Nov 291996

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, December 1, 1996: There’s just something about the Eagles that turns those big bad Giants into a bunch of softies. Even under Parcells, the Eagles would give the Giants fits and win games in strange ways. That all seemed to change when Reeves became head coach due to the fact that the Giants swept the Eagles in both 1993 and 1994. However, since then it has been all Eagles once again. It is tough to determine who will have the emotional advantage on Sunday. The Giants are coming of their most emotionally charged wins in years and the Eagles are coming off a draining loss. Which team will be more mentally sapped on Sunday? The Eagles still have a shot at the division and desperately need this game. The Giants once again are playing for pride and their head coach’s job.

Giants on Offense: The Giants are just not scoring enough points on offense. Once again, the offense was saved by the Giants’ defense last week. If you told us the Giants’ offense would only score 13 points and yet the Giants would have beaten the World Champs, we would have said you were crazy. The Giants can’t afford to count on the defense week-in-and-week-out. More points must be generated. If the Giants score more than 20 points in a game, it’s a miracle (and usually it is because the defense or special teams score). Why aren’t the Giants scoring more? (1) Because they are terrible at converting on 3rd down, and (2) they are terrible at scoring TD’s in the redzone. In both situations, a QB needs other weapons besides his receivers. Most QB’s in the league have a 3rd down back (i.e., Larry Centers or David Meggett) or a TE (Wesley Walls or Jamie Asher) who can keep the chains moving or make a play in the endzone against a safety or linebacker. Basically, Dave Brown has no security blanket. Brian Saxton is a much better receiver than Howard Cross and we would continue to work him more and more into the offense. The need for a 3rd down back must be addressed in the offseason. The Giants’ offensive line dramatically outweighs the Eagles’ front seven, yet the Eagles defensive line and linebackers always seems to give the Giants problems. It’s time for the line to use their bulk and strength in order to wear down the Eagles. Power the ball right at them! Run Wheatley behind these big boys and right behind FB Charles Way. Wheatley is due to break a big one soon. The more chances he gets, the more likely he will score on a game-breaking play. The problem the Giants will face is that Eagles’ defense matches up extremely well against the Giants (just like the Panthers and Cowboys). The Eagles have two very physical CB’s that like to jam WR’s at the line of scrimmage. Chris Calloway and Thomas Lewis (if he plays) do not play well against this type of coverage. Thus, if we’re the Eagles, we concentrate on the run on first and second-down and then bring in the nickel package on third down and have the CB’s jam the WR’s. Thus, not only will the Eagles be jamming the wideouts, but there will be more defensive backs than wideouts. Do you really think the Eagles are going to worry about Howard Cross or Gary Downs? What makes matters worse is that the Eagles are so well coached on defense that it always seems like they know what play the Giants are going run. Interestingly, the Cardinals went after CB Bobby Taylor last week with some success. Dave Brown and the Giant wideouts will need to make some plays if the Giants are to win. Don’t be so predictable! Pass to the wideouts on first down. Put a WR in motion (a moving WR is almost impossible to jam) and play multiple WR’s to one side and group them together (also difficult to jam — and also an effective way to run a “legal” pick). However, we also think the way to hurt the Eagles is to use Way, Hampton (or Wheatley), and Saxton in the passing game — and not just on 3rd down! On the line, Mike Mamula gives Bishop almost as much trouble as Simeon Rice does. We’d run at Mamula to slow him down some. The Eagle pass rush usually gives the Giants fits, so the order of the day SHOULD be 3-step drops, slants, and screens. The play-action roll out will only work so many times Dan!

Giants on Defense: What amazed us so much last week was not so much the play of the secondary and the forced turnovers, but the play of the Giants upfront in neutralizing the Cowboys running game and that huge offensive line. More of that effort is needed this week as the Giants face a decent Eagles’ offensive line and Ricky Watters. We say it week-in-and-week-out, but the key on defense in EVERY game is shutting down the opposition’s running game first and foremost. We need another big effort against the run by the defensive ends and tackles, as well as the linebackers. If you can frustrate Watters early, you can “mentally” take him out of the game. You can also force him to fumble — and once he does that, those “nice” Eagle fans will get all over his back. The Giant CB’s face a severe test this week in the form of Irving Fryar (who is having a remarkable year) and Chris T. Jones (who is underrated). The CB’s need to play aggressively and disrupt the routes of the wideouts. The “West Coast” offense is all rhythm and timing — disrupt that rhythm and timing and the offense will be out of wack. QB Detmer can’t be intimidated, but he can be frustrated. Be physical with the receivers and knock them around. The two match-ups that could give the Giants the most problems is TE Jason Dunn versus Jesse Campbell and the RB’s (Watters, Charlie Garner — if he plays, and Kevin Turner) versus Widmer and the strongside linebacker (Buckley or Miller — if the latter plays). The linebackers (Buckley or Miller) need to jam Dunn at the line and Campbell has to have a big game in coverage. Buckley will be tested in coverage as well, but his toughest challenge will be against the run. The Eagles know he’s out there and have had success running on him in the past. Another key is the pass rush. The Giants’ pass rush seems to have disappeared as the season has worn on. Hamilton, Harris, and Strahan in particular need to step it up another notch. Using some of those blitz packages the Giants used early on in the year might help as well. What are you saving them for Nolan?

Special Teams: One of the few areas where the Giants have been able to outplay the Eagles in recent years. However, Eagle RB Derrick Witherspoon has returned two kick-offs for TD’s this year, including one last week. Brad Daluiso finally made some clutch, long-range field goals last week, but has to make some more in order to gain our confidence again. Conrad Hamilton has done a decent job returning kicks, but he needs more help back there. Punt returns have been pathetic since Toomer went down. It would be nice to see the Giants block a kick or punt this week.

Outlook: Don’t be fooled by last week. The Giants have been far too inconsistent this year to expect them to play well again this week. The game is in Philly and the division title is at stake here for the Eagles. The Eagles’ defense will shut down the Giants’ offense and the Giants’ defense won’t come up with points on their own this week. Eagles 24 – Giants 6.

Nov 271996
New York Giants 20 – Dallas Cowboys 6

Overview: The brighter side of this young but developing team really showed itself, Sunday. The game stats do not reflect the complete control the Giants maintained throughout. Turnovers certainly played a role, yet the Giants caused them, had guys nearby (because of gang tackling and alertness) in position to recover or intercept, and forced the Cowboys to march in small steps down the field creating opportunities for turnovers. The Cowboys never threatened to take the lead. Only one time did the Boys get close to tying, down 6-3 in the 2nd qtr in FG territory, but Widmer caused a fumble which Wooten recovered and sprinted over 50 yards for a TD. The offense controlled field position and enough clock from then on to maintain momentum. Of course the opportunistic defense sealed the win with strong team play, some excellent individual performances and big turnovers. As a team, the Giants came fired up and ready to play, as evidenced by their high spirit and willingness to scrap with the frustrated Cowboys as the game progressed. After establishing the 13-3 lead, the confidence grew and the Giants never lost control from there. Not what we are used to seeing lately, huh?

QB: Brown led an efficiently conservative attack which needed to be that way since Dallas’ secondary was the only unit playing a dominant game for them. Kevin Smith was stellar with blanket coverage all game combined with excellent run tackling. Brown went 10-18 for only 110 yards, but was able to make some key plays underneath. Brown hit Calloway four times up the middle and looked comfortable not having to fend rushing lineman. Brown also connected with Cross 3 times for first down yardage and Kozlowski for a TD pass with a nice play fake. The Giants may have softened the defense somewhat by twice going after Sanders deep early (without any immediate success) and then later going long but getting picked off on the overthrow. Even though nothing was gained on those plays, the DB’s needed to respect the deep route, thus Brown started picking away at the limited openings with the short passing game. Brown showed decent poise yesterday and if he can maintain that under heavier pressure, he can be a high quality starter in this league.

