Jan 142013
 
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Eli Manning (10), Justin Tuck (91), New York Giants (December 30, 2012)

Eli Manning and Justin Tuck – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 42 (9-7) – Philadelphia Eagles 7 (4-12)

Bipolar Giants Crush Eagles, Miss Playoffs

By rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary:

It’s impossible to state how confounding this season has been. Giants fans have been exhilarated by incredibly lopsided victories over the 49ers, Packers and Saints and bewildered by thrashings from the likes of the Falcons, Ravens and Bengals. From week to week, there was just no way of knowing which team was going to show up. In the final week, the good team showed up and beat the ever-loving tar out of division rival Philadelphia in the season-finale at MetLife Stadium. It was the most lopsided win against the Eagles in quite some time. To make the game even a little more sweet on a sour day, the Giants got the final laugh on Eagle head coach Andy Reid, who was fired on Monday morning. I doubt there is a Giant fan in the country that isn’t happy to see Reid out of Philadelphia and out of the NFC East.

The game started ominously enough as the Eagles attempted a surprise onsides kick on the opening kickoff. For some reason, CB Justin Tryon decided to try and catch and advance the ball instead of simply securing it. He didn’t secure it, and the Eagles were in business early. The Eagles came out with a no-huddle attack, but on a 3rd-and-13 play, under heavy pressure, Michael Vick sailed a ball high over the middle where S Stevie Brown intercepted his eighth pass of the season. After that fifth offensive play for the Eagles, it was essentially all Giants the rest of the way.

Many people over in The Corner Forum had claimed that they felt the Giants players had quit, that they’d given up on the season during back-to-back drubbings by the Falcons and Ravens. I don’t know about the rest of the Giants fans on BBI, but I didn’t see quit in anybody in this last game. WR Hakeem Nicks played despite probably needing surgery 6-8 weeks ago. Ahmad Bradshaw played despite not being able to walk without limping. Chris Snee played despite a torn hip labrum compounded by bone spurs. Kenny Phillips was out there at three quarters speed making plays. People forget that Corey Webster has been playing with hamstring issues and a broken hand for the better part of the season. Justin Tuck could have sat this one out with a shoulder issue, but he was in on passing downs and recorded the Giants’ only sack. Prince Amukamara was doubtful going into the game and played nearly the entire contest. Henry Hynoski isn’t hurt, but he played as though he was playing in the last game of his career. This team didn’t quit. They didn’t lie down. It will take time and there will have to be a lot of self-scouting by the staff before answers can be found and conclusions made, but this team didn’t lose because they quit. If anything, maybe some of these guys should have been replaced earlier this season with guys who were healthier. At any rate, I saw a lot of guts from a proud team that wanted to finish the season strong on Sunday.

This game was over by halftime, and for Giants fans the only drama remaining was whether the rest of the pieces required to complete the 2012 playoff puzzle for New York would fall in to place. Alas, the Giants hopes were resting on the Detroit Lions, who disappoint everyone. When they came up short to the Bears 26-24, the Giants’ season was officially over at 9-7, later to be cemented in second place in the NFC East, one game…and essentially one point…behind division champion Washington. The same 9-7 record earned them the NFC East last season, and on they went to become Super Bowl champions.

Offense:

New York’s offense was clicking on all cylinders for the first time since the Saints game. The Giants scored touchdowns on their first four possessions, and on five of six in the first half. It was again apparent that WR Hakeem Nicks was not himself on Sunday. This time, however, New York got enough of a contribution from the backups to help take up the slack. Interestingly, New York only attempted 13 passes to the wide receivers, but with the running game racking up huge yardage, the Giants weren’t forced to pass as much as usual. On the day, New York ran the 35 times and only attempted 22 passes. That is highly unusual for the Giants.

Quarterback:

Eli Manning finished the season on a high note, completing 13-of-21 passes for 208 and a career-high five touchdowns passes. Manning was effective and efficient and faced almost no pressure from the Eagles defense. He was sacked just once and hit twice. Manning was at his best at the end of the first half. After taking over at his own 46 yard line with only 17 seconds left in the half, Manning competed a 30 yard pass to Hixon, who got out of bounds at the Philadelphia 24 yard line. Instead of going for a field goal to extend the half time lead to 31-7, New York elected to try one more play. Manning connected with Victor Cruz who broke all alone in the middle of the field for the dagger touchdown.

On the year, Manning completed 321 completions on 536 attempts for 3,948 yards (59.9%) and 26 touchdowns against 15 interceptions. Manning was sacked just 19 times, the second fewest in his career as a full time starter. Manning’s passer rating was a sound 87.2, which was 14th in the NFL. His QBR for the year was 67.4, good for 10th in the league.

Overall, Manning just missed passing for 4,000 yards for the fourth time in his career. Many people may feel that Manning had a down year, but frankly, his statistics were on par with his usual seasonal output. Statistically, Manning had his fourth best year in touchdowns, interceptions thrown, and yardage. Considering he played as well as he did without an established number 3 wide receiver, a new tight end, and major injuries to Hakeem Nicks, it was a successful season for Manning.

Running Back:

It’s now clear what the Giants have in RB David Wilson. Wilson ran for 75 tough yards on 15 carries for a 5.0 yards per carry average. Wilson also caught one pass for a 15-yard touchdown.

Wilson started the year ominously, fumbling on just his second carry in the opener against Dallas. It was obvious that Wilson landed in Tom Coughlin’s dog house and it took a long time for him to get out. Interestingly, that was Wilson’s only fumble on the season. Wilson carried 71 times for 358 yards (a 5.0 ypc average) and four touchdowns. Wilson caught just four passes on the year for 34 yards and one touchdown.

Wilson is a tough runner who seems to take big hits. He’s also very adept at getting to and through the line very quickly and getting to full speed in space. It appears that New York has a back who will challenge for the number one role, but like Ahmad Bradshaw, he may be better suited as a back that shares the load.

Where Wilson really excelled this season was on kickoff returns. Wilson obliterated the New York Giants record for kickoff return yardage in a season with 1,533 yards and one touchdown. Wilson had 57 attempts, averaging a stellar 26.9 yards per return. Wilson led the NFL in kickoff return yardage, outgaining his nearest competitor by nearly 300 yards. Additionally, Wilson set the Giants’ rookie franchise record with 1,925 all-purpose yards. He came in second amongst rookies in total all-purpose yards behind only Doug Martin of Tampa Bay. By ONE yard.

Earlier in the season, Wilson also set an NFL record when he rushed for more than 100 yards and amassed more than 200 kickoff return yards in a game. Additionally, Wilson set the Giants’ franchise record in total all-purpose yards in a game with 327.

So while it may have been an up-and-down year for the rookie, the fact is he’s a game-changer and will be a big part of the Giants’ future.

HB Ahmad Bradshaw had a great game against the Eagles despite not getting the start, rushing for 107 yards on 16 carries, a 6.7 ypc average, and a touchdown. Impressively, that 6.7 average is not skewed as his long for the day was just 17 yards. Bradshaw also had a reception for 41 yards on a great read on a “scramble rules” play where he got behind the linebacker down the sideline as Eli was running out of time in the pocket.

Bradshaw had to manage injuries to his feet all year again, and was a no show at practice way more often than not. Frankly, it seems to me that it hurts the Giants when he doesn’t practice. The running game was more out of sync than in sync for the majority of the year, but Bradshaw still managed to record the second 1,000 yard season in his six year career. Despite only playing in 14 games, Bradshaw finished with a 4.6 ypc average and 1,015 yards on 221 carries. Bradshaw had four games with more than 100 yards (one was a 200 yard game versus Cleveland). The 1,000 yard season is more impressive considering Bradshaw had gained just 133 yards after four games and suffered through six games with less than 50 yards on the ground and missing two others with injuries. Bradshaw had just six touchdowns, his lowest total in four years.

Bradshaw was a near non-factor in the passing game this season, catching just 23 passes for 245 yards. That was also his lowest number of receptions in three years.

FB Henry Hynoski provided the funniest highlight of the year when he caught a one-yard touchdown pass for the Giants’ final touchdown of the 2012 season. Hynoski went into full “Hynocerous” mode and performed a side-splitting dance after the first touchdown of his career.

Hank the Tank, Hynocerous, whatever, Henry Hynoski is a big-league fullback who loves to play football. If you have the chance to see it, watch his reaction to the lead block he delivered on David Wilson’s 18 yard run from the Eagles’ 22-yard line on the Giants’ first touchdown drive. Hynoski pulled to the left and demolished the cornerback for about eights yards down the field and though Wilson was brought down at the four, Hynoski let out a whoop of joy in the end zone that would have made you believe he had just scored. Hynoski is one of the bright young stars on the Giants’ offense. Hynoski is asked to block, almost exclusively. On the year, Hynoski carried just five times for 20 yards. He is somewhat more effective out of the backfield where he caught 11 of 15 passes thrown his way for 50 yards.

The Giants have two more running backs on the roster that may add solid contributions in 2013, Andre Brown and Da’Rel Scott. Brown proved he should have a shot as a featured back subbing for injured Ahmad Bradshaw, gaining 385 yards on 73 carries for a robust 5.3 ypc average. Additionally, Brown proved an excellent short yardage back and also scored eight touchdowns in just ten games.

Scott, the Giants’ 7th round draft pick in 2011, has tremendous straight ahead speed but appears to have little wiggle. Scott’s best chance to make the roster next year (coming off arthroscopic knee surgery) might be as a punt or kick returner.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends:

As mentioned, Hakeem Nicks was again a non-factor in the game against the Eagles, and for the second contest in a row was held to no catches. In fact, Nicks wasn’t even targeted once in the game.

Nicks had a tough year, beginning with a broken foot that never completely healed and which might have led to a knee injury that may need offseason surgery. It looked as though Nicks was back in week two when he gained 199 yards on 10 catches and a touchdown. Unfortunately, that’s also the game in which he hurt his knee. Nicks had 53 catches for a career-low 692 yards and three touchdowns in 2012. He had more than half that amount of catches (28) and two-thirds the yardage (444) in the playoffs alone last season. Published reports suggest that Nicks, who missed the next three contests after the Buccaneers game, should have sat for six to eight weeks. To his credit, Nicks gutted it out but it may have been a mistake to do so. The problem when Nicks is out is that teams don’t honor his replacement(s) and clamp down on fellow WR Victor Cruz, effectively taking him out of the game.

Victor Cruz had a solid day against the Eagles, catching four of six balls thrown his way for 52 yards and the one touchdown before the end of the first half.

The mercurial receiver put up another huge statistical season and was named to his first Pro Bowl. Cruz finished with 1,092 yards on 86 receptions (four more than last season) and 10 touchdowns. The receptions and touchdowns were career highs. Cruz finished 12th in the league in receptions and 15th in receiving yards. The big drop off for Cruz was the yards per completion, down a full 6 yards from last season. It wasn’t all rainbows and lollipops for Cruz this season, as he tied for second in the league for the most drops with 10. Only TE Jimmy Graham of New Orleans had more. Cruz was also not an unknown in 2012. Defenses schemed to take him away in the middle by doubling and being very physical with him. Cruz took several very big hits and also had a lot more trouble getting free due to the ineffectiveness of Nicks on the outside.

Rookie WR Rueben Randle is the real deal and by all accounts will be a huge part of the Giants offense going forward. Randle had a solid game against the Eagles, making two tough touchdown catches. Randle caught all four passes thrown his way and led the Giants in receiving with 58 yards.

Randle played in all 16 games as a rookie but only saw 32 looks all season. Randle caught 19 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns. The amazing statistic? Of those 19 catches, 13 of them went for a first down. That’s incredible and hopefully a great harbinger of things to come. Rueben’s best game came in Cleveland when he caught six of eight passes for 86 yards. It appeared the young rookie was on his way, but he only caught eight passes over the next 10 games while the Giants struggled to find a reliable third receiver. Randle also had his issues returning punts, finishing 46th in the league with 15 returns for 108 yards and 15 fair catches. Randle lost one fumble and had a number of bobbles.

WR Domenik Hixon caught two balls for 41 yards against the Eagles. Hixon had his best year since 2008 as the injury-plagued Giant hauled in 39 passes for a solid but quiet 567 yards. Hixon missed three games in 2012 with concussion and ankle issues. Hixon was coming off his second ACL tear in two years and frankly was probably the best number three receiver the Giants had all year. With Randle struggling with punt returns late in the year, Hixon supplanted him for the final three games of the season.

WR Jerrel Jernigan finished his second nearly non-existent season with the Giants gaining just 22 yards on three catches, six yards on one carry, and returning two kickoffs for 60 yards. Jernigan was active for nine games in 2012. There is no telling what’s in store for the diminutive wide receiver taken in the third round of the 2011 draft. Chances are he’ll get a shot at returning kicks in 2013 if Wilson’s duties are curtailed as he gets more action in the running game. Other than that, who knows what’s going to happen with him.

That leaves us to Ramses Barden, another high draft choice that simply isn’t consistent or healthy enough often enough to make a difference. Barden was inactive against the Eagles.

By his standards, however, Barden had a stellar season nearly doubling his output from the previous three years combined with 14 catches for 220 yards. In his career, Barden now has 29 catches for 394 yards and not a single, solitary touchdown. In four years. The 2009 3rd rounder, the 85th overall pick, was once compared to Brandon Marshall. It turns out, he’s been about as effective as Penny Marshall. Barden had what appeared to be a breakout game in week three against Carolina when he went off for nince catches for 138 yards. The very next week, Barden committed a very costly pass interference penalty late in the game against Philadelphia which cost the Giants 10 yards of field position. It turned out that the Giants were forced to attempt a 54 yard field goal that fell about three yards short and New York suffered a two point loss. Barden caught just two passes over the next 12 games.

