Oct 291999
 

by Chris in Philly

Regular Season: Giants Lead Series 69-58-2
Post Season: Giants Lead Series 1-0

Giants vs. Eagles – on Halloween – at the Vet. The Giants would do well to take an early lead and take the costume-laden, drunken crowd out of it – even turn them against their own team, particularly the offense. I will be attending the game so I can provide a scouting report on life in Hell.

In all seriousness, this is a pivotal game for the Giants. A win puts them at 5-3, only half a game out of first place in the up-for-grabs NFC East, heading into the bye week. The Giants traditionally do poorly coming off a bye, and it doesn’t get easier against the explosive Indianapolis Colts. They can’t feel so good about their two recent victories that they look past a team that can beat them. LB Jessie Armstead said it best: “We’ve got to be hungry going to Philly. We’ve got to come out hungry and shut them down. We have to go into Philly with an attitude.We need that game badly.”

The Eagles on the other hand are coming off yet another close loss. A missed FG last week lost the game for the Eagles against Miami. They won the two games before that against Chicago and Dallas. They lost to the Giants by one point, and before that to the Cardinals on a fluke INT that bounced off Brian Finneran’s hands. They have lost 3 games by a total of five points. This is a team that can beat the Giants, regardless of how either team is playing. Giants-Eagles games are never easy and are often ugly. A convincing victory over a division opponent will do wonders to fully restore the teams’ confidence.

Defensive Scouting Report: Injuries are the story on the defensive side of the ball. S Shaun Williams, S Percy Ellsworth, and DT Robert Harris will miss the game. The Giants did receive good news of a sort Monday when Eagles coach Andy Reid announced that Doug Pederson (#14) would remain as his starting QB. Pederson had a terrible game last week (13-25, 108 yards, 1 INT, 0 TD) and he has yet to put together a solid game. He has been benched in 3 of 7 games thus far this season. Donovan McNabb (5) has been splitting work with Pederson in practice and we can expect to see him if/when Pederson struggles. McNabb has shown sparkling ability at times, but he does not seem ready to play against complicated defenses like the Giants’. He also may come in to run some short yardage option plays, much like Kordell Stewart’s first year in Pittsburgh.

Their offensive line is in a state of flux, with Reid shuffling players almost every week. LT Tra Thomas (72) is a solid player, but rumors persist that his mind is not in the game this year, and indeed his play has been at a lower level than his very strong rookie year. Regardless, RDE Cedric Jones will have his hands full trying to get to the QB. C Steve Everitt (61) is playing as well as he has since he’s been here. He’s a good player who has not been able to escape nagging injuries and some off the field troubles. LG Doug Brzezinski (74) is having a fine rookie campaign. RG and RT feature a never-ending rotation of busted draft picks and journey men. RG will be a combination of veterans David Diaz-Infante (63) and Jeff Dellenbach (66). Our old friend Lonnie Palalei (77) and former 1st-round pick Jermane Mayberry (71) rotate at RT. Michael Strahan, who has picked up his play after a slow start, should be able to dominate either RT that he lines up against. The interior of the line is also very vulnerable, even without Robert Harris. Keith Hamilton, George Williams, and Christian Peter have the ability to win the war of the line of scrimmage.

HB Duce Staley (22) is a fine player and he has the ability to make plays by himself. He has gotten much better at toughing out the extra yards and he does this without fumbling. FB Kevin Turner (34) returned last week after sitting out with a neck injury fine receiver out of the backfield, though he is clearly on the decline. Backup Cecil Martin (38), Ron Dayne’s blocking back the last three years, fills in capably. The Giants linebackers have played very well. Jessie Armstead, having a wonderful year, is feeling the effects of bruised ribs, but he says he’ll play. Corey Widmer and Ryan Phillips are also playing well, particularly against the run. And because of the depleted secondary, additional pressure will be on the front seven to get pressure on the QB and help take some heat off the cover guys.

The receiving corps should not scare the Giants. WR Charles Johnson (81) is a solid player, but Torrance Small (80) has far too many drops. Neither get separation from coverage. Dietrich Jells (83) is a scorcher who does have one long TD. He can get behind the defense and only Pederson’s lack of accuracy keeps him from scoring. Look for him to go deep a few times. Na Brown (85) is an adequate 4th receiver who has decent hands but not much speed. Former Jet Alex van Dyke (86) was recently signed, but doesn’t play much. TE Luther Broughton (88) had a big catch against the Giants and he continues to get open. Rookie Jed Weaver (87) gets in during two TE sets and has shown ability. Jamie Asher is out for the year. Jason Sehorn and Philippi Sparks both played fine games last week and there’s no reason they can’t shut down the Eagles’ top two guys. Obviously FS is a worry area, and the team signed Brandon Sanders to hold the fort. He’ll be called on to play quite a bit, possibly aided by Jeremy Lincoln who described his stint as FS last week as “scary”. They also brought up Tre Thomas from the practice squad. Unfortunately, Conrad Hamilton’s mysterious knee injury will keep him out again, though he does anticipate returning after the bye. Again, pressure by the defensive front will be the best help for this under-manned group.

Offensive Scouting Report: The Eagles defense, under new coordinator Jim Johnson, is playing very, very well. They have 19 takeaways (compared to the Giants’ 12) and have forced at least one in each game so far. They are fast and athletic with a couple Pro-Bowl caliber players capable of dominating play. Thankfully this defensive group is banged up as well. Hugh Douglas, who had 12 1/2 sacks last year, is out for the season with a knee injury. He is replaced by Mike Mamula (59), a player who is widely criticized as a stiff, but one who has a history of good games against the Giants. He is a very fast pass rusher and RT Scott Gragg can use this against him by pushing him back past the pocket (as we see done to Cedric Jones). The rest of the defensive line is a rotation featuring Greg Jefferson (79), Hollis Thomas (78), Steve Martin (91), and Brandon Whiting (98). Bill Johnson (94) is a good DT, but he has nagging injuries which may keep him out, or at least limit his playing time. The Giants offensive line, whether Luke Petitgout plays or not, should be able to open holes and provide much better protection for Kent Graham than they have in recent weeks.

The Eagles linebackers are an excellent group. They are led by veteran OLB William Thomas (51), a playmaker who is yet another Eagles that has a history of big games against the Giants. Surrounding Thomas are a group of very fast and athletic youngsters. Jeremiah Trotter (54) has been making plays all over the field and James Darling (57) has been stout against the run. Barry Gardner (52), a very impressive rookie, has been slowed by injury but is still a smart player. Ike Reese (58) is a situational pass rusher, but he has made a few big plays and should be watched carefully. If there is one over-riding weakness of this group, it is the tendency to over-pursue plays – a common trait in young and athletic defenders. The Giants running game on the other hand can’t catch a break. With Gary Brown already out for the year, Joe Montgomery, who had a wild TD run in his first action of the year, is gone for 4 weeks with a broken foot. Leshon Johnson, who has not played well, gets the start. The good news is that Sean Bennett returns this week to replace Johnson if he struggles. We may also see a lot more of Tiki Barber, who is experiencing a bit of a resurgence but still fumbles too much.

Kent Graham needs to build on his improved play and put in another good effort, especially with the injury problems of the running game. He can take a lot of heat off the backs with big plays to the receiving corps. He should not be harassed as much this week as he has been, this of course being contingent on the line doing its job. But Kent should be aware of the rush and get rid of the ball if he has to. He should also continue to try and find Pete Mitchell, who last week showed why he was such a valuable addition in the off season. The Eagles secondary will make a repeat of last weeks aerial circus unlikely, but there are potential mismatches that the Giants will be able to exploit.

The Giants’ receiving group, in addition to Mitchell, is playing better, though talk prevails that they do not get separation — something that is difficult to tell on TV. However Amani Toomer is 3rd in the NFC with 37 receptions and Ike Hilliard has 28, plus an exciting 24 yard run last week on a double reverse. Joe Jurevicious finally got a TD, but he is still slowly learning the position. David Patten hasn’t done much and Brian Alford is, uh, unproductive. They will need to pick it up against an Eagles secondary that is about as good as its linebacking. Both starting corners, Troy Vincent (23) and Bobby Taylor (21) are big, can tackle, and can cover. They are among the finest tandem in the league and Vincent is having a Pro-Bowl type year. However, Vincent missed last week’s game is questionable this week. If he’s out, Al Harris (31) fills in. Harris is good in coverage, but expect at least one big penalty from him per game. Hilliard and Toomer will have their work cut out for them here. The safeties are also very good. Brian Dawkins (20) is an exciting player who I think is one of the best young free safeties in the game and could make the Pro Bowl. He had a 67 yard INT return last week, his 4th pick of the year. Tim Hauck (45) is a slow, smart player, but he shares time with promising rookie Damon Moore (43).

Special Teams Scouting Report: The Eagles use a platoon of two kickers, much like our days under Dan Reeves. David Akers (2) handles the kick-off duties and got his first FG chance last week and made a 53 yarder. Normally reliable FG kicker Norm Johnson (9), whose miss of a 44 yarder last week cost the Eagles the game, is usually automatic within 45 yards. Ex-Giant Sean Landetta (7) is still punting well. Allen Rossum (25), the primary kick returner for the Eagles, is very fast and has almost broken a couple long ones this year. He is backed up by Eric “Sleeping With ” Bienemy (33). The Giants have done a much better job this year in containing return men and they should not let up against a dangerous runner like Rossum, especially with new kicker Cary Blanchard’s lack of strength on kick-offs. Blanchard made all his attempts last week and is fine if not asked to do too much. Brad Maynard has mixed booming punts with a couple weak efforts. He needs to be consistent from the opening gun until the end and not let the one bad kick give the Eagles good field position. Likewise, with the Eagles likewise missing Mike Caldwell, their top special teamer, Barber, Patten, and Bashir Levingston need productive returns to give the offense all the help it can get.

Bottom Line: The Giants need to be able to establish the run. The Eagles are a tough team to pass against, and a solid running game is essential. The defensive line of the Eagles is not dominating and the Giants line should be able to open holes. Much like the game against the Cowboys, the incredible speed of the Eagles’ linebackers precludes repeated attempts to run outside. Of course, the healthy backs for the Giants are not inside runners. They need to be this week. The Eagles linebackers will over-pursue — misdirection should be a key part of the game plan. The double reverse was great — we need more plays designed to throw off young, aggressive players. If Troy Vincent is indeed out, then Kent Graham must try to carefully attack Al Harris. If nothing else, Harris will commit interference penalties. Otherwise, passing will be difficult. Spread the field and try for a mismatch.

The Eagles offense is not very good, mainly due to QB and line play. The Giants’ defense can be a dominant group. Now is the time to show that. Get to Pederson early and often. Take pressure off the safeties and force some turnovers. Win the field position battles. Do this and the Giants will win. If any faction of the team shows up uninspired and looking past the Eagles, the Giants will lose. It’s that simple. These games often come down to some kind of fluke play. Last time the Giants dominated the Eagles and won by one point at home. Put this team away in their house and get to the bye to lick your wounds.

Oct 271999
 
New York Giants 31 – New Orleans Saints 3

Overview: Finally, the offense showed some life in the Giants’ impressive 31-3 victory over the New Orleans Saints. The win incredibly puts New York only a half game out of first place in the NFC East. However, there continues to some disturbing warning signs and problems on offense that still need to be rectified if the Giants are going to make a playoff push. The main trouble spots are the offensive line and an inability to run the football. The quarterbacking is far too inconsistent still.

Defensive Line: The defensive line put forward another strong effort, though the Saints had far more success running the football than the Cowboys. It seemed like most of HB Ricky Williams’ damage came against the right side of the defense. DE Cedric Jones (8 tackles and 1 sack) generally played well. There were a few plays where he helped to disrupt left-side runs by holding the point of attack or getting penetration. However, there were a couple of plays where he had trouble disengaging from the block. Still, it was a positive performance. Jones also picked up another sack. Cedric needs to develop a more consistent cross-over move as too many of his rushes are pushed harmlessly wide of the pocket. Jones was also exposed in coverage on a big pass to the fullback in a zone-blitz situation. Starting defensive tackles Robert Harris (3 tackles) and Keith Hamilton (3 tackles, r sack) were solid, but unspectacular. The Saints could not generate any consistent yardage up the middle and these two were largely responsible. DE Michael Strahan (2 tackles, r sack) didn’t put up big numbers, but was disruptive. New Orleans rarely ran to his side and Michael was often seen buzzing around the quarterback. The reserves saw quite a bit of action again. DT George Williams (1 tackle) was fairly active and nearly picked up a sack. DE Bernard Holsey (2 tackles) and DT Christian Peter (no tackles) saw some quality minutes.

Linebackers: A decent game by the linebacking corps, but not quite as strong against the run as in the last game. WLB Jessie Armstead (4 tackles) was fairly quiet until his interception in the third quarter on which he almost scored. MLB Corey Widmer (3 tackles) was around the ball quite a bit and has now strung together a few strong efforts. Strangely, SLB Marcus Buckley (2 tackles) seemed to be in the game a lot more than Ryan Phillips. Buckley flashed a bit on one pass rush and almost got to the passer. Ryan Phillips (2 tackles) made a real nice play in coverage, staying with the back and coming up with an interception. Scott Galyon (4 tackles) finally saw some significant playing time this year and was productive when out there. He has a nose for the football.

