Sep 192006

September 18, 2006 New York Giants Injury Report: TE Jeremy Shockey’s ankle was bothering him so much late in the game against the Eagles that he did not play in overtime. Head Coach Tom Coughlin said yesterday that Shockey’s ankle was “sore again and it’s got some swelling, so…I think he was going for further tests, but he’s had these tests before.”

“I hope we get him (for the Seattle game),” Coughlin said. “It’s been a process where we’ve gotten him toward the end of the week. We thought he was better the second week than he was the first week. I’m holding out that perhaps he’ll be at least equal to where he’s been the last couple of weeks. We’ll have to see.”

Safety James Butler sprained his knee and is day-to-day.

Article on QB Eli Manning: Manning Doesn’t Lose His Cool During the Giants Comeback by John Branch of The New York Times

Notes and Quotes: Last Sunday’s dramatic Giants-Eagles game will be re-aired tonight at 8:00PM on The NFL Network.

DE Osi Umenyiora on the defensive improvement in the game against the Eagles: “We didn’t change any calls, we didn’t change anything in the fourth quarter. We just executed better ourselves.”

DE Michael Strahan on the overtime win against the Eagles: “I always think about everybody here in New York or wherever watching the game and how they’re probably saying, ‘The Giants suck.’ I’m always thinking about that – in every bar in New York City they’re probably throwing glasses and stuff. I’m very sure that changed a lot later in the game when we came back…The way this victory came about, it almost feels better than if we had just gone there and blown them out. To be honest with you, this team at this point needed something to bring us together and maybe this is what we needed.”

RG Chris Snee on the win: “It’s tough to describe the feeling that was in that locker room after the game. Hugs were going all around. It was a great, great comeback win. There’s no other way to describe it. It carried over. Everyone had a good feeling today. We were thinking about the good plays that we had. We were thinking about the bad plays, too, but the win kind of eases everything.”

Snee on the offensive line’s performance: “Chalk it up to a bad day for the O-line. You don’t like to give up one sack, let alone eight. We went from giving up none to giving up eight, which is almost a third of the total sacks we gave up last year. It’s inexcusable.”

RT Kareem McKenzie on the offensive line’s performance: “We have to play better. We can’t expect to give up eight sacks and win every week. It’s something where we have to pick it up as an offensive line and an offense as a whole. We have to perform better throughout four quarters and not wait or make it a five-quarter game. We have to be able to play well in those 60 minutes that we’re given and make it a decisive win for ourselves, if that’s possible.”

HB Brandon Jacobs on why he pummeled PK David Akers of the Eagles after Ackers smacked into Director of Player Development Charles Way on the sideline: “You can’t bump into one of my coaches and get away with it.”

LT Luke Petitgout on Charles Way getting hit: “I didn’t know who it was (who got hit) at the time. But I knew (Akers) put his head down and purposely tried to hit one of our guys in the head with his helmet or try to be a punk and cheap shot somebody. Especially a (team official) who’s standing there with nothing on, in street clothes. I tried to let him know that doesn’t happen. He tried to cheap shot somebody and I’m a protector. My job is to protect people. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. But I think he got the message.”

Sep 172006

The Miracle at the Linc: In a game that will go down as one of the most memorable in team history, the New York Giants overcame a 24-7 fourth quarter deficit against the Eagles to win 30-24 in overtime at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. At 1-1, the Giants are now tied for first place in the NFC East.

“After the first half, I never thought in a million years those guys would come back and beat us,” Eagles’ MLB Jeremiah Trotter said after the game.

“This one will be something that we’ll remember,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “That was fun. (We were down) 24-7 and not much was going well. I told the players that I saw a little glimpse of New York Giant pride in that second half. They kept coming back and they kept fighting back little by little. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective…I take my hat off the players for the kind of effort, for the kind of drive for the kind of heart that they displayed out there today, because obviously, it was not easy to come from that far behind.”

“We came down here knowing full well what was at stake,” Coughlin said. “What I like about today from our standpoint is that we seemed to play ourselves back into being a pretty decent football team. That was questionable in the first part of the game. To be 1-0 in the division and there will be three (NFC East) teams tied at 1-1 after tonight, it’s a nice place to be. To think where we were when it was 24-7 and now what we have, we can appreciate that.”

“It was a huge win,” QB Eli Manning said. “It wasn’t the prettiest one. It was downright ugly for us for a while. We couldn’t get anything going.”

“We’re on the road,” said DE Michael Strahan, “we’re down 17 going into the fourth quarter in Philadelphia, the fans are cursing at us, screaming at us, yelling obscenities at us, mooning us on the way in. To win in this hostile territory and have it end on such a good play…priceless.”

“I think it’s telling of the resolve of this team,” said HB Tiki Barber. “In past years, we don’t win that game. We either fold or we don’t have the wherewithal to resist a bad play. Today, I think it’s a testament to how we never give up.”

“It’s just a good feeling,” said WR Amani Toomer, “to be on a team where you know no matter what happens in the first three quarters of the game, you’re always going to have an opportunity in the fourth quarter to come back.”

The game started off well for New York, but quickly deteriorated. The Giants drove 67 yards in seven plays to take a 7-0 lead with Manning hitting Toomer on a 37-yard touchdown pass. But for the remainder of the first half, the Giants were completely shut down, netting only 20 more yards on their next five offensive possessions. The running attack was virtually non-existent and the offensive line struggled mightily in pass protection. In all, Manning was sacked eight times in the game.

Defensively, the Giants were simply atrocious. By halftime, QB Donovan McNabb had already passed for 256 yards as the Eagles moved up an down the football field. Indeed, the Giants were lucky to be only trailing 17-7 at halftime. Philadelphia quickly added to that lead after intermission by driving 69 yards for a touchdown to take a 24-7 advantage early in the third quarter.

The Eagles would not score another point in the game.

The Giants’ first possession of the second half didn’t amount to much, but on their second drive, they Giants drove 88 yards in nine plays to cut the score to 24-14 early in the fourth quarter. The touchdown came on a fluke play as WR Plaxico Burress was stripped of the football at the Eagles’ 16-yard line after a 23-yard catch-and-run. The free ball rolled towards the end zone, was almost recovered by an Eagle defender, squirted into the end zone where WR Tim Carter recovered it for a touchdown.

