Washington Redskins 23 – New York Giants 13
Editor’s Note: I watched the game on the Giants’ sidelines with David Oliver – who through his diligent efforts was able to secure me a field pass. From this vantage point, I was able to keep an eye on events on the field that I would never have been able to see at home watching the set. At the same time, the ground level view did restrict my ability to monitor a great deal of the action, particular on the far side of the field. It is important for readers to recognize that fact when reading this review. Also, I was able to visit the lockerroom after the game and hear some of the comments made by the players and Head Coach Jim Fassel. I would like to personally thank both David – a true character and gentleman – as well as the Giants for allowing me such access. One of the treats for me was watching former Giants’ great LB Sam Huff coming out to meet Wellington Mara before the game on the field.
Overview: The playoff aspirations of the Giants took a serious blow by being swept by the Redskins. Let’s be brutally honest – the game was not as close as the score would indicate. The Redskins very easily should have had 16 more points if it weren’t for a bone-headed fumble on the goalline and three missed field goals. Yes, the offense certainly deserves much, if not most, of the blame for the defeat. You just can’t afford to turn the ball over five times. However, the front seven of the Giants’ defense was pushed all over the field and dominated by Washington’s offensive line. The best team on the field won and it was not our boys in blue. The Redskins were more physical, they made fewer mistakes, and they played smarter.
The bad news is that the Giants now find themselves at 5-5 overall and 3-3 in the division. They have yet to play the tough part of their schedule. If they are to give themselves a legitimate shot at the postseason, the very worst they can afford to do in the last six games is 4-2 and they may have to go 5-1. That’s going to be a tall order to fill.
The good news is that the offense does show some signs of life. I think they are real close now to being respectable. The big question is will it be too little too late?
Defensive Line/Linebackers: These guys were handled up front by the Redskin offensive line for most of the day. Aside from a few plays near the goalline, where the Giants tended tighten it up, HB Stephen Davis had a field day running the ball down the Giants’ collective throats. Davis ran left, he ran right, and he ran right up the gut. All were to blame on defense. Washington was able to pitch the ball towards DE Cedric Jones’ (4 tackles) side with great success, but they were also able to run right at DE Michael Strahan (5 tackles). Michael was largely controlled by RT Jon Jansen again. Oh sure, Strahan made a few plays against the run and had a couple of nice rushes (but no sacks). But one expects more from the self-proclaimed best defensive end in the game – especially against a rookie. A few times, Strahan was moved to the right side, but he did not do much against LT Andy Heck either. In the lockerroom after the game, Strahan went off on a reporter when the reporter had the “audacity” to ask him about his matchup with Jansen. He was not in a good mood to say the least.
Inside, DT Christian Peter (1 tackle) had a rough day against Tre Johnson and his flankmates. I spotted him getting crushed at the point far too often. DT Keith Hamilton (1 tackle) held his ground better, but only in relative terms. There was not enough penetration and I thought he would have a better day against Brad Badger. The Redskins were more physical and they wore down the Giants’ front four. It was obvious. Strahan and Hamilton yapped a great deal all week leading up to the game, but they didn’t back it up on the playing field.
The linebackers played poorly too. MLB Corey Widmer (7 tackles) was nowhere to be seen on a few inside runs that were broken for big yardage. On one play, I spotted him taking himself completely out of the play and leaving a big gap for Davis. WLB Jessie Armstead (9 tackles) made a couple of plays in the backfield, but was far too quiet. He, Widmer, and SLB Ryan Phillips (5 tackles) were often punished up front by the big Redskin line. They also had problems keeping track of FB Larry Centers who really gave the Giants fits in the passing game. In the lockerroom, I was very disturbed listening to Armstead and Widmer taking shots at their offensive teammates and saying that the defense did it’s job despite giving up so much yardage on the ground. Armstead and Widmer, in separate conversations, both said the defense should basically be applauded for holding the Redskins to 16 points. I’m sorry but these two are wrong and it is sad to see two defensive “leaders” argue their case in such a way. Yes, they only gave up 16 points, but the Redskins very easily should have had another 16. And just as importantly, Washington controlled the field position war, the clock, and the tempo of the game.
