New York Giants 36 – Washington Redskins 0
Game Overview: Whew! This game had me nervous because I was afraid that the emotional week and the disruption to the routine would have been detrimental to the Giants. But the G-Men went out and provided a fitting good-bye to Wellington Mara by utterly destroying the Redskins. In fact, had QB Eli Manning not played so poorly, the Giants would have easily scored 50 on the Redskins.
The story of this game was the Giants’ defense. The Giants’ defense held the Skins to seven first downs and 125 total yards of offense (two first downs and 34 yards of offense in the first half). Washington didn’t even cross midfield until almost the fourth quarter when the Giants were already up 36-0. And contrary to their previous third-down defensive woes, the Giants held the Redskins’ offense to 2-of-12 on third down for a 17 percent conversion percentage. At the same time, the defense continued to force turnovers (1 interception, 2 fumble recoveries on defense, 1 fumble recovery on special teams).
But let’s not get too excited about this team just yet. The defense has to prove that Sunday was not an aberration.
Quarterback: Eli Manning (12-of-31 for 146 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 1 fumble) played a bad game. His first half was dreadful (8-of-22 for 91 yards). And before I continue, don’t jump on me because I’m the messenger. I am a big fan of Manning’s and expect him to continue to develop into one of the league’s best quarterbacks. But he is still a very young and inexperienced player who will have bad games. That’s part of the learning process. But there is a group of fans out there who get bent all out of shape if one says anything negative about Manning.
As for Manning’s poor performance, some want to blame the wind, others the pass protection. Tom Coughlin does not agree on the latter. “I think our passing game was not very good (against Washington),” said Coughlin. “I think our offensive line performed very well. I think our protection schemes were very good.”
The Giants scored 19 points in the first half. And none of this had to do with Manning. In fact the Giants would have blown the Skins out in the first half had Manning completed half of his passes (he only completed one-third of them). The proof is in the pudding – Manning was 0-1 on the first field goal drive; 1-of-3 (for eight yards) on the second field goal drive; 0-of-0 on the touchdown drive; 0-for-2 on the third field goal drive; and 1-of-1 (for four yards) on the fourth field goal drive.
On the first drive of the game, Manning overthrew WR Plaxico Burress on a fade pass into the end zone. Plaxico was open and made the catch, but he couldn’t keep his feet in bounds despite the great effort. On the next possession, Manning threw behind WR Amani Toomer on a short pass on 2nd-and-5. A few plays later, he made a terrible decision by throwing to TE Jeremy Shockey deep despite triple coverage (he was lucky the ball was not intercepted). But Manning did toss a ball up for grabs a few plays after this that was intercepted in the end zone, causing the Giants to come away with no points despite reaching the Redskins’ 11-yard line. On the next drive, the Giants were forced to settle for a 50-yard field goal when Manning’s intended pass to Burress was way off the mark.
Manning’s problems continued in the second quarter. After the Giants went up 13-0 after an all-rushing drive, Manning did connect with Burress for a 20-yard gain on the next possession. But then he badly overthrew Toomer on a deep shot into the end zone. Then on 3rd-and-10, his intended pass to a wide-open WR Tim Carter was way too high. Offsetting penalties gave Eli another chance, but he threw the ball away when he could find no one open. The Giants went three-and-out on their next possession (and Manning went 0-for-2). Then after a Redskins’ turnover and four straight running plays, Manning’s sideline pass to Burress was dropped and he threw away his 3rd-and-10 pass. On the Giants’ final drive of the first half, Manning threw an ill-advised pass in the end zone to a double-covered Toomer that fell incomplete.
The good news? Manning threw the ball away a few times when he saw no one open. He also made a real nice play by getting rid of the ball very quickly on a screen pass to Ward that picked up eight yards despite heavy immediate pressure. Manning also did a good job of spinning away from a free blitzer, thus avoiding a big sack.
