New York Giants 28 – Jacksonville Jaguars 25
Game Overview: The good news is that the Giants locked up homefield advantage and a first round bye against a quality opponent. The Jaguars played a very spirited game – so spirited that you would have thought they had something riding on the outcome. QB Kerry Collins demonstrated some improved toughness in the pocket and the defense continues to play well – this week against a strong passing team.
The bad news is that if the Giants are really going to go anywhere this postseason, the MUST start playing better – particularly early in the game. Reminiscent of the Dallas game last week, the Giants blew too many scoring opportunities deep in enemy territory. The defense got sloppy at the end of the game and made things tighter than they should have been. And the kicking game continues to be a sore spot.
Rejoice a bit Giants’ fans. A 12-4 record and homefield is great. But the team needs to continue to elevate its play or it may be a short playoff ride.
Quarterback: Overall, Kerry Collins (22-of-39 for 321 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) played a good game. A 300-yard passing game by a Giants’ quarterback used to be wishful thinking, yet Collins has had two in three weeks. What impressed me the most this weekend was that Collins stood a lot tougher in the pocket and delivered some key strikes. Jacksonville blitzed the Giants’ a great deal and the offensive line and backs did not do a very good job of picking it up. There were many times where Collins was forced to move away from pressure, throw before he wanted to, or throw the ball away. But he stayed away from the dumb mistake (though there was one pass where the safety dropped a sure interception). The one pick that Collins was credited with was not his fault. LT Lomas Brown did not chop block the end like he was supposed to, thus allowing DE Tony Brackens to be in position to get his hands on the ball on quick pass.
The biggest negative was his play early on. Collins, for some reason, was not seeing the blatantly open man. On the flea flicker attempt in the first half, WR Amani Toomer was wide open for an easy touchdown, but Collins threw the ball to a covered Ike Hilliard instead. There was another play later where Collins didn’t see Tiki Barber wide open after coming in motion out of the backfield for what would have been an easy first down (this was a third down play). This early trend began to get me worried, but Collins really seemed to get into sync after these early snafus.
On the Giants’ first scoring drive, Kerry completed two key 3rd-and-9 passes – the first to Toomer and the second to Barber. It’s this ability to convert on third-and-long that I believe is the biggest difference in the offense from previous seasons. Too often in the past, 3rd-and-long would spell doom and a punt. The Giants were 9-of-17 on third down in the game – better than 50 percent.
Collins was pretty sharp on the non-scoring drive coming off of the goal line in the 3rd quarter. He was fortunate that one deep pass into the teeth of the wind was not picked, but his pass to Toomer got the Giants out of deep trouble on 3rd-and-8. He then found Toomer again with a slant (I don’t know if any quarterback in the league throws the slant better than Collins). On 3rd-and-6, he found TE Pete Mitchell over the middle for a first down. His 4th-and-6 strike to Ike Hilliard that was dropped was simply an incredible pass between two defenders. I also like how he found Tiki Barber for a first down on the next drive on 3rd-and-3. Collins’ primary target was to his right, but with that man covered, it looked like Kerry then looked over the middle before deciding on Tiki out to the left.
Collins was at his best on the Giants’ second touchdown drive. Trailing 10-7, he first hit Toomer in stride over the middle of the defense on a 42-yard catch-and-run. To me, the play of the game came a few play later on 3rd-and-10. Facing an all out blitz with men in his face, knowing he was about to get clobbered, Collins calmly threw to Ike for a 28-yard gain. Those of you who have read my reviews know this is one of the areas where I’ve been hoping to see improvement from Kerry, that is, improved toughness in the pocket. He didn’t scramble – he took his lick at time when his team needed him to make a play. Two plays later, he demonstrated the rifle he has by throwing back across his body on a somewhat risky pass and finding Hilliard for the go-ahead touchdown.
Collins finished the regular season with 3,610 yards passing – the third highest in franchise history.
