Jan 142007
 
New York Giants 2007 NFL Draft Options

by Colin Lindsay, Great Blue North Draft Report

First things first… Perhaps the most interesting comment to come out of the whole coaching/G.M. kerfuffle over the past week or so in Giantsland was the reference to the fact that Chris Mara, one of the candidates to replace Ernie Accorsi as the Giants’ G.M., was strongly in favor of overhauling the Giants’ scouting staff. And Mara would be in a position to know because, while there is the family connection, he is actually a well-respected football guy who has grown up working in the Giants’ personnel office. That brought to the forefront a couple of thoughts that have been percolating in the back of our mind of late. In particular, every scouting department in the NFL has its hits and misses, but the Giants seem to have more than their share of misses of late. Indeed, there have been several instances in recent years in which the Giants personnel folks have completely missed the boat. And we aren’t talking about John Markham here!

However it finally works out, the Eli Manning draft deal will always be remembered as Ernie Accorsi’s signature statement with the Giants. Accorsi, though, never worked in a vacuum in New York and there is no way that ownership would have signed onto the deal unless there was a strong consensus throughout the organization in support of the trade. And that means there had to be a pretty broad consensus within the Giants personnel department that not only was Manning a great prospect, but that he was also head and shoulders better than the other two QBs available that year. And that assessment would have run counter to the overall consensus around the NFL which seemed to be that yes Manning was a good prospect but that he wasn’t necessarily that much better than either Philip Rivers or Ben Rothlisberger. While the final history still has to be written, at least at this time, the Giants appear to have gotten it wrong as Rothlisberger has already won a Super Bowl, while Rivers is off to this year’s Pro Bowl.

Then there is the somewhat disturbing situation regarding the Giants second round selections of CB Corey Webster and WR Sinorice Moss the past couple of years. In both cases the Giants’ scouting department apparently went gaga over each of these two players in pre-draft workouts. In Webster’s case, for example, Giants’ scouts were so impressed with the overall athleticism he showed at his on-campus workout that they wrote him off as a Giants’ prospect figuring that he would never last until the Giants’ pick in the second round; that despite the fact that Webster really wasn’t all that fast and had had a terrible week of practice at the Senior Bowl. Meanwhile, the Giants reportedly had Moss rated as the #1 WR overall at last year’s draft despite the fact is he is something of a smurf. And, of course, the Giants ultimately traded up in the second round to get Moss who ultimately had 5 catches for 25 yards on the season, although he likely still wasn’t fully 100% after missing the better part of the year with a leg injury. It also doesn’t help of course that Santonio Holmes, the receiver the Giants passed on when they traded down with Pittsburgh emerged as a big-play WR and KR as the season progressed this fall. The only consolation is that DE Mathias Kiwanuka, whom the Giants did select when they finally did make their opening round pick this year, also looks like a keeper with a promising upside.

One has to be careful about extrapolating too much into these various moves; the draft is a crap shoot and this is a very small sample. However, this is clearly something that the team’s new G.M. will want to re-evaluate. One other word of caution we have for the incoming G.M. Be wary – very wary – of trading up on draft day even if there is a player the organization really likes. This is not as an indictment of Accorsi and his regime. In fact, draft analysts around the league have always been quick to compliment teams that go after a player they do like. However, our research indicates that players teams ‘really like’ and ultimately go after, surprisingly don’t appear to turn out to be any better pros than other players selected in the same spots.

The new G.M. will also want to be very cautious about trading up in order to fill a need as again the success rate across the league for such moves is somewhat spotty. And the Giants has been spottier than most. Indeed, the Giants traded what amounts to a full draft for the right to move up in the draft in order to get QB Eli Manning (1st, 3rd and 5th round picks); CB Will Allen (2nd and 6th) and TE Jeremy Shockey (4th) in the 2001 through 2004 drafts. We will leave it to others smarter than us to argue the merits of each move, however, it is tough to make the case that the Giants got much of anything on balance from the three deals when comparing what they ended up with and what they likely would have gotten had they simply stayed put with their original picks.

Help is on the way… All that said, the draft is like the Cubbies: there’s always next year and, indeed, the draft process is already well under way with the draft now just over 100 days away. And while it almost always used to seem that the draft-day stars were always out of line, the early line on the 2007 draft is that it is shaping up fairly well for the Giants such that they should be able to fill some needs with the 20th pick overall and beyond. Here’s a quick rundown on how the positions that the Giants are likely to be focused on over the course of the next 3-4 months. In no particular order…

Cornerback:

Why the Giants will draft a CB… The Giants, of course, rebuilt their secondary last winter with the signing of veteran free agents Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters and the promotion of 2005 second rounder Corey Webster to the starting unit. Needless to say the results were mixed. The Giants didn’t give up many big completions, but did get nickled and dimed to death virtually all season as they habitually gave up plenty of cushion. Individually Madison and McQuarters actually weren’t all that bad, but both are well into their 30s, while Madison has clearly lost a step or two. Meanwhile, Webster turned out to be slow, not very physical and not particularly instinctive, but otherwise showed plenty of potential. In the end, Webster was outplayed most of the season by undrafted rookie free agent Kevin Dockery who did show some game, although he is still an undrafted free agent. Still, the Giants desperately need is an infusion of speed and athleticism on the corner.

2007 draft options: The good news is that it is pretty good year at the position and the Giants should get a look at a decent prospect or two with the 20th pick from a group of top-tier CBs that includes Michigan’s Leon Hall, Pitt junior Darrelle Revis, and Marcus McCauley of Fresno State, who may have the best overall athletic skills of this year’s top corners. There is also a solid second-tier group of corners including Fred Bennett of South Carolina, Daymeion Hughes of California, and Aaron Ross and Terrell Brown of Texas while there should be some potentially useful late first/early second day prospects including players like Jonathan Wade of Tennessee, Tony Franklin of Virginia, David Irons of Auburn, Josh Wilson of Maryland, Clemson junior C.J. Gaddis, Reggie Lewis and Ryan Smith of national champion Florida, and Tavarous Bain of Hampton, a former Miami recruit with 4.45 speed who is the top small-school prospect in the 2007 draft class. However, while there is some early talent in this year’s CB class, it really isn’t all that deep so the Giants will not want to wait too long to upgrade at the position through the draft if that is indeed their goal.

Safety:

Why the Giants will draft a safety… Other than inconsistent QB Eli Manning, no individual took more personal abuse from fans and the media for the Giants woes this fall than FS Will Demps, whose high-profile whiffs on open-field tackles may have cost the Giants a win or two, although Demps and SS Gibril Wilson actually had reasonably productive seasons, combining for over 200 tackles, four interceptions, four forced fumbles and 17 pass breakups. The problem, though, is that both Wilson and Demps are natural strong safeties who are most comfortable closing on the line of scrimmage and what the Giants really need is a centerfielder type of FS with range in coverage.

