Peyton Hillis Celebrates His Touchdown – © USA TODAY Sports Images
New York Giants 23 – Minnesota Vikings 7
Game Review: The New World. Within a week of the most ridiculous of Federal holidays, Columbus Day, the Giants got a taste of what it must have been like back in fourteen hundred and ninety two when Columbus sailed the ocean blue and landed…here instead of his intended India. A monumental discovery no doubt, but in his infinite wisdom Columbus thought he HAD landed in India, named the natives Indians and was the impetus for a dizzying array of highly offensive sports nicknames and the eventual dislodging of America’s native peoples in a not so nice way. I know what certain BBI contributors are thinking “Another Fozzie Bear type review from a hack comedian”, but in this intro I have a point, albeit not a strong one. The Giants discovered their own new world, Victory and like Columbus before them, they stumbled and bumbled their way through it, but it may be the day that we all point to as a day the Giants vanquished the ignominious O fer in their O for 6 record. Is it what the crown (The Mara Family) intended when they funded this journey (the 2013 season)? Not quite, but like Columbus in his day there is no reason the Giants can’t pull a Pee-Wee Herman and say “I meant to do that”.
In a game rife with mistakes, the Giants made fewer, and that’s really the crux of this game and sadly the season to date. With David Wilson, Andre Brown, Da’Rel Scott and Brandon Jacobs either injured or sitting home the Giants turned to 7th round pick Michael Cox and former Madden Cover Boy Peyton Hillis to save their spiraling season. From the opening gun, which should have been used to put viewers down humanely, the Giants had one plan and one plan only; to control the clock, shorten the game and limit mistakes. It worked during two recent Super Bowl runs and it was again the formula for victory despite its ugly appearance. The Giants embarked on a trail of tears type of drive as the game opened, grinding out a 17-play, 68-yard drive that ate up 9:36 and resulted in a 35-yard Josh Brown FG and a 3-0 lead. Despite little running room, the Giants remained patient on the ground, didn’t force anything down field and put together a solid, if unspectacular opening drive. That’s lead as in being ahead, not the dangerous paint additive that insulates one against nuclear fallout, though it felt like nuclear winter for much of the night.
The 3-0 lead was short lived sadly, as the Giants unspecial teams gave up an all-too-easy 86-yard punt return to CB Marcus Sherels who barely had to break stride en route to the end zone. At some point, Tom Quinn has to be held accountable for the awful special teams’ performance this year. After trading punts, the Giants put together a 7-play, 82-yard scoring drive highlighted by a 23-yard pass interference penalty against Nicks by rookie CB Xavier Rhodes. One play later, Manning found WR Rueben Randle on a back shoulder throw down the left sideline for a 24-yard TD and a 10-7 lead that was outrageously safe with new Viking QB Josh Freeman simply giving the Minnesota offense no chance to succeed. Freeman’s best sequence was back-to-back completions on the Vikings next drive, hitting Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph for 22 and 21 yards respectively. The drive failed after the Giants completely stifled Adrian Peterson on back-to-back runs and Freeman failed to convert a 3rd and 8 that led to a missed 53-yard field goal and the Vikings last real threat of the evening. The teams traded four more punts to end the first half with a 10-3 Giant lead.
Naturally as the 3rd quarter unfolded, catastrophe struck again after the Giants forced another three-and-out and the Vikings were forced to punt to Rueben Randle. Randle, of course since this is our unlucky 2013 season and it is special teams, fumbled the punt away at the Giant 31-yard line and disaster appeared ready yet again. Fortunately for Randle, S Antrel Rolle picked off Freeman at the Giant 5-yard line two plays later to grant Special Teams Coordinator Tom Quinn yet another escape that would have Rasputin asking him for survival tips. At some point those nudies of Coughlin that Quinn clearly has will stop working and he’ll be shown the door but until then it’s punt return TDs for EVERYONE!!! The repeated failures on special teams are nothing short of sickening. Three more awful drives later, the Giants special teams recovered a mishandled punt at the Viking 3-yard line, and Peyton Hillis punched it in two plays later for a 17-3 lead that would hold up all evening with two more Josh Brown field goals tossed in for a merciful end to the losing streak and this abysmal game. Giants win….that’s right WIN 23-7. Uglier than my first girlfriend, but just as satisfying that we finally got it done.
