New York Giants 31 – New York Jets 28 (OT)
Game Overview: The Giants never make it easy. This game was the kind of nail-biter I expected. I am still very surprised that many Giants’ fans think that their team will blow out any opponent. For one, most NFL games are close affairs. Secondly, there is nothing in the Giants’ recent history that suggests they are capable of blowing out an opponent.
The Giants may have some marquee names at the skill positions such as Collins, Barber, Toomer, Shockey, and Hilliard, but none of these players are consistently dominant. Moreover, the rest of the team is ordinary. Defensively, the Giants have one Pro Bowler (Michael Strahan). The rest of the defensive line-up, with the exception of Will Allen, is nothing to write home about. The offensive line is inexperienced and doesn’t run block particularly well. The special teams has a piss-poor return game. The coaching staff is average.
Don’t get me wrong. The Giants are a good team in an average league. But they are not so talented or well-coached that they are capable of breezing through any schedule. They are just as likely to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs as they are to lose to the San Diego Chargers. That’s parity.
As for the game against the Jets, it was a hard fought affair against an obviously inspired opponent. The Jet players and fans were fired up from the get-go and credit the Giants for matching their intensity and not panicking after falling behind 7-0 or when the Jets tied the score 28-28. The Giants were not able to run on the previously porous Jets’ run defense (as I expected – see my game preview), but they were able to generate points out of the passing game. The most disconcerting aspects of the game for the Giants were (1) not taking more advantage of the excellent field position provided by the Jet turnovers; and (2) allowing the Jets to tie the game in the 4th quarter, after leading 28-14. But give the Jets credit too…they made plays when they had to. Chad Pennington is an extremely accurate quarterback. The best news for the Giants other than the win? No turnovers and no major injuries. Also, Head Coach Jim Fassel also stayed aggressive offensively both late in the 4th quarter and in overtime.
Quarterback: Kerry Collins (24-of-40 for 303 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) was not particularly sharp early. On the Giants’ second possession of the game, his 3rd-and-7 out pass to a wide open Amani Toomer was too high. On the next possession, he did a good job of hitting Toomer on the sideline for 16 yards on 2nd-and-11, but his next throw to TE Jeremy Shockey on a seam pass, was also too high. His 3rd-and-5 pass to Toomer was knocked away by the corner who had excellent coverage on Toomer. On the 4th possession (the drive that resulted in a field goal after Brandon Short recovered a fumble at the Jets’ 35-yard line), Collins took too long to get rid of the ball on a tight end screen pass to Marcellus Rivers that looked primed for big yardage (Ian Allen also was penalized for running down field too soon). On the next play, Collins hit a well-covered Shockey for 4 yards to his right, but missed seeing a wide open Rivers on his left.
It was on the 5th drive of the first half where Collins got his game together. He first threw a 19-yard strike to Toomer. On the very next play, Kerry threw a beautiful deep ball to Toomer for a 39-yard touchdown – putting the Giants up 10-7. Collins got the team moving again on the next possession, but a holding penalty brought back a 21-yard completion to Toomer on 3rd-and-11 and the Giants were forced to punt.
Collins was very sharp on the Giants’ first possession of the second half – a 12-play, 75 yard drive that regained the lead for the Giants, 20-14. Collins hit Hillard for 18 yards on 3rd-and-12. On the next play, his pass to Shockey picked up 21 yards over the middle. On 3rd-and-10, Kerry threw an absolutely perfect pass to a very well covered Hilliard for 16 yards. After four straight HB Tiki Barber runs, Collins threaded the needle once again on 3rd-and-goal from the six-yard line. Miraculously, he was able to squeeze the ball into a triple-covered Hilliard for the touchdown.
Last season, it was pretty obvious that Collins wasn’t comfortable in the 5-receiver, empty backfield set. There were a lot of options for Kerry to read and it seemed too much for him. But this year, he seems much more comfortable in this set and it is one of the Giants’ most productive formations now.
After the Jets cut the score to 28-21, Fassel and Collins stayed aggressive. The Giants picked up two important first downs through the air during their attempt to run out the clock. Collins found Toomer for 12 yards on 2nd-and-9 and Shockey for 10 yards on 3rd-and-4. On the next play, on 1st-and-10, Fassel went for the knockout with a deep pass to Toomer, but the play was well-covered. On 3rd-and-10, Collins’ sideline pass fell incomplete with a little over three minutes left to play.
In overtime, Collins was able to direct the offense crisply down the field on the Giants’ opening possession. He hit a critical 3rd-and-7 pass for 22 yards to Toomer. He then found Shockey for 10 yards, had a pass to Hilliard dropped, and then completed another to Shockey for 6 yards. However, Conway missed the 39-yard field goal. On the Giants’ next possession, Collins made an excellent play on first down when he stood in there and took the hit from two onrushing defenders to complete a wonderfully-accurate 16-yard pass to Shockey. But his next pass was behind Toomer. On 3rd-and-9, Collins tried to squeeze the ball into a well- and double-covered Ike Hilliard; the ball was knocked away and the Giants were forced to punt. On the Giants’ next – and game-winning drive – Collins hit Toomer for 19 yards and Barber for 12 yards on two back-to-back plays that moved the ball deep into Jets’ territory; thus setting up the winning field goal attempt.
