Oct 112006
 
 October 11, 2006  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
New York Giants 19 – Washington Redskins 3

Game Overview: Not only was the win against the Redskins reassuring, but the manner in which they did so was as well. There is something comforting and familiar to Giants’ fans when the defense is a big reason for a victory. It just seems more natural.

In reality, the Giants out-played the Redskins in all three phases of the game. Indeed, despite some on-the-field pushing-and-shoving, this game seemed to lack the tension and drama that most NFC East games have. Personally, while a dangerous team at times, I just don’t think Washington is all that good.

Defensive Overview: I think there are a variety of reasons why the Giants played better defensively on Sunday. For one, the bye week helped them as the back seven on defense was able to concentrate more on improving their communication and reducing mental breakdowns. The coaches and defensive backs went back to the basics and most likely simplified some of their coverage schemes (but I doubt they simplified as much as some think they did). Secondly, and more importantly, the Giant defenders simply played better. Why? Well, the caliber of the competition (specifically the passing game) was inferior to the previous three opponents. This, combined with better individual play and fewer mental breakdowns, led to the Giants winning more individual one-on-one match-ups as well as playing better team defense.

What also helped the Giants’ defense was that the Giants’ offense kept the Skins’ offense off the field for much of the game. The Giants controlled the clock with an almost 10 minute advantage in time of possession. The Skins only ran 45 offensive plays.

That said, the Redskins were held to only 10 first downs (and one of these came on a bogus roughing the passer penalty). Most striking is that the Skins did not pick up ONE first down in the fourth quarter.

Defensive Line: The Giants’ defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage against what has been an up-and-down Redskins’ offensive line. DE Michael Strahan played well both against the run and the pass and had his first sack of the season. Indeed, he looked very quick off the ball with his speed rush this week. Strahan did a nice job of disrupting a draw play in the fourth quarter. DE Osi Umenyiora had a late sack and held up against the run well too. Both ends pressured Brunell on a number of other plays.

The guy who continues to impress is DT Fred Robbins, who not only picked up his second sack on the season, but was regularly applying inside heat on Brunell, particularly early in the game. I thought DT Barry Cofield was so-so. There were times when he held his ground against the run and other times when he got pushed around. He did make a nice play by diving at HB Clinton Portis on one third-quarter carry and tackling the back for no gain.

I spotted DE Mathias Kiwanuka getting good heat on the quarterback on one pass rush where he came off the right-side out of a two-point stance. DT William Joseph saw quite a bit of playing time. He looked good rushing the passer as well.

Linebackers: This was by far the best game the linebackers have played this season. The guy who really stood out was MLB Antonio Pierce (6 tackles). Pierce was like a heat-seeking missle against the run – particularly outside running plays by Portis. In the first half, he held Portis to a gain of two yards on one carry, combined with SS Gibril Wilson to stuff a shovel pass for a 3-yard loss, caused a 4-yard loss by Portis on another outside run, and then stuffed him again for a 1-yard loss. Pierce was also very solid in coverage against TE Chris Cooley. However, Pierce did slip to the turf on one play, allowing Cooley to pick up 16 yards on 3rd-and-6 early in the game. Pierce also dropped an easy interception.

Brandon Short (6 solo tackles) saw his first action of the season and played well. Short is particularly well-suited to the style of offense the Giants were facing as he has always been a good run defender. He was physical and aggressive against the run and his fiery temperament was a positive. The only big negative I saw from him was that he was blocked out of way on Portis’ 15-yard gain on 2nd-and-14 in the first quarter. Short also missed a tackle on Cooley on a quick pass late in the third quarter. However, overall, I was surprised that the Skins never really seemed to exploit Short in coverage. Both Short and Pierce had good coverage on Cooley on a key 3rd-and-1 play in the second half of the game.

Interestingly, when the Giants were in their nickel package, it was LaVar Arrington, and not Short, who came off the field. Indeed, because the Skins were often in three-wide receiver sets, Arrington spent much of the game on the sidelines, including the game’s first offensive play. I did not see any major negatives from Arrington. While he did not get to Brunell, he did make his presence known on a few blitzes by driving near the quarterback despite being picked up. Also, he did deflect a pass late in the third quarter when the Skins were moving the football for one of the few times on the day.

Overall, when you consider that Portis was held to 76 yards rushing and the tight ends and backs were held to only six receptions, the linebackers did a heck of an all-around job.

