Nov 162009
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San Diego Chargers 21 (5-3) – New York Giants 20 (5-4)

by The Hack for

Game Summary: Like most people on BBI, I needed a break from everything New York Giants after the loss to San Diego last week. Let’s face it, other than Eli Manning not too many Giants played a good game on Sunday and once again there was questionable coaching throughout the game. Still, with 2:07 left, the Giants had put themselves into position to win the game. Unfortunately, the defense was unable to stop the Chargers from marching the 80 yards necessary to score the go ahead touchdown and extra point.
It’s now been more than a month of Sundays since Giants fans have had any reason to celebrate come Monday morning. Two blow outs, a game in which they should have won but couldn’t overcome mistakes, and now a heart-breaker in which they again made too many mistakes and finally succumbed in the end have left the team, let alone the fans, reeling.

After having to re-watch the Saints ambush, the poor effort against Arizona and then the Eagles debacle in order to write the review, I just couldn’t bear to enter the DVR list and push “play” last week on this one. I needed the break. I already knew what I’d be writing – it’s basically the same thing week after week (even during the winning streak) because it appears the Giants cannot learn, and continue to repeatedly make the same glaring, maddening mistakes. So, consider last week my bye week, too.

The summary of this game is easy as pie. Once again, the New York Giants piled up penalty after penalty, failed to execute a simple field goal attempt, failed again in the green zone on both sides of the ball, and through all that still put themselves in position to win the game.

The last two drives of the game belied the story of the day. Instead of writing about a dominating win with pointers to mistakes that COULD have cost them but didn’t, the story is the lack of imagination and execution on a first and goal from the four yard line and the ensuing game winning 80 yard drive by San Diego where the defense couldn’t stop a bug with a windshield.

Tale O’ The Tape: For the sixth time in nine games, the Giants dominated most of the statistical categories on both sides of the ball, but like last week in Philadelphia, the only statistic that mattered was the final score and once again it wasn’t in favor of the Giants.

The Giants held an astounding time of possession advantage. The held the ball for more than entire quarter than San Diego. They had 67 offensive plays to the Chargers’ 54. The Giants even won the turnover battle, but when you factor in the botched field goal attempt the Giants had a zero sum gain in points. Compound that further with the fact that the second Charger turnover resulted in a first and goal from the four yard line and pulling out of your own hair commences. The Giants rushed twice for every time San Diego rushed, and while rolling up 116 yards and a 4.0 ypc average they held the Chargers to only 34 yards and a 2.3 ypc average. Until the final drive, the Giants had held the vaunted Chargers passing attack to just 112 yards. Though they only sacked Rivers twice, they harassed him almost all day. In fact, they harassed him until there were two minutes and seven seconds left in the game.

So where did it all go wrong? Nine penalties for 105 yards didn’t help, and some were really dumb penalties, too. Another delay of game. False starts. Offensive holding. Fair catch interference. Chop block. It’s interesting to note that discipline, which had become a cornerstone of the Giants play under Tom Coughlin, has essentially vanished. Really, how the hell do you commit a false start on a punt in your own building? Is this what the Giants have come to?

And once again to harp on a continuing problem, the Giants were two for four on green zone chances and only one for two on goal to go chances. Just take a guess how San Diego fared on their chances. That’s right, three for three in the green zone and two for two in goal to go situations.

That’s it right there, friends. The Giants can dominate the game, yardage, first downs, time of possession, any metric you like. But in the end, poor execution on both sides of the ball down close combined with penalties and turnovers are killing them.

Offense: Two distinct and different offenses took the field last Sunday. One would come on the field and dominate the San Diego defense for double-digit play drives, consuming many minutes, only to yield to another offense that would go three and out on the next drive. It really was like they had different guys in there on each successive drive. Despite the dominant drives, the Giants never put two good drives together back to back. If they had, especially in the first half, it’s possible the Giants could have put them away early. It bears repeating. Once again Brandon Jacobs dominated the opening drive (four carries for 31 yards) but only saw three more carries the rest of the half and only got four carries the entire second half. In 37:47 of offensive football, Brandon Jacobs only got 11 carries. Even more astoundingly, over the last 54 minutes of the game, Jacobs got just seven carries.

