Dec 082010
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New York Giants 31 (8-4) – Washington Redskins 7 (5-7)

by The Hack for

Game Summary: The New York Giants continued their march, literally and figuratively, towards the playoffs with a convincing and rather easy win over the Donovan McNabb led Washington Redskins.

The Giants dominated from the opening possession on both sides of the ball.  Other than a terrible decision in the red zone on their 4th drive, the Giants basically did what they wanted in all phases of the game.  Unlike last week, the defense came out and matched the offenses’ intensity.

It has been awhile since Giants fans could enjoy a second half of football in relative assurance of a win and little stress, but by the middle of the 3rd quarter even the most pessimistic Giants fan had to believe that this one was in the bag.

Washington moved the ball fairly well on the Giants in the first half.  Following the Giants’ second touchdown they had their best chance at getting back into the game when they advanced from their own 20 yard line all the way down to the Giants’ 24 before stalling.  When Skins K Graham Gano missed a 43 yard field goal, it sure seemed as though the wind had gone completely out of Washington’s sails.

The Giants, meanwhile, ran up and down the field in the first half gaining a total of 237 yards, with 139 of them coming on the ground.  On 5 drives in the half, the Giants only faced 3 third downs and converted 2 of them.  None of the drives were particularly long in terms of time of possession, and in fact the longest was the drive that ended on the interception.  New York was fortunate to be able to run the ball with near impunity and rip off some long gainers.  The Giants didn’t throw often in the first half, but they were very efficient when they did.

As for Washington, other than the one drive, they didn’t move the ball very well.  They punted 3 times, lost a fumble and also missed a field goal.

The second half really got no better for the Redskins, thought they did have a couple different receivers drop very catchable passes that could’ve gotten them in to position to get an early score on their first drive of the half.  Interestingly, the Giants threw nearly as often as they ran in the second half.  On 29 second half plays, Eli dropped back on 14 of them.

As for Washington, they quickly became one dimensional.  After rushing just 9 times for 37 yards in the first half, they only ran it 7 more times in the second half, again for 37 yards.  The defense completely stuffed the run on the day and combined with the fact that the Giants jumped out to a 28 point lead, it was McNabb throwing the ball all over the yard in the second half.  That was  fine by the Giants defense as they intercepted him twice (and dropped two others) and also forced him to fumble 3 times, losing 1.

Overall, New York turned over Washington 6 times on the day, intercepting McNabb twice and recovering 4 fumbles.  The Giants also handily won the time of possession battle, 34:28 to 25:32.

Offense: New York continued to play with house money on Sunday, resisting the urge to rush any of the walking wounded back to the active roster and taking their chances against an inferior opponent with the backups who’ve really have stepped in and done well the past two weeks.

Again, David Diehl, Shaun O’Hara, Shawn Andrews, Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks were missing from the lineup but Kevin Boothe, Will Beatty, Rich Seubert, and especially Derek Hagan stepped in and for the most part the Giants didn’t miss a beat.

The offensive game plan, obvious to every person on the planet Earth, was to run the ball, control the clock, and use an effective short passing game.  Even though the Redskins knew what was coming, they seemed for the most part powerless to do anything to stop the Giants.  When The Beast got rolling, Skins defensive players made more business decisions on Sunday than Donald Trump made during 2010.

There was absolutely nothing flashy about the Giants offense on Sunday, as they looked like a carbon copy of the mid-late 80s teams that Bill Parcells used to implore to “run with power.” Overall, the Giants rushed for a total of 197 yards on 36 attempts for a 5.47 ypc average and 4 touchdowns.  It’s the first time New York has rushed for 4 touchdowns in a game since October 31, 2004 against Minnesota.

The Quarterback: For the second straight week, Eli Manning had modest stats and if not for one big mistake it would have been a masterful performance of managing a cold weather game in which the passing game wasn’t needed very much.

On the day, Eli completed 15 of 25 passes (60%) for only 161 yards, no touchdowns and the 1 big interception.  Manning’s QBR was a paltry 62.2, but in this game that’s a misleading stat as Eli was content to take all the underneath stuff that Washington was allowing and never went deep in the game.  Eli didn’t force the ball to Mario Manningham, who the Skins were double and triple teaming at times.  Instead, Manning targeted WR Derek Hagan 8 times and Manningham just 5.  No other Giants WR got a look on Sunday, as Eli checked down to his halfbacks, fullback, and TEs 12 times.

