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10/22/2009

By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com

Approach to the Game – Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants, October 25, 2009: What a difference a week makes?  Last week at this time, aside from some injury concerns, everything was rosy and cheerful.  The Giants were flying high at 5-0 and seemed fit and ready to do battle for NFC supremacy with the favored New Orleans Saints.  At worst, one would have expected a tightly-contested defeat.  But not a 48-27 mauling.  And it really wasn’t that close.

There is always a danger of over-emphasizing a single win or loss.  Usually, it’s not a smart move.  But the way the Giants lost to the Saints raises some serious red flags, especially on defense.  Losing is one thing, but getting your ass kicked by a team that scored SEVEN touchdowns against you (and it could have been worse) in a game you should have been highly motivated to perform in is disturbing.

This game against the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals thus takes on added meaning, not just from a win-loss column perspective, but from a confidence perspective and an indicator of whether or not we have vastly overrated this defense.

Giants on Offense: The Arizona 3-4 defense has been surprisingly good against the run (1st in the NFL) and bad against the pass (30th).  Those rankings suggest the Giants should eschew the running game for the passing attack.  I wouldn’t.  The Giants run the ball better than the teams the Cardinals have faced.  Plus, this Giants offense is at its best when it remains balanced.

The Cardinals two best players in the front seven are DE Darnell Dockett and LB Karlos Dansby.  SS Adrian Wilson is very good against the run.  CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is very talented, former first-rounder.

There is talent, but it is not a scary defense.  They shouldn’t be as good against the run as they have been and not as bad against the pass as they have been.  The Giants should be able to do some damage in both departments against this group.  No turnovers and keep mistakes to a minimum and the Giants will be able to move the football and put up some points.

Giants on Defense: What the (expletive deleted) was that against the Saints?  One can come up with plenty of excuses why the defense played so poorly, but there is no excuse for being that dreadful.  None.  The Saints came inches close from scoring six touchdowns on six possessions in the first half of the game.  And the defense NEVER did make a stand after the offense desperately got them back into the game even a little bit.  Disgusting.  I don’t know what to make of it and I have a feeling that the Giants’ brass doesn’t either.

The defensive strength of this team is supposed to be the line and secondary. Both were abused by the Saints. Abused. Where is Osi Umenyiora? Where is Barry Cofield and Rocky Bernard? What is Michael Johnson doing? Kevin Dockery is better than that. So is Terrell Thomas. Ughhh!!!

The Giants had better get their (expletive deleted) together this Sunday because the Cardinals are perfectly capable of embarrassing the Giants’ pass defense once again.  Larry Fitzgerald is arguably the best wide receiver in the game.  Anquan Boldin, who is hampered by an ankle injury, is very dangerous as well.  But don’t forget about wide receivers Steve Breaston and Jerheme Urban, nor HB Tim Hightower out of the backfield.  Like the Saints, the Cardinals will spread you out and make you silly if you don’t get heat on the quarterback and cover Kurt Warner’s targets.  To be brutally honest, Warner and his receivers have to be salivating after watching what the Saints did last Sunday.

The good news for the Giants is Kurt Warner is less mobile than Drew Brees and he has a history of fumbling when hit.  The bad news is that Warner has been doing a very good job this year of getting rid of the ball quickly.  Last week, Brees got rid of the ball so quickly that the Giants’ pass rush couldn’t get to him.  Will it be the same with Warner?

Despite the talented receiving corps, perhaps the best in football, I would play more aggressive man coverage against the Cardinals.  Don’t allow the receivers a free release and give the pass rush some time to get to Warner.  It’s a risky way to play defense, but I think it fits best with the Giants’ present personnel and their opponent this week.  I also would get Chase Blackburn off the field.  The Cardinals are not a good running team.  The Giants should play pass first and not bite on play-action (that killed them last week).  I would play nickel defense from the start of the game, or at the very least, consider playing Bryan Kehl or Gerris Wilkinson more.

The Cardinals’ offensive line is solid, but not anything more than that.  Warner’s quick release makes them look better than they are in pass protection.  RT Levi Brown is the best of the bunch.

Play pass first.  Don’t bite on play-action.  Challenge the receivers at the line.  Get to Warner.

Play with some pride this week.

Giants on Special Teams: Domenik Hixon killed the Cardinals the last time the Giants played them.

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Eric Kennedy

Founder and owner of BigBlueInteractive.com, which is now entering its 20th season. Follow Eric on Twitter @BigBlueInteract.

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