Oct 062004
New York Giants 14 – Green Bay Packers 7

Game Overview: This was obviously a very important win. It moved the Giants record to 3-1, keeping pressure on Philadelphia in the NFC East. Psychologically the victory was critical because it helps to convince the players that Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s methods do work and that this team can contend this year. Winning begets confidence, which begets more winning. The game was not as close as the final score would indicate. The Giants faced a desperate team that made the playoffs last season on their home field and kicked their butts. That means something.

Offense: There were a lot of posts in The Corner Forum this week about why didn’t the Giants take more shots down the field in the passing game. Those arguing this case are completely ignoring the fact that the winds were treacherous and QB Kurt Warner doesn’t have a strong arm. It was also the Giants’ game plan to dominate the time of possession battle and keep potentially explosive Packer offense off the field.

Quarterback: I thought it was a mixed day for Kurt Warner (20-of-26 for 187 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception). His completion percentage was excellent (77%) despite the windy conditions. And the wind and the anticipation of a blitzing defense (which never really materialized) probably is the reason why his yards-per-completion totals were lower as the play-calling called for mostly short passes. The offensive line provided Warner with excellent pass protection, but Warner continues to help out his blockers by sliding in the pocket when necessary. And Warner gained significant yardage on his two scrambles (22 yards).

However, on the Giants’ second drive of the game, Warner missed seeing a wide-open Amani Toomer on what should have been a touchdown. He also took a 10-yard sack instead of throwing the ball away when the Packers blitzed a safety right into a called naked rollout. Then on 3rd-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Warner threw a terrible pass intended for Toomer with three Packer defenders surrounding the receiver and the ball was intercepted. With 21 seconds before halftime, Warner took an ill-advised sack by holding onto the ball forever instead of throwing it away (two of New York’s four sacks were the responsibility of Warner; a third really wasn’t a “sack” as Warner ran out-of-bound for a 0-yard loss).

Warner tried to force a ball to Toomer on 3rd-and-15 in the third quarter that was almost intercepted. But Warner made some key passes on the Giants’ second scoring drive. He hit Toomer for 17 yards to start the possession. Then he found Jeremy Shockey for 26 yards on 1st-and-20. His 9-yard run put the ball at the Green Bay 1-yard line, but he should have dove for the touchdown instead of slid. Two plays later, Warner just missed Toomer on a fade, but then threw an excellent fade to Shockey in the end zone for the touchdown.

Wide Receivers: The leading wide receiver was Ike Hilliard with 5 catches for 36 yards. In the first half, Hilliard was employed on a couple of quick WR-screens, one of which would have been stopped for no yardage had it not been for a superb move by Ike to make a linebacker miss. Ike’s biggest play of the day was a 3rd-and-2 screen pass that he broke for 14 yards. The Giants are a very good screen team – and they use halfbacks, tight ends, and receivers on these screens.

Tim Carter’s action all came in the first half. He ran an end around for 15 yards (Amani Toomer had a good block on this play) and he caught both his passes (for 17 and 6 yards) on back-to-back plays in the second quarter.

Amani Toomer (3 catches for 34 yards) made a bigger impact with his blocking than with his receiving. He did have a 17-yard reception on the Giants’ second TD drive, but Toomer had more trouble with CB Al Harris than I expected. Toomer got key blocks on Barber’s 38-yard run and his late 17-yarder.

Running Backs: Tiki Barber (23 carries for 182 yards, 1 touchdown) rushed for almost 8 yards per carry and had his second most productive day as a pro in his career. Things didn’t start out great for Barber on the first drive as he failed to follow his blocks on a toss to the right and only picked up 2 yards on a play that should have gained more. But on New York’s second drive, Barber picked up 17 yards on a run around left end. On the Giants’ next possession, Tiki made an excellent run when he cutback to the left, faked the pursuing linebacker out, pivoted back to his right and shot through the gap that his fake created to gain 8-yards on a play that looked like it was going nowhere. Late in the second quarter, Barber gained 11 yards on a poorly-blocked draw play all by himself.

Most of Barber’s damage came in the second half. His 52-yard touchdown run was exceptionally well-blocked, but Barber also made a nice move in the hole and sprinted for the end zone. Barber also came up big on the Giants’ second touchdown drive. Tiki nearly broke another big play as he was just tripped up on a screen pass that picked up 6 yards. On the very next play, Barber cut back a run to the left to pick up 38 yards. On the following two drives where the Giants were attempting to grind out the ball against a defense looking to stop the run, Barber had runs of 4, 7, 5, 3, 3, -1, 3, and 17 yards.

