Arizona Cardinals 17 – New York Giants 14
Game Overview: The Giants have wasted their 4-1 start by losing to three bad football teams in four weeks. This was the SOFT portion of the schedule. Now with the schedule becoming extremely difficult, there is a good chance that the Giants will not even finish the season with a winning record. Many fans want to blame one specific player (Kurt Warner), unit (offensive line), or coach, but the truth of the matter is that the Giants are like just about every other team in the NFC – a run-of-the mill squad with average talent. The Giants are not very tough. They certainly are not resilient. And they do not handle adversity well. The starting wide receivers are slow; the offensive line, tight ends, and backs have regressed in their pass protection (24 sacks in 4 games is simply disgusting); and Kurt Warner has not played well in over a month. The quarterback switch to Eli Manning may help, but unless his supporting cast elevates their games, Eli is not likely to be terribly successful either. Manning is a rookie, after all, and he does not have Pittsburgh’s strong supporting cast around him.
I don’t think I have ever seen two back-to-back games by the Giants where they were so completely in control for most of the first half, let the other team gain momentum in the second quarter, and then completely fall apart in the second half. Talk about lack of mental toughness.
Also worrisome is that the team has not responded to Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s coaching in recent weeks. Sacks allowed and penalties committed have exploded despite Coughlin’s focus on eliminating these self-inflicted wounds. As Paul Schwartz of The New York Post said this week, “Tom Coughlin is an offensive-minded coach who can’t get his offense untracked and he’s a discipline-minded coach who can’t get his team to stop committing foolish penalties.”
Offense: Strange, strange performance by the offense. The Giants only had three offensive possessions in the first half, and two of them were 80-yard touchdown drives (one 11 plays, the other 10 plays). The team started moving the ball again on their third and last drive of the half, before two sacks sabotaged that effort.
In the second half, the Giants had the ball seven times, but only one of these drives ever actually threatened to put points on the board. That was the first drive of the second half as the Giants moved from their 20-yard line to the Arizona 26-yard line. However, the 44-yard field goal attempt by PK Steve Christie was blocked. The results of the next six drives were: 3-and-out, 6-and-out, 3-and-out, 7 plays (turnover on downs), 3-and-out, and 6 plays (turnover on downs). Only once after the original second half drive did the Giants even cross midfield (barely, the Arizona 48-yard line).
Why the riches to rags results? “They decided to sell out and stop the run, and we weren’t able to respond with anything in the pass game,” HB Tiki Barber said. “We didn’t protect Kurt, and that put us in a bad position as the game went on.” And five of the seven drives in the second half were sabotaged by either a sack or penalty, consistently putting the Giants in difficult down-and-distance situations. “I think a lot of it is on us finding a way to protect and to make a big play because if you make big plays in the blitzes, they’ll stop doing blitzing,” said Barber. “We haven’t done that.”
Quarterback: Kurt (19-of-30 for 193 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions) did not turn the ball over this week (no interceptions or fumbles), but for what ever reason, he simply is not making plays DOWN THE FIELD. Every pass seemed to be a dump off to Tiki Barber or a slant to Amani Toomer. It is not all about the protection, because there are times when the pass protection is solid. If you ask me, I think Warner’s confidence is lagging. And I will speculate that Warner has been afraid to take chances down the field for fear of making mistakes that would cost him his job. If true, it is ironic that playing it safe is what in fact did so.
Regardless, as the game wore on, you could tell that Warner was not comfortable in the pocket. His feet were rarely set. This is a trait demonstrated by many quarterbacks who do not have faith in their pass protection. However, as has been noted by many, quite a few of the sacks allowed by the Giants have been the fault of Warner himself, including in this game.
