Oct 092015
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Artwork by Chris in Philly

Artwork by Chris in Philly

San Francisco 49ers at New York Giants, October 11, 2015

We are already 1/4 through the 2015 regular season. And through four games, the division is at a virtual dead heat with 12 games to go. The marathon hasn’t yet become a sprint, but the pace is about to pick up. The Giants have two absolutely critical games against the Eagles and Cowboys in October. But the San Fransisco 49ers come first and the Giants can ill-afford to drop what many consider a very winnable game before the two back-to-back games against division rivals.

In case you haven’t noticed it, the New York Giants are in the midst of a fairly dramatic personality transformation. The 2012-14 “finesse” Giants are dead. The 2015 Giants will hurt you. They are tough, physical, relentless, and selfless. Despite the continued wussification of the League by Roger Goodell & Associates, this game is still about physical violence. The 2015 Giants have their holes. But they are not getting pushed around anymore. And they are beating people up. Keep your nickel. They’ll fight you for free in the parking lot.

Now comes an interesting test for the young pups. Can they handle their recent success and maintain their focus and intensity against a supposedly lesser opponent? Can they compartmentalize the MRSA distraction? The defense will be short-handed due to injuries. This is a must game for the desperate 49ers. The Giants are not good enough to take anyone lightly. This contest will be a good litmus test for the team’s maturity.


  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – out)
  • OT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP and will not play)
  • TE Jerome Cunningham (knee – probable)
  • LT Ereck Flowers (ankle – probable)
  • DE Robert Ayers (hamstring – out)
  • DE George Selvie (calf – out)
  • DT Markus Kuhn (knee – probable)
  • LB Devon Kennard (hamstring – out)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (calf – questionable)
  • CB Jayron Hosley (concussion – questionable)
  • CB Trumaine McBride (groin – questionable)

Despite their 23rd ranking and the departure of some key components in the offseason, the 49ers 3-4 defense is still the strength of the team and a tough, physical group. But they have struggled at times against both the run and the pass. The defensive line is pretty non-descript although nose tackle Ian Williams has caught Coach Coughlin’s eye. “He’s very quick, very evasive,” said Coughlin. The job of the down linemen is to keep the still-strong linebacking corps free. However, the 49ers will be missing one of their best players, outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks (death of his sister). (Late Note: The 49ers have officially listed Brooks as “doubtful” so there is a chance that he might play). He will be replaced by a rookie 3rd rounder Eli Harold. The other outside linebacker, Aaron Lynch, is coming off of a 2-sack performance against the Green Bay Packers and could give LT Ereck Flowers trouble on the pass rush. Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman is coming off an ACL injury but one of the best in the game when healthy.

The strength of the secondary are the safeties – Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid – who are very good. And 2014 1st round safety/nickelback Jimmie Ward is coming off of a good game against WR Randall Cobb. Starting corners Tramaine Brock and Kenneth Acker are more suspect however. This could be a game where Odell Beckham puts up some big numbers. If the 49ers focus the bulk of their attention on Beckham, then hopefully Rueben Randle and Dwayne Harris will make the 49ers pay just like they did against the Bills.

The 49ers do have one advantage in this game. They just played the Packers who run a very similar offense to what the Giants run. And the 49ers defense kept the game close last week against a very explosive offense. Turnovers can be a great equalizer. The Giants need to keep protecting the football (only two turnovers in four games).

I’d like to see the Giants get on top of the 49ers early with some shots down the field to the wideouts, and then come back to a heavier dose of the run once the G-Men have sucked the life out of San Francisco.

The advantage the Giants have on defense is they are also playing a very similar team this week. Like the Bills, the 49ers are a run-first team with a mobile quarterback. The game plan is the same. Stuff the run. Keep the mobile quarterback (Colin Kaepernick) in the pocket at the expense of the pass rush. He usually can do more harm with his legs than arm. And like last week, the opponent has a dangerous tight end (Vernon Davis) who can hurt you. (Late Note: Vernon Davis will not play due to his knee injury).

The downside for the Giants are the injuries. The team will be without Robert Ayers again. That is exacerbated by the loss of George Selvie, who had been starting at RDE, this week too. The Giants could expand the role of Owamagbe Odighizuwa, but don’t be surprised if they move Cullen Jenkins back to defensive end and start Markus Kuhn, who has been out since the opener, inside again at defensive tackle. The Giants will also be missing one of their best young defenders and pass rushers in Devon Kennard. He will be replaced by a committee that will depend on what defensive package the Giants have in the game. We might see more of Mark Herzlich or even Jasper Brinkley. Keep in mind that Jonathan Casillas is also ailing.

For years, the 49ers have been rock solid up front on the offensive line, but this year they are struggling. And their two best players – left tackle Joe Staley (knee) and left guard Alex Boone (shoulder and ankle) are battling injury issues. The key is stopping San Francisco’s best offensive player: running back Carlos Hyde, who is averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Hyde is a big, physical, cutback runner. Reggie Bush is back from injury and he can do damage as a receiver. But the ground game is basically Hyde (62 carries for 282 yards) and Kaepernick (33 carries for 195 yards). Run defense discipline – including against the read option – is critical.

Vernon Davis (knee) returns this week. He’s not the same player he was a few years ago but the Giants always seem to have issues covering the tight end. The ageless Anquan Boldin leads the 49ers in receptions (15), followed by tight end Garrett Celek (11), and deep threat wide receiver Torey Smith (9).

For the second week in a row, don’t expect much out of the kickoff return game. 85 percent of Bradley Pinion’s kickoffs are not returned (12 touchbacks total already). The 49ers are very good at punt and kickoff coverage to boot. It may be a better strategy for the Giants to come after the punter with a heavy punt block rush.

Tom Coughlin on the San Francisco 49ers Offense: “They want to run the ball, they want to play action pass, they want to put the quarterback on the perimeter.”

Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning remain the thread of continuity, but this is a different New York Giants team. The warriors of 2007 and 2011 are virtually all gone. And the weak-kneed players who populated the roster of the last few years have been weeded out. But with change comes the unknown. How will this team respond to success and being heavy favorites? This season can still go in two different directions. We’re about to find out another piece of their psychological makeup.

Oct 072015
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Emlen Tunnell (45), New York Giants (October 22, 1950)

Emlen Tunnell (45), New York Giants (October 22, 1950)

Emlen Tunnell and Roosevelt Brown were the first and second African-American players of the New York Football Giants franchise, respectively. They arrived from obscurity – Tunnell as a free agent who walked in off of the street and asked for a job, and Brown as a 27th round draft pick chosen on a whim when his name happened to be noticed on a newspaper clipping. Despite their humble beginnings, both men became deeply rooted in the Giants family and remained fulltime members of the organization for the remainders of their lives.

Professional football was an integrated sport in the 1910s and continued to be so when the American Professional Football Association (APFA) formed in 1920. That circuit is known to have employed at least 13 African-American players between the years of 1920 through 1933, although none participated during the 1927 season. Most were members of the small-town teams like Akron, Rock Island, Hammond, Dayton and Canton. The one with the highest profile was Fritz Pollard, an extremely talented tailback who played with five teams from 1920 through 1925, including the APFA Champion Akron Pros in 1920 (which he also coached). Pollard was posthumously enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

The only big-city team to have African-Americans on their roster for a significant length of time was the Chicago Cardinals who had three during their early years. They included the excellent tackle Duke Slater from 1926 through 1931 and halfback Joe Lillard who led the team in scoring in 1933. Lillard was released after that season, as was tackle Ray Kemp from the Pittsburgh Pirates, initiating a 12-year span where the NFL was an all-white league.

Although no official ban of African-American players has never been proven to have existed, it would be ludicrous to entertain the belief their exclusion was mere coincidence or happenstance. Some theorists believe, though it has never been proven, influential Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall, who entered the league in 1932 and became infamous two decades later for his all-white roster, was significant in convincing the other owners to eliminate black players from their rosters.

Possible motivation for an all-white league was marketing preference. Pro football at the time was desperately trying to climb the ladder of popularity in the 1920s and 1930s and tried to emulate baseball, which had been segregated since the 1880’s, in many ways organizationally. It would have been in line with the beliefs of the times that a league of white, college-educated players would be more appealing to prospective ticket buyers.

The league slowly and incrementally bolstered its fan base through the Great Depression and World War II years, but it likely had nothing to do with all-white rosters. Rather, it was accomplished by intelligent organization, the institution of an annual championship game and rules changes that improved the way the game was played on the field.

As a result of the ban, many talented black players, who professional football fans surely would have embraced and appreciated on a grander stage, languished in obscurity in semi-pro leagues. That is exactly what happened in 1946, one year before Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier. The impetus for integration was inspired by expansion, relocation and the threat from a rival league.

No Longer Separate, but Not Exactly Equal

Cleveland Rams owner Dan Reeves (no relation to the Dallas player of the 1960s who also coached the Broncos, Giants and Falcons in the 1980s and 1990s) had his eyes on the untapped market of the West Coast for a number of years, but his requests to move his franchise had been voted down. That all changed with the surplus of players who became available after the conclusion of World War II in 1945. Prospective owners who had unsuccessfully attempted join the NFL via expansion formed their own league, the All American Football Conference (AAFC), to begin play in 1946. The new league announced they would not only have a franchise located in Los Angeles, but also San Francisco. The NFL, which did not have a franchise further west than Green Bay, realized their tactical error and finally granted Reeves’ wish to move his team to avoid giving the AAFC exclusivity on the West Coast.

As Reeves negotiated to have the Rams play at the expansive Los Angeles Coliseum, he was told they would not be allowed to do so unless they had at least one black player on the team. Reeves responded by signing two former UCLA stars from the independent pro team Hollywood Bears, Kenny Washington on March 9, 1946 and Woody Strode shortly thereafter. Coincidentally, both players were college teammates of Jackie Robinson at UCLA.

