Sep 272006
 
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Seattle Seahawks 42 – New York Giants 30

Game Overview: I’m not going to write a typical game review this week. For one, I don’t think most people would read it because it would be too depressing. Secondly, I want to share my thoughts on the state of the team.

Things are not as bad as they seem right now. Keep in mind a few important facts:

  1. The Giants played two very close and emotional games to start the NFL season. And the game against Philadelphia was extremely physical. As I pointed out in my game preview, I expected an unavoidable letdown against Seattle, one of the top teams in the NFL. And this was THE GAME that Seattle focused on in the front part of their schedule. Do you honestly think they were fired up or all that focused to play Detroit or Arizona? On the other hand, New York’s attention was certainly focused on the Colts, then Philadelphia, then Seattle – and in that order.
  2. The pass defense of the Giants has simply been dreadful the first three weeks. However, the Giants have faced three of the finest quarterbacks and passing attacks in the NFL in the first three games with a completely revamped back seven on defense. Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, and Matt Hasselbeck have been in the same system for years. They have taken advantage of the Giants’ lack of cohesion and chemistry. And to make matters worse, Philadelphia and Seattle broke with their own tendencies. The Eagles went with a no-huddle offense and Seattle ran 4-WR sets with routes that they had not demonstrated before (this according to their own quarterback). What has been more worrisome is that the Giants’ Pro Bowl defensive ends have been missing in action, but I don’t expect that to continue.
  3. The Giants are 1-2, but they are only one game out of first place. They are 1-0 in the NFC East. If they rebound and beat Washington after the bye, they will be 2-2 and 2-0 in the NFC East. In my mind, if the Giants can come out of the first six games at 3-3 or 4-2, they will be in good shape. The defense will start improving and the games will become easier as the level of competition now declines.

Why did the Giants get clobbered against Seattle?

  1. They could not match Seattle’s intensity. The nitwits out there will say that is the fault of the coaching staff. The truth of the matter is that it is extremely difficult to play three very emotional games in a row against top-flight competition and do well, especially when you have a relatively young and immature team. It’s similar to the situation in 1993 when the Giants played a really tough game against Dallas at home and lost in overtime, then came from behind to beat the Vikings in the first round of the playoffs, and then got slaughtered by the 49ers in the second round of the playoffs. The Giants simply could not match the intensity of their opponent. Seattle played a powder puff to start the season and a very average team in the second game.
  2. The Giants turned the ball over four times in the first half. No team is going to be able to do that and win. As fine as Eli Manning played in the fourth quarter again, his two first quarter interceptions were killers as they gave the ball to the Seahawks at the Giants’ 15- and 27-yard lines. Those interceptions handed Seattle two touchdowns and immediately put the defense on its heels. As I mentioned in my Seattle preview, Manning still hasn’t played two full seasons as a starter. We’ll continue to see outstanding play from him mixed with mistakes (and sometimes killer mistakes). WR Plaxico Burress also caused two turnovers with one drop and one fumble. Before one knew it, it was 21-0 and then 35-0, completely eliminating the threat of the ground attack – which is a crucial element of the New York offense. The game just snowballed on the Giants. It happens.
  3. The Giants did a great job of stopping the run as HB Shaun Alexander was held to 47 yards on 20 carries. That’s outstanding. The problem – again – was the pass defense. Regardless of how you feel about Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis and his schemes, a huge part of the problem right now is that the Giants’ defenders are losing individual match-ups too. Strahan and Umenyiora are not beating the tackles in front of them. When the defensive backs are close to the receiver, they are not making plays on the football. That’s not a coaching problem. However, I expect that to change as the comfort level with the defense improves and the caliber of the competition declines. What is worrisome – and I have pointed this out since the first game – is that Giants’ defenders are allowing too many uncontested passes in the secondary. Is that the scheme? Is the system too complicated? Or is it unrealistic not to expect breakdowns in a completely revamped back seven against top-flight passing attacks? Or are the players simply too stupid? Your guess is as good as mine. I don’t think the coaching staff or the players are as bad as they have looked on defense. And I expect we’ll see improvements after the bye. But the Giants absolutely need Strahan and Umenyiora to step it up.

The good news is that the Giants are still a good football team. Manning is becoming one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. He just needs to cut down on the mistakes. Burress, Toomer, Carter, and Shockey are hard to defend. Barber and Jacobs are a great 1-2 running back duo. And the offensive line is a quality unit. The Giants are going to score points.

Defensively, as I’ve said, the key is to get the pass rush going. If Strahan and Umenyiora continue to struggle, I would start spelling them more with Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka. LaVar Arrington is not playing well and may have to be benched. We may see Gerris Wilkinson shortly. Corey Webster has played some outstanding opponents and will get better as long as he remains confident. Personally, I think what is needed is simply a taste of success. I think if the Giants’ defense can put together an outstanding effort soon, that will help their confidence and turn things around. The run defense has been good and the upcoming quarterbacks on the schedule are not Manning, McNabb, and Hasselbeck.

Don’t turn your back on this team yet. If the Giants go 2-1, in the next three games, they will be in good shape.

(Box Score - New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks, September 24, 2006)
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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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