One has to question why the Giants attempted to throw as much as they did in the second half, especially when they completed only 6 of 14 after the break.  That’s a lot of clock stoppages when you have a 21, 28, 21, and 24 point lead at one point or another.

Once again, Eli wasn’t sacked in this game and a lot of the credit does go to Manning who has really learned to shift and move within the pocket.  Manning was hit a few times, but nothing major.

The only head scratching play was the interception on 1st and goal from the Redskins’ 4 yard line.  The Giants were in a double I (Pascoe and Bradshaw) and double TE formation, with only Manningham on the outside.  Off play action to his right, Pascoe hit the line, Bradshaw was moving to his right away from the blitz.  Kevin Boss released from the left into the back of the end zone but instead of chipping, he allowed SS Reed Doughty a free run at Eli.  Manningham was also covered as he tried to drag and curl to the outside but by the time he got his route run, Eli needed to get rid of the ball. Unfortunately, the decision to throw the ball into traffic cost the Giants at least 3 and possibly 7 points.

The Running Backs: The Giants went into Sunday knowing full well that the Redskins were going to do everything they could to stop the run and make Eli Manning beat them with a third string wide receiver and a couple of street free agent pick ups.   Well, we all saw what happened.  As they say, “the best laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry.”  It’s safe to say everything went awry for the Skins on Sunday with regards to the run as first Brandon Jacobs and then Ahmad Bradshaw ran roughshod through their defense to the tune of 200 rushing yards.

Brandon Jacobs set the tone early by breaking a couple tackles on his way to a 39 yard jaunt on just the second play from scrimmage.  Five plays later Jacobs rumbled into the end zone on an 8 yard run and the rout was on.  Jacobs ran only 8 times for 103 yards and 2 touchdowns, tallying an astounding 12.9 ypc average.  It can’t be understated how important it is to have a 6’5” 265lb halfback running downhill in cold weather games. Nobody wants to get in the way of the that truck.

Following Jacobs’ second touchdown, a nifty 28 yard run with 6 and a half minutes to go in the third quarter that put the Giants up 28-7, Jacobs didn’t get back into the game.  Much speculation both in the media and over on The Corner Forum as to why he didn’t get back into the game.  Head Coach Tom Coughlin was asked if Jacobs had been hurt, and he answered that he was not.  When asked if there was a particular reason he didn’t get back into the game, Coughlin insisted there was no reason, it just didn’t happen.

Still, Jacobs, who was named the de facto starter last week, didn’t see any action in the last 21 plus minutes of the contest.  Here is something to think about.  During that long touchdown run, Jacobs began to hot dog around the 10 yard line and dance his way into the end zone, gesturing at OLB Rocky McIntosh to come and get him.  After Jacobs scored, it didn’t end there, as McIntosh and Jacobs got into a bit of a shoving match and Jacobs wouldn’t stop jawing despite Rich Seubert and Bear Pascoe trying to get him away from McIntosh.  Then, even with the referees trying to get him to head to the bench, Jacobs continued to stay right in McIntosh’s face and was lucky not to get a taunting penalty.  Finally, with three referees converging McIntosh walked away and Jacobs did his silly dance.  Purely speculating here, but I have to wonder if Coach Coughlin benched The Beast because he wasn’t controlling his emotions, something he’s had a problem with all season.

Ahmad Bradshaw reached the 1,000 yard plateau for the very first time in his career after amassing 97 yards on 25 carries, a 3.9 ypc average.  Bradshaw also had 2 touchdowns and caught 1 pass for 8 yards.  The early going was pretty easy for the diminutive back, but he found rough sledding for much of the second half.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: Once again, the Giants offense had to make do with a make shift receiving corps due to the continued absence of their two Pro Bowl caliber WRs Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks.  Luckily for New York, they were able to re-sign WR Derek Hagan a few weeks ago.  Hagan has taken a bit of time to come up to speed, but on Sunday he was a blessing.

