New York Giants 10 – Philadelphia Eagles 7 (OT)
Game Overview: This game will undoubtably go down in Giants’ history as one of the most memorable game ever played. Images from this game will forever be burned into the memory of Giants’ fans: Jeremy Shockey stealing away the ball from Brian Dawkins and then savoring the moment by letting Dawkins hear it; a devastated Tiki Barber kneeling on the sidelines after his third fumble; the sigh of relief when David Akers missed an easy field goal near the end of regulation; and the euphoria players and fans felt after Matt Bryant won the game in overtime with his 39-yard field goal.
The win completed a miraculous turnaround. At 6-6, the Giants looked dead as a door nail. Four wins later, their 10-6 record belied what was supposed to be a rebuilding year in many circles. The Giants are now one of the hottest teams heading into the playoffs.
But if one is to look at this game objectively, one must recognize that the Giants, specifically Kerry Collins and Tiki Barber, came damn close to giving this game away. Collins took certain points of the board with his incredibly stupid decision to force the ball to Shockey in the end zone on the team’s first drive. Barber did the same when he fumbled the ball away inside the 4-yard line. And Barber’s last lost fumble should have sealed New York’s fate, but somehow Pro Bowl PK David Akers missed a chip shot with 1:16 left. Combine those errors with two horrific calls by the officials to take two Giants’ touchdowns off the board, it is a minor miracle the Giants prevailed.
The defensive statistics look impressive, but is it is also important to note that the Giants’ defensive performance on the first series of the game was embarrassingly bad and that the Giants were later aided by quite a few dropped passes. The run defense was superb, but the pass rush was non-existent.
On special teams, the kickers remain shaky.
Am I nitpicking? Perhaps. But next time Akers won’t miss that kick. There is a fine line between a glorious victory and gut-wrenching defeat.
Special Teams: Part of the problem with Bryant’s kickoffs is that his leg is dead tired. He kicked in NFL Europe and this is his first NFL season. In other words, instead of an average 11 game college schedule, Bryant has now kicked in 10 Europe games, 5 preseason games, and 16 regular season games – an almost three-fold increase. Regardless, Bryant’s kickoffs have gotten progressively worse. This week, his kicks landed at the 20 (returned 13 yards to the 33), 27 (returned 10 yards to the 37), and 13 (returned 32 yards to the 45). That’s as bad as it gets and the Giants are darn lucky the last kickoff didn’t cost them the game in overtime. It’s hard to judge the kick-off coverage unit when the kick-offs are so bad. Making the tackles were Byron Frisch, Johnnie Harris, and Marcellus Rivers.
Bryant almost cost the Giants the game as well with an extra point that hit the upright but fortunately bounced in and a missed 36-yard field goal.
Matt Allen’s punting – as usual – was disappointing. His punts went for 54 (net 34 on a touchback), 38 (nice job by Kato Serwanga to get down the field quickly), 22 (terrible), and 25 (pooch punt landing at the 12). Ironically for such a low scoring game, Allen never punted in the second half of the game.
Delvin Joyce’s kick returns went for 35 and 39 (an illegal block by Kevin Lewis brought the latter back to the 9-yard line. Obviously those efforts were excellent. His punt returns went for 2, 18 (illegal block by Charles Stackhouse brought this back), 2, 10, and -2. Joyce never returned a punt in the second half of the game.
Defensive Line: The Eagles only managed 65 yards of rushing and 20 of those came on a WR reverse. Duce Staley was held to 28 yards on 17 carries. That’s outstanding. The Eagles tried to run at the Giants’ weakside, but DE Kenny Holmes (4 tackles, 1 sack) and DT Lance Legree (4 tackles) were up to the task. This was the best I’ve seen these two play run defense together all season and it was against a quality opponent no less. On the reverse, Holmes was not fooled; he wasn’t able to get off the block, but the reason the play worked was not his fault. DE Michael Strahan (7 tackles) was more hit or miss. Some of his run defense plays for negative yardage were outstanding, but two of the Eagles’ best rushes (for 9 and 7 yards) were run right at him. Cornelius Griffin (4 tackles) was pretty stout.
