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Dec 262013
 
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Devin Street, Pittsburgh Panthers (November 16, 2013)

Devin Street – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 26, 2013 Bowl Games: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

PITTSBURGH

#15 Devin Street – WR – 6’4/195

Fifth year senior that has missed just 2 games over his career. Street has been the go to receiver for a few years now, and is now ready for the NFL. I can see him being a day two pick and might be considered even higher because of his size, fluidity, and ball skills. He’s an easy mover, easy catcher and can make things happen all over the field. I’m very impressed with the body control and his decision to go back to Pitt for his senior season was a good one. Don’t be surprised to see him sneak in to the end of round one.

#97 Aaron Donald – DT – 6’0/285

One of the most productive players statistically speaking that you will find in this draft class. 60.5 tackles for loss over the past three years, including 26.5 this season alone. Donald is a bit undersized when thinking about the prototypical defensive tackle, but he has freakishly long arms and incredibly strong legs. He’s an active player that plays low with heavy hands. I think he can do well at the next level in the right scheme. He has played every spot along the 3-4 front and if you can get a creative defensive mind to create packages for his unique ability, he can be a difference maker.

#7 Tom Savage – QB – 6’5/230

Savage took a rather complicated path to the position he is in right now. He started off at Rutgers, playing there for two years. He then transferred to Arizona for less than a year, never taking a snap. After sitting out 2012 when he transferred to Pitt, he took over the starting job in 2013 and displayed a lot of NFL-caliber ability. He is a classic pocket passer with a big frame and even bigger arm. He had a few games where he looked like a draft-able player, most notably against Florida State. While his state line was nothing to brag about, I was impressed with his poise and ability to maintain his presence and mechanics under pressure. I also saw his games against Duke and Notre Dame, both performances being something scouts will love to watch. I think he can project as a Charlie Whitehurst-caliber backup at the next level.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#25 Jason Hendricks – S – 6’0/190

BOWLING GREEN

#82 Alex Bayer – TE – 6’4/253

I’ve only seen Bowling Green once in 2013, this I have some catching up to do on Bayer. He is a fifth year senior that has been the starter for three years now. In his matchup against Northern Illinois, he absolutely shined. He shows good hands and good enough speed to get up the seam and split a defense. Against the lower level of competition, his power as a blocker was solid. He is a thick 253 pounds with a strong and athletic lower half. Bayer is a traditional tight end that has a shot at being drafted late day three.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#24 Jerry Gates – S – 5’11/209

UTAH STATE

#58 Tyler Larsen – C – 6’4/312

I saw Larsen twice in 2013. He is widely considered to be one of the top three or four centers in this draft class. Most project him to be taken somewhere in the rounds 3-5 area. I can see why he dominates his level of competition. He is a comfortable 310+ pounds with great athletic ability. He can move laterally and can hang with linebackers in space. He struggles to control defensive linemen, however. While he doesn’t get pushed back, he doesn’t exactly create space with his power, nor does he lock on to defenders and ride them out of plays. I am hesitant to believe he can handle the physical side of NFL defensive tackles right away. I see Larsen as a developmental prospect that could start a couple years down the road.

#1 Nevin Lawson – CB – 5’10/187

I saw a lot of Derek Carr & DeVante Adams (Fresno State) this year, one of the nation’s top QB/WR duos. Lawson had one of the best performances of the entire year against them, and I think he has mid round-potential. Despite being smaller than I like, Lawson is one of the top press corners I’ve seen. Very aggressive jams at the line combined with the ability to quickly turn and accelerate make him a tough matchup for any receiver. Again, being physical in college is almost completely different than what it demands in the NFL, but the foundation is there. I think Lawson can be a player at the next level. At the very least he can be an effective nickel defender.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#28 Joey DeMartino – RB – 5’11/200

NORTHERN ILLINOIS

#15 Jimmie Ward – S – 5’11/192

Fourth year senior, three year starter that has been very productive. Ward is an undersized safety that lacks a physical presence. While he is aggressive and consistently hustles all over the field, he fails to make an impact on the game as a power player. He has made a lot of tackles over the past three years, but he is an ankle diver and won’t send any jolt to the ball carrier. I think he is the kind of defensive back that misses a lot of tackles at the next level, which isn’t the end of the world for his potential but I tend to stay away from safeties like this. As a cover man he man, he has the tools and plays the position like a cornerback sometimes. Very quick feet and agile hips. Diagnoses well and has made some tremendous plays on the ball in the three games I’ve watched. I think Ward ends up going between rounds 3 and 5….I am likely going to have him grade out a bit lower.

#93 Ken Bishop – DT – 6’1/308

Another undersized defender that plays a position that requires a little more power presence than he currently has. Bishop is a fun player to watch though. He has a high motor, always playing amped up and with plenty of aggression. He does a nice job of pursuing down the line and gets in on a lot of action. I think he could be a solid prospect for a team that runs a scheme with bigger bodies playing outside of the guard/tackle gaps. He needs to bulk up his lower half, but I think he is draft-able player late day three.

#6 Jordan Lynch – QB – 6’0/212

Lynch is one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in MAC history when it comes to production and wins. However, I don’t see him making at the next level as a signal caller. I think Lynch has some tools that teams look for when building backfield, however. He is a very good runner with vision and toughness. I think he could be turned in to a Michael Robinson-type fullback that is used for more than just blocking, but also some rushes and short passes. Lynch is a football player, plain and simple. I think if he can throw away the responsibilities a quarterback has to deal with, he can add some weight and be made in to a quality role player.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#79 Matt Krempel – RT – 6’5/307

Dec 242013
 
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Brandin Cooks, Oregon State Beavers (November 23, 2013)

Brandin Cooks – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 24, 2013 Bowl Games: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

BOISE STATE

#65 Matt Paradis – C – 6’3/300

Fifth year senior that made the move to offensive line in year two. Three year starter. I saw one game of his in 2013 and was impressed with the athletic ability at 300 pounds. He looks like a candidate for a zone blocking scheme that likes to have their centers pull out laterally and lead block. He maintains power on the move and should have little issue adjusting to the speed of the NFL. When it comes to one on one blocking against bigger, more physical nose tackles, I think Paradis struggles. I need to see some more tape before making a definitive statement there, however. Late day three prospect.

#78 Charles Leno Jr. – LT – 6’4/298

I only got one look at Leno this year, thus I’ll need to do more work on him in the coming months. I saw him against Washington and took down a few notes. He has a physical presence about him. Very good run blocker at the second level. He struggles in pass protection, however. The further out to the edge he got, the worse he looked. He was losing balance and often reaching for the defender. For his size and the minimal tape I have seen on him, I think he will move to guard at the next level. He has a decent shot at hearing his name called late day three.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#43 Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe – NT – 6’3/300
#48 Kharyee Marshall – OLB – 6’2/240

OREGON STATE

*#7 Brandin Cooks – WR – 5’10/182

Winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top wide receiver. He had a huge year, going for 120/1,670/13 and 31 catches over 20 yards. Statistics aside, Cooks will be one of my top receivers in the class if he decides to forego his senior season. He is such an aggressive, efficient mover that runs outstanding routes. He can run himself open from the slot play in, play out. In addition, he has NFL-ready ball skills. He attacks the ball with his hands and showed the ability to make plenty of tough catches in traffic. It’s impressive to see a receiver at his height win so many one on one battles down the field. He has a lot of Steve Smith in him, especially after gaining 12 pounds of muscle to his frame last offseason. He is a guy that gets it, plain and simple. He’ll be an impact player.

*#95 Scott Crichton – DE – 6’3/265

Fourth year junior that has had a lot of success on the stat sheet but hasn’t impressed me on tape. He has not yet declared, but many think he will. He is a high-energy player that makes a lot of plays based on his relentless pursuit of playing through the whistle. While I love to see that kind of attitude this day and age, I think there is a lack of overall talent here. He has an average burst off the ball and doesn’t do much other than a pure bull rush. He has strong hands and good instincts, but I think he is the kind of player the really struggles to make an impact at the next level. I felt this way about Bjoern Werner (Florida State) last year, and I don’t think it will change between now and then.

#16 Rashaad Reynolds – CB – 5’11/187

Three year starter with good size and speed down the field. Part of the OSU track team in the 60M event. Reynolds is a tools-rich prospect that I think could sneak his way in to the 4th/5th round area. He has sloppy mechanics in man coverage. He backpedals too high without balance and his jams at the line are often soft and uncalculated. But he has the length and speed to attract the scouts eye He has the much-needed fluidity in his hips. In the games I saw, he was avoided by opposing QBs for the most part. Was that by design, or pure coincidence? I’ll try to find that out in the coming months but he has shown enough to prove he can be a player.

#77 Michael Philipp – LT – Oregon State – 6’4/328

4 year starter at left tackle in an offense that throws the ball a ton. Missed all of 2011 because of a torn ACL. Philipp has played at a high level the past two years. While he lacks the ideal length for tackle, I think he can stick there if need be. But where I think his future resides is inside at guard. Very powerful body that plays low and strong, Philipp knows how to move his feet and hips to get himself in to proper position. I’ve seen him struggle with quick lateral movers, which will be an issue in the NFL. With that said, I think he could be an end of day2/early day 3 guy that makes a roster and molds himself in to a starter down the road.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#69 Josh Andrews – LG – 6’3/304
#71 Grant Enger – RG – 6’6/291

Dec 232013
 
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Derrell Johnson (56), East Carolina (October 4, 2012)

Derrell Johnson (#56) – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 23, 2013 Bowl Games: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

EAST CAROLINA 

#56 Derrell Johnson – OLB – 6’2/262

Productive edge talent that caught my eye the one time I saw East Carolina this year. Thick frame with huge legs. Bends well and tries to get under the pads of his opponent. He has strong hands and understands how to get off blocks in a tight space. His issue is a lack of explosion after the snap. He takes too long to change direction and once faced with a stronger offensive lineman, he appears ineffective. Johnson has a good chance at getting drafted however. An edge talent, in a weak edge talent class, with his kind of year and power output will be worth gambling on late day three.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#21 Vintavious Cooper – RB – 5’9/200
#78 Will Simmons – RG – 6’5/342

OHIO 

#18 Travis Carrie – CB – 6’0/212

One of my favorite under-the-radar prospects in the nation. Few will talk about this kid, but I think he sticks in the NFL and ends up being an impact player. Carrie has great size for the position and brings a physical style of play. Despite his thick frame, he can turn his hips with explosion and his feet are light and agile. He shows minimal stiffness in man coverage. I first noticed him early in the year when he matched up against Louisville. He was across from NFL prospects DeVante Parker and Damian Copeland, catching balls from arguably the top QB prospect in the nation Terry Bridgewater. He shined in that game and since then, I’ve made it a point to watch him as much as I could. After missing all of 2012 with a shoulder injury, he came back on fire and seems to really understand the subtle, but vital, nuances to the position. He has top tier intangibles to boot and combining that with what he has on tape leads me to believe he’ll grade out as a top 100 player on my board.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#22 Beau Blankenship – RB – 5’9/206
#3 Donte Foster – WR – 6’1/200

Dec 212013
 
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Khalil Mack, Ohio State Bobcats (November 5, 2013)

Khalil Mack – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 21, 2013 Bowl Games: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

WASHINGTON STATE

#20 Deone Bucannon – S – 6’1/198

Bucannon is one of the most well rounded safeties in the nation. However, few have ever heard his name because of the school he plays for. Make no mistake, this kid is a legit NFL prospect that has starter potential. He is a four year starter that led the team in tackles in 2010, 2012, and 2013 while snagging 14 career interceptions. His playing strength and power are elite for his position. He can close a 10-15 yard window as fast as any safety in the country and he knows how to finish once he reaches the ball carrier. He doesn’t have the ability to turn and run with receivers down the field, but he is a savvy zone defender that can anticipate and pounce. He is an asset against both the run and pass. He has the potential to be a legit day two prospect.

