New York Giants 31 – Arizona Cardinals 7

Game Overview: The Giants are a strange team. They beat up on some teams so convincingly that you would think that are one of the best teams in the league, but when they play those better teams, they fall apart. You say, “Big deal, the Giants beat the Cardinals.” But keep in mind that these same Cardinals beat the Redskins a few weeks ago. You could also tell from the game that the Cardinals were playing their hearts out against the Giants, but New York just toyed with them. Strange team indeed.

This game meant very little other than keeping the Giants alive for post-season contention. But to realistically have a shot at the playoffs, the Giants MUST beat the Redskins in a hostile environment. Lose and they probably don’t make the playoffs and Head Coach Jim Fassel probably won’t be retained. The stakes are as high as they can get. The Redskins have beaten the Giants four straight times; can New York reverse this trend?

Quarterback: Despite leading the Giants down the field on their first drive to seven points, QB Kerry Collins (20-of-30 for 232 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions) was hot-and-cold for much of the first half. His first throw of the game was a terribly overthrown ball (his deep throws continue to overshoot the mark). But Kerry settled down on that specific drive and hit WR Joe Jurevicius three times, including a very important 19-yard pass on 3rd-and-8 while he was rolling to his right (another example of Kerry rolling away from non-existent pressure). The drive finished with a short toss to TE Dan Campbell for an easy score on a play-action fake. But for much of the rest of the half, Collins alternated between excellent throws with ones very much off-the-mark. This apparently affected the type of plays called. “I think early on in the game, some of this throws were going a little high,” said Head Coach Jim Fassel. “He was leaning on his back foot and they were taking off on him. We gave him throws with a little hitch on them to get his front shoulder down and he settled right down.”

After a couple of aborted drives, Collins got back in sync again in the second quarter during an 11-play, 72-yard drive that resulted in a 14-0 lead. On that drive, Collins hit WR Amani Toomer for 9-yard on 3rd-and-3, HB Tiki Barber for 13 yards, Jurevicius for 21 yards, and Jurevicius again for twelve yards.

In the second half of the game, Collins really settled down and looked very sharp. The result was 17 more points. Jurevicius was no longer the main target but Toomer and TE Pete Mitchell. The most impressive drive was the 12-play, 80-yard effort after the Cardinals had cut the lead to 21-7. On that drive, Kerry threw a strike to Dixon for 13, found Mitchell for 12 yards on 3rd-and-8, and hit Toomer for 18 on 3rd-and-14. The frustration on the part of the Cardinal head coach and defenders was readily apparent. Collins was on top of his game. On the Giants’ last scoring drive (the field goal), Collins again converted on third down – this time for 16 yards to Toomer on 3rd-and-6.

Wide Receivers: WR Joe Jurevicius (5 catches for 71 yards) really stepped it up and had a very productive first half. All of his catches came in the first half and three came on the first drive. Jurevicius also made a beautiful block on Tiki Barber’s long touchdown run. In the second half, Amani Toomer (4 catches for 58 yards) became Collins’ favorite target and he was a major factor on third down. But where Amani really impressed this week was on his two reverses (2 carries for 31 yards and a touchdown). Amani showed good instincts in reading the defense and juking defenders on both runs. I loved the call on Toomer’s touchdown. It was 3rd-and-1 and everyone watching expected Dayne up-the-middle (Collins’ fake on the play was superb). Ron Dixon (1 catch for 13 yards) saw his first action in many weeks.

Tight Ends: Dan Campbell (1 catch for 5 yards and a touchdown) is becoming a well-used option down in the red zone (3 touchdowns on the year). Pete Mitchell (3 catches for 28 yards) was used in this game like I expected him to be used all year. Even Howard Cross got into the act (1 catch for 6 yards). The pass to Cross was well-designed (backside toss after a play fake) and he probably would have scored on the play if Collins didn’t have to get rid of the ball so quickly. The blocking by this unit was solid.

