Sep 082009
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New England Patriots 38 (3-1) – New York Giants 27 (1-3)

by The Hack for

Game Summary: The Giants final game of their 2009 preseason schedule looked like a microcosm of their 2008 season: They came out with a fury and ended with a whimper.  After roaring out and scorching the Pats for three first quarter touchdowns, the Patriots chipped away at the lead before ultimately pulling away in the fourth quarter to earn the win.

There is almost no way to judge what was seen in this game for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost, other than players squarely on the bubble, the last preseason game of the year is one that players and coaches simply want to get out of the way.  Secondly, the Giants uncharacteristically went longer with the majority of their starters than most teams do in the 4th preseason game, but they went against the 2’s and 3’s of the Patriots who sat almost 100% of their starters for the entire game.  Third, and for this particular game foremost, the television feed on NFL Network was from the Patriots broadcast which was atrocious.

The entire 2nd quarter was a Teddy Bruschi Love-Fest with interviews, file footage, highlights, etc. which interrupted the game for huge chunks at a time.  It was very difficult to follow the action and it didn’t help when veteran broadcaster Don Criqui seemed more interested in what time the restaurants in the North End closed than what was happening on the field.  It seemed as though on at least 70% of the plays, he never mentioned who was in on the tackle for the Giants.

Since many of the players who saw action for the majority of the game are no longer on the team following the cuts, this review will focus on those players that made the team and who were signed to the practice squad.  Overall, the Giants main goal of the game was achieved, as again no major injuries were reported.  As far as we know, the only bumps and bruises were suffered by WR Hakeem Nicks, who left the game with a minor hip flexor issue, CB Terrell Thomas who left with a stinger and got x-rays on his neck that were negative, and backup DT Jeremy Clark, backup C Adam Koets,  as well as backup S Sha’reff Rashad, suffered ankle sprains.  Clark did not make the final 53, but Koets did and Rashad was signed to the practice squad.  The severity of the injuries to Thomas, Nicks, and Koets seem to be minor at this time.

The Giants committed 10 penalties in the game, and they made sure equal opportunity was in full effect as 4 were committed on offense, 3 on special teams, and 3 on defense.  This nonsense has GOT to stop.  Fortunately, only 1 starter committed a penalty (BBI whipping boy K Lawrence Tynes).

Offense: For the most part, the Giants’ starting lineup has been determined for some time.  The only real ‘bubble’ players on offense were WR Sinorice Moss, WR Derrick Hagan, one of the two ‘blocking’ TEs Michael Matthews or Darcy Johnson, and back up C Adam Koets.  Both Moss and Hagan had terrific camps, but neither had distinguished themselves as receivers.  Hagan had made a name for himself on specials, whereas Moss looked tentative and mediocre at best when fielding punts.  Both, however, made the team after strong showings on Thursday night.  More on that later.  As for the TE battle, Darcy Johnson most likely won out due to his slightly more capable hands.  Matthews is a mauler and he will be missed, but Johnson is more than adequate in the running game as reported in previous reviews.  Koets also made the team, which seems to be a surprise to some but not to me.  He’s a solid backup who will continue to improve.  Unfortunately, there was no room for FB Dwayne Wright, who I believe will be signed by someone before all is said and done.

New York’s first string offense once again moved the ball well.  It seemed from the outset that the goal of the game was to get the ball deep.  The Giants threw the long ball throughout the game on every down and distance situation there is.  The first period stats for the Giants were staggering:  9 for 9 passing for an astounding 224 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Another 22 yards came on the ground.  On defense, the Giants were equally as good, forcing three consecutive 3 and outs and giving up a net total of 3 yards while registering 2 sacks.  Dominant is the only word that describes the Giants in the first quarter.  Things began to unravel midway through the second period when the Giants starters finally left the game and the 2nd and 3rd stringers began to run the clock out.
Once again, throw caution to the wind as both the first team units played against Patriots that most likely won’t suit up again this season, if ever.  It was nice to see the Giants score some points, however.

The Quarterbacks: Starter QB Eli Manning played just one series and took only five plays to go 73 yards for the score.  Never under any pressure, he completed all three of his passes, and each was sharp and on the money.  That’s truly all the analysis that could be made on Eli in this game.

Backup QB David Carr continued to show improvement since the verbal tirade he endured from Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride during the Chicago game two weeks ago.  As was the case with Manning, Carr saw little pressure and completed all 6 of his passes, 2 for touchdowns.  All but one of those passes went for more than 10 yards, and that one was a 9 yarder itself.  Carr stayed in his pocket for the most part, but on his first touchdown pass a designed rollout was perfectly executed when he found WR Sinorice Moss alone on a crossing pattern in the end zone.

