Dec 312007
 

Giants to Face Buccaneers at 1PM on Sunday:  The Giants will play the Buccaneers on the road in Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs on Sunday at 1:00PM.  The game will be nationally televised on FOX.

December 30, 2007 New York Giants Injury Report:  OC Shaun O’Hara and LB Kawika Mitchell’s have injuries to medial collateral knee ligaments.  “The MRIs are today (Sunday), so we will see,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin.  “Both actually feel better today.  We need to check the MRIs to see how aggressive we can be.”

CB Sam Madison has an abdominal strain.  “He was sore but was talking pretty positive so we will see,” said Coughlin.

The news with S Craig Dahl was worse.  He has injured his anterior cruciate ligament and is out for the remainder of the season.

Coughlin said he hoped that HB Ahmad Bradshaw (calf) and CB Kevin Dockery (hip flexor) would be able to return this week.  “I hope so,” said Coughlin.  “I don’t know a whole lot more about that.  In passing quickly through downstairs and visiting with (Vice President of Medical Services) Ronnie (Barnes) for a minute, he thought that Ahmad was getting stronger, feeling better, and he had the same comment about Dockery.  We will just have to see.”

Coughlin was asked if he had an update on WR Sinorice Moss (back).  “No, just that progress is being made and we will see,” responded Coughlin.

Giants 2008 Opponents Set:  The Giants will face the following teams during the 2008 regular season:

Home Games:

  • Dallas Cowboys
  • Philadelphia Eagles
  • Washington Redskins
  • San Francisco 49ers
  • Seattle Seahawks
  • Carolina Panthers
  • Baltimore Ravens
  • Cincinnati Bengals

Away Games:

  • Dallas Cowboys
  • Philadelphia Eagles
  • Washington Redskins
  • Arizona Cardinals
  • St. Louis Rams
  • Minnesota Vikings
  • Cleveland Browns
  • Pittsburgh Steelers

Articles on the Giants-Patriots Game:  Strahan: Good Effort Not Enough by Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post

Article on QB Eli Manning:  Eli Must Pass Playoff Test by Gary Myers of The New York Daily News

Notes:  Based on national ratings, an average of 34.5 million viewers tuned into the Giants-Patriots, ranking as the most watched show of the current television season.  The game was also the most-watched NFL regular-season game since Thanksgiving 1995 when the Chiefs played the Cowboys.

DE Michael Strahan ended the season a half-sack short of Lawrence Taylor’s unofficial career record of 142.  Strahan has been shut out of the sack department in the last four games.  FOXSports reports that Strahan will decide sometime in March whether he will retire or not.

For the first time since 1934, the Giants made the playoffs after starting 0-2.

Dec 302007
 
New York Giants 2008 NFL Draft: Bowl Prospects Preview (Part Two)

by Colin Lindsay, editor and publisher of the Great Blue North Draft Report

First things first… Here’s to a happy, healthy and safe New Year to Eric and all the BBI family… here’s also to a solid showing in this year’s playoffs!

Heading into the playoffs, though, it’s still very difficult to get a good read on this Giants team. True, they have won ten games this season, but they still haven’t beaten a team with a winning record. At the same time, while most of the other top playoff teams have outscored their opponents by 100 points or more, the Giants scored just 22 more points than their collective opponents this fall. Still, the Giants have the tools to make some noise in the playoffs including a solid offensive line and running game, as well as a consistent pass rush. Meanwhile, a healthier Plaxico Burress would give a boost to the oft-inconsistent passing attack. In fact, the biggest immediate concern we have is just what the emotional toll was from the New England. If the Giants can get by the Buccaneers this coming week, it says here that the Giants are a team that both Dallas and Green Bay would really rather not have to play again if they didn’t have to.

What makes the Giants’ 10-win season particularly hard to gauge is that on any given Sunday the key to winning in the NFL are turnovers and good QB play and the Giants really haven’t gotten either this fall. In fact, the Giants are the only team in the playoffs to be a minus in turnovers this year. And no borderline minus, the Giants are a distant -9. Contrast that, for example, with Tampa Bay, next weekend’s opponent, which is a plus 15; indeed, for all intents and purposes, the only reason the Buccaneers are in the playoffs are those turnovers. Turnovers, of course, are often rather random; if they are forced, it’s usually the result of pressure on the pocket, however, for some reason the Giants seldom were able to translate their often suffocating pass rush into a lot of turnovers this season. The Giants, for example, lead the entire NFL with 52 sacks this fall, but are only 21st in interceptions and 22nd in fumble recoveries.

Meanwhile, despite a very strong game against New England on Saturday, the lack of overall consistent play by QB Eli Manning has to have caused a bunch of alarm bells to go off at Giants’ HQ. This was supposed to have been a breakout year for Manning. Instead, after a reasonably strong start, Manning regressed over the second half of the season. Manning is currently rated a distant 25th among all QBs in the league, behind such luminaries as Joey Harrington, Kyle Boller and Damon Huard. Ouch! Granted, Manning was forced to play 3 games in absolutely dreadful weather and the offense isn’t necessarily all that QB friendly, however, the Giants expect much more when they sent a boatload of picks to the Chargers in order to acquire Manning at the 2004 draft.

What has to have the Giants concerned is that the organization feels that for the most part it has the pieces in place for a serious 4-5 year Super Bowl run. And one of those key pieces, and just maybe the key piece, was supposed to have been Manning, who saw almost all of his numbers fall dramatically over the second half of the season in which he struggled to complete 50% of his pass attempts. What makes Manning’s lack of development difficult to understand, and hard to project into the future, is that few people in the know around the NFL doubt that he has the physical tools to be a very good NFL QB. There is also no question that Manning has the work ethic needed to prosper at the pro level. There have even been long stretches where Manning doesn’t appear to have any trouble with speed of the game, such as the game with the Patriots, the thing that ultimately does in most young players who end up on the QB scrapheap. What Manning just can’t seem to do, for whatever reason, is to keep it together for consistent period of time.

