New York Giants 31 – New England Patriots 23
Game Overview: For a final preseason game, which are normally quite boring, this was really fun to watch. There was a lot of pushing and shoving, personal fouls, and plays and players to talk about. Of course, the star of the show was HB Brandon Jacobs. But there were other positives too. Most importantly, the Giants came out of the game healthy.
Quarterbacks: Eli Manning (4-of-5 for 35 yards) only played one series. He looked very sharp until his last throw – a sideline toss to a well-covered WR Tim Carter that was almost picked off. That was a bit disheartening. Earlier in this series, Manning did a nice job of coming off his primary and secondary reads to find Jacobs in the flat on a dump-off for positive yardage.
Jared Lorenzen (10-of-15 for 116 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 1 fumble) played the bulk of the game at quarterback. On his first series of the game, Lorezen found Carter for 14 yards and a first down – this was the drive that ended with Jacobs 57-yard touchdown run. On his next series, Lorenzen hit Jacobs for seven. After six straight runs put the ball at the New England 11-yard line, Lorenzen badly missed TE Visanthe Shiancoe in the end zone for what looked like should have been a touchdown. His 3rd-and-goal fade pass was a bit off the mark and well-covered. Lorenzen’s final two possessions of the first half were not good. His pass to Jacobs over the middle was off the mark and the ensuing 3rd-and-6 screen pass was poorly executed. On the next series, after a nice completion to Shiancoe, Lorenzen inexcusably fumbled away the shotgun snap with just over a minute before halftime. This turnover allowed the Patriots to kick a field goal to tie the game before intermission.
After his up-and-mostly down first half performance, Lorenzen played well in the second half. The first possession did result in a three-and-out as Lorenzen’s deep pass to Carter (after a very nice playaction fake) was overthrown (some say Carter slowed down on this play but in my opinion, he only did so once he saw that the ball was clearly overthrown and uncatchable). Lorenzen never had a chance on third down as he was sacked. The Giants launched a 6-play, 57-yard touchdown scoring drive on their next possession with Lorenzen completing passes of 14 yards to WR Michael Jennings and 13 yards to FB Tony Jackson. The next drive was even more impressive for Lorenzen as New York moved 74 yards in 12 plays to put another touchdown up on the board. On this drive, Lorenzen completed all five of his passes for 55 yards. It was also fun to watch Lorenzen lower his shoulder instead of run out of bounds and knock a back-up Patriots’ linebacker off his feet.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Tim Hasselbeck entered the game. He only threw two passes, but both were good ones – completions of 27 yards to WR Willie Ponder and a very well-thrown pass to TE Darcy Johnson near the left pylon for a 26-yard touchdown.
Running Backs: Tiki Barber only touched the ball once, though he did do a nice job on one blitz pick-up.
The story of the game was Jacobs (15 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns; 2 catches for 13 yards). Jacobs ran over people, he ran around people, and he ran away from people. Time and time again, he picked up sizable yardage after first contact, by breaking tackles, carrying and punishing opposing defenders. Just as importantly, Jacobs ran with much better vision this week. It was really fun to watch. Leading up to the draft, I kept telling people that the Giants did not need to draft another halfback because the team was so high on Jacobs and Derrick Ward. We got a taste of what Jacobs can do in this game (though we saw similar things from Jacobs last preseason as well). Jacobs also showed that he is developing into a well-rounded back in this game by doing a good job with his blitz pickups as well as catching the ball out of the backfield.
The other guy who stood out to me in the backfield was FB Tony Jackson. Not only did he catch two important passes for a total of 21 yards on two of the touchdown scoring drives, but I was extremely impressed with this lead blocking throughout the game. He was a big reason why the Giants accrued 207 yards of rushing in the game.
Wide Receivers: The starters – Amani Toomer (1 catch for 11 yard) and Plaxico Burress (zero catches) were pulled early. Tim Carter (1 catch for 14 yards), Michael Jennings (3 catches for 37 yards), and Willie Ponder (3 catches for 51 yards) all looked very good with the ball in their hands after the catch. All three were slippery and elusive, making Patriot defenders miss. Jennings also had an end around for 15 yards. Carter could have sustained his block better on Barber’s sole carry for three yards.
