Nov 302006
 

Approach to the Game – Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, December 3, 2006: My heart says “Go Giants!” but my head knows that the Giants are going to get rolled this Sunday. Before folks jump all over me, consider these facts:

  • Other than LB/DE Greg Ellis, who is on Injured Reserve, the Cowboys are completely healthy. No one is missing practice and they don’t even have one single player listed on their injury report. Meanwhile, the Giants have significant injuries to seven of the 11 starters on defense. And I’m not even counting LaVar Arrington or Justin Tuck who are in Injured Reserve. Even if some of the injured players play, they won’t be anywhere near 100 percent. And they are just as likely to re-aggravate an injury. In addition, the Giants are missing Luke Petitgout and Amani Toomer on offense.
  • Partly due to the injury situation, the Cowboys are simply a better team. They have better receivers, and most importantly, a better defense and a better quarterback.
  • LT Bob Whitfield versus LB/DE DeMarcus Ware. ‘Nuff said.
  • The Cowboys are extremely confident and have all of the momentum on their side. The Giants’ morale is at an all-time low and the team is reeling under three straight losses, including a cataclysmic fourth-quarter disaster against the Titans last week.
  • Even though the Giants are 3-0 in the division and the Cowboys are 1-3 in the division, the Cowboys don’t need to win this game. The Giants do. If the Giants lose, they will be two games out of first place with four to play. And one of Dallas’ remaining games is a home game against the Lions. There are no easy games left on the Giants’ schedule.
  • I don’t think there will be much of a home-field advantage in this game. For one, there usually are a ton of Cowboy fans in the stadium for this match-up. Secondly, at the first sign of incompetence, the boo-birds will be out – creating added stress and a disadvantage for the home team. Team and fan morale will diminish even further if some of the returning walking wounded leave the game again due to re-injury.

And the last factor is that this team is simply imploding. Their focus seems to be everywhere except their next opponent. Let’s review some of the highlights:

  • Tiki Barber prematurely announces his retirement. He calls some in the media idiots because they questioned if the announcement would be a distraction. He criticized the coaching staff both after the playoff loss against the Panthers last season and after the loss to the Jaguars a couple of weeks ago. He’s got one foot out the door already. His final season with the Giants has been a public relations disaster. And despite doing quite well in terms of his overall productivity (1,080 rushing yards, 341 receiving yards), he has only broken one big play this year and only has one touchdown.
  • Plaxico Burress doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut. He likes to insult his opponents off the field such as when he questioned the ability of the Bears’ corners and the Cowboys’ safeties. He also unnecessarily threw some verbal jabs at Terrell Owens. His effort on the playing field has also been questioned.
  • Jeremy Shockey publicly criticized his coaching staff after the Seattle loss. He’s also provided the Cowboys with some nice bulletin board material.
  • Michael Strahan went off on a reporter who was merely trying to follow up on a story that Strahan himself started when he made comments about Burress quitting on a play against the Titans. Strahan has a history of venting at the media for shit-storms that he himself created. Strahan has suffered two serious injuries in three seasons and is 35 years old.

And all of this is happening despite Tom Coughlin’s repeated efforts to keep things in house. His players are not listening him or not paying attention. As I pointed out in my Titans’ game review yesterday, the Giants are more of a soap opera than a football team (and I wrote that before the latest Strahan incident). The quasi-conspiracy theorists out there are arguing that much of this is orchestrated in order to take the focus off of the struggles of Eli Manning or the current three-game losing streak, but the Giants are not that clever. This is simply the case of a team with questionable leadership – both on the roster and on the coaching staff.

And let’s not forget coaching blunders that obviously have the players questioning their own coaching staff – the 51-yard field goal attempt into the wind against the Bears, the decision to run the ball only 13 times against the Jaguars, and the 2-and-4 shotgun pass against the Titans with a three touchdown lead.

This team is on the verge of a total meltdown. I have the same leery feeling I had in 2003 after the loss to Atlanta. Heading into that game, the 4-4 Giants were very still much alive with only half the season over. But after the game, I wrote the following before the Giants proceeded to lose eight games in a row and Fassel and the Giants decided to part ways:

The Beginning of the End

November 12, 2003

Game Overview: The movie line that came to mind after the Giants’ embarrassing loss to the lowly Atlanta Falcons comes from the film Patton. Towards the conclusion of the movie, there is a scene where Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, staring up at the wartime strategic situation map with the Russians moving into Berlin and the Americans approaching the Elbe River, says “This is the End. The End.”

The Fassel regime has about two more months of life, then it is over. There are no miracles left. There are no excuses. This team that was supposed to contend for the NFC East title is currently residing in the division basement. Injuries are only now mounting, but they weren’t an issue up until this point – so that can’t be used as an excuse. The season was sabotaged by special teams disasters against the Cowboys and Eagles, turnovers and an inability to produce points against the Dolphins and Patriots, and a complete no-show against the Falcons.

Despite press stories to the contrary, this isn’t the first time under Fassel that the Giants didn’t come mentally ready to play on game day. The contests against Detroit in 2000, and the Cardinals, Eagles (away game where Philly rushed for 300 yards), and Falcons in 2002 immediately come to mind. But this wasn’t Jim Fassel’s biggest problem. Fassel’s biggest problem was that his Giants’ teams won when they weren’t expected to win, but lost when they were expected to contend. In the six year’s from 1997 to 2002, Fassel’s teams made the playoffs three times, won two division titles, and an NFC Championship. But those successes came in the “rebuilding” years of 1997, 2000, and 2002. The Giants of 1998, 2001, and 2003 were supposed to be good teams. The irony is that if these trends were flip-flopped, the heat would be on General Manager Ernie Accorsi rather than Fassel.

Among a certain group of Giants’ fans, there is a palpable sense of giddiness that Jim Fassel is on his way out. Excuse me for not being one to join in their celebration. What we are watching is the downfall of a GOOD man…a man who lives and breathes New York Giants football. He is part of the Giants’ family and that makes him one of us. But at the same time, we will never understand the tremendous personal sacrifice, heartache, and emotional toll being the head coach of this football team has taken on him. I have bitched and moaned about Fassel in the past, only later to come to his defense once again because I realize that Fassel is a hard-working, intelligent, sensitive man who loves his family and his players. He wanted nothing more than to make the Giants winners. How can you root against a guy like that?

But the bottom line in this sport is winning. Winning is the ultimate denominator, especially when expectations are at their highest. When a team falls short of that goal, it is far easier to fire the coaching staff than it is the players. In addition, at a certain point, how the head coaching situation is addressed becomes a public relations matter. Ownership and management seldom can ignore the outcry of the masses who call for blood.

Why didn’t Fassel’s teams win when the expectations were higher? It’s a good question. For some reason, the team always seemed to lack a sense of urgency until the season was on the brink. There always seemed to some crisis, offensive inconsistency, and special teams problems throughout his regime. As the offense personnel improved, the defensive personnel deteriorated. The 1997 New York Giants was one of the best defensive teams I’ve seen the Giants field; the 2003 New York Giants’ defense is mediocre at best. Fassel also made the mistake of picking Johnnie Lynn to succeed John Fox.

