Dec 292011
 
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New York Giants 29 (8-7) – New York Jets 14 (8-7)

by rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary

After a sluggish start, the New York Giants rallied to defeat their co-tenants at MetLife Stadium, cementing their status of Big Brother of New York and setting up a showdown with the Dallas Cowboys on the final week of the season for the NFC East division crown.

As was mentioned often before the action commenced, this was as close to a playoff game as one could get to.  Interestingly, there was a ton of trash talk between both teams before hand and there was more afterward.  Both teams needed the game, but as it turned out after Dallas was trounced for the second time by the Philadelphia Eagles, the Jets needed it more and their playoff chances took a big hit in the loss.

New York must now put this game completely behind them and focus on just one thing: Dallas.

As far as football games go, this one was simply odd.  Every time it appeared one team got momentum going, it would shift dramatically, sometimes play by play.  One thing is certain and that is the replay system is severely flawed and needs to be addressed.  Several reviews were questionable at best and left everyone scratching their heads.

Overall, the Giants were fortuitous in the end and made their own breaks as they fought and won the 4th quarter by creating 3 turnovers to put the game away despite the Jets holding nearly a full quarter time of possession advantage and running 34 more offensive plays than the Giants (89 total!).  Neither team fared well on 3rd down, but the Jets were woeful, converting just 4 of 21 (19%).  The difference in the game came down to turnovers (Jets 3, Giants 1) and penalties (Jets 10 for 95 yards Giants 5 for 45 yards).  The Giants were close to getting what seemed half a dozen more turnovers and had what looked to be two defensive touchdowns taken off the board (one by penalty on what was ruled a forward pass but may have been challenged) and another on a fumble that was reversed to down by contact despite no clear evidence to overturn the call.

The Jets also missed a field goal just before halftime that would have tied the score and had two other apparent fumbles overturned due to one being ruled the “tuck rule” though the ball was clearly knocked from QB Mark Sanchez’s hand and another that was ruled an incomplete pass despite the ball never leaving the hand of Sanchez before it was knocked out.  Baffling stuff, indeed.

As for the Giants, they were unable to convert a 1st and goal from the 2 yard line into a touchdown and also failed to convert a 1st and 10 from the 14 following a Jets turnover into a touchdown as well.  Both teams were just 2 of 4 converting touchdowns inside the green zone.

The Giants, who had 16 drives in the game, suffered through 6 three-and-outs and only had three drives of six plays or more (6, 6 and 9).  The Jets didn’t fare much better.  They also had 16 possessions and they suffered 4 three-and-outs and several other short duration drives.  The Jets did move the ball well on occasion, scoring a touchdown on their opening drive of 10 plays but also had two 13 play drives end in failure: one a missed field goal and the other a fumble on the 1 yard line.

Offense

The Giant offense got very little going in the first half, and again had a disastrous first quarter in which they ran just 12 plays for a total of 25 yards (20 net).  Though they finally got going in the second quarter with a 53 yard drive to the Jet 2 yard line, they had to settle for a Lawrence Tynes field goal.  Later, after going 3-and-out for the third time in five possessions, they caught lightning in a bottle to take the lead on a 99 yard catch and run with just 2:12 to go in the half.

The 3rd quarter looked much of the same early on, with the Giants going three-and-out on their first two possessions and running just four plays on their third.  Then, again, the Giants scored on a quick strike drive of four plays, going 81 yards to extend their lead to 10 points going into the 4th quarter.

On the first play of their next possession following another Jets turnover with just 8:53 left in the ball game, the Giants gave the gift right back when QB Eli Manning checked out of a running play and had a ball clang off the hands of Hakeem Nicks into the waiting arms of a Jets defender.  The interception led to a Jets touchdown to bring them within 6 points.  The offense continued to sputter on their next drive, going three-and-out and again setting up the Jets with good field position.  The defense held the Jets to a three-and-out and when the Giants offense got the ball back they were finally able to get a couple first downs and milk the clock and the Jets timeouts before having to punt with 2:31 left in the game.

