New England Patriots 16 – New York Giants 14
Overview: The Patriots were ripe for the taking and the Giants blew it. The defense and most of the special teams played well enough to win, but once again, as was so often the case in 1998, the offense let the Giants down. So did Brad Daluiso.
The Giants are now 0-6-1 in their past seven prime-time TV appearances.
Quarterback: QB Kent Graham was far too inconsistent. He started off sharply, hitting on all five of pass attempts as the Giants marched down the field and scored on their opening drive. For the rest of the half, he was OK and many of the offensive problems resulted from an inability to run the ball. However, in the second half, Graham’s accuracy was off. He seemed unwilling to fire the ball to wide receivers who were barely open but they were open. Kent overthrew David Patten on a fly pattern that might have resulted in a touchdown and he threw late to Pete Mitchell on a play that would have resulted in a score. Most frustrating was that Graham often decided to take off an run with the ball in situations where he would have been better advised to keep his eyes focused down field. On the positive side, Kent finished strongly against a prevent defense. He didn’t turn the ball over either. Graham completed 23 of 36 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns.
Offensive Line This unit plays “soft”. The antithesis of Giants’ offensive lines that we are accustomed to, the line of Oben, Petitgout, Williams, Stone, and Gragg play more of a finesse game than a smash mouth game. They do alright in pass protection, but struggle to get movement in their run blocks. Is this due to the personnel, the style of offense, technique, coaching, or a combination of all? I don’t know. But unless the line starts moving defenders off the line of scrimmage, the running game will struggle and so will the entire offense. No one played terrible on the line, but no one played well either. There were only two penalties, but one was a costly false start by Ron Stone on 4th-and-1. Stone and OC Brian Williams also did not get low enough on the quarterback sneak on another 4th-and-1 attempt (a quarterback sneak) that was stuffed. Stone and Williams are the best run blockers on the team and if you can’t pick up one yard on a sneak behind those two, then you don’t deserve to win. Williams also struggled at times at getting a hat on MLB Andy Katzenmoyer. RT Scott Gragg was fairly solid, but he did get beat to the inside on one pass rush that I spotted. LT Roman Oben was fine in pass protection, but the Giants weren’t able to generate much movement on any left-side runs. On a positive note, after years and year of futility, it is nice to see the Giants are able to run a crediable screen pass. The blocking on such a play requires a great deal of coordination with the component parts and being able to execute this play should help the offense down the road a great deal.
Tight Ends: Why the hell are the Giants not using TE Pete Mitchell more? Everyone can see he is open most of the time. Is it Graham? Is it the play calling? Whatever the case, the Giants must get the ball more into his hands. Most linebackers simply cannot handle him. Mitchell picked up a key first down on the Giants’ first drive with a seven yard reception on 3rd-and-6. Pete got open deep in the end zone in the 4th quarter, but Graham threw the ball too late. Mitchell showed some power on the last scoring drive down near the goalline. TE Howard Cross did a nice job helping out Graham, who was about to be sacked, by leaving his blocking assignment and becoming a pass receiver.
Running Backs: The Giants are just not getting the job done on the ground. New York rushed for only 57 yards on 26 carries — a 2.2 yards-per-carry average. Aside from a couple of runs on the first drive in the 4th quarter (a short 3rd-and-2 conversion from FB Charles Way and a 9-yard right-side off-tackle run by LeShon Johnson), the Giants just were never able to string together two solid running plays back-to-back. The Patriot defenders were often too quick on outside runs, beating the pulling blockers to the point-of-attack. On inside runs, there wasn’t much daylight. LeShon lacks run vision/instincts and runs to a spot no matter who is there or not. What is ironic is that when he has the ball in his hands as a pass receiver (such as his nice looking screen reception), he suddenly develops vision and shows some moves. Charles Way threw a great block on LeShon’s aforementioned screen. Fassel tried to get the running game untracked by passing early and often and then going to Way in a one-back set. And although the first part of the strategy worked (the passing attack), Way and his blockers just couldn’t pick up any significant yardage. Ball security was an obvious concern with Johnson as I spotted him a couple of times running with both hands on the ball even before contact. Despite this, he came close to fumbling again. Tiki Barber made some nice plays in the passing game. In the first half, he got the Giants out of a big hole deep in their own territory on 3rd-and-very long by catching a Graham pass over the middle and sprinting for the first down. Tiki made three catches on the Giants’ final scoring drive. His hands were solid and he showed good field speed and intelligence in running out of bounds to stop the clock on two occasions. He also made the TD catch on 4th-and-goal.