Wide Receivers: A great game for Amani Toomer (8 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown). It wasn’t just receiving yards, but the quality of the catches. Toomer often made Collins look pretty darn good with his diving, twisting receptions such as 16-yard catch down to the one-yard line on the first drive. The pass was either tipped or poorly thrown, yet Amani came back to make a fine reception of the wobbler. He best catch was his 27-yard effort on a pass tipped by the cornerback in the third quarter on 3rd-and-8. This was a huge play because it got the Giants out of bad field position at a critical time of the game (the Giants were trailing 10-7 at that point). Amani had a key role in all of the Giants’ offensive touchdowns, culminating in his 54-yard touchdown on an underthrown Collins’ pass that put the Giants up 21-10
Ike Hilliard (4 catches for 51 yards and a touchdown) drives me nuts at times. He had me so angry after his two drops, including his 4th down drop of a perfectly thrown Collins’ throw. He earlier dropped a pass on 3rd-and-long that would have picked up a first down – a promising drive was stalled. Ike later redeemed himself a bit by coming up big on the all-important go-ahead touchdown drive with his 3rd-and-10 reception that put the ball on the five yard line and his subsequent touchdown reception two plays later. Still, Ike has to do a better job of holding onto the ball.
Tight Ends: Dan Campbell was up and down in his run blocking. He did not sustain his block very well on the goal line on a Dayne carry; but on the very next play, he got a good block on Tiki’s touchdown run. It is interesting the way the Giants use him – at times, they pull him like a guard on running plays. At other times, he is part of the trips package to the left or right on outside runs. He also had a reception for three yards. TE Howard Cross (no catches) continued his fine run blocking. For example, on Tiki’s 16-yard run in the second quarter, Cross was called upon to block down on the defensive end while Luke Petitgout and Ron Stone pulled around him. If Cross doesn’t make that block, the play goes no where. Pete Mitchell had one big catch for 17 yards, but he also dropped a pass early on in the game that would have kept a drive alive.
Running Backs: Ron Dayne (6 carries for 3 yards) is killing the Giants right now. Aside from one short-yardage play where he picked up a first down, his other carries were wasted plays. It’s gotten so bad with Dayne now that the Giants are forced to give the ball to Tiki more than they probably would like. Barber took a lot of hard hits during the game and at one point it looked like he might have suffered a serious injury. Ron needs to pick up the slack, not only for the team’s sake, but for the health of Barber.
Tiki Barber (24 carries for 78 yards and a touchdown; 4 catches for 35 yards) played yet another very strong game – not only on outside runs, but a few times up the gut as well. He did a great job of following key blocks from FB Greg Comella and LG Glenn Parker on his touchdown run to the right side in the first quarter. He’s also getting positive yardage on sweeps that are not particularly well blocked due to his speed and quickness. The only big negative on Tiki today is that he didn’t get himself in position well to pick up the blitz on a number of Jaguar dogs. With Dayne slumping and/or running out of gas, it is clear that for better or worse, Barber is going to have to carry the main load from here on out.
Comella (4 catches for 22 yards) was used quite a bit in the passing game today and remains a steady and sure run blocker. When Charles Way was forced to retire before the season started, it looked like the Giants were in trouble at fullback. But Greg has done a great job in his first full season as a starter. Don’t overlook his contribution to the team this year.
Offensive Line: This wasn’t one of the lines better efforts. There are some legitimate reasons why one could argue that Dayne is not being productive such as the fact that he hasn’t been allowed to get into the flow of things, that the running plays are a bit too predictable when he enters the game, etc. One other factor is that the run blocking when he has gotten his carries has not been real solid. The line needs to do a better job of clearing space for him so he can get up to speed. Once Dayne is past the line and has his shoulders square to the defense, he is a tough customer to bring down. But the Giants are not getting him to that point. In the run blocking department, I did like the work of the two guards, Glenn Parker and Ron Stone. Parker did have some problems on a couple of pulls where the defense did a good job of knocking Glenn back and disrupting the play. The Parker pull to the right is one of the Giants’ favorite plays and opposing defenses know it now. One thing that is not often noticed on this play is that RT Luke Petitgout has been doing a solid job most of the season blocking down on the end to allow Parker to swing out wide – this happened again on Barber’s touchdown run. LT Lomas Brown is not known for his run blocking, but he did have some positive moments against Brackens, including a key block on a 9-yard run by Barber.
