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The Miracle at the Linc
Posted By Eric From BBI On September 25, 2007 @ 1:34 pm In | Comments Disabled
by Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
I watched the game this week with a small group of BBI faithful – rnargi, JOrthman, McKee, and DCYankee. By the third quarter, we were sitting around pretty depressed with the Giants trailing 24-7 and simply looking atrocious. McKee said what we were probably all thinking, "Maybe we just suck." I replied, you know what, that’s going to be the title of my game review this week. As fate would have it, we ended up watching one of the most memorable games in New York Giants’ history. When Eli hit Plax for the game winner in overtime, we all jumped for joy, hugged and high-fived each other, saying the same thing, "How the (expletive deleted) did we win that game?"
There are a lot of reasons why the game turned around quickly in the fourth quarter. But in a nutshell, the Eagles made far too many mistakes and the Giants finally made some plays. Were the Giants the better team on the field on Sunday? Probably not. As McKee wisely also said, "We have now lost a game we should have won and won a game we should have lost."
There is plenty to bitch about regarding the Giants’ performance. I will cover that below. But let’s just take a long moment to savor this game. It’s usually the Giants who are at the losing end of this kind of miracle comeback – but not on Sunday, against the Eagles, one of the team’s most-despised rivals. The Eagle players and fans were laughing and celebrating for the bulk of the game. The Giants were on the absolute brink of a 0-2 hole heading into a tough game in Seattle. Not only did the Giants wipe those smiles of the Eagles’ faces, more importantly they provided themselves with some wiggle room in terms of the tough early schedule. This win doesn’t guarantee anything. There are plenty of concerns, especially on defense, with this team. But if the Giants do go on to do some bigger and better things down the road, this is the game that everyone will point to as perhaps the decisive moment in the season.
It was a classic and one of the greatest moments in Giants’ history. Savor it.
Coaching: According to the coaches and players, it is the players who are making Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis’ schemes look bad. "In the first half we weren’t close, we weren’t close with our coverage," said SS Gibril Wilson. "I don’t know why we weren’t close, but we do have to clean it up."
"It’s (defensive players) really not doing their jobs," said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. "You’ll see, if you look at one play, you’ll have someone out of position, or someone not involved in the coverage the way they’re supposed to be. Or the rush is not taking place exactly where it’s supposed to be. So it might be one phase of the defense is not in the position that you’re supposed to be in."
The Giants rushed only four players – the down four – for the bulk of the game and got very little pass pressure. And despite playing seven back in coverage, some of the Eagles’ primary weapons, such as TE L.J. Smith, were left wide open much of the day. It doesn’t make any sense. McNabb was as comfortable as a quarterback could be in the pocket. Personally, I would blitz more. Unless the Giants get a lot better on defense very quickly, this victory may unfortunately be regarded as the high point of the season.
Offensively, it was tough to do anything after the game’s initial drive because the Eagles controlled the line of scrimmage. Both the run blocking and pass blocking was sub par. Like the Giants, the Eagles mainly rushed only their down four and played everyone else back in coverage (though the Eagles did blitz more later in the game). The major difference in this game was that the Giants could not block the Eagles’ down four defensive linemen but the Eagles could block the Giants’ down four. The Giants also had a huge problem getting a hat on MLB Jeremiah Trotter who really savaged New York’s running game.
My biggest issue with the play-calling were the consecutive plays called on 3rd-and-2 and 4th-and-2 early in the fourth quarter when the Giants were at the Eagle 41-yard line. I felt that the Giants telegraphed these plays as passes simply by their formation. In my opinion, if you know you are going to go for it twice, use Brandon Jacobs at least one of those times on a running play.
But give Tom Coughlin credit for punting late in the game when the Giants were still down by 10 points. I thought that was the wrong move at the time. Also give him his due for recognizing that the Eagle defenders were dead tired by the end of the game and sticking with the run, despite it not working well all game. The runs by Tiki Barber and Jacobs in overtime were very instrumental in the victory. And the Giants kept the Eagles from making a lot of substitutions by staying with the no-huddle – something that is much more effective when the other team is spent.
