Oct 302011
 

Giants Rally to Beat Dolphins: The Giants scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to rally past the winless Miami Dolphins 20-17 earlier today at MetLife Stadium. The victory improved the Giants’ overall record to 5-2 and kept the team in first place in the NFC East.

It did not look good for the Giants early on. Miami was up 14-3 on the Giants in the second quarter and 17-10 until the fourth quarter.

The star of the game for the Giants was QB Eli Manning, who finished 31-of-45 for 349 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Once again, the Giants’ ground game struggled as New York only managed 58 net rushing yards.

While the Giants did out-gain the Dolphins 402 to 246 total net yards, the defense struggled early and allowed the Dolphins to rush for 145 yards.

Miami’s offense scored touchdowns on two of their three first-half drives. The Dolphins went 66 yards in 10 plays on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead. On their second possession, Miami drove 90 yards in 12 plays, scoring on 4th-and-goal, to take a 14-3 advantage.

The Giants had four offensive possessions in the first half. New York received the ball first and moved sharply down the field. However, the Giants turned the ball over on downs when Manning’s 4th-and-9 pass fell incomplete. On the Giants’ second possession, the offense put together a 7-play, 56-yard drive that ended with a 25-yard field goal by PK Lawrence Tynes. This promising drive had been sabotaged by a holding penalty on TE/FB Bear Pascoe and a false start by RG Chris Snee.

The Giants picked up one first down on the their third possession but then were forced to punt. With just over four minutes to play until halftime, and trailing by 14-3, the Giants and Manning engineered a 13-play, 84-yard effort that resulted in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Manning to WR Mario Manningham with 8 seconds remaining before intermission. At the half, the Giants trailed 14-10.

Miami received the football to start the third quarter and drove 58 yards in seven plays to set up a successful 40-yard field goal and extend their lead to 17-10.

At this point, the Dolphins had gained 16 first downs in the contest. They would only pick up an additional two for the remainder of the game. Miami’s next five possessions ended with three three-and-outs, a four-and-out, and an interception.

The Giants were held scoreless in the third quarter. After gaining 41 yards and two first downs on their first drive of the second half, the Giants were forced to punt. The Giants then went three-and-out on their second possession. At the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter, the Giants put together a 12-play, 78 yard drive that ended with a 29-yard field goal. The Giants now trailed 17-13.

On the Giants ensuing possession, New York took the lead for good when the Giants went 53 yards in six plays to go up 20-17. On 3rd-and-12, Manning found WR Victor Cruz over the middle for a 25-yard touchdown.

Miami had two more offensive possessions in the game to attempt tie the score or take the lead. On the first, Miami actually lost 14 yards, including a 10-yard sack by DE Justin Tuck and DE/LB Mathias Kiwanuka.

On Miami’s final possession, after moving the football to their own 40-yard line with a 24-yard pass, the Dolphins’ quarterback was sacked on back-to-back plays by DE Osi Umenyiora and Kiwanuka. Two plays later, on 4th-and-23, CB Corey Webster intercepted a pass to effectively end the game.

Highlights/lowlights of the game are available at NFL.com. Video of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s post-game address to his team is available at Giants.com.

Injury Report: WR Hakeem Nicks left the game with a hamstring injury. “I was running a route, I was about to run by the guy and right when I tried to accelerate to run by him I felt a little, I don’t know what it was, a tug or cramp, whatever but I felt it,” Nicks said. “It got my attention. It was more like a cramp that didn’t go nowhere, it just stayed. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do nothing…Obviously we’re going to have to see what it feels like in the morning. Right now I really can’t judge.”

OC David Baas injured his right knee but stayed in the game. He will have further tests on Monday.

HB Ahmad Bradshaw had x-rays taken on his foot that turned out to be negative. “I’ve got a screw in my right fifth metatarsal two Februaries ago and I think the head of it is just aggravated right now,” Bradshaw said. “I think it will be fine.”

DE Osi Umenyiora also had x-rays taken on an undisclosed part of his body.

CB Justin Tryon injured his right forearm.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Post-Game Press Conference: The transcript and video of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s post-game press conference are available at Giants.com.

Post-Game Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video clips of post-game media Q&As with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Post-Game Notes: Inactive for the Giants were HB Da’Rel Scott, FB Henry Hynoski (neck), OT Stacy Andrews (back), OG Mitch Petrus, OT James Brewer, DT Dwayne Hendricks, and CB Prince Amukamara (foot).

The Giants are 5-2 for the seventh time in Tom Coughlin’s eight seasons as head coach.

The Giants have won five of their last six games following a regular season bye.

The Giants have had three 400+ yard offensive performances in a row.

QB Eli Manning has had six consecutive games with a quarterback rating greater than 90. Manning is now 23-5 in October as a starter. It was the 18th fourth-quarter comeback of his career.