Defensive Backs: The Saints’ passing game was not impressive and the Giants’ defensive backs were really never tested. Most of the Saints’ passing yardage came in garbage time. SS Sam Garnes (11 tackles) laid the wood on a number of times and came up with a couple of crunching hits. He is lucky that a halfback-option pass was poorly thrown because he had bitten on the fake and should have been beaten for a touchdown. FS Percy Ellsworth (2 tackles) was fairly quiet until his injury. He came back into the game and picked off a poor pass, but clearly couldn’t run and left the game again. S Shaun Williams (1 tackle) looked real strong on a blitz and nearly got a sack. Shaun also looked much better in coverage this week and nearly came up with a pick while covering a receiver. He got his chance to play at safety when Percy got hurt, but promptly pulled a hammy when going for another interception attempt. CB Jason Sehorn (7 tackles) wasn’t really tested except for a slant pass that was poorly thrown and pass into the end zone near the end of the game that he knocked away on a nice play. CB Phillippi Sparks (3 tackles) was nowhere near the receiver on the Saints’ first play – a flea flicker. After that, he played a strong game and very nearly came up with an interception on a 4th down play. CB Jeremy Lincoln (2 tackles) was forced to play safety in the second half due to the injuries to Percy and Shaun. While he wasn’t burned and should be commended for being able to make that difficult transition, the Saints were able to pass down the middle quite a bit in the 4th quarter. Cornerbacks Andre Weathers (3 tackles) and Bashir Levingston (1 tackle) played quite a bit and didn’t hurt their team.

Quarterback: QB Kent Graham (19-of-29 for 239 yards, 2 touchdowns passing, 1 touchdown rushing, and 1 interception) played decently this week, but there were still some troubling tendencies. First was that Kent seems to have regressed from last year and this preseason in feeling the rush. Too often, especially early in this game, Kent held onto the ball too long or was oblivious of defenders flying around him. For example, Graham took a sack and fumbled the ball away on the first drive on a play where he had relatively decent pass protection, but he didn’t feel the outside rush from his right and step up into the pocket. Kent took another sack later in the game in a situation where he should have thrown the ball away. Secondly, I still get the feeling (purely subjective) that Kent is a tad afraid of making a mistake and that this is sometimes negatively affecting his decision-making. Third, it seems as if Graham gets an inordinate number of his throws tipped at the line. The only play that I was really mad at him was his pick where I felt he danced around the pocket too long and would have been better advised to throw the ball out of bounds.

Now for the good news. Graham was very strong in third down situations where the Giants converted 10-of-17 attempts. Graham and the Giants finally got the ball to TE Pete Mitchell in many of these key situations. These conversions were critical in not only putting together drives that put points on the board, but it kept the defense rested on the sidelines. Kent’s prettiest pass of the day was his 27-yard touchdown throw to Amani Toomer on a go-route – the ball couldn’t have been thrown any better. His 6-yard touchdown run opened up the scoring in the first quarter. Graham also threw a very good block on Ike Hilliard’s reverse that helped to spring the play. All in all, it was a positive performance. If Kent can continue to improve and gain confidence, the Giants will be in decent shape.

Offensive Line: The most disturbing thing about the game I felt was the Giants’ continued inability to open holes on the line of scrimmage for the running backs. It didn’t matter if the Giants ran left, right (as I have suggested), or up the middle. Time and again, there was just no room to run. Indeed on some outside runs to the right, there didn’t seem to be anyone blocking the linebackers. There were other plays where everyone seemed to be blocked except for the one guy who disrupted the play. Very frustrating! There were also far too many penalties. LG Jason Whittle had a rough start with a holding penalty and a sack, but seemed to settle down as the game progressed. LT Roman Oben still is a tad shaky in pass protection and I hope he gets his game back soon. The Giants were also very fortunate that Oben was not flagged for a false start on Graham’s touchdown pass to Toomer. RG Ron Stone was flagged for holding. RT Scott Gragg seemed to start off a bit shaky in pass protection as there was too much pressure coming from the right on the first drive, but he seemed to settle down and play decently. Aside from the first drive, pass protection was not too much of a problem, but the inability run the ball, especially with a big lead, was very troublesome.

Running Backs: The best thing that you can say about the running game on Sunday was that the Giants got a lot of practice at trying to run the football. LeShon Johnson carried the ball 18 times for 36 yards (a terrible 2.0 yards-per-carry average) and Joe Montgomery carried the ball for 14 times for 28 yards (an equally terrible 2.0 yards-per-carry average). That’s not going to get it done in the NFL. I don’t blame LeShon and Joe too much – though there were times when both seemed to run without demonstrating a lot of vision. The run blocking was terrible for most of the day and there was little room to maneuver, especially on sweeps to either side. Montgomery did make a high-reel tackling-breaking effort on his 12-yard touchdown run, where he demonstrated incredible balance. He also brought some much needed intensity to the huddle. LeShon looked sharp on his two receptions for 16 yards. HB Tiki Barber was not used much. FB Charles Way was too inconsistent blocking. On one running play, I spotted him destroying his man, but on another, he allowed the defender to fight through his block and disrupt the play.

Tight Ends: I felt that Pete Mitchell was the offensive player of the game. It just wasn’t the fact that he caught five passes for 59 yards, but four of those five passes picked up first downs in key situations. Indeed, at least two or three times, Mitchell caught the ball short of the marker, but fought his way for first down yardage in a very impressive fashion – very “Bavaro-like”. TE Howard Cross must share some of the blame for the poor run blocking. He caught one pass for two yards (an old Dan Reeves favorite).

Wide Receivers: Really, most of the wide receiver production came from three big plays: a 23-yard catch-and-run by Toomer on the first scoring drive, a 27-yard touchdown reception by Toomer on a perfectly thrown pass from Graham, and a fluke 53-yard “Hail Mary” to Joe Jurevicius. Ike Hilliard (3 catches for 17 yards) helped to keep drives alive with underneath catches, but he didn’t make a big play catching the ball. He did demonstrate fine running ability on his 24-yard double reverse. Toomer still seems to have problems separating from defenders. Jurevicius made a superb sideline catch on a low throw and showed great concentration on the “Hail Mary”. WR David Patten remains invisible.

Special Teams: Special teams played decently, but not great. The good news is that PK Cary Blanchard hit his 41-yard field goal attemp; the bad news is that his kick-offs are not very good. Because of this, kick coverage teams had some problems preventing decent returns. Indeed, if the Saints had a better returner back there, one got the sense that he could have done some serious damage. P Brad Maynard remains too inconsistent. Bashir Levingston got his first chance to return a kick and showed some real explosion. Tiki Barber solidly fielded the ball and often made the first man miss, but could not really get untracked.

Oct 221999
 

Regular Season: Giants Lead Series 11-8

Approach to the Game – New Orleans Saints at New York Giants, October 24, 1999: Win, loss, loss, win, loss, win. That’s how the Giants’ season has gone so far. Points scored in each contest: 17, 21, 14, 16, 3, 13. What’s worse is that three of those touchdowns are from the defense and special teams. To say the Giants’ offense is non-productive is an understatement. It won’t be easy this week either. The Saints have a very tough defense and the Giants are banged up on the offensive side of the ball. If the Giants have any hope of making a playoff run, they have to win this game and string some wins together. This lose, win, lose tendency is simply not going to get it done.

Giants on Defense: The Giants’ defense played exceptionally well on Monday against the Cowboys. But they will have to bring that same type of game and intensity this week against the Saints. The Giants can ill afford a let up. Points on the offensive side of the ball for the G-Men will probably continue to be hard to come by this week. Like the Dallas game, this contest should quickly evolve into a game of field position. What is critical for the defense is to prevent the Saints from making a big play offensively and getting some cheap points. Make New Orleans drive the length of the field, but don’t give up a quick score.

Coach Mike Ditka is a big fan of winning football games with strong defense and a tough running game. He’ll rely even more on both Sunday as starting QB Billy Joe Hobert is out with a pinched nerve; QB Billy Joe Tolliver will start. Needless to say, the defensive strategy will be to shut down HB Ricky Williams. This game will be all about trench warfare up front. New Orleans has some talented offensive linemen. Match-ups will be DE Cedric Jones versus LT Willie Roaf (1st rounder), DT Keith Hamilton versus LG Wally Williams (high-priced free agent), DT Robert Harris versus RG Chris Naeole (1st rounder), and DE Michael Strahan versus RT Kyle Turley (1st rounder). Throw in OC Jerry Fontenot and you can see why this will be no easy task for the defense. The Saints will attempt to power the ball at the Giants, probably looking to run left at Cedric Jones, Jessie Armstead, and Jason Sehorn. This is a game where the Giant defenders will once again have to play with toughness, quickness, leverage, and intensity. If the Saints can get their ground attack going, the play-action passes will become much more effective. Hopefully, the linebackers will play as well as they did last week. The Giants need big games from Armstead, MLB Corey Widmer, and SLB Ryan Phillips.

Run defense by the secondary will also be important. Safeties Sam Garnes and Percy Ellsworth were instrumental in keeping Emmitt Smith at bay on Monday. Still, there were too many missed tackles. Third string TE Josh Wilcox will start, but the injured Cam Cleeland will play. He is a fine receiver with excellent size. Whoever is responsible for Cam (probably Phillips or Garnes) needs to keep him in check. Ryan should jam him at the line when possible and prevent an easy release. The Saints also like to throw to FB Aaron Craver. Watch out for draws, screens, and reverses – the Saints will look to slow down the Giants’ pass rush.

One problem area for the defense last week was giving up too many first downs on third and long. S Shaun Williams, who has been forced into the nickel job due to the injury to Conrad Hamilton, really needs to start making more plays. Opposing teams are obviously targeting him. Dallas also went after CB Andre Weathers. WR Eddie Kennison is the Saints’ big play man. I’d prefer keeping CB Jason Sehorn on him while CB Phillippi Sparks contends with the less explosive Keith Poole. Back-ups Andre Hastings and Lake Dawson are possession-types. Ditka may try to bring in these guys in certain situations in order to go after Williams and Weathers.

Stuff the run and get after Tolliver. Jones will probably have his work cut out for him with Roaf. Still, he needs to get more pressure on the quarterback. The Giants would also benefit from more inside pressure from Harris and Hamilton. Look for Defensive Coordinator to continue to mix up his coverages and blitzes in order to confuse Tolliver. Blitzing would also force Ricky Williams to pass block – something that probably isn’t a real strong point for him right now.

Giants on Offense: Things are definitely not looking pretty on offense for the Giants. To make matters worse, HB Gary Brown (knee) is out; FB Charles Way (knee) is gimpy; and we still don’t know if LG Luke Petitgout (ankle) will play. The Saints have an excellent defense. They are very physical and aggressive – the type of defense that gives the Giants problems. Halfbacks LeShon Johnson and Joe Montgomery will be hard pressed to find any sort of running room. The real problem area will be the Jason Whittle versus La’Roi Glover (2.5 sacks) match-up if Petitgout can’t play. Whittle had all kinds of problems with Alonzo Spellman on Monday and Glover is a much better player. The Saints will probably try to keep OC Brian Williams occupied with blitzes in order to prevent him from helping out. RG Ron Stone will have his hands full with the very talented DT Wayne Martin (3.5 sacks). LT Roman Oben, who has not played very well the last couple of weeks, faces DE Brady Smith who leads the Saints with 4.5 sacks. RT Scott Gragg should be able to handle DE Jared Tomich. Nevertheless, the Giants have match-up problems all along the front. Throw in a trio of active linebackers, led by WLB Mark Fields (39 tackles, 2 sacks) and it easy to see why the Giants may have all kinds of difficulties.

What this game will probably come down to is the offense that makes the fewest mistakes, while winning the field position battle, will probably win. QB Kent Graham and all the ball carriers have to make it their number one priority not to turn the ball over. New York Giants fans want to see some offensive fireworks, but it won’t happen this week and the more chances the Giants take, the riskier things will become. I would focus on running the ball to the right with HB Joe Montgomery behind Williams, Stone, Gragg, and Cross. Running to the left is not likely to be productive. When New York does put the ball up, Graham may be well advised to target the Saints’ linebackers in coverage by throwing to Pete Mitchell, Howard Cross, and the running backs.

The Giants’ receivers usually have all kinds of problems with aggressive, man-to-man defense and that is what the Saints run. They ask their corners to play on an island and meanwhile blitz the heck out of the opposition. With WR Amani Toomer and WR Ike Hilliard not making any long touchdown plays this year, CB’s Fred Weary and Ashley Ambrose will not feel threatened by these two. They also have little to worry from the Giants’ quarterbacks as both have not demonstrated the consistent ability to hurt aggressive defenses. “(The Saints) put their guys out there one on one, so a lot of times it comes down to us protecting, us winning one-on-one, and me throwing it right on the money,” says Graham. Let’s see…protection, winning one-on-one, and throwing on the money…this doesn’t sound good for the G-Men. Why bother discussing Joe Jurevicius and David Patten? What have they done this year?

Giants on Special Teams: We all saw on Monday how important special teams are. Special teams decided that game. Newcomer PK Cary Blanchard will be on the spot not only with his field goal attempts (especially since this should be a tight, low-scoring game), but also his kick-offs (he lacks a strong leg). Because of the latter, kick coverage will be even more important this week. Don’t lose the field position war!!! P Brad Maynard and his coverage teams factor into this even more. Eddie Kennison is very capable of taking a punt the distance. The Giants’ kick returns have been anemic after a strong start. P Tiki Barber has to do a better job of judging the ball in flight and holding onto it. The good news is that he looks more and more comfortable back there.

Oct 211999
 
New York Giants 13 – Dallas Cowboys 10

Overview: The Giants clawed and scratched their way to a critically important victory over arch-rival Dallas. It was a must game for New York if they wanted to keep any hope alive for a possible playoff berth down the road. As usual, the offense was miserable. The defense and Tiki Barber won the game.

