Sep 272015
 
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New York Giants 32 – Washington Redskins 21

Confusing Intro

Two 4th quarter leads blown, 0-2 and playing without your starting LT, best cover corner and best DL against a suddenly revitalized Washington Redskins (161 and 182 yards on the ground to open the year against two of the best defensive fronts in the league in St. Louis and Miami) team that vows to “Break the man in front of you”, were the Giants already dead in week three?  Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your team here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.

It turns out the Giants did learn from their first two weeks, not taking their collective feet off the gas in a 32-21 win over the Washington Redskins. Staked to an early 9-0 bulge thanks to a Prince Amukamara INT and Rashad Jennings blocked punt for a safety, the Giants were never really threatened in this one despite a 101-yard kickoff return in the 4th quarter that cut a 32-14 lead to 32-21 and had to make some Giant fans wonder, are we going to cough up the lead again? Never fear, Kirk Cousins is here, and the former Spartan was again generous throwing 2 costly INTs, one inside his own 20 and another when it appeared the Skins were finally gaining some footing on offense. Questions will be raised about Tom Coughlin’s sanity again though, because with under 2 minutes left in the game he inexplicably chose to throw the ball on a 3rd-and-10, essentially gifting his opponent about 40 seconds of clock time late in the game for the second time in three weeks. Fortunately this was Kirk Cousins and not Matt Ryan or Tony Romo and the Skins final effort was an 8-play, 64-yard clunker that ended on a 26-yard garbage time run as time expired. The Giants are not quite dead, which means we can’t yet go through their pockets and look for loose change but we just might get a miracle if the teams in the NFC East keep losing players and we start to get some back next week against the Buffalo Bills.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 24, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterbacks

My name is Eli Manning, you killed my first two games, prepare to die. Eli Manning started the game 8-of-8, looking sharp and decisive with the ball, seeming to involve Rueben Randle early to get the 4th-year pro in a groove to help this offense. Manning found Odell Beckham on a 4th-and-1 conversion on a simply perfect pass low and outside where only his WR could make the catch and again Beckham was on the receiving end of a perfectly-placed toss into the end zone to the high post. Despite the first two games and non-stop criticism, Eli stepped onto the big stage and did what Eli does, he played to win the game and he did just that. That is the Eli we want, that is the Eli we expect and with another makeshift OL, no real slot WR and a frustrating TE situation the Big E came up huge when he had to. Up 25 to 14, instead of going into a shell, Eli and company fired the dagger with a back shoulder pass to Rueben Randle that DB Bashaud Breeland (can someone name a kid Bill or Ted or something, ffs this is getting out of control) tipped, but Randle gathered it and went in for the score. Manning finished the day with 279 yards, 2 TDs and again no interceptions.

Running Backs

Andre Williams gets the first nod for his bruising TD run over left guard following a Prince Amukamara INT to stake the G-men to a 9-0 lead. Late in the 3rd quarter, Williams did his best Brandon Jacobs, in trucking FS Trenton Robinson on a 5-yard run that had to make Skins fans shudder at the memory of old #27 obliterating S LaRon Landry. Other than that, a pretty poor night for the backs again, with a paltry 2.7 ypc average with 11 yards as the long run of the night. This mix and match zone runs and power runs has the OL and backs tied up and simply not performing well at all. It may be time to see what Orleans Darkwa can do because this running game is dead in the water. FB Nikita Whitlock didn’t play many snaps on offense. RB Shane Vereen was held catchless and only touched the ball 6 times but his alert onside recovery saved what could have turned into another late game meltdown.

Rueben Randle, New York Giants (September 24, 2015)

Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

Someone must have threatened to put Rueben Randle’s hand in warm water the next time he falls asleep if he didn’t show up this week, because the 4th-year former Bayou Bengal came out punching and didn’t let up. Randle ran a great DIG route on a 3rd-and-8 early in the 3rd to pick up a key conversion. To top things off, Randle pulled in a 3rd-and-10 with the Giants up 11 and only 3:33 left, and raced home for the game-clinching TD. Great night for Randle who finished with 116 yards on 7 grabs and the game-clinching TD. Superlatives simply don’t work anymore when discussing Odell Beckham Jr. He finished with a pedestrian (for him) 79 yards on 7 catches but his 4th-and-1 snag of a low slider from Eli and his effortless grab of a post in the end zone that was high and near a defender just shows how composed he is with the ball in the air and how much his QB trusts him.

Tight Ends

Washington-killer TE Larry Donnell killed a Giants drive midway through the 2nd quarter. An easy 3rd-and-7 conversion fell right through the 6’6” Donnell’s hands killing a drive that ended in a FG. The head scratcher? Donnell seemed to somersault just because he can on a 22-yard catch from Manning as the 4th quarter opened. I mean he didn’t fumble so that’s great but the non-induced gymnastics need to go. Every time he plays, Daniel Fells seems to have a big catch down the seam. Manning found Fells on a seam route on a Giants scoring drive midway through the second quarter. Fells deked LB Keenan Robinson with a jab step outside, got inside leverage and ran a perfect seam route for a 23-yard gain. He’s not flashy, but Fells is as fundamentally sound a TE as this team has had for some time.

Offensive Line

Without starting LT Ereck Flowers, things appeared to be grim against a Washington front that gave the Dolphins and Rams fits. Overall, not a bad job really, though at times RT Marshall Newhouse tried out his new skates when Ryan Kerrigan lined up over him. Newhouse did gave up some pressures, but kept a clean sheet and against a player of Kerrigan’s caliber that’s worth a pat on the backside. Not from me of course, that would be weird. The signal caller was kept clean all game and with few exceptions the pocket was fairly well-formed and stable most of the night. There was definitely pressure at times, but credit C Weston Richburg for keeping slight pressures from becoming drive-killing sacks by helping and switching to double team when needed. LT Justin Pugh acquitted himself well in rookie tough guy Flowers’ absence, and dare I say it, LG John Jerry played a pretty solid game, using his considerable backside to anchor well against a very big and very physical Washington front 7. Against bigger, physical lines, the 680 lb guard tandem of Geoff Schwartz and Jerry will actually be a big plus. C Weston Richburg largely goes unnoticed but ask Eli how much he appreciates room to step up into the pocket and the ability to dump off a screen pass and have his agile pivot man get out in front of the play and actually give it a shot. Another unsung improvement who won’t be on Sports Center or make the Daily News’ goofy headlines, but rest assured our 2nd year center is becoming exactly what this offense needs, a steady sturdy leader who can captain this young and now promising OL.

New York Giants Defense (September 24, 2015)

New York Giants Defense – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Line

Kerry Wynn made his mark early, knifing through on a 3rd down to drop Matt Jones for a loss and force punt #2. Wynn finished with 8 stops and a QB hit, and in case that doesn’t tell the story clearly, that would be a 128-tackle season for a DL. As a point of reference, Hall of Famer Michael Strahan’s best year was 2005 when he finished with 81 stops. Am I inducting Kerry Wynn into the Hall of Fame because he went to school in Virginia? Yes, yes I am. Wynn likely won’t ever make a Pro Bowl or spit pieces of a PBJ on a reporter, but make no mistake, #72 was a difference-maker all night against what was a vaunted Washington running game. Consistent backside tackles and an ability to hold the edge made Wynn a force all night. His linemates didn’t fill up the stat sheet, but play after play, the Giants DL played with outstanding technique, not allowing cut-back lanes, shutting off the edge and forcing bruising RBs Matt Jones and Alfred Morris to churn out yards inside. The G-Men held the W’s to 88 yards, 26 of it on a last-second run that can easily be tossed out to show how dominant this group was all night. Cool moment of the night: FB/DT Nikita Whitlock had an impressive 360 spin to get in Cousins face from the NT spot and force an incompletion. With the Skins down 19 entering the 4th quarter, it was pin your ears back time and the Giants DL didn’t get much in the way of sacks, though Kerry Wynn and Jay Bromley each chipped in with a couple of QB hurries. That lack of pressure may come back to bite this group eventually but we’ll take this one week at a time and worry about that when and if it happens.

Linebackers

OLB Devon Kennard just keeps making play after play. The 2nd-year former Trojan LOVES contact and it shows. Kennard’s ability to shock with his hands is something this team hasn’t seen since Carl Banks roamed the Meadowlands. What made Banks such a dynamic run and edge defender was his ability to stay square and “shock” or jolt the man blocking him violently with his hands, holding the vaunted edge and controlling the running game. Kennard does the same thing when asked in 3-4 sets, and he gets better every week at it. It’s not glamorous, it’s not cool but key on #59 a few times and watch how violent his hands are and how aggressively he defeats blocks of 300lb lineman with ease. It’s a beautiful thing. LB Jonathan Casillas may have had the whiff of the game when he was handed a perfect blitz and clean shot at Kirk Cousins and he ran right past the QB. It was coincidentally the same fake-blitz-that-becomes-a-blitz that LB Kawika Mitchell executed in Super Bowl 42 to hurry a Tom Brady throw. At the snap, Casillas takes a drop step into his zone, then zips inside a lane created by the DL, only to miss a chance at a sack. Casillas was almost victimized by TE Jordan Reed who had flown past the LB into the end zone but Kirk Cousined it and the Skins were forced to kick the oblong pigskin for points. LB Jon Beason returned from his latest injury room vacation but didn’t register a tackle or have really any impact in limited action. He did avoid a season-ending injury so let’s call that a win. Beason’s understudy (hoping to make the journey from Milan to Minsk) Uani’ Unga picked off a Cousins’ pass with the Skins driving and the G-Men up 12. And with the Giants scoring on the ensuing possession, that INT turned out to be a huge moment in the game. It was of course tipped by Devon Kennard who had perfect coverage on the play and batted the ball into the air, so just get used to 59 making things happen seemingly all over the field. Unga could be blamed on Chris Thompson’s TD catch late in the 4th quarter as the old-young rookie failed to get sufficient depth in his drop, opening a small window for the Cousins pass.

