Oct 312002
 
Philadelphia Eagles 17 – New York Giants 3

Game Overview: I was trying to think about how best to describe my feelings after this game. But then I came across Daniel in MI’s post in The Corner Forum and this summed it up best for me:

…I hate that they tempt you but come up small. I hate that they find ways to lose again and again. I hate that they’re so boring. I hate that there are so few money players. I hate knowing that even if we have a guy with potential, we couldn’t use him to take advantage of it. I hate that they get run on. I hate that they can’t tackle. I hate that they hang around and then collapse in the end. I hate that no matter what, I can always see how we can/will screw it up. I hate that there is no end in sight. I hate seeing a really good player come here only to wonder what the nagging injury will be that sends him headlong to mediocrity. I hate seeing mediocrity get hyped here. I hate that we have no quickstrike capability at all, whatsoever. I hate that we can’t run the ball consistently. I hate that we can’t run for 3rd and 1 and expect to make it. I hate not beliving JF has a clue how to fix it. I hate seeing the same mistakes repeated again and again. I hate knowing I have to hear JF’s press conference in which he says the same crap again. I hate knowing EA blows picks and screw up the cap, but is has total job security. I hate getting humiliated again and again on MNF and any nationally televised game. I hate that the whole team is a gutless bunch of turds. And I hate knowing that even in the miraculous event that we win a game here or there, the team will immediately think it is good and screw up by getting cocky, coming out flat, and all that. I hate caring about this team more than they seem to care.

This game was eerily similar to the Giants-Eagles game in the Meadowlands last year with the roles reversed. The Giants dominated that game yet were only leading 9-3 in the 4th quarter. However, unlike the Eagles in 2001, the Giants didn’t make a dramatic comeback. The Eagles should have been crushing the Giants, but weren’t. The Giants could have stolen a game and changed their entire season around. They failed to make the plays when it counted – both on offense and defense.

Offensive Game Plan/Coaching: I know what the Giants were trying to do. Play it conservative. Don’t let Philly’s pass defense force turnovers that will lose the game. Keep plugging with the running game in the hope that eventually you will break one or wear the defense out. In other words, play not to lose. In hindsight, perhaps this was the best strategy given Collins’ play against Philly, but I don’t like it. I think the best time to avoid the blitz is to pass on first down. Until late in the 3rd quarter, the Giants ran on 11 first down attempts and passed on 6. I would have passed on first down and then slowed up the pass rush with a surprise run on 3rd down (the latter is what the Eagles did to great success). Why no throws to Tiki Barber until late in the game? The Eagles should have had all kinds of problems trying to cover Barber and Shockey both at the same time.

And for God’s sake, they pulled the same shit again at the end of the first half that they did in Arizona. Are we dealing with a bunch of idiots here? The 12-men on the field and delay of game penalty in the 4th quarter that sabotaged any potential comeback didn’t help matters either.

Quarterback: A chicken shit performance out of Collins. Despite not getting knocked around, Collins played like he had been. His rushed too many throws and his accuracy was terrible. And Collins’ dropped shotgun snap was a real killer. The play of your quarterback is everything in this league. If your quarterback struggles, you are not likely to win. If he’s on, the opposition will find it difficult to defend against you. After a mostly positive performance from Collins this year, this game was a big step in the wrong direction.

Wide Receivers: Difficult to tell given the poor performance of Collins. But Amani Toomer (2 catches for 16 yards) was invisible. Ike Hilliard didn’t have a catch and was knocked out in the 3rd period. Ron Dixon (2 catches for 43 yards) made some plays late and got royally screwed by the officials on the 3rd down conversion that was ruled incomplete.

Tight Ends: Dan Campbell continues to do a quality job on his blocking. He regularly controls his man on the corner on outside runs. I don’t like the fact that Jeremy Shockey (6 catches for 69 yards) ran his mouth off before the game. That didn’t help the Giants’ cause one bit. However, Shockey is certainly an exciting character and even with a serious foot injury he was still a factor in the game. He is the only thing about this offense that isn’t boring. I love the fact that he can turn those little 2-yard out patterns into 10-15 yard gains. Just imagine if the guy was healthy. Incidentally, the taunting call on Shockey was complete bullshit…give me a break.

Running Backs: One of the big problems the Giants’ offense is having is that Tiki Barber (15 carries for 79 yards, 5 catches for 92 yards) is not running like Tiki Barber. I’ve seen some strange decision-making from him. A number of times against the Eagles, I saw decent holes to run through, but for some reason Barber ran right into the traffic. For example, on the Giants’ field goal drive, Payton called for a 4-WR set (Shockey being one of the wides) and a draw to Tiki up the middle. I love this call against the Eagles and there was a good hole, but Tiki ran right into the defensive tackle. He may have scored otherwise. His best run was 31-yard cutback and I’m really surprised the Giants didn’t cutback more against the Eagles’ aggressive defense. Barber did get the Giants in scoring position in the 4th quarter with two fine back-to-back receptions that picked up 64 yards.

Ron Dayne (4 carries for 11 yards) is being phased out of the offense. He had one run that ticked me off where he stumbled and looked indecisive, but I thought he did a decent job on his other three carries.

FB Charles Stackhouse’s fumble on the goal line was obviously a killer. It was a boneheaded rookie mistake not to switch the ball to his other hand, but I applaud the effort on the play. Charles’ blocking remains inconsistent, but is improving. He got stood up in the hole a few times by the linebacker, but he also made a number of quality blocks.

Offensive Line: The pass protection wasn’t bad, but it could have been stronger. LT Luke Petitgout largely held DE Hugh Douglas at bay although there were a couple of plays where Douglas did get to Kerry. RT Mike Rosenthal held his own until the 4th quarter…then he gave up a couple of pressures and a costly holding penalty. The inside trio did a decent job. The problem remains the running game. To be honest, I don’t have a finger on whether or not it is poor run blocking, bad running, the running schemes, good defense, bad luck, or a combination of the above. But the Giants’ running game is not up to par – they need to break more runs.

Run Defense: The Giants have a big problem up front in the defensive line. Michael Strahan is the only above-average player they have up front; Strahan got double-teamed most of the night, often with the tackle and guard on him. Cornelius Griffin has not developed as hoped. Kenny Holmes is a weak run defender who doesn’t get close to the passer and Lance Legree got mauled in his first starting appearance. What killed the Giants against the running backs is that Legree and Holmes kept getting caught too far inside and the linebackers overpursued the plays. Thus cutbacks to the left side of the defense hurt. So did pitches to the left side of the defense in passing situations. Holmes got pinched inside and the linebackers couldn’t get outside fast enough.

But what really was decisive was the running of Donovan McNabb. Time and time again he ran for big yardage or picked up key first downs with his feet as the Giants as the Giants’ defensive tackles did a poor job of staying within their lanes and the spy linebacker (usually Mike Barrow but sometimes Brandon Short) did a poor job of shadowing McNabb. Occasionally, these two made matters worse by taken themselves out of the play by delay blitzing. I think this was the worst game I’ve seen Barrow play. He made one bonehead decision after another.

“It’s one thing to say they got us,” says Barrow. “It’s another thing to know it was the mistakes that we made, like guys not being in the right gap. It’s not one guy, but a lot of guys. You cannot run on an eight-man front defense, and that’s what we called the majority of the time. When we looked at the film and saw all the yardage they had because guys didn’t do their responsibility, it’s a sad situation. Because that alone would have changed the whole outcome of the game. If I had to estimate, of those 299 yards, 200 of them were from guys not being in the right place.”

Pass Defense: The coverage was very good as the only big passing play given up by the Giants was the 32-yarder to James Thrash. That’s quite an accomplishment when you consider the lack of a pass rush. Will Peterson played a great game despite his toe injury. Will Allen kept Thrash quiet except for that one play (and it was still decent coverage by Allen). Both safeties were not exposed either and some isolation shots by ABC showed quality coverage by Shaun Williams and Omar Stoutmire.

Special Teams: PK Matt Bryant remains perfect with his 26-yard effort. His kick-offs were decent. Kick coverage was also good with Marcellus Rivers and Kevin Lewis making tackles.

P Matt Allen did a good job of punting except for one poor 29-yard effort. His punt down to the 1-yard line in the 4th quarter is all you can ask in that situation. Punt coverage was good against a dangerous returner (Brian Mitchell).

Delvin Joyce had one good kick return for 33 yards. Tim Carter wasn’t able to break any big returns and screwed up when he fumbled one return that put the Giants at their own 10-yard line. The one punt that Joyce was able to return went for 12 yards.


My First Game

By BBI Reporter/Photographer David Oliver

My first game for the GIANT INSIDER was against Jacksonville, in Jacksonville. It was a pre-season game. It seems as if it was an eternity away. The Giants lost and I remember riding back from the Stadium to the Hotel. There were three beat reporters in the car and they seemed pretty light-hearted. I was seething, as I usually did after a Giants loss. I finally exploded and screamed at them, cursed the team, let out my frustration. There wasn’t much said after that. I was a rookie in the Giants reportage area. Now, I don’t explode, I don’t seethe, I just shrug and go to bed. Proximity to this team can carry you to great emotional highs; it can leave you in the depths of emotional impotence; it can cauterize any feeling you have about sports, life, almost anything, until some little part of life reaches in and turns the switch back to the on position.

I still have that first photo, framed and hanging on my wall. I also have a copy, signed by Keith Elias, tucked away. And I have had a copy of the front page of the paper, framed and away for safekeeping. I hope to return to the field on Sunday, against Jacksonville, at home. I say hope because arrangements haven’’t been yet confirmed. But I’m not in an emotionally attached stage, so I’ll just see how it plays out. After Monday night, many things are happening in Giantdom. Some may be good, some are silly, some, well, it’s Halloween as I am writing. I have one eye on that photo – Elias leaping up and over the pile for a first down. It was my first night game and I was shooting slide film, pushed a couple of stops. It was a misty, rain-threatening night. There are a lot of strange names on the players jerseys. Just like the strange names on the starting units this Sunday night. In a world of Giants’ permanence, we no longer have long term players, coaches, or executives. We just have long term fans.

The impermanence of life is constant here at Watership Down. For the past year, we have been visited by a couple of crows. We called them Heckel & Jeckel. Every once in a while, a third would come with them. They were huge birds, beautiful with ebony feathers that glistened blue in the sun. They showed up around 6 a.m, cackling and cawing. They had developed a fondness for the cat’s food – like every thing else that visits – the 9 raccoons that come at night, the fox, the possum and the blue jays. The cats just sit and watch as every other creature in our little universe eats their food. The crows at first would sit in the pine trees. As time passed and they got to know us, they moved to the fence. Then they just hopped down on the deck. Sandy got a kick out of watching them bounce across the yard, moving like big, ungainly 747s. Then along came this stupid West Nile Virus. Two weeks ago, I came home from my walk and one of the crows was sitting in the yard, legs folded under him. He was near the water bowl, under the branches. He blinked twice at me, and then he just passed away. I buried him in the front yard, near the fence across which he loved to hop. His partner came for about a week, cawing furiously, hoping. Now he, or she, has disappeared. Life is emptier now.

It’s the same kind of feeling I have following Monday night. It’s always the damn Eagles. There was the fumble, the 90 yard punt, the blocked FG that was caught and run in for a score, and last year’s two improbable wins. Now this. Giving up 300 yards rushing, letting a very talented QB run you into the ground, watching an offense fold its legs up under itself and blink twice, then just pass away. And now the finger pointing. The coach did it, no, the offensive coordinator did it, no, the referees did it, no, the players did it. Actually, they all did it. And the die was cast before the season started. Officially, the Giants are not rebuilding. They just cut their most vocal leader, changed their safeties, altered their defensive scheme, changed their offensive front wall, fullback, and now, the grass, or sod, or bog on which they play. If that’s not rebuilding, I guess they are just down sizing.

The game against the Eagles was one of the ugliest games I have ever seen the Giants play. Oh, sure, we can view it through rose colored glasses. The Eagles only scored 17 points, the defense kept them out of the end zone, the pass defense worked. Yep, and I was glad I was at home – because in all honesty I didn’t even watch the last 5 minutes and I have never turned off a Giants’ game, even in the dark years. Everyone has analyzed and dissected this hummer from every imaginable angle. And again, the refrain is, “a play here and a play there.” Just a few keys: the Stackhouse fumble – a player mistake, a rookie mistake – sure, but it’s the second time this year that a Giant running back has made that mistake. A pass into the flat just before the half. HMMM! – I don’t believe that it possible could have been a called play – but I do believe it is now imprinted into the mind of a very fragile QB. A pass defense that succeeded admirably. Sure, and this is no reflection on the Wills, who did their job, but, if you drop all 11 men back, probably no passes will be completed. But the Eagles sure had a hell of a time running up and down the field, draining the clock and wearing out a defense already badly impaired by injury. But they sure didn’t complete many passes.

There is plenty of blame to go around. First, I blame us, the fans. We didn’t buy up every available ticket and descend on that hell hole to out scream and kick every Eagles’ fan’s ass. Maybe if the team had seen Giants’ blue in the stands pummeling the hell out of Eagles’ green, maybe they would have gotten the message that for us, this is serious business (grin). So we are at fault. Then there is chemistry. The entire persona of this team, particularly it’s defense, has changed. It takes time to build relationships. Everyone points to the New England Patriots as an example of how you can change a team and succeed. But everyone forgets that most of the changes were to bring in wily old veterans, like the Giants did the year before, veterans who jelled and succeeded, and of course, had some help from specious interpretation. Now look at them. So chemistry is important; and it is lacking as of now on the Giants.

Then there is the coaching. I have articulated my position on this in threads in The Corner so I won’t repeat it here in detail, except to say, the Head Coach is not a terrible coach, he’s not a great coach; he has been saddled with 2 different GM’s, 4 QBs, and he is stylistically not what the Giants are historically noted for and in the image of what the fans want. The offensive coordinator has taken heavy hits. His motion offense worked at first, but doesn’t seem to be working now. Does he just call bad plays? Well, the story goes deeper than that. Reading between the lines, while he is being a good soldier and taking the hit, at the same time he is signaling to us that he has a quarterback who CANNOT execute a complicated offense, a motion offense, an offense with multiple levels of reads. He has a quarterback who has 2 levels of play: one, throw downfield to a particular receiver, preferably along the sidelines, and two, get rid of the damn ball to anyone within 7 yards of him, most likely a back. Every team wishes they had 6 lumbering behemoths up front who could both give a QB 10 seconds to find someone and to switch gears to annihilate a defense front 7 so that tinker belle could run through gaping holes. But somewhere along the line, we all have to realize that the most important ingredient in any offense is a QB who can make a play, at least once in a while. Teams that have one succeed. Teams that don’t are mediocre.

The defense is also somewhat of an enigma. It has had a lot of initial success. But I think I have seen this defense before. It is an extremely complex defense that places a premium on experience and physical conditioning. It is an active, but not aggressive defense. It is a modification of the original 4-3, as developed by Landry and the Giants, in that it places a lot of pressure on the front four, but negates the primary responsibility of the LBs. The LBs are now primarily cover men, not an integral part of a forward 7 defense. If my memory serves me right, it always starts out successfully. It takes teams time to figure out the flex points. Then the injuries start – they come in the back 7 because of the constant running from side to side. They affect the front four, unless there is a constant rotation, as the constant banging and double teaming take their toll. Finally, the whole thing breaks down because the injuries slow the rushers, the replacements need time to get up to speed and the intricate ballet degenerates into a confused scramble.

There is still time to make some corrections. There is time for the new players to jell into cohesive units. There is a time for everything under Heaven. But that time is running out. None of what I wrote last week has changed. But for the first time in a long time, I am looking forward to returning to football. I know a lot of these guys, I like them, I appreciate their potential. And mostly, because now, in the darkest time of this season, they are the Giants, and I am a Giants’ fan – maybe by the sheer force of our will we can help them get through this thing; and then in January, Wellington and John Mara and the Tischs can sort the whole megilla out for us. I miss that crow. I miss good football.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, October 28, 2002)
Oct 232002
 
2002 New York Giants Mid-Season Review – Bye Week Blues

By BigBlueInteractive.com Reporter/Photographer David Oliver

Well, here we are, 7 weeks into the season, and for the first time in many years I haven’t attended one game, of any sort. I have watched too many on television, when I wasn’t working on the weekends, so I have a pretty good idea of what is happening throughout the League, at least from the Generalissimo Armchair’s perspective. Twenty or so years ago, when I had that luxury, it was a sort of numbing chill that came over me at this time of the year. Dad would send me the STAR-Ledger, I would scour sources for an AP report, but the deflation, or happiness was a solitary thing. As more NYC émigrés moved into the Washington area, it became more of a shared joy and sorrow, but by then, it was the era of LT, Simms and Parcells, so Mondays were considerably more joyful, if not less angst filled by the tendency to eke out wins.

This year, I have had the experience of being an outsider, connected by the tether of BBI to Giants wins and losses. The outcry of pain following the loss to the Cardinals was cacophonous, reminding me of the old days. Then the frustration of losing to the Falcons. And the counterbalance of all those wagging a finger and toot-tooting that we were only three plays away from being 5-and-1. Of course every team in the League, save the Bengals, Jets and Texans have that same claim.

