Aug 262011
 
 August 26, 2011  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
New York Giants 41 (1-1) – Chicago Bears 13 (1-1)

by rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary

Well what can you say?  The goal of every preseason game is to get the players working together and executing their assignments.  Score be damned, wins and losses be damned, the entire focus is on player evaluation.

That and cross your fingers and toes while you pray the team avoids injuries as much as possible.

As it happened to be, the Giants played very well in all three phases of the game on Monday night against the Chicago Bears.  The offense, though still looking like the works are gummed up at times, put together some drives.  The defense, though still susceptible to the screen and misdirection plays managed to create turnovers and thwart promising Chicago drives.  The special teams played, in my opinion, the single best overall game I’ve seen since I can remember.

In other words, fans and coaches alike saw what they were hoping to see.  The Giants were for the most part crisp, working hard, and playing smart.

And then…

With less than 25 seconds to go in the first half, Pro Bowl caliber CB Terrell Thomas was injured on a freak play when he blitzed off the corner and was leg whipped by teammate DE Jason Pierre-Paul.  Just 25 seconds separated a man from his season, and in the wake sent panic throughout Giant Land.

It got worse.  Later in the game, the Giants lost another piece of the puzzle as intriguing and flashing CB Brian Witherspoon tore his ACL while returning a 4th quarter punt and is out for the season as well.   Witherspoon becomes the third Giants CB who has been lost for the season (Bruce Johnson tore his Achilles early in camp), and fellow CB and first round draft pick Prince Amukamara is out until October with a broken foot.

It’s hard to understand, but the Giants seem to suffer from “cluster injuries” – injuries that attack an entire unit.  Last year it was the WRs and the OL.  Two years ago it was the safeties and the year before that it was the defensive line.  It seems very odd that not only are these injuries season ending (you rarely see anyone who is part of the cluster injury come back at some point in the year), a lot of these are career threatening.  It’s as though every time a Giant gets hurt, it’s on the swing of the pendulum that points to “most severe.”

It got worse.  Late in the game, second round selection DT Marvin Austin tore a pectoral muscle and will require surgery, ending his year as well.  While the team can survive without Austin, it puts him another year away from football which will keep him from progressing as needed.  Let’s just hope and pray that this is NOT the start of another cluster injury situation along the defensive line.

Offense

On Monday night, the Giants did a whole bunch of good things that the coaching staff is going to be happy to review on tape.  The offensive line did a very good job of communicating and looked in sync, for the most part, for the first time this year.  The running backs made good reads and hit the holes hard that were opened up.  The quarterbacks made decisions that did not hurt their team, throwing the ball away on many occasions instead of forcing the ball into tight windows.  As a result, for the second preseason game the Giants did not turn over the ball.

After a couple of 3 and outs in which QB Eli Manning missed badly on a number of throws, the first string offense finally came alive and put together a couple of decent drives in route to a 20-6 halftime lead.  The first team offense generated a solid running game, and again if not for a few missed passes they’d have amassed a huge yardage number.

The second team rolled up more than 230 yards on just 5 possessions not including the kneel down on the final play of the game.  Of those 5 drives, 4 resulted in touchdowns.  Two of the drives were of 8 plays, another was a short 2 play drive, and the last was a 1 play, 97 yard touchdown run.

The Quarterbacks

Once again, Eli Manning started out slowly on Monday but on this night he rebounded and came alive on his last couple of drives.  For the game in little under a full half, Manning finished 8 of 16 for 78 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.  Manning seemed to have trouble with his touch, as at least 3 of his incompletes were throws that were not under duress and were to an open receiver, yet he couldn’t deliver the strike.

Manning’s best throw came on a 4th and 4 play from the Carolina 32 yard line in which he threw over the top to WR Victor Cruz who made a sensational catch for 21 yards and a first down.  Manning also impressed on a beautiful audible when he recognized that Chicago was bringing the left CB on a corner blitz, changed out of a pass play into a run which resulted in Jacobs’ 18 yard touchdown run.

Those are the things that people who don’t think Eli is a complete, elite QB miss.  Additionally, Manning told Suzie Kolber that he consciously is not throwing into harm’s way.  When he knew it wasn’t there, he either threw it away or checked down.  Hopefully this will help reduce the turnovers this season.