Contrary to the Falcon fiasco, Fassel’s teams usually came to play on game day. The level of coaching was fundamentally sound and the players respected their coach and most of the coaching staff. But one rarely was left with the impression that Fassel and his staff had out-coached their opponent. Put Fassel up against the likes of a Bill Belichick, or Jeff Fisher, and Fassel was left wanting. So were the halftime adjustments. Does that make Fassel a bad coach? Of course not. He is an average coach in an average league.

So at season’s end, General Manager Ernie Accorsi will fire Fassel. Accorsi will pick a new head coach and likely retire after the 2004 season. This will be a mistake. What Accorsi should do is be a man and step down at the same time that he fires Fassel. Let his successor pick his own head coach since this is coach he will have to feel comfortable in working with. George Young made the mistake of leaving the Giants a year too late as well.

I get the same bad feeling about this situation. If the Giants lose to Dallas – and lose badly – it is quite possible that the wheels will come off and the Giants may not win another game in 2006. If so, it will be their third season with an eight-game losing streak in four years. Coughlin – despite his connection to the Maras – may not survive. Wellington and Bob have passed on and Accorsi is retiring. Without Wellington’s shadow, and with a new head coach and general manager, not only will this be Tiki’s last season with the Giants, it could be the end for Strahan and Toomer. Those three have been the face of the Giants for a decade. It might all be over soon. We might see another massive roster shake-up.

That all said, the Giants do have a chance to win on Sunday, albeit a slim one. They can still save their season, their coaches, and their own jobs. In my opinion, the key to this game will be staying in the game early. The Giants not only need to keep the fans in the game and on their side, but they also need to do well for their own self-confidence. Parcells knows this. Look for him to go for the throat early with a bomb to Terrell Owens. I think the Giants have to use a ball-control game on offense – a lot of runs and short passes – in order to keep the pressure (both mental and physical) off of Eli as well as keep the potentially explosive Dallas offense off the field. The Giants also MUST get some turnovers on defense and play well on special teams. That’s a lot to ask for. Dallas QB Tony Romo has been as accurate a quarterback the last two games as I’ve ever seen in the NFL. He’s not making mistakes.

Say a prayer for the G-Men…they are going to need it.

Nov 302006
 

November 29, 2006 New York Giants Injury Report: DE Osi Umenyiora (hip flexor), LB Brandon Short (quad), and CB Sam Madison (hamstring), and WR Sinorice Moss (quad) all practiced yesterday. All four are officially listed as “questionable” for the game against the Cowboys on Sunday.

“I feel like I’m ready to play,” Short said. “They wouldn’t put me out there if I wasn’t ready to go, so I’m ready to play.”

DE Michael Strahan (foot) participated in individual drills and participated briefly in the 9-on-7 run defense portion of practice. “I think he’s close (to participating in team drills),” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin before practice. “I think he’s close, but we’re going to have to put him through the maneuvers and then see how he feels and see how he feels (Thursday) morning as well…Let me have a day to see what we do out there before I say anything about (the possibility of him playing on Sunday against Dallas).” Officially, Strahan is listed as “doubtful” for the game.

MLB Antonio Pierce (knee – probable), LB Carlos Emmons (groin – questionable), CB Corey Webster (turf toe – questionable), SS Gibril Wilson (shoulder – questionable), and LT Luke Petitgout (fractured fibula – out) did not practice. “(Pierce) has some swelling in a knee that is better today than it was the other day, so he’ll be ready to go (on Thursday),” said Coughlin.

When Coughlin was asked if Webster might return to practice this week, he responded, “I don’t know. We’ll go day by day on that and we’ll see.”

LB LaVar Arrington Player Diary: Player Diary: LaVar Arrington by Ken Palmer of Giants Insider

Notes and Quotes: P Jeff Feagles said that his family’s decision to move from Arizona to New Jersey in the offseason means that he will likely be back with the Giants in 2007. “There’s definitely an opportunity to come back,” said Feagles.

MLB Antonio Pierce on the importance of crowd noise when the Giants are on defense: “It’s very critical. For one, when the quarterback’s trying to communicate, the offensive line’s trying to communicate – when he can’t hear them, that causes a lot of problems. Guys jumping offsides, anything like that. It just gets the defense pumped up.”

DE Michael Strahan on crowd noise: “Sometimes it can be so loud that it totally discombobulates you – you don’t know exactly what your play is, what’s happening. Offensive linemen will get off the ball and give the defense a total advantage. I think it’s demoralizing to the opponent and energizing to the home team.”

Dallas WR Terrell Owens on WR Plaxico Burress, who criticized Owens’ toughness after the Giants’ win in Dallas earlier this year: “Yeah, we’ll get (Plaxico) this week. We’ll get him this week. All I know is, everybody, (our) defense has been hitting some people, kind of laying the wood a little bit. I’m pretty sure they have been watching the film so he better watch out.”

Owens on TE Jeremy Shockey, who said there was no way the Cowboys beat the Giants if the Giants play well: “(Shockey) was just popping off at the mouth. Whatever he needs to do to spark that team and probably try to get a rise out of us. He is not going to do it. Right now he is frustrated. What they should really be focusing on trying to do is get off that losing streak. And I don’t foresee it happening this weekend.”

Nov 292006
 
Tennessee Titans 24 – New York Giants 21

Game Overview: Future events may prove me wrong, but I firmly believe that the Giants’ unforgivable 24-21 loss to the Titans marked the emotional end of the 2006 NFL season for the team. I honestly can’t see how the Giants can recover from this. If this was a one-game aberration, perhaps. But it needs to be considered in the overall context of the current three-game (and soon-to-be-longer) losing streak. The Giants have suffered second-half implosions in two of their last three games. Sandwiched between these two mentally-draining losses was the physical mauling by an inconsistent Jaguars’ team. The team’s confidence is shot and the Giants have not demonstrated the necessary mental toughness to overcome this situation. Dallas only need to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come tumbling down.

Consider this fact: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Giants became the third team in the history of the NFL to lose a game when leading by 21 or more points with less than 10 minutes to go.

Let that sink in for a moment.

After the game, HB Brandon Jacobs said of the Titans, “We should have beat the shit out of them. This one hurts.” When asked why, Jacobs responded, “Because they suck. That’s why.”

Bold sentiments, but SS Gibril Wilson’s retort was more accurate, “Chill out, Brandon. If they suck, we must really suck.”

Why this is so depressing to Giants’ fans is that we were supposed to be past these types of Reeves-esque and Fassel-esque collapses. In 1996, the Giants lost a game to the Patriots despite leading 22-0 at halftime. In 1997, the Giants blew a 9-point lead with less than two minutes to go against the Vikings in a playoff game. In 2001, with the division on the line, the Giants surrendered 10 points in less than three minutes to lose a game 24-21 to the Eagles. In 2002, the Giants blew a 38-14 second-half lead to the 49ers in the playoffs. In 2003, the Giants blew a game against Dallas after they had taken a 3-point lead with 11 seconds to go in the contest, eventually losing in overtime. Later that season, the Giants dominated the Eagles’ for virtually the entire game and lost on a last-second punt return by Brian Westbrook.

All of that was supposed to have ended in early 2004. On January 7th of that year, we were sold the following bill of goods:

What we must be all about right now, immediately, is the restoration of pride; self pride, team pride, the restoration of our professionalism and the dignity of which we conduct our business. We must restore our belief in the process by which we will win. We must replace despair with hope and return the energy and the passion to New York Giant football.

