Oct 172001
 
St. Louis Rams 15 – New York Giants 14

Game Overview: The officials didn’t lose this game for the Giants – the Giants did. Only one-third of the team bothered to show up on Sunday and it is a testament to the ferocity and tenacity of the defense that the Giants could have still won the game if the officiating was not a factor.

Let me be blunt. Kerry Collins has not elevated his game like I thought he would. In some ways, he may have regressed. Same story with Amani Toomer. The offensive line is also too inconsistent. I don’t give a rat’s ass that the Giants moved the ball well at times against the Rams. The simple truth isn’t the offense didn’t score enough points. Only being able to manage 14 points against a mediocre defense despite the number of times the defense kept getting the ball back for them is nauseating. I’m still mad and I if I were a member of the offensive unit, I don’t know if I could look my defensive teammates in the eyes right now.

Based on the peformance of the first five games of the season, the Giants are not a championship-caliber team. I firmly believe that to be so, at least two of the three units (defense, offense, and special teams) must be excellent to above-average. The Giants have got a very good defense, a mediocre offense, and average special teams (and I’m being generous there only due to the improvements in the kicking game). Unless the Giants can improve on offense and/or special teams – and fast – then they are going to have trouble winning the NFC East.

But if the Giants can improve in these areas, I’d love to see a re-match against the Rams in January. It would be nice if the Giants brought their offense with them the next time they played.

Quarterback: I keep hearing fans complaining about Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton. To me, that sounds like scape-goating. Payton has made mistakes and isn’t perfect – he’s still a very young guy. But it is not Payton who is making the mistakes on the field – it is the offensive players.

Everyone knows the quarterback is the key. He can make those around him look better or worse than they are. Brett Farve’s surrounding talent is no better than the Giants, but Farve elevates the play of those around him with superior play. Collins is simply too damn inconsistent. I thought he would begin to outgrow that in 2001 with another year under his belt in the Giants’ system. Now I wonder if he can ever play the type of consistently superior play that is necessary to earn a Super Bowl ring. The problem is – for better or worse – the Giants are stuck with Collins. There is no time to groom another quarterback. Michael Strahan, Keith Hamilton, Jessie Armstead, and Jason Sehorn are too old.

What really bothered me against the Rams was the regularity that Collins threw into double coverage. Even my wife yelled at the TV at one point, “Why is he throwing into double coverage?” Collins is either (1) becoming too focused on the primary receiver, (2) trusting his ability to throw an incredibly accurate pass more than he should, (3) not seeing the whole field, and/or (4) becoming too impatient in the pocket.

Now someone can say the offensive line needs to give him more time. Guess what? No one in the NFL has perfect pass protection. Breakdowns occur. The great ones make plays when there is chaos all around them. Collins makes these plays sometimes (including against the Rams), but not enough. Not enough.

On the first offensive play of the game, Collins forced the ball to a double-covered Amani Toomer. The ball fell incomplete. On 3rd-and-2, he did a good job of hitting Greg Comella in the flat for a first down. Then came one of his two beautiful passes of the day – a perfectly thrown post-corner pass to Amani Toomer for big yardage that set up the first touchdown. Great – “Collins is on,” I said to myself.

Next drive, Collins missed Toomer on the sideline. On 3rd-and-3, Collins does a good job of rolling right and hitting Joe Jurevicius for good yardage. Nice play. Then the protection started to break down. Collins took too long on a slow-developing deep play-action play, Zeigler couldn’t hold his block and Collins was sacked. On 3rd-and-11, the left side of the offensive line couldn’t handle a stunt and Kerry was forced to throw the ball quickly to the short receiver. Punt.

Next drive. Collins hits Jurevicius over the middle for 17. Again, nice play. He then finds Jurevicius again for a first down on 2nd-and-10. Here we go!!! But then Collins misses Toomer again on the sideline. After a penalty, on 3rd-and-12, both tackles couldn’t handle the outside rush and Collins was sacked. This drive was aborted as much by the offensive line as anything.

Next drive. 2nd-and-7, Collins pressured, ball falls incomplete. 3rd-and-7 – slant pass incomplete. Punt.

Final drive of the half. Collins tosses short to Ron Dayne for nine yards. After Dayne carries for a first down, Collins then hits Toomer on a slant for another first down. On 3rd-and-11, Collins makes a fine play by hitting Jurevicius for a first down. Things are moving again. On 3rd-and-4, another slant to Toomer for a first down. Drive stalls when Damon Washington drops a pass on 3rd-and-9 for what would have been a first down. Good drive by Collins and not a bad overall first half.

Third quarter and this is where my problems with Collins really arise. He took most of the damn quarter off. You can’t do that against a team like the Rams. First play, Collins once again tries to force the ball deep to Amani Toomer against double-coverage. Incomplete. 3rd-and-11, Collins is forced to roll out when Glenn Parker gives up a pressure. Ball falls incomplete. Three-and-out despite the fine field position provided by the defense after an interception.

