Connor Hughes/BBI

Connor Hughes has been working in both the broadcasting and journalism fields for the last seven years. His work has been heard on WMCX, WBZC and Lenape District Television, while read on the pages of The Star-Ledger and The Burlington County Times. Connor can be reached via email (Connor_Hughes@bigblueinteractive.com) or on twitter (@Connor_J_Hughes)

Nov 162014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 16, 2014)

Five Interceptions for Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The opportunity was there.

With five minutes to play and the New York Giants trailing the San Francisco 49ers by six, Eli Manning and the offense had a first and goal at the San Francisco four yard line.

In spite of Manning’s then four interceptions, the lack of a running game and continued offensive dysfunctions, the team was still in a position to win. It needed just four yards in four plays.

New York didn’t get a yard before Manning was intercepted on fourth down, all but sealing the deal on the team’s 16-10 loss Sunday afternoon in East Rutherford.

“Four shots from the four yard line,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “It’s inexcusable that we didn’t score.”

Throughout the game’s entirety, the calm, cool and collected Manning that had taken the field for New York’s previous nine games was no where to be found. Manning missed passes low, high, inside and out. Coughlin said Manning was dealing with “accuracy issues” and the quarterback’s play made it abundantly clear.

Manning, who entered the game having thrown six interceptions all season, was intercepted five times, three of which when targeting Rueben Randle. He completed just 22-of-45 passes for 280 yards.

“You’re not going to win a game turning the ball over five times,” Coughlin said. “I can guarantee you that.”

Early in the game, it appeared as if the game was headed in the complete opposite direction as what it ended up. On the Giants first possession, Manning marched New York 63 yards in five plays before finding tight end Larry Donnell for a 19-yard touchdown. The drive was set up when Zack Bowman recovered a Frank Gore fumble.

But after New York’s touchdown, the offense went cold. The team’s ensuing drives resulted in  a punt, two interceptions and two more punts before finally getting on the scoreboard with a Josh Brown field goal in the third quarter. With the Giants offense in a rut, San Francisco did just enough to win the game.

Following Gore’s fumble, the 49ers kicked three consecutive field goals to go on top, 9-7. On their first drive of the second half, quarterback Colin Kaepernick hit receiver Michael Crabtree on a slant. The former first-round pick burst through the center of the Giants defense for a 48-yard score.

New York answered with Brown’s field goal, but were unable to put any additional points on the board after. Manning was intercepted for a fourth time at the San Francisco 20, but the most back-breaking pick came with New York deep inside 49er territory.

Starting at their own 35 with 6:18 to play, Manning marched the Giants quickly into San Francisco territory. On second down at the 49er 41, Manning went deep to Odell Beckham Jr. down the right sideline. The rookie made a leaping grab to set New York up at the four. On first down, Manning threw a fade to Beckham that was out of reach. On second down, Manning threw a fade to Randle which fell in complete. On third down, Manning threw a fade to Larry Donnell who landed hard on his shoulder and dropped the ball. On fourth down, Manning forced the ball inside to Preston Parker. As the ball hit Parker’s hands, the receiver was hit and the ball popped up and into the arms of San Francisco linebacker Chris Borland.

“We need to bounce back,” Coughlin said. “Now we’ve had a defensive fiasco, we’ve had an offensive fiasco. Perhaps maybe now we’ll be able to go out and put something together.”

The loss for New York drops its record to 3-7. It faces the Dallas Cowboys at home next Sunday night.

—-

Quick Hits and Tidbits

  • The Giants lost their fifth consecutive game to fall to 3-7. It is their worst record after 10 games since 1998, when they were also 3-7 and finished 8-8.
  • Inactive for New York were cornerback Mike Harris, linebacker Jacquian Williams (concussion), guard Adam Snyder, defensive end Kerry Wynn, offensive tackle James Brewer, offensive guard Brandon Mosley and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (calf). Mike Patterson started for Jenkins and Mark Herzlich for Williams.
  • Offensive tackle Justin Pugh left the game with a quad injury and did not return. Speaking after the game, Coughlin said Pugh originally hurt his quad in last week’s game against Seattle, but practiced fully all week. It acted up against San Francisco.
  • Receivers Rueben Randle and Preston Parker each left the game at various points in time with ailments. Both returned and were said to be fine after the game.
  • Of Manning’s interceptions, three were intended for Randle. Two were intercepted by Chris Borland, one by Michael Wilhoite, one by Chris Culliver and one by Eric Reid.
  • Odell Beckham Jr. finished with six catches for 93 yards. Rueben Randle caught seven passes for 112.
  • Earlier in the week, Coughlin spoke about how he wanted his “big players” to make “big plays.” The comment was in response to a question about Jason Pierre-Paul. On Sunday, Pierre-Paul had one tackle. Receiver Preston Parker had two.
  • Defensive end Robert Ayers Jr. recorded a sack bringing his season total to five. Since the start of last season, Ayers has 10.5 sacks. In his first four seasons, he had 6.5.
  • The San Francisco 49ers rushed for 148 yards on the Giants defense and averaged 4.0 yards per carry.
  • The Giants recovered an onside kick in the third quarter, their first successful onside kick since Nov. 7, 2004 vs. Chicago.

—-

Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Post Game Press Conference: The transcript and video of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s post-game press conference are available at Giants.com.

Post-Game Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of post-game media sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Video highlights/lowlights of the game are available at Giants.com.

Nov 142014
 
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Steve Weatherford, New York Giants (January 22, 2012)

Steve Weatherford – © USA TODAY Sports Images

San Francisco 49ers at New York Giants, November 16, 2014

The New York Giants once promising three-game winning streak seems like a far distant memory as the 2014 season is beginning to seemed headed for a very familiar path. With the San Francisco 49ers coming to MetLife Sunday afternoon, a loss could all but eliminate the Giants from postseason contention for a third consecutive year.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Can Odell Beckham Jr. continue to be special?
Odell Beckham Jr. is looking like he could be arguably the best player selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. In his last two games, Beckham has 254 receiving yards and, despite playing in just five games overall, could become the Giants leading receiver this week.  The 49ers are another tough task defensively, especially if Aldon Smith dresses. How will Beckham play?

Second Down
Can Rashad Jennings make an impact if he returns?
Since Rashad Jennings suffered a knee sprain versus the Atlanta Falcons, the Giants have yet to win a game. Andre Williams has shown promise, but is far from a feature back at this point in his career. Peyton Hillis is what he is and Michael Cox is now on injured reserve. When Rashad Jennings left the Giants lineup, so to did their rushing attack. Jennings is expected to return this Sunday, but will he make an impact? He hasn’t played in a month. How much can he handle?

The Giants have been known, at least as of late, to not baby players in their first game back (i.e., Beckham and Andre Brown). Will the Giants lean on Jennings heavily as well?

Jason Pierre-Paul (90), Justin Tuck (91), New York Giants (January 22, 2012)

Pierre-Paul and Tuck – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Third Down
Where is Jason Pierre-Paul?
This is Jason Pierre-Paul’s contract season. The season where players normally break out. While Pierre-Paul has been stout against the run, the fierce pass-rushing, unblockable, first-team All-Pro from 2011 still hasn’t taken the field. He’s flashed, sure, but has yet to do it on a consistent basis. This season, he’s on pace for under seven sacks (6.2).

Fourth Down
Can the defense stop the read option?
It’s coming, you can better believe that. Back when Colin Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Super Bowl, he did it by unleashing the read option. If anything, the Seattle Seahawks, who ran for 350 yards against New York last week, learned a thing or two from San Fran. Kaepernick is faster than Russell Wilson and is a better runner. Can Perry Fewell’s defense keep him contained? If not, New York has very little chance to win.

BREAKING DOWN SAN FRANCISCO:

OFFENSE - by Connor Hughes
Strength?
While Kaepernick hasn’t taken the “next step” as an elite passer in the NFL, it isn’t for lack of targets. Be it the receivers, or tight end, the 49ers have some of the best weapons in the NFL. At Kaepernick’s disposal this year are Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Stevie Johnson, Brandon Lloyd and Vernon Davis.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie should be able to handle whomever he lines up from, but those after? The Giants cornerback position, which was once one of the deepest in the NFL, is dangerously thin. Not to mention, who will cover TE Vernon Davis?

While the game plan will be to shut down the 49ers running game, containing the pass is another must for New York. If one gets going, the other is sure to follow. The Giants can’t put a ton of small bodies on the field because the 49ers will then run the ball. They can’t come out in their base constantly as the 49ers will pass.

Sunday is a very, very tough test for the Giants.

Weakness?
Since dazzling the NFL his first year seeing extensive action, Kaepernick has struggled at times with San Francisco. His decision making has been questionable, his accuracy subpar and Kaepernick has struggled getting off his first read.