Wide Receivers: Unlike previous teams, the Jets didn’t roll their coverage consistently to WR Amani Toomer’s side. And Toomer made them pay with a 6-catch, 127 yard performance that also included a touchdown – winning “NFC Offensive Player of the Week” honors. I wasn’t happy with Toomer’s terrible run blocking effort on Tiki Barber’s 3rd-and-4 carry at the start of the game. Toomer’s first catch was a 16-yard out on 2nd-and-11 in the 1st quarter. In the 2nd quarter, Collins and Toomer combined on both offensive plays on the Giants’ first touchdown drive. Toomer caught a 19 yard pass and then followed up with a 39-yard reception for a touchdown on a deep pass from Collins. Toomer had a 21-yard reception wiped out on the next possession due to a somewhat questionable holding penalty on RT Ian Allen. Toomer came up big in overtime with key catches on the Giants’ first drive (a 22-yard reception on 3rd-and-7) and the last drive (a 19-yard reception).
WR Ike Hilliard caught 5 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. Hilliard now has 6 touchdown receptions on the year and continues to be a tremendous asset in the red zone. Strangely, Hilliard first reception didn’t come until right before halftime – his 7-yard reception moving the ball closer for PK Brett Conway’s successful 36-yard attempted that increased the lead to 13-7. The drive where Hilliard really made a huge impact was the 12-play affair that regained the lead. Hilliard made three HUGE catches on the drive: one for 18 yards on 3rd-and-12, one for 16 yards on 3rd-and-10, and one for 6 yards and a touchdown on 3rd-and-goal. The last reception was an amazing piece of work between Hilliard and Collins as Hilliard was triple-covered on the play. The biggest negative on Hilliard was his 2nd-and-9 drop on the first drive in overtime. Two plays later, Conway barely misses the potential game-winning field goal.
Tim Carter did not catch a pass.
Tight Ends: TE Jeremy Shockey caught 8 passes for 86 yards. Shockey’s blocking was better this week. He did not get a good lead block out of the H-Back position on a Barber run that picked up only 3 yards to start the second possession. But on the next play, he made up for it with an 11-yard reception for a first down. The Giants tried to get Shockey deep down the seam on the next possession, but Collins’ pass was too high – still I liked the call.
In the second half, Shockey was flagged with 10-yard tripping penalty. On the very next play, he dropped a well-thrown deep seam pass from Collins. But three plays after that, he made big play on the Giants’ 12-play scoring drive. He caught a short pass over the middle and turned it into a 21 yard gain by quickly turning up field and plowing over three defenders. Like Toomer, Shockey came up big in overtime. He caught passes of 10 and 6 yards on the first drive that resulted in a field goal miss. On the next drive, Shockey made a 16-yard reception.
One thing Shockey has to be careful with is that when he blocks down on the pursuing linebackers on outside runs in his direction, he can’t wrap up the defender. There were two plays that I spotted where Shockey should have been called for holding.
Rivers was used quite a bit in the passing game, but not thrown to. Interestingly, the Giants did try to set up a screen pass to him. His blocking remains acceptable, though he does have problems with powerful defenders at times.
Running Backs: Tiki Barber found it tough going with 77 yards on 21 carries. The Jets looked far from the worst rush defense in the League. Whether that is a tribute to their improvement in run defense, a game plan specifically designed to stop Barber, or poor run blocking by the Giants is a question open for debate. The Giants tried to burn the Jets twice early with 3rd-and-4 rush attempts to Barber in passing situations. Both attempts failed miserably. Barber also dropped a 2nd-and-4 pass on the first possession that would have resulted in a first down and kept the drive alive. Barber’s longest run of the day (12 yards) came on the Giants’ final drive of the first half, and helped to set the Giants up in field goal range.
Barber had two good back-to-back runs on the Giants’ touchdown drive that regained the lead in the 3rd quarter. The first picked up 6 yards between solid blocks from OC Chris Bober and RG David Diehl. The second picked up 7 yards. There was not great blocking on this play and Tiki did a good job of squeezing through a small crease and running through a tackler. Barber made two big plays in overtime after it looked like he suffered a serious leg injury. On the Giants’ game-winning field goal drive, he caught a 12 yard pass from Collins. A few plays later, he broke off a 10-yard run that put the ball on the Jets’ 11-yard line. Both plays were huge.