2007 draft options: Unfortunately, the Giants win over Washington to get into the playoffs may have cost the Giants a shot at either Florida junior Reggie Nelson or Laron Landry of LSU, this year’s top safeties, and the only two players at the position worth a first round pick, although the Giants will hope that at least one drops as safety hasn’t necessarily been a prime draft day position in years. Like CB, there is some depth at the position, though, and players like Brandon Meriweather, Eric Weddle of Utah , Michael Griffin of Texas , Tanard Jackson of Syracuse and John Wendling of Wyoming. In fact, Weddle could be a very intriguing option for the Giants in the second round, while the hard-hitting Jackson, who played CB in college, would be a nice fit in the third, meaning the Giants won’t necessarily have to force a first-round pick on the position. In fact, there is some depth at safety this year, however, most of the better second day prospects are more SS types than FSs.

Linebacker:

Why the Giants will draft a LB… It must have been painful for former great Giants’ LBs like Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson and Carl Banks to watch this bunch this year. Even MLB Antonio Pierce, who led the Giants with 140 tackles, really didn’t have that great as too many of his tackles were downfield as he didn’t shed blocks as easily as he did in the past. Pierce was also victimized in coverage in a number of key instances, although a case can be made that he never should have been asked to be in those coverages in the first place. Meanwhile, veterans Carlos Emmons, LaVar Arrington and Brandon Short all struggled mightily with injuries in one form or another and weren’t all that productive when they were healthy. At the same time, 2006 3rd rounder Gerris Wilkinson showed some decent range at times, but missed too many tackles; it also wasn’t a good sign when he was a healthy scratch for the playoff game with the Eagles.

2007 draft options: The Giants clearly have some more work to do this off-season to get faster and more athletic at LB. However, if they are going to impact the position with their first-round pick it will almost have to be Patrick Willis of Ole Miss as there really aren’t any other LBs, either inside or outside guys, with opening round grades this year. For the record, Willis is a 6-2, 230-pounder with 4.6 speed who plays with an attitude. There should be more options in the second round, although this is not a strong year for LBs. Players who could be options with the 51st pick include H.B. Blades of Pitt, Earl Everett of Florida, Rufus Alexander of Oklahoma, Prescott Burgess of Michigan and Florida State junior Lawrence Timmons. Meanwhile, a couple of sleepers to watch in the 3rd round might be Anthony Waters of Clemson, who can really run but is coming off a torn ACL, and small college star Justin Durant of Hampton who has sub-4.55 speed.

Wide receiver:

Why the Giants will draft a WR… While Plaxico Burress still drives everybody crazy, he a solid #1 receiver, however, the Giants have issues with the rest of their WR corps. Amani Toomer is coming off a torn ACL and even if he’s 100% this coming season, the Giants will need to find another option at the #2 WR slot sooner rather later. Assuming that Toomer is healthy next fall, the Giants prime need is for some depth at the 3-4 receiver spots. The Giants certainly hope that Sinorice Moss would figure in that role, however, his audition this fall can hardly have filled them with confidence.

2007 draft options: While the Giants probably will miss out on the very best receivers in the 2007 draft class such as Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech or Southern Cal ‘s Dwayne Jarrett, this should be a very good year at the position. The Giants, for example, could get a shot at a couple of other top underclassmen in Ohio State ‘s Ted Ginn or Sidney Rice of South Carolina. However, while both are super athletes, neither is a very polished receiver. Indeed, a dark horse for that 20th pick may be Tennessee junior Robert Meacham who has both intriguing size (6-2, 210) and speed (sub-4.35) and reminds one of a young Javon Walker, although Meacham was inconsistent earlier in his Vols’ career. The Giants, though, should also have good options at WR in the second round in players like Dwayne Bowe of LSU, Paul Williams of Fresno State, Ohio State junior Anthony Gonzalez among others. Indeed, there will be good players at the position right through the draft. Also, for future reference, as good as the 2007 WR class is going to be the 2008 draft may even be stronger at the position so the Giants need not force something early this year.

Running Back:

Why the Giants will draft a RB… Tiki Barber brought new meaning to the concept of going out on top as he posted yet another 2,000 plus yards from scrimmage season including over 1,600 yards rushing, although the running game never really dominated many games this fall. However, while Barber, who leaves as both the Giants all-time leading rusher and pass receiver, the running game would appear to be in good hands with Brandon Jacobs. The 2005 4th rounder lacks Barber’s patience and natural instincts, but is bigger, faster and more explosive. And like Barber, Jacobs is both a good receiver – he actually played some TE in college – and very good blocker. Indeed, the Giants have to be quietly hoping that they can reprise the situation in Kansas City where the Chiefs running game made a seamless transition from Priest Holmes to Larry Johnson. The Giants, though, will need a complimentary back as Jacobs takes a lot of punishment.

2007 draft options: The Giants aren’t likely to use an early pick on a RB although they’d be very happy if California junior Marshawn Lynch somehow slipped down to the 20th pick in this year’s draft. For the most part, though, this is not a real strong year at the position, although the addition of several juniors such as Darius Walker of Notre Dame, who wasn’t really expected to leave school early, might provide some late first-day options. More likely, though, the Giants will look to add a back with an early second day pick this coming April on a player such as Northern Illinois scatback Garrett Wolfe, Lorenzo Booker of Florida State, Kolby Smith of Louisville, or Alonzo Coleman of Hampton.

Special offer for BBIers… Next week of course is Senior Bowl week and we’ll be on site in Mobile . And we have a couple of offers for regular BBI readers. One, sign up for a subscription to our weekly GBN Giants Report – its just $10 for a year – and we’ll include special daily reports on the top prospects at positions of interest from the Senior Bowl. Or can’t afford a subscription, send us an e-mail (to: [email protected]) and we’ll put you on the Senior Bowl mailing list anyway! In the meantime, have a great off-season.

Jan 142007
 

Dom Capers Stays With the Miami Dolphins: Dom Capers, a defensive assistant coach with the Miami Dolphins who was believed to possibly be the number one candidate for the New York Giants’ vacant defensive coordinator position, has signed a 3-year, $8.1 million contract with the Dolphins, according to ESPN. According to the report, Capers will now become the highest paid assistant coach in the NFL.

Jan 132007
 

Media Reports Continue to Say Jerry Reese Will Be Named General Manager: Most media reports continue to say that Giants’ Director of Player Personnel Jerry Reese will officially be named the new general manager of the team sometime early next week.