In the second half, Manning only threw nine passes, completing four of them. He connected with Shockey for 10 yards and a touchdown after the Redskins fumbled the kickoff. After two three-and-outs, the Giants got into field goal range after a 26-yard catch-and-run by Toomer. But the drive stalled when Manning’s ill-advised, deep pass to a double-covered Shockey was off the mark and then Toomer dropped a 3rd-and-7 pass. On the Giants’ last scoring drive of the game, Manning did connect with Shockey for 12 yards on 3rd-and-5 (Manning’s first clutch throw of the game). I thought his best play of the game was his audible at the line of scrimmage three plays later on 3rd-and-goal from the 4-yard line. This play was exactly like the game-winning audible by Manning in the season-finale against Dallas. Manning correctly read the defense’s weakness and Barber scored from four yards out.
Wide Receivers: Not a productive day because Manning was so far off the mark. Plaxico Burress finished the game with four catches for 42 yards; Amani Toomer had two catches for 46 yards, and Tim Carter caught one pass for 19 yards. Burress almost came down with a circus catch on a fade pass into the end zone that was overthrown. Burress did drop one pass in the first half. Toomer’s best play of the game was turning a 13-yard out into a 26-yard gain by dragging a tackler 13 extra yards. Toomer was flagged with a false start and also dropped a pass on 3rd-and-7 in the third quarter. Tim Carter was flagged with a holding penalty in the fourth quarter that erased a 15-yard run by Derrick Ward.
Where the receivers – particularly Burress – stood out was in the run-blocking department. Burress had a key block on Barber’s first run of the game – a 57-yarder down the left sideline. Interestingly, the Giants often employed Toomer in an H-Back role in this game, in motion behind the offense line, and asked him to block outside of the tight end or tackle. At times, he was over-matched, but he also made some good blocks.
Tight Ends: Jeremy Shockey did not play well in the first half. He had no catches (though Manning was not “on”) and his blocking was subpar for him (he didn’t sustain a couple of blocks that I spotted). As Shockey said after the game, “I might as well have sat in (the locker room) until halftime then went out and played. I didn’t really do much until the second half.” In the second half, Shockey scored a touchdown from 10 yards out as he beat LB Lavar Arrington in coverage and than ran over two tacklers. Shockey got wide open for a 12-yard gain on a key 3rd-and-5 play on the last touchdown-scoring drive of the game.
Running Backs: FB Jim Finn blocked exceptionally well for Tiki Barber and Derrick Ward. Finn had crucial blocks on a number of runs including the 57-yarder to start the game.
Barber had his personal best career-rushing performance with 206 yards on 24 carries (averaging 8.6 yards-per-carry) and a touchdown. He finally broke off some big runs (two 50+ yarders) and was consistently productive throughout the game. On the Giants’ first play from scrimmage, he received some outstanding blocking up front and raced down the left sideline for a 57-yard gain. Early in the second quarter, Barber made a very sharp cutback to the left on a play where the Washington defense over-pursued and he broke off a 59-yard run down to the 1-yard line. Barber had another nifty run for just seven yards when he cut back to the right against the grain of the defense. I also liked his 14-yard draw play late in the second quarter where he cut to the outside and broke two attempted tackles. In the second half, Barber almost broke an 18-yard run for a 23-yard score, just getting tripped up. Barber’s day ended late in the third quarter with his 4-yard touchdown run on a 3rd-and-goal draw play.
Barber’s blitz pick-ups were very good at times and not so good at others. He missed a blitzer on the play on the first drive where Manning was sacked and fumbled. Tiki’s man also got to Manning on the play where Eli’s pass was intercepted in the end zone. In the third quarter, Manning’s arm was hit when Barber’s man got past him and caused Manning’s pass to fall incomplete on 3rd-and-1. Barber also dropped a pass in the second half.
Derrick Ward played well in relief of Barber with 42 yards on 13 carries. He had a nice 7-yard run on the Giants’ first drive of the game right after Tiki’s long run. Ward, along with Brandon Jacobs, helped to run a lot of time off the clock in the fourth quarter on one drive where Ward carried the ball nine times (with the first run of 15 yards being wiped out due to a holding penalty).
