Joe Triano

Joe Triano, aka Joey in VA, is an original BBI member and rabble-rouser who was born in New Jersey, but migrated to Virginia. Joey’s passion for writing, the game of football, and the Giants has spurred him to write insightful and entertaining game reviews for BBI in his spare time.

Nov 182015
 
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New England Patriots 27 – New York Giants 26

Overview

We missed it by THAT much! The keyboard is staring at me, mocking me in its own qwerty way. It knows I slapped it on Sunday afternoon, but it’s not sure why. It wasn’t a hard slap, just a “here we go again” 4th-quarter meltdown-turned-comeback-turned-meltdown slap that let it know “Hey pal, we’re in this together until the end.” Indeed for Tom Coughlin and his band of misfit toys, there was no happy ending this time against the undefeated New England Patriots as Stephen Gostkowski’s 54-yard please-go-wide left kick sailed inside the uprights. It was not a most-gripping victory for the home fans as our own Prince Akeem looked on in street clothes.

Up 20-10 after a 2nd half opening FG drive, the Giants’ defense forced a quick 3-and-out from Tom Brady and the world’s most dangerous group (NWE not NWA now hold that distinction). Four plays later, the Giants let the Patriots off the ropes by surrendering an 82-yard punt return to Danny Amendola that turned into a 3-play, 7-yard TD drive that seemed to wake up the groggy Pats’ offense and cut the home team’s lead to just 3. Eli Manning and company answered on a 45-yard FG drive that pushed the lead to 23-17, but it was the failure to find the end zone that would ultimately doom the G-Men’s chances to pull off a MetLife Miracle and upend the unbeaten Patriots for a second time. MLB Jasper Brinkley was having none of it and came up with a sack strip of Tom Brady to give Eli just 31 yards to put the game out of reach. As they did all afternoon, the Patriots answered the bell, sacking Manning on the drive’s first official play, pushing the ball back to the 44 yard line and forcing a quick 3-and-out when a score could have pushed this game out of reach.

After being bottled up most of the day by journeyman safety Craig Dahl, TE Rob Gronkowski, who was thwarted in Super Bowl 46, got his revenge with a 76-yard catch-and-run that pushed the Pats ahead 24-23. Another punch-less offensive effort by the Giants that force fed the ball to a blanketed Odell Beckham Jr. gave dimple chin the ball and the chance to put the game away. After driving his team 81 yards and seemingly taking a 30-23 lead, a holding call wiped out a LeGarrette Blount TD, Tom Brady did the unthinkable and threw an interception to CB Trumaine McBride at the 1-yard line and suddenly the Giants’ 4th quarter Eli Manning magic looked to be coming back to claim the Patriots. Twelve plays later, he did it; Eli pushed the lead to 29-24 with a 5-yard TD pass to Odell Beckham Jr., who had been held in check since a first quarter TD that ate up 87 yards. Only he didn’t. Replays showed that Beckham got two feet down but failed to make a “football move” in the end zone as CB Malcom Butler swatted the ball out of his hands.

A Josh Brown FG inched the Giants closer to the miracle with a 26-24 lead but clumsy play calling and execution left 1:46 for Tom Brady to pick his way down field. Rookie S Landon Collins then stepped in with the biggest non-play of the season, leaping high for a hurried Brady pass and seemingly ending the game with a clutch interception but it was not to be as the ball squirted out and gave #12 another chance to ruin the day. True to form, Brady came through this time against his nemesis and delivered the ball to the Giants’ 36-yard line. Gostkowski’s boot (he too is perfect on the season) ended the chance for the 2015 Giants to match their 2007 predecessor’s feat of ending the Patriots perfect season. So Mr. Lenovo laptop, you can blame me for the sudden jolt, but really your ire should lay with Tom Coughlin or Eli Manning, or Landon Collins or Odell Beckham or Tom Brady, anyone but me old friend.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 15, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterbacks

So the debate will rage, was Eli great or the goat for the clock mismanagement as the Giants drove to take the lead in the 4th quarter? His heady slide in bounds forced the Patriots to use their final timeout but the inexplicable timeout with 2:06 left and the clock winding down to the 2 minute warning will haunt this game as long as it’s discussed. The timeout seemed to pay off with a TD pass to Beckham, but after the review negated it, the Giants had one more play to run before getting to the 2-minute warning. With 2:01 left, Manning completely missed a wide open Beckham underneath for a sure TD and the ball sailed wide of WR Dwayne Harris. It may be a matter of seconds, but not stopping the clock with 2:06 left may have forced the Patriots to use their final timeout there or at least had the Giants with 1st-and-goal at the 5-yard line with 2 minutes left. At that point, you can safely run the ball even against the Pats 6 DL formation on 1st and 2nd down, forcing the Pats to spend their final timeout and then running the clock down before your 3rd down play. That would have reduced the final time for Brady to less than a minute, but as Coughlin said, he was playing for the TD and rightly so. I posit the argument because that’s what gets discussed ad nauseum but in reality this game was far too close to pin on any one thing.

Late game confusion aside, Eli was again terrific against Tom, piling up 361 yards and two TDs and leading the Giants to six scoring drives, the first of which was a perfectly placed ball to Beckham who split coverage on his way to an 87-yard TD that evened the game at 7 on the Giants’ opening sortie. Manning consistently drove the team down the field but against Belichick’s vaunted umbrella defense that gets tighter to succeed against as you drive inside the 20, FGs were the rule and not TDs. Manning’s first-half 2-minute TD drive was vintage Eli. First was a perfect sideline pass to Rueben Randle, a dime to Harris to keep the drive alive and a seam to Will Tye to get the G-Men to the 1-yard line. The exclamation point was a perfectly-arced fade pass to Dwayne Harris to close out the first half and put the Giants ahead by 7. Manning’s non-TD pass to Beckham was again perfectly placed. But in a game of inches, the ball being slapped away was another in a long line of plays that had they gone the other way, see the Giants to victory. Eli contributed to the Giants’ rushing total with a 10-yard uh, jaunt we’ll call it on the Giants’ opening drive of the second half.

Running Backs

Not a lot of good here when your longest rush of the day comes from your 34-year old QB who’d probably rather watch another Nationwide commercial of his chicken parm-loving brother than take off running. Rashad Jennings “led” the group with 11 carries and 39 yards but the inside trap play that had become this groups bread-and-butter was simply stuffed all day by the Pats. Former Pat Shane Vereen predictably was bottled up by his previous employers, contributing only 26 total yards and really having no statistical impact on the proceedings aside from a 3rd-down conversion early in the 2nd quarter. Vereen’s presence out of the backfield was crucial however, as we will show later in a breakdown of his impact on the Patriots’ coverage schemes. Personal RB favorite Orleans Darkwa had two tough runs for 9 yards but was held to 6 on his other 3 totes.

Myles White, New York Giants (November 15, 2015)

Myles White – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

WR Odell Beckham Jr. started the day with a bang, knifing through the Patriots’ secondary for an 87-yard TD on the Giants’ second offensive snap. Tough sledding from there on out against Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler including Butler’s quite frankly mean slap away of a TD late in the 4th quarter that could have been the game clincher. Beckham was challenged physically all day by Butler and honestly lost the battle after an opening haymaker. OBJ finished with 104 yards on 4 catches but was targeted a team-high 12 times. Give Butler credit for clamping down on the dynamic sophomore playmaker. Dwayne Harris again came up big for Eli with 82 yards on 6 catches with a TD and consistently providing a safety valve underneath for his QB. Harris just missed a diving pass from Manning on the goal line on the Giants’ game tying drive late in the first half. It was another play and another few inches short of where this team wants to be, truly the story of the afternoon. Myles White contributed one catch but it was a 28-yard sideline beauty that had the Giants in position to score. White also appeared to be interfered with on a Manning pass into the end zone, but in a game that saw plenty of hand fighting in the secondary, it was an understandable no-call given how the game was officiated all day. Rueben Randle again chipped in with a crucial catch to spur a Giant scoring drive as the first half closed. Randle’s impact wasn’t FanDuel great (sorry Fantasy junkies) but his 51 yards on 3 catches was enough to keep the Giants toe to toe with the unbeaten Pats. As with everyone else though, there was a play Randle will want back – when he pushed off to negate a 11-yard gain which would have had the G-Men to the Pats’ 20 up by 6 points and driving. The ensuing play was DE Rob Ninkovich’s sack of Manning which effectively ended any scoring threat.

Tight Ends

Will Tye is starting to assert himself, but like many of the young Giants has some room to improve. Tye pulled down 5 balls for 56 yards but it was the just miss of a potential TD from Manning that will stick in the rookie’s craw as will a flat out drop from Manning as the Giants drove to close out the first half. Tye rebounded quickly to snag a Manning pass that covered 31 yards and got the Giants in possession of a 17-10 halftime lead. Tye’s edge blocking was better. The rookie TE is improving technique wise, keeping a wide base and keeping his feet under him to maintain good leverage in the running game.

Inside the Game

Exploiting a tendency. Notice on TE Will Tye’s 31-yard rumble down to the Patriot 1, Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo spotted a weakness two plays earlier on a formation that saw Beckham, Vereen and Tye on the play side. Knowing that Belichick is committed to shading or doubling an opponent’s best weapon(s), the Giants tried Beckham down the right sideline with Vereen coming out of the backfield to see what type of coverage they would get. Two plays later, that tendency to shade to Beckham and Vereen cost the Patriots down the field.

_tye1Note the formation, with Vereen offset on Beckham and Tye’s side.

_tye2Vereen and Beckham are essentially doubled down the field with intermediate coverage watching Vereen short and Beckham in the slant area with a FS over the top to keep Beckham from getting too deep. Note the keying from the FS and the split from the intermediate defender to react to either Vereen or Beckham. The result is TE Will Tye (circled) singled up in the seam.

_tye3Flip the formation and again Vereen is watched by middle coverage, Harris is drawing LB attention and Beckham is again spied by the deep safety play side leaving Tye (circled in the middle) one on one. The three blue circles are all shading to cover two Giant players, leaving Tye to exploit the match-up.

_tye4The giant hideous circle shows four Pat defenders who were accounting for Vereen, Harris and Beckham. And the adorable little circle is a deep safety who was guarding against Beckham deep and who left a huge hole for Tye and Manning to exploit en route to a 17-10 Giants’ halftime lead. Credit Ben McAdoo and Eli Manning for recognizing the intermediate, short and deep help to hem in Beckham and Vereen and deploying Tye into the hole it created. In a game of counter-punching, McAdoo and company won this battle against a Pats’ defense that has a history of taking out a team’s two biggest threats. (Remember…”This is still a Nicks and Cruz game” from SB 46 when Mario Manningham popped open?)

Offensive Line

Just like the rest of this team, some good and some bad from this group. Playing without LG Justin Pugh and losing C Weston Richburg for a half, the group probably out-performed expectations. But the success running inside was completely thwarted by a well-prepared Patriots team. LG John Jerry and C Dallas Reynolds filled in capably, but there was an absence of any running game. LT Ereck Flowers gave up the second-biggest sack of the game with Giants driving in the 2nd quarter. DE Chandler Jones went low and outside, got perfect leverage on the 330lber and knocked the ball out of Manning’s hand to force a fumble, killing an excellent chance for points in the 2nd quarter. LG John Jerry did the job pass blocking, but the difference in quickness between his pulling and Pugh’s pulling may have been just enough to keep the Giants’ favorite running plays from working as planned. RT Marshall Newhouse gave up the sack to Ninkovich that killed a Giant drive that could have salted the game away or at least increased the 4th-quarter lead to 9 points at the least.

Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers, New York Giants (November 15, 2015)

Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Line

Once again it seems the BBI review team has inspired another Giant to pick himself up by the Lederhosen, this time German import DT Markus Kuhn. Much maligned just about everywhere except 1925 Giants Drive in East Rutherford, the veteran DT came to play finally. Kuhn chipped in with 4 stops but it was his ability to finally hold up against double teams inside that spearheaded the defense to the tune of surrendering only 77 yards rushing on 23 carries. Kuhn’s Bavarian locks were flowing again on a fumble return caused by Brinkley’s sack and strip of Brady. Credit the return of JPP to the improved play inside. The constant double teams he faced allowed Kuhn and fellow DT Cullen Jenkins to see less traffic inside and hold the point-of-attack much better than they had in recent weeks. After coming out with a funky glove, JPP went back to the Martha Stewart oven mitt line and quickly swatted a Brady pass to make his kitchen ware work for him and forced an errant pass on the Patriots’ sickening game-winning drive. Overall a good effort by the DL, even putting enough pressure on Brady to force an errant throw that should have ended the game, and coming with 3 whole sacks in one game (though only 1 went to a DL).

Linebackers

Jasper Brinkley did his best to will his defense to victory with 12 tackles and a sack, but it wasn’t enough to keep the best offense in the NFL from ultimately winning this battle. Brinkley was again powerful inside getting good penetration on several runs to keep huge HB LeGarrette Blount in check. And it was #53’s throw down of Julian Edelman that broke the WR’s foot and took a key playmaker off of the field for 3 quarters. Brinkley’s 4th-quarter sack and strip of Brady was all the veteran could do to hand his team the game but it was not to be. Devon Kennard again played well on the edge, ending a screen play Antonio Pierce style late in the first quarter and piling up 6 stops overall. Jonathan Casillas was active with 7 stops but was late covering on Brady’s 4th-down pass and game-saving completion by – you guessed it – just inches. He also took a terrible angle on the game’s final offensive snap allowing WR Danny Amendola the space to cut inside and make it into field goal territory.

Trumaine McBride, New York Giants (November 15, 2015)

Trumaine McBride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

It’s tough to knock these guys considering the opponent and how well they played for 3 quarters, but Tom Brady exploded for 200 yards in the second half and ultimately won the game through the air. S Landon Collins’ rocky season continued as the rookie failed to seal the game with an interception-turned-drop on the Pats’ final drive. He also failed to play with inside leverage against TE Scott Chandler on the Pats’ first TD of the game. This group simply couldn’t get stops on 3rd and 4th down on the game’s alpha and omega drives and it cost them dearly. Credit S Craig Dahl with playing Gronkowski as well as he could for 3 quarters until the All Pro ultimately burned him for a 76-yard TD catch-and-run. Dahl was aggressive all day long, separating Chandler from the ball deep inside G-Men territory and hopping on Tom Brady for a sack that forced a Patriots FG. Dahl just missed on Gronkowski’s long TD which again put a bad ending on an otherwise strong game from the once and former Giant. Jayron Hosley filled in solidly at times, knocking away a 2nd-down Brady pass as the first half wound down and knifing inside to drag down Gronkowski to force a FG in the first. It was Hosley though who completely whiffed on a Brandon LaFell’s 54-yard catch that put the Pats in scoring range. CB Trumaine McBride was flagged for a pass interference penalty in the end zone but redeemed himself on the Pats’ next foray, picking off Brady and preventing a potential 31-23 deficit that became a 26-24 Giant lead.

Special Teams

Penalties on returns and Amendola’s 82-yard escape on a punt return brought the once-maligned group back to the fore of the “where did it go wrong?” discussion. Josh Brown was perfect again, hitting all four FGs and both XPs. P Brad Wing was in no way to blame for Amendola’s long punt return, it was a perfectly-placed sideline shot that Amendola simply made a great play on. Harris averaged a modest 19 yards on 2 kick returns and a solid 10-yard average on 4 punt returns. Kick coverage was again good, but that punt coverage, oy vey.

