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Don’t Rush to Judge This Defense
Posted By Eric From BBI On October 4, 2007 @ 6:28 am In | Comments Disabled
Giants 16 – Eagles 3
by Damon Micalizzi for BigBlueInteractive.com
I cannot remember in all my years of watching football, ever seeing an individual performance like the one Osi Umenyiora put on Sunday night against the Eagles. On what was a record tying night for this much-maligned defensive unit, Osi’s night was so spectacular, he largely overshadowed an amazing display by the Giants’ Defense as a whole.
The offense was for the most part, unspectacular. Yet, on this night it didn’t matter. The Giants sacked McNabb 12 times, and when they didn’t get the sack, they almost did. On those rare occasions where McNabb wasn’t peeling himself off the turf, the Eagles shot themselves in the foot with penalties. So much for all these defensive liabilities we’ve been complaining about for three weeks. Right? Maybe. But one thing is clear, now a quarter of the way into the season, the Giants are once again in the thick of things in the NFC.
The Offense couldn’t have picked a better time to have an “off night.” Eli Manning was not really sharp against the Eagles, but he did manage the game well. I hate to use that cliché because he really did much more than manage the game, and his numbers weren’t bad (14 of 26 for 135 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT), but he never really seemed to get into a groove. Still though, Manning looks more seasoned each week. He is growing much more comfortable moving within the pocket to find seams to throw and avoid the rush. He was praised by his teammates for his ability to read the D and audible to the right play and showed veteran savvy to use his cadence to draw two offsides penalties. (One of them, to get 5 yards back after a penalty of our own.) He did throw a bad pass to Shockey that was picked off. He responded by sprinting downfield to force Omar Gaither out of bounds and save the TD.
His longest run was only for 15 yards, but Derrick Ward did a good job of keeping the Eagles blitzing D honest, gaining 80 yards on 19 carries. Ward might not be as patient as he could be, but he hits the hole fast and he lowers his shoulder at contact. He is not easy to bring down and once again showed good vision cutting back for several big gains. He did a good job catching the ball out of the back field and showed some agility hurdling a defender after a catch on a check-down to gain another three or four yards. He also did a very nice job of picking up the blitz on several occasions.
Doing his best Ron Dayne, on 3rd and 1 in the first quarter, Reuben Droughns tried to dance before going off tackle and was stopped for a loss. He carried 5 times for just 8 yards, but he holds on to the ball like it’s chained to his chest.
Madison Hedgecock had a catch out of the backfield and much to my surprise, showed some quickness, cutting back up field for a few extra yards. He hasn’t really blown anyone away as a lead blocker though and got stood up by the LB on several occasions Sunday night.
A somewhat quiet night for Plaxico Burress, even though he had an amazing TD grab where he used every inch of his 7’ wingspan to reach up and over Sheldon Brown to pull in the ball. Not a lot of yardage for Plax, but he had two catches for first downs on third down, so although the numbers don’t jump off the page at you, he still had a very nice game. All this on a gimpy ankle and no practice?
He had the first pass of the game go through his hands, and quickly redeemed himself with a catch for a first down. For a guy who’s supposed to be on the downside of his career, Amani Toomer still can get behind a defense. More important than his four catches (three of them for first downs), it was Toomer getting behind the secondary resulting in a 32-yard pass interference call that set up a field goal. He continues to find holes in the zones and come up with big first down catches on third down.
No other wide receiver caught a pass on Sunday night. Although, no other WR had a pass thrown their way. The only other time a Giants’ wideout had their name called was Sinorice Moss’ false start penalty that essentially stalled a 4th quarter drive where we were trying to eat the clock.
So much for getting Jeremy Shockey involved in the game early. He didn’t catch a pass until the final 5 minutes of the third quarter. But he did turn it up field and plow into four Eagles on his way to a 17-yard gain and a first down. Shockey does not get enough credit for his work as a blocker though. He is a ferocious blocker especially for a guy who would much rather be running routes and catching balls. I just hope Jeremy gets more looks next week.
Mike Matthews caught the only ball thrown his way on a fourth quarter bootleg for five yards. I also think he does a better job than Hedgeckock as the lead blocker for Ward where he got most of his run in the second half.
Who’s Trent Cole? He was the NFL sack leader coming into the game Sunday night. David Diehl (and Osi) took care of that. Cole never got close enough to even sniff Eli Manning, who was only sacked once. Diehl has only been beat a few times this season and has done a magnificent job so far protecting the QBs blind side.