Reserves such as DT George Williams, DE/DT Bernard Holsey (1 tackle), and LB Marcus Buckley (2 tackles) saw quite a bit of action. I even spotted DT Ryan Hale in there for a couple of plays. Williams isn’t a play-maker, but I like the intensity he brings to the defense when he is out there.
Defensive Backs: The secondary had a decent day, but they really were not tested much with Washington able to grind it out on the ground so successfully. Indeed, the defensive backs had to make far too many tackles against the run given the poor play of the front seven. CB Jason Sehorn (4 tackles) was beaten badly on a double-pump, hitch-and-go route. He was able to recover a bit, but didn’t turn around for the ball and was flagged for and interference penalty that put the ball on the one yard line. CB Phillippi Sparks (8 tackles) also was flagged in the end zone, although I thought he had good coverage on the play. Aside from that, the receivers were generally held in check. Both Sehorn and Sparks were also very solid in run support. CB Jeremy Lincoln seemed to play well in the nickel. CB Emmanuel McDaniel (2 tackles) was in there a bit and held his own too. SS Sam Garnes (3 tackles) was often forced to attempt to clean up the mess in front of him with the the line and linebackers getting controlled. Still, I expected to see him make more plays closer to the line. Perhaps he was preoccupied with TE Stephen Alexander – who was held relatively quiet this time.
It’s tough for me to criticize FS Percy Ellsworth (8 tackles) too harshly. Regular readers know that I have taken my shots at him in the past. His bone-headed personal foul penalty took away any final chance the Giants had at tying the game. He also missed a few tackles very badly – uninspired efforts to say the least. But the guy was a warrior out there playing the game on a broken foot. His team needed him out there and he sucked it up. Once again, he showed that instinctive ability to read the quarterback and come away with a key interception too.
Quarterback: QB Kent Graham (3-of-12 for 36 yards, 2 interceptions) was forced to leave the game with his second concussion of the year, but Fassel said after the game he was strongly considering making the switch at that point in the game regardless. Graham was crushed right in front of me on the first drive of the game. It was vicious hit and he didn’t get up right away. I didn’t think Kent played poorly and he was victimized by some dropped passes. But he wasn’t overly sharp either and seemed once again reluctant to pull the trigger and toss the ball near tight coverage.
Kerry Collins (13-of-21 for 221 yards, 1interception) was noticeably more accurate, more decisive, and more confident. While immobile, he does have a quick release and some of the throws he was making were big league. I thought his best pass of the night was the deep out to Amani Toomer that converted a 3rd-and-long and set up the Giants’ sole touchdown. CB Darrell Green had tight coverage on the play, but Kerry gunned the ball in there perfectly and Green never had a chance. Kerry had thrown another perfect pass on the preceding play to HB Sean Bennett down the sidelines. I thought it was clearly a touchdown but the refs ruled that Bennett dropped the pass. (It was right in front of us and I don’t know what the official was watching – and we let him know it too. Ironically, the sideline judge gave us a little smile when he saw the play on the big screen – I think he agreed with us). Collins also did a good job of doing something that I’ve been calling for – hitting TE Pete Mitchell in stride while he is moving forward. Mitchell was able to pick up decent yardage after one catch over the middle. After the game, Collins said to a group of us that he thought his best pass was the pump-and-go to Hilliard near the end of the half that went for 46 yards. This play cut Washington’s lead to 10-6.
It wasn’t the perfect throws that so impressed and encouraged me however. It was the fact that I felt that Kerry was much more comfortable and less jittery in the pocket than he was in Arizona. The rush didn’t seem to bother Collins and that is very, very important in his development. It is very obvious that Kerry has a good chemistry with David Patten – both guys played together throughout the summer on the second team. Strangely, Collins somewhat disagreed with this assessment when David Oliver asked him about it after the game. All I know is that Patten was at his best in the preseason when Collins was at the helm. In the Redskin game, Kerry was hitting Patten just as he was coming out of his break. These passes were coming against Darrell Green and Champ Bailey. They were major league passes and the type of throw that Graham has been reluctant to release.
