Nov 292007
 
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Minnesota Vikings 41 – New York Giants 17

by Damon Micalizzi for BigBlueInteractive.com

In Brief…

One week removed from playing maybe their most complete game of the year, the Giants followed it up with their worst game of the season just seven days later. You can say what you want about them still being 7-4, and how they are still firmly in control of their own destiny, and some will call this a trap game and every other cliché and excuse and justification of why the Giants lost this game.  But the bottom line is this: This team was so bad on Sunday that even if they are still “in the thick of things in the NFC,” what the hell did they show us to make us think that they will not have a second consecutive case of déjà vu next week against Chicago?

This game was as close to a carbon copy of the last meeting with the Vikings as one could imagine.  It was a debacle in every sense of the word.

No surprise that the goat was the guy who threw four interceptions, three of them returned for a TD, the other a TD one play later. Don’t mistake what I’m about to say as making excuses for The Quarterback.  He played a terrible game. However, while every jerk with a press pass tears The Quarterback apart for the next five or so days, there is plenty of blame to go around. There is an abundance of evidence that this was a collectively awful effort by the Giants’ offense. The play calling was predictable and the O-Line was absolutely porous at times.  Penalties continue to screw up Giants’ drives.

The Quarterback did spread the ball around though. Seven different Giants caught passes on Sunday.  I’m pretty sure every single one of them dropped one (or two) as well. The Quarterback’s ugly stat line and pitiful showing was the result of poor coaching, poor blocking, poor receiving and no running game.  Simply put, there aren’t many QBs that would have had a good game under those circumstances.  Still though, I think everyone expected more from The Quarterback.

Quarterback

Again, not making excuses here.  The Quarterback played terribly.  But a closer look at the tape and it’s plain as day that much more went wrong for this offense than just a bad showing by The Quarterback.  Yes – there were miscommunications.  Receivers ran routes that were not the routes The Quarterback was expecting them to run.  Yes – he was running for his life because the O-Line at times did not give him much time at all.  Yes – he had a few of his receivers drop passes that they should have caught. Yes – he had a ball tipped that resulted in one pick returned for a TD.  Yes – he probably thought he had a free play when he was picked throwing the deep ball, when in reality it was an offensive penalty.  And Yes – there were plenty of penalties called and not called that added to the demise of this offense.

But guess what… All of that cannot be purely coincidence.  While that laundry list of follies is probably insurmountable, I think what bothers people more than anything is that as this game continued to snowball out of control, The Quarterback continued to descend with the avalanche.

I’m not going to waste time analyzing every throw, pointing out what he did well (yes there were some positives) and who else is to blame for this interception and that incompletion, and that interception and this incompletion.   The Offense looked snake bitten very early in this one.  After Sidney Rice caught that first TD, they marched down the field, and scored a TD to tie the game.  All of that confidence and swagger seemed sucked right out of the building as soon as Darren Sharper picked off the first INT of the game.

It looked like Shockey zigged when he should have zagged, but Sharper made a great play running it back for a TD.  It was the first of three TD passes The Quarterback threw to Minnesota players on the day.  But the game was really over at that point.

The thing that irritates me the most is that Kevin Gilbride never adjusted his game plan based on what Minnesota was doing defensively.  It was obvious that running between the tackles was not going to be fruitful, especially as the game wore on and the deficit grew.  You still have to run the ball to keep the defense honest.

This multi-read scheme was well studied by the Minnesota defense and they continued to blitz and disguise coverages with great success.  A second look at the game tape shows that the only success the Giants had passing against this D was with passes to the sidelines.

Even after the Vikings’ 9-minute second half field goal drive, it became clear that if the Giants were going to be successful in clawing their way back into the game, it was going to be through the air.  With The Quarterback facing a heated pass rush on nearly every play, Gilbride never called a quick out, a screen, never was a quick pass to the outside called.  Does that exonerate The Quarterback for his nauseating performance. Negative.  But the coaching staff, has to realize that their plan of attack was not going to be successful on this day, and the fact that they were too arrogant or narrow-minded to change their game plan or deviate from their philosophy at all is inexplicable.

