Baltimore Ravens 34 – New York Giants 7
Game Overview: In hindsight, the Giants would have been very hard-pressed to win this game given the fact that a number of key players did not perform up to expectations – most notably at quarterback, on the offensive line, and in the secondary. There were two ways that the Giants could have approached this game – aggressively or conservatively. The Giants chose the former, but the latter probably would not have worked either. Let me elaborate:
The Giants came out aggressive offensively, trying a number of tactics to push the ball down the field via the passing game – and picking their spots with the running game. Most football people felt this was the correct strategy. The problem was that the Giants could not execute it because Kerry Collins played a bad game as did the offensive line. Without Collins being accurate, smart, or tough – the Giants had no chance. For the Giants to win this game, he had to deliver and he didn’t. The offensive line did not help and there were surprising mental mistakes by the oldest veterans on the line (more on that in a bit).
The other route the Giants could have gone was to play it more conservatively – like the Ravens did. Repeatedly run the football up the gut even when not successful, take an occasional shot deep in the passing game, and rely on the other team’s quarterback to screw up. This probably would have made for a closer contest, but I don’t think it would have been ultimately successful either. Why? Because the Giants were out-played on defense and special teams. The Giants’ defense gave up the big passing play deep – the Ravens did not. The Giants made far too many mistakes on specials.
It stinks to lose the Super Bowl, but the Giants did not deserve to win it. They did not out-play their opponent. They have no one to blame but themselves.
Coaching: It’s hard to fairly judge the offensive play calling when the execution was so damn poor. Kerry Collins was not accurate and made bad decisions. The offensive line couldn’t block and the receivers had a hard time getting open. The running game – when employed – was virtually non-existent. When plays don’t work, fans love to blame the coaches. But most often is it the failure of the players that are at fault. My only main beef with Fassel is that I think I would have kicked off to start the game. Defensively, there were a few times where there were blown coverages in the secondary; either the players made mental mistakes or they were not prepared adequately for what they saw – only poor quarterbacking by the Ravens saved the Giants from an even worse fate. The Giants took some chances in coverage and it cost them.
Quarterback: To say Collins (15-of-39 for 112 yards, 0 touchdowns, 4 interceptions) was not sharp is an understatement. It’s not like Collins is not a big-game quarterback. He won a national championship in college and played very well in both playoff games (people forget how sharp he was in the post-season Philly game too against one of the league’s best defenses despite the lack of points). But for whatever reason, Kerry was unraveled from the start. Shoddy pass protection did not help matters, but there were plays where Collins had decent protection and misfired. He was VERY jumpy in the pocket and regressed to some bad tendencies such as throwing with poor mechanics, bird-dogging his intended receiver, and forcing the football. And the aspect that I have worried about all year long reared it’s ugly head against Baltimore – Collins was not very courageous (e.g. tough) in the pocket. It’s not all his fault to be sure. His offensive teammates did not help him out. Just when it looked like he would finally get into a rhythm, he would get sacked. And he took a lot of hits in the pocket. But so did his counterpart – Trent Dilfer. Yet Dilfer didn’t force the ball aside from the one terrible pick that was called back due to a penalty. It’s sad but true – Dilfer, despite playing a pretty poor game, out-played Collins because he did not turn the ball over.
The Ravens’ game plan was pretty clear. Play the receivers aggressively (which would force Collins to make near perfect throws since Baltimore has the talent to do this) and get pressure on Collins to rattle him. Their approach reminded me very much of what the ‘85 and ‘86 Giants used to do to the 49er teams – disrupt the rhythm and timing of the passing game. For Baltimore, it worked beautifully. The Eagles tried this in the two regular season games and failed. The Ravens did not. Kerry did not even have his security blanket – the easy dump offs to the backs – as the Ravens’ linebackers were all over these plays for little gain. The Ravens were so quick on defense that it often looked like there were 12 or 13 defenders on the field.
Let’s look at the specifics:
- First Drive: 1st-and-5 after a penalty. Collins tried to get the ball to TE Pete Mitchell, but MLB Ray Lewis closed on the ball quickly and almost caused an interception. WLB Jamie Sharper fought through a FB Greg Comella lead block to nail HB Tiki Barber for no gain. On 3rd-and-5, the Ravens blitzed a cornerback and Sharper off the right side of the defense. LT Lomas Brown, LG Glenn Parker, and TE Pete Mitchell looked confused as to who they should have picked up; Collins was hit as he threw – incomplete.
