Dec 272005
 
 December 27, 2005  Posted by on December 27, 2005 Game Previews and Reviews
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Washington Redskins 35 – New York Giants 20

Game Overview: I am not going to spend a lot of time on the specifics this week like I usually do. The reason the Giants lost this game is that the Giants were out-played on offense, defense, and special teams. Period.

Offense: The problem in a nutshell was the offense did not score enough points. There was one field goal and one offensive touchdown in the first half (and the latter came on a fluke play) and one field goal in the second half. Even if you count the touchdown that the refs took off the board late in the game, that’s too few points and that’s not going to get it done in the NFL. Lack of execution (missed blocks, dropped passes, errant throws) were a problem but so was some odd game-planning (too much Jim Finn, not enough Tiki Barber).

Quarterback: While he did not play a “good game,” I thought Eli Manning played decently against a quality defensive opponent. And I think the coaching staff put too much of the game’s onus on his shoulders, particularly early. For example, two-of-three plays on the first drive were passing plays, four-of-six on the second drive were passing plays, all three plays on the third drive were passing plays, and three-of-five plays on the fourth drive were passing plays. With Tiki Barber having an MVP season, that strategy did not make much sense.

Eli’s stats (23-of-41 for 244 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception) also would have looked much better had Burress held onto the 50-yard touchdown bomb on the game’s first offensive play and the refs not jobbed the Giants of the 36-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. Eli’s inconsistent accuracy remains his major problem. There are times when he delivers a very accurate throw, sometimes in tough situations, but too often the poor quality of his throw causes the incompletion. He was better against the Redskins, but the inaccuracy remains a cause for concern – including his long-term development. There were two back-to-back passes in the second quarter that irked me. On the first, his throw was nowhere near Burress and on the second, his sideline pass to Toomer was almost picked off. On the next possession, his pass to Shockey was behind the tight end and picked off (though the contact on Shockey might have affected the route). This was a bad turnover for the Giants as they had regained the game’s momentum at this point and the turnover handed it right back to Washington.

Manning did well on the last drive of the first half, completing five passes and leading the team to an important touchdown. The Giants also moved the ball well on their first drive of the second half with Manning passing and running for key first downs on third down. However, that drive ended with a questionable waggle play and a blocked field goal. On the second drive of the half, the Giants did get into field goal range as Manning threw a nice deep pass to Toomer that resulted in a 41-yard pass interference penalty. He made a real nice 11-yard throw on 3rd-and-8 to Shockey. But two plays later, Manning took an 11-yard coverage sack on 2nd-and-3 when he should have thrown the ball away.

When the Giants got the ball back in the fourth quarter, the Skins were up 35-20. Manning hit Burress for a 27-yard gain, but the drive stalled when Barber never turned around for one pass and Manning’s 4th-and-6 pass to Burress along the sideline was thrown far too high (I didn’t care for the high-risk play call). The Giants got the ball one more time and scored a touchdown with over six minutes left in the game, but the officials called a bogus holding penalty to erase Manning’s touchdown pass to Toomer.

Manning played OK, but the Redskins’ quarterbacks outplayed him.

Wide Receivers: Plaxico’s drop of the 50-yard bomb on the game’s first play was a killer and changed the entire tone of the game. He’s got to make that play. Besides that, he was amazingly unproductive with just three catches for 40 yards. On the touchdown pass to Toomer late in the first half, the ball actually bounced off of Burress’ hands and should have been caught by him. The only quality play he made was his 27-yard reception in the fourth quarter where he used his size to out-muscle the defensive back for the ball despite heavy contact.

It’s odd that for much of the season, Eli Manning rarely looked in the direction of Amani Toomer, but in recent weeks he has become his favorite target. Toomer caught six passes for 85 yards and a touchdown and had a 36-yard touchdown reception erased due to a phantom holding penalty. Not only did he come up with the deflection off of Burress for a 25-yard touchdown reception late in the half, but he also had two other key catches on this drive. In the second half, he was the victim of a 41-yard pass interference penalty that helped to set up a field goal.

Tim Carter could not come down with what would have been a tough sideline catch.

Santana Moss out-played the entire Giants’ receiving corps.

