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New York Giants 28 (4-2) – Detroit Lions 20 (1-4)

by The Hack for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary: The New York Giants started a little slowly and finished somewhat shakily, but they did enough of the yeoman’s work in the middle two thirds of the game to put away a very pesky Detroit Lions team that simply wouldn’t give up.   Detroit was down to their third string QB before halftime arrived, committed 11 penalties worth 91 yards, suffered through 5 fumbles, losing 2, and committing 3 total turnovers yet still had an opportunity (however slight) to tie the game on their final possession of the day.  Credit Big Blue for maintaining their composure and continuing to find a way to distance themselves from Detroit every time they clawed their way close.

As always before a big divisional game, inevitable talk about a ‘trap’ game ensues over in The Corner Forum.  For once, however, most of the group were not taken by the trap talk, despite blowing out the Texans and possibly looking forward to the Cowboys.  As Eric from BBI warned in his preview, “Don’t expect this to be a pushover.”  Eric also noted several other things that would have to be done:

  1. Don’t turn over the ball on offense – Mission Accomplished
  2. Stop the run on defense – Mission Accomplished
  3. Tighten up the penalties on special teams – Mission Accomplished.

The ‘trap’ never materialized.  After securing a quick first down on the opening drive, the Giants stalled at midfield and were forced to punt and it appeared as if the Giants would be able to pin the Lions deep on their opening possession.  Rookie P Matt Dodge, however, dropped the ball as he extended to kick it, and then dropped it again when he picked it up.  Detroit recovered the fumble in Giants territory and following an impressive 9 play drive over 4 minutes, grabbed an early 7 point lead.  After that, the Giants held the upper hand in play until late in the  3rd quarter.

Statistically, this game seems on paper to be pretty even, but when you take out the 87 yard touchdown pass play by Detroit, the true disparity in the game can be seen fairly obviously.  Some concerns to take away from the game exist.  First and foremost, the Giants allowed the Lions to convert 11 of 22 3rd and 4th down conversions to a team that could not run the ball.  That’s unacceptable and the Giants need to tighten up giving up the long 3rd down conversions.  They’ve had this problem in the past, and it’s starting to rear its ugly head again.  New York also allowed Detroit’s 3rd string QB, Drew Stanton, complete nearly 56% of his passes coming cold off the bench, as well as allowing him to become the Lions’ leading rusher on the day with 30 yards on 3 attempts.  It’s probably not true, but it sure seems that the Giants always have trouble defeating a back up or worse QB!

The Giants also did a very good job of finally getting their penalties under control, committing just 2 on Sunday.  The first was an offsides on Osi Umenyiora that amounted to nothing and the second was a phantom (at least by the angle on TV) holding call on Bear Pascoe which amounted to nothing as well due to an illegal hands to the face penalty on Detroit DT Ndamukong Suh.  On 19 special teams plays, not including field goals and extra points, the Giants had NO penalties.  That was a complete and welcome reversal of last week’s performance.

The Giants had a huge time of possession advantage going into the 4th quarter, and though they lost the ToP battle in the 4th holding the ball just 6 minutes, they still finish with nearly an overall 6 minute advantage.

The two biggest statistics on the day, however, were the fact that the Giants won the turnover battle 3-1, turning 2 of them into 14 points and giving up 7 off the one turnover they committed.  The Giants are still -3 in turnovers, however, and though the trend is changing they still need to be mindful of the ball.

The second big statistic is for the second week in a row, the Giants went 3-3 in the green zone and 2-2 in goal to go situations.  Detroit converted their only green zone opportunity on Sunday, as well.

Offense: New York welcomed back starting C Shawn O’Hara on Sunday, but continued to be without the services of FB Madison Hedgecock.  Frankly, that wasn’t exactly a liability.  The Giants moved the ball efficiently all afternoon, suffering just 2 three and outs and putting together several long and time consuming drives.

The Giants mounted a very balanced attack, rushing for 167 yards and passing for 177 (167 net).  Detroit seemed focused on taking away the Giants’ passing game, so the Giants relied on the outstanding rushing game.  On the day the Giants ran 62 plays, 30 of which were rushes against 32 drop backs (2 sacks, 30 pass attempts).

