Sep 302009
 
 September 30, 2009  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
New York Giants 24 (3-0) – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 0 (0-3)

by The Hack for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary: There’s hardly a need to use more than one or two words to summarize the game between the New York Football Giants and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this past Sunday. “Utter Dominance” are probably the only two required to describe what the Giants unleashed on the pitiful team from Tampa. But since I’m verbose and like to use big words, I’ll take the liberty to expound!

Going into this game, a sure fire ‘trap’ game if ever there was one, the Giants were injury riddled on both sides of the ball, but especially on defense. They’d come off an extremely emotional win against their arch rivals from Dallas, winning on a last second field goal to ruin the opening of the new Cowboys Stadium. For the second week in a row, they had to play on the road in the heat and humidity against an already desperate Tampa Bay team who’s running back stable included ex Giant star Derrick Ward. All week long, Ward had been texting his former teammates telling them how he was going to dominate them. With all these things seemingly conspiring against them, it was no wonder that some people would be wary going into this game. A let down would almost seem natural in a situation like this.

Instead, as we’ve been seeing since Head Coach Tom Coughlin turned over the team and built it back up with his kind of players, there was no let down. There wasn’t even a hesitation. Not a blink. The Giants rolled through, around, and over the Bucs at every turn and on nearly every play. Let down? More like a beat down. Watching the game, it appeared that the Giants actually took offense to there being another team on the field with them. The game plan was simple. It was outlined beautifully in The Corner Forum by contributor Dave in DC and others when he started the following thread:

Stopping and Starting the Run Tomorrow

Looking at the Bucs, they are a team the Giants should easily beat, but they do have some strengths.

First off the run game.

The Bucs average 4.6 yds per carry, good for 9th in the league. The Giants have given up a staggering 6.7 yds per carry, only Seattle, at 7.1 yds, is worse. Now those stats come with a few caveats.

First the Bucs have only rushed 50 times – this is because they were playing from behind quite a bit. Similarly, the Giants have only been run on 50 times.

Let’s compare our run D to some of the better defensive teams in the league:

Baltimore: 38 attempts, 82 yds, 2.2 Y/A
NY Jets: 33 attempts, 121 yds, 3.7 Y/A
Giants: 50 attempts, 336 yds, 6.7 Y/A

I expect the Bucs to come out running, use Derrick Ward and Cadillac Williams to move the chains and sustain some long drives – mix in a bunch of Kellen Winslow and it would appear that the Bucs have the right mix of weapons to hurt us in our weaker areas this year. I’m quite certain we can contain Clayton, and with no Antonio Bryant, (Editor’s Note: Bryant did play) we’d be wise to stack 8 in the box and play very aggressively up front.

Now we all know that our run game on offense has not been great thus far, but tomorrow is a great chance to remedy that. The Bucs give up 5.7 yards per carry, and they have some real issues up front. The Giants are 14th in the league in rushing yards, with 200, and 24th in the league at 3.5 yds per carry.

I’m assuming that our game plan is to come out passing to stretch their weak secondary, and then settle in to a clock controlling mode where we mix in a lot of running with short to medium passes and the occasional stretch play downfield – this is just a guess, but it’s what I’d do.

The Giants can easily win this game through the air – easily – but it would bode well for the team to kick start the run game and grind down the Bucs defense with one of those 35+ minute ToP games.

Tomorrow is Brandon’s chance to shine with an absolute monster game – 130 yds and a few TDs.

I didn’t quite turn out this way, as the Bucs were never able to get their running game going and the Giants went ball control from the outset and only passed basically when necessary. Also, though HB Brandon Jacobs indeed got going in this game, HB Ahmad Bradshaw continued to produce more like the #1 back on the team.

However, Dave in DC was correct in his premise, which was to run the ball, chew up clock to preserve our defense, and stop the Tampa rushing attack. Not only were those objectives met, they exceeded even the wildest expectations based on the performances turned in so far.

Tale O’ The Tape: First, how about that stadium in Jersey South? A large contingent of BBI’ers were part of a throng of NY fans that literally took over Raymond James Stadium. It was estimated that the fans were split 55% to 45% for the home team, and there were times when it seemed as though the NY faithful outnumbered the home crowd, evidenced by the cheering and chants of “Let’s Go Giants!” that could easily be heard on the television broadcast. Everyone knows that the Steelers fans are probably the best traveling fans in the country, but let’s hear it for the NY fans who seem to be making up ground!