HB Dorsey Levens (11 carries for 39 yards and a touchdown) had a mostly positive performance. After SS Shaun Williams’ interception put the ball on the Jets’ 41-yard line, Levens ran the ball on six of the next seven plays. His six runs picked up a total of 28 yards plus 5 yards for a face mask penalty. Levens’ last run on this drive was a 3-yard touchdown run where he expertly cut back off strong blocks from RG David Diehl and RT Ian Allen. However, Levens and the Giants were fortunate that the officials ruled him down on the first play of the Giants’ next possession as Levens clearly did fumble.
FB Jim Finn got a good block on Barber’s 11-yard run in overtime (as did Luke Petitgout). However, he badly whiffed on a lead block on the same play where Shockey was called for tripping.
Offensive Line: Much better pass blocking than run blocking. To their credit, this line only gave up one sack to the NFL’s leading sack team. Pass protection was not perfect and Collins was pressured at times. But there were many plays where Collins had plenty of time to find his open receiver, including in open backfield sets.
Probably the two guys who gave up the most pressure were RT Ian Allen (who was playing against stud DE Shaun Ellis) and LG Wayne Lucier. At the same time, reserve DE Bryan Thomas gave LT Luke Petitgout some problems (I continue to wonder if Petitgout’s injury problems are really affecting his performance this year). Lucier got confused a couple of times when the Jets’ stunted. He and Allen both got beat on the Jets’ sole sack of the day.
Besides the sack, Allen did give up a few pressures to Ellis. Allen got beat badly by Ellis on the Giants’ final offensive play before halftime that resulted in an incomplete pass. Allen got beat to the inside on Shockey’s 23-yard catch-and-run in the 3rd quarter. Ellis got pressure on Collins on the 22-yard play to Toomer in overtime. On the next possession, Allen was beat to the inside on Shockey’s 16-yard reception (and Lucier was bull-rushed on this play).
Lucier had his problems with the bull-rush. I don’t know if it is a strength problem or if is still weak from recovering from the flu. And Lucier got beat badly on the Giants’ 3rd-and-10 pass that fell incomplete with about 3 minutes left in regulation.
In the ground game, there were some positive moments, including some power runs right up the gut. However, this line is not consistently able to generate running room for Tiki Barber. RG David Diehl continues to look deadly on the pull. And LT Luke Petitgout usually acquits himself quite well when run blocking. Tiki’s first 3rd-and-4 carry that failed was due to poor blocks by Toomer and Lucier. Lucier also got overpowered on Tiki’s second 3rd-and-4 attempt. Like his pass blocking, Lucier didn’t look strong enough at times to deal with the big defensive tackles in the Jets and on some plays got stood up. But Lucier can make effective blocks when pulling. I think Ian Allen did a good job with his run blocks at the point-of-attack. Diehl sometimes generates movement; sometimes gets stood up.
OC Chris Bober was steady with both his pass and run blocks, though sometimes he needs to sustain better on the latter. Both Bober and Jeff Roehl (who subbed for the injured Lucier on one play) made excellent blocks on QB Kerry Collins’ 2-point conversion draw.
Petitgout was flagged with another false start this week. Ian Allen got flagged with being ineligibly down field on a TE screen to Rivers. Allen was flagged with holding on Toomer’s 21 yard reception in the 2nd quarter, but I thought this was a bogus call.
Defensive Line: The run defense was poor with Curtis Martin accruing 108 yards on 28 carries. Much of the damage was done in the first half of the game and usually the men most responsible were defensive tackles Lance Legree (1 tackle) and Keith Hamilton (7 tackles), both of whom were pushed around too easily. But the ends were not totally without blame either. On the Jets’ first drive, Kenny Holmes (no tackles) and Michael Strahan (5 tackles, 1 sack) were both effectively blocked on positive runs (though there was also one good play by Strahan where he played off a block by the tight end to make the play).
On the Jets’ second drive, Martin picked up 15 yards on a play where Legree and Hamilton got crushed. But three plays later, the drive ended when Strahan sacked QB Chad Pennington with a 7-yard loss. This was the only sack the defensive line got all day – and the DL’s inability to generate sufficient pressure on Pennington was a problem during the Jets’ comeback.
On the Jets’ third drive, the poor run defense continued as the Jets were able to block Strahan, Legree, and Hamilton. But Brandon Short’s strip of Martin for a turnover saved the day.
On the next drive, the reserves (Keith Washington, Osi Umenyiora, and William Joseph) started to see some quality time. Joseph still isn’t making many plays against the run as he is still learning how to use NFL run defense technique (i.e., the proper use of his hands and arms to shed blockers). He also needs to keep in mind not to be too aggressive as he was vulnerable to a cutback run by Martin on one play. However, he did get an excellent pass rush on the 3rd-and-12 play in the 2nd quarter where CB Frank Walker was flagged for pass interference. Three plays later, both Washington and Umenyiora sandwiched Pennington on the play where he threw the interception to CB Ralph Brown.
