Sep 222005
 
 September 22, 2005  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
New York Giants 27 – New Orleans Saints 10

Game Overview: Folks who have read my articles over the years that I tend to preach that things are not so bad when the Giants lose and not so good when they win. I’m not going to do that this time. This is a good football team and the Giants deserve to be 2-0 and considered one of the better teams in the league right now. Quite frankly, I’ve been shocked by the many negative posts in The Corner Forum this week. It makes me wonder how angry posters would be if the Giants had actually lost a game already. Chill out people! Things are good right now. The Giants clobbered the Cardinals and pretty decisively beat a good and physical New Orleans Saints team.

The confidence of the players is building. It reminds me of the elevator scene in the movie Big Trouble in Little China right after Jack Burton drinks Egg’s magic potion.

Jack Burton: “I feel pretty good; I’m not…I’m not scared at all. I just feel kind of… I feel kind of invincible.”

Wang: “Me too. I’ve got a very positive attitude about this.”

Jack Burton: “Good. Me too. Is it getting hot in here or is it just me?”

Is everything perfect? No. Are the Giants going to lose a game? Yes. But this is a good football team that is not playing scared. Their fans shouldn’t be either. Let the other guys be scared. Keep proving the prognosticators wrong!

Defensive Line: Unlike last week, the Giants were facing a very good offensive line. This was to be the first real test for the run defense, particularly for the tackles. And the players came through with flying colors. HB Deuce McAllister was limited to 47 yards on 15 carries (a 3.1 yards-per-rush average). The Giants did exactly what they had to do: shut down the Saints’ running game and make them one-dimensional on offense.

Leading the way inside were tackles Kendrick Clancy (4 tackles, 1 sack) and William Joseph (1 tackle, 1 fumble recovery). While there were a couple of plays where these two gave ground and a hole opened for McAllister, for the most part, the Saints met a wall inside. Clancy was particularly active as both a run defender and pass rusher. He pursued hard down the line to get on outside running plays. Clancy also penetrated into the backfield right at the point-of-attack on a couple of plays to stuff the running back. (There was one impressive play where simply blew by OC LeCharles Bentley, who is one of the better centers in the league, to hold the back to no gain). Clancy also picked up a sack when DE Michael Strahan forced QB Aaron Brooks to step up into the pocket. Indeed, Clancy flashed a couple of times on the pass rush.

The stats don’t show it, but Joseph was tough inside. And Joseph made a very athletic play for a big man by easily recovering a bouncing ball on Brooks’ fumble in the third quarter. He was flagged with a neutral zone infraction however.

Both back-up tackles played well too. Fred Robbins got a big pass rush on the Saints’ first possession to force an incompletion on 3rd-and-2. Kenderick Allen played quite a bit and was excellent against the run. This is the best I’ve seen him play all year (including the preseason). He also drew a key holding penalty right before WLB Carlos Emmons’ interception.

Michael Strahan (5 tackles, 1 sack) played well despite his ailing back. Like his compatriots up front, he was tough against the run. Michael made plays against the ground game both at the point-of-attack and from the backside on plays away from him. His 15-yard roughing the passer penalty that helped to set up the Saints’ only touchdown of the night was a bullshit call. Strahan got good pressure on Brooks on the latter’s touchdown pass. Strahan’s outside pressure also enabled Clancy to nail Brooks for a sack on the ensuing drive. Later in the first half, Strahan beat right tackle on an inside move to sack Brooks for a 9-yard loss. One down note was that Strahan did lose contain on a 3rd-and-4 play where Brooks ran around right end for a 9-yard gain on 3rd-and-4.

What has surprised me about Osi Umenyiora (3 tackles, 2 sacks) thus far in the season is his solid run defense at the point-of-attack. The Saints tested him and they did not succeed. The Giants are dropping Umenyiora more and more into a linebacker role and he doesn’t look real natural on these occasions when it is a running play (Umenyiora got faked out by the running back in space a couple of times). Both of Osi’s sacks were unconventional. In the first, Umenyiora dropped back into a “spy” mode on 3rd-and-10 and impressively chased down Brooks when the latter decided to scramble out of the pocket. His second sack came as he was playing linebacker and he blitzed up the middle to sack Brooks for a 9-yard loss. Umenyiora was flagged with an offsides penalty.

