Sep 272002
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals, September 29, 2002: Long-time BBI’ers know that since I started the website in 1995 that I have always taken a very wary attitude with each upcoming opponent. While others have said we should “kill this team” or “have no problems” with that team, I have cautioned readers to not expect an easy game. To be honest, the Giants have not fielded any super-talented teams since 1995 that gave me any confidence that they could dominate an opponent.

Those days are rapidly coming to an end.

This is as talented an offensive team as the Giants have had since I started watching football. And while the defense may not be up to 1986 standards, it is darn good. The coaching staff has been relatively intact for six years and the special teams are finally improving. The biggest concerns remain: (1) Kerry Collins – can he continue to play at this level?; (2) continued improvement on special teams; (3) team health; (4) inexperience at key positions – offensive line, tight end, cornerback, and linebacker; and (5) a commitment to work hard each and every week and take each opponent very seriously.

If the Giants can get positive answers to all of those questions, then there is no team that they should be afraid of in the NFL. And likewise, there are teams that they should handle easily.

The Cardinals are one of those teams.

I have a great deal of respect for Arizona Head Coach Dave McGinnis. I think he has an excellent defensive mind and he is a very good motivator. His biggest problem is that he doesn’t have the talent. Oh sure, like all NFL teams, the Cardinals have their share of quality players such as WR David Boston, but they are not a very good team.

If the Giants come prepared to play, the Cardinals are a team the Giants should dominate. Shame on them if they don’t.

Giants on Defense: The Cardinals are more dangerous now on offense than in previous years because they are finally demonstrating an ability to run the football. The long-awaited emergence of HB Thomas Jones probably has more to do with the impressive acquisition of talent on the offensive line as it does with any difference in Jones himself. But whatever the reason, the new found ability to run makes the Cardinal offense two-dimensional and thus more difficult to defend. Jones is currently the leading rusher in the NFC. This makes the passing game more effective as well.

It is the job of the Giants’ defense to make them one-dimensional in this contest. In order to take away the run, the Giants’ front seven must out-play the Cardinals’ talent up front. That task is not as easy as it was in the past. This is not the typical Cardinals’ offensive line that we Giant fans have come to know and love. They’re darn big and pretty darn good.

Michael Strahan will have to face mammoth RT Leonard Davis – a very high 2001 draft pick who played at guard last year. Davis out-weighs Strahan by 100 pounds, is strong as an ox, and has good agility for one so big. Strahan will have to pull out all his tricks and play with outstanding technique in order to hold his ground in run defense. Same story with DE Kenny Holmes against LT L.J. Shelton – another first rounder with excellent size. Holmes will be out-weighed by 65 pounds by Shelton and keep in mind that Holmes isn’t known for his stout run defense in the first place. Things don’t get much easier inside, DT Keith Hamilton will square off against LG Pete Kendall, one of the better guards in the league. RG Chris Dishman is a 325 pounder who Cornelius Griffin will smack heads with. OC Mike Gruttadauria was the starting center on the Rams’ 1999 NFL Championship team.

The Giants’ starting defensive line has to come to Arizona prepared to play a physical, aggressive game. Because they will be out-sized, technique, experience, will power, and confidence will be everything. The Giants will have play with better quickness and leverage up front in order to hold their ground, get off blocks, and penetrate. The linebackers will all have to be aggressive in filling gaps and making sure tackles. This will be old style NFC East football. If the Giants can bottle up Jones, he really hasn’t demonstrated a consistent ability to make plays on his own. However, if the Giants give him a big hole to run through, he has the speed to break big runs.

Another key here will be the play of second-teamers such as Lance Legree, Frank Ferrara, and possibly Matt Mitrione. With the oppressive Arizona heat, the starters will have to be spelled.

The other big worry on the Cardinals’ offense is WR David Boston. One can legitimately make the argument that Boston is the best wide receiver in the NFL. He’s built more like a tight end than a wide receiver, but he has the speed to get deep and score touchdowns on a regular basis. He has given the Giants fits in recent games. Will Peterson will probably be locked up on him most of the day – this may be Peterson’s toughest test of the season. Frank Sanders is more of a possession receiver. He has also caused the Giants problems in the more distant past. The guy the Giants really have to be careful with is MarTay Jenkins – a very inconsistent receiver who has blazing speed. When he is on the field, I would like the Giants to keep Will Allen on him.

Making the passing attack more difficult to defend this year is the presence of TE Freddie Jones – an inconsistent player obtained in free agency from San Diego – but a guy who can hurt you in the passing game. With much attention being given to Boston, the Giants need to be careful that Jones doesn’t hurt them over the middle. The linebackers and Shaun Williams will play a role here. The undercoverage also has to keep an eye on Thomas Jones out of the backfield – he has almost as many catches as Freddie Jones.

The Giants’ pass rushers will be hamstrung more than a bit by the need to maintain disciplined pass rush lanes due to the mobility of Jake Plummer. This limits the amount of tools the defensive linemen have in their pass rush arsenal. As Kenny Holmes said this week: “(Against a drop-back quarterback) you might go into the game with four or five rushes you want to use. In (the Arizona) game, you would go in with two. You pretty much have to throw (the speed rush) out the window because you’re going to give him such a big void between the guard and the tackle that he’ll be able to run. You’ve got to kind of squeeze that. Your mindset is kind of different.” Jake Plummer is usually a much more dangerous quarterback out-of-the-pocket than in it. The Giants must play smart and stay disciplined. They also have to be wary of him scrambling forward in an effort to pick up yardage. Plummer played like crap last week against the Chargers, but he usually comes back strong after a bad game. The Giants had better not take him lightly.

Giants on Offense: The Cardinals’ defensive talent is not very good and their weak secondary will be severely undermanned by the absence of their best cover man – CB Duane Starks. The defensive line plays hard, but they are a sub-standard unit. The linebackers can run, but they are on the small side and not quite as athletic as most teams would like. The only reason that this unit is not outright terrible is due to McGinnis and his coaching staff as well as the work ethic of his players. The Cardinals throw a lot of different looks at the opposition. But let’s be frank. The Giants should cut through these guys like Swiss cheese.

Don’t screw around this week Mr. Fassel and Mr. Payton. Arizona has decent talent on offense and can score on your defense. Put the Cardinals away early WITH THE PASSING GAME. Starks is out. FS Kwamie Lassiter is the only other decent player they have back their in the secondary. The Cards don’t rush the passer very well. Arizona will likely blitz a lot just like Seattle did. Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, Jeremy Shockey, and Ron Dixon should have a field day as long as the pass protection is sound and Kerry Collins plays well. Crush any hope the Cardinals have to win the game in the first half. I know you want to get your running game in order, but you can do that in the second half. If Shane Mathews can pass for over 300 yards against the Cardinals, you can’t tell me Collins can’t. If you don’t take advantage of this weakness, I question the ability of the offensive coaches to game plan against an opponent.

Toomer will most likely face right corner David Barrett most of the game. Ike Hilliard will match-up against back-up Renaldo Hill. That means the dime back will now become the nickel back. Look at these match-ups…it’s not rocket science. Hopefully, Jeremy Shockey will make fewer mistakes this week and create even more problems. WLB Rob Frederickson can cover – you’ve got to think that the Cards will put Frederickson on Shockey much of the time. Frederickson is a guy who gave the Giants problems last year.

Up front, Luke Petitgout probably has the toughest assignment against weakside end Kyle Vanden Bosch – one of those Nebraska DL’s who plays hard and can rush the passer. Mike Rosenthal will have LDE Fred Wakefield line up over his head. Inside, Jason Whittle will be up against Russell Davis and Rich Seubert will square off against Marcus Bell. Both are very big – over 310 pounds. But neither is a stand-out. I think the pass-first strategy works in the Giants’ favor here as well. This isn’t a strong pass rushing group. Have them struggle rushing the passer for a quarter or two – tire them out – and then hit them with the run.

Giants on Special Teams: One of the big potential trouble spots in this game is the kick return ability of MarTay Jenkins. As I said earlier, Jenkins is a speedster and he has a proven history of returning kickoffs for touchdowns – including one already this season. Matt Bryant needs to get good height on his kick-offs and the Giants’ kickoff coverage units need to get down their in a hurry, stay in their lanes, and make sure tackles.

As for the Giants, Daryl Jones needs to do a better job on kick and punt returns. So do his blockers.

Sep 252002
 
New York Giants 9 – Seattle Seahawks 6

Game Overview: It wasn’t pretty, but the Giants learned some very important things about themselves with the 9-6 victory over the Seahawks:

  • QB Kerry Collins led the team from behind despite the fact that he was getting knocked around pretty good throughout the contest. In the past, smacking Collins around was a sure way to force him to get out of his game and to start making mistakes. He didn’t do that.
  • The defense, for the second week in a row, held onto a late 4th quarter lead.
  • PK Matt Bryant nailed his first long-distance, game-winning effort. Until that kick, all his field goals were short kicks.

The bad news:

  • The Giants continue to struggle putting touchdowns on the board offensively. It is not just a red zone problem, but an inability to score from anywhere on the field. The Giants only have two offensive touchdowns in three games (33 offensive possessions). That’s pathetic.
  • Blitzes and stunts continue to cause problems for the young offensive line – which anyone with any football common sense knew they would. The good news is that this experience will pay dividends down the line.
  • Kick and punt coverage is improved, but still not real good. Daryl Jones (and his blockers) weren’t productive at all in the Giants’ own return game. The Seahawks won the field position war on Sunday. Because of this, the Giants had to continually drive a long field.

It was a fast moving game and one of the reasons there wasn’t more scoring was that there weren’t a lot of offensive possessions for either team. The Giants had the ball five times in the first half and only four times in the second half (I’m not counting the last drive where the Giants’ were merely attempting to run out the clock).

Quarterback: What most impressed me about Kerry Collins (23/38 for 282 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions) this week was the fact that he kept his poise and remained productive despite getting knocked around. This hasn’t been always the case for him.

The first half was disappointing for the entire offense. The ground game showed some signs of life, but really wasn’t consistent. Pass protection was real ugly at times. The problem in both cases was that the Seahawks were blitzing from all angles – not only with linebackers, but also with defensive backs. There were both run and pass blitzes. One got the sense that the 0-2 Seahawks were a desperate team fighting for their season – and thus hungrier than the Giants. The big problem this week was that the Giants were not making the Seahawks pay for their blitzes. Here’s a quick run-down on the five offensive possessions in the first half:

  • First Drive: This was a bad three-and-out. Barber went nowhere. On second down, the Seahawks blitzed both a linebacker and a corner from the weakside. Tiki Barber picked up one of these men, but the other had a free shot at Collins. Kerry was able to break the tackle and scramble to his left, but he missed Ike Hilliard. On 3rd-and-10, the protection was fine, but everyone was covered downfield and Collins’ short pass to Barber was too low.
  • Second Drive: TE Jeremy Shockey Shockey dropped what would have been a first down pass. On 3rd-and-7, Collins did a real nice job of recognizing a blitz and dumping the ball off short to Tiki who picked up the first down. But after a run, the drive stalled due to two back-to-back sacks given up by LG Rich Seubert.
  • Third Drive: After two first downs due to three positive plays from Ron Dayne and Barber, the drive stalled when Barber was stuffed on two consecutive runs. On 3rd-and-10, an attempted screen pass was almost intercepted when Barber (the intended receiver) tripped over a Seahawk and fell to the turf.
  • Fourth Drive: This was another drive that picked up two first downs, but then stalled. On 3rd-and-8, Collins hit Ike Hilliard for 9-yards on a slant. Barber then picked up 10 yards and a first down by taking the ball back through a hole created by a blitzer. After two runs and a penalty, on 3rd-and-8, the Seahawks blitzed, but Shockey ran the wrong route and the pass fell incomplete.
  • Fifth and Last Drive of the First Half: This was the best drive of the first half and the Giants should have taken a 7-6 lead here, but failed. An 11-play, 85-yard drive went for naught. Collins started things off with an incredibly accurate 49-yard deep pass to WR Amani Toomer who was covered by both a corner and a safety. This was undoubtably one of the best passes that I’ve ever seen Collins throw. On 2nd-and-11, Collins then hit Hilliard for 14 yards. Then came shorter passes to Dayne for 8, Shockey for 10, and Shockey for 7 yards. However, I was not happy with Collins’ decision on the play preceding Shockey’s 7-yard reception. On 1st-and-goal from the 8, Sean Payton called a pass play. Collins couldn’t find anyone open right away, but he was given good protection. For some reason, Collins then decided to roll right, thereby reducing his options. A bad play in my book as Collins threw the ball away. The next play was a good call by Payton – a quick toss to Shockey that Shockey almost (and probably should have) gotten into the endzone. On 3rd-and-goal, Payton called a dumb rollout with only one option (Shockey) who was covered. Incomplete. On 4th-and-goal, Tiki erroneously bounced the play outside and lost four yards.

Things really picked up for the Giants in the second half. They scored on three of their four possessions (again, not counting the possession where they were running out the clock). The bad news was that each time, the Giants were forced to settle for field goals, rather than touchdowns.

  • First Drive: 16-plays, 69-yards that resulted in a 33-yard field goal. Collins made two excellent clutch plays on 3rd down to keep this drive alive. On 3rd-and-15, he found Shockey for 21 yards. My biggest problem with Collins on this drive is that he didn’t recognize the blitz again coming from his right-side and was sacked…Kerry needs to be aware of these potential blitzes, especially when the Giants have an empty backfield (as they did on this play). Collins then missed a wide open Ike on the next play. However, on 3rd-and-13, Kerry passed to Toomer for 19 yards. On 3rd-and-4 from the Seahawk 15-yard line, Collins was pressured when Tiki wasn’t able to pick up a cornerback blitz and the ball fell incomplete.
  • Second Drive: This drive started at the Giants’ 4-yard line. New York was able to to pick up two first downs, but then had to punt. Collins hit Toomer for 12 yards to start the drive off. Then on 3rd-and-2, he found Hilliard for 13 yards. I didn’t like the 2nd-and-10 play call by Payton. It wasn’t because it was a quick toss to Dixon (I think the Giants were trying to set up a wide receiver screen), but I didn’t like the fact that the Giants ran it to the short side of the field and thus made it easier to defend against. On 3rd-and-9, the left side of the Giants’ offensive line had problems picking up a stunt and Collins’ pass to Toomer was off the mark.
  • Third Drive: 7-plays, 50-yards resulting in a 21-yard field goal. The drive started off well with an 11-yard flat pass to FB Charles Stackhouse. Finally, the Giants passed with both Stackhouse and Dayne in the backfield and this productive play was the result – Stackhouse was wide open. Two plays later, the Giants ran a beautiful 33-yard screen pass that almost resulted in a touchdown if Tiki had not tripped over Chris Bober. A well-executed screen pass is one of my favorite plays and this one worked almost perfectly. After a run for one yard, Collins, under a bit of pressure, dumped the ball off to Barber over the middle for 5 yards. On 3rd-and-4 from the Seattle 6-yard line, the Giants tried to run another quick screen to Barber. However, Jeremy Shockey was confused as all hell and actually picked off one of his own blockers (Bober). The play only picked up 2-yards.
  • Fourth Drive: 11-plays, 65-yards that resulted in a 47-yard game-winning field goal. Collins made yet another big play on 3rd down, passing to Toomer for 20 yards on 3rd-and-4. On the very next play, he hit Hilliard for 18 yards. On 3rd-and-6, Collins did it again, finding Shockey over the middle for 10 yards. Three consecutive runs failed to pick up the field down and the Giants brought out the field goal unit.

