Oct 312010

Article on the 2010 New York Giants: Fast Start Feels Different to These Giants by Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com

Article on Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride and Offensive Quality Control Coach Kevin Gilbride, Jr.: Having Joined Father on Giants Coaching Staff, Kevin Gilbride Jr. Making Name for Himself by Zach Berman of The Star-Ledger

Articles on HB Ahmad Bradshaw:

Article on WR Victor Cruz: Giants WR Victor Cruz Staying Positive Despite Season-Ending Hamstring Injury by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger

Article on DE Osi Umenyiora: Umenyiora Making a Giant Difference by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post

Oct 292010

Mathias Kiwanuka’s Season Over: The Giants have placed DE Mathias Kiwanuka on Injured Reserve, thus ending his 2010 NFL season. Kiwanuka has missed the last four games with a herniated cervical disc in his neck. He had sought the opinion of five different medical specialists before this decision was made.

“It’s painful for us to go this route with Kiwi, but we’ve exhausted all of our options,” said General Manager Jerry Reese. “What’s most important is for him to get healthy. We’re praying and hopeful that by next fall he will be back at 100 percent and playing for the New York Giants.”

“We held out hope as long as we could,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “Finally, by consensus, the doctors came to this decision. You have to make the right choice and the decision was made that he could not play again this season. My concern is for Mathias. He loves the game, he loves to play, he’s proven his versatility this year beyond any question. He’s given great effort and he has proven that he is a team player. I feel badly for Mathias because I know how important playing the game of football is to him. Let’s get him healthy, back on the field, playing for the New York Giants.”

“Like I said before, I felt like, given enough time, I could’ve made it back this season, but it’s the nature of the business,” Kiwanuka said. “The Giants had to move on, and I had to be okay with it. Regardless of what happens to me as an individual, I’m definitely still going to work with the Giants organization throughout the term of my contract. I know this team is going be successful, so I’m excited to watch it.”

If there is a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, given the fact that Kiwanuka’s contract expires after this season, Kiwanuka may have played his last game with the Giants.

Kiwanuka said he hopes to avoid surgery on the neck. “I want to avoid surgery,” said Kiwanuka. “The consensus is that if I take the proper amount of time off, there is a very good chance that it’ll heal on its own. That’s what the goal is right now. If it doesn’t happen, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. Regardless of whether or not it requires surgery, I’ll still be back by the opening of training camp.”

New York Giants Sign Will Blackmon: The Giants have signed CB/Returner Will Blackmon. Blackmon was waived off of the Packers’ Injured Reserve in September. He tore a knee ligament early in the 2009 season.

“Blackmon had a very good workout for us and showed that he has recovered nicely from a serious knee injury,” General Manager Jerry Reese said. “We expect him to get into the mix quickly on special teams. He has experience and production as a return specialist and cover specialist. He also has played both safety and corner, which gives us some flexibility there as well.”

“He has return experience and secondary experience,” Head Coach Tom Coughlin said. “He’s a veteran coming back off a (knee) injury. He’s been an outstanding returner in this league, and he’s been a contributor on special teams as well as on defense.”

“It’s awesome,” Blackmon said of joining the Giants. “I was hoping I could finally get back on the field and make things happen. This opportunity opened up and I’m excited and my wife is excited. My knee is doing very well. I wouldn’t be out there if I couldn’t perform. I wasn’t going to come here and give the Giants 80 percent of me. I’m feeling good.”

Ironically, DE Mathias Kiwanuka roomed with Blackmon at Boston College and it is Kiwanuka’s roster spot that Blackmon is taking. “I was excited and heard there was a chance that he might come here, so I’ve been talking him up around the locker room,” said Kiwanuka. “Man, he’s a great player. I told everybody he’s definitely the most talented and gifted athlete that I ever played football with, hands down. He made the switch from DB to wide receiver and didn’t miss a beat, and obviously he is a very talented return guy, too. He can do it all.”

Article on the Giants’ Defense: The Big Blue Wrecking Crew? by Aditi Kinkhabwala of The Wall Street Journal

Oct 282010
New York Giants 41 (5-2) – Dallas Cowboys 35 (1-5)

by The Hack for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary: And now, a Message…from the New York Giants:

“You know, we do things professionally up here in New York.  We can’t help it.  Resiliency runs deep in the heart of EVERY Giant.  We also know, that professional is always better than bigger.  And so far this season, we’re on our way to getting it done.  It’s ALWAYS time to focus on the little things.  The details that WILL…not CAN…mean the difference between victory and defeat.  And…AS ALWAYS…that’s just what we’re going to do.

“In a great new stadium, before the greatest fans ever, the Giants will continue to carry on a legacy built on the humility of tremendous ownership and players that are larger than life.

“Another battle between bitter rivals, and once again, arrogance humbled.  All this on Monday Night.  It doesn’t get any more professional than that.”

Stick it in your ear, Jerrah!

Finally, the New York Giants are in to their divisional schedule.  First up, the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas.  This was absolutely the perfect scenario going in to the bye week, provided they would win:  Take care of business and bury the Cowboys deep in the cellar of the NFC East division, then enjoy a well deserved rest before coming back for the stretch run.

It worked out perfectly.  After spotting the Cowboys a 10 point lead and later allowing them to extend it to 13 when the Giants allowed a 93 yard punt return for a touchdown, New York settled down and scored 17 late second half points to claim a lead they would never relinquish going in to halftime.

Now, going into the bye, the Giants are on a 4 game winning streak, hold 1st place in the NFC East, and are currently the #1 seed in the NFC.

If you were unaware of the score and only had the stat sheet to go by at halftime, you’d swear the Giants were up by a few touchdowns.

The Giants ran 40 plays making 15 1st downs, rushed for 105 yards on just 18 carries (5.8 ypc avg), passed for 167 yards, converted 3 of 3 opportunities in the Green Zone and held the ball for nearly 20 minutes.

Dallas ran just 22 plays making 5 1st downs, rushed for 36 yards on 10 carries (3.6 ypc avg), passed for just 39 yards net, converted 1 of 2 opportunities in the Green Zone and held the ball for just over 10 minutes.