Warner played well on the first two drives of the game. He was afforded decent protection and made mostly accurate throws. Indeed, he was a perfect 4-for-4 on the first drive, including two 15-yard tosses to WR Amani Toomer, an 8-yarder to WR Ike Hilliard, and a 2-yard touchdown toss to TE Jeremy Shockey. He was 2-of-4 on the next scoring drive. Warner badly missed a wide-open Shockey deep on what should have resulted in a 50-yard touchdown, but he made a really nice play four plays later when he scrambled away from pressure from his left to hit Toomer for a 21-yard gain down to the 2-yard line.
The Giants had only one more drive in the first half. After picking up a first down on 3rd-and-4 by hitting WR Jamaar Taylor for a first down, Warner returned to some bad habits by holding onto the ball too long in the pocket. LT Luke Petitgout got beat by DE Bertrand Berry, but Warner had enough time in the pocket to at the very least throw the ball away. On 3rd-and-12, his decision to hold onto the ball and scramble to his left was an even worse decision. This was a coverage sack pure and simple; he needs to throw the ball away in that situation. “We knew that he tends to hold the ball quite a bit, a little bit longer than most quarterbacks,” Cardinal DE Bertrand Berry said. “We really felt like if we could just get in his face and give him some pressure that we would be able to get him on the ground.” Warner finished the first half a very respectable 7-of-9.
The Giants moved the ball successfully on their first possession of the second half, mainly due to the running of Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne (including Barber’s running after short throws). On 4th-and-1, the Giants ran their second successful quarterback sneak of the game with Warner (talk about Coughlin raising the white flag in terms of his faith in short yardage), but Warner appeared to injure his throwing hand on this play. I wonder if this injury affected the rest of his afternoon. The drive stalled with a sack and blocked field goal.
After this possession, it was really all down hill for Warner and the Giants. On 3rd-and-10 on the next drive, Warner took his second coverage sack of the game and the Giants went three-and-out. On the next drive, a couple of negative runs by Barber and a holding penalty on Shockey put the Giants in a bad 2-and-23 situation. Warner threw a couple of quick slants to Toomer, but it was not enough yardage to pick up the first down. Warner had time for a deeper throw on 3rd-and-13 but was unwilling to wait for something to develop deeper down the field. On the fourth possession of the second half (another three-and-out), Warner had lots of time on 2nd-and-12, but his pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage. On 3rd-and-12, Warner threw a duck in the general direction of Jamaar Taylor. This was a really terrible throw, as the ball was wobbling horribly (reminiscent of Dave Brown). Fifth possession: Warner attempted to hit Shockey down the field, but threw into double coverage (Shockey was also penalized on the play) and Warner had another pass batted down at the line of scrimmage. Warner then threw his best pass of the second half, a 15-yard slant to Toomer on 3rd-and-10. However, Warner was sacked on the next play and threw into double coverage on 2nd-and-14. After a 9-yard pass to Shockey, the Giants tried a fake punt that failed.
The sixth drive was a 3-and-out that was hampered by a 7-yard sack on 2nd-and-8. On the final drive, Warner dumped the ball off short three times. On 2nd-and-2, his pass intended to Toomer was knocked away by the safety. On 3rd-and-2, Warner was pressured from his right, he scrambled to his left, and tried to hit Hilliard down the left sideline. This pass floated and was almost picked off. On 4th-and-2, his intended pass to Toomer was tipped at the line. Game over.
Were there breakdowns in pass protection? Yes. There were six sacks in this game; four in the second half. But two of the sacks in the game were due to Warner holding onto the ball too long. When Warner had time, he was not able to make the clutch throws in tight situations. The Giants had the ball SEVEN times in the second half and came away with NO points. The Giants admirably stood up for Warner this week when the quarterback switch was made, but the fact of the matter is that Warner has not played well since the bye week. He played himself out of the job. Nevertheless, Coughlin defended Warner after the game. “It is very difficult to be the quarterback when you hardly ever get your back foot down (before being pressured),” Coughlin said.
Wide Receivers: Ike Hilliard said he looked forward to redeeming himself this week after a bad game against the Bears. The results? One catch for 8 yards; one end around for 12 yards. If Hilliard doesn’t start producing soon, Coughlin needs to seriously consider moving him to the third receiver spot and starting Jamaar Taylor, who at least has an upside.