The pass rush was a different story. The Giants rarely got any pressure on A.J. Feeley. Holmes got close once in regulation, but it was in overtime where he made the most important play of his career as a Giant. His one-armed sack of Feeley despite still being engaged by Pro Bowl LT Tra Thomas may have saved the game on the Eagles’ first offensive possession in the extra period. The Giants need to get a better pass rush or they won’t survive long in the playoffs. Michael Strahan and Cornelius Griffin, in particular, both need to elevate their games. Griffin did make a nice athletic play in coverage when he tipped a pass away on 3rd-and-11; if he doesn’t make this play, the Eagles may pick up the first down.
Linebackers: Things started off pretty ugly on the Eagles’ first drive as they drove 67-yards in four plays for a touchdown. TE Jeff Thomason got wide open in the middle of the defense for 20 yards on a zone blitz. On the next play, HB Duce Staley was not covered when he lined up in the slot and a 35-yard gain resulted. The announcers said FS Omar Stoutmire was to blame, but I’m not so sure that a linebacker wasn’t supposed to pick him up. On the 20-yard reverse for a touchdown, both Michael Barrow (10 tackles) and Dhani Jones (8 tackles) got faked out of their jocks. TE Chad Lewis was also left wide open in the middle of the field on the Eagles’ third drive for a 16-yard gain.
After that, things were mostly positive as the linebackers played a big role in keeping the Eagle ground game quiet. SLB Brandon Short (3 tackles) was aggressive against the run and the pass. He was a little two aggressive on the latter as he got flagged with defensive holding and then made matters worse by not being able to knock the ball away or tackle Thomason en route to 17-yard gain. Short had very aggressive coverage on Lewis on the 3rd-and-5 play in overtime where the ball was deflected and intercepted by Shaun Williams. The announcers felt that holding should have been called, but I didn’t think his actions warranted a flag…heck Jeremy Shockey sees that kind of hand-fighting on every play. Regardless, the coverage by Short created the turnover and was big factor in the victory.
Dhani Jones played a good game both against the pass and the run. He was very solid in coverage and made a huge play when he played off a block and tackled Staley on a screen pass for no gain. What I’ve liked about Jones’ play in recent weeks is that he is being more aggressive at filling the hole on running plays in his direction.
Barrow was very active against the run as his tackle total indicates. He was in the center of the action after Tiki’s 3rd fumble of the game. He tackled Staley aggressively for only a 1-yard gain on 2nd-and-3, but he missed Staley short of the first down marker on the next play. He was on each of the ensuing 3 tackles, holding Staley to 1, -1, and -2 yards. These three plays are important when you consider PK David Akers missed a potential game-winning field goal on 4th-and-12.
Defensive Backs: A.J. Feeley only completed 13 passes for 150 yards and the longest reception in the game by a wide receiver was 14 yards. That is damn impressive. However, it is also a bit misleading. The Giants were very fortunate that more than few accurate passes were dropped by Philly receivers in key situations. At certain points of the game, the coverage was not as tight as I would have hoped. In particular, the Eagles were able to find the soft spots in some zone coverage a bit too easy. The Giants were lucky it didn’t cost them.
FS Omar Stoutmire (6 tackles) missed Staley on the 35-yard gain on the third offensive play of the game. On the next play, CB Will Peterson (2 tackles) did not play the reverse aggressively enough to his side and SS Shaun Williams (4 tackles) missed a tackle that would have kept the receiver out of the end zone.
On the next series, CB Will Allen (3 tackles) made a nice play in run defense on 1st down and then broke up a 2nd-and-6 pass intended for WR Freddie Mitchell. On 3rd down, CB Jason Sehorn (1 tackle) was beaten down the middle of the defense for what looked to be a big play, but the pass fell incomplete. On the next series, Stoutmire made two nice plays in run defense. On the next series, Allen had excellent coverage on WR James Thrash on a 3rd-and-5 play and the Eagles were forced to punt.