In the end, the Giants are likely to live with Manning for at least another year – remember that even in his 5th season the venerable Phil Simms couldn’t beat out a stiff like Scott Brunner to earn the starting job – but the clock has to be ticking. If the Giants do address the position this winter, one option would be to bring in an established veteran to provide a modicum of competition for the job next season. At the same time, there could be some pressure from inside the organization to consider taking a QB sooner rather than later at the 2008 draft.

If, indeed, the Giants are tempted to look at QBs at the 2008 draft the good news is there will be a strong QB class available. While this year’s top three QBs – Brian Brohm of Louisville, Andre’ Woodson of Kentucky and Boston College’s Matt Ryan – will almost assuredly be gone by the time the Giants make their first round pick, there should be as many as a half dozen players at the position likely to grade out in the second and third round areas including John David Booty of Southern Cal, Colt Brennan of Hawaii, Michigan’s Chad Henne, Erik Ainge of Tennessee, Joe Flacco of Delaware and Dennis Dixon of Oregon. There are also a couple of other lower levels QBs worth a long look in athletic Josh Johnson of San Diego and Ricky Santos of New Hampshire, while Paul Smith of Tulsa, another very athletic type, reminds some of the Cowboys’ Tony Romo, could still be out there early on the second day. Meanwhile, teams looking for a sleeper in the late rounds may take a shot at someone like 6-6 Kevin O’Connell of San Diego State, however, there really isn’t a ton of depth in the 2008 QB draft class past the top dozen or so QBs prospects.

What could put a little added pressure on the Giants to look at QBs early this year in that the 2009 draft does not look like it will be particularly strong at the position. There are some junior gunslingers out there like Graham Harrell of Texas Tech, Chase Daniel of Missouri and Chase Holbrook of New Mexico State, although its still not clear that any is a true elite prospect at this time. At the same time, though, there are some terrific young arms in college and there should be some real top prospects on the board in 2010 and beyond.

Help is on the way… Turns out that most of the QBs that the Giants just might be looking at are scheduled to play in a bowl game later in the week. For the record, Kentucky’s Woodson plays in the Music City Bowl Monday at 4 PM ET against Florida State (ESPN); Tennessee’s Ainge plays in the Outback Bowl against Wisconsin at 11 AM ET on New Year’s Day (ESPN); Michigan’s Henne also plays early on New Year’s Day in the Capital One Bowl against Florida at 1 PM ET (ABC); USC’s Booty plays in the Rose Bowl against Illinois at 5 PM ET on New Year’s Day (ABC); Hawaii’s Brennan helps wrap up New Year’s Day against Georgia at 8:30 PM ET (ABC); while Tulsa’s Smith plays next Sunday in the GMAC Bowl against Bowling Green at 8 PM ET (ESPN).

Given that we’d still be very surprised if the Giants invest an early pick on a QB at the 2008 draft, there are a number of other players we’ll be focusing on in this week’s big bowl games, starting with 6 games on each of Monday and Tuesday. Other than the QBs noted above, players to watch this week with an eye to the Giants’ opening round pick at the 2008 draft include:

Indiana junior WR James Hardy (#82, 6-6, 220, 4.55) and Oklahoma State WR Adarius Bowman (#12, 6-3, 220, 4.55) in the Insight Bowl on Monday at 7:30 PM ET (NFL Network). Its probably still more fashionable to talk about the Giants primary needs this off-season in the defensive back seven, however, as we argued in last week’s report, a pretty good case can be made that, other than QB, the position that maybe could get the Giants closest to the next level is another big-play receiver to take the pressure off Plaxico Burress. And Hardy and Bowman maybe as good as it gets in the 2008 draft class; both are outstanding athletes – indeed, both have also played on top college basketball teams with Hardy suiting up at IU and Bowman once playing at North Carolina – with excellent size and hands and good speed. And just for good measure, check out Indiana CB Tracy Porter (#9, 5-10, 190), a later first-day prospect with 4.35 speed and good ball skills.

South Florida CB Mike Jenkins (#4, 5-11, 200, 4.35) when USF plays Oregon in the Sun Bowl on Monday at 2 PM ET. Jenkins is 1-2 among CBs for the 2008 draft and just could slip into range for the Giants in the low 20s.

USC LB Keith Rivers (#55, 6-3, 225, 4.55) in the Rose Bowl against Illinois; Tuesday, New Year’s Day at 5 PM ET. If you see only one game on the 1st this should be it with Rivers, an OLB who can really run, is the player to watch. (Ed note: One of the real positives of the New England game was the play of OLB Gerris Wilkinson, who came off the bench to replace Kawika Mitchell and showed some quickness the Giants haven’t seen in a long time. As such, it just might reduce the pressure to look at OLBs, at least in the first couple of rounds.)

Kansas junior CB Aqib Talib (#3, 6-1, 205, 4.55) against Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl on Thursday, 8 PM ET. Talib is another very athletic player who also plays some WR. He probably lacks the speed to be a shut down corner at the next level, but is a very physical player who could make a real ball-hawking FS at the next level.

Oklahoma juniors WR Malcolm Kelly (#4, 6-4, 220), OT Phil Loadholt (#79, 6-7, 350), OG Duke Robinson (#72, 6-4, 330), CB Reggie Smith (#3, 6-0, 200) and FS Nic Harris (#5, 6-2, 225) in the Fiesta Bowl on Wednesday against West Virginia. If the Giants had their choice of college teams to draft from the Sooners might be it; any one of the 5 would look great in blue, although Smith, who projects to FS at the next level, may not play because of a toe injury.