RB’s: Hampton started and Ty spelled him often. A great mix, no one else ran the football. Wheatley was the story at RB Sunday, with a solid 21 carries for 69 yards. What was most impressive was Wheatley improvement in overall tactics and fundamentals. For the first time, he ran low and strong, not allowing himself to get stood up and pushed back. He drove and squirted through holes, not really breaking much but consistently gaining maximum yardage. The announcers mentioned that Ty wanted to line up farther back in the set than Rodney does, to take advantage of his speed and give him the ability to let the blocks develop. It was apparent he was farther back and Ty read the holes well. Like Rodney has done so well in the past, Ty plunged forward getting a little extra each play. The future looks bright as Wheatley’s growth makes us very optimistic about his ability to carry the load in the running game. Way and Downs each caught short passes. Way’s catch and run was an excellent call and his running was reminiscent of Bavaro. Do this more!

Receivers: If it wasn’t for Calloway and working the TE into the mix, there would not have been a passing game. Cowboy DB’s were all over Giant receivers so although Brown had time, the pickens were slim. Calloway might have been the O’s most valuable player, exhibiting toughness and consistency in tight coverage. CC was the only receiver who could get open. Twice he was open as a secondary receiver but Brown didn’t see him. CC was even hurt, but came back displaying the toughness Reeves had mentioned earlier in the week. Calloway has improved every year and is becoming a clutch player. It is becoming extremely obvious that the Giants need a feature wideout so then CC won’t be the main man but be a second or third option. Even when Lewis and Amani return, they will still be missing the dominant wideout Brown needs. With the current group the Giants don’t even have a three WR set. Cross unexpectedly contributed with his three catch and runs, helping sustain drives.

O Line: Alright! Good game overall by the whole unit. Pass protection was excellent and the left side was there all game. Unlike the Card game there was no push from the Cowboy’s line. Hard to single anyone out, it was a team effort that included good play calling, but Lance Smith seemed to completely neutralize whoever came his way. His foot positioning and tactics were masterful, thoroughly confusing whoever he matched up against. Stone and Gragg opened up a few decent holes for the backs, Williams was steady and Bishop bounced back nicely from the tough game he had last week. Cross made a few nice blocks too.

D Line: Stifled Emmitt and the run totally. Bratzke had his best game, though not dominant. It was the middle that clogged things up considerably, allowing the rear run-support to finish the play. Hamilton was an especially wide presence on up the middle runs, not giving any ground. Not much of a pass rush when the Giants went into a three man front. Strahan was doubled every time in this defense, but coverage did not give up much forcing Troy to look carefully before unloading. The game against the run was so good however, that the Boys faced third and more than six, twelve times. Would have liked to see a few more blitzes but the turnovers made up for it.

LB’s: If Armstead hadn’t convinced you he’s a player already, Sunday cinched it. All over the place demonstrating exceptional speed, positioning and reaction time. Combine that with solid tackling (11 total) and good coverage and he gets a game ball. As long as Armstead has his speed, he will be impact weakside linebacker in this league. His run support was stupendous, he seemed to make almost every tackle. Widmer was solid stopping a couple short passes from becoming first downs with strong tackling. One of these turned into the big fumble that Wooten returned. Buckley was adequate when he played, but not a factor.

Secondary: Depth, depth and more depth. Let’s start with the Corners. Sparks was really the only one burned, he’s entitled to two mistakes after having an almost flawless year. The first time Irvin got behind him for a long gain and the second one he made up for with an alert strip tackle which Campbell recovered at the four. Sehorn was more consistent and made seven tackles, most importantly not letting his men get away early in the route. He also had a nice INT. Randolph was awesome, defending passes perfectly – knocking down two well thrown balls at the last instant – displaying great corner instinct, focus and speed. He also did not let his man get open once. Lastly Conrad Hamilton was a force. It’s hard to figure how the Giants squeezed that many corners into the game, but they did and they were all factors. Hamilton made six tackles and filled the run support role like a safety. We like Conrad a lot! He shows good speed and tackling ability. The safeties played very well too. Heading the group was none other than the modest Percy Ellsworth, who is letting the games speak volumes about his capabilities. Even though he didn’t start, Percy chalked up another interception by reading the deep pattern over the middle perfectly, as well as making two key tackles. Wooten played a lot and had a much better performance than last week. He was not outstanding, but minimized his mistakes (still needs to tackle using his arms rather than just throwing his body at the runner) and came up big recovering the fumble/TD. Campbell was steady and kept everything in front of him. Coverage as usual was very good, especially since the pass rush was lacking. Percy and the four corners should start to scare opponents looking to establish a passing game to their wideouts.

Specials: Daluiso’s kickoffs were strong and his confidence soared after the first long field goal. He also put a second one right through the middle. Conrad Hamilton made another good special teams play on a punt, pinning the Cowboys in at the two. His returns have been pretty good as well. Good punts by Horan. Above average performance overall with no glaring mistakes.

Coaching: Reeves and Nolan on top of the gameplan all day. Reeves mixed in the short passing game well and changed things up slightly just when Dallas tried zeroing in. Two perfect examples: 1) The reverse had Dallas completely fooled as they read run right after the Giants had some success there. 2) The play-fake clearout for Kozlowski. This was effective because the Giants were in a running down, had been successful running, showed run before and after the snap, and then released the TE who was faking the run block. This type of stuff kept the Cowboys off-balance. The early fly patterns may have been beneficial as well. The calls to Cross and Way were nicely placed, an excellent example of “taking what the defense gives you”. Reeves and all the assistants get credit for providing a very winnable gameplan. The Giants were also very loose, yet fired up. So was the crowd, who let the Giants know how much they approved the effort and direction at the end of the first half. That alone seemed to charge the players up more and they played a very emotional second half.

Nolan really won me over this week, although I’m still not sure if he’s ready to be the top guy. [A thought: Love to see a Nolan/Fassel co-coach situation similar to Parcels/Erhardt. Would make a great tandem for a year or two. BTW Fassel coached an excellent game again yesterday.] Nolan had the D prepared and was able to work 7 DB’s into contributing roles, playing to the teams strength. We were a little worried about the three man rush, but the coverage was excellent so the semi-prevent worked. The bottom line testament is the defense played as a unit, were into the game the entire way and did not give up a TD.

Nov 221996

Approach to the Game – Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, November 24, 1996: The importance of this game all depends on whether you believe (or hope) that Head Coach Dan Reeves will return or not next year. If Reeves leaves, then it doesn’t really matter what the Giants do in terms of offensive and defensive schemes, because those schemes will all change next year. In other words, there will be nothing to build on and one should view the game more as a chance to evaluate talent rather than looking at the game plan or tactics. It’s strange, but this game has never really developed a really intense rivalry like the Giants-Eagles or Giants-Redskins — probably because Dallas has been so dominant except for the 1986-90 period. OG Ron Stone, a former Cowboy, said that the Giants-Cowboys games have no special significance for the Cowboy players. It would be nice to start changing that.

Giants on Offense: Five more games to go and if the Giants are going to change coaches, then everyone (and we do mean everyone) on offense is now fighting for starting jobs NEXT year. Lost in the recent losing streak is that the Giants’ passing offense has been showing signs of life over the last couple of months. Dave Brown has improved and when he is given time to throw the ball and when his receivers catch the ball, he can be quite effective. As we have watched other teams in recent weeks, we have made it a major point of ours to evaluate other NFL quarterbacks in order to compare them with Brown. Sorry to disappoint many Brown-bashers, but we don’t a lot of QB’s in the league who are playing any better than Dave. Sure, you have guys like Aikman, Elway, and Marino — but those guys are Hall of Famers. Even Rick Mirer (who was rated higher than Brown in the 1993 Draft) has played more poorly. Dave is never going to be a great QB (neither was Phil Simms), but if you give him a strong supporting caste, he can do the job. Regardless, these last five games are extremely important to Dave because the Giants just may have a better QB on the roster in the person of Danny Kanell. Kanell’s major advantages over Brown right now are (1) his quick release, and (2) he hasn’t taken the physical and psychological beating that Dave has over the last three years. If Dave’s not careful, the next coach of the Giants may go with Danny. The Giants face a nightmare situation against Dallas in terms of the passing game on Sunday. If Deion Sanders and Kevin Smith can shut out top WR’s, how do you think they will do against Chris Calloway, Kevin Alexander, Lawrence Dawsey, and Arthur Marshall? Toomer is out and Lewis is ailing and may not play — these guys are the Giants’ best WR’s. The way to attack Dallas through the air is not with your WR’s, but with your tight ends and running backs. However, Pierce is out and Cross is a non-factor in the passing game. For some reason, Reeves doesn’t throw to Way, Wheatley, and Hampton as much as we think he should. This has got to change if the Giants are going to win on Sunday. They must use screens and bootleg passes to the backs; it also wouldn’t hurt to slip Wheatley or Way down the seam or sideline. Cowboy OLB Darrin Smith can cover, but the other Dallas LB’s aren’t as strong in this area. What the heck has happened to the Giants’ running game? We think it is a combination of a number of factors: (1) the young line is still learning to run block as a GROUP, (2) the offense is still too predictable, and (3) Rodney Hampton has slipped (though not as much as the media makes out). The Giants’ season is over. Lance Smith is not part of the Giants’ future. It is time to put Zatechka or Davis in at left guard. It also might not hurt to sneak Oben into the lineup a few times at left tackle (just to get a look). What the Giants can’t do is fool around with the right side of the line. Gragg and Stone are the future there and they must continue to work as a team and become more comfortable with each other. It will be interesting to see how much Tyrone Wheatley and Brian Saxton play this week — will Reeves do what is best for the team or help to build his own resume?