However, The NFL Network did report last night that the Giants may still be interested in Patriots’ Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli, who officially declined a request to be interviewed by the Giants this past week.

Media Reports Continue to Say Kevin Gilbride Will Be Named Offensive Coordinator: Various media reports continue to say that Quarterbacks Coach Kevin Gilbride, who took over play calling duties in the last two games of the season for the Giants, will be officially promoted to offensive coordinator soon.

New York Giants Re-Sign CB Gerrick McPhearson: According to ProFootballWeekly.com and NFLPA.org, the Giants have re-signed CB Gerrick McPhearson.

Jan 122007
 

New York Giants Fire Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis: The Giants announced officially yesterday that Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis will not return to the Giants for the 2007 NFL season. Offensive Coordinator John Hufnagel was fired before the regular season finale against the Redskins. Obviously, the Giants will have two new coordinators shortly and more assistant coaches are likely soon to be shown the door. So much for the stability Giants’ ownership said they wanted in their press conference on Wednesday.

In terms of yards allowed, Lewis’ defense with the Giants was ranked 25th in the NFL in 2006, 24th in 2005, and 13th in 2004. In 2006, the Giants ended the season ranked 24th in scoring defense, 24th in stopping teams on third down, 25th in first downs allowed, and 26th in sacks per pass play. In the last seven games, the Giants lost four times when leading or tied in the fourth quarter.

“I think very highly of Coach Lewis and he was a big part of why I came to the Giants,” said LB LaVar Arrington. “I hate that it didn’t work out, but what we have to do is find somebody that will utilize the type of personnel we have to make us a top-ranked defense…And whenever you have a team as talented as the Giants that doesn’t accomplish enough, somebody has to take the rap for it. Sometimes it’s the players, sometimes it’s coaches.”

The media speculation is that Coughlin may be interested in Miami Dolphins’ special defensive assistant Dom Capers, who served as Coughlin’s defensive coordinator in Jacksonville from 1999-2000. Capers was at one time the head coach for the Panthers and Texans. Capers signed a 1-year contract with the Dolphins last year, but the Miami press is reporting that the Dolphins may own his rights until sometime in February. Because Capers is being considered as the Dolphins’ new head coach or defensive coordinator, the Dolphins are expected to refuse permission to grant him interviews with other teams. Capers is also supposedly being pursued by the Dallas Cowboys for their defensive coordinator vacancy. If money is the determining factor, historically, the Giants have not gotten into bidding wars for the services of assistant coaches.

The media speculation is that Quarterbacks Coach Kevin Gilbride, who was handed the play-calling duties in the last two games of the season, will be promoted to the Giants’ offensive coordinator position.

Jerry Reese to Be Named General Manager Next Week?: According to The Star-Ledger, a high-ranking NFL executive told the paper that Giants’ Director of Player Personnel Jerry Reese will be named the team’s new general manager. The official announcement might be delayed until early next week.

New York Giants May Play Regular-Season Game in London in 2007: There is a good chance that the Giants will face the Miami Dolphins as the “road team” in London, England during the 2007 NFL season. It is being reported that the Giants or Bills will be the likely opponent for the Dolphins. The final decision is expected to be announced next week.

New York Giants Sign Eight Players: According to ProFootballWeekly.com and NFLPA.org, the Giants have signed the following players to the roster:

  • DE Tommy Davis
  • DE Pat Massey
  • LB James Davis
  • OT Jon Dunn
  • OC Todd Londot
  • OC Matt Tarullo
  • TE Jason Randall
  • WR Anthony Mix

All but LB James Davis were on the Giants’ Practice Squad.

Jan 112007
 

New York Giants Retain Tom Coughlin: Giants’ team ownership has decided to retain the services of Head Coach Tom Coughlin for at least the 2007 NFL season. But the commitment to the 60-year old Coughlin was not a strong one. The 4-year, $12 million contract Coughlin signed in 2004 was scheduled to expire after the 2007 season. The Giants decided to give him only a one-year contract extension, keeping him in a precarious situation as a coach very much on the hot seat. Extending his contract by one year is hardly a ringing endorsement.

Team CEO/President John Mara and team Treasurer Jonathan Tisch, the franchise’s co-owners, addressed the media yesterday in a conference call. “Jon Tisch and I sat down with Tom Coughlin on Monday afternoon and had a lengthy discussion with him about the state of our team,” said Mara. “Those discussions continued on Tuesday. At the conclusion of those discussions we told Tom that we wanted him to continue to be our head coach. And we have decided to add another year onto his contract. Much of those discussions were having him tell us what his plan was going forward to make us better and to make us as successful a team as we all want to be. We were satisfied with how he plans to move forward and we remain convinced that he is the right man for the job to get us to the position that we all want to be in.”

“From our perspective, after, as John just mentioned, our meeting with Tom over the past two days and in consultation with my family members who have been privy to our input and agree with the decision, it is our strong belief that consistency, stability, loyalty and sticking by your people are extremely important and Tom has demonstrated and articulated a vision for the future,” said Tisch. “It is one that we agree with, one that we support, and one that we embrace…We were open to hearing what Tom had to say about moving this organization forward. And once again he has a vision and he understands how that vision can now move forward. And he did not have to save his job; he did not have to talk us into anything.”

“(Coughlin) knew that obviously we were not happy finishing 8-8, particularly after starting 6-2,” said Mara. “We addressed our concerns to him. He responded. We were satisfied with his response. Those discussions will probably continue during the course of the week. But at the conclusion of the discussions that we had yesterday we told him that we were satisfied with what his vision for the future is and that we very much wanted him to continue to be our head coach.”

“I’m aware that there will be a number of fans who will not be pleased with that decision,” said Mara. “But I don’t know that I agree that it will be generally an unpopular decision. I’m certainly sensitive to what the fans think. And believe me, I have received a lot of mail, particularly over the last eight or ten weeks. But at the end of the day you can’t make decisions based on what the fans’ sentiment is at that time. You have to make decisions based on what your own eyes have shown you and what your experience in this game has shown you, and what you think is in the best interest of the organization moving forward.”

“We did not insist that he make any specific changes (to the coaching staff),” said Mara. “I wanted to hear what his plan was overall and whether it included any changes and we did discuss that. I’m not going to comment on anything specific that may or may not occur. I’ll let Tom do that when he speaks to you later.”

“I’m certainly very appreciative and very grateful to Jonathan Tisch and John Mara for the opportunity to sit and visit with them, and for their support,” said Coughlin in his own media conference call. “We’ve had a couple of days of very healthy, productive meetings which allowed, as (is) normal at the end of the season, an opportunity to answer questions, express our thoughts for moving forward, for improving our football team. And really everything that we talked about was about getting the New York Giants better – being better and improving so that we could move forward…I never really worried about my job…I felt that we worked very hard as a staff and as a group this year. It certainly wasn’t what we expected it to be, but going into the meetings, I felt they were end of the year meetings that gave me a chance to be with ownership and still didn’t have any feeling that I was not going to be retained.”