Offensive Line: It’s hard to put a finger on why the Giants are not running the ball better. The young players up front are not missing a lot of blocks. A lot of the problems on Sunday were that Seattle sold out and blitzed the heck out of the Giants – filling gaps with more defenders than blockers. There were also plays that a better block (sustained longer) by an offensive lineman, or a tight end, or a fullback would have paid big dividends. Tiki Barber was healthier and Ron Dayne ran with more authority – so that helped. The Giants are getting close to getting this thing fixed. I’m not real worried about it.

Where the line regressed a bit was in pass protection…but a lot of the pressure was not the actual fault of the line but the blitz pick-ups and blitz reads by the other offensive players. There were two plays where a blitzer came in untouched from the right-side of the Giants’ formation. Either Mike Rosenthal screwed up or the blocking scheme was lacking. RG Rich Seubert also played his worst game thus far in the pass blocking department, giving up back-to-back sacks. Jason Whittle gave up one pressure. There was some confusion between Seubert and Petitgout on a second-half stunt. Luke Petitgout and Mike Rosenthal both allowed some outside pressure on a 2nd-and-9 pass from the Seahawk 11-yard line in the 4th quarter that forced Collins to dump the ball off quickly. But aside from these plays, the line seemed to do alright in terms of blocking the men in front of them that they were called upon to block.

As for the ground game, here are some pros and cons: On the second drive, a 2nd-and-10 run to Barber off left guard picked up three yards. Stackhouse got a good lead block on this play, but OC Chris Bober missed his block on the middle linebacker. On the Giants’ next possession, Dayne picked up 12 yards on a good-looking power run behind solid blocks from Seubert and Bober. On the very next play, Dayne picked up 6 more yards behind good blocks from Jason Whittle and Dan Campbell. However, Shockey’s effort on this play was lacking. Two plays later, Whittle couldn’t get a clean block on LB Chad Brown and Tiki lost a yard (Chad Brown was a thorn in the Giants’ side all day).

Next possession…Dayne picks up two yards behind a good cut block from Whittle. Barber then picks up 10 behind a good lead block from Campbell and solid blocks from Seubert and Bober. Barber picks up 4 off right tackle behind a good block from Whittle. Last possession of the first half…Seubert missed his block and Dayne was held to 1-yard. Barber lost a yard when Whittle missed his block on Chad Brown. Whittle’s biggest problem were two penalties (a false start and a holding penalty).

Third quarter…A run to Dayne looked like it would pick up more yardage behind solid blocks from Petitgout and Campbell, but Shockey couldn’t sustain his block. The Giants ran a draw and this looked like it would be a big play. It was well-blocked except for Petitgout’s effort on the defensive end who just tripped up Barber. Barber picked up 9 yards around right end behind excellent blocks from Campbell, Whittle, and Rosenthal. Barber then picked up a first down on 3rd-and-1 behind another good block from Rosenthal. Barber picked up 11 around right end again behind excellent blocks from Rosenthal and Campbell (Stackhouse didn’t make his block on the middle linebacker, but Tiki broke the tackle).

Fourth quarter…Whittle took out two defenders by himself on Tiki’s 33-yard screen pass. Bober was all hustle running down field trying to take out the last defender on this play. Dayne picked up 4-yards up the gut, but Campbell’s lead block from the fullback position was lacking. Barber runs right for 5 yards behind a good block from Rosenthal who took out two defenders on the play; however, Campbell missed his block on the play or a bigger gain would have resulted. Dayne picked up 4-yards on the next play, but would have picked up more if Shockey made a better block. The 3rd-and-1 call before Bryant’s 47-yarder never had a chance…there were too many defenders and not enough blockers on the sweep.

All of these players can do the job – that’s why I’m optimistic. Petitgout usually does an outstanding job of controlling the corner as does Campbell. Seubert had some rough moments on the second drive in pass protection, but he’s a player who can run and pass block. Same with Bober who has picked up the center duties very quickly. Jason Whittle is an emotional leader who looks good in space. Mike Rosenthal, when he plays with good leverage, is a solid player. They are all aggressive and getting better. All the blitzing they faced on Sunday will help them down the road. Better blitz recognition will come with more experience.

Tight Ends: Not a great game for the tight ends. Dan Campbell made some very strong blocks (which is the norm), but also had a few that were disappointing. Jeremy Shockey (4 catches for 48 yards) had his worst game as a blocker. He got into position just fine, but he didn’t sustain well enough. He also made some costly errors in the passing game: (1) he dropped what would have been a first down pass, (2) he didn’t read the blitz on a 3rd-and-8 play and ran the wrong route because of it, and (3) he disrupted the timing on a 3rd-and-4 screen pass inside the 10 by picking off one of the key Giant blockers. This might be nit-picking a bit, but he also came a yard short on the 2nd-and-goal quick throw from the 8-yard line…if he gets in there, the Giants are winning at halftime. The good news? Both his second half catches were clutch plays – one a 21-yarder on 3rd-and-15 and the second a 10-yard reception on 3rd-and-6.

Running Backs: Tiki Barber’s stats (21 carries for 50 yards; 7 catches for 59 yards) don’t show it, but he looked a lot more like himself this weekend…showing a burst on a few of his runs, particularly a couple of runs in the second half to the right side (for 9 and 11 yards) and on his 33-yard screen pass. Tiki did an excellent job twice of showing extra effort to pick up first downs on quick dump off passes, including one on 3rd-and-7. He also did a nice job once of cutting his run back into a hole vacated by a blitzing linebacker. However, Tiki really screwed the pooch by bouncing the 4th-and-goal play wide at the end of the second half. The play was designed to go off right tackle and the hole was there. This is an inexcusable, costly mistake that could have lost the game for the Giants. Keep in mind that Tiki did a similar thing against the 49ers on 4th-and-1 that may indeed have cost them that game.

There were times when Tiki did a real nice job on his blitz pick-ups, but there were also a few times when he couldn’t make the block and that forced Collins to unload before he was ready. Twice Tiki couldn’t make the block because the Seahawks blitzed from the opposite side where he was lined up. But Tiki also got beat cleanly as well on some efforts.

Ron Dayne, on the other hand, did a great job on his blitz pick-ups – really sticking the oncoming rusher. Dayne (11 carries for 48 yards; 1 catch for 8 yards) ran far more aggressively and benefitted from better run blocking when he was in the game this week. Should Dayne deserve a ton of praise? No, he’s paid to run the ball like that. But at least it was a big improvement.

Stackhouse picked up 11 yards on a flat pass and did a decent job on blitz pick-ups. Bennett caught a pass for 6 yards.

Wide Receivers: Amani Toomer (4 catches for 100 yards) and Ike Hilliard (4 catches for 54 yards) are making plays, but not touchdowns. And that is disconcerting. Hilliard made important catches on 3rd-and-8 (for 9 yards), 2nd-and-11 (for 14 yards), and 3rd-and-2 (for 13 yards). His last catch, an 18-yarder, helped to set up the game-winning field goal. Toomer caught a 49-yard bomb on 3rd-and-12, a 19-yard pass on 3rd-and-13, a 12-yard pass coming off of the goal line, and 20-yard pass on 3rd-and-4. The last play came on the game-winning drive as well and most of the yardage on the play was picked up after the catch.

Defensive Line: This was probably the strongest game this unit has played as a group this year. The Seahawks were limited to just 40-yards of rushing, 105 net passing yards, and only 7 first downs. It doesn’t get much better than that. Michael Strahan (4 tackles, 1 sack) and DE Kenny Holmes (3 tackles) were solid, as were DT Keith Hamilton and DT Cornelius Griffin (2 tackles apiece).

Griffen and Hamilton had some problems early in the game with the inside running game, but they closed up ranks in a hurry. Griffen made an excellent play by nailing Shaun Alexander in the backfield on the first drive for a 1-yard loss by beating the right tackle. He then combined with Shaun Williams to stop Alexander for a 1-yard loss on 3rd-and-1 on Seattle’s second drive. Griffen also made a nice hustle play later in the first half by tackling the back on a screen pass. Hamilton made a great play in the second quarter when he held his ground against the block with one arm while tackling Alexander with the other for a 1-yard loss. Hamilton combined with Mike Barrow in the 3rd quarter to stuff Alexander for another 1-yard loss.

Holmes was run at successfully for 9-yards on one play (Dhani Jones was blocked on this play too). But he did a great job three plays later by playing disciplined football and disrupting a reverse. Holmes got a great pass rush on Dilfer from the NYG 11 yard line (Griffen was there as well). The play should have resulted in an intentional grounding call. On the very next play, Holmes disrupted an Alexander run around left end that was held to a 2-yard gain by shooting into the backfield. In the 3rd quarter, Holmes quickly shot around a pulling lineman and was athletic enough to still get outside and bring down Alexander for a 7-yard loss – a huge play.

Strahan was fooled by another reverse (as was Jones), but Will Allen saved the day with a sure tackle. But it was Strahan and Allen helped to disrupt a 3rd-and-1 play by putting pressure on Dilfer and forcing an incompletion (both should have had the sack however). Strahan did a nice job of defending a sweep to the right and holding it to a 3-yard gain. Strahan’s big play was sacking Dilfer at the Seattle 3-yard line. It was a great rush as Strahan beat both the tackle and back on the play.

Lance Legree and Frank Ferrara played. Legree got handled on one inside rush, but then really played stout against another. Ferrara made an all-hustle play by tackling Alexander on a screen pass on the other side of the field short of the first down.

Linebackers: A solid game from the linebackers as well. Brandon Short (2 tackles, 1 sack) started things off with a crushing sack of Dilfer on the Seahawks’ first play of the game. Short beat the block of the fullback on the play.

I spotted Mike Barrow (3 tackles) crashing into Dilfer just as he got the ball away on three separate occasions, including the last play that was intercepted. Another one of his blitzes was huge in that it forced Dilfer to underthrow the open tight end in the 4th quarter. Two plays later, Barrow supplied very tight coverage on the fullback and limited him to a 3-yard reception. There were two occasions where I spotted Barrow having trouble getting off blocks at runs right at him. But Barrow was also active around the line of scrimmage holding Alexander in check.

Dhani Jones (5 tackles) was more up-and-down, but he is improving. He got run on early on one play and was fooled on the second WR-reverse. But Dhani’s speed and athleticism is paying off in terms of his ability to cover and chase down plays. For example, after the Giants tied the game 6-6 and needed to get the ball back, Dhani made two excellent plays. First, he supplied tight coverage on FB Mack Strong and held him to a 2-yard gain on 2nd-and-3. Then five plays, later, the Seahawks completely fooled the Giants’ defense by running Alexander to the left on 3rd-and-8. Dhani, who was playing de factor middle linebacker, chased down the play from his spot in the middle of the field 2-yards short of the first down. Seattle was forced to punt.

Defensive Backs: This group did such an outstanding job of covering the Seattle wide-receivers that in fact there isn’t much to talk about. Will Allen and Will Peterson are rapidly evolving into shutdown corners. Allen’s coverage has been so tight that the opposition rarely seems to pass in his direction. When the opposition throws at Peterson, bad things happen for the offense. Sehorn is doing a good job in the nickel. It seems that the safeties don’t have much to do. The good news across the board is that the tackling has been very sharp all season thus far.

Allen made a great open field tackle on a Darrell Jackson reverse early in the game.

Peterson had superb deep coverage on Koren Robinson on a pass in the 3rd quarter. And the biggest defensive play of the game was Peterson’s interception of Dilfer on an out-pass to Robinson with 1:40 left in the game.

Ralph Brown got beat for 14 yards and a first down on 3rd-and-8 in the second quarter (Brown was also flagged for defensive holding on this play).

Sehorn did get beat for a 14-yard reception by Jackson on 3rd-and-13 in the first quarter. Sehorn later made a superb play by tackling Alexander for no gain on a flat pass in the open field.

Shaun Williams combined with Griffen to blow up the 3rd-and-1 play in the first half. Williams later combined with Holmes to stuff a left-side run. In the 3rd quarter, Williams did a great job of breaking up a deep pass to the tight end. However, on the very next play, both he and Omar Stoutmire got beat for 12 yards over the middle on 3rd-and-11. Stoutmire earlier combined with Holmes to cause Jackson to lose 2-yards on a reverse. Right before Peterson’s interception, Stoutmire made a sure tackle on the tight end that kept Jeremy Stevens from running out-of-bounds and stopping the clock. The Seattle tight ends – who are very good – were not a factor all day and the safeties deserve a lot of the credit.

Special Teams: The biggest positive is that PK Matt Bryant is exceeding all expectations. He is a perfect 9-for-9 on the season now and he hit three more on Sunday – from 33 yards out, 21 yards out, and a game-winner from 47 yards out. Obviously, to expect Matt to continue to be perfect is not realistic, but if he can continue to produce on a consistent basis like this, the Giants really lucked out.

Bryant’s kick-offs on Sunday were excellent – landing 4-yards deep in the endzone, 6 yard line, touchback, and 3 yard line – all with excellent height. Kick return coverage was decent, but it wasn’t great. Seahawk returns went for 25, 25, and 26 yards. Nick Greisen was involved on the tackle on all three kick returns…impressive.

Matt Allen’s punts continue to be high and a bit on the short side. His punts went for 42, 46, 34, 34, 35, and 52. Punt return coverage was lacking. The high punts forced two fair catches and allowed no return on one punt. But the Seahawks also returned punts for 17 and 28 yards – not good. Omar Stoutmire and Darnell Dinkins did a good job on the one return for no gain, but both Dinkins and Quincy Monk missed a tackle on the 17-yard return. Darnell Dinkins was also called for holding. Somewhat disturbing is that Seattle got close to Allen on a couple of occasions.

Daryl Jones continues to experience rookie jitters (as well as some disappointing blocking). Once again, he fielded a punt inside the 10-yard line. He also muffed another that he fortunately recovered himself. On his first return, he actually lost six yards. And he only managed to pick up 14 yards on each of his kick returns – though the blocking was not good on either.

The net effect of all of this was that Seattle basically won the field position war and continually forced the Giants to drive a long field.

(Box Score – Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants, September 22, 2002)
Sep 202002
 

Approach to the Game – Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants, September 22, 2002: After the emotional and physical ammunition used on two of the NFC’s elite (49ers and Rams), the natural tendency here may be to relax a bit and take a deep breath.

But the Giants must not do that. Seattle is hurting at 0-2, but any team in the NFL is capable of beating any other team. What’s more, just think back to last year when New York had to rely on a last minute 96-yard drive in order to win the game against these very same Seahawks. Lastly, keep in mind that Seattle is now an NFC team…and thus an important game in conference standings come playoff time.

Seattle is desperate…this game may be their season. Expect their best.

Giants on Offense: Seattle is disheartened, but still has fight. To rid them of that fight, the Giants should come out and go for throat right off the bat. I know the Giants’ coaches and players want to establish the run, but I would come out throwing and put a couple of scores up on the board first. Take the life out of the Seahawks…make it an up-hill climb for them. Points come out of the passing game…the rushing game is more for controlling the tempo of the game, the time of possession, and wearing down the opposition.

Giants’ fans have to get over their stereotypes of past Giants’ offenses of the 1980’s and 1990’s. New York is a passing team now. This offense is more similar to Allie Sherman’s offenses from 1961-1963 with Y.A. Tittle. That is not to say that the Giants can’t run the football. But it’s been tough for the Giants because Tiki Barber is ailing and Ron Dayne is not running well. Just as important, opposing defenses still think the key to stopping the Giants is to stop the running game and make Kerry Collins beat you. Collins almost beat the 49ers and did beat the Rams, but I bet you most defensive coordinators still think Kerry can’t keep this up. The key for the Giants – and Kerry Collins – is to continue to prove them wrong.

