Denver Broncos 31 – New York Giants 20

Game Overview: I wasn’t optimistic heading into this game given the fact that the Broncos would be pumped to open their brand new stadium on Monday night with a win. Like the Giants did in the NFC Championship Game, the Broncos brought out their team legends as well and this only fueled the fire. When it announced that CB Jason Sehorn would not play, New York’s fate seemed sealed.

The defense for the Giants was atrocious – giving almost 500 yards in offense and the most yardage in a game since 1988. So much for the vaunted defense! Some of the problems had to do with the fact that QB Brian Griese had a very hot hand. Much had to do with problems at cornerback with rookie Will Peterson and journeyman Dave Thomas struggling mightily. However, I felt that Head Coach Mike Shanahan of the Broncos also called a wonderful game and out-coached Defensive Coordinator John Fox. Most disappointing was the play of the defensive line and linebackers.

Offensively, there were some very good drives and plays, but the Giants started off slowly and could not keep pace with the red hot Broncos. There were too many breakdowns on the offensive line that helped to stall drives as well.

Giants on Special Teams: P Rodney Williams was the clear star of the game for the Giants. Incredibly, he averaged over 55 yards a punt on eight punts! He had a 90-yard punt that traveled almost 70 yards in the air. In addition, there was a 68-yarder and numerous 50+ yarders. Williams not only hit for distance, but got great height and did a good job placing the ball. On one punt, he even was in on the tackle. The Giants did not do a good job in protecting him on one occasion where a rusher was allowed to come right up the middle and almost blocked the punt. The big negative on Williams was his inability to field the snap on the Giants’ last extra point try.

Punt coverage was terrible on the punt right after the Giants’ goal line stand. Emmanuel McDaniel got out of his lane and missed the returner. This led to a 26-yard pick-up and put the Broncos in great field position on their first touchdown drive.

Owen Pochman played and did well on his first two kick-offs. One went deep into the endzone for a touchback and the other landed at the one-yard line. However, his third kick was a terrible low, line-driver. Kick-off coverage was below average on the one kick sent to the one yard line.

The Giants return game was not impressive. Ron Dixon doesn’t appear to be in sync with his blockers. He’s reverted back to last year’s regular season form in that he is not attacking directly up the field. Tiki Barber held onto the ball, but could not break one.

Defensive Line: In the first half, the Giants’ run defense was pretty stout as New York held Terrell Davis to only 27 yards on 12 carries. However, the Giants wore down badly in the second half and, in my opinion, embarrassed themselves with some of the sloppiest run defense I’ve seen the Giants ever play. Quite frankly, it looked like the team gave up. The defensive line had much to do with this poor play (as did the linebackers). The pass rush was even worse as it was lacking in the first and second halves. Oh there were brief glimpses of potential, but nothing to alter the outcome of the game. Here are the particulars:

DE Michael Strahan was pretty active early despite being obviously held on a few occasions. He had one strong pass rush on Denver’s first drive where he forced Griese to unload the ball early on 3rd down. His run defense was pretty strong too as the Broncos weren’t able to do much damage to his side on the ground. On Denver’s second TD drive, Strahan was obviously held by the right tackle on an important Griese scramble, but the officials never threw the flag (there were a few very bad calls like this on the Giants that had an impact on the game in the first half). But Strahan was not much of factor on the pass rush and by the fourth quarter his stout run defense was disappearing. Mike Anderson’s TD run came on his side and he was effectively taken out of the play.

DE Kenny Holmes did not play well. He was not a factor at all as a pass rusher and his run defense was up and down. At times, he was very stout on his side and jammed things up. But there were other times where he was taken out of the play or took himself out of the play. What made matters worse was that the linebackers to his side often didn’t make the play either in these situations.

Inside I thought Cornelius Griffin played a bad game against the run. When facing the double-team, he was often shoved back a few yards right into the other linebackers – effectively taking them out of the play as well. He also jumped off-sides twice. Where he did flash in run defense was pursuit – but he was not strong at the point-of-attack. Aside from a few pass rushes (two coming near the end of the first half), Griffin didn’t make much noise in the pass rush department. Neither did Keith Hamilton. Keith was flagged for a terrible offsides penalty where it was clear that the quarterback moved. But there was another time where he did jump. Hamilton made some plays in run defense, but was surprisingly quiet on the pass rush.