On the Eagles’ first possession in the 3rd quarter, Peterson was the center of attention. Peterson had good position on a deep pass to Thrash, but for some reason, he didn’t play the ball and was lucky Thrash couldn’t bring the ball in. On the next play, perhaps overly-conscious of getting beat deep, Peterson played too soft on Thrash and an 8-yard completion was the result. Two plays later, however, Peterson had perfect deep coverage on Thrash and the ball fell incomplete. A quick throw to Mitchell was limited to a 3-yard gain on the next play as Peterson made a sure tackle.
On the next drive, Sehorn made his only tackle of the game, but it was a big one as he kept WR Antonio Freeman short of the first down marker on 3rd-and-5 by one yard. Williams came up with the interception in overtime off of deflected pass.
Quarterback: I would have been very pleased with the performance of Kerry Collins (25-35 for 256 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception) if it weren’t for some of his costly mistakes. He started things off right on the Giants’ first drive with a 22-yard pass to TE Jeremy Shockey, but three plays later, he made a stupid, stupid decision to try to force the ball into a double-covered Shockey on 2nd-and-goal from the 6-yard line. The pass was also a tad high and intercepted off a deflection. This play took at least 3 points off the board and perhaps 7. On the next series, I became a bit worried as Collins looked a bit nervous in the pocket. This was reminiscent of his nervousness in the first Giants-Eagles game. The Giants went 3-and-out.
On the third series, Collins threw a perfect deep strike to WR Amani Toomer for a 33-yard gain. And he made a good decision two plays later when deciding not to force a screen pass that was well-covered. But on 3rd-and-10, he inexcusably fumbled the shot-gun snap and the Giants were forced to punt.
On the fifth series, Collins hit Barber out of the backfield for 13 yards on 3rd-and-6. Then on 3rd-and-7, Collins threw a high pass to Toomer that Toomer came down with for 24 yards. Two plays later, Collins threw low to Shockey for another 24-yard gain. Two plays later, Kerry hit Stackhouse out of the backfield for a 6-yard touchdown reception. However, a bogus holding penalty took the points off the board.
Near the end of the first half, Collins impressively spun out of what should have been a sack and picked up 8 yards on the play. What I liked is that in a game of this magnitude, Collins didn’t slide but fought for the first down marker.
On the first series in the second half, Collins fumbled another snap (inexcusable), but picked up 12 yards on the next play with a pass to Shockey. The drive ended with another Barber fumble. On the next drive, Collins made another mistake by not getting the play off in time – moving the ball from the Eagle 21 to the 26. This was big as Matt Bryant missed a 36-yard field goal 4 plays later.
Where Collins really turned things around was on the next drive – a 13-play, 80-yard march where Collins was 8-of-8 (not including the 43-yard TD strike taken off the board due to another bogus holding penalty). Collins completed passes of 4 yards to TE Dan Campbell, 4 to Barber, 5 to Shockey, 20 to Shockey, 4 to Campbell, 8 to HB Ron Dayne, 19 to Barber, and 7 to Shockey for the touchdown. Collins stood in there tough despite pass pressure and calmly delivered the football…very impressive.
Collins is lucky. He didn’t bring his “A” game with the interception, two fumbles, and the delay of game penalty, but the Giants still won. On the positive side, Kerry delivered in the clutch on a drive when the Giants needed him the most.
Wide Receivers: Not a huge factor this week though Amani Toomer (2 catches for 57 yards) got screwed when the officials took his 43-yard touchdown reception off of the board. Amani’s other two questions were impressive: a 33-yard reception on a deep pass down the left sideline against double coverage and a leaping catch of a high Collins’ pass on 3rd-and-7. Not only did he come down with the ball, but Amani ran for additional yardage after the play en route to a 24-yard gain.
Daryl Jones (1 catch for 8 yards) remains frustratingly unproductive. His sole reception in the red zone came out of the slot where he made a nice move to change direction quickly and then fought aggressively for the end zone. However, Jones had a chance to be a big hero with a 1st-and-15 strike into the end zone by Collins from the Eagle 26-yard line. Jones got himself wide open in the end zone, but mistimed his jump and the slightly overthrown ball fell incomplete.
Both Jones and Toomer did a good job in the run blocking department. Jones got a great block on Tiki’s 22-yard gain in the 1st quarter around right end and Toomer got a nice inside block on the safety on a Tiki run up the middle on the game-tying touchdown drive. Toomer did a great job of knocking down a tipped Collins’ pass that looked like an easy interception. Kudos to Jones for showing veteran savvy by drawing the crucial personal foul penalty in overtime.
