Detroit Lions 28 – New York Giants 13
Game Overview: This was a bad loss for the Giants. Not only was it an important intra-conference game against a playoff contender, but this was a game the Giants should have won. And it was a home game. The Lions played with more intensity and the fact that the Giants could have still won this game despite this indicates the tremendous opportunity that was lost in going 5-1.
So what went wrong?
- The Giants’ defense allowed the last-ranked offense in the NFL to move the ball. The biggest problem was that the Giants’ defense couldn’t get off the field on third down. As Head Coach Tom Coughlin pointed out, coming into this game, the Lions only had a 25 percent conversion rate on third down. Against the Giants, they converted 60 percent of their third down chances. QB Joey Harrington, who has struggled for much of the season, completed an unforgivable 82 percent of his passes against the Giants. And the defense was unable to create one single turnover. The run defense was excellent in the first half (only 8 yards on meaningful carries), but the run defense dramatically softened in the second half (89 yards).
- The Giants could not score in the red zone. New York was 0-for-3 in red zone touchdown opportunities while the Lions were 4-for-4. The Giants drove the ball to the Lions’ 1, 11, and 7 yard lines and only came away with 6 points. QB Kurt Warner’s interception in the end zone right before halftime was a killer, but the bigger problem was that the Giants’ offense only managed 3 points in the entire second half of the game. Unlike most of the teams the Giants have played this year, Detroit did not blitz the Giants much. Instead they got superb pass pressure on Warner in the second half of the game with their front four while dropping seven into coverage. This combination of excellent pass pressure with a lot of men in coverage made it very difficult for the Giants to make big plays in the passing game down the field. Also hurting the Giants is that three of their money players – Shockey, Toomer, and Hilliard – are not making plays.
- The Giants (and the fans) did not come ready to play. The Lions played with greater intensity and urgency. One got the sense that the Giants’ players felt they could beat the Lions without their best effort and it cost them. Until the players learn to play hard every Sunday – like the Patriots and the Eagles do – then New York will be susceptible to these kind of disturbing losses. One wonders if there are enough emotional leaders on this team.
Offense: The way that the Lions defended the Giants was to play a lot of men in coverage and force the Giants to drive the length of the field by dinking and dunking the football. This bend-but-don’t-break philosophy worked very well for Detroit as the Giants were unable to generate big offensive plays – except for Tiki Barber’s 62-yard screen pass. New York’s nine offensive possessions amounted to drives of 8 plays (no points), 5 plays (touchdown), 12 plays (field goal), 13 plays (no points), 5 plays (no points), 7 plays (no points), 14 plays (field goal), 4 plays (no points), and 4 plays (no points). The Giants had three drives of 12 plays or longer and came away with 6 points. If the Giants want to prevent this outcome in the future, they need bigger plays out of the passing game. Also, while I love screen plays, I think the Giants are calling too many of these.
Quarterback: There were two big mistakes by QB Kurt Warner (23-of-34 for 270 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 3 fumbles – 1 which was lost) in the first half. The first was fumbling the ball away on 3rd-and-7 on New York’s first drive. LT Luke Petitgout got cleanly beat on this play and instead of taking the sack, Warner tried to make something happen with the DE James Hall all over him. The second mistake was his interception in the end zone right before halftime. Had Warner zipped the ball to Toomer or thrown it sooner, a sure touchdown would have resulted and the Giants would have been up 17-7 at halftime. Warner underthrew WR Amani Toomer on a go route late in the first quarter, but Toomer still made the 29 yard reception. His best pass of the half was his perfectly thrown 21-yard strike to Toomer on a crossing route on the next drive. Other than an attempt to hit TE Jeremy Shockey deep down the seam, everything else was of the dink-and-dunk variety.