#1 Vince Mayle – WR – 6’3/240

Mayle has one of the more interesting paths to the draft that you will find in 2014. He played basketball for a community college in 2009 and 2010 before sitting out in 2011 because of a family sickness and academic issues. He then proceeded to Sierra College where he dominated for a season, getting him multiple offers from schools around the country. He settled on Mike Leach’s offense at Washington State and has had a solid, but unspectacular year. He didn’t put together any eye-popping games statistically, but I saw some things on tape against California, Arizona State, and Oregon that raised my eyebrows. He has a natural tool set that NFL coaches want to work with. He has a unique ability to high point the football, using his body and timing to his advantage. He lacks the quick twitch that I look for and his ball skills need some work, but he has a few things that cannot be taught nor acquired by others. He is a late round project type that teams will look at when considering adding a versatile weapon to the passing game.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#77 John Fullington – RT – 6’5/301
#6 Damante Horton – CB – 5’10/178
#95 Ioane Gauta – NT – 6’3/285

COLORADO STATE

#70 Weston Richburg – C – 6’4/300

4 Year starter that has played Center, Guard, and Tackle with the most of them being at Center. Richburg is a good mover that can be attractive to teams that like to move their interior linemen laterally. He is an all out hustler that will play through the whistle for the entire game, every week. He lacks the ideal tools and doesn’t display a lot of ability but he produces and gets the job done. He’ll need more power and girth before he can handle the NFL defenders, making him a late round/UDFA prospect. Teams like guys in the wings that can play multiple spots and have the frame for more comfortable weight. Those will help him in his grading process.

Shaquil Barrett – OLB – 6’2/250

4th year senior that exploded on to the scene in 2013 with 20.5 TFL and 12 sacks. I saw him play against Alabama and Utah State and his ability to disrupt the opposing passing game is legit. He is strong and explosive and plays with a low center of gravity, making him a tough block for any kind of offensive lineman. He understands how to play the game with his hands and feet. He lacks the ideal length and size for the edge and won’t jump off the tape when it comes to speed and agility. But I think Barrett is a prospect worth taking late in the draft and seeing if he can develop in to a situation player against the pass. In a draft class that lacks depth at the pass rushing positions, Barrett could surprise some and be taken in the middle rounds.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#10 Crockett Gilmore – TE – 6’6/255
#78 Jared Blair – RT – 6’7/315

FRESNO STATE

#4 Derek Carr – QB – 6’3/218

Three year starter that has a legit shot at being the first overall selection. From what I’ve seen in 5 games, Carr has the best arm talent of any quarterback in this upcoming class. The power and accuracy are there, but what stood out to me in studying his tape was the ability to maintain that accuracy with altered arm angles depending on what was going on around him. He has great athletic ability within the pocket and understands how to avoid the pressure. Carr is a fiery athlete that is constantly praised for his leadership and toughness. The brother of former number one overall pick David, Carr comes from a strong football background and you have to think he has it all together between the ears. Combine that with some elite throwing ability and big time production, Carr has the opportunity to be a big time player at the next level.

*#15 Davante Adams – WR – 6’2/215

Redshirt sophomore that appears to be all but declared for the 201 Draft. Has had two monster years statistically in Fresno State’s pass-happy offense. He has been the go-to guy for Derek Carr over the past two seasons, showing the ability to make tough catches against single coverage down the field as well as dynamic run-after-the-catch skills. He has long speed but can make guys miss with quick cuts a decisive movement. There is a lot to like here and he is one of the receivers in this class that has Pro-Bowl potential. However his lack of physical play and hustle stood out to me. Little-to-no effort as a blocker in a scheme filled with screen plays and a lack of willingness to get after it with safeties bearing down on him stick out in my mind. Can he handle the physical side of the NFL? Speed helps but it will only go so far. Likely a second day pick should he come out.

#89 Marcel Jensen – TE – 6’6/270

2 year starter. At first glance, most will think Jensen played the role of the blocking tight end for Fresno State. But he was far from a single-role player and I think there will be several teams attracted to his potential. He’s tall, thick, strong, and has surprising speed up the seam. He can be a tough guy to cover and even tougher to bring down in the open field. His production won’t jump out at you but keep in mind the scheme he played which was very wide receiver-friendly. The upcoming months will be huge for Jensen. He needs to show he can start with his hand in the dirt and effectively control a defender at the point of attack. His athleticism and receiving skills are on tape, but the other nuances to the tight end position need to be worked on. I view Jensen as a mid rounder at the moment but this tight end class as a whole has a ton of question marks. Jensen has a legit shot at being a day two pick.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#1 Isaiah Burse – WR – 6’0/187
#72 Austin Wentworth – LT – 6’5/306

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

*#9 Marqise Lee – WR – 6’0/195

Lee is a classic “used to be overrated, but is now underrated” story. His career got off to a special start, especially in 2012 when he went 118/1,721/14 while nearly averaging 30 yards per kick return. He was being discussed as a top 5 pick prior to the 2013 season but inconsistent QB play and a knee sprain has put him in to the shadows of some receivers that simply don’t grade out the way he does. Lee has elite acceleration and agility. He has shown the ability to run away from defensive backs once he gets the ball in his hands. He can also run pro-caliber routes and run himself open all over the route tree. He is an every down weapon that can fill multiple roles within the passing and return games. His knee will have to check out in the coming months, but expect to see him taken somewhere in the first round, most likely in the top 20.

#25 Silas Redd – RB – 5’10/200

Well known for his transfer from Penn State to USC following the 2011 season as a result of the Sandusky scandal. Came to USC with high expectations after a promising start to his career, but has failed to stand out among a crowded USC backfield. He has had injuries to both knees over the past year but neither has been too serious. On tape, Redd doesn’t stand out in any facet of the game but he is a solid all around back. He is decisive and can locate running lanes quickly. He may be best suited for a zone-blocking scheme because of that. He lacks game breaking speed and doesn’t break a lot of tackles. That’s a tough combination to work with in the NFL. Some believe he still has some untapped upside that is worth gambling on later in the draft.

#77 Kevin Graf – RT – 6’6/295

Fifth year senior that has been starting since 2011 at right tackle. Has come a long way since his freshman year. Has developed big time weight room strength and has the frame for more bulk. He will need it before he can handle the physical side of the NFL trenches. Graf doesn’t make it look pretty, but he gets the job done more often than not. He is a hard nosed, gritty player that can move his feet and keep himself between the defender and the ball carrier. As a pass blocker, he doesn’t reach the edge well and lacks controlling power in his hands. I don’t see a lot of upside here so if Graf gets drafted at all, it will be late.

*#18 Dion Bailey – S – 6’0/200

Third year junior that has not yet declared, but I think he will. While I scouted safety TJ McDonald last year (71st overall selection by St. Louis), Bailey was a guy hat kept jumping out at me. He is nicely put together and has the blend of size, speed, and power that you want in a guy in the middle of the secondary. He defends the run well but can also turn his hips and cover receivers one on one. I think there is an upside here that a lot of safety prospects don’t have. If he comes out, I think he could be a day two pick.

*#90 George Uko – DT – 6’3/295

Another junior that hasn’t declared yet. Personally, I think he should return to USC for his senior season because he has the tools to be a very good player, but has yet to put a lot of quality tape out there for scouts. Uko is a long and almost slender 295. The frame is there for more bulk and combining that with his athletic ability, most notable speed and explosion, he can be molded in to a first round caliber player. The one thing he lacks the most is the ability to anchor himself in to the ground against double teams. Too often was he knocked back a few yards. He can rush the passer and disrupt the backfield though. Very good hands and feet allow him to win a lot of one on one battles throughout a game. Right now I see him as a 4th/5th rounder with enormous upside.

#42 Devon Kennard – OLB – 6’3/255

Coming in to 2013, the one thing Kennard had to prove was that he was at least capable of playing an entire season at one position while maintaining a starting spot. He has been bounced around from defensive end, to middle linebacker, to outside linebacker, and back to defensive end. In addition, he has a long list of serious injuries in his past including torn knee ligaments, torn cartilage in his hip, a torn pectoral muscle (forced him to miss all of 2012), and a thumb injury that required surgery. There is a lot to look in to with Kennard, but at the end of the day he has had an impressive 2013 campaign. He is physical player that has good power presence and range as a run defender. He gets off blocks well and can close a gap with speed and explosion. Kennard won’t test out in workouts exceptionally well nor does he jump off the tape but I liked what I saw in what was his first real complete season since 2011. Edge players with potential always get a second look and I think some 3-4 fronts will look at him late in day three.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#24 Demetrius Wright – S – 6’1/295
#4 Torin Harris – CB – 6’0/190

BUFFALO

#46 Khalil Mack – OLB – 6’3/248

One of the best players to ever come out of the University of Buffalo. Has 75 TFL for his career, which is tied the NCAA all time record. Mack has played the hybrid OLB/DE role over his four year career and developed in to a potential top 10 pick in 2014. Mack has the short area burst/explosion that you almost always see in the elite edge rushers in the NFL. In addition to that, he has a strong base that bends well with light feet and heavy hands. Those tools combined with his ability to use a wide variety of rush moves leads me to believe he will be highly sought after on day one of the draft. This is a class without a lot of edge rushing talent, thus there could be a lot of teams looking to gamble on him earlier than you would think. He is coming from a lower level of college football and he may need some more power output before he can be thrown in to the NFL trenches, but his upside is enormous. I see some Cameron Wake in him down the road.