Landon Collins, New York Giants (September 24, 2015)

Landon Collins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

Prince Amukamara, victimized by Julio Jones and the Falcons game-winning drive, redeemed himself instantly with an INT inside Washington territory that led to an early and easy TD. The Prince batted away a pass to a seemingly-open Pierre Garcon. S Landon Collins looks like he’s rounding into form, making a key breakup early in the 2nd quarter against athletic TE Jordan Reed. Collins had Reed in man coverage all the way and Collins looked to be beaten but he closed down quickly, read Reed’s eyes and turned to find the ball and knock it away at the last second. The ball could have been thrown a bit better, but credit Collins with one of those little smart football things (watching a WRs eyes when running with him to find the ball) that don’t get enough credit. Heady play by the rookie. I bemoaned the signing of S Brandon Meriweather, but thus far #22 has been a solidifying force in the secondary. His strong effort around the line of scrimmage and ability to support the run game have been critical in this defense’s ability to limit ground yardage. Everyone’s favorite punching bag now that Markus Kuhn is on the pine, is undoubtedly CB Jayron Hosley, but the former weird giant turkey mascot school product was solid save for a pass interference call in what was probably his best game as a Giant in coverage.

Special Teams

Finally, finally something special! Rashad Jennings of all people, called for a running into the kicker play that was wiped out by offsetting penalties, came back on the re-do and blocked P Tress Way’s offering into the end zone for an early safety and a silly looking 2-0 lead. I’ll be honest, I really wanted the game to end 2-0. Rueben Randle tried his best to be Chris Calloway as the Redskins last ditch onside kick glanced off the WR’s..well his everything, but Shave Vereen corralled the ball and finally put the team at ease that a victory was within reach, almost. After Rueben Randle’s TD put the G-men up 32-14, disaster struck again as a 101-yard kickoff return for a TD put the game AGAIN on edge but the ensuing onside kick flashed through Randle’s hands, not making contact and the Giants could finally breathe easy.

Coaching

Two simply head scratching calls on 3rd downs from Ben McAdoo. One was an out to TE Daniel Fells, not even close to the first down. And the other was the EXACT same play late in the 3rd that tied up Larry Donnell like a young Bruce Wayne finding all those bats in that hole. Swatting, panicking, falling, Donnell looked awful, but even if caught, he’s 5 yards short. With the best WR in…I would say NFL, most would call me nuts so let’s go best WR in the stadium…and a 6’2” slot WR at your disposal, you decide that slow, sessile TEs should get the ball 5 yards shy of the first down marker because they are so very fast? Mind numbing play calls. That said, McAdoo kept at the run despite it not working to keep the defense honest and eventually it broke the game open as the G-Men erupted for 32 points against a thus far stingy Washington defense that had held the Dolphins and Rams in check.

Nobody gets ‘em ready like old Tommy C. Think about this for a moment. 0-2, he’s too old, his eyes seem more beady than usual (according to me only but seriously they are way beadier now), no Ereck Flowers, no Victor Cruz, no DRC, no Robert Ayers, on short rest against a confident and physical Washington team. The Giants came out and again fought from whistle to whistle, scrapping on defense, specials and offense wire to wire. It’s too early to know what this season will hold, but give Tom an A+++ for game preparation this week with an undermanned squad and tons of pressure, his charges came out swinging. That said, the throw on 3rd down with Washington out of time outs was another late-game head scratcher. My guess is he wanted to be aggressive and get the first down and ice the game since being conservative has led to blowing two 10-point 4th-quarter leads. Not the worst idea given that Randle scored on a similar play a drive earlier, but you have to bleed the clock in that situation, take the extra 40 seconds off and don’t risk stopping the clock there.

By now you all know how I feel about Spags. I love the way he attacks and I love the confidence and speed his teams play with. He has a rookie and a has-been at safety who have had rough patches but overall have acquitted themselves well. He has LBs who can’t cover and LBs who can’t play the run and he actually uses them according to their strengths. This is a team devoid of difference makers on defense. But the speed and aggression they play proves that the whole is better than the sum of its parts and team defense can keep you in games if everyone believes. And this group does.

Inside the Game 

So how are the Giants thus far throttling teams on the ground with the same cast of characters that former DC Perry Fewell led to a 30th-place finish in rushing yards allowed with a whopping 135.1 yards per game against, and dead last in yards-per-attempt at 4.9 yards per carry? FOUR POINT NINE yards per carry, let that sink in for a moment; it means if you run the ball twice you’re looking at 3rd and 7.2 inches to go on average. Through three games, admittedly a small sample size, Steve Spagnuolo’s group is 2nd in yards, giving up 74.7 yards per game and tied for 4th in yards per attempt at 3.4 yards per carry. So what’s been the one big difference? It’s been discussed before, but here it is: the 4-3 shift to a Base 50 or Oklahoma 5-2 front utilizing OLB Devon Kennard as the edge setting run weapon and utilizing 320lb DT Jonathan Hankins as a true nose tackle who can alter the game from that spot. (Captions below pics).

4-3

Notice in this frame, the Skins come out with 3 WRs, 1 TE and one RB, and motion the WR across the formation to get the Giants to shift to the backside of the play, presumably to open up a hole outside the TE and up the field on the right. The Skins had drummed the vaunted Rams front to the tune of 182 rushing yards with similar plays that hemmed in the Rams DEs and neutralized speedy and disruptive DT Aaron Donald.

5-2

As the WR goes in motion, so too does LB Devon Kennard, who shifts to his OLB role, creating what is now a 5-2 front. This shift to get Kennard up to the LOS had worked well in weeks 1 and 2, but the Skins are ready and are running AWAY from Kennard on the play.

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DE George Selvie gets hooked initially and a big lane opens up. But the shift by the Redskins – designed to get safety Brandon Meriweather to slide inside as a true FS as safety Landon Collins is forced to follow the WR in motion and play in the slot, and isolate CB Jayron Hosley on the edge – play side doesn’t work. A big hole develops as you can see above. RB Alfred Morris now has a huge lane to run in, but S Brandon Meriweather, instead of shifting inside to safety to cover for S Landon Colllins, moved up to play CB and take on the block of the WR, as CB Jayron Hosley sat back to put a body in the hole and allow his teammates to “screw down” or move their blockers down the LOS to collapse a running lane. Had Hosley moved to the WR and Meriweather slid back to FS, this play could potentially go for a score or at least a very long gain but Spagnuolo’s trust (or gamble) in leaving CB Prince Amukamara and S Landon Collins in man coverage on the backside means the priority is stifling the ground game.

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Hosley’s presence and Meriweather’s physicality in fighting off the WR’s block cause Morris to stutter step in the hole and cost himself the advantage his TE and RT had initially created. The play goes for 6 yards, a win for the offense usually, but this was a home run-type of running play a year ago. But because the focus on stopping the ground game is clearly a priority, Spags was ready with a smart non-backside play shift that kept a bigger more physical safety to take on a wide receiver’s block and two DEs outside of the NT to help screw down and close the hole after Morris was forced to hesitate. That hesitation cost Morris a huge gain and showed precisely how this team is more prepared and willing to sell out to stop the run. The Skins shift does get Kennard up on the line and moves him away from the play, but it does NOT get Meriweather to slide inside, which would have left Hosley on an island. Chalk one up to the Giants on that one for seeing a tendency, seeming to play into it but having a plan to counter on the backside.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

It has to go to the Washington team for having the unmitigated gall to hire Perry Fewell. I still have sleepless nights thinking about the Seahawks running for 875 yards against us (dramatization, may have been fewer) and they not only hire the dolt but SHOW HIM ON TV! OK, technically it’s CBS’ fault for showing him but I firmly believe that I speak for all Giant fans, DO NOT SHOW PERRY FEWELL ON TV. Not now…not ever. Just don’t do it. Thankfully Fewell learned nothing in his time here and was totally unable to slow down a passing offense he saw in person every single day. Don’t ever change Perry, you stink and we love you for it…now that you’re gone of course.

(Washington Redskins at New York Giants, September 24, 2015)
Sep 252015
 
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New York Giants Defense (September 24, 2015)

New York Giants Defense – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 32 – WASHINGTON REDSKINS 21…
The New York Giants may have saved their season with a convincing 32-21 victory over the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium on Thursday night. The Giants improved their overall record to 1-2 while the Redskins fell to 1-2.

The Redskins received the football to start the game but could not pick up a first down. After offsetting penalties negated the first punt, the second punt attempt by Washington was blocked by running back Rashad Jennings for a safety. New York was up quickly 2-0.

The Giants crossed midfield on their first offensive possession but were forced to punt. On the second snap of Washington’s second drive, cornerback Prince Amukamara picked off quarterback Kirk Cousins at the Redskins 20-yard line and returned it to the 14. Four plays later, running back Andre Williams scored from one yard out to make the game 9-0.

Prince Amukamara, New York Giants (September 24, 2015)

Prince Amukamara – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Redskins went three-and-out on their third possession. The Giants responded with an 8-play, 47-yard drive that set up a 35-yard field goal by place kicker Josh Brown as the Giants expanded their lead to 12-0. The Redskins then finally moved the ball on their fourth possession, putting together a 10-play, 54-yard effort that resulted in a 44-yard field goal. Giants 12 – Redskins 3.

Both teams then exchanged field goal drives again, the first a 9-play, 47-yard possession by the Giants that resulted in a 36-yard field goal by Brown and then a 13-play, 61-yard possession by the Redskins that resulted in a 37-yard field goal. The Giants once again crossed midfield on their final possession of the first half but could not score. At halftime, the Giants led 15-6.

The Giants received the football to start the second half and promptly expanded their lead to 18-6 after a 15-play, 50-yard drive that took up half the third quarter. The Redskins responded with a scoring threat of their own that was dramatically stopped when linebacker Devon Kennard deflected a pass by Cousins that was intercepted by fellow linebacker Uani’ Unga at the New York 27-yard line.

The Giants then took charge of the game with an 8-play, 73-yard drive that ended with a 30-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Eli Manning to wide receiver Odell Beckham. The Giants led 25-6 early in the fourth quarter.

The Redskins looked to make things interesting on their ensuing possession by driving deep into Giants territory. On 4th-and-1 from the Giants 7-yard line, running back Matt Jones picked up the first down but fumbled the ball out of bounds in the end zone, resulting in a touchback and a turnover. The Giants went three-and-out on the following possession. Washington then drove 74 yards in 12 plays to cut the score to 25-14 after a 4-yard touchdown pass and a successful 2-point conversion attempt with 3:40 to play.

Rueben Randle, New York Giants (September 24, 2015)

Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Running back Shane Vereen recovered a Redskins onside kick attempt at the Washington 41-yard line. Three plays later, on 3rd-and-10, Manning hit wide receiver Rueben Randle for a 41-yard touchdown to give the Giants a 32-14 advantage with 3:21 to play. However, the Redskins returned the ensuing kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown. The second Redskins onside kick went out of bounds. After a three-and-out by the Giants, the Redskins received the ball with 1:43 to play and advanced the ball to the Giants 14-yard line before the clock expired.