The Giants are now the 5th ranked rushing offense in the entire league (1st in the NFC), 12th in passing, and 7th overall.  The Giants lead all teams with runs of more than 20 yards with 11.  The giants had just 8 such plays all last season.

The Quarterback: Eli Manning had a very efficient game, but once again missed a shot in the first drive when while under significant pressure overthrew a wide open Hakeem Nicks for what would have been a 50 yard touchdown.  Later, Manning missed Nicks again for a possible long gainer.  Overall, Manning was 20 – 30 for 177 yards and 2 TDs against 0 INTs.  Manning’s QBR on the day was a season best 104.4, raising his season average to a respectable 86.2.  Manning, completing nearly 67% of his passes, is rated 7th among QBs that have thrown more than 125 passes.  There are 6 QBs with half the sample size of attempts ranked higher than Manning.

The best part about Sunday with regards to his play was his ability to audible into the right play at the right time.  Facing a very talented front, Manning exploited the defense by throwing when the Lions would bring extra players into the box, and did just the opposite when they went into a cover 2 shell.

The Running Backs: The Giants’ two headed rushing monster is back in full force, but it’s not like we’ve seen in the past.  Ahmad Bradshaw is the undisputed feature back and Brandon Jacobs is his worthy and productive understudy.  For the first time, after a teaser showing last week, the two have come together much like Jacobs and Derrick Ward were a few years ago as they  complimented each other perfectly against a feisty Lions defense that saw ex-Giant and BBI whipping boy S C.C. Brown consistently flow into the box to help try to derail the rushing attack.

Bradshaw ran for 133 yards on 19 carries for a whopping 7.0 ypc average.  He’s now 3rd in the NFL in rushing yards and is on pace for 1,552 yards.  Currently, Bradshaw has a scintillating 5.3 ypc average on the year.  On Sunday Bradshaw had 4 runs of 13 yards or more; including the 45 yarder late in the fourth quarter following a Lions fumble which led to the final touchdown for the Giants on the day.  That run essentially ended the Lions hopes on the day.  Bradshaw also caught 2 passes for 10 yards.  It’s apparent that Ahmad has worked hard at his blitz pickups since his illegal blocking penalty cost the Giants 2 points, the ball, and all the momentum against the Titans a month ago.  Bradshaw has become very good at identifying where the blitz is coming from and has been attacking the blitzer high instead of going low.

Brandon Jacobs, Bradshaw’s  self described brother from another mother, ran the best he has all season.  Jacobs got low, hit the hole quickly, and showed burst and power as he attacked the line and second level.  Jacobs ran 9 times for 35 yards, a 3.9 ypc average and 2 touchdowns.  Jacobs’ stats are somewhat skewed due to the fact that the Lions produced a hell of a goal line stand going before the 1 yard TD pass to Travis Beckum and twice stoned Jacobs for no gain.

Who knew?  Bear Pascoe is a very good fullback.  For a guy who’s had his troubles as a blocker at the point of attack from the TE position, Pascoe has actually outperformed injured starter Madison Hedgecock and frankly it’s not that close.  Outside linebacker Victor Ciurcio and middle linebacker Ashlee Palmer have got to be wondering where the heck he came from, because Pascoe blew them up all day.  A few weeks ago, there was a lot of hand wringing in The Corner Forum about Jacobs not hitting the hole and choosing to try to go lateral and bounce outside.  It’s been mentioned in the game reviews and also in The Corner Forum that the FB (Hedgecock) was getting caught stalled in the hole engaging his man, and that there wasn’t a lot of help coming from the TE position in sealing off blocks.  That has completely changed with Pascoe in at FB and Shawn Andrews anchoring the second TE position.  I hate to say this, but it appears an injury to Hedgecock has actually inadvertently improved the Giants offense at two positions.  Pascoe gets to the hole and clears it out.  Literally, clears it out.  He spun Palmer in so many directions his head is probably still spinning.   Jacobs, and at times Bradshaw (who seems to prefer the cutback at times even when the hole is available), excelled at hitting the hole exactly as it was drawn up and could’ve patted Pascoe on the butt as they passed him into the secondary.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: The Detroit Lions did a very, very good job of containing the emerging Hakeem Nicks.  The Lions doubled up on Nicks often, but he still had opportunities in which Manning simply wasn’t able to deliver the ball.  Nicks caught 3 of 7 passes thrown his way for just 8 yards.  The Giants attempted to spring Nicks on a screen several times with absolutely no success.