The coaching staff must also understand and appreciate this situation. If the opposition strengthens their run defense, then pass the ball. If they drop back more people into coverage, run the ball. It’s that simple. Don’t try to run strength-on-strength, trying to be macho.

The coaching staff needs to be sounder in calling plays in short-yardage and in the redzone. These two areas have been the biggest weakness in an otherwise impressive offense. There has been talk this week of spreading the opposing defenses out in short yardage by using more receivers in the game. That’s a thought. So is passing out of a tight formation. The Giants also need to be less predictable with their personnel packages…if we fans are picking up tendencies, you know the professionals on the opposite sideline are doing the same.

All that being said, the Giants still need to find a way to consistently pick up one-yard when everyone in the stadium knows what the play is. A team needs to be able to pick up one-yard when it needs to. The problem is that the Giants don’t seem to have a quality short-yardage running back on the roster.

The problem with the pass-first strategy that I am advocating for this game is that the Seahawk secondary is very good. CB Shaun Springs is excellent. He normally plays on the left side so it will be interesting to see if Seattle keeps him on Ike Hilliard or has him stick with Amani Toomer. Ken Lucas is the other starting corner and Willie Williams is a quality nickel back. So passing will not be easy on Seattle.

Of course, the presence of Jeremy Shockey and Tiki Barber should help to open things up. I would test the Seattle linebackers in coverage with both of these guys, as well as with an occasional play to Sean Bennett (who the Giants need to use more with Tiki ailing anyway). Chad Brown is a very good linebacker, but he’s better moving forward than in reverse. At the other outside spot, Marcus Bell is now playing for the injured Anthony Simmons. Middle linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski is ordinary at best. This is where the Giants can make some noise – pass on these guys – and then take some shots down the field to the receivers if open.

Once the Giants have a comfortable lead, I would then hit them with a heavy dose of Ron Dayne. It’s time to see one and for all if Dayne can be counted on to deliver. Why keep him on the roster if he isn’t productive when you need him? What’s the point?

Up front, LT Luke Petitgout faces DE Antonio Cochran – a bit of a DT/DE ‘tweener. RT Mike Rosenthal will battle against DE Lamar King – a former first rounder who hasn’t lived up to expectations. LG Rich Seubert will get DT Brandon Mitchell, a reserve filling in for the injured DT John Randle. LG Jason Whittle faces Seattle’s best run defender on the line – DT Chad Eaton. This isn’t a group that should scare the Giants as long as the Giants keep mistakes to a minimum and play a physical game.

So why not run the ball first and foremost? Because the Giants are a damn good passing team now and I want them to put the Seahawks away early.

Giants on Defense: New York has to get into a different mind set this week. While Seattle Coach Mike Holmgren is a West Coast Offense guy, Seattle is more of a running team than the 49ers and Rams. Now the Giants’ linebackers and defensive linemen have to play with a stop-the-run-first attitude. That transition may not be smooth and New York has to guard against giving up big plays on the ground. HB Shaun Alexander has been up-and-down, but he is a dangerous runner and receiver out of the backfield. Last year, he gave the Giants a lot of problems.

Stop the run. Make Trent Dilfer beat you. If he does, kudos to him.

The bad news is that All Pro LT Walter Jones just re-signed in time to face the Giants. DE Kenny Holmes is not amused, but to his credit, Holmes played well last week. Let’s see if he can keep it up. Who DE Michael Strahan faces a bit up in the air. RT Jerry Wunsch has started the past two games, but there is talk that “Pork Chop” Floyd Womack may start there soon – perhaps as early as this week. Defensive tackles Keith Hamilton and Cornelius Griffin need to elevate their games. Hamilton faces the tough Chris Hutchinson. Griffen will battle the inconsistent Chris Gray. The strength of the Seattle line is obviously on the left side and guys like Holmes, Hamilton, and Dhani Jones need to play the run tough to that side. At the same time, Strahan and Griffen need to take advantage of what should be mismatches on their side of the line of scrimmage.

The Giants’ linebackers need to play well for the Giants’ defense to play well this week. Not only do they need to play the run strong, but Seattle will test the undercoverage big time with passes to Alexander as well as impressive rookie TE Jerramy Stevens and veteran TE Itulu Mili. Brandon Short, Mike Barrow, and Dhani Jones have to be wary off all three of these guys in coverage. Seattle also likes to throw to FB Mack Strong every now and then to keep defenses honest.

I’ve never been a fan of Trent Dilfer. But you have to give the guy credit in that he continues to improve and is now playing the best football of his life. He can look terrible, but then burn you with a perfectly thrown pass. The Giants should not take him lightly, but if they can get in his face, Trent will still make some boneheaded mistakes.

Personally, I don’t want to see any letdown from the secondary this week at all. These guys had better not think things will get a lot easier on them with the 49ers and Rams in the review mirror now. Any letdown could result in a quick six. And if this secondary wants to be considered one of the best in football, this is the kind of game it must dominate. The Seahawk receivers are decent, but not exceptional. Koren Robinson has great ability, but is still developing. The other starter Darrell Jackson is coming off a huge week (10 catches for 174 yards). Third receiver Bobby Engram is a precise route runner and has great hands, but he lacks speed – Jason Sehorn should be able to handle him.

Giants on Special Teams: The Matt Bryant-Matt Allen experiment continues.

Daryl Jones didn’t get a chance to return a punt last week and he made a bonehead decision to fair catch a punt inside his own 10 yard line. Hopefully, the jitters are gone. Interestingly, he and Damon Washington were the kick returners against the Rams.

As always, the Giants must do a good job of covering kicks and punts in order to win the field position battle.

Sep 182002
 
New York Giants 26 – St. Louis Rams 21

Game Overview: This was a huge, huge win for the Giants. Not only did it prevent them falling into an 0-2 hole, but just as importantly it proved to the players and coaches that the Giants can indeed compete with the best in the NFC. And finally, finally, finally – the Giants got over the hump of beating the Rams.

But now I will turn negative for a minute. I should preface my remarks by saying that my standards are higher for the Giants than those who felt the Giants would struggle this year. I went into this season convinced the team would win the division if (1) Kerry Collins played well and (2) the team stayed healthy. Nothing I’ve seen thus far tells me my original opinion is false. Because my standards are higher, I’m not merely happy that the Giants won, but I will be critical of what they didn’t do right.

The biggest problem this team right now is that it is still not scoring enough points. The Giants moved the ball up-and-down the field against the Rams. Most impressive was the ability of the Giants to mount a productive drive right after the Rams started to gain momentum a couple of times. But the Giants’ offense only put 19 points up on the board. I’ll said it once, I’ll say it again – this team is too talented on offense not to score 24+ points a game. The Giants came away with field goals in the following situations: 1st-and-goal from the 2 yard line, 1st-and-goal from the 8 yard line, 1st-and-10 from the St. Louis 20 yard line, and 2nd-and-1 from the St. Louis 7 yard line. If the Giants score touchdowns in half of those situations, the walk away with this game easy. As it developed, New York gave the Rams breathing room time after time and were lucky as all hell that the officials said QB Kerry Collins didn’t fumble the ball on what could have been a St. Louis touchdown that put them ahead. That play never should have had the weight it could have had the Giants not squandered their scoring opportunities.

So why are the Giants having problems? Partly due to play-calling at times, partly due a lack of execution at times, and partly due to stingy defense by the opposition. The Giants need to fix points 1 and 2. If they do, they’ll make life a lot easier on themselves – and their fans.

Quarterback: Kerry Collins (22/26 for 307 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception) played a superb game, winning “NFC Offensive Player of the Week” honors. Kerry had four incompletions – four! That’s a completion percentage of nearly 85%. And his completions were not just of the dink and dunk variety, but intermediate to deep throws that picked up big chunks of yardage. (There were passing plays of 38, 28, 23, 23, 30, 32, and 26 yards). Why is Collins so sharp right now? (1) He’s getting good pass protection on most passing plays, (2) he’s reading defenses better, (3) his mechanics are better, (4) his receivers are getting open more often, and (5) related to point 4, the presence of TE Jeremy Shockey is creating more strain of the defensive coverages.

As I mentioned above in my opening remarks, the most impressive thing about the Giants’ offense on Sunday was its ability to respond once momentum was clearing shifting in the direction of St. Louis. And at the heart of these impressive drives, were some critical throws by Collins. After the Rams had cut the score to 17-14 early in the 3rd quarter, Collins led the Giants on two impressive drives that resulted in field goals. The first drive (11 plays, 61 yards) was keyed by back-to-back passes to Amani Toomer (for 18 yard) and Ike Hilliard (for 23 yards). The second drive (12 plays, 66 yards) started off with shorter tosses to Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey. When St. Louis then cut the score to 23-21, the Giants and Collins responded again – this time with a 8-play, 72-yard effort that was highlighted by big pass plays to Toomer (for 32 yards) and Hilliard (for 26 yards).

There were some down moments for Kerry. There were a couple of times in the game where he missed wide-open receivers: he had Amani Toomer breaking open late down the field in the second quarter and didn’t see him. He also inexplicably didn’t see the wide open Tiki Barber in the third quarter in the red zone. Both plays should have resulted in touchdowns, but it was the latter that was more troubling because Kerry should have seen before the snap of the ball that Barber was uncovered. On that same very play, Collins fell victim to what will most likely be a lingering issue with him – he fumbled the ball after getting smashed on a blitz. Collins needs to be more aware the potential for immediate pressure in such blitz situations and either (1) throw the ball away, or (2) take the sack while protecting the football. Only by luck did the officials not rule the play a fumble.

Wide Receivers: The Giants are probably one of the few teams in the NFL who have had the same starting quarterback and wide receivers for each of the last three seasons. This familiarity between Collins, Toomer, and Hilliard is paying dividends. Collins trusts both of these receivers. He knows what to expect from them. Both Toomer (4 catches for 92 yards) and Hilliard (4 catches for 97 yards) had a strong game on Sunday. Hilliard started things off well for the Giants with a short 3rd-and-2 catch on a slant route on the first drive of the game. After the catch, Hilliard reversed his field and sprinted down the right sideline. The play picked up 38 yards and set up the first field goal. Hilliard also had a key 23-yard reception on the first field goal drive of the second half and a key 26-yard reception on the last field goal drive.

Toomer caught a critical 12-yard out on 3rd-and-7 on the Giants’ sole offensive touchdown drive. In the 3rd quarter, he caught an 18-yard slant pass against CB Aeneas Williams. Then came a 30-yard reception on a slant-and-go route (a perfectly thrown touch pass from Collins) at the end of the quarter. And it was Toomer’s key 32-yard run-and-catch over the middle that switched momentum back New York’s way after the Rams had cut the lead to 23-21. Toomer also made a number of nice blocks on running plays, though he could have done a better job on a Dayne run to the left early in the game.

Ron Dixon has an important 23-yard reception coming off the Giants’ own goal line late in the second quarter. (By the way, anyone who says Sean Payton is too conservative should note this play…with 1:38 before halftime and at their own 7-yard line, the Giants are passing out of the shot gun).

Tight Ends: The amount of respect Jeremy Shockey (4 catches for 50 yards and a touchdown) is receiving from opposing defenses already is simply amazing. Not only did the Rams double-cover him a lot, but they also put Pro Bowl CB Aeneas Williams on him at times. Shockey may not be lighting up the league with receptions, but he is drawing coverage away from Toomer and Hilliard and thereby opening up the entire passing game. Shockey had two big receptions in the game: his 28-yard slant-and-go route for a touchdown (he was covered by a good coverage linebacker on the play and easily beat him) and his 4-yard 3rd-and-3 reception late in the 3rd quarter for a first down. I liked the play as the Giants had Shockey drag short across the middle, making it difficult for the strong safety to stay with him. I also liked the quick TE out route earlier in the game that picked up 9 yards. I used to hate this route when the Giants had Howard Cross because Cross was never fast or athletic enough to turn it quickly up field. Shockey can do that. This is a nice safe pass for the Giants when they expect quick pressure, as is the quick toss over the middle (this was Shockey’s other reception). Shockey seemed to do a good job in the blocking department when I kept my eye on him – both in the running game and when picking up the blitz.

TE Dan Campbell (2 catches for 5 yards) had a fantastic game as a blocker. On most of the Giants’ longer runs, he seemed to be the one who got the key block at the end of the line of scrimmage from the down position. Indeed, there was one Barber run to the left where Campbell took out two Rams. Campbell is one of the most important players on the Giants; I hope fans recognize that fact. I also think the Giants should try to sneak the ball to him in red zone situations. I doubt he is getting much attention from the defense.

Offensive Line: Editor’s Note: One thing that is really ticking me off are the posts from readers in “The Corner Forum” looking for some scapegoat on the offensive line that “needs to be replaced.” Give me a break. These guys – given their age, level of experience, lack of time spent playing together, collegiate background, etc. – are playing fantastic and will only get better. Just because this guy or that guy struggles on a few plays in a game does not mean the guy is not or will not become a good player. This week there were a lot of posts criticizing Jason Whittle. That’s absurd. Jason Whittle is playing fine.

The pass blocking was pretty darn good. What was encouraging was that the Giants did a much better job this week of picking up blitzes and especially stunts. There were a few occasions where the left defensive end came free untouched as RT Mike Rosenthal blocked a man inside. I don’t know if this is a case of Mike being told to block an inside guy and leave the outside guy free (in other words, the Giants facing more pass rushers than blockers). Also, Mike had some problems with the outside quickness of Leonard Little. That was to be expected as Little is a small, quick pass rusher – just the kind of guy that Rosenthal would have problems with. That said, I was generally pleased with Mike’s play against Little. For the most part, he kept him wide of the pocket and even showed a bit of nastiness in dealing with him. LT Luke Petitgout had a very strong game against the Rams’ best front seven defender – DE Grant Wistrom. Petitgout won this match-up in pass protection and did a real nice job with his run blocking as well.

Speaking of the run blocking, this unit, in my view, is taking too much unjust criticism for their performance against the Rams. The Giants actually ran the ball pretty well early in the game (and the Giants did pick 103 yards on the ground). The biggest problem against the Rams was that the strong safety kept shooting into the play unblocked at the last minute to shut things down. Simply put, this was a case of the Rams bringing up more run defenders than there were men to block them. Also, there were a few very well blocked runs that picked up decent yardage, but would have picked up much more had Tiki Barber been full-speed.

Mike Rosenthal is at his best when he blocks down. The Giants need to stop pulling him – he simply isn’t athletic enough. On the other hand, I like the way Jason Whittle engages defenders in space – either on the pull or breaking off to hit a linebacker at the second level. Luke Petitgout and Rich Seubert usually control their men at the point of attack.

The biggest problem against the Rams was the red zone situations. Some of this was the fault of the play-calling…some of it the fault of the running backs…some of it offensive line/tight end execution. Let’s take a quick look:

  • First Failed Red Zone Opportunity: 1st-and-goal from the 2 yard line. The left defensive end is allowed to come free for some reason and Campbell (lined up as a fullback) gets caught up with the trash on the left side and can’t hit the linebacker in the hole who makes the play. On 2nd-and-1, Ron Dayne gets stuffed. This wasn’t his fault, the entire Giants’ offensive line didn’t get low enough. 3rd-and-2 – a Dayne sweep to the right – an idiotic call that had Rosenthal pulling to the right. Jim Brown wouldn’t have had a chance on this one. Dumb call against a quick defense.
  • Second Failed Red Zone Opportunity: 1st-and-goal from the 8 yard line. Tiki picks up 3 yards on a left side sweep; OC Chris Bober looks painfully slow on the pull – he’s another guy the Giants shouldn’t have moving around too much. Collins can’t find anyone open and dumps the pass off to a well-covered Campbell. On 3rd-down, Collins doesn’t feel the blitz and gets sacked (this is the play where Tiki was uncovered).
  • Third Failed Red Zone Opportunity: 1st-and-goal from the 20-yard line. Dayne picks up three yards up the gut. 2nd down – Petitgout jumps offsides (he had two offsides penalties in this game). 2nd-and-12 – Collins hits Barber for 6 yards. 3rd-and-6 – Collins’ pass to Shockey is wide of the mark.
  • Fourth Failed Red Zone Opportunity: 2nd-and-1 from the 8 yard line. The call is fine (a Dayne run up the gut) though I like taking a shot on 2nd-and-short. On the play, Whittle doesn’t sustain his block long enough and Ron Dayne isn’t aggressive enough slamming his body into the pile. 3rd-and-1. Quarterback sneak. I love the call…I’m a big proponent of the quarterback sneak in such critical situations. But Rich Seubert falls of his block and Collins gets hit by the defensive tackle just as he is pushing into the hole.