Coaching

Against the league’s best offense, the Giants played a strong 3 quarters but finally caved in in the 4th. Steve Spagnuolo’s charges kept Brady in check with a combination of man and zone coverages that focused on shutting down do-everything TE Rob Gronkwoski. Holding this offense to 4 punts and a respectable 27 points is an accomplishment that seemed impossible coming into this game but again it wasn’t quite enough when you rely on a rookie safety and two 10-year plus vets as your deep patrol. As much as it would be nice to give tons of credit to Spags and his defense for 3.5 quarters, the failure to stop another game-clinching drive undid all of the good will. The result wasn’t satisfying, but again the effort and fight was, as his 32-ranked defense gave the Patriots all they could handle for 3.5 quarters.

Ben McAdoo’s offense was good, but not good enough. McAdoo’s gang notched 6 scoring drives, but only scored 2 TDs in a game decided by one point. McAdoo again kept to the running game despite its ineffectiveness and it provided Eli with enough balance to power to another 300-yard plus day. Inches here and inches there and we’re celebrating an improbable win, so I won’t kill any of the coordinators for this one. They both had their groups ready to play.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

In a game full of lead changes, big plays and ultimately a depressing ending, I just can’t give out the award to anyone on that field on Sunday. Love him or hate him, Tom Coughlin and his guys were ready despite the 4th-quarter head-scratchers again. It’s been covered relentlessly since it happened and it may have no place in a silly football redux, but I really want to cram this award in ISIS’ or ISIL’s faces and then down their collective throats for the horrific attacks in Paris last week. It’s not often that world events creep into the reviews but this was a doozy, and on a day that we were all a little deflated, keep in mind that we were peacefully watching a football game between millionaires that didn’t go our way. It sucked to be sure, but as I age and keep getting fatter (get in mah belly ISIS), I have a hard time cramming things like football when a band of misguided nitwits seek to murder innocents. So ISIS, ISIL, jerkfaces of the highest order, cram it in your suicide-vest-laden cramholes.

(New England Patriots at New York Giants, November 15, 2015)
Nov 112015
 
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Ron Swanson

New York Giants 32 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 18

Overview

It’s said that possession is 9/10ths of the law, something Tom Coughlin and his charges clearly believed in on Sunday afternoon in Tampa Bay. Despite being out-gained 385 to 327, the Boys in Blue held serve for 34:55 and won the turnover battle 3-2 en route to an odd victory over the horribly-clad Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fashion critique aside (as I pen this, I’m clad a taco-stained t-shirt and gym pants that have never seen the inside of an actual gym), the Bucs kept the afternoon interesting with big plays, dropped passes and ultimately a desperation-heave-turned-Giants-touchdown to seal the win. Bucs WR Mike Evans tried to be a WR, then a QB on the game’s final play, but in the words of the immortal Ron Swanson, “Never half ass two things, whole ass one thing.” With that said, you have my whole ass for this week’s recap.

Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (November 8, 2015)

Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

It’s not how you start but how you finish and the Giants started horribly, tossing the ball back to the Bucs at their own 13-yard line just 9 seconds into the game. Buoyed by the return of digitally-challenged DE Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants’ defense went from gossamer to at least cheese cloth this week, and held the Bucs out of the end zone despite the short field. The teams then traded field goals until a Rueben Randle from Eli Manning pass put the G-Men up 10-6. Then the Bucs began to simply self-destruct like an Imperial Probe Droid, fumbling on their next possession to hand the Giants an easy 28-yard field and a 17-6 lead. After a few more boring field goals (seriously I hate them and I don’t know why), the Giants led 20-12 until Captain Irresponsible, Jameis Winston, showed off his athletic ability on a 10-yard TD run to cut the margin to 2.

Two more boring, rainy wet field goals pushed the visitors ahead 26-18, still one a one possession game but with 18 seconds and no timeouts, the Bucs turned to desperation and trickeration when Winston hit \Evans on a short pass which Evans then heaved backwards to G Logan Mankins who…well he’s a guard, he didn’t catch it…Trevin Wade swooped in for the scoop-and-score and the Jints were just above .500 again, sitting at 5-4 alone in first place in the hideous NFC East. For Mankins, it must pain him to see the Giants after Justin Tuck used him like an old hanky in the Super Bowl and he clumsily coughed up a game-sealing TD years later.

Quarterbacks

After peppering the Saints with 6 TDS, Eli’s follow up game started horribly. Manning’s first pass hit Odell Beckham Jr. in the hands, albeit a tad behind him, and the ensuing deflection was picked off by DB Sterling Moore. Eli came right back and led the team down the field for a tying field goal, going 4-of-7, rhythmically firing to Randle, Beckham and Vereen. Eli came back on the next drive going a perfect 7-of-7 for 46 yards and a TD to Randle, as he stepped up into a clean pocket and delivered a strike to one of his former LSU pass catchers. Eli came right back on the Giants next drive, firing another dart to RB Shane Vereen for his second TD and a 17-6 lead. Manning did throw an untimely pick as the Giants were driving up 20-12, which led to Odell’s heinous assault on Harry Carson’s favorite prop. Manning was pressured a little more in the second half, but the Alterraun Verner interception aside, he was able to lead his team on two FG drives and ended with a modest 213 yards on 26-of-40 passing. Most importantly though, Manning directed the offense efficiently and got his team into position to score 6 times and hold the ball for over 35 minutes.

Andre Williams, New York Giants (November 8, 2015)

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Running Backs

Clearly Andre Williams has taken umbrage with my criticism, so you’re welcome Andre. The Poughkeepsie native bulled his way to 30 yards on 7 carries, nothing big but his 4.3ypc average is a huge improvement over the 2.7 ypc average he dragged Sisyphus-style into this game. Shane Vereen catches the ball out of the backfield as cleanly as any RB this team may have ever had. Vereen doesn’t break stride, catches cleanly, tucks and runs with no loss of speed or balance. Vereen struggled on the ground with only 14 yards on 6 carries but his 29 yards and TD receiving added a needed dimension to the Giants’ ball control attack. Rashad Jennings got the heavy work load on the ground, carrying 13 times for a modest 3.7 ypc average and 48 total yards, but the grinding of the ground game played a huge role in a contest where the heat and humidity were high and possession was crucial.

Wide Receivers

Gatorade bucket assaults aside, Odell Beckham Jr. came to play on Sunday but had a very up and down afternoon. The 2nd-year phenom pulled down 105 yards on 9 grabs and was visibly irate after being somewhat responsible for both of Manning’s picks. After having his route jumped by CB Alterraun Verner, Beckham slapped a bear hug on Verner and rode him a few yards before suplexing him to the ground in disgust. OBJ dropped another easy pass from Manning on the Giants second drive, but followed that up with a long reception and drew an unnecessary roughness against LB Lavonte David after the play. Rueben Randle seemed to just sit 12 yards down the field on the left and catch the ball, wonky hamstring and all. Randle finished with 40 yards on 5 grabs and pulled in one of Manning’s two TD passes. Dwayne Harris victimized David again on a crossing route as the former Husker LB decided to drop Harris about 12 yards downfield on a crossing route, but only netted one yard on one catch on the afternoon.

Tight Ends

What was once Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells is now Will Tye and Jerome Cunningham. Tye had a chance for early glory with a well-run seam route that was just knocked down in the end zone. Tye finished with 2 catches for 19 yards and was serviceable blocking in-line. New TE call-up Jerome Cunningham pitched in with 2 catches and 10 yards, one of them coming on a 3rd-and-3 on the Giants’ second TD drive of the game.

Offensive Line

Another clean sheet for the big dudes, but it wasn’t always pretty. Pretty though isn’t this team’s blueprint but tough certainly is. The big guys paved the way for 114 yards on the ground and once again C Weston Richburg was outstanding, consistently thwarting inside pressure while handling line calls from his play-changing QB. It’s not talked about, but Manning’s ability to step up into a clean pocket to deliver downfield is Richburg’s responsibility and the second-year pivot did it nearly perfectly on Sunday. LT Ereck Flowers was called for a hold that wiped out Vereen’s long run but replay after replay showed nothing. RT Marshall Newhouse played his best game in blue, and LG Justin Pugh was his usual active, pulling self, helping the inside run game to its ball controlling afternoon.

Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (November 8, 2015)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Line

After a bye-week-quality outing in New Orleans, the Giants’ DL was lively on Sunday with the return of oven-mitted DE Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP made an impact early, extending his arms and jolting LT Donovan Smith to hold the edge and stop the Bucs cold on the home team’s first drive. Pierre-Paul got close to Winston on several plays, and hustled on every snap. His presence will be a much-needed jolt after the pass rush’s disappearance thus far in 2015. DT Johnathan Hankins ripped the ball out Doug Martin’s hand as the 2nd quarter opened but tore his pectoral in the process, landing the big run-stuffer on season-ending IR. Cullen Jenkins had the wack of the day on WR Mike Evans after he bounced off of DRC, just planting the 6-5 former Aggie into the turf. DE Damontre Moore was able to do his usual thing, show up for a play and commit a stupid penalty.

Linebackers

Criticize a guy, and he proves you wrong (Donald Trump will never send me a million dollars, the selfish jerkface). It happened with new Giant LB Jasper Brinkley. Brinkley played much faster than he did in the Bayou, leading the team in tackles. Brinkley shot inside to drop RB Doug Martin for a one-yard loss, and two plays later pounced on a Martin fumble to give the Giants possession deep in Bucs’ territory. Brinkley was aggressive and powerful inside, providing some much needed pop in the center of the defense. Devon Kennard seems to be over his injury woes, chipping in with 6 stops and continually forcing the issue in the running game. Jonathan Casillas was again doing everything on Sunday, covering down field and helping in the running game, but again not many big plays. Overall a steady day for the former Patriot who collected 6 stops.

Defensive Backs

Trevin Wade turned in his best day as a Giant on Sunday, blanketing WR Mike Evans on the Bucs’ first possession to hold Tampa Bay to a FG after starting their drive on the Giants’ 13-yard line and finishing the game with a scoop-and-score after Evans heaved the rock to G Logan Mankins. Wade also managed to recover a fumble early in the 2nd half after a Charles Sims fumble that bounced down the field like a spastic chicken. Clearly Wade can now catch greased lightning, but it will be some time before he eats lightning and craps thunder and becomes a greasy-fast Eyetalian (sp) tank. Wade then showed off his greasy-fastness by running down RB Charles Sims on the heels of a 59-yard jaunt. S Landon Collins flat out missed on Mike Evans 68-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter. Teams are starting to exploit the rookie S down the field. S Brandon Meriweather was a victim of an awful personal foul midway through the 2nd quarter, launching his 197lbs into 307lb center Joe Hawley. Meriweather’s reputation may have elicited the flag because it was neither late nor unnecessary from where I sit. Number 22 also appeared to briefly kill DE Robert Ayers as the two combined to bring down RB Charles Sims, and chipped in with a 3rd-down stop on Jameis Winston to force a Bucs’ FG try. DRC was at it again, popping WR Mike Evans and being right on top of the big receiver on two of Evans’ many drops. Call it what you want, but DRC’s shot early in the game may have contributed to Evans’ inability to hang on when #41 was lurking nearby.

Brad Wing and Josh Brown, New York Giants (November 8, 2015)

Brad Wing and Josh Brown – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Special Teams

K Josh Brown was perfect on field goals, going 4-for-4 and hitting both of his extra points. Brown has not missed in 23 FG attempts. P Brad Wing only had one punt but it was a 64-yard bomb, and the coverage units were again solid, surrendering only 88 total return yards. Dwayne Harris picked up 54 yards on 2 kick returns to round out a solid but not very notable day for the specials.

Coaching

Ben McAdoo’s offense was clicking down the field for the most of game, and his plan to attack the edges and soft spots in the cover 2 (slant and deep seam areas) with his array of pass catchers was enough to propel his offense to a nearly 10-minute edge in time of possession and a performance that was enough to keep the Bucs off balance all day. Without a great running attack, McAdoo is utilizing short passes to Shane Vereen on the edges like short runs and they are keeping defenses honest and mostly unable to double any WR downfield for too long. McAdoo, in true West Coast offense style, is stretching the field horizontally first, then attacking downfield. Credit McAdoo as well for integrating Will Tye and Jerome Cunningham into the game plan after losing his top two TEs.

Steve Spagnuolo’s charges were humbled a week ago, lost their best DT as the 2nd quarter opened and inserted the 3rd MLB of the year into the starting lineup. Sprinkle in some JPP and a breakout-game from his new Mike LB and the defense was back on its feet. Of note throughout the game was JPP at RDE, but in plenty of those sets he was lined up as a rush LB in a hybrid 3-4 front which created favorable match-ups for the talented DE. The defense was again like a neutered dog (sackless). But there was more pressure and few near-misses from Pierre-Paul, that with a few more games under his belt should result in some much-needed QB heat as this team heads into the 2nd half of the season.

How good is Weston Richburg? Sure it’s a 5-yard run. But after double-teaming DT Gerald McCoy with LG Geoff Schwartz for a 9-yard gain on the previous play, Richburg then gets singled up on DT Akeem Spence and it does not go well for the 307 lb DT. Most of the Giants’ rushing yards came inside, and it was the play of Richburg that created most of those opportunities.

richburg1Notice where Spence starts the play, and where he ends up 4 frames later.

Richburg2At the snap, notice that everyone is still in their stance and Richburg is already engaged with DT Akeem Spence, moving his feet to get position on the 307 lbs run-stuffer.

richburg3With LG Justin Pugh pulling, and Schwartz and Newhouse double-teaming DT Gerald McCoy, Richburg already has Spence 3 yards in the backfield and turned out of the hole with outstanding footwork, hand placement and power.

richburg4Darkwa follows Pugh outside of McCoy, but the size of the hole Richburg creates causes LB Lavonte David to hesitate in pursuit instead of abandoning his run fit now that Spence is completely blocked into the backfield and turned completely around. The lower circle shows where Spence started and you can see where Richburg took him, impressive power and technique from the 2nd year center.

NFLW (NFL for Women)

For one week only, the NFL for Women is back. The Joey family dinner coincided with the Giants 4PM start and my quasi-Giants fan sister caught a glimpse of JPP’s oven mitt being wrapped mummy style on the sideline.

Sister: “What happened to his hand?”

Me: “That’s JPP, he blew off 1.5 fingers shooting off fireworks like an idiot”

Sister: “How can he play like that? What does he play?”

Me: “Defensive End, how do you not know this??”

Sister: “Oh you don’t need no hands for defense.”…Yes my sister was born in New Jersey like all of us siblings but the time spent living in Kentucky and Virginia (and possibly a little vino but that’s just hearsay and rumor as she emphatically reminded me) seems to have dulled her grammatical edge. As for possibly imbibing during the game and forgetting who JPP was, I will again invoke my fictional hero Ron Swanson. “Son, there is no wrong way to consume alcohol.”

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

This week’s award goes to almost all of us Giant fans for the silly conjecture and wild speculation after JPP’s hand-altering Independence Day mishap. People from BBI far and wide wanted him cut, wondered why he wasn’t talking to anyone after the Giants dispatched Jessie Armstead and Ronnie Barnes to evaluate the wreckage, and generally wrung our collective hands for months on end about what would become of our Pro Bowl end. It was only one week, but JPP playing with kitchen wear on his damaged mitt, was about as good as one could have expected given his injury and time away from the team. If I knew JPP, and he knew of our illustrious award, I’m sure he’d tell us all to cram it in our cramholes, and I think I speak (or type) for everyone when I say I’m happy to cram this one.