WR Mario Manningham was blanketed all day by Redskins’ CB DeAngelo Hall and bracketed with safety or linebacker help.  For much of the game, he wasn’t an option for Manning.  Manningham caught just 2 of 5 passes thrown his way good for 36 yards on Sunday, and Manning seemed to be frustrated by a couple of the routes that Manningham ran.

His counterpart on the other side of the field, Derek Hagan, had a fantastic day, managing 65 yards on 7 catches out of 8 opportunities.   Hagan was Eli’s go to receiver, and Hagan didn’t let him down.

Those were the only passes thrown to wide receivers on the day.  TE Kevin Boss and hybrid FB/TE Bear Pascoe each caught 2 passes on the day.  TE Travis Beckum saw action, but no passes thrown his way.  He lined up in the slot much of the day, keeping the Skins defense honest and not allowing them to put 8 in the box to attack the run.  Beckum was open on several plays, but for some reason Eli is just not going his way.

As has been mentioned, Travis isn’t the best inline blocker in the world, but he’s very good at getting to the second level and getting a hat on a safety or linebacker.  A prime example is how he pinned LB London Fletcher inside and opening the entire cutback lane for Jacobs on his first touchdown run.

Offensive Line: The patchwork New York Giants offensive line ran their sackless streak to five straight games on Sunday, allowing QB Eli Manning to be hit only three times on the day.  With Shawn Andrews, Shaun O’Hara and David Diehl still out of the lineup, the understudies were again asked to shoulder the load.

Mission accomplished once again.  Besides the excellent pass blocking (William Beatty’s two holds on LB Brian Orakpo aside), the offensive line opened holes for 197 rushing yards.

Defense: As noted above, unlike last week, the Giants’ defense came out strong and matched their offensive counterpart’s intensity on Sunday.  The defensive line, particular Barry Cofield, was outstanding.

The secondary also played a strong game, though they were burned once for the lone Washington touchdown.  Although HC Tom Coughlin mentioned that it was a communications breakdown, it appeared that the Giants were trying to execute the game plan they were executing all day which was to bring FS Kenny Phillips down low and attack the line of scrimmage.  It was his vacated area that WR Armstrong exploited for the uncontested touchdown pass.

Though the Redskins had decent success running the ball (74 yards on 16 carries for a 4.6 ypc average), they had to abandon it once they were down 3 touchdowns.  That allowed the Giants to tee off against arch nemesis QB Donovan McNabb and tee off they did to the tune of 4 sacks, an astounding 10 QB hits, causing 3 fumbles (only 1 recovered by the Giants) and 2 interceptions.

Overall, the Giants defense forced the Redskins into 6 turnovers on the day and generally had their way with their offense.  On 9 second half possessions, the Skins had 8 drives of 4 plays or less and one of 9 plays, which was the last drive of the game.  5 of the 9 drives ended in a turnover.

Front 7: Against a suspect offensive line, the Giants’ front 7 dominated most of the game.   All 4 sacks came from the defensive linemen, 2 by Jason Pierre-Paul, 1 by Osi Umenyiora, and 1 by Justin Tuck.  The defensive line also accounted for 4 forced fumbles, 1 by Dave Tollefson who has looked very good in situational play, 1 by Osi and 2 from Justin Tuck.

The Giants were led, however, by the fantastic play of DT Barry Cofield who stuffed the middle and made 7 tackles.  Ever since Justin Tuck’s half time talk during the Jaguars game, Cofield (who reportedly got extremely emotional during and afterwards) has been playing as if he’s possessed by the spirit of Lawrence Taylor.  DT Chris Canty, Tuck and Umenyiora also played like demons along the line.  Tuck, in particular, has become something of a rover along the line as he’s playing more and more from a standing and ‘roving’ position.  With Osi healthy and playing stout against the run and having his usual success in the passing game, and the emergence of rookie Jason Pierre-Paul who says he is now “getting it,” Tuck has the luxury of moving around and finding the weak area to attack and it’s paying dividends.

For the second week in a row, Pierre-Paul had 2 sacks and he had a number of pressures as well (one in which he knocked down a McNabb pass) and also recovered a fumble in which he doubled back from the pass rush and followed the play downfield to be in position to make the recovery.  If Pierre-Paul continues to develop as he has the past few weeks, he’s going to be a terror, which will free up the other linemen for even bigger results.