“I was on the other side of the field and I saw Plaxico make the catch and I saw him try to break a tackle and he got hit and I saw the ball fly out,” Carter said. “I saw a couple of guys go after the ball and I thought it might get kicked around. I went after it…and I won. I was aware of where I was and I knew I might be able to get into the end zone.”

“That was a huge spark,” Coughlin said. “We were just trying to get something going. Plaxico tired to make a play out of that and the ball came squirting out. (Eagles’ SS Michael) Lewis is right there to cover the ball, but he can’t control it and Tim Carter comes up with the ball in the end zone. There were so many of those kinds of plays in the game.”

The Eagles went three-and-out on their next possession. The Giants started their ensuing drive at the Eagle 49-yard line, but were not able to pick up a first down and turned the ball over on a 4th-and-2 play as a pass to Barber was well-defended, tipped into the air, and intercepted. The Eagles themselves tried to put the game away by going for it on 4th-and-1 at the Giants’ 38-yard line with under nine minutes to play, but the running play was stuffed by SS Gibril Wilson and the Giants took over on downs.

All looked lost when New York was only able to pick up one first down and then punted with a little over six minutes to play and still trailing by 10 points. The Eagles picked up one first down and as they were attempting to run out the clock, LB Carlos Emmons forced a fumble that FS Will Demps recovered at the Eagles’ 33-yard line with just over four minutes to play. Four plays later, Manning hit Toomer from 22 yards out to cut the lead to 24-21 with about three-and-a-half minutes to go.

The Eagles picked up one first down but were forced to punt with a minute left in the game. The G-Men were out of timeouts and started their final drive in regulation at their own 20-yard line. Manning found Barber for eight yards, Toomer for 10 yards, Carter for 22 yards, and TE Jeremy Shockey for 8 yards. On the last play, a personal foul penalty on the Eagles also moved the Giants 15 yards closer with 10 seconds left on the clock. PK Jay Feely hit the 35-yard field goal to send the game into overtime.

The Giants won the toss, but the pass protection broke down again, Manning was sacked twice and the Giants had to punt. The Eagles’ first possession in overtime started at their own 44-yard line, but Philadelphia could not pick up a single first down.

The Giants’ second possession of overtime – their final and game-winning possession, started at their own 15-yard line. The Giants running game finally showed some life as Barber picked up 24 yards on six carries. HB Brandon Jacobs chipped in another nine yards. And Manning found Toomer for 22 yards on three catches and TE Visanthe Shiancoe for nine yards. After a holding penalty on Carter and a false start on OC Shaun O’Hara, the Giants faced a 3rd-and-11 from the Eagles’ 31-yard line. Philadelphia came with an all-out blitz, Manning backed away, and lofted an arching pass to Burress, who was single-covered, for the 31-yard score to win the game.

“We knew they were coming with an all-out blitz,” Manning said. “We were just trying to get it somewhat protected. I knew exactly where I was going (with the ball). The play before, when we jumped offsides, they showed the same thing. I told Plaxico, ‘Run a go route.’ I was going to drop back as fast as I could and (hopefully get) enough time where I could get him down the field. I threw it up as high as I could. There was no middle safety. We had a 6-6 receiver. Either he’s going to catch it or no one is. It was a great play by Plaxico making that catch and getting in the end zone for the win.”

“There’s no better place to get a win than to come into Philadelphia and beat them in their home stadium,” Burress said. “Their players had a couple of things to say about us this week. They came out and got after it after we scored on our first drive and we kept plugging away. It’s so gratifying to get a win here more than anyplace else.”

Manning finished the game 31-of-43 for 371 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Barber was held to 51 yards on 21 carries. Toomer had a huge game with a career-high 12 catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Burress had six catches for 114 yards and one touchdown.

Post-Game Notes: This was just the third time in the last 21 seasons that the Giants have overcome a deficit of at least 17 points to win.

The Giants inactive players were HB Derrick Ward (foot), WR Michael Jennings, OT Na’Shan Goddard, OT Guy Whimper, DT Jonas Seawright, LB Brandon Short, and CB Kevin Dockery. Tim Hasselbeck was again the third quarterback.

Sep 162006

September 15, 2006 New York Giants Injury Update: The only Giant not able practice yesterday was HB Derrick Ward (foot).

TE Jeremy Shockey (ankle), RG Chris Snee (ankle), LB LaVar Arrington (knee), and LB Brandon Short (knee) all practiced. Snee remains “questionable” and will be a game-time decision. Shockey, Arrington, and Short are “probable.”

“I took about half the reps (yesterday) and it felt good,” said Snee. “(On Thursday) I did some things and it felt decent and it felt pretty good (yesterday). I’ve said all along that I’m preparing to play and I haven’t heard either way.”

New York Giants and Dr. Joel Goldberg Set to Part Ways: The Bergen Record is reporting that the New York Giants will part ways with Dr. Joel Goldberg, their director of counseling services, after the 2006 season. One of Goldberg’s chief functions with the Giants was to evaluate the personalities of collegiate prospects. The team will use another personality profiling service for the 2007 NFL Draft. Goldberg joined the Giants in 1981 and developed the team’s infamous 400-question personality test for potential draft picks.

Quotes: Eagles’ Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson on the Giants’ offense: “The Giants likely have the most skilled players our defense will face, except for in training camp when we faced ours. They’re such a balanced team right now. You think all you want to do is stop Tiki, which you do, but you’ve got Amani Toomer out there, you’ve got Plaxico, you’ve got Shockey and you’ve got an outstanding young quarterback I’m not sure we haven’t gone against a better team in the league lately…Tiki is an amazing guy. He’s still healthy, he still plays at a high level and he’s smart. And Eli is getting smarter every year, too. When you (defend) people like that, you have to kind of mix it up and do some better things and better disguises.”

Eagles’ FS Brian Dawkins on HB Tiki Barber: “You probably can pull up some tape from me from years past, but I’m going to say this and I’ll keep saying it, the cat that makes that team run is Tiki.”

Sep 152006

September 14, 2006 New York Giants Injury Report: TE Jeremy Shockey (ankle) practiced yesterday and remains “probable” for the game against the Eagles on Sunday.

RG Chris Snee (ankle) participated in individual drills, but not the team portion of practice. He remains “questionable.”

