Approach to the Game – Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants, October 21, 2013: We could go point by point, up and down the roster and discuss specific problems that are negatively impacting the New York Giants right now. But there are two general, macro issues that if the Giants somehow fix, they will start winning games again:
- The Giants need to start winning the turnover battle.
- The Giants need to get their mojo back.
Both points are intimately connected to Eli Manning, but also have to deal with the rest of the roster as well. Through just six games, the Giants are a dreadful -16 in turnovers. Offensively, the Giants have turned the football over 23 times (16 interceptions and seven fumbles). That’s almost four turnovers per game. You can’t win turning the football over four times a game. On the flip side, the defense isn’t forcing turnovers, accruing only seven. If the Giants stop killing themselves and start winning the turnover battle, they will win games.
Call it mojo. Call it confidence. Call it faith. Whatever you want to call it, but losing nine games in a row (including preseason) has understandably sapped it. Obviously talent matters in sports. And so does coaching. But you can’t win if you don’t believe in yourself, are afraid of making mistakes, or expect the worst. The only way the Giants are going to regain the initiative and start winning games again is if they stop feeling sorry for themselves, get angry, and believe that they can whip the guy on the other side of the football. While the Giants don’t want to play carelessly, they need to stop playing so tight and trying to do everything perfect. Just go out there and play football. After all, when all is said and done, this is just a game. Have some fun out there. You’ll be surprised at how quickly things turn around if the Giants can just get their confidence back.
Giants on Offense: Cutting down turnovers and finding mojo. Calling Mr. Manning. Eli’s 15 interceptions through six games have him on pace for 40 on the year. Eli’s supporters – among them myself – will point to the fact that quite a few of these picks have been the responsibility of the intended target not running the correct route. And they will point to the incredible statistic shared by Kevin Gilbride before the Bears game that 35-of-61 of the Giants’ third-down situations this year have been 11 yards or more. Eleven yards or more!!! Worse, with the chaotic state of the offensive line, opposing defenses don’t always have to blitz to get good pressure on Manning even when max protecting. So Eli is often throwing to a few potential targets with seven dropping into coverage.
That all said, Eli needs to take care of the football. His interceptions have been the difference in too many games this year. Like he did a couple of years ago, he has to make it known to his receivers that if they do not run the correct routes, he won’t throw them the football. He also has to recognize that it is better to take a sack or throw the ball away than force a turnover that not only changes field position, but is incredibly demoralizing to his teammates and the fans in the stadium, whose energy the team needs.
In a nutshell, Eli has to get back to being Eli Manning of old. There is absolutely no reason for him not to be able to regain his old form. Eli, you’re in the prime of your career. You are a two-time Super Bowl MVP who has played in the some of the toughest games in NFL history (see the two NFC Championship Games). Get your shit together. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to play afraid. But you do have to play smart football. Get back to your old self and the Giants will get on a winning streak.
The Vikings’ defense has been surprisingly dreadful this year. They are 31st in yards allowed and 30th in points allowed. Worse for Minnesota, they have also been hard hit by the injury bug in recent games.
The Vikings’ defense has been softer against the pass (29th, 308 yards per game) than the run (17th, 110 yards per game). And they will be without their best player in the secondary, safety Harrison Smith (toe). So if the Giants can give Eli time, he ought to be able to do some serious damage against the Minnesota secondary. A key match-up will be DE Jared Allen versus LT Will Beatty.
The Giants also need to be able to run the ball in order to keep the down-and-distance situations more manageable for the play-callers and Eli. Brandon Jacobs is coming off a strong game and hopefully that continues, but the blockers up front need to create room for him. FB John Conner provided a big lift for the Giants against the Bears as a lead blocker. Conner and Jacobs bring an increased level of physicality to the Giants’ offense, as might Peyton Hillis.
But I really see this game coming down to Eli. He’s got to be the better quarterback on the field. If not, the Giants will lose this game. Get the ball to your play-makers (Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Rueben Randle) against a bad pass defense. I want a huge game from Hakeem. Everyone is talking about how well CB Aqib Talib is playing for the Patriots this year. Well, Talib was Nicks’ bitch in the Tampa game last season, and that was with Nicks playing on one leg. It’s time for Nicks to get his mojo back too.
Giants on Defense: Everyone knows that the key to playing the Vikings is to stop RB Adrian Peterson. He’s as good as there is in the NFL. The good news for the Giants, despite what the statistics show (inflated by QB runs), their run defense has been pretty darn stout, particularly between the tackles. This is where Peterson does most of his damage. With Jon Beason getting his second start inside, combined with the Giants big, strong defensive tackles, I like this match-up for New York.
The wild card is the quarterback change. Newcomer Josh Freeman will get his first start with the Vikings. He is a big quarterback with a strong arm. His main targets will be speedster WR Jerome Simpson, savvy WR Greg Jennings, and Pro Bowl TE Kyle Rudolph.
It is beyond comprehension that the Giants only have five sacks in six games. That puts them on pace for 13 for the entire season!!! Simply put, the ends have to start getting more heat on the quarterback. Give Freeman – or anyone throwing the football – enough time, and they will pick apart any secondary. Jason Pierre-Paul (1 sack) has shown some flashes of coming out of his funk, but again, he’s a guy who needs to get his mojo back. Before the season, Defensive Line Coach Robert Nunn said he had never seen Justin Tuck (0.5 sacks) and Mathias Kiwanuka (1.5 sacks) look as sharp. Tuck talked about his new positive approach and how hard he trained physically for a bounce-back season. Well none of that has translated to the playing field. Tuck hinted on Thursday that some of the problems are scheme-related. That may be partially true, but as Tom Coughlin also said, you have to beat the man in front of you, particularly in one-on-one situations. You can’t scheme around everything. In the end, football is still a mano-a-mano game. Fans have been calling for more of Damontre Moore, but the thus-far injury-prone end has to prove he can stay on the field.
I’d also like to see some more inside pressure. I expected more of an impact from Cullen Jenkins (0.5 sacks) on the pass rush. And Linval Joseph (0.5) doesn’t want to be solely known as a one-dimensional defensive tackle heading into free agency. Mike Patterson has been steady, but I’d start giving Johnathan Hankins more minutes as a reserve. Not only is he the future, but he may offer more pass rush ability.
Limit Peterson on the ground. Get after the quarterback. Force some turnovers.
Giants on Special Teams: WR Cordarrelle Patterson is dangerous on kickoff returns. We haven’t seen PK Josh Brown in a tight spot since his two earlier season misses.