Oct 152013
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (October 10, 2013)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Chicago Bears 27 – New York Giants 21

by Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Review: Ahh Crap! Well I suppose you can’t spell recap without crap, apropos given the Giants endless ability to well..crap the bed late in games. Crap, for the record, isn’t always bad, especially when Burgess Meredith coined two of my favorite movies phrases containing the euphemized word for feces: “You’re gonna eat lightnin’ and you’re gonna crap thundah,” said to inspire Rocky Balboa and my personal favorite “Well you can wish in one hand and crap in the other, and see which one gets filled up foist.” Our hands are mighty full at 0-6, so on with the crap.

Things started off eerily similar to the opening season drubbing by the Cowboys, with Eli Manning not waiting long to throw his first INT, conceivably just to be goofy and make us all laugh because hey…he’s Easy E that’s just how he is. On the Giants first foray on offense, it took Eli just two passes to find an opponent wide open for an easy INT, but as has been the case early in games, the defense rose up and stuffed the Bears on a 4th and 2 from the four to erase Eli’s first gaffe. With the ball in hand at their own 4, the G-Men came out swinging on the ground, but on the fifth play Eli tossed a mind-blowing INT to CB Tim Jennings who took it in from 48 yards out and a quick 7-0 Bears edge. Buoyed by Jacobs 16-yard jaunt on the previous drive, the ground game again took center stage with seven runs on a 10-play drive that evened the score when Jacobs ran again over the right side for a 4 yard rushing touchdown. The Bears answered right back, marching 86 yards in eight plays, spurred by three grabs for 42 yards and a TD by WR Brandon Marshall. In an all too familiar hole at 14-7, the offense answered with a 7-play, 80-yard drive saved by a 3rd and 5 conversion by TE Bear Pascoe who did his best Mark Ingram impression to twist and fight for 14 yards when the Giants needed it badly. Four plays later, Manning hit Rueben Randle on a 37-yard strike that made up for Randle’s apparent blown route on the Jennings TD return two drives earlier.

Tied at 14 all, QB Jay Cutler again sliced up the Giants defense to the tune of 9 plays and 80 yards, capped by another Brandon Marshall touchdown, and the Giants were again in a hole. Unable to keep it going, the G-Men went three and out and the Bears answered with a 10 play drive that ended with a 40-yard Robbie Gould FG to give Ditka Nation a 24-14 halftime bulge.

After the pause, the Bears took the opening kick and drove to the Giant 34 before Gould hit a 52 yarder to push the lead to 13, and you could almost feel the wheels coming off for the 6th week in a row. After trading punts, the Giants took over with 5:21 in the third quarter and drove 91 yards, highlighted by a 31 yard scamper by WR Hakeem Nicks, to pull within six points and yet again give hope to the hopeless (that’s us AND the team AND the coaches AND Ben Affleck when he tries to play the Dark Knight). The Giants defense, which points wise is being shredded, forced two more punts and the Giants took over again with 5:21 left in the game. This was it, Eli was going to march us down the field Super Bowl style and sneak away with a 1-point win. I could hear the short weird lady from Poltergeist urging him on “Eli Maannning, stay away from the liiiiighhht,” then I had a Jo Beth Williams in her undies flashback (if you haven’t seen it, go, go right now to your local VHS tape outlet and buy it just for that scene) and all was right with the world. Jacobs bolted over left end for a 14-yard gain, Eli converted a 3rd and 7 to Nicks, and then it was Jacobs donning the new #34 again with a 12-yard run over right tackle, Da’Rel Scott over right guard for 13 yards and a first down at the Bear 36. Sweet Dancing Jehova we are there, 36 yards from pay dirt, victory, Bingo, Yahtzee, but CB Tim Jennings decided instead to sink our battleship with his second and Manning’s third interception of the night. Unable to stop the Black Unicorn on a critical 3rd and 7 with just under 2:00 to play, the Giants folded again as Jay Cutler and company ran out the clock and held on for the 27-21 W.

Quarterbacks: Another day another batch of mind numbing interceptions, one of which gave the Bears a lead and another that snuffed out a late-game rally. Tell me he’s our whole team, how he’s clutch and how he’s won two trophies and I will not argue for one minute. The issue here is not what he DID, but what he’s doing and that’s what we have to deal with. This isn’t an ESPN poll, no group of writers is sitting around debating if he’s elite, or which Manning is better at ping-pong. This is an 0-6 team with a QB playing poorly, end of story, see it for what it is, not what he’s done. Manning threw for 239 but was barely over 50%, going 14 for 26 and throwing three interceptions. Eli is simply making too many dumb mistakes for someone with this much experience and it is absolutely killing this team. When he makes perfect throws as he did on a 23-yarder up the right sideline to Victor Cruz, it just makes it that more maddening when his mechanics break down and he makes silly mistakes. Instead of a steady veteran leader, we all of the sudden have the hyperactive puppy with a case of the yips.

Running Backs: HB Brandon Jacobs went all Dorsey Levens on the Bears, piling up 106 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns. Jacobs hit on a power for 16 yards on the Giants first scoring drive (the Bears scored a defensive TD but I count it as a scoring drive damn it) and showed some of his old rumble. Jacobs used his trademark power all night, running with a good pad level and keeping his feet moving more effectively than perhaps he ever has and that makes all the difference with the big fella. FB John Conner got some dirt on his uniform finally, and fearful of agreeing with anything Rex Ryan says, you gotta admit when he lines up in the I-formation it’s fun to watch him lower the boom. Conner gets an assist on a 13-yard Jacobs run – he led right up the gut, slamming into the DL, and in the process drew the attention of the Bears’ LBs, giving Jacobs the edge he needed to scoot around right end and convert a big 3rd and 1. It’s those little nuances in a play, that when executed well are the difference between a punt and big time conversion. Conner also buried LB James Anderson on Jacobs’ first TD of the day. There is a discernible difference when Conner is in the game, defenders simply don’t want any part of him and will do anything to get around him if they can. Losing Henry Hynoski was a big blow, if Conner stays healthy this running game may actually get some traction…stay tuned.

Wide Receivers: WR Rueben Randle led the Giants with 75 yards and a touchdown, but it was Randle’s misread on a sight adjustment that played a role in Manning’s second turnover. I won’t lay that at the feet of the 2nd year wideout, I put more of that on the two time Super Bowl MVP who has 16 interceptions in 6 games. Hakeem Nicks chipped in with 4 grabs for 70 yards, including a 31 yard catch and run on the final scoring drive that converted a big 3rd and 8. Victor Cruz kicked in 68 yards on 4 grabs, but for the most part the Bears did a good job keeping the explosive Cruz from killing them deep. It was Cruz’s draw of a pass interference penalty against jerkface Tim Jennings (he may be nice, but two interceptions that ruined my Thursday make him a jerkface) though, that led to the Giants final TD.

Tight Ends: TE Bear Pascoe was the most effective of the tight end trio, consistently holding the point of attack and playing with outstanding leverage play after successful running play. (There is a clip on Giants.com from Training Camp where Pascoe is underneath a blocking sled and coach Mike Pope is ecstatic at how high he’s lifting it, now I finally know why). Pascoe’s hand placement and technique were near perfect, more impressive considering he was essentially a 3rd OT on several plays. Pugh and Diehl were given a ton of credit in the broadcast, but Pascoe was the real difference maker upon closer inspection. Pascoe also had the biggest TE play of the day on his lone 14-yard reception that kept alive a scoring drive. TE Brandon Myers had by far his best blocking day as a Giant. Given his body of work that’s akin to being Michael Bay’s least craptastic movie. Myers was used more as an H-Back and was moving pre-snap on several of the better runs of the day, a welcome wrinkle from Kevin Gilbride’s previous utilization of him as an actual blocking TE. Third TE Larry Donnell was used quite a bit in-line and did a solid job with the exception of one huge whiff on LB Lance Briggs and a silly false start penalty. Keep an eye on Donnell though, he seems to have a sneaky way of getting downfield on passing plays, and at some point he’ll make a big play.

Offensive Line: Give this group some credit for a bounce back performance, albeit against the Bears JV squad on the interior DL. Granted RT Justin Pugh and RG David Diehl got a little movement up front to pace the team on the ground, but it was a subtle wrinkle to the nauseating 3-TE, 1-FB package that got things moving up front. Ordinarily outmatched on the edge, TE Brandon Myers was used as an H-Back, going in short motion to the play side on runs and up the A gap to shore up the middle before releasing downfield. Throw in some FB misdirection, and this OL, to the manb were winning their battles and that’s really as hard as it gets. Keeping them from being outnumbered and predictable is the challenge. Pugh and Diehl led the way on 11 of Jacobs’ 22 carries to the tune of 60 yards and a 5.45 yard per carry average. The left side tandem of LT Will Beatty and LG Kevin Boothe were run behind on 11 of Jacobs’ runs as well for 46 yards, so the disparity in yardage wasn’t as large it looked when initially watching it. Either way the OL managed their best performance to date with a solid day on the ground and a stat sheet shutout of DE Julius Peppers, thanks in large part to LT Will Beatty. Diehl played better, no doubt, but when someone was getting shoved back, it was usually #66. No complaints about C Jim Cordle, except for his number. 63? It just looks terrible, and quite frankly the 3 is not very slimming.

Defensive Line: In their own nod to Testicular Cancer Awareness (TCA) during Breast Cancer Awareness month, the Giants DL decided to go sackless. Two former All-Pro DEs and a veteran 1st rounder were not able to bother Cutler all night, turning the Bears offense into a glorified 7-on-7 drill that Brandon Marshall won by himself. Credit the bulk up the gut though for limiting Matt Forte to 67 yards on 19 carries, 13 of which came on one run in which DT Cullen Jenkins was clearly held. Ah but this is the newer gentler NFL where we you can’t be mean to offensive players. Shaun Rogers, Jenkins, Linval Joseph and Mike Patterson accounted for only four stops, but kept new MLB Jon Beason clean enough to chase plays form sideline to sideline. DEs Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul were once again kept totally quiet, and quite frankly neither showed much with the exception of a Tuck batted-ball that plays perfectly with the TCA theme. Tuck gave almost nothing on an Alshon Jeffrey end around that went for 17 yards; it’s just maddening seeing him give in to defeat so quickly on plays knowing he is capable of much more.

Linebackers: Clearly unable to stand my rapier wit aimed at his LB corpses (sic-see what I did there, a joke AND Latin), GM Jerry Reese shipped off a 7th round pick to Carolina in exchange for MLB Jon Beason, who was on the team for 10 days before his first start. Quite the resounding endorsement about the staff’s faith in this group. Beason was hyperactive from the start, knifing in on a 3rd and 3 at the Giants four yard line to force a 4th and 2 that resulted in a turnover on downs. LB Keith Rivers badly missed an open field tackle on FB Tony Fiammetta, and in the process took out Beason, that’s what we call a two-fer! Beason led the team with 12 stops, one week after I ridiculed this group for never being able to lead the team in tackles. I say it can’t happen and magically it does the next week! I also, never win the lottery, my hair is never coming back and Congress will never all go on a big boat that sinks the second it hits open water. Beason is already the best LB on this team, and if his knees hold he will be a huge upgrade in the heart of this all too often heartless Giant defense. Spencer Paysinger’s one game run against Philly as a good player was apparently his Ramses Barden moment. Not much noise from whatever his number is now yet again. Keith Rivers, you stink.

Defensive Backs: It’s hard to find a ton of fault here, despite Cutler throwing for 262 and a pair of scores. This secondary gets zero help from the pass rush, and almost none form its defensive coordinator. How on Earth Brandon Marshall is not jammed at the line every single time is beyond me. When you throw up a cover 2 shell to prevent the deep ball and still play 10 yards off the best WR on the field, you’re inviting trouble. Just being happy that Marshall didn’t completely kill you should not be good enough. You take away the team’s best weapon, and no it’s not Matt Forte. Marshall may be big but he hates contact, just watch him “run block”. On the few plays that CB Prince Amukamara did jam him, Marshall simply quit on the play, inexcusable that was not done all night to the temperamental WR. Notable for stinking was DB Terrell Thomas who gave up an easy TD to Marshall and looked lost on an Alshon Jeffrey 27-yarder in the first half. S Will Hill’s “unnecessary roughness” call on a 9-yard Cutler scramble is the type of play that will ruin this game. His hands glanced off of Cutler’s helmet as he was half sliding and that’s worth a hanky and 15 yards??? Amukamara finished with nine stops, mostly downfield and Antrel Rolle was again active with eight stops.

