Nov 142013
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Oakland Raiders at New York Giants (November 10, 2013)

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

New York Giants 24 – Oakland Raiders 20

by Joey in VA for

Game Review: If someone had told you that Cooper, not Peyton or Eli would spur the Giants to a win, you may have slowly backed away from the crazy man. In an ironic twist last Sunday at a blustery MetLife Stadium, it was Cooper (Taylor) playing the hero, Peyton (Hillis) playing the goat and little brother Eli just kind of getting in the way. Heading into week 10, the Giants were on a roll, two in a row, turnover free and slowly stabilizing. With a two game streak, newfound confidence and an antsy home crowd rocking early…the Giants fumbled the opening kickoff, and two plays later the visiting Raiders were up 7-0 on a Terrelle Pryor sneak. Again quickly down 7-0, your Giants took the field on offense with Eli and Peyton in tow, and the two played a game of “who can stink more” on the first possession. Eli missed a wide open Victor Cruz on first down, Hillis genuflected in lieu of a blitz pick up, and our favorite band “The 3 and Outs” were back.

Fortunately for Eli and the “Outs”, the Giants defense pulled on their big boy pants again and stuffed the Raiders’ first possession after 21 yards. Cooper (Taylor) did what Eli and Peyton could not do on the ensuing punt, he found the end zone when he scooped up a Damontre Moore punt block, and sprinted 21 yards to pay dirt, evening the score at 7. The defense again held serve on the next Raiders’ possession, but were back on the field five plays later thanks to a Peyton Hillis fumble on the now dreaded screen pass that gave the Raiduhs the spheroid back at the Giant 21-yard line. Unwilling to let the offense ruin the day, no matter how hard they tried, the Giants’ D rose up again, forcing the Raiders to settle for a 33-yard FG and a 10-7 lead.

After trading punts, the Giants’ offense finally got on track, marching 90 yards in 11 plays with Manning hitting WR Rueben Randle on a 5-yard TD pass and a 14-10 lead. After another hold by the defense, Eli pulled a Peyton and hit CB Tracy Porter in the chest with an INT that was returned for a TD and the Giants trailed 17-14. It was Porter you may recall who sealed a Super Bowl win over Peyton Manning’s Colts with an INT return for a TD. (I refuse to use term Pick Six, Beast Mode or Sick to describe anything football related, unless it makes me physically ill of course). The Raiders opened the second half with the ball and a 3-point lead and embarked on a 74-yard drive that put them at the Giants one-yard line after chewing up half of the 3rd quarter. With a first and goal at the one, the Giants’ defense faced a defining moment and stared their season in the face.

Inside the Game: Down 17-14, facing a Raider first and goal at the 1, the Giants defense may have saved their season. Lining up in an Oklahoma 5-2 (A 4-3 with an OLB lined up in a 2-point DE  stance on the weakside) with Rivers lined up as the elephant, or flex DE, the Giants gambled a bit by keeping safeties Antrel Rolle and Will Hill in with Rivers as the extra DL. Against power back Rashad Jennings, giving up the bulk seemed riskier than using an extra DL and run-stuffing safety Ryan Mundy but DC Perry Fewell once again forced the Raiders’ hand. By keeping Rolle on the strong side and Rivers as the weakside boundary defender, Fewell hedged his bet against Pryor getting to the edge and forced the Raiders to go inside. With Jon Beason manning the middle, Fewell gambled that he’d be able to defeat a lead block and Rivers would hold the edge, forcing Jennings to try his luck against JPP, Tuck, DTs Mike Patterson and Linval Joseph. Check and mate to Mr. Fewell, Beason blew up the A gap, Rivers got inside of LT Khalif Barnes and Tuck cleaned up as Patterson and Joseph got low to take out the Raider interior OL. Fewell’s alignment worked on 2nd and goal, with Rivers eyeing the mesh point (the spot where the QB and RB meet on any type of pass/run option) and forcing Pryor to throw into tight coverage against Antrel Rolle. That speed on the edge kept Pryor in check, and forced the Raiders to earn their $14 dollars…the hard way. LT Khalif Barnes jumped on 3rd and 1 and the Giants forced Pryor into an errant 3rd down throw as Jon Beason, Justin Tuck and Jacquian Williams played with outstanding discipline, not leaving their gaps and hemming Pryor in. Antrel Rolle was again in on the play, with tight coverage in the end zone, and the Raiders went from a potential 10-point lead to a much more manageable 20-14 bulge. Excellent strategy down there by Fewell to negate the Raiders’ best player, limit their options and turn the tide of the game.

Down 20-14, Eli again missed Cruz twice, forcing another three-and-out but never fear the defense is here. CB Terrell Thomas continued his game-changing play, intercepting Pryor and rumbling down to the 5 to set the G-Men up for a 1-yard TD plunge by Andre Brown. With a one-point lead, the Giants’ defense forced another three-and-out thanks to another Justin Tuck pressure and errant Pryor pass. After the defense’s goal-line stand, Eli dusted himself off and led the Giants on a 70-yard, 13-play drive that ate up 6:56 and pushed the margin to 24-20 on a 23-yarder by K Josh Brown. Manning hit Hakeem Nicks on a perfectly placed sideline route that got the offense out of a 2nd-and-14 hole, and spurred the offense on its final scoring drive. Up 24-20, the Giants’ defense held yet again (I am NOT getting tired of typing it, seeing it and saying it) and gave the offense the ball at the Raider 44, with a chance to end the game. But that’s not fun enough for Eli and the Outs, and their opening act, the Unspecial Teamers. Defensive heroics be damned, the offense went a pathetic three-and-out (including ANOTHER failed screen pass) and not to be outdone, the special teams gave up a punt block to give the Raiders one more shot to steal a win. Say it with me now….and the defense came up with another big stop, as Mathias Kiwanuka stripped Terrell Pryor, Cullen Jenkins belly flopped on it, and the day was saved despite the offense and special teams’ dogged determination to flub the game away.

Quarterbacks: Ugly stat line, ugly game. 12-of-22 for 140 yards, one TD and one INT. Not quite worth $14 million or whatever he’s being paid, but a win is a win during this head-scratching campaign. Eli Manning again struggled, misfiring on some easy throws that the vet usually hits. Manning badly, badly missed a wide open Peyton Hillis on a 3rd-and-9 and overthrew Cruz on the game’s first throw. In both cases, Manning did the same thing – he threw without getting his plant foot set, didn’t get his hips through the throw and sent both passes sailing. Eli’s 90-yard scoring drive, was in the words of our pal Bruce (BBI’s resident optimist), “vintage Manning.”  Manning mixed in play action, hitting all three of his top WRs for 10 plus yard gains and finding Randle on a perfectly placed 3rd-and-goal TD pass. Just as he was feeling good after a 25 yarder on 3rd-and-11, Eli threw a head-scratching pick to CB Tracy Porter who waltzed into the end zone, erasing the Giants’ 90-yard effort with just one errant toss. Eli threw a few darts when he had to, one to Nicks on the Giants’ final drive, the perfect fade to Randle for a TD, a 3rd-and-5 to Cruz and a 3rd-and-1 dump-off to Brown that kept a drive alive. Eli missed badly on a few too, notably a wide-open Cruz on a quick out from the Raiders’ 5 that would have been an easy six points. A few good throws, some very bad and inconsistent mechanics all day long. Good enough for a win though, and right now that’s all that matters.