So I feel like Nastasia Kinski in that Roman Polanski movie where she is in a breakdown state and as she moves down a hallway hands are reaching out trying to grab her and push her. It was a psychotic movie and BBI on Mondays is similar. The hands scream, Barber, no Dayne, Tim Carter, no Daryl Jones, either one, Amani is the best, what happened to Shockey?, why can’t this line block?, should Sehorn be playing?, should he be a safety?, Stoutmire is good, Stoutmire is terrible, who’s manning the front line?, what defense do the Giants play? – AAAAAAgggggHHHHH!

All this while, I have been swallowing pills like a junky, one infection of unknown origins after another. My leg swelled out at the thigh and erupted in the nastiest infection this side of Spawn’s face, the throat, the arms and other places. And through it all I worked 3 out of 4 weekends in 90 degree heat, reaching deep, deep into my inner reserves trying to figure out this photo thing, stripping everything from the past, and renewing. The denouement came on back to back weekends in Miami and outside of Atlanta. Three races on one weekend in Miami, hot, tired, on Sunday night I am walking back to my hotel, sweaty, dirty, leg swollen, lugging too much equipment, when I bump into a colleague strolling down the street, Churchill in hand. The lights are going out quickly and he sees me and says, “Dave, you sure are brave walking down a dark street like this with all that equipment.” I just smiled and told him, “Phil, if you look crazier than they feel, you will be ok.” It dawned on me that I had to look pretty crazed, dragging my leg, hauling the cameras, and not about to move And then I thought of all those clean young men in the Giants’ locker room. It was worse the following weekend. Up at 3:30 am, catch a 6 am flight out of DC National to Philly, hop a connection to Atlanta, drive to the track, work the race until midnight, wash up, change, get something to eat, drive to the airport and sit from 2 am until a 6 am flight home, through Charlotte. When I landed and got in the car, I told my wife I was no longer a stud. After almost 40 straight hours without closing my eyes, sweating like a beast, and finally giving it up 1 hour too early to get the shot I wanted at the race, I told her that I was now officially a ¾ stud.

What does this have to do with the Giants? Well, sitting there in the Atlanta International Airport at 3 in the morning, on the weekend the Giants were playing the Falcons in the Meadowlands, I had time to reflect on the team, on my reason for taking a brief sabbatical and the future. It came to me that my art with the camera was never going to be what I wanted it to be. I’m no Ansel Adams, or Galen Rowell. But I have a vision, a stubborn vision. I want to capture the essence of sports and athletes. I want to take the abstract and make it real, to get that timeless look in the eyes of a driver, or footballer, or jockey or track and field star. And I want to capture the beauty of the sport – in racing the relationship of spirit and mechanics, in football, the balletic movements of angry men participating in choreographed warfare, in track, the relativity of time and motion as an athlete stretches space and pushes the clock.

I felt that last year I had lost the joy; night games and bad weather had made it difficult. My equipment was limited, I wore down, and the impotence of the Giants left me feeling as I imagined a young lady once told me after an uninspirational tryst she had just had, in that she said “you guys are lucky- 20 seconds and you all get off. But more times than not, for me, it’s all work and no joy, it just doesn’t happen.” Damn, it’s hard getting in touch with your feminine side, but pick up a camera, or follow the Giants, and I guarantee you will become a much more understanding man.(grin)

The Giants at 3-3 are both better and worse than I anticipated. I had them pegged for a 7-9 team that might get to 9-7. Now, I feel they may actually get a 10th win, or they might not get 6. Admit it, in your heart of hearts, don’t you feel that way? This is my take on it. Football is a rugged, masculine game of intimidation and ersatz violence. It is the unstoppable force against the immovable obstacle; it is Thor’s Hammer and a Viking Berserker raid – no, not those weenie Vikings in Minnesota. Football is a game, like old Indian Lacrosse, where the losers need to be sacrificially offered to the gods of testosterone. But the way the Giants are playing it this year is passive aggressive, on both sides of the ball. Call it read-and-react, wait-and-see, managing the game, I don’t care. It is frustrating and the sole satisfaction comes in looking at the WIN column. And if the number in the win column is not larger than the number in the loss column, well, I know how that girl felt when she couldn’t get it off. And for someone who never had that problem, it’s quite a painful feeling.

So let’s look at it from the top.

Coaching (Offense): An abysmal D, except for Offensive Line Coach Jim McNally. How could a team have so much potential firepower and do nothing more than pass gas? Simple answer – the coaching staff just doesn’t have a handle on the game inside the 20 yard line. Two strong, experienced wideouts, a dynamic out of the backfield running back and a tight end who can rewrite the record books. So what? The play selection is so damn boring, the Bengals could probably defend against it. Running Dayne wide and Tiki off tackle, not using play-action because there is no set up, lacking the confidence to go for the jugular; the coaches can say failure of execution til they are blue in the face – fact is, it is a failure of inspiration, a failure to instill confidence, a failure to be aggressive which is keeping this team out of the end zone. Passive-aggressive coaching – don’t make a mistake, don’t lose the game – flip it over and in this game it leads to MEDIOCRITY. And that is what 3-3 happens to be.

QB: So many statistics, so little success. Dave Brown was terrible, but he had toughness; Danny Kanell was awful, but he had panache; Tommy Maddox was the pits, wish we had him now. Kerry Collins is a middle of the road QB with a gun in the medium range game. But he continues to lack field presence and vision, goes to his short man too often and has little confidence in all but two receivers. Jaws was on the other night and said it’s all in the footwork. Great quarterbacks have wonderful footwork, which has them in position to release the ball within the time available. KC does great in a totally managed environment – football is organized chaos – you can achieve total management about twice a season. Until KC finds the resoluteness to hold the ball until the last possible second, and take the hit, if necessary, and until he develops confidence in his complete receiving corp, the result will continue to be one outstanding game, three or four acceptable games and the rest, well, someone else will have to win them. Even with a rating near 90, MEDIOCRITY.

Running Game: What running game? Tiki is nicked, but just as important, Tiki misses Comella, BBI‘s favorite whipping boy. Personal chemistry is critically important to the running game. Tiki could play on auto pilot behind Comella – he just followed his lead to the hole. Dayne – a sorrowful case. A tailback in a big body. But he doesn’t have a chance in this offense. Until the linemen build up a familiarity with his style, his moves, he will not run consistently. He is not the kind of runner who will make his own holes; at the same time, he doesn’t need a huge hole. Once in the hole, he is an accelerating force. I think not having Zeigler this year has hurt him some because Zig is great at picking off the backer or safety and that is where Dayne does his damage. If the Giants want to use RD in a finesse offense, they had better start throwing him the ball. Everyone who wants a thunderous pound the ball offense, well, go watch Nebraska games because you won’t find it in the Meadowlands.

Passing Game: Should be in the top three in the League. When the third wideout is really Shockey, well, there are just not enough balls. Then again Keyshawn caught what, 80 or more passes last year and scored how many TDs? The Giants can stretch the field, they just can’t stretch it enough. I have no answers for the lack of production, except see above.

Coaching (Defense): Successful, yes, statistically, but is it more filling? More passive-aggressive philosophy. Don’t give up the big play, keep it close, yadda, yadda, yadda. I have a deep respect for Coach Johnnie Lynn; same with Defensive Line Coach Denny Marcin; I thing Defensive Backs Coach Sky Walker has potential. It is the influence of the Dark Side that I don’t like. And it is there. I have kept some contacts in the locker room and those initials are starting to pop up. There is a lot of film available now and I don’t think this defense will be successful as we move into the heart of the schedule. I know, I know, if so and so hadn’t made such and such a mistake that L would have been a W; except so and so did and the W was a L. My refrain – I don’t care for passive-aggressive anything; it’s not masculine; it’s not football; and if the Ws don’t outnumber the Ls, and I mean by more than one, it will be somewhere else next year. Everybody hated Buddy Ryan – but didn’t you just love his Eagles and Bears defenses? And didn’t you laugh your butt off that night in Houston when he popped, Gilbride, for calling such a crappy offensive game that Buddy felt his D was being abused? The Giants have the corners to play aggressive ball. Send the dogs – let Spurrier fear this, let Andy know McNabb is going to be torched, let Brunell know he better have skates on.

Success Story: The offensive line. Still developing as a run blocking unit, but way ahead of where anyone figured in the passing game. Rosey is holding up, Luke has made a nice conversion and Bober will be playing in this league for a long time. Keep your eye on Tam Hopkins – he is a mountain.

Everywhere I have gone this season, I have bumped into Giants fans. Went to NYC to cover Lance Armstrong in the NYC Championship and started talking to the Executive Director of the U.S. Cycling Federation – big time Giants fan; plane ride down to Atlanta, my seat mate was Coach McNally’s high school quarterback – Coach Mac was a center; his parting words to me, tell Jimmy I see he still hasn’t found a quarterback who can get into the end zone. Walking through Sam’s Club two Sundays ago bumped into a young man, Moses P. wearing his Giants jersey proudly in Skins country; he is now a BBI member.

It’s been a tough season til now. I really didn’t miss the game, thanks to BBI and TV. My own mini-journey is almost completed. I have retooled several times in my life and this chrysalis is about to unfold. I’ve recharted, reloaded and I’m ready to start firing. I hope the Giants have used the bye week to do some soul searching. I hope we see some Giants’ football the rest of the way. 3-3, phtooghy; 9-7; MEDIOCRE; 8-8, like kissing your sister; 7-9, can the whole damn bunch and start over.

Oct 162002
 
Atlanta Falcons 17 – New York Giants 10

Game Overview: The Giants are blowing it. Picked by many to finish last place in the NFC East and by some to be one of the worst teams in football this year, they have surpassed the expectations of many thus far. They almost knocked off the 49ers in the season opener; beat the Rams in St. Louis when Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, and Orlando Pace were all healthy; squeaked by a Seattle team that many thought would be a decent team this year; and beat the Cowboys in Dallas (always a tough task for the G-Men).

However, the Giants could have won the game against the 49ers had they simply not wasted scoring opportunities in the first half of that game. They were embarrassed in Arizona when they gave new life to a Cardinals’ team due to a stupid coaching decision at the end of the first half. Then came the depressing affair against the Falcons this past Sunday.

The Giants are now 3-3 and a half game behind 3-2 Philadelphia. But they should be 5-1 or 4-2.

I don’t detect a sense of urgency with this team – something that is lacking from most of the teams in the NFL – particularly in the NFC. Only a few teams in the AFC seem to be playing inspired football. If the Giants’ players, coaches, and team executives don’t want to be mediocre, talking about it is not going to do any good. The team needs to go out on the field each and every week and win the football game. These games that they should have won will come back to haunt them, be it missing a Wild Card spot, a division title, or home field. The players don’t seem to understand that. “It’s like going against the Chicago Bulls when they didn’t have Jordan,” MLB Mike Barrow says. “When we play somebody great, we play hard, but when it’s somebody we’re supposed to beat, we’re playing at their level.”

“We have to break this win-lose, win-lose cycle, otherwise we’re gonna finish 8-8,” HB Tiki Barber says. Well duh Tiki…now do something about it!

Now injuries are starting to become a factor. DT Keith Hamilton (Achilles’) is gone. CB Will Peterson (toe), TE Jeremy Shockey (toe), DE Kenny Holmes (elbow), and RG Jason Whittle (back) all missed the game against the Falcons. How limited the rest of the season is still a question.

This is what needs to be done:

  1. On offense, he Giants must put more points up on the board. 14.3 points-per-game is not going to cut it. I know the Giants want to run the ball more, but this is a better passing team than rushing team. And points come out of the passing game. The Giants need start picking up big chunks of yardage and putting touchdowns on the board early in games via the passing attack. Forget the balance-attacked early on in a game. I fully realize this is a riskier approach, but with greater risk comes greater rewards. Shockey, Toomer, Hilliard, Dixon, Carter, Jones, Barber….throw the damn ball.
  2. Also offensively, continue to pare down the number of plays in the play book. 150 is still too many. Execution over tactical surprise. Football has some chess-like characteristics, but games are still won and lost by running your bread-and-butter players and executing those plays. You don’t have to out-think your opponent on every down.
  3. On defense, the Giants are going to have to take more chances now with DT Keith Hamilton out. That doesn’t mean blitz on every down and it certainly doesn’t mean being predictable. On Sunday, the Giants blitzed some but Atlanta seemed to always know that it was coming and had the right play called against it. The Giants need to juice up their pass rush with some unpredictable schemes.
  4. Also defensively, start creating turnovers. One of the problems the Giants’ offense is having is that it always seems to have to march the length of the field. Turnovers create a short field and lead to easy points. The Giants blew two golden opportunities on Sunday by failing to recover two fumbles. They have also been dropping interceptions this year.
  5. On special teams, related to the previous point, Tim Carter and Delvin Joyce need better blocking from the guys in front of them on kick and punt returns in order to provide the offense with a shorter field as well.

New York’s drive against Atlanta started at their own 27, 26, 2, 30, 13, and 30.

As for the Atlanta game, this was a strange, strange contest. The Giants only had the ball SIX times the ENTIRE game. SIX!!! I don’t think I’ve ever seen that as long as I’ve been watching football. Out of those six drives, the Giants had two that ended in points (a touchdown and a field goal), two that drove inside the red zone but ended with turnovers, and two non-productive drives. The Giants didn’t have problems moving the ball on Sunday, their problem was they never had it enough and Atlanta made two excellent defensive plays on the turnovers. Sunday’s game was completed in 2 hours, 38 minutes – the shortest Giants game since 1994 and the shortest game in the NFL this season.

Why was the game so short and why were there so few possessions? It was the story of two halves of football. In the first half, the Giants’ defense couldn’t get Atlanta off the field, particularly on the 17-play, 9 minute and 34 second drive in the first quarter. On that drive, Atlanta converted FIVE third downs, including a 3rd-and-9, a 3rd-and-1, a 3rd-and-8, a 3rd-and-11, and a 3rd-and-5 (the latter being a touchdown). The Giants only had the ball once in the first quarter.

In the second half, it was the Giants who dominated the time of possession. They scored on their first drive. Their other two drives got inside the red zone, but the ball was turned over. It sounds strange, but the Giants’ held onto the ball too long. In other words, there weren’t enough big plays for big yardage (and quick scores) by the offense. The Giants moved the ball well, but eventually shot themselves in the foot.

Giants on Offense: I’m going to write my review a bit differently this week due to the small number of offensive possessions and the completely different tone of both halves of football.

First Drive: 6 plays (3 passes, 3 runs) that picked up 21 yards. The first play was a Tiki run up the middle that picked up 2 yards. The nose tackle for Atlanta was able to make the tackle after he fought off the block of OC Chris Bober. The second play was a 5-WR set and a short pass completed to Amani Toomer for 5 yards. Fortunately for the Giants, Atlanta was also flagged with defensive pass interference and a first down resulted. On the next play, Collins was afforded superb pass protection and had all day to find Toomer on a crossing route for 12 yards. It was an excellent throw to Toomer who was in the middle of three defenders. On the 4th play, Ron Dayne ran with good authority off left tackle for 3-yards behind good blocks from Dan Campbell and Marcellus Rivers. The 2nd-and-7 play was a 1-yard loss by Barber. The Giants tried to surprise Atlanta with a running play after spreading out the defense with a passing formation. The defense wasn’t fooled (Ike Hilliard’s block on the linebacker was also ineffective). On 3rd-and-8, LG Rich Seubert gave up a pressure that forced Collins to scramble up into the pocket. Collins then decided to try to run for it by was “sacked” at the line of scrimmage. Bad play by Seubert and Collins.

Second Drive: 3 plays (1 pass, 2 runs) that only picked up 6 yards. This was New York’s worst drive of the game and it’s only 3-and-out. This is an example of the problem I have with the play-calling in terms of a pass versus run approach. Atlanta just scored on their marathon drive. I would have liked to have seen the Giants come out aggressively here with the pass. The first play was a 4-yard run by Barber off right guard. However, if RT Mike Rosenthal sustains better on his block, Barber picks up more yardage. On 2nd-and-6, Barber runs around right end. He makes one guy miss, but Sean Bennett makes a horrible effort on his block and his man tackles Tiki. On 3rd-and-4, Barber didn’t hit the blitzing linebacker coming up the gut face-up. The linebacker flipped over Tiki and this seemed to fluster Collins who threw a deep pass to Toomer off his back foot. The ball was nearly intercepted.

Third Drive: 13-plays (6 passes, 7 runs) that picked up 78 yards and resulted in a field goal. This was the Giants’ last possession in the first half. The Giants drove the ball from their own 2-yard line to the Falcon 20 (a classic example of having to drive a long field). Ron Dayne got the Giants some breathing room with a decent power run for 3-yards on first down. On 2nd-and-7, Collins passed to a wide open Dan Campbell over the middle for 19-yards (it was a good twisting catch as Collins’ pass was behind Dan). On 1st-and-10, Collins was given good protection after a play-action fake, but he took too long and was forced to unload the ball. At this point of the contest, Collins is obviously not real sharp. On 2nd-and-10, Tiki picks up 11-yards off right tackle behind good blocks from Rosenthal, RG Dusty Zeigler, and Campbell (Charles Stackhouse whiffs badly on his block on this run). On 1st-and-10, Barber runs in the wrong direction and Collins is forced to eat the ball for a 2-yard loss. This is another example of Tiki not being real mentally sharp this year. On 2nd-and-12, Collins delivers a strike to Toomer over the middle, but Toomer drops the ball. On 3rd-and-12, Collins throws a beautiful touch pass to Hilliard despite pressure in his face (Bober was bull-rushed by the nose tackle). Hilliard made an excellent cut after the reception and I think he had a shot to score on this play if his footing didn’t give out under the piece of crap playing field the Giants play on. On 1st-and-10 from the Atlanta 41, Tim Carter got his first touch on a 9-yard end around. Marcellus Rivers missed his block on this run but it didn’t matter as Carter out-ran the Atlanta defenders who had the angle on him. Incidentally, Zeigler looked pretty damn fast on his pull on this play. On 2nd-and-1, Dayne picked up 18-yards on a run around left end where Stackhouse took out two defenders – an awesome play on his part (Campbell and Hilliard also got good blocks). Two tough runs by Barber and Dayne picked up 6 yards. On 3rd-and-4, Hilliard again slipped – this time coming off of the line of scrimmage. This seemed to affect his route (which was short of the first down) and Collins seemed a tad late with his delivery on the dash rollout. This play normally works darn well for the Giants but came up short here. Giants kick the field goal.