#32 Branden Oliver – RB – 5’8/208

Under the radar prospect based on the lower level of college football and his size. I watched Oliver four times this year and I simply can’t ignore him. He is a hard nosed runner that is tough to tackle. I compare him to another overlooked back (for the same reasons) that I really liked coming out of Western Kentucky 2012, Bobby Rainey. Oliver runs with a similar style where he can diagnose running lanes before they really open up and has the burst to sneak through them. His low center of gravity is used to his advantage and he will surprise some with his willingness to lower his shoulder and break tackles. Oliver finished the season among the nation’s leading rushers despite missing one game early in the year. I think his performance has pushed him in to late round consideration.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#19 Alex Neutz – WR – 6’3/205
#34 Colby Way – DE – 6’4/293
#30 Okoye Houston – S – 6’0/209

SAN DIEGO STATE

#27 Eric Pinkins – S – 6’3/215

Some believe that Nat Berhe is the only draft-able player on this team, but I think Pinkins has a better shot at having his name called. Pinkins plays a lot of safety, but I saw him play a good amount of CB in two games this year and I liked what I saw. Pretty fluid hips and solid press coverage at this size can open eyes when scouts are looking for developmental defensive backs. The pre-draft process will be very important for him.

#78 Bryce Quigley – LT – 6’5/300

Well balanced athlete with the length and frame to be a developmental guy for the offensive line. I really like Quigley’s technique and understanding of mechanics. He almost always seems to be in the right position. The learning curve for him at the next level will be less mental, more physical. That is a safer gamble more often than not when drafting guys in the later rounds.

Potential UDFA to Look For

#20 Nat Berhe – S – 5’10/200

TULANE

#3 Ryan Grant – WR – 6’0/191

I have only seen Tulane once this year, hoping to get another couple tapes in the coming months. Grant is a quick, easy change of direction guy that can make things happen after the catch. He lacks the size/speed that you look for in an ideal NFL prospect, but he has a good chance to stick somewhere. Good hands and good routes from what I saw. Looking forward to seeing another game of his tonight.

#19 Cairo Santos – K – 5’8/160

I don’t scout kickers but Santos is considered to be the top, if not one of the top kickers in this draft class.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#26 Orleans Darkwa – RB – 6’0/210

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#34 Justin Anderson – LB – 6’2/235

Dec 052013
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 1, 2013)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 24 – Washington Redskins 17

by Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Review: The ever annoying “Redskin” name controversy will not dominate this attempt to re-cap, but in case anyone forgot the original lyrical part that was changed because it was…too offensive, I present the honorable, Native American heritage-honoring fight song of the very politically-aware Washington Redskins, who I will refer to as the potatoes, as in Redskin potatoes. Typing that word repeatedly stirs every ounce of dark-side hatred that I possess, and I fear it will be too much strain. It’s not an attempt at humor – it’s a sobering reminder of how much disdain that team deserves.

Scalp ‘em, swamp ‘um

We will take ‘um big score

Read ‘um, Weep ‘um, touchdown

We want heap more

I got a heap more for you, but it’s in a joyous recap of the Giants 24-17 vanquishing of the mighty Potatoes and the Chris Collinsworth’s new man-crush RGIII. Early on RGIII looked as good as Collinsworth slobbered about, leading the Potatoes to a 14-0 lead on the heels of an up-tempo attack aimed at negating the Giants’ pass rush and exposing a MASH unit masquerading as the Giants left cornerback spot. The approach caught the Giants flat footed as the Potatoes, for the first time all year, scored on their opening possession on a 14-play 73-yard drive that ended with an Alfred Morris 1-yard TD plunge. Eli Manning got his first crack at answering the bell but a Brian Orakpo (The MS Word Dictionary’s suggestion for Orakpo is Crapo, just in case you were wondering) sack forced an ugly three-and-out. After exchanging punts, the Potatoes doubled their lead to 14-0 on a 19-yard pass from Griffin to the Brawny Paper Towel guy (Logan Paulsen – it even sounds woodsy) to wrap up a 59-yard march that ate just over 4 minutes of clock.

As the second quarter unfolded, Peyton Hillis was dusted off and the bruising former Razorback ran twice, for 8 and 27 yards on back-to-back runs to get the G-Men to the Potato 30. Andre Brown covered the final 30 yards in two plays, and just like that the Giants were awake and ready to respond. Two Potato and one Giant punts later, Eli Manning awoke from a season-long slumber, going 6-fo- 6 on a 9-play, 81-yard drive that tied the score at 14 going into the second half.

After trading punts yet again, the Potatoes caught a break when Eli Manning tossed interception number 18 on the year to S Brandon Meriweather, whose 32-yard return had the Potatoes knocking on the door again with a 1st-and-10 from the 12-yard line. As they have all year, the Giant defense tightened up, pushing the Potato drive back three yards and forcing RGIII and company to settle for a Kai Forbath field goal and a 17-14 edge. The teams again traded three-and-outs, but a Sav Rocca fumble and subsequent 18-yard punt put the G-Men in business at the Tater 46. Four plays later, Andre Brown gave the Giants a 21-17 lead that they would not relinquish. Josh Brown would add to that lead on the heels of a 40-yard drive late in the fourth quarter, but at 24-17 the Potatoes had life until S Will Hill stripped WR Pierre Garcon and sealed the victory for the visitors. The controversy surrounding the final plays have been beaten to a pulp, and the bottom line is that Will Hill stole the football and the Giants won the game, regardless of what down it was, should-have-been or would-have-been.

Inside the Game: Hands, it’s that simple. Proper hand placement and keeping their legs free from the cut-blocking Redskin zone-blocking scheme, was the difference for the Giants’ defensive line. After being gutted by Alfred Morris last year, the Giants’ DL simply had to do one thing to slow down the Redskins’ running game, keep the offensive line from creating lanes and getting to the second level. What makes the zone-blocking scheme that the ironically red-faced Mike Shanahan employs so successful is its ability to create cut-back lanes as opposed to trying to create one hole the defense can focus on. As the zone runs unfold, the offensive linemen move in unison laterally, and use the DL’s own momentum against them to quickly create running lanes. The way to stop it from a technique standpoint is to “play big”. Defensive linemen often want to play skinny, twisting and turning to knife between blockers to get into the backfield, but against the zone runs, that plays right into the offense’s hands. To play big, you extend your arms and keep a wide base, using your hands to keep the OL at arm’s length as you move laterally, taking up as much room as you can in your assigned gap. Controlling those gaps is essential to slowing down the zone runs, and the Giants’ DL did an exceptional job all night of playing big, staying square and maintaining gap integrity, giving the DBs and LBs clean lanes to fill in run support. Credit DL Coach Robert Nunn and Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell for fixing what didn’t work against Morris in 2012, and completely stuffing the rushing champ from a year ago. 

Quarterbacks: Eli Manning was like a Phoenix…rising from Arizona. Manning’s clunker of a season was a thing of the past on Sunday, as the vet cobbled together a 22-for-28 day passing for 235 yards, 1 TD and of course 1 INT just to keep things interesting. The Giant signal caller was again harassed all game, mostly by OLB Brian Orakpo, and the offense started slowly, but Manning caught fire (not literally, that would be rather dangerous) late in the 2nd quarter, going 6-for-6 on an 81-yard drive that tied the game at 14. Eli just missed Victor Cruz on a deep option-route that had a shot to go the distance, but give credit to LB Perry Riley, who had solid coverage and slowed Cruz just enough to prevent the big play. Manning’s interception came with five minutes left in the 3rd quarter; the ball glanced off of WR Rueben Randle’s fingertips and into the arms of Mr. Cheapshot, Brandon Meriweather. Manning never had room to step into the throw with Orakpo bearing down on him, chalk that one up to Will Beatty, not Manning. As he is wont to do, Manning shrugged it off and led his team to two more scoring drives in the second half, zipping the ball to Myers and Cruz en route to a 21-17 lead, and eventually a 24-17 victory.

Running Backs: RB Peyton Hillis gave the running game a little shot in the arm, with 45 yards on six carries, including a 27-yard run that looked like the play that gave the Giants life. Hillis bulled over Brandon Meriweather and rumbled past picture-perfect blocks by TE Brandon Myers and RT Justin Pugh and it ignited the entire offense. Andre Brown followed suit, rumbling right for a 23-yard TD run behind another bone crunching lead block by FB John Conner. Hillis and Brown only piled up 20 carries between them for 80 yards, but both had long runs that woke up the offense and kept the defense honest enough for Eli and company to come away with a win.

Wide Receivers: WR Hakeem Nicks made a drive-saving catch on the Giants’ game-tying drive, but was mostly quiet with only 34 yards on two grabs. Victor Cruz, who has fricasseed the Potatoes regularly, was clearly bracketed and held to 80 yards on six catches. But Cruz was able to give the Giants solid intermediate yardage and a reliable target when the defense was hell bent on preventing the deep ball. Cruz was instrumental in the Giants’ lead-taking drive as the 4th quarter opened, hauling in a 19-yarder that put the G-Men at the Potato 1-yard line.

Tight Ends: TE Brandon Myers continues to play better every week, in both phases of the game. Myers nabbed five Manning offerings for 61 yards and a touchdown, and is consistently holding his ground in the running game after a very poor start to the season in the blocking department. Myers’ 22-yard grab on a perfectly run seam route knotted the score at 14. Myers’ ability to make teams pay down the middle for selling out to stop Cruz has been a big difference in the past few weeks. With Nicks struggling and Randle still battling inconsistency on occasion, Myers’ ability to make plays and be that other threat will have to play a big role if the Giants make anything of this head scratching 2013 campaign.

Offensive Line: LT Will Beatty’s Jekyll-and-Hyde season continued. Beatty was beaten cleanly on the Giants’ first play and made it a habit most of the night. Manning’s struggles, a few errant passes and his lone INT were 100% the result of just flat out bad play by Beatty. Putrid game for Beatty, and quite frankly unacceptable given his age, experience and shiny new contract. The right-side tandem of Justin Pugh and David Diehl appear to have figured out how to operate a little better, leading the way on the Giants’ biggest runs of the night by Hillis and Brown. The reliability of the right side in the running game is giving the Giants a go-to play when things are not going well, and for the third week in a row they have given opponents fits on outside runs. C Kevin Boothe, moving in for the injured Jim Cordle, had a strong game and helped pave the way on Hillis’ 27-yard run and Browns’ 23-yard TD scoot. LG James Brewer had a solid outing as well, no big hiccups and solid run blocking most of the night.