From a technical standpoint we must begin to focus immediately on the basic axioms which determine winning in the National Football League. Effort is the key to success. Consistent application of each individual, each individual’s best in the task at hand. Outstanding effort must exist on many levels. It starts with the off-season program. It starts in the spring, carries through the summer to the practice field and training camp and of course to game day. Football is fundamentally a physical game. It is a tough game played by tough people. We must win the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. We must run the ball and we must be able to defend the run. The year off that I have experienced allowed me to make many observations, one of which is – more games are lost in this league than are won. We must eliminate turnovers. You are not going to beat anybody with a minus 16 (turnover ratio). That stat has to radically change. We must eliminate costly penalties. You can’t shoot yourself in the foot and expect to win the hundred meter dash. Special teams and winning the battle of field position must become our catalyst for victory and not our Achilles heel.

I believe that the young men who represent the New York Giants want strong leadership. They want clear and stated objectives. They want superb detail and organization. And (they want) discipline which provides us all with the courage and the confidence to win in this league in the fourth quarter.

My job is to convince these young men that with the parity that exists in this league today, the difference is in the preparation and that our formula will earn us the right to win.

— Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s inaugural press conference as the 16th head coach of the New York Giants

Those words seem hollow now.

A few months later, the Giants traded away two #1 picks, a #3 pick, a #5 pick, and a chance to trade down for an additional #2 pick for QB Eli Manning. General Manager Ernie Accorsi crowed that day: “This is a once-in-a-decade player. This is a quarterback you wait for for a long time.”

Those words also seem hollow now.

The Giants and their fans crave respect. But respect only comes when you earn it on the playing field by consistently beating your opponents. The Giants are just another mediocre NFL team that is often mocked or ridiculed for poor play, dramatic collapses, and poorly-considered player statements to the press. They are more soap opera personalities than gridiron performers.

Coaching: I thought for most of the game, the offensive coaches (Coughlin and Hufnagel) called a wonderful game. Even though the Giants didn’t score in the second half, I thought the play-calling in the third quarter was quite good as well. What I have a HUGE problem with is the formation and decision to pass on the play where Eli Manning was first intercepted. This play turned the game around. Facing a 2nd-and-4 at their own 35-yard line with 13 minutes left in the game and up by three touchdowns, why the fuck was Manning in the shotgun throwing the football? It’s an inexcusable mistake that cost the Giants the football game. In the second half, up until that point, the Giants had been running the football well and it looked like the Titans were quitting on defense. The down and distance situation, and the score, begged for a heavy dose of the running game. Instead, the coaching staff decided to get cute and it cost the team dearly. It may have ruined the season. When you also consider Coughlin’s questionable decision to kick the 51-yard field goal against the Bears, you get the feeling that he may be digging his own grave.

The only other play that I really didn’t care for was the rollout pass to the left late in the game when the Giants were trying to run out the clock. That is a tough play for a right-handed quarterback who has been struggling with throws on the move.

Quarterback: I thought the worst after Manning’s first two passes of the game – the first a swing pass thrown into the dirt reminiscent of the start of the Jaguars’ game and the second a throw-away after Manning got flustered and scrambled out of the pocket (Shockey was wide open on this play). But Manning completed nine out of his next ten passes and finished the first half with a very, very respectable completion rate of 75 percent with one touchdown pass. Moreover, most of his completions were accurate throws. Most importantly, he helped his team score three consecutive touchdowns in the first half of the game. I liked the way he stood in the pocket and delivered the ball despite getting clobbered on a key 10-yard completion to Burress on 3rd-and-2 on the second touchdown drive.

In the second half, Manning gets knocked for his two interceptions, but the first was the responsibility of Plaxico Burress in my opinion. BBI poster Emil said it best when he wrote:

On that play, Plaxico was not the #1 option. In fact Eli and Coughlin have said that in a few interviews. However, Plax had single coverage on the outside. Single coverage where the DB was all of 5-9 and Plax has a huge height advantage. Eli correctly recognized the coverage and went to Plaxico’s side. However, because Plax knew he wasn’t the go to guy in that situation (2nd-and-4) he did not come off the line of scrimmage at 100% and if you look at the replay he didn’t even look like he was expecting the ball at all. So Plax came off the line of scrimmage at less than 100%, Eli reads single coverage that has Pacman in a mismatch, puts it up to where Plax should be (if he had gone full speed) and throws it a little high so Plax has to jump to get it (even increasing his height advantage) but since Plax decided to take that play off, the ball is picked and Plax wasn’t even in a good position to defend it. This is why you don’t take plays off, especially as a WR. You have to think the ball is coming to you on any play.

Up until this point, Manning had actually been throwing the ball pretty well in the second half too. The Giants’ first drive of the third quarter stalled when Shockey let the ball sail through his arms – it was a good pass. He completed his two earlier attempts on this possession. On the next possession, Manning completed 5-of-7 passes (and one of the incompletions was a good throw). However, on his seventh attempt, on 4th-and-3, Manning should have hit David Tyree coming out of the backfield instead of trying to force the ball to Tim Carter.

In my mind, Manning played a fine game except for two bad throws in the fourth quarter. First, he was lucky that a 3rd-and-9 attempt to Shockey was not picked off right after the Titans had cut the score to 21-7. This was a bad throw. Secondly, his decision to force the ball to Tyree after the Titans had tied the game was a terrible, terrible decision. It allowed the Titans to set up the game-winning field goal in regulation. “There’s no way you can throw an interception under that circumstance at the end of the game,” said Coughlin. “If you don’t like what you see throw it out of bounds. Go to overtime. Don’t turn the ball over.”

Wide Receivers: I have long defended Plaxico Burress because I felt strongly (and still feel strongly) that he is the one difference-maker the Giants have at wide receiver and the one guy outside who scares other teams. However, his inconsistent effort on the playing field, as pointed out above with Emil’s comments, is hurting the team. And his attempt to tackle Pacman Jones after the interception was pathetic. The problem is that replacing his ability will not be easy. Burress caught two important passes on the first touchdown drive, including the actual 3rd-and-goal touchdown pass.

Tim Carter was non-existent in the passing game once again. David Tyree caught two passes for 16 yards.

Tight Ends: I have nothing but praise for Shockey since he was playing with a seriously dislocated ring finger – an injury where the bone actually penetrated the skin on the finger. Keep in mind that Shockey uses his hands on almost every play, either in terms of blocking or hand-checking on pass routes. Shockey was a factor blocking and caught passes in traffic. He ended up with five receptions for 39 yards.

Running Backs: Despite carrying the ball 25 times, Barber could not break the 100-yard mark against a Titans’ defense not known for its’ ability against the run. Barber rushed 14 times for 45 yards in the first half (a 3.2 yards per carry average) and a long run of only eight yards. Brandon Jacobs was more productive with five carries for 33 yards (6.6 yards per carry average) and a long run of 14 yards (plus two touchdowns). Call me crazy, but Jacobs may be the better back right now.

In the second half, Barber carried the ball 11 more times for 37 yards (3.4 yards per carry). Brandon touched the ball four more times for 21 yards (5.3 yards per carry). The Giants were running the ball pretty well in the third quarter and the Titans’ defense only stiffened when momentum had switched in the fourth quarter.

