Sep 302010
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Tennessee Titans 29 (2-1) – New York Giants 10 (1-2)

by The Hack for

Game Summary: BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! Click…click…click…(gimme a sec, need to reload)…BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!  There we go, both feet sufficiently wounded.

These are the maddening games for fans.

After absorbing a beating from Indianapolis a week earlier, the Giants had a golden opportunity to get back on track against a Tennessee team that was pummeled by Pittsburgh last Sunday.  The Titans committed 7 turnovers and absorbed 4 sacks while gaining just 46 yards on the ground against the Steelers.  In fact, starting QB Vince Young was benched in favor of former Giants starter Kerry Collins and all week there was talk of a QB controversy in Tennessee.  Finally, this happened at home to the Titans.  If ever there was a recipe for home cooking, then this was it.  This game had all the earmarks of a Giants rout.  Coming home after an embarrassing loss, a defense that had its mettle called out, an offense that was healthy and ready to roll, and a team limping in after being thoroughly  defeated at home.

As sometimes happens, it just didn’t quite turn out that way.  Sure, the 29-10 score could easily have been reversed in the Giants favor had it not been for all the self inflicted mistakes they made.  The Giants committed 3 more turnovers while producing none, missed 2 field goals, and committed 11 penalties for 88 yards, including 6…SIX!!!…personal fouls.  The Giants had 4 drives the resulted in 1st and goal opportunities, and scored 1 touchdown and nothing else.

Once again, the Giants offense let the team down as they turned the ball over on their first two drives and then missed a 53 yard field goal after being set up with a first down at the Titan’s 29 yard line.  The Titans, in the mean time, scored 10 points and once again the Giants were in catch up mode early.  To their credit, the Giants rebounded and tied the game up just short of halftime.  Any fan watching the game at this point had to be breathing a semi-sigh of relief as the teams headed to the locker room tied, though the Giants dominated in every sense of the game.  There was no reason to believe that the ship had not been righted at this point, and everyone expected the Giants to finish the deal in the second half.  And that’s when it all went wrong the Giants.

Coming out after the half, the Giants special teams immediately allowed a kickoff return out to the 48 yard line of Tennessee.  The defense, however, stiffened and forced a punt.  Unfortunately, the special teams once again screwed up.  With the Titans kicking from their own 39 yard line, the Giants did NOT double the outside gunners, and in fact, released them completely off the line.  Both gunners were down in the vicinity of the punt, without a Giant within 15 yards of them, where Titans special teams ace Michael Griffin caught the ball and stopped just short of the goal line.  On the play, the contain man on the right side of the Giants defense actually was running off the field to the sidelines from around the 20 yard line a full 3 seconds before the ball was even downed.  I could not make out the number of the player, but I sure hope Tom Coughlin saw it and makes an example of him.

The Giants were unable to recover from the horrible field position as Ahmad Bradshaw was called for an illegal chop block in the endzone, resulting in a safety and 2 points for Tennessee.

At this point, you’d have liked to think the special teams mistakes were finally over, but they weren’t.  Unbelievably, P Matt Dodge was only able to punt the free kick 47 yards in the air, on a line drive with no hang time.  The ball bounced at the Tennessee 33 yard line and off that bounce was returned 24 yards to the Tennessee 48 yard line.

The comedy of errors on special teams still wasn’t over.  Following the second Titans touchdown, the Giants committed a holding penalty on a kickoff return, committed a delay of game penalty on a field goal attempt, missed said field goal attempt, and finally committed a personal foul penalty on the same field goal attempt.

The Giants had the ball 6 times in the second half.  How each drive ended is hard to believe: safety, fumble, missed field goal, downs, downs, end of game.  The first half wasn’t much better.  On 6 first half drives, the Giants gave up the ball by interception, interception, missed field goal, field goal and touchdown.  That’s horrid.

The defense played well enough to win this game.  The offense, had they decided to finish their drives, also played well enough to win this game.  Special teams, however, didn’t play well enough to make a Pop Warner coach happy.  So now, the real question is this: are we seeing the ‘real’ 2010 New York Giants or is this just a slow start?  Bill Parcells used to say “You are what your record says you are”, and right now they’re 1-2 having given up 85 points while scoring a paltry 55.  Is this the best we can expect of the Giants?  A middling defense that cannot stop a team in the redzone?  A team prone to offensive mistakes that are killing them in terms of field position and scoring?  A special teams that is an absolute joke to be considered ‘professional’?

