Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks, September 24, 2006: If I’m looking at this game objectively – without wearing my blue-colored glasses – then I think this is going to be an extremely difficult game for the Giants to win. The Giants are coming off two extremely close, emotional football games. Last week’s game – a divisional game on the road – was exceptionally draining for the players both physically and mentally. In my opinion, it’s going to be tough for the Giants to be able to elevate their game to match Seattle’s intensity. If they can, they really will have shown us something.
It’s a big game that could have playoff ramifications down the road. The players and coaches need to put all their effort into one big, last push before the bye week. Then they can catch their breath. The bye is coming at a perfect time if you ask me.
Giants on Offense: It’s time to get the ground game back on track. The Seahawks defensive front is athletic and quick, but somewhat undersized inside. I would pound the ball between the tackles like the Giants did in the opener against the Colts. If HB Tiki Barber is still showing ill-affects from his deep arm bruise, I’d quickly get HB Brandon Jacobs in the game and play a very physical game. The man on the spot inside will be LG David Diehl, who will be facing the very quick DT Rocky Bernard. Diehl had problems with a similar type of player in Mike Patterson of the Eagles. RG Chris Snee will face DT Chuck Darby – 6′, 270 pound fireplug who Snee should be able to maul. DT Marcus Tubbs provides solid depth in the rotation. Both the Giants’ offensive tackles are coming off bad games, after playing exceptionally well in the opener. LT Luke Petitgout faces DE Grant Wistrom, who is a decent-all around player but a guy who isn’t one of the quicker weakside ends in the league. He’s good against the run. RT Kareem McKenzie faces the more dangerous pass rusher, DE Bryce Fisher, who accrued nine sacks last year.
The strength of the Seattle defense is their linebacking corps. Second-year MLB Lofa Tatapu is a stud who makes plays all over the football field. Leroy Hill is a good pass rusher. And adding Julian Peterson was a major move for the Seahawks. He can cover, rush, and play the run. He and TE Jeremy Shockey had a good battle going against each other in the 2002 playoff game. It’s unfortunate that Shockey (ankle) will likely be severely limited. If I’m Tom Coughlin, I might try to get Visanthe Shiancoe more involved in the passing game this week. I wouldn’t try to run too much to the outside on Seattle’s defense. Blitz pick-ups by the line, backs, and tight ends will be critical as all three of these guys are good pass rushers.
The right corner is Marcus Trufant. He’s a solid player, but WR Plaxico Burress may be able to do some things against him. Kelly Herndon will face Amani Toomer. This is another match-up that may work in the Giants favor. Unfortunately, it looks like Sinorice Moss (quad) will not be a factor for some time. WR Tim Carter (ankle) will play. SS Michael Boulware is a converted linebacker. FS Ken Hamlin is aggressive, but can be exposed in coverage.
It will be interesting to see how Eli Manning performs this weekend. Just like last year after the Denver game, many fans and pundits are claiming that Eli has “now turned the corner.” The reality is that Manning still has not played two full seasons as a starter. He’s still young and inexperienced and he still will make mistakes. What will be fascinating to watch is if last week’s heroics have any kind of impact on him this week in a game against a very good defensive team that can rush the passer.
Giants on Defense: This group really needs to gets its shit together. Mike Holmgren comes from the same ex-Green Bay passing system that Andy Reid of the Eagles adheres to where vertical and horizontal spacing between the receivers (i.e., the “West Coast Offense”) is key to try to exploit holes in the coverage. Holmgren and his very good quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck, have to be licking their chops to get after the Giants’ linebackers and defensive backs based on what they have seen from the first two games. Fortunately for the Giants, starting TE Jeremy Stevens is out and his back-up, TE Itula Mili, will be limited. I look for the Seahawks to try to exploit the Giants’ linebackers in coverage more with HB Shaun Alexander (an excellent pass receiver) and possibly even FB Mack Strong this week. Look out for a trick play involving QB Seneca Wallace, who can be used as a receiver as well.
Seattle upgraded their receiving corps by trading for Deion Branch of the Patriots. How much he plays and where is not really known. Holmgren could try to put him in the slot or outside – he will probably end up in the slot as he is smaller, but very quick. Nate Burleson usually lines up at split end and would normally be covered by Sam Madison. This is a good match-up for the Giants as Burleson isn’t a burner and can have problems with aggressive corners. The key is tackling him after the catch. Darrell Jackson is the flanker. Jackson is not big or fast, but he is quick, runs very precise routes, and gets open. He’s Hasselbeck’s favorite downfield target right now. Corey Webster will be on the spot against him. Bobby Engram comes of the bench and can provide match-up problems. He’s another receiver who lacks size and speed, but who has a feel for making plays. Hasselbeck actually throws more to him than Burleson. Nickel corner R.W. McQuarters needs to play well this week. Seattle will likely go three wide and sometimes even four wide against the Giants. In the later case, we may see more of Jason Bell on the field and possibly even Frank Walker.
To help the secondary, it is essential that the Giants start generating a quality pass rush up front. It has to start with Michael Strahan, who will face RT Sean Locklear, who is not very big and more of a finesse player. Osi Umenyiora played well against LT Walter Jones, arguably the best left tackle in football, last year, but Osi has yet to really elevate his game this year. The Seahawks miss Steve Hutchinson at left guard. Inside, Chris Spencer, who is more of a center, will start there for the injured Floyd Womack. This is a match-up where the Giants need Fred Robbins to standout. RG Chris Gray is very experienced and savvy, but he’s nearing the end of the line and isn’t very powerful. Barry Cofield should have an easier time of it this week. Still, I’d like to see the Giants send some more blitzes from the linebackers or safeties in order to disrupt Hasselbeck’s timing.
The obvious key to this game defensively for the Giants is stopping the Seattle ground game. Shaun Alexander is coming off an MVP season and he can absolutely take over a game if he gets going. However, the run blocking for him up front has not been as strong this year. This is a game where the Giants’ linebackers, LaVar Arrington, Carlos Emmons, and Antonio Pierce, can really make an impact. The strength of their game is playing the run. Of course, this will be the toughest test to date of the Giants’ interior defense, specifically the defensive tackles, as Seattle is a much more power-oriented, between-the-tackles-type running attack than the Colts or Eagles.
Giants on Special Teams: The kickoff coverage unit will face ex-Giant Willie Ponder. He’s already broken a 41-yarder this year. Let’s hope he doesn’t get revenge on his old team. The punt returner is Jimmy Williams. Punt coverage has to do a better job this week and it is time for David Tyree to start earning his paycheck. Seattle probably noticed that the Eagles came close to blocking a few punts last week too and the Giants need to be careful there.
The Giants’ own return game – both kickoff and punt returns – has been dreadful. The blocking needs to improve and Chad Morton needs to attack up the field.
Jay Feely? He’s got some demons to exorcise here.