The linebacking corps was also very active, especially in coverage.  Hybrid OLB/SS Deon Grant continued his impressive play this season, making 5 tackles and doing a very respectable job of covering the Skins’ biggest receiving thread, TE Chris Cooley.  Cooley was thrown to a game high 12 times, but only caught 6 for 61 yards in large part due to the coverages of Grant and OLB Michael Boley.  Grant nearly had an interception which clanged right off his hands and also inexplicably bounced off a Donovan McNabb fumble that was eventually recovered by the Redskins.

Jonathan Goff seemed to play better this week.  He was consistently in the right position and made several strong tackles.

Defensive Backs:  With FS Kenny Phillips being given more autonomy to attack the line of scrimmage, the blitz packages were a little different for the Giants on Sunday.  It appeared that they were trying to confuse the Skins by sending overload blitzes from either side without really tipping them off.  First and foremost, CB Terrell Thomas was in the high safety spot a bunch of times, which must be rare because I do not remember seeing that before.  CBs Terrell Thomas and Corey Webster seemed to be the biggest recipient of the blitz and both got close to sacking McNabb on a couple of occasions (Webster had 2 QB hits).  Thomas missed an interception opportunity early but did get one in the end later in the game when he spot shadowed McNabb and made the play like a centerfielder playing a line drive.

The four horsemen, Thomas, Corey Webster, Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips combined for 18 tackles on the day.   Overall, the Giants also knocked down or defensed 8 McNabb passes as well.

Special Teams: The Giants played arguably their best special teams game of the year on Sunday.  With K Lawrence Tynes employing the “mortar” kickoff technique most of the day, the Giants successfully kept the ball out of dangerous KR Brandon Banks 4 of 6 times.  Of his 2 returns, his longest was just 27 yards.  The Giants had outstanding tackling in the return game, highlighted by the text book hit by Deon Grant on Banks.

P Matt Dodge had a good day.  Read that again, folks!  Dodge punted 7 times and only 1 was one you’d like to have back, a line drive to Banks that had no hang time which was returned for 19 yards.  Other than that, 2 were downed (one a 53 yarder that died on the 5 yard line) and the other 4 were returned for minimal gain.  Coverages were generally good, and the new blood of WR/KR/ST Devin Thomas really paid off.  It was Thomas who downed the first punt at the Washington 5.

Speaking of Devin Thomas, he also had a bone jarring special teams tackle and blocked a punt that ended up going just 8 yards.  Frankly, this is what the Giants needed on this team and the infusion of his talent was seen right from the beginning.

Darius Reynaud returned to his role as punt returner but did nothing on his one return.  Danny Ware continued his strong play at kick returner as he had a nifty return of 37 yards.

Coaching: Another solid game plan, and it was executed well by the Giants.  The objective was to run the ball, get a lead, and make the Redskins one dimensional.  The plan worked perfectly.  One thing puzzling was the penchant to throw the ball as much as they did in the second half.  With the Skins in desperation mode, it would have made better sense to keep pounding the ball.  Additionally, up 31-3 midway through the 4th quarter is Danny Ware time.  There was no need to keep running Ahmad Bradshaw out there, and for that matter Eli Manning, at that point in the game.  It would also be interesting to hear why Jacobs never got on the field again, let alone a carry, after his second touchdown run.

Great game plan by Perry Fewell to get FS Kenny Phillips involved at and behind the line of scrimmage and put CB Terrell Thomas over the top at his safety position.  Phillips was flying around the ball and though he didn’t get to McNabb, it’s the first time in quite a while that Phillips was playing down low other than on plays where he’s diagnosed the run and knifed in to make a play.

Offensive Player of the Game: Though he only got 8 carries and didn’t play in the last 21+ minutes of the game, Brandon Jacobs gets the nod for his tone setting run on the second play of the game and his very decisive touchdown runs.

Defensive Player of the Game: This week’s recipient is rookie DT/DE Jason Pierre-Paul.  For the second week in a row Pierre-Paul had 2 sacks and he also several pressures, a pass defensed and recovered a fumble.

(Box Score – Washington Redskins at New York Giants, December 5, 2010)
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