Warner has taken a lot of heat from some fans in The Corner Forum for his performance in this game, but I place more of the responsibility for the second half offensive woes on the offensive line. The Lions usually rushed their down four against the Giants’ front five and got a tremendous amount of pressure with these basic rush packages. Warner rarely had a well-formed pocket or space to step up into. Contrary to what some people have argued, I did not see him hold onto the ball too long in this game – the problem was that he had to scramble to avoid pressure. Like ALL QUARTERBACKS, if you get heat on them on a regular basis, you make them less effective. Warner started to expect pressure even when it wasn’t there. He was NEVER comfortable in the pocket in the second half. And what made matters worse was that the pressure from the down four enabled Detroit to play seven back in coverage. Warner rarely had time to throw the ball down the field and when he did, his receivers either didn’t get open or did not make the play. Some fans in The Corner Forum want to pretend that the opposing pass rush should not affect a Giants’ quarterback…these people are living in a dream world…and they would also probably be calling for Jesse Palmer if Eli Manning got sacked six times.
Warner fumbled twice more in the second half, and could very well have had a third called. The first fumble came on the Giants’ second drive of the first half. Warner had to scramble to his right to avoid pressure and did not keep both hands on the football when moving. Warner once again had to scramble for his life two plays later. This time, Warner scrambled towards his left and tried to set up again to throw, but was hit very hard from the backside. This play didn’t cost the Giants as it came on 3rd-and-6, but it could have had it been ruled a fumble and Detroit’s ball. On the next drive, Warner threw a very accurate deep pass to Toomer that Toomer let slip through his hands. Warner just missed hitting Toomer deep again on 3rd-and-4 with just over 2 minutes left with the Giants trailing by 8 points…but Toomer couldn’t bring in the slightly overthrown ball. Warner’s last fumble of the game came on 4th-and-13 as RT David Diehl couldn’t keep DE Kalimba Edwards off of Warner and Edwards slapped the ball out of Warner’s hand just as he was throwing the football (this fumble was not Warner’s fault).
Wide Receivers: “We took out chances (down the field),” said WR Ike Hilliard. “We just didn’t hit them. We called our (deep) plays and they either had the coverage or we didn’t him them.” That may be true, but one of the reasons why the Giants are not scoring more points is that the passing game is not making big plays down the field. Why? Is it the play-calling, the quarterback, the receivers, fate? Regardless, Amani Toomer is not making enough plays down the field. He has no touchdowns yet this year and only 371 yards receiving. Against the Lions, he made a spectacular 29 yard reception on and underthrown pass from Warner. The ball was tipped by the corner and Amani was able to out-fight the defender for the ball. His only other reception was a 21-yarder over the middle. Toomer was shutout the entire second half of the football game. Not good enough! Toomer let one deep ball slip through his hands and he could come up with a tough catch on Warner’s other deep pass that was slightly overthrown. If Toomer wants to be considered a premiere receiver, he has to make these kinds of catches.
Ike Hilliard also has no touchdowns this year and only 231 yards receiving. Against the Lions, he caught 5 passes but only averaged a little over 8 yards a reception. And he only had one reception in the second half. So the Giants’ two starting wide receivers had 1 catch between them in the last two quarters of the game! Hilliard has improved his run blocking as the season has progressed.
Jamaar Taylor (2 catches for 16 yards) saw his first action of the season. He got a great block on Tiki’s 62-yard screen for a touchdown, taking out two defenders.
Running Backs: Barber was more productive in the passing game (7 catches for 102 yards and a touchdown) than the running game (22 carries for 70 yards, a 3.2-yards-per-carry average). In the first half of the game, Tiki carried the ball 12 times for 31 yards; he had 10 carries for 39 yards in the second half of the game. Things started off well on the first drive as Barber gained 11 yards on two carries, one up the gut behind a good block from RG Chris Snee and another around left end behind good blocks from Shockey and TE Visanthe Shiancoe. However, the running game stumbled on the next two drives as Barber’s next seven runs went for 2, -2, 7, 4, -1, 1, and –2. On the last drive before half, Barber’s runs went for 3, 8, and 0. The big play of the half for Tiki was obviously the 62-yard screen pass. Barber showed nice vision on this play, cutting back to his left in order to burn Detroit’s over-pursuit. Tiki later broke two tackles after another short completion. However, I did not think he followed his blocks very well on a 2nd-and-1 play late in the second quarter.