Fourth Drive: 12-plays (7 passes, 5 runs) that picked up 70-yards resulting in a touchdown. This was a long drive where the Giants converted on three 3rd downs. The drive started off with two short passes to Stackhouse. On both plays, Dayne did a poor job of picking up an oncoming rusher, but Kerry got the ball out quickly and Stackhouse broke a tackle and showed fine balance on the first catch. On 3rd-and-1, Tiki was hit right at the line of scrimmage, but great second effort got him 3-yards and the first down. After a short Dayne pick-up, Barber failed to pick-up the blitzing linebacker and Collins was sacked for a 6-yard loss. In the past Tiki has been very good with blitz pick-ups, but this year he has not. After an Atlanta penalty, on 3rd-and-9, Collins hit Hilliard for 16 yards and a first down over the middle. On this play, Petitgout allowed the end to pressure Collins, but Kerry stood in there tough. On the next play, Rosenthal was pushed back into Collins and Kerry’s deep pass to Ron Dixon deep was off-the-mark. A screen pass to Barber picked up 13 yards and a first down (incidentally, “Moose” Johnston made an interesting comment in that LB Keith Brookings of the Falcons said the Giants were the best screen team they faced). A double reverse to Hilliard picked up 7 yards (good looking play). On the next play, Dayne picked up two yards as LB Chris Draft broke through the trash to hit Dayne in the hole. On 3rd-and-1, Tiki barely picked up the first down on a left-side sweep. Then Collins hit Hilliard from 18 yards out for the touchdown with a nice pump fake off of post-corner route (a double-move route where the receiver feigns a post route and then takes it to the corner). It was a nice touch pass by Collins. Score tied 10-10.

Fifth Drive: 13-plays (6 passes, 7 runs). This was another long drive that ended with an interception at the Atlanta 7-yard line. Momentum was completely with the Giants until the turnover at the end of this drive and subsequent poor play by the Giants’ pass defense. On 2nd-and-8, the Collins hit Tim Carter for 10 yards on a slant pass. If this pass had been higher, it would have allowed Carter to pick up significant yardage after the catch (and with his speed, you never know if he could have broken it). On the subsequent 1st-and-10, both Barber and Zeigler failed to pick up a rusher who forced Collins to throw the ball away prematurely. On 2nd-and-10, the Giants created a huge hole for Barber to run through behind excellent blocks by Campbell, Petitgout, Seubert, Bober, and Stackhouse; Barber picked up 11-yards on the play. Dayne then picked up 6 yards behind good blocks from Stackhouse and Campbell; if Rosenthal had been able to sustain his block longer, Dayne would have picked up even more yardage. On 2nd-and-4, Collins threw behind Toomer, but Toomer caught the ball for 8 yards and a first down (a lot of Collins’ passes were behind the mark on Sunday). Dayne then picked up 3 yards on his own up the middle as the entire offensive line didn’t get much of a push on the play. On 2nd-and-7, Barber was smashed in the hole as Zeigler completely whiffed on the LB on his pull. On 3rd-and-8, Collins again converted by finding Hilliard over the middle for 11-yards and a first down (Hilliard was obviously Collins’ go-to receiver on Sunday; this may have been the result of double-teams on Amani Toomer – whatever the case, Hilliard was very active on Sunday and Toomer very quiet). Barber then picked up 12 yards on a cutback run to the right behind good blocks from Rosenthal and Zeigler. Dayne picked up 3 yards behind Petitgout, but would have picked up more had Seubert sustained his block longer. A 5-WR set pass play to Daryl Jones only picked up 2-yards. On 3rd-and-5, disaster struck as Collins’ pass to Hilliard was intercepted at the 7-yard line. The Atlanta corner made a hell of a play by knocking Hilliard off his route and then sticking to Ike like glue on the play. “That play still has me sick,” said Hilliard. “(The corner) squatted on me. He made contact as I was going up the field and threw me off balance, and instead of me straightening and giving a corner move and going in, I went straight in and he made a play underneath and picked the ball off.”

Sixth Drive: 12-plays (10 passes, 2 runs). Drive ended at Atlanta 17-yard line with a fumble. This was New York’s last chance. Atlanta had just taken the lead 17-10 after their 94-yard drive after the Collins’ interception on the previous series. After a short Barber run, pass pressure given up by Rosenthal and Zeigler forced Collins to throw incomplete. On 3rd-and-7, Ron Dixon made a marvelous diving catch on the sideline to pick up 10-yards and the first down. It was an outstanding play. Barber picked up 12-yards around left end behind good blocks from Stackhouse and Campbell, but Hilliard was flagged for holding down field. A short pass to Stackhouse picked up 7 yards. On 2nd-and-8, Atlanta blitzed two linebackers against the Giants’ 5-WR set. In other words, there were more rushers than blockers and Collins was sacked by the free linebacker. On 3rd-and-16, Barber picked up 15 on pass out of the backfield. On 4th-and-1, Collins again found Hilliard over the middle in a clutch situation for 5-yards and a first down. A pass to Barber fell incomplete as Seubert was beat and his man hit Collins. On 2nd-and-10, the Giants used the 5-WR set again and threw a quick wide receiver screen to Hilliard for 7 yards (I love this play because it enables the Giants to get Hilliard in the open field and use his moves). On 3rd-and-3, the Giants went for the home run to Toomer, but Toomer was well-covered. On 4th-and-3, Bober must have missed the snap count as he snapped the ball and no other offensive linemen moved. Fortunately for the Giants, Collins and Dixon continued with the play and Collins quickly hit Dixon over the middle for the first down and a lot more yardage. However, as Dixon was being tackled, a second defender poked the ball out of his hands. Personally, I don’t think Dixon was being sloppy (he had both hands on the ball), I just think the Atlanta defender made an excellent play. The bad news for the Giants is that Dixon slipped on that crap field as he was running with the ball after the catch. “There was no question if I don’t (slip), that’s a touchdown,” Dixon said. “There’s no way the dude would have touched me, at all, but by me stumbling that gave them time to gather up on me.”

Run Defense: Hamilton and Strahan left the game near the end of the first quarter. Hamilton obviously did not return and Strahan only played a few snaps the rest of the way. The Giants were left with only four defensive linemen – Dwight Johnson at left end, Griffin and Lance Legree at tackle (flip-flopping on occasion), and Ferrara at right end. This four held up surprising well against the run and actually played as well in this department as the first unit did.

I do want to make one comment. While the loss of Keith Hamilton is going to hurt the Giants, Hamilton in my opinion has not been playing all that well this year. He was still a presence in run defense, but I did see him getting handled at the point-of-attack more than I have been used to. And he has not been a factor rushing the passer this year (though he does receive occasional double-teams). I think the thing that bothered me the most about Keith’s play this year was that he did not seem to be hustling on plays. That won’t be a problem with Lance Legree. Lance is one of my favorite players on the Giants because he is a smart, hard-working, effort player who gives it is all. I love watching his effort even when the ball is away from him. Lance is not a good pass rusher. And sometimes he will get clobbered by the double-teams. But I don’t think the Giants are in “trouble” with him in there.

On Atlanta’s first series, FB Bob Christian was able to pick up 8-yards off left tackle as Hamilton, Ferrara, and Barrow were all effectively blocked. However, on the very next play, Ferrara, Hamilton, and Griffin nailed T.J. Duckett and limited him to a 1-yard gain. On 3rd-and-1, Hamilton got good penetration and when Warrick Dunn cut back to the middle of the field, Barrow tackled him for no gain in the hole.

The second series by Atlanta was the killer 17-play drive. However, most of the damage on this drive came thru the air (11 pass plays). Dunn picked up 4 yards when Hamilton was effectively blocked. Dunn was held to two yards with Ferrara and Barrow combining on the tackle. Duckett only picked up 2 yards when Strahan could not be moved out of the way. Duckett lost a yard when Brandon Short slammed him in the hole – two big boys making a huge collision. Duckett only picked up 3-yard when Barrow filled the hole again. Lastly, Short did a great job of sniffing out a halfback draw and limiting Dunn to 3-yards.

On Atlanta’s third series, a Duckett run around left end was disrupted by Short (who missed the tackle); Lance Legree and Dwight Johnson cleaned up on the play – holding Duckett to 1-yard. Two plays later, Griffin disrupted an inside run that Legree cleaned up on, limiting Duckett to another 1-yard gain. On Atlanta’s next and final offensive possession of the first half, Duckett picked up 4-yards despite Legree holding his ground well. A few plays later, Barrow blitzed up the gut and nailed Dunn for a 4-yard loss. On 2nd-and-14, Dunn picked up 4-yards on a run to the left out of passing formation. Johnson got killed on the play, but Jason Sehorn made a nice tackle.

In the second half, the stingy run defense continued. On Atlanta’s first play, however, Duckett did pick up 8 yards as Ferrara, Legree, and Barrow were all successfully occupied. A 4-yard run at Griffin and Short then picked up the first down. Atlanta did not run again on that drive. On the next series – the 94-yard drive – Duckett was stuffed by Ferrara as he charged down the line from his right end spot. Barrow then fought through the trash on the next play to tackle Duckett for a 1-yard loss. All the damage on this drive was done through the air. Atlanta’s next (and last drive) was their successful attempt to “run out” the clock. However, it wasn’t the run defense that disappointed here, but again the pass defense. On 1st down, Ferrara and Legree held Duckett to a 3-yard carry. Duckett only managed 1 yard on the next play as Griffin and Legree held their ground. Atlanta then converted on 3rd-and-6 through the air. They ran the ball three more times and then punted, but there was on 18 seconds left on the clock.

Pass Defense: The run defense was fine on Sunday; the pass defense was terrible. Part of the problem is a lack of consistent pass rush. Strahan and Hamilton were too quiet – even before they got hurt. So was Griffin. Frank Ferrara made some noise against a quality opponent. Dwight Johnson and Lance Legree simply are not very good pass rushers. When the Giants did blitz, Atlanta seemed to know it was coming and ran some nifty screens that burned the Giants badly.

On top of that, Atlanta kept running a nifty play to great effect. Whichever linebacker was spying Warrick Dunn out of the backfield, the Falcons assigned an offensive linemen to. Thus when the linebacker went to cover Dunn, the lineman prevented him from doing so and Dunn had a lot of open field to play with. To make matters worse, there were some very costly mental breakdowns in coverage. Finally, let’s give Atlanta QB Doug Johnson some credit too. He made some excellent throws in clutch situations against the Giants. He was very poised and efficient.

Atlanta did not attempt a pass on its first possession. On the second possession, they passed eleven times. WR Brian Finneran caught a 6-yard pass against the Giants’ zone coverage on first down, beating Barrow and Jones. On 2nd-and-4, Strahan and Ferrara sacked Johnson and Ferrara forced a fumble that Brandon Short couldn’t recover. On 3rd-and-9, WR Willie Jackson got wide open in the Giants’ zone coverage for a 14-yard pass (Omar Stoutmire and Short were the closest defenders). After a 12-men on the field penalty against the Giants and a short run by Dunn, SS Shaun Williams made a picture-perfect pass defense play against TE Alge Crumpler and knocked the ball away (Griffin also got a good pass rush here). On 3rd-and-1, Short got beat by the other tight end for 7-yards and a first down. This was a tough play for Short because he had to honor the run fake here. On the very next play, there was a huge breakdown in the coverage as somehow Short was been called upon to defend against Finneran deep down the field and only an overthrow prevented a touchdown. On 3rd-and-8, Short had good coverage on Dunn, but Johnson threw a perfect pass for 8-yards and the first down. An offsides by Griffen, a short run, and a 7-yard screen pass gave the Falcons another first down. Two plays later, a pressure by Ferrara forced an incompletion on 2nd-and-11. On 3rd-and-11, Barrow got blocked out of the play on a screen to Dunn (the man he was trying to cover) and Dunn picked up 14 yards. Three players later, on 3rd-and-5, Strahan lost contain on his pass rush. Doug Johnson scrambled around him, faked a pass which caused Sehorn to jump into the air, and then sprinted into the end zone from 15 yards out. It was a terrible play by Sehorn. They teach you in Pop Warner never to leave your feet like that. The Giants pass defense on this drive was terrible – allowing five 3rd-down conversions. Meanwhile, the Giants’ offense is sitting on the sidelines.

On Atlanta’s next possession, the field position war again shifted Atlanta’s way when the Falcons beat a blitz by Barrow by running a perfectly executed screen pass to Dunn for 27-yards. Atlanta was confusing the hell out of the Giants’ linebackers all day by feigning a short throw to one side and then coming back underneath in the other direction. On Atlanta’s final drive of the first half, the Johnson saw the blitz coming from Sehorn and threw to his hot receiver for 10-yards and a first down. On the very next play, one of the linebackers or Shaun Williams really screwed the pooch when Crumpler was left wide open down the field for a 30-yard gain. This set up the field goal at the end of the first half.

The pass defense continued to disappoint in the second half as Atlanta made just enough plays to put another touchdown on the board and keep the ball out of the hands of the Giants’ offense. On the first drive, after two runs picked up a first down, Ferrara deflected a screen pass intended for Duckett (this was another one-man screen – this time to Duckett). Then Ferrara made a heck of a hustle play by coming off his pass rush to nail Dunn from behind after a short 3-yard dump-off over the middle. On 3rd-and-8, the Giants blitzed, but Doug Johnson made a heck of a throw to the tight end for 9-yards and a first down despite tight coverage from Barrow. Sehorn then made a superb play by deflecting away a pass to Trevor Gaylor over the middle of the field. On 2nd-and-10, Ferrara put a nice spin move on Bob Whitfield and sacked Johnson again (as well as forcing his second fumble; unfortunately, Atlanta recovered it again). On 3rd-and-16, Ferrara disrupted the timing of the screen to Dunn which enabled Strahan to come over and make the tackle. Atlanta was forced to punt.

The next drive was the killer 94-yarder. Sure Collins had just thrown an interception, but the score was still tied at 10-10 and Atlanta was backed up to their 6-yard line. The Giants’ pass defense let them off the hook, and worse, allowed them to score the game-winning points. If the Giants’ defense holds here, New York probably wins the football game. On 1st-and-10, the Giants’ linebackers made yet another big mental mistake as somebody left Dunn wide open in the flat for a 6-yard gain. On 2nd-and-4, the Giants blitzed SS Shaun Williams as Doug Johnson passed deep to Shawn Jefferson. Will Allen (who played a great game other than this play) was all over Jefferson, but missed the ball while going for the interception. Jefferson came down with the catch as Stoutmire overran the play and thereby contributed to significant yards-after-the-catch. (Incidentally, Sehorn showed great speed on the play by tracking down Jefferson from behind). After two runs were stuffed, for some reason the Giants decided to rush only 3-men. Johnson hit Finneran on a slant against Sehorn for 11-yards and a first down (Sehorn gave up far too much room on this play). On the very next play, Johnson looked off Stoutmire and the latter was burned for a touchdown pass to Finneran in the center of the end zone (this was not one of Stoutmire’s better games).

On Atlanta’s last drive, they passed only once, but it was a killer. Facing a 3rd-and-6 with 3:09 left in the game, Johnson hit Jefferson for 11-yards and a first down against CB Ralph Brown. Brown had decent coverage on the play, but this hurt. It’s too bad as Brown played a very good game otherwise.

Special Teams: PK Matt Bryant remained perfect, nailing his 38-yarder. His kick-offs landed at the 3 (good high kick), 23 (an awful, low kick), and 5 (decent). Atlanta has an outstanding return game, yet Allen Rossum was limited to returns of 20 (excellent tackle by Marcellus Rivers), 10 (nice play by Tim Carter), and 25 (Rivers and Charles Stackhouse).

Matt Bryant only punted twice. The first went for 40 yards and was a good high punt. Tim Carter and Damon Washington were both down in a hurry on this too (finally, the Giants have two speedy gunners). The second punt was high but short (32 yards).

I think the Giants have found their returners too. Tim Carter and Delvin Joyce look explosive on kick returns and Joyce is slippery as a punt returner. The problem for both is that they still are not getting much help in the form of blocking. Joyce never had a chance on his one punt return that he attempted to return (-2 yards). The only other one he fielded, he had to fair catch. On the punt that was downed at the Giants’ 2-yard line, Will Allen didn’t even try to block the opposing gunner who made the play. Terrible effort on his part.

The kick returns picked up 19 yards (Joyce), 22 yards (Carter – but there was a holding penalty on Kevin Lewis here), 20 yards (Carter), and 21 yards (Joyce). That’s not good enough. In fact, it’s pretty darn bad when you consider how much speed both Joyce and Carter have.


