Oct 102007
 
 October 10, 2007  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
New York Giants 35 – New York Jets 24

by Damon Micalizzi for BigBlueInteractive.com

In Brief…

This game had all of the ingredients for a typical Giants letdown against a team they should dominate.  In a game that at one point was feeling eerily similar to the Minnesota game two years ago, the Giants showed a lot of heart and resilience in beating the Jets.  Offensively, it was night and day from the first half to the second.  As for the D, they played pretty solid throughout.  Special Teams, however, continue to be shaky at best.

Still though, the Giants won a game they were supposed to win even though they almost gave it away.

Quarterbacks

That interception with 20 ticks left until the half was downright foolish.  The one thing that Eli Manning needs to watch out for is that Cover One scheme where a Linebacker falls into a zone while the receivers are covered in man.  You can make excuses for an interception when a receiver falls down, a ball is tipped, or a route is run the wrong way.  However, the one thing that has haunted Manning is locking in to his second option on a play where the D is seemingly in man-to-man coverage, only to have a seemingly invisible linebacker playing a bracket zone, slide under the route for the pick.

Aside from that one play, Eli really had a very good game.  I fault the play calling more than anything for the lack of scoring in the first half.  On the very first snap of the Giants’ first possession, Eli showed a lot of toughness and headiness.  Tough, in that he stood firm in a pocket that was quickly collapsing, with two defenders pulling on his jersey. Heady, in that as he could not escape, he was able to fling the ball at the feet of the RB to save the sack and avoid the intentional grounding penalty.

Manning really doesn’t get enough credit for his pocket presence, or his mobility within the pocket to give himself lanes to throw and time for the receivers to get open.  Two times, he ran the ball when he saw that the play wasn’t there and the pass rush was coming.  One time he slid for a nice gain, the next he made sure he got past the marker before going down.  While he is far from Fran Tarkenton when it comes to the scramble, he does do a better job than a lot of people realize for your prototypical pocket passer.

He’s not bad at standing in the pocket and throwing darts either.  In the second half he rebounded from a very lackluster start to go an impressive 10-15, 162 yards and two TDs. That’s what you want from your QB, a guy who can shake off a bad start and lead his team to a victory.

Running Backs

That’s what I’m talking about.  Run the ball down their throats.  It helps when you have two very capable running backs doing the pounding.  It was good to see Brandon Jacobs back in action.  He really looked good in his first full game.  The fumble was bad, but the ball was stripped as Jacobs was refusing to go down.  The coaching staff didn’t seem too concerned about it either as they kept handing him the ball. The fumble seemed to be an awakening for Jacobs too as he had the ball in vice grip for the rest of the game.  His ability to keep the chains moving in the second half is one of the major reasons we won this game.

It doesn’t hurt that Derrick Ward keeps him fresh for those late 4th Quarter yards.  Ward is playing like he wants to be on the field as much as possible.  On Sunday, the coaching staff did a nice job of using this one-two punch to keep both backs happy and the D on their toes.  I think both of these runners will benefit from having each other around.  Ward is not easy to bring down but may benefit from the fact that defenders may ease up a bit on him because he’s not as intimidating as Jacobs.  Ward is very strong and can get those tough yards on third and one if necessary.  He makes himself small and keeps his feet moving and almost always seems to lunge forward for an extra yard or two, or eight like his TD run in the first half.  Ward gained 56 yards on 13 carries, and had three catches although only for just 8 yards.

Madison Hedgecock did have a catch out in the flat for five yards.   He isn’t blowing anyone away as a lead blocker, but is doing an adequate job.  He continues to split time at FB with Michael Matthews and Reuben Droughns, who had a nice 12 yard run late in the game while we were eating the clock.