There were several reasons the score was close at halftime, and again close at the end of the game.  Concentrating on the first half, the Giants made a litany of errors while Dallas pumped in a few brain cramps as well:

  1. The Giants committed three turnovers.  The first were interceptions on their first 2 drives, and each set the Cowboys up with a 1st and 10 inside the Green Zone.  The Cowboys converted the first into a short touchdown pass and the second into a short field goal.  The third turnover was a Brandon Jacobs fumble that was also converted into a field goal by Dallas.
  2. The turnovers created a huge starting field position advantage for Dallas in the first half, with their average drive starting position being the Giants 48, while the average for the Giants was their own 27.
  3. Dallas was unable to convert a golden opportunity in the Green Zone into a touchdown following New York’s second interception just minutes into the game.
  4. After a booming 69 yard Matt Dodge punt to the Dallas 7 yard line, the shoddy New York coverage team allowed a 93 yard touchdown return to WR/PR Dez Bryant.
  5. Miles Austin dropped a sure touchdown that would’ve widened the 10 point lead to 14.
  6. With a chance to stop the bleeding and possibly re-take the lead on the last drive of the half, Dallas’ Jason Witten committed an uncharacteristic fumble.
  7. On the final drive of the half, Eli Manning missed a wide open Steve Smith in the endzone that would’ve been a sure touchdown provided a better throw.

At first it seemed truly hard to believe that the Giants were down 10 – 0 after just 6 minutes elapsed and then 20 – 7 with just 20 minutes gone yet were able to take the lead before halftime.  After a closer look, however, it was pretty easy to see why.

Though the Cowboys had 20 points at that point in the game, the Cowboys never put any sort of meaningful drive together at any point in the first half.  The first Dallas touchdown was a 2 play drive that covered 5 yards.  Their second drive was just 6 plays covering 10 yards resulting in a short field goal.  On their third drive, again starting with good field position at their own 40 yard line, Dallas stalled after 5 plays and 21 yards at the New York 39.

The 39 yard line is a sort of no man’s land area where the decision to punt, go for it, or attempt a long field goal is generally decided by how the game is going .  It may not have seemed pivotal at the time, but Dallas elected not to attempt a long field goal or attempt to convert the 4th and 3.  At this point in the game, Dallas was up 10 – 7 and another Dallas touchdown could have killed the Giants’ psyche.  As it turned out, Dallas downed the ball on the Giants’ 1 yard line but an astute challenge by the Giants coaching staff identified the gunner who downed it also was the first person to touch the ball after being legally chucked out of bounds.  That resulted in a touchback, and just a net 19 yard field position change.  Again, maybe it’s a little subtle, but at home with the Giants offense reeling a bit, it may have been worth trying to pick up the 3 yards needed for a 1st down.

On the next Dallas drive, once again gift wrapped by a Giants turnover and starting field position on the Giants 43, they moved just 20 yards on 5 plays and converted another short field goal.  After that, the Cowboys had the long punt return for a touchdown and then did absolutely nothing on their final two drives of the half except turn the ball over on a fumble and giving the Giants the opportunity to get 3 of the turnover points back.

The Giants caught fire with about 10 minutes left in the second quarter, and burned so hot for a stretch through to the 4th quarter that they almost flamed out, allowing the Cowboys to narrow an 18 point lead to just 6 over the last 4 minutes of the game.  How, you ask?  Again, it was turnovers that nearly killed the Giants as they committed two more late in the game.  The final one, another bad decision interception by Manning, kept embers that were nearly out burning for the Cowboys.

Overall, the Giants dominated the stats as they ran up nearly 500 total yards of offense to just 254 for the Cowboys.  They held the Cowboys to 0-10 on 3rd downs, the second time this year they did not allow an opponent to convert a 3rd down.

Offense: The Giants’ offense was an enigma on Monday night.  At times they appeared to be the most inept group in the league, and at others looked like the greatest offense that ever played.

The Giants had sixteen drives on Monday night, and only 4 were over 5 plays long (2 six play drives, 1 seven play drive and 1 eleven play drive).  The Giants scored on 7 drives and turned the ball over on 5 drives.  Mix in 3 punts and a kneel down drive and you can see the Giants were pretty much all hit or all miss the entire night.  3 of the turnovers gave Dallas field position in the Green Zone, and another was in Giants territory.  The offense turned the ball over on 3 of their first 4 drives and 2 of their last 3.  In between, they nearly scored at will, and did over 5 straight possessions bridging the 2nd and 3rd quarters.  All in all, the Giants offensive mistakes set up the Dallas offense, converting them into 21 total points.

The Giants now have the overall number 2 offense in the league, number 1 overall in the NFC.  They’re also number 4 in rushing n the NFL, and again number 1 in the NFC.  The Giants attack was once again a model of balance as they attempted to pass 36 times and ran the ball 37 times.  Interestingly, the Giants came out firing, passing on 5 of their first 7 snaps.  After 2 quick interceptions, and getting down 20-7, the Giants did not panic and kept at the run while hammering away at the Dallas lead.

The Giants have got to tighten up with ball protection.  They’ve now turned the ball over 21 times in just 7 games.  This game easily could have gone the way of the Titan’s game had the offense not pulled together.   At the moment, there are 13 teams with a turnover differential of -2 or worse (Giants are -5), and of them, only the Giants, Saints (also at -5) and Ravens (-2) have winning records.

The Quarterback: Once again, we saw one of the best QB’s in the game literally pick apart a very good defense for most of the game and then throw a baffling interception.  The first two interceptions were iffy.  While some people will make the argument that he threw the ball too high, others will point to the fact that the receivers got their hands on the ball so therefore should have caught them.  Interestingly, Dallas also had several errant balls tipped by their receivers, yet every one fluttered harmlessly to the ground.  It truly is uncanny how many tipped balls are going for interceptions.  By my count, that’s at least 6 and possibly 7 balls that could’ve been caught but instead became turnovers.

The third interception, however, is a different story.  With just 3:35 to go in the game coming out of a time out on a 3rd and 5 from the Dallas 47 yard line and an 18 point lead, Manning threw a horrible pass into the flat for Bear Pascoe that never had a chance to succeed.  Keith Brooking intercepted the ball and returned it to the Giants’ 15 yard line, where Dallas began their desperate comeback.  The pass was unnecessary.  At that point, the only way the Cowboys could get back into the game was by the Giants committing turnovers.  Eli knows better than to throw that ball in that situation.