The big problem for Kerry in the game was the center-quarterback exchange. This is often a problem when a quarterback switch is made and a center and quarterback don’t have much experience working together. However, after the game, Collins would have none of that. He said that the exchange is the most basic play in all of football and that that should never happen. I admired the way he accepted responsibility. In watching his mannerisms and listening to his responses, one comes away with the impression that Kerry is a very confident young man. He answered all the quarterback controversy questions the way he should have and was very diplomatic. But you can tell that he is dying to get in there for good. Kerry firmly believes that the offense is not that far away from being productive. I came away inspired by his confidence.
Wide Receivers: The starters were too quiet against Champ Bailey and Darrell Green. Ironically, it was David Patten who gave these two the most problems. Hilliard (4 catches for 101 yards) got open deep near the end of the half and responded on the pump-and-go. But he simply doesn’t have the speed to break a game open. His stats were somewhat bloated by the last catch of the game. Aside from Toomer’s big third down catch that I alluded to above, he was a non-factor except for two plays where he was interfered with. If Amani ever wants to be considered one of the best in the game, he has to make plays on a consistent basis and not disappear for long stretches. He never seems to get wide open for some reason.
Joe Jurevicius (1 catch for 11 yards) had a horrible game. I think he dropped at least three passes that he should have caught – one which he tipped up into the air and was intercepted. I have been very, very disappointed in Joe. I felt strongly he was one of the best receivers in the draft two years ago and I have been very encouraged by what I have seen of him in camp. But he simply is not focusing enough on the field. His best play of the night was becoming a defensive back and knocking away Collins’ worst pass of the night – a pass that was almost intercepted by Green. Right now, David Patten (3 catches for 51 yards) is clearly playing better than Jurevicius and it is Patten who should be seeing the bulk of the playing time. After the game, Collins said Joe had a rough game, but that he still has a lot of confidence in him. Perhaps Joe will respond with his fellow alumni in there.
Patten is one of the Giants’ most explosive players due to his speed. Regardless of what Kerry says, I think he has a special relationship with Collins and expect some big plays to result very soon.
Tight Ends: Every time I see TE Howard Cross interacting with his teammates up close and personal, I come away with the impression that this guy means much more to his team than his meager receiving statistics. Howard is a character and a leader. One only had to see him coming over to LG Mike Rosenthal right before kick-off and joking with him in an effort to settle down the obviously nervous rookie. Cross is widely regarded as one of the funniest guys on the team, yet he is a competitor who hates to lose. Cross was very defiant of the boos cascading down on him and his teammates when the Giants’ offense was introduced before the game. Every team needs a guy like Howard and he remains one of my favorites.
Pete Mitchell (3 catches for 30 yards) started off on a down note by dropping a Graham pass and tipping it up in the air where it was intercepted. Pete settled down after that and made a positive contribution. Still, I was expecting him to be more of a factor in the game.
Running Backs: HB Tiki Barber (10 carries for 44 yards, 4 catches for 46 yards) ) is the best player on the offensive side of the ball right now and one of the best players on the team. What stood out to me more than anything else on the ground level was the fantastic job he did on blitz pickups. He absolutely clobbered a blitzer on the goalline and saved Kerry Collins’ life on the play where Toomer was interfered with for the second time on the Giants’ lone touchdown drive. It was one of the hits of the game. On another play where Dana Stubblefield cleanly beat Rosenthal, it was the 195 pound Barber who took out the 320 pound defensive lineman. Pass protection from running backs is immensely underrated aspect of the game and Tiki should be congratulated for his technique and courage.