Offensively, the Giants gained 19 first downs and 363 total net yards (279 passing, 84 rushing). The team was only 4-of-12 on third down (33 percent). Manning completed 23-of-32 passes for 279 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions for a QB rating of 119.1. His leading receivers were Randle (7 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown) and Beckham (7 catches for 79 yards and a touchdown). Jennings gained 31 yards on 11 carries, Williams 29 yards on 14 carries, and Vereen 23 yards on six carries.

Defensively, the Giants allowed 22 first downs and 393 yards (305 passing, 88 rushing). The Redskins were 6-of-15 (40 percent) on third down and 2-of-3 (67 percent) on fourth down. The defense forced three turnovers (two interceptions and one fumble). The only sack was by linebacker Jonathan Casillas

Video highlights/lowlights and the post-game locker room celebration are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
Running back Orleans Darkwa left the game with a knee injury and did not return. Cornerback Prince Amukamara hurt his ankle but returned to the football game.

POST-GAME REACTIONS…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Tom Coughlin and various players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

POST-GAME NOTES…
Inactive for the Giants were WR Victor Cruz (calf), TE Jerome Cunningham (knee), DE Robert Ayers (hamstring), DT Markus Kuhn (knee), DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (foot), RT Ereck Flowers (ankle), and CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (concussion).

The Giants have won five games in a row over the Redskins.

The Giants improved to 15-7-3 on Thursdays, including 4-2 under Tom Coughlin.

For the second time in three games, the Giants did not commit a turnover.

QB Eli Manning increased his career touchdown pass total to 263. That broke a tie with Dave Krieg and moved Manning into 12th place on the NFL’s career list. Joe Montana is 11th with 273.

Justin Pugh made his first career start at left tackle. John Jerry started at left guard.

Middle linebacker Jon Beason made his 2015 debut after missing the first two games with a knee injury. Beason split time with Uani’ Unga, who led the Giants with nine tackles (six solo).

Jayron Holsey started at left cornerback for Rodgers-Cromartie.

Fullback Nikita Whitlock played several snaps at defensive tackle in the fourth quarter, as he did in the preseason finale in New England.

Sep 232015
 
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Tuffy Leemans, New York Giants (October 1, 1939)

Tuffy Leemans with ball, New York Giants at Washington Redskins (October 1, 1939)

Washington Redskins at New York Giants, September 24, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
Who are the 2015 New York Giants? On paper, they are a young team led by the oldest and most experienced head coach in the NFL and a 34-year old, two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback. They currently only have one offensive weapon – Odell Beckham – who really scares the opposition in the passing game. The running game remains too unproductive and inconsistent. Defensively, the Giants appear to be a spunky group that lacks any impact player. They can’t rush the passer and they can’t close the deal in the 4th quarter. And once again, it’s a team that simply can’t stay healthy (8 players on Injured Reserve, 13 on the injury report).

The Giants should have stolen the game from the Cowboys, and not the other way around. They had the Falcons on the ropes until another 4th quarter meltdown. Is it a lack of talent? Bad coaching decisions at the wrong moments? Lack of confidence and expecting the worst to happen? Probably a combination of all of the above.

The issue now is that for the third season in a row, the Giants find themselves in a very bad 0-2 hole and risk making themselves irrelevant once again before November. Their saving grace is the state of the rest of the NFC East. It’s almost as if they’ve been given one final second chance. Don’t blow it Giants.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – out)
  • OT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP and will not play)
  • TE Daniel Fells (foot – probable)
  • TE Jerome Cunningham (knee – out)
  • LT Ereck Flowers (ankle – doubtful)
  • RG Geoff Schwartz (illness – probable)
  • DE Robert Ayers (hamstring – questionable)
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (foot – out)
  • DE/DT Cullen Jenkins (hamstring – probable)
  • DT Markus Kuhn (knee – out)
  • DT Jay Bromley (knee – probable)
  • LB Jon Beason (knee – probable)
  • CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromarties (concussion – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Through two games, the Washington Redskins have the NFL’s #1 defense. It is #4 against the run and #2 against the pass. Part of that is due to having faced two offensively-challenged teams in the Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams. But the Redskins also shut down a Rams team that had just beaten the NFC Champions.

The Redskins operate a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Joe Barry. The defensive line was largely rebuilt in free agency with the additions of nose tackle Terrance Knighton and left defensive end Stephen Paea. Ex-Cowboy Jason Hatcher still mans the right defensive end position. Their job is to keep the Redskins talented and active linebackers free. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is an aggressive, physical football player who can rush the passer. The other outside linebacker – Trent Murphy – is similar in style and a former 2nd round pick. Inside linebackers Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley make a lot of tackles. (Riley has been bothered by a calf injury).

Despite Washington’s #2 ranking against the pass, the Redskins could still be vulnerable in the secondary. They imported cornerback Chris Culliver and safety Dashon Goldson in the offseason from the 49ers and Buccaneers, respectively, to go along with cornerback DeAngelo Hall and safety Trenton Robinson. They really haven’t been tested yet by a serious passing game.

The Giants did the right thing in cutting Preston Parker. Unless he gets his head out of his ass quickly, I would be tempted to do the same with Rueben Randle. I’d rather take my chances with no-names like Geremy Davis and Julian Talley who at least look like they are giving an effort.

The Giants need to get the God-damn running game going. No excuses. You have four backs who you have invested a lot of resources in. Use them. Put Daniel Fells in at tight end and Nikita Whitlock at fullback and run the football. When throwing the football, look to Odell Beckham and Shane Vereen. Perhaps the site of Burgundy and Gold will inspire Larry Donnell to re-visit his three-TD game against the Redskins from last season.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The game plan is simple. Stop the run. Make the Redskins one dimensional and force Kirk Cousins to beat you. It’s easier said than done as ex-Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan appears to be doing marvelous job with a group that really struggled in the preseason. The Redskins are the #1 rushing team in the NFL despite facing two teams with very talented defensive lines. Trent Williams is one of the more talented (but sometimes inconsistent) left tackles in the NFL and the Redskins have high draft picks – Brandon Scherff at guard and Morgan Moses at tackle – manning the reinvigorated right side of the line. The two-head monster at tailback is Alfred Morris and rookie Matt Jones – both big, physical backs. This is old school football. The Redskins are going to attempt to pound the Giants right at the point-of-attack. Washington will challenge the toughness and manhood of Big Blue.

The good news for the Giants is that WR DeSean Jackson (hamstring) will not play. The two main threats in the passing game are WR Pierre Garcon and TE Jordan Reed (who is more of a dynamic H-Back). These are Kirk Cousins’ two go-to guys. Cousins is an up-and-down quarterback. Right now he is incredibly completing 76 percent of his passes but he will make the bone-headed turnover.

This is a game where the Giants front seven and secondary will have to play very tough, physical football for a full 60 minutes against the run. Defending the ground attack will be more important than rushing the passer in this game. The Giants will have to play their big boys up front. Do that and cover Garcon and Reed.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Giants are much better on special teams than the Redskins. This is an opponent where the team’s offseason additions could finally have a game-altering impact.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin on the Washington Redskins: “Kirk Cousins, their quarterback, his percentage of completions is at 75 percent. They’re the number one rush team in the league, they’re the number two time of possession team in the league – almost 38 minutes a game. The opponent just doesn’t have the ball. Defensively, they’re number one in the league, fourth against the rush, second against the pass.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Through two games, the Redskins have proven to be a very fundamentally-sound football team. They are the #1 rushing team and the #1 defense in the NFL. The big worry here is stopping the Redskins ground game. That’s the key to the game.

For the last few years, we’ve heard the coaches and players say, “There’s still time to turn this around.” For the last few years, they’ve been dead wrong. It’s put up or shut up time right now. Or the empty seats will start appearing at MetLife in October, and that’s just plain sad. Play the run. Hit. Tackle. Run the football. Get the ball to Beckham and Vereen in the passing game. Make plays on special teams.

Most importantly, to paraphrase Ulysses S. Grant, stop worrying about what other teams are going to do to you and make them worry about what you are going to do to them!

This game has some deja vu qualities to it to 2007. That 0-2 Giants team, with a new defensive coordinator named Steve Spagnuolo, won a nail-biter against the Redskins in week three. It was a win that propelled the Giants to a 6-game winning streak and much more significant results. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Just win. Then get Victor Cruz back and start making some hay.

Dec 162014
 
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Odell Beckham and Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Odell Beckham and Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 24 – Washington Redskins 13

Game Overview

A bad 5-9 football team beat a worse 3-11 football team.

Offensive Overview

It was the Eli Manning and Odell Beckham show and not much else. The Giants only gained 287 total net yards and 143 of those yards came on passes from Manning to Beckham. In other words, half the offense. The Giants only had three plays over 20 yards, and all three were passing plays from Manning to Beckham for 35, 31, and 21 yards. And all three touchdowns were Manning to Beckham connections.

The Giants only rushed for 49 yards. In five first-half possessions, the Giants only gained seven first downs, punted four times, and only netted 95 yards. It took the team 12 plays to travel 56 yards on their one first-half scoring drive.

In the second half, the lone field goal was set up by an onside kick (the Giants could not gain a first down after the successful recovery). There were two more punts and one turnover on downs. The good news is that Manning and Beckham hooked up for their second and third touchdowns on the day.

How bad would this team be without Manning and Beckham?

Quarterback 

Overall, Manning played fairly well given the complete absence of a running game. He finished the game 23-of-34 for 250 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions (118.5 QB rating). Most of the yardage came in the second half as Eli was held to 9-of-16 for 79 yards in the first half of the game. That said, on the 3rd-and-7 play after the onside kick recovery, Manning was fortunate that the linebacker did not intercept his pass intended for Preston Parker. There were two plays that stood out to me in the second half. The first was the 35-yard touchdown pass to Beckham where Manning looked off the coverage to the right, helping Beckham to pull loose from the coverage. The second was his remarkably accurate 18-yard throw to Rueben Randle on 3rd-and-8 despite rolling to his right and throwing back across his body. That’s a throw that normally gets quarterbacks in trouble.

Running Backs 

A virtual non-factor. Rashad Jennings carried the ball once for three yards before leaving the game with a re-aggravated ankle injury. Andre Williams (56 snaps) carried the ball 18 times for a pathetic 44 yards (2.4 yards per carry). His longest run was six yards. The “best” run of the day was Henry Hynoski’s 2-yard gain on 4th-and-1. But Hynoski was unable to convert on a 3rd-and-1 play late in the second quarter, killing a drive.