Running Backs: Although his numbers look decent, I wasn’t real impressed with Ron Dayne (24 carries for 85 yards and one touchdown) this week. He certainly is reading his blocking schemes better and doing less dancing, but he didn’t do much with rock in his hands other than his 16-yard, right-side run on the first scoring drive. I don’t expect Dayne to regularly break big plays, but he should do more with 24 carries (especially against the Cardinals). He also whiffed on a block (a strange play where he was called upon to engage the defensive end). Tiki Barber (12 carries for 32 yards and one touchdown; 4 catches for 52 yards) didn’t do much on the ground aside from his 23-yard counter where he scored; Tiki showed a nice burst on this play. He also fumbled late when the Giants where trying to run out the clock and he was inexcusably sloppy on the play. Tiki did a real nice job on a couple of screen passes that picked up good yardage. FB Greg Comella (1 catch for -1 yard) dropped a couple of screen passes in traffic. He also was lucky that the refs didn’t rule his one catch a fumble.

Offensive Line: This unit played surprisingly well after being completely revamped after LT Lomas Brown (ankle/leg) was forced to leave the game. Luke Petitgout was moved over to left tackle and Mike Rosenthal (a natural guard) was inserted at right tackle. Jason Whittle played right guard for the inactive Ron Stone (ribs). LG Glenn Parker (calf) was playing hurt. Pass protection was excellent. Rosenthal rebounded nicely after a tough game last week to handle Andre Wadsworth this week. Petitgout had some early problems with Simeon Rice but settled down. It’s nice to see that he looks to have the feet to play the position. Whittle did such a solid job that you didn’t even notice he was in there for Stone. But before everyone gets too excited, this was the Cardinals after all. What really stood out to me this week was the quality of the blocks that the Giant offensive line made in space on screens and pulls. I saw excellent blocks on the move from Petitgout, Parker, and Zeigler. Run blocking was adequate and there were few plays where the Card defenders got any sort of penetration.

Defensive Line: A reversal of sorts this week. The pass rush was excellent, but the run defense was ordinary at best. Indeed, on a yards-per-carry basis, HB Michael Pittman probably had the best game of the year against the Giants. A lot of damage came over the left side of the offense as DE Cedric Jones (no tackles) was thoroughly dominated by LT L.J. Shelton. Indeed, when it came to rushing the passer, aside from one rush where Jones almost got to Brown, I saw Shelton just toying with Cedric. It was pretty embarrassing on a couple of plays. DT Christian Peter (no tackles) was also a non-factor against the pass. I saw one rush where he collapsed the pocket, but that was it. The two guys who dominated up front in the pass rush department were DE Michael Strahan (5 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries) and DT Keith Hamilton (7 tackles, 3 sacks). Strahan didn’t pick up any sacks, but he was regularly blowing up double teams and hitting Dave Brown just as he unloaded the ball. He also made a couple of superb plays in run defense, including making a one-armed tackle while being held. A lot of folks have been down on Strahan for a long time, but he has been playing quality football for almost the entire season this year. Keith Hamilton had an excellent game. One of his sacks was marred by the fact that he pulled Brown down by the face mask on the play and gave the Cards a first down on 3rd-and-long. Nevertheless, he gave the left guard fits all night as he often simply powered forward into the quarterback. His sack on the Cards’ 4th down conversion attempt was a huge play.

The reserves played decently. DT Cornelius Griffin (1 tackle, 1 sack) showed a lot of determination on his sack when he battled through a double-team. DT George Williams (one fumble recovery) saw action at right end late and looked good on one pass rush. Indeed, Griffin, Ryan Hale, and Williams kept the pass rush pressure up late in the game.