Linebackers: Were these guys ever on the field? Why did they bother to fly to Denver in the first place? Terrible. Embarrassing. Got fooled too much by misdirection by a team known for it. Weren’t aggressive and didn’t make any plays.

My first finger will point at Jessie Armstead. I’m real glad the Giants didn’t give him more money in the offseason because he has done squat in the preseason and first regular season game. Jessie was pretty much invisible as he was effectively handled too often against the run. For example, on the Broncos’ second drive, Kenny Holmes got clobbered on the outside and Denver blockers shielded both Armstead and Mike Barrow from the ball carrier who was heading to the left sideline for a good gain. Then Jessie was beat badly on the wide reverse on Denver’s first TD drive. He got faked out of his shoes on the play. Most distressful was his poor coverage against the tight ends – getting beat twice including on a deeper pass. The only plays I can remember him making was one against a draw that he stuffed and the play where he combined to Barrow to keep the fullback out of the endzone on 4th-and-goal.

Mike Barrow was also very disappointing. Aside from a few plays against the run, he was taken out of too many plays. On the first TD, either Barrow or Shaun Williams probably should have been covering the fullback. Brandon Short didn’t have a good game either. He was flagged for holding on the second TD drive. On Mike Anderson’s TD run, he was effectively pushed down the field about five yards by the tight end. That isn’t supposed to happen to the strongside linebacker. Earlier in the drive, both Short and Holmes had overrun the play where Davis cut back against the grain for a big 26-yard gainer that pretty much took the Giants out of the game. The only bright spot I can recall was the play where he broke up a short pass in the 4th quarter.

Defensive Backs: The corners did not play well, but they were also fell victim to (1) a hot passer who constantly threw the ball to the right man and (2) no pass rush. Unfortunately for the Giants, there was no way that Dave Thomas and Will Peterson could BOTH be given help on EVERY play and thus one of these two was usually out there on an island. Griese took advantage of that. But it was also shocking to me to see plays where Thomas was locked up on Ed McCaffrey all alone with no safety help even in the picture. Thomas had a bad game. There were plays where he was cleanly beaten by the moves of McCaffrey and plays where he had good coverage, but never made a play on the ball. He got beat badly by McCaffrey on the second touchdown and despite good coverage on the TD pass to Rod Smith, he never turned around to play the ball. After that, he was benched in favor of Will Allen.

Will Peterson had problems covering Pro Bowler Rod Smith. The good news is that he didn’t seem to be intimidated or back-down. Also, he had good coverage on some of the plays against him, but like Thomas, never played the ball. Peterson was not burned deep until late. Most of the time he kept everything in front of him. Early on Smith caught a pass in front of him, but Peterson made a sure tackle. But he later got beat to the inside on a slant where Shaun Williams saved a long touchdown with a sure tackle. On the second TD drive, Smith caught a short pass, but was able to stiff arm Peterson to the ground and pick up good yardage. In the 4th quarter, he teamed up with Sam Garnes to break-up a pass in the endzone (a real nice play by Peterson). He was the man covering Kennison on his long reception on 3rd-and-1 despite very good coverage – the problem was that he never turned back to knock the ball down.

Emmanuel McDaniel got burned badly by McCaffrey on one play, but luckily the play was brought back due to a penalty. Will Allen played once Thomas was benched and looked good. He broke up a pass on 3rd-and-7 with an aggressive hit. He had tight coverage on Rod Smith on a short slant caught for nine yards. He then perfectly defended a deep throw very late.

Shaun Williams was active in the first half as blitzer and was a big factor in disrupting the early running game, including down on the goalline. He also crushed McCaffrey coming over the middle and ended his season. Sam Garnes had one early big hit, but had his share of bad plays. He missed two tackles on the last TD drive, including one on the 26-yarder by Davis and the TD run by Anderson. The holding penalty called on him against the tight end was bullcrap – the tight end was illegally blocking him downfield.

