Sep 292004
 
New York Giants 27 – Cleveland Browns 10

Game Overview: This was a fairly easy victory for the Giants, but the tenor of the game would have been vastly different had the Browns not fumbled at the Giants’ 5-yard line on their first drive of the second half of the game. To their credit, New York then drove 95-yards (99-yards really when you consider the first play was a 4-yard loss) in 11 plays to put the game away.

The team continues to get better across the board, but there is still a lot of improvement needed in order for the Giants to compete with the big boys in the NFL. The run defense has been shaky at times and the offense is capable of putting more points on the scoreboard than it has thus far this year. Depth in the secondary is secondary is a concern with the injuries to Shaun Williams and Omar Stoutmire.

Offense: The Giants finally got the ground game moving and the offense picked up almost 400 yards of total offense. Just as importantly, New York did not turn the ball over. While the run blocking improved, there were some breakdowns in pass protection on the right side of the line. It was good to see Amani Toomer contributing in a big way.

Quarterback: Kurt Warner (19-of-27 for 286 yards, 0 touchdowns passing, 0 interceptions, 1 touchdown rushing) keeps plugging along with his efficient, accurate style. He’s got quite a rapport with Tim Carter developing and best of all, he and Amani Toomer have started to get on the same page. One big difference between Kerry Collins and Warner is that moves around the pocket very well. He usually feels the rush and will step up or slide to avoid the pressure. Warner also doesn’t get flustered at all in the pocket. And he will get rid of the ball quickly if he sees a free blitzer coming. I’ve been surprised at how accurate Warner is when throwing on the move to his right. The Giants’ ran a few play-action rollout passes to the right against the Browns and these plays were mostly successful.

Warner got things started for the Giants on New York’s second drive of the game with 16- and 47-yard strikes to Toomer, setting up HB Tiki Barber’s 8-yard touchdown run. Warner also found Carter for 7 and 20 yard on the next drive as the Giants moved to the Cleveland 34-yard line, but Warner made his worst decision of the young season on 3rd-and-13 when he tried to force a pass to Ike Hilliard that almost was intercepted. Warner’s 18-yard pass to Carter on the next drive set up a field goal and the Giants would have kept getting closer had Carter not dropped a Warner pass.

In the second half, the key pass on the Giants’ 95-yard drive was Warner’s well-thrown 38-yarder to Toomer. Warner had kept this march alive earlier in the drive with an accurate 6-yard throw to TE Jeremy Shockey on 3rd-and-4.

Wide Receivers: Amani Toomer finally got in sync with Warner and had a big day (5 catches for 126 yards). Toomer caught 63 yards of that in two plays on the Giants’ first scoring drive of the game. Toomer’s best catch was his over-the-shoulder grab of Warner’s 38-yard pass on the Giants’ second touchdown drive of the game. On the downside, Toomer was flagged with one false start.

Tim Carter (3 catches for 45 yards) is seeing a lot of action and making a difference. He also is playing with a lot of emotion and helping to keep his teammates fired up. Carter’s first reception was a 7-yard effort on 3rd-and-5 to keep a drive alive. Two plays later he caught a 20-yarder. Carter then made a superb 11-yard catch on the sideline on the next play to move the ball to the Cleveland 20-yard line, but the ridiculous officials (including the instant replay official) ruled that the pass was incomplete. Carter’s 18-yard reception in the second quarter helped to set up PK Steve Christie’s 43-yard field goal. But on the very next play, Carter dropped a Warner pass that would have picked up another first down.

Ike Hilliard (3 catches for 26 yards) needs to start making some big plays. To his credit, his run blocking did improve this week as I spotted him effectively blocking down on inside pursuit on outside running plays. For example, he got a good block on Barber’s 8-yard touchdown run. But I also spotted him missing a block on another Barber run to the outside; later in the game, he made a good block on another Barber run in the 4th quarter. Hilliard came very close to breaking a big gain after a short reception in the third quarter, but was just tripped up.

Running Backs: Tiki Barber (23 carries for 106 yards and a touchdown; 1 catch for 41 yards) had a strong game. The fact that he was consistently effective is proved by the fact that while his yards-per-carry average was 4.6 yards, his longest run was only 11 yards. It looked like a younger version of Barber on the playing field as he was very quick, elusive, and fast. I originally thought he was being forced to bounce many plays to the outside as the blocking wasn’t there, but after looking at the plays and the blocking schemes (with the tight ends and the receivers blocking down on the pursuit), it quickly became apparent that these runs were by design. As the game progressed, much of his yardage came between the tackles or off tackle, yet he was still picking up good gains as he often squeezed through small openings very quickly. Barber also demonstrated an excellent burst on some cutback runs. A big play in the game was Barber’s 41-yard reception out of the backfield late in the 4th quarter after the Browns had cut the score to 17-3. Barber easily beat the linebacker in coverage on the play and showed very good running instincts and moves after the catch, reaching the 1-yard line (and I thought the end zone).

I wasn’t particularly impressed with Mike Cloud (6 carries for 12 yards and a touchdown). He looks like an ordinary runner to me with little outside speed. Cloud did do a good job on his 5-yard touchdown run of following his block and squirting into the endzone. He did a great job on one blitz pick-up however where he took the guy right of his feet.

FB Jim Finn is seeing less and less time as the Giants use more of a 2-TE set with either one or both of the tight ends in the backfield. Finn did get a good block on a late Barber run on the Giants’ final scoring drive of the game.

Tight Ends: Jeremy Shockey (5 catches for 41 yards) was more involved in the passing game this week, but his greater impact may have been in the blocking department. Both Shockey and Visanthe Shiancoe made a lot of key blocks on running plays, particularly on the outside efforts where they were called upon to either block down on the end or lead the play and take out a linebacker or defensive back. Like Shockey, Shiancoe is being called upon to block from a variety of positions (tight end, H-Back, fullback, etc.). And like Shockey, Shiancoe seems to have the hardest time getting used to leading plays from the backfield. But that will come with experience. The only big negative I saw from Shockey was he missed a block on DE Ebenezer Ekuban on a Mike Cloud run. Shiancoe did a good job of picking up blitzers this week.

In the passing game, Shockey was mugged on the first pass thrown in his direction but the penalty was not called. Shockey had a key 6-yard catch on 3rd-and-4 on the 95-yard scoring drive with two defenders on him. The Giants tried to hit Shiancoe in the end zone at the end of the 95-yard drive, but Shiancoe was mugged in the end zone (the penalty was called) and Warner scrambled for the touchdown.

Offensive Line: The run blocking was dramatically improved this week as the rushing numbers obviously suggest. However, there were some pass protection breakdowns on the right side by David Diehl and Chris Snee.

In the running game, some items of note: I liked the way David Diehl helped out Snee with the defensive end and came off to engage the linebacker on one 6-yard Barber run on the first drive. However, this drive stalled when Luke Petitgout allowed his man to penetrate into the backfield on a 3rd-and-1 sweep to disrupt the entire play. Snee and Diehl did a good job when the ground game was focused in their direction, but surprisingly (given the Cleveland injury situation), the Giants ran a lot to their left behind Petitgout and the tight ends and did so successfully. Jason Whittle does fit in better at left guard as he is very good when pulling to both his right and his left, but he still has some problems with power over his head. He got beat by DT Orpheus Roye for 4-yard loss on a Barber run coming off the goal line right after DE Michael Strahan’s fumble recovery. And both Whittle and OC Shaun O’Hara whiffed on their run blocks on 1st-and-goal after Barber’s 41-yard reception. However, Whittle got a lot of key blocks on his pulling efforts. O’Hara and the two guards got some good movement in the running game in the fourth quarter. Snee got the key block on Cloud’s 5-yard touchdown run.

When the pass protection was good, it was outstanding such as on Warner’s 47-yard throw to Toomer. Petitgout kept Kenard Lang, who had 3 sacks coming into the game, mostly quiet. In the second quarter, both Diehl and Snee got beat in pass protection as Warner got clobbered as he was unloading the ball (the Giants’ are fortunate that it was not ruled a fumble). On the very next drive, on 3rd-and-8, Diehl and Snee got beat on a stunt and this pressure forced Warner to dump the ball off quickly. On the last drive in the second half, Diehl got beat cleanly to the outside by Ebenezer Ekuban for a sack. In the fourth quarter, Whittle got beat cleanly to the outside by Lang on the play where Kurt Warner was sacked and hurt.

One thing of note, keep in mind that Jason Whittle is playing with a big cast on one of his hands. I can’t even imagine trying to block a guy without the full use of your hands.

Defense: Cleveland was limited to 89 yards of offense in the first half and simply couldn’t move the football. The defense was not as sound in the second half as the Browns accrued almost 200 yards in offense. The pass defense was excellent, but the run defense was too soft at times (Cleveland finished with 124 rushing yards). Run defense is something that the Giants need to improve quickly. The linebackers still do not inspire me and this position will have to be addressed in free agency next offseason. The Giant players said that they really didn’t mix it up much against the Browns on Sunday, but there was still a fair amount of blitzing. Kudos go out to rookie Gibril Wilson who played a very solid game at strong safety.

Defensive Line: DE Michael Strahan’s stats (6 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries) are a bit misleading as Michael was unblocked on one of his sacks (this is a direct result of Tim Lewis’ blitzing schemes that cause confusion). However, Strahan played much of the game with a very sore left hand and despite this, got fairly regular pass pressure on QB Jeff Garcia. Strahan’s run defense was really up-and-down. There were times when he made outstanding plays run both at and away from him, but there were also times where he got handled at the point-of-attack. And he completely took himself out of the play by rushing too far upfield on HB William Green’s 49-yard touchdown run that was called back. Where Michael still excels is his aggressive pursuit down the line of scrimmage to hit ball carries from the side; yet Strahan never seems to get fooled by playaction rollouts in his direction. And he wasn’t fooled by the Browns’ misdirection fake reverses. Surprise, surprise, the freaking officials finally called not one, but two holding penalties against Strahan’s opponent! Hallelujah!

The rest of the defensive line was pretty non-descript. Fred Robbins’ followed his stellar game last week with a 1-tackle effort this week. He did flash on the pass rush occasionally. I’ve been a little disappointed with Norman Hand (2 tackles). He hasn’t been bad and he certainly has helped to gum things up in the middle, but I expected him to be more forceful at the point-of-attack more often. There are plays when he is and he stuffs the run or allows someone else to do so. But there are also plays where he is being moved off the ball. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I expected him to be more active and to make more plays.

Keith Washington (1 tackle) left the game early and did not make much of an impression either. Osi Umenyiora (2 tackles) struggled against the run on a couple of plays, but most of Cleveland’s rushes were not in his direction. Umenyiora did get decent pass pressure on Garcia despite not coming up with a sack. I really liked the way he hustled on a screen pass on the other side of the field to make the tackle.

William Joseph (1 tackle) continues to see a lot of playing time. He was pretty solid against the run and flashed on the pass rush, particularly late in the second half.

Linebackers: The most solid guy here again was Barrett Green (6 tackles). Green isn’t a big guy so there are plays where he gets easily taken out by big blockers who get a hold of him. However, his mobility does allow him to evade blockers and make plays in the hole too. He’s playing more physically than when he did in the opener. On the downside, he committed a stupid roughing the passer penalty and missed one tackle.

I still haven’t made up my mind about Kevin Lewis (2 tackles) though I suspect that the Giants are merely getting by with him. There are times when he makes very good plays such as the 3rd-and-1 stuff in the second quarter (Gibril Wilson was also a factor on this play). There was another play in the first quarter where he played off a block and made the tackle in the hole (though he wasn’t credited for it officially). But he did not get in on a lot of tackles on Sunday and Lewis does get effectively blocked too often on running plays.

Carlos Emmons’ stats (6 tackles, 1 sack) look more impressive than they really are. He did a good job on the pass rush where he picked up the sack, but I’ve been disappointed with his play at the point-of-attack on running plays. Too much yardage came in his direction (and at Strahan’s) as he was wired to the man in front of him. On the positive side, I really like the physical way Emmons roughs up receivers in his area in pass defense. I hoping that he simply rusty from missing all the practice time at the mini-camps, training camp, and preseason.

Defensive Backs: The strength of the defense on Sunday was the secondary. Garcia was held to 180 passing yards and until late in the second quarter only had 5 passing yards. The Browns have a very dangerous receiving corps, but you wouldn’t have known it on Sunday. And unlike the game against the Redskins, the Giants’ defensive backs were not the beneficiary of dropped passes by their opponents. The secondary had good coverage on the receivers. Quincy Morgan and Andre Davis only had 6 receptions between them.

Interestingly, Curtis Deloatch (5 tackles) saw a lot of playing time in the game in the Giants’ dime packages. The Giants moved him to left corner and put Will Allen inside (in more of a safety position) in these packages. Everytime I saw Deloatch on the field, I said, “Oh crap!” But the guy played a very good game when you consider that this was his first real test in the NFL and that he was often lining up against Davis. He also did a really good job on the 3rd-and-4 play to Dennis Northcutt right at the end of the first quarter. Deloatch gave up a few short receptions in front of him but was not challenged deep. This was a good experience for him.

Will Allen (6 tackles, 1 sack) and Will Peterson (3 tackles) were excellent. The only negative play I saw from either was the 3-yard touchdown pass to Morgan against Peterson. Peterson got beat on the play and was forced to interfere with Morgan, who caught the ball anyway. Peterson was aggressive in run defense and Allen made a couple of nice open-field tackles. Peterson also did a good job of knocking away a 3rd-and-5 pass to Davis.

Nickel back Terry Cousin had a good game too. He got beat for a 16-yard reception on 3rd-and-10 on the Browns’ opening drive of the second half, but Cousin had good coverage on the play (it was a perfect pass by Garcia). Cousin was flagged with an illegal contact penalty late in the game. On the positive side, he clobbered Garcia on one CB blitz.

Much of the success of the pass defense almost must go to the safeties – FS Brent Alexander (6 tackles) and SS Gibril Wilson (8 tackles, 1 interception). The only real negative I had on Alexander was his missed tackle on Green’s 49-yard touchdown run that was called back. Wilson played surprisingly well. He was very physical and aggressive in run defense and came up with an interception on the Hail Mary pass at the end of the half. Of course, his big hit late in the game on the sideline was really good stuff. The personal foul call was bogus. Keep it up Gibril!

Special Teams: The Giants played pretty darn well on special teams against the Browns. The biggest negative was that PK Steve Christie’s kickoffs remain an issue. His kickoffs were fielded at the 22, 3, 15, 9 (after a 5-yard penalty), 11, and 11 (after a 5-yard penalty). Having kickoffs land at the 22 and 15 is really bad. Unfortunately, the Giants are probably going to have to live with this all season. Kickoff coverage was mostly good, especially when you consider the short kickoffs. Brown returns went for 14 (Nick Greisen on the tackle), 30 (Curtis Deloatch), 17 (Willie Ponder), 21 (Marcellus Rivers/Jack Brewer), 10 (Jack Brewer), and 13 (Jack Brewer). The 30-yard return was obviously not good, but the rest of the returns were well-covered. Curtis Deloatch and Wes Mallard were flagged for being offsides however.

The punting of Jeff Feagles was excellent as he and his coverage men continually pinned the Browns deep in their own territory in the first half as well as keeping a very dangerous punt returner (Dennis Northcutt) under wraps. Feagles punts went for 36 (fair caught at the Cleveland 14-yard line), 30 (downed by David Tyree at the 4-yard line), 29 (fair caught at 10-yard line), and 45 (Northcutt run out of bounds at 8-yard line). Both Tyree and Brewer did a good job of getting down the field as gunners.