The numbers. Just look at these obscene numbers. Tampa had just 19 total yards in the first half. They had zero first downs, as they went three and out on four drives, and had two drives of just one play. One was the interception, the other was a kneel down before the half. Tampa ran just 14 total plays in the half and held the ball for just 8:30. They held the ball for LESS time in the second half!

In contrast, the Giants gained 215 total yards in the first half, converting 14 first downs on 40 offensive snaps, using 21:30 of the clock. They also converted 60% of their 3rd downs, and were 2 of 3 in the green zone.

The second half got no better, really, for the Buccaneers. They only managed four series in the entire half and two of those were two more 3 and outs. The other two were a 5-play drive that netted 10 yards (as well as their first 1st down) and an 11-play drive in garbage time that netted 71 yards (25 on a bogus pass interference call) but resulted in a turnover on downs. They averaged just 2.4 yards on the ground, and only 2.2 yards per pass play on the day. The Giants forced them to punt an astounding seven times, and ended up with a measly 16:22 in time of possession.

The Giants, on the other hand, continued to roll throughout the second half. They ended up with a 226 – 28 advantage in rushing yards. They converted 10 of 16 third downs (63%) and converted 3 of 5 opportunities within the green zone.

The Giants only had to make 23 total tackles in the game, with 6 more coming on special teams. That’s insane. As Poet Laureate Emmitt Smith would say, the Giants debacled the Buccaneers. Completely debacled them!

Offense: The Giants had a spectacular day on offense, putting together five drives of 10 plays or more (10, 12, 12, 12, 13) with a few 3 and outs sprinkled in. They dominated the time of possession in every quarter, reaching deep into double digits in the 1st, 3rd and 4th.

The Giants ran an astounding 76 plays on offense, rolling up 397 total yards. They came in wanting to run and run they did, 49 times to be exact for 226 yards. By far, their best output of the year. New York was equally successful passing the ball, though they executed about half as many pass plays as runs. Efficient and methodical is how best to describe the passing game on Sunday. Here’s one more amazing statistic from the offense. The Giants had 24 plays of 8 or more yards on the day. That is astounding.

The Giants set the tone on their very first drive, marching 80 yards in 12 plays taking 6:55 off the clock and scoring their first green zone touchdown of the 2009 campaign. Three straight running plays opening the game earned a first down (converting a 3rd and 1) and showed Tampa that they were in for a long day.

Following a 3 and out on their second possession, the Giants rolled 66 yards and earned another time consuming touchdown drive. The key play in the drive was a 3rd and 1 run for 38 yards by HB Ahmad Bradshaw. The play was made possible by the stellar lead blocks of FB Madison Hedgecock and C Sean O’Hara who pulled around the right corner and plastered SLB Quincy Black.

Though there were two more time consuming drives that ended in points, the most impressive drive of the day may have been the clock killing final drive of the game. The Giants got the ball back following a defensive green zone stand with just under 6 minutes remaining and didn’t give it back. Considering the weather conditions and the state of the Giants’ defense, I’m sure they were very happy to watch the last half of the 4th quarter expire while relaxing on the sidelines.

The Quarterbacks: QB Eli Manning had another stellar afternoon, completing 14 of 24 passes for 164 yards 2 TDs and no INTs. Eli’s QBR stood at 106.4 for the day, and he now ranks 3rd in the NFL with a 104. 1 QBR. Eli started sharp, completing his first four passes on the first drive, including a key 8-yard hook up with WR Steve Smith on 3rd and 5.

***WARNING!!! ELI MANNING CRITICISM COMING UP!! THOSE THAT DO NOT BELIEVE ELI MANNING’S NEGATIVES SHOULD BE DISCUSSED PLEASE SKIP FORWARD ONE PARAGRAPH!!***

On 1st and 10 from the Tampa 32, Eli executed a perfect play action fake and dropped back into a very clean pocket. The Giants, in order to sell the play, were in max protect with a double tight end set and both stayed in to block, sending only two receivers out into coverage. Eli was unmolested, took his time, stepped up and fired into double coverage but somehow WR Steve Smith was able to fight off CB Akim Talib and make the catch. It was a very poor decision to throw that football, but he got away with it. Two plays later, he nearly threw an attempted screen pass right into the arms of LB Geno Hayes, but he was unable to corral the ball and it fell harmlessly to the turf.