Tight Ends: Jeremy Shockey (10 catches for 98 yards, 1 touchdown) made impact plays in the Giants’ most important game of the year. Too many “stars” in this league disappear in the clutch, but not Jeremy who made one big catch after another. New York’s first play was a short pass to a well-covered Shockey who came down with the tipped ball and rumbled for 22 yards. In the 2nd quarter, Shockey made a sliding catch for a 24-yard gain despite being covered by Pro Bowl CB Troy Vincent. He then made three key catches on the game-tying TD drive. First, he caught a 5-yard reception on 3rd-and-2. Then he came down with an incredible 20-yard catch on 1st-and-25 despite getting destroyed by the safety – his ability to hold onto the ball despite this monster hit was amazing. Shockey then saved the day by out-jumping and out-leaping Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins for the 7-yard touchdown catch on a jump ball from Collins.
Both Shockey and Dan Campbell (2 catches for 8 yards) continue to be big assets in the ground game with their run blocking. I saw one Barber run where Campbell didn’t get a good block, but that was the exception on another wise fine effort. A lot of Tiki’s 203 yards rushing came because of fine run blocks from both tight ends. Campbell also did a heck of a job picking up a blitz from the fullback spot. This enabled Collins to hit Toomer for a 24-yard gain. Campbell did drop one pass from Collins.
Running Backs: As Ron Dayne (1 carry for 2 yards; 1 catch for 8 yards) was sick; Tiki Barber (32 carries for 203 yards; 8 catches for 73 yards) was the workhorse and responsible for 280 of New York’s 461 offensive yards. It would have been an incredible performance if it weren’t for 4 fumbles (3 of which were lost). Yet Tiki never gave up and, aside from the personal foul penalty, was responsible for all of the yardage in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal. Tiki’s big runs of the game were a 22-yard effort around right end on the first drive (good blocks from Campbell, Rosenthal, Seubert, and Jones) and a 39-yard effort in the 3rd quarter (good block by Petitgout at the point-of-attack and good downfield blocks from Bober and Shockey). But he was consistently productive throughout the game with many runs that went for 5, 6, 7 yards.
His receptions were key as well: a 10-yarder on 3rd-and-3, a 13-yarder on 3rd-and-6, and a 19-yard reception on 2nd-and-12 on the Giants’ game-tying TD drive. Tiki touched the ball an amazing 40 times. In overtime, Tiki touched the ball 6 straight times for 7, 5, 10, 6, -3 (fumble), and 1 yard; in other words, all six plays.
But let’s be honest here – I love Tiki to death but he almost gave this game away. His first fumble came inside the Eagle 5-yard line when the Giants were about to score. The second came on the Giants’ first drive of the second half when they were moving the ball again. The third was the deadliest – fumbling away the ball on the Giants’ 26-yard line with only 4:50 left to play in the game. Only a minor miracle prevented Ackers from winning the game. Tiki also muffed the handoff two plays preceding Bryant’s game-winning field goal.
If it weren’t for the fumbles, it would have been a great performance. But you have to take into account the fumbles. You have to.
Offensive Line: An incredible job both blocking for the run and pass against the best defense in football (sorry Tampa). No, things were not perfect. I saw all five offensive linemen miss blocks. Mike Rosenthal had a couple of problems in pass protection, Luke Petitgout gave up a sack to Pro Bowl DE Hugh Douglas, and there were pass pressures given up by each of the three interior linemen. But the Eagles only managed one sack and Collins had as much time as I’ve seen any quarterback have against this Eagles’ defense. Most impressive was the productivity of the ground game as the Giants first ran a lot to their right, then their left, and then up the middle. By the end of the game, the Giants had worn the Eagle defense down and Barber had picked up over 200 yards rushing. Rosenthal does need to sustain better when he pulls to his right as a couple of longer blocks would have sprung Barber for bigger yardage. The holding penalties on Rosenthal and Seubert that erased two touchdown passes were so bad as to warrant punishment for the official involved. You can’t make calls like that in a game of such significance. The two legitimate calls that could have hurt were Rosenthal’s illegal chop block (came after he was cleanly beat at the line of scrimmage on a trick pass play from Shockey to Toomer) and Petitgout’s false start at the end of regulation that cost the Giants 5 yards and 10 seconds when they were trying to get into field goal range.