Giants on Defense: More than any other part of the team, the loss to Carolina seems to have affected this unit the most. The Giants went from playoff contender to cellar dweller in two weeks and the defense is a large part of the reason why. That doesn’t mean that the Giants are devoid of talent on defense. They have answered a number of important questions this year: (1) Strahan can play the strongside, (2) Armstead and Widmer can play linebacker, and (3) Jason Sehorn can play CB. What the Giants need is (1) a healthy Cedric Jones and Jamal Duff and (2) a fire-breathing, 300lb DT. These guys can help take off heat from Strahan who faces too many double teams. Five games to go — it’s time to start force feeding Jones into the lineup. Bratzke is a good back-up, but he’s not the future. Same story with Bernard Holsey — let’s see what he can do. We’d also consider waiving some of the deadwood on the team (Rudolph, Beamon) and bringing DT Darnell Gilliard off the practice squad. The Giants will face the best power running football team in football this weekend with Marcus Buckley playing strongside OLB — talk about scary!!! We’d say that these final games are extremely important in determining Buckley’s future with the team. Inside — no more Coleman Rudolph. If Widmer gets hurt or needs a breather, put Doug Colman into the lineup (the guy has been doing a very decent job on special teams). Same story with Armstead-Galyon. Galyon is probably the second best cover LB on the team (after Armstead). The last time these two teams faced in Dallas, the Boys burned the Giants’ blitz with deadly accurate Troy Aikman passes to Kevin Smith and Deion Sanders. Well, now that idiot Michael Irvin is back. We still wouldn’t change the game plan. The Giants must stuff Emmitt Smith and force Aikman to beat them. Since Sparks will most likely cover Irvin; the biggest match-up will be Sehorn/Randolph versus Sanders/Smith. Another key will be TE Eric Bjornson, who has been playing dramatically better for Dallas, versus Jesse Campbell. To be honest, we’re not sure Campbell can cover Bjornson. We would have preferred Rodney Young (he played CB in college), but the Giants have given him absolutely no playing time this year. It will also be interesting to see how much time Tito Wooten and Percy Ellsworth receive this week. Wooten had been improving until last week’s setback. Now the coaches seem to feel that Ellsworth is the better player. Regardless of who is back there, they all have to tackle this week. One blown tackle against Emmitt and it will be six quick. Up front, Strahan, Harris, Hamilton, Bratzke, Agnew, Holsey, and Jones will have their hands full with one of the best offensive lines in NFL history. The Cowboys will have the advantage in size, experience, and confidence. Corey Widmer will have to step it up quick shed the blocks of Daryl Johnston (we’d kill any Giant fan who bellowed “Mooooose” in Giants Stadium).

Special Teams: In talking about ways to improve the team next year, we all keep talking about the offense and defense, but something big has to done next year in order to improve this unit. We need new players and coaches here. Mike Horan is only average and Brad Daluiso is inconsistent. The coverage teams do well for most of a game, then they blow a big return. We need a quality kick and punt return guy, who isn’t a starter, to return kicks and punts. The blocking for returns has been poor for years. Dallas has the best-coached special teams in the league. What’s more important, they take pride in their special teams. The Giants do not.

Outlook: On paper, this game is a mismatch. The Cowboys are playing for the division, the Giants are just trying to stay out of last place. However, after two straight, tough games against the 49ers and Packers (not to mention a short work week), the Giants may have a chance to pull off an upset. It will all come down to how much passion and anger the Giants play with. It would also be nice if Mother Nature made an appearance at the Meadowlands. Giants 15 – Cowboys 13.

Nov 201996
Arizona Cardinals 31 – New York Giants 23

Overview: The Cardinals set the tempo early in the game, and before the Giants could gain any initiative they were already down 14-0. The offense struggled, not establishing any ground game whatsoever as the Cards DL started to live up to it’s potential, stuffing almost every run and eventually putting together a pass rush. For the Giants, the OL could not establish any push at all. Combine this with a distinct lack of a big play threat, and the Cardinals were able to easily move forward into their gameplan without many adjustments. The Giant D did nothing notable all game either, same for specials. The Giants showed they are a team without any big weapons or threats. No one who opposing teams need to fear or focus on. Thus, Arizona never looked surprised or stunned and were able to maintain control and execute their gameplan.

Overall the Giants did not play poorly, they just did nothing very well. With no big plays the Giants almost have to play perfect team football and make their breaks on critical downs. Unfortunately they couldn’t cash in once they got to the red zone and the D faultered during most critical 3rd down plays. Later in the game, the Giants displayed a lack of intensity that indicated a resignation to an impending loss. The bottom-line – this years team doesn’t have the right intangibles and mindset to deliver in big situations with any consistency. Nor do the Giants put themselves in favorable spots enough such as 2nd and short. Lastly folks, we did not see good blitzing (since game one), no misdirections or screens!, no reverses or flea flickers, no long passes till very late, basically nothing to make Arizona think. Results, the Giants sunk to the bottom of the division and now out of the hunt.

Offense in general and Quarterback: First series, a bad 3 and out. As a unit OL gets crushed on two no-gain runs and a sack of Brown, from a straight five-man rush. A good punt return gives Cards even better field position to score first TD. Second possession starts promising. Brown play fakes to Hampton and finds Lewis for 11, beating Aeneas. Throwing again on first, Brown finds Chris Calloway (CC) for 10, after a nice play fake and looking off the safety. Another 1st down throw, but this time Aeneas plays a great bump and run, detouring Lewis’ slant and then intercepting. Tough to blame Brown completely due to the great read and react by the corner, plus it was a timing play. However with more experience Brown may become more aware of the bump and front coverage on slants. Still optimistic about Brown’s play, he did look in control. Cards score on turnover, next series Giants really need to put something together. Either the Cards DL is awesome (S. Rice certainly looks better than Cedric Jones) or the OL is regressing. The run blocking certainly took a dramatic step back. Hampton had not a single hole to hit and run is stopped. Giants get lucky getting 1st, when on third and nine they run a play designed to get eight. Favorable spot too. Another futile attempt at running, nothing. So Brown steps up, shows poise as does CC when he makes a nice gain on a grab up the middle. At the ten on 2nd down (after another no-gain run) Brown rolls and tosses to Way getting 7. DB looks in control. Big situation, Brown trips, Giants settle for close FG. Arizona gets 7 more on ensuing series and now Jints have a big deficit to overcome. Well into 2nd, Giants begin inside their ten and start working Wheatley into line-up. Drive gathers momentum on a Wheatley swing pass. Only gets 5 but this swing is a good first down call which should be incorporated more into the O. Cards DL puts Giants in another 3rd and long. The pass rush is starting to gel and Brown panics, but gets lucky scrambling for a first. Giants continue to grit out a drive. A few bad plays/penalties by Bishop and L. Smith, but Brown manages to eke out a 13yd quick out to Dawsey and get another first on a smart pass to Saxton for 7. However, it was becoming apparent that we were not going to see much in the way of big plays and the Cards knew it too. Brown guts out emerging pass-rush, (but it will have an effect later) and delivers on a few beautiful calls by Reeves. A big firstdown to Elias and another to Lewis takes the Giants to the 3. Brown still fresh, needs to go endzone now as a weird series of plays follow. Brown sees an all out blitz coming. Checks off and audibles a pitch right. Cards scramble, rearranging their whole D knowing which side the Giants are going. Stuffed. Next Wheatley runs a play designed for Hampton, it looks good but somehow the Cards seem to know the calls and fill the gap – short gain. Actually, on both sides of the ball it really looked like Tobin, staff and co had the playbook. Critical play, Giants still have not run one play to the endzone. Brown audibles again (geez we guess he’s feeling his oats or knows something), but D checks off again. Confusion. Swann crushes run. Funny thing is Brown looked like he changed both of Reeves pass calls. Over 85 yards and only 3 points. The last series Brown has little time both regarding protection and on the clock. Pressure starts taking it’s toll. Duck INT to end half.