Linebackers: Strong game all around – though they too bear some of the responsibility for letting Pittman rack up some good yards on the ground. The linebackers blitzed a lot and MLB Mike Barrow and WLB Jessie Armstead were regularly seen crashing into Brown just as he released the ball. Barrow (1 tackle) made two huge hits in the game. He absolutely clobbered Dave Brown on a blitz and then latter made one of the best hits I have ever seen a linebacker make when he crushed Pittman over the middle. Barrow came ever so close to notching a couple of sacks. Armstead (5 tackles) was flying all around the field and did a good job of sniffing out a pass to the back early in the game for a loss. He got a few knocks in on Brown too. SLB Ryan Phillips (4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble) really took a lot of hope out of the Cardinals with his sack/forced fumble. Take note however that the Redskins will notice the big numbers picked up by Pittman against the undercoverage (almost 100 yards receiving). A big chunk of this came on the 36-yard screen pass that was superbly timed as both Armstead and Barrow were blitzing on the play from the side where the screen was run.

The reserves got to play quite a bit late and didn’t disappoint. WLB Kevin Lewis (1 tackle) looked sharp in coverage and was around the ball quite a bit. SLB Brandon Short looked real strong on a bull rush where he crashed into the quarterback just as he was releasing the ball. MLB Pete Monty was in on two tackles and saw some time in the nickel defense early in the game.

Defensive Backs: Despite all the blitzing, the Cardinals were not able to do anything down the field against the Giants aside from one play. Part of this no doubt rests with the inconsistent quarterbacking of Dave Brown, but the Cardinals do possess two outstanding receivers who have hurt the Giants big time in the past (Frank Sanders and David Boston). CB Jason Sehorn (5 tackles) gave up the one big play deep – to Boston on a slightly underthrown pass. But that was about it. There was a key 24-yard completion on 3rd-and-16 given up by CB Emmanuel McDaniel (1 tackle). McDaniel had superb coverage on the play against Frank Sanders, but the ball was badly thrown behind the receiver and thus actually enabling him to make the reception. Sehorn made a play on 3rd-and-2 where he looked like his old 1997 self. After the receiver broke to the sidelines on a short out, Sehorn immediately broke with him, accelerated, and knocked the ball away with his left hand. He had solid coverage all night and even knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage with a “Jordan-esque” leap. I thought Dave Thomas (5 tackles) played a strong game against solid competition. The Cardinals challenged Thomas a few times deep and Dave had tight coverage on all of these chances. The safety play was ordinary – though these guys probably deserve a lot of credit for shutting down the down-the-field passing game. SS Sam Garnes (2 tackles) and FS Shaun Williams (2 tackles) both dropped sure interceptions (Williams would have scored on his). Williams was also flagged with a late hit on a failed third down conversion attempt. He did make a very hard hit on the receiver after one play.

The reserves didn’t look bad. FS Omar Stoutmire made a hellish hit on a wide receiver coming over the middle. Reggie Stephens intercepted a pass on 4th down and almost came up with another earlier during the same drive.

Special Teams: I wasn’t as impressed as the media. The good news was that punt coverage was vastly improved. Damon Washington looks like a real keeper and he showed speed, hustle, and determination. He had one tackle and caused another fair catch. The punting by Maynard was once again solid (he has become much more consistent during the course of the season – knock on wood). The bad news is that kick-coverage continues to give the opposing team excellent field position. The press made light of the 47-yard return late in the game, but you still can’t give up a big return like that. Morever, the Cardinals were still getting the ball out past the 30-yard line on their kick returns. It’s a minor miracle this year when the Giants keep them inside the 30. A big part of the problem continues to be the fact that Daluiso can’t come close to the endzone anymore without knocking off some of the height from his kicks. Jack Golden did make a crushing hit on one return.

You want good special teams coverage? Look at what the Cardinals did to the Giants’ returners. Tiki Barber (yet another fumble on a return) had nowhere to run. Neither did Ron Dixon. Here you have a 3-9 team who’s special teams are far superior to the Giants.