Toomer had somewhat of a breakout game (8 catches for 100 yards), but he still can’t find the endzone. Toomer had a 15-yard reception on a crossing pattern and a 15-yard catch on a slant on the first offensive possession of the game. Amani also had an important reception of 21 yards down to the 2-yard line on the next drive. Earlier on this possession, Toomer made a nice block on HB Ron Dayne’s 9-yard run around left end. In the second half of the game, Toomer caught five passes: all slants (for 7, 8, 10, 9, and 15 yards).
Jamaar Taylor only had one catch, but the 9-yarder came on 3rd-and-4.
Running Backs: Like the rest of the offense, Barber was far more productive in the first half. Barber rushed for 108 yards on 21 carries (a 5.1 yards-per-carry average) and scored a touchdown (he also had five catches for 52 yards). However, 80 (on 12 carries) of these yards came in the first half and only 28 (on 9 carries) yards in the second half. Two of Barber’s runs on the first drive were largely on his own as the blocking was only partially there. Barber broke a tackle on his first run of five yards, and his speed and cutting ability was largely responsible for a 7-yard gain later in the possession. Tiki’s biggest two runs of the day came on the next scoring drive as he broke off runs of 17 and 16 yards against the middle of the defense. He then finished the drive off with a 2-yard touchdown run, stretching out for the goal line.
Things started of well for Barber on the first drive of the second half too. He gained 15 yards on a run up the middle. On the next play, a 1-yard run, I felt he could have bounced the play outside to his left for a bigger gain. But on 2nd-and-9, he made a fantastic play by making three guys miss and breaking a tackle for a 20-yard gain after a short pass from Warner. Three plays later, Barber took out a blitzer bearing down on Warner. He then broke another tackle after a short pass from Warner for a 5-yard gain.
After this possession, the Cardinals really started to load up against the run. On his first carry of the next drive, there were more Cardinals in the box than Giant blockers and Tiki was tackled for no gain. Barber did pick up 8 yards on 2nd-and-2 on the next drive, but his final five runs of the day went for –3, -1, -2, 5, and 2 yards.
Ron Dayne (3 carries for 19 yards) got a few touches and didn’t look bad this week. He had a 3-yard carry off right tackle on the first drive and a 9-yard carry around left end on the second drive. Dayne’s last two carries of the game came on the first drive of the second half, and both were real solid runs. He carried the ball 7-yards up the gut. On the next play, he broke off a 12-yard run up the middle, breaking a tackle and running over a defender. However, a holding penalty erased this play.
FB Jim Finn was mostly positive in his lead blocking. He missed his block on the defensive back on Barber’s first carry of the game, but he got good blocks on runs by Dayne and Barber on the same possession. On the next scoring drive, Finn got good lead blocks on Dayne’s 9-yard carry as well as Barber’s 2-yard touchdown run. Finn also had a good lead block on Barber’s 8-yard run at the end of the third quarter.
Tight Ends: The run blocking was way too inconsistent this week. Shockey got two excellent blocks on the first possession to help spring Barber for gains of 5 and 7 yards. Shockey then finished up this drive with his 2-yard touchdown reception. On the next scoring possession, Shockey fell off his block against the linebacker on a 5-yard gain by Tiki a little too easily. But Shockey and Visanthe Shiancoe (along with the entire offensive line) got good blocks on Barber’s 17-yard run up the middle. And then Shockey got another good block on Barber’s 2-yard touchdown run. On the final drive of the first half, Shockey gave a poor effort on a 4-yard draw play to Barber that could have picked up more yardage had Shockey made his block. Shiancoe also got pushed back earlier on this possession on a play where Barber was forced to reverse his field.