As for the Giants’ return game, both kick returner Willie Ponder and punt returner Mark Jones have the look of guys about to break big returns. Ponder lost his footing on his first return, and if he hadn’t, he might have been off. Ponder is a very aggressive north-south returner with an extra gear and that’s what you want in a kickoff return man. I like the way he flies in there behind his blocks. Ponder’s returns went for 29 and 27 yards.

Mark Jones came very close to breaking a big one on a 21-yard return. He is very quick and has some excellent moves. His other returns went for 7 and 3 yards. Willie Ponder was flagged for an illegal block on one of Jones’ other returns. Jones was also flagged with a holding call on a punt that he decided to let roll.

Special kudos go to Jack Brewer for his coverage work and for fielding the onsides kick in the 4th quarter despite taking a big shot.

(Box Score – Cleveland Browns at New York Giants, September 26, 2004)
Sep 242004
 

Approach to the Game – Cleveland Browns at New York Giants, September 26, 2004: Giants’ fans who are lucky at the Giants-Browns game as an easy win should be aware of one fact: Browns’ fans are looking at the Giants-Browns game as an easy win for their team.

There are no gimme games on the Giants’ schedule. If the Giants do not play emotionally or do not execute on Sunday, they will lose this football game. Giants’ fans should be well aware of the fact that injuries to other teams do not guarantee anything. For Christ’s sake, all you have to do is re-watch the Atlanta game from last year where a beat up Falcons came into the Meadowlands and DESTROYED the Giants. And this Browns’ team handily beat a very tough Ravens’ team on opening day.

After two divisional games, the Jim Fassel-led Giants would have been poised for an emotional letdown in this game. It will be interesting to see how the Giant players react under Tom Coughlin.

This is a big game for the Giants. 2-1 sounds a lot better than 1-2. It’s time to build some momentum and string some wins together.

Giants on Offense: With the super-aggressive defenses of the Eagles and Redskins now in the rear-window until the Giants meet those teams again later in the season, this is a game where the Giants may be able to employ some of their skill position threats farther down the field. In order to do that, the offensive line needs to continue to pass block at a high level, and the line certainly needs to dramatically improve its run block in order to keep Cleveland honest on defense.

The Browns will be missing two big cogs up front in their defense on Sunday. Former high first round draft picks DE Courtney Brown is out for the season with a foot injury. DT Gerard Warren will miss 2-4 weeks with a pectoral injury. With these two losses, the Cleveland defensive line dramatically changes in character. The Giants should be able to win most of the individual match-ups if the offensive linemen play up to their ability. Ebenezer Ekuban (who also has a sore groin) will replace Brown at left defensive end and will face RT David Diehl. Ekuban is not a strong run defender. He flashes at times as an outside, speed pass rusher, but has largely disappointed in that department as well. Another former Dallas Cowboy, Michael Myers, replaces Warren at left defensive tackle, lining up over RG Chris Snee. The Giants should be able to run to their right at these two. The tougher battles come on the left side where LG Jason Whittle matches up with DT Orpheus Roye. Roye is a good run defender and flashes power, something Whittle can have problems with at times. RDE Kenard Lang is a former Redskin who faces LT Luke Petitgout. He’s a decent two-way player who can play the run and has accrued 3 sacks in two games.

The Browns linebackers are average athletes at best. They could struggle in coverage against HB Tiki Barber and TE Jeremy Shockey. Baltimore and Dallas were able to do damage against the Browns with their tight ends the past two weeks.

In the secondary, much depends on whether or not left cornerback Daylon McCutcheon and right cornerback Anthony Henry play. McCutcheon is a good player, but he had surgery on his hand this past week. He would line-up against Ike Hilliard, but if he can’t go, the drop off in talent at corner for the Browns is significant. Amani Toomer would normally face Anthony Henry, who suffered a concussion last week. Toomer should eat up Henry or his replacement, but Toomer and QB Kurt Warner still haven’t gotten in sync with each other. With the Browns’ issues at corner, this may be another game where Tim Carter could have a big impact as the third receiver. Earl Little is a good free safety. SS Robert Griffith has ability, but is slowing down.

This is a game where the offense should be able to move the ball and score some points. BUT, the offensive line needs to continue to improve and not take a step back here. The Giants have to be able to run the ball better, particularly in short-yardage in order to keep drives and scoring opportunities alive. The Giants shouldn’t try to get too cute. They should run the ball to the right, try to get favorable match-ups in the passing game with Barber and Shockey on the linebackers, and the receivers against the weak links in the secondary.

Giants on Defense: Cleveland is hurting here too with injuries, but the Browns have some dangerous weapons still who can put points on the board quickly. HB Lee Suggs was was expected to return from a neck injury this week; however he did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday. Suggs is an excellent running back who has the ability to take over a game. If he can’t play, William Green will start at halfback. He is tough, speedy back who can break tackles, but he isn’t very elusive or instinctive. The Giants’ run defense has not been impressive at the start of the season and I would expect the Browns to try to keep the Giants’ offense off the field as long as possible by grinding the ball with Suggs or Green. To defeat this strategy, the Giants have to limit Suggs to short gains on first and second down. The Giants’ defensive ends – Michael Strahan, Keith Washington, and Osi Umeniora – must play the run better than they have.

For the second week in a row, Strahan will face a back-up right tackle. Ryan Tucker (Cleveland’s best lineman) is out and will be replaced by Joaquin Gonzalez. Gonzalez is smart and tough, but he can be overpowered. However, Strahan did not play particularly well himself last week against a back-up and may be still bothered by the gluteal injury. The other injury concern Cleveland has is that LG Paul Zukauskas has a sprained knee, but he has returned to practice and is now expected to play. He will line up against DT Fred Robbins. Cleveland’s center Jeff Faine is a former #1 pick and one of the best centers in the game.

The other match-ups are Washington/Umenyiora versus LT Ross Verba, a tough player who sometimes struggles against good athletes. Umenyiora could have a good game here in obvious pass rush situations. DT Norman Hand will face RG Kelvin Garmon, a massive, powerful player in his own right (350 pounds+).

The Giants need their defensive linemen to take charge of this game. The Giants’ linebackers are still hurting – Barrett Green with an ankle injury and Carlos Emmons with a groin injury. And the middle linebacker position is still not really settled. The more the defensive line can do to make the linebackers’ jobs easier against Suggs, the better. Browns’ fullback Terrelle Smith is one of the best (if not the best) blocking fullbacks in the game. He will make life tough for the backers. Tackling remains a concern. Everyone needs to tackle crisply.

Defending the passing game will be much easier with rookie TE Kellen Winslow, Jr. (broken leg) out. The back-up tight ends have some ability. Aaron Shea can catch the football and is a decent lead blocker from the H-Back position. So while the linebackers’ jobs may be easier, it will not be a cakewalk.

The two big concerns when Cleveland passes are (1) the scrambling of QB Jeff Garcia (any Giants’ fan who remembers the San Francisco playoff game knows what I’m talking about), and (2) the ability of the Browns’ receivers to make plays down the field. Andre Davis is an excellent deep threat receiver who can score at any point in a game. He has been inconsistent, but he can cause problems for the two Wills. Likewise, Quincy Morgan is another receiver who combines an excellent size-speed package. Morgan can get deep and is dangerous after the catch (again, tackling is an issue here). To make matters worse, third receiver Dennis Northcutt is a quick, elusive receiver who works the middle well. The Browns may be salivating getting him matched up on Terry Cousin.

This will be a very tough game for the secondary because of these three receiving threats. The Giants need to get heat on Garcia, but at the same time, they obviously need to limit his scrambling. The more pressure on Garcia, the easier the defensive backs will have it. But the ability of these receivers to make big plays in the passing game is scary. And Garcia certainly isn’t going to be frightened of a secondary that he torched two years ago.

Giants on Special Teams: Another dangerous return game this week. Dennis Northcutt is exceptional in the open field on punt returns. The Browns waived their kickoff returner this week, but they will likely plug Andre Davis or Quincy Morgan in there and both can do damage as returners given their speed. Kickoff coverage by the Giants was not good last week and poor kickoffs by Steve Christie did not help matters. The return game is one area where Cleveland has a big advantage over New York.

Sep 232004
 
The Outsider’s Report: Special First Coughlin Era Victory Edition

By BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Daniel in MI

Well, the Giants improved to 1-1 with a win over the Redskins. This is good because the TOSR (The Outsider’s Report) staff much prefers celebratory drinking binges to the drowning our sorrows type (more chances of a round on the house). In any case, we sobered up just in time to make up more news this week – just like the rest of the media. As always, although TOSR lacks staff, inside contacts, friends, access, and personal hygiene, we do score over the more pedestrian media outlets in two important ways: (1) we’re free; and (2) we aren’t afraid to ask the tough rhetorical question. But enough about us, how’re you?

This week the Giants earned their first win of the Coughlin era by outlasting the Washington Redskins 20-14. Although the offense sputtered at times, the defense nabbed 7 turnovers to bail them out. We caught up with QB Kurt Warner to ask him if he’s starting to get more comfortable in the offense. “Oh, yeah, I was watching film and I just kept thinking, ‘Gosh, there is so much more I can do. Jeepers, I can feel that I’m improving each week. Golly, we can maybe get two touchdowns a game and not go 1-13 on 3rd down. Gee, I think I’ve really shown that I still have what it takes to win in this league. So, Jesus, someone trade to get me off this team before I get killed.'”

The defense was understandably proud of it’s turnaround after last week. A big story was how DC Tim Lewis told the players not to worry so much about the ‘Skins tendencies are, but to focus on what the Giants defense wanted to do. We asked Tim Lewis if this was a way to keep the players loose and aggressive. “Uh, well sure, I’ll go with that. To be honest, I was going against Joe freakin’ Gibbs! The guy’s a legend. I had no idea what the ‘Skins were going to do. So, I just trying to play it off like it was all about us.”

The players responded, and CB Will Peterson thinks this style will be a trend, “I think after seeing how well it worked, he’ll give us more and more leeway. And, from now on, all the game plans will include having the opposing QBs throw the ball to our safeties 5 to 7 times a game because if we don’t have that happen, we’re screwed.”

Recently, the media sommeliers gave us the weekly whine specials from the players, which featured a nice pairing: something dry from RB Ron Dayne and something zesty from TE Jeremy Shockey.

Although Dayne was giddy in the pre-season about getting a second shot at a first impression, he has apparently soured on the new regime’s use of him for something other than sideline decoration. We caught up with Ron studying films of Tyrone Wheatley’s NY press conferences and asked him about the kind of plays he wanted. “Well, I wish they’d give me more plays like I got in the pre-season. You know, successful ones. I want to play against scrubs and defenses that don’t game plan. But, the coaches have gone a different way.”

We asked him about how he’s being used. “Man, if you watch the game, you don’t even have to ask that question. You see how they’re using me: they’re asking me to carry the ball, forward, to attempt to advance the team’s field position and get a first down. I don’t think they spent a first round pick on me if all they were going to ask me to do was run the football and occasionally catch a pass or block. They could have gotten a back in later rounds for that. And he might even have been good.” When we asked why he thought they spent a first round pick on him, he said, “I have no idea.” Funny, that’s what Coughlin must be thinking, too.

For his part, Shockey’s issue is comfort with his role in the new offense. “I just feel like with everything I do, all the moving and stuff, when I watch it on film I’m not the same player I was a year ago – the player that scored two whole touchdowns each of the last 2 years. I just hope I can get comfortable soon so I can get both of my touchdowns this year.” The big man is clearly frustrated as things are not coming as naturally to him. “I’m not having as much fun as I had in the past. I mean, winning games is fun, and so we’ve only had one fun that way this year, but for me personally, I’m having less fun than before, which was a lot of fun. So, on a fun scale of 1 to 10, I’d say I’m about a 6.2, which puts me somewhere between slinging slurs at coaching legends and throwing ice into the stands.”

Finally, turning to the next opponent, the Giants will face a depleted Cleveland Browns team, which will be a reunion of sorts for OG Barry Stokes and OC Shaun O’Hara who came to the Giants from the Browns in the off-season. We caught up with Cleveland Head Coach Butch Davis trying to design a logo for the Browns’ helmet, and he commented on his former linemen, “We hold both of those guys in extremely high regard. They were awesome people…but get to a certain point with guys when you have an undisputed center that is, you know, ‘good,’ so it made it very difficult to keep players that aren’t good…I think everybody in this organization felt that they were a starters in this league, but we just thank goodness it’s not on our team.”

So, here you have it Giants fans. A win is said to cure a lot of ills on a football team, and if that’s the case imagine how many ills there must be on this team. Clearly, some more of the treatment is called for. Hopefully the Giants will make the Browns feel blue. If not, we can look forward to hearing about how newly signed practice squad CB Art Thomas doesn’t like how he’s being used on the practice squad, “I should be used to emulate the top shut down corners in practice like Sanders or Bailey; they wouldn’t have used a practice squad spot on me if just showing the opponent’s defensive alignment is all they wanted.”

Sep 222004
 
New York Giants 20 – Washington Redskins 14

Game Overview: I have mixed emotions about this game. It was great to see the defense take charge of a game and create so many turnovers. Last week, I wrote in my game preview about the absurd inability of this defense to create turnovers. Well turnovers came in an avalanche against the Skins. There were seven in all and the Giants also dropped two more interceptions so they could have had nine. However, the Redskins were able to move the ball on their very first drive of the game as well as a few drives in the second half. Only the turnovers bailed them out.

More distressing was the offense’s inability to generate points or sustain any kind of drive in the entire second half of the football game. The problem was the Giants simply could not run the ball. Halfbacks Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne carried the ball 14 times for 8 yards in the second half! The Giants only picked up four first downs. That’s why the Giants almost handed this game back to the Redskins.

This wasn’t a very good special teams performance by the Giants either. Both kickers struggled somewhat, the Giants gave up two big kick returns, and Willie Ponder fumbled the ball away at a key moment in the game.

Don’t get me wrong. This was a huge win. It helps to build mutual confidence and trust between the players and the new coaching staff. In particular, it should encourage the defensive players to have faith in the new defensive system. But there is a lot of work to be done. The Giants have the ability to become a decent football team, but they are not there yet. And until they get all the various parts functioning at a higher level, they are going to continue to struggle against both good and bad teams.

Offense: The biggest problem the Giants had was their inability to generate a rushing attacking. As you’ve already read, the second half numbers were dismal. The first half was a bit better, but the team only managed 62 yards rushing for the entire game. Things did not start off well either as Kurt Warner was sacked on the first possession by an unblocked cornerback blitz. Warner fumbled and the Giants were fortunate to have not turned the ball over. A sack on the next drive (Warner tripped over his center) led to a failed long field goal attempt after picking up a couple of first downs. The third drive was a promising one that stalled when the Giants could not convert on 3rd-and-2 and 4th-and-1 (a false start penalty did not help matters either). On the next possession, the Giants smartly went for the throat immediately after a turnover, throwing deep successfully to Tim Carter for the touchdown. Another false start (there were four in all) helped to sabotage the fifth drive of the first half. The Giants started the sixth drive at the Washington 26-yard line after a turnover, but could not pick up one first down. However, the field goal attempt was successful. The seventh drive (and final one of the first half) was the Giants’ best offensive possession of the day. The team moved from their own 24-yard line to the Washington 4-yard line, picking up five first downs along the way. The downside was that the Giants were forced to settle for a field goal, rather than a touchdown.

