Joe Triano

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

Nov 142013
 
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Oakland Raiders at New York Giants (November 10, 2013)

Oakland Raiders at New York Giants – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 24 – Oakland Raiders 20

Game Review: If someone had told you that Cooper, not Peyton or Eli would spur the Giants to a win, you may have slowly backed away from the crazy man. In an ironic twist last Sunday at a blustery MetLife Stadium, it was Cooper (Taylor) playing the hero, Peyton (Hillis) playing the goat and little brother Eli just kind of getting in the way. Heading into week 10, the Giants were on a roll, two in a row, turnover free and slowly stabilizing. With a two game streak, newfound confidence and an antsy home crowd rocking early…the Giants fumbled the opening kickoff, and two plays later the visiting Raiders were up 7-0 on a Terrelle Pryor sneak. Again quickly down 7-0, your Giants took the field on offense with Eli and Peyton in tow, and the two played a game of “who can stink more” on the first possession. Eli missed a wide open Victor Cruz on first down, Hillis genuflected in lieu of a blitz pick up, and our favorite band “The 3 and Outs” were back.

Fortunately for Eli and the “Outs”, the Giants defense pulled on their big boy pants again and stuffed the Raiders’ first possession after 21 yards. Cooper (Taylor) did what Eli and Peyton could not do on the ensuing punt, he found the end zone when he scooped up a Damontre Moore punt block, and sprinted 21 yards to pay dirt, evening the score at 7. The defense again held serve on the next Raiders’ possession, but were back on the field five plays later thanks to a Peyton Hillis fumble on the now dreaded screen pass that gave the Raiduhs the spheroid back at the Giant 21-yard line. Unwilling to let the offense ruin the day, no matter how hard they tried, the Giants’ D rose up again, forcing the Raiders to settle for a 33-yard FG and a 10-7 lead.

After trading punts, the Giants’ offense finally got on track, marching 90 yards in 11 plays with Manning hitting WR Rueben Randle on a 5-yard TD pass and a 14-10 lead. After another hold by the defense, Eli pulled a Peyton and hit CB Tracy Porter in the chest with an INT that was returned for a TD and the Giants trailed 17-14. It was Porter you may recall who sealed a Super Bowl win over Peyton Manning’s Colts with an INT return for a TD. (I refuse to use term Pick Six, Beast Mode or Sick to describe anything football related, unless it makes me physically ill of course). The Raiders opened the second half with the ball and a 3-point lead and embarked on a 74-yard drive that put them at the Giants one-yard line after chewing up half of the 3rd quarter. With a first and goal at the one, the Giants’ defense faced a defining moment and stared their season in the face.

Inside the Game: Down 17-14, facing a Raider first and goal at the 1, the Giants defense may have saved their season. Lining up in an Oklahoma 5-2 (A 4-3 with an OLB lined up in a 2-point DE  stance on the weakside) with Rivers lined up as the elephant, or flex DE, the Giants gambled a bit by keeping safeties Antrel Rolle and Will Hill in with Rivers as the extra DL. Against power back Rashad Jennings, giving up the bulk seemed riskier than using an extra DL and run-stuffing safety Ryan Mundy but DC Perry Fewell once again forced the Raiders’ hand. By keeping Rolle on the strong side and Rivers as the weakside boundary defender, Fewell hedged his bet against Pryor getting to the edge and forced the Raiders to go inside. With Jon Beason manning the middle, Fewell gambled that he’d be able to defeat a lead block and Rivers would hold the edge, forcing Jennings to try his luck against JPP, Tuck, DTs Mike Patterson and Linval Joseph. Check and mate to Mr. Fewell, Beason blew up the A gap, Rivers got inside of LT Khalif Barnes and Tuck cleaned up as Patterson and Joseph got low to take out the Raider interior OL. Fewell’s alignment worked on 2nd and goal, with Rivers eyeing the mesh point (the spot where the QB and RB meet on any type of pass/run option) and forcing Pryor to throw into tight coverage against Antrel Rolle. That speed on the edge kept Pryor in check, and forced the Raiders to earn their $14 dollars…the hard way. LT Khalif Barnes jumped on 3rd and 1 and the Giants forced Pryor into an errant 3rd down throw as Jon Beason, Justin Tuck and Jacquian Williams played with outstanding discipline, not leaving their gaps and hemming Pryor in. Antrel Rolle was again in on the play, with tight coverage in the end zone, and the Raiders went from a potential 10-point lead to a much more manageable 20-14 bulge. Excellent strategy down there by Fewell to negate the Raiders’ best player, limit their options and turn the tide of the game.

Down 20-14, Eli again missed Cruz twice, forcing another three-and-out but never fear the defense is here. CB Terrell Thomas continued his game-changing play, intercepting Pryor and rumbling down to the 5 to set the G-Men up for a 1-yard TD plunge by Andre Brown. With a one-point lead, the Giants’ defense forced another three-and-out thanks to another Justin Tuck pressure and errant Pryor pass. After the defense’s goal-line stand, Eli dusted himself off and led the Giants on a 70-yard, 13-play drive that ate up 6:56 and pushed the margin to 24-20 on a 23-yarder by K Josh Brown. Manning hit Hakeem Nicks on a perfectly placed sideline route that got the offense out of a 2nd-and-14 hole, and spurred the offense on its final scoring drive. Up 24-20, the Giants’ defense held yet again (I am NOT getting tired of typing it, seeing it and saying it) and gave the offense the ball at the Raider 44, with a chance to end the game. But that’s not fun enough for Eli and the Outs, and their opening act, the Unspecial Teamers. Defensive heroics be damned, the offense went a pathetic three-and-out (including ANOTHER failed screen pass) and not to be outdone, the special teams gave up a punt block to give the Raiders one more shot to steal a win. Say it with me now….and the defense came up with another big stop, as Mathias Kiwanuka stripped Terrell Pryor, Cullen Jenkins belly flopped on it, and the day was saved despite the offense and special teams’ dogged determination to flub the game away.

Quarterbacks: Ugly stat line, ugly game. 12-of-22 for 140 yards, one TD and one INT. Not quite worth $14 million or whatever he’s being paid, but a win is a win during this head-scratching campaign. Eli Manning again struggled, misfiring on some easy throws that the vet usually hits. Manning badly, badly missed a wide open Peyton Hillis on a 3rd-and-9 and overthrew Cruz on the game’s first throw. In both cases, Manning did the same thing – he threw without getting his plant foot set, didn’t get his hips through the throw and sent both passes sailing. Eli’s 90-yard scoring drive, was in the words of our pal Bruce (BBI’s resident optimist), “vintage Manning.”  Manning mixed in play action, hitting all three of his top WRs for 10 plus yard gains and finding Randle on a perfectly placed 3rd-and-goal TD pass. Just as he was feeling good after a 25 yarder on 3rd-and-11, Eli threw a head-scratching pick to CB Tracy Porter who waltzed into the end zone, erasing the Giants’ 90-yard effort with just one errant toss. Eli threw a few darts when he had to, one to Nicks on the Giants’ final drive, the perfect fade to Randle for a TD, a 3rd-and-5 to Cruz and a 3rd-and-1 dump-off to Brown that kept a drive alive. Eli missed badly on a few too, notably a wide-open Cruz on a quick out from the Raiders’ 5 that would have been an easy six points. A few good throws, some very bad and inconsistent mechanics all day long. Good enough for a win though, and right now that’s all that matters.

Running Backs: RB Peyton Hillis, the steadying force of the past two weeks had a rough day. He gave up a safety blitz for a sack on the Giants third play of the day and quite honestly looked like he was checking for a logo on Usama Young’s shoe instead of blocking him. Hillis then coughed up a screen pass and RB Andre Brown took the reins for the day in his return from a broken fibula. Clearly rested, Brown racked up 115 yards and a TD on 30 carries. Brown ran with good power between the tackles, and breathed life into the Giants’ trademark play-action offense. Brown played well, but in reviewing, could have played better with a few quicker reads. But after the layoff, a damn good effort by Brown and another sign of good things to come for this offense that has to find its bearings to be relevant in the NFC East. FB John Conner was again a thumper, leading the way for Brown’s big day with crushing lead after crushing lead. This is the best lead fullback blocking this team has had since Mo Carthon’s reign of terror in the mid-80s. Conner’s blast of CB Charles Woodson gave Brown a wide open lane to dash into the end zone and give the Giants a 21-20 lead they would not relinquish.

Wide Receivers: Rueben Randle led the WRs with 50 yards on three grabs and a TD, including an impressive 25 yarder on a 3rd-and-11 that got the Giants out of the shadow of their own end zone. Hakeem Nicks chipped in with four catches and 49 yards and drawing a pass interference penalty that inched the ball closer on the Giants’ lead-taking drive in the fourth quarter. Nicks’ 25-yarder on the Giants final scoring drive was a tip-toe effort that got the Giants out of a 2nd-and-14 hole, outstanding effort and focus by Nicks with a safety bearing down on him. Victor Cruz was quiet with only 37 yards on three catches, the result of oodles of Cover 2 designed to hem in the Giants’ downfield passing game. The offense is taking fewer shots downfield, the WRs numbers are dipping, but it’s working for now. Before this season ends, the dangerous duo will have to make some game-changing plays if this team hopes to make any noise in the NFC.

Tight Ends: No catches, no yards, no problem. Brandon Myers, Bear Pascoe and Larry Donnell were used as extra FBs, downfield blockers when lined up in the slot and out wide, and decoys that gave Andre Brown just enough room on off-tackle runs to keep the chains moving. Pascoe had an outstanding edge-sealing block on Brown’s TD, and did his usual dirty work on the edge.

Offensive Line: Rough start for the rookie RT Justin Pugh, giving up an early sack on the Giants’ second possession, but Pugh steadied himself and helped pave the way for Andre Brown’s big day. LT Will Beatty gave up an early pressure as well, forcing a Manning underthrow, but like Pugh, he held his own the rest of the day. Despite three sacks, the OL played pretty well, paving the way for a big day on the ground but their blitz recognition was below average on all of the sacks, an unfortunate result of a unit that has not played long enough together. My hat goes off to Jim Cordle again, he’s not pancaking anyone, but he kept rhino-sized DT Pat Sims from getting in Eli’s face and helped lead the way to Andre Brown’s big day. Cordle is by far the player who has improved the most from his first game. He’s gone from liability to steady presence, and has been a pleasant surprise.

Defensive Line: DE Justin Tuck had an uneven day, firing off for several clean shots at Pryor and missing, but forcing enough hurried passes to make up for his maddening run defense. DE Jason Pierre-Paul notched his second sack of the year, but was injured early as he dove to grab Pryor and landed awkwardly on his shoulder. Stay tuned for that injury, because JPP was starting to heat up. And with Shaun Rogers now on IR, the DL is suddenly down two key elements. DT Cullen Jenkins finished with five stops and harassed Pryor inside all day long. Jenkins’ ability to force Pryor to move sooner than he wanted to was a big reason that Pryor struggled throwing all game. He simply had no time to get set thanks to the front seven. With RGIII on the menu twice, the Giants’ DEs had better learn to stop jumping the A gaps when the QB is a running threat. Fortunately for the G-Men, Terrelle Pryor was hobbled a bit. Nevertheless, both Tuck and JPP jumped inside repeatedly on dive fakes only to see Pryor sprint to where they were. It’s been going on for two years now, it’s on film, and it’s easily correctable but for some reason it remains a big, big concern when facing a QB who can get to the edge. Minus DT Shaun Rogers, the Giants gave up one long run inside, but for the most part, Mike Patterson, Linval Joseph and Johnathan Hankins held serve, holding the Raiders to 213 yards of total offense. Not to be forgotten, DE Mathias Kiwanuka attacked the mesh point on a 1st-and-10, dumping Pryor for a 2-yard loss.

Linebackers: Keith Rivers made a big impact, seeing his most action in weeks, responding with 8 tackles and a fourth-quarter sack. Rivers badly missed his gap assignment on the Raiders’ second drive, allowing Pryor to rumble by for a 9-yard gain and a first down, but followed with a great open-field stop on RB Rashad Jennings on the very next play. Rivers had good containment on Pryor on 3rd-and-1 early in the second quarter to force a Raider punt, and applied pressure off the edge to force Pryor into an intentional grounding that put the Raiders in a 2nd-and-30. Yes, I said thirty. Rivers just missed a sack on Pryor that would have ended the Raiders third- quarter scoring drive. But good hustle again from the former Trojan who provided good edge containment for the most part. LB Jacquian Williams had two stops, but one was a big open-field stop of Jennings that dropped the Raiders for a 3-yard loss. For good measure Williams made a perfect read on a fourth-quarter Pryor throw that was nearly an interception – a great read and jump on the ball. Jon Beason only had three stops, but did an excellent job inside taking on lead blocks to allow Rivers and Rolle to flow to the ball and combine for 20 stops.

Defensive Backs: CB Trumaine McBride has been an emergency fill-in at CB during Corey Webster’s injury struggles, and has played well enough to not be noticed – which is the idea for boxing referees and CBs in coverage. CB Prince Amukamara had one gaffe, giving up a long pass to WR Denarius Moore after Pryor was nearly sacked. S Antrel Rolle’s tackle of Rashad Jennings prior to the Giants’ goal-line stand was the biggest play of the day for the former Hurricane on a day filled with them. Rolle dragged Jennings down short of the end zone, and the Raiders had to settle for three, making one Giant TD all that was needed for a victory. Rolle dumped Terrell Pryor on 3rd-and-7 midway through the fourth quarter to snuff out another Raider drive. CB Terrell Thomas came up with a game-changing INT, taking a Pryor pass to the Raider 5-yard line and setting up the go ahead score. There is no player to be more proud of on this team than T2, his resurgence has been nothing short of storybook-ending good. S Will Hill gave up the punt block, sort of, but I’m not asking a 210 lb safety to be the personal protector on the punt team…ever. Bad move by Quinn putting the smallish Hill in there.

Special Teams: Aaaahh mannn..OH MAN!  WTH? Ho-boy. That’s a Jernigan fumble, a Moore block and Taylor TD, an inexplicable Rueben Randle punt fielded at the 2-yard line, and some wobbly Steve Weatherford punting. We’re down, we’re up, and we’re down, pretty much the story of the Giants’ special teams this season. Before I rip into that handsome devil Tom Quinn, let it be said that special teams play league wide is atrocious. I refuse to do any real statistical analysis (Google schmoogle), but in watching every Thursday, Sunday and Monday Night games, I have seen an alarming number of STs miscues league wide. If I had to blame anyone, I’d point to the new friendly CBA that severely limits practice time and is reducing the quality of play overall league-wide. DE Damontre Moore’s block was a thing of beauty and Cooper’s quick scoop-and-score gave Giant fans a glimpse of the size-and-speed specimens the two rookies are. Mark Herzlich made the cardinal sin on the punt gaffe, by not starting his progression from the inside out, allowing a huge hole for the Raiders to exploit on an almost disastrous play.