A phantom holding call on Rich Seubert coupled with Jevon Kearse’s sack coming in off the edge getting past Kareem McKenzie were the only other negatives for this unit, who otherwise made Kearse, Cole and every other pass rusher disappear. They continue to open up holes for Ward, and give Eli enough time to throw.
Wow. Just wow. Did Jay Alford ever bite on the fake to the interior when Correll Buckhalter took the toss for 17 yards? Okay maybe that shouldn’t be the story line for this unit who quite possibly put together one of the most dominating performances ever by a front four.
Front four, front five? Whatever you want to call it. Steve Spagnuolo had Osi and Mathias Kiwanuka lining up all over the field, at linebacker, at end, at tackle, it really didn’t matter, they almost always got to McNabb. In one game, Osi Umenyiora stole the league sack lead from Trent Cole, and probably scarred fill in left tackle Winston Justice for life, along with flushing the toilet on the Eagles season. I don’t know how they can recover from a game like this. I don’t know if McNabb will be able to take a five-step drop again without looking over his shoulder.
On a night where Lawrence Taylor was standing by to give Michael Strahan a hug after he broke the franchise sack record, Strahan’s protégés did their best to upstage him on his big night.
With three sacks of his own, Kiwanuka had an amazing game, that only could have been overshadowed by the play of Umenyiora. Did anyone remember Justin Tuck’s outstanding game? (7 tackles and 2 more sacks). Someone once said you can never have enough pass rushers. It’s hard to argue with that after a game like this. The bottom line: when you’re getting heat on the QB, everyone else’s job on D gets easier.
Strahan, by the way, seems to be getting back into the swing of things with his second strong game in a row. Even with all of the damage Osi was doing on the other side, when they sent someone to chip it was Runyon who received the help. Strahan beat Runyon at least four times, getting his record breaking sack.
Yes, Buckhalter ran for a hundred plus yards at 6 yards a clip. However, three times he had big gains to pad those numbers on three plays where the defense over-pursued. You didn’t get the feeling that they were being beaten by the running game of the Eagles, because after almost every substantial gain the Eagles had, the drive would either stall with a sack or a penalty.
For the first time this season, Antonio Pierce looked like the Antonio Pierce from two years ago. On the first defensive play of the game, he was in McNabb’s face and it wasn’t the only time he nearly got to the QB. Pierce had 9 tackles and looked quick in coverage too.
I’m convinced he couldn’t catch a football unless it somehow got wedged in his facemask, but Kawika Mitchell can obviously pick up the football when it’s on the ground. After dropping his second interception in as many games, Mitchell, was in the backfield as McNabb lost the handle on a snap, picked up the ball, did a pirouette on one knee and pranced into the endzone for a score. For the second time in two weeks, he has made a big play late to make up for a missed opportunity earlier. In coverage, he stayed out of trouble for the most part. He had two nice tackles in space and one pass defended. It appears that these guys are starting to get comfortable with this new defense.
It really didn’t matter where Mathias Kiwanuka lined up…he was just dominant. Seven tackles and three sacks, the guy seems to be finding his stride in Spagnuolo’s defense.
If this was an audition for a starting job, Aaron Ross made the most of it. You just get the feeling that it’s a matter of time before Ross, gets a pick and takes it back for a score as he just looks like a hawk out there. With five solo tackles, Ross not only did a good job of keeping the play in front of him, but he punished the receiver as well. On third down and long McNabb found Buckhalter, and it appeared that Ross stopped him short of the first with a thunderous hit. The refs gave Buckhalter a generous spot and the first down, but it was nice to see some pop from the rookie. In the second quarter, he had a brilliant pass defense where he stuck his hand in and tried to tip the ball rather than hit the receiver after the ball got there. He almost got in on the sack act as well, perfectly timing a delayed blitz and hitting McNabb just as he let go of the ball. As he gets more acclimated with the game, Ross will be a big play waiting to happen.
Sooner or later, Sam Madison will get a pick as once again he seemed to almost get one. Madison continues to look more comfortable in press coverage and tackles well. Madison had four tackles and did a nice job limiting Kevin Curtis to just two catches.
I’m not sure if Kevin Dockery leapfrogged Corey Webster on the depth chart, but it sure appeared that way. Dockery had two tackles and covered both the outside receiver and the slot. He seemed to be splitting time in the nickel package with R.W. McQuarters. Webster was not tested in limited action.