- Second Drive: Collins is sacked as DE Rob Burnett and Lewis arrive at the quarterback at the same time; RG Ron Stone missed a block and no one picked up Lewis. Barber then picks up two yards on a sweep. 3rd-and-14 – Parker is pushed back into Collins and Kerry scrambles for a short gain. Kerry is clearly flustered at this point.
- Third Drive: Giants are backed up against their end zone. Brown is flagged for a false start. For some reason, Dayne is called upon to block Burnett by himself and Collins is almost sacked for a safety; Collins nearly makes matters worse by blindly throwing the ball over the middle for a near interception. On the next play, Collins buys some time with a rollout and hits Ike Hilliard for a huge first down (to get away from the end zone – the Giants have been losing the field position war from the get-go). On 1st-and-10, HB Joe Montgomery rips off a 4-yard run behind some nice blocks on the right side. Barber is stuffed – the OL can’t generate any movement. On 3rd-and-6, Collins finally has some time, but looks to be eyeing the rush and throws off his back foot – the pass is broken up by Lewis.
- Fourth Drive: Starts off with a two yard pass to Comella in the flat. Barber picks up two more on a sweep. On 3rd-and-6, the Giants run what looks like a QB keeper and Collins is stopped well short of the first down. Terrible call or bad decision by Collins.
- Fifth Drive: The Giants keep in extra protection and finally give Collins some time to throw. Collins just misses connecting with WR Ike Hilliard on a deep post – could have been a huge play in the game. Giants run a screen on 2nd-and-10, but Tiki slips and OC Dusty Zeigler misses a block. On 3rd-and-long, Comella misses Lewis on a blitz-pick-up and Collins overthrows Toomer deep.
- Sixth Drive: Barber picks up one yard. Collins trys to hit Hilliard over the middle, but the ball is tipped. He then trys to hit Hilliard deep on third down, but Ike is well-covered.
- Seventh Drive: After two Ravens’ penalties, the Giants try a double reverse pass, but the Ravens amazingly still have the intended receiver double-covered – great discipline on their part. Collins’ next pass was tipped by Lewis and intercepted by Sharper. The field position battle that the Giants were finally starting to win suddenly turns against them again.
- Eighth Drive: Collins starts to find a rhythm. He hits WR Amani Toomer on a 5-yard out. He then hits a well-covered Amani over the middle for 20 yards on what probably was his best pass of the night despite Stone whiffing on a block. Montgomery picks up nothing. Kerry hits TE Howard Cross for seven. On 3rd-and-3, the Ravens jump and the Giants pick up a first down. Barber does a poor job on a blitz pick-up and Collins is forced to scramble and throw incomplete. On 2nd-and-10, Collins passes to Hilliard over the middle for a first down. The Giants are really moving now. The next pass hits a DL in the head. On 2nd-and-10, Parker and Brown can’t handle a stunt and Collins is sacked. 3rd-and-18 – Barber draw for about 11. At the very least, the Giants got back field position again (but the defense was subsequently to give it right back with CB Dave Thomas getting beat deep).
- Ninth Drive: This was the last drive before halftime. Collins found Ron Dixon for 16 yards. Barber breaks lose for a huge 29-yard gain that takes the ball deep into Ravens’ territory. A field goal looms at least. But Collins makes his poorest decision of the night and forces the ball into double coverage and the ball is intercepted near the goal line. “I misread the coverage and thought (Ike) was behind everyone,” Collins said.
- After Halftime – Tenth Drive: Barber picks up two up the middle. For some reason, RT Luke Petitgout and TE Dan Campbell allow the left defensive end to run right by and pressure Collins – inexcusable play; Collins is forced to scramble. On 3rd-and-3, Collins finds Hilliard over the middle for a first down. But on the next drive, Parker and Brown AGAIN can’t handle a stunt and Collins is sacked. On 2nd-and-18, Collins is intercepted by the safety (Collins stares down the receiver on this play leading the safety to the ball). Field position battle lost once again.
- Eleventh Drive: Barber picks up only one on pass to the flat. Collins throws a perfect strike to Hilliard, but Hilliard drops it (could have been called a fumble). Instead of a first down near the 50 yard line, the Giants face 3rd-and-9. The next pass is to Tiki but he can’t break loose for the first.