Oct 302011
 

Article on WR Hakeem Nicks: Giants’ Hakeem Nicks Has Played Through a Lot of Pain by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger

Article on WR Ramses Barden: Receiver Learns Roles, but Hasn’t Found One by Sam Borden of The New York Times

NY Post Q&A With DE Osi Umenyiora: Serby’s Sunday Q & A with … Osi Umenyiora by Steve Serby of The New York  Post

Article on CB Corey Webster: World Wide Webster: Giants’ Corey Garnering Attention Around the NFL by Ralph Vacchiano of The Daily News

Oct 292011
 

October 28, 2011 New York Giants Injury Report: Not practicing yesterday were FB Henry Hynoski (neck), OT Stacy Andrews (back), and OC Adam Koets (PUP – knee/back). Hynoski is officially “doubtful” for the game on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. Andrews is “questionable” and Koets will not play.

Andrews thinks he will play. “I think (Andrews) will work (Saturday) morning hopefully and then we will make a decision on that,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin.

DE Justin Tuck (neck/groin), DE Osi Umenyiora (knee), LB Michael Boley (knee), CB Prince Amukamara (foot), and HB Brandon Jacobs (knee) practiced on a limited basis. Amukamara has officially been ruled out of the game. Tuck is “questionable.” Umenyiora, Boley, and Jacobs are “probable.”

OG Chris Snee (concussion) practiced fully and is “probable” for the game.

WR Ramses Barden (PUP – ankle) also practiced. For Barden to play, he would have to be activated off of the PUP today.

“You have to get (Barden) some time on the field and he hasn’t been on the field in a long time,” said Coughlin. “It will be some time in order to get him ready to go and ready to compete on both special teams and offense.”

Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Friday Press Conference: The transcript and video of yesterday’s press conference with Head Coach Tom Coughlin are available at Giants.com.

Giants.com Q&A With Head Coach Tom Coughlin: The transcript of this week’s Giants.com Q&A with Head Coach Tom Coughlin is available at Giants.com.

Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of yesterday’s media Q&A sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Article on QB Eli Manning: Willing to Take a Hit, Eli is Throwing Fewer Interceptions by George Willis of The New York Post

Article on DT Jimmy Kennedy: Waiting to Play, and to Redeem His Name by Sam Borden of The New York Times

Article on DT Dwayne Hendricks: Giants’ Dwayne Hendricks is a Serious Hitter Now That He’s Not Substitute Teaching by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger

Article on P Steve Weatherford: Punter Providing Kick for Giants Special Teams by Mark Hale of The New York Post

Notes: Former Giants’ quarterback Y.A. Tittle watched the Giants practice yesterday.

LB Mark Herzlich will be profiled on CBS’ “60 Minutes” this Sunday at 7:00PM.

Oct 282011
 

October 27, 2011 New York Giants Injury Report: Not practicing yesterday were FB Henry Hynoski (neck), OT Stacy Andrews (back), and OC Adam Koets (PUP – knee/back).

“No. It is not a setback (with Hynoski),” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “It is just that progress is slow.”

DE Justin Tuck (neck/groin), DE Osi Umenyiora (knee), LB Michael Boley (knee), CB Prince Amukamara (foot), and HB Brandon Jacobs (knee) practiced on a limited basis.

“I’m doing okay,” said Tuck. “I’m a lot better than I was before the bye week…They kept me limited, just being precautionary as far as hoping that we can come out of this thing without any setbacks and make sure that we’re in as close to full strength as we can be on Sunday…I’m going to go out there and see what happens. Obviously there’s fear. Anytime you have any little tweak or anything you’re self-conscious about it, but it’s the game we play. I’ve played hurt before and we’ll just see how this story unfolds.”

“(Amukamara) is working his way through practice,” said Coughlin. “He is a limited guy who is just getting on the practice field. He made a play today but he is limited.”

“(Amukamara) looked good in two practices,” Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell said. “He really had a good break on the ball today. He’s been taking some scout team looks for us and really had a nice break on the ball today and looked very good. He is rusty. This is the second practice and he’s only had three practices (as a Giant). It’s going to take him a little time. I’m very excited to see him on the field working.”

OG Chris Snee (concussion) practiced fully. WR Ramses Barden (PUP – ankle) also practiced.

“(Barden) has done a good job,” said Coughlin. “We have rotated him in there as a scout team guy and he has done a good job.”

Coach Media Q&As: The transcripts and video of yesterday’s media sessions with the following coaches are available at Giants.com:

Player Media Q&As: The transcripts and video of yesterday’s media Q&A sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Article on Head Coach Tom Coughlin: Coughlin Continues To Do It His Way by Ian O’Connor of ESPNNewYork.com

Article on QB Eli Manning: Giants QB Manning Backing Up Summer Boast by Steve Serby of The New York Post

Men’s Fitness Q&A With HB Brandon Jacobs: Brandon Jacobs: “People Can Say What the Hell They Want to Say” by Matt Tuthill of MensFitness.com

Article on HB Brandon Jacobs: Brandon Jacobs: I’ll Have to Leave G-Men by Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com

Oct 272011
 

By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com

Approach to the Game – Miami Dolphins at New York Giants, October 30, 2011: The loss to the Seahawks turned the Bills game into an almost must-win game and the Giants went out and took care of business against Buffalo.  With everything the Giants have been through since the lockout ended – most notably free agent defections and injuries – the 4-2 record at the bye seems respectable.  Still, there is a lingering feeling of lost opportunity since the Giants’ two losses came against one unimpressive division opponent and one terrible team.  But there is no point in dwelling on the past.  The Giants are in first place and a chance to make the playoffs is still in front of them despite the upcoming schedule.