Eli had several great throws on the night, and I counted at least six and possibly seven balls that were dropped by his receivers that would have made his stats even more sparkling than they were. The three best were a beautiful touch pass to TE Kevin Boss that was laid in just over the head of the defender that went for 24 yards. The second was the laser beam touchdown pass to WR Sinorice Moss. Again, the ball was placed just over the DB’s head and laid right in the arms of Moss. Manning has an uncanny ability to throw to the right sideline, and showed it again with that pass. Finally, on 3rd and 12 in the 3rd quarter with plenty of time in the pocket, Eli calmly waited for WR Mario Manningham to clear the zone over the middle and stuck one in to him for 20 yards and a first down.

Eli did a great job of firing the ball into Smith at the goal line on 3rd and goal in which he had a very small window of opportunity to hit the receiver. The play began with a bunch formation right with Smith running a quick curl underneath WR Derek Hagan who ran a drag to the front corner of the end zone from the slot. On the inside, TE Kevin Boss just cleared to the middle of the end zone taking the safety with him, leaving the void for Smith to sit in. Eli threw a dart for the TD as two defenders closed. Any hesitation would have resulted in an incompletion at the least.

Manning also made several good decisions NOT to throw the ball into traffic. On one occasion under duress, Eli calmly rolled to his left to exit the pocket and just threw the ball out of bounds to avoid the sack. On another, Manning scrambled to his right for 9 yards and a first down on a 3rd and 8 play. Another example of the intelligence and recognition factor that Eli possesses was when he beat the corner blitz coming from CB Ronde Barber by simply changing the direction of the play and running away from him.

As of this writing, there can be no debate that Eli Manning is a top tier QB in the NFL. A complete student of the game, he has demonstrated everything that makes a QB great. As stated previously, he just doesn’t rattle. He was in complete command all day Sunday and never seems to be overwhelmed under fire. Giants fans are witnessing what could very well end up being the greatest QB to ever put on a Giants uniform. At this point, he’s rapidly gaining on Phil Simms.

Back up QB David Carr came into the game with 11:47 left in the 4th quarter and simply managed the game to its conclusion, going 2-3 for 7 yards. His best job of the day was managing the final drive, chewing up the last 6 minutes of the game.

The Running Backs: HB Danny Ware sat out his second straight game, and there is still no word on when he’ll be able to return. Third string HB Gartrell Johnson got to see some time in mop up duty.

As noted above, the Giants main objective on offense was to get the running game going. During the first two weeks of the season, against two solid defenses, the Giants running game was stuck in neutral. On Sunday, they finally got it untracked and unleashed the Giants brand of smash mouth football that we all know, love and crave.

HB Brandon Jacobs received the first three carries of the day and delivered a first down on 3rd and 1. Two missions accomplished immediately. One, run the ball effectively from the outset. Two, convert a third and short. Jacobs finished the day with 92 yards on 26 carries for a respectable 3.5 ypc. You’d like to see your backs gaining at a 4.0 clip or greater and 3.5 is still significantly lower than his nearly 5.0 ypc career average.

Jacobs was once again a beast in pass protection. It’s like having another nimble OLT in the game when he’s asked to pick up the blitz. Jacobs was targeted twice in the passing game, once on the ill-fated screen deep in the green zone and another where he was targeted as the outlet but couldn’t hold on to the ball.

An interesting observation about Jacobs’ running style was discussed on the FOX broadcast that makes me believe that the announcers didn’t do a lot of research into what came out of last week’s game with regards to the way the running backs were hitting the hole. On Monday during his press conference Head Coach Tom Coughlin said he thought that the backs weren’t being patient enough waiting for holes and cut backs to develop and were running right into trouble. So with Jacobs being more patient on Sunday, what happens? Tony Siragusa and Moose Johnston start calling out Jacobs for not hitting the line quickly enough. It appeared that Jacobs was following orders and was simply waiting for things to open up before committing to a direction or gap.

HB Ahmad Bradshaw was again the Little Beast on Sunday, once again leading the Giants with 104 yards on just 14 carries. That’s a mindboggling 7.4 ypc average! Bradshaw ran with power and resolve, showing emotion and fire on the field as well as on the bench. It’s truly amazing to watch this smallish back shed tacklers and push piles with the authority that he does. His signature play of the day was a 3rd and 1 in which he followed perfect blocking around the right end, leaving the DE in his wake as he rumbled for 18 yards at which point he broke two tackles, somehow maintained his balance, and continued for another 20 yards before he was finally brought down.

