Giants 13 – Dolphins 10
by Damon Micalizzi for BigBlueInteractive.com
Still very much occupied with the Santiago Fire and the arson investigation, I was able to escape and watch the game on Sunday. While once again, this will be a bit of an abbreviated game review, this game, I feel, does not warrant more than surface level critique because the Giants will hopefully never play a game on that field, in that country again.
For once, Jay Feely won a game for the Giants. That’s right, because make no mistake…. the Giants should have lost this game. Had they been paired up against any other team, including the Brit National Rugby Team, they would have lost. In what was a lame attempt by the NFL to broaden its reach to the international markets, the Giants looked awful against a pitiful Dolphins team, and still, only because of the one kicker slightly more bungling than theirs they somehow, came away with a win. As embarrassing a performance as the Jints displayed in London on Sunday, as poorly as they played and coached, this is probably a good thing. I’ll explain.
I knew it was too good to be true. One week removed from lauding Kevin Gilbride for his game plan and play calling against San Francisco, he shows his true colors. That said, Eli Manning didn’t play half as badly as the numbers would indicate. It’s very hard to spin 8 for 22 for only 59 yards but I counted at least five dropped passes that should have been caught. No, Eli was not sharp by any means. Yes, he did badly overthrow Amani Toomer in the endzone on the Giants first drive. But Eli should not have thrown the ball 22 times to begin with.
Let’s put things into perspective here. For one, you’re playing the worst run defense in the league. Secondly, you’re playing the game a world away on foreign soil… literally. The sod or turf or pitch or whatever the bloody hell those limey bastards call it, was so bad, that some guys appeared tentative making cuts and the game was just played slow. In addition, from the second quarter on, it was raining fairly heavily for the remainder of the game. The rain, coupled with whatever grounds crews were using to repair or fill in the turf was making things so slick that some guys, most notably Brandon Jacobs and Jeremy Shockey, took off their gloves, probably to get a better grip on the ball. For all of the aforementioned reasons, along with the fact that the Giants came out of the half with a 13-point lead, Gilbride should have run the ball 30 times in the second half alone.
The play calling was absolutely absurd. You don’t throw the ball three consecutive times under those conditions. I don’t care if you’ve got Joe Montana throwing the ball to Jerry Rice, Chris Carter, Marvin Harrison and Randy Moss. YOU RUN THE FRIGGIN BALL!!!
Brandon Jacobs had a pretty good game. He should have had a monster game. It didn’t matter that the Dolphins knew he was going to be getting the ball, even with eight in the box, Jacobs was still able to move the ball well. The only problem was they weren’t running the ball enough. Too many drives were stalled because of dropped or errant passes on first or second down leading to dropped or errant passes on third and long. Then with about 8 minutes left in the game, “Killdrive” finally read the memo to run the ball and order was seemingly restored as Jacobs was moving the chains nicely on back to back to back runs. However, 1st and 10 from the Dolphins’ 34 quickly turned into 4th and 27, thanks to back to back holding penalties negating two great runs by Reuben Droughns and then an illegal block from behind just to ice the cake.
You cannot blame the weather and conditions for all of the dropped passes though. The Dolphins’ receivers didn’t appear to have as much trouble holding on to the ball as the Giants did, with drops costing the Giants at least two touchdowns. Both Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer had well thrown passes go through their hands that should have gone for six.
Aside from David Diehl whiffing on the block that led to Matt Roth’s blindside hit on Eli Manning, the Offensive Line had a solid showing in London. They did such a good job run blocking, it was inexplicable that the Giants didn’t run the ball more. Roth’s hit on Manning was the Dolphins’ only sack. In one of the most skillful and athletic displays from an O-Lineman I’ve ever seen, Richie Seubert’s snaring of the ball in the air after the fumble by Jacobs was just superb, it was also the only display of good hands by a Giant all day.
Before you look at the numbers and the score and say, another good game for the Giants’ Defense, remember they were playing the Dolphins. Had they been playing the Browns, they probably would have given up 20 plus points. This was a sloppy game, played on a sloppy field. The Giants didn’t really get a lot of heat on Cleo Lemon, but Miami’s game plan on offense was pretty clear. Max protect, thee step drops and quick passes. A seasoned QB and a decent receiver or two, could have used that recipe to pick this team apart they way they played in London.
Did the elements play a part in how badly the Defense looked at times? Absolutely. But, the Dolphins had their share of problems due to slick footballs and muddy pitch too. With most position players covered in mud and or field paint, it is not a surprise that some missed tackles were due to tacklers slipping off of the ball carrier.
Think Michael Strahan has lost a step? One thing is certain, teams are still reluctant to run the ball to his side. Strahan seems to be getting stronger as the season wears on. His fumble recovery would have been a sack had Lemon not dropped the ball before Strahan got there. It’s a great problem to have, but the Giants aren’t exactly missing a beat when Justin Tuck subs in for Strahan either. Tuck was quiet against the Dolphins in London. His presence was felt though. I counted he was double teamed on at least six plays.