New York’s passing game was all hit or all miss, as they completed just 9 of 27 attempts.  I counted a minimum of 7 drops by the receivers, and a couple others were near interceptions.  In between, the Giants connected on passes of 20, 29, 36 and 99 yards.  Everything else was 13 yards or shorter in the passing game.  The running game resulted in good numbers, but again they were big gains or little gains and not much in between.  How the Giants managed to amass 332 total yards is somewhat of a mystery.

Quarterback

Eli Manning didn’t seem to have his “A” game from the very beginning, as he uncharacteristically threw into coverage and nearly had a couple balls picked off that probably should have been.  On the day, Manning completed just 9 passes out of 27 attempts for 225 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception.  Manning’s passer rating was once again pedestrian, just 61.5.  Manning’s rating still stands at 90.3, which is the second highest rating of his career.  His 4,587 yards is the highest total of his career with a game to play.  Manning’s Total QBR was a woeful 20.7.  For the season Manning’s QBR dipped under 60 for the first time this year and now stands at 59.2, good for 12th in the NFL.

To be sure, Manning wasn’t helped much by his receivers in this game.  His lone interception was the result of a dropped pass by WR Hakeem Nicks who also had a couple other passes that he flat out dropped.  I counted 7 passes that Giants receivers couldn’t find the handle on.

Running Backs

The Giants were completely unable to run the ball in the first half, registering a scant 6 yards rushing on 7 carries.  Simply put, that is pathetic and frankly there is no excuse for it.  Once again, this resulted in the Giants falling way behind in the time of possession battle.  In the first half, the Jets had nearly 20 minutes possession to the Giants’ 10.

In the second half, the Giants didn’t exactly light it up on the ground, but had several big runs (one aided by a 15 yard late hit penalty).  Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 54 yards (51 in the second half) on 15 carries with a long of 19.  He simply wasn’t able to get untracked most of the game.  Bradshaw also caught just 1 pass for 8 yards, but on the play Manning was roughed which made it a 23 yard play.

Brandon Jacobs was also bottled up early but did have two outstanding plays on the day.  The first was a short pass on a 3rd and 10 play in the 1st quarter that looked to be going for 3 or 4 yards.  Jacobs ran through a couple would-be-tacklers to gain 13 yards and the Giant’s first 1st down of the day.  It was tough, tough running and set a tone that although the Giants were unable to do much offensively early, showed that he was there to play.  The second play was a stretch play in the 3rd quarter that went for 28 yards and set up the Giants’ second touchdown.  On the day, Jacobs gained 42 yards on 7 carries.

D.J. Ware also had a very nice run late in the game to keep the chains moving, converting a critical 3rd and 3 into a 17 yard gain.  Ware also caught a 5 yard pass off the dreaded bubble screen.

Henry Hynoski wasn’t targeted in the passing game this week, which was a bit of a surprise seeing as Manning was missing two of his receivers: TE Jake Ballard and WR Mario Manningham.  Hynoski had his troubles blocking in the running game, but much of that seemed to be because he was pulling off his assignments to help C David Bass when he lost his man.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Last week, Manning threw 27 times to his wideouts completing just 14 of them.  This week was actually worse.  Manning attempted 22 passes to Nicks, Cruz, Barden, Jernigan and Devin Thomas.  He completed just 6 of them.  That is horrendous.  As mentioned above, the Giants (particularly Hakeem Nicks) had a case of the dropsies and frankly it could very well have added up to a Giants loss.

The Jets didn’t get very cute with their coverages, but they did mix up who Revis was playing against and he did a great job breaking up passes (5 of the Jets’ 10 total).  It did seem a couple of times that Revis could have been called for at worst defensive holding and at best interference.

Nicks just couldn’t seem to get going.  He dropped another touchdown pass on a short slant in the end zone, though Revis did have tight coverage.   He also had the drop that resulted in the Jets’ interception.  On the day, Nicks caught just 1 pass out of 7 thrown his way.

