Dec 132000
New York Giants 30 – Pittsburgh Steelers 10

Game Overview: It wasn’t so much a surprise that the Giants won this game, but it was surprising at how easy they won and how they won. Don’t forget that this was a playoff game for the Steelers. They knew if they lost this game, they would be through. Pittsburgh had a lot more riding on this game than the Giants. New York was in control of this game from the opening kickoff and this was probably the Giants most complete game since week two against the Eagles.

What was shocking too was that the Giants did it offensively through the air. The Giants had no running game from the backs – none whatsoever. The only big run came from WR Amani Toomer on a reverse. The Giants put up 30 points on a very tough Steelers’ defense on the right arm of Kerry Collins, who may have played his best game as a pro. The timing of Collins’ effort is perfect. If he can take the confidence that must come from this game and build upon it, we may all look back to this game as the moment when Collins took that step to make himself an upper echelon quarterback and the Giants an upper echelon team. Only time will tell. The exciting part is that he has by no means peaked. He’s still relatively young and still learning. And there will be rough spots. But it is ironic while that Phil Simms was broadcasting this game from the press box, Collins demonstrated the finest quarterbacking in the Meadowlands since Phil was playing in 1993.

Coaching: The interesting thing offensively is that the Giants came out throwing the ball and kept doing so even when they were up 13-0, 20-3, and 23-3. This was NOT a conservative game plan. It was not a matter of the Giants first trying to run, then adjusting. They came out winging it and stayed with it. This game plan completely took the Steelers by surprise. There were some more exotic plays as well – a reverse on 3rd-and-1, a flea flicker, and a shovel pass. Great job by Jim Fassel and Sean Payton.

Defensively, the Giants did a great job of containing QB Kordell Stewart in the pocket. As I feared, the Steelers came out throwing, but the Giants held up despite being seemingly surprised early. Some may want to know where the sacks were, but there were numerous times in the game where DE Michael Strahan and his mates didn’t take the most direct path to the quarterback in order to maintain their rush lanes. This discipline forced Stewart to stay in the pocket and throw from the pocket – something that he is not comfortable doing. John Fox took some chances in the secondary by playing more men up at the line of scrimmage (particularly FS Shaun Williams), but the defensive backs held up pretty well for the most part.

Quarterback/Receivers: Kerry Collins (24-of-35 for 333 yards, 2 touchdowns, no interceptions) played his best game as a Giant on Sunday. Some may point to the game against the Jets last year, but Collins was supported in that game by a strong rushing game from Joe Montgomery. Let’s look at some of the specifics:

On the first drive, Collins started off by throwing a perfect swing pass to Tiki Barber. The pass was thrown so well that Tiki was able to catch the ball in stride and explode down the sideline for 18 yards before the defense could adjust. In the past, a Dave Brown, Danny Kanell, or Kent Graham pass would have been off the mark and Tiki would have had to stop and catch the ball – allowing the defense to stop the play for no gain. However, the drive stalled when Collins’ pass to Ike Hilliard on 3rd-and-8 was too low. The Giants settled for a field goal.

On the second drive, on 3rd-and-9, Collins was afforded excellent pass protection and stood patiently in the pocket until Amani Toomer broke free over the middle. Kerry hit him in stride and a 28-yard catch-and-run resulted (if Toomer keeps his feet he might have scored). Collins then tried a pump-and-go route to Toomer, but it was well-covered and he threw the ball away. After another throw away, Collins then found Tiki Barber (6 catches for 75 yards) over the middle for a first down on 3rd-and-10. Kerry’s bad decision came in the redzone when he was flagged for intentional grounding. The drive ended on the one yard line when the Giants failed to convert on 4th-and-goal.

On the third drive, Collins hit TE Pete Mitchell (2 catches for 25 yards) over the middle for 15 yards (finally!). After a penalty put the Giants back five yards, Barber did a poor job of following Dusty Zeigler’s block on a screen and was stuffed. Kerry’s worst decision of the day came on the next play when he tried to hit Toomer in the endzone, but the ball was underthrown and almost intercepted. Giants kicked a field goal and were up 6-0.