Defensive Line: A huge amount of the credit for the win goes to the guys up front. New York’s run defense against a top offensive line was superb. Emmitt Smith was held to 26 yards on 22 carries and he never could get untracked, no matter in what direction he ran. The defensive line also picked up two sacks and innumerable hurries on QB Troy Aikman. The Giants clearly controlled the line of scrimmage. Once again, DE Cedric Jones was very solid at the point of attack. Though he finished the game with only two tackles, Jones was able to hold his ground against LT Flozell Adams time and time again. He flashed some in the pass rush department, occasionally getting near Aikman, but was normally pushed harmlessly past the pocket. DE Michael Strahan was equally tough against the run and accrued seven tackles and one sack. He had a private little war going on with RT Erik Williams, but Strahan generally came out on top. Inside LG Larry Allen kept DT Keith Hamilton (no tackles) invisible. DT Robert Harris played his best game of the season with two tackles and a critical sack on Dallas’ opening drive after a poor New York punt. Surprisingly, the back-ups saw quite a bit of playing time as well as I spotted not only Christian Peter (1 tackle) in the game, but DE Bernard Holsey (1 tackle), and DT George Williams (1 tackle). Holsey was in there on more than a few plays for Strahan at left end and Jones at right end.

Linebackers: This was the best all-around game for all three starters. WLB Jessie Armstead was not as flashy this week as in his previous two efforts, but he still came away with a 10-tackle effort. Jessie was generally strong against the run and in coverage, but he did miss a key tackle on 3rd down on Dallas’ lone touchdown drive of the night. MLB Corey Widmer played a strong game after a rough start (a personal foul penalty on the Giants’ first punt). Corey not only came up with a monster sack on the goalline for what was almost a safety, but he made a big play by nailing an end around to Raghib Ismail in the backfield. Indeed, it was not the kind of play one expects from Widmer as he decisively and explosively shot the gap to disrupt the play. Corey also did a good job of clogging running lanes and forcing Smith into the hands of his teammates. I thought SLB Ryan Phillips (9 tackles) played his best game as a Giant. Ryan was very strong at the point of attack and made a great play by playing the outside man on an option play to stuff some Dallas trickery. He nailed Emmitt Smith a couple of times in the back field and I did not see him get exposed in coverage either, which was a huge plus. Perhaps the Giants have finally found their starting strongside guy after all. Still, I’d like to see more out of him when he rushes the passer – after all, that was supposedly his strength coming out of college.

Defensive Backs: I felt the starting safeties played a strong game, but the corners could have played much better. S Shaun Williams (2 tackles) just doesn’t have the quickness to stick with slot receivers. Aikman hurt the Giants a few times by going after Williams and CB Andre Weathers in 3rd down situations. CB Jason Sehorn not only got beat on an out during Dallas’ sole touchdown drive, but he made matters much worse by missing the tackle. He also got beat by a journeyman wideout on another play for a first down (and missed the tackle) earlier in the game in the third quarter. Jason did a decent job of helping to force the run (7 tackles). CB Phillippi Sparks (2 tackles) was lucky that Aikman missed a couple of passes against him. He was badly beaten by his man in the slot for what should have been a touchdown, but Aikman missed his man. Troy also was off on another pass where Sparks was beaten. Really, I expect more from the New York corners, especially given the state of the Cowboy receiving corps. Surprisingly, CB Andre Weathers (3 tackles) saw quite a bit of action as the Giants often chose to keep seven or eight in coverage in third down situations. This tactic sometimes worked as Aikman was forced to dump the ball off short of the first down. But at other times, Aikman had too much time and exploited Williams or Weathers. In particular, there were two big plays that, for whatever reason, Weathers was covering Raghib Ismail. Weathers did make a nice diving breakup of a third-down pass in the fourth quarter. The safeties did play well. SS Sam Garnes was very active in run support (5 tackles) and made some key tackles to keep Smith from breaking a play. He also made a drive-ending interception off a deflected pass. On the negative side, he missed an important tackle on Chris Warren that allowed the back to pick up a first down on a third down pass. FS Percy Ellsworth (8 tackles) continues his renaissance with some strong work in run defense.

Quarterback: Really, the only good thing you can say about Kent Graham’s performance is that he didn’t turn the ball over and hurt his defense. But that’s not saying much. In my opinion, Kent played very, very tentatively. Time and again, Graham was afforded decent pass protection, but held onto the ball too long and accepted costly sacks – losses that could have proved costly in a game that turned out to be a battle of field position. To be fair, TV coverage usually does not allow one to see what is occurring with the receivers down field. Perhaps, Kent did not have anyone open to throw the ball to. If this is true, it still does not excuse Graham from not throwing the ball away. I also find it a little difficult to believe that Giants’ receivers were so thoroughly blanketed for most of the contest…but that is mainly speculation on my part. What is clear is that the Giants passing “attack” was pathetic on Monday. Graham was 15-of-21 for 183 yards, but if you take away the 30 yards in losses from his five sacks and the 56 yards on the short pass to Tiki, he was left with only 97 yards gained through the air. If Graham really wants to hold onto the starting job, he can’t play scared. If he does, he’s going to lose the job eventually. This is his chance to make something happen and he’ll regret it if he holds back much longer.

Graham’s prettiest pass of the night was his touch pass to Tiki on the game-winning, field goal drive. He also made some nice throws in difficult situations on New York’s first field goal drive and seemed to handle the no-huddle offense reasonably well. But too often Kent looked afraid to pull the trigger on passes. He tried to scramble too much for first down yardage and did so in a very indecisive manner. On the Giants 17-play, 80 drive that set up the first field goal, Graham decided to scramble for the first down on 3rd-and-3 and I felt he could have made it easily if he dove for the first down, but was too tentative and was stopped short. There was too much of that from him on Monday.

Offensive Line: The offensive line is so critical to the overall success or failure of an offense. Against the Cowboys, the line didn’t play well, but it was not terrible either. Indeed, I think that three of the five sacks credited to Dallas were the fault of Kent Graham’s and not the line. The Cowboys blitzed the Giants a great deal, yet the line, tight ends, and backs did a reasonably good job of picking it up. Penalties continue to be a problem. LG Luke Petitgout was guilty of two back-to-back penalties (a false start and a holding penalty). RT Scott Gragg and LT Roman Oben were flagged for false starts. These penalties (and others by other offensive members – more on that below) made it difficult for New York to establish any kind of rhythm. LT Roman Oben was beaten on cross over move for a sack. The Giants also did not run very well to the left again. And there was yet another outside run to Way where predictably the very fast linebackers of the Cowboys got there to disrupt the play. I continued to be amazed by Jim Fassel’s insistence on running left, despite the fact that the run blockers on the right side (Stone, Gragg, and Cross) are far superior. When New York ran right against Dallas, they tended to pick up positive yardage though still not enough. It seems to me that the lineman are getting contact, but simply not sustaining their blocks. The Dallas quickness was a problem for the blockers all night. OC Brian Williams missed a block on a screen that might have ended in a long touchdown for Tiki Barber. But Williams did a good job of making line adjustments and helping to pick up the blitz. I thought that RT Scott Gragg and RG Ron Stone played a decent game as well. Whittle came in for the injured Luke Petitgout and had a rough start as Alonzo Spellman blew by him and he held. Spellman then later powered by Whittle for a sack.

Tight Ends: Not much production here. Pete Mitchell caught 2 passes for 14 yards. One was an important 3rd-down conversion and I’m amazed the Giants don’t get the ball more into his hands in these type of situations. Pete did drop a ball on the final drive and that could have proved costly. Cross blocked well for the run, as usual. Why don’t the Giants run more behind him? Isn’t that why he is on the roster?

Wide Receivers: A rather non-productive night for the receiving corps. Was this due to the quarterbacking or their own inability to get open? It was probably a combination of both. Amani Toomer (5 catches for 44 yards) looked like he might play a bigger role as he picked up a first down on New York’s first offensive play. But for the most part, his receptions did little damage. He also was flagged for illegal motion. Ike Hilliard came up with two big catches (for a total of 41 yards). One was a 16-yard reception on 3rd-and-12 on New York’s first field goal drive. The second was a 25-yard reception on the Giants’ first possession in the second half when it looked like the offense might put another drive together. But that was it from him. Joe Jurevicius’ sole catch was a big one – an 11-yard out against Deion Sanders on the Giants’ final drive.

Running Backs: The offensive player of the game was HB Tiki Barber. His 56-yard, tackle-breaking catch-and-run in the final seconds of the game set up PK Brad Daluiso’s game winner. Tiki finished the game with five catches for 73 yards. He almost broke another very long run on a screen if the play had been blocked correctly. A lot of fans may criticize Tiki, but he has one thing that this team desperately needs and that is speed. He can break a big play and has flashed that ability in each of his three years in New York. Now he just needs to do so on a more consistent basis. I am very happy for Tiki. Barber also looked pretty sharp running the ball (10 carries for 35 yards). On the down side, Barber was flagged for holding (though he did a good job on most blitz pickups) and he did put the ball on the ground in one situation (the ball bounced right back to him). Gary Brown (10 carries for 23 yards) and FB Charles Way (3 carries for 7 yards) did not. Both looked sluggish. Way also did not sustain his block on a 2nd-and-short play on a key drive in the fourth quarter (Graham was sacked on the very next play and the Giants were forced to punt). Brown was flagged for illegal motion. Strangely, Fassel likes to send him out in motion as a receiver quite a bit and I saw them do this at least three times Monday. Wouldn’t LeShon Johnson or Barber be better in that role?

Special Teams: An up-an-down night here. Special Teams Coach Larry MacDuff deserves a lot of credit for getting his squad to play at a much higher level this year. But his decision to have Brad Daluiso kickoff the ball to Deion Sanders was inexcusable. I know that Dallas was expecting the squib kick, but you just don’t do that. The Giants are very, very fortunate that another play as catastrophic as “The Fumble” did not take place on Monday. Stupid, stupid play. Stupid plays cost games – and the jobs of head coaches.

Another negative is that Tiki Barber still seems to have problems judging and adjusting to punts when the ball in the air. For the second time this year, he let a punt that he should have fielded hit the ground and role for significant yardage. Joe Jurevicius was flagged for running into the kicker on a ticky-tack call. P Brad Maynard got off a couple of very poor directional kicks, including a 17-yarder that set Dallas up in New York’s territory on their very first possession. TE Dan Campbell was flagged for an illegal block. Kick returns by David Patten were poorly blocked.

Now the good news. Tiki Barber broke the game open with a combination of vision, moves, power, balance, and speed on his electrifying 85-yard punt return. The Giants did a good job of giving Tiki a wall on the left side, starting with Dan Campbell and Greg Comella. Barber finished the night with 5 returns for 123 yards. Kick-off coverage was good and the Giants did do a good job of keeping the ball out of Deion Sanders’ hands on punt returns. The only time he touched the ball on a punt, the Giants were right down there to clobber him. David Patten made a great play on the goalline to keep a punt from bouncing into the endzone and the ball was downed at the two yard line. PK Brad Daluiso hit both his short field goals.


Giants/Dallas

by David Oliver

Monday Night football(MNF) means a lot of things to a lot of people. Celebrities show up at the game, the west coast rushes home from work, the east coast prepares to go to bed without knowing the final score, and to Dan Dierdorf it probably means he’s rid of Boomer and Al and the joke is on us. For me, MNF means two days of annual leave, getting back to Mom’s at 2 a.m., and driving home in the daylight, which is actually pretty good stuff. Philly is not as depressing in the daylight, reminding me more of an Orozco mural than a Bosch painting, the traffic is lighter on Tuesday morning, but Delaware stills smells really awful. I don’t know if it’s Wilmington waking up in the morning , opening it’s eyes and seeing Philly next to it, kind of like that hung over view of the beauty who took you in through too much brew last night, and realizing neither of you has brushed your teeth in 24 hours, or is it the stench of all those $2 dollar tolls forked over under duress to the `tax free shopping Paradise’, which if we are lucky may someday disappear in a hurricane as the Susquehanna and the Delaware overflow their banks and erase this mistake. I haven’t mentioned the actual game yet because for us Giants fans there’s usually not much, and last night was pretty characteristic except WE WON. LT was getting his Hall ring and some of you predicted disaster. Kent Graham was named the starter and his anti-fan club was yelling, repent, the millennium is near. JF announced his team would be working on a no huddle, no offense as a change of pace and that gave Dallas a full week to prepare for a low-scoring contest; but then they fell into that trap last week down the Pike, and in a game in which two offenses can’t score, Philly may have discovered something.

I figure most of you have seen the game, read Eric’s analysis, which is far more factual than any I could do and have formed at least two opinions on every player and every play. So this will be short. WE WON. As JF told the media, WE WON, and that’s what matters and we can all take the rest of the week to do our homework. As Jimmy Carter said we have a malaise here and we need a spark. Don’t be offended; we do it, management does it, every fan and every team in football does it; we here at BBI just do it better. The game was a relatively lackluster event. The photographers were grumbling throughout that there was no money to be made here as you can only sell so many photos of Emmitt Smith off-tackle or Kent Graham getting sacked. It was a cold 58 degrees because of the 16 mph wind and it was uncomfortable without gloves. The referee team was led by Dick Hantack, one of the NFL’s finest- they blew a few, had to be induced to call a few, called a lot and killed the Giants. There were way to many Dallas fans as probably 20,000 of the 78,000 were in Stars, not behind bars. The game was a quick 3 hour affair and we had illustrious company most of the night as Phil Simms, his young son and Danny Aeillo spent the game along the sidelines. I don’t mean to be social butterfly but I’d like to give you some idea of the atmospherics when Jerry Jones and ABC show up at a game.

