Dec 152010
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New York Giants 21 (9-4) – Minnesota Vikings 3 (5-8)

by The Hack for

Game Summary: After a frustrating weekend of wandering around the snowy Midwestern United States, the New York Giants finally got to Detroit, Michigan on Monday and commenced to beating the host Minnesota Vikings senseless later that evening.

The Giants were diverted to Kansas City on Saturday, and were to travel to Minneapolis early Sunday morning to play at the Metrodome only to find out that the roof had collapsed around 5:30am.  After a few phone calls between ownership and the Commissioner, the game was postponed to Monday night and then rescheduled to be played in Detroit.

The Giants offense looked like a team that had been sitting around for a couple of days as they came out listless and mistake prone.  Thankfully, the defense was ready from the outset and kept the team afloat through the offense’s early transgressions.

Minnesota dominated the 1st quarter time of possession, thanks in large part to a poor decision by QB Eli Manning that resulted in an interception.  After taking over the ball at the New York 24 yard line, it took the Vikings 10 plays including a 4th and 1 to advance just 31 yards and kick a 21 yard field goal.  The Giants defense bent but didn’t break.

On the Giants 3rd possession of the 1st half, Eli again made a poor decision resulting in yet another interception that gave the Vikings the ball at their own 41 yard line.  Though the defense allowed a first down and Minnesota advanced the ball to the Giants’ 37, that was all they got and they never really threatened again in the game.

That had to be about all that HC Tom Coughlin wanted to see from QB Eli Manning for awhile, because on the Giants’ next drive they pounded the ball right at the heart of the Minnesota defense on 6 consecutive plays.  The result was an 89 yard touchdown drive highlighted by a 73 yard jaunt by rejuvenated HB Brandon Jacobs.

From that point on, despite the Giants’ special teams time and again giving the Vikings terrific starting field position, New York’s defense dominated the game.

Once the Giants offense woke up, they rolled to 395 total net yards, with 213 of them coming on the ground.  New York rolled up 21 first downs to only 10 by Minnesota.  What kept this game close was the Giants’ inability to convert on 3rd downs, where they were nearly as bad as the Vikings, converting just 3 of 13.

The Giants converted 2 of 3 opportunities in the Green Zone, but the third was in garbage time when they were trying to run out the clock instead of score.   The Giants lost the turnover battle 2-1 but won the time of possession battle (after a poor start) 32:42 to 27:18.

Offense: New York welcomed back 3 key members to their offensive football team last night as WRs Hakeem Nicks (out 2 weeks) and Steve Smith (out 4 weeks) and LOT David Diehl (out 4 weeks) were back in the starting lineup.  Unfortunately, the return of Smith was short lived as he injured his knee and is now lost for the remainder of the season.

To compound things, WR Mario Manningham was also injured, suffering some sort of hip pointer, the severity of which is unknown.

After a slow start punctuated by 2 interceptions on their first 3 drives, the Giants finally started rolling by pounding the rock.  Interestingly, the Giants threw on 21 of 31 and (10 of the first 13) first half plays.  In the second half, the Giants only threw it 16 times on 35 offensive plays, and accordingly, dominated the second half time of possession.

Overall, the running game managed 213 total yards.  Oddly, HB Danny Ware wasn’t used much in the 4th quarter when this game was all but wrapped up and HB Ahmad Bradshaw was out of the game with a bruised forearm.  For that matter, Eli Manning played every snap as well, even dropping back to pass on the last drive of the game.

The passing game, on the other hand, was out of sync for much of the game.  Manning did not seem to have his timing down with his returning toys and didn’t find a rhythm until the 2 minute drive before the half.  The Giants executed that drive brilliantly, scoring a touchdown with just 3 seconds left in the half to put themselves up by 11 at the break.