Kaepernick has thrown 13 interceptions in his last 25 games. He completed 58 percent of his passes last year, and 61.9 this year. He’s averaged just 7.69 and 7.50 yards per completion sine 2010.

DEFENSE - by Eric Kennedy
Strength?
A week after playing the NFL’s 4th-best defense, it doesn’t getting any easier this week with the Giants facing the 3rd-best defense in terms of yards allowed (5th against pass and 7th against the run). The strength of this 3-4 defense team remains the front seven with stalwarts such as LDE Ray McDonald, RDE Justin Smith, and outside linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith. Rookie inside linebacker Chris Borland has been exceptional.

That all said, don’t discount the secondary. The safeties have been excellent. Free safety Eric Reid is fast developing into one of the best in the game. Ex-Colt strong safety Antoine Bethea is having an excellent season.

Weakness?
It’s not so much a “weakness” as the corners simply are not as strong as other areas of the defense. Also, the 49ers lost their nose tackle last week, but Glenn Dorsey returns this week after a preseason biceps injury.

The biggest weakness to date has been the 49ers are 25th in the NFL in sacks. Getting Aldon Smith back from suspension should improve their pass rush however.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Connor Hughes –
Colin Kaepernick
While not as efficient as a passer, Kaepernick is a far better runner than Seattle’s Russell Wilson. After struggling against Seattle, how will the Giants defend Kaepernick? It’ll be an interesting test for the Giants and it’ll be fun to watch how Fewell elects to defend it.

Eric Kennedy -
Rashad Jennings
For the Giants to have a chance in this game, the need the running game to be more productive. That will be difficult against one of the NFL’s best run defenses. Plus Jennings is still not 100 percent and likely to be rusty. Still, he should be a shot in the arm to the offense and might make a bigger impact as a receiver.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin - “(The 49ers) are going to run. That is their deal. They are going to set things up with the run. You have to be very, very good and very, very strong. We need turnovers. We need field position.”

Jim Harbaugh - “(Against the Seahawks, the Giants) got hit on a couple quarterback-sucker plays and a few zone-read keepers by the quarterback that amounted to some big yardage. I anticipate that will be fixed by the time we play.”

FINAL WORD:

Connor Hughes – It’s truly mind-boggling how injury depleted the Giants have been over the last few years, but this year is even more than most. The Giants are without nearly half their starting lineup and truthfully, I don’t believe they have enough to stick with San Francisco for four quarters.  New York will keep it close, but in the end, the 49ers pull it out. San Fransisco 28 – New York 20.

Eric Kennedy – It makes little sense to pick the Giants in this spot but I think New York rebounds with a win this week. I expect the 49ers to come into this game overconfident, and two back-to-back cross-country road trips should take some life out of them. The San Francisco win against the Saints in New Orleans was impressive, but the 49ers have been a bit shaky this year. Much depends on which version of Colin Kaepernick shows up. When he is “on”, he can make some unbelievable throws, especially outside of the pocket. But when Kaepernick is “off”, he can be really bad. Pray for the latter this weekend. Giants 24 – 49ers 13.

Nov 072014
 
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Antrel Rolle, New York Giants (December 15, 2013)

Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks, November 9, 2014

The 3-5 New York Giants (1-2 in the NFC East) will travel to Seattle to play the defending Super Bowl Champion Seahawks in a stadium where the road team rarely wins. Despite injury issues at quarterback, the 6-2 Philadelphia Eagles (2-0 in the division) and 6-3 Dallas Cowboys (1-1) in the division have all but left the Giants in the dust. The Giants have zero wiggle room. They must win this game or their season is all but officially over.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Will Jason Pierre-Paul be Jason Pierre-Paul?
While few players on the Giants defense played well Monday night, Pierre-Paul was one of those that stood out as being abnormally quiet. Just a week after his best game of the season, Pierre-Paul was kept in check all night in prime time. The same statement that was made before the season still holds true today, in order for the defense to be successful, Pierre-Paul need to be a force. Be that against the run, the pass, or both. He can’t go invisible as he did on Monday.

Second Down
Will New York’s rebuilt secondary hold up?
It seems like a very, very long time ago that the Giants secondary was considered the deepest and strength of the team. Injuries have ravaged the position, taking the teams No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 and now, with Zack Bowman in the hospital, No. 5 cornerbacks. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been banged up and now, New York may be starting a combination of Jayron Hosley and Chandler Fenner opposite DRC. It’s gotten ugly, very ugly. With a pass rush that has been sporadic, the New York secondary may be ripe for the picking Sunday.

Third Down
Can Odell Beckahm Jr. continue to progress?
If the Giants season ends short of the playoffs, one of the things that will be interesting to watch progress is the play of Odell Beckham Jr. The rookie has progressed each game he’s played with his play coming to the forefront on Monday night. The potential of Beckham going up against Richard Sherman will be fun to watch.

Fourth Down
Will Eli Manning throw an interception?
Eli Manning is going through his best interception-less streak of his career, but is this the week it finally comes to an end? The Seahawks have one of the better secondaries in the NFL and there’s a chance if New York falls behind early, Manning will need to air it out. One of the biggest positives of this season has been the progression of Manning after the regression from a year ago.

BREAKING DOWN SEATTLE:

OFFENSE - by Connor Hughes
Strength?
The Seahawks rushing attack is one of the best in the NFL with its combination of power and technique. The team simply wears opponents down throughout a game and by the fourth, no one wants any part of Marshawn Lynch. Couple the running game with the smart play of Russell Wilson, and Seattle has quite the 1-2 punch.

This season, Seattle is No. 2 in rushing yards per game, averaging 148.5.

Weakness?
Aside from Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks don’t really have another dynamic playmaker on the team’s offense. Golden Tate is in Detroit, Percy Harvin was traded to the Jets. There really isn’t anyone as a receiver that scares an opposition. From that standpoint, if New York can contain the run, the Seahawks lack-of receivers may be exactly what the Giants beat-up secondary needs.

DEFENSE - by Eric Kennedy
Strength?
While not quite as intimidating defensively as last season, the Seahawks are still very good on defense. In terms of yards allowed, they are fourth in the NFL (4th against the run and 6th against the pass). But they are 10th in points allowed. When healthy, the Seahawks are strong on the defensive line and have the best secondary in the NFL. While Seattle’s cornerbacks receiver a lot of media attention, they have the best starting safety combination in the NFL. Bruce Irvin is a play-maker at linebacker.

Weakness?
Injuries. Seattle has had injury issues both at linebacker and in the secondary. And while Seattle can still rush the passer, the sack numbers haven’t been there  yet with Seattle only accruing 11 sacks on the season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Connor Hughes –
Odell Beckham Jr.
Yeah, I most definitely was not the guy that wrote the mathematically article about how the Giants should hold off on any lofty expectations about Beckham. The receiver looks like the real deal and is getting better and better each passing week. It will be very interesting to watch Beckham against the Seattle secondary and against Sherman when he wonders over to that side.

Beckham does things athletically I’ve never seen before. The one-handed grabs that were shown on tape on Monday Night Football were the same catches he was making every day from the jugs machine in training camp. Now that he’s healthy, the world is seeing what he’s capable of.

He’s surprised me. A lot.

Eric Kennedy -
Jason Pierre-Paul
If Robert Ayers plays as well as he did last week, and Jason Pierre-Paul can re-gain the form he showed only a few weeks ago against Dallas, the Giants defensive line could cause all kinds of problems for a Seahawks offensive line that has really struggled with injuries. The pass rush is important, but this week, run defense will be the greater emphasis. Stop the run.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin - On the Seahawks leading the NFL with 5.1 yards per carry: “They definitely build themselves on that aspect of it. Now, they do it from open formations, too. It’s not just regular personnel. They want to run the ball first, and off of that comes all of their play-actions, which are outstanding, and then the quarterback (Russell Wilson) and his ability to keep the ball on the bootleg – scramble, get on the perimeter, make plays outside the pocket, that’s his game. He has a strong arm and he’s smart…Keep him in (the pocket). Keep him in there. He’s their second-leading rusher and he runs up and down the field if you’re not careful.”

Pete Carroll - “I think (Odell Beckham) looks terrific. We had him really highly rated in the draft. (We) loved his overall football ability. He was a terrific returner. His great speed and also he has just great athleticism and he is great competitor and smart player. You put it all together. He is a tremendous prospect for them and he is really coming alive and you can see that he has great potential.”

FINAL WORD:

Connor Hughes – I have a feeling this game will be a lot closer than many think, but this season as an entirety feels like it may spiral out of control after this loss. Antrel Rolle’s comments seem to have ruffled a few feathers and there’s only so much that can be expected from the Giants’ secondary. If Rodgers-Cromartie goes down, how much can really be expected of Chandler Fenner and Jayron Hosley?