Quarterbacks: Eli Manning essentially got his drive train back to neutral, nothing great, but more importantly nothing disastrous en route to a 200 yard 1-TD and zero-interception performance. The worst thing the Giants captain and signal caller did was look like a baby calf at a rodeo as he was hauled down by one meaty paw of Vikings DE Jared Allen. Manning was able to convert the Giants first first down with an ungainly 6-yard gallop on 3rd and 5 in keeping with the ugly theme of the night. Manning almost short circuited the Giants’ opening drive on a misfire to TE Larry Donnell, who was eaten by an apparent turf monster on his way to running a post. Manning converted two 3rd and 3 opportunities on the opening drive, but just missed hitting a wide open Hakeem Nicks on another in the end zone that should have been a 7-0 lead. Manning misfired badly again on a Hillis safety valve route that could have easily gone for 20+ yards but Eli hurried the throw, didn’t set his feet and fired too hard and too high again. Two drives, two wide open misses for absolutely no reason. Manning did however trust RB Peyton Hillis enough to wisely use him as a checkdown option instead of forcing too many deep throws and it was simply enough to win which for the two-time Lombardi Winner has to feel pretty good at this point. Give Eli credit, he was patient and methodical, leading the Giants on 16- and 17-play scoring drives, both of which combined to eat up 18:07 of game clock. When all else fails, ball control to the rescue.
Running Backs: One week after Brandon Jacobs bulled his way to 106 yards, the Giants leading rusher was Chief, Brown and Buccaneer castoff Peyton Hillis who slowly churned to 36 yards on 18 agonizing carries. Hillis wasn’t great, but per the theme of this evening he wasn’t terrible either which was enough. Hillis’ main contribution was as a reliable check down option in which he managed 45 yards on five catches and provided Manning with an outlet when his makeshift OL was unable to slow down the Vikings pass rush. Hillis was able to do what Giant backs have yet to master, check for unblocked rushers and leak out down field to provide an option for Eli Manning. Credit Hillis’ time in former Giant QB coach Mike Sullivan’s offense in Tampa Bay for his ability to come in and contribute solid minutes after just days on the team. Rookie Michael Cox had little room to operate and was only capable of 23 yards on 11 carries but again, no major gaffes and more importantly no turnovers. Cox showed some burst on his first run that went for seven yards, but was hemmed in most of night by a Viking front that was rarely fooled by the Giants running game. At first glance, it looked as if Cox had an OK night, taking some short dive plays early for positive yardage, but his late game negative runs skewed the box score a bit in the Vikings’ favor. Cox definitely showed the ability to hit the hole quickly and grind ahead for positive yards; his big losses came on more ill-advised wide running plays that don’t play to Cox’s strength. FB John Conner chipped in with 17 yards on three outlet catches and again showed some burst from the lead back slot, slamming ahead to clear the way for Hillis’ 1-yard 3rd quarter TD plunge. If you do one thing watching these games, pay attention to Conner when he’s the lead on any ISO plays. It is a treat to watch his short area explosiveness in the running game.