I thought the play-calling in the first half was excellent. The Giants were prepared for the Redskins’ aggressive blitzing schemes and called plays to counter this – i.e., quick passes, screens, etc. Coughlin and Hufnagel changed things up and kept Washington guessing. The drives where the Giants were able to generate even a little bit of a rushing attack, they moved the ball. Where they failed – as is to be expected – is when the running game failed and the team found itself in 3rd-and-long situations (the false start penalties and two sacks did not help here either). The Giants found themselves in 13 third down situations and only converted one of these. Eight of these 13 third down situations were 3rd-and-6 or longer. ONLY ONE of these third down situations was a 3rd-and-short (3rd-and-2 or less) opportunity.

Short yardage woes continue to haunt the Giants. The problem was not with the backs in this game, but with the run blocking. And not just by the offensive line, but the tight ends, fullback, and wide receivers. It’s everyone.

Quarterback: The best part of QB Kurt Warner’s (22-of-33 for 232 yards, 1 touchdown, and 0 interceptions) game against the Redskins was that he did not turn the football over. He came close on the very first possession when he lost control of the football when sacked from the frontside CB blitz. But he was very good about making smart throws and not hurting his own team. Warner was particularly sharp in the first half of the game, completing his first eight passes and finishing the half 14-of-19. He stood in tough against the rush, stepped up into the pocket, made quick decisions, and fired the ball accurately. He did have some misfires in the second half where he and Amani Toomer looked out of sync. His play-action fake on the post route to Carter for the touchdown was excellent. Warner just missed hitting Toomer for a 33-yard score in the 3rd quarter as the pass just grazed off of Toomer’s fingertips. Having the benefit of hindsight, it is obvious that Warner should have scrambled for the first down in that play instead, as he had an open field in front of him on 3rd-and-3. What made matters worse is that Steve Christie missed the 51-yard field goal on the very next snap. His worst pass of the day was a very inaccurate throw to Toomer on 3rd-and-9 late in the 4th quarter.

Wide Receivers: The big play of the game offensively was made by Tim Carter (3 catches for 63 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 rush for 8 yards) on his 38-yard post pattern for a touchdown. It was an excellent route as Carter did a great job of faking out the safety by selling the corner route. Carter also had a key 18-yard reception on the Giants’ last scoring drive.

Amani Toomer (6 catches for 54 yards) just missed putting the game away on the aforementioned deep shot by Warner. Toomer’s biggest catch of the game came on 3rd-and-9 with just over 4 minutes left in the game and the Giants holding tenuously to a 20-14 lead (this 11-yard reception was the only 3rd down conversion the Giants had all day). However, Toomer did not have the type of game I expect from him and seems a bit out of sync with Warner still. CB Fred Smoot did a good job on Amani.

Ike Hilliard (4 catches for 37 yards) simply was not productive enough. Worse, his run blocking wasn’t very good. Some of these blocking assignments were tough – for example his was called upon to occupy SLB Marcus Washington on one Dayne run around left end. But on this play, Washington ran right through Hilliard and nailed Dayne for a 2-yard loss. Nevertheless, Hilliard wasn’t very good at blocking defensive backs either.

Willie Ponder got an excellent block on Tim Carter’s 8-yard end around.

Running Backs: Tiki Barber (18 rushes for 42 yards, a 2.3 yards-per-carry average) and Ron Dayne (9 carries for 12 yards, a 1.3 yards-per-carry average) did not have the holes to run through. The run blocking was not good at all. The most productive runs were all in the first half. Barber’s best run of the day occurred late in the second quarter when he broke through an obvious facemask penalty by LaVar Arrington (that wasn’t called) around right end to pick up 11 yards. Two plays later, he gained 8 yards behind good blocks from RT David Diehl and RG Chris Snee.

But most of the time Barber and Dayne had nowhere to run. Dayne in particular was usually greeted by a wall of Burgundy and Gold. On his failed 4th-and-1 run where he lost a yard, I wasn’t crazy about the call as I think you’re asking for trouble when you start pulling people in short yardage. Dayne may have been able to cut the run back up inside, but it was pretty well defended.

Jim Finn (2 catches for 15 yards) was used as an outlet receiver. His lead blocking remains average at best.

The blitz pick-ups were pretty good except for one major snafu by Tiki Barber. Barber apparently was the man who should have picked up the corner who blitzed and sacked Warner on the first possession. Dayne did an excellent job except for one blitz where his man got around him in the 4th quarter.

Tight Ends: Jeremy Shockey (5 catches for 36 yards) continues to round himself back into form and is still learning the new offense. Keep in mind that Shockey missed all of the preseason and most of training camp. Classroom learning is vastly different than on-field practice time. Also, fans continue to wonder why Shockey is dropping passes. Shockey has always dropped passes. And he will always drop passes – that’s one of the negative elements to his game. Jeremy does need to continue to work on his blocking. He’s aggressive and makes good initial contact, but he does fall off his blocks too quickly at times and needs to sustain these blocks longer. His biggest mistake all day was his ineffective block on Dayne’s failed 3rd-and-2 run. SLB Marcus Washington was able to penetrate into the backfield and disrupt the whole play. Shockey also did a poor job in pass protection on one play against the right defensive end who came clean to hit Warner from the backside.

The Giants started to feature Shockey on two drives – one late in the 1st quarter and the other in the 3rd quarter. But both possessions stalled when the ground game could not sustain the drives. Shockey dropped a 2nd-and-9 pass in the 4th quarter.

Visanthe Shiancoe improved in pass protection this week. He started off shaky as he was beaten pretty soundly by Marcus Washington and Warner got drilled in the back on a blitz. But he settled down after that and was an important cog in picking up the Skins’ various pass rush packages. Interestingly, the Giants had him lined up at fullback at one point in the game.

Offensive Line: The pass blocking was very good, the run blocking was not. That’s the review of the offensive line in a nutshell. Let’s emphasize the positive first. This offensive line – who everyone and their mother has trashed for months – has done an excellent job of pass protection against two very aggressive, blitz-happy opponents in back-to-back games. There have been some mental and physical breakdowns, but not many. Some of this is due to the play-calling (short passes, screens, etc.), but there have been more than a few occasions when Warner has dropped back in the pocket to look for a receiver down the field and has had time. The Giants gave up two sacks on Sunday and neither was because of the offensive line. One was a failed blitz pick-up by Tiki Barber; the other occurred when Warner tripped over his center. The problem on Sunday was the run blocking. The Redskins were more physical up front.

In the first half, a pulling RG Chris Snee did not sustain his block long enough on Barber’s second carry of the game. LG Jason Whittle got a very good block on a short pass to Barber that sprung Barber for 16 yards. SLB Marcus Washington (who was a thorn in the Giants’ side all day along with MLB Antonio Pierce) got a clean hit on Warner when either RT David Diehl or RG Chris Snee failed to pick him up (Snee peeled back late, but I’m not sure it was Diehl who messed up). In the second quarter, Barber picked up 11 yards on a screen pass behind excellent downfield blocks from OC Shaun O’Hara and Whittle. On 3rd-and-3 from the Washington 4-yard line, the safety came free to force an incompletion. The announcers blamed Diehl and Snee, but those two were blocking defensive linemen. Since there was no one in the backfield to pick up the blitz, there were more rushers than blockers on this play.

Whittle had problems in short yardage on the Giants’ first possession in the second half. Cornelius Griffin threw him aside twice. Snee and O’Hara also had problems moving people off the line of scrimmage and O’Hara badly missed Griffin on Tiki’s 3rd-and-16 draw play. This was not one of Snee’s better performances. His run blocking, especially for him, was sub-par. He also let the middle linebacker run unopposed to Barber on a screen pass.

Another problem were the four false start penalties (three by Snee, one by LT Luke Petitgout). These penalties hurt because they turn manageable down-and-distance situations into difficult situations – especially against a blitz-happy team that can force the quarterback to make the hot throw quickly short of the first down marker.

Defense: The game certainly did not start off well for the Giants’ defense as the Redskins easily marched 53 yards in 10 plays to score the first touchdown of the game. But after that disappointing initial effort, the Giants defense played well for the most part – accruing 7 turnovers and 4 sacks, scoring one touchdown, and limiting HB Clinton Portis to 69 yards rushing. But make no mistake, the Giants’ defense got lucky too. Redskin receivers dropped some key passes, including a touchdown. The run defense got a little too soft at one point. And, in the second half, not including their touchdown drive, the Redskins were able to drive the football to the Giants 24, 7, and 25 yard line. The turnovers are what made the difference.

So why were the Giants more effective this week on defense? The defensive play-calling looked pretty much the same to me. Those who say Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis called more blitzes this week didn’t really watch the game last week. The Eagles did a far better job of defeating the Giants’ pass rush than the Redskins. That was the primary difference. What was nice to see – that was different from Johnnie Lynn last year – was that Lewis remained aggressive even late in the game. The other big difference is that the secondary covered better – not great – but better.

Defensive Line: Except for the first drive of the game, this was a pretty strong game all around. The nice thing was that the reserves saw a lot of playing time throughout the game as Lewis kept everyone fresh. This was key in the second half of the game as the Giants’ offense was unable to keep their own defense off the field. The run defense was pretty solid although it got a bit soft in the 3rd quarter.

First the negative. On the first Redskin possession, Washington moved the ball at will as the they ran right at DE Michael Strahan on one play, then at defensive ends Keith Washington and Osi Umenyiora on the other side. It was most disheartening, but as I said, the line picked it up after the poor start.

The big star was DT Fred Robbins (3 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception). I said in last week’s game review that Robbins was a big upgrade over Keith Hamilton in run defense. This week not only was his run defense solid, but he was a major factor on the pass rush with two sacks. His athletic interception of the screen pass was a brilliant play. His first sack caused a turnover and these two plays were the big momentum changers on defense in the game.

DT Norman Hand (1 tackle) was far quieter but he made a big play when he sniffed out a reverse to the speedy Lavernues Coles and tackle the receiver for a 16-yard loss.

Reserve tackles William Joseph (4 tackles, 1 sack) and Lance Legree (4 tackles) played a lot. Joseph was flagged with a 5-yard face mask penalty. But he made two really nice plays against the run. The first occurred in the 2nd quarter when he stood up RG Randy Thomas and tackled the ball carrier with his free left arm (very impressive strength). The second happened in the second half when he held his ground against the guard again, played off the block, and tackled the back. Joseph also had a big sack on the first play of Washington’s last serious drive to win the game. He was playing nose tackle in a 3-man front and overpowered the left guard to make the play. Joseph got pretty decent pressure on a couple of plays after this as well. Legree combined with Strahan and S Gibril Wilson to pressure Patrick Ramsey and force a bad throw that was intercepted by FS Brent Alexander in the 4th quarter.

Strahan (5 tackles, 1 fumble recovery) may have been bothered by his gluteal injury as he didn’t make much noise on the pass rush against a back-up tackle. Strahan did cause Patrick Ramsey to step up into the pocket on Robbins’ second sack. His run defense was pretty solid, including a really nice play from the backside in the 4th quarter that limited a Portis run to a 2-yard gain.

Washington (2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble) did a great job on the last play of the game. On a 3-man rush, Washington fought through the blocks of the back and tackle to sack the quarterback and force a fumble. Other than that play, LT Chris Samuels did a good job in pass protection against Washington. Washington was pretty solid in run defense, except for on the first Redskin possession of the game.

Umenyiora (1 tackle, 1 fumble recovery) saw action at both defensive end and linebacker. While he didn’t pick up a sack, he did get good pressure on a few plays, including the play where Ramsey was picked off in the endzone by Alexander. He also played pretty well against the run this week (except for the first drive). I spotted him holding his ground well at the point-of-attack on one play in particular. Osi also got very good penetration on the play where he recovered the fumble that CB Will Peterson forced. Osi was flagged with a roughing the passer penalty that was a bit touchy.

Linebackers: A so-so game. The best thing was that Reggie Torbor (2 tackles) didn’t hurt the Giants at strongside linebacker with Carlos Emmons out and Wes Mallard (2 tackles) didn’t really hurt the Giants all that much when Barrett Green was forced to leave the game early in the 3rd quarter.

The best player obviously was Barrett Green (4 tackles, 1 fumble recovery for a touchdown). Before he left the game, Green was pretty disruptive. Things didn’t start out well for Green as he got easily blocked on one 8-yard run by Portis on the Skins’ opening possession. Then I think it was Green who was supposed to cover the tight end on the bootleg pass that picked up 14 yards. Green nailed Portis by diving over the top in goal line defense on 1st-and-goal on the same drive. Green’s blitzes after this drive and before he left the game caused problems for Washington. His blitz was a factor on the play where Robbins stripped Brunell of the football to set up the Giants’ sole offensive touchdown. His penetration on the reverse to Coles helped Norman Hand to make the play for a 16-yard loss. His quick recovery and strong return of Mark Brunell’s fumble put the Giants up 14-7. Green’s pressure was also directly responsible for Brunell’s poor screen pass that was intercepted by Robbins.

Reggie Torbor struggled against the run. He got hung up on blocks too easily as the Skins had little trouble taking him out of running plays.

Mallard got beat by Clinton Portis on 16-yard reception on 3rd-and-8 on the Skins’ first drive of the second half. To be fair to Mallard, Portis gave him a tremendous fake.

Nick Greisen saw more time at middle linebacker this week. Both he and Kevin Lewis (6 tackles) played a lot. In the first half, Greisen overran a Portis run to the outside that picked up four yards when Portis cut it back. Greisen also dropped a sure interception and did not appear real natural or instinctive on the blitz. Both Greisen and Brent Alexander were in the vicinity of Portis on the latter’s 13-yard touchdown reception in the 4th quarter. Greisen did tip away a Ramsey pass on the next drive. Lewis was flagged with a questionable illegal contact penalty on the same drive. On the first drive of the game, Lewis got easily blocked on a Portis carry that picked up 11 yards. A few plays later, Lewis got good penetration on a Portis run that lost two yards. Lewis then made a nice sure tackle for a 1-yard loss on the goal line.

Defensive Backs: The defensive backs played much better this week against a very solid receiving corps. However, they benefited from some timely drops by Redskin receivers too. There is much improvement that still can be made here.

On the first drive of the game, CB Will Peterson (8 tackles, 1 forced fumble) couldn’t play off a receiver’s block on a WR-screen to Lavernues Coles. On the same play, he then missed the tackle on Coles farther down the field (as did FS Brent Alexander). Alexander (3 tackles, 2 interceptions) got burned badly by the TE on 3rd-and-goal when he got completely faked out by Brunell’s play-action and surrendered an easy touchdown. On the next drive, Peterson supplied excellent deep coverage on a bomb down the left sideline to Coles that fell incomplete. On the very next play, CB Will Allen (6 tackles) jumped in front of a Brunell pass intended for Rod Gardner and almost intercepted the ball. S Gibril Wilson missed a tackle on Portis’ 21-yard run on 3rd-and-23 in the second quarter. On the next Skins’ possession, right before Green returned Portis’ fumble for a touchdown, Will Allen made two sure tackles on short passes to far bigger men – Gardner and FB Chris Cooley.

In the second half, the defensive backs started off strong as Peterson and Williams each knocked away passes from Mark Brunell on the Skins’ first possession. Peterson was then flagged with an illegal contact penalty that looked like bullcrap to me as it appeared that Peterson chucked the receiver within the 5-yard limit. Peterson then made an excellent play by punching the ball out of Portis’ hand for a fumble (the only negative on this play is that had Peterson blocked the Redskin in front of him, Umenyiora may have scored on the fumble recovery).

On the next drive, Peterson was lucky that Rod Gardner couldn’t keep his feet in bounds on a deep pass. Peterson had good coverage on the play, but once again did not make a play on the ball when it arrived. Two plays later, S Gibril Wilson was fortunate that Portis dropped a sure first down reception on 3rd-and-12 as he got beat.