Special Teams: In honor of Beavis, “These effects aren’t very special,” I must say our special teams are anything but. Jerrel Jernigan managed a 46-yard return that got poor Robbie Gould yelled at by Devin Hester, but again no spark to ignite the team with a turnover, score or opponent-pinning punt. Steve Weatherford did manage to frustrate Hester, not allowing one punt return yard. Not exciting, but limiting Hester is an accomplishment that borderlines on special, we’ll call it pretty…pretty..npretty good for now.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award: Back by popular demand (aka one guy on BBI said he missed it, so that goes in the Win column) is the CiiYCA. This week’s prize goes to KR Devin Hester for throwing a hissy fit after Jerrel Jernigan had a longer return than he did. First off, you need someone watching your back AT ALL TIMES! (Those Rex Kwon Do flashes have not completely died down, my apologies.) His name is Robbie Gould, and he’s a kicker, that’s already hard enough being a spindly nerdy white guy on a team of cool names: Lance Briggs, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Julius Peppers, Martellus Bennett. His holder’s last name is Podlesh for crap’s sake, and he has to wear a weirdo kicking shoe, not turf chewing cleats. He’s balding (poor bastard) and constantly adjusts his chin strap to stay on his chinless chin and you’re yelling at him for a one measly kick? Go buy him a new goofy kicking shoe to say you’re sorry.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Chicago Bears, October 10, 2013)
Oct 092013
 
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Trumaine McBride, New York Giants (October 6, 2013)

Trumaine McBride Just Misses the Interception on a Big Play for the Eagles – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Philadelphia Eagles 36 – New York Giants 21

by Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Review: Just when I think I’m out, they drag me back in. Not even an 0-4 start filled with penalties, injuries, fumbles, interceptions and flat out bad performances could deter me from one more week of hope. Just one more Sunday to get on track, get on a roll and show the NFL that the Giants are not dead just yet. After Sunday’s loss to Chip Kelly and his ridiculous visor, which I hate coincidentally MORE than Andy Reid and his Michelin Man in Black costumes, I have signed the DNR for this season. Do Not Review, alas, I am forced to by a cruel and relentless taskmaster known only as “Eric from BBI”. Unlike Michael Corleone, I won’t be back for a terrible trilogy ending train-wreck, I will stick with the same formula of poorly timed jokes, bad shtick and barely coherent analysis that has come to define the 2013 Game Reviews.

Things started off well enough, with the Giants actually rushing for a TD on their opening possession after an inspired three and out from the league’s worst defense. Missing Linval Joseph and Corey Webster, the G-Men came out flying, double covering DeSean Jackson on 1st and 3rd downs to force an Eagle punt and provide a glimmer of hope. Eli and company came out firing, seemingly ready to put their early season struggles to bed, but it turns out that struggles were like a pushy 4-year old, only going to bed momentarily before baffling you for hours with odd excuses as to WHY they refuse to go to bed. After Rueben Randle let a deep post bounce off his fingers, Hakeem Nicks came up with a 49 yard gain on the exact same play and put the Giants in position for David Wilson’s 5-yard TD scoot and a quick 7-0 lead. That lead SHOULD have stayed a TD after the Giants came up with a 3rd down stop, but Tom Coughlin inexplicably took a 3rd down penalty to give the Eagles a 3rd and 20, but he had to know what every single one of us did…the Eagles would make that third down if it was 119 yards. You just don’t put the offense back on the field, it’s that easy. Stupid stupid stupid decision by Coughlin that leads me to a conclusion I have about the team I will share later. Sure enough, Perry Fewell decides that man coverage would do the trick, having everyone turn their back to Mike Vick, who ran untouched for 29 yards on an eventual Eagle FG drive that should have never been. That 7-3 lead would hold until about 8 minutes remained in the second quarter and Giant killer LeSean McCoy plunged over right guard for a 1-yard TD run and a 13 – 7 lead that would grow to a 19 – 7 bulge by the half. Despite facing Chip Kelly’s up tempo attack and giving up 19 first half points, the Giants defense seemed game, able to hold the Eagles to 4 FGs by clamping down in the red zone and playing an abundance of man coverage despite the loss of CBs Corey Webster and Aaron Ross.

After a crowd deflating 3 and out to start the second stanza, the Giants offense found a momentary rhythm, putting together back-to-back seven play drives that ended with former LSU Tiger Rueben Randle hauling in two Manning passes for an all too brief 21-19 lead that would be yet another short lived positive moment during this already too long 2013 campaign. As has been the case all too often so far, the doors again fell off, Eli Manning “threw” two ugly, costly INTs, that turned into 14 quick Eagle points and a 36-21 drubbing that left the Giants hopelessly 0-5 heading into mid-October. Despite knocking Mike Vick from the game and eliminating his drive-extending and alcohol consumption-inducing 3rd down scampers, the G-Men let Nick Foles slap them around well enough to come away with the win, tossing two TDs to go along with 197 yards. This is the worst coached, worst played Giant defense I have ever been witness to and it’s not even close.

Quarterbacks: Ho boy. What to say about old Easy E? Great long pass to Randle, dropped, followed up by the same long pass to Nicks for 49 yards on the Giants first TD drive. It’s his ability to go to the well that has made him so dangerous but it’s his inability to pull the ball down when it’s not there that is simply killing this team this year. Point where you want, fingers should be at Jerry Reese, Tom Coughlin, Kevin Gilbride, Perry Fewell and whoever our dashing special teams coach is (I admit, he’s a good looking fella…NTTAWT!) but this one is on Eli. At some point, after 10 years and two titles, someone somewhere has got to get it through his head to NOT kill his team when the play is breaking down. All that said, Manning is this team’s best chance at being competitive, he just needs to be given the freedom to run more up tempo, wide open plays and use his talented receiving corps to threaten defenses consistently. Manning brought the Giants back but served up two silly INTs that did the team in yet again.

Running Backs: RB David Wilson had a 5-yard TD run, but 16 yards on six totes just isn’t first rounder worthy, nor is a safety that never was as Wilson spun out of a tackle to get flung down in the endzone…and have the ball move to the 2-yard line. I will leave the officiating alone for now. The Giants suck enough that I just cannot get into the oddball officiating this league is now witnessing by the week. Assist to David Diehl on the play: he let TWO Eagles in the backfield on that disaster. Brandon Jacobs coughed up turnover #17 for the Giants on the year, leading to another failed drive, another Eagle score, more c for Tom Coughlin and more wondering as to why this team is NOT spreading the ball out and using shorter throws to augment the running game the way countless teams in this league do when the running game isn’t working. (Pssst…Hey Tom and Kevin, it’s not working).

Wide Receivers: Dear Kevin Gilbride and Son: I am a Giants fan in Virginia and I think Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz r gud so is Roobin Randles but they don’t get to catch enough I think so maybe try that? Signed your pal, Joey. The little kid in me wants to say it, and he’s right. When Hakeem Nicks goes for 142 yards, and has inside release free all game, why not throw it until his hands fall off? The quicker passes that were all but absent in weeks 1-4 peeked their heads out Punxsutawney Phil style but I assume the Gilbrides saw a shadow and ran back to the 7-step drop-a-thon that has harangued this offense all year. There were times when the long ball was working, no doubt, but the mix has to move more in favor of the quicker passes with this OL just not able to hold serve often enough. The Giants got back into the game in the 3rd quarter by spreading the field and using quicker passes to take the lead, but it went by the wayside eventually. WR Victor Cruz was absolutely the man to stop and give Eagle defenders credit, they did just that, holding Cruz to a very Chris Calloway like 48 yards on 5 catches. Fortunately for the Giants, they can spot WR talent and second-year man Rueben Randle was able to keep them in it, with 96 yards, 6 grabs and 2 TDs that gave the G-Men an actual lead in the 3rd quarter. It was Randle’s catch and run on a slant that gave the G-Men life, but it was short lived. If you were so drunk by then you didn’t believe it, trust me, we were AHEAD…yeah it’s true. Jerrel Jernigan is still on the roster, proof is in the boxscore, and he had 13 yards on 2 catches and returned two kicks. Small, slow and terrible is no way to go through life son. I am loathe to give #12 credit but he did manage a big 3rd and 4 catch on the drive that gave the Giants the lead late in the 3rd quarter.

Tight Ends: In honor of the Black Unicorn, Kevin Boss, the legend of Jake Ballard and the guy who netted us the Saints first round pick (that trade went through right?), I just cannot mention our TEs this week. Larry Donnell doesn’t suck eggs yet and that’s as nice as I can be at the moment.

Offensive Line: RG David Diehl may be super duper excited to play to prove all of his doubters wrong, but Diehl was barely able to maintain verticality for most of the game, getting dumped on his backside regardless of play, regardless of opponent, over and over again. C Jim Cordle cost the Giants a drive with a false start at the Eagles 30 that killed a promising drive. Cordle though, is playing better than I expected. Not great, but hey he’s no David Diehl out there! LT Will Beatty appears to have his “I was taken over by Pod People” weeks behind him.

Defensive Line: DE Jason Pierre-Paul finally played the run the way he did two years ago, shedding LT Jason Peters consistently to hold the POA and shut down the outside running of LeSean McCoy for a good part of the day. JPP threw in a batted down Vick pass to snuff out an Eagle drive late in the first. He’s showing signs, a little more each week, that he’s starting to trust his body and play with a little more of his trademark high effort. DE Justin Tuck was right on his game on the game’s first snap spotting a false start and by golly he was right, it was a false start. That was about all he did all day aside from looking forlorn and walking like George Jefferson or someone with a fake hip. Tuck looks disinterested most plays, I just see almost zero effort at this point. And don’t think his teammates don’t see the “team leader” doing that and taking their cues from Mr. Subway, or is it Mr. Tony Robbins, whoever it is he stinks right now. Giant DTs may be the only group playing good football this year. Without reliable run-stopper Linval Joseph, rookie DT Johnathan Hankins made an impact with five stops and was generally pretty stout play against the run. Along with Shaun Rogers, Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson, Hankins was part of the Giants best performing group of the game yet again. Sadly their DE and LB (tee hee) counterparts cannot say the same and refuse to stop the run to the outside, but dammit, we can stop the dive.

Linebackers: Apparently, linebackers play the middle of the field, have run and pass responsibilities and usually lead teams in tackles. Stop laughing. STOP right now I mean it. That is what I gleaned from watching several other games this weekend and it’s just bizarre. The 49ers, Saints, Texans, Bears, Bills, Bengals, Patriots, Lions, Packers…ok that’s five boxscores and nine teams of 10, I’m sick of counting but you get the point: our LBs stink. LB Keith Rivers was chasing Mike Vick though when he pulled his hamstring so we got that going for us, which is nice.

Defensive Backs: Will Hill, take a bow. Despite an early personal foul that I just can’t be OK with (it’s football for God’s sake, DBs are supposed to take aim and knock WRs off the ball, not ask them to politely consider not catching it), Hill was all over the field for the Giants, and was far and away the best defender on the field in his first action of the year. Most impressive though was Hill’s non-stop effort, something a lot of his mates could learn from. Hill was almost singlehandedly responsible for holding the Eagles to a FG after a 1st and goal early in the 2nd quarter. Hill knifed in on two McCoy runs to completely blow up each play and force an errant Vick pass on 3rd down. CB Trumaine McBride, take a shower, you stunk but only by a hair. With perfect position on DeSean Jackson, McBride whiffed on a pass that Jackson hauled in to set up a first down inside the Giants 20 on the Eagles first TD drive. It is plays like that have defined this year, just a hair off, here and there and this team falls to pieces instead of making the play. Hill and S Ryan Mundy combined for 26 total stops and shored up the woeful LB corps adequately enough to keep the team competitive until the 4th quarter. Just to be on par with the LBs, McBride let DeSean Jackson get behind him with 9 seconds left in the half to put the Eagles in position for another 3 points and a 19-7 lead that could have been 16-7 had someone…anyone on defense decided that with 9 seconds left DeSean Jackson may require more than a journeyman CB who can’t seem to get out of his own way. CB Prince Amukamara played solidly all day, but his questionable PI call against DeSean Jackson late in the 3rd quarter and his failure to prevent a 3rd down conversion loomed large on the Eagles FG drive that ultimately sealed the game.

