Jan 042011
New York Giants 17 (10-6) – Washington Redskins 14 (5-11)

by The Hack for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary: The New York Giants continued their domination of the Washington Redskins on Sunday, winning their sixth straight and ninth out of the last ten contests against them on Sunday.  In fact, in the past seven years, the Giants have only lost three times to Washington.

As such, the Giants finished 10-6, tied atop the NFC East with the Philadelphia Eagles but relegated to 2nd place due to two head to head losses to the team from the city of brotherly love.

With just over 12 minutes to go in the Green Bay vs Chicago game, the Giants still had hope for the playoffs as the Bears and Packers were tied at 3 while the Giants enjoyed a 10 point lead.  Green Bay finally took the lead, however, and with 20 seconds left from the Green Bay 30 yard line, the Giants’ playoff hopes expired as Jay Cutler overthrew his receiver at the 13 yard line and the Packers intercepted.

Three teams other than the Giants also won 10 games, and two of them didn’t qualify for the playoffs.  Green Bay and Philadelphia qualified by virtue of beating the Giants head to head.  Tampa Bay was the 4th team that didn’t qualify despite 10 wins.  This is the first time since 1991 that a 10 win team (and there were 2 this year) failed to qualify for the playoffs.

In an ironic twist of fate the Seattle Seahawks are in the playoffs as division champions with a 7-9 record despite the Giants destroying them 41-7 in Seattle on November 7th.

As for the game on Sunday, the Giants came out strong on a day when no one knew exactly how they’d respond to the disasters of the past two weeks.  As Eli Manning said, it would have been an enormous disappointment if the Giants had come out and laid down to Washington and then had Chicago beat Green Bay.

The Giants started the game in an alignment that hasn’t been seen this season, a full house backfield with Pascoe and Boss lined up on in the backfield with Ahmad Bradshaw deep behind Eli.  The switch ups continued throughout the first couple of drives as the Giants alternated backs by down.

After settling in, it appeared that the Giants might blow the Redskins out of Fedex Field, but a horrible knee injury suffered by C Rich Seubert changed the tenor of the game.  Backup OG Kevin Boothe was forced into emergency duty at center, the first time he’s ever played the position, and the Giants’ running game was stuck in a rut for much of the rest of the day.

The Giants dominated the clock in the opening half, chewing up nearly 19 minutes and 195 total yards.  Even though they were dominating, the Giants were helped out by K Graham Gano who missed a chip shot field goal after the Giants’ defense stiffened following an impressive Redskins drive that featured HB Ryan Torain.  It appeared that Torain was off to a big day as he ran for 48 first half yards and a 4.8 ypc average.

Unfortunately, the Giants defense let the Skins back into the game with 2:58 left in the half by allowing a 7 play 80 yard drive that culminated in a Washington touchdown with just 20 seconds left in the half.

The second half of the game featured very little Giants offense, and consisted of basically one play, a 92 yard touchdown from Manning to Manningham.  Following that touchdown, the Giants’ next 5 drives consisted of just 16 plays for only 19 yards and included a missed 39 yard field goal.  Fortunately for the Giants, the defense came up huge time and time again and if not for one blown coverage would’ve shut Washington out in the second half.

Offense: The Giants offense sputtered and spat all day, but they did enough to get 17 points.  As has been the case for most of the second half of the year, the Giants had to operate with a patchwork offensive line and wide receivers that weren’t even on an active NFL roster at the midpoint of the 2010 season.

The focus on this game was to pound the ball against the Redskins as they did in the last meeting of these two teams.  Five weeks ago, New York ran the ball down the Redskins’ throats to the tune of 210 yards.  Early on the Giants were running the ball with fair success.  Third string C Rich Seubert went down, however, and after that New York’s running game was nullified.

Following the injury, the Giants (to their credit) tried to stay with the run but it was completely shut down by the Redskins.  New York running backs ran the ball 25 more times and gained just 30 yards.  The longest gain was just 5 yards, and there were 15 running plays that ended in a gain of 2 yards or less.  Four of those plays ended up going for negative yardage.

As mentioned, the Giants were undermanned at wide receiver again as Hakeem Nicks missed yet another game, this time with a broken toe.  As such, Derek Hagan got the start opposite Mario Manningham who took over as the number 1 receiver.  Michael Clayton played as the third receiver for most of the game.

Early on, the Giants’ passing game did a good job of converting 4 of 7 first half 3rd downs.  As a matter of fact, on the two Giants scoring drives of the first half, Manning converted a 3rd and 11 with a 14 yard scramble, a 3rd  and 11 on a pass, and a 3rd and 9 with a pass.  Unfortunately, they only converted 1 of 9 second half 3rd downs.

As mentioned above, the Giants committed to the ground game and though it didn’t pay dividends with a lot of yards, it did keep the Redskins offense off the field.  New York rushed 32 times for just 82 yards.  That’s a woeful 2.6 yard per carry average.