The game: not many first downs, not much scoring, lousy third down efficiency for us again, not any real aerial displays, but there was Tiki, running down the Giants sideline and later running down the `boys sideline. Both tough shots, one too close, one too far. Dallas had a slight edge in possession and passing; the Giants had a huge edge in punt returns and our #21 played better than their #21- that was the difference. Defensively, the Giants held them to 24 yards rushing in 25 attempts, and rang Emmitt’s bell a couple of times. Passing; Dallas did have 266 yards on 20 out of 33. The Giants had 183 yards on 15 of 21, with Tiki and Toomer each getting 5 balls. Tiki had the 56 yard catch and run to set up the winning field goal; Toomer’s long was 16, Ike had a 25 yarder, Mitchell and JJ had a 10 and 11, but Pete uncharacteristically dropped one; just another in the daisy chain of miscues which affects our O. Defensively, the Giants were masterful; there were 47 tackles and 15 assists for a combined total of 62 tackles on 61 Dallas offensive plays, hmmmm!! Jessie had 9 tackles, 1 assist; Phillips 5 and 4; Percy 6 and 2; Jason 6 and 1; Michael 5 and 2 and Sam G 4 and 1. Sam left the locker room for the night pondering the stat sheet; he must have some incentives in his contract. Andre Weathers chipped in 3 playing in the nickel. Michael, Harris and Widmer had sacks. The first and last quarters were relatively even, possession wise; the Giants had the ball for 11 minutes in the second; the `boys for 10 minutes in the third. The Giants had a monster 18 play drive, which took about 10 minutes. Only one other possession topped 3 minutes and that was 3:01. Dallas had 14,10 and 8 play possessions. There was considerable action in the scrum on both sides of the ball. Harris controlled the middle for the Giants and the success of the D is linked to his health and attitude. Hold the center and the rest will come to you. The rookie had problems including drawing penalties on two consecutive plays. Jason was tested tonight, and passed. Phillips is coming along nicely, and Michael had a good game although he complained he was getting pounded all night by Williams. Some differences; they have Aikman; their linebackers are fast and active, ours are powerful. They use multiple formations on defense, we rely on powerful linebackers and a forceful front four; they have Deion.

JF indicated he `was pleased with the team effort.’ He told us “this team, I’m very proud of them, they never lost it (faith) no matter what was going on, no matter what was happening in the game, nothing…we set out to win that football game…this team has responded pretty well to situation like that…” He said that Dallas had a pretty good offense and to hold them to 24 yards rushing, was an outstanding effort.” There was a lot of discussion on that last play, particularly with Parcells taking some heat for Sunday’s loss. JF said he was inclined to squib kick but Larry told him Dallas was planning the lateral, etc. So they decided to pooch it, blew that one and came within a hair of turning victory into defeat. JF was at Stanford for the folly with Cal, which did execute one of those lateral plays right through the band coming onto the field.

Tiki was the star and just as he did in the Arizona game last year, he may be the catalyst for success. Following the game I was listening to Jay Glazer and Bob Papa discuss Tiki and Jay related the story of his call to Ronde Barber last week. He said Ronde told him that he, Ronde, had convinced Tiki to talk to JF and express his frustration with not playing. Tiki almost did it, but called Ronde back and told him he would wait his turn. Well, Tiki’s time has come; now let’s hope he develops some consistency.

I asked JF if winning this one had taken some of the pressure off. He told me, “Every win takes pressure off…I have a good feeling, the way these guys,…I can only tell you, you’re not down there (media) (I, of course, am sitting right in front of him with kneepads on) on the sidelines, that whole team, these guys were ready to go. They were unified; there was a positive attitude, a can do attitude and the sidelines were that way, `we’re going to get it, we’re going to get it, keep going”, and even after Dallas scored the players were talking about it and how could they get it” I then asked if we were going to see the same attitude on Sunday. He said “I believe so, I believe so. And you know what, part of it is…. I know it starts with me. He said that was part of what he would discuss with them Tuesday.

I talked to an excited Beshir Levingston who had gotten in on his first action. He told me MNF and Dallas had no significance for him, it was a game and that what he wanted. He said he was a little stiff from inaction, but comfortable. He feels `the Man upstairs has blessed me…I feel like I can break in anytime. He said he appreciated all the support from BBI. I also talked to Harris and asked if he was up to 100%. He said he was and that it felt good tonight. He said “I had to show up tonight…try not to think about what happened to me in the Jets game, with the ankle and stuff…I just had to come out…show my talent and what I am capable of doing, and get back to playing football. When I asked him if the D would be ready Sunday, he answered “Hey, every game, Baby”.

Finally I joined a conversation with Kent Graham who was telling us he “wasn’t going to force it (that he felt a little stiff from the inactivity). He said that Dallas had “done some things defensively, a lot of different things, blitzes, a lot of different looks, and they are going to get you a couple of times.” I told him that Rebe was a tigress in defending him the past two weeks and he laughed and said, yes, my sister would do that.” He told me the cobwebs were gone and that he felt good, but he thought there were a few head shots during the game. He was talking to the ref, but didn’t get a call. He said “Maybe they think I’m too big; I don’t know what the deal is.”

All you Joe D critics know by now that he’s gone (ACL). I just hope we find a good replacement- Joe was invaluable in November and December in the Meadowlands because he knows the winds. I hope we’re not starting the Ali Haji Sheik, Shubert, kid from Maryland, merry-go-round.

Photos will be up Wednesday, Iron Mike is Sunday. Talk to you all next week.


TEAM STATISTICS

                                             DAL            NYG
                                        --------       --------
               FIRST DOWNS                    14             13
               Rushing                         2              5
               Passing                        10              7
               Penalty                         2              1
               3RD-DOWN EFFICIENCY          8-18           5-14
               4TH-DOWN EFFICIENCY           0-0            0-0
               TOTAL NET YARDS               274            228
               Total plays                    61             56
               Average gain                  4.5            4.1
               NET YARDS RUSHING              24             75
               Rushes                         25             30
               Average per rush              1.0            2.5
               NET YARDS PASSING             250            153
               Completed-attempted         20-33          15-21
               Yards per pass                6.9            5.9
               Sacked-yards lost            3-16           5-30
               Had intercepted                 1              0
               PUNTS-AVERAGE              5-48.4         8-35.6
               RETURN YARDAGE                 58            161
               Punts-returns                1-10          5-123
               Kickoffs-returns             3-48           2-35
               Interceptions-returns         0-0            1-3
               PENALTIES-YARDS             10-59           9-75
               FUMBLES-LOST                  1-0            2-0
               TIME OF POSSESSION          31:19          28:41

PLAYER STATISTICS

Missed field goals: Dallas (Richie Cunningham 48, 41).

Dallas rushing: Emmitt Smith 22-26, Chris Warren 1-5, Troy Aikman 1-0, Raghib Ismail 1-minus 7.

NY Giants rushing: Tiki Barber 10-35, Gary Brown 10-23, Kent Graham 7-10, Charles Way 3-7.

Dallas passing: Troy Aikman 20-33 for 266 yards, 1 INT, 0 TD.

NY Giants passing: Kent Graham 15-21 for 183 yards, 0 INT, 0 TD.

Dallas receiving: Ernie Mills 6-76, Raghib Ismail 4-74, Chris Warren 3-40, Wane Mcgarity 3-36, Jason Tucker 2-25, David Lafleur 2-15.

NY Giants receiving: Tiki Barber 5-73, Amani Toomer 5-44, Ike Hilliard 2-41, Pete Mitchell 2-14, Joe Jurevicius 1-11.

Dallas tackles-assists-sacks (unofficial): Randall Godfrey 9-1-0, Chad Hennings 6-0-1, Izell Reese 5-1-0, Greg Ellis 5-0-1, Dexter Coakley 4-1-0, Dat Nguyen 3-2-0, George Teague 1-4-0, Kevin Smith 3-1-0, Brandon Noble 2-2-0, Deion Sanders 3-0-0, Nathan Davis 1-1-0, Ebenezer Ekuban 1-1-0, Kevin Mathis 1-1-0, Alonzo Spellman 1-1-1, Darren Hambrick 1-1-1, Charlie Williams 1-0-0, Kavika Pittman 1-0-1, Darren Woodson 1-0-0.

NY Giants tackles-assists-sacks (unofficial): Jessie Armstead 9-1-0, Ryan Phillips 5-4-0, Percy Ellsworth 6-2-0, Jason Sehorn 6-1-0, Michael Strahan 5-2-1, Sam Garnes 4-1-0, Andre Weathers 3-0-0, Cedric Jones 2-0-0, Robert Harris 2-0-1, Shaun Williams 2-0-0, Corey Widmer 2-0-1, Phillippi Sparks 1-1-0, George Williams 0-1-0, Christian Peter 0-1-0, Bernard Holsey 0-1-0.

Interceptions: NY Giants (Sam Garnes 1 for 3 yards).

Fumbles lost: None.

Opponent’s fumbles recovered: None.

A: 78,204; T: 3:01.

Oct 161999
 

Regular Season: Dallas Leads Series 46-25-2

Approach to the Game – Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, October 18, 1999: Head Coach Jim Fassel may be on the verge of losing the respect of half his team – the defense. Once that respect goes, then so will Fassel’s grip on this team. After that, it would be only a matter of time before team management will be forced to fire him after the season is over. In order to prevent that all from happening, Fassel may have to find a way to get his team to beat the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night – something the franchise has never been able to do in its history.

Giants on Defense: Since the offense is not pulling its weight on this team, we are going to start off the preview this week with the defense. Aside from an absolutely unforgivable performance against the Redskins in week two, the Giants defense has played not great, but good enough to win. Against the Cowboys, there will need to step it up one more notch. New York has had problems in recent years defending power running attacks and that is what the Cowboys employ. A rejuvenated Emmitt Smith will have the advantage of running behind the best offensive line in the division. Look for Dallas to try to pound the ball straight at New York and wear down the Giants’ defense. At the heart of this conflict will be the match-ups up front. DE Michael Strahan has had problems in the past dealing with massive RT Erik Williams. DE Cedric Jones will have to deal with the equally massive Flozell Adams. DT Keith Hamilton, who has played extremely well thus far this season, will have to contend with All Pro LG Larry Allen. If Strahan, Jones, and Hamilton try to get into a power game with those three, they are most likely going to lose. They are going to have to play with better technique, leverage, quickness, attitude, and hustle against their counterparts. They will also need help from DT Robert Harris/Christian Peter, the linebackers, and defensive backs in forcing the run. Dallas isn’t as strong at right guard with Everett McIver. OC Mark Stepnoski is also banged up and may not play. In order to help their linemates out, look for Defensive Coordinator John Fox to call for some disruptive run blitzes from both linebackers and defensive backs. The absolute key to the game is defending the run. Limit the amount of damage Emmitt Smith and Chris Warren do and the Giants have a chance. Don’t and the Giants have virtually none.

With WR Michael Irvin out and the Giants likely to pay more attention to WR Raghib Ismail, expect QB Troy Aikman to try to get his tight ends more involved in the game. Dallas surely noted how much trouble SLB Ryan Phillips had in coverage last week against Arizona. Look for Troy to go right after Ryan with passes in the direction of TE David LaFleur or the fullback. Warren has soft hands out of the backfield in the third down role. The coverage of all the linebackers against the underneath receivers is another important key.

So is the pass rush. Dallas’ line is not only very strong run blocking, but they usually provide Aikman with superior protection. Blitzes gave the Cowboys some problems last week, but they most likely spent a lot of their work week on their blitz pickups during practice. Thus, look for the Giants to blitz, but Dallas will probably do a better job of picking it up. It should go without saying that the more pressure that the Giants can get from their front four, the better. This is a game where guys like Robert Harris (who usually plays well against Dallas) and Cedric Jones could make an important impact in the pass rush department. New York also can’t afford to have Strahan get neutralized by Williams too often. Get in Aikman’s face and hit him. Troy is not particularly fond of contact. What quarterback is?

In the secondary, these guys simply have to start making more plays. Last week Phillippi Sparks had a rough game and CB Jason Sehorn gave up a big play deep. They should be able to limit the production of the Dallas receivers with Irvin out. Ismail is a dangerous deep threat and it is key for the corners not to give up the big play. But the guys in the secondary need to start causing more turnovers, both with interceptions and forced fumbles. The run defense of all the men in the secondary is critical. Sam Garnes could be a very active player. Dallas will probably run left quite a bit behind Adams and Allen at Jones, WLB Jessie Armstead, and CB Jason Sehorn. Sehorn is going to have to be physical and beat blocks to the corner. Nickel back Shaun Williams should be making more of an impact.

Giants on Offense: This is getting ridiculous. The Giants simply must put more points up on the board. Offensive players held a team meeting this week and supposedly rededicated themselves to the task at hand, but it remains to be seen if this event will make a difference on the playing field. The biggest problem has been a lack of confidence. The offensive players expect things to go wrong and they generally do. The players have also asked Fassel to simplify the offense once again. There have also been criticism that Fassel is too much of an X’s and O’s kind of guy, not factoring other key variables such as changing match-ups, or making significant adjustments during a game. Sometimes it seems as he doesn’t have a feeling for the flow of a game. Fassel is down, but is he out? Are these criticisms justified? Talent generally wins the ball game, but coaching can have a significant impact. Jim and his staff must start out-coaching their opponents.