NFLW (NFL for Women): Congratulations to my niece, who recently got engaged, albeit to a Cowboys’ fan. But I will let it slide for now. We’ll call her Niece in VA (NinVA) from now on. NinVA and my wife, Mrs. Joey were NOT talking alternative uniform pants; they were discussing wedding dresses over my strained cries for gap integrity from Justin Tuck. So in true NinVA and Mrs. Joey form, the game was minutes old and they were knee deep in wedding magazines and excessive maid of honor celebrations (I threw a flag for excessive hugging). As I ignored them and tried to watch this debacle, NinVA jumped up and exclaimed…”I just got taco (expletive) on my leggings!”  In honor of Richie Incognito’s slur-filled voice mail, I erred on the side of discretion by using expletive instead of the actual word, which may shock my tiny disloyal following. Hint, it rhymes with biz and tacos can’t technically do it.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award: This week’s CiiyCA goes to me for being a day late and way long-winded with this review. The game stunk live, stunk more on DVR and still stinks moments after I deleted it. 

(Boxscore – Oakland Raiders at New York Giants, November 10, 2013)
Nov 052013
 
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Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants (October 27, 2013)

Brandon Jacobs – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 15 – Philadelphia Eagles 7

Game Review: Determined to let Chip Kelly try his hand at the “Time of possession doesn’t matter” game, the Giants had a very clear plan in Philadelphia in seeking win number 2 of the 2013 campaign. Knowing that Kelly’s Eagles have vacillated between unstoppable and dreadful on offense, Tom Coughlin and company again went to an old formula: Run the ball, protect the football and eat the clock to keep a dangerous offense off the field. Coupled with a stifling defensive effort, the Giants’ offense was just enough to overcome Giant killers LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson…and the Giants’ own version of the failboat, aka the special teams units.

Inside the Game Plan: Seeking to neutralize McCoy, the Giants came out with a coverage scheme designed to keep #25 in green in check. Playing with their usual 4-man front, the Giants deployed Antrel Rolle and Terrell Thomas as almost OLBs, or the Big Nickel Safety, along with LBs Jon Beason and Jacquian Williams. On obvious running situations (almost always on 1st and 2nd down) wherever McCoy went, Rolle and Terrell Thomas followed, each acting as a spy depending on the side of the field McCoy lined up towards. It almost resembled a 4-4 defense at times with both Rolle and Thomas playing at LB depth and staying home until McCoy got up field. The one on the side McCoy didn’t venture to, stayed shallow, causing a lot of traffic for an Eagle passing game that loves to attack the interior of the defense with their WRs/TEs/RBs abilities’ to make yards after the catch. What you ended up with was a modified Cover-2 with S Will Hill playing the joker/rover roll and rolling up on any receiver that went free if Thomas or Rolle had to sneak up into box in run support, or dropping deep if the Eagles emptied the backfield. Credit Perry Fewell with a simple, but very effective, scheme that used Rolle, Thomas and Hill as a LB, S or CB depending on where McCoy was and who came out in pass routes. By using two of the three as boundary defenders against McCoy, no matter what happened behind them, Fewell was able to almost totally neutralize McCoy, holding the former Pitt Panther to 48 yards on 15 carries and only 18 yards on four receptions. Fewell identified, isolated and shut down the opponent’s best player and the rest fell into place defensively.

After an opening three-and-out and a punt designed to keep DeSean Jackson from flashing gang signs on his way to the end zone, the Giants’ defense came up with the first of many stops that would define this afternoon. Rolle picked off a pass as the lone deep safety with man coverage underneath that put the Giants in business at their own 21. Nine plays later, Josh Brown gave the Giants their first lead at 3-0 with a 40-yard field goal. The defense dialed up the heat again, with Antrel Rolle again keying the stop with a sack of Michael Vick to force the first of six Eagle punts on the day. The Giants, spurred by a 27-yard grab by TE Brandon Myers, embarked on a 45-yard, 7-play drive that again ended with only a FG. But the Giants were up 6-0 and slowly taking control of the game. On their next possession, the Eagles would again punt, thanks to good pressure up the gut from DT Linval Joseph and consistent edge push from DE Justin Tuck.

The Giants would take advantage again, scoring on their third straight possession, behind two clutch 3rd down passes from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz and Jerrel Jernigan, respectively. Despite only 48 yards on the drive, the Giants chewed up 5:31 en route to Josh Browns’ 33-yarder that made it a 9-0 bulge. As the 2nd quarter opened, the Giants again stifled Gang Green, limiting the Eagles to a 16-yard drive that ended in the third punt of the day for the home team. Stop me if you’ve heard this, but the Giants threw together another FG drive, their fourth in a row that pushed the lead to 12-0. After QB Mike Vick departed with a hamstring strain, QB Matt Barkley provided a bit of a spark, driving the Eagles 68 yards down to the Giants’ 2-yard line, but it was Terrell Thomas, hustling in pursuit, who came up with a strip sack of Barkley that Jacquian Williams recovered to preserve the 12-0 lead going into the half.

To call the second half boring would be doing a disservice to anything labeled as boring. After the Eagles eschewed common football rules, which Chip Kelly admittedly hates, and went for it on 4th down and failed, the teams traded two three-and-outs a piece (and piling up an impressive 18 yards on four drives) until the Giants finally broke through again after a shanked 29-yard Eagle punt. Much like my reviews, the Giants took far too long to accomplish far too little, capping off a 32-yard, 9-play drive that ate up 5:58 and put the Giants up 15-0. That lead would hold until P Steve Weatherford’s punt that never was, got recovered by the Eagles in the end zone for a TD that tainted the final score at 15-7. The Eagles had another shot to tie late in the game but one of the big three, S Will Hill, intercepted the Eagles at the Giant 38. Win number two, which was as fun as a number two, was in the books.

Quarterbacks: Coming into the week 8 matchup with the Eagles, Eli Manning had thrown 15 interceptions on the season, just over two per game and in that stat alone the Giants’ season to date is crystallized. After a 200-yard and zero-INT day against the Vikings, the former Rebel went without throwing an interception for the second week in a row and the result was a Giant victory. Coincidence? Not by a long shot. Manning finished with 246 yards passing and instead of forcing the ball downfield was again happy with check downs, as noted by his 3.53 yard difference between his yardage per attempt and per completion (more on that later). Manning converted some critical 3rd downs with shorter, safer passes and played smart, safe football all day, something that is becoming a necessity with an inexperienced OL (at least in terms of playing the same five weekly) and a struggling running game. The time to take deep shots simply isn’t there as often as it has been in the past. Credit Manning and Kevin Gilbride for making the adjustments to a safer passing game that is augmenting the run and converting when necessary.

TPRR: For the second week in a row, Manning’s yards per completion were under 9.9. The Giants are 2-0 when that number is less than 9.9 and 0-6 when it’s higher. Perhaps more telling if you dig a little deeper is something I have temporarily anointed TPRR (The Pass Risk Ratio). Completely unscientific, but if you subtract the yards per attempt from yards per completion, a trend appears in our mini-streak. In the previous six games, all painful losses, the Giants’ TPRR ranged from 4.74 to 7.88. While not an earth shattering range here, the games under 4.0 were both wins. These were games in which the Giants led most of the way and were not forced to take shots downfield, or perhaps that was by design given the big disparity in yards per completion. As you can see in my completely fabricated analysis below, when the TPRR is sub 4.0 we win, above and we lose. It’s not a predictor as much as a look at what happened and perhaps why. When the Giants are content with check downs, shorter passes and taking what the defense gives them, they don’t rely on so many dangerous shots downfield, the running game is augmented by the short pass and you have in theory, a more efficient, albeit much less dangerous offense. Given the way this defense has shut down the run this season, this formula will work if that continues and Eli and company continue to play sound football and embark on longer, slower more conservative drives that result in points and punts rather than turnovers.

2013-Giants at Eagles Graphic

Running Backs: Rookie RB Michael “Oh he’s cute” Cox got the starting nod for the G-Men and finished with a 19-yard, 9-carry effort and one reception for 11 yards. 30 yards isn’t a lot to get excited about, but let’s stay positive here: no fumbles, no missed blitz pickups and no damage to his apparently handsome face (more on that later). Cox’s best effort of the day was a well-executed counter that Cox made a decisive move on and cut off tackle for a solid run. HB Peyton Hillis again churned along slowly, proving that for now, the tortoise will beat the hare with this current OL. Hillis cranked out a pedestrian 3.5 yards per carry and toted 20 times for 70 yards, adding 3 grabs for 15. He again provided strong blitz pickups and positive gains on the ground that seem to have steadied this offense. FB John Conner had one catch for 12 yards and was again a load on lead plays, assisting Hillis to his modest but effective total.

Wide Receivers: WR Jerrel Jernigan is first up this week since he made the first catch of the game, a 9-yard doozy on 3rd and 10. Running the route to the stick would have helped and kept the offense on the field; it’s the little things like that keeping Jernigan from being a reliable target. The suddenly maligned Hakeem Nicks seemed to have his timing with Manning back, pulling 7 catches for 51 yards. Victor Cruz was again bottled up deep, but contributed with 86 yards on 7 receptions to pace the Giants’ WR corps. Cruz’s biggest contribution was on a perfect pass from Manning and a perfect route that converted a 3rd-and-5 on the Giants third scoring drive of the day. Rueben Randle was essentially a non-factor the whole game, dropping one crossing route at the Eagles 7-yard line that should have been caught.

Tight Ends: TE Brandon Myers had 42 yards on three grabs, the long of which put the Giants in position for their second FG drive of the day. Larry Donnell got himself open in the end zone, but ran his route too deep and his catch was well out of bounds as the Giants had to settle for a third Josh Brown field goal.

Offensive Line: Another solid day for the OL. Manning was only dropped once and the big five up front led the way to five scoring drives and were able to sustain enough push to make the running game viable, if not dangerous. LT Will Beatty kept DE Trent Cole in check most of the day, only really surrendering an early pressure to another Eagle who gives the Giants fits. As opposed to the oddball way of using T James Brewer against Minnesota, in which Brewer lined up at LT with LT Will Beatty moving to blocking TE, Brewer was used in this game as that big TE and plugged in both sides on obvious running plays. It’s clear that when Hillis is in the game, this unit is playing with a little more attitude and starting to get a lot more push up front to keep this offense slowly moving along.

Defensive Line: Despite the fact that two of the Giants officially credited four sacks came from DBs, the font four played another strong game. By staying disciplined in their rush lanes, the Giants’ DL mates were able to prevent any big creases and cut back lanes that the Eagles have tortured the Giants with in recent years. DT Linval Joseph was a load up front, with several pressures and a sack. He was held sackless again, but DE Justin Tuck was consistently getting pressure and playing with an edge that was not there in the first six weeks.

Linebackers: A relatively quiet day for the LBs, but that was a good thing, with Rolle and Thomas essentially playing OLBs on a lot of plays. LB Jacquian Williams did an outstanding job in coverage all day, consistently shutting down whoever he ran downfield with and coming up with a huge fumble recovery to snuff out the Eagles after they had driven to the Giant 2-yard line. Williams also snuffed out an Eagle drive with a great pass breakup at the first down marker. Jon Beason again led the bunch four stops, and combined with Williams, were able to limit any real damage after the catch most of the day.

Defensive Backs: For the second week in a row, S Antrel Rolle made some noise, with an early INT and sack of Michael Vick on back-to-back drives. Rolle finished with five stops, a sack, INT and forced fumble. Fewell’s utilization of Rolle, S Will Hill and CB Terrell Thomas was simple as noted in my game summary: they boxed in LeSean McCoy on both sides, abandoning any coverage behind them when McCoy was in the game and looking to run, and the result was the Eagles HB being shut down all day long. Thomas, who pulled in the “NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week” award, finished with 11 stops, and a strip sack of QB Matt Barkley that snuffed out the Eagles’ best drive of the day. Thomas is being deployed to do what he does best: make open field tackles, limit long gains and provide a safety net between the CBs and safeties. Thomas’ comeback from his litany of injuries is a testament to his hard work, determination and very evident talent on the football field. S Will Hill sealed the game with an INT and chipped in with five tackles, again proving very strong in run support and just as adept at deep coverage.

Special Teams: Tough day for LS Zak (I keep typing Steve) DeOssie, who was flagged for an illegal snap on a FG attempt and launched a punt over P Steve Weatherford’s head for the Eagles only score of the day. Weatherford was outstanding, twice pinning the Eagles inside their 5, dropping 3 inside the 20 and negating DeSean Jackson with accurate directional punts. A long of 68 contributed to a 43.8 yard per punt average for the ex-Jet, as #5 continues to rebound from his early season hiccups. K Josh Brown did all the scoring, going 5-for-5 on FGs.

NFLW (NFL for Women): This week I am adding a possibly regular feature known as NFL for women. It’s not a guide to football watching, anything pink with a Giant logo or a suggestion that women play football. Simply put, it’s funny to watch games with my Giant-backing female family members because one of them always says something ridiculous, hilarious or both. My wife and niece watch faithfully each week, both outfitted in Giants’ gear and excited for about 15 minutes until they re-discover their shared love for all things Celebrity Gossip, E! and HGTV along with what J. Crew has that is “so cute” this season. Both were saddened by the departure last year of DJ Ware and this year’s shuttling of David Carr in favor of Curtis Painter “ew, he’s like Jude Law with a smushed head.” Luckily the Giants heard the outcry and drafted the chiseled countenance of RB Michael Cox who spawned my favorite quote of this disastrous season. After his picture was found on Giants.com, one of them said “I hope we get to see a lot more Cox today”…I won’t say who out of respect.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award: I’m giving this one to Chip Kelly for ignoring the fact that time of possession does matter in the NFL when your talent is essentially even week to week. Kelly’s desire to run such an up tempo offense wore his defense out, and his running game’s inability to get started doomed his team’s chances. Kelly’s whiz bang offense amassed a pathetic 200 yards and held the ball for only 21 minutes and 55 seconds. I’m not a guy who roots for failure, but when a college coach who is sure he’s reinvented the game gets clobbered, it’s simply more satisfying. That and it’s the Eagles, who I loathe more than words can explain.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles, October 27, 2013)
Oct 252013
 
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Peyton Hillis, New York Giants (October 21, 2013)

Peyton Hillis Celebrates His Touchdown – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 23 – Minnesota Vikings 7

Game Review: The New World. Within a week of the most ridiculous of Federal holidays, Columbus Day, the Giants got a taste of what it must have been like back in fourteen hundred and ninety two when Columbus sailed the ocean blue and landed…here instead of his intended India. A monumental discovery no doubt, but in his infinite wisdom Columbus thought he HAD landed in India, named the natives Indians and was the impetus for a dizzying array of highly offensive sports nicknames and the eventual dislodging of America’s native peoples in a not so nice way. I know what certain BBI contributors are thinking “Another Fozzie Bear type review from a hack comedian”, but in this intro I have a point, albeit not a strong one. The Giants discovered their own new world, Victory and like Columbus before them, they stumbled and bumbled their way through it, but it may be the day that we all point to as a day the Giants vanquished the ignominious O fer in their O for 6 record. Is it what the crown (The Mara Family) intended when they funded this journey (the 2013 season)? Not quite, but like Columbus in his day there is no reason the Giants can’t pull a Pee-Wee Herman and say “I meant to do that”.