TE Martellus Bennett had a rough game against the Eagles, catching just one ball of the five thrown to him for a total of 15 yards.

New York has a bona fide tight end in the Black Unicorn and it would seem that the Giants would make re-signing Bennett to a long-term deal in the off-season a high priority. The Giants are still very weak at a position that is gaining more and more priority and importance in NFL offenses, with just Bear Pascoe (a blocking TE, and a mediocre one at that) and the enigma that is 2009 third-round draft pick Travis Beckum. Once again, Beckum had an insignificant season after coming off the PUP list in November trying to come back from offseason ACL injury. Once again, he landed on IR with lingering effects from the surgery. In four seasons, Beckum has caught just 26 balls for 264 yards and 3 touchdowns. Additionally, blocking is not Beckum’s strong suit. The only other TE on the roster is 2011 fourth-round project Adrien Robinson, who only got to suit up for the Giants in two games this season and as far as I can tell never saw the field. The Giants like what they have in Robinson, with GM Jerry Reese calling him the “JPP of tight ends.” We’ll see.

So as mentioned, one would think Bennett would figure heavily into the Giants’ offseason plans. Bennett caught 55 passes (on an astounding 90 targets) for 626 yards and 5 touchdowns. Thirty-five of Bennett’s catches went for first downs. Bennett struggled early to gain the confidence of Eli Manning and they definitely had more than a few communication problems. Bennett was also crucial in the running game and pass blocking schemes where he excelled. Bennett also played through a pretty significant knee injury that hampered him in the first half of the season. Manning looked for Bennett 30 more times than he looked for TE Jake Ballard last season. Ballard caught 38 passes for 604 yards and four touchdowns last season. Bennett is clearly a better blocker than Ballard. Finally, the Black Unicorn was also credited with saving the life of a fan who fell out of the stands after a game. A detailed report of the event can be found here.

Offensive Line:

New York’s offensive line had a solid game against the Eagles, opening up huge running lanes for the backs and doing a very good job of protecting Eli Manning against the wide nine look that Philadelphia runs. As mentioned, Manning was sacked only once and was only hit a couple of times. RG Chris Snee played despite two bad hips, one of which may require offseason surgery.

On the whole, I don’t think that the Giants offensive line was nearly as bad as many people thought. LT Will Beatty is easily the best member of the group and he’s quietly rounding into one of the best in the league. Re-signing the unrestricted free agent Beatty has to be the top priority for the Giants this offseason. LG Kevin Boothe has made a nice little career for himself, but the Giants may be able to upgrade here. Boothe is solid, but sometimes gets lost at the second-level and misses his assignment. Boothe is serviceable at LG, but I’d rather see him as a back-up. C David Baas had a markedly better season than last year, but he’s still a middle-of-the-road center. He is adept at pass protection, but seems to be a non-factor much of the time in the running and screen game. He’s not fast by any measure and is constantly late at the second-level, particularly on screen plays. RG Chris Snee should be back if healthy. It’s just my opinion, but I think injuries have been the problem with Snee and it’s not a loss of a step. When healthy, Snee is as good as any RG in football. Unfortunately, Sean Locklear blew out his knee after doing a very good job at both tackle positions this season. The journeyman wasn’t expected to do much, but his play clearly showed that he’d earned the right tackle position. RT David Diehl had a rough season and will probably be a cap casualty. The Giants will be looking for, at the very least, a starting right tackle and developmental guards this season unless they think T James Brewer will be ready to start at RT.

Defense:

The Giants defense played an up and down game on Sunday despite the lopsided score. The Giants made life miserable for what was most likely the last game for Michael Vick as an Eagle. Though the Giants only sacked him once, they did get a ton of pressure on him and hit him at least 10 times (the official score sheet said seven). The Giants did still have trouble with the running game, allowing the Eagles to rush for more than 100 yards. The key for the Giants was getting out to the big lead and then clamping down on third and fourth down. The Eagles converted just 4-of-14 third downs and 2-of-4 on fourth down.

On the whole, the Giants defense did not have a very good year statistically. The Giants’ defense allowed the most yards in franchise history. The run defense was a major disappointment, but lack of pass-rush production was even more alarming. Pressures were down, QB hits were off and sacks dropped from 48 in 2011 to 33 this season. Teams figured out that the Giants could not stop the run. New York allowed an 8th-worst 2,066 yards (129.1 yards per game) on the ground. That opened up the Giants to huge problems in the passing game, where they gave up a whopping 5th- worst 4,068 yards through the air (254.2 yards per game). New York was burned by big plays, giving up 29 plays of 30 yards or more through the air. That was good for worst in the NFL.

New York finished 31st in the league in total defense but amazingly finished 12th in the league in scoring defense. That was due to playing pretty well in the green zone, giving up just 23 touchdowns on 50 chances by their opponents from inside the 20 yard line. New York finished fourth in the league with 35 takeaways and were third in the league with a plus/minus of plus-14 in turnovers.

Front Seven:

As mentioned, the Giants kept Vick on his toes all game. DE’s Justin Tuck (one sack) and JPP had solid games, as did DT Linval Joseph. DT Marvin Austin also had three tackles in the game. While the defensive line played a good game, the linebackers were again all over the place. Chase Blackburn led the teams in tackles and also had a nice defense of a pass. Keith Rivers had his best game in quite some time and came away with five tackles.

Breaking down the front seven is a difficult proposition. First and foremost, the defensive line regressed measurably this season. DEs Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul all had subpar seasons as far as they are concerned. Could it be that we’ve seen the final season for Tuck and Osi in Giants blue? It’s a strong probability that Umenyiora won’t be back. Justin Tuck is another story. As for JPP, he had trouble all season with the double-team and when no one else could get home when the Giants sent four, JPP was just taken out of the game by the opposing offensive line. DE/LB Mathais Kiwanuka was most effective from the DE position and it remains to be seen if he’ll be moved back to his natural position. The Giants have a couple of developmental DEs in the system, the most promising seeming to be Adrian Tracy. Tracy should be a situational player next year if Osi and/or Tuck leave. Adewale Ojomo also has a chance to get some playing time next year if the Giants don’t draft or sign a free agent DE.

Linval Joseph is the best DT on the team and he had a great first half and a so-so second half. The Giants wore down at the DT position as Rocky Bernard also had a terrific season going until he got hurt and never made it back to the level at which he’d been playing. Markus Kuhn looks like a beast as a run stuffer, but he too was injured and ended up on IR. Chris Canty came off the PUP list and played well at first but also was injured. Canty is due a king’s ransom this season and could also find himself out unless he restructures. Finally, Marvin Austin finished his second redshirt season and needs to establish whether he can play football or not very soon. The second-round draft choice has been a non-factor for two years. This is a prime area of need for the Giants.

Let’s face it. This was the worst performing set of linebackers that the Giants have produced in quite some time. Michael Boley regressed and played through a myriad of nagging injuries all year. He’s not the fast outside linebacker he once was and made few impact plays. In fact, Boley was the fifth lowest rated outside linebacker in football. That said, he is arguably still the most-talented linebacker at this time on this team. That’s depressing. We all love Chase Blackburn. He’s got more heart than most players that have ever put on a uniform and at times heart can make up for lack of raw talent. It just can’t do it ALL the time. Blackburn was ranked the 7th worst inside linebacker in football this season.

The Giants came into the season with a most promising group of young linebackers with second-year players Spencer Paysinger, Mark Herzlich and Jacquian Williams. They also brought in veteran Keith Rivers and also had Mathias Kiwanuka, who bounces from LB to DT/DE as required. Unfortunately, not a single player other than possibly Williams improved this season. Williams is far and away the best prospect of the group, but missed half the season with a knee injury. Herzlich is still a story unfinished. He’s been stellar on special teams, but he gets caught up in the wash and does not play with good gap discipline as a MIKE. It’s telling that after two years in the system he has been unable to supplant Blackburn as the starter. Keith Rivers is a playmaker, but he can’t seem to stay healthy. When healthy, he’s an excellent rotational linebacker with good speed and coverage skills. Paysinger flashed a few times, but again is very inconsistent. Kiwanuka is not a linebacker and should be playing on the line, period. New York has a lot of questions with few actionable answers for what was arguably the worst unit on the team.

Secondary:

The secondary played a solid game against the Eagles, led by CB Prince Amukamara who was doubtful coming into the game. The much maligned unit only allowed 11 receptions by the wide receivers, as LeSean McCoy led the Eagles in receiving. Most importantly, the Giants only allowed one play over 30 yards on a screen pass to McCoy. On the day, Philadelphia only gained 211 gross yards through the air. Even Corey Webster, who had a horrible year, played well against the Eagles. S Stevie Brown had another interception that thwarted the Eagles’ first drive and started the rout. For his efforts, Brown was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season.

Looking at the secondary, it’s hard to imagine them playing as poorly as they did. Frankly, they had little help from the linebacking corps and the lack of pass pressure up front hung them out to dry more often than not. Any QB in the league will tear up even the best secondary when they are under little or no duress. Prince has rounded into the number one corner on the team and has a brilliant future ahead of him. Corey Webster, however, regressed and was repeatedly burned deep, and even when he had good coverage (as he did against Baltimore’s Torrey Smith for most of that game), he was often unable to make the play on the ball. Webster has had confidence problems in the past and it may be the case again. The Giants had to rely on Jayron Hosley way more often than they wanted to on the outside, and he was burned accordingly at times. Hosley has talent and may very well turn into a good CB, but he’s more suited to play inside right now. Time will tell with Hosley. Justin Tryon had a rough year and will probably not be back next season. No one knows if Terrell Thomas will ever be able to play again after tearing his ACL for the second year in a row. The Giants will be looking hard for another corner in the draft or free agency.

One of the reasons the CBs had trouble this season was the injury to S Kenny Phillips. When Phillips is healthy, teams do not try to go over the top as often as when he’s out. Phillips doesn’t make flashy plays, he doesn’t make a ton of interceptions or big hits, he just plays sound positional football taking options away from opposing QBs. His injury, in my opinion, was the biggest reason the Giants suffered in the second half of the season. Stevie Brown was a pleasant fill in for Phillips. He just seems to be in the right place at the right time, evidenced by his eight interceptions. That was the most by a Giant since 1968. Brown was named NVC Defensive Player of the Week twice this season, the first time a Giants safety won the honor twice in the same year. That’s the good on Brown. The bad is that he sometimes gets caught peeking in the backfield and getting caught flat footed in coverage. Several times his coverage responsibility breakdowns were exploited for big gains or touchdowns. That will hopefully change as he progresses.

Tyler Sash did not impress much after coming back from suspension and will have a tough time making the roster next season if Phillips stays. That’s because Will Hill flashed enough to merit a chance as the third, or at worst, fourth safety.

Antrel Rolle takes a ton of flak from Giants fans, but it’s clear he has become the leader of this defense. He is a tackling machine playing out of his natural position, leading the Giants with 96. Rolle is one of the most solid players on this defense.

Special Teams:

The Giants special teams against the Eagles were quiet, mainly because they had an opportunity to return just one punt and one kickoff. The coverage teams were stellar, not allowing the Eagles to turn any field position with a return. The Giants did not attempt a field goal and the Eagles missed on their only opportunity.

The Giants special teams remain an enigma. They still at times commit too many penalties on returns and are inconsistent on coverage teams. K Lawrence Tynes had a good year as far as scoring, but frankly he missed a couple of key kicks that could have been the difference in not making the playoffs. P Steve Weatherford has done a tremendous job and is easily one of the best in the league. As for coverage units, Herzlich, Paysinger and DeOssie continue to play outstanding football. The special teams unit is fairly solid and depending on the moves the Giants make this offseason should get better next season.

Coaching:

I suppose no one can dismiss the “second half swoon” label as just that, a label, any longer. Once again, after a 6-2 start, the Giants faltered and, this time, for the second time in three years, were unable to scrap their way into the playoffs. The Giants have finished the last three seasons at 10-6, 9-7, and 9-7 and only once made the playoffs. That’s discouraging after three straight 6-2 starts. If not for the Super Bowl run last year, there would be more hot tempers in The Corner Forum and in Giants land. Because of it, HC Tom Coughlin gets a pass and will be the head coach next year. And he’s bringing back the coaching staff intact. That’s not a pleasant situation for many on BBI.

Coughlin is a winner. That’s all there is to it. For whatever reason, New York falters after the eighth game of the season. This year, untimely injuries and a brutal second half-schedule was the culprit. Over the last eight weeks, the Giants lost to four playoff teams and one non-playoff team, and they beat one playoff team and two non-playoff teams. The Giants talked a lot about playing better with their backs against the wall, but this year they were unable to back up the talk.

OC Kevin Gilbride’s offense was the sixth-ranked scoring offense in football. New York scored over 429 points, second most in franchise history. Look at some of these statistics:

Points Per Game — 26.8 (5th)

Points Per Play — 0.443 (2nd)

Touchdowns Per Game — 2.9 (7th)

Red Zone Scoring Attempts Per Game — 3.9 (4th)

Red Zone Scoring Percentage (TDs only) — 54.84 percent (13th)

Plays Per Game — 60.5 (31st)

Yards Per Play — 5.9 (4th)

Avg. Time Of Possession — 29:10 (23rd)

Third Down Conversion Percentage — 40.62 percent (11th)

Rushing Attempts Per Game — 25.6 (23rd)

Yards Per Rush Attempt — 4.6 (7th)

Rushing Play Percentage — 42.25 percent (15th)

Passing Yards Per Game — 239.1 (12th)

Yards Per Pass Attempt — 7.1 (11th)

Yards Per Completion — 11.8 (4th)

QB Sacked Percentage — 3.58 percent (2nd)

Average Team Passer Rating — 87.2 (14th)

The only stat that stands out to me as worrisome is average time of possession. There’s a reason for that. Look at the stat “Plays Per Game”: 60.5!! That’s on the defense, folks. If the other team has the ball, the Giants don’t and obviously can’t score. Those that say the Giants were running too much should look at the “Rushing Attempts Per Game” stat. 23rd in the League doesn’t suggest they were not letting Manning do his thing. Overall, the Giants were in the top third or better in almost every major category. Be careful what you wish for, BBI.