Second half, G ball. DB trying to get things rolling. Swing to Wheatley again for a first. All down hill from there. Punt. A few poor plays by Brown and line and another punt. Next series DB fumbles and the entire Card team recovers. Next time Brown is getting sacked and showing he has a hard time handling pressure in general. Brown seems to step into the rushers and goes down w/o throwing the ball away. The rest of the game was mixed. Brown made some plays hanging in courageously at times. Other moments Brown crumbled under rush, threw another bad INT and failed in some critical situations. Giants did score due to some late Cardinal turnovers. In total Brown played well early but did not come up big when really needed. As game wore on, he became overly concerned with rush but seemed not to avoid it or throw it away. His accuracy is improving dramatically and potential is evident, but the intangibles are not there. We hope it is not much longer before he starts to put the whole package together.

Backs: Hampton was completely negated and sat once Cards grabbed big lead. Ty showed real signs especially with runs after catch. Ty broke tackles well, but unlike Rodney he runs straight up and if he’s met clean, he’s often smashed backward. Elias worked hard and made one or two plays, yet the Giants need a better, more threatening 3rd down back. Why not Wheatley? It’s forgivable, but Way had his worst game of the year. Twice he was knocked back before getting ahead of the play as the lead blocker. We think Way will bounce back, he’s been a player this year.

Receivers and Tight Ends: No drops but not effective enough. There is a crying need for speed and a deep threat. Lewis and CC are good at medium range routes, making excellent 2 and 3 Wideouts. Giants need a One. Would have liked to see Lewis get open more this game, even though he caught a few. Calloway played gutsy again. He’s not dropping balls like earlier in the season and is fearless over the middle. On a contending team with a deep threat he would make an excellent third receiver. Overall the Giants showed their inability to go deep or play with 3 wideouts. Cards secondary could cheat and bump often, knowing how unlikely it was they’d be burned. Dawsey made one nice grab, but he is not part of future and has had minimal impact. No depth and it showed. At TE, Giants missed Pierce. Saxton played OK but ran short on two of his patterns. Giants didn’t even attempt to throw to Cross, and we know how pitiful the run blocking was.

O Line: Smith was not used as a pulling guard much this game, as the Giants tried to run straight ahead. No one was effective run blocking with only two or three small holes all day. Pass protection adequate at best. Bishop struggled but kept working. Gragg had some tough assignments as well and it showed. In sum, line did not establish push needed. Not a good game for this unit.

Defense Overall: The defense suffered it’s second straight below average performance. On Cards 2nd series Widmer was blown out resulting in a 18 yd run. Then Boomer orchestrates a creative passing attack for Arizona’s 1st TD. It happened as Sehorn and Wooten took turns getting faked out of there shoes and pulling themselves out of position. First Sehorn bites on a fake slant, then on a very well executed play, Wooten is thoroughly fooled and stops as Cards trick Giants to lean right and throw left for TD. On second series LB’s, Sehorn and Wooten bought fake reverse and gave up 15. Then Wooten gets turned and burned looking horrid trying to tackle with his hips by laying a hit. TD. Where are the fundementals? Does Wooten think he’s tackling college players? He didn’t even raise his arms let alone think of wrapping his man up. Giants making Boomer looks like Unitas. Next series, Sehorn is burned for 19 by Moore. Then with Giants in their Cover One defense, Wooten misses assignment and gives up a 12 yd pass in the middle on a key third down. Drive still alive and Boomer makes great throw for 33 yds with Sparks on coverage and barely beat. Giants must hold. First and second down inside the ten and it looks like Giants are holding fort. Critical third down and here is where losing breeds losing. Basically a third down choke as Sehorn moves into man-to-man when everyone else is in zone. Boomer puts it in between Wooten (who is covering nobody) and Sehorn who is in the wrong coverage. Ouch, the barn doors are open. Even though the D got better after this, 3 early TD’s gave the Cards enough cushion. Sehorn’s play got better (couldn’t get worse) and Percy and Randolph probably had alot to do with the improvement as they saw alot of action once down 21-3. One troubling observation though. Near the 4rth quarter the front seven started to either look tired (which concerned us since Giants controlled time of possession) or just as if they gave up. The losing attitude is starting to prevail, as the D really were playing w/o enthusiasm. If it wasn’t for the few late turnovers, we thought the D might have caved completely. At least Percy didn’t quit.

D Line: Again nothing much to speak of. Strahan was doubled a lot and neutralized somewhat, while no one else came up big. One great sack and no pressure. Big holes were created down the stretch too, when everyone knew Cards were running. Jones and Bratzke were non-existent and the DT’s did not get any real penetration. Boomer had all day and looked the savy veteran. A non-explosive Cardinal team was able to rack up scores without enough resistance.

Linebackers: Just bad. No impact. Fooled early when it counted. Once Miller went down Giants didn’t use more than 2 LB’s more than a couple of times. Giants are starting to reveal a weakness. Corey was ineffective early and then got hurt. His replacement Buckley did not play much either after that 30 yard pass play which proved Marcus can not cover a back. This is not good. Widmer was good some plays and very bad on others. Hard to tell whether he’ll be more solid if surrounded by playmakers. Armstead may be the only real starter of the group. His play was adequate today, not much impact but at least he shows some quickness and made a few tackles. All in all though, the front seven was neutralized and did not come up big in any series except one, letting the Cards score too easily, too early and too much. No jarring hits to the QB, backs or receivers.

Secondary: A very good performance by most. Once Miller went down, Giants played most of game in a nickel, rotating six players. Sparks (as usual) and Randolph played very well as did Ellsworth and even Campbell. So where was the problem? Well for starters, after the Giants look at the films, Wooten may be back on the bench. Wooten made numerous bad reads getting caught and burned three times just for being out of position. He and Sehorn bit on almost every fake Boomer made, leaving receivers open often in the 1st half. Moore was beneficiary of the fakes and look-offs. Sehorn was especially fooled by men in motion and got himself trapped “peeking” twice. Cards converted both times. Wooten however was especially awful, getting turned around, letting WRs behind him, moving out of position, missing two shots at tackling runners short of first downs, no run tackles, etc. This was unfortunate because Percy was everywhere again, stopping a drive practically by himself and impacting a few others, including some run stops and a big INT. One of the only big plays Giants created. Boomer made a mistake but the replay showed the excellent read and positioning of Percy. Only one pass was caught off Sparks (he was close) who was otherwise very solid. Randolph also had a great first series when he entered the game. On a later series he had an excellent knockdown, recovering exceptionally quick after stumbling. He is fast and only gave up one catch (beat by 1/2 step). Cards eventually stayed away from these corners and went up the middle or after Sehorn. Sehorn must get more consistent and not be a victim of so many big plays.

Specials: Not so special. Conrad Hamilton played well and showcased decent speed. Everything else was about average including kicking game, with two exceptions. The punt hitting Sehorn hurt bad and there were a few missed tackles on punt returns, like the ones on defense. Not a ton, but too many.

Coaching: Real tough to judge, although we can say it seemed like Tobin had his team well prepared for Giants gameplan. Essentially the Giants were outcoached, especially since they fell victim to many of Boomers fakes and interesting first half calls. Reeves showed confidence in Brown and had passes called for first down. Yet our big criticism is that the Giants did not do anything to throw the Cardinals off balance, nor did they go long early to open up the coverage. Going long early has not been in the gameplan much all year. We are also suprised that Reeves has seemingly shelved his gadget plays, I think we could have used one early in this game. Dan needs to find out why Cards knew the Giant offensive and defensive schemes so well. I’d also like to know how the Cards knew Browns audibles. Well we’re playing out the string folks.