In a game rife with mistakes, the Giants made fewer, and that’s really the crux of this game and sadly the season to date. With David Wilson, Andre Brown, Da’Rel Scott and Brandon Jacobs either injured or sitting home the Giants turned to 7th round pick Michael Cox and former Madden Cover Boy Peyton Hillis to save their spiraling season. From the opening gun, which should have been used to put viewers down humanely, the Giants had one plan and one plan only; to control the clock, shorten the game and limit mistakes. It worked during two recent Super Bowl runs and it was again the formula for victory despite its ugly appearance. The Giants embarked on a trail of tears type of drive as the game opened, grinding out a 17-play, 68-yard drive that ate up 9:36 and resulted in a 35-yard Josh Brown FG and a 3-0 lead. Despite little running room, the Giants remained patient on the ground, didn’t force anything down field and put together a solid, if unspectacular opening drive. That’s lead as in being ahead, not the dangerous paint additive that insulates one against nuclear fallout, though it felt like nuclear winter for much of the night.

The 3-0 lead was short lived sadly, as the Giants unspecial teams gave up an all-too-easy 86-yard punt return to CB Marcus Sherels who barely had to break stride en route to the end zone. At some point, Tom Quinn has to be held accountable for the awful special teams’ performance this year. After trading punts, the Giants put together a 7-play, 82-yard scoring drive highlighted by a 23-yard pass interference penalty against Nicks by rookie CB Xavier Rhodes. One play later, Manning found WR Rueben Randle on a back shoulder throw down the left sideline for a 24-yard TD and a 10-7 lead that was outrageously safe with new Viking QB Josh Freeman simply giving the Minnesota offense no chance to succeed. Freeman’s best sequence was back-to-back completions on the Vikings next drive, hitting Adrian Peterson and Kyle Rudolph for 22 and 21 yards respectively. The drive failed after the Giants completely stifled Adrian Peterson on back-to-back runs and Freeman failed to convert a 3rd and 8 that led to a missed 53-yard field goal and the Vikings last real threat of the evening. The teams traded four more punts to end the first half with a 10-3 Giant lead.

Naturally as the 3rd quarter unfolded, catastrophe struck again after the Giants forced another three-and-out and the Vikings were forced to punt to Rueben Randle. Randle, of course since this is our unlucky 2013 season and it is special teams, fumbled the punt away at the Giant 31-yard line and disaster appeared ready yet again. Fortunately for Randle, S Antrel Rolle picked off Freeman at the Giant 5-yard line two plays later to grant Special Teams Coordinator Tom Quinn yet another escape that would have Rasputin asking him for survival tips. At some point those nudies of Coughlin that Quinn clearly has will stop working and he’ll be shown the door but until then it’s punt return TDs for EVERYONE!!! The repeated failures on special teams are nothing short of sickening. Three more awful drives later, the Giants special teams recovered a mishandled punt at the Viking 3-yard line, and Peyton Hillis punched it in two plays later for a 17-3 lead that would hold up all evening with two more Josh Brown field goals tossed in for a merciful end to the losing streak and this abysmal game. Giants win….that’s right WIN 23-7. Uglier than my first girlfriend, but just as satisfying that we finally got it done.

Quarterbacks: Eli Manning essentially got his drive train back to neutral, nothing great, but more importantly nothing disastrous en route to a 200 yard 1-TD and zero-interception performance. The worst thing the Giants captain and signal caller did was look like a baby calf at a rodeo as he was hauled down by one meaty paw of Vikings DE Jared Allen. Manning was able to convert the Giants first first down with an ungainly 6-yard gallop on 3rd and 5 in keeping with the ugly theme of the night. Manning almost short circuited the Giants’ opening drive on a misfire to TE Larry Donnell, who was eaten by an apparent turf monster on his way to running a post. Manning converted two 3rd and 3 opportunities on the opening drive, but just missed hitting a wide open Hakeem Nicks on another in the end zone that should have been a 7-0 lead. Manning misfired badly again on a Hillis safety valve route that could have easily gone for 20+ yards but Eli hurried the throw, didn’t set his feet and fired too hard and too high again. Two drives, two wide open misses for absolutely no reason. Manning did however trust RB Peyton Hillis enough to wisely use him as a checkdown option instead of forcing too many deep throws and it was simply enough to win which for the two-time Lombardi Winner has to feel pretty good at this point. Give Eli credit, he was patient and methodical, leading the Giants on 16- and 17-play scoring drives, both of which combined to eat up 18:07 of game clock. When all else fails, ball control to the rescue.

Running Backs: One week after Brandon Jacobs bulled his way to 106 yards, the Giants leading rusher was Chief, Brown and Buccaneer castoff Peyton Hillis who slowly churned to 36 yards on 18 agonizing carries. Hillis wasn’t great, but per the theme of this evening he wasn’t terrible either which was enough. Hillis’ main contribution was as a reliable check down option in which he managed 45 yards on five catches and provided Manning with an outlet when his makeshift OL was unable to slow down the Vikings pass rush. Hillis was able to do what Giant backs have yet to master, check for unblocked rushers and leak out down field to provide an option for Eli Manning. Credit Hillis’ time in former Giant QB coach Mike Sullivan’s offense in Tampa Bay for his ability to come in and contribute solid minutes after just days on the team. Rookie Michael Cox had little room to operate and was only capable of 23 yards on 11 carries but again, no major gaffes and more importantly no turnovers. Cox showed some burst on his first run that went for seven yards, but was hemmed in most of night by a Viking front that was rarely fooled by the Giants running game. At first glance, it looked as if Cox had an OK night, taking some short dive plays early for positive yardage, but his late game negative runs skewed the box score a bit in the Vikings’ favor. Cox definitely showed the ability to hit the hole quickly and grind ahead for positive yards; his big losses came on more ill-advised wide running plays that don’t play to Cox’s strength. FB John Conner chipped in with 17 yards on three outlet catches and again showed some burst from the lead back slot, slamming ahead to clear the way for Hillis’ 1-yard 3rd quarter TD plunge. If you do one thing watching these games, pay attention to Conner when he’s the lead on any ISO plays. It is a treat to watch his short area explosiveness in the running game.

Wide Receivers: WR Rueben Randle was the only Giant WR who got on the board, hauling in a 24-yard back shoulder fade from Manning in the 2nd quarter in which he swooped over his defender and made a catch good enough to make you forget his unforced route errors the previous few weeks. Randle finished with 40 yards and only three catches, but he made his longest one count and his first grab was a key 3rd and 3 conversion on a well-run curl route just inside of LB Chad Greenway. Randle, unlike in previous weeks, read the outside coverage correctly and wisely cut his route inside to pick up the first down. It was only eights yards, but a good sign for the second-year wide out that he’s cleaning up the little route misreads he’s made that have resulted in some ugly turnovers. Victor Cruz was again bottled up deep, with the Vikings keenly aware that he has thus far been the Giants only true scoring threat. Cruz’s long was only 13 yards en route to a 50-yard, 5-grab outing. But again, it was enough. Hakeem Nicks, perhaps not wanting to capitalize on a free agent opportunity, let two easy slants bounce right off his foam finger sized hands and saw a sure TD glance off his fingertips on the Giants opening salvo. The 12-15 yard Dig (deep in) route that used to be the staple of this offense when it was pass blocking better has been replaced by the slant and it’s imperative that Nicks pulls those in; it’s becomes the focal point of the offense and opens up the rest of field IF executed well. That repeated failure to secure the ball is killing drives, his free agent bonanza and the final few hair follicles who have the courage to still be on my head. Nicks finished with a very quiet 28 yards on only two catches and just looked plain bad.

Tight Ends: Despite a paucity of talent, the Giants used all three TEs extensively, mostly as extra blockers to slow down the Vikings all-too-predictable and Jon Gruden-belabored A-gap pressures. Give credit to Brandon Myers – he stonewalled DE Jared Allen one-on-one on Eli’s 6-yard first down run early in the game, but finished with only 15 yards on two grabs. Myers did have a key 3rd down conversion on 3rd and 3 on the Giants’ opening drive. Myers was again used in short motion, often up the A-gap to aid the Giants’ struggling interior OL and again it seemed to help Eli have just enough time to make the throws he needed to keep this team alive during the game. Larry Donnell did make a sneaky move downfield as I predicted, but he decided to fall down on an inside route that almost caused an INT on the Giants’ opening drive. Solid edge blocking by Donnell again, and Myers has improved to just below marginal as an in line blocker. Figure Myers to hover around the in-line blocking Mendoza line, if there was such a thing. TE Bear Pascoe had visions of Renaldo Nehemiah, trying to hurdle a defender on his lone reception, but a well-timed helmet to the nether regions brought the former Bulldog down to Earth and down a few octaves from the look of it.

Offensive Line: Hope sprung a tad with C David Baas finally returning to action but a knee injury sidelined the former Wolverine early in the game and his season has mercifully ended this week after another week-in and week-out battle with any joint that dared to pick a fight with Ronnie Barnes and the training staff. C Jim Cordle again acquitted himself pretty well and seems to be settling in a bit at the pivot. Most of the inside pressure was honestly from guards Kevin Boothe and David Diehl simply not getting their hands on their Viking counterparts quickly enough. Cordle more than held his own inside against massive DT Kevin Williams. Despite the hilarious and humiliating one-handed rodeo yank down of Eli Manning, DE Jared Allen was held in check by LT Will Beatty. Beatty wasn’t given much help against the All-Pro DE and he did a great job, that head-shaking sack aside. RT Justin Pugh was so-so, and gave up a few outside pressures, but it was against some seven, eight and nine man fronts that seemed to give the Giants some communication issues up front all night. I have no idea why, but Beatty was lined up at TE next to Pugh on a Michael Cox run that lost five yards behind James Brewer at LT. If that’s not telegraphing a running play…stop…I don’t know what it is…stop. Bad design and awful play, let’s hope Gilbride puts that in his hope chest and never takes it back out.

Defensive Line: Holding MVP Adrian Peterson to 28 yards on 13 carries is something to hang your hat on, but the Giants again came up short in the sack department. Again, credit the DT group of Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson, Linval Joseph and Shaun Rogers, they simply collapsed the middle and didn’t allow Peterson even a glimpse of an opening all evening. With little threat from the passing game, the job was no doubt easier, but stifling Peterson to that extent is impressive no matter how you slice it. It was pressure by Shaun Rogers that forced Freeman into his lone interception; it was also Freeman’s tremendous level of suck but give Rogers the nod here. DE Justin Tuck showed up early with a great inside move to stuff Peterson on the Vikings’ opening drive and pressuring Freeman on a 3rd down one play later. Tuck was active all night, finishing with four stops and a sack, but more importantly, looking motivated and playing with a lot more fire than he has all season.

He’s baaaack..sorta. DE Jason Pierre-Paul again played a little bit better this week, and his trademark hustle appears to be coming back. Lining up mostly at RDE, JPP was stout and active against the run, knifing inside on a dive away from him to bring down Adrian Peterson at the line of scrimmage. Just a play later, JPP helped chase down WR Cordarrelle Patterson and combine with Will Hill to snuff out a 3rd down again just short of the marker. Keep in mind, despite the outcry over JPP’s labanza and his low sack totals, back surgery takes physical and mental hurdles to clear and JPP appears to be on his way to clearing both. It will likely be 2014 before his real ability but each week the former Bull pushes a little bit closer to his old form.

Linebackers: Keith Rivers still stinks, but MLB Jon Beason again provided the fireworks with nine stops and a ton of added energy to the Giants defense. Beason saw fewer snaps on 3rd down than he did a week ago, giving way to Jacquian Williams on occasion and Williams responded with solid coverage and five solo stops of his own. Beason simply injects an energy into this group and the whole defense that has been missing since late in 2012. And no loyal readers (if there are any this week), you aren’t the only one watching and thinking “So THAT’S what a LB looks like”. For good measure Beason tried his own rodeo move, impressively hauling down Adrian Peterson by the wing after it looked like Peterson may have broken through finally. During his time at Oregon, Spencer Paysinger, blah blah blah, I don’t like him.

Defensive Backs: For anyone looking at Antrel Rolle’s cap number and assuming he’s a cap casualty, please picture this deep patrol without his leadership. Rolle was all over the field, finishing with five tackles, a one-handed INT and one near INT on a perfect read of an out route. For good measure, Rolle prevented a Cordarrelle Patterson TD after the former Vol had sprinted to a 69-yard kick return and an almost sure TD until Rolle knocked him off course. S Will Hill chipped in with four stops and was again aggressive, chopping down TE Kyle Rudolph in the open field on a 3rd and 8 that snuffed out a Viking drive 1-yard short of the marker. Hill did it again to whatshisname Patterson a few drives later that again closed out a Viking drive. CB Prince Amukamara threw in five stops and quite frankly was never in any real danger with Josh Freeman at the helm.

Special Teams: Special Teams clearly got sick of giving them the poop stick each week, giving up a punt return TD, fumbling away a punt deep in our own territory and recovering a punt deep inside Vikings territory. P Steve Weatherford was much improved again and appears to be on point again but his directional punt clearly flummoxed the coverage team as almost no one came close to Sherels on his TD return. For good measure Cordarrelle (Ok that’s the third time I’ve had type that ridiculous name…I hate typing that name, try it…it may be THE new leading cause of carpal tunnel syndrome…thanks Mrs. Patterson, name your next kid Max or something) almost returned a kickoff 109 yards. For good measure the Giants’ return teams racked up 50 yards total for the game, or less than Cor (no effing way I’m typing it again)…Patterson’s longest kickoff return. Tom Quinn, your feathered and lethal haircut has run out of cache, you need to go immediately.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award: It has to go to DE Jared Allen for having the nerve to use one oven mitt to drag Eli Manning to the turf around the body of LT Will Beatty. Eli tried to wiggle free a la Super Bowl XLVII, but Virginia Hillbilly Tip of the week…don’t shake hands with a bow hunter or try to escape his grasp in a football game. I don’t know if it’s sitting in a tree blind at 4 a.m. in the freezing cold or hauling their kills by the antlers, but every bow hunter I’ve ever met could crush your hand Robo-Cop style, so go for the high five, or the fist bump, if you don’t mind a hand smelling of deer urine. But please…please don’t shake their hands unless you’re the Six Million Dollar Man, The Terminator or Bob Dole. Honorable Mention to Mrs. Patterson for producing the most un-typable first name in half-baked Giant review history.