Running Backs: RB Peyton Hillis, the steadying force of the past two weeks had a rough day. He gave up a safety blitz for a sack on the Giants third play of the day and quite honestly looked like he was checking for a logo on Usama Young’s shoe instead of blocking him. Hillis then coughed up a screen pass and RB Andre Brown took the reins for the day in his return from a broken fibula. Clearly rested, Brown racked up 115 yards and a TD on 30 carries. Brown ran with good power between the tackles, and breathed life into the Giants’ trademark play-action offense. Brown played well, but in reviewing, could have played better with a few quicker reads. But after the layoff, a damn good effort by Brown and another sign of good things to come for this offense that has to find its bearings to be relevant in the NFC East. FB John Conner was again a thumper, leading the way for Brown’s big day with crushing lead after crushing lead. This is the best lead fullback blocking this team has had since Mo Carthon’s reign of terror in the mid-80s. Conner’s blast of CB Charles Woodson gave Brown a wide open lane to dash into the end zone and give the Giants a 21-20 lead they would not relinquish.

Wide Receivers: Rueben Randle led the WRs with 50 yards on three grabs and a TD, including an impressive 25 yarder on a 3rd-and-11 that got the Giants out of the shadow of their own end zone. Hakeem Nicks chipped in with four catches and 49 yards and drawing a pass interference penalty that inched the ball closer on the Giants’ lead-taking drive in the fourth quarter. Nicks’ 25-yarder on the Giants final scoring drive was a tip-toe effort that got the Giants out of a 2nd-and-14 hole, outstanding effort and focus by Nicks with a safety bearing down on him. Victor Cruz was quiet with only 37 yards on three catches, the result of oodles of Cover 2 designed to hem in the Giants’ downfield passing game. The offense is taking fewer shots downfield, the WRs numbers are dipping, but it’s working for now. Before this season ends, the dangerous duo will have to make some game-changing plays if this team hopes to make any noise in the NFC.

Tight Ends: No catches, no yards, no problem. Brandon Myers, Bear Pascoe and Larry Donnell were used as extra FBs, downfield blockers when lined up in the slot and out wide, and decoys that gave Andre Brown just enough room on off-tackle runs to keep the chains moving. Pascoe had an outstanding edge-sealing block on Brown’s TD, and did his usual dirty work on the edge.

Offensive Line: Rough start for the rookie RT Justin Pugh, giving up an early sack on the Giants’ second possession, but Pugh steadied himself and helped pave the way for Andre Brown’s big day. LT Will Beatty gave up an early pressure as well, forcing a Manning underthrow, but like Pugh, he held his own the rest of the day. Despite three sacks, the OL played pretty well, paving the way for a big day on the ground but their blitz recognition was below average on all of the sacks, an unfortunate result of a unit that has not played long enough together. My hat goes off to Jim Cordle again, he’s not pancaking anyone, but he kept rhino-sized DT Pat Sims from getting in Eli’s face and helped lead the way to Andre Brown’s big day. Cordle is by far the player who has improved the most from his first game. He’s gone from liability to steady presence, and has been a pleasant surprise.

Defensive Line: DE Justin Tuck had an uneven day, firing off for several clean shots at Pryor and missing, but forcing enough hurried passes to make up for his maddening run defense. DE Jason Pierre-Paul notched his second sack of the year, but was injured early as he dove to grab Pryor and landed awkwardly on his shoulder. Stay tuned for that injury, because JPP was starting to heat up. And with Shaun Rogers now on IR, the DL is suddenly down two key elements. DT Cullen Jenkins finished with five stops and harassed Pryor inside all day long. Jenkins’ ability to force Pryor to move sooner than he wanted to was a big reason that Pryor struggled throwing all game. He simply had no time to get set thanks to the front seven. With RGIII on the menu twice, the Giants’ DEs had better learn to stop jumping the A gaps when the QB is a running threat. Fortunately for the G-Men, Terrelle Pryor was hobbled a bit. Nevertheless, both Tuck and JPP jumped inside repeatedly on dive fakes only to see Pryor sprint to where they were. It’s been going on for two years now, it’s on film, and it’s easily correctable but for some reason it remains a big, big concern when facing a QB who can get to the edge. Minus DT Shaun Rogers, the Giants gave up one long run inside, but for the most part, Mike Patterson, Linval Joseph and Johnathan Hankins held serve, holding the Raiders to 213 yards of total offense. Not to be forgotten, DE Mathias Kiwanuka attacked the mesh point on a 1st-and-10, dumping Pryor for a 2-yard loss.

Linebackers: Keith Rivers made a big impact, seeing his most action in weeks, responding with 8 tackles and a fourth-quarter sack. Rivers badly missed his gap assignment on the Raiders’ second drive, allowing Pryor to rumble by for a 9-yard gain and a first down, but followed with a great open-field stop on RB Rashad Jennings on the very next play. Rivers had good containment on Pryor on 3rd-and-1 early in the second quarter to force a Raider punt, and applied pressure off the edge to force Pryor into an intentional grounding that put the Raiders in a 2nd-and-30. Yes, I said thirty. Rivers just missed a sack on Pryor that would have ended the Raiders third- quarter scoring drive. But good hustle again from the former Trojan who provided good edge containment for the most part. LB Jacquian Williams had two stops, but one was a big open-field stop of Jennings that dropped the Raiders for a 3-yard loss. For good measure Williams made a perfect read on a fourth-quarter Pryor throw that was nearly an interception – a great read and jump on the ball. Jon Beason only had three stops, but did an excellent job inside taking on lead blocks to allow Rivers and Rolle to flow to the ball and combine for 20 stops.

Defensive Backs: CB Trumaine McBride has been an emergency fill-in at CB during Corey Webster’s injury struggles, and has played well enough to not be noticed – which is the idea for boxing referees and CBs in coverage. CB Prince Amukamara had one gaffe, giving up a long pass to WR Denarius Moore after Pryor was nearly sacked. S Antrel Rolle’s tackle of Rashad Jennings prior to the Giants’ goal-line stand was the biggest play of the day for the former Hurricane on a day filled with them. Rolle dragged Jennings down short of the end zone, and the Raiders had to settle for three, making one Giant TD all that was needed for a victory. Rolle dumped Terrell Pryor on 3rd-and-7 midway through the fourth quarter to snuff out another Raider drive. CB Terrell Thomas came up with a game-changing INT, taking a Pryor pass to the Raider 5-yard line and setting up the go ahead score. There is no player to be more proud of on this team than T2, his resurgence has been nothing short of storybook-ending good. S Will Hill gave up the punt block, sort of, but I’m not asking a 210 lb safety to be the personal protector on the punt team…ever. Bad move by Quinn putting the smallish Hill in there.

Special Teams: Aaaahh mannn..OH MAN!  WTH? Ho-boy. That’s a Jernigan fumble, a Moore block and Taylor TD, an inexplicable Rueben Randle punt fielded at the 2-yard line, and some wobbly Steve Weatherford punting. We’re down, we’re up, and we’re down, pretty much the story of the Giants’ special teams this season. Before I rip into that handsome devil Tom Quinn, let it be said that special teams play league wide is atrocious. I refuse to do any real statistical analysis (Google schmoogle), but in watching every Thursday, Sunday and Monday Night games, I have seen an alarming number of STs miscues league wide. If I had to blame anyone, I’d point to the new friendly CBA that severely limits practice time and is reducing the quality of play overall league-wide. DE Damontre Moore’s block was a thing of beauty and Cooper’s quick scoop-and-score gave Giant fans a glimpse of the size-and-speed specimens the two rookies are. Mark Herzlich made the cardinal sin on the punt gaffe, by not starting his progression from the inside out, allowing a huge hole for the Raiders to exploit on an almost disastrous play.