Note from Chris Jacobs, BBI Offensive Line Analyst

BBI faithful,

I’m writing this to let you and everyone know that I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Unfortunately I won’t be able to submit a weekly O-Line review for the rest of the season. I enjoy doing it, but until I get a computer in my home it’s impossible for me to do this from work. Now getting to the last 2 games starting with Detroit, I went to the game and had a good view. I couldn’t tell you about individual performances but as a whole the offensive line was horrendous. They just weren’t getting any push, I wish I had the game on tape so I could go back and see it. Luke Petitgout really had a bad game – DE Robert Porcher had his way with him. Actually Luke gives me a good segue into last nights game. What a great job he did with Simeon Rice. As scary as it is that Ron Stone and Lomas Brown did not play, I was really happy with how that backups did. I didn’t get to review it on tape yet but I was pleasantly surprised with Jason Whittle. He did a good job with both pass and run blocking. I hope Stoney and Brown will be able to play this week, being that this is the last chance the Giants will have to beat what the media considers an “elite” team. Maybe they should hire a hypnotist so the players see the Redskins in Eagle uniforms. Happy Holidays.

Chris Jacobs

P.S. Can anyone tell me why Dave Brown is still in the NFL?


by David Oliver

Well, the Giants got it right on national TV for once, and wouldn’t you know it, I’d be home in front of the tube watching this veritable cornucopia of points. But what does it presage? Is it the elevation of Coach Fassel to Jeanne Dixon status? Or is it just another setup on the road to heartbreak for Giants fans? This week will tell, so I’m going to give you a little review of what I saw on the tube, as opposed to what I see on the field. Incidentally, the WASHINGTON POST today (Wednesday) had an excellent piece on the kids page about how they cover a game. Boils down to at least 6 photographers, a bevy of writers, a photo editor and some lackeys. The shoot 1600-1700 shots to get 6. Gee, when I was with The Insider, I shot 6 rolls – 200 shots to get 6 and the publisher bitched about the cost of the film. They station one person in each end zone, 1 along each sideline, and I guess their web fotogs go where they want.

So much has been made of specials that it was interesting to see the coverage unit. Sean Williams had two nice stops – I think he may have found his place to star. The new guy had a nice comeback tackle. Other than that, it looked as if there was still some exposure for a real speed return man. The Giants appear to converge to the initial point of attack and a cutback can outflank them as there is not an abundance of speed on the wings.

The defense opened strong with a nice rush by Jessie and Barrow, then a stop on the run. It was 3-and-out for the Cards. On the second defense, the Cards opened with a short pass, but Dave Thomas had position and drew an offensive interference call. Then a screen for short yardage, a decent run and a pass too high as Strahan had a good rush. As McGuire said, the pass was a duck. The Cards drew a face mask penalty, then Player had a better punt and Tiki went down quickly.

The third defensive stand was a quick one with a Hammer tackle, a draw for some yardage and then a great left handed knockdown by Sehorn. Sehorn is noticeably hanging his shoulder, protecting his ribs. Give him credit for a great deal of bravery – sucking it up is one thing, but playing corner with one arm deserves appreciation. On the fourth defensive stand, things got interesting. The Cards drew a false start penalty, then Barrow blitzed and creamed Brown – how many times I remember Brown picking himself off the turf after getting blasted. Then a flat pass covered well by Jessie, with Barrow right next to him. A Strahan rush, a completed pass, a missed tackle, but rundown by Sehorn and then 3rd and 14 and Barrow lays the timber to Michael Pittman – best hit of the game. Player gets off a 44 yard punt.

By now it was 14-0. The Cards were trying everything. A 3 yard run, an incomplete slant pass to Boston an incomplete pass with good protection, a roughing call on Sean Williams for a stupid chesting push. JF is on the sideline signaling “think”. A draw which Barrow stops, a middle draw which Hammer stops, a middle blitz on which boston beat Sehorn, Pittman in the middle stopped by Hammer, the Phillips sacks Brown who fumbles, Strahan recovering. On the sack, Sanders was wide open.