Special Teams: The Ghost of Matt Dodge has been exorcised temporarily, P Steve Weatherford stopped admiring himself long enough in the mirror to finally punt the ball outside the numbers. Weatherford rebounded with a 42 yard average, a long of 58 and only 24 punt return yards by the Eagles on 7 punts. Someone improved, that’s good right? The return game was again punchless, which I’m hoping gets someone punched, anyone besides the fans. We’ve suffered enough gut shots this season and it’s not even cold yet.

Out on a Limb: I’m going out on a limb this week with what many will call conjecture but I’ve been there (not the NFL, but a good team and then a bad team back-to-back with many of the same players). This team has no faith in their coaching staff at the moment. Not Coughlin, I don’t think he’s lost the team, he’s done too much and won too much for that but I think the defensive and offensive players see things they don’t agree with in the play calls. It’s not quantifiable, and I’m sure it will get called a ridiculous notion, but hear me out. When your job is to watch film all week and study for a test (and make no mistake each Sunday is just that) and you see questions you had no idea were coming, you question your preparation. Why didn’t I see that? Why didn’t we practice that? How are we THAT unprepared for something? Take the offensive woes. Wilson and company cannot run, the OL cannot hold blocks long enough for the deep passing game to be effective consistently. So what would you, as a player want to see? The same game plan week in and week out KNOWING that your OL is struggling in all phases and that you have 3 talented WRs, a solid pass catching TE who can work the slot and a QB who excels in the hurry up and two minute offense? You know it, and I know it, and the players know it and each week it fails, they will lose faith and play by play you can see it on the field when they just don’t trust the play calls. It can make a few bad losses seem worse and it can snowball in a hurry as we have seen and unless something big changes. And it won’t. This team will be lucky to reach four wins with a roster capable of much much more.

Even after taking the lead with a spread 3-WR set, the Giants reverted to two TE running plays down 22-21 that derailed any momentum and led to another loss and likely a lost season. The momentum gained early in the 3rd quarter by spreading the defense out was lost by a return to using players who do not threaten a defense anywhere on the field.

(Boxscore – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, October 6, 2013)
Oct 072013
 
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Damontre Moore, New York Giants (September 29, 2013)

Damontre Moore – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Chicago Bears, October 10, 2013: It’s over now. The game against the Philadelphia Eagles was the last chance for the Giants to salvage the 2013 season. You can hear it in the voices of the head coach and the players. The Giants are well on their way to one of the worst seasons in the franchise’s history. The team has the feel of one that is going to struggle to finish the season with even two or three victories. If true, the Giants haven’t had a season this bad since 1983 when Bill Parcells was almost fired.

What’s weird about all of this is that the Giants shouldn’t be this bad. Even if you account for a rapidly declining talent base, this team still has Eli Manning, good wide receivers, good defensive tackles, and some talent in the secondary. When BBI first started, in 1995 and 1996, the Giants were playing for a lame duck coach (Dan Reeves) and had a terrible quarterback (Dave Brown). The best player on offense was the fullback (Charles Way). The defense was decent, but not overwhelming. Yet those teams still managed five and six wins. The Giants are going to be hard pressed to match those “lofty” win totals. It just doesn’t make sense. But you are what your record says you are. And the Giants can’t blame injuries or bad luck on this mess.

And it is a mess. If the Giants finish with four, three, two, one, or heaven-forbid, no wins, that is the type of season that may lead to dramatic change up and down the organization. It’s been a great run, but it’s over. It’s time to rebuild.

The Giants are going to lose to the Bears on Thursday night and fall to 0-6. So let’s look at the key issues facing the team in preparation for the 2014 NFL season.

Coaching Staff: The #1 immediate question facing ownership and the front office is it time to say goodbye to Tom Coughlin? The terrible season does not erase the fact that we are talking about one of the top three coaches in the history of the franchise. And ¼ of the team’s eight NFL Championships came on his watch with some of the most memorable and fantastic playoff games in team history. Giant fans should be thanking their lucky stars that Tom Coughlin was the head coach of this team.

But has his leadership, philosophy, and interpersonal skills grown stale? Sometimes it just happens. You saw it with even Hall of Famers such as Tom Landry, Don Shula, and Chuck Noll. Tom is 67 years old now. Is he the right man for a rebuilding project at his age? I would hate to see his coaching career end on this note, but I also fear the Giants’ ownership thinking the same thing, and not pulling the plug if this is the best time to do so for the franchise’s sake.

Even if Tom stays, others have to go. Perry Fewell is simply over his head as a defensive coordinator. His defense had a nice little 6-game run in 2011 (thank God), but that was about it. His NYG defenses are some of the worst in franchise history. This is the third year in a row where the regular-season defense has just sucked. Time to go.

Kevin Gilbride has more of a proven track record. Under his influence, the Giants have had some of the most impressive offensive teams in the franchise’s history. But the offense has regressed the last two seasons. He’s 62 and one wonders if the game is starting to pass him by. Again, is he the right guy for a rebuilding job and a franchise quarterback who is also regressing? Perhaps Eli will be reinvigorated with a new offensive approach.

Personnel: It’s time to get younger, cheaper, and most importantly, hungrier. It’s time to fill this roster with passionate, talented football players who hate to lose, and who are afraid of facing their coach if they do so.

The 2013 trading deadline is October 29. I would listen to any and all offers in order to accumulate 2014 NFL Draft picks. If I’m John Mara, I order Jerry Reese to not trade away anymore picks for injured veteran players (see Jon Beason).

First of all, these players will see their contracts expire at the end of this season:

  • Curtis Painter
  • Andre Brown
  • Brandon Jacobs
  • Henry Hynoski
  • Hakeem Nicks
  • Louis Murphy
  • Brandon Myers (voidable)
  • Bear Pascoe
  • David Diehl
  • Kevin Boothe
  • Jim Cordle
  • Justin Tuck
  • Justin Trattou
  • Linval Joseph
  • Shaun Rogers
  • Mike Patterson
  • Jon Beason (voidable)
  • Spencer Paysinger
  • Mark Herzlich
  • Keith Rivers
  • Dan Connor
  • Corey Webster (voidable)
  • Terrell Thomas
  • Aaron Ross
  • Trumaine McBride
  • Stevie Brown
  • Ryan Mundy
  • Josh Brown

I have almost no interest in bringing back the bulk of these players. It’s time to move on. Most are too old, too fragile, too content, too expensive, or simply not that good. Of this group, Nicks and Joseph are still young and talented. I would like for them to be back, but I get the sense that Nicks has his ring and is simply looking for his big pay day. The Giants already spent a 2014 draft pick on Beason (stupid) so I hope they can re-sign him to see if he pans out.

Perhaps some serious playoff contender who needs a veteran presence with championship experience could be lured into trading for Webster or Tuck. Rogers and Patterson might draw some limited interest. The Giants could receive a serious offer for Nicks. I’d listen.

Outside of Eli Manning, let’s also look at the expensive players whose contracts are not yet to expire:

  • Chris Snee
  • David Baas
  • Mathias Kiwanuka
  • Cullen Jenkins
  • Antrel Rolle
  • Steve Weatherford
  • Zak DeOssie

The Giants need to dump Snee (hopefully he’s smart enough to retire). Baas simply cannot stay healthy and makes too much money. Kiwanuka is just a guy who makes a lot of money. Rolle is the highest paid defensive player on the roster yet is not much of a play-maker. Jenkins is on the wrong side of 30. I would listen to any offers for Rolle and Jenkins.

So Eric, you would basically give up on the rest of this season and trade away some talented players? Yes. But I wouldn’t define it as “giving up” but getting ready for 2014 and determining which players want to earn the right to be on a professional football team in 2014. If they can trade away a player or two or three, I would sign young, hungry guys from the Practice Squad who may or may not have a future. But now is the time to find out if they do.

And it’s time to get the younger guys into the line-up.

  • David Wilson and Michael Cox need to get the carries, not Brandon Jacobs.
  • John Conner needs to play fullback, not Bear Pascoe
  • Larry Donnell needs to play tight end, not Brandon Myers
  • David Diehl should sit. James Brewer needs to play. I would strongly consider playing a line of Beatty, Brewer, Boothe, Mosley, and Pugh for the rest of the season.
  • I would move Jason Pierre-Paul to left defensive end and start Damontre Moore at right end. Justin Trattou should see more snaps. Linval Joseph and Johnathan Hankins should start. When he is ready to come off of the PUP, Marcus Kuhn is activated and Rogers or Patterson are released or traded.
  • Beason needs to start at middle linebacker. I still think Paysinger might be decent. But I’d like to get a look at Allen Bradford.
  • If he can get healthy, I would like to see more of Jayron Hosley in order to determine if he has a future in the NFL. Same with Will Hill, Cooper Taylor, and Charles James.

Who has talent? Who is a leader? Who hates losing? Who wants to be here?

What we do know is this. Eli will still be the quarterback in 2014. Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle will be here. Prince Amukamara will be here. Jason Pierre-Paul. Damontre Moore. Johnathan Hankins. Justin Pugh. David Wilson. These will be the players to start building around again.

This sucks, but it can also be a fun and exciting time to watch the next edition of the New York Giants begin to emerge.

The worst thing the Giants can do is play a bunch of older, more sedate veterans, who won’t be here in 2014. If they are going to make mistakes and lose, I want to see the young guys play and fight for a future.

Oct 042013
 
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David Wilson, New York Giants (December 30, 2012)

David Wilson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, October 6, 2013: Because the NFC East is so bad, I’m hesitant to say the season is over if the New York Giants lose this game. After all, if the Broncos beat the Cowboys, and if the Eagles beat the Giants, the Giants will still only be two games out of first place with 11 games to play.

But the Giants will be 0-2 in the division. The Eagles will be 2-0 in the division. And the Cowboys and Eagles will at least temporarily hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Most importantly, psychologically, if the Giants lose this game, that may be the final nail in the coffin.

For all intents and purposes, this is basically a playoff game for the Giants. Win and they’ll have a pulse. It may be faint, but it will be there.

As an aside, I hope the veteran Giants players who have been with the team for some time realize the significance of this season. Whether this season is a success, failure, or something in between, this is that last rodeo for this group. Over the course of the last few years, we’ve seen stalwarts like Umenyiora, Bradshaw, Seubert, O’Hara, McKenzie, Smith, Phillips, Cofield, and others depart, not to mention the old crew of Strahan, Pierce, Toomer, Burress, and others. This is likely it for Snee, Tuck, Webster, Diehl, Jacobs, and Ross. It could be for Rolle, Kiwanuka, Boothe, and Baas. And who knows if the Giants will be able to re-sign Nicks and Joseph? These players should be fighting for each other at this point. This is it for them with the New York Giants. These are players that helped the Giants win one or two NFL titles. Go down swinging fellas!

And…if they want to think more selfishly…they should take a long, hard look at how “middle-class” free agents have been priced out of the NFL due to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. There is no guarantee they will find work anywhere again unless they play (get off the damn injury list) and play well. In other words, if you want to play in the NFL in 2014, you had better start making some plays.

New York Giants on Special Teams: I’m starting off with this unit this week because special teams have been a disaster for the Giants and a major reason why the Giants are 0-4. I have no idea what is going on with Steve Weatherford, but he needs to get his head out of his ass and regain his directional punting skills. And the Giants have already given up two punt returns for touchdowns. Josh Brown has missed his last two field goals. That being said, the Eagles have also struggled on special teams and David Wilson and Rueben Randle seem poised for big returns. Damontre Moore has not only blocked two punts (one in the preseason), but he’s flashing on coverage teams. Division games often come down to special teams.

New York Giants on Offense: Eli Manning has to settle down and realize the line is what it is and deal with it. We’ve seen him play in that beast mode before where it didn’t matter how many times he was hit (see the 2011 NFC Championship Game). Find the open man and quickly hit him. Every throw doesn’t have to be a home-run strike. If the Giants are going to get out of this funk, they need Eli to play like the 2011 edition. Be smart and take what is the defense gives you.

That said, Eli needs help. Victor Cruz is doing his job. More was expected and is needed from Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle. Both can and should be impact players. Cruz, Nicks, and Randle accrued 300 yards receiving against the Cowboys in the opener. It’s time to get back to that type of production. It’s not a pipe dream – they are all capable of 100-yard receiving games.

I think David Wilson is about to have a big game if the coaches will only feed him the ball. The absence of Da’Rel Scott (waived) should increase his touches, but those might go to Brandon Jacobs. I’d give them to Wilson. He’s been running well between the tackles – he’s not just an outside guy.