Offensive Line Review – O-Line Does a Good Job in Bad Loss

by Chris Jacobs

All in all I have to say this was a pretty good effort. The Giants are lucky that Zeigler was healthy and experienced enough to make the quick switch to guard. The linemen were asked to do plenty of pulling for sweeps and traps this week, as opposed to the previous week when they felt they could be successful running right at Dallas. They did a pretty good job, I noticed that they are doing a lot more cut blocking this year than the last two seasons. I don’t know if it has something to do with inexperience or the fact that they are younger and more athletic. But it seems to bite them in the ass every now and then when an athletic defender either hurdles the attempt, or pops up and makes the tackle.

Some quick points before I get to the lineman, Dayne ran hard, but he really has no knack to find soft spots in the line. Part of it may be from when he was at Wisconsin and the hole was actually where it was suppose to be, and part of it may be his inability to accelerate after making a cut but either way he could be getting more yards. Charles Stackhouse played an excellent game, there was one play where he completely whiffed on a backer that would have sprung Tiki for a big gain but besides that he played a close to perfect game. I was also very impressed with Hilliard’s blocking, the holding call was iffy, but besides that play I thought he did a good job in that department. He was actually asked to block a DE on one play when he motioned down the line and did a good job considering he was outweighed by about 100 pounds. In contrast Tiki did a terrible job blocking this week, particularly picking up blitzing LB’s.

Mike Rosenthal: (B-) The only thing that bothers me still with him is that little hesitation off the snap on his drive blocking, I didn’t see it last week but it was there once or twice against Atlanta. The only thing he needs to work on is sustaining his blocks while run blocking. It seems like sometimes at the point of attack he stops driving his legs and gives the defender a chance to scrape off and disrupt the play. Just a little passive, might be a confidence issue, he just needs to lay into a guy and drive him downfield. Pass blocking was great, was a little slow picking up a stunt that resulted in pressure but besides that he was solid.

Dusty Zeigler: (C) Huge difference between Ziegler and Whittle when it comes to pulling on sweeps and traps. Ziegler is very quick and really does a good job of laying into his man and sustaining a block in space. That being said he was very inconsistent, he would make a good block follow that up by a bad play and so on. There were times when he looked a little lost and I had a couple of notes where it appeared he blocked the wrong guy but it was hard for me to tell. One really obvious bad play was where he missed a block on a backer who then leveled Tiki but to his credit they were bringing good pressure with a run blitz. Did a fine job in the pass blocking department, was fooled once by a twist stunt that resulted in pressure but didn’t give up a sack.

Chris Bober: (B) Solid game, the nose guard he was lined up against was one strong SOB. He did a good job against him but there were moments during the game where this guy was literally throwing him around. First play of the game the guy picked him up with one arm and threw him on the ground. The guy didn’t really make a lot of plays and Bober was able to occupy him long enough to let the back run by or to let Collins throw. Did a nice job pass blocking, was beat by a swim move here and there but stayed with it and didn’t give up a sack. The only thing that really bothered me was on a sweep and on a screen where he tried to cut the backer who leaped over him and made the play. I don’t know if they coach him to do that or if they just give the linemen the choice, but if he just gets in the guys way for a split second it seems like it would be more effective that trying to cut him.

Rich Seubert: (B-) Did a great job in the run blocking department this week, he’s coming down the line flat and getting up field when he’s pulling on sweeps. Doing a real nice job drive blocking. One thing that’s becoming a problem, something I noticed also in the Seattle game. When pass blocking, once there is a space created on either side of him he gets beat. I can’t figure out if he thinks he’ll be getting help by the center or tackle or if he’s just playing with cement feet but it’s becoming a bad habit of his. Granted he didn’t give up a sack but there were a few occasions where it resulted in pressure, he needs to try and improve in that area moving forward.

Luke Petitgout: (A-) There was one occasion where he was fooled by a twist stunt that resulted in a pressure on Collins, but besides that he played a real solid game. I did see two plays that I thought he could have been called for holding but it wasn’t called for whatever reason. Did an outstanding job on the Dayne sweep in the second quarter where Campbell crashed the DE and he pulled outside to get on a backer and stayed with him. I wouldn’t say he’s the most dominant tackle in the league but he gets the job done and he really is excellent at sustaining his blocks.

(Box Score – Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants, October 13, 2002)
Oct 112002
 

Approach to the Game – Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants, October 13, 2002: Head Coach Jim Fassel was right on target with two messages for his team this week as they prepare to face the 1-3 Atlanta Falcons:

(Atlanta) should be 3-1. They missed a field goal to beat the Bears. They went into overtime and should have beaten the Green Bay Packers. I’m more worried about this game right now. We need to win this game. I want us to come off a big emotional win. I can’t emphasize it enough.

(Atlanta Head Coach Dan Reeves) is going to keep it pretty tight to the vest. He is going to try to capitalize on our mistakes and be physical and dominant with his offense and…try to gain field position (with defense and special teams). It is our job not to let that happen.

Giants’ fans may not be aware of the first point – Atlanta is far better than their record indicates. However, Giants’ fans who remember Dan Reeves know the second point is right on the mark. Dan Reeves’ teams are not flashy, but they usually don’t beat themselves. Dan will try to run the ball, play solid defense and special teams, and then prey on the mistakes of the opponent. He will also use a tiny bit of flash or trickery (Reeves loves using at least one trick play such as a flea flicker or a shuttle pass, etc.). Reeves is a super-competitive guy and you know he wants nothing more than to beat his former employer.

I have a number of worries about this game:

  1. The Giants are not 100 percent sure if QB Michael Vick will play. Many of the defensive players think he will. But if he doesn’t, I’m fearful that the defenders will unconsciously let up a bit. That would be unwise. The Falcons have enough offensive weapons to still hurt the Giants who have a lot of defensive players hurt.
  2. Fassel’s teams have an outstanding 11-2 record before the bye week, but the Giants are coming off of an emotional divisional game and are very beat up. They have a huge game coming up against the Eagles after the bye. The attitude may be “Let’s just get out of this game healthy”. Let’s hope not. The Giants have two losses in the conference; the Eagles have none.
  3. Turnovers. This is the great equalizer. Tiki Barber has fumbled the ball twice in two weeks. Kerry Collins was responsible for two fumbles last week and an interception. Reeves will count on the Giants to turn the ball over.

Giants on Special Teams: The Giants face yet another dangerous kick and punt returner this week: the shifty and fast Allen Rossum. As Fassel said, Reeves counts on winning the field position war each week. The Giants need to keep Rossum under control.

In their own return game, Delvin Joyce flashed a couple of times last week and would benefit from better blocking on his kick and punt returns. Tim Carter is also now back their with Joyce on kick returns and he has the speed and field vision to break a big return. Again, he needs help from the men in front however.

Giants on Defense: The Giants are really beat up here. DE Kenny Holmes (elbow) is most likely out. DE Frank Ferrara will start, but expect DT Cornelius Griffin to get a few snaps at the right defensive end spot too. DE Michael Strahan was bothered a bit by a shoulder injury but will play. DT Keith Hamilton (groin) and Griffin (knee) are probably still not 100 percent. DT Matt Mitrione (shoulder) is out. The defensive line obviously needs the bye week to come up in a hurry.

But the concerns don’t stop there. MLB Mike Barrow has a sore ankle and WLB Dhani Jones has a sore hamstring. And most important of all – CB Will Peterson has a dislocated toe injury that will linger with him all season. He may not play on Sunday. If he doesn’t, the inexperience Ralph Brown or the gimpy Jason Sehorn will start in his place.

Not a pretty picture.

The dynamic of the game changes dramatically depending on whether Michael Vick or Doug Johnson starts. Vick is the most dangerous scrambler in all of football and he has a rocket for an arm. Johnson is a pocket passer. If Vick plays, the Giants have to keep a spy on him and will be forced to discipline their pass rush – thus making it tougher to rush the passer. If Johnson plays, they can use a wider variety of pass rush moves. HOWEVER (and this is a big however), pocket passers are often more effective because they will stand in the pocket longer and not give up on a play too soon. Johnson will look to hurt the Giants with his arm and not his feet. This is also the very real concern that the Giants will experience a big emotional letdown if Johnson plays. If the letdown is too great, the Giants will lose this football game.

Regardless, Dan Reeves is a run-first coach. He will attempt to pound the Giants with a power approach using T.J. Duckett. Look for him to really go after Ferrara and the weakside linebacker (be it Dhani Jones or Brandon Short – again the Giants often flip-flop these two). When Griffen lines up outside, they will likely test Lance Legree in the middle. The ability of the Giants’ defense to limit the damage of the ball carriers on first and second down will largely determine their defensive success or failure. A big key will be the ability of the linebackers to avoid the lead block of fullback Bob Christian.

The Falcons are have Warrick Dunn, but the team seems to be shifting more to Duckett now. Still, Dunn is a dangerous player, especially as a receiver. Linebacker coverage on him will be very important. A big worry to are the Atlanta tight ends. Alge Crumpler and Brian Kelly are both fine two-way tight ends. Crumpler in particular can make big plays in the pass game. SS Shaun Williams and the linebackers will be very much tested by these guys – especially on play-action. That’s my biggest defensive concern in this game – play-action passes to the tight ends. Also, the Giants need to keep a wary eye on 3rd stringer Brian Kozlowski. In certain rare situations, the Falcons like to sneak the ball to Kozlowski when defenses are often found napping.

The Atlanta receivers are ordinary. But Brian Finneran is 6-5. If Sehorn can back-pedal now (and he says he can), I would lock Sehorn up on him due to the fact that Sehorn is taller than Ralph Brown. However, since Finneran is normally the “Z” receiver (lines up on the strongside), that would involve shifting Will Allen to the other spot, and I don’t think the Giants will do that. Willie Jackson is usually the “X” receiver. It will be interesting to see if Reeves comes out throwing in order to test Sehorn and Brown in the nickel package, but that is not Reeves’ style.

Up front, Ferrara faces experienced veteran Bob Whitfield, a former pro bowler who is starting to show his age. RT Todd Weiner did a very good job on Michael Strahan last season when he was with the Seahawks (one of the main reasons why the Falcons signed him in free agency was his performance in that game). Hamilton will battle LG Travis Claridge – this is a match-up Keith should win if he comes prepared to play. Griffen and/or Legree will face back-up Kynan Forney – again this is a match-up New York needs to win.

Giants on Offense: With TE Jeremy Shockey (turf toe) likely out, the way teams will defend New York now changes. Teams will not feel threatened by Dan Campbell or Marcellus Rivers in the passing game and will now make it much more difficult for Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard to get open. To me, this is the perfect situation for Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton to pull out all those fancy plays to his role players – specifically H-Back Sean Bennett, WR Ron Dixon, and WR Tim Carter. If I’m the Giants, I try to lock Bennett up on a linebacker and I use more 3- and 4-wide receiver sets. Dixon and Carter have a tremendous amount of speed and that will put a lot of pressure on ANY secondary. That will help to open up things for Toomer and Hilliard underneath.

The thing that makes Atlanta tough defensively is that they play a 3-4 defense and the Giants are not used to seeing this type of scheme on a regular basis. No one in the NFC East runs a 3-4. Tiki Barber says the difference in a 3-4 defense against the run is: “There are bigger initial holes in there. The difference is, there are more athletes pursuing you because there are four linebackers instead of three. They may concede giving up two or three yards because of the gaps in the defensive line, but the big plays are harder to come by.”

The defensive ends on Atlanta are not your typical “boxy” 3-4 ends. They are more athletic like 4-3 ends and thus are not strong run defenders. LT Luke Petitgout will face DE Patrick Kerney – a former first round pick. RT Mike Rosenthal will battle DE Brady Smith. Both can get after the passer. Inside, a big match-up will be OC Chris Bober against NT Ed Jasper. Bober has not played well this year with a tackle lined up right over his head and this match-up scares me a bit. Bober may need double-team support. The ability of guards Rich Seubert and Dusty Zeigler (or Tam Hopkins) to get out on the linebackers will also be crucial.

That’s where the strength of the Falcons’ defense is – in the linebacking corps. ILB Keith Brooking is one of the best linebackers in the game. He can do it all – play the run, blitz, and cover. Fellow ILB John Holocek is familiar with Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips’ scheme from Buffalo. Matt Stewart is the strongside linebacker. Will Overstreet is a rookie and a converted defensive lineman, so I would go after him pass coverage. Sam Rogers – another ex-Bill – plays quite a bit as well.

The secondary is without CB Ray Buchanan (suspended for steroid use). His back-up, Juran Bolden, will be facing Ike Hilliard. Ike needs to dominate this battle. The other corner is Ashley Ambrose – solid player who will line-up against Amani Toomer. Kevin Mathis – the nickel corner – is an ordinary player at best. This is why I would get into quite a few 3- and 4-wide receiver sets.

The big thing for the Giants is to not turn the ball over or pile up penalties. If the Giants don’t do these things and Kerry Collins plays well, the Giants’ offense should do alright – even without Shockey.

Oct 102002
 
The Outsider’s Report: Special Dallas Delivery Edition

By BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Daniel in MI

Well, The Outsider’s Report staff finally dragged themselves back from Dallas, or “our nation’s suppository” as it is known. It was difficult journey because the intense sun coming through the hole in that toilet bowl of a stadium really makes the hallucinogens kick in. Or, maybe that’s what Jerry Jones’ face really looks like now, it’s so hard to tell. While we at TOSR may not have the fancy journalistic accoutrements of the mass media – like reporters, facts, details, objectivity, pencils, those little notebooks with the spirals at the top that fit in your breast pocket, sobriety, inside contacts, or access to players and coaches – we assure you that we do have a journalistic standard we give the pretense of upholding (assuming it doesn’t get in the way of what we wanted to write). Although much in TOSR is considered apocryphal, or at least disconcertingly close to pure fiction, it does have two important assets over pedestrian media outlets: 1) it’s mercifully short; and b) it doesn’t cost nothin’.

Enough prologue, let’s examine the Giants news from this week. After a disastrous game against the Arizona Cardinals, the Giants were peppered with questions about their decisions and what they would do differently against the Dallas Cowboys. We caught up with Head Coach Jim Fassel who was particularly precise regarding what they would do to improve (compared to usual).

“Well, we’re going to look at some things, and streamline some things” the coach said, honing in like a laser on the issue and using a Venn diagram to illustrate. “We’re going to examine some things, study some things, change some things, discuss some things, and evaluate some things. There are things, and those things will be the focus of some other things, and then we’ll look to establish things. Regarding the aforementioned things. And things. And then there’s stuff.” With that kind of clear plan, we had no doubt the Giants would do some things against the Cowboys, but not other things.

One key to the game was that the coaches were going to “streamline” the playbook to focus on what the Giants do well. We caught up with QB Kerry Collins practicing not throwing swing passes to ask him about the changes. “We’ve been trying to do a lot of things as an offense. I mean, you have runs and passes, inside and outside, short and long…That’s a lot to learn in just a few years! So, we eliminated what we don’t do well.”

Kerry explained, “Running the ball in short yardage was out, that was the first to go. We’ve not been good at that. Running inside? Not good for us. Running outside? No, not been too good there, either. Throwing swing passes late in the half? Woo! That one was so gone! Screens? No. Draw plays? No, that’s a run. Throwing to Dixon? Not really. Throwing to the TE? Mixed results there. Punting? Not a strong point. Red zone? Let’s not even discuss that! Kickoffs? Only so-so. So, basically, once we got rid of all that chaff, we were left with what we will do from now on: Throw medium-range passes to Toomer and Hilliard in the first and third quarters between the 20 yard lines. That’s our new gameplan. Oh, and field goals. We’re good at those. Other than that, we’re thinking about just taking a knee. ‘Just kneel, baby!’ is our new motto.” It’s true, kneeling was a key to the Giants success this week.

A key to the win, we’re told, is that DT Keith Hamilton, or “The Hammer” as he’s known to his teammates (or “The Macabee” as he’s known to the Rosenthal) gave a speech to the team. It really seemed to have some impact. “Oh, yeah, that speech really had some impact,” explained RB Tiki Barber. “I mean, he may not say much, but when he speaks, we listen. I mean, look at the guy, he looks like he just busted out of Oz. I’m terrified of that guy.” Hammer is said to have called out players and told it like it is. We caught up with the Hammer getting a Hummer (he loves military vehicles) to ask him about the speech. “I’m going to tell guys just what I think. That’s how they respect you. If they don’t like it, that’s their problem. I called them out and I called me out. Plus, I owed coach Fassel a big game because I try to play at least one good one for him a year.” We obtained a secretly taped copy of the speech, and it is a hard core speech. We’ve printed our transcript of it below [Warning: May Disturb Some Readers. Read At Your Own Risk.]

“Listen up, y’all. I been asked by the coach to talk to y’all before this here game. We sort of punked out last week, so let me just say sumthin ’bout that: First [clears throat], it’s just so suuuuper to get a chance to talk to you today. We never get to really talk anymore. To really connect as people. I have to say, I feel a lot of love in this room, I really do. A lot of genuine, pure love. It’s just exquisite, isn’t it? You know, we need to care about each other, we are all beautiful people, with really beautiful insides, and I [sniff] just really think each of you are special in your own ways. And that…[oh my God]…is beautiful… Can we all hold hands? Come on take the person’s hand next to you. Jeremy, you too, that’s it. Take Brandon’s hand. Don’t be shy. Look, everyone, we’ve all been through a lot of things. And, maybe we’ve made some bad plays, some mistakes. Bober, maybe you let that guy pound Kerry you were getting out some passive aggression on him. Dhani, maybe you tackle like you’re afraid of real intimacy. And Strahan, maybe you let the Cardinals’ tackle push you around like you two were co-dependent. You were the enabler, Michael. But, let’s not ‘should’ all over ourselves, shall we. What’s done is done. We can only look to the future. And we can look into each other’s eyes, and promise each other that we’ll do the very, very best we can with what God gave us. Even if it isn’t much like Frankie over there. So, let’s go out there, and really just do our best… Oh, and if anyone screws up again, I’ll beat you so bad dental records won’t help identify the squishy reddish pulp that will be left of you. Got me, cupcakes?”