But the Giants get the ball back after forcing a fumble. This is one of the big potential turning points of the game. Collins throws to Toomer again against double coverage and the ball is intercepted. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Two turnovers forced by our defense, excellent field positoin both times – no points. Unacceptable!!!

Third drive. 2nd-and-11 – short catch by Comella. 3rd-and7 – the slant pass is thrown slightly behind Jurevicius and he drops it. 3-and-out. Great going offense!

Fourth drive. Collins hit Jurevicius for approximately 16 yards on 2nd-and-6. Finds Comella for six yards on 2nd-and-10. On 3rd-and-4, the pass falls out-of-bounds as Toomer runs a go route too close to the sidelines. (Collins seems intent on forcing the ball to Toomer). Punt again.

Fifth drive. The best play of the game for Collins. Despite outside pressure coming from both ends, Collins steps up into the pocket and fires a perfect pass on a corner-post route to Hilliard for a touchdown on 3rd-and-18. Too bad there wasn’t more of this on Sunday.

Sixth drive after another turnover. The Giants could have put the game away here. Dayne aborts this drive with a dumb personal foul penalty. On 3rd-and-16, Lomas Brown can’t handle Grant Wistrom and the ball falls incomplete. Punt.

Rams score to take lead after the Giants’ offense continually wasted opportunity after opportunity in the second half to put the game away. Things are real serious now and the offense must respond. Lomas Brown jumps. Collins scrambles for some yardage. On 3rd-and-6, Collins badly overthrows Ike Hilliard. The Giants punt and the Rams get the ball back with 2:33 left. Way to go guys!!!

Unbelievably, the defense holds and the offense gets the ball back with 2:00 left. After two nice throws to Hilliard and the Giants entering game-winning field goal range, Collins hits Jurevicius on a slant, but he is rocked and the ball is turned over. Game over. Pathetic.

This offense is supposed to win a championship?

Wide Receivers: After lighting it up on opening night against Denver, Amani Toomer (3 catches for 61 yards) hasn’t stepped it up. I thought he would become one of the better wide receivers in the NFC this year. Instead, he is same old inconsistent self. He, like the other Giants’ receivers, rarely make game-breaking plays that make you sit up and get excited. Amani just plods along and occasionally he’ll have a big game. When he does get separation deep, it’s usually because he pushed off (like he did against the Rams on his deep reception). Most of the time, it’s just the slant or out pattern to Toomer. The good news is that he is forcing more double-teams. Bad news on Sunday – he ran a poor route on 3rd-and-4 which led to an important incompletion.

Joe Jurevicius (6 catches for 101 yards) is getting better, but he doesn’t scare anyone. He’s a nice possession receiver who occasionally lulls somebody to sleep deep. The good news is that Collins and him have developed a nice rapport and Jurevicius has done a good job of keeping drives alive. The bad news on Sunday is that he had a couple of costly drops, including one on 3rd-and-7. It’s tough to fault Jurevicius too harshly on the last play where he took a big shot from the safety, but Head Coach Jim Fassel said he could have avoided the violence of that collision by running a proper route. Yet another minor mistake that had big ramifications.

Ike Hilliard (3 catches for 49 yards and a touchdown) were all big. He first was the TD on 3rd-and-18 (he made a real nice cut on a corner-post route). The second and third came on the final drive and one was a good reception of a very low throw.

Ron Dixon is a colossal disappointment and I fear the Giants have drafted yet another brain-dead, uninspired receiver in the mold of Thomas Lewis and Brian Alford. If this guy was performing in practice, he would be playing. He’s the only speed receiver on the roster and Dixon is really letting his teammates down.

Tight Ends: No tight end to threaten the middle of the field. Unlike most, I don’t think Payton has any problem throwing to the tight end. I think Pete Mitchell last year was on the decline (and missed a lot of time with various injuries). Howard Cross and Dan Campbell are mainly blocking types. There is a big need here for a receiving type to go along with these two. No catches on Sunday and mostly positive blocking.

Running Backs: Ron Dayne (20 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown, 1 reception for 9 yards) performed well when given good blocking and ran well on some occasions when he was not afforded that blocking. He’s getting better. I really liked some of his inside runs this week. For example, on the first carry of the game, he was supposed to run more to the left, saw things were clogged up and cut it back outside for eight yards. At the start of the fourth drive, Dayne picked up 11 yards by exploding behind the right side of the line. On the final drive of the second half, he did a good job of keeping his feet moving despite contact and bullying his way for six yards. Dayne did the same coming off of the one-yard line in the third quarter. Later, he exploded up the middle for 17 behind some very strong interior run-blocking.

Dayne also did a good job on the left-side sweep that went for a touchdown, following his blocks patiently.

The good day turned bad however, when Dayne pushed the ball into the face of Ram after two solid back-to-back runs had given the Giants a 3rd-and-1. Leading 14-9 and just about in Morten Andersen’s automatic-range, the personal foul that resulted cost the Giants the game. Now you can argue whether or not the act was deserving of the penalty or not, but the fact is that if Dayne doesn’t lose his cool, there is an excellent chance that New York wins the game.