Hawaii WRs Davonne Bess (#7, 5-9, 195), Jason Rivers (#84, 6-1, 195) and junior Ryan Grice-Mullen (#1, 5-9, 180) against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. QB Brennan gets all the headlines, but he has an outstanding receiver corps each of whom can run, get open and catch the ball. Indeed, both Bess and Grice-Mullen had 100 catches this fall, as would Rivers if he hadn’t missed some time with an injury.

Dec 302007
 

Three Giants Starters Injured as Giants Fall to Patriots 38-35: The worst-case scenario for the Giants was that they would suffer injuries in what was in effect a meaningless game and that’s exactly what transpired on Saturday night.  The Giants not only fell to the Patriots 38-35, but LB Kawika Mitchell (knee sprain), CB Sam Madison (abdominal strain), OC Shaun O’Hara (knee sprain), and S Craig Dahl (knee sprain) left the game with injuries of undetermined severity.  “Well anytime you lose a player you are concerned,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin after the game.  “We will have to evaluate and see how they are…We will have to wait and see.”

The Giants finished the 2007 regular season 10-6 (3-5 at home and 7-1 on the road).  The Giants will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road next weekend in the first round of the playoffs.

To the Giants’ credit, they put up a good fight against the undefeated, now 16-0, New England Patriots.  The Giants actually led 21-16 at halftime and extended their lead to 28-16 early in the third quarter.  But the Patriots then scored the game’s next 22 points to take a 38-28 late in the 4th quarter.  The Giants scored a late touchdown to get within three points.

QB Eli Manning played one of his best games of the season, completing 22-of-32 passes for 251 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception.

Receiving the ball to start the game, the Giants scored a touchdown on their very first possession, driving 74 yards in seven plays.  The big play on the drive was a 52-yard pass from Manning to WR Plaxico Burress.  Then on 3rd-and-10, Manning found Burress for 10 yards and the first down.  Two plays later, Manning hit HB Brandon Jacobs over the middle for a 7-yard touchdown reception.

The Patriots responded with a 12-play, 54-yard effort on their first possession, but were forced to settle for a 37-yard field goal.  The Giants went three-and-out on their second possession.  New England then took the lead 10-7 as the Patriots drove 50 yards in eight plays, with Patriots’ QB Tom Brady finding WR Randy Moss for a 4-yard score.

The Patriots were flagged with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after this touchdown, a mistake that would help the Giants.  WR Domenik Hixon returned the ensuing kickoff 74 yards for a touchdown as New York regained the lead 14-10.

New England’s third and fourth possessions also resulted in points as the Patriots first drove 39 yards in eights plays to set up a 45-yard field goal to cut the Giants’ lead to 14-13, then drove 61 yards in 11 plays to set up a 37-yard field goal to take the lead 16-14.  The Patriots scored on all four of their offensive possessions in the first half, but three of these ended in field goals.

Meanwhile, the Giants added another touchdown before intermission as New York drove 85 yards in 8 plays to take a 21-16 advantage.  The Giants began the drive with just under two minutes to go.  Manning hit TE Kevin Boss for 23 yards, WR Amani Toomer for 19 yards, Jacobs for 17 yards, and then found Boss for a 3-yard score after an 11-yard quarterback scramble.

At the start of the 3rd quarter, the Patriots went three-and-out.  The Giants went to work again and drove 60 yards in seven plays to go ahead 28-16.  Jacobs had two big runs of 16 and 15 yards before Manning found Burress for a 17-yard score.

The Patriots responded with an 8-play, 73-yard effort that resulted in a 6-yard touchdown run by HB Laurence Maroney.  Giants 28-Patriots 23.  The Giants’ next drive was sabotaged by a 14-yard sack of Manning, the only sack the Giants gave up all night.

At the start of the 4th quarter, New England managed one first down then punted.  The Giants then went three-and-out.  The real backbreaker was a 65-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Moss on 3rd-and-10 on New England’s fourth possession of the second half.  The Patriots also scored on the 2-point conversion attempt to take 31-28 advantage.

On the ensuing possession, Manning’s pass intended for Burress on 2nd-and-6 was intercepted at the New England 48-yard line.  Nine plays later, Maroney scored from five yards out and the Patriots had a 10-point advantage with under five minutes to play.

The Giants did drive 68 yards in 11 plays on their last possession of the game to make things a tad interesting as Manning found Burress for the score with just over a minute to play.  However, New England recovered the onside kick and Brady took three knees to end the game.

“It is a confidence builder,” said LB Antonio Pierce. “That is the best team in the league, probably hands down in the regular season.  I thought we played toe-to-toe with those guys.  But you have to play four quarters.  But they are a good team and they have a great quarterback.  I think we have to look at all of the positives and fix the negatives.  I think we played exceptional all across the board.  We only turned the ball over once and gave up one big play on defense.  Special teams played solid.  That is a good team.  You have to play damn near perfect against them – you have to play perfect.”

“It is a great momentum builder but we still lost,” said OC Grey Ruegamer who filled in for the injured O’Hara.  “So I’m pretty ticked off about that.  When you play a team like that, you want to gauge yourself and you want to win.  We played to win and we just came up a little short at the end.  It is a little frustrating, but we are in the playoffs.  Our goal in the beginning of the season was to get in.  Now it is a one-game schedule from here on out.  This game is past us.  The Patriots are obviously a good team.  Good luck to them, but we are looking forward to Tampa.   Special teams played good.  Defense played well.  Offensively we still left some plays on the field.  Like I said, the gauge was to play against the best team in the league and we did.  Obviously we needed to make more plays.  We need to make some corrections.  We lost but we are in the playoffs.”