The Eagles have been terrible against the run (26th) and pass (31st) on defense. But they are a high-pressure defense that like to confuse its opponent with a variety of looks and blitzes. That could give the Giants’ blockers problems, but the Chiefs may have helped the Giants prepare for that type of helter-skelter assault. Nevertheless, the line has been reshuffled once again, now with David Diehl in at right guard for James Brewer. He will bring passion, experience, and leadership to the line. Hopefully he brings talent too and isn’t too rusty after the long layoff.

The back end of the Eagles defense is a mess. Don’t turn the football over. Get the ball into the hands of your play-makers: Cruz, Nicks, Randle, and Wilson. Everything doesn’t have to be a home run. Get some rhythm going, pick up some first downs, and get into the end zone.

Start off strong and the crowd will get behind you.

New York Giants on Defense: There are a number of challenges this week for a defense that played better last week. On the injury front, the Giants may be without their starting defensive tackles (Cullen Jenkins and Linval Joseph). In addition, corners Corey Webster, Jayron Hosley, and Aaron Ross did not practice this week and are likely out. That means the second-team defensive tackles (Shaun Rogers and Mike Patterson) have to come up big as well as fifth-string tackle Johnathan Hankins. At corner, Trumaine McBride may have to start opposite of Prince Amukamara if Terrell Thomas remains in the slot. Depth will be non-existent unless the Giants activate Charles James from the Practice Squad. In a pinch, Will Hill and Antrel Rolle might be able to play some corner.

The depth issues could be exacerbated by the well-publicized aspects of Chip Kelly’s fast-break offense. The Eagles will go up tempo, attempt to tire out the defense, and prevent substitutions. This type of offense can backfire on the Eagles if (and this is the big if), the Giants can force three-and-outs. Then it will be the Eagles’ defense that gets tired out.

The regime may have changed, but the play-makers are still the same: RB LeSean McCoy, WR DeSean Jackson, and QB Michael Vick. But now they have been inserted into this high-octane offense that is second in the NFL.

McCoy has been a Giant-killer. But again, seeing so much of Jamaal Charles last week should help the Giants prepare for McCoy a bit. He’s dangerous as a runner and receiver, and again the linebackers and safeties will have their hands full. The Eagles will also try to match-up Jackson on the Giants’ weaker corners. They’d love to test Terrell Thomas and Trumaine McBride with Jackson’s quickness and deep speed.

As for Vick, he seems just as fast as ever, and when he’s on, he can throw some amazing passes. But this offense exposes him to a lot of hits and he isn’t the toughest guy in the world. The Giants are going to have to hit him every chance they get. And when the Eagles run read option-type plays, as Joey in VA has been complaining about since last year, the defensive ends must not get suckered into playing the inside run too aggressively. That leaves the outside open for a big run by the quarterback or back. The defensive line is dying to start finally accumulating some sacks, but they have to play smart and disciplined against this offense.

It’s going to be tough. The Giants’ defense will be undermanned and they won’t be able to substitute like they want. They are going to have to suck it up and just realize this is going to be fast-break football. Focus on McCoy and Jackson. Hit Vick. Get off the damn field and make the fast-paced tempo work against Philadelphia.

Again, early success by the defense will get the crowd in your corner.

Oct 032013
 
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Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs (September 29, 2013)

The Backbreaker – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Kansas City Chiefs 31 – New York Giants 7

Two years ago, the New York Giants were NFL Champions. One year ago, the Giants were 6-4 heading into their bye. They then went 2-1 immediately after the bye with impressive blowout victories against the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints. Since that time, the Giants are 1-6 and have been blown out in five of those six losses. The fall from grace has been so quick and so dramatic that most Giants’ fans are simply left shaking their heads in bewilderment.

The Giants have been outscored 146 to 61 this year. The 146 points is an NFL-high and the Giants have given up 31 or more points in all four losses (though a significant chunk of those points are on the special teams and offense). Meanwhile, the offense has scored only one touchdown in the last two games. In four games, the Giants have turned the ball over an astounding 16 times. Both kickers are in a funk and the Giants have given up two punt return touchdowns.

In other words, the Giants have been terrible on defense, offense, and special teams. It’s no wonder they are 0-4.

Two other key stats, and ones that showed up decisively against the Kansas City Chiefs are third-down offense and defense. The Giants are dead last in the NFL in both offensive and defensive third-down efficiency. In the Kansas City game, the Giants were a dreadful 1-of-14 on third down on offense (7 percent) while the Chiefs were an excellent 9-of-16 on third down (56 percent).

If you can’t convert on third down, you can’t sustain drives. All you can do is rely on the big play and that’s all the Giants’ offense has become: a hope and a prayer. There is no rhythm to the Giants’ offense at all, and as Tom Coughlin admitted to after the game, play-calling has become like “throwing a dart at a board” because of it. And just when the Giants seem to be getting some momentum, an untimely penalty, dropped pass, or just coming up short of the first-down marker derails a drive. The Giants are getting no breaks. But good teams make their own breaks.

On the flip side, the defense did play much better this week. Coming into this game, the Chiefs had not turned the football over. The Giants were able to pick off QB Alex Smith twice and recover a fumble. For three quarters, the defense only gave up one significant drive, but it was a big one: a 98-yarder that resulted in a touchdown. Two things hurt the Giants defensively in this game. One, they often did a great job on first and second down, but then could not get any pass rush on third down. And two, Alex Smith hurt the defense with his feet (seven rushes for 37 yards, including two key runs on the 98-yard drive). Despite that, the defense kept the Giants in the game for three quarters until they broke in the fourth. Eight Chiefs drives ended in punts or turnovers. It’s the only reason why the number of offensive plays for each team was relatively equal (70 to 61).

Special Teams: Special teams cost the Giants dearly in this game. Not only in terms of on-the-field mistakes that led to points for the Chiefs and took points off the board for the Giants, but in terms of overall confidence and momentum. Chief examples:

  • The Chiefs were forced to punt on their first drive. Rueben Randle returns the punt 43 yards to near midfield. Instead an illegal block by DE Justin Trattou puts the Giants’ struggling offense in a very uncomfortable position from their own 8-yard line with the crowd going nuts. The penalty wiped out early psychological momentum.
  • In the second quarter, the Chiefs nail a 51-yard field goal to take a 10-7 lead. QB Eli Manning leads the offense on their second-best drive of the game (54 yards), but PK Josh Brown misses the 44-yard field goal at the end of the half. Again, momentum and any emerging confidence are erased.
  • A combination of excellent blocking and a great move by David Wilson set up what might have been a 105 yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the third quarter, but for some reason, Wilson cut back inside.
  • Both offenses are struggling mightily in the third quarter. It’s a still a three-point game with less than two minutes to play before the fourth quarter. Steve Weatherford, who seems to have lost all of his directional skill, punts straight down the middle of the field to Dexter McCluster who jukes and jives for 89 yards and the back-breaking touchdown. Bad punt by Weatherford, possibly two illegal blocks by the Chiefs, but also two missed tackles by Keith Rivers and Allen Bradford.
  • The Chiefs salt the game away in the fourth quarter with a marathon, 14-play, nine-minute drive that results in a touchdown. On the possession, the Chiefs are stopped at the NYG 35 and successfully hit a 53-yard goal, giving Kansas City a 13 point lead. However, an illegal formation penalty on the Giants gives the Chiefs a first down and they go on to make it a 17 point game with just under six minutes to play. Any chance of a comeback is gone.

The only positive that came out of this game on specials was Damontre Moore. He partially blocked a punt and was very active on the coverage teams.

Giants on Offense: Fourteen offensive possessions. One touchdown, one missed field goal, one turnover on downs, one interception, two fumbles, and eight punts. The longest “drive” was 74 yards but 69 of those yards came on one play. The next best drive was the 10-play, 54 yard possession that resulted in Brown’s missed field goal. The Giants didn’t gain more than 25 yards on any other single possession until their last drive of the game (43 yards). The Giants had six first downs in the first half (three coming on the missed field goal drive) and no first downs on their first five possessions of the second half. Almost ¼ of the Giants’ offense for the entire game came on one play.

The passing attack was too high risk. There were some manageable down-and-distance situations in this game, but too many passes were low-percentage deep shots down the field. That didn’t make sense for a team struggling to convert on third down as well as with a shaky blocking front (line, tight ends, backs).

Quarterback: I hold Eli Manning to a higher standard. He’s not playing as well as he can. Though it may be understandable given the state of his pass protection (including backs and tight ends), he’s obviously not comfortable in the pocket. Manning’s feel for the pass rush seems off. He’s been behind mediocre pass protection before and simply had a knack of getting rid of the ball quickly, even off his back foot. Now, at times, he seems to be rushing throws when he doesn’t need to, and at other times holding onto the ball too long. On the sack-fumble, he’s just got to get down there and take the sack without risking the turnover. He should have felt that defender.

Eli screwed up at the end of the first half after completing the 4th-and-2 pass to Victor Cruz to the Chiefs’ 28-yard line. Instead of calling a timeout, Manning (and Coughlin) allowed 10 seconds to run off the clock and then hurried a play that only picked up 2 yards. By doing so, Eli lost an opportunity to run perhaps two more plays before the field goal that was missed.

Manning finished the game 18-of-37 for 217 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Who was to blame on the pick? Either a bad read by Eli or Rueben Randle.

Wide Receivers: Victor Cruz (10 catches for 164 yards and 1 touchdown) is playing well (though it’s time to ditch the salsa). But Hakeem Nicks (3 catches for 33 yards) and Rueben Randle (1 catch for 7 yards) are not. Eli threw in Nicks direction nine times and Randle four times. That’s 13 attempts with only four completions for 40 yards. Not good enough. Nicks dropped a deep pass that would have been erased due to a holding penalty, but it was still a bad drop. Perhaps it is that injured finger he suffered earlier in the season, but Nicks tried to catch a few attempts with one hand, and that appeared to cost him on another chance where I thought he should have come down with the ball.

Running Backs: Though not great, the Giants actually ran the ball decently, as the backs gained 86 yards on 19 carries (4.5 yards per carry). David Wilson (13 carries for 55 yards, 4.2 yards per carry) ran well. He needs to receive more touches. Da’Rel Scott gained 26 yards on five carries, but dropped a ball on a well set up screen pass and inexcusably fumbled as Eli handed him the football. He was subsequently waived. Brandon Jacobs had one carry for five yards.

Tight Ends: The Giants are carrying four tight ends on their 53-man roster but getting very little production in return. Bear Pascoe is no threat as a receiver and his blocking is often subpar, as it was against the Chiefs. Brandon Myers seems like a journeyman H-Back who can’t block and catches passes only when ignored by the defense. Larry Donnell has tools, but is still a work in progress. And Adrien Robinson’s is having a wasted season with a preseason foot injury that still hasn’t healed.

The tight ends were thrown to twice in the game. Net result was zero catches for zero yards. Worse, their blocking wasn’t good. Pascoe and Myers often get stood up and even driven back. They don’t create movement. Worse, sometimes they don’t make contact. On New York’s next possession after their only touchdown, Pascoe ran right by a linebacker who nailed David Wilson behind the line. The linebacker was the number one threat to disrupting the play and Pascoe should have taken him out. Then when DE Tamba Hali got near Eli on all-out blitz, Pascoe whiffed on making any contact on Hali, leading directly to the sack-fumble. Earlier in the game, Donnell gave up an immediate pass pressure too. The moral of this story is to not always blame the offensive line for blocking issues. (Though that said, hey Giants, next time don’t design a play where Myers has to block a player the quality of Hali one-on-one, which occurred on a play-action pass in the second half).

Offensive Line: From left to right, the Giants started Will Beatty, Kevin Boothe, Jim Cordle, James Brewer, and Justin Pugh. Cordle, Brewer, and Pugh hardly have any starting experience and this lineup had not played together as a unit all season. With that lack of chemistry and cohesion, facing the NFL’s leading sack-masters, I thought the line played fairly well. Giants’ running backs averaged 4.5 yards per carry – though that number was a bit inflated by some draw plays on 3rd-and-long. The Giants are running better between the tackles than outside of the tackles, and the low point in the rushing game was the failed 3rd-and-1 toss in the third quarter.

The Chiefs threw the kitchen sink at the line with a variety of blitzes and stunts and Kansas City did manage to accrue three sacks and six QB hits. Cordle was probably the weak link as he was flagged with a holding call, had a bad miscommunication with Boothe on a sack, and badly missed DT Dontari Poe on another pass rush. Still, he played better than expected. James Brewer played a pretty sound game at right guard as did Justin Pugh at right tackle. Will Beatty did a decent job for most of the game against a very good opponent, but had a couple of second-half mistakes including a holding penalty on a 16-yard completion to Nicks, and he gave up a sack to DE Tamba Hali with less than two minutes to play.