Now the good stuff really started. On the fourth drive, Collins hit Hilliard on a turn-in for 11 yards and a first down. The Giants tried a flea flicker but Tiki Barber didn’t sell the play well because he pitched the ball back to Collins too soon. On 3rd-and-6, Kerry hit Joe Jurevicius (1 catch for 6 yards) on a crossing route and Joe did a great job of fighting for the first down. Passes to Toomer on a slant and Mitchell (who needs to be used more like this in the redzone) over the middle picked up two more first downs. Tiki then scored to make it 13-0.

On the Giants first drive in the second half, Collins hit Toomer for 15 yards on 2nd-and-10. I’ve criticized Collins’ presence in the pocket at times this year, but he showed me something two plays later. On 2nd-and-11, Collins didn’t panic when he spotted a blitz coming from his right. He sidestepped the rush, stepped UP INTO THE POCKET and then delivered a strike to Toomer crossing over the middle for 24 yards. The drive looked to be in trouble after a sack. Facing 2nd-and-17, previous Giants’ offenses would have crumbled. But Collins threw to Barber for 8 and then on 3rd-and-9, a well-executed shovel pass for 23 yards picked up the first down. The Giants did a great job on third down in this game (9-of-14 on conversion attempts). On 3rd-and-6 inside the ten, Collins hit Hilliard over the middle for what looked to be only a first down, but Hilliard – showing no ill-effects from his lung/sternum injury – bounced off two tacklers and scored. Giants 20-3.

Hilliard (5 catches for 90 yards, 1 touchdown) had a big day. His biggest play came on the next drive when he caught an out from Collins turned up field and put on some superb moves that were reminiscent of his days at the University of Florida. It was a 59-yard catch-and-run where Hilliard would have scored if he had only followed FB Greg Comella’s superb block. Instead Ike cut it back and tripped over the last man who could have stopped him. On 3rd-and-8, Collins hit Ike over the middle, but it wasn’t enough for the first down and the Giants were forced to kick the field goal. 23-3. Incidentally, I didn’t like the play design on this play. Ike wasn’t deep enough to pick up the first down and the Giants’ braintrust had Mitchell running a 1-2 yard out pattern.

I thought Collins’ best work came on the last drive when the Giants were probably just trying to run some time off the clock. Instead, Collins lead the Giants on an 11-play, 80-yard juggernaut that took almost seven minutes off the clock. Collins kept the drive alive by hitting Hilliard on a slant for seven yards on 3rd-and-5, Toomer for 45 yards on 3rd-and-8 (a PERFECTLY thrown deep sideline pass – couldn’t have been thrown better). Then on 3rd-and-2, he rolled out to his right and fired a rocket to Toomer in the back corner of the endzone for a touchdown. Giants 30 – Steelers 3.

The main beneficiary of Collins’ strong day was Toomer (9 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown). Toomer showed fine toughness on quite a few short throws as well as down-the-field ability on the deep stuff.

Pass Blocking: Superb. The Giants gave up one sack on a blitz where a linebacker came free (it looked to me as if Dan Campbell should have picked up the man instead of helping Luke Petitgout on a double-team). The line was aided by the fact that Collins got rid of the ball quickly and a Steeler defender said after the game that it was tough to get to Collins because of all his 3-step drops. However, there were quite a few plays where Collins had all day to throw. On Toomer’s 28-yard reception on the second drive, Collins looked over the middle, looked right, then looked over the middle and then threw. This was indicative of the pass protection on the day. Ron Dayne also continue to do a good job on blitz pick-ups – a surprising positive for a rookie.