Quarterback: As it turned out, with the Giants’ running game struggling to get anything going after the Seubert injury, Eli Manning ended up having this game thrust squarely onto his shoulders.  Fortunately for New York, Manning did just enough to put his team in position to get points and win the game.  Manning only threw 29 passes, completing 17 of them for 243 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception.  The interception was not his fault, as it clanged off the hands of Mario Manningham and right into those of Pat Buchanan.

The 92 yard touchdown was a beauty, a perfect arching strike to Manningham who re-routed his pattern when he saw the one on one coverage by DeAngelo Hall.  Early in the 4th quarter, Manning had Manningham open again in the middle of the field for what would’ve been a 54 yard touchdown but somehow threw the ball inside towards the coverage instead of leading Manningham to the outside.  As such, DeAngelo Hall was able to close and break up the play.

As mentioned above, Manning converted 3 critical, long third downs on the first two scoring drives, but it was the Giants’ final drive in which Manning delivered his most crucial third down completion.  Following 5 drives in which the Giants went absolutely nowhere and did not gain a single first down, the Giants got the ball back with 5:52 left in the game.  Washington had just scored on a 64 yard touchdown pass reminiscent of the fateful 65 yard touchdown pass to Eagles TE Brent Celek, and I’m sure every Giant fan in the country had that “here we go again” feeling.

After a running play to Jacobs went nowhere and a Redskins penalty gave the Giants an automatic 1st down at their own 25 yard line, OC Kevin Gilbride played it safe and ran twice, losing a yard in the process.  On 3rd and 11 with 3:33 to go, however, Eli Manning hit WR Michael Clayton for 14 yards and a clutch first down.  Three runs into the line later the Giants had exhausted the Redskins’ timeouts and punted away leaving Washington with only 2:11 with which to work to get into field goal range.

On the year, it was a mixed bag for QB Eli Manning.  Now 30 years old, he’s no longer afforded the benefit of the doubt when he makes a ‘young QB’ mistake.  He’s in his prime right now, and it’s time to get some of the avoidable mistakes due to poor decision making out of his system.

On the year, Manning set career highs in touchdowns with 31 and interceptions with 25.  He slightly increased his completion percentage over last year to 62.9%, and threw for over 4,000 yards for the second consecutive year.

Eli was sacked a league low 16 times and went 7 games without being sacked.  That said, some of his throws would’ve been better off as sacks as a few of his interceptions were thrown as he was in the grasp of an opposing player.  Manning also fumbled 7 times on the year, losing 5 in the process.  So, in all, there were 30 turnovers directly attributable to Manning.

Running Backs: About the best thing you can say about the Giants’ running game on Sunday was that they didn’t abandon it and neither back fumbled.  Actually, the Giants began the day running very well.  Brandon Jacobs’ first 2 carries went for 37 total yards, but Seubert was hurt on the very next play and the Giants never ran with authority again.

Ahmad Bradshaw and Jacobs ran from odd alignments and also subbed out on every other play for a while as the Giants obviously were trying to confuse a Redskins defense that was selling out to stop the run and make Eli beat them through the air with his patchwork receiving corps.

Jacobs finished the game with 49 yards on 13 carries, a heavily skewed 3.8 ypc average, seeing as his long of the day was 27.  Jacobs, however, still managed to bull his way into the end zone for a 2 yard touchdown late in the second quarter.

Bradshaw fared even worse, toting the rock for just 22 yards on 15 carries and a 1.5 ypc average.  Ahmad was on the receiving end of a couple screen passes, one successful and one not.

FB Bear Pascoe looked better this week than last, but again didn’t get low enough of a couple of occasions pulling to take on the closing CB or S and missed his block.  If he wants to remain the fullback on this team, he’ll have to get better at not allowing the smaller defenders get under him and to the ball carrier.

Wide Receivers: WR Hakeem Nicks joined fellow starter Steve Smith on the sidelines with a broken toe, leaving the Giants’ WR corps in complete disarray once again.

On a day when Eli Manning had to be able to count on Derek Hagan, it sure looked early on that he wouldn’t be able to as Hagan dropped a sure touchdown pass on the Giants’ field goal drive in the first quarter.  After that drop, however, Hagan made several outstanding plays to help the Giants throughout the day.  Hagan was the recipient of three long 3rd down conversions, two of which came on the first touchdown drive.  On the day, Hagan finished with 6 catches on 9 balls thrown his way (tops on the team) for 70 yards.

Hagan ended up having quite a ride in 2010, getting cut after training camp in favor of Victor Cruz and Duke Calhoun but coming back after injuries depleted the Giants’ receiving corps.  In 2009, Hagan caught only 8 passes while this season he caught 24.  Hagan wasn’t always on the same page with Manning, but last year he played primarily from the #3 position and this year was asked to be the #2 on the outside quite often.  Frankly, the Giants were lucky to get him back.