QBs Andre Woodson came into the game with 9:08 left in the second quarter and immediately got the Patriots back into the game when he threw a horrid interception as he bird dogged Mario Manningham on a deep in pattern that the NE safety gladly accepted as a gift, returning it for New England’s first score.  Woodson ended the night a sorry 6 – 19 for only 98 yards in just over a full half of play, as he worked well into the 4th quarter.  Woodson certainly has the arm strength to be a pro quarterback, and on the very next series he did a good job of moving to his right in the pocket, and finding nothing to his liking, found WR Mario Manningham deep down the center of the field but overthrew what would have been a sure touchdown.  Just before that play, Woodson threw a very sweet touch pass to the outside shoulder of Manningham for a 35 yard gain.  It’s these ups and downs, along with apparent ‘yips’ that he tends to develop due to his odd mechanics, that seem to be dooming Woodson.

QB Rhett Bomar got into the game for the last two series’ of the game and really didn’t get too much accomplished as he was running for his life nearly the entire time.  Bomar has a very, very quick and strong release that reminds me of a young Brett Favre.  Even though he threw an interception in the end zone at the end of the game, he did move the Giants effectively in a two minute drill in which he scrambled for good yards on two occasions, converting a 4th and 14 on one of them.  It’s been speculated that Bomar was being hidden this preseason in order to stash him on the PS, and that’s exactly where he ended up.

The Running Backs: HB Brandon Jacobs was in for just two series, and never got going.  He finished with just 4 yards on 4 carries.  Nothing opened up on any of his runs, and it was good to see him get out of their before one of the Pats’ backups succeeded in making a name for himself by being the one to injure him.  Once again Jacobs showed why he may be the best in the game at the blitz pickup as he easily thwarted a couple attempts in his short time playing.

HB Ahmad Bradshaw also had a relatively quiet night, finishing with just 31 yards on 9 carries.  Bradshaw made more poor decisions than good ones in this game, none worse than the 3rd and 1 carry in which he ran smack into the back of his right guard instead of slipping to his left where he’d have easily picked up 3 to 4 yards and the 1st down.  Once again, however, the real problem with Bradshaw was his inability to sustain any semblance of a block in the passing game.  On the deep throw from Woodson to WR Domenik Hixon, a timing play that was thrown quickly, succeeded only because of that fact.  On the play, Bradshaw went low at the feet of the corner coming in from the left side of Woodson and absolutely 100% whiffed.  It was as if he simply decided to face plant him some Astroturf.  Luckily, the ball was gone before the player could hit Carr.  And folks, that wasn’t his only miss.  The first sack on Woodson was also directly attributed to Bradshaw for not picking up the stunt to the inside.  The player ran RIGHT by Bradshaw who basically turned and watched him plant Woodson.  This was a key to my viewing, and frankly, Bradshaw is going to get Eli hurt if he’s in on obvious passing downs.  Both HB Danny Ware and HB Allen Patrick have been better than Bradshaw in this crucial area of the game.

HB Allen Patrick, as mentioned above, was scintillating in his ability to  identify, analyze and neutralize the blitz for the entire time he was in the game.  I believe he made the practice squad off of this game, combined with the loss of HB Andre Brown for the year.  As for his running, he looked like Ware or Ward Light out there, slashing and cutting for 50 yards on 8 carries.  Where the Patriots are successful at identifying talent at the QB position, the Giants are certainly successful at identifying and developing RB talent.  Patrick is just the latest in a long line of no names (Grant, Ward, Ware, Bradshaw, and even Jacobs to an extent) that come in, learn, and begin to contribute quickly.  If anything were to happen to one of the three headed monster, Patrick should be able to step in and contribute rather quickly.  Interestingly, Patrick also got a late kickoff return chance with which he did well.  It appears the Giants are trying to see just how versatile this kid can be.

FB Madison Hedgecock got most of the night off, but didn’t do too much while he was in the game.  It appeared on at least two runs, however, he was forced off his assignment to handle a player who penetrated due to the mistake of another player.  HB/FB Dwayne Wright was unspectacular in this game, but did lead Patrick through the hole a couple times.  Unfortunately for Wright, a true scrapper, the numbers game doomed him from the start.  Barring an injury to Hedgecock, he was never making this team.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: Will the real Giants receivers please stand up?!  Thursday was a huge step forward for several of the receivers.  It truly appeared that the entire focus of the first string offense was to go vertical early and often, and that they did.  Bubble boy WR Sinorice Moss had a breakout game, catching two first quarter touchdown passes on two extremely well run routes.  Frankly, they may be the best two routes he’s ever run.  Moss could have had a third touchdown as well, but Woodson badly over threw him as he was streaking down the right sideline.  Moss did have one drop on the night, but apparently showed enough to make the team despite not doing a ton on specials again.  On the opening kickoff, it was apparent that Moss was going to do whatever it took to make the team, as after a hesitant step, he stormed from 4 yards deep in the end zone for a 31 yard return out to the 27 yard line.