Running Backs

The vaunted Minnesota run D proved as good as advertised, though Reuben Droughns had a little bit of success on the first drive before the O-Line got a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Past.  Droughns’ spent most of his afternoon trying to pick up the blitz as the Vikes really did a good job of disguising just who was going to be coming and who was going to be dropping into coverage.  Speaking of dropping, Droughns also dropped two passes and was out of position on a red zone HB screen pass.

Ahmad Bradshaw took his first NFL regular season carry off tackle for 11 yards.  I would have liked to have seen Bradshaw more on Sunday because he looked quick and elusive running outside the tackles, which happens to be the best way to run against the Vikes stout D front.  Only problem is, Bradshaw isn’t very adept at picking up the blitz yet. So with the score the way it was and with the blitzes coming on almost every play, we only got four looks at the future lightning, to Brandon’s thunder.

Patrick Pass had a cameo appearance.  He came in on third and long, forgot to pick up the blitz and saw the LB hit The Quarterback forcing a low throw.  Thanks for coming.  I think we’ll “pass”.

Wide Receivers

Bad ankle and all, Plaxico Burress is still a big target who can beat up on a smallish defensive back.  In spite of the fact that he caught seven balls for 93 yards and a TD (in garbage time), he still had two drops and is just not on the same page with The Quarterback.  To his credit, he stayed in the game, even when it had long been decided and played hard until the bitter end.

When he caught his 600th career pass Amani Toomer pumped his fist into the air in what was the only show of emotion from anyone on the Giants on the day.  Maybe the milestone catch was weighing on his mind too much, that it caused him to drop two passes earlier in the game.

Sinorice Moss had three catches, one of them for a 20-yard gain.  He also slid on his break, while running a hook pattern and wasn’t able to catch the ball that was waiting for him when he turned around.  It would have been a first down.  Instead, Toomer and The Quarterback got their signals crossed on the next play and 4th and 5 from the 35 ended with a turnover on downs.   Had either receiver made a play the drive would have ended with points and maybe the Giants would have regained momentum and control of the game. But as we all know, that wasn’t the case. Moss was also guilty of running a route in the opposite direction that The Quarterback was throwing.  I don’t know if someone changed the playbook on these guys but something was seriously wrong on Sunday.

Domenik Hixon had his first catch of the year for five yards, reminding us all just how desperate we will be at receiver should Plax be shut down for any period of time.

Tight Ends

A very uninspiring performance by Jeremy Shockey.  I just didn’t see any fire in him.  I hate to say it but he just looked like he was going through the motions out there.  Shockey also had a pass go through his hands.  It would have been a great catch had he been able to hold on as it was thrown a bit too far in front of him, but he should have had it nevertheless.  No one drop, or route that was run wrong lost this game.  They all however, did indeed contribute to an all out despicable performance by the offense.

Michael Matthews had a catch for three yards but spent the much of the day (when he was on the field) blocking… or trying to block.  Matthews actually did a good job of picking up the blitz on the thirty-yard completion to Toomer. On the play, Matthews started to engage one defender before sliding to the outside to pick up the linebacker and rode him back ten yards and out of the play.

Offensive Line

As I mentioned throughout, the once formidable Giants’ Offensive Line has not been so good since the bye week.  By the time the second half rolled around, running the ball was an afterthought as the score dictated the Giants air it out.  When it was all said and done, The Quarterback was sacked three times, hit eight times and hurried many more than that.  Screens weren’t set up properly, blitz assignments weren’t picked up well and yellow flags yet again, crippled drives. Two of them were declined, but David Diehl was flagged three times. For the third consecutive week Chris Snee was flagged as well.

It’s been a recurring theme for the past three weeks that this unit is just getting dominated physically at the line of scrimmage.  At times they are not getting off the ball quick enough and are forced into poor technique to try to sustain their blocks.  Once again, if this unit doesn’t shape up, the Offense doesn’t stand much of a chance.