Wide Receivers: WR Rueben Randle was the only Giant WR who got on the board, hauling in a 24-yard back shoulder fade from Manning in the 2nd quarter in which he swooped over his defender and made a catch good enough to make you forget his unforced route errors the previous few weeks. Randle finished with 40 yards and only three catches, but he made his longest one count and his first grab was a key 3rd and 3 conversion on a well-run curl route just inside of LB Chad Greenway. Randle, unlike in previous weeks, read the outside coverage correctly and wisely cut his route inside to pick up the first down. It was only eights yards, but a good sign for the second-year wide out that he’s cleaning up the little route misreads he’s made that have resulted in some ugly turnovers. Victor Cruz was again bottled up deep, with the Vikings keenly aware that he has thus far been the Giants only true scoring threat. Cruz’s long was only 13 yards en route to a 50-yard, 5-grab outing. But again, it was enough. Hakeem Nicks, perhaps not wanting to capitalize on a free agent opportunity, let two easy slants bounce right off his foam finger sized hands and saw a sure TD glance off his fingertips on the Giants opening salvo. The 12-15 yard Dig (deep in) route that used to be the staple of this offense when it was pass blocking better has been replaced by the slant and it’s imperative that Nicks pulls those in; it’s becomes the focal point of the offense and opens up the rest of field IF executed well. That repeated failure to secure the ball is killing drives, his free agent bonanza and the final few hair follicles who have the courage to still be on my head. Nicks finished with a very quiet 28 yards on only two catches and just looked plain bad.
Tight Ends: Despite a paucity of talent, the Giants used all three TEs extensively, mostly as extra blockers to slow down the Vikings all-too-predictable and Jon Gruden-belabored A-gap pressures. Give credit to Brandon Myers – he stonewalled DE Jared Allen one-on-one on Eli’s 6-yard first down run early in the game, but finished with only 15 yards on two grabs. Myers did have a key 3rd down conversion on 3rd and 3 on the Giants’ opening drive. Myers was again used in short motion, often up the A-gap to aid the Giants’ struggling interior OL and again it seemed to help Eli have just enough time to make the throws he needed to keep this team alive during the game. Larry Donnell did make a sneaky move downfield as I predicted, but he decided to fall down on an inside route that almost caused an INT on the Giants’ opening drive. Solid edge blocking by Donnell again, and Myers has improved to just below marginal as an in line blocker. Figure Myers to hover around the in-line blocking Mendoza line, if there was such a thing. TE Bear Pascoe had visions of Renaldo Nehemiah, trying to hurdle a defender on his lone reception, but a well-timed helmet to the nether regions brought the former Bulldog down to Earth and down a few octaves from the look of it.
Offensive Line: Hope sprung a tad with C David Baas finally returning to action but a knee injury sidelined the former Wolverine early in the game and his season has mercifully ended this week after another week-in and week-out battle with any joint that dared to pick a fight with Ronnie Barnes and the training staff. C Jim Cordle again acquitted himself pretty well and seems to be settling in a bit at the pivot. Most of the inside pressure was honestly from guards Kevin Boothe and David Diehl simply not getting their hands on their Viking counterparts quickly enough. Cordle more than held his own inside against massive DT Kevin Williams. Despite the hilarious and humiliating one-handed rodeo yank down of Eli Manning, DE Jared Allen was held in check by LT Will Beatty. Beatty wasn’t given much help against the All-Pro DE and he did a great job, that head-shaking sack aside. RT Justin Pugh was so-so, and gave up a few outside pressures, but it was against some seven, eight and nine man fronts that seemed to give the Giants some communication issues up front all night. I have no idea why, but Beatty was lined up at TE next to Pugh on a Michael Cox run that lost five yards behind James Brewer at LT. If that’s not telegraphing a running play…stop…I don’t know what it is…stop. Bad design and awful play, let’s hope Gilbride puts that in his hope chest and never takes it back out.
Defensive Line: Holding MVP Adrian Peterson to 28 yards on 13 carries is something to hang your hat on, but the Giants again came up short in the sack department. Again, credit the DT group of Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson, Linval Joseph and Shaun Rogers, they simply collapsed the middle and didn’t allow Peterson even a glimpse of an opening all evening. With little threat from the passing game, the job was no doubt easier, but stifling Peterson to that extent is impressive no matter how you slice it. It was pressure by Shaun Rogers that forced Freeman into his lone interception; it was also Freeman’s tremendous level of suck but give Rogers the nod here. DE Justin Tuck showed up early with a great inside move to stuff Peterson on the Vikings’ opening drive and pressuring Freeman on a 3rd down one play later. Tuck was active all night, finishing with four stops and a sack, but more importantly, looking motivated and playing with a lot more fire than he has all season.