DC Perry Fewell is another scapegoat as many people want his head on a platter. As mentioned, there were a number of things on the field that led to the demise of the defense. First, there were injuries at major positions (CB and S), there was a linebacking corps that did not progress, and a pass rush that withered away to nothing more than average. The Giants rely on an aggressive pass rush but at times it appeared New York didn’t play aggressively and that would be on Fewell. It’s unknown why the Giants insisted until way too late in the season to live…and ultimately die…by committing to getting to the QB with just four downlinemen. It wasn’t working, as even in Week 5 we were hearing from the staff, “It will come, it’s getting close.” It never got there. Here are the important stats to review:

Yards Allowed Per Game — 383.4 (31st)

Opponent Yards Per Play — 6.0 (30th)

Opponent Third Down Conversion Percentage — 42.42 percent (30th)

Opponent Yards Per Rush Attempt — 4.6 (27th)

Opponent Completion Percentage — 63.86 percent (26th)

Opponent Passing Yards Per Game — 254.2 (26th)

Opponent Avg. Team Passer Rating — 88.2 (20th)

Opponent Yards per Pass Attempt — 7.6 (31st)

Sack Percentage — 5.82 percent (22nd)

Takeaways Per Game — 2.2 (3rd)

Fewell, and Coughlin too, preach ball security and takeaways. The Giants were third in the league in plus/minus this season so they excelled in that area. The problem was the long pass plays allowed and the inability to consistently get off the field on third down, no matter the distance. It’s only my opinion, but I believe there needs to be personnel changes first and a philosophy change if that doesn’t work. I’m not able to put this on Fewell with the complete lack of talent at linebacker, the inability of their bread-and-butter, the pass rush, to pressure the QB, and injuries in the secondary. I feel those issues were more a factor than the type of defense the Giants played.

Final Thoughts:

This was a tough year, but we have to be pragmatic. Yes, a couple bounces such as the pass interference penalty against the Eagles resulting in a field goal attempt ten yards longer than it would have been, and a miracle win by the Redskins over Baltimore kept the Giants out of the playoffs. That’s football. Last year, Dallas blew four fourth quarter leads of 14 points or more and also lost one in which they iced their own kicker and ended up losing. If the Cowboys win any of those games, New York would have watched last year’s Super Bowl on TV. Them’s the bounces.

As it stands, New York seems at a cross roads. Almost every unit has question marks, and some have alarming question marks. What will the vaunted defensive line look like? What will be the backfield make up? Will a linebacker finally break out? What will the secondary look like? How about the offensive line? This is shaping up to be the biggest year of turnover for the Giants in quite some time. The list of UFAs is long, and there are several big decisions that need to be made. Here are my thoughts on what should/could be done with each:

WR Rames Barden – Let him go.
T Will Beatty – Sign him NOW!!
TE Travis Beckum – Let him go.
TE Martellus Bennett – Sign him NOW!!
DT Rocky Bernard – Sign him to a team friendly contract or let him go.
LB Chase Blackburn – Sorry Chase, it’s time to hang them up.
G Kevin Boothe – Sign him to a team friendly contract or let him go.
QB David Carr – Doesn’t matter, no one but Eli ever plays.
WR Domenik Hixon – Sign him to team friendly deal or let him go.
CB Bruce Johnson – I don’t like Johnson, others do. We need CB depth. Sign him.
OL Sean Locklear – Knee issue, let him go.
RB Kregg Lumpkin – Thanks for the help, good luck.
S Kenny Phillips – Probably not a big market for him, bring him back if affordable.
LB Keith Rivers – Same as Kenny.
DL Shaun Rogers – Let him go.
CB Justin Tryon – Let him go.
K Lawrence Tynes – Time to upgrade, too many late season misses/
DE Osi Umenyiora – I love Osi, but it’s time to cut bait.
CB Brian Witherspoon – Sign him .

As for the restricted free agents:

RB Andre Brown – Sign him to a team friendly contract.
S Stevie Brown – No brainer, bring him back.
WR Victor Cruz – Sign to a long term deal.
RB Ryan Torain – Thanks for the help, good luck.
TE Bear Pascoe – Bring him back.

Then there are the Exclusive rights free agents:

OL Jim Cordle – Need to re-sign him for depth/
DE Adrian Tracy – Could be a player next season, sign him.
DE Justin Trattou – Same as Tracy, flashed in preseason. Keep him.

There are other Giants that may be “on the chopping block” according to sources:

Ahmad Bradshaw – I think we have to keep Bradshaw. Possibly a restructured deal.

Chris Canty – Has a HUGE payday coming. Possible cap casualty if he doesn’t restructure.

Michael Boley – It may be time to let him go.

Corey Webster – Also due a huge payday. He will have to be restructured.

Antrel Rolle – Giants need him, but he’s a big hit to the cap. A restructure is possible here.

David Diehl – Probably going to be cut if the Giants find a decent RT at a decent price.

Chris Snee – Have injuries robbed him of his future? Do the Giants dare cut him?

There are others, I’m sure, that we may not even be considering. No one saw the Luke Pettigrout cut coming in 2007. GM Jerry Reese will do whatever he feels necessary to make this team more competitive and this will be his toughest offseason to date. The Giants still have a strong core on offense and plenty of talent to build around on defense, but this team needs to be shored up big time if it’s to get back to the big game.

On a personal note, I hope you all enjoyed my reviews this year, it was a tough one for me due to how busy I was this season. I enjoy writing them, but as those that have done it before (including Eric) can tell you it’s not easy. Especially when you’ve got a boatload of very football savvy fans reading them. I appreciate all the comments, good and bad. I take constructive criticism to heart and it makes me want to write better reviews.

Enjoy the offseason, the draft is only a couple months away!

(Box Score – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, December 30, 2012)
Dec 272012
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 23, 2012)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Baltimore Ravens 33 (10-5) – New York Giants 14 (8-7)

Debacled Again

By rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Autopsy Report:

A few weeks ago I made the point that the Giants had arguably played their worst game in two years against the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s hard to believe just five games later, New York has actually played two worse than they did then. The game against the Ravens was for all intents and purposes a continuation of the beating they took from the Falcons last week. Nothing changed, nothing got better, and as a result the Giants playoff hopes are all but doomed.

Once again, New York was down 14 points before the locals could even get comfortable in their seats. The Giants’ first two drives were both three-and-outs, gaining two net yards and accounting for three minutes in time of possession. Baltimore’s first two drives consisted of 18 plays, 120 yards, 7:35 in time of possession, and mostly importantly, two touchdowns. Though New York closed to within seven points on their next drive, it never felt like the Giants were going to get back into the game. New York had six “drives” in the first half. Four of those resulted in three-and-outs and resulted in -8 net yardage. Their other two drives were just five plays each and accounted for 97 yards (77 on one, 20 on the other) and the lone touchdown of the half. Forty-three of the yards on the touchdown drive came on one play. If you’re keeping score at home, that means on the other 21 offensive plays New York ran in the first half, New York gained just 46 net yards (2.19 average PER PLAY!)

Three Baltimore drives and 10 points later, the Ravens walked into the tunnel at halftime with what every New York Giants fan knew was an insurmountable 17-point lead.

The first half stats were stunning. Yardage: Baltimore 289, New York 109. First Downs: Baltimore 15, New York 4. Offensive plays: Baltimore 41, New York 22. Third down efficiency: Baltimore 6-8, 75%, New York 0-5, 0%. Time of Possession: Baltimore 17:21, New York 12:39.

It got worse in the second half. New York ran just nine plays for a total of six yards and one first down on two drives totaling just 3:06 in the third quarter. Unbelievably, when the Giants took over with just 7:25 left in the game and put together an 11-play, 80 yard touchdown drive, they’d run just 12 plays for 12 yards and one first down. Incredibly, New York had just 3:53 time of possession in the second half going into that final drive.

On the day, Baltimore gained 533 yards including an astounding 224 on the ground, registered 25 first downs, converted 61% of their third downs, ran an incredible 81 offensive plays, only punted twice, and held the ball for 39:21. Additionally, Baltimore came into the game dead last in the league at sustaining drives of 10 plays or more. Naturally, the Ravens had four drives of 12 plays or more (14, 12, 16 and 13). The only thing that kept the final score relatively “close” was the fact that Baltimore had to settle for four field goals on drives that ended at the Giants’ 12 yard line or closer.

Offense:

There isn’t much to talk about with regards to the offense. Other than the 43-yard pass to WR Rueben Randle and the 14-yard touchdown run by HB David Wilson on the Giants’ third drive, New York did very little with the ball. Seriously, what’s to talk about when you control the ball for a mere EIGHT minutes in the entire second half? How does one discuss six three-and-outs and just 34 offensive plays over the first nine New York drives?

QB Eli Manning had another tough game, completing just 14-of-28 passes for 150 yards and one touchdown. I suppose one can look on the bright side and note that he didn’t throw an interception. Manning was under pressure all day, suffering three sacks and absorbing at least nine hits.

The running game once again went nowhere. HB Ahmad Bradshaw was wearing a knee brace that was obviously affecting him greatly, particularly in blitz pickup. Bradshaw gained just 39 yards on a paltry nine carries. HB David Wilson carried just three times for 17 yards and the 14-yard touchdown that temporarily made the game seem close. Many in The Corner Forum believed that Wilson’s role was reduced because of his back flip antics in the end zone following his touchdown. That was not at all the case. The Giants were playing catch up and were forced to throw on over 70 percent of their plays (32-of-45). It’s obvious by the fact that the Giants employed both HB Kregg Lumpkin (who ironically missed a blitz pickup that led to a sack) and even FB Henry Hynoski in the backfield to block on passing plays that they do not trust Wilson in pass protection. That’s why he only saw the playing field four times.

WR Hakeem Nicks only saw three passes thrown in his direction and didn’t catch a ball. Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon only had five passes thrown at them each and caught three balls apiece. Rueben Randle caught just one pass, yet the 43 yards gained on that reception actually led the Giants. Cruz again took a wicked shot to the head, this time from S Ed Reed who hit him with his shoulder. It looked innocent enough, but you cannot hit a receiver in the head. Cruz has taken a lot of shots this year and frankly, it’s impacted his play this season.

TE Martellus Bennett paced the team in catches (4) and targets (7) for just 27 yards. Additionally, on the opening Giants drive of the third quarter Bennett simply missed a beautifully thrown pass down the middle of the field that would have set the Giants up with a first down close to the Baltimore 40-yard line. Instead, they punted.

The offensive line was not very good on Sunday, but as noted they were not getting much help in blitz pick-ups from the Giants backs. RG Chris Snee deserves a lot of respect for gutting out and playing through a painful hip injury, but seriously he’s going to get Manning killed if he continues to play as he is. C David Baas is also battling through injuries and it’s showing. Baas cannot stay healthy and it’s really hurt the team. There is simply no anchor in the middle of the line. The only bright spot on the entire line this season has been the steady if not solid play from LT Will Beatty, who is starting to look like he may become a great one. Beatty, LG Kevin Boothe and TE Bear Pascoe blocked Wilson’s touchdown run perfectly.

Defense:

There are no “excuses” for failure in football, but there are “reasons.” Face it folks, injuries and the fact that young players have not developed as expected have destroyed what this defense may have been able to accomplish this season. Many of the fans in The Corner Forum have blamed Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell and his schemes for their failures this season and there may be some merit to those complaints. On Sunday, however, New York employed the style the fans have been screaming for and tried to play more press coverage and send more blitzes in on QB Joe Flacco. It didn’t work, as Flacco carved up the secondary particularly when he saw one-on-one coverage. Baltimore had six plays of more than 20 yards, and four of 35 or more.

Baltimore has not been a very good offensive team over the second half of the season, yet they looked like San Francisco circa 1989. Baltimore employed a hurry up offense early that kept the Giants from substituting as they would have liked. New York tried to go with a four linebacker look to stop the run and it was as effective as putting a brown paper wall in front of HBs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. The Giants abandoned that look early, but in retrospect it worked better than what they tried to do in the second half when Baltimore ran for 137 of their 224 yards. Both Rice and the rookie Pierce ran for more than 100 yards.

The youngsters at linebacker simply haven’t progressed. Mark Herzlich led the linebackers with seven tackles, but frankly he looks lost out there. For each tackle Herzlich made, it appeared he missed one. Spencer Paysinger has seen more time lately, but again he’s not contributing with any impact plays down near the line of scrimmage, and though he was sent on a couple blitzes on Sunday, he got nowhere near Flacco. Paysinger seems to play tentatively, waiting for something to happen and then reacting to it. Chase Blackburn is also a guy to respect, but he’s just not fast enough to be an impact middle linebacker. It speaks volumes that Blackburn is the best linebacker of this bunch and has been unable to be beaten out for a job by Herzlich, Williams or Paysinger. Michael Boley was on the bench more than on the field for the second week in a row. Keith Rivers nearly had an interception, but there isn’t much more to discuss with him either.