Quarterback: Decent game for Kerry Collins (19-of-34 for 258 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions), but he was out-played by Brian Griese. Collins was not aided at times by some sporadic pass protection. On the first drive, Collins tried to squeeze the ball into double-coverage on 3rd-and-8, but missed and the Giants went 3-and-out. On the third drive of the game – the Giants’ first TD drive – Collins hit Joe Jurevicius for a first down on 3rd-and-2. He slightly underthrew Jurevicius on the flea flicker that should have resulted in a TD, but he came right back and threw an absolutely perfect pass to Amani Toomer for a 43-yard touchdown – a great play.

On the very next drive, Collins slightly underthrew Jurevicius again deep on play that should have resulted in a TD – but I also thought Jurevicius could have still caught the ball. What Collins did do well is when the play wasn’t there, he threw the ball away. He didn’t force things. I also liked the way he looked off the safety on a few plays. On the Giants’ last drive of the first half, Ron Dixon dropped a perfectly thrown slant on 3rd-and-6.

The second half started off with a great drive. Collins hit Jurevicius for a first down on 3rd-and-11. He then threw a beautiful touch pass over the linebacker for a 40-yard catch-and-carry by Tiki Barber. Then came a nice screen to Greg Comella and a rocket fired to Amani Toomer on a rollout on 3rd-and-1 for a touchdown.

The next drive was hampered by a penalty, a forced throw by Collins into double coverage, and a missed blitz pick-up resulting in a sack. On the third drive of the second half, Collins was sacked on 3rd-and-2 when no one got open. The next two drives also went nowhere with the pass protection becoming shakier and Collins getting a bit more flustered. The last drive came against the prevent defense. Collins was hit on the first play, but managed to throw an intermediate pass to Thabiti Davis for a first down. Kerry then threw an amazing pass to Jurevicius on a forced rollout that was dropped. On 3rd-and-10, he hit Dixon for a first down and then found Jurevicius over the middle in traffic. The drive was finished up with a TD pass to TE Marcellus Rivers.

Wide Receivers: Amani Toomer (5 for 78 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Joe Jurevicius (5 for 76 yards) played well. However, Jurevicius did drop one pass and I thought he could have made a play on the ball on the second deep one from Collins. His catch in traffic over the middle on the final drive was an excellent play however. He immediately followed that up by breaking a tackle on a slant.

Ron Dixon made a fine leaping reception on the last drive against the sideline, but dropped a key pass on 3rd-and-6 on the final drive before the first half. Thabiti Davis made a very nice catch in traffic to start off the last drive.

Tight Ends: When I watched them, I thought Howard Cross and Dan Campbell blocked well (though I did see Campbell get knocked on his butt one time). Campbell and Glenn Parker did a good job of leading Dayne on a run to the right for 10 yards. Marcellus Rivers made a fine reception for a TD despite a tough hit from the linebacker.

Running Backs: Ron Dayne (6 carries for 30 yards) played well like he did in the preseason. He picked up 11 yards on a draw play that he almost broke for bigger yardage. He also did a good job of running through the tackle on 3rd-and-1 (something he didn’t do last year).

Tiki Barber had one very nice 16-yard burst up the middle, but seemed to have problems with his footing most of the night and eventually changed his shoes. He got stuffed on 3rd-and-2 on the drive right after the Giants’ first TD and that hurt – the Giants were moving the ball then.

Offensive Line: Up and down. There were times when Collins was afforded superb pass protection and other times when he got pressured and sacked. Same story with the run blocking. This group probably is still a bit rusty from not playing all together in the preseason.

LG Glenn Parker didn’t play very well at times. He missed his man in pass protection on the first drive and this forced Collins to get rid of the ball in a hurry. That play came against Chester McGlockton. He later had problems with Leon Lett. OC Dusty Zeigler got beaten badly by a tackle on the second drive and Dayne was tackled as soon as he got the ball for a 4-yard loss. Luke Petitgout then missed his man on a cut block on the very next play on an attempted screen pass. Lomas Brown missed a cut block in the second half and Tiki Barber was caught from behind.

The most upsetting play was when the Broncos sacked Collins with a 3-man rush when Petitgout got beat to the inside and Ron Stone didn’t help out quickly enough. That came on 3rd-and-10 on the Giants’ second to last drive.