Another area that I am very impressed with Barber is the toughness that he is running between the tackles with. Not only is he unafraid to mix it up inside, but he continues to show good balance and break tackles. In the fourth quarter, it was the running of Tiki combined with the passing of Kerry that got the Giants back into the game and swung the momentum in their favor. He had a real nice run that initially started towards the right, but he broke it back to the left for good yardage. The shuttle pass to him on 3rd down was another huge play. After the game, Barber was one of the last guys to walk off the field as insults rained down from Skins’ fans. I applauded him from the sideline in an effort to let him know that I thought he played very well.
I also thought that FB Charles Way (8 carries for 26 yards) played one of his best games of the year. His block on the shuttle pass is the one that sprung Tiki. He broke off a nice right-side run for good yardage, but I thought his best run of the night was the one right up the middle after the Skins’ turnover on the goalline. The crowd was going crazy and Washington was looking to hold the Giants down there and force them to punt before the half ended. Not only did Way’s run prevent that strategy from working, but it also enabled the Giants to open up the offense and generate points of their own before halftime. It was Way who scored the Giants’ touchdown on another right side run over Ron Stone and Scott Gragg.
HB LeShon Johnson (2 carries for 5 yards) was a non-factor.
Offensive Line: Inconsistent. Actually, I thought most of the line played decently. There were a few breakdowns in pass protection, but at times the line gave the quarterbacks a good pocket to throw from. Of course the big mistake was LT Roman Oben’s poor effort against DE Ndukwe Kalu on a play where Kalu sacked Collins from the blindside, stripped the ball, and DE Marco Coleman returned it for a touchdown. It was the play of the game. The regular right end, Coleman, gave Oben problems on too many plays. I don’t know if Oben is struggling with new Offensive Line Coach Jim McNally’s technique, if his knee is bothering him, or he is simply regressing, but Oben is having his worst year.
For his first time out, I thought LG Mike Rosenthal did an admirable job. I saw him whiff on one block (the one Tiki picked up) and he was also knocked way back into the backfield on a running play by Stubblefield. But there were no big disturbances coming from his man. In the lockerroom after the game, I said to Mike that I thought he did well. He responded that his man beat him a few times. I told him that for his first time out, I thought it was heck of a job. I also mentioned that our readers are very interested in his progress. Mike seemed genuinely thankful for my comments. David Oliver has a good rapport with Rosenthal and we intend to keep track of him.
The rest of the line did alright. The big problem remains opening up big holes for the running backs. I thought RT Scott Gragg and RG Ron Stone were solid. Stone did miss a block on Coleman on a trap. OC Brian Williams looked spent after the game. I think he is still trying to get accustomed to the rigors of a 16-game season again.
Special Teams: The punt coverage unit gave up a big return to Brian Mitchell. P Brad Maynard had a solid all-around day – finally. PK Cary Blanchard converted both his field goal attempts, but he remains dreadfully short on his kickoffs. He also hit one out-of-bounds – a big no-no. Kick returns by Bashir Levingston were decent, but he did put the ball on the ground. Fortunately, Bernard Holsey recovered. Tiki Barber wasn’t able to return a punt.
ERIC DOES RALJON
by David Oliver
It sounds a whole lot better than `Skins do Giants – Again! But my friends that is what actually happened. Strip off the veneer from this antique and you find the story is just plain old. Sure, we were totally hosed by the officiating; yes, the defense ONLY gave up 16 points; and, ok, the offense again underperformed, but this Tale of Two Cities begins only with “it was the worst of times”, and ends with 2 defeats at the hands of – them. When you read the statements coming out of Giantdom about how close the game was, the statements out of `Skinsdom about how they should have scored 50 points again, including Norv’s remarks to Sonny and George that the game wasn’t really that close, and you wonder what planet these guys are on. The truth, as always lies somewhere between. It wasn’t a blowout, or `skins domination, but then, we were never really in it – it was a tease, a barker’s come on, a very twisted way to spend a Sunday evening.