Manning’s numbers, other than the 3 interceptions, were exceptional.  Eli was 25 – 35 (71.4% completion rate) for 306 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Even with the 3 interceptions, Eli’s QBR was 100.4.  Eli is ranked 6th in the NFL in passing yards (1,785), 5th in the league in completion percentage (65.7), tied for 1st in touchdowns (14), 14th in the league in QBR (88.3), and 1st in the league in interceptions (11).  At one point in a stretch spanning the 2nd and 3rd quarters, Eli completed 19 of 22 passes.

Manning attacked the Cowboys down the field on Monday night, throwing 30 of his 35 attempts to his wide outs.  Even his attempt to TE Travis Beckum was on a play where Beckum was lined up wide to Eli’s left.

There was a discussion in The Corner Forum early this week on whether Eli Manning was an elite QB.  Defining “elite” is not an easy endeavor.  Manning has all the tools and the intangibles to be one of the best QBs in the league.  If not for a handful of passes that have been tipped for interceptions, Eli’s QBR would be significantly higher, placing him at least statistically in the top 5 in all major categories this season.

Corner Forum contributor “Wellington” noted in one of his posts,

“Let’s put it this way he completed 25 of 35 pass attempts and threw 3 picks. One pick hit Brooking right in the numbers, the other picks were way off target passes to the receivers both times those receivers were bracketed in/out by defenders (whether on purpose or not) with a safety behind them.  His second incompletion was a ball that hit Terrence Newman in the hands. Two more incompletions were play action fakes in which he went deep downfield against double coverage – one to Nicks which was expertly played by Jenkins, the other to Smith which he couldn’t come down with.  He did come down with one later on but it was an amazing play on his part.

Those are not balls that get away from the guy, those are bad decisions.  He should be past this (stuff).  He’s also been wildly inaccurate to start games. Couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn against Chicago and Indy.

If he eliminates the bad decisions, he is a top 5 QB in the league for sure.”

I believe there is a lot of merit to that statement.  Eli does seem to start a lot of games cold and then go on a hot streak.  On the one play noted above, the deep ball to Nicks into double coverage, Manning had a 1st and 15 at his own 24 following a false start on Shawn Andrews.  It appeared he simply took a chance, and considering Dallas’ secondary was in disarray due to injuries, it wasn’t necessarily a bad decision.

Eli is a risk taker.  As such, there will be those head scratching throws from time to time.  The thing is, Manning probably couldn’t care much less about his personal stats, as his only goal is to win.  And there is no mistaking that Eli is a winner.  Another facet to Eli’s game that sometimes gets overlooked is his ability to manage the line of scrimmage and the way he sets his protections and reads defenses to put the team in an optimal position to win the current play.  I’m sure BBI remembers the days when Eli did not have the autonomy to change a play at the line.  Tiki Barber mentioned that they knew plays were doomed to fail the second they saw the defensive alignment because there was nothing they could do to change the play.  Now, Eli not only effectively reads the defense and changes the play, he’s got the rest of the team understanding what he’s trying to do and executing with him.  That is an elite function.

The Running Backs: HB Ahmad Bradshaw is the leading rusher in the NFL.  Following a slow start, Bradshaw ended up with 126 yards on 24 carries (a 5.3 ypc avg).  More and more, Bradshaw is looking like Tiki Barber in his prime, but with more power and then uncanny ability to consistently fall forward for positive yardage out of what look like sure losses.  Granted, the offensive line is really helping the Giants running statistics right now, but Bradshaw’s ability to repeatedly make something out of nothing is really helping as well.  Currently Bradshaw leads the league with runs of 20 yards or more with 10.  The two backs roundly considered the best in the NFL, Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson, have just 3 and 5 respectively.

One thing that bears watching with Bradshaw is his workload.  Last season, Bradshaw rushed the ball 163 times, an average of just under 11 times per game, for 778 yards.  This season, Bradshaw is on pace for 306 carries and more than 1,600 yards.  That’s a gigantic increase, but game by game it’s basically 8 touches per game.  Bradshaw is running hard and seems to be in tip top condition going in to the bye.  There is no obvious reason at this time to think he won’t be able to continue at this pace.

Brandon Jacobs also had a very good night, gashing the Dallas defense for 75 yards on just 12 carries (6.3 ypc avg) and a 30 yard touchdown.  It seemed that the tenor of the game changed a bit when Jacobs entered the game and began battering the defense.  At the time of his fumble, which followed 2 rushes up the middle for 9 and then 8 yards, one got the feeling that the game had changed in New York’s favor and it was a matter of time before the Dallas defense would be worn out completely by the combination of trying to chase down Bradshaw and absorb the hits from Brandon Jacobs.  Unfortunately, there was the fumble.

On his touchdown run, Jacobs had nowhere to go inside where the play was designed, so he bounced it off tackle and took it 30 yards down the sidelines for the touchdown.  It’s interesting that there has been no complaining in The Corner Forum about Jacobs going east and west on that particular play!

The only problem with the running game is the continued fumbling.  Jacobs had one at a critical time when the Giants were trying to claw back in to the game, and Bradshaw had one with 6 minutes left in the game as the Giants were trying to run out the clock.  The backs have got to hold on to the ball.

Bear Pascoe continues to shine at the fullback position.  Much like the road grader he was against Detroit, he managed to get to the second level and take LB Keith Brooking for a ride on several occasions.  On the opening drive of the third quarter, three times he obliterated Brooking.  On Jacobs’ 30 yard TD run, Cowboys DE Stephen Bowen beat David Diehl to the inside, forcing Pascoe to amend his block and pick him up.  That shut down the counter hole that Jacobs was looking for on that side, but saved a tackle in the backfield and allowed Jacobs to bounce it outside and take it for a TD.  A very heady play by Pascoe.