Giants on Defense: Except for one drive, the Giants did a great job against the Chiefs until the fourth quarter. Take away the 11-play, 98-yard drive that included seven first downs, and the Chiefs only picked up seven first downs and three points in their other nine drives in quarters one, two, and three. After the punt return for a touchdown, the Giants defense finally broke in the fourth quarter (aided by an illegal formation penalty on special teams).

One complaint with the defense is a long-standing one. The Giants are a terrible blitzing team. I don’t know if it is talent or schematic or a combination of both, but when the Giants blitz, they never get there. It doesn’t matter if they bring defensive backs or linebackers. It doesn’t work.

Defensive Line: Strong run defense and weak pass rush. RB Jamaal Charles was held to 14 yards rushing on seven carries in the first half. The only other rusher was QB Alex Smith. In the third quarter, the Chiefs only gained three first downs total on four possessions and Charles was held to seven yards on four carries. That means 44 of his 65 rushing yards came in the fourth quarter when the defense began to wear down. The Giants’ defensive tackles were very good against the run.

The problem up front was the pass rush. No sacks and only two official quarterback hits (one by Cullen Jenkins and one by Shaun Rogers). The Giants are simply getting almost no pass rush from Jason Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Justin Tuck. I spotted one pressure from Kiwi and one hit from JPP. Pierre-Paul is playing patty cake with opposing linemen and is easily single-blocked. Tuck is hustling and playing hard, and he played the run well, but the his pass rush game seems to have vanished. I expect more from Kiwanuka, but he appears to be just another overpaid guy out there.

Linebackers: I thought this was the best I’ve seen from Spencer Paysinger (7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery) and Mark Herzlich (8 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 pass defense) to date. Each played downhill very well, coming up aggressively against the run. It was more of a mixed bag in pass coverage such as when Herzlich gave up a 25-yard pass against the reserve tight end on 1st-and-25 in the fourth quarter. Paysinger was close to TE Sean McGrath but gave up a 20-yard reception; later, he did a nice job in coverage down the field on Jamaal Charles. Keith Rivers and Jacquian Williams barely saw the field.

Defensive Backs: The Chiefs were not able to do much damage with the outside receivers until Dwayne Bowe’s late 34-yard touchdown. Most of Alex Smith’s passing yardage came on short- to intermediate routes to the reserve tight ends (7 catches for 91 yards), RB Jamaal Charles ( 5 catches for 62 yards), and slot receiver Dexter McCluster (5 catches for 48 yards).

Prince Amukamara played a great game, shutting out his opponent and doing a fantastic job of jumping an inside route to pick off an Alex Smith pass. He also knocked away a pass on a similar play and that was almost intercepted too. That’s as good as it gets in coverage. Aaron Ross, filling in for the oft-injured Corey Webster, was OK. He gave up a few plays on the 98-yard drive including a 16-yard pass interference penalty, a 12-yarder to the tight end, and played too soft for an easy catch when the Giants brought the blitz. Ross later left the game with a back injury. Because the oft-injured Jayron Hosley (hamstring) was unavailable, the Giants had to rely on Trumaine McBride and he performed pretty darn well. Terrell Thomas missed a tackle on RB Jamaal Charles and also gave up a 34-yard touchdown to Bowe late in the game.

I thought the safety play was a little more suspect. Antrel Rolle did come up with an interception on a deflected pass, but he had some issues in coverage. Rolle badly whiffed on an open-field tackle attempt on Jamaal Charles’ 31-yard catch-and-run that helped set up KC’s first touchdown, which came when Rolle was beaten by TE Sean McGrath on 3rd-and-goal. And it was the 23-yarder to McGrath against Rolle that set up the 51-yard field goal.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Kansas City Chiefs, September 29, 2013)
Sep 272013
 
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Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

Do you ever feel already buried deep six feet under?
Scream but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there’s still a chance for you
‘Cause there’s a spark in you?

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

‘Cause, baby, you’re a firework
Come on, show ‘em what you’re worth
Make ‘em go “Oh, oh, oh”
As you shoot across the sky-y-y

Baby, you’re a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make ‘em go “Oh, oh, oh”
You’re gonna leave ‘em all in awe, awe, awe

-          Katy Perry, Firework

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Kansas City Chiefs, September 29, 2013:  There are a dozen ways I thought about taking this game preview since there are a lot of things I want to get off my chest, but most of those thoughts will wait for another day.

For now, let’s not address the big picture and the future – the personnel, personnel department, and coaching staff.

It’s still September. The leaves haven’t fallen from the trees yet. There is a lot of football left to played. There is still a chance if the Giants will only ignite

Giants on Offense: It’s time to ignite that light and shoot across the sky. It’s time for Kevin Gilbride to go back to his run-and-shoot days in Houston. Joey in VA talked about it in his game review. Shaun O’Hara alluded to it in his interview with The New York Post.  It’s time to force the defense to react to what you are doing rather than react to what the defense is doing. It’s also time to for the Giants to get their best 11 players on the field.

Eli Manning and Kevin Gilbride, New York Giants (September 8, 2013)

Eli Manning and Kevin Gilbride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

At this point, I don’t play it safe. I am aggressive and I attack. Take the initiative. Go four wide with Nicks, Cruz, Randle, and Murphy. Spread the Kansas City Chiefs out and go no-huddle or hurry-up. Consider letting Eli Manning call the plays. Don’t let the Chiefs collect themselves. Attack!

Is it risky? No doubt. The offensive line will likely be minus Chris Snee and David Baas and therefore green as grass. Even if there is talent in the line (which is questionable), there is little experience and no cohesion. That’s the main reason why I would eschew the run at this point. The line simply hasn’t played together enough to maintain any sort of consistent ground attack. Losing Henry Hynoski at this point may be addition by subtraction. Because he missed so much offseason work, Hynoski was a shadow of his former self. Bear Pascoe is not a threat as a receiver and just a so-so blocker. Having those two guys on the field was almost the equivalent of playing with nine starters as the defense could virtually ignore them. Brandon Myers can’t set the edge in the running game. You can use him as a receiver out of the slot, but I would use Murphy there instead.

The Giants’ are a finesse offense. There is no use trying to make them a physical team right now because they can’t be. They don’t have the horses to be physical. But they can be a damn good finesse team. The Giants can own the night and terrorize the enemy secondary. Attack! This strategy should invigorate the offensive team. It’s fun and will at least make things more interesting.

The huge weakness in this strategy? The bad offensive line has to give Eli at least a couple of seconds. And he is going to take a lot of hits. But you can be aggressive with a quick, short passing game too. Three-step drop or shotgun. Get rid of the ball quickly. Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Bob Sutton comes from the Jets and runs multiple defensive looks. The Chiefs have an NFL-high 15 sacks in three games. For a veteran offensive line, this is a tough scheme. No matter what, the young pups up front will be confused and over-matched. But if the Giants go max-protect, I think they play right into Sutton’s hands. It will take dangerous chess pieces off of the Giants’ chessboard and I’m not sure the Giants will be any less confused or overmatched. Make Sutton react to what the Giants are doing. You want to blitz your defensive backs Bob? Live by the blitz, die by the blitz. The added potential benefit, in the running game, is that by spreading the Chiefs out, the dangerous-in-space David Wilson could have more room to operate.

Play to your strengths New York.  Your strengths offensively are Eli Manning and the wide receiving corps. Attack!

Giants on Defense: The Kansas City offense is not scary. Their biggest strengths are RB Jamaal Charles and the fact that they haven’t turned the football over yet this season. Regarding the latter, that pace is obviously unsustainable and there is no better time than the present for the Giants to finally start winning the turnover battle. Stop Charles and get after the football.

The key with Charles is not only stopping him on running plays, but also focusing on him in coverage in the passing game. He’s their leading receiver. Once again, the Giants’ linebackers will be on the hot seat. Andy Reid will target the Giants’ linebackers in coverage.

A largely unimpressive passer, QB Alex Smith is surprisingly the Chiefs’ second-leading rusher. But you can get to Smith on the pass rush as he will hold onto the football. Wide receivers Dwayne Bowie and Donnie Avery are the main targets outside.

More than anything, the Giants need to bring an enthusiastic, nasty, and physical attitude to the game, “dog” as Antrel Rolle loves to call it. Don’t talk about it, do it. Football is still a violent contact sport. Hit and punish the other team. Get excited. F*ck up your opponent.

Giants on Special Teams: The Giants need a little of that headhunter mentality on special teams too. Let’s go. Make a play. Win the game with forced turnover or big return. Have fun out there.

Sep 252013
 
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Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (September 22, 2013)

A Dejected Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Carolina Panthers 38 – New York Giants 0

by Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

Prologue: If you want an accurate, X’s and O’s analysis of what happened in Charlotte last Sunday go grab a newspaper, an iPad, a Galaxy, or cozy up to some doofus who loves sitting at Starbucks for hours doing nothing but trying to look hip and jump on NFL.com when he abandons his or her laptop to feign interest in the scone selection. You will find no in-depth play-combing search for truth or fundamental errors, you will find here what the Giants gave us, not much to hold on to and plenty to forget. This week’s review will be surly, short, full of bad wisecracks and just plain annoying, think of it as the Sean Avery of game reviews. This week, the Giants should have risen to the challenge of an 0-2 start filled with errors but tinged with promise if those mistakes were eliminated. Unfortunately the 0-3 banes of our existences indeed tossed us down a pit, leaving us wondering what will break first…their spirits, or their bodies.

Game Review: U G L Y you ain’t got no alibi, you’re ugly, hey hey you’re ugly. No BBI faithful, Goldie Hawn isn’t walking through that door and convincing Bubba Gump to play QB while Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson snap each other with towels after another improbable Wildcat win. If only. Ugly simply captures this team’s “performance” last Sunday in Charlotte in a way few other Webster’s entries can.

Ug-ly adjective \ˈə-glē\

1:  frightful, dire, offensive or unpleasant to any sense

2:  a:  likely to cause inconvenience or discomfort <the ugly truth>

b:  surly, quarrelsome <an ugly disposition>

— ug·li·ly  adverb

I will uglily attempt to recap this in a fashion not so offensive or unpleasant to any sense. 38-0. Treinta y Ocho a Cero. Holy sh*t to WTF? It doesn’t matter how you phrase the final score, but that frightful display has the Giants season in dire straits, and now we are all surly and quarrelsome, just waiting for the next shoe to drop. I shan’t waste your time with the bludgeon by bludgeon description of this 3 hour long slap to the face when it can be summed up by glancing really anywhere at the boxscore. Offensive yardage? Panthers 402 Giants 150. First downs? Panthers again, 27 to 10. Sacks? Panthers 7 Giants 1.

At the risk of sounding like an armchair fool because the men I am criticizing have Super Bowl rings and I have a doorbell that barely rings, I am going to weigh in here with what honestly looks to be the issue. The offensive players don’t trust what’s being called and don’t trust the game plan being given to them. Conjecture? Yes. Opinion? Definitely. Do I believe it? 100%. After rushing for a total of 73 yards in two losses, how do the Giants respond? By lining up with two TEs, one of whom can’t block, and a FB who has been brutally bad thus far, and they try slamming it down the Panthers throats.

Kevin Gilbride brings out Bear Pascoe and Henry Hynoski, two players NO ONE has to account for downfield; two players who the Panthers decided to go man against and bring the heat on Eli Manning to the tune of a six-sack first half and seven for the game. This is a QB who went down 20 times last year, already exceeding 1/3 of that in one game! This maddening desire to achieve “Balance” on offense isn’t possible with this group UNTIL you have a lead and can run to lean on the defense. That’s where your balance occurs, NOT by forcing two of your worst offensive players on to the field against a speedy LB corps that easily overmatched Pascoe and Hynoski.

I nearly blew an eye socket yelling at Jason Pierre-Paul to stop reading the dive fake and jumping inside to cover the A gap on three plays in a row that he was just run right past by a Panther player. I have said since the pre-season, our DEs jump inside too quickly, don’t read the QB and we get absolutely gashed on outside runs. Snowshoe Moreno did it twice to break our backs last week and it happened against Cam Newton and DeAngelo Williams to the tune of over 200 yards rushing given up. It was a gutless performance from start to finish.