It really is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen – the injuries that constantly seem to attack the Giants. More than anything else, the secondary injuries. Every year it seems players drop like flies. I don’t have any explanation for it, but this year may be the worst in recent memory. Realistically, because of injuries, the Giants could enter Sunday’s game without the following starters:

  • Running back (Jennings)
  • Receiver No. 2 (Cruz)
  • Receiver No. 3 (Jernigan)
  • Left guard (Schwartz)
  • Right Guard (Snee)
  • Left Guard (Richburg)
  • Defensive Tackle (Jenkins)
  • Defensive End (Kiwanuka)
  • Middle Linebacker (Beason)
  • Stronside Linebacker (McClain – who’s playing middle because of Beason)
  • Cornerback No. 2 (Amukamara)
  • Cornerback No. 3 (Thurmond)
  • Cornerback No. 4 (McBride)
  • Cornerback No. 5 (Bowman)

How many teams can take claim to that? How many teams can survive that? Seattle 28 – New York 17.

Eric Kennedy – I really want to pick the Giants in this game, but I can’t. Seattle doesn’t appear to be the same team as they were last year and I think they can be beaten at home. And in some ways, this game is a good match-up for the Giants in that the strength of Seattle’s offense is their running game rather than their passing game – which is key for the G-Men given New York’s incredibly banged-up secondary. But I just don’t see how the Giants are going to move the football in this game unless Eli Manning and Odell Beckham put on a 2-man show. The Seattle defensive line is going to dominate the Giants offensive line. In particular, their big defensive tackles are going to take away the inside running game. The Giants will become one dimensional. Rueben Randle will be easily handled and the Seahawks have the linebackers and safeties to cover Larry Donnell pretty effectively. If I’m Coughlin and McAdoo, I replace Preston Parker in the slot with Kevin Ogletree and perhaps the Giants could do some damage there.

Seattle just needs to play it conservatively and keep pounding the ball. With the Giants unable to move the rock and likely to be punting frequently with an injured punter (back problems now for Steve Weatherford), the Giants defense will eventually break. Look for Eli to be under duress, get frustrated, and throw a pick or two.

Bottom line…the Giants are 3-0 against bad teams; 0-5 against better teams. And the five losses haven’t been close. Giants keep it interesting until second half, but New York loses 29-9.

Nov 042014
 
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Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (November 3, 2014)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The waning seconds ticked off the New York Giants 40-24 loss to the Indianapolis Colts and the few hundred fans remaining in the stands headed for the exits. The enthusiasm honorary team captain Michael Strahan and many ex-Giants legends who were on hand helped to build was was now long gone.

Andrew Luck and Co. marched into East Rutherford, put up more than 400 yards of offense through the third quarter and all but ended New York’s season. It wasn’t close. It never was. And the 3-5 Giants now look headed for mediocrity once again.

“We knew full well the explosiveness of this team and the production of their quarterback,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.

After kicking a field goal to make the score 10-3 in the second quarter, Indianapolis scored on its next five possessions discounting the end of the first half. Luck connected on a 31-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton, a 40-yard score to Reggie Wayne and a two-yarder to Dwayne Allen during a 21-point explosion in the third quarter. When the game mercifully ended, Luck was 25-of-46 for 354 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

While the Giants the Giants were able to hit Luck with a variety of blitzes, the team’s secondary couldn’t hold up. After starting cornerback Prince Amukamara was lost with a torn bicep, Luck went to work on the likes of Jayron Hosley and Zack Bowman. Nine different receivers caught passes from he former No. 1 overall pick. Six of those players caught passes of 20 or more yards.

Former Giants Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw enjoyed their first games against their former teams. Nicks caught three of the four passes thrown his way for 44 yards. Ahmad Bradshaw rushed seven times for 50 yards and had 29 yards receiving.

“They go fast,” Coughlin said. “Whenever they make a bit play, they go fast. We talked about it all week. Our defense had prepared for it all week along. All of a sudden we weren’t getting lined up as fast as we should.”

Offensively, New York failed to establish anything on a consistent basis. While quarterback Eli Manning’s 359 passing yards and Odell Beckham Jr.’s 156 receiving yards tell one story, the game says another. On the Giants first eight possessions, the offense managed three points. It wasn’t until the third quarter, with the Colts leading 23-3, that New York found the end zone.

The running game was nonexistent. Starting running back Andre Williams rushed 12 times for 22 yards, Peyton Hillis four for 20.

There were dropped passes, fumbles, missed opportunities and more. The plays that regularly haunt a bad team popped up time and time again with the ball in the Giants’ hands.

“We continue to have the same problems,” Coughlin said. “Three points in the first half isn’t going to give you much of an opportunity to beat the No. 1 offense in the National Football League.”

New York will travel to take on the Seattle Seahawks next week.

Post-Game Notes: CB Prince Amukamara tore a bicep muscle and is likely done for the season. OG Weston Richburg left the game with an ankle injury and was wearing a walking boot and using crutches after the game. WR Preston Parker sprained his foot and was also in a walking boot.

Inactive for the Giants were RB Rashad Jennings (knee), DT Cullen Jenkins (calf), DE Kerry Wynn,  CB Mike Harris, OT Charles Brown, OT James Brewer, and OG Brandon Mosley.

Oct 312014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 16, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants, November 3, 2014

The New York Giants look to snap their two-game losing streak against a tough opponent Monday night in the Indianapolis Colts.

Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants (August 18, 2013)

Ahmad Bradshaw – Photo Courtesy of Evan Pinkus and the Giants

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Old faces in new places
A former New York Giant is making quite the impact for the Indianapolis Colts… it’s just not the player anyone expected. A year after dealing with neck injuries, Ahmad Bradshaw has found new life with the Colts and has all but supplanted Trent Richardson as the team’s starting running back. As for the other former Giant? Hakeem Nicks hasn’t had any impact on the offense. Last week, he played in just 19 of the team’s snaps.

Both players will sure be revved up to play their former team again in their former stadium, will the Giants contain them?

Second Down
Can the Giants establish a running game?
One of the things that made Giants running back Rashad Jennings so special was his vision. Even if option one wasn’t open, Jennings found the second and third holes that were formed as the play developed to turn negative plays into positive ones. It’s a trait Jennings developed over time. Andre Williams just doesn’t have it yet.

Williams has struggled to get things going for New York on a consistent basis. If the initial hole isn’t there, the play usually doesn’t work. Williams’ vision will develop over time, it just isn’t there yet. Will this be the game he breaks out?

Third Down
Will New York be able to contain Andrew Luck?
The odds of New York shutting down Andrew Luck are slim, but the team can contain him. Pressure Luck, forcing him out of his comfort zone and to roll out of the pocket and across his body. That’s easier said, than done. Can the Giants execute the defensive game plan?

Fourth Down
Can for one week there not be a miscommunication in the secondary? 
Just once, can the Giants not have a defensive meltdown in the secondary? Can someone not think someone else has their help? Can everyone just be on the same page as everyone else? It’s a weekly occurrence and it needs to stop. Every year the defense starts this way and then needs to be ‘dumbed down.’ Not sure if that’s on the players, or the coaching staff.

BREAKING DOWN INDIANAPOLIS:

OFFENSE - by Connor Hughes
Strength?
The Colts offense is littered with playmakers all across the field. Reggie Wayne (questionable to play), T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Hakeem Nicks, Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson are all capable of making plays at any point in time. Couple that with one of the best quarterback’s in the game and the Colts have one of the better attacks in all of football.

Weakness?
The interior offensive line can be had. The Colts guard play has been suspect this year and have struggled at times. The playmakers and Andrew Luck overshadows the line play.

DEFENSE - by Eric Kennedy
Strength?
The Colts defense had been ranked 3rd in league in terms of yards allowed until the game against the Steelers where they gave up over 600 yards of offense. That likely anomaly dropped them to 15th. Until that game, the defense was performing at a high level and had shut out the Cincinnati Bengals. The Colts are outstanding on 3rd down. And while they have a lot of “no-name” defensive players, they are very well coached and can confuse opposing offenses with their various 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. No player has more than four sacks, but the team has 21 overall. The run defense is giving up less than 100 yards per contest.

Weakness?
The sum of the Colts defense is stronger than their component parts as the team lacks impact defensive playmakers. They have a lot of “solid” guys, but there is no one to really fear. The defense benefits from the fact that the Indianapolis offense is so productive, allowing the defense to pin its ears back against what often becomes a one-dimensional opponent.

Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants (September 15, 2013)

Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks – © USA TODAY Sports Images

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Connor Hughes –
Hakeem Nicks
When Hakeem Nicks was at his best with the New York Giants, he was the team’s No. 1 target. He’s not that in Indianapolis and his numbers have reflected that. Nicks will revved up to play Monday night to play against his former team at his former home. While Nicks hasn’t been a focal point of the offense this year, he should be on Monday. Will he be a factor?

Eric Kennedy -
Eli Manning
The Giants season is on the line. If the Giants have any shot to make the playoffs this year, Eli will have to carry this team like he did in 2011. New York desperately needs for him to out-play Andrew Luck, which is no small feat.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin - “(The Colts are) number one in the league on offense, first place in the AFC South, an exceptional fast start team. Sixty-four points in the first quarter, the opponents, 13. They are the number one passing team as well, big plays, you name it. Defensively – very, very aggressive. Prior to the Pittsburgh game, they were third in the league on defense. They have a high percentage of pressure on each and every down and distance. Special teams is outstanding as well with McAfee and Vinatieri and Whalen doing the returning.”

Chuck Pagano - “Eli (Manning) is obviously going to end up in the Hall of Fame with his brother one day. He is one of the elite quarterbacks in this game. If you don’t pressure and you can’t get pressure on him or do some things to disrupt the timing and rhythm of that offense that (Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo) is running over there now, then (Manning) will rip you to shreds. He can make all the throws and he has great touch and great vision and does a great job controlling safeties and people with his eyes. There isn’t anything that he hasn’t seen from a defensive standpoint.”

FINAL WORD:

Connor Hughes – The difficult part of the Giants schedule began two weeks ago and it won’t get easy Monday night. Luck and the Colts march in after having a dreadful performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers and will be ready to go in prime time. I’m just not sure the Giants match up.

The running game hasn’t been there the last two weeks, the team refuses to take shots down the field and the defense is questionable. If Wayne plays, the Colts bring three No. 1 receivers to the table. If the Giants match that with their secondary, that opens up room on the ground for Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson to run against a smaller front. It doesn’t favor New York, and it could get out of hand quick. Colts 31 – Giants 10.

Eric Kennedy – Many fans charge me with being a Debbie Downer or pessimist. Others will say I simply sound like a dreadful broken record. But Giants fans probably need to come to the recognition that this team simply isn’t very talented. One post in The Corner Forum really resonated with me this past week:

The Giants won the super bowl in ’11 with a team that was basically in decline. The ’10 Giants were a better squad overall that pissed away the year with an insane number of turnovers and a historic collapse at home. In ’11 the Giants peaked at the right time and won a title due to one of the greatest quarterbacking performances of all time. I loved every minute of it but I do not think anyone can truthfully argue that the 2011 Giants were loaded with talent. They had the best QB play in the NFL and an awesome receiving corps. But they did play “over their heads” and a lot of that has to do with coaching. TC does not get enough credit for that. Late 2012 and the shit show that was 2013 finished the collapse and now the team is rebuilding. Luckily this can happen quickly in the NFL when you have a franchise QB.

– BBI Poster rocco8112.

Bad drafting and injuries have decimated New York’s 2008-12 NFL Draft classes, and the Giants are suffering the consequences. Simply put, since the middle of 2012, the Giants have been a bad football team. Now, they are relying on veteran and rookie free agents at far too many positions, and unfortunately, injuries (yet again) have hit the team hard across the board. The Giants are not talented enough to overcome it. The Colts are clearly the better football team. And Ahmad Bradshaw is going to show Jerry Reese he made another mistake. Colts 34 – Giants 17.

Oct 192014
 
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Daniel Fells, New York Giants (October 19, 2014)

Daniel Fells – © USA TODAY Sports Images

DALLAS COWBOYS 31 – NEW YORK GIANTS 21

The New York Giants dropped their fourth game of the season, and second consecutive divisional game, to the Dallas Cowboys, 31-21. Below are several quick hits and tidbits from the Giant defeat, including stats and post-game notes.

Game Inactives
Dallas Cowboys

  • OLB Bruce Carter
  • DT Davon Coleman
  • DE Jack Crawford
  • OT Doug Free
  • DB Jakar Hamilton
  • OT Donald Hawkins

New York Giants

  • OT James Brewer
  • DT Jay Bromley
  • RB Rashad Jennings
  • OG Brandon Mosley
  • OG Adam Snyder
  • WR Corey Washington

NOTES:

Offense…

  • On the Giants second touchdown, quarterback Eli Manning hit tight end Daniel Fells for a 27-yard touchdown. The touchdown marked the eighth for a Giants tight end this season. The eight scores by the tight ends are the most by the positional group since 2009 when Kevin Boss caught six touchdowns and Darcy Johnson two. If another tight end catches a touchdown pass this season, it will mark the first time in more than two decades that the positional group had nine touchdowns or more.
  • For the third straight game, Eli Manning did not throw an interception. In 2013, Manning threw interceptions in all but three games. It is the first time Manning has gone three games without an interception since 2008.
  • Through the season’s first seven games, Eli Manning has thrown just five interceptions. At this point last year, Manning had thrown 15.
  • After catching just one pass the last two games, Larry Donnell caught seven passes for 90 yards. With Victor Cruz absent, the team used both Preston Parker and Odell Beckham Jr. in the slot.

Defense…

  • Jason Pierre-Paul had two sacks versus Dallas. It was his ninth multi-sack performance of his career and his first since Oct. 14, 2012 versus San Francisco.
  • Prince Amukamara and Jacquian Williams led the Giants with seven tackles each.
  • After allowing LeSean McCoy to run for 149 yards a week ago, Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray rushed for 128.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie started the game playing just third downs, but did not play the second half. Amukamara guarded Dez Bryant for the majority of the game. Bryant caught nine passes for 151 yards

Injuries…

  • Giants DT Cullen Jenkins left the game with a leg injury and was seen in a walking boot following the game. The Giants used both Markus Kuhn and Mike Patterson in his place.
  • Linebacker Jon Beason left the game in the first half and was taken back to the locker room for x-rays on his injured toe. The x-rays came back negative, but Beason did not return to the game.
  • Jason Pierre-Paul missed a few plays with an unknown injury, but returned to the game.
Oct 192014
 
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Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (October 19, 2014)

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Good teams don’t make these plays.

On fourth and one, a good team’s offensive line won’t jump offsides. Trailing by seven in the fourth quarter, a good team’s tight end won’t fumble a ball after picking up a first down deep inside their own territory.

A good team’s tight end won’t fumble again with under a minute to play.

A good team won’t claim a game as a ‘Must Win,’ then get gashed for more than 400 yards on defense, including 156 on ground.

Maybe the New York Giants are what the preseason expectations stated they were: An average, to slightly below average, football team.

Sunday afternoon, the Giants lost their fourth game of the season – second in a row to a divisional opponent – falling to the Dallas Cowboys, 31-21. The loss dropped New York’s record to 3-4, 1-2 in the NFC East and 2-4 in the conference.

“We had opportunities,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “We couldn’t stop them when we had to stop them.”

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (October 19, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

In the first half, New York looked to be ready for the divisional fight many expected. After Dallas took the lead on a first quarter touchdown pass from Tony Romo to tight end Gavin Escobar, the Giants scored 14 unanswered points.

Quarterback Eli Manning marched the Giants 71 yards in 10 plays, capping the drive off on a nine-yard touchdown to rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. After a Prince Amukamara interception got the Giants the ball back five plays later, Manning took just one play to get New York back in the endzone.

At the Dallas 27 yard line, Manning rolled out on a play fake and found tight end Daniel Fells for the score. Manning finished 21-of-33 for 248 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was the third straight game Manning did not turn the ball over.

But the Giants lead was short lived. On the ensuing possession, Tony Romo hit Terrance Williams for a 18-yard touchdown to tie the game. In the second half, Dallas snapped the 14-14 tie when Romo found Escobar for a 26-yard touchdown past Zack Bowman.

With the Giants down seven, Manning looked to march the team on a game-tying drive, but quickly the one-possession game turned into two. Facing a third and 8, Manning fired a pass over the middle to Larry Donnell.

Daniel Fells, New York Giants (October 19, 2014)

Daniel Fells – © USA TODAY Sports Images

As Donnell fought forward for the first, the tight end fumbled the ball. Dallas recovered and four plays later, DeMarco Murray ran in from a yard out to put Dallas up, 28-14. After allowing LeSean McCoy to rush for a season-high 149 yards, Murray tallied 128 on the ground against New York.

Murray has now tied an NFL record with seven 100 yard rushing games in a season, and set the NFL record for most 100 yard rushing games to start the year.

With Dallas leading 28-14, Manning marched the Giants 80 yards in 11 plays, taking 3:43 off the clock, before finding Beckham for his second touchdown of the game.

