Dec 192007
 
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Washington Redskins 22 – New York Giants 10

by Damon Micalizzi for BigBlueInteractive.com

In Brief…

What a joke. The swoon is officially on. The Giants tried to lose this game a hundred different ways, as there were plenty of mistakes on offense, defense and special teams to go around. However, there is absolutely, positively no way to justify throwing the ball 52 times (Editor’s Note: 54 times if you count the two plays where Manning was sacked.) in 30 MPH winds.  Especially when you’re running the ball at five plus yards a clip.

On a night where Brandon Jacobs was running about as good as we’ve ever seen him run, Tom Coughlin let Kevin Gilbride call pass play after pass play through a whistling, swirling, unpredictable wind.  There is no excuse for this play calling. And after Brandon Jacobs’ 17-yard scamper on the Giants’ second play of the game, Gilbride promptly called three pass plays in a row, making sure the Giants’ most consistent player, Jeff Feagles, got involved early.

Quarterback

The numbers are awful.  Yet once again, Eli Manning wasn’t nearly as bad as his statistics would indicate.  Manning was 18 of 52 for 184 yards with a TD and no picks.  At least twelve of those NFL record 34 incomplete passes though, were flat out blatant drops, with Jacobs and Toomer going back and forth throughout the game, each one trying to out do the other with a more inept display of pass receiving.

That also doesn’t take into account the TD catch that Toomer almost had at the back of the endzone in the 4th quarter, or the handful of times Fred Smoot interfered with Plaxico Burress, none of which were called.

And while Manning was not super sharp, he was not the disaster that statisticians and talking heads will have you believe he was.   All that said, it’s pointless to analyze his play any further, as it was completely irresponsible for the coaching staff to have any quarterback throw the ball that many times in those conditions.  This game was well within reach until midway through the 4th.

Running Backs

As despicable as he was trying to catch the ball out of the backfield, Brandon Jacobs was running the ball extremely well.  In fact, every time he dropped a pass, he seemed to want to redeem himself by punishing the would-be tackler on his next carry.  Jacobs ended up with 130 yards on 25 carries.  He should have had 200 plus yards as he was running the ball very well.

Whatever bit of hesitancy he showed early last week, there was none of that against the Redskins.  Jacobs hit the holes fast, showed some good patience at times, and as always, was a bear to tackle.  He was the perfect guy to ride on a night where the ball would roll 25 yards after being blown off the tee.  That apparently wasn’t part of the game plan.  No, Kevin Gilbride made it abundantly clear that gale force winds are perfect for throwing the ball.  52 times.

That moronic game plan was only magnified by Jacobs’ inability to catch the ball and Manning gave him every opportunity to do so, throwing the ball Jacobs’ way more than any other Giants’ receiver. Ten times by my count.  Six of those hit Jacobs in the hands.  The first drop was a result of Jacobs looking up field before securing the ball, that blooper snowballed on him throughout the game. And once Brandon got the butterfingers rash, it quickly spread out of control to his teammates.

Ahmad Bradshaw entered the game and quickly took his first carry up field for an eight-yard gain.  That would be his last carry of the night.  Reuben Droughns was stuffed on his only carry and had Manning’s last pass of the game go right through his hands.

Wide Receivers

Plaxico Burress’ big game last week had the Redskins bringing plenty of safety help over the top this week.  Plax battled with Fred Smoot all game long, with Smoot flirting with pass interference on more than a handful of plays. There were some passes that a 100% healthy Burress probably would have come down with even with Smoot hanging all over him.  Plax isn’t close to 100%, and on two near spectacular catches, he absorbed vicious hits from the safety, coming with help.  It’s a wonder he was able to come out of this game without additional injury.  Whether Smoot interfered or not, the non-calls did not cost the Giants this game.  Not by any stretch.

The same cannot be said for the play of Amani Toomer.  If you only saw the stat book, you would think that Toomer sat this one out.  Sadly, that wasn’t the case.  Not only did he not have a catch, he dropped at least four passes, one of them, a wide-open, well thrown, sure-fire touchdown.  Dropped. The usually sure-handed Toomer, had a shot at redemption, as Manning later tried to hit him in the back of the endzone, although Toomer got his finger tips on the ball, he was not able to bring it in.  Yes, all receivers drop passes.  However, it is inexcusable for the franchise’s all-time leading receiver to have a game like that.  A game like that has to wreak havoc on the guy’s psyche.  To top it all off, Toomer’s worst game as a pro also had him rolling over Jeremy Shockey’s leg, ending his season.

One thing’s for sure though, Eli is growing more comfortable throwing the ball to Sinorice Moss.  Moss had five catches.  He’s so eager to try to break one for a big play that he cost the Giants a first down, by dancing backwards after a catch and losing yardage trying to juke the defenders.  That’s fine on first and second down.  On third and long, when you catch the ball past the sticks, take the hit and get the first.  He’ll likely hear that 100 times this week during tape review.

Steve Smith saw his first action in two plus months and displayed good concentration catching a somewhat high pass that he first tipped but then brought in as he was going down.  His services will likely be needed more in the very near future.

Tight Ends

As soon as he went down everyone knew it was bad.  Shockey was gesturing to the sideline before the whistle even blew.  He knew he was done too.  A maddening end to a frustrating game for Shockey who was two times open up the seam, however, Manning never saw him.

Ironically, it seemed like Shockey was still riding to the X-ray table when Manning threw the prettiest pass of the game, a 19-yard dart, to Kevin Boss for a touchdown.  Boss later had another catch for 12 yards as the departure of Shockey for some reason triggered the return of the TE to the passing offense.  All in all, Boss is a smooth route runner, with soft hands and is a big target.  He will likely never be the blocker that Shockey is, unless he hits the weights, as he’s somewhat slight.  Right now, he’s purely a receiving tight end.