Tight Ends: Not a good game for Jeremy Shockey. He hurt his ankle in the first half and spent much of the rest of the game in and out of the lineup. He had two catches for 18 yards. Worse, Shockey was so negatively affected by strong jam by the Redskins’ linebacker late in the second quarter that he did not run a good route, did not fight for the football, and then let the defender run free with the interception. Terrible all-around play by Shockey that cost the Giants dearly – regardless if it was a penalty or not (and I am not sure it was a penalty – it was within five yards of the line of scrimmage). On the next drive, Shockey was flagged with offensive pass interference. Truth of the matter is that Shockey was out-played by TE Chris Cooley.

Visanthe Shiancoe (3 catches for 40 yards) may have played his finest all-around game as a Giant. He was a factor as both a receiver and run blocker. Shiancoe was flagged with a false start however.

Running Backs: Sixteen running plays for Tiki Barber is not enough! Poor game-planning by Coughlin and Hufnagel. While Barber didn’t break a big run until late in the game, he wasn’t being completely shutdown. For example, while Clinton Portis averaged 2.8 yards per rush in the first half, Barber averaged 3.1 yards per rush. And after the intermission, there were only SEVEN more running plays called for Barber.

Barber also caught six passes for 49 yards and Manning finally continues to look more in his direction. My chief complaint was that Tiki never turned around to look for a key 3rd-and-6 pass early in the fourth quarter. On the very next play, the Giants turned the ball over on downs.

Because the Redskins’ coaching staff gave the ball more to Portis and thereby allowed him more opportunities to do more damage, Portis out-played Tiki Barber.

Jim Finn (3 catches for 12 yards; 2 more thrown in his direction) was too much of the focus of the game plan in my opinion. He had problems on a few plays handling Lavar Arrington’s hard charges on running plays.

Offensive Line: Except for Chris Snee’s play in the first half, I thought the offensive line played fairly well. Snee was terrible early as former Giant DT Cornelius Griffen gave him problems. Tiki lost two yards on his first carry as Griffen penetrated into the backfield. On the very next play, Snee allowed a pass pressure that forced Manning to dump the ball off short on 3rd-and-12, thereby forcing a punt. Later in the quarter, Griffen got to Manning again forcing another incompletion. Two plays after that, he was flagged with a false start.

Still the offensive line did a reasonable job. The only sack given up was a coverage sack and while the running game was not overly-productive, Barber got his yardage when called upon.

Defense: What pisses me off to no end is that the Giants let the two guys beat them in the passing game who are the only threats the Redskins have. And everyone knows who these two guys are – WR Santana Moss and TE Chris Cooley. No Redskins’ wide receiver caught a pass in this game except for Moss, but Moss caught five passes for 160 yards and THREE touchdowns! Cooley had five receptions for 41 yards and a touchdown. Not covering these two effectively is what cost the Giants the game. Inexcusable! I pray to God that the reason that Moss was not double-covered on his two long touchdown receptions was that someone blew the coverage. If not, then Tim Lewis deserves much of the responsibility for this loss.

The momentum shifts caused by Moss’ 59-yard touchdown right after the Giants scored on defense and his 72-yard touchdown right after the blocked field goal were astronomically important in this football game. And after the Giants cut the lead to 28-20 late in the third quarter, the Giants’ defense really let the team down by allowing a 10-play, 79-yard drive that gave the Redskins a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter. It was at this point when the Giants got soft against the run. And it was not all due to the injury situation at linebacker, although that certainly was a big contributor. The Giants did not play like a playoff team on defense.

The Redskins’ defense vastly out-played the Giants’ defense.

Defensive Line: The Giants allowed 156 yards rushing and no defensive lineman had a sack.

DE Osi Umenyioira (1 assist) signed his huge $41 million, 6-year extension and forgot to show up for the most important game of the season for the Giants. He ought to be ashamed of himself. He was LT Chris Samuels’ bitch. No pass rush and he got pushed around all day on the run, such as on Portis’ 19-yard touchdown run. He was unblocked and had a free shot on QB Mark Brunell on the Redskins’ first touchdown drive but missed the tackle and a first down resulted.

DE Michael Strahan (8 tackles) was very good against the run in the first half of the game, both on plays at and away from him. However, the Redskins were able to run at him, particularly in the fourth quarter. And he was not much of a factor on the pass rush.