Wide Receivers: This unit is improving as the young guys develop, but strangely some of the members of this unit remain vastly underutilized. Ike Hilliard had an up-and-down game. Surprisingly, he was able to make some plays early on against Pro Bowl CB Ty Law. But Ike also had a couple of drops, including one costly one on an underthrown sideline pass in the 4th quarter. Ike looks a lot sharper to me than he did last year and I think he is finally past the neck injury, but he has to make more game-breaking plays. However, to be fair to him and WR Amani Toomer, it looked to me that both of these guys were open at times but Graham wouldn’t pull the trigger. Amani Toomer looked real strong on a slant pass in the game and this is the type of play that should become a staple of the Giants’ offense. Toomer is big and strong and he should get open on this route against most corners in the league. I did spot Fassel talking to Toomer quite a bit on the sideline in a fashion that looked like Amani was making some errors. I have no idea why Joe Jurevicius is not being utilized/thrown to more. Is he still having problems running routes? Is it Graham? Is it the play calling? Whatever the case, he should be a greater part of this offense. Joe has the size/speed combo that should cause real match-up problems for defenses, but the ball just isn’t getting into his hands. For example, late in the game, the Giants decided to run a fade to David Patten (the ball was overthrown and fell incomplete). Patten should not be running a fade in the endzone due to his size. This is the kind of play that Jurevicius should be in there to run. David Patten showed some game-breaking speed on one deep go route where he blew by the defender on 3rd-and-long. Patten was open for six, but Graham missed him.
Defensive Line: I thought the best defensive lineman on the Giants was Cedric Jones on Sunday night. Jones was facing a quality opponent in LT Bruce Armstrong, yet Cedric held his own on most runs in his direction. His play against the run would have been even more decisive if his teammates were over there to clean up after he successfully took on the block at the point. On the pass rush, Cedric flashed on a play or two (I spotted him getting mugged by Armstrong on one play, but holding wasn’t called; he also smashed Bledsoe on one play that he wasn’t blocked on), but he wasn’t much of a factor in that aspect of the game. I did like his hustle chasing a receiver down field after a completed pass. Michael Strahan continues to remain a non-factor against questionable competition. He faced back-up Max Lane much of the night, but didn’t get to the quarterback. To be fair to Michael, Ben Coates did provide double-team support on some plays. Still, he has to step it up. Inside, the tackles did a decent job against the run, but aside from one Keith Hamilton sack, they also did not exert enough pressure. I expect more from Robert Harris and Keith Hamilton. They need to start making some plays in the backfield.
Linebackers: WLB Jessie Armstead was all over the place. Unlike last week, he successfully shot the gaps at the point and disrupted runs at him. He also made a very impressive play on the backside by chasing the ball carrier down from behind. Jessie clobbered Bledsoe on one blitz, but Bledsoe got the ball off. MLB Corey Widmer and SLB Ryan Phillips are not doing enough to help their team win. Widmer made a nice stop down on the goalline, but he and Phillips had too much problem disengaging from blocks on running plays. Widmer did defense a 3rd-and-goal pass to Ben Coates (along with Sam Garnes), but he has to make more plays against the run. Phillips seems a step slow on the blitz. While he is more stout than Buckley at the point, he too always seems engaged with a blocker.
Defensive Backs: Jason Sehorn’s return helped to settle down the defense. He is a presence in there and it was great to see him back on the field again. In the first half, he showed solid coverage and Drew Bledsoe was not able to throw in his direction. In the second half, Jason made the same fundamental flaw on three completions against him. On each of these plays, he played his man aggressively at the line of scrimmage by playing tight. This is where Jason is at his best. However, on each of these plays, for some inexplicable reason, against smaller opponents in each case, he did not jam his man. The result was that his man got off the line of scrimmage far too easily. The most damaging of these plays was a slant to Terry Glenn on the Pats’ final field goal drive. A slant depends so heavily on timing and if the corner can disrupt the route, the slant will not work. Jason should have gotten his hands on Glenn. If he had, the Patriots would have had to punt.