All in all, the line did not play poorly and certainly did not lose the game. But there were enough mistakes to help stall drives.

Mile High Letdown

by David Oliver

So how do you start a review of a game played over a week ago and before the events of the Tuesday morning following? I would not write a report except for the merciful call to honor by just plain Eric (as distinguished from Eric of BBI). Like most of you, I have not recovered fully from the shock, the loss of life, the loss of an icon. Sadly, although an icon can be rebuilt – life can never be replaced. Although not a religious person, I believe in a merciful God. I have asked that God over and over this week to wrap the bereaved in that mercy. My wife works in the shadow of a CIA building and her firm works closely with Oracle. One Oracle rep was on a plane, and seven were in the Trades at the time of the attack. None survived. The ripple effect doesn’t stop. Saturday morning we were having breakfast together – not a common thing – and we were talking of the TV coverage, of the marvelous bravery of the deceased, the survivors and those covering the event. She started telling me of an interview with one of the survivors, a woman who was recalling leaving the building and passing a group of firemen on the stairs. She told me the woman said the thing she would never forget was that they all had blue eyes. At that, my wife broke down and cried. Like Mostafa in L.A.’s grandmother, I have only seen my wife cry four times in 34 years.

Saturday night we went out to a local Iranian restaurant. We both wanted to make a statement to our friends that they were Americans and should feel safe. I asked one of the fellows taking orders how they were coping and the look he gave me was one of immense sorrow. They weren’t coping any better than us, so it was a fitting that WE spent Saturday night together. And that flag, that beautiful flag has been flying proudly. We have been putting a flag out for many years and this year my wife found an electric flag and red, white and blue rope lights. They shone on the 4th of July, Labor Day, and every night since Tuesday. Now many of you don’t believe in displaying the flag and I don’t have a problem with that. But let me share a couple of very small experiences I had. Both were in Mexico. I was involved in some negotiations in Mexico City on July 4, 1993. Our hosts felt badly that we had to work on “our Nation’s birthday”. There were American flags on the table, and everywhere we went. Notes were slipped under our hotel room door, with the flag on them and wishing us a joyous day. The funny thing is that we couldn’t get into the American Embassy for the party that night – only the “important” were invited. We negotiated from 9 a.m to 3:30 a.m. And those American flags never left the table. The next was on a subsequent trip, a friend and I were touring the Castillo-Maximilian’ s Palace, which is now a museum. We were going from room to room, and we heard some school girls giggling in a side room. We walked in, facing a glass case. In that case was an American Flag which had been taken in the conquest of the Alamo. I looked in disbelief, then horror, then sadness. I later wrote in a farewell talk that at that moment I knew how the Roman Legions felt on hearing of the capture of Varius’ Eagle. It is written that they cried. A Flag isn’t much – it’s a piece of dyed cloth – but to me, to us, it is a symbol of all that is wonderful in the world, of all this country has bestowed on my family. So we fly the Flag here.

I was just reading a thread in The Corner Forum discussing the structural collapse of the buildings, how one fell like a tree and one imploded, of the shafts and the steel beams. It seemed to me to be somewhat similar to the Giants game against Denver. Unlike many of you, I came away from that game with few good feelings. It was eerily reminiscent of those teams of the late seventies – good for 50 minutes of football, fighting valiantly, then collapsing and losing. It was too similar to the loss to the Ravens, with one major difference, Kerry Collins didn’t buckle, the defense did. Coach Denny Marcin warned me at the close of camp that he hadn’t seen the front four play together at one time, so he wasn’t sure what to expect. Well, he knows now. I have to wonder if Kenny Holmes’ knee isn’t still bothering him big time, because he was a non-factor, all night. More disappointing was that his mates finally just gave out. I’m not sure how I want to do this, position by position, or set by set- so let’s look at the plays.

Giants First D – Hamilton penetration, from the right tackle spot, Grif jumped, the receiver slipped, then Strahan got a good rush. Punt. Giants First O – Tiki to the left side, a pass pressure from the left, Parker missed his block, then good protection but the pass high over JJ. Rush on the punt, but a boomer, 58 yards.