The Giants have two assets that all teams crave: (1) they have a franchise quarterback who is playing very well, and (2) they can rush the passer with the best of them.  These two assets should keep them competitive for the remainder of the season.  There were some hints against Buffalo that the running game may start to be coming around.  If it does, then there are no big worries on the offensive side of the football though the offensive line is likely to still have its down moments as it continues to gain cohesion and chemistry.

Special teams have actually been decent.  Punting and punt coverage has not been a problem.  Kickoffs and kickoff coverage has been decent too.  Aaron Ross has done a respectable job as a punt returner.  It would be nice to see Devin Thomas break a big kickoff return.  Field goals haven’t been an issue except for two blocks – the latter has been the big negative on specials.

In my eyes, the biggest question mark with this team is defense.  For a team that rushes the passer as well as the Giants do, it’s a crime that the back seven can’t cover better than it does.  This is a veteran secondary with a lot of high-round draft picks.  They should be doing better.  And the run defense has not been good.  If the defense doesn’t improve under Perry Fewell’s guidance, the Giants will not make the playoffs.  It’s that simple.

The Dolphins are winless, but as the Seahawks game demonstrated, the Giants can take no team lightly.  How bad are the Seahawks?  The Cleveland Browns beat them 6-3 last weekend.  The Dolphins are a bad team, but they do have a respectable defense, and they are still playing hard.

This is a big game for Tom Coughlin.  If his Giants fall to the Dolphins at home, three weeks after losing to the Seahawks at home, I think he is very much on the hot seat unless the Giants then go on to make the playoffs.

Giants on Offense: The Dolphins have the 23rd ranked defense in the NFL in terms of yards allowed (the Giants are 22nd).  Miami is 21st against the pass and 18th against the run.  The stats are misleading because the Dolphins’ offense has been so poor that the defense has been on the field more than it should.  It’s a 3-4 defense with some ability to rush the passer (14 sacks – though a bunch of them came last week against the Broncos).  The three defensive linemen (LDE Kendall Langford, NT Paul Soliai, and RDE Randy Starks) are an underrated group. WLB Cameron Wake leads the team with 5 sacks and ex-Cardinal ILB Karlos Dansby is a good all-around player.  The secondary has some talent too at both safety and corner.

QB Eli Manning knows the defense should not be underestimated:

“(The Dolphins) have good players and you have to account for all of their rush ends and linebackers. They do a good job of mixing up some blitzes and getting to the quarterback, showing some different looks. So they are talented. You can’t sit back there and hold the ball real long. Try to get the ball out in a timely fashion. Make sure the receiver is getting open. It’s just a matter of everybody understanding what our rules are and being sound in our assignments. Also, making sure guys are getting open, getting the ball out quick…(In the secondary), they play different techniques and they do a good job being aggressive and jumping a few things, but they will play some man and a lot of their defenses are man in principle. But they do a good job of mixing things up. They’re very sound. They play smart football.”

“Every game this year going into the fourth quarter they’ve been up some (or) they’ve been down a point or two,” said Manning. “They played New England very tight…They have talent. They do good things. A lot of teams have had trouble with them. Teams aren’t going in there and scoring a whole lot of points against them. You have to be sound. You can’t give them easy plays. And you can’t give them turnovers. And you can’t give them good field position.”

Remember, turnovers are the great equalizer.  The Giants need to protect the football.

Giants on Defense: Miami is 19th in offense in terms of  yards gained but 30th in terms of points.  The Dolphins are 21st in passing and 18th in rushing.  The bad news for the Dolphins is that they give up a lot of sacks and their offensive line is a bit beat up (RT Marc Colombo and LG Richie Incognito are ailing).  But we all saw what happened when the then dead-last ranked offense of the Seattle Seahawks came to town.

WR Brandon Marshall is a headcase, but he can take over a game.  Fellow receivers Brian Hartline and Davone Bess can make some plays.  Halfbacks Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas are averaging four yards per rush.  Quarterback play has been a problem for the Dolphins as Matt Moore has struggled.  Like the Giants, the Dolphins have trouble converting on third down (32nd in the NFL).

If the Dolphins can’t run the football, they should be in trouble against the Giants’ pass rush.  The key is to put Miami in third-and-long and then get after Moore.  The Giants also need to prevent the cheap big play like the two they gave up early against the Bills.

Giants on Special Teams: The Dolphins do a respectable job on punt returns, averaging 11.5 yards per return.  The Giants have yet to break a big punt or kickoff return this year.

Oct 272011
 

October 26, 2011 New York Giants Injury Report: Not including those on Injured Reserve, the only Giant to not practice yesterday was OC Adam Koets (PUP – knee/back).