Barber caught five passes for 30 yards and Jacobs caught two for 14 yards. Brandon got the Giants out of a big 2nd-and-16 hole in the third quarter with a 9-yard screen pass and a 10-yard run on a 3rd-and-7 draw play.

Offensive Line: The interior trio of the front five had some problems with the Titan defensive tackles, especially early in the game, on running plays. RT Kareem McKenzie gave up one early pressure on Manning, as did LG David Diehl. The right-side run blocking by McKenzie, RG Chris Snee, TE Rich Seubert, and a pulling Diehl was instrumental in the success of the first-half scoring drives (Shockey and FB Jim Finn also made some nice blocks).

In the third quarter, the offensive line started to really take control of the line of scrimmage. McKenzie was flagged with a holding penalty, but it was the holding penalty on Diehl that stalled a very impressive, time-consuming drive that looked as if it would generate points. Four plays later, the Giants turned the ball over on downs as McKenzie gave up another pressure. In the fourth quarter, a re-energized Titans’ defense gave the offensive line fits when the Giants needed to run out the clock. DT Albert Haynesworth in particular was a problem.

Defensive Line: The run defense was very good as HB Travis Henry was held to 27 yards on 12 carries. What hurt was QB Vince Young’s impromptu scrambles as Young finished the day with 69 rushing yards. The pass rush, aside from a few plays from DT Fred Robbins and DE Mathias Kiwanuka, was not very noticeable.

Robbins (3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery) had a huge game. Reggie Torbor was credited with the forced fumble, but it looked to me that it was Robbins who actually caused the ball to come loose. Barry Cofield (4 tackles) had a good game of gumming things up inside.

William Joseph (zero tackles) was pretty much a non-factor at defensive end. He also got suckered on a couple of play-action rollouts in his direction. To his credit, he had one good pass rush from the defensive tackle position.

Kiwanuka (3 tackles, 1 pass defense) played well against the run and flashed on the pass rush at times and even deflected a sideline pass intended for a receiver late in the game. But on the very next snap, he might have sunk the Giants’ season by letting go of Young on 4th-and-10 on a play that should have ended the game. There is no excuse for letting Young go, none. If he wasn’t sure if Young had gotten rid of the ball or not, he should have simply kept him wrapped up until the whistle blew. In all my years of watching football, I’ve never seen anything like that play. Later on this game-tying drive, Kiwanuka missed a chance at redemption as he couldn’t track down Young in the backfield on a botched screen pass that Joseph helped to disrupt. Young ended up scrambling for another 16 yards on this play.

When reserves DT Jonas Seawright and DE Lance Legree came into the game on one series, they immediately got mauled on Henry’s longest run of the day for 14 yards.

Linebackers: Good in run defense, but they allowed some key passes to be completed against them. Carlos Emmons (3 tackles) was pretty quiet. Antonio Pierce (8 tackles, 1 sack) was active. Pierce and Emmons combined to stuff Young on a 4th-and-goal play late in the second quarter. But both Emmons and Pierce got beat by the tight end on 3rd-and-goal for the Titans’ first touchdown. Emmons also lost contain on Young’s 2nd-and-goal bootleg for a touchdown.

I thought Reggie Torbor (2 tackles) was pretty strong in run defense by holding the point-of-attack. He also forced an incompletion with one quality pass rush. Strangely, Chase Blackburn played some snaps in the 4th quarter with the game on the line. He looked sluggish both on the blitz and as he missed a tackle on the halfback on a play that picked up nine yards.

Defensive Backs: I should have listened to BBI poster KWALL when he argued months ago that FS Will Demps sucks. Demps simply doesn’t look athletic or fluid enough. While he occasionally will make a nice play in run defense, he misses too many tackles and is a virtual non-factor in coverage. Worse, on the play where Kiwanuka let Young go, Demps just stood there as Young scrambled by him for the first down. Gibril Wilson (10 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 pass defense) was not impressive either. Though active, he missed a few tackles and erased a holding penalty on the Titans on their game-winning drive with an illegal contact penalty.

Give credit to S Jason Bell for staying in the game after breaking a bone in his arm. However, he was lucky that he didn’t give up a big pass play in the third quarter as he never turned around to look for the football. Bell later made a nice tackle on a draw play.

Pass coverage by the corners was pretty good until the fourth quarter. The Titans never really did do anything against R.W. McQuarters. And Frank Walker did a nice job except for two bad plays. The first was his unnecessary roughness penalty against Vince Young on a 4th-and-9 scramble that came up two yards short. The penalty gave the Titans a first down and allowed them to score their first touchdown. I’ve been a critic of Walker’s boneheaded plays in the past, but I can understand how this one occurred. If you watch the play at full speed, Young is rapidly closing in on the first down marker. It is easy to lose track of the sideline in such a desperate situation. Most fans will disagree with me, but I thought it was an aggressive play that went a bit too far. The other bad play was Walker getting beat by receiver for the 14-yard, game-tying touchdown.

The corner who had bigger problems late in the game was Kevin Dockery. Dockery played far too soft and gave up a number of key completions, including a 25-yarder on the first touchdown drive, a 20-yarder on the game-tying touchdown drive, and a 7-yarder on the game-winning field goal drive.

Special Teams: Derrick Ward was unimpressive on kickoff returns (21 yards per return) and so was Chad Morton on punt returns (1.5 yards per return). The Giants did not do a good job of blocking the gunners on punts.

The Giants and P Jeff Feagles did a great job of keeping Pacman Jones in check on punt returns except for one very costly return where Jones picked up 23 yards and set the Titans up on the Giants’ 36-yard line. Torbor missed a tackle on this return. Six plays later, they had cut the score to 21-14.

Chris Claiborne was flagged twice on punt coverage, the first being a very costly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after Feagles had punted the ball out at the 1-yard line.

Kickoff coverage was decent, though PK Jay Feely had one very poor kickoff.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Tennessee Titans, November 26, 2006)
Nov 282006
 

November 27, 2006 New York Giants Injury Report: The Giants hope to have DE Osi Umenyiora (hip flexor) and LB Brandon Short (quad) back for the upcoming game against Dallas. DE Michael Strahan (foot) will also likely begin individual drills this week at practice, but is unlikely to play. The team is also less certain about the availability of CB Corey Webster (toe) and CB Sam Madison (hamstring). “We’re looking to have Osi and Brandon Short,” Head Coach Tom Coughlin said. “We’re looking to advance Michael Strahan and we’ll see how he does. Webster – we’ll know more Wednesday, probably, than we do today.”

Safety Jason Bell fractured a bone in his arm against the Titans, but continued to play in that game and is expected to play against Dallas. “Well, we’ll see,” Coughlin said. “They’re going to come up with a device they hope will allow that bone to stay in one piece. He played pretty much the whole game like that.”

TE Jeremy Shockey (dislocated ring finger) should play against Dallas.

Notes and Quotes: Under the NFL’s new flexible scheduling policy, the Giants-Panthers game on December 10th will remain a 1:00PM game.