He’s baaaack..sorta. DE Jason Pierre-Paul again played a little bit better this week, and his trademark hustle appears to be coming back. Lining up mostly at RDE, JPP was stout and active against the run, knifing inside on a dive away from him to bring down Adrian Peterson at the line of scrimmage. Just a play later, JPP helped chase down WR Cordarrelle Patterson and combine with Will Hill to snuff out a 3rd down again just short of the marker. Keep in mind, despite the outcry over JPP’s labanza and his low sack totals, back surgery takes physical and mental hurdles to clear and JPP appears to be on his way to clearing both. It will likely be 2014 before his real ability but each week the former Bull pushes a little bit closer to his old form.
Linebackers: Keith Rivers still stinks, but MLB Jon Beason again provided the fireworks with nine stops and a ton of added energy to the Giants defense. Beason saw fewer snaps on 3rd down than he did a week ago, giving way to Jacquian Williams on occasion and Williams responded with solid coverage and five solo stops of his own. Beason simply injects an energy into this group and the whole defense that has been missing since late in 2012. And no loyal readers (if there are any this week), you aren’t the only one watching and thinking “So THAT’S what a LB looks like”. For good measure Beason tried his own rodeo move, impressively hauling down Adrian Peterson by the wing after it looked like Peterson may have broken through finally. During his time at Oregon, Spencer Paysinger, blah blah blah, I don’t like him.
Defensive Backs: For anyone looking at Antrel Rolle’s cap number and assuming he’s a cap casualty, please picture this deep patrol without his leadership. Rolle was all over the field, finishing with five tackles, a one-handed INT and one near INT on a perfect read of an out route. For good measure, Rolle prevented a Cordarrelle Patterson TD after the former Vol had sprinted to a 69-yard kick return and an almost sure TD until Rolle knocked him off course. S Will Hill chipped in with four stops and was again aggressive, chopping down TE Kyle Rudolph in the open field on a 3rd and 8 that snuffed out a Viking drive 1-yard short of the marker. Hill did it again to whatshisname Patterson a few drives later that again closed out a Viking drive. CB Prince Amukamara threw in five stops and quite frankly was never in any real danger with Josh Freeman at the helm.
Special Teams: Special Teams clearly got sick of giving them the poop stick each week, giving up a punt return TD, fumbling away a punt deep in our own territory and recovering a punt deep inside Vikings territory. P Steve Weatherford was much improved again and appears to be on point again but his directional punt clearly flummoxed the coverage team as almost no one came close to Sherels on his TD return. For good measure Cordarrelle (Ok that’s the third time I’ve had type that ridiculous name…I hate typing that name, try it…it may be THE new leading cause of carpal tunnel syndrome…thanks Mrs. Patterson, name your next kid Max or something) almost returned a kickoff 109 yards. For good measure the Giants’ return teams racked up 50 yards total for the game, or less than Cor (no effing way I’m typing it again)…Patterson’s longest kickoff return. Tom Quinn, your feathered and lethal haircut has run out of cache, you need to go immediately.
Cram it in your Cramhole Award: It has to go to DE Jared Allen for having the nerve to use one oven mitt to drag Eli Manning to the turf around the body of LT Will Beatty. Eli tried to wiggle free a la Super Bowl XLVII, but Virginia Hillbilly Tip of the week…don’t shake hands with a bow hunter or try to escape his grasp in a football game. I don’t know if it’s sitting in a tree blind at 4 a.m. in the freezing cold or hauling their kills by the antlers, but every bow hunter I’ve ever met could crush your hand Robo-Cop style, so go for the high five, or the fist bump, if you don’t mind a hand smelling of deer urine. But please…please don’t shake their hands unless you’re the Six Million Dollar Man, The Terminator or Bob Dole. Honorable Mention to Mrs. Patterson for producing the most un-typable first name in half-baked Giant review history.