Nov 151996

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals, November 17, 1996: What a difference a week makes in the NFL! Two weeks ago, many were using the words “Giants” and “playoffs” in the same breath. On the other hand, the Cardinals looked like one of the worst teams in the NFL. Now the Giants’ win over the Cards a couple of weeks ago seems like ages ago. But don’t be too depressed Giant fans! The Giants are right where most of us expected them to be. They are a 4-6 squad which looks like they will finish the year at 6-10. One game difference over last year’s 5-11 record may not sound like improvement, but the Giants have gotten better and younger. There is improved play at almost every position this year, most noticeably at linebacker, in the secondary, and at wide receiver. The young offensive line has taken its bumps and bruises but it is getting better. The Giants have the best fullback in the league. Plus, some of their very best players are on injured reserve (Jamal Duff and Amani Toomer). The last six games are important because they will set the tone for next year. They are also extremely important for QB Dave Brown.

Giants on Offense: Too often this year (and last year for that matter), the Giants have taken a lead into the second half only to see the game slip away. Most of the time, it has been inept offense that is largely to blame. Dave Brown showed us a lot last week. He made good reads and got rid of the ball quickly. We see real improvement. However, the true mark of any quarterback is how many games he wins. Of course, Dave’s WR’s have to help him out. There have been too many dropped and tipped balls this year by Thomas Lewis, Chris Calloway, and Howard Cross. What also is hurting the Giants is that their receivers are not fighting for the ball — too many times the defensive back has outhustled or outmuscled the Giants’ wide receivers. This has got to change. It really is unfortunate that the Giants have lost Amani Toomer because we think he would have been a real factor in the second half of this season. It will be interesting to see if rookie free agent Kevin Alexander gets a chance to play this week. Several Giants have recently raved about his quickness and speed, likening many of his moves to Barry Sanders. What hurt Alexander in the draft was his mediocre hands. What the Giants do need to do over the next six games is start answering some questions at the tight end/H-Back position. We like Howard Cross, but he is not the same player he was two years ago in the receiving department. An NFL team severely disadvantages itself if it doesn’t have a receiving threat at TE — a good receiving tight end forces the safeties to play the WHOLE playing field — they can’t cheat and help out the CB’s as much as they would like to outside the hashmarks. Don’t get us wrong, a quality blocking tight end is worth his weight in gold, but that blocking tight end has to be somewhat of a factor in the passing game. For whatever reason, Howard Cross isn’t. Thus, we’d start Brian Saxton over the last six games. Along the same lines, Aaron Pierce is a decent player, but when he is in the contest, Charles Way comes out. Charles Way should never be taken out of the game because he is one of the Giants’ very best players. It might be more prudent of the Giants to abandon the H-Back formation and put Pierce at tight end. While a switch of this magnitude would have to largely be implemented next year during training camp, the Giants could get started this season, since nothing is at stake now. One major switch need not take until training camp and that is the changing of the guard at halfback. Enough is enough. Rodney Hampton is a quality individual and the best RB in Giants’ history, but he is not getting it done at RB. In our opinion, his new role on the team should be a short yardage back, 3rd down back, and back-up halfback. The main man HAS to be Tyrone Wheatley. What point does running Hampton serve when the Giants are 4-6. Give Wheatley the ball 25-30 times a game. We guarantee he will have over 100 yards! The more he runs, the better he will become and not just from play-to-play, but from game-to-game. Remarkably, he has been run so few times by the Giants that he is still not comfortable with his linemen. Lastly, what to do with the offensive line? Since the Giants inserted OG Lance Smith into the line-up, the Giants’ offense has improved markedly. Coincidence? Probably not. However, the 33 year old Smith is not the future at left guard. The future is Rob Zatechka, Scott Davis, Roman Oben, or some soon-to-be-drafted young lineman. We feel that is important that the Giants start to work the 25 year old Zatechka or the 26 year old Davis into the line-up some over the last six games. For some reason, teams have been able to run on the Cards this year. The Cards’ defense is filled with talented players: DT Eric Swann, DT Michael Bankston, DE Simeon Rice, MLB Eric Hill, OLB Jamir Miller, OLB Seth Joyner, and CB Aeneas Williams. Thus, they are a dangerous team; Head Coach Bill Tobin knows what he is doing. As we watched the Skins-Cards game last weekend, we noticed the Skins had great success running at Rice. We recommend the Giants do the same.

Giants on Defense: This unit did not play well against Carolina, but it has played remarkably well this season. The biggest surprise has been the play of the linebackers. Corey Widmer is improving and Jessie Armstead is becoming one of the better weakside LB’s in the league. The fact that Michael Croel started over Armstead last year was a joke. If one player has disappointed us it has been Corey Miller. Granted, Miller has been given the unceremonious task of taking on blockers so others can make the play, but his lack of speed and quickness has hurt the Giants’ defense this year. The Giants’ can afford one plodding LB (Widmer), but not two (Miller) in a 4-3 defense. Up front, the Giants have one really good player (Strahan) and a bunch of ordinary guys. Bratzke is a nice story and has been making more plays — but he is not the athlete Cedric Jones is. Jones should start receiving more serious playing time. The Giants have been putting some pressure on opposing QB’s with these four, but it has not resulted in enough sacks. Defensive Line Coach Earl Leggett says DT Robert Jones is the most physically-talented lineman he has ever been around (and that includes guys like Howie Long), but when is all this talent going to demonstrate itself on the playing field? Both Jones and Keith Hamilton are better-than-average DT’s, but the Giants do need a “force” in the middle. In the secondary, Sehorn has simply amazed us with his play this year; we hope it continues. Sparks is Pro Bowl material and Hamilton and Randolph provide enviable depth. The Giants are also set at free safety with Tito Wooten (who played what we thought was his best game last week) and Percy Ellsworth. At strong safety, Jesse Campbell is solid, but we would like to see the more athletic Rodney Young to be given some playing time. Don’t be fooled by the Cards-Giants game from a couple of weeks ago, the Cards can be explosive on offense. We watched the Cards’ running and passing game tear through the Skins’ defense last week. LeShon Johnson is the type of running back that can play crappy one week and then dominate a game the next. The Giants must, absolutely must, shut him down first and foremost. FB Larry Centers is the Cards’ version of David Meggett and we would keep Armstead and/or Wooten on him all day long. QB Boomer Esiaison played one of the more impressive games we have seen a QB play last week. The key to his success however, was the lack of a pass rush evinced by the Skins. The Giants must do a better job of rushing the passer with their front four this week. In particular, Strahan and Cedric Jones have to step up their games.

Special Teams: Not only is Thomas Lewis not getting it done as a punt returner, but we would rather not see our starting WR returning punts in the first place. We sincerely hope that Kevin Alexander is given a chance this week to do so. We didn’t think Conrad Hamilton did a bad job returning kick-offs last week, but we can’t imagine that Gary Downs would be good at doing so. We’d rather not have Ty Wheatley returning kicks, but he’s the best the Giants have right now. Kick coverage was pathetic last week as was Daluiso’s kick-offs. We would seriously consider waiving him if he falters over the next few weeks; Olindo Mare is still on the practice squad and he can boom kick-offs.

Outlook: Obviously, we hope the Giants win, but as you can tell from our review, we’re now looking more at improvement than match-ups. The Giants should win this game. The Cards are coming off a physical, emotional overtime game against the Skins and the Giants are coming off of a tough loss and are looking to redeem themselves. The big wild card is the play of Cards’ offensive line. If the line provides Esiaison with enough time and LeShon Johnson with enough running room (like they did against the Skins), then the Giants will be in trouble. However, if their line reverts back to the form of a couple of weeks ago, then the Giants will win. It will be interesting to see how the Giants respond now that they know they are out of the playoff picture. Regardless, let’s get to 5-6! Giants 26 – Cards 13.