Facing a fourth and goal at the five, Manning hit Beckham on a slant. Beckham finished with four catches four 34 yards and two touchdowns.

With New York back in the game, it turned to its defense to get a stop and give Manning the ball back, but those hopes never materialized. Romo took Dallas on a 10-play drive, eating up 4:29 of the clock. Dan Bailey capped the drive with a 49-yard field goal, putting Dallas up 10 with under a minute to play.

With little hope left, New York fumbled away its final chance when Donnell was stripped for a second time.

New York (3-4) will have a bye next week while Dallas (6-1) will host the Washington Redskins (2-5).

Oct 172014
 
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Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (October 28, 2012)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, October 19, 2014

After a dismal performance versus Philadelphia, the suddenly silent Giants travel to Dallas to take on the surprising 5-1 Cowboys.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Can the defensive line and linebackers contain DeMarco Murray?
Versus the Philadelphia Eagles last week, running back LeSean McCoy made a mockery of the Giants defensive front, crossing the century mark for the first time this season. On Sunday, the Giants will face a running back that has gone over 100 yards in ever game this season. Running behind arguably the best offensive line in football, Murray is putting together the best season of his young career, displaying tremendous vision and explosiveness getting to and through the holes. If New York can’t contain Murray, something no team has been able to do this year, it may be a long day in Dallas.

Second Down
Can Dominique Rodgers-Cromarite play? Can he be effective?
The biggest question surrounding Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t exactly if he’s going to play, but if he’s going to be effective playing. The Giants gave the former first-round pick a massive contract in the offseason to go toe-to-toe with receivers like Dez Bryant during the regular season. But if Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t entirely healthy, he may be as much of a liability as an asset. DRC practiced for the first time all week on Friday, and coach Tom Coughlin and Co. should have gotten a nice look on what exactly he could do on the field. If he can’t go, or is a go at half speed, it may be New York’ s best bet to have Prince Amukamara shadow Bryant.

Third Down
How will Justin Pugh respond?
Last week, Justin Pugh made Connor Barwin look like the second coming of Lawrence Taylor. Then again, nearly everyone that lined up across from Pugh Sunday night looked the same. The second-year pro played the worst game of his football career, per his own admittance, and will surely look to put that game behind him. On Wednesday, Pugh admitted that he has been wearing an elbow brace for the last three weeks, two of which it was covered up with a sleeve. When asked if it will require offseason surgery Pugh said he didn’t know and that the injury was “just something I’m dealing with.” If Pugh isn’t 100 percent, it explains his sudden drop off in production last week. If it’s an injury that’s going to linger, the Giants offensive line could be in trouble.

Fourth Down
Is Odell Beckham Jr. ready?
Just a few short weeks ago, Odell Beckham Jr. was the biggest question mark on the Giants offense. Was the rookie injury prone, a bust, a star, average? After catching four passes for 44 yards and a touchdown in his season debut, everything seemed to be aligning for the Giants. Rueben Randle and Beckham could man the outside, Victor Cruz in the slot. Cruz’s season-ending  injury threw that idea in the trash and now Beckham needs to step up as “The Guy” not “Another guy.” Can the rookie handle it?

BREAKING DOWN DALLAS:

OFFENSEby Eric Kennedy
Strength?
The Cowboys are loaded on offense. The offensive line has three first-round draft picks playing like first-round draft picks. DeMarco Murray is the most dangerous running back in football. Dez Bryant is a top 5 NFL wideout. The ageless Jason Witten has a long history of killing the Giants at tight end. Quarterback Tony Romo is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and still looks like Houdini at times back there when you think he is about to be sacked.

Weakness?
Really, the Cowboys don’t have any glaring weaknesses on offense. If pressed, one can say Murray has been injury-prone and Romo is a long history of choking in big spots. The other receivers outside of Bryant are not world-beaters, but the running game, Bryant, and Witten draw so much attention that guys like Terrance Williams have five touchdowns in 18 catches. Right tackle Doug Free will miss the game, but there shouldn’t be a big drop off between him and back-up Jermey Parnell.

DEFENSE - by Connor Hughes
Strength?
The Cowboys defense has been much, much better than expected in 2014, and a lot of that has to do with it’s success stopping the pass. The Dallas secondary has graded out with a positive 17.8 rating from ProFootballFocus and its two cornerbacks are a big reason why. Neither Orlando Scandrick or Sterling Moore have allowed a touchdown this year as the Cowboys have allowed the 12th fewest passing yards per game this season. It’s not great, but compared with how terrible things were a year ago, it’s an improvement.

Weakness? 
Without Sean Lee, the Cowboys have struggled stopping the run this year, allowing an average of 115 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry. The Giants offensive line should be able to control the line of scrimmage and open up running lanes for Peyton Hillis and Andre Williams. The biggest thing the Giants offense can do is keep Tony Romo and Dez Bryant off the field with New York’s secondary – potentially – without Rodgers-Cromartie. Running the ball and controlling the time of possession is the No. 1 way to do that.

PLAYER TO WATCH:

Connor Hughes –
Justin Pugh
When Justin Pugh admitted Wednesday he had been “dealing” with an elbow issue, it instantly threw up red flags for me, personally. Sure, everyone in the league is dealing with injuries at this point, but coming off a four-sack let up performance. Pugh may be dealing with it more than he’d like to admit. While the Cowboys haven’t exactly been the best at getting after an opponent’s quarterback – they enter Sunday’s game with just six team sacks – I’ll have my eye on how Pugh handles whomever comes his way.

Eric Kennedy -
Jon Beason
Run defense is about all 11 defenders on the field, but Jon Beason is the man in the middle and it’s his job to get his teammates lined up properly and make plays on Murray. Still struggling with his toe injury, Beason has not played well in the three games he has played this season. Against this particular opponent, the Giants need a monster game out of him both as a run defender and in pass coverage.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin – “(The Cowboys) have outstanding team speed, as you know. Their offense has done an outstanding job of controlling the ball, controlling the clock. They’re number one in the league in rushing. They’re scoring 27 and a half points a game, 56 percent on third down. Defense, they’ve played very well. They have outstanding team speed, they run to the ball very well. They do have a nice rotation going. They’re giving up 21 points a game, which is outstanding. Their special teams feature Dan Bailey, who kicked a 56-yard field goal last week. They do an outstanding job with Chris Jones as the punter. The return game with Dwayne Harris is very good and they do have outstanding speed on their coverage teams.”

Jason Garrett - “DeMarco (Murray) is a really good football player and he has been since we drafted him four years ago. I just think we have gotten better and better on the offensive line. We have allocated resources to that position. We have three first-round picks up there. The other guys, Doug Free and Ron Leary, are all playing well together. Our tight ends are blocking, receivers are blocking, fullback is blocking and DeMarco is an awfully good football player, so we made a real commitment to be better in this area and allocated resources to do it. I think we are just seeing the fruits of all that at the start of the season. Obviously, DeMarco is a big part of it.”

FINAL WORD:

Connor Hughes - This is one of the more interesting games of the season, more because no teams can come into the game off more different performances. The Dallas Cowboys are fresh off a shocking victory over the Seattle Seahawks on the road, while the Giants are coming off an embarrassing defeat to the Eagles. The Giants could come in dead and demoralized after losing captain Victor Cruz, or hungry and motivated to put last week’s dismantling far behind them. The Cowboys could come in emotionally drained from defeating Seattle, or red-hot knowing they beat the best of the best where they were unbeatable. In my mind, the Victor Cruz loss is going to take it’s toll on the Giants. While he drops may have plagued New York, he was still a game breaker and reliable. He was the most sure thing the Giants had. Now, with Rashad Jennings out, Manning walks to the line with questions across the offensive line, again, a running back that hasn’t proven he can pass protect, a rookie wide receiver, another receiver who hasn’t proven he can be a No. 1 target, a receiver that was building Tiki Huts last year and a tight end who’s caught one pass the last two games. I don’t think that Dallas is all that great and their injuries across the offensive line are cause for concern. But on Sunday, I feel they’ll be the better team, especially if Rodgers-Cromartie can’t go.
Dallas 27 – Giants 13

Eric Kennedy - Screw the prediction. When you put on the “ny”, you are expected to perform and proudly represent the 90-year old flagship franchise. The Giants are rebuilding…and they are hurting…and everyone expects them to lose this game. But as we saw last week, attitude, emotion, and a sense of urgency still can make a difference. Play smart, play physical. Play for your teammates. Bring the pain. Everything else will fall into place.

Oct 112014
 
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Odell Beckham, Jr., New York Giants (May 31, 2014)

Odell Beckham, Jr. – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, October 12, 2014

The New York Giants (3-2) square off against the Philadelphia Eagles (4-1) Sunday evening in New York’s second NFC East matchup.