WR Steve Smith did not factor into the game.  No catches, and didn’t play much after the first few series.

WR Domenik Hixon got in on the deep act, hauling in a 38 yard pass from David Carr in which he made a great adjustment to make the catch.  That was pretty much the extent of Hixon’s night.

How about WR Mario Manningham?  Mario led the Giants with 4 receptions and 74 yards, and looked very impressive doing so.  The man seems to be open on every play.  I’m convinced that as long as Manningham has demonstrated to the staff that he understands and can make his reads, he will be starting in the very short term.  He’s the obvious choice to start in the slot, but I see this eventually being Nicks and Manningham on the outside with Smith back in the slot.  Manningham still makes some shaky catches on punt returns, but with practice he should be fine.  If he does take over at one of the flanker positions, however, that job will go back to Hixon.

Rookie WR Hakeem Nicks demonstrated something that we’ve been told he doesn’t have:  Speed after the catch.  Nicks made a very nice play to get up and over the defender on his 64 yard touchdown catch and run, make the catch, then outsprint the defender to the end zone.  Nicks, dare I say it, looked like Plaxico Burress in the NFC Championship game on that play.

WR Ramses Barden caught 2 passes, one on a WR screen that wasn’t as successful as others have been this summer.  In fact, most of the yardage on the play came from Barden picking his way down the field.  Barden also drew an interference penalty against the Pats as he boxed out the CB and had gained an advantage where he’d have been able to run for significant yardage after the catch.  The DB really had no other choice than to tackle him with the ball still in the air.

Camp standout WR Derek Hagan made this team primarily off of his special teams work, but was active in the passing game on Thursday catching 3 passes (one called back on an illegal man downfield penalty on LG Kevin Boothe).  On one of them, Hagan ran a text book hook on a 4th and 7 pass that netted 8 yards and a first down.  Hagan showed keen awareness as to where to sit down in order to convert the first down.  Hagan adds much needed quality to the special teams, and if he has cured his dropsies, could be a top flight WR in the NFL.  We may be looking at this years’ Hixon in Derek Hagan.

TE Kevin Boss caught 2 passes for an impressive 53 yards, the first a quick slant and run that put the Giants in business on the opening drive.  This is something I hope the Giants exploit often if opposing teams stack the box against the run.  Backup TE Michael Matthews caught one flare out pass from Woodson that gained a yard, but didn’t do much else.  Darcy Johnson did not catch a pass, but was very active again in both pass protection and in the running game.

The Offensive Line: With OTs David Diehl and Guy Whimper out of commission for this clash, the big worry on BBI was how green horn OT William Beatty would handle Eli’s blind side in this game.  No worries.  The rookie did a stellar job for the majority of the game, getting beat just once late for a sack and he also broke down on the Woodson interception, but that’s hardly his fault as Woodson had all day to throw before the pressure finally arrived.  While the first and second team offense was in the game, Beatty played his position as if he were out to prove something.  This is exactly the type of play expected of him at this point.  He’s learning, he’s progressing, and it’s showing up in the games.  He’s still got a long way to go but he’s obviously heading in the right direction.  As for the rest of the starting offensive line, most were out of the game after the first three very short series.  The line did not produce in the running game, but they did give Manning and Carr plenty of time to find their receivers.

Both backup guards Tutan Reyes and Kevin Boothe played well again.  Boothe did get called for an illegal man downfield penalty, but it seemed that he missed a check off as Carr stood up and threw a quick slant to Hagan.  Replay clearly showed Boothe getting to the second level to take on a linebacker.  For another odd reason, several BBI’ers thought Tutan and Boothe were both bubble players.  Frankly, their depth will be needed this year and I believe as long as they’re inside, the Giants can win games with them.

The Defense: The Giants first team defense thoroughly dominated the Pats wannabe’s.  They forced three straight 3 and outs, recorded two sacks, and it looked like CB Kevin Dockery had a sure interception early on that was ruled out of bounds.  Again, without the benefit of a telecast that gave a crap, there were no replays to see whether his second foot came down or not.  It sure looked like it did, though.