David Carr, fighting to back up Eli Manning as the number 2 QB, had a very good night.  Carr finished 9 of 11 for 84 yards and 2 touchdowns against no interceptions.  Carr’s first touchdown was a very well thrown fade to Domenik Hixon, and the second was a beautiful seam pass to TE Daniel Coats.

Longshot QB Ryan Perrilloux got in on only 2 series, the first being only one play thanks to a 97 yard run by Da’Rel Scott, and the second a kneel down to end the game.  It would be nice to see what this kid can do by giving him a full quarter next week against the Jets or maybe a half in the final preseason game.

Sage Rosenfels did not play in the game.

The Running Backs

After a slow start last weekend, both HBs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs showed well on Monday night.  Bradshaw, the apparent starter, rushed 5 times for 15 yards, but also caught 2 screen passes that amassed 19 yards.

Brandon rushed for 48 yards on 6 carries, his longest being the 18 yard touchdown run in which he left Bears S Major Wright flailing in his wake with a nifty cut as he made his way to the end zone.  Jacobs was not thrown to on the night.

Both Jacobs and Bradshaw also helped out on pass protection, effectively picking up blitzers.

Many people on The Corner Forum are down on HB D.J. Ware and for the life of me I can’t see why.  Ware played very well on Monday, carrying 6 times for 23 yards and receiving 1 pass (a well-executed screen) for 13 yards.  Ware gets to the edge quickly and when he does, it usually means positive yardage in the range of 4 or 5 yards.  The only knock on Ware from Monday was his lunging haphazardly towards the goal line with the ball after nearly fumbling on the previous play doing the same thing.  Those turnovers, down deep near the goal line, are killers and he must live for another down or accept the field goal instead of taking that big a chance of turning the ball over.

Fan favorite Andre Brown again impressed with his burst and quickness through the line.  Though he didn’t get many yards, he was also playing with the third and fourth lines out there.  Brown needs time with the first group in order to really assess what his worth to this team can be.

Before anointing 7th round draft pick Da’Rel Scott for Canton, please remember that HB Sean Bennett caught a very long screen pass for a touchdown in preseason game a number of years ago that got a few people on BBI excited.   Scott’s touchdown was impressive, mainly because it was a miracle he kept his balance after running up the back of his left tackle, who was pushed back about 3 yards right at the snap.  Scott did a great job to cut up the middle and get free, but what many are missing is that if not for RG Ike Ndukwe staying with the play after his assignment was over, peeling back and leveling the Carolina safety, Scott settles for a 3-5 yard gain.  It was a complete hustle play on Ndukwe’s part, and though he might not make the team, he will always have that highlight to show his grandkids.  Stellar play.

The fullback position is troublesome for the Giants.  Too many times either Bear Pascoe or Henry Hynoski were either stood up at or near the line or were completely blown up.  As mentioned last week, this is a work in progress and it will get better.  Hynoski has a tendency to engage high.  He will learn how to get lower and use leverage.  With Pascoe, what you see is what you get.  At times he’s exactly what you’re looking for and does a great job and at others he’s embarrassing.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham caught just 5 balls between them despite being targeted 11 times.  Manningham led the team with 4 receptions for 39 yards, but his QB didn’t help him much on a couple of throws.  Nicks caught just one poorly executed bubble screen that was scary from the start, and lost 1 yard in the process.

The battle for the 3rd and 4th receiver spots heated up significantly as Devin Thomas, Domenik Hixon and Victor Cruz all shined at certain times.  Although Thomas caught two passes, he was really outstanding on kick returns.  Victor Cruz caught 3 of 4 balls thrown his way for 40 yards, with the most impressive being the 21 yard hook up with Manning on 4th down in the first quarter.  Domenik Hixon caught a touchdown pass on a nice fade route as well as one other pass.

Rookie Jerrel Jernigan once again failed to distinguish himself on offense and will have to start shining on specials if he’s to have a role with the club this season.

As “The Tight End Turns” continued its saga on Monday night as the three players apparently vying for the top spot, Travis Beckum, Bear Pascoe and Jake Ballard, didn’t catch a single pass.  Travis Beckum actually had the best game of the group, and if Manning had not had an early pressure from his left side in which he threw the ball away he most likely would have found Beckum alone up the slot seam for an easy touchdown.  Beckum also got deep and pulled coverage off Manningham which resulted in a nice completion underneath.  Blocking was up and down, as it will be with Beckum.  He made a nice block on a screen to Ware and also had a nice seal on a run by Bradshaw.

