By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
Approach to the Game: The victory against the Panthers was important for a number of reasons. It was important to start the season on a winning note after the embarrassing and emotionally-draining 3-8 slide that ended the 2009 season. The Giants’ defense also took a major step forward in redeeming itself from its dreadful 2009 performance. Specifically, all three levels of the defense look much stronger and the unit appears better coached. And most importantly, the Giants are 1-0. They have their first home win under their belt. And they defeated an NFC opponent, which always helps in terms of playoff tiebreakers.
That all said, there are areas that need work. Some of these problems are not chronic and should improve. The receivers dropped too many balls. The offensive line – while it pass protected very well – has a subpar performance in blocking for the run. The defense still gave up too many 3rd-and-long plays. But most worrisome is the continued poor play of virtually the entire special teams unit.
Next up are the Indianapolis Colts – a perennial Super Bowl contender and one of the truly elite teams in the NFL. And this Colts team is coming off an extremely rare September loss. At 0-1, they are very motivated to redeem themselves in their home opener in front of a national television audience.
This game is not going to be easy.
Giants on Offense: The Colts got gashed by the run last week. The Giants like to run a balanced offense. So the smart money says the Giants are going to try to run on the Colts, run early, and run often.
I’m a firm believer that good football teams rarely make the same mistakes twice in a row. As Kevin Gilbride said earlier this week, the Houston Texans hit some things just right against the Colts. I doubt the Colts expose themselves like that again. Secondly, so much of the Giants’ ground game is predicated on the blocking of the tight ends at the end of the line against the defensive ends. With Kevin Boss (concussion) out, the Giants are without their best run-blocking tight end. Bear Pascoe was elevated from the Practice Squad, but his run blocking wasn’t very good in the preseason. And Travis Beckum is more a position-blocker than mauler. Worse, both Pascoe and Beckum would be called onto block Indianapolis’ very fast and very quick defensive ends, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
The Panthers gave the Giants trouble last week by using a lot of movement up front with their front seven, and defensive line in particular. There were aggressive slants and stunts and the Panthers were able to create some negative yardage plays. That’s the same type of defense the Colts run. They are smaller and quicker. They don’t want to stand in there and let you pound them. They move around and make it difficult for you to block them. And they are very fast and move laterally very well so outside runs usually don’t do well against them. When the Giants do run, I would keep it simple and pound them between the tackles or off tackle.
But strategically, I just wouldn’t get caught up in all of that this week. When you play the Colts, each offensive possession is critically important. You have to move the ball and hopefully generate points (and touchdowns instead of field goals). Teams usually get about 4-5 offensive possessions per half. The Giants have a franchise quarterback who plays well in domes. They have a very strong receiving corps. The offensive line pass protects well. Make every drive count by throwing the ball and putting points up on the board. Yes, there is a risk in getting into a scoring-match with the Colts. That’s the Colts’ type of game and not the Giants. But with the Boss out, the offensive line still not in sync with their run blocking (due to all of the time missed in the preseason), and the quality of their offensive opponent, I would attack, attack, and attack through the air. I like the Giants’ receivers against the Colts’ secondary.
Put the game on Eli. He just may show up big brother.
Giants on Defense: On paper, I like this match-up for the Giants. No, no one shuts down Peyton Manning in the Colts. Hell, holding them to 28 points may be a victory. But the Giants are built to rush the passer and cover receivers. The strength of this defense is the line and secondary. If I’m Perry Fewell, I spend the entire game in the nickel or dime. Instead of the third linebacker, use all three safeties on the field. Mirror all-world H-Back Dallas Clark with one of your starting caliber safeties. Michael Boley will obviously be on him too much of the game. The Colts are not a running team. Yes Joseph Addai can hurt you. But he’s the lesser poison in this contest. You’ll rarely hear me say it, but play pass first, not run.
The Colts’ aero circus revolves around wide receivers Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, and Austin Collie, as well as Clark. Obviously a key component this week will be the presence of Aaron Ross. But how rusty or effective will he be? Will the foot injury give him problems on the artificial turf? He’s a major upgrade over Bruce Johnson and the Giants need him and need him to play well this week. Terrell Thomas, Corey Webster, and Ross against those three receivers, with one or two safeties in support are decent match-ups for New York. Put another safety and/or Boley on Clark.
Up front, it is absolutely critical the Giants don’t get caught up in Peyton’s gyrations and audibles at the line of scrimmage. Jonathan Goff isn’t going to be able to out-think Peyton. Just call your defense and go with the called play. The boys up front need to get after the quarterback. I wouldn’t come with all-out blitzes. Peyton eats that up. Overload blitzes or sending a linebacker or defensive back from time to time is a smart move, but I would play it safer in the secondary and make the Colts drive the field in small chunks, not large ones. Now Peyton is quite capable of taking what a defense gives him, but I’d rather take my chances by having Petyon putting up a lot of passes against the refurbished ball-hawking secondary of the Giants than the quick and easy 70-yard score. Fans hate hearing bend-but-don’t-break. But this is one opponent where that may be the prudent move. You may call it playing scared, but I call it playing the odds.
Giants on Special Teams: This is where the game may be lost. The focus has been on Matt Dodge and he obviously has to play much, much better this week. If you give Peyton Manning the short field to work with, he will kill you. Make the Colts drive the field. If they start near midfield, the Giants are screwed. The Colts are going to rush him. There was a block last week. And while that was more on the blocking up front (another reason to rush), Dodge has been too deliberate with his kicks too. Meanwhile, punt coverage is critical. Dodge’s punts go right down the middle of the field. The gunners and supporting players need to stay in their lanes and tackle better.
So does the kickoff coverage team. I love watching Jason Pierre-Paul on kickoff coverage, but he needs help. With Chase Blackburn out, the Giants are undermanned once again.
Prediction: I’d feel a lot better about this game if the Colts weren’t 0-1, Boss was playing, and Ross was healthy. I still think the Giants have a decent shot in this game, but you don’t beat a team like the Colts unless all three phases of your team are operating well. And the Giants’ special teams are a joke at this point. Colts 30 – Giants 20.