On the next series, the Jets continued to run at Strahan, Legree, and Hamilton with some success. But Legree did get some pressure on Pennington on a deep passing effort to WR Santana Moss that fell incomplete. Legree then recovered a fumble resulting from FS Omar Stoutmire’s sack.
In the 3rd quarter, Holmes did a good job of standing his ground on one Martin run in his direction, but five plays later, Holmes and Hamilton did not do a good job of guarding against a Martin cutback that picked up 6 yards. Two plays later, Umenyiora (who played the reverse well last week), got fooled on a double reverse that picked up 10 yards. On the next play, Osi did stand his ground on a run in his direction that picked up 3 yards. On the Jets’ next possession, Hamilton and Holmes were run at again on a 4-yard gain. Two plays later, Strahan combined with Brandon Short to hold Martin to a 1-yard gain. Three plays later, Hamilton stood his ground for one of the few times in the game and stuffed Martin along with Mike Barrow.
The next two Jets’ possessions were the two scoring drives that tied the game 28-28. Umenyiora was able to get pressure on Pennington (one of the very few times) on a 2nd-and-2 pass that fell incomplete. On the next play, on 3rd-and-2, both Keith Washington and Lance Legree got clobbered on a 3-yard run that kept the drive alive. On 3rd-and-7, Hamilton ran himself out of the gap on a Martin draw play that picked up 6 yards (Legree was clearly held on this play – there was no call). On the final drive, Hamilton missed a tackle on a 9-yard run by Martin. Lance Legree, playing in Hamilton’s spot, got good pressure on the Jets’ final touchdown. But the big problem during these two drives is that the down four linemen (and the reserves) simply couldn’t get close to Pennington often enough.
In overtime, Hamilton made a big play by making a sure tackle on Pennington on a scramble on 3rd-and-8. On the next Jets’ drive in the extra period, Umenyiora made a superb play by speeding over to tackle LaMont Jordan on a misdirection toss play for no gain (this is a play that fooled Osi in the preseason; he’s learning). A couple of plays later, Strahan and Legree stuffed Martin for only a 2-yard gain.
Linebackers: Brandon Short (14 tackles, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery) had a huge day. It didn’t start off well, however, as Short was beat in coverage by the fullback for 10 yards and the tight end for 10 yards on the first drive. But near the end of the 1st quarter, Short made his first big play as he stripped Martin of the ball on a 10-yard carry and then recovered the fumble himself. On the next series, Short knocked away a pass intended for WR Wayne Chrebet. On the series after that, he made a great play by shooting a gap in the line to tackle LaMont Jordan for no gain from the backside. On the very next play, he tackled Martin in the flat for a 2-yard loss after a short pass. On the next series, he absolutely clobbered Martin as he shot another gap on the frontside on a 4-yard loss.
In the second half, Short forced a Martin in his direction back inside for only a 2-yard gain. At the start of the 4th quarter, Short beat the left tackle on a blitz and slapped the ball out of Pennington’s hand for a sack and forced fumble (the Jets recovered). I’m not 100 percent positive, but I’m pretty sure that it was Short who screwed up big time on the 4th-and-1 completion to TE Chris Baker that picked up 24 yards. Short was the LB lined up over Baker’s head and Short bit on the play-action. Worse, he got faked out of his shoes by Pennington when he had a chance to sack the quarterback. In overtime, Short tackled Martin for a 1-yard loss on the Jets’ first possession.
Michael Barrow (16 tackles) was very active. He did some good things, some bad. On the Jets’ first drive, he missed a tackle on Curtis Martin on one play, and then wasn’t able to make a play on Martin in open on a 9-yard gain. But he also made an excellent play to stuff Martin for no gain on 2nd-and-1. Barrow also fell victim to the poor run defense by the defensive tackles early on as the linemen were also able to get into his shoulder pads. In the 2nd quarter, Barrow tackled Jordan for a 3-yard loss on a run around left end.
In the second half, Barrow was the closest man in the zone coverage on the 7-yard completion to WR Wayne Chrebet on 3rd-and-6 on the Jets’ opening TD drive of the half. Barrow got pressure on Pennington when the latter threw an interception to SS Shaun Williams. On the Jets’ last TD drive, Barrow made an excellent play by nailing Martin for a 3-yard loss on a draw play. His roughing the pass penalty on the next play was a terrible call by the officials. But on the very next play, Barrow was at fault on an 18-yard gain by the fullback after a short pass from Pennington. Barrow also got beat by the tight end for a 17-yard completion on the Jets’ first offensive play in overtime.
Dhani Jones (6 tackles) overpursued Martin on one 8-yard carry on the Jets’ first drive. He also got effectively blocked on a 7-yard carry on the next series. Jones did make a nice play in the 3rd quarter when he played off a block to tackle Martin for only a 2-yard gain. Jones was also fooled on the double reverse. Late in the 3rd quarter, Jones made a nice open-field tackle on Curtis Conway on a WR-screen. Dhani also made a nice play in the flat after a short pass to the fullback on the Jets’ last TD drive.