Running Game/Run Blocking: I was all set to criticize HB Tiki Barber (12 carries for 22 yards and 1 touchdown) and HB Ron Dayne (11 carries for 20 yards) for their meager statistics. My impression when I watched the game live was that they did not run the ball well. However, after watching the tape and rewinding numerous plays, I have to say that it was the terrible run blocking and not the running that was the problem. Dayne has gotten a lot of grief recently from fans, but I’m here to tell you that he had nowhere to run on most of his runs. Same with Barber. Some examples:

On the first drive, Dayne was hit in the backfield when both OC Dusty Zeigler and LT Lomas Brown whiffed on their blocks. On the second drive, Dan Campbell missed his block and Tiki was held to five yards on a sweep that should have picked up more. On 4th-and-goal, Greg Comella was stood up in the hole and pushed back; this knocked the pulling LG Glenn Parker off stride and back into Dayne. Now many have argued that Dayne should have scored here, but the Pittsburgh defenders, Comella, and Parker were all surrounding Dayne in the backfield. Personally, I think the call was the problem. I don’t like pulling linemen on 4th-and-short.

On another run, Zeigler fell to the ground and missed his man. He missed another block on another Tiki rushing attempt (Zeigler didn’t play well today in the running game). RG Ron Stone was flagged with a false start. In the second half, RT Luke Petitgout missed a block on a right side run. Glenn Parker failed to hit his man on two pulls (the Steelers did a great job of disrupting the Giants favorite running play where they pull Parker to the right). LG Jason Whittle, subbing for Parker, missed a block on another run and Barber was nailed in the backfield. All of these missed blocks contributed to plays where Dayne or Barber went nowhere. Part of the problem too was that ILB Earl Holmes for the Steelers was all over the field. Sometimes you have to give the other guy credit too.

The good news? The 3rd-and-1 reverse to Toomer was a great call and well executed with superb blocks from Campbell and Zeigler. The left side of the line, including Lomas Brown and Jason Whittle did a good job of creating space for Tiki on his 3 yard touchdown run. On the Giants’ last scoring drive, the blockers started to provide Dayne and Barber with some room. There was an 8-yard counter to Barber with an excellent pulling block from Parker and a very nice inside cutback by Dayne for solid yardage up the middle that set the Giants up inside the ten.

Defensive Line: This unit did a great job of containing Stewart in the pocket (only 8 yards scrambling) and limiting the always dangerous Jerome Bettis to only 39 yards rushing. I am amazed that opposing offenses simply refuse to run at DE Michael Strahan (2 tackles). The Steelers only tried a few times and only once was it successful. Strahan didn’t pick up a sack, but he buzzed by Stewart a few times and there were plays where I spotted the Steelers putting two men on him. The Steelers’ offense is well-suited to DT Christian Peter’s (2 tackles) game and he responded well by gumming up things inside along with DT Keith Hamilton (3 tackles). Peter got a good pass rush on Stewart on one play, but then was flagged on another for a very blatant late hit on the quarterback. Hamilton did a good job of disrupting a screen with quick pressure. He was also flagged with a questionable 15-yard facemask penalty on the Steelers’ only successful attempt to run at Strahan. DE Cedric Jones (3 tackles, 1 sack) played well against the run and helped to contain Stewart. His sack came on a play where he was unblocked (he still is a non-factor rushing the passer except for last week’s game against the Skins and late in the Dallas game). Jones did save the defense bigtime when he knocked down a screen pass that was set up for big yardage. He also stood real stout on the critical 3rd-and-2 Bettis run that forced the Steelers to settle for a field goal in the first half.

As for the reserves, DT/DE Cornelius Griffin (2 tackles) made a nice play from right defensive end in the hole against Bettis on the play where he hurt his groin. Ryan Hale saw some time but was a non-factor.