Justin Tuck saw some playing time. He impressively penetrated into the backfield on one 2nd-and-1 carry, but missed the tackle.

Linebackers: Another good game for the starting three. WLB Carlos Emmons (5 tackles, 1 interception, 2 passes defensed) made an impact as both a run and pass defender. He is playing much, much better than he did last year when he was still recovering from a broken leg. Emmons’ interception late in the second quarter was a real back-breaker for the Saints and helped to set up the Giants’ final touchdown of the night. Unfortunately, Emmons was flagged for taunting on the play by spiking the ball (a tad questionable – I’ve seen far worse not get called). Emmons got a good pass rush on one blitz in the second half.

MLB Antonio Pierce (9 tackles, 2 pass defenses) led the Giants in tackles again for the second week in a row. Pierce made a great play sniffing out a shovel pass from Brooks to McAllister in the first quarter. Pierce later combined with Emmons to nail TE Ernie Conwell just as the ball was arriving to cause an incompletion. Pierce may have also saved a touchdown by tipping away a 3rd-and-11 pass at the goal line intended for WR Joe Horn.

SLB Reggie Torbor (3 tackles) has been a pleasant surprise. Keep in mind that he is a former collegiate defensive end who did not look all that natural at linebacker last year. He does this year. Torbor has been very strong against the run. He also got some good heat on Brooks on blitz late in the game.

Defensive Backs: This is the one area of the defense that needs to improve pretty dramatically. I am not as concerned about all of the passing yards given up. That is often a misleading stat. When you turn a good offensive football team such as the Saints into a one-dimensional passing attack, the passing figures will get a bit out of whack – especially if that team is trailing by two scores or more (which the Saints were for most of the game). This used to happen all of the time to the Giants back in the 1980’s. What does remain somewhat bothersome are the third down conversions (the Saints were 8-of-15 on third down).

Will Allen (8 tackles) did not play a good game, but he was not as bad as many fans claim either. I think every year the BBI audience has to latch onto one “whipping boy” who it targets as the scapegoat for most of the team’s ills. That player has become Will Allen despite the fact that just about everyone in the secondary gave up some key pass plays against New Orleans. The problem for Allen remains what it was last year – he often is supplying decent coverage, but he simply is not making plays on the football (I’m not talking just about interceptions here but pass defenses). We all know that eventually Corey Webster will take his job. It might happen this year; it might happen next year. Allen will not likely be re-signed because he sees the writing on the wall. Still those calling for Allen to be benched need to keep in mind that Webster still looks a bit confused out there. Allen is the safer choice – for now.

Allen had perfect coverage on a 3rd-and-13 pass on the Saints’ first possession. Allen read the route and quarterback perfectly and jumped in front of the receiver to intercept the football – the only problem was that the football passed right through his hands and was completed for a 24-yard gain. I can think of no better example of Allen’s problems in playing the ball in the air. On the Saints’ next possession (their only touchdown drive), Allen was beat on a slant by WR Joe Horn for a 17-yard gain on 3rd-and-4. In the second quarter, Allen gave up a 14-yard completion to Horn despite very tight coverage. Aside from the missed interception on the first drive, the play that probably sticks out to fans was Allen’s missed tackle on a short completion to McAllister that turned into a 22-yard gain right before halftime. In the third quarter, Allen was beat by WR Dante Stallworth in zone coverage for a 15-yard gain on 2nd-and-11 and by Stallworth again for 18 yards on 2nd-and-10. Where Allen did look very good was in run support.

Will Peterson (4 tackles) was back and played OK. The Saints stayed away from him for the most part but he did give up 12-yard completion to Stallworth in the first quarter. Peterson did have very good coverage on Horn on one deeper pass in the third quarter that fell incomplete. However, Peterson looked terrible on one play later in the drive where he committed an illegal contact penalty, was beaten for the completion, and then missed the tackle – leading to a big 33-yard gain by Stallworth. Interestingly, the Giants blitzed Peterson quite a bit and while he did not pick up a sack, he got at least three quality pressures, including on the 2nd-and-goal play right before halftime that helped to keep the Saints out of the end zone and on the play where Brent Alexander intercepted Brooks.