NFLW (NFL for Women): Congratulations to my niece, who recently got engaged, albeit to a Cowboys’ fan. But I will let it slide for now. We’ll call her Niece in VA (NinVA) from now on. NinVA and my wife, Mrs. Joey were NOT talking alternative uniform pants; they were discussing wedding dresses over my strained cries for gap integrity from Justin Tuck. So in true NinVA and Mrs. Joey form, the game was minutes old and they were knee deep in wedding magazines and excessive maid of honor celebrations (I threw a flag for excessive hugging). As I ignored them and tried to watch this debacle, NinVA jumped up and exclaimed…”I just got taco (expletive) on my leggings!”  In honor of Richie Incognito’s slur-filled voice mail, I erred on the side of discretion by using expletive instead of the actual word, which may shock my tiny disloyal following. Hint, it rhymes with biz and tacos can’t technically do it.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award: This week’s CiiyCA goes to me for being a day late and way long-winded with this review. The game stunk live, stunk more on DVR and still stinks moments after I deleted it. 

(Boxscore – Oakland Raiders at New York Giants, November 10, 2013)
Nov 142013
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Rueben Randle, New York Giants (November 25, 2012)

Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – Green Bay Packers at New York Giants, November 17, 2013: Despite the three-game winning streak, the 0-6 hole the Giants dug themselves in is so large and daunting that if one were to rationally focus on it, hope would quickly dissipate. So the goal – and challenge – for this team and its fans is to simply focus on one game at a time. Each victory brings a new lease on life. The specter of a loss is too grim to contemplate. Just win and get to 4-6. Live to fight another day.

Giants on Offense:

More games are lost in this league than are won. We must eliminate turnovers. You’re not going to beat anybody with [a turnover ratio of] minus-16. (Tom Coughlin, inaugural press conference, January 2004)

(The Giants’ turnover ratio currently stands at -13 with 17 interceptions and 11 fumbles for a total of 28 turnovers in nine games).

What the heck is wrong with Eli Manning? Everyone has an opinion. Some point to the offensive line… some to quarterback and receivers not being on the same page… some to the offensive scheme/play-calling… some say it’s just Manning playing like crap. There is probably truth in all of these explanations (excuses) and probably more. But the simple truth is the longer this sub-par quarterback play continues, the increased likelihood that the final season-ending loss will result. The Giants can only ride their defense and resurgent running game so far. In today’s game, your quarterback almost always has to out-play the opponent’s quarterback for you to win.

Eli Manning said something very interesting in his weekly WFAN radio interview. He said the Raiders continued to keep both safeties deep to play the pass, despite Andre Brown running for 115 yards (and the Giants running for 133 yards as a team). That strongly suggests that teams – at least the Raiders – still fear the Giants’ passing game more than their running game. That could change if Andre Brown and the other backs continue to be productive, but there is a certain logic in opponents using this strategy. For one, the Giants’ offensive line and tight ends are still shaky at best. How consistent can the Giants’ ground attack be in sustaining drives given the state of the offensive line and tight ends? And even if the Giants were more adequate in terms of talent and experience up front, in today’s NFL, the top offenses usually rely on big plays in the passing game to generate points. Ground and pound can win, but you usually won’t score a lot of points, and your defense and special teams have to be playing well to complement that style of football.

So the Giants face a bit of a dilemma. The emphasis on the running game and short-passing game has worked in recent weeks. But barely. And against sub-par opponents. And while the ground game seems to be improving, Eli & Company just don’t seem to be particularly adept at the short-passing game. Eli can’t throw a screen pass to save his life (literally and figuratively). He has little touch on short throws. The tight ends rarely seem to be a part of the game plan or at least targeted by Eli. Replays have shown that the Giants are missing golden opportunities for big pass plays on short throws to their backs and tight ends simply because they can’t execute these plays. Is it coaching? A fatal flaw in Eli’s game? Can it be fixed? If it can’t, then the Giants – for better or worse – are going to have to start putting more pressure on Beatty, Boothe, Cordle, Diehl, and Pugh to maintain their pass protection longer up front. And Eli has to start trusting receivers not named Victor Cruz more. Hakeem Nicks has to be a part of the solution. So does Rueben Randle and Brandon Myers. He can’t just throw to the double-covered Cruz when he is in desperate or in trouble. And when in doubt, take the sack.

My gut tells me that the Giants will only keep this winning streak going if Eli gets his head out of his ass and Cruz, Nicks, and Randle start becoming big play targets once again. That does not mean abandoning the running game. Balance the downfield passing game with the run. And it does not mean that the passing game has to center completely on deep shots way down the field. Cruz, Nicks, and Randle can all do damage after the catch. I would also still use Andre Brown and Peyton Hillis as receivers on a few plays. They have just missed on some huge plays to Hillis.

Pessimists will charge that the offensive line can’t do it. And/or they will say that Eli is playing scared and forcing throws because the unit’s previous and anticipated inability to protect him. If they are right… if the line can’t improve… if Eli’s psyche is too damaged this season… then the Giants are toast. But… if…just if… the line can improve steadily… and Eli accepts the hand he’s been dealt and focuses on the job that needs to be done and starts to carry this team again like he did in 2011, then Giants have a shot. Keep in mind, the offensive line wasn’t very good in 2011 either, and the rushing attack was terrible. So was the defense for much of the 2011 season. Eli has a better defense now and what is looking to be a better ground game. He just needs to get back to being the old Eli.

As for the Packers, a 3-4 defense, they are tougher up front than they are in the secondary. The corners are decent, but their safeties have given up some big plays. The one big pass rusher remains LB Clay Mathews, despite playing with a cast on his hand. LB A.J. Hawk is having an excellent season. The defensive line is big and talented, but a bit beat up. Dom Capers is still the defensive coordinator and he will send the blitz from all angles, as indicated by the fact that the Packers’ 23 sacks are spread out throughout the defensive unit. With that comes risk and opportunity. The Packers are going to take some chances on Sunday. Can Eli, his blockers, and receivers make them pay?

Giants on Defense: As I said, this unit looks stronger to me than the 2011 version. It’s becoming sounder, more consistent. What’s missing is the 2011 version of Jason Pierre-Paul to put it over the top. JPP looked ready to break out against the Raiders before he hurt his shoulder. If his shoulder injury is serious, or if he starts to sulk and let it get to him mentally, then the defense probably can’t take that next step. Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka are playing better, but they are not difference makers. JPP can be the difference maker up front. It is uncertain if JPP will be able to play against the Packers, and even if he does, how effective he will be?

The game plan against the Packers is obvious. Stop rookie RB Eddie Lacy. He’s a big, powerful back with good instincts and he has given the Packers a running game that they have lacked in recent years. Last week against the Raiders, with the outside threat QB Terrelle Pryor represented, the Giants looked much softer in the middle of the defense against RB Rashad Jennings. What is worrisome is Lacy and Jennings are similar in style. However, I anticipate the Giants’ run defense to rebound strongly as QB Scott Tolzien isn’t the threat Pryor was to run the ball, so the Giants can focus more completely on Lacy. I also don’t think it sat well with Beason & Company to see Jennings do as well as he did last week.