MLB Antonio Pierce on the players-only meeting that was held yesterday at the Meadowlands: “It was a good meeting. There was good communication, and it was good for people to hear certain things from certain people — especially for our younger guys. If we were in there bickering, yelling, screaming and cussing and going into a rage and a tirade, that’s not a good example. We’re trying to help our younger guys who are trying to help us win right now…The message was that it’s a five-game season and every goal that we want is still reachable. And as far as this week, guys need to be accountable, guys need to get things off their chest, guys need to be more focused, guys need to do what was said. It’s basically what was said when we were 1-2: If you think you’re doing well enough to help us win right now, then you need to look at yourself again.”

General Manager Ernie Accorsi on whether or not Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s job is in jeopardy: “It’s a natural question to ask. Right now he’s 6-5 and tied for a wild-card spot. Obviously, I don’t think that’s even a consideration…I think Tom Coughlin is a terrific coach. He’s won everywhere he has been; he won last year. We’re in the middle of a pennant race. We’ve got a chance. We’re battling for a playoff berth, and he’s got a chance to make the playoffs two years in a row.”

Pierce on Coughlin: “I think he’s doing a good job. I back the guy. I don’t think guys are quitting to the point where you’re saying, ‘Well, he doesn’t have control of this team.’ That’s not been the case. He’s got guys who just didn’t make plays at the right time and guys making mistakes. He can coach, but he can’t play.”

DE Michael Strahan on WR Plaxico Burress, who appeared to give up on the play where QB Eli Manning was first intercepted against the Titans: “You can’t give up, you can’t quit. You’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on us. We’ve worked too hard to have that type of stuff happen. I don’t quite understand what his lack of motivation is in those situations. But I’m going to try to see what it is and if I can talk to him about it. He’s too great of a player to look at him and say, ‘He’s a quitter.'”

Nov 262006
 

Comical Giants Surrender 21-Point 4th Quarter Lead, Lose 24-21: This franchise is a freaking joke and never fails to find new ways to lose. How many times over the past ten years have Giants’ fans had to put up with catastrophic late-game collapses? It never ends.

Up 21-0 in the fourth quarter, the embarrassing, poorly-coached, quarterback-deficient, leadership-deprived, passionless, and stupid team found a way to surrender 24 points in the last 13 minutes of the football game. It was the type of loss that ruins a season and gets both players and coaches fired. It is quite possible that the Giants will be unable to emotionally recover. The surging, first-place Dallas Cowboys come to town on Sunday.

“It’s a terrible shock,” a befuddled Head Coach Tom Coughlin said after the game. “I don’t have the words to talk about it right now, and I probably won’t when I see it. We’re going to be sick about this one forever.”

The Titans’ comeback started with an interception thrown by QB Eli Manning with just over 13 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. The coaching staff inexplicably had Manning throwing a deep pass on 2nd-and-4 and the ensuing interception was returned 26 yards to the Giants’ 46 yard line. It looked as if the Giants’ defense was going to hold as Titans’ QB Vince Young was stopped short of the first down marker on 4th-and-9, but CB Frank Walker committed an incredibly stupid personal foul penalty on Young, giving the Titans new life. “That was stupid, it was a bad play,” said Coughlin. Three plays later, the Titans scored to cut the lead to 21-7 with just under 10 minutes to play.

Three-and-out went the Giants and the Titans returned the ensuing punt 23 yards to the Giants’ 36-yard line. Six plays later, the Titans had cut the score to 21-14 with more than five minutes left in the game.

The Giants’ offense managed one first down and then the Giants were forced to punt. It looked as if New York had staved off a collapse when, on 4th-and-10, DE Mathias Kiwanuka had the quarterback wrapped up for what should have been a game-ending sack, but Kiwanuka for some reason thought Vince Young had gotten rid of the ball and let the quarterback go. Young then scrambled for 19 yards and a first down. “Thank God for letting me loose,” Young said.

Young then completed four straight passes, culminating with a 14-yard touchdown strike to tie the game with less than 50 seconds to play.

Manning capped the disaster by throwing his second interception of the day with 23 seconds left. “A bad decision on my part,” Manning said the pass that he attempted to force to WR David Tyree. “There’s no way you can throw an interception under that circumstance at the end of the game,” said Coughlin. “If you don’t like what you see throw it out of bounds. Go to overtime. Don’t turn the ball over.”

The Titans then completed two short passes and hit the 48-yard field goal to win the game.

Post-Game Notes: TE Jeremy Shockey dislocated a ring finger in pre-game workouts, but played.

Inactive for the Giants were CB Corey Webster (toe), CB Sam Madison (hamstring), LB Brandon Short (quad), DE Michael Strahan (foot), DE Osi Umenyiora (hip flexor), LT Luke Petitgout (back), WR Sinorice Moss (quad), and QB Tim Hasselbeck (third quarterback).

Nov 252006
 

November 24, 2006 New York Giants Injury Report: DE Osi Umenyiora (hip flexor) participated in some individual drills on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, but he did not participate in the team portion of practice on those days. He officially remains “questionable” for the game against the Titans on Sunday.

CB Corey Webster (toe) did not practice. He is “questionable” for the game tomorrow.

Also not practicing yesterday were LT Luke Petitgout (fractured fibula), DE Michael Strahan (foot), and CB Sam Madison (hamstring). Petitgout is officially listed as “out” against the Titans this Sunday. Strahan and Madison are “doubtful.”

Practicing were DT Barry Cofield (groin – questionable), LB Brandon Short (quad – questionable), and WR Sinorice Moss (quad questionable).

Q&A Session with DE Michael Strahan: Strahan: Health Biggest Issue for Giants by Graham Bensinger of ESPN.com

Nov 242006
 

November 23, 2006 New York Giants Injury Report: Not practicing yesterday were LT Luke Petitgout (fractured fibula), DE Michael Strahan (foot), DE Osi Umenyiora (hip flexor), and CB Sam Madison (hamstring). Petitgout is officially listed as “out” against the Titans this Sunday. Strahan and Madison are “doubtful” and Umenyiora is “questionable.”

Practicing were DT Barry Cofield (groin – questionable), LB Brandon Short (quad – questionable), and WR Sinorice Moss (quad questionable).

Nov 232006
 

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Tennessee Titans, November 26, 2006:

Pressure
Pushing down on me
Pressing down on you
No man ask for

Under pressure
That burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets

Queen, Under Pressure

Strahan, Umenyiora, Petitgout, and Madison still missing in action. Toomer done. Eli struggling. Schedule getting tougher again. Only six games left. Two game losing streak. Half game out of first place in the division. Tony Romo has made pact with Satan. Everyone already crowning Dallas as the division champs.

Pressure…Pushing down on me…Pressing down on you…

Giants on Defense: The approach the Giants have to take in this game defensively is the same approach that they took against the Atlanta Falcons. Stop the traditional ground game as well as stop the quarterback from hurting you on the ground – both in terms of designed plays as well as those improvised runs that occur when the play breaks down. I think it will be a big help if the Giants can get Brandon Short (questionable with a quad injury) back for this game. He would start at weakside linebacker, allowing Carlos Emmons to move back to strongside linebacker. The trio of Short, Pierce, and Emmons is good against the run.

The feature back in Tennessee is Travis Henry, who is averaging an impressive 4.6 yards per carry. Not only did he run for 143 yards against Philadelphia last week, but he went over 100 yards against a very tough Ravens’ defense the week before. The Giants are going to have to play far tougher and much more stout up front than they did against the Jaguars. The Titans are certainly going to try to run the ball down the Giants’ throat. Will the front seven on defense play like they did against the Bears (first half), or will they play like they did against the Jaguars?