Nov 131996
Carolina Panthers 27 – New York Giants 17

Overview: The first half of the game couldn’t have gone much better for the Giants. The offense moved the ball early on as Dave Brown led the Giants to two quick early TD’s. Remarkably, the offensive line and running backs did a superb job picking up the Carolina pass rush and Dave Brown was as accurate as we’ve ever seen him. The Giants were setting the tempo for the game and keeping the crowd relatively quiet. If there were any warning signs, it was that the Giants’ defense wasn’t doing a particularly good job in shutting down the Panthers’ offensive attack. What the Giants did do was lose yet another game in which they led, and lose another close game in the 4th quarter, just like game against the Bills and the one against the Eagles. Two costly second half turnovers and poor defense on an early 4th quarter, 9-play, 64 yard drive by the Panthers turned this game around for Carolina.

Quarterback: Dave was “on” in the first half and made a number of excellent passes to both Thomas Lewis and Chris Calloway. Where Dave really impressed us was his recognition of the defense and his quick decision making. He didn’t hold onto the ball (which no QB can afford to do against Carolina). He dropped, made his read, and fired the football. This is real improvement on the part of Brown. Trailing by 0-7 after Carolina’s opening drive, faced with an intimidating defense and hostile home crowd, we expected the Giants’ offense to go in the tank right then and there. But what did the Giants do but march down the field and tie the game. On the first play, Dave’s primary receiver, Brian Saxton was covered and he smartly threw the ball away. On second down, his downfield receivers were covered and he hit Howard Cross as an outlet receiver — a play which picked up a first down. On the next play, Dave threw a nice deep out pass to Lewis. Two plays later, he hit Calloway on an inside route. On third-and-goal from the nine, he threw a TD strike to Calloway. All these passes were right on the money; and most importantly, as we said, Dave got rid of the ball quickly. On Dave’s next drive, with the Panthers now more wary about defending the pass, the Giants hurt Carolina by a couple of impressive Hampton runs. Then the Giants came right back and passed on first down when Brown threw his best pass of the night — a deep crossing pattern to a well covered Calloway. Two plays later, Brown burned the Carolina blitz by pump faking and hit Lewis for a TD with out-and-go route. The Giants had Carolina’s defense on its heels. The Panther defenders didn’t know what was coming — the run or the pass. On his third drive, Dave was hampered by poor field position and a delay of game penalty and the Giants were forced to punt. On his fourth drive, Dave stood in tall against the pass rush and threw a 17-yard beauty to Calloway on 3rd-and-7. After two Hampton runs, with the Giants at about mid-field with five minutes left in the half, Brown tossed yet another perfect pass to Calloway on a slant on 3rd-and-5, but Calloway dropped the ball. That was the Giants’ last meaningful possession of the first half and Brown played as well as we have ever seen him. At the start of the second half, the Giants and Dave picked up where they left off. Dave hit Lewis on a deep out and then came back to him on a naked bootleg. He then made a good play by hitting Calloway inside the ten with a Carolina blitzer bearing down in on him. However, on Dave’s next two passing plays, the rush was too much and Dave was forced to throw the ball away and the Giants had to settle for a field goal. On the first play of the Giants’ next drive, Dave slightly overthrew Calloway, the ball was tipped and intercepted. Indeed, this was the turning point of the ball game, yet Brown’s pass wasn’t off more than a few inches. After this, the rush seemed to bother Dave more and more and you could feel the momentum switch in the game. Brown tried to rally the Giants late in the 4th quarter. He made a good throw on a crossing route to Dawsey on 4th-and-5 that picked up big yardage and he then came back with a nice deep pass to Calloway (which Calloway could not bring in). However, Brown and his receivers were not as sharp as they were early in the game, and two more interceptions were the result in the final two drives. On both interceptions, we didn’t think Brown threw particularly good passes, but we also thought that his two receivers (Dawsey and Lewis) did not do a good job in fighting for the ball.

Offensive Line: In the first half, we were asking, “Who are these impostors?” Granted, the Giants were often throwing on a quick count (another smart move), but the line did an excellent job in protecting Brown and opening up holes for the running game in the first half. Remember, Carolina is one of the very best defenses in all of football. In particular, kudos must be given out to tackles Greg Bishop and Scott Gragg for their work during the entire game. We also saw OC Brian Williams effectively engaging the always tough MLB Sam Mills on a number of occasions. In the first half, Dave wasn’t sacked and only really knocked to the ground hard once. There were no penalties and Hampton had some of the best holes he has had in some time. In the second half, things began to come apart a little bit more. Really it was a matter of Panthers’ Head Coach Don Capers adjusting his blitz schemes to confuse the Giants more. The result was that Brown had less time to throw and was being pounded more. Two costly penalties on Lance Smith and Greg Bishop set the Giants back on their second drive of the second half — right before Hampton’s fumble. Nevertheless, the line didn’t lose this game and played remarkably well. In fact, this probably was their best game.

Running Backs: What really caught our eye in the first half was the blitz pick-ups on the part of Hampton and Elias. Twice we saw Hampton save Brown just in the nick of time with aggressive blocks on the blitzer that stopped him in his tracks. Hampton’s size and smarts make him the perfect back to perform this task. Elias, on the other hand, doesn’t have a lot of size and he has made a ton of mental errors on blitz pick-ups this season, but his block allowed Brown to hit Calloway for a TD on the Giants’ first drive. On this play, Elias, once again, almost failed to see the blitzer, but got just a piece of his man and was largely responsible for the success of the play. Charles Way was again a major factor in the running game with his run blocking. Hampton ran with a little more vigor than we’ve seen him this year and had a few nice runs between the tackles against Carolina in the first half. However, his fumble on the second drive of the second half was a killer and led directly to three points. Hampton also missed the block on Sam Mills’ blitz that led to the Panthers’ only sack of the game. While the Panther defenders made a great play on the screen pass to Elias right after this sack, we thought his impatience as a runner allowed the play to be tackled short of the first down. He needed to allow his blockers to make their blocks instead of riding right up their backs.

Wide Receivers: A strong game in the first half against a couple of tough CB’s for Calloway and Lewis, but Calloway’s drop of Brown’s pass on 3rd-and-5 was costly. It is very obvious that Brown is becoming more and more comfortable throwing to Lewis and with Lewis’ own confidence starting to rise, he’s beginning to look for making bigger plays after the catch, rather than meekly running out-of-bounds. However, we thought the Giants’ WR’s were guilty of not fighting strongly enough for the ball in the second half and this cost the Giants bigtime. We thought Calloway should have caught Brown’s deep pass near the goalline near the end of the game. We also didn’t like the fact that Dawsey didn’t come back to help out Brown on Brown’s second interception and that Lewis didn’t fight for the ball more on Brown’s last pass of the game that resulted in yet another interception. In football, the tie goes to the offensive player and we thought Lewis could have tied the ball up with the safety; however, once he was on the ground, he just let go of the ball — a BIG no, no. NFL quarterbacks have to make plays, but so do NFL wide receivers.

Tight Ends/H-Backs: Not much of a factor as pass receivers, though Cross made an aggressive run after a short catch from Brown on the Giants’ first drive. His second and last catch didn’t come until the 4th quarter. The ensuing 3rd-and-short pass was also intended for Cross, but the ball was tipped by the defender and Cross couldn’t come up with the deflection. It was interesting that the Giants’ first pass attempt was in Brian Saxton’s direction. We would have liked to see him used more.

Defensive Line: Not a strong game for the defense all around. Early in the game, the Panthers were getting good yardage running the ball both inside and outside the tackles. In particular, DE Chad Bratzke, DT Keith Hamilton, and OLB Jessie Armstead were having problems with the left side running game. On one play, we saw a Panther RB knock Bratzke to the ground — that can’t happen! We also expected a stronger pass rush from the front four, but the Panthers’ offensive coordinator was doing a great job of confusing the Giant defenders. Bratzke did make a nice backside pursuit play on a run in the 2nd quarter and he and Strahan did force Collins to throw the ball away on the same drive, but these guys didn’t do enough. The Giant tackles were quiet for almost the entire game, though we thought Ray Agnew played his strongest game of the year. Cedric Jones and Bernard Holsey played some but didn’t make an impact.