“It is definitely a good momentum builder going into the playoffs,” said FS Gibril Wilson. “We are coming out with positive attitudes with this game.  If we play the way we did tonight, I think it can carry us a long way.  We have to bring the same intensity that we brought in tonight.  They are one of the best teams that I have ever faced.  They deserve it because they played hard.  They did the things at the end that they had to do to win the game.”

“Well, we played; we lost, but we are going to the playoffs and that is all that matters,” said DE Michael Strahan.  “Tonight is over with and we are moving on.”

Post-Game Notes:  Inactive for the Giants were CB Kevin Dockery (hip flexor), HB Ahmad Bradshaw (calf), WR Sinorice Moss (back), DT Manny Wright (ankle), LB Tank Daniels, OT Adam Koets, TE Jerome Collins, and QB Jared Lorenzen (third quarterback).

The Giants have lost their last four home games.

The Giants’ 35 points were the most allowed this season by the Patriots.

The Patriots’ 44 rushing yards were the second-lowest total allowed by the Giants this season. Detroit ran for 25 yards on November 18.

The Patriots’ 27 first downs were the most by a Giants opponent since St. Louis had 27 on October 2, 2005.

QB Manning finished the season with 3,336 passing yards, the second-highest total of his career, and 23 touchdown passes, one less than he threw in each of the previous two seasons.  He is the second Giants’ quarterback in history with three consecutive seasons with more than 3,000 yards and 20 touchdown passes. Phil Simms did so from 1984-1986.

WR Plaxico Burress caught 12 touchdown passes this season, a new career high. His previous career best was 10 scores in 2006.  The team record of 13 was set by Homer Jones in 1967.

HB Brandon Jacobs rushed for 67 yards on 15 carries and finished the season with 1,009 yards – despite missing five games and most of a sixth.

Dec 292007
 

December 28, 2007 New York Giants Injury Report:  The Giants have officially listed CB Kevin Dockery (hip flexor) and WR Sinorice Moss (back) as “doubtful” for the game against the Patriots tonight.

HB Ahmad Bradshaw (calf) and DT Manny Wright (ankle) are listed as “questionable”.

WR Plaxico Burress (ankle) and HB Brandon Jacobs (ankle) are listed as “probable” for the game.

Articles on Tonight’s Game: Not Wanting a Place in History, the Giants Say They Will Play to Win by Dave Caldwell of The New York Times

Notes and Quotes: The Giants received more than 350 request for media credentials for tonight’s game.  The Giants have credentialed over 30 national media for the game along with nine international.

Patriots’ LB Tedy Bruschi on the Giants’ offensive line:  “I think collectively this may be the best offensive line we have gone up against. They work well as a unit, and especially when they lock on to guys. I don’t see a lot of guys shedding them and making tackles. They are great one-on-one blockers.”

Dec 282007
 

Approach to the Game – New England Patriots at New York Giants, December 29, 2007: All indications are that Head Coach Tom Coughlin and the Giants are going to take their best shot at knocking off the undefeated Patriots on Saturday night.  I don’t know if the League is putting pressure on the Giants to do so, but I do think it is the wrong move.

I do have mixed emotions.  It’s a very American trait to want to test oneself against the best.  And not only does the pride of the players and coaches get involved, but so does that of the fans.  And certainly the media has not helped.  Everywhere you turn, this game is being talked about on sports television and sports radio.  And a simulcast on three networks?  Are you kidding me?  I can’t recall a more hyped meaningless game, and that doesn’t just include the Giants, but for the Patriots as well.  16-0 in the regular season means nothing.  Hoisting up another Lombardi Trophy means everything.  If you ask me, Bill Belichick and his team have been tempting fate all season long by playing their top players in games that have turned into blowouts, and now meaningless games.  If Tom Brady tears a knee, the Pats’ season is over.

The argument posed by many Giants’ fans is that the Giants are not going to win the Super Bowl so they might as well treat this as their Super Bowl game.  What kind of defeatist crap is that?  Once you are in the tournament, anything is possible.  And there are examples of Wild Card teams making it to the Super Bowl.  Plus, we all know the Giants play better on the road than at home.  Dallas and Green Bay have proven to be better teams, but they are not invincible.

However, in my opinion, it will be very tough for the Giants to put forth a maximum effort against the Patriots in a game that has a playoff feel to it, then to go on the road three straight times and win.  That’s pushing it.  Like all teams, the Giants have endured mini-camps, training camp, four preseason games, and 15 regular season games.  Guys who are not even on the injury report are beat up and tired.  The Buccaneers – the Giants’ first opponent in the playoffs – rested starters last weekend and will do so this weekend.  Dallas will be resting guys and they have next week off.

It would certainly feel great if the Giants were to somehow beat the Patriots on Saturday.  The players, coaches, fans, and local media would be sky high.  But you know what?  It reality, it would mean jack squat.  Because seven days later the Giants will have to play a well rested and well prepared Buccaneers team playing on their home turf.  Why settle for some symbolic victory the Patriots in Week 16?  Why not go for broke and try to knock off these very same Patriots in the Super Bowl?  Impossible you say?  Probably.  But that’s what my goal would be.  Not to exhaust my battered troops in a meaningless game.

I don’t think the Giants are thinking strategically.

That all said, it looks like the Giants will attempt to knock off the Patriots.  If they do manage to do so, the major positive would be surging confidence.  It helps to have the Giants gain more experience playing in a game with so much media attention.  Also, historically, the Giants don’t tend to be very sharp after a usual bye so maybe this will help them stay on their game.  We shall see.