On the Skins’ third drive of the second half, Allen got badly beaten deep by Gardner on a double-move for a 51-yard gain. Two plays later, Gardner beat Peterson for what should have been a 7-yard touchdown, but the receiver dropped the football. On the very next play, Alexander picked off Ramsey in the end zone.

On the fourth drive, Allen made a shoe-string tackle on a WR-screen to Coles that only picked up 2 yards. But it was on this drive that Ramsey found Portis in the end zone (I’m not sure if Alexander or Greisen or both got burned). The Redskins immediately got the ball back when Willie Ponder fumbled the kickoff return. Shaun Williams (7 tackles, 1 forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown) had excellent coverage on a deep passing attempt to Gardner down the left sideline. But Allen got beat by Gardner for 12 yards on 3rd-and-9. Two plays later, Ramsey lofted a poor pass that was intercepted by Wilson.

On the Skins’ sixth drive, Coles beat Peterson for 22 yards, but then Ramsey, who was under heavy pressure, threw another bad pass that was intercepted by Alexander. On the Skins’ last serious drive, Coles beat Allen over the middle but Coles dropped the ball. Peterson then gave up a 12-yard reception to Coles on 3rd-and-16. On 4th-and-4, Wilson made an excellent play in the flat to knock the ball away from Portis to preserve the victory.

Nickel back Terry Cousin must have been solid as the Skins never threw in his direction.

Special Teams: Steve Christie was 2-of-4. He hit from 38- and 22-yards out, but missed from 47 and 51 (he contends that one of these longer efforts was tipped). His kickoffs on a windy day landed at the 15, 9, 11, 6, and 10. Not very good.

Kickoff coverage deteriorated. Chad Morton’s returns went for 13 (Wes Mallard on the tackle), 18 (Jim Maxwell), 17 (Marcellus Rivers), 49 (Steve Christie), and 43 yards (David Tyree, Gibril Wilson). A dumb holding call on the Skins brought back the last return, fortunately for the Giants.

Jeff Feagles had one of his poorer days of punting as a Giant. His punts went for 44, 32, 47, 34, 39, and 40 yards – less than a 40 yard average. Punt coverage was OK. Returns by Morton went for 14 (Curtis Deloatch), fair catch, 6 (David Tyree), downed, 6 (Ryan Kuehl), and out of bounds.

Willie Ponder had one excellent return for 34 yards. However, on his other return, he fumbled the ball away and the Giants are lucky that this mistake did not cost them the game.

Mark Jones returned 2 punts for 22 yards.


Concentrating on Getting the Spark

by David Oliver

It’s been a long time since many of us have had to deal with cheering on a team that has lost 9 games in a row. Losing takes a toll, on everyone. In this case it cost almost an entire coaching staff their jobs, a third of the team has turned over, even the media has forgotten how to write about the game and concentrates on the behavior of the Coach. The real warriors dig in and “concentrate on getting the spark”, as LT Luke Pettigout told me following a badly needed, and much appreciated win over the Washington Redskins. The fans showed up en masse and cheered and rooted for the Giants as if this was a playoff game; that is following an abysmal first quarter performance in which boos were heard. The players hear both sides, the boos and the cheers, and as DT Norman Hand told me, “Once you start hearing the boos on the first series, I’m not used to that, so I didn’t want to get booed any more today.” Norm also told me that today was about pride and that, “We just had to make a stand today. We didn’t have a good showing in Philadelphia, but we wanted to have a good showing at home.”

The coaching staff did a good job in getting the team ready for this game. Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis had the defense primed, and cut them loose, in a dazzling display of how to make things happen. It was a cacophonous panoply of plays and players, and it must have driven a rather weak offensive line of the Redskins to distraction. Players shuttled in and out of the game and the formations changed so rapidly that it reminded me of the Third Division’s march on Baghdad. I don’t have all the numbers memorized yet and there were times when I wasn’t sure who was on the field and when I did know who, I couldn’t quite figure out where.

Of course, it started out with HB Clinton Portis chewing the yardage from a Giants’ defense that looked soft and slow. The first quarter gave no indication of what was to come. Then, like flipping a switch, the Giants became aggressive, quick and nasty. Hand and DT Fred Robbins finally started doing what we had believed they would do; the blocked the middle and made plays. They also got penetration. Afterwards, Hand was quick to share the kudos, telling me that the “linebackers did a good job today”. He went on by saying, “We knew we had to stop Portis and we could win the game…that’s what happened and they had to throw the ball the whole second half, instead of running it, which worked to our advantage.”

As an aside, let’s talk about the emotional investment of the coaching staff. A whooping, jumping leader, who had the team fired up from the start, led the team out of the tunnel. This was something I have not seen in the Meadowlands. During warm-ups, Head Coach Tom Coughlin walked up and down the rows of players, reaching down and shaking hands with the players, talking to them, and getting them ready. This was finally an opportunity to see the Head Coach in his game-coaching role, and it is obvious that he is a creature who lives for Sundays. He takes on a different persona, not only in reaching his players on a fundamental human level, but he was also the cheerleader in chief, actually exhorting the fans to make some noise late in the game when the taste of victory was in everyone’s mouth. I cannot remember a Head Coach so effusive along the sidelines. He is into the game, bending, twisting, and shouting, just like us.

Much has been made of the “military” bent of TC, and his disciplinary bias. As I have said before, I could care less about these foibles; my concern with the Coach is strictly about the winning. But there are a lot that concerns about style that apparently weigh heavily on some people. As I have also said, I don’t talk to the players about their reaction to discipline, rules, style. I do hear about it from others, some related to the team, such as relatives, close friends and the like. So there is some talk about it, particularly as regards veteran players, free agency, and the business side of the equation. Last week I mentioned General Tommy Franks and some of his views on leadership. This week, I will throw out a little message from General John J. Pershing, who opined that “a competent leader can get efficient service from poor troops, while on the contrary an incapable leader can demoralize the best of troops.” There was an article in the papers last week about Coach Gibbs and how he had apologized to his players for becoming the story, which he felt was distracting people from the football. He pledged to do better at not being the story. Style is important. Coach Gibbs is as tough a coach as there is. His humility comes close to mirroring the General Pershing statement above. The Giants’ Head Coach has said that he learned a few things in his stay out of football. It’s time to focus on the football. Winning goes a long way towards making leaders competent. Concentrating on only the football side of the equation, this entire coaching staff appears to be very capable of dealing with a winning hand. Let’s hope it continues, but realistically, I believe this team will now settle into finding itself and playing an enthusiastic brand of ball, but not necessarily a winning brand of ball. We can expect anywhere between 5 and 9 wins, and we should be elated if we get the 9.

The Redskins were as perfect for the home opener as the Eagles were disastrous for the season opener. Despite the presence of their Hall of Fame Coach and an all-star line up of assistant coaches, the personnel on the team are about evenly matched with the Giants. The offensive line is a work in progress; the QBs are a sage veteran playing near the end of a career and a young QB promising stardom. The Giants hold an edge here. The strength of the Redskins lies on the defensive side of the ball, with a very strong linebacker unit and a decent secondary. LT Chris Samuels was a monster throughout the game and he led the way for Portis throughout the first quarter. But he had little help from his cohorts. The Giants adjusted and just disrupted the interior of the Redskins offense. But the ‘Skins had good field position throughout the second half, and they just kept coming. Both QBs were erratic and the defensive schemes of the Giants obviously confused them as most of the interceptions were thrown directly to Giants’ defenders standing almost stationary in lanes.

Communication along the offensive line is really important, and as RT David Diehl told me, the Giants were communicating during the game, and if it continues, he said, “I feel we can do a good job.” But he also acknowledged that, “We understand that we have to take some of the burden off the defense.” Frankly, the Giants’ offense in the second half didn’t look all that effective. Both Tiki and Dayne were shut down. The defense provided the relief and Diehl told me that everyone was excited about the defense, which, he told me, “They sold out today and brought everything to the table.” I asked him to sum up the day for me, and he said it was “a sigh of relief; we haven’t had this feeling in a long time. We want to continue to feel this way.”

The back seven of the Giants’ defense showed up today. Actually, at times it seemed as if there were at least 11 men behind the line. MLB Kevin Lewis told me that it felt great to play well as a unit and get so many turnovers and that coming out with a win “is the most important thing; that’s what we set out to do; we got it done.” I discussed full-time play with him and asked him if he felt different, but he told me, “It’s the SAME for me because I went out there with the same intensity that I had when I went in there to relieve guys; now that I’m out there full time, it’s like, now I’ll make a play, now I’ll make sure I belong out there.” He told me he is having a ball out there, “Play after play, my teammates having a blast, everybody making plays out there, running around and being excited about it; the fans behind you the entire game – I haven’t heard a crowd like that in a while.”

Excitement is the key word for this game, both for the players and for the fans. There is a bond here, a bond between the fans and the players, surrounded by an aura of winning. The game is fun because it becomes “excitement” – it is an adrenalin rush, a community of the senses, a fulfillment of what we are, in play and in work, one mass dedicated to accomplishing a goal. Damn, I love this sport.

SLB Reggie Torbor was excited. He had his first real game taste and contributed with a tackle and an assist. He told me that life in the NFL has been for him “a total learning experience; switching positions, there was almost nothing that I could carry over from college. I’m learning new tempo; I’m learning new coaching styles; I’m learning how to interact with the players; I’m going from being on the top to being on the bottom, from being more of a leader to more of a follower.” As Reggie said, it’s a lot of learning. That is why he had so much fun today, as he got to put these things together in a package, to do what a player wants to do, get on the field. As he told me, “I played and tried not to let my team down. It means a lot to a player when your team can count on you. You never want to be that guy that everybody is looking at wondering if you’re going to mess up…” I asked him about playing against Portis and he told me that Portis was fast, but that the defensive line did a great job as “he never got his shoulders north and south; he was going east and west and it’s a lot easier to tackle somebody fast when he’s going like that.” We talked a little about schemes, about being aggressive as a defense. He told me that Coach Lewis coached that way, all the time. He said that Lewis talks them through it, repeats, does repetition after repetition, and that “it gets us through, it starts at the top, the old guys step in and younger guys follow.” He told me they were working him in gradually, that “I do some dogs, do some drops” and that today he actually felt more comfortable than he has been thus far. He enjoyed the game contact and told me, “It seems kind of funny, but it helps to know that they’re human too (the opposition). Once you get in there, it makes it a lot easier.”

S Gibril Wilson was finishing dressing as we talked. He’s a sharp, well-groomed dresser with a matter of fact attitude. He told me that life in the NFL was “exactly what I expected” and that he felt good about being here. He really didn’t notice any surprises and he told me he was going to spend a little time thinking about this win and then move on and get ready for Cleveland. He looked good in his first outing, and like MLB Nick Greisen, he could easily have added an interception. Two would have been a nice way to start before the home crowd.

It will be very interesting to see what the offense looks like when QB Kurt Warner gets his timing down with his receivers, if WR Tim Carter can stay healthy and if TE Jeremy Shockey is now well enough to go into the seams. This is a very different offense than the past several years and how they use Shockey is intriguing. He is a bona fide offensive weapon, if they can keep from falling into the trap of using him as a standard TE or H-Back. The pre-injury Shockey went downfield, got into the seams, got his mismatches and ran wild in the secondary. Keeping him on a shorter route will expose him to harder hits by the linebackers. Tim Carter, on the other hand, appears to be developing a rapport with Warner. If they both stay healthy, the Giants may just have a big play offense. Although WR Amani Toomer had the most catches, and remains the go-to guy, there wasn’t much of consequence in this game. The timing between he and Warner is not there yet.

I asked a couple of veterans about the quarterbacks, and LG Jason Whittle, who is thrilled to be back as his wife told me, said that they are both great to work with and that they are both great guys off the field. He noted that, “Eli is going to be an outstanding QB.” LT Luke Petitgout didn’t directly talk to the QBs, but in discussing the success of the line two years ago in protecting the QB, Luke told me that Kerry Collins was responsible for a lot of that success because he got the ball out so quickly. I talked to Luke about the blocking assignments and he told me there weren’t any wholesale changes, as “(Tight Ends Coach) Mike Pope is still here; there is a little more play action, a little more moving the QB around.” Whittle echoed this as he told me that being away last year felt like taking a vacation. He felt that he there were a few things he needed to be quicker on, but that for the most part he was comfortable coming back to the team and working into the system. He and OC Shaun O’Hara have lockers next to each other and appear to have developed a nice personal relationship as well as professional. I really believe that this present line can develop into a real strength of the team.

The nice thing about it is that everyone realizes that this game was a relief game, but that the team is not yet where it needs to be. This game was a test and it was a win. I finished up with Luke and asked him about his weight. He told me he had added some weight during the offseason, but he was now pretty close to his weight of last year. The main thing for him is getting his back stronger and getting himself back both physically and mentally to a winning position. Luke acknowledged that the last six weeks of last season “put a dent in me physically, and mentally.” It really did that to us all. The win over the Redskins was the first hammer blow in getting that dent smoothed out. Keep in mind that this is a work in progress. Don’t get too high, don’t give up. Focus on the new players, the offensive line, the defensive schemes, and, of course, the QBs. Finally, focus on the celebratory dances of the defensive players. I teased Norman Hand about the dancing and he was quick to point out that, yes, William Joseph had to work on his dance. I was just as quick to point out to him that when did his dance, as he twisted his neck, his whole body vibrated and the ground on the sidelines started to shake. It was a good feeling.

(Box Score – Washington Redskins at New York Giants, September 19, 2004)
Sep 172004
 

Approach to the Game – Washington Redskins at New York Giants, September 19, 2004: Enough is enough with the negativity! This crap about Coughlin fining the players for being late has been blown way out of proportion. So has the reported demise of the Giants. The Giants are 0-1, nothing more, nothing less. Beating the division-rival Redskins at home will do wonders for team morale and confidence, not to mention that of the franchise’s finicky fans.

This game will not be easy. The Redskins are a confident team right now, especially their defense. Not only is Joe Gibbs a legendary head coach, but the Skins have put together a top-notch assistant coaching staff, loaded with experience. This is a game the Giants can win, but the entire team has to come to play – offense, defense, and special teams. If one of these components plays as poorly as the defense did against the Eagles last week, then the Giants will be hard-pressed to win.

Giants on Defense: Last week was embarrassing and if this unit has any pride, it will come to play and dominate on Sunday. Of course, the paramount objective must be to stop the Redskin running attack and Pro Bowl HB Clinton Portis. The onus is going to be on the defensive line and linebackers to fill gaps up front, but the secondary will also have to be aggressive in run force. And for God’s sake the team needs to tackle much better than last week. Joe Gibbs and their offensive line coach Joe Bugel will show no mercy. They are going to test the Giants up front and challenge their ability to tackle again. In particular, they must be salivating the opportunity to punish the Giants’ mediocre linebackers (especially if SLB Carlos Emmons doesn’t play).

That all said, Gibbs knows that the Giants will be focusing on run defense first and foremost. Because of that, he may try to cross the Giants up early with some deep pass attempts. The big deep threat is Laveranues Coles and CB Will Allen, who struggled last week against the pass and the run, is likely to be matched up on him. When Allen is on top of his game, this is a good match-up for the Giants as Allen has the speed and deep coverage-ability to stay with Coles. And CB Will Peterson matches up better with the more physical Rod Gardner. The other guy to worry about is Giant-killer James Thrash versus nickel back Terry Cousin.