Let’s make things simple. The Dallas linebackers are very quick and fast, but light. The strength of their game is their ability to run and chase, not take on blocks from big men. Jim Fassel has no business calling a lot of outside runs against these guys. The Dallas linebackers will simply beat the Giants’ blockers to the corner by the time the ball carrier arrives. The speed and quickness of the linebackers also make them tough in coverage and thus passes to the running backs and tight ends (even Pete Mitchell). The exceptional coverage ability of CB Deion Sanders also usually shuts down the deeper passing game to one side of the field. To me, the game comes down to this: New York must stick with an inside ground attack, preferably to the right side. RT Scott Gragg and RG Ron Stone should be able to run block DE Kavika Pittman and DT Alonzo Spellman. Throw in the blocking of TE Howard Cross and OC Brian Williams on their flanks and the lead blocking of FB Charles Way and the Giants should be able to pound the ball to the right. SLB Darren Hambrick is not stout at the point of attack – he’s their version of Marcus Buckley. Get a hat on Hambrick and MLB Randall Godfrey and the Giants are in business. A big question mark will be whether or not SS Darren Woodson, a superb run defender, will play. If he doesn’t, this type of attack becomes a no-brainer. Keep it simple Jim – don’t have your offensive linemen try to be too cute by pulling and trapping. Play it straight up and pound the ball.

When the Giants do put the ball up, it will be difficult to do so successfully without extra targets running routes. Dallas will counter this by stunting and throwing a lot of blitzes at the Giants. The line, tight ends, and backs will be under a lot of pressure to give QB Kent Graham protection. Last year in the Meadowlands, Dallas blitzed the heck out of the Giants and New York never was able to adjust. Will this be a repeat of history? LT Roman Oben faces a tough opponent in DE Greg Ellis. LG Luke Petitgout will have to contend with another quality DT – this time Chad Hennings. The ability of Oben and Petitgout to deal with these two will be key. At the same time, the Giants can ill-afford leaks spring up at other positions. They also need the backs to decisively pick up blitzing linebackers and defensive backs.

Now to the targets. I would think that CB Deion Sanders will be lined up against WR Amani Toomer. If true, Amani is probably in store for a quiet night. It also means that the outcome of this game will largely be influenced by the WR Ike Hilliard/CB Kevin Smith match-up. Hilliard has to come up with big plays early and often. Ike needs to get off the line of scrimmage quickly. Fassel would also be advised to force Dallas to bring out their nickel back as much as possible. If New York can protect the quarterback and Graham is on his game, then the Giants ought to be able to do some damage against nickel corner Duane Hawthorne. Of course, that means David Patten or Joe Jurevicius need to step it up. The Giants should not ignore Deion’s side of the field, but they need to be careful. I’d stick with slants and crossing routes – I’d be very, very careful with any deep out patterns.

Finally, the quarterback position. Kent Graham returns as the starter. If he hopes to remain the starter for long, he needs to start putting more points on the board and leading the Giants to victory again. It won’t be easy against Dallas who has fast linebackers and a quality defensive backfield. But nevertheless, that is the hand dealt to Kent. No excuses – make plays and come out of the game with a win.

Giants on Special Teams: Throughout the 1990’s, the Cowboys have had superior special teams and Giants-Cowboys games have often been decided by a play here or there in the kicking game. The most important thing is to limit the damage that the Dallas returners, in particular Deion Sanders, do. P Brad Maynard will be on the spot to punt for direction and hangtime, while not shanking the ball. Dallas has also been able to pressure Maynard in the past. Coverage on kick returns will be equally important. The punt returns of Tiki Barber have improved with better blocking, but kick return production has regressed in recent weeks. The Giants can’t afford many more misses from PK Brad Daluiso.

Oct 131999
 
Arizona Cardinals 14 – New York Giants 3

Overview: How many times does one have to get smacked in the face in order to recognize the obvious? The Giants are bad team. Bad talent, poor coaching, no direction from above. No hope for the future. If this terrible affliction, this terrible disease of having Blue blood in your veins has not affected you yet, get out now. Don’t watch. Don’t go to the stadium; don’t watch them on television. Stay away. Pick up a book; watch a movie; do something outside with friends, loved ones, and family. Why subject yourself to unentertaining, painful folly?

Coaching/Management/Ownership: It starts at the top. Head Coach Jim Fassel is not going to get the job done. In three years, he has not been able to impose his will or his vision on this team. This team is bland and its personality reflects the coach’s personality. What is need is a coach who through his sheer force of will can lead this team out of the abyss. Three years is enough time to figure out what you have and what you need. Three years is enough time to show improvement. But the Giants are not showing improvement. They are getting worse. “Good Bye Jimmie. Good Bye Jimmie. Good Bye Jimme, we’re glad to see you go.”

General Manager Ernie Accorsi is not getting the job done either. The Giants are getting little production out of his drafts. Many of the free agents he chose to re-sign to significant contracts, he later was forced to cut or are not playing well. Ernie has ignored upgrading problem areas via free agency such as the offensive line.

Nothing will change with this team until there is new owernship or existing owernship is forced to change. Ever since Robert Tisch arrived on the scene in 1991, very little has gone right. Tisch remains a quiet character behind the scenes; someone who demonstrates no real interest in the fortures of his team. Wellington Mara needs to step aside and let his son, John, get more involved. Mara has never really been a positive influence on this team. General Manager George Young (who hired Bill Parcells) was forced upon him by the league. Mara is a nice guy, but his loyalty to old friends and lack of vision mires his team in mediocrity. Until he steps aside or fans stop showing up at games in droves, little will change. Honestly and sadly, the best thing right now for the long-term benefit of the franchise is if fans do stop going to the games. 30,000 no shows might start to shake this organization’s world a bit.

Quarterback: Kerry Collins had little help, but he did not play well either. The Giants’ offense was only able to “generate” three points and the continued inability to score is a joke. The Giants are a laughing stock on offense…as bad as the Eagles. What defense would not want to play these guys in order to pad their statistics? Christ, even bad teams sometimes accidentally make big plays on offense. But not the Giants. The Giants are just not bad on offense, they are boring. What a wonderful combination!!!

And Jim Fassel admits publicly that he does not have a clue as to how to fix the problem. The offense lacks talent, leadership, and cohesion. The play-calling is questionable. Adjustments are rarely made. Defenses never seem surprised to see what is coming. There is no “bread-and-butter” or base offense – a small group of plays that the Giants run well that they can fall back upon in tough times. The Giants lack direction on offense. They don’t seem to have an identity or over-arching philosophy on how they will attack opposing defenses. That is Fassel’s doing.

Collins had a rocky first half. The Giants moved the ball on their first drive alright, but their next four drives resulted in a 3-and-out, fumble by Collins, interception by Collins, and another 3-and out. The two turnovers from Collins were simply bad plays on his part. Kerry has got to learn to either throw the ball away or protect it better. Most of the times when he is hit, you have to hold your breath as the ball has a good chance of coming out. On his interception, he either tried to unwisely force the ball or he didn’t seen the defender playing zone as the ball hit S Pat Tillman right in the bread basket. To be fair, Collins didn’t have much help. It seemed as if every time he threw, there was a defender in his face. Much of this pressure forced Collins to adjust his delivery in order to avoid the onrushing defender. Some of his passes were tipped. But still, his accuracy was far from good. Kerry played better in the second half and seemed more comfortable in a hurry up setting. But Collins had problems getting the play off in time and he and his receivers were not on the same page on the critical 4th-and-goal (from the eight) in the 4th quarter. Collins finished the day going 24-of-38 for 202 yards, one interception, and no touchdowns. He did make some sharp throws in the fourth quarter to Ike Hilliard, including one on a real tough 4th-and-22 situation. Collins also looked more to the tight ends than Kent Graham has.

Offensive Line: Terrible. Really, the story of the game was the dominance of the Arizona front seven over the Giants’ offensive line. This unit had problems with the run and the pass. LT Roman Oben was abused by DE Simeon Rice and his back-up (a rookie no less). Oben gave up two sacks and one critical holding penalty. And time after time, his man was in Collins’ face. Oben was not able to generate any movement either on left-side runs – including two critical 3rd-and-short situations that were stuffed. I saw some good things from Luke Petitgout. As I mentioned last week, Luke looks most comfortable when blocking on the move, whether it be a pull or trap or screen. OC Derek Engler did not hurt the team, but the entire line was not able to get a push on inside runs and Engler shares much of the blame here. RT Scott Gragg had his problems with Andre Wadsworth at times; at others, he held him at bay. Right-side runs were more productive than the ones to the left and I found it strange that the Giants did not run more in that direction.

Running Backs HB Gary Brown (18 carries for 67 yards, 1 catch for 1 yard) was not much of a factor, especially after the Giants fell behind 14-0. Much of the problem was the shoddy run blocking; at least part of the problem was the questionable play-calling. I am convinced that Fassel has no feel for the running game. Too many times, he calls for slow-developing outside runs with slow backs in critical short yardage situations. I’ve never liked these kind of plays as it gives defenders, who are bunched up at the line anyway, too much of an opportunity to make penetration and disrupt the play from the start. Both Brown and FB Charles Way (5 carries for 10 yards, 3 catches for 17 yards) looked slow and sluggish. Way did make a nice play on his screen where he showed some moves and power. Tiki Barber had a chance to make a big play on his screen, but was brought down too easily. HB Joe Montgomery was activated, but did not see any time from scrimmage (he did play on special teams).

Tight Ends: The tight ends were more involved in the passing game this week. Pete Mitchell caught four passes for 30 yards and Howard Cross caught one pass for nine yards. What continues to befuddle me is that lack of use of Mitchell in the redzone. Poor coaching.

Wide Receivers: Ike Hilliard (5 catches for 78 yards) was invisible until mid-way through the 4th quarter. WR Amani Toomer (5 catches for 34 yards) was simply invisible. I don’t know if it was their inability to get open, poor pass blocking that didn’t enable Collins to give them a good look, or poor quarterbacking, but these two had to make more plays for the Giants to win. With Hilliard, it was a case of too little too late as he did make some real impressive plays in the 4th quarter. He got open and made a huge catch on 4th-and-22 and he also held onto the ball despite a punishing hit over the middle. Toomer had a chance to make a big play deep, but dropped the ball. David Patten only caught one pass for 10 yards and Joe Jurevicius was invisible again. Geez, the Giants are getting a lot of productivity out of him and Brian Alford. Let’s see, that’s our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th picks from the 1998 draft. Throw in S Shaun Williams (first round from that year) and you have some wonderful talent evaluation/development.

Defensive Line: The Giants’ defensive line played very well. DT Keith Hamilton (9 tackles, « sack) was a disruptive force both against the pass and the run. DE Cedric Jones (5 tackles, 1 sack) continues to improve. DE Michael Strahan (5 tackles, 1 sack) made plays despite being double-teamed on many plays. Throw in the solid work from Robert Harris (3 tackles), George Williams (2 tackles), and Bernard Holsey (1 tackle) and the Giants held the Cards to only 31 yards rushing and an average of 1.1 yards-per-rush. That is outstanding. The Giants also got a lot of pressure on both Jake Plummer and Dave Brown.

Linebackers: WLB Jessie Armstead (12 tackles, 1« sacks) played yet another fabulous game. He was all over the field – playing the run, rushing the passer, and in coverage. What makes Jessie so valuable is that versatility. Fans should learn to appreciate his pass coverage (where he normally blankets his man) as much as his big plays against the ball carrier. MLB Corey Widmer (5 tackles) played a solid, but unspectacular game. He also deserves much of the credit for the great run defense. SLB Ryan Phillips (2 tackles) was badly exposed in coverage twice – once by the tight end and once by the 3rd down back – for big plays. He continues to be a liability in that phase of the game. On the pass rush, he lacks explosiveness and shiftiness.

Defensive Backs: Given the quality pass rush, this unit didn’t play very well – especially the cornerbacks. The Giants need their defensive backs to start making more plays and causing more turnovers. CB Phillippi Sparks was abused all first half by Jake Plummer. Time after time, Sparks’ man (mainly WR David Boston) caught the ball right in front of him. Phillippi played too soft and didn’t react well when the ball was in the air. He also got out-muscled in the endzone for a touchdown by Boston. CB Jason Sehorn was beaten badly by Boston for a long gain to the one-yard line that set up the other touchdown. The safeties were far too quiet. Sam Garnes had one tackle. Percy Ellsworth and Shaun Williams had none. They didn’t make any plays against the pass either.

Special Teams: Generally solid, but there were a few breakdowns. Most disturbing is that Brad Dalusio missed yet another field goal between 40 and 50 yards (42 yards). The Giants are spending far too much money on an unreliable kicker. P Brad Maynard had an outstanding day except for one poor punt. If Maynard wants to become a very good player, he has to cut out these poor efforts that seem to occur at least once every game. The Giants also gave up a 51-yard kick return to start the second half. On the positive side is that Tiki Barber looked real sharp on a 36-yard punt return and seems to be getting a better feel for when and when not to field a punt. Punt coverage was generally solid, though the gunners need to break down better and make the tackle. Kick returns were quite average. DT Christian Peter kept the Giants in the game by blocking a field goal.


SCORING SUMMARY

1ST QUARTER:

NONE.

2ND QUARTER:

ARI – TD, JAKE PLUMMER 1 YD RUN (CHRIS JACKE KICK), 0:02. Drive: 4 plays, 30 yards in 1:25. Key plays: Lassiter recovery of K Collins fumble at New York 30; Plummer 37-yard pass to Boston to New York 1. ARIZONA 7-0

ARI – TD, DAVID BOSTON 11 YD PASS FROM JAKE PLUMMER (CHRIS JACKE KICK), 14:27. Drive: 8 plays, 68 yards in 3:49. Key plays: Plummer 12-yard pass to Sanders to New York 32; Plummer 21-yard pass to Pittman to New York 11. ARIZONA 14-0

3RD QUARTER:

NONE.