Other than DT Chris Canty and DE Osi Umenyiora, the Giants defensive line was once again missing in action on Sunday. Justin Tuck did not play. Jason Pierre-Paul and Linval Joseph did absolutely nothing. When the Giants’ big names up front are missing in action, bad things happen downfield. Not to be outdone, DE/LB Mathais Kiwanuka also was a no-show on Sunday until he was able to sack Flacco on a third-and-one play down near the goal line. At that point, New York was down 30-7 with just seven and a half minutes to go in the game. A pyrrhic victory, at absolute best. Part of the problem with the defensive line is that the linebackers cannot stop the run. The Giants linebackers are assigned to hit holes created by the linemen to stop the run, but just don’t do it. As such, the opposition is constantly in manageable down-and-distance situations and the Giants defensive line cannot tee off and get after the QB. Interestingly, when the Giants had Baltimore in long third downs on Sunday, they still couldn’t get to Flacco. New York allowed Baltimore to convert twice on third-and-19 and once on third-and-nine.

How bad is your secondary when QB Joe Flacco decides to pick on your number one cornerback instead of a rookie who has looked lost most of the season? Corey Webster was torched constantly on Sunday. By unofficial count, Flacco threw at him 13 times. WR Torry Smith, who was rumored to be out with a concussion early in the week, abused Webster over and over to the tune of five catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. If you want to know how often Webster was thrown on, just look at the fact that despite playing one-on-one coverage all day, he made seven solo tackles.

The rest of the secondary wasn’t much better. Flacco threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns on his way to a 114.2 passer rating. As mentioned, New York tried to send more pressure in on Flacco, blitzing significantly more than normal. When the Giants couldn’t get home, hitting Flacco just twice all game, Flacco just dumped the ball off short to Rice (six receptions on seven targets for 51 yards) or TE Dennis Pitta (four receptions on five targets for 56 yards) or went over the top against one-on-one coverage. Amazingly, WR Anquan Boldin caught all seven passes thrown his way before leaving with a shoulder injury.

S Antrel Rolle made 10 tackles as he constantly had to make up for missed tackles by the linebackers. S Stevie Brown nearly had an interception.

Special Teams:

P Steve Weatherford had a good game. The rest of the special teams were average, but the punt return team did allow Baltimore to average eight yards per return which is unsatisfactory.

Coaching:

The Giants tried to change things up on defense and it didn’t work. The strategy, in my opinion, was sound. The Giants had been unable to stop the run all year and decided that if they could bottle up Rice and Pierce, they’d have a good chance of rattling Flacco into mistakes. As has been the case all season, the Giants failed to execute the plan. I’m not sure you can blame Fewell for that.

HC Tom Coughlin continues to state that the Giants have had good communication, good weeks of practice, and seemingly are ready to play on game day. While the first two may be true, it sure looks like the third isn’t. The Giants simply looked flat on both sides of the ball to start the game once again. As for the offense, nothing is working. I’m not sure why OC Kevin Gilbride called for a direct snap to Ahmad Bradshaw on their first drive needing two yards to convert a third down. Bradshaw has a bad knee and one would think they would try something a little more conservative. Why not an I formation FB blast? Even if you don’t make it, it’s something different and certainly would not be expected.

Final Thoughts:

After another 6-2 start, the Giants have stumbled down the stretch and are currently 2-5 since then. Deja-vu all over again. As I mentioned, the Giants are beat up on both sides of the ball and are not getting improvement from their young players and that’s part of the problem. The Giants have also had a very tough second-half schedule, but there is no reason to put any blame there after defeating the likes of the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints.

The Giants aren’t out of the playoff hunt, but it’ll take a small miracle to get in and then if they do, is it even remotely possible that they have a run in them this year? I started a thread last week saying the Giants would win the division at 10-6 because Dallas would lose to the Saints and then beat the Redskins and that the Redskins would beat the Eagles then lose to Dallas. Those scenarios may still occur, as the first half has already happened. What I didn’t expect was for the Giants to tank on Sunday. How awful will it be if everything falls right again for the Giants next week, but they lose to the Eagles?

(Box Score – New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens, December 23, 2012)
Dec 242012
 
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Approach to the Game – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, December 30, 2012: There is still one more game to play and the Giants are not officially dead yet.  But even if they somehow miraculously make the playoffs by beating the Eagles, combined with the Cowboys, Vikings, and Bears losing, there doesn’t seem to be much life left in the 2012 New York Giants.

Only one team will win the Super Bowl this season.  You can argue about the reasons, but the point of the matter is the 2012 New York Giants were not good enough to be that team.  Some will say lack of talent was the reason.  Some will say poor coaching.  Some will say lack of hunger and focus due to a Super Bowl letdown.  Many – including myself – will lament the wasted 6-2 start.  And we will point to the team’s potential with their easy victories against the 49ers, Packers, and Saints.  But as Bill Parcells said many years ago, you are what you are.  And the Giants are an 8-7 football team that is 2-5 in their last seven games.  They have not earned the right to be a playoff team this year.  They are not good enough.

Even had the Giants won another title, changes would be coming.  It’s the nature of the game.  But with the disappointing collapse, we’ll probably see even more change.  Many players on this roster will not be on next year’s team.  Perhaps a coach or two will be gone.  Many fans will debate how much change is in fact needed.  Some will want to clean house while others will argue that only a few tweaks need to be made.  I choose not to think about all of that right now.

Many fans right now want to harp on the negative.  I want to ask fans to remember the big picture.  Championships are rare and special.  We are blessed to follow a team that has won eight NFL Championships and played in 19 NFL Championship games.  Those eight titles include four Super Bowl victories and another Super Bowl appearance.  Only the Packers (13) and Bears (9) have won more NFL Championships and only the Steelers (6), Cowboys (5), and 49ers (5) have won more Super Bowls.  The Giants are one of the NFL’s truly special teams.  Be proud of that.

New York Giants Super Bowl Trophies (June 14, 2012)

New York Giants Super Bowl Trophies – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Also, as we say farewell to veterans who were part of the 2007 and 2011 Championship teams, I ask that we not be mean-spirited about it, but thank those gentlemen for their service.  Years from now, as we watch old highlights of those teams and reminicense about two of the great playoff runs in NFL history, let’s remember these players fondly for the warriors they were.

Think about those playoff runs and the images from those games.  The Giants were never favored to win any playoff game in 2007 and trailed in each.  Folks forget how good the Tampa Bay defense was that year.  The Cowboys and Jerry Jones were sure they were going to the Super Bowl.  The Giants went into brutally cold Green Bay in January and beat Brett Favre.  And to beat the undefeated Patriots and Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl?  Are you kidding me?  It still seems like a dream.

And they did it again in 2011!!!  After stomping out the Falcons, the Giants ruined the season of the 15-1 Packers, again at Lambeau.  Then a classic NFC Championship Game in the rain at Candlestick.  And to beat the Patriots and Belichick again, once again with a late-game, dramatic drive?  As David Tyree said, this is fairy tale stuff.

We’ve had it good Giants fans.  The 2012 New York Giants?  They weren’t good enough.  It’s as simple as that.  But that does not erase 2007 and 2011, or the other six NFL Championships.  Free agency and the draft are right around the corner and soon the New York Football Giants will once again try to regain former glory.

I still love this team.

Dec 202012
 
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Atlanta Falcons 34 (12-2) – New York Giants 0 (8-6)

By rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Overview:

Here we go again.  One week after putting up the most points since 1986, the Giants got shut out in a regular season game for the first time since 1996 (they were shut out by Carolina in the 2006 playoffs).  New York was flat.  Plain and simple, from the opening return that Wilson took out of the end zone despite being around 8 yards deep, this team wasn’t on point.  They had no focus.  They looked disinterested.

Could they be reeling from the recent tragedies that have hit close to home?  This is the second time this season that the Giants have come out flat after a national tragedy hit in their area.  The first time was against the Steelers following Hurricane Sandy and this time it was after the awful shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in nearby Newtown, CT.

When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, southwestern  Connecticut was Giants country.  The demarcation point between Giants and Patriots fandom was set somewhere in the Hartford vicinity back then, and from what I understand that is still the case.  There is no doubt in my mind that the horrible event affected the team.  They said they wanted to win for the fans after both tragedies, to allow the fans to take their minds off the situation for a few hours but both times were unable to deliver.  I know how hard it is to perform your job and/or task after a tragedy.  Focus isn’t the same and it’s harder than hell to keep your concentration.  You can’t help but have your mind wander.

I’m not giving the Giants an excuse or a get out of jail free card.  The NFL is a sixteen game schedule and every single one is of utmost importance.  You can’t have a throw away game in the NFL.  You can’t rest players like you can in the other three major leagues.  We all know the Giants can still win the East and they control their own destiny as far as the playoffs go.  If they win their next two games, they’re in despite the fact that they’ve fallen from first place to third place in the NFC East.

New York absorbed the worst shutout defeat by a defending Super Bowl Champion in history, and became just the fourth team in NFL history to score more than 50 points one week and then get shut out the next.

Wouldn’t these be great little tidbits for the 2012 America’s Game program?

Offense:

The Giants were playing without HB Ahmad Bradshaw after losing HB Andre Brown two weeks ago, leaving relatively untested rookie David Wilson to try and carry the load with help from street free agent Kregg Lumpkin.  Additionally, David Diehl is now the undisputed starter at RT, Hakeem Nicks is still not anywhere near 100%, and C Kevin Bass along with RG Chris Snee are playing through various injuries.  Let’s face it folks, this offense is beat up something fierce.  Still, they were no more beat up this week than they were in the second half against the Saints and they did a pretty good job then.

New York never got in any type of sustained groove all day.  On their second play from scrimmage, Eli Manning made the worst decision of the season to throw to Nicks despite bracket coverage that allowed his nemesis, Asante Samuel, to guess and make a play on the ball for an interception.  Naturally, the interception turned into an Atlanta touchdown and once again the Giants were down very early in the game.  On Sunday, they never recovered.  On their next drive, the Giants were unable to capitalize on a first and 10 from the Atlanta 19-yard line and then missed a 30-yard field goal.  That’s the way the game went for the offense all day.

Despite the two turnovers, New York was actually done in most by the fact that they were unable to convert two fourth-and-one opportunities when trying to claw back into the game.  Twice in the first half, HC Tom Coughlin decided against attempting field goals (granted, both were after Tynes missed the 30-yarder) and both times the Giants couldn’t convert.  Most devastating and lost in most of the commentary is the fact that both fourth down failures came after third and very short (third-and-two and third-and-one) opportunities.  The Giants had two chances on each drive to convert a short distance and failed.  Combined with the two first-half interceptions that led to 10 Atlanta points, and the missed field goal, New York was out of the game at halftime.

The second half offense isn’t even worth commenting on as there really was none.  New York’s first drive was a 9 play jaunt that gained 55 yards to the Atlanta 25 yard line, but going for it again on fourth down and two yards to go, Manning’s throw to Lumpkin was knocked down at the line of scrimmage.  That play occurred with just under seven minutes left in the third quarter.  What I’m about to write is not a typo.  Over the next 22 minutes, the New York offense ran just five plays for 18 yards, one first down, and committed another turnover on a fumble.   New York held the ball for only 1:40 the entire fourth quarter.

Do you want to hear an amazing stat?  The Giants scored no points yet only punted twice in nine possessions.  New York’s offense committed three turnovers, gave up the ball on downs three times, and missed a field goal on another drive.  You can’t make this stuff up.

Quarterback:

QB Eli Manning is not playing good football.  The problem is that there is no way to know why.  Is he not trusting his line any longer and trying to get rid of the ball too early?  Is he not in sync with his receivers?  Nicks isn’t 100% and Cruz has obviously been, well, ‘cautious’ over the middle in recent weeks.  There is no lack of running game, as the Giants fell just short of 100 yards in the game for what would have been the fifth time in a row.

So what is it?  What makes him target Hakeem Nicks despite being covered by his absolute nemesis on the second play of the game?  Why is it that his deep balls are inconsistent all of a sudden?   One is overthrown by three yards, the next is underthrown by three yards.  Then he puts one right on the money.  What is causing the inconsistency?

Manning finished his day completing just 13-of-25 passes for a whopping 161 yards.  The pressure wasn’t intense, but Manning did have pressure.  He was sacked once for a two yard loss and hit just twice.  Manning’s two interceptions helped lead him to a woeful 38.9 passer rating and an astoundingly bad and completely embarrassing 4.8 QBR.  Yes, that is correct, a 4.8 out of 100.  The only two worse this week were Chad Henne and Joe Flacco.  Even Mark Sanchez had a higher rating at 6.8.

If the Giants are to win the next two games and make a run, Manning has got to turn his game around and stop throwing early interceptions that are leading to early deficits.

Running Backs:

David Wilson got his first start, subbing for injured HBs Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown.  Wilson had his ups and downs, carrying 12 times for 55 yards with a long of 25 yards.  Unfortunately, Wilson was unable to convert a fourth-and-one play with six minutes left to play in the second quarter with the Giants trailing 17-0.  Frankly, it felt as though the game was over right then and there.  Wilson made one reception and showed some power and determination by catching the swing pass and taking on three tacklers and still getting 11 yards and a first down.

It’s important to note that Wilson got absolutely steamrolled by blitzing linebacker Sean Weatherspoon which put pressure on Manning (who was hit and dropped by Weatherspoon) and may have caused him to throw into coverage on the first interception.  Wilson was trucked, rag dolled, blown up, whatever adjective you want to use but frankly that’s why he hasn’t played on passing downs before now.  Incidentally, Manning had Bear Pascoe all alone five yards downfield across the middle on the play.  Interestingly, nobody on the broadcast noted this issue.