Barber is on top of his game right now. He looks just as strong and quick as he ever has and he is making big plays in both the running and passing game.

Ron Dayne (9 carries for 26 yards; a 2.9 yards-per-carry average) continues his mediocre play despite starting the game at halfback and not being exclusively deployed in predictable situations (a common criticism of his proponents). Dayne dropped a pass on the first drive of the game. On New York’s next possession, Dayne did gain 6-yards in a blocking scheme that worked well for the Giants most of the day: a run between RG Chris Snee and RT David Diehl where H-Back/TE Visanthe Shiancoe leads the play into the hole and LG Jason Whittle pulls into the hole. Later in the drive, on 1st-and-goal from the 6-yard line, Dayne picked up 3 yards on his first carry. His next run was terrible however as it looked like he had a touchdown if he had just cut his run to his right instead of plowing right into the pile up on the ground in front of him (I swear it seems like Dayne runs with his eyes closed sometimes – poor instincts). This was a big play because on the subsequent play Warner threw his interception in the end zone (at least Dayne’s pursuit on this play prevented a possible Green Bay defensive touchdown by forcing the safety back inside where he was tackled by Diehl). Dayne did score on 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line, but a false start penalty on Luke Petitgout erased the touchdown.

FB Jim Finn’s blocking was solid. He got a great block on Barber’s late 17-yard run by taking out two defenders.

Tight Ends: A lot of the success that Tiki Barber had on the ground was due to the blocking of the tight ends, particularly Visanthe Shiancoe. It really pisses me off when the media still contends the Giants don’t have a blocking tight end – because they do in Shiancoe, as I’ve been arguing for over a year. Both Shiancoe and Shockey are often called upon to block defensive ends all by themselves and both usually do a good job in doing so. Things didn’t start off strong for Visanthe when he didn’t sustain a block on Dayne’s first carry of the game off right tackle. But the Giants gained quite a bit of yardage behind solid blocks from Shiancoe at the point-of-attack when he was used as a lead blocker from the motion TE or H-Back position. Shiancoe got key blocks from the H-Back spot on Barber’s 52-yard touchdown run, Barber’s 38-yard run, and Barber’s late fourth quarter 17-yard gain.

Shockey got a good block on Tiki’s 17-yard carry in the first quarter, but he missed two blocks early in the second quarter on Barber runs that picked up 1-yard and lost 4 yards, the latter being on 3rd-and-3 (Shiancoe had some problems with the defensive lineman on this play as well). Shockey made a key block at the point-of-attack on Barber’s 52-yard touchdown run

Shockey caught 5 passes for 74 yards, including a fade for a touchdown over the left corner on 3rd-and-goal from the 4-yard line. He was a big part of the second TD drive as he caught a 26-yard pass on 1st-and-20 and a touchdown on a 3rd-and-goal fade from the 4-yard line. (Incidentally, how does Jeremy Shockey get flagged for thumping his chest twice while Terrell Owens is allowed to do a whole series of push-ups in the end zone? The NFL officiating is an embarrassment). Shockey also had a nice 11-yard reception on a TE-screen.

Offensive Line: The stat line reads four sacks allowed, but two of these sacks were not the fault of the offensive line. One came on a play where Warner had all day to throw but simply refused to throw the ball away; the other came on a naked rollout where the Packers had unfortunately called a safety blitz to the same side. Another “sack” was credited to the Packers when Warner rolled away from pressure to his right and ran out of bounds for a 0-yard loss. The line did give up one sack when Snee got badly beat by the defensive end (Whittle also allowed his man to get on top of Warner too on this same play). Snee also gave up another pressure in the second half. But most of the time, the pass protection was very, very solid. There were some plays when Warner could have written a book back there he had so much time. As I thought he might, the embattled Packers’ defensive coordinator pulled in the reins on his blitzing schemes that had gotten his defense killed the previous week. So with the Packers often rushing only four, the Giants’ offensive line had few problems dealing with the pass rush. Confusion on stunts sometimes remains an issue as Snee and Diehl had trouble picking up one stunt (on the play where Warner ran out of bounds), OC Shaun O’Hara had problems on another, as did LT Luke Petitgout on another.