The Quarterback: On the day Brett Favre’s consecutive games streak ended at 297 starts, Eli Manning started his 100th consecutive game.  For Manning, the game did not start well.  It seems that once every year, Eli Manning loses ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is, and puts together a bad stretch that just boggles the mind.  It appears that he’s in one of those stretches right now.  On top of that, there’s just something about Minnesota that brings out the worst in Easy E.  It’s amazing how poorly he’s played against the Vikings in his career.

Last week, Manning had a costly interception in the end zone on a throw a veteran QB of his intelligence and experience just cannot make.  This week, he did it twice, the first time on just his second throw of the game.  While attempting to get the ball to Hakeem Nicks, Manning laid it right into the waiting arms of CB Frank Walker (yes, THAT Frank Walker) for an easy interception, setting up the Vikings with excellent field position.

After the defense held the Vikings to a field goal, Manning again made a colossally bad throw for another interception on the Giants’ third drive of the game.  This time Manning threw an ill advised pass to Mario Manningham who was attempting to run a slant but was cut off by CB Asher Allen who had inside position from the start.

On the Giants’ first three drives, Manning completed 4 of 10 passes, gaining 34 yards and threw 2 interceptions.  Against playoff competition, against teams that can convert the short fields into touchdowns, that will get you beat nearly every time.  It is no longer an anomaly or an exception that Eli has thrown 19 interceptions.  It is now the norm. One can no longer point at the tipped balls from earlier in the season, as Eli’s interceptions are now the result of extremely poor decisions and/or execution on his part.

Thankfully Manning got better as the night wore on and finished with 22 completions on 37 attempts (59%) for 187 yards, 1 touchdown and the 2 interceptions.  Eli’s QBR on the day was not much better than that of Tavaris Jackson.  Manning compiled a 59.2 QBR to Jackson’s 46.2.

The Running Backs: On the second play from scrimmage, Brandon Jacobs took a handoff from Manning and busted the ball through the middle of the Minnesota line behind a devastating block by left guard Kevin Boothe.  The 17 yard gain was nullified due to an illegal motion penalty by WR Mario Manningham.  The penalty had no bearing on the play, as Jacobs followed Boothe and Seubert through a massive hole.  The reason I’m bringing this up at all is that it should have been apparent very early that the Giants were going to have success on the ground.  Unfortunately, it took 3 series and 2 interceptions before they got serious about running the ball.

On the Giants 4th drive of the game, Brandon Jacobs and the Giants’ offensive line changed the game.  On 2nd and 8 from the Minnesota 13 yard line, The Beast barreled off left tackle behind two solid seal blocks by Diehl and FB Bear Pascoe and then exploited the hole created by a devastating comeback block by WR Hakeem Nicks to roll 73 yards down to the Minnesota 14 yard line.  On the run, Mario Manningham came out of nowhere at full speed to spring Jacobs for an extra 10 yards or so by getting between Jacobs and the Viking’s safety.

On the very next play, HB Ahmad Bradshaw took the ball straight up the middle, hurdling tacklers, setting up the Giants on a 1st and goal at the 3 yard line.  On the play, C Rich Seubert and RG Chris Snee double teamed the Minnesota left DT, with Snee peeling off to level the middle linebacker coming in to meet Bradshaw in the hole.  It was an outstanding play by Snee.  Kevin Boothe also got to the second level and plowed over the outside linebacker on his side, clearing the lane.

After two runs by Bradshaw, on 3rd and goal inside the 1 yard line, Jacobs ran it in from the jumbo package as Kevin Boothe, lined up outside McKenzie with TE Kevin Boss to his right, pummeled the outside of the Minnesota defense as McKenzie crashed down hard on the Vikings left DE allowing Jacobs to walk in to the end zone behind a great lead block on the MIKE linebacker from Pascoe.