Nearly simultaneously, Paul Brown was in Cleveland assembling the team that would dominate the AAFC and push the NFL into the future. Brown had known nothing but success everywhere he went, achieving legendary status as a high school coach at Massillon, OH, won a national title at Ohio State in 1942 and had his 1944 team at the Great Lakes Naval Station finish in the Top 20. Two of Brown’s hallmarks were having the best players he could find on his roster, and not tolerating racism. Despite there being no apparent color line in the AAFC, Brown signed the league’s first two African-Americans in August 1946, Marion Motley, who had played for Brown at Great Lakes, and Bill Willis, who played for Brown at Ohio State. Brown said years later, “I didn’t care about a man’s color or his ancestry, I just wanted to win football games with the best possible people.”

Despite these four men having integrated professional football a year ahead of Robinson and Major League Baseball, without receiving little fanfare, their perseverance was no less significant. Comparatively, the apparent indifferent public response was more indicative of pro football’s subordinate status at the time. Regardless, their contributions remain irrefutable as they opened the doors for many others to follow. They endured numerous hardships, including sometimes brutal physical and verbal abuse from opponents.

Motley said in their first few seasons officials turned a blind eye to late contact and dirty play, including elbows to the face (in an era where facemasks were still rare) and said he had several fingers broken by the opposition deliberately stepping on his hands. “Of course, the opposing players called us ‘nigger’ and all kinds of names like that. This went on for about two or three years until they found out that Willis and I were ballplayers.” Occasionally their teammates took policing action into their own hands and would call a “bootsie” play directed at an offending player where justice would be meted out at the bottom of the pile.

Off of the field, slights were commonplace. African-American players were often not welcome at the same hotels where their teams stayed, and regularly ate at separate restaurants. During the 1946 season, Brown left Motley and Willis behind on a road trip to Miami to play the Seahawks because he feared for his players’ safety. He assured them that Miami would not be in the league the next season, and true to his word, the franchise was rescinded and a new one arose in Baltimore.

Strode and Washington were both already past their primes when they joined the Rams and had brief stays in the NFL. Willis and Motley were magnificent performers, won multiple championships, and are both enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Hitching a Ride to the Big Time

The floodgates didn’t exactly open after 1946. The flow of African Americans into professional football was more like a trickle. The AAFC bolstered their African-American population at a slightly quicker rate than the NFL. Most notable of the 1947 additions were Cleveland’s end and punter Horace Gillom and the New York Yankees dynamic halfback and returner Buddy Young. Detroit was the second NFL team to employ African Americans when they signed halfback Mel Groomes on April 17, 1948 and end Bob Mann one week later.

Tunnell still had a year of college eligibility left in 1948 after missing his senior year at Iowa with an eye injury, but wanted to give pro ball a try. He hitchhiked from Garret Hill, PA to Manhattan. Tunnell recalled, “I was just about to forget it and go home when I got a ride from a West Indian guy in a banana truck who took me all the way to the Lincoln Tunnel.”

He made his way to the Giants offices at Columbus Circle and asked to speak with Coach Steve Owen. After Owen told Tunnell he’d never heard of him, General Manager Ray Walsh recognized Tunnell’s name from his time at Iowa, and brought him to meet owner Tim Mara. The owner was impressed enough with the player’s positive attitude and self-confidence to allow him a try out. It did not take long for Tunnell to prove himself worthy to Owen on the field and be offered a contract, officially making him the Football Giants first African-American player. The New York Times printed a three paragraphs documenting the Giants signing of the “Negro back” on July 25.

Tunnell and Tim Mara forged a bond that lasted until the owner’s passing in 1959. Tunnell said, “During that very first morning in the office, Mr. Mara gave me the feeling that I had found a friend in New York. He impressed me as a man who believed in his judgement. He stood on his own two feet and expected you to do the same. He was one of the finest men I’ve met. It wasn’t that he was a financial friend, although he certainly was that, but a personal friend.”

To survive physical practices designed to test the efficacy of newcomers, Tunnell befriended the Giants other African-American employee, trainer Charlie Porter. After being rousted by Owen from the cold tub after a brutal practice, Porter reinforced the coach’s fundamental beliefs while offering compassion to the bruised player who was questioning his confidence, “I let you come in here because I know he wouldn’t give permission to a rookie. Steve always says this game has to be played down in the dirt. He knows you’re physically tough enough to get down in the dirt. But in this league you have to be mentally tough, too, and some guys just aren’t.” Tunnell took Porter’s message to heart, and would ultimately set the NFL standard for most consecutive games started with 143 [since broken] before his playing days in New York were finished.

After learning the rigors of the trade at camp in Pearl River, New York, a battle-hardened Tunnell returned to New York and faced a host of off-field challenges. He was nearly arrested attempting to cash his first paycheck from the Giants when the teller and security guard had believed it was stolen. Lacking a driver’s license, Walsh had to come to the bank to vouch for Tunnell. He also experienced difficulty finding himself welcome at Manhattan Hotels, until he found the Henry Hudson, which Tunnell described as “a white hotel” and stayed there for eleven years. He also found himself late for a team meeting when a cab driver refused to bring him to the Polo Grounds. After being turned away at many restaurants, Tunnell alternately invited teammates to his favorite establishments in Harlem.

Tunnell had no such difficulty being welcomed in the locker room. His first and longest-lasting friendship was with another newcomer in 1948, quarterback Charlie Conerly. “I consider Charlie Conerly to be one of the best friends I have in the world, and I have reason to believe that he feels the same way about me. We hit it off right from the start. Charlie was a war veteran like myself…another thing we had in common was neither of us carried our race on our sleeve. We judged one another as football players and guys.”

Emlen Tunnell, New York Giants (1948)

Emlen Tunnell, New York Giants (1948)

During his first regular season game, Tunnell was concerned about what the fans thought of him, and it caused him a deep conflict because his resolution conflicted with his coach’s orders. After taking several hard hits on punt returns, Owen told Tunnell to signal for a fair catch for the sake of his own safety. Tunnell said, “Like a good little rookie, I signaled for a fair catch on the next punt. As I ran off the field I heard some boos…There was another punt; another fair catch and a lot of boos. That tore it. When I got back to the bench, my neck was no longer brown. It was red. No player worth his salary reacts favorably to boos, and in my case there was something behind those boos that I didn’t like. I was sure that some of those people were booing because they thought to themselves, ‘The nigger is afraid to run with the ball.’ This was one of the few times in all my years in sports when I have been insubordinate to my coaches. ‘To hell with those fair catches,’ I snapped. ‘If you want somebody to make a fair catch, put another guy in there. I’m not going to have those people think I’m gutless.’ That moment of decision grooved me for the future. If I had been willing to go for the fair catch or if Steve had been unwilling to let me play it my way, I would not have been the player I turned out to be.”

Tunnell went on to set NFL single-season and franchise records for punt returns and punt return yards that lasted over a decade.

Tunnell struggled with more than punt returns his rookie season. He was unsure of his assignments, and accrued a large number of defensive holding penalties as he repeatedly was fooled in one-on-one coverage situations in pass defense and also never quite found a defined role on the team as he played sporadically on offense.

The turning point came on November 21st against the Packers in Milwaukee when Tunnell intercepted three passes (the first of four three-interception games of his career) and returned one 43 yards for his first touchdown as a professional. Tunnell said, “I was making the ping-pong transition from a guy who thought he was a great pass defense man to a guy who realized he didn’t know anything about pass defense to a guy who was learning a little about pass defense.” His renewed confidence was expressed with exuberant tackling. Tunnell knocked Green Bay back Jack Jacobs from the game.

Tunnell, who had also knocked out Philadelphia’s All-Pro halfback Steve Van Buren earlier in the season, relished the physicality of tackling as much as he enjoyed making a play with the ball in his hands: “I could make tackles until I’m 50. Your body may go, but your heart doesn’t.”

Influential Impact

The following offseason George Taliaferro, a multi-purpose back from Indiana, became the first African-American selected in the NFL draft. He passed up the opportunity to play with the Chicago Bears and instead chose to play with the Los Angeles Dons of the AAFC. At the conclusion of the 1949 season, six of the AAFC’s eight teams had at least one black player, while only three of ten NFL teams had one (the Rams, Lions and Giants.)

In 1949 Tunnell returned two of his then-franchise record 10 interceptions for touchdowns, as well as his first punt return for a score. The 10 interceptions is quite remarkable when considering the NFL played a 12-game season and teams only threw the ball approximately 41% of the time. [In 2014, NFL teams threw the ball nearly 57% of the time during a 16-game season.] Over the first 10 years of his career, Tunnell never registered fewer than six interceptions.

His most significant contribution to the Giants came in 1950 as a key cog in Owen’s Umbrella Defense, which was designed specifically to slow down the dynamic and explosive Cleveland offense. Tunnell said, “Steve Owen had a fine football mind, and he used it to concentrate upon the problems presented by the Browns…Otto Graham often sent out four potential receivers against the opposition’s three deep backs. When Cleveland’s great ends, Mac Speedie and Dante Lavelli, ran hook patterns that took them toward the middle of the secondary, the Browns halfbacks, Dub Jones and Rex Baumgartner or Ken Carpenter, would double flare, a maneuver that took them outside and deep. As an alternate to this, Speedie or Lavelli, or both, would run down and out to the sideline. The sideline pass was Graham’s bread-and-butter play.”