GET YOUR BEST 11 ON THE FIELD ON OFFENSE!!!! Give Eli the keys to the car, sit down Pascoe and keep Myers in the slot as a big WR option and let’s see who can outscore us. Balance? You want to force balance and David Wilson down our throats while the best players we have block for him and act as very expensive decoys? Have at it folks, and welcome to a top 5 pick if someone doesn’t make that change soon. /rant.

Quarterbacks: It all starts and ends here with QB Eli Manning. As Eli goes, so do the Giants and he went to the ground far too often. Unable to do much, Eli finished 12/23 for 119 yards and 1 interception, and was dumped seven times by Panther pass rushers. (Anyone else hear Art Rooney after about the 3rd or 4th sack?…..niiine times…niiine times). Eli’s best play of the day was a 14 yard run for 10% of the Giants first downs on the day. Eli was harassed all day long, never able to get into a rhythm and not able to rally his troops this time as he was simply running for his life.

Running Backs: RB David Wilson’s first two carries would portend bad things to come, as the Giants tried two poorly thought out plays in a row. First was a two-TE, FB-lead over left tackle that ripped up 2 whole yards. On the next play, the old switcheroo, three WRs and a run up the gut that was snuffed out by the Panthers best player, LB Luke Kuechly. This maddening obsession with testing the defenses best players early on has been nothing short of comic disaster through three games. Wilson finished with 39 yards on 11 carries and again showed plenty of fight when fighting for extra yards but don’t expect much until the FB and extra TE come off the field. Wilson did manage a 17 yard TD run early in the 2nd quarter that was negated by an iffy holding call on LT Will Beatty, just about a perfect nugget of how the day went. An early swing pass to FB Henry Hynoski was the perfect example of what is wrong with this offense right now, you’re reaching for things the opponent may not expect instead of forcing them to stop your best players. Just for funsies, RB Brandon Jacobs declined to block his gap on the Giants first series, opting for an outlet route as Eli ate turf for one of seven times on the day. I think HB Da’Rel Scott tried to block DE Greg Hardy on a 2nd quarter sack, but he may have been looking for a contact lens somewhere near Hardy’s feet.

Wide Receivers: Against a team that lost 3-of-4 starters in the secondary, you may expect a field day. Instead of leaning on our best offensive trio, we go heavy, max-protect and try to hit the long ball against a Cover 2 defense designed to take away just that. With three DBs who are new starters, you have to expect the deep patrol will be fortified. Put the ball in the hands of your best players: Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Rueben Randle. Force the depleted secondary to reach down the bench for more DBs to trot out a nickel or dime defense and you’re talking about using the very bottom of the Panther roster to defend your best weapons. Randle, Cruz, and Nicks (bagel for the game) hauled in five catches for 65 yards TOTAL. The trio each had 100 yard receiving games in the opener, which certainly has me convinced that we need to search for “balance” and force a running game that isn’t there. On the plus side, Jerrel Jernigan made a catch to keep on his Sinorice Moss like pace for fewest catches in a career that never was.

Tight Ends: TE Brandon Myers opened the game as the lead blocker on an off-tackle run, after finally shaking off some passing game rust last week and looking like a decent mid-range target. Makes sense to have a tentative blocker start the game out…blocking. Once again, kudos to our offensive staff for completely fooling the Panthers by using yet another player in a role he’s not suited for. NO WAY they saw that coming! TE Bear Pascoe is technically a “move” TE, the same way a clam effortlessly moves along the ocean the floor. Maybe the elder Gilbride read the Tortoise and the Hare to Kevin Jr. the night before the game, and a crazy idea formed in their heads for how to attack the Panthers. It’s really the only explanation that makes ANY sense to me.

Offensive Line: Last week’s 23 yards on the ground look great after the 7 sacks coughed up this week. Just flat out awful all day long by everyone. Most alarmingly, the play of Chris Snee indicated another injury, which, if IR is in his future, would likely be the last game we see #76 play for the Giants. LT Will Beatty’s regression since pre-season has been head-shakingly bad. Beatty was run past on the Giants first possession by the solid but hardly unstoppable DE Greg Hardy, who snuffed out any chance Eli had to convert a manageable 3rd and 5. By the second drive of the Giants day, more of the same: long, slow developing pass plays, zero pass protection and you could almost hear the wheels coming off. Beatty’s pass protection was atrocious, but wait a minute folks, that’s not all. Not only did he get his QB pancaked but Beatty also, in this exclusive offer to the Panthers, held on a David Wilson run that could have knotted the game at 7 early in the 2nd quarter. That’s two, two two big mistakes for one low low price!

Defensive Line: DE Jason Pierre Paul played his worst game as a professional, consistently jumping inside on dive fakes, only to see plays race by his outside shoulder. The only highlight was when JPP clearly heard me yelling me at the TV to attack the mesh point (The QB) when Cam Newton looked to be running the read option. Every other time, he is either being coached incorrectly or simply has head up his ass and doesn’t care to fix it. How’s that for thought provoking analysis?

Early on, the DL was playing fast and playing physically, at least on the first series when DE Mathias Kiwanuka notched an early sack and dropped Cam Newton for a 15-yard loss. The inability to defend the edge showed up on the Panthers second drive, with JPP again jumping the A gap and completely abandoning his edge responsibilities, which is quite frankly the Achilles heel of our run defense going back about a full season and it shows zero signs of being addressed. Teams are running right to JPPs side, knowing he’s going to guess wrong and jump too quickly and leave a huge lane for opposing runners to exploit.

Linebackers: Technically we have them, but when your first four in tackles are a DT, SS, DE and CB, your LBs are not showing up. None of the starting trio made any noise or any impact plays, but then again no one on the roster did either this week.

Defensive Backs: As bad as CB Aaron Ross has been, he redeemed himself a bit with an early interception, jumping and out route to WR Brandon Lafell’s inside shoulder and giving the Giants a first down at the Panther 17. S Ryan Mundy had one of the few bright spots for the team with a picture perfect hit that broke up a Newton pass midway through the 2nd quarter.

Special Teams: Down 7-0, the Giants special teams capitalized on a Giant-like mistake when the Panthers coughed up the ball off the back of backup TE Richie Brockel (that’s a lot of prepositions). Even K Josh Brown got in on the shankfest, badly missing a 38-yarder with the game still technically within reach.

Cram it in your cramhole award: JPP was a popular early choice after being suckered inside on three consecutive runs to his side on the Panthers first scoring drive, but it’s got to go the entire team. You all stunk, stunk for four quarters on offense, defense, special teams, and coaching. The Giants are 0-3 and historically bad so far, looking more like an expansion team than one focused on a Super Bowl in their own backyard.

TWIP Note – Our first TWIP (This week in preview) note is to promise a better review if the Giants decide to shell out some effort against the 3-0 Chiefs in Kansas City. My apologies for the rambling and overly jokey nature, but I simply tuned out after it was 31-0 and re-watching was next to impossible.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Carolina Panthers, September 22, 2013)
Sep 202013
 
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Justin Tuck, New York Giants (September 20, 2012)

Justin Tuck – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Carolina Panthers, September 22, 2013: First off all, hopefully stating the obvious, the sky is not falling. Yet. The New York Giants are 0-2, but the Dallas Cowboys are 1-1, Washington Redskins 0-2, and Philadelphia Eagles 1-2. There are 14 regular-season games left to play. The Giants will have to make up that loss to the Cowboys in the Meadowlands, but despite being winless, they are very much in the chase for the division title.

The immediate goal is to get that first win this weekend against the Carolina Panthers. Get to 1-2. Then get that second win against the Kansas City Chiefs and get to 2-2. Do that and the Giants will have weathered the early storm.

The problem for the G-Men is that their margin for error right now is very slim. The Giants should beat the Panthers, but on any given Sunday in the NFL, a lesser opponent can beat anyone. And an 0-2 New York Giants team had better not be too blase and it had better take care of business or it will be time to panic.

The negative-nellie will point to the fact that the Giants are 3-7 in their last 10 regular-season games. Eli Manning has regressed. The running attack is dead last in the NFL. The Giants have committed 10 turnovers in two games. The offensive line is not playing well. The defense, while improved, is still not dictating to opponents and the Giants only have two sacks.

The fan wearing rose-colored glasses will point to the belief that the Giants still have the best coaching staff, quarterback, and wide receivers in the division. Believe it or not, the defense may also be the best in the division. Barring injury, the offensive line should improve as it gains cohesion and that in turn should help the running game improve as David Wilson is still lightning in a bottle. The secondary and defensive tackles are playing well and the productivity of the defensive ends should pick up.

This game is not so much about who the Giants are playing but about the Giants themselves. The team needs to stop shooting itself in the foot. Cut out the turnovers and the Giants will be OK. “First you have to stop beating yourself before you expect to go out and beat the opponent,” says Head Coach Tom Coughlin.

New York Giants on Offense: The Panthers have been giving up a lot of yards (over 800) but not a lot of points (36). The Giants are facing a defensive opponent that is far stronger in the front seven than it is in the secondary. The problems for Carolina in the defensive backfield have been exacerbated by injuries.

So the Giants are a far more dangerous passing team and Carolina struggles much more defending the pass. What would your game plan be?

The Panthers know this as well. They’ll probably play a lot two-safety high coverage and dare the Giants to beat them on the ground. That’s what I would do. So the big question is do the Giants take advantage of that and try to get untracked running the ball against a good front seven? Or do they attack through air against a defense expecting it?

I would do the latter. I don’t think the Panthers can cover the Giants’ receivers. But if the Giants go with that strategy, the Giants need to keep Eli upright. RT Justin Pugh will face a tough test against against LDE Charles Johnson. RDE Greg Hardy is no slouch rushing the passer either. LDT Dwan Edwards (bothered by a thigh injury) and first-rounder RDT Star Lotulelei man the inside.

The Giants do need to run the ball some too in order to not put too much pressure on the passing game. They also need Eli to rebound from two disappointing performances.

“There is a balance,” says Coughlin. “One of those balances is run it better so we’re not throwing it 49 times a game. Let’s get this thing back into a reasonable number and then let’s run the ball so the play action passes allow us to have more people open. And then we have to take care of the football and realize, again, that patience is a virtue. Sometimes you’re not going to get the big play, you’re going to be able to get five and seven and eight yards and so on and so forth. And that’s fine, that’s what we want to do. We want to stay within ourselves, take what the defense gives us.”

That seems to suggest Coughlin thinks Eli has been forcing things down the field too much.

The Panthers are solid up front. And they are very strong at linebacker, led by impressive MLB Luke Kuechly. Kuechly is the type of linebacker Giants’ fans currently crave. Jon Beason (bothered by a knee injury) and Thomas Davis round out an athletic group that can hit and tackle. It is tough to run against this group.

“It’s shocking to us when we don’t play well,” says OG Kevin Boothe. “You can’t have zero and negative yard rushing plays and expect your offensive coordinator to continue to call running plays. If we can get positive yards (Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride will have) more incentive to call it, will be more likely to call it. We’re anxious to get out there and give it another shot.”

The Panthers are really beat up and undermanned in the secondary, having to rely on some players who were recently signed off of the street. I’d attack early and often through the air, even if there is an early turnover. Take the wind of the 0-2 Panthers, and then come back later in the contest with the ground game.

New York Giants on Defense: Carolina is not scoring a lot of points, but they can run the football.

“Their offensive team is sixth in rushing,” says Coughlin. “They’re fourth in the league on third down. They’re doing an outstanding job of that. Over the past two seasons, they’ve had the most plays in the league over 20 yards, so they do have that capability as well. They do not beat themselves. They only had seven penalties, two fumbles and an interception in their first two games.”

The three keys on defense are (1) stop RB D’Angelo Williams, (2) keep QB Cam Newton from hurting you on the ground, and (3) don’t allow WR Steve Smith to beat you deep.

The other guy to keep an eye on is TE Greg Olsen, who Newton has been looking for early and often through the first two games.

The #1 goal is really to stop the run. The Panthers probably won’t be able to do much damage between the tackles on the Giants, but they surely noticed the two big outside running plays the Giants gave up last week.

“Our defense was playing so well against the run for so long and (then) giving up two really cheap touchdowns outside,” says Coughlin. “Where were we? Where was the leverage? Where was the contain? Where were the people knifing in?”

The ends have to play far tougher at the point-of-attack, the defensive backs need to come up in run support, and the linebackers need to avoid blocks and flow to the ball carrier. Both in terms of run defense and dealing with Olsen in coverage, this is a big game for the linebackers. If Mark Herzlich struggles, I wouldn’t be surprised to see newcomer Allen Bradford replace him soon.

