Oct 312001
Washington Redskins 35 – New York Giants 21

Game Overview: This game was pretty easy to break down. The Giants dug themselves into a big hole with a 14-0 deficit after a costly early turnover and a huge punt return for a touchdown. The Giants got themselves back into the game on the right arm of Kerry Collins, but then the defense fell apart in the second half against the 31st-ranked offense in the league.

This team continues to be haunted by major lapses on special teams that has had a direct impact in all three consecutive losses. Coaching? Personnel? Combination? Whatever – it hasn’t been fixed. The Giants have only themselves to blame here.

Quarterback: I was pleased with the game plan and the play of Kerry Collins (32-out-of-52 for 346 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception). The decision to go to the no-huddle and employ 3- and 4-WR sets seemed to help get him out of his funk and into rhythm with his receivers. Despite passing 52 times, Collins did not make any major mistakes throwing the ball; his only interception was a perfectly thrown pass that was dropped by Ike Hilliard. The biggest negatives on Collins was his involvement in two major snafus. The first being the fumbled handoff to Amani Toomer on the game’s second play that set up the Skins’ first easy touchdown. (However, it appears to me that Collins got the ball to Toomer). Second, Collins’ was unable to handle the pitch from Ron Dayne on the flea flicker that should have gone for a touchdown. While Dayne’s pitch was a bit errant, I felt Collins still should have been able to handle it.

Collins missed an open Amani Toomer on his first pass of the game. Then came the fumble on the reverse. On the next drive, Collins threw a nice slant to Ike Hilliard for a first down. He then found Tiki Barber for another first down on 2nd-and-7. Then came a pass to Greg Comella for another first. However, on 3rd-and-6, Barber dropped the ball over the middle. On the third drive, Collins’ arm was hit as he threw on 3rd-and-4. On the next drive, Collins’ was harassed again on 3rd-and-4 as the offensive line and backs didn’t provide adequate protection. On the fifth drive, after a first down, Collins overthrew Toomer deep on 3rd-and-6. The sixth drive was stalled by the mishap on the pitch back to Collins. It started off well with a 17-yard strike to Toomer. However, had Collins been able to handle the pitch and accurate throw the ball, both Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard were open for a deep touchdown. At this point in the game, I’m yelling, “Same old crap from Collins!”

But Collins really came alive after this. He made a real nice play by side-stepping the rush on 2nd-and-10, standing in the pocket, and then finding Toomer for a first down. He then found Joe Jurevicius for 20 yards. After a pass interference call, Kerry threw a perfect fade to Toomer in the endzone over Champ Bailey for a touchdown.

On the next drive, Collins found Jurevicius over the middle for nine yards. After a quarterback sneak picked up the first, on 2nd-and-10, Collins made another excellent adjustment in the pocket when he rolled to his right and hit Hilliard short. Hilliard then turned this into a 27-yard touchdown with some nifty after-the-catch running. Redskins 17 – Giants 14 at halftime.

After the Skins scored on their first possession in the second half to make it 24-14, Collins got the offense started again with an 18 yarder of the middle to Toomer. He then found Barber for 24 yards on 1st-and-15. But the drive stalled when Barber dropped another pass and then Collins was sacked by Bruce Smith on 3rd-and-10. On 4th-and-5, Collins had no time again and the ball fell incomplete.

On the second drive of the second half, Collins found Barber for a first down on 3rd-and-9. Under pressure, Collins rolled out and hit Dixon for 17 yards. Then came a 10-yard slant to Toomer on 2nd-and-5. Another first down resulted after a 9-yard toss to Barber and a 10-yard out to Toomer on 3nd-and-2 (the later was a good throw in a blitz situation). Collins then made a wonderful play-action fake on 1st-and-goal for one-yard touchdown pass to Comella. Giants 21 – Skins 27.

The third drive started off with three straight completions to Tiki Barber for 7, 5, and 3 yards. Then came an 8-yard pass to Toomer on 2nd-and-7. After a draw, the drive stalled with two straight incompletions: a pass out of bounds and a 3rd-and-7 play where there looked to be some miscommunication with the receivers on the pass routes being run by Toomer and Jurevicius.

The Giants got the ball only one more time in the second half. On 2nd-and-10, Collins found Toomer for 16 yards. Then he threw a perfect deep pass over the middle to Jurevicius for 33 yards. This was a great pass where he lofted it over the corner and in front of the safety. Then came my only problem with Collins’ game – he made some questionable decisions to run the ball given the situation and lack of direct pass pressure. He also scrambled to his left on a play reminiscent of the final fumble against Philly. However, Collins redeemed himself with a perfect strike into triple coverage for what should have been a touchdown, but the receiver dropped the ball and it was intercepted.

Wide Receivers: Mostly positive though there were some costly mistakes. What I liked about the game plan was the decision to spread the Skins out and attack their corner depth. But the receivers also made plays against starters Champ Baily and Darrell Green too. Amani Toomer’s big day (9 catches for 109 yards and one touchdown) was marred by the botched wide receiver reverse, but he otherwise played well (though someone ran the wrong route on the 3rd-and-7 play in the second half). Ike Hilliard (2 catches for 40 yards, 1 touchdown) made a highlight-reel run-after-the-catch when he bounced off two tacklers and sped past a third for a 27-yard touchdown. However, he had three drops that I counted, including what should have been a touchdown pass that could have cut the lead to 35-28 with four minutes left in the game. Joe Jurevicius (6 catches for 77 yards) was productive and had a big 33-yarder down the middle of the defense. With the Giants using 4-WR sets, Ron Dixon finally saw some action. He had a 17-yarder, but also was flagged for offensive pass interference late in the game.

Running Backs: The Giants didn’t run much in this game. For one, they fell behind early. Secondly, I think they made the correct decision to be aggressive and attack Washington with the passing game. If it had not been for some costly breakdowns in execution, this strategy would have been very successful. Tiki Barber (7 carries for 14 yards, 9 catches for 74 yards) had a bigger day as a receiver. I really liked the effort he showed on a 3rd-and-9 play to pick up a first down when he dove for the sticks. However, Tiki had two costly drops. Moreover, like last week, he didn’t look to me like he was making the right decisions on blitz pick-ups. Perhaps the mistake was with Lomas Brown or Glenn Parker – but I think it was Tiki. The other thing that is bothering me about Barber is that he is not making any big plays for touchdowns – yet he is being paid as a top play-maker. Time to get rolling Tiki.

Ron Dayne’s stats (8 carries for 19 yards) are a bit misleading. He carried the ball successfully in many short yardage situations and had a real nice run on the Giants’ last TD drive where he bulled his way down to the one-yard line, carrying two men on his back. He continues to move his feet upon contact such as the 3rd-and-1 play that he picked up for a first down. This was something he had a problem with last year. On the fifth drive of the first half, he had two very nice back-to-back runs: (1) he did a good job of bouncing a run outside on 2nd-and-3 for nine yards; (2) he showed some nifty feet on an inside run for six yards.

Greg Comella (5 catches for 29 yards and one touchdown) performed well as a short receiver.

Offensive Line/Tight Ends: I thought the blocking of the tight ends (Howard Cross and Dan Campbell) was strong, but the work of the offensive line left much to be desired. I saw too much standing around from Ron Stone who played another poor game against DT Dan Wilkinson. LG Glenn Parker didn’t have many chances to pull, but when he did, he failed miserably again. I have not been impressed with the play of RT Luke Petitgout this year. He’s in a slump and its hurting the team.

Parker just seems to be losing what little mobility he had. It’s just not the pulling, but when he is asked to go out and engage a linebacker at the second level (I saw one play where Arrington simply stepped over a diving Parker). On a crucial, 3rd-and-4 play in the first half, Stone missed his block on Wilkinson (and it looked to me that Tiki missed the blitz pick-up) and Collins was forced to throw early. The nice bounce out run by Dayne came behind solid blocks from Dusty Zeigler and Howard Cross. On the next play, Dayne picked up 6 yards behind Petitgout and Cross. But Stone and Petitgout got stymied on the next play and Dayne lost yardage. Lomas Brown got flagged for holding and had some problems with Bruce Smith, giving up one sack and another big pressure. On the 4th-and-5 play, Petitgout’s man got immediate pressure on Collins and forced a quick throw. In the second half, Stone continued to struggle with Wilkinson. Dayne’s run down to the 1-yard line came behind quality blocks from Dan Campbell and Lomas Brown.

Defensive Line: The defense was OK in the first half, but really fell apart in the second half. The pass rush was lacking throughout – aside from some late noise from Michael Strahan – and the run defense was pathetic at times. Much of the blame for both the poor pass rush and run defense must go to the defensive line. Kenny Holmes (no tackles) was terrible. LT Chris Samuels owned him and Holmes was never a factor in the game. What’s worse, his run defense was absolutely embarrassing on the Skins’ last drive to run out the clock. Holmes is going to have to play Samuels twice-a-year so he had better figure the guy out by next season.

The Giants really missed Keith Hamilton inside as Cornelius Griffin (2 tackles) and Lance Legree (4 tackles) were pushed around quite a bit in run defense and made little noise on the pass rush. The Giants needed Griffin to step up his game in this contest and he failed.

Michael Strahan (4 tackles, 2 sacks) picked up two more pelts. He didn’t apply consistent pass pressure however, and had a few lapses against the run. Yet, he was one of the few who played well. He combined with Griffin and Sehorn to stuff HB Stephen Davis behind the line on one play and immediately followed that up by not being moved out of the way on another run in his direction. One of his best plays came during a zone-blitz where he dropped into coverage, yet was nifty enough to almost tackle the back for a safety in the endzone on a swing pass.

Linebackers: The only guy I came away impressed with was Jessie Armstead (2 tackles) and unfortunately he was lost in the second quarter. Jessie tackled Davis in the backfield on the second defensive play of the game. On the next drive, his solid coverage on the tight on 3rd-and-2 forced a punt. Two drives later, he also had good coverage on the running back on 3rd-and-10, forcing another punt. On the play before he was hurt, Armstead shot the gap and nailed Davis for a five yard loss.

Despite a couple of big hits, MLB Mike Barrow (4 tackles, 1 sack) was shielded too effectively on too many running plays. Of course, he didn’t have “Hammer” in front of him to protect him and that hurt. Still, he didn’t make enough plays as Davis and Carter ran too successfully right up the gut. SLB Brandon Short (3 tackles) was a non-factor. He, like Holmes, played some embarrassing run defense late and was flagged with a somewhat questionable late hit on the quarterback.

Dhani Jones saw extensive action once Armstead left and was up-and-down. He ran himself out of the play on Carter’s big run right before halftime (though Griffin and Legree got pushed out of the way on this play too). But he followed that up by showing some good closing speed on a blitz. Jones got burned by the tight end deep in the third quarter but was lucky that the pass was dropped. He later had good coverage on Carter on 3rd-and-7 to force a punt.

The linebackers or safeties screwed up a couple of times as TE Zeron Flemister was left all alone in the flat a couple of times.

Defensive Backs: Despite popular belief, Jason Sehorn (4 tackles, 1 pass defensed) has never been to the Pro Bowl. Sehorn can have amazing games such as the playoff games against the Eagles and Vikings last year. But it is games such as the Super Bowl and what happened against the Redskins on Sunday that keep him from Hawaii. Facing a 3rd-and-19 with about seven minutes in the game, and only trailing the Skins by 27-21, Sehorn allowed Michael Westbrook to get behind him for a 76 yard touchdown pass. In my book, a corner should NEVER let a receiver get behind in on 3rd-and-19 – and especially given the tight situation the Giants were in. Plus, keep in mind the Giants’ offense was successfully moving the ball at this point in the game. Sehorn had kept Westbrook largely quiet for most of the game, but this one play is the one that will be remembered.

Sehorn had also missed an easy sack earlier in the game. He did make a heck of a play defending a pass intended for Rod Gardner on 2nd-and-11. Kevin Lockett beat Sehorn for 21 yards on a catch in the second half too.

Will Peterson (5 tackles, 1 pass defensed) had a bit of a rough game. On 3rd-and-6 inside the redzone on the Skins’ first possession, Peterson got easily beat to the inside by Gardner for a touchdown. Peterson looked like he was expecting inside help from the safety on the play. Whether he was supposed to have this from Shaun Williams or not is unknown. Then early in the third quarter, Peterson fell for the fake on the toss back to the WR on the WR-pass as his man got behind him for an easy touchdown (it looked like Shaun Williams got burned here too). In the 4th quarter, Peterson got beat deep, but the pass was off and the WR could not adjust in time.

As you can tell, Shaun Williams (9 tackles, 1 sack) didn’t have a stellar game. He made some plays near the line of scrimmage in run defense and also picked up a sack. But he also missed an easy sack on the first defensive play of the game and missed a tackle (along with Sam Garnes) on Carter’s big run right before halftime that set up a field goal. He also couldn’t get over in time to help out Sehorn on the 76-yard touchdown pass.

SS Sam Garnes (5 tackles) was too quiet.

Special Teams: This area continues to haunt the Giants. Rodney Williams’ low, line-drive punt right to Eric Metcalf was as much to blame for the long punt return for a touchdown as the coverage men. Williams later shanked an 18-yarder. Rodney has had a direct role in each of the two recent losses. Emmanuel McDaniel screwed up downing the ball at the one-yard line by stepping into the endzone.

Morten Andersen kicked a ball out of bounds and this set the Skins up in excellent field position on their first TD drive of the second half. Kick-off coverage was pretty strong (for the Giants). Marcellus Rivers made a nice tackle.

Kick returns remain below average as Ron Dixon and his blockers can’t seem to get into sync. Barber had one good punt return for 17 yards. Other than that, opposing gunners were too often in his face right away (I spotted Emmanuel McDaniel not even getting a hand on his man on one occasion).

Jack Golden and Omar Stoutmire were flagged for personal foul penalties on specials. Unacceptable.

Offensive Line Review

by Chris Jacobs

You’re Only as Good as Your O-Line

Instead of giving every player a specific evaluation and grade this week, I thought I would just try to talk about what is wrong and how it can be fixed. I mean lets be honest, none of them played very good. And when they did start to get on a roll there would be a total collapse. Dayne picks up about 12 yards on 2 consecutive carries and then on the next play there is a total breakdown, no one blocks and Dayne gets thrown for a 2 yard loss. Great, 3rd- and-7 again. It’s the inconsistency that is killing this team and it all starts up front.

I’m going to start with Dusty Ziegler because he is probably the most consistent player right now. While I didn’t get a chance to really break down the first four games I didn’t really notice any poor play from him. I like the way he gets out on linebackers and surprisingly he is really good at pulling. I particularly like the play where he pirouettes to pause the LB’s and then leads Dayne on a sweep. His one weakness, and it has shown in all four games against Washington. He struggles against big guys. It showed a little against Denver too. But with Stone next to him to help it usually doesn’t hurt in pass protection, but when he needs to drive a guy out of there to open a hole it hurts. Which is one of the reasons why they had 1.9 yards per carry on Sunday. It was also obvious they had more success running outside.

Glenn Parker’s game has regressed so much, I really do think that he’ll be benched soon. I didn’t get a chance to tape the Saints game, but I know they had success running the ball with Jason Whittle in there. I don’t know if missing camp hurt him but he just can’t move anyone anymore. Last season he would do a good job of pulling up into the hole and sealing off the backer, this season he just can’t seem to get there. One thing that I have noticed is that opposing defenses are blitzing a lot on running downs. The Giants like to do a lot of pulling and angle blocking when they run the ball, and the best way to disrupt that is to send guys full speed into the backfield to disrupt it. I’ve seen plenty of that so far this season and it’s working. The problem is they don’t have the type of line (on the left side at least) that can drive guys off the ball, which makes it difficult to adjust.

I really love Lomas Brown, part of that love comes from the great dislike I had for Oben. Anyway, his run blocking is total crap. He’s great at influencing the DE upfield to take him out of the play but if he needs to drive a guy off the ball forget it. I have also noticed that he’s not been as effective getting out on linebackers as he has in the past. On Sunday there was an opportunity for a big gainer but he just fell at the backers feet in an attempt to cut him (very Gragg-esque) and the guy makes the tackle. All he had to do was get in his face and Tiki could have cut left and there was no one there. To summarize, pass blocking OK, run blocking bad. I try to read every Giant thread in The Corner Forum and I notice much complaining about special teams and why the starters don’t play more. Well Ron Stone gets hurt Sunday on an extra point. I know you can only have so many linemen on the sidelines and you’re not going to put the old men out there for that so I understand, but it’s annoying from a fans standpoint to see a Pro Bowl guard get hurt on specials. Maybe I’m trying to give him and excuse for playing such a terrible game, but he wasn’t playing that well before he hurt his leg. Big fat ass Dan Wilkinson was driving him backwards on pass plays too many times for my liking and on running plays where he needed to get to a backer it didn’t seem that there was a tremendous effort here and there. Was he taking plays off because he’s pissed he didn’t get a contract extension? Or is he really hurt? (Again the inconsistency is killing them.) Luke had a pretty good game, he’s not really as dominant as we all hoped when the Giants spent a first round pick on him however he still has a job, unlike Aaron Gibson who many of us (including myself) had hoping the Giants would draft that year. He has been one of the more consistent players on offense this season and many may disagree but I really think he’s the left tackle of the future for this team. My only criticism is he tends to come off the ball too high at times. But all in all he’s solid.

How do you fix the running game? As I mentioned earlier teams have been run blitzing to disrupt the timing of the blocking schemes. When you do a lot of pulling and trapping timing is key and everything just seems to be off a little bit. I don’t think Glenn Parker can be that much slower than last season, there just always seems to be a guy in the backfield every time he tries to pull up into a hole and seal a backer. So what do you do, you can’t scrap he entire playbook and start from scratch at this point. Obviously there has been talk about play calling and execution, my opinion is that they need to mix it up a bit. Throw from running formations, on running downs. How about a draw? I haven’t seen one of those in a while. I was glad to see a fade in the redzone, and a waggle, both of which went for TD’s. A couple of those against Philly and they would have won that one. The bottom line is that they relied on misdirection and deception to be successful running the ball last year, and with the current state of the O-Line that’s the only choice they have. It’ll be interesting to see what they do in the coming weeks.

To the Redskins…

by David Oliver

To the Redskins, was how my son welcomed me home Sunday night. “How could they lose to such a crappy team?” Good question. My mailman, Sam, a Redskins fan, was far gentler on Monday. As he pulled his truck to the box across the street, he said, “They came out flat.” Good observation. The Giants have done everything we asked over the past 2 weeks. Last week, they went to a ground game, and dominated. Yet they lost. This week, it was an aerial attack, with Amani catching 9 balls. And yet they lost again. They have benched Dave Thomas, as we requested, and Will Peterson has been burned in crucial situations. They didn’t re sign Ryan Phillips, so we now have more speed at strongside. Yet the level of play remains about the same. There are only 2 things left to do to satisfy us: bench half of the offensive line and throw to the tight end. I guess they will try that this week and the season should be about over (grin).

A lot of you saw the game this week, so my review will be a little different. Below, I will lead with some quotes from individual players, then analyze their performance individually. Finally, I will conclude with some observations by unit.

Will Peterson: “They ran on us, they passed on us, they came out and played ball.” “Caught us in a couple of pass situations”, “got good field position”, “double-move type deal”, (the almost interception) “that kind of hurt us because of the next play…I feel responsible for that, you have to make that play.” “Our offense moved the ball really well, so that was a stop we had to make and we didn’t make it.”

Observations: I really like this kid, He is unflappable. He doesn’t hide, he answers the tough questions, he’s got game. Notwithstanding all these positives, he is a rookie and he will get beaten. But then, look at poor Andre Dyson (Titans) and what happened to him Monday night. Will Peterson was beaten badly on the first TD pass, and he should have made the INT. But, in fairness, there aren’t many who would have. The pass was dropping quickly, had just sailed over traffic. Will dived for it and it bounced off his arms. He has been waiting all season for the opportunity to make a play; this was it; he came up wanting. But he didn’t duck, and he didn’t wither. I’m not sure how much help he will be in the run game. He comes up and has no fear, but Stephen Davis simply pushed him aside on one off tackle gallop. Then again nobody tackles Davis without help. Will had 5 tackles, which was second most on the team.

Jessie James Palmer: “There is a lot to learn, it’s good that I’m out there, just paying attention to Kerry, Sean Payton, Coach Fassel and Jason (Garrett).” “We pretty much had a good grasp on what we thought they would come out and do. We moved the ball really well.” “I think every player wants to play. I’m still learning, I’m still in a developmental stage.”

Observations: For all those BBI‘ers who want Jessie in there next game, hell, he’d love to get a few plays under his belt, but don’t look for him to be a starting QB any time soon.

Brandon Short: “I’ve got to get better, got to improve, got to make a play somewhere to help this team win.” “Every game I get more comfortable; every game I’m learning”; “got to do something to help this team win, to help US win, an interception, a sack, a fumble recovery, something, just got to make plays”; “yeah, we know, you are fans, you know it’s all (expletive deleted)”.

Observations: Short is improving game by game. Coach Fox is cutting him loose a little more every game. He has speed and good field experience. All he needs is experience. He is tight right now, as are all the young guys on the team, each wanting badly to do something to prove their worth. Short is very active on the field, although he does get lost on occasion in the receiving-coverage game. He will make that play soon.

Lance Legree: “Davis ran the ball pretty well; he hit some seams on us”; “different pace to the game, you just have to be more focused before the play, it’s more mental”; “I played alright, but I should have done better.”

Observations: Legree filled in capably for Hammer and had 4 tackles. Again, as a rookie, he needs experience. The seams came after Jessie went out, but it wasn’t just Lance. Grif was pushed around a little bit also. The impressive thing about Lance is that he never quits on a play and doesn’t take plays off. He is always trying to get a hand on the ball carrier, a little piece of every play. It is situations such as this that expose the lack of deep depth. Grif and Lance needed a rest and Ross Kolodziej doesn’t appear to be the man. With another year under his belt, Legree will not need a breather. His demeanor is quieter than Christian Peter, but he plays every bit as intense. His low center of gravity makes him a handful for the offensive line, so he gets more into the ball carrier.

Kerry Collins: “I don’t think we got too fancy; we came into the game saying we were going to throw the ball”; (on the hand off to Toomer) “I think I hit his elbow, I’ll have to look at the tape. I don’t know if it was a bad hand off or if he didn’t get it, if he didn’t get his arms open wide enough”; “I hope this is a wake up call for us, because if we think we’re just going to step on the field and win because we went to the Super Bowl last year, games like this are going to happen all year long; if we think we can come out and win games like last year, I don’t think it’s going to happen. We just did our thing a little bit and last year we ended up winning games. I don’t think that’s going to be good enough this year.”; we’re searching for an identity (on offense)”; “I’m more concerned with our attitude and the way we came out today; we were just sluggish and it took us forever to get into it; took us to get into the 2 minute situation before we finally started doing something with the ball”; “we have to come back; that’s how it is in this League. It’s a tough League. Things have been pretty good and easy around here ; it’s going to test our character, but we’ve got the guys that will be good leaders and will exhibit the right attitude; we just need to keep working, throughout all the criticism we’re going to get, everything about what we think is the way to play; we’ve got to take an honest look at ourselves and what we’re doing right now isn’t going to get it done” (I asked if he expressed himself this way to the team) “I do. Myself, as a leader, and everybody else in that locker room who are leaders, we’re the ones who are going to have to step up and get this right…talking isn’t going to get it done, it’s going out there and doing things we need to do, that we’re not doing right now”; “I’m concerned; I’m not desperate or throwing in the towel, by any means, but we’re going to have to change some things”.