Quarterback: While I am sure someone is going to find something to complain about this week about Eli, I won’t. Despite the poor pass protection that allowed eight sacks and countless hits, despite the absence of a running game, despite the hostile environment, Manning orchestrated an amazing 17-point comeback in the fourth quarter and then led his team on an 85-yard game-winning touchdown drive in overtime. He was battered and bruised, but not beaten. Manning’s numbers were fantastic – 31-of-43 for 371 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. However, the interception came on a play where the ball hit the intended receiver (Barber) in the hands.
Some of the highlights? Manning did a nice job of moving up into the pocket and to his right in order to avoid the rush on a key 3rd-and-8 play on the Giants’ opening touchdown drive. His 20-yard strike to WR Plaxico Burress on 3rd-and-18 on the Giants’ first touchdown drive of the second half was a superb pass. Later on this drive, Eli then found Burress for another 23 yards on the play where Burress fumbled and the ball was recovered in the end zone. Manning threw an absolutely perfect pass on the 22-yard touchdown to WR Amani Toomer with three and a half minutes to go in the game. Then, with less than a minute to play and no timeouts, starting from his own 20-yard line, Manning completed four passes for 48 yards – the biggest being his 22-yard throw to WR Tim Carter. It was a fantastic pass in a tough situation with Eli remaining calm and composed. Eli had a defender hanging onto his legs and had to loft the pass over one defender and in front of another – truly an amazing throw.
On the game-winning drive in overtime, Manning found Toomer three times for 22 yards and TE Visanthe Shiancoe for another nine yards. Then came the game winner. Facing an all-out blitz, Manning correctly read the defense, bought himself an extra half-second by drifting backwards, and lofted a wonderfully accurate deep ball to Burress despite the NEED to throw off his back foot because he had an Eagle defender in his face. It was a statement play in a statement game and will be long remembered by Giants’ fans.
Wide Receivers: An incredibly productive day by the Giants’ wide receiving corps. Toomer caught a career-high 12 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Burress caught six passes for 114 yards and the game-winning score. Carter made two huge plays – the first was hustling down field and recovering Burress’ fumble in the end zone for a touchdown; the second was his 22-yard reception during the last-second, game-tying field goal drive.
Toomer scored from 37 yards out on the Giants’ initial possession of the game on a broken coverage by the Eagles. Toomer scored again late in the fourth quarter from 22 yards out, doing a fantastic job of keeping his feet in-bounds despite being near the end line. This score cut the Eagles’ lead to 24-21 with three and a half minutes to play. He also had a nice 11-yard run-and-catch two plays before this score. Toomer later caught a 10-yard pass on the last desperate field goal drive in regulation and then had three catches on the game-winning drive in overtime. Many of his heroics came when he was suffering from severe dehydration.
Burress made a big play on the touchdown-scoring opening drive by coming up with a 16-yard reception on 3rd-and-8 despite very tight coverage. Plaxico made a huge 20-yard catch on 3rd-and-18 on the Giants’ first scoring drive of the second half. He then caught a 23-yarder over the middle, but fumbled the ball on the play. Fortunately for the G-Men, this ended up being a positive as the fumble was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown by Carter. Of course, the most memorable play was Burress’ 31-yard game winner.
The big negative on Carter was his idiotic holding penalty in overtime on a 6-yard Brandon Jacobs run despite the fact that Jacobs had already blasted past the area of the hold. This penalty could have cost the Giants the game. Still, without Carter’s two big plays earlier in the game, the Giants don’t win.
Running Backs: Yes, the run blocking wasn’t there, but Tiki Barber (21 carries for 51 yards; seven catches for 57 yards) just didn’t look like himself. Barber was creamed by LB Jeremiah Trotter on a blitz pick-up early in the game; plus, he had x-rays taken on his arm after the game – so he probably was playing hurt. He appeared to run very tentatively without any burst and was easily brought down. He also badly missed a blitz pick-up on the play where Manning was flagged for intentional grounding. Not one of his better games. That said, Tiki’s 24 yards on six carries on the game-winning overtime drive were instrumental in the victory.
Brandon Jacobs (five carries for 35 yards) looked sharper and I would have used him more. His 9-yard run on the game-winning drive was a big play.
FB Jim Finn had an 11-yard reception on the second touchdown drive of the game.