Pascoe and Ballard did nothing that encouraged me in either the running game or the passing game.  Daniel Coats ran a nice seam route for a touchdown in the 4th quarter.

We have to say it guys, despite the fact that TE is not a focal point of the Giants’ offense, no catches from the heir apparent is troubling after two games.  With the blocking so-so at best, it remains to be seen if the starter is on this team as of yet.

The Offensive Line

A much better performance was turned in by the line on Monday night, but that truly was to be expected after being able to dissect the game film from last week and get in another solid week of practice.  Going up against a tough Chicago front, the line did not allow a sack nor a single quarterback hit.  That’s pretty impressive, as DE Julius Peppers was lining up against Kareem McKenzie or Will Beatty on nearly every play he was in the game.  Both had their troubles with the dangerous Peppers, but they also held their own.  A very good showing against a very stout defensive line.

It seemed that David Diehl had trouble pulling at times.  He’s not terribly quick or agile on his feet getting out in front.  C David Baas had a much better game, but his loss of contain cost the Giants four yards on the second play of the game when he could not stop his man from penetrating and getting to Bradshaw in the backfield.  Later, after nearly getting held up at the line, Baas delivered a crushing block and a 3rd and long screen to Bradshaw that led to a first down.  Baas quickly recovered to get into the play and just lambasted his man.

As mentioned earlier, it was a very impressive hustle play by OG Ike Ndukwe that sprung Scott for his 97 yard touchdown run.

The Defense

The Giants first team defense did a great job stopping the run in the first half on Monday, limiting the Bears to just 23 yards on 8 carries for a 2.9 ypc average.  Matt Forte, the Bears’ standout back, finished with just 7 yards on 4 carries.  The Giants did allow too many passing yards in the first half, 171 gross, as the defensive line got little pressure on QB Jay Cutler.  To be fair here, Cutler also missed a couple shots that could have dramatically changed the first half.

Just like last week, the Giants allowed a quick strike to Chicago after holding them to 2 consecutive 3 and outs to start the game.  A 37 yard strike to Devin Hester burned Corey Webster and then the Giants once again got caught looking on a quick screen to Forte that went for 42 yards.  So just that quickly, Chicago moved from their own 14 yard line to a 1st and goal at the Giants’ 7 yard line.  This time, however, the Giants’ defense held the opposition to a field goal and didn’t fall behind in the game.

The Bears had several sustained drives in the second half come up empty.  The first was cut short by a strong goal line stand and the last was negated by an interception off a great individual play by linebacker Mark Herzlich.

The Giants had just the 1 takeaway, only 1 sack which was technically a cover sack, but did manage 5 quarterback hits.

Another thing to keep in mind is the Giants first team did not allow a 3rd down conversion and on 5 occasions they forced Cutler to go to his hot read.  Though he was successful at completing the pass on 3 occasions, none resulted in a first down.  That’s what you like to see!

Front 7

The starting front seven were outstanding at shutting down the run.  Although there were no sacks, there was sustained pressure and Jay Cutler was forced to move often and he missed on several throws he should have made, possibly due to the pressure.  Jason Pierre-Paul was one that was getting pressure and forcing the ball to come out early.  Unfortunately, it was an accidental leg whip from JPP which caused the injury to Terrell Thomas.

Justin Tuck played an outstanding game, registering one of the QB hits and also chasing down Forte 40-some yards downfield on that screen after being on the ground, saving a touchdown.

Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard and Linval Joseph all played well inside. Bernard was all over the place, registering 5 tackles.  Maybe the Giants are about to get a little ROI on this guy after all!

The fly in the ointment on Monday was the loss of second round draft selection Marvin Austin for the year with a torn pectoral muscle.  It is not clear when it happened, but it will now be two full years away from football by the time Austin is back.  That cannot be good.

DE Ayanga Okpokowuruk was active in the second half and recorded 2 tackles, 1 in the backfield and he was also in on the stop of HB Marion Barber on 4th and goal at the Giants’ 1 yard line.