Curtis Deloatch (2 tackles) played quite a bit. However, he did give up a 21-yard touchdown pass to Joe Horn on 3rd-and-10 (Brent Alexander was late getting over to help on the play as well). Deloatch also gave up a 13-yard completion on 3rd-and-8 in the second quarter (Gibril Wilson was in the area as well). Deloatch was also beaten by Horn on the play where Horn fumbled the ball into the end zone, causing a touchback.

Corey Webster saw quite a bit of action in the fourth quarter and struggled. He was beaten by Horn for a 19-yard gain (Wilson was in the area too) at the very start of the quarter. Webster later got beat for a 21-yard gain by Stallworth in zone coverage (Wilson was in the area on this play as well). On the very next play, Webster was beat for 13-yards on a sideline route. However, a few plays later, Webster almost came down with a one-handed interception in the end zone. On the Saints’ last drive, Webster was beat on a 16-yard crossing pattern over the middle on 3rd-and-10. The pro-Webster crowd needs to recognize that Webster is having his problems still, particularly in zone coverage. He’s still learning the pro game.

As mentioned, FS Brent Alexander (2 tackles, 1 interception, 2 pass defenses) was late getting over to help Deloatch on the 21-yard touchdown pass. Alexander made a real nice play by intercepting a pass that was deflected over the middle and returning it 24 yards to the Saints’ 49-yard line, ending a scoring threat. Alexander almost came up with a second interception late in the game.

SS Gibril Wilson (9 tackles) has played better. He seemed to be in the vicinity of a lot of completed passes in zone coverage. He also got beat by TE Ernie Conwell for what should have been a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but Conwell dropped the ball (Emmons was in the area on this play as well).

Shaun Williams picked off Brooks’ final pass of the night in the end zone.

One of the problems was not just individual match-ups, but the Saints finding dead spots in the Giants’ zone coverage. There were plays where I had no idea who was responsible for covering the receiver as the receiver seemed to be equidistant from a number of defenders (including linebackers). Just because one defender made the tackle on the play does not mean he was the guy who was “at fault”.

Quarterback: QB Eli Manning (13-of-24 for 165 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions) played better this week. He managed the game very well and did not commit any costly mistakes. Had he been able to connect on a couple of deep passes, he really would have had big night. But that will come.

The most impressive Manning was all night was on the Giants’ second drive of the game. Already up 7-0, the Giants moved smartly down field on an 11-play, 76-yard affair that resulted in a 6-yard touchdown pass to HB Tiki Barber on a middle screen. On this drive, Manning completed 6-of-8 passes with key throws to WR Plaxico Burress for 15 yards on 2nd-and-13, TE Jeremy Shockey for 17 yards on 2nd-and-6, Burress for 16 yards on 3rd-and-11, and Burress again for 17 yards on 1st-and-10. Where Manning really improved was that he did a much better job of moving around in the pocket to buy time or create a better passing lane.

After this drive, Manning cooled off in the first half. Some of that had to do with the fact that pass protection was not as strong as it was on the second drive. Manning dangerously threw one pass up for grabs on the game’s third drive when he was under pressure and was lucky it was not picked off. Then on the next drive, Manning missed a wide open Tim Carter deep on what should have been an easy 57-yard touchdown pass. Two plays later, Manning missed Shockey badly over the middle – though this may have been due to the fact that Shockey’s route was cut off by the defender. On the next drive, Manning threw a beautiful touch pass to Shockey right over the safety for a 20-yard gain to help set up New York’s final touchdown of the night.

In the second half, Manning underthrew Toomer deep on what should have been a 41-yard touchdown pass, but on this play, Manning was under intense pressure. A few plays later, Manning’s 15-yard pass to Shockey helped put the Giants back into field goal range as the Giants went up 24-10. On the next possession, Manning dangerously tried to force a screen pass that hit a defensive lineman right in the mid-section. On New York’s final scoring drive, Manning hit WR Amani Toomer for 25 yards on 3rd-and-6 on a nicely thrown sideline route between defenders. Three plays later, Manning threw a very nice pass to Burress between the corner and safety for what should have been a 22-yard touchdown, but the Giants were flagged with an illegal formation penalty. Two plays later, Manning threaded the needle on a slant pass to Burress for 11 yards.