A few other negatives. Whittle did get bull-rushed a couple of times – including on the tipped pass that was intercepted. There were a couple of plays where Bober got beat cleaning on running plays. Rosenthal did give up a sack to Little late in the second quarter and fell off a block on a failed 2nd-and-1 run early in the 4th quarter (the Giants picked up the first down on the very next play on good blocks from Campbell, Petitgout, and Toomer). Rosenthal also had a rough series on the Giants’ last offensive series where New York was attempting to run out the clock…he couldn’t make his run block on 2nd down and got beat on a stunt on 3rd down.

But all in all, it was a very good game against a quality opponent in a loud stadium. The offensive line played well.

Running Backs: Ron Dayne (11 carries for 18 yards) is taking a lot of grief and I will heap some more on him, but not because of his performance against the Rams per se.

Things started off alright for Dayne. He picked up three yards on his first carry up the gut. Two plays later, he followed that up with a nice strong run to the left that picked up 7 yards (if Toomer makes a better block here, Dayne may break this run). The non-productive carries by Dayne down on the goal line on this drive were not his fault – the first play was not well blocked and the second was a stupid call. On the second drive, Dayne was hit in the backfield by the strong safety, but actually did a great job of breaking the tackle and turning a potential loss into a 3-yard gain. On his next run, the strong safety came unblocked again and hit Dayne in the hole – this was a well blocked play otherwise and if Archuleta doesn’t blitz right into it, Dayne may have broken a big run here. On the next carry, Dayne is met by an unblocked linebacker in the hole and only manages 2 yards. Dayne’s last carry in the first half was a toss to the left with no blocking in front. Dayne never had a chance against a fast defense…stupid call.

In the second half, I began to notice a trend. Whenever the Giants took Shockey out of the game and brought in FB Charles Stackhouse, it was inevitably a Ron Dayne run. If this is accurate, then the Giants are telling the defense what is coming before the play starts. I don’t think the Giants should ever take Shockey out of the game. Dayne’s next runs went for 2 and 3 yards. His last one was the one that he deserved the most criticism…his 2nd-and-1 effort with less than 5 minutes left in the game. There was no hole on the play, but Dayne has to put his shoulders down and hit that pile full speed in such a situation. You can’t tippy-toe it up into the hole.

My biggest complaint with Dayne is this: He and the Giants are a bad mismatch. This is Tiki Barber’s team and will be foreseeable future. Dayne is not the kind of running back who can come into a game cold and be productive. That’s been largely proven. And to the coaching staff’s discredit, they don’t seem to be able to find a way to use Dayne productively…the opposition always seems to know what is coming when Dayne is in the game. In addition, Dayne also isn’t a good short-yardage back.

Running back is one of those positions where you can usually tell if a player has “it” right away. Dayne has never really demonstrated that he is special…he has flashed here and there, but usually he has disappointed. Ideally, what the Giants need is a back who can spell Tiki and be productive in doing so immediately after coming off of the bench (and be good a strong short yardage runner).

Tiki Barber (19 carries for 80 yards, 6 catches for 30 yards) is nowhere near 100 percent and if I’m Jim Fassel, I think very seriously about sitting him down for one or two weeks. As productive as the passing game has been, it still has not reached its peak because Tiki is not able to run patterns full speed. And on Sunday against the Rams, as was the case against the 49ers, there were too many outside runs or cutbacks by Tiki that picked up OK yardage, but would have gone for much more had Tiki been full speed. The Giants need Tiki near 100 percent when the schedule toughens up again. Sit him down Jim. Use Sean Bennett and/or Delvin Joyce in the passing game.

Charles Stackhouse usually makes contact as a lead blocker, but he must get lower on his blocks. He’s still playing too high. Sean Bennett caught a 10-yard pass on 3rd-and-2.

Defensive Linemen: I thought the ends played very well, but the tackles disappointed me. The Giants’ players and coaches (and myself) were wrong about Cornelius Griffen. He will never be a star. He’s not bad, but Griffen hasn’t flashed any special qualities in two years now. Too many times on Sunday, Griffen got shoved too easily inside on plays where Michael Strahan was called to rush up the field. This enabled Marshall Faulk to run underneath Strahan for sizeable yardage (including the 44-yarder that set up the second TD). To be fair, that is a tough play for Griffen to make when he is double-teamed, but he has to prepare for it. But it’s not Griffen’s run defense that has me depressed, it’s his inability to get to the quarterback. He flashed so much as a rookie in this department that I think a lot of us thought the sacks would come in bushels when he became a full-time player. Instead, he rarely gets to the quarterback. Keith Hamilton is not playing well this year either. I’ve seen him get shoved out of the way far too easily on a few plays both against the Rams and 49ers. He had a couple of decent pass rushes against Kurt Warner, but not nearly enough (though one did force an important incompletion on 3rd-and-5 in the 3rd quarter).

Michael Strahan had no sacks, but was the focus of constant double-teams. This in itself makes things much easier for the defense as a whole – although it is making it tough for Michael to accrue sacks. Still, it was Strahan who supplied most of the pass rush on Sunday. He recovered a very important fumble late in the 4th quarter on 4th-and-1; two plays earlier he tipped a pass. DE Kenny Holmes had a good game against a quality opponent (All Pro Orlando Pace). Holmes’ sack actually came against the pulling RG Adam Timmerman (the Rams use that same idiotic pass protection scheme), but there were a couple of plays where I saw Holmes get pressure on Warner when battling Pace. Holmes tipped the pass that Jason Sehorn intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

Some positives for the entire group – Griffen, Hamilton, Strahan, and Holmes each did a good job at different times of the game of sniffing out trick plays such as shovel passes, screens, and draws.

The back-ups – Frank Ferrara, Matt Mitrione, and Lance Legree played quite a bit. The Giants love to substitute all their back-ups at once. I wonder if this is wise…wouldn’t it be better to keep 3/4’s of your starters in there while you give another a breather? Mitrione made one nice play against the run, but got crushed on Faulk’s touchdown run (Ferrara got blocked out on this play too and Legree couldn’t hold onto Faulk).

Linebackers: The linebackers have been taking a lot of grief in “The Corner Forum” this week too. As was the case against the 49ers, the linebackers were called upon to drop into coverage more this week. If a player is doing his job in coverage, the ball normally doesn’t get thrown in his direction. Thus, when Dhani Jones, Mike Barrow, or Brandon Short are dropping into coverage and not heard from, that generally means they are doing a good job.

I really like Dhani Jones’ speed and his instincts. He reads plays well and gets there in a hurry. As I’ve said since the preseason, his biggest problem is finishing. He needs to become a much more physical tackler. The biggest mistake I saw him make in the game is that he didn’t fill the hole with any authority on Faulk’s touchdown run despite being unblocked. Jones did a nice job of defending a sweep to the left in the 4th quarter.

Mike Barrow was responsible for Marshall Faulk on many plays and did a decent job against arguably the best player in the league. For the most part, Barrow read the Rams’ confusing offense well and made sure tackles when needed. However, there were a couple of spots where he got confused and it hurt (i.e., on Faulk’s 44-yard run and on the short TD throw to Ricky Proehl).

As the Rams’ almost always ran multiple receiver sets, the Giants usually countered with only two linebackers (hence some of the success of the Rams’ ground game – the Giants played pass first and foremost – the correct strategy). Brandon Short didn’t see a lot of action. However, he did make his impact felt. He recovered a fumble off a bobbled quarterback-center exchange, chased down WR Torry Holt from behind, and was a big factor in blowing up the 4th-and-inches play late in the 4th quarter where Marshall Faulk fumbled. Short also got to Warner on a blitz on the preceding play.

Defensive Backs: A great game by the secondary…especially when you consider the fact that Kurt Warner had much more time to throw the ball then he did when he faced the Giants last year. Will Allen was usually matched up on Isaac Bruce and Will Peterson on Torry Holt. Peterson has gotten a lot of raves from the media and fans for his performance, but I saw just as equally a strong performance from Allen. Both Peterson and Allen gave up some short throws, but prevented any deep damage for the most part. The sole exception was Allen just missed tipping away a pass to Holt on a crossing route that went for 34-yards and set up the final touchdown (SS Shaun Williams took the wrong angle on this play and should have made the tackle). Both supplied tight coverage throughout and frustrated the Rams’ passing attack against very dangerous receivers.

Jason Sehorn was solid in the nickel for the most part, but like Allen and Peterson, did get beat a few times underneath. Ralph Brown got burned on a deep out for 25 yards by Ricky Proehl on 3rd-and-8…this kept alive the drive that resulted in the Rams’ first touchdown.

The safeties – Shaun Williams and Omar Stoutmire – were strangely quiet. You can read that either of two ways. The negative way would be to say that they should have made some plays on the ball; the positive way would be to say that since their coverage was so solid, Warner looked elsewhere. It was probably a combination of both. Williams did make a nice open field tackle of Faulk in the open field on his 44-yard run. Two plays earlier, he stuffed Faulk for no gain on a left side run.

Special Teams: Matt Bryant hasn’t really been tested yet, but the good news is that he hit all four of his short field goals (20, 32, 34, and 25 yards). His kick-offs were good for the most part with good height and distance (landing at the 2, endzone, endzone for touchback, 1, 6, endzone, and 1). Ironically, the touchback kick was the bad kickoff – a grounder that went through the endzone. Kick coverage was ordinary at best, but at least they didn’t give up a big return. Return yardage went for 24, 27, 33, 26, 31, and 30 yards – not ideal. Making tackles were Kevin Lewis, DeWayne Patmon, Ralph Brown, Ryan Clark, and Charles Stackhouse.

The punting was much improved. Matt Allen had one kick go off the side of his foot – a pooch punt that actually ended up being a good punt. The height on the other punts was solid and went for 39, 43, and 51 yards. Punt coverage was solid except for one time. Ram returns went for 6, fair catch, 20, and a touchback. Damon Washington made one tackle on a punt, but also missed a golden opportunity to pin the Rams’ back when he could not down a punt inside the five yard line.

Daryl Jones never had a chance to return a punt. He did make a bone-headed rookie mistake by fair catching a punt inside the 10-yard line. Damon Washington looked good on his one kick return for 30 yards. Daryl Jones had returns of 17 and 28 yards. I like how both of these guys attacked up the field with the ball.

(Box Score – New York Giants at St. Louis Rams, September 15, 2002)
Sep 132002
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at St. Louis Rams, September 15, 2002: I love games like this. The Giants are heading into a hostile arena to face what many consider to be the best team in football. Not many give the Giants a chance. Indeed, the Giants are an amazing two touchdown underdogs.

Love it!

There’s nothing to fear here. If the Rams are truly the better team, then they deserve to win. If they are dramatically better than the Giants, then they deserve to win by two touchdowns or more.

So let’s play the game and end all the speculation. I – for one – am looking forward to it.

Giants on Special Teams: We’ll start here again this week since there are still big questions surrounding the kicking game. PK Matt Bryant made both of his field goals last week, but neither was from long distance. One of his kick-offs was ugly. P Matt Allen hit one beauty and shanked two – let’s hope the latter were a case of opening day nerves.

Field position, field position, field position. It is always important in every game, especially big games like this. The Giants’ punt and kick coverage teams must. Punt returner Terrence Wilkins is dangerous due to his speed. He has sore ribs so rough him up.

Ron Dixon did a good job of returning kickoffs last week because he didn’t dance around so much. I’m still not sold…he has to continue to hit open seams aggressively and with little hesitation.

The big wild card is the punt returns. It looks like rookie Daryl Jones will see his first action since getting hurt early in the first preseason game – ironically on a punt return where he fumbled the ball. Jones is capable of breaking a big return, but his primary task needs to be ball security.

Giants on Defense: Last week’s game against the 49ers can serve as a blueprint. Play great coverage in the secondary and be physical with the receivers after they catch the ball. Disrupt the timing of the passing game by knocking receivers off of their routes. But there is one big difference this week and that is the presence of HB Marshall Faulk. Faulk places a tremendous amount of pressure on a defense with his running and pass receiving. In particular, linebackers have a hard time staying with him in coverage. This often forces teams to put a defensive back on him, thus weakening the rest of the secondary coverage on the wide receivers. Linebackers Mike Barrow, Dhani Jones, and Brandon Short will really be on the spot in this game. In fact, I would be very tempted to not play Short much. I think I’d stick with a nickel package or play rookie Wes Mallard more. I doubt the Giants do this as Mallard is very inexperienced, but I fear a Faulk-Short match-up problem. If the Giants are lucky, Barrow brings his “A” game and provides solid coverage. Same story with Dhani Jones.

The Giants must be wary of reserve HB Trung Canidate when he spells Faulk…Trung has been somewhat of a disappointment in St. Louis, but he still can run like the wind. FB Chris Hetherington and TE Ernie Conwell are used in the passing game at times as well.

Because Faulk is going to deserve so much attention, the last thing the Giants need (aside from the Rams’ ground game to get going) is for the Rams’ wide receivers to start causing big problems. It is absolutely essential that Will Allen, Will Peterson, and Jason Sehorn play well against Isaac Bruce, Tory Holt, Ricky Proehl, and Terrence Wilkins. These guys can’t dwell on last week’s press clippings. If they slip here, the Giants lose. If they continue to shine, New York has a good chance to pull off the upset. Bruce and Holt get all the press, but it seems that it is Proehl who is always making the game-turning play. Safeties Shaun Williams and Omar Stoutmire can make a big impact here by not only providing sound coverage, but also by making big hits AND sure tackles. Like the 49ers, the Rams throw a lot of short passes and rely on their receivers and backs to break tackles and make big plays. Sure tackling is absolutely critical.

Great pass defense starts up front with the pass rush. Last week, the down four had to be wary of a mobile quarterback. This week they’ll have much more freedom to get after the passer. Kurt Warner is an amazing story – you’ve heard all about it. His greatest strengths are his decision-making and accuracy. To take him out of his game, the Giants need to pound on him. Get sacks…get hits. The Giants will probably blitz a bit more this week, but that is always a dangerous game with the Rams. You have to pick your spots and pray you are right. The more the Giants can pressure Warner without the blitz, the better (obviously).

DE Kenny Holmes draws the toughest assignment this week, facing All-Pro LT Orlando Pace, who outweighs him probably near 100 pounds. Holmes is going to have to buckle up his chin strap and play all out for this not to be a huge mismatch for the Giants. Kenny needs to play with great technique, leverage, and passion. He also needs help. It’s time for Keith Hamilton and Cornelius Griffin to start dominating some games on their own. Hamilton has a personal vendetta against LG Tom Nutten for a cheap shot from last year’s game. I hope it inspires him, but Keith also has to play smart and not hurt his team.

Griffen faces RG Adam Timmerman…one of the league’s better guards. But Cornelius needs to start making plays again like he did his rookie year. He has the tools to excel, but he has disappointed. This is a big game for him.

