New York Giants 24 – Oakland Raiders 20
Game Review: If someone had told you that Cooper, not Peyton or Eli would spur the Giants to a win, you may have slowly backed away from the crazy man. In an ironic twist last Sunday at a blustery MetLife Stadium, it was Cooper (Taylor) playing the hero, Peyton (Hillis) playing the goat and little brother Eli just kind of getting in the way. Heading into week 10, the Giants were on a roll, two in a row, turnover free and slowly stabilizing. With a two game streak, newfound confidence and an antsy home crowd rocking early…the Giants fumbled the opening kickoff, and two plays later the visiting Raiders were up 7-0 on a Terrelle Pryor sneak. Again quickly down 7-0, your Giants took the field on offense with Eli and Peyton in tow, and the two played a game of “who can stink more” on the first possession. Eli missed a wide open Victor Cruz on first down, Hillis genuflected in lieu of a blitz pick up, and our favorite band “The 3 and Outs” were back.
Fortunately for Eli and the “Outs”, the Giants defense pulled on their big boy pants again and stuffed the Raiders’ first possession after 21 yards. Cooper (Taylor) did what Eli and Peyton could not do on the ensuing punt, he found the end zone when he scooped up a Damontre Moore punt block, and sprinted 21 yards to pay dirt, evening the score at 7. The defense again held serve on the next Raiders’ possession, but were back on the field five plays later thanks to a Peyton Hillis fumble on the now dreaded screen pass that gave the Raiduhs the spheroid back at the Giant 21-yard line. Unwilling to let the offense ruin the day, no matter how hard they tried, the Giants’ D rose up again, forcing the Raiders to settle for a 33-yard FG and a 10-7 lead.
After trading punts, the Giants’ offense finally got on track, marching 90 yards in 11 plays with Manning hitting WR Rueben Randle on a 5-yard TD pass and a 14-10 lead. After another hold by the defense, Eli pulled a Peyton and hit CB Tracy Porter in the chest with an INT that was returned for a TD and the Giants trailed 17-14. It was Porter you may recall who sealed a Super Bowl win over Peyton Manning’s Colts with an INT return for a TD. (I refuse to use term Pick Six, Beast Mode or Sick to describe anything football related, unless it makes me physically ill of course). The Raiders opened the second half with the ball and a 3-point lead and embarked on a 74-yard drive that put them at the Giants one-yard line after chewing up half of the 3rd quarter. With a first and goal at the one, the Giants’ defense faced a defining moment and stared their season in the face.
Inside the Game: Down 17-14, facing a Raider first and goal at the 1, the Giants defense may have saved their season. Lining up in an Oklahoma 5-2 (A 4-3 with an OLB lined up in a 2-point DE stance on the weakside) with Rivers lined up as the elephant, or flex DE, the Giants gambled a bit by keeping safeties Antrel Rolle and Will Hill in with Rivers as the extra DL. Against power back Rashad Jennings, giving up the bulk seemed riskier than using an extra DL and run-stuffing safety Ryan Mundy but DC Perry Fewell once again forced the Raiders’ hand. By keeping Rolle on the strong side and Rivers as the weakside boundary defender, Fewell hedged his bet against Pryor getting to the edge and forced the Raiders to go inside. With Jon Beason manning the middle, Fewell gambled that he’d be able to defeat a lead block and Rivers would hold the edge, forcing Jennings to try his luck against JPP, Tuck, DTs Mike Patterson and Linval Joseph. Check and mate to Mr. Fewell, Beason blew up the A gap, Rivers got inside of LT Khalif Barnes and Tuck cleaned up as Patterson and Joseph got low to take out the Raider interior OL. Fewell’s alignment worked on 2nd and goal, with Rivers eyeing the mesh point (the spot where the QB and RB meet on any type of pass/run option) and forcing Pryor to throw into tight coverage against Antrel Rolle. That speed on the edge kept Pryor in check, and forced the Raiders to earn their $14 dollars…the hard way. LT Khalif Barnes jumped on 3rd and 1 and the Giants forced Pryor into an errant 3rd down throw as Jon Beason, Justin Tuck and Jacquian Williams played with outstanding discipline, not leaving their gaps and hemming Pryor in. Antrel Rolle was again in on the play, with tight coverage in the end zone, and the Raiders went from a potential 10-point lead to a much more manageable 20-14 bulge. Excellent strategy down there by Fewell to negate the Raiders’ best player, limit their options and turn the tide of the game.