“I definitely feel a lot better,” said Snee. “On Sunday night, if I put pressure on it, I would collapse. Monday and Tuesday were the same, but yesterday, once the swelling and inflammation went down, it felt a lot better. It’s just a matter of feeling comfortable with the ankle. I’m not going to go out there if I’m going to hurt the team in any way. If I feel good I’ll go.”

As scheduled, LB LaVar Arrington (knee) and LB Brandon Short (knee) did not practice in order to reduce strain on their surgically-repaired knees. Both are “probable” for the game.

DE Adrian Awasom hyper-extended a knee on Wednesday in practice. “He tried to go today, he had a brace on it, but he probably won’t be able to go until next week, I’m sure,” Coughlin said. “I was pleased to see him right back out there. He wasn’t about to miss anything.”

Quotes: OC Shaun O’Hara on the Eagles’ blitzing schemes: “I think a lot of times defenses try to blitz you for a pure intimidation factor. They’re trying to intimidate you into thinking that you can’t do what you want to do in that game or run the plays you want to run. I feel pretty confident that we know what Philly is going to try to do to us. The challenge is on the offense as a whole, not just the offensive line.”

Sep 142006

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, September 17, 2006: I don’t see this game as a “must-win” but it is pretty damn close. Everyone lost in the NFC East last weekend except the Eagles and the Giants obviously don’t want to fall two games behind the Eagles just two games into the season. Yes, the Giants will be a fired up bunch to redeem themselves from last weekend’s disappointing game. But this is a huge statement game for the Eagles as well. After all, Philadelphia went 0-6 in the division last year and will want to prove that they – and not the Giants – are the rightful division champions. This is going to be a tight game and a slugfest.

And keep in mind this one startling fact – the Giants have not beaten the Eagles with Donovan McNabb at quarterback since the playoff game back in the 2000 season.

Giants on Offense: The Eagles bring it. They blitz all the time and from a variety of positions and angles. The purpose is to confuse and rattle the opponent and Philadelphia is very good at doing both. For the Giants to win this game, this must smart, play tough, and most importantly, play with poise. If I’m defensive coordinator Jim Johnson of the Eagles, my entire gameplan is to stuff the run and dare Eli Manning to beat me – and that’s exactly what I expect the Eagles to do on Sunday. Look for the Eagles to stack the line of scrimmage and come with quite a few run blitzes.

For the Giants’ offensive line, this will be a far different opponent. The Colts don’t blitz a lot so there was never a lot of potential confusion. That will change on Sunday. It is not only a question of not getting physically beat, but also letting someone come free because of a mental mistake. At times, it will happen regardless. The Eagles will overload one side and they will bring defensive backs. Not only the offensive line, but the backs and tight ends must play exceptionally well in pass protection. And Manning has to recognize where the blitz is coming from and hit the weakness that the blitz leaves in the secondary.

The big match-ups up front include RT Kareem McKenzie versus LDE Jevon Kearse and LT Luke Petitgout against RDE Darren Howard. Both can get after the passer. Inside, the Eagles are slightly undersized with LDT Matt Peterson facing RG Rich Seubert or RG Chris Snee (ankle) and RDT Darwin Walker facing LG David Diehl. Ironically, Seubert will likely get the start against the team that almost ended his career. Like against the Colts, the Giants should try to pound the football between the tackles. The Eagles are too fast on defense to do a lot of outside running. Getting a hat on MLB Jeremiah Trotter will be key. I’m not a big fan of the Eagles’ outside linebackers – Dhani Jones and Matt McCoy – and I’d run right at them.

If the Eagles sell out against the run, Eli will be under the gun. He has to step it up and deliver. This game is far too important. He has to maintain his poise and not throw up and stupid interceptions like that one against the Colts late in the game. RCB Lito Sheppard will miss this game due to injury. It will be interesting to see if the Eagles keep Sheldon Brown at left corner or move him over to cover Plaxico Burress. Reserve CB Roderick Hood is a decent player – some think he is better than Sheppard. But the Eagles new nickel back, Joselio Hanson, is a weak spot. If I’m New York, this is the game where I really want Sinorice Moss to play so I can match him up on Hanson. Tim Carter is an option as well, but he came up small last week against the Colts once again.

The one guy I wish Manning would use even more than he does in the passing game is Barber. Barber almost seems like an automatic 10 yards when you throw the ball to him. If the Eagles come with a lot of pressure, look for quick dump-offs and screens to Barber, plus the occasional draw play. The Eagles usually focus pretty heavily on Barber. If he is receiving special attention, then someone like the gimpy Jeremy Shockey (ankle) needs to make an impact. And Eli and the coaching staff need to do a much better job of getting Shockey involved early in the game. When Shockey and Burress don’t see the ball early, it has an impact on their overall game. That said, I would not ignore Visanthe Shiancoe either – because the Colts did last week and the Giants didn’t take advantage of it.

Giants on Defense: To me, for the last few years, it hasn’t been any wide receiver on the Eagles who makes their offense go, but HB Brian Westbrook. He is their Tiki Barber. Stop him and you have a great chance of shutting down the Eagle offense. Don’t and you are in deep trouble.

The problem with defending Westbrook is mainly a problem of defending him in space as a receiver. And not just on screen passes and dump-offs, but as a receiver sent down the field both out of the backfield and at the line of scrimmage. Most linebackers can’t match up with him in space and I doubt LaVar Arrington and Carlos Emmons can do so either. Even Antonio Pierce will likely have problems staying with him. If I’m the Giants, I strong consider playing nickel defense much of the game and mirroring Westbrook with a defensive back – someone like R.W. McQuarters.

The other guy who keeps the chains moving is TE L.J. Smith. He’s a far better receiver than blocker and can also cause match-up problems. This is where Arrington and Emmons need to step it up. So do the safeties – who were all but invisible last weekend. The focal point of my defense would be the undercoverage on Westbrook and Smith.

The Giants have a lot of money and draft picks invested in their defensive line. It is time for this group to really take over a game. DE Michael Strahan will battle his old arch-rival RT Jon Runyan. Osi Umenyiora has to play better than he did last week. He faces William “Tra” Thomas. If the Eagles run the ball, they will likely test the weakside run defense of Umenyiora, Emmons, and CB Sam Madison with outside runs by Westbrook. They also may try to pound the ball some between the tackles with HB Correll Buckhalter. Inside, NT Barry Cofield will really be challenged by behemoth RG Shawn Andrews. The left guard, Todd Herremans, is an ordinary player. The Giants could use another strong game out of Fred Robbins here.