CB Phillippi Sparks got burned on a deep post to Glenn that set up the Pats’ sole touchdown of the night. Aside from that play, he was generally solid, but that play was a biggie. I thought the starting safeties played well against both the pass and the run. I’ve been hard on Percy Ellsworth because of his tackling, but his run support against New England was good. Sam Garnes was very active against the run and held his own against Ben Coates (although Coates got a couple against him). Shaun Williams had problems covering his man in the slot, including a 25-yard pass to WR Troy Brown on 3rd-and-8 on the Pats’ first field goal drive.
Special Teams: I’ve never had much confidence in Brad Daluiso in a tight game and obviously he did nothing to convince me otherwise on Sunday night. Arguably, Daluiso’s miss cost the Giants the game. Brad usually does well inside the 40 and outside the 50. But for some reason, every kick between the 40 and 50 is adventure. That is not acceptable. P Brad Maynard reverted to his disappointing preseason form. He had one monster punt, but most of his work was disappointing at best and hurt the Giants in the field position war. The good news was that kick and punt coverage was good. And for the second week in a row, so was the blocking on kick returns and the work of the returners of themselves. Tiki Barber got the ball once again out near mid-field. But it is David Patten who looks more and more confident as a kick returner. He’s looks ready to break one. Punt returns continue to be disappointing as the Giants simply cannot slow down the opposing gunners. Tiki Barber almost made a bone-head play by muffing a punt by bailing out at the last second.
Inactive for the Giants: CB Bashir Levingston, HB Joe Montgomery, HB Gary Brown, CB Conrad Hamilton, OG Mike Rosenthal, WR Brian Alford, and DT Ryan Hale.
1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL --- --- --- --- ----- NY GIANTS 7 0 0 7 14 NEW ENGLAND 0 7 6 3 16
NYG – TD, LESHON JOHNSON 6 YD PASS FROM KENT GRAHAM (BRAD DALUISO KICK), 7:12. Drive: 10 plays, 66 yards in 5:50. Key plays: Graham 27-yard pass to Hilliard to New England 30; Graham 7-yard pass to Mitchell on 3rd-and-6 to New England 19; Graham 1-yard run on 3rd-and-1 to New England 9; Graham 5-for-5 for 49 yards. NY GIANTS 7-0
NE – TD, TERRY ALLEN 1 YD RUN (ADAM VINATIERI KICK), 6:39. Drive: 6 plays, 64 yards in 3:32. Key plays: Bledsoe 11-yard pass to Jefferson on 3rd-and-4 to New York 47; Bledsoe 45-yard pass to Glenn to New York 2. NY GIANTS 7, NEW ENGLAND 7
NE – FG, ADAM VINATIERI 38 YD, 6:05. Drive: 9 plays, 45 yards in 4:48. Key plays: Bledsoe 9-yard pass to Jefferson to New England 44; Bledsoe 25-yard pass to Brown on 3rd-and-8 to New York 28; Bledsoe 7-yard pass to Glenn to New York 20; Bledsoe 4-for-5 for 40 yards. NEW ENGLAND 10-7
NE – FG, ADAM VINATIERI 19 YD, 13:28. Drive: 11 plays, 58 yards in 5:18. Key plays: Bledsoe 12-yard pass to Glenn to New York 47; Carter 9-yard run to New York 34; Bledsoe 14-yard pass to Coates to New York 20; Bledsoe 11-yard pass to Brown to New York 8; Bledsoe 3-for-4 for 37 yards. NEW ENGLAND 13-7
