Sep 282005
 
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San Diego Chargers 45 – New York Giants 23

Game Overview: The last thing I expected in this game was the Giants’ defense getting abused. There is absolutely no excuse for giving up 268 yards on the ground (over 8 yards per carry), allowing the opposing quarterback to complete 86 percent of his passes, and surrendering six touchdowns. None. All of the starters played and there were no Jeremy Lincolns on the field. The defense played on its heels all night. They were confused, slow to react, lacked intensity, and unprepared. It was a disgrace to every quality Giants defensive player and coach of the past.

I am trying to guard against over-reacting, but to me, this game raises a major red flag regarding the ability of Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis. Lewis was criticized in Pittsburgh for a defense that was weak against the pass as he had his corners playing too far off the line of scrimmage. Many felt that the criticism was unjustified as the Steelers’ secondary lacked talent at the cornerback position. However, now in New York with better corners, he still has his defensive backs playing soft – including against a San Diego opponent that really does not have a scary deep threat. Also damning for Lewis was that the Chargers’ offensive brain trust clearly out-coached him in terms of play-calling. New York defenders were reacting all night – never dictating. The play-calling of the Chargers had the Giants’ defenders grasping for straws and Lewis never came up with a solution. And even Head Coach Tom Coughlin admitted that the defensive coaches and players were surprised at the up tempo style of the Chargers and that the coaches were slow to get the defensive plays called.

Let’s not totally forgive the rest of the team either. The Giants’ offense only scored 3 second-half points. And the special teams gave up a couple of big kick returns that shortened the field for the Chargers’ offense.

The Giants are at a crossroads here folks. The confidence of the defensive team has to be shaken. Tim Lewis and the defensive players need to rebound in a big way very quickly. If this defensive showing was not an aberration, the Giants are in trouble.

Defense: What really bugs me is that the Giants’ defense never regrouped after halftime. In the first half, the Giants’ defense allowed three back-to-back-to-back touchdown scoring drives: 8 plays, 65 yards; 7 plays, 85 yards, and 6 plays, 62 yards. The game quickly got out of hand and was 21-3 before the midway point in the second quarter. But the Giants’ offense bailed out the defense by cutting the score to 21-20 right before the half ended. With momentum on the Giants’ side and a new chance to redeem itself, the defense continued to, quite frankly, suck. How disheartening was it to watch the Chargers move 70 yards in 4 plays on the first drive of the second half? When San Diego got the ball again, they went 77 yards in 11 plays. On their third possession, they went 39 yards in 6 plays after the special teams gave up a big kickoff return. On their fourth drive of the half, they went 65 yards in 5 plays to set up a successful 44-yard field goal. Four straight possessions, 24 points. Most of the game, the Giants never forced the Chargers into 3rd down situations – that is how bad they played. But the one drive they did – the second Chargers’ possession in the third quarter – the Giants allowed San Diego to convert on 3rd-and-6, 3rd-and-5, 3rd-and-2, 3rd-and-8 (a touchdown called back), and 3rd-and-13 (another touchdown). This was all on ONE drive! Unbelievable! Disgusting! I don’t think I have ever been more ashamed of a Giants’ defensive team as I was in this game.

The Giant defenders were badly fooled by misdirection all evening – like they have never seen it before. For openers, the Chargers were able to run at the right-side of the Giants’ defense, but they also later picked up good yardage by running up the middle and at the left-side of the defense. This only made the play-action by the Chargers that much more effective. And the trick plays were the icing on the cake. One got the sense that the Chargers’ offensive coordinator was simply toying with Tim Lewis and his defenders. It was embarrassing.

Defensive Line: After two strong games, the front seven and the defensive line played a horrendous game. The Giants gave up 268 rushing yards and there was very little pass pressure and no sacks.