Antonio Pierce is talking a lot of smack. I hope he plays far better this week than he did last week. The Giants need a very good game out of him both against the run and the pass. The same with safeties Will Demps and Gibril Wilson. The linebackers must keep an eye on the fullback coming out of the backfield too (Thomas Tapeh).

Dante Stallworth was traded to Philadephia and had a big game for the Eagles last weekend. He will likely be matched up against Sam Madison for most of the game. Corey Webster will face Reggie Brown. The third receiver is Greg Lewis. Both Brown and Lewis have been somewhat disappointing for the Eagles. Stallworth is the true deep threat.

Where the Giants obviously need to improve is their third-down defense. Their zone defense against the Colts was terrible, allowing too many easy completions right at the sticks or beyond. Donovan McNabb was sharp in the preseason and in the season opener against the Texans last week. But if they can take away Westbrook and get after him with the pass rush, I think the Giants will be in good shape.

Giants on Special Teams: I hope to God that the Giants are not reverting back to their special teams problems. Last weekend was a disaster. PK Jay Feely needs to kickoff far better both in terms of height and distance. And the Giants can ill-afford anymore misses from him, especially from 40 yards on in. And the Giants need to cover kickoffs better. Another sore spot last game was the blocking for Chad Morton on kickoff returns.

David Tyree was invisible against the Colts. He should hand back his game check. Remember, he did block a punt against the Eagles in 2005.

Sep 142006

September 13, 2006 New York Giants Injury Report: TE Jeremy Shockey (ankle) and RG Chris Snee (ankle) both missed practice yesterday. Shockey is listed as “probable” while Snee is “questionable” for the game against the Eagles.

HB Derrick Ward (foot) did not practice and will not play. Practice Squad player DE Adrian Awasom left practice early with an undisclosed knee injury.

Sep 132006
Indianapolis Colts 26 – New York Giants 21

Game Overview: I trashed my initial “Game Overview” for this game. In that overview, I stated that the better team did not win, that the Giants beat themselves. If it weren’t for the three dropped interceptions, the seven legitimate offensive penalties (two were bogus), the two turnovers, the missed field goal, and the inability to get off the field on third down, the Giants would have easily won.

But you know what? These are all problems the Giants had last year and they haven’t gone away. In other words, these problems are what keep the Giants from being an upper echelon team. They have not proven to be an aberration, but the norm and until the Giants prove otherwise on the football field on a consistent basis, the team should be considered an also-ran, not a Super Bowl contender.

If the Giants don’t drop those interceptions or commit all of those dumb penalties, or they don’t turn the football over or they get off the field on third down, the insanely atrocious offensive pass interference penalty called on Tim Carter doesn’t matter. I’m through with blaming the officials for Giants’ defeats – it makes one sound like a Redskins’ fan.

It’s also time we start really taking a long hard look at Tom Coughlin and Tim Lewis too. While Coughlin certainly has dramatically improved the overall talent and level of play of this team since he has arrived, the same old problems still haunt these Giants. The penalties are simply ridiculous and refuse to go away – especially the false starts. And tactically, within the Colts game, Coughlin cost the Giants valuable time on the clock by calling his last timeout at the wrong moment – time management was an old Jim Fassel problem as well. Lewis’ defenses have had had problems getting off the field on third down ever since he arrived in New York. Quiet frankly, I am really beginning to question his coverage and pass rush schemes.

It’s far too early to panic and it is extremely unwise to form conclusive judgments based on one game. But if these disappointing trends continue, then we have all overestimated the Giants.

Overall Offense: The Giants only had the football three times in the first half. They moved the football well on all three drives, but only one resulted in points (a touchdown). There was a missed 40-yard field goal and a 4th-and-5 pass to Burress that was well defended. The Giants had the ball six times in the second half with the results being a long drive that resulted in a touchdown, a three-and-out, a botched exchanged that resulted in a turnover, a long drive that resulted in a touchdown, an interception, and a desperate last-minute attempt to drive the field and win the game. Obviously, the turnovers were huge and the botched exchange was completely self-inflicted (HB Tiki Barber admitted that he ran the wrong way). In all, the Giants out-gained the Colts 433 yards to 327 yards. The passing yards were close, but the Giants had a big advantage in rushing yardage (186 to 55). The Giants did not allow a single sack to one of the strongest pass rushing teams in the NFL.

Quarterback: It’s time to stop making excuses for Eli Manning (20-of-34 for 247 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception) as well. Manning was just as inconsistent as he was last year, despite the fact that he was provided with excellent pass protection and an outstanding ground game. There were superb throws, but there were also wildly inaccurate throws that cost the Giants dearly. Manning is not and will not be a bust. He’s going to be a decent quarterback. But the #1 pick in the entire draft and a guy you give up the barn for is supposed to be more than a decent player. It’s still early in the season (and more importantly in his career), but it is very disconcerting to see his accuracy still being so significant an issue in a game where he wasn’t under a lot of pass rush pressure.

The Giants’ first drive of the game stalled when he forced a ball to Tim Carter that should have been picked off on 3rd-and-5. On 4th-and-5, his pass to a well-covered Plaxico Burress was knocked away. Manning’s lack of accuracy on the second drive was appalling. He badly underthrew Burress on a 3rd-and-8 pass that should have resulted in an easy 63-yard touchdown – only a fantastic catch by Burress kept this drive alive. Then he threw a high pass to an extremely well-covered Jeremy Shockey that fell incomplete despite the fact that he had Jim Finn all alone along the left sideline. His very next throw was thrown into the turf by the feet of Amani Toomer. Three really bad passes in a row. The drive ended with a missed field goal.

On the third and final drive of the half, there was another very high pass to Burress that was incomplete. But Manning did deliver an accurate pass to Burress on his 34-yard touchdown. The first drive of the second half was very good for Manning. He made a very nice throw to Toomer for nine yards and his 15-yard touchdown lob to Shockey was simply a perfect throw – the kind of throw we’re all hoping to see from Eli on a consistent basis. The next drive ended on 3rd-and-6 with a wildly inaccurate pass intended for Barber (the announcer said this might have been tipped, but I couldn’t tell). On the third possession of the half, right after the Colts’ turned the ball over, Manning’s deep pass to Burress was way off the mark and thrown out-of-bounds.