Emlen Tunnell (45), Tom Landry (49); New York Giants at Cleveland Browns (October 1, 1950)

Emlen Tunnell (45), Tom Landry (49); New York Giants at Cleveland Browns (October 1, 1950)

Owen’s concept was to congest the traffic along the sidelines. After lining up in a six-man line, the ends would drop back into coverage, leaving the interior four to rush. The two safeties covered the deep middle while the two defensive halfbacks covered the area between the ends and safeties. The single linebacker keyed on fullback Marion Motley. Looking at the scheme on a blackboard, the defense resembled an opened umbrella.

The defense performed like an umbrella as well. In their first meeting, New York upset the Browns in Cleveland 6-0, the first shutout in the Browns’ history. Graham threw three interceptions and did not complete a single pass through the first half. It was the perfect answer for the quickly evolving T-Formation offense that had taken pro football by storm after World War II. The umbrella would be further refined by Tom Landry later in the decade as the 4-3 defense. The four defensive backs, operated intuitively with one another, passing off receivers and covering the field with an intricacy never before seen.

Tunnell said that 6-0 victory was so enjoyable that he never felt the urge to play on offense again. “I guess I got sold on defense when I teamed up with Tom Landry, Harman Rowe and Otto Schnellbacher in 1950. That was the best-tackling backfield I ever saw. Everyone knew what the other fellow was going to do and that’s what made it such fun. After that I never wanted to play offense again.”

Emlen Tunnell, New York Giants; New York Giants at Cleveland Browns (December 17, 1950)

Emlen Tunnell, New York Giants; New York Giants at Cleveland Browns (December 17, 1950)

Tunnell reemphasized his passion for physical play when he reacquainted himself with Van Buren late in the season finale, which New York needed to win to maintain a tie in the standings with Cleveland. New York held a 9-7 lead on a snow-covered field when the Philadelphia back turned the corner and appeared headed for a long gain until Tunnell came across the field and stopped Van Buren dead in his tracks with a thunderous hit. The drive stalled and the Giants held on for the win. After the game Van Buren said, “I’ve been hit hard, but never that hard.”

After the 1950 season, Detroit released its two African-American players, Bob Mann and Wally Triplett and did not have another black player on the team until 1958, a span that covered the entire coaching tenure of head coach Bubby Parker. After 1952, 10 of the NFL’s 12 teams had at least one black player, the exceptions being the Lions and Redskins. Washington owner Marshall infamously stated during the period, “We’ll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites.”

Tunnell set an NFL record in 1951 with 34 punt returns, three of which were run back for touchdowns. He also took place in a unique occurrence in pro football history on November 4, 1951. Against the New York Yanks at the Polo Grounds, Tunnell combined with Buddy Young, to record the first back-to-back kickoff return touchdowns in NFL history. Tunnell’s covered 100 yards for his and Young’s 90.

1952 was the season that Tunnell earned the moniker “Offense on Defense” as he was a big play waiting to happen when he got his hands on the ball. His seven interceptions for 149 yards, 30 punt returns for 411 yards and 15 kick returns for 364 yards totaled 924, more than the NFL’s leading rusher, African-American back “Deacon” Dan Towler of Los Angeles who gained 894 yards.

Quotas, Stacking and Skill Positions

African-American players were often relegated to positions that allegedly required less intelligence, which gave birth to the term “skill positions.” Black players found themselves grouped at such positions as halfback and safety on defense and backs and ends on offense. This tactic became known as “stacking”, which limited the number of African-American players who could make their respective team as they were competing against one another for the same roster spots. There were also implications that some teams may have had a quota in place for African-American players.

Hall of Fame receiver Raymond Berry, however, saw beyond common perception, and complemented Tunnell for more than his athleticism: “He had brains. He knew what was going on out there. He could cover, tackle, do it all. He was so knowledgeable about the position and the defensive schemes he played in.”

The position that proved to be the most difficult for black players to assume was quarterback. The first black quarterback since Pollard in the 1920’s was Willie Thrower in 1953. His experience was limited to two appearances, and eight pass attempts for the Chicago Bears. Thrower was released after the season and was not signed by any other teams. Tunnell reset the record for punt returns that same year with 38, and would stand until 1965.

Still, Tunnell is remembered by those closest to him for his physical style of play. Teammate Sam Huff recalled, “He was the hardest hitting guy in the league. He would hit people so hard they’d be afraid to catch a pass in front of him; catch a pass in front of Emlen Tunnell and usually you don’t finish the game.”  Hall of Fame back Lenny Moore said Tunnell was the second-best tackler he faced after Dick “Night Train” Lane.

The Sleeper Pick

The Giants added their second African-American player, tackle Roosevelt Brown, in the 27th round of the 1953 draft. A member of the Giants staff saw his name mentioned on a black all-American team in the Pittsburgh Courier [a black newspaper] and during a moment of indecision when the Giants were on the clock, he suggested Brown as the team’s choice.

Brown was a unique physical specimen. He was a sculpted 245 pounds his rookie season with a 29-inch waist. In addition, he was one of the fastest players on the team, and would always be considered the fastest lineman in the NFL his entire career. Dedicated to physical conditioning, he was noted for routinely staying on the field after practices to run extra laps on his own.

Roosevelt Brown. New York Giants (1953)

Roosevelt Brown. New York Giants (1953)

Like Tunnell before him, Brown’s mettle was tested right away in training camp. Coach Owen lined Brown up across from ferocious All-Pro defensive tackle Arnie Weinmeister in drills. Brown was beaten repeatedly and finished the day physically battered, but Owen was impressed with the young player’s resolve.

Brown ascended from the bottom of the depth chart and was New York’s starting left tackle on opening day in September as a rookie. His transition to New York was made easier by the now-established veteran Tunnell. Brown, who roomed with Tunnell in 1953, said, “Within two months, Emlen had introduced me to every cabby, maître d’hôtel, barber, teammate, cop or politician I needed to know in New York. There was no fuss to it. They were Emlen’s friends.”

While New York had a dismal season in 1953, Brown proved to be a bright spot and someone the new coaching staff could build around. Brown proved to be an instinctive pass blocker early on, exhibiting patience that belied his experience as he held his ground while defenders tried to maneuver around him. On running plays, Brown dominated the point-of-attack and pierced the front wall of the opposition’s defense creating running lanes. Beginning in 1954, offensive coach Vince Lombardi turned Brown into pro football’s first pulling tackle on his signature play: the power sweep.

Brown regularly logged the most minutes played for the Giants the first 10 years of his career. In the days of small rosters (teams carried 33 active players in 1953, expanded to 35 in 1957, 36 in 1959 and did not reach 40 until 1964), versatility and endurance were highly valued. Brown was a mainstay in New York’s goal-line and short-yardage defenses, and regularly lined up over the center in the middle guard position.

While being a generally quiet man who chose not to draw attention to himself, his former teammates were not at all reticent to describe his play and importance to the Giants. “As far as I’m concerned, Rosie was the best offensive tackle ever to play,” said Frank Gifford. “We knew the moment we saw him that this was one of the great physical specimens, eventually rounding out at about six-feet-five and 270 pounds. But nobody imagined his incredible athletic ability. Rosie was so fast he could have played running back and would have made a great tight end.

“Rosie and I teamed up on one of Lombardi’s most effective plays, the 48 Option. It was a quick pitch to me, and I either ran the ball around the left end or threw it, depending on what the defensive cornerback did…Rosie just loved to annihilate those little cornerbacks. There’d be nothing but grease spots left of them when he got up. In the huddle he’d practically froth when they called the 48 Option. It gave me my longest career run from scrimmage [79 yards, November 29, 1959 vs. Washington]. On that one, Rosie creamed the cornerback, got up to chase after me, and wiped out another defensive back nearly 40 yards downfield.”

There was no coincidence that in 1956 when Brown was named the NFL’s Lineman of the Year, Gifford was also voted the NFL’s MVP. “I wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame if it weren’t for him,” said Gifford.

Roosevelt Brown, New York Giants (1956)

Roosevelt Brown, New York Giants (1956)

Sam Huff said, “Our MVP lineman had to be Roosevelt Brown. He was nothing but muscle, a bigger version of Jimmy Brown, and he was all heart. He was so valuable to our team he even played some defense. Rosie also played on all the special teams.”

Opponent, peer and Hall of Fame Baltimore guard Jim Parker said, “Rosie never did the same things twice. He was incredible. He was my favorite, my idol. Everything I learned I picked up from him. I wanted to be just like him.”

Refuting the perception that black players lacked intelligence, longtime New York coach Allie Sherman regarded Brown as being an “extra coach” on the field for his team. He said Brown often alerted teammates to changes in the opposition’s sets. And he also marveled at Browns’ athletic gifts. “Nobody could do the things he could do,” said Sherman. “He was so quick that on an end run, in the time it took a quarterback to lay the ball in the runner’s belly, he could slide all the way down the line in the direction of the play, get there before the ball carrier and join in the run block with the two guards at the point-of-attack.”

Roosevelt Brown, New York Giants (1958)

Roosevelt Brown, New York Giants (1958)

Brown received numerous accolades from his peers and football personnel, who voted him to nine Pro Bowls and named him All Pro six times over his career.


As more black players made their mark in professional football, more joined the ranks. In the 1953 and 1954 seasons, African-American Joe Perry of San Francisco became the first player with back-to-back 1,000 yard rushing seasons.

Emlen Tunnell (45), New York Giants (November 28, 1954)

Emlen Tunnell (45), New York Giants (November 28, 1954)

In 1954, the Giants added end-kicker Haldo Norman and fullback Bobby Epps, which doubled the number of African-Americans on the team. Norman injured himself mowing his lawn shortly before training camp and only appeared in the preseason. Epps had a productive three-year tenure in New York and started 21 games over the 1954 and 1955 seasons.

Two cornerstones of the great Giant teams to come arrived in 1955, defensive tackle Roosevelt Grier and fullback Mel Triplett. Their transition was made easier by the men who preceded them. Giant captain Andy Robustelli reflected years later: “One of the reasons we never had problems was because of Em Tunnell. Emlen was good to all people. He was a hell of a decent person who meant a lot to young ballplayers.”

