Dec 072012
 
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Washington Redskins 17 (6-6) – New York Giants 16 (7-5)

By rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Overview:

New York, with an opportunity to seize total control of the NFC East, committed mistake after mistake and could not convert opportunities into points despite utterly dominating the Redskins for three quarters.

The Giants usually make hay in the fourth quarter, especially when they’re behind.  For the second time in four games however, New York’s offense was completely anemic in the fourth quarter and their defense couldn’t stop a sneeze.

As a result, despite outperforming the Redskins in every major statistical category for three quarters, the Giants have allowed themselves to fall back to the pack in the NFC.  Additionally, they are in serious danger of falling out of playoff contention.

I honestly never thought I’d write that last sentence this year.

I want to hit on a couple of things that have me shaking my head.

First, New York flat out stated that their number one goal was to play downhill and stop rookie HB Alfred Morris and the Redskin rushing attack.  New York knew that going into the game, rookie QB Robert Griffin III is at his worst in long down and distance situations.  The Giants did a very good job of doing just that in the first half, allowing 44 yards on 6 carries to Morris, a healthy 7.3 ypc average.  Griffin only had one rush for 12 yards in the first half.  Still, New York was able to get the Redskins off the field and limit them to just 10 points.  Their first touchdown was a complete fluke as S Stevie Brown forced Griffin to fumble that was miraculously corralled by WR Josh Morgan who advanced the ball the final 13 yards for the score.

The problem was the second half.  New York allowed Washington to rush for an astounding 151 yards on 23 carries, a 6.6 ypc average.  Are you KIDDING me?  Washington threw for just 63 yards in the second half.  New York knew what was coming and was powerless to stop it.  The Giants simply did not play disciplined defense against the Washington gimmick Pistol Option offense.  As Corner Forum contributor Joey in VA outlined in this thread, it’s not rocket science. This is a typical college offense and the Giants were worn out by it.  That is unacceptable.

New York’s focus on offense was to remain balanced, chew up clock, and score points.  They did the first for the entire game though it was much more effective in the first half than the second.  They did the second for three quarters, and they did the third not nearly enough despite having golden opportunities.

Just look at these statistics from the first half.  New York ran 40 offensive plays.  They racked up 16 first downs.  Converted eight of 10 third down opportunities.  Accrued 273 total yards (187 passing and 86 rushing).  The Giants hads drives of 11 plays for 74 yards with 6:32 time of possession, 13 plays for 51 yards with 5:56 time of possession, and 13 plays for 85 yards with 7:23 time of possession.  Those possessions yielded just 10 points on one field goal, one missed field goal and a touchdown.  The only reason the Giants were leading was a brilliant last minute field goal drive just before the half.  One of the reasons New York could not do more with those possessions was the fact that they committed six penalties for 45 yards in the half.  New York averages just four penalties per game.

During the second half, the Giants offense again had a frustrating drive as they took over from their own 9-yard line and drove right down the field to a first down at the Washington 17-yard line before having to settle for another field goal.  The Giants led 16-10 with 3:09 left in the third quarter and there wasn’t a Giants fan on the planet who didn’t think New York was in huge trouble due to letting the Redskins hang around.

After another penalty thwarted what looked like might be the game winning drive, New York punted the ball back to the Redskins with 3:51 to go in the game and again, there couldn’t have been many Giants fans who thought New York would see the ball again.  They didn’t, as Washington gained three first downs and ran out the clock.

As mentioned, this game was a lot like the Steelers game in which New York couldn’t stop Pittsburgh in the fourth quarter and the offense couldn’t finish drives.  The same thing happened here.  And just like in the first Dallas game, with everything on the line the defense could not get the opposition off the field to give the Giants offense one last opportunity.

Quarterback:

For three quarters, Eli Manning played well between the 20s (well, in this case between the Giants 10 and the Washington 20 in this particular game) but not in the green zone.  Manning did not have a good the fourth quarter.  Manning missed on two deep balls, one to Nicks and one to Cruz, that were potential touchdowns.

Manning finished 20 of 33 for 280 yards and one touchdown.  Manning was sacked just once.