(Boxscore – Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants, October 21, 2013)
Oct 152013
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (October 10, 2013)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Chicago Bears 27 – New York Giants 21

Game Review: Ahh Crap! Well I suppose you can’t spell recap without crap, apropos given the Giants endless ability to well..crap the bed late in games. Crap, for the record, isn’t always bad, especially when Burgess Meredith coined two of my favorite movies phrases containing the euphemized word for feces: “You’re gonna eat lightnin’ and you’re gonna crap thundah,” said to inspire Rocky Balboa and my personal favorite “Well you can wish in one hand and crap in the other, and see which one gets filled up foist.” Our hands are mighty full at 0-6, so on with the crap.

Things started off eerily similar to the opening season drubbing by the Cowboys, with Eli Manning not waiting long to throw his first INT, conceivably just to be goofy and make us all laugh because hey…he’s Easy E that’s just how he is. On the Giants first foray on offense, it took Eli just two passes to find an opponent wide open for an easy INT, but as has been the case early in games, the defense rose up and stuffed the Bears on a 4th and 2 from the four to erase Eli’s first gaffe. With the ball in hand at their own 4, the G-Men came out swinging on the ground, but on the fifth play Eli tossed a mind-blowing INT to CB Tim Jennings who took it in from 48 yards out and a quick 7-0 Bears edge. Buoyed by Jacobs 16-yard jaunt on the previous drive, the ground game again took center stage with seven runs on a 10-play drive that evened the score when Jacobs ran again over the right side for a 4 yard rushing touchdown. The Bears answered right back, marching 86 yards in eight plays, spurred by three grabs for 42 yards and a TD by WR Brandon Marshall. In an all too familiar hole at 14-7, the offense answered with a 7-play, 80-yard drive saved by a 3rd and 5 conversion by TE Bear Pascoe who did his best Mark Ingram impression to twist and fight for 14 yards when the Giants needed it badly. Four plays later, Manning hit Rueben Randle on a 37-yard strike that made up for Randle’s apparent blown route on the Jennings TD return two drives earlier.

Tied at 14 all, QB Jay Cutler again sliced up the Giants defense to the tune of 9 plays and 80 yards, capped by another Brandon Marshall touchdown, and the Giants were again in a hole. Unable to keep it going, the G-Men went three and out and the Bears answered with a 10 play drive that ended with a 40-yard Robbie Gould FG to give Ditka Nation a 24-14 halftime bulge.

After the pause, the Bears took the opening kick and drove to the Giant 34 before Gould hit a 52 yarder to push the lead to 13, and you could almost feel the wheels coming off for the 6th week in a row. After trading punts, the Giants took over with 5:21 in the third quarter and drove 91 yards, highlighted by a 31 yard scamper by WR Hakeem Nicks, to pull within six points and yet again give hope to the hopeless (that’s us AND the team AND the coaches AND Ben Affleck when he tries to play the Dark Knight). The Giants defense, which points wise is being shredded, forced two more punts and the Giants took over again with 5:21 left in the game. This was it, Eli was going to march us down the field Super Bowl style and sneak away with a 1-point win. I could hear the short weird lady from Poltergeist urging him on “Eli Maannning, stay away from the liiiiighhht,” then I had a Jo Beth Williams in her undies flashback (if you haven’t seen it, go, go right now to your local VHS tape outlet and buy it just for that scene) and all was right with the world. Jacobs bolted over left end for a 14-yard gain, Eli converted a 3rd and 7 to Nicks, and then it was Jacobs donning the new #34 again with a 12-yard run over right tackle, Da’Rel Scott over right guard for 13 yards and a first down at the Bear 36. Sweet Dancing Jehova we are there, 36 yards from pay dirt, victory, Bingo, Yahtzee, but CB Tim Jennings decided instead to sink our battleship with his second and Manning’s third interception of the night. Unable to stop the Black Unicorn on a critical 3rd and 7 with just under 2:00 to play, the Giants folded again as Jay Cutler and company ran out the clock and held on for the 27-21 W.

Quarterbacks: Another day another batch of mind numbing interceptions, one of which gave the Bears a lead and another that snuffed out a late-game rally. Tell me he’s our whole team, how he’s clutch and how he’s won two trophies and I will not argue for one minute. The issue here is not what he DID, but what he’s doing and that’s what we have to deal with. This isn’t an ESPN poll, no group of writers is sitting around debating if he’s elite, or which Manning is better at ping-pong. This is an 0-6 team with a QB playing poorly, end of story, see it for what it is, not what he’s done. Manning threw for 239 but was barely over 50%, going 14 for 26 and throwing three interceptions. Eli is simply making too many dumb mistakes for someone with this much experience and it is absolutely killing this team. When he makes perfect throws as he did on a 23-yarder up the right sideline to Victor Cruz, it just makes it that more maddening when his mechanics break down and he makes silly mistakes. Instead of a steady veteran leader, we all of the sudden have the hyperactive puppy with a case of the yips.

Running Backs: HB Brandon Jacobs went all Dorsey Levens on the Bears, piling up 106 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns. Jacobs hit on a power for 16 yards on the Giants first scoring drive (the Bears scored a defensive TD but I count it as a scoring drive damn it) and showed some of his old rumble. Jacobs used his trademark power all night, running with a good pad level and keeping his feet moving more effectively than perhaps he ever has and that makes all the difference with the big fella. FB John Conner got some dirt on his uniform finally, and fearful of agreeing with anything Rex Ryan says, you gotta admit when he lines up in the I-formation it’s fun to watch him lower the boom. Conner gets an assist on a 13-yard Jacobs run – he led right up the gut, slamming into the DL, and in the process drew the attention of the Bears’ LBs, giving Jacobs the edge he needed to scoot around right end and convert a big 3rd and 1. It’s those little nuances in a play, that when executed well are the difference between a punt and big time conversion. Conner also buried LB James Anderson on Jacobs’ first TD of the day. There is a discernible difference when Conner is in the game, defenders simply don’t want any part of him and will do anything to get around him if they can. Losing Henry Hynoski was a big blow, if Conner stays healthy this running game may actually get some traction…stay tuned.

Wide Receivers: WR Rueben Randle led the Giants with 75 yards and a touchdown, but it was Randle’s misread on a sight adjustment that played a role in Manning’s second turnover. I won’t lay that at the feet of the 2nd year wideout, I put more of that on the two time Super Bowl MVP who has 16 interceptions in 6 games. Hakeem Nicks chipped in with 4 grabs for 70 yards, including a 31 yard catch and run on the final scoring drive that converted a big 3rd and 8. Victor Cruz kicked in 68 yards on 4 grabs, but for the most part the Bears did a good job keeping the explosive Cruz from killing them deep. It was Cruz’s draw of a pass interference penalty against jerkface Tim Jennings (he may be nice, but two interceptions that ruined my Thursday make him a jerkface) though, that led to the Giants final TD.

Tight Ends: TE Bear Pascoe was the most effective of the tight end trio, consistently holding the point of attack and playing with outstanding leverage play after successful running play. (There is a clip on Giants.com from Training Camp where Pascoe is underneath a blocking sled and coach Mike Pope is ecstatic at how high he’s lifting it, now I finally know why). Pascoe’s hand placement and technique were near perfect, more impressive considering he was essentially a 3rd OT on several plays. Pugh and Diehl were given a ton of credit in the broadcast, but Pascoe was the real difference maker upon closer inspection. Pascoe also had the biggest TE play of the day on his lone 14-yard reception that kept alive a scoring drive. TE Brandon Myers had by far his best blocking day as a Giant. Given his body of work that’s akin to being Michael Bay’s least craptastic movie. Myers was used more as an H-Back and was moving pre-snap on several of the better runs of the day, a welcome wrinkle from Kevin Gilbride’s previous utilization of him as an actual blocking TE. Third TE Larry Donnell was used quite a bit in-line and did a solid job with the exception of one huge whiff on LB Lance Briggs and a silly false start penalty. Keep an eye on Donnell though, he seems to have a sneaky way of getting downfield on passing plays, and at some point he’ll make a big play.

Offensive Line: Give this group some credit for a bounce back performance, albeit against the Bears JV squad on the interior DL. Granted RT Justin Pugh and RG David Diehl got a little movement up front to pace the team on the ground, but it was a subtle wrinkle to the nauseating 3-TE, 1-FB package that got things moving up front. Ordinarily outmatched on the edge, TE Brandon Myers was used as an H-Back, going in short motion to the play side on runs and up the A gap to shore up the middle before releasing downfield. Throw in some FB misdirection, and this OL, to the manb were winning their battles and that’s really as hard as it gets. Keeping them from being outnumbered and predictable is the challenge. Pugh and Diehl led the way on 11 of Jacobs’ 22 carries to the tune of 60 yards and a 5.45 yard per carry average. The left side tandem of LT Will Beatty and LG Kevin Boothe were run behind on 11 of Jacobs’ runs as well for 46 yards, so the disparity in yardage wasn’t as large it looked when initially watching it. Either way the OL managed their best performance to date with a solid day on the ground and a stat sheet shutout of DE Julius Peppers, thanks in large part to LT Will Beatty. Diehl played better, no doubt, but when someone was getting shoved back, it was usually #66. No complaints about C Jim Cordle, except for his number. 63? It just looks terrible, and quite frankly the 3 is not very slimming.

Defensive Line: In their own nod to Testicular Cancer Awareness (TCA) during Breast Cancer Awareness month, the Giants DL decided to go sackless. Two former All-Pro DEs and a veteran 1st rounder were not able to bother Cutler all night, turning the Bears offense into a glorified 7-on-7 drill that Brandon Marshall won by himself. Credit the bulk up the gut though for limiting Matt Forte to 67 yards on 19 carries, 13 of which came on one run in which DT Cullen Jenkins was clearly held. Ah but this is the newer gentler NFL where we you can’t be mean to offensive players. Shaun Rogers, Jenkins, Linval Joseph and Mike Patterson accounted for only four stops, but kept new MLB Jon Beason clean enough to chase plays form sideline to sideline. DEs Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul were once again kept totally quiet, and quite frankly neither showed much with the exception of a Tuck batted-ball that plays perfectly with the TCA theme. Tuck gave almost nothing on an Alshon Jeffrey end around that went for 17 yards; it’s just maddening seeing him give in to defeat so quickly on plays knowing he is capable of much more.

Linebackers: Clearly unable to stand my rapier wit aimed at his LB corpses (sic-see what I did there, a joke AND Latin), GM Jerry Reese shipped off a 7th round pick to Carolina in exchange for MLB Jon Beason, who was on the team for 10 days before his first start. Quite the resounding endorsement about the staff’s faith in this group. Beason was hyperactive from the start, knifing in on a 3rd and 3 at the Giants four yard line to force a 4th and 2 that resulted in a turnover on downs. LB Keith Rivers badly missed an open field tackle on FB Tony Fiammetta, and in the process took out Beason, that’s what we call a two-fer! Beason led the team with 12 stops, one week after I ridiculed this group for never being able to lead the team in tackles. I say it can’t happen and magically it does the next week! I also, never win the lottery, my hair is never coming back and Congress will never all go on a big boat that sinks the second it hits open water. Beason is already the best LB on this team, and if his knees hold he will be a huge upgrade in the heart of this all too often heartless Giant defense. Spencer Paysinger’s one game run against Philly as a good player was apparently his Ramses Barden moment. Not much noise from whatever his number is now yet again. Keith Rivers, you stink.

Defensive Backs: It’s hard to find a ton of fault here, despite Cutler throwing for 262 and a pair of scores. This secondary gets zero help from the pass rush, and almost none form its defensive coordinator. How on Earth Brandon Marshall is not jammed at the line every single time is beyond me. When you throw up a cover 2 shell to prevent the deep ball and still play 10 yards off the best WR on the field, you’re inviting trouble. Just being happy that Marshall didn’t completely kill you should not be good enough. You take away the team’s best weapon, and no it’s not Matt Forte. Marshall may be big but he hates contact, just watch him “run block”. On the few plays that CB Prince Amukamara did jam him, Marshall simply quit on the play, inexcusable that was not done all night to the temperamental WR. Notable for stinking was DB Terrell Thomas who gave up an easy TD to Marshall and looked lost on an Alshon Jeffrey 27-yarder in the first half. S Will Hill’s “unnecessary roughness” call on a 9-yard Cutler scramble is the type of play that will ruin this game. His hands glanced off of Cutler’s helmet as he was half sliding and that’s worth a hanky and 15 yards??? Amukamara finished with nine stops, mostly downfield and Antrel Rolle was again active with eight stops.

Special Teams: In honor of Beavis, “These effects aren’t very special,” I must say our special teams are anything but. Jerrel Jernigan managed a 46-yard return that got poor Robbie Gould yelled at by Devin Hester, but again no spark to ignite the team with a turnover, score or opponent-pinning punt. Steve Weatherford did manage to frustrate Hester, not allowing one punt return yard. Not exciting, but limiting Hester is an accomplishment that borderlines on special, we’ll call it pretty…pretty..npretty good for now.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award: Back by popular demand (aka one guy on BBI said he missed it, so that goes in the Win column) is the CiiYCA. This week’s prize goes to KR Devin Hester for throwing a hissy fit after Jerrel Jernigan had a longer return than he did. First off, you need someone watching your back AT ALL TIMES! (Those Rex Kwon Do flashes have not completely died down, my apologies.) His name is Robbie Gould, and he’s a kicker, that’s already hard enough being a spindly nerdy white guy on a team of cool names: Lance Briggs, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Julius Peppers, Martellus Bennett. His holder’s last name is Podlesh for crap’s sake, and he has to wear a weirdo kicking shoe, not turf chewing cleats. He’s balding (poor bastard) and constantly adjusts his chin strap to stay on his chinless chin and you’re yelling at him for a one measly kick? Go buy him a new goofy kicking shoe to say you’re sorry.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Chicago Bears, October 10, 2013)
Oct 092013
 
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Trumaine McBride, New York Giants (October 6, 2013)

Trumaine McBride Just Misses the Interception on a Big Play for the Eagles – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Philadelphia Eagles 36 – New York Giants 21

Game Review: Just when I think I’m out, they drag me back in. Not even an 0-4 start filled with penalties, injuries, fumbles, interceptions and flat out bad performances could deter me from one more week of hope. Just one more Sunday to get on track, get on a roll and show the NFL that the Giants are not dead just yet. After Sunday’s loss to Chip Kelly and his ridiculous visor, which I hate coincidentally MORE than Andy Reid and his Michelin Man in Black costumes, I have signed the DNR for this season. Do Not Review, alas, I am forced to by a cruel and relentless taskmaster known only as “Eric from BBI”. Unlike Michael Corleone, I won’t be back for a terrible trilogy ending train-wreck, I will stick with the same formula of poorly timed jokes, bad shtick and barely coherent analysis that has come to define the 2013 Game Reviews.