Giants on Offense: The Giants have two major issues on offense right now, and both involve the passing game.  The first is the absence of TE Jeremy Shockey.  He is one of the players that the Giants could least afford to lose and it showed last week as the Giants’ rookie tight ends were held without a catch.  Now without the serious threat of a tight end doing damage in the passing game, teams will surely double-team Plaxico Burress, making it even more difficult for the Giants’ best offensive player to do damage.   Someone else has to step up, be it Amani Toomer, Kevin Boss, Steve Smith, or even the backs as receivers.  If not, the Giants will be very easy to defend.

Secondly, Eli Manning has to get his shit together and fast.  Enough is enough.  Last week’s play by him was atrocious.  It was his second completely unacceptable game of the season (the Vikings game being the first).  Five fumbles and two interceptions?  Manning started the season on fire against Dallas, got hurt in that game, played decently for the bulk of the season, but has been deteriorating rapidly.  I used to say that you can’t say Manning has a history of falling apart late in the season based on two seasons.  But this is the third season in a row where he simply is not improving but getting worse when it matters the most.  If he doesn’t get his head out of his ass right now, the Giants will be one and done in the playoffs again.

As for the game against the Patriots, if the Giants are going to win, they can’t just run the football like they did against the Bills.  It won’t work.  Belichick won’t allow it.  The Giants will have to stay balanced against them.  That means Eli has to play well.  Not just “acceptable” or “manage the game,” but play well.  He was drafted and paid to make plays and win games with his head and right arm.  If he can’t, then the Giants need to cut ties with him.  No more excuses.  Get the job done.

The Patriots’ defense hasn’t been as scary this year as its statistics show, but they have been very, very opportunistic and have quite a few defensive scores for touchdowns.  Manning will have to be careful.  Amani Toomer will face the Pats’ best corner in Asante Samuel.  One has to figure that Toomer will thus be taken completely out of this game by Samuel while the Patriots double-team Plaxico Burress with CB Ellis Hobbs and a safety.  Either Burress or Toomer are going to have to really play at a top level, or Manning is going to need help from Steve Smith, David Tyree, or Kevin Boss.  I’d actually emphasize Boss.  Yes, he is a rookie and he is green as grass and will likely be very nervous on this stage, but it will be good preparation for the playoffs (remember, I don’t think this game is all that important).  Boss is a huge target with good speed.  He can make plays down the field and the Patriots may be surprised by his game.  I would also throw the football more to the backs.  Hopefully, Ahmad Bradshaw plays.  He’s very good at catching passes out of the backfield.

The Patriots’ 3-4 run defense has been decent, but not great this year.  The big problem for the Giants in this game is that NT Vince Wilfork will be a nightmare for OC Shaun O’Hara to block.  Wilfork is exactly the kind of tackle that gives O’Hara problems (hell, Wilfork gives most centers problems).  But it doesn’t stop there for the Patriots, they are loaded up front with RDE Richard Seymour and LDE Ty Warren.  I expect the Giants to try to run more off tackle or on stretch plays with Jacobs and possibly Bradshaw.  I wouldn’t expect Reuben Droughns to be terribly productive against this type of defense since is an inside runner.

The Giants also have to get those linebackers blocked, with the linemen, tight ends, or backs.  Tight ends Michael Matthews and Kevin Boss, as well as FB Madison Hedgecock all need to play well.  A 3-4 defense always centers on its linebackers and the Patriots are loaded there too with LOLB Mike Vrabel, LILB Junior Seau, RILB Teddy Bruschi, and ROLB Adalius Thomas.  The young tight ends and Hedgecock will have their work cut out for them.  The outside guys are very dangerous pass rushers to boot (17 sacks).

The Patriots are tied with the Bucs in scoring defense.  They usually don’t allow more than 20 points a game.  Eli Manning will have to play one of his best games of the season.  The offensive line will have to be physical, but also recognize the various blitzes from the linebackers that Belichick will throw at them.  Most importantly, the Giants have to be able to run the football and not turn the football over.

Giants on Defense: The Patriots have played some close games in recent weeks so it is tough to lose sight of these amazing facts:

  • The Patriots have scored a record 71 touchdowns.
  • The Patriots have scored 551 points and are only six points shy of breaking the scoring record.
  • Tom Brady is two touchdown passes shy from breaking Peyton Manning’s record of 49 touchdown passes in a season.
  • Randy Moss is two touchdown passes shy from breaking Jerry Rice’s record of 21 scoring catches in a season.

Wow!

The strange thing is that the Patriots come across as a largely one-dimensional, finesse offense.  It obviously is a pass-centric attack that likes to spread the field with multiple wide receiver packages.  To me, the team that they most remind me of is the St. Louis Rams “Greatest Show on Turf” team that won the Super Bowl.  You usually don’t see such heavy pass-centric teams perform so consistently well, especially one that plays outside in the Northeast.

That said, the Patriots can run the ball and are actually 10th in the NFL in rushing.  Nevertheless, contrary to what I say week in and week out in my game previews, this is the one game where I would focus almost exclusively on the pass.  I think the Patriots want to get Brady and Moss their records.  I also think they can expose the Giants’ secondary.  But the Giants do need to be somewhat cautious of the draw plays that the Redskins used so effectively against them two weeks ago.  Such draw plays will also have the added benefit of slowing down the Giants’ pass rush.

Ahh, the pass rush.  On paper, one of the reasons why the Giants may be able to keep this game close is their pass rush.  However, the Giants’ pass rush has an annoying tendency of disappearing against better opponents.  The Patriots have a very, very good pass blocking offensive line with three starters going to the Pro Bowl.  Most of the time, they provide Brady with perfect pass protection to set up comfortably in the pocket.  If Osi Umenyiora wants to truly be considered one of the best, he can’t disappear in this game like he did two weeks ago.  The Giants need Michael Strahan – who has not been playing very well in recent weeks – to also elevate his game.  I would play Justin Tuck on more snaps than not at defensive tackle this week.  The Giants need to get their best pass rushers on the field and get after Tom Brady without having to send blitzes on every play.  The more the Giants blitz, the more likely big plays will result in the passing game.