DE Justin Tuck (neck/groin), DE Osi Umenyiora (knee), LB Michael Boley (knee), CB Prince Amukamara (foot), HB Brandon Jacobs (knee), and FB Henry Hynoski (neck) practiced on a limited basis.

“I wouldn’t say (I am pain free),” said Amukamara. “I am sure I am going to feel pain in a little bit. Right now, it just gets sore after I do activity but that soreness is going away week-by-week. I am just progressing…I don’t know (if I am ready to go this week). I am not sure.”

OG Chris Snee (concussion) practiced fully. WR Ramses Barden (PUP – ankle) also practiced.

CB Terrell Thomas, who is on Injured Reserve with a torn ACL in his knee, said yesterday that he is two weeks ahead of schedule on his rehab.

Practice Squad Moves: The Buffalo Bills have signed LB Antonio Coleman off of the Giants’ Practice Squad. To fill that vacancy, the Giants have signed FB Alex Daniels to the Practice Squad.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Wednesday Press Conference: The transcript and video of yesterday’s press conference with Head Coach Tom Coughlin are available at Giants.com.

Player Media Q&As: The transcripts and video of yesterday’s media Q&A sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Article on QB Eli Manning: Elite Eli a Top Five NFL QB by Gary Myers of The Daily News

Article on WR Ramses Barden: Giants’ Ramses Barden, Now Healthy, May Be Right Fit At Slot Receiver by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger

Article on CB Prince Amukamara: Amukamara Making Strides in Practice by Michael Eisen of Giants.com

Article on CB Terrell Thomas: Seeking Reward, Giants Cornerback Found Risk Instead by Sam Borden of The New York Times

Article on the Giants and Luck: How Much Luck Is Needed? (No, Not Andrew) by Aditi Kinkhabwala of The Journal News

Oct 252011
 

October 24, 2011 New York Giants Injury Report – Only One Misses Practice: Not including those on Injured Reserve, the only Giant to not practice yesterday was OC Adam Koets (PUP – knee/back).

“(Koets) has had other developments, his back is an issue so he is not ready to start,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “I could not tell you (how he hurt his back). It has been a process that has gone on for quite some time now. It just hasn’t cleared up in about five weeks. You can’t put a number on it because I am not sure when it showed up. It has been a lengthy thing for him.”

Returning to practice or practicing for the first time this season were DE Justin Tuck (neck/groin), DE Osi Umenyiora (knee), CB Prince Amukamara (foot), S Kenny Phillips (ribs), HB Brandon Jacobs (knee), FB Henry Hynoski (neck), WR Ramses Barden (PUP – ankle), and OG Chris Snee (concussion).

“We listed (Barden) as limited but he took probably one-third of the snaps,” said Coughlin.

“I think it went well,” said Barden. “My body feels good. I had good energy and more than anything, it was just fun. It was really fun…There wasn’t anything that I wasn’t able to do.”

“(Amukamara) did a little bit and we will have to bring him along slowly,” said Coughlin.

Coughlin was asked if Tuck was significantly better. “It seemed like it,” replied Coughlin. “We will see how they are tomorrow with the guys who are coming back. We tried to stay away from getting anybody in a position where they would be sore. We will have to see.”

When asked about Jacobs, Coughlin said, “As of this morning, he was doing pretty well.”

“Everything is fine,” Snee said. “I passed all my tests last week and have been headache-free for over a week.”

Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Monday Press Conference: The transcript and video of yesterday’s press conference with Head Coach Tom Coughlin are available at Giants.com.

Giants.com Q&A With Offensive Line Coach Pat Flaherty: The video of a recent Giants.com Q&A session with Offensive Line Coach Pat Flaherty at Giants.com.

Player Media Q&As: The transcripts and video of yesterday’s media Q&A sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Article on the Giants’ Linebacking Corps:

Article on the Giants’ Practice Squad: Scout Team Key to Success by Dan Salomone of Giants.com

Oct 232011
 

Articles on the 2011 New York Giants:

Article on QB Eli Manning: Offseason Investment Paying Off for Eli by Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com

Articles on TE Jake Ballard:

Article on DE Jason Pierre-Paul: Pierre-Paul Emerging for Giants by Brian Lewis of The New York Post

Oct 212011
 
New York Giants 27 (4-2) – Buffalo Bills 24 (4-2)

by rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary

The New York Giants rebounded nicely from their home loss to the Seattle Seahawks last week by weathering an early storm against the Buffalo Bills and pulling out a 27-24 win.  Coupled with the Redskins loss to Philadelphia, the win propelled the Giants into sole possession of the NFC East for the first time this season.

The Giants gained the early lead with a touchdown on their second drive only to see it disappear on the very next play from scrimmage and then found themselves behind after another quick strike play on Buffalo’s next series.  It was quite the first quarter for the Giants, and it looked like it might be a very long day in the Meadowlands after Buffalo’s second lightning quick touchdown.