During the post-game press conference Tom Coughlin reiterated the desire for balance between the running backs and cited that as the reason, along with the reasonable totals tallied at the end of the game, for his decision to keep rotating Bradshaw (and eventually Ware) into the game. Hogwash. And I wanted to use a more harsh word there.

Ahmad Bradshaw carried 14 times (three more than Jacobs) for just 39 yards and a paltry 2.8 ypc average. Now, since he broke his foot, Bradshaw has carried the ball 45 times for 140 yards and a 3.1 ypc average. Clearly, he’s not running like he was before his injury. At the same time, Brandon Jacobs has rushed 51 times for 262 yards and a 5.1 ypc average.

I’m not a football coach and I don’t pretend to be one. But if I had to choose between a guy averaging better than five yards a pop and a guy with a broken foot averaging just over 3 yards per pop, I’m going with the former. It’s sheer stubbornness on the part of the coaching staff, in my opinion, that they continue to call for this so-called ‘balance.’

That said, the offense did offer up a few welcome wrinkles, including some fake end around handoffs as well as a true end around and a direct halfback snap. Last week, I mentioned that the offense was so vanilla that based on the pre-snap alignment you could predict the play usually between one or two choices. We can only hope that this isn’t an anomaly and the Giants do use more wrinkles to try to throw off the defense just a bit. Star-Ledger beat writer Mike Garafolo hit on a point I made earlier in the season as to the Giants running out of the 22 package (double TE, FB, HB). With teams already stacking the box to stop the run, this formation (used very often last Sunday) invites the opponents to basically ignore the passing game. I just don’t understand why the Giants repeatedly shrink the field for opposing defenses, especially on short down and distances.

The Quarterbacks: Last week, I wrote that “the crash to earth was complete” for Eli after another horrible game, his third in a row. Well, the old axiom that there was nowhere to go but up rang true for Eli, as he had by far his best day since Oakland in Week 5. Manning was sacked five times (four really, he was called out of bounds on an unreviewable play in which he clearly got rid of the ball) and was under duress for most of the day, yet managed to complete 25 of 33 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns against no interceptions. His 112.6 QBR raised his season average to 89.5.

It appears that any ill effects of his heel injury are a thing of the past, as Eli moved about well in the pocket and also scrambled effectively on several plays. Manning’s completion percentage would have been higher as well if he hadn’t had to throw the ball away on several occasions.

One can hope that this resurgence is a pretence of things to come, as a healthy Manning could go a long way towards resolving the offensive woes that the Giants appear to be on the verge of coming out of.

The Running Backs: It’s hard to expound on what was written above. The Giants brain trust refuses to go with the hot hand (earlier it was Bradshaw, now it’s Jacobs) and continues to use the running back by committee approach regardless of the situation. Jacobs was on the verge of busting out for a huge game for the third consecutive week and the staff again took the ball out of his hands.

As for this particular game, the Giants were running the ball well at times, but again were unable to convert multiple short yardage situations. Once again, they were unable to convert a second and two (Jacobs), the ensuing third and one (Bradshaw), another third and two (Bradshaw), a second and three (Bradshaw), and the ensuing third and one (Bradshaw). This makes three possessions where the Giants relinquished the ball because they couldn’t gain four total yards on third down. This is absolutely ridiculous when you take into account the players the Giants have in the backfield and on the offensive line.

Danny Ware got his first action with the offensive unit and made two very nice runs before leaving with an apparent stinger. Ware has handled the ball three times this year and gotten hurt twice. Not a good average.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: The Giants were at full strength at the receiving corps once again, and the passing game was clicking for most of the day as long as Manning wasn’t getting sacked. Steve Smith led the team with 8 catches (targeted 11 times) for 57 yards and a touchdown. Smith remains in the top ten in most receiving categories and continues to be a stalwart on third down. Mario Manningham caught everything thrown his way, catching 6 passes for 52 yards. Throw in the three catches and 39 yards from Hakeem Nicks and that’s some pretty balanced production from your top three wideouts. Manningham currently ranks as the second best 2nd year receiver (tied with DeSean Jackson) with 34 catches and Nicks is currently the fourth leading rookie receiver with 23 catches. It’s safe to say that the Giants’ receivers are a young and impressive bunch who should get better and better with time.