Down 20-14, Eli again missed Cruz twice, forcing another three-and-out but never fear the defense is here. CB Terrell Thomas continued his game-changing play, intercepting Pryor and rumbling down to the 5 to set the G-Men up for a 1-yard TD plunge by Andre Brown. With a one-point lead, the Giants’ defense forced another three-and-out thanks to another Justin Tuck pressure and errant Pryor pass. After the defense’s goal-line stand, Eli dusted himself off and led the Giants on a 70-yard, 13-play drive that ate up 6:56 and pushed the margin to 24-20 on a 23-yarder by K Josh Brown. Manning hit Hakeem Nicks on a perfectly placed sideline route that got the offense out of a 2nd-and-14 hole, and spurred the offense on its final scoring drive. Up 24-20, the Giants’ defense held yet again (I am NOT getting tired of typing it, seeing it and saying it) and gave the offense the ball at the Raider 44, with a chance to end the game. But that’s not fun enough for Eli and the Outs, and their opening act, the Unspecial Teamers. Defensive heroics be damned, the offense went a pathetic three-and-out (including ANOTHER failed screen pass) and not to be outdone, the special teams gave up a punt block to give the Raiders one more shot to steal a win. Say it with me now….and the defense came up with another big stop, as Mathias Kiwanuka stripped Terrell Pryor, Cullen Jenkins belly flopped on it, and the day was saved despite the offense and special teams’ dogged determination to flub the game away.
Quarterbacks: Ugly stat line, ugly game. 12-of-22 for 140 yards, one TD and one INT. Not quite worth $14 million or whatever he’s being paid, but a win is a win during this head-scratching campaign. Eli Manning again struggled, misfiring on some easy throws that the vet usually hits. Manning badly, badly missed a wide open Peyton Hillis on a 3rd-and-9 and overthrew Cruz on the game’s first throw. In both cases, Manning did the same thing – he threw without getting his plant foot set, didn’t get his hips through the throw and sent both passes sailing. Eli’s 90-yard scoring drive, was in the words of our pal Bruce (BBI’s resident optimist), “vintage Manning.” Manning mixed in play action, hitting all three of his top WRs for 10 plus yard gains and finding Randle on a perfectly placed 3rd-and-goal TD pass. Just as he was feeling good after a 25 yarder on 3rd-and-11, Eli threw a head-scratching pick to CB Tracy Porter who waltzed into the end zone, erasing the Giants’ 90-yard effort with just one errant toss. Eli threw a few darts when he had to, one to Nicks on the Giants’ final drive, the perfect fade to Randle for a TD, a 3rd-and-5 to Cruz and a 3rd-and-1 dump-off to Brown that kept a drive alive. Eli missed badly on a few too, notably a wide-open Cruz on a quick out from the Raiders’ 5 that would have been an easy six points. A few good throws, some very bad and inconsistent mechanics all day long. Good enough for a win though, and right now that’s all that matters.
Running Backs: RB Peyton Hillis, the steadying force of the past two weeks had a rough day. He gave up a safety blitz for a sack on the Giants third play of the day and quite honestly looked like he was checking for a logo on Usama Young’s shoe instead of blocking him. Hillis then coughed up a screen pass and RB Andre Brown took the reins for the day in his return from a broken fibula. Clearly rested, Brown racked up 115 yards and a TD on 30 carries. Brown ran with good power between the tackles, and breathed life into the Giants’ trademark play-action offense. Brown played well, but in reviewing, could have played better with a few quicker reads. But after the layoff, a damn good effort by Brown and another sign of good things to come for this offense that has to find its bearings to be relevant in the NFC East. FB John Conner was again a thumper, leading the way for Brown’s big day with crushing lead after crushing lead. This is the best lead fullback blocking this team has had since Mo Carthon’s reign of terror in the mid-80s. Conner’s blast of CB Charles Woodson gave Brown a wide open lane to dash into the end zone and give the Giants a 21-20 lead they would not relinquish.