Observations: That about says it. Kerry has a pretty good grasp on what is happening. For those who keep saying he is a dim light bulb, I don’t get it. He’s articulate, he’s factual, he never ducks. It is a little too much like a Rumsfeld Press Conference, but he is just a low key kind of guy. It’s that fire thing. How did he play Sunday? A lot better than the previous Monday. He ran with more purpose, if not skill, when he had to. The pass to Ike was a good pass. He gave Comella an opportunity to get in space before passing to him and he even had a masterful play fake on the goal line. The guy hits 32-out-of-52 passes for 346 yards, with a rating of 92.3. Not bad (except that Banks had a rating of 127.1 – gag, gag).

OVERALL ANALYSIS – Just as Kerry said, the O came out sluggish, put the D in a hole with the early fumble. The D would have held with Jessie in there. This is another game that got away and as my son asked “to the Redskins?”

I paid very close attention to Glenn Parker and he did the best job on the line of pass blocking. He got in front of his man and used good technique. Don’t count him out just yet. Bruce Smith had 1 sack and three tackles – Lomas did his job. Kenard Lang was also held in check, although he had 2 passes defensed. LaVar Arrington is coming into his own. He made 8 tackles and was a force all night. Amani had 9 receptions, several over the middle. The problem with the O is that Tiki also had 9 catches, and that is a problem. Everyone has seen tapes from last year. The dump off pass to Tiki in the left flat isn’t a surprise any more and teams are dropping a linebacker into the flat to cover Tiki. JJ and Comella did their job, Ike made some really nifty moves on his TD run, but he didn’t bring in the big one. The running game was basically non-existent.

On defense, Jessie’s absence should put to rest the Jessie calls on BBI. Davis is a back that takes two men to tackle. Jessie is involved in a lot of that stripping the blocking on run plays which allows the linemen and safeties to do the hitting. Jason Sehorn had one very good play, one very bad play and a bunch of average coverages. But there seems to be a communication problem between Jason and Shaun Williams. One goes for the tackle, one for the interception and a bum like Banks completes a 76 yarder. Michael Strahan was held in check until the end when he went berserk. He was having a bad time with Rasby and ultimately he lost his cool. He got a nice take down, but JF pulled him from the game before something happened.

Special Teams- Hopefully the new kid will run down field and hit someone. One more time – a boomer will not be a directional kicker. A kick into the end zone is better than a shank. Kick the ball – run down under it – tackle the ball carrier. Kickoffs are still a problem. OK, Jim, fix it.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Washington Redskins, October 28, 2001)
Oct 262001

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Washington Redskins, October 28, 2001: The Giants have to put a winning-streak back together, but as the old sports adage says, they must take the upcoming games one game at a time. The first opponent is the Redskins again, who are coming off their first victory of the year. Last week, led by an improving defense and some deep passes late to rookie WR Rod Gardner. Division games are never easy and the Skins’ defense has been stingier of late. Keep in mind how close the first Redskins-Giants game was just a few weeks ago. With the Giants’ offense struggling, this game most likely will be no push over.

Giants on Offense: The focal point of my offensive game plan would be to attack the Skins’ nickel corner. Starting right corner Fred Smoot is hurt and won’t play. Thus, nickel corner Darrell Green will start in his place. His replacement at nickel, Central McClellion, has struggled. Thus, if I’m Jim Fassel, I come out in a 3-WR package and match Ike Hilliard up on McClellion and go after him all day. But the other wide receivers, Amani Toomer and Joe Jurevicius, are going to have to step it up against Green and All-World Champ Bailey too.

The other thing I would do is get Tiki Barber matched up on the Redskins’ linebackers in the passing game. Their linebackers are better moving forward than in reverse and Barber should be able to get free of them. Of course, the Redskins may follow Philly’s strategy and double- and triple-team Barber. If they do, the wide receivers MUST step it up and deliver. To me, this game rests on their shoulders.

I also think the Giants need to throw two or three times to Dan Campbell and/or Howard Cross in this game – just to loosen up the undercoverage a bit for Barber and FB Greg Comella. Opposing linebackers rarely worry about the Giant tight ends. New York needs to take advantage of that.

Up front, there are some critical battles. RG Ron Stone played terribly against DT Dan Wilkinson the last time these two teams met. He must play better this week for the Giants’ ground game to get going. The other defensive lineman to have a big game against New York was Kenard Lang who was playing at his more natural end position due to a previous injury to left end Marco Coleman. However, Coleman is expected to play so Lang may move back inside this week and face LG Glenn Parker. Regardless of who he faces, RT Luke Petitgout needs to elevate his game and play better than he did the last time these two teams met as well. LT Lomas Brown got a break last time when right end Bruce Smith left the game early with a shoulder injury. But he’s back this week.

Giants on Defense: The Giants’ defense needs to be wary of a couple of things here. First is that DT Lance Legree will get his first start in place of the injured Keith Hamilton (shoulder). You can bet that the Skins will target their ground attack with HB Stephen Davis right at Legree. I hope they do because the once thing Legree does is jam things up pretty well inside. The other thing is that the Giants must be very wary of giving up anything easy deep. The Redskins have had problems sustaining drives, but they got two huge plays with deep passes to Gardner last week. Will Peterson will most likely face the fellow rookie and he needs to play well.

The loss of Hamilton will hurt the pass rush, and DT Cornelius Griffin and DE Kenny Holmes need to compensate by providing more of a pass rush. Griffin played pretty well last time, but Holmes was kept quiet by the impressive Chris Samuels at left tackle. You can bet that since Legree is over there, the running game will come straight at these two. Holmes needs to play stout against the run and make more noise on the pass rush. Michael Strahan’s stats against the Skins from the last game are a bit misleading; he didn’t have a strong game against RT Jon Jansen.

What the heck is going on with Jessie Armstead? If his lack of production has to due with his declining physical skills and is permanent, then I don’t think I’ve ever seen a linebacker become less of a factor quicker since Carl Banks. All the linebackers are going to have to play a physical game up front against Davis. They also need to keep an eye on Ki-Jana Carter in the passing game when he is in the contest.

The good news for the Giants is that TE Stephen Alexander (ankle) is out and therefore the safeties can help out a bit more elsewhere.

Special Teams: It will be interesting to see if Owen Pochman is activated this week; same with new special teams player Kole Ayi. Keep an eye on Clayton White on the Giants – he’s been doing a good job of covering kicks and punts. Also, Cedric Scott has been added to the special teams, which shows you how athletic the big man is.

Eric Metcalf was just signed by the Skins and he is a very dangerous punt returner as is Michael Bates on kick-off returns. Both are two of the best at returns in the history of the game. Scary thought for the G-Men.

If Ron Dixon (ankle) plays, it’s time for him to start earning his paycheck and make a big play on kick returns himself.

Oct 252001
Philadelphia Eagles 10 – New York Giants 9

Game Overview: The Giants should be 5-1, but are 3-3. But what’s done is done and the team does not have the luxury of time to dwell on it. If they do, the season will slip away.

So the Giants find themselves in the crisis-mode once again – something quite normal in the professional sports setting. How they respond to this crisis will determine the outcome of the 2001 season. In 1997 and 2000, they responded well to crises. In 1998, the responded too little too late. In 1999, they did not respond well at all.

What is going on with the offense? If you want definitive answers from me, you are not going to get them. I can only speculate and provide various theories. It is up to you to decide whether or not they have any merit:

  • The Eagles have a very good defense. Unlike my anger over not being able to put more points up on the board against the Rams, I can appreciate the difficulties the Giants’ offense faced playing against the Eagles. In the two regular season games from last year, the Giants moved the ball quite well against Philadelphia and at times on Monday night, they had them back on their heels as well (though it can be argued that the Giants’ long drives were only possible due to the numerous defensive offsides penalties). But don’t discount the Eagles’ defense – give the other team credit too.
  • Because the Eagles face the Giants twice a year, they are very familiar with the Giants and what they try to accomplish on offense. Just as the Giants were able to figure out what the Eagles intended to do on offense, the Eagle defenders often knew what play was coming before the snap of the ball. But they also made the strategic decision to not let Tiki Barber beat them. So every time Barber went out for a pass, there seemed to be three Eagles around him. No one but Ike in the first half stepped up to the plate to make the Eagles pay for this strategy.
  • The Eagles are familiar with the Giants, but the Giants were simply too predictable and too conservative, especially in the second half. EVERY drive in the second half, except for the last one after the Giants had lost the lead, started off with a running play. You can’t do that against a quality defense. It puts you in too many 2nd- and 3rd- and long situations. One got the feeling that Jim Fassel decided to sit on the 9-point and 6-point leads. Well, he got burned because of it. 9-points is a little more easy to accept (after all, if the Eagles score on defense, fans would be shouting “Why did get so risky when our defense was playing so well?”). But after the Eagles cut the lead to 6-points, the lead was too small to play it safe. One play is all the Eagles would have needed to take the lead, and unfortunately, they got it.
  • The Giants made some strange calls in the redzone, as well as making some huge mistakes. The Giants allowed a couple of big sacks in the redzone. They also made some strange calls such as the 3rd-and-13 screen to Tiki, a naked rollout on 3rd-and-goal after two straight running plays, the shovel pass to Ike Hilliard (which the Giants had just shown last week against the Rams so it fooled no one), the swing pass to Tiki on 3rd-and-goal. Then there was Collins dropping a shotgun snap that put the Giants out of field goal range. Right after that play, despite having timeouts, the Giants rushed to get another play off and threw a 2-yard pass to Hilliard. I blame Jim Fassel for that as well.
  • The Giants simply refused to throw the football down the field. Except for Collins’ strange decision to fire a deep pass into triple-coverage, the Giants’ passing game kept everything short. This is very strange when one considers that in the past the Giants have had success throwing deep on the Eagles. Many times it seemed that the receivers were covered. But there also seemed to be many plays where the primary target was the short receiver and the Eagles were waiting for this. As the Eagles played tighter and tighter against the line, these plays became even more difficult. The Giants NEVER made the Eagles pay for playing so tight to the line of scrimmage. You’re not going to make a living trying to methodically drive the ball down the field against a top notch defense. You need big plays.
  • The Giants don’t seem to have a lot of speed on offense. Tiki Barber is a fast halfback. Dayne is not. Amani Toomer has above-average speed, but is no blazer. Hilliard is more quick than fast. Joe Jurevicius is sluggish. The Giants never throw to the tight ends, so when Howard Cross and Dan Campbell are on the field, the defense doesn’t have to worry about them. Collins is immobile. Ron Dixon has speed, but is having problems picking up the offense. Jonathan Carter has speed but is on the Practice Squad because he is having problems picking up the offense.

Now the Giants find them in three straight must-win games. They lost their wiggle-room with these two 1-point losses. Not a great situation to find themselves in. Beware, because the Redskins’ defense is playing very well right now.

Quarterback: Kerry Collins (21-out-of-33 for 162 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions) played alright, but he didn’t do enough to help his team win. His longest throw of the night was 38 yards and that was a short pass that Hilliard turned into a long gain with his feet. Part of that was due to the play-calling, part of that was due to the receivers not getting open, and part of that was due to Kerry’s reluctance to throw the ball down the field. The one time that he did was a poor decision (triple coverage). My biggest problem with him on the night was on the last drive right before halftime. He took a sack on 1st-and-5 from the 17 (why the Giants were not in the shot gun here makes little sense to me). Then he took another big loss when he couldn’t handle the shot gun snap on the next play. Then instead of calling a time out (I blame the coaches here too), he rushed a short throw on 3rd-and-long that didn’t help Morten Andersen out at all. Dumb. The missed field goal cost the Giants the game.

Up until that time, Collins had been efficient, moving the Giants deep into the redzone on three separate occasions. The only thing I didn’t like was that when the Eagles were jumping offsides, Collins didn’t take his free shot down the field. Dumb. I liked the way he handled himself on one play on the third drive, when he looked right, found nothing, and then came back to his left and just missed hitting Barber deep for what would have been a huge play. But this is one of the few times he fired deep. Right after that was the best play from him all night when he rolled to his right and threw a perfect pass to Hilliard for a first down on 3rd-and-15.

But too many of his throws were telegraphed too. He should have seen the Eagles concentrating their coverage on Barber and him staring in his direction from the snap of the ball didn’t help matters. The few times he checked off the primary receiver, it worked such as his pass to Dayne on the second-to-last drive of the first half.

In the second half, things started off well on the first drive as Collins hit Joe Jurevicius over the middle for a first down on 3rd-and-2. He then threw to Dayne for 8 yards. But after a run picked up a first down, Collins wasted a play by that throw into triple coverage. He then missed Jurevicius on an intermediate pass that could have gone for big yardage. Immediate pressure on the next play forced a short throw and the Giants punted.

The next four drives the Giants’ offense went 3-and-out. This gave the Eagles new life and the game. The play-calling was overly conservative as every drive started with a run. Receivers couldn’t get open and the short passes went nowhere. There were also two drops. Two “drives” ended with Collins forced to throw the ball away when (1) he couldn’t see the open receiver or (2) no one could get open. To top the night off, I don’t know what Collins was thinking when he decided to scramble left, while carrying the ball like a loaf of bread, on the final offensive play of the night for the Giants. The resulting fumble put the final nail in the coffin.

Wide Receivers: Whether it was their inability to get open, the play-calling, or the quarterbacking, the receivers were a virtual non-factor. Only Ike Hilliard (6 catches for 80 yards) made much noise and this came only in the first half. Amani Toomer (3 catches for 19 yards) was invisible. He also failed to bring down a catchable ball on 3rd-and-long on the second drive of the second half. He also had a drop in the first half. Joe Jurevicius (3 catches for 22 yards) had a couple of key third down conversions but was too unproductive as well. If the Giants dump Hilliard to keep Jurevicius at the end of the year, it will be a mistake. Hilliard brings a bit of fear to the opposing defense; Jurevicius does not.

The one thing Jurevicius does do very well in open space is block and he had a number of key blocks, including on the short, quick pass to Hilliard on 3rd-and-3 for a first down.

The shovel pass to Hilliard on the goalline was stupid. This is a trick play, but the Giants just ran it last week against the Rams. Of course, the Eagles were ready for it. What I would have liked to have seen the Giants do more, especially in the second half, was to spread things out more like they did on their last drive of the first half. At one point, counting Barber, the Giants went to 5-wide and it worked. Hilliard’s best play of the night came with his nifty spin move and run for 38 yards right before halftime. This play should have put the game away had it not been for the ensuing negative yardage plays.

Running Backs: Tiki Barber (13 carries for 55 yards, 5 catches for 25 yards) and Ron Dayne (16 carries for 32 yards, 2 catches for 15 yards) had their moments, but it wasn’t enough. Barber looked pretty sharp, but had some negative plays that hurt. On the first drive of the game, he dropped a 3rd-and-6 pass from Collins that should have picked up the first. Tiki dropped a 3rd-and-7 pass on the next drive, but was let off the hook because the Eagles jumped offsides.

The screen to Barber on 3rd-and-long down in the redzone was a dumb call. The Giants were basically just setting up a shorter field goal. No guts, no glory. It also looked like Barber screwed up right before the shovel pass. On 1st-and-goal, Greg Comella led the play to the outside and it looked like Tiki had the corner for what would have been the game-winning touchdown, but for some reason, Barber took it inside and was stuffed. On 3rd-and-goal, the Giants threw and idiotic flat pass to Barber. He was the primary receiver. Dumb. Throw the ball into the endzone Fassel and Payton!!! It also looked to me that Barber should have picked up a corner blitz on 3rd-and-10 on the first drive of the second half. Because of the pressure, Collins was forced to throw short and a punt resulted.

Ron Dayne had some strong runs, but was also hampered by some really predictable play calling and inconsistent run blocking. I like the way he started things off in the game by dragging tacklers on his 4-yard run. He also did a good job of keeping his feet moving after contact on the 4th-and-1 play for a first down on the second drive of the night (behind a good block from Greg Comella too). Dayne had dragged a tackler on the play before as well.

I liked the way Greg Comella picked up the blitz on a short pass to Amani Toomer that resulted in a first down. But Greg also missed a block against the linebacker on a 1st-and-goal that went nowhere. One of the dumb plays of the night was the Giants splitting Greg out wide and throwing a quick, short pass to him. The success of these plays requires the receiver to juke out the defender right at the line – juking is not the strength of a fullback. Bad call.

Offensive Line (Plus Blocking of Skilled Position Players): The blocking didn’t cost the Giants the game, though there were some big negative plays that hurt. In the first half, the Giants’ line, tight ends, and Comella mostly did a good job of sustaining their blocks and allowing the backs to pick up yardage. However, a few breakdowns in protection hurt. In the second half, the blockers were stymied by the play-calling – I don’t care what Fassel says about execution here. The Giants should have passed on first down. Cross the Eagles up. Dumb again.

LG Glenn Parker continues to struggle on the pull and the Giants either have to drop this play from the playbook or bench Parker. He’s just not getting out quickly enough. In fact, he keeps running into the back just as often as he blocks his man. On the second drive of the game, Ron Dayne picked up five yards on a left-side sweep behind good blocks from Lomas Brown, Campbell, and Comella. On 3rd-and-5, Jurevicius, Hilliard, Campbell, and Luke Petitgout made excellent blocks to spring Barber for a first down on a right-side sweep (I was surprised that the Giants had more success running outside on the Eagles than inside). On 2nd-and-8, however, Lomas Brown missed a run block on Hugh Douglas and Dayne was stuffed. On 1st-and-5, Ron Stone, Petitgout, and Zeigler sprung Barber for 10 yards. But the promising drive stalled when Douglas beat Brown to the inside for a sack.

On a later drive in the first half, Luke Petitgout was manhandled by the end and Dayne was stuffed on a right-side run. But then Dayne picked up 5 yards behind strong blocking from Petitgout, Comella, Stone, and Zeigler. Petitgout and Stone then sprung Barber for 8 yards. On the last drive of the first half, a huge negative play resulted when Collins was sacked when both Petitgout and Brown couldn’t handle the outside rush.

In the second half, Barber picked up 10+ yards on a left-side sweep behind excellent blocks from Campbell and Comella. On the next drive, however, Campbell couldn’t handle his man and Barber lost a yard. Campbell couldn’t sustain his lead block on the next drive on a Dayne run up the middle either. But on the next drive, Campbell successfully led Barber on a left-side sweep for four yards. Petitgout couldn’t handle the outside rush from the left end and Collins was forced to roll away from the pressure two plays later (resulting in an incompletion on 3rd-and-6). On the next drive, Campbell got a good block, but Parker was not quick enough again on the pull.

Tight Ends: The blocking was pretty strong and as you can tell from above, except for a couple of plays, Dan Campbell was a factor in many of the Giants’ successful runs. But what is really hurting the Giants is that they have absolutely no pass threat from the tight/H-Back position. It’s like the Giants are playing with seven offensive linemen. Cross can catch the ball – I’ve seen him do it. Campbell can too. The Giants need to start throwing the ball to these two so the defense will at have to consider defending these two. Also, don’t ask someone like Campbell to perform in the clutch (such as the 3rd-and-4 pass he dropped) when you have never bothered to get him into the flow of the passing game all night (the play was stupid anyways because had Campbell caught the ball, he would have been tackled short of the first down). I don’t know what the answer is. Marcellus Rivers is probably too slight and intellectually overwhelmed at this point to contribute. If the Giants are unwilling or incapable of getting the tight ends involved, it’s going to be hard to move the ball in a consistent fashion.

Comment on Defense: The defense played a magnificent game and you cannot blame them for the loss. But they had a chance to win the game if they keep the Eagles from getting those late 10 points. The holding call on Brandon Short, Will Peterson getting beat by James Thrash, and the personal foul on Shaun Williams helped to set up the field goal. And on the touchdown drive, the Giants lost contain on McNabb twice and got too soft against the run at the wrong moment. The Giants’ final fleeting chance at victory was snuffed out when the defense made a boneheaded play and didn’t keep an eye on McNabb on 4th-and-4. Dumb. The Giants players and coaches didn’t play or coach smartly on Monday and that’s why they lost.

Defensive Line: Michael Strahan (4 tackles, 2 sacks) is playing at a level that I thought he would never attain. I was very excited the day the Giants drafted him and thought he would be a fine player, but even after 1997 and 1998, I didn’t expect this. It’s funny that announcers mentioned that RT Jon Ruynan was doing a good job on him because Strahan still beat Ruynan for a sack and numerous pressures in the game. At one time, I even saw Strahan getting triple-teamed. But Michael made one huge screw up. His hard charge up the field on the play where Thrash caught the TD pass allowed McNabb to get outside of contain and make the play. It wasn’t that Strahan got blocked; it was that he took himself out of the play. Strahan also was run on for 7 yards on an earlier play on the drive and couldn’t mount enough pass pressure. Some of the positives: on the first drive, on 3rd-and-10, Strahan forced McNabb to throw quickly as he clobbered the quarterback. On the third drive, on 3rd-and-4, his pressure resulted in yet another incompletion. In the second half, Strahan’s first sack came against the right guard on a stunt on 3rd-and-15. On the third drive of the second half, Strahan’s pressure forced a quick throw to the short receiver. With Eagles driving and on the Giants’ 12-yard line, Strahan got his second sack on an outside speed rush against Runyan.

DT Keith Hamilton (no tackles) was invisible (except for his dumb late hit on McNabb) and probably should not have played due to his shoulder injury. To make matters worse, he re-injured the shoulder in the game. His replacement, Lance Legree, was a non-factor other than one play where he stuffed the run.

Cornelius Griffin (7 tackles, 1 sack) played fairly well. He (and Mike Barrow) pressured McNabb on the first play of the game. On the third drive, Griffin made a great athletic play by playing off the block and tackling the scrambling McNabb from behind just as he was about to burst into the clear. Griffin missed an easy sack on the Eagles’ last drive of the first half. But he redeemed himself on 3rd-and-4 with a big sack up the middle. This play saved three points as the Eagles missed the ensuing field goal. But on the Eagles’ TD drive, McNabb scrambled up the middle for good yardage when Griffin and Legree did not contain him on the pass rush.