Defensive Line: When you hold the league’s leading ball carrier to 26 yards on 11 plays on the #1 rushing team in football, you’re clearly doing plenty right. As they have all season, the Giants’ DL, simply put, owned the line of scrimmage and imposed their will on the Potato running game, even without the resurgent Jason Pierre-Paul who was sidelined with a shoulder injury. DE Justin Tuck tallied four sacks and was an anchor against the run all night long. Tuck’s trademark stack-and-shedding was back in full force, as the former Golden Domer controlled his side of the field with picture perfect run technique, shoulders square, outside arm free and moving laterally until the runner commits. Hats off to #91, who has been criticized here when he looked disinterested, but on Sunday night, Tuck clearly was at his best. Tuck’s sack from DT late in the 3rd quarter was a thing of beauty as he dipped his shoulder, leaned outside and forced G Chris Chester to follow. Tuck redirected and blew past him, dropping Collinsworth’s new girlfriend on 3rd down. DE Mathias Kiwanuka chased the dive fake all game long, giving RGIII a free running lane seemingly all night long. Not a read-option went by without #94 jumping the A gap as RGIII dashed past him. It has to be by design, no one simply misplays the option that many times without being told to do so. DTs Linval Joseph, Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and Jonathan Hankins were superb play in and play out. The quartet had one mission, keep the LBs clean, control your gap and force the Potatoes to beat them with someone other than RB Alfred Morris. Rookie DE Damontre Moore wasn’t as bad as initially thought, a few decent pressures, but not much to write home about yet for the former Aggie.

Linebackers:  Jon Beason started the game with a thump, launching RGIII about five yards backwards on a 4th and 1 that shockingly got a good spot for the home team. Beason was again a tackling machine, finishing with 17 stops and making life miserable for anyone who ventured near him. Spencer Paysinger got the nod over Jacquian Williams, which I think was silly honestly. Granted Paysinger is a bigger body in there against the run, but Williams has been playing well in both phases and he certainly hasn’t looked like a liability in the running game. Paysinger played solidly though, not a knock on him starting at all, but sitting Williams is a head-scratcher. Keith Rivers, you no longer stink, I apologize for being mean earlier in the year, please be my friend again. The former Trojan chipped in again with seven stops, often lining up in the 5-2 as the flex DL, in an effort to hem in the running game which again worked to perfection.

Defensive Backs: A bit of a struggle against the no huddle, and with Giant LBs focusing on shutting down the run, the DBs were challenged all night. Minus CBs Corey Webster, Aaron Ross and Trumaine McBride, the Giants turned to the little-used, oft-injured CB Jayron Hosley who responded with a strong outing. S Antrel Rolle got in on the Griffin launching, knocking the whiny QB off his feet as he tried to block on a reverse early in the game. Rolle planted TE Fred Davis early in the second quarter to prevent a 2nd down gain from potentially going much farther had Rolle not come up and made the stop. It was a very physical game from the former Hurricane, who also shot into the backfield to drop Morris for a 3-yard loss midway through the 2nd quarter. S Will Hill finished with five stops, but most importantly, one strip of Pierre Garcon that sealed the game. Hill and Rolle have quietly become as good a safety tandem as the Giants have maybe ever had. Hill’s ability to erase the deep ball, come up in run support and be a physical presence all over the field have been a big part of this defense’s surge. Jon Beason certainly gets all the attention, but don’t discount the fact that since Hill came back, this defense has made a huge jump. CB Prince Amukamara just missed an INT in the end zone, and generally played well, nothing majorly good or bad out of the former Husker.

Special Teams: Nothing to complain about from this bunch, P Steve Weatherford again punted well, averaging 42 yards (net) with a booming long of 62 yards.

NFLW (NFL for Women): I changed up the routine and watched with the man who forced me into Giant fandom, Dad in VA. Mrs. Joey got the night off and NinVA was busy celebrating a birthday so I made my way to the folks’ house for free food, a TV that was way too loud and an array of comments that simply cannot be reprinted on a family website. The head-scratching quote of the game was courtesy of Dad in VA, who after hearing me praise Zak DeOssie for years of dependable long snapping replied…”Well he’s not as good as Hostetler was.”  At what, I’m not sure, I’m assuming he means at QB but it was late and the booze was flowing so who knows.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award:  I will simply let the quotes from NBC color man Chris Collinsworth stand on their own merit, no need to explain why he gets the award. The following will illustrate just how well-deserved it was this week.

 This is just fantastic by the Redskins.

The Redskins are ready for prime time action.

He deserves to get up from something like that after the week he’s had.

I think the improvement on this team is noticeable.

RGIII looks like he’s having a flashback to Baylor, this has just been absolutely brilliant and they’re doing it without TE Jordan Reed.

How good has RGIII been, he’s been absolutely perfect, it has been something special.

Never a doubt about RGIII and that arm strength. He uncorked a few 80 yarders in practice.

I’m really seeing a calm in the pocket, I’m telling you on almost every play so far he’s going to one, two three looks, that’s what Tom Brady and Peyton Manning do.

His greatness has not been captured yet. He’s been brilliant and my favorite part about it is watching him scan the field, look around and find who’s open.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Washington Redskins, December 1, 2013)
Nov 192013
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 17, 2013)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 27 – Green Bay Packers 13

by Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Review: “The Autumn Wind is a pirate, Blustering in from sea, With a rollicking song, he sweeps along, Swaggering boisterously.” NFL Films legend Steve Sabol penned the legendary (in NFL nerd circles) poem “The Autumn Wind” in 1974, and 39 years after its unveiling it rang eerily true around the league. On a blustery November day that ushered in violent atmospheric upheaval around the country, the Giants continued to sweep along, and may have finally found their swagger in time for a playoff run. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin talked about all three phases needing to play well for this team to continue its upward surge after a head scratching, coach firing, Jerry Reese mocking 0-6 start to this now more interesting 2013 season. It was by no means perfect, there were passing game hiccups, missed blitz assignments and a few too many deep balls allowed but as the Autumn Wind did its worst, the Giants were still standing, ready to face the coming cold.

Andre Brown’s first two carries netted -4 yards, Eli Manning’s 17-yard first down conversion run was negated by a Justin Pugh personal foul, and six plays into their tilt against the visiting Packers, the Giants looked like an 0-6 team again. Right on cue though, the veteran defense manned the wheel and forced a quick three-and-out against a struggling Packer offense. Jump started by Rueben Randle’s ensuing 32-yard punt return, Eli Manning moved his charges 42 yards in five plays and jumped out to a 7-0 lead courtesy of a 26-yard Manning to Randle touchdown pass. Without all world QB Aaron Rodgers, and unable to get rookie RB Eddie Lacy going, the Packers went three-and-out again and handed the ball right back to the home team. Eleven plays later, the lead grew to 10 at the end of a drive that saw Manning convert a 3rd-and-7 to Victor Cruz and a Brandon Jacobs 4th-and-1 plunge that was a portend of the physical style this Giants team is embracing to overpower their opponents.

Unable to move the ball on the ground as the second quarter unfolded, Packer QB Scott Tolzien took to the air and moved his team 70 yards on back-to-back passes to Jordy Nelson and James Jones, who got an inside track on CB Prince Amukamara to get his team to the Giant 12-yard line. Determined to help their young signal caller out, Mike McCarthy’s Pack went back to the ground game and were thumped on consecutive James Starks runs by DE Jason Pierre Paul. JPP’s back-to-back stuffs held the drive at bay, and Mason Crosby put the cheeseheads on the board with a 24-yard boot that cut the Giant lead to 10-3. Looking to extend their lead, the Giants then marched 74 yards in 11 plays, but a poor route by the little used Louis Murphy led to Manning’s 17th INT of the year and a few questions about why WR Hakeem Nicks removed himself from the game. After trading punts, the Pack moved 24 yards in 4 plays and used a 57-yard Crosby moonshot to pull within four at the half. After careful made-up analysis, our team determined that Crosby’s kick would have been good from 157 yards, which may or may not be some kind of record.

As the second half opened, Lacy struggled for two yards on three carries and Tolzien was again forced to wing it. MLB Jon Beason leapt into Tolzien’s passing lane for the interception and charged downfield for a violent 9-yard return. With the rock now at midfield, Manning quickly found Hakeem Nicks for 35 yards and four plays later Josh Brown added a 28-yarder to push the G-Men ahead 13-6. Unable to get Lacy going, the Packers went to a shorter passing game in lieu of running into the teeth of the Giant DL and moved 50 yards in eight plays, stalling out at the Giant 48. After a Louis Murphy penalty on a 4th-and-12 punt, McCarthy rolled the dice with a fake, but LB Spencer Paysinger made a stop just short of the line to gain and with 6:32 left in the third quarter, Eli and the offense began to salt the game away. A 63-yard, 10-play drive that ate up over six minutes was spurred by two big third-down conversions from Manning to Cruz and then TE Brandon Myers. Brandon Jacobs did the clean-up work, pushing over left guard for a 1-yard TD and a 20-6 lead. Tolzien, now down 14, took to the air again and hit Jordy Nelson for 18 and Jarrett Boykin for 52 and 83 yards later the Packers trimmed the lead to just a TD.

Up just seven points as the fourth quarter opened, the Giants did something truly astounding, they gained 12 yards on a screen pass. The drive went just three plays and netted -4 yards but they completed a screen pass. No INT, no fumble, no disaster, actual yardage (I recommend playing the lottery this week if your last name rhymes with Milbride). Mike McCarthy’s goal of ending his second-half offensive drives in every way possible (one INT, one fake punt failure, one TD, one punt and one INT return for a TD) played right into the Giants hands. Up 20-13 and unable to move the ball, the Giants again looked to their defense and it was JPP bailing them out. With the ball at the Green Bay 30, Tolzien dropped back and wound up, JPP read the play, leapt up and snared the ball, rumbling to the end zone and putting the Giants up 27-13. The teams traded punts again and the Packers last gasp was thwarted by who else, S Antrel Rolle, who snatched the third INT of the day and notched a fourth straight win for suddenly rollicking Giants.