Pass blocking was not great as Collins was sacked three times and hit a bunch. Petitgout gave up an early sack to DE Renaldo Wynn when he got beat to the outside. He later got beat to the inside and Kerry was forced to unload in a hurry. OC Dusty Zeigler had a very rough game in pass protection (usually his strength). He did a poor job of picking up a blitz by LB Kevin Hardy a couple of times. Once it resulted in a sack, another time it forced Collins to throw the ball away on 3rd-and-7 right before Brad Daluiso’s missed field goal. Jacksonville came with a lot of blitzes and it often difficult to tell whether the line is at fault or the backs. There were also times when there were more rushers than blockers. On one play, it appeared to me as if Ron Stone should have picked up one of the inside blitzers instead of helping Zeigler out with his man. I don’t know what Lomas Brown was doing on the quick pass that Brackens intercepted. In such a situation, the lineman is always taught to take the end off his feet usually with a chop block. Brown allowed Brackens to play high and make a leaping interception.
Defensive Line: Very strong once again against the run except for one major breakdown where HB Fred Taylor got jammed up inside, but broke it back towards the strongside for a 44-yard touchdown. I believe the main culprit on this play was DE Michael Strahan (4 tackles), who I spotted getting caught inside. But other than that play, Strahan and his teammates up front were very stout as Taylor ran into a wall of blue jerseys on almost every rushing attempt. It was Strahan who originally disrupted the running play on Taylor’s fumble; Strahan then nailed Taylor in the backfield on the next drive for a loss. Michael later pressured Brunell into an incompletion on 3rd-and-2. DE Cedric Jones (4 tackles, 1 sack) was also very strong at the point of attack and actually played a good game when you consider his opponent was Tony Boselli. Jones beat a double-team on his sack and had a few other pressures on Mark Brunell. He made two strong back-to-back plays in the first half. First he hit Taylor in the backfield on a left-side carry; he then did a good job of sniffing out a screen pass and breaking down that play.
Rushing up the gut was equally frustrating for Jacksonville as DT Keith Hamilton (2 tackles, 0.5 sacks), DT Christian Peter (2 tackles), and DT/DE Cornelius Griffin (4 tackles, 0.5 sacks) completely shut things down aside from one Anthony Johnson 18-yard blast. Peter was particularly stout in short yardage situations, including the failed 2nd-and-1 and 3rd-and-1 consecutive efforts in the second quarter. Hamilton sees a lot of double-teams yet he is still disrupting running plays and getting into the backfield on the pass rush (he got close to Brunell a few times). Griffin is getting better and better. He shared half a sack with Hamilton and batted down two passes at the line of scrimmage – including one on 4th-and-5. What is surprising me most about him is that he is playing the run very well – something that was supposed to be a weakness of his coming out of college. His pass rush also forced Brunell to throw the ball away on 3rd-and-5.
Linebackers: Swarmed up front to stop Taylor. Mike Barrow (8 tackles) continues with his play-making ability by shooting gaps and hitting the back in the backfield. Jessie Armtead (5 tackles) was also very active in tracking down Taylor and he forced a fumble on Jacksonville’s first drive of the game. Armstead has now played five consecutive seasons with more than 100 tackles. Ryan Phillips (1 tackle) made a key interception on a deflected pass. The linebackers did a good job in coverage on TE Kyle Brady for the most part.
Defensive Backs: The Jaguars were not able to exploit the Giants downfield as much as I thought they would be able to. Much of this had to do with the fact that Defensive Coordinator John Fox decided not to blitz too much. But FS Shaun Williams (5 tackles) also deserves much of the credit with his highlight-reel, knockout hit on Pro Bowl WR Jimmy Smith. That is a hit that will be long remembered and may make some future opponents in the playoffs think twice before running across the middle of the defense exposed like that. Shaun was also noticeable in run support again with two forces on outside runs.