Tight Ends: There are two problems with Jeremy Shockey. One is that he right ankle is clearly a major problem as it is limiting his game. Secondly, for whatever reason, the Giants are doing a horrible job of getting him involved in the passing game. For the second game in a row, Shockey did not have any first-half receptions and only had two for 17 yards by game’s end. Shockey did drop a pass on the opening drive and committed his second false start in two games. The false start really hurt as it took away a first down run and the Giants were forced to punt two plays later. His only significant play of the game was his 8-yard reception on the final field goal drive in regulation. His ankle was so bothersome that he did not play in overtime.
Visanthe Shiancoe only had one catch, but it was big one – a nine-yarder on 2nd-and-10 from the Giants’ 45-yard line on the game-winning drive. He also made two other huge plays – one was jumping on Eagles’ SS Michael Lewis near the goal line on Plaxico’s fumble, preventing Lewis from recovering the football; the other was recovering a fumble by Eli Manning in overtime. I thought the false start on Shiancoe was a bad call since the Eagles – I felt – induced him to jump by coming across the line first. That’s supposed to be a penalty on the defense.
Offensive Line: As good as the offensive line played against the Colts in the opener, they were as bad as they could be against the Eagles. Now not all of the Eagles’ eight sacks were on them – due to Eli’s inability to find an open receiver or the receivers’ inability to get open, Manning held onto the ball far too long on a couple of plays that resulted in sacks. But, even discounting these plays, there were far too many physical breakdowns that led to quick pressure that ended with big hits on Manning and sacks. And for the bulk of the game, Barber had very little room to operate when running the football.
LG David Diehl gave up one sack to DT Darwin Walker and another to DT Mike Patterson (another sack by Patterson was really caused by Eli stepping too far up into the pocket). LT Luke Petitgout was beaten twice by DE Trent Cole for sacks. RT Kareem McKenzie gave up three and a half sacks – two and a half to DE Jevon Kearse. RG Chris Snee was flagged with a holding call and gave up a couple of late pressures (the personal foul penalty on him was BS). OC Shaun O’Hara was flagged with his second illegal snap penalty in two games.
Defensive Line: It seems to me that Tim Lewis’ strategy early on in the season has been to rely on his front four to pressure the passer and play more guys in coverage. This is what teams with very good pass-rushing defensive lines (such as the Eagles) often do. However, the problem with this strategy is right now is (1) the Giants defensive backs and linebackers are not getting the job done in coverage, and (2) the Giants’ defensive line is not getting to the quarterback. That’s a really, really bad combination. The Eagles dominated the line of scrimmage for most of the game, especially in pass protection. Not only did QB Donovan McNabb have all day to throw, but he often had a perfect pocket formed around him while calmly scanned the entire field. It was beyond infuriating as a Giants’ fan to watch. Defensive ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora need to pick up their respective games and fast. Those are the Giants’ two money players on defense and they are not getting the job done.
Ironically, for the second week in a row, I felt the defensive tackles played better than the ends. Fred Robbins played the run well and did apply some pass pressure early in the game. He almost sacked Donovan McNabb for a safety. Barry Cofield didn’t get any heat on the quarterback, but he was very solid against the run. He also batted a pass away. William Joseph didn’t stand out.
To his credit, Strahan did play the run well and he did get some heat on McNabb late in the game. Umenyiora had the Giants only sack of the game and it was mainly a coverage sack.
Justin Tuck saw snaps both at defensive tackle and defensive end but did not stand out. Mathias Kiwanuka, playing linebacker, came on a late dog up the gut and almost got to McNabb before he released the football.
Linebackers: Another bad game for the entire unit. The pass coverage is simply dreadful. How the (expletive deleted) do the Giants keep allowing the opposing tight end – a primary receiver in the passing attacks of both the first two opponents – to get so wide open? It’s as if the Giants were surprised that the Eagles were throwing to L.J. Smith. I counted FIVE PLAYS where Smith was wide open for gains of 30, 24, 20, 14, and 19 yards. There was no one around Smith on these plays. Unbelievable!
Carlos Emmons probably played the best game of the starting trio. He was badly embarrassed by HB Brian Westbrook on the latter’s 12-yard touchdown run despite the fact that Emmons had good position on the play (he just wasn’t quick or fast enough to stay with Westbrook). To his credit, he got in on a lot of tackles (11) and also forced the key turnover of the game by stripping HB Brian Westbrook of the ball late in the fourth quarter.