DE Kenny Holmes (4 tackles, 1 sack) is becoming more of a factor as the season progresses. We saw something on Monday night that we haven’t seen since Chad Bratzke left – a quick outside speed rush for a sack from the right end. Holmes’ run defense was up-and-down and I was surprised the Eagles didn’t try to run the ball more. Duce Staley picked up 16 yards when Holmes, Keith Hamilton, and Jessie Armstead got handled on the Eagles’ first drive of the second half. But Holmes’ sack came shortly after that as he beat Tra Thomas to the outside. (He had just missed a sack as well right before the half when he failed to wrap up McNabb). Two drives later in the second half, Holmes made a good play in run defense as he charged hard inside to nail the halfback from behind. On a later drive, Holmes got handled at the point for a six-yard gain. The Giants could have used some pass rush from Holmes on the Eagles’ TD drive (same with Griffin, Legree, and Strahan). Holmes was the only Giant on defense not to get suckered by McNabb’s 4th-and-4 bootleg.

Linebackers: Tough to judge as they were being called to cover the short receivers most of the night. And since the Eagles’ short passing game was mostly harmless, they must have done a good job. Mike Barrow (3 tackles) seemed to be blanketing his man in coverage such as his tight coverage on Duce Staley on the first drive. He also had very tight coverage on a failed 3rd-and-1 pass in the second half. Barrow did miss a tackle on a 6-yard run by Correll Buckhalter however.

Armstead (5 tackles) may have done well in coverage too, but I wasn’t too impressed with his play. On the first drive of the second half, he missed a tackle on Duce Staley. On the following drive, he blitzed himself out of the play as Staley cut inside him for a 9-yard run. He then missed a tackle on a scrambling McNabb on 2nd-and-7 and McNabb picked up the first down.

Brandon Short (3 tackles) was flagged with a costly pass interference penalty on Staley on 3rd-and-1. This came on their field goal drive. Short, Barrow, and Strahan all got handled at the point-of-attack on a 7-yard carry on the Eagles’ TD drive.

Defensive Backs: Will Peterson (5 tackles) had some problems, but played pretty well in just his second start. He had good coverage on the first play of the game targeted at him and then immediately followed that up by making a sure tackle on a quick, short, outside pass. However, two drives later, he missed the tackle on the exact same play and a 17-yard gain resulted. Strahan’s pressure two plays later saved him as he was beat deep on the play. In the second half, Peterson looked good on a blitz as he leveled McNabb just as he threw the ball (unfortunately, this came on the play where Short was flagged). Two plays later, Peterson got beat to the inside by James Thrash on a play that helped to set up the field goal. But there were many plays in the second half where McNabb could find no one open deep. The TD pass play came against Peterson, but he had fine coverage on the play – it was simply a perfect throw.

Sehorn (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defensed) played yet another strong game. Only one time did he get beat: a 3rd-and-6 deep pass to Todd Pinkston, despite solid coverage (Sehorn missed the jam however on the play). Other than that, Sehorn blanketed his man, deflected on pass that was almost intercepted for what might-have-been a touchdown by Shaun Williams. Sehorn later had a monster-sack on a corner blitz.

Shaun Williams (6 tackles, 1 sack, 2 passes defensed) played very well except for one bonehead late hit on James Thrash that helped the Eagles out on their field goal drive. He did a nice job of playing two-deep coverage and getting over to the sideline to intercept McNabb on the first play of the Eagles’ second possession. He also picked up a sack by finishing off McNabb when he was originally pressured by Sehorn and Strahan.

The Giants did a great job of defending Pro Bowl TE Chad Lewis and SS Sam Garnes (4 tackles) deserves much of the credit (as do the linebackers). The only time I saw Garnes beat was a 4th quarter pass to Lewis (his only catch of the game). Before that, Garnes made a couple of sure tackles on short passes, including on a swing pass to Staley. My biggest problem with Garnes is that he got suckered on McNabb’s 4th-and-4 scramble at the end of the game – Garnes should have stayed with McNabb.

Special Teams: P Rodney Williams’ 27-yard shank (after a Thabiti Davis holding penalty) set the Eagles up on the Giants’ 40-yard line on their game-winning drive. Williams’ poor punt should not be underestimated – that was a huge play for Philadelphia.

Damon Washington was VERY ordinary returning kick-offs despite some solid blocking. Tiki Barber broke one punt return for 20 yards.

Morten Andersen wasn’t real strong on kick-offs. His first landed at the 19 yard line and another at the 11 yard line. All lacked hang time. Luckily, except for one return, the kick coverage unit played well. So did the punt coverage unit. Players who stood out included Clayton White (1 tackle), Omar Stoutmire (2 tackles), and Dhani Jones (2 tackles).

Cedric Scott and Thabiti Davis each came VERY close to blocking punts. The Giants were very lucky that the Eagles had a lineman illegally down field on their fake field goal or the play would have worked.

Eagles High on Meadowlands Air

by David Oliver

Another heartbreaking loss, one of many in a long series of Giants’ snatching defeat from the jaws of victory performances. The shame of it is, the game should have been over at halftime, following a totally dominant performance by the offense, EXCEPT where it counts, the Red Zone and the End Zone. The Red Zone, or Zona Rosa as it is called in Mexico City, is aptly named for the Giants offense this year. In Mexico, it is where the tourists stay and where businessmen bring their ‘secretaries’ for long, languid lunch hours during the week. The Giants O can identify with this, except for one thing- the businessmen are scoring.

The 78,000 Giants fans at the Stadium and countless others at home were crushed Monday night (the rest were several hundred delirious Eagles fans who weren’t sure how to act as it’s been so long since their team has won). I don’t quite know why we are all so deflated by this loss – it’s like something every fan is taking personally. I mean, the Eagles, the team that resides in that smug dustbin of Eastern seaboard culture, famous only for a movie character and a sandwich, built within a good upwind smell of the entire State of Delaware, a City and a team with an inferiority complex so large it won’t fit between Camden and Newark, a team which is now the recipient of a gift which only the generosity of the NY Metro area could provide, a win over the Giants. That’s it – the Eagles won. No sour grapes as only the scoreboard counts – there are no points in the standings for style points – and maybe that is the lesson the Giants must take from this one.

At the end of a boring first half, which saw a dominant, but unexciting Giants team march up and down the field, keeping the ball for over 25 minutes, the score was a measly 9-0, same as the Yankees in the 7th inning. As Lomas Brown said, “Between the 30s, we dominated.” And they did it in a manner for which the fans have been clamoring – a powerful ground game, which rolled up over 75 yards. The aging, inept offensive line pounded the vaunted Eagles defense all over the lot. Not with big plays, pancake blocks, illusion or even finesse. It was straight up, line em and gut run ‘em football. Efficient football, sending Dayne and Barber over the right side time after time, interspersing short passes (really short passes), moving the sticks. On the first long drive, the Giants’ second possession, there was a 10 yard gain and three 9-yard gains, and a whole bunch of 1-, 2- and 5-yarders. That was an 8-minute drive which netted 3 points. The next drive was similar except for a 17-yard pass to Ike Hilliard.. That drive lasted 5 minutes and netted 3 points. And then another 8-minute drive, with another 17-yard pass to Ike. Another 3 points.

The majority of runs went to the right, but there was no real distinction in yardage per carry, 1-, 2- 5- or 7-yards, either side. This team, any team (except the Redskins) should have come away with at least 13 points, more likely 17 points. The Giants didn’t. They tried to duplicate the effort in the second half, but as Lomas Brown said, “Teams like that, you can’t leave them around, because that’s what happens, they come back and beat you…We pretty much came back out with the same game plan, we made a few adjustments; they didn’t really do anything differently out there; when it came down to stopping us in the end zone, they wanted it worse and they executed better.” That seems to be a pretty fair assessment. The Giants had 11 drives. After an opener of 4 yards, they went 64, 39, 61, 34, and 38 yards. Not too bad, if you forget the 5 or 6 they left off three of them. But the last 5 drives went –2, 7, 4,-4 and 6 yards. It must have been something in the Gatorade. The Eagles weren’t much different, but they scored on a possession where they only had to drive 40 yards. They did and they scored on an 18 yard pass to a wide receiver when the Giants were in a flex defense with one mission – keep the ball in front of you, don’t let them in an end zone. All those D-Backs out there and the rookie corner had no help deep in the end zone, on a play where the QB scrambled and the receiver should have been coming back to help him. When it is your night, it is your night. Shaun Williams was standing perplexed for a good while – I’m not sure if he was shocked the pass was completed, or if, maybe, he was supposed to be the help for that rookie corner but bit on the scramble. Left him in kind of no man’s land.

I could go on with stats all night to show how evenly these teams played, notwithstanding the dominant performance of the Giants’ O in the first half, and a great game by the Giants’ D in the second – until that one pass, but heck, the stats don’t tell the full story. As CGrif (Cornelius Griffin) told me, “We didn’t play 60 minutes, that’s what happened.” We’ve heard talk of grumbling by the defense about the lack of production by the offense – it’s there, but very mild, and guys like CGrif don’t pay it any mind. He told me, “We’ll come back Wednesday, focus on Washington, take them one at a time. The team has to stay together, that’s football, the team has got to make more plays, the TEAM has to stay together, special teams, offense, defense…If you stay together, you can do anything, you can do the impossible.” What grousing I heard was more along the lines of. “Why don’t we play to win a game instead of playing not to lose?” Sound familiar? Sounds like BBI. There is a mild frustration because the team knows it is good and probably just wants to go punch someone’s lights out. So there may be some grousing, but I wouldn’t go looking for a team rift – it’s not there.

Remember last year, the Detroit game. It was a low point. Eric and I both snapped. The weather was getting bad and the Giants were playing with no focus. Well, the last two losses were nothing like that, but suddenly we are spoiled. The Giants faced down the ALL World Offense and the Killer Defense on successive weekends, not only held their own but should have won, and yet, didn’t. Are they cooked? Not by a long shot – it is conceivable that they can now run 9 out of the last 10 (I don’t know about the Vikings in the Dome on Monday night). Why do I feel that way?

KERRY COLLINS – No, he’s not Joe Montana, not Brett Favre, but he’s got a good arm, he’s a winner and he’s surrounded by decent, if sparse talent. He’s in a funk. He’s more Daryl LaMonica than he’ll ever be Steve Young and he hasn’t been able to crank the big one. Face it, the Eagles are good, damn good. KC just didn’t get it done. Let’s look at the negatives, he runs like RockyT, has poor field awareness, goes through his progressions like the Roadrunner, then drops off to Tiki and BB56 is his biggest cheerleader. Pretty hefty negatives. Oh, and he lacks “fire”. Bob Papa was saying on his post game show that he wasn’t sure he wanted a QB throwing his helmet all over the place. Right, Bob, but that’s not fire, that’s anger. Fire is a quality that enables a QB to walk into the huddle and say, “Guys, I’m going to get this one. Hey, fat ass, knock somebody down, JJ put your stickum on, Amani, WAKE up, damn it, WAKE up, it’s coming at you.” Now that’s fire. Kerry, bless him, is corporate. He has said himself that it’s a team effort and he looks for everyone to do his job. Good leadership qualities if you are planning a raid on the coffee machine. Sometimes the team needs a spark, and sometimes that spark is more than just a play, it is words, it is fire – at least that’s what I think of when I say KC lacks fire. Maybe I’m way off base, but I think that the difference for him between being an adequate QB (if you would call that masterful 3,000 yard season adequate) and a Championship QB is fire, and I wish he would cut loose. He doesn’t need a reconstructed personality on the field.

So what would I do if I were his quarterback coach. First, I would have the running back coach teach him how to use his 6’5″ body to gain yards by using his feet; second, I would try to teach him how to throw a pass on the run – very difficult, but he can’t do it at all; third, failing one and two, I would tell him never run laterally, just throw it away. Then I would tell him look for Ike, look for Ike first, second and third, THEN dump it off to Tiki, not look at the defense rush and toss it to Tiki. Then I would tell him, look, here’s Ron Dayne behind you, just hand him the ball and watch.

In short, there’s not much wrong with Kerry Collins that a little imaginative play execution won’t cure. Not motion, execution. Vince Lombardi only liked to see three people move on each play, two guards and a center – oh, yeah, 4, if you count the running back who followed them. Motion is nice, but it has to produce points and it’s not. The team goes where Kerry goes, so it’s time to get Kerry going into the win column.

OFFENSIVE LINE – Read BBI and you would think there are a couple of old guys, some stumblebums and a backup who is ready for the Pro Bowl. Not how I see it. Lomas Brown is playing good ball. He is beaten, maybe once a game, when up against a speed rusher, but not often. He did a good job against the Saints, the Rams and the Eagles; no, replay that, he did an excellent job, in pass protection, which is why he is with the Giants. I saw several plays Monday night where Douglas went for his knees; cheap shot, dirty crap. Lomas owns Douglas, who couldn’t even get to his knees. So left tackle is still pretty good. Glenn Parker is struggling. Sometimes when something large, something bigger than football intrudes in a life, the compassionate thing to do is let the player play his way back, let him find his soul in the game. Is he a liability? Not really, he is doing his job and he is doing it better than his replacement could right now, that’s why he is playing. It’s getting colder, the games are getting tougher, Parker will be an asset over the next stretch of games. Ziegler and Stone (even injured) are doing their jobs. Luke has struggled a little this year and I can’t put a finger on it. He should be crushing people now. Let’s watch his performance over the next couple of games.

This line pistol-whipped the Eagles for a half. The Eagles stepped it up, the Giants didn’t – but it wasn’t just the offensive line.

DEFENSE – Just flat out awesome when John Fox cuts the dogs loose. Michael Strahan is playing the best ball of his career and although he didn’t own Runyan Monday night, he worked his ass into the turf and beat him enough to make it rough on McNabb. In the end, he wore down and that let McNabb get away on one crucial play. But Runyan had nothing to do with it and MS had no help. The Giants have half a Hammer and 75% of CGrif and they are monsters in the middle. Not only that, but the center of the line for the future looks like Grif and Legree. Lance is getting some reps with Hammer out and he is showing up big. He is getting some pressure on the QBs which is a surprise. But it may have been that playing a rookie at the end hurt – I don’t know, maybe that’s why MS had no help on that scramble. Somebody look at the tape and tell me. Kenny Holmes is quietly improving each game. He was up against a mammoth Tra Thomas Monday and at times Tra tossed him like a rag doll. But at other times, Kenny whipped Tra’s fat butt and made a play. Kenny’s 4 tackles and a sack weren’t bad. Keep looking for Cedric Scott – the man has cat like moves for a huge guy. Watch him on specials. We talked a little about it Monday night and he told me that on the play where he tackled a break away runner, “I was the last guy, I had to catch him, by any means necessary. I was on the backside, he cut it up the middle, I had to fold under and catch him.” He acknowledges that specials have some “work to do” and told me they are “not hitting on all cylinders in every phase”, but that they are working to get it all together and that soon they will have “all 11 men doing their job, we’re going to get it together.”

SECONDARY – Still developing chemistry. When Jason Sehorn makes up his mind to play, he is one of the top 2 or 3 corners in football. Some nights, he appears to be watching reruns of Law and Order and doesn’t get it done. He killed the Eagles twice last year. Monday he was just good, not Super good. EMac (Emmanuel McDaniel) is a player who builds on success. As he gets game time, his confidence grows and makes plays. He started in the dog pound for some reason, but he is coming on. He once again had a joyful smile as we talked in the locker and it was good to see. Don’t be so hard on Will Peterson, he’s a rookie, and everyone here knew that playing the rookies would cost the Giants a few games – this was one of them. But I don’t know if it was entirely his fault – there was a lot going on with that play, and I think someone was not in position. Now, this controversy that appears to be brewing – EMac is a veteran, and he plays well in situations. The Giants have decided to get younger, and faster. This one is a coin toss – these are all good kids and they can all play – corporate decisions suck – they always do when you are not running the corporation. EMac had 6 interceptions last year. Not playing him sucks.

On Monday night, the defense did it’s job. Unless you are like CGrif and believe they didn’t play 60 minutes. So who lost the game? Was it the offense not scoring, the defense allowing a score, special teams for field position? The Giants lost, the Eagles won, both did it as a Team.

So how about the coaching and the play calling. These guys were well coached for this game and the play calling went as they figured – grind it out, muscle on muscle football. Think about it, last week they stayed with the Aerial Circus, this week they pounded the Immovable Object. They lost both times. Not shamefully, just stupidly. The Zona Rosa does present some problems. Standing in the end zone as the Giants tried to pound it in was ugly. There was some pad popping, head snapping brutality underway on both sides of the ball. The Giants insisted they were going to grind it in, the Eagles sent 5 or 6 men to the ball each time. And we can criticize the Giants for the rest of the year because what they did, didn’t work. Was it execution? I don ‘t think so? Was it desire? It didn’t look that way. The Eagles were just in a short yardage defense and they are good at it. What could have been done differently? Lots. Play action to Tiki with a toss to the tight end. Uh, is there a tight end in this offense? Didn’t look like it. How about a naked bootleg? Could have worked on at least one play on the drive to the tunnel end. But the Giants running a naked bootleg down here would be like Madonna performing fully clothed. How about a reverse, or a double reverse? The Eagles didn’t so much penetrate as pursue and close quickly. Could a reverse have been worse than what was called?

Can’t fault Payton for not calling for a pass. I’m sure on the sack play there was a call for Toomer in the end zone. He was covered when Kerry looked at him. Kerry pulled it down, looked right and was clobbered. Kerry, for some reason, has stopped throwing to spots; he waits for an open receiver. In that situation, he has to throw the ball into the corner and let Amani go up and fight for it.

I could go on and on, but let me finish with my conversation with Dhani Jones, who responded to a question I put to him by saying, “If we don’t win, I’m not happy with anything. If the team didn’t win, then nobody did well, or everybody could have done better. Our performance wasn’t sufficient. It was a learning experience, not to be taken lightly. We take them personally (the Eagles); people may not understand, they are in our Division, they are part of what we want; they are in our way.”

Well said, Dhani. Now on to the 1-and-5 Super Bowl bound Washington Homers. If the Giants lose this one, I’m mailing back my Payton-Bennett Fan Club Membership Card.

(Box Score – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, October 22, 2001)
Oct 202001

Approach to the Game – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, October 22, 2001: This is probably as important a game as the Giants will play in this regular season. Why? Because if the Giants are going to win the NFC East, they will most likely have to at least split the home-and-away series with the Eagles and it is far easier to win the home game than the away game.

It will not be easy. The Giants have won nine games in a row against Philadelphia and the simple odds of them keeping that streak going are not good. Also, this upcoming game has some haunting similarities to a Monday night Giants-Eagles game in 1988. Coming into that game, the Giants had beaten Philadelphia six times in a row from 1985 to 1987. The Eagles were an up-and-coming team determined to finally show everyone on national television that they had arrived by defeating the team that had been bullying them for the past four seasons. It was also the coming out party for a mobile, athletic quarterback with a strong arm by the name of Randall Cunningham who beat the Giants by bounding off of a Carl Banks tackle, miraculously maintaining his balance, and firing the ball into the endzone for a touchdown. Let’s hope history does not repeat itself.

But the Giants have their own advantages. The streak can work in their favor too as the Eagle players have to start wondering if this thing is turning into some sort of jinx. Football players are very superstitious and if things starting going wrong for Philadelphia, self-doubt could creep into their minds again. Also, when it comes down to it, the Giants are probably still the better team.

Giants on Offense: The Eagles have a very good defense led by pass rushing demon DE Hugh Douglas, DT Corey Simon, vastly under-appreciated (by the fans) stud MLB Jeremiah Trotter, and two big, physical cover corners in Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor. Don’t forget roving headhunter safety Brian Dawkins in the middle of the field too. The defense is quick, aggressive, and likes to bring it. They are also a tad undersized up front so the Giants’ ground game will be important.

I’m not going to talk about this match-up or that match-up this week or strategy other than to say the Giants need to use misdirection (cutback runs, reverses) and deception (screens, draws) a lot in this game. Use Philly’s aggressiveness against them. Also, I wouldn’t use a lot of slow-developing outside runs where they can get penetration.

All I am going to say is this: SCORE. Get the damn ball into the endzone. I don’t care how you do it, but do it a few times. Enough is enough. It’s time for the Giants’ offense to start pulling its own weight around here. The onus is on Kerry Collins (or should I say “omus” in deference to John Madden). It’s well past time for him to have one of his good games and he normally plays quite well against the Eagles – his favorite team when growing up.

So no “LT Lomas Brown has to play well against Douglas and Ron Stone faces a real tough test against Corey Simon” this week. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Put that all aside and just SCORE.

Giants on Defense: The Eagles will be tougher to defend this year for the Giants because they are running the ball better (though keep in mind that Duce Staley was healthy when the Giants played them in week two last year). Thus, unlike the second regular season game and the playoff game where the Giants could largely ignore the run other and focus on containing QB Donovan McNabb in the pocket, the Giants must make sure the ground game doesn’t hurt them first and foremost. It won’t be as easy as most think as the Eagles do have some very good offensive linemen – especially their two outside tackles (RT Jon Runyan and LT Tra Thomas). My focus again will be on the weakside of the defense where guys like DE Kenny Holmes, WLB Jessie Armstead, and CB Jason Sehorn need to do a good job of containing the runs to the left side of the offense. The Eagles will undoubtedly test Holmes as well as DT Cornelius Griffin – the later who is improving with more experience and as his ankle injury improves. Griffin faces Jermane Mayberry is an underrated player who can pass and run block with equal facility.

Griffin was a big factor in last year’s playoff game as the Giants used him on many occasions as the spy on McNabb. It will be interesting if the Giants do this again and if the Eagles find a way to counter it. But also keep in mind that Griffin was not used exclusively as the spy. Others were as well such as MLB Mike Barrow and Armstead. How healthy and productive the injured Barrow (hip pointer) will be is key. New York needs a big game from him. Other injury concerns are DT Keith Hamilton (shoulder) and CB Will Allen (ankle).

So first stop the run. Then, as always, when rushing the passer against McNabb, maintain disciplined pass rush lanes and try to keep him from hurting you with his feet. Maintaining disciplined pass rush lanes hurts the pass rush as the pass blockers have a better idea where the rushers will end up – but is in necessary against this team. And obviously the more pass rush the Giants can get from their down front four, the better as this will afford New York the luxury of having a spy and putting more people into coverage.

The Eagles have much more dangerous wide receivers this year in James Thrash (a former Redskin who has given the Giants problems in the past). Thrash is a guy who can get deep. Todd Pinkston is an emerging youngster who is very tall yet thin. I’d like to see Sam Garnes or Shaun Williams get a good whack on him over the middle. The Eagles first rounder is WR Freddie Mitchell who Philadelphia is phasing in more and more.

Also, New York must be very wary of the short passing game as the Eagles do run a West Coast-style of offense. Brian Mitchell is their third down back and he is a play-maker. FB Cecil Martin is a factor in the passing game as is Pro Bowl TE Chad Lewis. Lewis isn’t much of a blocker, but he is a sure-handed receiver. Lewis is McNabb’s security blanket on third down. The linebacker and safety coverage will be important in covering all of these guys.

Giants on Special Teams: Thank God that Tiki Barber is back returning punts as Amani Toomer just wasn’t getting the job done. Kick returns could be a concern this week as Ron Dixon may not play. Omar Stoutmire didn’t look very explosive in that role last week. P Rodney Williams needs to bounce back from a sub-par performance.