So far, the Giants have been run on more than any team in the league, but are only giving up a pedestrian 3.8 ypc average, which is tied for 11th best in the league.  On the contrary, the Giants are only thrown on 25 times a game, the second lowest in the league.  The problem is that although the Giants are only allowing a 57% completion rate, good for 10th in the league, they’re giving up a 7.7 yards per attempt, which is tied for 17th in the league.

The offensive line stats, across the board, come in just above the middle of the pack.  The Giants have had 12 rushes of 10+ yards, which is a lot at this point.  7 of these have been runs to the Giants’ right side.  The Giants have also gained 11 first downs over the right side of the line. The Giants are 12th in the league with a 4.3 ypc average.  The problem for the line appears to be in the passing game, where they are tied for 8th in sacks allowed with 8 and 7th in QB hits allowed with 18.  Surely the TE situation combined with Bradshaw in the game more often than not in blitz pickup situations is skewing this stat, but it’s clear that Eli is getting hit more often than in the past.

The Giants have turned the ball over an astounding 10 times in just 3 games.  Remember when they set the record for fewest turnovers in a non strike shortened season with just 13 two years ago?  So much for trying to equal or better that record. The Giants currently sit at a -4 on the year for turnover ratio.

Third downs, on both sides of the ball, continue to hurt the Giants as well.  Currently, the Giants are converting 3rd downs at a 37% clip while allowing the opponents to convert at a 44% rate.

You don’t even want to see the special teams statistics to this point.  You already know the score there.

Overall, this game reminded me tremendously of the Arizona game in Week 7 from last year.  After a 5-0 start, the Giants were blown out by New Orleans.  The next week, they beat Arizona in every facet of the game, just like this past Sunday, except for the final score.  Had the Giants won that game, it may have stopped the bleeding and the Giants might have recovered their confidence and saved their season.  It’s early, but one has to wonder if Big Blue’s confidence is shaken and could this be the game that starts them spiraling down the drain, just like in 2009?

Offense: The Giants were without their starting center Shaun O’Hara on Sunday as Adam Koets filled in.  That said, Big Blue rolled up 471 yards on 70 offensive plays, an impressive 6.7 yards per play average.  They ran for 107 yards on 20 carries for an again very impressive 5.4 yards per carry average.   Eli Manning completed an astounding 71% of his passes, going 34 -48.  And that’s with at least 3 drops.  Manning missed a 400 yard passing day by just 14 yards.  Overall, the team held the ball for nearly 32 minutes and out-gained the Titans by 200 yards.

With these gaudy statistics your only guide, you’d believe it if I told you the Giants had scored a minimum of 30 points and won the game handily.  And you’d be wrong.  Despite these numbers, the Giants lost by nearly 3 touchdowns and only scored 10 points.  How could this be, you ask?  The Giants were 1-4 in the redzone, and in fact, were only 1-4 in goal to go situations.  They offense turned the ball over three times, twice within the 5 yard line, missed two field goals, and even gave up a safety.

For the third straight game, the Giants offense was uneven and could not stay in sync.  There should be no reason, with the talent on this team, that the struggles and turnovers continue.  It’s time for them to step up, play under control, and finish some drives.

The Quarterback: Statistically, Eli Manning had a tremendous game.  As noted, he threw for nearly 400 yards and completed more than 70% of his passes against what was the number 1 passing defense in the league and a very stout and aggressive front 7.  Manning also threw 2 interceptions, but only the second was his fault as once again a catchable ball clanged off a receiver’s hands and wound up an interception.  The second, however, was inexcusable when on a third down play from inside the 5 yard line he tried to force a left handed shot put throw into the endzone that ended up tipped and intercepted.  With the woes the Giants have had in the redzone, it’s just not a good decision to force anything when you have a near sure 3 points waiting for you to pluck from the tree.  On the play, the protection breakdown came from both the LT and RG positions as both Deihl and Snee were overwhelmed at the point of attack.  Eli was able to escape to his left, but instead of just taking the sack disastrously attempted to get the ball to Boss.

Eli ran a flawless two minute drill just before the half to tie the game up.  On the 80 yard drive, Manning completed 5 passes, none better than a 20 yard hook up with Mario Manningham that was perfectly thrown sideline pass allowing Manningham to toe tap both feet before falling out of bounds.

Another great call came early when Manning switched out of a running play and hit TE Kevin Boss for 54 yards (20 of it coming from Boss’ second and third effort) down the seam over top the linebackers.