The Giants will miss Kevin Dockery (hip flexor) if he can’t play.  Because the Patriots like to spread the field with three and four wide receiver packages, the Giants will be in their nickel and dime packages much of the game.  More pressure will now be placed on the likes of Corey Webster and R.W. McQuarters.  With the Patriots putting Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, Wes Welker, and Jabar Gaffney on the field, those are match-ups the Patriots have to be drooling at.  Keep in mind that Aaron Ross is still a rookie.  And even Sam Madison had problems covering Stallworth when he was with the Eagles last season.  The Giants need to get as many defensive backs on the field as possible.  We should see less of Reggie Torbor and Kawika Mitchell because of this.  This is why the down four MUST get to Brady.  If not, look out.

Giants on Special Teams: The Giants don’t catch a break here.  Kickoff returner Ellis Hobbs is very dangerous and Wes Welker is very good at returning punts.  The Jets were able to get to the punter a couple of weeks ago so the Giants may want to try to go for a block.

Again, the Giants need Bradshaw here.  Hopefully he plays as big kick return would help.  The Giants also will get David Tyree back after a two-week absence due to the death of his mother.

Dec 282007
 

December 27, 2007 New York Giants Injury Report:  Not practicing again were HB Ahmad Bradshaw (calf), WR Sinorice Moss (back), and CB Kevin Dockery (hip flexor).  “They get a little better every day but we will have to wait and see,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin.

WR Plaxico Burress (ankle) practiced again on a limited basis.  It was the first time all season that Burress has practiced in back-to-back practices.  “He did good,” said Coughlin.  “He had a pretty good week.  He took a limited number of snaps but with each one of those he was pretty much able to pretty much go full speed, so it a definite improvement.  Anytime Plaxico can work with the quarterback it is a plus.”

DT Manny Wright (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis.

HB Brandon Jacobs (ankle) fully practiced again.

Article on the 2007 New York Giants:  Seeing Vulnerability in N.F.C. Foes, Giants Are Confident by John Branch of The New York Times

Dec 272007
 

December 26, 2007 New York Giants Injury Report – Burress Practices, Bradshaw Does Not:  WR Plaxico Burress (ankle) practiced (on a limited basis) for just the third time during the regular season yesterday.  “Plaxico is going to practice,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “He is going to take some reps; if we have a segment with eight snaps, he will take two.  He will be limited but he will practice…The medical people thought that there wasn’t much risk involved in him practicing.  He wants to practice.  So we are going to see how that goes today and there is not much risk of a setback so we are going to try it.”

“I came in (on Tuesday) and told the coach I wanted to go out and get a few reps during the week,” said Burress. “I’m starting to feel a little better.”

Not practicing were HB Ahmad Bradshaw (leg bruise), WR Sinorice Moss (back), CB Kevin Dockery (hip flexor), and DT Manny Wright (ankle).

“(Bradshaw) has a contusion in the muscle of his leg,” said Coughlin.  “He does have a little swelling so they are going to hold him…It is a day to day thing.  We will see how it is (on Thursday).”

HB Brandon Jacobs (ankle) practiced fully.  “The ankle is feeling way better than I thought it was going to end up feeling,” said Jacobs.  “I feel good. I feel great, as far as the ankle is concerned.”

LB Kawika Mitchell Named “NFC Defensive Player of the Week”:  LB Kawika Mitchell has been named the “NFC Defensive Player of the Week” for his performance against the Buffalo Bills last Sunday.  Mitchell was credited with six tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception that he returned 20 yards for a touchdown.

Giants-Patriots Game Will Be Televised on NFL Network, CBS, and NBC:  The NFL has made arrangements with CBS and NBC for an unprecedented three-way national simulcast of the NFL Network telecast of Saturday night’s Giants-Patriots game.  The game also will be televised by WWOR (Channel 9) in New York and WCVB-ABC (Channel 5) in Boston.  This will be the first three-network simulcast in NFL history and the first simulcast of any kind of an NFL game since Super Bowl I in 1967.

Quotes:  DE Justin Tuck on Giants’ fans selling their tickets to Patriots’ fans for Saturday’s game: “It might be a road atmosphere for us.  I heard people are selling tickets now. Who knows? We might have more Patriots fans than Giants. We’ll see what happens…It absolutely does (bother me). Because this is our stadium, that’s as simple as it gets. I don’t care if they are going for a record and they want to see history.  I heard they’re going for about $1,600, that’s a good price. I don’t agree with it. This is Giants Stadium and I don’t want to see a whole Patriots clan out-weighting the Giants fans. Don’t sell their tickets and Patriots fans, if they want to see the game, order the NFL Network.”

HB Brandon Jacobs on Giants’ fans selling their tickets:  “That’s probably one of the reasons why we are better on the road than we are at home.”

Tuck on what a victory over the Patriots would mean:  “Nothing…Because we can go down to Tampa the next week and get our butts kicked.”

Dec 262007
 

Article on QB Eli Manning: Muscle Needed for Eli-Vation by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post

Editorials on Saturday’s Giants-Patriots Game:

Article in the 1998 Giants-Broncos Game: Sacked Broncos’ Perfect Dream by Ralph Vacchiano of The New York Daily News

Dec 262007
 
New York Giants 38 – Buffalo Bills 21

by Damon Micalizzi for BigBlueInteractive.com

In Brief…

Said the head coach to the sacrificial lamb….

“Do you see what I see?
A running back who runs like a ram.
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star running the ball with might
through defenders who can’t tackle him right…
He might save our jobs at least for just one more night.”