Inside the Game: Despite giving up 339 yards passing and five plays of over 20 yards, the Giants’ defense again was the catalyst for victory for the second week in a row. And again the LBs were at the heart of the formula. Give JPP credit for his TD, it was a thing of athletic beauty, and yes Justin Tuck, Kiwi, Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson put heat on Scott Tolzien but it was your LB corps that made this formula work again…something NO ONE would have guessed about five weeks ago. Correctly assuming that RB Eddie Lacy would be the way that Packer coach Mike McCarthy would help a struggling offense, Perry Fewell again deployed a defense with the sole intention of sealing Lacy and RB James Starks off and forcing Scott Tolzien to win the game on his own. No funny tricks, no complicated coverages, just “Let’s line up and see who hits harder.” Fewell opened the game again with a 5-2 Okie front, utilizing LB Keith Rivers as his flexed DL as S Will Hill knifed into the backfield to stop rookie RB Eddie Lacy for a 3-yard gain. Starting LBs Rivers, Jon Beason and Jacquian Williams all played with a timing and rhythm that has become the norm during the defense’s resurgence. The improved coordination between those three (and Spencer Paysinger in some sub packages) has been making a huge impact in controlling opponents’ running games. At the snap, keep your eyes on the trio – they move as one laterally as the play unfolds, only attacking upfield when the runner has picked a gap, almost completely eliminating cut-back and second-chance runs that have gashed this defense in the past two years. The trio combined for 17 stops and an interception, but most importantly, filled their run gaps with precision and stifled Eddie Lacy and the Packers running game to 55 total yards and a 2.8 yard per carry average. The second level of this defense, the one most maligned prior to Beason’s arrival, has become the glue between a talented front four and a secondary with more than enough talent to combat just about every passing game this team has faced and will face. I’ve been rough on Fewell, but with Beason’s arrival, he has this defense humming. Credit Beason’s versatility, physicality and just plain high energy for the sudden and impressive resurgence of this once lost group of LBs. All three levels of this defense have impact players now, all three are playing together and it may spell trouble for the NFC East as the wind turns colder.

Quarterbacks: “I’m coming to getcha, I’m coming to getcha, Spittin’ out lyrics, homie I’ll wetcha.” I can’t verify that Eli Manning was quoting “Jump Around” (nor can you disprove it) as he found his bearings, but in four weeks Eli has turned MetLife from a House of Pain to a house of not too shabby. A solid outing (unless you’re in Dallas or Washington and have to face this ornery bunch) for Eli who finished with 279 yards, one TD and another INT. With an improved running attack and creative blocking schemes up front, Manning had more time to get the ball downfield, completing passes of 30, 35 and 26 yards to his big WR trio. His best pass of the day was a rifle shot to Cruz on a 3rd-and-7 that went for 30 yards. No long Cruz or Nicks TDs, but after pulling in the reins for weeks, Manning pushed the envelope more than he has recently, and was able to make up for Andre Brown’s modest 66-yard day against an enormous Packer front seven. Eli did miss a wide open Bear Pascoe, but he had to have been just as shocked as anyone to see Pascoe very slowly running free down the left sideline. You won’t find it on a stat sheet, but Eli just looked more comfortable and threw with more authority than he has in weeks. Credit Kevin Gilbride, TE coach Mike Pope, running back coach Jerald Ingram and OL coach Pat Flaherty with really shoring up the OL with their series of RB and TE chips, motions and blitz pick up schemes. Manning in turn seems more comfortable in the pocket, is stepping into his throws a little more and is slowly starting to trust his move ’em out gang enough to start getting back to doing what he does best, torturing teams with Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks down the field. Slowly but surely the signal caller is returning to form, I wouldn’t be shocked to see this offense explode in the next month.

Running Backs: Tough sledding all day for Andre Brown, who only managed 66 yards on 18 carries, but the threat he presents is forcing defenses to play a little closer to the line of scrimmage which is slowly opening up the downfield passing lanes. Brown missed two catchable passes from Manning on outlet passes, but pass blocked well and did enough to keep the defense honest. Brandon Jacobs notched his 60th career TD and only had nine yards on five carries, but two of those key 4th-and-1 conversions. Again, it’s not something visible on a stat sheet, but Jacobs presence combined with FB John Conner’s knee-buckling lead blocks has added an element of toughness to this running game and this offense that was noticeably absent prior to the arrival of the two big RBs. As has been the theme in this 4-game run, all of the Giant backs have been outstanding on blitz pickups, often staying in to pick up the extra rushers that teams are so eager to send after the turnover-prone Manning.

Wide Receivers: Victor Cruz had his best game in weeks, hauling in eight balls for 110 yards. Cruz had more room to operate than he has in weeks thanks to the shored up OL – stay tuned for a signature long TD. Still no TDs for Hakeem Nicks, but former Tar Heel pitched in with 50 yards on four grabs, including a 35-yarder on the Giants third scoring drive of the day. Rueben Randle hauled in a 26-yard crossing route for the Giants first score, and set up the drive with a 32-yard punt return that was one tackler away from a TD. Randle finished the day with 37 yards on three catches and again found the end zone as teams seek to take away Cruz and Nicks in the red zone.

Tight Ends: Brandon Myers pulled in three catches for 32 yards, including a 15-yard third-down conversion from Manning. More importantly, Myers has found his niche blocking, usually from a move TE or H-Back spot where he’s essentially a RB in to pick up blitzers as they come free. Myers’ recognition and reaction has improved weekly, and he is a big big reason that Manning is finding more time to throw and this beleaguered OL is getting by.

Offensive Line: Four sacks allowed and 78 rushing yards at 3.3 per clip is not exactly a great day, but against a 3-4 with B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly, the Giants faced 337, 340 and 325 pounds of starting DL mass. Tough enough sledding, but when the OLBs are 255lb Clay Matthews and 285lb Mike Neal, you have to expect a few issues up front. So with all of that size and talent taken into account, you have to be impressed with how this slightly smaller OL fared against easily the largest and most-talented front seven it will see all year. C Jim Cordle again had a good game, stepping into the breach on Manning’s TD pass to Randle, as the Packers overloaded RG David Diehl’s gap. Great recognition by Cordle there, which gave Manning the pocket space to step up and hit Randle for the score. LT Will Beatty had one whiff, slip miss kinda thing that led to a sack, but overall a good effort against a big nasty front.

Defensive Line: DT Cullen Jenkins blew past G Evan Dietrich-Smith on the defense’s second snap, dropping 230lb bowling ball Eddie Lacy for no gain and immediately setting the tone for the afternoon. Fellow DTs Johnathan Hankins and Mike Patterson did the dirty work inside, not allowing second-level penetration and allowing Giant LBs to flow to the run game all day long. DE Jason Pierre Paul, questionable with a shoulder injury, answered any questions about his health with a leaping interception return and TD run that effectively sealed the deal for the G-Men. DEs Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka both applied consistent pressure outside, keeping Tolzien off balance and setting the edge in defending RB Eddie Lacy. Tuck has been rounding into form – give the old boy credit, he’s fighting through his struggles and starting to make a real impact on the edge.

Linebackers: Aside from the Governor’s return to the Walking Dead, MLB Jon Beason has been the biggest surprise of the fall. Lamented as too injured, too little and too late, Beason has been the 9-volt battery of the defense. Allow me to explain, wait there is no time, let me sum up…you never know that your 9-volts work until they don’t and your smoke detectors beep incessantly for you to change them. Mark Herzlich, Dan Connor, Chase Blackburn…beep…beep…beep and finally Jerry Reese had enough and traded for the 3-time Pro Bowler who has put out the fire on defense. Terrible and annoying analogous nonsense aside, Beason has been the glue that has this defense playing as well as it has since its two recent Super Bowl runs. Beason’s interception and angry 9-yard return of a Tolzien pass are a perfect snap shot of his impact on this team. My second favorite South Florida Bull of all time, Jacquian Williams, continued his return from an injury-plagued 2012 and notched eight stops, tying Beason for the team lead. Williams’ size is simply no longer an issue. His speed, technique and timing more than make up for the 10-15 pounds that would make him a wrecking ball. Deposed starter Spencer Paysinger had two stops, but one on a fake punt and one on a third-down run both had a big impact. I’m not Paysinger’s biggest fan as a starter (I banged the Williams drum all pre-season), but Spitty P always brings it when he gets a shot, and does his job when called upon.

Defensive Backs: S Will Hill had an almost INT on the Packers second drive, and a great stop of RB Eddie Lacy on the game’s first defensive snap. Hill’s emergence has made the loss of Stevie Brown sting a lot less (and made me wonder what Hill, Brown and Rolle could do on the field together). Hill is always around the ball, rarely late in coverage, and he and Rolle seem to be in sync, and most importantly, interchangeable, which gives Perry Fewell the flexibility to disguise coverages without sacrificing run support or deep patrol.

Special Teams: Rueben Randle’s 32-yard punt return, Spencer Paysinger’s fake punt tackle and P Steve Weatherford’s impressive bounce back from a rough week 10 performance added up to a not-so-terrible day for the special teams. That’s it, I’m already bored with this section. Someone wake me when Phil McConkey Jr. plays for the G-Men and takes WWE quality clothesline shots to the face after a 3-yard return and gets up to celebrate like a kid who got lucky on prom night. (I did not).

NFLW (NFL for Women): I did not have the NFL’s express written consent, but NinVA and her Cowboy-loving fiancé took me and Mrs. Joey to Lexington, VA this weekend. Our goal was to peruse wedding venues, taste free wine and taste not-so-free beer, and taste more beer, some Jack Daniels, some more beer, wings and possibly a cheese fry (I detected a hint of faux cheddar on my pants the next day). By game time Sunday, NinVA and Mrs. Joey decided they were too tired to watch the game together (woohoo!), so NinVA headed home, dejected at missing the game. While I did some intestinal yoga, I told NinVA and Mrs. Joey to see if Skype could create a virtual living room for us. Sure enough, Mrs. Joey pulled it off and my shock at her Kip Dynamite level of technology love was instantly bested by her knowledge of the Godfather. “You did this without my help?” I queried, “I’m smaht…not like everyone says, I can do things I’m smaht and I want respect!” Sadly I am now Fredo to the NFL if anyone of legal importance reads this pirated transmission account.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award: I have to give this to CB Tramon Williams for his second quarter high school drama club level of histrionics over a pass interference call. Williams arrived early enough on Manning’s pass to Hakeem Nicks to suggest he’s watching film with Bill Belichick and the spygate bunch. After being flagged, Williams pulled the NFL version of a flop, flapping his arms and looking just befuddled (not Jim Fassel level, but still, befuddled) that he was flagged.

(Boxscore – Green Bay Packers at New York Giants, November 17, 2013)
Nov 142013
 
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Oakland Raiders at New York Giants (November 10, 2013)

Oakland Raiders at New York Giants – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 24 – Oakland Raiders 20

by Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

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. 

(Boxscore – Oakland Raiders at New York Giants, November 10, 2013)
Nov 052013
 
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Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants (October 27, 2013)

Brandon Jacobs – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 15 – Philadelphia Eagles 7

by Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Review: Determined to let Chip Kelly try his hand at the “Time of possession doesn’t matter” game, the Giants had a very clear plan in Philadelphia in seeking win number 2 of the 2013 campaign. Knowing that Kelly’s Eagles have vacillated between unstoppable and dreadful on offense, Tom Coughlin and company again went to an old formula: Run the ball, protect the football and eat the clock to keep a dangerous offense off the field. Coupled with a stifling defensive effort, the Giants’ offense was just enough to overcome Giant killers LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson…and the Giants’ own version of the failboat, aka the special teams units.