When Coughlin was asked about possible changes to his coach staff, he said, “The process is on-going. We evaluate everything. I’m in the process of doing that now. I’ve expressed some things of concern as we’ve gone forward in our meetings, and they’re continuing. You’ll know as soon as those decisions are final.”

The Giants’ public relations department released a statement supposedly crafted by DE Michael Strahan: “I’m excited to hear that Coach Coughlin will be returning this season. He has led us to back to back playoff appearances for the first time in my 14-year career. Unfortunately, because of my foot injury, I wasn’t able to be much of a help down the stretch this season. I know the perception is that he is unapproachable and distant from his players, but that’s not the case. I had some of my best conversations with him this season, and he showed me how much he cared about me as a person and as a player when I went to him and pleaded with him to let me play against Dallas and then against Philadelphia, and he knew the smart thing to do was to let me heal up some more because I wasn’t ready. I look forward to a healthy return for the ’07 season and helping the Giants organization make a third straight playoff appearance with a better outcome than the past two seasons. Tom is the man to lead us to do just that.”

And the TE Jeremy Shockey supposedly said the following in another release by the Giants’ public relations department: “Coach Coughlin deserves to be the head coach of the New York Giants. I’m glad he’s coming back and I have told a lot of people over the past couple days that I hope he comes back. He and coach Pope, all they want is for me to be the best player I can be. I know they know how hard I work at it, and I know how hard they work to get the most out of me. We all need to do a better job together to get ready for another season. Everyone on this team, no matter what anyone from the outside says, understands that nothing is more important to Coach Coughlin than winning and that’s what you want from your coach.”

“Like I’ve been saying, the coach is the real deal,” LB Antonio Pierce said in the Giants’ press release. “He’s a good coach and he does a good job and we all share in what happened this season, and I never thought for one second that Coach Coughlin shouldn’t continue to be our head coach.”

On the other hand, an unidentified starting offensive player told The New York Post: “Guys are so sick of hearing him yapping all the time. You watch film, a guy gets beat and he yells ‘We can’t have that!’ Like a whiny baby.”

“He has no inspirational tactics whatsoever. Zero,” an unidentified player told The Post, on the condition of anonymity since he expects to return next season. “He doesn’t promote guys to want to battle for him, never. On Saturday nights, guys want inspiration so that you want to go to war with someone. He shows us statistics. He’s cut and dry. He has to be so controlling. You’ve got to trust guys as adults. And he never gives in.”

No Official Word Yet on the New General Manager: The Giants have not yet decided on who the new general manager for the Giants will be in 2007. On the surface, the decision to retain the head coach before a new general manager is officially onboard appears ass-backwards since the new general manager, unless he is an in-house candidate, will not have had a say on who his head coach should be.

“We have not named a new general manager,” said Giants’ President/CEO John Mara yesterday during the conference call with the media. “And (not having a new general manager) really didn’t have any effect on (the) decision (to retain Coughlin). We felt like we needed to make a decision on the head coach fairly quickly. We still have some more work to do on the general manager. Ideally you would like to have the general manager issue be settled first, but those circumstances were not in line for us, so we had to take care of this issue first. And that’s what we did…I would be surprised if it took until the end of the playoffs. I hope to have a decision much sooner than that. But we still have a little more work to do and some more discussions that we have to have before we reach the final decision.”

When asked if the new general manager would have to be comfortable with Coughlin, Mara responded, “Tom Coughlin is our coach for 2007 and hopefully for many years after that. That’s the final decision. So, yes, whoever the general manager is going to have to accept that…We would certainly talk to (Coughlin) and get his feedback…But (Coughlin) is obviously not going to make the final decision.”

Mara said on WFAN that it would take longer than this week to hire a new general manager.

Also, despite the fact that current General Manager Ernie Accorsi is retiring on Monday, he apparently is still wielding significant influence behind the scenes. “We are also fortunate that Ernie is still very much on the scene,” said team Treasurer Jonathan Tisch. “His input, as it has been for the past decade, is always very thoughtful and helpful and we like listening to Ernie and now that this decision is made we will move forward over the next couple of days and pick a new general manager for the New York Giants organization.”

It has been widely reported in the press for some time that Accorsi supports the promotion of Director of Player Personnel Jerry Reese to the general manager position. Most seem to think that Reese is the favorite for the position. Interestingly, Newsday reports that another internal candidate, Vice President of Player Evaluation Chris Mara (John’s brother), is believed to be more in favor of overhauling the Giants’ scouting staff than Reese. The Star-Ledger says Reese gave his blessing to the return of Coughlin.

Mara also said on WFAN that he was surprised that Patriots’ Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli declined the Giants’ request for an interview for the Giants’ general manager position. Pioli told Mara that this was not the right time to make a move and that he was happy in New England. Mara said that Patriots’ Head Coach Bill Belichick had approved the request for the interview of Pioli.

Tim Lewis Interviewed for Miami Dolphins Head Coaching Job: In a move that is likely designed to fulfill the NFL quota system that minority candidates be interviewed for head coaching vacancies, the Miami Dolphins have asked the Giants for permission to interview Defensive Coordinator Tim Lewis for their head coaching vacancy. The Giants have granted the Dolphins permission to do so. Press reports indicate that Lewis was interviewed by the Dolphins yesterday in Newark.

Notes and Quotes: Newsday is reporting that General Manager Ernie Accorsi re-signed WR Tim Carter and CB Frank Walker last offseason over objections from Head Coach Tom Coughlin.

The New York Post is reporting that an unidentified player told the paper that QB Eli Manning suffered a preseason back injury due to a weight-lifting maneuver that a quarterback should not be performing. “Why are we always hurt? How come at midseason our record always flip-flops?” said the player. “No one on the team trusts the strength program.”

Phil Simms on the Giants: “I’ve been surprised. Tom Coughlin stands for discipline and everything you can imagine that makes a team successful. But it hasn’t gone that way for the Giants so far. He hasn’t been able to overcome the environment he walked into. Can you imagine the stuff that’s been coming out of the Giants locker room about players and coaches? Division from within; I used to hear that all the time from Bill Parcells. Your team cannot overcome it. They’ve got to get that straight.”

