Dec 122007
 
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New York Giants 16 – Philadelphia Eagles 13

by Damon Micalizzi for BigBlueInteractive.com

In Brief…

One thing is clear.  This is a different Giants team from just a year ago.   Sure they shot themselves in the foot a few times in this one.  Still though, they did just enough to eek out a win.  And it doesn’t matter what year it is, what their records are, a win IN Philly is never easy and nothing to take lightly. No matter how you get it.

The Giants and their fans sweated this one out.  The Giants could have and should have scored more points.  There were costly turnovers.  But this game was very indicative of how the season has gone for the Giants.  A few mistakes, a lot of room for improvement, but still, somehow, they are beating the teams they are supposed to beat. Fitting that this one ended with David Akers having more than enough leg, but missing ever so slightly. He has broken our hearts before, but with this miss, any hopes the Eagles and their fans had for a playoff birth glanced just wide right.

Quarterback

He likely won’t get a bunch of accolades this week, and his numbers were far from gaudy. But, Eli Manning had a very solid game.  He made very good decisions, and while he did miss on a few passes, he threw a few very nice balls as well.  More importantly, he did not turn the ball over, nor did he throw any passes that came close to getting picked.

It’s sad that it’s necessary to note such small accomplishments in the grand scheme of things, but that comes as a result of the scrutiny that Eli faces on virtually every throw.  No need to do that this week, as ironically, play calling was much better.  Haven’t seen the quick slant in a few weeks.  They hit it twice in Philly, one of them going for a TD.  The Giants ran on first down more often than they have all year, and had Jacobs had a better game, it would have opened up the play action a little more.

Manning missed on a few throws, and maybe could have gotten the Giants another TD had he been able to hook up with Shockey in the redzone.  He still does a lot of the little things that don’t garner praise, nor statistics.  Eli induced two more offsides penalties this week with his hard count and his completion percentage takes a hit because he’s so willing to throw the ball away to avoid a sack or when the play simply isn’t there.

All things considered, the Giants still left at least 17 points off the board.  And while a few of his passes in the redzone could have been better placed and possibly been touchdowns, he was very careful with his passes and played a very smart game.

Running Backs

Call it rust.  Call it bad luck. Call it being too reckless in trying to fight for the extra yard.  Call it what you want, but Tom Coughlin and Co. would be wise to offer the same tutelage they gave Tiki Barber when he had his fumbleitis years ago to Brandon Jacobs.

I don’t think Brandon has a “fumbling problem”. I do think he just twice was the victim of a hit and a well-placed strip of the ball.  When it’s all said and done, a fumble is a fumble and with Derrick Ward gone for the year, providing he’s healthy, Jacobs is going to have the ball a lot more touches the rest of the way, and defenders will gladly be looking to put a helmet on the ball rather than try to wrap up the big guy.

He ran well later in the game after being stifled on many of his carries in the first quarter.  I really thought he looked a bit hesitant early in the game and just didn’t have any burst. It was borderline Ron Daynesque.  He seemed to regain his mojo though later after taking a few hits.

Reuben Droughns hit the hole with his best showing of quickness and acceleration on the year only to run out of gas at the two-yard line.  It was a 35 yard gain for Droughns… he finished the day with 34 yards rushing.

Wide Receivers

What can you say about Plaxico Burress.  The guy is a warrior.  Before the game it looked as if he was going to possibly sit and he had his best game in weeks.  He really loves to play against the Eagles.  Burress was just amazing.  He caught nearly everything that was thrown to him, plucking a few balls that were a little high and turning them up field for big gains. I don’t know if he took a cortisone shot, or if it was just his desire to beat Philly, but this was the closest thing to early season Plaxico that we’ve seen in weeks.  He still scares the heck out of me holding the ball with one hand like a cantaloupe just begging for someone to swat it out of there. But you’ve got to love the guy’s heart playing on two bum ankles and still fighting for that extra yard.

He may not be the big play threat that he once was, but he’s still Ol’ Reliable.  Amani Toomer had three catches for 37 yards, all of them going for first downs. He almost was the victim of a challenge flag on what looked to be a possible fumble but really did an amazing job of holding on to the ball after getting popped right on the nose of the football by the defender.  Toomer never lost control of the ball.

