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)
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Eric Kennedy

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

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