Another story this week was the fact that, despite first-round draft pick TE Jeremy Shockey getting injured, the other Giants tight ends made key contributions. We found TE’s Dan Campbell and Marcellus Rivers preparing for stardom to ask them about their success. “Dan and I are just as good as Shockey,” said Rivers desperately. “Maybe we didn’t come in here and pick a fight with Brandon Short our first day, but I’ve been trying to pick a fight with Short all week to make up for it. Or, you know, maybe just the kicker. I’ll fight him anytime anywhere, when he’s not looking. But forget that, I caught one ball and scored one touchdown. That’s as many as Shockey has! I put points on the board. I want 22 touches a game! You can’t stop a Marcellus Rivers, you can only hope to contain him.” That’s true, and usually it takes something as solid as Gladware to contain that kind of talent.

Campbell, too, felt he deserved the limelight. “I had a 10 yard-per-catch average! I’m a force of nature. I told coach today, ‘No more blocking, give me the damn ball!’ Now, I’m sitting back and waiting for the big endorsement offers.” Unfortunately, his agent tells me that so far he’s gotten only one offer, from Campbell Soup Company who offered him $40 to change his name to “Progresso.”

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t comment on big play at the end of the game. Yes, despite battling for four quarters, the Giants almost blew the lead as CB Ralph Brown allowed a Cowboy WR to run free behind him. We caught up with the young corner after his post-traumatic stress counseling to ask him about it. “Well, the problem was one of communication,” he explained. “They wanted me to cover him and not let him score a touchdown on us, but I wasn’t clear on that. I thought we were in, uh, like cover 12 or umbrella blanket, uh, nickel half-dollar uh…I don’t know, you know, Willy Pete is usually out there. I’ve kinda been sleepin’ in those meetings lately. But I had the situation under control. Once he got behind me, I knew just what to do. I started to pray like you couldn’t believe. Prayer is a really a strong part of my game. I’m not that good at covering a guy, or tackling, or catching the ball, I don’t really read plays that good. But, I can pray like you couldn’t believe. I got through half the bible while that ball was in the air. I’ve been brushing up on my prayer for this week, too. We’re at home, and we got that wind to consider, but I don’t think it should impact my praying that much.”

In any case, the Giants escaped Dallas with a win, and now must get ready for the Atlanta Falcons with ex-Giants Head Coach Dan Reeves. We wish Coach Reeves all the success he had during his last few years with the Giants.

Oct 092002
 
New York Giants 21 – Dallas Cowboys 17

Game Overview: This was a typical NFC East battle, fought right down to the wire. What was surprising is that both offenses had so much success against the opposing defenses. It is interesting that the Giants under Kerry Collins are starting demonstrate the ability to come-from-behind on a regular basis. At the end of the 2001 season, Kerry Collins led the Giants on late 4th quarter game-tying or game-winning touchdown drives against the Cardinals, Seahawks, and Eagles. The Giants tied the game late against the 49ers in the 2002 opener and came-from-behind in the 4th quarter to take the lead against Seattle. This past Sunday they did it again against Dallas, with Collins leading the G-Men on an 8-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in the game-winning touchdown pass to TE Marcellus Rivers.

The worst news to come out of this game were all the injuries – most noticeably to CB Will Peterson, TE Jeremy Shockey, and RG Jason Whittle. Hopefully they will not miss much time.

Offensive Line/Tight End/Fullback/Wide Receiver Blocking: This was the offensive line’s finest all-around game this year both in terms of pass and run blocking. And make no mistake about it, Dallas has a very good front seven on defense and two outstanding run-force safeties. What was surprising was how easily the Giants controlled the line of scrimmage, except for a few negative plays that I will highlight.

On the Giants first drive of the game, the Giants got a great surge all along the front wall as Tiki Barber picked up 3 yards on first down and Ron Dayne picked up 6 yards on second down. (On the second play, FB Charles Stackhouse made a good block as well). On 3rd-and-1, Ron Dayne was stuffed, but this was not the fault of the offensive line. WR Ike Hilliard missed his block on a defensive back who caused a pile in the backfield…and this pile prevented FB Charles Stackhouse from hitting the free linebacker who made the play. Ron Dayne should have also done a better job of pushing forward despite the contact. He’s a big boy who doesn’t play like it.

New York’s control of the line of scrimmage continued on the second drive. Barber picked up 13 yards behind LG Rich Seubert, LT Luke Petitgout, and OC Chris Bober. RT Mike Rosenthal gave up a pressure on the play after that and the pass fell incomplete. Collins had fine protection on the next play. On 3rd-and-2, Petitgout got beat outside and Stackhouse failed to pick up a blitz, but Collins did a great job of getting rid of the ball quickly and throwing an accurate pass to Toomer despite throwing off his back foot. Three plays later, Barber picked up six more yards as Seubert, Bober, and Whittle just destroyed the middle of the Dallas defense. On the very next play, Whittle threw a crushing block on 3rd-and-1 as Barber picked up the first down. Three plays later, Collins hit Hilliard for 12 yards and a touchdown.

The next two series were not so good for the Giants. Dallas blitzed two defenders off the right-side of their defense. Petitgout picked up one of the blitzers, but Seubert didn’t see the second. Since he was being called upon to block the tackle right in front of him, I wonder if the problem was not with Seubert but with the line call. Regardless, safety Roy Williams came free and crushed Collins. On second down, a Barber run went nowhere as Bober couldn’t sustain his block and safety Darren Woodson came free. Collins was intercepted on the next play. Bober had problems on the next series too as once again Bober couldn’t handle a tackle lined up right over his head and DT La’Roi Glover sacked Collins on 3rd-and-8. Incidentally, this is the only noticeable play Glover made all day and the second and last sack given up by the Giants. The fifth and last drive for New York in the first half was a quick one…3-plays, 78-yards and a touchdown. Pass protection on the bomb from Collins to Toomer was superb.

Second half. On the first play, Barber had good blocking to his right but for some reason cut the run back to his left and was tackled for no gain. Whittle then gave up a pass pressure, but Collins completed the pass to Barber for 6 yards. Rosenthal was flagged for a false start two plays later, but the Giants converted on 3rd-and-9. A 3rd-and-2 pass to Toomer was ruled out-of-bounds and the Giants were forced to punt. On the second drive, Barber picked up 3 yards up the middle behind solid blocking. Delvin Joyce got his one carry, but Whittle couldn’t get out on the defensive end on the short pull in time and Joyce was limited to a 1-yard gain. The next four plays were pass plays with fine pass protection…but the drive ended when Barber dropped a well set up screen pass.

Third drive of the second half. Collins picks up 21 yards on the first carry. The Dallas defense over-pursued the play to their right and Tiki hurt them with a big gain on the cutback. On the next play, Rosenthal was bullrushed (Mike is much better at this now than he was earlier – he’s playing with better leverage); Collins got the pass off but it was dropped by Stackhouse. On 2nd-and-10, Darren Woodson made a superb play in limiting Barber to 1-yard. On 3rd-and-9, Dallas came with a big blitz, but Seubert, Joyce, and Bennett did a good job of picking it up and Dallas was flagged for pass interference. The next play was a well-blocked Ron Dayne run, but Collins’ hand-off to Dayne was too high and the ball was fumbled away. It’s too bad because Dayne had a big hole to run through.

The fourth drive was excellent…the 8-play, 80-yarder that regained the lead. On 1st down, Barber picked up 23-yards around right end behind excellent blocks from Ike Hilliard, Charles Stackhouse, and Dan Campbell. After a short pass to Toomer, Dayne powered his way for 4-yards and a first down behind good blocks from Campbell (lined up in the FB position), Rosenthal, and RG Tam Hopkins (who was subbing for the injured Whittle). Three straight pass attempts – and fine pass protection – picked up 27 yards. On 1st-and-10 from the Dallas 18, Barber was tackled for only a 1-yard gain as Stackhouse missed his block on LB Dexter Coakley. On the very next play, Collins had fine time to hit Rivers for 17-yards and the game-winner.

The fifth drive was a 3-and-out despite an excellent lead block on the first play from Stackhouse, allowing Barber to pick up 3-yards. But the 3rd-and-7 completion to Bennett fell 2-yards short. The sixth drive was the Giants’ final of the game, where they successfully ran out the clock. On 1st-and-10, the Dallas defense again over-pursued to their right and Tiki cut back for 7-yards with Marcellus Rivers making a good block on the backside. On 2nd-and-3, New York ended the game as Barber picked up 4-yards behind strong blocks from Rosenthal and Hopkins.

Aside from the few negative plays I mentioned, pass protection was very good. The Giants run blocked very well between the tackles and got key contributions from Campbell, Stackhouse, and Rivers. Ike Hilliard missed a key block on the 3rd-and-1 play, but made a good block on one of Tiki’s big runs. Tam Hopkins deserves special praise for filling in for the injured Whittle and not missing a beat. Incidentally, I thought this was Whittle’s best game of the year. For more commentary on the offensive line, see Chris Jacob’s commentary below.

Running Backs: Tiki Barber (17 carries for 94 yards; 4 catches for 29 yards) had a very productive day, but I thought he made some critical mistakes as well. The bad news was that (1) Barber fumbled the ball for the second game in a row and was lucky that Hilliard did such a good job of recovering the ball; (2) Tiki continues to cutback sometimes even when there is fine blocking in front of him; (3) Barber dropped a beautifully set-up screen pass on 3rd-and-8; and (4) for some odd reason, Barber failed to hand the ball off to Toomer on a WR-reverse that was incredibly well set-up (Dallas had over-pursued on the play and the Giants had a line of blockers all the way to the endzone).

The good news was that Tiki continues to look healthier and healthier and broke off two big runs – one coming on one of his patented cutbacks that picked up 21 yards (Tiki broke a tackle on this run as well). He then broke off a 23-yarder to start the game-winning drive (and ran threw four tacklers on this carry). Tiki’s cutback on first down when the Giants were attempting to run out the clock picked up 7 yards and largely finished Dallas.

Ron Dayne (5 carries for 13 yards) had two strong runs. One came on the first drive when he picked up 6-yards up the gut. However, on the very next play, he tippy-toed it up to the line of scrimmage and was stuffed on 3rd-and-1. No the play was not perfectly blocked, but why does it seem that every play has to be perfectly blocked for Dayne in order for him to succeed? In the 3rd quarter, he again looked hesitant on a 2nd-and-3 carry that only picked up 1-yard. On the Giants’ game-winning drive, Dayne had a very good and strong 4-yard blast to pick up a 1st down on 2nd-and-2. But it was interesting to note that it was Barber, not Dayne, who the Giants wanted to run out the clock.

Let’s be honest. Dayne is a colossal disappointment and is playing worse now than when he did late last year. He will remain on the roster because he’s relatively cheap and he knows the system, but I doubt he is on the team next year. As it is, expect to see Delvin Joyce to start eating into his playing time now. Unless Tiki Barber gets hurt, Dayne most likely will remain a seldom-used back-up.

Charles Stackhouse dropped a pass and missed a run block and a blitz pick-up, but I’ve been impressed with how quickly his blocking is improving. He’s playing with more leverage now and sustaining better.

Quarterback: Except for a few miscues, this was another strong game by Kerry Collins (18/27 for 228 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception). What I liked about his performance was not only was it another come-from-behind demonstration, but Collins has started to look off the coverage more by first looking in one direction and then coming back to the other side of the field more often. Most importantly, thus far, Kerry has shown a marked improvement in his toughness. Teams have hit him in the mouth early this year and, unlike previous seasons, Collins is not getting rattled. I also like the fact that Collins is dumping the ball off more often when he doesn’t see a man open down the field.

On the Giant’ first touchdown drive, Collins hit Toomer for 8-yards on an out pass after he looked off the coverage in the opposite direction. On the next play (3rd-and-2), Collins made a great play when falling backwards to avoid immediate pressure, he delivered a strike to Toomer for a first down. This was a play where it is good that Collins can throw off the back of his foot. On 3rd-and-6 from the Dallas 12, Collins fired another strike, this time to Hilliard for the touchdown.

Collins’ worst plays came on his next two drives. On 3rd-and-15, Collins threw a terrible pass along the right sideline to Toomer and was intercepted. The problem was that Toomer was well-covered and the ball had no air under it. On the next drive, he badly missed Ike Hilliard on 2nd-and-8. On the next play, he was sacked and once again fumbled the ball away (luckily he recovered). Collins really needs to do a better job of protecting the ball when he knows he’s about to get hit.

Collins got back on track on the next drive. He made another great play as he stood in tough against an unblocked blitzing linebacker, and despite knowing he was going to get clobbered he threw a strike to Hilliard for 18-yards. This play was very “Simms-like”. On the very next play, he threw a beautiful deep post pass to Toomer for 56-yards and a touchdown.

In the 3rd quarter, on the first drive, Collins threw a nice slant pass to Hilliard for 20-yards. However, his 3rd-and-2 pass three plays later was a too wide for Toomer to come down with it in-bounds and the Giants were forced to punt. On the next drive, Collins was again a tad off the mark as he just missed Ike Hilliard coming over the middle all alone against Dexter Coakley. This would have been a big play if Collins threw a more accurate pass. On the next drive, the botched exchange between Collins and Dayne was Collins’ fault – the hand-off was far too high by Kerry.

Collins was masterful on the Giants’ game-winning drive, hitting 4-of-5 passes. He hit Toomer on an 8-yard slant and Barber on a screen for 7 yards. Then on 3rd-and-3, after his primary receiver to his right was covered, he came off and looked to his left to find the wide open TE Dan Campbell for 20-yards and a first down. Two plays later he hit TE Marcellus Rivers over the middle for a 17-yard touchdown.

Wide Receivers/Tight End Receiving: TE Jeremy Shockey (1 catch for 11 yards) was forced to leave early with a turf toe injury. His one pass play was a neat design by Sean Payton. They had Shockey line up in the backfield, faking as a lead blocker. The play-action completely fooled Dallas and Shockey picked up the first down.

Dan Campbell (3 catches for 30 yards) and Marcellus Rivers (1 catch for 17 yards and a touchdown) did a great job of filling in for Shockey. Campell had two clutch 3rd down receptions for first downs (one for 8 yards on 3rd-and-6 and one for 20 yards on 3rd-and-3). Rivers beat Dexter Coakley on his touchdown reception – Coakley may be the best pass coverage linebacker in the game.

The best part of the game for Amani Toomer (5 catches for 98 yards, 1 touchdown) and Ike Hilliard (3 catches for 38 yards, 1 touchdown) is that they both finally scored. I’ve been waiting for Toomer to break one deep; it’s been a long time. His 56-yard touchdown reception was huge because Dallas had just scored and this play regained the all-important momentum for the Giants. Hilliard’s touchdown score was a great effort play. He had the first down with his catch, but it was his ability to fight through two defenders that got the Giants seven points. Give Hilliard special kudos too for fighting hard to recover Barber’s fumble…that was a huge play.

Defensive Line: It was a bit of an up-and-down game for the defensive line who had some problems with injuries coming into the game (Kenny Holmes – elbow, Keith Hamilton – groin, Cornelius Griffin – knee). The excessive heat and humidity in Dallas on Sunday was also a factor. Fortunately for the Giants, HB Emmitt Smith isn’t very good running outside the tackles and Dallas never really attacked the injured Holmes and his replacement, Frank Ferrara, as much as I anticipated. The pass rush was inconsistent – more of a factor in the first half than the second. This may partially be due to the fact that once Will Peterson left the game with injury, New York probably felt it couldn’t blitz as often as it would like.

Michael Strahan (3 tackles, 1 sack) is the one most notable for causing more problems early. But since Strahan was only spelled for two snaps, the heat and constant double-teams most likely wore him down. On Dallas’ first drive of the game, he forced an incomplete pass on 2nd-and-7 when he cleanly beat Larry Allen. On the next drive, Strahan beat a double-team by the tackle and back to pressure QB Quincy Carter on 3rd-and-10 and force an incompletion. On the next drive, once again Strahan pressured Carter – this time on 3rd-and-20 forcing another inaccurate throw. At the end of the half, Strahan was credited with a sack on an aborted halfback option pass on 3rd-and-9 from the Giants’ 14 yard line. In the second half, Michael didn’t make much noise at all.

Kenny Holmes (elbow) was clearly not 100 percent and didn’t even play in the second half, as Frank Ferrara subbed for him. In the 2nd quarter, Holmes and LB Brandon Short disrupted an Emmitt run around left end, allowing SS Shaun Williams to clean up for a 4-yard loss. But two plays later, Holmes and LB Dhani Jones got killed on a run around left end by Tony Hambrick for 10-yards on 3rd-and-2.