Wide Receivers

It was the superlative Odell Beckham and not much else from the other wideouts. Beckham caught 12-of-15 passes thrown in his direction for 143 yards and three touchdowns. He and Manning were the offense as the other four wide receivers on the team only caught seven passes for 71 yards.

Ironically, it was a bit of a rough start for Beckham as he couldn’t drag his foot inbounds on one third-down conversion attempt that would have kept the opening drive alive. He later couldn’t handle a somewhat high throw on the first play of the ensuing drive. But the drive ended with an excellent touchdown reception by Beckham despite tight, aggressive coverage by the Redskins’ defensive back.

Odell Beckham comes up with TD despite tight coverage

Odell Beckham comes up with TD despite tight coverage

Besides the 143 receiving yards, Beckham also helped to cause an additional 70 penalty yards as the corner who was covering him was flagged five times on two pass interference, one defensive holding (declined), and two personal foul penalties. Of course, Beckham’s two second-half touchdowns were decisive. In the third quarter, he demonstrated excellent acceleration by sprinting through the middle of the defense for a 35-yard touchdown. On the drive where the Giants really put the Redskins away, Beckham had a key 21-yard reception on 3rd-and-2. And while he dropped his first TD attempt on this drive on 1st-and-goal, he made up for it on 2nd-and-goal with his 6-yard TD reception.

Rueben Randle, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Randle (31 snaps) was benched in the first quarter for the second time in three games. When the Giants drafted Randle’s former collegiate teammate and friend Odell Beckham, I thought that might spur Randle to greater heights. It appears to have had the opposite effect. As BBI poster RetroJint said, Randle seems to be “stuck at the crossroads of indifference and envy.” Randle’s one big contribution – and it was a significant play – was his 18-yard reception on 3rd-and-8 that set up the last touchdown. But he also could not come down with a couple of passes that hit him in the hands, including a contested 3rd-and-7 reception that would have kept a drive alive earlier in the game.

BBI poster Emil wrote the following after the game:

Fans don’t often get to see this side of football because all eyes are on the QB at the snap when you watch on TV, but check out the replay of Beckham’s last TD. He wins the route right off the line of scrimmage by attacking the defender’s outside shoulder (his shoulder to the sideline). He uses his feet to get the DB to open up the inside and Beckham exploits it for the TD. It all happens in about a second and the DB is toast. Game over.

Many WRs are fast, many are big, some are big and fast. Few are big, fast, and textbook route runners. In fact, with this new generation of large WRs, most get by on their physical talents because they can. Doesn’t take much for a 6-3+ WR to gain the advantage on a DB. Beckham doesn’t have that luxury. He is fast, and has an incredible catch radius, but he is not big. By running perfect routes, pretty much all the time, he gains separation without getting in the space of the defensive back. It is simply amazing to watch.

Would also point out, this is one of the reasons Beckham gets separation and Randle does not. Randle, who never seems to get separation, runs inconsistent routes and has lazy footwork. Not to mention, he seldom uses his size to his advantage. If Rueben Randle could add some polish to his game, like Amani Toomer did, he would be a real asset in this offense.

Preston Parker played 36 snaps and has one catch for 12 yards. Kevin Ogletree played 19 snaps and had three catches for 25 yards. He had a key 15-yard catch on 3rd-and-4 on the Giants’ first touchdown drive. Corey Washington caught one pass for four yards on his only snap of the game.

Tight Ends

The tight ends were strangely quiet in the passing game as Larry Donnell (38 snaps), who torched the Redskins earlier in the season, had only two catches for 11 yards. Daniel Fells (29 snaps) had one catch for 16 yards that helped to ignite New York’s go-ahead touchdown drive. Adrien Robinson played 12 snaps.

Sometimes the issues with the blocking are with the tight ends and not the offensive line. For example, in the second quarter, Donnell’s man penetrated into the backfield and completely disrupted a run by Williams.

Larry Donnell's opponent penetrates into backfield, disrupting play

Larry Donnell’s opponent penetrates into backfield, disrupting play

Offensive Line

The offensive line remains a sore spot. The line as it is currently constituted simply cannot run block effectively against decent run defenses. The Giants were held to a pathetic 49 yards rushing. Sometimes it is borderline comical. There was one run on the TD drive where RT Justin Pugh got stood up, and a pulling LG Weston Richburg slammed into him, knocking Pugh to the ground and allowing Pugh’s man to make the tackle. But the main issue is the Giants simply are not knocking people off of the line of scrimmage. For example, on the graphic below, Larry Donnell is called upon to block the defensive lineman on a down block and Will Beatty is called upon to pull and take out the linebacker. Neither can do their job and Williams has no place to run.

Will Beatty and Larry Donnell can't make their blocks

Will Beatty and Larry Donnell can’t make their blocks

Pass protection was much better, especially in the first half. The only sack that was given up appears to have been a mental rather than physical breakdown as the Giants left the Redskins’ best pass rusher, linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, unblocked. Either TE Daniel Fells screwed up on the play or their was a flaw in the pass protection call. There was one series in the game where pass protection was an issue from a physical standpoint. Ironically, that was on the Giants’ last TD drive as Manning was hit hard a couple of times. Richburg was also flagged with a holding penalty on this drive.

The most harmful penalty was the one on the preceding series when Pugh’s holding penalty wiped out a 30-yard touchdown to Beckham. This drive ended with a failed 4th-and-1 conversion attempt.

J.D. Walton appeared to have forgotten the snap count on a 3rd-and-2 play at the Washington 9-yard line, causing a 5-yard penalty and a subsequent field goal when the Giants could not convert on 3rd-and-7.

Defensive Overview

It was largely a tale of two halves as New York’s defense was torched by Washington for 16 first downs and 265 yards in the first half, including 98 yards rushing and 167 yards passing. In other words, the Redskins gained more yards in the first half than the Giants did in the entire game. Fortunately for New York, the Redskins only managed 10 first-half points as QB Robert Griffin III inexplicably lost the ball while crossing the goal line at the end of the first half.

In the second half, New York gave up one big offensive play that set up a field goal, but otherwise completely shut down the Redskins (61 of Washington’s 107 second-half  yards came on that one play). The Redskins only gained five second-half first downs, and three of those came on the one scoring drive. Meanwhile, the Giants piled up the sacks, finishing with seven and 12 hits on the quarterback.

The Redskins did have seven plays that gained 20 yards or more. In addition, the defense was often fooled by misdirection. And there were a couple of big mental breakdowns on plays where running backs were left wide open in pass defense.

Defensive Line

For the third week in a row, the Giants played a bad offensive line and for the third week in a row, the pass rush was a huge factor, with New York accruing seven sacks. That said, run defense discipline in the first half was suspect as the Redskins gained 98 yards on 16 carries (6.1 yards per carry). And the pass rushing was more of a factor in the second half, with six of the seven sacks coming after the break.

Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Jason Pierre-Paul (68 snaps, 7 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 tackles for losses, 5 QB hits, 1 forced fumble) played a terrific game. Yes, much of his damage came in fourth quarter against a right tackle who was shifted to the left side once Pro Bowler Trent Williams left the game. Yet before Williams departed, JPP had a series of key plays against him in the third quarter, including combining with Devon Kennard for 4-yard sack on 4th-and-2, slamming Robert Griffin the III to the ground on 2nd-and-goal from the NYG 11-yard line, and then on the following play sacking Griffin for a 9-yard loss to force the Skins to settle for a FG.

After the Giants went up 24-13, Pierre-Paul and Johnathan Hankins took over the next series as JPP clobbered Griffin as he threw the ball, Hankins stunted and sacked Griffin on 2nd-and-10, and then Pierre-Paul sacked Griffin from a stand up position on 3rd-and-22.

While JPP was pretty stout against the run, he continues to over-pursue the running back on QB keepers around his end. JPP also had a defensive offside penalty.

Interestingly, Kerry Wynn (41 snaps, 7 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 QB hit) played slightly more than Damontre Moore. Wynn impressed with his hustle and instincts against the run. And for an undrafted rookie, he was probably the most disciplined defensive lineman on the field in terms of not over-pursuing the back on play-action fakes. Wynn didn’t flash as much on the pass rush, but he did pressure the quarterback once into an incompletion.

Moore (39 snaps, 5 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 2 QB hits) was flagged with a defensive holding penalty on the tight end in the second quarter. He combined with Johnathan Hankins on a key 4-yard sack inside the New York 10-yard line late in the first half. In the second half, I was impressed with his hustle chasing Griffin 23 yards down field to make the tackle. Moore also did a nice job of keeping Griffin from scrambling for a first down on 3rd-and-4 in the fourth quarter.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Johnathan Hankins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Johnathan Hankins (50 snaps, 6 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss, 2 QB hits, 1 forced fumble) played his best game as a Giant. He not only had 2.5 sacks, but he was a factor rushing the passer on a number of other plays as Redskin quarterbacks had no room to step up in the pocket in order to avoid the outside rush. For example, on JPP’s 3rd-and-goal sack, Hankins was right there too, and Griffin had nowhere to run. Two of Hankins sacks came late in the 4th quarter and helped to make the victory a comfortable one.

Cullen Jenkins (32 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 QB hit) played more than he has in weeks and saw some time both at end and tackle. His sack came on 3rd-and-4 on Griffin’s first drive. Mike Patterson (22 snaps, 1 tackle), Jay Bromley (16 snaps, 1 tackle), and Markus Kuhn (11 snaps, 3 tackles) all played in the rotation.

Linebackers

The only linebackers to play on defense were Jameel McClain (70 snaps, 6 tackles, 1 QB hit), Devon Kennard (49 snaps, 7 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 2 tackles for losses, 1 pass defense, 1 forced fumble), and Mark Herzlich (32 snaps, 4 tackles).

The run defense was shaky in the first half, as was pass coverage on running backs as Silas Redd (3 catches for 62 yards) and Chris Thompson (3 catches for 22 yards and a touchdown) were a factor in early Redskins’ success.

For example, during Washington’s first drive, on a read option, it appears that Kennard didn’t maintain his gap responsibility on a play where QB Colt McCoy picked up 20 yards on the ground. Two plays later, Kennard couldn’t get off of the block from the TE at the point-of-attack and RB Alfred Morris gained 14 yards. Later on this opening FG drive, there was no linebacker in sight on a short pass to Redd that picked up 17 yards on 1st-and-15.