The Giants again had to mix in players at new positions, particularly on offense where RG Chris Snee and FB Henry Hynoski were out of action with concussions.  The Giants were also still without the services of HB Brandon Jacobs, nursing a knee injury.  Ironically, the Giants had one of their best days on the ground with OL Kevin Boothe filling in for Snee and TE/FB Bear Pascoe filling in for Hynoski.  On the defensive side of the line, the Giants were again without DE Justin Tuck.

The Giants held the time of possession edge in each of the first 3 quarters of the game but were only up by a touchdown going into the 4th quarter.  Buffalo dominated possession in the 4th, and after scoring the game tying touchdown, committed a costly interception on their next drive after driving 47 yards to the Giants 27.  At that point, Buffalo had gained 107 yards in the quarter and the Giants were having all kinds of trouble stopping them.   Frankly, things looked pretty grim but the interception led to a 9 play 76 yard drive aided by 2 Buffalo pass interference penalties in which the Giants converted a short field goal for the final margin of victory.

At the end of the first quarter, the Bills held a 178 – 84 advantage in yards gained from scrimmage thanks to basically two plays.  The first was an 80 yard touchdown run by HB Fred Jackson and a 60 yard catch and run by WR Naaman Roosevelt which also went for a touchdown.  On their other 10 plays from scrimmage in the first quarter, Buffalo gained just 38 yards.

The Giants started to turn the game around in the second quarter with two long drives of their own and retook the lead, only to see the game tied on a late field goal drive by Buffalo. Amazingly, New York outgained Buffalo in the second quarter by a 183 – 89 margin.  A tale of two quarters, indeed.

It appeared that the Giants were taking over the game in the 3rd quarter, allowing Buffalo just two drives that resulted in a mere 37 yards gained and 2 first downs.  On offense, the Giants took the lead on their first drive of the half and had an opportunity to extend it but were unable to capitalize when a long field goal attempt was blocked after WR Mario Manningham wasn’t able to hold on to a perfectly thrown ball as he went to the ground in the end zone.

With just under a minute left in the 3rd, Buffalo mounted their best drive of the half and tied the score with 9:06 to go.  After only the second true 3 and out by the offense, Buffalo took over with 6:49 left and once again started methodically down the field until CB Corey Webster made his second interception of the day, setting up the Giants for the winning drive.

Statistically, the game evolved to be quite evenly matched.  The Giants held an edge in first downs (24-17) and total offensive plays (65-56) but both teams committed 7 penalties, had identical 3rd down conversion rate of 45%, and similar total yardage numbers.  The big difference was turnovers, where the Giants committed none and Buffalo had two.  Additionally, the Giants were 3 of 5 converting from the green zone while Buffalo was 1 of 1.  Buffalo scored their other touchdowns from their own side of the field.

The turnovers by Buffalo were the great equalizer to the 4 missed opportunities the Giants had to add more than 3 points to the board.  First, the Giants were held to a field goal after having a 1st and goal from the 9. Then on the same drive Manningham couldn’t hold on to the touchdown, they had the 51 yard field goal attempt blocked. And finally had to settle for another field goal after having a 2nd and goal from the 1 in the fourth quarter.  Had Buffalo not turned the ball over, those failures may very well have cost New York the game.

Offense

The offense clicked with more rhythm and consistency than in any other game they’ve played this year, but there were still some fits and starts.  Other than not converting on 2 first and goal situations, however, they were able to put up a well balanced attack.  The Giants rushed 33 times and passed 32.

Two drives, the first of the game and the one after the Bills tied the game in the fourth quarter, were thwarted from the start by offensive holding penalties on 1st down.  The Giants didn’t recover from either and resulted in quickly punting the ball back to Buffalo.  It appeared that the third penalty on the offense, a false start on a 3rd and 1 play at the Buffalo 17 on the drive that resulted in the winning field goal would also come back to haunt them but on  the next play, Buffalo was called for pass interference.

Other than those two drives, the Giants had at least some success on every other save one, another 3 and out late in the first quarter.   The Giants were determined to stay out of 2nd or 3rd and long and that’s exactly what they did on every drive except the two that started in penalties.  The Giants had longer than 3rd and 5 only 3 times (other than the two drive mentioned).  A 3rd and 6 was converted by penalty, a 3rd and 8 wasn’t converted nor was a 3rd and 10.

One thing to keep in mind is that Buffalo has fed off of turnovers this year and their front 7 isn’t the most feared in the league.  On Sunday, Buffalo was without arguably their best defensive lineman, NT Kyle Williams.  They were also without the services of linebackers Chris Kelsay and Shawne Merriman.  If you read Eric from BBI’s game preview, you saw his keys to victory on offense materialize on Sunday:  “Protect the football.  Run the football.  Protect the quarterback.  Make the big plays in the passing game.  Win.”

Quarterback

On the first somewhat windy day of the year in the Meadowlands, Eli Manning had one of his finest afternoons ever.  Manning was on fire in the first half, completing 13 of 20 passes for 211 yards.  Manning only attempted 12 passes in the second half, completing 8 of them for 81 yards.  Most impressive was his movement in and out of the pocket.  Rarely was he under any intense pressure, but when he was he was able to maneuver out of it and either get rid of the ball out of harm’s way or complete the play.  Manning wasn’t sacked and only suffered one QB hit on the day.