Jan 102007
 
Philadelphia Eagles 23 – New York Giants 20

Game Overview: This season was an unmitigated disaster. Period. A team with Super Bowl aspirations, loaded with talent on paper, limped into the playoffs with a .500 record. The Giants squandered a 6-2 first-half start and a two-game lead in the NFC East. Players criticized the coaches and talked too much to the press. Injuries mounted. Offensive and defensive game plans, as well as game-day decisions by the coaching staff were erratic and a factor in the 2-7 finish. The offense was inconsistent; the defense was dreadful. And special teams regressed. There was too little discipline and too many penalties. Players lost confidence in the coaching staff, their schemes, and themselves. While some continued to play hard, it wasn’t hard enough.

Some eternal optimists will point to the fact that the Giants made back-to-back playoff appearances and “played hard” against the Redskins and Eagles. So what? The Giants only made the playoffs because an 8-8 record was good enough in a terrible conference. Just because there are worse teams that didn’t make the playoffs is no comfort. This team was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. Instead the only reason it garnered national interest was because it became a soap opera sideshow. It was embarrassing.

In my mind, the 2006 season will go down as one of the worst I’ve experienced as a Giants’ fan. All the win against the Redskins did late in the year was ensure that the Giants would drop about eight spots in the NFL Draft and that the lame duck head coach would return for one more season. And the player who practically single-handily won that game has retired.

As for the game against the Eagles, it was yet another disappointing playoff loss on the road. The Giants’ all-time road playoff record is now 3-14. The franchise’s only wins in the playoffs in their entire history came against Eagles in 1981, the Rams in 1984, and the 49ers in 1990. No playoff wins on the road in 16 years…pathetic.

The defeat was truly a microcosm of the 2006 season for the Giants. But why should we have expected anything different? The issues that cost them the game were issues that troubled the team all season:

  • Inconsistent and often crappy quarterbacking.
  • Problems scoring in the red zone.
  • While scoring points early and late in games was not a problem, it was for the bulk of each contest.
  • A defense that could not prevent the other team from sustaining long drives.
  • A defense that could not prevent the other team from responding with a scoring drive after the offense had regained momentum.
  • Poor pass defense, both in terms of rushing the passer and covering receivers.
  • Missed opportunities to intercept the football.
  • Ineffectiveness when blitzing the quarterback.
  • Poor third-down defense.
  • Problems defending the run, especially late in the season.
  • Virtually no return game on special teams.
  • Too many dumb penalties.
  • Questionable game plans and in-game coaching decisions.

What really hurt the Giants in this game was not getting any points at all on three consecutive drives in the first half that started near midfield. These came at a time when the Giants were already up 7-0. They really blew a chance to seize the game and let the Eagles keep it closer than it should have been.

The Giants have some good football players, but they are not inspired to play well. They play like a mediocre football team with a mediocre coaching staff in a mediocre conference. And they are not very likeable either.

Coaching: The play-calling in the red zone was bad once again and was a significant factor in the loss. 1st-and-goal at the 3-yard line and the Giants called pass, run, pass. This despite the fact that Manning wasn’t playing very well. Brandon Jacobs, the Giants’ power back sat on the sidelines during both red zone opportunities inside the 5-yard line. Stupid. The plays called inside the 5-yard line simply did not seem well designed. It wasn’t just a matter of failed execution.

Quarterback: Except for the last drive of the game, Manning did not play well. He had two big pass plays on the opening scoring drive, but neither were particularly well-thrown balls – Plaxico Burress had to make adjustments on both. After that, Manning was dreadful until the last drive of the game. He finished the game 16-of-27 for 161 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. However, aside from the first and last drives of the game for the Giants, he was 8-of-18 for 49 yards despite being afforded reasonably good pass protection. 49 passing yards in nine offensive possessions! Even the 47-yard pass interference call on Burress was a poorly underthrown football. The good? He had two nice throws on the game-tying drive late in the 4th quarter.

Not coincidentally, the Giants struggled to put touchdowns up on the board when Eli struggled on the other nine offensive possessions. He looked gun-shy, made poor decisions (including one pass that was intercepted), missed spotting wide-open receivers (both Burress and Shockey), and suffered from accuracy issues again.

The Giants have a problem at quarterback.

Wide Receivers: Plaxico Burress came to play. He had five catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns. He impressively outfought the cornerback for a 29-yard reception early in the game. A few plays later, he made another nice catch in the end zone for a touchdown on a pass that was off the mark. Manning ignored him for much of the rest of the contest until late in the game when Burress really took charge with three consecutive catches for 43 yards. All three receptions were huge: a diving catch of an 18-yard on 2nd-and-30, a 14-yard catch and run where he broke a tackle on 3rd-and-12, and then an 11-yard touchdown reception to tie the game.

Hopefully we’ve seen the last of Tim Carter (2 catches for 14 yards and a fumble).

Sinorice Moss and David Tyree did not catch a pass. Pathetic. Tyree also cost the Giants a much-needed timeout when he lined up on the wrong side of the formation.

Halfbacks: The Giants’ rushing totals look better than they really were. Against a defense that was specifically designed to stop him, Tiki Barber rushed for 137 yards on 26 carries (a 5.3 yards-per-rush average). 41 of those yards came on one run in the first half on the field goal drive. Tiki rushed the ball well on the first and last possessions too, both which resulted in touchdowns. But aside from those three scoring drives, Barber was held to 29 yards on 13 carries in the other eight offensive possessions. Unfortunately, the running game disappeared at the same time that Manning was struggling during those three consecutive drives in the first half that started near midfield.

Brandon Jacobs – two carries? None in the red zone?

Tight Ends: Jeremy Shockey toughed it out on a painful ankle. Unfortunately, he was limited to three catches for 25 yards – and all of those receptions came in the first half. He was shut out for the second half of the contest. Shockey blocked well for the most part. Of course, the highlight play was his 11-yard reception in the second quarter where he continued to fight for yardage after having his helmet knocked off. Three plays later, he also made a nice grab for a first down on 3rd-and-2 to keep the field goal drive alive.

Offensive Line: The offensive line actually played pretty well except for one major issue – penalties. LT David Diehl was flagged with three false starts; RT Kareem McKenzie was flagged with one false start; OC Shaun O’Hara was flagged with a holding penalty; and RG Chris Snee was flagged with a false start and a holding penalty (though the latter appeared a bad call).

But Diehl actually played surprisingly well at left tackle in just his second start at that difficult position against a very good opponent. The Eagles brought the usual pressure, but Manning was only sacked once and had decent time most of the game. And the Giants did rush for 151 yards, though as mentioned, the running game was too inconsistent. McKenzie was cleanly beat to the outside for the Eagles’ only sack of the game.

Defensive Personnel: The Giants have major talent issues at linebacker and in the secondary. It will likely take at least two drafts to fix these problems, assuming the Giants draft well.