- Twelth Drive: Slant pass returned for a touchdown. If you read my preview, you know I was fearful of the Raven CB’s jumping on the slant pass like this. Interestingly, the corner said he knew when Kerry was going to throw the ball because of a little hop in his set up. The Giants need to address this in the off-season. 17-0.
- Thirteenth Drive: After the two kick returns made it 24-7, Barber is stuffed on a draw. Collins forces the ball to Mitchell and is almost picked. Barber was wide open over the middle for a short gain on this play. “They take deep drops and you’ve got to take the underneath throws and be happy with gaining four, five or six yards,” said Collins of the Ravens’ defense. “There’s a fine line between wanting to be smart and making good decisions every play and trying to make a play and letting it rip. Maybe I tried to do that too much, especially against that type of defense.” On 3rd-and-11, Collins is sacked by DT Sam Adams. This was an absolutely inexcusable play by the offensive line. It was a three man rush and Adams ran right through both Zeigler and Stone. The hit also separates Collins right shoulder.
- Fourteenth (and Last Meaningful Drive): Petitgout gets shoved back into Collins; incomplete. Brown gets beat for a sack. Petitgout misses blitz and Collins is hit as he throws; incomplete.
So there you have it. 2-of-14 on third down; 152 total net yards. Shut out offensively. Plenty of blame to go all around. But give the Ravens credit. Raiders’ Head Coach Jay Gruden warned Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton. “(Gruden) said, ‘You’re going to have trouble seeing this but the speed they play with is going to be exceptional and they’re more physical than you ever thought they were.’ Everything he said was true,” Payton admitted. “They tackle exceptionally well, they’re always in good position and that’s a sign of being well-coached. You earn what you get.”
Offensive Line: Terrible. I was most disappointed in the play of LT Lomas Brown and LG Glenn Parker. For seasoned vets, they acted like they had never seen a stunt before. Their play certainly did not deserve a ring. Stone also played his worst game of the year and this was one of Petitgout’s worst (moreso in the second half with Luke). Dusty Zeigler missed some key blocks as well. “Even on plays when Kerry wasn’t hit or sacked,” Fassel said, “there were guys falling at his feet. He couldn’t step where he wanted to throw it, and that made him throw off his back foot or disrupted his rhythm. That’s a defense that is very effective at getting you out of your game. We saw that big time.”
Tight Ends: Deserve at least some of the blame for the poor blocking. Both Mitchell and Cross had a catch apiece for seven yards. This was probably the last game as Giants for both. Campbell and Mitchell both missed blocks in pass protection.
Wide Receivers: Kudos to Ike Hilliard (3 catches for 30 yards) for showing special toughness over the middle despite getting repeatedly hammered – yet holding onto the ball. But his drop was a very costly miscue. Amani Toomer (2 for 24) was invisible except for one “drive”. Ron Dixon had one catch for 16 yards. Joe Jurevicius was on the field a lot, but did not produce.
Running Backs: HB Ron Dayne, as expected, was only used as a decoy. He had no carries. Asking him to block a defensive end is stupid. HB Tiki Barber (6 catches for 26 yards) was a non-factor except for his big draw right before halftime. Every time the Giants dumped the ball off to him, he either couldn’t out-maneuver tacklers or there were too many of them. The Giants also could not spring him outside – the Ravens were simply too quick. Joe Montgomery saw some action (2 carries for 5 yards) and did not look out-of-place. FB Greg Comella (1 catch for 2 yards) had a rough game. Never a “root them out” run blocker, he really had problems taking on defenders in the hole. He also whiffed badly on a blitz pick-up. Sadly, Collins (with 13 yards) out-rushed Dayne, Montgomery, and Comella combined.