On the Redskins’ TD drive, McClain was easily beaten by TE Niles Paul out of the backfield for a 17-yard reception. And it was either McClain or Stevie Brown who should have picked up Thompson out of the backfield on his wide open 9-yard touchdown reception.

On the Redskins final drive of the first half, Redd was left side open for a 37-yard gain with no one in the picture. Some linebacker or safety was at fault there.

The linebackers played better in the second half. Kennard combined with Jason Pierre-Paul to sack Griffin on 4th-and-2. And he and Herzlich were pretty tough at the point-of-attack on running plays after intermission, including on a 3-yard loss.

Herzlich was flagged with an illegal use of hands that wiped out a 1-yard loss caused by Kennard.

Defensive Backs

The Giants did a fine job on the two main wide receivers: Pierre Garcon (4 catches for 36 yards) and DeSean Jackson (3 catches for 15 yards). The only big pass play to a wideout was the 61 yarder to Andre Roberts.

But to be fair, there were breakdowns that were covered up by the incompetence of Robert Griffin III. For example, note how two receivers are wide open on this first-half 3rd-and-10 pass play where Griffin throws the ball out of bounds.

The Redskins missed some golden opportunities in the secondary

The Redskins missed some golden opportunities in the secondary

Griffin did exploit one of these pass defense breakdowns for a 20-yard gain to Roberts late in the first half.

For the second week in a row, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (57 snaps, 4 tackles, 1 pass defense) and Chykie Brown (68 snaps, 5 tackles) started at corner with Mike Harris (38 snaps, 2 tackles) being the third corner. Unlike last week, Zack Bowman (14 snaps, 0 tackles) did log some time on defense.

Rodgers-Cromartie played well. The Redskins mostly shied away from testing him. He knocked down one pass thrown in his direction to Garcon. Griffin also took one deep shot to Jackson but Rodgers-Cromartie was stride for stride with the Giants’ nemesis. While DRC saved a touchdown by chasing down Roberts on his 61-yard gain, Rodgers-Cromartie may have been the cornerback Rolle said was out of position on the play to begin with (it was either DRC or Mike Harris, and my guess was it was DRC). Nevertheless, Rodgers-Cromartie is playing more than he did during the losing streak and that is having an impact on the overall defense.

Chykie Brown did give up a 22-yard reception to Garcon on the Redskins’ sole TD drive, but once again he surprisingly kept his opponent mostly quiet. He’s playing better than expected since being cut by the Ravens.

Stevie Brown appears to have regained the starting free safety job as for the second week in a row he logged far more snaps (70 snaps, 3 tackles) than Quintin Demps (22 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 pass defense).

Cullen Jenkins, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Antrel Rolle (70 snaps, 4 tackles, 1 pass defense) did not play one of his better games. He had very good coverage on TE Jordan Reed in the end zone on the second-to-last play of the first half, but he could not come down with the interception. Rolle had a dreadful third quarter. First, he should have sacked Griffin for a loss on 2nd-and-6, but Griffin stiff-armed Rolle to the ground and picked up 23 yards. On the next series, Rolle took a bad angle on a 3rd-and-6 play that should have been limited to about a 15-yard completion. He overshot Andre Roberts who then rumbled for a 61-yard gain. On the very next snap, Rolle hit Griffin out-of-bounds for a 15-yard personal foul penalty.

Special Teams

It was mostly a positive performance for the special teams.

Josh Brown hit a 32 yard field goal. Two of his four kickoffs resulted in touchbacks, but one was kicked out of bounds, resulting in Washington starting their possession at the 40-yard line. The Redskins returned one kickoff for 33 yards so that was not ideal either.

Steve Weatherford punted six times, averaging and netting over 43 yards per punt. Five of his six punts were downed inside the 20-yard line, and four inside the 10-yard line. And the Redskins only returned one punt for one yard. Zack Bowman did a nice job of downing two punts inside the 10-yard line.

Preston Parker returned three kickoffs for 90 yards, including a 45 yarder that set up the team’s first touchdown.

Odell Beckham returned four punts for 19 yards, with a long of 13. He was flagged for an invalid fair catch signal in the second quarter. And he muffed the last punt, leading to the team’s only turnover with nine seconds left in the game. The Giants are using him so heavily on offense that the team may want to consider pulling him off specials for the remainder of this season in order to give him a bit of a break. Adrien Robinson was flagged with an illegal block on one return.

One of the big plays in the game was the recovery of the onside kick by the Giants at the start of the third quarter. Given that the Giants were kicking off from the 35 yard line after 30 penalty yards were assessed, the decision was a no brainer but the Washington was expecting the onside kick and the Giants still recovered. It was a nice hustle play by CB Chandler Fenner.

(Washington Redskins at New York Giants, December 14, 2014)
Dec 142014
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The New York Giants defeated the Washington Redskins 24-13 at MetLIfe Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The victory improved the Giants overall record to 5-9 an ensured that the Giants will finish third place in the NFC East.

The star of the game was rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham, who caught 12 passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns – all of the touchdowns scored by New York.

Odell Beckham and Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Odell Beckham and Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“The young man is having outstanding success,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin of Beckham after the game. “When we are getting the ball to him, he’s doing very well with it. He’s a very good football player. He has the ability to go the distance, I think, any time he gets it – whether as a punt returner or as an offensive player. He can run the football; he can throw the football, so we’ve tried to create a lot of situations. He does have the talent to exploit the defense in a lot of different ways.”

The Giants received the football to start the game, picked up one first down due to a penalty, and punted. With Colt McCoy at quarterback, the Redskins drove 79 yards in 13 plays on their opening possession to set up a successful 35-yard field goal.

Wideout Preston Parker returned the ensuing kickoff 45 yards to the Giants’ 44-yard line. New York then drove 56 yards in 12 plays to take a 7-3 lead when quarterback Eli Manning found Beckham for a 10-yard score on 3rd-and-8. Key plays on this drive also included a 15-yard pass to wide receiver Kevin Ogletree on 3rd-and-4 and a 2-yard run by fullback Henry Hynoski and 4th-and-1.

After both teams exchanged punts, the Redskins, now with Robert Griffin III subbing for the injured McCoy, drove 77 yards in seven plays to regain the lead 10-7 on a 9-yard touchdown throw.

New York punted twice and Washington once on the ensuing three possessions. Then came the craziness at the end of the first half.

With 2:55 left to play in the half, the Redskins drove from their own 10-yard line to the Giants’ 8-yard line. On 3rd-and-goal from the 8-yard line, and only with eight seconds left, it appeared Griffin scored on a run around right end to give Washington a 17-7 halftime advantage. But before Griffin crossed the goal line, the ball came out of his hands. The instant replay official ruled that Griffin had fumbled the ball out of bounds in the end zone, resulting in a touchback. The antics continued as wide receiver Santana Moss of the Redskins was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and thrown out of the game due to his verbal attack on the officials due to the replay reversal.

At the half, the Redskins led the Giants 10-7.

The 30 yards in penalties on Moss at the end of the first half affected the start of the third quarter. With the Giants set to kickoff from Washington 35-yard line, the team attempted an onside kick that was successfully recovered by cornerback Chandler Fenner at the Redskins’ 17-yard line. New York could not pick up a first down, but the recovery did set up a 32-yard field goal by place kicker Josh Brown that tied the game at 10-10.

On Washington’s first drive of the second half, the Redskins reached the New York 36-yard line. On 4th-and-2, Griffin was sacked by linebacker Devon Kennard and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. After another punt by the Giants, Washington regained the lead as Griffin hit a 61-yard pass play on 3rd-and-6 from the Washington 11-yard line. Safety Antrel Rolle was beat on the play but hustle by cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie saved the touchdown as the Redskins receiver was tackled behind on his way to the end zone. The Redskins ended up settling for a 38-yard field goal.

Trailing 13-10 late in the third quarter, the Giants drove 81 yards in four plays to take the lead for good. The key plays on the drive were a 16 yard pass to tight end Daniel Fells, a 23-yard pass interference call against the Redskins on Beckham, and then a 35-yard pass play from Manning to Beckham for the touchdown. Giants 17 – Redskins 13.

Cullen Jenkins, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Cullen Jenkins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Redskins went three-and-out at the start of the fourth quarter, but the Giants could not take advantage of excellent field position as they were stopped on 4th-and-1 on the Washington 28-yard line on a Beckham running attempt. Earlier on this drive, a 30-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Beckham was wiped out due to a holding penalty on right tackle Justin Pugh.

The New York defense held again and the Giants put Washington away for good with a 12-play, 76-yard drive. On 3rd-and-2 from the Washington 47-yard line, Manning found Beckham again for 21 yards. A few snaps later came a huge 3rd-and-8 pass play from Manning to wide receiver Rueben Randle for 18 yards on 3rd-and-8. Then on 2nd-and-goal from the six, Manning found Beckham for his third scoring play. The Giants led 24-13 with 4:41 to play.

The Redskins could not move the ball on their next possession as Griffin was sacked twice. The Giants ran the ball three times and punted. Washington had one last chance but couldn’t move the football and punted with 20 seconds left. Beckham muffed the punt and Washington recovered, but it was too little too late.

Offensively, Manning finished 23-of-34 for 250 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions (118.5 quarterback rating). Beckham caught 12-of-15 passes thrown in his direction for 143 yards and three touchdowns. No other Giants target had more than 30 yards receiving. The Giants only rushed the ball for 49 yards on 22 carries.

Defensively, the Giants accrued seven sacks: DE Jason Pierre Paul (2.5), DT Johnathan Hankins (2.5), DE/DT Cullen Jenkins (1), LB Devon Kennard (0.5), and DE Damontre Moore (0.5).

Video highlights/lowlights of the game are available at NFL.com. The transcript of Tom Coughlin’s post-game transcript is available at BigBlueInteractive.com.

Post-Game Notes: Inactive for the Giants were LB Jacquian Williams (concussion), LB James Davidson, CB Jayron Hosley, RB Chris Ogbonnaya, OT James Brewer (concussion), and OG Eric Herman.

