Dec 062000
 
New York Giants 9 – Washington Redskins 7

Game Overview: Whewww! What a big game! What a great win! But it won’t mean much unless the Giants get their heads straight now and start focusing on the Steelers. This was a “must” game, but only because it kept the Giants in contention for the NFC East title and put them in a better position for making the playoffs. They could quickly find themselves in a hole again if they don’t win next week. The Steelers beat the best team in football yesterday…if that doesn’t grab your attention, nothing will.

Hopefully, Fassel’s words right after the game, when he sounded a lot like Winston Churchill, will be prophetic. “This is just the beginning,” Fassel said.

But back to the game – after all, this is supposed to be a review. This game very much reminded me of the old Bill Parcells-Joe Gibbs battles. It was a hard-hitting, low-scoring affair with both sides playing great defense. Like the old days, the Giants rendered the Skins one-dimensional, took a good lead into the 4th quarter, saw it disappear down the stretch, but somehow in the end managed to hold on. As soon as Jeff George came into the game and starting completing passes, I thought, “Oh God, this is going to be like another Jay Schroeder situation (reminiscent of the game where he beat the Giants coming off the bench when LT knocked Joe Theisman out of football). But fortunately for the Giants, instant replay overturned what looked at first to be the game-winning catch by making a very makeable game-winning field goal a tough one that fell short.

Though the score shows otherwise, the Giants dominated this game because they won the war in the trenches – both on offense and defense. Offensively, although New York put up few points, the G-Men were able to run the ball and control the tempo of the game. Defensively, they shut down the run and made life miserable for the starting quarterback. Kudos for a strong performance by the special teams as well. Indeed, had it not been for the Giants’ miscues and bad officiating (a failed 4th down conversion, three turnovers, a bogus holding penalty called on Ron Stone, a non-fumble call by the Redskins after a Shaun Williams’ hit, some confusion on the defense late, a delay of game penalty not called on the Redskins’ touchdown pass, and two missed sack opportunities), the game would not have been even close.

Coaching Staff: It’s too early to tell how this will all end up for Jim Fassel. Many people are back on his bandwagon after two victories in a row, including the impressive win in Washington. However, a loss the Steelers and/or Cowboys will have many calling for his head again. But let’s give some credit here to the man. After two tough losses to the Lions and Rams, he got his team re-focused and took most of the heat for their poor performance while they regrouped. The Giants were properly prepared and motivated to beat the Cardinals and Skins. In a telling move, the team gave Jim a game ball after the contest. With three games remaining, the Giants are all alone in first place in the NFC East and the second seed in the NFC. Who would have thought that heading into the 2000 season?

Also, give some credit to Defensive Coordinator John Fox for this week’s effort. For once, he out-coached Norv Turner and his staff and completely stifled the Washington offense. The Redskins’ running game was non-existent (29 yards rushing). Washington picked up four first downs on their second drive of the game, but did not manage another until the third quarter. The only problems came late when a combination of perhaps too soft defensive schemes, Giants’ fatigue, and confusion over which personnel should be on the field almost cost the Giants the game. In fact, the Redskins’ biggest play of the game (the 45 yarder to WR James Thrash) came on a play where the Giants only had 10 men on the field. (Incidentally, the officials made a bad call on the 12-men on-the-field penalty. The Giants had 11 on the field – even the announcers miscounted. When Jessie Armstead insisted this was the case after the game, I watched the tape and he was right).

Quarterback: With the Skins’ corners pretty much taking away the deep passing game, QB Kerry Collins (18-of-29 for 164 yards, no touchdowns, one interception) was pretty much forced to go with the short stuff. He wasn’t helped early on by costly drops by Joe Jurevicius and Amani Toomer that stalled what could have otherwise been a promising start. Fumbles by Jurevicius and TE Dan Campbell after receptions didn’t help matters either. Collins threw one really bad pass, his interception by Sanders where Collins said afterwards that he made a bad read. He also wasn’t able to get the Giants into the endzone despite a couple of excellent red zone opportunities. However, credit here has to also go to the Redskins’ defensive backs that were all over the receivers in the endzone. “(The Redskins) took (the receivers’ routes) away either with the scheme or coverage. We certainly would have liked to get a couple in there,” said Collins. One thing that continues to bother me (and I’ve harped on this) is that, sometimes, when Collins doesn’t see a receiver open immediately, he will roll to his right away from phantom pressure. This action actually puts him in harm’s way as he is leaving the pocket (and the solid protection from Luke Petitgout) into Luke’s man. Inevitably, Collins will start falling back and throwing the ball away off his back foot. There is nothing wrong with throwing the ball away if the receivers are covered, but he might be cheating himself of more opportunities if he would just remain in the security of the pocket. This happened on the Giants’ 3rd-and-goal play right before halftime.