Ferrara (no tackles) got good penetration on Smith’s 30-yard touchdown run, but because he didn’t make the tackle, the spot he vacated left a big hole. To make matters worse, DT Keith Hamilton got blocked (and showed poor effort on the play), FS Omar Stoutmire took the wrong angle, and SS Shaun Williams missed the tackle. In the 4th quarter, Ferrara was the only player on the defense not fooled by a misdirection running play to Smith. However, again Ferrara couldn’t make the tackle in the backfield (he’s a pretty stiff athlete in the open field). Smith picked up 6 yards on this play. Aside from these two plays, I didn’t see any major mistakes by Ferrara. He didn’t make any plays, but he didn’t get killed out there like a lot of people think he did.

Keith Hamilton (3 tackles, 1 sack) got pressure on Carter on the first series of the game, forcing a quick throw. On the second series, he was right behind MLB Mike Barrow when Barrow nailed Smith in the backfield for a 4-yard loss. On the next play, his very quick pressure on a tight end screen to Tony McGee forced an incompletion that was almost intercepted by Brandon Short. Two plays later DT Cornelius Griffin (2 tackles) disrupted a Smith run to the right (along with Dhani Jones); Smith got away from the tackle but Griffin was athletic enough to still chase him down to the left for no gain. Late in the second quarter, Hamilton forced an inaccurate throw with his pass pressure. Two plays later, both Hamilton and Griffen disrupted an Emmitt run, but couldn’t make the tackle; LB Kevin Lewis cleaned up for a 1-yard gain. In the second half, Griffen forced an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-8 on Dallas’ first possession. Griffen later tripped Carter up from behind when it looked like he was going to scramble for first down yardage near the end of the 3rd quarter. Hamilton was manhandled by a double-team block on Carter’s quarterback keeper up the middle for 8-yards on the play right before WR Antonio Bryant’s go-ahead touchdown catch. New York shouldn’t have been fooled like this because Dallas is apt to run this play in their open backfield set. (Earlier in the game, the Giants had stuffed this play on 4th-and-2). Hamilton was also flagged for a false start in the game.

DT Lance Legree (1 tackle) made a great play at the end of the second quarter when he diagnosed a tight end screen pass, stopped his rush, and then turned around to chase Tony McGee and hold him to a 2-yard gain. The play had big yardage written all over it if Legree doesn’t make the play. DT/DE Dwight Johnson saw a few snaps at both left defensive end and defensive tackle. He got a good pass rush from the tackle spot early in the 4th quarter, forcing an incompletion.

Linebackers: Like the rest of the defense, this unit was up-and-down. On the first play of the game, Barrow (5 tackles) nailed Emmitt Smith in the hole and limited him to a 1-yard gain. Two plays later, Dhani Jones (5 tackles) got beat on a short out to HB Michael Wiley out of the slot position for 6 yards on 3rd-and-2. On the next play, Jones did a good job in coverage holding Smith to a 3-yard gain. Two plays later, Brandon Short (2 tackles, 1 sack) tackled Carter in the backfield on a quarterback keeper on 4th-and-2.

On the next series, tight end Tony McGee was left wide open in the middle of the field on a 14-yard gain. I think it was Barrow who blew the coverage, but I’m not sure. Two plays later, a run blitz by Barrow nailed Smith in the backfield for a 4-yard loss. On Dallas’ fourth drive, Smith picked up 16 yards off left tackle as all three linebackers got handled on the play – poor run defense by all three. Jones (and Holmes) was then run at on 3rd-and-2 for 10 yards by Hambrick. Two plays after that, the Giants sent both Jones and Short at Carter; Short beat the block of the fullback and sacked Carter for an 8-yard loss.

On the long touchdown run by Emmitt where there were breakdowns by Ferrara, Hamilton, and the safeties – Jones also got blocked. On the next drive, the Giants blitzed two linebackers and got burned badly when Michael Wiley was left all alone down the seam for a 25-yard gain. This set up Dallas’ field goal at the end of the half.

In the second half, on Dallas’ first drive, Short penetrated into the backfield but missed the tackle on Smith. Like the Ferrara play earlier, this left a gap that Smith ran through – this time for 15 yards. On the next drive, Short did a good job maintaining his contain responsibilities and an end around by Bryant was limited to 3-yards. On Dallas’ final scoring drive, Barrow was beaten by TE Tony McGee on 3rd-and-4 for 7-yards. Three plays later, Jones penetrated and tackled Hambrick for a 2-yard loss. On Dallas’ last drive of the game, Barrow got beat by Emmitt for a 12-yard reception, despite quick pass pressure from Hamilton. Then a blitz by Jones forced Carter to throw inaccurately.

LB Kevin Lewis (3 tackles) was pretty quiet, but he didn’t hurt the Giants when he replaced Dhani Jones at times due to the latter’s tight hamstring.

Defensive Backs: The Giants suffered a major blow when Will Peterson was forced to leave the game when he re-injured his dislocated toe. With CB Jason Sehorn still not able to back-pedal effectively due to his continued recovery from off-season knee surgery, Ralph Brown was forced to play much of the game at right cornerback. Except for a mental breakdown late in the game, he played pretty decently. CB Will Allen was limited himself with a groin injury. How much of a factor this was in the game is unknown but he had his worst game of the year against WR Joey Galloway (who gave him some problems last year too).

Allen (6 tackles) had excellent coverage on Galloway on a deep sideline pass in the first quarter and just barely missed swatting the ball away; but the ball was completed for a 33-yard gain. Two plays later, Allen knocked the ball away on an out-pattern to Galloway. On the very next play, Dallas tried to go after Allen again and again Allen had great coverage – this time in the end zone. Allen had good coverage on TE James Whalen on 3rd-and-20 in the 2nd quarter.

On Dallas’ first scoring drive, Allen played too far off of Galloway and an easy 13-yard reception was the result. In the 3rd quarter, Allen was too far off again and Galloway got another easy 13-yard gain. On Dallas’ go-ahead drive in the 4th quarter, Allen was beat by Galloway down the field and only a big hit by Shaun Williams forced an incompletion. On the next play, Allen was beaten by WR Reggie Swinton for 16-yards as Barrow and Sehorn blitzed. Midway through the 4th quarter, Galloway got inside position on Allen and a 19-yard reception resulted. Allen did have a nice run force on the next play.

Before he left the game, Will Peterson (2 tackles) had great coverage on a deep pass to Galloway near the beginning of the 2nd quarter. But Peterson was beat by Galloway on a slant pass for 12-yards on 2nd-and-14 on the next drive.

Ralph Brown (3 tackles) got beat over the middle on a slant pass by WR Antonio Bryant for 9-yards right before Smith’s 30-yard touchdown run. At the start of the 3rd quarter, Brown did a good job of filling the hole off left tackle and holding Smith to a 3-yard gain. On Dallas’ second drive in the second half, Brown had superb coverage on a short out pass to Galloway and caused the incompletion on 3rd-and-3. If Brown had only seen the ball, he could have intercepted it and scored. Still, it was an outstanding play. On 3rd-and-4 from the Giants’ 19-yard line, Brown was beaten on a short out for 8-yards and a first down by Reggie Swinton. Dallas scored two plays later. Ralph was flagged for a 16-yard pass interference penalty on Dallas’ last drive on a play over the middle to the speedster Swinton, but I thought it was solid coverage by Brown. On the very next play, Brown made his biggest mistake of the game, failing to understand the coverage call he thought he had deep safety help on the long pass to Bryant. Luckily the ball was overthrown or the Giants probably would have lost the game. All in all, Brown played a good game and was sounder than Allen.

Shaun Williams (4 tackles) made some fine plays, but also had some bad ones. He got beat by TE James Whalen for 33-yards down the middle of the field on Dallas’ second drive. Williams tackled Emmitt Smith for a 4-yard loss in the first half. Three plays later, he disrupted another Smith run that Barrow clean up on for no gain. But it was Williams who missed the tackle on Smith on his long TD run. In the 4th quarter, a big hit by Williams on Galloway prevented a sure 25+ yard completion (Allen was beat on the play). However, three plays later, Williams was flagged with a costly pass interference penalty on 3rd-and-12. It was an especially bad play too because the pass was off the mark. Williams got suckered on the play-action fake on the TD pass to Antonio Bryant. On 3rd-and-3 with 4:56 left in the game, Williams knocked the ball away intended for WR Ken-Yon Rambo.

Omar Stoutmire (7 tackles) was late on the deep sideline throw to Galloway in the first quarter. His was pretty quiet until Dallas’ last drive. First he made a great play in the flat on a pass to Hambrick, limiting him to a 1-yard gain. On the very next play, he jumped on a 3rd-and-9 slant to Ken-Yon Rambo and broke up the play. The only bad thing is that he should have caught the ball and scored.

Special Teams: Things didn’t start off well for PK Matt Bryant as he kicked his opening kick-off out-of-bounds. This was a terrible play that gave Dallas the ball on the 40-yard line. His other kick-offs landed at the 1 (return of 26 yards, tackle by Kevin Lewis), the 4 (return of 37 yards, tackle by Bryant himself), and the 9 (return of 20 yards, tackle by Wes Mallard). Kick coverage against the dangerous Reggie Swinton was fine except for the one big 37-yard return. Little Matt Bryant made a heck of a tackle on that play.

P Matt Allen got off punts of 46 (this was misleading as it was a poor kick where he got a good bounce), 42, 36, 40, and 51 yards. Allen’s last punt – the 51 yarder – was clutch as it came with the Giants backed up at their own 16-yard line with 3:49 left to play. Dallas punt returns were for 0 (downed by Kevin Lewis), 16 (Wes Mallard), 0 (fair catch), 0 (fair catch), and 0 (holding penalty on Dallas). On the two fair catches and the 16-yard return, Dallas couldn’t block gunner/WR Tim Carter – a great debut for the speedster.

Delvin Joyce handled all the punt and kick return chances. Ironically, Joyce’s best punt return came on a play where he muffed the punt. He showed good quickness, elusiveness, and some power on his 20-yard return. His only other return chance only picked up 3 yards. Joyce’s kickoffs went for 19, 30, 18, and a touchback.

Great job by DeWayne Patmon and Will Allen on the field goal fake by Dallas in the first quarter. Allen stayed with the receiver down the field and Patmon didn’t allow the kicker to get around him and made a quick, sure tackle. A huge play.


Offensive Line Review

by Chris Jacobs

It’s ironic that this be my first official O-Line review of the season considering this was the best that this line has played this season. As a matter of fact, it’s the best a NY Giant line has played in two years. They completely dominated the line of scrimmage from the first snap to the final whistle. The game plan the Giants put together as far as the running game is concerned was brilliant. The Dallas front four is on the small side and very, very quick. To counter that, the Giants stayed in base/drive blocking most of the game. Dallas D-Line and LB’s are great at pursuit and the Giants figured they could pound, and it worked. The first four plays of the game were straight ahead runs and right on the snap of the ball the Dallas D-Line was on roller-skates all four plays. On the Dayne non-converted 3rd-and-1 one of the WR’s missed his block allowing a defender to slip in and disrupt the play. (He should have got the yard anyway). As far as the pass protection was concerned there was one miscue by Bober and one by Seubert, but besides that any pressure or sack on Collins was due to a blitz or a missed block by a back or a tight end.

Mike Rosenthal: (A-) He’s improving week to week and this was clearly his best effort this season so far. A lot of his bad habits are gone, he’s not hesitating off the snap on his drive blocking, he didn’t get bull rushed into the QB, and he did a much better job moving his feet and riding his man outside on the speed rush. He still needs some work on sustaining his blocks just a second longer on run blocks, and there was one or two occasions where he missed a reach block but I don’t know how much you can fault him for that since he’s not too quick and the defender was.

Jason Whittle: (A-) I hate to break it to Manny in CA but up until he got hurt he was having a terrific game. He was driving defenders 5 yards downfield every time the Giants ran the ball. There was even one time where his pad level was too high in pass pro and the defender was under him but he held his ground long enough to allow the QB to get rid of the ball. The Collins/Dayne fumble was either Whittle’s or Rosenthal’s fault, it’s hard to tell, it looked like Whittle was suppose to pull outside and Rosey was suppose to come flat down the line but the defender was too quick upfield and got his hand on Collins arm which caused the fumble.

Chris Bober: (B+) Much to the credit of the coaching staff, Bober did a lot less pulling this week and therefore he had a much better game. He does much better drive blocking straight ahead than he does in space, besides, the Dallas LB’s are way too quick to try any of that stuff anyway. On the play that Collins recovered his own fumble, Bober was beat bad by a swim move from the defender right off the line. Besides that I thought he played an outstanding game.

Rich Seubert: (B+) Again he benefited from not having to do much pulling, and like everyone else on the line did a great job drive blocking. There were a couple of straight dives where he and Petitgout completely collapsed the left side of the line but the back (I think once it was Tiki and once it was Dayne) didn’t recognize it but could have turned the play into a big gain. Did a great job in pass protection, the only fault on his part was the Roy Williams blitz which he should have recognized and picked up. He was doubling the nose with Bober who didn’t need help there, if he recognizes the blitz he could have picked it up and at least prevented the sack.

Luke Petitgout: (A) Like I’ve said in the past, I think he is the best lineman they have but the other guys seem to be catching up with him. The DE mostly tried the outside speed rush on him most of the day and the worst it did was cause Collins to have to step up in the pocket, it never really resulted in a pressure.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, October 6, 2002)
Oct 042002
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, October 6, 2002: One can legitimately argue that the Giants have out-played each of their first four opponents and should be 4-0. Instead they are 2-2. The offense failed to score enough points in the first half against San Francisco and handed the game to the Cardinals. That’s frustrating as all hell. But what’s done is done. It’s a 12-game season from here on out and the Giants are only 1-game out of first place in the NFC East. This is a big game for the Giants this week – their first against a divisional opponent. Historically, the Giants have never played well in Dallas and Fassel has a 2-3 record there. The Cowboys are similar to the Giants in that they have a very good defense and an offense that struggles to put points on the scoreboard. In these types of games, special teams often prove to be the difference-maker.

Giants on Special Teams: This aspect of the game will be absolutely critical this weekend. Reggie Swinton is a very dangerous kick and punt returner. He has already returned a kickoff for a touchdown this year and averages an amazing 32.8 yards per return. Against the Rams, he had two big punt returns. The Giants’ kick-off and punt coverage units will have their work cut out for them. Both PK Matt Bryant and P Matt Allen need to get good height on their kicks.

Daryl Jones has struggled as both a punt and kick returner. He needs to make smarter decisions and he needs better help from his blockers. Tim Carter may steal some of his work this weekend. Carter has much more experience returning kicks than punts.

The Giants also need to be sound in their punt protection schemes as Dallas may be coming after Allen. The Giants also need to be wary of fakes on punts and field goals…the Dallas special teams coach usually has a trick or two up his sleeve.

Giants on Offense: The news surrounding the Giants’ offense this week was the announcement by Head Coach Jim Fassel that the team would cut back on the number of plays it practices so it can concentrate on practicing those plays it intends to use more frequently in the game. Duh! Sometimes I marvel at the stupidity. The good news out of this – if the Giants actually follow through on it – is that the Giants may finally develop a core of plays that they run well and can rely upon in crucial situations. This is more likely to give the team an offensive identity. But we shall see. “Whiz Kid” Payton usually likes to out-smart himself.

Don’t underestimate the Dallas defense. It was darn good last year and got a lot better in the offseason with additions such as DT La’Roi Glover and LB Kevin Hardy. Glover’s presence appears to have raised the play of his defensive line mates. Dallas has a very fast and athletic defense. They run and chase very well…the Giants would be ill-advised to run many slow-developing plays or anything that is especially vulnerable to out-maneuver by speed and quickness (such as sweeps Mr. Payton).

It will be interesting to see how the Giants decide to attack Dallas. Their linebackers are athletic enough to do well in coverage against TE Jeremy Shockey and HB Tiki Barber. In particular, LB Dexter Coakley is a linebacker who plays like a safety in coverage. Kevin Hardy can still play well moving forward and moving backward. Then there are the safeties Roy Williams and Darren Woodson. It won’t be easy to attack the undercoverage.

Dallas is lighter in the front seven so you would think that teams could run on them. But they are very quick and Dallas likes to blitz so much that often times there is no recognizable gap to run through. You can bet that the Cowboys will blitz the Giants a lot, not only to stymie the ground attack, but to try to rattle QB Kerry Collins. If the Giants are going to try to run the ball on Dallas, they are going to have to be very patient and expect some disappointing plays due to the blitzes.

I think they way I would attack Dallas early is with the intermediate- and deep-ball to the wide receivers. Woodson is not as strong against the pass as he used to be (he’s still an excellent run defender) and the other safety, Williams, is a rookie who plays better closer to the line of scrimmage than away from it. RCB Mario Edwards is an aggressive corner and is developing into a good player. WR Amani Toomer needs to make some plays against him in order for the Giants to win. LCB Duane Hawthorne has a strained hamstring, but is expected to play. He will see WR Ike Hilliard most of the time. WR Ron Dixon got open deep last week against the Cardinals and it will be interesting to see if that is the precursor to a larger impact from him or not. “They are a faster defense than we’ve seen and they’re going to try to get all 11 guys to the football,” WR Ike Hilliard says. “They will (blitz) their guys, whether it be the linebackers or the safeties. We have to keep our eyes open and, hopefully, look for the big play when we get a chance.”

What works against the blitz? Draws, screens, and slants. Get rid of the ball quickly.