What’s worrisome about Manning is the fact that he’s getting hit and hit hard.  Manning was sacked twice and hit 7 times total.  That’s 18 QB hits against Manning in just three games.  Everyone knows that Eli does a good job of moving in the pocket and can take a big hit, but frankly he’s taking way too many big hits right now.

The Running Backs: Ahmad Bradshaw, statistically, had one of the best days he’s ever had as a pro.  Bradshaw ran wild through the Titans defense for 88 yards on just 15 carries, a tidy 5.9 ypc average and a 10 yard touchdown run.  Bradshaw also caught 5 passes for another 30 yards.

Unfortunately, Bradshaw still seems to misread some of his holes.  A prime example was the very first play of the game.  David Deihl and Rich Suebert created a nice hole to the left, which was the way Bradshaw was headed off the handoff, and Hedgecock got to the second level to take out the outside backer.  For some reason, Bradshaw chose not to follow the blocking and cut back right into the free safety who filled the void on the right side and stopped for no gain.  Bradshaw is a great cut back runner who has good power to break tackles, but sometimes it appears that if he just stayed in with the play he’d have even more success.

Bradshaw is still having trouble with the blitz pickups.  On the missed field goal drive on 2nd and 9 from the Titans 28 yard line, Manning dropped back to pass against a five man rush.  The Giants had an I formation with no TE, but kept both Hedgecock and Bradshaw in to block,and both were in position to stop the corner blitz, but Hedgecock missed and Bradshaw didn’t engage him and instead tried to take out a late blitzing linebacker who had no impact on the play.  The cornerback ensured that Eli had nowhere to step up and he was eventually sacked by LT David Diehl’s man.  Bradshaw also was flagged for an illegal chop block in the endzone which cost the Giants 2 points.  While much debate ensued over this play over in The Corner Forum, the fact is he didn’t even need to go at the player’s knees.  All he really needed to do was stay on his feet and hit him in the chest and Manning would’ve had the ball out and completed to Manningham.  Additionally, Adam Koets should have been called for a facemask penalty on the play as well.

The other bugaboo on Sunday for Bradshaw was an incredibly untimely fumble which cost the Giants all the momentum they were rebuilding following the 9 point start to the quarter by the Titans.  Fighting for extra yards on 1st down, he fumbled it away at the Titans 5 yard line.  That play was really the end of the game for the Giants.

Brandon Jacobs played sparsely, getting 4 attempts for 17 yards for a 4.3 ypc average. What was good to see, however, was that Jacobs ran hard, ran low, and bulldozed his way into the line the way he used to run.  Brandon also caught a pass for 1 yard.  Jacobs missed a crucial blitz pickup, allowing a blitzer to run right by him for a sack.  Still, you’d think when the team was backed against it’s goal line the big back would be in for either a chance to bulldoze it out for a few yards or at least help with blitz pickups if they did decide to pass, which they did to disastrous results on that particular 3rd down.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: Welcome back Kevin Boss.  Boss only caught three passes for 88 yards, but Eli looked his way 7 times.  Boss, as mentioned above, made a tremendous catch and run that set the Giants up in 1st and goal at the 9 yard line.  The play was nothing short of inspiring, as the fans erupted in the stadium.  Unfortunately, it did not translate to points, as also mentioned above.  Travis Beckum had a couple of nice plays, too.  On the 3rd play of the game he made a nice chip on the RDE before releasing over the middle and catching a short pass that he turned upfield for an 18 yard gain and a 1st down.  Beckum also did a fine job of neutralizing the LDE on the 2nd down running play to Bradshaw from the endzone.

Mario Manningham had an awful preseason, catching less than a handful of balls.  He surely looked as though he’d be the odd man out this season in the top heavy Giants receiving corps.  That hasn’t been the case, though, as Manningham is currently 6th in the NFC in receiving yardage with 238 yards.  The amazing thing is that he only has 14 receptions.  His yards per reception average is 3rd best in the NFC amongst players who have caught 10 or more passes.  While his production has been a great surprise, what really stands out about Manningham is that he’s learned the art of body control and field awareness.  Many of us in The Corner Forum had lamented his inability to get his feet down in bounds on seemingly routine receptions.  Those laments are a thing of the past as Mario seems positively Toomer-like in his abilities now.  Finally, Manningham has become a beast in the downfield blocking game.  It was his block that cleared the final path for Bradshaw’s touchdown run.  Manningham did have one drop on Sunday, but it ended up having no affect on the drive.