But all in all, a superb job against a very tough and aggressive defense. Special kudos to Petitgout’s work on Douglas and Jason Whittle’s work on Corey Simon.
A Slow Dance On A Killing Ground
by David Oliver
That is what the Philadelphia eagles experienced last Saturday. There really is not as much to say in this review as most of you watched the game on television. So I will focus on keywords in this discussion: heart, physical performance, opportunity and confidence. That is what this version of the NY Giants is about. The theme in the locker room has been building and it has developed into a mantra – everybody wants to contribute, everybody is willing to do whatever it takes and everybody is aware of what the media and fans have been saying about 7-and-9, 8-and-8, rebuilding year, yadda, yadda, yadda.
A weary Rich Seubert told me that this game was “physical, probably one of the most physical games I have ever played in.” He set the stage for the offensive line, continuing, “that’s football” and “it feels good”. He said that both teams came in and hit each other in the mouth for 60 minutes, and then some. He also said that each member of the line gives everything, “If we make a mistake and get beat, we come back the next play.” There is no quit in this locker room, he told me “we never give up.”
Mike Rosenthal told me, “Guys in this locker room, it’s the offseason we put in, it’s the training camp we put in, it’s the season we put in, the preparation we put in every week; it’s the never say die attitude with these guys; no matter what happens, no matter how many points they take off the board; no matter what happens, we always believe we’re going to win. This group has confidence right now, we’re just excited to be in the dance.” Mike told me, “All year, we knew we were going to be good. We’ve been steady. Our job up front is to give the playmakers time to make their plays and they’re playing great; Shockey has been a world of difference.” Mike acknowledged that he is not a finished product, but said that as a unit, “Each time we go on the field, all of us, we have something to prove, something to work on. That’s the attitude we’re taking.”
Is it showing? Against the Eagles, the Giants controlled the ball more than 39 minutes, rolled up 461 yards on offense, again scored in the Red Zone, Tiki gained over 200 rushing yards and Kerry Collins had a respectable rating of 89.7. But it was a game of asses and elbows, fought in the trenches, in the middle of the field. Karma did not seem to favor the Giants as TDs were taken off the board by penalties, Tiki put the ball down 4 times and the first drive was stopped by a fluke interception. Observations from my position: The pass into the end zone most likely would have wound up in at least the third row of seats, except for a Herculean effort by Shockey who leaped, tapped the ball and tried to bring it in, only to have it fall into the outstretched hands of an Eagle. The play cannot be faulted, the effort cannot be faulted. The Shock tried to make a play, which if he had done so would have broken the Eagles’ backs early. It was a beautiful football play that just didn’t go right. Karma. Tiki ran left, Tiki ran right, Tiki ran all afternoon but in putting the ball down 4 times, Tiki almost came up as less than heroic. I watched closely on the third fumble. He was carrying the ball in his left arm, outstretched, fingers around the tip. But it didn’t look firm and when he hit the ground, it popped free, almost as if the arm wasn’t right. Isn’t that the wrist that was broken last year?
Jason Whittle told me the game “was the most exciting thing,” something he just couldn’t explain. Whittle has several nice hits out there and he told me, “I feel like I’m coming around. It was a fun game.” And Chris Bober, whose locker is right next to Whittle, had to bear the brunt of my tease of the week. I asked him about his one bad snap and he answered immediately that, “It was just one of those things that happened.” Don’t think these guys are unaware of what is happening out there at all times. Chris told me, “As an offensive line, as an offensive team, we played well.” So I asked him about longevity and the prospects of holding this line together next year. Chris said, “That’s the deal, that’s the hope and wish of all of us; we’re hoping that it can get done. As far as this year, we’re still going”, he said, and continued on, “I told the guys before the game I don’t want this to be the last time we ever play together; let’s just keep going; let’s go as far as we can.”