4TH QUARTER:

NYG – FG, BRAD DALUISO 31 YD, 4:47. Drive: 11 plays, 43 yards in 4:26. Key plays: Barber 36-yard punt return to New York 43; K Collins 7-yard pass to Mitchell on 3rd-and-3 to Arizona 43; K Collins 9-yard pass to Cross to Arizona 24. ARIZONA 14-3

TEAM STATISTICS

                                                 NYG            ARI
                                            --------       --------
                   FIRST DOWNS                    15             13
                   Rushing                         5              2
                   Passing                        10             11
                   Penalty                         0              0
                   3RD-DOWN EFFICIENCY          5-17           2-13
                   4TH-DOWN EFFICIENCY           1-3            0-0
                   TOTAL NET YARDS               285            206
                   Total plays                    69             58
                   Average gain                  4.1            3.6
                   NET YARDS RUSHING             107             31
                   Rushes                         28             27
                   Average per rush              3.8            1.1
                   NET YARDS PASSING             178            175
                   Completed-attempted         24-38          17-27
                   Yards per pass                4.3            5.6
                   Sacked-yards lost            3-24           4-22
                   Had intercepted                 1              0
                   PUNTS-AVERAGE              6-47.3         9-46.6
                   RETURN YARDAGE                151            104
                   Punts-returns                7-86           4-52
                   Kickoffs-returns             3-65           1-51
                   Interceptions-returns         0-0            1-1
                   PENALTIES-YARDS              8-52           3-14
                   FUMBLES-LOST                  2-1            1-0
                   TIME OF POSSESSION          31:51          28:09

PLAYER STATISTICS

Missed field goals: NY Giants (Brad Daluiso 42); Arizona (Chris Jacke 53, 34).

NY Giants rushing: Gary Brown 18-67, Kerry Collins 4-23, Charles Way 5-10, Tiki Barber 1-7.

Arizona rushing: Michael Pittman 8-20, Adrian Murrell 14-8, Jake Plummer 3-3, Joel Makovicka 1-0, Mario Bates 1-0.

NY Giants passing: Kerry Collins 24-38 for 202 yards, 1 INT, 0 TD.

Arizona passing: Jake Plummer 13-19 for 156 yards, 0 INT, 1 TD, Dave Brown 4-8 for 41 yards, 0 INT, 0 TD.

NY Giants receiving: Ike Hilliard 5-78, Amani Toomer 5-34, Pete Mitchell 4-30, Tiki Barber 4-23, Charles Way 3-17, David Patten 1-10, Howard Cross 1-9, Gary Brown 1-1.

Arizona receiving: David Boston 8-101, Frank Sanders 5-37, Terry Hardy 2-31, Michael Pittman 1-21, Adrian Murrell 1-7.

NY Giants tackles-assists-sacks (unofficial): Jessie Armstead 8-4-1.5, Phillippi Sparks 9-0-0, Keith Hamilton 5-4-0.5, Jason Sehorn 6-0-0, Cedric Jones 5-0-1, Corey Widmer 5-0-0, Michael Strahan 2-3-1, Robert Harris 2-1-0, Ryan Phillips 1-1-0, George Williams 0-2-0, Sam Garnes 1-0-0, Marcus Buckley 0-1-0, Bernard Holsey 0-1-0.

Arizona tackles-assists-sacks (unofficial): Rob Fredrickson 13-2-0, Tommy Bennett 6-3-0, Tom Knight 6-1-0, Ronald Mckinnon 4-3-0, Kwamie Lassiter 5-1-0, Simeon Rice 4-1-2, Rashod Swinger 2-3-0, Andre Wadsworth 4-0-0, Jerry Drake 2-2-0, Zack Walz 1-1-0, Aeneas Williams 1-1-0, Thomas Burke 1-0-1, Corey Chavous 1-0-0, Mark Maddox 1-0-0, J.j. Mccleskey 1-0-0, Brad Ottis 0-1-0.

Interceptions: Arizona (Pat Tillman 1 for 1 yards).

Fumbles lost: NY Giants (Kerry Collins).

Opponent’s fumbles recovered: Arizona (Kwamie Lassiter).

Officials: Referee-Tom White, Umpire-Jim Quirk, Head Linesman-Paul Widner, Line Judge-Ron Marinucci, Back Judge-Bob Waggoner, Side Judge-Gary Lane, Field Judge-Keven Mack.

A: 49,015; T: 3:05.

Oct 081999
 

Regular Season: Giants Lead Series 73-37-2

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals, October 10, 1999: This is a big, big game for the Giants (2-2; 1-1 in the division). The Giants can’t afford to fall further behind the Dallas Cowboys (3-0; 2-0 in the division) and the Washington Redskins (3-1; 1-1 in the division with a victory against the Giants). New York is not in terrible shape record-wise, but their two victories have not been impressive. If the team is to contend for the NFC East title, it must quickly get its act together starting in Arizona.

For their part, the Cardinals have not played well and they have been a major disappointment thus far in the season. But they are still a very dangerous team with many talented players on both sides of the ball. New York should not and must not take Arizona lightly.

Giants on Offense: When things are not going well, fans always love change. That’s why the back-up quarterback is always so popular on a struggling team. But often times, the move to start the back-up only helps in the short-term. This has been true of the move to Danny Kanell and Kent Graham in the past two seasons. Will Kerry Collins be any different? Team management seems to think so. Collins has the pedigree, but he has to prove that he can do it on the field. There are two questions that need to be answered: (1) Can Collins lead his team to a victory against the Cardinals?, and (2) Can he become the “franchise” quarterback the Giants have lacked since the departure of Phil Simms? Obviously, the first question is the more relevant for this game preview.

One concern with Collins is his propensity to turn the ball over. He had these problems in Carolina and New Orleans last year. He has also turned the ball over in each of his two regular season appearances with the Giants. Most importantly, Collins needs to keep a firm grip on the ball when he is being hit.

What Kerry brings to the table is a major league arm, better accuracy, and a quicker release than Kent Graham. He also plays to win, not to lose. This can lead to big plays, but it also can get him into trouble at times as he is less wary than Kent to force a ball into tight coverage. Kerry shouldn’t change this element of his game, but he should be a little smarter with the ball at times.

Arizona’s probable overall defensive strategy will be to stack the line of scrimmage against the run, jam the wide receivers at the line, and blitz like crazy (including run blitzes). The Giants have killed the Cards the past two years with their ground game and Head Coach Vince Tobin is probably going to pull out all the stops to make sure it doesn’t happen again. “Basically, (the Giants have) lined up with two tight ends, mashed us off the ball and said, ‘OK, here it comes, tackle us,'” said Arizona Defensive Coordinator Dave McGinnis. “They turn around and hand the ball to a big back, block us up front, and the big back runs over you. Four times. We haven’t stopped it four times. That’s what concerns you.” The big question for the Giants is do they attempt to run the ball at Arizona regardless early in the game (this has worked in the past) or do they come out throwing the ball in order to take advantage of the Cardinals’ aggressiveness? In terms of pure strategy, the latter route is the way to go, but that will put a lot of pressure on Collins, the offensive line (which may be missing Brian Williams), the backs (in terms of blitz pickups), and the wide receivers to perform.

Collins will need to be on his game against Arizona. CB Aeneas Williams is one of the best in the game and WR Ike Hilliard will have his hands full with him. Thus, it will be very important for WR Amani Toomer to have a big game against CB Corey Chavous or CB Tom Knight. Chavous is a physical player who will probably look to jam Toomer at the line. If Amani can get off the line quickly and get some separation from Corey, he could make some game-turning plays. I would also look to David Patten as possibly having a big game. Kerry likes throwing to David and Patten’s overall speed and quickness might cause the Cardinals some problems. WR Joe Jurevicius has been disappointing thus far. He needs to make more plays and stop making physical (dropped passes, fumbles) and mental mistakes (poor route running) on the field.

Of course, as usual, the ability of the offense to move the ball and put points up on the board will largely depend on the success or failure of the offensive line. Unfortunately, the Giants may be without their leader up front, OC Brian Williams (thumb). Even if Williams does play, he will probably be limited. If he doesn’t go, OC Derek Engler will have to play well or the Giants may be in trouble. The bad news is the DT Eric Swann (knee) returns this week against the Giants. If I were Tobin, I’d move him over from the left side to the right defensive tackle spot where he would face rookie Luke Petitgout, who has struggled. LG Ron Stone has had good success against Swann since he has been in New York. “He’s definitely ready – ain’t no doubt about it,” Cardinals’ OC Mike Devlin says. “He’s as strong as I’ve ever felt him. He’s as quick as I’ve ever seen him. If you don’t double-team him, you’re stupid. He’s one of the strongest – freakish strength – I’ve ever seen.” The Cardinals list DT Mark Smith (knee) as doubtful. If he can’t go, Jerry Drake and Rashod Swinger will start and whichever Giant faces one of these two must handle their opponent. On the left side, LT Roman Oben has had good success in the past with Simeon Rice. Hopefully this will continue; Roman did not play very well last week. RT Scott Gragg faces the super-talented Andre Wadsworth. Gragg could have problems with Andre’s quickness unless Scott gets his big mitts on him. Gragg is going to have to play a tough, physical game. It is also time for Luke Petitgout to step up and start showing some improvement. Most notably, he needs to start playing more aggressively in the ground game and getting more movement on his opponent. If the line doesn’t perform well, Kerry Collins and Gary Brown will have a long day.

When the Giants run the ball, the key will be the work of the interior linemen (Petitgout, Stone, and Williams or Engler) and FB Charles Way against Swann, Drake/Swinger, and the linebackers. If Swann begins to dominate and Luke needs help, this will free one of the linebackers against Brown. But if the Giants can handle Swann with one guy, then our center and Way could get a helmet on the smallish linebacking corps. The blocking of TE Howard Cross could play an important factor as well. When the Giants put the ball in the air, Collins needs to get TE Pete Mitchell more involved. He should be able to do some damage against SS Tommy Bennett and the linebackers. 3rd down back Tiki Barber needs to make some big plays too and the blitz pickup of all the backs could prove decisive.

Giants on Defense: The Giants on defense had better come ready to play if they intend to win. With their offensive teammates continuing to struggle at putting points on the board, it will probably be up to the defense once again to keep New York in the contest. QB Jake Plummer of the Cardinals has struggled so far this year, but he is still very dangerous both running and throwing the ball. It will be important for Giant defenders to keep him scrambling for first downs. The defensive line needs to get a good push on their pass rush, but they must also be wary to maintain their pass rush lanes and make sure tackles when Jake starts moving around.

The Giants must dominate up front or they will be in trouble. They should create some problems. DE Michael Strahan and DT Robert Harris should control their match-ups against RT Anthony Clement and RG Lester Holmes, respectively. Strahan started to elevate his game in the second half of the Eagles contest last week; Harris has yet to do so. DE Cedric Jones might be able to have a breakout game against LT Matt Joyce and DT Keith Hamilton should outplay LG Chris Dishman. The Giants are better up front; but they still have to play the game at a high level if they expect to win. Dealing with the heat will also be a concern and the Giants need quality minutes from DT Christian Peter, DT George Williams, and DE Bernard Holsey this week. Williams and Holsey need to make more plays when they get in the game – they have done little this year.

Since the Cardinals run a West Coast Offense, the linebackers will have to play strong against the pass. TE Terry Hardy has become a favorite target of Plummer’s and their running backs can catch the ball. HB Michael Pittman is their new third down back and he can break it. Starting HB Adrian Murrell is also thrown to in the passing game. The Cardinals will be sure to test Corey Widmer and Ryan Phillips in coverage. It might be wise to have Scott Galyon and Marcus Buckley play a bit more than usual this week.

The Cardinals have struggled to run the ball this year, but Adrian Murrell is still dangerous. The last thing the defense needs is for the Cards’ ground game to get untracked. Stuff the run and make Arizona one-dimensional. Then get after Plummer. That’s the key.

With WR Rob Moore (hamstring) out and WR Andy McCullough (hamstring) limited or out, Arizona is a bit thin at wide receiver right now. That’s another reason why Plummer may use his backs and tight ends more. Yet they still have WR Frank Sanders (who has been a Giant-killer) and the very talented rookie WR David Boston. If CB Jason Sehorn, CB Phillippi Sparks, and FS Percy Ellsworth can handle these two on their own, then SS Sam Garnes can help out the linebackers. It’s also time for S Shaun Williams to start earning his first round pay check and make some big plays.

The most important thing when defending a West Coast Offense is to disrupt the timing between the receivers and quarterback. Jam the receivers at the line and throw them off their routes. Get in the quarterback’s face. Do not allow Jake to get into any kind of rhythm. The defense simply cannot afford to give up many points this week.

Giants on Special Teams: Give the Giants some credit this year; their special teams has been very much improved. But they have to keep it going. A game often comes down to the play of the special teams – especially division games. Mario Bates is dangerous on kick returns and David Boston is very capable of breaking one on punt returns.

Oct 061999
 
New York Giants 16 – Philadelphia Eagles 15

Overview: What should have been a Giants’ blowout turned into a close, ugly game – as do many Giants-Eagles games. Defensively, offensively, and on special teams, the Giants were superior, but the Giants found themselves trailing in the 4th quarter 15-13. If it were not a for a 4th quarter “drive” that resulted in a field goal, led by back-up QB Kerry Collins, the Giants would have suffered a very embarrassing defeat. The biggest problems on Sunday were turnovers (five of them) and poor quarterbacking. Some inconsistent offensive line play did not help matters either.