Defensive Line: Same problems. Not enough of a pass rush, though Osi Umenyiora did pick up one sack and got a few other solid pressures. Who would have thought that rushing the passer would have been a problem for this team in 2006? QB Jeff Garcia had way too much time and was allowed to rollout of the pocket with too much ease. He’s much more effective outside of the pocket, but the Giants didn’t seem to know that.

The bulk of the Eagles rushing yardage came against the strongside of the defense – at Mathias Kiwanuka and at the linebackers in that area (Carlos Emmons and Brandon Short both played on Kiwanuka’s side during the game). Kiwanuka did flash at times in run defense, especially on pursuit down the line, but he had problems at the point-of-attack, particularly late in the game. Kiwanuka really faded down the stretch, especially in terms of his pass rush. Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins played much, much better than they did the last time these two teams met. However, neither played particularly well on the Eagles’ game-winning field goal drive. William Joseph continued to disappoint.

Linebackers: Antonio Pierce, Carlos Emmons, and Brandon Short were just dreadful against the run. All three looked unathletic and slow. Emmons was abused in open space on two end arounds, one by Westbrook and another by WR Reggie Brown. The Giants need to cut him. I wouldn’t re-sign Short either – he was handled with ease and/or failed to make plays on the game-winning field goal drive.

The biggest disappointment this year may have been Antonio Pierce. While Pierce thinks he was one of the best in the game, he wasn’t in 2006. He played like a journeyman (and this is coming from a guy who owns an Antonio Pierce jersey). Against the Eagles, he looked like he had problems reading plays and was step slow all game. He got blocked on the 49-yard touchdown run (along with Cofield and Kiwanuka) at the point-of-attack. Time and time again, I saw him hung up on blocks on positive running plays. He didn’t make any plays at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Who played the best? Reserve Chase Blackburn made a couple of plays in the hole against the run and fought hard for a sack. He did miss one tackle however.

Defensive Backs: All of the defensive backs looked dreadful for their inability to get off of blocks on Westbrook’s 49-yard touchdown run.

CB Sam Madison and CB R.W. McQuarters missed opportunities to come up with interceptions when the Giants still led 7-0. McQuarters was beat to the inside on a 28-yard touchdown pass by WR Donte Stallworth on an all-out blitz. CB/S Jason Bell played a lot at corner for the injured Kevin Dockery and was exposed. He repeatedly gave up short receptions underneath as he was playing off the football by at least 10 yards. For example, he had three passes completed against him on the Eagles’ second touchdown drive of the game. If you ask me, it was an incredibly stupid decision to have him play at corner over Frank Walker – who amazingly was deactivated for the football game. For all his faults, at least Walker plays tight coverage.

I don’t care for the Giants’ safeties. SS Gibril Wilson made a couple of plays in coverage, including saving a touchdown, but he is not very good in run support. He misses tackles and he really ran himself out of a couple of key running plays right at the point-of-attack on the Eagles’ game-winning field goal drive. Wilson was also flagged with a 5-yard facemask penalty.

FS Will Demps sucks. He missed a tackle on Westbrook on his 49-yard touchdown run. Demps was in excellent position to knock away a crucial 3rd-and-5 pass to WR Reggie Brown, but did not make a play on the football. Two plays later, the Eagles scored from 28 yards out. Late in the game, he missed another tackle on the 13-yard run that put the Eagles in easy field goal range.

Special Teams: The Giants’ kickoff return game was a joke all year. Sinorice Moss only averaged 18 yards per return on four kickoff returns. Chad Morton and Derrick Ward were equally ineffective earlier in the season. Obviously, the blocking schemes and/or personnel are an issue. R.W. McQuarters only averaged 7 yards per return on four punt returns, despite the fact that two of these opportunities came on chances down the middle near midfield. He also almost fumbled a punt away early in the third quarter.

Fortunately for the Giants, a block-in-the-back penalty on the Eagles called back a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown by Westbrook. The Giants did come close to blocking one punt.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, January 7, 2007)
Jan 102007
 

New York Giants Rumors Run Rampant, But No Concrete New News: Today’s newspapers are filled with conjecture and speculation about the fate of Head Coach Tom Coughlin and the yet-to-be-determined new general manager of the Giants. But there is still no official word on what may actually transpire. The truth of the matter is that everyone appears to be just guessing at this point.

What we do know is that Coughlin is currently scheduled to enter the final year of his original 4-year, $12 million contract in 2007.

Many in the Giants’ organization were preoccupied yesterday with a memorial service for Roy Posner, a financial advisor to the Giants for the past 15 years. Press reports indicate that Coughlin met with his staff in the morning. Then most of the coaches, much of the front office, and many players attended the memorial service. Afterwards, Newsday says the coaches returned to the stadium to evaluate players.

Sportswriter Ralph Vacchiano of The Daily News said yesterday in his blog that “numerous Giants sources” had told him that reports that the Giants had promoted Director of Player Personnel Jerry Reese to the general manager position and that Coughlin had been signed to a one-year contract extension were not true – at least not yet. Newsday says Coughlin’s fate has not yet been determined.

Giants’ Vice President of Communications Pat Hanlon said that yesterday’s media story about Dallas Cowboys’ Head Coach Bill Parcells contacting the Giants about the general manager position and being turned down by the team was inaccurate. “Parcells did not contact us and, as a result, he was not rebuffed,” said Hanlon. Parcells also denied the story. Vacchiano said in his blog that one source told him that Parcells was considered by the Giants, but he was never a serious option due to his age (65) and his penchant for changing jobs after three or four years. The Giants’ owners are said to prefer a younger candidate who will be with the Giants for a long time and bring stability to the front office.

The Bergen Record says there are reports that the Giants may be seeking a big-name executive to become the new general manager. One league source told the paper that neither Jerry Reese nor Giants’ Vice President of Player Evaluation Chris Mara would get the job and the Giants would search outside the organization for their man. The Record speculates that Patriots’ Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli may not be out of the picture yet. The Daily News reports that the Tisch family may be resisting hiring the general manager from within the team.

Meanwhile, ESPN.com is reporting that the Giants are likely to retain Coughlin, but a media conference call originally scheduled yesterday to discuss his status was postponed as meetings continued within Giants Stadium. ESPN says that a source close to Coughlin said he expects Coughlin to be retained and his contract extended. The Star-Ledger is reporting that a source told the paper that Coughlin is likely to return for at least one more year and have his contract extended to avoid the appearance of being a lame duck coach. ESPN also reports that one unidentified Giants’ assistant coach said the staff does not know what is happening behind the scenes. Most papers say that Coughlin is likely under pressure to fire assistant coaches.