Linebackers: Pretty quiet game as they too had a role in keeping Stewart and Bettis under control. Not flashy, but effective. MLB Mike Barrow (5 tackles) did a great job in coverage and almost picked off a pass for a touchdown when he broke on a pass intended for a wide receiver on 3rd-and-9. If he held on, he scores easy. He then later nailed Bettis for a 3-yard loss on a left side run. Jessie Armstead (7 tackles, 1 sack) showed good aggressiveness on an inside blitz where he knocked the blocker back into the pocket. He also nailed Stewart for a “sack” at one of the few times that he got through containment. Like Peter, SLB Ryan Phillips (7 tackles) is made to play against this type of offense and responded well by standing up blocks and getting in on tackles.

Defensive Backs: It seems to me that in John Fox’s scheme, CB Jason Sehorn (6 tackles) is often left to fend for himself with no help. This at times can make Sehorn look bad if he’s not on top of his game and he wasn’t on Sunday. But get one thing straight – Sehorn is still the best cover corner on the team. Sehorn was flagged with two penalties – a holding call that gave the Steelers a first down and a 41-yard pass interference penalty when he let WR Hines Ward get behind him. On another play, Sehorn was playing too far off of Ward and allowed an easy completion for a first down on 2nd-and-long. Jason has also gotten into the nasty habit of trying to tackle with his shoulders instead of wrapping up and he’s starting to miss a lot of tackles again.

Dave Thomas (2 tackles) made a great play on the Steelers’ 4th-and-3 conversion attempt in the first half. He played his man aggressively and knocked the ball away. WR Bobby Shaw did beat Thomas deep on the first drive of the second half – FS Shaun Williams was late getting over to help on the play. Luckily, Pittsburgh missed the field goal attempt. Thomas wasn’t able to get to the fallen wide receiver on a short reception late in the game, enabling the receiver to get up and pick up 25 yards on the play.

Williams (8 tackles) was a huge factor in controlling Bettis at the line of scrimmage. Indeed, he was like having an extra linebacker on the field as he regularly came up with big hits AND sure tackles. He made a sure tackle that saved first down on a CB blitz right before the aforementioned missed field goal. SS Sam Garnes (2 tackles) made a nice play in coverage against the tight end to knock the ball away.

Nickel back Emmanuel McDaniel (3 tackles) missed Stewart on a blitz, but CB Reggie Stephens (3 tackles, 1 interception) saved him and the defense by chasing down the elusive and fast Stewart for no gain. Stephens had great coverage on 4th-and-goal late in the game and picked off the pass in the endzone (with an assist from the blitzing Armstead). Reggie did get beat by Ward for a first down on 3rd-and-4 earlier in the game however. McDaniel also gave up a reception late in the game.

Lyle West made a big hit after a reception on the Steelers only scoring drive, but got beat in the endzone for a touchdown. However, I didn’t like the coverage as the Giants had West and MLB Pete Monty covering the two inside receivers (both wide receivers to boot). That won’t work and it didn’t.

The bad news was there were two plays where Steeler receivers got open in the seams as it looked like there were blown assignments. Fortunately for New York, Shaw dropped both passes. This needs to be addressed this week by the coaches of course.

Special Teams: Kick coverage was very good until the last kickoff when the Giants let the Steelers return the ball to the 45 yard line very late in the 4th quarter. Jack Golden absolutely launched himself into the wedge with a hit so vicious that I had to watch it three times. Thabiti Davis, Reggie Stephens, and Lyle West made sure tackles on coverage.

Brad Daluiso’s kickoffs continue to remain short and with little hangtime. He did a great job on his three field goals however. Brad Maynard got off a poor effort (27 yards) on his one lone attempt.

Omar Stoutmire started the game with a 47 yard return with a excellently-blocked seam for him to run up through. Blocking on punts for Tiki Barber remains poor however (the Giants are not blocking the gunners effectively). Reggie Stephens made a great play by holding onto the onsides kick despite a vicious hit.