Of course, the offensive battle will largely be determined up front. The Giants need to give Kerry Collins time to throw the ball against a front four that has demonstrated that it can rush the passer this year. LG Rich Seubert will have the hardest task against Glover. He’s going to need double-team help from OC Chris Bober and this in turn is going to open things up inside for Dallas when blitzing. Blitz pick-ups by the running backs will be huge in this game. The Giants need RG Jason Whittle to be able to handle DT Brandon Noble on his own for the most part. With Glover getting a lot of attention, weakside defensive end Greg Ellis has flourished with 5.5 sacks. LT Luke Petitgout matches up with him. Finally, RT Mike Rosenthal will face LDE Ebenezer Ekuban, who can also rush the passer.

When the Giants run, I will be very angry if most of their runs don’t go off tackle or between the tackles. If you run sideways on Dallas, you are playing right into their hands.

Most importantly, the Giants need a very good game from Collins. He has to not turn the ball over, move the chains, and get the team into the end zone. After all, that’s what his position is all about.

Giants on Defense: Dallas doesn’t have a very strong offense, but they do have the ability to make plays and score if you are not careful. It is obvious that Emmitt Smith is slowing down – he doesn’t have that extra gear anymore. However, he’s a tough old warrior who you have to respect. His back-up, Tony Hambrick, can run the ball and is actually the more explosive player now. The big danger for the Giants is that the big Dallas offensive line will punish a beat-up front four on defense by constantly wearing on them with the ground game. The only good news in this area is that Dallas is a bit beat-up themselves up front on the offensive line.

DE Michael Strahan is the only healthy starter up front. Who he will line-up against is a bit of a mystery. The Cowboys tried to move All-Pro Larry Allen to right tackle last week, but Allen suffered an ankle sprain during the game. He is expected to play this weekend, but Strahan seems to think the Cowboys will move Allen back inside due to the ankle injury. If they don’t, that’s a real interesting match-up – two All-Pros slugging it out in the trenches. If Allen is moved inside, Solomon Page will move back to right tackle. Matt Lehr is both the back-up right guard and center on Dallas and it looks like starting center Andre Gurode (sprained toe) will not play. So one would think that Lehr becomes the new center and Kelvin Garmon is moved into the line-up. In other words, the exact match-ups are hard to determine. We do know that the injured DE Kenny Holmes (elbow) will battle LT Flozell Adams, who outweighs him by about 100 pounds. Obviously, Dallas will look to run left at Holmes and the weakside linebacker (be it Dhani Jones or Brandon Short – the Giants flip-flop these two quite often). They will also test the inside against the injured duo of Keith Hamilton (groin) and Cornelius Griffen (knee).

All three linebackers need to play the run better than they did last week against Arizona. They also need to keep an eye on HB Michael Wiley who is a good receiver out of the backfield and TE Tony McGhee.

Quincy Carter is a frustrating quarterback to watch for Cowboy fans. At times, he simply looks awful and is very inaccurate. At other times, he can make superb plays with is arm or his feet. Carter doesn’t look to run as much as one with his mobility could. What the Giants need to do is stop the ground game and then fluster Carter with the pass rush.

WR Joey Galloway is a veteran speedster who makes plays down the field. Rookie WR Antonio Bryant is a more physical player who serves more as a possession receiver – but he also has a knack for getting deep. It will be up to Will Peterson and Will Allen to limit these two on their own. Most likely, SS Shaun Williams will be needed more up front in run defense – especially if the defensive line starts to feel the effects of their injuries. The play of CB Jason Sehorn will be very important this week as third receiver Darnay Scott is making plays for the Cowboys. Role players Ken-Yon Rambo and Reggie Swinton are inconsistent, but have great speed. Dallas may try some 4-WR sets in an attempt to match-up against Ralph Brown.

Oct 012002
 
The Outsider’s Report: Special Desert Disaster Edition

By BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Daniel in MI

The staff just sat in stunned silence, staring: the horror, the horror. No, not at the game – at the empty tequila bottle. It wasn’t long before the pain of the game would set in and everyone knew it. The waiting really is the hardest part. There’s been a lot of talk about this past week. Maybe too much talk. This week was not a bye week, it was Sunday. Bloody Sunday. But, the TOSR (The Outsider’s Report) staff are quasi-professionals, and no matter how lousy the team looks, or how idiotic the coaching, and how blind the refs are, we’ll keep on producing the best information available. Or, at least we’ll keep on writing TOSR which a lot is easier. While we at TOSR may not have all the niceties of other media outlets, such as “facts” or “information” or “contacts” or any of that candy-ass stuff, we do have two things going for us: 1) it’s free; and 2) our word processor has a spill cheque and gramer edditer. Crud. We may not write things the way they are, but we do write things the way they seem to be, which is almost as good, and perhaps better. But enough about us…do we look fat in these pants?

Much to talk about this week, starting with the media storm and PR headaches created when a popular Giants Tight End voiced negative opinions regarding a particular “lifestyle” on a morning radio show, and the resultant outcry from those who felt slighted

That’s right, Darnell Dinkins, the third TE expressed revulsion at the “playboy” lifestyle on NPR’s “The Writer’s Almanac” with shock-jock Garrison Kiellor. “You know, those guys with their red smoking jackets and the slippers,” the TE ranted quietly, “they’re always walking around in bathrobes, even at noon! If I’d known there were any of those guys on my college team, no way would I have tolerated that. And, I don’t know if we have any here, but it’s a concern. We share a locker room! If they’re having their butlers draw them baths with expensive European bathsalts, that would be uncomfortable. Plus, you ever try to get the scent of pipe tobacco out of your jersey?” Later, Dinkins wisely apologized, saying he was only trying to be sardonic, with a touch of whimsical nostalgia, and did not mean to offend anyone (except playboys).

The Giants tried not to let the controversy distract them from their half-hearted preparation for the Arizona Cardinals. An issue the team considered was how they would deal with the crowd noise generated by either of the fans that still attend games in Arizona. “We had to practice for it,” explained Head Coach Jim Fassel when we caught up with him diagramming red zone plays that hinge on practice squad players. “We practiced in the bubble, with no crowd or reporters. Guys whispered on the sidelines. Still, we had to get some sound canceling machines to really recreate that Arizona tranquility. We practiced just saying signals and line-calls in our normal speaking voices to avoid yelling needlessly. You don’t want someone getting a migraine from being yelled at when it’s so quiet.”

Kerry Collins knew it could be a factor for him. “That kind of silence can really get into your head,” Collins told us. “A serene place like their stadium gives you the space to really think about things…you know: life, why we’re all here, and where is here anyway, and if, uh, this is here what’s, like, over there…and…Oh, I don’t know. Let’s face it, that’s not really my strong suite. I had to concentrate on not concentrating. I think.” Based on his performance, it would seem the silence may not have been deafening, but it was clearly dumbing.

Despite all this, there really is only one Super-Big-Gulp, Biggie-sized story this week, and that was about “The Decision” which led to “The Throw” and “The Interception” and “The Return” and “The Touchdown” and “The Loss” and “The Excuses” and “The Whining” which all resulted from “The Sucking.” At first, everyone was ready to crucify OC Sean Payton, and he stepped up and bravely demonstrated a keen insight into the three letters that show Sean’s HC potential: WCO? No, CYA. “I said we should kneel on it, Jim is the one who wanted to throw it. Jim! Not me! I wanted to kneel! I begged him to kneel! I tried to rip off Jim’s headset and wrestle him to the ground, but I was too late. Too late to stop Jim who called the play, even though I said kneel like the penitent.” To his credit, Jim Fassel knew how to take the heat. “Well, it was my call and I made it. I trusted Kerry Collins not to suck, and be a total moron again. But, I’ll learn from this, and I’ll never trust Kerry again. No more being aggressive. No more going on 4th down. No more throwing late in the quarter. I guess we just can’t HAVE nice things, now can we! And he hangs his jersey on wire hangers! WIRE HANGERS! From now on, we’ll kneel on the ball on every play, including when we kickoff. ”

Speaking of abysmal performances, it seemed to our eagle-eyed reporters that the offense was out of synch against the Cardinals, and accomplished little. We found Giants OC Sean Payton erasing late 2nd quarter swing passes from his laminated charts and he saw it differently. “We came into this game with a goal: to score when we got near their end zone. We came up with two clever schemes to do this: first we changed the hue of the zone from red to green. That was key because the color of a zone can make a big difference. Green means go, see, and red means stop, so with that kind of complex analysis, we knew we were ready to ‘go'(see how that works, hmm?). Second, we decided to run where the defenders were ‘blocked’ instead of at the unblocked guys. A subtle change, blocked versus unblocked, but it can make all the difference. Third, we decided to use plays designed for players that fit three carefully selected criteria. They had to be, a) on our team; b) active for the game; and c) not out injured. Total success! Our ‘green zone’ offense ran for a TD right off the bat. So, mission accomplished.” We asked about the rest of the game. “You see, the New York fans are never satisfied. ‘Score when you’re down close! Score when you’re down close!’ That’s all I heard for weeks. We do that, and it’s ‘yeah, but you lost.’ I’m a wunderkind, not a guru. I can’t do everything!”

We needed more insight, so we found Jim Fassel practicing his referee directed histrionics. We asked if the defense deserved as much of the blame as the offense given how things unfolded. “Well, I put ‘Plan Scapegoat’ into effect again. I’ve been using this to great effect. As an offensive ‘guru’ it would look bad if the offense was always to blame. So, as soon as I realize our offense is mailing it in again, I make sure we leave the defense on the field as much as possible. Inevitably, they wear down and give up scores at the end to blow the game. Now, the blame is shared, it’s not all on the offense. Worked like charm when Coach Fox was the DC, and it works just as well with Coach Lynn. Distributed blame, that’s how you stay employed in this league. I hope.”

Another factor that can’t be overlooked was the referees who took 7 off the board for the Giants with a phantom holding call, and then were inconsistent about penalties calling Strahan for roughing but ignoring Tiki Barber being flung on a post-whistle high-amplitude throw (and back points). We caught up to head referee Mike Carrey polishing his knob (housework relaxes him) and he gave us his insight, “We’ve long hated the Giants, but we so rarely get a chance to express it,” said the zebra joyfully. “So much of our time is spent feigning objectivity, but it’s so nice to really stick it to the Giants like that. Did you see Strahan? That gap-toothed lummox had a hand on his face so much I thought that guy was going to put his fingers up his nostrils and use his head as a bowling ball. But, of course, I didn’t see that. So, Mr. Strahan, happy about taking the last towel at the hotel pool now, are you? And that holding call, how can a man hold with his arms extended like angle’s wings? But, of course, he must have held because we called it, didn’t we? Yeah, we did! So, Mr. Mara, how you like that decision in 1982 not to let me park in your space now, beeotch?”

Well, Giants fans, instead of worrying about let down games as we have the last couple of weeks, we can now rest easy knowing the shoe is on the other foot. We’ve now become a let down game for the Cowboys. Take that Cowboy fans!

Oct 012002
 
Arizona Cardinals 21 – New York Giants 7

Game Overview: For the past few days, I’ve debated in my mind the importance of the interception return for a touchdown right before halftime. It was an unmitigated disaster, but its importance from an unemotional point of view was that it simply tied the game with a half of football left to be played. One could argue – as Head Coach Jim Fassel did this past week – that the Giants should have shown more mental toughness in overcoming this adversity. It’s hard to argue against that point.

However – and this is a big HOWEVER – the magnitude of the play changed the entire psychological dynamic of the game. It not only sapped the morale of the Giants players (who had been dominating the game everywhere but on the scoreboard), but it energized what had been demoralized Arizona team – particularly their defense. I really think the play gave the Cards the only hope they had of winning the game. It’s the duty of a head coach to put his players in the best possible position to win a game. Jim Fassel didn’t do that. You can argue that Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton shouldn’t have called the play (he shouldn’t have) or that QB Kerry Collins certainly shouldn’t have dumped the ball off short (he shouldn’t have), but the final decision rested with Fassel. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think Fassel loses many games because of his decisions. The Giants – who have had average talent from 1997-2001 – usually do play smarter and harder than the opposition. But Fassel did cost the Giants the game on Sunday. Everyone makes mistakes – including the best head coaches. But Fassel is in his sixth year as a head coach, he shouldn’t be making mistakes of that magnitude at this stage of his career. This is the kind of thing that can ruin a season and get a coaching staff fired.

Now, all that being said, there is no excuse for the players to have not re-exerted their control over the game in the second half. The Giants had their chances, but an unbelievable chain of events prevented the Giants from doing so. It was almost as if the Giants were handing the game to the Cardinals on a silver platter. More than any other Giants game I can remember in recent memory, the Giants lost this game more than the opposition won it. Collins’ first interception most likely took points off of the scoreboard, his second interception tied the game. CB Jason Sehorn dropped a sure interception that would have made the game 14-0. HB Tiki Barber fumbled the ball away at the start of the second half. Holding penalties kept stalling promising drives and took a 76-yard touchdown pass off the scoreboard that would have put the Giants up 14-7. Collins overthrew both WR Amani Toomer and Ron Dixon on what should have been long touchdown passes. DE Michael Strahan kept the Cardinals’ game-winning touchdown drive alive with a roughing the passer penalty. It was sickening to watch and I’m still angry about it. Bad football always makes me mad. There is no way the Cardinals should have won this game.

The game was tied 7-7 at halftime. The better team in the second half was going to win the football game. The Giants did not rise to the occasion; the Cardinals did. The Giants had halftime plus two quarters to re-group and take control of the game. Good teams overcome adversity, bad teams make excuses.

Quarterback: Until the interception returned for a touchdown, Kerry Collins (19/36 for 199 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions) was not as sharp against the Cardinals as he was in his first three games of the season, but he certainly wasn’t bad. On the Giants’ first drive of the game, the Giants marched down the field and scored their lone touchdown. I thought Collins did a poor job on his first pass as he bird-dogged HB Tiki Barber immediately after the snap of the ball – leading the defender right to the swing pass. His second effort was excellent. First Collins looked off the safeties and linebackers to the left and then came back to the right to hit WR Amani Toomer for 12 yards and a first down. After a holding penalty on RT Mike Rosenthal, Collins hit TE Jeremy Shockey on a well-designed and well-executed tight end screen pass that picked up 19 yards and a first down. Collins then found Shockey again on 3rd-and-2 a few plays later on another tight end screen for a first down. As much grief as Sean Payton gets, these two plays were excellent – the first being a longer-developing screen with offensive linemen in front and the second being a quick toss with wide receivers serving as the blockers. On the next play, Tiki scored from six yards out.

The next drive started off extremely promising as well. It looked like the Giants were going to put another 7 points on the board and put the game away early. Collins found Shockey over the middle for 23 yards. On the next play, Collins made an excellent slant pass to Ike Hilliard despite quick pressure in his face. Tiki then picked up 13 yards on the ground and the Giants were at the Cards’ 37-yard line. This is where a killer turnover happened. It was a play-action pass and Collins took far too much time to survey the field. LG Rich Seubert lost control of his man and as Collins threw the ball, he was hit and the errant pass was picked off. Now one could blame Seubert here, but my opinion is that Collins took far too long to get rid of the ball.

On the third drive of the first half, Collins threw to Toomer for 11-yards on 2nd-and-9. However, on the next set of downs, Collins was not called upon to pass. Three straight runs could not pick up 10 yards. I’m not sure this was the correct decision by the coaching staff. As I said in my game preview, I would have attacked the Cards early and often with the passing game and then hit them later with the run. I think the Giants switched to the running attack too early.

The Giants’ next possession was their last before the infamous play at the end of the second quarter. Collins overthrew Shockey on the first play and a Ron Dayne run lost two yards on second down. On 3rd-and-12, Collins threw a very nice slant pass to Ike Hilliard for 16 yards and a first down. Collins is one of the better quarterbacks in the league in terms of throwing the slant. After another first down due to a 6-yard run by Barber and a 6-yard pass to Toomer, Collins deeper effort to Ron Dixon was just knocked away by the defender. On 2nd-and-10 from the Cardinal 40, LT Luke Petitgout was flagged with holding. Ensuing 2nd-and-20 and 3rd-and-20 passes fell incomplete and the Giants were forced to punt.

Then came the disaster right before the first half. Payton should never have called the play and Fassel should never have OK’d it. But Kerry Collins should know better than to dump the ball off short in such a situation. If a receiver is not open deeper down the field, the dump off does you no good with only 14 seconds left before the snap of the ball. YOU HAVE TO THROW THE BALL AWAY IN SUCH A SITUATION. Collins doesn’t always come across as the brightest bulb on the tree and this was a stupid, stupid decision on his part.

So intermixed with some nice passing, Collins was guilty of two costly interceptions in the first half – both of which I think you can blame on him. Another drive was hampered by a holding penalty; another by an inability to pick up 10 yards on three straight rushing attempts.

Collins did not help matters at all in the second half. The first drive started off well for him when he hit Hilliard on a 10-yard slant for a first down on 3rd-and-1. Tiki fumbled the ball away on the next play. The next drive was stymied by a clipping penalty on LG Rich Seubert.

On the third drive, Collins threw too low to an open TE Dan Campbell over the middle on 2nd-and-12. On 3rd down, Collins could find no one open down the field, and was sacked as he scrambled to his right (this was a coverage sack). On the next drive, the Giants should have taken a 14-7 lead on a Collins’ 76-yard touchdown pass to Dixon. However, the official called one of the worst holding penalties I’ve ever seen – it was a phantom call and the official most likely changed the outcome of the game. He ought to be fired…there is no excuse for that kind of incompetence. But this is where Collins really started to fall apart. After he dumped the ball off short to Barber to turn a 2nd-and-27 into a 3rd-and-15, Collins badly overthrew a wide open Toomer for what should have been an easy 74-yard touchdown pass (Chris Bober had a role in this play as well – more on that later). Then the Cardinals scored to make the game 14-7 in their favor. Collins started off well with a 22-yard slant pass to Hilliard. But on 3rd-and-5, he badly overthrew a wide-open Ron Dixon for what should have been an easy 62-yard touchdown pass. On the very next play – on 3rd-and-5, he chose to throw to the well-covered HB Ron Dayne instead of the open Shockey. Inexcusable!!! (Also baffling is why Dayne is on the field on 3rd-and-5 instead of Barber and/or Sean Bennett).