Victor Cruz had 8 balls thrown his way and caught only 3, but those 3 were absolutely huge.  On a 3rd and 10 play from their own 1 yard line, Cruz caught a nice throw from Manning around the 13 yard line and turned what should have been a short 1st down into a 99 yard touchdown.  Cruz also had another 29 yard catch and run to set up the Giants in a 1st and goal from the 2 yard line that resulted in only a field goal.  Cruz was also instrumental on the second Giants touchdown drive as he hauled in a 2nd and 7 pass for 36 yards setting up the ensuing big Jacobs and Bradshaw runs.  Cruz ended up with 164 total yards, meaning he broke Amani Toomer’s club record for receiving yardage in his first active season as a professional football player.  The rest of the team managed a total of just 61 yards receiving in the game.

Ramses Barden had a tough day, catching just one 4 yard pass on a 3rd and 10 play.  Barden did not attack the ball and use his frame to make a play.  A prime example came on the 1st and 10 play two plays before Cruz’ 99 yard touchdown.  Eli Manning attempted to throw a quick slant to Barden that should have caught, but instead of attacking the ball he began to fade backwards and let the ball come to him.  Because of that, Revis was able to close the gap and knock the ball away.

The tight ends were nonexistent on Saturday.  Neither Bear Pascoe nor Travis Beckum caught a pass, and only Beckum was targeted once, and he dropped the short pass near the goal line.  All was not lost for Beckum, however, as he was sharp in pass protection – particularly on the possession where Manning threw from his own end zone three times.

Offensive Line

C David Baas returned to the fold with reserve C Kevin Boothe moving back to LG and sending Mitch Petrus back to the bench.

The group was again troublesome in this game, particularly in the first half.  Baas had a particularly hard time out there and despite Eric from BBI stating that he got better as the game went on, he nearly was the cause of the 3rd and 3 play that D.J. Ware turned into a 17 yard gain (32 with the penalty) getting blown up before it even began.

On the play, a 3rd and 3 from the Jets 27 with 3:34 to play, the Giants lined up in shotgun with TE Bear Pascoe to Eli’s left.  Victor Cruz was in the slot and Jerrel Jernigan was split wide, both on the strong side.  Nicks was split outside the numbers on the weak side.  D.J. Ware was to Eli’s left, a bit deeper than him.  The Jets countered with a three man front with a safety and 2 linebackers overloaded on the strong side and the WIL backer on the line outside the LDE.  In all, it was an 8 man Jets front.  At the snap, Kevin Boothe made the play of the day as he pulled to the weak side.  David Baas was completely blown into the backfield, so much so that TE Bear Pascoe who was pulling behind Boothe ran into him face to face.  That actually was serendipitous as it enabled Baas to maintain his balance and the nose tackle was unable to penetrate any further.  Booth continued down the line and completely destroyed the WIL backer, taking him out of the play.  RG Chris Snee got to the second level and though he may have gotten away with a slight hold, managed to keep the second linebacker from gaining any momentum.  RT Kareem McKenzie pushed the LDE into the line and between him, Boothe and Snee created the huge hole for Ware.  Frankly, it’s the best blocked play (despite Baas and Pascoe colliding, which looked a lot like the commercial for Jimmy Dean breakfast when the planets haven’t had their breakfast and the Sun says “and Venus is down”) I’ve seen in quite some time.

The Jets have an aggressive front seven, yet managed just three QB hits and two sacks.  Unfortunately, in the running game, the Giants offensive line allowed seven other plays to go for a loss.

Defense

On Saturday, the Giants defense played their best game in since the New England game.  The Giants reversed an extremely disturbing trend of allowing the majority of 3rd downs to be converted by allowing the Jets to convert just 4 of 19.  Still, they allowed a 4th and 4 to be converted (an apparent defensive touchdown off the lateral pass that was ruled a forward pass) by having 12 men on the field, a 15 yard gain on 3rd and 10 in the 2nd quarter, a questionable pass interference penalty on Deon Grant on 4th and 1, a 15 yard gain on 3rd and 17 and then an ensuing 10 yard gain on 4th and 2, and finally an 11 yard scramble on  3rd and 12 and got the first down when a 5 yard defensive holding penalty was tacked on.  If the Giants can tighten up in these situations the defense will be sound.