Punt and kick coverage needs to step it up as Brian Mitchell is very deadly returning both punts and kicks.

Oct 172001
St. Louis Rams 15 – New York Giants 14

Game Overview: The officials didn’t lose this game for the Giants – the Giants did. Only one-third of the team bothered to show up on Sunday and it is a testament to the ferocity and tenacity of the defense that the Giants could have still won the game if the officiating was not a factor.

Let me be blunt. Kerry Collins has not elevated his game like I thought he would. In some ways, he may have regressed. Same story with Amani Toomer. The offensive line is also too inconsistent. I don’t give a rat’s ass that the Giants moved the ball well at times against the Rams. The simple truth isn’t the offense didn’t score enough points. Only being able to manage 14 points against a mediocre defense despite the number of times the defense kept getting the ball back for them is nauseating. I’m still mad and I if I were a member of the offensive unit, I don’t know if I could look my defensive teammates in the eyes right now.

Based on the peformance of the first five games of the season, the Giants are not a championship-caliber team. I firmly believe that to be so, at least two of the three units (defense, offense, and special teams) must be excellent to above-average. The Giants have got a very good defense, a mediocre offense, and average special teams (and I’m being generous there only due to the improvements in the kicking game). Unless the Giants can improve on offense and/or special teams – and fast – then they are going to have trouble winning the NFC East.

But if the Giants can improve in these areas, I’d love to see a re-match against the Rams in January. It would be nice if the Giants brought their offense with them the next time they played.

Quarterback: I keep hearing fans complaining about Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton. To me, that sounds like scape-goating. Payton has made mistakes and isn’t perfect – he’s still a very young guy. But it is not Payton who is making the mistakes on the field – it is the offensive players.

Everyone knows the quarterback is the key. He can make those around him look better or worse than they are. Brett Farve’s surrounding talent is no better than the Giants, but Farve elevates the play of those around him with superior play. Collins is simply too damn inconsistent. I thought he would begin to outgrow that in 2001 with another year under his belt in the Giants’ system. Now I wonder if he can ever play the type of consistently superior play that is necessary to earn a Super Bowl ring. The problem is – for better or worse – the Giants are stuck with Collins. There is no time to groom another quarterback. Michael Strahan, Keith Hamilton, Jessie Armstead, and Jason Sehorn are too old.

What really bothered me against the Rams was the regularity that Collins threw into double coverage. Even my wife yelled at the TV at one point, “Why is he throwing into double coverage?” Collins is either (1) becoming too focused on the primary receiver, (2) trusting his ability to throw an incredibly accurate pass more than he should, (3) not seeing the whole field, and/or (4) becoming too impatient in the pocket.

Now someone can say the offensive line needs to give him more time. Guess what? No one in the NFL has perfect pass protection. Breakdowns occur. The great ones make plays when there is chaos all around them. Collins makes these plays sometimes (including against the Rams), but not enough. Not enough.

On the first offensive play of the game, Collins forced the ball to a double-covered Amani Toomer. The ball fell incomplete. On 3rd-and-2, he did a good job of hitting Greg Comella in the flat for a first down. Then came one of his two beautiful passes of the day – a perfectly thrown post-corner pass to Amani Toomer for big yardage that set up the first touchdown. Great – “Collins is on,” I said to myself.

Next drive, Collins missed Toomer on the sideline. On 3rd-and-3, Collins does a good job of rolling right and hitting Joe Jurevicius for good yardage. Nice play. Then the protection started to break down. Collins took too long on a slow-developing deep play-action play, Zeigler couldn’t hold his block and Collins was sacked. On 3rd-and-11, the left side of the offensive line couldn’t handle a stunt and Kerry was forced to throw the ball quickly to the short receiver. Punt.

Next drive. Collins hits Jurevicius over the middle for 17. Again, nice play. He then finds Jurevicius again for a first down on 2nd-and-10. Here we go!!! But then Collins misses Toomer again on the sideline. After a penalty, on 3rd-and-12, both tackles couldn’t handle the outside rush and Collins was sacked. This drive was aborted as much by the offensive line as anything.

Next drive. 2nd-and-7, Collins pressured, ball falls incomplete. 3rd-and-7 – slant pass incomplete. Punt.

Final drive of the half. Collins tosses short to Ron Dayne for nine yards. After Dayne carries for a first down, Collins then hits Toomer on a slant for another first down. On 3rd-and-11, Collins makes a fine play by hitting Jurevicius for a first down. Things are moving again. On 3rd-and-4, another slant to Toomer for a first down. Drive stalls when Damon Washington drops a pass on 3rd-and-9 for what would have been a first down. Good drive by Collins and not a bad overall first half.

Third quarter and this is where my problems with Collins really arise. He took most of the damn quarter off. You can’t do that against a team like the Rams. First play, Collins once again tries to force the ball deep to Amani Toomer against double-coverage. Incomplete. 3rd-and-11, Collins is forced to roll out when Glenn Parker gives up a pressure. Ball falls incomplete. Three-and-out despite the fine field position provided by the defense after an interception.

But the Giants get the ball back after forcing a fumble. This is one of the big potential turning points of the game. Collins throws to Toomer again against double coverage and the ball is intercepted. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Two turnovers forced by our defense, excellent field positoin both times – no points. Unacceptable!!!

Third drive. 2nd-and-11 – short catch by Comella. 3rd-and7 – the slant pass is thrown slightly behind Jurevicius and he drops it. 3-and-out. Great going offense!

Fourth drive. Collins hit Jurevicius for approximately 16 yards on 2nd-and-6. Finds Comella for six yards on 2nd-and-10. On 3rd-and-4, the pass falls out-of-bounds as Toomer runs a go route too close to the sidelines. (Collins seems intent on forcing the ball to Toomer). Punt again.

Fifth drive. The best play of the game for Collins. Despite outside pressure coming from both ends, Collins steps up into the pocket and fires a perfect pass on a corner-post route to Hilliard for a touchdown on 3rd-and-18. Too bad there wasn’t more of this on Sunday.

Sixth drive after another turnover. The Giants could have put the game away here. Dayne aborts this drive with a dumb personal foul penalty. On 3rd-and-16, Lomas Brown can’t handle Grant Wistrom and the ball falls incomplete. Punt.

Rams score to take lead after the Giants’ offense continually wasted opportunity after opportunity in the second half to put the game away. Things are real serious now and the offense must respond. Lomas Brown jumps. Collins scrambles for some yardage. On 3rd-and-6, Collins badly overthrows Ike Hilliard. The Giants punt and the Rams get the ball back with 2:33 left. Way to go guys!!!

Unbelievably, the defense holds and the offense gets the ball back with 2:00 left. After two nice throws to Hilliard and the Giants entering game-winning field goal range, Collins hits Jurevicius on a slant, but he is rocked and the ball is turned over. Game over. Pathetic.

This offense is supposed to win a championship?

Wide Receivers: After lighting it up on opening night against Denver, Amani Toomer (3 catches for 61 yards) hasn’t stepped it up. I thought he would become one of the better wide receivers in the NFC this year. Instead, he is same old inconsistent self. He, like the other Giants’ receivers, rarely make game-breaking plays that make you sit up and get excited. Amani just plods along and occasionally he’ll have a big game. When he does get separation deep, it’s usually because he pushed off (like he did against the Rams on his deep reception). Most of the time, it’s just the slant or out pattern to Toomer. The good news is that he is forcing more double-teams. Bad news on Sunday – he ran a poor route on 3rd-and-4 which led to an important incompletion.

Joe Jurevicius (6 catches for 101 yards) is getting better, but he doesn’t scare anyone. He’s a nice possession receiver who occasionally lulls somebody to sleep deep. The good news is that Collins and him have developed a nice rapport and Jurevicius has done a good job of keeping drives alive. The bad news on Sunday is that he had a couple of costly drops, including one on 3rd-and-7. It’s tough to fault Jurevicius too harshly on the last play where he took a big shot from the safety, but Head Coach Jim Fassel said he could have avoided the violence of that collision by running a proper route. Yet another minor mistake that had big ramifications.

Ike Hilliard (3 catches for 49 yards and a touchdown) were all big. He first was the TD on 3rd-and-18 (he made a real nice cut on a corner-post route). The second and third came on the final drive and one was a good reception of a very low throw.

Ron Dixon is a colossal disappointment and I fear the Giants have drafted yet another brain-dead, uninspired receiver in the mold of Thomas Lewis and Brian Alford. If this guy was performing in practice, he would be playing. He’s the only speed receiver on the roster and Dixon is really letting his teammates down.

Tight Ends: No tight end to threaten the middle of the field. Unlike most, I don’t think Payton has any problem throwing to the tight end. I think Pete Mitchell last year was on the decline (and missed a lot of time with various injuries). Howard Cross and Dan Campbell are mainly blocking types. There is a big need here for a receiving type to go along with these two. No catches on Sunday and mostly positive blocking.

Running Backs: Ron Dayne (20 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown, 1 reception for 9 yards) performed well when given good blocking and ran well on some occasions when he was not afforded that blocking. He’s getting better. I really liked some of his inside runs this week. For example, on the first carry of the game, he was supposed to run more to the left, saw things were clogged up and cut it back outside for eight yards. At the start of the fourth drive, Dayne picked up 11 yards by exploding behind the right side of the line. On the final drive of the second half, he did a good job of keeping his feet moving despite contact and bullying his way for six yards. Dayne did the same coming off of the one-yard line in the third quarter. Later, he exploded up the middle for 17 behind some very strong interior run-blocking.

Dayne also did a good job on the left-side sweep that went for a touchdown, following his blocks patiently.

The good day turned bad however, when Dayne pushed the ball into the face of Ram after two solid back-to-back runs had given the Giants a 3rd-and-1. Leading 14-9 and just about in Morten Andersen’s automatic-range, the personal foul that resulted cost the Giants the game. Now you can argue whether or not the act was deserving of the penalty or not, but the fact is that if Dayne doesn’t lose his cool, there is an excellent chance that New York wins the game.

Damon Washington cost the Giants big-time by dropping the 3rd-and-9 pass right before halftime. This would have not only given Morten Andersen a better shot (with or without any potential holding call on Dan Campbell on the field goal attempt), but it would have run more time off the clock and prevented the Rams from mounting their own field goal drive.

Greg Comella was a tad inconsistent in his run blocking this week. There were plays where he quite effectively took his man out of the play, but I also spotted two plays where he missed or could not sustain his block and this led to the play being disrupted.

Offensive Line: I’m not going to be as positive as Chris Jacobs is below (I’m not in a pleasant mood). The line played well at times, but cracked at others. Too inconsistent. The Giants’ line should have been able to push around the Rams’ defense on running plays more than it did. Too many right-side runs were stuffed in the second half. LG Glenn Parker’s play disappointed me as did Luke Petitgout’s.

Some specifics: Ron Dayne’s TD run came behind fine blocking from Lomas Brown on a pull (for once) and a seal block by Howard Cross and a lead from Greg Comella. Zeigler got beat for a sack on the second drive and the left side of the offensive line couldn’t pick up a stunt effectively on the very next play – forcing Collins to unload the ball short. On the third drive, Parker and Comella missed blocks on a Damon Washington run that went nowhere. Parker was flagged with a false start on 3rd-and-7 (I didn’t see him move) and on the very next play both Petitgout and Brown got beat outside and Collins was sacked. Dayne’s 11-yard run on the fourth drive came behind strong blocking from Cross, Comella, Stone, and Petitgout. But on the next play, Zeigler gave up a quick pressure, forcing an incompletion.

Second half. Dayne has nowhere to run as Cross and Petigout can’t sustain their blocks. Glenn Parker gives up a pressure and Collins throws the ball away on 3rd-and-11. Dayne can’t find any room running to his right. Parker doesn’t get out quickly enough on pull and trips Dayne. Interior of the line blasts open huge hole on 17-yard carry by Dayne. Dayne goes nowhere when Comella misses a block and Petigout can’t sustain. Petitgout then gives up a sack. Brown has problems handling Wistrom on 3rd-and-16, ball incomplete. Brown flagged with false start.

Defensive Line: What can you say about Mike Strahan (6 tackles, four sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 batted ball)? This was LT-like a game as you will ever see. Yes, his opponent, RT Ryan Tucker, was hurting, but Strahan still made the plays that had to be made and was even a factor late in the game against Tucker’s replacement (despite what that putz head coach of the Rams says). Plus, Strahan’s first sack came against a pulling guard in an attempt to trap him. It just wasn’t the sacks that were inspiring, but the repeated hit after hit after hit on Kurt Warner even when there was no resulting sack. It seemed like at least two-thirds of the time that Warner went back to pass, Strahan was in his face. Some of these did come against double-teams too such as on the play where Garnes picked off Warner (he also beat a double-team on the last drive on the play where Garnes knocked the sideline pass down). On the same drive, Michael expertly tackled the receiver on a shovel pass for a short gain.

DE Kenny Holmes (2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery) was more active than I thought he would be against a top flight opponent in LT Orlando Pace. His sack resulted from pressure from Strahan on 3rd-and-8, but Holmes clobbered Warner a few times in his own right. Kenny drew a holding call that brought back a big gain on a screen pass in the first half.

The pressure from the inside duo of Cornelius Griffin (6 tackles, 1 sack) and Keith Hamilton (no tackles) was not as much as I had hoped. But the Rams’ double-team often occurred there and Hamilton was forced to leave the game early with a shoulder injury. In his place, Lance Legree didn’t look bad at all. I liked the one play where he stood his ground inside and ripped the halfback to the ground in a very forceful manner. Griffin was credited with a sack on a play where he and Strahan clobbered Warner.

Linebackers: You know what play I’m pissed at that wasn’t called (though it rarely is)? On the 4th-and-4 pass to Trung Canidate on the Rams’ touchdown drive to take the lead, Armstead was the one responsible for him in man-to-man coverage. When Trung went in motion, Armstead followed, but was prevent from covering him once the play started due to an illegal pick by the slot receiver. Clever game design, but it’s an illegal play and the officials who shortly called a somewhat ticky-tack pass interference penalty on Garnes didn’t call this (and it was pretty obvious).

One didn’t see the linebackers much this week as they were mostly called upon to cover short underneath. Unfortunately, Mike Barrow (2 tackles) was hampered with a hip injury and wasn’t himself. I saw one play where he even had to pull up when he couldn’t chase a receiver. Barrow didn’t realize it at the time, but by running into Jason Sehorn on the Rams’ first drive, he cost a sure interception on a drive that resulted in three points. On that drive, however, Barrow had good coverage in the flat against Marshall Faulk on 2nd-and-7. However, on the next drive, Michael missed a tackle on Faulk and turned a short gain into a big one. Barrow held Faulk low in the third quarter and Shaun Williams clobbered him on the play where Faulk fumbled a second time and was forced to leave the game.

Jessie Armstead (9 tackles) had a few good plays. In the third quarter, he did a good job of disrupting a sweep to the left. Two plays later he forced Faulk to fumble and Mike Barrow recovered. Two drives later, Armstead clobbered Warner on a delayed dog up the middle. The one thing I didn’t like that John Fox’s defense did is it often called upon Armstead to cover wide receivers all by himself over the middle of the field and Rams exploited this a couple of times for good yardage. It’s not Jessie’s fault – how is he supposed to stay with a wide receiver?

Defensive Backs: Probably as good as you could expect at this time given the inexperience of the rookies. The safeties played real well, but blew a couple of opportunities as well. The one area where the Rams kept hurting the Giants was the intermediate area of the field when they were in zone coverage. At times, it looked like there was no defender within 10-15 yards of the receiver such as the 3rd-and-11 play to Ricky Proehl on the first Rams’ drive – a play that picked up 37 yards. The best aspect of the game for the secondary was the tackling – everyone tackled exceptionally well.

Probably the guy who played the best game was Jason Sehorn because after the Rams tested him early, they never went his way again. Thus, he must have been doing a number on his man. Sehorn got beat early on the first defensive play of the game, but quickly recovered and almost intercepted an underthrown pass by Warner. He then batted down another pass tossed in his direction. The Rams didn’t throw his way again other than on one occasion when Sehorn was flagged with a short pass interference penalty.

Will Allen gave up some completions underneath, some that kept drives alive. But he was not intimidated by the scary Rams’ attack and did not give up any big plays, despite playing on a bum ankle. On the first drive, Isaac Bruce picked up a first down against him on 3rd-and-15. Torry Holt then picked up another first down against Allen. On the third drive, Will did a good job of defending a long pass attempt. He also tackled well.

I was impressed with Will Peterson too even though there were some passes completed in front of him too. I thought Peterson did a good job of aggressively playing the slant when he was flagged with pass interference late in the first half. What Peterson did for the most part was keep things in front of him and then make very strong tackles (a not so easy task against these Ram receivers). On the third series of the second half, Will got beat over the middle by Holt. Peterson was a bit lucky on the deep pass late to Holt. Holt beat him at the line, but Peterson showed great catch-up speed to force an incompletion. Still, he came darn close to interfering on the play because he didn’t turn his head around.

Emmanuel McDaniel played quite a bit and did alright. He made an excellent play in the first half when he knocked down a 3rd-and-5 pass intended for Bruce over the middle. But he later fell down trying to cover Az-Zahir Hakim on a completion.

Dave Thomas got beat by Bruce on the go-ahead drive for the Rams on 3rd-and-7.

Sam Garnes (5 tackles, 1 interception) played his best game of the year – but had a couple of costly mistakes. Garnes set the tone for the day with his crushing hit on Faulk on an inside carry inside the redzone. Faulk didn’t look right after that. But on 3rd-and-7, Garnes had a pass go right through his hands in the endzone. The Rams kicked a field goal on the very next play. It was Garnes who was flagged with the non-existent “Grabbing of the Helmet” penalty on the next field goal drive (not his fault that the officials don’t know their job). Garnes finished up the first half with a big hit on Ricky Proehl. In the second half, Garnes started things off with a sideline interception on 3rd-and-5. Garnes did a great job a few times in this game of getting over quicky to the deep sidelines to help the corner – something that has been a bit of a weakness of his in the past. The holding penalty on Garnes that set up the Rams’ touchdown was a bit petty, but he did grab the receiver’s jersey.

Shaun Williams (6 tackles) tackled and hit very well – as usual. No Rams’ receiver or back faked him out. But Williams also dropped a sure interception on the Rams third drive of the second half – a pick that would have given the Giants great field position again. But it was Williams who forced Faulk’s second fumble.

Special Teams: I wasn’t as disappointed with Owen Pochman’s kick-offs as most. He didn’t nail them into the endzone, but they did go inside the ten. This guy isn’t simply a “kick-off man” – he’s being groomed to replace Andersen.

Blocking for kick-offs was terrible as both Ron Dixon and Omar Stoutmire had no place to run. They often did not make it back to the 20 yard line. The blocking for punt returns was better – especially on the last return – but Amani Toomer did such a poor job of returning punts (too much dancing again). He might have had a big return on the last chance if he had just followed his blocks. Returning a ball where he signaled for a fair catch was simply a bone-headed play. Toomer is not taking his responsibility on specials seriously and hurt his team on Sunday with his play.

What also hurt was the two back-to-back penalties on Rodney Williams punt that moved the ball from the eight yard line to the 35-yard line. One was on Jack Golden; the other was a hands-to-the-face penalty on Jason Whittle that I didn’t see. Williams shanked two punts and hit another into the endzone – he didn’t have a good day. Rodney did do a good job of acting on his running-into-the kicker penalty (it didn’t work, but I thought it was roughing until I saw the replay).

According to Jim Fassel, the holding call on Dan Campbell should not have been called. This took three points off the board on a successful field goal attempt.

Coverage on punts and kick-offs wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. Clayton White, Emmanuel McDaniel, and Thabiti Davis made some plays.

Offensive Line Review

by Chris Jacobs

This is your Football team, this is your football team with 12 penalties. Any questions?

Let me start by saying it’s nice to be back in NY. I would like to say that the worst part about spending a month in Baltimore was the constant ribbing I received from the bandwagon Raven fans who didn’t even know what a football was 2 years ago. But being away from my family was the hardest part. When your 4 year old is on the phone asking where you are and when you’re coming home it tears your heart out. I feel that part of the emotional healing process should involve going back to doing things that you enjoy, like breaking down the Giants game film….

It’s obvious that this loss was a heartbreaker for all of us. My first reaction was to blame the refs, yeah some of those calls were borderline, and I never saw Campbell’s. But the truth is the Garnes interference and the Dayne unsportsman like could have gone either way. In Giants Stadium those flags are probably not thrown. Bottom line is they have to play smarter, that’s all there is too it. It’s a shame that such a tremendous effort was wasted, and when I say tremendous effort I’m not just talking about the defense. Everyone on that team played at 110% for 60 minutes. The offense moved the ball well all day. There is no reason that when they play like they did Sunday that they shouldn’t put up at least 24 points, which would give them a win most of the time with that stingy defense.

Before I continue with the O-Line evaluations I have to point out something that puzzled me the entire game. I noticed the receivers weren’t blocking on some of the running plays, it was driving me nuts. Why would they just take the play off like that? It was bothering me because it wasn’t just one player, they were all doing it occasionally. Well, I finally figured out that they were making a quick turn towards the QB at the snap to try and draw the CB up to the line thinking it was going to be a quick throw. I haven’t seen too much of that, perhaps the Ram CB’s are aggressive and the Giants were trying to take them out of the running plays. I’ll look for it in the future. Anyway, on to player performances.

Lomas Brown: A-

He really had a great game. Grant Winstrom is a solid DE and Lomas pretty much kept him quiet the whole game. They really didn’t run many twist stunts, they did do a lot of slanting up front to try and disrupt the Giants run blocking schemes but it ended up hurting them a few times leaving huge holes for Dayne to run through. There was only one play that Winstrom put pressure on Collins resulting in and incompletion. Also he did have one false start on the first play following the Ram TD. Besides that solid all day.

Glenn Parker: B-

Did a good job in pass protection. As far as run blocking goes he did a good job driving his man off the ball and did a good job sustaining blocks. Here are some of the negatives. Twice he attempted cutting the tackle at the snap on toss sweep away. Both times he missed the block and his man made the tackle. One pass play he was beat inside and Collins was chased out of the pocket and threw it away. Some may disagree with me on this next one, the play that Parker pulled to kick out and Dayne tripped over him. In my opinion I think the safety came upfield enough to take himself out of the play and Parker could have turned it up. One last note, he was called for a false start but it was actually Kerry Collins jitter stepping in the shotgun before the snap.

Dusty Zeigler: B

Again, great game. Collins was sacked three times all day. The first sack could be blamed on Zeigler, it was a play action pass where the D-line slanted right. I thought Dayne should have picked it up instead he sidestepped the DT leading to the sack. I don’t know whose responsibility it was. There were one or two other occasions that he was beat on a good swim move by the tackle, one time it lead to pressure that forced Collins into a bad throw, and the other Stoney was there to help out. Once he couldn’t sustain his block on a run and the tackle scraped down the line and made the tackle. Besides that he was out on the linebackers all day, most of Dayne’s big runs came right up the middle. The Giants line, especially Zeigler, usually plays better vs. smaller quicker defenses.