Rookie QB Vince Young places added stress on a defense – just like Michael Vick – with his feet. The Titans will run the option and other designed QB-move plays, and Young certainly can hurt you when the play breaks down. The front four absolutely must maintained disciplined rush lanes. And with William Joseph subbing for Michael Strahan, the Giants certainly are far less athletic at strongside end. And the two outside linebackers are not the fastest guys either.

The Titan passing attack is not impressive, but Young will occasionally make a throw that makes you say, “Wow!” WR Drew Bennett is the Titans’ most consistent and dangerous receiving target. He will be covered by Corey Webster (assuming Corey plays – he’s questionable with a toe injury). The other receiver is Brandon Jones, who only has 14 catches on the year. Young’s second favorite receiver is TE Bo Scaife and the Giants need to do a better job of covering the tight end than they did against Jacksonville.

The most important thing is for the Giants to play aggressively and be physical. The season is on the line, play like it! It’s time to start creating some turnovers too.

Giants on Offense: Everyone and their mother knows the Giants are going to run, run, run. Coughlin lamented all week about not running the ball more against the Jaguars. So did Tiki Barber. So did the fans and the press. If I’m Tennessee Head Coach Jeff Fisher, I sell out against the run and put Eli Manning in difficult down-and-distance situations. Most fans are going to disagree with me – especially given the fact that Tennessee has the third worst rushing defense in the NFL – but I’d be very careful not to run the ball too much early in the game, especially on first down. I think this plays right into Tennessee’s hands.

I would use the short- to intermediate-passing game to hurt the Titans first, put a score up on the board, then come back with the power running game. If Eli can’t hurt a Titans’ defense with eight or nine men stacked in the box against the run, then this team isn’t going to make the playoffs anyways. Don’t play scared. Play your game. If the defense dares you to hurt them with the pass, then hurt them with the pass.

The Titans should be tougher in run defense with the return of DT Albert Haynesworth from suspension. Left defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch can rush the passer so RT Kareem McKenzie needs to play well in pass protection. The linebackers are very solid, led by Keith Bulluck. He’s a play-maker and one of the best in the business.

The Titans’ most physically-gifted, but inconsistent, corner is Pacman Jones. He will face Plaxico Burress. Jones does well in man-to-man, press coverage. The Giants need Plax to play well here and make some plays. The left corner is Reynaldo Hill, who has been bothered by an ankle injury. The safeties – Chris Hope and Lamont Thompson – are solid. Hope and Thompson have a total of six picks this year. That all said, Tennessee is the fifth worst pass defense in the NFL, mainly because they are not a strong pass-rushing team.

Eli’s got to stop trying to over-think and just play. Drop back quickly, set your feet, find the open man, and deliver the football. Get the ball to your play-makers – Barber, Shockey, and Burress – but if you see someone else wide open (i.e., Tim Carter or Visanthe Shiancoe), throw them the rock.

Stop worrying and start playing some football! C’mon, let’s get back to kicking ass!

Giants on Special Teams: Pacman Jones is a phenomenal punt returner who already has two touchdowns this year, including a superb effort last week against Philadelphia. Feagles need to punt it high and near the sidelines – like he did against Chicago two weeks ago.

Craig Hentrich is an outstanding punter and the Titans put a lot of emphasis in special teams play so I wouldn’t expect this to be the game where Chad Morton breaks one. Kickoff returner Derrick Ward has fumbled/muffed a return in two straight games.

The Giants need to be wary of a trick play on special teams such as a fake field goal or punt.

Nov 232006
 
Jacksonville Jaguars 26 – New York Giants 10

Game Overview: I didn’t expect this. I expected a tight, hard-fought game. Instead, the Giants were lucky to still be in the contest, only trailing 10-3 at halftime. The Giants were then fortunate that an illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty caused a 14-point swing in the third quarter. Instead of losing 17-3, the Giants managed to crawl within 13-10 before the roof collapsed.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin said it best: “We didn’t stop the run. We didn’t stop the play-action pass. We didn’t run the ball. We turned the ball over. We didn’t keep the ball and we did not have a lot of rhythm offensively.”

That said, as poorly as the Giants played, they were only one or two plays away from being right in this game and possibly stealing it. The Giants came darn close to completing two long touchdown passes. Dropped passes stalled what looked to be another scoring drive and a careless fumble ended another.

Stating the obvious, the Giants are in trouble. The five-game winning streak seems like a long time ago. Just a few weeks ago, Giants’ fans were dreaming of home-field advantage. Now, there is fear of collapse. To be honest, the Giants simply may not be able to overcome the injuries. It doesn’t sound like Strahan, Umenyiora, or Petitgout will be back soon – and even if they do return, how effective will they be? Toomer, Arrington, and Tuck are already on Injured Reserve.

More distressing than all of the injuries is that the team’s “Franchise Quarterback” is playing like crap. There is viable concern right now that the Giants made a huge mistake in trading for Eli Manning. He’s regressing and hurting his team badly. Making matters worse, in terms of comparisons, former no-names such Tony Romo, David Garrard, Seneca Wallace, and Damon Huard are playing better. And of course, Eli will always be compared to Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.

The national and local media is tearing Eli apart, as are many fans. But I’m sticking with Eli. He’s got my support. He’s the starting quarterback of the New York Giants and I am a diehard Giants’ fan. Sink or swim, we’re in this together. And if he develops into what he should become – either this year or sometime in the next couple of years – I want to be known as one of those guys who stood by him during the darkest period.

Coaching: Everyone has an ill-informed opinion on whether the problems with Eli are due mainly to the quarterback or the coaching staff. I have no idea. Part of me wonders if the coaching staff is putting Eli in the best possible situation to succeed. Shouldn’t there be more of a focus on the short-passing game and the run early in the contest in order to get Eli and the offense into a rhythm and build confidence? But how do we know that the offense doesn’t have these options and Eli is simply looking farther down the field on passing plays? Shockey is being sent out on patterns. The tape doesn’t lie. Why isn’t the ball going in that direction? Is Shockey covered? Are the coaches properly designing plays that will help him avoid double coverage? Or is the problem that Eli is too fixated on Burress? The Giants did get the ball more to Shockey this week and they did finally try to get the ball more to Barber. The problem, in many instances, was poor execution. Inaccurate passes, dropped balls, etc. In watching this game, it seemed as there was some breakdown in execution on many of the key plays. If the receiver was open, the pass was thrown behind the receiver or dropped. Or there was a breakdown in pass protection. It was frustrating as hell to watch because the Giants came damn close to putting up another 20-28 points. For example:

  1. On Eli’s first interception, Eli was under immediate pressure as LT Bob Whitfield was beaten. Eli had to scramble to his right and tossed a deep pass to a wide-open Burress. Had Manning set his feet and fired an accurate pass, a 75-yard touchdown catch would have been the result.
  2. Near the end of the first half, the Giants went to their no-huddle offense, picked up a first down, and were the beneficiary of a personal foul penalty that gave them the ball at the Jacksonville 49-yard line. After a false start by Whitfield, Barber dropped what looked to be a well setup screen pass. Two plays later, Burress dropped what would have been a first down on 3rd-and-5. Had those two drops not occurred, the Giants likely would have gotten at least a field goal out of this possession.
  3. Near the end of the third quarter, Eli threw a perfect deep pass to Burress that Burress should have caught in stride for an 80-yard touchdown. But he dropped the ball.
  4. In the 4th quarter, the Giants moved the ball from their own 40-yard line to the Jaguars’ 8-yard line, but Tim Carter carelessly fumbled away the ball and Jacksonville recovered.