When a team rushes for 245 yards in a single game, the offensive line is obviously doing the job in the ground game. The Giants’ most productive early run (Barber’s 17-yarder) was their usual left-side affair. In this case, Petitgout on a short-pull kicked out his man, Shockey blocked down on the defensive end, FB Jim Finn led the play through the hole and took out the pursuing linebacker, and Whittle and Snee got excellent downfield blocks. But the Giants added another interesting bread-and-butter play to their arsenal this week when they ran between Snee and Diehl with Shiancoe (from the H-Back position) and Whittle (pulling across the formation) leading the play in the hole. The 52-yard TD run came on a slight variation of this as the hole was between Diehl and Shockey with Shiancoe and Whittle leading. On Tiki’s 38-yard run, Tiki squirted through a hole created by O’Hara, Whittle, and Shiancoe (Toomer got a good outside block on this too). O’Hara still has trouble with power, but he is very good at engaging blockers at the second level.

The biggest negative was the penalties. Diehl, Snee, and Petitgout got flagged with false starts. Whittle got flagged for an illegal chop block (and it wasn’t a good block to boot as his man still pressured Warner) and another holding call on a pull.

Defense: Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis decided not to blitz as much against the Packers and keep more men in coverage against their potentially explosive attack and, obviously based on the results, that was the correct decision. This was another strong game by the Giants’ secondary, which right now is the strength of the defense.

Defensive Line: The only defensive lineman who exerted any consistent pressure was DE Michael Strahan (5 tackles). Strahan was a bit up-and-down against the run again as early on in the game HB Ahman Green (who the Giants largely kept in check) was able to gain 8-yards on a run in his direction (SLB Carlos Emmons was effectively blocked on this play as well). However, a few plays later, Strahan really stood his ground, defeated the blocks in front of him, and tackled Green for no gain. There was another play in the third quarter where Strahan strung-out a right-side run, fought off the blocker, and made the tackle.

The rest of the starters were pretty non-descript. DE Keith Washington had three tackles. The best play he made was not getting fooled on an end around. DT Fred Robbins dropped Green for a 4-yard loss on a run around left end where Robbins was not blocked. This was Robbins’ only tackle of the game. There was one 9-yard run by Green where Robbins got easily blocked. Norman Hand wasn’t involved in a single tackle and I spotted him getting absolutely crushed on one inside run.

The next best DL for the Giants on Sunday was DT William Joseph. Joseph over-powered the left guard on the play where his hit knocked QB Brett Favre out of the game. On the following Packer drive, Joseph made a few plays: he completely disrupted a Green run at the point-of-attack while at the same time drawing a holding penalty, he knocked down a Doug Pederson pass, and he stuffed another Green run for 1-yard loss.

Osi Umenyiora is still sackless, but he is getting some heat on opposing quarterbacks. His sacks will come. The Giants ran an interesting pass rush scheme where they had Strahan at right end and Umenyiora at right defensive tackle. Unfortunately, on this play, the Packers called the perfect play with a shovel pass to Green. Credit Umenyiora with hustling all the way from the quarterback spot down the field 17 yards to make the tackle.

Linebackers: It’s tough for me to figure out how the Giants’ defense has been getting the job done in the past two weeks when there have been few standouts in the front seven other than Strahan. The linebackers were not bad on Sunday against the Packers, but they really did not stand out either. The guy who remains near the top of the Giants’ cumulative tackle list but who I never really see making a play is MLB Kevin Lewis (5 tackles). Lewis gets blocked at the point-of-attack too often for my taste. It’s tough for an average-sized MLB to take on blocks from big offensive linemen so middle linebackers need to be agile enough to avoid some of these blocks. Lewis never seems to be able to do that. He also misreads plays at times and, by doing so, takes himself out of the play. But so far Lewis isn’t hurting the Giants. He must be doing a solid job in coverage.

SLB Carlos Emmons (5 tackles) is another guy who hasn’t come though with a memorable performance. And he too has been getting handled too much at the point-of-attack for my liking. But the Giants’ defense is playing well and Emmons must have a role in that.