On a positive note, Guy Whimper has done a decent job in spot duty the past two weeks.  Let’s hope Kareem McKenzie’s okay though, continuity is everything on the O-Line.

Defensive Line

ONLY the New York Giants can get a sack and a fumble on third and long and have the ball roll forward and be recovered 10 yards downfield for a first down.  Fortunately, that dose of bad luck didn’t end in a score for the Vikings, as the D halted the drive a short while later, but it’s exhibit A that the ball was not bouncing the Giants’ way on Sunday.

It shouldn’t go unnoticed that Fred Robbins really had a monster game.   He had one sack taken off the board due to a BS flag on Sam Madison and ended the day with 8 tackles and 1 ½  sacks.  He routinely got good penetration and was taking on two blockers for much of the afternoon.  His counterpart on the interior, Barry Cofield had probably his best game of the season with three tackles and also did a good job of holding his gaps and occupying blockers.

Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck were also busy stuffing the run and chasing Jackson around in and out of the pocket.  Osi had two sacks including the one on the dubious play I mentioned earlier and enjoyed Michael Strahan getting the bulk of the double coverage after his three sacks last week on the other side.  Strahan followed up his 3-sack game from last week with three missed sacks against the Vikings looking like a stooge letting Jackson slip away for a first down after a near sack that he just couldn’t hold on to.

Linebackers

Not a lot of tackles for this group, mainly because of the solid play of the D-Line in front of them.  Reggie Torbor had a pretty good game making his first start on the strong side now that Mathias Kiwanuka is out for the year.  Torbor ended up with four tackles, all of them solo and did a good job of reacting to the play.  He was never caught glaringly out of position and did a good job of wrapping up. In the first quarter, Torbor showed good range and exceptional speed, coming from the opposite side of the field to catch Chester Taylor from behind.

Let’s hope that Antonio Pierce’s ankle is not too bad as he’s sure to be busy on Sunday in Chicago.  Pierce did a lot of running against Minnesota, and ended up with six tackles but came dangerously close to getting flagged for late hits on two occasions.  Nothing special otherwise from Pierce, or Kawika Mitchell who jumped on top of the pile a few times, although he wasn’t credited with any tackles.

Cornerbacks

Take away the 60-yard bomb on the Vikes first possession and the Giants’ D numbers really look pretty good.  On that play Aaron Ross looked lost while the ball was in the air.  It was an ugly play defensively, and Ross wasn’t the same afterwards, getting beat a few more times on the day.  As it turns out, he left the game with a bruised hammy, and probably a bruised ego.

Kevin Dockery may be the most overlooked underrated player on the Giants D. He almost got a sack on a corner blitz, but hit Jackson just as he let go of the ball forcing the errant pass and a punt.  He continues to do a good job wrapping people up and ended up with four tackles, one of them being a punishing hit on the ball carrier.  Only problem was Dockery was the one who ended up being punished as he had to leave the game for a few plays after the hit.

Aside from prolonging a Minnesota drive with an illegal contact penalty that screwed Fred Robbins out of another sack, Sam Madison’s name was not called much on the afternoon.  He had only one tackle, but wasn’t challenged much.

Safeties

After two weeks making big plays to mask big mistakes, Gibril Wilson didn’t come up with any picks or recover any fumbles.  He didn’t break up any passes and he was one of about nine Giants to let Chester Taylor slip out of his grasp on Taylor’s one and only good run of the day that went for a score.  But Wilson, otherwise, was solid, finishing the day with seven tackles and often coming up to stop Taylor before he could gain a full head of steam.

Michael Johnson and James Butler split time opposite Wilson and both ended up with three tackles apiece. Neither were caught glaringly out of position but on a day where the Vikings didn’t really need their offense to score much; they didn’t have many opportunities to blow coverages.