Things started off well enough, with the Giants actually rushing for a TD on their opening possession after an inspired three and out from the league’s worst defense. Missing Linval Joseph and Corey Webster, the G-Men came out flying, double covering DeSean Jackson on 1st and 3rd downs to force an Eagle punt and provide a glimmer of hope. Eli and company came out firing, seemingly ready to put their early season struggles to bed, but it turns out that struggles were like a pushy 4-year old, only going to bed momentarily before baffling you for hours with odd excuses as to WHY they refuse to go to bed. After Rueben Randle let a deep post bounce off his fingers, Hakeem Nicks came up with a 49 yard gain on the exact same play and put the Giants in position for David Wilson’s 5-yard TD scoot and a quick 7-0 lead. That lead SHOULD have stayed a TD after the Giants came up with a 3rd down stop, but Tom Coughlin inexplicably took a 3rd down penalty to give the Eagles a 3rd and 20, but he had to know what every single one of us did…the Eagles would make that third down if it was 119 yards. You just don’t put the offense back on the field, it’s that easy. Stupid stupid stupid decision by Coughlin that leads me to a conclusion I have about the team I will share later. Sure enough, Perry Fewell decides that man coverage would do the trick, having everyone turn their back to Mike Vick, who ran untouched for 29 yards on an eventual Eagle FG drive that should have never been. That 7-3 lead would hold until about 8 minutes remained in the second quarter and Giant killer LeSean McCoy plunged over right guard for a 1-yard TD run and a 13 – 7 lead that would grow to a 19 – 7 bulge by the half. Despite facing Chip Kelly’s up tempo attack and giving up 19 first half points, the Giants defense seemed game, able to hold the Eagles to 4 FGs by clamping down in the red zone and playing an abundance of man coverage despite the loss of CBs Corey Webster and Aaron Ross.

After a crowd deflating 3 and out to start the second stanza, the Giants offense found a momentary rhythm, putting together back-to-back seven play drives that ended with former LSU Tiger Rueben Randle hauling in two Manning passes for an all too brief 21-19 lead that would be yet another short lived positive moment during this already too long 2013 campaign. As has been the case all too often so far, the doors again fell off, Eli Manning “threw” two ugly, costly INTs, that turned into 14 quick Eagle points and a 36-21 drubbing that left the Giants hopelessly 0-5 heading into mid-October. Despite knocking Mike Vick from the game and eliminating his drive-extending and alcohol consumption-inducing 3rd down scampers, the G-Men let Nick Foles slap them around well enough to come away with the win, tossing two TDs to go along with 197 yards. This is the worst coached, worst played Giant defense I have ever been witness to and it’s not even close.

Quarterbacks: Ho boy. What to say about old Easy E? Great long pass to Randle, dropped, followed up by the same long pass to Nicks for 49 yards on the Giants first TD drive. It’s his ability to go to the well that has made him so dangerous but it’s his inability to pull the ball down when it’s not there that is simply killing this team this year. Point where you want, fingers should be at Jerry Reese, Tom Coughlin, Kevin Gilbride, Perry Fewell and whoever our dashing special teams coach is (I admit, he’s a good looking fella…NTTAWT!) but this one is on Eli. At some point, after 10 years and two titles, someone somewhere has got to get it through his head to NOT kill his team when the play is breaking down. All that said, Manning is this team’s best chance at being competitive, he just needs to be given the freedom to run more up tempo, wide open plays and use his talented receiving corps to threaten defenses consistently. Manning brought the Giants back but served up two silly INTs that did the team in yet again.

Running Backs: RB David Wilson had a 5-yard TD run, but 16 yards on six totes just isn’t first rounder worthy, nor is a safety that never was as Wilson spun out of a tackle to get flung down in the endzone…and have the ball move to the 2-yard line. I will leave the officiating alone for now. The Giants suck enough that I just cannot get into the oddball officiating this league is now witnessing by the week. Assist to David Diehl on the play: he let TWO Eagles in the backfield on that disaster. Brandon Jacobs coughed up turnover #17 for the Giants on the year, leading to another failed drive, another Eagle score, more c for Tom Coughlin and more wondering as to why this team is NOT spreading the ball out and using shorter throws to augment the running game the way countless teams in this league do when the running game isn’t working. (Pssst…Hey Tom and Kevin, it’s not working).

Wide Receivers: Dear Kevin Gilbride and Son: I am a Giants fan in Virginia and I think Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz r gud so is Roobin Randles but they don’t get to catch enough I think so maybe try that? Signed your pal, Joey. The little kid in me wants to say it, and he’s right. When Hakeem Nicks goes for 142 yards, and has inside release free all game, why not throw it until his hands fall off? The quicker passes that were all but absent in weeks 1-4 peeked their heads out Punxsutawney Phil style but I assume the Gilbrides saw a shadow and ran back to the 7-step drop-a-thon that has harangued this offense all year. There were times when the long ball was working, no doubt, but the mix has to move more in favor of the quicker passes with this OL just not able to hold serve often enough. The Giants got back into the game in the 3rd quarter by spreading the field and using quicker passes to take the lead, but it went by the wayside eventually. WR Victor Cruz was absolutely the man to stop and give Eagle defenders credit, they did just that, holding Cruz to a very Chris Calloway like 48 yards on 5 catches. Fortunately for the Giants, they can spot WR talent and second-year man Rueben Randle was able to keep them in it, with 96 yards, 6 grabs and 2 TDs that gave the G-Men an actual lead in the 3rd quarter. It was Randle’s catch and run on a slant that gave the G-Men life, but it was short lived. If you were so drunk by then you didn’t believe it, trust me, we were AHEAD…yeah it’s true. Jerrel Jernigan is still on the roster, proof is in the boxscore, and he had 13 yards on 2 catches and returned two kicks. Small, slow and terrible is no way to go through life son. I am loathe to give #12 credit but he did manage a big 3rd and 4 catch on the drive that gave the Giants the lead late in the 3rd quarter.

Tight Ends: In honor of the Black Unicorn, Kevin Boss, the legend of Jake Ballard and the guy who netted us the Saints first round pick (that trade went through right?), I just cannot mention our TEs this week. Larry Donnell doesn’t suck eggs yet and that’s as nice as I can be at the moment.

Offensive Line: RG David Diehl may be super duper excited to play to prove all of his doubters wrong, but Diehl was barely able to maintain verticality for most of the game, getting dumped on his backside regardless of play, regardless of opponent, over and over again. C Jim Cordle cost the Giants a drive with a false start at the Eagles 30 that killed a promising drive. Cordle though, is playing better than I expected. Not great, but hey he’s no David Diehl out there! LT Will Beatty appears to have his “I was taken over by Pod People” weeks behind him.

Defensive Line: DE Jason Pierre-Paul finally played the run the way he did two years ago, shedding LT Jason Peters consistently to hold the POA and shut down the outside running of LeSean McCoy for a good part of the day. JPP threw in a batted down Vick pass to snuff out an Eagle drive late in the first. He’s showing signs, a little more each week, that he’s starting to trust his body and play with a little more of his trademark high effort. DE Justin Tuck was right on his game on the game’s first snap spotting a false start and by golly he was right, it was a false start. That was about all he did all day aside from looking forlorn and walking like George Jefferson or someone with a fake hip. Tuck looks disinterested most plays, I just see almost zero effort at this point. And don’t think his teammates don’t see the “team leader” doing that and taking their cues from Mr. Subway, or is it Mr. Tony Robbins, whoever it is he stinks right now. Giant DTs may be the only group playing good football this year. Without reliable run-stopper Linval Joseph, rookie DT Johnathan Hankins made an impact with five stops and was generally pretty stout play against the run. Along with Shaun Rogers, Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson, Hankins was part of the Giants best performing group of the game yet again. Sadly their DE and LB (tee hee) counterparts cannot say the same and refuse to stop the run to the outside, but dammit, we can stop the dive.

Linebackers: Apparently, linebackers play the middle of the field, have run and pass responsibilities and usually lead teams in tackles. Stop laughing. STOP right now I mean it. That is what I gleaned from watching several other games this weekend and it’s just bizarre. The 49ers, Saints, Texans, Bears, Bills, Bengals, Patriots, Lions, Packers…ok that’s five boxscores and nine teams of 10, I’m sick of counting but you get the point: our LBs stink. LB Keith Rivers was chasing Mike Vick though when he pulled his hamstring so we got that going for us, which is nice.

Defensive Backs: Will Hill, take a bow. Despite an early personal foul that I just can’t be OK with (it’s football for God’s sake, DBs are supposed to take aim and knock WRs off the ball, not ask them to politely consider not catching it), Hill was all over the field for the Giants, and was far and away the best defender on the field in his first action of the year. Most impressive though was Hill’s non-stop effort, something a lot of his mates could learn from. Hill was almost singlehandedly responsible for holding the Eagles to a FG after a 1st and goal early in the 2nd quarter. Hill knifed in on two McCoy runs to completely blow up each play and force an errant Vick pass on 3rd down. CB Trumaine McBride, take a shower, you stunk but only by a hair. With perfect position on DeSean Jackson, McBride whiffed on a pass that Jackson hauled in to set up a first down inside the Giants 20 on the Eagles first TD drive. It is plays like that have defined this year, just a hair off, here and there and this team falls to pieces instead of making the play. Hill and S Ryan Mundy combined for 26 total stops and shored up the woeful LB corps adequately enough to keep the team competitive until the 4th quarter. Just to be on par with the LBs, McBride let DeSean Jackson get behind him with 9 seconds left in the half to put the Eagles in position for another 3 points and a 19-7 lead that could have been 16-7 had someone…anyone on defense decided that with 9 seconds left DeSean Jackson may require more than a journeyman CB who can’t seem to get out of his own way. CB Prince Amukamara played solidly all day, but his questionable PI call against DeSean Jackson late in the 3rd quarter and his failure to prevent a 3rd down conversion loomed large on the Eagles FG drive that ultimately sealed the game.

Special Teams: The Ghost of Matt Dodge has been exorcised temporarily, P Steve Weatherford stopped admiring himself long enough in the mirror to finally punt the ball outside the numbers. Weatherford rebounded with a 42 yard average, a long of 58 and only 24 punt return yards by the Eagles on 7 punts. Someone improved, that’s good right? The return game was again punchless, which I’m hoping gets someone punched, anyone besides the fans. We’ve suffered enough gut shots this season and it’s not even cold yet.

Out on a Limb: I’m going out on a limb this week with what many will call conjecture but I’ve been there (not the NFL, but a good team and then a bad team back-to-back with many of the same players). This team has no faith in their coaching staff at the moment. Not Coughlin, I don’t think he’s lost the team, he’s done too much and won too much for that but I think the defensive and offensive players see things they don’t agree with in the play calls. It’s not quantifiable, and I’m sure it will get called a ridiculous notion, but hear me out. When your job is to watch film all week and study for a test (and make no mistake each Sunday is just that) and you see questions you had no idea were coming, you question your preparation. Why didn’t I see that? Why didn’t we practice that? How are we THAT unprepared for something? Take the offensive woes. Wilson and company cannot run, the OL cannot hold blocks long enough for the deep passing game to be effective consistently. So what would you, as a player want to see? The same game plan week in and week out KNOWING that your OL is struggling in all phases and that you have 3 talented WRs, a solid pass catching TE who can work the slot and a QB who excels in the hurry up and two minute offense? You know it, and I know it, and the players know it and each week it fails, they will lose faith and play by play you can see it on the field when they just don’t trust the play calls. It can make a few bad losses seem worse and it can snowball in a hurry as we have seen and unless something big changes. And it won’t. This team will be lucky to reach four wins with a roster capable of much much more.

Even after taking the lead with a spread 3-WR set, the Giants reverted to two TE running plays down 22-21 that derailed any momentum and led to another loss and likely a lost season. The momentum gained early in the 3rd quarter by spreading the defense out was lost by a return to using players who do not threaten a defense anywhere on the field.

(Boxscore – Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, October 6, 2013)
Sep 252013
 
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Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (September 22, 2013)

A Dejected Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Carolina Panthers 38 – New York Giants 0

Prologue: If you want an accurate, X’s and O’s analysis of what happened in Charlotte last Sunday go grab a newspaper, an iPad, a Galaxy, or cozy up to some doofus who loves sitting at Starbucks for hours doing nothing but trying to look hip and jump on NFL.com when he abandons his or her laptop to feign interest in the scone selection. You will find no in-depth play-combing search for truth or fundamental errors, you will find here what the Giants gave us, not much to hold on to and plenty to forget. This week’s review will be surly, short, full of bad wisecracks and just plain annoying, think of it as the Sean Avery of game reviews. This week, the Giants should have risen to the challenge of an 0-2 start filled with errors but tinged with promise if those mistakes were eliminated. Unfortunately the 0-3 banes of our existences indeed tossed us down a pit, leaving us wondering what will break first…their spirits, or their bodies.

Game Review: U G L Y you ain’t got no alibi, you’re ugly, hey hey you’re ugly. No BBI faithful, Goldie Hawn isn’t walking through that door and convincing Bubba Gump to play QB while Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson snap each other with towels after another improbable Wildcat win. If only. Ugly simply captures this team’s “performance” last Sunday in Charlotte in a way few other Webster’s entries can.

Ug-ly adjective \ˈə-glē\

1:  frightful, dire, offensive or unpleasant to any sense

2:  a:  likely to cause inconvenience or discomfort <the ugly truth>

b:  surly, quarrelsome <an ugly disposition>

— ug·li·ly  adverb

I will uglily attempt to recap this in a fashion not so offensive or unpleasant to any sense. 38-0. Treinta y Ocho a Cero. Holy sh*t to WTF? It doesn’t matter how you phrase the final score, but that frightful display has the Giants season in dire straits, and now we are all surly and quarrelsome, just waiting for the next shoe to drop. I shan’t waste your time with the bludgeon by bludgeon description of this 3 hour long slap to the face when it can be summed up by glancing really anywhere at the boxscore. Offensive yardage? Panthers 402 Giants 150. First downs? Panthers again, 27 to 10. Sacks? Panthers 7 Giants 1.

At the risk of sounding like an armchair fool because the men I am criticizing have Super Bowl rings and I have a doorbell that barely rings, I am going to weigh in here with what honestly looks to be the issue. The offensive players don’t trust what’s being called and don’t trust the game plan being given to them. Conjecture? Yes. Opinion? Definitely. Do I believe it? 100%. After rushing for a total of 73 yards in two losses, how do the Giants respond? By lining up with two TEs, one of whom can’t block, and a FB who has been brutally bad thus far, and they try slamming it down the Panthers throats.