(New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, November 8, 2015)
Nov 042015
 
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New Orleans Saints 52 – New York Giants 49

Overview

What? Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! And it ain’t over now. Cause when the goin’ get tough…The tough get goin! Who’s with me? Let’s goooo! That’s how I felt when do-everything CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie laid the wood on WR Willie Snead and Trumaine McBride raced home for a 49-42 lead and finally a glimmer of hope emerged from the Superdome (or Mercedes Benz Bowl or whatever, I don’t care). Down 42-28, the G-Men once again summoned what the legendary Mick Foley would call their testicular fortitude. After a Dwayne Harris TD pulled the visitors to within 7, the Giants’ defense actually appeared for a series, forcing a 3-and-out which Eli Manning and his top WR trio turned into a 3-play, 65-yard game-tying drive.

Once down 14 in the final stanza, the Giants now had life, actual life after Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Ben Watson and Brandin Cooks ran up and down the field with no resistance for 3.5 quarters. Facing a 2nd-and-6 at the Giants’ 43, Brees found Snead on a quick in-route. DRC applied a perfect tackle, the ball popped loose and Trumaine McBride was off to a 63-yard score and a miraculous 49-42 lead. Predictably, the Saints answered with a 14-play, 80-yard drive that left Eli and company 36 seconds to win the game. Ordinarily not much time but in a game that featured 13 TD passes, 36 seconds is a lifetime. Two Manning incompletions sandwiched around a 5-yard pass to RB Shane Vereen and 20 seconds remained. Punter Brad Wing seemingly put the game into overtime with a 46-yard punt. But Marcus Murphy returned the ball 24 yards, coughed it up and Snead grabbed it and was down at the 47-yard line. But a penalty flag lingered. After much consternation, the referees deemed there was no penalty and the ball was to be moved back one yard because a fumble inside of 2 minutes cannot be advanced. But then, as it had all day, disaster struck any chance the Giants had of stealing a win in the Bayou. After another pow-wow, the referees determined (and it was clear) that Wing had winged Snead down by the face, not only frowned upon, but an actual infraction that turned an OT game into a 50-yard Kai Forbath game-winner.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterbacks

Welcome back to the Big Easy, Easy Eli. His hometown was good to the New Orleans native. The former Ole Miss Rebel torched the Saints to the tune of 350 yards and 6 TDs while completing 73% of his aerials. Eli was nearly perfect, but his now-I-have-it, now-I-don’t-fumble midway through the second quarter was his only real mistake along with possibly an overthrow to Dwayne Harris early in the game down the right sideline. That’s just nitpicking when looking for something bad in a loss. Let’s be honest, if the G-Men pulled this one out, Eli would have been the hero for his 42 points and 6 TDs. Eli was effective on just about everything, short throws to backs, the quick slants and even the broken play when he heaved the ball deep to Odell Beckham Jr. for a TD and found Dwayne Harris in the middle of the end zone on another 4th down scoring play that kept the Giants in the game.

Running Backs

The RB rotation keeps highlighting a different player each game. This time it was #34 Shane Vereen who stole the show with 145 total yards, 8 catches and a TD. Rashad Jennings had the most yardage from scrimmage of the group with 85 total yards and an impressive 5.4 yards per carry. Andre Williams again struggled with 7 yards on 5 carries and it may be time for the former Eagle to take a seat for a few weeks. He’s wasting carries. Orleans Darkwa ripped off a 17-yarder in the first quarter but only saw the rock 4 times total for 23 yards due to an injury.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

Rueben Randle opened the team’s first possession with a 19-yard deep-in from Manning and was accosted by penalty-machine and repeat PED-offender Brandon Browner a few plays later with no call. Randle was suplexed later in the first quarter by Mr. PED and Browner cost his team another silly 15 yards. Browner seemingly grabbed on every single play and seems to not fully comprehend the playbook. Browner had a sure INT just plays later but you guessed it, Brandon Browner held Randle in the end zone to get to the ball – just a horrific display. Odell Beckham Jr. seemed to enjoy his return to New Orleans as well, hauling in a team-high 130 yards and 3 TDs on 8 grabs. Beckham cashed in on the Giants’ first drive with an inside rub route on 4th-and-goal, and followed that up with a 50-yard, cross-field, broken-play TD from Manning that shows how dangerous these two are when healthy and focused. In the absence of Victor Cruz, Dwayne Harris has stepped up game after game for the G-Men. Harris made two fourth quarter, red zone TDs and finished with 37 yards on 3 grabs – another impactful effort from the former Cowboy.

Tight Ends

Poor Larry Donnell, at least he doesn’t look like Yaphet Kotto. Donnell set up the Giants’ second TD of the day with a diving 22-yard grab but did not return after injuring his neck. Kotto…err Tye was pressed into a lot of action on Sunday and was up and down. Just in case Rueben Randle was feeling singled out, Browner also illegally pulled Tye to the ground late in the first half to keep a Giants’ TD drive going. Tye then made an athletic grab one play prior to Shane Vereen’s TD grab to showcase his improving ability to contribute when it matters. Tye and Donnell are very different players with different skill sets, but Tye looks to have some promise as a slot weapon. Tye made a long catch that was negated by an Ereck Flowers hold, but it’s something to watch as he progresses. Tye did fumble the ball after a short catch on 3rd-and-16, but expect growing pains with this group as injured as it’s been.

alike

Kotto…or Will Tye???

Offensive Line

42 points is tough to argue with but 3 sacks and early trouble running left with two stuffs inside the 3-yard line may have made things feel little uglier than the final numbers suggest. Manning was dumped on his keister on the Giants’ second drive but that may go to TE Will Tye as opposed to RT Marshall Newhouse – an unblocked LB is usually someone’s fault but it’s never easy to know who. LG Justin Pugh was beaten inside for a sack in the 2nd quarter and was blown up by DT Kevin Williams inside on a goal-line series, but he righted the ship as the game went on. LT Ereck Flowers struggled at times with the tiny speed rushers that Fat Gandalf sent at him, and his hold negated a big completion to TE Will Tye – not the rookie left tackle’s best game. RG Geoff Schwartz was kind enough to get dinged so we could be re-introduced to the most-easily-moved 330lb human being of all time, John Jerry. RT Marshall Newhouse surprisingly pitched a shutout against DE Cameron Jordan.

Defensive Line

I wanted to leave this entire section blank, along with LBs and DBs, but I love pain I guess. Promising enough start, with DT Jon Hankins and DE Robert Ayers shutting down a Khiry Robinson toss for no gain on the Saints’ first drive of the game. After that, hide yo’ kids. Not once but twice I saw 330lb DT Jon Hankins IN COVERAGE! Yes I get the fire zone concept but using your best DL to waddle backwards and flail helplessly at passes is not the best use of resources. Hankins was in coverage again on Colston’s joke of a TD pass, but it was hardly the big fella’s fault. Overall though, bad, just bad. No pressure, no sacks and the Saints did whatever they wanted all day long. DE Kerry Wynn made the only good play of the day, dropping RB C.J. Spiller for a loss. Yes, a Giant defender not named DRC made a play, but in the words of Bill Parcells…that’s like throwing a deck chair off of the Queen Mary. Whoopdee doo in an otherwise putrid performance.

Linebackers

You’re all worthless and weak! Now drop and give me twenty! If only Niedermeyer was in charge of our LBs instead of Marty Funkhouser, maybe they’d have shown up on Sunday. I must admit, I did see LB Jon Casillas make a stop, but I also saw him flailing helplessly as Saint after Saint tip toed by on the way to the end zone. Uani ‘Unga had a shot at an interception but decided he didn’t want to help either. Jasper Brinkley was pressed into service, and after this game he should be pressed into a cube. He was completely useless in coverage and against the run. The LBs were polite though, leaving plenty of room for Saints’ players to run around and have a good time.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Trumaine McBride, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Trumaine McBride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

Thank you sir! May I have another? Why yes, yes you can you can have 7 TD passes thrown against you in one game. Out of this entire gang, only DRC did anything of note with his jarring tackle that fell into the hands of Trumaine McBride and gave the Giants their only glimmer of hope on an otherwise abysmal defensive day. S Landon Collins had his worst game as a pro, often falling flat footed when forced to turn his hips and open up to the outside. Collins bit hard on the Saints’ first TD, taking the few false steps forward on a flea flicker that Drew Brees required to toss the ball over the rookie’s oddly square head. (Have you looked at his head in interviews? It’s like a 4-slice toaster with hair). Trevin Wade got in on the fun with the Saints pinned at their own 4-yard line by losing the ball in the air and giving up a 46-yard completion to TE Ben Watson. Just awful technique, as Wade was stride for stride with Watson down the sideline. Wade got a bird’s eye view on Brandin Cooks first TD, seemingly admiring the 2nd-year WR’s route-running and refusing to get a hand on him. Wade and Collins chipped in again with horrific technique and coverage on Brees’ 4th TD pass of the game. Wade slowly trailed Snead across the formation only to see Collins stand flat-footed again and do nothing to help. Thank God for DRC. His interception and tackle that became a TD were the only bright spots for this defense. In fact, the only non-horrible, stomach-turning why-am-I-watching-this-defense-flop-around-like-armless-babies moment for the defense.

Special Teams

Well, as of this moment, Tom Quinn is on DOUBLE SECRET PROBATION. Yes, the special teams dream weaver finally got his charges to win a game last week. But in true bizarro-season style, the special teams shanked the game away in the waning moments, forever erasing Matt Dodge from our memories. Well maybe not erasing, but at least he has a buddy now that P Brad Wing decided to yank a Saint down by the facemask, putting the home team 15 yards closer to victory. Overall, good kick coverage again as the Saints managed 26 yards on 2 kickoff returns but the 24 yards by Marcus Murphy on the final punt return coupled with Wing’s gaffe was the difference in this game. Quinn’s return game was strong though, with 169 yards on 5 kick returns, the long a 46-yarder by Shane Vereen.

Anatomy of a Busted Coverage

So who to blame on the Marques Colston TD? Sure it’s one play among about 50 you could get ill watching, but this was the most egregious of all the egregiousness we saw on Sunday. The Giants came out in 2-deep coverage, but motion by WR Willie Snead moves S Brandon Meriweather (#22) into the slot. That’s where the breakdown begins. This should now be 3-deep coverage with Collins (#21) covering the deep middle and Hosley (#28) covering the deep third. The slot defenders in this formation are Trevin Wade (#31) and S Brandon Meriweather. The CBs are DRC (#41) and Jayron Hosley. As Snead motions, #22 slides up into slot coverage.

Colston1

Colston 2Collins should have moved off his hash to the deep middle as #22 slides into the slot. Collins stays put though to keep an eye on the TE, which he should not have done.

Colston3How do we know this? Watch up top, as DRC and Trevin Wade correctly play the coverage. DRC stays in the flat and Wade goes deep with his man indicating either man-coverage or Cover-3. Collins keeps eyes on the TE, but LB Uani ‘Unga and DT Jon Hankins drop into the hook zones to defend against the TE and any crossing routes from this formation, which negates the idea that it’s man coverage. That means that Collins should have abandoned the TE, and known by the shift that he was the lone deep safety with Meriweather now underneath. Further evidence is that Meriweather gives Colston an inside release and jams him towards the middle, a clear indication that (1) he knows he has help, and (2) he knows it’s a timing route and he can affect the play with a good jam. It’s possible that #28 should should have run deep in the slot as Wade did up top, but the shift of ‘Unga, Hankins and Meriweather show pretty clearly that they are the LBs in coverage for this formation and they have the short middle. Hosley though doesn’t get any width as Meriweather does, indicating he likely had deep third on his side. Most of the fault lies with Collins, but it appears Hosley read the shift incorrectly and wasn’t able to help by being in a trail position on Colston. The deep third is missing two people and Marques Colston races to pay dirt.

Coaching

Daniel Day Spagnuolo HAS no grade point average. All courses incomplete. That’s honestly as fairly as it can be put, incomplete. I cannot even fail Spags this week because he simply didn’t show up nor did his defense save for DRC on two plays. There was no scheme, there was no plan, there was mayhem for 4 quarters and it was revolting to watch. Drew Brees practically held a 7-on-7 drill for 3 hours. It was as rough to watch the second time as it was in real time and I saw nothing to change our collective opinion that this film should be burned and never spoken of again.

OC Ben McAdoo again annoyed with his RBBC approach that seems to go by series. But how can you argue with 42 points? Well if you’re the Saints, you argue back with 52, but I digress. I’m still confused by the rigidity of the RB distribution. At some point you have to ride the hot hand and control the clock and the game, but that doesn’t appear to be the approach in any game thus far. McAdoo’s passing game was nearly perfect even after losing starting TE Larry Donnell and playing from behind from the 2nd quarter on. Excellent work with Eli and company this week.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

The CiiyCA committee had too heated of a debate as to who should win the trophy this week for us to settle on a winner too quickly. Among the nominees: Sean Payton, HC of the Saints for what one staffer said was “His I’m sorta making kissy face but maybe I’m eating lemons face..face, I hate it and I want to punch it but I’m afraid there will be a bounty on us.”  Another potential winner was color man (which quite frankly we find offensive and racist and prefer they be called Former Player American Announcer Guy) Daryl Johnston for taking eons to get out any sentence then the sentence being insignificant because it’s three plays later and usually wrong. He is for all intents a purposes, the Jonathan Casillas of announcers, lots of stuff on the stat sheet, but damned if we know if what it is. If I had a coin I would have flipped it, but during my review, the gem below from Johnston after Orleans Darkwa was stuffed..NOT by Kevin Williams on the goal line cemented the former Cowboy as the winner. Read the following as quickly as possible with a slight lisp, with only pauses at the ellipses, no voice inflection and a hint of incredulity at the first bold section and you’ll hear it all over again in horrible nightmarish fashion.

“Kenny are they still running it right at Kevin Williams are we still running it right at huh uh Kevin Williams that guy was a beast on the opening series when they came down the field…I think they ARE still going right at Kevin Williams number ninety three he doesn’t make the play on that one actually nice job by Justin Pugh but the linebackers fillin’ the hole look at them stop Orleans Darkwa right there you can see all of his momentum going forward just shut down immediately.”

(New York Giants at New Orleans Saints, November 1, 2015)
Oct 282015
 
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New York Giants 27 – Dallas Cowboys 20

Overview

Forty minutes of possession against us, Darren McFadden running like he was at Arkansas, Eli Manning throwing no TDs, 3 interceptions by Matt Cassel, a kickoff return for a TD, a muffed punt to win a woolly contest at MetLife…I don’t know what to make of that. I sure don’t. The games you see now, it’s hard to even take its measure. It’s not that I’m afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to write to even do this job. But, I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He’d have to say, “O.K., I’ll be part of this world.” And a part of this world we are for now Big Blue Faithful, 4-3, atop the NFC East and a chance to make some noise down the stretch. Not much else you can ask for heading for the midpoint in the season but nothing will be easy and none of it makes any sense.

Down 13-10 at the half, kicking off to the Cowboys with Darren McFadden running wild, things looked bleak for the G-Men and their chance to exorcise the Cowboys’ demon that had haunted them for 5 straight games. That’s when DRC came riding in to save the day with his 58-yard interception return that ignited the Giants and sent them to a 17-13 lead as the Cowboys were working down field to open the second half. Then Brandon Meriweather intercepted Cassel at the 1-yard line. After adding a FG on a drive punctuated by a 44-yard fly to Rueben Randle and a 39-yard scamper by Shane Vereen, DRC snuffed out another Cowboys’ drive and the Giants hard-fought 20-13 lead temporarily stood. Taking the ball out of Cassel’s turnover-prone hands would have seemed wise and the Cowboys indeed turned to Lucky Whitehead, Darren McFadden and former Seahawk Christine Michael (someone listened to a “Boy named Sue” one too many times before naming his kid) for six straight plays. That running game gave Cassel the chance he needed and the veteran tossed 21- and 25-yard deep outs to Terrance Williams and Devin Street to knot the game at 20.