Linebackers: The worst game these guys have had in a while. Jessie Armstead made a great read and intercepted the ball on a Panthers’ screen pass to save at least 3 points right before halftime, but that was largely it. Armstead, Widmer, Miller, and Buckley were just not that effective in defending the running game, though they did improve in the second half. What also amazed us, and we don’t know if this was game plan design or failed execution, but the Giants were not putting a big body on TE Wesley Walls and jamming him at the line of scrimmage. Time after time, Walls was allowed to quickly get into his route and he burned the Giants repeatedly. Carolina also did a good job of attacking the Giants’ LB’s greatest weakness — and that is defending the short pass outside the hash marks; Widmer and Miller simply could not react quickly enough to defend the swing pass. What’s worse, Miller slowed up on a TD scoring play where he should have knocked the Carolina RB out of bounds before he got to the endzone (Jesse Campbell was guilty here too). We were most disappointed in the play of Miller. This was his big homecoming, yet he was largely invisible.

Defensive Backs: Not a good game here either. Jason Sehorn blew his contain responsibilities on Ismail’s TD reverse and Phillippi Sparks missed the TD-saving tackle on the play. Sparks also didn’t play as aggressively as he usually does and was beaten on a short 3rd-down pickup on a quick slant in the 2nd quarter and one later in the 4th quarter in the same situation — in such short yardage situations, we feel the CB has to jam the WR. The worst of the bunch was Thomas Randolph. For some reason, Ismail kills Randolph (remember last year’s Raider game?). Randolph was burned on a Giants’ blitz by Ismail for a big gain in the first half. Randolph’s first mistake was playing too far off of Ismail. His second mistake was not making the tackle and allowing Ismail to pick up significant yardage after the catch. Later in the half, Randolph was flagged for a very flagrant 33-yard pass interference penalty when Randolph didn’t turn around to look for the ball. How many times does Randolph have to get burned doing this before he learns that he has to look back for the ball? The good news was that FS Tito Wooten made a great read on the Panthers’ flea flicker and almost made an incredible interception. That’s the kind of patience and maturity the Giants have been looking for in Wooten. Jesse Campbell had a VERY strong game in run support. He had trouble covering Walls, however, and made an incredibly stupid late hit in the 3rd quarter by hitting the RB out of bounds. The pass interference call on him in the endzone was bullsh*t. Sehorn made an outstanding tackle on a 3rd-down sweep to his side in the 3rd quarter.

Special Teams: Not good. Brad Daluiso was horrible on kick-offs and the kick-return coverage units were not that effective. Mike Horan boomed his first punt, but it was right down the middle of the field again. Only a good open field tackle on the part of Sehorn saved a big return. Lewis didn’t do much returning punts, but Conrad Hamilton improved as a kick returner as the game wore on.

Coaching: Outstanding in the early going offensively. Reeves did a good job allowing Brown to throw on a quick count and allowing Brown to pass early on 1st down. Defensively, we’re not sure we would have used as much zone blitzing as the Giants did since Carolina is used to seeing it in practice. Plus, it wasn’t working. Once again, the opposing coach made great adjustments at halftime, yet the Giants didn’t seem to adjust once the game started to turn on them. Where were the screens and passes to the RB’s that would have burned some of the blitzes? Defensively, why didn’t the Giants adjust by jamming Wesley Walls at the line of scrimmage?

Nov 081996

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Carolina Panthers, November 10, 1996: Simply put, the Giants’ offense does not match-up well at all with Carolina’s defense and we expect this mismatch to dictate the outcome of the game.

Giants on Offense: Talk about a nightmare! The Panthers lead the NFL in sacks with 32, the Giants are second worst in the NFL in giving up sacks with 32. The strength of the Carolina pass rush is their outside 3-4 linebackers (Lamar Lathon with and Kevin Greene) and the weakness of the Giants’ line is the pass-blocking of their outside tackles (Greg Bishop and Scott Gragg). To make matters even worse, the Giants’ WR’s (Thomas Lewis and Chris Calloway) have trouble with CB’s that play tight man-to-man defense and bump them at the line of scrimmage and that’s exactly the style of play of the Panthers’ CB’s (Eric Davis and Tyrone Poole — guys who have done a number on Jerry Rice of all receivers). Thus, the Panthers’ game plan will be VERY simple — stuff the run on first and second down, and get after Dave Brown (or Kanell if Brown is knocked out) on 3rd down. The Giants’ tackles won’t be able to handle the two outside rushers and the Giants’ receivers won’t be able to get open. If the Giants have ANY hope of winning, Dan Reeves and George Nolan will have to come up with a great game plan and the WR’s and OT’s will have to play better than they have played all year. Ideally, the Giants should pass in obvious run situations and run in obvious pass situations in order to keep Carolina off balance. The Giants also need to get their TE’s (Cross and Saxton) and RB’s (Hampton and Way) more involved in the passing game. If Greene and Lathon have one weakness it is their pass coverage. The Giants will also face Dom Caper’s very confusing “zone blitz” schemes where DB’s sometimes blitz and DL’s sometimes drop into coverage. Dave Brown has got to do a better job in reading these complicated schemes and the Giants’ interior line has to do a better job of communicating on who will pick up which blitzer. If the Giants can’t dominate the game with the running game (remember, Wheatley is out), then the Giants don’t have a chance.

Giants on Defense: To win, the Giants’ defense might not only have to post a shutout, but they might have to score as well. At the very least, turnovers that create good field position for the offense are a necessity. Our biggest worry is that all the great press the Giants’ defense has been receiving lately will go to their collective heads. Carolina doesn’t have a strong offense and that’s what worries us. Overconfidence could be the Giants undoing on Sunday night. Most of the component parts of the Carolina offense are quite average (the receivers, the line, the starting RB’s, and the QB’s). However, the Panthers have some very dangerous players on offense: Wesley Walls is an outstanding TE (and QB Kerry Collins’ main security blanket), rookie WR Muhsin Muhammad is very talented, and rookie 3rd-down back Winslow Oliver is explosive (he’s a guy we were really interested in during the Draft this year). This is Carolina’s first trip to “primetime” and we expect their players and their fans to be fired up. If the Giants’ defenders aren’t ready to play, one or two TD’s by the Panthers (or even fieldgoals) might be enough to win the game for them.

Special Teams: Danger lurks here as well. Michael Bates leads the NFL in kick return yardage and is very dangerous. Winslow Oliver is an equally dangerous punt returner. P Mike Horan is slumping, PK Brad Daluiso is still a head case, the Giants’ punt return game went south when Toomer was lost for the year, and now their best kick returner (Wheatley) is out. The Giants’ coverage units need to be at their very best on Sunday night.

Outlook: This game scares us more than the Giants-Dallas rematch. We don’t think the Giants have any possible chance of beating the Panthers on Sunday. Their defense versus our offense, their first “primetime” appearance in their history, and the fact that they are 4-0 at home this year does not bold well at all. Carolina 31 – Giants 3.

Nov 061996
New York Giants 16 – Arizona Cardinals 8

by Colin L.

Offense: Another functional day for the offensive unit; just 16 points but 34 minutes of clock time and no turnovers was enough to bury the Cardinals.

Quarterback: No doubt the opening shots of what should be a worthwhile quarterback controversy. Danny Kanell got his baptism of fire and did not look out of place. He put up respectable numbers: 13/21 after a 1/6 for -3 yards start. More importantly he looked really in control, changing plays at the line of scrimmage and staying cool in the pocket. He appears somewhat more mobile than Brown and he also appeared to have a quicker release particularly when the pocket was breaking down; he also displayed a little of that Marino-like ability to side-step out of the way of the rush when in the pocket. The negative is that like Brown he does not appear to have a super-strong arm. He threw a couple of real quackers, one to Calloway on a crossing route that was well behind the receiver and was tipped in the air and easily could have been picked off, and the other a terrible cross field out that the CB had in his hands going the other way but dropped. All in all though the kind of performance that most of the faithful were praying for.

Running Backs: Rodney Hampton chipped in with his best game of the season. Rather than just running into the pile, he was getting just enough slide at the line of scrimmage to get into the creases so he could use his size and strength to bull for decent yardage on almost every rush. Also had a good day catching passes out of the backfield; still no TDs in 1996 though. Charles Way had a sensational day lead-blocking. He and Wheatley also did a nice job picking up blitzes – because Kanell was in the Giants used a lot of regular sets on third down and the extra time paid off.

Wide Receivers: Thomas Lewis had another solid day with 7 catches and the lone touchdown. Calloway with just one catch and a bad drop was ineffective as a receiver although he did had a very good day blocking for the run. After Pierce went down the TEs (Cross and Saxton) mostly blocked and blocked. Cross, though, almost caused a disaster when he fumbled fighting for extra yardage (after making the first down) but the Giants recovered.

