Dec 052008
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New York Giants 23 – Washington Redskins 7

Summary: Before we delve into this week’s review, I have a confession to make.  In my house, during the game there was a Jason Taylor jersey, a big yellow foam Redskins #1 finger thing (both courtesy of my nephew Sam) and a Redskins sweatshirt.  My reaction was of course the same as all Giant fans, “burn them to the ground”.  But alas the people in them would have likely pressed charges so I just watched the game in quiet glee as once again the Giants vanquished an over-matched foe.

Redskins’ defensive coordinator Greg Blache dared Eli Manning to win the game without his best wide receiver and without his running game churning up the yardage.  Well, as he keeps doing, Eli stuffed that dare right back into Greg Blache’s face (and by stuff what I mean is, he probably sheepishly said “I just played good football”).  I’d do it too though, I’d want to not be humiliated by Brandon Jacobs and instead let Eli have a go at it.  Go ahead BBI, you pick: Sledgehammer to the face, or slow, steady surgical dissection?  You pick the latter every time because just maybe the surgeon has a bad day.

Without going into the boring details that we already know and will rehash in the positional breakdowns, this game was very easy to summarize.  The Redskins run the ball well and were forced to throw when they couldn’t run.  The Giants run AND pass the ball well and when the Redskins sold out to shut down the running game, they left themselves exposed.  This is the most complete and balanced team in football, take away something they do well and they will do something else to beat you.  Bring your best against their defense and they will again, find a way to beat you.  This is a team with no glaring weaknesses, exceptional depth and make no mistake about this; plenty of talent.  Any team that brings in a one-dimensional phase of their game will eventually succumb to a team that can literally do everything well and can always find a way to beat you.

Quarterbacks: Of the Giants 404 yards, Eli Manning accounted for 77% of them (312 yards rushing/passing combined) and dropped back to pass 36 times out of 71 total plays.  As mentioned above, Greg Blache and the Redskins players assumed incorrectly that they had the DBs to shut down the Giants passing game.  Eli connected on 21 of 34 passes for 305 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT and completed at least five passes to three different players.  On the Giants’ opening drive, Eli and company came out winging as the former Rebel hit on 3-5 passes for 68 yards and a perfectly placed 40 yard TD pass to Amani Toomer.  Despite the rainy conditions, Eli and the Giants knew from the outset that they had to challenge the Redskins secondary to keep the running game from being shut out completely.  Already up 7-0 Eli led his charges on another scoring drive, this time 3-4 for 52 yards.  Eli’s dumpoff to Derrick Ward on the Giants’ next drive went for 48 yards as #10 again led his team down the field to score with 64 more yards on the drive on 3 of 4 passing.  That’s how Eli’s day continued, as he topped the 300 yard mark for the first time in over a year.  What was most impressive was again how well Eli distributes the ball, finds the open man and continues to limit turnovers.  Despite “settling” for a FG on the Giants’ second drive, Eli had two busted plays that he simply sat on instead of forcing a ball into coverage and committing a red zone turnover.

Sunday’s Eli Manning was the Manning that former GM Ernie Accorsi saw when he traded away what most felt was a king’s ransom for the rights to sign the kid QB from Ole Miss.  With the running game struggling, a talented secondary and a hostile emotional crowd, Eli just played…dare I say it…”smart football.”  He was able to make the right protection changes and really keep the Redskins’ defense off balance all day with his ability to not only recognize the defense, but be able to execute well enough to exploit it.

Running Backs: The Big Truck was stuck in neutral on the sloppy turf most of the day, but Brandon Jacobs still had his number called 21 times and found the end zone.  A modest 71 yards isn’t exactly the type of day you’d expect from Jacobs on 21 carries, but the big guy was a constant threat that kept 8 and 9 defenders in the box and gave the passing game plenty of one-on-one situations that they exploited all day.  Even when he’s not the star on the stat sheet, Jacobs has a huge impact on how this offense succeeds.  (Please Jerry, PLEASE, sign this man).  Big Jake did rip off a 23 yarder early in the 3rd quarter that set the table for the Giants to go up 20-7 and essentially put the game out of reach.  Understudy extraordinaire Derrick Ward was held to 3.0 yards per carry on 10 touches but did his damage with 75 yards receiving on five grabs.  Most of it came on a 48-yard dump off that started the second half, and put the Giants in position for a second FG and 13-0 lead early in the 3rd quarter.