On the day, Brandon Jacobs ended up with 116 yards on just 14 carries for an 8.3 ypc average.  Not to be outdone, HB Ahmad Bradshaw rolled up 103 yards on just 11 carries for a tidy 9.4 ypc average.  Bradshaw also had his number called 6 times in the passing game, catching 5 of them for just 12 yards.  Bradshaw’s signature run of the night was his 8th touchdown of the season.  Out of a double TE formation with Bradshaw and Pascoe in an I formation, the Giants ran left off tackle.  Again, the line absolutely owned the Vikings.  On the play, Boss on the outside rode the safety out of the play towards the sidelines, as Diehl moved the RDE in the same direction.  Kevin Boothe again annihilated the RDT and Pascoe came through the void and sealed the outside linebacker to the inside leaving a gaping hole for Bradshaw to exploit.

The Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: Well this game was what the denizens of The Corner Forum were waiting for:  The Return of the Receivers.  For the first time in a month, the Giants were to have their entire compliment of WRs in the game with Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks returning to action.  The hope was that this game would be an easing back in to game shape for each ahead of the Eagles showdown next weekend.  Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out as planned.  Both Mario Manningham (hip flexor) and Steve Smith (knee) left the game, and Smith is now gone for the season.

Frankly, Smith didn’t seem like himself out there on Monday night.  Smith was targeted by Manning just 3 times, catching 1 ball for 12 yards and a first down.  It’s been reported that it was on that play that Smith got hurt, but it sure didn’t look like anything too serious occurred on the play.  Smith left early in the 4th quarter, 2 plays after the injury supposedly occurred.

As for Manningham, he was also targeted 3 times, catching 1 pass (a screen pass) for just 1 yard before he got hurt.  Manningham did a good job of downfield blocking.

WR Hakeem Nicks came back to the fold after missing just two games with compartment syndrome of the leg and looked, for the most part, no worse for the wear.  On the day, the big WR was targeted 9 times and caught 7 passes for 96 yards.  The only 2 passes he didn’t catch were the horrible throw for the first interception and an overthrow by Manning that could’ve been a very long touchdown pass.  Nicks seemed to come up lame after trying to reach that ball, but apparently whatever the injury was, he stretched it out on the sidelines and came back into the game.

One part of Nicks’ game that should never be discounted is his blocking ability in the running game.  As noted above, his block on the outside was instrumental in springing Jacobs for his 73 yard run.

Derek Hagan caught 1 of 3 passes thrown his way, and nearly came down with a miracle touchdown catch in the back of the end zone.

Kevin Boss and Bear Pascoe became very important in the passing game as it moved along.  Boss was also targeted 9 times, catching 4 passes for just 23 yards and a touchdown.  The touchdown was a great catch in the back of the end zone in which he caught the ball in traffic, was contested, and managed to hold the ball while going to the ground.  Seeing as it occurred with just 3 seconds left on the 1st half clock and extended the Giants lead to more than 2 scores, it was as important a touchdown as the Giants have scored all year.

Pascoe caught 2 critical passes out of the backfield and on both ran over a defender to get a first down.  Pascoe isn’t the most graceful receiver in the game, but he’s effective.

Offensive Line: During the course of the running back write up, I detailed several plays that the offensive line dominated the Vikings defensive front 7 leading to big plays.  The Giants welcomed the return of LT David Diehl, freeing up William Beatty to play in a lot of double TE sets.  Diehl played a very solid game for one who was out with hip and hamstring injuries.  He held DE Jared Allen, one of the best in the business, to just 1 sack (and that was because Jacobs’ attempt at a chip was more like a morsel) and two other tackles on the day.

The sack ended the Giants’ streak at 5 games without giving up a sack, which is a franchise record.  On the day, the line allowed Eli to be hit 3 times total which is a high number relative to the last month or two.

C Rich Seubert and LG Kevin Boothe played extremely well on Monday night.  Boothe flat out dominated from his spot, blowing players off the line.  When the Giants first lost the left side of the line, they ran just twice to the left in the next game.  On Monday, nearly all their success was to the left or up the middle through the A gap between Boothe and Seubert.