Kevin Gilbride brings out Bear Pascoe and Henry Hynoski, two players NO ONE has to account for downfield; two players who the Panthers decided to go man against and bring the heat on Eli Manning to the tune of a six-sack first half and seven for the game. This is a QB who went down 20 times last year, already exceeding 1/3 of that in one game! This maddening desire to achieve “Balance” on offense isn’t possible with this group UNTIL you have a lead and can run to lean on the defense. That’s where your balance occurs, NOT by forcing two of your worst offensive players on to the field against a speedy LB corps that easily overmatched Pascoe and Hynoski.

I nearly blew an eye socket yelling at Jason Pierre-Paul to stop reading the dive fake and jumping inside to cover the A gap on three plays in a row that he was just run right past by a Panther player. I have said since the pre-season, our DEs jump inside too quickly, don’t read the QB and we get absolutely gashed on outside runs. Snowshoe Moreno did it twice to break our backs last week and it happened against Cam Newton and DeAngelo Williams to the tune of over 200 yards rushing given up. It was a gutless performance from start to finish.

GET YOUR BEST 11 ON THE FIELD ON OFFENSE!!!! Give Eli the keys to the car, sit down Pascoe and keep Myers in the slot as a big WR option and let’s see who can outscore us. Balance? You want to force balance and David Wilson down our throats while the best players we have block for him and act as very expensive decoys? Have at it folks, and welcome to a top 5 pick if someone doesn’t make that change soon. /rant.

Quarterbacks: It all starts and ends here with QB Eli Manning. As Eli goes, so do the Giants and he went to the ground far too often. Unable to do much, Eli finished 12/23 for 119 yards and 1 interception, and was dumped seven times by Panther pass rushers. (Anyone else hear Art Rooney after about the 3rd or 4th sack?…..niiine times…niiine times). Eli’s best play of the day was a 14 yard run for 10% of the Giants first downs on the day. Eli was harassed all day long, never able to get into a rhythm and not able to rally his troops this time as he was simply running for his life.

Running Backs: RB David Wilson’s first two carries would portend bad things to come, as the Giants tried two poorly thought out plays in a row. First was a two-TE, FB-lead over left tackle that ripped up 2 whole yards. On the next play, the old switcheroo, three WRs and a run up the gut that was snuffed out by the Panthers best player, LB Luke Kuechly. This maddening obsession with testing the defenses best players early on has been nothing short of comic disaster through three games. Wilson finished with 39 yards on 11 carries and again showed plenty of fight when fighting for extra yards but don’t expect much until the FB and extra TE come off the field. Wilson did manage a 17 yard TD run early in the 2nd quarter that was negated by an iffy holding call on LT Will Beatty, just about a perfect nugget of how the day went. An early swing pass to FB Henry Hynoski was the perfect example of what is wrong with this offense right now, you’re reaching for things the opponent may not expect instead of forcing them to stop your best players. Just for funsies, RB Brandon Jacobs declined to block his gap on the Giants first series, opting for an outlet route as Eli ate turf for one of seven times on the day. I think HB Da’Rel Scott tried to block DE Greg Hardy on a 2nd quarter sack, but he may have been looking for a contact lens somewhere near Hardy’s feet.

Wide Receivers: Against a team that lost 3-of-4 starters in the secondary, you may expect a field day. Instead of leaning on our best offensive trio, we go heavy, max-protect and try to hit the long ball against a Cover 2 defense designed to take away just that. With three DBs who are new starters, you have to expect the deep patrol will be fortified. Put the ball in the hands of your best players: Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Rueben Randle. Force the depleted secondary to reach down the bench for more DBs to trot out a nickel or dime defense and you’re talking about using the very bottom of the Panther roster to defend your best weapons. Randle, Cruz, and Nicks (bagel for the game) hauled in five catches for 65 yards TOTAL. The trio each had 100 yard receiving games in the opener, which certainly has me convinced that we need to search for “balance” and force a running game that isn’t there. On the plus side, Jerrel Jernigan made a catch to keep on his Sinorice Moss like pace for fewest catches in a career that never was.

Tight Ends: TE Brandon Myers opened the game as the lead blocker on an off-tackle run, after finally shaking off some passing game rust last week and looking like a decent mid-range target. Makes sense to have a tentative blocker start the game out…blocking. Once again, kudos to our offensive staff for completely fooling the Panthers by using yet another player in a role he’s not suited for. NO WAY they saw that coming! TE Bear Pascoe is technically a “move” TE, the same way a clam effortlessly moves along the ocean the floor. Maybe the elder Gilbride read the Tortoise and the Hare to Kevin Jr. the night before the game, and a crazy idea formed in their heads for how to attack the Panthers. It’s really the only explanation that makes ANY sense to me.

Offensive Line: Last week’s 23 yards on the ground look great after the 7 sacks coughed up this week. Just flat out awful all day long by everyone. Most alarmingly, the play of Chris Snee indicated another injury, which, if IR is in his future, would likely be the last game we see #76 play for the Giants. LT Will Beatty’s regression since pre-season has been head-shakingly bad. Beatty was run past on the Giants first possession by the solid but hardly unstoppable DE Greg Hardy, who snuffed out any chance Eli had to convert a manageable 3rd and 5. By the second drive of the Giants day, more of the same: long, slow developing pass plays, zero pass protection and you could almost hear the wheels coming off. Beatty’s pass protection was atrocious, but wait a minute folks, that’s not all. Not only did he get his QB pancaked but Beatty also, in this exclusive offer to the Panthers, held on a David Wilson run that could have knotted the game at 7 early in the 2nd quarter. That’s two, two two big mistakes for one low low price!

Defensive Line: DE Jason Pierre Paul played his worst game as a professional, consistently jumping inside on dive fakes, only to see plays race by his outside shoulder. The only highlight was when JPP clearly heard me yelling me at the TV to attack the mesh point (The QB) when Cam Newton looked to be running the read option. Every other time, he is either being coached incorrectly or simply has head up his ass and doesn’t care to fix it. How’s that for thought provoking analysis?

Early on, the DL was playing fast and playing physically, at least on the first series when DE Mathias Kiwanuka notched an early sack and dropped Cam Newton for a 15-yard loss. The inability to defend the edge showed up on the Panthers second drive, with JPP again jumping the A gap and completely abandoning his edge responsibilities, which is quite frankly the Achilles heel of our run defense going back about a full season and it shows zero signs of being addressed. Teams are running right to JPPs side, knowing he’s going to guess wrong and jump too quickly and leave a huge lane for opposing runners to exploit.

Linebackers: Technically we have them, but when your first four in tackles are a DT, SS, DE and CB, your LBs are not showing up. None of the starting trio made any noise or any impact plays, but then again no one on the roster did either this week.

Defensive Backs: As bad as CB Aaron Ross has been, he redeemed himself a bit with an early interception, jumping and out route to WR Brandon Lafell’s inside shoulder and giving the Giants a first down at the Panther 17. S Ryan Mundy had one of the few bright spots for the team with a picture perfect hit that broke up a Newton pass midway through the 2nd quarter.

Special Teams: Down 7-0, the Giants special teams capitalized on a Giant-like mistake when the Panthers coughed up the ball off the back of backup TE Richie Brockel (that’s a lot of prepositions). Even K Josh Brown got in on the shankfest, badly missing a 38-yarder with the game still technically within reach.

Cram it in your cramhole award: JPP was a popular early choice after being suckered inside on three consecutive runs to his side on the Panthers first scoring drive, but it’s got to go the entire team. You all stunk, stunk for four quarters on offense, defense, special teams, and coaching. The Giants are 0-3 and historically bad so far, looking more like an expansion team than one focused on a Super Bowl in their own backyard.

TWIP Note – Our first TWIP (This week in preview) note is to promise a better review if the Giants decide to shell out some effort against the 3-0 Chiefs in Kansas City. My apologies for the rambling and overly jokey nature, but I simply tuned out after it was 31-0 and re-watching was next to impossible.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Carolina Panthers, September 22, 2013)
Sep 192013
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 15, 2013)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Denver Broncos 41 – New York Giants 23

Game Review: Zero point zero. If Dean Wormer walked into the Giants meetings this week, he’d likely hand out his lowest of GPA’s, but it wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor and it ain’t over now. The Giants were right there, right there, just as they were in Dallas a week ago…within range, a chance to compete and win a football game and they once again imploded when it mattered the most. After a Brandon Jacobs 1 yard plunge in the 3rd quarter that brought the Giants within a single point of their Super Bowl XXI opponent, the Denver Broncos scored 21 unanswered points and sent the Giants home with a lopsided 41-23 drubbing that put the G-men in an 0-2 hole. The pre-season sluggishness this team exhibited on offense has yet to be shaken off, not a very good sign for a team with so much veteran talent at key spots.

The Giants defense started with a thump and ended flat on its back after watching Eli Manning toss four back breaking interceptions. After a Justin Tuck thumping of RB Knowshon Moreno on the game’s opening play, Peyton Manning and his mates marched easily to the Giants six yard line, until the DL rose up again this time in the form of DT Cullen Jenkins, who knocked the ball free from rookie RB Montee Ball and gave Eli and company a chance to start with some momentum. Right on cue, Eli fed off the turnover and dropped a perfect 51 yard post into the outstretched arms of WR Victor Cruz and the Giants seemed to be shaking off the rust that plagued them a week ago in Big D.

After Jenkins’ strip, the defense found its bearings and had the elder Manning working for every completion, before the wheels came off in the 3rd quarter after more costly Giant turnovers. For most of the afternoon, the Giants were going toe to toe with a Bronco passing attack that had Baltimoreans drowning their sorrows in Natty Bo after a 7 touchdown thrashing on opening night. It wasn’t until a Knowshon Moreno 20 yard run over right end early in the 2nd quarter that the Broncos had their first end zone visit of the day. Red zone frustrations kept the Giants from doing much scoring, but they did manage three Josh Brown field goals in the first half while limiting the Broncos to 10 points and an all too familiar 10-9 halftime score.

After a first half in which each defense dared the other to run, John Fox and the Broncos finally accepted. Nineteen of the Broncos 53 yard scoring drive came on the edges yet again as Giant DEs were victimized on back to back to runs to open the second half. With Giant DBs now inching up to support the run on the outside, Peyton Manning finally found a crack in the armor (I would have said chink if I worked for ESPN but I’m smrt!) (sic). Manning worked the edges of the defense, first running Moreno then passes to WR Eric Decker before Wes Welker was suddenly the forgotten man and was left alone for an easy TD to start the second half.

Eli answered yet again, taking the Giants 81 yards to the end zone in nine plays, capped off by the odd sight of Brandon Jacobs wearing #34 and plunging up the gut for six. Manning took advantage of a very handsy Bronco defense, that was flagged for two pass interference and one defensive holding penalty on the drive. With a slim 17-16 edge, Peyton and company got lucky on a Demarius Thomas fumble that was recovered by Moreno and ended up with a 17 yard gain after Prince Amukamara jarred the ball loose and the Giants had a shot at a turnover. Manning quickly set his team and snapped the ball, giving the Giants no chance to review the play. Seven plays 63 yards later, Moreno found the goal line again, racing around right end for a 25 yard TD and a 24-16 Denver lead that would not be threatened again.

The Giants coughed up the ball on a bad Manning pass that glanced off the foot of WR Rueben Randle, and 5 plays later, Manning hit TE Julius Thomas for an 11 yard TD and a 31-16 lead. With a chance to climb back in it, the Giants offense stalled and was forced to punt to the 5’5” Trindon Holliday, who did his best DeSean Jackson impression and blew right through the Giants coverage team on the way to a 38-16 lead that ended up turning a solidly played three quarters into a 4th quarter disaster and an ominous 0-2 start for the boys in blue.

Quarterbacks: After hitting everybody’s favorite dancer with a 51 yard strike to start the game, Eli Manning had another forgettable afternoon. Manning had a few solid throws in a row as the Giants opened the 2nd quarter but was victimized by Hakeem Nicks and his middle finger on a big 3rd and 6 as the Giants were starting to heat up through the air. Eli contributed to the teams red zone woes by over shooting WR Victor Cruz on a play action pass in the end zone, and #10 then fired over TE Brandon Myers’ finger tips and the Giants were forced to settle for 3 yet again. With just 43 seconds in the first half, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in begging the Giants to sit on the ball at their own 15 yard line and go in down by one. After badly overthrowing Myers in the slot, Eli played Dr. Jekyll to his Mr. Hyde, hitting Hakeem Nicks on another deep in (dig) route for 34 yards. Knowing the Broncos were playing a lot of bump and run and trying to knock the Giants off of their routes, Eli didn’t stop working the ball downfield and it paid off with a 21-yard penalty on the heels of Nicks big gain. Unfortunately Mr. Hyde returned on the very next play and Eli badly overshot Hakeem Nicks and was intercepted by another 3 named Bronco, costing the Giants a chance to take the halftime lead. Never one to get down though, Eli drove the Giants to within a point of the Broncos, orchestrating a solid drive at the outset of the third quarter, taking advantage of a very aggressive and penalty-prone Broncos defensive backfield. Down 24-16 though, the dagger may have been another odd miscue, as Mannings pass for Rueben Randle ricocheted off the WRs shoe into the hands of a Bronco defender. Eli wasn’t awful, but 4 interceptions, despite one being a late first half heave and one flying off of a shoe, is not going to get it done when your team simply cannot run the football or hold on to it. The daring that makes Eli so great when it counts is the same daring that makes him maddening when the game is not on the line. We know what we have here, it’s just a matter of those around him doing more so he can do a little less.

Running Backs: RB David Wilson’s first carry was a solid 5 yard effort on a counter to the left, which was followed up with a 5 yard power by old and new Giant Brandon Jacobs and it looked like the running game may be coming to life. Jacobs displayed solid burst on his initial tote, falling forward for a first down, but followed that up with a ball bouncing off of his hands in the flat for an ugly incompletion that reminded me of oh so many reviews of days past. Idiotic TD dances aside, Jacobs’ return was much of the same before he left, a lot of noise, not much production and the announcers marveling at how tall he looked in practice. Give the big fella a pass this week, his OL did him no favors and he’s been out of the game for about for a year. Before this season ends, I promise you Jacobs does a few things to win a game. It may have been a 2-yard run, but David Wilson’s acrobatic Barry Sanders like hand spin late in the first half was the best 6 feet I’ve seen since the first time I saw a party sized sub. Da’Rel Scott chipped in a garbage time TD, but otherwise not much from the former Terp.