On the next defensive series, Strahan stopped Jones at the line, there was a good rush and Sehorn coming off the end, batted the pass down. Hammer gets a sack but makes a stupid Hammer play by grabbing the facemask. Hammer disappeared from the lineup for a while, but came back and played like he was possessed. JF letting everyone know, enough of the stupid plays. Then the Cards picked up the rush and Boston beat Thomas and almost had an easy one. Jones gets the first on a draw and the 2 minute warning stops the clock. Brown scrambled and threw incomplete, then a delay of game penalty, a short dump pass for no gain, a 3 man rush, the coverage confused Brown and Griffin picked up a sack.

Don’t make more or less of the effort than it was. The Giants shut down a feeble effort, as they should do and have done all year. But the tell tale signs were there. The flank appeared open on at least two run backs, but Williams is a nice addition to specials. There were 2 stupid plays, one by Williams and one by Hammer. The rush, without the blitz was not really effective, and these were the badly injured Cards. It was Brown, not Plummer. Sehorn, for all his bravery, will get beaten by the speed receivers until that rib heals. Thomas, and the safeties, left the middle of the field wide open, but brown couldn’t get the ball out there. Barrow, for all the complaining about him that takes place on this site, is active, mobile and powerful. Like most Mike backers, he is occasionally out of position. The positives: Strahan is rounding into All-Pro shape right when the Giants need him; Phillips has developed a good sack move, loping around the back and getting to the QB if there is any kind of delay. He is often just a step away. His sacks should increase if he is sent more and gets that lope a little tighter. Barrow is a monster on the blitz as well as in middle zone coverage; and Hammer came alive in the desert.

In the second half, it took a few plays for the D to get it right. Pittman had a nice run, then a better run as he broke around end, slipped a tackle and went for 32 yards. Sehorn caught him. Then Strahan tackled Pittman, notwithstanding being held on the play. Brown hit Boston but there was a holding call. The G Men showed blitz and the Cards false started. Brown hit Sanders who was then hit by Thomas – this is one thing Thomas does well. On a blitz, Brown again hit Sanders. Then there was one of those Kodak moment sacks by Hammer who bull rushed his man and while still engaged reached over him and grabbed Brown.

Following a good run back, nullified by a holding penalty, the Cards started again with a swing pass to Pittman for a 7 yard gain. Then Pittman went outside for the first. Brown threw to the tight end for a first, with Strahan closing fast. A flat pass was covered well by Phillips. The Giants blitzed, which was picked up, but Hammer had another bull rush underway and got the sack. Then Brown, with time, threw to a wide open Sanders. A toss to Pittman, who beat Barrow, and a tackle by Thomas. A long incomplete pass and another flag on the Cards. The Giants blitzed again on a screen to Pittman, but the G Men forgot how to tackle. This resulted in a TD, a 32 yard gain for the Cards and the longest pass play the Giants have allowed since the Redskins game.

Following a Giants TD, the ensuing K/O showed Shaun Williams cover ability as he made the stop on a cross field run. On first down, the Cards fumbled and Strahan recovered. Williams also covered the next kickoff. The Giants D kept coming Jessie and Barrow stopped Pittman on a pass, then a short pass, then a blitz and an incomplete and finally Brown was rushed by Strahan and Jessie knocked the ball down. With 4 minutes left, the Cards got the ball and went to the air. Thomas and West had a collision, Brown threw incomplete to Boston, then short to Gedney. I noticed Kevin Lewis in at backer for the Giants and he showed good speed on several plays. Stephens and Williams were called for an over/under interference penalty, then Brown completed one to Boston who was out of bounds, Brown completed a pass, Williams missed an interception, but Reggie Stephens did not, grabbing it on the run. At the 2 minute warning, the Cards futility continued – there was the same pattern, draw, short pass, short pass, fumble, George Williams recovered.