Barber was able to generate more yards on the ground in the second half as the run blocking improved. His runs went for 6, 0, 0, 3, 10, 2, 11, 2, 3, and 2 yards. However, he fumbled on one carry (his first of the year), failed to pick up one of Detroit’s few blitzes, and dropped a pass. There was also one weird run where Tiki was barely touched on a run around right end that looked like it would pick up at least 10 yards, but Barber mysteriously fell down.
Ron Dayne (2 yards on 3 carries) remains unproductive, as does Mike Cloud (1 carry for 3 yards, 1 reception for 3 yards).
FB Jim Finn caught 2 passes for 18 yards and I thought he did a reasonable job blocking.
Tight Ends: Like the wide receivers, Jeremy Shockey has been very mediocre thus far this year (only 259 yards receiving). Shockey almost came up with a one-handed grab on a deep seam route on the Giants’ first drive, but a big hit from the safety knocked the ball away from him. Shockey only came up with one significant reception and that was his 19-yarder in the fourth quarter. He was unable to get open against the linebacker on the 4th-and-4 pass that fell incomplete late in the game. Simply put, Shockey is not playing very well in the passing game. Visanthe Shiancoe (2 catches for 14 yards) saw his first action of the season in the passing game.
Blocking by both Shockey and Shiancoe was decent.
Offensive Line: It was a tale of two halves for the offensive line. No, the first half wasn’t great, but Warner had decent pass protection for much of that half. As for the ground game, it was too hit-or-miss. There were times when running plays were pretty well blocked, but there were too many negative plays as well. The big mistake by the offensive line in the first half was when LT Luke Petitgout got beat badly by DE James Hall on 3rd-and-7 on the first drive. Hall sacked Warner and forced a fumble that was recovered by the Lions. There was another breakdown by Petitgout on a running play on the next drive as a linebacker was able to shove a pulling Petitgout back into the backfield to disrupt the entire play, leading to a 2-yard loss. The only other pass pressures that I saw in the first half was a failure to block the strongside end by RT David Diehl (mental breakdown), poorly executed chop block by RG Chris Snee that led to Warner getting face-masked, and LG Jason Whittle not picking up a stunt on a play where Warner received a helmet-to-helmet hit.
As for the running game in the first half, there were some good blocks by everyone along the line on some plays, but there was too much penetration on other runs. Snee missed a block on one Ron Dayne run and OC Shaun O’Hara got obliterated on Dayne’s 3rd-and-goal effort. Whittle continues to look good pulling (as does Snee on some occasions). Whittle took out two linebackers on one running play that picked up 8 yards.
While the run blocking improved in the second half, the pass blocking fell completely apart. It was pathetic. Detroit rarely blitzed and usually only rushed their down four. The Giants’ front five could not block these guys. Warner had no time to throw and was facing seven defenders in coverage. Whittle gave up a sack (and hold) on the first passing play of the second half. On the next play, Petitgout was flagged for holding (though I thought this was a ticky-tack call). On the next possession, both Diehl and Snee got beat by their opponents and Warner was sacked again. Two plays later, Snee got beat leading to another sack. On the next drive, Snee and Petitgout gave up pressures on Warner’s deep pass to Toomer. One play later, O’Hara failed to pick up the blitz (the same one that Tiki didn’t pick up) and Warner was sacked (a defensive holding penalty kept this drive alive). Two plays later, Petitgout gave up an inside pressure. This drive stalled on 3rd-and-4 from the Detroit seven as the Giants called some weird pass blocking scheme where Whittle was been called upon to block the left defensive end. Warner was immediately pressure and the ball fell incomplete. On the Giants’ second to last drive – down by 8 points with less than 3 minutes to play – Petitgout gave up another pressure. On the final drive, Diehl gave up two sacks to back-up DE Kalimba Edwards.
This was simply a DISGUSTING performance made worse because Detroit did it without blitzing (except for one play). There was nothing fancy or confusing here about Detroit’s pass rushing schemes. Simply put, the Giants got their collective asses kicked up front. And while David Diehl (first time starter at right tackle) and Chris Snee (rookie) have good excuses as they are still learning, high-priced Luke Petitgout does not. Petitgout used to be one of my favorites, but he isn’t anymore.