Manning only threw one pass into danger, his final attempt of the day.  Originally it looked like it was close to being intercepted, but upon closer inspection it was simply knocked away.  Other than that, Manning probably only wanted one pass back.

Although Manning had no touchdown passes, he nearly had two.  The first was originally called a touchdown but was overturned when replays showed his shin was down with the ball just short of the goal line.  The second was a beautifully thrown ball that Manningham caught but lost as he went to the ground in the end zone.

On the day, Manning’s passer rating stood at 94.8 and his total QBR was 91.4, good for fourth in the league this week.  Overall, Manning is rated 10th in the NFL with a 62.5 rating.  Remember, the scale is 1-100 with 50 being the median score.  Manning is 5th in the league with 1,778 yards and 3rd in the league in QBR, standing at 101.1.  Manning is behind only  Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.

Running Backs

New York finally got their running game untracked on Sunday, rushing 33 times for 122 total yards, a serviceable 3.7 ypc average.  Keeping with the running attack, the Giants were able to stay out of 2nd or 3rd and long situations which keeps the defense honest.  The other benefit is that they won the time of possession battle for much of the day and give the defense a rest.

HB Ahmad Bradshaw had a very good day carrying the brunt of the running game again on Sunday, finishing with 26 carries for 104 yards (4.0 ypc average) and 3 rushing touchdowns.  Bradshaw also caught 2 passes for 26 yards.  Following the interception late in the 4th quarter, Ahmad put the Giants on his back carrying the ball 5 times for 47 yards (he lost 4 yards on 2nd and goal from the 1).  The key play on the drive was his 30 yard run on 2nd and 7 from the Giants 33 yard line.  The Giants were in an offset I formation with Nicks and Manningham split wide and Jake Ballard as the TE to Eli Manning’s left.  The Bills countered with 5 down linemen and just 7 in the box with a safety lined up about 8 yards off Pascoe.  The corners were lined up tight to the outside receivers and the second safety was not in the picture.  Manningham started in motion towards the line and on the snap, the Giants ran a counter to his side.  The middle offensive line completely bottled up the middle as Ballard influenced the DE to the outside, then washed him completely out of the play.  Pascoe’s lead to the right brought both linebackers to that side, leaving a gaping hole to Bradshaw’s left.  Manningham ignored the CB and kept coming across the field and leveled the safety, leaving Bradshaw one on one with the CB in open field.  A quick shake and bake and cut to the left with a stiff arm and Bradshaw was free down the left sideline.  When the lone safety left to make a play tried to go low, Bradshaw hurdled him and was finally caught by the SAM linebacker after a 30 yard gain.  It was possibly the best executed running play the Giants made all year.

What doesn’t show up on the stat sheet was the incredible job Bradshaw did in blitz pickups and pass protection this week.  It’s been mentioned in published reports and also in Tom Coughlin’s press conferences that the backs and linemen haven’t always been on the same page when it comes to protection assignments.  On Sunday, they were, and Bradshaw stoned the blitz several times.

HB D.J. Ware saw limited action gaining 19 yards on 5 carries, but did have an important 5 yard run on a first down from the Buffalo 25 yard line.  HB Da’Rel Scott didn’t get any carries in the game but caught one ball out of the backfield for 4 yards.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Of the 32 passes attempted by Manning on the day, 20 of them targeted wide receivers.  Of those 20, Manning completed 11 of them.

WR Mario Manningham caught 5 of 8 for 56 yards and nearly had two touchdowns.  Had he held on to the 37 yarder in the end zone, it would have been an outstanding day for the 4th year receiver.  There was some debate in The Corner Forum regarding Manningham’s blocking skills.  Some feel that he’s soft and doesn’t work hard enough in the running game, but nothing could be farther from the truth.  Manningham blocked very, very well on Sunday, as he usually does.  The example above is just one of many from Sunday.  Manningham also drew an interference call in the 2nd quarter setting the Giants up with a first and goal from the 9 yard line that they eventually turned into a field goal.

WR Hakeem Nicks had another solid day, catching 4 balls for 96 yards.  Nicks nearly had a 65 yard touchdown but was caught from behind at the Buffalo 5 yard line.  Nicks’ two most important plays of the day, however, were the two interference penalties he drew on the 4th quarter field goal drive that provided the final margin of victory.

WR Victor Cruz came back to earth a little on Sunday, catching just 2 balls for 12 yards.  He was targeted 4 times.

You may have noticed that Manning was just over 50% completing passes to his wideouts.  Manning was almost perfect to the backs and tight ends, completing 10 of 11 passes to them.

TE Jake Ballard has emerged as a huge weapon in the middle of the field.  It’s uncanny how this rather slow, rather stiff guy can get downfield and find the soft spots in the defense and catch everything thrown his way.  On the day, Ballard caught all 5 passes thrown to him for 81 yards.  It may be that schematically defenses aren’t worried about him and he’s getting obscenely free releases.  That will change after these last few weeks.  No matter the outcome, it’s a positive for the offense because if he is covered from here on out, it will open other areas for the receivers.  Ballard also did well blocking, as noted in the long run by Bradshaw.