Final analysis: the Giants defense looked very good against an overmatched Cards offense missing several key components. The Cards offense was Pittman with an occasional show by an injured Boston. However, once again, the Cards had the plan right, they just had the Brown handicap. He was blitzed, hit and flustered. One major key to this victory was Hammer – he played his most complete game of the season, even with his one stupid penalty. Strahan is getting penetration and even when he doesn’t get there, the QB feels him coming, and he has been in position for several fumble pick ups. This was a quiet game for Christian Peter and another “virtual” effort from CJ. I don’t know if it’s the scheming, or what, but Fox needs to cut him loose to see if he’s got anything. If its him, then Ryan Phillips should be moved to the rush end position in passing situations with the nickel deployed more often. Reggie Stephens is showing a nose for the ball and even with his mistakes is an asset on the field.

KEYS FOR THE DEFENSE AGAINST THE REDSKINS: Hammer must once again come up big. He is a huge, disruptive force in the middle when he decides to play. Sunday he showed flashes of his time at defensive end, when he bull rushed and sacked the QB. Shaun Williams must do more than suit up for the game. The Skins will study the film and test him early. He could have a career day if he plays it smart. In fact, both safeties must employ the umbrella as it seems to work against the Redskins. Then the Big Three, Strahan, Jessie and Barrow MUST hit Stephen Davis early and often. Pain will decide this game – will Stephen arm hurt more than Sehorn’s rib? With Stephens out of the game, and good games from the aforementioned five players, the Giants can take it to the Redskins. With Davis in the game, Hammer will be nullified as a rush presence and Thomas and the safeties will be uncovered. That could spell disaster.

How about the offense? Well, it was good, methodical and effective against the Cards, but then so has everyone else. I can’t stress it enough – the key here is Collins, Collins, Collins, and Sean Payton. A sporadic offensive game plan and the G Men will be home for Christmas. On Sunday, the plan was go to JJ – and it was effective, until mid-way through the second quarter when KC started looking elsewhere. The ground game, to the right, was effective behind Whittle, Luke and Cross, and when Luke moved left, the right side held its own. But the Redskins are a different story.

The G-Men opened up passing. KC was 4-out-of-5 on the opening score and the offense was smooth. Dayne was running hard, but once again, the planning sent him into the line 3 straight times. No play action, no deception. By the third time into the line, even the Cards were ready. Do this against the Redskins and Dayne will get about 13 yards for the day because the Giants will go in another direction. The passing game opens up the run and it is essential to go up top early and often. Those who contend we can run against the Skins aren’t watching the same two teams as I am. The G-Men will only run successfully if they confuse the Skins D. The Skins backers are quick, so the screen and slipstream pass to Tiki is only going to work once or twice without some center zone completions. The pressure is on JJ and Amani here and frankly, they are overmatched by Champ Bailey and Deon without an extraordinary effort on their part. Although adequate against the Cards, the makeshift offensive line is in for an education this week. Whittle and Rosenthal looked decent, although Rosenthal could be seeing chasing the wrong man on some calls.

On Sunday, the Giants start, when it did get rolling, was the catching rather than the throwing as KC was low to Toomer and high to JJ. Tiki made a nice run on a screen over the blitz with 62 and 52 blocking. This is going to be important against the Skins. A flea flicker worked, but it shouldn’t be a regular in this arsenal as KC needs time to cock and fire. KC threw high again to JJ, but his size enabled him to make the grab.

KC hit Pete on the next possession, then Dayne went over the middle, KC overthrew Amani as there was good coverage on the play. Offensive penalty, Rice stopped Tiki – incidentally, it looked as if Roman Oben was back as Rice gave Luke a tough time. Not really much to say for the first half; 14-0 Giants, typical outing. The Giants can control the game against lesser opponents- they are good enough to overcome mistakes and KC is good enough to get the ball down field as long as he’s not getting hit. Rice seems to have slowed a step or this may have been a closer contest. Bruce Smith always comes up big in important games and someone will have to stop him. I noticed Walendy got some reps, which could be important as he is not as much of an offensive force as Comella can be, but if needed he is a big body who can help control Bruce – who will certainly need to be doubled.