Wide Receivers: Rueben Randle led the WRs with 50 yards on three grabs and a TD, including an impressive 25 yarder on a 3rd-and-11 that got the Giants out of the shadow of their own end zone. Hakeem Nicks chipped in with four catches and 49 yards and drawing a pass interference penalty that inched the ball closer on the Giants’ lead-taking drive in the fourth quarter. Nicks’ 25-yarder on the Giants final scoring drive was a tip-toe effort that got the Giants out of a 2nd-and-14 hole, outstanding effort and focus by Nicks with a safety bearing down on him. Victor Cruz was quiet with only 37 yards on three catches, the result of oodles of Cover 2 designed to hem in the Giants’ downfield passing game. The offense is taking fewer shots downfield, the WRs numbers are dipping, but it’s working for now. Before this season ends, the dangerous duo will have to make some game-changing plays if this team hopes to make any noise in the NFC.
Tight Ends: No catches, no yards, no problem. Brandon Myers, Bear Pascoe and Larry Donnell were used as extra FBs, downfield blockers when lined up in the slot and out wide, and decoys that gave Andre Brown just enough room on off-tackle runs to keep the chains moving. Pascoe had an outstanding edge-sealing block on Brown’s TD, and did his usual dirty work on the edge.
Offensive Line: Rough start for the rookie RT Justin Pugh, giving up an early sack on the Giants’ second possession, but Pugh steadied himself and helped pave the way for Andre Brown’s big day. LT Will Beatty gave up an early pressure as well, forcing a Manning underthrow, but like Pugh, he held his own the rest of the day. Despite three sacks, the OL played pretty well, paving the way for a big day on the ground but their blitz recognition was below average on all of the sacks, an unfortunate result of a unit that has not played long enough together. My hat goes off to Jim Cordle again, he’s not pancaking anyone, but he kept rhino-sized DT Pat Sims from getting in Eli’s face and helped lead the way to Andre Brown’s big day. Cordle is by far the player who has improved the most from his first game. He’s gone from liability to steady presence, and has been a pleasant surprise.
Defensive Line: DE Justin Tuck had an uneven day, firing off for several clean shots at Pryor and missing, but forcing enough hurried passes to make up for his maddening run defense. DE Jason Pierre-Paul notched his second sack of the year, but was injured early as he dove to grab Pryor and landed awkwardly on his shoulder. Stay tuned for that injury, because JPP was starting to heat up. And with Shaun Rogers now on IR, the DL is suddenly down two key elements. DT Cullen Jenkins finished with five stops and harassed Pryor inside all day long. Jenkins’ ability to force Pryor to move sooner than he wanted to was a big reason that Pryor struggled throwing all game. He simply had no time to get set thanks to the front seven. With RGIII on the menu twice, the Giants’ DEs had better learn to stop jumping the A gaps when the QB is a running threat. Fortunately for the G-Men, Terrelle Pryor was hobbled a bit. Nevertheless, both Tuck and JPP jumped inside repeatedly on dive fakes only to see Pryor sprint to where they were. It’s been going on for two years now, it’s on film, and it’s easily correctable but for some reason it remains a big, big concern when facing a QB who can get to the edge. Minus DT Shaun Rogers, the Giants gave up one long run inside, but for the most part, Mike Patterson, Linval Joseph and Johnathan Hankins held serve, holding the Raiders to 213 yards of total offense. Not to be forgotten, DE Mathias Kiwanuka attacked the mesh point on a 1st-and-10, dumping Pryor for a 2-yard loss.