Kevin Boss is one tough son of a bitch. Once again he took a bell ringer helmet to helmet hit but held on to the ball. Frankly, Boss is going to get hurt badly if these refs keep allowing the defenders to hit him illegally. That was the third time in three weeks that he’s been hit with a helmet to helmet hit and no penalty has been called.

Darcy Johnson had a key catch for a third down conversion where he turned up field and initiated contact well after he secured the first down. It was a statement play, which was nice to see considering Johnson is rarely targeted in the passing game.

The Offensive Line: The line played an up and down game. Kareem McKenzie returned to the field and played well in the running game, as much of the line did in all situations save short yardage where they failed to create space on five plays that required just seven total yards for first downs. That’s inexcusable. Add to that the fact that Eli Manning was running for his life on approximately 20% of the passing plays and it begs the question, what the hell is wrong with this unit? David Diehl has been especially prone to the outside speed rush. Rich Suebert has regressed this year and isn’t playing his best ball. Shaun O’Hara is still playing soundly at center, but isn’t getting any push on short yardage plays. Chris Snee is probably the best of the five out there right now, particularly when he’s pulling. O’Hara and Snee were both called for holding, but Snee’s was the killer as it negated a potential second and goal at the one yard line. Most have questioned the call, but by the book it’s a hold. Have we all seen worse that wasn’t called? Absolutely. That said, it was still a hold.

The line did open some big holes early for Brandon Jacobs, but after the first drive it appeared that Gilbride thought that it was too easy and decided to change up and leave Jacobs out of the game plan for much of the rest of the day.

The Defense: The defense looked better this week, as the Giants welcomed the return of Michael Boley and Chris Canty to the lineup. Both played and both were rusty but just having them out there (especially Boley) changed up the way the Giants played the game. Safety Aaron Rouse got his first start as well, and though there were mix ups in the secondary on all three touchdown throws by Rivers, it was hard to distinguish who was at fault from the TV angles.

The Front Seven: The Giants only registered two sacks (Fred Robbins and Osi Umenyiora), but they also registered five additional quarterback hits, forced a fumble (on the Osi sack), and harassed Rivers for much of the day. Until 2:07 were left on the clock. As stated, Michael Boley was a welcome return, as he registered seven solo tackles and one pass defensed. Unfortunately, his rust was evident on the last drive when he faked a blitz and then was late recovering to shadow Darren Sproles out of the backfield resulting in the one big play San Diego needed in order to go for the win. Incidentally, Boley made the tackle on that play. No safeties were to be found anywhere near the middle of the field. It should also be noted that on the drive prior, Boley got up slowly and had his knee looked at on the bench. Considering his injury, the rust from not playing much at all this entire year including preseason and camp, and the re-aggravation of said injury maybe Boley shouldn’t have been in the game at that juncture.

As for the other linebackers, they were nearly invisible as Antonio Pierce was in on only three tackles (one for a loss, and he did have a QB hit) and Danny Clark, the man charged with stopping the run, was only in on two tackles. Rookie Chris Sintim was in on three tackles and was also credited with a QB hit.

The Secondary: Believe it or not, Corey Webster is human. He had no chance on the first touchdown to Vincent Jackson as he received no safety help and lost inside leverage. The second touchdown, though not thrown on him, was a direct result of him not playing the ball in the end zone and instead just plowing over Vincent Jackson for the easy pass interference call. Webster was actually called for two penalties on the play, and really there was no need for him to interfere as he made up the ground on a severely underthrown ball that basically hit him in the ass as he plowed through Jackson. The final touchdown to Jackson appeared to be a blown call. Either he was supposed to stay with Jackson all the way to the corner or he was supposed to do what he did and drop into the under zone while a safety took the handoff of Vincent. As it turned out, no one took Vincent deep and the chargers competed one of the easiest touchdowns you’ll ever see for a team with their backs against the wall.

Though he was also victimized on the last drive, rookie walk on CB Bruce Johnson had a very good game and had three passes defensed and three tackles. The kid is getting better every week and looks like a gem plucked from a pile of rocks.

Terrell Thomas had a strong afternoon, recording nine tackles and making the big interception that should have iced the game. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one lamenting that he hadn’t gotten to the end zone before Manning and company trotted onto the field.