Article on the New York Giants and the 2015 NFL Draft: Eli Manning’s heir? … not yet as NY Giants needs loom much larger than next QB in ’15 NFL draft by Ralph Vacchiano of The New York Daily News

Article on Head Coach Tom Coughlin and the 2014 New York Giants: Why it’s not time for Mara & Co. to give Coughlin the boot by Steve Serby of The New York Post

Article on QB Ryan Nassib: Ryan Nassib’s life as a backup quarterback in the NFL: Mimic the opposing QB in practice by Tom Rock of Newsday

Article on WR Odell Beckham: How does Odell Beckham Jr. relate to fame? by Bob Glauber of Newsday

Dec 122014
 
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Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (September 25, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Washington Redskins at New York Giants, December 14, 2014

The early audition for the 2015 New York Giants roster continues. That includes coaches as well as players.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
No major injures.
The Giants already have 20 players on injured reserve, including a potentially career-altering injury to WR Victor Cruz and career-ending injury to RB David Wilson. The last thing this team needs in December is a serious injury to an important cog that could impact the 2015 campaign. In particular, get Eli Manning and Odell Beckham out of this season healthy.

Second Down
Is Perry Fewell gone, or in the process of saving his job?
Statistically-speaking, Perry Fewell’s defense was among the NFL’s worst in 2011, 2012, and most of 2014. But the NYG defense has improved in the last two weeks by playing two of league’s worst offenses (Jaguars and Titans). It is now the 23rd-ranked defense and could continue to improve by facing offensively-challenged teams like the Redskins and Rams before facing the more explosive Eagles. The defense has been very aggressive in the last two games with many more blitzes (and successful blitzes being called).

Does Fewell only get more aggressive against lesser competition, fearing to do so against better offenses? Or is this yet another example of him changing his style mid- to late-season after repeated failure, only with him reverting to his old unsuccessful schemes if he returns in 2015?

Management has to be VERY careful here when evaluating Perry Fewell and the ENTIRE defensive staff. It must not base its judgement on the last five games of 2014, but the the entire body of evidence from 2010-2014. Despite changing components, the overall track record has not been good with many late-game breakdowns.

Third Down
Who will be part of the solution on the offensive line?
Obviously, the hope and need is that Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, and Geoff Schwartz will be part of the answer moving forward. Assuming Richburg will be the center, what positions will Pugh and Schwartz play? Is offensive line coach Pat Flaherty, who been with the team since 2004 but who has been unable to mold a cohesive unit the last couple of seasons, the right man to steward them forward?

“What’s (Pugh’s) better position? I don’t know,” said Flaherty recently. “He’s an NFL right tackle for the New York Giants and is that his best position right now? It is. I don’t see anything in the future that changes unless something happens in free agency or in the draft. Can he be a good right tackle in this league? Absolutely, I think he can be one of the best.”

Obviously much depends on what transpires in free agency and the draft in 2015. What about Will Beatty? He has rebounded from a terribly inconsistent 2013, but the Giants could do better. But with needs everywhere, is he a guy they can win with while addressing many other positions of need?

In the last three games, it will be important to see how Beatty does at left tackle and Pugh at right tackle.

Fourth Down
Who will be part of the solution on the defensive line?
For the last few years, much of New York’s issues have involved their line play on offense and defense. With important cogs like Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Linval Joseph, and Chris Canty fading out of the picture, the Giants have struggled to maintain the same elite level of play. Who on the current roster should be part of the fix? Jason Pierre-Paul has played better than his injury-plagued 2013 campaign, but he still has not regained his 2011 form. He looked very sharp last week against backup tackles but he needs to be an impact player against top-flight starters. Pierre-Paul faces some good tests down the stretch and these games will be important for him. The bad news for the Giants is if he departs in free agency, they will have yet another huge hole to fill. He still is that one guy on defense who other teams game plan around.

What about Damontre Moore? Is he a future starter or simply just a pass-rushing role player? Is Kerry Wynn just a guy? Johnathan Hankins looks like a foundation player, but what about Jay Bromley? Cullen Jenkins will probably be back one more season, but the team probably should move on from Mike Patterson. Markus Kuhn seems like just a guy.

BREAKING DOWN WASHINGTON:

OFFENSE
Strength?
Statistically, Washington’s offense (12) is better than New York’s (14). They pass the ball better (10th versus 13th) while the Giants run the ball slightly better (21st versus 22nd). The Redskins have some dangerous weapons at key positions. Alfred Morris is still one of the NFL’s tougher, more physical runners. DeSean Jackson (who has a shin injury) and Pierre Garcon are very dangerous wideouts who can break a game open. The Redskins like to throw to their tight ends as both Niles Paul and Jordan Reed each have 36 receptions. Trent Williams is a very good left tackle.

Weakness?
Though the Redskins can move the ball, they have struggled scoring (26th in the NFL) and keeping drives alive (30th in the NFL on third-down conversions). They turn the football over quite a bit too. The offensive line has struggled to protect the quarterback, and most importantly, their quarterback play – be it Robert Griffin III, Colt McCoy, or Kurt Cousins – has been suspect.

DEFENSE
Strength?
Statistically, the 3-4 Redskins defense is far better than the Giants, ranking 10th in yards allowed (to New York’s 23rd). They are 11th in run defense and 13th in pass defense. The Redskins actually have a pretty tough and physical front seven and can be difficult to run on. RDE Jason Hatcher (5.5 sacks but battling knee issue) and OLB Ryan Kerrigan (11.5 sacks) have been disruptive. NT Chris Baker and LDE Jarvis Jenkins are tough against the run, and have actually forced former NYG Barry Cofield to the bench as a top reserve. The other linebackers are no slouches either. ILB Keenan Robinson leads the team in tackles, ILB Perry Riley is athletic, and OLB Trent Murphy is an up-and-coming rookie.

Weakness?
Despite not giving up a lot of yards, the Redskins give up a lot of points, though some of that is related to offensive issues (turnovers). The secondary is not as strong, starting one rookie at corner, and the Redskins continue to have issues at safety. They can be vulnerable to the big play.

SPECIAL TEAMS
The Redskins special teams are ordinary. They have given up one kickoff return TD and one punt return TD this year.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

WR Odell Beckham
He’s the reason to tune in. This might be the week where he breaks one on special teams too.

Damontre Moore/Kerry Wynn
While Cullen Jenkins may see a lot of time at defensive end, this is a good opponent to evaluate how Moore and Wynn do against the run. Not just in terms of the physical nature of the Redskins’ running game, but also the amount of misdirection the Redskins will employ at times. Like JPP, Moore hasn’t been the most disciplined guy out there on the field in terms of maintaining his gap responsibility.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin – “You really can’t overemphasize the fact that (the Redskins’) record is 3-10. How the heck could they be the 10th-rated defense in the NFL and the 12th-rated offense? They do a lot of things very, very well. Obviously, putting it all together has been an issue. They’re not alone in that area, but they are very physical. They’re an outstanding defensive front. People don’t run the ball on them, they’re 11th in the league against the run. What they’ve really done, they’ve gone to an aggressive pressure package and they’ve made mistakes in the secondary and they’ve given up big plays. ”

Jay Gruden – “It is very difficult to be a one-dimensional team against a good pass rushing team like the Giants, the Rams, and the Colts. We have to do a good job staying in the football game, keeping the football game close where all three of our dimensions of runs, play actions, boot legs, and the drop backs are all opened in the play book, and not be one-dimensional.”

FINAL WORD:

Don’t be misled by the first meeting between these two teams. The 45 points scored by the Giants are misleading because so much of that was set up by terrible passing decisions made by Kirk Cousins (four interceptions), who no longer is in the picture. The Redskins can be very aggressive up front with a variety of blitz packages, and the Giants’ blockers have proven that they don’t handle the blitz very well. NT Chris Baker is going to be a problem for OC J.D. Walton and this is also a tough opponent to run the ball on. New York should attack early and often with the pass. If the Giants run, run, pass in this game, they may be falling right into the hands of Skins who then can be more aggressive on 3rd-and-long. Defensively, this will be an interesting game as the Redskins can run the ball and will use misdirection. Also, unlike the Jaguars and Titans, Washington has downfield passing threats who can break a game open. Eli and Odell could take over this game, but this is also a contest the Giants could very well lose. Much depends on how motivated each team is…who wants it more? I have no idea who will win, but if you were to put me on the spot…Redskins 21 – Giants 17.

Sep 302014
 
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Prince Amukamara, New York Giants (September 25, 2014)

Prince Amukamara – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 45 – Washington Redskins 14

After lethargic and bumbling demonstrations during training camp, the preseason, and the first two regular-season games, the first-team offense of the New York Giants has caught fire. In the matter of five days, the once 0-2 G-Men have righted the ship and find themselves at .500 at the quarter-point of the season. Is it a mirage or the start of something bigger? The next three games before the bye week will be very telling.

As for this particular contest, the Giants humiliated the Redskins on national television on their own home field. Despite giving up some big plays, the defense forced six turnovers and created excellent field position for the offense. The Giants offense was a machine, scoring six touchdowns. All in all, it was an impressive performance across the board.

REVISITING: FOUR DOWNS
During our game preview, we listed ‘Four Downs,’ which took a look at the top four questions surrounding the Giants heading into the game. Now that the game has been played and the film reviewed, it’s time to break it down.

First Down
Who plays free safety?
Quintin Demps was the man who replaced Stevie Brown at free safety and the former Kansas City Chief played so-so. There were highlights, like his bat down of a Kirk Cousins screen pass when he came flying in on a blitz, along with an interception. However, there were also several plays the safety missed. He opened up his hips too much and allowed an easy slant completion to Niles Paul, then also took a bad angle on the Alfred Morris touchdown run. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great for Demps, either.

Second Down
Has the offensive line turned the corner?
For the second game in a row, the offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage. Eli Manning was barely touched and the Giants rushed for 154 yards.

Third Down
Does Andre Williams see an increased workload?
Andre Williams finished the game with the most carries (15) and yards (66). Peyton Hillis saw his first action this year at running back and chipped in with 31 yards on eight carries.

Fourth Down
Can the special teams be special?
There was nothing special about the Giants special teams, but it wasn’t terrible, either. There were no big returns let up by the Giants and few lanes on punt and kick returns. Return wise, there was a nice one by Preston Parker, but it was called back on a holding. Unlike in previous weeks, the special teams didn’t stand out for a glaring mistake, it just didn’t do anything to separate itself with a “great” play, either.