Incidentally, two of the hardest tackles of the night were made by Bradshaw on Terrance Newman following his interception and by Jacobs when he body slammed Keith Brooking following his interception.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: The Giants’ receivers were active early and often in this game.  The big three of Manningham, Smith and Nicks were targeted 29 times on Monday night.  While Hakeem is getting the accolades after another multi touchdown performance (targeted 14 times, 9 catches for 108 yards and 2 TDs), really the star was Steve Smith, who had a stellar game in the middle of the field.  Smith caught 9 of 11 passes thrown his way for 101 yards and 1 TD.  Smith’s 32 yard catch over the middle in double coverage when he managed to out-leap the defenders and come down with the catch was an extremely key play in the game.  At the time, the Giants were down 20 – 7.  The play invigorated the offense and got Manning going on his hot streak as they completed the drive for their second touchdown of the night.

Both Manningham and Nicks once again displayed incredible toe-tapping ability on the sidelines with seemingly impossible catches that kept drives going.  Manningham caught 3 passes for 40 yards and a touchdown in which he made an incredible move between two defenders to get into the end zone.  One thing to keep an eye on as the season goes forward is whether Nicks learns to carry the ball against his body.  Too often he holds the ball like the proverbial “Loaf of Bread”, and sooner or later he’s going to lose one.  That should be an area of concern and a coachable situation.

As much discussion that was given to how the Cowboys may have the best receiving corps in the business (with an overachieving Austin Miles, an underachieving Roy Williams, and rookie Dez Bryant), it sure appears that more attention should be given to the growing prowess of the Giants receiving corps.  One intangible that is noticed often by BBI’ers but isn’t spoken of often by the talking heads is the outstanding downfield blocking and Z in blocking the Giants get from their wide receivers.  Though young, all three are among the best in the league at this.

The tight ends, Travis Beckum and Kevin Boss, were not targeted much in this game as Eli elected to play outside the numbers and over the top while at times taking the crossing routes by the wide receivers.  Shawn Andrews continues to excel in the running game as the second TE on both running and receiving plays.

Offensive Line: The Giants offensive line had arguably their best game of the year.  Against one of the best defensive front sevens in the game, the line opened up holes seemingly at will, pulled to make pancake blocks in both the running and passing blocks, never let the Cowboys set the edge.  In the passing game, the line gave up just 1 sack to DeMarcus Ware and company, and just two other QB hits (none by Ware) in 36 drop backs by Eli.  C Shaun O’Hara, with occasional help from his guards, effectively neutralized All Pro NT Jay Ratliff all night long.  Teams do not run up 500 total yards against Dallas.  They do not run for 201 yards and a 5.4 ypc average.

Guards Chris Snee and Rich Suebert had stellar games leading the backs to the hole with exceptional blocks pulling both ways.  Snee seemed to be in the Cowboys secondary all night.  Additionally, the Giants WR screen plays worked to perfection due to them getting out and making the initial blocks to spring the receivers.

Enough can’t be said about how well Ts David Diehl and Kareem McKenzie performed against Ware, Marcus Spears, Igor Olshansky, and Anthony Spencer.   They were, for 95% of the night, non factors in the pass rush.

Finally, how about Shawn Andrews playing the blocking TE?  Honestly, there seems to be no reason whatsoever to move Pascoe back to that position when Hedgecock is ready to return.  This is working, and there is no sane reason to change it.

Defense: The Giants defense saved this game.  Yes, the Giants gave up 35 points but if you look closer, it wasn’t the defenses fault.  First, the defense only gave up 28 points, as the special teams accounted for giving up 7.  Second, the defense twice held the Cowboys to 2 field goals after they were set up in Giants territory following turnovers.  Finally, 2 of Dallas’ touchdown ‘drives’ started at the Giants 5 and 15 respectively.  In between, the defense forced two turnovers and 6 consecutive 3 and outs by Dallas.  On the night, Dallas had only 2 sustained drives, one of 11 plays and the other of 8 and both came in garbage time.

Statistically, the Giants now have the number 2 defense in the NFL, number 1 in the NFC.  The Giants are number 3 in the NFL against the rush, giving up an average of 87 yards per game.  They’re number 2 in the NFL against the pass, allowing 177 yards per game through the air.  They’re 3rd in the league with 27 sacks.  Though they’re in the middle of the pack with 7 interceptions, they lead the league in forced fumbles (15) and recovered fumbles (9).

Once again, the Giants’ standing game plan of stopping the run first was in full effect.  While the Cowboys didn’t have to do much to earn the 20 first half points that they got, they had no chance at all during the other 4 drives in the half.  The Cowboys gained just 36 yards rushing and only had 75 total yards and went 0-4 on 3rd down.

The 3rd quarter was total domination for the Giants defense.  Dallas had 4 drives, all 3 and outs resulting in a punt, and gained just 12 yards.  In fact, due to penalty, Dallas had a net of 2 yards in the entire quarter.

Front 7: The Giants have learned that they can rely on their front four to get significant pressure on the opposing QB.  Though the Giants still send a variety of blitzes from the linebacker, safety and CB positions, on Monday night they mainly got after Tony Romo and Jon Kitna with their down linemen.  They did LB Michael Boley more often than usual, and he ended up with a sack and 3 QB hits.  The Giants ended up with 3 sacks on the night, but also had 7 QB hits.

The interior of the line, specifically Canty and Cofield, had outstanding nights.  Canty had 3 tackles, all at the line of scrimmage while Cofield had 2 tackles, a sack, a pass defensed and 2 forced fumbles.   The light is on; Cofield is playing superb football this season.  Umenyiora, Tuck and Paul-Pierre all had solid games and provided constant pressure on the QB as well as keeping the Dallas backs from going wide at any point in the game, turning them in to the heat.

The linebacking corps, led by Michael Boley (4 tackles to go with his sack and 3 QB hits), effectively took primary target (targeted 13 times) TE Jason Witten out of the game.  Although Witten had an early TD when Boley unwittingly released him into a void in the coverage and also had 9 catches for 95 yards, he was completely invisible on 3rd down.  Containing Witten is priority number 2 after stopping the running game, and the Giants did a very good job of keeping him underneath the coverage for short gains.  Taking away his longest gain of 24 yards, Witten averaged about 6 yards per catch.