Linebackers: Keith Rivers made a big impact, seeing his most action in weeks, responding with 8 tackles and a fourth-quarter sack. Rivers badly missed his gap assignment on the Raiders’ second drive, allowing Pryor to rumble by for a 9-yard gain and a first down, but followed with a great open-field stop on RB Rashad Jennings on the very next play. Rivers had good containment on Pryor on 3rd-and-1 early in the second quarter to force a Raider punt, and applied pressure off the edge to force Pryor into an intentional grounding that put the Raiders in a 2nd-and-30. Yes, I said thirty. Rivers just missed a sack on Pryor that would have ended the Raiders third- quarter scoring drive. But good hustle again from the former Trojan who provided good edge containment for the most part. LB Jacquian Williams had two stops, but one was a big open-field stop of Jennings that dropped the Raiders for a 3-yard loss. For good measure Williams made a perfect read on a fourth-quarter Pryor throw that was nearly an interception – a great read and jump on the ball. Jon Beason only had three stops, but did an excellent job inside taking on lead blocks to allow Rivers and Rolle to flow to the ball and combine for 20 stops.
Defensive Backs: CB Trumaine McBride has been an emergency fill-in at CB during Corey Webster’s injury struggles, and has played well enough to not be noticed – which is the idea for boxing referees and CBs in coverage. CB Prince Amukamara had one gaffe, giving up a long pass to WR Denarius Moore after Pryor was nearly sacked. S Antrel Rolle’s tackle of Rashad Jennings prior to the Giants’ goal-line stand was the biggest play of the day for the former Hurricane on a day filled with them. Rolle dragged Jennings down short of the end zone, and the Raiders had to settle for three, making one Giant TD all that was needed for a victory. Rolle dumped Terrell Pryor on 3rd-and-7 midway through the fourth quarter to snuff out another Raider drive. CB Terrell Thomas came up with a game-changing INT, taking a Pryor pass to the Raider 5-yard line and setting up the go ahead score. There is no player to be more proud of on this team than T2, his resurgence has been nothing short of storybook-ending good. S Will Hill gave up the punt block, sort of, but I’m not asking a 210 lb safety to be the personal protector on the punt team…ever. Bad move by Quinn putting the smallish Hill in there.
Special Teams: Aaaahh mannn..OH MAN! WTH? Ho-boy. That’s a Jernigan fumble, a Moore block and Taylor TD, an inexplicable Rueben Randle punt fielded at the 2-yard line, and some wobbly Steve Weatherford punting. We’re down, we’re up, and we’re down, pretty much the story of the Giants’ special teams this season. Before I rip into that handsome devil Tom Quinn, let it be said that special teams play league wide is atrocious. I refuse to do any real statistical analysis (Google schmoogle), but in watching every Thursday, Sunday and Monday Night games, I have seen an alarming number of STs miscues league wide. If I had to blame anyone, I’d point to the new friendly CBA that severely limits practice time and is reducing the quality of play overall league-wide. DE Damontre Moore’s block was a thing of beauty and Cooper’s quick scoop-and-score gave Giant fans a glimpse of the size-and-speed specimens the two rookies are. Mark Herzlich made the cardinal sin on the punt gaffe, by not starting his progression from the inside out, allowing a huge hole for the Raiders to exploit on an almost disastrous play.
NFLW (NFL for Women): Congratulations to my niece, who recently got engaged, albeit to a Cowboys’ fan. But I will let it slide for now. We’ll call her Niece in VA (NinVA) from now on. NinVA and my wife, Mrs. Joey were NOT talking alternative uniform pants; they were discussing wedding dresses over my strained cries for gap integrity from Justin Tuck. So in true NinVA and Mrs. Joey form, the game was minutes old and they were knee deep in wedding magazines and excessive maid of honor celebrations (I threw a flag for excessive hugging). As I ignored them and tried to watch this debacle, NinVA jumped up and exclaimed…”I just got taco (expletive) on my leggings!” In honor of Richie Incognito’s slur-filled voice mail, I erred on the side of discretion by using expletive instead of the actual word, which may shock my tiny disloyal following. Hint, it rhymes with biz and tacos can’t technically do it.
Cram it in your Cramhole Award: This week’s CiiyCA goes to me for being a day late and way long-winded with this review. The game stunk live, stunk more on DVR and still stinks moments after I deleted it.