Defensively, to me this game comes down to the Giants’ ability or inability to ground the Packers’ passing attack. We Giants fans know not to take any back-up quarterback lightly. Tolzien is not the kind of guy you want starting in this league. He’s not big, he’s not mobile, he lacks a strong arm… but he is very smart, he really studies, he’s mentally and physically tough, and he’s very confident in his ability to lead an offensive team. Plus, he’s in the right system for a quarterback that lacks a canon for an arm and with the right coaching staff who likely will game-plan around his strengths. In short, Tolzien is no Aaron Rodgers, but the Giants would be foolish to take him lightly. Reports out of Green Bay say he has having a sharp week in practice. With the Giants gearing up to stop Lacy, play-action could be a problem for New York. The pressure will be on the linebackers and safeties to make good decisions.

The good news is that Tolzien is small and immobile. The Giants should be able to bring the heat and not worry about him scrambling with the football. And though Tolzien is very smart and studies hard, Perry Fewell may be able to confuse him with different looks. Because of his style of game (lack of strong arm) and concerns about the Giants’ pass rush, look for quick passes to the backs and tight ends. I’d be very wary about the screen game. And it would not shock me if the Packers have a trick play in their back pocket. When Tolzien throws down the field, he has a number of good targets, but none more dangerous than Jordy Nelson, who is having a great season. I’d like to keep Prince Amukamara on Nelson. This is the kind of opponent who Amukamara can really make a name for himself if he covers Nelson well. But James Jones and Jarrett Boykin are no slouches either, and like Nelson, they are averaging over 15 yards per catch. With or without Rodgers, this is still a dangerous passing attack.

The Packers are a bit banged up on the offensive line, but their injured players are expected to play this week. They are a big and physical group, but they can be vulnerable on the pass rush.

So the number one challenge is to stop Lacy. Be wary of play-action and the short-passing game, especially screens. The Giants need to play physical against the run, but they have to play smart against the pass.

Giants on Special Teams:

Special teams and winning the battle for field position must become our catalyst for victory and not our Achilles’ heel. (Tom Coughlin, inaugural press conference, January 2004)

The Giants are arguably the worst special teams unit in the NFL. Just when you think it can’t get worse, some new hole appears. The kickers seemed to be getting back on track until Steve Weatherford had probably his worst day as a Giant, averaging only 30 yards per punt. I’m not sure anymore why Jerrel Jernigan is on the team. He certainly isn’t a reliable kick returner. Rueben Randle flashes as a punt returner, but continues to make poor decisions on when to field punts (especially inside the 10-yard line). As we all know, the Giants have given up three punt returns for touchdowns this year. This week they face Micah Hyde, who is third in the NFL in punt returns, averaging over 15 yards per return. Watch out for a trick play on special teams if the Packers’ offense struggles (fake punt or field goal, onsides kick, etc.).

Nov 082013
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Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (October 10, 2013)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – Oakland Raiders at New York Giants, November 10, 2013: The strategic goal is obvious: win the next two games and improve the overall record to 4-6 in order to play meaningful back-to-back games against the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. There is no margin for error. The Giants only have themselves to blame for that. But the fact that they are still in the race, despite their record and last-place standing in the NFC East, should give them faith that someone upstairs is willing to give them a second chance. So why not have some fun and run with it? The pressure is not on the Giants, but the Dallas Cowboys.

The Giants could be primed for a second-half run. Aside obviously from the players on Injured Reserve, the Giants should be getting healthier. They have only played two football games in the last 30 days. New York has been playing better football: cutting down turnovers, running the ball better, and most importantly, playing very good defense.

But the Raiders – who have a better record than the Giants – may not be the pushover some think they are. Oakland’s defense looked terrible against the Eagles, but their defense had actually been an improving strength of the team, despite 10 new starters. And mobile running quarterbacks have given the Giants fits. Last but not least, the Giants’ special teams keep giving up scores. In short, this one is no gimme.

New York Giants on Offense: The Giants have clearly adjusted their offense. They are now emphasizing the short-passing game in combination with a no-nonsense straight-ahead running game in order to cut down the all of those 3rd-and-longs and turnovers that were sabotaging the offense. It’s not pretty. After all, the sum total of the Giants’ offensive output two weeks ago was five field goals. But the Giants’ offense did not turn the ball over and dramatically won the time of possession battle. With the way the defense is playing right now, that may enough. At least in the short term.

The running game has improved. There haven’t been any 20+ yard runs, but the Giants are keeping the chains moving. The power running game would be stronger with a more physical, more talented interior trio on the offensive line, but the Giants have to work with what they have. Now is not the time to keep tinkering with the line. There are only eight games left and there is no time for that. There also aren’t many other options. That will have to come in free agency and the draft next year.

David Wilson (neck) is done for the season and Brandon Jacobs (hamstring/knee) won’ t play in this one. So look for a heavy dose of Peyton Hillis with Andre Brown (who is coming off of temporary IR) getting Michael Cox’s former touches. Ground and pound up front behind FB John Conner. It won’t be easy. The Raiders are actually sixth in the NFL in run defense, allowing less than 95 yards per game.

The Giants might want to mix things up early on with the short passing game, especially to Hillis, Brown, and former Raider TE Brandon Myers. Quick passes to Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks may be in order too. Get a Raider defense that is likely to play the run first, to back up some. That said, the Giants may have some opportunities for some big plays down the field, depending on how the Raiders approach this game. Leading up to the Raiders-Eagles game, the Raiders had featured much more blitzing and attacking up front, and that worked well for them. Against the Eagles, the Raiders did not blitz as much, trying to rely on their down linemen to generate pressure and that backfired. Look for the Raiders to emphasize the blitz more this weekend. If they do, Cruz, Nicks, and Rueben Randle will be left in some one-on-one opportunities. And the Raiders had problems defending passes down the field last week. The key? Can the offensive line, tight ends, and backs give Eli enough time to take some shots down the field?  If they can, we may see the return of some explosive big plays from New York’s offense. CB D.J. Hayden of the Raiders had all kinds of issues against the Eagles when the Raiders were in their nickel package.  (Late note: Hayden has been ruled of the game due to injury).

Much also depends on Nicks and Randle. Victor Cruz is getting double teamed by every opponent. Nicks and Randle have to win their one-on-one matchups.

If the Raiders play it safer, and force the Giants to put together long drives, then New York will have to take what the Raiders give them. Run the football, short passing game – just like against the Vikings and Eagles. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot with penalties and turnovers.

New York Giants on Defense: Critics charge the Giants’ defensive improvement is more due to the inept quarterbacks they have played recently. That remains to be seen, but my gut says it’s more than that. Jon Beason has been a tremendous addition both in terms of on-field productivity and leadership. Will Hill has also had a big impact and Antrel Rolle may be playing his best football as a Giant. Combine that with solid cornerback play, stout defensive tackles, and defensive ends who are finally showing some life, then the recipe may be in place for a strong defensive performance for the remainder of the 2013 season.

But… and it’s a big but… (insert Pee Wee Herman joke here)… the Giants are facing one of those dreaded option-type mobile quarterbacks this week in Terrelle Pryor. In fact, Pryor may be the most dangerous quarterback in the NFL when he decides to run it, as evidenced by his 93-yard touchdown against the Steelers. He’s big, he’s strong, and he’s fast. And he’s rushed for almost 500 yards, averaging almost eight yards per carry. The Giants will have to be much more disciplined against him than they were against Robert Griffin in 2012 and Michael Vick before he strained his hamstring this year. It’s not just the ends maintaining outside leverage, but the defensive tackles can’t vacate their rush lanes. The good news is that with Jon Beason and Jacquian Williams starting, the Giants are more athletic now too at the second level, especially if they continue to use their three-safety package.

In this game, it’s all about stopping the run. RB Darren McFadden (hamstring) may be out, but RB Rashad Jennings is a no-nonsense, between-the-tackles runner who can keep the chains moving. He is also adept at catching the ball out of the backfield.