Kregg Lumpkin played well in his first sustained action, well, ever.  He set career highs in carries with 9, yards gained with 42, and also had a career long run of 22 yards.  The problem was that before Wilson’s failed fourth-and-one, Lumpkin gained just one yard on third-and-two.  Later, Lumpkin failed on another third-and-one that led to another failed fourth down conversion for the Giants.  Lumpkin’s fumble was a fluke play as the ball was punched out from behind.  Lumpkin didn’t even know a player was there to make that play.

Receivers:

WR Domenik Hixon once again impressed for New York, catching five of six passes for 80 yards, his most productive day in quite a while.  Hixon lately seems to be the most consistent of the wide receivers.

Victor Cruz was targeted just five times, catching three for only 15 yards while Nicks only caught three of seven balls thrown his way for 40 yards.  Both of Manning’s interceptions came on balls thrown in the vicinity of Nicks.

TE Martellus Bennett was invisible on Sunday.  Manning went his way just twice and Bennett caught one for 15 yards.

Offensive Line:

I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to the offensive line, but frankly the protection for Eli Manning seemed pretty good for most of the day.  Other than two long runs that accounted for nearly half the Giants rushing yards, the Giants ran 19 times for just 50 yards.  That’s a 2.6 ypc average.  Not good.

Defense:

Once again, New York was powerless to stop the running game and powerless to get to the quarterback.  As such, QB Matt Ryan was able to completely eviscerate the Giants secondary.  Ryan finished completing 23 of 28 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns.

Defensive Front 7:

All that needs to be said about the defensive line is this:

  • 1st down at NYG16 :  14:03 Michael Turner rush to the right for 3 yards to the NYG13. Tackled by Keith Rivers.
  • 2nd down at NYG13:  13:28 Michael Turner rush to the left for 8 yards to the NYG5. Tackled by Spencer Paysinger.
  • 1st down at NYG5:  12:53 Michael Turner rush to the right for 4 yards to the NYG1. Tackled by Linval Joseph.
  • 2nd down at NYG1:  12:14 Michael Turner rush to the right for 1 yard for a TOUCHDOWN.

Four plays, 16 yards, one first down, one touchdown.  One lineman was in on a tackle over the four plays, Linval Joseph.  Joseph only had two other tackles on the day.  Chris Canty did his best to clog the middle, recording five solo tackles including the only Giant sack.

I have no idea what Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, or Jason Pierre-Paul did on Sunday but it wasn’t playing football.  The three of them were in on just 7 of 64 tackles during the game and never really got close to Ryan.  Osi was credited with two quarterback hits but I don’t recall them impacting the play.

The linebackers didn’t play well either, particularly Michael Boley who had just two tackles while trying to cover TE Tony Gonzalez.  Between Boley and Rolle trying to cover him, Gonzalez caught six of seven passes for 49 yards and a touchdown.  Neither could stay with Gonzalez.  Chase Blackburn continued his solid play at MIKE, making seven tackles and breaking up a third down pass to Gonzalez.  The rest of the linebackers didn’t do much to distinguish themselves, but frankly Mathais Kiwanuka is not and should never again be a linebacker.

Secondary:

Before this week’s game, Corner Forum contributor Joey in Va posted a thread in which he extolled the virtues of Giants understudies from the past several years and how they’ve been able to step up late and help the Giants move forward.  One of the players discussed, Jayron Hosley, was flat out horrible on Sunday.  I mentioned in the thread that Hosley looked like a lost colt, all arms and legs, when he was forced outside late in the Saints game.  Well on Sunday he was beaten like a red-headed step child by Julio Jones on the game sealing touchdown that opened up the second half and was picked on constantly by Ryan.  Frankly, Hosley at this point of his young career has no business as a starting CB on the outside.

Not to be outdone, Corey Webster was beaten by Jones on his second touchdown and gave up a number of deep balls to WR Harry Douglas.  Webster’s lost year continues.

Safeties Will Hill and Stevie Brown played well, but Antrel Rolle was invisible most of the game.  Rolle only had one tackle and had no impact plays.  Rolle was also beaten by Douglas.

Special Teams:

Sometimes it’s best not to read your own press clippings.  There is no way that KR David Wilson should have taken the opening kickoff out of the end zone.  His decision hurt the Giants.  On the whole, the Giants return teams did nothing spectacular.  The coverage teams basically had the day off as the Giants only punted twice and kicked off once.

K Lawrence Tynes once again missed a chip shot field goal.  The kicker who was so reliable early on is now causing everyone to hold their breath every time he kicks.

Coaching:

Who knows what actually happened to this team this week, but it’s clear that HC Tom Coughlin did not have this team ready to play on Sunday.  Yes, injuries are hurting the Giants but there is no excuse for what happened on Sunday.  Preparation has to be questioned on both sides of the ball.

Final Thoughts:

Two games left.  Win both and go to the playoffs.  I believe if they win both, they will be NFC East Champs.  It will all depend on which team decides to show up on Sunday.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons, December 16, 2012)
Dec 192012
 
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Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Baltimore Ravens, December 23, 2012: Another season, another living-on-the-edge finish for the NFL Champion New York Giants.  With two regular-season games left to play, let’s statistically compare the 2011 Giants with the 2012 team:

  • Total Offense (Yards):  2011: 8th (385.1); 2012: 10th (364.6)
  • Points per Game: 2011: 9th (24.6); 2012: 6th (26.6)
  • Passing: 2011: 5th (295.9); 2012: 9th (249.6)
  • Rushing: 2011: 32nd (89.2); 2012: 15th (115.0)
  • Total Defense (Yards):  2011: 27th (376.4); 2012: 28th (377.4)
  • Points Allowed Per Game: 2011: 25th (25.0); 2012: 12th (21.7)
  • Pass Defense: 2011: 29th (255.1); 2012: 28th (253.7)
  • Rush Defense: 2011: 19th (121.2); 2012: 22nd (123.7)

I find these numbers very interesting.  They are remarkably similar except for two areas: (1) the 2012 New York Giants are better balanced offensively (more rushing yards, fewer passing yards, slightly less total yards); and (2) while the defensive stats across the board are among the worst in the NFL again, the scoring defense improved dramatically in 2012.

So the 2012 Giants have better offensive balance and improved scoring defense.

But also keep in mind where the Giants were at this time last season.  They were 7-7, having gone 1-5 after a 6-2 start.  The 2012 Giants have gone 2-4 after a 6-2 start.  Both teams got badly embarrassed in Week 15.  But both teams amazingly still controlled or control their playoff destinies.

The Giants can still do this.  But they are officially in playoff mode right now.  There is no more room for error.  They have to win every remaining game.  Can they find that magic karma that propelled them to a 6-game winning streak at the end of 2011 once again?  They do have it in them, but they have to raise their focus, intensity, and toughness.

What the 2012 New York Giants need to do is start winning the close football games again.  Screw BUILD THE BRIDGE.  The battle cry once again must be FINISH!  Finish every play…finish every series…finish every game…finish the season.

A few weeks ago, a 15-year old boy with cancer had to remind the New York Giants that they were indeed NFL Champions.  He asked them to play like it.  If this team is going to make a run, Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Corey Webster are going to have to carry this team like they did during last year’s run.  Yes, they need help from everyone on the 53-man roster, but the stars must start playing like stars again.

Eli, Victor, Hakeem, Jason, Osi, and Corey…whatever you have got going on in your personal lives, you are going to have to set aside for the next month and a half.  Yes there are wives, girlfriends, kids, Christmas, and everyday nightmares like Hurricane Sandy and Sandy Hook, but you have to compartmentalize those things and just be a FOOTBALL PLAYER.  Just for a few more weeks.  You are the ones who MUST carry this team.  If you don’t, I guarantee that years from now you’ll look back with immense regret over the tremendous opportunity lost.  Just remember the satisfaction you received when you held that trophy up or when you rode the float or when you slipped that ring on your finger.  The NFC and the AFC are not that tough.   You’ve already soundly beaten three of the most dangerous teams in the NFL.  You can do this.  This might be your last ride.  Don’t blow it.

Play like World Champions.

Dec 132012
 
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New York Giants 52 (8-5) – New Orleans Saints 27 (5-8)

By rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Overview:

The New York Giants had their backs against the wall. Many of the players say they didn’t know it, but the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys both pulled victory from the jaws of defeat just before the Giants took the field against the potent Saints.

New York has been absolutely pummeled by the Saints in recent match-ups, and another loss on Sunday would have dropped the Giants into third place in the NFC East. Instead, New York did the pummeling after a shaky start and held on to their one game lead over the Redskins and Cowboys.

It’s not often that a blowout win feels like a game that was eked out, but this one had its moments. First, the Giants came out flat and spotted the Saints a seven point lead on an Eli Manning pick six. Later, after taking a 22 point lead, New York allowed the Saints to close again and make it an eight point game with a minute and 51 seconds left in the third quarter. I admit that I was nervous.

The Giants then scored the next 17 points to seal the win and the Giants had held on to first place in the NFC East.

The game started off ominously enough. The Giants received the opening kickoff, and KR David Wilson returned the ball 58 yards to the New Orleans 44. Incredibly, the Giants offense picked up right where they left off last week as C David Baas committed a false start penalty on the first play from scrimmage. Right off the bat the Giants were in first and 15 and could not overcome it. Frankly, after the nine penalties (six on offense) committed last week it looked like no lessons were learned and stupid mistakes would again cause squandered opportunities.

The defense bailed out the offense when S Will Hill and S Stevie Brown hit WR Marques Colston after a 30-yard catch and run causing him to fumble. S Antrel Rolle recovered at the Saints 45-yard line.

Ok, so saying they bailed out the offense is not really what happened. After driving to the Saints 29-yard line, QB Eli Manning inexplicably threw behind Jerrel Jernigan and right to Saints CB Elbert Mack who returned the ball 73 yards for a touchdown. This wasn’t Manning’s first questionable throw as he threw right to CB Jabari Greer on the first drive, but fortunately for New York, Greer dropped the easy pick.

Seriously guys, with the mistakes being made by the offense on the first two drives, I didn’t give the Giants much of a chance. It just seemed like another Cincinnati game. New York had run eight plays, all in Saints territory, and were losing 7-0.

But then something amazing happened, and his name was David Wilson. Wilson took the ensuing kickoff and sprinted 97 yards behind outstanding blocking by Justin Tryon who got the initial springing block and then escorted Wilson past the punter and finally another Saint closing near the goal line. Just like that, the game was tied.

Following another Saints turnover on the next drive, the Giants drove 35 yards for the go-ahead touchdown and New York never trailed again. The Saints were held to two field goals from the green zone to pull within one point, but a stellar 69-yard drive in just 1:37 resulted in another Giants touchdown and an eight-point halftime lead.

The Saints dominated the first half statistics but two turnovers and being unable to finish drives in the green zone were their undoing. Continuing a troubling trend, the Giants gave up a lot of yardage on the ground. The Saints rushed for 101 yards in the first half to the Giants’ 13. New York was two-of-three from inside the green zone, scoring two touchdowns and missing a field goal.

The second half statistics, other than passing yards, were much more in favor of New York. First, the defense held the Saints to 2-of-6 on third down conversions. Meanwhile, the Giants improved from 1-of-5 on third down in the first half to 4-of-6 in the second. The Giants held the Saints to just 41 second-half rushing yards. In contrast, New York ran for 122 second-half yards. Time of possession was about equal, but New Orleans gave up the ball twice more on two Drew Brees’ interceptions. Manning returned the favor one more time with another mind-blowing decision to throw into coverage.

Offense:

The Giants offense continued to struggle in the first half on Sunday. New York ran just 15 plays on their first four drives (five if you include the kickoff return for their first touchdown) and scored on just one of them, a 35-yard drive that was aided by two Saints penalties. The Giants were a little better on their fifth drive, driving 29 yards on 7 plays to the Saints 17-yard line, only to miss a 36-yard field goal attempt. Finally, the Giants awoke on their last drive of the half as they executed the two minute drill to perfection and scored a touchdown off a 9-play, 69-yard drive (overcoming a holding penalty on HB Ahmad Bradshaw).

The Giants offense converted another short field into a touchdown on their first drive of the second half following a Brees’ interception. The Giants scored on five of their seven second half drives (not including the kneel down at the end of the game), punting once and turning the ball over once.

New York did not start off the game balanced, throwing 22 times and rushing only eight in the first half. The second half was much different as the Giants threw just 13 times and rushed 17 (not including two Manning kneel downs) times.

Quarterback:

QB Eli Manning had his share of the yips on Sunday but he also made some fantastic throws. As noted, Eli wasn’t sharp early. It really did look like the beginnings of what might be a long day, but Manning got hot on the final drive of the first half. Eli completed eight-of-10 passes with two being called back due to penalty for 75 yards including the five yard touchdown pass on a beautiful fade to WR Domenik Hixon (another 56 yards were wiped out with the two penalties).

Manning only threw 13 times in the second half, completing seven and throwing an interception. On the day, Manning was 22-of-35 for 259 yards, four touchdowns and the two interceptions. Manning had a 99.6 passer rating on the day. Manning’s QBR stood at a mediocre 56.3.

Each of Manning’s four touchdown passes were outstanding throws. His third was a great read off an incredible route run by WR Victor Cruz. Manning just lofted a perfect pass that Cruz easily ran under all alone in the end zone.