After starting off with two pass plays, the Chargers quickly started to attack the weakside of the Giants’ defense by running at DE Osi Umenyiora with great success. On 2nd-and-1, Umenyiora got caught too far inside on an outside pitch to HB LaDainian Tomlinson that picked up 13 yards. A few plays later, on 1st-and-goal from the 8-yard line, Tomlinson picked up 7 yards running right at Umenyiora again. On the ensuing play, Tomlinson scored from 1-yard out as Umenyiora slanted too far inside. On the Chargers’ next possession, once again, Umenyiora caused a vacant gap in the defense by slanting hard inside. Honestly, these hard slants look by design but I don’t understand it. When the weakside end does this, it doesn’t leave a lot of beef or bodies to defend the corner. The linebackers on this play were not protected and easily blocked. On the Chargers’ third touchdown of the first half, Tomlinson was able to score from 3 yards out as the Chargers ran successfully again at Umenyiora. Osi had one good pass rush in the first half and recovered a fumble.

But the abuse continued in the second half for Umenyiora and the Giants. Let me illustrate. On the Chargers’ second offensive play of the third quarter, right before the ball was snapped, Nick Greisen, who was playing on Osi’s side on this particular play, took a couple of steps inside before the ball was snapped. This in effect put Greisen in the middle of the field. When ball was snapped, Umenyiora took another hard charge inside. Combined with Greisen moving inside, this left no one but the corner to cover the entire left-side of the field. What the f*ck? On the Chargers’ third touchdown drive of the second half, Umenyiora was abused. On one play, he gave up a 10-yard gain as he got caught too far inside again. On the very next play, he gave up an 8-yard gain as he charged too far upfield. And the drive was culminated with a 5-yard touchdown run as both Osi and Torbor got blocked at the point-of-attack.

The Chargers stayed away from Strahan (1 tackle) for most of the first half, but their biggest first-half running play came in his direction as Tomlinson broke off a 28-yard run. Strahan did have a couple of good pass rushes in the first half. It got much worse in the second half however. Strahan did make a nice play holding the tight end to a 1-yard gain on a bootleg pass. But he got fooled badly on the 30-yard end-around by WR Eric Parker to start the third quarter. Strahan also left a huge gap in the defense with his inside charge on HB Darren Sproles’ 21-yard run on 3rd-and-2. Strahan was easily blocked on FB Lorenzo Neal’s 9-yard run on 2nd-and-2 on the subsequent drive as well as the 62-yard run by Tomlinson in the fourth quarter.

The Chargers attacked the edges of the defense more than the middle in the first half. But the middle could have been stouter and there was one play in particular where Tomlinson picked up 9 yards up the gut where DT Kendrick Clancy and DT William Joseph were easily blocked. Joseph was flagged for encroachment. In the second half, the Chargers ran with great success at Clancy on their second drive. There were three rushing plays where I saw Clancy get clobbered or pushed around. However, most damning of all was DT Fred Robbins encroachment penalty on 3rd-and-5 to give the Chargers an automatic first down. Joseph got into position to stop the 30-yard end-around by Parker, but did not make the play.

Justin Tuck saw some snaps late in the game and was one of the few Giants who actually played hard. He saved a touchdown by chasing down Tomlinson on the latter’s 62-yard gallop. It was an unbelievable play for a defensive end.

Linebackers: A terrible game. SLB Reggie Torbor was benched in the first half for Nick Greisen. Torbor poorly defended the 7-yard run by Tomlinson down to the 1-yard line on the Chargers’ first scoring drive. And Torbor was beaten by WR Keenan McCardell for a 15-yard touchdown near the beginning of the second quarter. However, why the f*ck would any sane defensive coordinator have a converted defensive lineman try to cover one of the smoothest and most experienced route runners in the NFL??? You had better look in the mirror first Giants’ coaching staff. Torbor was re-inserted into the game in the fourth quarter and simply looked atrocious. He looked lost out there, not reading the play but tentatively guessing where to go. This was especially noticeable on three occurrences during the Chargers’ last touchdown drive and on the 62-yard run by Tomlinson on the following drive. A terrible performance.

MLB Antonio Pierce (3 tackles) looked worse than Kevin Lewis out there. He repeatedly missed tackles and as the defensive signal-caller, obviously was a big part of the cerebral beating the Giants took on the field. He missed two tackles on the Chargers’ second scoring drive, including the 28-yard gallop by Tomlinson. Pierce later missed another tackle on the following drive as well. He did do a good job of reading a screen play late in the first half. In the second half, Pierce got beat in pass coverage by TE Antonio Gates despite interfering with him on the same play. On the Chargers’ touchdown pass that got called back, Pierce was called upon to cover WR Eric Parker all by himself over the middle of the field. Again, why kind of crazy defensive scheme is this???