I thought the starting corners of Jason Sehorn (4 tackles) and Dave Thomas (5 tackles) did a great job. Sehorn was so good in coverage that you didn’t even notice him in the game. He got beat for the final touchdown, but he had very good coverage on the play. Thomas did play off the ball, but he was usually in position to make a play on the ball. Keenan McCardell did come up with a 17-yard pass on 3rd-and-15, but it was perfect route and throw between Thomas and SS Sam Garnes (some of Brunell’s completions were simply superb passes against solid coverage – give the other guy some credit too). Where he did get exposed was on a crossing pattern on 3rd-and-10 when he was left all alone with Reggie Barlow, who picked up 28 yards on the play.
The big battle for most of the game was between Keenan McCardell and Emmanuel McDaniel (6 tackles). McDaniel had his moments (such as breakup of a Brunell pass to Keenan on 3rd-and-12), but McCardell made a few catches against E-Mac. McDaniel got beat by McCardell on 3rd-and-4 for a first down in the third quarter. He also got beat for a first down on 2nd-and-10.
The big completion given up by the defense was on a strange play. For some reason, the defense let McCardell get behind it despite the fact that they were playing prevent. The deepest guys were Garnes and (very strangely) Pete Monty. McCardell out-leaped these two for a 50-yard completion and made the game far tighter than it should have been in the final moments. Where were the corners? Why was Pete Monty in the game? Garnes (6 tackles) then got beat by TE Kyle Brady for a touchdown to make it a 3-point game.
Special Teams: I really like the work that Damon Washington is doing on the coverage teams. Despite only joining the active roster a few weeks ago, Damon has rapidly become a headhunter on the kickoff and punt coverage units. Shaun Williams also was down the field in a hurry on one punt. The other guy who is really knocking some heads is Jack Golden. Reggie Stephens isn’t bad either. Their one breakdown came after the Giants’ third touchdown when they gave up a return that almost reached the 40-yard line.
The kicking game continues to be troublesome. PK Jaret Holmes wasn’t any better than PK Brad Daluiso on kickoffs. The squib quick after the Giants final score backfired as the Jaguars got the ball near mid-field. Brad Daluiso missed a 39-yard field goal with the wind at his back in a situation where the Giants were only up 14-10 in the fourth quarter. P Brad Maynard was not good – his five punts averaging less than 30 yards net.
A holding penalty on Emanuel McDaniel brought back a very good 22-yard punt return by Tiki Barber and completely changed the field position situation to start the drive. Tiki did make a bad decision to fair catch a punt where he had no one around him. Ron Dixon was never able to get it going on kick returns.
Jason Sehorn did a great job on the onside kick-off attempts. The first he fielded so cleanly that he was able to sprint 38 yards for a touchdown in the waning moments of the game. He also saved the day at the end with his second recovery.
DRANG NACH MACHT
by David Oliver
Yeah, I’m back. I’m harder to get rid of than Dick Nixon. Took my Christmas Sabbatical, didn’t have much to say about the Dallas game other than the offense sucked for 3 quarters, but the defense was awesome; and thanks once again Santa for the Tiki Man. Jax game was delicious. Traveled up Saturday morning in a happy frame of mind. Mom decided she was coming home for Christmas – it’s been several years since she felt up to the trip, so it was going to be like Christmas of old – and that was hard to beat. The G-Men topped it off with a special present. My Giants surprises under the tree this year were another Giant watch, real neat with a moving football, and a special Giants playoff cap – this one has a bulb behind the NY and it lights up, flashing a bright red – can’t wait to wear it for the playoffs. And my new Giants jacket, with the blue leather sleeves, NY on the front and GIANTS across the back. I feel really special wearing it around Washington these days – it’s amazing how many people look down or away – silently.