Who’s Going to Bring a Broken Arrow…

by David Oliver

The new Rod Stewart song, story of my life cuz the young man in me won’t die. Met up with Dr. Joe Mancino, erstwhile fotog for INSIDE FOOTBALL, and headed up for the game – one day trip this week, because I’m still not feeling well, my wife is on vacation in St Thomas and someone has to feed the cats. Dr. Joe handled the wheel and I co-piloted him through the Scylla and Charibides of the NJ Turnpike. We had a good trip, notwithstanding the fact that he drives at 75 mph and still seems like he’s driving like an Old Lady. One skid on the way home when it was icy on the 295 entrance, but Dr. Joe did a masterful job of keeping her off the guard rail.

Noticed last week one thread in which some contributors were thanking Eric for his work on the site. Of course, there was one nattering nabob who had to be an ass and criticize those who were expressing some appreciation. Then he took some cheap shots at both Eric and myself. Proclaimed Eric was a “punter with a website” and I talked to, I dunno – something like lesser individuals in the locker who would talk to me. As much as I love NY, one thing I have never understood is smart mouths with the brains of horned toads who like to shoot off their mouths in a critical way without producing one thing of seeming sense. All I can say, wiseass, is that if you are so good – here’s a challenge – call Pat Hanlon, get a pass to work the game, either upstairs or on the field, go into the locker room and talk to whomever you consider “important” personages, then write a report for the group as to what you saw and heard. If you can’t do it – because I don’t believe you can as you appear to be intellectually emasculated and without any redeeming social value, if you can’t do it, change your handle to “fudgepack” because that title is more appropriate for your additions to this site. And keep in mind, if you are going to be a wiseass, back it up, or shut your arse.

Now let me get back in touch with my gentler side because this time of the year is very special for me. It’s not only about the quality of the football, it’s about the festival of lights, the birth of Christ, the celebration of Channukah, the month of Ramadan. It is about the primaeval need for something warm and fuzzy to fight off the depression of short days, the long season of dormancy, the winter of our souls. It is about family, friends and celebration and nowhere is it more beautiful than the Big Apple – from the Tree and ice skating rink at Rockefeller center to the Italian section off Grand Ave. and Mott St. I treasure my memories of Christmas past, when Mom and Dad and my wife, son and I would go into the City, stop for dinner, usually at Vincent’s, right across the street from the restaurant where Joey Colombo, or was it Gallo, met his demise, then have a cappuccino and cannoli at Ferrara’s,. Then we would walk the streets, looking at the decorations, the twinkling lights and stopping at the music stores playing carols outside, particularly “Oh, Bambino”. Damn, I can’t tell you guys what I would give to have one of those trips back, to have my Dad here again, my Mom, young and beautiful, my wife with that glow in her eyes, and my son- to hold him again when he would take those small hands and slap my cheeks and laugh as only babies can laugh. Then on Christmas Eve, to have that traditional Italian fish dinner- Mom would spend all day cooking smelts, scungilli, calamari, lobster tails, fried eel; we would have coffee and sweet pie or home made cookies for dessert. I mention this now because I won’t be going to the Dallas game and Jacksonville is just before Christmas, so I won’t have an opportunity between now and then to wish you all a happy and joyous season with your family and loved ones. Take a few minutes out to just feel what you have and to be thankful for this past year, and some great Giants football.

I say great because great it is getting. First the Skins, now the Steelers, two good teams thoroughly dismantled and totally dominated by the streaking and peaking Giants Game day temp, a seasonable 37, mostly overcast, at times so dark on the field that we were losing 1.5 to stops of light between shots – but dry and comfortable for this time of the year. Strange game as the G-Men totally dominated, yet the time of possession was only 32:14 to 27:46 and the edge in plays 62 to 56. But third down efficiency for the Giants 9-of-14, a gaudy 64 %, 394 total yards, 326 net yards in the air.