Quarterbacks: QB Kent Graham (15-of-29 for 171 yards, 3 interceptions, and 1 touchdown) started the game, but he did not finish it. Graham was pulled after his third interception of the game in the 3rd quarter. Just like last week, things started off well for Kent as he led the Giants on their opening possession to a touchdown. Graham went 4-of-6 for 47 yards on the drive, hitting Amani Toomer for a couple of key completions before finding Ike Hilliard over the middle for a touchdown. But after that, things went quickly down hill for Graham. Kent’s accuracy was off. He threw high, low, and behind his receivers. Graham did not have ideal pass protection, but he also looked a tad jumpy in the pocket. At times, he settled down and threw ropes to his receivers, in particular, Amani Toomer. But those moments were few and far between. Most damaging were his turnovers and almost-turnovers. At the end of the first quarter, Kent didn’t see CB Bobby Taylor (who broke off his coverage on another receiver) and Taylor picked off Kent’s pass and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown. Graham later threw a very high pass to WR Joe Jurevicius that was tipped and also intercepted. Kent sealed his fate with a near-disasterous interception inside the Giants’ own 15 yard line. After that play he was pulled. Graham also fumbled the ball twice, but New York recovered in both cases.

In came Kerry Collins (6-of-12 for 86 yards, 0 interceptions, 0 touchdowns) who clearly was not comfortable. Collins was quite jumpy in the pocket and he was not helped by the pass protection breaking down on his first couple of series. Kerry fumbled the ball away on his second possession, ruining some excellent field position given to the Giants by their defense. Collins started to settle down a bit after that and he led New York on their game-winning field goal drive. First, he hit Ike Hilliard on an out, and Hilliard’s catch-and-run gained 28 yards. Then he hit FB Charles Way on a screen for 16 yards. These two plays got the Giants into field goal range, but Collins was not able to connect with his receivers for the more significant touchdown. Kerry later had a chance to put more points on the board after a 32-yard deep ball to Amani Toomer, but the drive bogged down and was hurt by an intentional grounding pass from Collins.

Offensive Line: Inconsistent effort by this group, particularly on the left side (LT Roman Oben and LG Luke Petitgout). As I expected, the return of HB Gary Brown demonstrated that the run blocking had not been as bad in previous games as it looked. The Giants were able to get their running attack finally going and with Brown carrying the ball, holes “strangely” began to appear. Still, there were too many instances where there was not enough of a push. Oben fell too easily off many of his blocks and Petitgout simply was not able to drive his man out of the way. Luke looks much more comfortable in movement situations than when he is called upon to slug it out in the trenches. He had a real nice block on a screen pass once again. Petitgout was flagged for a holding penalty. The right-side run blocking of RG Ron Stone and RT Scott Gragg was better – but it wasn’t really good either. Gragg was called for a costly leg-whipping penalty. Scott needs to spend less time on the ground and more time punishing his opponent. Stone had a devastating block on a left-side pull on a running play. Still, the strength of Ron’s game is his straight-ahead drive blocking – in movement situations, he still misses his man too much – such as on Way’s screen pass. Pass blocking was solid at times and then terrible at others. The low points were Collins’ first two series. Both Oben and Luke seemed to have trouble with their men.

Running Backs: Gary Brown’s return really helped the ground attack immensely. Indeed, while Brown showed a bit of rust, he was remarkably effective and was able to carry the ball 27 times for 87 yards. That’s a lot of work for someone who just got back into the fold. Brown and Fassel both said he made some mistakes and missed some holes, but he did a fairly good job of following his blocks and cutting back to the open spot – such as his 28 yard run in the second quarter. Most of Brown’s positive work came in the first half when he registered 56 yards on 11 carries. After that, the Eagles started to tighten their run defense again him. There were also times in the second half when Gary didn’t follow his blocks – he took one 3rd quarter run too far outside instead of cutting it up the field sooner. Brown was able to pick up a big first down late in the 4th quarter when the Giants were attempting to run out the clock.

Charles Way looked sharp blocking for Brown on the plays that I kept my eyes on him. He had a decent day carrying the ball (5 carries for 19 yards) and his 16-yard screen pass was a key play in winning the game. Tiki Barber made a great diving catch on short pass from Graham. But his biggest play was his hustle play to recover a Graham fumble that saved 3-points. LeShon Johnson carried the ball once for one yard.

Tight Ends: Pete Mitchell (2 catches for 20 yards) continues to be underutilized – though it seemed that the Eagles were paying far more attention to him than previous opponents. I spotted Mitchell double covered in a few instances and Graham tried to force the ball to him on his final pick. Howard Cross caught one pass for three yards and showed some toughness after the catch. Dan Campbell saw some action as an extra tight end in 3-TE sets.

Wide Receivers: Amani Toomer (8 catches for 123 yards) had a big game, even though he didn’t get into the endzone. Indeed, Toomer might have had even bigger numbers had Graham not thrown two deep passes out of bounds that were intended for Amani. Toomer has very sure hands and is showing more and more confidence with the ball in his hands after the catch. He is looking to make big plays. Ike Hilliard (4 catches for 64 yards) had a solid day’s work. He scored New York’s only touchdown on the first drive of the game and had key receptions (for 21 and 28 yards respectively) on New York’s field goal drives in the second half. Joe Jurevicius had one catch for 26 yards, but didn’t protect the ball well enough and fumbled the ball away when he was tackled from behind. Joe has to keep in mind that he is no speedster and he will be caught from behind by many defensive backs in this league.

Defensive Line: The Eagles totaled just 174 yards on Sunday. It was tough to tell if the the responsibility for such poor numbers rested with good Giants’ defense or poor Eagles’ offense. It was probably a combination of both. DE Michael Strahan finally picked up his first sack of the year. Actually, he picked up three. But in the first half, I spotted Strahan getting faked out of his shoes a couple of times – once missing a tackle on HB Duce Staley in the backfield on 3rd-and-short and another time missing a sack on QB Doug Pederson (Strahan jumped into the air instead of continuing to the quarterback – a big “no-no”). Michael also left the game at one point favoring one of his elbows. But in the second half, Strahan picked up his game and registered all of his sacks in key situations. He also finished the game with 6 tackles.

Overall run defense was solid and much of that responsibility must go to DT Keith Hamilton, who I thought had a whale of a game. The Eagles had a tough time with Hamilton as he disrupted quite a few running plays. Keith also basically caused one of Strahan’s sacks when he chased the Eagles’ quarterback into Mike. Hamilton had a chance to pick up a sack of his own, but once again didn’t break down well enough and allowed Pederson to scramble past him. Keith also batted two passes at the line and finished with seven tackles.

Once again DE Cedric Jones was very solid in run defense. Indeed, thus far, he has been superior to Chad Bratzke in this department. Jones only had three tackles, but he he helped to keep linemen off of Jessie Armstead. However, Cedric needs to get his pass rush going. He flashed every now and then in the game, especially at the end on the Eagles’ final possession, but he has to get to the quarterback and start picking up pelts.

DT Robert Harris was solid (3 tackles), but really didn’t stick out. He showed some nice hustle on a couple of plays where the quarterback was scrambling for his life, but Robert has to make more of an impact in game – like he did in 1997.

Linebackers: WLB Jessie Armstead played another very good game, finishing with eight tackles and two sacks. Jessie has never been a big force in the pass rush department. His career season high is five from last year. But he already has three in 1999. Armstead and Strahan put the final nails in the Eagle coffin at the end of the game with back-to-back sacks. SLB Ryan Phillips looked better to me this week. I didn’t spot him getting exploited in coverage and he took on blocks better at the point-of-attack. He finished the game with 8 tackles. MLB Corey Widmer is steady (6 tackles), but he’s got to start making more big plays. He also still overruns some plays. Marcus Buckley saw some time in the nickel, but didn’t stick out.

Defensive Backs: The Eagles only picked up 90 yards through the air and it is tough to tell if that is due to their incompetence or Giant defense. The Eagles never tested CB Jason Sehorn. Jason picked off a pass in the first quarter, but made a bonehead play by trying to lateral the ball inside his own five yard line. The ball was fumbled away and only a head’s up bat by SS Sam Garnes and a sure-handed recovery from CB Phillippi Sparks kept the damage to two points (a safety). High school players know not to attempt that kind of crap. Shame on Jason. He had better stop thinking of his commercial career and more on football.

CB Phillippi Sparks was generally solid, but gave up a couple of completions underneath, including a 13-yard completion to Dietrich Jells on 3rd-and-seven. He also was flagged with a 5-yard face mask penalty. FS Percy Ellsworth is tackling much better on running and passing plays. He looks like a different player the last two weeks. He once again was in the right place at the right time on an errant Doug Pederson pass for a pick. SS Sam Garnes stumbled in coverage on one play and a completion resulted. Garnes was very active in run support and finished with 9 tackles. Shaun Williams was not noticed and that is generally a good sign for a defensive back.

Special Teams: Kick and punt coverage continues to be solid. Kick returns were not very productive this week. Tiki Barber had an up-and-down day on punt returns. He made a bone-headed play by not fielding a poor punt and this decision cost big yardage as the ball rolled for about another twenty yards. Tiki also looked very indecisive on another return. On the positive side, Barber had two good returns – one for 18 yards and another for 16. PK Brad Dalusio made all of his field goals and was sharp on his kickoffs (resulting in a couple of touchbacks). P Brad Maynard downed two punts inside the twenty and had a huge kick after the safety.


GIANTS/EAGLES

by David Oliver

This is the fourth game of the year- including exhibitions and training camp, I haven’t spent a weekend home in quite a while. This is the time of the year answering inquiries by telling people I live on the NJ Turnpike. The plusses are that the weather is still beautiful, the leaves are beginning to wear their fall outfits, I can stop at 6 Flags and visit the animals, and—-, well, there’s still hope that the Giants will have a good year. The downsides are that it gets really lonely driving back Sunday night; I have to pass through that pissant excuse of a State named Delaware, with its, $2 dollar toll in each direction and the backup that comes with that little joy, all for a 15 mile excursion; and Philadelphia; tonight, there is monster traffic heading south, as if every remaining sports fan can’t take it anymore, has packed the goods in the car , and is heading for the false Messiah of footballdom, Washington, land of the eternal ‘homer’ and the luckiest team on earth. But it’s also Sunday night and FM 98.1 is playing ‘street corner groups’ music from the 50s and 60s again ( how I love that music), including those homeboys, Danny and the Juniors (Twisting in Italy- how’s that for musical trivia) and the Dovells, from nearby Bristol (everybody should remember the Bristol Stomp). The tunes break the trip for me, I don’t feel compelled to put on talk radio and listen to the Philly mob talk about slashing their own wrists, or the owners or coaches, and it gives me a few minutes to think about how I am going to feel when I plug into BBI and read everyone screaming for Kerry Collins to play and Jim Fassell’s head in the same sentence.

Even the guy giving the halftime scores on the CBS radio game stutters when he gets to the Giants/Eagles and says his mother raised him to believe that if he couldn’t say anything good, to say nothing at all, gives the score and immediately goes on. The Giants offense has become the laughingstock of the league and except for the Eagles offense would be the butt of every joke. The Giants/Eagles are an offensive (double entendre intended) insult to the game, a Stalinesque riddle within an enigma, a strange mixture of desire, apathy and woeful performance. Even when we score 31 points (16 for us, 15 for them), the Giants get no respect. And that egotistical numbskull Norman Chad is right again- the Giants should only be a 9 point favorite if it’s defense is playing it’s offense. But, guys, when all is said and done, the Giants WON this game, and in the words of Steve Owens (paraphrased), its better to win 3 to 2 than to lose 41 to 40. So I’m happy tonight, the defense looked good, and we are better than we have been for the last two weeks.

So let’s get right to it- is Kerry Collins better than Kent Graham? Statistically, probably not. Did the team play better for Kerry? In his own words, No. Did the fans respond to Kerry? Yes, but what the heck, there are so many Penn State graduates in those seats we might as well bring in JoePa as Fassel’s mentor, hmmm!, I wonder if Ernie is working on that. Is there a QB controversy in NY? Yes, there is for the media, which never did like KG; yes, for Ernie A., who must justify all those dollars; and yes, even here at BBI. How does the team feel about it? Bored- these guys want to play football. They want to win, and most of all, they are tired of everyone asking them if they want “smoother” or “tastes better” as the QB. Kent Graham had a bad day, he threw 3 interceptions, 2 when he was fooled on the same play call; he overthrew some receivers and he didn’t pull the trigger fast enough for others. But he completed 15 of 29 for 171 yards and a TD. Kerry was 6 of 12 for 86 yards and a TD. So there you have it- “smoother” or “tastes better”? Together they were 21 of 41 for 257 yards with 2 TDs. Air Fassel has arrived. For Bob in Newburgh, Amani Toomer has reemerged as the ‘primo’ receiver; he outjumped, outfought and beat the defenders. Ike is quietly working his way to fame. Pete Mitchell is still not being used effectively- mostly as a safety valve and not as a seam receiver dropping in behind the linebackers. Jim Fassel showed a little impatience when asked about Pete’s use. Of course, KG read the press all week about Pete being open and get him the ball, so he tried and he forced a few. The problem was that the Eagles also read the press and neutralized that little offensive ploy. They shifted coverages to disguise the defense and , well, there’s always next week for Pete. JJ keeps making the hard catch, and then puts the ball on the ground- everyone on the offense is pressing right now. David Patten didn’t get a sniff, well he got one but it was defensed.

Gary Brown did pick up the running game. He had one beautiful run around end heading for the Giants bench- he was under full steam and showed no knee trouble. He did tell the media he was knocked on his butt a couple of times and it stung. I guess as John Madden likes to say, one knee equals two cheeks, or some such thing. Well, Gary says he is working hard but must work harder. He wants to carry the offense to take some pressure off the QB. He also said that Charles Way was instrumental to the success of the running game, that he follows CW who usually leads him into the hole. The other part of the running game was KG who gave up his body on a couple of runs, one for a needed first down. He was the second leading rusher with 23 yards.