When the Eagles did gain yardage Gibril Wilson was there at the end of the play. Wilson had 11 tackles and very tight coverage on the Matt Schobel, especially late in the game when Philly was forced to pass on almost every down.
He only had two tackles, but I thought James Butler really played well. He had very tight coverage on a first quarter deep pass to Reggie Brown. He also got into the backfield in the first quarter to trip up Buckhalter for just a one-yard gain. He was no where to be found on Brown’s TD catch in the fourth quarter, but, McNabb was over the line of scrimmage so it didn’t matter.
The secondary as a whole, had a very solid game. Again, it helps that they had a QB running for his life and didn’t have to cover that long because of the fierce pass rush. But they tackled well and at least two of the twelve sacks on the night were at least partially due to good coverage. Even Michael Johnson made some noise coming up with a big hit on a tackle during a cameo appearance in the first quarter.
I hope I am wrong, but I’m pretty sure Lawrence Tynes is going to cost us at least one game this year. He missed a very make-able field goal from 34 yards out and then later missed an extra point off the upright. It didn’t appear that there was any problem with the snaps or holds on Tynes’ misses. I get a little sick to my stomach when I think that we traded for this guy. His kickoffs are inconsistent. Sometimes they’re okay. Other times they are too low.
Jeff Feagles punted six times and coverage was pretty good. Chase Blackbern continues to make tackles on kicks and punts and downed a punt inside the ten. David Tyree almost blocked a punt for the second week in a row. Reuben Droughns had the only kickoff return, finding the seam for 32 yards.
To Sum It Up…
For all of the praise for Osi, Kiwi and company, Steve Spagnuolo really deserves a lot of credit. Yes, he probably brought with him some inside info on the Eagles and their weaknesses, but it’s hard to nitpick 12 sacks and six quarters of near shutout ball. I counted 17 times that they either got to McNabb or almost did. Although this defense appears to be adjusting nicely to their new scheme and seemingly firing on all cylinders, I must admit that in spite of the dominating performance by the D, after Tynes left four points off the board, I was nervous with about four minutes left. Fortunately that didn’t come back to haunt us. Let’s hope it doesn’t down the road either.
It’s hard not to imagine how dangerous this team could be if the defense and the offense played complete games on the same day. At 2-2, with two straight wins in the division, the Giants could be primed for a run. Let’s hope they don’t sleep on the Jets next week at home and screw it all up.
Marco…Polo…No, It’s Mornhingweg
by David Oliver for BigBlueInteractive.com
Funny thing as I was writing this review, news came out about Marty replacing Andy Reed. I have been looking for someone to blame for the Eagles debacle and the only person I could really pin the tail on was Marty – the up and down offensive minded coach. I couldn’t blame Winny as he was just overmatched. I couldn’t blame McNabb as he is playing on only one and a little bit of another leg. I couldn’t blame the Eagles wide receivers because they are pathetic except for Curtis. I couldn’t blame the D that is still presentable notwithstanding injuries to several key starters. And I couldn’t blame the Giants, well, I probably could find something that TC did wrong, but it was good, too good, oh so sweet to see a Giants’ D unit wreck the Birds. Ok, I could blame Osi, but he had plenty of help. But I settled on Marty because if he does take over, the Eagles will return to mediocrity, where they rightfully belong.
Summing up this game is easy- it was entertaining. Now we have to wait and see if it was deceptive. I’m starting to think like a stock market advisor – the D is a worry. No, the D is outstanding, the O is a worry. We only beat the Skins and the Birds. We beat the Skins and the Birds, so that’s a two-week roll, now we are a lock for the playoffs. Blackburn took a Q-Tip in the ear, oh, no, how will that affect the D? You know, it’s not easy being a Giants’ fan.
It appears as if Spags has seized control of the D from TC. No more reliance on over-bulked, under-performing tackles. There are five good defensive ends which can play anywhere on the field, as long as they are coming forward. Forget playing them in space where they have to back pedal and chase speedy slot receivers. Just use the old Chinese Red Army tactic – put a fork in each hand and yell ‘there’s food on the other side of the line’. Suddenly the D becomes invincible sending attackers from every space on the field and utilizing speed to fluster the QB. It makes even the secondary look good. OK, so neither the Skins nor the Birds are very good. The schedule looked problematical at first, but like all virtualities, reality comes home. Now the Jets look as if they have returned to form, the Bills are playing as if they are preparing to move to the CFL, other teams have injuries and what not. There is no reason the Giants should not win out until the Dallas rematch. On the other hand, the season is still young – even Norv Turner should get a win sooner or later.