The Redskins have some good talent on the offensive line in LT Chris Samuels and RG Randy Thomas. But they lost Jon Jansen in the preseason and now Kenyatta Jones starts at right tackle. Derrick Dockery is the left guard and Lennie Friedman the center. This group played exceptionally well last week against the Buccaneers, holding the aggressive Tampa Bay defense sackless and affording QB Mark Brunell all kinds of pass protection. This is not a good sign for a Giants’ defense that struggled to pressure QB Donovan McNabb last week. Gibbs emphasizes protecting the quarterback at all costs. The Giants need to find a way to exert better pressure or it may be another long day for the defense. Not only does the entire defensive line need to get after the quarterback, but the Giants’ blitzers need to start getting there too. Last week, the Giants blitzed the Eagles a ton, but the blitzers rarely got there.

The Redskin tight ends are mostly blocking types, but the Giants still need to keep an eye on Walter Rasby and Robert Royal.

What is becoming ridiculous and the absurd inability of this defense to force turnovers. It won’t get any easier this week as Mark Brunell is one of the hardest quarterbacks in the NFL to intercept. The Giants also have to be aware of his scrambling. He’s a leftie too and that presents different challenges in itself for the defensive backfield.

Stop the run, get after the quarterback, cover the receivers, and create some turnovers! Show us some old-fashioned Giants’ defense!

Giants on Offense: The offensive line took a step forward last Sunday, but things will get no easier this week. The strength of the Redskins right now is their defense. And this defense played exceptionally well for almost all of the preseason and the first regular season game. Indeed, they have been dominating. Defensive Coordinator Greg Williams has installed a super-aggressive, attack-style defense that is finally using LB LaVar Arrington the way he should be used – and that is moving forward and attacking the quarterback from different angles. The other outside linebacker, strongsider Marcus Washington, is one of the most underrated linebackers in the league. He can blitz, play the run, and cover. Both of these guys are often sent after the quarterback. I also expect to see Mike Barrow back in the line-up this week. His has been hampered by a knee injury, but has practiced. He is a good blitzer too. And Greg Williams is not shy about sending defensive backs either. Williams’ background is from the Buddy Ryan/Jeff Fisher school…attack, attack, attack.

So the big key up front will be pass protection against the blitz by the offensive line, tight ends, and backs. It’s scary to think that Tiki Barber may be called up to block a guy like Arrington on the blitz, but it may come to that. TE Visanthe Shiancoe needs to pick up his game in the blocking department as he struggled last week. And Jim Finn needs to be much more aggressive and physical in both pass protection and run blocking. The Redskins present different problems than the Eagles. Their defensive line is not as strong as the Eagles, but their linebackers are much better.

The Giants need to take control of the Skins defensive line. An interesting battle will be former Giant DT Cornelius Griffin versus RG Chris Snee. Luke Petitgout must dominate DE Phillip Daniels. The strongside end, Renaldo Wynn is an ordinary player who David Diehl will face. Jason Whittle will knock heads against DT Brandon Noble, a blue-collar-type. The Giants’ offensive line has a chance to negate the line, but what will make things difficult will be the movement up front and attacking style of the linebackers. When the tight ends are called upon to block the ends, the pulling offensive line must take out the linebackers. So must Finn and OC Shaun O’Hara on inside runs.

There is only one player in the Redskins’ secondary who scares me and that is rookie FS Sean Taylor. He looks as good as advertised. Taylor has incredible instincts against the passing game and such great range that he makes plays on footballs in the air that other safeties can’t possibly make. The Giants can’t be gun-shy of testing him or avoiding certain throws, but they have to take into consideration his ability. Also, he is as big or bigger than many linebackers and also is a deadly weapon on the blitz. Taylor is one of the few guys in the league that probably can handle TE Jeremy Shockey one-on-one.

Speaking of Shockey, it’s time for the Giants’ money players (Shockey, WR Amani Toomer, HB Tiki Barber, WR Ike Hilliard, QB Kurt Warner) to make big plays in clutch situations that enable the team to win a game. Toomer, Hilliard, Shockey, and Warner did not perform well enough to win last weekend. It’s time to step up. The Bucs’ terrible wide receiving corps made the Redskins’ secondary look better than it is. While Fred Smoot is a decent player, Toomer can beat this little punk. Shawn Springs is one of those bigger corners who the more nimble Ike Hilliard may be able to separate from quickly on shorter routes. Depth at corner is not good for the Skins and Tim Carter may finally be able to make some big plays down the field.

Of course this all depends on the blockers up front (keep in mind, this includes the backs and tight ends) giving Warner just enough time to make plays to beat the blitz. It will also be interesting to see how the Skins handle Shockey. He has hurt them in the past and the Skins’ linebackers will have trouble sticking to him. The wild card here is Sean Taylor. But if the Skins focus too much on Shockey, that should open things up for Toomer, Hilliard, and Carter.

It may rain at the Meadowlands on Sunday. If true, the running of Barber and Dayne becomes critical. If the blockers can figure out mentally what the Skins are doing up front, the Giants can pound the ball at them.

Giants on Special Teams: Mark Jones only had one return last week, but the guy does look dangerous on punt returns. I feel a big return coming.

Chad Morton is very dangerous on kick and punt returns. The Giants kickers need to get good height on the ball and the coverage men need to stay in their lanes, get down in a hurry, breakdown properly, and make sure tackles.

Sep 152004
 
Philadelphia Eagles 31 – New York Giants 17

Game Overview: I said in my game preview that I couldn’t tell what kind of team the Giants would field this year. On Sunday against the Eagles, we started to get some answers. Before I get into the positional specifics, here are some general observations:

  • I firmly believe the Giants were not so bad on Sunday as the Eagles were very good. They are very well-rounded with a good offense, defense, and special teams. And by far, this is the best offensive talent the Eagles have had since Donovan McNabb has been there. It’s not just the presence of WR Terrell Owens, but they have a legitimate homerun threat at running back and two very good pass-receiving tight ends. The blocking by the offensive line and fullback is very strong. When McNabb is on his game (and he was VERY sharp against the Giants – he made some absolutely fantastic throws), this may be the best offensive team in the NFC. It also may be the best team period in the NFC.
  • I really disagree with those who said Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis did not call an aggressive game against the Eagles. The Giants showed a lot of different looks with their fronts and coverages. They also blitzed a lot. The Eagles did a great job of reading the blitzes and/or picking them up. As I said, they have a solid offensive line and they have a lot of quality underneath receivers who can burn you (Westbrook and the tight ends). What made the defense look so bad is that the players did not execute very well. There were physical and mental mistakes in coverage (mostly physical) and there were many mistackles. My only criticism of the schemes (or lack of understanding) here is why the Giants kept allowing the tight ends a free and easy release from the line of scrimmage. There was too much pitch-and-catch for McNabb in an offense that relies on timing.
  • The Giants probably do not have enough talent on defense to seriously compete this year. To be fair to the defensive players, they were hampered by nagging injuries to key players in the preseason such as CB Will Allen, SLB Carlos Emmons, WLB Barrett Green, and DE Keith Washington that caused a lot of practice time to be missed. All four of these players didn’t play particularly well on Sunday. But the Giants don’t have a lot of speed or talent at linebacker or safety. Worse, since these are the natural leadership positions in a defense, the Giants are also suffering from a lack of passionate defensive leadership. If the Giants are going to compete with the best in 2005, they will need to aggressively pursue free agent defensive players (because they only have four picks left in the 2005 NFL Draft and rookies usually do not make a dramatic impact).
  • On the other hand, barring injury, the offense should continue to grow this year. TE Jeremy Shockey has been out so long that I forgot how good he really is. Yes, he only had two catches on Sunday and yes he dropped a sure touchdown pass. But he demands double-coverage and even when double-covered, he still gets open. The offensive line played a good game against a quality opponent and will continue to get better. And Tim Carter showed signs of contributing. Amani Toomer needs to step it up however.

Why did the Giants lose on Sunday? Because the Eagles are a better football team and they played like it. Pretty simple.

Quarterbacks: Kurt Warner (16-of-28 for 203 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) was OK. The biggest negative on him was the fumble on the goal line that probably prevented a touchdown (his earlier fumble was from a huge hit on a cornerback blitz that he didn’t see coming). The fumble on the goal line was inexcusable. Warner also missed on a couple of throws such as his overthrow to Shockey deep into the end zone in the 1st quarter (this is likely the result of the two barely practicing together) and his slightly inaccurate throw to Ike Hilliard in the 4th quarter on 4th-and-goal that also should have resulted in a touchdown. In addition, Warner was flagged with a false start penalty. But Warner generally made good decisions, stepped up into the pocket, got rid of the ball quickly at times (and thereby helped out his offensive line), and showed good toughness despite receiving some pretty good whacks. I really liked the 43-yard pass play right before half to Ike Hilliard where Warner read Hilliard’s intention to alter his route down the middle of the field and he lofted a nice touch pass to Hilliard as pressure was bearing down on him from behind.

Manning saw his first action of the regular season on the Giants’ final two drives of the game. He didn’t throw a pass on the first drive, but threw 9 passes on the final drive (completing 3 of them, 1 being dropped). His best throw was the 29-yard strike to Tim Carter on 4th-and-10. He and Amani Toomer did not appear to be in sync on a couple of shorter efforts.

Wide Receivers: I was very disappointed with Amani Toomer (4 catches for 41 yards). He was far too quiet, especially when you consider with Shockey back in the line-up and receiving double-team attention. Toomer must have had some good one-on-one opportunities. He also had a costly drop early in the 2nd quarter that would have put the Giants in scoring position. Two plays later, they had to punt instead. Look at what Owens did for the Eagles and look at what Toomer did for the Giants – that’s why I’m disappointed in him. Toomer did use a nice stiff arm on a quick pass from Warner in the 4th quarter that picked up 9-yards (I really liked this play as Warner clearly saw an all-out Eagle blitz coming and the Giants were prepared for it).

Ike Hilliard (3 catches for 59 yards) made a nice route adjustment on the aforementioned 43-yard play, but likewise was too quiet on Sunday. Even though Warner’s pass was thrown behind him on 4th-and-goal, a receiver the caliber of Hilliard should have made that catch. Hilliard also dropped a pass on the Giants’ final drive of the game. The Giants did throw to Hilliard on a WR-screen on 3rd-and-11 that picked up the 1st down (as I said in the preseason, the WR-screen to Hilliard is a great play because of his run-after-the-catch ability). Hilliard missed a block on one of Dayne’s runs that could have picked up more yardage had he kept the defensive back from penetrating from the backside.

Tim Carter (4 catches for 51 yards) was solid, including a 6-yard reception on 3rd-and-5 and a 29-yard catch on 4th-and-10.

Tight Ends: It was great to see Shockey back on the field and even better that he finished the game without getting hurt. It was not a good game for Shockey, but his very presence demands double-team attention. For example, on the Giants’ first scoring drive of the game, Shockey dropped what would have been a touchdown pass. But what was amazing on the play was that Shockey broke away from the double-team coverage on him to get that wide open in the first place. Later in the drive, Warner overthrew him in the endzone on a route that was run like an athletic wide receiver. His inside fake caused two defensive backs to lose a step on him (similar to the play where Terrell Owens beat Will Allen and Shaun Williams for a touchdown).

Shockey made two key blocks on plays run to the left on the first scoring drive that picked up a total of 37 rushing yards. In the 3rd quarter, he dropped another pass from Warner, but a few plays later, he got deep down the seam for a 34-yard reception. Two plays later, he got a good block on a 7-yard HB Ron Dayne run. My only criticism of Shockey on his blocking is that he needs to finish better at times.

Visanthe Shiancoe did not block as well as he did in the preseason. To be fair to him, he was left all alone with DE Jevon Kearse on a number of plays and that is a tough assignment. Kearse beat Shiancoe twice in pass protection, leading to incompletions. He also had problems moving Kearse out on a couple of running plays, including one that drew a holding call. But Shank did have some nice blocks in the game on positive outside runs, as well as Tiki Barber’s 72-yard scamper. Late in the 1st quarter, Shiancoe could not haul in a slightly errant throw from Warner on a crossing pattern over the middle. I thought that Shiancoe should have picked up the cornerback on the blitz that caused Warner to fumble the ball in the 3rd quarter.

One of the plays that Coughlin ran that I thought was neat was a formation that had Barber, Shiancoe, and TE Marcellus Rivers all lined up together in the backfield in a sort of wishbone set. This play seemed to confuse the Eagles as it developed into a screen pass that picked up a key first down on 3rd-and-5.

Running Backs: Interestingly, Ron Dayne (13 carries for 45 yards, 1 touchdown) started the game and saw almost as many touches as Tiki Barber (9 carries for 125 yards, 1 touchdown; 5 catches for 75 yards). This was reminiscent of the 2000-2001 Giant seasons. Dayne played pretty well. I was impressed with his power on the goal line when he lowered his pad level and drove the defender back 3-yards into the endzone for a touchdown. Earlier on this drive, he had a nice 15-yard run around left end behind solid blocking from Shiancoe, Shockey, and LG Jason Whittle.

There was another interesting wrinkle from Coughlin with a formation that had both Barber and Dayne in the backfield together. Barber went in motion as a receiver while Dayne carried the ball up the middle for a 2-yard gain. I do not think Dayne ran poorly in short-yardage on Sunday. There were three plays that he didn’t convert, but on two of these he was hit in the backfield (RG Chris Snee being at fault on both of these) and on the third, he did a good job of twisting forward and almost scoring on the play.

Tiki Barber ripped off a really nice 22-yard gain on a run around left end behind blocks from Whittle and Shockey. However, in the 2nd quarter, I thought that Barber screwed up a screen pass on 3rd-and-15 when he ran his route past the line of scrimmage and ahead of his blockers. But Barber rectified this later in the game with two excellent screens, one where he went in motion and cut the play back against the grain to pick up 25 yards; the second being a typical screen pass that picked up 34 yards. The Giants are quickly developing into a very good screen team with screens being run to Barber and the wide receivers. We will probably see one to Shockey soon. Regardless, Barber is very good on screen passes because of his vision and elusiveness in the open field. Barber’s 72-yard run late in the game was the type of big SCORING play that was missing from Barber’s game last year.

Both Barber and Dayne were real solid on their blitz pick-ups. However, Jim Finn was not on one play as he got run over by a linebacker leading to a sack on the Giants’ last possession of the first half. Strangely, Finn did a much better job of lead blocking between the tackles than he did on outside runs. A few times I spotted him not being able to take out the defensive back on wide runs – a fullback MUST take out the defensive back in these situations.

Offensive Line: This group played surprisingly well against an aggressive opponent that likes to confuse the opposition with different blitz packages. Keep in mind that Jason Whittle is playing left guard for the first time and was just anointed the starter a few days ago, Chris Snee is a rookie, and this was David Diehl’s first game at right tackle in an NFL regular season game. At times, pass protection was rock solid. At other times, it was made to look good by the short passing game and quick release of Kurt Warner.

Jason Whittle looks like a natural at left guard. He made two outstanding blocks on pulls to the left that sprung Barber for 22 yards and Dayne for 15 yards. Whittle and Diehl got excellent blocks on Barber’s 34-yard screen pass late in the 4th quarter. The only pass protection breakdown I saw from Whittle came with only seconds left in the game as his opponent was able to exert pressure on Manning on one play. Whittle was also flagged with a false start.

David Diehl did an excellent job in pass protection against Jevon Kearse and Jerome McDougle – two 1st round pass rushing specialists.

Chris Snee was very solid against a quality opponent, Corey Simon (who was limited to 1-tackle). His biggest mistakes (and they were a costly ones) came in short yardage. Snee missed Dhani Jones on the run blitz on 3rd-and-1, leading to a 1-yard loss in the first half. Inexplicably, Snee got creamed on 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line two plays before Warner fumbled the ball away in the second half. This failed block allowed the Eagles to penetrate and hit Dayne behind the line of scrimmage. Snee was also flagged with a false start.