Kerry was lucky that Deion Sanders didn’t take his swing pass to Jurevicius to the house off the fake reverse – the play was too telegraphed. Collins also got lucky late in the game with his key toss to Joe Jurevicius for a first down on 3rd-and-9 in the 4th quarter. The play allowed the Giants to take much more time off the clock and probably ultimately saved the win. However, Collins misfired on the play by throwing high (he was under pressure and threw off his back foot). The pass was intended for Toomer. The good news? Aside from the one turnover, Collins didn’t do anything to lose the game and he did make some smart decisions on when to throw it away. He didn’t force the ball and took what the defense gave him – a sign of maturity. And for the most part, he was pretty accurate, even on his deep throws that did not connect. He threw a near perfect deep pass to Ron Dixon on the first drive that was well-defended by Deion Sanders.

Wide Receivers: Not much of a factor. At least they kept the Redskins a bit honest. Amani Toomer (3 catches for 26 yards) was kept very quiet and dropped an early pass that would have picked up a first down on third down. The Giants tried to hit him on the slant later in the game in the endzone, but he was well covered on the play. Joe Jurevicius had a rough start. He dropped a pass on the first drive. Fassel said after the game that he also made some mental mistakes (i.e., probably lining up incorrectly or running the wrong route). Joe did make a big play getting free of Darrell Green and running for what looked like a huge play until Green stripped him of the ball from behind. Jurevicius has to be cognizant of the fact that Champ Bailey, Deion Sanders, and Green have the speed to chase anyone down from behind and he should have expected contact. The only silver lining was the play ended up being better than a punt and really helped to maintain the field position war for the Giants that they were winning for most of the game. But to his credit, Jurevicius kept his head in the game. He caught two third down passes in the first half to keep drives alive, the second on the first field goal drive on 3rd-and-3. Jurevicius also outfought Sanders for the ball on the swing pass – a critical play that could have cost the game. Then Joe’s superb catch late in the game on 3rd-and-9 despite heavy contact was a game-winning play that picked up a crucial first down and let more time run off the clock. The Giants were lucky that Ron Dixon’s catch for seven yards wasn’t ruled a fumble; he also came up just short of a first down on the play and the Giants were forced to punt. He had an opportunity deep in the game, but ran his route too close to the sidelines and caught the ball out-of-bounds in the end zone.

Tight Ends: Not as much of a factor as I thought they would be. Dan Campbell’s fumble after his 11-yard reception could have proven decisive. Obviously, he needs to hold onto the ball better in that situation. I thought the Giants’ redzone opportunities screamed for the use of Pete Mitchell (2 catches for 10 yards). I still contend that he is not being used properly by Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton. Mitchell did make a key first down reception on 3rd-and-4 to take more time off the clock midway through the fourth quarter. Decent blocking up front from a unit that helped to open up some running room for the backs and kept Collins’ jersey clean. I thought Dan Campbell in particular blocked very well.

Running Backs: Ron Dayne (18 carries for 57 yards, 1 catch for one yard) played fairly well for the most part. He really got the Giants’ offense moving on their second possession with three straight power runs off right tackle. After a Tiki Barber short gain, he then picked up the first down on 3rd-and-1. This type of solid, but unspectacular, power running continued until Dayne gave a relatively weak effort on 4th-and-1 in the second quarter. This failure took away a scoring opportunity and could have been a momentum changer as well. One area where Dayne is getting better is on his blitz pick-ups.

Tiki Barber (14 carries for 82 yards, 4 catches for 26 yards) was the more productive performer. Tiki usually will break 1-3 big plays a game. He had a few of these type of runs against the Redskins. The first was a 22-yard right-side run (the Giants did most of their running to the right against Washington) where he showed good vision, moves, and power to help get the Giants into field goal position in the second quarter. On the very next play he picked up good yardage after a short pass over the middle which he took down to the eleven yard line. Tiki also had a key big run in the 4th quarter on a play where he was originally bottled up at the point of attack, but then bounced it outside.