On the Giants’ last scoring drive of the game, I liked the fact that Manning threw two passes away instead of trying to force something. But he also threw behind Tim Carter on one play for an incomplete pass. Still, there were a couple of nice completions to Shockey and Eli did a really nice job of coming off his primary receiver and looking to his left to hit Barber in stride with a perfect pass – this was really a nice play.

What made me the most angry about Manning’s performance was his simply atrocious throw right after the bogus pass interference penalty. The pass was terrible and easily picked off. And it came at absolutely the worst moment of the football game – indeed it cost the Giants and real decent shot at victory. It was the type of play you expect from some journeyman quarterback, not the first pick in the draft. And it is the type of play Manning made in the playoff game last year. (On a side note, I hated the play call – why send your two top wide receivers deep down the field in a critical 3rd-and-11 situation? That’s not a high-percentage play).

Wide Receivers: Plaxico Burress (4 catches for 80 yards, 1 touchdown) is the best wide receiver the Giants have had ever since I’ve been watching the team. His circus catch of a deep errant throw for 37 yards on 3rd-and-8 was one of the best catches I’ve ever seen a Giant make. Burress batted the ball back to himself and brought it into his body with one hand. Burress later scored from 34 yards out in a jump ball situations despite being perfectly covered on the play. Burress committed one legitimate block-in-the-back penalty that erased a 25-yard run by Brandon Jacobs. But the crackback block called on him was bogus…both players were square and hit each near the shoulder pads. Burress is a major factor as a blocker in the running game, as evidenced by his two blocks on the 22-yard end around by Chad Morton.

Amani Toomer (5 catches for 41 yards) was disappointingly quiet for much of the game. He was flagged with an inexcusable false start.

Tim Carter was a non-factor, though his legitimate 19-yard reception that was called back with one of the worst officiating calls I’ve ever seen could have been a major play in this game. His drop of Manning’s pass on the final desperate drive was inexcusable.

Surprisingly, Michael Jennings caught a pass for six yards early in the game.

Running Backs: FB Jim Finn was devastating as a lead blocker against his former team. Time and time again, I saw him clobber a defender at the point-of-attack. He was a big factor in the big rushing game. However, Finn was also flagged with an inexcusable false start penalty.

Tiki Barber (18 carries for 110 yards; 5 catches for 61 yards) ran wild on the Colts. It was a superlative effort – EXCEPT he self-admittedly did not hear the correct play call on the botched exchange that resulted in a turnover at the moment of the game where it appeared that the Giants were going to take charge. It may have cost the Giants the game. Other than that huge mistake, Barber was outstanding, running with great vision, balance, elusiveness, and acceleration as both a runner and receiver.

Brandon Jacobs (8 carries for 54 yards, 1 touchdown) was fantastic. He brings an attitude and toughness to the offensive football team. As has been pointed out, the fact that a man so big can move and cut the way he does is astounding. He breaks tackles, makes people miss, and runs over people. Barring injury, he’s going to be a star in the NFL. Jacobs did drop one pass however.

Chad Morton looked sharp on a 22-yard end around early in the game.

Tight Ends: Jeremy Shockey and Visanthe Shiancoe blocked well. Shiancoe did not have a catch and Shockey was shut out during the first half. However, Shockey (5 catches for 59 yards, 1 touchdown) made a number of key receptions in the second half, including his 15-yard touchdown. Unfortunately, Shockey looks like he will once again be nursing an ankle/foot injury all season again. He was badly limping much of the game. Worse, Shockey’s decision not to get out of bounds on the last desperate drive was an inexcusable mistake and really led to the Giants having no real shot at the end of the game. A truly boneheaded play. Shockey also had an inexcusable false start early in the game.

Offensive Line: In my book, the star of the game was LT Luke Petitgout. A close second was RT Kareem McKenzie. Both these two did an outstanding job of pass protection against two of the most dangerous pass rushers in the NFL. Overall, the offensive line performed exceptionally well, even when RG Chris Snee (ankle) was forced to leave the game and Rich Seubert took his place (indeed, Seubert made a lot of key blocks in the game). The run blocking was outstanding – helping the team to generate 186 yards on 28 carries (a 6.6 yards-per-carry average).

The two biggest negatives were LG David Diehl’s inexcusable false start. This was the most costly one of the game in my opinion as it turned a 3rd-and-1 situation into a 3rd-and-6, leading directly to a three-and-out. This killed the offensive momentum the Giants were generating in the third quarter. OC Shaun O’Hara also double-clutched the football at the end of the game, pushing the Giants back five yards and erasing 10 seconds from the clock – a huge play in the game as well.

Overall Defense: Same old problems: can’t get off the field on third down and can’t hold onto sure interceptions (three potential picks – anyone of them which could have changed the outcome of the game). While the Giants’ defensive scheme was successfully able to keep the high-scoring Colts’ offense from lightening up the scoreboard, it only forced one turnover and two punts. In the first half, the Colts scored points on all four of their offensive possessions. While the run defense was outstanding, the Giants’ pass coverage was not impressive.

Let’s make one thing clear. The Giants did not blitz much in the first half, but when they did in the second half (sometimes even sending six players), Peyton Manning and the Colts burned the Giants. So the pass defense was not sharp either when the Giants blitzed or did not blitz. And let’s give credit to Peyton Manning, he made a number of fantastic throws under duress to keep drives alive.

I am no expert, but my gut tells me that there is something schematically wrong with Tim Lewis’ third-down zone coverage. Yes, there are lots of new defensive backs on the roster this year and they are still learning how to play together, but this is a problem the Giants have had since Lewis has been in New York. Time and time again, quality quarterbacks find the openings too easily in the Giants’ zone defense on third down. The Colts were an unacceptable 11-of-16 (69 percent) on third down, despite the fact that there was decent pass pressure on Peyton. I also don’t like giving the receivers a free release on what seems like every play. For a finesse-oriented offense like the Colts, the Giants should try disrupting the timing by jamming the receivers (at least jamming the tight ends).