The biggest liability was LT Luke Petitgout. He was beat twice cleanly to the inside, once by DE Derrick Burgess (causing an incompletion) and a second time by DE Hugh Douglas (causing a sack). That doesn’t mean it was a bad game for Petitgout, but as I said in the preseason, Petitgout needs to elevate his play commensurate to what he is being paid.

The Petitgout sack was the only sack (there were five) that was the fault of the offensive line. There were two coverage sacks (where Warner and Manning took off running), the failed blitz pick-up by Finn, and a corner blitz where I thought Shiancoe should have picked up the guy.

Pulls by Petitgout and OC Shaun O’Hara sprung Barber on a 10-yard run in the 3rd quarter. However, a few plays later, Petitgout wasn’t able to prevent penetration by LB Dhani Jones on a Barber run that only picked up 2 yards. Petitgout did get a nice push on the very next play on a Dayne run off left guard for 7 yards. O’Hara had problems with moving Dhani Jones out on another left side run.

The 72-yard run by Tiki Barber was exceptionally well-blocked with Diehl and Snee getting good blocks at the point-of-attack, O’Hara getting a great downfield block, and Tim Carter and Shiancoe also shielding their opponents.

Defensive Line: Not a standout game. The biggest problem was that when the Giants rushed their four down linemen, they got little pass pressure. DE Keith Washington never threatened LT Tra Thomas and that hurt. DE Michael Strahan had one sack against RT Jon Runyan, but more was hoped from him in this department. I would say that Runyan out-played Michael on this day. Norman Hand and Fred Robbins simply didn’t generate enough heat on the pass rush.

The good news with the two tackles is that they were pretty stout against the inside run the few times the Eagles challenged the Giants on the inside. On the Eagles’ first drive of the game, Fred Robbins did an excellent job of holding his ground against a double-team block, holding HB Brian Westbrook to a 2-yard gain. Hand stuffed a Westbrook run on the goal line, but both he and Strahan got blocked effectively on a later 3rd-and-1 play. Robbins made a few plays against the run in the second half. He fights through blocks pretty well. In my opinion, he’s a huge upgrade over Keith Hamilton in run defense.

The big run of the game for Philly – the 50-yarder by Westbrook – came at the expense of Strahan and SLB Carlos Emmons. Both were man-handled at the point-of-attack. Strahan also lost contain on McNabb on the latter’s amazing scramble-and-throw for a touchdown in the 1st quarter. Strahan later missed a sack on McNabb near the goal line in the 4th quarter. The Eagles were also not afraid to run at Strahan in this game and picked up some good yardage by doing so.

William Joseph saw playing time in both halves. On his first play of the game, just like in the preseason, he quickly penetrated the line and positioned himself to make a play in the backfield for a loss on Westbrook. Unfortunately, he missed the tackle. Still, his initial penetration was impressive. In the 4th quarter, he was flagged for being offsides (the penalty was declined).

What was interesting was that the Giants actually played the 3-4 defense more than I expected. And the linebackers were often defensive ends, including Keith Washington. This confused the Eagles early on. For example, on a 2nd-and-8 play, Washington and WLB Barrett Green broke through to pressure McNabb from his right (and Washington was playing linebacker). The Giants moved in and out of this look, sometimes rushing only four, often times blitzing. But the Eagles did a better job of picking up the blitz as the game wore on and/or hitting the open underneath receiver. The Giants blitzed different guys from different positions, but for some reason, it was no longer confusing the Eagles.

Linebackers: Not good. Pass coverage on the underneath receivers was very poor. There were instances where the tight end or back was left wide open (though some of that may have been due to the blitzing). What bothered me was that the tight ends were allowed a clean release off of the line of scrimmage in an offense that is based on timing. Now sometimes this was not possible because the tight end was put in motion, but too often the tight end simply ran a hook pattern unopposed, sat down in the zone between linebackers, and caught a quick pass from McNabb for 6-8 yards. It was too easy for McNabb and he was playing pitch-and-catch like it was training camp. In my opinion, the best way to prevent this is to jam the tight end at the line.

The Giants blitzed their linebackers (and defensive backs) a lot. Somebody asked me in The Corner Forum why the Redskins were able to exert pressure on the Bucs with their blitzes and the Giants could not against the Eagles. For one, the Eagles blockers are much better. Secondly, the Giants do not have LaVar Arrington and Marcus Washington at linebacker. None of the Giants’ linebackers, except for the inexperienced Reggie Torbor, look like overpowering blitzers. And at this point in his development, Torbor is still a bit of a liability as he falls prey to misdirection and is still learning how to cover people in pass defense.

Carlos Emmons was blocked at the point-of-attack on Westbrook’s 50-yard run. But the biggest culprit in the game was Barrett Green. You would be hard-pressed to find a more embarrassing performance by a linebacker on any team on opening day. Green not only did not make any plays, but he missed tackle after tackle, leading to significant accrued yardage totals after contact. Green had a shot on Westbrook on his 50-yard run just past the line of scrimmage but missed him. And he was absolutely horrendous on the first Eagles’ drive in the 2nd quarter. He missed two tackles on Westbrook that should have gone for no yardage, instead Westbrook picked up 3 and 12 yards. He also missed a tackle on Owens after a short pass. Late in the 2nd quarter, he missed Westbrook again on a screen pass that gained 22 yards. Green ought to worry more about improving his game and living up to the contract he signed with the Giants than filing grievances against his head coach with the NFLPA. Most embarrassing for the Giants is that Dhani Jones vastly out-played Green (Jones played far stronger and stouter at the point-of-attack for the Eagles than he did for the Giants).

Kevin Lewis was not real athletic in pass coverage, but he did not embarrass himself and finished the game with a team high 10 tackles and a sack. At times, he did a good job of defending the run such as when he combined with FS Brent Alexander to limit Westbrook to no gain on a 2nd-and-1. His biggest problem right now against the run is that he is susceptible to taking false steps on misdirection. This has the effect of taking him out of the play. He also struggles with playing through big blockers. There was a big 24-yard gain to TE L.J. Smith where he was left all alone. I am not sure if Reggie Torbor made the mistake here (he went after McNabb) or Lewis (who bit really hard on the play-action). Lewis got easily beaten by the fullback for a 9-yard pass reception at the end of the 3rd quarter.

Nick Greisen saw some playing time as early as the 3rd quarter but he was not impressive. He really got hung up on one blitz and badly overran an inside run and missed the tackle.

Defensive Backs: Also not good. Everyone keeps criticizing the two Wills (and I will too), but the guys who keep failing to make plays are the safeties. Shaun Williams, Omar Stoutmire, and Brent Alexander look slow, unathletic, and rarely make plays. It was hoped that Tim Lewis’ system would finally get Williams to start playing like a first rounder. It hasn’t. It’s time to face reality and accept the fact that Williams is a 1st round bust who makes far too much money. I doubt he is on the team next year. Williams, like Allen, was beaten on the pump-and-go route to Terrell Owens for the first Eagles’ touchdown of the game. Williams got suckered completely by McNabb’s play-action fake in the 3rd quarter on the play where Owens got wide open for his final touchdown. Williams was supposed to be on Owens on this play and he didn’t stick with him. Williams was beat by TE Chad Lewis for 15 yards on 3rd-and-3 in the 4th quarter too. The only positive I saw from him was his sure tackle of McNabb on a quarterback draw on 3rd-and-7 (Williams was blitzing on the play).

Brent Alexander saw more playing time than Stoutmire and did not deliver. He missed a sack on a safety blitz on the first Eagle possession of the game. He also got faked out of his shoes by Westbrook on the latter’s 50-yard run. Late in the game, Alexander did break up a pass to the fullback over the middle, preventing a 1st down. Yea! A Giants’ safety made a play on the ball! (sarcasm off)

Stoutmire was very late getting over to help out Will Peterson on the absolutely crucial 53-yard pass to WR Todd Pinkston on 3rd-and-10. This play was a true momentum shifter and Stoutmire should have been there to knock the ball away or smash the receiver.

Let us hope that Will Allen is suffering from rust (rust from not practicing and rust from still recovering from foot/knee injuries). Of course, the worry here is that last season’s serious foot injury may have permanent affected him. As to be expected, with all the practice time missed, Allen was not sharp. Worse, he was the guy called upon to stay with Owens. Owens put on a great move on his 20-yard touchdown reception, completely selling the shorter route. Both Allen and Williams bit on this. Allen got beat for another touchdown in the 2nd quarter by TE L.J. Smith – that play was more personally upsetting to me. Worse, early in the 3rd quarter, Allen missed a tackle on Westbrook on 2nd-and-1. Instead of being a run for no gain, Westbrook picked up 13 yards. Then, on the same drive, on 3rd-and-5, Allen missed a tackle on Westbrook that would have kept him shy of the 1st down marker. Instead, the Eagles picked up the 1st down.

Will Peterson had excellent coverage on Pinkston on the 53-yard reception, but Peterson failed to play the ball in the air. Peterson got beat by Pinkston for 17 yards on a crossing pattern on 2nd-and-15. This was a big play on the final Eagles’ scoring drive. Peterson had one good run force that led to a 3-yard loss.

Nickel back Terry Cousin got beat very badly on a crucial 3rd-and-3 play that picked up 22 yards and led to another Eagle touchdown (though he was picked on the play – a penalty probably should have been called). On the very next play, he got beat by TE Chad Lewis for nine yards. In the 3rd quarter, he and the Giants were VERY fortunate that Cousin was not flagged with an obvious pass interference penalty in the end zone against Owens that would have made the score even worse. Cousin’s biggest problem on this play is that he never looked back for the football…a stupid, rookie mistake. Two plays later, Cousin got beat over the middle for what should have been a 1st down, but the receiver dropped the ball (and Cousin had the gall to act like he forced the incompletion).

Special Teams: The most positive aspect of the special teams play was PK Steve Christie nailing a 53-yard field goal near the end of the 2nd quarter. Christie’s kick-offs landed at the Philly 2, 3, and 15-yard lines. The first two kick-offs were encouraging, the latter was not.

Kickoff coverage was lackluster. Wes Mallard could not bring down the returner on the first return, helping to contribute to a 27-yard return (David Tyree on the tackle). The next return went for 25 yards (Omar Stoutmire, David Tyree) while the final return was brought back 15 yards (Jack Brewer). The Giants failed to recover an onsides kick late in the 4th quarter.

Jeff Feagles only had an OK day for him and punt coverage was not good at all. Feagles averaged 42.6 yards on 5 punts, but his net was poor (28.6 yards). On the Eagles’ second punt return, they got away with an obvious block-in-the-back penalty that contributed to a 25-yard return (Tyree on the tackle). Feagles was supposed to angle one punt towards the sidelines, but it drifted inside and led to a misplay by Tyree in trying to down the ball. Instead of the Eagles starting a drive inside the 5-yard line, they started at the 20-yard line and went on to score. The next return picked up 19 yards (Kevin Lewis). The final Eagle return went for 6 yards (Ryan Kuehl).

Willie Ponder returned 5 kick-offs for a 23.8 yards-per-return average, with a long of 33 yards.

Mark Jones only returned one punt for eight yards.

The Giants did come darn close to blocking a punt late in the game.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, September 12, 2004)
Sep 152004
 
The Outsider’s Report: Eagles “Game” Edition

By BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Daniel in MI

Well, the regular season has started not with a bang or a wimper, but more a gasp and gurgle. We at TOSR (The Outsider’s Report) have returned from our various 12-step programs and are getting back into regular season form. Our lack of contacts, informants, league sources, inside information, and integrity has really paid off. As always, although much of what we write is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, we continue to score over more pedestrian media outlets in two important ways: (1) we’re free; and (2) we show up for meetings 5 minutes after they end. We turn now to Week 1.

The Giants were abused 31-17 the Eagles this week, and careful study of film indicates that when the Eagles weren’t running on the Giants defense at will, they were passing at the Wills. CB Will Allen was a favorite target. Although some speculated his injury was the problem, Allen denied this. “No, I’m fine. That’s no excuse.”

Reporters then asked Allen if he just had a rough day. “No, that wasn’t a rough day. We just didn’t execute like we should have.” We followed that up, “Will, what exactly would a rough day look like?” He described a bad day for us, “They’d pass for like 300 yards, we’d get no turnovers, they’d score like 4 TDs against us, and their star WR everyone knew needed to be covered would get like 3 of them. Now, that’s a rough friggin day!” We pointed out that they threw for 330 yards, 4 TDs, 3 to Owens, and we got no turnovers.” He said, “Oh, we’ll I guess that is a rough day. Damn. Hey, but I’m just coming off an injury.” Allen assured us, however that “come December, no one will remember what happened in September.” Under his breath he added, “By then people will forget this and complain about our missing the playoffs.”

One problem plaguing the team’s offense has been a lack of red zone production, particularly in the passing game. After the Giants failed to score a passing TD from the 1st and 2nd string QBs in the pre-season, fans eased their fears with the knowledge that the Giants were keeping things “vanilla.” Surely a team with this offensive firepower would break out against two young CBs like the Eagles. But, again the Giants scored no passing TDs. We caught up with QB Kurt Warner working on his fumble recoveries to ask about the offense.

“Yeah, we kept things vanilla in the pre-season,” agreed Kurt, “And the coaching staff have decided to keep things more vanilla now. In fact, we’ve moved from plain vanilla to French vanilla (simple as well as cooperating with the other team). We don’t want all of our opponents to know what our REAL offense will look like, so we’re continuing to keep it under wraps. It’s really a brilliant offense, though. Coach says we’ll unveil it in the off-season when we practice in the bubble and no one can see.”

We asked Kurt if he felt confident about the offense going into the game. “Yeah, I felt great about our offense going into this game. I mean, in practice, I’m able to pass seemingly wherever I want against our defense. We get completion after completion to our WRs, TEs, and RBs, you name it. Our blocking is great against our defense, I feel no pass rush, I mean I love playing against…our…defense….Wow, that sounded kinda bad, huh?”

Meanwhile, in the search for something to distract the fans from the disaster on the field is the petty whining off it. Much has been made of the fines levied against Giants players – including Green, Strahan, Cousins, and Emmons – for not showing up the requisite 5 minutes before the scheduled meeting time. We caught up with Coach Coughlin measuring socks with a micrometer and he told us that it is all of this is part of establishing winning discipline. “You’re either on time, or you’re late. On time is on time. And that’s five minutes early. And, since five minutes early is on time, to actually be five minutes early, you need to be there five minutes before five minutes early. So, that’s ten minutes early. That’s on time. But, to be five minutes early for that, you’d better be here five minutes before that. Unless it’s a Wednesday or Thursday on a leap year, or there is a Harvest Moon, it’s Simchas Torah, or the numbers in today’s date sum to a prime number. It’s very simple. Being on-time for team meetings is covered on pages 355 – 488 in the players rule book I gave them Chapter 13, Vol. XXI, 4th Edition. So, be on time for meetings and make sure you’re on the practice field on time. And with long socks, which should be 5 inches longer than short plus 5 inches.”