Ron Stone: A

He was called for a holding penalty that St. Louis declined because it put them in a fourth down situation. Now you guys want to complain about the bad calls. It was very, very questionable. If that play had gone for a first down and they accepted the penalty, that one would have been grouped in with the Dayne, Garnes, Campbell, and “tackling by way of helmet” call. Anyway the only reason I’m mentioning it is because I only saw him miss one block all day. As I have mentioned before I don’t know the Giants playbook so I wouldn’t recognize a blown assignment. The one play that stopped him from getting an A+ was a running play where he missed the backer and it went for no gain.

Luke Petitgout: C+

This is where it’s tough for me being a Giant fan and doing this. He played so hard, and he really did just a spectacular job run blocking. But, he gave up two sacks, both times his pad level was too high and he was off balance giving the DE an opportunity to put and inside move on him and get to the QB. Actually there was a third occasion early in the game where he was too high and was bull rushed into Collins.

Defensive Player of the Week: I was reading a lot about Lance Legree in The Corner Forum, so I thought I’d really focus on him and report on his performance. He played 28 plays, he was double-teamed about half the time, 13 if you want to get technical. In those 28 plays he had 3 tackles, 3 QB pressures and 1 fumble recovery. He gets my game ball this week. Who is this Strahan guy everyone keeps making a fuss over?

Mr. President, Mr. Tagliabue, Mr. Strahan

by David Oliver

You have all been in my thoughts constantly since game time yesterday. Mr. President, I salute you for courage in the face of fire. I, for one, am an American who is sick and tired of wondering “Why they hate us?” I frankly don’t give a damn and I believe they should be worrying about why we despise them. Your stance in defending America and Americans is refreshing – don’t ever back down and finish the job this time.

Mr. Tagliabue, your officials are ruining the game of football. This applies not only to the Giants. I have watched a lot of football this year, as in years past. We have endured commercials, we put up with the debasement of the sport on Monday nights, we have accepted the mediocrity of parity. But now, with the yellow rag flying all over the field in game after game, you are asking too much. Yesterday’s game and the Giants-Saints game are just two of the more egregious examples of officials who think they are above the game. The game is tough – it is a man’s game. Flagrant violations must be penalized. But a flag on every other play, and often interfering in the flow of the game, is resulting in choppy play and bad viewing. There are certain crews which are far worse than others, AND IF YOUR REVIEWS DON’T MAKE IT OBVIOUS TO YOU, ASK ANY LINE CREW, IN ANY STADIUM, and they will tell you which crews are consistent, and which, well, flat out suck. When certain officials throw the flag time after time, it reminds me of some of the enforcement people I had to review – if they went to training, and an instructor thought and taught that a certain violation was egregious, they would return to duty and we would process 500 of that violation for the next month or two, until we sat down with these people and asked them what the hell they were doing. Well, YOUR League looks the same way. The Officials want more money, you lock them out, then you compromise and they return, and return to show us that they are the most professional officials, look, we can control a game, look we can throw the flag, look, we can really screw it up for the viewing audience. Okay, my rant is done- nothing more. But clean it up or you will kill the goose brother, because frankly, it is more fun watching the bombing raids on CNN than it is to see your guys break up the continuity of a game.

Mr. Strahan, yours was a wonderful performance. Throughout Giants history, the oldest among us remember Sam Huff, the middle generation LT – and there was never a player like LT; if you continue to play as you did yesterday, the young pups will be talking about MS. You have now established a level of excellence and it is incumbent upon you to stay at that level. As good as the rest of the D played, your effort was noteworthy as categorically game controlling. Your reward should have been victory.

So why wasn’t it a victory? In a nutshell, it was the continuation of sloppy play by the Giants as a team. Mistakes have been aplenty since the beginning of the season. There are excuses and explanations – injuries have hurt the continuity or rhythm of the various units; there are new players in the mix; there are some mental lapses evident. Yes, all are legitimate. But Coach Fassel, and other Coaches always say, if the mental lapses and errors continue, the Coach isn’t reaching the players. Coach, it is on your shoulders. As Secretary of Transportation Mineta has said, once is an event, twice is a pattern, three times is a certifiable program. The Giants are now in the program range for mistakes and mental lapses.

Special Teams – off to a good start, now, not so special again. Rodney Williams is a potential Pro Bowl player. He can kick the hide off the ball. Why is it that JF and Dan Reeves insist on taking a boomer and try to make him kick to the sidelines? One out of every 3 of those kicks is going to be sliced or shanked – I guess you have never played golf? The question is rhetorical. I know the answer – because it will negate the return ability of some very good returners. Well, here is the simplistic answer – kick the hell out of the ball, but go out and find someone who can run down the field and tackle the ball carrier. Poor MacDuff was run out of town because he couldn’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. So now Baron von Appen is about to suffer the same fate, for lack of one legitimate gunner. It was painfully obvious yesterday when RW kicked a ball that rolled about 10 yards into the end zone, and there wasn’t a Giant within 10 yards of the play. Speed, by your own mantra, wins games. So where is it on Specials? Of particular note, both good and bad, in addition to the above play – after the Rams 1st FG, on the kickoff, Dixon was tripped up on the 15 – Jack Golden did a very poor job on blocking the gunner; on Anderson’s FG attempt, Campbell called for a hold – maybe bogus, but keep your arms down in a block, especially when you know the umpire is flag happy; first punt, how many penalties until a guy shanks one?; Toomer, illegal fair catch signal on a punt (damn flies in that Arena, they get you every time); GOOD PLAY – EMAC gets downfield and actually makes a tackle on a punt returner; then 2 bad plays by the Rams, illegal hands on Rams which nullified a big return for them and a typical Giants Special Teams effort with missed tackles everywhere, but again the Rams were caught holding. Finally, one more questionable play where Amani, standing on about the 10, signaled fair catch and the ball was downed on the 1. This was marginal as he was just about the 10 and it might have looked to him as if the ball would carry into the end zone. All in all, not a good day for the Specials unit.

The Offense – Stop already with this the Rams are a good defense. The Rams defense this year is better than it was last year, but it is nowhere near where it was in the Super Bowl year. Mental errors and spotty play calling were as responsible for the lack of production, as were the absence of Tiki Barber and the presence of the Rams defense. Kerry had another so-so game. He did many things well, he didn’t do many things he could have. Note – how about the beating Warner took and never ran? Kerry did actually utilize the pocket once yesterday – very nicely. Oh, so there was a pocket? Yes, on one play, there was no pressure up the middle and KC stepped up into a nice little groove and fired downfield. I can’t tell what the offense is that the Giants run. I’d like to believe that it’s a modified West Coast, but at times it looks so far WCO that it’s somewhere in China. The good backs in this League don’t make stats on 10 touches. And teams don’t win unless they run the ball. So, if the main back gets only 10-12 touches, who is running the ball? Without Tiki, the only outlet threat is Comella – but he is not the same threat as Tiki. There were some interesting calls yesterday. RD had two beautiful runs to the left, one to the right. Yet even with an overload to the right side, the play calling kept sending Dayne to the right, where any significant yardage appeared nullified when the game was on the line. What is the strategy with Dayne? He is a better running back than Shaun Alexander, yet Alexander is now running wild in Seattle.

Let’s take a look. The Giants had 13 possessions. The first was a thing of beauty. A completed long pass to Toomer down the sideline. Then Dayne powered the ball in on a couple of nice carries. On the second possession, there was good protection early, then Dayne went through a big hole on the left, where Parker pushed up the line and Ziegler got out. Comella delivered a nice lead block Then a nice toss to JJ, followed by a sack on which Ziegler made an absolutely horrible block. Dayne again left, with Stone pulling, something I don’t notice a lot. Golden and Whittle both flagged on successive kicks, then RW shanked one OOB. Next possession, KC, under serious right side pressure, hooked up with JJ (25 yards). Then the line got into trouble as the Rams started to blitz. Penalty on Parker, sack, as Luke’s man came free, then RW had another shank, looking to angle kick. This was the last of the angle kicks for the day. Next possession, Dayne with power running off the right side, pushed up field. Then a 4-wide receivers set and a blitz – KC moved but threw incomplete. RW punted into the end zone. A big possession next. Dayne caught one over the middle, then carried off right tackle for a 1st. A quick slant to Toomer for another 1st. An inc to JJ, a bad screen to Damon W, Dayne pounds off the right side, then was checked. A blitz and KC and Toomer (hot read) hooked up for a 1st. Another blitz, KC ran OOB. Damon W for nothing. A good pass which Damon W missed – about this time I noticed that Lomas Brown was doing a hell of a job with the pressure, hand fighting and clawing his man. Morten Andersen kicks the game winner. Oh, wait a minute, penalty. 10 yards farther and pulled right. The mantra for the offense in the first half – mistakes, mistakes, mistakes.

The O came out flat in the second half and the best play of the first possession was EMAC going down and making the tackle on the punt. The second possession was the KC softball interception, where Toomer made a double move, but KC simply misjudged and under threw him – no wind this time, just not a good pass. Then another three-and-out. On the punt, I counted four very makeable missed tackles. Then a five play possession with a long pass OOB. Finally pay dirt. Dayne up the middle with Ziegler and Comella leading the way. Dayne right for nothing, KC, coverage sack, KC showed no mobility, no quickness. Then the good blocking, a pocket, KC steps up and hits IKE with a bullet for the score. Then, just when it looks as if the Great Dayne might take over – up the middle, up the middle, he loses his cool in the pile and flips the ball into a defender’s face. Guess what – unsportsmanlike. Ron Dayne is a pretty mild guy. For him to flick the ball like that, the defender had to have spit on him, cursed his mommy, punched his balls or challenged his manhood. At any rate, it really hurt, as there was a another flag for holding and the Giants were out of FG position. The next to last possession was four-and-out. Then KC-to-Ike, KC-to-Ike and finally, KC throws a bullet to a slanting JJ, who makes a very nice grab of a tough pass – reaching out and grabbing the ball by the rear tip. As JJ goes to pull it in, Archuleta pops the ball, it flies into the air and Grant Wistrom who is running past to make a tackle is the lucky recipient of the flying ball. A freak play, and the Giants are done.

The bottom line is that mistakes and inconsistent play calling stalled too many drives. It should be obvious that as well as JJ has filled in, Ike is still the missing component. He goes over the middle and frees up the entire passing game. I also maintain that a Santana Moss or similar receiver would be the locomotive for this passing game. The Giants need just a little more speed at the wideout position. Damon Washington could have been a hero – he did nothing. Dayne – well, Dayne left, Dayne right, Dayne pass over the middle. I don’t know. Whatever it is, it isn’t working. Right now, I wouldn’t worry about Payton leaving the Giants next year.

Which brings us to the man who will be leaving – as a head coach somewhere else – John Fox and his bunch of brigands. There were only two questionable plays on defense that I saw and they were both mismatches with Trung Canidate. And both were huge plays. On one, Canidate coming out of the backfield was covered by Jessie, and Jessie was quite a distance away so I presume that this was not Jessie’s man. And the interference play where Garnes was isolated on Canidate. C’mon, the Rams are good, damn good, the best offense I have seen in my lifetime. But how do you let Jessie and Garnes get alone with the fastest man on the field? Which leads to the inexperience of the corner on that side, who I think was Will Peterson. Incidentally, Peterson played an otherwise strong game, once again looking better than Will Allen as he made up ground and broke up plays and came up and tackled people well. So that’s not bad, when the Rams only out-coached the Giants on two plays. Let’s take a look.

Sehorn started strong. Then Will Allen gave way too much ground on successive passes. Barrow made a big hit, then went to the bench for the first time. Strahan had his first SACK, as he beat a pulling guard. Ricky Proehl got loose for a big catch and run. The middle of the Giants line was getting no pressure. Then Strahan got a big rush, Barrow right behind him and Marshall Faulk dropped a pass. Then on a play with good secondary coverage, Strahan broke free for pressure, Garnes missed an INT. FG. On the next possession, the strangest call I have witnessed in a while, illegal grabbing of the helmet – the HELMET- not the balls, or the face mask, the helmet. Bah. A little of this, a little of that, FG. Next possession, big rush, takedown. Holmes was a step late, blitz just ran past Warner. Holmes noticed a couple of false starts which helped. Strahan muscled his way in and grabbed Warner with one arm, Holmes finished it off. Then three-and-out for the Rams with EMac making a nice pass defense. Then a weird possession with the Rams stepping it up – shovel pass to Hakim, pass interference on Peterson, pass to Faulk, pass to Hakim, Faulk drops a sure TD pass, pass to Proehl, Garnes tackle, pressure, coverage, scramble. Finally FG. Somehow, even though the Giants D was totally dominant, the Rams go in with a 9-7 lead.

Second half, Warner gets time, Holt drops a pass, then a blitz, pass to Holt, Peterson tackle, then a long pass, Garnes INT. Next possession, Faulk run, Sehorn tackle. Giants made an unusual shift to their left, Rams ran right, Jessie had to chase down Faulk. Two plays later Faulk hit a ton, fumbles, Barrow recovers. I notice that Will Allen is on the right side and gets totally destroyed by a block. Then a pass under severe Strahan pressure, good protection and Holt wide open over middle as he beat Peterson. Strahan – pure power SACK. Quick pass to Hakim, stopped short. Now a three-man rush, a scramble, an illegal man downfield and Shaun Williams drops an INT. Next possession, Holt beats Allen but quickly tackled. A quick out to Faulk but Shaun Williams is right there, the lot’s of time, but a late rush by Jessie and a SACK And a screen to Faulk stopped. The next possession was eventful as Faulk takes a pitch out and gets clobbered by Barrow low and Williams high – another fumble and Faulk and Barrow both go off. Now Holmes is picking it up and the pressure keeps building. Hamilton is hurt so Lance Legree is in the game and makes a nice tackle on a run up the middle. Proehl catches another, the Garnes knocks one down. Finally, Strahan again uses brute force and, although being held, knocks Warner down causing another FUMBLE. JF is seen walking down the bench talking to his defense individually. They are tired, he is gentling them, calling on their reserves. THIS IS FOOTBALL. The Rams are throwing everything. Williams plunks a receiver, a corner blitz but a complete pass to Bruce, Strahan KNOCKS a ball down, Hakim catches one over the middle and slides before Thomas can crank him. Then a deep pass, Peterson is beaten but catches up and gets his hand in for a break up. Peterson makes a tackle as EMac misses, Warner rolls right, Garnes knocks down another pass. Warner to Canidate, Jessie covering, camera men knocked all over the place. Shovel pass stopped. Pass to end zone, inc. Another incomplete with heavy pressure but another controversial flag – Garnes grabbing Canidate’s jersey. Ball on the 1, then TD. Going for 2, Warner throws a flutterball – would have been funny in any other game. On the last possession, three-and-out.

Strahan played a dominating game. Kenny Holmes, even with Orlando Pace blocking, exerted a lot of pressure. The middle of the line was disappointing, but the Rams do have a VERY GOOD offensive line. Barrow had another strong game; when he went down, Jessie took over. Short was very quiet – played mostly a support role. When Allen and Barrow both went out, the defense changed and the result was Garnes covering Canidate on that one pass – game time. Other than that Garnes played a strong game, defensing passes and tackling. Shaun Williams layed a few good whacks and defensed well but should have had the INT. Sehorn was strong early, but went kind of quiet in slot coverage. EMac did his job as did Dave Thomas when called upon. The Giants used a lot of D-Backs and clogged the middle which confused the Rams. Many of Warner’s passes are less than 20 yards with good YAC (yards-after-the-catch) after. The Giants either forced altered routes or made quick tackles

This game could have been won; this game should have been won. Forget about this game. The Eagles are going to be just as tough. This week, JF MUST get to his Special Teams – all phases – ultimately the Giants did not win this game because of Special Teams break downs – penalties on the punting and FG units, bad tackling, poor blocking. And Sean Payton must figure out how to use his players to get a consistent offense. His mentor Gruden showed him the way last night with an excruciating, short pass, run ball control drive at the end of the game.

Finally, once again, Michael Strahan played that game we have all been awaiting. Can he keep it up?

(Box Score – New York Giants at St. Louis Rams, October 14, 2001)
Oct 122001

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at St. Louis Rams, October 14, 2001: It looks like HB Tiki Barber (hamstring) won’t play on Sunday against the explosive Rams and HB Ron Dayne (neck) will be playing hurt. That’s like fighting a heavy weight champ with one of your fingers broken. The experts gave the Giants little chance to upset the Rams before knowing Barber, the Giants most explosive offensive player, was out. They give them no chance now.

The Rams always make a big deal out of playing the Giants. For some reason, these whiney bitches love to harp on comments made by the Giants years ago about the Rams being a finesse team. Whatever – get over it. They also will undoubtably play up the “We should have been the NFC Champs”-angle to motivate themselves.

Giants on Offense: The Rams have completely revamped their defense with eight new starters and are coming off their first shut out in years. The new emphasis on their defense is to not take many chances in the secondary by playing primarily zone coverage and keeping everything in front of the defensive backs. St. Louis wants to force opposing offenses to attempt to march patiently down the field. They feel – with reasonable justification – that most teams won’t be able to do that as they will make mistakes (penalties or turnovers) that will stall the drive before that happens. The Rams also believe that opposing teams will get impatient and try to force things.

This new defensive scheme is also helped by the addition of faster players on defense who can run and chase. Force the opponent to move in small chunks and put a lot of hats on him.

The Giants have some advantages and disadvantages in facing this type of defense. If Ron Dayne is relatively healthy, the Giants should be able to grind the ball at the smaller front seven of the Rams. But the Rams will also expect this so expect some run blitzing. Also, when it comes time to pass, Amani Toomer, Joe Jurevicius, and Ike Hilliard are more intermediate threats than deep ones, so this plays more into their game. The bad news? Without Tiki Barber, the Giants are missing their most explosive underneath passing threat. Moreover, the Giants don’t have any credible threat at tight end. There will be a lot of pressure on Damon Washington and Dan Campbell to perform as receivers in this game and these two do not have a proven track record in that department. Also, Kerry Collins has not demonstrated much patience this year; if he doesn’t in this game, the Giants won’t win.

To me, Kerry Collins is the key to this game for the Giants. It’s time for him to stop being an average quarterback, take the bull by the horns, and be an impact player in a ball game (like he was against the Vikings in the 2000 playoffs). No excuses. The offensive line provides him with decent pass protection, he has good wide receivers, and a credible threat at halfback. Make plays, not turnovers, and put four or more touchdowns up on the board. The Rams have some good young talent on defense, but this is no unit to be feared.

The receivers also must show up this week – ALL of them. If the Giants are going to be forced to march down the field, the team can ill-afford dropped passes or poor route-running. But more than that, do something spectacular! Toomer wants to you believe he is one of the best receivers in the game. Prove it Amani! Joe Jurevicius, you have a contract coming up. Ike, you want a new contract. Make plays that win games and the rewards will follow. The Giants will see an old foe, CB Aeneas Williams, who was traded to the Cardinals in the offseason. He’s a terrific player and will usually be matched-up on Jurevicius unless the Rams decide to move him to the opposite side to cover Toomer. In nickel coverage, just like Jason Sehorn, Williams moves to the slot – so Ike Hilliard will see a lot of him too. The other corner, Dexter McCleon, is only so-so. The nickel back is Dre’ Bly, who has a nose for the football but who lacks great speed.

Also key will be the underneath receivers who must play their best football since the Rams’ schemes should present opportunities underneath. This means FB Greg Comella, HB Damon Washington, TE Dan Campbell, HB Ron Dayne, and TE Howard Cross must make a play or two in the passing game (yes, I did say Howard Cross).

The front seven on defense is quick, but on the smaller side. If Dayne gets effective blocking up front, he should be able to do some damage. All three linebackers play more of a speed game than a power game. However, they can shoot gaps and disrupt plays. If I’m Sean Payton, I don’t get too cute with the running plays and run right at these guys. I wouldn’t do a lot of running parallel to the line of scrimmage in other words.

Of course, all of this depends on the Giants winning the battles up front. The Giants offensive line MUST out-play the Rams’ defensive line or the Giants have absolutely no chance to win this game. LT Lomas Brown draws the toughest assignment in DE Grant Wistrom – a two-way defensive end who can be very disruptive and who has given the Giants problems in the past. The Rams use a platoon system on the left side. Chidi Ahanotu is the run defender and Leonard Little is the pass rusher. Little is built like a linebacker, but he has a quick first step. Luke Petitgout has to be careful not to be beat to the outside. Inside, the Giants should be able to get some movement on DT Jeff Zgonina, a journeyman, and DT Brian Young, a second-year player who is a bit undersized. Coming off the bench however is impressive rookie DT Damione Lewis. Much will depend on how healthy Ron Stone (shoulder) and Glenn Parker (concussion) are. Dusty Zeigler also needs to do a good job of getting out on the linebackers as do the tight ends and Greg Comella.

While the Rams do play it more conservatively in the secondary, they will blitz. Expect them to attempt to stifle Dayne early with some run blitzing. The Giants may be best advised to pass first to set up the run. On passing downs, the line, tight ends, and backs, must be alert to the blitzes. So do Kerry Collins and the receivers who may be able to take advantage of it.

To me, this game is on Kerry Collins’ shoulders. It’s time for him to step it up.

Giants on Defense: Boy I’d like to be able to play this game with an EXPERIENCED Will Allen and Will Peterson. As promising as these two look, they haven’t seen anything like the Rams’ system, quarterback, or receivers. The casual fans is tempted to say, blitz the heck out of the Rams – our corners can cover. Just keep in mind that the two Wills are very inexperienced still and to leave them all alone out on an island is risky, risky business. On the other hand, the Dolphins tried to rush the Rams with their front four and playing everyone else back and got killed. Pick your poison.

The Rams remind me a bit of a hybrid between the old run-and-shoot teams and the great San Francisco 49er teams of the 1980’s. Running is an afterthought; passing the ball is the primary function. And while the Rams do take their shots down the field, the emphasis is on the short passing offense and getting the ball into the hands of the receivers as they are moving forward. The Rams’ receivers and All-World Marshall Faulk are all great run-after-the-catch players. QB Kurt Warner accurately delivers passes on time to these guys and lets them do all the work. Getting pressure on Warner is tough because he gets rid of the ball so quickly (short passes only require 3- and 5-step drops).

The way Bill Parcells used to beat the old 49er teams was to get pressure on Joe Montana up the middle. Rushing from the outside took too long. By the time the blitz or the end got there, the ball was already gone. Warner is not a real mobile guy so the Giants don’t need to worry about containment as much as they normally do. I would send someone up the gut quite a bit – be it a safety or linebacker. Disrupt Warner’s rhythm and timing. The only way to do that is to get pressure on him immediately.

At the same time, I wouldn’t send the Giants’ best blitzer – Mike Barrow – too much. To me, the big advantage the Giants have over most defenses in defending the Rams is the presence of Mike Barrow. Barrow has the speed and quickness to be a factor in defending Faulk in pass coverage. And defending Faulk is the key to the entire game. I’m not saying that Mike can stay with Faulk all by himself the entire game, but he can make things interesting.