And a scheme that did not work at all on Sunday night was the Giants rushing three-down linemen and then blitzing a fourth linebacker (usually Mathias Kiwanuka, but on a couple of snaps LaVar Arrington). This did not fool the Colts, and worse, the fourth rusher delayed his dog so long that he had no hope of getting close to the quick-firing Manning.

Of course, what really probably determined the outcome of this game were the three dropped interceptions. Each came on first-half scoring drives. Had these errant throws been held onto, the Colts may not have scored in the first half and the Giants would have had at least one defensive touchdown.

Defensive Line: Ironically, the tackles outplayed the ends. Barry Cofield was extremely disruptive as a run defender in the first half of the game. However, his miss of the halfback in the backfield on 3rd-and-1 directly led to three points by the Colts on their opening drive. Fred Robbins and William Joseph both flashed on the pass rush, with Robbins picking up a sack and forcing a holding penalty. Robbins also did a great job of sniffing out a screen pass and causing a 3-yard loss. I thought Joseph played well, both getting decent heat and playing the run well.

Michael Strahan created more pass rush pressure in the first half than the second. Perhaps not playing much in the preseason caught up to him and he may have wore down. He also missed a sack on Peyton early in the game that would have been big. And he self-admittedly did not play his zone correctly on the touchdown pass to the tight end in the first half. Strahan was strong in run defense. Before Osi Umenyiora left the game with cramps, he caused a few pass pressures, but not enough for a player of his caliber. The Giants needed a better game from Osi.

Justin Tuck got one good pass pressure from the defensive tackle position, but was disappointing overall. Mathias Kiwanuka looked sharp on the pass rush, but was weak against the run and the Colts were able to generate some key late yardage on the ground in his direction.

Linebackers: Not a good game. Antonio Pierce did not play as well as hoped. He correctly read a pass from Manning, jumped the play, but dropped what should have been a defensive touchdown.

LaVar Arrington was far too quiet. While he made a couple of nice plays against the run, I was shocked to see him being more than adequately blocked by a WIDE RECEIVER on at least two plays (and on one of these plays the receiver knocked him on his ass!!!) Arrington also missed an early tackle on a 4-yard run. He did have one good pass rush.

Carlos Emmons had problems against the run in the second half. Perhaps he got worn down as well.

All of the linebackers blitzed sporadically throughout the game and none of them could get to Manning.

Defensive Backs: I’m more down on the schemes than I am the players. I know folks will point to Corey Webster and say he played like crap, but I think it is important to keep in mind the caliber of his competition (Marvin Harrison) as well as recognizing that there were a lot of plays where Webster did a nice job on Harrison. My biggest problem with Webster is that he dropped a sure interception along the sideline on the play right before the Colts’ second field goal. Of course, he gotten beat pretty badly on the 20-yard reception at the beginning of the fourth quarter that gave the Colts a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line (plus he committed a facemask penalty on the play).

Sam Madison was OK. There were good plays and bad as well. He gave up a 34-yard completion to Reggie Wayne, but also had good deep coverage on another play to Wayne. My biggest criticism of him – and this might be a problem all year – is that he is not a good run defender. Opposing teams are going to test Umenyiora/Kiwanuka, Emmons, and Madison on the weakside all season.

Nickel corner R.W. McQuarters came up with a superb interception when covering TE Dallas Clark down the seam.

The safeties did not play well. One would be hard pressed to remember or spot a positive play by Gibril Wilson, Will Demps, or James Butler. Butler dropped an easy interception in the endzone right before the first field goal. Wilson really screwed up by biting on the play-action fake on his blitz of Manning on the goal line on the play where Strahan was beat by Clark for a touchdown.

Special Teams: The Giants were not impressive on special teams in the preseason and this unfortunately has continued on into the 2006 regular season. PK Jay Feely’s 40-yard missed field goal was a huge ball-buster in the first half. Combine that with his bad miss on an attempt in the preseason, and the Giants’ place-kicking situation is far from sound. Feely wasn’t real impressive on kickoffs either – with his kicks being low and short – and his weak kickoff right before halftime helped to get the Colts into field goal position despite the fact that there was less than 30 seconds left on the clock.

Kickoff coverage was not good with the Colts starting drives at the 34-, 38-, 27-, and 30-yard lines. It was the second return that helped to set up the very harmful field goal right before halftime.

P Jeff Feagles only punted once – for 49 yards. The Colts’ returner only picked up one yard on this return.

The Giants’ kick and punt return games did nothing. Chad Morton was held to 18.7 yards per return on six kickoff returns. He only gained 12 yards on two punt returns. In my opinion, while Morton is better suited to punt returns than kickoffs, the biggest problem was he had no blocking on his kickoff returns. Colts’ special teams players blew past Giants’ blockers like they weren’t even there.

The Colts clearly out-played the Giants on specials.

(Box Score – Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants, September 10, 2006)
Sep 122006

September 11, 2006 New York Giants Injury Report: RG Chris Snee was forced to leave the game against the Colts with an ankle injury. Head Coach Tom Coughlin provided an update yesterday. “No fracture, no ligament damage, but an injured ankle, nevertheless,” said Coughlin. “He’s not able to do a whole lot with it today, but that’s good news – the fact that there’s no fracture.” When asked if Snee would be able to play this weekend against the Eagles, Coughlin replied, “I don’t know about that. We would say (he will be available) until something is proven otherwise.”

TE Jeremy Shockey’s ankle continues to bother him. “He’s sore,” said Coughlin. “He’s sore. But he was able to do a limited amount of stuff with it.”

Notes and Quotes: DT Montae Reagor of the Colts shouted “Hut, Hut” across the line of scrimmage during the game on Sunday, causing at least two false start penalties. According to NFL rules, Reagor should have been flagged with unsportsmanlike conduct, but he was not.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin on the attitude of his team the day after the disappointing loss to the Colts and what he told his players: “Remorse for opportunity lost. That’s what it is. Disappointment. Disappointment. They know they can play better. They know they can do better. They know that the game was so…the game could have been won at any point, and the inability to do that is a…The statement that I made to our team was this: I really think we have to stop talking about being good and get good. And get good. Play good. All of these expectations and all of this talk, it’s all nice and it’s wonderful to hear. Boom. It doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t win. You have to win. You have to perform when the pressure is on. Our game is all about pressure, and you have to win. When you’re given those opportunities, you have to produce.”