Of 40 passing attempts, the Cowboys attempted to go to their wideouts only 21 times, completing just 7 of them for 92 yards.  Much of that came late in the game, as well.  That is all you need to know about the lack of time that the Cowboys QBs had to throw the ball.  The front 7 did a magnificent job of getting the Cowboys to get rid of the ball.

Defensive Backs:  As noted in the last paragraph, the Cowboys wideouts caught just 7 passes for a total of 92 yards.  Not once did Terrell Thomas or Corey Webster allow themselves to get beaten deep, nor did they allow the extremely speedy Dallas receivers do anything with the ball after the catch. Thomas played a very physical game, which is exactly what he said he wanted to do in his interview posted on Giants.com last week.  Thomas tied for the team lead with 6 tackles and also had a pass defensed.

As for Webster, during the game the crack announcing team (you, like me, could listen to them all day every day, can’t you?) delivered a statistic that opposing teams have only thrown against Webster 25 times, completing just 9 of them.  Webster is a Pro Bowl caliber DB.  He took Miles Austin completely out of the game (though Austin did drop 2 passes).  Webster had just 2 tackles and 1 pass defensed, and you hardly heard his name called all game.  Just how you like it.

The safeties continue to dominate play for the Giants.  Antrel Rolle had another steady, solid game.  Early on, he set a tone with a hard tackle on Jason Witten.  Witten never saw Rolle coming as he crossed the middle, and that’s exactly the kind of situation where a receiver gets lit up by a defensive back.  Instead of going for the kill shot, Rolle led with his shoulder and planted Witten legally, and hard.  That’s leadership, folks.  Rolle, a hard-nosed player who likes to attack the ball carrier with malice, considered the situation and the stakes and chose to be a team player and avoid a possible penalty, fine, or suspension.  And, as mentioned, it was a hard tackle that set a tone.  Soon after, Terrell Thomas had a similar hard tackle.

Deon Grant was the lucky recipient of a 10 yard sack on John Kitna by following a stunt by Barry Cofield.  Kitna held the ball for seeming a minute before Grant got to him.  He also did a great job of following up the play after his initial hit on Witten just before the half.  He didn’t make the tackle, but got back up and into the play and when Barry Cofield forced a fumble, he was astute in picking up the loose ball despite the whistles blowing.  That resulted in a fumble recovery following a booth initiated review, which led to 3 more Giants points before the half.  The Giants are taught to jump on every loose ball, regardless of the whistle, and on that play it paid off.  Grant has proven to be one hell of an offseason pickup.  Thought to be a depth move, Grant has become an integral part of the defense.

Kenny Phillips was active as the free safety, keeping the Cowboys from exploiting the middle of the field.

Special Teams: Who was the player that donned Lawrence Tynes’ uniform and went out there kicking the hell out of the football?  Tynes had a phenomenal night.  Tynes was flawless on his 5 extra points, and also hit 2 FGs, a career long of 53 and another from 26 yards out.  Amazingly, the 53 yarder came after making a 43 yarder that was called back for a hold right before the half.

If that wasn’t enough, how about the kickoffs?  Tynes kicked off 8 times, reaching the end zone on 6 and causing 3 touchbacks.  Yes, 6 kickoffs into the endzone…and 3 touchbacks…in the same game.

The kickoff return team also had a very solid night, holding the Cowboys to just one long return of 41 yards by Owusu-Ansah.  Overall, on 5 returns, the Cowboys averaged just 19.2 yards.  The best play of the night was a fake lateral by Dez Bryant after he brought the ball out of the endzone.  Chase Blackburn didn’t buy the fake and planted Bryant at the 8 yard line.

Matt Dodge deserved better.  His 69 yard punt against the right sideline at the Cowboys 3 yard line should have been covered rather easily.  However, even though they effectively removed half the field from Bryant reserve WR Duke Calhoun (the gunner on that side) took a poor angle and no one else could get to the speedy Bryant before he was in the clear.  Other than that, Dodge had just 2 other punts and both were wisely kicked out of bounds.

Darius Reynaud is not the answer as a return man for the Giants.  Granted, the blocking isn’t exactly the best in the league but when you have 6 opportunities to return a kick and can’t crack anything longer than a 16 yard return, something’s got to change.  As Corner Forum contributor DelBlue91 posted on Wednesday and as I’ve been reporting in these reviews since pre-season, the Giants are losing the battle of the ‘hidden’ yardage you gain or lose on Special Teams.

We all know and see how bad our special teams have been this year, even though this past week Tynes and Dodge both took some nice steps forward in their respective kicking games.   I wanted to see some numbers on return yardage and field position and here they are:

Average Kickoff Return Yardage- 17.5 yards (tied for last in the NFL with the Browns)

Average Punt Return Yardage- 5.9 yards (30th in the NFL)

These numbers I think (are) more important:

Average Starting Field Position for our Offense- 29.5 yard line (19th in the NFL)

Average Starting Field Position for our Defense- 34.3 yard line (30th in the NFL)

Our Net- -4.8 yards (30th in the NFL)

Just some statistics that I found interesting”

That’s pretty much the story.  Two areas during a football game where you can change the balance of power are in special teams and in the turnover battle.  Right now, the Giants are winning despite the great odds against doing so when you’re performing poorly in these areas.

Coaching: Tom Coughlin has lost this team.  Fire him.  The players have tuned him out.  Fire him.  He’s old and his methods are no longer effective.  Fire him. Blah, blah, freakin’ blah…

HC Tom Coughlin deserves high praise for keeping his team poised and under control in a hostile environment against a desperate team after going down 20 – 7 in the first half.  With everything that could go wrong going wrong, he settled the offense down and refused to abandon the running game.  It was also nice to see him congratulate Matt Dodge on the sideline after his second punt, showing the kid he’s got confidence in him.  Finally, how about the staff not only realizing that the first man to touch the punt that was downed on the 1 yard line did so illegally, but also realizing it was a challengeable play?

Another great defensive game plan from Perry Fewell, basically eliminated the Dallas running game along with their vertical passing game.

Offensive Player of the Game: Despite the three interceptions, Eli Manning deserves the nod for catching white hot fire in the second quarter of this game and leading the Giants to 31 unanswered points over an 18 minute period spanning the 2nd and 3rd quarters.  As mentioned, at one point in that span Manning completed 18 of 21 passes.