The other guy who needs to step up his game is Jessie Armstead. In previous years, Armstead would be the one to draw Faulk – and he may do so on Sunday a bit too. If Jessie has a monster game (and I’m not just talking about noticeable plays, but keeping a receiver quiet in pass coverage), then the Giants have a real shot to win this thing.

To be honest, I wouldn’t even get Brandon Short on the field. The minute he steps out there, the Rams will target him with their passing attack. Secondly, and maybe more important, Sam Garnes and Shaun Williams play like linebackers. Why not simply play in nickel coverage the entire game? This is another strength the Giants have that many teams don’t – two big, strong, aggressive safeties. Take advantage of it.

Besides Faulk, the Rams have three other explosive play-makers at wide receiver: Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, and Az-Zahir Hakim. And just when you got those guys covered, Ricky Proehl comes out of nowhere to bite you in the ass. It will be interesting to see how Defensive Coordinator John Fox plays this. If he keeps the Giants in the nickel (and I would), one would assume that he would leave CB Jason Sehorn in the slot. Do the Giants use Sehorn to cover Faulk then? Or will he spend most of his time on Hakim? The quick, little Hakim can present some problems with Sehorn who has a longer stride. The real potential nightmare is having the rookies cover Bruce and Holt. Allen will probably draw Bruce and Peterson most likely will see a lot of Holt. Are they ready? The smart money says no, but stranger things have happened. A huge MUST? Make sure tackles! If the Giants don’t, then it will be off to the races.

Of course the pass rush everything. If the Giants could get quick, immediate pressure with their front four, that would make things much easier. But that’s hard to do against a system that is designed to get rid of the ball quickly. DE Kenny Holmes can’t get a break. He faces yet another top quality opponent this week in LT Orlando Pace. The Giants need Michael Strahan to play a great game against an average player like he does when he plays against a well-regarded opponent (i.e., Jon Runyan, Korey Stringer, Kyle Turley). RT Ryan Tucker is a bit beat up and Strahan needs to perform at the top of his game. But to me, the real pressure will be on the defensive tackles since I believe the pressure has to come up the middle. DT Cornelius Griffin started coming out of his shell this past weekend, but faces the tough Adam Timmerman this week. DT Keith Hamilton must have a big game against LG Tom Nutten.

Special Teams: The Giants face a VERY dangerous punt returner in Az-Zahir Hakim. Rodney Williams must be careful not to out-punt his coverage. Covering kicks has been a problem for the Giants and it is not known whether Owen Pochman will be activated for this game on kick-offs. Is this the game where we see a fake punt from New York? The return game could really help New York this week if Amani Toomer and Ron Dixon get it together.

Oct 102001
New York Giants 23 – Washington Redskins 9

Game Overview: Give the Redskins’ defense credit. Led by DT Dan Wilkinson, DE Kenard Lang, LB LaVar Arrington, and MLB Kevin Mitchell, they came to play and caused all kinds of problems for the Giants’ running game – despite the 142 yards the Giants accrued on the ground. Their defense certainly didn’t play with this same type of fire against the Chargers, Packers, and Chiefs.

As for the Giants, the defense played extremely well – though it’s tough to tell if that is more of an indictment against the Skins’ offense than anything else. If it weren’t for the 52 yard pass that Will Allen gave up in the 4th quarter, Washington would have been limited to a measly 129 yards of offense all day. Offensively, the offensive line was up-and-down and QB Kerry Collins didn’t play very well yet again. Mistakes killed promising drives and kept this game close for three quarters. Head Coach Jim Fassel said it best on Monday:

Offensively we did some things that were good, but it was a good news/bad news thing. We had four drives of 10 plays or more and I am happy about that. Now the bad news of that is that two of those drives ended in turnovers and another one ended on downs when I went for it on fourth down, and we made a mental mistake on that. Otherwise, we would have had a pretty good chance of converting those. So we got 7 points on four drives of ten plays or more. It was good because it occupied the clock, and it changed field positions, but we have got to score points. You think ten play drives most of the time chances are you will get a touchdown or at least get a field goal. All we got was one touchdown…

On special teams, kick-off coverage remains a big problem.

The good news is that the Giants are 3-1 and relatively healthy with a quarter of the season completed. Plus, there is still room for vast improvement in all three areas of the team.

Quarterback: Kerry Collins (15-of-29 for 177 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions) did not play well for the second week in a row. Don’t get me wrong, even on his bad days he’s still a big improvement over Dave Brown, Danny Kanell, and Kent Graham, but I expect more from him. Once again, he seems to be forcing the ball rather than looking for the open man underneath. Though to be a bit fair, there were times when it appeared that no one was open (the Skins have very good cover corners). For example, on the Giants’ first drive, on 2nd-and-1, Collins stood there and stood there, yet no one broke open. Collins also wasn’t helped by some dropped passes. On the Giants’ third drive, the receivers couldn’t get open on first down. On 2nd-and-10, Amani Toomer dropped the football on a slant pass. On 3rd-and-10, Ike Hilliard dropped a pass that should have gone for a 20-yard completion.

On the second to last drive of the first half, Collins hit Toomer for 23 yards on a rollout and later hit Joe Jurevicius for a first down on 3rd-and-5 that seemed to really set the Giants up for a scoring opportunity, but a chop block on Ron Stone stalled the drive. On the last drive, Kerry got the Giants into field goal position by finding Toomer for 22 yards and Hilliard for 15 yards.

But Collins had an inauspicious start to the second half when he tried to force the ball to Dan Campbell on the sideline and the pass was picked off. Most disconcerting was that Joe Jurevicius was open over the middle on the play. The next drive was a good one, but it resulted in no points. Collins hit Toomer for a first down on 3rd-and-5 to start the drive, then found him again on a slant on 3rd-and-4. Kerry did a real good job of stepping up into the pocket and getting the ball to Damon Washington for 16 yards over the middle. Then came an out to Toomer for seven and a short pass to Greg Comella for another first down. But the drive stalled when Collins was sacked on 4th-and-5 (Fassel said a WR ran the wrong route on the play and I think it was Toomer who was supposed to run a slant).

Collins did a good job of patiently waiting for Dan Campbell to come open in the endzone on the next drive for a touchdown, but on the drive after that, he badly overthrew the spot where Ike Hilliard was supposed to be and the pass was intercepted. The Giants could have run off more time from the clock on the next drive if Collins didn’t throw too far in front of Toomer, who was wide open over the middle for what should have been a first down.

Wide Receivers: Up and down. One got the sense that they had some problems getting open at times as Collins was forced to hold onto the ball longer than he should have in some situations. Drops were also a problem, with Toomer and Hilliard both dropping passes.

But Toomer (7 catches for 97 yards, 1 carry on a reverse for 9 yards) had a fairly strong day and was a big factor in picking up first downs. I especially liked his moves and effort on the short pass from Collins on 3rd-and-5 that he turned into a first down – he showed some moves on the play and dove for the extra needed inches. However, I do think it was Toomer who screwed up on the 4th-and-5 play that resulted in a sack. Collins was looking in his direction and his short set-up suggested a slant route; Toomer ran farther down the field.

Joe Jurevicius had only one catch – for a first down on 2nd-and-7 on the second drive of the game. He had another first down catch brought back on 3rd-and-5 due to a penalty later in the half. I was real impressed with his work as a blocker. For example on the Giants’ only TD scoring drive, Jurevicius combined with Comella to spring Damon Washington for 15 yards to start the drive. He later combined with Comella again on Washington’s 22-yarder that set up the ball inside the five yard line. Jurevicius was flagged for a very costly holding penalty after a big run from Comella got the ball down to the 14 yard line; however, the call seemed a bit weak to me.

Ike Hilliard (2 catches for 21 yards) picked up a key first down on 3rd-and-7, but had a big drop over the middle that I mentioned earlier. Interestingly, the Giants employed him on a shovel pass from the backfield on one play, but it didn’t really fool the defense. Ron Dixon remains invisible.

Tight Ends: Dan Campbell eventually got himself wide open on his 1-yard touchdown pass that came in a tight third down situation. His blocking wasn’t as strong as last week, but he had his moments. I spotted him missing a block on a pull on the second drive of the game. Later, Campbell simply wasn’t quick enough to get out and engage Arrington as the latter got in on the play. On the positive side, Ron Dayne ran behind him and Comella for a first down on 2nd-and-1 on the second to last drive of the first half. On the second to last drive of the game, Campbell got a very good block on the defensive end and this allowed Damon Washington to pick up the first down on 2nd-and-2.

Cross blocked well again. He did a nice job of combining with Lomas Brown and Comella on a sweep to left that picked up five yards on the second to last drive of the first half.

Offensive Line: Aside from a few spots, pass protection was pretty strong. However, RG Ron Stone played a terrible game and the entire line had problems generating movement on straight-ahead efforts this week.

First, let’s talk about Stone. Ron is generally so solid that one gets spoiled expecting him to keep his opponent quiet. But Dan Wilkinson gave Stone fits on Sunday as he regularly got penetration into the backfield to disrupt the running game – especially on Ron Dayne carries in the first half. Perhaps, Stone’s shoulder is still bothering him but this is one of the poorest games I’ve seen him play. For example, on the second drive of the game, Wilkinson got by Stone to nail Dayne in the backfield. Two drives later, Stone’s missed block let Dayne get stuffed again. Two drives after that, Stone missed a block on a pitch to Dayne and Dayne got hit in the backfield. To make matters worse, a couple of plays later, Stone got beat by Wilkinson on the pass rush and Ron then chopped the defensive tackle for a 15 yard penalty. This turned a 1-and-10 pass play into 3rd-and-21. On the very next drive, on 3rd-and-goal, Ron couldn’t get any movement (and I think he held) on an attempted running play. He did have one left-side pull to led Dayne for seven yards on the previous play. This all came in the first half. Ron settled down a bit in the second half. Luke Petitgout had his problems with Kenard Lang. The good news is that Luke’s pass protection was solid. The bad news is that he didn’t get much movement on Lang. Luke missed Lang badly late in the game on the play where Damon Washington got hit for a 3-yard loss. On the next drive, he couldn’t sustain his block on Lang and Comella was tackled in the backfield.

LG Jason Whittle had a decent day when you consider it was his first start of the year. The biggest negative on him is that he whiffed on his man on the 3rd-and-7 play on the second drive and this forced Collins to get rid of the intended deep pass faster than he wanted to. Jason is definitely quicker on the pull than Parker – but not as powerful at the point of attack. OC Dusty Zeigler was up-and-down. His pass protection was solid except for one play where I spotted the DT getting by him and pressuring Collins. Unfortunately, this came on first-and-goal at the end of the first half.

The line did start to get more movement in the second half as I think they started to wear down the Skins. Zeigler didn’t sustain his block long enough on the middle linebacker on a second down play on the second drive and this allowed a big hit on Damon Washington. Ron Stone got a good block on Wilkinson a couple of plays later (finally) and led Damon for five. But on 2nd-and-5, Lomas Brown missed a block on a left-side sweep. The 4th-and-5 sack was not the fault of the OL and the RB’s in my opinion – there were more rushers than protectors on the play.

My favorite offensive line play of the game was the 20-yard screen to Comella that came on the scoring drive. Both Whittle and Zeigler got out in front of Comella beautifully and nailed their respective targets. It was a fantastic play that you couldn’t have drawn up better.

Running Backs: Greg Comella had a monster day as a blocker, doing a great job of leading a number of outside runs. He was a big factor in both of Damon Washington’s big runs on the TD scoring drive. Greg also did a good job of following his blocks on his 20-yard screen and looked sharp on the draw play that picked up big yardage that was called back due to penalty. However, Greg did drop a would-be touchdown pass from Collins on a perfect throw. He also fumbled the ball (though he luckily recovered his own fumble). He had a key first down reception on 3rd-and-2 in the second half.

Ron Dayne (16 carries for 39 yards) only played in the first half due to a neck injury. Before he left, he was a bit up-and-down. The up side was that he looked sharp on a couple of cut back runs to left: a 9-yarder on the first drive and a 10-yarder on the second drive (also showed a good stiff-arm on this run). Ron also had a powerful run to the left for seven yards that put the ball on the 3-yard line. However, I wasn’t impressed with his short-yardage run on 3rd-and-1 on the first drive – too reminiscent of last year. He never had a chance on many of his other runs as the offensive line did not make many holes in the first half of the game.

Damon Washington (25 carries for 90 yards) did a fine job in relief of Dayne although he did fumble one ball away and almost did so again later in the game. He also is never going to be a very powerful runner and can’t move the pile. But Damon is very shifty and showed fine vision as he bounced a couple of big runs outside to the right on the TD scoring drive. He also had a big catch over the middle for 16 yards.

Defensive Line: Very strong game by the defensive tackles up front, not as impressive by the ends – though this was to be expected given the strengths and weaknesses of the Skins’ offensive line. Keith Hamilton (4 tackles, 1 sack) had yet another strong game, though the stats may not show it. He was regularly beating double-teams to disrupt the passing game. On the sixth defensive series, “Hammer” fought through a double-team and a chip block from the back to sack Banks. During the next series, he hit Stephen Davis in the backfield for a loss. Keith was all hustle on one play in the second half where he got knocked down, but continued to crawl towards Banks and pressure him from his knees (Banks couldn’t step up on the play because of this). His pass pressure on 3rd-and-6 on the same drive forced another incompletion.

Cornelius Griffin (7 tackles, 1.5 sacks) played his best game of the year. On the first drive of the game, he smashed into Tony Banks on third down. He picked up a garbage sack on the next drive when Brandon Short’s pressure caused Banks to lose his footing. On the next drive, Griff got big pressure again on Banks and forced a hurried throw. Two series later, he hit Banks again. At the start of the second half, Cornelius showed something that I’ve been waiting for: he played stout at the point-of-attack and stuffed the halfback at the line of scrimmage. He immediately followed that up with another pass pressure. On the third series of the second half, another pressure led to another incompletion. On the last drive of the game for Washington, Griffin got yet another pressure on Banks and then shared a sack with Strahan.

Michael Strahan’s stats (4 tackles, 1.5 sacks) look more impressive than they really are. His big sack and forced fumble came on a play where he wasn’t blocked. Jon Jansen kept him pretty much quiet after that except for late in the game. On the 4th series of the second half, Strahan pressured Banks on an incompletion. He did so again two series later during the last drive and then combined with Griffin for a sack on 3rd down. Michael also had an offsides penalty in the game.

Kenny Holmes was stymied by Chris Samuels. Kenny rarely got a whiff of the quarterback – though he did get close on one stunt with Keith Hamilton in the second half. This forced an incompletion on 3rd-and-10. His best play of the game was the fumble recovery on Strahan’s sack. His run defense was up-and-down. At times, he stuck his nose in there and gummed things up. But he also got controlled on the corner on a couple of outside runs. In the second half, he and Jessie Armstead got suckered on a WR reverse.

Cedric Scott and Lance Legree saw some limited playing time. Scott showed good pursuit down the line on one short-yardage play, but couldn’t make the tackle.

Linebackers: Mike Barrow led the defense again in tackles with eight this week. His blitz up the gut on the second series of the game forced an incompletion. He made a big play by forcing WR Rod Gardner to fumble after he picked up what looked to be a big first down. Jessie Armstead (4 tackles) and Short (1 tackle) were quiet. Armstead did a good job of covering TE Walter Rasby on one short pass. But he also got suckered on that reverse and was flagged with a late hit on the quarterback. Short’s pressure led to Griffin’s sack in the first half. He was flagged for holding the tight end on a play however, resulting in a first down.

Defensive Backs: Fantastic game from Jason Sehorn (6 tackles, 2 interceptions) who dominated. He completely shutdown whoever he was covering and seems to be developing a nose for the football when he is covering the slot receiver in nickel coverage. For example, on the third defensive series of the game, on 3rd-and-13, he read Banks’ eyes and peeled off the slot receiver to tip the ball away that was intended for the outside receiver (this was a premonition of things to come later). On the next drive, Sehorn defended well a short pass to WR Michael Westbrook for a short gain. In the second half, he played the ball so well on endzone pass that he looked like the intended receiver and came up with a very important interception (Sehorn later said that because Will Allen and Will Peterson had such effective coverage on the play – they enabled him to be in position to make this play). Then Sehorn put the game away with his interception and return for a touchdown that was very similar to his first break-up. He jumped on the ball from his slot position after reading Banks’ eyes.

It’s hard to get a real good read on Will Peterson and Will Allen as they haven’t not yet faced a real dangerous passing attack (aside from the game against the Broncos). The Skins’ passing game was pathetic on Sunday and much of the credit needs to go to these two however. Still, there were some shaky moments. On the sixth defensive series of the first half, Will Allen made a great play on the ball when he defended a short pass intended for Michael Westbrook. Allen played tight underneath (something he had not been doing) and came over the top to knock the ball away without interfering. However, Allen did get beat by Gardner to the inside for a first down on the play that Barrow forced the fumble. On the first defensive series of the second half, Allen had good coverage on a 2nd-and-10 play. Allen also impressed with his toughness by continuing to play despite literally getting knocked out after a helmet-to-helmet collision. Allen was lucky that he wasn’t flagged on a play in the endzone where he had good coverage, but he didn’t turn around to play the ball; his knockdown did save a touchdown however. Allen did get beat deep for a 52-yard gain by Gardner on a wonderfully-executed play-action fake (incidentally, Allen needs to remember that the receiver isn’t considered down until touched – this isn’t college football).

Will Peterson wasn’t exploited until the last drive. He got beat deep by Gardner for what could have been a touchdown, but the ball was overthrown. He then gave up a 20 yard completion to Westbrook.

The safeties were quiet and I think that is good this week. One didn’t see them getting exploited in coverage (though I wonder who was supposed to provide deep help – if anyone – on Gardner’s 52-yarder). Sam Garnes made a sure, open-field tackle on TE Stephen Alexander in the first half for a short gain. Shaun Williams also had a big hit on Alexander to force an incompletion. The safeties and linebackers did a good job of keeping the Pro Bowl tight end pretty ineffective. Williams broke up a pass in the endzone on the last drive of the game.

Special Teams: Not so hot. I don’t know if it was the wind or the necessity of having a holder, but Owen Pochman’s kick-offs ranged from ordinary to pretty bad. And kick-off coverage was not good at all. For example, the second kick-off went to the 3 yard line, but the ball was returned to the 42. Later, after an Omar Stoutmire offside penalty, his kick-off landed at the 19 yard line and was returned to the 46. Both returns are unacceptable – Christ, the Skins were almost at mid-field after both returns. Another kick-off in the second half landed at the 15 yard line and was returned to the 42 again.

Punt coverage was pretty strong aided by Rodney Williams (43 yard average) continued strong punting. Williams’ 58-yarder late in the 4th quarter right before Jason Sehorn’s pick was a big play. On both kick and punt coverage, Clayton White is starting to make more noise. He forced the fumble after Williams’ punt was partially blocked. The punt was blocked in the first place due to Dave Thomas’ bone-headed play of not blocking his man long enough at the line of scrimmage.

Amani Toomer doesn’t have a feel for returning punts (strange for someone with three punt return touchdowns on his resume). He dances and dances. Amani also made a poor decision by not fielding a punt that landed at the 19 yard line and bounced near the 10.

Morten Andersen was perfect on his three field goal attempts, including a wind-aided 50 yarder.

“Oh, gosh, I went over…

by David Oliver

and said, get your, get your ass up,” Greg Comella was telling us his reaction on seeing Damon Washington get up slowly. Already without Lightning, the Giants lost Thunder at halftime, and suddenly the feature back was Damon Washington. Damon filled in just as if he were an every down back, and his gritty performance, together with a stalwart defensive effort, provided just enough for the Giants to escape the dreaded upset. (Now, who was it that jumped all over me in the off season when I said Damon would fill in quite capably for Tiki? Well, I do know it wasn’t the same contributor(s) who jumped all over me when I said Bernard Hopkins would win his fight with Felix because he had more heart – okay, my hand is now tired from all this patting myself on the back – I won’t do it again (grin).

There were two themes in the locker room following Sunday’s victory over the Redskins. Theme 1 was a well deserved praise and recognition for a Giants defense which is beginning to look the group of the 1980s. The second was recognition of Damon Washington who stepped into some mighty big shoes at a needed time. Comella talked about Damon’s confidence and the team’s confidence in Damon, and Dan Campbell told me, “We did a lot of different things around Ron Dayne, but we kept some things that we did for Tiki, for Pokemon – that’s what we call Damon – he stepped in and did a really good job.”

Both Comella and Campbell acknowledged that the offense did not look particularly good. As Comella said, “All the guys expect more out of our offense…it’s just a matter of continuing to get back, keeping our noses to the grindstone and focus on improvement, because we have the talent, we have the ability to get it done, it’s just a matter of executing.” Campbell flat out said, “We’ve got to open more holes up front, we didn’t do a really good job up front today, and that’s the key.” But Campbell, always the realist, wasn’t down about it, and although not offering excuses, did talk about some of the offensive game plan. He told me that, “We knew if we could come out and play like we can play, hurt them early, they were going to fold up a little bit. They didn’t do that. We gave them hope, they stayed in it, they played hard, they’ve got superstars over there.” Then he mentioned Bruce Smith going down early and a little lull setting in. I asked him if Bruce going down affected the game plan and he told me, “I think it did. We were going to do a lot of shifting on his side with the backs, to kind of help out Lomas, just to shut him (Smith) down a little bit. It might have been one of those things, hey, Bruce is out, and we kind of relaxed a little bit. We woke up there at the end. We left a lot of points and yardage out there on the field, but, like Coach said, the thing about us is that when we have to, we do it.”

Jason Garrett is always one of the most upbeat guys in the locker. He told me that he’s keeping himself ready, that he’s having a great time, and that the QBs are all working together and that he says is “why it works.” We talked about team relationships and discussed Dallas and the Redskins. He said that, “Whenever you have a new Coach and a new system it takes time. Schottenheimer is going to put his plan together and guys are going to respond to it and learn what he’s trying to get done, that’s the process they are going through right now.” Nothing earth shattering in those observations, but we often forget these little lessons in building a winner. On this year’s Giants team, Jason told me, “One of the things I’ve learned, actually Lomas talks about it, is that every team is a different team and the chemistry has to develop.” He talked about last year’s team and said this year was still in the formative process. He went on, “One of the biggest things Coach Fassel talks about is improving every week. We take that as a team, almost improving every day; you go out there on Wednesday and practice well, Thursday, and the whole deal.”

That’s pretty much it for the offense. It didn’t run wild through the decimated Redskins ranks. My son, the genius, laughs as he tells me how really bad the Redskins are – a team without talent, he says. Well, it’s not the team I see. I see a team that’s taken some hits and hasn’t adjusted to it’s new coach. But I did not see the Giants rolling up 40 points or running all day up the middle. In fact, last week on one thread I said I saw a 17-9 game, and I was darn close to the mark. There are no gimmees – ask the Eagles who gained almost 500 yards and still lost to the Arizona Cardinals.