Special Teams – One more step on the road to new and improved. Good field position, kickoffs still a little short, but field goals setting the offense for the Giants right now. Kickoff returns – Stoutmire had a nice 47 yard return. There was only I Giant punt. Coverage was much improved as the Steelers had 132 total yards on 7 KO returns, with a long of 30. When you don’t have much to write about specials, it is a good game. I talked to Brandon Short about it. First he told me he isn’t 100% yet but is glad to be out there and having an opportunity to make some plays. We bantered a little about him and Jack Golden, who was popping people again out there and I asked if they had a little friendly rivalry going to see who was the most feisty. Brandon told me the unit had a lot of pride and was accepting the challenge. He told me that he “personally takes pride in that (good special teams play).”

Defense – Another great effort all around. The defense showed it’s versatility today, playing a contain, team oriented defense against the Steelers, following an aggressive, blitzing defense last week against the Skins. I concentrated on this versatility and spoke to Coach Fox, Jessie Armstead, Michael Barrow and Cedric Jones about the unit and the effort (how’s that, kk?). Jessie said that Kordell Stewart was a hard QB to cover, but that he “really didn’t too much spying,” other than to “keep an eye on him, you know, keep one eye on your man and one eye on him…when I saw him break the pocket, I knew I had to come up out of my coverage and make the play.” He was asked about the Bus and said, “One thing about it is that we have the best run stop defense in the League and we knew we just had to attack, you had the D-line fighting up front, the linebackers clogging the holes and, you know, we’ve got some big secondary guys that come up and seal the run, too.” He said, “You can’t take anything away from the Bus, that’s why they call him the Bus, but one thing about it is, he’s got to run through 11 of us…” Jessie talked about the team concept, that the focus wasn’t on the defense, but that the offense was doing it’s job, that the team, and he emphasized team was doing it together. Talking about Coach Fassel’s prediction, he said Coach had put it on the table, knowing he had the “type of guys who would go out and fight for you. A lot of coaches could make that prediction, but they don’t know what type of guys they have…”

I asked him about the versatility of the defense and he said, “With Coach Fox, he’s probably the best defensive coordinator in the League. He knows right when to blitz and right when to sit you back, he didn’t come out there today just blitzing Kordell Stewart, he looked at the game plan, and he did the way he felt right, and we came out on top.” Jessie had a combined 7 tackles on the day. I congratulated EMac on his interception last week. He’s a very humble young man and he said, “Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time.” I asked him how it was playing with all the defensive backs out there at the end of the game and he told me it was just basically “a little more talking, everybody talking, and good things happen when you talk.” EMac had 3 tackles on the day.

I talked to CJ and congratulated him about getting a sack today. He told me that “we weren’t really concentrating on getting the QB sacks today, our game plan today was really, we wanted to stop the run…and to keep Kordell in front of us, and whatever, today we were doing that whatever and towards the end we were rushing and I was able to get to him.” I asked him what it was like to put a shoulder pad on the Bus and he said, “Hey, I mean, he’s a load, you try to get him going East and West, because when he’s going downhill…he’s a load to bring down.” CJ also talked about the team effort and “everyone knows where they’re supposed to be and you make the plays…that’s what we need, we need everyone to know their assignment, and when it comes time to make that play, they make that play.” CJ had 3 tackles on the day, with a sack and a pass defensed.

Coach Fox said, “Players win games and our guys did an excellent job looking at tape, studying their opponent, and I think it was evident.” On the defensive scheme he said they (Steelers) were going to run certain plays in certain places and “we tried to minimize that and teach our guys where they were going to show up and then try to get more than one guy in the hole.” On Bettis he said, “He’s a very hard runner, most of the times in those short yardages we’ve got people on him and he’s spinning for first downs – my hat’s off to him.” Coach Fox said, “We did step it up a notch.” I told him about Jessie’s remarks and he laughed and blushed a little (about him being the best D coordinator). He said, “I appreciate the comments, but you know, you need good players. We ‘ve got good players. They’re well-respected in the League and well-respected by their teammates. Players win games in this League and they’re playing well right now.” He also said, “This team is beginning to grow in the right direction and we have to see if we can remain this focused throughout the season…they see something that they want and they’re working hard to get it.” I asked about the versatility of the planning and playing and he told me, “I feel real good about this group of guys. I have for a long time. We’ve got with free agency in this League, each season brings along a few new guys and it takes a while for those guys to develop within the system. I’m real proud of what they’ve done and how hard they’ve worked.”

