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 BigBlueInteractive.com

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 BigBlueInteractive.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philadelphia Eagles 36 – New York Giants 21

by Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Damontre Moore – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Wilson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start off strong and the crowd will get behind you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Backbreaker – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Kansas City Chiefs 31 – New York Giants 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-          Katy Perry, Firework

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

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

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

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

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

Eli Manning and Kevin Gilbride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Dejected Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Carolina Panthers 38 – New York Giants 0

by Joey in VA for BigBlueInteractive.com

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

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

Ug-ly adjective \ˈə-glē\

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

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

b:  surly, quarrelsome <an ugly disposition>

— ug·li·ly  adverb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Carolina Panthers, September 22, 2013)