As mentioned, Manning did not play well once the Giants got close to or in the green zone.  On their first drive, Manning completed one of two passes for seven yards after the Giants were put in a 2nd-and-15 hole due to penalty and no gain on a first down run.  On their second drive, Manning committed an intentional grounding penalty on first down at the Washington 30-yard line.  Two completions later, netting 15 yards, K Lawrence Tynes missed a 43-yard field goal. In the third quarter from the Redskin 17-yard line, Manning threw incomplete twice around a 1-yard Bradshaw run on second down.

In the fourth quarter, Manning was 1-of-3 for four yards and a sack.  His only clutch completion was an 11-yard pass to Martellus Bennett that was called back due to a hold.

Running Backs:

HB Ahmad Bradshaw had a solid first half and ended up with a 100-yard game.  The problem was New York only gained 31 of their 117 total rushing yards on the ground during the second half.  Interestingly, that didn’t really hurt the Giants.  For the most part, New York was able to stay in good down-and-distance situations but was unable to convert their third downs in the second half with the same success as in the first half.  As good as Bradshaw was, particularly in the first half, he seemed to tire in the second half and as has been mentioned, he just doesn’t seem cut out to carry the entire load.

HB David Wilson didn’t have the break out game people were hoping for.  Wilson got just four carries (just ONE in the second half) for nine yards.  Wilson was on the field for eight plays.   Wilson is going to have to take some of the pressure off Bradshaw going forward.

Receivers:

Victor Cruz broke the century mark for the first time in a while (5 catches for 104 yards).  Cruz didn’t drop any balls.  Cruz once again split the Washington defense for what looked like a sure touchdown but he was overthrown by Manning.

Hakeem Nicks was the most targeted Giant again, garnering 10 throws from Manning.  Nicks caught 5 for 43 yards and drew a 21-yard interference penalty, too.  There should have been a personal foul penalty on the Redskins for a helmet-to-face on a defenseless receiver that resulted in Nicks receiving a bloody nose.

The other wide receivers saw just three balls thrown their way.  New York simply has had no one step up and seize the third WR spot vacated by Mario Manningham.

TE Martellus Bennett had a terrific game catching five of seven passes for 82 yards and a touchdown.  Bennett seemed to be Manning’s go to guy on third down-and-long distance situations.

Offensive Line:

Penalties.

Sean Locklear: False start on 1st-and-10 from Washington 23-yard line.  NY could not recover to convert a first down.

Sean Locklear: Holding on 1st-and-10 from Washington 28.  Giants were able to overcome and score a touchdown on the drive.

Will Beatty:  Holding on 3rd-and- 10 from Giants 43-yard line.  This nullified an 11-yard gain and first down to the Washington 46 yard line.  New York could not recover to convert a 3rd-and-20.

When you throw in the Nicks’ false start and the Manning intentional grounding and delay of game penalties, one can see how the Giants had difficulty sustaining and finishing drives.  Other than the miscues pointed out, the Giants offensive line did a good job of opening holes (particularly early on) for Bradshaw and gave Manning plenty of time.  The most troubling issue was the fact that New York had nearly 30 minutes time of possession with 3 minutes or so to go in the third quarter but the offensive line couldn’t deliver the knockout punch that seemed right there for the taking.

New York lost Locklear for the year with a torn ACL and it appears David Diehl will take over as the right tackle for the rest of the season.  LT Will Beatty also injured his shoulder and came out for a few plays.  New York can ill afford to lose another lineman.

Defensive Front 7:

As mentioned, New York stated that their goal was to stop the Washington running game.  They didn’t even come close.  New York had no answer for Morris or Griffin.  The Redskins ran their pistol read option offense with impunity.  As noted, the key to defending this type of offense is discipline and New York linemen and linebackers demonstrated repeatedly that they had none.  The only lineman who seemed to be in the play more often than not was DT Linval Joseph who was in on seven tackles.  The DEs simply were nowhere to be found, either chasing ghosts or running four or five yards behind Griffin as he chewed up yardage downfield.  New York was credited with just two hits on Griffin.   JPP bit on the fake.  Osi bit on the fake.  Tuck bit on the fake.  It was comical towards the end.