And then, Dwayne Harris happened. The former Cowboy, signed to a 5-year, $17 million contract in the offseason cashed in with a 100-yard kickoff return with 7 minutes left in the contest to put the Giants ahead for good and give Tom Coughlin an actual good special teams memory to hold on to. Dallas gave it a go, driving to the Giants 30, but Brandon Meriweather swatted a Cassel offering and a gang of Giants finished off TE James Hanna to kill the threat. After forcing a Giant punt with 1:36 left, the Cowboys had one more chance, but Cole Beasley bobbled the punt and it was pounced on by Myles White and the special teams saved the day for Tom Coughlin and his 100th victory as head coach of the New York Giants.

Quarterbacks

As Eli goes, so go the G-Men. A two-game slump since the 441-yard masterpiece against the Niners, but this week his teammates found a way when Eli was hemmed in. The positives are zero turnovers and Greg Hardy did not in fact in kill, maim, fold, spindle or mutilate your aw shucks signal caller. Manning was dumped twice, and completed just 13 passes for 170 yards against a defense that has struggled to stop the pass all year save for its two contests with the Giants. Manning misfired on a crossing route to Beckham to end the Giants’ second possession with another punt, and flirted with disaster as an errant pass glanced off Shane Vereen and appeared to be picked off by Byron Jones deep in Giants’ territory until a review mercifully saw the ball bounce off of the turf. Manning, as he is wont to do, followed that near-mistake with a rifle shot to Dwayne Harris on a 38-yard catch-and-run that got the Giants into field goal range. Manning had two more great passes, a 44-yarder to Rueben Randle and a drop by the same Randle on a perfectly-thrown post as the Giants were trying to add to their lead.

Running Backs

“How many of those things you got now?” – “Running Backs? Several. Well, depends on what you mean by got. Some are half-wild and some are just outlaws.” Orleans Darkwa, welcome to outlaw status. Castoff running backs seem to find a home in New York and our new outlaw fits the mold. After weeks of a certain big-mouth “writer” calling for him, Tom Coughlin dusted off #26 and lo and behold, a running game emerged. It took 25 totes but the mercurial 4 racked up a season-high 132 yards on the ground, with Darkwa bulling his way to the end zone for the group’s lone score. In true head-scratching style though, no one got more than 8 carries and it appears this rotation may just work as long as Darkwa’s role remains. Darkwa endeared himself to Greg Hardy haters everywhere by leveling the loud-mouthed DE and rumbling forward for a 10-yard gain, and then simply bulling his way to a 15-yard TD run. Shane Vereen actually led all rushers with 56 yards, ripping off a game-long 39-yarder on a Giants’ FG drive in the 3rd quarter. Rashad Jennings’ first two carries went for 8 and 6 yards, then he vanished, finishing the game with 5 more yards on 3 more carries. Andre Williams was again mostly a no-show with 13 yards on 4 carries but his 5-yard run right into Rolando McClain’s kitchen was a thing of beauty. Once a game, Williams seems to deliver a phlegm-loosening hit on some defender, perfect tonic for cold and flu season.

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham Jr. opened the account for the WRs with a 10-yard grab on the Giants’ second possession, and I have to say, an odd reaction as he got up and shook himself at CB Brandon Carr. I like the fire, but once in a while ODB does something that looks like a hissy fit. At some point, he needs to be more composed. It wasn’t until the Giants were able to establish the run that ODB was able to do some damage and the second-year phenom had another shot at a miracle catch against Carr but wasn’t able to replicate the magic of his previous catch at MetLife. Rueben Randle was the most effective target Eli had, despite only getting his hands on 2 balls, which is fine if you’re giving a physical but not for an NFL receiver. Randle turned his head and coughed enough to haul in a beautiful arcing pass from Manning that covered 44 yards with the Giants in the shadow of their own end zone. Randle pulled in the 3rd-and-5 pass with one hand and gave the Giants life enough to push ahead to a 20-13 lead. But in a game of weird plays, Randle just dropped a ball right in his hands on a perfectly-thrown post by Manning that could have been a TD or led to a TD.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell got started early, picking up a first down on the second play of the game, and another two plays later. Then he simply disappeared like most Giant aerial targets did and finished with 4 grabs for 18 yards on 5 targets. Donnell did have a great block on Vereen’s 39-yard scamper, getting good position and holding his block long enough to spring the diminutive back. Will Tye wasn’t able to handle his first target on a Manning pass on 3rd-and-4, killing the Giants’ first drive. And that was it for the rookie TE.

Offensive Line

Does anyone else kinda miss Will Beatty? The combo of Geoff Schwartz and Marshall Newhouse killed a TD chance by getting blown past by Greg Hardy and Tyrone Crawford. Newhouse again struggled at times, giving up an early near-sack to DE Jeremy Mincey that was mercifully called an incompletion. Other than those two hiccups, a much better day than most had anticipated against the suddenly healthy and dangerous Cowboys’ DL spearheaded by Greg Hardy, who wasn’t exactly Anton Chigurh as many had anticipated going into this tilt. This group bounced back exactly how you’d hoped they would after the debacle in Philadelphia, a great sign going forward that this group is going to fight no matter who’s in front of them. The big boys up front paved the way for their first 100 yarder of the year. They may have found their staple running play, an inside trap that Jennings got 8 and 6 yards on early, and Darkwa utilized for the big gain below:

darkwa2At the snap, LG Justin Pugh pulls, OC Weston Richburg blocks down and RG Geoff Schwartz and RT Marshall Newhouse double the DT opposite of Richburg, creating an A Gap hole. The problem is LBs Rolando McClain and Sean Lee sit in wait to maintain their gaps.

darkwa3Pugh pulling entices Lee and McClain to follow him and Darkwa has a decision to make, follow his lead guard on a trap off tackle or hit the A gap. Darkwa makes a sudden head fake towards Pugh, Lee commits and McClain takes too long to react.

darkwa4The head fake buys Darkwa the time to burst through the A gap and pick up 9 yards as Pugh’s pulling draws the LBs attention. Credit to Richburg for an outstanding power block on the play.

C Weston Richburg had his best game of the year, consistently turning his man out of the hole to lead the way for the Giants rushing attack. Richburg had the key block on Darkwa’s TD run and 9-yard jaunt just moments earlier. LT Ereck Flowers had no trouble with anyone this time out and is fast becoming a rock on the OL. RG Geoff Schwartz gave up the sack to Hardy, who I loathe, so Schwartz gets the gas face. LG Justin Pugh was solid and his leads on the traps did their job – a solid day for the former Syracuse man.

Defensive Line

Horrible, just horrible. 233 yards to a one-dimensional team with no one at RB is abysmal. Not one player on this DL looked like anything but a small bump on a putt-putt course, the one that kinda gets in the way but ultimately doesn’t hinder you on your way to mini-golf glory. The edge containment was non-existent and BBI favorite, DE Kerry Wynn, was downright putrid, first biting inside on a Joseph Randle run on the Cowboys’ first possession and then completely losing contain on his side while simply being erased on a McFadden run on the Cowboys’ first TD drive. Wynn wasn’t alone in his crapitude. DT Markus Kuhn stood straight up and got himself taken out of the hole and pushed backwards on a McFadden 9-yard run. Not to be outdone, DE Robert Ayers gave up his lane and inexplicably chased Matt Cassel as McFadden scooted by as evidenced by this nauseating sequence. The circles indicate where Kuhn and Ayers SHOULD be; they do not make it so.

Kuhn1Kuhn starts in the A (between center and guard) gap, with DE Robert Ayers seemingly responsible for the C gap (outside the OT).

kuhn2Kuhn spots a penny on the turf (and OG Zach Martin peeks over his shoulder for a look see), instead of staying home to take on the block from TE Jason Witten and create some traffic for McFadden…

kuhn3Ayers completely abandons his gap, preferring to see what type of shoe Matt Cassel has on in lieu of taking down a ball carrier. Kuhn goes from zero to blocked faster than any DT I can remember. It has to be the fine German engineering that enables such raw speed. And there is no penny, just a gaping hole for McFadden to exploit.

DT Jay Bromley didn’t fare much better, consistently getting turned out of the hole and giving up leverage far too easily. And naturally it was Kuhn being destroyed on the Cowboys’ first TD of the game. The middle of this defense simply struggles when #78 is on the field. I have no idea how not one coach sees this. Ayers flat out missed on an easy interception chance that Cassel threw right at him, and didn’t have much impact in his first action in weeks. DE George Selvie was solid in spots as was Jon Hankins and Cullen Jenkins, but as a unit, no pressure and 233 yards rushing means you all get an F.

Linebackers

When your starting trio of LBs racks up 24 tackles, something ain’t stirring the Kool-Aid Ace. J.T. Thomas got caught for a late hit on the Cowboys’ first TD drive, just a bad error when the Giants were struggling to stop anything. But the call was iffy at best. The former Mountaineer finished with 6 stops. For the most part, this group was jumping on and dragging down anything that ambled past our DL and that was pretty much everyone with a star on their helmet. Really very little impact despite all of the tackle numbers. I guess it’s good they tackled? Jon Casillas again chipped in with 7 stops, but for the life of me, I can’t remember any of them. Veteran Jon Beason did a lot of dirty work in between the big guys, piling up 11 stops in a game that had to feel like a game of bumper pool for former Cane, with Beason playing the role of the ball. Tough day all around for the defense’s second level against the running game. They were consistently dealing with 300 pounders bearing down them as the DL failed to do anything to slow the tide.

Defensive Backs

DRC, take a bow. Hell take two or three, just don’t pull anything or you’ll be on IR by Saturday. The highly-paid and highly-productive CB was sensational despite a very iffy holding call that gave the Boys a first down as the first half wound down. DRC nearly had a first-half TD by jumping Cole Beasley’s out route. He jumped the exact same route on the Cowboys’ first possession of the second half and catapulted the Giants to a 17-13 lead. DRC wasn’t done, snatching another Cassel pass over the middle as the 4th quarter opened with the Cowboys again driving. S Brandon Meriweather took advantage of an awful Cassel pass midway through the third quarter and gave the G-Men the ball back at their own one-foot line. The former Cane did get bowled over by Darren McFadden on the Cowboys’ next possession, but Meriweather notched 7 tackles and a pick and was counted on heavily to shore up the back end of a fragile defense. And he did just that with a swat of a 3rd down pass late in the 4th quarter that helped snuff out the Cowboys’ final shot to score. CB Jayron Hosley wasn’t good at all. Hosley gave up big gains to Terrence Williams and got out-worked on a Brice Butler reception. If not for a bad Cassel pass, he was beaten badly on Meriweather’s interception. S Landon Collins notched 9 stops but he was slow in reacting to WR Devin Street and gave up the game-tying TD. Collins continued his rugged work against the run, spending plenty of time in the box, but he too shoulders some of the blame for the 233-yard mashing.

Special Teams

Special, neato, super, competent. None of these would describe the Giants’ special teams units under blackmail specialist Tom Quinn for several years, until now. Clearly Quinn’s 9-year plan is finally coming to fruition, he knew it all along. ST ace Dwayne Harris started the day with a drag down of Cole Beasley on P Brad Wing’s second punt and finished in style with a 100-yard, stadium-rocking kickoff return that punctuated an odd afternoon of weird statistics, big plays and Greg Hardy tirades. Credit LB Jonathan Casillas with an outstanding lead on Harris’ return. The coverage units were again outstanding, holding the Cowboys to 73 total return yards. Josh Brown, the cyborg kicker, again made all of his kicks.

Coaching

DC Steve Spagnuolo had no answers for a Cowboys’ running game that pounded out 233 yards. In their first 4 games, the Giants had the #1 rush defense in the league, giving up 279 yards and 69.75 ypg. In their last 3, the G-Men have surrendered 515 yards or 171.6 per game. That’s a full 100 yards per game MORE over our last 3 contests. That simply has to improve. Spags’ maddening decision to use DT Markus Kuhn extensively is reaching Tom Quinn-like proportions. What does Kuhn know and how does he know it? How is he using it to force his way onto the field and who if anyone can stop the big German? I’ll give Spags credit for dialing up a lot of pressure to force 3 interceptions. But I have to ask, what in the H E double hockey sticks is this? 3rd-and-4 and Kerry Wynn, Robert Ayers, Cullen Jenkins and George Selvie line up tight to put pressure on Matt Cassel…dun dun dunn or do they???

zoneb

zone2Yeah that’s right, 3 DL drop into coverage, Cassel misfires outside and DRC almost takes it to the house….a portend of things to come? Has ANYONE ever seen 3 DL drop into coverage???? This has to be a first for Spags.

When the Giants did use a 3-4 front with Ayers and Kennard at OLB, they fared much better against the Cowboys edge-heavy running game. But the Giants routinely returned to the 4-3 and the trampling continued for most of the contest. Credit Spags though for thoroughly confusing the veteran Cassel which led to 2 of the 3 interceptions the Giants used to pull this game out.

OC Ben McAdoo, I don’t know what to make of again. Darkwa explodes for 41 yards on 4 carries and then gets sprinkled in 4 more times total. Odell Beckham Jr. did very little and Eli Manning really only took two shots, one caught and one dropped. However, the running game worked better than it has all season with the addition of Darkwa. Credit McAdoo for adding in the former Tulane star; it paid off with 132 yards on the ground. So Mr. McAdoo, you stress balance in distributing the ball and you don’t like to threaten teams deep very often and it’s resulted in back-to-back poor output by your franchise QB and talented WRs. A win in this campaign though is a win even if your offense only managed 13 points against an outfit that surrendered 39 to the Falcons, 30 to the Patriots and 335 passing yards to the ghost of Drew Brees.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

Greg Hardy, you sir may cram it in your cramhole. By it, I mean everything you can find – guns, clipboards, horrible rap CDs with your nails-on-a-chalkboard voice on them. Hardy simply didn’t show for practice last Thursday, slapped his ST Coach’s clip board out of his hand, continued going apey for several minutes and he wasn’t even listening to the Soggy Bottom Boys. Even Dez Bryant looked sane in comparison during the duos heated exchange following Harris’ TD return. We were able to contact Daniel in MI, who unofficially didn’t give us any audio that is not certainly accurate. But here’s what we found when reading the lips of Bryant and Hardy…or at least we had the clip running on the laptop while we decided on what to have for dinner. And the results are shocking and probably fabricated.

Dez Bryant: Y’all gettin’ any rain up your way?
Greg Hardy: What way would that be?
Dez Bryant: I seen you was from Dallas.
Greg Hardy: What business is it of yours where I’m from, friendo?
Dez Bryant: I didn’t mean nothin’ by it.
Greg Hardy: Didn’t mean nothin’.
Dez Bryant: I was just passin’ the time. If you don’t wanna accept that I don’t know what else to do for you. Will there be something else?
Greg Hardy: I don’t know. Will there?
Dez Bryant: Is somethin’ wrong?
Greg Hardy: With what?
Dez Bryant: With anything?
Greg Hardy: Is that what you’re asking me? Is there something wrong with anything?
Dez Bryant: Will there be anything else?
Greg Hardy: You already asked me that.
Dez Bryant: Well… I need to see about closin’.
Greg Hardy: See about closing.
Dez Bryant: Yessir.
Greg Hardy: What time do you close?
Dez Bryant: Now. We close now.
Greg Hardy: Now is not a time. What time do you close?

(Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, October 25, 2015)
Oct 212015
 
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Philadelphia Eagles 27 – New York Giants 7

Overview

Hey, you! Get your damn hands off her! Or him, in this case our erstwhile NFC Offensive Player of the Week, Eli Manning. Finger points and weak threats, that’s pretty much all the Giants OL could use to stop a 3-hour long wedgie at the hands of the Eagles’ pass rush. It all started so well too, with the Giants marching down field to an early 7-0 lead thanks to Eli picking his spots underneath the Eagles Cover-2 and hitting Will Tye twice, Rueben Randle once and Larry Donnell once for first downs before dropping in a slant to Odell Beckham Jr. and an air of excitement against a team that has simply dominated the Giants lately. A quick 3-and-out forced by the injury-riddled Giants defense led to Eli and crew marching down to the Eagle 23-yard line and a quick two score lead..until TE Larry Donnell had a pass ripped from his arms. No matter, Steve Spaguolo’s troops were ready yet again, with back-to-back pass breakups by DE Kerry Wynn and S Brandon Meriweather and another 3-and-out…until DE Damontre Moore inexplicably pulled a belly-to-belly to suplex on QB Sam Bradford giving the Eagles 15 yards and a new set of downs. Just plays later the same Meriweather who looked so steady early on was beaten deep by WR Riley Cooper and the game was knotted at 7. At this point I’d like to jump into my DeLorean and hit 88MPH and never look down on this affair again but I’m a giver so let’s see where this all went from 1.21 jigowatts to a 3-3 record and the familiar feeling of, maybe we’re just not that good yet.

From that 7-7 tie, the Giants turned the ball over on downs, threw an interception returned for a TD (Exasperated Author’s Note: I just won’t use that term, I’m sick of it, along with “beast”, “hater” and any form of clever word play like Belicheat, Cowgirls, She-Gals, Foreskins…you get the point), fumbled the ball away, then proceeded to use punter Brad Wing as their own personal hand puppet as the offense just stunk the rest of the night. The Eagles on the other hand, weren’t great, they avoided a 14-0 hole when Donnell couldn’t hang on to the ball, were handed a TD drive on a platter by Damontre Moore, and a FG on a drive extended by a late hit by DT Cullen Jenkins. The teams combined for 5 Interceptions and 5 fumbles on a night both QBs wish they could have back. The difference for the Eagles though, is that a bad QB night is not a death knell as it is for the Giants. With the ability to rush the passer and move the ball on the ground, two former Coughlin staples, the Eagles can win ugly games with Sam Bradford stinking it up. With no running game to speak of (not once has this ground game reached 100 yards in 2015), if Eli isn’t Superman this team is dead in the water.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (October 19, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterbacks

It works! It works! I finally invent something that works! Well for one and a half drives anyway, OC Ben McAdoo had invented something that worked for his QB and offense, an efficient quick strike offense that ate up the hook zones and medium middle en route to an 8-play, 80-yard drive that staked the Giants to a promising 7-0 lead. Manning was 5-of-5 for 59 yards and a TD on the game’s opening salvo, working the middle of the field with ease and at one point was 10-of-10 before Larry Donnell had the ball wrestled from his mitts. Somehow that game plan was tossed out after TE Larry Donnell’s catch-turned-interception and Eli was under siege Steven Segal-style all night. Manning made one crucial mistake on an interception-turned-TD deep inside the Giants’ own territory, but testing a fast defense on the edges instead of sticking with what was working is squarely on the play caller there. Had WR Rueben Randle not slipped on his pick attempt, the ball probably finds WR Dwayne Harris. But a play reliant on so much to go right deep in your own territory is, simply put, an awful idea. Manning did what he did could with an inconsistent running game and constant pressure from the 2nd quarter on, but he like everyone else was great for stretches and terrible in spurts.

Running Backs

Rashad Jennings started off strong (notice a trend here yet), picking up 16 yards on his first 3 carries and looking decisive and powerful doing so. Jennings gave way early to fellow backs Andre Williams and Shane Vereen and it looks like a big mistake in hindsight. Jennings finished with 63 yards on 13 carries and consistently imposed his will on smaller Eagle DBs. However, Jennings took a false step in following FB Nikita Whitlock on a 4th-and-1 inside Eagles territory and was stuffed for a loss. Had Jennings been more patient, he had plenty of room on the backside to cut inside and get the first down – poor run by #23 on that one. Jennings rebounded with a strong 8-yard run on another promising drive until he coughed up a screen pass that thwarted another potential scoring drive. Inconsistency in this group is really hampering this offense and Jennings’ night was a perfect example of how good and how bad this group has been at times. Andre Williams was dreadful, with 6 yards on 5 carries, consistently stuffed and looking tentative in the hole yet again. Former Patriot Shane Vereen was even worse, with 0 yards on 4 carries and 1 catch for 6 yards. Not good enough again from this group, and I’ll say it again, it may be time to shake things up and see if Orleans Darkwa can give this team a spark on the ground. With the double-coverage thrown at Beckham and teams guarding against the deep pass so fervently, this group simply has to step up for this offense to start to thrive against decent competition.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (October 19, 2015)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

Rueben Randle took the first Manning pass on a quick slant for 8 yards and a first down and took a quick slant 15 yards for another in the 1st quarter, but only saw the ball 3 more times and finished with a ho hum 44 yards on 5 grabs. Mr. Hamstring, Odell Beckham, Jr., was like everyone else, perfect early on with a 13-yard dig route for a TD on the game’s opening drive. Beckham finished the first half with 61 yards on 7 grabs and a TD but did exactly nothing after halftime. A player that good simply cannot be erased in the second half, no matter what the Eagles threw at him. Myles White dropped his only opportunity and slot wideout Dwayne Harris failed to do much with 18 yards on two catches.

Tight Ends

Will Tye started off like everyone else, hauling in an early first down pass on a waggle play across the Eagles defense for a 17-yard gain and pulled down a 5-yard pass on 2nd-and-4 two plays later for his second first down and then…poof, he was gone. Tye has been forced into action from the Practice Squad following Daniel Fells’ unfortunate MRSA incident and showed up pretty well so far. He just needs more opportunities as evidenced by his early impact in this one. Another wobbly game from Larry Donnell, who one week ago was the hero against the 49ers in a thrilling last-minute victory. Again, great start for the former Grambling QB as he snatched a short middle pass from Manning on a 2nd-and-4 on the game’s opening drive and rumbled 16 yards for the conversion. The game turned on Donnell’s catch-turned-interception at the Eagle 22. After that miscue, Donnell only caught one more ball and simply disappeared. Donnell had a chance to redeem himself on 2nd-and-1 late in the 1st quarter, but he dropped a perfectly-placed ball by Manning inside the ten. This ended up killing any momentum the drive had.

Offensive Line

As with everyone else, good start with an 80-yard scoring drive, paving the way for 16 yards on 3 carries and a clean pocket for Eli to operate in. “I like this offensive line,” stammered Jon Gruden as the game began and he seemed right early on but the effusive praise would prove wrong, because this OL stumbled after the first two series and simply got man-handled up front by a quick, physical Eagle DL. Quick hitters were the balm early, but as the game wore on, the 5 up front just weren’t up to the task. RT Marshall Newhouse was out-fought all night by Connor Barwin and LG Justin Pugh had tons of trouble inside with DT Bennie Logan, killing most runs before they got started. RG Geoff Schwartz got bull-rushed by DL Vinny Curry that resulted in a sack on 3rd down on another failed drive. If there’s a positive here, and this season will test all of us to find those from time to time, it was the exceptional leadership shown by LT Ereck Flowers, the 21-year old rookie who took it upon himself to rally the troops on the sideline. This picture may not be worth 1,000 words, but superstars Odell Beckham Jr. and two-time Super Bowl MVP and team leader Eli Manning are intently listening to the rookie as he pulled his offensive teammates together. If the final tally depresses you, just look to the future of this line and offense in the towering new LT and you’ll find a little hope.

Ereck Flowers, New York Giants (October 19, 2015)

Defensive Line

Broken record alert, the Giants DL started off strong and faded as the evening wore on. DE Kerry Wynn got an early batted ball on the Eagles’ second drive and the front four looked off to the races until Moore’s incredibly stupid late hit on Sam Bradford. That play, which extended the Eagles’ first TD drive after it had been snuffed out in 3 plays, was another game-changer when it appeared the defense had bailed out Larry Donnell. Moore later chipped in with a sack and fumble recovery, another perfect example of the Giants’ night, brilliant one moment, bone-headed the next. DT Cullen Jenkins got involved early, batting down a 3rd down pass from Bradford and forcing a punt, but it was Jenkins’ touch late hit that extended another Eagles’ drive. Another Giant mistake, another Eagle opportunity. The DL had an issue holding the edge, something this front 7 was excelling at before this game. Using an extra TE to down block negated DEs Owa Odighizuwa and Kerry Wynn on several runs. Wynn and Odighizuwa simply need to get wider and hold the point-of-attack better on those plays.

Linebackers

I could almost hear the Bubble Boy taunting our LBs. “How you feeling now Constanza?…Not too good!” Not too good indeed Double B. This group was eaten up by a quick, aggressive running game that slowly but surely imposed its will on the Giants’ middle defenders. Uani ‘Unga led the group with 7 stops, but his MLB counterpart Jon Beason was consistently cut down and erased from the running game. Again, credit the Eagles’ offense here. They recognized that Beason hasn’t been attacking the hole as we pointed out in previous weeks and strung their plays out wide to give their OL time to get the second level and eliminate #52 from making a difference. Discussing who isn’t available seems silly but this group is much much better when Devon Kennard is healthy and able to impose his will in the running game. Jonathan Casillas gave up a gap on the game-sealing TD and looks to be better suited to coverage than run stuffing.

Jayron Hosley, New York Giants (October 19, 2015)

Jayron Hosley – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

S Brandon Meriweather was confident early, knocking down WR Jordan Matthews to force an incompletion, but he missed a wide-open tackle on WR Josh Huff and followed that up immediately with a late cover on WR Riley Cooper who evened up the game at 7. Meriweather had not been exposed deep yet but credit Sam Bradford and Cooper with exploiting Meriweather’s trouble in deep coverage to tie the game. S Craig Dahl was somewhat impactful with 8 stops, one of which shut down an Eagle drive until Moore’s huge penalty. CB Jayron Hosley notched an early interception with the Giants only down 7 to give Eli and company some life before halftime. On the play, Hosley was playing bail technique, meaning he dropped deep at the snap, essentially acting as a two deep safety as S Landon Collins came down to cover a TE crossing the formation. Bradford’s overthrow fell right into #28’s mitts as Collins was in trail coverage. Credit CB Coach Tim Walton on that one – Hosley has jumped those routes in the past, giving up the deep seam, but he kept his depth, stayed patient and it paid off with a timely turnover. Hosley provided blanket coverage on Riley Cooper a few plays later on a 2nd-and-28, forcing an incompletion and a ridiculously long 3rd down. But he was victimized on a long pass to Cooper as the 2nd half opened. DRC launched himself into a stop on a WR screen but was otherwise not tested much by the Eagles’ offense. S Landon Collins notched his first interception of the year and was strong on the edge in run support, another glimmer of hope in an otherwise dismal night.

Special Teams

Never mind Jon Gruden claiming K Josh Brown hadn’t missed a kick in his recent memory (Brown indeed missed an XP in Buffalo so I assume by memory Gruden means the last 15 minutes or so), Brown was perfect on his lone extra point so he’s got that goin’ for him, which is nice. S Craig Dahl helped on specials with a strong take down of the terrifying Darren Sproles on a punt return late in the first half. P Brad Wing was forced to launch 8 times with a long of 51 and 2 punts dropped inside the 20 but did hit a horrific 27-yarder in the waning moments of the first half that led to an Eagle FG. Good coverage again this week, which is notable given that it’s the Eagles and the irritating (he’s tiny and fast, it’s unnatural) Darren Sproles. The Eagles weree held to 58 yards on 6 punt and kickoff returns.

Coaching

Head-scratching game from Ben McAdoo. The G-Men started off attacking the middle, hitting all 5 passes on the game’s opening drive underneath the Eagles’ safeties and just beyond the LBs. Rashad Jennings was in an early groove as well but gave way to Andre Williams and Shane Vereen on the second possession and never got the chance to keep it going despite running well most of the night. After shredding the Eagles over the middle, McAdoo then tested the edges of the speedy Eagles defense and he paid for it dearly. Eli’s first pick was an out route to Donnell that a drive earlier had been an in route, utilizing the 6’7” TE’s frame as a natural shield. Why you suddenly decide to try the other side of that with a speedy LB able to get to the point before your big TE is beyond me. Testing the edge again, Eli tossed a late out into the flat which CB Nolan Carroll returned for a TD and the rout from there was on. Inexcusable play call that deep in your own zone with reliance on a pick play working. Stupid, stupid football there.

DC Steve Spagnuolo’s group held up well early but eventually got no rest from a totally ineffective Giants’ offense and just got run over as the game wore on. Still without DE Robert Ayers, LB Devon Kennard and the recent loss of CB Prince Amukamara, Spags is working with a depleted group who hung in for over a half but eventually gave up 155 yards on the ground. Simply not good enough when they had to be.

Anatomy of a Run

We’ve heaped praise on DC Steve Spagnuolo and in particular, Jon Beason, Devon Kennard and Kerry Wynn for their stellar play vs. the run. This week, one play stood out as an example of why the Eagles right now are just a better team. With 6:19 left and the game still within reach, DeMarco Murray raced around right end for a 12-yard touchdown, doing something to this defense that no team had yet – dominate the edge. The Eagles ran a double TE BOSS (back-on-strong-safety) play to Murray in which his job was to beat the SS, in this case Brandon Meriweather. At first glance, this looked like a big mistake by #58, but his job in this formation is to one-gap outside the LT and cut down the angle on Murray and he does just that. LB Jonathan Casillas, however, does NOT maintain his depth and gets sucked up inside. Now his gap is empty and S Brandon Meriweather is forced to commit early instead of maintaining outside leverage. The defensive design is to turn Murray back inside, forcing him to deal with Casillas and Meriweather, with Collins holding the edge. Casillas abandons his post, forces Meriweather to commit and Murray strikes the final blow.

DM1The Eagles come out in a double-TE set against a 4-3 over/under combination. [In the under, the S lines up on the line of scrimmage as the SAM as shown above and the DE lines up head up on the tackle. In this formation though, Owa (#58) is shaded outside the TE as you would see in a 4-3 over]. This is an ideal way to shut down the edge run.

dm2At the snap, Owa does his job, attacking the gap outside of the tackle so his LB can slide in to fill the vacated gap (Jonathan Casillas #54). Casillas is in position, as indicated by an excellent red ellipse, but quickly loses depth and fails to maintain gap integrity.