But that performance of the D against the Birds was something else. Let’s look at the game.
GIANTS O 1
Ward for 7, flag on #69 for holding. Pass incomplete – the Eagles had a good defense. Ward again for no gain. Screen to Ward for 6. Punt. Sloppy Eagles ST play. Fumble, recovery, holding. McQuarters had punched the ball loose. Not a real auspicious beginning for the Giants’ offense.
GIANTS D 1
Pierce up the middle, pass incomplete. Complete pass for 3. Tuck gets a pressure sack. Eagles punt. This was a nice start for the D – this unit looked game ready.
GIANTS O 2
Manning had lots of time, Toomer dropped the pass. Eli came right back with a completion to Toomer for a 1st down. Ward for nothing. Ward for 5. Eli to Amani for another 1st. You could see Eli making his reads. Another complete with Eagles offsides. Eli to Amani for another 1st. Eli to Ward for a 1st. Eli makes a quick out to Burress for 5. Then Ward for 4. Droughens stopped in the backfield. Patterson beat Snee – one of the few times in the game you hear Patterson’s name. Tynes misses FG.
GIANTS D 2
Buckhalter for 17. Buckhalter for 8. Buckhalter tackled by Michael Johnson who made a form tackle. Inside handoff to Buckhalter who went up the middle for 12. Then McNabb missed a wide-open Curtis, followed by a dropped pass by Curtis. Osi unleashed his fury and sacked McNabb. A bad punt of 25 yards and the Gmen were back in business.
GIANTS O 3
Kearse beat McKenzie and sacked Eli. Eli hit Ward who made a nice hurdle over BB56’s favorite player, William James-Peterson; or is Peterson-James? On the next play the O line gave Eli time, the pass was complete to Ward. James was holding (defensive). Then Ward for 6. Eli just misses Plax on a long pass. Delay of game on the Giants. Eagles off sides. Eli starts using the Omaha call. Pass deflected. Punt.
One quarter gone and it’s looking like a typical Giants/Birds game.
GIANTS D 3
Play action, long pass, overthrown. Buckhalter for 1. Here comes Osi, up the middle SACK. Osi appeared to be lining up in the LB position and came on an inside rush. Punt. Giants get the ball in good position.
GIANTS O 4
Eli to Toomer (flag). Eli to Toomer for 17 yards. Ward pounds it for a couple. Eli on a play action to Burress – pretty pass utilizing Burress’ size. Just reached up on the run. SCORE.
GIANTS D 4
KO returned to the 32, flag, Birds holding. Buckhalter for 2. False start on McNabb. Uh, oh, no smiles from McNabb in this game. McNabb complete to the Birds 23. Pressure by the Giants, Osi missed the sack, pass complete to Mahi for a 1st. The STRAHAN makes an appearance and sacks McNabb, becoming the all-time Giants sack leader – at least since records started in this area. Camera flashes to LT, Harry Carson and Brian Kelly on the sidelines. It was nice that it happened at home, nice that the great Giants LBs were there, and nice for Stra. He is the second best Giants’ defensive player of the last 30 years. Oh, yes, there was a game on. Buckhalter on a quick hand-off gets a 1st. Incomplete pass. Screen to Buckhalter for 7. Pitchout to Buckhalter for 7 and a 1st. Jay Alford was in the game on this play, and then out of the game. Buckhalter for a couple. Pressure up the middle and pierce knocked the pass down. McNabb missed Brown on an incomplete pass. Akers missed a FG. He doesn’t like the Meadowlands. Good.
GIANTS O 5
Complete to Hedgecock. Madison Hedgecock – sounds like a Wall Street broker. Ward breaks free for a big gain, then another 15 slapped on for a facemask. Incomplete to Ward – Birds got some pressure. Ward on a cutback, stopped for 3. Encroachment by the Birds. Toss to Ward. Then Eli throws an interception. Omar Gaither stepped in front of a slipping Shock. Eli chased Gaither down the sidelines.
GIANTS D 5
False start. Pressure, short run by McNabb. Another false start. Incomplete pass. Osi strips McNabb but the Eagles fell on the ball. Punt, Giants holding.
GIANTS D 6
Reed returns KO to the 24. Buckhalter for 3. Incomplete pass as the Gmen were pouring through the Maginot Line. McNabb then was tripped up and Kiwi gets a sack. Punt.