Chris recognized the karma in this game, telling me, “They played a very good game. They’re a good team, a very good team. It was a physical game. When he missed that FG, luck was on our side, but maybe it was meant to be; maybe it was meant to be to get us in the playoffs and we’ll keep on rolling from there.” We talked about the progress of the team from the first Eagles game and he said, “We’re a different team – totally – I really believe that…We went out there and played well on both sides of the ball. We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit, but we came away with the victory. I think we can feel very positive about this. We’ll clean up those turnovers and we’ll be fine.”
Indeed, they may be. Playing away from home may not be a real disadvantage for these guys. True, the 60,000 crazed fans waving towels won’t be in their corner, but the condition of the lot was, well, on one play, I’m standing on the east side of the Eagles bench and a divot comes flying across the field. You all know that there are a number of bad hairpieces associated with the Giants and at first I wasn’t sure if someone had just lost it and tossed their rug, or was this actual sod? Needing a little myself, I almost picked it up and put it in my camera bag, but one of the officials beat me to it.
On the defensive side of the ball there was some cracking. Dhani Jones had one of his better games, Griffin was under full motor, Will Allen was hitting on Staley, and Strahan and Holmes were just a couple of inches short on a number of occasions. Staley was held to 28 yards, and I can assure you, he spent Sunday in a hydrotherapy pool. But it didn’t start out that way. The Eagles had their way with the Giants D on the first drive. I know Coach Lynn says he was too aggressive and paid for it but that wasn’t the reason. There was poor tackling and poor positioning. Coach Olividotti was standing right in front of me, on the west side of the Giants’ bench, looking into the defensive backfield. Dhani was out of position and Williams just missed a tackle. Adjustments were made, uh, Coach Fassel was seen talking to Coach Lynn immediately after the Eagles score (grin).
Cornelius Griffin told me that the difference between these teams since the first time they played was all the Giants. He said, “We’ve been getting better each week. We finished strong today.” He said that you need a balanced effort, “You just don’t want the offense needing to put up points every game; you want to do your thing too. Last week the O put up a lot of points; this week they didn’t. Up front, we had to win the game.” I asked him about the D-Line rotation and he told me, with exuberance, “I like it; a different guy every time and they can communicate with me now.”
Johnnie Harris gave me a view from a newcomer and told me he had “come to the team to try to help them and now we have our chance.” I asked him how he happened to have been available and he said, “I have no idea. Oakland made a big mistake; they went with the rookie, their first round draft choice. I thought I was supposed to be the starter. We battled it out and I won, but I still got the bad end of the stick. Basically, it worked out for me here, now I’ve got the good end of the stick. I’m here playing and trying to help these guys. When I’m called on I’ve got to get out there and shine.”
I asked him about the team spirit and he told me, “I love it, plus, I’ve got to give them more spirit. It comes from me and it comes from them, we feed off each other. We have to stay together.” Finally, I asked him about his special teams reputation. He told me, somewhat wistfully, “I’m not a special teams player. I do it because in Oakland I played it a lot because there weren’t a lot of guys as athletic as I was. I’ll play special teams, but I’m really not a special teams player. I’m really a safety. They know I can get out there and play safety anytime. It’s my opportunity and once I get a chance, I’ll show what I can do – they know what I can do. If somebody gets hurt and goes down, I’m available and we won’t miss a beat. It won’t be like somebody coming in. It’ll be Johnnie Harris. They know they can count on Johnnie Harris.”
Just before I left the locker I did a little memory lane thing with Amani Toomer. We talked about the Street & Smith piece on him his rookie year (for which I had done some shots) and asked if he ever thought about those days. He told me, “I do, because in those days everything was so positive. We knew what kind of team we had.” And in one breath he went on, “We felt we had a great team that nobody knew about (this year). Everybody overlooked us and said 8-8 or 6-10. We came out and fought throughout the season, and we won some close games like this one. It’s the heart of this team – if you get an opportunity like this, you have to take advantage of it.”
For those of you who like old school football this was it. Two heavyweights pounding on each other all day. No one gave anything up, neither side quit. The only difference was that this time Rocky came from Newark.