DM3Casillas loses his depth – a big no-no against a back with Murray’s ability to get outside – and takes himself out of position, forcing S Brandon Meriweather to commit early to cover Casillas’ vacated gap. Meriweather also took a false step inside and gave up outside leverage for a split second, isolating S Landon Collins to hold the edge versus TE Zach Ertz.

dm4The BOSS play design works, isolating Murray on Merriweather, who already gave up his outside leverage and Murray races around Collins for the game-deciding score.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

A good coach takes the blame and provides cover when his team stinks and this week. I’ll take the award in symbolic unifying fashion. I’m sure I deserve it for my lame thematic reviews and unprofessional writing style but I feel compelled to make a plea with all my loyal readers and more loyal detractors: Calm Down about the debacle this week. Yes we lost 27-7 to our hated I-95 rivals. Yes the offense hocked up loogie after loogy after opening the game so well. Yes we had untimely stupid penalties, turnovers to spare and didn’t capitalize on a dreadful game by Sam Bradford. This is a team coming off of two straight miserable campaigns with new starters across the entire OL, and without the services of Jason Pierre-Paul, Will Beatty, Victor Cruz, Robert Ayers, Prince Amukamara, Devon Kennard, and Daniel Fells. Castoffs like Craig Dahl, Brandon Meriweather, Marshall Newhouse and youngsters like Will Tye, Geremy Davis, Ereck Flowers, Owa Odighizuwa, Landon Collins, and Uani ‘Unga have all been pressed into action sooner than anyone anticipated.

We stand at 3-3 and likely won’t challenge for anything. But treat each game as just that, one game, especially in today’s NFL. My old ball coach once told us before a game that would see us finish the season undefeated, “I’ll never ask you to be the best team anywhere except between those four white lines when the lights go on every week.” It worked every week for 13 weeks and we believed we could win every week. Pardon the Al Bundy flashback, but consider the pace of this game. A mistake or fewer here or there and we could be sitting at 4-2, but it wasn’t to be. Right now the Eagles are simply better, but despite the score, the margin is not as wide as it was one year ago. We’re making progress and more to come. Don’t give up the ship and don’t hop into your DeLorean just yet and fast forward to the draft or anything but our next opponent…the hated Dallas Cowboys. New week, new chance to win. Let’s go boys (and girls if you are not asleep or have not thrown your laptop out the window after all these words).

(New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, October 19, 2015)
Oct 062015
 
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New York Giants 24 – Buffalo Bills 10

Gratuitous Introduction

OVER THE LINE! Huh? I’m sorry Rexy, you were over the line, that’s a foul. Rexy, this is not ‘Nam. This is football. There are rules. In true Rex Ryan fashion, a big bad boasting team with a putrid QB faced a team with an actual QB and lost, badly, and apparently the NFL rule book didn’t make it in the moving van boxes from Florham Park to wherever the hell the Bills practice. 17 penalties for the Bills, habitual line steppers all of them but that was only the late story. The Bills were completely out-played from whistle-to-whistle by a suddenly solid and confident Giants team.

Luckily for Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin, he has The Dude, who even in the face of Nihilists who don’t believe in penalties, always keeps ‘er easy. Eli was classic Dude on Sunday, changing plays, running the hurry-up to limit substitutions and marching his team down the field to the tune of 24 points against a defense he wasn’t supposed to be able to dent. Oops. The 24 points were more than enough for this no-name, all-game defense that absolutely clobbered 243lb rookie sensation Karlos Williams to the tune of 40 yards on 18 carries and held speedy QB Tyrod Taylor to 15 yards on 6 attempts.

Another close 4th quarter, another pull-away win. That’s two in a row kids and you have to know The Dude abides. I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. The Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners. Shoosh. I sure hope he makes the finals.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (October 4, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterbacks

I only mention it because sometimes there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, ’cause, what’s a hero? But sometimes, there’s a man. And I’m talkin’ about the Dude here. Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s the Dude, in New York. The best QB this franchise has ever had has directed his team to two straight wins and again proven his mettle when this team has needed him the most. Facing a tremendously insipid train horn pre-snap, and a big, physical and unpredictable Buffalo front 7, Eli was his usual cool self, evenly distributing the ball, changing plays and keeping the Bills on their heels (calm down Rex) all day long. Five Giant players had at least 2 catches and TDs went to three different players, a definitive sign that this offense is coming along and that even when Pre-madonna (sic) WR Odell Beckham Jr. is held in check, Eli can hurt you with just about anyone else. Eli’s late INT was the only real blemish on the day, and while 20-35 for 212 yards is pretty pedestrian these days, it was Eli’s ability to get his team lined up quickly and use as much of the play clock as he could to get the Bills to show their hand up front that made the difference for this team offensively.

Running Backs

The best output by the Giants RBs this year, their ability to be physical and keep gaining positive yardage kept the Bills guessing all day on defense. Following a 2-play, 32-yard drive of passes to Dwayne Harris, the Giants backs then took the reins and started to wear down the vaunted Bills DL. Up 9-3, this group led a 10-play, 76-yard march that put the Giants up 16-3 and may have salted the game away with the way the defense was throttling the Bills most of the day. Andre Williams and Rashad Jennings averaged 7.2 yards on 5 combined carries on the drive, and set the tone for the rest of the day. RB Shane Vereen had a nifty 27-yard screen play called back by a Geoff Schwartz penalty. Jennings was unceremoniously dumped on his melon by DE Mario Williams as the 3rd quarter wound down, but Jennings would have the final say. Snagging an Eli Manning flare pass and racing 51 yards, Jennings threw S Bacarri Rambo aside like a sack of dirty undies en route to the game-sealing TD and a 24-10 lead.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (October 4, 2015)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

Dwayne Harris is officially a Giant now, hauling in his first TD in Blue and gathering in 5 passes for 51 yards in 6 targets. Harris is starting to become a reliable threat from the slot, and his toughness is showing each week as he takes shot after shot on special teams and over the middle as a WR. Rueben Randle again came up big, running a well-timed slant early in the 2nd quarter for an 11-yard score and a 16-3 Giant lead. Odell Beckham Jr. had a head-scratching Sunday, several times drawing Eli’s ire for an incorrect route adjustment and constantly barking at the Bills. ODB finished with just 38 yards on 5 catches and was hemmed in well by the Bills. Credit CB Ronald Darby for playing aggressively and keeping the reigning Rookie of the Year in check. It’s Beckham’s presence though, that draws so much attention it opens up the field for Manning to use his other weapons.

Tight Ends

TE Larry Donnell had another meh outing, pulling in 38 yards on 5 grabs and again falling prey to a false start penalty. Newly-signed Will Tye dropped the only ball fired his way.

Offensive Line

Just call LT Ereck Flowers “Iron Balls McGinty” from here on out. Flowers, playing on a gimpy ankle, came out after one offensive play but strapped his big boy shoes back on and pitched a shutout against dynamic DE Jerry Hughes. The Giants OL may have just arrived, stubbornly plowing forward for 92 yards on 28 carries, which against the front led by the massive duo of 330lb Marcel Dareus and the 6’7” Mario Williams is a solid day’s work. This game was this young OLs biggest test and 24 points, 1 sack allowed and a sound victory against a very good defense is something for this group to build on. Rookie Bobby Hart notably got some snaps in jumbo formations, something to watch down the line. It may have been due to the dearth of TEs but the big rookie looked OK.

Kerry Wynn, New York Giants (October 4, 2015)

Kerry Wynn – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Line

DE Kerry Wynn again stole the show on the DL in the absence of Robert Ayers Jr., notching what is becoming a very familiar sight, a backside cut-back lane tackle for little or no gain. Nothing flashy about 72, but he is never out of position and plays as soundly as a DE can against the run and he tallied another 8 stops from his DE spot. Wynn, lined up at DT on a 3rd-and-12 late in the 3rd quarter, alertly recognized a screen, got depth and helped snuff the play out deep in Giants territory. Wynn’s play is a huge reason this run defense is the best in the NFL right now. Owa Odighizuwa made his long-awaited debut and promptly dropped Tyrod Taylor on a zone run to his side, a play that a year ago would have gone for a huge chunk of yardage with a DE flying upfield and losing containment. On the same play, FINALLY, DL Cullen Jenkins also wrapped up the dive fake to Karlos Williams, something Giant fans have been waiting to see since our run defense was embarrassed last year. You attack the read option inside and read it outside, just like the offense is designed to make the play work. Instead of DEs attacking the edges, you sit and read and make a play and #58 did just that in his maiden voyage. Owa chipped in with 2 stops and did a solid job holding the edge when asked. DT Jay Bromley absolutely blew past RG Craig Urbik on what appeared to be a Tyrod Taylor TD run (say that three times fast, or don’t – I don’t really care), which forced the desperate OG to pull Bromley down and negate the run. Bromley followed that play up with another hurry of Taylor, which caused an incompletion. FB/DT and all-around neat guy Nikita Whitlock notched a sack in the 4th quarter, making the memory of the Hynoceros dance just a little less painful. DTs Cullen Jenkins and Jon Hankins did what they do – they owned the A gaps and kept their play-makers clean. The duo combined for 5 tackles and a sack and spearheaded the stifling of the Bills rushing attack.

Linebackers

LB Devon Kennard is becoming a problem. You can’t throw on him, you can’t run on him and he loves him a little contact. Defensive head honcho Steve Spagnuolo has deployed Kennard everywhere and the dynamic second-year LB is delivering, breaking up 3 passes intended for TE Charles Clay, one of which was intercepted  late in the 1st quarter as the LB was lined up one-on-one against Clay down the sideline. The field position resulted in an easy 2-play, 32-yard TD drive. Kennard was back at it on the next series, rushing up the A gap to knock down a Tyrod Taylor offering at the line of scrimmage and forcing a punt. Kennard did get beaten on a TD pass by RB Karlos Williams on the same route he picked off earlier in the game, but #59 stopped 3 drives on his own early. J.T. Thomas chipped in with 4 tackles, had some coverage issues on a long pass play to TE Charles Clay but it was the former Mountaineer who was there on a 4th-and-goal tackle to snuff out a Bills drive. Jonathan Casillas officially had 9 stops, but I officially didn’t notice, even watching this game not once not twice but thrice.

Prince Amukamara, New York Giants (October 4, 2015)

Prince Amukamara – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

If you looked at the box score and saw 274 yards from Tyrod Taylor, you might have cringed. S Landon Collins and CB Prince Amukamara combined for 12 stops and 3 passes defended. Collins had two great diving breakups and a pressure on Taylor on a Bills drive that ended with a missed FG late in the 3rd quarter. The Prince ripped the ball out of WR Robert Woods’ hands with the game all but sealed, but he and Collins wanted that ball and they got it to put one more nail in the coffin. S Craig Dahl nearly came away with a sack on a blitz right up the A gap on the left side, just missing Taylor in the end zone. CB Jayron Hosley isn’t as good as ST ace Jayron Hosley. #28 was victimized by Percy Harvin and drew a bad pass interference penalty as the Bills were trying to claw back into the game. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had little to do with Greg Roman’s caveman like offense bumbling around all day, but DRC made a goal line stop in tandem with LB J.T. Thomas that kept the Bills out of the end zone on a 4th-and-goal from the 2.

Special Teams

Jayron Hosley, take a bow, then get real low because one BBI denizen wishes death up on you. The former VPI man was relentless on special teams, spearheading a coverage unit that stifled the Bills return game to the tune of 88 yards on 9 touches. Dare we say it the Giants coverage teams are now a strength and not a gaping hole of sadness? K Josh Brown missed a 38-yard XP and looked like a one-man gaping hole of sadness afterwards.

Coaching

Hell I like Steve Spagnuolo, he can come over to my house and…well Gunnery Sgt. Hartmann’s words are not quite appropriate in this space (just barely) but you get the idea. Spags has resurrected defense in NY with TEAM FIRST play, nothing more. This team, no matter who is in or what formation they are in, flies to the ball on every single snap. That’s a sign of a team that believes in itself and its coordinator.

I mean say what you want about the tenets of the West Coast Offense, Dude, at least it’s an ethos. Unlike Bills play-butcherer Greg Roman, whose ethos seems to be throw far to TE guy…if not, let QB run fast. OC Ben McAdoo has his offense starting to round in to form. The running game isn’t going to scare anyone, unless it’s like a team of 8-year olds (no way would they tackle Andre Williams), BUT it’s working well enough in chunks to keep the defense honest and let Eli do his thing. Credit McAdoo with spreading the ball out wide on the Giants the first few drives, then counter punching with inside counters and traps on the Giants 2nd TD drive. The plan to wear down the Bills huge front 7 worked and they were off balance all day.

Inside the Backside (don’t be gross)

Against an aggressive front, and make no mistake this defense attacks all day, several keys exist to slow down a pass rush. Most readers of this site are savvy enough to know that draws, screens, hard counts, motions and misdirection plays are all geared to slow down a big-time pass rush. The G-Men currently lack that killer pass rush, but the #1 rushing defense in the league is being noticed and teams are trying to negate the Giants ability to penetrate in the ground game as well. The concept and idea is the same – if a team is disruptive and crashing gaps to blow up a running game, let them crash, let them over-pursue and you’ll see holes open up. In the sequence below, watch MLB Jon Beason and DE Kerry Wynn stay disciplined and be in position to make a stop. Specifically, watch how Beason’s depth never changes until he sees the play starting to unfold, keeping him from getting blocked by an OL or the FB, and Wynn flattens down the LOS to contain the backside run.

cutback1

On the game’s opening play, the Bills try just that, with a counter to the weakside. Note Kerry Wynn crudely highlighted at LDE and the lead FB and OL all moving squarely left while MLB Jon Beason, maintains his depth and finds the ball carrier.

cutback2

First, Wynn uses a swim move to keep RT Seantrel Henderson from getting inside his shoulders. And he flattens down the line, not flying into a hole or looking for the big play, but playing smart, sound fundamental DE by maintaining outside leverage and tracking the play laterally rather than getting too far up field. A big cutback lane is evident here as 5 of the Giants front 7 are now backside, not play-side as the Bills had hoped. Beason, however, still square to the line of scrimmage, still with good depth, is not caught up in the wash.

cutback3

Wynn, still parallel to the line of scrimmage, begins to close down the hole, again, not shooting up field, but by keeping outside leverage (45 degrees with the ball carrier to your inside, it’s all about technique) and moving down the line. MLB Jon Beason, who stayed patient, now recognizes the cut back and it’s a race to close down the gap.

cutback4

Beason and Wynn, both of whom read their keys and allowed the play to develop before attacking, close down RB Karlos Williams for no gain. Credit DTs Jon Hankins and Cullen Jenkins along with DE George Selvie for doing the dirty work and not allowing the OL to get to Beason. This is team run defense at its most basic and its fundamental best.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

I’ll need the trophy store to really crank out a big order this week, for the entire Buffalo Bills organization, down to each dopey fan gets the CCA. Rex Ryan’s incessant boasting, Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman trying to use TE Charles Clay like he’s Vernon Davis, the front office for assaulting our QB senses with Tyrod Taylor and for that damn train horn that played while the G-Men had the ball. Gamesmanship, home field advantage, yeah yeah we get it, but this is supposed to be a professional game played by highly-paid men who sacrifice their bodies for our entertainment (and their giant paychecks) and you choose a train horn to throw off a QB who beat an 18-0 Patriots team in the Super Bowl? That’s the proverbial knife-to-the-gun-fight, you dolts. Then you incite your rube fans to chant the chant-of-the-stupid between honks? At least we can be sure that the denizens of whatever-it’s-called-now stadium have mastered one of the five vowels. Bully. The poor White Stripes, they could have never known their ditty would be used in such a Neolithic manner. Head referee John Hussey gets a runners-up badge for his President Skroob like moustache.

(New York Giants at Buffalo Bills, October 4, 2015)
Sep 272015
 
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princess_bride_280

New York Giants 32 – Washington Redskins 21

Confusing Intro

Two 4th quarter leads blown, 0-2 and playing without your starting LT, best cover corner and best DL against a suddenly revitalized Washington Redskins (161 and 182 yards on the ground to open the year against two of the best defensive fronts in the league in St. Louis and Miami) team that vows to “Break the man in front of you”, were the Giants already dead in week three?  Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your team here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.