While the NFL’s African-American population gradually increased during the 1950’s and locker rooms appeared to be harmonious, there were still uncomfortable encounters on the field of play. Gifford recalled: “Perhaps because Rosie was so talented, some of the clowns we played against gave him a real racist initiation. He’d hear, ‘you black motherf—–,’ and a lot worse. When he’d come back to the huddle, I’d be as embarrassed as he was.”

Emlen Tunnell, New York Giants (1955)

Emlen Tunnell, New York Giants (1955)

Tunnell was perceived as pleasant, friendly and easy going without a care in the world. But he often confided his worries and frustrations with his close friend Conerly. Conerly told Tunnell one evening in the early 1950’s, “Time will heal everything. Just like you came here to play. You were the first colored guy and since then there have been more and more. That’s how it will be in everything else.”

While the social pressures were tremendous, there also happened to be an unforeseen positive consequence – a little freedom from the coaches and bed checks while on the road. When the team stayed in white-only hotels, alternate arrangements were made for Tunnell, Brown and the other black players on the team. Brown said, “Wellington Mara always took care of it, and the people we stayed with were always nice people with nice homes, and we loved it. We didn’t have any curfew like the other guys, and we could do anything we wanted – drink beer and party – with no coaches checking up on us. Sometimes Charlie Conerly, Frank Gifford and Alex Webster would come over where we were staying, and once Frank said, ‘Hell, you guys got the best of two worlds.’ It actually upset me when the segregations arrangements ended, and we had to stay with the rest of the players.”

Bill Svoboda (30), Emlen Tunnell (middle), Alex Webster (29); New York Giants, (December 30, 1956)

Bill Svoboda (30), Emlen Tunnell (middle), Alex Webster (29); (December 30, 1956)

By the decade’s end however, many players had had enough and stood up for change. Rosey Grier remembered an exhibition trip to Dallas with the Colts in 1959. “We black players knew what going to Dallas meant: the white players would stay in one hotel and we would be housed in another one that was presumably more suited to our race. It was always that way in the South. It was awkward, because we had to take a bus to the hotel where the white coaching staff and players were staying for meetings and the like. But, when it came time to eat, we had to get back in the bus and go someplace where it was okay for blacks to eat.

“But, in 1959 in Dallas, we had a change of heart. It may have been provoked by the promotional nature of the trip that called for all the players to attend a pre-game party downtown where we could be gazed at by local businessmen who might be interested in backing an NFL franchise for Dallas.”

Grier, Brown, Triplett and the black players from the Colts, including Lenny Moore, discussed boycotting the pre-game event as a form of protest. When Grier and the others refused to board the Giants bus to the pre-game party, Coach Jim Lee Howell became alarmed. Wellington Mara had overheard the discussion and intervened, “We didn’t know you felt like this, and I promise you in the future we won’t go anywhere we can’t stay together.” All the Giants attended the party, but the African-American players from Baltimore refrained. Although Grier questioned whether they had given in too easily at first, Mara proved true to his word and New York never again patronized a segregated establishment.

Breaking Barriers off the Field

Tunnell’s final game in a Giants uniform took place on December 28, 1958 against Baltimore in the “Greatest Game Ever Played.” Tunnell was believed to have slowed down with age. He had his return duties reduced and occasionally chafed with defensive coach Tom Landry, and was released after the season. He played three more years in Green Bay, and his final game was the 1961 NFL Championship Game against the Giants, where he intercepted a Y.A. Tittle pass during the Packers 37-0 victory.

Tunnell spent the 1962 season in the unusual capacity of serving as a freelance scout for both New York and Green Bay. The Giants were impressed with Tunnell’s insightful work and hired him as a full-time assistant coach in 1963, the first African-American to serve in such a capacity. Lowell Perry of the Steelers served as an assistant coach in 1957 after having his pelvis fractured and hip dislocated by Grier and Bill Svoboda of the Giants in 1956, then was a part time scout for Pittsburgh in 1958 before moving into private business.

Roosevelt Brown, New York Giants (1962)

Roosevelt Brown, New York Giants (1962)

Brown was forced into retirement by a chronic phlebitis condition after the 1965 season and joined Tunnell on New York’s coaching staff in 1966. Both men cherished working with young players and reflected on how pro football had changed dramatically in the time since they had entered the league.

Tunnell said: “You knock people down, you stop people from scoring – there’s no difference. The only difference is that there are more players and there’s more money…I think the quality is different simply because there’s more teams…I think the desire is gone because I’ve had players say to me, ‘There are 26 teams, I’ll get a job.’ And it’s true…It doesn’t bother me, ‘cause it’s their money. There are a lot of guys making money who don’t put out and that bothers me more than anything. I don’t understand it, because when they go out to work they can’t make the same kind of money they’re making playing pro football. They don’t stay after practice. They don’t enjoy themselves. The Kyle Rotes, the Giffords, the Tunnells, the Rosie Browns, the Robustellis – they stayed out every day on their own time. I used to run up to 10 punts every day, 75-80 yards, up until I got too old. I did it because I enjoyed it.”

That love poured over into his coaching as well. Tunnell once reprimanded a player he had personally scouted and brought to the Giants, Carl “Spider” Lockhart, during a contract dispute. Tunnell told Lockhart playing for the Giants was a privilege, “You should be paying them. Sign that contract!”

Tunnell said of the changes since he became one of the first African-Americans to play professionally in 1948, “There are more black players now. They’re playing because they’re good enough to play, not because they’re black.”

Joe Green (#33), Willie Williams (#41), Coach Emlen Tunnell, Carl "Spider" Lockhart (#43) at practice in 1971

Joe Green (#33), Willie Williams (#41), Coach Emlen Tunnell, Carl “Spider” Lockhart (#43) at practice in 1971

While coaching the Giants group of defensive backs, known as “Emlen’s Gremlins”, Tunnell received pro football’s highest individual honor, enshrinement into the Hall of Fame in 1967. Tunnell is not only the first African-American member in Canton, but also the first player recognized as a defensive specialist from the two-platoon era (though his punt and kick return accomplishments were certainly considered.) During his brief acceptance speech, he thanked his coaches, the Maras and the driver of the banana truck who picked him up hitchhiking to the Giants offices.

During this time, Marlin Briscoe became the first African-American to assume the role of a regular starting quarterback for a pro football team. Briscoe started 11 games in 1968 for Denver of the AFL. He spent most of his career traveling and started 66 games for six different teams over the course of his nine-year career and played in the 1970 Pro Bowl.

Tunnell coached through 1973 and returned to scouting the following year. He served in that capacity until his death at training camp in 1975. John Mara said, “It’s fair to say that Emlen was the most beloved member of our organization, perhaps in its history.”

Brown coached through 1970 and returned to scouting in 1971, when he found a little-known defensive tackle named John Mendenhall who became a stalwart for the Giants defense through the decade. Brown was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1975, and was the second player selected strictly on the merits of line-play (Parker was the first in 1973).

Brown remained with the Giants for the remainder of his days until 2004, an uninterrupted span of 51 years, and was ever-present around the offensive line drills during every training camp. Brown said in 1972, “I am very fortunate to have been with the Giant organization. I have never had to look over my shoulder…the organization, the coaches, they all had faith in me and I had faith in them. Even though we weren’t winning my first years with the Giants, there was a tradition of winning. The Maras were fine people and they know how to treat people right. The only thing for me was to do my best in return.”

Brown shared Tunnell’s view of the modern ballplayer, “Right now, I think we have too many average players. Too many ballplayers are thinking about Wall Street…A good player wants to win. For him this is it. Winning is the name of the game. I don’t think many of today’s players are as dedicated as they should be…[There is] no difference in the game itself. I think there is a difference in the money structure, which tends to lead a number of players the wrong way.”

Wellington Mara said Brown was the best lineman ever to perform for the team “Rosie was a great Giant. He was with this organization for more than 50 years as a player, coach and scout. He excelled in every area and he was always a gentleman.”

Both Brown and Tunnell combined to play in 17 pro bowls and were honored with 10 All-Pro selections during their careers in New York (Tunnell also participated in the 1959 Pro Bowl with Green Bay). Both men were selected by the Pro Football Hall of Fame as members of the All-1950’s Team. When Tunnell was named to the NFL’s 50th Anniversary team in 1969 it was a unique honor, as he was the only safety chosen. He was essentially declared to be the best safety in pro football’s history at the time. Brown was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary team in 1994, along with Forrest Gregg and Anthony Munoz at the tackle position.

At the time of the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, approximately 30% of all players were African-American. That number rose to 68% for the 2014 season. More than just numbers, the modern era of professional football displays the talents of African-American performers on the grandest of stages. Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl in 1987. Tony Dungy, who played on the 1978 Super Bowl champion Steelers, won a Super Bowl as a head coach with Indianapolis in 2006. The Giants have won two Super Bowl titles under the watch of general manager Jerry Reece.