Mario Manningham got his wish and was matched up with DeAngelo Hall for much of the day.  Eli didn’t look often to Manningham, targeting him just 7 times.  Manningham caught 4 for 101 yards including the 92 yard touchdown on the Giants’ first drive of the 2nd half.  Manningham was also the culprit on Eli’s interception, as he allowed yet another ball to be tipped off his hands into the arms of a defender.

Manningham should’ve been the recipient of another 54 yard touchdown, but Manning led him back towards Hall who was able to make a play.  Mario had a solid year again for the Giants, and he’s progressively gotten better each season.  Last year the biggest knock on Manningham was his penchant to seemingly get lost along the sideline and not be able to keep his feet in bounds.  That changed this season and he was much, much better at feeling the sideline, at times almost being Toomeresque.

Mario just missed out on his first 1,000 yard season, finishing with 60 catches for 944 yards.  That builds on a sophomore season where he caught 57 balls for 822 yards.

TE Kevin Boss had 2 catches on the day, including an amazing 1 handed grab at the Washington 2 yard line that set up the Giants’ first touchdown.  Though Boss was off on the number of receptions he caught this season, his yardage totals were around the same as the previous year.  There are questions about how long Boss can continue to take the incredible amount of pounding he takes season in and season out and it would not be surprising if the Giants looked elsewhere for a TE next season, either in the draft or free agency.

Travis Beckum was targeted on the very first pass of the day from Eli Manning, but it fell incomplete.  That was the extent of Beckum’s day in the Giants’ offense plans.  Beckum ended the year with 13 catches for just 116 yards.  After two seasons, the former 3rd round pick has done extremely little in the Giants’ offense.  In 31 games, the H-Back/TE who was supposed to provide “nightmares” to opposing linebackers and safeties has caught just 21 passes for a mere 171 yards.  Hardly the production expected out of a 3rd round draft selection.

Offensive Line: Sunday saw the return, possibly for the last time, of OL Shawn Andrews to left tackle, David Diehl to LG and Richie Seubert to C due to a flair up of the lis franc and Achilles tendon injuries that have hampered C Shaun O’Hara for much of 2010.

Unfortunately, and what has become the norm for the Giants, these plans went to hell in a handbasket on the 7th offensive play for the Giants as Seubert got his legs caught under him and tore his patella tendon and dislocated his knee cap.

Frankly, it’s insane how the Giants seem to suffer “cluster injuries.”  Five wide receivers, Domenik Hixon, Sinorice Moss, Victor Cruz, Ramses Barden and Steve Smith all ended up on IR and Hakeem Nicks missed 3 games.  Three centers, Shaun O’Hara, Adam Koets and Rich Seubert all were injured playing that position and lost time.  How does this happen?

Thankfully, the Giants did not IR backup OG Kevin Boothe when they had to make a decision to take him off the PUP list earlier this season.  Boothe took over and played center for the first time in his career and even though he wasn’t very effective in the running game, he more than held his own by the sheer fact that he didn’t botch a single center-quarterback exchange and didn’t airmail a shotgun snap over Eli’s head.  That, frankly, is amazing for a guy who’s never done it under duress before.
The rest of the offensive line struggled to open holes for the running game, but as mentioned, the Redskins sold out to stop the run and did so effectively after Seubert went out.  Washington was unable to sack Eli Manning, however, and only got 3 QB hits on him as well.

One of the biggest worries coming into the season was the ability of the Giants’ offensive line to return to prominence.  Even with a patchwork of this and that and here and there players, the line was actually a positive for the Giants.  Key backups Will Beatty, Adam Koets, and Kevin Boothe all played well when called upon.  Shawn Andrews, for the most part, showed that if healthy he’s a key component as a starter at either guard or tackle.  This unit will come back intact next year with the only real questions being at center due to O’Hara’s age and whether rookie Mitch Petrus will be ready to take on a bigger role at guard.

Defense: The Giants’ defense had a bend but don’t break mentality all day on Sunday, and frankly broke just twice, both times late in each half, and did enough during the rest of the game to keep the Redskins on the wrong end of the score.  The Giants set an NFL record by recovering their 21st fumble of the season (they recovered three on the day) and also had an interception.  Three of the turnovers thwarted promising Redskin drives and kept the momentum from ever swinging completely to the Washington sidelines.

The defense was outstanding on 3rd down, allowing Washington to convert only 3 of 12.  New York also repelled both 4th down attempts by the Redskins.

The day didn’t start off so swimmingly for the Giants defense as it appeared that Ryan Torain was in for a big day.  Early on, Torain rushed for 48 yards on 10 carries but finished with just 61 on 18 carries as the Giants shut down the Washington running attack in the second half.

