Dec 262007
 
 December 26, 2007  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
New York Giants 38 – Buffalo Bills 21

by Damon Micalizzi for BigBlueInteractive.com

In Brief…

Said the head coach to the sacrificial lamb….

“Do you see what I see?
A running back who runs like a ram.
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star running the ball with might
through defenders who can’t tackle him right…
He might save our jobs at least for just one more night.”

You knew damn well that if the Giants were going to win this game it was going to be by running the ball.  On a cold, wet, windy, day the play calling was the best it’s been all year.   That’s a very sad statement.

The Giants won this game in spite of a lot of things.  The major one being: Eli Manning.

Offense

I really don’t know what to think anymore about Eli Manning.  I’ve long been an advocate of his and I haven’t given up on him yet.  I do believe that his struggles are very much a result of the offensive scheme employed by the coaching staff.  I do believe that for various other (obvious) reasons he is scrutinized much more than he should be. And I still believe that statistics can be very misleading and are, especially in Manning’s case.  However, the fumbles this year are very troublesome.

He threw two picks against Buffalo.   Both of them, I believe were on comeback routes to Burress and Toomer and one or both of them may or may not have been on the receiver.  I’m tired of making excuses though for the interceptions.  Maybe I’m just frustrated because we haven’t seen Manning look like anything remotely close to a very good quarterback for a full 60 minutes since week one.

He’s thrown some beautiful passes this year.  Shoot, Steve Smith dropped a beautiful pass that could have been a TD.  Manning had heat in his face and couldn’t even step all the way into the throw.  But it’s hard though to highlight what he’s done and does well, when he has had this propensity for turning the ball over at the most inopportune times.

Throughout the year, we’ve rarely seen the Manning 3rd and 15 interception on a 50-yard bomb that we as fans could say: “well he was taking a shot and it was as good a punt.”

Maybe it just seems this way, but I feel that every time Manning has turned the ball over this year (and let me stress that I still maintain that a lot of the interceptions have not been his fault) it has literally sucked the life out of the team and fans.  You don’t fumble the ball in the redzone.   You don’t lose the ball when you’re cocking your arm to throw.  That’s the kind of stuff you see at your kid’s Pop Warner game.  Your kid’s hands are a lot smaller than Manning’s.

Granted the weather the last two weeks has been brutal, but come on kid get your act together.

Okay… Back to my Christmas Carol…..

Said the lamb to the rookie runner….

“Do you hear what I hear?
The wind is cold, and whipping through the sky,
the ram is hurt and now you must try
to move the chains and run out the clock.”

Said the rookie back to the head coach…

“Do you know what I know?
I will break one for a long touchdown.
Do you know what I know?
It’s wet. It’s cold and windy in the snow
It’s definitely not a good day to throw.”

Okay, I’ve been into the eggnog a little bit. But it’s about friggin’ time the Giants decided to run the ball 30 plus times.  Sadly, it took a near monsoon and a nightmare the week before to get them to hand the ball off on a consistent basis.

Anyway.  Wow. Just wow.  First of all, Brandon Jacobs had a great game pounding the ball between the tackles and then showing his speed turning it up field after bouncing it outside for 43 yards.  When it was all said and done, Jacobs ended up with his most impressive game as a pro gaining 145 yards on 24 carries.  He also gained some competition for playing time with the emergence of Ahmad Bradshaw.

Giants’ fans have been clamoring for Bradshaw to get more than one or two touches in a game since a very impressive pre-season and some electric kickoff returns.  Bradshaw didn’t disappoint when he got the chance.  Bradshaw is the real deal.

First of all his feet are so quick. He takes short quick choppy steps.  He keeps his feet going at contact. He’s deceivingly strong and can fight for the extra yard.  He’s exceptionally agile, and can get in and out and through the smallest spaces and fast enough to get around people.  I think I knew all of this though. What I didn’t know though how good his break away speed was.  On that 88 yard run, there wasn’t a defender who had a chance, once Bradshaw got free.  When he broke free, I thought I sat on the x2 button on the clicker.  The guy is a burner.  Hook him up with Carini in the off-season, because the Giants have a great 1-2 punch at halfback.  I’m so glad Bradshaw took that Playstation because if he didn’t, there’s no way he’s there in round seven.

A big bounce back game for Amani Toomer who was really the Giants only effective pass catcher on the day and brought in everything that was thrown his way.  Toomer’s contribution was huge as four of his five catches went for first downs on third down. He caught high passes, low passes, and every time it was a big catch. It appears he exorcized all of the demons from his disaster last week against Washington.

He only had one catch for six yards, but I really though Plaxico Burress looked quicker, at least early in this game. He is still not able to cut or change direction as well as he should, but his burst off the line of scrimmage looked better than it has in months.  The offensive pass-interference call on him in the third quarter was a terrible call.  I say rest him up next week for the playoffs.

Besides, Steve Smith could use the extra work.  He makes that catch, he scores.

Honestly, I though Kevin Boss did a pretty good job in run blocking.  He got low, which is not easy for a guy who’s 6’6 to do, and kept his hands on his man most of the time.  No catches for Boss, but that wasn’t his fault, no passes were thrown his way.