GIANTS O 6
Pass incomplete to Shockey, James covering. I thought I saw James looking into the camera and saying ‘hey, BB 56, I want my glove back, murderer’. Then Ward got stacked up but there was a face-mask penalty. Ward stopped behind the line. Ward for a short gain. Pass incomplete. Punt. Downed at the 1 yd line by Webster.
GIANTS D 7
Pass complete for 6. Osi SACK. Incomplete pass as Osi is again trading recipes with McNabb. Punt from the end zone. Giants get good position.
GIANTS O 7
Ward up the middle for 4. Ward for 3. Incomplete to Toomer. Punt downed at the 4 by Blackburn.
GIANTS D 8
Buckhalter for 1. Buckhalter for 7. Birds 1st down. McNabb tackled by Kiwi. Buckhalter for a couple. Incomplete pass. Punt.
Right about now was time to run for a beer refill.
GIANTS O 8
Eli, fake and roll, pass to Shockey for 17. Once again I am reminded that here is a TE who could have been a lock HOFamer until they turned him into a blocker. Yuck. Ward cut back for 7. Pass interference on James – 32 yard penalty but saved a TD. Ward stopped in the backfield. Hedgecock got stoned on the play as he got no push on his man. Pads down, Madison. Incomplete pass. Complete to Burress in the backfield – a duh play. Eli using Omaha a lot – everyone wondering was he hungry for a steak – these were the Birds. Tynes hits a FG saving his job for one more week, maybe.
GIANTS D 9
Reed tackled by Blackburn on the KO. McNabb completes a pass, but there was an illegal formation. McNabb then fumbled. Mitchell picked the ball up and ran into the end zone for a Giants’ score. Birds challenged. Play stands.
GIANTS D 10
Reed to the 25. Complete to Curtis for 9. Complete for the 1st. Complete to Avant. Three quarters mercilessly over. Short run. Another complete for a 1st. McNabb hit by Ross on a blitz, pass incomplete. Screen play with terrible execution. Incomplete. McNabb sacked for the 9th time in the game. Akers hit on a 53 yd FG.
GIANTS O 9
Droughens returns KO to the 33. Eli rolls and hits Matthews for 5. Ward gains 3 on a cutback. Moss false starts. Incomplete to Burress. Punt.
GIANTS D 11
Pass bounced off an Eagle, hits Mitchell in the hands and falls incomplete. McNabb scramble, Kiwi tackle. Osi SACKS McNabb (his 5th out of 11). Punt.
GIANTS O 10
Ward for 9 yards. Ward for 1st down. Droughns for 1. Droughns for 4. Eli almost sacked, flips it incomplete. Punt.
GIANTS D 12
McNabb complete to Brown. Buckhalter for 1st down. McNabb throws a terrible looking pass which was almost intercepted. False start. Short pass to Buckhalter. McNabb for the 1st down. McNabb to Schobel for a 1st. McNabb to Buckhalter for a first. Buckhalter around left side of the Giants’ defense for a 1st. McNabb under pressure throws another bad pass. McNabb completes a pass for a TD but he was over the LOS when he threw it. Osi SACKS McNabb (6 for Osi, 12 total).
I stopped writing. My hand was as tired as the Giants rushers and I felt as sore as McNabb. It was a good win sparked by a great defense. Keep in mind that the Birds were depleted and that that the Birds O surprised everyone by tolling up 54 last week, but it is not a good O without Westbrook and lacks good wideouts. So the Giants have won two in a row and concern has shifted from the defense to the offense. The Birds still have a very good defense, so I am not too concerned about the offense of the Giants. Eli looked comfortable. The Giants have weapons – Toomer and Burress are always a threat to go deep. It seems as if the Giants just got in a comfort zone against the Birds and tasked Eli with ‘managing’ the game. Shockey again was misused. All in all, the O-Line did the job against a very good Birds D notwithstanding the absence of key Bird players. The Giants D was a wonder, but can it sustain that momentum? Other teams will study the game films and counter the rush. A mobile QB and good wideouts could force the Giants into a regular defense with a 3rd down rush. On the bright side, the next four games are very winnable. Osi deserves kudos. He is coming into his own. Kiwi is playing where he belongs – coming forward. And Tuck shows he is a fine rotational player.
I maintain my early take on this team. Don’t get too high, don’t get too low. It’s a long season.
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