People are making a lot of DE Michael Strahan’s match-up with RT John St. Clair. But the kind of publicity this match-up has been getting makes me uneasy as the “experts” are often proven wrong by what transpires on the field (see the write-ups leading up to the Scott Gragg-Strahan match-up last week). St. Clair will undoubtably receive help…still Strahan needs to dominate this personal battle in order for the team to do well. If Strahan is double-teamed, then it is up to Hamilton and Griffen to make the Rams pay. These two need to stop riding Strahan’s coattails and earn their paychecks. Best defensive line in football my ass.

The Rams are just as upset about their running game’s lack of productivity last week as the Giants are. Marshall Faulk rushed for only 32 yards against Denver. You had better believe that the Rams look to change this around against New York. The Giants must guard against the passing game first and foremost in my opinion, but they must not let Faulk get going on the ground either. Look for the Rams to run left at Holmes and Jones. These two had better get ready.

One last note: turnovers can be the great equalizer in a game like this. The Rams run a high-production, but also high-risk, offense. Teams that beat them usually win the turnover battle in a big fashion. New York needs to get after the ball and create some turnovers.

Giants on Offense: I could go on and on about match-ups here like I always do. Yadda, yadda, yadda. What it comes down to is putting points on the board. The Rams have a decent defense with some very good players (i.e., DE Grant Wistrom and CB Aeneas Williams). There are some match-up concerns up front such as Wistrom on LT Luke Petitgout and pass-rushing LDE Leonard Little versus RT Mike Rosenthal. The Rams will also count on Aeneas Williams to shut down whoever he is covering, be it Amani Toomer or Ike Hilliard.

But screw all of that. The Giants have a ton of firepower and it is time for them to start dictating to opposing defenses. TE Jeremy Shockey needs to make some game-winning plays – hey Shockey, the preseason is over and you’ve done jack squat out there so far. Toomer needs to come to play each and every game – only that way will you go to the Pro Bowl Amani. You want a big contract Ike? Stop making mistakes and score some touchdowns. These three can AND SHOULD feed off each other. Catch the ball, break some tackles, get into the endzone. This can be a very fun time for all three of these guys.

The X-factor in a game like this can be a guy like Ron Dixon. He has a chance to be a Ricky Proehl-like hero with the others drawing so much attention. I sense a big game for Ron.

QB Kerry Collins played well last week, but his big problem in the past has been his inconsistency. The last thing the Giants need from him are untimely turnovers at critical junctures of the game. At the same time, Collins needs to let it rip and start tearing up some other teams with touchdown passes. I do disagree with Fassel. I don’t think the Giants need to play a perfect game. This isn’t the old 1997 team with Charles Way being the only offensive threat. Collins, Shockey, Toomer, Hilliard, Barber, Dixon…there is a lot of talent in that group. They can overcome a mistake or two and still win a game going away. But get the ball in the endzone. Not once, not twice, not even three times. Put 31 points or more on the board. Yes, this team is capable of doing that.

I also don’t think the Giants need to be pre-occupied with running the ball early in this game. Use the pass to set up the run. Get a lead, then hit the Rams with the ground game. Use play-action to put the game away.

To me, the only real question is whether or not to play Tiki Barber. If Tiki’s toe is bothering him at all, the last thing you want to do is play him on astroturf. Plus, Ron Dayne is capable of producing big-time when given a chance. Fassel and Payton can use Sean Bennett as their 3rd-down back (but just don’t ask him to pick-up the blitz!).

You know what? One team IS going to win this game by the point spread. But it’s not going to be the Rams.

Sep 102002
 
The Outsider’s Report: Special First Game Edition

By BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Daniel in MI

The Giants lost to the Forty Niners on Thursday, and the TOSR (The Outsider’s Report) staff are only now getting out of our around-the-clock therapy and 12-step groups to put nicotine-stained fingers to keyboard. Let’s face it, that loss hurt. But, it didn’t hurt right away. It was more like the experience you get when you’ve been babysitting some little kid, and they do that thing where they toddle toward you full speed with their arms out, only to duck their head at the last second and head-butt your testicles. You know it is about to hurt like bejeezus, and that there is horrible pain coming in a hurry, but it takes a second to sink in. Then, the tidal wave of pain hits and destroys everything in its path. That’s what this post-game felt like. But, the TOSR staff are professionals. We play in pain. It was bad, but we’ll rise above it, we… WHY!? WHY!? WHY DO WE GIVE UP THE BIG PLAY IN THE LAST MINUTES EVERY DAMN TIME! WHY!? WHY!? WHY!? Ahem. Sorry. As we were saying, we will not get caught up in such nonsense, we’re objective professionals no matter how badly the team head-butts our balls.

As always (eye roll) TOSR strives to offer the best in media coverage that can be had without the elitist attainment of “inside interviews” or “facts of any kind.” Although our commitment to using exclusive outside sources yields much that is false, or perhaps drastically inaccurate, it does have three important benefits over other more pedestrian media outlets. (Please send $5 dollars in a SASE to our editor to learn the secret of what they are, and how to profit from them in your spare time at home, using only your home computer, a knitting needle, and vice grips.) Nevertheless, we assure you that the staff at TOSR consider keeping the strict journalistic standards of our mass media counterparts, and only make up things when they fit the story we had written last year but didn’t get to use. “Truth or dare,” is our motto and we even have it on our corporate mission statement, so we must be serious.

Enough about us, let’s talk Giants. The big story this week is the aforementioned loss to the Fourty-Niners. A key to this outcome was the offense’s inability to finish drives. We caught up with Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton in his whirlpool to ask about his red zone strategy. “Red zone? You mean the end zone?” We explained that we were referring to the area form the 20s to the end zone. “First off,” he corrected, “it’s not really red, you know. It’s the same color as the rest of the field. So, that terminology is very confusing. I call it, ‘the zone part that’s near the end thingy area.'” Terminology thus clarified, we pressed him on his philosophy for this area. “My philosophy is really best described as a quasi-Sartre-influenced existentialism, acknowledging the confluence of being and nothingness. That has great influence on my play calling. Also, there’s the Kantian acceptance of our inability to know objective reality, except through categorical imperatives. That’s big for screen plays. Oh, and, ‘try to call plays that go to the right.'” We asked about the passing game down deep. “I like the bomb once we get inside the 10, just let our WRs fly.” We asked whether the short field inhibited this flight. “Huh. Yeah, I suppose it would. Interesting…”

We left Payton to break the red zone enigma code, and found Coach Fassel. Critics say his clock management – the delay calling a timeout – cost the team critical seconds. We caught up with the Coach at his visor fitting and talked timeouts. “That’s on me,” he offered, “I was hoping the clock would be stopped for us, like from an incomplete pass, or a batted ball. That would’ve been good. Also, space-time itself might have warped in one of those wormhole deals, I hoped that might happen. Or, since it’s all relative and the clock on top of the stadium is farther away from earth I was hoping it might be slower and give us more time. I played for Divine intervention, the Hand of God would’ve helped there, I was looking for that. A lot could have happened…The thing is,” the coach confessed, “I learned to tell time with the big hand and the little hand. I planned to call timeout when the little hand was facing up, and the big hand was almost up. But, these NFL clocks don’t have hands at all! It’s befuddling. That’s why I always talk ‘tempo” instead of time. So, I just waited until everyone yelled at me, that usually works.” He had to leave us then, as he said he had a meeting at 27 o’clock.

Thus enlightened, we sought to investigate another crucial factor: the lack of a consistent pass rush. A key match-up thought to favor the Giants was All-World DE Michael Strahan versus ex-Giant Scott Gragg. Despite expectations, Strahan was blanked. We found Michael practicing magazine cover poses and asked about the game. “Scott Gragg is one tough player,” said the end defensively, “everyone knows it.” We mentioned that Gragg had been given a particular gynecological nickname by his defensive counterparts while with the Giants, and wondered how the “Defensive Player of the Year” hadn’t registered a sack on someone tapped for such a moniker. “You misunderstood. He was called that, umm, because of his cat-like reflexes; it was short for ‘Pussy Cat.’ Not because he was one. Like, they call Randy Johnson ‘the Big Unit’ but they don’t mean he is a big unit, although maybe he has one, I don’t know. (But, I hear things).” We were dubious as he began to waffle. “It was awhile ago. Maybe it was in homage to The Sopranos, you know that character they killed. That was probably it. He was tough like a gangster. It’s no wonder I couldn’t get a sack off him.” Whatever they called Gragg, it was clearly Strahan that got smeared in this game.

Finally, we cornered Defensive Coordinator Lynn to get an evaluation of his first game. “It went great,” said Lynn. “I told everyone I was going to do it like Foxy did, but simplify. That’s just what we did. We were tough all game, and then buckled in the clutch, just like when John was here. But, notice we buckled in a simpler way. We didn’t need a penalty or great play by their QB. Just good, solid, poor execution.” Coach Lynn assured us he and the defense would keep up the good work, all 58 minutes of it.

So, as we place the proverbial ice pack of time on our collective testicles of fandom, remember that Dallas lost to the Texans and you’ll find you can smile through your pain. Hey, we’re tied for 2nd in the NFL.

Sep 082002
 
San Francisco 49ers 16 – New York Giants 13

Game Overview: It was an impressive performance by the Giants that just came up a little bit short. But a loss is still a loss and there are no moral victories in football. The Giants outplayed the 49ers and should have won the game. But they didn’t. This was one of those games where you can point to two dozen things that could have changed the outcome. But what I think hurt most is that despite largely controlling the first half of the game, the Giants only were able to manage 6 points by halftime. And then they didn’t score again until 1:55 was left in the game. You’re not going to beat many teams only scoring 13 points.

Giants on Offense: I’m going to write my game review a bit differently this week in order to highlight more effectively where the breakdowns occurred and how they stymied what could have been a very good offensive night.

First Offensive Drive: Bad start to the game except for the first running play.

  • Things started off well on the ground. Tiki ran left behind good blocks from TE/FB Dan Campbell, LT Luke Petitgout, and LG Rich Seubert. Nice gain of four yards.
  • QB Kerry Collins’ pass was incomplete. For some reason, Petitgout blocked down on the tackle and let LDE Andre Carter come in and hit Collins untouched. Mental mistake.
  • False start on TE Jeremy Shockey.
  • On 3rd-and-11, Collins’ pass to Tiki Barber is overthrown and intercepted. I think Collins deserves more blame for this errant pass than he has received – the ball was way overthrown. That said, I have no idea what Tiki Barber was doing on his pass route – he looked like he was taking a stroll out there.

Second Offensive Drive: Excellent drive that should have resulted in 7 points, but New York settled for three. Pass protection on this drive was excellent.

  • Quick pass to Toomer for 2 yards.
  • Toomer draws pass interference penalty for 5 yards.
  • Giants’ best running play of the night. 16 yard scamper by Barber around left end behind great blocks from Campbell and Seubert.
  • Two penalties on Toomer (offensive pass interference and false start) put the Giants in a 1st-and-25 hole.
  • HB Ron Dayne runs off right side, but RT Mike Rosenthal can’t make his block and Dayne is stuffed.
  • On 2nd-and-25, Collins has all day to throw and throws a perfect pass to Toomer over the middle for 22 yards.
  • On 3rd-and-3, Collins finds Toomer again on a slant pass for the first down.
  • Another good running play. Tiki runs off right guard behind good blocks from Shockey, Rosenthal, and Jason Whittle for 6 yards.
  • Collins hits WR Ike Hilliard on a slant and Ike breaks a tackle, picking up 13 yards.
  • Dayne runs off right tackle for 2 yards. This might have been a much bigger run if FB Charles Stackhouse sustains his block.
  • On 2nd-and-8 from the 49er 11, the 49ers come with an all-out blitz, Kerry gets rid of the ball quickly, making a great throw to Toomer who drops the ball. This was a costly drop.
  • On 3rd-and-8, Collins wanted to hit Toomer in the endzone but he was covered. By the time he looked for other options, Mike Rosenthal was losing a grip on the stunting defensive tackle and Collins had to throw the ball away.
  • Giants settle for 3 points – a blown opportunity.

Third Offensive Drive: This promising drive stalled due to a holding call and turnover. Giants should have gotten at least 3 points here.

  • On 2nd-and-10, Barber gains 4 yards around the left end behind excellent blocks from Stackhouse, Petitgout, and Seubert. At this point, the Giants’ running game is fairly productive despite the fact that Barber doesn’t seem to have his extra gear.
  • 3rd-and-6. 49ers blitz, but Collins beats it with a 17 yard strike to Toomer.
  • Two plays later, on 2nd-and-6, a Barber sweep to the right is stopped for no gain. Campbell doesn’t sustain his block on the defensive back.
  • 3rd-and-6. Collins throws a beautiful out pass to Hilliard for 10 yards and a first down. Collins is really showing off his strong arm on all of these throws.
  • Giants almost break a big play. The 49ers call an all-out blitz and the Giants have the right call made – an inside draw. Tiki just gets tackled at the line of scrimmage or might have broken off a big run here.
  • 49ers bring a big blitz again while the Giants try to run left. Tiki has no place to run as the 49ers have it well defended. Whittle is called for holding.
  • On 2nd-and-20 from the 49er 34-yard line, DT Bryant Young spins off Whittle and hits Collins as he throws. Despite this, Collins does a good job of hitting Hilliard over the middle. However, Hilliard bats the ball up in the air and it is intercepted. This was an extremely costly turnover for the Giants and it was all on Hilliard.

Fourth Offensive Drive: Yet another drive that should have resulted in points but didn’t. By the time this drive is over, the Giants should be up by at least 6-18 points.

  • Ron Dayne runs up the middle for two yards.
  • 49ers blitz on 2nd-and-8, but the offensive line picks it up (Rosenthal takes out two blitzers all by himself). Collins hits Toomer for 13 yards on an out.
  • 49ers blitz again and Collins really makes them pay. Despite a 49er bearing down on him, he double pumps and finds Toomer for 30 yards down the left sideline. The Giants are moving.
  • Barber up the middle for no gain. Giants are finding it tough to run up the gut.
  • Collins hits Shockey over the middle for 9 yards down to the 49er 30.
  • 3rd-and-1. Giants’ get a bit of a surge, but Tiki Barber doesn’t have the size and strength to push forward for the first. Dayne would have made more sense here for the type of play that was called.
  • 4th-and-1. I like the decision to go for it, but it’s a bit of a strange play. At first, I was going to put the entire blame on TE Marcellus Rivers, but I think Tiki screwed up too. It was a left side run and it looked, based on the fact that Luke blocked his man out and Dan Campbell blocked up inside, that Tiki was supposed to run off left guard. Instead, I think he bounced it outside because he saw the big play that would have resulted if Rivers makes his block on the linebacker. But Rivers whiffed and the Giants lost -3 yards and turned the ball over. I think Tiki tried to go for the home run instead of the safe play. Regardless, I don’t like the call. I think you QB sneak it in this situation.

Fifth Offensive Drive: This was a bad 3-and-out drive.

  • DE John Engelberger made a real nice play by shooting across and beating a pulling Whittle to the point of attack. There really wasn’t anything Whittle could have done – it was simply a good guess by Engelberger. Barber loses 2-yards.
  • Collins throws errantly as the left side of the line fails to pick up a stunt. DT Dana Stubblefield crashes into Collins. There seems to be miscommunication between Petitgout and Seubert on this play.
  • Collins dumps the ball off short to Dayne and the Giants are forced to punt.

Sixth Offensive Drive: This was a good drive as the Giants drove into field goal range with only about a minute on the clock. If they had a few more seconds, they could have had one more shot at the endzone from the 49er 15 yard line.