Tight Ends: TE Jeremy Shockey was active early on his only possession, catching two passes for 18 yards. More than that, Shockey was clearly very focused and fired up for this game – he has his regular-season game face on already. Shiancoe had one catch for 13 yards and looks like he will be a bigger factor in the passing game this year. Wade Fletcher did not help himself with a false start. Darcy Johnson did a nice job of maintaining his concentration on a well-thrown pass by Hasselbeck into double-coverage and coming up with a bobbling 26-yard touchdown reception. The fact that he was able to get down the field and make a play shows that Johnson has some athleticism.
Offensive Line: The starters – minus LT Luke Petitgout and OC Shaun O’Hara – only played one series. They looked pretty good though RG Chris Snee did allow one pressure. Snee, LG David Diehl, and RT Kareem McKenzie had very good blocks on one of Jacobs’ early carries.
One of the major storylines of the preseason for the Giants – if you ask me – is how well the second- and third-team offensive linemen played. After the starters left the game after the first series (remember the Giants’ “starters” in this game included back-ups Bob Whitfield and Grey Ruegmaer), the Giants’ offensive line for the bulk of the game was Guy Whimper at left tackle, Kevin McAlmont at left guard, Todd Londot at center, Matt Lentz at right guard, and Na’Shan Goddard at right tackle. This group played against the Patriots’ first-team unit (minus a few starters) for two possessions – two possessions that resulted in 10 points! And after the Patriots’ starters left the game, this unit continued to play extremely well for the most part. The guys who really stood out to me were Lentz and Londot, but all had their moments. There were a few breakdowns. For example, Lentz missed a block on Junior Seau on one running play. And Whimper and McAlmont got confused and beaten on a stunt, leading to the sole sack of the game. In fact, I would say Whimper was probably the weakest link in this game as he gave up a few pass pressures – he tends to get beat to the inside still. Whimper did a real nice job on some run blocks, but didn’t sustain on some others. He is still a work in progress. Goddard, who has also played guard in the preseason, demonstrated his flexibility by playing left tackle as well late in the game.
Defensive Line: The Giants received a scare early when Michael Strahan was spotted writhing in pain in the ground – we later learned he had been kicked in the nuts and was OK. Osi Umenyiora was mixed against the run. He got successfully blocked on the Patriots’ first offensive play of the game – a 9-yard pickup in his direction. But a couple of plays later, in textbook fashion, he stood up his blocker, played off the block, and made the tackle. Osi also combined with LB Chase Blackburn to stuff one goal line carry.
The starting tackles remained Barry Cofield (nose tackle) and Fred Robbins (3-technique). I continue to see Cofield getting mauled on running plays. He did not stick out to me at all. Robbins had problems at the point-of-attack on one inside run, but did clean up on an outside running play that lost two years by pursuing hard to the football. Later in the game, Robbins got one good inside pass rush when spelling William Joseph for a play.
Jonas Seawright (nose tackle) and William Joseph (3-technique) saw quite a bit of action. Seawright was OK, standing his ground one run in his direction and doing a really nice job of sniffing out a 3rd-down draw for a minimal gain. Joseph was up and down. I spotted him getting knocked to the ground far too easily on a few running plays, but he also flashed on the pass rush and with penetration on running plays. For example, on the play where Justin Tuck was credited with a sack, it was Joseph’s initial pressure that forced the quarterback into Tuck’s arms. Joseph also helped to break up two screen plays by correctly reading the play.