Defensive Line: The unit, led by DE Michael Strahan and DT Cornelius Griffin, played a very strong game – but not as dominating as hoped. There were plenty of plays where Trent Dilfer was hit or sacked, but he also had decent time to throw on other occasions. This might sound like a rough judgement on my part – but the Giants absolutely needed a DOMINATING performance. Strahan (6 tackles, 1.5 sacks) is a guy who did not disappoint. He was strong against the run and a constant presence in the pass rush department. He not only picked up a sack and a half, he regularly was spotted crashing into Dilfer just as he released the ball as well to force incompletions. Griffin (2 tackles, 1.5 sacks) also was a force on the pass rush. If he stays healthy and works hard, the sky is the limit. Obviously he is a starter next year. The guy who I was a bit disappointed in was DT Keith Hamilton (5 tackles). He played a good game, but he did not dominate like I hoped. He and the entire defensive line kept HB Jamal Lewis under control for most of the meaningful portion of the game. Christian Peter (2 tackles) was a factor in run defense too. Keith had no sacks, but he did hit Dilfer a few times – causing some important incompletions. However, he also was flagged for jumping offsides twice. His defensive holding call on Armstead’s touchdown was a bullshit call. In all the years I’ve watched football, I can’t recall defensive holding on a screen pass being called (and Hamilton barely touched the guy). DE Cedric Jones (1 tackle) had some problems with All-Pro LT Jonathan Ogden in run defense (there was one play where he got caught too far inside and Lewis bounded the run outside), but Cedric generally held his own. His pass rush was non-existent however.
The only time in the game where the Giants didn’t defend the run well when the game was still in doubt in a meaningful situation was right before Stover’s missed field goal. Most of the other yardage came right before halftime and in the 4th quarter when the game was lost. But giving up a cheap late touchdown hurts. The entire DL was blasted on the 3rd-and-2 play that took Lewis to the Giants’ three yard line. On the preceding play, Griffin jumped offsides.
Linebackers: It seemed to me that the linebackers were used in coverage a lot, especially against TE Shannon Sharpe where they did a great job. Sharpe was limited to one harmless catch. Jessie Armtead (3 tackles) did not make much noise except for his wonderfully read on the interception that was returned for what should have been the tying touchdown. MLB Mike Barrow (6 tackles) was more active. He pressured Dilfer into stepping up into the pocket on one of Strahan’s sacks. SLB Ryan Phillips (4 tackles) had problems playing off a block on the aforementioned play where Cedric Jones was caught too far inside. He also got burned pretty badly twice by TE Ben Coates in coverage and once by Sharpe (Dilfer couldn’t connect). The second pass to Coates set up the Ravens’ final touchdown.
One play where the Giants’ defense got out-smarted and it hurt them was on the third down play right before the 47-yard field goal. It was 3rd-and-long and WR Jermaine Lewis lined up as the sole back in the backfield. This should have been a red flag from the start, but Lewis got out and caught an uncontested pass for six yards. Without this completion, the Ravens have to punt.
Secondary: Not a very good game by this unit. CB Jason Sehorn (6 tackles) may have played his worst game of the year. It wasn’t the 38-yard TD to WR Brandon Stokley that sticks in my mind. After all, that was perfect throw and FS Shaun Williams got caught out-of-position on the play. But Sehorn was regularly targeted and only Trent Dilfer’s inaccuracy saved Jason from being truly embarrassed. On the second drive of the game, Sehorn was beat deep for what could have been a touchdown on 3rd-and-6, but the ball was overthrown. On the third drive, Sehorn got beat for the 38-yard TD. The one thing I don’t understand about this play – and have never understood about Sehorn – is that often times when he plays up on the line of scrimmage, he does not jam his man. Someday, this tactic will have to be explained to me by a true football professional because to me, if you don’t jam, it kind of defeats the purpose of playing so close to the line. On the fifth drive, Sehorn was beat deep by Patrick Johnson for what should have been an easy touchdown (Sehorn slipped on the play), but Dilfer threw the ball out-of-bounds. Johnson then got open against Jason on 3rd-and-5, but Trent threw another bad pass. Sehorn was beat for an easy 7 yard completion by Stokley at the start of the Ravens’ first half field goal drive.
CB Dave Thomas (1 tackle) played a far stronger game (though someone screwed up on a few coverages – more on that in a bit). He did a good job of defending an out on 3rd-and-long on the Ravens’ opening drive. Aside from that, you didn’t see him being targeted except for one crucial play. After the Giants’ offense had mounted a drive that effectively transformed the field position situation, Thomas got beat deep by Qadry Ismail for a 44 yard gain on 3rd-and-2; this play set up a very costly field goal. Thomas had good coverage on the play (though he could have jammed the WR better), but the pass was very well thrown. I’m a bit surprised there was no safety help too.