  • 49ers blitz again and again Collins beats it with a 7-yard pass to Ron Dixon.
  • Collins’ throw to a wide-open Barber underneath is incomplete. Barber and Collins don’t appear to be in sync in this game.
  • On 3rd-and-3, Collins finds Hilliard for a first down. Hilliard breaks a tackle and the play goes for 22 yards.
  • Two plays later, Collins hits Dixon over the middle for 17 yards down to the 49er 15 yard line with 24 seconds left. Unless the 49ers are blitzing, they are getting no pressure on Collins. Good job by the offensive line.
  • Giants have enough time for two, maybe three, plays. An endzone pass to Shockey is just a shade too high. On the last play, I think Collins made a poor decision. It was a drop back pass, but when he saw Stubblefield shoot through, he rolled to the right sideline. Not only did I think that he didn’t need to do this, but it cost valuable seconds and prevents the Giants from running one last play. The pass fell incomplete and with only 5 seconds left, the Giants had to kick the field goal.

The Giants should be up anywhere from 12-3 to 24-3 at this point. The failed 4th-and-1 and the interception took points off the board. The Giants earlier settled for 3-points after having the ball 1st-and-10 at the 49er 13 yard line.

Seventh Offensive Drive: This was the Giants’ first drive of the second half. In the third quarter, the solid pass protection started to deteriorate. There were plays where Collins had time, but there were too many times where he didn’t.

  • Dayne picks up 3 yards off the right side behind solid blocks from Petitgout, Seubert, and Campbell.
  • On 2nd-and-7, the 49ers put Bryant Young right over Chris Bober’s head and Bober can’t handle him. Collins is forced to throw the ball quickly and it falls incomplete.
  • On 3rd-and-7, Collins is provided with a fine pocket and he hits Sean Bennett for a first down.
  • On 1st-and-10, a Dayne run up the middle is disrupted by an all-out blitz inside.
  • 2nd-and-9. Bryant Young beat Seubert and Collins has to dump the ball off quickly to Barber for 3 yards.
  • 3rd-and-6. Behind very good pass protection, Collins throws a deep pass to Shockey, but Shockey can’t come up with a tough catch. This would have been a big play for the Giants that just missed.

Eighth Offensive Drive: This was a bad 3-and-out.

  • This time it is Dana Subblefield who lines up over Bober’s head and Stubblefield blows right through the double-team of Bober and Seubert to sack Collins for 10 yards, putting the Giants back on their own 4-yard line.
  • 2nd-and-20. 49ers bring a blitz. The Giants pick it up and Collins hits Dan Campbell for 9 yards.
  • Tiki false starts.
  • 3rd-and-16. 49ers only rush three. For some reason, Campbell is called to block the strongside defensive end all by himself while Rosenthal looks for a non-existent blitz. Collins gets pressured and has to dump the ball off to Tiki well short of the first down.

Ninth Offensive Drive: This was a very promising drive that kept getting stymied due to the Giants’ own mistakes. Giants should have scored here.

  • On the first play, Tiki runs for two yards behind solid blocks by Campbell and Seubert. This play had the potential to go for great yardage, but Barber looked slow on the play.
  • On 2nd-and-8, behind great pass protection, Collins hits Hilliard over the middle for 18 yards.
  • Then came a killer. Collins throws a beautiful deep pass to Toomer for a 44-yard gain down to inside the 49er 10-yard line, but Petitgout is called for holding. This is a 54-yard change in field position.
  • On 1st-and-20, Collins has to throw quickly due to pass pressure. However, I blame the design of the scheme rather than the execution. As I complained in the preseason, the Giants called for the offside guard to come across the line of scrimmage to block the rushing end. Seubert never had a chance to get there because of all the garbage up inside. Why the heck do you just not have Rosenthal block the guy? I don’t understand this scheme.
  • 2nd-and-20. Collins hits Shockey over the middle for 15 yards.
  • 3rd-and-5. Collins hits Dixon on a slant for 10 yards and a first down. Despite the killer penalty, the Giants get out of big jam and are on the 49er 36 yard line.
  • Giants start shooting themselves in the foot again. Offensive Coordinator tries to run a gimpy Barber wide on a fast defense and Barber loses 4 yards. Dumb call.
  • 2nd-and-14. Collins gets sacked. Bryant out-quicks Whittle and Bober. Because Kerry can’t step up in the pocket, DE Chike Okeafor is able to get around Rosenthal for the sack.
  • 3rd-and-20. Giants only send out two wide receivers. Hilliard is well-covered, but Kerry forces the ball and it is intercepted. I don’t understand why the Giants didn’t have a security blanket for Collins shorter over the middle. Hilliard argues with the official that the ball hit the turf instead of tackling the defensive back, costing the Giants 20 yards in field position.

Tenth Offensive Drive: This was the last drive of the game and an excellent effort in the clutch under pressure. Collins was particularly impressive on this drive.

  • Collins is sacked on 1st-and-10 as Petitgout or Dayne fail to pick up a blitzing linebacker.
  • 2nd-and-18. Draw play to Tiki Barber, where a healthy Tiki might have been able to pick up more yardage. Missed blocks by Bober and Dixon don’t help.
  • 3rd-and-18. San Fran decides to rush only three and Collins has excellent protection to find Toomer over the middle for 23 yards and a first down.
  • Seubert fails to pick up blitzing linebacker. Collins makes a head’s up play to unload the ball in the direction of Tiki in order to avoid the loss.
  • 2nd-and-10. Dayne sweeps left. This play is relatively well-blocked except for Campbell’s lead block. Dayne picks up two yards by smashing into a defender…nice run on his part.
  • 3rd-and-8. Collins makes a superb throw on a slant pass to a well-covered Toomer for 11 yards and a first down.
  • Collins has good protection and hits Hilliard for 5 yards.
  • 2nd-and-5. Collins is under pressure as Bryant Young gets by Whittle. Collins hits Tiki over the middle; Barber breaks a tackle and picks up 12 yards.
  • After an illegal substitution foul, Collins throws a beautiful seam pass to Shockey for 20 yards.
  • Giants beat an all-out blitz by getting ball out to Toomer quickly for 5 yards.
  • Shockey drops a well set-up tight end screen pass.
  • 3rd-and-5. Collins, under pressure (Stubblefield beat Petitgout on a stunt), hits Barber over the middle for 6 yards.
  • 1st-and-goal from the 4. Tiki almost scores on a sweep to the left that was well-blocked.
  • Tiki scores on a run to the left after he bounces off a tackler in the backfield.

Some may say that the offensive line should have performed better, but I think for this group’s first time out and the Giants putting the ball up 45 times in the air, the pass protection was decent. Bryant Young, Dana Stubblefield, Andre Carter, and Chike Okeafor are not chopped liver. They can rush the passer. One of the biggest problems – and this was to be expected – is that the young line is still having problems recognizing and picking up blitzes. This will come with experience. As for the running game, Tiki’s hamstring, some questionable play-calling, and the quality of the opponent had something to do with that. Still, what killed the Giants was that fact that there were THREE DRIVES (third, fourth, and ninth drives) that should have resulted in at least 9 (and maybe 21) points that didn’t and another where they settled for 3 instead of 7 (second drive). That’s why the game was lost.

Defensive Overview: The Giants’ defensive strategy worked beautifully. Defensive Coordinator Johnnie Lynn’s plan was to play pass first and foremost, rush primarily only the down four linemen, and drop seven to cover the pass. It was a strategy designed to frustrate QB Jeff Garcia and WR Terrell Owens and it worked beautifully. Some may say the 49ers did some damage on the ground, but the 49er halfbacks still only picked up 73 yards on 20 carries. Decent, but not impressive. When you hold a team like the 49ers to only 16 points, you know you are playing great TEAM defense.

Defensive Line: The Giants’ front four did not generate much of a pass rush. Give the 49ers some credit, their offensive line performed well, especially RT Scott Gragg. But because of the Giants’ defensive strategy, the 49ers had the luxury of blocking four rushers with 5 and sometimes 6 men. This made it much easier on them, as did the fact that the Giants had to maintain very restricted pass rush lanes in order to keep Garcia in the pocket. Only once did Garcia get outside, the 49ers’ first offensive play, when DE Michael Strahan lost contain to his side (DT Cornelius Griffin got a good rush on this play). Griffin also made a nice play on 1st-and-goal when he played off a block and tackled HB Garrison Hearst on a play that he may have scored on. On the 49ers’ 2nd drive, Strahan did a great job of playing off a block and stuffing Kevan Barlow for a 2-yard gain. Three plays later, DT Keith Hamilton shot the gap and slammed Barlow for a 2-yard loss – a superb play. On the very next play, DE Kenny Holmes may have saved a touchdown on Garcia’s quarterback draw up the middle.

In the second quarter, Strahan drew a holding call from Gragg that prevented a first down and helped to end a drive. On the next drive, both Frank Ferrara and Hamilton had problems defending the run as the 49ers picked up 13 yards on two carries. Two plays later, Ferrara did play stout and, along with Mike Barrow, stuffed a Barlow run. On 3rd-and-2, Strahan pressured Garcia to throw sooner than he wanted and the 49ers were forced to try a long field goal that they missed.

In the 3rd quarter, Hamilton tipped a 3rd-and-5 pass intended for WR Terrell Owens (CB Jason Sehorn had excellent coverage on Owens all by himself over the middle of the field on this play). However, on the next 49er possession, Hamilton was blown way off the ball on a 7-yard run right up the gut. On the very next play, the 49ers controlled the corner against Kenny Holmes for 4-yards and a first down. A few plays later, Holmes did an excellent job of playing the run to his side for no gain.

In the 4th quarter, Ferrara failed to maintain his contain responsibilities on a Owens reverse (one could argue Ferrara was clipped on this play). One play later, both Ferrara and Hamilton got handled at the point of attack. Hamilton didn’t play one of his better games. Later on the drive, on 3rd-and-9, Strahan hits Garcia just as he throws and the 49ers kick a field goal. On the 49ers’ last drive of the game, the 49ers drive deeper into field goal range as the 49ers run for 7 yards at Holmes. On the very next play, Holmes makes a nice play by shooting down the line to stuff Hearst for a 1-yard gain.

Linebackers: Very tough to judge as they were called upon to cover and play pass first and foremost. Keep in mind that MLB Mike Barrow missed much of the preseason and a lot of late practice time. He looked rusty to me out there and a bit out of game shape. This reminded me of his rookie season when he missed preseason time due to a neck injury and took a couple of games to get back into the feel of things. Dhani Jones’ speed is a real asset to this defense. He’s doing things out there that Jessie Armstead can’t physically do any more.

Mike Barrow did a great job of covering TE Eric Johnson on a deep seam pass on the second 49er drive. However, on the very next play, he left Johnson as he thought Garcia was going to run for the first down. Instead, Garcia pulled up and hit Young for a huge 38-yard gain on 3rd-and-7. This set up the 49ers only points of the first half. Incidentally, RG Ron Stone got away with a flagrant holding penalty against Griffin on this play – it never should have counted.

Two plays later, on 2nd-and-8, the 49ers broke off a big run on a sweep to the left for 19 yards. The Giants were in the nickel (perfect example of them playing pass first). It was a perfect call against the Giants’ defense as a blitzing Barrow took himself out of the play. Holmes got caught too far inside too and it was clear sailing down to the Giants’ 6-yard line.

In the second quarter, both Barrow and Brandon Short did a nice job of playing off blocks and limiting a Hearst run to the right to 2-yards. Jones then combined with Omar Stoutmire to nicely cover a short pass to the tight end. On the very next drive, Jones came through again in coverage by excellently reading a screen pass and forcing an incompletion (a play reminiscent of Armstead). Later in this drive, Dhani had good coverage again on a 3rd-and-2 pass to Hearst that fell incomplete. Barrow missed a tackle on the play previous to this on a Hearst draw that picked up 8 yards.

In the third quarter, Short showed nice reaction to a flat pass to the fullback that went for no gain. Two drives later, Barrow missed a tackle on a short pass to the tight end. Then came a big play to Barlow for 29 yards. Barrow got blocked on this play trying to cover the back and Dhani Jones missed a tackle down the field. On 2nd-and-goal, Jones got good coverage on the tight end to prevent completion. But on the very next play, on 3rd-and-goal, Barrow should have tackled Hearst short of the goalline, but was faked out and Hearst scored San Fran’s only touchdown of the game. It was a major mistake by Barrow.

4th quarter. The 20-yard pass interference call on Barrow was a terrible call and helped to set up a 49er field goal. Not only was the ball uncatchable, but Barrow wasn’t holding on the play. Later in the drive, Barrow shot a gap and hit Barlow in the backfield, allowing others to finish the play. Short then made a nice play by nailing Hearst on a run to the left that only picked up 1 yard (Will Peterson had a nice run force here too on this play). A good night ended badly for Dhani Jones when he screwed up on the underneath zone coverage on Terrell Owens’ 33-yard reception late in the game that helped to set up the winning field goal.

Defensive Backs: The secondary played a superb game. You can’t ask for much more. The surprise star of the game was FS Omar Stoutmire, who was a hitting machine out there and personally responsible for breaking up two huge pass attempts. On 2nd-and-goal on the first 49er drive, Stoutmire smash WR Terrell Owens as he was crossing in the endzone; the hit knocked the ball out of his hands, saving a touchdown. In the second quarter, Stoutmire put another big lick on TE Eric Johnson. On the next drive, he saved a huge gain by smashing Owens (and knocking the ball out of his hands) on a fly patterns where Owens had gotten behind CB Jason Sehorn. Stoutmire really showed a lot of range in this game. Two negative plays, however, came in the 4th quarter. Stoutmire missed a tackle on Owens’ 10-yard reverse. He then misread a running play on San Fran’s last drive that picked up 7 yards and helped the 49ers get farther into field goal range (this is the play where Holmes also got blocked). On the last play, he did a good job of shooting a gap and tackling Hearst for a 1-yard loss.

Shaun Williams directed traffic for the secondary and got a big hit on Eric Johnson on the play where Barrow had him covered on the seam pass.

Two guys who really shone were CB Will Allen and CB Jason Sehorn. It seemed that most of the time one of these two was locked up on Owens and they shut down and shut up the best wide receiver in football. A magnificent performance. Sehorn did get beat on the one play where Stoutmire saved the day with the big hit, but he played extremely well given all the time he missed in camp and the preseason.

On 1st-and-goal from the 6-yard line, Allen came up to engage Owens extremely quickly after a 1-yard toss. Allen held on just long enough for help to finish off Owens, saving a touchdown. In the second quarter, the 49ers tried to burn Allen deep but it was Allen who came up with the interception. It was a big play because it came right after the Giants’ turned the ball over. In the third quarter, Allen once again tackled Owens right away after a short pass – limiting him to only 2 yards. Allen did a nice job of tackling Owens short again in the 4th quarter for only a 5-yard gain.

Sehorn played a 3rd-and-goal flat pass very nicely by flying up to tie up Hearst fright after the catch. Though Sehorn missed the tackle, his effort allowed the reinforcements enough time to come over and finish Hearst off. Sehorn can still run. He made a similar play in the third quarter, tackling Barlow for a 1-yard gain in the flat.

Will Peterson largely kept his man quiet as well, which was usually J.J. Stokes. Stokes did beat Peterson for a 10-yard gain on 3rd-and-9 in the second quarter. Owen got free of Peterson for what should have been a first down catch on 3rd-and-7, but Owen dropped the ball. Later, Peterson had excellent coverage on Owen in the endzone. He also had a nice run force on the same drive. The last drive was not a real good one for Peterson. He fell on Owens’ last catch of the game and this contributed to Owens picking up more yardage after the catch. On the very next play, he missed another tackle on Stokes on a 12-yard gain. This play was almost as big as the Owens play right before it as it moved the ball from the New York 37 to the 25.