Damon Washington cost the Giants big-time by dropping the 3rd-and-9 pass right before halftime. This would have not only given Morten Andersen a better shot (with or without any potential holding call on Dan Campbell on the field goal attempt), but it would have run more time off the clock and prevented the Rams from mounting their own field goal drive.

Greg Comella was a tad inconsistent in his run blocking this week. There were plays where he quite effectively took his man out of the play, but I also spotted two plays where he missed or could not sustain his block and this led to the play being disrupted.

Offensive Line: I’m not going to be as positive as Chris Jacobs is below (I’m not in a pleasant mood). The line played well at times, but cracked at others. Too inconsistent. The Giants’ line should have been able to push around the Rams’ defense on running plays more than it did. Too many right-side runs were stuffed in the second half. LG Glenn Parker’s play disappointed me as did Luke Petitgout’s.

Some specifics: Ron Dayne’s TD run came behind fine blocking from Lomas Brown on a pull (for once) and a seal block by Howard Cross and a lead from Greg Comella. Zeigler got beat for a sack on the second drive and the left side of the offensive line couldn’t pick up a stunt effectively on the very next play – forcing Collins to unload the ball short. On the third drive, Parker and Comella missed blocks on a Damon Washington run that went nowhere. Parker was flagged with a false start on 3rd-and-7 (I didn’t see him move) and on the very next play both Petitgout and Brown got beat outside and Collins was sacked. Dayne’s 11-yard run on the fourth drive came behind strong blocking from Cross, Comella, Stone, and Petitgout. But on the next play, Zeigler gave up a quick pressure, forcing an incompletion.

Second half. Dayne has nowhere to run as Cross and Petigout can’t sustain their blocks. Glenn Parker gives up a pressure and Collins throws the ball away on 3rd-and-11. Dayne can’t find any room running to his right. Parker doesn’t get out quickly enough on pull and trips Dayne. Interior of the line blasts open huge hole on 17-yard carry by Dayne. Dayne goes nowhere when Comella misses a block and Petigout can’t sustain. Petitgout then gives up a sack. Brown has problems handling Wistrom on 3rd-and-16, ball incomplete. Brown flagged with false start.

Defensive Line: What can you say about Mike Strahan (6 tackles, four sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 batted ball)? This was LT-like a game as you will ever see. Yes, his opponent, RT Ryan Tucker, was hurting, but Strahan still made the plays that had to be made and was even a factor late in the game against Tucker’s replacement (despite what that putz head coach of the Rams says). Plus, Strahan’s first sack came against a pulling guard in an attempt to trap him. It just wasn’t the sacks that were inspiring, but the repeated hit after hit after hit on Kurt Warner even when there was no resulting sack. It seemed like at least two-thirds of the time that Warner went back to pass, Strahan was in his face. Some of these did come against double-teams too such as on the play where Garnes picked off Warner (he also beat a double-team on the last drive on the play where Garnes knocked the sideline pass down). On the same drive, Michael expertly tackled the receiver on a shovel pass for a short gain.

DE Kenny Holmes (2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery) was more active than I thought he would be against a top flight opponent in LT Orlando Pace. His sack resulted from pressure from Strahan on 3rd-and-8, but Holmes clobbered Warner a few times in his own right. Kenny drew a holding call that brought back a big gain on a screen pass in the first half.

The pressure from the inside duo of Cornelius Griffin (6 tackles, 1 sack) and Keith Hamilton (no tackles) was not as much as I had hoped. But the Rams’ double-team often occurred there and Hamilton was forced to leave the game early with a shoulder injury. In his place, Lance Legree didn’t look bad at all. I liked the one play where he stood his ground inside and ripped the halfback to the ground in a very forceful manner. Griffin was credited with a sack on a play where he and Strahan clobbered Warner.

Linebackers: You know what play I’m pissed at that wasn’t called (though it rarely is)? On the 4th-and-4 pass to Trung Canidate on the Rams’ touchdown drive to take the lead, Armstead was the one responsible for him in man-to-man coverage. When Trung went in motion, Armstead followed, but was prevent from covering him once the play started due to an illegal pick by the slot receiver. Clever game design, but it’s an illegal play and the officials who shortly called a somewhat ticky-tack pass interference penalty on Garnes didn’t call this (and it was pretty obvious).

One didn’t see the linebackers much this week as they were mostly called upon to cover short underneath. Unfortunately, Mike Barrow (2 tackles) was hampered with a hip injury and wasn’t himself. I saw one play where he even had to pull up when he couldn’t chase a receiver. Barrow didn’t realize it at the time, but by running into Jason Sehorn on the Rams’ first drive, he cost a sure interception on a drive that resulted in three points. On that drive, however, Barrow had good coverage in the flat against Marshall Faulk on 2nd-and-7. However, on the next drive, Michael missed a tackle on Faulk and turned a short gain into a big one. Barrow held Faulk low in the third quarter and Shaun Williams clobbered him on the play where Faulk fumbled a second time and was forced to leave the game.