WLB Carlos Emmons (8 tackles) played like crap too. He was badly faked out by Gates on the Chargers’ first offensive play of the game – a bootleg pass that picked up 19 yards (Emmons missed the tackle on Gates on this play as well). Two plays later, Emmons misread the 2nd-and-1 pitch to Tomlinson that picked up 13 yards. And Emmons got blocked at the point-of-attack on Tomlinson’s 28-yard scamper on the next drive. On the third touchdown drive, there were two plays where Emmons got taken out of the play by the fullback, including the 3-yard touchdown run by Tomlinson. In the second half, I saw Emmons miss another tackle on Tomlinson and once again easily get blocked out of a play by the fullback.

Nick Greisen (3 tackles) forced a big fumble late in the second quarter that helped to set up the Giants’ second touchdown. However, Greisen was no more able to help defend the running game than Torbor. He seemed easily fooled by misdirection such as the end around to WR Eric Parker at the start of the third quarter. Greisen also overpursued HB Darren Sproles on the latter’s 21-yard run.

Defensive Backs: It’s tough to cover when the opposing team is effectively running the ball because the play-action fake becomes such an effective weapon. It also is tough to cover when you are not putting a lot of pressure on the opposing quarterback. But Brees was able to complete 19-of-22 passes (an 86 percent completion rate). Some of that obviously had to do with poor coverage by the linebackers and/or schemes. On the Chargers’ second offensive play, the Giants’ blitzed two linebackers but Brees calmly hit a wide-open Tomlinson on a swing pass for 9 yards. Later in the drive, facing a key 3rd-and-3 from the Giants’ 17-yard line. The Giants’ defensive “brain trust” had CB Curtis Deloatch line up off his opponent by almost 10 yards. Despite the errant pass, the receiver was able to come down with the quick pass because Deloatch was nowhere in the picture. What kind of crazy scheme calls for the corner to play 10 yards off the receiver on 3rd-and-3 from the 17-yard line???? On the very next play, SS Gibril Wilson missed a tackle on a Tomlinson run down to the 1-yard line. Wilson was later pulled from the game on running downs for his poor play against Tomlinson.

On the Chargers’ second offensive touchdown drive, CB Will Peterson was beat by McCardell for a 12-yard gain off of play-action. Peterson and CB Will Allen then did a nice job of defending a receiver screen, holding it to a 3-yard gain (Allen later did an excellent job defending another screen to Tomlinson). However, Allen did miss a tackle on Tomlinson run and an 8-yard gain resulted. On the third offensive touchdown drive, despite a good chuck by Emmons, TE Antonio Gates was able to beat double coverage by FS Brent Alexander and Allen for 15-yard gain. Two plays later, Peterson missed a tackle on Tomlinson. Then on a key 3rd-and-5, Gates was able to subtly push off of Allen to create separation for a 12-yard gain. On the next play, Peterson had excellent position on McCardell, but the ball just sailed over his out-stretched finger tips and a big 27-yard completion down to the Giants’ 3-yard line was the result.

I believe it was Peterson who was supposed to cover McCardell on the 26-yard halfback option for a touchdown at the beginning of the third quarter. Peterson bit hard on the fake. Deloatch missed a tackle on Gates’ catch-and-run in the third quarter.

It was not a good game for FS Brent Alexander. On San Diego’s second scoring drive of the third quarter, Alexander left Gates all alone on 3rd-and-6 in anticipation of a swing pass to Tomlinson (so did Strahan). Gates was wide open and easily picked up the first down on a 23-yard gain. At the end of this drive, Alexander was beaten badly by Gates for the 14-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-13 as the Giants blitzed and Alexander was left one-on-one.

Gibril Wilson was terrible in run support, simply terrible. I have no idea what he was doing on Tomlinson’s 62-yard touchdown run. Wilson did look good beating the back on a safety blitz on Gates’ 14-yard touchdown.