Special Teams: Special teams were OK. The only worrisome sign was that Matt Allen had two punts go off the side of his foot (for 24 and 36 yards). His first punt was an excellent effort for 44 yards – an excellent directional punt that was not returned.

Matt Bryant hit both of his field goal attempts – one for 29 yards and the other for 33 yards. His kickoffs were up-and-down. His first was an unintentional squib kick. His second was good as it landed at the 4-yard line. His last landed at the 13. Kick coverage was decent. Quincy Monk and Marcellus Rivers made the first tackle after a 20 yard return. Charles Stackhouse made a tackle on a return that picked up too many yards (28). On the last kickoff, Marcellus Rivers made another tackle after a 17 yard return.

Tiki Barber returned one punt for 12 yards, but DeWayne Patmon was flagged for an illegal block on the play.

Ron Dixon actually looked good on his two kick returns as did the blocking on the returns. Dixon had returns of 35 and 26 yards. Jonathan Carter had a return of 14.

Mike Rosenthal blocked a field goal.

Coaching: Fassel’s explanation for not calling timeouts at the end of the game once the 49ers were in field goal range still make no sense to me. This was a MAJOR, MAJOR inexcusable gaffe that cost the Giants any opportunity to drive into field goal range at the end of the game. Coaches are supposed to put their players in the best position to win and Fassel didn’t do this.

Also, I have a problem with playing a sub-par Tiki Barber when you have a healthy Ron Dayne sitting on the bench. Plus, Dayne’s style may have been more conducive to success. The 49er defensive ends and linebackers are fast but small. Run off tackle at them. By continuing running wide, I think the Giants played to the 49er defensive strength.

Lastly, why in hell do you run a 4th-and-1 play that depends on your 3rd-string, PASS-receiving tight end to make a key block? Why not run a QB draw there? You have a huge quarterback and a good run blocking center. Dumb.

The defensive coaches get an A+. The Giants were not in a “prevent” defense at the end of the game. They were playing it like they did throughout the game.

Special teams is improving despite the journeymen kickers.

(Box Score – San Francisco 49ers at New York Giants, September 5, 2002)
Sep 032002
 

Approach to the Game – San Francisco 49ers at New York Giants, September 5, 2002: I didn’t really become a football junkie until 1984, when I was 16 years old. Before then, I’d rather play out in the yard than watch sports on TV. But 1984 was the year that week-in and week-out I lived and died with the Giants for the first time. In 1984, the 49ers were clearly the league’s elite team and headed for their second Super Bowl of the decade. The Giants were a surprise team 9-7 that had upset Eric Dickerson’s Rams in the first round of the playoffs. The G-Men had decided to stay out in Fresno the week before playing the 49ers in the second round so they wouldn’t have to fly across the country two more times. I can still remember Harry Carson saying, “Isn’t Fresno a soft drink?”

The Giants played the 49ers tough. Carson returned an interception for a touchdown, but the Giants couldn’t overcome a quick 14-0 deficit and despite threatening a few times in the second half, the Giants simply couldn’t put any points on the board. The Giants lost 21-10. It was clear that if the Giants were ever going to get near the Super Bowl, they would have to find a way to beat the 49ers. After all, it had been the 49ers who also knocked the Giants out of the playoffs in 1981.

1985 was an insane year. The Giants should have won the division, but they gave two games to Dallas who ended up taking the title instead. In the first round of the playoffs, the Giants had to play against their playoff nemesis again. However, this time it would be at home – their first home playoff game in 22 years. I was as stoked for that game as any I’ve ever watched and so were Giants fans everywhere. Enough was enough…it was time to get rid of that team from San Francisco. Great team defense and touchdown passes to Mark Bavaro and Don Hasselbeck led to a 17-3 victory. The curse was over.

It should not have been surprising at all that during the Giants’ two Super Bowl campaigns, they once again had to play the 49ers in the playoffs. The Giants were the favorite in the first game, in 1986, and they destroyed the 49ers 49-3. What Giant fan can forget Jim Burt slamming into Montana as Lawrence Taylor ran into the endzone with the interception? Earlier in that season, the Giants had miraculously overcome a 17-0 halftime deficit to win 21-17. It was Mark Bavaro’s trademark play of carrying the entire 49er defense on his back that turned the game around. In 1990, the Giants were heavy underdogs to a 49er team that everyone felt was on their way to a 3-peat. Two months earlier, the Giants had lost a heart-breaker to the 49ers 7-3 in one of the most watched Monday night game in history. At the end of that contest, Phil Simms and Ronnie Lott had to be separated from exchanging blows. That image still gets my blood flowing. But back to the 1990 playoff game. Again, great team defense, a fake punt, Matt Bahr’s consistent kicks, and a timely forced fumble by Erik Howard sent the Giants onto Super Bowl XXV. Once again, Montana was wracked by the G-Men – the hit by Leonard Marshall ended his career with the 49ers.

The Giants faced the 49ers again in the 1993 playoffs and this time it was the Giants who got crushed, 44-3, in simply an awful game that was the last for both Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor.

There were other great games. In the second game of 1988 at the Meadowlands, Jerry Rice caught a long touchdown pass in the waning seconds in what looked originally to be a New York come-from-behind win; San Fran won 20-17. One year later, out in San Francisco, the Giants fell way behind the 49ers, but managed to tie the game late 24-24. However, an offsides penalty on Reyna Thompson gave the 49ers a second chance to kick a game-winning field goal. In 1991, in Ray Handley’s first game as head coach, Matt Bahr returned the favor and the Giants won 16-14 at the end of the game.

Famous and infamous memories…memories that will stay with me always. Ironically, the 49er style of offense has not changed from the time of that playoff loss in 1981. Indeed, it is one of the more amazing stories in league history. Despite coaching changes and changing personnel, the 49ers still run the true West Coast Offense better than anyone. They keep coming up with great quarterbacks, receivers, and running backs – often castoffs from other teams. It is a true testament to the system established there originally by Bill Walsh.

One other thing hasn’t changed either. The way to beat the 49ers and their West Coast Offense is to punch them in the mouth. Get physical and nasty and kick the living crap out of them. Don’t let them dictate to you, but dictate to them. Attack their offense with your defense. Stop the run. Disrupt the timing of their passing game. Get after the quarterback. For God’s sake, don’t let them get into a rhythm! Do those things, and you win.

Giants on Special Teams: I don’t normally start off by addressing the special teams, but this year is different. While there has been improvement in the Giants’ coverage units throughout the preseason, now is when it accounts. In addition, there are real question marks with the kicking and return games.

The man really on the spot is Matt Bryant. Who in this world thought Matt Bryant had any chance of making the roster? Now Bryant may be called upon to kick the game-winning field goal in the league’s opening game of the season. That’s a lot of pressure. Bryant also has to do a good job of getting high and fairly deep kicks on his kick-offs in order to help protect a shaky coverage unit. Jimmy Williams is both the 49ers primary kick and punt returner.

Punter Matt Allen and long-snapper Bob Jones have only one preseason game under their belt with the Giants. Allen needs to continue to punt for hang-time in order to allow the gunners to force fair catches. The snapping of Jones is more important than fans realize.

I have no idea what the Giants are going to do in the return game. In terms of punts, will the Giants dare to use the explosive but untested Daryl Jones who missed almost all of the preseason with a knee injury? Tiki Barber has a hamstring injury. Will we see Ike Hilliard or Amani Toomer out there? I have a sneaky suspicion it may in fact be Jones. In terms of kicks, Tim Carter (ribs) is out. I thought Jonathan Carter looked decent returning kicks in the preseason. Will it be him or Ron Dixon or Delvin Joyce?

Giants on Defense: As I’ve said, this unit has to play a physical, nasty game. Make sure you wrap up, but bring some extra lumber with you too when you lay into the ball carrier. Gang tackle the running backs, pound the receivers after the catch, get some licks on Jeff Garcia, the quarterback.

The key is to stop the run. Make the 49ers one-dimensional and then get after the passer. However, I have a gut feeling that the 49ers are going to come out throwing in order to open up the running game later. The Giants’ need to be VERY wary of play-action fakes early in the contest. Look for the 49ers to try to isolate Brandon Short and/or Omar Stoutmire in coverage.

The play of the linebackers in coverage is all important when playing the 49ers. San Francisco loves to throw to the backs (HB Garrison Heart, HB Kevan Barlow, FB Fred Beasley) and tight ends (Eric Johnson and Justin Swift). This places a lot of pressure on the undercoverage. You had better believe the 49ers know that Dhani Jones is still green and Brandon Short struggled in the Jets’ game covering the fullback. The big fear here is that the 49ers will dink and dunk the Giants to death. I would be tempted to play the nickel in a lot of situations and rely on the front four, two linebackers, and SS Shaun Williams to stop the run.

In the secondary, CB Jason Sehorn returns. Call me nuts but despite the fact that he has hardly played or practiced this preseason, I would be very tempted to match him up on All-World WR Terrell Owens. Owens is said to have had his best training camp ever and is already the best receiver in the league. Sehorn is coming off knee problems. But Sehorn matches up very well size-wise with Owens and has the experience that the Wills lack. Regardless, you know that Sehorn, Peterson, and Allen will be on the field together most of the night. The big thing for them is not only to cover well, but to tackle well. The 49ers love to throw short and rely on the run-after-the-catch. They count on missed tackles, especially with big receivers such as Owens, J.J. Stokes, and Tai Streets. Come to think of it, the Giants may want to have Sehorn take Stokes out of the game one-on-one and then concentrate the others on Owens. We shall see. It will be important, I believe, to not allow the receivers a clean release off of the line. Get in their face and cause disruptions in their routes. This will throw off the 49er timing passes.

But the big thing is to stop the run. Everything revolves around the run. Garrison Heart made the Pro Bowl last year and Fred Beasley is a powerful lead blocker at fullback. And don’t forget about Kevan Barlow who flashes as both a runner and receiver. The Giants must, absolutely must, keep these guys under wraps or it will be a long night.

With the back seven having to focus so much on coverage, it is essential for the front four to clog up the running lanes AND get to the passer. That is a tall order, but if the Giants want to be considered a good defense, these are the types of games where you have to respond. I think Johnnie Lynn is going to have to blitz some, especially right up the gut, in order to disrupt the timing of the offense. But you don’t want to blitz too much as it can expose your coverage – especially against a sharp passing team such as the 49ers.

The battles up front are interesting. DE Michael Strahan against RT Scott Gragg, DT Cornelius Griffin vs. RG Ron Stone, LG Dave Fiore vs. DT Keith Hamilton, and DE Frank Ferrara and DE Kenny Holmes vs. LT Derrick Deese. Gragg has enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance out on the West Coast, but let’s see if he reverts back to form with his old “friend” Strahan lining up against him. Stone has hardly played this preseason due to injury and Griffin needs to take advantage of that. Obviously both Gragg and Stone will have something to prove against their former team. OC Jeremy Newberry is one of the best centers in the game, but he’s been bothered with injuries of late as well and will be snapping in this game with his left hand due to a broken finger. A big match-up for New York will be Keith Hamilton versus Newberry and Fiore since Hamilton will likely be the target of double teams. The 49ers will most likely try to run at Frank Ferrara/Kenny Holmes and Dhani Jones on the weakside. Frank and Kenny need to play stout at the point-of-attack and Dhani Jones and Mike Barrow need to shy away from the lead blocks of Beasley.

Lastly, and very important, these five men must get heat on Garcia. Sacks are great, but hits are almost as important. Mess him up.

Giants on Offense: Score points, preferably touchdowns. No excuses. The Giants’ offense has steadily improved under the auspices of Jim Fassel as General Manager Ernie Accorsi has gotten him better players at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. But the Giants’ offense still struggles to put a lot of points on the board on a consistent basis. As long as everyone stays healthy this year, that should change. The Giants have a lot of talent at the skill positions and these guys can now open up things for each other. This could be a very exciting time if you like offensive football.

There are three potential clouds on the horizon. The first is health. In particular, Tiki Barber’s strained hamstring. It will be very difficult for the Giants to win this game if Tiki doesn’t play, but hamstring injuries are so tricky that I think I would sit him for this game. Better to lose him for one game than eight.

The second cloud is the offensive line. I’m fairly comfortable with Luke Petitgout at left tackle, Rich Seubert at left guard, Chris Bober at center, and Jason Whittle at right guard. But Mike Rosenthal has been a tad shaky at right tackle and opponents will really start to test him now with game plans. Also, this group is an injury away from disaster until Dusty Zeigler gets back.

The third cloud is Kerry Collins. I root for Collins and I actually believe he is in store for a big year. But in order for him to do so, he needs to protect the ball better (both interceptions and fumbles) and make plays in crucial situations. He has what looks to be an adequate offensive line in front of him and good talent at the skill positions. He’s got no excuses.

My game plan would depend on if Tiki Barber plays or not. If Tiki plays, I would come out throwing the football. Both Barber and TE Jeremy Shockey are going to put a ton of stress on the undercoverage of the 49ers – especially when you consider that linebackers Saleem Rasheed and Jeff Ulbrich are out due to injuries. You can’t double both and having both on the field makes the jobs of Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard that much easier. The 49er pass defense is improving, but it is nothing to write home about.

Of course, the downside to coming out and throwing is that you expose the young and inexperienced offensive line to great pressure and more blitzes. The safer route would be to pound the ball at the 49ers and let the offensive line gain some confidence. This would more likely be the strategy if Ron Dayne starts. Run the ball between the tackles or off tackle, and then use the play-action pass down the field.

The match-ups up front are DE Andre Carter vs. Petitgout, DT Dana Stubblefied vs. Seubert, DT Bryant Young vs. Whittle, and DE Chike Okeafor vs. Rosenthal. Obviously, Whittle has his hands full with Bryant. The Okeafor-Rosenthal battle is important too and Okeafor is a better player than the average fan realizes. He can rush the passer and may give Rosenthal problems. Also keep in mind that the 49ers have some good players in reserve and we may see a lot of them as well (though a couple of them are banged up).

One would think that the Giants could take advantage of the 49er linebackers in coverage and possibly run at them some. Julian Peterson can rush the passer and Jamie Winborn is super-fast, but both are still learning. San Fran will miss Jeff Ulbrich in the middle for this game.

Amani Toomer has a chance to have a really big year with Shockey and Barber pulling attention away from him. He faces Jason Webster, a smaller corner, unless the 49ers decided to flip-flop. This is a match-up that should favor the Giants and Toomer. The left corner, Ahmed Plummer is the 49ers’ best defensive back and he faces Ike Hilliard. Nickel back Mike Rumph has a lot of talent, but had some problems in coverage in the preseason. Will Ron Dixon be a factor? SS Tony Parrish is a good run defender and FS Zack Bronson is decent. Again, as long as Collins is “on” and the offensive line gives him some time, the receivers should be able to do some damage here.

Sep 012002
 
New York Giants 13 – Baltimore Ravens 0

Game Overview: The best news about this game was not the outcome but the fact that the Giants came out of it relatively healthy. It was also good to see that new Giant P Matt Allen appears to be an upgrade over Rodney Williams – at least in the consistency department.

Not playing in the game were QB Kerry Collins (shoulder), HB Tiki Barber (hamstring), TE Jeremy Shockey (ankle), OC Dusty Zeigler (knee), HB Ron Dayne (neck), HB Damon Washington (knee), SS Shaun Williams (knee), MLB Mike Barrow (knee), SLB Brandon Short (hip flexor), DT Lance Legree (knee), WR Tim Carter (back), and WR Daryl Jones (knee). OC/OT Chris Bober did not play because his wife was expecting the couple’s first child.