Once again, even with Shaun O’Hara and Shawn Andrews still nursing injuries, the offensive line has become a huge strength of the team.  Credit is also due to TE Kevin Boss and FB Bear Pascoe who are putting clinics on right now on how to seal block and hold the hole open.

Defense: The Giants defense played arguably their best overall game of the year on Monday night.  Due to the offense giving Minnesota 2 quick turnovers, the defense was on the field for the 12:29 of the first 18:04 of the game but survived by only allowing a field goal on a short field.

Once the Giants offense got the lead, it was lights out for Minnesota.  Following the Bandon Jacobs touchdown at the 8:11 mark of the second quarter, the Giants defense allowed -8 total net yards and two 1st downs on 26 offensive plays spanning 9 drives over 35:01 of game clock.

That’s a complete and utter lock down.

On the day, the Giants allowed just 164 total net yards (61 rushing, 103 passing), 10 total 1st downs, and 2.7 yards average gain per offensive play.  Minnesota converted just 13% of their 3rd downs, but did convert all three 4th down attempts (2 on the last drive).

Though the Giants only turned the Vikings over once on an interception, they harassed QB Tavaris Jackson all day.  New York sacked the QB subbing for injured Brett Favre 4 times and hit him an astounding 10 times (and that’s not including the four times he was hit while advancing the ball past the line of scrimmage).

Finally, the biggest achievement of the day may have been the Giants’ ability to completely bottle up star HB Adrian Peterson.  Peterson gained just 26 yards on 14 carries for a paltry 1.9 ypc average.  His longest run, 7 yards, came on the play after DT Chris Canty was injured and had to come out of the game.  Peterson, a prime screen candidate in Minnesota’s offense, didn’t even have a pass thrown his way.

Front 7: The Giants caught a break not having to play against perennial Pro Bowl LG Steve Hutchinson on Monday, but the way the Giants pressured Jackson on Monday night, it probably didn’t matter.  The defensive line accounted for 6 of the 10 QB hits on Jackson, and thoroughly bottled up the inside running game which forced Peterson to the outside and into the waiting tackles of linebackers and safeties.

Osi Umenyiora, Rocky Bernard (who had maybe his best game as a Giant), and Barry Cofield all had sacks along the offensive line.  Dave Tollefson, who’s played well in spot duty this season, combined with MIKE Jonathan Goff for the other sack.

Rookie DT/DE Jason Pierre-Paul nearly got his 5th sack of the year but Jackson was somehow able to shake him off and escape. Nevertheless, the light is on with that kid and it appears that the sky is the limit.

Speaking of Goff, whatever was ailing him a few weeks ago seems to have gone by the wayside as he’s been much more active the last two weeks.  He had 2 QB hits in the game to go along with his 5 tackles.

Goff’s  best play of the night was on a play in the 3rd quarter in what was supposed to be a drag route by WR Sidney Rice.  As Jackson dropped back into the pocket, Rice released from the slot down the line of scrimmage right across the face of Goff, who planted him.  And I mean planted him.  Rice was knocked back about 3 yards, fell, scampered to his feet and tried to get back into the pattern.  By then it was too late as Goff attacked Jackson, who had moved to his right to avoid the rush.  Goff forced a bad throw and the play was incomplete.  Had Goff not hit Rice, that would have been a huge gainer as no one else was anywhere near the area Rice was headed.

Keith Bulluck made a nice impact with an interception of a ball thrown in the flat.  It was a good play by Bulluck as he recognized the route and quickly filled the zone, making the interception rather easily.  That play was important because the Vikings had great field position due to woeful special teams play and were only down by 11 at the time.  Had Minnesota scored a touchdown on that drive, the complexion of this game could’ve changed dramatically.

Defensive Backs:  Once again, the Giants employed a heavy dose of the 3 safety, 2 true linebacker package, with Deon Grant playing much of the game from the strong side.  Nickel CB Aaron Ross also saw a lot of action on Monday night and had 4 tackles and a pass defensed, his most action in quite awhile.