We caught up with physics professor Dr. Hortence Puffinpanty to explain how 5 minutes early is really on time. “Coach Coughlin is really relying on Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity which suggests that time is not constant, but actually all relative. For example, if you were to take off in a space ship near the speed of light ½ hour before a team meeting, you might return to Earth and have missed Coughlin’s meeting all together even though time for you will not seem to have progressed more than a minute or two. Wow, I’d hate to be you if you did that. Can you imagine what that fine would be? And God help you if you were wearing sandals on that ship and they were not dress sandals…”

Finally, there is the massive hit put on P. Jeff Feagles by Eagles LB Jeremiah Trotter. Although Feagles complained the hit was helmet-to-helmet, the league counted that in order to qualify as an illegal helmet to helmet hit, the offense had to fall into one of 7 categories. Six of the categories are, of course, defined situations in which the player receiving the hit are vulnerable, and the 7th was the addition of the phrase, “and the player is not on the Giants.” But, don’t worry, DE Michael Strahan has vowed to remember the hit Trotter put on his teammate. “We’ll remember that hit,” warned the Gap Toothed Wonder, “Oh yeah, we’ll remember it. Because, I don’t ever want to get hit like that, so next time we play the Eagles, I’m going to keep my head on a swivel and just go to the ground if I see someone coming. No way I want to get lit up like that. Man, he crushed him! That Trotter can hit!”

So, don’t worry Giants fans, the team will avenge us, or at least play again next week. The Giants are even now feverishly preparing for their home opener against the Redskins, going over strategies for showing up on time to meetings, filing grievances, and discussing what constitutes a dress sandal. Watch out Clinton Portis! And look out Jeff Feagles!

Sep 142004
 
2004 New York Giants: A Slightly Different View

By BigBlueInteractive.com Reporter/Photographer David Oliver

The Giants losing to the Eagles does not necessarily presage the dawn of a nuclear winter, or a return to the football of the 70s. It was a bad match up for Game 1, as the TV mavens at NFL Central thought they might have Eli Manning to showcase. Instead they got an entire network of ex-players focusing on the Curse of Terrible Tommy. BBI seems upset with this focus, but keep in mind, these guys are ex-players, and Tommy, whatever he is, has never been known as a players’ coach. The only comments I intend to make on this fiasco go to the mewing of the fans about the “spoiled players” and how the “media” is making up stories or running with complete canards – this from an audience who has absolutely NO knowledge of what is actually happening. What we are seeing is only the tip of this iceberg. There is a deep-seated unrest, throughout the League, with coaches from an old-school background. Discipline is only a small part of this rebellion – it goes more to the point of mutuality of respect. A large part of the ethos of these young men is respect, whether you and I like it or not. It is in part economic, in part racial, and in part generational. Some players have no problem with old school coaching; others have a big problem. In the end, one or the other goes.

I am currently reading General Tommy Franks’ autobiography (which I wholeheartedly recommend). General Franks cuts to the core of the entire issue of leadership and building a winning team, in his discussion of loyalty. He makes a constant refrain of the important lesson he learned early in one of his commands that loyalty extends both ways. When you become mother and father, counselor and leader of any unit with an organizational goal of success, you MUST take into account the troops. You must go the extra step in knowing what is in their hearts and minds, and you must show them that you care and that you will not only teach and guide, but you will also nurture. I can’t speak to what is in Coach Coughlin’s heart. And I have lived a life of discipline – if I was expected 5 minutes early, I was there 10 minutes early (hearken back to my mini camp write-up; I drove from Virginia and made sure that I was the first person on the field); if I entered a meeting where an old buck didn’t think much of a staffer who got up to go to the men’s room, I would rather piss in my pants than get up and leave early. That’s how I was raised. On the other hand, much of what I have heard and been told smacks of something other than mere bullshit discipline problems. My only concern is that as a Giants’ fan, this thing will carry on, because you and I know that the Maras do not easily fire their personal choices, but we also know that these same personal choices also do not deliver.

It appears that there is a tendency to rationalize away failure on the part of those we like, and to denigrate too easily those we do not like. Coach Coughlin appears to be a man and a coach who can revitalize the offensive side of the ball, just as Coach Fassel could work wonders with a QB. Both are about equally successful, but ultimately failed coaches for almost antithetical reasons. One has been accused of running a country club; the other of being a tyrannical prison warden. Neither depiction is wholly accurate. But there is a commonality. The last team of Coach Fassel was sloppy; but people choose to overlook the cast of characters that was on the field for the final eight game stretch. The first part of Coach Coughlin’s tenure is also characterized by sloppy play, whether vanilla or not, and with a different cast of characters, mostly those brought in by the current coaching staff. When football players are confused by the scheme, or give a lackluster effort, it is not always the players. We’ve been over this ground too many times before. On defense, what we saw against the Eagles was scary. Go back to the hiring of Coach Coughlin; I wrote then that the Giants had to act fast, that they needed to make this hiring within a week after the close of the season. Everyone on the planet who knows the Giants knew that Coach Coughlin was the man. But the Giants hesitated, whether it was out of political correctness, or a last ditch fight by the Chief Wig, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Coach Coughlin lost his choice of Defensive Coordinator Greg Williams (now with the Redskins), and therein lies the tale of Sunday’s game.

The personnel on the Giants are ill-suited for a 3-4 defense. I stand by my earlier statement that this might be the worst linebacking corps in a decade of Giants’ play. Individually, each player might be great at his position, but as a unit, they showed no cohesion. The front line also showed that you cannot build a unit of starters with everyone else’s journeymen or castoffs. If DE Keith Washington is starting after game 3, this defense will be a failed unit, now and at the end of the year. Defensive tackles Norman Hand and Fred Robbins will be good only against lesser units, and they won’t be playing many of those this year. The less said about the secondary, the better. But even if I cannot fault the schemes, or make the rationalization that this unit has not played together, I cannot rationalize the missed tackles, the arm waves, the running from this side of the field to the other, as players’ faults in a system run by a disciplinarian who allegedly laughed at the performance of last year’s scrub team. If that play was the result of poor coaching, then Sunday’s effort against the Eagles is likewise the result of poor coaching.

On the offense side of the ball, the Giants are a better than good team. The skill players are there, the QB position is a strength, and the line will be consistent and formidable as it works itself into shape. I don’t think Shaun O’Hara is a real strength at center and I am hoping that Lucier takes this job soon. Luke Petitgout has to work on some things. Otherwise, they will only get better. Tiki Barber has shown that once again, this offense is his; now Jeremy Shockey has got to knock off the rust.

It was really distressing to watch the game, not because I thought they could win, because they really were outmatched, but because the play was sloppy and disorganized, mostly on the defensive side of the ball. This is something we were assured would not happen. OK, so it was a bad match-up for Game 1. Now comes the Redskins game, and this is a game that the Giants should win. If Robbins and Hand are anywhere near as advertised, Portis will not have his 64-yard gallop to open the game. Once the run is neutralized, the Redskins can be controlled. As formidable as the ‘Skins defense looked against Tampa, it should be no match for the firepower the Giants can bring on offense. This is show time; Coach Coughlin and the new look Giants are having their unveiling before the home crowd. A win on Sunday and we will see-saw throughout the year, as most everyone expected and will accept. But should the Giants not beat the ‘Skins, it is possible they will not win a game this year.

The thing that people forget is that Coach Coughlin was not brought in to muddle around for a couple of years. He was brought in to win. If ever there was a situation for a coach to show off his system, to let the fans and the owners and the players and the rest of the League see that he can still win, then this is it. If we are going to be allowed to focus on football for the rest of this season, and if we are not to be bombarded with an ever-increasing crescendo of bullshit “why we hate the Coach articles”, the time is now.

The Giants will win on Sunday.

Sep 102004
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, September 12, 2004: A lot of BBI‘ers accuse me of being far too negative in my regular season game previews. I think these people misinterpret the focus of my previews which are to highlight the primary obstacles the Giants will face. If you do not acknowledge your opponent’s strengths, then you are not taking a realistic view of the tactical situation. The NFL is the most competitive professional sport in the United States because every team has its strengths and every team can beat any other team.

I’ve debated all week what kind of tone to take with this game preview. The basic problem I have is that I am not totally sure what kind of team the Giants have.

The optimist in me says the Giants have very good skill position players (Kurt Warner, Tiki Barber, Jeremy Shockey, Amani Toomer, and Ike Hilliard); a strong front seven on defense; drastically improved special teams; and better coaching.

The pessimist in me says the offensive line is still a work in progress; Warner and Barber are prone to turnovers; Shockey and Hilliard are injury-prone; and there are big question marks in the secondary with CB Will Allen not being on top of his game and the safeties not being standouts. And short-yardage continues to be this team’s Achilles heel offensively.

As a Giants’ fan, it really ticks me off that everyone is talking about the Eagles, Cowboys, and Redskins in the NFC East and ignoring my team. But until the Giants’ players and coaches prove they can compete, that is the way it is going to be. They need to circle the wagons, shut out the noise from the press and fans, and concentrate on the task at hand: beating the Philadelphia Eagles. Do that, and they will start to gain some respect.

Coaching: Andy Reid and his staff continue to be terribly underrated by the national media. While Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells get all the press, the Eagles quietly go about their business in their effort to win their fourth NFC East title in a row. To me, one of the most interesting elements of the Giants-Eagles game will be how surprised will the Eagles be with the truly unveiled Giants’ offensive, defensive, and special teams schemes. If you listen to Reid, the Eagles feel they are prepared. He says the Eagles have studied what Coughlin and Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis have done in the past with their previous teams.

Coughlin hasn’t coached a winning season since 1999. Most of his staff comes from teams with losing records in 2003 (that’s why they were available). This staff has a lot to prove.

Giants on Offense: I firmly believe that the most important key for the Giants to win this game is to win the turnover battle. The onus (or as John Madden would say, “omus”) is on QB Kurt Warner to not throw interceptions or fumble the football when hit. Turnovers have been his biggest liability. If he throws interceptions or fumbles the ball against the Eagles, the Giants will lose the football game. It is as simple as that. In addition, the Eagles, more than any other team, are conscious of HB Tiki Barber’s fumbling issues. After all, it was against the Eagles in 2002 that Barber fumbled the ball away three times in one game. The Eagle defenders will gang tackle Tiki and that second and third defender will be looking to rip that ball out of there. Barber can’t afford to play scared, but he has to hold onto the football.

Every legitimate football fan in the world knows that the Eagles and their superb defensive coordinator (Jimmy Johnson) love to blitz and do so from all angles. They know that this Giants’ offensive line lacks cohesion and is likely to be confused by blitzes and stunts. So look for the Eagles to bring the house. How well the offensive line, tight ends, and running backs pick up these blitzes and stunts will be a huge factor in deciding the outcome of the game.

The Eagles may also feel that they can get significant pressure on Kurt Warner without bringing the house. One of the scariest match-ups up front for the Giants is RT David Diehl versus left defensive ends Jevon Kearse and Jerome McDougle. I am confident Diehl is going to be a very good offensive tackle in this league for a long time, but he is still learning his new position and this is a match-up the Eagles should win handily. It could be so bad that the Giants may have to keep an extra tight end in the game to block. With the Giants’ focus being on the right side in pass protection, the last thing the team needs is for LT Luke Petitgout to struggle against right ends Derrick Burgess or Hugh Douglas. Rookie RG Chris Snee will face off against DT Corey Simon. LG Jason Whittle will battle DT Darwin Walker.

Of course, the way to defeat a good pass rush is to run the ball effectively. It will be interesting to see if Coughlin plays it conservatively and tries to pound the ball at the Eagles. This could play right into the hands of the Eagles. If I’m Jimmy Johnson, I emphasize run defense on first and second down, and then bring the house on third down. Do the Giants follow that game plan or try to cross the Eagles up by throwing on first and second down early in the game? A strong case could be made for either game plan. A conservative game plan will take the pressure off of the offensive line and should help to prevent turnovers (and remember I think turnovers will decide this game). However, the conservative game plan is not likely to generate many points.

Another worrisome issue is short-yardage, where the Giants lack complete confidence to get the job done. If Ron Dayne is still the short-yardage back in this game (and he is expected to be), then I am going to hold my breath every time he gets the football on 3rd-and-1 and 3rd-and-2. Short-yardage failures are drive-killers. With only so many offensive possessions in a game, each failure prevents a valuable scoring opportunity.

When the Giants do put the ball up in the air, everyone (including the Eagles) will expect 3- and 5-step drops, screen passes (remember all of the WR screens the Giants ran in the preseason), and quick passes to Toomer, Hilliard, and Shockey over the middle. My biggest concern with Shockey is him staying on the field. I have the sneaky suspicion that he is going to get hurt again.

The Eagle linebackers are ordinary at best so I think the Giants should try to create favorable match-ups against them with Shockey, Barber, and Visanthe Shiancoe.

What will be strange is that long-time Eagle corners Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor are no longer in the picture. But Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown played a lot last year and the Eagles’ defense played well when both Vincent and Taylor were hurt. Brown is the right corner and will line up over Toomer, while Sheppard plays over Hilliard. The Eagles are strong at safety with the best free safety in the game in Brian Dawkins and a good strong safety in Michael Lewis. With the Eagle pass rush being a factor, it is imperative for the Giants that their receivers (including the tight ends and backs) get open quickly against the secondary and linebackers. The last thing the Giants want is Kurt Warner holding onto the football in the pocket waiting for a receiver to get open. That’s how Kurt tends to take sacks and fumble the football. Sacks will be key in this game too as the field position game will be very important if this is a close contest.

So how do the Giants win? Want to hear the obvious? Don’t turn the ball over, keep penalties to a minimum, don’t take sacks, run the football, and hurt the opposition with the pass when they blitz. But you could say that about any opponent on any weekend.

Giants on Defense: For all the press that Donovan McNabb gets, the Eagles have never really been a high-scoring or impressive offensive football team. They don’t always run the football very well and much of their success or failure ultimately depends on which McNabb shows up on game day: the impressive McNabb who can beat you with his arm or legs; or the unimpressive McNabb who is wildly inaccurate. I hate to say this, but much of what transpires on Sunday will be out of the Giants’ hands. It will depend on which McNabb shows up.

My game plan for the Eagles would be relatively simple. Focus on shutting down the run. Keep McNabb contained in the pocket. Force McNabb to beat you with his right arm. The latter will be tougher this time for the Giants because not only is WR Terrell Owens in the picture, but the guy who would normally be covering him, Will Allen, may be limited with foot and knee issues (and he may not play at all). Allen struggled some in the preseason as he was still recovering from the offseason foot surgery. Plus missing more time with the sprained knee can’t help the rust factor. The big question for the Giants is do they keep Will Peterson on Owens, wherever he lines up? Or do they count on Peterson to shut down Todd Pinkston while giving double-team support to Allen (or Frank Walker or Terry Cousin)? Personally, if Allen doesn’t go, I’d start Walker and keep Cousin in his more natural nickel spot. But what do the Giants do if the Eagles put Owens in the slot, like the 49ers did two years ago? I would hate to see Cousin on Owens.

Other than Owens, the other obvious targets for McNabb are his tight ends (Chad Lewis and L.J. Smith) and his backs (HB Brian Westbrook and FB Jon Ritchie). The undercoverage by the linebackers and strong safety will be critically important in this game as the Eagles do run a West Coast Offense designed to spread the football around to these underneath receivers. The Eagles may attempt to target MLB Kevin Lewis on first and second down.

As usual, so much depends up front. I’ll tell you, the collision of rookie RG Shawn Andrews (340lbs+) and DT Norman Hand (340lbs+) will be worth the price of admission. Andrews is an incredible run blocker while the strength of Hands game is run defense. It is essential for the Giants for Hand to hold his own here. Fred Robbins will line up against LG Jermane Mayberry. Outside, the old duel between Michael Strahan and Jon Runyan begins again. On the weakside, Keith Washington and Osi Umenyiora will split time against LT Tra Thomas. A big battle will be FB Jon Ritchie against the Giants’ middle linebacker on running plays – this is a match-up the Eagles will count on winning.