Up front, the Raider offensive line is a bit of a mess. Like the Giants, there have been a lot of injuries and lot of patchwork with many different lineup combinations. Pryor is not a good passer at this point. The Raiders do have a deep threat in WR Denarious Moore. With issues on the offensive line, look for Pryor to try to get the ball out quickly to the backs and tight ends, then to take off if those targets are covered. If the Giants can stop inside ground game of Jennings and limit Pryor’s damage on the ground, the Giants should have no problem stopping this offense. But to do this, the Giants have to play more disciplined run defense against a mobile quarterback than they have to date.

New York Giants on Special Teams: The Giants’ special teams are responsible for four touchdowns scored against New York already this year. Minus David Wilson, the kickoff return game has not been very productive, and neither has the punt return game. The good news is that both Giants’ kickers to be out of their funks. The Raiders’ returners have struggled this year to produce good field position.

Nov 052013
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Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants (October 27, 2013)

Brandon Jacobs – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 15 – Philadelphia Eagles 7

by Joey in VA for

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2013-Giants at Eagles Graphic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, October 27, 2013)
Oct 252013
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Justin Tuck, New York Giants (October 6, 2013)

Justin Tuck – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, October 27, 2013: In 1994, the Giants started the season 3-0. The team then lost seven games in a row. At 3-7, the season looked over. But with Dave Brown at quarterback, a decent running game, and an improving defense, the Giants won their final six games and just barely missed the playoffs. And the game that started them off on that winning streak was an ugly, ugly 13-10 win against a lowly Houston Oilers team.

The good news is that the Giants are not dead. And even counting the losses to the Eagles and Bears, the team is clearly playing better. The Giants are playing more physically on both sides of the football and new additions John Conner, Jon Beason, and Peyton Hillis have helped. The defensive line showed signs of coming out of its funk against the Vikings.

The bad news is the Giants no longer have any room for error. Simply put, the Eagles game is as “must” a game as one can get. We all thought the same thing heading into each of the four previous losses, and yet those games were all losses. The Vikings game proved that if the Giants can win the turnover battle, they can win the game, but they got lucky too, with two lucky bounces on fumbles and a dropped pick-6. And Josh Freeman was horrible.

But like the game against the Oilers in 1994, the Giants may just have needed a win, no matter how ugly it was, to start turning things around. False hope? We shall soon find out.

What we do know is this – something has to give. The Eagles have lost nine home games in a row, the last victory being – you guessed it – against the New York Giants. At the same time, the once “road warrior” Giants have lost eight away games in a row. Both teams have issues. But when these two teams get together, there are usually some interesting fireworks.

Giants on Offense: It’s about the turnovers. If the Giants don’t turn over the ball, they probably win. There were no offensive turnovers against Minnesota, but as mentioned, the Giants got a bit lucky too. What was interesting was the strong commitment to the running game, despite the lack of overall productivity (two yards per carry), and even more importantly, the focus on the short passing game to the running backs and fullback. Given the chaotic state of the offensive line, where has the latter been all year? Will that continue? Hillis may lack wiggle, but he seems to have a knack for being a factor in the passing game, as was demonstrated in Cleveland as well. If the Eagles focus most of their attention on the wide receivers, Hillis could continue to do some damage catching the football.

A key question is will Brandon Jacobs (hamstring) be able to play? And if he does, how effective will he be? He had an inspirational game against the Bears and it would be better for the Giants to have his veteran presence in the lineup in the hostile Philly environment rather than the inexperienced Michael Cox. John Conner has been a tremendous addition to the Giants and Conner, Jacobs, and Hillis bring a physicality to the offense that was missing earlier in the season. Eagle defenders have talked about it themselves this week. Jacobs is officially doubtful for the game. If I’m the Giants, I play him. If the Giants lose this game, the season is over. If they lose Jacobs, Andre Brown will be back after the bye week.

The Eagles’ defense was atrocious to start the year, but has played much better since – yup – the Giants game. Their best game of the season was last week against the Cowboys, even though Dallas ended up winning that game. Philadelphia is aggressive and chaotic up front, and they dare you to beat their big corners outside, who play tight, aggressive coverage. In the last Giants-Eagles game, the Giants receivers were doing some damage against the Eagles secondary with quicker passes, then the Giants, for some reason, moved away from that. The temptation will be there to use the deep ball – the 7-step drop and go for the throat. And I do think the Giants should take a couple of shots. But a steady diet of shorter drops, quicker throws did work, is better suited for a shaky offensive line. It’s up to the wide receivers to win those one-on-one match-ups. If they do, and Eli takes care of the football, they will be able to move the ball. The Eagles seem to bring out the best in Rueben Randle, and Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are due for big games.

Obviously, much depends on the offensive line. Cordle is now the center for the remainder of the year. He’s actually been decent, but teams have been testing the Giants’ center and guards with inside pressure. This is another reason to get rid of the ball more quickly. The Eagles are going to try to confuse and intimidate the front. They will want to stuff the running game and make the Giants one-dimensional. The Giants must, absolutely must, stay out of third-and-long situations.

The big dilemma is this: can the Giants afford to be patient with the running game early against a defense that is likely to stack against the run? If they were playing the Vikings, yes because the Vikings couldn’t move the ball. But I don’t think they can do that against the Eagles unless the Giants simply can out-man them across the board up front. But I don’t have that much confidence that the offensive line and tight ends will be able to do that on a consistent basis early. It would be great if the Giants could simply out-power and run over the Eagles, but I’m not sure I would take that chance. I would come out throwing quickly to the backs and receivers, and then come back hard with the running game once the Eagles are more back on their heels. Unlike the Vikings, the Eagles are going to score; the Giants must keep pace.

Giants on Defense: Not to sound like a broken record, but it’s about defending LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and Michael Vick – and in that order. Also, watch out for those tight ends, including Brent Celek who has a history of making that one play that hurts New York, and the emerging Zach Ertz, who has become a security blanket for Eagles’ quarterbacks.

The Giants did an excellent job of McCoy in the first game, but still lost the game. That would seem to suggest he isn’t the most important cog. I would vehemently disagree with that. McCoy is still the straw that stirs the Eagles’ offense, both as a runner (leading the NFL in rushing) and receiver (third-leading receiver on team). If you keep McCoy in check, your chances of winning the game improve dramatically.

Jackson had a big game against the Giants in Week 5 with seven catches for 132 yards and one touchdown as he was covered by both Trumaine McBride and Prince Amukamara. Both will probably be on the spot again. McBride had a chance to pick off a pass last time against Jackson, but the ball went through his hands on a 56-yard reception. He obviously is the explosive, deep-play guy you have to keep in check.

Vick (hamstring) returns for the first time since – yup – the Giants game. He hurt New York more with his feet than his passing. And it wasn’t so much about getting to the edges and the defensive ends not containing, but it was the defensive tackles who allowed him to scramble up the middle. Will the hamstring impact his ability to scramble? Regardless, pocket discipline by the line is probably more important than sacks this week. I’m sure fans don’t want to hear that, but you can’t allow Vick to run for 20-yard chunks or you are going to lose the game. DT Shaun Rogers (knee) is doubtful so pressure will be on Mike Patterson and Johnathan Hankins to perform as reserves.

Giants on Special Teams: Obviously the special teams coverage units are really hurting the Giants right now. The Giants have given up three long touchdowns on punt returns and they almost gave up a 109-yard kickoff return against the Vikings in addition to the 86-yard punt return.

The Giants’ return game has been anemic. Could Eagle-killer Randle finally break one here?