So was it the Redskins D or the Giants O? Well, it was a combination. The Skins played tough against the run – they knew what was coming and they knew the Giants were hurting. The Giants offensive line struggled, but like Dan said, they got it done when they had too. I thought Lomas had a good day. The rest of the line all had good plays, and not good plays. Luke seems to be struggling a little, which puzzles me as all that self-doubt should be behind him. Damon Washington did have 90 yards, so somebody was making some holes. And some of them were pretty big, but it wasn’t consistent.

With all the Skins emphasis on stopping the run, the passing game should have been in high gear. There was a stiff wind coming out of the closed end, so moving in that direction handicapped the passing game. But the other direction was an invitation to mayhem. But 15-out-of-29 for 177 yards is not mayhem – it is fairly anemic for a team supposedly as explosive as the Giants. Kerry is just not finding people – he misses Tiki and continues to look short – Comella is now his target of choice. Toomer had a nice day, catching 7, with a long of 23, which just happened to be the longest Giant completion of the day. Campbell caught the all important 1 yard TD, JJ was silent, Damon made a nice gain on his one and Ike had a couple. When the backs out gain a star receiver, something is wrong. Kerry has a great arm, but right now he’s not using it as his vision is too narrow. There has been some pressure, but he is not getting hit nearly as much, or as hard as Dave brown and Kent Graham did. Those two held the ball forever, Kerry wants it out of there pronto. A lot of viewers say KC doesn’t step up into the pocket, but that’s possibly because the Giants scheme doesn’t create much of a pocket. So maybe that’s the answer – if you’re a pocket passer and there’s not much pocket, you look to the backs too quickly. There are open receivers, but in the medium route passing game, the difference between open and covered is measured in milliseconds. That, and the fact that KC rarely throws to a spot. This has plagued Giants QBs for some time now, they have all waited until a route appeared clear before throwing the ball.

The running game was good enough – it ground out 142 yards on a lat og short yardage battering. The play calling – it hasn’t been very imaginative, but that may be an execution problem. When it clicks, it is a thing of beauty. It all seems to be built around KC and Tiki. When they are hot, the ball moves and every one gets a piece. Without Tiki, Kerry struggles. As good as the Giants receivers are, the Giants need that one break away speed guy. With some greased lightning out there, it is my belief that this would look like a totally different offense. Scary moment – when Lomas went down and stayed seated – even the Redskins came over and offered encouragement. Two warriors like Bruce Smith and Lomas Brown don’t come around often. This was a battle waiting to be waged. It almost seemed that when Bruce went down, Lomas became aware of his own vulnerability. Great combatants often have that affect on each other.

On to the defense. What a game. It’s coming, getting a little better each week. Cornelius Griffin has picked it up considerably. The ankle is healing and he wants to rumble. The man is just exhilarated to make a crashing sack and I get the jumps just watching him come – look in his eyes – he wants it. Hammer is a big, mean thug – a hell of a footballer. When he sets his mind to it, he is an unstoppable force. He frees up a lot for the other guys. Strahan just keeps coming. He goes around, he goes into, he pushes. He is held a lot, and he yacks at the officials a lot. He also yaks at the opposing bench, particularly when he is held for a couple of plays, then beats his man. I’m also starting to see the poetry in Kenny Holmes. He is the silent, but deadly type. He’s beginning to get a feel for the playing style of his partners and he’s getting closer and closer. He will have a breakout game soon.

The Giants had the ball for more than 38 minutes, which is a Parcells-like performance, so the defense didn’t get an opportunity to roll up stats. But 4 sacks in 21 minutes is pretty good, and a whole lot of people contributed tackles, led by Barrow Griffin and Sehorn. Jessie and Short are playing steady, Barrow is a maniac. And then there is Jason Sehorn. Two interceptions, 6 tackles, and put the game on ice. As Will Peterson said, “That’s big time play, big time, (then, laughing), but he gets paid big time money, too, right?” Right you are Will P., so how’s your game, I asked. Well, these kids have confidence. No wonder Phil in L.A. loves them, they sing just as he does. Will told me, “This is ‘just play your game, you’ve been playing it forever, you just have to calm down'” I asked him about the Skins’ receivers and his observations were interesting. He said, “Big bodies, they give you a push and you have to hold your ground”, but he quickly went on, “next week, that’s what we’re looking forward to now.” This is a big test for the young guys and they want it. I asked who would he draw and he told me he didn’t know, as they hadn’t gotten their orders yet. He told me they would be watching a lot of film this week and I asked him about the role of film. His answer was a little different as he told me, “If you want to make big plays, you have to be able to anticipate.” These kids are different. For both Wills, it’s not about speed, or coverage, or just defending; it’s about making big plays – they talk like a pair of halfbacks, and that’s good. Let ‘s hope this week doesn’t change that attitude because it is final exam time.

Oh, don’t worry about Sam Garnes – he’s the QB of this outfit. As the kids in front of him grow, he’ll come around. Shaun Williams – I was right about him – he’s not a safety – the man is a linebacker if ever there was one. I don’t know how Phil in L.A. is always right about these D-Backs – somehow I picture Phil as a short, balding guy, who couldn’t run to the coffee maker. At least I look like the linemen I so admire (grin).

So where does that leave us? Ah, special teams. The specials are better, but I issued a personal challenge to Jack Golden to do something out there so I can get a picture of him tackling somebody. I have enough of him slapping those fools around. Jack promised me something soon. Rodney’s net was down a little today, but he still had one boomer of 59 yards and one inside the 20. He is exciting to watch Pochman struggled a little again today. He is getting loft on the ball but has lost some distance. Michael Bates had a good day Bates and Carter did well, racking up 159 yards with bates getting a 38 yard return. Morten Andersen just keeps kicking them – he had one today, with the wind at his back, that could have gone through from 60 or 70 yards out.

I asked Dhani Jones about specials and he told me, “Special teams is definitely hard, the hardest group to be on.” I asked him why, and he said, “You spend all your time sitting on the sidelines, and you get that one call; the ball may never come to you, like for a couple of weeks, because you have lane responsibilities. The ball may never come to you and when it does, you have to be prepared, like, it’s kind of like being in the line of fire, it’s like the first time you have to shoot somebody, what do you do in that situation?” Now, that’s something I know a little about, so I said, you shoot, and Dhani said, “Yeah, and that’s like, it’s hard.” We talked about Michael Bates and Dhani said, “He’s got great vision”, so I asked him about that and he said, “You can’t teach, a Coach can ask 1,000 times, what were you thinking at that moment. You might not really remember, or what you actually did see – what they might see is something completely different. You have one goal, and that’s to tackle a man and everybody has got to get there.”

So there it is. Was it a good game? Hell, yes. The Giants won. Was it a masterpiece. For the defense it was a Rembrandt. For the offense, maybe a Jackson Pollock. It wasn’t pretty, but in the end, the offense got the job done. Time of possession says this game wasn’t that close, but the scoreboard didn’t look like we all wanted it to look. This week is a real test.

(Box Score – Washington Redskins at New York Giants, October 7, 2001)
Oct 082001
SOTI’s New York Giants Report

by Someone on the inside

In keeping in line with Coach Fassel’s quarterly breakdown of the season, I thought it might be the appropriate time for a look at what’s going on with the Giants and to respond to a few comments and questions that have been raised at BBI.

Obviously, the good news is that the team is 3-1. Remember, as I’ve said before, there are no polls or BCS in the NFL. A win is a win and the most important objective on Sundays is to get the W no matter how “ugly” it may be getting it.

The next quarter of the season should be very telling as there are two difficult games against St. Louis and Philadelphia and two easier games, at least on paper, against Washington and Dallas. Given the results around the league, however, there really are no automatic wins or easy weeks.

In speaking with several of the players of late, I think it is fairly obvious that this team is much different then previous ones. The level of maturity and mix of veterans, rookies and younger players is a good, solid one. The team has veteran, clear cut respected leaders (Armstead, Strahan, Brown, Garnes, Sehorn, Barrow, etc) that not only seek out the younger players but are sought out by them as well. The veterans and leaders of this team play an important part in keeping the newer players on their toes, keeping them focused and helping them learn what it takes to be an NFL player. This team, on and off the field, has a very different mix and feeling tone to it which I think you see more strongly manifest itself to you as the season goes on. This will prove to be a very, very important factor in their level of success this year.

Charles Way’s role in working with the players as to how to handle things off the field should be noted as well. Charles has also helped out in working with special teams this year.

One of the things I’ve seen on the board is several references to Kenny Holmes not playing well. I think you’ll find that each week, as Cornelius Griffin gets healthier, the play of the defensive line as a unit will improve as they learn to play together. Keep in mind that weekly matchups are different; players will have good weeks and bad weeks – they’re not robots, they’re human beings! Kenny, however, has added a tremendous amount of quickness and speed in working to the inside on running plays and is getting to the middle of the field much faster than Cedric Jones did in years gone by. He’s a better athlete who has really fit in well here. Again, it’s not just about sacks but about pressure, containment, quickness and speed. Kenny brings a solid game to his side. While not as vocal as Strahan or Griffin, Kenny’s a good guy, a solid citizen and is fitting in quite well here.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s very different watching a game on television then in person, as you are no doubt aware. Things happen in certain defensive formations that you may be unable to see (because they aren’t showing it to you at home) that influence coverage match-ups that may make a player look bad that are actually someone else’s responsibility. Yes, Sam Garnes has missed a few tackles, but he’s a highly respected an important member of the secondary who’s not about to lose his job to Clarence LeBlanc as someone suggested last week. No one, I repeat, no one on the team (players or coaches) is unhappy with Sam’s play. The major disapproval seems to lie at BBI. Again, yes, he’s missed a few tackles (on a slippery field, I might add) but his coverage hasn’t been as bad as you think. Remember, there are two new guys back there in the nickle and everyone hasn’t always been in the right place at all times!

Will Allen and Will Peterson have done a good job to date but are not without weaknesses that most rookies have, according to players I converse with. Every once in a while they’re going to get burned. Allen needs to wrap up better on his tackles as he has a tendency to launch himself at a players legs and undercut them in lieu of tackling them. He goes for fakes too much at times and needs to be a bit more patient. This week will be quite a learning experience for both of them, no doubt.

Allen is a very mature individual off the field and seems to be a dedicated family man. By the way, his wife is pregnant, as is Mike Barrow’s.

Rodney Williams is quite a character and has added a new level of humor to the locker room. He refers to Jessie Armstead as his “uncle” as Jessie as taken to give him advice from time to time. The coaches are still working on having him get rid of the ball quickly as he has a tendency to wait a bit sometimes. I’ll say one thing, this kid knows no fear on the field.

Back to Mike Barrow for a moment. He really is playing on a different level right now, bringing his “A” game week after week, day after day. If you watch carefully, you’ll find him in on almost every play; he rarely, if ever, gets fooled. Mike has been a tremendous asset to this team. In addition, he organized a weekly Monday evening prayer meeting at his home that is moving to larger quarters at a local hotel this week. His influence on the younger players should not be overlooked.

Let’s move on to some of your questions. Remember, the viewpoints or impressions come from either myself or the players…not from the coaching staff.

To The Old Sage!: You don’t see more of Campbell because the tight end just isn’t in the Giants playbook that much any more….that’s one of the reasons Pete Mitchell left. As for Rosenthal, in a word – “disappointing.” If they had someone better, he’d be gone.

To PeterS: Marcellus Rivers hasn’t shown much of late that would earn him more playing time. In fact, he’s been bounced on and off of several special teams spots of late. Remember, before you get a shot in a game, you’ve got to do it in practice and earn the playing time.

To HopeJ: I didn’t see the player you speak of, so I don’t know who you mean. The only players I noticed on Sunday, without really looking for anyone, were Banks, McConkey and Morris.

To dschwarz in westchester: For now, Jurevicius is the starter, having earned the position. Ike will certainly see more and more playing time, as the situation dictates and he gains back his health. I do not know what the future will bring; so much depends upon how things go in free agency. My hunch is Jurevicius stays and Ike leaves – again, just my hunch. As for Parker and Stone, Ron will leave if he gets a better offer elsewhere in my opinion. I’m not so certain on Parker or what his contractual status is.

To FatMan in Charlotte: Michael is not one to complain about the officials. He’s been getting held for years and figures is just part of the game as to whether it’s called or not.

To Bob in Newburgh: Great observation on Sam. As the rookies around him get better and improve and make less mistakes, the entire defensive backfield team concept will get stronger, as you’ve mentioned. It’s not that his role will change, it’s just that the defense will play better as a unit, working with one another.

To gmanjoe: I have no idea what’s holding back the offense; my personal feeling is the OL has been inconsistent. As for the D, Griff looking pretty healthy yesterday and is getting stronger every day. He’s just going to have to play through any discomfort. The “bear” defense is not used every play, it’s one of several defensive schemes. No idea how Fox feels about the Wills as I have no contact with him, only the players. Lastly, I don’t know if anyone else “monitors” or visits BBI.

Larry in Lauderdale: see my comments above on Kenny. Rodney Williams is happy to be here; it’s to early to rejoice in statistical standings, winning is more important to everyone right now as this is a team oriented group. Yes, Kerry badly wants to do better and feels he will. No idea on his mechanics.

To walterb: My opinion is Kerry is just in a slump. I have noticed, however, that he seems to be locking in on one receiver and not scanning the entire field. I understand this is something the staff is working with him on.

To The Turk: Fassel’s goal is to go 3-1 in each quarter. Obviously, division games mean more but no one “circles” a specific game or games.

To MotownGiants: The objective is to mix things up and find the best opportunity for each running back as the game dictates. Again, keep in mind that winning is the number one team priority.

To rockythompson: At this juncture, I’d say Palmer is the heir apparent. By the way, women are going to really love this guy although I see he has a very attractive lady friend.

To Second CVA: I haven’t heard any grumblings from any individuals – that usually happens on losing teams. As for a dearth of talent, you can never have enough choices.

To Ed A: I’m very, very surprised Dixon has not been given more of a chance to date as a receiver. I was under the impression they were going to use him yesterday as a deep threat; perhaps it was changed due to the wind. Dixon himself is getting anxious as to not get any game opportunity.

To jdf: Much of the problems on special teams relate to the change of individuals. Take a look at whose out there…there are quite a few inexperienced bodies. They’ll get better with time.

To Milton: the players are pretty high on Palmer. The guy’s got a cannon for an arm and is very accurate. In addition, he’s picked up on the playbook fairly quickly. Down the road, he’s going to be the real deal…assuming, of course, we have an OL that can block for him!

To D HOS: There are certain basic goals that each unit sets for itself, initiated by the coaches, of course. While they may change from week to week, the framework is the same every week. I don’t think it would be proper to get into specifics.

Again, keep in mind that while Allen and Peterson have done well, they’re still rookies and are going to make some big mistakes out there. I’ve had a few errors already pointed out to me by players. Let’s not Canton-ize them just yet. In addition, keep in mind this is a team to whom the most important thing is winning and getting to New Orleans. No one is that hung up on individual stats such as sacks, tackles, catches, etc….including the coaches.

I trust I’ve touched upon some things you’re interested in; again, I’m just trying to give you the players look at things.

Oct 052001

Approach to the Game – Washington Redskins at New York Giants, October 7, 2001: BBI‘ers know I’m a worry wort and that each opponent the Giants play concerns me. But it’s games like the one on Sunday against the winless, pathetic-looking Redskins that scare the living daylights out of me.

Why? For one, I’m superstitious and a firm believer in when you automatically discount one team, that is when they come up and bite you in the ass. Second, the Giants are coming off two emotionally-draining wins as well as a very physical game last week. Third, the Redskins still have a number of very good players on their roster. Four, every team in the League upsets somebody (see the Patriots-Colts game from last week).

The Giants are expected to win comfortably on Sunday. That is unusual and uncomfortable feeling for Giants fans.

Giants on Offense: The Giants will be missing one of their most important cogs on Sunday with Tiki Barber (hamstring) out. He provides the big play ability out of the Giants’ backfield and it will be up to Ron Dayne and third-down back Damon Washington to step it up. The Redskins’ run defense has not been good this year so expect a heavy dose of Dayne. The Redskins know this too. I wouldn’t get too cute – simply grind the ball at them and then let Kerry Collins use play-action to confuse the safeties. I’m also looking forward to seeing Washington play as I think he is a quite capable third down back and I think he can do some damage as a pass catcher and running the ball on draws.

In order to run Dayne effective, obviously the Giants must block well up front. LT Lomas Brown battles future Hall of Famer DE Bruce Smith, who can still be disruptive (though he picks his spots more). The other big battle up front is RG Ron Stone versus DT Dan Wilkinson, who can stuff the run and rush the passer. LG Jason Whittle will sub for the injured Glenn Parker (concussion). Whittle is more mobile than Parker and the Giants may do better with their favorite pulling plays to the right this week. The Skins are moving Kenard Lang back to defensive end this week with DE Marco Coleman (elbow) out. Lang has not lived up to his lofty draft status, but he is capable of making plays. Luke Petitgout is assigned the job of facing him.

The Redskins are scrambling at linebacker a bit. Shawn Barber (knee) is out for the year and Antonio Pierce will start on the weakside. However, LaVar Arrington (knee) returned to practice yesterday. He’s the kind of guy you want to run at, not away from, due to his explosive athleticism. If he doesn’t play, Robert Jones will sub for him on the strongside. Kevin Mitchell is the inside linebacker. The Giants may want to take advantage of all of this with the short passing game – a smart idea too due to the quality coverage ability of the Redskin corners. We may see the ball thrown to Dayne, Greg Comella, Dan Campbell, and Washington.

But it is also time for Kerry Collins and the receivers to make some more plays down the field in a consistent fashion. Champ Bailey is one of the very best corners in the league. He normally plays on the left side of the defense so it will be interesting to see if he stays with Jurevicius or they move him to cover Amani Toomer. I’m guessing they hope Bailey takes JJ out of the game by himself and then they double Toomer. The other corner is impressive-looking rookie Fred Smoot. The weakness in both of these guys’ game is that they are not good tacklers. I’d love to see Dayne bust one into the secondary because of that. The nickel back is also good – future Hall of Famer Darrell Green. The safeties are average at best.

The biggest risk to the Giants is the unexpected. The Redskins have tinkered with their defense this week and will streamline and simplify schemes that will allow their defensive players greater freedom. Thus, some of the film work the Giants do may prove to be not as helpful as usual.

Giants on Defense: QB Tony Banks is the kind of guy who looks horrible for most of the year, but then will put together one or two gems. Let’s hope it is not this week. Banks is a very streaky passer who is capable of making a bone-head play. But he is mobile and has a strong arm. The best thing the Giants can do, of course, is to rattle him with the pass rush.

But the first priority will be to stop HB Stephen Davis – a player who has given the Giants fits in the past. You have to be careful with Davis and stop him before he gets rolling. Look for the Redskins to test the right-side of the Giants’ defense in the direction of Kenny Holmes and Jessie Armstead.

The Redskins’ offensive line is strong on the outside with impressive youngsters LT Chris Samuels and RT Jon Jansen, but weak in the middle. For yet another week, Holmes has to battle one of the better left tackles in the league. Like last week, the Giants need him to play the run tough first. Jansen has given Strahan problems in the past, even as a rookie. The Giants need a big game from their tackles. DT Keith Hamilton faces Dave Szott and DT Cornelius Griffin faces Matt Campbell. Griffin has been slowed by an ankle injury, but he could have a big game this week against Campbell.

Aside from Davis, the other big weapon on the Skins is Pro Bowl TE Stephen Alexander – an up-and-down player who is capable of making big plays down the field. The Giants need to do a good job of keeping an eye on him.

WR Michael Westbrook (hip) has been slowed by injury. He is expected to play on Sunday but he hasn’t performed well in the Skins’ new West Coast system. Still, he is capable of making big plays. If he doesn’t start, Kevin Lockett will. The other receiver is the physical Rod Gardner, the Skins’ 2001 first round pick who has very good hands. Once again, the rookie corners of the Giants will be on the spot. Also, since the Skins like to throw short, the linebackers of the Giants need to play well in coverage.

Stuff Davis, keep an eye on the tight end, and get after Banks.

Special Teams: The Giants face a very dangerous kick and punt returner this week in Michael Bates. Hopefully, Owen Pochman’s kickoffs are booming this week. P Rodney Williams faces the team that cut him. Amani Toomer needs to be more aggressive returning punts this week with Barber out.

Oct 032001
New York Giants 21 – New Orleans Saints 13

Game Overview: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more poorly officiated game in my life. The call against DT Keith Hamilton in the Super Bowl was the worst call I’ve ever seen (when you consider the context), but from start to finish, this was the worst overall. Two very bad holding penalties in the third quarter prevent the Giants from putting this one away early. Some very strange play-calling by Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton late also gave the Saints a chance to tie the game.

Because the Giants were able to run the ball better than the Saints, the Giants were not forced to put their quarterback in harms way as much as the Saints had to. Simply put, New York’s run blocking and New York’s run defense was better.

This was a big win, but the Giants cannot afford to let down this week against a desperate Redskins team. Philadelphia looks impressive this year and the Giants must win the games they are supposed to win in order to keep pace with the Eagles.

Tight Ends: I’m going to start off with the tight ends this week because I want to emphasize how impressed I am with the overall improvement in Dan Campbell’s game. He’s not making much noise as a pass receiver, but his blocking on Sunday was once again excellent. There were two instances where I marked him down negatively. On the first drive, he missed a block on a pull to the right that would have allowed Tiki Barber a bigger gain. He later looked shaky in pass protection on an attempted blitz pick-up. However, he had some very impressive blocks. On Dayne’s 55-yard carry in the second quarter, Campbell completely handled Pro Bowl DE Joe Johnson all by himself and took him out of the play at the point of attack. Anytime you can get a tight end to take out a defensive lineman by himself, that is a tremendous asset. In the second half, another example that stood out to me was the 20+ yard Dayne run that was called back due to a bogus holding penalty on Glenn Parker. Campbell and Howard Cross first took out the defensive end on the strongside, then Campbell peeled off an nailed the linebacker in the hole. In effect, he took two guys out on the play. On the Giants last drive of the game, Cross got a good block at the point of attack and Dan Campbell sealed off his man – leading to 17-yard pick-up by Dayne.

You never hear me talk much about Howard Cross, but the thing fans should appreciate is that he rarely makes a mistake and the man he is supposed to block is hardly ever a factor in the play. It’s amazing to me that after missing so much of the preseason that Cross is still a major factor as a blocker. The Giants are fortunate to have two strong run blocking tight ends. They are hard to find in the NFL.

Offensive Line: Don’t read too much into the five sacks. In my opinion, two of the sacks were coverage sacks. And as I said in my game preview, the Saints are not the type of defense that you are going to shut out; they will make their plays. The key thing for the Giants was to keep their composure and they did just that. Most impressively, they really did a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage for the ground game. And aside from other three sacks, pass protection was fairly solid. However, it is important to keep in mind that New York didn’t pass much.