Jessie Armstead (9 tackles) had a few good plays. In the third quarter, he did a good job of disrupting a sweep to the left. Two plays later he forced Faulk to fumble and Mike Barrow recovered. Two drives later, Armstead clobbered Warner on a delayed dog up the middle. The one thing I didn’t like that John Fox’s defense did is it often called upon Armstead to cover wide receivers all by himself over the middle of the field and Rams exploited this a couple of times for good yardage. It’s not Jessie’s fault – how is he supposed to stay with a wide receiver?

Defensive Backs: Probably as good as you could expect at this time given the inexperience of the rookies. The safeties played real well, but blew a couple of opportunities as well. The one area where the Rams kept hurting the Giants was the intermediate area of the field when they were in zone coverage. At times, it looked like there was no defender within 10-15 yards of the receiver such as the 3rd-and-11 play to Ricky Proehl on the first Rams’ drive – a play that picked up 37 yards. The best aspect of the game for the secondary was the tackling – everyone tackled exceptionally well.

Probably the guy who played the best game was Jason Sehorn because after the Rams tested him early, they never went his way again. Thus, he must have been doing a number on his man. Sehorn got beat early on the first defensive play of the game, but quickly recovered and almost intercepted an underthrown pass by Warner. He then batted down another pass tossed in his direction. The Rams didn’t throw his way again other than on one occasion when Sehorn was flagged with a short pass interference penalty.

Will Allen gave up some completions underneath, some that kept drives alive. But he was not intimidated by the scary Rams’ attack and did not give up any big plays, despite playing on a bum ankle. On the first drive, Isaac Bruce picked up a first down against him on 3rd-and-15. Torry Holt then picked up another first down against Allen. On the third drive, Will did a good job of defending a long pass attempt. He also tackled well.

I was impressed with Will Peterson too even though there were some passes completed in front of him too. I thought Peterson did a good job of aggressively playing the slant when he was flagged with pass interference late in the first half. What Peterson did for the most part was keep things in front of him and then make very strong tackles (a not so easy task against these Ram receivers). On the third series of the second half, Will got beat over the middle by Holt. Peterson was a bit lucky on the deep pass late to Holt. Holt beat him at the line, but Peterson showed great catch-up speed to force an incompletion. Still, he came darn close to interfering on the play because he didn’t turn his head around.

Emmanuel McDaniel played quite a bit and did alright. He made an excellent play in the first half when he knocked down a 3rd-and-5 pass intended for Bruce over the middle. But he later fell down trying to cover Az-Zahir Hakim on a completion.

Dave Thomas got beat by Bruce on the go-ahead drive for the Rams on 3rd-and-7.

Sam Garnes (5 tackles, 1 interception) played his best game of the year – but had a couple of costly mistakes. Garnes set the tone for the day with his crushing hit on Faulk on an inside carry inside the redzone. Faulk didn’t look right after that. But on 3rd-and-7, Garnes had a pass go right through his hands in the endzone. The Rams kicked a field goal on the very next play. It was Garnes who was flagged with the non-existent “Grabbing of the Helmet” penalty on the next field goal drive (not his fault that the officials don’t know their job). Garnes finished up the first half with a big hit on Ricky Proehl. In the second half, Garnes started things off with a sideline interception on 3rd-and-5. Garnes did a great job a few times in this game of getting over quicky to the deep sidelines to help the corner – something that has been a bit of a weakness of his in the past. The holding penalty on Garnes that set up the Rams’ touchdown was a bit petty, but he did grab the receiver’s jersey.

Shaun Williams (6 tackles) tackled and hit very well – as usual. No Rams’ receiver or back faked him out. But Williams also dropped a sure interception on the Rams third drive of the second half – a pick that would have given the Giants great field position again. But it was Williams who forced Faulk’s second fumble.

Special Teams: I wasn’t as disappointed with Owen Pochman’s kick-offs as most. He didn’t nail them into the endzone, but they did go inside the ten. This guy isn’t simply a “kick-off man” – he’s being groomed to replace Andersen.

Blocking for kick-offs was terrible as both Ron Dixon and Omar Stoutmire had no place to run. They often did not make it back to the 20 yard line. The blocking for punt returns was better – especially on the last return – but Amani Toomer did such a poor job of returning punts (too much dancing again). He might have had a big return on the last chance if he had just followed his blocks. Returning a ball where he signaled for a fair catch was simply a bone-headed play. Toomer is not taking his responsibility on specials seriously and hurt his team on Sunday with his play.

What also hurt was the two back-to-back penalties on Rodney Williams punt that moved the ball from the eight yard line to the 35-yard line. One was on Jack Golden; the other was a hands-to-the-face penalty on Jason Whittle that I didn’t see. Williams shanked two punts and hit another into the endzone – he didn’t have a good day. Rodney did do a good job of acting on his running-into-the kicker penalty (it didn’t work, but I thought it was roughing until I saw the replay).

According to Jim Fassel, the holding call on Dan Campbell should not have been called. This took three points off the board on a successful field goal attempt.

Coverage on punts and kick-offs wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. Clayton White, Emmanuel McDaniel, and Thabiti Davis made some plays.