WR Hakeem Nicks played the role of possession receiver on Sunday, catching 7 balls for just 56 yards.  Nicks had a very costly drop on Eli’s second pass of the game when the ball glanced off his hands, deflected off the CBs shoulder pads, and bounced 10 yards back towards the line of scrimmage into the waiting arms of a defensive end.  The Titans manufactured 3 points off that turnover.

WR Steve Smith had a good day, catching 9 passes for 103 yards.  Smith took a couple vicious shots going over the middle of the field, even having his helmet knocked off once.

The Offensive Line: The offensive line had a better day this past Sunday than they had against the Colts, but it’s still not up to par.  One can look to the nearly 500 yards of offense that the Giants put up and surmise that the offensive line did pretty well, and at times they did.  The pulling of the guards was much improved over the first couple of games.  The run blocking, in general, was very effective.

Backup C Adam Koets was not asked to do much in this game, as the Giants attempted to get the ball wide with Bradshaw most of the time.  In pass protection, Koets made one fatal read when he did not pick up the nose guard and instead helped Snee to the right with the Titans LG.  On the play, the Giants lined up in a single back trips formation with Boss at TE on the left side of the line covering up Deihl.  The Titans brought the nickel corner on a blitz, and McKenzie picked him up easily.  Boss bottled up the DE on his side, and he was also a non factor in the play.  Suebert and McKenzie stifled the Titans right DT and the outside linebacker who also came on a blitz.  On Snee’s side, the DE took him on straight up while the DT pushed  Koets off to that side, taking an inside move on him.  Koets continued to slide right and left the DT free lane into the backfield.  Bradshaw filled and took him out at the knees, but Koets had a handful of facemask, so therefore was “engaged” with the lineman, so Bradshaw got called for the penalty.  Had Koets held his ground, the play would have been successful.  Earlier, Koets was obviously on the wrong page with the offensive unit as everyone moved prior to his snap.  As the play occurred on a 3rd and 22 attempt, it didn’t have any effect on the outcome of the drive.

RT Kareem McKenzie was benched late in the game following his second personal foul of the half.  Shawn Andrews finished the game at right tackle and looked right at home doing so.

Defense: The Giants defense deserved a win in this game.  Granted, their redzone troubles continue, as they allowed the Titans 3 touchdowns on 4 trips inside the 20.  This has got to change.  In The Corner Forum, much has been made of the great starting field position the Giants are allowing their opponents and whether that’s contributing to the red zone defensive woes.  The Titans had drives begin at their own 49, 43, 48, 49 and 44 yard lines.  Of those 5 drives, the Titans scored 2 touchdowns and 2 field goals (the last drive was their final of the game and they were not trying to move the ball).   Their 3rd touchdown was scored on a drive that started at their own 35.  The Titans had 3 drives that began at their 20 yard line, and all 3 ended as 3 and outs.  There is no analysis to suggest causation, but the Giants are breaking on the short drives, not just bending.

Front 7: The Giants front 7 played a solid game.  Until the fourth quarter when everything was decided, they did a magnificent job of keeping RB Chris Johnson under wraps.  At the half, the Titans only had 78 net yards.  Johnson had 52 on 17 carries, a 3.2 ypc average.  Combined with the fact that the Titans had only thrown the ball 4 times for a total of 32 yards, you could see the Titans were determined to run and the Giants were determined to deny them.

Unfortunately, on part of the first Titans drive of the second have and then almost exclusively on their second, Tennessee decided to change things up and see if they could throw the ball against the Giants.  It worked well, as the Giants front got very little pressure on QB Vince Young, who made enough plays to make the difference.  The Giants came with four or fewer for most of the day, content to allow the defensive line attack the running game.  When the Titans passed, however, they generally had plenty of time to find a receiver.  The Giants managed just 1 QB hit the entire game, which was the Mathias Kiwanuka sack.

Justin Tuck had a great game, especially in the running game, where he was in on 8 tackles in which two were thrown for a loss.  DTs Chris Canty and Barry Cofield were also excellent in run support.  Speaking of Kiwanuka, the man is playing the best football of his career from a different spot on the field seemingly on every play.  Kiwi played mostly from the LB position on Sunday, and had 4 tackles, 2 for a loss, and a sack.  Osi Umenyiora was a non factor for the entire game.