Inside the Game Plan: Seeking to neutralize McCoy, the Giants came out with a coverage scheme designed to keep #25 in green in check. Playing with their usual 4-man front, the Giants deployed Antrel Rolle and Terrell Thomas as almost OLBs, or the Big Nickel Safety, along with LBs Jon Beason and Jacquian Williams. On obvious running situations (almost always on 1st and 2nd down) wherever McCoy went, Rolle and Terrell Thomas followed, each acting as a spy depending on the side of the field McCoy lined up towards. It almost resembled a 4-4 defense at times with both Rolle and Thomas playing at LB depth and staying home until McCoy got up field. The one on the side McCoy didn’t venture to, stayed shallow, causing a lot of traffic for an Eagle passing game that loves to attack the interior of the defense with their WRs/TEs/RBs abilities’ to make yards after the catch. What you ended up with was a modified Cover-2 with S Will Hill playing the joker/rover roll and rolling up on any receiver that went free if Thomas or Rolle had to sneak up into box in run support, or dropping deep if the Eagles emptied the backfield. Credit Perry Fewell with a simple, but very effective, scheme that used Rolle, Thomas and Hill as a LB, S or CB depending on where McCoy was and who came out in pass routes. By using two of the three as boundary defenders against McCoy, no matter what happened behind them, Fewell was able to almost totally neutralize McCoy, holding the former Pitt Panther to 48 yards on 15 carries and only 18 yards on four receptions. Fewell identified, isolated and shut down the opponent’s best player and the rest fell into place defensively.

After an opening three-and-out and a punt designed to keep DeSean Jackson from flashing gang signs on his way to the end zone, the Giants’ defense came up with the first of many stops that would define this afternoon. Rolle picked off a pass as the lone deep safety with man coverage underneath that put the Giants in business at their own 21. Nine plays later, Josh Brown gave the Giants their first lead at 3-0 with a 40-yard field goal. The defense dialed up the heat again, with Antrel Rolle again keying the stop with a sack of Michael Vick to force the first of six Eagle punts on the day. The Giants, spurred by a 27-yard grab by TE Brandon Myers, embarked on a 45-yard, 7-play drive that again ended with only a FG. But the Giants were up 6-0 and slowly taking control of the game. On their next possession, the Eagles would again punt, thanks to good pressure up the gut from DT Linval Joseph and consistent edge push from DE Justin Tuck.

The Giants would take advantage again, scoring on their third straight possession, behind two clutch 3rd down passes from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz and Jerrel Jernigan, respectively. Despite only 48 yards on the drive, the Giants chewed up 5:31 en route to Josh Browns’ 33-yarder that made it a 9-0 bulge. As the 2nd quarter opened, the Giants again stifled Gang Green, limiting the Eagles to a 16-yard drive that ended in the third punt of the day for the home team. Stop me if you’ve heard this, but the Giants threw together another FG drive, their fourth in a row that pushed the lead to 12-0. After QB Mike Vick departed with a hamstring strain, QB Matt Barkley provided a bit of a spark, driving the Eagles 68 yards down to the Giants’ 2-yard line, but it was Terrell Thomas, hustling in pursuit, who came up with a strip sack of Barkley that Jacquian Williams recovered to preserve the 12-0 lead going into the half.

To call the second half boring would be doing a disservice to anything labeled as boring. After the Eagles eschewed common football rules, which Chip Kelly admittedly hates, and went for it on 4th down and failed, the teams traded two three-and-outs a piece (and piling up an impressive 18 yards on four drives) until the Giants finally broke through again after a shanked 29-yard Eagle punt. Much like my reviews, the Giants took far too long to accomplish far too little, capping off a 32-yard, 9-play drive that ate up 5:58 and put the Giants up 15-0. That lead would hold until P Steve Weatherford’s punt that never was, got recovered by the Eagles in the end zone for a TD that tainted the final score at 15-7. The Eagles had another shot to tie late in the game but one of the big three, S Will Hill, intercepted the Eagles at the Giant 38. Win number two, which was as fun as a number two, was in the books.

Quarterbacks: Coming into the week 8 matchup with the Eagles, Eli Manning had thrown 15 interceptions on the season, just over two per game and in that stat alone the Giants’ season to date is crystallized. After a 200-yard and zero-INT day against the Vikings, the former Rebel went without throwing an interception for the second week in a row and the result was a Giant victory. Coincidence? Not by a long shot. Manning finished with 246 yards passing and instead of forcing the ball downfield was again happy with check downs, as noted by his 3.53 yard difference between his yardage per attempt and per completion (more on that later). Manning converted some critical 3rd downs with shorter, safer passes and played smart, safe football all day, something that is becoming a necessity with an inexperienced OL (at least in terms of playing the same five weekly) and a struggling running game. The time to take deep shots simply isn’t there as often as it has been in the past. Credit Manning and Kevin Gilbride for making the adjustments to a safer passing game that is augmenting the run and converting when necessary.

TPRR: For the second week in a row, Manning’s yards per completion were under 9.9. The Giants are 2-0 when that number is less than 9.9 and 0-6 when it’s higher. Perhaps more telling if you dig a little deeper is something I have temporarily anointed TPRR (The Pass Risk Ratio). Completely unscientific, but if you subtract the yards per attempt from yards per completion, a trend appears in our mini-streak. In the previous six games, all painful losses, the Giants’ TPRR ranged from 4.74 to 7.88. While not an earth shattering range here, the games under 4.0 were both wins. These were games in which the Giants led most of the way and were not forced to take shots downfield, or perhaps that was by design given the big disparity in yards per completion. As you can see in my completely fabricated analysis below, when the TPRR is sub 4.0 we win, above and we lose. It’s not a predictor as much as a look at what happened and perhaps why. When the Giants are content with check downs, shorter passes and taking what the defense gives them, they don’t rely on so many dangerous shots downfield, the running game is augmented by the short pass and you have in theory, a more efficient, albeit much less dangerous offense. Given the way this defense has shut down the run this season, this formula will work if that continues and Eli and company continue to play sound football and embark on longer, slower more conservative drives that result in points and punts rather than turnovers.

2013-Giants at Eagles Graphic

Running Backs: Rookie RB Michael “Oh he’s cute” Cox got the starting nod for the G-Men and finished with a 19-yard, 9-carry effort and one reception for 11 yards. 30 yards isn’t a lot to get excited about, but let’s stay positive here: no fumbles, no missed blitz pickups and no damage to his apparently handsome face (more on that later). Cox’s best effort of the day was a well-executed counter that Cox made a decisive move on and cut off tackle for a solid run. HB Peyton Hillis again churned along slowly, proving that for now, the tortoise will beat the hare with this current OL. Hillis cranked out a pedestrian 3.5 yards per carry and toted 20 times for 70 yards, adding 3 grabs for 15. He again provided strong blitz pickups and positive gains on the ground that seem to have steadied this offense. FB John Conner had one catch for 12 yards and was again a load on lead plays, assisting Hillis to his modest but effective total.

Wide Receivers: WR Jerrel Jernigan is first up this week since he made the first catch of the game, a 9-yard doozy on 3rd and 10. Running the route to the stick would have helped and kept the offense on the field; it’s the little things like that keeping Jernigan from being a reliable target. The suddenly maligned Hakeem Nicks seemed to have his timing with Manning back, pulling 7 catches for 51 yards. Victor Cruz was again bottled up deep, but contributed with 86 yards on 7 receptions to pace the Giants’ WR corps. Cruz’s biggest contribution was on a perfect pass from Manning and a perfect route that converted a 3rd-and-5 on the Giants third scoring drive of the day. Rueben Randle was essentially a non-factor the whole game, dropping one crossing route at the Eagles 7-yard line that should have been caught.

Tight Ends: TE Brandon Myers had 42 yards on three grabs, the long of which put the Giants in position for their second FG drive of the day. Larry Donnell got himself open in the end zone, but ran his route too deep and his catch was well out of bounds as the Giants had to settle for a third Josh Brown field goal.

Offensive Line: Another solid day for the OL. Manning was only dropped once and the big five up front led the way to five scoring drives and were able to sustain enough push to make the running game viable, if not dangerous. LT Will Beatty kept DE Trent Cole in check most of the day, only really surrendering an early pressure to another Eagle who gives the Giants fits. As opposed to the oddball way of using T James Brewer against Minnesota, in which Brewer lined up at LT with LT Will Beatty moving to blocking TE, Brewer was used in this game as that big TE and plugged in both sides on obvious running plays. It’s clear that when Hillis is in the game, this unit is playing with a little more attitude and starting to get a lot more push up front to keep this offense slowly moving along.

Defensive Line: Despite the fact that two of the Giants officially credited four sacks came from DBs, the font four played another strong game. By staying disciplined in their rush lanes, the Giants’ DL mates were able to prevent any big creases and cut back lanes that the Eagles have tortured the Giants with in recent years. DT Linval Joseph was a load up front, with several pressures and a sack. He was held sackless again, but DE Justin Tuck was consistently getting pressure and playing with an edge that was not there in the first six weeks.

Linebackers: A relatively quiet day for the LBs, but that was a good thing, with Rolle and Thomas essentially playing OLBs on a lot of plays. LB Jacquian Williams did an outstanding job in coverage all day, consistently shutting down whoever he ran downfield with and coming up with a huge fumble recovery to snuff out the Eagles after they had driven to the Giant 2-yard line. Williams also snuffed out an Eagle drive with a great pass breakup at the first down marker. Jon Beason again led the bunch four stops, and combined with Williams, were able to limit any real damage after the catch most of the day.

Defensive Backs: For the second week in a row, S Antrel Rolle made some noise, with an early INT and sack of Michael Vick on back-to-back drives. Rolle finished with five stops, a sack, INT and forced fumble. Fewell’s utilization of Rolle, S Will Hill and CB Terrell Thomas was simple as noted in my game summary: they boxed in LeSean McCoy on both sides, abandoning any coverage behind them when McCoy was in the game and looking to run, and the result was the Eagles HB being shut down all day long. Thomas, who pulled in the “NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week” award, finished with 11 stops, and a strip sack of QB Matt Barkley that snuffed out the Eagles’ best drive of the day. Thomas is being deployed to do what he does best: make open field tackles, limit long gains and provide a safety net between the CBs and safeties. Thomas’ comeback from his litany of injuries is a testament to his hard work, determination and very evident talent on the football field. S Will Hill sealed the game with an INT and chipped in with five tackles, again proving very strong in run support and just as adept at deep coverage.