Eagles’ LB Jeremiah Trotter on playing the Giants this week: “I guarantee you one thing, when the Giants come to town somebody’s going to get hit in the mouth.”

Sep 112006

Colts Defeat the Giants 26-21 in Season Opener: The Giants fell 26-21 to the Indianapolis Colts in a painful opener, filled with costly Giants’ mistakes that could have changed the game’s outcome. There were too many penalties, dropped interceptions that could have prevented points, a missed field goal, untimely turnovers, and shoddy special teams.

The Colts received the football to start the game and began a methodical, 17-play drive that lasted almost nine minutes. Indianapolis’ offense moved the football from their own 34-yard line to the Giants’ 8-yard line before being forced to settle for a 26-yard field goal to give the Colts a 3-0 lead. On the play before the successful field goal, S James Butler dropped an interception.

On the ensuing kickoff, HB/Returner Chad Morton was only able to return the football to the 15-yard line. The Giants moved the football to the Colts’ 33-yard line, with the big play being a 22-yard end around to Morton. However, on 4th-and-5, QB Eli Manning’s pass intended for WR Plaxico Burress fell incomplete. Incredibly, after this exchange of opening possessions, the first quarter was almost over.

The Colts’ second offensive drive also resulted in a successful field goal – this one from 32-yards out. CB Corey Webster dropped an interception on the play right before the field goal. On this possession, Indianapolis drove 51 yards in 11 plays. The Colts now lead 6-0.

The Giants’ second drive began at their own 20, and once again the Giants were able to move the ball. There was a 13-yard pass to HB Tiki Barber on 3rd-and-8 and a 37-yard pass to WR Plaxico Burress on 3rd-and-8 to keep the drive alive. But the possession stalled at the Colts’ 22-yard line and PK Jay Feely missed a 40-yard field goal.

Indianapolis really gained momentum on their third possession by driving 70 yards in 10 plays – this drive ended with the first touchdown of the game and the Colts taking a 13-0 advantage. QB Peyton Manning found TE Dallas Clark for a 2-yard score, after hitting WR Reggie Wayne for a big, 34-yard gain earlier on the drive.

Just when things looked the most bleak, New York finally got on the board as QB Eli Manning led the Giants on a quick, 8-play, 86-yard drive that resulted in a superb, leaping, 34-yard touchdown reception by Burress right before halftime. But the Giants inexcusably handed back momentum to the Colts as the ensuing Colts drive started at the 38-yard line after a poor kickoff and kickoff coverage. With only 25 seconds left on the clock before intermission, the Colts were able to get into field goal possession in only four plays and PK Adam Vinatieri hit a 48-yard field goal as time expired. The Colts led 16-7 at halftime.

The Colts scored on all four of their offensive possessions in the first half, albeit three of them field goals.

The Giants began their own 11-play, 69-yard marathon at the start of the third quarter – a drive that took almost eight minutes off of the clock and resulted in a 15-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to TE Jeremy Shockey. The Giants now trailed by only two points, 16-14.

After generating long drives all evening, both teams then exchanged quick three-and-outs. The Colts’ second possession of the second half ended when CB R.W. McQuarters intercepted Peyton Manning and returned the football 16 yards to the Colts’ 46-yard line. But after an unsuccessful deep pass to Burress, the Giants immediately handed the ball back to the Colts as Manning and Barber muffed the exchange and the Giants fumbled the football away at the Colts’ 49-yard line. “Tiki and I had a little miscommunication,” said Eli Manning. “That’s the stuff that we can’t have happen. We’ve got to be on the same page. It’s my fault for trying to hand it off. It was supposed to be going one way and I should have known that if something happened to just keep it, go down, just dive up and try to minimize the loss. You hate to get a turnover right there.”

Eight plays and 51 yards later, Indianapolis scored a touchdown to go up 23-14 early in the fourth quarter.

With the game looking bleak again, the Giants managed an 11-play, 78-yard drive that culminated in a 1-yard touchdown run by HB Brandon Jacobs. New York trailed 23-21 with roughly eight minutes to play in the game.

After picking up only one first down, the Colts were forced to punt. A 3rd-and-2 pass from Manning to WR Tim Carter was completed for 19 yards, but Carter was flagged with offensive pass interference, causing the third-down play to be played again. Manning’s ensuing pass on 3rd-and-11, intended for WR Amani Toomer, was intercepted, giving the Colts the football at the Giants’ 34-yard line.

“Just a bad decision by me to throw it,” said Eli Manning. “I probably threw it to the right guy, I just can’t float it there with the safety. I’ve got to throw a line drive. Just a bad decision by me there.”

Seven plays later, Vinatieri hit his fourth field goal for a 26-21 advantage with just over a minute to play.

The Giants’ last offensive possession started at their own 23-yard line with 1:06 on the clock. Completions to Shockey and Toomer, followed by a false start on OC Shaun O’Hara, put the ball at Giants’ 46-yard line. Shockey did not help matters by not getting out of bounds to save time on the clock. Eli Manning’s last desperate heave was incomplete. The game was over.

“The final drive I think we just had some missed opportunities,” said Eli Manning. “We didn’t have a whole lot of time. We just tried to make some plays. The second to last drive, we had about five minutes left and were about to get a first down right there on the throw to Tim Carter, they called the foul. I couldn’t see what it was; it looked like a good route. I don’t think we lost the game right there, we lost the game earlier in the game. We had some missed opportunities, we drove the ball down there, we were driving the ball. We moved the ball well all night, running the ball and throwing the ball. We didn’t capitalize on getting points early in the game and scoring, getting field goals and touchdowns. That’s something we’ve got to work on. We had some mistakes, had some penalties, and we just have to learn to capitalize on our opportunities.”