The second half started the same way and even Theisman opined that “the Giants O is very cloudy”. The Cards blitzed and got to KC, then a good rush and the dump to Tiki was stopped. This series showed graphically the danger for the Gmen this week. Two good rushes and KC starts dumping the ball – a good way to get Tiki killed. The Giants must form some sort of pocket and KC must step up and give his receivers a chance. Dink and dunk are not “Thunder and Lightning”.

The second drive was nice. Sweep to Tiki just to lull the D, then a short drop and hit Amani on a slant. A reverse to Toomer in which he showed the old QB skills and cut up field, Dayne off the right side, KC screen-dropped, then a blitz and a pass behind JJ (KC does not throw well under pressure), on 4th-and-6, the Cards were called for defensive holding (lucky), then another flag on the Cards, finally Tiki cuts back, picks up a nice block from JJ and 21-0.

The end of the 3rd quarter and the start of the 4th, another of those Giants’ drives. KC to Dixon, Dayne up the middle, short, KC to Pete, screen, Tiki knocked out of bounds and spilled the Gatorade on the Cards bench. KC rifled a pass to Pete, Dayne tripped for a loss, KC, with time, complete to Toomer, Dayne for 7, off the right side, Dayne again, the Toomer on a reverse, got a block, TD. The final drive, following the fumble recovery. Dayne for a few, Dayne again, KC to Toomer, face mask on the play, Dayne to the 10, Dayne up the middle, KC throws it away. Field Goal.

There you have it. Observations from viewing on a screen – there is still too much real estate available to opposition receivers. Jake the Snake would have made this interesting. Let’s hope Brad J is a bit rusty and let’s hope the safeties cover the middle. I’d also like to see Reggie Stephens on the field more in the nickel as he has a nose for the ball. Strahan is closing real fast lately and this was obvious on the screen. Phillips need to tighten his rush slightly and he can be dangerous. Most impressive – Barrow – he needs to bring his A game early to stop Davis.

I’d like to leave with some quotes from two special teams and role players. I asked Reggie Stephens to give us a view of what he sees when he runs back kicks and he was refreshingly honest. He told me, “I don’t see anything. I’ve been at it so long, it’s just instinct. It’s not something that can be taught. Some players just find holes, just find a way – I think that’s what I have.” He went on to say, “You can train all day, run left, run right, but if the hole is not there, you’ve got to make the hole; just watch Barry Sanders, there’s never a hole, he just makes one.” And that’s what football is; that’s what special teams play is – you’ve got to feel it – it’s a ZEN exercise; if you don’t have that instinct to seek and destroy, to survive, special teams play becomes an exercise. The good ones use it as a springboard, like Jessie did; some make it an art form like Tasker and Thompson; most never advance, they just cycle out. Sure, there’s good coaching and bad coaching, but special teaming is instinct.

Finally, I talked to Jack Golden and he told me it was the “ups and downs” that are tough. He said, “In this profession, what Coach tries to get us to do is to get ready to play football.” “But,” he went on, “you have to find it within yourself to get motivated, every week, it’s not an easy thing to do, no one says it’s an easy thing, that’s why they pay us the good money; but you’ve got to find it within yourself to come out every Sunday and to play at a higher level than you played last week, that’s the hardest part.”

As for the Giants unit, he felt they had to start fast, get mentally into the game, catch some breaks and take advantage of them; otherwise, you can “feel it snowballing.” Golden recognizes this is a young unit and “sometimes players get down on themselves. What we need is for the fans and the coaches to boost us up, constructive criticism, for the most part our special teams need some encouragement.”

So read between the lines here, watch closely on Sunday, and cheer hard. At this time of the year, every game is important, as in see Lions, but don’t kid yourselves, this one is the big one. Rarely does a team get to slay Dracula twice – the Giants are getting another opportunity to plunge the dagger of defeat into the Redskins. They failed the first time. Are they up to the task this time? I’m glad I don’t have to send any season ticket holder playoff money in Friday – I am optimistic, but it is a very guarded optimism based on performance in these games. Go Giants!!!

(Box Score – New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals, November 26, 2000)