Defensive Backs: All-Pro WR Santana Moss was held to three catches and 39 yards. Combined, all of the other Redskins’ receivers, caught three passes for 14 yards. It doesn’t get much better than that. An outstanding job by the secondary this week!

Both Sam Madison and Corey Webster were exceptional and did well defending the few deep passing attempts. Webster did a great job of not biting on a double-move by Moss as he stayed with the dangerous receiver deep. Madison jumped a quick pass to WR Antwan Randle El and almost came up with an interception. Nickel back R.W. McQuarters did give up a first-down completion on 3rd-and-10 in the third quarter, but otherwise was very solid.

Will Demps (5 tackles) was more visible in run support this week. Gibril Wilson (6 tackles) made some plays early, including helping to cause a 3-yard loss on a shovel pass and pressuring Brunell on a safety blitz. He did miss one tackle on Portis however on a play that picked up six yards that should have been held to no gain. Overall, both Demps and Gibril deserve a lot of credit too for the Giants’ outstanding pass defense against the Redskins.

Offensive Overview: The Giants did a great job of sustaining drives and not making any turnovers against a Redskins’ defense geared to getting the opponent off the field quickly and causing turnovers. It was a balanced, well-rounded effort as the Giants gained 256 yards passing, 155 yards rushing, and 20 first downs. Had the Giants been able to convert more of those red zone opportunities into touchdowns, this game really would have been a blowout.

Quarterback: Thus far this season, the bad news is – as expected – the still-developing Eli Manning continues to make costly mistakes that have hurt dearly (i.e., the late interception against the Colts and the two early interceptions against the Seahawks). But the good news is that Manning had dramatically increased his completion percentage (67 percent) while at the same time almost doubling his touchdown-to-interception ratio (9 touchdowns, 5 interceptions). But more than all of that, like a premier quarterback is supposed to, Manning is now making big plays to help win games. He is not simply a game-manager. Very few could have taken the kind of punishment that Manning did against Philadelphia and still pulled off that win. Against the Redskins on Sunday, Manning (23-of-33 for 256 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions) made a number of big-time throws that put his team into position to score points and win the game. If he doesn’t make those plays, this game is far, far tighter.

The first big play was his 44-yard strike to WR Amani Toomer despite getting smashed by a free blitzer as he was unloading the football. This play set up the Giants’ first field goal of the game and came at a key moment as the Giants were facing a 3rd-and-7 right after the Skins’ had taken the early lead. The second big play was his 46-yard toss to WR Plaxico Burress on the Giants’ next possession. Again, this came on a play where Manning was smashed as he delivered the ball. What impressed me on both of these plays was that Manning stood tough in the pocket and fired accurate strikes despite knowing that he was about to get clobbered. It reminded me of Phil Simms. On the Giants’ next and final possession of the first half, the team was able to drive from their own 2-yard line to the Washington 14-yard line to set up the third field goal of the game for New York. On this drive, Manning found Toomer for 10 yards on 3rd-and-8, TE Jeremy Shockey for 13 yards on 1st-and-20, WR Tim Carter for six yards on 2nd-and-7, HB Barber twice for a gain of eight yards, and then WR Tim Carter for 27 yards. What impressed me on the latter effort was that Manning correctly spotted the cornerback blitz coming from his right and pointed out the blitzer to HB Brandon Jacobs, who successfully picked up the corner. That’s a big-time play. In the second half, Manning made a picture-perfect throw to a well-covered Toomer on the sidelines for a 21-yard gain on 3rd-and-16. Two plays later, he hit Burress for a 2-yard touchdown to give the Giants a 16-3 lead. Later in the fourth quarter, Manning did an outstanding job of delivering an accurate throw to Toomer despite being under heavy pressure and then he made an excellent decision to run with the ball for nine yards on 3rd-and-4 to help set up the final field goal.

Wide Receivers: The Giants top-three guys all played very well. Burress had seven catches for 69 yards and a touchdown, Toomer four catches for 81 yards, and Carter four catches for 44 yards. As mentioned above, the 44- and 21-yarders to Toomer, the 46-yarder to Burress, and the 27-yarder to Carter were all huge plays in the game. Burress blocked well for the run and also came up with a critical fumble recovery on Barber’s second-quarter fumble. Toomer demonstrated outstanding concentration on his 21-yard sideline catch that kept the touchdown drive alive.