WLB Barrett Green (6 tackles, 1 forced fumble) got beat in the flat by Ahman Green on a couple of occasions, but played the run pretty solidly, including one play where he forced Ahman Green to cut his run back inside where Emmons nailed him. He also forced Ahman Green to fumble and this was recovered by the Giants. Barrett knocked a pass away that was intended for TE David Martin, but there was also a 9-yard run where Barrett got knocked off his feet.

Defensive Backs: Another strong game by the secondary and this week it came against a very good quarterback and set of wide receivers who were coming off of a huge offensive game. Will Allen (4 tackles) and Will Peterson (4 tackles, 1 interception) played great. The Packer receivers could do nothing against them. Peterson came down with an interception late in the first half to snuff out the only Packers’ drive of the first half that reached the 50-yard line. Peterson also made an excellent tackle in the flat against the fullback to limit a short pass to a 4-yard gain. The only real negatives on both Wills were that Peterson got flagged with a 20-yard pass interference penalty and Allen badly missed a tackle on the fullback, leading to a 24-yard gain. Allen redeemed himself a few plays later by first perfectly playing a deep pass into the endzone that drew an offensive interference penalty and then knocking away a pass intended for Javon Walker. A blitz by Allen also forced a bad throw on 3rd-and-6. Peterson knocked away an out pass intended for Robert Ferguson late in the 4th quarter

Frank Walker was back and played pretty well after missing so much time. He had excellent coverage on a 3rd-and-3 out that he knocked away. Walker was flagged for defensive holding on 3rd-and-7 late in the second quarter, but this was a ticky-tack call. His worst play came on the 4th-an-5 28-yard touchdown pass by Favre. Walker did not get back quickly enough out of his zone and then did not turn around to play the football; Terry Cousin, who was playing safety at the time, was also slow to get over. Walker was flagged for pass interference on a play where he picked off the ball and returned it 59 yards for a touchdown. However, this was an aggressive play that sometimes doesn’t get called and I applaud Walker for the effort.

Terry Cousin played yet another strong game too. He has really helped the nickel defense.

SS Gibril Wilson (12 tackles) is playing like a veteran. Wilson can not only cover, but he is an aggressive run defender. Wilson jumped in front of QB Brett Favre’s first pass of the game and almost came down with an interception. On the same drive, he showed his athleticism by staying with the speedy WR Javon Walker over the deep middle of the field with no other help on the play. Later in the half, he came up aggressively to take on the pulling guard, take him and Ahman Green out on a play that looked like it was going to pick up some decent yardage instead of just one yard. Two Wilson blitzes disrupted left-side rollouts by Favre. He continued his aggressive run defense after Favre was knocked out and had good coverage on a pass to TE Bubba Franks that only picked up 1-yard. However, Gibril did miss a couple of tackles, including one on the 24-yard gain by FB William Henderson.

FS Brent Alexander (6 tackles) recovered a fumble.

Special Teams: Since the Giants were unsure about Ron Dayne’s calf, Mike Cloud was activated and he returned kickoffs as the Giants chose to deactivate Willie Ponder. The Giants should keep Ponder active if they can as Cloud is simply too sluggish to return kickoffs (he had one return for 23 yards).

Mark Jones returned four punts for only 16 yards. There was one play where I think the wind hung up the ball and confused him as he allowed it to hit the ground instead of cleanly fielding it. There was another punt that hit the ground in the second half where Jones foolishly picked up the ball off the ground with the coverage unit bearing right down on him. That’s how turnovers occur.

Jeff Feagles punted four times for a 48.8 yards-per-punt average, but his net was hurt as Jack Brewer and then David Tyree failed to down two punts inside the 5-yard line. His third punt was downed at the 3-yard line by Mike Cloud. The only punt returned by the Packers was returned for 14 yards (Kevin Lewis and Ryan Kuehl on the tackle).

Steve Christie had a bad, bad day. On a very windy day, he missed field goals from 49 (with the wind), 30 (against a stiff wind), and 33 (against a stiff wind) yards out. These misses could have cost the Giants the game. Christie’s kick-offs landed in the endzone for a touchback, the 7-yard line, and the 22-yard line (the first two came with the add of the wind, the latter was against the wind). Green Bay’s two kick-off returns went for 27 yards (Nick Greisen on the tackle) and 14 yards (Jim Finn on the tackle).

(Box Score – New York Giants at Green Bay Packers, October 3, 2004)
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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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