Special Teams: Tough day for LS Zak (I keep typing Steve) DeOssie, who was flagged for an illegal snap on a FG attempt and launched a punt over P Steve Weatherford’s head for the Eagles only score of the day. Weatherford was outstanding, twice pinning the Eagles inside their 5, dropping 3 inside the 20 and negating DeSean Jackson with accurate directional punts. A long of 68 contributed to a 43.8 yard per punt average for the ex-Jet, as #5 continues to rebound from his early season hiccups. K Josh Brown did all the scoring, going 5-for-5 on FGs.

NFLW (NFL for Women): This week I am adding a possibly regular feature known as NFL for women. It’s not a guide to football watching, anything pink with a Giant logo or a suggestion that women play football. Simply put, it’s funny to watch games with my Giant-backing female family members because one of them always says something ridiculous, hilarious or both. My wife and niece watch faithfully each week, both outfitted in Giants’ gear and excited for about 15 minutes until they re-discover their shared love for all things Celebrity Gossip, E! and HGTV along with what J. Crew has that is “so cute” this season. Both were saddened by the departure last year of DJ Ware and this year’s shuttling of David Carr in favor of Curtis Painter “ew, he’s like Jude Law with a smushed head.” Luckily the Giants heard the outcry and drafted the chiseled countenance of RB Michael Cox who spawned my favorite quote of this disastrous season. After his picture was found on Giants.com, one of them said “I hope we get to see a lot more Cox today”…I won’t say who out of respect.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award: I’m giving this one to Chip Kelly for ignoring the fact that time of possession does matter in the NFL when your talent is essentially even week to week. Kelly’s desire to run such an up tempo offense wore his defense out, and his running game’s inability to get started doomed his team’s chances. Kelly’s whiz bang offense amassed a pathetic 200 yards and held the ball for only 21 minutes and 55 seconds. I’m not a guy who roots for failure, but when a college coach who is sure he’s reinvented the game gets clobbered, it’s simply more satisfying. That and it’s the Eagles, who I loathe more than words can explain.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, October 27, 2013)
Nov 042013
 
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Y.A. Tittle, Cleveland Browns at New York Giants (December 17, 1961)

Y.A. Tittle, Cleveland Browns at New York Giants (December 17, 1961)

Y.A. Tittle’s Incomparable 1962 and 1963 Seasons

by Larry Schmitt for BigBlueInteractive.com

The potential of a tree exists inside every seed. Unbeknownst to all, the seed of the Giants offensive explosion of the early 1960’s was planted in 1948 and began to take root simultaneously on opposite coasts during the 1950’s.

Frustrated by the Giants’ inability to adequately replace retired Mel Hein at center, Head Coach Steve Owen reluctantly conceded to integrate the burgeoning T-Formation into New York’s playbook. The Giants had almost exclusively run the A-Formation for over 15 years, which was Owen’s brain child. Deception and accuracy of the center snap was the key to its success, as the uncertainty of which member of the backfield would receive the ball kept defenses tentative. The T-Formation eliminated that problem as the quarterback received the snap directly from the center.

Owen had a great mind for defensive strategy. He strongly believed in power football and winning on the line of scrimmage, but struggled greatly to keep up with current trends in offensive football. Having recently invested in a quarterback via a trade with Washington, Owen created a position on his staff devoted exclusively for the purpose of tutoring Charley Conerly on the finer points of quarterbacking.

Specialist Allie Sherman received inspiration directly from the source. As a teenager he had read the Rosetta Stone on the subject: “The Modern T- Formation with Man-in-Motion” by Clark Shaughnessy, George Halas and Ralph Jones, and was eager to pass along that knowledge. Conerly had a magnificent rookie season under Sherman’s tutelage, setting a record with 22 touchdown passes for a rookie, which stood for 50 years until it was broken by Peyton Manning in 1998.

Owen, however, was impatient with the T-Formation and never fully committed to it. The Giants frequently reverted to the familiar and comfortable A-formation. After two seasons of decline in 1952 and ’53, Giants management made the difficult decision to relieve Owen of his position. The major impetus behind the move was Paul Brown’s juggernaut from Cleveland that had merged into the NFL from the AAFC in 1950. The Browns dominated the NFL’s American/Eastern Conference with creative offensive concepts that featured passing as a primary weapon. After being passed up for the head coach position for Jim Lee Howell, Sherman left New York and took a coordinator’s position in the CFL.

Vince Lombardi joined Howell’s staff as the offensive coordinator and brought Army Black Knights Earl “Red” Blaik’s T-Formation playbook with him. It was primarily a run-heavy offense, but still versatile. Lombardi added a wrinkle that used Single Wing blocking schemes for the offensive line. The pulling guards led the way for the multi-talented halfback Frank Gifford, and brought the Giants back on equal footing with Cleveland. The two teams clashed for conference supremacy for the next 10 seasons.

Sherman returned to the Giants in 1957 as a scout. When Lombardi departed for Green Bay following the 1958 campaign, Sherman took over the vacated offensive coordinator position. The results were immediate and profound. Conerly, at age 38 and in his 12th season, experienced a renaissance. He led the league in yards-per-attempt while throwing just four interceptions, and the Giants catapulted from 10th in points scored in 1958 to 2nd in 1959. Conerly enjoyed his finest season since his rookie year and was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.

Integration

Howell retired after the 1960 season and Sherman finally received the head coach position he had coveted. Conerly was two years older now and the wear of 14 years in the NFL was becoming evident. In moves that surprised many, the Giants traded for two veteran players deemed past their prime by their respective Western Conference clubs.

The first move was getting a quarterback who was not much younger than Conerly himself: Y.A. Tittle. The 34-year old passer had begun his career in professional football with the AAFC Baltimore Colts in 1948. When the franchise folded after the 1950 season, Tittle went to San Francisco where he was a member of the 49’ers famed “Million Dollar Backfield” with Hugh McElhenny, Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson. Tittle’s signature play was the “Alley Oop” pass to receiver R.C. Owens, would run a deep route and attempt to out-leap the defender for the ball. However, new coach Red Hickey installed the shotgun offense in 1961, which was better suited for the younger and more mobile John Brodie.

Despite his age, Tittle still had a very strong arm and was an exceptionally accurate passer. His quick release was regarded as second only to that of Johnny Unitas. Tittle also was a resourceful diagnostician of defenses; he called brilliant games and possessed rare leadership skills. “Here was a 34-year-old quarterback,” Giants president Wellington Mara said. “But we knew he would be a top hand for us. He’s been in the league a long time and he knows defenses and he would fit in with our club real well.”

Next was a trade for a receiver fast enough to get down the field vertically in Del Shofner. Once timed at 9.8 in the 100, Shofner stretched the field like few other receivers from the split end position. Mara said the veteran receiver “fitted a need of ours precisely.”

On-field colleagues agreed with that assessment. Giants veteran receiver Kyle Rote said, “Other receivers may have better moves, but Del has great speed, wonderful hands and good leg drive.” Defender Dick Lynch said, “I couldn’t cover him man on man in 1958 or 1959. I couldn’t cover him in 1960 either. He’s as good as he ever was.”

Tittle was equally impressed, “We both came here at the same time, and we both were traded from West Coast teams. I’d never thrown to someone with the speed he had – along with such a good pair of hands.”

Y.A. Tittle, New York Giants (1961)

Y.A. Tittle, New York Giants (1961)

Tittle and Conerly began 1961 sharing the signal calling duties. The trend was for Conerly to start, then be relieved at some point by Tittle, who was still learning the nuances of Sherman’s complex, detailed system. Following a string of come-from-behind victories the starting job was assumed full time by Tittle. Fullback Alex Webster remembered, “Conerly was our leader. Then, when Tittle came in, we’d never seen anything like him before.” New York won the Eastern Conference, but lost badly in the Championship Game at Green Bay 37-0.

Fruition

Prior to the 1962 season, prognosticators predicted a fall off for the Giants. Sherman recalled a meeting with the press during the pre season, “Some said, ‘It’s a shame, Allie. You’re taking over a club that’s beginning to fall apart from old age.’ The Giants were supposed to be growing old. I could evaluate the performance of the old players over a stretch of three years. I could see how much they had slipped, if they had slipped at all. I could decide which old players to keep and which old players had to be replaced. You can’t replace players wholesale, you know. You have to do it gradually.”

There was turnover on the New York roster though. Conerly and Rote retired. However, one veteran returned from a season-long hiatus. Frank Gifford moved to the flanker position and complimented Shofner’s talents perfectly. The former halfback lacked Shofner’s speed, but he made up for it with elusiveness, deception and sharp route running. Gifford clicked with his new quarterback and complimented both his smarts and ability. “Y.A. is like a high school kid with a Univac brain and a great passing arm,” said Gifford. Shofner and Gifford would exceed 20 yards per catch in 1962.

Y.A. Tittle (14), New York Giants at Cleveland Browns (September 16, 1962)

Y.A. Tittle (14), New York Giants at Cleveland Browns (September 16, 1962)

The first game of the campaign was a disappointment. A limping Tittle tossed three interceptions in an ugly 17-7 loss at rival Cleveland. Potential morphed into results for Sherman’s creative, and sometimes ingenious, offense in Week 2’s impressive passing duel between Tittle and Philadelphia’s young hot shot quarterback Sonny Jurgensen. Although Jurgensen finished with the impressive stats: 33-of-57 for 381 yards, the Giants won 29-13 with Shofner hauling in two long touchdown bombs. The following week, Tittle threw for 332 yards and four scoring strikes at Pittsburgh in a 31-27 win.

“[The game] has changed a lot since I came up in 1948,” said Tittle as he reflected on his late career success. “It’s changed a lot since 1953. You spend 10 times as much time on preparation. You go over defenses and reactions and keys and how you read. You learn little things about the other team, or about certain players you didn’t even consider 10 years ago.”

This was the first season the Giants sold out every home game before the season started. The largest crowd to date showed up for the highly anticipated contest with the 4-1 Detroit Lions. The aerial fireworks may have been at a minimum versus the defensive power from the Western Conference, but the game was thrilling nonetheless. Tittle sat our much of first half, after being shaken up on a 1st quarter touchdown run. He returned to the field in second half, and led the Giants to a 17-14 victory. His gritty performance sparked a 9-game win streak.

Y.A. Tittle, New York Giants (1962)

Y.A. Tittle, New York Giants (1962)

Tittle struggled during practice that week, and was a game time decision to dress against the Eastern Conference leading 4-0-2 Redskins. After convincing Sherman he was fit to play, Tittle started poorly, completing only two of his first eight attempts. The Giants trailed 7-0 and faced a third-and-ten on their own 10-yard line when their fortunes turned. Tittle completed a short pass to Gifford for the first down, and a roughing the passer penalty on the defense was added on. Tittle hit on four consecutive attempts afterward, the final being a 22-yard touchdown to Joe Morrison. Tittle led the Giants on two more scoring drives before halftime, and the Giants took a 21-13 lead. Tittle’s already had 236 yards passing and three touchdown passes despite the cold start.