FOUR DOWNS:

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (October 5, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

First Down
Will Odell Beckham Jr. be special on special teams?
For the past several years, the Giants have desperately been looking for some kind of spark on special teams. This Sunday it appears as if Beckham will be given a chance to ignite it. The Giants first round pick has taken reps as the team’s punt returner in place of Preston Parker. When Beckham was drafted, Giants general manager Jerry Reese raved about how Beckham could score in “three different ways.” He caught a touchdown last week. Now he’ll have a chance to do it in way No. 2.

Second Down
Can the Giants get pressure on Nick Foles?
The Eagles offensive line is battered, bruised and depleted, similar to the Atlanta Falcons a week ago. Can the Giants make Nick Foles’ day miserable? If not, and the team lets the third-year pro sit back and throw, it could be a long night for the Giants defense.

Third Down
Does Robert Ayers Jr. play?
When Ayers, who has been one of the biggest surprises for the Giants this year, showed up to practice Friday morning, he went to the trainers with neck pain. Turns out, Ayers is dealing with “Neck Spasms.” He didn’t practice Friday and is questionable for this Sunday.

Fourth Down
Can Eli Manning continue to be the Eli Manning of late?
Eli Manning and the Giants offense are playing the best football they have in years. The last three games, the offense has scored 30 or more points in each and Manning has had a 100+ quarterback rating. Those two statistics together have not happened since 2010. Will the hot streak continue for Manning? Or will Philly cool down the red-hot Giants offense.

BREAKING DOWN PHILADELPHIA:

Justin Tuck, New York Giants (October 27, 2013)

Giants Run Defense – © USA TODAY Sports Images

OFFENSE - by Connor Hughes
Strength?
LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles have been everything and more for the Philadelphia offense this year. While McCoy has struggled a little to get it going on the ground, Sproles has picked up the slack. The game breaking ability out of the backfield Sproles regularly displayed for the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers is now showcased weekly in Philly. When Sproles comes out of the backfield, it will most likely be Jacquian Williams tasked with stopping him. As far as McCoy, Jason Pierre-Paul said it best, the moment you forget about him he’ll go off for 100 yards rushing in the first quarter. The two are the heart and soul of the offense, especially with a struggling Nick Foles.

Weakness?
It’s no shock here, the weakest unit on the Eagles offense was their strongest a year ago. The Eagles offensive line is bruised and battered heading into Sunday’s game. One of the reasons McCoy has struggled to get going, and Foles has looked nothing like the quarterback that burst onto the scene last year, is because of the men up front. There’s little running lanes, and even less time in the pocket. Lane Johnson is back, but Evan Mathis and Jason Kelse are not.

DEFENSE -by Eric Kennedy
Strength?
The Eagles defense is currently ranked 28th in terms of yards allowed, but it is opportunistic, having scored three touchdowns already this year. The base defense is a 3-4, but the Eagles will shift in various fronts. The strength of the defensive team is in the front seven. Defensive ends Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thorton can cause issues, and are flexible enough to move to tackle when the Eagles go to their pass-rushing packages, where DE Vinny Curry becomes a factor. Linebacker/defensive end hybrids Trent Cole and Connor Barwin can also rush the passer. Brandon Graham has also been making plays. The leader, inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans, should play this week after suffering a groin injury.

Weakness?
It’s the secondary. The Eagles are 29th against the pass. Outside of safety Malcon Jenkins and Brandon Boykin, the Eagles are struggling. Jenkins has all three of the Eagles interceptions this season. Corners Bradley Williams and Cary Williams are not very good. Nickelback Brandon Boykin will likely match up against Victor Cruz quite a bit. He’s undersized but very quick and athletic.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Connor Hughes –
Zach Ertz, Darren Sproles, Brent Celek
It won’t be a Giant I have my eyes on this Sunday, but rather several Eagles, and what Giant covers them on passing routes. Prior to joining Philadelphia, head coach Chip Kelly and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick would exchange offensive philosophies. It was Kelly who originally came up with the two tight end approach the Patriots used to reach the Super Bowl (Rob Gronkowski/Aaron Hernandez), and Kelly is now building it in Philly with Ertz and Celek. The biggest question with Philadelphia is when the team comes out with two tight ends and Sproles in the backfield, who covers whom?  Will it be Jacquian Williams on Ertz, or Sproles? If Williams is on Ertz, who covers Sproles and Celek? Will Rolle come down? Or Demps? Will Trumaine McBride be forced to cover one of the tight ends? It’s a difficult task presented to Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell this week

Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (October 28, 2012)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Eric Kennedy -
Jason Pierre-Paul
JPP has been running his mouth all week. Can he back it up? Though the Eagles offense has struggled thus far this season, they are still loaded and capable of embarrassing an opponent. Philadelphia will go up tempo and prevent the Giants from subbing defensive personnel, such as getting pass rusher Robert Ayers in at defensive tackle. JPP will face one of the best left tackles in football in Jason Peters. But “great” players are supposed to show up in big games against top-notch opponents. If JPP isn’t a factor on Sunday night both rushing the passer, stopping the run, and being aware of misdirection (screens, end arounds, etc.), it could be a long night for the defense.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin - “Exciting week, divisional week preparing for coach Chip Kelly and his staff. Outstanding Philadelphia Eagles football team, 4-1 team that could be 5-0. Scored 156 points, 88 in the second half, 31.2 per game. They’ve overcome double-digit deficits in the second half of the first three weeks. They’re a team that’s scored on seven returns, which is amazing. You’re talking about being at this point, five games into the season, they have a punt return for a touchdown, a kickoff return for a touchdown, they have two blocked punts for touchdowns, they have three defensive touchdowns, so they’ve done an outstanding job in that area.”

Chip Kelly - “The team I see this year, they are playing…changed offensively in terms of their scheme. Eli Manning seems very comfortable in the scheme; he is getting the ball out a lot faster than they did before. They seem like they are in a lot more spread formations. Defensively, it is the same style. It looks like Jason Pierre-Paul is really playing at a high level right now, he is very healthy. Their front four is doing a lot of really good work. They added guys like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the secondary, who is an outstanding corner, so they added a couple pieces there, (a) really good football team coming in here on Sunday.”

FINAL WORD:

Connor Hughes – Finally. The war of words between the trash-talking Giants and Philadelphia Eagles is put to rest with the teams stepping on the field Sunday night. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it will be the Giants walking off it with their fourth straight victory.

Entering the game, the Giants have a better offense than the Eagle defense. And the Giants defense is better – with the offensive line at its present state – than the Eagles offense. The Giants are hot, the Eagles, despite their 4-1 record, are not. Everything points to New York continuing its winning streak. But I just don’t see it happening.

When the Giants played the Patriots in the past, the team is built to beat them. It didn’t matter how good, or how many weapons New England had, the Giants schematically were the perfect match. They were able to pressure Brady with four, knock him to the ground and control the clock to beat the unbeatable. They did it twice on the biggest of stages.

With Philadelphia, I see something similar. They match up very well against the Giants defense. Who exactly covers Celek? Sproles? Ertz? The Giants could go nickel, using Trumaine McBride to cover one, but that opens up rushing lanes. It’s a difficult situation.

It should be close, as all Giants and Eagles games seem to be. But I see an Eli Manning interception late in the fourth sealing the deal.
Philadelphia 24 – New York 20

Eric Kennedy - How good are the Eagles? Are they simply not as good as they were last year because of the injury issues on their offensive line and the loss of DeSean Jackson? Or are they poised for a breakout game? The problem – as Connor astutely points out – is that the Eagles have a lot of very dangerous underneath targets at running back and tight end who create significant match-up problems for the Giants defense. This is an opponent where the Giants will miss Will Hill and not having more overall speed and athleticism at linebacker. The Eagles are also one of the most dangerous screen teams in the NFL. On the other side of the ball, on paper, the Giants should be able to move the ball if the team can protect Eli Manning and create running room for Andre Williams. But if I’m the Eagles, I really challenge and test the ability of Williams to protect Eli. This was a bad time to lose Rashad Jennings, who is very good as pass protector and receiver. In a close game, specials will likely determine the outcome. The Eagles special teams have been outstanding. They have scored four touchdowns, including on blocked punts. The Giants special teams remain less than special, finding different ways to screw up each contest.

I think the Giants are the better team. But I also think there is something about those green turds from Philadelphia that bring out the worst in the Giants. The trash-talking, which was started by the Giants this week, was unnecessary, and I believe a sign of underlying doubt and mental weakness against this particular opponent.
Philadelphia 33 – New York 10

Oct 082014
 
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Odell Beckham and Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (October 5, 2014)

Odell Beckham and Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 30 – Atlanta Falcons 20

After things looked so bleak following the Giants second consecutive loss to start the season, everything has turned around. The Giants have rattled off three straight victories to hold their first winning record in quite some time. The defense is attacking, the offense is gelling and even the special teams avoided a major let down this week.