FS Kenny Phillips and SS Antrel Rolle were eerily silent in this game compared to others.  Rolle did have a very nice tackle of Peterson behind the line of scrimmage and 4 other tackles, mainly in run support.  Phillips was quiet all day, registering just 1 tackle.

CBs Terrell Thomas and Corey Webster both had very good days in coverage, defensing 2 passes each.  Thomas seemed to draw the assignment of covering WR Sidney Rice and for the most part did a good job of shutting him down.  Rice had 12 balls thrown his way but only caught 5 of them.

On the other side, Webster was normally locked up on WR Bernard Berrian, and had similar success.

The Giants secondary also completely shut down the opposing TE once again, holding the dangerous Visante Schiancoe to just 1 catch in garbage time.

Special Teams: P Matt Dodge had a solid game on Monday, punting 7 times for a 46.3 yard gross average.  Three of his punts were inside the 20, one of which went out of bounds at the 8 yard line.  Another was fair caught inside the 20.  Unfortunately, on the day when Dodge actually did his job well, the coverage teams abandoned him.  PR Greg Camarillo, slightly faster than Dorgan, ran roughshod through the Giants defenders as if he were Devin Hester.  Poor tackling, bad angles, you name it they were all there.

The kickoff return teams weren’t much better, as Lorenzo Booker made hay with the 4 opportunities he received.  Luckily for the Giants, he had a 96 yard touchdown called back for an illegal block

On the punt return team, it seems the Giants have no concept of holding up the opposition and setting up a return.  It doesn’t appear they’re going after kicks, so all one can assume is they stink at setting up returns.  Will Blackmon made 5 fair catches and returned only 3 punts with a long of 7 yards.  Each time he had a chance to catch the ball and make a step, there were four purple jerseys around him.

Danny Ware returned 1 kickoff for 19 yards.

Coaching: Considering the unusual circumstances surrounding this game, hats go off to the entire coaching staff for keeping the team loose and focused during the long downtime.  It couldn’t have been easy to wait around from early Saturday morning in Kansas City until 7:20pm in Detroit to play this game.

As for the game itself, there can be no way to be sure, but if an adjustment was made to commit to the running game after Eli’s two interceptions, it was a great adjustment.  If they were using the pass to set up the run all along and the interceptions were coincidence, then again it was a good plan.

A lot has been made in The Corner Forum about the Giants brass playing key players (including WR Steve Smith) in the fourth quarter of a seemingly won game.  Many people feel that with the game seemingly in hand, the Giants should have pulled some of the starters at the start of the 4th quarter.  Incidentally, Smith’s injury came on the very first play of the 4th.

Frankly, that’s a canard and here’s why.  On November 26, 2006 against the Tennessee Titans, the Giants held a 21-0 lead with just 9:35 left in the game.  At that point, Tennessee had less than 150 total yards in offense.  9:35 and nearly 200 yards later, Tennessee walked out of their stadium 24-21 winners.

That’s why you don’t pull your starters on the first play of the 4th quarter.

Finally, it’s becoming obvious that Perry Fewell is turning his guys loose.  The Giants blitzed quite a bit on Monday night and got after Jackson with a ferocious rush.  This trend began in the second half of the Eagles game and it’s been extremely effective since.

Offensive Player of the Game: For the second week in a row, I should give the OPG to Brandon Jacobs for his tone setting 73 yard run, but frankly Ahmad Bradshaw was the offensive star of this game and should’ve been credited with two touchdowns.

Defensive Player of the Game: This is a tough one.  Osi Umenyiora and Jonathan Goff are worthy candidates for the award this week but I’m going with DT Rocky Bernard for his run stuffing in the middle, helping to force Adrian Peterson outside.  Bernard also had a nifty sack.

(Box Score – New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings, December 13, 2010)
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