Corner Forum contributor Randy in Ct (who would never be accused of being verbose) stated, “Bradshaw plays RB like the opposition just kicked his dog.” That’s about as good an analogy as I can think of. It’s as though he feels he’s cheated any time he falls short of the end zone. C Sean O’Hara stated that Bradshaw is a great change of pace when he comes in not just in running style, but he pumps them all up by constantly talking and stating that he’s going to “take it to the house.”

Bradshaw wasn’t used in the passing game, but again was good against the blitz. This was the second 100 yard game of his career and seeing as the Giants seem to trust him late in the games and during critical drives, it appears we’ll see more games like this soon from Bradshaw.

HB Gartrell Johnson made the most of the 4th quarter carries he received, as he totaled 23 yards on 6 carries. Johnson was also targeted for one pass from Carr out of the backfield. He started to run before he caught the ball and it would have been a long gainer, but taking his eye off the ball for that split second caused him to drop it. He also had a nifty and powerful 19 yard gain called back due to a clipping penalty committed by Boss.

FB Madison Hedgecock would have a tough time catching a cab standing all alone in the Newark Airport taxi queue. Once again, he was targeted out of the backfield and dropped what should have been an easy completion. Thankfully, he’s not asked to do that very often. Unfortunately, it seems every time he IS asked to do so he drops it. Nevertheless, Hedgecock was much better at leading the halfbacks through the holes and around the edges this week.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: The Giants came into the game down two receivers as WRs Dominek Hixon and Hakeem Nicks missed the game. Depth has served the Giants well so far in these first three games, as end of the roster players WRs Derek Hagan and Sinorice Moss played well in support.

WR Steve Smith continues to prove that he’s worthy of the number one job, whether it’s the Z or the X doesn’t really matter as he’s playing all over the field at all three wideout positions. Smith corralled all seven passes thrown his way (he had an 8th nullified by a penalty), good for 63 yards and a touchdown. Smith has shown Amani Toomer-like ability to tap his toes along the sidelines, and displayed it again on the opening catch of the afternoon. Smith also made a magical catch where he somehow wrestled the ball away from a Tampa defender who had position and leverage on him. It’s one thing to help your QB by knocking down an interception. It’s another when you turn that interception into a catch and a first down. Currently Smith is second in the NFL in receptions and sixth in receiving yards. If that’s not a number 1 WR, I don’t know what is.

Second-year man WR Mario Manningham continues to impress as he caught 4 balls for 55 yards. He also had a long gainer called back by penalty. Manningham did have two drops as well.

BBI favorite (cough, cough) WR Sinorice Moss got into the act this week, seeing significant time as a wide out and catching an 18 yard touchdown pass in which he used his speed to get excellent position on the CB.

Wide receivers Derek Hagan and Ramses Barden weren’t targeted in the game, though Hagan did receive a lot of playing time and made a couple very nice blocks, one on the screen to H-Back Travis Beckum late in the game. Overall, this young crop of Giants WRs are excellent blockers in the run and screen games.

Tight ends Kevin Boss and Darcy Johnson both played stellar games in the running game from the two TE set. Both had several very effective wall blocks to help spring the HBs for positive yardage. In the passing game, Boss caught a huge 24 yarder that converted a 1st and 15 situation that ended up in a field goal. The only other catch Boss had was a 3 yarder in garbage time, but he also dropped two very catchable balls from Eli earlier in the game. H-Back Travis Beckum got in on several plays lining up on the outside, and caught two balls for 8 yards. He seems hesitant, as if the speed of the game is still a challenge to him. That’s ok, because these kinds of blowout games are the ones where the understudies learn their trade. Beckum could well be a factor later in the year if he continues to develop.

The Offensive Line: It wasn’t common knowledge during the week, but behind the scenes the Giants’ O-line was seething at the fact that they allowed the Cowboys to shut the running game down last week. No such issues this week. The line consistently opened truck-sized holes for the backs for most of the day, they only allowed Eli Manning to be pressured on a couple of occasions (no sacks, only two QB hits allowed), and basically overpowered the Tampa defensive front. Only three times on the day were the Giants thrown for a loss. Yes, one was a critical 3rd and goal where Jacobs was nailed for a 1 yard loss by safety Sabby Piscitelli, but that wasn’t the fault of the offensive line. FB Madison Hedgecock doubled on the DE and allowed Piscitelli to run unencumbered around him and into the backfield.