The good news for the Giants is that the Panthers’ offensive line is a bit shaky with additional injury issues and Newton will hold onto the football. So the pass rush should finally emerge this weekend as long as the Giants get the Panthers into obvious passing situations. Given Newton’s mobility, however, the first responsibility is to contain him. LT Jordan Gross is probably the steadiest of the group.

Stop the run. Contain Newton. Don’t let Smith beat you deep.

(Late Note: CB Corey Webster is “doubtful” for the game with a hip flexor injury).

New York Giants on Special Teams: Ted Ginn is a dangerous punt and kickoff returner. Steve Weatherford needs to bounce back from probably his worst performance as a Giant.

Sep 192013
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 15, 2013)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Denver Broncos 41 – New York Giants 23

by Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Review: Zero point zero. If Dean Wormer walked into the Giants meetings this week, he’d likely hand out his lowest of GPA’s, but it wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor and it ain’t over now. The Giants were right there, right there, just as they were in Dallas a week ago…within range, a chance to compete and win a football game and they once again imploded when it mattered the most. After a Brandon Jacobs 1 yard plunge in the 3rd quarter that brought the Giants within a single point of their Super Bowl XXI opponent, the Denver Broncos scored 21 unanswered points and sent the Giants home with a lopsided 41-23 drubbing that put the G-men in an 0-2 hole. The pre-season sluggishness this team exhibited on offense has yet to be shaken off, not a very good sign for a team with so much veteran talent at key spots.

The Giants defense started with a thump and ended flat on its back after watching Eli Manning toss four back breaking interceptions. After a Justin Tuck thumping of RB Knowshon Moreno on the game’s opening play, Peyton Manning and his mates marched easily to the Giants six yard line, until the DL rose up again this time in the form of DT Cullen Jenkins, who knocked the ball free from rookie RB Montee Ball and gave Eli and company a chance to start with some momentum. Right on cue, Eli fed off the turnover and dropped a perfect 51 yard post into the outstretched arms of WR Victor Cruz and the Giants seemed to be shaking off the rust that plagued them a week ago in Big D.

After Jenkins’ strip, the defense found its bearings and had the elder Manning working for every completion, before the wheels came off in the 3rd quarter after more costly Giant turnovers. For most of the afternoon, the Giants were going toe to toe with a Bronco passing attack that had Baltimoreans drowning their sorrows in Natty Bo after a 7 touchdown thrashing on opening night. It wasn’t until a Knowshon Moreno 20 yard run over right end early in the 2nd quarter that the Broncos had their first end zone visit of the day. Red zone frustrations kept the Giants from doing much scoring, but they did manage three Josh Brown field goals in the first half while limiting the Broncos to 10 points and an all too familiar 10-9 halftime score.

After a first half in which each defense dared the other to run, John Fox and the Broncos finally accepted. Nineteen of the Broncos 53 yard scoring drive came on the edges yet again as Giant DEs were victimized on back to back to runs to open the second half. With Giant DBs now inching up to support the run on the outside, Peyton Manning finally found a crack in the armor (I would have said chink if I worked for ESPN but I’m smrt!) (sic). Manning worked the edges of the defense, first running Moreno then passes to WR Eric Decker before Wes Welker was suddenly the forgotten man and was left alone for an easy TD to start the second half.

Eli answered yet again, taking the Giants 81 yards to the end zone in nine plays, capped off by the odd sight of Brandon Jacobs wearing #34 and plunging up the gut for six. Manning took advantage of a very handsy Bronco defense, that was flagged for two pass interference and one defensive holding penalty on the drive. With a slim 17-16 edge, Peyton and company got lucky on a Demarius Thomas fumble that was recovered by Moreno and ended up with a 17 yard gain after Prince Amukamara jarred the ball loose and the Giants had a shot at a turnover. Manning quickly set his team and snapped the ball, giving the Giants no chance to review the play. Seven plays 63 yards later, Moreno found the goal line again, racing around right end for a 25 yard TD and a 24-16 Denver lead that would not be threatened again.

The Giants coughed up the ball on a bad Manning pass that glanced off the foot of WR Rueben Randle, and 5 plays later, Manning hit TE Julius Thomas for an 11 yard TD and a 31-16 lead. With a chance to climb back in it, the Giants offense stalled and was forced to punt to the 5’5” Trindon Holliday, who did his best DeSean Jackson impression and blew right through the Giants coverage team on the way to a 38-16 lead that ended up turning a solidly played three quarters into a 4th quarter disaster and an ominous 0-2 start for the boys in blue.

Quarterbacks: After hitting everybody’s favorite dancer with a 51 yard strike to start the game, Eli Manning had another forgettable afternoon. Manning had a few solid throws in a row as the Giants opened the 2nd quarter but was victimized by Hakeem Nicks and his middle finger on a big 3rd and 6 as the Giants were starting to heat up through the air. Eli contributed to the teams red zone woes by over shooting WR Victor Cruz on a play action pass in the end zone, and #10 then fired over TE Brandon Myers’ finger tips and the Giants were forced to settle for 3 yet again. With just 43 seconds in the first half, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in begging the Giants to sit on the ball at their own 15 yard line and go in down by one. After badly overthrowing Myers in the slot, Eli played Dr. Jekyll to his Mr. Hyde, hitting Hakeem Nicks on another deep in (dig) route for 34 yards. Knowing the Broncos were playing a lot of bump and run and trying to knock the Giants off of their routes, Eli didn’t stop working the ball downfield and it paid off with a 21-yard penalty on the heels of Nicks big gain. Unfortunately Mr. Hyde returned on the very next play and Eli badly overshot Hakeem Nicks and was intercepted by another 3 named Bronco, costing the Giants a chance to take the halftime lead. Never one to get down though, Eli drove the Giants to within a point of the Broncos, orchestrating a solid drive at the outset of the third quarter, taking advantage of a very aggressive and penalty-prone Broncos defensive backfield. Down 24-16 though, the dagger may have been another odd miscue, as Mannings pass for Rueben Randle ricocheted off the WRs shoe into the hands of a Bronco defender. Eli wasn’t awful, but 4 interceptions, despite one being a late first half heave and one flying off of a shoe, is not going to get it done when your team simply cannot run the football or hold on to it. The daring that makes Eli so great when it counts is the same daring that makes him maddening when the game is not on the line. We know what we have here, it’s just a matter of those around him doing more so he can do a little less.

Running Backs: RB David Wilson’s first carry was a solid 5 yard effort on a counter to the left, which was followed up with a 5 yard power by old and new Giant Brandon Jacobs and it looked like the running game may be coming to life. Jacobs displayed solid burst on his initial tote, falling forward for a first down, but followed that up with a ball bouncing off of his hands in the flat for an ugly incompletion that reminded me of oh so many reviews of days past. Idiotic TD dances aside, Jacobs’ return was much of the same before he left, a lot of noise, not much production and the announcers marveling at how tall he looked in practice. Give the big fella a pass this week, his OL did him no favors and he’s been out of the game for about for a year. Before this season ends, I promise you Jacobs does a few things to win a game. It may have been a 2-yard run, but David Wilson’s acrobatic Barry Sanders like hand spin late in the first half was the best 6 feet I’ve seen since the first time I saw a party sized sub. Da’Rel Scott chipped in a garbage time TD, but otherwise not much from the former Terp.

Wide Receivers: WR Victor Cruz opened the Giants afternoon with a 51 yard deep post that was perfectly thrown and ended the day with 8 grabs for 118 yards. Jerrel Jernigan may just never get it. On a 3rd and 13 inside the Giants 10, Manning set up outside and delivered a solid ball to Jernigan, who instead of going for the ball and fighting for what should be his, started to slide towards the ball which gave CB Antonio Rodgers whatever (I’m really sick of all of these stupid names, someone has to take a stand) the space he needed to reach over Jernigan and knock the ball away. Hakeem Nicks dropped a wide open dig route on a 3rd and 6 to kill a promising Giant drive, but a dislocated middle finger on the play gives him an out. Nicks did return and ended up with 83 yards on 4 catches but most of his damage was done underneath in the seam areas. Give the Broncos credit, they kept Nicks in check and in front of them for the most part, but that amount of attention should show anyone watching who teams fear the most, and it is Nicks. WR Rueben Randle appeared to have scored after Myers’ catch and fall, but as is the blue print, if you’re a Giant with the football just give it away somehow. Randle finished with only 3 grabs for 14 yards after posting 101 in the opening loss to Dallas.

Tight Ends: TE Brandon Myers seems to be waking up a bit. After a miserable pre-season, Myers seems to be getting his footing, with 6 grabs for 74 yards and a noticeable improvement in blocking effort. Perhaps footing is a bit generous as Myers took what could have been an easy TD and stumbled forward for a 27 yard gain instead of a TD. TE Larry Donnell finished with 31 yards and 3 grabs, but again, mostly after the game had been decided. Give Donnell credit for an athletic penalty on the Giants onside kick that ultimately failed, #84 looked great doing it, but as with most of the effort in this game, it came up a bit short.

Offensive Line: Twenty-Three Yards. Say that to yourself a few times, let it sink in. Twenty-three yards on the ground with a team that forces its opponent to match up with 3 and 4 WR sets and defend the deep ball to keep WRs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks from eviscerating their defenses. Look no further than the Giants first play on their second possession in which C David Baas seems to forget that it’s a football game and watches as DT Kevin Vickerson blows past him to drop David Wilson for a 3-yard loss. And in case you’re wondering yes, THAT Kevin Vickerson…you know the guy on his 3rd team in 9 years with a total of 62 games played out of a possible 144. (That would be a .430 batting average, not too shabby). You mean the Kevin Vickerson who once made 14 tackles in a single season for the Tennessee Titans, the same one who returned an interception 4 yards once in 2010? Yeah, try blocking that guy! RT Justin Pugh didn’t fare much better against the unstoppable Robert Ayers, who tossed Pugh aside and dropped Brandon Jacobs for another 3 yard loss on the first play of the Giants 3rd possession. In Pugh’s defense, it’s not fair to ask a rookie 1st rounder to take on another .420+ hitter. In Ayers first four seasons he has ripped off 24 starts in a 64 game stretch….pretty…pretty….pretty good. Against players in their 30s who routinely start 40% of their teams’ games, you can only sit back and hope your OL is alive by night’s end. Perhaps more impressive than Ayers ability to start, was his White Goodman like celebration after dropping Brandon Jacobs like it was the Dodgeball Regional Semifinals. For good measure, Baas let Terrence Knighton throw him aside to make a stuff on David Wilson on the Giants’ first drive of the second half.

Overall, solid pass protection, abysmal run blocking against a cast of veritable super stars that the Broncos line up at DT.

Defensive Line: DL Justin Tuck started week two off by knifing in on the game’s first play from the DT spot and dropping K (no more stupid names just letters from now on) Moreno for a 3 yard loss. Tuck’s pass rush was mostly neutralized by the repeated bear hugs from Denver RT Orlando Franklin, but the vet still finished with 8 stops. I won’t blame Gene Steratore, mostly because I think he may have me whacked, but Franklin was using the Hillbilly Jim bear hug as his go to pass blocking move. On the Broncos first scoring drive, DE Mathias Kiwanuka had a bead on Manning, only to be suplexed out of the way by Franklin as Steratore’s crew stood by presumably oblivious to the Giants frustration and possibly ignoring a foreign object. It must be noted though, that the DL seems content to whine about being held instead of trying to create separation with some hand punch and keeping the OL from getting so far inside. Tuck was absolutely the culprit though on K Moreno’s first TD as he allowed, once again, the OL to get inside his pads and keep him from extending his arms down the line of scrimmage to push the play wide enough for help to arrive. This is fundamentally bad football on that play, Tuck simply has to be more aware of where he is and what his job is as the play side DE and he looked quite frankly bored on the play as Moreno scampered by. Franklin was later seen spooning Tuck on a pass rush as Manning misfired on a 3rd down late in the 2nd half.

Rough game for DE Mathias Kiwanuka who was brushed aside all too easily on Moreno’s 2nd TD of the day and was victimized repeatedly on edge runs right at him. Reportedly Jason Pierre-Paul played, but I saw no signs of it. Give credit again to Giant big men, DT Shaun Rogers, Linval Joseph and Mike Patterson. The big three made it tough sledding inside for the Broncos, forcing the Broncos to go wide if they had any designs on ground yardage. Rogers had a 3 play stint in the 3rd quarter with two QB hurries, two hits and one bear paw swatting of Moreno who fell forward after being pawed by the Sumo sized Rogers. Sumo..that gives me an idea…maybe I’ll bring that up next week but it involves hockey and guaranteed shutouts.