The thing that had me excited though were the two catches by Sinorice Moss.  Both catches went for big first downs, on drives that ultimately ended up with points.  It could and hopefully will be a turning point for Moss, who now likely feels like he’s contributed having a hand in two big plays.  It also means Manning is not afraid to look for him when he needs someone to come up with a catch.  They were just two catches but their value should not be overlooked. One was a nice leaping catch on a deep comeback route where he knew he was going to get hit, and subsequent ended up being the victim of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and later in the game he a big grab on third down setting up Tynes’ last second field goal before the half.

Tight Ends

It sure seems like that 12-catch game Jeremy Shockey had a few weeks ago was more like a few seasons ago.  Shockey only ended up with one catch for a measly 4 yards.  And although Eli wasn’t by any means force-feeding passes to Shockey, he wasn’t ignoring him either.  Eli and Shockey failed to hook up two times in the endzone and whether the pass was slightly overthrown or Shockey didn’t get the right separation is immaterial.  It has to be corrected. That is a play that should be bread and butter.  That is a play that should get the Giants at least two scores the rest of the way.  The bottom line is this – a healthy Shockey at this point in the season is not something the Giants are used to. The Manning to Shockey connection needs to be fine-tuned and quick.

Gilbride and Manning also have to make a concerted effort to get Shockey more involved. It kills me to watch TEs with lesser talent have big impacts on a game, simply because they are just used more.  Shockey is a rare combination of speed, strength and agility.  He is a spark plug and can change a game with his talent and fire. He’s an underrated blocker and is a good teammate.  His biggest problem is he gets a little ADD if he doesn’t get the ball, which usually ends up with a dropped pass.  The Giants should do their best to keep him interested as much as possible.

Offensive Line

After Trent Cole got to Eli for his second sack of the game, a lot of people thought it was going to be a long game for Manning and the O-Line.  David Diehl did a great job on Cole the rest of the way.  Though I’m still looking for more from this unit, after those two sacks, Eli was only hit one other time by Mike Patterson.  He still saw some pressure, but for the most part had enough time to throw the ball.

Shaun O’Hara got beat badly a few times in the first quarter, resulting in Brandon Jacobs getting stuffed for a loss.   The holes could have been a little bigger for Jacobs, but I don’t think Jacobs had shaken off the rust until he got hit a few times, and felt secure on his leg.

Defensive Line

If the Giants do end up making any noise down the stretch, it will no doubt be because of the play of the D-Line.  (And Manning, of course).  They didn’t get 12 sacks on McNabb in this game, but they still did a very good job of keeping pressure on him.  Just one sack this time around for Osi Umenyiora but he did get three hits on McNabb as well.   Osi not only showcased his speed, catching Westbrook from behind on one play, but did an excellent job of keeping the play in front of him after dropping back in coverage on a zone blitz only to come up and make a great stop in space, forcing a 4th down.   He has become a complete player this year. Not just a dangerous pass rusher.

The Eagles were intent on minimizing the pressure to come from the Giants defensive ends, and used a lot of double teams and chips on both Osi and Michael Strahan. Strahan went up against John Runyan who did a good job keeping Stray away from McNabb, although he had plenty of help.  They still ran most of their run plays away from Strahan.

Justin Tuck continues to make a case to be on the field on every down, as he had three tackles and punched the ball out of the normally sure handed Westbrook. It was a nice tackle to begin with, but Tuck exhibited great strength and awareness in slapping the ball out of Westbrook’s grasp.  He almost got to McNabb two times, but slipped as he got a hand on the elusive QB.  It doesn’t show up in the stat column, but Tuck changed those plays.

Big Fred Robbins had a quiet game but did a good job of holding up blockers.  In spite of Westbrook’s numbers on the ground, (20 rush 116 yards) you just didn’t get the sense that the Giants were getting run on that badly.  Jay Alford flashed some quickness and agility in chasing down a scrambling McNabb on a coverage sack.  Alford probably saw the field the most he has this season and seemed to get a good push when he was in there.

It was hands down the best game of the season for Barry Cofield though.  He blasted through the line to take Westbrook down for a loss using a cunning swim move of a five-year vet. He also had a sack and nearly got two, although McNabb slipped away as he did several times. But I found my eyes several times seeing a good push from the interior and thinking it was Robbins only to realize a second later that it was Cofield who was pushing two guys backwards. With the DTs seeing the field more since Kiwanuka went down, Barry Cofield has been having a very solid, very steady sophomore year.