Wide Receivers: Early in most games, you see a tall Giant WR snaring a few 12-15 yard digs to keep safeties from spending too much time in the box and making LBs aware that they cannot sell out to stop to the run.  Domenik Hixon was on the receiving end of two such passes on the Giants’ first possession and was sent deep on the game’s first play.  Hixon’s ascension this season has been nothing short of amazing and once again #87 filled in at the Split End or X receiver slot and pulled in five catches for 71 yards.  More importantly, he has the trust of his QB and his offensive play caller to get the same number of looks as another WR who shall not be mentioned.  Hixon came up big early grabbing a back shoulder fade from Eli Manning on 3rd and 8 and making a sensational catch.  Hixon however failed to get his head around in time on Manning’s lone INT of the game. Not to be outdone, still feisty veteran Amani Toomer got things started by flying past CB Fred Smoot down the right sideline for a 40-yard TD on the game’s opening possession.  Toomer led all Giant WRs with 85 yards on five catches and one TD and demonstrated all day long with his body language that he was up for whatever challenge was thrown his way.

Usually reliable Steve Smith had a few passes bounce off his hands on Sunday, but I suppose even he’s entitled to a rough outing.The second year man out of USC managed only 22 yards on two catches.  Sinorice Moss made a catch, made a cut and fell down.  Come on dude, you see 10 balls a year, do SOMETHING with all that speed.

Tight Ends: Kevin Boss was outfoxed by ancient DE Jason Taylor on the game’s first running play, as Taylor strung the Jacobs run out wide and shut down the cutback lane.  Boss, as he does, bounced back on a Derrick Ward sweep by taking out LB Rocky McIntosh and creating a lane for Ward to pick up 5 yards.  Boss also ripped off a 24-yard gain on a TE screen that was perfectly executed.  Boss chipped DE Demetric Evans, got open, hurdled two defenders and was off for his biggest gain of the day.  Every week we something new out of the big TE, and this time it’s on the football field and NOT on Page Six.  Now I can only pray (and I will assume) that Kevin wouldn’t go for Tara Reid or a big stupid eagle tattoo.  Boss finished with a modest 45 yards on three catches, but once again continued to show off great athletic ability, and the ability to be a factor in both facets of the offensive game plan.

O-Line: Once again a struggle on the ground as the move’em out gang was held to 3.1 yards per rush but did crack the 100 yard barrier against an incredibly stacked defense hell bent on stuffing the run.  In a game like this, it’s really difficult to determine how well the line run blocked given the numbers they faced up front, but it was well enough that the Redskins never wavered from their scheme and Kevin Gilbride called 35 runs out of 71 plays.

Eli had time to throw though, to the tune of 300 yards, and only two sacks.  The key, again, is that what this line needed to do, it did.  It was effective enough running the ball to keep the Redskins from changing their approach and good enough in pass protection to give Eli and the passing game time to hang 23 points against a very talented back seven and a defense that had been strong all season.

Front 7: Author’s Note: Given the varied fronts and personnel packages the Giants use under Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, I’ll be looking at the front 7 as a whole initially rather than separating the D-line and Linebackers.  Hybrid roles such as LBs playing in a 3 point stance make analyzing the front 7 as one unit more cohesive.  It may change as we move forward or from game to game.