You knew damn well that if the Giants were going to win this game it was going to be by running the ball.  On a cold, wet, windy, day the play calling was the best it’s been all year.   That’s a very sad statement.

The Giants won this game in spite of a lot of things.  The major one being: Eli Manning.

Offense

I really don’t know what to think anymore about Eli Manning.  I’ve long been an advocate of his and I haven’t given up on him yet.  I do believe that his struggles are very much a result of the offensive scheme employed by the coaching staff.  I do believe that for various other (obvious) reasons he is scrutinized much more than he should be. And I still believe that statistics can be very misleading and are, especially in Manning’s case.  However, the fumbles this year are very troublesome.

He threw two picks against Buffalo.   Both of them, I believe were on comeback routes to Burress and Toomer and one or both of them may or may not have been on the receiver.  I’m tired of making excuses though for the interceptions.  Maybe I’m just frustrated because we haven’t seen Manning look like anything remotely close to a very good quarterback for a full 60 minutes since week one.

He’s thrown some beautiful passes this year.  Shoot, Steve Smith dropped a beautiful pass that could have been a TD.  Manning had heat in his face and couldn’t even step all the way into the throw.  But it’s hard though to highlight what he’s done and does well, when he has had this propensity for turning the ball over at the most inopportune times.

Throughout the year, we’ve rarely seen the Manning 3rd and 15 interception on a 50-yard bomb that we as fans could say: “well he was taking a shot and it was as good a punt.”

Maybe it just seems this way, but I feel that every time Manning has turned the ball over this year (and let me stress that I still maintain that a lot of the interceptions have not been his fault) it has literally sucked the life out of the team and fans.  You don’t fumble the ball in the redzone.   You don’t lose the ball when you’re cocking your arm to throw.  That’s the kind of stuff you see at your kid’s Pop Warner game.  Your kid’s hands are a lot smaller than Manning’s.

Granted the weather the last two weeks has been brutal, but come on kid get your act together.

Okay… Back to my Christmas Carol…..

Said the lamb to the rookie runner….

“Do you hear what I hear?
The wind is cold, and whipping through the sky,
the ram is hurt and now you must try
to move the chains and run out the clock.”

Said the rookie back to the head coach…

“Do you know what I know?
I will break one for a long touchdown.
Do you know what I know?
It’s wet. It’s cold and windy in the snow
It’s definitely not a good day to throw.”

Okay, I’ve been into the eggnog a little bit. But it’s about friggin’ time the Giants decided to run the ball 30 plus times.  Sadly, it took a near monsoon and a nightmare the week before to get them to hand the ball off on a consistent basis.

Anyway.  Wow. Just wow.  First of all, Brandon Jacobs had a great game pounding the ball between the tackles and then showing his speed turning it up field after bouncing it outside for 43 yards.  When it was all said and done, Jacobs ended up with his most impressive game as a pro gaining 145 yards on 24 carries.  He also gained some competition for playing time with the emergence of Ahmad Bradshaw.

Giants’ fans have been clamoring for Bradshaw to get more than one or two touches in a game since a very impressive pre-season and some electric kickoff returns.  Bradshaw didn’t disappoint when he got the chance.  Bradshaw is the real deal.

First of all his feet are so quick. He takes short quick choppy steps.  He keeps his feet going at contact. He’s deceivingly strong and can fight for the extra yard.  He’s exceptionally agile, and can get in and out and through the smallest spaces and fast enough to get around people.  I think I knew all of this though. What I didn’t know though how good his break away speed was.  On that 88 yard run, there wasn’t a defender who had a chance, once Bradshaw got free.  When he broke free, I thought I sat on the x2 button on the clicker.  The guy is a burner.  Hook him up with Carini in the off-season, because the Giants have a great 1-2 punch at halfback.  I’m so glad Bradshaw took that Playstation because if he didn’t, there’s no way he’s there in round seven.

A big bounce back game for Amani Toomer who was really the Giants only effective pass catcher on the day and brought in everything that was thrown his way.  Toomer’s contribution was huge as four of his five catches went for first downs on third down. He caught high passes, low passes, and every time it was a big catch. It appears he exorcized all of the demons from his disaster last week against Washington.

He only had one catch for six yards, but I really though Plaxico Burress looked quicker, at least early in this game. He is still not able to cut or change direction as well as he should, but his burst off the line of scrimmage looked better than it has in months.  The offensive pass-interference call on him in the third quarter was a terrible call.  I say rest him up next week for the playoffs.

Besides, Steve Smith could use the extra work.  He makes that catch, he scores.

Honestly, I though Kevin Boss did a pretty good job in run blocking.  He got low, which is not easy for a guy who’s 6’6 to do, and kept his hands on his man most of the time.  No catches for Boss, but that wasn’t his fault, no passes were thrown his way.

The offensive line continues to have lapses of insufficiency. Manning only dropped back to pass 16 times.  He was sacked once; he was hit two other times, and had defenders very close to him on at least three other throws.  That will have to improve if the Giants are to have any success in the playoffs.

When running the ball they did a nice job in their zone blocking.  However, the blocking was abysmal on the goal line, with Shaun O’Hara and Rich Seubert getting blown up through the middle on three consecutive plays resulting in a turnover on downs.  Reuben Droughns never had a chance. He no sooner had the ball and his legs were gone.

Defense

Take away the first two touchdown drives for Buffalo, in which the Giants missed tackles, missed assignments and simply got beat in coverage and the Giants’ Defense had a very solid game.