FB Greg Comella (1 carry for 1 yard) was used on one play as a change-up. I was surprised he wasn’t used as more of an option in the passing game. His blocking was solid as usual.

Offensive Line: About as good of a performance as you could expect from this unit that was facing one of the most talented defensive lines in the game. QB Kerry Collins was not sacked once (though part of this was due to the decision to employ the short passing game and Kerry’s quick release) and the running game was able to generate 141 yards rushing. I was very much impressed with the work of the tackles: RT Luke Petitgout on DE Marco Coleman and LT Lomas Brown on DE Bruce Smith. Both were largely controlled – especially on the pass rush – and special kudos goes to Brown for his performance despite playing hurt (leg) and not practicing much of the week. The one big down note came on the 4th-and-1 effort where the Giants were not able to create space for Dayne. Glenn Parker once again looked sharp on his right-side pulls. Parker did have problems blocking DT Dana Stubblefield on the pass rush however and there were a few times, including when the Giants were trying to run out the clock, when Glenn let Dana get by him and get into Collins’ face. RG Ron Stone was flagged with a bogus holding call at a time when the Giants were about to put the finishing touches on Washington – the call moved the Giants back and they subsequently had to punt the ball away. As this came right before Jeff George’s entry into the game, this bad call could have proved decisive.

Defensive Line: The line played very well and largely controlled the line of scrimmage. Except for a couple of runs, All-Pro HB Stephen Davis was shut down and QB Brad Johnson had virtually no time to throw the ball. The first sack occurred after DT Keith Hamilton (2 tackles) flushed Johnson out of the pocket and DT Cornelius Griffin (2 tackles, 1 sack) finished him off. I also spotted Griffin pressuring Johnson later in the second quarter. Griffin got a big hit on Davis after FS Shaun Williams disrupted the play by shooting the gap and taking out the lead blocker. Hamilton was very active rushing the passer in the second half, applying pressure on five separate plays. Hamilton made a super play against the run for a loss right before CB Emmanuel McDaniel’s interception too. His missed sack on Jeff George on the Redskins’ last drive however could have cost the Giants the game. He also jumped offsides on the first play coming off the goal line when George entered the contest and quit on the play. (Incidentally, on the very next play, a Giants’ rusher – I think it was Griffin – was mugged in the endzone by two linemen; it was an obvious holding call and a safety should have been the result). DE Cedric Jones (2 tackles) had some problems on a couple of runs, but for the most part he stalemated All-Rookie LT Chris Samuels. WLB Jessie Armstead nailed Davis at the line on one play where Jones just blew his blocker back into the backfield. Surprisingly, Jones had a few decent pass rushes on Samuels too and got some heat on Johnson (and later on George on one play in the redzone). Jones also sniffed out a screen pass and caused Johnson to abort the play. DE Michael Strahan (2 tackles) got one good pass rush on Johnson and knocked him to the ground in the first half. Strangely, I don’t think the Skins EVER ran at Strahan’s side the entire game. In the second half, Strahan really turned it up and I saw him pressure Johnson heavily three times and George twice. He also made a great play from the backside against the run. Michael did miss a sack on George in the redzone late in the game. DT Christian Peter (1 tackle) was stout inside and helped to keep the offensive line off of the Giants’ linebackers.

Linebackers: The linebackers were very active against the Redskins as Washington did a poor job of picking up the blitz against New York. Both WLB Jessie Armstead (5 tackles) and MLB Mike Barrow (5 tackles, 1 sack) were seen regularly flying around the quarterback. Barrow’s sack was impressive as he didn’t give up on a play where Brad initially avoided him. Even reserve MLB Pete Monty (2 tackles) got into the act on one blitz where he pressured Johnson into an incompletion along with Barrow. SLB Ryan Phillips (2 tackles) did a great job taking on a lead block on one Davis left-side run (Phillips had swapped with Armstead on the play) and caused the back to be stuffed. He also had solid coverage on TE Stephen Alexander on a second quarter incompletion. On Hamilton’s offsides, Phillips smashed into George causing an incompletion on a free play.