Special Teams

You got the feeling pretty much right from the opening kickoff when Larry kicked the ball out of bounds, that this game was going to be a tough one for the Giants.  Somehow he willed a 48-yard kick through the uprights later in the game.  Go figure the biggest kick of his season was absolutely meaningless when it all was said and done.

Jeff Feagles had four punts, two of them landing inside the 20.  Coverage on kicks (what few there were) and punts was pretty good with the games lone highlight being Dave Tollefson knocking the snot out of Charles Gordon.

Ahmad Bradshaw should continue to return kickoffs, as field position has been routinely better for the Giants with Bradshaw as the deep man.

To Sum It Up…

Let’s not get too excited about how the Defense played though.  Minnesota sucks and even though the Giants shut down Chester Taylor, had Adrian Peterson played, the final score might have been 56 –17.  Even without Peterson, the Vikings were charmed on this day.  Even an extra point clanged off the upright and went through.  Hell, the Vikes’ D won the game 21-17 anyway.  As bad as the Giants’ offense played, they didn’t get any help from the refs as a clear as day horse collar on an Ahmad Bradshaw run was not called, nor was a blatant defensive pass interference call on what would have been Plaxico’s first TD of the game was not called either.

The bottom line is they were out-played and they were out-coached. Minnesota came in with a superior game plan.  They studied their tape of the Giants’ offense and scheme, and did a phenomenal job of changing their coverages, changing their looks and disguising things to bait receivers and The Quarterback in to the wrong reads.  Had Gilbride simplified things in the second half, maybe the Giants could have mounted a comeback.  Too many mistakes were made on this day.  Let’s hope that The Quarterback rebounds from this loss the way he did the last time he stunk it up against Minny with three TDs and no picks next week against Chicago.  For that to happen though, the O-Line will have to block better, the running game will have to get healthy quick, receivers will have to hold on to the damn ball, and penalties will have to be cut down.  This is as close to a must win for the Giants, as I’m not sure if they can withstand another week of media abuse should they let another game go down the tubes. And because Chicago is desperate, they are extremely dangerous and the Giants are a team on the ropes… At least right now.

(Box Score – Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants, November 25, 2007)

Anish’s Breakdown of Key Plays of the Game

by Anish Patel for BigBlueInteractive.com

Note:  Aside from being a die-hard Giants fan, Anish is a first-year tight ends coach at a Division III school.  He breaks down each game like he would when preparing for an opponent.

Quarter 1 – Series 2  – Play 13

Formation: Quads Left Slot Left
Play: Pass-Int TD by Sharper

  • Eli is blitzed by no one breaks for their routes.
  • Looks like he was looking for Shockey to break off his route but keeps going and Sharper comes in and picks it off and runs left for a TD.
  • Great blitz, oline a mess.
  • RE comes in wide on the rush so #41 blitzes “C” gap and #51 Leber blitzes “A” gap.
  • #56 gets hook zone on the play.
  • LE #96 drops back in coverage.

Quarter 1 – Series 3 – Play 19

Formation: Quads Right Switch
Play: Pass (Inc) intented for #83 Moss

  • Blitz “A” gap by #56 E.J. Henderson.
  • Delay stunt, and blitz by #94 Williams and other backer.
  • Williams goes strongside “B” gap & Lb at a “40” technique delays then blitzes “B” gap.
  • Burress in motion runs inside vertical release running an “In” in the middle of the field. Saftey is 4 yards off him when Eli releases the ball and it’s in mid air capturing Burress in the frame. At that specific moment the safety is still 4 yards off Burress. ( Does a good throw hit Burress in stride??)
  • # 81 Toomer outside vertical release stretches field horizontally and vertical by running towards the sidelines and up.
  • #83 Moss runs a curl route.

Quarter 2 – Series 4 – Play 23

Formation: Quads Right Slot Right
Play: Pass

  • Blitz “B” gap by #51 Leber.
  • LDT#94 Williams & LE #95 Udeze Slant weakside.
  • Other blitzer takes steps that way but comes “D” gap.
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