One area where the Giants have been flashing is rushing the punter. They seem to come close to blocking a punt almost every week.

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

Peyton Hillis Celebrates His Touchdown – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 23 – Minnesota Vikings 7

by Joey in VA for

Game Review: The New World. Within a week of the most ridiculous of Federal holidays, Columbus Day, the Giants got a taste of what it must have been like back in fourteen hundred and ninety two when Columbus sailed the ocean blue and landed…here instead of his intended India. A monumental discovery no doubt, but in his infinite wisdom Columbus thought he HAD landed in India, named the natives Indians and was the impetus for a dizzying array of highly offensive sports nicknames and the eventual dislodging of America’s native peoples in a not so nice way. I know what certain BBI contributors are thinking “Another Fozzie Bear type review from a hack comedian”, but in this intro I have a point, albeit not a strong one. The Giants discovered their own new world, Victory and like Columbus before them, they stumbled and bumbled their way through it, but it may be the day that we all point to as a day the Giants vanquished the ignominious O fer in their O for 6 record. Is it what the crown (The Mara Family) intended when they funded this journey (the 2013 season)? Not quite, but like Columbus in his day there is no reason the Giants can’t pull a Pee-Wee Herman and say “I meant to do that”.

In a game rife with mistakes, the Giants made fewer, and that’s really the crux of this game and sadly the season to date. With David Wilson, Andre Brown, Da’Rel Scott and Brandon Jacobs either injured or sitting home the Giants turned to 7th round pick Michael Cox and former Madden Cover Boy Peyton Hillis to save their spiraling season. From the opening gun, which should have been used to put viewers down humanely, the Giants had one plan and one plan only; to control the clock, shorten the game and limit mistakes. It worked during two recent Super Bowl runs and it was again the formula for victory despite its ugly appearance. The Giants embarked on a trail of tears type of drive as the game opened, grinding out a 17-play, 68-yard drive that ate up 9:36 and resulted in a 35-yard Josh Brown FG and a 3-0 lead. Despite little running room, the Giants remained patient on the ground, didn’t force anything down field and put together a solid, if unspectacular opening drive. That’s lead as in being ahead, not the dangerous paint additive that insulates one against nuclear fallout, though it felt like nuclear winter for much of the night.

The 3-0 lead was short lived sadly, as the Giants unspecial teams gave up an all-too-easy 86-yard punt return to CB Marcus Sherels who barely had to break stride en route to the end zone. At some point, Tom Quinn has to be held accountable for the awful special teams’ performance this year. After trading punts, the Giants put together a 7-play, 82-yard scoring drive highlighted by a 23-yard pass interference penalty against Nicks by rookie CB Xavier Rhodes. One play later, Manning found WR Rueben Randle on a back shoulder throw down the left sideline for a 24-yard TD and a 10-7 lead that was outrageously safe with new Viking QB Josh Freeman simply giving the Minnesota offense no chance to succeed. Freeman’s best sequence was back-to-back completions on the Vikings next drive, hitting Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph for 22 and 21 yards respectively. The drive failed after the Giants completely stifled Adrian Peterson on back-to-back runs and Freeman failed to convert a 3rd and 8 that led to a missed 53-yard field goal and the Vikings last real threat of the evening. The teams traded four more punts to end the first half with a 10-3 Giant lead.

Naturally as the 3rd quarter unfolded, catastrophe struck again after the Giants forced another three-and-out and the Vikings were forced to punt to Rueben Randle. Randle, of course since this is our unlucky 2013 season and it is special teams, fumbled the punt away at the Giant 31-yard line and disaster appeared ready yet again. Fortunately for Randle, S Antrel Rolle picked off Freeman at the Giant 5-yard line two plays later to grant Special Teams Coordinator Tom Quinn yet another escape that would have Rasputin asking him for survival tips. At some point those nudies of Coughlin that Quinn clearly has will stop working and he’ll be shown the door but until then it’s punt return TDs for EVERYONE!!! The repeated failures on special teams are nothing short of sickening. Three more awful drives later, the Giants special teams recovered a mishandled punt at the Viking 3-yard line, and Peyton Hillis punched it in two plays later for a 17-3 lead that would hold up all evening with two more Josh Brown field goals tossed in for a merciful end to the losing streak and this abysmal game. Giants win….that’s right WIN 23-7. Uglier than my first girlfriend, but just as satisfying that we finally got it done.

Quarterbacks: Eli Manning essentially got his drive train back to neutral, nothing great, but more importantly nothing disastrous en route to a 200 yard 1-TD and zero-interception performance. The worst thing the Giants captain and signal caller did was look like a baby calf at a rodeo as he was hauled down by one meaty paw of Vikings DE Jared Allen. Manning was able to convert the Giants first first down with an ungainly 6-yard gallop on 3rd and 5 in keeping with the ugly theme of the night. Manning almost short circuited the Giants’ opening drive on a misfire to TE Larry Donnell, who was eaten by an apparent turf monster on his way to running a post. Manning converted two 3rd and 3 opportunities on the opening drive, but just missed hitting a wide open Hakeem Nicks on another in the end zone that should have been a 7-0 lead. Manning misfired badly again on a Hillis safety valve route that could have easily gone for 20+ yards but Eli hurried the throw, didn’t set his feet and fired too hard and too high again. Two drives, two wide open misses for absolutely no reason. Manning did however trust RB Peyton Hillis enough to wisely use him as a checkdown option instead of forcing too many deep throws and it was simply enough to win which for the two-time Lombardi Winner has to feel pretty good at this point. Give Eli credit, he was patient and methodical, leading the Giants on 16- and 17-play scoring drives, both of which combined to eat up 18:07 of game clock. When all else fails, ball control to the rescue.

Running Backs: One week after Brandon Jacobs bulled his way to 106 yards, the Giants leading rusher was Chief, Brown and Buccaneer castoff Peyton Hillis who slowly churned to 36 yards on 18 agonizing carries. Hillis wasn’t great, but per the theme of this evening he wasn’t terrible either which was enough. Hillis’ main contribution was as a reliable check down option in which he managed 45 yards on five catches and provided Manning with an outlet when his makeshift OL was unable to slow down the Vikings pass rush. Hillis was able to do what Giant backs have yet to master, check for unblocked rushers and leak out down field to provide an option for Eli Manning. Credit Hillis’ time in former Giant QB coach Mike Sullivan’s offense in Tampa Bay for his ability to come in and contribute solid minutes after just days on the team. Rookie Michael Cox had little room to operate and was only capable of 23 yards on 11 carries but again, no major gaffes and more importantly no turnovers. Cox showed some burst on his first run that went for seven yards, but was hemmed in most of night by a Viking front that was rarely fooled by the Giants running game. At first glance, it looked as if Cox had an OK night, taking some short dive plays early for positive yardage, but his late game negative runs skewed the box score a bit in the Vikings’ favor. Cox definitely showed the ability to hit the hole quickly and grind ahead for positive yards; his big losses came on more ill-advised wide running plays that don’t play to Cox’s strength. FB John Conner chipped in with 17 yards on three outlet catches and again showed some burst from the lead back slot, slamming ahead to clear the way for Hillis’ 1-yard 3rd quarter TD plunge. If you do one thing watching these games, pay attention to Conner when he’s the lead on any ISO plays. It is a treat to watch his short area explosiveness in the running game.