Defensive Player of the Game: Barry Cofield and Chris Canty share the DPOG honors this week as the interior of the Giants line completely dominated and shut down the Dallas running game and also was able to get consistent pass rush.  When those two play like they did on Monday night, opposing offenses will be completely 1 dimensional.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, October 25, 2010)
Oct 282010

New York Giants Workout Will Blackmon: According to The Star-Ledger, the Giants worked out defensive back/returner Will Blackmon yesterday. Blackmon was drafted in the 4th round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers, but the Packers waived him off of Injured Reserve after an injury settlement. Blackmon tore knee ligaments during a game in 2009.

Article on HB Ahmad Bradshaw: Leading the NFL in Yardage a Rush for Giants’ Ahmad Bradshaw by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger

Article on S Deon Grant: Giants Safeties Coach David Merritt Pleased With How Deon Grant Has Accepted His Role by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger

Notes: The Giants are now off until next Monday.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last four games are first time the Giants have allowed fewer than 65 rushing yards in four consecutive games since the stats were first kept in 1933.

Oct 272010

Justin Tuck and Antrel Rolle on WFAN: The audio clips of yesterday’s interviews with the following players are available at CBSNewYork.com:

Notes: In seven seasons under Tom Coughlin, the Giants have been 5-2 after seven games six times. The only time they were not 5-2 was 2008, when the Giants were 6-1.

The Giants’ game against the Cowboys was the eighth consecutive Monday night game in which the Giants were the visiting team (including the 2005 game vs. New Orleans that was played in Giants Stadium). The Giants have not been the home team on a Monday night since September 15, 2003, a 35-32 overtime loss to Dallas. The Giants are 20-31-1 on Monday night.

The Giants improved to 17-5 (.773) in games prior to a regular-season bye. They are 5-2 in pre-bye games under Coughlin.

The Giants’ defense limited Dallas to 41 rushing yards. The Cowboys were the fourth consecutive Giants’ opponent to run for less than 65 yards.

The Cowboys were 0-for-10 on third down conversion attempts. Dallas was the second Giants opponent this season to fail to convert a third down. Chicago was 0-for-13 on October 3rd.

Tony Romo is the fifth quarterback this season to be knocked out of a game by the Giants’ defense. The others were Carolina’s Matt Moore, Chicago’s Jay Cutler and Todd Collins, and Detroit’s Shaun Hill.

Oct 262010

Giants Prevail in Wild Game in Dallas: The Giants won their fourth straight game by defeating the division rival Dallas Cowboys 41-35 in a wild game on Monday night. The victory gives the Giants a 5-2 record heading into the bye week. The Giants are currently all alone in first place in the NFC East.

The Giants fell behind 20-7 in the second quarter, then scored 31 unanswered points in the second and third quarter to take a 38-20 lead into the fourth quarter. But Dallas scored 15 points in the 4th quarter and the Cowboys were only officially dead when LB Clint Sintim recovered an onside kick at the end of the game.

The Giants out-gained the Cowboys in first downs (25 to 14), total net yards (497 to 254), net yards rushing (200 to 41), net yards passing (297 to 213), and time of possession (37:31 to 22:29). The Cowboys were also held to 0-of-10 on third down conversions. So how was the game so close? The Giants turned the football over five times and also allowed a special teams touchdown.

The game started off extremely poorly for New York as QB Eli Manning was intercepted on each of the Giants’ first two possessions. The first turnover set up the Cowboys at the Giants’ 5-yard line and the second at the Giants’ 18-yard line. The Cowboys turned these turnovers into a quick 10-0 lead.

On the Giants’ third drive, New York drove 79 yards in 11 plays and cut the Dallas advantage to 10-7 when Manning found WR Hakeem Nicks for a 7-yard score. But on the Giants’ next possession, they turned the football over again when HB Brandon Jacobs fumbled the ball away at the Giants’ 43-yard line. Five plays later, Dallas kicked a 41-yard field goal to go up 13-7. On this possession, the Giants knocked Cowboys’ QB Tony Romo out of the game with a broken left clavicle.

However, things got worse for the Giants as New York could not move the ball on their next possession. Dallas returned P Matt Dodge’s 69-yard punt 93 yards for a touchdown and took what appeared to be a commanding 20-7 advantage.

Nevertheless, from the point of the game, the Giants dominated until the 4th quarter. The Giants scored 31 unanswered points. 17 of those points came in the second quarter as the Giants drove 80 yards in 7 plays (end result being an 8-yard touchdown pass to Nicks), 56 yards in five plays (14-yard touchdown pass to WR Steve Smith), and then PK Lawrence Tynes hit a 53-yard field goal right before halftime.

At the intermission, the Giants led 24-20.

In the third quarter, the Giants kept piling on. After a three-and-out by the Cowboys, the Giants drove 55 yards in five plays with Manning hitting WR Mario Manningham for a 25-yard score. It was Manning’s fourth touchdown pass of the game. After another Dallas three-and-out, the Giants drove 70 yards in 6 plays to go up 38-20. Jacobs scored from 30 yards out.

The Cowboys went three-and-out on their next two possessions as well. Then Dallas turned the football over on downs after driving 52 yards in 11 plays down to the Giants’ 6-yard line. Things then got really sloppy. Bradshaw fumbled the ball away at the Giants’ 45-yard line. The Giants got the ball right back when DT Barry Cofield sacked reserve Dallas QB Jon Kitna and forced a fumble that DE Justin Tuck recovered. But the Giants turned the ball back over to Dallas when Manning was intercepted for the third time in the game, this time with about three and a half minutes to go. The Cowboys returned the pick 41 yards down to the Giants’ 15-yard line. The Cowboys scored on the next play and combined with the successful 2-point conversion attempt, the Giants’ lead was cut to 38-28.

The Giants’ recovered the ensuing onside kick and managed to gain 31 yards to set up a successful 26-yard field goal by Tynes at the 2-minute warning. But the Giants made it tough on themselves (and their fans) by allowing Dallas to 73 yards in 8 plays and 1:15 to cut the lead to 41-35 with under a minute to play. When Sintim recovered the Cowboys’ second onsides kick, the Giants nailed down the victory.