After the game, the following players were released: HB Antonio Warren, FB Darian Barnes, WR Derek Dorris, TE/H-Back Taman Bryant, LT Ryan Deterding, RT Andy Stensrud, OG Sean O’Connor, OG Pat Crummey, DE Cedric Scott, DE Nick Myers, DT Ross Kolodziej, SS Nate Coggins, CB David Mitchell, and PK Matt Bryant.

Quarterbacks: With Collins out, Jesse Palmer (15/22 for 172 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions) got the opportunity to play with the first team for a little more than a quarter before playing most of the second quarter with the reserves. Once again, he played fairly well. On the Giants’ first drive, he hit Sean Bennett over the middle for 23 yards on 3rd-and-5, but the drive bogged down after penalty on Luke Petitgout and a dropped pass by TE Marcellus Rivers. Palmer’s 3rd-and-14 pass to Ike Hilliard fell incomplete. On the next drive, Palmer hit FB Charles Stackhouse out of the backfield for 10 yards on 3rd-and-2. Three plays later on 3rd-and-6, Palmer saw that the weakside end had lost contain and he scrambled for the first down. Then came a 14 yard pass to Bennett and superb deep throw that Ike Hilliard should have caught inside the five (but dropped). Palmer’s 3rd-and-6 pass was tipped and it fell incomplete.

The third drive was Palmer’s last with the first unit. After two Delvin Joyce runs, Palmer hit Ike Hilliard on a quick rollout out pass to the right for the first down. His next throw was his best – a deep sideline strike to Hilliard that was thrown on a rope against cover two coverage (right behind the corner and in front of the safety). The play resulted in a 44-yard gain. But this drive bogged down after a personal foul penalty on Rivers and a sack on 3rd-and-13.

On the fourth drive, Palmer had to scramble for two yards on his first chance (the dregs of the second team OL were now in the game). On the second pass play, a pass to Taman Bryant was ruled incomplete (it should have been ruled a fumble). Palmer hit Delvin Joyce over the middle for 12 yards on 3rd-and-8. After two Sean Bennett runs, on 3rd-and-12, LT Ryan Deterding once again got Palmer sacked. The next drive was hampered by the players around him. Palmer hit Dixon for 9 yards on 2nd-and-10, but Rivers was flagged with another personal foul penalty and Tam Hopkins with a false start. On 3rd-and-21, Palmer was sacked as there was a jail break on the left side of the line (Deterding was in the middle of this again). The sixth drive was Palmer’s last of the game and led to the only points scored by either team in the first half (a field goal). Palmer first passed to Dixon for 10 yards and then missed a well-covered Dixon on a deep fly pattern. Palmer found Derek Dorris over the middle for 12 yards on 3rd-and-7. Two plays later, Jesse moved out of the pocket (but didn’t panic) to avoid the rush and calmly hit Dorris for 16 more yards. What I didn’t like was his decision on the next play to spike the ball (thereby losing a down) with the ball on the Baltimore 15 with 41 seconds left before half and all three timeouts. Then they called a timeout all the same. Shitty clock management that only gave the Giants’ two plays instead of three. They had to settle for a field goal after a short run and pass.

Jason Garrett (7/11 for 163 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 interceptions) took over in the second half and played well. On the Giants’ first drive of the second half, passes to Barnes (5 yards) and Jonathan Carter (18 yards) set up the second field goal. A 3rd-and-8 slant pass to Derek Dorris was tipped at the line of scrimmage ending the drive prematurely. Garrett didn’t attempt a throw during the second drive. His third drive was his best, with two superbly thrown deep balls to Jonathan Carter on a fade (19 yards) and Ron Dixon on a fly (30 yards). The second pass was against cover two, and just like Palmer’s earlier deep pass, it was squeezed between the corner and the safety. But that promising drive ended prematurely due to a 4-yard loss on a running play, a false start penalty, and two incomplete passes. The next drive was the only TD drive of the night. Garrett hit Jonathan Carter on a deep out for 16 yards and then found Carter again for a 75 yard catch-and-run for a touchdown that put the game away.

Wide Receivers: Ike Hilliard (3 catches for 44 yards) was Palmer’s go-to guy at wide receiver. Ike showed good concentration on his 44-yard catch despite the safety barreling in on him. However, he also dropped a deep strike by Palmer too that would have given the Giants the ball inside the five. Instead, the team had to punt two plays later. Amani Toomer had no catches.

Ron Dixon (4 catches for 52 yards) had a decent game and seems to have won the third receiving job. He showed nice concentration on the fly pattern from Garrett that picked up 30 yards. But again, it was the blocking of Dixon on running plays that impressed me the most. You can tell that Dixon is really trying hard this year by the way he works to really sustain his run blocks. He has been extremely physical for a wide receiver.

Derek Dorris (3 catches for 32 yards) made an impact on the field goal drive right before halftime. The guy seems to make quite a few plays, but was waived. He’s one of those guys you hope the Giants stash on the Practice Squad. While not particularly fast, he is fluid and appears to have very good hands.

The guy who really stood out was Jonathan Carter (4 catches for 128 yards, 1 touchdown). Things looked a tad shaky early with a false start and by fumbling the ball out-of-bounds after one catch. But his first three catches picked up important first downs and on each of these, he demonstrated much improved route running. On his 19-yard fade reception, Carter caught the ball despite a lot of contact from the defender. On his next reception, he did a good job of driving off the defender, then making his cut to the sideline for a 16-yard reception. Then came his brilliant one-handed catch of a pass thrown behind him…and it was off to the races. The most amazing thing is that one Raven even had the angle on him, but Carter is so fast that it didn’t matter.

Tight Ends/H-Backs: Dan Campbell (1 catch for 2 yards) looked good once again blocking for the run in the down position at the end of the line. There was one running play in the first quarter where he just destroyed his man. Marcellus Rivers did not have a good game. He was flagged with two costly personal foul penalties in the first half that stalled drives and also dropped a pass. The good news is that Rivers is really working at his blocking and there has been continued improvement in that department. Taman Bryant is lucky his short reception was ruled incomplete rather than a fumble.

Halfbacks/Fullbacks: With Barber and Dayne both out, Sean Bennett (12 carries for 17 yards, 3 catches for 40 yards) got the start. He was more impressive as a receiver than runner. On the second play of the game, he made a nice cutback to the right and might have broken a big run if he wasn’t so easily ankle-tackled. But on the next play, on 3rd-and-5, he caught a short Palmer pass and broke two tackles en route to a 23 yard gain. It was an impressive display of power and niftiness. Palmer looked pretty smooth grabbing a 14-yarder of the backfield on the next drive. The most troublesome sign with Bennett remains his God-awful blitz pick-ups. For someone so big and athletic, he’s more of a turnstile out there. One of these days, he’s going to get Collins killed in an important game if he doesn’t improve in this department.

I really like the way Delvin Joyce (3 carries for 14 yards, 1 catch for 12 yards) looked. He’s a small guy, but he is very quick and shifty. You can see why some compare him to a poor man’s David Meggett. On his first carry, he just exploded up into the hole for 6 yards. Joyce made an excellent juke move on a short 3rd-and-8 reception where he ran for the first down. Joyce also made a nice block on Palmer’s 3rd-and-6 scramble for a first down.

Antonio Warren (16 carries for 38 yards) ran the ball only in the second half behind the crap offensive line and performed well. I like the way Warren runs. His has good vision, continues to cutback at the right moment, and has some power to his game (there was one excellent run where he just powered his way for extra yardage despite being surrounded by tacklers). He just seems a very decisive runner to me – something that Ron Dayne is not always. I was glad the Giants kept Joyce, but sad to see Warren let go.

As for the fullback war, we now know that Charles Stackhouse won the job. Both he and Darian Barnes played fairly well as lead blockers in this game. But both still need to play with their pad level lower and thereby get better leverage so they don’t get stood up in the hole. Stackhouse has a size advantage, but I still like the athleticism and hustle of Barnes. Stackhouse caught a 10-yard pass on 3rd-and-2. It was a nice play because Stackhouse did a good job of faking the pass block, while at the same time not taking himself out of the play by avoiding the rush. Barnes got beat badly for a sack by Peter Boulware. It was a poor pass protection scheme by the Giants because they had Barnes lined up in a tight end position on the line of scrimmage and called upon him to block Boulware from this spot one-on-one. Very few, if any, fullbacks in this league could handle that assignment – not from that position. Barnes played mostly in the second half and his lead blocking was mostly strong. However, Barnes has since been cut and claimed by Tampa Bay.

Offensive Line: Chris Bober missed the game because of the delivery of his first child. Thus RG Jason Whittle had to be moved to center and reserve RG Tam Hopkins started. The first team line once again played decently despite these changes, with a few down moments. The run and pass blocking was mostly solid. I saw good blocking across the line and from the lead fullbacks and there were no major pass protection breakdowns other than two linebacker dogs up the middle. LT Luke Petitgout was flagged with a false start on the first drive and got beat badly when attempting to block the defensive end on the backside of a Sean Bennett run – Petitgout’s man tackled Bennett for a 4-yard loss. I saw one more instance of RT Mike Rosenthal getting pushed back into the quarterback too easily, but big Mike played fairly well. His flankmate – Tam Hopkins – was up and down. Ironically, Hopkins seemed to do better with the first team than the second team. The one area he does need to improve in is blitz awareness. There were a couple of times where he seemed oblivious of linebacker dogs coming through his area. In the second quarter, Hopkins had some problems. He looked just awful on a pull to the right where his lack of athleticism really caused the play to breakdown. There were also two running plays that broke down because he couldn’t make the block that he was called upon to do. And there was a false start.

None of the other back-ups made the team – except for OC Omar Smith – and for good reason. They were as bad a collection of misfits as I’ve seen. Ryan Deterding had a role in two first half sacks. Pat Crummey was responsible for a second half sack.

Defensive Line: Once again, not much of a pass rush from the starting front four. However, to be fair, the Ravens had a lot of short dropback passes that made it tough to get close to the quarterback. More importantly, the starters saw very few plays as the Giants controlled the clock in the first half. Like he does with most of his opponents, LT Jonathan Ogden toyed with Frank Ferrara and Kenny Holmes. Ferrara and DT Keith Hamilton got handled at the point-of-attack on Jamal Lewis’ 7-yard run on the first drive (and Nick Greisen and Dhani Jones didn’t read the cutback in time).

Mike Strahan saw a lot of double teams and only got one decent rush. Strahan also made a nice play of limiting a Lewis run to 2-yards by making the play from the backside. Holmes, playing against Odgen, did knock down a 3rd-and-2 slant pass.

The back-ups on the defensive line didn’t get much of a pass rush either. The guys who played mostly in the second half were Nick Myers at strongside end, Ross Kolodziej and Matt Mitrione at tackle, and Dwight Johnson at weakside end. Cedric Scott didn’t play until very late in the game. Kolodziej cleaned up with a couple of sacks on plays where the quarterback was forced to scramble from pass pressure by Myers on one play and Scott on another. Kolodziej also made a nice play against the run late in the game when he played off a block and clobbered the running back.

Linebackers: With Barrow and Short both out, Nick Greisen started in the middle and Kevin Lewis started on the strongside. Dhani Jones continues to show a nose for the football and fine speed that enables him to cover, chase, and blitz. However, he still needs to finish plays better by tackling more consistently. Lewis made a few nice plays in the first half – combining to Will Allen to hold a short pass to a receiver to a minimum gain, combining with Frank Ferrara to hold Jamal Lewis to a 1-yard gain, and combining with Ryan Clark to stuff Lewis on another carry.

The three rookie linebackers all played well. On Baltimore’s first drive, Greisen did a superb job of covering Jamal Lewis in the flat on 3rd-and-4 and helping to force an incompletion. Greisen looked good too on a couple of linebacker dogs up the gut. On a 3rd-and-1 in the 3rd quarter, he met the back in the hold and prevented the first down. On the next drive, he did the same exact thing on a 2nd-and-2 play that only picked up a yard (on the previous play, Greisen, Monk, and Mallard did get blocked along with Dwight Johnson on an 8-yard run).

Quincy Monk made an excellent play at the start of the 3rd quarter when he played off the block of the tight end and stuffed the running back. Monk later did a nice job of jamming the tight end at the line and staying with him in coverage (though he never turned around to play the ball and might have intercepted it if he had). In the 4th quarter, Monk stuffed an inside run for only a 1-yard gain. At the end of the contest, Monk did a nice job of rushing the passer from the down position – one time using a real nifty swim move.

Wes Mallard did a nice job of covering the back coming out of the backfield in the flat on the Ravens’ first drive of the second half. Mallard smashed a receiver coming over the middle on a short pass in the 4th quarter. A few plays later, he shot a gap and combined with Dwight Johnson to stuff a running play.

Defensive Backs: Will Peterson forced Jamal Lewis to fumble with a tough hit. Will Allen did a good job of coming up to tackle the receiver on a quick toss on the first drive.

Ralph Brown got beat on an 11-yard reception in the second quarter against the first team Ravens’ offense. But he kept his opponent quiet thereafter and defended two deep passes well in the 4th quarter. David Mitchell made a superb play by sticking with his man despite a couple of fakes and coming down with an interception on the sideline. However, Mitchell got faked out badly by Lewis after a short reception and was also faked out badly on a flea flicker that should have resulted in a touchdown (the receiver dropped the ball). In the second half, it was more of the same with Mitchell, occasionally showing nice coverage, but more often than not trailing an open man.

DeWayne Patmon started in place of Shaun Williams. Patmon made a punishing hit on a short pass to a back out of the backfield. But on the next drive, he missed a tackle on Jamal Lewis. Late in the game, he clobbered another receiver coming into his area – for a small guy, Patmon can hit. Ryan Clark was pretty aggressive coming up to defend the run, but was also fooled on the flea flicker. He also had problems sticking with a receiver that he was called upon to cover during a cornerback blitz. In the 4th quarter, he got turned around by the tight end in the endzone and was lucky the ball fell incomplete.

Special Teams: The good news is that the hangtime on newcomer Matt Allen’s punts was much more consistent than Rodney Williams’. This allowed the gunners – Ron Dixon and Ryan Clark (both of whom did an excellent job) – to get down the field and force some fair catches or disrupt the rhythm of the return. Allen doesn’t look like he will crush any punts for distance, but it looks like the Giants won’t be giving up as many long returns either. He had one bad punt in the first half when he punted through the endzone instead of trapping the Ravens inside the 20. And his last punt was poor – only 28 yards Allen’s punts went for 39 yards (fair catch), 39 yards (touchback), 41 yards (7 yard return), 42 yards (muffed – no return), 40 yards (fair catch), and 28 yards (fair catch). Darnell Dinkins came ever so close to blocking a punt – he made a great move on his blocker.

Kick return coverage was good. Matt Bryant’s kick offs landed at the 4 (21 yard return), 5 (22 yard return), 13 (18 yard return), 8 (19 yard return). Making tackles were Wes Mallard (2), Darnell Dinkins (2), Quincy Monk, and Kevin Lewis.

Antonio Warren did not look natural at all fielding punts. He was too hesitant on one line drive, let a punt hit the turf that he should have fielded, and muffed another. This really didn’t help his cause in terms of sticking on the active roster. Delvin Joyce looked pretty good on his one return that picked up 15 yards.

PK Owen Pochman had another terrible miss – his 44-yard attempt in the first period was an ugly kick that never had a chance. He sort of redeemed himself by making a 47-yarder on the next drive, but that field goal was taken off of the board by a holding call on Quincy Monk (it was a terrible call by the officials). He did make a 26-yarder right before halftime. Matt Bryant made a 39-yard field goal, but missed a 48-yarder.

(Box Score – Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants, August 29, 2002)