The locker room was extra crowded after the game and I am told it will be worse after each playoff game. It was a regular locker – no loud celebrating, no raucous behavior – just business as usual. But it is an interesting set of emotions in there. As most of you know, and some have come to gag on, football is more than a game for me. And as a Giants fan, it is not only a Zeitgeist, but a full blending of metaphysics and epistemology all wrapped in that shiny blue helmet. The past several weeks have heightened the reality of football as art and the Giants as the ultimate imagery of life imitating art. Stay with me as I explain.
To a man in that locker room, the Giant players have integrated two concepts into their vocabulary, their play books and their ethos of the game; they are TEAM and WILL. Almost a juxtaposition in a way, but blending very nicely under the tutelage of that new Germanic philosopher, Herr Fassel. That is why this title this week. First came TEAM. And TEAM is a softer form, more French in its essence than German. It brought me back to reading Teilhard Chardin – and what a comeuppance as I actually had to special order his works – at an exorbitant price, I might add. Chardin is the ultimate philosopher of TEAM, with his concept of the Noosphere, the convergence of spirit, the bonding of the many into one.
But WILL – WILL is the ultimate Germanic concept, a true Nietschkean, Wagnerian drive wheel. And this week I sensed WILL bonded to TEAM in the Giants locker room. Professor Lomas Brown was as his best in defining the ingredients in coming from behind. He talked about poise, execution and then said , “It’s will…You have to be willing to fight this man to the end, you have to make him work…” And EMac underscored this feeling when he told me, this team has “the will to win…”, that the players feed off each other.
I’m not sure how far this team will go in the playoffs; Ernie is building them on the premise of a 3 year run for the Super Bowl – this appears to be year 1 on the Gregorian calendar and year 2 on the Julian – either way, it is arriving a little early. But I like the team; I like the players; I like the feeling – it is a little too cerebral for the Mike Curtis throwbacks, but WILL can often forge Supermen, or in this case, a Super Team. And the sub theme is “hard work”; the Giants are committed to hard work and it reverberates through that locker. Jack Golden told me “you work with these guys the whole year (specials) and you have so many doubters saying we can’t get the job done…but we get it done and it feels good…(BUT) there’s room for improvement, a lot of room for improvement.” Jason Whittle said, “I’m going to work my tail off”, and Glen Parker said, “There’s a lot of hard work…guys are working hard.” EMac chimes in with his thoughts on both his contribution and the team’s success, telling me “hard work…the whole team together…” He told me he was recruited as a running back in college and had never played corner but he has kept “working on it and working on it…”
In forging this WILL, the entire team is conscious that they are not viewed as an upper echelon competitor, that there are nay sayers and detractors (probably a lot of them are secretly reading BBI, now the official residence of the Grinch), but as Parker said, “we’re winning; that’s what you have to do.” And Lomas Brown said, “Until we get there and accomplish our goal, we know we are going to have nay sayers.” But Lomas went on to say, that’s not all bad as “They keep you on your feet; never let you get overconfident; point out the little things, things you don’t see, they point out…”, so its not all bad.