Offensive Line Review

by Chris Jacobs

This is your Football team, this is your football team with 12 penalties. Any questions?

Let me start by saying it’s nice to be back in NY. I would like to say that the worst part about spending a month in Baltimore was the constant ribbing I received from the bandwagon Raven fans who didn’t even know what a football was 2 years ago. But being away from my family was the hardest part. When your 4 year old is on the phone asking where you are and when you’re coming home it tears your heart out. I feel that part of the emotional healing process should involve going back to doing things that you enjoy, like breaking down the Giants game film….

It’s obvious that this loss was a heartbreaker for all of us. My first reaction was to blame the refs, yeah some of those calls were borderline, and I never saw Campbell’s. But the truth is the Garnes interference and the Dayne unsportsman like could have gone either way. In Giants Stadium those flags are probably not thrown. Bottom line is they have to play smarter, that’s all there is too it. It’s a shame that such a tremendous effort was wasted, and when I say tremendous effort I’m not just talking about the defense. Everyone on that team played at 110% for 60 minutes. The offense moved the ball well all day. There is no reason that when they play like they did Sunday that they shouldn’t put up at least 24 points, which would give them a win most of the time with that stingy defense.

Before I continue with the O-Line evaluations I have to point out something that puzzled me the entire game. I noticed the receivers weren’t blocking on some of the running plays, it was driving me nuts. Why would they just take the play off like that? It was bothering me because it wasn’t just one player, they were all doing it occasionally. Well, I finally figured out that they were making a quick turn towards the QB at the snap to try and draw the CB up to the line thinking it was going to be a quick throw. I haven’t seen too much of that, perhaps the Ram CB’s are aggressive and the Giants were trying to take them out of the running plays. I’ll look for it in the future. Anyway, on to player performances.

Lomas Brown: A-

He really had a great game. Grant Winstrom is a solid DE and Lomas pretty much kept him quiet the whole game. They really didn’t run many twist stunts, they did do a lot of slanting up front to try and disrupt the Giants run blocking schemes but it ended up hurting them a few times leaving huge holes for Dayne to run through. There was only one play that Winstrom put pressure on Collins resulting in and incompletion. Also he did have one false start on the first play following the Ram TD. Besides that solid all day.

Glenn Parker: B-

Did a good job in pass protection. As far as run blocking goes he did a good job driving his man off the ball and did a good job sustaining blocks. Here are some of the negatives. Twice he attempted cutting the tackle at the snap on toss sweep away. Both times he missed the block and his man made the tackle. One pass play he was beat inside and Collins was chased out of the pocket and threw it away. Some may disagree with me on this next one, the play that Parker pulled to kick out and Dayne tripped over him. In my opinion I think the safety came upfield enough to take himself out of the play and Parker could have turned it up. One last note, he was called for a false start but it was actually Kerry Collins jitter stepping in the shotgun before the snap.

Dusty Zeigler: B

Again, great game. Collins was sacked three times all day. The first sack could be blamed on Zeigler, it was a play action pass where the D-line slanted right. I thought Dayne should have picked it up instead he sidestepped the DT leading to the sack. I don’t know whose responsibility it was. There were one or two other occasions that he was beat on a good swim move by the tackle, one time it lead to pressure that forced Collins into a bad throw, and the other Stoney was there to help out. Once he couldn’t sustain his block on a run and the tackle scraped down the line and made the tackle. Besides that he was out on the linebackers all day, most of Dayne’s big runs came right up the middle. The Giants line, especially Zeigler, usually plays better vs. smaller quicker defenses.

Ron Stone: A

He was called for a holding penalty that St. Louis declined because it put them in a fourth down situation. Now you guys want to complain about the bad calls. It was very, very questionable. If that play had gone for a first down and they accepted the penalty, that one would have been grouped in with the Dayne, Garnes, Campbell, and “tackling by way of helmet” call. Anyway the only reason I’m mentioning it is because I only saw him miss one block all day. As I have mentioned before I don’t know the Giants playbook so I wouldn’t recognize a blown assignment. The one play that stopped him from getting an A+ was a running play where he missed the backer and it went for no gain.

Luke Petitgout: C+

This is where it’s tough for me being a Giant fan and doing this. He played so hard, and he really did just a spectacular job run blocking. But, he gave up two sacks, both times his pad level was too high and he was off balance giving the DE an opportunity to put and inside move on him and get to the QB. Actually there was a third occasion early in the game where he was too high and was bull rushed into Collins.

Defensive Player of the Week: I was reading a lot about Lance Legree in The Corner Forum, so I thought I’d really focus on him and report on his performance. He played 28 plays, he was double-teamed about half the time, 13 if you want to get technical. In those 28 plays he had 3 tackles, 3 QB pressures and 1 fumble recovery. He gets my game ball this week. Who is this Strahan guy everyone keeps making a fuss over?