Washington kept the pressure on New York with a quick strike. The first play from scrimmage of the third quarter was an 80-yard Norm Snead-to-Bobby Mitchell touchdown completion, where Mitchell caught the ball, juked his defender and outraced the Giants secondary to the end zone. Tittle answered with a seven-play scoring drive, going five-for-five passing. The Giants led 28-20 and Tittle couldn’t miss. He reached 12 consecutive completions as the Giants lead extended to 35-20. On the next possession Tittle missed on a pass and failed to match Fran Tarkenton’s record of 13 straight. Unfazed, Tittle’s next throw was good for a 63-yard touchdown to Gifford. The Giants lead 42-20 and that lead grew to 49-20 in the fourth quarter on Tittle’s record-tying seventh touchdown pass.

Tittle had a chance to try for an eighth touchdown late in the game. Despite the vocal encouragement from both the Yankee Stadium crowd and Giants teammates, Tittle called for rushing plays to run out the clock in Washington territory, content with the 49-34 victory.

The humble closing belied the superlative virtuoso performance. Tittle completed 27-of-39 attempts, nearly 70%, impressive for any game, but even more so when his bad start is taken into account. The seven touchdowns tied the record shared by Sid Luckman, Adrian Burke, and George Blanda. The 505 passing yards were second only to Norm van Brocklin’s 554, and was just the third 500-yard passing game to-date. Shofner’s 269 receiving yards was the fourth highest single-game total at that time, and remains a Giants’ club record today.

Tittle and the Giants maintained the momentum from that afternoon through most of the season and established new standards across all passing categories as they won the Eastern Conference with a 12-2 record. In the season finale versus Dallas, Tittle threw six touchdowns and established an NFL record with 33 scoring strikes for the season. Unitas had thrown 32 in 1959 and Jurgensen tied that mark in 1961. (George Blanda threw 36 in 1961, but the NFL did not recognize AFL records until after the 1970 merger.)

His 3,224 yards easily eclipsed his team record 2,272 from 1961 and Conerly’s career high of 2,175 in 1948. This mark would stand until 1984 when Phil Simms threw for 4,044 yards in a 16-game season. UPI voted Tittle and the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for the season, but the Giants lost the NFL championship game to Green Bay 16-7.

Acclamation

The 1963 season began with Tittle out-dueling Unitas in a come-from-behind thriller in Baltimore. After falling behind 21-3 early in the second quarter, Tittle threw three touchdowns to bring the Giants to within 28-24 at the half. On his third quarter touchdown run to give the Giants the lead at 31-28, Tittle was injured and left the game. Ralph Guglielmi was 0-2 in relief, but the Giants held on for a 37-28 win. The Giants were no match for the Steelers the next week without Tittle and lost 31-0, managing a meager seven first downs.

Y.A. Tittle (14), Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (October 20, 1963)

Y.A. Tittle (14), Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (October 20, 1963)

Tittle returned in Week 3 and the offense did not miss a beat. The Giants went 3-1 after that loss, losing at home to unbeaten Cleveland, and never scored less than 24 points. The rematch with the 6-0 Browns was highly anticipated, but the standing room only crowd of 84,213 at Cleveland Municipal Stadium was silenced early when Jim Brown fumbled on his first carry and Sam Huff recovered for New York on Cleveland’s 30-yard line. The Giants settled for a field goal, but did not panic. In fact, the game plan was a departure from the usually vertical attack. Sherman’s reigned-in plan charged Tittle with managing the game with pre-snap reads and to win the time-of-possession battle. “We threw out the bomb,” Sherman said. “We never went for the long one. We wanted to control the ball. Short passes and running. That’s what we planned and that’s what we did. We showed how the Browns can be beaten.”

The Giants scored on all five possessions in the first half as Tittle changed the call on almost every play at the line of scrimmage. “They were in an odd line,” Tittle explained. “We expected them to be in a four-three most of the time, so I had to change off. If the crowd had been noisy, I might have had trouble. But they were pretty quiet.”

Tittle’s individual statistics were not flashy: 214 yards on 31 attempts and two touchdowns with one interception. As a team, the Giants totaled 387 yards on 78 offensive snaps; the Browns 142 yards on 38 snaps. Tittle received an ovation from his teammates on the New York bench when he was taken out of the game midway through the fourth quarter and the Giants comfortably ahead 33-0. It was well deserved because his decision making was the critical difference in the contest.

Y.A. Tittle, New York Giants at St. Louis Cardinals (November 3, 1963)

Y.A. Tittle, New York Giants at St. Louis Cardinals (November 3, 1963)

Wisdom and insight continued to serve the veteran signal caller two weeks later when he achieved a statistically perfect game for a passer in a 42-14 win over Philadelphia. Nobody knew it at the time though, the NFL’s contrived formula for passer rating was not rolled out until 1971. Although the formula has its share of critics – in particular the heavy weight it places on completion percentage – it can be a useful tool for determining a quarterback’s passing efficiency. How 16 completions on 20 attempts for 261 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions equals the number 158.3 is not easily explained without a deep background in calculus. Tittle attributed to his success to the variable of time and intuition.

“After every game people ask me questions about how I figured the other team,” he said. “You have to be in the league a long lime and remember things, and at last you get a feel about it. If you could learn it by studying movies, a good smart college quarterback could learn all you’ve got to learn in three weeks and then come in and be as good as the old heads. But they can’t. Because you look at seven or eight different teams each year and they have a different feel and a different look.

“You learn to look for little things. Not obvious things like the linebacker coming right up on the line of scrimmage. But say my tight end is split out a little, maybe four yards from the tackle. The corner linebacker should be right out there with him, playing right in front of him so he can chuck him at the line. But if he has cheated into the gap between the end and the tackle, I read blitz. Or maybe the weak-side safety is intent on the A back—the offensive back on his side. Instead of being relaxed and at ease, he’s crouched over, and maybe unconsciously he’s moved a step or two closer to the line of scrimmage. I read blitz again. That means the weak-side linebacker is coming. He’s the man who would take the A back in a pass pattern, and the weak-side safety is going to have to cover for him, so I read blitz from the way the safety is acting.”

Y.A. Tittle, New York Giants (1963)

Y.A. Tittle, New York Giants (1963)

New York confidently rolled into the season finale at Yankee Stadium with a 10-3 record. Their opponent was second place 7-3-3 Pittsburgh, who could take the Eastern Conference crown with a victory via win percentage (ties did not count in the standings at that time.) A win against the rugged Steelers would require all of Tittle’s tangible attributes: a strong arm, accuracy and experience. The intangible quality of being clutch: exhibiting the uncanny ability to make a big play at a defining moment when the outcome hangs in the balance, would be the catalyst for realization.

Brains and speed combined for New York’s first big strike. Already ahead 3-0, Tittle noticed a change in the defense. After attempting a sideline hookup with Shofner, the Pittsburgh cornerback was cheating toward the boundary, after starting the game playing off Shofner to guard against the split end’s speed. Reading the defender after the snap, Tittle lured him with a pump-fake to the sideline as Shofner streaked past. Tittle lofted a deep arching throw to Shofner who coasted for the 41-yard touchdown.

Shofner left the game in the second quarter with an injury, but the Giants controlled the first half and led 16-3 at the intermission. The Steelers surged in the third quarter and cut the deficit to 16-10 while their defense stifled the Giants’ offense. Faced with a precarious situation, third-and-eight on their own 24-yard line, Tittle collaborated with Gifford to pull New York out of its rut.

Gifford separated from his defender on a deep in-cut as Tittle stood tall in the pocket under a heavy rush. The pass was low and out in front, but Gifford stretched out with one arm. As he attempted to tip the ball to himself, it stuck in his hand, and fell to the ground with it secured for a completion at Pittsburgh’s 47-yard line. “I dived for the ball and I thought, ‘Well we blew it,’” Gifford recalled. “I stuck my hand out just to make the motion of going through with it – and the damn thing stuck in my hand!” While the 63,240 fans in Yankee Stadium erupted in bedlam, Tittle picked himself off the dirt. He never saw the remarkable catch as he was knocked onto his back after the release.

Tittle immediately went back to Gifford on the next play, moving to the Steelers 22-yard line with a sideline completion. The next play was a touchdown pass to Joe Morrison off a play action fake. The Giants regained the two-score cushion 23-10 and momentum that had seemingly been lost. New York held on for the Eastern Conference title with a 33-17 victory. Afterward, there was little doubt on the game’s turning point: “That Gifford catch was the end for us,” Steelers’ Coach Buddy Parker said. “It looked then like we were beginning to pick up and they were sliding. But you could see the whole club come alive after that play.”

The Giants lost the NFL Title Game in Chicago the following week 14-10, but the 1963 season was still a great success. Tittle broke his own NFL record with 36 touchdown passes – and threw a score in all 13 games he played while doing it – a feat that earned him the AP NFL Most Valuable Player award. Including the final game of 1962 and the first of 1964, Tittle threw a touchdown pass in 15 consecutive games, a New York club record that still stands today.

Appendices: Looking over Numbers

Despite playing in New York for only four seasons, Tittle still holds a place of prominence in the Giants annals. He is 17th in games played at 54, but vaults ahead significantly in the categories of performance. He is 7th in passes completed, 6th in passing yards and 5th in touchdowns thrown. Most impressive is his yards-per-attempt of 8.0, which is highest of all Giants passers who attempted at least 250 passes.

When looking over career statistics and assessing a passer’s efficiency, the most useful are yards-per-attempt and touchdown-to-interception ratio. Subjectively, 300-yard passing games are interesting. Usually when a quarterbacks throw for over 300 yards, the win-loss record hovers around .500. Y.A. Tittle was a remarkably undefeated during his Giants’ tenure when reaching that plateau. In essence, when the Giants needed Tittle to carry the team, he delivered. Another good indicator of Tittle carrying the Giants is the number of three-touchdown passing games he had. Tittle had 18 for the Giants in 48 starts – the team record until Phil Simms equaled it, but it took him 154 starts to do so.

YAT STATS1

YAT STATS2YAT STATS3YAT STATS4

Oct 252013
 
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Peyton Hillis, New York Giants (October 21, 2013)

Peyton Hillis Celebrates His Touchdown – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 23 – Minnesota Vikings 7

by Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

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.

(Boxscore – Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants, October 21, 2013)