Defensive Backs: These guys’ jobs were made much easier by the superb pass rush. Brad Johnson had little time to throw the ball and until QB Jeff George got into the game midway through the 4th quarter, the Skins weren’t able to move the ball at all except for their second possession. FS Shaun Williams (4 tackles) was very active. In the first half, he did a good job disrupting an inside running play. He also clobbered Johnson on a delayed safety blitz up the gut. In the third quarter, he hammered WR Albert Connell on 3rd down to force an incompletion (the play should have been ruled a fumble and the Giants’ ball deep inside Redskins’ territory – another bad call). Williams later hit FB Larry Centers so hard that he fumbled (but Jason Sehorn and Mike Barrow missed a golden opportunity to recover it and ice the game). Shaun got burned by WR James Thrash deep on a David Thomas blitz. It did not help matters that the Giants only had 10 men on the field at the time. Shaun did save a TD on the play however with his diving tackle and thereby caused more time to run off the clock. SS Sam Garnes (3 tackles, 1 interception) played his deep coverage perfectly on a deep sideline toss in the second quarter and almost came up with an interception. CB Dave Thomas (4 tackles) made a superb play on a run force on a Davis sweep. He and CB Jason Sehorn (5 tackles) did a number on the Redskins’ receivers for most of the day. Thomas did a nice job of reading the quick slant on his CB blitz and jumping up to deflect the ball. Nickel back Emmanuel McDaniel (2 tackles, 1 interception) had a big game. He picked off one pass in zone coverage (Brad Johnson read man-to-man); this was a huge play as it came right after Dan Campbell’s fumble. He also earlier caused Sam Garnes’ pick by hitting Johnson just as he was throwing the ball. He did get beat on George’s touchdown toss to Irving Fryar however and later missed a key tackle on Friar on the Redskins’ last drive that led to big yardage.

Special Teams: This unit out-played the Redskins. PK Brad Daluiso was a perfect three-for-three on field goal attempts, including a 47-yarder. His kick-off after the first field goal was horrible however. WR Thabiti Davis (2 tackles) was active on special teams as punt and kick coverage was solid. P Brad Maynard did a reasonably good job with his coffin corner punting and helped the Giants win the field position war. Kick returns remain mediocre at best as does the blocking for Ron Dixon. When Tiki Barber did have a couple of chances to return punts (most of the Skins’ punts were so bad that they never got to Tiki), he did not have much room to operate either. Tiki did have a very nice return as a kick returner (interesting move by Fassel) after the Redskins’ touchdown. In a game decided by the smallest of distances, Tiki’s big return was a huge play.


EIN GOTTERDAMMERUNG

by David Oliver

For those of you who don’t live in the Washington area, you can’t imagine the anxiety of Redskins week – listening to these blowhards crow about their Super Bowl team, their owner, their stadium; well, maybe after this election you can imagine what sane, rational people face on a daily basis in this hell hole. A Giants’ victory is worth two weeks of pure pleasure listening to the whining, self-pitying slobber of the worst fans in football. This one was particularly satisfying because it pushed Danny Boy over the edge. The only person associated with this team that I feel sorry for is Norv, a good and decent man who has had the misfortune of being associated with both Dallas and Washington. Well, Norv, as they say, when you sleep with dogs you are going to get fleas. Take your million and move back to the West Coast – you will be much happier there. I had some fun a little while ago listening to that yellow dog George Michaels kissing Terry Robiskie’s ass and watching House Whore Sonny Jergenson smile in glee now that his Boy ‘George’ is in control. Loser – the word signifies this sports dogwatch. Worst of all is the new polarization of races pushed by the Jessie Jackson of sports, Michael Wilbon, who was quoted by Michaels as saying this team will play for Robiskie because he is an African-American. What a total jackass. But if one of the white sports columnists said something idiotic like the Giants played for Jim Fassel because he is a white man, the fool would be resigned to the fate of Jimmy the Geek (Greek). Why can’t we all just come to the realization that we are men, black or white, rich or poor, handsome or ugly, talented or left behind. No one will win if demagogs succeed in making this a racial or religious issue. In the hunt, all the spear throwers bring down the Mastodon, and football is the ultimate hunt. It takes 50 men, united behind leaders, some happen to be white, some happen to be black, some happen to be black with blue eyes and some happen to be white with soul. Well, that’s Washington, why I hate it, and why I consider it Sodom to Los Angeles Gomorrah.