Wide Receivers: WR Victor Cruz opened the Giants afternoon with a 51 yard deep post that was perfectly thrown and ended the day with 8 grabs for 118 yards. Jerrel Jernigan may just never get it. On a 3rd and 13 inside the Giants 10, Manning set up outside and delivered a solid ball to Jernigan, who instead of going for the ball and fighting for what should be his, started to slide towards the ball which gave CB Antonio Rodgers whatever (I’m really sick of all of these stupid names, someone has to take a stand) the space he needed to reach over Jernigan and knock the ball away. Hakeem Nicks dropped a wide open dig route on a 3rd and 6 to kill a promising Giant drive, but a dislocated middle finger on the play gives him an out. Nicks did return and ended up with 83 yards on 4 catches but most of his damage was done underneath in the seam areas. Give the Broncos credit, they kept Nicks in check and in front of them for the most part, but that amount of attention should show anyone watching who teams fear the most, and it is Nicks. WR Rueben Randle appeared to have scored after Myers’ catch and fall, but as is the blue print, if you’re a Giant with the football just give it away somehow. Randle finished with only 3 grabs for 14 yards after posting 101 in the opening loss to Dallas.

Tight Ends: TE Brandon Myers seems to be waking up a bit. After a miserable pre-season, Myers seems to be getting his footing, with 6 grabs for 74 yards and a noticeable improvement in blocking effort. Perhaps footing is a bit generous as Myers took what could have been an easy TD and stumbled forward for a 27 yard gain instead of a TD. TE Larry Donnell finished with 31 yards and 3 grabs, but again, mostly after the game had been decided. Give Donnell credit for an athletic penalty on the Giants onside kick that ultimately failed, #84 looked great doing it, but as with most of the effort in this game, it came up a bit short.

Offensive Line: Twenty-Three Yards. Say that to yourself a few times, let it sink in. Twenty-three yards on the ground with a team that forces its opponent to match up with 3 and 4 WR sets and defend the deep ball to keep WRs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks from eviscerating their defenses. Look no further than the Giants first play on their second possession in which C David Baas seems to forget that it’s a football game and watches as DT Kevin Vickerson blows past him to drop David Wilson for a 3-yard loss. And in case you’re wondering yes, THAT Kevin Vickerson…you know the guy on his 3rd team in 9 years with a total of 62 games played out of a possible 144. (That would be a .430 batting average, not too shabby). You mean the Kevin Vickerson who once made 14 tackles in a single season for the Tennessee Titans, the same one who returned an interception 4 yards once in 2010? Yeah, try blocking that guy! RT Justin Pugh didn’t fare much better against the unstoppable Robert Ayers, who tossed Pugh aside and dropped Brandon Jacobs for another 3 yard loss on the first play of the Giants 3rd possession. In Pugh’s defense, it’s not fair to ask a rookie 1st rounder to take on another .420+ hitter. In Ayers first four seasons he has ripped off 24 starts in a 64 game stretch….pretty…pretty….pretty good. Against players in their 30s who routinely start 40% of their teams’ games, you can only sit back and hope your OL is alive by night’s end. Perhaps more impressive than Ayers ability to start, was his White Goodman like celebration after dropping Brandon Jacobs like it was the Dodgeball Regional Semifinals. For good measure, Baas let Terrence Knighton throw him aside to make a stuff on David Wilson on the Giants’ first drive of the second half.

Overall, solid pass protection, abysmal run blocking against a cast of veritable super stars that the Broncos line up at DT.

Defensive Line: DL Justin Tuck started week two off by knifing in on the game’s first play from the DT spot and dropping K (no more stupid names just letters from now on) Moreno for a 3 yard loss. Tuck’s pass rush was mostly neutralized by the repeated bear hugs from Denver RT Orlando Franklin, but the vet still finished with 8 stops. I won’t blame Gene Steratore, mostly because I think he may have me whacked, but Franklin was using the Hillbilly Jim bear hug as his go to pass blocking move. On the Broncos first scoring drive, DE Mathias Kiwanuka had a bead on Manning, only to be suplexed out of the way by Franklin as Steratore’s crew stood by presumably oblivious to the Giants frustration and possibly ignoring a foreign object. It must be noted though, that the DL seems content to whine about being held instead of trying to create separation with some hand punch and keeping the OL from getting so far inside. Tuck was absolutely the culprit though on K Moreno’s first TD as he allowed, once again, the OL to get inside his pads and keep him from extending his arms down the line of scrimmage to push the play wide enough for help to arrive. This is fundamentally bad football on that play, Tuck simply has to be more aware of where he is and what his job is as the play side DE and he looked quite frankly bored on the play as Moreno scampered by. Franklin was later seen spooning Tuck on a pass rush as Manning misfired on a 3rd down late in the 2nd half.

Rough game for DE Mathias Kiwanuka who was brushed aside all too easily on Moreno’s 2nd TD of the day and was victimized repeatedly on edge runs right at him. Reportedly Jason Pierre-Paul played, but I saw no signs of it. Give credit again to Giant big men, DT Shaun Rogers, Linval Joseph and Mike Patterson. The big three made it tough sledding inside for the Broncos, forcing the Broncos to go wide if they had any designs on ground yardage. Rogers had a 3 play stint in the 3rd quarter with two QB hurries, two hits and one bear paw swatting of Moreno who fell forward after being pawed by the Sumo sized Rogers. Sumo..that gives me an idea…maybe I’ll bring that up next week but it involves hockey and guaranteed shutouts.

Linebackers: LBs Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams started as the only two backers against the Broncos pass happy attack and in those roles both played well. Paysinger and Williams combined for 14 stops and had decent coverage, keeping TE Julius Thomas in check for the most part with 47 yards and limiting Wes Welker’s damage over the middle to 39 yards on only 3 catches. Williams and Paysinger however both got completely swallowed on both of Moreno’s TD runs and once again, it looked like a glaring lack of effort on their part. Both play well in spurts but those edge runs, all afternoon, just had the Giants defenders looking like they were beaten before the play started, color me confused. Mark Herzlich managed to look like Bambi on a frozen pond as Holliday zoom zoom zoomed (damn you Mazda jingles) right past the former Eagle to pay dirt.

Defensive Backs: The Giant DBs have to get a lot of credit here, they came to play with another big challenge. Miscommunication is simply killing this secondary. On the game’s opening drive, Prince Amukamara seemed to be sinking in a Cover 2, ready to leave the deep half for S Ryan Mundy, who hesitated and jumped inside to follow TE Julius Thomas. The problem was, that WR Andre Caldwell AND Thomas were both open, allowing Caldwell to haul in a 36 yard gain down to the Giants 6 yard line on the game’s opening drive. Essentially Mundy covered no one, Amukamara covered no one and the Broncos were in business as the Giants failed to execute a simple coverage switch. Fortunately for the Giants, Prince was able to knock away a deep pass to WR Eric Decker in one on one coverage on an identical play, the difference is, the Giants blitzed and #20 expected no help, and didn’t need any.

Overall, despite the final score, a workman-like effort by Antrel Rolle, Ryan Mundy and Terrell Thomas, who totaled 19 stops and kept the Broncos trio in front of them for the most of the day.

Special Teams: Trindon Holliday is fast, Josh Brown kicks real good. Give LS Zak DeOssie credit, he must have been praying to…well nothing he’s an atheist, that he’d nab a shoelace on Holliday as the former LSU sprinter was racing to a back breaking TD. Outstanding effort by the Giant long snapper, despite the horrific result.

Cram it in your cramhole award: I mentioned to our fearless Editor Eric Kennedy how often I now have to look up names of the players while I am writing these diatribes. This week’s award was close, I almost gave it to Antonio Rodgers-Cromartie because for farts’ sake, enough with the hyphens and no more Cromarties! The winner though is the heretofore known as Snowshoe Moreno. I have renamed him Snowshoe because every time I typed his name, Microsoft Word squiggly red underlined it and suggested the following words instead: Know Shon, Knows On, Knowhow, Know-how or Snowshoe. I think you’ll agree with my choice.

(Boxscore – Denver Broncos at New York Giants, September 15, 2013)
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Victor Cruz, New York Giants (September 8, 2013)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Dallas Cowboys 36 – New York Giants 31

Game Review: Apoplexy at AT&T – Like most of you, I would love to chalk this one up to some bad bounces, tough breaks and a summer of Eli Manning and his WRs not having the time to practice but I simply can’t. Since taking over the play calling and installing his downfield heavy but still run and shoot offense, I have rarely been critical of offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. Three NFC East titles, two super bowl wins and offensive records obliterated will do that to a fan of this team, especially one who appreciates Gilbride’s ability to adjust in-game and give his QB the blue print to victory more often than not. What we witnessed on the evening is simply mind boggling from an offense with a 10 year veteran QB with 2 Pro Bowl caliber WRs, a dynamic HB and a third WR on the verge of becoming a bona fide threat. Simply put, Kevin Gilbride failed in the New York Giants season opening debacle in Dallas and his QB, while game as always, and proved that he’s still prone to silly mistakes, poor mechanics and game killing plays.

Against former Cowboy defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s attacking, multiple look 3-4, I would expect an early screen pass to slow down the overweight Gandalf’s aggressive schemes. The key with Ryan has always been slowing down the rush, and keeping the front 7 honest but the Tampa 2 is a different animal. Inexplicably, Gilbride planned to attack a sound conservative Tampa 2 with an array of head scratching play calls. From the first snap, it was clear that Gilbride either hadn’t watched film of Monte Kiffin and his base 4-3, or decided that he was smarter than everyone in the building. With a young OL starting two new players in LG James Brewer and RT Justin Pugh, Gildbride decided that slowing down a 4-3 base defense meant fooling all everything DE DeMarcus Ware instead of attacking the woefully thin Cowboy interior that was without anchor Jay Ratliff and was using the 254lb Ware as a rush end from the right side. Instantly, Ware proved why he is the best defender in the division by reading a poorly executed screen and picking off an ill-advised Eli Manning screen pass to HB David Wilson. One screen play down, one disaster – check.

Eli and company appeared to have cleared the first hurdle, with Hakeem Nicks cutting underneath the 2 Deep zone for a 57 yard gain but four plays later, on a 1st and goal from the 8 yard line, David Wilson was in the middle of mistake number 2, coughing up the ball and killing a chance to take the lead on a night when momentum would swing wildly both ways. The beefed up Giants defense stepped into the breach again though, forcing a 3 and out and giving Eli and company a new set of downs from the Giant 38 only down by 3 after the 2 big mishaps. Manning must have been getting football on his phone, and not wanting to miss a minute, so he allowed his defensive mates another chance to take the field by tossing the ball right to S Will Allen. Still refusing to let the offense down, the Giants D again rose up, with ex-Steeler Ryan Mundy channeling his inner Stevie Brown on a deflected interception, only to channel his inner James Brown 91 yards later and flail to the ground short of the goal line.

With the score knotted at 3-3, Dallas finally got its bearings on offense, chewing up 7 minutes over a 14 play drive that ended with a second Dan Bailey FG and a narrow 6-3 lead. The mistakes just kept on coming with FB Henry Hynoski dooming the Giants next drive with an illegal shift penalty on first down that resulted in a 4-play 3-and-out and another failed series. Nine plays later the Giants defense finally broke on a 9 play 71 yard drive that put the home team up 13-3. Eli and company would not go quietly after three early turnovers and a stout defensive effort. Three plays after falling behind by 10, Manning found his favorite deep target Victor Cruz alone on a 70 yard bomb that pulled the G-men within 13-10, where it remained until after halftime.

After a Cowboy three and out, you could almost hear a chorus of “I’m rubber you’re glue, bounces off me and sticks to you” being sung by David Wilson, Da’Rel Scott and Trumaine McBride. The three combined to cough up the ball 3 more times, leading to 21 more easy Cowboy points and a late rally that fell short despite another desperate fourth quarter charge by Eli and Victor Cruz. With 8:47 to go in the contest and down just 30-24 after falling behind by 17, the Giants defense rallied to stifle the Dallas Cowboys on consecutive drives and you could almost hear the oddly tight skin on Jerry Jones’ neck cracking under the pressure of another Giant miracle right in his big backyard. Fortunately for anyone within 10 feet of the 87 year old bodied, 40 year old brained and 1,000 year old skinned Cowboy owner, the Giants rally fell short as a screen pass (two screens and two disasters, check and check) bounced off of the arms of reserve RB Da’Rel Scott into the arms CB Brandon Carr who returned the ball 49 yards and pushed the Big D bulge to 36-24, effectively ending the “Apoplexy at AT&T”.

Quarterback: Two Super Bowl MVPs and numerous fourth quarter rallies will always endear Eli Manning to the Big Blue Faithful, but it’s his maddening ability to make boneheaded plays early in the game must have remotes flying in more TV rooms than just mine. After a so so pre-season in which Eli seemed off, his first play from scrimmage was a nightmare, dumping the ball to DE DeMarcus Ware and putting the G-Men in a 3-0 hole just minutes into their opener. As he is wont to do though, Eli eventually overcame another turnover of his own and two by David Wilson to get the Giants within 6 with just under 9 minutes to play. As ugly as this game got for the former Rebel, it was sprinkled with some hope in the form of a few haymakers to Victor Cruz, a 57 yard crossing route to Hakeem Nicks and even a 100 yard game from 3rd WR Rueben Randle. The killer though, despite 4 TDs and 450 yards is that game ended and began on the same play against the precise type of defense you DON’T want to run that play on. Despite the heroics to make it a game, Eli has to be smarter with the ball, especially on screens to RBs who not yet demonstrated any capacity to step up in a real game. His final pick to Carr could have been avoided if he had not thrown it so quickly and to Scott’s outside shoulder with a traditional cover 2 press behind it in which the CBs play the short third and are in prime position to make those plays.

I have to put those two screen failures directly at his feet, despite my agitation with the screen passes against this defense. Eli simply made two very careless plays that led directly to 10 points and ultimately the difference in the game. You can lay this at Wilson’s feet, Coughlin’s red face, McBride’s surprisingly springy humerus or bury it somewhere in the push broom that Gilbride manicures so precisely but in the end, when you’re the leader, the highest paid player and have appeared with a Banana in place of your manhood on SNL you make the plays when it counts.

Running Backs: Blessed with world class speed and athletic ability, HB David Wilson can somehow engage his body to launch his 205lb frame into the air for a standing somersault but cannot call upon that power to hold on to a 15 oz. football. Wilson finished his first game as a starter the same way he started his first game last year, on the bench lamenting turnovers and watching his team lose a very winnable game. He doesn’t care about us according to the Twitterverse so why waste any time on him?

FB Henry Hynoski missed most of OTAs and camp with a knee (presumably he has two) and it showed in the opener. Not to absolve David Wilson, but his first fumble came on the heels of a badly missed Hynoski block. Shortly after missing a block, Hyno looked like a legendary strong man on his first reception attempt, with the football playing the role of the cannonball. Apparently, Gilbride decided he hadn’t gone to the Hynoski well enough. After Mundy’s INT, at the Cowboy 8, Hynoski ran an what appeared to be FB pass disguised as a dive, but he didn’t touch DE George Selvie on his way out to sell the fake and Selvie ran down Eli Manning and pushed the Giants further from the goal line yet again. David Wilson whiffed on Selvie for good measure, but inside the 5 yard line, I am not asking my 205 HB to take out a 270LB DE in a phone booth as my FB skips past unaware. This is another example of why this team bogs down in the red zone, poor execution from plays that don’t play to our strengths.