Brandon Jacobs carried the ball 8 times for 14 yards and a touchdown. On his 3-yard touchdown run, he made three unblocked Redskins’ miss with a cut to the inside and ran over a potential tackler at the goal line for the score. Jacobs later converted a 3rd-and-1 attempt with a 3-yard gain, but he was also stuffed for no gain on a 3rd-and-2 attempt late in the first half and the Giants were forced to settle for the field goal. Jacobs also was a factor in running time of the clock late in the game, especially with his 7-yard run on 3rd-and-7 (Jacobs was given a generous spot on this run).
Offensive Line: The run blocking was obviously superb given the 262 yards of rushing. It doesn’t get much better than that. Most of the big runs went to the left and LT Luke Petitgout made a number of key blocks as did LG David Diehl and OC Shaun O’Hara.
I think my favorite play in terms of blocking came early in the third quarter. Shockey’s block on the left side sealed off the defensive end and a perfect alley was formed with a good lead block by Jim Finn and two excellent pulling blocks by Diehl and O’Hara. Barber ran for 18 yards on this play and almost broke it to the end zone.
Kudos too to the offensive line for being a big factor in controlling the clock in the fourth quarter when Ward and Jacobs were running the football.
Pass protection by the offensive line was good against a very difficult blitzing scheme. Some of the pressure came from Barber not being able to pick up three blitzes, but RT Kareem McKenzie also looked confused on the play where Barber was beat and Manning sacked on the first drive. O’Hara also gave up one pressure when he appeared to think someone else was going to pick up a stunting lineman. Late in the first half, RG Chris Snee gave up a pressure (and an illegal hands to the face penalty) on an incomplete pass to Toomer in the end zone. There was one sack given up in the second half as McKenzie gave up a quick outside pressure and Manning was sacked as he stepped up into the pocket as Snee was beat by his man. O’Hara gave up a pressure on the 26-yard catch-and-run by Toomer. But as you can see, the breakdowns were few.
McKenzie was flagged with a false start. Diehl and Snee with a holding penalties.
Defense: I am a little wary yet of saying the defense has turned the corner despite the outstanding defensive results. Unlike the Redskins’ defense, the Redskins’ offense seemed to lose their fight fairly quickly and was flustered. The Giants were aided by a number of dropped passes (though most of these were on short routes). Basically, I am not sure if the Giants’ defense was that good or the Redskins’ offense was that bad.
Defensive Line: It does not get much better than holding the other team to 38 yards rushing and 87 yards passing. Clinton Portis was held to nine yards rushing…NINE!!! And 21 of the 38 rushing yards came on two runs by HB Rock Cartwright late in the game when the Giants were in the prevent mode. There were five sacks and numerous pass pressures. The Redskins did not cross midfield until almost the fourth quarter and only had seven first downs in the game (two in the first half). When the score was 36-0 late in the third quarter, the Redskins had 54 yards of total offense. This was all done without the Giants blitzing all that much.
It is interesting to note that although the Redskins ran only 52 offensive plays, back-ups such as Kenderick Allen, Fred Robbins, and Justin Tuck played a lot (even very early in the game). In fact, Allen may have received more defensive snaps than starter Kendrick Clancy.
The star up front was DE Osi Umenyiora (4 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 pass defense, and 1 fumble recovery). While the sacks came late in the game, he was constantly buzzing around QB Mark Brunell for much of the game. Michael Strahan (4 tackles, 1 sack) also had a good game. His sack came against a double-team. Strahan also pressured Brunell quite a bit.
The defensive tackles also played very well. William Joseph had 2 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 pass defense. He also got a number of good pass pressures. Allen (1 tackle and 1 sack) played a lot and helped to gum things up inside. Clancy recovered a fumble. Robbins’ immediate pass pressure on Brunell caused a 13-yard intentional grounding penalty on 3rd-and-10.