There were a few plays where wide receivers were wide open. On the fourth drive of the game, MLB Pete Monty was the only Giant near a wide open receiver on third down (thankfully Dilfer missed again). On the sixth drive, Mike Barrow was covering speedster Patrick Johnson for some reason and he easily picked up a first down on 3rd-and-6.
FS Shaun Williams (7 tackles) made one big mistake. On the deep TD pass to Stokley, Dilfer smartly looked Williams off in Sharpe’s direction (you know Shaun was looking for a kill shot). He then came back to throw a heck of a pass against Sehorn for the TD. It was pretty obvious that Jason was expecting inside support on the play. SS Sam Garnes (5 tackles) was quiet as usual. CB Emmanuel McDaniel was not exposed in pass coverage.
Special Teams: The Giants lost this battle. P Brad Maynard did alright. Most of his punts were very high and this forced Jermaine Lewis to call many fair catches. His worst punt came out of the end zone in the fourth quarter (this helped to set up the final touchdown). His second punt of the game was pretty poor too. He did launch one rocket that had height and distance, but the coverage teams did not contain and allowed Lewis to return the ball 43 yards to the New York 22 yard line (luckily a penalty took 19 of those yards back). But it was this field position that enabled Dilfer to hit Stokley for the long touchdown.
Aside from that, punt coverage was generally solid with Damon Washington helping to force a muff that was recovered by the Ravens. Lyle West also got down the field in a hurry on another punt.
Ike Hilliard did a really good job fielding punts with returns of 19 and 13 yards. Ramos McDonald put the Giants in a big hole again when he was flagged for holding on a punt return that was fair caught. Ron Dixon had an up-and-down game. Everyone will remember his great 97-yard kick return for a touchdown. But he also really screwed up on three other returns. Two he allowed to hit the ground and this not only prevented a decent return, but also contributed to the losing field position war. Then in the 4th quarter, his fumble set up the Ravens’ final field goal.
Then there was the big catastrophe after Dixon’s touchdown. Lewis went 84 yards and put the final dagger in New York’s heart. The main culprit was PK Brad Daluiso with yet another dreadfully short kickoff. But don’t excuse the coverage team that allowed Lewis to get outside of contain. There were plenty of Giants who had the angle on Lewis, but they couldn’t push him out-of-bounds.
Favorites Don’t Lose
by David Oliver
“The Super Bowl,” my son said to me on Sunday morning. Yes, my son the Jets fan, who two weeks ago would have bet the farm on the Raiders, the then current flavor of the week. So the Super Bowl has come and gone, all the old shibboleths have been drawn from the closet, and once again the only meaningful cliche in the whole ordeal is “on any given Sunday…” On this Sunday, the Ravens stepped into the big shoes and fulfilled the prophetic ramblings of announcerdoms town criers. Their defense was overwhelming. I think it is the Ravens who have been intercepting (small solace in some puns) offensive signals from their opponents. Think about it, their opponents all pitch shutouts the game before and all score more than 20 points – then in the Ravens game, only one scores as many as 10.
For our beloved Giants, this was a Super Bowl of respect, redemption and reversion. They came out of the game as the nice guys who just didn’t have it. They were led by a QB who has found his redemption and his life. They were betrayed by the ugly traits that have dogged them at times this season – highly touted first rounders who disappeared, a QB who got happy feet and served up goofballs, a brave and stout defense that just wore down at the end and allowed a close game to appear as a rout. BUT that happens to every team at some point in a season, and it was the misfortune of the Giants that it happened here. The good part is that none of these faults are insurmountable and when viewed comparatively to the positives, they pale in significance.