While the offense was busy carving up an overhyped Redskin secondary, Giant defenders held up their end of the bargain with a suffocating effort on RB Clinton Portis and the vaunted Washington ground game.  Portis was held to 22 yards on 11 carries, and while the Redskins did rush for 92 yards, 29 of it came on a reverse to WR Devin Thomas and 38 of it came from Jason Campbell running for his life.  Right off the bat, the gauntlet was laid down as Portis twice tried to bang into the left side of the Giants’ defense, only to be stuffed for four yards combined on the plays.  The entire DL moved in concert, kept their LBs clean and shut down any cutback lanes.  DE Mathias Kiwanuka was likely the target of the Redskins’ rushing attack, but as he’s done all year, Kiwi held his ground, kept blockers off his feet and was able to stack up the point of attack.  Justin Tuck did his Superman impression again with 6 tackles and 2 sacks and relentless pursuit up and down the line of scrimmage all day long.  We slobber over Tuck more than my dog does over…well anything edible (and by edible I mean anything she can see, smell or get to that fits in her mouth or can be dragged away) so let’s spread it around this week.  DE Renaldo Wynn, former Redskin, had his best day as a Giant, getting plenty of work with Fred Robbins out and the rotation thin.  Wynn responded with 4 tackles and what must have been a gratifying sack on the team that cut him loose and still can’t get to the QB.

What might have been most impressive about the front 7’s day was that their best run stuffer in Fred Robbins was sidelined and in a pinch, Barry Cofield and Jay Alford got the start and practice squadder Jeremy Clark was signed to jump into the fray.  Those three combined for 8 stops but lived in the Redskins’ backfield for most of the game.  Cofield, in particular, who notched a sack and a forced fumble was a monster inside, often splitting or negating double teams at the point of attack.

MLB Antonio Pierce led all LBs with 6 stops and like he does every week got his guys in the right spots to attack the Redskins’ offense.  His cohorts on the outside only collected 5 stops combined, but neither was particularly good or bad on Sunday.

Defensive Backs: This was the group that, to me, deserved the most praise for the Giants’ defensive performance on Sunday.  It’s usually the front 7 that gets all the love but Giant DBs were flying all over the field Sunday, and they literally ruined most of the denizens of FedEx field’s day. Safeties Michael Johnson and Kenny Phillips got the action started early.  Johnson came flying in on Portis’ second carry of the game to make the stop and Phillips followed that up on 3rd down with a great read on an underneath pass to WR James Thrash, hauling down the veteran and achieving a three-and-out on the Giants’ first defensive stand.  On the day, the duo combined for 13 tackles and more impact yet again from Giant safeties.  Phillips had a fantastic open-field stop of All Pro TE Chris Cooley on the Skins’ second drive that once again forced a 3-and-out.  Johnson was simply all over the field all day long in the running game and downfield.  Johnson flew in again to stuff Portis near the end of the 1st quarter.

Giant-killer Santana Moss was held to 55 yards on 4 catches and was kept in check all afternoon, a testament to the outstanding play of the entire secondary but CBs Aaron Ross and Corey Webster in particular.  Ross showed up again in the stat sheet with an interception of Jason Campbell at the Giants’ 5-yard line on a pass intended for Antwan Randle El.  Webster got an INT as well but had it called back due to incredibly picky hands-to-the-face penalty in which 5’9” WR Santana Moss literally gave a head fake right into Webster’s right hand.  I’m still not sure how that one was called, but on the very next play, WR Devin Thomas took a handoff and raced 29 yards for a score.  So once again without a terrible penalty, the Giants don’t give up a score on the drive.  Rookie CB Terrell Thomas is coming along nicely, this week with 4 stops, a head rattling shot on Clinton Portis and a forced fumble.

There was one series in this game that typified how well this group played and it was late in the first half, 13-7 Giants, Redskins with the ball and momentum off of a turnover and a 20-yard rumble by FB Mike Sellers.  On three consecutive plays, Jason Campbell THOUGHT he had guys open, but Corey Webster, Aaron Ross and Kenny Phillips were all waiting the passes and none of the three hit their mark.  Webster knocked away a quick out route, Ross jumped a slant route and Phillips shadowed a seam route by WR James Thrash.  Every time, a Giant DB was simply waiting for Campbell to throw it to his man.  Three plays was all it took to take the steam out of the Redskins, calm the fans down and show everyone who the biggest, baddest kid on the block is.