Wide Receivers

What can you say about Plaxico Burress?  Every Thursday he’s listed as questionable.  Every Friday he promises to play, even though he does nothing at practice except for ride a stationary bike.  Ever Sunday he makes a great catch for a TD and manipulates his body along the way to make every single one of us cringe at the though that he will tweak his fragile ankle an end up on the shelf for the rest of the year.  Plax had another solid game, coming up with several big catches in the second half and putting the Giants ahead for good with a catch and run reminiscent of OJ Anderson in Superbowl XXV.  With a textbook stiff arm and then a tightrope act down the sideline, 53 yards later, Burress had done it again. For the second straight week, he had taken the short catch and turned it into the big play for the game breaking TD.  It would be scary to see him at full speed.  He has put any criticisms of the past behind him by having the best year of any WR in the league while being humble and quiet along the way.

Burress’ big game (5 catches, 124 yards, TD) was much needed as Amani Toomer was shut out.  Coverage on Toomer must have been pretty good as I only counted one ball intended for ole reliable.

The only other wideout to play, let alone catch a ball, was Sinorice Moss, who did have a nice catch on a hook route for 10 yards.

Tight Ends

He didn’t have but four balls thrown his way, but Jeremy Shockey had a nice game.  Sure he had two catches, one for 20 yards and a first down, the other a 13-yard TD catch, but his blocking is just phenomenal.  For a guy that would much rather be running routes than staying in to block, Shockey stays engaged in his blocks through the whistle, even when the play is run to the other side.

His counterpart, Mike Matthews, had one catch and one drop (that he almost bobbled into the hands of a defender), but earns his paycheck as a blocker.  Matthews gets a much better push as a lead blocker than Hedgecock.  Nevertheless, both he and Hedgecock appear to be more of a dynamic receiving duo than Jim Finn and Vishanthe Shiancoe… Although I don’t know how much that says.

Offensive Line

Zero sacks and 188 yards rushing.  Sounds like a pretty good job by the Offensive Line and really it was, in the second half.  In the first half, Manning did face more pressure than he probably should have but protection was much better in the second half.  Chris Snee did a great job of getting out in front on Jacobs’ TD run and the Giants look to be less predictable when running the ball, as tendency is no longer strictly to run to the left.  Remember when Left Tackle was supposed to be one of this teams’ biggest question marks? David Diehl did cost us another six points on a holding call that negated Jacobs’ second TD run with less than 2 minutes left, however, he continues to be solid week in and week out.  The O-Line as a whole, is quietly one of the best in the League.

Defensive Line

Barry Cofield should be good for at least two roughing the passer calls before the year is over after letting the always slippery and super elusive Chad Pennington slither free from his grasp.  The grief that Cofield is sure to be catching from that play will no doubt cost us 15 yards at some point down the road.  Cofield though did a nice job on Sunday, as did the whole D-Line, as Jets’ runners did not have many holes to run through, evident by their gaining only 55 yards.

Osi Umenyiora had the game’s only sack, but that doesn’t mean the front four wasn’t getting in the backfield.  The Jets were prepared though for a fierce pass rush on the heels of last weeks 12 sack performance and had Pennington getting rid of the ball on three step drops and chipping the ends with the TE and RB on almost every passing down. Umenyiora and Justin Tuck both had very solid games getting pressure on the QB and playing the run.

Michael Strahan looks to be getting back to 100% football shape and getting an extra play or two off every now and then probably doesn’t hurt.  The Jets rarely ran the ball to his side.

Linebackers

Maybe Kawika Mitchell isn’t as bad as we thought.  Maybe he just took a few games to get adjusted to this new scheme.  While he didn’t make any game saving tackles, recover any fumbles or score, he also didn’t drop any INTs or get burnt out of his shoes.  Mitchell had five tackles and seems to be finding his way to the ball carrier well.

More impressive than any of the plays he made with his body, Antonio Pierce exhibited just how important he is to this Defense with his head.  Pierce is the QB of the D and a film junkie, nowhere was that more evident than when he re-positioned Justin Tuck before the snap after recognizing the offensive alignment, only to have Tuck in the backfield a half second after the snap to bring the ball carrier down for a loss.   Pierce knew what play was coming and he moved his teammates around to put them in the best spot to stop the play.