Things were worse in the second half. Shiancoe got a good block from the H-Back spot on Dayne’s 12-yard run that was called back. However, a few plays later, Shockey got beat badly by DE Bertrand Berry for a 5-yard sack on 2nd-and-8. It was this play that proved to be the drive-killer. Shockey got a good block on Tiki’s 8-yard run at the end of the third quarter, but was flagged with a holding call two plays later (another drive killer). On the play preceding this, Shiancoe was shoved back into the backfield, leading to a 3-yard loss on a Barber run to the right. Shockey then continued to hurt his team by being flagged with an illegal motion penalty on the next possession. Not a good game for Jeremy. Two of his four receptions came against the prevent defense in the game’s final moments.
Offensive Line: Like the rest of the offense, this unit played pretty darn well in the first half, but then weakened in the second half. There were two sacks in the first half (one on Warner, one on LT Luke Petitgout) and four in the second half (one on Warner, one on Shockey, one on Petitgout, and one on RT David Diehl). So in other words, half of the sacks were not the line’s fault.
There were few mistakes on the first two scoring drives. Pass protection was mostly solid and the Giants rushed for over 100 yards in the first half (totaling the runs by Barber, Dayne, and Hilliard). The Giants like to run Barber to the left behind Petitgout and LG Jason Whittle, with RG Chris Snee pulling, and this play was effective for the Giants (such as Barber’s 16-yard gain). And the entire offensive line got very good blocks on Barber’s 17-yard gain. Petitgout and Whittle got good blocks on Dayne’s 9-yard carry as did Petitgout and Snee on Barber’s 2-yard touchdown run. This drive started off with two quality downfield blocks by Whittle and OC Shaun O’Hara on a Barber screen pass of eight yards. The only pass pressure on the first two drives was from DE Bertrand Barry against Petitgout on the play where Warner scrambled to his right and hit Toomer for a 21-yard gain.
There were a couple of breakdowns on the final drive of the first half. Both Whittle and Shiancoe could not make their blocks on a Barber run to the left, where Barber was forced to reverse his field (Whittle really got shoved backwards on this play). Then Petitgout got beat for a sack three plays later by Berry (Warner should have thrown the ball away, but Petitgout did get beat).
The line played well on the first drive of the second half except for one mistake. Barber picked up 15 yards up the middle behind good blocks from Diehl, Whittle, and O’Hara. O’Hara did get bull-rushed on the 20-yard pass play to Barber. Petitgout and Whittle made good blocks on Dayne’s 7-yard run, as did Diehl and Snee on Dayne’s 12-yard run, but O’Hara was flagged with a costly holding penalty on this play when attempting to engage the linebacker at the second level. O’Hara made a great open field block on Tiki’s 10-yard screen at the end of this drive.
There were no offensive line breakdowns on the next drive that went 3-and-out. On the third drive of the second half, Snee gave up a quick pressure on an 8-yard slant to Toomer. Then Snee, Whittle, and Petitgout got good blocks on Tiki’s 8-yard run. Two plays later, a pulling Diehl failed to engage any Cardinal on a Barber run to the right that lost a yard. This drive stalled when Shockey was called for holding. I saw no glaring offensive line problems on the next drive that went 3-and-out. On the fifth drive, Petitgout, Taylor, and Hilliard got good blocks on Barber’s 5-yard run. However, Petitgout gave up his second sack of the game to DE Bertrand Berry a few plays later, this time being beat to the inside. On the sixth drive, Diehl, who had been doing very well in pass protection all day, made a dumb mental mistake that allowed a sack. He let Berry have a free run at Warner, while he picked up a blitzer inside that Barber was already engaging. “We worked 70 percent of the time last week against the pressure package, the blitz package, and acted like we never saw it before,” Coughlin said. On the final drive of the game, Diehl gave up a pressure on the 3rd-and-2 pass to Hilliard that fell incomplete. For some reason, Diehl has been guilty of these late-game breakdowns in recent weeks despite playing well for most of these contests.