The real unfortunate part of the whole event is that the pencil necks in the media have succeeded in extracting several painful statements about the offense from a few high profile members of the defense. Right at the very time when we need the D to stand tall and get the job done, a very artful deflection is taking place- blame placement. Believe me, I know the technique. Working for the Feds that’s all we get; the pretty boys stub their toes and ==it flows downhill. Thank goodness, it is not all of the D, many of whom are more than willing to stand up and acknowledge that yes, the O is struggling, but that WE, as a TEAM are not getting the job done.
Eric will give you the blow-by-blow; I’ll play Boomer E. today. Did Bennett score? Well, in the end it didn’t matter because we did score a couple of plays later. But rightness in the universe demands an analysis – for future reference. There were 4 of us in the End Zone, two video guys and 2 still guys. Both still guys said score, both video guys were unsure. We were all sure he had the ball in the air; that to me constitutes score – the plane was broken. Bobbling? Well, that referee has better eyes than my lens, because my photo shows no bobble. I asked Sean about the play, and he told me they had run it 2 or 3 times in practice this week. He said “I lost it in the lights for a second…I thought I had it…I felt my feet come down and my back hit…he came through and swiped it out…”
Were our linemen, particularly Strahan, being held? Absolutely, obviously and methodically. And they were screaming at the officials pleading for a call. But between Tag’s power and Dan’s money, ain’t nobody getting a call in this City. But that’s not the whole story. For example, when I talked to Percy Ellsworth he was very low and felt that he had let the team down- which I believe he did not. He had the interception and many chase tackles, playing with a broken foot. He made a dumb mistake, but other things cost the team that win. But Percy said that the D would come back, “We have to, nobody’s going to tag in for us…this is a long season, a long, crazy season…we’re just one game out…it’s a crazy season…” I asked him about the trash talking on the field and he told me there’s a lot going out there, but you leave it on the field. He told me, “There’s just a lot of things going on out there.”
Corey Widmer acknowledged that misdirection plays hurt the D. He said, “They were running away from the safety and the defense over shifted, hoping that the scoop backs would come up and keep the backside closed, but they were popping it.” Corey said “Misdirection could either be great or just the worst thing in the world for you, offensively speaking, because there is a lot of movement in the backfield and you could get stuck for a loss real quick, but we weren’t getting there enough.” In the red zone our D is outstanding. As Corey said, “It comes down to points. I’d give up 400 yards rushing, as long as we score more points than they do, just 1 more point.” Corey felt if there was a bright point in the game, it was “having them come down, and not giving up the points. It’s pretty easy to concede 3 points, but we were still coming hard, even on the PATs (points after) , and that was a big factor, it still gave us a shot in the end.” Talking about the emotional level of the game, he acknowledged that each week the D has to notch up the emotional fervor, that “the defense has always been the one to set the stage.” Someone said to Corey that it looked almost as if the D was begging for help from the O. He said, “…coming in against that defense…you know the defense (Giants), is going to hit them in the mouth, but you need some help…we’ll all have to hit them in the mouth…in these kinds of games, the emotional are running so high that…you have got to respond…there are critical points, when you are driving, etc.,or at some point in the game…the defense is just as guilty (the penalty) you have to know where you are…this is the stuff you learn when you’ve been in the league for a few years…” But he said, “we’re professionals. Regardless of what we did the week before, the defense is going to step up every week.”
Mike Rosenthal was tired after the game and certainly would have enjoyed it more in a victory. When I said, Hey, big guy, how did it feel?, he answered in a team way “We needed a win here, we needed to come out and play well…we just came up a little short, but it’s a long season and we have to keep on plugging and plugging…we have to go back and review the film and improve.” I asked him if he felt he held his own and he told me, “Some plays good, some plays bad; I’ve just got to minimize the bad and get more good.” I asked if it felt strange to be replacing his college buddy? He said, “We’ve been best friends through this whole ordeal, through the NFL draft, through College and being out here. He’s been great. Last night he called me and told me what to expect and I really thank him for that.”