Linebackers: LBs Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams started as the only two backers against the Broncos pass happy attack and in those roles both played well. Paysinger and Williams combined for 14 stops and had decent coverage, keeping TE Julius Thomas in check for the most part with 47 yards and limiting Wes Welker’s damage over the middle to 39 yards on only 3 catches. Williams and Paysinger however both got completely swallowed on both of Moreno’s TD runs and once again, it looked like a glaring lack of effort on their part. Both play well in spurts but those edge runs, all afternoon, just had the Giants defenders looking like they were beaten before the play started, color me confused. Mark Herzlich managed to look like Bambi on a frozen pond as Holliday zoom zoom zoomed (damn you Mazda jingles) right past the former Eagle to pay dirt.

Defensive Backs: The Giant DBs have to get a lot of credit here, they came to play with another big challenge. Miscommunication is simply killing this secondary. On the game’s opening drive, Prince Amukamara seemed to be sinking in a Cover 2, ready to leave the deep half for S Ryan Mundy, who hesitated and jumped inside to follow TE Julius Thomas. The problem was, that WR Andre Caldwell AND Thomas were both open, allowing Caldwell to haul in a 36 yard gain down to the Giants 6 yard line on the game’s opening drive. Essentially Mundy covered no one, Amukamara covered no one and the Broncos were in business as the Giants failed to execute a simple coverage switch. Fortunately for the Giants, Prince was able to knock away a deep pass to WR Eric Decker in one on one coverage on an identical play, the difference is, the Giants blitzed and #20 expected no help, and didn’t need any.

Overall, despite the final score, a workman-like effort by Antrel Rolle, Ryan Mundy and Terrell Thomas, who totaled 19 stops and kept the Broncos trio in front of them for the most of the day.

Special Teams: Trindon Holliday is fast, Josh Brown kicks real good. Give LS Zak DeOssie credit, he must have been praying to…well nothing he’s an atheist, that he’d nab a shoelace on Holliday as the former LSU sprinter was racing to a back breaking TD. Outstanding effort by the Giant long snapper, despite the horrific result.

Cram it in your cramhole award: I mentioned to our fearless Editor Eric Kennedy how often I now have to look up names of the players while I am writing these diatribes. This week’s award was close, I almost gave it to Antonio Rodgers-Cromartie because for farts’ sake, enough with the hyphens and no more Cromarties! The winner though is the heretofore known as Snowshoe Moreno. I have renamed him Snowshoe because every time I typed his name, Microsoft Word squiggly red underlined it and suggested the following words instead: Know Shon, Knows On, Knowhow, Know-how or Snowshoe. I think you’ll agree with my choice.

(Boxscore – Denver Broncos at New York Giants, September 15, 2013)
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Linval Joseph, New York Giants (September 8, 2013)

Linval Joseph – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – Denver Broncos at New York Giants, September 15, 2013: Being 0-1 and playing a home game in Week 2 has a familiar feel to it for Giants’ fans. After all, that’s the way the last three seasons have started. But this time the Giants are not facing the lowly St. Louis Rams (2011) or Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012) in Week 2, but the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos who are coming off a 49-point explosion against the NFL Champions.

The Giants will be 0-2 if they don’t play extremely well on offense, defense, and special teams on Sunday. Given the apparent state of the NFC East, that would not be a catastrophic start, but it would reduce the Giants’ margin of error in the upcoming road games.

My gut tells me the Giants are better than they looked against the Cowboys and the Broncos are not as good as they looked against the Ravens. I expect a close game. Hopefully, the Giants will channel some of those ghosts of the past when the heavily-favored Denver Broncos were upset by the Giants in the Meadowlands in 1998 and 2005, the latter being one of Eli Manning’s early dramatic come-from-behind victories.

Giants on Offense: Brandon Jacobs returns. His presence will likely pump up the fans and his teammates. Given his familiarity with the Giants’ offensive system, unlike most players signed right off of the street, he may play right away. It will be interesting to see how he performs. When the Giants released him in March 2012, he was a declining player. Jacobs barely played last year and missed all of training camp and the preseason this year. Fans should remember a couple of things: (1) despite his size, Brandon has never really been a good short-yardage runner, and (2) due to his lack of initial quickness, he’s the kind of guy who needs a play to be well-blocked in order to get going. Once he picks up a head of steam, he’s dangerous, but the line, tight ends, and fullback need to give him the room to pick up that steam.

For obvious reasons, the focus of much of this past week has been on David Wilson. I am in no way, shape, or form excusing Wilson, but he’s not the only reason why the Giants lost last Sunday night. Wilson wasn’t “careless” with the ball on either of his fumbles. But Dallas made a concentrated effort to rip the ball out of his hands and now he’s a marked man. The only way you overcome that is by holding onto the football. Also, a lot of focus has been on Wilson not blocking DE George Selvie on the goal line. As Joey in VA pointed out in his game review, the bigger issue was Henry Hynoski not chipping on Selvie. If your play design is counting on a 205 pound halfback to block a 270 pound defensive end, then the play is likely to fail.

Where am I going with this? By far, David Wilson remains the best running back on this team. Fans need to get behind him and support him. He has the skillset to change the way a defense plays the Giants. No other back on this roster does. Hopefully the fans won’t turn against Wilson and recognize that we need him.

David Wilson’s issues also overshadowed the fact that Eli Manning, despite mostly playing a stellar game last week, threw three interceptions. Two came on screen passes.

“One was a play action screen and you hope that the defensive end goes one way, while he ended up coming underneath,” said Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride. “We have some inexperienced backs who are just learning how to play the game so they didn’t float out. Should have just thrown it into the ground. The other one, the back just turned in when he should have just stayed where he was. The first one might have gone to the house, but it is what it is. We threw two interceptions on two screens, which is maybe the first time in 25 years in the National Football League. It wasn’t very encouraging. Think of it, when you’re throwing a ball, that’s an integral and very complimentary part of what you’re trying to do. We have to get the screen game going.”

On the first play, the defensive end wasn’t blocked correctly and Wilson may not have been in the correct position, but Manning can’t throw that pass. His second interception simply looked like a bad throw. And on his last pick, the back was in the wrong spot, but Manning also put too much mustard on that throw. My point? The Giants need Eli to play at an “elite” level (there’s that damn word again) and in order to do that, he’s got to cut out the 2-3 brain farts. 450 yards and three touchdowns might not matter if you throw three interceptions.

Up front, Chris Snee needs to play better. David Baas (MCL) may return to the starting lineup at center this week and Kevin Boothe may return to his left guard position. Justin Pugh is developing. But Snee is not playing up to his contract. I also hope Baas isn’t rushing it. He’s another guy who hasn’t played well when hurt (which seems to be all of the time). When you take into account the constant line-up changes on the offensive line, combined with Hynoski’s injury and the subpar blocking at tight end, it’s no wonder the running game is struggling.

Which brings us to something that is going to haunt the Giants all season if they don’t get it fixed: short-yardage. Once again, the Giants couldn’t gain the single yard they needed last week (the play right after Ryan Mundy’s interception). I don’t care if the opposing defense is geared up to stop the run. At any level of football, you have to get one yard when you need it, even if the other team expects the play to be coming. These short-yardage struggles will end drives and lead to punts and field goals instead of touchdowns. You want to be a tough, physical football team and not a bunch of pussies? Then get a yard when you need it.

As for the Broncos, with LB Von Miller (suspension) out, they are a bit of a no-name defense, but use multiple fronts, are fast and quick, and hustle to the football. The four sacks the Broncos had last week are a little misleading as the Broncos had problems in the first half getting pressure on the quarterback. The bigger danger is the confusing fronts leading to pass protection breakdowns. If the Giants play smart up front, Eli should have time to throw the football. The Broncos have an impressive array of blitz packages (Perry Fewell could learn something here). The fact that Denver likes to blitz a lot, we may see Brandon Jacobs having more of an impact as a pass protector.

The Broncos do have a couple of big bodies inside at defensive tackle. Terrance Knighton (335 pounds) and Kevin Vickerson (328 pounds) can be difficult to move out. With Miller out, the best pass rusher now may be reserve DE/LB Shaun Phillips (ex-Chargers). Champ Bailey (foot) may not play, but the Denver has some talent in the secondary. From what I could tell from watching them last weekend, they run very well. Their best defender is probably MLB Wesley Woodyard.

Giants on Defense: Peyton Manning will always get a defense’s attention. But the fact that he’s coming off of one of his best games ever, and an NFL-record tying seven touchdown passes, you know what the focus will be.

The strength of Denver’s offense is obviously their passing game and the temptation must be there for Fewell to play pass first. He did that against Peyton Manning and the Colts in 2010 and his defense got clobbered as a poor rushing team ran up and down the field on New York. Fewell says he won’t do that again.

“There were some things we prepared for and that we did that I wouldn’t do again,” said Fewell. “I felt like, from a planning standpoint, that we planned properly but it was not the best plan we could have come up with. Without trying to reveal a lot of things I learned, I would just say that we’re doing it differently. We’re doing it much differently because there’s some things that when you go into a contest and you have a plan against a guy like that and you come out and make some notes and try to improve on those notes that you made so when you take that test again you got your cheat sheet and you hope you’re much better.”

I don’t know about you, but that didn’t fill me with a lot of confidence. Neither does the idea of Mark Herzlich trying to cover the short-to-intermediate passing threats. I would play this game with only two linebackers on the field, and the linebackers I would use are Keith Rivers and Jacquian Williams. Terrell Thomas would be my third “linebacker.” Yes, that makes you vulnerable to the run (just like 2010), but I think the more linebackers the Giants have on the field on Sunday, the worse it will get for them. To be frank, Jerry Reese did a horrible job at this position in the offseason and it’s going to cost New York all season.

Peyton is going to play those mind games with the defense, and to be honest, I wouldn’t get caught up in that chess match. No Giant defender is going to out-think Peyton. Just line up and play aggressive, physical, and fast. Think too much and that will take away from your game.

“You need poise, you need to make sure that you’re aligned properly, that the communication is good, that you’re ready to go,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “(Peyton is)  looking for a weakness, but if you’re lined up properly and ready, then there’s no apparent weakness. It’s going to give you at least a pre-snap opportunity to be in the right spot. If you’re running around like a crazy person and expending all this nervous energy, not poised, not lined up, wondering, ‘What’s the signal,’ then he has the advantage.”

Peyton’s go-to guy is slot-receiver Wes Welker, who fortunately, the Giants are very familiar with. He runs the same option routes that Cruz does that gives defenses trouble. He’s going to get his catches. You have to make sure they are not down the field and you come up and tackle him right away. WR Demaryius Thomas is a Pro Bowler with an excellent combination of size and speed. WR Eric Decker is solid and TE Julius Thomas had a huge game last week with over 100 yards receiving and two touchdowns. In short, Peyton has a tremendous array of talent to throw to. Hopefully, CB Prince Amukamara (concussion) will play as he would likely face Thomas. The big match-up issue will be Welker. Thomas usually plays the slot and will likely be the one covering Welker, but Thomas isn’t the quickest guy in the world and could have problems with Welker’s quickness.

To state the obvious, much will depend on the Giants’ defensive line. Denver’s offensive line is very good, led by Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady and Pro Bowl left guard Zane Beadles. Jason Pierre-Paul/Kiwanuka and Cullen Jenkins will be hard-pressed to make much noise against these two. The Giants need big games out of Justin Tuck and Linval Joseph. A few timely blitzes could help, but blitzing Peyton is risky business. Perhaps just as important as the pass rush, if the Giants do play more defensive backs, there will be a greater burden on the defensive line to stop the run more on its own. If the Giants can make the Broncos more one-dimensional while keeping more defensive backs on the field, then they have a greater shot at causing problems for Peyton.

Giants on Special Teams: Diminutive Trindon Holliday is exceptionally dangerous on both kickoff and punt returns.

“He’s very dangerous,” said Special Teams Coordinator Tom Quinn. “We’ll try to not let him touch the ball, which is easier said than done. We’ve got to be very disciplined in coverage. Every guy has got to do their job. You do have to attack him at some point. You can’t play on your heels. So it’s a huge, huge challenge for both our punt coverage and our kickoff coverage.”

If the Giants expect to give Brandon Jacobs some serious playing time, the Giants may want to consider allowing David Wilson to return kickoffs in this game.