To me, the star of the game on the offensive line was Dusty Zeigler. I don’t know of many centers in the NFL I’d rather have right now. What I like most about him is his ability to not only get out and engage opposing linebackers, but his ability to pull. Luke Petitgout had an up-and-down game. Once again, I came away impressed with his straight-ahead run blocking. He doesn’t look like a power player to me, but the last couple of games he has been blowing the defensive end off the ball. Luke got flagged for a bogus holding penalty on a 3rd-and-9 play where Kerry Collins hit Ike Hilliard for a first down in the third quarter. He did nothing wrong on the play. But Luke did have his problems in the second half of the game. He was flagged for a false start right after the bad holding call. Petitgout also was legitimately flagged for a holding penalty on the Giants’ last scoring drive. On the preceding drive, he got beat to the outside and gave up a sack on 3rd-and-2.

Lomas Brown played very well in pass protection against a top-flight defensive end (Joe Johnson). Johnson’s only sack came against Glenn Parker. The only time I saw a negative from Brown in pass protection is that he didn’t pick up a late inside blitz from the linebacker and Collins was sacked. Parker was up-and-down. What I liked about his play (like last week too) was his straight-ahead drive blocking. He got movement. (Interestingly, I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by the straight-ahead drive blocking from the entire line this year). But Parker had his up-and-downs on the pull again this week; sometimes making the block, sometimes getting stymied in the backfield. Ron Stone played very well overall despite playing with a shoulder injury. He did have one false start penalty.

Now for some specifics. On Barber’s first touch of the game, Petitgout got a very good block at the point of attack. On the second drive, Dayne pick up nine yards behind strong blocking from Petitgout, Stone, and Zeigler. He then picked up the first down behind Zeigler and Parker on the next play. Parker then got beat by Joe Johnson for a sack (Ziegler made a heads up play by recovering the fumble). On the third drive, Dayne got nailed in the backfield when Parker missed his block on a pull. On Dayne’s 55-yard run, as I mentioned, Dan Campbell got a great block at the point. But Zeigler also made a nifty play when he pivoted and pulled to nail a defensive back and Lomas Brown clobbered the safety. Parker also got a good block at the point. Dayne’s 7-yard TD on the same drive came behind some great inside blocking from Parker, Zeigler, and Stone (Greg Comella also made a nice block).

On Tiki Barber’s 14-yard TD run caused by a strong Petitgout block on the end and a fine kick-out block by Zeigler on a pull. One play that seldom seems to work is where Lomas Brown pulls to his left. Dayne was hit with a 3-yard loss on one such play in the third quarter. I guess Payton is trying to keep the defense honest. Luke got a good block on Dayne’s last big run: the 17-yarder late in the 4th quarter.

Running Backs: What can you say about Ron Dayne (19 carries for 111 yards and 1 touchdown) other than the fact that he continues to show tremendous strides with a greater understanding of the offense that can only come from experience and improved conditioning. He had his finest day as a pro in his young career, highlighted by a 55-yard burst down the left sideline. However, that was not the only strong play from Dayne. He did a good job of keeping his feet moving and powering his way into the endzone on his 7-yard TD run. There was also a great run that was called back where he made a real nice cut, flashed a burst, and then carried two tacklers for an extra 10 yards – very “Bavaro-esque”. I’ve talked about the improvement in keeping his feet moving in previous game reviews. But where he is also improving is that he starting to understand the Giants’ blocking schemes now and how he is supposed to react to them (like Tiki Barber said he would). Ron’s vision is improved and he’s making much better decisions on when and where to cut. Dayne also made a nice one-handed catch for seven yards.

Tiki Barber (3 carries for 21 yards and touchdown) showed good outside speed when he bounced outside on his 14-yard TD run. Barber also helped to set up Dayne’s TD with his short catch on 3rd-and-4 over the middle for a first down. Greg Comella got a key block on Dayne’s TD run, though he did miss his man on a Dayne run in the second half. (By the way, Comella got tackled before the pass arrived on an attempted screen pass on the first drive. Keith Hamilton got flagged by barely touching the back in the Super Bowl – but no call on this tackle? Hmmm).

Quarterback: Not a real good game for Kerry Collins (9-of-18 for 135 yards, 1 touchdown, no interceptions). The best news is that he didn’t throw any interceptions. But just after I recently commended him for doing a better job of holding onto the ball, he fumbled the ball twice on Sunday. He was lucky that Zeigler did a great job of recovering his first fumble; his second one on a quarterback draw gave the ball back to the Saints with less than four minutes left in the game.

My biggest problem with Kerry on Sunday however was his decision-making. He threw to well-covered guys and missed receivers running wide open underneath. Twice, Kerry almost got Comella killed by throwing to him despite solid coverage by the corner. On the third drive, on 3rd-and-13, Kerry took a coverage sack despite Joe Jurevicius being open in the middle of the field. On the next drive, he tried to force the ball to Jurevicius down the middle despite tight coverage. Collins did find Tiki over the middle for a first on 3rd-and-4. He also found Hilliard for a first down on 3rd-and-5 on the next drive.

In the second half, Kerry did a good job of scrambling for a first down on 3rd-and-4. But he then again forced the ball to Jurevicius over the middle, despite a receiver being wide open over the middle on a crossing pattern that would have gone for big yardage. Kerry misfired for an incompletion on 3rd-and-5. On the second drive of the second half, he found Jurevicius for a first down on 2nd-and-13, but then was sacked when he held onto the ball too long. I thought his best play of the game was the one brought back by the bogus holding call on Petitgout. With the pocket collapsing around him on 3rd-and-9, Collins stood tall in the pocket and delivered a perfect strike to a well-covered Hilliard for what should have been a huge first down. Kerry also threw a perfect pass on the post-route to Jurevicius for a touchdown.

Wide Receivers: Relatively unproductive though Jurevicius’ 46-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter was huge. Amani Toomer had only one catch for 25 yards. That did help to set up Tiki’s touchdown. Although it didn’t work, I like the play design on Toomer’s reverse where the left-side of the offensive line pulled to the right. Opponents of the Giants are jumping all over these right-side pulls and the Giants have to keep opposing defenses’ honest.

The most pleasant development was the return of Ike Hilliard who made some noise in key third down situations. On the Giants’ first drive, he caught what should have been a first down reception on 3rd-and-2, but was flagged for a questionable offensive interference penalty. His first down reception on 3rd-and-5 kept alive a drive that culminated in Barber’s TD. Ike later had a 25-yard catch-and-run over the middle on 2nd-and-13.

Defensive Line: Strong game up front, especially by DE Michael Strahan who dominated one of the best right tackles in football – Kyle Turley. Strahan had three sacks, a forced fumble, 7 tackles, and many pass pressures. It was a game reminiscent of Lawrence Taylor. DT Keith Hamilton (4 tackles) played the run well and got more heat on the passer as the game wore on. DE Kenny Holmes played his best game as a Giant against Pro Bowl LT William Roaf. While Kenny didn’t get much heat on the passer, he played the run well. DT Cornelius Griffin continues to have some problems against the double-team, but was more stout this week.

Where the defensive line really did well is maintaining a uniformed, disciplined rush in order to prevent Aaron Brooks from killing the Giants with his feet. Only a few times did he get outside the rush. The Saints were also not able to generate much movement for their ground attack.

Now for some specifics. On the first drive, Griffin forced a bad throw by chasing down Brooks. On the second drive, Strahan sacked Brooks on 1st-and-19 with a fine shoe-string tackle of the elusive quarterback. On the next play, Kenny Holmes did a good job of stringing out a run that Jason Sehorn finished off. A personal foul penalty gave the Saints a first down. Strahan then chased down a run for no gain. Hamilton batted a pass down. On the third drive, Strahan and Griffin pressured Brooks to force an incompletion. Holmes and Hamilton then stuffed a running play. After a first down, Griffin got good pressure on 2nd-and-8 despite a cut block. Strahan finished the threat with a sack on 3rd-and-6. On the fourth drive, Strahan spun off a double-team block and stopped the back for no gain. Kenny Holmes then tipped away a screen pass.

In the second half, Griffin got crushed by a double-team on a short gain. Strahan forced a holding call on the next play. Holmes did a nice job of defending a shovel pass for a short gain. On 3rd-and-12, Jessie Armstead (who was credited with the sack) and Hamilton crushed Brooks. On the next drive, Strahan sacked Brooks and forced a fumble on 2nd-and-1. On the third drive, Armstead and Hamilton pressured Brooks into throwing a bad pass that was intercepted. On the next drive, Holmes made his only poor run defense play when he got caught too far inside on a 15-yard run by Ricky Williams. But Hamilton again forced a bad pass on 3rd-and-6 for an imcompletion. Hamilton continued to shine on the next drive by first pressuring the quarterback and then stuffing a run. “Hammer” got some good pressure on one play on the Saints’ last drive too.

Linebackers: Best game of the year for Jessie Armtead (4 tackles, 1 sack) who was a major factor on the pass rush. Aside from the sack on 3rd-and-12, he also had key pressures that forced an incompletion on the second drive of the first half, forced a quick throw on the third drive, forced a bad throw on Shaun Williams’ interception, and forced a quick throw on the last drive of the game. He also combined with Will Allen to tackle Williams on a screen for a six yard loss.

Mike Barrow (10 tackles) had yet another strong effort. He made a nice play on the second drive of the game when he played off a block and nailed Ricky Williams for a short gain when Strahan and Brandon Short got caught out of position. However, his personal foul on the same drive hurt, especially given the fact that it came on 3rd-and-23. Barrow’s pressure on Brooks on 3rd-and-3 saved a touchdown as the receiver had gotten behind Will Allen and/or Emmanuel McDaniel. Mike did overrun the play when he missed tackling the receiver short of a first down – this came on the Saints’ field goal drive at the end of the first half. Barrow’s blitz on 3rd-and-5 forced a quick throw on the Saints’ second field goal drive.

Brandon Short (5 tackles) played the run well and combined with Barrow for a couple of nice stuffs at the line of scrimmage.

Defensive Backs: SS Sam Garnes was awful in the tackling department. He also had problems sticking with Ricky Williams in coverage (though did do a good job of covering one attempted screen). Garnes also was flagged with a personal foul penalty. On the third drive of the game, Garnes missed an easy tackle on 3rd-and-8 and this allowed the receiver to pick up the first down. He badly missed a tackle on Willie Jackson’s 32-yard TD catch-and-run. On the next drive, the Saints’ field goal was set up when Shaun Williams and Garnes badly missed tackles on Ricky Williams and this led to a 42-yard run after a short reception. Garnes did have one very good hit on a receiver coming over the middle. Sam looked good on one blitz on the last drive. He also may have saved the day with his deflection of a pass in the endzone on 2nd-and-goal at the end of the game.

I was impressed with Shaun Williams’ composure in not throwing a punch when Kyle Turley head-butted him. That was as big of a play as a 15-yard quarterback sack. Shaun also looked good on the blitz a number of times, forcing incompletions. His missed tackle on Ricky Williams was costly however.

CB Jason Sehorn (7 tackles) played well and kept his man quiet for the most part. I didn’t like his wussy attempt at a tackle on Williams late in the first half however. He had great position on the 4th-and-1 pass late in the game, but didn’t knock the ball away.

Will Peterson and Will Allen are both learning and not making any major mistakes, but they are still giving up too many plays. It seems to me that Allen is primarily concerned with getting beat deep and is playing pretty soft (understandable for a rookie). Thus, while he is doing a very nice job of defending deep passes, he is getting beat short quite a bit, especially to the inside of the field. Will Peterson is sometimes guilty of the same. He got beat for 15 yards on the last drive, but also saved the day with his defense of the 3rd-and-goal pass. These two should continue to improve with experience, but a real sophisticated passing attack is going to take advantage of their inexperience at some point.

I thought Emmanuel McDaniel played pretty poorly. He had good coverage on one deep pass over the middle, but he was beaten a few of times. He gave up a first down on 2nd-and-10 on the Saints’ last drive of the half. He then got beat for a first down on 3rd-and-4 on the same drive where he gave up the 32-yard touchdown. E-Mac had good position, but didn’t play the ball on the TD.

Special Teams: Rodney Williams is punting at a Pro Bowl level. He averaged 46.5 yards a punt on eight punts and did a good job with his efforts inside the 20-yard line too. He only had one bad punt.

For some reason, Owen Pochman had a really poor day on his kick-offs. Let’s hope he doesn’t have a problem with the turf. One of his kick-offs landed at the 19 yard line, another at the 23 yard line (the latter coming off a five yard penalty was also a line-drive).

Kick coverage on the first kick-off was a disaster as the entire left side of the coverage unit was not to be seen, resulting in a 68-yard return. After that, the coverage was pretty strong with Clayton White making a big hit on one return. Punt coverage was strong, aided by Williams’ booming punts. Emmanuel McDaniel made a nice play as a gunner on one return.

Tiki Barber had another nice punt return, showing good balance for a 20-yard gain. Amani Toomer continues to look terrible on punt returns as he is very reluctant to take the ball directly up the field. Ron Dixon had a very nice return on a kick-off for 43 yards.

The Giants need to do a better job of defending the onsides kick – they were lucky that the one in the 4th quarter took so long to go 10 yards.

These Are Football People

by David Oliver

Lomas Brown told me, and “you respect them for that. It’s not like they’re booing you and they don’t know what they are booing you about, because they do, and you respect that.” The theme of today’s battle was fan appreciation day on the part of the players. Jessie Armstead confirmed the relationship for me, about the love affair between the fans and the players. He said, “That’s a great feeling when you see the fans and you hear them cheering; you see the eyes of the firefighters and you try to not get caught up in it too much, I don’t care who you are, you can be tough all you want to, but the best fighter out there on the field, sometimes it makes you weak” (the emotion); you try to see it and don’ t see it, you try to shake it off as quick as you can.” But this is what NY is to Jessie, as he continued to tell me, “no matter what you keep fighting to the end, that’s what the people in NY are all about, keep on fighting until the end.”

The Giants and the Saints – Ricky Williams and Ron Dayne, Kerry Collins, and two strong defenses – it promised to be a rock em sock em game and it was. But before the game let’s talk about the setting. The skies were gray and gloomy. It was windy. My first view of the skyline, and it looked empty. There were state police everywhere, but, as always, it was worse for the media. The same guys have been coming here for years; the security guards recognize us by face. But cars were stopped on the way in, trunks opened, the police had flak jackets and arms. I’ve been in a lot of third world countries and armed police don’t make me feel safe, not when the search takes place against the familiar. Same thing in Government buildings – we always were searched, but any Tom, Dick or Harry could get in through the basement. On the positive side, let me say, I wasn’t angry, it just makes me sad. To everyone’s credit, Bill Squires, who manages the stadium for the Authority, did a great job. He’s a little bit of a control freak, but he is efficient and effective. And the police and stadium security were polite, treated everyone as human beings, and were not overly officious. They did what they felt they had to do, and the manner in which it was done was exemplary.

The opening ceremonies were beautiful, well-orchestrated and appropriate. The police, firemen and EMT representatives brought a rousing chorus of appreciation and more than a few tears. Tony Bennett and the Harlem Boys Choir were a special treat. Tom Benson was on the field for a presentation. All in all it was overwhelming. The jumbotron screens had messages from past Presidents, and photo montages of Dr. King and the tragedy aftermath. I kept my mind off the subject by snapping photos. Even with the bad lighting, I just kept the camera going.

The game was going to be won in the trenches and the Giants won it there. There were salutes from everyone in the locker for the D line. Strahan was a monster with 7 tackles, 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. But the stats don’t show the job done by Hammer who continually took on double teams and more and crashed into the backfield. He had 2 tackles, 2 assists and a pass defensed, but he was a force. At the end of the game he was so tired he couldn’t chase Brooks very far out of the pocket but he never stopped moving. CGrif (Cornelius Griffin) had a tackle and 3 assists and Holmes picked up his play with 5 tackles, 2 assists and a pass defensed. He was also just a step away on many plays. Several times I saw he and Michael Strahan charging in from the same side of the play, causing all kinds of problems for N.O. Michael Barrow was again insane with 7 tackles and 3 assists and Shaun Williams had 7 tackles. Everyone contributed something to the effort.

Will Allen told me there wasn’t much talking out there at the end, everyone “was just making sure we had the coverage, everybody wanted to make a play.” He laughed and told me how he watched Garnes on that knock down, saying he was transfixed as “it was sooo close.” I talked to several players about the intensity and Jessie said it best, about maintaining throughout the game. He told me, “The good part about it, the D-Line was just hot, then the linebackers stepped up, then the D-Backs started knocking down the ball; when one fire started going down, another fire picked up, that’s what you need.” Kenny Holmes talked about the defensive line and said, “We’re the same guys that everyone said could possibly be the best front four in football; we know we’re the same guys, it’s just that different schemes, protection by other teams, try to negate that. Some weeks, it’s your week, some weeks it’s not; this week was definitely Strahan’s week.” Kenny now feels a complete NY state of mind and he likes it. His theme is that the D is going to get better. As he told me, “The tougher the battles are, the closer your team will be” and then he went on “that was one of the toughest battles I’ve been in besides the Super Bowl two years ago…coming down to a final play in the end zone and these guys knocking the balls down in the end zone is great; it makes the team even closer. Any time you have guys go out and give it their all, those type of plays happen.” And as Dan Campbell told me, “Good game, wasn’t it? Golly, I almost had a heart attack. I’ll tell you what, our defense, that’s the NY Giants defense right there. ”

The offense also made its presence felt. As Jason Whittle told me, “They’re a good team. Obviously, they’ve got a great defensive line. We came out and matched them in intensity and did what we had to do.” Jason also told me, “It felt good to go out there and run the ball like we know we can.” We talked about his development and he told me he feels good about going in there, that he “has a lot of confidence in myself. I know I can go in there and do a good job.” Jason echoed the defensive guys when he told me that the visit to Ground Zero had a profound impact on the team. He said, “It really hits you hard, the look of exhaustion” the efforts of the police and firemen and other rescuers. Jason said the team is “fired up to go out there and play for these guys. This isn’t going to be a one or two week thing. We’re going to play for the fans in NY and those people there. It’s going to be a meaningful season for us.”

Dan Campbell talked about the feeling in the trenches and how it was the big run by Dayne that convinced the offense it could win the game. He said the line was “killing ourselves” in the middle of the game with penalties and turnovers, but “that right there is a good sign, because when you are killing yourself, you can correct those mistakes. If we were getting beaten the whole game by LeRoi Glover and Johnson, that’s a different story.”

So the evaluation starts in the trenches. The front seven of the Giants’ D played their best game of a young season. Ricky Williams is a big bull of a back and he was held to 53 yards, with a long run of 16, on 16 carries. The Giants also nullified a good tight end. But Willie Jackson ran lose in the secondary and showed that the young guns have some more learning to do. EMac (Emmanuel McDaniel) didn’t have a good game, but the pundits are cutting Allen and Peterson a little too much slack. Aaron Brooks moves around, but he is no Donovan McNabb or Brett Favre. And Willy Jackson is not Randy Moss or Chris Carter, or any of the 4 horsemen on the Rams. The young corners have confidence and that’s important. They make a play now and then and that reinforces confidence. Shaun Williams is developing into the player Phil in L.A. promised and he deserves his props every week. Sam Garnes can hit, but he seems to be a step behind the play this year. Hopefully this will work itself out as the corners develop.

Can we say enough about Michael Barrow? No. This week he was joined by his partner in mayhem, Jessie. Jessie may have had a little awakening the past two games, and like Lomas Brown, maybe he realizes he can still do some things very well, but it will take him a little longer to recover. As Lomas told me, he doesn’t feel as if he’s lost his game, “If I didn’t feel that way then I’d know it was time for me to step away. I feel good about things I can do out on the field. Now, there are definitely things I can’t do like I used to do, but I feel good about the certain things I still can do and I don’t think I’ve lost that much right now.” If Jessie gets there, he will certainly be valuable for another 2 or 3 years.

So the defensive line gets a solid A, the linebackers a little weaker A. The secondary played to a B level, but had an A finish. Of note, Ralph Brown is not dressing. EMac was pretty low in the locker. His diminished playing time is having a big time effect on him. But I don’t think he played as badly as some others feel. One good game will lift his spirits – look for him to get an INT against the Skins.

The Fox man was back on his game . There were multiple blitz packages, stunts, zones – every trick in the book and it had Brooks hesitating. Brooks was actually hit more than Kerry, which was real nice.

The real kudos go to the offensive line. Lomas was on top of his game. Campbell and Cross got the job done, Ziegler and Stone got the job done, and Parker’s performance was heroic. Not once, but twice was he examined over on the bench for his concussion. The man is a legitimate Clydesdale – he can pull the wagon. Keep in mind that this was a premier front 4 on the other side of the line. The most surprising thing was the push the O-Line got. Dayne’s big run was through a very nice hole on the left. The run called back was through a nice hole on the right.

And then there is Dayne. The big man was motoring. He went through the holes and as tacklers tried to grab on, he looked like John Riggins, carrying them along like lampreys on a shark’s back. He doesn’t really run square which limits the places where defenders can grab him. The big difference this year is that when he gets hit low, he doesn’t stop, he just picks up his feet and keeps going. An A+ effort by the big guy.

The passing game wasn’t great, but Ike shook free for a couple and Amani made a nice catch when needed. JJ (Joe Jurevicius) ran a beautiful post pattern, the pass was right there, picture perfect. This is the play JJ ran in college – the deep post. They need to run it more for him. Kerry had an off day – he wasn’t doing his rotations. He is a great pocket passer with protection, but when the defenders get close, he lapses. The Redskins game ought to be interesting.

The kicking game – Rodney “Boom Boom” Williams is proving to be a find and a legitimate super star. He says he is just happy that someone took a chance on him. He is surprised to be leading the League in average per kick, but not in net because, “I know our guys are crazy; they’re very intimidating.” Very high praise for the Giants beleaguered specials. Rodney has a very casual manner and does not take himself too seriously. He says, “We’ve got a good supporting cast; the guy kicking off, the old guy hitting the FGs and the guys up front blocking and covering.” I asked him if he getting comfortable kicking the ball out of bounds and he says he was “especially doing it in here (Meadowlands). I was very anxious to come out and kick the ball well”.

Pokemon Pochman told me that his style was to just get as much ball as he could. “I try and have a straight up ball so I can see as much of it as I can, I don’t know if there’s any rhyme or reason to it; there’s not much you can do with those one-inch tees. He said this was his first experience with the wind and he will make adjustments. Also, he told me that he was already learning from Morton Anderson “that it’s all about developing a routine and becoming a technician and sticking to what you do and developing confidence in what you do, and not deviating from it.”

Fred Von Appen is getting the job done and appears to have gained the confidence of his troops. This could be a big turn around for the Giants this year. This threesome and some hawks running downfield could mean two or three games for the Giants.

There you have it. A good game; a game won in the trenches; a game in which both offense and defense contributed equally, but the defensive side of the ball had 60% for its half. Oh, I’m not going to discuss the officiating – trying to get control of a very chippy game is one thing; taking over the game is another. Seems to me every time Boston is on an officiating crew in the Meadowlands, that crew, well, bring back the replacements.

(Box Score – New Orleans Saints at New York Giants, September 30, 2001)