Running Backs:

HB Ahmad Bradshaw injured his knee in the first half, and the Giants attempted a number of different options while he was being checked out. Even FB Henry Hynoski got a carry. Bradshaw only got five carries for 10 yards in the first half and finished with just 33 yards on 11 carries and did not catch a ball. As noted in last week’s review, Bradshaw needs to have his load lightened. He cannot carry the ball 25 times or more a game. Until the second half of this game and most likely due to Bradshaw’s knee, the Giants were not willing to let rookie David Wilson get a real chance to see what he could do.

HB/KR David Wilson was already having a career day returning kick-offs when he literally took over the game in the fourth quarter, rushing six times for 84 yards including a 52-yard touchdown that sealed the game for New York. Wilson showed good vision and tremendous speed and quickness. The kid is a weapon, but I’d caution everyone to temper their expectations. One game does not a career make. Hopefully. Additionally, the 52-yard touchdown was an incredibly blocked play by the offensive line and FB Henry Hynoski. It was run to perfection.

On the day, Wilson carried 13 times for 100 yards exactly and two touchdowns. Wilson also scored a touchdown on a kickoff return. Wilson also caught one pass but WR Ramses Barden was called for pass interference due to the fact that he was blocking downfield long before Wilson caught the ball.

Wilson also became the first person in NFL history with 200 kickoff return yards AND 100 rushing yards in the same game. Furthermore, Wilson became the franchise record holder for kickoff return yardage in a season. Currently he has 1,321 yards with three games to play.

Receivers:

New York’s wide receivers simply play better when Domenik Hixon is involved in the offense. Injuries have slowed him down, but when healthy he’s the only reliable third receiver on the team. Hixon caught three of four passes thrown to him for 30 yards and the touchdown on the fade pattern to the corner of the end zone.

WR Victor Cruz caught eight of nine passes thrown to him, gaining 121 yards and a touchdown. For the second year in a row, Cruz has eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark. That’s absolutely incredible for the third year man from Massachusetts who essentially missed his rookie year.

WR Hakeem Nicks is still nowhere near 100% yet continues to go out and do everything he can to help the team. Nicks caught four passes for 67 yards and a 25-yard touchdown on a play where he blew by CB Patrick Robinson and was on the receiving end of a perfect throw from Manning.

TE Martellus Bennett continues to be heavily involved in the offense of late, catching five of eight passes for 32 yards and a touchdown. The Black Unicorn is finally being used across the middle as well as downfield.

Offensive Line:

With Sean Locklear out, David Diehl was back at right tackle for the Giants on Sunday. The offensive line had a tough time opening holes for the running game early, but they kept Eli clean all game. Manning wasn’t sacked once and according to the Game Book was only hit twice. The line came on strong in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter, when they began to open up good holes for the running game. As mentioned, Wilson’s 52-yard touchdown came off textbook blocking.

Defense:

The Giants defense only gave up 20 points to the potent Saints offense. And the Saints offense only scored six points in the first half. Despite giving up two third-period touchdowns, allowing the the Saints back momentarily back in the game, New York did a great job stopping a very potent passing attack. The problem was that they were again hard pressed to stop the running game, giving up more than 100 yards in the first half alone. New York has got to somehow find ways to stop opposing rushing attacks or they’re going to get clobbered down the stretch by three pretty good offenses.

Big plays are also a continuing problem. Fortunately, New York was able to cause and/or capitalize on New Orleans turnovers. The issue remains, however, that you cannot count on turnovers week in and week out. Still, hats off to the defense for doing what it did to get New Orleans off the field on Sunday.

Defensive Front 7:

The Giants gave up a lot of yards on the ground once again, and that was a little troubling due to the fact that the Saints statistically have been a lower-tier running team this season. New Orleans was averaging around 8 yards on first down for much of the game which was a problem. The Giants were gashed outside by Darren Sproles and inside by Mark Ingram. The Giants may have been more concerned with the potent Saints passing game and were fooled by the amount of rushing New Orleans was doing.

The Giants defensive line got a lot more pressure on QB Drew Brees than most people think. Brees was only sacked once and not hit very often but the Giants had him on the run outside the pocket all game long. DE Osi Umenyiora had a great game, and it seems that his step off the snap is much faster than it has been. Osi is not just going wide on his man but also using a bull rush and inside technique to get pressure on the QB. Jason Pierre-Paul had his best game in a while, racking up six tackles and also getting pressure on Brees. Many people in The Corner Forum think Justin Tuck is done and that may be so, but if you didn’t see him get held at least half a dozen times on Sunday then you’re as blind as the referees were. I don’t believe in conspiracy theories but it sure seems that the Giants, and particularly Tuck and JPP, are held an awful lot. Tuck was still in on five tackles. DT Linval Joseph had a so-so game and Chris Canty was near invisible against the inside rushing of Thomas and Ingram. Joseph did make a heads-up play to scoop up a fumble and get a good return.

The Giants had all their linebackers at their disposal on Sunday and deployed them in all kinds of fashions. Michael Boley and Chase Blackburn led the corps with 18 tackles between them. Keith Rivers seemed to lose playing time with the return of Jacquian Williams, who made five tackles. Williams was in a ton in nickel situations. He played a lot of coverage and also blitzed Brees several times but was unable to get home. Williams is still rounding back into football shape and will be a huge asset going forward if he can remain healthy. Mark Herzlich got some snaps and played better than he has of late, not getting stuck on blocks and/or caught up in the wash.

Secondary:

The Giants secondary was without S Kenny Phillips again but S Stevie Brown is making a lot of people forget about him. Brown had two more interceptions on Sunday. The first was off a tip drill, and continued Brown’s penchant for being in the right place at the right time this season. The second was a thing of beauty as he came up from his cover-two responsibility to undercut TE Jimmy Graham and make a very nice pick. Graham never saw Brown coming and most likely thought he was about to score a touchdown. Brown returned the ball 70 yards, setting up a Giants score. Unfortunately, that’s the play that CB Prince Amukamara injured his hamstring as he was trying to get into position to block for Brown.

Amukamara was having a good day up to that point with the lone exception being pulverized out of the play on the long run by HB Darren Sproles. Prince was also the victim of a 62-yard bomb to WR Josh Morgan who seemed to wait on Brees’ throw like a punt while three or four Giants, led by Amukamara, kind of danced around him. (Editor’s Note: Antrel Rolle badly misplayed Morgan on this play and appeared way out of position).

Overall, the Giants secondary gave up four plays of 20 yards or more, including two to Morgan for 106 yards.

S Antrel Rolle recovered a fumble and made six tackles on the day. S Will Hill was the third safety in the Giants’ Big Nickel package and played well, getting in several good hits including one that caused the fumble by Lance Moore on the Saints’ first drive.

CB Jayron Hosley had to sub in for Amukamara and though he didn’t give up any big plays, the kid just seems lost on the outside. Hopefully the Giants won’t have to line him up opposite Roddy White and/or Julio Jones this weekend.

Special Teams:

New York arguably won this game on special teams. The kickoff return team scored one touchdown and set the Giants up in New Orleans territory three other times. In all, the Giants had 287 kickoff return yards on just six returns (a 47.8 yards per return average). The Giants got returns of 97, 60, 58, and 52 yards. Two of those returns led to 14 points, but the Giants weren’t able to capitalize on the other two great returns.

Not to be outdone by David Wilson, Jerrel Jernigan took a pop up kickoff straight up the gut like he was shot out of a cannon for 60 yards. It was as beautiful as any of Wilson’s returns.

It appears that Domenik Hixon has replaced Rueben Randle as the primary punt returner, returning 2 punts for a 9.5 ypr average and fair catching a third.

The coverage teams were also outstanding, holding New Orleans to below average kick off returns and bottling up Darren Sproles in the punt return game.

K Lawrence Tynes missed a short field goal but hit his other attempt and had seven extra points. His kickoffs were excellent as the Giants mixed in mortar kicks with long kicks.

Coaching:

So, is Kevin Gilbride a genius this week after the Giants put up the most points they’ve scored since 1986 or did the Giants win despite his best efforts to cause them to fail? Would the Giants have scored 104 had someone else been calling the game?

That’s sarcasm, folks. The point is that when Eli is on and has three reliable receivers and a running game, Gilbride’s play-calling looks just fine. When Eli is off and injuries are taking their toll as well as an anemic rushing game, he looks like an idiot. So does every other offensive coordinator in football.

The Giants probably had an idea that this game would be a shootout and they played it as such. Fortunately after two blowouts by the Saints against the Giants, it was the Giants that had the superior firepower this time.

With the Giants at full strength at linebacker since as long as I can remember, I thought New York would have their way with the anemic New Orleans running game but that wasn’t the case. A point can be made that the Saints didn’t really try to run in the fourth quarter due to big lead New York established or the results could have been worse on the ground than they were.

Whatever the Giants did on Special Teams last week in practice needs to be bottled and only opened on Sundays.

Final Thoughts:

Unfortunately, the Giants were unable to put any distance between themselves and their NFC East rivals when both the Redskins and Cowboys pulled off late come-from-behind victories. Even so, the Giants moved a step closer to a playoff berth and still lead the division. Next up is an Atlanta team that is ripe to be beaten. They are not as good as their record indicates and they were beaten pretty soundly by a Carolina team in disarray. The Giants have some injuries to contend with as both Ahmad Bradshaw and Prince Amukamara may miss the game. That will spell trouble, especially since both positions are paper thin with them in the lineup.

(Box Score – New Orleans Saints at New York Giants, December 9, 2012)
Dec 132012
 
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Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons, December 16, 2012: Despite the important victory against the New Orleans Saints, the Giants still find themselves in a precarious position.  Although they are one game ahead of the Redskins and Cowboys with three games to play, the Giants have the far tougher schedule and the poorer division record.  The next two games are against two of the NFL’s better teams.

What’s particularly worrisome is not just the caliber of the upcoming competition but the Giants’ extreme inconsistency.  They have easily beaten three of the NFL’s most dangerous teams in the 49ers, Packers, and Saints, but have played too many games this year where all three facets of the team have disappointed.  The win against the Packers was supposed to be the turning point, but in the most important game of the season, the Giants laid an egg the following week in Washington.  The Giants once again looked impressive against the Saints last weekend.  Now what version of the Giants will we see against the Falcons?  Will the roller coaster continue?  If it does, the Giants won’t make the playoffs and that would be an incredible shame given their potential to beat even the best teams in the NFL.

At 11-2, Atlanta is tied with the Texans with the best record in football and they are currently the #1 seed in the NFC.  The Falcons are probably not as good as their record, but they are still a very good football team and a team coming off of an embarrassing loss to the Panthers.  They also likely have revenge on their minds for the playoff loss to the Giants last January.  As indicated by their home record (6-0), the Falcons are a much tougher opponent at home.   Atlanta hasn’t played a lot of tough teams, but they have beaten teams that have given the Giants trouble this year – Atlanta is 3-0 against the NFC East.  Atlanta does not tend to beat themselves – they are the least penalized team in the NFL.

Giants on Offense: Atlanta is not overly imposing on defense.  They rank 20th in terms of yards allowed, but they are 5th in points allowed (19.9 points per game).  So they tend to bend, but not break.  That could be problematic for a Giants’ offense that has been up-and-down (mostly down) in the red zone this season.

Atlanta’s 4-3 defense is more based on speed/quickness than size.  The Falcons are 16th against the pass and 23rd against the run.  Those numbers suggest that the Giants should be able to remain balanced against the Falcons.  With HB Ahmad Bradshaw (sprained knee) ailing and possibly unavailable, the bulk of the running game may fall to David Wilson, Kregg Lumpkin, and Ryan Torain.  Wilson will see more touches in this game than he has all season.  He’s not a big guy so it will be interesting to see if he can take physical pounding.

The Falcons have only one big sack threat and that is 34-year old DE John Abraham (10 sacks), who also gave the Giants some problems in the playoff game.  Abraham versus the Giants’ tackles is something to watch.  Atlanta will probably try to match him up on David Diehl.  DT Jonathan Babineaux, who has a rib injury, can be disruptive inside as well.

The crowd will likely be very loud in the Georgia Dome.  The Giants have had too many offensive penalties the last two games and everyone on the offensive side will need to remain focused despite the noise.  Of course a quick strike or two would help settle down the fans.

The Falcons’ secondary is improved.  The Falcons acquired CB Asante Samuel in the offseason.  The Giants are very familiar with Asante.  Atlanta is also getting excellent play out of their two safeties – SS William Moore and FS Thomas DeCoud.  They have nine interceptions between the two of them and Moore, who has a hamstring issue, is second on the team in tackles.  The other starting corner is Dunta Robinson.

If the Giants’ offensive line can block the Atlanta front, the Giants should be able to do some damage against the Falcons both running the football and passing it.  Much focus has been on QB Matt Ryan’s play at home in the dome, but Eli Manning tends to play very well in domes as well.  Despite the fact that Eli threw four touchdown passes last weekend, he made some really poor decisions as well.  That needs to stop in this game.  In particular, Eli must shine against a red zone defense that has been very, very stingy in giving up points.

Giants on Defense: Critics of the Giants’ defense will point to their 25th ranking in terms of yards allowed (27th against the pass, 22nd against the run).  Proponents will point to their scoring defense – 8th in the NFL, allowing 20.8 points per game.   Those numbers also suggest a bend-but-don’t-break approach.  And the Giants have forced 34 turnovers this year (20 interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries).

The problem is that the Giants are giving up far too many big plays.  This year, the Giants’ defense has given up 58 plays of 20 yards or more.  So the defense is clearly breaking at times.  And the big worry is this – what if the turnovers stop?  Clearly the Giants need to tighten things up both against the run and the pass.  You can’t always count on turnovers.