Defensive Backs: Chad Pennington completed 27-of-45 passes for 281 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Some of his success came at the expense of the linebacking corps. There were times when the pass defense was sharp, other times not. The Jets were able to find the soft spots in some of the Giants’ zone coverages too easily on short passes. There were also able to take advantage of some zone-blitz plays.
The first big breakdown came on the 8-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss on the Jets’ first drive of the game. At the start of the play, Ryan Clark was on Moss. To his inside, Wayne Chrebet was being covered by Will Allen. As the play started, Chrebet ran straight up the field in order to “pick” off the corners and S Shaun Williams. Allen stayed with his man like he was playing man-to-man, but Ryan dropped back like he was playing zone. In my opinion, one of these two screwed up on the play. Williams was unable to make a play, because he got picked.
CB Will Allen (2) tackles was effectively blocked on one 7-yard outside run by Martin in the 1st quarter. Allen got beat by Curtis Conway on a 3rd-and-7 play in the 2nd quarter and was forced to face guard Conway on the play. Because he was in catch-up mode, he couldn’t turn around for the ball and was fortunate the pass fell incomplete or pass interference wasn’t called. Later in the quarter, he was beat by Moss on a 16-yard out on 3rd-and-10. Both Allen and FS Omar Stoutmire maintained their defensive responsibilities when they wrecked a reverse to Moss a few plays later. On the very next play, Allen was step-for-step with Moss on a deep pass that was overthrown. In the second half, Allen’s corner blitz on Pennington forced an incompletion when as he smashed into the quarterback. But later on the drive, Allen was badly beaten by Moss on a deep pass for a 25-yard touchdown (for some reason, Allen looked slow in this game). It is also important to note that the Giants blitzed two linebackers and dropped Kenny Holmes into coverage on this play and got burned. On the Jets’ first touchdown drive in the 4th quarter, Allen expertly knocked away a slant pass to Chrebet. On the final TD drive, Allen supplied very tight deep coverage on the Jets’ first play and almost came up with an interception. But he did get beat on a comeback route by Moss on the play where Barrow was flagged for roughing the passer. Allen also got beat badly on an out-and-up that picked up 15 yards on 4th-and-1. In overtime, Allen got beat over the middle on a crossing route by Moss for a 22-yard gain. Needless to say, this was Allen’s worst performance of the season – and perhaps his worst since his rookie year.
CB Ralph Brown played very well in the first half, but was victimized too much in the second half. Brown (5 tackles, 1 interception) made an excellent play in the open field on Moss after a short completion lost one yard in the 1st quarter. In the 2nd quarter, Brown picked off a pass intended for Moss on 3rd-and-8 and returned the ball 22 yards. Things started off well in the 3rd quarter when he knocked down a pass intended for Wayne Chrebet. But on the next play, Chrebet beat Brown on an out for 12 yards on 2nd-and-10. Three plays later, Brown played far too soft on a 3rd-and-4 play where Chrebet picked up an easy first down on a slant. Three plays later, Chrebet beat Brown deep down the seam, but the pass was poorly thrown and fell incomplete; on this play, Brown badly bit on an out fake. Near the end of the 3rd quarter, Brown was beat by Curtis Conway for 10 yards on a 2nd-and-9 slant pass despite tight coverage from Ralph. On the Jets’ first TD drive in the 4th quarter, Brown was playing too far off the ball on a 12-yard completion to Conway. Both Brown and Williams had decent coverage on TE Anthony Becht on the latter’s game-tying TD catch, but Pennington made an amazing throw to squeeze the ball in there.
CB Frank Walker fell back to earth some this week. He committed a bad pass interference penalty on 3rd-and-12 in the 2nd quarter when he ran through the back of the intended receiver (Wayne Chrebet). On the play where Barrow was flagged for roughing the passer on 3rd-and-13 on the Jets’ final TD drive, the Jets would have picked the first down regardless as Walker was also flagged for defensive holding on the play. Four plays later, Walker was badly faked out by Moss, committed what should have been an illegal contact penalty, and then fell down on a deep ball that Moss couldn’t keep his feet inbounds. In overtime, Walker was called for what could have been a VERY costly pass interference penalty on Moss on 3rd-and-10. However, I thought this call was very ticky-tack by the officials – especially given the situation.