MIKE linebacker Jonathan Goff is progressing.  Still, however, he has moments that are head scratching.  At times, Goff tends to take on his blocker with such enthusiasm he doesn’t realize the ball carrier is running right past him.  A case in point is on the first decent gain Johnson got in the game.  On 2nd and 7 from the Giants 45 yard line, the Titans were in an offset I formation with a TE to the right of the line and two receivers left.  That left the entire right side of the field outside the hash marks uncovered by the Titans.  The Giants were in a nickel package, with Goff and Kiwanuka at the linebacker positions and Aaron Ross on the line of scrimmage somewhat over the left tackle.  On the play Johnson ran right.  Ross did a great job of engaging the fullback behind the line of scrimmage, opening a gap for Goff and Kiwanuka to exploit.  Instead of hitting and filling the hole, however, Goff continued to his right and engaged the DE head on and never disengaged.  Chris Johnson ran right past him and into the secondary where Kenny Phillips made the tackle after a 12 yard gain.  Goff has to start playing more with his eyes on the ball carrier.  Had Goff had situational awareness on Johnson during that play, it would have been a one or two yard gain.  Goff also took a poor angle on Johnson’s second touchdown run.

The Giants dime package was interesting, to say the least.  One of the best plays of the day was a 3rd and 6 draw attempted by the Titans in the second quarter.  The Giants had 3 linemen (one of them Michael Boley lined up over the center), three players lined up at the traditional linebacker spots but they were not linebackers.  DE Jason Pierre-Paul was lined up on the right side, DE Mathias Kiwanuka was manning the middle, and S Deon Grant was on the left.   On the play, Pierre-Paul knifed in like he was shot out of a cannon and planted Johnson for a 4 yard loss.  It was an incredible display of athleticism.

Defensive Backs: The defensive backfield had another rough day.  The Titans only threw 16 passes all game, completing 10 of them, but each of the completions was vital.  Terrell Thomas once again had a shaky day, committing a costly interference penalty on a second down deep in Giants territory.  Vince Young also missed two sure touchdowns by overthrowing his receiver that had beaten Thomas both times.

Corey Webster had a very tough day, allowing several completions including the touchdown pass to WR Kenny Britt.

For whatever reason, the Giants secondary was unable to defense any of a number of passes that appeared to be contestable.  The Giants also were unable to jar the ball loose on any completion.

Anrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips both had solid games in run support, combining for 16 tackles on the day.  Phillips also showed his old speed and athleticism by getting to the sideline to nearly intercept a deep ball that it seemed he had no business getting to.

All in all, the secondary needs to start making some plays that will either change a possession or change a game.  Granted, the pass rush has not been great, but you cannot allow a fairly benign passing team such as the Titans to complete 10 of 16 passes when 3 of the incompeltions were to wide open receivers that were simply poor throws.

Special Teams: It’s hard to believe that a unit can play so badly week after week and month after month and not get even remotely better.  It is unfathomable that holder Matt Dodge could take a delay of game penalty on a run of the mill field goal attempt.  It’s unconscionable that a free kick would only travel 47 yards in the air with no hang time.  There were breakdowns all over the place, as noted above on the play where the Giants just allowed the Titans to down the ball at their own 1 yard line on a punt.  Just simply allowed it!

The Titans kicked off 6 times, 5 reached the endzone, and 3 resulted in touchbacks.  The Giants kicked off 4 times, 1 reached the endzone, and that one went for a touchback.  The Giants started  6 drives after receiving a kickoff, and their average starting position was their own 20.  The Titans started 4 drives after receiving a kickoff and their average starting field position was their 35 yard line.

Kick coverages and returns were atrocious, as they have been all year.  Right now the Giants are 27th in average kick return yardage, 21st in the league in average kickoff return yardage allowed, 27th in average punt return yardage, and 24th in average punt return yardage allowed.

At least other than the free kick and the botched play clock penalty we didn’t have to see Dodge out there punting.

Coaching: It appeared the Giants had two great game plans for Sunday, and for the most part the Giants employed them effectively.  While Head Coach Tom Coughlin took the blame for the turnovers and the penalties, I just don’t buy it.  If the Giants eliminate just half the mistakes in this game, they would have won it easily.

Kudos to Coughlin for benching both Rolle and McKenzie after their stupid penalties.

I’m still puzzled why Gilbride let Bradshaw play from the Giants 1 yard line when the better pass blocker, Brandon Jacobs, sat the bench.

Special Teams coordinator Tom Quinn has got to find a way to fix his unit.  It’s inexcusable, and it’s recurring.

Offensive Player of the Game: Despite the stupid decision on the second interception, the nod goes to Eli Manning.

Defensive Player of the Game: Though he didn’t get much pressure on the QB, Justin Tuck was a force in the running game and made Chris Johnson think about where to run with the ball from the very outset of the game.

(Box Score – Tennessee Titans at New York Giants, September 26, 2010)
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