Bear Pascoe also caught a couple passes, but he was lackluster at best in the passing game.  He was responsible for one of the pressures on Eli and was about 50/50 on his effectiveness blocking in the run game from the fullback position.  He also had two holding critical holding calls that put the Giants in 1st and 20 holes that they never got out of.

Travis Beckum was thrown to once, but the route he ran was horrid, as he backpeddled for about five yards and never got to the spot of the ball.

Offensive Line

The line had a solid day.  Having David Baas back at center certainly seemed to be a tonic, as the run blocking was the best it’s been virtually all season.  OL Kevin Boothe was very solid filling in for Chris Snee at right guard.  Watching him on playback, he was constantly getting to the second level and putting a hit on a linebacker.  Boothe has truly progressed into a very solid lineman.  LT William Beatty was solid as well.  Bear Pascoe again had trouble in pass protection, allowing a couple pressures off the left side, one causing Eli to miss an open Hakeem Nicks in the end zone that he still nearly corralled.  LG David Diehl, who’s been much maligned but maybe not deservedly so according to HC Tom Coughlin, also had a good day.  Again, much has been said to indicate that communication has been off and assignments have been missed that Diehl may have been trying to cover up.  On Sunday, the Giants didn’t seem to have much trouble keeping Eli upright or opening holes for the backs.

Defense

It didn’t look too good for the Giants defense early.  Buffalo came out throwing on their first series, and completed 3 passes for a first down on 4 drop backs on their first 5 plays.  The Giants were not beaten over the top at all during this game, but they were nickeled and dimed with the slants, curls, stop routes and screens.  Buffalo likes to get the ball out quickly and make plays down the field off the short passing game and that’s been the Giants’ weakness all year.  Fortunately, the Giants were able to get off the field on that first drive but the signs were there that the soft zone was going to get to them again.  Interestingly, Buffalo didn’t attempt to use any type of hurry up, which has also been hard for New York to stop.

On the second drive, however, Buffalo ran into the teeth of the Giants defense and when the right side of the line was collapsed, Fred Jackson quickly got into the secondary and won a foot race with CB Aaron Ross to the endzone.  On the play, the Giants were in a single high safety look with three linebackers on the field.  SAM Michael Boley was near the line of scrimmage in the gap between RDE Dave Tollefson and RDT Chris Canty.  The Buffalo LT crashed down on Canty and the LDE ran Tollefson out of the play wide to the right.  DT Rocky Bernard was pushed off to the right by the Buffalo center, and Boley was caught in the wash.  The fullback quickly got to the left edge and drilled WIL Mathais Kiwanuka, and at the same time got in the way of S Kenny Phillips who was blizing from the left and got enough of him to slow him down so he couldn’t make a play on Jackson at the line of scrimmage.  That left MIKE Jacquian Williams the only man left in the front 7 with any chance to make a play.  He reacted to the fullback heading to his left, and moved up towards the line of scrimmage, vacating his gap and was engaged by the left DT, leaving a hole that a truck could have driven through.  S Deon Grant was caught flat footed after seemingly taking a bad angle and Jackson was off to the races for an 80 yard touchdown, nearly untouched on the play.

On their next drive, the Giants were caught by the short pass that turned into a huge play.  The Giants seemed to be playing some sort of reverse zone blitz, and when Michael Boley got caught at the line of scrimmage with his head turned toward the secondary and pointing to a defensive back at the snap, he was unable to react and get into his drop.  Buffalo exploited it perfectly, and executed a 60 yard catch and run in which the Giants seemed to try to triangulate the receiver and get him but no one did.  Interestingly, that play should never have happened.  Buffalo should have been flagged for a 5 yard delay of game penalty as the play clock was at zero for a full second before the ball was snapped but it wasn’t called.

I never check the game threads in The Corner Forum anymore, but I can only imagine the gloom and doom and calls for heads that was going on.  Frankly, it looked like the Giants were about to get blown out of the building.

To their credit, the Giants only relinquished one long touchdown drive after that, although they never got the Bills to go 3 and out and allowed at least 1 first down on every drive until the final drive of the day, when Buffalo was forced to go for it on 4th down and were stopped.  Interestingly, the Bills didn’t have an offensive play on the Giants side of the field until 8:05 was left in the 2nd quarter.

Front 7

The Giants again spent most of the day sending just four down linemen in on the pass rush, but were very effective against a team that likes to get rid of the ball quickly.  The run defense, other than the 80 yarder, was solid.  The stats show that the Giants gave up a very skewed 6.7 ypc average.  To be fair, Buffalo ran the wild cat with QB Brad Smith 4 times and he gained big yardage on each of them.  The Giants are not used to defending that look, and Buffalo took advantage.  As for Fred Jackson, on his 15 other carries on the day, he gained just 41 yards for a 2.7 ypc average.