I haven’t been impressed with FS Omar Stoutmire’s support against the deep pass in recent weeks. On the deep pass attempt to Conway in the 2nd quarter that fell incomplete, Stoutmire was very late moving over to help Allen. Later in the half, Stoutmire caused a turnover on a blitz where he forced a fumble that Lance Legree recovered. Stoutmire was nowhere to be seen either on Moss’ 22-yard reception in overtime even though the pass was completed in his area. In the 3rd quarter, Stoutmire did a good job in limiting the double reverse to only a 10-yard gain. Stoutmire made a sure tackle on Chrebet on a 6-yard pass on 3rd-and-7 on the Jets’ final drive of regulation.
Shaun Williams (9 tackles, 1 interception) played poorly. He had some problems in run defense on the Jets’ first drive. He missed a tackle on one play and got blocked at the point-of-attack on another. Later in the game, he didn’t wrap up on Chrebet after a short reception. Like Stoutmire, Williams was very late to help out on deep passes. On Moss’ 25-yard touchdown reception against Will Allen in the 3rd quarter, Williams was very slow to get over to help out his fellow defensive back. Later in the quarter, Williams got beat by the tight end in motion for an 8-yard gain on 3rd-and-1. But five plays later, Williams made a nice play by breaking in front of Curtis Conway to intercept a Pennington pass that set up a touchdown. On Moss’ third touchdown reception of the game, Moss caught the pass in what appeared to be Williams’ zone (though Omar Stoutmire may deserve some of the blame here too). On the last Jets’ TD drive, Shaun was again late to help out deep on the play where Frank Walker fell down. Both Brown and Williams got beat on the final touchdown pass – though to be fair, both had decent coverage on the play. Williams made a nice sure tackle on a short pass to Moss on 3rd-and-8 right before the blocked field goal attempt in overtime.
Special Teams: The Jets have excellent special teams and are well-coached. The Giants basically played them to a draw here on Sunday – so the net effect was that it was a positive performance.
The big play on special teams was CB Will Allen’s blocked field goal in overtime. Allen timed his take off so perfectly that it looked as if he was offsides. But he is moving at the snap of the football. Even if the Jets kicker was ready to make the kick, the field goal would have been blocked (as it was Allen almost ran by the kick).
The big problem remains kick and punt returns. Brian Mitchell continues to receive a lot of grief (and probably deservedly so), but I still wonder how effective anyone would be with the poor blocking Mitchell is receiving. For example, on Mitchell’s first kick return, Johnnie Harris was violently shoved right back into Mitchell’s path, giving Mitchell nowhere to run. On his one punt return, one of the Jets’ gunners wasn’t even blocked. Bruce Read’s biggest failure in my mind is his inability to teach these guys how to properly block on kick and punt returns.
One change I would definitely make is to get Mitchell off the kick return team. He simply doesn’t seem fast or explosive enough. I would prefer to see Tim Carter and/or Delvin Joyce on kick returns.
Mitchell’s kick returns went for 14, 26, 20, 18, 22, and 26 yards. He was only able to return one punt for two yards. The Giants did come close to blocking one punt in the second quarter, but I couldn’t make out who the rusher was.
Punt coverage on the dangerous Santana Moss was very good as Moss only picked up 14 yards on 4 returns. I did think this was one of Jeff Feagles’ weaker efforts, however. Feagles punts went for 38 (7-yard return, tackled by Marcellus Rivers), 49 yards (net of 29 yards as the ball went into the end zone), 19 yards (1-yard return, tackled by Carson Dach), 30 yards (short punt with little hang time, tackled by Dhani Jones for no gain), 33 yards (fair catch), 42 yards (6-yard return, tackled by Kevin Lewis).
Kick coverage on Jonathan Carter (4 returns, 23.8 yards-per-return average) and Michael Bates (2 returns, 27.5 yards-per-return average) was OK. Brett Conway’s 6 kickoffs landed at the 5 (26-yard return, tackled by Marcellus Rivers), 9 (29-yard return, tackled by Kevin Lewis), 4 (holding call brought back 43-yard return), 0 (25-yard return, tackled by Ryan Clark), -1 (22-yard return, tackled by Johnnie Harris), and 6 (27-yard return, tackled by Kato Serwanga and Wes Mallard).
Conway’s missed 39-yard field goal in overtime could have cost the Giants dearly, but he did make his three other attempts from 39, 36, and 29.
by BBI Reporter/Photographer David Oliver
75 Minutes, Give or Take a Few Prior to this season, we used to say that the Giants give you 60 minutes of football, whether you want it or not. This year, it appears that hasn’t been enough and they have gradually lengthened the contest, culminating in the nearly 75 minutes of “I don’t want it, you take it” hijinks with Stadium rivals, J-E-T-S, a team also snake bitten in most extraordinary ways. As Ralph Brown told me, “It was like a heavyweight boxing match. It should never have gotten to that. From a defensive standpoint, we were up by 2 touchdowns, but…” There have been a lot of “buts” this year, enough to give this whole organization a lot to think about in the offseason, particularly if the team doesn’t rally and make the playoffs.