The fans made their presence felt this week and it was appreciated by the players. So those of you who think the fans have no impact, the players on the field are acutely aware of what is happening up there, and they feel it is a necessary part of the game plan. Jason Garrett told me that the fans “make such a difference. Fans, I don’t think will ever realize how difficult it is on an offensive football team when they go to the line of scrimmage on 3rd down and try to communicate things, and they can’t because the crowd is involved, it’s loud; that makes a tremendous tactical difference in a football game. The fans were a huge part of the success today and obviously we have to keep going, they’ll definitely make a difference.” Ryan Phillips also hit on this point as I asked him if there was anything different in defending against Brunell. He started telling me, “Yes, he’s real smart. You saw today, he had a lot of audibles, he recognizes defenses really well…” I asked him about that play calling and opined that Brunell looked as if he were directing traffic back there today. Phillips said, “We had the crowd on our side, too, so he had a hard time audibiling; it looked like they were changing the play but it didn’t get to some guys, that’s what it looked like. The crowd was doing a good job being noisy when we needed them…” And, of course, Lomas Brown said there were three ingredients in home field advantage, “(Opponents) are going to have to deal with the crowd, they are going to have to deal with the weather; they are going to have to deal with the NY Giants.” The fans are at least one third of the way to Tampa. Then he said, “I heard them more than I heard them the whole season; it was awesome man; that’s what we need; they helped us, especially early because we were struggling a bit early…”
The players are aware of what they are doing and as Whittle told me, “We beat some pretty good teams this year, particularly later in the year. They come in here ready to play.” A lot came about after the specials debacle in the Detroit game (following which, even I, the perennial optimist felt as Peter must have when the Cock crowed thrice). Jack Golden told me, “Coach issued the challenge midway through the season, and even earlier in the season, for the special teams to pick it up, and for the most part we’ve risen to the occasion.” Lomas brown also talked about it and told several of us that after the Detroit game “it was one of the down points during the season…I was a little nervous about how we would respond the next week and we went out and responded and did what a championship team needs to do…” But why? Partly the guarantee. As Lomas said, “The guarantee; I’ve never had that before, Coach come out and guarantee you’re going to get there; that ranks way up there, the way this team turned it on. I think it was already there, we just needed something to get us over that hump and the Coach guaranteed everything and everyone focused in because we wanted…we didn’t want to let him down, it would have been letting him down because this man has meant so much to us…he’s taken so much for us, we didn’t want to let him down, and that’s what we’re trying to do; we want to make him look like a prophet…”
I talked to several players about the playoffs and home field. It’s interesting because we all consider the Meadowlands a tremendous advantage and many BBIers wish for nasty weather. But the Giants are not a real cold weather team, not like Buffalo or Green Bay, and the Giants appear to be a lousy wet weather team. It was interesting that several players said the footing was bad, the grass was slippery. Whittle told me because the footing was a little tough “it was hard to get any push in the run game.” So bad weather would clearly seem to favor a good passing team. But there are other intangibles. Jason Garrett told me, “The home crowd, the home environment for the players, we’re familiar with this locker room, the whole environment here at Giants Stadium; then the weather, the wind, all those things; your home works to your advantage.” And Professor Brown again: “Two games, only two games to get to the Championship…” Lomas said the differences between the playoffs and the regular season are “life and death, speed, intensity and execution…” He went on, “It’s sudden death, you’re out…you have to be able to execute; in the regular season it’s every game, in the playoffs, it’s every play. You have to be ready every play in the playoffs because one play can change the whole game around, give a team momentum, and take it away.”
Why am I spending so much time dwelling on the obvious? Partly because much of what these players have said is not obvious; partly because all of us here at BBI need to reflect now on a few things. Sudden death – very important. We are all mainlining football, and that’s Giants brand. We’ve made it past Christmas and are on Cloud Nine. But I remember the feeling of the last playoff game, against the Vikings. We were actually talking about what we would do in Green Bay, logistics, hotel, meals, etc. Then, KABOOM, it was over. Talk about Post Footballum Depression – suddenly, there was nothing. It was a cold, ugly January and the Giants were gone. What an empty feeling. So tuck away in one little corner of your brain that on the way to the Super Bowl, there is Sudden Death.
More importantly, the Giants are winning. Winning ugly, exposing some deficiencies, but winning. And a winner should never have to apologize. But as Lomas said, nay sayers see some things that aren’t seen by those close to the team. So we need to balance euphoria with a critical eye. The Rams and the Titans have mauled the Giants this year, the Vikings twice in the previous 3 years, once in the Meadowlands and late in the year. Does it mean they can come in to the Giants Stadium and do it again? Not necessarily. But they are very talented teams. Keep in mind, throughout this year we have said that the Giants will go as far as Kerry Collins will carry them. The same appears to be true for the Vikings, the Rams, throw in the Eagles and Tampa Bay. New Orleans has already lost their QB and running back and would have to be considered a longer shot than the Giants – talk about no respect for the G-Men.