Mr. President, Mr. Tagliabue, Mr. Strahan

by David Oliver

You have all been in my thoughts constantly since game time yesterday. Mr. President, I salute you for courage in the face of fire. I, for one, am an American who is sick and tired of wondering “Why they hate us?” I frankly don’t give a damn and I believe they should be worrying about why we despise them. Your stance in defending America and Americans is refreshing – don’t ever back down and finish the job this time.

Mr. Tagliabue, your officials are ruining the game of football. This applies not only to the Giants. I have watched a lot of football this year, as in years past. We have endured commercials, we put up with the debasement of the sport on Monday nights, we have accepted the mediocrity of parity. But now, with the yellow rag flying all over the field in game after game, you are asking too much. Yesterday’s game and the Giants-Saints game are just two of the more egregious examples of officials who think they are above the game. The game is tough – it is a man’s game. Flagrant violations must be penalized. But a flag on every other play, and often interfering in the flow of the game, is resulting in choppy play and bad viewing. There are certain crews which are far worse than others, AND IF YOUR REVIEWS DON’T MAKE IT OBVIOUS TO YOU, ASK ANY LINE CREW, IN ANY STADIUM, and they will tell you which crews are consistent, and which, well, flat out suck. When certain officials throw the flag time after time, it reminds me of some of the enforcement people I had to review – if they went to training, and an instructor thought and taught that a certain violation was egregious, they would return to duty and we would process 500 of that violation for the next month or two, until we sat down with these people and asked them what the hell they were doing. Well, YOUR League looks the same way. The Officials want more money, you lock them out, then you compromise and they return, and return to show us that they are the most professional officials, look, we can control a game, look we can throw the flag, look, we can really screw it up for the viewing audience. Okay, my rant is done- nothing more. But clean it up or you will kill the goose brother, because frankly, it is more fun watching the bombing raids on CNN than it is to see your guys break up the continuity of a game.

Mr. Strahan, yours was a wonderful performance. Throughout Giants history, the oldest among us remember Sam Huff, the middle generation LT – and there was never a player like LT; if you continue to play as you did yesterday, the young pups will be talking about MS. You have now established a level of excellence and it is incumbent upon you to stay at that level. As good as the rest of the D played, your effort was noteworthy as categorically game controlling. Your reward should have been victory.

So why wasn’t it a victory? In a nutshell, it was the continuation of sloppy play by the Giants as a team. Mistakes have been aplenty since the beginning of the season. There are excuses and explanations – injuries have hurt the continuity or rhythm of the various units; there are new players in the mix; there are some mental lapses evident. Yes, all are legitimate. But Coach Fassel, and other Coaches always say, if the mental lapses and errors continue, the Coach isn’t reaching the players. Coach, it is on your shoulders. As Secretary of Transportation Mineta has said, once is an event, twice is a pattern, three times is a certifiable program. The Giants are now in the program range for mistakes and mental lapses.

Special Teams – off to a good start, now, not so special again. Rodney Williams is a potential Pro Bowl player. He can kick the hide off the ball. Why is it that JF and Dan Reeves insist on taking a boomer and try to make him kick to the sidelines? One out of every 3 of those kicks is going to be sliced or shanked – I guess you have never played golf? The question is rhetorical. I know the answer – because it will negate the return ability of some very good returners. Well, here is the simplistic answer – kick the hell out of the ball, but go out and find someone who can run down the field and tackle the ball carrier. Poor MacDuff was run out of town because he couldn’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. So now Baron von Appen is about to suffer the same fate, for lack of one legitimate gunner. It was painfully obvious yesterday when RW kicked a ball that rolled about 10 yards into the end zone, and there wasn’t a Giant within 10 yards of the play. Speed, by your own mantra, wins games. So where is it on Specials? Of particular note, both good and bad, in addition to the above play – after the Rams 1st FG, on the kickoff, Dixon was tripped up on the 15 – Jack Golden did a very poor job on blocking the gunner; on Anderson’s FG attempt, Campbell called for a hold – maybe bogus, but keep your arms down in a block, especially when you know the umpire is flag happy; first punt, how many penalties until a guy shanks one?; Toomer, illegal fair catch signal on a punt (damn flies in that Arena, they get you every time); GOOD PLAY – EMAC gets downfield and actually makes a tackle on a punt returner; then 2 bad plays by the Rams, illegal hands on Rams which nullified a big return for them and a typical Giants Special Teams effort with missed tackles everywhere, but again the Rams were caught holding. Finally, one more questionable play where Amani, standing on about the 10, signaled fair catch and the ball was downed on the 1. This was marginal as he was just about the 10 and it might have looked to him as if the ball would carry into the end zone. All in all, not a good day for the Specials unit.