For me, personally, I didn’t find the game exciting. I asked Wes Mallard and Kevin Lewis, as they were leaving the locker room, “How many more ways are you guys going to find to torture us?” and they laughed and agreed. It’s always easier to laugh on Sunday evening when you win. Had they lost, I think I would have stayed out in the tunnel. I was in a mellow mood, probably as a result of the mild weather. Friday and Saturday I had an opportunity to spend some time just sitting in the yard, riding the swing with my feline buddies, Bret and Pavorotti. All my guys are getting old, like me, and it is a joyous day when we can sit together in the sun, feeling warm and happy. As we all get older, each and every hour together is really special. Big ole Bret is getting arthritic and walks with a pronounced limp. He just loves to roll over and get that snow-white belly rubbed, stretching out with eyes closed and kneading the air. I scratch him with one hand and turn the pages of a book with the other. I’ve mixed in a little fiction with current events lately, going through Heller’s PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST AS AN OLD MAN, a little work of genius entitled, BALZAC AND THE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS, and a work of nonfiction which reads almost like fiction, METRO STOP DOSTOEVSKY. Heller was reaching. Having written only one work of note, CATCH-22, this little book chronicles the agonizing search of an author for a topic. It fails as a literary endeavor, but struck a chord for me, as I seem to have exhausted the lines to reach this audience. Maybe it’s the economy, maybe it’s the warm weather, maybe it’s the server problems, maybe it’s the way the Giants are playing, maybe its just me. But it seems as if no one is listening to anything right now, so I’m going to tune it a little lower for the rest of the year, and turn to doing some things I have been missing.
I have taken the plunge and self-published a photo book. As a first endeavor, I only printed 10 copies. It is a book of wildlife photos, entitled NATURALLY WILD. I have 9 copies for sale, and before anyone jumps on me for exploitation, I have priced it so that my total profit on the venture won’t pay for my plane ticket to Tampa. If anyone is interested, e-mail me and I will give you a website where you can preview the book. I will hand number and sign each copy so that you will have something of value when my name signifies artistic success. And succeed I will. I am also doing some work over in my store. I am working on a lesser book of black & white photos, some ornaments and different items for the holiday season.
At any rate, I am in a mellow mood, notwithstanding the reoccurrence of bronchitis, the infection that troubled me through most of last fall and a 4-and-4 record. I have confidence that the team is about to turn it around and as I expressed over in “The Corner Forum” almost a month ago, I do see a potential win streak taking place. Sunday’s game was a Giants “W” long before the game started. As one of the Jets photogs said to me when the Giants went up by 2 TDs, the Jets will come back, go for 2 points and screw it up to lose by 1 point. He was almost right. They botched a potential game winning FG effort in a weird, Giants-like way. As Brett Conway said, “They snapped it too soon.”
Most of you have seen and dissected the game already, but let me add a few observations. First off, Michael Barrow had one of his best games as a Giant. I have read a lot of commentary in “The Corner Forum” about MB losing a step, not covering well, not making tackles at the line of scrimmage (LOS), yadda, yadda, yadda. Well, one of the things we can do on the sidelines is focus on individual players. I watched MB on Sunday. His tackles were at the LOS or in the backfield, he hit with authority, he shed blocks, and he chased down receivers. I have the photos to show it. Unfortunately, this format doesn’t lend itself to what I want to do, which is to use game photos to illustrate plays and to support my analysis. So you will just have to accept my word for it. Go look at the photo site as I have a few photos up showing exactly what I am saying. MB was a STUD on the field. He was joined by Brandon Short, who had his best game as a Giant. Short came with the reputation of being a playmaker and on Sunday he stepped into those boots. Here is a classic example of a player who has been playing in a system and not being allowed to do what he does best. On Sunday the shackles were cut. Either the game planning revealed a weakness in the Jets, or somebody had a brain flash and set let’s cut Brandon loose. I hope they do it again this week.
The secondary is a piece of work. Now, Pennington is a major league QB. Look at some of the photos. Time after time, surrounded by Giants rushers, he calmly focused and released before he was hit. Moss, Conway, and Chrebet are not too shabby either. So the Giants secondary, minus Will Peterson had its work cut out for it. Will Allen did his job, and more, as the Giants’ finally started blitzing him, a move that paid dividends with a blocked kick and a forced hurry. Ralph Brown had another pick and regardless of BBIs feeling that he is just another journeyman, Ralph has the knack to get in the lane where the ball is being thrown. So far, he is getting better with increased playing time. Frank Walker looked very ordinary, fooled on some routes and beaten like a drum on others. He started giving a cushion and he was exploited. Stoutmire and Williams are, well, they are Stoutmire and Williams – neither will be in Hawaii soon. Ryan Clark shows promise and he and I shared a laugh in the locker after the game when I asked him if his entry into the game in the third quarter was a patented thing, referring to his slip and backwards fall, bouncing off his keaster. He laughed and told me, yeah, that he felt “it would distract the other team, draw attention away from the defense and let everyone know he had arrived.” That’s a pretty good sense of humor.