Defense: This was an incredibly frustrating game overall, and especially so defensively. The Cardinals had four offensive possessions in the first half, and while they moved the ball pretty well, they probably would have been held to three points in the first half had it not been for some untimely mistakes on the Cards’ last drive of the half (converting on 3rd-and-11 on a pass to the fullback, and a 22-yard pass interference penalty).
One of the reasons why the Giants only had three offensive possessions in the first half was that the Giants’ own drives were so time-consuming. But the Giants also let the Cardinals eat up a lot of the clock in the first half. The Cardinals had the ball for 8 plays, 11 plays, 4 plays, and 9 plays in the first two quarters. If the defense really wants to help out the offense, they need to get the opposition off the field sooner and create turnovers (there were none on Sunday by either team).
While the defense gave up 104 yards rushing, the Cardinals were limited to 74 net yards passing. The Giants’ run defense got a bit too soft in the second half of the game.
Defensive Line: As expected, the Giants used a variety of looks in an effort to cover for the losses of Michael Strahan and Keith Washington. The basic package had Osi Umenyiora at right end and Lance Legree at left end. But Osi spent a lot of time at left end with Reggie Torbor at right end. There were also some 3-4 looks with Lance Legree at nose tackle and Fred Robbins playing defensive end. Lorenzo Bromell saw quite a bit of playing time at left defensive end and Chuck Wiley got in the game at right defensive end in the second half.
I thought Fred Robbins (7 tackles) stood out on the first defensive series. Fred stuffed two runs and forced an incompletion with a strong pass rush. He later combined with Umenyiora to stuff another run in the second quarter. In the third quarter, he penetrated the line to tackle the back for no gain. With six minutes left in the contest, he got effectively blocked at the point-of-attack on an 8-yard gain by HB Emmitt Smith, but he then combined with Chuck Wiley and WLB Nick Greisen to tackle the back short of the first down marker on the next play.
Norman Hand (1 tackle) was not on the field as much as he normally is with the Giants running a variety of fronts and personnel packages.
Umenyiora (4 tackles, 1 sack) played both defensive end positions. He sacked and forced a fumble on the Cardinals’ first drive of the game when he beat the right tackle to the outside. However, on Arizona’s next possession (the one resulting in a field goal), Osi was flagged for jumping offsides and then was effectively blocked at the point-of-attack on an 11-yard run by Emmitt Smith when playing on the weakside. Later in the half, Umenyiora (playing left end) combined with Robbins to stuff a run towards the strongside. On the play preceding Smith’s second touchdown run, Umenyiora blew his opportunity to tackle the fullback in the backfield; instead a 7-yard gain down to the 3-yard line resulted.
Legree (3 tackles, 1 sack) nailed Smith in the backfield for a 1-yard loss on a play where he was playing nose tackle in a 3-4 look. But the Cardinals were able to run at Legree some in the second half, most noticeably on their last touchdown drive. Legree did get one good pass pressure in the fourth quarter and then made a big, big play by not being fooled by the quarterback on a play-action boot where Legree sacked the quarterback for a 10-yard loss.
Reggie Torbor (6 tackles) is somewhat of a liability in run defense from the down end position, but I was impressed with the way he hustled to get back in on plays down the field after originally being blocked or rushing too far up field on a running play. However, he had a free shot at Emmitt Smith on 3rd-and-goal from the three-yard line and Smith was able to carry him into the end zone. Torbor made a huge play late in the game by hitting Smith in the backfield and forcing a fumble on 4th-and-1, giving the offense yet one more chance to save the day.
I am not happy at all with William Joseph (2 tackles). There was one play in the fourth quarter where he out-muscled the offensive lineman in front of him to stuff the run, but there were a number of other runs where he got embarrassingly and easily pushed out of the way. Joseph needs to elevate his game right now! He did get a key pass pressure on 3rd-and-5 in the fourth quarter that forced an incompletion and punt.