Wide Receivers: WR Rueben Randle was the only Giant WR who got on the board, hauling in a 24-yard back shoulder fade from Manning in the 2nd quarter in which he swooped over his defender and made a catch good enough to make you forget his unforced route errors the previous few weeks. Randle finished with 40 yards and only three catches, but he made his longest one count and his first grab was a key 3rd and 3 conversion on a well-run curl route just inside of LB Chad Greenway. Randle, unlike in previous weeks, read the outside coverage correctly and wisely cut his route inside to pick up the first down. It was only eights yards, but a good sign for the second-year wide out that he’s cleaning up the little route misreads he’s made that have resulted in some ugly turnovers. Victor Cruz was again bottled up deep, with the Vikings keenly aware that he has thus far been the Giants only true scoring threat. Cruz’s long was only 13 yards en route to a 50-yard, 5-grab outing. But again, it was enough. Hakeem Nicks, perhaps not wanting to capitalize on a free agent opportunity, let two easy slants bounce right off his foam finger sized hands and saw a sure TD glance off his fingertips on the Giants opening salvo. The 12-15 yard Dig (deep in) route that used to be the staple of this offense when it was pass blocking better has been replaced by the slant and it’s imperative that Nicks pulls those in; it’s becomes the focal point of the offense and opens up the rest of field IF executed well. That repeated failure to secure the ball is killing drives, his free agent bonanza and the final few hair follicles who have the courage to still be on my head. Nicks finished with a very quiet 28 yards on only two catches and just looked plain bad.

Tight Ends: Despite a paucity of talent, the Giants used all three TEs extensively, mostly as extra blockers to slow down the Vikings all-too-predictable and Jon Gruden-belabored A-gap pressures. Give credit to Brandon Myers – he stonewalled DE Jared Allen one-on-one on Eli’s 6-yard first down run early in the game, but finished with only 15 yards on two grabs. Myers did have a key 3rd down conversion on 3rd and 3 on the Giants’ opening drive. Myers was again used in short motion, often up the A-gap to aid the Giants’ struggling interior OL and again it seemed to help Eli have just enough time to make the throws he needed to keep this team alive during the game. Larry Donnell did make a sneaky move downfield as I predicted, but he decided to fall down on an inside route that almost caused an INT on the Giants’ opening drive. Solid edge blocking by Donnell again, and Myers has improved to just below marginal as an in line blocker. Figure Myers to hover around the in-line blocking Mendoza line, if there was such a thing. TE Bear Pascoe had visions of Renaldo Nehemiah, trying to hurdle a defender on his lone reception, but a well-timed helmet to the nether regions brought the former Bulldog down to Earth and down a few octaves from the look of it.

Offensive Line: Hope sprung a tad with C David Baas finally returning to action but a knee injury sidelined the former Wolverine early in the game and his season has mercifully ended this week after another week-in and week-out battle with any joint that dared to pick a fight with Ronnie Barnes and the training staff. C Jim Cordle again acquitted himself pretty well and seems to be settling in a bit at the pivot. Most of the inside pressure was honestly from guards Kevin Boothe and David Diehl simply not getting their hands on their Viking counterparts quickly enough. Cordle more than held his own inside against massive DT Kevin Williams. Despite the hilarious and humiliating one-handed rodeo yank down of Eli Manning, DE Jared Allen was held in check by LT Will Beatty. Beatty wasn’t given much help against the All-Pro DE and he did a great job, that head-shaking sack aside. RT Justin Pugh was so-so, and gave up a few outside pressures, but it was against some seven, eight and nine man fronts that seemed to give the Giants some communication issues up front all night. I have no idea why, but Beatty was lined up at TE next to Pugh on a Michael Cox run that lost five yards behind James Brewer at LT. If that’s not telegraphing a running play…stop…I don’t know what it is…stop. Bad design and awful play, let’s hope Gilbride puts that in his hope chest and never takes it back out.

Defensive Line: Holding MVP Adrian Peterson to 28 yards on 13 carries is something to hang your hat on, but the Giants again came up short in the sack department. Again, credit the DT group of Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson, Linval Joseph and Shaun Rogers, they simply collapsed the middle and didn’t allow Peterson even a glimpse of an opening all evening. With little threat from the passing game, the job was no doubt easier, but stifling Peterson to that extent is impressive no matter how you slice it. It was pressure by Shaun Rogers that forced Freeman into his lone interception; it was also Freeman’s tremendous level of suck but give Rogers the nod here. DE Justin Tuck showed up early with a great inside move to stuff Peterson on the Vikings’ opening drive and pressuring Freeman on a 3rd down one play later. Tuck was active all night, finishing with four stops and a sack, but more importantly, looking motivated and playing with a lot more fire than he has all season.

He’s baaaack..sorta. DE Jason Pierre-Paul again played a little bit better this week, and his trademark hustle appears to be coming back. Lining up mostly at RDE, JPP was stout and active against the run, knifing inside on a dive away from him to bring down Adrian Peterson at the line of scrimmage. Just a play later, JPP helped chase down WR Cordarrelle Patterson and combine with Will Hill to snuff out a 3rd down again just short of the marker. Keep in mind, despite the outcry over JPP’s labanza and his low sack totals, back surgery takes physical and mental hurdles to clear and JPP appears to be on his way to clearing both. It will likely be 2014 before his real ability but each week the former Bull pushes a little bit closer to his old form.

Linebackers: Keith Rivers still stinks, but MLB Jon Beason again provided the fireworks with nine stops and a ton of added energy to the Giants defense. Beason saw fewer snaps on 3rd down than he did a week ago, giving way to Jacquian Williams on occasion and Williams responded with solid coverage and five solo stops of his own. Beason simply injects an energy into this group and the whole defense that has been missing since late in 2012. And no loyal readers (if there are any this week), you aren’t the only one watching and thinking “So THAT’S what a LB looks like”. For good measure Beason tried his own rodeo move, impressively hauling down Adrian Peterson by the wing after it looked like Peterson may have broken through finally. During his time at Oregon, Spencer Paysinger, blah blah blah, I don’t like him.

Defensive Backs: For anyone looking at Antrel Rolle’s cap number and assuming he’s a cap casualty, please picture this deep patrol without his leadership. Rolle was all over the field, finishing with five tackles, a one-handed INT and one near INT on a perfect read of an out route. For good measure, Rolle prevented a Cordarrelle Patterson TD after the former Vol had sprinted to a 69-yard kick return and an almost sure TD until Rolle knocked him off course. S Will Hill chipped in with four stops and was again aggressive, chopping down TE Kyle Rudolph in the open field on a 3rd and 8 that snuffed out a Viking drive 1-yard short of the marker. Hill did it again to whatshisname Patterson a few drives later that again closed out a Viking drive. CB Prince Amukamara threw in five stops and quite frankly was never in any real danger with Josh Freeman at the helm.

Special Teams: Special Teams clearly got sick of giving them the poop stick each week, giving up a punt return TD, fumbling away a punt deep in our own territory and recovering a punt deep inside Vikings territory. P Steve Weatherford was much improved again and appears to be on point again but his directional punt clearly flummoxed the coverage team as almost no one came close to Sherels on his TD return. For good measure Cordarrelle (Ok that’s the third time I’ve had type that ridiculous name…I hate typing that name, try it…it may be THE new leading cause of carpal tunnel syndrome…thanks Mrs. Patterson, name your next kid Max or something) almost returned a kickoff 109 yards. For good measure the Giants’ return teams racked up 50 yards total for the game, or less than Cor (no effing way I’m typing it again)…Patterson’s longest kickoff return. Tom Quinn, your feathered and lethal haircut has run out of cache, you need to go immediately.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award: It has to go to DE Jared Allen for having the nerve to use one oven mitt to drag Eli Manning to the turf around the body of LT Will Beatty. Eli tried to wiggle free a la Super Bowl XLVII, but Virginia Hillbilly Tip of the week…don’t shake hands with a bow hunter or try to escape his grasp in a football game. I don’t know if it’s sitting in a tree blind at 4 a.m. in the freezing cold or hauling their kills by the antlers, but every bow hunter I’ve ever met could crush your hand Robo-Cop style, so go for the high five, or the fist bump, if you don’t mind a hand smelling of deer urine. But please…please don’t shake their hands unless you’re the Six Million Dollar Man, The Terminator or Bob Dole. Honorable Mention to Mrs. Patterson for producing the most un-typable first name in half-baked Giant review history.