Highlights of the game are available at NFL.com.

Post-Game Injury Report: LB Gerris Wilkinson broke a bone in his left hand on a kickoff return. The Giants put a cast on it and he kept playing. Wilkinson will wear a cast for 2-3 weeks.

Post-Game Notes: Inactive for the Giants were FB Madison Hedgecock (hamstring), OT William Beatty (foot), OG Mitch Petrus, OL Jamon Meredith, DE Mathias Kiwanuka (neck), DT Linval Joseph, LB Phillip Dillard, and CB D.J. Johnson.

Article on HB Brandon Jacobs: Brandon Jacobs: The Untold Story by Aditi Kinkhabwala of The Wall Street Journal

Article on Giants’ Offensive Line: Giants’ Strong Running Game Product of Offensive Line’s Solid Blocking by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger

Article on OL Shawn Andrews: To Giants’ Andrews, Music is a Consuming Passion by Mark Viera of The New York Times

Oct 242010

October 23, 2010 New York Giants Injury Report: Not practicing yesterday were FB Madison Hedgecock (hamstring), OT Will Beatty (foot), and DE Mathias Kiwanuka (neck). All three will not play on Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys.

WR Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) was limited in practice and is officially “questionable” for the game.

HB D.J. Ware (groin), DE Justin Tuck (ankle), DE Osi Umenyiora (knee), LB Keith Bulluck (toe), CB/S Brian Jackson (neck), and PK Lawrence Tynes (ankle) fully practiced. All are “probable” for the game.

Article on HBs Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs: Bradshaw-Jacobs Bond Runs Deep by Bart Hubbuch of The New York Post

Article on TE/FB Bear Pascoe: Giants’ Replacement Fullback Shines While Wearing More Than One Hat by Mark Viera of The New York Times

Article on DE Osi Umenyiora: Osi’s Sack Attack is Back for Big Blue by Ralph Vacchiano of The Daily News

Article on LB Keith Bulluck: Confident Bulluck Fighting Just to Get in Ring by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post

Article on S Deon Grant: Giants Safety Deon Grant Finding Success as ‘Pseudo-Linebacker’ by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger

Article on Former Giant WR Amani Toomer: A New Route for an Ex-Receiver by Andrew Keh of The New York Times

Article on Former Giant OG Billy Ard: Billy Ard is a Giant Among Fathers by Hank Gola of The Daily News

Oct 232010

October 22, 2010 New York Giants Injury Report: Not practicing yesterday were WR Hakeem Nicks (hamstring), FB Madison Hedgecock (hamstring), OT Will Beatty (foot), DE Justin Tuck (ankle), and DE Mathias Kiwanuka (neck).

“Tuck with an ankle and Nicks had a tight hamstring,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “So we thought it would be smart to not have them go…(Tuck) was limping a little bit after the game (last week). But he went through it – (on Thursday) was fine and it got sore overnight evidently. So he just backed off. I expect him to be okay…Maybe they will work (on Saturday). Hopefully they will work (on Saturday).”

“It’ll be alright,” said Tuck of his ankle. “It’s something we’ve been dealing with for a while now…It hurt worse today than it did yesterday…I’ll play.”

“Nothing serious,” said Nicks of his hamstring. “Probably more fatigue. Just a lot of running, a lot of reps, that’s all…I’ve dealt with this before so I know how to approach it now. I just want to make the right decisions…Oh I’m definitely playing. There’s no question about that. It’s Monday Night Football.”

DE Osi Umenyiora (knee) was limited and PK Lawrence Tynes (ankle) fully practiced.

Articles on QB Eli Manning:

Article on DE Osi Umenyiora: Osi Quietly Having Big Season with Giants by Bart Hubbuch of The New York Post

Article on LB Keith Bulluck: Despite Limited Role, Bulluck Toes the Line by Ralph Vacchiano of The Daily News

Article on S Kenny Phillips: Phillips is Thrilled to be Back in Dallas by Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com

Oct 222010

By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com

Approach to the Game – New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, October 25, 2010: When the 2010 schedule came out, the unusual aspect of it was that the Giants were not going to be playing any division games until week seven.  With 10 games left in the regular season, six of them remain with NFC East rivals.  It’s this intense stretch of division games that will make or break the Giants’ 2010 season.

What the 4-2 record did is make this “stretch run” of 10 games meaningful.  It’s all in front of the Giants.  It’s up to them.  The division is not that tough.  The conference is not that tough.  A winning record of 6-4 during the next 10 games will likely put them in the playoffs and may even win them the division.

It all starts Monday night in Dallas.  Now the real fun begins.

Giants on Special Teams: The Cowboys special teams have struggled at times, but they have also made big plays.  The first focus is on limiting the damage the Dallas return game can do, particularly the explosive Dez Bryant on punt returns.  Bryant already has returned a punt for a touchdown this season.  Also a concern is Lawrence Tynes’ sprained left ankle, not just on field goals/extra points, but more importantly on kickoffs since he says it is kickoffs that put far more stress on his plant foot.

Of course, the weekly saga of Matt Dodge continues, mixing the good with the bad.

Giants on Defense: Defensively, the Giants match up well against the Cowboys.  The Cowboys have struggled to run the football on a consistent basis, and they have long demonstrated a tendency to get away from the ground game.  With the Giants’ stellar run defense this year, the hope is that the Giants can make the Cowboys relatively one-dimensional.  Of course, the proof is in the pudding and the Giants have to actually go out on the field and make sure that happens.  When at the top of their game, the home-run hitter Felix Jones and the bruiser Marion Barber can form a lethal combination.  All it takes is for one breakdown on defense and Jones can turn what should have been a short gain into an 80-yard touchdown.  The defenders will need to wrap up.

The more worrisome match-ups are in the passing game, however, because of the quantity and quality of the Cowboys’ receiving threats.  TE Jason Witten has been a thorn in the side of the Giants for years.  He’s Tony Romo’s security blanket.  Take away that blanket and Romo becomes uncomfortable.  This is where Michael Boley and the three safeties come into play.  But TE Martellus Bennett is also a viable receiving threat and the Giants need to keep an eye on him.  In fact, Romo may not have much time to throw the football so there may be more of a focus on throwing the ball short to Witten, Bennett, and the running backs.