Offensive Line: This unit continues to improve. For the third week in a row there were only 2 sacks, about half the weekly average in the first part of the season. As well, Kanell had decent time to set up, look for secondary receivers, and deliver the ball most of the afternoon. More importantly for the first time this season the line as a whole was able to push the point of attack that step across the line of scrimmage which was allowing Hampton to slide into the creases (see above). On top of all that I don’t recall a hold or procedure penalty.

Defense: More of the same, though the prevent at the end made things a little tighter than they needed to be!

Defensive Line: Buried the Cards running game all afternoon especially on third down. Bratzke had the best game of his career with a sack and two other big plays for losses. Strahan also made nice read on direct snap to Centers on a key 3rd and 3 late in the game. Still not much of a pass rush, though Strahan got close enough to make Esiason’s life uncomfortable on several occasions.

Linebackers: Pretty much the same story with these guys. Armstead was all over with 9 tackles and a sack. Widmer was big helping stuff those 3rd and 1 runs. Miller had a tip and was right there on Bratzke’s sack but had zero tackles. Buckley tipped pass on Campbell’s second interception.

Defensive Backs: These guys are really having fun out there. Campbell had the two picks; Randolph did not appear to ever be thrown at which presumes he had his man blanketed, Hamilton had his guy well-covered whenever the Cards threw in his direction; Ellsworth separated receivers from passes on several occasions and Wooten, Sehorn and Campbell all had big stops on running plays. The Giants can now put out a dime of Sparks, Sehorn, Randolph, Hamilton, Wooten and Ellsworth that should be able to cover about as well as any group in club history.

Special Teams: Horan, who during the week was called the team MVP by one paper, was not. He had a couple of shanks and his good kicks had little height which allowed for several long returns. Daluiso though was excellent hitting 3 for 3 including one in the 40-yard range and booming his kick-offs. Return game was not existent. Lewis fair caught just about every punt except a poocher that he got creamed on.

Notes: The Giants (4-5) are chasing the final the final Wild Card spot in the NFC along with three teams (Dallas, Carolina, and Minnesota) at 5-4 and two (Detroit and Chicago) at 4-5. Of these teams the Giants actually have the 2nd easiest remaining schedule; Giants’ opponents have a .508 record. Carolina has the easiest remaining schedule at .460 (which makes this week’s game all the more critical) including games with Tampa Bay (h), St. Louis (a) and Baltimore (h). If Dallas is to make the playoffs they will have to earn it. Their remaining opponents have a .667 record including San Fran (a), Green Bay (h), and 2 with Washington. The strength of schedules of the other teams are Minnesota .523; Chicago .540 and Detroit .635. Also as a result of the recent wins the Giants would draft 14th if the draft were held today!

Nov 011996

Approach to the Game – Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants, November 3, 1996: We have to laugh. Every time the Giants win a game, the press and some of the fans start talking about playoff possibilities. Let’s get real. The Giants have a losing record with only half the season remaining and they are 0-4 in their own division. At the very least, the Giants would probably have to go 6-2 the rest of the year even to have an outside chance of earning a Wild Card at 9-7. It ain’t going to happen folks. Regardless, this game against the Cards is big for other reasons. In their first four games the Giants went 1-3. In their next four games, the Giants went 2-2. In their last five games, the Giants have gone 3-2. Slowly but surely, the Giants are starting to build some momentum and some confidence. A loss against the Cards could erase much of what has been gained over the last six weeks (bye week included). The Cards were embarrassed by the Jets last week and will be looking to redeem themselves. We expect the Cardinals to play very well against the Giants on Sunday because of this. Make no mistake about it, the Cards are not that bad of a football team. Plus, the Giants are still missing a number of their key weapons in DT Keith Hamilton, CB Phillippi Sparks, and WR Amani Toomer. Cardinal QB Kent Graham, a former Giant, will be more than motivated to play well in order to show up the man who cut him, Dan Reeves. We look for a real war in the Meadowlands on Sunday.

Giants on Offense: OK, this unit has risen from the dead to passable in the last six quarters of football. Can they keep it up? Once again, the onus will be on Dave Brown. Dave, you’ve played reasonably well for a game and a half. Are you going to keep it up or revert back to your inconsistent ways? Will the head coach keep allowing you to win games rather than to lose them? A lot of questions will be answered on Sunday. Dave and Dan have proven nothing to us yet. Dave needs to keep improving and Dan needs to keep allowing Dave the freedom to do so. Once again, we argue for the plays that we think will help the Giants the most: slants, screens, bootlegs to the FB, and the seam pass to the TE/H-Back. Thomas Lewis and Chris Calloway have played well the last couple of games as well, but greater consistency is needed. There have been just too many dropped balls this year. The Giants also need Lawrence Dawsey or Omar Douglas (with Toomer out) to step it up. The Cards have one of the very best CB’s in the game in Aeneas Williams, but the rest of their secondary isn’t as strong. Howard Cross has disappeared completely from the offense. If the Giants don’t have confidence in him or he can’t get open, it’s time to work Brian Saxton into the line-up. The Giants have had good success in recent years of burning the Cards with passes to the tight end. The offensive line is steadily improving, but they face a real nightmare this week in the form of Eric Swann, Simeon Rice, Michael Bankston, Eric Hill, and Seth Joyner. The keys will be Greg Bishop versus Rice and Swann and Bankston versus the interior trio of Lance Smith, Brian Williams, and Ron Stone. The Jets ran the ball up and down on the Cards last week and we look for the Cards to come back strong this week. We would like to see Wheatley receive some serious playing time. We’d also like to see more opportunities for Charles Way to catch and carry the ball. It’s time for the Giants to get their running game going.

Giants on Defense: The Cards have some very dangerous weapons on offense. We don’t like going into a game with Sparks and Hamilton out of the line-up. The Giants got by last week, but how long can they keep up the solid play while missing two of their key components? The Cards don’t have a strong offensive line, but it is better than it has been in recent years with the addition of Lomas Brown at left tackle. Chad Bratzke and Cedric Jones will have their hands full with him. Up front, it all starts with stopping the run. HB LeShon Johnson has been up-and-down. At times, he looks like a spectacular game-breaker, at other times, quite ordinary. The Giants need to keep him and reserve Leeland McElroy, who hasn’t been used much this year, under wraps. One of the Cards most talented players and a guy who regularly kills the G-Men is FB Larry Centers. Centers can do it all: run, pass, and throw. We’d keep Jessie Armstead and/or Tito Wooten on him all day. The Cards also have a decent WR corps with the likes of Rob Moore, Frank Sanders (who has also given the Giants problems), and Anthony Edwards. Then there is Kent Graham, the former Giant looking to embarrass his former coach, Dan Reeves, the guy who cut him. Which Kent Graham will show up? The fiery, leader who can burn teams with his strong arm or the quarterback who couldn’t hit the broad-side of a barn? The answer to this question will probably determine who wins this game. What we are sure of is that the secondary rotation of Sehorn, Randolph, Hamilton, Campbell, Wooten, and Ellsworth will have to do a good job on the WR’s and the guys up front need to get in Graham’s face to rattle him. Randolph, in particular, needs to step it up. Stuff the run, keep an eye on Centers, and get after the passer.

Special Teams: We called for a blocked punt last week and we thank Tito Wooten for providing it. This week we’d like to see the Giants return a kick or punt for a TD — is that asking too much?(grin) The special teams for the Giants have had a strange year. The coverage units, for the most part, have been very solid, but they continue to give up one big return per game. This has got to stop. Leeland McElroy returned a kick for 92 yards last week — the Giants need to keep him under wraps. Brad Daluiso can’t hit a field goal from over 40 yards out and this is going to cost the Giants big time soon.

Outlook: If the game isn’t on in our area and we miss it, we know the Giants will win. They are 3-0 when we miss them, 0-5 when we watch them. Semi-seriously, this game is going to be a real war. The Cards are coming off of an embarrassing loss and Kent Graham has something to prove. Having a kicker with a mental block doesn’t help. These young Giants still haven’t learned to keep the ship at an even keel week-in and week-out. Cards 13 – Giants 10.