Giants Second D – Pass complete, Peterson made a shoestring tackle; Davis for a 1st, long count, bad call by the refs, beautiful pass over the middle to Rod Smith who cleanly beat Peterson. Run up the middle, Pass to McCaffrey who beat Thomas. Blitz, but Smith came out of the backfield for a 1st. Davis turned the corner on a good run as Holmes was caught inside and there was no support. Strahan tackled Davis. S. Williams blitzes and stops Davis in the backfield. Then, no pressure, McCaffrey beats Thomas. Anderson goes up the middle, Grif gets no movement off his man. Williams again in the backfield. 3rd and goal – stopped; 4th and goal, stopped.

The battle of field position looks ugly. There are two bad calls against the Giants. KC to Toomer at the 8, Dayne stopped in the backfield as big Chester McGlockton beats Ziegler, Tiki was rocked and knocked down by Bertram Berry. Another good Williams punt of 54 yards, and again no real coverage to speak of.

Denver on the 34 – looks like the Super Bowl. Griese fake and toss to Smith for a 1st, but illegal contact, a reverse goes for 17, Holmes makes the tackle downfield. Davis stopped at the goal by Hammer and Peterson. Beautiful fake and pass to Patrick Hape. No Giants in sight. 7-0.

Dixon takes the kick to the 26. KC to Comella, Dayne for a couple, pass to JJ for a 1st, Tiki up the middle for 16, flea flicker knocked down, Tiki trips over Parker, nice fake, good protection, perfect pass to Toomer, 43 yards TD. Giants 7 – Denver 7. It looks like a game. The nice thing is that the Giants O answered.

Pokemon puts kick to the goal, but no one runs down there again and it’s out to the 29. Defensive holding on Short. Dennis Miller interjects he’s beginning to like these refs as they are not too hung up on the rules. Davis stopped at the line, Grif is feisty; out pass to Smith, who stiff arms Peterson and its off to the races. Then a play fake and Griese run, Davis gains 8, Davis for 2, Griese to McCaffrey over Thomas. Broncos 14 – Giants7.

The Giants take over on the 16, KC to Toomer for 8, Dayne for the 1st, Bronco blitz but Dayne goes over tackle for another 1st. KC to JJ for another 1st, pitch to Tiki, nice cut out, 8 yards. KC fake, nice throw, incomplete to JJ. Barber met in the hole. Angle punt to the 11 yard line.

Griese throws to the tight end for a 1st, Davis runs, Griese to Smith, tackle by Jessie, 1st down Flare to Smith, again Jessie. Hard count, Hamilton jumps. Anderson tackled by Strahan. Grif finally breaks through and makes a hit. Broncos punt. Giants take over, good protection, no one open, KC throws it away. Tiki for 6, KC fires to Dixon, incomplete. Punt – this one not so good. Denver takes over. First passed is tipped, incomplete, pass to McCaffrey, great moves. The hands to face on O-Line. Then Davis runs, Jessie tackles him. It’s third and 21 and Griese completes a pass to McCaffrey. Denver attempts a 65 yard FG- just wide. Giants come out and try a 63 yard FG but there is a high snap and Pokemon pulls it left.

Halftime. Considering the bad field position, the rough calls by the officials and the lack of pressure by the defense, this is not bad. It gets better as the Giants come out in the 3rd. Tiki for 0, Tiki loses 1; KC gets time, hits JJ for a 1st. Dayne nothing, KC to Tiki for a big gain (44yards). Comella on a screen to the 12. Pass to Toomer for a TD but it looks as if he stepped out. The Giants don’t have a clue on clock management and not only fail to line up and kick the extra point, they muff it with a penalty giving Denver enough time to challenge the TD. The refs in a make up call, give the Giants the TD. It is now 14 – 14.

At this point Terrell Davis has the gaudy numbers of 12 rushes for 27 yards. Then Griese to McCaffrey, a false start, Griese to McCaffrey, 1 handed grab and end of season as Shaun Williams puts a patented Phil in L.A. hit on him. Williams also down. Davis goes around end, breaks it, then he goes over Guard for 4, then Smith over Thomas, TD, so long Dave Thomas, we hardly got to know you. Broncos 21 – Giants 14.

