Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks, November 27, 2005: This is a game that most folks won’t give the Giants much of a chance to win. Until this season, Seattle has been one of those up-and-down teams that frustrate the heck out of their fan base. But they seem to have put it all together this year with solid quarterback play, an excellent running game, and a tough defense.
This is a statement game for the Giants. If they go into Seattle and knock of the Seahawks, they will really start receiving some serious respect. Of course, if they lose, the opposite will happen.
Giants on Offense: A big issue here of course is the health of LT Luke Petitgout (knee) and OC Shaun O’Hara (ankle). Petitgout is expected to play, but the concern is over how effective he will be and how long he will be able to hold up. He draws a very tough assignment this week in DE Grant Wistrom, a good two-way player. O’Hara is an even bigger question mark and there is a chance that Jason Whittle may have to start in his place. The rising star on the defensive line for the Seahawks is RDT Rocky Bernard, who moved into the starting lineup recently. He has 7.5 sacks – a very high number for an interior lineman. LG David Diehl needs to elevate his game against him. The left side of the defensive line is not as strong and I would think the Giants would want to pound the ball in this direction. RG Chris Snee and RT Kareem McKenzie should be able to maul LDT Chuck Darby and LDE Bryce Fisher. Fisher (7.5 sacks) could give McKenzie some problems in pass protection.
The Giants need to get their ground game going in a more consistent fashion. They need to be more physical up front and start generating larger chunks of yardage. I’d like to see Tiki Barber have another impact day like he did against the Redskins.
The linebackers of the Seahawks are very inexperienced with two rookies starting. Cutback runs, screens, and reverses could fool them. In addition, the Giants should really test this group’s coverage ability with passes to TE Jeremy Shockey and Barber.
The Seahawks could also be vulnerable in the secondary as the Giants have a favorable match-ups with Plaxico Burress against CB Marcus Trufant and Amani Toomer against CB Kelly Herndon. Trufant has had problems with bigger wideouts and Herndon likes to play off the line and this style of play suites Toomer well.
Of course, ultimately, the Giants’ performance in this game will depend on how well Eli Manning plays. Like earlier in the season, Manning needs to get his offense to generate drives and points early in the game – and not wait for 4th quarter heroics. Much will depend on the pass protection. Seattle can and will get after the quarterback. They have defensive linemen who can cause problems and they like to blitz on top of that. If the line and backs can give Manning time, he can do some serious damage against this secondary.
Giants on Defense: The game plan is obvious, but it will be difficult to execute – stop HB Shaun Alexander and the running game. The Giants have not done well against the top rushing teams this year (Chargers, Broncos) and this is another top rushing team. Worse, the Giants will be missing DT William Joseph and both strongside linebackers, Carlos Emmons (chest) and Reggie Torbor (hernia), are still nowhere near 100 percent. MLB Antonio Pierce has been a great addition for the Giants, but he is not a big, fill-the-hole kind of guy and will likely have trouble against this power scheme at the point-of-attack. How good is Alexander? He has over 1,200 yards and 19 touchdowns already! Yikes!
The strength of the Seattle line is LT Walter Jones and LG Steve Hutchinson. DE Osi Umenyiora and DT Fred Robbins (as well as Kenderick Allen) will be facing two of the game’s best. The Seahawks will likely try running to their left much of the day. This is where the game may be decided – the ability or inability of the Giants’ weakside run defense to defend the run. Making matters worse for New York is that FB Matt Strong is a very good lead blocker. The linebackers will have to do a good job of avoiding or playing off his lead blocks. The right side of the Seattle offensive line is not as strong, but the Giants really need DE Michael Strahan and DT Kendrick Clancy to play at a high level so the Giants can focus their defensive attention in other areas.
Everyone needs to flow to the football aggressively and make sure, solid tackles. Wrap up and bring some wood with you because Alexander can make you look bad by bouncing off attempted tackles and breaking big runs.
The Seattle receivers are an ordinary group with Bobby Engram and Joe Jurevicius the current starters. Jurevicius creates problems with his height and the Giants may want to move Curtis Deloatch (if he plays) over to cover him. Bobby Engram is a shifty receiver who runs good routes – I like Will Allen on him better than Deloatch too. The guy the Giants have to keep an eye on is TE Jerramy Stevens. He’s a go-to guy in key situations.
Stop the run and the Giants will likely win the game. But that’s a very, very tough thing to do against the Seahawks.
Giants on Special Teams: PK Jay Feely’s kickoffs were dreadful last week and the Giants need him to get back to form. P Jeff Feagles has had two sub-par games in row. Will Willie Ponder return kickoffs this weekend? That remains to be seen. The Giants need a big game out of their special teams if they are going to win.