No matter how you spin this, however, the second and third strings need to hold a 21 point lead.  Granted, the Giants rushed with basically four down linemen for the entire second half, but the back seven looked like the Keystone Kops out there in the 2nd half.  The only thing missing was the Bennie Hill music.

Front 7: MLB Antonio Pierce made his return to the lineup but played sparingly.  The Giants were missing, once again, LB Michael Boley, DT/DE Chris Canty and DT Jay Alford (IR’d on Saturday) across the front 7.  Interestingly enough, the two guys we were most worried about due to their offseason knee surgeries, DTs Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins, have taken their normal places along the line and have looked fine doing so.  The line stuffed the run for the entire first half, and recorded two sacks.  DEs Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck were much more active on Thursday, with Tuck registering one sack on a beautifully timed stunt right up the middle.  Osi still seems to be running himself too wide and out of the play, but he’s just rounding into game shape after a full season off and will get better as the season progresses.

DE Dave Tollefson had a better game this week, but he still seems to miss a lot of tackles agains the run.  His competition wasn’t exactly Orlando Pace caliber, either.  DE Maurice Evans didn’t have his best game when he needed it most.  On one play, an apparent screen, Evans wrapped up the halfback in the hole and tackled him, apparently thinking he either had the ball or was going to make a huge gain on the screen and decided to take the 5 yards and automatic first down.

DE Mathias Kiwanuka did nothing to stand out in this game, and as I review my notes and look at the game stats I see why…he’s nowhere to be found.  I have no clue as to how long he even played.

The surprise bubble boy who made the team, in my opinion, was DT Leger Douzable.  After losing Alford, it certainly makes sense but he could still be on the bubble when Boley returns.  Leger was very active in this game, recording 7 tackles, 6 of them solo.  He’s played well this preseason and deserves the opportunity to contribute.

LBs Chase Blackburn and Danny Clark played sparingly, and neither showed up on the stat sheet, either.  As I’ve been touting all preseason, OLB Bryan Kehl  and MLB Jonathan Goff  are players.  Both were active and around the ball, thought they tend to get caught taking bad angles in the open field against backs catching the ball.  I anticipated both would make the squad, and until Boley returns it looks like both will stick.  As for OLB Gerris Wilkinson, he’s survived another training camp and is on the active roster.  Frankly, I believe he’s the odd man out when Boley returns, but he does play specials and did well there on Thursday.

OLB/DE Clint Sintim played with an apparent thumb injury he suffered during pre-game.  Once again, he was manhandled at the point of attack and did not register a pressure.  Sintim has regressed noticeably since his game against Carolina.

Defensive Backs: Terrell Thomas and Kevin Dockery started, and Corey Webster came into the game shortly after.  Thomas set the tone on defense with a sack on Pats QB Hoyer in which he nearly got the strip.  Hoyer only completed 3 short passes while the starting corners were in the game.  Dockery, as previously mentioned, appeared to have an interception erroneously called an incomplete pass out of bounds.

Safety C.C. Brown had one hell of a night.  On one play, he’d look great and on the next like a bum.  He made a couple great plays against the run and one very good play where he planted the NE tight end after a 2 yard pass.  But in the secondary, he looked lost, missing tackle after tackle.  He was also flagged for roughing the passer, which kept a NE drive alive.  Travonti Johnson also picked the ONE game he least could afford to look bad in to, well, look bad.  It’s entirely possible he lost a roster spot because of his late hit on a defenseless receiver that kept a NE touchdown drive alive.  That said, Johnson was still in on 8 tackles and again played well against the run.

If FS Michael Johnson played, I didn’t see it.  He also doesn’t show up in the stat sheet.

Special Teams: P Jeff Feagles continues to amaze.  It is thoroughly impossible to be as good at kicking an oblong, inflated piece of leather that far and accurately.  His worth is incalculable.

K Lawrence Tynes hit both of his field goals and all three extra points on Thursday, despite a couple of shaky snaps that Feagles was able to corral.  His kickoffs, however, weren’t as good as they had been with a couple not even reaching the 10 yard line.  He did, however, get one into the end zone.  His bonehead play resulting in a roughing penalty did, however, set the Pats up for their first score by giving them field position at the Giants 33 yard line.

Offensive Player of the Game: Since I gave the Honorable Mention to David Carr last week, I’m going to up the ante and give him the award this week and give Sinorice Moss the Honorable Mention this week.

Defensive Player of the Game: No one really distinguished themselves after the first three series, so I’m giving this to Kevin Dockery for his nearly incredible interception in the first quarter plus the fact that he took one for the team and played a ton of snaps in this game.

(Box Score – New York Giants at New England Patriots, September 3, 2009)
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