Antonio Pierce is playing like a very ordinary player as is LaVar Arrington. Pierce did tackle Westbrook for a 1-yard loss in the second quarter and played the run well on the consecutive 3rd-and-3 and 4th-and-1 plays where the Eagles failed to convert in the fourth quarter. Arrington was very shaky in run defense and missed a tackle on the halfback in the flat. He also missed a tackle on McNabb late in the game.
Defensive Backs: CB Sam Madison had a rough game. Early on, he almost came down with an interception in the end zone against WR Dante Stallworth, but the pass was ruled incomplete. He also played Stallworth well deep on another deep pass thrown in his direction. However, Madison was badly beaten in press coverage by Stallworth for 20-yard touchdown. He also inexcusably gave up a 33-yarder to Stallworth on 3rd-and-14 earlier on this drive. Late in the second quarter, Madison was cleanly beaten by Stallworth on four shorter passes – three of which were completed and one of which helped to set up a late field goal. Madison really settled down in the second half as Stallworth didn’t do anything against him. And Madison made a huge open-field tackle on a 3rd-and-12 pass to the fullback in the flat when the Eagles were trying to run out the clock. If Madison doesn’t make that tackle, the Giants lose the game.
Corey Webster was in fine position on the 23-yard touchdown pass to WR Reggie Brown, but did not make a play on the football. Webster had decent coverage on an 11-yard completion on a 3rd-and-2 slant to Stallworth earlier on this drive. Other than these two plays, he was quiet – which is usually a good thing for a corner. R.W. McQuarters was beaten by rookie WR Hank Baskett for a 25-yard completion on 2nd-and-13. McQuarters did have nice coverage on a 3rd-and-11 pass intended for Smith that fell incomplete. However, McQuarters gave up a huge 13-yard catch to WR Greg Lewis on 3rd-and-7 late in the game that could have proven to be exceptionally costly.
Safeties Will Demps and Gibril Wilson were invisible for much of the game as the Eagles passed for 256 yards in the first half alone. Both probably share at least some responsibility in L.J. Smith’s big receiving day. And Gibril was beaten badly by the back-up tight end for what should have been an easy touchdown but the Eagle dropped the ball. He also missed a tackle on a screen. However, Wilson did make some plays late in the game, none bigger than his 4th-and-1 stuff of HB Correll Buckhalter in the fourth quarter. He also helped to disrupt a 4th-and-1 pass play late in the second quarter by knocking the intended receiver on his ass within the 5-yard chuck zone. Demps recovered a fumble that set up the Giants’ third touchdown of the game. Demps also did a nice job of reading a screen play to Smith in overtime and tackling the tight end for a 3-yard loss.
Special Teams: The good news is that Jay Feely was much better this week. His 35-yard field goal that sent the game into overtime was a little too close to the left upright for my liking, but it counted and it came in a very big pressure situation. His kickoffs were better this week except for one that was inexplicably squibbed along the ground at the beginning of the third quarter.
Kickoff coverage was solid with the Dexter Wynn being limited to 19 (Reggie Torbor on the tackle), 20 (Torbor), 21 (Mathias Kiwanuka), and 15 yards (Torbor). Great coverage game by Torbor!
Jeff Feagles punted well (43.5 yards-per-punt average on eight punts) early but had some mediocre efforts later in the game. His directional kicking in the first half was impressive. However, his 38-yarder in overtime came at the wrong moment. And the Eagles came damn close to blocking a few of his punts. The punt coverage team gave up returns of 6 (David Tyree on the tackle), 22 (Torbor), and 14 yards (Brandon Jacobs after Torbor missed an early tackle). The 22-yarder helped the Eagles tack on a field goal at the end of the first half and the 14-yarder could have ended up costing the Giants the game had the defense not held its ground. David Tyree needs to step it up.
Chad Morton’s four kickoff returns went for 31, 8, 24, and 23 yards. R.W. McQuarters returned one kickoff for 17 yards. Gerris Wilkinson was flagged for holding on McQuarter’s lone kickoff return.
Morton only returned one punt – for zero yardage. McQuarters had one punt return for six yards.
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