Below you will find the complete game review from the Giants 30-20 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

REVISITING: FOUR DOWNS
During our game preview, we listed ‘Four Downs,’ which took a look at the top four questions surrounding the Giants heading into the game. Now that the game has been played and the film reviewed, it’s time to break it down.

First Down
Who guards whom?
The Falcons moved WR Julio Jones around quite a bit in the first half of the game, and many of the Giants defensive backs had their chances against him. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie seemed to fare the best against Jones, especially in the second half when the pass rush picked up.

Second Down
Time to feast for Giants defensive line?
The defensive line did not feast at all in the first half as a patchwork Atlanta offensive line missing four starters did an admirable job both run and pass blocking. Atlanta managed 14 first downs in the first half, averaged 4.4 yards per run, and completed 17-of-23 passes. Jason Pierre-Paul became a one-man wrecking crew in the second half. Robert Ayers also began to pressure the QB, and Johnathan Hankins made the defensive play of the game with his 4th quarter 4th-and-1 sack with under five minutes to play. Not counting two late meaningless runs, Atlanta was held to 13 rushing yards in the second half. In summary, it was famine in the first half; feasting in the second half.

Third Down
How much can Odell Beckham Jr. play? 
Odell Beckham Jr. appeared to be on the Andre Brown just-got-back-from-an-injury snap count. The wideout played 37 snaps and seemed to get stronger as the game progressed. By the fourth quarter, Beckham was fully involved in the game and making all the plays the Giants had hoped he would when the used the No. 12 pick in the draft on him.

Fourth Down
Will  Osi Umenyiora be a factor?
In the general review of things, no. Umenyiora had his first sack of the season against Eli Manning, but it was more of a coverage sack than anything else. Umenyiora put a nice move on Beatty, but Manning had time to throw, no one was open. Instead of forcing it, Manning ate the sack and lived to fight another down. Aside from that play, it was a very, very quiet game for Umenyiora in his return to MetLife.

OFFENSIVE OVERVIEW by Connor Hughes

For whatever reason, maybe it was the fact the team was looking a week forward to Philadelphia, the Giants offense was a bit slow and iffy to start the game. There wasn’t much in terms of energy, few big plays and, until Beckham ignited a rally, it looked as if the Giants were headed for a disappointing defeat. A nice second half rally led the Giants to their third straight win and lit up the scoreboard a bit, too. For the first time since 2009, the Giants offense has scored 30 or more points in three straight.

QUARTERBACK by Connor Hughes

It wasn’t his flashiest performance, but Eli Manning was consistent. The quarterback completed 19-of-30 passes for 200 yards with two touchdowns with no interceptions. He had a quarterback rating of 104.5. For the first time since 2010, Manning has had a quarterback rating above 100 in three straight games. It’s no surprise why Manning has had success the last three games: he’s had loads of time in the pocket and continues to release the ball at an alarming fast rate (second fastest in the NFL). Nearly every time Manning dropped back, he had time to scan the field.

There were two throws that were a little questionable, one on a curl route to Rueben Randle, and another on a  slant to Randle. Manning felt a little pressure, didn’t have time to set his feet and threw it anyway. Those are the throws that have gotten Manning in trouble in the past, but that didn’t happen this week. From someone who truly questioned his ability to play in a West Coast offense, Manning is looking like the perfect fit.

RUNNING BACKS by Connor Hughes

Rashad Jennings will be missed. Not just for his ability as a running back, but all of the little things he does in a game that sometimes goes unnoticed. Jennings is a pro’s pro, there’s nothing special about him and he doesn’t do anything ‘great.’ What Jennings does do is everything exceptionally well. His football IQ may be one of the highest on the team, and there’s no backing down from anyone. For a player like Andre Williams who is trying to learn the proper way to pass protect, he may have the perfect mentor:

On the play in which Jennings was injured, there was no clear cut sign as to how exactly he got hurt. He got a carry and was being brought down when a safety came in to apply an extra hit. It looked as if when the safety hit Jennings, his body bent a little funky, but no camera angle showed the direction in which his knee went. After the play, Jennings got up, walked over to the sideline and did not return.

It’s been said more times than it needs to, but Sunday simply illustrated it more: the issue with Andre Williams is not his ability to run the ball; he can do that at an extremely high level. His issue is executing in the other two facets of the game – blocking and receiving. After practices, Williams has been working with the jugs machine catching balls, and it showed Sunday. While it certainly wasn’t pretty, Williams caught two passes and turned both into first downs. After his first, he got up quite fired up.

Where Williams has made little progress, and may be a massive issue come Sunday night, is in pass protection. It’s not that Williams can’t block. He has the size and build to match up with blitzing linebackers or chip defensive ends. When he does engage with someone, it’s not as if he’s being tossed around like a rag doll. His issue is knowing who to block.

When Williams checked into the game full time, the Giants play-faked to him in the shotgun formation, then had him run directly into the line. If Williams didn’t do that, he simply ran out on a pass route. Only once that I counted, on all of his snaps, did Williams pass block straight on the snap. It didn’t go well.

Williams stepped up in the pocket, expecting a blitzing linebacker. Instead, a safety came off the edge. Williams was late to recognize this, late to get over, and, as a result, Manning had to rush a pass.

Shortly after this play, the Giants brought Peyton Hillis in. The veteran made an instant impact. Pass blocking is usually a trait running backs need to learn. Again, it’s not that Williams can’t block, it’s just that he is lacking in the experience department. Once it all clicks, he has the ability to be a complete NFL back.

WIDE RECEIVERS - by Connor Hughes

Preston Parker has filled in admirably for Jerrel Jernigan over the past few weeks as the Giants waited for Beckham to get healthy. There’s the good, there’s the bad. What Parker has done well is what his assignment is and when the ball is thrown his way, he doesn’t drop it. As was the case on his long 42-yard reception. On the play, a safety and cornerback were both matched up on Parker, but both were peeking inside at Manning. As a result, Parker got behind both and deep into the secondary. Atlanta had a linebacker playing centerfield, and he bit the wrong way, leaving Parker wide open.

Where Parker had his issues was after he caught the ball and suddenly it was his time to make a play. On one particular play, Parker made a little bit of a questionable decision on what angle to take. On third down, Parker caught the ball and turned up the field. Instead of darting up the field directly, he chose to run towards the sidelines and around Randle. Had he just cut up the field, the play may have resulted in a first down, instead of a fourth and short.

Watching the film, all eyes were on Odell Beckham Jr., and the rookie didn’t disappoint. It may not all come together this season, but Beckham has all the tools to be one of the better receivers in the NFL. He has Hakeem Nicks-like size, where he plays bigger than he is, speed and unbelievable hands. Prior to the game, when the quarterbacks were just throwing to their receivers, Beckham ran a fade route and jumped in the air, then – with his hand facing the quarterback – palmed the ball and brought it down with ease. He makes plays like this on a regular basis. It’s incredible to watch.

In the game, it was obvious the Falcons were respecting his speed. The Giants gave them reason to, running Beckham deep on many of his first patterns. Then, they took advantage of the over-anxious Falcons.

On the play that wasn’t, Manning’s throw-away intended for Beckham, there was an ever-so-slight move Beckham put on that allowed him to get open. It was the slightest movement inside that got the corner to bite. Then, Beckham burst up the field. It’s a shame Manning didn’t see it as it would have been an 82-yard touchdown.

TIGHT ENDS by Connor Hughes

After catching three touchdowns versus Washington, Larry Donnell got some additional attention from the Falcons secondary. Normally, Donnell was matched up with a linebacker, and a safety was overtop. With that attention being given to Donnell, Manning went to work with his wide receivers. The more Donnell develops, the more this is going to happen. It’s a positive for the Giants offense. Something that few thought would be said, the Giants have enough playmakers on the field to make a defensive coordinators job difficult.

On Sunday, Atlanta was focused on Donnell and Victor Cruz, that left Rueben Randle, Preston Parker and Beckham open. When the Giants played Washington last week, that attention was devoted to the receivers, leaving Donnell open. It’s going to be a week-to-week, pick-your-poison for defenses. It’s great for the Giants, bad for fantasy owners. Donnell can go off any week for 30 points, or be down with three – or in this case, zero – the next.

Donnell did make one play that won’t show up on the stat sheet, or help any fantasy team. After a Randle fumble, Donnell was one of the only players to react instantly to the ball on the ground.

OFFENSIVE LINE by Connor Hughes

As has been the case the last three weeks, the Giants offensive line was near perfect versus Atlanta. There was little pressure allowed on Eli Manning, and running lanes were opened up regularly. The one time Atlanta got to Manning, a sack by Osi Umenyiora, it was both a coverage sack, and vintage Umenyiora.