As far as the safeties go, their tackle numbers were way down (one for Aaron Rouse and three for Michael Johnson) and it’s tough trying to figure out why. C.C. Brown was in on a ton of tackles each week, but that could be because he was thrown at constantly so happened to be there for the tackle. At any rate, other than a couple plays that are impossible to truly dissect with the TV angles, the safeties seemed to play an inspired game. Johnson’s interception helped turn the field position battle but unfortunately the Giants were unable to turn it into points. Hell, they hardly turned it into a drive.

Kevin Dockery had a rough game. He didn’t register a tackle on defense and was flagged for fair catch interference, turning a first and ten from the 15 to a first and ten from the 30 for San Diego.

Special Teams: What was the word that Coach Jim Fassel used? Flummoxed? If so then I’m double-flummoxed as how the Giants could have spent the entire offseason, training camp and preseason not trying to find a way to shore up their kicking game. Lawrence Tynes is a disaster waiting to happen on every stinking play. Honestly, even IF the ball hadn’t been placed perfectly by Feagles, what BETTER outcome could he have considered rather than just kick it and hope for the best? When did replacing “any” chance with “no” chance become an option in this dunce’s head? Kick the damn ball, Tynes!!

Those directional kicks are also a ticking time bomb. Yes, two were effective, but the chance of a bad bounce out of bounds is too risky to take, in my opinion. BBI’s Chris in Philly should design a new amusement park with a Tynes Kicking Arcade as the theme.

Jeff Feagles had a fairly good day of punting. He shanked one out at the Giants’ 45 yard line following Dockery’s false start penalty.

The kick and punt return teams were adequate, but Wilkinson’s illegal block penalty put the Giants in an immediate hole on the opening kickoff and of course Dockery’s other penalty resulted in 15 extra yards of field position for San Diego.

Kick and punt coverage was very good last week, with Jonathan Goff getting the hit of the week, a clean shoulder to the chest of Sproles that knocked him flat on his butt.

Coaching: As I’ve said before, I’m not one for calling out the coaches based on what I see on TV and/or read in the papers. That said, I have serious issues with sending Michael Boley on a third and ten blitz while dropping Justin Tuck to guard All-Universe TE Antonio Gates. Seriously? The mismatch was so complete that not only did the Chargers pick up the first down with ease, Gates turned up field and got an additional 10 yards. Had the Giants played a simple zone there, they have a good chance of forcing a long field goal attempt but instead the play set up the Chargers’ first touchdown.

Frankly, the Giants have GOT to trust their front four more to get pressure on the quarterbacks and stop sending the blitzes that aren’t getting home anyway (as evidenced by the four blitzes that got nowhere close to Rivers on the final drive).

Secondly, the head coach comes out and says he wants to instill some confidence in his team. If so, then why not allow them to go for it on that ill-fated fourth down on the first drive? How does saying “Oh well, we failed on third and one but at least we got the field goal” help your confidence anymore than saying “Oh well, we failed on fourth and one”? They FAILED on third down! Give them your trust to succeed on fourth!

Finally, what the heck were they thinking on that last drive? As stated many times on BBI, that last field goal did nothing for them. As Tom Coughlin said, they didn’t want to turn the ball over down there. Well, in essence, that’s exactly what they did. The three points did nothing more than make the Chargers need a touchdown to win the game. What’s that you say? The needed a touchdown to win, regardless of the three points? BINGO!!!!

The Giants decided to play conservatively and it bit them in the ass. There’s no magic ball that can say whether they’d thrown the ball down there on second, third, or fourth down that they’d have been successful. But facts are facts, and those facts are that they paid 100 million dollars to a QB who had a hot hand all day to win games for them, and they took the ball out of his hands with a chance to salt it away. Frankly, that’s a tragedy and maybe we’re really seeing what the Giants brain trust thinks of Franchise QB Eli Manning.

Offensive Player of the Game: Eli Manning. Eli had a spectacular game, and it’s a shame he wasn’t trusted to salt it away at the end. He played well under constant duress.

Defensive Player of the Game: Mathias Kiwanuka was a presence on defense, registering five tackles and a QB hit, rotating in at the defensive end position. Kiwi is progressing well after a slow start.

(Box Score – San Diego Chargers at New York Giants, November 8, 2009)
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