It turns out the Giants did learn from their first two weeks, not taking their collective feet off the gas in a 32-21 win over the Washington Redskins. Staked to an early 9-0 bulge thanks to a Prince Amukamara INT and Rashad Jennings blocked punt for a safety, the Giants were never really threatened in this one despite a 101-yard kickoff return in the 4th quarter that cut a 32-14 lead to 32-21 and had to make some Giant fans wonder, are we going to cough up the lead again? Never fear, Kirk Cousins is here, and the former Spartan was again generous throwing 2 costly INTs, one inside his own 20 and another when it appeared the Skins were finally gaining some footing on offense. Questions will be raised about Tom Coughlin’s sanity again though, because with under 2 minutes left in the game he inexplicably chose to throw the ball on a 3rd-and-10, essentially gifting his opponent about 40 seconds of clock time late in the game for the second time in three weeks. Fortunately this was Kirk Cousins and not Matt Ryan or Tony Romo and the Skins final effort was an 8-play, 64-yard clunker that ended on a 26-yard garbage time run as time expired. The Giants are not quite dead, which means we can’t yet go through their pockets and look for loose change but we just might get a miracle if the teams in the NFC East keep losing players and we start to get some back next week against the Buffalo Bills.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 24, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterbacks

My name is Eli Manning, you killed my first two games, prepare to die. Eli Manning started the game 8-of-8, looking sharp and decisive with the ball, seeming to involve Rueben Randle early to get the 4th-year pro in a groove to help this offense. Manning found Odell Beckham on a 4th-and-1 conversion on a simply perfect pass low and outside where only his WR could make the catch and again Beckham was on the receiving end of a perfectly-placed toss into the end zone to the high post. Despite the first two games and non-stop criticism, Eli stepped onto the big stage and did what Eli does, he played to win the game and he did just that. That is the Eli we want, that is the Eli we expect and with another makeshift OL, no real slot WR and a frustrating TE situation the Big E came up huge when he had to. Up 25 to 14, instead of going into a shell, Eli and company fired the dagger with a back shoulder pass to Rueben Randle that DB Bashaud Breeland (can someone name a kid Bill or Ted or something, ffs this is getting out of control) tipped, but Randle gathered it and went in for the score. Manning finished the day with 279 yards, 2 TDs and again no interceptions.

Running Backs

Andre Williams gets the first nod for his bruising TD run over left guard following a Prince Amukamara INT to stake the G-men to a 9-0 lead. Late in the 3rd quarter, Williams did his best Brandon Jacobs, in trucking FS Trenton Robinson on a 5-yard run that had to make Skins fans shudder at the memory of old #27 obliterating S LaRon Landry. Other than that, a pretty poor night for the backs again, with a paltry 2.7 ypc average with 11 yards as the long run of the night. This mix and match zone runs and power runs has the OL and backs tied up and simply not performing well at all. It may be time to see what Orleans Darkwa can do because this running game is dead in the water. FB Nikita Whitlock didn’t play many snaps on offense. RB Shane Vereen was held catchless and only touched the ball 6 times but his alert onside recovery saved what could have turned into another late game meltdown.

Rueben Randle, New York Giants (September 24, 2015)

Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

Someone must have threatened to put Rueben Randle’s hand in warm water the next time he falls asleep if he didn’t show up this week, because the 4th-year former Bayou Bengal came out punching and didn’t let up. Randle ran a great DIG route on a 3rd-and-8 early in the 3rd to pick up a key conversion. To top things off, Randle pulled in a 3rd-and-10 with the Giants up 11 and only 3:33 left, and raced home for the game-clinching TD. Great night for Randle who finished with 116 yards on 7 grabs and the game-clinching TD. Superlatives simply don’t work anymore when discussing Odell Beckham Jr. He finished with a pedestrian (for him) 79 yards on 7 catches but his 4th-and-1 snag of a low slider from Eli and his effortless grab of a post in the end zone that was high and near a defender just shows how composed he is with the ball in the air and how much his QB trusts him.

Tight Ends

Washington-killer TE Larry Donnell killed a Giants drive midway through the 2nd quarter. An easy 3rd-and-7 conversion fell right through the 6’6” Donnell’s hands killing a drive that ended in a FG. The head scratcher? Donnell seemed to somersault just because he can on a 22-yard catch from Manning as the 4th quarter opened. I mean he didn’t fumble so that’s great but the non-induced gymnastics need to go. Every time he plays, Daniel Fells seems to have a big catch down the seam. Manning found Fells on a seam route on a Giants scoring drive midway through the second quarter. Fells deked LB Keenan Robinson with a jab step outside, got inside leverage and ran a perfect seam route for a 23-yard gain. He’s not flashy, but Fells is as fundamentally sound a TE as this team has had for some time.

Offensive Line

Without starting LT Ereck Flowers, things appeared to be grim against a Washington front that gave the Dolphins and Rams fits. Overall, not a bad job really, though at times RT Marshall Newhouse tried out his new skates when Ryan Kerrigan lined up over him. Newhouse did gave up some pressures, but kept a clean sheet and against a player of Kerrigan’s caliber that’s worth a pat on the backside. Not from me of course, that would be weird. The signal caller was kept clean all game and with few exceptions the pocket was fairly well-formed and stable most of the night. There was definitely pressure at times, but credit C Weston Richburg for keeping slight pressures from becoming drive-killing sacks by helping and switching to double team when needed. LT Justin Pugh acquitted himself well in rookie tough guy Flowers’ absence, and dare I say it, LG John Jerry played a pretty solid game, using his considerable backside to anchor well against a very big and very physical Washington front 7. Against bigger, physical lines, the 680 lb guard tandem of Geoff Schwartz and Jerry will actually be a big plus. C Weston Richburg largely goes unnoticed but ask Eli how much he appreciates room to step up into the pocket and the ability to dump off a screen pass and have his agile pivot man get out in front of the play and actually give it a shot. Another unsung improvement who won’t be on Sports Center or make the Daily News’ goofy headlines, but rest assured our 2nd year center is becoming exactly what this offense needs, a steady sturdy leader who can captain this young and now promising OL.

New York Giants Defense (September 24, 2015)

New York Giants Defense – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Line

Kerry Wynn made his mark early, knifing through on a 3rd down to drop Matt Jones for a loss and force punt #2. Wynn finished with 8 stops and a QB hit, and in case that doesn’t tell the story clearly, that would be a 128-tackle season for a DL. As a point of reference, Hall of Famer Michael Strahan’s best year was 2005 when he finished with 81 stops. Am I inducting Kerry Wynn into the Hall of Fame because he went to school in Virginia? Yes, yes I am. Wynn likely won’t ever make a Pro Bowl or spit pieces of a PBJ on a reporter, but make no mistake, #72 was a difference-maker all night against what was a vaunted Washington running game. Consistent backside tackles and an ability to hold the edge made Wynn a force all night. His linemates didn’t fill up the stat sheet, but play after play, the Giants DL played with outstanding technique, not allowing cut-back lanes, shutting off the edge and forcing bruising RBs Matt Jones and Alfred Morris to churn out yards inside. The G-Men held the W’s to 88 yards, 26 of it on a last-second run that can easily be tossed out to show how dominant this group was all night. Cool moment of the night: FB/DT Nikita Whitlock had an impressive 360 spin to get in Cousins face from the NT spot and force an incompletion. With the Skins down 19 entering the 4th quarter, it was pin your ears back time and the Giants DL didn’t get much in the way of sacks, though Kerry Wynn and Jay Bromley each chipped in with a couple of QB hurries. That lack of pressure may come back to bite this group eventually but we’ll take this one week at a time and worry about that when and if it happens.

Linebackers

OLB Devon Kennard just keeps making play after play. The 2nd-year former Trojan LOVES contact and it shows. Kennard’s ability to shock with his hands is something this team hasn’t seen since Carl Banks roamed the Meadowlands. What made Banks such a dynamic run and edge defender was his ability to stay square and “shock” or jolt the man blocking him violently with his hands, holding the vaunted edge and controlling the running game. Kennard does the same thing when asked in 3-4 sets, and he gets better every week at it. It’s not glamorous, it’s not cool but key on #59 a few times and watch how violent his hands are and how aggressively he defeats blocks of 300lb lineman with ease. It’s a beautiful thing. LB Jonathan Casillas may have had the whiff of the game when he was handed a perfect blitz and clean shot at Kirk Cousins and he ran right past the QB. It was coincidentally the same fake-blitz-that-becomes-a-blitz that LB Kawika Mitchell executed in Super Bowl 42 to hurry a Tom Brady throw. At the snap, Casillas takes a drop step into his zone, then zips inside a lane created by the DL, only to miss a chance at a sack. Casillas was almost victimized by TE Jordan Reed who had flown past the LB into the end zone but Kirk Cousined it and the Skins were forced to kick the oblong pigskin for points. LB Jon Beason returned from his latest injury room vacation but didn’t register a tackle or have really any impact in limited action. He did avoid a season-ending injury so let’s call that a win. Beason’s understudy (hoping to make the journey from Milan to Minsk) Uani’ Unga picked off a Cousins’ pass with the Skins driving and the G-Men up 12. And with the Giants scoring on the ensuing possession, that INT turned out to be a huge moment in the game. It was of course tipped by Devon Kennard who had perfect coverage on the play and batted the ball into the air, so just get used to 59 making things happen seemingly all over the field. Unga could be blamed on Chris Thompson’s TD catch late in the 4th quarter as the old-young rookie failed to get sufficient depth in his drop, opening a small window for the Cousins pass.

Landon Collins, New York Giants (September 24, 2015)

Landon Collins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

Prince Amukamara, victimized by Julio Jones and the Falcons game-winning drive, redeemed himself instantly with an INT inside Washington territory that led to an early and easy TD. The Prince batted away a pass to a seemingly-open Pierre Garcon. S Landon Collins looks like he’s rounding into form, making a key breakup early in the 2nd quarter against athletic TE Jordan Reed. Collins had Reed in man coverage all the way and Collins looked to be beaten but he closed down quickly, read Reed’s eyes and turned to find the ball and knock it away at the last second. The ball could have been thrown a bit better, but credit Collins with one of those little smart football things (watching a WRs eyes when running with him to find the ball) that don’t get enough credit. Heady play by the rookie. I bemoaned the signing of S Brandon Meriweather, but thus far #22 has been a solidifying force in the secondary. His strong effort around the line of scrimmage and ability to support the run game have been critical in this defense’s ability to limit ground yardage. Everyone’s favorite punching bag now that Markus Kuhn is on the pine, is undoubtedly CB Jayron Hosley, but the former weird giant turkey mascot school product was solid save for a pass interference call in what was probably his best game as a Giant in coverage.

Special Teams

Finally, finally something special! Rashad Jennings of all people, called for a running into the kicker play that was wiped out by offsetting penalties, came back on the re-do and blocked P Tress Way’s offering into the end zone for an early safety and a silly looking 2-0 lead. I’ll be honest, I really wanted the game to end 2-0. Rueben Randle tried his best to be Chris Calloway as the Redskins last ditch onside kick glanced off the WR’s..well his everything, but Shave Vereen corralled the ball and finally put the team at ease that a victory was within reach, almost. After Rueben Randle’s TD put the G-men up 32-14, disaster struck again as a 101-yard kickoff return for a TD put the game AGAIN on edge but the ensuing onside kick flashed through Randle’s hands, not making contact and the Giants could finally breathe easy.

Coaching

Two simply head scratching calls on 3rd downs from Ben McAdoo. One was an out to TE Daniel Fells, not even close to the first down. And the other was the EXACT same play late in the 3rd that tied up Larry Donnell like a young Bruce Wayne finding all those bats in that hole. Swatting, panicking, falling, Donnell looked awful, but even if caught, he’s 5 yards short. With the best WR in…I would say NFL, most would call me nuts so let’s go best WR in the stadium…and a 6’2” slot WR at your disposal, you decide that slow, sessile TEs should get the ball 5 yards shy of the first down marker because they are so very fast? Mind numbing play calls. That said, McAdoo kept at the run despite it not working to keep the defense honest and eventually it broke the game open as the G-Men erupted for 32 points against a thus far stingy Washington defense that had held the Dolphins and Rams in check.

Nobody gets ‘em ready like old Tommy C. Think about this for a moment. 0-2, he’s too old, his eyes seem more beady than usual (according to me only but seriously they are way beadier now), no Ereck Flowers, no Victor Cruz, no DRC, no Robert Ayers, on short rest against a confident and physical Washington team. The Giants came out and again fought from whistle to whistle, scrapping on defense, specials and offense wire to wire. It’s too early to know what this season will hold, but give Tom an A+++ for game preparation this week with an undermanned squad and tons of pressure, his charges came out swinging. That said, the throw on 3rd down with Washington out of time outs was another late-game head scratcher. My guess is he wanted to be aggressive and get the first down and ice the game since being conservative has led to blowing two 10-point 4th-quarter leads. Not the worst idea given that Randle scored on a similar play a drive earlier, but you have to bleed the clock in that situation, take the extra 40 seconds off and don’t risk stopping the clock there.

By now you all know how I feel about Spags. I love the way he attacks and I love the confidence and speed his teams play with. He has a rookie and a has-been at safety who have had rough patches but overall have acquitted themselves well. He has LBs who can’t cover and LBs who can’t play the run and he actually uses them according to their strengths. This is a team devoid of difference makers on defense. But the speed and aggression they play proves that the whole is better than the sum of its parts and team defense can keep you in games if everyone believes. And this group does.

Inside the Game 

So how are the Giants thus far throttling teams on the ground with the same cast of characters that former DC Perry Fewell led to a 30th-place finish in rushing yards allowed with a whopping 135.1 yards per game against, and dead last in yards-per-attempt at 4.9 yards per carry? FOUR POINT NINE yards per carry, let that sink in for a moment; it means if you run the ball twice you’re looking at 3rd and 7.2 inches to go on average. Through three games, admittedly a small sample size, Steve Spagnuolo’s group is 2nd in yards, giving up 74.7 yards per game and tied for 4th in yards per attempt at 3.4 yards per carry. So what’s been the one big difference? It’s been discussed before, but here it is: the 4-3 shift to a Base 50 or Oklahoma 5-2 front utilizing OLB Devon Kennard as the edge setting run weapon and utilizing 320lb DT Jonathan Hankins as a true nose tackle who can alter the game from that spot. (Captions below pics).

4-3

Notice in this frame, the Skins come out with 3 WRs, 1 TE and one RB, and motion the WR across the formation to get the Giants to shift to the backside of the play, presumably to open up a hole outside the TE and up the field on the right. The Skins had drummed the vaunted Rams front to the tune of 182 rushing yards with similar plays that hemmed in the Rams DEs and neutralized speedy and disruptive DT Aaron Donald.

5-2

As the WR goes in motion, so too does LB Devon Kennard, who shifts to his OLB role, creating what is now a 5-2 front. This shift to get Kennard up to the LOS had worked well in weeks 1 and 2, but the Skins are ready and are running AWAY from Kennard on the play.