Wide Receivers: Plaxico Burress (5 catches for 64 yards) is obviously Eli’s favorite receiver. Plaxico was virtually unstoppable on the Giants’ second drive of the game as he came up with three catches for 48 yards, including a key 16-yarder on 3rd-and-11. Saints’ CB Jason Craft tried to play physical bump-and-run coverage with Burress, but Burress was simply too strong for him and easily escaped the jam. Burress also is a master of subtly pushing off to create some space for himself. The down note for Burress was his blocking in the back penalty that erased a 28-yard run by Barber (though for the most part I thought Burress blocked very well on running plays). The offensive pass interference call on Burress was a joke – one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen (but Burress did drop the ball on this play as well). Burress got open between the corner and safety for a 22-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, but the play was erased due to a penalty. He did come up with a nice 11-yard reception in heavy traffic two plays later.

Amani Toomer (2 catches for 31 yards) got open deep for what should have been a 41-yard touchdown, but the ball was underthrown. Toomer made what I think was his finest catch of his career with his 25-yard over-the-head reception along the sideline on 3rd-and-6. On this play, Toomer had to completely extend himself while at the same time being conscious of the fact that he had to drag his feet quickly in order to stay in-bounds. This was a key play in the game as it allowed the Giants to continue a clock-eating drive that ultimately resulted in a field goal. However, the drive would have resulted in a touchdown had Toomer lined up properly on Plaxico’s 22-yard touchdown reception. Toomer’s run blocking was pretty good.

Tim Carter beat his man cleanly on a deep pass that Manning overthrew that should have resulted in a 57-yard touchdown. David Tyree could not come up with the tough catch in the end zone in the 4th quarter. Tyree has yet to catch a pass yet this season despite being the #3 receiver.

Running Backs: HB Tiki Barber (83 yards on 22 carries and one touchdown; 1 catch for 6 yards and a touchdown) had a good night. He had a 28-yard run erased or his stats would have looked even better. What impressed me about Barber in this game was the between-the-tackle power that he was running with. I don’t remember a game where I saw Barber drag more tacklers than this one (perhaps Brandon Jacobs is wearing off on him). Barber did a nice job of weaving his way through traffic on the 6-yard middle screen that resulted in a touchdown. Tiki later scored on a vintage draw play behind some excellent blocking from 12 yards out. Tiki’s fine power running during the 4th quarter field goal drive helped to take almost seven minutes off of the clock.

Jacobs (3 carries for 5 yards and a touchdown) did not see the ball all that much, but he had an impact in a limited role. He scored from one-yard out on the third play of the game. However, on this play, Jacobs had the ball knocked out of his hands right after he crossed the goal line – he has to be more careful with the football. He also ran too high on the play. Jacobs did blow one blitz pick-up on the play that Manning dangerously threw the ball up for grabs in the second quarter. In the fourth quarter, Jacobs powered his way for the first down on 3rd-and-2.

Jim Finn doesn’t play all that much with the Giants using quite a bit of 3-WR or 2-TE sets, but when he does play, he generally does a good job of getting good blocks on the perimeter of the defense.

Tight Ends: Jeremy Shockey (5 catches for 64 yards) had a good night and almost broke his 20-yard reception late in the second quarter into 32-yard touchdown as he was just tripped up. Shockey badly beat the safety on this play. Jeremy also had two important catches for 17 and 9 yards on the second scoring drive of the game. In the third quarter, Shockey’s 15-yard reception helped to set up a field goal. Shockey got a nice block on Tiki’s 12-yard touchdown run.

Visanthe Shiancoe had problems blocking DE Charles Grant on the first running play of the second possession as Barber was tackled for a 3-yard loss (Grant got a great jump on this play). But Shiancoe got a good block on Jacobs’ 3rd-and-2 conversion.

Sean Berton saw much more action this week as both a down tight end and move tight end. There was one play where I spotted him getting brushed aside, but he generally blocked fairly well.