Kerry Collins was pumped up after the game and spent a long time answering questions – about everything – I was waiting for someone to ask him what stocks he thought we should all invest in. He said “I play fast…sometimes I get excited…I can’t wait to get the ball and get back and throw it…but you have to take care of things first.” This by way of talking about the fumbles. He didn’t duck – he said they were inexcusable for a professional and he would work on it. I asked if he and David Patten had something special and he said “To be honest, I haven’t worked that much with Patten…but for whatever reason it just kind of works out well. It happened in pre-season, in Baltimore…the important thing is to develop that rapport with all the guys.” He said much more Sunday night, enough to convince me, the last sceptic, that he may be ready.
Well, there’s a lot more but it’s time to wrap up. Hold on to your hats, boys and girls, the tilt-a-whirl is starting up. We have 6 games left, against top-flight opponents. We’ll just have to see how good the defense really is – we know they can talk- now can they hold someone to 10 or fewer points? And is Old Timer or Ralph C correct – which QB is Moses and can he lead us to the Promised Land – and enter himself? Can KC hold the ball as well as he throws it? As they say in the pits, “It’s Fassel time!”
Oh, by the way, somehow the Giants found out that Eric has never been to a winning game. Not only was I told I should have left him in the parking lot with a radio, but I was asked if there was any connection between his residence in Virginia and… well, you know, was there more than just bad officiating at work here? I’m also told that the next time I bring him, they have a special place for him, right between Hamilton and Peter and in front of Corey Widmer. After all, they don’t want him to miss the action on the far side of the field. HAPPY THANKSGIVING AND REMEMBER, GIVE THANKS, WE ARE FANS OF THE GREATEST TEAM IN THE GREATEST SPORT ON EARTH. GOD BLESS!!!
RUSHING — GIANTS, T.Barber 10-44, Way 8-26, L.Johnson 2-5, Collins 4-(minus 3). Washington, Davis 33-183, Hicks 5-14, B.Johnson 3-8.
PASSING — GIANTS, Graham 3-10-2-36, Collins 13-21-1-221. Washington, B.Johnson 17-29-1-158.
RECEIVING — GIANTS, Hilliard 4-101, T.Barber 4-46, Patten 3-51, P.Mitchell 3-30, Toomer 1-18, Jurevicius 1-11. Washington, Centers 6-69, Fryar 3-10, Davis 3-5, Jenkins 1-30, Thrash 1-25, Connell 1-16, B.Mitchell 1-2, Westbrook 1-1.
PUNT RETURNS — GIANTS, None. Washington, B.Mitchell 3-33
KICKOFF RETURNS — GIANTS, Levingston 2-59, Patten 2-53, Comella 1-14. Washington, B.Mitchell 1-17, Thrash 1-14.
TACKLES-ASSISTS-SACKS — GIANTS, Armstead 9-0-0, Ellsworth 8-0-0, Sparks 8-0-0, Widmer 5-2-0, R.Phillips 5-0-0, Strahan 5-0-0, C.Jones 4-0-0, Sehorn 4-0-0, Garnes 3-0-0, Galyon 2-0-0, McDaniel 2-0-0, Buckley 2-0-0, Hamilton 1-0-0, Holsey 1-0-0, Peter 1-0-0, Levingston 1-0-0, Way 0-1-0. Washington, Shade 8-0-1, Smith 4-1-0, S.Barber 4-0-0, Green 4-0-0, Coleman 3-0-1, Cook 3-0-0, Biley 3-0-0, Thrash 2-1-0 Kalu 2-0-1, Mason 2-0-0, Wilkinson 2-0-0, Evans 1-0-0, G.Jones 1-0-0, Lang 1-0-0, McMillian 1-0-0, Stubblefield 1-0-1, Centers 1-0-0, Denton 1-0-0.
INTERCEPTIONS — GIANTS, Ellsworth 1-26. Washington, Green 1-25, Smith 1-0, Shade 1-0.
MISSED FIELD GOALS — Washington, Conway 38 (WR), 50 (SH), 27 (WR).