In the game, Eli Manning completed 20-of-34 passes for 247 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. His brother completed 25-of-41 passes for 276 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The Giants shut down the Colts’ running game, holding their two backs to 55 yards on 23 carries. The Giants gained 186 yards on the ground, with Barber (110 yards on 18 carries) and Jacobs (54 yards on eight carries) leading the way. Burress had 80 yards receiving on four catches, while Barber, Shockey and Toomer had five catches apiece.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Post-Game Press Conference: The following is the transcript of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s post-game press conference:

Opening Statement: We lost the game obviously to a good football team as the game was dealt. We feel like we could have won the game. We had opportunities – no excuses. The one area that is of big concern to me obviously is the penalties. When you’re constantly going backwards it’s difficult to go forward. We had an awful lot of things to overcome against a good football team. We did some of the things we set out to do. We ran the ball – I thought we ran the ball well. We came back and put ourselves in position to win the game. We had the ball at midfield with a two-point deficit and then turned the ball right back over to them. We had two turnovers and they had one. We knew we could not turn the ball over and win the game. That was just the way it was. We had to get more turnovers than we gave up. We dropped a couple of passes that could have been interceptions that could have made the difference in the first half and not allowed them to get on the board. We missed a field goal we should not have missed. Our special teams were not very good. We didn’t turn the ball under to cover kicks the way we’re capable of. We lost the game against a good football team. The season is a marathon – it’s not a sprint. The next game is the most important game. We have a lot of things to improve upon to tighten up the level of our play. I think we’re certainly capable. We did a lot of good things tonight. We put ourselves in position – we didn’t win the game, but we certainly had a chance to do that and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Q: What is your perspective on the offensive pass interference penalty against Tim Carter and the illegal snap penalty against Shaun O’Hara in the fourth quarter?

A: I have nowhere…There’s no place for me to go talking about penalties. I expressed myself on the field to the officials. It’s a shame, because we got the ball out there near midfield, and that’s where it should have been. I was standing right there. It’s very difficult for me to think that that kind of play is a foul.

Q: What happened on Eli Manning’s fumble?

A: It was a mistaken – miscommunication.

Q: What do you attribute the penalties to? It seemed like they came out of nowhere.

A: Well, they’re not coming out of nowhere. Obviously, we’re making them. I think you’ve got to almost look at every one of them individually. Obviously we’ll go to work on that this week. We came into this game talking about wanting to win it and we’ve got to get better disciplined. We have to control ourselves better in the heat of battle. They had three and we had, what? – Ten? 11?

Q: After a loss like this, is it almost like your next game can’t come soon enough?

A: No. We have a lot to work on from this game. It’ll come soon enough.

RE: Eli Manning’s performance

A: He played well, with the exception of the interception. He certainly put us in a position to have an opportunity to win the game. He was sharp, he was accurate, for the most part. He ran the offense well. He had the one delay penalty, which, I don’t know how that happened, but he used the clock well, he changed the play well at the line of scrimmage, he got us into the end zone. He did things that a quarterback has to do in order for you to win. If you look at the stats, I think, I don’t have any in front of me, but there were a lot of penalties. I really did think that if we had the two-and-out with the penalty – the three-and-out with the interception at the beginning of the second half, I thought we had a real good chance to come back and win it. But it seemed like we got up close and then we lost momentum. Instead of being able to just push it over the top, we weren’t quite in there.

Q: On the opening drive of the game, what did you see from your defense?

A: Well, there’s the inability to get to the quarterback, obviously. They made a lot of good plays, some of which were not well defended and some of which and some of which we could do a better job (of defending). I think it’s, again, you don’t want to see that happen. I think the time of possession after their drive was nine minutes gone in the first quarter. They’re a good offensive team. They’ve done it many, many times before and they do have some new faces in there and they still performed well. Their quarterback performed well.

Q: Any update on Osi Umenyiora?

A: Osi was cramping. I don’t think that’s going to be an issue.

Q: How about Chris Snee?

A: I don’t know anything yet about Snee. It could be an ankle…but we’re going to have to do a few tests to figure out what’s wrong.

Q: You have to be pretty pleased with the running game.

A: That’s something we had to do. We did it. Unfortunately, it didn’t bring us the win.

Post-Game Notes and Quotes: Right guard Chris Snee hurt his ankle in the first half and did not return. Rich Seubert took his place.

Offensively, the Giants did not allow a sack in the game.

Giant inactives for the game included QB Tim Hasselbeck, WR Sinorice Moss, HB Derrick Ward (foot), OT Na’Shan Goddard, OT Guy Whimper, DT Jonas Seawright, LB Brandon Short, and CB Kevin Dockery.

Colts’ Head Coach Tony Dungy’s initial post-game comments: “The Giants have an outstanding team. There was a lot of emotion here in the stadium tonight and a lot of energy all week. We didn’t play our best but we were able to get a win. I thought our offense did a good job of making enough plays for us and keeping the ball in time of possession. On special teams, I thought this was the best our cover unit has played since I’ve been here and that was a big part of the game. Defensively we just weren’t sharp. I know a lot of it had to do with the fact that New York really studied us and did a good job. They had some good stuff for us. We didn’t tackle as well as we need to and we didn’t play as well as we are going to need to in order to carry on this year. As I said, we are happy with the win and I think our defense will get sharper as we go. They have an excellent football team and we are 1-0. We are excited about that.”

Sep 092006

September 8, 2006 New York Giants Injury Report: TE Jeremy Shockey (ankle) did not participate in the team portion of practice yesterday. He is listed as “probable” for the game against the Colts on Sunday night.

WR Sinorice Moss (quad) and OG/OC Rich Seubert (toe) practiced again and have been upgraded to “probable” for the game.

“We still don’t know as of right now (if I will play),” Moss said. “Hopefully I can. If I can get an opportunity to play in the game, I really would like that…I feel great, I feel energized. I’m excited to be back. I’m excited to be able to go out there and do things in practice.”

Quotes: DE Mathias Kiwanuka on encouraging the coaches to give him more playing time: “The bottom line is I’m going to get in the game sometime, and if you make enough plays when you’re in there, they can’t keep you on the sidelines. That’s the approach I’m going to take. Preseason was good, but it was just that, preseason. Whether I get four plays or 14 plays on Sunday, if I make something happen every second play, they’re going to notice me.”

DE Michael Strahan on MLB Antonio Pierce: “For some guys, the game just makes sense and (Pierce) is one of those guys it just makes sense to. Jessie Armstead told me about Antonio Pierce, he said, ‘He’s the only guy who played behind me who I felt could probably start in front of me.’ Coming from Jessie, that’s a heck of a compliment. Antonio is the smartest guy, he’ll tell you run or pass, draw or screen, he knows it before it’s gonna happen.”