Running Backs: Oddly, Tiki Barber (23 carries for 123 yards, 5.3 yards-per-carry average; 3 catches for 16 yards) still has not broken a big run this year. However, he was very efficient and workmanlike against the Redskins on Sunday. As usual, Tiki ran with shiftiness, patience, and strength – breaking a number of tackles. There were a few negatives, he did fumble the ball on the Giants’ third field-goal drive and New York was fortunate to recover. He was flagged with a false start. He also dropped a ball on a play where he was poked in the eye. And he might have been the one responsible for picking up the free blitzer on the play where Manning hit Toomer deep for 44 yards. Aside from the fumble, Tiki was a major factor in the third field goal drive with his runs coming off of the goal line and his 8-yard run on 3rd-and-2.

Both Brandon Jacobs (9 carries for 26 yards, 2 catches for 15 yards) and Barber pounded the Redskins on the touchdown drive. Barber started off that possession with 14 yards on two carries and added 12 more yards on three other carries. Jacobs converted two 3rd-and-1 rushing attempts. Jacobs also ran over LB Marcus Washington of the Skins on a 6-yard gain. Interestingly on this drive, Jacobs was used on a screen pass. Earlier in the game, he was split out wide and was the primary receiver on a go-screen…that’s a play that smaller defensive backs can’t be too excited about defending. Jacobs also blocked well on his blitz pickups.

Jim Finn blocked exceptionally well at fullback.

Tight Ends: I hate to say it, but I think we all need to admit that Jeremy Shockey is always going to be an injury-prone player and that his injuries are always going to keep him from being the player who could have been. In his five years in New York, Shockey simply can’t stay healthy, with most of the issues being with his feet and ankles. It doesn’t matter where Shockey works out, he is just a fragile guy. He’s just an above-average tight end when he is hurt, and he is always hurt. It’s important to note that with all of the throwing the Giants have been doing in the first four games of the year, Shockey is only the fourth-leading receiver on the team with 12 catches. He and Manning don’t seem to be on the same page and/or he is being relatively easily covered by opposing defenses.

Against the Redskins, Shockey only had one catch for 13 yards before being forced to leave the game in the fourth quarter. He actually hurt the Giants more with his offensive pass interference penalty that erased a touchdown. Shockey was also flagged with a holding penalty.

Visanthe Shiancoe had two catches for 18 yards, including a 16-yard reception on 2nd-and-15. Interestingly, the Giants used Rich Seubert (who played some tight end in college) at tight end with good success in mostly obvious running situations (i.e., late in the game when the Giants were attempting to run out the clock, coming off of the goal line, short-yardage).

Offensive Line: The offensive line played exceptionally well, not allowing a sack and helping the Giants to rush for 155 yards on the ground. Despite what the announcers kept saying on TV, the Skins did blitz quite a bit. There were only a few negatives. LT Luke Petitgout had some problems with DE Andre Carter in pass protection, causing some heat on Manning, including on the play where Manning hit Burress for 46 yards. LG David Diehl was flagged for a false start and RT Kareem McKenzie was flagged for holding (McKenzie also gave up one pressure). I thought the interior of the offensive line played very well and the Giants seemed to do a lot of damage running to their left behind Petitgout, Diehl, and Finn.

Special Teams: Jay Feely converted on 4-of-5 field goal attempts. He missed his first attempt from 47 yards out, but was good from 24, 34, 32, and 40. His kickoffs were not good, being both short and low much of the game.

Kickoff coverage was excellent despite the shoddy kickoffs. Redskins’ returner Rock Cartwright, who already has a kickoff return for a touchdown this season, was held to gains of 19 (Mathias Kiwanuka and Justin Tuck on the tackle), 22 (David Tyree), 14 (big hits by Chase Blackburn and Reggie Torbor), and 16 (Blackburn again). However, Torbor was flagged with taunting on the last return.

Jeff Feagles did not punt well on his two attempts. One resulted in a touchback and the other was a 34-yard effort that went out of bounds at the 19-yard line.

Chad Morton had two kickoff returns and one was a good one that picked up 35 yards. He did a respectable job on his two punt return efforts as well with gains of nine and eight yards.

Interestingly, late in the game, the Giants had QB Jared Lorenzen in as an upback on one punt, forcing the Redskins to stay in their regular defense. This is something to keep an eye on later in the season.

(Box Score – Washington Redskins at New York Giants, October 8, 2006)
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Eric Kennedy

Founder and owner of BigBlueInteractive.com, which is now entering its 20th season.

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