Quarterback: As a Giants’ fan, I’m very proud of the performance that Eli Manning (24-of-41 for 352 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) put forth in a very difficult and hostile environment. I think I’m going to start calling him “Cool Hand” Eli.

But first, it was not all good so let’s get the negative out of the way. Manning is very lucky that two of his passes were not intercepted and returned for touchdowns. Late in the second quarter, a quick out intended for WR Plaxico Burress was almost picked off by the corner who could have walked into the end zone. In the third quarter, another pass was intercepted and returned for a 30-yard score, but the play was nullified by a somewhat questionable roughing-the-passer penalty. In the third quarter, a slant pass to Burress was almost picked off. Had these picks occurred, fans and the media would all have a different reaction to his performance.

But let’s focus on the positive. Manning was very good on the Giants’ first possession of the game as he led his teammates on a 12-play, 75-yard effort that resulted in a field goal. On this drive, Manning completed 4-of-5 passes, including a big 32-yard to TE Jeremy Shockey and a key 6-yarder to Shockey on 3rd-and-5. The drive only stalled when the Giants were unable to pick up one yard on back-to-back short-yardage efforts (though the ball was poorly spotted on the 3rd-and-1 effort).

On the Giants’ next possession, the refs screwed with the Giants again as WR Tim Carter was clearly interfered with on a deep fly route that should have resulted in a first down deep in Chargers’ territory. After a 5-yard loss on a running play, Manning’s pass to WR Amani Toomer only picked up 10 yards and the Giants were forced to punt. The Giants’ next possession went three-and-out as Manning’s intended pass to WR David Tyree was too long. On 3rd-and-10, Manning was sacked.

At this point, the Giants were trailing 21-3 and the Chargers’ players and fans were looking for blood. But Manning calmly drove his teammates down the field on a 9-play, 65-yard effort that cut the score to 21-10. Manning hit Burress for 5 yards on 3rd-and-4 to keep the drive alive. A few plays later, Manning slightly underthrew WR Tim Carter on a post route, but Carter adjusted to make a huge 44-yard reception on 2nd-and-22. The drive was culminated by a perfectly-thrown fade pass to Burress for a 5-yard touchdown. After a Chargers’ turnover, Manning and the Giants struck quickly again. First came a well-thrown pass to Shockey in double coverage that picked up 30 yards down to the Chargers’ 4-yard line. On the very next play, Manning fired a quick out to Tyree for the score.

The Giants got the ball one more time in the first half. Facing a 1st-and-15 from their own 15-yard line, New York was able to move the ball to the Chargers’ 17-yard line in one minute and 12 seconds before having to settle for a field goal. On this possession, Manning did a great job of scrambling away from pressure and picking up the first down with his feet on 3rd-and-4. Two plays later, Manning did a fantastic job of moving around in the pocket to avoid pressure and deliver a strike to Burress that was unfortunately dropped. Three plays later, he hit Toomer for a 25-yard gain down to the Charger 17-yard line. Manning and the Giants’ offense had cut the Chargers lead to 21-20.

The Giants’ first possession in the second half was hampered by poor special teams and the Giants started at their own 9-yard line. After passes to Shockey and Burress picked up 22 yards, the drive was set back by a fumble by Tyree on an end-around. As mentioned previously, Manning then threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, but the play was erased due to off-setting penalties. The Giants ran a draw and then punted.

The Giants’ second drive of the half was brilliant at times for Manning. He threw a perfect deep pass down the right sideline to Shockey, but Shockey dropped the ball. Facing a 2nd-and-20 situation, Manning found Carter for 9 yards and then made a great play when he stayed patient in the pocket, backpedaled to buy time, and then found Burress breaking over the middle for a 17-yard gain. Manning converted three more third-and-longs on this drive with a 13-yard pass to Burress on 3rd-and-9, a 12-yard scramble on 3rd-and-12, and an 18-yard completion to Tyree on 3rd-and-10. On the pass to Tyree, Manning did a wonderful job of sensing pressure from the backside, scrambling away from it, resetting, and hitting Tyree. However, the drive stalled at the San Diego 10-yard line. On second down, Manning tried to force the ball to Toomer (Manning and Toomer don’t look quite in sync yet). On this play, had Manning waited, Shockey was breaking open over the middle of the endzone.