This is not a season wrap-up, it is a game review – the assessments here do not reflect the gains and successes of the year, they pertain only to the Super Debacle; it is not pretty, but it is a one game analysis only. First, some general observations. There are apologists for every point, some can’t see good in a particular player or coach, some can’t see bad. Any criticism is viewed as personal, biased or just plain all wet. Any praise is condemned as boosterism. Carefully studying the game tape, some things are obvious: the offensive line did a hell of a job pass blocking. There was ample time for any major league QB to scope the field and find receivers. So don’t blame the line. There were also some awesome blocks on the draw plays which opened huge holes in the impenetrable defense of the Ravens. The play calling was adequate. There were opportunities. They were squandered by poor execution, both by the QB and his receivers. The defense played a very good game up front. The secondary had its worst game since the lions encounter. But even with that very good game, which should have made it a close contest, the defense did not play as well as the Ravens defense and was handled by the Ravens offensive line on many plays. So, despite a heroic performance, the Ravens would have won this game anyway. The special teams had one breakdown, but also cleared the way for Dixon’s return – there was some very good blocking, good punt coverage and good punting. So don’t call for MacDuff’s head because Jermaine Lewis broke one. The coaching – every Giant Coach looked tight, from JF on down. I believe this had an effect on the team. It’s not that the Giants were out-coached; it’s more like they coached out. And finally, once again the Giants looked like a sandlot squad following a bye week. This team needs rhythm; it had none; it rarely has any following a week off. If the Giants want to consider themselves a “blue collar” team, it would be well to keep in mind that blue collar work is repetitious, which means that it must be constant to be good- and the week off never serves them well.
On to the details:
QB – I have been beaten over the head and shoulders here for my observations about KC. Following the Vikings game I said, I will not doubt him any longer, but I may criticize him for a bad performance. His performance in the Super Bowl was a bad one. So I slept on it. He’s 27 years old, has been fighting for his sanity and career for three years and faced the toughest defense in football right now. So he came up with a clunker. Does that make him a bad QB? No. By the same token, it does show he is not an elite QB, YET. So for all you guys who are going to jump my ass on this one, go watch the tape. KC reverted to almost every bad tendency he has, except I didn’t catch him throwing off his back foot or with a hitch. He did, however, rush his throws when he had no reason to fire, he locked on to receivers and he threw to spots without reading the defense. These are excusable traits for a Dilfer or a raw rookie; they are inexcusable for a seasoned veteran, on his second Championship team. He flat out panicked and played a horrible game. I really hoped I would see JF walk up to him at the end of the first quarter, take his head in his hands and tell him, Kerry, we need you now, focus and lead this team. I didn’t see that and KC went deeper and deeper into himself and did not help his team. Was Dilfer better? No, but he hit the one pass he had to hit – the opening score – and that was enough. But spare me the Dilfer is a leader columns. The Ravens probably would have scored 50 points if Dilfer could hit an open receiver consistently. So, to my friend Conrad, who cheap shotted me on Saturday night. I wasn’t wrong about KC, but I was one pass wrong about Dilfer.
Running Backs – Tiki Barber is a warrior; Tiki Barber is a warrior; Tiki Barber is a warrior. Oh, yes, good as Greg Comella is, and I love him, Sam Gash blew up a number of Giants’ blitzes – I guess if you win the Super Bowl, he is worth the salary. It was good to see JoMo in the game; it wasn’t good not to see Dayne.
Offensive Line – I thought these guys did the job. On passing plays, they protected KC adequately enough. Lomas Brown played his butt off. There were some nice trap blocks. But I also saw Stone get confused more than once. Towards the end of the game, when it got out of hand, the line just gave it up and you could sense everyone just wanted to get on the bus. But there are some questions here that JF must ask and answer to himself over the off-season. Does he want a passing O or a running O? Of course, the answer is balanced, but an offense must be balances passing, or balanced rushing. Consider the Ravens. They consider themselves a running team and they have the road graders to pave the way. But their road graders are good enough to handle a very effective pass rush. The Giants, on the other hand, have a very adept pass blocking corps. But they cannot clear the way for guys like Dayne and JoMo. They are fine for Tiki. So there is a disconnect here which JF must rectify. I mention it because in this game, the Ravens D made the Giants O one dimensional, which put all the pressure on KC. In 2 or 3 years, KC will find the seams, connect and change the outcome. But JF must do something with the philosophy of O and the O Line to get him there.
Receivers – Gutsy game by Ike, Amani and Tiki. But Ike got clocked on one hit over the middle and disappeared. That’s how good the Ravens are. Tiki never gave up, never gave in, and showed his value. Amani was deep covered most of the game, and without pinpoint touch and timing, KC was not going to get him in the game. KC did not have either, Amani never got in the game. The tight ends should have had a huge game, they didn’t. One catch for Cross, one for Pete. I don’t understand what is nullifying this element in the Giants game. Three of the teams that beat the Giants did it with the tight ends prominent. The Giants are a very tough defense. Ergo, tight ends can be effective against tough defenses. The Ravens are a tough defense. Where were the tight ends?