Manning had time to throw, went through his first and second reads, but no one was there. Instead of forcing the ball, he ate the sack. The fact is, if it weren’t for a great move from Umenyiora, Manning may have had six seconds to throw.

It seemed as if every time Manning dropped back to pass, he had time in the pocket. It helped. And it’s helped each week.

DEFENSIVE OVERVIEW – by Eric Kennedy

Overall, the Falcons gained 397 net yards of offense (90 yards rushing and 307 yards passing). But they were only 2-of-13 (15 percent) on third-down conversions and 1-of-2 (50 percent) on fourth-down efforts. The Falcons were also only 1-of-3 (33 percent) in red zone opportunities. The Giants only forced one turnover and that turnover unfortunately was negated by the interceptor fumbling the ball right back to Atlanta.

Aside from one play, it was a tale of two halves for the Giants defense.

In the first half, the Giants allowed 14 first downs. They also allowed 10 points on two long drives, the first covering 80 yards in nine plays and resulting in a touchdown. With 3:40 left before the half, the Falcons drove 73 yards in 11 plays to take a 13-10 halftime lead. The Giants defense did force two first-half punts and successfully held the Falcons to another first-half field goal when Preston Parker fumbled a kickoff return at the Giants 21-yard line.

In the second half, there was only one snafu, but it was a big one: a 74-yard touchdown pass from QB Matt Ryan to RB Antone Smith on 3rd-and-4 in the third quarter. That breakdown allowed the Falcons to go ahead 20-10.

However, the Falcons were limited to six first downs in seven second-half possessions, with three of those harmlessly coming with under two minutes to play with the Giants up 30-20.

DEFENSIVE LINE by Eric Kennedy

The Giants defense started to play better when the defense line started to play better. It really was almost that simple. A patchwork Atlanta Falcons offensive that was missing four starters did an admirable job against New York both run and pass blocking in the first half. Falcons running backs rushed for 50 yards on 11 carries in the first half for a 4.5 yards per carry average. In addition, although there was some sporadic first-half pressure on QB Matt Ryan, he went largely untouched and has a reasonable amount of time given the circumstances.

The line did play well on the first series with DT Cullen Jenkins (nice flow to ball carrier for 1-yard gain), DT Johnathan Hankins (tipped pass), and DE Jason Pierre-Paul (nice pursuit after short completion) all making plays. The second series, when the Falcons marched 80 yards for a touchdown, was not so good. While Hankins and JPP flashed on the pass rush on two back-to-back plays, the rest of the DL play was uninspiring. And RB Stephen Jackson finished off the drive by running in the direction of JPP and Hankins for a 10-yard touchdown. The Falcons continued to push the front around after Preston Parker’s fumble until DT Mike Patterson tackled Jackson for a 2-yard loss on 2nd-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Until that play, Patterson wasn’t looking too good, and DE Mathias Kiwanuka was having issues. The defensive line was seldom heard from on the Falcons long field-goal drive right before halftime too.

Antrel Rolle and Johnathan Hankins, New York Giants (October 5, 2014)

Antrel Rolle and Johnathan Hankins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

In the second half, the defensive tone changed as Pierre-Paul decided enough was enough. Though the stats don’t indicate it, JPP (5 tackles, 2 quarterback hits) was a one-man wrecking crew as he repeatedly pressured Ryan, helped to gum up the running game, tipped a pass, caused a holding penalty, and continued to hustle in pursuit. Two others who made contributions were DE Robert Ayers (2 tackles, 2 quarterback hits), who flashed as a pass rusher, and Hankins (4 tackles, 1 sack, 2 quarterback hits). Hankins made a superb play when he played off a block, pursued down the line, and nailed the ball carrier. Of course, the defensive play of the game was his 4th-and-1 sack of Ryan with just under five minutes to play in the game. Patterson (3 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss) also improved in the second half, and Jenkins (4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss) also got in on the action.

LINEBACKERS – by Eric Kennedy

Jacquian Williams led the team with 13 tackles. He also had one tackle for a loss and one pass defense. I was not impressed with him early on as he got hung up on blocks on a few of Stephen Jackson’s bigger runs, including an 11-yard gain and the 10-yard touchdown on Atlanta’s first scoring drive. He continued to have issues on the next series, including completely misreading the play and running himself out of position. But as the game wore on, he got better. Williams saved a touchdown on the 3rd-and-goal shovel pass. While he missed a tackle on a short pass to RB Devonta Freeman that turned into a 13-yard gain, he later had good coverage on RB Jacquizz Rodgers on 2nd-and-goal. In the third quarter, he combined with CB Trumaine McBride to nail Freeman for a 1-yard loss after a short pass. In the fourth quarter, Williams made an excellent play in backside pursuit and nailed Jackson for a 2-yard loss.

Jameel McClain started at middle linebacker and finished with seven tackles, one quarterback hit, and two pass defenses. He flashed a couple of times on the blitz, but like Williams, got hung up on some blocks in the first half.

Mark Herzlich played 27 snaps and finished with two tackles.

DEFENSIVE BACKS by Eric Kennedy

Until the pass rush dialed it up in the second half, the Giants had issues with WR Julio Jones, who had eight catches for 88 yards in the first half. The Falcons moved Jones around all over the field and at times he was matched up on various defensive backs. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who was battling some leg issues in the game, seemed to fare better against him than Prince Amukamara. This was not one of Amukamara’s better games. On the first TD drive, Jones got open for 22 yards against Amukamara and SS Antrel Rolle. A few plays later, Prince was flagged for illegal use of hands on a play where Rodgers-Cromartie was covering Jones deep. On 3rd-and-8 on this TD drive, Jones beat CB Trumaine McBride on a crossing pattern for 11 yards. On the very next play, Jackson scored on a 10-yard run on a play where CB Zack Bowman and FS Quintin Demps could not fight off of blocks.

McBride (7 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, and 1 forced fumble) played reasonably well. And I thought DRC, who only played 49 snaps, did a mostly positive job on the very dangerous Jones. My biggest criticism was Rodgers-Cromartie assuming Antrel Rolle would make the tackle on the 74-yard touchdown pass to RB Antone Smith. Rodgers-Cromartie pulled up and Smith was off to the races. Never assume. DRC should have ended the game with a gimme pick on a Hail Mary too, but dropped the ball.

Amukamara had some issues in coverage in the second quarter. Jones got open easily against him for 14 yards on the late field goal drive. He then played far too soft on back-to-back plays inside the 20-yard line, allowing two easy completions for 17 yards. But on 3rd-and-goal, Amukamara did play tight coverage on WR Roddy White to force Atlanta to settle for the FG. In the third quarter, he was flagged for defensive holding on the play Demps picked off the pass. To his credit, Amukamara made a nice play against WR Devin Hester on 3rd-and-4.

Antrel Rolle had 11 tackles, but his one missed tackle led to a 74-yard touchdown after a short throw to the running back. Quintin Demps (4 tackles, 1 interception) picked off Matt Ryan but promptly fumbled the ball back to the Falcons. He did make a nice play on the speedy and elusive Hester on an end around. Zack Bowman gave up a 22-yard pass to Roddy White.

SPECIAL TEAMS by Eric Kennedy

Special teams continue to be an issue.

First the good. PK Josh Brown was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts including kicks of 49, 50, and 26 yards. The 50-yard field goal – given that it extended the Giants lead to 27-20 with five minutes to go – was particularly clutch. Three of Browns’ kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Four others were returned, including three by the dangerous Devin Hester. Hester was limited to 60 yards on three kickoff returns with a long of 22 yards. Damontre Moore made a nice stop on one return. Peyton Hillis missed a tackle opportunity on another return.

Steve Weatherford punted three times. One was returned 25 yards by Hester on play where Weatherford had to make the tackle (both Jameel McClain and Zak DeOssie missed tackles). On the second punt, the Giants got to Hester for a 2-yard loss before he lateraled to a teammate on a play that went nowhere. Weatherford nailed his third punt 67 yards. It only netted 47 with the touchback, but that kept the ball away from Hester.

Kickoff returns were not good. Quintin Demps returned three kickoffs for 60 yards. He only reached the 17, 17, and 19 yard lines on his three returns. The team would have been better off with the touchbacks. Worse, Preston Parker fumbled the ball away at the Giants’ 21-yard line, setting up an easy field goal for the Falcons.

The Giants did not return a punt in the game as Preston Parker fair caught three and Odell Beckham fair caught another. Jason Pierre-Paul hit the punter on 4th-and-4, allowing the Falcons to maintain possession on a drive in the third quarter.

(Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants, October 5, 2014)