OFFENSIVE OVERVIEW – by Eric Kennedy

It is always dangerous to make dramatic and sweeping statements after one or two performances. This is especially true after facing lesser teams with significant injury issues. But it is clear that this offensive system under Ben McAdoo is very different from the previous system under Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride. It’s not just the emphasis on the West Coast-style short-passing game – which obviously makes the offensive line look better and reduces wear-and-tear on Eli Manning. It’s the pace of the offense. In my lifetime, the Giants have never been this quick to run plays. The no-huddle is the base offense. And when it works, it’s impressive. The defense is back on its heels. The offense is dictating, not the defense. Of course, if you don’t pick up first downs, the hurry-up, no-huddle can backfire. But in this particular game, against this particular opponent, Giants fans have rarely been treated to such offensive efficiency.

Daniel Fells and Adrien Robinson, New York Giants (September 25, 2014)

Daniel Fells and Adrien Robinson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Giants ran 78 offensive plays. They picked up 31 first downs. They were 11-of-16 (69 percent) on third-down conversions. They gained 449 yards of offense, with 154 yards rushing and 295 net yards passing. There were no fumbles and one fluke interception. The Giants were 6-of-8 (75 percent) in the red zone. They controlled the clock for over 37 minutes.

The downside to the West Coast offense is it is a dink-and-dunk type of scheme. It’s safer, but it relies on an offense to remain relatively mistake free in order to extend drives that often end up being 8-12 plays long. A sack or penalty or negative run can sabotage a drive. For example, on the Giants third possession of the game, a holding call basically stopped the drive in its tracks. But when the offense plays mistake-free, like the Giants largely did against the Redskins, the results are impressive. While there were six pass plays of 20 yards or more, the longest was only 36 yards.

It is also important to note that their is a symbiotic relationship between offense and defense. I’ve been bitching for weeks that the defense has to help the offense by getting the ball back, either by forcing three-and-outs or turnovers. Against the Redskins, when the offense stumbled with a turnover, the Giants got the ball back one play later. Most importantly, the offense started on a short field five times – at the Redskins 24, 21, 35, 22, and 46 yard lines. Four of those drives ended with touchdowns. You cannot divorce the 45-point explosion from that key fact.

My biggest worry now? Ben McAdoo is going to be one hot coaching commodity after this season.

QUARTERBACK – by Eric Kennedy

It would appear the stories of Eli Manning’s demise were premature. The two-time Super Bowl MVP has his mojo back. To confirm, he will need to demonstrate some come-from-behind heroics and another playoff run, but let’s focus on this particular game for now.

Manning was near-perfect in the first half, going 20-for-24 (with three drops) for 209 yards and three touchdowns. His first-half QB rating was 142.5. When the Giants were in hurry-up, no-huddle in the first half, Eli was in as much of a “zone” as he has ever been in the NFL. He properly read the defense, scanned the field, made the correct decision, and delivered extremely accurate throws. And he spread the ball around to seven different targets in the first half, including 15 passes to the wide receivers, seven passes to the tight ends, and two passes to the backs.

Rueben Randle, New York Giants (September 25, 2014)

Perfect Pass from Manning to Randle

Manning seems to be regaining his trust in his blockers up front, and with that, he is starting to move around the pocket without worrying about contact. That is a departure from his skittishness from the preseason. My favorite pass of his on the night was the 27-yarder to Rueben Randle where dropped the ball perfectly over the corner and in front of the safety.

My biggest criticism of Manning in this game was while his short to medium throws were mostly spot on, he missed some deep opportunities, including what should have been an easy deep strike to Preston Parker for a 22-yard touchdown and possibly a 56-yarder to Victor Cruz. He also was very lucky on one late sideline throw where the defensive back dropped a sure interception.

By game’s end, Eli was 28-of-39 (with five drops) for 300 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception (on a throw that should have been a touchdown). He also rushed for a fifth touchdown.

RUNNING BACKS – by Eric Kennedy

The Giants took control of the game in the first half, when they went up 24-7. Only one-third (13-of-38) of the offensive plays in the first half were runs, with the Giants gaining 3.7 yards per carry and the longest run being only 12 yards. Obviously, Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams were not the focus early on.

Daniel Fells and Adrien Robinson, New York Giants (September 25, 2014)

Peyton Hillis – © USA TODAY Sports Images

In the second half, with the big lead, the Giants began to pound the ball more as Jennings, Williams, Peyton Hillis, and Henry Hynoski finished with 24 more carries. Interestingly, Williams finished with two more carries than Jennings and had the team’s biggest run, 23 yards. Five days after he carried the ball 34 times against the Texans, Jennings carried it only 13 times, affording the Giants’ feature back somewhat of a break. Jennings’ most important run of the night might have been his 1-yard effort on 3rd-and-1 at the Redskins 7-yard line. Jennings picked up the first down basically on his own, allowing the Giants to go up 21-7. The normally sure-handed Jennings did drop a sure touchdown pass; the not sure-handed Williams dropped a pass as well.

WIDE RECEIVERS – by Eric Kennedy

As Rueben Randle and Larry Donnell improve, and with Preston Parker being an improvement over Jerrel Jernigan as the third receiver, Victor Cruz seems to be getting his mojo back as well. He’s not quite there yet, as the dropped passes remain an issue (the Giants’ first drive stalled at mid-field when Cruz dropped a 3rd-and-5 pass for a first down and room to run). But Cruz is finally more involved in the offense and he looks slippery after the catch. He caught four passes for 83 yards in the first half, including a 36-yarder (the Giants longest offensive play of the game) on the second touchdown drive, and a 29-yarder with only one second left before halftime to set up the Giants’ lone field goal of the game. Late in the third quarter, he made a very nice play with a 20-yard catch-and-run over the middle down to the Redskins 2-yard line. By game’s end, he was targeted 10 times, with six catches for 108 yards. For those who have not noticed it yet, Cruz sometimes lines up in the backfield before going out on his pattern, an interesting wrinkle from Ben McAdoo.

Daniel Fells and Adrien Robinson, New York Giants (September 25, 2014)

Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Like Cruz, Randle isn’t quite “there” yet, but he’s improving. He finished as the team’s leading receiver with eight catches on 10 targets for 89 yards. He would have had a bigger night had he been able to hold onto the ball after a hit by the safety in the end zone. It looked like a touchdown regardless, but the officials ruled it wasn’t and the ball was intercepted after coming loose from Randle’s hands. Randle had a 27-yard reception on New York’s third touchdown drive of the first half. He also made an outstanding, leaping 21-yard reception down the right sideline to the 2-yard line in the third quarter. Perhaps the most satisfying play was his 12-yarder on 3rd-and-7. It came on a back-shoulder throw, the type of play Randle hasn’t been on the same page with Eli in the past.

Quietly, Preston Parker is beginning to have an impact as the Giants’ third receiver. He only caught three passes for 29 yards, but one was a clutch 10-yard gain on 3rd-and-9 on New York’s third touchdown drive. Later in the half, he had a 12-yard gain on 3rd-and-4 and drew a 17-yard pass interference penalty on the Giants field goal drive. He also dropped a pass on this possession however. In the second half, he easily got behind the Washington defense on what should have been a 22-yard touchdown but Eli overthrew him.

TIGHT ENDS – by Eric Kennedy

So the Giants may not have the worst group of tight ends in the NFL. In fact, the Giants tight ends have quickly become an instrumental part of their offense, something we were clued in on as early as the Organized Team Activity (OTA) practices. At the time, we thought, “Why the heck is Ben McAdoo featuring our tight ends when our tight ends are so dreadful?” Once again, a lesson for us fans to perhaps reserve judgement until the bullets actually start flying.

Larry Donnell, New York Giants (September 25, 2014)

Larry Donnell – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Aside from the overall performance of the offense and the resurgence of Eli Manning, the story of this game has to be the emergence of Larry Donnell. Seven catches for 54 yards sounds fairly modest. But three first-half touchdowns certainly does not. As was pointed out repeatedly on the telecast, Donnell is rapidly becoming a match-up problem for defenses. Donnell got open against linebackers, safeties, and even corners in this game. He is not particularly fast, but he is an athlete with very good overall agility and body control. Combine that with his size and sure hands, and you have an emerging weapon very well suited to this type of offense. If Donnell stays healthy and humble, he could be in store for a huge season. Through four games, it’s clear that Donnell is quite comfortable making the tough, athletic catch despite opposing contact. His size allows him to out-muscle or out-reach defenders, and he is very natural catching the ball away from his large frame. The best news is that Manning is beginning to trust Donnell to make the correct adjustments during the play. On the first touchdown pass, Manning threw the ball away from the defender and Donnell expected Manning to do just that. They were both on the same page in reading how to react to the defender. That chemistry should only build with time.

We should not lose sight of the fact that Daniel Fells is starting to make some noise as the second tight end. Fells only has six catches in four games, but three of those have gone for touchdowns. For a guy who was out of football in 2013, Fells looks like a legitimate NFL contributor as a second tight end. Aside from his 2-yard touchdown, Fells caught an important 6-yard pass on 3rd-and-4 on the third touchdown drive.

The icing on the cake was Adrien Robinson’s first NFL catch. Yes, the 15-yarder came in garbage time, but hey, at this point, we’ll take it.

OFFENSIVE LINE – by Eric Kennedy

The Giants offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage. Read that again. Savor it.

Please note that the improvement in Eli, the ground game, the passing game, third-down conversions, time of possession, and points all seem intimately connected to the performance of the offensive line. Duh? Well, it’s surprising how quickly many fans fail to appreciate that point.

To be fair, the Giants were facing a beat-up front seven and the short-passing game does significantly reduce the pressure on linemen to hold their blocks. In other words, the system often makes the line’s performance look better than it really is. That said, the Giants are protecting Manning – something they didn’t do last season – and they are creating running room for the backs – again something they didn’t do last season. Left tackle Will Beatty is regaining his 2012 form. Right tackle Justin Pugh is building on his solid rookie season. And of particular note, the trio of Weston Richburg, J.D. Walton, and John Jerry have been a huge upgrade over their 2013 counterparts. Eli isn’t getting pressure immediately in his face. What I like about this group is they are developing a touch of nastiness to their game. They seem to enjoy punishing defenders.

Though actual hits are often under-reported, according to the official game book, Eli was only hit once in the game. This came on the play where Jerry gave up some immediate pressure and OLB Ryan Kerrigan beat Pugh for the sack. Eli was hardly touched. And the Giants rushed for 154 yards. That’s a nice day at the office. The only other negative notes I had were a holding penalty on Jerry and inside pressure allowed by Walton and Jerry on the play were Manning was almost picked off.