Conclusion: Take away the interceptions and the game is 13-7 Ravens – no cigar for the Giants, but respectable.
The front seven. A very good game for three quarters, when it counted. Jamal Lewis did no damage until the game was lost. The headlines may say, brutish performance by Lewis, the stats will show 100 yards, but the Giants kicked his butt until garbage time. It’s just a shame they quit on it in the fourth for those two scores. Michael Strahan played a man’s game. He hit Dilfer more times than he hits the tackling dummy in training camp. Cornelius Griffin showed that he has arrived. Next year this young man is going to be a force. Biggest disappointments – Hamilton, who although he had some nice plays, once again goofed it up with stupid penalties. The holding call was seminal. That pass was a typical Dilfer interception throw and with Jessie’s score, man, I love revisionist history. He also had a freak offsides which allowed the Ravens to get untracked to begin with. CJ, once again, a non-factor, after several nice games. He was thoroughly handled by a big tackle.
The linebackers were active with Jessie and Barrow playing hard. Barrow was picked up by Gash on several plays, which hurt. Ryan Phillips was alone on big ben Coates and once again a tight end hurt the Giants at critical points. It wasn’t Ryan’s fault, but he didn’t check the big man at the line, and it’s difficult to stay with these guys once free.
The secondary – Not a very good game. In my preview, I wrote that there would be tremendous pressure on the corners and they needed their A game. The Ravens went right for them. Jason was playing catch up all night, and for whatever reason, the only time I heard Shaun Williams name was when he blew the coverage on the TD. In my preview, I also noted it was the second line of Ravens receivers who would damage the Giants and they did – Stokley and Jeffers really hurt. Sharpe was a non-factor until the issue had been decided.
I don’t think the Giants were out-coached. They were out-executed. Offensively, the game plan looked for what the Ravens would give. The draw plays worked. Several screens would have, but the Ravens were smart enough to grab the receivers. The short passing game was predicated on the receivers catching the ball in stride and eluding the backers. Several passes were behind the receivers, a few were tipped, and once the Ravens saw the plan, they adjusted and creamed the receivers. The long game was bizarre. Kerry just threw the damn ball up – there was no timing, he just wouldn’t wait that extra second. That is not a coaching problem. On defense, Fox was aggressive – the rush just didn’t get there. Good Ravens’ play. That put pressure on the secondary – Dilfer didn’t have to be perfect, he just had to get the ball out there. I actually counted only three good Dilfer passes all night, but they all hurt the Giants.
Final observations – The only “Mother F” heard was Shaun Williams coming out of the tunnel saying, “Let’s get some of these MotherFers, men!” Yeah, right, Shaun. The Giants seemed loose coming out – Jason winked at the camera during the anthem, Lomas, Stone, and Ray Lewis were singing along. I thought the Giants were relaxed, loose, maybe they were just flat. Right from the opening series, when one ball was popped in the air and almost intercepted and another down field was almost an INT, the handwriting was on the wall. Payton game planned to give KC a quick start. It was more like hitting the eject button.
The field position game did not go in the Giants’ favor and this was not good. On the TD pass, I wrote down, blown coverage, and Simms quickly picked up the same thing. Vibes – the game is going south. Hope KC finds his rhythm as in the Eagles, Jax and Dallas game. Keep it close. Special teams had a nice play, popped a ball loose – could have made a difference. Oh, no, this is one of those games where the breaks are going to the Ravens. Dilfer 2-9, KC 4-14. The punters getting a workout. The biggest play of the game, Strahan hits Dilfer, Jessie interception, TD, called back, Hammer holding. I relax. That’s the ball game. You can’t come back from that kind of adrenalin rush and deflation. Ravens ball – trapped deep, Dilfer hits a pass over Thomas, out of the hole, then a 9 yarder just enough to give Stover a chance, he converts. 10-0. Giants get the ball, ugly facemask – field position, completion to Dixon, Tiki draw, this could be it. KC winds up and cranks into double coverage. INT. Tiki wide open 15 yards down field. Halftime.
The most exciting thing after that was the Dixon return. Good blocking, nice hole, accelerator on. Gone. Then Jermaine does it the other way. Watching incredulous as EMac is manhandled, twisted, turned, then shoved in the back, no flag. Despair.
Sometime next week, wrap up for the year, thoughts on next.