Defense: As I mentioned in my lead-in, a big problem was getting the Lions off the field on 3rd down. The Giants allowed an offense that was ranked last in the league to get untracked. Harrington is not a good quarterback, but he completed 82 percent of his passes against the Giants. The Giants held Detroit to 8 yards rushing in the first half (18 yards came at the end of the half in garbage time), but Detroit rushed for 11 times that figure in the second half as HB Kevin Jones broke off some big runs. As for the passing game, there were some big breakdowns in coverage. TE Stephen Alexander got wide open against the Giants’ zone on the first offensive play of the game for 24 yards despite excellent pass pressure. (MLB Kevin Lewis and SS Gibril Wilson were the closest Giants). Three plays later, on 3rd-and-15, the entire Giants’ defense got burned by a screen play that picked up 19 yards despite this being an obvious screen play situation. Dumb! At the end of the first quarter, WR Roy Williams got wide open in the Giants’ zone coverage again for 37 yards despite excellent pass pressure.
Defensive Line: The defensive line played much better in the first half than they did in the second half. There was a decent amount of pass pressure and the Lions simply could not run the football. DT Norman Hand (3 tackles, 1 sack) stood out. He smashed Harrington on the first offensive play of the game as he released the football and sacked him for a 6-yard loss two plays later. At the end of the first quarter, Hand once again overpowered the left guard to punish Harrington as he released the ball. In the second quarter, Hand really held his ground on a Jones’ run in his direction and stuffed the run. Hand also got a good rush on the play where Gibril Wilson sacked Harrington. In the second half, Hand’s pass rush disappeared and while the Lions didn’t run much in his direction, there were a couple of runs where he was not as stout as he had been in the first half.
William Joseph (2 tackles) played left defensive tackle. He showed incredible hustle on the aforementioned 19-yard screen pass by chasing the back all the way down the field and making the tackle. I also liked the way Joseph held his ground at the point-of-attack on inside running play on Detroit’s next possession. Joseph combined with DE Michael Strahan to stuff a 3rd-and-1 effort by the Lions to force a punt. In the second half, Joseph was awful. He regularly got blasted by RG Damien Woody on running plays. I have no idea why Joseph’s play fell apart in the second half but it was a big reason why the Lions won the game.
Another big reason was the play of DE Michael Strahan against the run in the second half. This was the worst two quarters of football I’ve ever seen from Strahan. Strahan has disappeared as a pass rusher from time to time, but he usually is one of the better run defenders in the league. On Sunday, RT Stockar McDougle mauled him…I mean just obliterated him. Most of Detroit’s big runs came in the direction of Strahan and Joseph (with MLB Kevin Lewis also getting blocked). These includes runs of 22, 20, 2 (touchdown), 6, 10, 7, and 8 (touchdown). On each of these runs, Strahan, Joseph, or both got crushed. Strahan’s big play in the first half was the stuff on 3rd-and-1. He got a couple of good pass pressures on Harrington too – but none of this makes up for his disgusting overall performance. Strahan got no pass pressure in the second half. Simply put, he didn’t show up for the game.
On the right side, Keith Washington (3 tackles) and Osi Umenyiora (3 tackles, 1 sack and forced fumble) split time as usual. Washington was flagged for encroachment on Detroit’s first drive and did absolutely nothing of note in the game. As for Umenyiora, his penetration disrupted a left-side run that lost two yards in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Umenyiora pressured Harrington on two back-to-back plays. The first was an outside move that caused Harrington to scramble and throw an incompletion. The second was an inside move that resulted in a sack and fumble (despite Osi being held on the play too). In the second half, Umenyiora, playing linebacker in a 3-4 set, stuffed a run for a 1-yard loss on 3rd-and-3. It’s time for the Giants to start Osi on the right side and use Washington to spell both Strahan and Umenyiora. It will be also interesting to see if the Giants activate Lorenzo Bromell in a couple of weeks off of the PUP.
