New York Giants 27 – Kansas City Chiefs 17
Game Overview: Needless to say this was a huge win for the Giants. Most pundits predicted the Chiefs to win this game and the G-Men went out and once again proved the doubters wrong. The victory, combined with Dallas’ defeat, gives the Giants’ a two-game lead in the NFC East with two games to play. It also helped the Giants to reassert their primacy in home games, finishing the regular season 8-1 at the Meadowlands. As we all know, the Giants had been dreadful in recent years in home games.
But there is much work to be done. A very dangerous and now-confident Washington Redskins team awaits. If the Giants don’t take care of business in Maryland on Saturday, their best laid plans could be all for naught.
Running Backs: There can be no doubt now that Tiki Barber is the finest running back in the history of the New York Giants. Barber holds just about every meaningful running back record in the Giants’ history books. For example, on Saturday, not only did he tie Rodney Hampton for the Giants’ career rushing touchdowns record with 49, but he broke the Giants’ single-season rushing record for the second year in a row (being the first Giant to surpass 1,500 yards for two years in a row), and now owns the single-game rushing record (220 yards).
Barber was magnificent on Saturday. What is most astonishing about his 29-carry, 220-yard effort was that he was held to 13 yards on his first 10 carries of the game. In other words, his final 19 carries picked up 207 yards. If you subtract the three carries for nine yards when the Giants were merely trying to run out the clock and get him the record (somewhat of a foolish injury risk if you ask me), then the bulk of his productivity was when he rushed 16 times for 198 yards (12.4 yards per carry).
Barber ran with vision. Barber ran will elusiveness. Barber ran with power. In a game with Barber highlight runs, the finest was his 41-yard scamper for a touchdown in the second quarter. On this play, Barber cut back and shifted through traffic near the line of scrimmage. He broke one tackle just past the line, then weaved and ran through four more attempted tacklers en route to his finest touchdown run as a pro. Much of Tiki’s damage on Saturday came on cutback runs designed to take advantage of an overaggressive Chiefs’ defense that had not allowed an opposing running back to top 100 yards rushing in 20 games. But Tiki was not just impressive in the open field, he picked up some very tough yardage in short-yardage situations with power and second effort. In the third quarter, he dramatically changed the momentum of the game back in favor of the Giants’ with his 55-yard sprint down the right sideline that set up the Giants for a go-ahead field goal. The final highlight was his 20-yard touchdown run to seal the game when he carried a Kansas City defensive back five yards into the end zone for the score.
In a sport filled with prima donnas, Tiki carries himself as an All-Pro both on and off the field. He’s a class act and one of the greatest players in franchise history.
FB Jim Finn blocked very well once again. He’s an underrated player by most Giants’ fans.
Offensive Line: You could not have hoped for a better performance from a makeshift group that started Bob Whitfield at left tackle, Rich Seubert at left guard, Shaun O’Hara at center, Chris Snee at right guard, and David Diehl at right tackle. There were only two penalties (one false start on Diehl and an unnecessary roughness penalty on O’Hara). Pass protection was mostly solid as the Giants only gave up one sack (allowed by Diehl) and a few pass pressures (one contributing to the lone interception). The Chiefs blitzed quite a bit and the line picked it up. The run blocking was outstanding, as evidenced by the 228 yards of rushing by the halfbacks. And the run blocking was strong across the board. The Giants cutback to the left with great success and they ran straight ahead to their right with great success. Snee and O’Hara looked sharp when pulling. My chief complaint is the line needs to do a better job of hitting moving targets on screen plays. Too many times, opposing tacklers are running by the blockers to get to Tiki.
I also want to make special mention of Rich Seubert. Seubert did not play a perfect game but what stood out to me, as it did before Seubert was tragically injured two years ago, is his hustle. On Barber’s 41-yard touchdown run, Seubert was as far down field blocking for Barber as were the wide receivers. Seubert never assumed, like the Chiefs did, that Barber’s run was over. He hustled and while the block he made did not impact the play, it was a testament to the man’s resiliency. It reminded me of the play in 2002 when Seubert was far down field blocking on Barber’s 44-yard touchdown run against Tom Coughlin’s Jacksonville Jaguars.