Michael Barrow was as usual, very gracious and giving of his time in talking to us. He was concentrating on the team aspect of the game also and related that Coach Fassel had once again shown a clip from GLADIATOR to the team – Saturday night before the Redskins game – it was the Coliseum shot where Russell Crowe is telling the gladiators that he didn’t know what was coming into the arena but if they stood together, they would survive. It is an evocative scene, a purely masculine moment, and if it doesn’t reach a special place in you, then you have never been in a fraternity, never played organized team sports, never been to combat, either in the military or on the streets, never been embattled as only men can be. My son had advised me to see the movie and I’m glad I did because it reached me personally – it is the way I managed my crack team of seven litigating attorneys, it is the way I form my friendships, it is the way I live mt life. It is a brutally tough standard – stand together – and obviously, it reached Coach Fassel in much the same way because he has imprinted it upon these Giants. The look in Barrow’s eyes showed that it reached him also, his eyes glistened and you could sense a rippling surge in his muscular physique. He talked about the Giants recent success as a “family thing…it’s all about winning. I know that all my individual goals that I have will be accomplished based on the success of this team, we sacrifice that, and that’s the beauty of it, we sacrifice that (individual honor) for team goals because they are all connected.” He told us about his affirmation of Jesus and playing to help the team win, “When I step out onto the field, that’s the one thing I’m thinking about, God I want to glorify you and I want to help this team win.” He went on, “If I do something to hurt this team, I’m upset about it, so I come back and I get a guy like Jessie holding me accountable, saying come on let’s go, let’s go and vice versa, I’m like keeping him accountable and we’re all keeping each other accountable, but we trust in one another.” I love talking to Preacher Barrow – it’s so refreshing to hear this kind of homily from a young man, a sincere statement of who he is and what he is about, in a non-polemical manner, not reaching out to convert, but giving his own testimony in an earnest manner. So much is made of the Ray Lewis and Rae Carruth or the Dallas marauders, but it guys like Barrow who give hope for the sport and for the future.

He echoed Coach Fox when talking about the awareness “it’s like a seed that’s been planted; it started in training camp…we know who we are, we’re a great defense, we’re a great team, we can make it happen, and then the seed manifests, right now it’s starting to manifest…” He pointed to the Redskins game as the proof “that’s when everything started manifesting itself…we kept speaking faith, Coach Fassel stepped out, everyone thought he was crazy…but then the substance started manifesting itself, the seed started growing and you started seeing the fruits of our labor…” In that game, he said, faith in themselves was “tested over and over, it was awesome, even in tense moments, it was like ‘stay together, stay together’ and we stayed together…” I asked him about the ritual in the Skins game where he and Jessie and Michael Strahan would tap helmets together each time the D took the field. He said, “That’s just something that we do. We call it ‘Roll Call’, you know everybody has their thing where you get back to focus, say ok let’s go…that’s something that indicates we’re just anchoring in, we’re saying, ok, when we take this field we have to make a play happen.” Someone else asked him if the goal line stand was one of those “roll calls” and he said basically yes and he went on “it’s third-and-2, you’ve got the Bus back there, and he’s coming down hill, it’s one of those things, all buses have to stop at a railroad, and we just made a railroad…” He talked about their system (Steelers) and said it was a reflection of their Coach – then he started visualizing and imitating Coach Cowher, his jaw jutting out and spitting orders out to the team. He said Cowher’s teams are like the Terminator, “you chop a leg off and they keep on coming…they’re going to keep coming.” I wish I could play the tape for you when he was talking like Coach Cowher saying, “If I see one of you guys quit in this game, you’re out of here” grinding his teeth and sounding tough. He said, “This team scared me coming in here.” Barrow had 5 combined tackles and 1 pass defensed.