While Boley and Goff both made plays on Monday night (Goff had a beautiful pass defense and was credited with a sack that really was a give up play by Orton), two other linebackers shined brighter than they did.  First, undrafted rookie Spencer Paysinger is a football player.  The man seemed on a mission to make a name for himself, he just may have after being in on 7 tackles and seemingly all over the field.  Another undrafted rookie, fan favorite Mark Herzlich, made the play of the game with an incredibly athletic interception late in the game down deep in Giants territory.  All in all it was a good day for the linebackers, and even oft injured Chris Sintim made a couple of tackles.

Defensive Backs

As mentioned, the Giants have out cluster injuried even themselves this year as 4 out of 9 cbs are now out of action, 3 for the year.  No matter how you slice it, losing Terrell Thomas is a huge blow.  Many are confident that a healthy Aaron Ross can regain his form and become the player he was in 2007 and 2008.  Others are not.  On Monday, at least, Ross was actually good.  He was out of position on the play that was challenged, but was able to get back in to it and knock the ball away.  It’s Ross’ time to shine; we’ll see how it goes.

Corey Webster still seems to a bit off this preseason, as he once again got burned deep, and badly.  It’s probably just rust, but it bears watching.

Kenny Phillips played a much better game this week than he did against Carolina, but that’s still not saying a lot.  He had a great play on one of the plays where the Giants forced the Bears to throw to their hot read, coming downhill and meeting the tight end head on and dropping him in his tracks when he caught the ball.  Fourth down.  Phillips was left out to dry twice on plays where he was tracking in the middle of the field but had to go to his left to help out Webster who was beaten over the top.  The first time, he made a sure tackle.  The second, he nearly arrived at the same time as the ball.  A split second quicker and Phillips breaks it up.  Kenny showed good speed on the play, which is encouraging.

As for Rolle, it didn’t appear that his name was called all evening.  Tyler Sash played well in space while he was in there.  Michael Coe did not distinguish himself, and though Witherspoon was having a good game it’s time to forget about him for another year.

Special Teams

Whatever the hell Tom Quinn fed to the special teams units during the week, DO IT AGAIN!  The Giants looked like an above average to very good in every aspect of specials on Monday, with two exceptions on return coverage.  CB Michael Coe did himself no favors by failing to drop Earl Bennett at his own five yard line after getting both arms around him.  The other poor play was the long return by Johnny Knox, who danced around Paysinger (who was good on specials despite this one miscue).  The only other complaint about specials was noted by Eric from BBI:  It seems that, no matter what, the first person always misses the ball carrier.  After watching again, it was true.  The first contact did not bring down a returner all game.

As for the return game, it appears that the Giants have found their kick returner in Devin Thomas.  Now, since Brian Witherspoon injured himself returning a fourth quarter punt without even being contacted, one has to wonder if Thomas will be in the mix for that job.  Granted, Darius Reynaud is still in consideration, but he did not play.  Additionally, Jerrel Jernigan did nothing to help himself in the return game and continues to look tentative and indecisive.

One thing to note, however, is that the Giants seem to have found a 1-2-1 wedge technique that worked on Monday night.  The first man was about 4 yards in front of the two man wedge, and he took on the first guy he encountered.  The two wedge men moved past and continued to clear a path.  The man following up the wedge took care of any “leakers,” allowing a ton of room for Thomas to maneuver.  It will be interesting to see if they continue with this next week and how effective it will remain.

How about Greg Jones making a huge play, coming up with a clean blocked punt?  He almost managed the trifecta but fumbled the ball after it seemed he would be going in for the touchdown.  At any rate, he single handedly set up the Giants with a first and goal that they capitalized on.

Kickoffs were purposely hit short so the team could work on coverages, so don’t read into anything regarding Lloyd’s distance.  He also hit on both field goal attempts and 5 extra points.  Could a controversy be brewing?

The punting battle got intense on Monday.  Both Matt Dodge and Steve Weatherford had two punts, and both made the most of them.  The longest of the day was by Dodge, a 63 yard monster that put Chicago back after it appeared they’d get good field position on their first drive.

Coaching

Whatever Tom Quinn did this week, he needs to bottle it.  If the Giants play on specials like they did on Monday, they will be in better position to win week after week.  That’s simply a fact.

I’m not one for second guessing Head Coach Tom Coughlin, but it’s hard to understand why he had his 4th corner returning punts when he just lost his #2 for the year.

(Box Score – Chicago Bears at New York Giants, August 22, 2011)
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