On the other side of the field, Mario Manningham had a very good day after being MIA for two weeks, catching 4 of 6 passes for 51 yards and a beautifully run post route that resulted in a touchdown.  Mario did have one drop and on another pass he was obviously not on the same page as Manning.

WR Steve Smith also got into the act, catching 6 of 9 passes thrown his way for 70 yards.  One thing that should be noted is that Ahmad Bradshaw got tremendous downfield blocking by Nicks and Smith on Sunday.  Obviously, whatever Toomer and Burress taught them has stuck because both are excellent in the running game.

The Giants used a variety of slants and skinny posts on Sunday, which was very nice to see.  They threw a lot of high percentage for completion passes and it worked throughout the day.

Kevin Boss caught 2 passes, but one was a huge seam pass that went for 25 yards, putting the Giants in position to get their 3rd touchdown of the afternoon.  As mentioned, Bear Pascoe made his hay at the FB position, and caught 2 passes for 10 yards.  OL/TE Shawn Andrews has proved to be well worth the investment the Giants made in him as he’s shifted towards being the blocking TE on the team and he’s doing a superb job of it right now.  His seal blocks are lethal, and he’s helping to open enormous holes on the back side for Bradshaw to exploit.

Travis Beckum had 1 catch for 1 yard and 1 TD on a most unusual play where the Giants had two linemen (Andrews as the third TE and Seubert) report as eligible receivers.   On the play, Beckum appeared to be the second read after Boss.  The Giants sent Beckum, Seubert, Pascoe, and Boss into the pattern on the 3rd and goal from the 1 play.  I believe it’s safe to assume that won’t be a package regularly seen.

Offensive Line: With Shaun O’Hara back in the fold, the Giants’ offensive line had an absolutely monster game.  The two guards, Chris Snee and Rich Seubert, were extremely good on Sunday, particularly in the running game where their pulls were picture perfect.  Both, combined on occasion with FB Bear Pascoe, had devastating blocks that sprung the backs for huge yardage.  Several people suggested that the line would take time to gel due to their lack of work together in the preseason and training camp, but I believe it’s safe to say that they’ve rounded into shape.  The line had a good day in pass protection after a shaky start saw two early sacks.  Suh provided the expected troubles, getting in on 1.5 sacks and 3 QB hits but the rest of the defense only got 2 hits and half a sack.  Detroit can get after the QB, and they were kept off Eli pretty well all day.  It’s my opinion that the offensive line appears to be better in the running game because of the great work being turned in by Shawn Andrews filling in at TE and Bear Pascoe filling in at fullback.

Defense: The Giants now have the number 2 defense in the NFL, giving up an average 264.8 yards per game.  They rank #2 against the pass and #7 against the run, and are currently tied for 2nd in sacks with 21.

Detroit couldn’t run the ball at all on Sunday, managing just 35 first half yards and 64 overall (30 coming on scrambles by Drew Stanton).  As such, Detroit passed the ball 49 times while trying to attack the Giants underneath.  Lions QBs threw to the HB or TE on 25 plays, completing just 15 of them for 96 yards.  The Giants allowed the backs and tightends to catch the ball, but rarely did they convert anything for big yardage.  TE Brandon Pettigrew caught a big 18 yarder on a 3rd and 10 play, but other than that the Lions really didn’t threaten the Giants with the short stuff.

The Giants continued to mix the 3 safety look in nickel instead of putting a true linebacker out there with Jonathan Goff and Michael Boley.  Deon Grant therefore got another start.  Interestingly, however, the Giants are starting to roll Jason Pierre-Paul into the game much more often, moving Tuck inside.

Front 7: Once again, Osi Umenyiora led the Giants charge against the opposing QB.  Unfortunately, QB Shawn Hill was injured when he broke his hand while going to the ground as the pressure got to him just as he passed the ball.  Osi had 2 more strip sacks, the only sacks of the day for the Giants.  Chris Canty nearly had a strip sack, but Stanton picked up his fumble and threw an incomplete pass (a great play by Aaron Ross to knock the ball down prevented Stanton from getting the ball to his outlet who was wide open for what would’ve been a long gainer).  As is to be expected when the Giants have the opponents running game bottled up, there just weren’t many tackles made by the members of the defensive line.  While pressure was generally good on the Lions QBs, they didn’t send more than their base linemen after the QB very often due to having to keep players back to take away the TE and the flair to Javid Best and company, something the Lions do a lot of due to not having a true #3 receiver.