Offensive Line: The Saints have an outstanding defensive line, one of the best in the NFL. And the Giants generally did a decent job up front. But I was not happy with the lack of consistency, especially after the Giants went up 21-7. There were too many breakdowns in pass protection on plays that could have resulted in keeping drives alive and more points. One of the big reasons why the Giants didn’t score more points in the second half was the offensive generally didn’t play that well until the seven minute drive in the fourth quarter.

Things started off well as the Giants managed to put together a 21-7 lead. Tiki Barber was productive on the ground and Manning was comfortably able to complete 6-of-8 passes on the second drive of the game. But there were three pass protection miscues in the second quarter. On the play where Jacobs missed his blitz pick-up, RG Chris Snee was beaten as well. On the next possession, LG David Diehl gave up a pressure as Manning’s pass to Shockey was terribly off-the-mark on 3rd-and-9. On the Giants’ final scoring drive of the game, only an illegal contact penalty on the Saints saved Snee and Diehl again as their poor pass protection allowed Manning to get sacked for an 8-yard loss on 3rd-and-6 (Shaun O’Hara’s man was the man who actually sacked the quarterback, but he was knocked off of his man by the pressure given up by one of the guards).

RT Kareem McKenzie had a good night in the run-blocking department. Snee, Diehl, O’Hara, and Shockey got excellent blocks on Tiki’s 12-yard touchdown run.

The blocking in the third quarter was sub-par and the offense struggled because of it. McKenzie gave up a pressure and Manning’s arm was hit on 3rd-and-5 pass that would have resulted in an easy first down (Burress was wide open on the play). On the following possession, Snee was late getting over to help Shockey who was beaten by the defensive end, and Diehl was beat on the same play, causing Manning’s deep throw to a wide-open Toomer for what should have been a touchdown to be underthrown (Snee and Diehl obviously had a rough night in pass protection). McKenzie then gave up a pressure (and hold) on a 3rd-and-10 play. On the next possession, I thought the holding call on LT Luke Petitgout was bogus (Petitgout, by the way, played a very good game against a very good opponent).

The Giants’ offensive line finally regained control of the line of scrimmage again in the fourth quarter as the Giants were able to grind the ball out with a 14-play, 7-minute drive. The blemishes here however were unnecessary roughness penalties on Diehl and O’Hara. The end of the drive stalled when Petitgout was pushed back on a Barber sweep to his side and Diehl gave up another pressure on the underthrown ball to Tyree in the endzone.

Special Teams: PK Jay Feely played pretty well, especially given the fact that he hurt his back early on in the game. This obviously affected a couple of his kickoffs that were basically line-drives. Still, he was 2-for-2 on field goal attempts (from 39 and 30 yards out).

The big special teams play of the night was the Giants’ coverage on the Saints’ opening kickoff return. The Saints attempted some misdirection by having their returner hand off to another player running in the reverse direction. This did not fool James Butler (who made the initial contact), Chase Blackburn, and Nick Greisen. Indeed, even though Blackburn credited Butler with causing the fumble, I believe it was Greisen’s hit that jarred the ball loose. Blackburn recovered to help set up an easy offensive touchdown. Blackburn also made another big hit on a kickoff return later in the game. Butler was very active with FOUR special teams tackles and the Saints were never able to generate a big kickoff return.

Punt coverage gave up one bigger return for 27 yards, however, as Curtis Deloatch missed a tackle on a punt late in the game (James Butler made a nice saving tackle on the play). Up until that point, punt coverage was outstanding with David Tyree regularly beating double-team blocks to get down to either make the tackle or disrupt the return. Jeff Feagles averaged an outstanding 45.8 yards-per-punt on five punts, including one beautifully targeted out-of-bounds at the Saints’ 5-yard line.

Chad Morton was only able to return one punt for seven yards and Willie Ponder had only one opportunity to return a kickoff (for 10 yards). Brandon Jacobs did run over a potential tackler on a 25-yard return.

The big mistake on special teams was Butler not getting out of the area of a Saints’ punt that hit the ground and eventually bounced into him, thus causing a turnover that led to a New Orleans’ field goal right before halftime.

(Box Score – New Orleans Saints at New York Giants, September 19, 2005)
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Eric Kennedy

Founder and owner of BigBlueInteractive.com, which is now entering its 20th season.

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