The Giants were extremely effective against the pass, and it’s a wonder that the Jets didn’t try to run more often as they were effective while rushing the football, gaining seven first downs on the ground.  On the day, the Jets rushed for 105 yards on just 25 carries, a serviceable 4.2 ypc average.  The Jets were pass happy however, dropping back an astounding 64 times.  The average gain per pass play for the Jets was a woeful 3.5 yards, and that is an astounding win for the Giants considering the back 7 play of the past several weeks.

The Giants managed 5 sacks and 6 total QB hits and had Sanchez unsettled in the pocket most of the day.  Most devastating to the Jets however is that the Giants were able to defense 13 Sanchez passes.

The Jets turned the football over three times and the Giants nearly had four more.  One was overturned due to a penalty (at the least the Giants would have received the ball on downs), one was overturned due to the tuck rule, the third was overturned due to the fumble call being reversed on replay despite no clear evidence it should have been reversed, and the fourth was another fumble that was reversed because Sanchez’s arm was moving forward despite the fact he never threw the football.  On the play the Jets recovered but it would have put the Jets in a 2nd and extremely long situation if it hadn’t been overturned.  Additionally, the Giants had several tipped and defensed balls fall either just out of their reach or in the case of Deon Grant, dropped.

All in all, the defense allowed only 14 points and 331 total yards to the Jets.

Front 7

Justin Tuck had arguably his best game of the season.  Tuck got good pressure on Sanchez all day and made 4 solo tackles to go along with a sack and knocking 2 passes down at the line of scrimmage.  Tuck also made an outstanding play to corner Sanchez on a scramble and nearly get a sack, but Sanchez managed to get over the line of scrimmage for about half a yard.  Tuck covered about 15 yards to make the play.  If Tuck is truly back, the pairing with the surging Jason Pierre-Paul could be a deadly combination going forward into the Dallas game and possibly beyond.  JPP had another stellar game, abusing Pro Bowl tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson on several occasions on his way to two sacks, 3 QB hits and 5 tackles.  Reserve DE Dave Tollefson did a good job as well, registering a sack and a pass knocked down at the line.

In the middle, DT Chris Canty also got a couple good pressures including the gigantic sack for a safety late in the 4th quarter.  The play was almost entirely individual effort as he went right through the RG/C “A” gap to get to Sanchez.  The trio of Canty, Joseph and Rocky Bernard combined for 7 tackles and 2 passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage.  All in all, the six defensive linemen combined to knock down 5 balls down at the line.

LB Mathais Kiwanuka wasn’t as active on Saturday as he usually is, but he was asked to play off the line more than normal possibly with the re-emergence of Justin Tuck.  Rookie 6th round draft pick Jacquian Williams had a hell of a game.  He made several tackles to keep the Jets from moving the chains and nearly got to Sanchez on a well disguised blitz.  On the play he elevated to knock the ball away.  Williams also recovered a fumble.  Michael Boley also had a solid game, though on a couple occasions he seemed to take himself pre-snap out of position on running plays to his vacated area.  As for Chase Blackburn, he had 5 solo tackles.  All the linebackers played well in coverage, particularly against LaDainian Tomlinson and TE Dustin Keller, the latter being targeted 18 times but only making only 8 catches.

Secondary

The Giants clearly didn’t think much of the deep game brought by Plaxico Burress, who was the lone Jet captain for the opening coin toss, as they put CB Aaron Ross on him for most of the game and Webster on the speedier Santonio Holmes.  Jets wideouts (Kerley, Burress and Holmes) caught just 12 of the 23 passes thrown their way.  Ross made 3 tackles and had 1 pass defensed while on the other side Corey Webster led the Giants with 7 solo tackles and also had 2 passes defensed and another intercepted to end the game.  Rookie Prince Amukamara saw limited action and it appeared he was burned for a touchdown by Burress but the replay showed that Plax clearly pushed off and the offensive pass interference penalty was called.

The Giants safeties were outstanding on Saturday.  Antrel Rolle played up in the box more often than he has lately and also had 7 solo tackles.  He did have a defensive holding penalty that kept a Jets drive alive, however.  S Kenny Phillips showed again why he’s invaluable in the middle despite the fact he rarely shows up on the stat sheet.  The Jets never got over the top of the Giants and while playing centerfield he was able to corral an errant Sanchez pass for an easy interception, setting up the Giants’ second field goal.  Deon Grant had a solid game in coverage, making 5 tackles and breaking up 2 passes as well.  He dropped an interception on the Jets’ first drive of the second half and nearly got to two other tipped balls.