The Giants have kept their defensive game plans pretty vanilla in the preseason, except for the game against the Jets. The Eagles undoubtedly studied that game and looked at what Lewis did in Pittsburgh. They know he likes to blitz and have probably prepared a few screen plays of their own (Westbrook is very dangerous on the screen). The Giants also must be careful of draw plays to Westbrook and misdirection plays to Umenyiora’s side when he is in the game.

The Giants’ coaching staff may try to confuse McNabb with their coverages, but NcNabb is a veteran now. And football still comes down to your guys out-playing or being out-played by the other guys. Scheming can only do so much for you.

To summarize: stuff the run, keep McNabb in the pocket, and don’t let the underneath receivers beat you. Pray you have someone who can cover Owens and that McNabb is having one of his off days.

Giants on Special Teams: One of the big reasons why the Eagles have been so good in recent years has been their special teams. PK David Akers is the best in the NFC. He is automatic on field goals and is a quality kick-off guy.

The Giants have Steve Christie. He is not a good kick-off guy as he has not had a touchback since 2000. Christie doesn’t have to hit the endzone as long as he gets good hangtime on his kicks and they still land inside the 10-yard line. So we shall see. I do feel better about having a veteran kicker in place than the untested Todd France.

As for the Giants, the team is in the unenviable position to have new punt returner (Mark Jones) who has never returned a punt with the team in the preseason. In other words, Jones has no feel for his blockers at full speed. It will be interesting to see who returns kickoffs – Willie Ponder or Jones. I also still wonder if Tim Carter will be given a shot back there.

As every Giant fan knows, the Eagles beat the Giants at home last year with a punt return in the final seconds of the game. Needless to say, punt and kick coverage will be critical.

What would be a good way for the Giants to make a statement? Block a punt. David Tyree and Jack Brewer can pressure the edge.

Sep 052004
 
Baltimore Ravens 27 – New York Giants 17

Game Overview: As usual, I watched this game twice. The first time watching as an emotionally-involved fan. The second watching as each play separately in order to write my weekly game review. My reactions to each viewing were different.

In the former case, I was pissed. After starting the game pretty well, the life seemed to go out of the team after Kurt Warner’s interception was returned for a touchdown. What kind of mental toughness was that, I asked myself? The team makes one mistake – albeit a big one – and it calls it a day? That doesn’t bode well for the 2004 season. It reeks too much of the 2003 team that was simply looking for an excuse to give up. I also thought the Giants did not match the passion and intensity of the Ravens. And worse, the Ravens are a far more physical football team. Though I doubt they are apt to admit it, the Giants are more finesse now than power. I would assume Coughlin will look to change that identity over the course of the new few years, but it will take time to bring in new football players though the draft and free agency.

In the latter case, after watching the tape, I began to notice that many of the breakdowns in the game against the Ravens came in situations when the Giants had reserve players mixed in with the starters in situations where I think Head Coach Tom Coughlin was looking to test the ability of these specific players to perform under pressure. In other words, Coughlin was not so much looking to use personnel and plays that were more likely to be successful as he was evaluating talent. For example:

On the 4th-and-4 play in the second quarter, the Giants had QB Kurt Warner and the regular starting offensive line in the game. However, Kurt’s immediate reads were to his left where his receivers were Ataveus Cash and Avion Black – not Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, Tim Carter, or Jamaar Taylor. Cash and Black could not get open and a sack resulted. But obviously Cash and Black wouldn’t be put in this situation in the regular season.

I firmly believe the play-calling was used to evaluate talent, not win the game. Coughlin admitted in the post-game press conference that he basically advertised that the Giants were going to run up the middle on the 3rd-and-1 because he wanted to see if the Giants’ personnel could do it when everyone knew it was coming. I also think Coughlin ran a draw play on 3rd-and-10 from the Baltimore 29 just so he could see PK Todd France kick a long field goal again. And the Giants kept trying to run wide running plays against a defense known for its aggressive pursuit.

What else? The Ravens were obviously going after CB Curtis Deloatch on a couple of drives, but the Giants didn’t rotate their coverage to help him out. They wanted to get a good read on him. The aggressive defensive calls that we saw in the game against the Jets were dramatically scaled back again (though there was some blitzing). And a lot of key starters came out of the game in the second quarter.

So after watching the tape, I wasn’t as angry. I am still concerned about this team. I don’t think the cohesion is there yet. Some of that is due to the fact that almost everything and everyone is new to each other. Nagging injuries to key players throughout camp have not helped either. I don’t think this is a very physical football team, and that really shows up in the running game on offense. The offensive line still has a lot of maturing to do. Kurt Warner still is not in sync with his receivers. TE Jeremy Shockey is injury-prone. The defense still has a problem creating turnovers. The front seven is so different personnel-wise that – like the offensive line – cohesion has to be a problem. And who are the leaders of this football team?

I wouldn’t count this team out. But honestly, I have no clue what to expect.

Quarterbacks: Kurt Warner’s biggest problems are his turnovers. He has thrown two interceptions this preseason and both have been returned for touchdowns. It’s not a good sign that both came on out passes. If a quarterback can’t rifle the out, defenses will be able to tighten coverage over the middle of the defense. Warner also has demonstrated a propensity to fumble the ball on contact (though this didn’t happen against the Ravens). Shockingly, for a guy who has completed over 70 percent of his passes this preseason (demonstrating excellent accuracy), he has yet to throw a touchdown pass.

After Eli Manning let the ball slip out of his hand for a fumble, I started to worry that his poor play against the Jets would carry over to this game. Fortunately, Manning played much better in the second half with some quality passes, including three passes to WR Jamaar Taylor that showed off his arm. Other than the fumble, his biggest negative was throwing a very inaccurate pass to Ataveus Cash over the middle on a play where he had Tim Carter wide open for what should have been an easy touchdown.

Jesse Palmer proved me wrong this preseason. He has been consistently solid and sometimes spectacular. He made two big time throws on the Giants’ last scoring drive of the night – a beautiful touch pass to Cash over the middle and a deep strike to Taylor for the touchdown. Strangely, Palmer reverted to his old form on the Giants’ very last drive of the game. Jesse was terribly inaccurate, missing wide open receivers repeatedly in a situation where he could have cut the score to 27-24.

Running Backs: I’m starting to fall off the Ron Dayne bandwagon again as I saw some regression from him against the Ravens. He did not attack the hole quickly on runs up the gut, rather I saw him slow down and stutter-step some. That’s not going to work in the NFL. I want a running back who can make yardage when not every play is blocked perfectly.

I wish Coughlin had run Dayne more this preseason with the second teamers. I don’t think he got enough work.

Tiki Barber improved his blitz pick-ups this week, but he still gave up a pass pressure (on Warner’s interception).

Chris Douglas made a spectacular run for a touchdown, but I am not sure he is talented enough to make this team. He’s not very big or powerful. And while he has above-average speed and elusiveness, he doesn’t really stand out there either.

Wide Receivers: One of those typical games for Tim Carter…flashing the tremendous ability by blowing by CB Chris McAlister for 49 yards, but then coming up with two key drops (granted the last one started off being a superb catch on 4th down where the impact with the ground knocked the ball loose). He sticks simply because if it all comes together for him, he can make plays down the field for the Giants.

But the guy who will be pressing him this year and may eventually unseat Ike Hilliard in 2005 is Jamaar Taylor. BBI‘ers raved about him in their training camp reports and in this game you could see why. He’s the entire package. Taylor is big, fast, quick, and has good hands. Just as importantly, he plays with confidence. This guy isn’t another Thomas Lewis, Ron Dixon, or Bryan Alford. Let’s just hope his hamstring injury isn’t too bad. He was nothing short of spectacular against the Ravens, who had trouble with his speed deep, and his size and quickness on shorter routes. Want more good stuff? He’s a very aggressive run blocker.

Ataveus Cash is a guy who I hope the Giants can manage to keep around. His missed block on a linebacker led to a loss on a 3rd down running play that probably would have picked up a first down, but I saw a number of other plays where Cash took out the linebacker effectively (yes, a linebacker). He’s big for a receiver and an aggressive blocker. Cash also has good hands and good athleticism in the receiving game.

Amani Toomer did not run a great route on the out pattern that was intercepted. He rounded off his cut, giving McAlister the opportunity to react quicker to the play.

Tight Ends: Nothing new to report here. My biggest worry is when the hell is Shockey going to get back on the field? And when he does, will he stay on it? Visanthe Shiancoe is clearly the second best tight end on this team. I’m hearing whispers that Marcellus Rivers may not be safe. He didn’t help himself by taking away a 1st down on 3rd-and-1 with an illegal shift penalty, and then on the very next play getting called for offensive pass interference.

Offensive Line: The good news is that this unit very much improved its pass blocking against a very good defense. The Giants gave up three sacks. But two were coverage sacks and the other occurred when Manning let the ball slip out of his hand. The bad news is that this line still struggles running the ball against very physical defenses. I saw some fight in guys such as David Diehl and Chris Snee, but I got the sense that the Ravens never really felt threatened by the Giants’ running game as they could dictate to the offensive line. This has been a problem for the Giants for years against these types of defenses (which fortunately are few in the NFL – the Ravens are so game good because they are physical AND quick).

Diehl and Snee continue to grow and are going to form a real solid right-side for the Giants. I like how Diehl didn’t back down from Ray Lewis after one run. Snee, as I have said before, is just my kind of lineman. He doesn’t just look to block you, but hurt you as well.

I didn’t think Wayne Lucier played as well at left guard this week. He gave up a pass pressure and got shoved back on one running play. Unfortunately, it was a mixed bag for his competition as well. Whittle played three snaps, but got beat cleanly on one block. Solomon Page looks the part. He’s a really big lineman who can control his man (and did so easily on a number of plays). However, he lumbered when he pulled and there was one strange play where he got shoved way into the backfield on a running play. He also gave up one pressure.

Luke Petitgout stepped up his game this week.

I was fairly pleased for the second string offensive line (LT Ian Allen, LG Solomon Page, OC Omar Smith, RG Greg Walker, RT Brandon Winey). I still don’t think Allen and Smith will be on the roster long, and I wonder if Walker is Practice Squad-bound. But this group did a good job in the second half of the game. Winey, like Page, had a strange game in that there were times when he was very sound and had one feeling really good about him, but then would have just enough slip ups to wonder. Winey is pretty good at protecting the outside against the rush, but he sometimes gets beat to the inside. There are times when he gets good run blocks, but other times when he gets over-powered. Still, I feel a lot better with Winey and Page on the roster. I still see the potential in Walker. He has his breakdowns occasionally in pass protection, but I think there is something to work with.

Defensive Line: The starting defensive line did fine, with DE Michael Strahan really sticking out in both his run defense and pass rushing. The one thing that sometimes makes the defensive line vulnerable to the run is the one-gap system. Often times the defensive line, including the two big guys in the middle (Norman Hand and Fred Robbins) are being called upon to shoot gaps in a certain direction. So, for example, if Hand and Robbins shoot to their right and the running play goes in the opposite direction, there may be a natural gap (i.e., running lane) for the back. That is the reason that every now and then you see a larger positive run. It’s a bit strange to me in the sense that Hand and Norman come across as more natural two-gap players.

Of the reserves, the guy who really stood out was DT William Joseph. Joseph was a big factor both in defending the run and rushing the passer. He was very quick at the snap of the ball, regularly defeated double-team blocks, and his penetration created a lot of havoc for the Ravens. The Ravens had to resort to holding him on a couple of plays (of course it wasn’t called). I also thought reserves Mario Monds, Lance Legree, and Khaleed Vaughn all had strong games. The Giants have a tough decision to make here in terms of the roster. Vaughn played the run pretty darn well and flashed as a pass rusher. Legree looks quicker to me. Monds is a big plugger who really plays hard.

Linebackers: I can’t imagine that Kevin Lewis starts the season. Nick Greisen has dramatically out-played him the past two games. Greisen’s pursuit on outside runs has been very impressive, and he has done fairly well (not great) at the point-of-attack. I still wonder about him in coverage as I don’t know if the opposition has really tested him there.

Barrett Green has not been as impressive as I had hoped. He’s been getting blocked on his blitzes and the opposition has completed some passes against him in coverage. We’ll see if his game picks up once the bullets start to really fly. Green is fast and will hit you.

Carlos Emmons is a big, physical presence who seems to instinctively know where the play is going. He’s not spectacular, but he is very steady.

Wes Mallard was very quiet this week. Quincy Monk still has problems getting off blocks and that is not good for him given that he is a run-first-type of player. Reggie Torbor just has the look of a guy who is going to be a good player for a long time. He still is struggling a bit in coverage, but he can rush the passer, hit and tackle, and he plays with some nastiness. Again, I hope the Giants put T.J. Hollowell on the Practice Squad as I think he is an athlete who plays with some passion.

Defensive Backs: Will Allen did not play, but Will Peterson was very solid. What I like about him is his physical style. He’ll hit you.

CB Terry Cousin had a rough game. He got beat pretty cleanly on a deep pass that picked up 34 yards. He also missed a tackle on a blitz that led to a 35-yard gain on the same drive.

CB Frank Walker got beat on a short touchdown toss and got beat on a slant late in the 3rd quarter. But what really bothered me more his embarrassingly girlish attempted tackle of the halfback near the goal line in the 2nd quarter. Walker had a clear shot at the back, but just waved at him. This is the type of shitty run defense from Walker that angered me so much last season.

I still am not sure what to make of Curtis Deloatch. He’s an athlete with very good size (great size-speed combination) and he plays the deep pass well. However, Deloatch has been getting beat on plays in front of him. And the Ravens went after him quite a bit in this game. On the plus side, he had great coverage on one deep pass that fell incomplete and other that was completed. However, he got beat on a few shorter throws, missed a tackle, and got fooled on a play-action rollout.

Jamaine Winborne didn’t have a strong game. He missed a tackle and played about a mile off of his man in coverage.

Jack Brewer is an aggressive safety, but he got beat on a 3rd-and-5 play over the middle. Jason Doering made a real sure, strong tackle on pass to the back out of the backfield.

Special Teams: I think there are too many question marks about Todd France to keep him. France is not a good kick-off guy. His kick-offs are either too short or lack hangtime. And if you are going to be a poor kick-off guy, you had better be a damn good field goal kicker. I think Coughlin deliberately wanted to test him by calling that draw play on 3rd down and France failed miserably with a terrible effort from 44 yards out.

The kick return game was tough to get a good read on because the Ravens kept squibbing their kickoffs for some reason. Willie Ponder was not impressive. He had returns of 22 and 13 yards. On the later, not only did he muff the return, but he received his concussion. Avion Black returned one kickoff 32 yards, but Lance Legree was flagged with holding on the play. Greg Walker for some reason tried to field a squib kick and that was muffed. Black returned another squib 17 yards to the 39-yard line, and another 10 yards to the 27-yard line.

Punt returns were uninspiring. Curtis Deloatch muffed his first return. His other return went for five yards. Avion Black didn’t return a punt (one fair catch). There was one bad long snap too (I couldn’t tell if it was Ryan Kuehl or Carson Dach).

Kickoff coverage was hampered by continued poor kickoffs, but it wasn’t real strong either on its own. Baltimore returns went for 16 (David Tyree on the tackle), 26 (Charles Stackhouse), 30 (Jason Doering), and 19 (Curtis Deloatch).

Punt return coverage was OK. However, on the first punt by Feagles, the Giant gunners could not get down the field in time to keep the ball from bouncing into the endzone (they really got hung up on the play). The Baltimore returns went for 2 yards (Reggie Torbor and Nick Greisen on the tackle), downed, 14 yards (Deloatch), and fair catch.

(Box Score – Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants, September 2, 2004)