Picked up Eric “BigBlue” K man Sunday morning and made the journey. A friend gave me his blue pass to the Jericho Church parking lot and we got in with no problem. If I’ve got to pay $20 to park to work a game, I’d sooner give it to a Church than to Danny Boy. Eric was resplendent in his Giants coat and I only had to punch out three hillbillies to get him across the parking lot. Normally, I sneak into the high rent Press Room for a few minutes, grab a Program, say hello to friends and then head for the trenches, but Eric’s Joseph Coat gave up the ghost and we were denied entry to the Inner Sanctum of fat-assed writers who can’t take the cold on the field.

Pregame festivities at FedEx are like something out of the 1936 Olympics, or a Nuremberg rally. The Redskins band takes the field, dressed in yellow and burgundy with yellow head dresses. The cheerleaders are strutting their tight little tushes (well, everything wasn’t bad), there are flag wavers, swirling these huge Skins colored flags and there are fireworks booming in both end zones. All that was missing was the Redskins salute. This whole month has been one for philosophy. An election straight out of Charlie Chaplin, with tinges of Orwellian prophecy and now a football game, starting with the drama of Siegfried’s Rhine Journey, and at the same time harkening back to the gladiatorial contests of Rome , while reminding me of the soma distributed to the masses in Aldous Huxley’s BRAVE NEW WORLD.

I can hear my legion of critics now, i.e., Idea Man – talk about self-indulgence, intellectual arrogance and pomposity – to name yourself Idea Man, when the content of your whining shows that if you have any ideas, they are certainly copied out of DC Comics. For God’s sake, shut your whining mouth if the only idea you ever had was to be critical of someone who is saying something other than the pseudo intellectual flatulence you are used to lapping up, you jackass. Okay, that’s it. Got it off my chest. If I lose you as one of Eric’s regulars, sorry, Eric. Other than that, I don’t like you either and I’m not responding to any more of this drivel.

So how was the game. Well, it was flat out the best defensive effort of a Giant’s team in 10 years. They came fast and furious from every direction. Those of you who watched the game saw Madden’s analysis of the blitz packages. Every gap was hit, by multiple players. The onslaught was so furious that the D exhausted itself hitting and chasing Skins QBs. When I looked at my negatives I was dumbfounded at what I saw. Keith “Hammer” Hamilton, Barrow, Jessie, Thomas, Cornelius Griffin, Strahan, Phillips, Shaun Williams and even EMac – they came in waves, two and three breaking through at a time. It was exhilarating; it was humbling; it was GIANTS’ FOOTBALL. Oh! By the way – the offense did just enough to carry the day.

Let’s look at the game planning. The arguments raged pre-game. Should the Giants go on top early or run at the Skins all day? The first series answered that question – a pass to Toomer, a Dayne run, a dropped short pass, a missed handoff, then a long pass down the middle to Dixon. The G-Men were testing the secondary. On the second series, they started with Dayne running mainly right but coming left once, three straight carries, then Tiki, then Dayne, then a slant pass which missed.

So the tone was set – the Giants were going to use some power running, but they were going to go at the corners and even pop one down field once in a while. Madden said that the first and second down calling was decent, but the third down calling was uninspired. And he was in the ballpark, but maybe not for the right reasons. There were dropped passes, a few errant passes, and then that innate conservatism of Giant play calling on third or fourth and short – we are going to run Ron Dayne right at you behind Stone. Madden said on one play that Dayne didn’t hit the hole with authority. Excuse me, John, the Redskins had 5 men lined up over Stone – what hole was Dayne supposed to hit?

The defense – well, the scheme was to blitz, blitz some more, then throw in another one. EMac was on the field a lot as an extra cover guy, so there was a modified nickel out there, but it wasn’t a complete nickel because the corners were coming. This basically held the Skins in check until late in the game when Jeff “the Crying Game” George came in, showed some toughness, got lucky more than once and exploited a Giants’ D that suddenly went goofy, trying 12 men on the field once and then 10 men on the field once, neither with success. Ryan Phillips said, “It’s strange, he’s (George) not known as a scrambler, he’s not known as a tackle breaker, but he did a good job of getting out of the pocket and he set us back on our heels because we weren’t expecting that.” The biggest break of the game was not the replay which moved the Skins back, but the refs missing the time clock expiring on the Skins TD pass. So, if anything, the replay was the classic make-up.

That’s the general idea. How about some specifics?