A somewhat quiet game for Mathias Kiwanuka, who did a nice job against the run and looks much more comfortable in his new position. More importantly, he hasn’t been blatantly caught out of position since week three.

Cornerbacks

What started out as a big weak spot for this team may now be a strength.  Okay, I’ll admit, I’m probably getting a little too excited about three interceptions by our starting CBs, but as a Giants fan, why shouldn’t I?  We haven’t seen a game like that from our starting corners in 15 years, maybe.  Probably longer.

Anyway, I said last week that it was just a matter of time before Aaron Ross takes one back to the house.  I still haven’t figured out what Ross did to get benched for the first half of the game, but he more than made up for it in the second half.  Ross had two picks, (when was the last time we said that about a Giants CB?) and both of them had a big impact on the game.  On the first, he grabbed a poorly thrown jump ball that was quite frankly more catchable for him than the intended receiver.  However, how many times have we seen our CBs drop that ball in the past?  Ross came down with the ball, and halted a Jets drive, that was likely headed for points.  His second INT sealed the game for the Giants.  When the ball was thrown, I didn’t think that he would be able to make a play on the ball, although he was close to the receiver to probably break up the catch with a timely hit.  But then, with a dash of speed and some very long arms, Ross slipped in front of the receiver and snared the ball before taking it into the endzone.  I think we got a good one here.

It probably doesn’t hurt that he’s got a very good mentor in Sam Madison lining up on the other side.  Madison almost had about 8 picks since week 2.  He finally got one against the Jets jumping a route and then bringing the ball back for 25 yards.  Madison looks very good out there as of late, rarely getting beat and covering extremely well deep.  His tackling has been fantastic and more importantly, his good play allows him to lead by example.

That said, he should probably work with Kevin Dockery on how to defend a fade pattern.  Dockery looked completely lost on the TD pass to Brad Smith, turning back the wrong way and contorting his body to only give him no shot on the ball.  It was ugly, but otherwise Dockery did a nice job covering the outside in the first half and the slot in the second.

Safeties

For the second game in a row, the secondary really looked good.  Gibril Wilson (5 Tackles) and James Butler (4 Tackles) both looked good in coverage. They both broke up passes and really didn’t get beat for a big gain.

When it comes down to it, the Defense as a whole, played a very good game.  Three great catches by Laveranues Coles led to the Jets only points scored by their offense, and every other time the Jets started to move the ball, the secondary got the turnover.  This bend but don’t break big play D is starting to grow on me.

Special Teams

The Special Teams, however, needs some help.  Lawrence Tynes didn’t attempt a field goal, but on at least two of his extra point attempts, the snap was poor.  Jay Alford should send Jeff Feagles a thank you note for getting those snaps down. Something needs to be done, or mark my words, we will lose a heart breaker this year because of a bad miss on a very makeable kick.

And if that doesn’t come back to bite us, someone is sure to run back a kickoff on us with no time on the clock because coverage on kickoffs has been putrid for two weeks now.  Justin Tuck used to be great at busting the wedge.  I don’t know if it’s personnel, inconsistent kickoffs, poor tackling or all of the above but some how, some way, Special Teams is going to burn us this year.

To Sum It Up…

I feel better about this team this week than I did last week.  Special Teams issues aside, the Giants won a “trap game” that we as fans have seen them lose time and time again.  Mangini tried quick snaps, direct snaps, some unique blitz packages, and the Jets scored on a fumble return and a kickoff return.  At halftime not many of us were anticipating a win.  Yet the Giants came out scored a touchdown and continued to dominate the Jets in the second half, even after the Washington kickoff return.  Coughlin has this team playing hard and they seem to be having fun. Of course, now we have to worry about them getting to high on themselves and taking against a bunch of backups from Atlanta under the lights on Monday night.

(Box Score – New York Jets at New York Giants, October 7, 2007)
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