Fred Robbins continues his strong play. He had four tackles and a sack, but the sack was a masterful display of strength, quickness and awareness. Robbins was able to push the blocker back four yards forcing the QB to move before effortlessly sliding away from the blocker to take Lemon down for a seven yard loss. I watched the play a few times because it appears that Robbins baited Lemon into scrambling back to him before making the play.
I think Osi Umenyiora had a little bit of a tough time getting off on the snap as I saw him slip a few times and hesitate a few others. The thing is, he is so fast, that you wouldn’t really notice this unless you were looking for it.
He’s been flying under the radar, but Russell Davis has had a hand in several big plays this year. He is quietly doing a very nice job on obvious running downs subbing in at DT. Davis is very strong and has been successful at occupying the guard and engaging the center or a pulling blocker long enough to allow his teammates to make plays. It’s hard to find a DT who can occupy two blockers, and Davis has been able to do that at times this year from the nose and he’s still quick enough to create problems for blockers when the Giants run a stunt.
Believe it or not, Kawika Mitchell had probably the best game of any Giants defender with a sack, a forced fumble and four tackles. The goat early on, Mitchell has steadily improved with every game since week three. Linebacker play on the outside as a whole seems to be improving.
Mathias Kiwanuka is getting better in coverage as well. Kiwi has been dominant at times playing down hill, but his read and react seemed better against the Dolphins. As I re-watched the game, I focused on the front seven, because (in spite of Gilbride’s poor play calling) this game in these sloppy conditions was going to be won in the trenches. Steve Spagnuolo has done a good job of moving Kiwanuka around to let him play to his strengths, but the few times that he dropped back in coverage he knew where he was supposed to be and adjusted well to the plays as they unfolded. Case in point, 2nd and 4 from the Dolphins 30 yard line, Kiwi is lined up over the outside tight end in a dual TE strong side set. Kiwi started out covering Aaron Halterman who was running an out pattern. The Dolphins were flooding the left side as Justin Peele ran a deeper out pattern behind Kiwi. The pass went to Peele who had Antonio Pierce in pursuit from the middle of the field, but it was Kiwi who made the play. Kiwanuka probably over committed to Halterman but he changed direction nicely to make the tackle on Peele, who gained about five yards (and a first down). Was this a game changing play? Not at all. Could Kiwi have come away with a pick or a pass defended had he not made a decision to jump the first route? Sure. But two months ago, even with all of his speed and agility would not have been in a position to make that play at all.
Corner play wasn’t bad, although Sam Madison was far too busy leading the team with 6 tackles. Again, chalk this up to field conditions and the weather. Aaron Ross did give up the TD to Ted Ginn, but he should have had some help over the top from Michael Johnson. Who otherwise had a very good game. For a guy who hasn’t been on the field that much, he had a second consecutive week with a good showing. Johnson had four tackles and he plays much faster than James Butler. He gets up to the line of scrimmage a lot quicker against the run and takes better angles than Butler in space. One would think that he will only get better with more field time.
It’s hard to rip apart a secondary that only gave up 149 yards, especially under those playing conditions. Receivers know where they are going, defenders have to make adjustments based on the routes that are run, that is much tougher on a slick field. All in all, it was not a bad day for this unit although Gibril Wilson dropped probably the easiest interception he’ll ever see in his career.
Coverage was better on punts and kicks. Someone should rip up Lawrence Tynes’ passport after missing that 29-yard field goal. I keep warning that he will cost us a game or two this year. He keeps sticking his head in the lion’s mouth. Sooner or later it’s going to swallow him.
To Sum It Up…
It’s fitting that a game the Giants very well could have lost because of their inept kicker ended up being a game that they won because of their equally inept former kicker. Jay Feely proved once again, that he is the best at flushing games down the toilet for his team by missing a field goal and sliding an onsides kick 2 yards up field and straight out of bounds to seal the game for the Jints.
Heading into a bye week, with a prime time game against Dallas looming, the Giants did their best to lose this game. Yet somehow, they didn’t lose. Maybe it’s karma. Maybe it’s luck. Or maybe this team is on to something. The Giants won a game that over the years they have lost many times. Maybe this isn’t our fathers’ New York Football Giants. If Gilbride can figure out how to protect a lead, the Giants might just keep rolling. They’re healthier than they’ve been at this point in recent memory and with a week off to get over the jet lag and the lag of playing a bunch of teams that will be vying for top 10 draft picks, they might even be able to figure out how to win a game after a week off, something that has haunted this team in recent years as well. Let’s see if they can continue to exorcise these demons. Speaking of demons… when is Billy Cundiff stopping by the Meadowlands for an audition?