Justin Tuck (1 tackle) caused a holding penalty that erased one 8-yard run. Late in the game, when Tuck was sidelined with an ankle injury, newcomer Alonzo Jackson saw some snaps at right end.
Linebackers: Despite the absence of Carlos Emmons, this unit played great and deserves a lot of the credit for the defensive performance too. MLB Antonio Pierce not only helped the Giants’ figure out their opponent, but he had 11 tackles. This is an astronomical number when you consider the Redskins had 52 snaps (basically Pierce was in on 21 percent of all the tackles). He also had a key interception that set up a field goal near the end of the second quarter and knocked away QB Patrick Ramsey’s 4th-and-goal pass to the tight end in the fourth quarter. Pierce blew up a screen pass to Portis for a four-yard loss.
Nick Greisen accrued four tackles and forced a fumble that set up the Giants’ final touchdown. Reggie Torbor (1 tackle) was not a liability as a run or pass defender. He did a good job of staying at home on Brunell’s play-action rollouts.
Defensive Backs: Outstanding. And outstanding across the board. Yes, the defensive line got good pressure on a number of plays, but Brunell was also forced to hold the ball longer than he wanted to as he could not spot an open receiver. Indeed, a lot of the pass pressure was caused by the coverage. Everyone played extremely well…FS Brent Alexander (3 tackles, 1 pass defense), SS Gibril Wilson (2 tackles), CB Curtis Deloatch (3 tackles, 1 pass defense), CB Will Allen (2 tackles), and CB Corey Webster (1 tackle, 1 forced fumble). When Shaun Williams was lost early, James Butler came into the game and saw a lot of action as well and was not a liability.
Will Allen did a very good job on Santana Moss. And the Giants played the nickel or dime and Allen moved to cover the slot receiver, the other corners did a good job on him as well. Deloatch completely shut down whoever he was covering.
Alexander was very aggressive, causing one incompletion with a hard hit and filling the hole quickly on a 1-yard run by Portis. Alexander also knocked Portis woozy on another run that was called back.
There were few negative plays. Wilson was beat on a 14-yard reception by Portis late in the second quarter. Webster was lucky that a 3rd-and-7 pass in the third quarter was dropped by Moss as Webster was beaten on the play. The only other miscues came on the Redskins’ only scoring threat in the late third/early fourth quarters. Allen had excellent position on a seam pass to WR James Thrash but was unable to make a play on the football and a 28-yard completion was the result. Two plays later, Allen was beat for a 24-yard gain by WR Taylor Jacobs. Two plays after that, Deloatch was flagged with an illegal hands to the face penalty. But that was it…those were all the negative plays!
Special Teams: Jay Feely did a great job on his six field goal attempts, hitting kicks of 39, 50, 33, 39, and 44. His miss from 51 yards out just hit the upright (it had plenty of distance).
Feely’s kickoffs were fielded at the 6, 7, touchback, 13, 24 (squib), -2, 0, touchback, and touchback. Returns went for 27 (Jamaar Taylor and Shaun Williams on the tackle), 23 (Chase Blackburn), 9 (James Butler and Alonzo Jackson), 0 (Blackburn – on the squib), 25 (Reggie Torbor), and 21 (Blackburn) yards. Torbor forced a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half that was recovered by Willie Ponder. Torbor was also flagged for a ticky-tack personal foul penalty when the Redskins’ returner made a late decision to down the ball in the end zone. Blackburn was very active.
Feagles punted four times for a 43 yards per punt average. Redskin returns went for 5 yards (James Butler on the tackle), fair catch, punt out of bounds, and 8 yards (Torbor).
Willie Ponder only had one chance to return a kickoff since the Redskins never scored. That return went for 24 yards. Chad Morton returned six punts for 42 yards (a 7-yard average). He did have a good return of 19 yards, but he misplayed the football early on this return. He was also extremely fortunate that the ball bounced right back to him on another return where he fumbled. Gibril Wilson was flagged with a holding penalty on one return and Sean Berton was flagged with an illegal block on another.