The Giants got good pressure on QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, sacking him 3 times and registering 4 more QB hits.  The Giants again rotated their front four with varied looks, bringing Dave Tollefson inside at DT with Mathais Kiwanuka lining up at DE several times.  One key series was in the second quarter with the Bills leading 14-10 and driving.  With a 1st and 10 and already in field goal range at the Giants 22, Mathais Kiwanuka got a great jump and strip sacked Fitzgerald.  Unfortunately, Buffalo recovered but the loss was 6 yards.  After an incomplete pass on 2nd down, Jason Pierre-Paul with help got after Fitzgerald and knocked the Bills out of field goal range.   JPP had a tough roughing the quarterback penalty called on him that helped to set up a 49-yard field goal, but he redeemed himself with the sack.  On the last drive of the game, it was also JPP who got his hands up to tip the ball away on 4th down.  Osi Umenyiora had the 3rd Giants sack on the day.

Other than the two plays mentioned above, the Giants’ linebacking corps had a solid afternoon.  Kiwanuka was around the ball all day and ended up with 6 solo tackles.   Boley made up for his error by making 7 solo tackles on the day, one behind the line of scrimmage.  He did have an interference call against him.  On the play, he was running with with the WR down the middle of the field and never turned around to make a play on the ball and ran through the receiver.  It was a good call.  If Boley had turned however, he’d have had an easy interception.

Secondary

It can be argued that CB Corey Webster is putting together a Pro Bowl caliber season.  He’s been charged with taking the opponents #1 receiver out of each game this year and once again he did a great job against WR Stevie Johnson on Sunday.  Johnson beat him on a stop and go for a touchdown, but that’s going to happen from time to time.

On the day, Webster had 4 solo tackles, 3 passes defensed and 2 absolutely critical interceptions.  I don’t know how he even caught the first one.  It looked as though he might be called for interference, and then the ball seemed to magically stick to him.  It was an amazing catch.  His second interception which came deep in their own territory, may very well have saved the game. It was amazing that he was able to hold on to the ball as he was also face-masked on the play.

Antrel Rolle continued his solid play at the line of scrimmage against the run.  On Sunday he wasn’t a liability in the nickel, either.  He ended the day with 6 solo tackles.  S Kenny Phillips was also active and had 5 solo tackles.

The rest of the secondary was solid, again keeping the ball in front of them and limiting Buffalo’s short passing game.  The only blemishes were the bad angle taken by Grant and the shoddy attempt to corral WR Naaman Roosevelt on his 60 yard catch and run.

Special Teams

Last week, the Giants started an average of 20 yards further from the goal line on each of their drives that the Seattle Seahawks did.  This week, they reversed that.  After starting their drives, on average at their own 19 yard line, this week they averaged starting at their own 30 and held Buffalo to an average starting field position at their 23.  That’s a huge difference in one week.

The Giants only punted 3 times on Sunday, resulting in 1 touchback and only allowing 11 return yards on the other 2.  That’s outstanding and hopefully the start of a new trend.  As for punt returns, Aaron Ross only got one opportunity and had a 17 yard return.

K Lawrence Tynes made 5 touchbacks and the only return that Buffalo attempted resulted in just a 21 yard return.  Devin Thomas ran 4 back for a 22 yard average, his longest was 28.  There was nothing spectacular, but steady play is better than what’s been seen in the recent past.

The only negative on specials was the blocked 51 yard field goal attempt that was a result of penetration rather than a low kick.

Coaching

HC Tom Coughlin lost a rare challenge on the Manningham drop in the end zone, but he can’t really be faulted for trying at that point.  It’s a tough situation, because in a 1 score game if you don’t get the call you do lose a potentially needed time out.  Thankfully that didn’t become a factor in the game.

DC Perry Fewell seemed to change up the defense and go with a little more press man coverage than the soft zone, but it’s hard to tell definitively from the TV feed.  Without a doubt, CB Corey Webster had 1 on 1 coverage with Stevie Johnson on both of his interceptions.

Final Thoughts

The Giants go into the bye assured that they’ll be coming out of it with at least a tie for first place in the NFC East.  This was a big, big game and once again with their backs seemingly against the wall, fighting even more injuries, the Giants came out and won when many didn’t give them much of a chance.

Next on the docket is Miami, and then the schedule gets much tougher.  If Jacobs, Tuck, Snee, Amukamara and Hynoski can come back after the bye and contribute, they’ll make a team that seems to be getting into sync that much better and anything is possible.

(Box Score – Buffalo Bills at New York Giants, October 16, 2011)
Oct 212011
 

WFAN Interview with Head Coach Tom Coughlin: The audio of yesterday’s WFAN interview with Head Coach Tom Coughlin is available at CBSNewYork.com.

Status Report on the 2011 New York Giants: Giants Hope to Get Stronger After Bye by Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com

Article on QB Eli Manning: Giants’ Eli Manning Enjoying a Stellar Start with Fewer Turnovers by Mike Vorkunov of The Star-Ledger

Article on WR Victor Cruz: Giants’ Cruz Comes Out the Victor by Ralph Vacchiano of The Daily News

Article on WR Ramses Barden: Giants’ Barden Near Return From Broken Ankle by Brian Lewis of The New York Post