(Boxscore – Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants, October 21, 2013)
Oct 182013
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Mathias Kiwanuka (94), Cullen Jenkins (99), Keith Rivers (55); New York Giants (September 8, 2013)

Kiwanuka, Jenkins, and Rivers – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Approach to the Game – Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants, October 21, 2013: We could go point by point, up and down the roster and discuss specific problems that are negatively impacting the New York Giants right now. But there are two general, macro issues that if the Giants somehow fix, they will start winning games again:

  • The Giants need to start winning the turnover battle.
  • The Giants need to get their mojo back.

Both points are intimately connected to Eli Manning, but also have to deal with the rest of the roster as well. Through just six games, the Giants are a dreadful -16 in turnovers. Offensively, the Giants have turned the football over 23 times (16 interceptions and seven fumbles). That’s almost four turnovers per game. You can’t win turning the football over four times a game. On the flip side, the defense isn’t forcing turnovers, accruing only seven. If the Giants stop killing themselves and start winning the turnover battle, they will win games.

Call it mojo. Call it confidence. Call it faith. Whatever you want to call it, but losing nine games in a row  (including preseason) has understandably sapped it. Obviously talent matters in sports. And so does coaching. But you can’t win if you don’t believe in yourself, are afraid of making mistakes, or expect the worst. The only way the Giants are going to regain the initiative and start winning games again is if they stop feeling sorry for themselves, get angry, and believe that they can whip the guy on the other side of the football. While the Giants don’t want to play carelessly, they need to stop playing so tight and trying to do everything perfect. Just go out there and play football. After all, when all is said and done, this is just a game. Have some fun out there. You’ll be surprised at how quickly things turn around if the Giants can just get their confidence back.

Giants on Offense: Cutting down turnovers and finding mojo. Calling Mr. Manning. Eli’s 15 interceptions through six games have him on pace for 40 on the year. Eli’s supporters – among them myself – will point to the fact that quite a few of these picks have been the responsibility of the intended target not running the correct route. And they will point to the incredible statistic shared by Kevin Gilbride before the Bears game that 35-of-61 of the Giants’ third-down situations this year have been 11 yards or more. Eleven yards or more!!! Worse, with the chaotic state of the offensive line, opposing defenses don’t always have to blitz to get good pressure on Manning even when max protecting. So Eli is often throwing to a few potential targets with seven dropping into coverage.

That all said, Eli needs to take care of the football. His interceptions have been the difference in too many games this year. Like he did a couple of years ago, he has to make it known to his receivers that if they do not run the correct routes, he won’t throw them the football. He also has to recognize that it is better to take a sack or throw the ball away than force a turnover that not only changes field position, but is incredibly demoralizing to his teammates and the fans in the stadium, whose energy the team needs.

In a nutshell, Eli has to get back to being Eli Manning of old. There is absolutely no reason for him not to be able to regain his old form. Eli, you’re in the prime of your career. You are a two-time Super Bowl MVP who has played in the some of the toughest games in NFL history (see the two NFC Championship Games). Get your shit together. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to play afraid. But you do have to play smart football. Get back to your old self and the Giants will get on a winning streak.

Eli Manning. Everyone Chill the F*** Out. I Got This.

The Vikings’ defense has been surprisingly dreadful this year. They are 31st in yards allowed and 30th in points allowed. Worse for Minnesota, they have also been hard hit by the injury bug in recent games.

The Vikings’ defense has been softer against the pass (29th, 308 yards per game) than the run (17th, 110 yards per game). And they will be without their best player in the secondary, safety Harrison Smith (toe). So if the Giants can give Eli time, he ought to be able to do some serious damage against the Minnesota secondary. A key match-up will be DE Jared Allen versus LT Will Beatty.

The Giants also need to be able to run the ball in order to keep the down-and-distance situations more manageable for the play-callers and Eli. Brandon Jacobs is coming off a strong game and hopefully that continues, but the blockers up front need to create room for him. FB John Conner provided a big lift for the Giants against the Bears as a lead blocker. Conner and Jacobs bring an increased level of physicality to the Giants’ offense, as might Peyton Hillis.

But I really see this game coming down to Eli. He’s got to be the better quarterback on the field. If not, the Giants will lose this game. Get the ball to your play-makers (Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Rueben Randle) against a bad pass defense.  I want a huge game from Hakeem. Everyone is talking about how well CB Aqib Talib is playing for the Patriots this year. Well, Talib was Nicks’ bitch in the Tampa game last season, and that was with Nicks playing on one leg. It’s time for Nicks to get his mojo back too.

Giants on Defense: Everyone knows that the key to playing the Vikings is to stop RB Adrian Peterson. He’s as good as there is in the NFL. The good news for the Giants, despite what the statistics show (inflated by QB runs), their run defense has been pretty darn stout, particularly between the tackles. This is where Peterson does most of his damage. With Jon Beason getting his second start inside, combined with the Giants big, strong defensive tackles, I like this match-up for New York.

The wild card is the quarterback change. Newcomer Josh Freeman will get his first start with the Vikings. He is a big quarterback with a strong arm. His main targets will be speedster WR Jerome Simpson, savvy WR Greg Jennings, and Pro Bowl TE Kyle Rudolph.

It is beyond comprehension that the Giants only have five sacks in six games. That puts them on pace for 13 for the entire season!!!  Simply put, the ends have to start getting more heat on the quarterback. Give Freeman – or anyone throwing the football – enough time, and they will pick apart any secondary. Jason Pierre-Paul (1 sack) has shown some flashes of coming out of his funk, but again, he’s a guy who needs to get his mojo back. Before the season, Defensive Line Coach Robert Nunn said he had never seen Justin Tuck (0.5 sacks) and Mathias Kiwanuka (1.5 sacks) look as sharp. Tuck talked about his new positive approach and how hard he trained physically for a bounce-back season. Well none of that has translated to the playing field. Tuck hinted on Thursday that some of the problems are scheme-related. That may be partially true, but as Tom Coughlin also said, you have to beat the man in front of you, particularly in one-on-one situations. You can’t scheme around everything. In the end, football is still a mano-a-mano game.  Fans have been calling for more of Damontre Moore, but the thus-far injury-prone end has to prove he can stay on the field.

I’d also like to see some more inside pressure. I expected more of an impact from Cullen Jenkins (0.5 sacks) on the pass rush. And Linval Joseph (0.5) doesn’t want to be solely known as a one-dimensional defensive tackle heading into free agency. Mike Patterson has been steady, but I’d start giving Johnathan Hankins more minutes as a reserve. Not only is he the future, but he may offer more pass rush ability.

Limit Peterson on the ground. Get after the quarterback. Force some turnovers.

Giants on Special Teams: WR Cordarrelle Patterson is dangerous on kickoff returns. We haven’t seen PK Josh Brown in a tight spot since his two earlier season misses.

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

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 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

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.