Jonathan Goff continues to progress, dropping two players for losses and showing that he’s beginning to play more and more instinctively.  Goff still occasionally drops his helmet into the oncoming blocker, taking his eyes off where the ball is heading.  It’s not happening nearly as often as it was, and when you recall how Chase Blackburn and Danny Clark made that their signature moves last season, it’s nothing to worry about.  OLB Michael Boley was all over the field, making 8 solo tackles.

Defensive Backs: The star of the day on defense was safety Deon Grant who had 10 tackles (mainly in run support), 1 QB hit, a hit in the backfield that caused an 8 yard loss on a WR reverse, he then forced then recovered the most critical fumble of the year at the New York 42 yard line as the Giants clung to a 4 point lead with just over 5 minutes left in the game and the Lions driving.

S Antrel Rolle had the game clinching interception on a ball that went off a receivers hands.  Though Rolle had a good day in support (6 tackles), his unbelievably bad decision to undercut Calvin Thomas on a deep ball to Johnson cost the Giants 7 points.   Terrell Thomas gave up two touchdowns on the day, a 14 yard fade to Nate Burleson that was actually fairly decent coverage but just a perfect pass from Hill.  The second was the 87 yarder to Calvin Johnson who ran right by Thomas and, as noted, Thomas received no help from Rolle.  Thomas was briefly injured with what appeared to be the wind being knocked out of him, but came back and nearly had an interception late that would’ve sealed the game a few plays earlier than it was.

Kenny Phillips is back.  There is no way this kid is playing this well on a knee with a torn meniscus unless he’s get shot up before the game.  Phillips made 7 tackles and defended 2 passes, the second of which jarred (legally, without launching himself or leading with his helmet and without any intent to “bring the wood”) Calvin Johnson from the ball on a deep pass.

Special Teams: The Giants signed K Shayne Graham to handle the kickoff and placekicking duties in the absence of K Lawrence Tynes, who injured his ankle in practice late last Friday.  Graham’s kickoffs were less than stellar, but good kickoff coverage with the exception of the last one after the final Giants touchdown was very good.  Steve Logan, who ran a kickoff back last week for a touchdown, was held in check for the most part.  Unfortunately, the biggest gaffe for the return team came after finally going up by 11 points with just 3 and a half minutes to go.  Following a decent kickoff, Logan was able to return in 58 yards and set up a Detroit field goal which narrowed the lead to just one score.  The punt return team was also pretty good, as Zak DeOssie and Chase Blackburn teamed up to make several plays.

Matt Dodge.  The conundrum that is he.  For the second time in six games, Dodge literally dropped a football while transitioning from catch to kick position.  This time, however, he couldn’t ever find the handle and fumbled it a second time, handing Detroit incredibly good field position which they converted into the first touchdown of the game.  That said, after that, Dodg’e was outstanding, with booming punts among 3 that he dropped inside the 20 yard line.  One in particular was downed on the Lions 4 yard line.   If Dodge can just get rid of the yips, and just bring his A game with him on Sunday, he could be a very big field position changing asset.

Darius Reynaud must have gotten a wake up call because he ran like his roster spot depended on it Sunday.  Though he’s still no better than average, at least he’s progressed from ‘poor.’

Coaching: Good solid game plan to attack the Lions with the run and stick with it.  Hats off to ST Coach Quinn for turning off the penalty spigot on Specials.

Offensive Player of the Game: After much thought, I have decided not to give the obvious choice (Ahmad Bradshaw) the award this week, but rather go with a sharing of the award to guards Richie Seubert and Chris Snee, who did a masterful job pulling in the running game and keeping Suh under wraps for most of the game.

Defensive Player of the Game: Three deserving players this week, including Osi Umenyiora, Kenny Phillips, and Michael Boley.  However, the nod goes to S Deon Grant who has made the transition to a hybrid S/OLB very well and it’s really helped the team.  His forced and recovered fumble may have saved the game for Big Blue.

(Box Score – Detroit Lions at New York Giants, October 17, 2010)
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