Tight Ends: Jeremy Shockey’s major contribution this week was his run blocking. He was excellent in the run-blocking department. He only had three receptions in the game, but the first one was a key 7-yard catch on 3rd-and-7 that kept alive the initial Giants’ scoring drive. He also had a 17-yard reception that enabled the Giants to get into field goal range right before halftime. Shockey did drop one ball early in the game. He also could not reel in what would have been a tough catch in traffic on a perfect throw from Manning deep down the middle of the field. Shockey gave up one pass pressure.
Wide Receivers: I again want to highlight the blocking. The downfield blocking supplied by Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer was outstanding and critical in enabling some of Barber’s longer runs to occur. For example, on Tiki’s 41-yard touchdown, Plaxico actually got a piece of three potential tacklers and Amani another. Toomer got a downfield block on Barber’s 55-yard run as did Burress on Barber’s 20-yard touchdown run. Fine work!
In the pass receiving department, it is interesting to note that the ball is starting to go more and more in Amani Toomer’s direction. Toomer (5 catches for 69 yards and one touchdown) made a huge play when he caught an intermediate pass over the middle from Manning early in the fourth quarter, fought through two tacklers while appearing to keep to his feet, and then broke into the open for a 31-yard score that gave the Giants a 10-point lead. Toomer looked sharp over the middle early in the game such as his 15-yard reception on 3rd-and-12.
Plaxico Burress (2 catches for 34 yards) is getting open, but Manning is missing him and Burress’ frustration is starting to build. Burress’ biggest catch was his 15-yard reception on 3rd-and-4 on the Giants’ last touchdown drive. However, in fighting for extra yardage, Burress was waving the football around like a pennant; he’s got to protect the football better.
Tim Carter had a couple of passes thrown in his direction, making a nice reception on a high throw by Manning, helping the Giants to set up a field goal right before halftime. However, he could not come down with what would have been a difficult catch on 3rd-and-4.
Quarterback: I’ve explained in previous game reviews why I think fans need to temper expectations with Manning. But from here on out, I will merely report on what occurs on the field. Manning did not play well again. While not hurting his team, he certainly was not a chief contributor to the win. The problems remain the same: he is not seeing the field, not seeing open receivers while throwing at covered receivers. Or he is making the correct read, but making an inaccurate throw. Sometimes this is not his fault. For example, on the interception, O’Hara did not pick up the stunting defender and Manning could not step into his throw and the ball was underthrown. This should have been a touchdown pass to Burress had the protection held up and Manning was accurate.
And there are some bright spots. Manning is starting to check down to Barber more often and it is having positive results, especially in some crucial third down situations against the Chiefs. He did a good job of avoiding pressure and sacks in the pocket, while at the same time sometimes delivering the ball very accurately under duress. But he did miss Burress a number of times on occasions where big plays should have resulted. He missed Shockey and Toomer badly right before halftime. The angriest I was with Manning was his almost-pick on 2nd-and-3 from the Giants 41-yard line with seven and a half minutes in the game. Shockey was well-covered on a short route and Manning took the chance that Shockey would peel back to the inside. He didn’t and the Giants are fortunate that the linebacker dropped the football. If he hadn’t the Chiefs would have had the football in Giants’ territory, only trailing by three points.
Defensive Line/Linebackers: I am at somewhat of a loss to explain how the Giants held the Chiefs to 17 points. The Chiefs’ offensive line and tight ends controlled the line of scrimmage. There was very little pass pressure and the Chiefs rushed for 188 yards on the ground. The Chiefs had four legitimate drives in the first half. One was halted with the assist of two back-to-back false start penalties; the second was halted via good defense; the third was a 14-play, 81-yard drive where a quality goal line stand forced a field goal; and the fourth ended with a turnover. Before the Giants pulled away late in the fourth quarter, the Chiefs had four more possessions in the second half. The first was a 5-play touchdown drive; on the second, the Chiefs moved from the 2-yard line to the Giants’ 40-yard line before the drive stalled; the third ended with a three-and-out; and the fourth with an 8-play touchdown drive.