Quarterback – KC didn’t lose the game. But he didn’t win the game, either. Big players come up big in big games. KC still showed his tendencies to hurry his passes when rushed, often missing receivers by not waiting that extra split second. He threw behind a couple of receivers in critical places. He had one or two mystery throws. But he also hit his receivers on some decent short routes. His pass to Campbell was a good one, as was his pass to JJ, both on the fumble and on the over the middle for the first down late in the game. But he did not exercise good judgement in the red zone, and when he throws on the run, his passing is abysmal. One strange thing I noticed on more than one play is that the Giants often had two receivers in the same zone, particularly JJ and Amani. Fassel said JJ had run a few patterns incorrectly and it showed. So, the question remains, is KC missing too many receivers, or are the receivers botching too many routes? On the interception, there was an observation that maybe a wrong route had been run, but KC threw the ball into no man’s land. Madden said he was deked by Deion- I think it was just a bad throw- Pete Mitchell was at least 10 yards beyond the interception, which was a low throw to begin with. KC also missed one obvious handoff – Madden said he didn’t get out fast enough. School is still out on KC – he is good, sometimes he plays very good – but he is not great. He does not perform well in pressure situations or in pressure games. The Giants offense needs him to step up and win one game by himself – lead a rally, connect on 10 straight – heck even Boy George does it now and then.

Running Game – Decent. Dayne may not be setting the world on fire, but the real difference between him and Tiki is the pass catching, not the running. Is the big guy one of my “favorites”- as alluded to by some of the readers on this site? Well, if you recall pre-draft, I said I personally favored Alexander, but I had no problem with Dayne, and that Dayne was the logical Giant pick. Well, I still believe Ron Dayne will be a durable big yardage back for the Giants. He may not be Barry Sanders, but I believe he will be as good as Stephen Davis, or the Detroit running back, or any Miami running back, or Curtis Enis or Timmy Biakabutuka – how many backs do I have to name. Ron Dayne has his problems – some rookie mistakes, some technique. It will work out. Tiki is a great change of pace guy and the Giants play maker, whether taking a handoff or catching the swing pass. It doesn’t bother me that he runs the middle once in a while. He is versatile and proven. I’d like to see the Cloud get some touches, particularly in passing situations. He has shown he has the skill, but Payton is locked into a rigid structure – Dayne, Tiki, Tiki, Dayne. Where is all the versatility. So Comella is a good blocker – doesn’t mean he can’t touch the ball. At times this year, they have worked him into the offense, at times he’s the forgotten blocking back. He does that well, so it’s OK as a primary role, but change up once in a while; make the defenses think and react to something different. And then there’s Joe Montgomery. Don’t be surprised to see this man be a star for another team. JF believes in the cult of toughness – get hurt and it shows a weakness. Joe has been hurt – maybe too much, but he is a wasted talent who can move the pile and find the hole in short yardage situations, if Dayne can’t. He’s getting paid, he should be used.

Wide Receivers – JJ has now had his coming out party. The last two weeks, he has shown he can play the game at this level. He is a strong McCaffrey and can only get better with reps. He had one hand bounce this game, made a beautiful catch going high over the middle late in the game, had a couple of decent short yardage catches and the great play against Darrell Green, on which Green showed why he is still the Man. For a tall receiver, JJ not only goes high, he also goes down on his knees and lays out for passes – not many of KCs throws to him were right on the money. JJ told me in the locker room that the ball Green knocked out was “just one of those unfortunate things.” I asked him if he felt he had stepped into the starting role in a way which was showing his talent and value, and he told me, “I’ve done some things to help this team win. But there’s a great cast around me. I’ve been proving people wrong (all my life)…when you get opportunities you have to take advantage of them. I’ve done that my whole career and I plan on continuing to do that. You don’t like to step into the starting role at the expense of someone’s injury, especially an Ike Hilliard. But we all understand it’s part of the game, and when Ike comes back, we will have another weapon (referring to himself).” Ron Dixon showed some flashes. His catch in the end zone showed unbelievable body control – he was twisted three different ways. On the opening drive, although double covered, I believe he was hit early by the defender on the play. He is an asset and like JJ, deserves some reps. Amani had a quiet game, making a couple of catches, having a few others thrown a bit erratically.