Losing Shockey will create a litany of issues on offense as the Giants as it will take two or more guys to replace him. While Giants fans long for Shockey to be the consistent big play threat as a receiver, he is probably the most well rounded TE in the game, as he’s a tremendous blocker as well as a receiving threat. Boss’ inability to run block will likely mean more time for Michael Matthews, who’s a very good blocker. Matthews also had a pass bounce off his chest as well.

Offensive Line

David Diehl got beat by Andre Carter two times. Both times, Carter took a wide angle and sprinted around Diehl before Diehl could get his hands on him. Cornelius Griffin was the only other Redskin to get a hand on Eli Manning.  Not bad when you consider Manning dropped back to pass 52 times.  Run blocking was not bad either, as the Giants ran the ball at 5 yards a clip.

Defensive Line

Just a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performance by the Giants front seven in this game.  There were flashes of solid play up front, forcing the Skins to go three-and-out on their first three possessions of the game.  Michael Strahan looked great against the run, catching Portis from behind twice and driving blockers backwards.  Fred Robbins blasted through for a sack, and Justin Tuck also had a sack and six more tackles to boot. At other times in the game, the guys up front were manhandled as big holes were opened and Portis ran for big chunks of yardage.

Osi Umenyiora, was missing in action.  No tackles on the day, not once did he get any pressure on Collins. That’s not what you expect from your Pro Bowl caliber DE in a big game, in December. Forget about the statistics though.  The bottom line is this; there were lapses in this game where the Giants’ defense just was soft.  Call it lack of heart, call it fatigue, whatever you want to call it, in December, you have to play hard for 60 minutes.  I just didn’t see it.

The Redskins first possession after the half was the biggest indictment on the defense.  They marched up the field for a quick TD, with Clinton Portis shooting through the interior for nine yards and then again for five yards and the score. In my opinion any hopes of a second half come back were thwarted at that point.

Linebackers

Believe it or not, I though Antonio Pierce looked to be regaining his quickness.  He still had problems shedding blockers, but seemed to move better and react better.  He had three very nice tackles where he came up to make the play right around the line of scrimmage.

On the outside, Reggie Torbor and Kawika Mitchell not only were unable to get off of blockers, but they just never seemed to be around the play. And when they were, they were either a step too slow or missed a tackle.  Two tackles for Mitchell, and just one for Torbor.  Any time your starting LBs total only seven tackles, something is wrong. Especially when you give up 150 yards rushing.

Cornerbacks

There is no need to over analyze the secondary.  They played a fairly solid game on a day where the passing game was more like a circus than anything else.  Games like this come few and far between, and technique be damned, as there was no telling where the ball would go once it left the quarterback’s hand.

I really like Kevin Dockery. He’ll get beat from time to time gambling while trying to make a play on the ball, but he’s a good tackler and plays with a chip on his shoulder.  Evident in his vicious hit on Portis behind the line of scrimmage breaking up a screen pass.

Santana Moss got behind Sam Madison a few times.  But every time the ball was up in the air it was an adventure. Keeping up with the theme for the day Madison dropped his 10th (at least it seems like 10) interception of the year.  Like Jacobs and Toomer, Madison was looking at all of the green in front of him when the ball went through his hands. Both he and Dockery both had four tackles apiece.

Aaron Ross again played in the nickel packages and had one tackle, but really made a beautiful play defending a pass over the middle by diving in front of the receiver and slapping the ball down at the last second.

Safeties

Back to back decent games for the duo of Michael Johnson and Craig Dahl at the starting safety positions.  Dahl was busier on the evening, notching four tackles, but he missed badly two times while trying to bring down Portis after he blew through the front seven.

A quieter night for Johnson who didn’t have many tackles but did a very good job in coverage, limiting Chris Cooley to only two catches.  One of them coming with Dockery in coverage.

Special Teams

Who didn’t know that Lawrence Tynes was going to miss at least one field goal on a blustery day like that?  Had he been able to get that one through, the momentum might have shifted, but there were far too many other problems with the Giants on this day.  Corey Webster actually did a nice job filling in for David Tyree with four tackles on specials.

To Sum It Up…

Yeah it’s short.  But it’s not worth the heartache to re-watch that game tape any more.  The bottom line is this: The Giants have given us as fans no reason to believe that this season will end any differently then last season and the season before that.  A few meager victories over teams in a downward spiral do not mask the fact that once again, this team has been figured out by the other coaches in the league.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Coach Coughlin’s half time speech didn’t exactly incite a fire in them either as they pretty much came out and laid down, letting the Skins score.  The lax play on defense was only outdone by the outrageous number of dropped passes, which by the way are a tell tale sign that this team was in no way shape or form prepared for this game.

Furthermore, Coughlin has to be blamed for not doing something with Gilbride.  At some point, he’s got to take responsibility for his coaching staff, and at no time in the past four years has the play calling been worse than it was on Sunday night.

Amid all of the drops, missed tackles, poor execution and the lapses on defense, there were some bright spots.  Some of the younger guys like, Moss, Bradshaw, Dockery, Ross, Johnson and Smith look to be on their way to productive NFL careers.  This team has drafted well as of late.  At least the new coaching staff will have a nice young nucleus to build around.

Coughlin will finally make an adjustment though.  Make no mistake, Kill-drive will run, run, run, and use plenty of play action on Sunday to beat a reeling Buffalo Bills team and get our hopes up one last time.  Then there will be the fiasco against the 15-0 Patriots before the last chapter of this season.  But we don’t need to read it.  Rest assured, we know well how this book ends.

(Box Score – Washington Redskins at New York Giants, December 16, 2007)
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