This was the 35th consecutive regular season start for the collective unit, and following a couple dings to RT Kareem Mckenzie (knee) and LG Rich Seubert (shoulder) that saw them leave the game in the 3rd quarter, that streak could possibly come to an end this weekend in KC. HC Tom Coughlin did suggest in his Monday press conference that they both are expected to be ok and most likely will play. LT David Diehl probably felt like this game wasn’t much more than a glorified scrimmage after having to go against two of the best in the business, DeMarcus Ware and Andre Carter the last two weeks.

Due to the injury to McKenzie, OT William Beatty received some real game time experience at right tackle. Late in the game, Diehl was given a rest and Beatty moved to left tackle with Guy Whimper playing right tackle. On the screen to Beckum, Beatty showed great athleticism to slip his man and get to the second level and provide a key block on the safety, giving Beckum room to gain 7 yards. Beatty is learning fast and looks as though he’ll be able to contribute sooner than later.

I heard that C Sean O’Hara was also pretty beaten up in the game, but there was no one left to bring in to spell him, so he played the entire way.

Two early areas of concern have been lack of production in short yardage situations and in the green zone. On Sunday, the Giants converted 5 of 6 opportunities on 3rd downs of 2 or less yards to go. They also converted on two 2nd and 1 opportunities. The other issue, not converting in the green zone, had a lot to do with the Giants’ inability to run when they got down deep. The Giants had 14 plays in the green zone on Sunday, running the ball 10 times for gains of 14, 6, 2, 3, 9, 1, -2, 2, 4 and 2 yards (41 total yards and 1 touchdown) and threw four times, completing two which went for touchdowns. That’s a pretty successful green zone offense, predicated on the run. Credit the offensive line for executing in this critical area.

The Defense: What can possibly be said about this defense to truly give it the credit it deserves for the performance it gave on Sunday? CB Aaron Ross?  Out. CB Kevin Dockery? Out. SS Kenny Phillips? Out. DE/DT Chris Canty? Out. OLB/DE Clint Sintim? Out. DE/DT Justin Tuck? Limited. Baling wire (SS Aaron Rouse) and bubble gum (CB Brian Johnson) were holding this unit together, and the baling wire didn’t even get in the game except on specials. So what do they do? The go out there, maintain gap discipline in the run game, apply tremendous pressure on QB Brian Leftwich (10 QB hits!) while sending just four players for most of the afternoon, and cover receivers downfield like white covers rice. This was as thoroughly a dominating performance by the defense as has ever been seen on a Giants team. The numbers, as mentioned above, were astounding. Mind boggling. The Bucs didn’t earn a first down on any of their first seven drives in the game. In fact, it was the first time a team had been held without a first down for the entire first half in years.

With the weather conditions combined with the injury issues the Giants were facing, the main focus of the game plan was to stop the run and put as much pressure as possible on the QB with the four down linemen. As noted in Eric’s game preview, the Bucs came into this game with the 4th ranked offense in the NFL and desperate for a win. With a three-headed rushing attack much like the Giants and two solid receivers in Kellen Winslow Jr. at tight end and Antonio Bryant on the outside, this team has some firepower. It appeared, on paper at least, that injuries would be the great equalizer and keep the Bucs in the game longer than they really should be and even might give them a chance to eke out a win.

Again, nothing to worry about. Not only did the Giants deprive the Bucs of a decent running game, they completely shut it down, allowing only 28 total yards (15 on a QB scramble). Tampa only attempted 10 rushing plays on the day. And for the passing game, almost as good. The Giants hit the opposing QB on 10 of 26 drop backs, forcing the ball out early and short all game long. The Giants showed blitz often, but would fall back into coverage or switch up to a zone blitz package that still only sent four or five men in on the QB while dropping others back into coverage. Tampa went deep twice all game, and one of those resulted in an interception. If not for an extremely questionable pass interference call, it’s possible that the Bucs would not have gained even 50 yards and would have only had one first down for the game.

Sunday was a throwback to the great Giant defenses of the past as so many young players stepped up and made big plays in the absence of starters and valuable backups. If you weren’t grinning from ear to ear and shaking your head, even, after watching that exhibition (What the hell let’s call it a clinic!) on how to play defense in the NFL then you really aren’t a football fan.