Tight Ends – Once again, need more production. Granted a tight end doesn’t have much role in a WCO formation offense, but Payton needs to watch some game tapes of the great ones – like Novacek or Bavaro. Pete Mitchell has become a lost man, for whatever reason. Payton says there are 10 or more plays per game for him, but either KC is not looking or there is more going on than meets the eye. Dan Campbell caught one, then fumbled it. This is unacceptable from this position. As we have learned from Howard Cross, the Giants use the tight ends as receivers in critical situations and they must hold the ball. But it was nice to see Dan get the ball in the middle of the field. With his size, he could be a zone buster if he can control the ball.

The Line – This was a very good game for the Trench Warriors. This is a fierce Redskins defense and Lomas had a nice day against Bruce Smith. Glenn Parker is like the Ever Ready Bunny – he just keeps on going. Stone is a massive presence who was getting movement on his opposite number and helping the running game early. Luke performed well and his toughness is really showing down the stretch and Ziegler quietly pushes left and right. What confuses me is that on some plays there are huge gaps made by this line and on others, there isn’t enough space for a slice of bread. Their general success appears linked to the game plan. When they go one on one, they are a very decent offensive line, but when the play calling becomes predictable and the defenses stack the box and fill the gaps, the line cannot exert explosion. For all the misdirection, the Giants running game is still pretty predictable – they need more quick openers, more line slants. Lomas Brown was ecstatic. He told us, “When they missed that field goal, I never jumped so high. This was such a big game, there was so much pressure, so much riding on this game, that for us to pull it out the way we did, on the road, with their backs against the wall, this speaks volumes for this team. Hopefully we can translate this into three more victories…” Someone asked him about the difference from a couple of weeks ago (following the Lions loss Lomas was very outspoken). “Without a doubt. I think we’re focused now and this is the best time of the year to be focused, coming towards the stretch run, trying to get into the playoffs…” He joked and laughed with us about loving the instant replay. “We caught a break and that’s what happens. Good teams, you make your own breaks, and this was such a big break for us.” Lomas said this was a great victory, but he wasn’t ranking it with one of his greatest because “we still have some work to get done.” I talked with him and we discussed the “game of pain” philosophy – 2 wounded teams, both needing to reach down. He said, “That’s right, that’s right, that’s what you have to do in big games like this, and the guys responded. That let’s me know, we have some big time players on this team, guys responded to the challenge today.”

I asked Glenn Parker if he was starting to get that feeling. He asked me what feeling was that and I said this team coming together and getting ready to make a statement. He said, “We’ve felt that way the last few weeks, even in a couple of losses. We’ve felt we were coming together and doing the right things, this certainly verifies the things that we’ve been trying to tell the world – that we can play. We’ve beaten a good team in Philly, twice and now we’ve got this team. This is a very tough place to play, full of old pros and they played their butts off today and they came after us and luckily, we just had a little more.” He was asked by someone about the stretch drive and he said, “I’ve seen some weird things happen at the end of the year where things fall your way. I was on a Wild Card team down 35 to 3 and we won a game, so there’s nothing out of the way.”

The defensive line was outstanding. Hammer was once again a force. He repeatedly beat his man and was in the QB’s face or chasing him. And there were no foolish plays today – he pulled up several times when he had a free shot because he wasn’t going to risk that penalty. Ryan Hale emphasized that the defense was focused and taking them one game at a time. I talked to him about the rotation and he said, “We roll in quite a bit, and that’s good because it gives Keith, who have been in the league nine years and play a lot of snaps, (a rest)…if I can come in and give him three plays at a crucial time, that’s such a help to them.”