Professional football advanced exponentially after the inclusion of African-Americans in 1946, and its popularity today reinforces the importance of the sacrifices endured by the pioneers who stepped forth during a time when they received no recognition. The game that is enjoyed by millions of fans today is better because of their contributions.

most non offensive TDs

ET RB decorations



  • New York Football Giants 1954 Press, Radio and Television Guide, Robert Daley, 1954, New York Football Giants, Inc.
  • New York Football Giants 1957 Press, Radio and Television Guide, Robert Daley, 1957, New York Football Giants, Inc.
  • The Giants of New York: The History Of Professional Football’s Most Fabulous Dynasty, Barry Gottehrer, 1963, Putnam
  • Footsteps of a Giant, Emlen Tunnell with William Gleason, 1966, Doubleday & Company, Inc.
  • The First 50 Seasons, Bob Oates Jr., 1969, Ridge Press
  • New York Giants: Great Teams’ Great Years, Jim Terzian, 1973, Macmillan Publishing Co.
  • There Were Giants In Those Days, Gerald Eskanazi, 1976, Prentice Hall Press
  • Rosey: An Autobiography, Roosevelt Grier with Dennis Baker, 1986, Honor Books
  • Tuff Stuff, Sam Huff, 1988, St. Martins Press
  • The Whole Ten Yards, Frank Gifford with Harry Waters, 1993, Giff & Golda Productions
  • Pigskin: The Early Years Of Pro Football, Robert W. Peterson, 1997, Oxford University Press
  • The National Forgotten League, Dan Daly, 2012, University Of Nebraska Press
  • 2015 New York Giants Information Guide, Michael Eisen, DeAndre Phillips, Corry Rush, 2015, New York Football Giants, Inc.
  • 2015 Official NFL Record & Fact Book, Brenden Lee, Jacob Gellerman and Robert King, 2015, National Football League
  • Historical New York Times searchable archive (via ProQuest)
Oct 062015
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New York Giants 24 – Buffalo Bills 10

by BBI Contributor Joey in VA

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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)
Oct 022015
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Mark Herzlich (58) and Jay Bromley (96), New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Mark Herzlich and Jay Bromley – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at Buffalo Bills, October 4, 2015

At the very least, the New York Giants temporarily saved their season with their 32-21 victory over the Washington Redskins in Week 3. But the 1-win G-Men are obviously not out of the woods yet and a loss to the Buffalo Bills would once again significantly reduce their margin for error, especially if the Cowboys defeat the Saints on Sunday night.

The Giants also received another kick to the nuts this past week when Victor Cruz suffered an injury setback. The addition of a healthy Cruz would have emotionally lifted the team and possibly taken the offense to a different level. Now the Giants will have to get by with what they have for the foreseeable future, not knowing if Cruz will even be a factor in 2015. “Next man up” remains the mantra. As Tom Coughlin said on Thursday, “It is what it is” and the Giants will have to get by with what they have. Will it be enough?

The Bills are clearly an up-and-coming team that leads the NFL in rushing (152.7 yards per game) and run defense (74 yards per game). Teams like that are very difficult to beat. Throw in an exceptionally mobile quarterback who is completing over 74 percent of his passes, and this will be a tough game.

Tom Coughlin said something very interesting this week. “The fact of the matter is, in our league, 75 percent of the games are decided in the fourth quarter,” said Coughlin. “They either end up with a two-minute drill on offense or a two-minute drill on defense, and we’ve got to get better in those areas to expect to be able to finish these games against very good people we’re playing.”


  • RB Orleans Darkwa (knee – probable)
  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – out)
  • OT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP and will not play)
  • TE Daniel Fells (ankle – questionable)
  • TE Jerome Cunningham (knee – out)
  • LT Ereck Flowers (ankle – questionable)
  • DE Robert Ayers (hamstring – out)
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (foot – probable)
  • DT Markus Kuhn (knee – out)
  • CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromarties (concussion – probable)

For the second game in a row, the Giants will be playing a top-5 run defense. But what makes the Bills defense even more dangerous than the Redskins defense is their ability to rush the passer. And can do so with just their front four up front as well as Rex Ryan’s complicated blitz packages.

The conventional wisdom for this game is that the Giants should not even bother trying to run the football against the NFL’s #1-ranked run defense, and the team should focus on the quick, 3-step passing game. It’s hard to argue with that approach other than the fact that is probably what Rex Ryan is expecting the Giants to do. Also, there is worry about the Giants offensive tackles, the gimpy Ereck Flowers and the journeyman Marshall Newhouse, being able to hold up against defensive ends Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams, two of the most dangerous pass rushers in football. Defensive tackles Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams are also two of the best defensive tackles in the game. It’s an line full of Pro Bowlers.

I am going to go against conventional wisdom and argue that the Giants should attempt to run the football against the Bills, especially running behind Ereck Flowers and Justin Pugh in the direction of the undersized Hughes, if for no other reason to prevent him from teeing off on Flowers on the pass rush. I also don’t want Newhouse having to fend off Williams on play after play. I would mix in the short passing game with quick throws to Shane Vereen, Odell Beckham, Rueben Randle, and the tight ends. The counter-argument would be to do what the Patriots did and that is pass 50 times, eschewing the ground game completely. I don’t think that strategy fits New York. I also think it is one that is prone to mistakes and turnovers.

Perhaps it is wishful thinking, but despite New York’s poor yards-per-rush stats against the tough Redskins run defense, I felt the commitment to the run in that game had an impact on the contest and wore down Washington. The Giants need to keep the down-and-distance situations manageable. That doesn’t mean don’t pass on first down, but I would run the football, including on third down. What you don’t want are holding penalties, sacks, and turnovers coming out of the passing game.

Vereen and Beckham could be match-up problems for the Bills, but someone else needs to step up too as Buffalo’s weaker linebackers and defensive backs will likely concentrate on these two. New York needs another strong game out of Randle with solid contributions from Larry Donnell and the gimpy Daniel Fells as well. Will Dwayne Harris finally make a big play in the passing game? Like against the Redskins, the Giants will have to selectively pick their deep shots as Manning will not have much time set up deep in the pocket and wing the ball down the field. I think a real key here will be the ability or inability of the interior trio on the offensive line to keep Dareus and Williams out of Manning’s face.

Again, this is a bit similar to Washington in that the Bills are one of the top rushing attacks in football. That bodes somewhat well for New York in that the Giants are currently #2 in the NFL in run defense. But why Buffalo appears more dangerous is the mobility of their surprise quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who can hurt teams with designed running plays as well as improvisation when a play breaks down. New York has yet to face a dangerous mobile quarterback, and the Bills will likely test the young defensive line’s discipline with misdirection. This was always a problem under Perry Fewell’s defense and we’ll get our first feedback on whether it will improve under Steve Spagnuolo.

“(Taylor) doesn’t play like this is his first time being a full-time starter,” said DE Robert Ayers, who unfortunately will not play on Sunday. “He’s smart. He’s not just running, he’s not just doing one read, not seeing it and taking off running like a lot of mobile quarterbacks do. He’s going through progressions and making smart decisions. He impressed me.”

And Taylor is not just mobile. He’s a legit 4.5 athlete who can make a huge play with his feet. More startling is he is completing almost 75 percent of his passes. But Taylor is still inexperienced. He has only started three NFL games despite being in the NFL for four season with Baltimore. Clearly, the game plan is to keep the shorter (6’1”), mobile QB in the pocket with a disciplined rush that is more interested in containment than generating immediate pass pressure. The rushers must stay in their pass rush lanes. This will make it tough to sack Taylor, but it is necessary. Spagnuolo will mix and match coverages, using zone-blitz schemes, to confuse Taylor and encourage him to make an ill-advised throw. The Giants probably can’t play too much man coverage, however, as that style of defense is always vulnerable to the quarterback-turned-runner.

The Bills will be severely limited by the absence of two of their most dangerous play-makers: wide receiver Sammy Watkins and ex-Eagle and Giant-killer running back LeSean McCoy. The main weapons now become deep-threat wide receiver Percy Harvin and receiving tight end Charles Clay. The Giants have to particularly careful of Clay off of play-action, including bootlegs, and Harvin on end arounds.

But the primary area of focus must be stopping rookie running back sensation Karlos Williams, who is averaging almost eight yards per carry. Williams is a big, physical north-south, down-hill runner who can break the big play with fine speed. The Giants must play stout at the point-of-attack and limit the ground game.

Marcus Thigpen has two career punt returns for touchdowns. Percy Harvin has five career kickoff returns for touchdowns. Obviously, both are dangerous. Place kicker Dan Carpenter has been shaky recently. The Bills employ a kickoff specialist (already 12 touchbacks) so don’t anticipate much help from Dwayne Harris on kickoff returns.

Tom Coughlin on the Buffalo Bills Offense: “They’re going to run the ball. They’re going to run. They want to run, they want to play action pass, they want to move the quarterback, they want to bootleg. They started the game last week with two bootlegs for good plays. That’s what they want to do. They’re going to try and pound it. What they do is they pop up and throw the deep ball, (QB Tyrod Taylor) is good at the deep ball. If it’s a rhythmic throw, he’s right on the money. That’s where they balance it off.”

I must admit I got foolish caught up in the Victor “Return” hoopla and had visions of him tearing Rex Ryan’s heart out again. Now this game becomes harder to gauge. Defensively, if the Giants can stop the run and contain Taylor in the pocket, they should be alright. But those are two big “ifs”. Look for the Bills to use misdirection and play-action to confuse the young defenders of the Giants. Offensively, the line of scrimmage looks like a big mismatch with a huge advantage for Buffalo. Do the Giants try to run the ball? Or are those simply wasted plays? Fans may get upset with the short passing attack and being more conservative, but this may be one of those games where the team that makes the fewer mistakes comes out on top.

As Tom Coughlin pointed out, the Giants are going to have to learn how to win tight football games in the fourth quarter by either driving the football in the final minutes or stopping the opposing drive in the final minutes. This could be one of those games.

Sep 272015
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New York Giants 32 – Washington Redskins 21

by BBI Contributor Joey in VA

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


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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 232015
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Tuffy Leemans, New York Giants (October 1, 1939)

Tuffy Leemans with ball, New York Giants at Washington Redskins (October 1, 1939)

Washington Redskins at New York Giants, September 24, 2015

Who are the 2015 New York Giants? On paper, they are a young team led by the oldest and most experienced head coach in the NFL and a 34-year old, two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback. They currently only have one offensive weapon – Odell Beckham – who really scares the opposition in the passing game. The running game remains too unproductive and inconsistent. Defensively, the Giants appear to be a spunky group that lacks any impact player. They can’t rush the passer and they can’t close the deal in the 4th quarter. And once again, it’s a team that simply can’t stay healthy (8 players on Injured Reserve, 13 on the injury report).