OH

DE George Selvie gets hooked initially and a big lane opens up. But the shift by the Redskins – designed to get safety Brandon Meriweather to slide inside as a true FS as safety Landon Collins is forced to follow the WR in motion and play in the slot, and isolate CB Jayron Hosley on the edge – play side doesn’t work. A big hole develops as you can see above. RB Alfred Morris now has a huge lane to run in, but S Brandon Meriweather, instead of shifting inside to safety to cover for S Landon Colllins, moved up to play CB and take on the block of the WR, as CB Jayron Hosley sat back to put a body in the hole and allow his teammates to “screw down” or move their blockers down the LOS to collapse a running lane. Had Hosley moved to the WR and Meriweather slid back to FS, this play could potentially go for a score or at least a very long gain but Spagnuolo’s trust (or gamble) in leaving CB Prince Amukamara and S Landon Collins in man coverage on the backside means the priority is stifling the ground game.

ch

Hosley’s presence and Meriweather’s physicality in fighting off the WR’s block cause Morris to stutter step in the hole and cost himself the advantage his TE and RT had initially created. The play goes for 6 yards, a win for the offense usually, but this was a home run-type of running play a year ago. But because the focus on stopping the ground game is clearly a priority, Spags was ready with a smart non-backside play shift that kept a bigger more physical safety to take on a wide receiver’s block and two DEs outside of the NT to help screw down and close the hole after Morris was forced to hesitate. That hesitation cost Morris a huge gain and showed precisely how this team is more prepared and willing to sell out to stop the run. The Skins shift does get Kennard up on the line and moves him away from the play, but it does NOT get Meriweather to slide inside, which would have left Hosley on an island. Chalk one up to the Giants on that one for seeing a tendency, seeming to play into it but having a plan to counter on the backside.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

It has to go to the Washington team for having the unmitigated gall to hire Perry Fewell. I still have sleepless nights thinking about the Seahawks running for 875 yards against us (dramatization, may have been fewer) and they not only hire the dolt but SHOW HIM ON TV! OK, technically it’s CBS’ fault for showing him but I firmly believe that I speak for all Giant fans, DO NOT SHOW PERRY FEWELL ON TV. Not now…not ever. Just don’t do it. Thankfully Fewell learned nothing in his time here and was totally unable to slow down a passing offense he saw in person every single day. Don’t ever change Perry, you stink and we love you for it…now that you’re gone of course.

(Washington Redskins at New York Giants, September 24, 2015)
Sep 212015
 
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quint-jaws

Atlanta Falcons 24 – New York Giants 20

Gruesome Introduction

Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll write this review for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad team. Not like going down the playoffs chasin’ Packers and Patriots. This season, swallow you whole. Little shakin’, little tenderizin’, an’ down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that’ll bring back your fans, put all your businesses on a payin’ basis. But it’s not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than 2 Super Bowls in 9 years, chief. I’ll write it for free, but I’ll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you’ve gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then read up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don’t want no volunteers, I don’t want no mates, there’s just too many coaches on this team. $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.

Game Overview

Just like Quint, old Tommy Coughlin has no fear. He faces the doubters and the beat writers just as he does every week but just like our foul mouthed hero from the 1975 film classic Jaws, he may be eaten before the final credits roll. His half-assed astronaut Eli Manning needs to clean up and clean up fast. On the heels of an $84 million dollar extension, the 34-year old signal caller has blown two games all by himself. Blame the defense, blame the secondary, and blame inexperienced kids Uani’ Unga and Landon Collins if you want to, but with the game in his hands for the second week in a row, Eli just coughed up the game. Up 20-10 and driving deep into Falcons territory to put the game on ice, Easy E held and held and held the ball just long enough to cough it up and let the Falcons take possession and march to a 20-17 deficit. Driving midway through the fourth, Eli fumbled the ball forward only to have TE Larry Donnell save him with a miracle 1st down recovery. Fast forward to the undermanned defense coming up with a Robert Ayers sack, Landon Collins shot on WR Julio Jones and Brandon Merriweather of all people breaking up a 3rd and 3. Giants ball, time to ice the game and on 3rd and 7, Manning and his $84 million fail to get a snap off in time, turning a 3rd and 7 into an impossible 3rd and 12 and a Giant punt. Eli had one more chance to rescue the day, with 1:14 left and one of the most dynamic players in the NFL at his disposal, and he failed again. A big overthrow to a wide open, jumping and 6’6” Larry Donnell was followed by a sloppy pass to the inexplicably utilized WR Preston Parker and a 4th and 10 became an underthrow, a drop and another 4th quarter 10 point collapse.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 20, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterbacks

Show me the way to go home, Eli’s tired and he wants to go to bed. At this point, it’s all on Eli. No Victor Cruz, a hobbled and disinterested Rueben Randle, a useless Preston Parker and only one decent target in Odell Beckham Jr. and this offense is squarely on the shoulders of the “franchise” QB and he has failed two weeks in a row. Give him credit I suppose for staking the team to a 20-10 lead, but the boneheaded sack and fumble, near disastrous forward fumble, overthrow to Donnell, delay of game on 3rd down and just flat out awful pass due to…shocking…poor mechanics on a 4th and 10 and yes, Eli Manning gets the goat horns for week #2. Eli’s 292 yards, two TDs and no INTs all went for naught because when the game was on the line, he flat out failed his team, his franchise and his Quint, who will likely be eaten whole in about 15 weeks. Put the blame on Eli too for WR Dwayne Harris’ false start that negated a 4th down conversion deep in Falcons territory. Manning waited too long to get the team to the line, motioned too late and put Harris in an impossible position. Twelve years in, you know what you have, brilliant one minute, head shakingly stupid the next.

Running Backs

Earth, Wind and Fire have returned! Rashad Jennings moves like the Earth (mud, specifically, old dried up mud, not at the 1,000 mph that our beloved blue planet zips around the sun), Andre Williams is as unpredictable as fire and well I guess Shane Vereen can be wind when it’s not whipping tiny rocks at your face. Williams led the Giants backs with a whopping 43 yards on 6 carries (35 of it on one impressive run) and again looked hesitant and confused at times toting the rock. I’ve been a believer in his talent but in year 2 of this offense, Williams still looks wildly inconsistent and unsure of himself. Rashad Jennings had a couple of early runs that looked solid, but he seemed to slow down in the second half, could be something injury wise that bears watching. That said, Jennings’ and his 12 yards on 9 carries would be stellar if he played for Chip Kelly, but #23 looked slow, tentative and just plain bad after halftime on Sunday. Weapon X appears to be Shane Vereen, who nabbed 8 balls for 76 yards receiving but did little to nothing on the ground with 57 on 6 carries. Yes feet. It looks much more impressive and with this horror movie offense that leaves you screaming to watch out for the blitzer behind the door, we need something positive. Vereen gives the team a horizontal dimension that is absolutely critical for the West Coast Offense to operate effectively. If LBs and DBs have to stay wide and contain Vereen out the backfield, that’s less deep help to apply to #13 and company.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (September 20, 2015)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham Jr., is still pretty good. Beckham took a slant from Manning in the 2nd quarter and sprinted 67 yards to pay dirt to tie the game at 10, showing why this team will have a chance as long as #13 is vertical. Beckham had another spectacular-but-looks-routine catch on the Giants first scoring drive, he’s simply that good and ended the day with 7 grabs for 146 yards and a touchdown. Mr. Parker…zero point zero. Wide open drop on an out route with the first half winding down and a 4th and 10 miss to seal the loss. If I’m Tom Coughlin, I suddenly wonder why I’m so old and how my hair grew back and what am I doing with all this money? Then I cut Preston Parker. Rueben Randle, at age 24 simply doesn’t seem to care, get it or he’s in danger of losing a leg which on this team is entirely possible. We’ll drink to his legs..for now. One catch for 5 yards and a sloppy drop do nothing to provide any confidence that #82 is a part of this team’s future. Randle did have an outstanding down field block on Vereen’s 37 yard scamper early in the 3rd quarter. I thought it was a jaunt, maybe a dash, but upon further review, definitely a scamper.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell absolutely blew a block on a key 3rd down play, not even knowing who to block and ending a drive but Donnell did redeem himself on a well-run DIG route that ended in a 10 yard scoring pass from his blockhead QB. Donnell set up the DB with a subtle head fake, worked inside and used his body to keep the defender at bay. That type of play shows just how far the former Grambling QB has come as a receiver, but he’s still light years away from being more than a liability as a blocker.

Offensive Line

Decent effort by the move ‘em out…or in this case, kind of try to shove them back a little gang. LT Ereck Flowers had a rocky day, picking up an early false start on the Giants opening drive and looking like he was fighting off Vic  Beasley on several occasions but the big rookie held his own on a bum ankle. Big Flowers is another cog that will be a key piece for this team to build on. Flowers did not return for long after halftime, with LG Justin Pugh sliding out to LT and BBI punching bag John Jerry in at LG. No terrifying moments really, 97 yards rushing and 2 sacks in a way tell the story. Not so bad, but just not good enough yet with so many other units making game crushing mistakes. The OL is however not a disaster, and appears to be on the way up assuming Flowers’ ankle injury isn’t season long. The biggest difference from a year ago, is that C Weston Richburg isn’t being tossed crash test dummy style into Eli’s lap about 5 times a game as his predecessor was prone to doing. A clean pocket will be essential to building this team as the year unfolds and so far Richburg and LG Justin Pugh are holding serve. RG Geoff Schwartz was solid, with the exception of a run play that he was absolutely blown past by DT Jonathan Babineaux.

Defensive Line

John Lynch’s awkward man crush on Robert Ayers Jr. aside, #91 was the best defender on the field, swatting down 3 passes from the DT spot on key 3rd downs. Ayers is not being asked to play the run as much by Steve Spagnuolo and it’s having a big impact on Ayers’ ability to be fresh to rush the passer. I’ve been critical of Ayers because his run fits give me fits, but credit where it’s due, Ayers played one hell of a game on Sunday. The rest of DL was strong against the run, often using pure 3-4 looks with Robert Ayers and Devon Kennard as the OLBs. It’s a one-gapping 3-4 or Base 50, or shaded Oklahoma 5-2 (that all depends on how old you are) that refuses to give up the edge and uses penetration in an A gap to force runs wide and shut off the backside cut lanes. DT Cullen Jenkins had what appeared to be a key sack, an Jonathan Hankins was a handful inside for the Falcons, fighting off double teams on nearly every play.

Linebackers

Another year, another blah group of LBs who just can’t seem to find anyone when in pass coverage. As least Uani’ Unga seems to have something (all of his fingers and two working knees) that most key Giant defenders who are missing lack. Unga gets turned around way too easily in coverage and loses his place on the field leading to way too many pass catchers wide open down the seams of this defense. BUT, he’s a gamer, he plays with effort and again, he’s not in a full body cast so I’m encouraged that Unga can grow into a serviceable MLB if he doesn’t lose a limb in practice or some bizarre holiday accident. In fact, I’m going on the record here, I want ZERO Giant defenders carving Jack-O-Lanterns, slicing turkey, trying to break a wish bone or putting an angel on a tree as we embark on Holiday season. No exterior illumination efforts, no champagne uncorking, and for God’s sake no shoveling or de-icing. The bright spot for this LB corps (yes corps, like the Marine Corps, it’s a group) is 2nd year LB Devon Kennard who led the team with 9 stops and was a force against the run and while pass rushing. Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is using Kennard all over the field and most importantly not asking him to do much coverage wise, instead opting for speedy LB Jonathan Casillas on obvious passing downs. J.T. Thomas had 7 stops, but I honestly can’t recall one, too much drag down tackling and not enough attacking thus far for the former Mountaineer.

Defensive Backs

S Landon Collins is having his rookie moments, but as will be a theme this year, watch him grow and play full speed and by the end of this campaign we should have a core (Yes core as in apple, center of it, not corps like Marine Corps. Learn the difference or I will..well I’ll do nothing but it’s annoying that the two are so often flubbed) DB to count on. DRC plays, he gets hurt every time he does anything but unlike some firework happy players who shall remain namelessjpp, DRC comes with it on every play. Rodgers-Cromartie hurt his shoulder and his brain making high effort tackles against the screen happy and quite frankly annoying Falcons offense. It’s good to see the referees throw in the towel when DRC got up wobblier than Apollo Creed on the heels of Ivan Drago’s murderpunch. CB Prince Amukamara gave up the game’s biggest play, but this defense is going to gamble and the CBs have to hold up. Prince played well but with the game on the line he simply got beat by Julio Jones and there’s not a ton to say about that. Give DB coach David Merritt credit, he has been destroyed by injuries to an already so-so safety group and he has 32-year old S Brandon Merriweather playing solid football. It may not last all season, but Merriweather has been a pleasant plus with a little bit of force at S with no real big mistakes.

Special Teams

Butthead said it best while watching a lackluster video with his good pal Beavis “These effects aren’t very special” and neither are these teams but it’s Tom Quinn and his envelope full of nudes vs. other competent ST coaches and as usual we did nothing special. Despite tossing $17 million at Dwayne Harris and his festive hairdo, the Giants apparently can’t find shoes that can grip their turf, with Harris wiping out on nearly every return that showed promise. Brad Wing is a punter, he punted, and I don’t care. He didn’t Dodge anything up and that’s enough for me.

Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (September 20, 2015)

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Coaching Staff

Too many mistakes to give Quint a lot of credit this week. Give the headman some due, he took the blame, got his team ready and had a 20-10 lead in the 4th quarter until it all fell apart like anything made in Detroit in the mid-1980s. Back-to-back false starts by Odell Beckham and Ereck Flowers, an inexcusable false start by a WR on a converted 4th down, along with dropped passes and more Manning brain toots mean TC may have to be more Grumpy Old Men then Grandpa Simpson if he wants to right this ship.

Ben McAdoo better get his synapses firing and find a way to utilize more than 2 people or this team may not win a game. Beckham hauls in ONE pass after half time, that’s not good enough no matter what coverage is rolled his way. McAdoo is doing a solid job, but he has to be more creative. McAdoo did something I did like a great deal on two occasions. On TE Larry Donnell’s TD in the 3rd quarter, McAdoo ran the same play two times in a row because it was open. The first attempt Donnell was held and it wasn’t called; the very next play he did it again and it resulted in a 20-10 lead. McAdoo did the same thing in the 4th quarter on Rueben Randle’s lone grab a play after Randle just dropped the exact same ball. McAdoo isn’t shying away from what works and he’ll keep going to the well if something works.

The Fire Zone Explained

FZ1

Why do I love Steve Spagnuolo? He loves the fire zone and the fire zone loves him. On the line you see a modified “Bear” front with a true NT (Hankins), a 3-technique (Cullen Jenkins), two 5s (Selvie and Ayers), a LB in a shaded 4 (Unga) and two wide 9s (Kennard and Thomas). Throw in Landon Collins playing the Elephant or Flex (the key to the old Double Eagle Flex of U of Arizona’s Desert Swarm fame) and you have 8 people who have to be accounted for by 5 OL and one TE.

FZ2

On the snap, Hankins games right, taking the OC and LG with him. Ayers hesitates, to keep the LT in outside leverage, unable to help the LG, and DT Cullen Jenkins knifes in easily in the gap to sack Matt Ryan. No Strahan, no Osi, No Tuck, no Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle hand and Spags finds a way to get heat with scheme and technique.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

Yes it’s back, the CIIYCA because I still love Dodgeball. This week it should go to Eli Manning but in a surprise twist, it goes to Kyle Shanahan who will eventually get Julio Jones killed. Granted Jones won the game with his 4th quarter catch against Prince Akeem from Zamunda, but 135 yards on 13 catches and more bubble screens than an elite WR should be forced to endure is just not the best of use this amazing talent. Jones took a shot or laid out every time he touched the ball because Shanahan loves to wear out unique talents (Obertray Riffingay) with way too much punishment. Jones got whacked by Brandon Merriweather, dragged down violently by S Landon Collins and blasted again by Collins. Atlanta’s best player won’t last the season if he’s being beaten up 10-15 times a game.

(Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants, September 20, 2015)
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

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

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)