I saw both Kenderick Allen and Lance Legree in for a play each, but they did not stand out.
Linebackers: I thought the guy who played the best here was Nick Greisen (7 tackles). Greisen flowed down the line to tackle HB Kevin Jones for a 1-yard gain on Detroit’s second play of the game. Later on the drive, Greisen combined with Gibril Wilson to hold another Jones run to a 1-yard gain. On the Lion’s next possession, Greisen read a running play very quickly and aggressively attacked the play to nail Jones for a 2-yard loss on a run around right end. In the second half, Greisen sacked Harrington on a blitz, but a illegal use of the hands penalty on SLB Carlos Emmons erased this play.
Emmons (4 tackles) is not playing well. Perhaps the Giants should stop signing guys who the Eagles don’t want. Emmons penalty on the above-mentioned sack was extremely costly. Coverage on TE Stephen Alexander was not good (Kevin Lewis, Nick Greisen, and Gibril Wilson are to blame here too). The worst is that Emmons continues to get clobbered on running plays, despite being a legit 250-pound guy. Emmons got blocked on the 20 yard run by HB Kevin Jones (as did Kevin Lewis). He also got blocked on a 6 yard run, missed a tackle on a 13 yard gain by RB Shawn Bryson, lost site of the fullback on an 18-yard pass completion, and got blocked on a 7-yard run.
MLB Kevin Lewis (10 tackles) tackled HB Shawn Bryson for no gain on an inside run up the middle on the first drive. But he was effectively blocked on many of Detroit’s positive running plays in the second half of the game, including runs of 22 (taken out by the fullback), 2 (touchdown, taken out by the guard), 6 (misread the play and left his gap), and 8 (touchdown). To his credit, he did a great job of nailing the fullback short of the first down on a 3rd-and-1 reception (terrible spot by the officials gave them the first down) and tackling HB Artose Pinner in the hole three plays later (Emmons effectively took on the lead block on this play – a rare positive from him). Lewis gave up a couple of receptions to Alexander and missed a tackle in the backfield on the play right before Detroit’s 3rd-and-goal touchdown pass that gave them a 21-13 lead.
Reggie Torbor got in the game late and was easily pushed out of the way on Pinner’s 8-yard touchdown run.
Defensive Backs: When a quarterback completes 82 percent of his passes, you know the secondary is not doing a great job. FS Brent Alexander got beat by WR Reggie Swington on 3rd-and-10 for the first down on the first drive of the game. Three plays later, CB Will Allen bit on a double move by rookie WR Roy Williams on 3rd-and-6 resulting in an 18-yard touchdown reception. On Detroit’s next possession, SS Gibril Wilson got beat in his zone by WR Tai Streets for a 22-yard gain. Wilson did sack Harrington on a blitz. Allen also made an excellent tackle on Williams in the open-field to prevent a first down on the play right before Detroit’s failed 3rd-and-1 effort.
In the second half, Alexander missed a tackle on Kevin Jones’ 22-yard run. William Peterson was flagged with an illegal contact penalty. Wilson missed a tackle on Jones’ 20-yard run (and Allen got effectively blocked by Roy Williams on this play). On the next drive, Peterson, made a nice play tackling defending a screen to Pinner. On the next possession, Peterson knocked away a pass to Williams, but Alexander got beat on a crucial 3rd-and-7 play by Swinton again. This was a huge play in the game as Detroit kept alive a drive that made the score 21-13. Wilson was late in defending a pass to the fullback that picked up 18 yards later on this drive. On 3rd-and-goal, Allen got beat for a second touchdown (this time by Swinton) despite being all over the play.
Poor tackling by the safeties in this game and Alexander gave up a couple of costly third down completions.
Special Teams: The Giants kept dangerous return man Eddie Drummond under wraps by kicking away from him on two occasions with deliberately short kickoffs. Detroit started with field position at the Giants’ 30 (Reggie Torbor with a good tackle), 32 (Torbor and Barrett Green), 36 (Torbor), and 30 (Jack Brewer and Marcellus Rivers). Kudos for Torbor for being so active.