Early in the game, the Bills had some success attacking the Giants by running to the right side.  Where was Michael Strahan you might ask?  He did indeed play.  He didn’t have any tackles, because Buffalo double-teamed him right out of the gate.  Buffalo would slide a TE over to chip or tag team Stray with the tackle while Lynch scooted by.  On at least two of those runs Reggie Torbor should have made the play, one time he slipped taking himself out of the play.  Another time, he missed the tackle.  As many good runs as Lynch had, you would think he put up pretty good numbers. In reality, he only ran for 70 yards.

Osi Umenyiora continued his solid season, getting 4 tackles a sack and a forced fumble, although he did get caught out of position on his zone responsibility on Michael Gaines TD grab. Otherwise it was a solid yet very unspectacular day for the rest of the D-Line. They did a pretty good job up front plugging holes and letting Antonio Pierce, Kawika Mitchell and Gibril Wilson come up and make plays. Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield and Jay Alford held their gaps well.

He’s had some growing pains, but Kawika Mitchell has come a long way. Mitchell had two sacks to go with his interception return for a TD and continues to make big plays.  Game changing plays.  Mitchell caught a lot of grief early in the year, but a lot of people forget he was not only learning a new defense, he was learning a new position as well.  Mitchell was a middle linebacker in KC, and has put his stamp on at least four games this season.

Pierce seemed to be running better and had some big tackles on the day.  He still has a bug for making stupid penalties as of late like running through unabated to the QB when no one else moved.  He also jumped in late on a play after the whistle, again. Thankfully it wasn’t called.

Maybe a few years from now Giants fans will look back at this game and say that was the play that turned Corey Webster’s career around.  40 minutes removed from getting burnt deep on a 42-yard bomb where Roscoe Parrish made Webster look like he was running in sand, Webster jumped in front of Josh Reed tipped the ball to himself and ran it in to the endzone to seal the game.  Rest assured, his agent has that play archived from every angle as the only 8 seconds of Corey Webster’s Pro Football Resume Tape just incase he’s looking for a job next year.

Aaron Ross, bit hard on Lee Evans fake to the inside and Evans cut the other way for the Bills second TD of the day.  Ross also let Lynch slip through his fingers on the last touchdown drive. He did notch three tackles and put a brutal hit on Trent Edwards coming in on a blitz.  Edwards was not the same after that hit.

It was good to see Gibril Wilson back in action and he looked fast to the ball and pretty good in coverage for being a bit dinged.  Hopefully he’ll rest again next week.  James Butler was also back and promptly dropped two more interceptions inching closer to Sam Madison for the lead in that dubious category.  Madison, by the way, did a good job on Lee Evans for the most part, although he wasn’t challenged too much.  Madison also picked off a pass intended for Roscoe Parrish to end any hopes of a Buffalo comeback.

Special Teams

A pretty good showing for the kickers on a blustery day, at a place where kicking a football is never easy.   Jeff Feagles did a nice job playing the field position game although he tried to get too cute on a fourth quarter punt. Lawrence Tynes connected on his lone field goal attempt and all of his extra point tries as well. He even used the wind to get a touchback.  That’s all you can ask for under those windy circumstances.   Long snapping woes of recent week’s past, seemed under control for the most part.

It should not go unnoticed that Bradshaw’s work on kickoff returns was exceptional, and he recovered a botched punt snap as well.  Coverage on kicks was very good as Parrish and McGee are two of the more dangerous return men in the NFL.

To Sum It Up…

The Giants won this game in spite of the fact that Eli left maybe 17 points off the board with his turnovers.  The defense, though opportunistic, did get beat more than a few times and has developed a bad habit of starting games and starting the second half of games very haphazardly.

You cannot forget though, that this team finished the season 7-1 on the road and in the NFC East, that’s never an easy proposition. They’ll need that road moxie, as that’s where they’ll be playing in January. At least, for one game.

And so it goes. Does Coughlin rest up the troops next week against the Patriots with hopes that the Giants are as close to 100 percent for round one of the playoffs, or does he try to go all out and make a game out of it to get some much needed momentum for round one?  Does it even matter?  In the playoffs, you can’t fumble the ball five times and expect to win.   But somehow, when they are on the road, this team has been able to stick their head in the lion’s mouth and pull it out just in the nick of time.

One more verse…

Said the journalists to people everywhere….
“Listen to what I say!
A playoff game for yet another year.
And a contract extension for Coughlin I fear.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Buffalo Bills, December 23, 2007)
Dec 242007
 

Giants – Buccaneers in First Round of Playoffs:  With the Redskins defeating the Vikings last night, the Giants are assured of facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road in the first round of the playoffs on January 5 or January 6.

The postseason berth is the 29th for the Giants, tying them with the Dallas Cowboys for the most in NFL history.

Injury Report:  HB Brandon Jacobs injured his left ankle against the Bills on Sunday.  “Jacobs had the left ankle and got re-taped, came back into the game,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “It doesn’t appear to be too bad.”

Notes:  The Giants’ 7-1 regular season road record this year was their best since they were 7-1 in 2000, the last time they won the NFC Championship.

The Giants, who were 5-3 on the road in 2006, have winning road records in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1993-1994.

The Giants have been shutout in the first quarter of the last four consecutive games.

The Giants rushed for 291 yards against the Bills, which is tied for the fifth-highest total in franchise history.  It was the most rushing yards by the Giants since November 29, 1959, when they ran for 351 yards in a 45-14 victory over Washington.

The Giants became the first team to have two runners with 140 or more yards in the same game since November 11, 2001, when St. Louis’ Marshall Faulk and Trung Canidate did so.

HB Ahmad Bradshaw’s 88-yard run was the third-longest in the 83-year history of the franchise. Tiki Barber set the record with a 95-yarder at Oakland on December 31, 2005. Hap Moran had owned the mark for 75 years on his 91-yard run vs. Green Bay on November 23, 1930.  The 88-yard run was also the longest in the NFL this season.