Cornelius Griffin is making his presence felt. He gets beaten on some plays, but he is taking his cue from Hammer and he pours through the line like a madman. He plays with a high level of spirit and you can tell the game is still fun to him. He is vocal and feisty and won’t back down. This is a future Pro Bowler and he will be a mainstay of the Giant defense for many years. In fact, he has flashed potential to be the best defensive lineman the Giants have had since Robustelli, Grier, Mo and Kat. He told me the defense is just “focusing on our goal, which is the playoffs, get better, not make any mistakes.” He and Chris Samuels had a little exchange on the field, tossing a ball back and forth at each other and I asked him what they were saying to each other. He said, “I told him he was lucky I didn’t catch it (batted pass) because he would have never caught me. We’re really good friends (played at Alabama together), he’s a great guy, great guy.” I asked him if he was having as much fun as it looked like and he said, “Yeah, I had fun from the first quarter.” I teased him about being a rookie and asked if he felt like he was passed that. He said, “I don’t think of myself as a rookie, I’m a first year player, but these guys don’t intimidate me.” He told me their offensive line was talking to him and that they’re a good offensive line with great guys “but we came here to play today.” Christian Peter played his normally tough, quiet game. He digs in and gives it all he has. In the locker he is one of the most spent, and beat up guys. Nothing is held back. I’d love to see him get a few sacks before the end of the year so people recognize his value to this group. He echoed the common line of unity and told me “we all play together, towards the end we didn’t lose our composure, we stayed focused, we made plays.” Michael Strahan played an up game and is solidifying his place on this year’s Honolulu trip. The blitz packages are freeing him up and he is getting some good rush efforts, at times using his strength to push his man back, at times going around. He had one smart play when he fell back off his rush and cut off a screen pass play. CJ showed probably his most complete game of the year. He got in on several tackles and chased both QBs. He was within inches of a couple of sacks and should be credited with several hurries. They cut him loose today and he showed some effectiveness in a blitzkrieg scheme. He is less noticeable in the stationary front defense and that may be hurting our perception of him. He was pretty funny in the locker room when asked about his thoughts when Eddie’s field goal went up. He said he had a real problem with depth perception “and from where I’m standing on the field it’s looking good to me, I’m really having a heart attack at that moment.” He said he had to wait for the refs to wave it off. I told him he lost me a lot of money on the sidelines because when he was chasing George I said to the guy next to me, CJ will catch him. He told me, “When I was coming from behind, he looks back and I see his head turning and he can see me out of the corner of his eye, and he’s still looking for his receiver and I was going to get him and he looked back just in time and got rid of it.” I asked if he watched the game last night (Oklahoma) and he said, “Oh, yeah, well, a little because I knew what was going to happen. But they’ll still get better. In two years when they get the athletes they want to recruit and all…” I’m coming around full circle about his value as I watch the game planning, the formations and the player sets. When he first came up, there was some talk about converting him to linebacker and the more I see of him, it might offer some possibilities. He is a big man and he does have great lateral quickness. He’s not afraid to tackle. His disadvantage would be coverage, but it would be interesting to see him and Phillips switch positions on different sets.

The Linebackers – Awesome. Michael Barrow is playing like a rookie with experience. He is all over the field and throws his body into the middle like a madman. Jessie is very active and was close on several occasions, particularly when George came in. Don’t write off the old warrior just yet. It was interesting to watch Jessie, Barrow and Strahan tap helmets before the D took the field on each set. There was a bond of leadership here. On the first defensive set, Hamilton and Griffin led the charge. On the second, it was Jessie and Barrow, Sehorn had 2 stops, CJ and Phillips got involved. On the third, it was Shaun Williams. On the 4th, Jessie, Sehorn, CJ and Garnes. On the 5th Barrow and Monty. On the 6th Jessie and Hammer. On the 7th Hammer and EMac. On the 8thBarrow and Williams. Then it was CJ, a full rush, Thomas had two or three rushes and a knockdown, Strahan. Then Emac had an INT. Towards the end, Hammer was breaking through and Strahan but George played probably the best 8 minutes of his career. The Giants rotation used Monty frequently and the entire linebacking corps was disruptive for the Skins. Ryan Phillips is finally playing like he belongs, and this is a pretty good 3-4 unit, Phillips, Barrow, Monty and Jessie. They also move all over the field and come from different positions. This was John Fox at his best and it was a defense which would make LT proud, swarming, relentless and hard hitting.

The secondary. More than adequate today. Thomas made several nice stops, knockdown, blitzed and tackled. He was beaten late in the game over the middle, but at the time the Giants were in disarray. EMac had a nice rush and hit and a good interception. He was beaten on the phantom TD, but you can’t stop them all. Sehorn was aggressive in all phases of the game and is still playing at an extraordinary level considering he is protecting those ribs. Garnes doubled up nicely on several plays and made some nice stops and Shaun Williams was laying the hits on. What he lacks in cover skills, he makes up for in his hitting and blitzing potential.

Specials – No mistakes. Maynard hit some beautiful punts. Daluiso hit his field goals, including a long one and his kickoffs weren’t bad. All in all, the Giants appeared to win the battle of field position handily today and that was the game.

So it was a team effort and I enjoyed it. Let’s hope it carries over next week for the pesky and dangerous Steelers.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Washington Redskins, December 3, 2000)
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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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