DEFENSIVE OVERVIEW – by Connor Hughes

There is a telling stat that should be provided: Since taking over as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, teams are 3-12 the week after facing Chip Kelly’s team. Actually, make that 3-13 following Thursday night.

The Washington offense looked downright dysfunctional, most of that having to do with Kirk Cousins. The quarterback was throwing passes right at the Giants defensive backs and seemed completely unprepared for the game. During his first two games played this year, Kirk Cousins didn’t face much pressure. He was allowed to sit back in the pocket and wait for his guys to get open. The Giants made a concerted effort to make sure that was not the case, and Cousins didn’t respond. The quarterback was under constant pressure and made bad decisions as a result.

The numbers don’t lie, Washington finished with the following stats: 329 yards (243 passing, 86 rushing), 17 first downs and a whopping six turnovers. The six turnovers are nice, but a bit padded as well. Trumaine McBride, Antrel Rolle and Demps had balls thrown right at them. Mathias Kiwanuka’s sack-fumble and Prince Amukamara’s interception were the two that were truly “forced.” Either way, the Giants defense has gone from turnover-challenged to a turnover machine the last two weeks.

Not bad for a unit without Jon Beason and Devon Kennard.

DEFENSIVE LINE – by Connor Hughes

There’s been a lot of heat thrown Mathias Kiwanuka’s way, and some of it warranted. The veteran is no longer the player he used to be, but he’s still a very, very serviceable player. Kiwanuka set the tone early with a sack-strip-fumble of Kirk Cousins on Washington’s first drive. Kiwanuka did a great job of smacking the offensive lineman’s hands away to get around and apply the hit on Cousins. The scary part of the hit? Cousins had no idea it was coming.

The sacks aren’t there just yet for Jason Pierre-Paul, but the defensive end has been a complete and total force through the first four games of 2014. Pierre-Paul is back playing sideline-to-sideline, playing both the run and pass and seems like he’s a much more mature and intelligent player than he used to be. Pierre-Paul always had the physical attributes to be one of the league’s best, but couple in game smarts? It’s a dangerous, dangerous combination.

Pierre-Paul again made his presence felt and should have had a sack had he not been tackled by Trent Williams.

One of the reasons Cousins struggled as much as he did was the fact his timing clock was messed up from the start. The Giants put an emphasis on pressuring the quarterback as often as they could, and it worked. It didn’t matter who brought the pressure, the pocket was regularly collapsed.

While the defensive backs of the Giants got a lot of credit for the interceptions, much more of it has to go to the defensive line pressuring Cousins into the throws. Two specifically stand out. On Antrel Rolle’s interception, Robert Ayers Jr. blew up his lineman and forced Cousins to throw the ball early.

On Prince’s pick, there wasn’t pressure, but rather a forest Cousins had to throw around.

LINEBACKERS – by Connor Hughes

I understand, in essence, the decision to have Mark Herzlich in the game. Aside from the starters (McClain/Williams), Herzlich is the Giants best linebacker against the run. You put the Boston College product on the field in base formations where you expect the run, he should be able to keep it contained.

That mindset works…when opponents run the ball. When they don’t? It’s not pretty. Not pretty at all.  Three screen-grabs show the complete and total story:

The thing that is completely mind boggling is the fact those second and third photos just above were near identical plays that came on back-to-back series. I do not know how much longer Herzlich can be in the game, because he is a complete liability against the pass. When watching the film, Herzlich simply turns on both plays and runs towards the center of the field. I do not know why he’s running towards the center of the field because others were guarding the area (as you can see in the one, Rolle is there). Against good teams, those plays will cost the Giants. Beason may be back this week, which should signal the end of Herzlich as a starter. If something were to happen that opens up another spot before Devon Kennard returns from injury, I don’t know how Spencer Paysinger is kept off the field.

DEFENSIVE BACKS – by Connor Hughes

Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie earned their paychecks, holding Pierre Garćon and DeSean Jackson to just three receptions, but my eye, for the most part, was on Quintin Demps. Stevie Brown lost his spot to Demps for not making the instinctive plays that led to eight interceptions two years ago, would Demps really be a better fit?

The answer, as mentioned in ‘Four Downs,’ was both yes, and no. Things didn’t start great for Demps as he gave up a first down completion to Niles Paul on Washington’s first drive. On a slant, Demps opened his hips allowing Paul to create separation and gain the first down, but he responded well. Two plays especially stand out.

Washington attempted a receiver reverse and the receiver looked to have a lot of room to run, but Demps closed very quickly to negate anything big from happening. On another play, Demps came firing in from the edge on a blitz, leaped in the air and batted down the pass.

The one play that I wasn’t sure if it was Demps, or nickel cornerback Trumaine McBride, was the touchdown throw from Cousins to Andre Roberts. After watching it back, I believe this one has to fall on McBride. Washington came out and spread the defense, then proceeded to run four verticals. Four verticals normally line two wide receivers to the left or right with a tight end, then another receiver on the other side. All four players run streaks, or deep patterns.

In this particular situation, Washington lined up all on the far side of the field. Amukamara matched up on Jackson, McBride on Roberts and Demps, in his safety position, had the deep zone. It looked like Jameel McClain was a little slow on covering Paul, which meant Demps needed to pick up the tight end. For some reason, McBride stuttered at the seven yard line, allowing Roberts to get behind him.

Could Demps have pulled off and covered Roberts with help? Sure, but that would have meant leaving Paul wide open.

SPECIAL TEAMS – by Connor Hughes

As stated in ‘Four Downs,’ it was nothing special for the special teams, but nothing especially bad, either. Washington returned two kickoffs for 33 yards (16.5 average) with a long of 20. The Redskins did not return a punt.

Returning for the Giants, Preston Parker ran back two punts for 11 yards with a long of six. He had a 29-yard return nullified on an illegal block penalty on Nat Behre. Parker returned the Giants only kickoff of the day 34 yards. The biggest special teams screw up of the night was Parker not fielding one punt in the third quarter, allowing the ball to eventually travel 77 yards. Making matters worse was 10-yard penalty on Damontre Moore on the same play. These snafus completely altered the field position battle at the time. Josh Brown went 1-for-1 with a 29-yard field goal. Steve Weatherford punted five times, with three downed inside the 20-yard line. He averaged 45 yards per punt.

(New York Giants at Washington Redskins, September 25, 2014)
Sep 262014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 25, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

There were smiles everywhere on the Giants sideline, and for good reason. As the waning seconds ticked off New York’s 45-14 victory over the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field, the Giants had done just about everything right.

Larry Donnell, New York Giants (September 25, 2014)

Larry Donnell – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterback Eli Manning scored a combined five touchdowns – throwing three to tight end Larry Donnell – for an offense that gained 449 yards. Defensively, the Giants forced six turnovers and stymied the red-hot Kirk Cousins.

It was the perfect performance for a team in desperate need for just that.

“We were able to get past the previous game very quickly and into this week,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “We played well and did a lot of very good things.”

The Giants (2-2) entered Thursday night’s prime time showdown with the Redskins (1-3) looking to build off their first victory of the season a week ago versus the Houston Texans. After throwing for two touchdowns and completing 75 percent of his passes versus Houston, Manning picked up right where he left off.

The two-time Super Bowl MVP completed 28-of-39 passes, threw 300 yards, tossed four touchdowns and ran for a fifth on the ground. The lone blemish on an otherwise perfect performance was a fluky redzone interception.

On a second and goal at the Washington six yard line, Manning fired a slant pass to wide receiver Rueben Randle. Randle caught the ball, but just as he put his second foot down in the endzone, Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather put a helmet on the ball and popped it into the air. Keenan Robinson intercepted the ball off a deflection.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 25, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“We’re starting to get the feel of things,” Manning said. “This offense is starting to click. We’re running the ball really well and the line is doing a great job controlling the line of scrimmage.”

On the Giants first possession of the game, a Victor Cruz drop forced New York to punt. On Washington’s first possession, defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka got the ball right back with a sack-fumble of Kirk Cousins that defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins recovered. Six plays later, Manning found Donnell on the first of his three receiving touchdowns.

“We did that a couple times in practice,” Donnell said. “Eli checked to it when he saw the coverage he wanted. He threw it up and I went and got it.”

Donnell, who entered 2014 with just three career receptions and no touchdowns, caught seven passes for 54 yards and three scores versus Washington.

The Giants offense went three and out on their next possession, but then scored on their next three drives. There were two more scores from Donnell, followed by a 29-yard Josh Brown field goal to close out the first half.

Trailing 24-7 at half, Washington attempted a comeback on its first possession of the third quarter. After receiving the second half kickoff, Cousins marched Washington 83 yards on five plays, capped by an Alfred Morris 20-yard rushing touchdown.

Following a Giants punt, Washington got the ball back with a chance to make it a one score game. The Giants defense had other plans. On their next six possessions, the Redskins punted twice and threw four interceptions. Trumaine McBride, Quintin Demps, Antrel Rolle and Prince Amukamara all picked off passes from Cousins.

Prince Amukamara, New York Giants (September 25, 2014)

Prince Amukamara – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“With the offense putting the points up on the board, it forced (Washington) to pass the ball more frequently,” Rolle said. “Right now we’re starting to put together some good football on both sides of the ball.”

The Giants then turned those Washington turnovers into 21 points, highlighted by a Daniel Fells’ touchdown reception and Andre Williams’ first career touchdown run.

Game video highlights are available at Giants.com.

The Giants will host the Atlanta Falcons on October 5 at MetLife Stadium at 1:00P.M.
—-
News and Notes

The Giants gained 449 yards on offense and tallied 31 first downs. The Giants held the ball for 37:17.

Victor Cruz caught led the Giants with 108 yards receiving on six catches. Rueben Randle caught eight passes for 89 yards. Defensively, Jacquian Williams led the team with nine tackles. Damontre Moore had his first career sack.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie shadowed wide receiver DeSean Jackson throughout the game’s entirety. He held the former Philadelphia Eagle to one reception for nine yards. Quintin Demps started in place of Stevie Brown.

The 45 points scored by the Giants were the most since the team scored 52 versus the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 9, 2012. Manning’s rushing touchdown was his first since Sept. 11, 2011.

With his second interception in back-to-back games, Amukamara has set a new career high for interceptions in a season.

Inactives

Not playing for the Giants were WR Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), LB Jon Beason (foot/ankle), LB Devon Kennard (hamstring), OT Charles Brown (shoulder), DL Kerry Wynn, OT James Brewer (back) and DT Jay Bromley.