Lorenzo Bromell (1 tackle) played some at left end. He did not play the run well and was pushed around fairly easily. But he did get good pressure on a stunt despite the Cardinals’ completing a key 3rd-and-11 pass in the first half. Chuck Wiley saw action at right end and I was impressed with his run defense on one play.
Linebackers: I continue to be pleasantly surprised by Nick Greisen’s play (7 tackles) at weakside linebacker. He is a good run defender who is aggressive in filling the hole. In the second quarter, Greisen over-pursued the receiver on a crossing route and missed the tackle on a 14-yard gain. However, three plays later, his blitz on 3rd-and-6 forced an incompletion and punt. Late in the first half, Greisen met Smith on the goal line but couldn’t bring the Hall of Famer down short of the end zone, resulting in a touchdown. In the second half, Greisen badly misread a Smith run to the left that picked up 11 yards, but he followed that up with stuffing Smith for no gain on the very next play. Greisen also made a very important tackle late in the game by tackling HB Troy Hambrick on for a 1-yard gain on 2nd-and-2.
SLB Carlos Emmons (3 tackles) was flagged with a costly roughing the passer penalty on an incomplete pass to start the Cardinals’ off on their successful field goal drive. I thought this penalty was very touchy, but the league has these quarterbacks in skirts now. Two plays later when Umenyiora jumped offsides, I was impressed with Emmons’ ability to stay with WR Larry Fitzgerald on a post route down the deep middle of the field. However, a few plays later, Emmitt Smith was able to pick up 11 yards when Emmons was caught too far up field on a run to his side. Emmons also missed a tackle on a 9-yard run by Smith in the third quarter.
Kevin Lewis (3 tackles) got blocked on Smith’s 11-yard run in the first quarter, but he did expertly fill the hole on a Smith run of 1-yard later on the drive.
Perhaps the biggest play given up by the defense was the 3rd-and-11 pass to the fullback for 16 yards late in the first half. This play kept the Cardinals’ drive alive, eventually cutting the Giants’ lead to 14-10 at halftime. Reggie Torbor was in coverage on the play and actually was all over the fullback. However, the perfect throw just passed over the out-stretched fingers of Torbor. To me, this was the most frustrating play of the game. I don’t think the Cardinals win the game if Torbor is able to knock that pass away. Reggie did look very good on a blitz where he sacked the quarterback for a 12-yard loss (this play was wiped out due to a penalty). Torbor also got another quality pass rush in the fourth quarter that forced a bad throw that was almost picked off.
Defensive Backs: Arizona was limited to 74 net yards passing (90 gross yards). The longest reception by a wide receiver was 14 yards. The Cardinals have a very dangerous receiving corps and the Giants’ secondary pretty much kept them under control except – again – for some very untimely mistakes. Rookie WR Larry Fitzgerald caught one pass for 2 yards. All-Pro WR Anquan Boldin was limited to 31 yards receiving and WR Bryant Johnson was held to 32 yards.
Will Allen was rock solid all game. They tried to go deep on him twice in the first half but Allen was all over both plays. In the second half, Allen nailed QB Josh McCown on a corner blitz. On the next play, on 3rd-and-2, Allen expertly covered Fitzgerald deep, knocking away the pass. Midway through the fourth quarter, Torbor forced a bad throw by McCown that Allen almost intercepted – this might have been a game-changing play had he been able to hold onto the ball. Allen then made a huge play by stuffing Troy Hambrick for no gain on 3rd-and-1 when the Cardinals were attempting to run out the clock.