Article on Giants’ President and CEO John Mara: As Giants Wait, Mara’s On His Own for Tough Calls by John Branch of The New York Times

BBI Editorial –- If Tom Coughlin is Retained, It Will Be 1996 All Over Again: Could John Mara and Steve Tisch really be this stupid? Rumors are running rampant that Tom Coughlin will be retained and have his contract extended one or two years. If true, the new ownership will have proved itself incapable of providing the leadership this troubled franchise so desperately needs. This situation is reminiscent of the decision made in 1996 by Wellington Mara and Bob Tisch to retain Dan Reeves despite the fact that everyone knew that Reeves was a goner with another poor season. The 1996 ended up being a disaster – a wasted season. Could the Giants seriously be considering heading down that path again? Don’t they care about their paying customers and the product they put on the field? Maybe they just don’t get it.

Injuries were not the only issue. Poor game plans and in-game coaching decisions cost the Giants a number of contests in 2006. When was the last time you felt the Giants out-coached an opponent? Coughlin is already on weak ground with players who have not responded to his coaching style. They are not buying into his program. During the 2-7 finish in a terribly weak conference, the team lost confidence in itself and its coaching staff as team morale was shattered. They are a worn down and defeated group. Despite Coughlin constantly preaching discipline and playing smart football, the Giants were an undisciplined and stupid football team. The players do not respect Coughlin and obviously do not fear him all that much because they repeatedly have challenged his methods and capabilities in the press. In three years under his tutelage, supposed franchise quarterback Eli Manning has regressed. The Giants run the real risk of permanently damaging the psyche of their young quarterback, who will now quickly become a salary-cap albatross.

The defense was atrocious. Special teams got worse. Coughlin has clearly demonstrated that he is not capable of selecting quality assistant coaches. If ownership forces him to hire a new coaching staff, this will only weaken his image further with a roster that has watched him dangle in the press for weeks. Even if Coughlin is retained and his contract extended, they know he was almost fired and will be on the hot seat from the get go. To most, he will be viewed as being in a lame duck situation. Coughlin does not work well with the press and they smell blood in the water. That will continue. The fans have also turned on him. Don’t forget that during the last game at Giants Stadium, the home crowd chanted “Fire Coughlin!” and most left before the third quarter was over. You can bet that will start early in 2007 if he returns. And why would top quality assistant coaches looking for stability sign with the Giants if it is widely considered that Coughlin is vulnerable heading into the season?

Don’t do it Mr. Mara and Mr. Tisch. Your franchise is at the crossroads. Don’t make the same dumb mistake your fathers made in 1996. Bringing back Coughlin does not add stability to the franchise – it will make an already unstable situation worse. Many of us fans won’t put up with it again.

Jan 092007
 

Fate of Tom Coughlin to Be Determined Shortly: The fate of Head Coach Tom Coughlin is set to be determined shortly. In what may be a telling development, Coughlin did not hold his usual Monday press conference. Not only is this a normal occurrence after every Sunday regular season game, but Coughlin did so last year after the Panthers knocked the Giants out of the playoffs.

Newsday is reporting that Coughlin had his assistant coaches line up in the locker room and shake hands with the players. Various press reports indicate that Special Teams Coordinator Mike Sweatman is considering retirement.

It will be interesting to see if Coughlin participates in his scheduled weekly interview on WFAN this afternoon.

According to Newsday, a source told the paper that the coaches would meet this morning and decisions would be revealed. However, The Daily News reports that the meeting with the assistants was postponed so Coughlin could meet with the owners.

Coughlin did meet with his players and gave no indication that he was leaving. He also told them he would see them in March when the Giants’ offseason program begins.

Scott Pioli Turns Down the New York Giants: Patriots’ Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli, Bill Parcells’ son-in-law, has declined a request to be interviewed by the Giants for their soon-to-be vacant general manager position. As reported yesterday in “News and Notes,” the Giants did ask the Patriots for permission to interview Pioli this week. The Patriots apparently granted their permission, but Pioli said he was not interested in the Giants’ position.

The Patriots issued the following press release on behalf of Pioli:

I am very honored to be granted the opportunity to discuss a potential position with the New York Giants. I have tremendous respect for the Kraft family, the Mara family, the Tisch family and the Giants organization. After careful consideration, and for personal reasons, I am continuing in my current role with the New England Patriots.

Newsday reports that an NFL source told the paper yesterday that Patriots’ Head Coach Bill Belichick called Giants’ President and CEO John Mara last week to recommend Pioli for the general manager job.

With Pioli appearing to be out of the picture, newspapers such as The Bergen Record speculate that Giants’ Director of Player Personnel Jerry Reese will be the team’s new general manager.

New York Giants Turn Down Bill Parcells?: According to The Star-Ledger, Dallas Cowboys’ Head Coach Bill Parcells informed the Giants through an intermediary that he would be interested in becoming the Giants’ new general manager, but the team said it was not interested.

Yesterday, Adam Schefter of The NFL Network reported that Parcells was a contender for the Giants’ general manager position. Schefter said a high-ranking NFL source told him that while such a move is unlikely to occur, it was possible. Giants’ ownership, according to Schefter, has debated and is continuing to debate the merits of offering Parcells the position.

Giants Sign Tight End and Place Kicker: According to ProFootballWeekly.com and NFLPA.org, the Giants have signed TE Charles Davis and PK Josh Huston.

Notes and Quotes: P Jeff Feagles says he will likely return for one more season with the Giants.

OC Shaun O’Hara is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent when free agency begins later this offseason: “I’ve said before that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my three years here,” said O’Hara. “I’m hoping (Sunday) wasn’t the last time I’ll put on a New York Giant uniform. I’ve never been more proud to associate myself with an organization than I have been for these last three years, so I’m hoping things will work out and I’ll be back.”

PK Jay Feely on the Giants and Head Coach Tom Coughlin: “We have some players who won’t submit to a coach, unequivocally, like we need to. Coach Coughlin is a disciplinarian, and sometimes that rubs players the wrong way. He’s not one of those touchy-feely type guys, and that’s why I think our chemistry teetered all year long, all the way from the beginning of training camp…We were going through training camp and it seemed everyday we had guys trying to get the limelight on themselves by saying things controversial. You don’t hear that coming out of the Patriots. You always hear Tom Brady saying that we need to listen to our coaches…I think (Coughlin’s) door is open, if you want to take advantage of that. But he’s not the easiest guy to talk to, and some guys may be intimidated. I’ve had many conversations with him, but you have to learn it’s a two-way street: You have to go in to do it, and you have to realize his personality as well…A lot of guys don’t understand what it means to be disciplined and selfless,” he said. “Our younger generation, from mine on down, is a selfish generation. They don’t understand what it means to do things for other people. They look out for themselves. It’s not necessarily a team-first generation.”