So what about Kerry Collins? Many here have taken me to task because I have not anointed KC yet to the same status as Farve, Brunell, McNair, Montana, Young or Marino. True. Let me reiterate: he has, at times, terrible mechanics; his head often seems to disappear from the game; he locks on to his receiver; he throws wild passes; he does not have a fiery personality; and he sometimes appears to be a wuss under pressure. That is every bad thing I can think of about Kerry Collins. And despite all of those, he is a winner. He has said he is more comfortable as a system player and he is proving he can be very effective in the right system. His stats are sneakily very good, he is showing he can come from behind, and he has shown that he can miss 14 passes in a row, look terrible for a game, and still lead a winning drive when it is most needed. He has also shown that given a comfortable lead he will maintain a steady throttle and do enough not to relinquish a lead.
I asked Garrett about the conversations among the offensive brain trust on the field, seeking some insight into KC. Garrett told me, “We just try to have conversations about stuff that we see or whatever. It’s the hardest thing for a QB playing – you see less sometimes than people who are in the Press Box or on the sidelines – because you have your own thing that you are doing out there. You bring a certain perspective to it and then other people can help you. Kerry does a great job in allowing for those conversations to happen on the sidelines. If he asks a question of any of us, we just try to help him as best we can.” I also asked Garrett about Kerry’s inclination to play “fast” as Kerry had just said he did in Dallas. Garrett told me, “He’s obviously played so well this year and has a great deal of experience coming in and out of those situations when it happens to him. The only thing I’ve tried to do is, if he has a question about something, or if I see something on the field, I’ll try to help him there. The Dallas defensive line was really pushing and getting up the field so as a quarterback sometimes that forces you to play a little bit faster; but he was able to calm himself down…made some big throws at the end of that ball game.”
The Jax game was another textbook KC game. At times incredibly sharp, at times scary, at times receiving no help from Ike, the line or the running game. When he is in Roth, he throws an beautiful pass – tight spiral, perfect location, a QB’s QB. We were talking on the sidelines and I told one of the guys I was going to ask KC about the mechanics thing. Why does he continue to throw off his back foot at this time of the season? My conversational partner suggested I ask the QB Coach instead. So I’m going to stop holding KC completely at fault and ask Coach Fassel why they haven’t been able to correct these obvious mechanical faults – or are we just not seeing it right?
At any rate, I’m comfortable with Kerry Collins at QB for the playoffs, as long as Amani is healthy, Ike doesn’t have his obligatory two drops in tough situations, the line protects him and the running game gives him some help.
I asked Parker if he foresaw this when he came on board and he told me, “I don’t think you go into a team like that with that feeling, unless, it’s like the Washington Redskins – they’re bringing in the best free agents in the world. I looked – I always look at the schedule to see how you can win after you see the talent and I figured ‘yeah, we’re going to make the playoffs.’ I didn’t know we’d be this good, but that’s a credit to the type of people that are on this team and the resolve of the Coaches…you know, nobody gave us a chance 5 weeks ago – now look at us.”
Parker will play a critical role in how far the team goes in the playoffs. He is an amazing pulling guard, kind of an offensive Artie Donovan – he’s not chiseled, he’s got some mileage on him, but he is a warrior, and he is the only legitimate pulling guard on the roster. He’s been there 4 times and you can tell he’s starting to get that feeling. When a guy like Parker buys into “it” then wonderful things can happen.
In the Jax game, the running game was Tiki. The Great Dayne was a non factor again. I have watched closely when he carries the ball and I have looked at photos from past games in an attempt to understand what is happening. It’s not easy to explain. It is late in the year and he has played longer than ever before – he may have hit the rookie wall. He played on Astro turf in College and the Giants in another inexplicable move, drafted a carpet runner just as they switched to grass. The grass is slippery and as Whittle said, it appeared difficult to get any push. Last, the level of competition has gone up as the season has progressed. There’s nothing to be said for Jax but how about the playoffs. Dayne should be a factor against the Rams. He will be rested, the Rams defense is not as tough as the Saints, Parker should be healthy. I would expect his contribution to be negligible against the Saints who are a more aggressive run defense, except for the Denver game when the Broncos offensive line mauled them.