Linebackers

First of all, there was no flag.  How many times have Giants fans had to lick their wounds after a tough loss, in a game they could have won if not for the flag that was or wasn’t? And just like that Antonio Pierce goes from having a largely unspectacular game where, he didn’t make many plays (just three tackles) to being the guy that stifled the Eagles chances to pull this one out and with that their playoff hopes.  Let’s hope that little bit of momentum helps his ankle heal up a bit, so Clinton Portis and Chris Cooley don’t turn those whispers about him hurting the defense in to screams.  In the big picture of things, it was a good no call.  Even if Avant makes the catch, Pierce had him stopped before the first down marker.

Another reason Pierce’s drop off has not been more widely noticed is because of the very solid play of Kawika Mitchell.  For the second straight game Mitchell was everywhere and ended up with a team leading ten tackles.  He’s been a very sure-handed tackler as of late and has not been caught out of position, although he was blocked out of the play on Westbrook’s TD catch.  This guy though has been very solid since his early season miscues.

Reggie Torbor has really done a good job since he joined the starting defense as well. He had six tackles against the Eagles on Sunday, and at least four of them were tackles that if he had he missed, Westbrook would have been running for a while.  Torbor has a good motor and is shedding blockers very well.  Much like Kiwi, when he’s going north and south, he’s very effective.  I’d like to see him blitz a little more.

Cornerbacks

It’s hard to nit pick a group that only gives up only 179 yards through the air. Take into consideration that they did that with two rookies playing safety and you realize just how good the Giants’ corners played in Philly.  Sam Madison may get beat from time to time, but he’s a sure tackler and has a nose for the ball, evident in his recovery of Westbrook’s fumble.  He’s given up a few yards trying to wrestle the ball free from a receiver while trying to make the tackle, but he’s obviously doing a good job mentoring some of the younger guys like Aaron Ross and Kevin Dockery.  Just when you thought Reggie Brown was going to dance for a first down, it was Madison who raced back (after over pursuing) to take Brown down with a body slam.

Dockery has played well at the nickel back and as a starter with Ross banged up.  Dockery had four tackles against Philly including one on specials where he is also a contributor.  He isn’t afraid to go after the ball and doesn’t shy away from contact when going after the ball carrier.  He’s aggressive and it’s just a matter of time before he makes a big game-changing play.

As for Ross, he continues to be slowed a bit by his bruised hammy, but also had a solid showing, getting beat by Reggie Brown but making the sure-handed tackle.  A secondary’s best friend is a good pass rush, but Jay Alford can thank the back seven for his first career sack, as it was one of several times when McNabb just had no where to throw the ball.

Safeties

What looked to be a liability going in ended up being a pleasant surprise as the Giants got a very solid performance from both rookie safeties.  Michael Johnson plays the game fast and is a violent tackler. Both Johnson and Craig Dahl had five tackles apiece and although they are both very aggressive, neither was caught glaringly out of position in Philly.

It will be interesting to see what happens should all four safeties get healthy, as Johnson has been impressive the past several weeks, making big hits, and taking the right angles to cut off routes and get to the ball carriers.

For a guy who hasn’t seen the field much this year, and looked lost a few times in the pre-season, Dahl did a good job of diagnosing the play and coming up on the run.  I was also impressed with the way he changed directions.  He looked very fluid back there. He also meets the ball carrier with bad intentions.

Special Teams

His kickoffs could be better, but, Lawrence Tynes is stringing together a few consistent games.  Field goals and extra points are splitting the uprights as of late, although Jay Alford isn’t doing him any favors by slinging the ball high to Jeff Feagles on every other long snap.  Come playoffs, someone had better light a candle with hopes that this dubious duo doesn’t kill us.  I say this every week it seems, and every week, at least for the past few, he’s come through, so I’ll continue to jinx him.

Feagles should not only go to the Pro Bowl as a punter but as a holder on kicks as well.

R.W. McQuarters had his best punt return since joining the Giants. Maybe since he was with San Francisco.

Coverage on punts and kicks was pretty good, although I admit; I was scared to death of Westbrook as a punt returner with two minutes left in the game.

To Sum It Up…

Any way you try to analyze it, a win in Philly is nothing to scoff at.  Whether it’s 1987, 1997, or 2007, back to back wins in Chicago and Philly is damn impressive.  The offense needs to get healthy, hold onto the ball, and score touchdowns – not field goals – in the redzone. And the defense needs to really just get healthy and a few more turnovers would be nice. But this team is flying under the radar and, depending on how things shake out, could be on the brink of hitting their stride at the right time.