The Giants should have stolen the game from the Cowboys, and not the other way around. They had the Falcons on the ropes until another 4th quarter meltdown. Is it a lack of talent? Bad coaching decisions at the wrong moments? Lack of confidence and expecting the worst to happen? Probably a combination of all of the above.

The issue now is that for the third season in a row, the Giants find themselves in a very bad 0-2 hole and risk making themselves irrelevant once again before November. Their saving grace is the state of the rest of the NFC East. It’s almost as if they’ve been given one final second chance. Don’t blow it Giants.


  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – out)
  • OT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP and will not play)
  • TE Daniel Fells (foot – probable)
  • TE Jerome Cunningham (knee – out)
  • LT Ereck Flowers (ankle – doubtful)
  • RG Geoff Schwartz (illness – probable)
  • DE Robert Ayers (hamstring – questionable)
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (foot – out)
  • DE/DT Cullen Jenkins (hamstring – probable)
  • DT Markus Kuhn (knee – out)
  • DT Jay Bromley (knee – probable)
  • LB Jon Beason (knee – probable)
  • CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromarties (concussion – out)

Through two games, the Washington Redskins have the NFL’s #1 defense. It is #4 against the run and #2 against the pass. Part of that is due to having faced two offensively-challenged teams in the Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams. But the Redskins also shut down a Rams team that had just beaten the NFC Champions.

The Redskins operate a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Joe Barry. The defensive line was largely rebuilt in free agency with the additions of nose tackle Terrance Knighton and left defensive end Stephen Paea. Ex-Cowboy Jason Hatcher still mans the right defensive end position. Their job is to keep the Redskins talented and active linebackers free. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is an aggressive, physical football player who can rush the passer. The other outside linebacker – Trent Murphy – is similar in style and a former 2nd round pick. Inside linebackers Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley make a lot of tackles. (Riley has been bothered by a calf injury).

Despite Washington’s #2 ranking against the pass, the Redskins could still be vulnerable in the secondary. They imported cornerback Chris Culliver and safety Dashon Goldson in the offseason from the 49ers and Buccaneers, respectively, to go along with cornerback DeAngelo Hall and safety Trenton Robinson. They really haven’t been tested yet by a serious passing game.

The Giants did the right thing in cutting Preston Parker. Unless he gets his head out of his ass quickly, I would be tempted to do the same with Rueben Randle. I’d rather take my chances with no-names like Geremy Davis and Julian Talley who at least look like they are giving an effort.

The Giants need to get the God-damn running game going. No excuses. You have four backs who you have invested a lot of resources in. Use them. Put Daniel Fells in at tight end and Nikita Whitlock at fullback and run the football. When throwing the football, look to Odell Beckham and Shane Vereen. Perhaps the site of Burgundy and Gold will inspire Larry Donnell to re-visit his three-TD game against the Redskins from last season.

The game plan is simple. Stop the run. Make the Redskins one dimensional and force Kirk Cousins to beat you. It’s easier said than done as ex-Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan appears to be doing marvelous job with a group that really struggled in the preseason. The Redskins are the #1 rushing team in the NFL despite facing two teams with very talented defensive lines. Trent Williams is one of the more talented (but sometimes inconsistent) left tackles in the NFL and the Redskins have high draft picks – Brandon Scherff at guard and Morgan Moses at tackle – manning the reinvigorated right side of the line. The two-head monster at tailback is Alfred Morris and rookie Matt Jones – both big, physical backs. This is old school football. The Redskins are going to attempt to pound the Giants right at the point-of-attack. Washington will challenge the toughness and manhood of Big Blue.

The good news for the Giants is that WR DeSean Jackson (hamstring) will not play. The two main threats in the passing game are WR Pierre Garcon and TE Jordan Reed (who is more of a dynamic H-Back). These are Kirk Cousins’ two go-to guys. Cousins is an up-and-down quarterback. Right now he is incredibly completing 76 percent of his passes but he will make the bone-headed turnover.

This is a game where the Giants front seven and secondary will have to play very tough, physical football for a full 60 minutes against the run. Defending the ground attack will be more important than rushing the passer in this game. The Giants will have to play their big boys up front. Do that and cover Garcon and Reed.

The Giants are much better on special teams than the Redskins. This is an opponent where the team’s offseason additions could finally have a game-altering impact.

Tom Coughlin on the Washington Redskins: “Kirk Cousins, their quarterback, his percentage of completions is at 75 percent. They’re the number one rush team in the league, they’re the number two time of possession team in the league – almost 38 minutes a game. The opponent just doesn’t have the ball. Defensively, they’re number one in the league, fourth against the rush, second against the pass.”

Through two games, the Redskins have proven to be a very fundamentally-sound football team. They are the #1 rushing team and the #1 defense in the NFL. The big worry here is stopping the Redskins ground game. That’s the key to the game.

For the last few years, we’ve heard the coaches and players say, “There’s still time to turn this around.” For the last few years, they’ve been dead wrong. It’s put up or shut up time right now. Or the empty seats will start appearing at MetLife in October, and that’s just plain sad. Play the run. Hit. Tackle. Run the football. Get the ball to Beckham and Vereen in the passing game. Make plays on special teams.

Most importantly, to paraphrase Ulysses S. Grant, stop worrying about what other teams are going to do to you and make them worry about what you are going to do to them!

This game has some deja vu qualities to it to 2007. That 0-2 Giants team, with a new defensive coordinator named Steve Spagnuolo, won a nail-biter against the Redskins in week three. It was a win that propelled the Giants to a 6-game winning streak and much more significant results. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Just win. Then get Victor Cruz back and start making some hay.

Sep 212015
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Atlanta Falcons 24 – New York Giants 20

by BBI Contributor Joey in VA

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


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.


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


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.


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)
Sep 182015
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Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (October 5, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants, September 20, 2015

The Atlanta Falcons are an odd football team. At times, they can look like world beaters. At other times, they look terrible. They have a new regime under former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and they won their home opener in an impressive performance against the Philadelphia Eagles. Historically speaking, the Falcons don’t play as well on the road as they do at home.

But this game is more about how the Giants respond to their devastating loss to the Cowboys. Have they mentally put that game past them? Can they harness their anger and focus it against the Falcons? Because if they can’t do those things, the match-ups and game plans won’t really matter. The Giants need to win this football game. They need to even their record at 1-1.


  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – out)
  • OT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP and will not play)
  • TE Daniel Fells (foot – out)
  • LT Ereck Flowers (ankle – probable)
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (foot – out)
  • DT Markus Kuhn (knee – out)
  • LB Jon Beason (knee – doubtful)
  • LB Uani’ Unga (knee – probable)

Somewhat lost in the drama of this past week is the fact that the highly-touted passing offense of the New York Giants laid a huge egg in Dallas. Eli Manning passed for less than 200 yards and the wide receiving corps had fewer than 100 yards. If that doesn’t change – and fast – the Giants are going to be terrible this year.

Based on what coaches and players are telling us, the opposition is playing a lot of two deep coverage, doubling Odell Beckham, and daring the Giants to beat them by running the football or targeting other receivers. Wouldn’t you? This is the type of defensive game plan the Giants are going to face all year until (1) Victor Cruz comes back and proves he can still play at a high level, and/or (2) the Giants can demonstrate they can consistently run the football.

Picture any opposing defensive coordinator repeating, “We’re not going to let Beckham beat us deep!”

So what should the Giants do? First, I’m a firm believer of coaches putting their best players in position to make plays and win football games. It’s hard to double Beckham if you keep moving him around. Put him in motion. Have him play out of the slot, the backfield, split out wide. Force the defense to adjust. Keep in mind this is a new defensive system for the Falcons too and they may be prone to mental mistakes.

Second, if you were facing the Giants, aside from Beckham, who would scare you the most? Probably not Larry Donnell. Certainly not Preston Parker. “Make them throw to Donnell and Parker to beat us!”  I would get the ball into the hands of my running backs more, both running the football behind Ereck Flowers and Justin Pugh, as well as Shane Vereen in space in the passing game.

Which brings us to Rueben Randle, who exploded in his last two games of 2014 but was practically a non-factor on Sunday night. The Giants need him to be a viable #2 receiver right now – a guy who can put up 100 yards receiving and not just 20 or 30. His game is the vertical game and making big plays down the field, particularly on post routes where he can use his size and athleticism.

As for the Atlanta defense, based on a limited sample size of just one game, they are much more physical and aggressive than they were just a year ago. Their new head coach has brought Seahawks’ defensive scheme with him. Quinn doesn’t have Richard Sherman at cornerback but he does have Desmond Trufant, who is one of the best in the business. Trufant will be looking to make headlines by taking Beckham out of the game. Odell has to elevate his game, like he did against Sherman last year. The other Atlanta corners are not as good or are inexperienced. If Randle and Parker can’t make plays against Robert Alford, it’s time to worry. The Falcons use big safety Will Moore near the line of scrimmage, almost like an extra linebacker. He’s a big hitter and can be a problem in the run game. Fellow safety Ricardo Allen is tiny, but good in coverage. They will likely use him to help out on Beckham.

The Falcons have good defensive line depth. Rookie 1st rounder Vic Beasley is very small, but exceptionally quick and fast. The Falcons like to move him around. Beasley could be a serious match-up problem for the tackles in pass protection. Want to take the edge off of him? Have Flowers maul the shit out him in the run game. The two starting defensive tackles (Ra’Shede Hageman and Paul Soliai) and other starting end (Tyson Jackson) are big and tough against the run. Reserve Jonathan Babineaux is disruptive. The linebackers are probably the weak spot on the defense although O’Brien Schofield can rush the passer.