Front 7: The front was still missing DT Chris Canty and OLB Clint Sintim and also had a very limited DE/DT Justin Tuck in on only third downs for most of the game.

This game was won at the line of scrimmage, where the Giants interior line of DTs Rocky Bernard, Barry Cofield, and Fred Robbins completely dominated the Tampa offensive line. Granted, Tampa’s starting C Jeff Faine was lost for the season last week and that was a huge loss to them, but there is still no reason for five professional linemen to get pummeled that badly in one 60 minute game. Robbins played like a man possessed, causing multiple pressures that he created by consistently beating double teams. Though Robbins had only 1 tackle and 1 QB hit, he was the driving force to getting pressure on Leftwich all night. Along with Barry Cofield and reserve DT Rocky Bernard (2 tackles), he did a great job of stuffing his man on running plays, preventing the guards to get to the second level. There was just nowhere to run in the middle.

Not to be left out, DEs Osi Umenyiora, Mathais Kiwanuka, and even Dave Tollefson had outstanding games putting huge pressure on the QB and making him step up into the pocket where he didn’t look very comfortable. Combined, they got 7 QB hits. All three just missed sacks, and none were credited with a tackle, but as has been stated before near-sacks can lead to interceptions. Kiwanuka did just that by hitting Leftwich from behind on the interception by nickel back Terrell Thomas. DE Justin Tuck played primarily on 3rd downs and though he did manage a pressure, it appeared he was in to give players a blow and provide moral support and solidarity. Frankly, the Giants didn’t need Tuck on Sunday but I would imagine the rest of the team were inspired to see him take the field. Tollefson and Kiwanuka played as if possessed. I have never seen such intensity from Tollefson. He also showed that he has more than one move, as he’s normally a bull rusher but on two plays this weekend he used an outside to in swim move to shed his blocker and get to the QB. I have not seen him do that before. Kiwi played stout against both the run and the pass, and was our best DE on the field Sunday.

All in all, this was a near perfect game by the defensive line and one can only imagine what they can accomplish against other teams with a healthy Tuck and Canty in the rotation. Sacks be damned, the pressure was a thing of beauty and did indeed lead to a turnover.

Last week, the Giants over pursued and did not maintain their gap discipline, leaving huge cutback lanes for the HBs. This week, all of that was corrected as the linebacking corps of MLB Antonio Pierce, OLBs Michael Boley, and Danny Clark played solidly behind the line, and as a group led the team in tackles for the first time this year with 9.

MLB Antonio Pierce once again diagnosed the offense and had the team in the right position on nearly every play. Pierce was in on three tackles and knocked down two passes in coverage. (Yes, you read that correctly.) The Giants were not fooled one time on the day and contained everything that Tampa threw at them. OLB Michael Boley is becoming a force. He spent a lot of time covering All Pro TE Kellen Winslow Jr., and for the first time in recent memory, a top tier TE did not burn the Giants in the middle of the field. Winslow was targeted 8 times but only caught 3 passes as he was blanketed by Boley, Pierce and at times rookie nickel back Bruce Johnson. OLB Danny Clark also had a solid game, recording three tackles. Towards the end of the game the Giants emptied their bench, giving Geris Wilkinson, and Brian Kehl some time on the field. Kehl was a demon on specials again, recording 3 tackles in kick coverage. He’s quickly ascending to Special Teams Demon status.

Defensive Backs: During the week, The Corner Forum was having a field day trying to figure out what this unit would be capable of come game time. As noted, 3/5ths of the original starting unit, CBs Aaron Ross and Kevin Dockery plus SS Kenny Phillips were out. Once again, CBs Terrell Thomas and Corey Webster were the starters with SS C.C. Brown and FS Michael Johnson manning the middle, with CB Bruce Johnson coming in for the nickel and dime packages. Some members of The Forum seemed ready to pack it in even before game time, and others were declaring the season lost due to the injury to Phillips.

It’s hard to imagine that the people stating these opinions actually watched the game against Dallas where essentially the same unit held Tony Romo to one of his worst days as a professional football player. Granted, they lost Phillips totally this week, but last week he and Michael Johnson were significantly less than 100%.

The unit as a whole dominated. CB Corey Webster isn’t even thrown at anymore. He was credited with four tackles on Sunday, but all were up around the line of scrimmage. CB Terrell Thomas was credited with 3 tackles, had 1 pass defensed, and he had a huge hit on back up QB Josh Johnson in which Johnson was able to complete the pass for a first down. However, it certainly put Johnson on notice as he only hit one more pass completion thereafter. Thomas also corralled a horrible pass from Leftwich for the only turnover of the game.