I know I keep repeating myself, but boy are the Giants loaded at defensive end! Justin Tuck played a lot at strongside end. While he had problems on a couple of running plays, for the most part he played the run well and continued to apply pressure on the pass rush. He combined with Blackburn to stuff another goal line carry and later blew into the backfield to cause a 1-yard loss on another rushing play. Mathias Kiwanuka had another big game, despite being double- and sometimes triple-teamed as well as being held (without it being called). He picked up a sack on an inside pass rush and applied a few more pass pressures. And Kiwanuka really demonstrated his superior athleticism on two plays – one where he tipped a pass up into the air and intercepted (reminiscent of Lawrence Taylor against the Cowboys in 1990) and made a very sure, hard tackle on the running back in the flat on a zone-blitz play.
Adrian Awasom continued to shine with another preseason sack and another pressure. Eric Moore got run at on a play where he also committed a stupid 15-yard facemask penalty.
Linebackers: Antonio Pierce appeared to be going through the motions, though he did combine with FS Will Demps and Blackburn to stuff one goal line run. Carlos Emmons returned to the field and looked a bit sluggish to me. He did recover a fumble. Reggie Torbor has not stood out at all this preseason and that continued against the Patriots. He started for LaVar Arrington but was successfully blocked on far too many running plays. He did disrupt one running play with penetration, but was unable to make the tackle. With Emmons and Torbor on the field, the Giants’ linebackers looked slow.
Chase Blackburn continues his fine preseason play. He was involved in three straight goal line stuffs in the first quarter. He also later forced a fumble. However, he was successfully blocked on a couple of later rushing plays and did not drop deep enough in his zone on one play that resulted in a 19-yard completion. Brandon Short played quite a bit but was quiet this week – he also missed a tackle on a play that should have resulted in a loss but ended up being an 8-yard gain. Gerris Wilkinson did a nice job of filling the hole on one run, but missed the tackle. He looked sharp on the blitz on the very next play.
Defensive Backs: No passes in were thrown in the direction of corners Sam Madison and Corey Webster. For the first time this preseason, I saw R.W. McQuarters get beat – for a 19-yard completion on 3rd-and-10 on the opening scoring drive. FS Will Demps was involved in a goal line tackle.
The Giants really have a nice back-up safety duo on James Butler (who I think would start on many teams) and Jason Bell (a special teams ace who has made more plays on defense than I would have expected). Bell likes to hit and he also made his second outstanding play in coverage this preseason when he knocked away a deep pass on a play where CB Frank Walker was beaten. Bell demonstrated nice range on this play. CB Kevin Dockery, who has looked both quick and fast playing with the second-team defense much of the preseason, did a nice job of closing on a receiver and almost coming up with an interception. He did get beat on a well-thrown out pass for 14 yards on 3rd-and-11. Dockery does need to work on his tackling however as a big back broke his attempted tackle and he got carried for extra yardage on another play. Walker made a real nice play in run defense for a 2-yard loss, but did get beat deep on the aforementioned deep pass that Bell broke up. He also gave up a 12-yard completion over the middle on 3rd-and-4.
CB Curtis Deloatch got beat on a perfect pass and nice catch for 42 yards late in the game despite good coverage. Later on this drive, he had good coverage on a 3rd-and-goal incomplete pass. CB Gerrick McPhearson jumped on one sideline pass and almost had six points. He later did pick off a pass in the end zone, but was called for pass interference on the play. The Patriots scored a touchdown on the ensuing snap. I couldn’t tell if the call was legit or not.
Special Teams: The special teams continue to be not so special for the Giants this preseason. PK Jay Feely had his low 51-yard field goal attempt blocked. He also kicked one kickoff out-of-bounds, putting the ball at the 40-yard line for New England. The Giants gave up a 34-yard kickoff return to start the game and James Butler was flagged for holding on one kick return. And Willie Ponder looked very indecisive on his four kickoff returns.
The positives, Darcy Johnson made a heck of a hit on one kickoff return and Chad Morton made real smart play returning a punt that the Patriots had tipped out of the endzone but had not downed. Per NFL rules, there was no risk for Morton here as a ball touched by the Patriots on a punt cannot be turned over. Instead of being trapped inside the 5-yard line, Morton brought the ball out to the 34-yard line.