When the Giants got the ball back for the third time in the second half, the score was 42-23 (what wonderful defense!!!). Manning moved his team again with a long pass of 37 yards to Toomer and passes of 11, 8, and 11 yards to Tyree. However, Tyree fumbled the ball away after the last completion at the San Diego 9-yard line. When the Giants got the ball back, it was 45-23 with 3:48 left in the game.

Wide Receivers: Plaxico Burress (5 catches for 52 yards, 1 touchdown) let his teammates down by forcing the head coach to bench him for two series as part of a discipline action for showing up tardy to two team meetings. He also dropped two passes in the game. But Plaxico made an excellent play by out-jumping and out-fighting the corner for a 5-yard touchdown reception on a 2nd-and-goal fade pass. Burress even made a more exceptional catch on the Giants’ first drive of the second half when he used all of his 6-5 frame and long arms to make a beautiful one-handed catch – it was a Randy Moss-like play. On the Giants’ next possession, Plaxico caught a key 17-yard reception on 3rd-and-11 over the middle and did so again on the same drive with a 13-yard catch on 3rd-and-9. In the fourth quarter, Burress was called with a bogus offensive pass interference penalty.

Amani Toomer (4 catches for 84 yards) finally saw some decent action, but he just doesn’t quite seem in sync with Manning yet. Toomer made a nice block on a 9-yard run by the HB Tiki Barber on the first drive. He also came down with a 12-yard reception to help the Giants move into scoring position. His 25-yard reception from Manning late in the first half helped to set up the 40-yard field goal that cut the lead to 21-20. Manning threw in Toomer’s direction four times on the second-half field goal drive, but none of these four passes were completed. Manning did hit Toomer with a 37-yard pass in the fourth quarter.

David Tyree caught a 4-yard touchdown pass out of the slot late in the second quarter on a quick out. However, things did not go real well for Tyree in the second half. Tyree fumbled an end-round play that looked set up to pick up good yardage (the fumble was officially credited to Manning, but it was Tyree who botched the exchange). Tyree did come up with a key 18-yard reception on 3rd-and-9 on the field goal drive in the second half. But after three straight receptions for 30 yards on the ensuing drive, he fumbled the ball away on the San Diego 9-yard line.

Tim Carter (2 catches for 53 yards) made a fantastic 44-yard catch on an underthrown deep ball. Carter not only adjusted to the football well, but he came down with the tough reception despite a lot of contact by the defensive back. Carter was obviously interfered with earlier in the game on a fly route, but the penalty was not called. He also had a 9-yard reception in the third quarter.

Tight Ends: Jeremy Shockey (6 catches for 101 yards) had the type of big game we have all been expecting for quite some time. The big play on the Giants’ first scoring drive was a 32-yard catch-and-run by Shockey as he was split out wide and beat the safety on a slant. This play was sandwiched by two Barber runs where Shockey made excellent run blocks. Shockey also kept the drive alive with a 6-yard reception on 3rd-and-5. In the second quarter, Shockey was flagged for flagrant pick (offensive pass interference) that erased a 22-yard reception by TE Visanthe Shiancoe. Shockey made an absolutely fantastic catch on his 30-yard reception from Manning against double-coverage late in the second quarter. On this play, Shockey was able to out-jump the defenders and snag the football with the athleticism of a wide receiver. On the next snap, the Giants cut the score to 21-17. In the second half, Shockey was not as much of a factor. He dropped a perfectly-thrown deep pass on a fly route on a play where again he was spread out wide. While Manning threw to Shockey four times in the second half, only one of these passes was completed (for 10 yards).

Shiancoe looked good on his 22-yard reception that was erased. He later had a 5-yard catch on the same drive. In the second half, Shiancoe made a poor block on a HB Derrick Ward run that only picked up a yard. He also was not able to come up with a tough catch from Manning early in the fourth quarter on 3rd-and-9.