One unidentified general manager of another team said the following about the Giants and Coughlin to The Daily News: “That team is underachieving. There is too much talent there. I don’t feel Tom has their respect. I don’t see the same grip on the players that I saw in Jacksonville. Obviously, it’s harder to do where he is now. He has bigger personalities.”

Jan 082007
 

John Mara Declines to Discuss the Future of Tom Coughlin: Immediately after the Giants’ 23-20 loss to the Eagles on Sunday, Giants’ President and CEO John Mara was approached by the media regarding Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s job status. Mara merely replied, “Not right now. I’ll have something to say later in the week. Do you think you can wait that long?”

New York Giants to Interview Scott Pioli for General Manager Position?: The Star-Ledger is reporting that the Giants are expected to interview Patriots’ Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Pioli as early as this week for the team’s soon-to-be vacant general manager position. General Manager Ernie Accorsi’s retirement officially begins on January 15. The interview can still occur despite the fact that the Patriots are in the playoffs because NFL rules permit teams to speak to other team officials that won their wild-card games this week only. Pioli would be allowed to leave the Patriots for the Giants because it would be considered a promotion.

Pioli is also the son-in-law of Bill Parcells.

The Ledger speculates that Pioli would be the leading candidate from outside the organization for the Giants’ general manager position, while Giants’ Director of Player Personnel Jerry Reese is the leading candidate within the organization.

Charlie Weis Interested in the New York Giants?: The Star-Ledger is also reporting that a source has told the paper that Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis would be interested in becoming the head coach of the Giants. Weis, a life-long Giants fan, interviewed for the Giants’ head coaching vacancy back in 2004.

Notes: The Giants’ last road post-season win was the 1990 NFC Championship Game in San Francisco.

The Giants have lost their last four post-season games.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin has a 4-6 post-season record and is 0-2 with the Giants.

Philadelphia rushed for 185 yards, the fourth-highest total ever allowed by the Giants in a post-season game. Carolina rushed for 223 yards last year, the second-highest total.

 

Jan 072007
 

Con Te Partiro: It is time to say goodbye to the 2006 NFL season for the New York Giants. It is time to say goodbye to Tiki Barber, the franchise’s career rushing and receptions leader, who is retiring. And it may be time to say goodbye to Head Coach Tom Coughlin and his coaching staff.

In a game that was a microcosm of the Giants’ 2006 season, New York played the Eagles tough, but let a game slip away that they could have won. The Giants fell 23-20 to the Eagles as Philadelphia PK David Ackers kicked the game-winning 38-yard field goal with no time remaining on the clock.

It was another penalty filled game for New York (nine penalties). It was another game that the Giants lost despite taking an early 7-0 lead and wasting other first-half scoring opportunities (the Giants started drives near midfield on three occasions in the first half and came away with zero points on each of those possessions). It was another game where the Giants faltered in the red zone (settling for three points on one drive where the team had a 1st-and-goal on the 3-yard line and again on another drive where the team had a 2nd-and-2 on the 6-yard line). It was another game where the defense gave up lengthy touchdown drives (one 84-yard drive and one 80-yard drive). And it was another game where the defense could not make a late defensive stand (the Eagles drove 46 yards in the game’s final moments to set up the game-winning kick after the Giants had tied the game).

The Giants received the ball to start the game and quickly drove 67 yards in seven plays to take a 7-0 lead as QB Eli Manning hit WR Plaxico Burress for a 17-yard touchdown.

The Giants forced a three-and-out and started their next possession on the Eagles’ 49-yard line. However, two false start penalties sabotaged that drive and the Giants punted. The Giants’ defense forced another three-and-out and the Giants started their third possession at their 48-yard line. New York could only pick up one first down and punted again. One more time the Giants’ defense prevented a first down. The Giants started their fourth possession at the Eagles’ 46-yard line, but could not move the ball. Three consecutive possessions starting at midfield resulted in zero points.

When the Eagles received the ball for the fourth time in the game, they not only finally picked up their first first down of the game, but they drove the football 84 yards in seven plays to tie the game at 7-7. The scoring play came on a 49-yard run by HB Brian Westbrook.

On the ensuing Giants’ possession, Manning attempted to hit Burress deep on 3rd-and-8 but he was picked off at the Giants’ 44-yard line. The ball was returned to the Giants’ 37-yard line. Westbrook gained 22 yards on the very next play, but the Giants’ defense held inside the red zone despite the Eagles having a 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Ackers kicked the 19-yard field goal and the Eagles were up 10-7.

The Giants moved the ball impressively on the next possession, driving 78 yards in 11 plays. The big play of this drive was a 41-yard run by Barber. The Giants later faced a 1st-and-goal situation from the 3-yard line, but could not get the ball into the end zone. A 1-yard run by Barber was sandwiched between two incomplete passes from Manning. New York settled for the 20-yard field goal to tie the game 10-10.

With just under five minutes left in the half, the Eagles marched 80 yards in 10 plays to regain the lead 17-10. The scoring play came on a 28-yard pass from QB Jeff Garcia to WR Donte Stallworth with just over a minute to go before halftime.

In the third quarter, the first two Giants’ drives went nowhere as New York was hampered by poor field position – one drive started at the 10-yard line and another at the 1-yard line. The Giants went three-and-out on both possessions. After the latter, the Eagles were able to get into field goal range and kick a 48-yard field goal that gave Philadelphia a 20-10 advantage.

When the Giants received the ball for the third time of the half, the third quarter was almost over. The Giants did mount a serious scoring thread on this possession as Burress was clearly fouled on a 47-yard pass interference penalty. The Giants drove to the Eagles’ 6-yard line, but once again, could not get the ball into the end zone and were forced to settle for their second short field goal of the game. The Eagles now led 20-13.

The Eagles picked up one first down on their next possession and punted. Then the Giants mounted a 13-play, 80-yard dive that took over seven minutes off of the clock and tied the game as Manning found Burress for an 11-yard touchdown. On this drive, the Giants overcame a 1st-and-30 situation due to three penalties called on the offensive line.

With just under five minutes to go in the game, the Eagles received the ball for one last time. The Giants’ defense could not hold. The Eagles not only were able to move into easy field goal range, but they were able to run off all the remaining time on the clock because the Giants had blown their timeouts earlier in the half. With no time on the clock, Ackers hit the game winner from 38 yards out.

Post-Game Notes: Inactive for the Giants were DT Titus Adams, LB Gerris Wilkinson, CB Frank Walker, WR Michael Jennings, WR Darius Watts, FB Robert Douglas, OG Steve Edwards, and QB Tim Hasselbeck (third quarterback).