New York was again exploited in the middle of the field as Rex Grossman shredded the soft underbelly of the defense for a total of 336 yards.  Quick slants and drag routes over the middle hurt the Giants repeatedly, and the Fred Davis touchdown was nearly a mirror image of the touchdown to Packer TE Donald Lee from the week before.

When it counted at the end, however, the Giants snuffed the last Washington drive and saved the game for the Giants.

Front 7: What a game from DE Osi Umenyiora Sunday!  The one many wanted traded in the offseason ended the year with 11.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles (an NFL record).  His two sacks resulted in fumbles that were both recovered by the Giants.  Osi ended up with 5 tackles, leading the defensive line.  Pretty good stuff from a guy who’s been playing in pain all year, knowing he’d need offseason surgery on his hip, and who had lost his starting job last season.

Justin Tuck had a minimal impact on this game, and he too finished the season with 11.5 sacks.  The interior (except Chris Canty, who didn’t even show up on the stat sheet) of the line, combined with MLB Jonathan Goff, did a good job after the first quarter of bottling up the Redskins running game.  Goff may have had the play of the day, certainly in retrospect, when he was able to strip Santana Moss of the football after a catch down to the Giants’ 10 yard line.

The front 7 also did a hell of a job getting their hands up, batting down 5 Rex Grossman passes at the line of scrimmage.

Both Michael Boley, who still hasn’t quite risen to the heights his athleticism dictates he can play, and hybrid S/OLB Deon Grant struggled trying to stay with Washington’s array of RBs and TEs (19 of 44 passes thrown by Grossman were to the backs and tight ends with 13 completions) but for the most part kept them in front of them preventing the huge play.

OLB Keith Bullock got significantly more time in the game seeing as S Deon Grant played the dime position when required, keeping Bulluck on the field.  Bullock had a stellar interception when he read the release of FB Mike Sellers from the backfield, floated his way, and made an easy interception.  Had Keith been able to stay in bounds, he would have scored the only defensive touchdown of the year for the Giants.

Secondary: CB Aaron Ross got the start this week in place of injured CB Corey Webster, who was out with a rib issue.  Ross played quite well in relief, registering 7 tackles including a takedown of Torain in the backfield.  It appeared that Rex Grossman was more intent on picking on Terrell Thomas, who had 10 tackles on the day.  Thomas also had a stellar textbook tackle on Torain right at the line of scrimmage.

The safeties were rather quiet again, but seeing as the Giants played a modified cover two shell for much of the game, they were mainly protecting against the big play.  One time that they were burned however was when WR Anthony Armstrong caught a beautifully thrown ball by Grossman right up the seam on a skinny post and took off uncontested for the end zone.  On the play, Thomas released Armstrong inside; Boley ran with him for a split second then passed him to Rolle who let him run right by him.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy touchdown Redskins.

Frankly, Rolle has been very quiet from a playing standpoint ever since he opened his mouth following the Eagles game.

Kenny Phillips made the recovery on the Goff strip of Moss, but had very little impact in the game otherwise.

Special Teams: Ok, so when you get your punting game squared away (sort of, problems still exist), your return teams are playing significantly better, and your return coverage teams are playing adequate, what could possibly go wrong?

Your usually solid kicker misses a mid range field that would put your team up 13 points in the 4th quarter, that’s what.  It’s just fitting.  I don’t think I could stand to write this piece every week if there wasn’t at least one head shaker in it.

Back to P Matt Dodge, he again did the Giants no favors when he boomed a punt into the end zone from the Washington 37 yard line.  A net gain of 17 yards is absolutely horrible and completely unacceptable in that situation.

Dodge was still hitting line drives on Sunday, and one was returned after being caught on the dead run by PR Brandon Banks for 29 yards.

Coaching: It was good to see the Giants continue to pound the football and try to chew clock despite going nowhere with it in the second half.  The Giants did not do that against the Eagles, and that as much as anything gave the Eagles the time they needed to score 28 points in the last 7:28 of the game.  The only major question for the coaches here is why they decided to punt in the second quarter from the Washington 37 yard line, up 3-0 on a 4th and 2 opportunity in a must win game.  How could the potential 17 yard net gain be more important than points in that situation?

Offensive Player of the Game: Though Eli Manning did a terrific job of game management and made a hat full of clutch plays, and though WR Derek Hagan came back from a poor performance in Green Bay to have his best game of the season, this award has to go to backup C Kevin Boothe, in effect the 4th string center, for coming in and maintaining the pass protection and not committing any egregious errors either snapping or penalty wise.  Hats off to the big man who almost went to IR early this year.

Defensive Player of the Game: In what hopefully will not be his last game as a New York Giant, this award goes to Osi Umenyiora for his two strip sacks that gave him the NFL record for forced fumbles in a season.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Washington Redskins, January 2, 2011)
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