My game plan would be to run the football, especially to the left. I would try to match-up Shane Vereen and reserve tight end Jerome Cunningham against the linebackers as receivers. Move Beckham around and try to prevent the opposition from doubling him. Take a few deep shots to Randle against the lesser corners. The Giants need their offensive line to have a strong game against an underrated defensive line.

The Falcons obviously have some dangerous weapons on offense, headlined by all-world Julio Jones who will be looking to outshine national media darling Odell Beckham. The deal with the Falcons really is this: you don’t know what version of Matt Ryan you’re going to get. Sometimes he looks like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL; at other times, he looks very ordinary and makes some terrible decisions.

Jones can certainly take over a game, but I like the Giants corners against him provided there is some semblance of a pass rush. Jones has also been dealing with a sore hamstring. The other starting receiver, Roddy White, is super-productive but he has been declining in recent years. Still, you can’t sleep on him. White always seems to get his yardage and keep the chains moving. Ex-Redskin Leonard Hankerson can make plays down the field as well.

Listening to Tom Coughlin this week, it’s pretty apparent that he mostly fears Atlanta’s play-action passing game. Steve Spagnuolo has probably been drilling into the heads of Landon Collins and Brandon Meriweather all week not to come up too quickly against the run and expose the defense to the big play. Of course the best way to defeat the play-action threat is make it moot by stuffing the run. Rookie Tevin Coleman (who BBI Draft expert Sy’56 really likes) is a physical north-south runner with good speed. The Giants need to bottle him up.

The Falcons will throw the ball to reserve running back Devonta Freeman and undersized journeyman tight end Jacob Tamme as ex-Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan does incorporate has a West Coast Offense background. The Falcons may take note of how linebacker Unai’ Unga struggled in coverage last week.

The good news for the Giants is the Atlanta offensive line isn’t the Dallas offensive line. The Giants did alright against the Cowboys ground game, but as Steve Spagnuolo pointed out this week, Dallas still had the advantage of too many very manageable down-and-distance situations because of 4- and 5-yard gains. Stop the run first. Then get after the passer. And we’ll start finding out how good or bad the Giants’ pass rush is this weekend. Tony Romo was barely touched. If the Giants can’t get to Matt Ryan, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season. I would like to see the Giants blitz a lot to put the rookie running back on the spot in terms of pass protection.

Except for the return game, the Giants played well against a very good Dallas special teams unit on Sunday night. They had no chance on kickoff returns (all touchbacks). Getting the punt and kickoff return game going this week will be tough as punter Matt Bosher is one of the best punters (both distance and direction) in the business as well as a very good kickoff specialist (seven touchbacks against the Eagles). Former Giant Matt Bryant is very consistent and rarely misses under 50 yards. Devin Hester has been battling a toe injury. If he plays, we all know how dangerous he can be as both a kickoff and punt returner. (Late note, Hester will not play).

Ben McAdoo on Atlanta’s defense: “Versus Philadelphia, every snap was single-high (coverage), but that was the way they chose to play Philadelphia. I imagine that they’re going to roll some things at us, some different shells, some different coverage types and probably have a plan for Odell that way. We’ll have to take a look at it and adjust as the game goes on.”

This is very, very close to a “must” game. The Giants are a young team and that was an extremely tough loss last weekend. Their confidence could be teetering. It will be interesting to see how the team responds and how mentally tough they are. With the game on the line, players on offense, defense, and special teams need to make plays in the 4th quarter. Not wilt under pressure. The Giants need Eli Manning to regain his mojo.

Sep 142015
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Dallas Cowboys 27 – New York Giants 26

Game Overview

In 20 years of writing or editing game reviews, I’ve noted that Giants fans don’t have much patience or desire to read lengthy reviews after a painful loss, so I will keep this one short and sweet.

Giants fans (and the coaches and players) need to get over this “woe is me” crap right now. Every week in the NFL you see a game that another team screws up badly, and fans will gather around the water cooler on Monday morning and say, “Did you see that game? Man, did that team blow it or what?” Well, Giants fans, this week it was unfortunately our team. It happens. Get over it. Move on. The Giants are only 0-1, losing a close game that most didn’t give them a chance to win. That’s all. They didn’t get knocked out of the playoffs.

But before we totally close the books on this one, let’s look at this game in a broader context instead of discussing the painful final two minutes.

In many ways, the Giants were lucky to be in this game. Consider the following:

  • If you told me before the game that the Cowboys would out-gain the Giants in first downs 27 to 18, total net yards 436 to 289, and net passing yards 356 to 193, I would have told you that the Giants got badly beaten.
  • If you told me that Dallas would dominate the time of possession 37:10 to 22:50, New York must have gotten killed.
  • The Giants were 25 percent (1-of-4) in the red zone while the Cowboys were 60 percent (3-of-5). Sayonara.
  • The Cowboys were 6-of-11 (55 percent) on third down. Must have been a blowout.
  • Tony Romo wasn’t sacked only once and only officially hit once? Yikes.
  • If you told me that Eli Manning passed for less than 200 yards, Odell Beckham only caught 44 yards, and the offense never really had a touchdown drive, then the Giants must have lost by 30.

This game was only close because of three Cowboys turnovers that directly resulted in 17 of New York’s 26 points. The Giants did not have one turnover. That said, the Giants offense really only generated nine points off of three of their ten possessions. The Cowboys all but handed this game to the Giants. New York refused to take it. Too bad. But the better team on this night ultimately won. Now it’s time to move on and get better.


Eli was not helped by dropped passes, but he was clearly out-played by Tony Romo who is now the comeback king in this rivalry. Obviously, Manning should have taken a sack on the final play. Another bone-headed decision from a veteran quarterback who should know better. I love ya Eli, but c’mon.

Running Backs

The Giants only had 33 rushing yards by halftime but finished with 99 yards (80 from the running backs). One third of those 80 yards came on a 27-yard run by Rashad Jennings on the final field goal drive. The Giants obviously need more consistent productivity out their run game. Andre Williams continues to under-perform and the Giants may want to consider promoting Orleans Darkwa in his place.

If true, the real gut-wrenching issue was supposedly Jennings was told not to score on at least 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard line in order to run more time off of the clock. “As a running back, it’s really tough when they tell you not to score,” Jennings said. (Late note: Manning said he was confused about the timeout situation and that he mistaken told Jennings not to score).

Wide Receivers

A major disappointment. “Superstar” Odell Beckham caught five passes for 44 yards (8.8 yards per catch). That’s not going to get it done. Neither is Preston Parker (2 catches for 26 yards) dropping three passes on third down or Rueben Randle only catching three passes for 23 yards. Dwayne Harris wasn’t even targeted. The wide receivers were a major reason why the team lost the game. Want some optimism moving forward? My guess is that this is the worst game this group will play all season.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells caught six passes for 54 yards. The Giants would have won the game had the officials called the beyond obvious holding penalty on Fells on 3rd-and-goal. Shame on the NFL.

Offensive Line

Not bad, but not great. More optimism? This is a unit that should continue to grow and improve with more playing time. The Giants rushed for nearly 100 yards but need greater consistency in the ground game. Eli Manning was sacked once and officially hit only four times.

Defensive Line

The Giants did a better job of stopping Darren McFadden (6 carries for 16 yards) than they did Joseph Randle (16 carries for 65 yards). The ends still need to hold their ground better. But the Giants did a reasonable job of defending a very good run-blocking offensive line by holding the Cowboys to 81 rushing yards. The pass rush was virtually non-existent except for a few pressures by Robert Ayers. Cullen Jenkins may improve the run defense at end, but he can’t rush the passer from that position.


The problem was pass coverage. 22 of Tony Romo’s 36 completions went to running backs and tight ends for 199 yards. Unai’ Unga was put in a tough situation given his inexperience. I would have preferred Jonathan Casillas and J.T. Thomas – both supposedly strong in coverage – being on the field together on the final two drives. Strange decision by the defensive staff.

Defensive Backs

While the secondary deserves some of the blame for the productive night of the Dallas tight ends (i.e., Landon Collins on Jason Witten) and backs, the defensive backs played fairly well. Dallas’ longest pass of the night to a wideout was only 21 yards and Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley were held to 14 catches and 157 yards total. More importantly, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Trumaine McBride, and Brandon Meriweather were responsible for 14 of the Giants 26 points. The pass interference penalty on DRC on 3rd-and-4 was bullshit.

Special Teams

This was supposed to be a big advantage for the Cowboys but the Giants held their own. New punter Brad Wing punted well, averaging 45.5 net yards per punt. The coverage teams were solid. The Giants never had a chance to return six kickoffs (all touchbacks). Dwayne Harris only gained three yards on two punt returns. Josh Brown was 4-for-4 on field goal attempts and 2-for-2 on extra points.

Coaching Staff

Obviously there were some questionable decisions made, particularly late in the game on both sides of the football. Contrary to most, I don’t fault the staff for kicking the field goal on 4th down. Dallas has a great kicker and a field goal still could have sent the game into overtime. But passing the ball on 3rd down backfired. Uani’ Unga was put in a really tough spot.

(New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, September 13, 2015)
Sep 112015
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New York Giants Game Program (December 16, 1962)

New York Giants Game Program (December 16, 1962)

New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, September 13, 2015

If you want to know why the Giants have failed to make the playoffs the last three seasons, look no farther than their struggles to defeat their two most bitter division rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys. In the last three years, the Giants are 2-4 against the Eagles and 1-5 against the Cowboys. Indeed, the Giants are a Dez Bryant finger tip away from being 0-6 against the Cowboys in the last three seasons. Beat the Eagles and Cowboys and 9-7 in 2012, 7-9 in 2013, and 6-10 in 2014 turn into 11-5, 10-6, and 10-6 and three division championships for the New York Giants.