The Cards scored on their next possession to put the game away. But Collins’ bad throws didn’t end there. Despite no pass rush in the game’s closing moments, he badly missed Hilliard, Shockey, and Toomer. I’ve said since early in the off-season, as Kerry Collins goes, so goes the Giants. He played well in the first three games of the season. He played poorly against the Cardinals.

Offensive Line/Tight End Blocking: Pass protection in the game was actually pretty solid and the run blocking at times was improved. However, there were some poorly designed and/or poorly executed blocking schemes on a few left-side runs that left me scratching my head. What really hurt were all of the holding penalties (and the one clip).

RT Mike Rosenthal was flagged with holding on the Giants’ first drive of the game when the defender started to push past him on his way to Collins – it was a legit call. However, the Giants overcame the holding penalty on the very next play with a well-executed screen pass to Shockey. Petitgout and Seubert demonstrated their athletic ability by quickly getting down the field and making excellent blocks on the play. After a 5-yard pass to Barber, Dayne ran for 3-yards off behind Petitgout, Seubert, and OC Chris Bober (Dan Campbell had a nice block on this play as well). Dayne might have scored on this play if LB Raynoch Thompson didn’t make a great tackle from the backside. On Tiki’s 6-yard touchdown run, Petitgout, Seubert, and Bober again got good blocks (as did Shockey and Campbell). The play almost was stopped however because RG Jason Whittle missed his block on his man (but luckily Barber broke that tackle).

On the Giants’ next possession, as against the 49ers, Bober showed some problems in pass protection with the tackle lined up right over his head (like a nose tackle). Quick pressure on Collins resulted, but the pass was completed. On 2nd-and-2, Barber picked up 13 yards on a run to left behind excellent blocks from Petitgout and Shockey. The play was almost disrupted however as the sluggish Bober collided with Barber in the backfield (the Giants had better recognize that Bober doesn’t have the mobility that Zeigler has – in other words, stop pulling him). The next play was Collins’ first interception. Seubert lost control of his man who crashed into Collins as he threw. But at this point of the game, the line is doing fine and largely controlling the line of scrimmage.

Third possession: After Toomer picked up a first down, the Giants attempted three straight runs. Bober missed his block on the first run and Barber was stuffed. On the next play, Rosenthal and Whittle made excellent blocks that enabled Barber to pick up 9-yards to the right. However, on 3rd-and-1, a sweep to the left just missed picking up a first down. It’s hard to criticize the blocking on the play because there were more defenders than blockers. It seemed to me that the play-design was flawed.

Fourth possession: This is where I started wondering what the hell kind of running schemes the Giants were employing. On 2nd-and-10, Dayne was clobbered in the backfield on an attempted run to the left. What was strange about this play is that the Giants’ blockers looked like they deliberately let the first waive of Cardinal defenders to run past them unmolested – almost as if the Giants were running a screen and the blockers were all trying to get to the second level. The problem with this is that Dayne had to contend with 3-4 unblocked Cardinal defenders. However, the Giants did manage to convert on 3rd-and-12 and keep the drive alive. The drive was then sabotaged by Petitgout’s holding penalty. Two plays later, on 3rd-and-20, the right side of the offensive line did a poor job of picking up a stunt.

At the start of the second half, the Giants picked up 9-yards on the ground on two consecutive Barber runs. Whittle got a good block on the first run and Campbell, Shockey, and Whittle got a good block on the second. After a first down pass, Barber fumbled the ball away. The second drive was sabotaged by a very costly and stupid clipping call on Seubert on a Barber run to the left for 6-yards (incidentally, both of the tight ends got good blocks on this play again). The 3rd down pass didn’t pick up enough yardage for the first down and it wouldn’t have counted had it done so because Mike Rosenthal was flagged for holding again (his second in the game).

On the third drive, the Giants tried to have Shockey block the defensive end one-on-one (what does Payton think? That Shockey is Bavaro in the blocking department?). Predictably, the end pushed Shockey back into the backfield. This partially knocked Whittle off stride on his right-side pull and he couldn’t get a clean shot on the corner who did a nice job of forcing the play. Barber lost two yards. After a bad pass from Collins, the drive ended with a coverage sack.

Fourth drive: Unbelievably, the Giants are called for holding again – this time it is on Petitgout (his second). Barber picks up 3-yards behind good blocks from Bober and Seubert (the Giants’ OL has been getting movement in all four games – the backs have simply been able to break a big run yet). On 2nd-and-17, Rosenthal is called for that atrocious holding call (his third) that wiped out the 76-yard pass. Two plays later, Collins overthrows Toomer on what should have been a touchdown. On this play, Collins was bothered by pressure right up the gut as Bober once again had problems in pass protection with a nose tackle lined right up over his head. This breakdown most likely affected Collins’ throw. The last drive before the Cardinals made it 21-7 was hampered by poor passing from Collins. Barber did pick up 5 yards on this drive behind good blocks from Petitgout and Seubert.

Summary: Some of the breakdowns in the rushing game are occurring in my opinion because the plays are poorly designed (i.e., the short-yardage sweeps with not enough blockers, the Dayne run where no one is called upon to block, having Shockey block a defensive end one-on-one, etc.). Some are occurring because I firmly believe the running backs are not playing very well. There are a lot of plays that are just missing and once the Giants start breaking a run or two, you will see a dramatic improvement in their rushing stats. The pass protection was fine on Sunday. The problem was all of the penalties. This is what fans notice the most and which draws the most negative attention.

Running Backs: Things started off well for Tiki Barber (13 carries for 55 yards, 1 touchdown; 6 catches for 48 yards). Barber did an excellent job of breaking a tackle behind the line of scrimmage on his touchdown run and then powering over two defenders. Excellent effort. He also had runs of 13, 9, and 6 yards in the first half – the last being a nice cutback run when he saw the defense had over-pursued. However, Tiki really contributed to the sense of doom-and-gloom with his fumble on the first possession in the second half. It was a strange play. Tiki half-heartedly blocked the onrushing blitzer and let him go by right at Collins. Collins had no choice but to dump the ball off to Tiki who was clobbered in traffic from behind. Tiki’s best runs of the second half were for 7, 6 (called back), and 5 yards.

Ron Dayne only carried the ball 3 times (for 2 yards). His first run picked up 3-yards and he almost punched this one through the line of scrimmage for a possible TD. His second carry picked up 1-yard; I felt if he saw the cutback to the right he might have picked up a nice chunk of real estate on this play. His last carry (all three carries were in the first half) was the jail break blocking scheme that lost 2-yards.

Sean Bennett dropped a pass and caught one for 7-yards. I think the Giants should be taking advantage of him more as a role player.

Wide Receivers/Tight End Receiving: A big problem for the Giants was that after a strong start, they virtually ignored Shockey in the second half of the game. Inexcusable. Shockey was a major factor on the first drive with his two screen passes (one for 19 yards on 2nd-and-18 and the other for 4 yards on 3rd-and-2). My only quibble with Shockey is that on the first play, he should have done a better job of keeping his feet and thereby scoring on the play. Things on the next drive started off well too when Collins found Shockey over the middle. Shockey then broke one tackle and spun away from another defender en route to a 23-yard gain. But that was the last we heard of Shockey until the last Giants’ drive of the game. Why???

Amani Toomer (4 catches for 32 yards) and Ike Hilliard (4 catches for 56 yards) were quiet…too quiet given the caliber of the competition. They deserve much of the blame for the loss if you ask me. Both made some clutch catches in key situations, but more is expected of these two this year. Where are the touchdowns? Though to be fair, Toomer did get behind the secondary for what should have been a 74-yard touchdown pass but Collins missed him.

Ron Dixon had three “almost” big plays in this game. One came in the first half when Dixon made a diving effort over the middle and almost came down with the ball (the defender knocked it out of his hands at the last moment). The second was the 76-yarder wiped out by the holding penalty. The third was a play where he got behind the secondary and a 62-yard touchdown should have resulted but Collins overthrew him. Oh, and by the way Ron, cut the high-stepping crap on your apparent touchdown catch – that’s bush league – and you could have been caught from behind.

Defensive Line: The starting front four – as a group – did a good job and even some of the reserves made some noise. But there were a couple of unexpected individual developments. DE Michael Strahan (4 tackles, 1 sack) did pick up one sack on the first possession of the game, but RT Leonard Davis really manhandled him much of the game – including on the run – which is pretty much unheard of for Strahan. I think that speaks for as much about Davis’ ability than any poor play by Strahan. Davis is simply huge and he mauled Strahan a few times – more than any other player who I can remember. There were too many right-side runs in the second half that picked up good yardage because Strahan was taken out of the play. The huge play that hurt was Strahan’s 15-yard roughing the passer penalty that came after a 3rd-and-10 incompletion. The game was tied 7-7 at the time and Arizona went on to score the game-winning points on this same drive. Strahan was also flagged for being offsides.

DE Kenny Holmes (2 tackles) was also right there on Strahan’s sack and if Strahan didn’t get him, Holmes was going to. Holmes also got good pressure on a 3rd-and-9 pass on Arizona’s next possession that fell incomplete. Holmes left the game with an elbow injury and played sparingly after that. In the third quarter, he got another excellent pass rush on a 3rd-and-10 pass that was completed. Five plays later, Holmes did a superb job of reading a screen pass that he turned into a 3-yard loss.

DT Keith Hamilton (3 tackles) did a decent job, but really hasn’t made many plays of note thus far this year. The Giants need more of an impact from him. He did get a good pass rush on a 2nd-and-11 play on Arizona’s third drive of the game, forcing an incompletion. He also held his ground fairly well, though there were some late runs to the left that picked up big yardage where he did get squeezed inside on.

The big surprise was a very impressive game by DT Cornelius Griffin (4 tackles). At times, Griffin dominated. On the first play of the game, he combined with Strahan and Brandon Short to stuff a right-side run. On the next possession, he really took charge. He pressured Jake Plummer on a pass that picked up 8-yards. After missing the runner on a 2-yard cutback that picked up the first down, Griffen then made up for it by nailing the back for a 1-yard loss and then by putting pressure on Plummer again on the next play. Late in the second quarter, Griffin sacked Plummer on a stunt on 3rd-and-7, but the play was called back due to defensive holding on CB Will Peterson. In the 3rd quarter, Griffin combined with SS Shaun Williams to stuff one run and then batted a ball down at the line of scrimmage. He then left the game due to injury and played sporadically.

The reserves started well, better than I had hoped. DE Frank Ferrara combined with MLB Mike Barrow to stuff Arizona’s 4th-and-2 play in the second quarter. On the next series, Ferrara then stopped another run by combining with Short. In the 4th quarter, Ferrara got a good rush on Plummer and forced a bad throw to WR David Boston. But after that, things started to fall apart for Ferrara. He (along with Brandon Short and Mike Barrow) got handled on HB Marcel Shipp’s 25-yard run on Arizona’s go-ahead drive. On the Cards’ next drive – the one that put the game away – Ferrara stuffed one run with Hamilton. But he then ran himself right out of the play on a 4-yard run. Then Ferrara, Hamilton, and Barrow got blocked on Shipp’s 13-yard run on 3rd-and-6. Things ended badly on the same drive as Ferrara and Short got blocked on Shipp’s 10-yard touchdown run.

DT Lance Legree did a nice job of hustling back from the line of scrimmage to clobber the receiver after a short toss. Two plays later, Legree got an excellent pass rush on Plummer forcing Jake to throw the ball earlier than he wanted to.

DT Matt Mitrione got an excellent pass rush on the play where Griffen sacked Plummer. On the same drive, Mitrione did a good job of reading a screen play and limiting it to 2-yards. Mitrione got a good pass rush on Plummer’s 7-yard touchdown pass, but his failure to bring himself under control as he neared Plummer enabled Jake to sneak around him and buy time to complete the pass. This was a rookie mistake that hurt. On the next drive, Mitrione disrupted a Shipp run for no gain that Legree and Ferrara cleaned up on.

Linebackers: Not a great game for the linebackers. There were flashes, but there were also some costly plays. Dhani Jones (10 tackles) played at the extremes. On Arizona’s second possession, Jones did a great job of beating the block of the tight end and tackling the back for a 1-yard loss. In the second quarter, Jones combined with Will Allen to hold HB Thomas Jones to 2-yards on a right-side run. Jones was victimized by what should have been called an illegal pick by TE Freddie Jones for 10-yards. A few plays later, Dhani missed a tackle on Shipp. In the 3rd quarter, Shipp got between Jones and Short in zone coverage and picked up a first down on 3rd-and-10. On the next play, Jones missed another tackle on Shipp. Three plays later, Dhani made a superb play by reading an end-around and tackling the very fast MarTay Jenkins for a 9-yard loss. However, Jones most costly missed tackle came on Arizona’s last TD drive when he failed to bring down TE Freddie Jones en route to a 23-yard play on 3rd-and-6. This was a very costly mistake by Dhani.

Brandon Short (5 tackles) did a real nice job on Arizona’s first two rushing attempts to start the game. In the second quarter, he and Ferrara held Jones to a 1-yard run off left tackle. However, in the second half of the game, Short was blocked too easily on a number of Arizona runs, including runs for 7, 25, and the 10-yard touchdown run.

Mike Barrow (7 tackles) was inconsistent. At times, he gummed things up against the run. At other times, he got caught up in the trash – most notably those Shipp runs in the 4th quarter. In the second quarter, he got pressure on Plummer on the play where Will Allen was flagged for pass interference. Two plays later, he did a great job of reading a draw play, playing off the block, and limiting the damage to 4-yards. Barrow then combined with Ferrara to hold Shipp short of the first down marker on 4th-and-2. However, like Short, Barrow had his problems in the 4th quarter. He got caught inside on Shipp’s 25-yarder, Shipp’s 13-yarder on 3rd-and-6, and on the 10-yard touchdown run.

Kevin Lewis made a head’s up play by recovering a fumble from Plummer.

Defensive Backs: Will Peterson (2 tackles) and Will Allen (7 tackles) continue to do a great job in shutting down opposing receivers. All-World WR David Boston only had two catches for 18 yards – that’s amazing. Allen was called for a bogus 23-yard pass interference penalty. Not only was the ball uncatchable (out of bounds), but there was no interference on the play. Allen was a second late in reading a slant pass to WR Bryan Gilmore in the 4th quarter. This occurred on Arizona’s go-ahead drive. If Allen had just been a second sooner, he may have picked off the pass and scored – putting the Giants up 14-7. Peterson was flagged for a costly defensive holding penalty that wiped away a Griffen 3rd-and-7 sack.

Jason Sehorn (4 tackles) also did well in coverage, but his drop of a ball intended for Boston late in the second quarter cost the Giants 14 points (Sehorn would have scored and the Giants would never have faced the incident at the end of the half). In the 3rd quarter, Sehorn had excellent coverage on Frank Sanders on a 3rd-and-10 pass that fell incomplete. However, Sehorn and Shaun Williams got beat over the middle by Sanders on a key 3rd-and-7 on Arizona’s last scoring drive. If Sehorn makes the play, the Giants get the ball back, down by only 7 points, with 7 minutes left to play.

SS Shaun Williams (9 tackles) was active in run defense. He also made a nice sure tackle the speedy Jenkins over the middle, holding the receiver short of the first down marker on 3rd-and-11 in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Williams timed his run blitz just right and nailed Jones in the backfield for a 1-yard loss. In the 3rd quarter, Williams combined with Griffen to hold Jones to no gain on first down. On the next drive, Shaun did a nice job in coverage on Freddie Jones and held him to a 2-yard gain.

Special Teams: Matt Bryant did not attempt a field goal. His kick-offs landed at the 5 and 3 yard lines. However, the latter kick was a weak one that dribbled back to the returner. Kick-off coverage was very good with the very dangerous MarTay Jenkins only picking up 20 and 22 yards on his returns. Kevin Lewis and Marcellus Rivers made the tackles. Nice job.

Matt Allen was very inconsistent. His punts went for 52, 34, 65, 39, and 16. In other words, he was all over the place with both a superb and terrible punt at the extremes. This is what got Rodney Williams waived. Moreover, his decision to try to run for the first down on 4th-and-15 was dumb. He could have moved and then punted. Also, the snap from Bob Jones was terrible on this play. The punt coverage unit gave up returns of 0 (downed), 3 (Rivers making the tackle), 5 (Omar Stoutmire), and 3 (Rivers). In other words, also excellent. Note Marcellus Rivers making 3 special teams tackles – this should not go unnoticed. However, Rivers did get flagged with an obvious block-in-the-back penalty on a Daryl Jones punt return.

Daryl Jones continues to struggle as a returner. The good news is that he did a good job on his 31-yard kick return and really fought for extra yardage on his 8-yard punt return. But he also fielded another punt inside the 10 (ironically this ended up being a good play as Jones returned the ball 17-yards and a personal foul penalty was tacked on at the end of the run). His other returns were quite average and he called for one fair catch in a situation where he had plenty of running room.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals, September 29, 2002)