Is there anything else to say about the offense? Not really. The line is continuing to struggle. A woeful Beagle pass rush looked like Reggie and the gang were still there as it pressured the QBs and stuffed the run. Of more concern is BW. He is putting it all on the line. He gathers the troops before each set and exhorts them to do it this time, he is pressing to regain his old form. There is nothing behind BW so I hope he doesn’t give it all up- we need him for the entire year. He needs the rest of his mates to pick it up. I have no answers here; neither apparently do they. The expression in their eyes leaving the field speaks volumes. The rookie comes off with that hand in the cookie jar look; Oben looks frustrated; Stone looks implacable; Gragg looks belligerent. This group needs to jell, and do it quickly. Coach McNally darts up and down the sidelines, often going up to JF; I wish I knew what he was saying.

The kicking game. Joe D rebounded nicely and won the game. Did you see his kickoff that split the uprights? Maynard had 3 for 104, a 34.7 average, but a nice one inside the 20. The safety kick was a beauty and looked like it traveled 70 yards. Patten had 3 returns for 57 yards with a long of 22- not real good; Tiki returned 5 for 58 yards with a long of 19, not good, not bad. Old friend Landeta can still kick with 7 for 347 yards and a long of 57. Too bad he never learned to kick directionally, ala Dan Reeves.

Fumbles, oh, my! 5 fumbles forced by the Beagles- lucky they couldn’t take advantage of them. They recovered 2. But the fumbles were enough to stop us from doing any offensive damage. We actually fumbled 6 times and threw 3 interceptions. A Tale of Two Cities.

The defense looked good against a very bad offense. Garnes, Armstead, Phillips and Hamilton combined for 32 tackles; Garnes had 9. Jessie had 2 sacks and, hello, Michael had 3. From field level, the one who made a lot of it possible was Harris who continually broke free and romped through the Eagle backfield. With the center of the line applying pressure once again, a relieved Strahan got his sacks and was grateful for them and his line help. Even Cedric got close a a couple of times. Strahan laughed about Cedric’s drop, saying he can’t even catch in practice. The secondary did a good job with Jason and Percy getting INTs. Oh, that lateral. Sparks seemed to be playing soft most of the game; normally he makes adjustments and comes up as the game progresses.

Overall, we won possession, keeping the ball over 35 minutes. We could easily have had it over 50 had we been less generous with the ball. There was no way to look good in this game- unless we scored 40 points and held them scoreless we were going to be NFL joke of the week. Keep in mind that this was a Giants/Eagles game, where the bizarro usually becomes routine. There was the Pisarcik/Czonka thing, the LT blocked field goal that went back to them and a TD, there was the 90 yard Randall punt, and the Banks tackle- the curse goes back to the days when Tommy McDonald was an Eagle receiver. This is history; Dallas may kick our butt on Monday nights, the Skins may score 50 or 70 points on us every 20 or so years; but it is the Eagles who are our most dangerous opponent- their uniforms are ugly, their ownership confused, their City can only be called the City of Brotherly Love in the context of Cain and Able, but the Giants get goofy when they come to town. So a win is a win and I’m happy with it.

Before I get to the post game interview, I have to remark about the listless, almost bored, unsupporting crowd which is showing up at the Meadowlands. I’m beginning to wonder if season ticket holders are giving away their seats, because these people don’t support the team on the field- it’s too quiet. Except for the vulgarians who shout every kind of profanity imaginable at the field. I’m no prude, but there are kids at these games and families and this language is not funny. My wife’s grandmother had a saying, “maybe you can’t help being ugly, but you can stay home.” We all love the Giants, we’re all frustrated, but a sports ticket is not a license to abuse everyone within earshot. I’m no prude, but enough is enough. No more moralizing, I feel better now.

Coach Fassel had plenty to say, such as “We win…but I’m not very happy with that performance at all, especially…the offense…mistakes….fortunately we put a few things together and were able to move the ball and get a little field position….but 5 turnovers….our defense played well…we just can’t play football like that…” On KG, KC he said “I’m going to think about it. I’m not going to make any decision right now. I’m just upset with the way we performed.” JF talked about the play-calling “what I get myself into, is I can’t not throw the football because I’m afraid something bad is going to happen…” He took Kent out because “Kent was struggling big time, big time…I’ll do whatever it takes to win THAT game, and I felt like I had to get him out of there.” He felt Strahan played extremely well and said “you’ve got to have your good players rise up and make plays, and he made a number of them.”

On the Sehorn lateral, he drew some laughter when he said “I have said…to the defensive guys that I don’t want the ball lateraled…I told them all, the entire defense, everybody, I never want to see the ball lateraled, ever again…ever, ever, ever…” When asked if there were any positives, he said “we won the football game…When we functioned, we functioned pretty well…it’s so sporadic, we’re just making mistakes…turnovers kill you…take 5 turnovers and holy smokes, I don’t know how many times that would have allowed us to score some points…” In general on the offense, he said he felt ‘frustrated again.’

He was moderately complimentary about KC’s performance. On assessing KG he said he “would have to see what he was trying to do, the high throws and some of those throws like that… I think he’s shuffling too quick in the pocket, he gets his hips in front of him and the ball sails on him. The last interception…was a wrong read…all of that stuff…we have to talk through some things, look at some things, I have to see what he was thinking, where he was going…look at the film, analyze it, talk with him, before I could get a clear picture…I’ve got to analyze all the information right now.”

When asked about the sequence involving the Eagles’ fumble and the Giants return gift, he said he told the offense on the sidelines ‘he wasn’t real happy.’ He also said that the determining factor about the QBs would be ‘who I think gives us the better chance of winning.’ I asked him about the rest of the offense, what he would do to get it functional. He said, “well, I don’t know…we’re just making mistakes and different things, miscues, but…all that stuff, all that stuff…make no mistake about it…whichever one you are talking about it resulted in points, one way or the other…it either took points off the board or gave them points. 5 turnovers and it could have been a whole different…I think I could have been feeling a lot differently, to be honest with you.”

On KC he said that KC was in a difficult position. JF told him he still wanted to be aggressive, to move the football. JF told KC “let me call to be aggressive, you be smart with the football, don’t throw up any jump balls for them…right now my thought process was and I was going into the game, and it kind of backfired all the way down the line, is don’t give them positive field position because I thought our defense could play with them.” JF told KC “let me call the football game. I don’t want to pull my horns in so far that I can’t give you some…to throw the football..”

On KG, JF said “he’s played solid and QBs so many times have to…you have to play solid, you have to let the game come to you, take advantage of your big plays, if you try to force the big play you could end up having problems and I thought Kent’s always played pretty smart, let the games come to him, take a shot when he had a chance.” On the round robin of QBs in his tenure, he said “let’s go back. Dave Brown got hurt, Danny came in and won 4 or 5 games, last year when I made the switch, I made the switch.” Asked if he was planning to make a switch now he said, “I’m not going to say anything about that. My philosophy has always been the same. I’m going to think about some things right now and see where we are.” On KGs performance, he said “No, I was not happy with Kent’s performance. Kent could have a LOT more help around him, no question about it.”

So there you have it- “Smoother” or “tastes batter”? Kerry and Kent both came in to meet the media, neither seeming quite comfortable. Kerry appears to be always awaiting the hand grenade which will intrude into his football rehab- he seems to disappear as the questioning progresses. Not that I blame him, he’s not running for President, he’s a football player. His exasperation peeps through with the repeat questions as to his nervousness. He says, yes, at first he was a little nervous going in, but then he reminds himself he has over 30 starts as an NFL QB- he is no football virgin, he has been here and he is gently telling the media, get off it guys. Is he ready- well, he’s a professional and he says he’s ready. He was asked if the team played hard for him, or responded to him and he was very quick to point out that this team plays hard for Kent, but he has no problems with response. In other words, it’s Kent’s team and he’s not even going there right now. He doesn’t want to be dragged into a media frenzy and says it’s JF’s decision who starts, he’s ready, but he’ll play any role. KC is very gracious with the media- he loves to talk Xs and Os, he’s obviously tired of the politics of the game.

Kent appeared somewhat sheepish- how else could he look after being publicly spanked in front of 75,000 fans by daddy. But he is a leader, never has ducked a question and even when asked something like how do you assess KC’s performance politely answers “I don’t assess other QBs.” He says he made a number of mistakes, was fooled twice by the Eagles on the same play call. When I expressed the thought that the entire offense was dysfunctional, he animatedly disagreed. He takes the blame for today but defends his guys and believes they made some progress. He refuses to point fingers or criticize the line, the fumbles, the drops and everything else. That’s why the guys love him and will play for him and feel bad because he is taking the hits.

I have been doing some reevaluating myself lately. JF is beginning to open it up; there is a potentially explosive offense here- but potential is just unrealized performance. All the ifs must be answered. If BW holds up, if Luke gets some confidence, if the line comes together, if the running back get and stay healthy, if the receivers get momentum, we will surprise some people this year. But one or two ifs a game will make a frustrating season. Until these ifs filter out, KG should remain the starter. QB controversy, so what; powerhouse offense, not at this time; but there are signs of hope, there always are when Philly leaves town. Until Dallas.

Oct 011999
 

Regular Season: Giants Lead Series 68-58-2
Post Season: Giants Lead Series 1-0

Approach to the Game – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, October 3, 1999: BBI contributor Chris in Philly sent me such an outstanding scouting report on the Eagles that I would like to use it as the basis of my game preview this week.

Comments from Chris:

  • Hey Eric: Well, I’m glad some of the Giants are finally saying the right things – it remains to be seen whether they continue to be all talk. And I’m glad some of us are also taking this game seriously – there’s an awful lot of pregame muscle around for a 1-2 team that can’t run the ball. You know how I feel about the Eagles, and believe me, they suck. Their offense is just horrid and I believe their coach is overmatched in the NFL. BUT, these games are never easy. Everybody shrugging off the Eagles has not lived here through the years of Rich Kotite kicking our tails every year. Rich Kotite! So concern is warranted. Remember, this team is one Brian Finneran drop away from the same record as us. Here’s a few observations from, blech, watching this team play.
  • Their defense is pretty solid. We got lucky that Hugh Douglas is out and Bill Johnson is still banged up. Their D-line should be able to be handled, though. Mamula has apparently been moved over to Douglas’ slot – though spped guys offer trouble to both our tackles. (Mamula stinks, but he usually plays very well against us – go figure). Their LB’s are young, fast, and good. Jeremeiah Trotter, James Darling, Barry Gardner, William Thomas – good players. In fact, expect to see some 3-4 to get all these guys on the field – especially with Douglas out. Bobby Taylor is very fragile, but he’s still very good and Troy Vincent, when he’s interested, can be as good as there is. Safeties are okay – Tim Hauck is 99 years old, but Damon Moore fills in nicely.
  • Offensively, they’re worse than we have been. Yup, that bad. Doug Pederson just cannot play at this level and he’s not helped by WR’s that drop passes and and OL that doesn’t block. When McNabb does get in in the second half, he shows he’s just not ready. He also shows some dazzling promise here and there. It will be Pederson to start, though. The OL is (a) banged up and (b) stinks. Tra Thomas is overweight and out-of-shape. Our old friend Lonnie Palalei takes over at RT and if Strahan has trouble again, he should start giving money back. Everitt is okay, but the guards are either old or bad (or both). Charles Johnson has not shown much as a #1 WR, but he should still be taken seriously. Torrance Smalls is on the verge of being benched for Dietrich Jells, who can fly, but I don’t know if he can catch. There will be at least one fly pattern to Jells – bank on that. Na Brown, Finneran, and the like make up the bland back ups. They lost Jamie Asher for the year and the other TE’s aren’t much of a factor. Duce Staley is a fine RB, though he is having trouble behind an OL that can’t open holes. (sound familiar?). Kevin Turner is out (maybe forever) and the rookie Cecil Martin takes over. My boy Corey Walker gets in only occasionally along with Eric “Sleeping with” Bienemy.
  • Bottom Line? Both of our lines should be able to dominate their counterparts and there’s very little excuse if they don’t. I see us continuing to struggle offensively against a defense that most people here are underrating ridiculously. But, our defense should be able to control their offense – IF they come to play. This is such a dangerous position to be in and we really have to be careful. We can’t just expect Pederson to throw it to us – though he probably will. Aggression, aggression, aggression. Their defense will be overtrying to make up for their offense (sound familiar?) – use it against them. Misdirection, pump fakes, whatever. They owe me this one – I couldn’t bear a week after a loss to the woeful Eagles. Chris in Philly

Comments from Eric: Chris is absolutely correct – this game will come down to the play of the offensive and defensive lines. On offense, it will be interesting to see how effective HB Gary Brown will be after a long layoff – remember, he not only was out due to the knee, but also the motorcycle accident. Brown may be VERY rusty. It will also be important for the Giants to get TE Pete Mitchell and HB Tiki Barber more involved in the passing game. As for the offensive line, it is time for these guys to start hurting the opposition. The Giants have a lot invested in the five starters. They all have talent – it is time for them to show it. The pressure has turned up on Kent Graham. How will he respond? Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer face some quality cornerbacks, but they can’t use that as an excuse. They have to make some big plays and score some points. My bottom line? Score.

On defense, the Giants must once again watch out for misdirection and plays such as draws and screens that are designed to use their aggressiveness against them. Shut down HB Duce Staley and make the Eagles one dimensional. There is no excuse for the secondary in not shutting down these guys.

As for the special teams, PK Brad Daluiso must redeem himself after last week’s critical miss. Punt and kick coverage will be key.