If the Giants execute in these situations, the team scores a lot more points and no one is questioning the play-calling. See the dilemma?

Why not run the ball more? A strong case can be made that suggests this is New York’s biggest problem on offense. However, to be fair, the last two opponents are very good run defenses who have stacked the line of scrimmage against Tiki Barber. And Barber and Jacobs were stuffed repeatedly against the Jaguars. Conventional wisdom says that if the other team is stacking the line, you make them back off by beating them with big plays in the passing game.

Now that all said, my layman’s (and probably naïve) strategy for addressing the offensive problems is this:

  1. Stop force-feeding Eli. I think his system is overloaded with too much responsibility and information. Make the game easier for him. He’s thinking too much. I’d actually tell him to stop watching so much film and take some time off. He needs to relax.
  2. Use the 2-TE power running game early with Brandon Jacobs. Even if the opponent stacks the line, the Giants’ power formation with Brandon Jacobs is tough to stop.
  3. Use the short passing game early and often in order to develop a rhythm. Shockey and Barber should be a very tough combo for the opponent’s undercoverage to deal with. If you use the 2-TE formation, you can throw Visanthe Shiancoe into the mix.
  4. Use the no-huddle early in the game. Eli likes it. Make him comfortable. I think if you alternate between the no-huddle and the power-run formation on different series, you really will get the defense back on its heels.

Offensive Overview: The Giants were dreadful in the first half with only two first downs (they got a third first down off a penalty) and 73 total net yards (59 yards passing, 14 yards rushing). The Giants had six possessions in the first half and the first four were three-and-out. The fifth resulted in an interception. Here is the penalty/run/pass/turnover ratio on those six drives:

  1. One run, two passes.
  2. One holding penalty, two runs, one pass.
  3. One run, two passes.
  4. One run, two passes.
  5. One false start penalty (McKenzie), one run, three passes, one interception.
  6. One false start penalty, one run, four passes.

The Giants probably should have run the ball more. That said, when they did run, the results were dreadful. Particularly costly, for example, was the 3rd-and-1 play where Brandon Jacobs lost a yard. Jacobs lost a yard on another carry, putting the Giants in a bad 3rd-and-11 situation and Barber lost three yards on one run that put the Giants in a 2nd-and-18 situation. Three penalties in six possessions are not good either and helped to stall drives before they even had a chance to start.

In the second half, the results were only marginally better. There were six more possessions. Two of the first three were three-and-outs (two runs, four passes). The second possession (three runs, 8 passes) was only kept alive as an illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty nullified a defensive touchdown (the Giants later went onto score their sole touchdown of the night on this possession). By the time the Giants got the ball back for their fourth possession, they were trailing 23-10 in the fourth quarter. Another holding penalty and interception stopped that effort. Trailing 26-10, the Giants reached the Jaguars’ 8-yard line with less than five minutes to go on their fifth possession, but WR Tim Carter fumbled the ball away. The sixth possession stalled at the Jaguars’ 18-yard line with just under two minutes to go.

Rightly (because of the Jags defense) or wrongly (impatience), the Giants went with a pass-centric attack and put the game on shoulders of Eli, his receivers, and pass protectors. They failed miserably. In all, the Giants went three-and-out on HALF of their 12 possessions.

Quarterback: Eli Manning (19-of-41 for 230 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions) was dreadful. Eight of his 19 completions came in garbage time when the Giants were trailing by 16 points. Both of his interceptions were on him – one a bad underthrow and the other right to a linebacker who was covering the receiver underneath. And Manning is lucky as hell that his sack and fumble that should have resulted in a defensive touchdown was nullified by a penalty. Manning was gun-shy and inaccurate, and he made poor decisions and lost his composure. When the Giants’ first possession started at the Jaguars’ 29-yard line, the drive went nowhere as Eli was inaccurate on both of his first two passes, including a swing pass to Barber that was thrown into the dirt. This set the tone. And Manning seemed to be completely fixated on Burress for much of the night. It looked to me that Tim Carter was wide open on at least a couple of plays but Manning never looked in that direction.

Wide Receivers: Plaxico Burress’ nifty 25-yard catch and run for a touchdown does not erase his bad evening. He dropped a deep pass late in the third quarter that would have given the Giants a 1-point lead. Burress also dropped a 3rd-and-5 pass that should have picked up a first down and put the Giants in field goal range late in the first half. And he couldn’t maintain possession of the football on what should have been a 15-yard completion late in the first quarter. Burress gave up on the play on Eli’s first interception, allowing the defender to pick up an additional 24 yards. He finished the evening with five catches for 65 yards.

I’ve had it with Tim Carter. His late-game fumble at the Jaguars’ 8-yard line was inexcusable. Carter is a tease, a coach-killer. His “potential” and few positive plays will never outweigh the negative. Honestly, I’d cut him right now.

David Tyree caught two passes for 15 yards.

Running Backs: Atrocious non-productivity though obvious the blocking deserves the bulk of the blame. Still, Barber only managed 27 yards on 10 carries and Brandon Jacobs had no yards on three carries, including a very costly 1-yard loss on 3rd-and-1.

Jacobs’ biggest contribution was his 20-yard gain on 3rd-and-18 on a screen play. Barber dropped a screen pass late in the first half that may have put the Giants into scoring position.

I thought both Barber and Jacobs did a poor job of recognizing the blitz in this game. There were a few breakdowns where a blitzer charged at Manning untouched as Barber or Jacobs looked elsewhere. For example, on the play where the defensive touchdown was nullified, Jacobs missed spotting the free blitzer.

Tight Ends: One of the announcers made the point in the game that Jeremy Shockey has eight first half receptions in nine games this year. Why the f*ck!? The inability of the coaching staff and the quarterback to get Shockey the ball is the most damning indictment of both. Shockey did have two late first-half receptions and did finish the game with seven catches for 82 yards, but three of these came in garbage time. He did drop one pass. Shockey’s holding penalty on the second drive of the game put the Giants in a 1st-and-20 hole.

Offensive Line: The run-blocking was terrible. The pass blocking was mostly OK though there were a few costly breakdowns. The biggest one was probably the pressure given up by Whitfield on Eli’s first interception. Eli had to scramble away from the defender, and this contributed to the inaccurate pass in the direction of a wide-open Burress. The play should have resulted in a 75-yard touchdown. Earlier on this drive, Whitfield badly missed a run block that led to a 3-yard loss on a running play. Whitfield was also flagged with a false start and a holding penalty on a screen pass that erased a 13-yard gain. RT Kareem McKenzie gave up a sack as he was cleanly beaten by the defensive end on an outside speed rush.

Defensive Overview: When you give up over 400 yards of offense and 165 yards rushing, it is not a good day for your defense. The Giants did not sack back-up David Garrard and allowed him to complete 19-of-32 passes for 249 yards. The run defense was obviously soft, though Jacksonville didn’t quite average four yards per carry. To be fair to the defense, the Giants’ offense put a terrible strain on them with all of the three-and-outs. The Giants’ offense maintained possession for less than 20 minutes of the game.