The optimists will tell me that I’m being too harsh, especially considering the quality of the Chiefs’ offense and the fact that the team only surrendered 17 points. But the Giants’ front seven played miserably if you ask me. On the defensive line, Michael Strahan (3 tackles) and Osi Umenyiora (4 tackles) were practically invisible on the pass rush. Worse, Umenyiora was dreadful against the run. Strahan gave up two big runs to his side, although he was held on one of these. I saw occasional flashes from DT Fred Robbins (3 tackles). Kendrick Clancy (2 tackles) made a couple of plays against the run, did not make a consistent impact. Kenderick Allen (2 tackles) did pick up a sack.
The linebackers may have been worse. I thought the starting trio of Nick Greisen, Chase Blackburn, and Reggie Torbor looked sluggish. And they certainly had problems disengaging from blocks, especially Greisen and Blackburn. In my opinion, Greisen (7 tackles, 1 fumble recovery) played a terrible game. There were times that he so badly misread the play that he was still running away from the football while everyone on defense was chasing it. And too many times, especially on runs at the perimeter, he got wired to blocks. To his credit, he made a nice play on the goal line in run defense to save a touchdown. Blackburn (9 tackles) has more of a built-in excuse as this really was his first NFL action at linebacker. And he improved slightly as the game wore on. However, he too got wired to quite a few blocks and did not look like the most athletic guy in the world out there on the field. Torbor (3 tackles) did not see as much time as he was pulled from the field when the Chiefs went with three wide receivers. He did make one play for negative yardage against HB Larry Johnson – a rarity on Saturday.
The Redskins have got to be licking their chops to get at this group. The biggest insult you can give a defense is calling it soft. The Giants have been soft for two weeks in a row on defense.
Defensive Backs: One of the big reasons the Chiefs may not have scored more is that the secondary played pretty well again. QB Trent Green only completed nine passes for 108 yards to Chiefs’ wide receivers. And TE Tony Gonzalez was held to 51 yards on four catches. My biggest complaint is that run support from the secondary was lacking for the second week in a row. Too many players were not reading the running play, getting wired to blocks, or missing tackles.
SS Gibril Wilson (12 tackles) gave up a couple of important plays to Gonzalez, but he did a good job on him. Wilson did get beat for 12 yards on 3rd-and-3 on the first Chiefs’ scoring drive. He also got beat, despite tight coverage, for 25 yards on 3rd-and-6 on the last Chiefs’ touchdown drive. And despite his high tackle total, he badly missed some open-field tackles. Still, given the quality of his opponent, he did a good job.
CB Will Allen (3 tackles) continues to play very good football. CB Corey Webster (2 tackles, 1 pass defense, 1 forced fumble) may have played his best game as a pro. He defended one early sideline pass perfectly, had a late interception erased due to a penalty, and forced another late fumble.
CB Curtis Deloatch (6 tackles, 1 pass defense, 1 forced fumble) made a number of mistakes. He got beat for a 24-yard reception over the middle, but redeemed himself by forcing a fumble on the play. He gave up a 20-yarder early in the third quarter despite tight coverage. He also gave up a 6-yard completion on 3rd-and-4 and a 13-yard reception on 3rd-and-5. In the fourth quarter, his 20-yard pass interference penalty put the ball on the Giants’ 1-yard line. On the positive side, he made a nice play by knocking away a pass to WR Eddie Kennison. For a big corner, Deloatch is not much of a run defender.
FS Brent Alexander (8 tackles, 1 pass defense, 1 fumble recovery) was active, but he too needs to be more forceful against the run. He missed a couple of tackles. But he also made a big statement hit in the game and recovered a fumble.
Safety James Butler (2 tackles, 1 interception) continues to see quality playing time. He picked off a pass late. He also got some heat on one blitz.
Special Teams: The Giants coverage units did a great job of defending explosive kick/punt returner Dante Hall, who only returned two punts for seven yards and was held under 22 yards per kickoff return.
Jeff Feagles deserves credit for helping to keep Hall in check on punt returns. His three punts only averaged 39 yards, but two were downed inside the 20 and they had good height and direction.
Jay Feely hit both his 41- and 35-yard field goals, but the former was very close. His kickoffs in the cold were not great.
I thought Chad Morton showed more life as a kickoff returner this week, although he could only manage 23.5 yards per kickoff return. He only fielded one punt for -4 yards.
David Tyree came close to blocking a punt.