The rest of the defense also lived up to the ‘team’ concept. Sean Williams had another good game with 8 combined tackles 1 pass defensed), Phillips had 7 combined tackles, Sehorn had 6 combined tackles. Hamilton had a quiet day with 3 tackles, Reggie Stephens had 3 tackles and an interception on the goal line. Strahan and Peter were quietly effective; Griffin was hurt. West got in for 2 tackles, one a monster crunch. Dave Thomas had a decent day with 2 tackles and 2 passes defensed. The Steelers receivers had a lot of catches. Led by Bobby Shaw with 6-for-88 and a 36 yarder, Hines Ward with 6-for-64, long of 23. The Giants strive to limit the receptions to under 30 yards and with only 1 exceeding that, pass defense was successful notwithstanding a 20-of-34 day for Slash.

On offense, the Giants receivers were led by Amani Toomer with 9-for-136 yards, with a long of 45 and a TD. Ike contributed 5-for-90 with a beautiful twisting 59 yard run, Tiki had 6-for-75, Pete 2-for-25 and JJ and Comella with 1 each. The running game was held in check with 68 yards, but one run was a reverse to Toomer good for 28 yards. Tiki had 22 and Dayne 20. FOR THOSE OF YOU INTERESTED IN DAYNE’S BODY – I SPECIFICALLY ASKED HIM ABOUT THE “JELLO” CLAIM AND HE WAS NOT UPSET – HE TOLD ME EVEN THE TEAM QUESTIONED HIM AT FIRST. BUT HIS BODY FAT ANALYSIS CAME OUT “10” WHICH IS VERY, VERY GOOD BY ANY STANDARDS. AND THAT IS AT 260 POUNDS. I WISH I WAS CONFIGURED THAT WAY. He did acknowledge that he needed to get at the weights in the off season.

Lomas Brown was happy and said that the Giants had “come out aggressively against those guys, because we knew they had a very aggressive team…so we knew we had to get something going early to try and keep our defense off the field and we were able to do it. We wanted to put up more points than we put up, but we got the victory and that’s all that counts.” He also felt this win for the offensive line was a big one – “It takes us to another level, we played against Washington last week, we did a pretty good job against them, then to come home against a team like Pittsburgh and be able to move the ball on them, it really, really helps our offensive line. I think right now our offensive line is starting to jell together.” He also said that he thought this was the best performance for the team so far because so much was riding on the game with 4 or 5 teams right behind the Giants. I asked him about the red zone problems and he said, “It is a concern for us because the farther we get into the season, we’re going to have to be able to punch the ball in. A lot of times 3 points don’t get it done, so we’re going to have to start punching this thing in and really, really start getting that ball and when we’re in the red zone, start taking advantage of the red zone.” I asked him about the feeling for the guys when they start making holes and he said it felt good because “running backs go for 100 yards, or Kerry doesn’t get touched, it makes us feel good because we look for some of those little things.”

That pretty much sums it up for this week. I could go for another 3 pages, but you guys have a flavor for the game, the feeling in the locker room, what is driving this team and if you’ve been following, you can pick up on the tools of the ‘new motivator’- Coach Fassel is succeeding, not by playing head games or terrorizing the troops, but by preaching ‘unity’ and teamwork. He is giving new currency as a new age coach to the old adages, the code of the warrior, the hunt – “stay together and we’ll survive.” It may have taken all the critics a long time to bring it out of Coach, notwithstanding his proclamations that he doesn’t care what anyone thinks, he is showing that he is a leader, or rather the Giants, since the Lions game, are showing he is a leader. Fitting in a wry sort of way, that it took the Lions to bring out the Gladiator.

(Box Score – Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants, December 10, 2000)
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Eric Kennedy

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

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