While the Giants were going three-and-out on half of their possessions, the Jaguars went:

  1. Three plays.
  2. Eight plays (52 yards and a field goal).
  3. Nine plays.
  4. Eight plays (57 yards and a touchdown).
  5. Six plays.
  6. Three plays.
  7. Four plays.
  8. Eight plays (41 yards and a field goal).
  9. Twelve plays (59 yards and a field goal).
  10. Four plays (55 yards and a touchdown).
  11. Seven plays (34 yards and a field goal).
  12. Three plays.
  13. Three plays.

As you can see, in terms of yardage covered, none of the scoring drives were over 60 yards. This indicates that the Giants’ offense also put the Giants’ defense in bad position in terms of field position. The costliest defensive lapse of the night was the 49-yard completion on 3rd-and-7 early in the fourth quarter. This turned a 16-10 game into a 23-10 game. Another bad defensive series was allowing the Jaguars to drive 59 yards in 12 plays right after the offense had cut the lead to 13-10.

Defensive Line: Not good. The run defense was soft. While the longest run by a Jaguars’ halfback was 12 yards, Jacksonville was able to consistently generate positive yardage that kept the team in manageable down-and-distance situations. No one up front stood out in run defense as the Giants started the game with William Joseph, Barry Cofield, Fred Robbins, and Mathias Kiwanuka. Cofield injured his groin and that limited him. Jonas Seawright saw some playing time and was terrible (he looked like a blocking sled on Jacksonville’s second touchdown run of the game).

Aside from a few early pass rush efforts by Kiwanuka and one by Robbins, the pass rush by the down four was non-existent. David Garrard had way too much time in the pocket.

Linebackers: Interestingly, Carlos Emmons started at weakside linebacker in favor of Gerris Wilkinson as Reggie Torbor stayed on as the strongside linebacker. This was most likely in anticipation of the Jaguars’ power running game, as well as Wilkinson’s inexperience.

Like the defensive line, the linebackers were unimpressive. I thought Antonio Pierce played one of his worst games as a Giant. He did not stand out against the run and was abused in coverage by H-Back George Wrighster. Pierce also didn’t appear to play with much emotion. After the game, he seemed to lay blame on the defensive’s shortcomings on the injuries. He ought to look at himself first.

One of the biggest miscues of the night was Torbor not being able to bring down Garrard on what should have been a drive-ending sack on 3rd-and-5. Instead, Garrard scramble for a 17-yard gain and a first down. This drive eventually ended with a field goal and helped the Jags regain momentum after the Giants had cut the score to 13-10.

Defensive Backs: The big problem seemed to be the Giants’ zone coverage. Time and time again, the Jaguars would settle into soft spots in the Giants’ zone between the linebackers and defensive backs. The Giants were also hurt by play-action rollout passes – a product of the successful running game.

Gibril Wilson and Will Demps flashed in run support, but they did not stand out in coverage and missed some tackles. Wilson’s missed tackle on WR Ernest Wilford on a 3rd-and-3 pass led to a first down and eventual touchdown. This was a big play in the game. Demps later missed a tackle on this drive’s 10-yard touchdown run. Later in the game, Wilson was playing way too off on an easy 11-yard completion to Wrighster on 3rd-and-5. On the very next play however, Wilson did force a fumble that saved a touchdown. Demps knocked away one pass intended for Wrighster.

James Butler knocked away one 3rd-and-5 pass and forced a field goal, but he also badly misplayed his attempt to tackle WR Matt Jones on the latter’s big run after the catch on the Jaguars’ final touchdown drive of the night.

Corey Webster gave up a couple of 17-yard sideline receptions to Wilford and then slipped on the grass on Jones’ killer 49-yard catch-and-run. Still, it was a much better effort by Webster this week as he had good position on many passes thrown in his direction and knocked two away.

R.W. McQuarters and Kevin Dockery did alright, but again there were breakdowns in the zone and you have to wonder who was responsible.

Special Teams: PK Jay feely hit his only field goal try – from 40 yards out. His kickoffs were fielded at the 4, 5, and 9. Jacksonville kickoff returns picked up 6 yards (Brandon Jacobs), 22 yards (Chase Blackburn), and 27 yards (Blackburn). The last kickoff return came at a bad time as it gave the Jaguars the ball at the 36-yard line right after New York had cut the lead to 13-10.

P Jeff Feagles averaged 40.2 yards per punt on six punts. Four of those six punts were returned (the two others were fair caught). Punt returns picked up 1 (Reggie Torbor), 6 (Jason Bell), 8 (Torbor), and 2 yards (James Butler).

Derrick Ward returned three kickoffs for 19, 24, and 36 yards. He also made a terrible play when he muffed the ball out of bounds at the 10-yard line to start the second half. This came at a bad time as the Giants were looking for a fresh beginning at the start of the second half. Brandon Jacobs returned one kickoff 28 yards.

Chad Morton returned two punts for a total of 16 yards. He also fair caught two others.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Jacksonville Jaguars, November 20, 2006)
Nov 232006
 

November 22, 2006 New York Giants Injury Report: Although Head Coach Tom Coughlin said LB Brandon Short (quad) was not expected to practice yesterday, Short did participate in both individual and team drills. Short is officially listed as “questionable” for the game against the Titans on Sunday.

DE Osi Umenyiora (hip flexor) participated in individual drills at practice yesterday, but did not participate in the team portion of practice. “It is good news,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “It is good. I’m not promising anything. I’m just saying he is going to do his individual work and then we will see how reacts to that. And then we will see how he is the next day.” Umenyiora is officially listed as “questionable” for the game against the Titans on Sunday.

Sitting out of practice were DT Barry Cofield (groin – questionable), DE Michael Strahan (foot – doubtful), CB Sam Madison (hamstring – doubtful), and LT Luke Petitgout (fractured fibula – out).

WR Sinorice Moss (quad) continues to practice but remains “questionable.”

Quotes: Titans’ Head Coach Jeff Fisher on QB Eli Manning: “He played a very, very good defense last week. We went through the same thing several weeks ago. That is a difficult defense, especially at home. They can force you into making some bad decisions or force your hand, if you will. But our staff has gone way beyond the last two weeks and we have seen him really, really make plays. He is going to make plays when they run the football. When they don’t run the football it is hard to make any kind of plays, because everything starts there. And Jacksonville’s defense is such that it is tough to run against. So, obviously our philosophy is to try and do the same thing. Not that we are as well equipped as they are, but you have to be able to settle in and try to win the line of scrimmage, stop the run and then go from there. But Eli is going to be a very, very good quarterback in this League. I have watched as they have been patient with him and they have handled him well. And obviously he is very, very capable of making any throw. I think he understands the philosophy of their offense and every once in a while you are going to have a tough go at it. But the mark of young quarterbacks is their ability to bounce back. And he has proven that he can bounce back.”

General Manager Ernie Accorsi on Manning: “Obviously, in this business, you need the courage of your convictions. I’m totally convinced by Eli’s ability. I have the same conviction about him I always did and so does everybody in this organization. All the hysteria doesn’t mean a thing to me.”