The Offense – Stop already with this the Rams are a good defense. The Rams defense this year is better than it was last year, but it is nowhere near where it was in the Super Bowl year. Mental errors and spotty play calling were as responsible for the lack of production, as were the absence of Tiki Barber and the presence of the Rams defense. Kerry had another so-so game. He did many things well, he didn’t do many things he could have. Note – how about the beating Warner took and never ran? Kerry did actually utilize the pocket once yesterday – very nicely. Oh, so there was a pocket? Yes, on one play, there was no pressure up the middle and KC stepped up into a nice little groove and fired downfield. I can’t tell what the offense is that the Giants run. I’d like to believe that it’s a modified West Coast, but at times it looks so far WCO that it’s somewhere in China. The good backs in this League don’t make stats on 10 touches. And teams don’t win unless they run the ball. So, if the main back gets only 10-12 touches, who is running the ball? Without Tiki, the only outlet threat is Comella – but he is not the same threat as Tiki. There were some interesting calls yesterday. RD had two beautiful runs to the left, one to the right. Yet even with an overload to the right side, the play calling kept sending Dayne to the right, where any significant yardage appeared nullified when the game was on the line. What is the strategy with Dayne? He is a better running back than Shaun Alexander, yet Alexander is now running wild in Seattle.

Let’s take a look. The Giants had 13 possessions. The first was a thing of beauty. A completed long pass to Toomer down the sideline. Then Dayne powered the ball in on a couple of nice carries. On the second possession, there was good protection early, then Dayne went through a big hole on the left, where Parker pushed up the line and Ziegler got out. Comella delivered a nice lead block Then a nice toss to JJ, followed by a sack on which Ziegler made an absolutely horrible block. Dayne again left, with Stone pulling, something I don’t notice a lot. Golden and Whittle both flagged on successive kicks, then RW shanked one OOB. Next possession, KC, under serious right side pressure, hooked up with JJ (25 yards). Then the line got into trouble as the Rams started to blitz. Penalty on Parker, sack, as Luke’s man came free, then RW had another shank, looking to angle kick. This was the last of the angle kicks for the day. Next possession, Dayne with power running off the right side, pushed up field. Then a 4-wide receivers set and a blitz – KC moved but threw incomplete. RW punted into the end zone. A big possession next. Dayne caught one over the middle, then carried off right tackle for a 1st. A quick slant to Toomer for another 1st. An inc to JJ, a bad screen to Damon W, Dayne pounds off the right side, then was checked. A blitz and KC and Toomer (hot read) hooked up for a 1st. Another blitz, KC ran OOB. Damon W for nothing. A good pass which Damon W missed – about this time I noticed that Lomas Brown was doing a hell of a job with the pressure, hand fighting and clawing his man. Morten Andersen kicks the game winner. Oh, wait a minute, penalty. 10 yards farther and pulled right. The mantra for the offense in the first half – mistakes, mistakes, mistakes.

The O came out flat in the second half and the best play of the first possession was EMAC going down and making the tackle on the punt. The second possession was the KC softball interception, where Toomer made a double move, but KC simply misjudged and under threw him – no wind this time, just not a good pass. Then another three-and-out. On the punt, I counted four very makeable missed tackles. Then a five play possession with a long pass OOB. Finally pay dirt. Dayne up the middle with Ziegler and Comella leading the way. Dayne right for nothing, KC, coverage sack, KC showed no mobility, no quickness. Then the good blocking, a pocket, KC steps up and hits IKE with a bullet for the score. Then, just when it looks as if the Great Dayne might take over – up the middle, up the middle, he loses his cool in the pile and flips the ball into a defender’s face. Guess what – unsportsmanlike. Ron Dayne is a pretty mild guy. For him to flick the ball like that, the defender had to have spit on him, cursed his mommy, punched his balls or challenged his manhood. At any rate, it really hurt, as there was a another flag for holding and the Giants were out of FG position. The next to last possession was four-and-out. Then KC-to-Ike, KC-to-Ike and finally, KC throws a bullet to a slanting JJ, who makes a very nice grab of a tough pass – reaching out and grabbing the ball by the rear tip. As JJ goes to pull it in, Archuleta pops the ball, it flies into the air and Grant Wistrom who is running past to make a tackle is the lucky recipient of the flying ball. A freak play, and the Giants are done.

The bottom line is that mistakes and inconsistent play calling stalled too many drives. It should be obvious that as well as JJ has filled in, Ike is still the missing component. He goes over the middle and frees up the entire passing game. I also maintain that a Santana Moss or similar receiver would be the locomotive for this passing game. The Giants need just a little more speed at the wideout position. Damon Washington could have been a hero – he did nothing. Dayne – well, Dayne left, Dayne right, Dayne pass over the middle. I don’t know. Whatever it is, it isn’t working. Right now, I wouldn’t worry about Payton leaving the Giants next year.

Which brings us to the man who will be leaving – as a head coach somewhere else – John Fox and his bunch of brigands. There were only two questionable plays on defense that I saw and they were both mismatches with Trung Canidate. And both were huge plays. On one, Canidate coming out of the backfield was covered by Jessie, and Jessie was quite a distance away so I presume that this was not Jessie’s man. And the interference play where Garnes was isolated on Canidate. C’mon, the Rams are good, damn good, the best offense I have seen in my lifetime. But how do you let Jessie and Garnes get alone with the fastest man on the field? Which leads to the inexperience of the corner on that side, who I think was Will Peterson. Incidentally, Peterson played an otherwise strong game, once again looking better than Will Allen as he made up ground and broke up plays and came up and tackled people well. So that’s not bad, when the Rams only out-coached the Giants on two plays. Let’s take a look.