The offensive line continues to have lapses of insufficiency. Manning only dropped back to pass 16 times.  He was sacked once; he was hit two other times, and had defenders very close to him on at least three other throws.  That will have to improve if the Giants are to have any success in the playoffs.

When running the ball they did a nice job in their zone blocking.  However, the blocking was abysmal on the goal line, with Shaun O’Hara and Rich Seubert getting blown up through the middle on three consecutive plays resulting in a turnover on downs.  Reuben Droughns never had a chance. He no sooner had the ball and his legs were gone.

Defense

Take away the first two touchdown drives for Buffalo, in which the Giants missed tackles, missed assignments and simply got beat in coverage and the Giants’ Defense had a very solid game.

Early in the game, the Bills had some success attacking the Giants by running to the right side.  Where was Michael Strahan you might ask?  He did indeed play.  He didn’t have any tackles, because Buffalo double-teamed him right out of the gate.  Buffalo would slide a TE over to chip or tag team Stray with the tackle while Lynch scooted by.  On at least two of those runs Reggie Torbor should have made the play, one time he slipped taking himself out of the play.  Another time, he missed the tackle.  As many good runs as Lynch had, you would think he put up pretty good numbers. In reality, he only ran for 70 yards.

Osi Umenyiora continued his solid season, getting 4 tackles a sack and a forced fumble, although he did get caught out of position on his zone responsibility on Michael Gaines TD grab. Otherwise it was a solid yet very unspectacular day for the rest of the D-Line. They did a pretty good job up front plugging holes and letting Antonio Pierce, Kawika Mitchell and Gibril Wilson come up and make plays. Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield and Jay Alford held their gaps well.

He’s had some growing pains, but Kawika Mitchell has come a long way. Mitchell had two sacks to go with his interception return for a TD and continues to make big plays.  Game changing plays.  Mitchell caught a lot of grief early in the year, but a lot of people forget he was not only learning a new defense, he was learning a new position as well.  Mitchell was a middle linebacker in KC, and has put his stamp on at least four games this season.

Pierce seemed to be running better and had some big tackles on the day.  He still has a bug for making stupid penalties as of late like running through unabated to the QB when no one else moved.  He also jumped in late on a play after the whistle, again. Thankfully it wasn’t called.

Maybe a few years from now Giants fans will look back at this game and say that was the play that turned Corey Webster’s career around.  40 minutes removed from getting burnt deep on a 42-yard bomb where Roscoe Parrish made Webster look like he was running in sand, Webster jumped in front of Josh Reed tipped the ball to himself and ran it in to the endzone to seal the game.  Rest assured, his agent has that play archived from every angle as the only 8 seconds of Corey Webster’s Pro Football Resume Tape just incase he’s looking for a job next year.

Aaron Ross, bit hard on Lee Evans fake to the inside and Evans cut the other way for the Bills second TD of the day.  Ross also let Lynch slip through his fingers on the last touchdown drive. He did notch three tackles and put a brutal hit on Trent Edwards coming in on a blitz.  Edwards was not the same after that hit.

It was good to see Gibril Wilson back in action and he looked fast to the ball and pretty good in coverage for being a bit dinged.  Hopefully he’ll rest again next week.  James Butler was also back and promptly dropped two more interceptions inching closer to Sam Madison for the lead in that dubious category.  Madison, by the way, did a good job on Lee Evans for the most part, although he wasn’t challenged too much.  Madison also picked off a pass intended for Roscoe Parrish to end any hopes of a Buffalo comeback.

Special Teams

A pretty good showing for the kickers on a blustery day, at a place where kicking a football is never easy.   Jeff Feagles did a nice job playing the field position game although he tried to get too cute on a fourth quarter punt. Lawrence Tynes connected on his lone field goal attempt and all of his extra point tries as well. He even used the wind to get a touchback.  That’s all you can ask for under those windy circumstances.   Long snapping woes of recent week’s past, seemed under control for the most part.

It should not go unnoticed that Bradshaw’s work on kickoff returns was exceptional, and he recovered a botched punt snap as well.  Coverage on kicks was very good as Parrish and McGee are two of the more dangerous return men in the NFL.

To Sum It Up…

The Giants won this game in spite of the fact that Eli left maybe 17 points off the board with his turnovers.  The defense, though opportunistic, did get beat more than a few times and has developed a bad habit of starting games and starting the second half of games very haphazardly.

You cannot forget though, that this team finished the season 7-1 on the road and in the NFC East, that’s never an easy proposition. They’ll need that road moxie, as that’s where they’ll be playing in January. At least, for one game.

And so it goes. Does Coughlin rest up the troops next week against the Patriots with hopes that the Giants are as close to 100 percent for round one of the playoffs, or does he try to go all out and make a game out of it to get some much needed momentum for round one?  Does it even matter?  In the playoffs, you can’t fumble the ball five times and expect to win.   But somehow, when they are on the road, this team has been able to stick their head in the lion’s mouth and pull it out just in the nick of time.

One more verse…

Said the journalists to people everywhere….
“Listen to what I say!
A playoff game for yet another year.
And a contract extension for Coughlin I fear.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Buffalo Bills, December 23, 2007)
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