Against Jax, Tiki gave it all up and kept the game within reach until the last quarter explosion. Tiki is a legitimate star, all purpose back. Two weeks rest will help him. Sean Payton needs to look closely at the tape of the Bucs/Rams game. Tiki brings as much as Dunn to the table.
The passing game in the Jax game was Amani Toomer, with 8 catches for 193 yards. One was lucky as the defender slipped but Amani has more speed than opposing defenses think. He used to be called a long strider, but he has blown past his coverage on several occasions this year. Ike had 2 critical drops, one on a difficult but catchable necessary pass. But he had a couple of nice catches, 1 for a score. Tiki chipped in 4 and Greg Comella another 4, only 1 of which was really successful. The Giants did try to sneak him down field and they need to keep this up. Greg should be in the game plan. Pete Mitchell had one catch and has become as forgotten as Howard Cross in this offense. Inexplicable. 39 passes. Not your father’s December Giants. P.S. Statistically, KC (22-of-39 for 321) was slightly better than Brunell(23-of-41 for 262). Both QBs threw an interception, both had 2 TDs, both had a long pass over 50 yards.
Defense is the Giants game. Freddie Taylor ran his mouth a little, and the Giants acknowledged they were a little unhappy. Both Phillips and Strahan remarked that he seemed to have “left the game” and they took some satisfaction from his lack of success. As Phillips said of the remarks, “It’s hard not to take it personally. That’s just how it is in this League. There are guys that talk and guys that go out and do it. I just want to be one of those guys that go out and do it – anybody can talk.” Ryan is one of the most improved players out there. It is interesting to watch him calling out positions during the audibles – his coverage is getting better and it will not be so easy for Short to take that position next year. He had an interception against Jax. Strahan had 4 tackles and also talked about Taylor. He said the Giants focused on stopping him and “he had the one big run and after that, he disappeared. I couldn’t figure out where he went.” MS said Brunell had some success throwing which made it interesting at the end and talked about Shawn Williams pounding the receivers, saying “that was the intent…we’ve got 4 safeties back there, our 4 safeties made sure when they came up that they put a hit on them…” On Shawn: “That’s the way he hits; he’s a big guy; he has a knack for doing things like that. That’s uplifting for a defense whenever your safeties can unload like that…”
Strahan also said that this was the first TEAM he had played on, everyone contributing and talking about the faith in the offense he said “because of the experience we had last week, it made guys realize, hang in there, the offense is going to come around and make something happen…and all of a sudden they had a big point explosion and we realize they are potent…maybe during the warm up we’ve got to get out there and scrimmage for about 30 minutes before the game starts in order for them to get some rhythm.”
Barrow contributed 8 combined tackles, Garnes had 6 (although out of position on the long pass by Brunell), Emac another solid 6, then Jessie, Thomas, Williams had 5 each. MS, Griffin, CJ and Sehorn added 4 each. Hamilton and Peter were relatively quiet as it was mostly an aerial show. No one ran up the middle and Taylor’s one long run was a bounce out when the middle was clogged – Barrow was angry with himself on that play. CJ had a sack and Hamilton and Griffin had half each. Notwithstanding the final score, the D played well throughout.
The Giants had a big time of possession advantage, holding the ball for over 34 minutes. They had possession for 14 drives, punting 5 times (2 inside 20). They missed a field goal, lost it twice on downs, 1 interception, once at the end of the game and scored on 4 drives. They marched 58, 75 and 55 yards on 3 TDs and Jason Sehorn ran back an onside kick by Jax for a TD. Two long drives (65 yards, 9 plays and 70 yards,12 plays) ended in loss by downs.
My biggest regret – I was at the far end of the bench waiting for the Gatorade dunk when Toomer and Sehorn scored – then at the other end when the Gatorade was tipped: 0-for-3. That’s it for Jax. Now, as I asked Lomas Brown, are you ready for some football?