The secondary problems are problems faced throughout the League these days. As Ralph Brown noted, “When teams are trying to come back, you have to respect double moves, you have to respect a lot of things. The two minute offense, honestly, its almost impossible to stop. How many times have you seen teams come back? It’s the two-minute offense. It’s so hard because there are so many things, so many routes, do this, you know, it’s a chess match, it’s a chess match, you go zone, zone blitz, zone, play this, do this, it’s kind of like a guessing game, but a smart guessing game.” I asked him about the receivers faced the last two weeks, and he was fulsome in his praise, mentioning particularly Wayne Chrebet, whom he characterized as a “crafty receiver”. He also told me that Walker and Clark “are stepping up so big this year…filling in like they were starters from the beginning.” He also had some nice things to say about Osi, particularly that Osi “is a great athlete.” Osi is getting recognition among the players and obviously the coaches as his playing time is increasing. It reminded me of our conversation earlier in the year before Osi had played with the starters when everyone was asking him if Michael Strahan was teaching him things. One of the things we discussed was assets, with Michael using his great strength and power. Osi, I said, you have speed. You don’t need to engage and outmuscle tackles. You need to identify the quickest route to the QB and ball carrier and get there. Sunday he showed that he has learned a lot. He showed unbelievable speed in running down the outside move and making a huge tackle on a Jets’ ball carrier, and he was getting closer and closer to Pennington. My take is that he didn’t get a lot of game time earlier because Kenny Holmes has been playing so much better. But now we are in nick and injury time and the loss of Cornelius Griffin has forced the Giants to use the rotation more to preserve their remaining defensive linemen. Osi is going to be a force in the last half of the season. And while on the topic, Kenny Holmes seems to have spent more time in the weight room this year. He is getting that bull neck of a defensive end, and a bigger chest. Maybe it’s helping.
I have been watching the offensive line a lot lately, what with all the new guys and position switches and one thing that I have noticed is that these kids are not finesse players. This is a power blocking line in the works. Most of them just laugh when I use the finesse word and agree wholeheartedly when I talk about a power game. I talked to Lucier on Sunday. He was exhausted but content and acknowledged to me that he was really having fun, even during what he referred to as “a crazy game”. I asked him if it was difficult for him mentally to come in as a center, then move to guard. He told me, “No, its not too bad. When you play center, you have a good idea of what the guards are doing every play, so it’s not really that bad, mentally.” He’s had experience as a guard, playing that position last year, and when I asked him if he had a preference, he said, “Not really. Sometimes I think I’m a little more of a natural center, but I don’t really care where I play, just so I’m playing.” We talked about the finesse/power thing and he told me, “If anything, people might say we’re a little bit smaller than most lines, but we run the ball right at people and that doesn’t change from week to week. We just try to do what we do and I don’t know who’s saying we’re finesse.” I asked him about the communication out there, with all the rookies and moves and he told me that he thought they were doing pretty good, “We’ve obviously had to make some changes and anytime you’re doing that, you’re playing next to different guys, and it does take time, but we’re doing pretty well and we seem to be on the ball as to what’s going on out there. I don’t think we’ve had too many mental mistakes at all.” I asked him about what has been the most difficult adjustment for him so far and he said, “Probably the mental, there’s a lot of stuff going on every week. The pro defenses are definitely much more complicated than what you dealt with in college, nickel packages, blitz schemes that you don’t necessarily see that much in college.” He told me, “I enjoy the run game. I like coming off the ball, I like hard-nosed football, but pass pro is such a big part of the game now that you have to be equally as good at both.” I returned to the makeup of the line and the new hard-nosed approach and asked if they’d like to have that reputation. He told me, “I hope so. You talk to any offensive lineman, anywhere, and you don’t want to sit there in pass pro all day and let the defensive line T-off on you, that’s no fun, so I think if you talk to any offensive lineman, he’ll tell you that running the football is, if anything, a good break from them just teeing off on you all the time. It gives you a chance to come off the ball on them.” I asked him if it was difficult making an adjustment from Tiki to Dorsey and he said, “No, not at all, both guys do a great job; obviously they’re different running backs, with different styles, but we just go out there and do our thing and let those guys handle their business.”
Let me conclude with another offensive lineman. Ritchie Seubert is out there recuperating. He is having good days and some little tweaks here and there, but I am told he is on BBI a lot. So let’s keep Ritchie from getting bored – not only now, but particularly during the offseason. I don’t know if we can get him online in “The Corner Forum” – there are too many distractions over there, but I would think he’d like a little Ritchie Seubert thread every now and then. You guys and gals are the best when it comes to support. Let’s make it our mission to get Ritchie through his rehab and back on the field. Somebody pick up the ball and run with this one.