The Cardinals tested Will Peterson’s ability to tackle the bigger Arizona receivers with quick, short throws. Peterson made one sure tackle, but he also couldn’t keep Boldin short of the first down on a 3rd-and-4 play. He also later missed a tackle after another short throw. Johnson caught an 11-yard slant against Peterson on the first drive too. At the beginning of the second quarter, the Cardinals tested Peterson deep with a pass into the end zone on 3rd-and-10, but Peterson had solid coverage on the play. There was contact, but because Peterson was looking back for the ball, it was not called. Peterson forgot this lesson late in the second quarter, when he again had good coverage on the deep pass, but this time did not turn around to look for the ball. A killer 22-yard pass interference penalty was called, setting up the ball on the 2-yard line (the Cards scored on the next play). Earlier on this drive, Peterson knocked away a pass intended for Johnson. Peterson also got flagged with another killer penalty in the third quarter on the Cardinals’ other touchdown drive. Peterson was flagged with an illegal use of hands infraction on a play where Torbor sacked McNown for a 12-yard loss.
SS Gibril Wilson (7 tackles) was also with Emmons on the deep post pattern to Fitzgerald that was well covered. However, he was playing too far off WR Karl Williams on an easy 5-yard completion on 2nd-and-3 on the Cards’ first scoring drive. Wilson also got handled pretty easily by the fullback on a run blitz on a play that picked up 9 yards on the Cardinals’ second touchdown drive. On the very next play, Wilson was blocked again on a play that picked up 7 yards.
FS Brent Alexander (2 tackles) was flagged with a defensive holding penalty on the Cardinals’ touchdown drive right before halftime.
Interestingly, the coaches decided to play Curtis Deloatch at corner in the nickel and dime packages this week and not Frank Walker. Deloatch did give up a 9-yard reception on the Cards’ touchdown drive right before halftime. Deloatch latter made a mental mistake by not sticking with Fitzgerald on a 3rd-and-10 play that luckily fell incomplete due to a poor pass.
Special Teams: I am not crazy about the fact that Willie Ponder, who is leading the NFC in kick return average, was deactivated again. I realize the Giants have injury issues, but Ponder is one of the few weapons on the team right now. The Giants only returned two kickoffs, a 28-yarder by Derrick Ward and an 11-yarder by Ron Dayne. Dayne fielded the short kickoff in front of Ward and he really should have let Ward field the ball. Brandon Wiley was flagged with an unnecessary roughness penalty at the end of the first half on Dayne’s kickoff.
Mark Jones returned four punts for 17 yards. Curtis Deloatch was flagged with an illegal block in the back on one return. WR David Tyree was flagged with a running into the kicker penalty. Had this been called roughing the kicker, the Giants would not have had one final chance on offense to tie or win the game.
PK Steve Christie’s first two kickoffs were not good – one was a low, line drive that was fielded at the 10, the other was also fielded at the ten. On the latter, Reggie Torbor made a big hit on the return of 16 yards (Frank Walker made the tackle on the first return after a 24-yard gain). Christie’s next kickoff was better, to the goal line and Ward made a very solid tackle after a 22-yard gain.
Jeff Feagles punted five times for a 46.8 yards-per-punt average. Arizona returns went for 7 (Jim Maxwell on the tackle), 38 (Feagles), 3 (Curtis Deloatch), 4 (Nick Greisen and Jim Maxwell), and 13 (Frank Walker). The 38-yard return was a killer because it set the Cardinals up on their game-winning touchdown drive. Frank Walker was badly held on this play but it was not called. The Cards also badly held Curtis Deloatch on another return but that was not called.
The Giants attempted a fake field goal from their own 35-yard line, trailing by three points, with six minutes left in the game. I thought this was a bad decision at the time, but I’m more conservative. Contrary to most, I thought the play design was innovative as it certainly had me thinking the Giants were going to throw a screen to their left when all the blockers lined up in that direction (instead Feagles passed the ball towards Jim Finn to his right). Give the Cardinals credit as they lined up properly and did not seem fooled by the play. Had Feagles, who is a good passer, thrown a more accurate pass, Finn may have just made the first down before onrushing Cardinals hit him.
The really big mistakes on special teams, however, were the 38-yard punt return by the Cardinals and Steve Christie’s 44-yard field goal attempt that was blocked. The block ultimately proved to be the difference in the ball game. It looked like the problem was that Christie’s kick was too low.