Let’s not put the carriage before the horse though.  While they’ve just disposed of two very desperate teams, and appear to be set for the playoffs, there is still work to do. Just like Chicago and Philly, Washington is desperate and not yet mathematically out of it. While this team has really made an amazing turnaround after their 0-2 start, a win against Washington might allow fans to get a little more excited about what lies ahead…. As long as they don’t screw it all up.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, December 9, 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 1 -Play 1

Formation:  Big I Left
Play:  Run – 35 Lead Power

  • TE Shockey scoops and seals LE #75 lined up at a 6 technique head up.
  • RT McKenzie has his head up – I don’t have it logged but guessing he is going to backer.
  • RG Snee is the power and pulls left in the 7 hole.
  • OC O’Hara drive blocks the LDT lined up shaded in a 1 technique.
  • RDT lined up at a 3 technique is going to get combo blocked by Seubert and McKenzie.
  • TE Matthews reaches and seals RE Trent Cole.
  • FB Hedgecock leads into the hole and blocks backer.
  • RG Snee pulls into the hole and cleans up trash, and blocks Mike.  Snee aims for the left butt cheek of McKenzie, and cleans up anything that shows.
  • Jacobs runs through the 5 hole.

One of our bread-and-butter plays we run in my opinion.  In lead power, we pull the BSG, backside guard, and overwhelm the defense at the point of attack.  This is our concept in our running game that is prevalent in establishing the run.  We basically pull the backside guard, and lead up through the hole with Madison Hedgecock. Now we are overwhelming the defense at the point of attack.  But to keep things less predictable, we run this play using many different I formations, such as Pro right, Pro left, Strong I left, Strong I right, Big I, and so on.  Great play!

Quarter 1 – Series 2 – Play 4

Formation:  Ace – Double Tight
Play:  Run – 27 “G”

  • Shockey drives blocks the RE Thomas.
  • RT McKenzie blocks to backer.
  • RG Snee down blocks LDT at a “1” technique.
  • OC O’Hara and LT Diehl both combo down block, from different sides, the LDT at a 3 technique.  This allows the “G”, or PSG, to pull left into the 7 hole and block backer.
  • TE Matthews reaches Cole.

Now this play has a -3 yard loss because Cole disengages his reach block by Matthews and that, as you can see, is a problem because the key is for the TE to reach and not allow the RE from getting into the play which will then leave the PSG one-on-one with a backer that is taught to fill.

Quarter 2 – Series 3 – Play 15

Formation:  I Pro Left
Play:  Run – 38 Lead Center Kick or 37 Lead Center

  • RT McKenzie seals out LE lined up at a “6i”.
  • RG Snee down blocks on the LDT  at a “1” technique.
  • LG Seubert drive blocks on the RDT lined up at a “2i” technique.
  • RE Cole, lined up at a “5” technique, slants weak side, which helps our cause because we are running strong side, so he almost takes himself out of the play.  Because he slants, LT Diehl blocks him while our TE, I think Mathews on that play, combo blocks and chips off to backer.
  • OC O’hara pulls left into the 7 hole.
  • FB Hedgecock is the lead blocker on this play.

Overall concept of this play is the same with our smash mouth running philosophy of establishing a “power” running game.  This is done by out numbering the defense at the point of attack.  We ran power a lot and now on this play we ran lead center to free the center, O’Hara, up to pull to the 7 hole.

Quarter 2 – Series 3 -  Play 24

Formation:  I Double Tight Wing Left  (Motion whoever flips the play and makes it wing right).
Play:  Run – 38 Lead power

  • TE Shockey reaches and tries to seal out the RE #75.
  • RG Snee and RT McKenzie both combo block the strong side 3 technique.  This is where the cutback lane is created that allows Droughns to rush through.
  • OC O’Hara drive blocks the weak side 1 technique.
  • LG Seubert is the power on this play, and is pulling.
  • LT Diehl sees that Cole is rushing from the outside, and all he has to do is step and hinge to block Cole from getting into the play from the backside.
  • FB Hedgecock is the lead blocker on this play.

Overall concept of this play is the same with our smash mouth running philosophy of establishing a “power” running game.  This is done by out numbering the defense at the point of attack.  Again we want to attack the defense by outnumbering them at the point of attack.  So we motion Matthews from wing left to the right side of the formation, where he is the wing next to and under Shockey.

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