Special Teams: For months I’ve wondered why speedy and shifty WR Sinorice Moss was not used on return teams, and in fact posed such a question to my favorite beat writer who slapped me down with a “Why take Hixon off returns?”.  Well who’s laughing now Mr. Bald head?  (See I’m bald I can say that and it’s not offensive).  I will give The Star Ledger’s most follically-challenged writer a pass though, because Moss was option #3 behind WR Domenik Hixon and RB Ahmad Bradshaw and he was awful.  He was run straight ahead into the pile and falls down awful.  He was taking a gun and putting it in your sweatpants…wait what?  I promised myself I would not discuss the incident.  Honestly nothing glaringly bad or good in the return games, but I must say that John Carney and Jeff Feagles give me 100% confidence every time their AARP selves hobble out onto the field.

Coaching: Give plenty of credit to Steve Spagnuolo, his guys seemed to almost know where the Redskins were going before they did save for Devin Thomas’ reverse that accounted for the Skins only points of the day.  Holding Clinton Portis to 22 yards was a feat in itself without his best DT in Fred Robbins, but again the Giants’ defensive play caller came through with an  outstanding scheme to bottle up Portis and Moss and frustrate Jason Campbell all day.

Ok Kevin Gilbride haters, can we all stop it now?  The man called a brilliant game, and had a fantastic game plan that resulted in over 400 yards of offense with no running game and a wet sloppy field.  Redskin defenders were out of sync all game thanks to Gilbride’s ability to throw from a running formation and run from a passing formation any time he damn well pleased.  Buddy Ryan, eat your heart out.

I’m just not sure how he does it, but Tom Coughlin has every player on this team focused and prepared every week despite the recent uh…events.  Not only that, but I have to commend Coach Coughlin on HOW his team plays – to the whistle, with great enthusiasm and, above all, with respect for their opponents and the game.  Yes it’s a bit corny but it’s refreshing to see in this age of me-first showboats who do the Robot after making a tackle 12 yards downfield.

JPog (Joey’s Player of the Game) – My lovely niece Rachel (who is lovely only because she roots for the G-Men) was campaigning for Derrick Ward all game given his big day receiving, but it’s the JPoG not the RPoG so myah.  I’m going to give my game ball to Eli, who would probably be a) confused by who I am and b) completely indifferent to such a useless honor.  I’m just not sure what the book on Eli and this offense is and why continues to get absolutely no credit.  He makes the right protection changes at the line, checks into the right plays, and throws off defenses by running from passing formations and passing from run sets.  But STILL, teams insist that an extra defender in the box will stifle the running game and render the Giants useless.  Gentlemen, may I draw your attention to a DVD copy of Super Bowl LXII.  Watch it, re-watch it and repeat after me…Eli Manning will crush my defense if I give him no respect.

JBog (Joey’s Bum of the Game) – She doesn’t know it’s coming.  Yes she.  She has no idea I’m about to do this and I expect swift retribution.  While not a bum in any sense of the word, I have to downgrade the JBoG to a JPWDLDTGG (Joey’s person who didn’t listen during the Giants game) this week.  Again my niece Rachel, who arrived late (which I do nearly every day of my life), is a Giant fan but she allowed my nephews to hear the game on the radio so I knew about the 10-0 score before I’d even unpaused the TiVo to start the game.  Not her fault, but her exclamations during the game on text messages from her friend AT FedEx field certainly didn’t help me maintain radio silence until we caught up to the live feed.  I’m sorry Ray, but you have to learn the hard way, keep your cell phone off when you watch Uncle Joey and he’s got about 30 minutes of TiVo time to catch up to.  Other than that, you know I love ya kid!  Enjoy your roll of duct tape (to keep quiet), glass of water (to hold your cell phone) and old t-shirt with “Uncle Joey is my hero” in black marker on it.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Washington Redskins, November 30, 2008)
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Joe Triano

Joe Triano, aka Joey in VA, is an original BBI member and rabble-rouser who was born in New Jersey, but migrated to Virginia. Joey’s passion for writing, the game of football, and the Giants has spurred him to write insightful and entertaining game reviews for BBI in his spare time.

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