Giants – Busted play, KC for 2, Tiki outside, flag, illegal formation, KC long throw into the void, Romanowski comes in, untouched, and renews his acquaintance with KC The Giants secret weapon cranks a 90 yard punt, boy I’ll bet he hated to leave Denver.

The next series is nothing for either team, punts boomed back and forth. Will Allen is now in the game and looks fast. Tiki is obviously gassed.. Griese is now 16-of-21, there is not much pressure in the middle, Kenny Holmes is making CJ look good. Oops next series, Griese is now 18 of 25. The score is Broncos 24 – Giants 14.

Fourth quarter and we are still hopeful. Dixon takes the kick to the 24, Tiki for 2, KC on a scramble and slide, KC pass batted into the air, he catches it himself, run Kerry, run. Punt – finally get one covered. Denver – fumbled snap but Broncos recover, perfect slant pass, Allen running in-stride and makes the tackle. Long pass to Eddie Kennison over Peterson at the sidelines, Davis cuts back, no pursuit, Garnes misses tackle. Anderson for the TD, Garnes again missed. Now 31 to 14, the G Men are gassed, this thing is out of hand.

Giants get ball, KC to Tiki short, KC to Tiki short, movement on the D, 1st down, KC to Tiki, inc, KC to Davis, Inc. KC sacked- 5 blockers, 3 rushers. Rodney punts 68 yards.

The Giants D comes on the field for the 10th time. Davis for a couple, Davis through a big hole, lousy tackling, Carswell gets in the act for a long gain, Finally Barrow stops Anderson, Strahan makes a stop, Grif jumps, long pass, Allen right there. Davis is now up to 102 yards rushing and heads to the bench. Rodney Williams has punted 8 times. The Giants O shows life. KC to Thabiti Davis, then an incompletion, the Broncos jump twice, then JJ drops a pass, Dixon makes a leaping catch, JJ takes a big hit and holds on for a nice catch. JJ again, catch and run. Marcellus Rivers gets his first TD. Juggled snap, missed extra point, 31 to 20 Broncos

The Giants D gives up the most yardage since 1988.

Observations – It looked as if the Giants were still in preseason mode. Considering Tiki hasn’t played, the defensive line hasn’t take a snap together in some time, Sehorn is missing, and they played in Denver, how hard should we be on them? The offense showed it could move the ball, but Sean Payton failed to utilize Dayne effectively again. Terrell Davis did nothing for three quarters – the Giants were up to the task- in the 4th, he ran all over them. This is the type of game Dayne needs – 20 to 25 touches. It’s not only Dayne that needs to establish rhythm, so does the line. Tiki was in the game way beyond what he should have been. He should have been rested after the half. Damon Washington could have given him some much needed rest. Parker missed an early block, but got stronger as the game progressed. I think he will be ready for the next game. The rest of the offensive line did their job for the most part. Kerry looked very good, Amani was on his game, JJ did ok. The Giants need to utilize the tight end more, or Comella more. Thabiti Davis showed some good stuff late in the game.

The defense – Never looked ready. There were some good stops early, but Kenny Holmes was almost a handicap. He has to be still hurting. Switching Hammer and Grif didn’t help. MS played a decent game but was obviously frustrated as he kept getting held and the refs ignored it. Barrow was the only LB who looked good, at least for some of the game. Brandon got a good schooling and Jessie was late to the party when he did show. The corners were terrible. I think Thomas sealed his fate by playing as bad a game as he could play. Peterson is a gamer, he is tough, he was no match for Rod Smith, who beat him, pushed him and made him look like a rookie. He is going to be good, but he wasn’t. Will Allen impressed me more. He showed good speed and stayed with breaking receivers. He must learn position as he was behind the ball a lot, but at least he knew where he was. Garnes missed tackles, Williams didn’t. Rodney Williams showed a big time leg. Pokemon can kick off. There is still no cover team. When Tiki gets up to game speed, and if the Giants figure out how to use Dayne consistently, the offense will be just fine.

There are suddenly many questions about the D. Is Holmes ok? Can Grif stop the run? Has Jessie lost a step? How fast can Brandon Short get it together? Will Sehorn get a full season in? Is Sam Garnes strictly a sea-level player? John Fox usually rebounds after a horrendous defensive game. I look for big things this week.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Denver Broncos, September 10, 2001)