The linebackers were no better at contain as they constantly reacted to play fakes to leave the slant wide open for Griffin any time he wanted it.  New York simply didn’t play disciplined football and constantly abandoned their gap responsibilities.  It looked as though everyone was trying to do someone else’s job.

Secondary:

The secondary got absolutely no help from the front seven on Monday night.  Amukamara and Webster had no chance against the quick slants because Griffin had huge windows to throw in.  As such, it was easy pitch-and-catch between Griffin and WR Pierre Garcon (and others).  Antrel Rolle did the best he could in run support registering a team high 10 tackles.  Again, most of those tackles occurred 7-9 yards into the secondary leaving Washington in constant second-and-short situations.  S Kenny Phillips made a go of it but seemed to be running at a quarter-speed.

Special Teams:

The Giants return teams really hurt the team on Monday night.  S Tyler Sash cost New York 10 yards on their first punt return with a holding penalty, causing the Giants to have to start from their own 10-yard line.  Later, back-up C Jim Cordle cost the Giants 10 yards when he held on a kickoff.  Instead of starting the drive at their 19, the Giants started at their own 9.  Finally, after Washington scored to take the lead in the fourth quarter, Cordle again held on a kickoff that cost the Giants 42 yards in field position.  Instead of being 1st-and-10 at the 50, New York began their drive at their own 8-yard line.

This late in the season, a disciplined team does not make these fatal mistakes.

The Giants did an adequate job returning kicks and punts when penalties weren’t killing them and they also did a fine job in keeping the Washington return teams under wraps.

Long Snapper Zak DeOssie had a rough game with two bad snaps.  One came on a missed field goal but it’s unclear if it had any affect because the hold looked good.

Coaching:

The Giants lost, so to a special contingent in The Corner Forum that means Kevin Gilbride sucks.  This sentiment exists despite the fact that New York scored five touchdowns in five attempts from the green zone (including three coming on third down) against the Packers last week.  I suppose that means Eli Manning and the offense simply overcame Gilbride’s incredible ineptitude.

Look folks, it’s pretty simple.  New York’s game plan was to keep the ball as long as possible and they did a terrific job of it for three quarters.  The Giants running game did not get the Giants in trouble in the second half, the passing game did.  In the fourth quarter, Manning took a sack on a 3rd-and-4 play that was set up by two runs.  I’ll take 3rd-and-4 with the whole playbook available every single series.  On the last drive, Bradshaw ran twice for eight yards on first and second down.  It would have been 3rd-and-2, but Bradshaw was horse collared and New York got a free 15 yards.  New York didn’t run again.  How anyone can label four successful running play calls as “poor play calling” by Gilbride is beyond me.  In the third quarter, the Giants only had one “unsuccessful” running play, a 1-yard gain on second down after Manning had an incompletion on first down.  Again, to many, this means Gilbride sucks.  I don’t get it and never will.  People really need to re-watch the third and fourth quarter offense and see who really was at fault.

I thought the offensive game plan was sound and executed fairly well.  If the Giants had been able to execute down in Redskins’ territory and not make all the mistakes on special teams and offense with regard to penalties, New York could have been ahead by the score of 27-10 going into the fourth quarter.

I do not understand the defensive game plan.  There is no way to know if the defensive line was free-lancing or running some sort of predesigned scheme.  If it was a scheme, it was the worst read option defensive scheme ever produced.

Final Thoughts:

I said last week that it was my opinion that the Redskins were still not ready to contend, but that didn’t mean they aren’t ready to win the game.  I believe the same today.  This scheme will be figured out and/or Griffin is going to get killed.  I said that the Giants really needed to just come out swinging and take them out early like they did to the Packers.  They almost pulled it off, but their own lack of discipline did the Giants in.

The Giants have three very tough games before the regular-season finale against the Eagles.  It seems to me New York is going to have to run the table to ensure they make the playoffs.  Washington has an excellent chance to win three and possibly all of their remaining games.  The Cowboys also have a shot at going at least 3-1 down the stretch.  New York will have to take care of their own business and they haven’t been able to do it against some of the weaker teams in the league.  Now let’s see how they do against playoff caliber teams.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Washington Redskins, December 3, 2012)
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