Atlanta is 8th in the NFL in offensive yards and points (25.9).  They are very good on third down and very good in the red zone.  The Falcons are much better throwing the football (4th) than running (28th).  Indeed, it is tempting for the Giants to play mostly a nickel-type defense against the Falcons and dare Atlanta to beat the Giants with the ground game.  HB Michael Turner, who the Giants completely controlled in the playoff game, has struggled this year, averaging only 3.7 yards per carry.  Indeed, the bigger threat is probably back-up Jacquizz Rodgers who is averaging 4.1 yards per carry and who has become a security blanket for QB Matt Ryan out of the backfield (43 catches).

If Atlanta is able to do consistent damage on the ground against the Giants on Sunday, that doesn’t bode well at all.  The Falcons are not a good running team and the Giants must keep it that way.  But the Giants need their defensive tackles to play far better this weekend than they did against the Saints last Sunday.  New Orleans gouged the middle of the Giants’ defense and the Falcons surely noticed that.

Where the Falcons have done most of their damage is in the passing game.  Ryan is having an excellent year (24 touchdowns, almost 4,000 yards passing, 94.8 QBR).  His favorite targets are the ageless TE Tony Gonzalez (81 catches for 831 yards and 7 touchdowns), mouthy WR Roddy White (77 catches for 1,140 yards and 5 touchdowns), and dynamic WR Julio Jones (63 catches for 997 yards and 7 touchdowns).   As mentioned, Ryan will also throw to Rodgers out of the backfield.  He will also do so with FB Jason Snelling, who runs like a bull after the catch.  WR Harry Douglas is the third receiver.

White has been bothered by a knee injury and it remains to be seen how effective he can be.  The real keys are Gonzalez and Jones.  Gonzalez is a major reason why the Falcons are so good on third down and inside the red zone.  Jones is one of the most dangerous wide receivers in the NFL.  The big concern is the status of CB Prince Amukamara (hamstring).  If he can’t play, a Giants’ secondary that has been very vulnerable to the deep pass becomes even weaker.   The Giants may be forced to start CB Jayron Hosley and that’s asking a lot against this group.  In addition, Corey Webster’s up-and-down season continues.  Jones and White can embarrass you on any given play.  The Giants need the version of Webster that showed up in the playoff game against these same Falcons.

Will Kenny Phillips be able to play?  Coughlin said he had a setback so it sounds unlikely.  The Giants certainly could use the three safety look against Gonzalez.  Will Hill – who has been impressive – could be a key contributor.   Jacquian Williams could also loom large in coverage as could Keith Rivers who has been getting more and more playing time.  The Giants really need to watch for Rodgers and Snelling coming out of the backfield.  The Falcons could use quick passes to counter the Giants’ pass rush.

Despite only getting one sack last week, there were some signs of life from Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora on the pass rush last week.  This would be a great time for the pass rush to start to come alive.  Atlanta has only allowed 24 sacks this year however (tied for 7th best in the NFL).

Giants on Special Teams: Head Coach Tom Coughlin is impressed with Atlanta’s special teams.  David Wilson and his blockers will have their work cut out for them because the Falcons are 10th in kickoff coverage.  The Falcons are also 11th in punt coverage.

HB Jacquizz Rodgers has a 77-yard kickoff return this year and is averaging almost 27 yards per return.  CB Dominique Franks is the punt returner.

Prediction: I still don’t trust this team, especially coming off a feel-good victory.  I also don’t trust the Giants’ defense.  And if Prince Amukamara can’t play or isn’t effective, it could get ugly.   On paper, I think the Giants match up pretty well against the Falcons, but the Giants have not won back-to-back games since October.  The roller coaster continues with a loss.

Dec 072012
 
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Approach to the Game – New Orleans Saints at New York Giants, December 9, 2012: I hope I’m dead wrong, but I think we’re about to see the Giants all but eliminated from playoff contention.  If so, it’s a damn shame to see the Giants waste a 6-2 start, but they have lost three-of-four and despite the fact the Giants are still one game ahead of the Redskins and Cowboys in first place, the inconsistent Giants most likely have to go 3-and-1 or 4-and-0 down the stretch to win the division.  And I’m just not feeling it.

The Giants have started 6-2 or better six times under Coughlin.  And although they have faded in many of those seasons, they made the playoffs in five of those six seasons, with two wild card appearances and three division titles.  The only year they didn’t make the playoffs after starting 6-2 was 2010.  And the Giants have gone on to do great things in two seasons where they really struggled in the second half of the season (2007 and 2011), seasons where the Giants also lost critical December games to the Washington Redskins.  So history is on the Giants side of actually still making the playoffs and possibly making a run.

And the Giants have demonstrated this year that they can beat the better teams in the league (49ers and Packers).  But these Giants are also 2-3 in the NFC East and two last-second plays away from being 0-5 in the division.  Indeed, if the Giants fail to make the playoffs this year, I’m sure Tom Coughlin will look back at those lost division games as the main culprit.

If the Giants were at their best, I am 100 percent confident they could beat the Saints, Falcons, Ravens, and Eagles.  But the 2012 New York Giants are not consistently at their best.  Why?

  • Too many key Giants are not playing near their previous best.  Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora are either nearing the end of very good careers or having terrible seasons.   Tuck in particular has been incredibly disappointing.  Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, and Jason Pierre-Paul are not playing as well as last season.  Corey Webster has been too up-and-down.  When your core guys are not playing well, it’s tough for the team to play well.  Think of it this way…name the Giants who are having great seasons?  Overall, the Giants have average talent on the offensive line, starting running back, tight end, linebacker, and possibly secondary.  If they don’t get their money’s worth from the important guys at quarterback, wide receiver, and the defensive line, then the Giants are going to be an ordinary team.
  • Injuries once again have really hurt the Giants.  It’s not the season-ending-type of injuries that have been the problem.  The Giants have actually been pretty fortunate in that department.  It’s the nagging injuries.  Hakeem Nicks is one of the top players on this team but he hasn’t been himself all year.  His injury issues have really, really hurt the offense.  With him limited (and he missed practice again this week), teams can focus on Cruz.  Likewise, Kenny Phillips’ knee injury has hurt, both in missed games and lower quality of play.  Ahmad Bradshaw’s always troublesome foot has caused him to miss most of the practices again, and undoubtedly affects his game-day sharpness.  Michael Boley has had a number of issues.  Jacquian Williams and Keith Rivers have missed a ton of time.  Webster has battled hamstring and hand injuries.  David Baas always seems dinged up.  Martellus Bennett had a knee issue that really affected him.
  • A defense that plays well in spurts, but often comes up short.  Except for the impressive run in the 2011 playoffs, Perry Fewell hasn’t done a stellar job in New York.  Is it the talent?  The scheme? Combination of both?  Regardless, too often, this defense comes up short, especially late in the second and fourth quarters.  One never really gets the sense that the Giants defensively out-coach their opponent.  And more than that, where’s the kickass, take-no-prisoners, dictate-to-your-opponent style that Giants’ fans crave?  This defense just seems too nice.
  • A draft class that was expected to do more.  The 2012 class may have a bright future, but the Giants haven’t gotten much out of David Wilson, Rueben Randle, Jayron Hosley, Adrien Robinson, Brandon Mosley, and McMants.  Ironically, their last pick – Markus Kuhn – saw the most playing time but tore up his knee.
  • Super Bowl hangover.  It happens to most Super Bowl champions.  Only a few have repeated.

There’s still time.  They can still do it.  They’ve spectacularly proved us wrong before. I just don’t think they have it in them this time.  It’s a damn shame.  The division was there for the taking.

Giants on Offense: They have to put up a lot of points and score touchdowns rather than field goals against an improving defense and a defensive coordinator that knows them well.  It’s that simple.  Eli Manning has to have one of his best games of the season.  It’s on him.  The Giants will sink or swim with their best player.

Giants on Defense: The Saints are loaded with talent across the board on offense.  Drew Brees has thrown 31 touchdown passes this year, but has turned the ball over a lot.  They have a super tight end in Jimmy Graham and the always-dangerous Darren Sproles is the straw that stirs the drink for them.  Both Graham and Sproles are huge match-up problems.  The Saints also have two physical running backs (Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram) and a talented receiving corps (Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson).  The offensive line is big and physical.

The Giants will have to play as well as they did against the Packers to win, but the Saints don’t have the same offensive line issues that the Packers did.  The defensive line has to force Brees into making mistakes (turnovers) and Perry Fewell needs to come with a scheme to help limit the damage done by Graham and Sproles.  The Giants need strong games out of their safeties and linebackers in particular.

Giants on Special Teams: The Giants must out-play the Saints on special teams.  Sproles is exceptionally dangerous on both kickoff and punt returns.  The Giants’ return game needs to play well and help generate points.

Prediction: New Orleans has been playing much better.  They’ve had 10 days to prepare while the Giants have had six.  This is a bad opponent to have Nicks and Phillips ailing.  Giants lose and have to pray that the Cowboys and Redskins do too.

Dec 072012
 
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Washington Redskins 17 (6-6) – New York Giants 16 (7-5)

By rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Overview:

New York, with an opportunity to seize total control of the NFC East, committed mistake after mistake and could not convert opportunities into points despite utterly dominating the Redskins for three quarters.

The Giants usually make hay in the fourth quarter, especially when they’re behind.  For the second time in four games however, New York’s offense was completely anemic in the fourth quarter and their defense couldn’t stop a sneeze.

As a result, despite outperforming the Redskins in every major statistical category for three quarters, the Giants have allowed themselves to fall back to the pack in the NFC.  Additionally, they are in serious danger of falling out of playoff contention.

I honestly never thought I’d write that last sentence this year.

I want to hit on a couple of things that have me shaking my head.

First, New York flat out stated that their number one goal was to play downhill and stop rookie HB Alfred Morris and the Redskin rushing attack.  New York knew that going into the game, rookie QB Robert Griffin III is at his worst in long down and distance situations.  The Giants did a very good job of doing just that in the first half, allowing 44 yards on 6 carries to Morris, a healthy 7.3 ypc average.  Griffin only had one rush for 12 yards in the first half.  Still, New York was able to get the Redskins off the field and limit them to just 10 points.  Their first touchdown was a complete fluke as S Stevie Brown forced Griffin to fumble that was miraculously corralled by WR Josh Morgan who advanced the ball the final 13 yards for the score.

The problem was the second half.  New York allowed Washington to rush for an astounding 151 yards on 23 carries, a 6.6 ypc average.  Are you KIDDING me?  Washington threw for just 63 yards in the second half.  New York knew what was coming and was powerless to stop it.  The Giants simply did not play disciplined defense against the Washington gimmick Pistol Option offense.  As Corner Forum contributor Joey in VA outlined in this thread, it’s not rocket science. This is a typical college offense and the Giants were worn out by it.  That is unacceptable.

New York’s focus on offense was to remain balanced, chew up clock, and score points.  They did the first for the entire game though it was much more effective in the first half than the second.  They did the second for three quarters, and they did the third not nearly enough despite having golden opportunities.

Just look at these statistics from the first half.  New York ran 40 offensive plays.  They racked up 16 first downs.  Converted eight of 10 third down opportunities.  Accrued 273 total yards (187 passing and 86 rushing).  The Giants hads drives of 11 plays for 74 yards with 6:32 time of possession, 13 plays for 51 yards with 5:56 time of possession, and 13 plays for 85 yards with 7:23 time of possession.  Those possessions yielded just 10 points on one field goal, one missed field goal and a touchdown.  The only reason the Giants were leading was a brilliant last minute field goal drive just before the half.  One of the reasons New York could not do more with those possessions was the fact that they committed six penalties for 45 yards in the half.  New York averages just four penalties per game.

During the second half, the Giants offense again had a frustrating drive as they took over from their own 9-yard line and drove right down the field to a first down at the Washington 17-yard line before having to settle for another field goal.  The Giants led 16-10 with 3:09 left in the third quarter and there wasn’t a Giants fan on the planet who didn’t think New York was in huge trouble due to letting the Redskins hang around.

After another penalty thwarted what looked like might be the game winning drive, New York punted the ball back to the Redskins with 3:51 to go in the game and again, there couldn’t have been many Giants fans who thought New York would see the ball again.  They didn’t, as Washington gained three first downs and ran out the clock.

As mentioned, this game was a lot like the Steelers game in which New York couldn’t stop Pittsburgh in the fourth quarter and the offense couldn’t finish drives.  The same thing happened here.  And just like in the first Dallas game, with everything on the line the defense could not get the opposition off the field to give the Giants offense one last opportunity.

Quarterback:

For three quarters, Eli Manning played well between the 20s (well, in this case between the Giants 10 and the Washington 20 in this particular game) but not in the green zone.  Manning did not have a good the fourth quarter.  Manning missed on two deep balls, one to Nicks and one to Cruz, that were potential touchdowns.

Manning finished 20 of 33 for 280 yards and one touchdown.  Manning was sacked just once.

As mentioned, Manning did not play well once the Giants got close to or in the green zone.  On their first drive, Manning completed one of two passes for seven yards after the Giants were put in a 2nd-and-15 hole due to penalty and no gain on a first down run.  On their second drive, Manning committed an intentional grounding penalty on first down at the Washington 30-yard line.  Two completions later, netting 15 yards, K Lawrence Tynes missed a 43-yard field goal. In the third quarter from the Redskin 17-yard line, Manning threw incomplete twice around a 1-yard Bradshaw run on second down.

In the fourth quarter, Manning was 1-of-3 for four yards and a sack.  His only clutch completion was an 11-yard pass to Martellus Bennett that was called back due to a hold.