NE – FG, ADAM VINATIERI 41 YD, 11:48. Drive: 12 plays, 45 yards in 5:55. Key plays: Allen 10-yard run to New York 49; Bledsoe 18-yard pass to Glenn on 3rd-and-11 to New York 22. NEW ENGLAND 16-7
NYG – TD, TIKI BARBER 1 YD PASS FROM KENT GRAHAM (BRAD DALUISO KICK), 13:46. Drive: 12 plays, 70 yards in 1:58. Key plays: Graham 22-yard pass to Toomer to New England 48; Graham 12-yard pass to Barber to New England 36; Graham 7-yard pass to Barber to New England; Graham 14-yard pass to Mitchell on 3rd-and-5 to New York 4; Graham 7-for-11 for 67 yards. NEW ENGLAND 16-14
Giants Patriots -------- -------- FIRST DOWNS 19 17 Rushing 4 6 Passing 13 11 Penalty 2 0 3RD-DOWN EFFICIENCY 5-14 5-12 4H-DOWN EFFICIENCY 1-2 0-0 TOTAL NET YARDS 258 290 Total plays 63 58 Average gain 4.1 5.0 NET YARDS RUSHING 57 67 Rushes 26 29 Average per rush 2.2 2.3 NET YARDS PASSING 201 223 Completed-attempted 23-36 20-28 Yards per pass 5.4 7.7 Sacked-yards lost 1-15 1-10 Had intercepted 0 0 PUNTS-AVERAGE 5-36.4 4-41.0 RETURN YARDAGE 124 61 Punts-returns 0-0 2-18 Kickoffs-returns 5-124 3-43 Interceptions-returns 0-0 0-0 PENALTIES-YARDS 2-10 3-25 FUMBLES-LOST 0-0 0-0 TIME OF POSSESSION 29:19 30:41
Missed field goals: NY Giants (Brad Daluiso 41).
NY Giants rushing: Charles Way 8-23, Leshon Johnson 10-18, Kent Graham 6-12, Tiki Barber 1-3, Sean Bennet 1-1.
New England rushing: Terry Allen 20-50, Tony Carter 2-10, Lamont Warren 4-7, Drew Bledsoe 3-0.
NY Giants passing: Kent Graham 23-36 for 216 yards, 0 INT, 2 TD.
New England passing: Drew Bledsoe 20-28 for 233 yards, 0 INT, 0 TD.
NY Giants receiving: Amani Toomer 7-69, Tiki Barber 5-46, Ike Hilliard 4-47, Pete Mitchell 3-30, Leshon Johnson 2-7, Charles Way 1-11, Howard Cross 1-6.
New England receiving: Terry Glenn 5-95, Troy Brown 4-50, Shawn Jefferson 4-35, Ben Coates 3-33, Tony Carter 2-8, Lamont Warren 1-12, Terry Allen 1-0.
NY Giants tackles-assists-sacks (unofficial): Jessie Armstead 9-2-0, Sam Garnes 7-3-0, Cedric Jones 7-1-0, Ryan Phillips 5-2-0, Jason Sehorn 4-1-0, Phillippi Sparks 3-2-0, Corey Widmer 3-2-0, Percy Ellsworth 2-3-0, Shaun Williams 3-0-0, Keith Hamilton 2-0-1, Michael Strahan 0-2-0, Christian Peter 1-0-0, Marcus Buckley 0-1-0, Robert Harris 0-1-0, Bernard Holsey 0-1-0.
New England tackles-assists-sacks (unofficial): Lawyer Milloy 6-1-0, Chris Carter 3-4-0, Chris Slade 3-4-1, Willie Mcginest 2-5-0, Andy Katzenmoyer 6-0-0, Steve Israel 5-1-0, Ty Law 4-1-0, Chad Eaton 4-0-0, Tedy Bruschi 3-1-0, Brandon Mitchell 2-2-0, Henry Thomas 3-0-0, Larry Whigham 3-0-0, Ferric Collons 1-0-0, Sterling Palmer 1-0-0.
Fumbles lost: None.
Opponent’s fumbles recovered: None.
Officials: Referee-Walt Coleman, Umpire-Jeff Rice, Head Linesman-Dale Hamer, Line Judge-Mark Steinkerchner(84), Back Judge-Bob Lawing, Side Judge-Neely Dunn, Field Judge-Bob McGrath.
A: 59,169; T: 2:56.