Running Backs: The Giants were forced to abandon the ground game pretty early in this game as the defense let things get out of hand too quickly. Barber only carried the ball 15 times (and hence the criticism that HB Brandon Jacobs should have seen the ball more is silly). The Giants did run the ball pretty well on their first drive as Barber picked up 25 yards on four carries. But Barber was stuffed on 2nd-and-1. On 3rd-and-1, from these eyes, Jacobs clearly picked up the first down, but the refs did not see it that way and the Giants settled for a short-field goal instead of a touchdown.

On the Giants’ next possession, there was one running play to Barber, but it lost five yards due to penetration. The Giants did not run the ball once on their next possession (a three-and-out). When New York got the ball again, the score was 21-3. After the Giants had cut the score to 21-17, Barber was a big factor on the field goal drive right before halftime. He gained 12 yards on one draw play on 1st-and-15. Then five players later, Barber had a huge 27-yard run on 3rd-and-10 that enabled the Giants not only to keep the drive alive, but move into scoring position.

In the second half, Barber carried the ball 4 times for 2 yards as the blocking was simply not there.

Barber was very good on blitz pick-ups. FB Jim Finn made nice blocks on two Barber runs on the first drive of the game, but he made a poor effort on the Ward run where Shiancoe also made a poor block (both players couldn’t keep the linebacker from making the tackle).

Derrick Ward carried the ball 4 times for 13 yards in the second half of the game, but three of these carries came very late in the game when the Giants were merely trying to get the game over.

Offensive Line: For the most part, the offensive line pass blocked pretty well, especially when you consider the fact that the Giants were in obvious passing situations most of the night. Still, there were a few problems. LG David Diehl did not pick up a stunt on Manning’s only incomplete pass of the first drive. LT Luke Petitgout gave up a pressure on the next possession and on the following drive, he got cleanly beat to the outside by blitzing linebacker for a sack on 3rd-and-10 (OC Shaun O’Hara did not pick up a stunt on this same play too). On the Giants’ last scoring drive of the first half, RG Chris Snee gave up a couple of pass pressures.

In the second half, Snee was flagged for holding on the deep pass to Shockey that was dropped. Snee also gave up one pressure on the field goal drive as did RT Kareem McKenzie on the 3rd-and-goal play from the 9-yard line that resulted in an incompletion. On the Giants’ final possession, down 45-23 with less than four minutes to go, Petitgout was flagged with a false start and McKenzie gave up a 9-yard sack on 3rd-and-13. Nevertheless, given the innumerable obvious passing situations, Manning was afforded pretty darn good protection for most of the game.

The Giants’ blocked well for the run on the first drive of the game until they faced the 2nd-and-1 situation near the goal line. On that play, O’Hara got over-powered by the nose tackle. On the next possession, Diehl allowed penetration that caused Barber to get tackled for a 5-yard loss. In the second half, Barber only received four carries, but none of these plays were particularly well-blocked against a very good Chargers’ run defense.

Petitgout was flagged with a false start on the game’s first offensive play. Diehl’s false start late in the first half prevented Coughlin from calling a pass play into the end zone before the 40-yard field goal was kicked.

Special Teams: It was disappointing to see the Giants give up a 32-yard kickoff return after their first score, and worse a 58-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter after their last score. The latter really ended any chance for the Giants to try a miracle comeback. On this return, Tyree overran the play and both Sean Berton and Nick Greisen missed attempted tackles.

Willie Ponder did return a kickoff for 41 yards. His five other returns picked up 23, 13, 22, 27, and 30 yards. Kenderick Allen was flagged for holding on the 23-yard return. The Giants were flagged with a 15-yard face-mask penalty (guilty party not accurately identified) on the 13-yard return. This snafu came at a really bad time as it was the first Giants’ possession of the second half when the team was trailing 28-20 and set the Giants back to the 9-yard line.

PK Jay Feely’s kickoffs were strong and he hit both of his field goals, including a 40-yarder.

P Jeff Feagles averaged 44 yards on four punts and punt coverage was sound with James Butler and David Tyree making tackles.

(Box Score – New York Giants at San Diego Chargers, September 25, 2005)
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Eric Kennedy

Founder and owner of BigBlueInteractive.com, which is now entering its 20th season. Follow Eric on Twitter @BigBlueInteract.

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