Running Backs:

HB Ahmad Bradshaw had a solid first half and ended up with a 100-yard game.  The problem was New York only gained 31 of their 117 total rushing yards on the ground during the second half.  Interestingly, that didn’t really hurt the Giants.  For the most part, New York was able to stay in good down-and-distance situations but was unable to convert their third downs in the second half with the same success as in the first half.  As good as Bradshaw was, particularly in the first half, he seemed to tire in the second half and as has been mentioned, he just doesn’t seem cut out to carry the entire load.

HB David Wilson didn’t have the break out game people were hoping for.  Wilson got just four carries (just ONE in the second half) for nine yards.  Wilson was on the field for eight plays.   Wilson is going to have to take some of the pressure off Bradshaw going forward.

Receivers:

Victor Cruz broke the century mark for the first time in a while (5 catches for 104 yards).  Cruz didn’t drop any balls.  Cruz once again split the Washington defense for what looked like a sure touchdown but he was overthrown by Manning.

Hakeem Nicks was the most targeted Giant again, garnering 10 throws from Manning.  Nicks caught 5 for 43 yards and drew a 21-yard interference penalty, too.  There should have been a personal foul penalty on the Redskins for a helmet-to-face on a defenseless receiver that resulted in Nicks receiving a bloody nose.

The other wide receivers saw just three balls thrown their way.  New York simply has had no one step up and seize the third WR spot vacated by Mario Manningham.

TE Martellus Bennett had a terrific game catching five of seven passes for 82 yards and a touchdown.  Bennett seemed to be Manning’s go to guy on third down-and-long distance situations.

Offensive Line:

Penalties.

Sean Locklear: False start on 1st-and-10 from Washington 23-yard line.  NY could not recover to convert a first down.

Sean Locklear: Holding on 1st-and-10 from Washington 28.  Giants were able to overcome and score a touchdown on the drive.

Will Beatty:  Holding on 3rd-and- 10 from Giants 43-yard line.  This nullified an 11-yard gain and first down to the Washington 46 yard line.  New York could not recover to convert a 3rd-and-20.

When you throw in the Nicks’ false start and the Manning intentional grounding and delay of game penalties, one can see how the Giants had difficulty sustaining and finishing drives.  Other than the miscues pointed out, the Giants offensive line did a good job of opening holes (particularly early on) for Bradshaw and gave Manning plenty of time.  The most troubling issue was the fact that New York had nearly 30 minutes time of possession with 3 minutes or so to go in the third quarter but the offensive line couldn’t deliver the knockout punch that seemed right there for the taking.

New York lost Locklear for the year with a torn ACL and it appears David Diehl will take over as the right tackle for the rest of the season.  LT Will Beatty also injured his shoulder and came out for a few plays.  New York can ill afford to lose another lineman.

Defensive Front 7:

As mentioned, New York stated that their goal was to stop the Washington running game.  They didn’t even come close.  New York had no answer for Morris or Griffin.  The Redskins ran their pistol read option offense with impunity.  As noted, the key to defending this type of offense is discipline and New York linemen and linebackers demonstrated repeatedly that they had none.  The only lineman who seemed to be in the play more often than not was DT Linval Joseph who was in on seven tackles.  The DEs simply were nowhere to be found, either chasing ghosts or running four or five yards behind Griffin as he chewed up yardage downfield.  New York was credited with just two hits on Griffin.   JPP bit on the fake.  Osi bit on the fake.  Tuck bit on the fake.  It was comical towards the end.

The linebackers were no better at contain as they constantly reacted to play fakes to leave the slant wide open for Griffin any time he wanted it.  New York simply didn’t play disciplined football and constantly abandoned their gap responsibilities.  It looked as though everyone was trying to do someone else’s job.

Secondary:

The secondary got absolutely no help from the front seven on Monday night.  Amukamara and Webster had no chance against the quick slants because Griffin had huge windows to throw in.  As such, it was easy pitch-and-catch between Griffin and WR Pierre Garcon (and others).  Antrel Rolle did the best he could in run support registering a team high 10 tackles.  Again, most of those tackles occurred 7-9 yards into the secondary leaving Washington in constant second-and-short situations.  S Kenny Phillips made a go of it but seemed to be running at a quarter-speed.

Special Teams:

The Giants return teams really hurt the team on Monday night.  S Tyler Sash cost New York 10 yards on their first punt return with a holding penalty, causing the Giants to have to start from their own 10-yard line.  Later, back-up C Jim Cordle cost the Giants 10 yards when he held on a kickoff.  Instead of starting the drive at their 19, the Giants started at their own 9.  Finally, after Washington scored to take the lead in the fourth quarter, Cordle again held on a kickoff that cost the Giants 42 yards in field position.  Instead of being 1st-and-10 at the 50, New York began their drive at their own 8-yard line.

This late in the season, a disciplined team does not make these fatal mistakes.

The Giants did an adequate job returning kicks and punts when penalties weren’t killing them and they also did a fine job in keeping the Washington return teams under wraps.

Long Snapper Zak DeOssie had a rough game with two bad snaps.  One came on a missed field goal but it’s unclear if it had any affect because the hold looked good.

Coaching:

The Giants lost, so to a special contingent in The Corner Forum that means Kevin Gilbride sucks.  This sentiment exists despite the fact that New York scored five touchdowns in five attempts from the green zone (including three coming on third down) against the Packers last week.  I suppose that means Eli Manning and the offense simply overcame Gilbride’s incredible ineptitude.

Look folks, it’s pretty simple.  New York’s game plan was to keep the ball as long as possible and they did a terrific job of it for three quarters.  The Giants running game did not get the Giants in trouble in the second half, the passing game did.  In the fourth quarter, Manning took a sack on a 3rd-and-4 play that was set up by two runs.  I’ll take 3rd-and-4 with the whole playbook available every single series.  On the last drive, Bradshaw ran twice for eight yards on first and second down.  It would have been 3rd-and-2, but Bradshaw was horse collared and New York got a free 15 yards.  New York didn’t run again.  How anyone can label four successful running play calls as “poor play calling” by Gilbride is beyond me.  In the third quarter, the Giants only had one “unsuccessful” running play, a 1-yard gain on second down after Manning had an incompletion on first down.  Again, to many, this means Gilbride sucks.  I don’t get it and never will.  People really need to re-watch the third and fourth quarter offense and see who really was at fault.

I thought the offensive game plan was sound and executed fairly well.  If the Giants had been able to execute down in Redskins’ territory and not make all the mistakes on special teams and offense with regard to penalties, New York could have been ahead by the score of 27-10 going into the fourth quarter.

I do not understand the defensive game plan.  There is no way to know if the defensive line was free-lancing or running some sort of predesigned scheme.  If it was a scheme, it was the worst read option defensive scheme ever produced.

Final Thoughts:

I said last week that it was my opinion that the Redskins were still not ready to contend, but that didn’t mean they aren’t ready to win the game.  I believe the same today.  This scheme will be figured out and/or Griffin is going to get killed.  I said that the Giants really needed to just come out swinging and take them out early like they did to the Packers.  They almost pulled it off, but their own lack of discipline did the Giants in.

The Giants have three very tough games before the regular-season finale against the Eagles.  It seems to me New York is going to have to run the table to ensure they make the playoffs.  Washington has an excellent chance to win three and possibly all of their remaining games.  The Cowboys also have a shot at going at least 3-1 down the stretch.  New York will have to take care of their own business and they haven’t been able to do it against some of the weaker teams in the league.  Now let’s see how they do against playoff caliber teams.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Washington Redskins, December 3, 2012)
Nov 302012
 
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Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Washington Redskins, December 3, 2012: This is the biggest game in the NFC East this season. For the Redskins (5-6 overall, 2-1 in the division), it’s basically a playoff game. Washington must win this game to have a serious chance to win the NFC East. For the Giants (7-4 overall, 2-2 in the division), while this is not a “must” game, winning would give New York a commanding lead in the NFC East with four games left to play. And given the difficulty of the Giants’ schedule down the stretch, losing this game would once again put the Giants in a worrisome situation.

In other words, the Giants can make it easy or difficult on themselves by winning this game. The Giants are the better team, but New York has an annoying habit of making things more difficult than they should be. The good news for the Giants is that the Redskins are 5-6 for a reason. And they haven’t played in a game this big against the Giants since Jim Fassel was the head coach.

Giants on Offense: The Redskins’ defense always seems to give the Giants more problems than they do other teams. The Redskins are currently ranked 28th in the NFL in terms of yards allowed (390.5 per game) and 25th in points allowed (25.9 per game). And they are a terrible 31st in the NFL against the pass (301.4 yards per game). But they are a remarkable 3rd in the NFL in run defense (89.2 yards per game). Why that figure is so impressive is, that on paper, their defensive personnel doesn’t seem overly intimidating in the front seven, especially with the early-season losses of DE Adam Carriker and LB Brian Orakpo. But Washington’s 3-4 defense had been getting the job done up front against the run.

The man in the middle on the defensive line is our old friend Barry Cofield. He’s been a big asset for Washington and he gave OC David Baas problems in the first game. (Keep in mind the oft-injured Baas is hurting again, this time with a shoulder injury). Inside linebackers London Fletcher (88 tackles) and Perry Riley (85 tackles) are the top two tacklers on the defense – just the way you draw it up in a 3-4 defense. With Orakpo out, OLB Ryan Kerrigan is their best pass rusher (6.5 sacks) and a physical presence against the run.

While Washington is not one of the NFL’s best pass-rushing teams (20 sacks), they do a great job of creating turnovers. They have 14 interceptions and have returned three of those for touchdowns. They have also forced nine fumbles, recovering seven for two additional touchdowns.

The Redskins’ secondary is not as strong, but for some reason QB Eli Manning never seems to have his best games against Washington. CB DeAngelo Hall is a feast-or-famine-type of player. He leads the Redskins in interceptions and has a history of picking off Eli. But he also is vulnerable to double moves and getting beat deep. The other starting corner is Josh Wilson. The safeties – Reed Doughty and Madieu Williams – are not very strong against the pass.

Ball security is imperative. And Manning needs to elevate his game against the team and a defense not known for playing the pass very well. In the last three Giants-Redskins games, Eli has completed 60 percent of his passes, but he has only thrown one touchdown against six interceptions. If Eli plays like that again, the Giants will likely lose the game.

The real key question is can the Giants run on this defense? In the last three games, the Giants have rushed for 75, 91, and 64 yards against Washington. Earlier this season, Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown managed only 60 yards on 17 carries. That’s not going to get it done either. Should the Giants come out throwing or try to remain balanced from the start? If they try to remain balanced, they obviously need to run and block better. The loss of Brown due to injury will probably negatively impact the Giants in short-yardage situations. How much will that hurt in this game? On the other hand, David Wilson brings an added dimension with his explosiveness. He should get the most touches he has had all season. Obviously, the Giants need him to perform well in pass protection and hold onto the football. But his ability may surprise Washington.

Giants on Defense: Robert Griffin III is the real deal. He’s completing over 67 percent of his passes and has a 16-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He’s passed for almost 2,500 yards and rushed for 642 yards and six rushing touchdowns. Most impressively, he doesn’t seem to get flustered.

The Giants’ defense got torched in the first meeting between these two teams. Griffin completed 20-of-28 of his passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns. More troubling is the Giants gave up 248 rushing yards!!! If the Giants had not recovered three fumbles and picked off Griffin once, the game really would have been out of hand.

The Giants have to stop the run. The Giants did not seem prepared at all for the Pistol Offense in the first game. HB Alfred Morris ran for 120 yards on 22 carries (5.5 yards per carry) and Griffin ran for 89 yards on nine carries (almost 10 yards a pop). Even FB Darrel Young rushed for 26 yards on five carries. The problem for the Giants is that Griffin’s play-action out of the Pistol is so good, that when the linebackers step up, Griffin just lobs the ball over their heads for the easy completion over the middle. TE Logan Paulson hurt the Giants with four receptions for 76 yards and the Giants will have to keep an eye on the other two tight ends as well (Niles Paul and Chris Cooley).

I would be tempted to run the three- and four-safety packages a lot against Washington. On the surface, that doesn’t make much sense against the NFL’s #1 rushing team (163.5 yards per game), but the Giants have good safeties and the added athleticism will help against Griffin. Obviously, much depends on if S Kenny Phillips (knee) can play and stay on the field. In my mind, the keys are to adequately recognize the play (pass or run), not bite on play-action, and maintain great gap discipline. The Redskins will stretch a play out with their zone-blocking schemes and Morris is a good cut-back runner. Worse, if the backside end or linebacker doesn’t stay at home, Griffin can break a big play on rollout off play-action.

For the multiple safety package to work, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka, Chris Canty, Linval Joseph, and Rocky Bernard have to play their best game of the season in terms of run defense. The tackles inside must be stout.

The Giants will benefit from TE Fred Davis being out, but they will have to contend with WR Pierre Garcon – Washington’s best receiver – in this game. Garcon can get deep and make the big play. Josh Morgan is more of an intermediate threat, but Santana Moss continues to give the Giants fits, including scoring two touchdowns in the last game. Leonard Hankerson is a deep threat.

Mike Shanahan loves trickery. The Redskins will use a lot misdirection in this game. He has used Griffin as a receiver and he has run the flea flicker and other gadget plays against New York. Given this is Washington’s most important game of the season, the defense needs to play it smart.

The Giants need to play with a great combination of intelligence (in order to correctly read the plays) and toughness (in order to defense the run) on Monday night. I would mix things up and try to confuse Griffin. I would also hit him extremely hard every time you can. He’s not a big guy. Pound him.

Giants on Special Teams: Brandon Banks is an explosive kick and punt returner. The Giants must do a good job against him. Close division games often come down to special teams. This would be a great time for the Giants to block a punt or field goal.