The story of the young season is still the stellar play the G-Men are getting from undrafted rookie free agent CB Bruce Johnson. Two CBs were taken by the Giants in rounds 6 and 7 and it’s Johnson who’s climbed the ladder and made himself a very valuable commodity on this team. Though he was flagged for interference on the Bucs last drive, that call should have gone against WR Mark Clayton. Johnson had 1 pass defensed and was in on two tackles, but his excellent coverage was really what should be noted.

The much maligned SS C.C. Brown played a solid game, mainly in support coverage. He was credited with a pass defensed and 2 tackles. Most importantly he stayed healthy, alleviating the need to play free agent signee SS Aaron Rouse. His counterpart at free safety, Michael Johnson, had a solid game in run support, not having too much to do as the front 7 ate most of the running plays up and the Bucs simply didn’t pass very much.

Special Teams: P Jeff Feagles punted 4 times for a 50 yard average, but only one was downed. The Giants punt return team let him down on one return by allowing Tampa return man Clifton Smith dance down the sideline for 20 yards and a first down at the Tampa 41 yard line. The defense, however, took the ball back on the very next play and Tampa never saw that type of opening field position again.

K Lawrence Tynes is going to eventually cause a Corner Forum member a heart attack. Once again, Tynes missed a chip shot field goal and missed it badly. As for his kickoffs (five total), also once again it was impossible to figure out what the heck he was doing. It appears he’s gone back to his seven step approach, but how do you hit three very well and into the end zone but the other two looked like what you’d expect to see if Flounder (Giants in 07) from BBI were to kick the ball? HC Tom Coughlin was asked if there would be any kickers brought in last week after the Dallas game and he said no. You have to wonder now, specifically with Tynes suggesting that “something’s wrong this year and I have no idea what it is” if Coughlin won’t go visiting the waiver wire or practice squads to see if any alternatives exist.

Eureka!  The Giants did NOT lose a return man this week! Actually, that’s possibly due to the fact that the Giants only had one kickoff return opportunity all day (who wouldn’t take THAT every week??) and it was downed in the end zone. The two deep on the play were Sinorice Moss and HB Gartrell Johnson.

Ahmad Bradshaw was in on four punt returns and had a return long of 20 yards and Sinorice Moss was back for a couple as well, but returned only 1 for 7 yards. All in all, the kick and punt teams performed well, not allowing any big run backs and not making any mistakes except for one illegal block penalty.

Coaching: For those that wanted OC Kevin Gilbride’s head on a platter last week, who’d like to have him beheaded this week? Gilbride stuck with the gameplan throughout and ran the ball down the Tampa Bay throats. Other than the screen call to Jacobs in the green zone (though that exact play went for a TD in the 2007 Wild Card Game), there wasn’t a single call that I didn’t think was a good call. The Giants didn’t try to outsmart themselves, played close to the vest and conservative, time consuming football that served them very well. The play calling in the green zone (other than the above, in my opinion) was just what the doctor ordered as the Giants established the run inside the 20 for the first time this year, and stuck with it enough to allow the passes down low to be successful.

When you call someone out for their perceived inadequacies, BBI’ers, you must also give praise when they do a stellar job, as Gilbride did on Sunday.

Offensive Player of the Game: This was a very difficult call, as Eli Manning, Steve Smith, and Ahmad Bradshaw had very solid games. However, none of it would have been possible without the stellar play of the Offensive Line. So this week, the entire O’Line including William Beatty, Guy Whimper and Kevin Boothe get the nod for OPOG. They set the tone early, kept Eli off the ground, lead the team to more than 220 yards rushing, and held the ball for more than 43 minutes. So hats off to them.

Defensive Player of the Game: Again, there were players flying around on defense as if they were possessed and it’s hard to pick out just one guy for player of the game. As such, I’m giving this one to the Defensive Line. Ten QB hits. Forcing an interception. Beating double teams down low that they had no business beating. Taking the middle completely away from Tampa’s running game. It’s an age old axiom that winning starts in the trenches. Well on Sunday, winning started, continued, and ended in the trenches as the seven-man rotation on the line absolutely dominated play.

(Box Score - New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, September 27, 2009)
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