To be blunt, while the games have all been very competitive, the Cowboys have owned the Giants in the last three seasons. The Giants have started off poorly in some games and had to play catch-up. But the biggest problem has been the Giants have not made the plays on offense and defense in the 4th quarter to win the games.

Most pundits do not give the Giants much of chance in this game. And there are good reasons to support that belief. The Giants may have a lot of talent on offense but they will be missing Victor Cruz and have big question marks at both offensive tackle positions. Most anticipate the no-name New York defensive line will be mauled by arguably the best offensive line in football. Jon Beason is hurting once again. And a combination of very inexperienced and veteran castoffs will try to man the middle of the secondary against one of the NFL’s most dangerous quarterbacks.

But this is Giants-Cowboys. The odds are the game will be closer than most believe. And the team that makes the fewest mistakes and makes the most plays in the 4th quarter is likely to win the contest.

THE INJURY REPORT: (Late note – Victor Cruz and Jon Beason will not play.)

  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – will not play)
  • OT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP and will not play)
  • DE Cullen Jenkins (hamstring – probable)
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (foot – probable)
  • LB Jon Beason (knee – will not play)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (neck – probable)

On paper, the defense of the Dallas Cowboys looks underwhelming. The secondary is weak and missing their best defensive back, Orlando Scandrick, who is gone for the season. The Cowboys will also be missing two of their most important front-seven players due to suspensions (DE Greg Hardy and LB Rolando McClain). In fact, there are no real headliners on the defensive line.

But the Cowboys should not be underestimated on defense. They are extremely well-coached under Rod Marinelli’s more conservative bend-but-don’t-break 4-3 defense. The Cowboys force a lot of turnovers (2nd in the NFL with 31 in 2014). The Dallas linebackers such as the very talented but injury-prone Sean Lee get most of the media attention, but its their defensive line that causes more problems than one might expect.

“(The Cowboys) rely on the stunt game rather than pressure,” said Tom Coughlin. “They’re not a high-percentage pressure (blitzing) team. But they’re going to move that front all over the place, they’re not big. They’re penetrators, and they’re powerful. And then seeing (Tyrone) Crawford, he’ll knock the living daylights out of you. Ereck Flowers has this (Jeremy) Mincey guy. I hope he prepares himself, because he’s a powerful man for not a big man.”

Coach Coughlin hit the nail on the head. The physically underwhelming (6’4”, 285lbs) Crawford has given teams – especially the Giants – fits in the middle of the offensive line. It’s probably one of the reasons why the Giants have beefed up the middle of their offensive line with Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, and Geoff Schwartz. Mincey is not a top pass rusher, but he was the most consistent one for Dallas last season. And the Cowboys hope the undersized but athletic second-year end DeMarcus Lawrence gives Marshall Newhouse problems. Dallas has a number of young and athletic reserves, including rookie DE Randy Gregory, and they want to attack the Giants offensive line in waves.

But the Dallas defensive line is not big. In fact, outside of Mincey, it’s downright small. And because of that, they have to play twists and stunts up front to compensate. If the Giants offensive line can handle these defensive line games, then the Giants should be able to maul these guys. But that’s a big if. The Giants have not handled opposing defensive line movement well in recent years. There have been too many mental (not just physical) breakdowns.

The question for Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo is what is the best way to attack the Cowboys? Marinelli expects to give up yardage, but he’s counting on the Giants to make the mistake (turnover, penalty, inability to convert on 3rd down) to stall a drive. Do the Giants use the typical West Coast philosophy and mix up what has been an inconsistent running game with dink-and-dunk passes (especially to Shane Vereen) to attempt to matriculate the ball down the field on long drives? That puts the onus on the Giants being able to run the ball, plus not making the mistake. But it has to be a very attractive option too given the size disparity between the two lines. Or do the Giants put heavy pressure on their offensive tackles, take those 5- and 7-step drops, and throw deep to Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle? Obviously, there will be some mixture of both approaches, but it will be interesting to see where the emphasis is placed.

The Giants need a big game from Eli. He usually plays well against Dallas, especially in Dallas. The Giants may need some 4th quarter heroics from him. After leading the NFL with eight 4th quarter comebacks in 2011, Manning had three in 2012, two in 2013, and only one in 2014. That’s not all on him, but New York needs more from their $100 million man. They also need Odell to be Odell. Like in all sports, winners need their stars to make the big play in big moments. Beckham has the ability to single-handily take over this game if he doesn’t get too hyped.

Regardless of the tactical and strategic approach, probably the biggest key in this game for the Giants is to avoid turnovers. Too many Giants-Dallas games in recent years have been decided by killer turnovers that have resulted in defensive scores.

Except for when the Giants were playing against second- and third-team back-ups in the preseason finale, the starting Giants’ defense did not play well in the preseason. They could not stop the run. They could not rush the passer. They could not cover. They didn’t force turnovers. They have a completely new defensive scheme that they are still learning. The leader of the defense is a gimpy linebacker who seems to be held together with duct tape. The safety situation is a combination of youthful inexperience and veteran castoffs. And the team’s only defensive star sits at home after blowing off his finger. Not a pretty picture for a unit that now must face one of the NFL’s very best rushing and passing attacks.

The hope here is that the defensive wrinkles Steve Spagnuolo kept quiet during the preseason will cause the Cowboys mental rather than physical issues. Perhaps the offensive line is confused by different formations, techniques (where the defenders line up), and blitzes. However, it’s hard to imagine that the experienced Tony Romo will be confused by shifts in a secondary manned by a couple of green safeties however.

There are two clear apparent mismatches that work against the Giants: (1) Dallas’ excellent offensive line versus New York’s no-name and underwhelming defensive line, and (2) the Dallas passing game against the middle of New York’s secondary.

Dallas has three of the NFL’s best offensive linemen at left tackle, center, and right guard. It’s one of the reasons why Dallas was second in the NFL in rushing the football in 2014. DeMarco Murray may be in Philadelphia now, but the Cowboys can muscle and maul even good defensive lines. Their Achilles’ heel? Last season the Washington Redskins demonstrated that the young Cowboys line can still be confused with movement and blitzes. That’s hopefully where Steve Spagnuolo’s schemes come in. I would expect the Giants to blitz a lot, especially with Devon Kennard, J.T. Thomas, and Landon Collins. If Tony Romo has all day to throw throughout the contest, the Giants won’t win this game. But when when you live by the blitz, you often die by the blitz. The pressure will not only be on the blitzers to get to Romo and bring down the elusive quarterback, but to cover on the back end of the defense, especially against Dez Bryant. The good news for the Giants is that Prince Amukamara has done a good job on Bryant. They need more of the same from him as well as an outstanding game from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

More than the receivers outside, it’s the insider receivers who worry me. Tight end Jason Witten has been a Giant-killer over the years. And the reserve tight ends have also given the Giants problems in recent games. Throw in slot receiver Cole Beasley against Trevin Wade or Trumaine McBride or whomever is covering him and these look like problem areas. If I’m Dallas, I attack the middle of the defense over and over again. The key guy here for New York could be nickel linebacker Jonathan Casillas.

Much of this is moot however if the Giants can’t stop the run. You could hear that concern from Spagnuolo this week. “The bullets in the pass rush. Well, we’ve got enough there,” said Spagnuolo. “We’ve got to get them in those situations. I think that’s really important. Then we’ll let them go, see what happens.”

Can Johnathan Hankins, Markus Kuhn, Jay Bromley, Robert Ayers, Cullen Jenkins, Kerry Wynn, George Selvie, Damontre Moore, and Owamgabe Odighizuwa hold up at the point-of-attack and allow the linebackers and defensive backs to run to the ball carrier? The game is still usually decided in the trenches.

One final note. Just like I mentioned on the offensive side, on the defensive side turnovers are often the great equalizer. If the Giants can force some turnovers and win the turnover battle, they have a great shot to win this game.

Dallas is really, really good on special teams. Their place kicker is the best in the game and virtually perfect, including from long distance. Most of his kickoffs result in touchbacks and are not returned. The punter is very solid. And the Cowboys are very fast and aggressive on their coverage units. We’re going to find out very quickly if the $17 million the Giants spent to rip Dwayne Harris away from the Cowboys was money well spent. It will also be our first look at punter Brad Wing. How well he works as a holder with kicker Josh Brown on extra point and field goal attempts could be an issue.

Tom Coughlin on Dallas’ offense: “What they’ve done is they’ve taken the pressure off (of Tony Romo). The quarterback had a great year. They’re going to run, they’re going to run, they’re going to run, and hopefully we can do something about the run. The offensive line hasn’t changed.”

Both teams are pretty equal at quarterback and receiver. Dallas has better tight ends but the Giants probably have better running backs. The Giants’ top two corners on defense are much better than Dallas’ corners and there isn’t all that much difference on the defensive side of the ball. The bigger issue on defense is New York is a year behind the learning curve with their new scheme (too bad they waited a year on Spagnuolo).

Where are these two teams different? The offensive line. New York may be catching up with the recent additions of Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, and Geoff Schwartz but they are not there yet. But this unit could make quite a statement and win the game for their team if they somehow managed to out-perform their much touted Dallas counterparts. The odds are, however, that Ereck Flowers will look like a struggling rookie. And there is a big concern about how Marshall Newhouse will do at right tackle.

This is a good time for the Giants to catch Dallas. They had a lot of nagging injuries in camp that prevented them from practicing and playing together. Two of their best players are suspended. Dallas played like crap in their opener last year. The Giants have a good chance here to pull off the upset. Win the turnover battle and they’ll do it.