Approach to the Game – Kansas City Chiefs at New York Giants, December 17, 2005: This is going to be a tough game for the Giants to win. The Giants are facing one of the most dangerous offense’s in the league without their on-field defensive orchestrator and best linebacker – Antonio Pierce. He will not only be missed in run defense against HB Larry Johnson, but also in pass coverage against TE Tony Gonzalez. The Giants’ own ability to run and pass will be hampered by the injury situation at both tackle spots. Even if they play, LT Luke Petitgout and RT Kareem McKenzie will be nowhere near 100 percent.
This is a “must” game for the Chiefs. If they lose, they won’t make the playoffs. But it is a critically important game for the Giants as well. It’s the last regular season home game. In order to win the division – and possibly even make the playoffs – the Giants will probably have to win two of the next three games. The “must” win for the Giants is the game against the Redskins in Washington. Personally, I would hate to see the Giants put in a position where they will have to beat the Raiders on New Year’s Eve and give Kerry Collins a chance at sweet revenge.
Giants on Offense: The Chiefs are going to score on offense and quite possibly score a lot so the Giants need to get their offense turned around and start putting up some serious points again. The problem is that not only are both tackles gimpy and questionable, but Eli Manning hasn’t been real sharp as of late. Look, it’s really quite simple. If the Giants are going to win the division and make some noise in the playoffs, Manning has to step it up. If he doesn’t, then the Giants and their fans will have to focus on next season. The team has to stop worrying about making mistakes and just go out there and play. If things don’t go well right way, Shockey and Burress have to stop sulking and make a play. Because, ultimately, it’s going to come down to the playmakers on the team – Manning, Barber, Shockey, and Burress.
It will be interesting to see how the Giants start off this game offensively. If we see a lot of Tiki Barber early, it might point to a strategy of trying to win the time of possession battle and keeping the Chiefs’ offense off the field. However, a heavy run-centric strategy is not usually conducive to scoring a lot of points. And Coughlin has been reluctant to reign in Manning despite his inexperience.
This is a game where the Giants need another 10-catch, 100+ yard effort from Shockey. And Burress has been far too quiet in recent weeks. The safeties of the Chiefs are ordinary at best in pass coverage and while the linebacking corps has some talent, it also has had some issues in coverage. Right corner Eric Warfield is an average player who Burress should be able to make some plays on. Left corner Patrick Surtain is a quality player. If the Chiefs leave him on Toomer, he may shut Toomer down, allowing the Chiefs to provide help for Warfield on Burress. If that happens, Manning must go to Shockey (which he did a lot last week) or Barber (which he does not do enough). As we have seen, Barber can take a short dump off and break a big gain – Manning needs to recognize that fact.
The primary concern up front is right defensive end Jared Allen, who has 10 sacks. He’s either going to be facing a gimpy Petitgout or an over-the-hill Bob Whitfield, who struggles at times in pass protection. The Giants may need to keep a tight end or back in to help out here. The problem is that the defensive coordinator for the Chiefs loves to blitz so the bigger question is where to plan to plug the dyke. Opposing teams have been blitzing Eli more up the middle in order to keep him out-of-rhythm and force him to throw off his back foot.
My strategy for this game would be to keep it simple for Eli and his receivers. Get the ball to Shockey, Burress, and Barber and let them make plays. When the team gets into the red zone, they must finish drives with touchdowns.
Giants on Defense: The Chiefs are a lot like the Giants in they are a well-balanced offensive football team that can run or throw the football. They have one of the best running backs and tight ends in the league. While the Chiefs’ receiving corps may not be as strong, they have more experience and mobility at the quarterback position. Even with Pierce, this would be a tough game. Without him, the Giants’ defense may find itself back on its heels.
As always, the primary key will be to limit the amount of damage the opposition does with its running game. Larry Johnson is a tough, durable interior runner. Where he sometimes gets in trouble is if you make him hesitate. The players on the spot really are going to be the defensive tackles (Kendrick Clancy, Fred Robbins, and Kenderick Allen) and the linebackers (minus Pierce). These two groups did not play very well last week. This week’s challenge will be different. While the Eagles attacked the perimeter of the Giants’ defense, the Chiefs will probably go at the middle far more. And to be honest, the history of Clancy, Robbins, and Allen playing the power running game has been spotty. At times they have done well; other times not. And with Greisen being in there and not being as instinctive or smart as Pierce, the Chiefs have to think they can pound the ball up inside. At the same time, Kansas City also probably noticed that the Eagles were able to get to the edge against Osi Umenyiora, Carlos Emmons, and the defensive backs on the weakside. Umenyiora will face LT Willie Roaf. Roaf is 35 years old but still a quality player. However, he has had some issues with speed rushers in the past. The key for Umenyiora, though, is to also play stout run defense against the big veteran.
The Giants also need a big game from DE Michael Strahan against RT John Welbourn. Inside, Clancy has the toughest assignment against future Hall of Famer RG Will Shields. Shields is not the player he used to be, but he is still very good. LG Brian Waters made the Pro Bowl in 2004 and he will face both Robbins and Allen. Casey Wiegmann is one of the better centers in the league.
Not having Pierce will make it much harder to cover All-Pro TE Tony Gonzalez (64 catches, 737 yards, 2 touchdowns). Where the Giants would have been comfortable leaving Pierce on him, you have to believe that leaving Greisen on him makes them nervous. So look for Gibril Wilson to be used much more in coverage on the tight end, as well as both outside linebackers. Reggie Torbor will be on the spot – let’s hope the practice reps against Shockey have done him good. Gonzalez is not only the security blanket for QB Trent Green, but like Shockey, one of the Chiefs’ primary game-breakers. Covering him is the key to the pass defense (along with the pass rush of course).
The primary wide receiver is Eddie Kennison (56 catches, 911 yards, 5 touchdowns), who will Allen will likely cover most of the time. Kennison is a fast, deep threat who doesn’t tend to work the middle of the field real well. Curtis Deloatch will likely see more of Sammie Parker (25 catches). Small but nifty and quick Dante Hall (28 catches) is the third receiver.
Trent Green is more of an intermediate passer than a downfield thrower. He has decent, but not great arm strength. What makes him dangerous is his accuracy and he has some mobility to his game and will pick up some key first downs with his feet. But Green will hold onto the football and the Giants need to take advantage of this in the pass rush department. Get after his ass.
Quite simple. Stop the run, cover Gonzalez, get after Green. But it is easier said than done.
Giants on Special Teams: The Giants’ special teams has not been playing very well as a complete unit in since the first half of the season. The Giants need to get their own punt and kickoff return game going again. Period. It’s time to break one.
The big concern on special teams this week is obvious – kick and punt returner Dante Hall who is one of the most explosive returners in the history of the league. He is a threat to go the distance every time he touches the football. Jay Feely and Jeff Feagles need to kick the ball high and deep, and the coverage units need to stay in their lanes and make sure tackles.