montgomery could be that kind of person and he needs to be on the field. If the Giants want a power offense, go to the power backs, then bring Tiki in as the change of pace – it will increase his effectiveness. When Tiki is on the field too many plays, the defense keys on him and takes him away. Otherwise, put Walendy in the game and let him lead Tiki. Power and finesse to not come out of the same barrel.

Defense. For 30 minutes, there was no defense. A 98 yard, 10 minute march is a back breaker. On the first possession there were 4 penalties, no pass defense, little run stoppage, the Titans, as one fan said “had their way with the Giants.” That’s a very polite way of saying the Giants defense consisted of a bunch of pussies waving at Titans going by. I think LT would have killed someone on the field had he been playing Sunday. JF and the defensive coaches were screaming at the defense on the bench after the first drive. It was an ugly scene. Sehorn was beaten by Sanders more than once. Williams had another very poor game, when Barrow went out, it took Monty a while to realize he was in a game as several plays went by him and he just watched. CJ had one decent play, then Williams was beaten again, the McNair scrambled and somehow the Giants forgot how successful they had been against McNabb and McNown and even the Snake for three quarters. They looked like they were playing the fourth quarter against Arizona – in a daze. Griffin made a stop of George and realized what the NFL was. He got pretty well worn out in this one, as George just beat the hell out of the Giants.

About this time I was saying throw Jeremiah Parker in and the defensive coaches must have been just as frustrated because lo and behold there was Parker on the field. That didn’t work either. There were now 7 and a half minutes left in the first half and KC couldn’t hit the wall from the inside of the barn. The wheels had fallen off. Titans again and Sehorn was beaten by Sanders, then Mason went by McDaniel for the score. Next up came the KC fumble. The look, duh! Where is it – it bounced for an eternity without a Giant in sight. Titans ball. Sean Williams finally defensed a pass, but Mason almost beat Stephens for another score. And just before half a very bad KC pass, and an INT. Mercifully it was halftime. I’m doing this review without benefit of my photos. I’m sure it would be much worse with the pictures in front of me. Most of the shooting was Titans – George, McNair, Mason. Think I got three rolls of Titans – any Titans fans out there – I’ll have a private viewing.

Interesting byplay at the start of the second half. All the Giants coaches came out first, except JF. No players, just coaches on the bench. Poor Sean Payton again sitting, furiously reading Gone With the Wind, trying to find the chapter on Tennessee, or maybe reading next week’s Atlanta chapter. What the hell are the Giants doing with Gone With the Wind anyway? Why not Thucidydes or some of Alcibiades speeches or Winston Churchill. The more I think about comparing the Giants offensive play book to a romance novel, the more confused I get. And then it comes to me – the attitude last week and this week is aptly summed up by Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler – the Giants are playing as if “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”

The second half was better – not good, but better. JF must have torched them a little because they came out to play. KC scrambled, then Tiki, then Tiki stopped. Punt. Interjection. How could I forget. Game ball to Brad Maynard – he kicked the hell out of it. Two straight weeks of great kicking. Sean Williams missed a tackle, George got a big gain. CJ got a sack – somebody actually knocked Matthews on his keister. The George stopped by Garnes – but there was no one else on that side of the field – where have all the Giants gone? Then Thomas defensed Pickens and Strahan had a good rush. CJ had a nice contain play and hammer actually tackled McNair.

Offense. Pass to Toomer, flag 1st down, thank you zebras. Pass to Toomer, again flag, hit out of bounds, thank you zebras.. Tiki run. Then Toomer laid out for a nice catch at the 14. Finally some offensive life.

Titans again. Erron Kinney from deep in his own territory. Then McNair with a big run around a wide open (left side) of the Giants defense- where have all the Giants gone? We are into the 4th quarter. CP bats a pass down, then McNair to Mason. Monty stopped George – it was either tackle him or be trampled. Then a 2 yard TD pass to Wycheck. For you guys watching on TV- I was standing right there in the end zone and it looked to me as if he did not have possession before he dropped the ball. Ref was behind the play. What did you see?

Next Giants offensive series. Dixon took his eye off the ball, which would have been a first down completion, drive stopped. He was looking for the corner ready to turn and go. Youthful mistake – the guy wants to make a play so bad you can’t get mad, just sigh and grow with him. He then went down and mad a nice tackle on the punt. The defense had a decent series stopping George. He brings it on every play and the Giants will be sore tomorrow. Then a Toomer pass, a Tiki pass, TD pass to Campbell – nice play action. The play before, they sent in Dayne and Tennessee had 11 men in the box on the 2 for the stop. If you are going to be macho, you had better have the horses. But at least they set up the play action for the next play, which worked to perfection.

Then the Titans fumble. Bounce, bounce, Giants ball. oops, KC hangs one up to Ike on the Titans 25, INT. Still more life. KC to Toomer, incomplete, then KC to Dixon and the final INT. Game over.

I didn’t go into the locker room, didn’t wait for the final stats. This one wasn’t pretty. Got home and watched the Eagles pound Atlanta and again wish we had signed Brian Mitchell – then I remember, the Giants don’t think big and Mitchell didn’t go to Penn State. Guys and gals, the Giants were outplayed, out coached, out muscled. The score doesn’t describe the humiliation. Those who picked 8 and 8 at the beginning of the year, gloat now and get passed it. We are seeing the greening of Sean Payton, the desanctification of john Fox and the beginning of the Marty Schottenheimer watch. Oh, Lord, spare us this final indignity as Giants fans.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Tennessee Titans, October 1, 2000)