Jeff Feagles punted twice: a 40-yarder that went out of bounds and a 36-yarder to Detroit’s 18-yard line (Jack Brewer tackled Drummond for a 2-yard loss on this return).
All-in-all, the Giants did a very good job in coverage against a dangerous return team.
Unfortunately, the Giants couldn’t break any big returns against Detroit’s fine kick and punt coverage teams. Punt returner Mark Jones returned one punt for 9 yards. He also made a mistake by fielding a punt at the 6-yard line that he should have let hit the ground. Mike Cloud’s returns went for 12 (bad block by Jim Finn), 38, 19, and 15 yards (bad block by Marcellus Rivers). The 21 yards-per-return average is not good.
Steve Christie hit both of his very short field goal attempts (19 and 25 yards).
This and That
by David Oliver
Friday, raining, Halloween upcoming, Presidential election next week; suffering, like many people from EAD (election anxiety disorder), filled with ennui over last Sunday’s loss; didn’t plan to write anything, but heck, I’ve been watching the parade of wordsmiths peddling their books on the tube for the past few weeks and Andy Rooney said something interesting. He has just published a new compendium of his thought pieces and while hyping the book, at the same time descrying being a huckster, he said that one thing the compendium did was provide an actual document that his kids could stick on a shelf somewhere. I’ve got the photographs, but I spend some time with these kids in the locker and other places, and it just seemed unfair to them not to share a little of their thoughts, and some of what I saw, or thought I saw, or wish I saw out there on the field.
So here a few snippets from the locker and the field. My take is that the game was actually much closer than the final score, that even with a lackluster performance in the second half, this was a game the Giants could have and should have won. It wasn’t as depressing as the last game in the Meadowlands against Detroit in 2000 where the team, with different players and different coaches, came out and laid an egg, but it was almost like a reflection of that game, in one sense, sort of in a mirage like way. The team appeared mesmerized, the coaches appeared mesmerized, and the fans reacted in a hallucinatory fashion, alternating between attempting to stimulate some fire on the field and sitting dumbstruck watching the game unfold, recognizing that in the end, well, the end was inevitable. I’ve been pleasantly surprised since the Eagles game, as the team seemed to be coming around, the coach seemed to show some human sensibility, and all was well in Giants land. As LB Reggie Torbor told me, “Even when we were winning, we knew that we weren’t as good as we could be; a lot of people were looking at us and accepting that as good enough, but we’re not accepting that – we know we have a long road to go and a lot of room for improvement.”
The side that has room for improvement showed on Sunday. And yet, the Detroit Lions came to play with a team that is probably less talented than the Giants. The mantra in the locker, at least for the guys I talked to, was that the Giants “didn’t capitalize on opportunities” and that the Lions “made some plays and capitalized on our mistakes” (DT Lance Legree), and that “every team has playmakers, their guys made some plays, we didn’t take advantage of opportunities today, as a team” (Torbor). So it’s pretty obvious what the message was from the coaches, something to the effect that “hey, guys, we didn’t get the job done out there. But it is only one game, so get in here next week and go to work.” Seems fair enough. Heck even a team with an 80 some year jinx showed it can win the big one, so maybe next year the Giants will come out after their bye week and blow somebody’s doors off. As LB Carlos Emmons was telling a group of scribes, “In this league, anybody can beat anybody, at any time.” Cliché, but so true. Mooch did a better job than Tom Coughlin (TC) this week and his charges showed up with energy. Incidentally, did anyone notice TC wearing glasses?