If and when Romo gets time, the Cowboys have a very dangerous trio of receivers in Miles Austin, Roy Williams, and Dez Bryant.  Corey Webster, Terrell Thomas, and Aaron Ross have had decent seasons, but they can play better.  And they will have to play better against this group.  Each of these receivers can make the big play down the field.  One mistake and it is a cheap touchdown.  And it is impossible to double-team everyone so the Giants will have to win one-on-one battles.

Why I think the Giants match-up well with Dallas are two factors.  First, the Giants’ secondary is filled with good athletes who play a physical game.  The corners and safeties will not be intimated by the Dallas receivers, nor should they be.  Secondly, the Giants should be able to generate good pass pressure against a shaky offensive line.

It’s no secret that the Cowboys have struggled up front.  But what has given Dallas even more problems is the exact type of defensive front the Giants enjoy: quick, athletic defensive linemen who can stunt and penetrate with quickness.  Add to that some injury concerns on the part of the Cowboys and the Giants should be able to control the line of scrimmage if their level of intensity is equal or superior to that of the Cowboys.  To be frank, I don’t think Dallas can block the Giants.  If the Cowboys can, then it’s a different ball game.

So the game plan is clear and obvious.  Stop the run.  Make Dallas one dimensional.  Get after Tony Romo.  When the Giants can near Romo, they have to finish him.  Too often teams, including the Giants, have let him escape their grasp, he improvises, and makes a huge play down the field.  Nail his ass to the turf.  Hit him.  Make him uncomfortable.  He will turn the football over.

Giants on Offense: I think the Giants match up well with the Cowboys on this side of the ball, with one huge proviso: the Giants’ offensive line needs pass protect well.  The good news is the Giants have a good history in recent games – with the exception of the 2008 game in Dallas – of doing just that.  For all the problems DeMarcus Ware has given other teams, and all of the problems David Diehl has had at times with quick pass rushers, Diehl has done a good job on Ware in three of the last four games.  But Diehl isn’t having his best season.  The Ware-Diehl match-up is huge as is Kareem McKenzie against Ware when they move Ware to that side of the field (which Dallas has done against New York before).  And regardless, Ware’s opposite outside linebacker, Anthony Spencer, has proven he can become a problem on the pass rush as well.

The guy who really makes Dallas’ defense go is NT Jay Ratliff.  The battle between Ratliff and O’Hara is a key one.  The role of defensive ends Marcus Spears and Igor Olshansky, as is typical of a 3-4 defense, is to more tie up opposing blockers in order to allow the linebackers make the play.  The good news – knock on wood – is that the Giants have a decent history of being able to block these guys in the passing game.  If they can do so again on Monday, the Giants should be able to exploit the Dallas pass defense.  If they can’t block the Dallas front seven, then a repeat of the 2008 game in Dallas may be the result.  To me, the #1 key in this entire football game is the ability of the Giants to pass protect.

Right corner Mike Jenkins of the Cowboys has struggled this year.  And the Giants have had decent success against Terence Newman.  The safeties are ordinary at best.  I love the Giants’ receivers, including Kevin Boss, against the back seven of the Cowboys if Manning has time.

The Cowboys are usually fairly tough to run against.  I don’t see the Giants’ offense dominating in the ground game.  Obviously running the ball is important to remain balanced and Ahmad Bradshaw is due for a long TD run.  But I would attack that secondary, particularly the deep middle.

The offense finally protected the football for once last week.  Obviously winning the turnover battle is huge.  Protect the football G-Men!

Prediction: I love these types of games.  The Cowboys need this game.  The Giants don’t.  It’s an away game where the media darling Cowboys are favored and still expected to turn it around.  There is not a lot of pressure on New York.  They can come into this game with intensity, but they should be loose.  Dallas could be expecting the worst and if momentum shifts against them, it will be interesting to see how the Cowboys respond.

Common sense dictates that a game involving desperate team, with talent, playing at home, within the division, will be at best a very, very tight contest.  But my gut tells me this game may not be as close as anticipated.  Eli Manning and the Giants seem to usually play well in Dallas.  And I get the sense that if the Giants can get up early, the crowd may turn on the Cowboys and things could snowball.  Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part, but I see the Giants winning by 10 points or more.

Oct 222010

October 21, 2010 New York Giants Injury Report – Kiwanuka Has Herniated Disc; Boothe Returns to Practice: Only three Giants missed practice yesterday: OT Will Beatty (foot), DE Osi Umenyiora (knee), and DE Mathias Kiwanuka (neck).

Kiwanuka revealed to the press yesterday that the issue with his neck is not a bulging cervical disc as had been first reported, but a herniated cervical disc. Herniated discs are more serious as it means the disc has ruptured.

“The difference between a bulge and a herniation is slight, but being that it is a herniation it is something that’s a little more severe,” Kiwanuka said. “There are other things that go along with it, as far as how my body’s made up that make it different than other people’s would be. It’s just a matter of waiting. They’re very optimistic it’ll heal on its own but it’s just going to take time.”

“They said everybody’s body is different,” continued Kiwanuka. “We’ll recheck it again in a couple of weeks. I’ve been pushing them to check it and check it over and over again. They’ve been doing that at my request, but realistically is it going to change in a few days or a few weeks? No.”

“I don’t think anything has changed (with Kiwanuka),” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “I don’t have anything at this point to tell you other than he traveled to L.A. (to see another doctor) and he came back and from the information that I get, there isn’t a lot of change.”

FB Madison Hedgecock (hamstring) and PK Lawrence Tynes (ankle) were limited in practice.

OL Kevin Boothe, who has been out since before training camp with a torn pectoral muscle, returned to practice yesterday. Despite practicing, Boothe is still technically on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) List. The Giants now have three weeks to decide whether to move him to the 53-man roster, place him on Injured Reserve, or waive him.

Article on the Giants’ Secondary vs. the Cowboys’ Receivers: Giants ‘D’ Ready for Dallas Attack by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post