DT Kendrick Clancy (2 tackles) flashed on a couple of plays, but did not stand out like he should have against a 43-year old backup. DT Kenderick Allen (3 tackles) and DT Fred Robbins (3 tackles) did not stand out.

Justin Tuck had one good pass rush that caused an incompletion. I also liked the formation where Strahan rushed from right defensive tackle and Umenyiora from right defensive end. That led to one good pass rush.

Linebackers: The injury situation has reach nightmare proportions. It is unbelievable that for the third year in a row, the Giants are getting hit incredibly hard at one or two positions by injury to the point that the starters and their back-up depth are being erased from the equation.

The linebackers played well against the run in the first half. Nick Greisen (9 tackles, 1 sack) rebounded this week with a strong effort. MLB Chase Blackburn (6 tackles, 1 interception for a touchdown) was better until he was forced to leave the game with a season-ending neck injury. SLB Reggie Torbor (5 tackles) was limited with a hamstring injury that forced him to leave the game (though he had to come back in once Blackburn was carted off the field). Blackburn missed an open-field tackle on TE Robert Royal on a 3rd-and-4 play that picked up 14 yards on the Skins’ first touchdown drive, but his interception and touchdown return gave the Giants back the momentum. Greisen’s problems were in coverage. He did not recognize the wide receiver screen to Moss that resulted in a touchdown and he gave up a 10-yard completion to Portis on 3rd-and-9 right before the 59-yard touchdown throw. Greisen also did not make the play on a 13-yard tight end screen late in the third quarter on the last touchdown drive.

Torbor lost contain on a 13-yard pick-up by Portis in the second quarter. Alonzo Jackson (4 tackles) was forced to play a lot in the second half and was not good. He got wired to too many blocks, especially at the point-of-attack or on cutback runs in his area. He was effectively blocked, for example, on the 19-yard touchdown run by Portis. The roughing the passer penalty called on him was bullcrap.

Defensive Backs: Will Allen (6 tackles) had a nightmare game. He was blocked on the wide-receiver screen to Moss that resulted in a touchdown (along with Brent Alexander); he was beat by Moss on a 59-yard touchdown throw where he never looked back to make a play on the football; he got beat by Moss again for a 72-yard score where not only did he allowed the completion, but he did not make the tackle; and then he lost his contain responsibilities on Portis’ 19-yard touchdown run. It doesn’t get much worse than that. Now to be fair to Allen, one of the safeties (probably Gibril Wilson) probably screwed up by not helping out on the two long touchdown throws. But still, Allen was in position to make plays on both and did not. Until the touchdown run, Allen had been fairly aggressive in run support although he had problems playing off blocks on those screens.

Curtis Deloatch (0 tackles) was flagged with a pass interference penalty on 3rd-and-4 early on the Redskins’ first drive. He would have been OK on this play had he not wrapped his free arm around the defender’s waist. He didn’t need to do that. Later in this scoring drive, he gave up a 9-yard completion to Moss on 3rd-and-8. I didn’t see him make any more mistakes in coverage, but he was replaced in the lineup in the game by Corey Webster. I can only assume that the coaches were unhappy with his run defense.

Webster (3 tackles) did well, but I would like to see him be more aggressive in run defense.

I don’t think Wilson (8 tackles) played well. I have a sneaky suspicion that he should have been in the picture on the long TD throws to Moss. He also continues to miss important tackles such as when he could not bring Betts down short of the first down on 3rd-and-8 in the third quarter. On the very next play, the Redskins scored from 72 yards out. Wilson did cause one 2-yard loss and looked good on one blitz.

FS Brent Alexander (4 tackles) was too quiet against both the run and the pass.

Somebody screwed up badly (Deloatch?) on the halfback option pass from Portis to Cooley that resulted in a 17-yard touchdown.

Special Teams: PK Jay Feely’s 29-yard blocked field goal was his fault. The kick was far too low and this was a big turning point in the game. A successful kick would have made it a one-point contest.

While Chad Morton could not generate anything on punt returns, he had two very good kickoff returns (one 41-yarder and one 38-yarder).

Punt and kickoff coverage was solid.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Washington Redskins, December 24, 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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