The key to this season is confidence. A rebuilt team is like a rebuilt personality, an entity starting the voyage on the 7-step process. Last year’s team and coaching staff was unmercifully vilified. The holdovers are fragile until the whole becomes cohesive. As Reggie Torbor told me, “We believe in each other; in what we’re doing. We are going back to work next week and we’ll prepare the same as if we won.” Rookies have short memories; that helps after a loss. Veterans, well, you never know. The benching of LB Barrett Green could not have been pleasant for the veterans, regardless of the circumstances. If Green was asinine, it doesn’t help the chemistry; if the coach acted, well, euphemistically, as he has been said to have acted in the past, it can’t be good for team chemistry. That move was a warning sign. Whatever, my observation was that Nick Greisen did well, considering he has never been a WILL and that he is still working his way back from injury. He did one thing that hasn’t been done since Jessie Armstead left and that is he actually came up to the LOS or ran in the flat and tackled a ball carrier. Green may have speed, but he can’t really tackle one on one a back coming at him out of the backfield. So, from my perspective, Greisen showed enough to merit further play over there. Nick told me it was different, but that he appreciated the opportunity, particularly “after coming in as a starter, then losing your spot, then getting an opportunity to go out as a starter again and prove yourself to the coaches.” I asked him for a self-assessment and he told me that would “have to look at the film. There are a lot of things that happen out there that you don’t notice.” But the important part is that he told me, “I went out there and gave it what I had.” It’s too bad everybody didn’t.
I talked a little to TE Visanthe Shiancoe (Shank), who appears to be adjusting well to the blocking tight end role, or as he said, “I’m real comfortable with the offense, comfortable with moving, comfortable with blocking, comfortable with catching the ball.” He is one comfortable dude. He opined that, “We need to come out with a little more energy,” summing up what appears to be a consensus. Shank referred to himself as a tackle/(slash) tight end, with wide receiver qualities. He said, “I can run a 4.5 and block, every now and then they throw me a pass. I wouldn’t mind getting a pass or two, but if the play calls for me to stay in and block…that’s what I focus on. I don’t want Kurt to get hit.” Now, if the rest of the O-Line felt the same way, I’m sure Kurt Warner would greatly appreciate it. Sunday, they didn’t play as if they felt that way as they were flat out getting beat on way too many plays. The downside is that the Lions were doing it pretty much straight up.
I talked a little to QB Eli Manning who, much like Jessie Palmer, is a choir boy. He is sitting and learning and soaking it in so as “not to waste the year.” It’s hard coming in after his college career and riding the pine, but he acknowledges that it is just another adjustment, “You’ve got to take it for what it is, a learning process.” Eli told me he prepares as if he were going to be playing and he is putting himself into position “to do something about it down the road.” Reggie Torbor feels much the same way, telling me that his role now is special teams and giving Carlos Emmons a break when he needs it. As he told me, “When the time comes, I’ll be ready.” He told me that notwithstanding the fact that losing is never easy or acceptable, and as we discussed, winning takes care of a lot of problems, “Character comes out when you lose. There are only 53 people on a team so there is no where to hide.”
Many of the new kids are refreshing in their approach to the game and to the fans. Reggie summed up pretty succinctly when he told me, “The fans buy a ticket and they deserve to come here and see us play better than we did today. We are going to go out and try to give them something to cheer about. We would rather hear cheers than boos any day.” So I’m not going to succumb to disappoint, notwithstanding my deep anxiety over the coach at the beginning of the year. It’s starting to get cold, it’s football weather and it’s going to be a long stretch. The Vikings game doesn’t have me excited, and it hasn’t put me in a position to get despondent over a loss. Looking at it as objectively as I can, it appears as if the Vikings have too much firepower for the nascent Giants. Even with a hobbled Randy Moss, there is no one on the Giants, or any one else for that matter, who can control Randy Moss. Unless Michael Strahan comes up with one of those corkers, the only Giant capable of taking down Dante Culpepper is Norman Hand. A 265 pound QB is a formidable weapon. But there is more to be concerned over, such as our offensive line, which looked less than ordinary Sunday. They must regroup and give Kurt Warner the time he needs to throw the ball. I expect a big game from Tiki because I don’t know that there is a defense right now that can totally control him – he is our Randy Moss. The real key to the game is Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis and his staff. Some of the innovation seemed to disappear Sunday and it is up to Lewis to come up with an inspired defensive plan, and that does not mean allowing the Vikes running backs to run roughshod through the line. For 3 and one half games in the winning streak, Lewis used an unorthodox approach. He needs to do it again to give the Giants a chance to defeat the Vikings.