Sehorn started strong. Then Will Allen gave way too much ground on successive passes. Barrow made a big hit, then went to the bench for the first time. Strahan had his first SACK, as he beat a pulling guard. Ricky Proehl got loose for a big catch and run. The middle of the Giants line was getting no pressure. Then Strahan got a big rush, Barrow right behind him and Marshall Faulk dropped a pass. Then on a play with good secondary coverage, Strahan broke free for pressure, Garnes missed an INT. FG. On the next possession, the strangest call I have witnessed in a while, illegal grabbing of the helmet – the HELMET- not the balls, or the face mask, the helmet. Bah. A little of this, a little of that, FG. Next possession, big rush, takedown. Holmes was a step late, blitz just ran past Warner. Holmes noticed a couple of false starts which helped. Strahan muscled his way in and grabbed Warner with one arm, Holmes finished it off. Then three-and-out for the Rams with EMac making a nice pass defense. Then a weird possession with the Rams stepping it up – shovel pass to Hakim, pass interference on Peterson, pass to Faulk, pass to Hakim, Faulk drops a sure TD pass, pass to Proehl, Garnes tackle, pressure, coverage, scramble. Finally FG. Somehow, even though the Giants D was totally dominant, the Rams go in with a 9-7 lead.

Second half, Warner gets time, Holt drops a pass, then a blitz, pass to Holt, Peterson tackle, then a long pass, Garnes INT. Next possession, Faulk run, Sehorn tackle. Giants made an unusual shift to their left, Rams ran right, Jessie had to chase down Faulk. Two plays later Faulk hit a ton, fumbles, Barrow recovers. I notice that Will Allen is on the right side and gets totally destroyed by a block. Then a pass under severe Strahan pressure, good protection and Holt wide open over middle as he beat Peterson. Strahan – pure power SACK. Quick pass to Hakim, stopped short. Now a three-man rush, a scramble, an illegal man downfield and Shaun Williams drops an INT. Next possession, Holt beats Allen but quickly tackled. A quick out to Faulk but Shaun Williams is right there, the lot’s of time, but a late rush by Jessie and a SACK And a screen to Faulk stopped. The next possession was eventful as Faulk takes a pitch out and gets clobbered by Barrow low and Williams high – another fumble and Faulk and Barrow both go off. Now Holmes is picking it up and the pressure keeps building. Hamilton is hurt so Lance Legree is in the game and makes a nice tackle on a run up the middle. Proehl catches another, the Garnes knocks one down. Finally, Strahan again uses brute force and, although being held, knocks Warner down causing another FUMBLE. JF is seen walking down the bench talking to his defense individually. They are tired, he is gentling them, calling on their reserves. THIS IS FOOTBALL. The Rams are throwing everything. Williams plunks a receiver, a corner blitz but a complete pass to Bruce, Strahan KNOCKS a ball down, Hakim catches one over the middle and slides before Thomas can crank him. Then a deep pass, Peterson is beaten but catches up and gets his hand in for a break up. Peterson makes a tackle as EMac misses, Warner rolls right, Garnes knocks down another pass. Warner to Canidate, Jessie covering, camera men knocked all over the place. Shovel pass stopped. Pass to end zone, inc. Another incomplete with heavy pressure but another controversial flag – Garnes grabbing Canidate’s jersey. Ball on the 1, then TD. Going for 2, Warner throws a flutterball – would have been funny in any other game. On the last possession, three-and-out.

Strahan played a dominating game. Kenny Holmes, even with Orlando Pace blocking, exerted a lot of pressure. The middle of the line was disappointing, but the Rams do have a VERY GOOD offensive line. Barrow had another strong game; when he went down, Jessie took over. Short was very quiet – played mostly a support role. When Allen and Barrow both went out, the defense changed and the result was Garnes covering Canidate on that one pass – game time. Other than that Garnes played a strong game, defensing passes and tackling. Shaun Williams layed a few good whacks and defensed well but should have had the INT. Sehorn was strong early, but went kind of quiet in slot coverage. EMac did his job as did Dave Thomas when called upon. The Giants used a lot of D-Backs and clogged the middle which confused the Rams. Many of Warner’s passes are less than 20 yards with good YAC (yards-after-the-catch) after. The Giants either forced altered routes or made quick tackles

This game could have been won; this game should have been won. Forget about this game. The Eagles are going to be just as tough. This week, JF MUST get to his Special Teams – all phases – ultimately the Giants did not win this game because of Special Teams break downs – penalties on the punting and FG units, bad tackling, poor blocking. And Sean Payton must figure out how to use his players to get a consistent offense. His mentor Gruden showed him the way last night with an excruciating, short pass, run ball control drive at the end of the game.

Finally, once again, Michael Strahan played that game we have all been awaiting. Can he keep it up?

(Box Score – New York Giants at St. Louis Rams, October 14, 2001)
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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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