By far, this was the best game for the Giants defense in the middle of the field in as long as I can remember.

Special Teams

The kickoff team was solid as Lawrence Tynes kicked 4 of 6 into the end zone with 1 touchback in December weather.  The kickoff coverage team was solid, allowing 5 returns for an average of 22 yards per kick and a long of 29.  As for the punt team, Steve Weatherford had an up and down game punting 9 times, but frankly the Jets were putting on very good pressure and he just got a couple of them away.  Weatherford netted just 35 yards per kick with no touchbacks and 2 dropped inside the 20.  Unfortunately, the Giants punt coverage teams were not up to snuff as Kerley was able to return 4 of 8 for an 18.5 yards per return average and a long of 28.

The Giants kick return team was solid, with Jernigan returning 3 for 77 yards with a long of 31.  The punt return team wasn’t quite as good, with Rolle and Blackmon only being able to return 3 of 7 for a total of 7 yards.  The average starting field position off kickoffs was the 24 yard line for the Giants and the Jets at the 22.  As for overall starting field position average, the Jets started from their 31 and the Giants from their 30.

Tynes kicked two field goals of 21 and 36 yards.

Coaching

After coming out with seemingly little effort against Washington, the Giants were ready to play in this game.  As noted, despite little early offensive success, the Giants were playing with emotion as evidenced by Jacobs’ hard run described above.  HC Tom Coughlin apparently had a heart-to-heart talk with Justin Tuck during the week and according to Tuck, it paid huge dividends.  Tuck was a force on Saturday and again it points to the fact that Coughlin knows this team and knows what’s needed and when.

As for Perry Fewell, rumors are already floating that the lame duck DC is on the hot seat and that St. Louis head coach Steve Spagnoulo may be his replacement if indeed he is fired.  If that’s so, he didn’t show it on Saturday as he simplified the game plan and eliminated the issues that lead to communication problems the past several weeks.

Many people were questioning two play calls on Saturday.  The first was the decision to go deep on a 3rd and 1 early in the 3rd quarter and the 1st and 10 pass play from the Jets 20 after recovering a Jets fumble in the end zone.  The first play resulted in an incomplete pass and a punt and the second resulted in an interception that put the Jets back in the game.  It’s not clear who called the first one, but frankly the Giants needed to give the defense a rest and in that situation they needed to find a way to get one yard without going to a low percentage deep pass.  The second has been reported as a check from a run by Manning when he saw 8 men in the box, and again, in the situation it may have been better served to concede the play, run clock, and move on to the next play.  Manning also made another head scratcher on the first series by taking a delay of game penalty after a 2nd down run.

Finally, every team has a coach of some sort who is responsible for counting the men on the field before every play.  How the Giants could get caught, after the Jets were at the line for a good 6 or 7 seconds, with 12 men on the field is both mind boggling and inexcusable.

Final Thoughts

Well, the Giants have every opportunity that they wanted right in front of them, at home, come Sunday night.  Beat the Cowboys and win the East.  That’s it in a nutshell, and the losses to Seattle, Washington, Philadelphia and Washington again will all be forgiven and forgotten as the Giants will host a Wild Card playoff game next weekend.  Remember, the vast majority of the pundits picked the Eagles, the Cowboys, and then the Giants in the NFC East.  Most people including the majority of BBI’ers expected the Giants to win between 7 and 9 games this season.  As Eric of BBI said months ago, this is a team that will win some they’re expected to lose and lose some expected to win and it’s gone pretty much that way all season.

Beating the Cowboys and winning the East would be a huge accomplishment considering the obstacles the Giants have had to overcome to get to this particular point.  Now it’s time to finish and go make some noise in the playoffs.

At the risk of offending BBI ‘contributor’ Hudson, Happy New Year everyone!  Be safe and be happy!

(Boxscore – New York Giants at New York Jets, December 24, 2011)
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