HB Da’Rel Scoti was a gamer, pressed into action after Wilson coughed up fumble #2, but Scott’s failure to catch an Eli Manning screen play ended the game on an ugly note.

Wide Receivers: WR Hakeem Nicks is back. On the Giants second possession, the former Tar Heel took a quick slant 57 yards to the Cowboys 23 yard line. Nicks took advantage of the soft cover 2 and was able to race through it untouched, setting up the Giants after a miserable opening drive. Victor Cruz’s new contract comes with renewed expectations and #80 made his money with 3 TDs and 118 yards on only 5 catches. Cruz ignited the Giants finally with 1:05 left in the first half by running a go route right between the hash marks where CB Morris Claiborne bailed expecting safety help and his safety incorrectly assumed Cruz was headed down the sideline. Great route, great play call and great throw by Manning there to keep the Giants in the game going into the half. WR Rueben Randle also had a 100 yard game, which has you fantasy nerds digging up your waiver wires but three 100 yard WR efforts and 0-1 isn’t a result I’d be too happy with.

Tight Ends: New TE Brandon Myers didn’t sit down in the zone on his first target from Eli, causing an early misfire in the red zone but made up for on a 3rd and 11 with a terrific catch from Manning that fell 2 yards short of a TD. Myers ended the game with some garbage time yardage ended up with 66 yards and TD but his blocking was woeful, an ordinary effort from an ordinary player.

Offensive Line: Do I have to? Really? I praise LT Will Beatty all pre-season for his heads up play and he makes the cardinal sin of the screen pass from an OL standpoint on play one. Generally, the screen is run between defenders, the key being that the 1st defender on the edge has to be taken wide to create a throwing lane before the OL can release downfield to block. You can almost see Beatty realize that as he scuffled back to try to slow down DE DeMarcus Ware as he was shooting the B gap right into Eli’s lap but that small lapse doomed the entire play. LG James Brewer got his first start and allowed penetration on David Wilson’s first fumble, again not an absolution of Wilson but the margin for error on our red zone plays is razor thin and we saw a domino effect of Brewer, Hynoski and Wilson all botching the play. Not wanting anyone to feel too sad, C Kevin Boothe also botched his block on Wilson’s ill-fated fumble. With no one over his nose, Booth had to scrape off the DT and get to the second level to seal pursuit from the DBs and LBs, but inexplicably Boothe sort of amoebaed around until three defenders shot past him, realizing he was just there to say hi and not actually make a block. Brewer also gave up a quick pressure to DL Jason Hatcher that doomed a 3rd down play, but the new LG was adequate enough, albeit against a slew of backups at DT. Overall not a terrible effort by the OL, but it’s clear the timing isn’t there on running plays just yet and this group needs time to gel. RT Justin Pugh played solidly, not great, but I expect more from the right side in the coming weeks.

Defensive Line: Subway pitch man Justin Tuck put down his 5 dollar foot long (the sandwich you sickos) long enough to disrupt Tony Romo on the game’s first defensive series. Tuck lined up at LDT and tossed RG Mackenzy Bernadeau aside to rush the throw and hold the Cowboys to a field goal after starting on the Giant 15. The defensive line wasn’t able to get a lot of shots on Romo, but it appeared the plan was to contain him in the pocket and play disciplined gaps up front. There were a handful of stunts, but for the most part the front 4 were there to contain the edges and disrupt the pocket where possible. Give Romo and his mates credit though, 49 passes and only 2 sacks resulted from an abundance of shotgun formations and 3 step drops designed to get the ball out quickly and not let the Giants talented front take over the game. Overall the DL acquitted itself well, holding Romo to 263 yards and Murray to a very tough 86 on the ground. My biggest gripe is that I saw very little of our 6-5 and plus DEs getting their hands in the air when it was clear they were playing to contain Romo in the pocket and not let him have the edge to sprint out and extend plays.

The long awaited return of JPP didn’t bear fruit until a 4th quarter sack of Tony Romo, as Cowboy LT Tyron Smith was able to neutralize the former all pro single-handedly most of the evening. Again, it appeared that the play side DEs were instructed to hold the pocket and keep Romo in it, but even on those plays, Smith was adept enough to negate JPPs reach simply by getting his hands outside of Pierre-Paul’s shoulder pads and keeping him from using his wingspan to cut down Romo’s passing lanes. Credit Smith and his OL coach for that going on most of the evening, it’s not easy to keep rangy DEs like JPP and Mathias Kiwanuka from batting down there share of balls, when it’s clearly in their plan of attack to do so. Tom Brady’s throwing through a forest comment in Super Bowl 46 must have reached someone’s ears in Dallas. I don’t do it often, but hell of a job scouting what our DEs to well and making a point to almost totally negate it through the game. The bigger DTs made it tougher sledding for Cowboy backs, but no real impact plays from the trio of Joseph, Patterson and Rogers save for a late sack.

Linebackers: The Giants LB corps just reminds me of a party that no one really hated or no one really liked. You show up, see a few people, make note of some guys wearing jerseys in the 50s who just kind of hang around for 2.5 hours. That’s real football science for you kids! All terrible analogies aside, I see no impact at LB, not in the running game, and with a few Jacquian Willams passes defended aside nothing in the passing game. New MLB Dan Connor didn’t do much before bowing out with a stinger. Give Williams credit on the Romo Malachi Crunch that gave the Cowboy QB an apparent boo boo that had his wife upset, Jerry Jones frantic and NJ Governor and now traitor Chris Christie looking very heavy and overly tan for a man of his corpulence. Number 57 launched himself at RT Doug Free (who coincidentally looks like a Dave Attell on steroids) and gave Kiwi a clean shot at Tony Romo. Replacement Mark Herzlich led the front 7 in stops but it was his lax coverage on TE Jason Witten that allowed the Cowboys first TD.

Defensive Backs: Give credit where credit is due, and as a unit the Giants much maligned secondary played on hell of a game on Sunday night. Even without turnover machine Stevie Brown, the DBs were able to slow down the Cowboys fast break offense that features four legitimate game breakers who can beat you if you stop any of the others. Holding Dez Bryant to 22 yards on 4 catches and keeping Miles Austin to a 7.2 yard average is an impressive performance especially when coupled with the Giants inability to hold on to the football. Starting safety Antrel Rolle may have saved an early TD with an outstanding open field tackle on DeMarco Murray after the Giants blitz left him all alone in the flat against the dangerous ex-Sooner. Rolle has been vocal all off season about improving this defense and backed it up on Sunday night with 5 stops and generally sound coverage all night on a dangerous Dallas receiving corps. Rolle did however badly miss an open field stop on TE Jason Witten on a 3rd and 11 that allowed the Cowboys to convert but don’t forget that the other guys get paid too. New S Ryan Mundy started off with a bang, getting plowed by HB DeMarco Murray after a punishing 11 yard run, but made up for it with a 91 yard interception return and collapse.

CB Prince Amukamara played a little too soft on WR Miles Austin, allowing an early slant and first down, but Amukamara did a great job of re-routing a Cowboy WR, tipping the ball into the waiting arms of Ryan Mundy who apparently can only run 91 yards without oxygen. Nickel Back Terrell Thomas returned from a 2 year absence and almost took one to the house, jumping between Romo and his intended target to knock the ball harmlessly away. Thomas tackled well and competed all night, if he stays healthy it will be a huge boost to this group. CB Corey Webster presumably flipped a coin, it landed on heads and he decided this year he’d be good. Had it been tails like last year, there’s no telling which #23 we would see. Lined up over Bryant a good portion of the night, C-Web was smart, physical and sound, not missing tackles and staying in Bryant’s back pocket most of the night.

Special Teams: CB Trumaine McBride had the biggest special teams play of the night. Not big as in, “My that’s a big engagement ring”, more like “I remember thinkin to myself. Wow, that’s O.J. Simpson, he has a big f#*&in head man” (Charlie Murphy). Not even a melon like OJs is enough to make you get over the football bouncing off of McBride’s arm like it was an ejector seat from the old G.I. Joe cartoons. Kicker kicked, punter punted whoopee, we lost – I hate special teams when we lose.

Cram it in your cramhole award: Each week I will make fun of an opposing player, coach, owner, fan or all of the above depending on how much I’ve had to drink while writing this. This week, the award goes to…“He’s faking…hey ref..he’s faking..see he’s faking” – Cowboys idiot Jason Witten after DL Cullen Jenkins got his arm stepped on and had to leave with a burner. Maybe Cullen was faking it, but maybe you looked like the dork in class who rats out someone on the playground for putting dirt down your shorts instead of getting even. For record, I have not once put dirt down anyone’s shorts (that anyone can prove here, at Aquinas Catholic School or otherwise).

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys, September 8, 2013)
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Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin (August 29, 2013)

Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New England Patriots 28 – New York Giants 20

INTERIOR GILLETTE STADIUM-NIGHT

A lone hooded man, pantless paces in front of a full length mirror, a single beam of light cascading on his sweating brow.

There seems to be something troubling this man, struggles of years past etched painfully across his countenance. Three new prominent wrinkles, each earned through loss. After a few darting glances, he stops and stares intently into the mirror.

HOODED MAN

(muttering rapidly) Perfect season…18-0…we were 18-0..Moss..Brady..touchdown yes touchdown..19-0 is next…sack Eli..sack..Eli sit…sit…SIT DAMN YOU…he’s free…can’t be…Harrison..the ball it’s on his helmet!!! Ok still time…Burress..single covered…gimpy knee it’s ok it’s going to be ok…he can’t run…Manningham can’t beat us…won’t…stopped Nicks, stopped Cruz gonna win now……your ring?…Mr. Kraft…where is.your ring? He took THAT TOO??? (ok technically that was Vladimir Putin, just go with it here)…Tebow…I will unleash Tebow and all will be right again. (Screaming) You tell Tom Coughlin I’m coming and Tebow’s coming with me ya hear…TEBOW’S COMING WITH ME!

–SCENE

Ah, Bill Belichick and his seemingly endless supply of pettiness. I would imagine that watching Tim Tebow flail around like Garo Yepremian had the shabbily dressed hall of fame coach fuming, so in true Patriot style little Bill just had to twist the knife a bit. With a one point lead, 9 seconds on the clock and the ball at the New York Giants 9 yard line, Jesus H. Tebow threw hopefully his final NFL pass to stake the New England Patriots to a 28-20 lead which was in no danger of being lost. I suppose you play to the whistle, even in the pre-season, but that TD pass was vintage Belichick, useless, petty and vindictive. Hopefully that pass makes up for losing two Super Bowls to Tom Coughlin and having your owner’s Super Bowl ring purloined by Vladimir Putin over the summer.

Quarterbacks: Eli Manning’s pre-season, aside from a long TD pass to Victor Cruz has been forgettable. On the Giants’ first possession, Manning had two straight bad incompletions, one on a flutter pass to Hakeem Nicks that sailed high and another badly overthrown ball that hinted at miscommunication with either Hakeem Nicks or Brandon Myers. Even on Manning’s longest completion to WR Louis Murphy the ball seemed to flutter down the sideline, but there is no reason to think Manning won’t be ready come week 1.

Running Backs: HB David Wilson picked up 37 yards on 6 carries (6.16 per), including a 16 yard scoot around left end on the Giants first scoring drive. Wilson had a tough 6 yard run in the red zone, getting the Giants in a manageable 3rd and 2 at the Pats three yard line. Wilson is making little improvements weekly, I have no doubt that he’s about to explode onto the NFL scene and take this offense with him. If it wasn’t for bad luck yadda yadda yadda, Andre Brown is cursed. Brown wont’ be confused with Boris the Bullet Dodger anytime soon, because when there’s an injury around, Andre seems to find it. After a string of injuries that have derailed his NFL career, Andre Brown looked poised to be the #2 back in the Giants attack, but a broken bone in his leg will keep that from being a reality until most likely week 10 of the regular season when #35 is eligible to be off of short term IR and the Giants come back from a week 9 bye. Roster long shot Da’Rell Scott had a solid outing, running for 25 hard earned yards and picking up a 6 yard TD pass from fellow roster hopeful QB Curtis Painter. With Brown’s injury, Scott seems to be the next man up, but late word is that the Giants worked out former Cardinal Beanie Wells and ex-Steeler Jonathan Dwyer so Scott’s stay on the 53 may be short lived.

Receivers: After starting slowly, Hakeem Nicks finally found the end zone on a 3 yard slant, but he and Eli had two weird miscues on the Giants opening drive to continue a frustrating pre-season for the Giants offense. Hakeem still looks a bit timid to me out there, not quite favoring anything but not quite going full speed either. My gut keeps telling me that eating pizza is OK and it won’t make me fat, but it also tells me that Hakeem may not be 100% yet. I doubt the former and believe the latter. Louis Murphy got on the scoreboard with an athletic 37 yard leaping grab on a Manning duck in the first quarter, but overall another quiet game for the “knife”.

Tight Ends: TE Brandon Myers finally made his presence felt in the passing game, with 3 catches for 42 yards, including a well-run square in on 3rd and 4 that was good for 10 yards and a first down. Myers had to fight through some traffic and not tip off his route, which he did well by breaking down and selling an out just enough to create  separation for him to cut inside and pick up the first down. I have been hard on Myers’ blocking thus far and will continue to be but that play is a great example of why he’s here. Myers simply knows how to get open against tight interior coverage. What Myers still struggles with is in-line blocking, notably on a 1st and 10 from the Pats 11, he allowed LB Dane Fletcher to stand him up and toss him aside, shutting down RB David Wilson before he had a chance. Fletcher is a 245lb journeyman OLB, not a good sign when your starting TE is getting tossed around by middle of the road backups who are similarly sized.

Offensive Line:  Author favorite, LG James Brewer got his first start of the pre-season and played very well, albeit against the Patriots second teamers. Brewer’s natural bulk inside is a big asset in pass protection, he is simply a tough guy to get past on sheer size alone. The former Hoosier also displayed solid footwork and hand punch, adeptly shuffling laterally in pass protection against the Pats varied fronts and not getting caught flat footed by any blitzers. One of the biggest mistakes that young interior OL seem to make is to attack blitzers and try to seal them off, which often times leaves a big lane for a looping DL or delayed rusher to get through easily and shut down a play. By sealing off their gap and moving laterally (wide base, parallel to the line of scrimmage) instead of lunging too far forward, pass blockers are able to essentially pass off rushers down the line without allowing gap penetration. That type of cohesion though, takes time and with two new young starters that may be an area of concern early on in the season for Eli and the offense. That said, so far so good. Pugh and Brewer seem to be catching on quickly and I may be a fool for thinking it, but I think this starting 5 gives us our best chance up front to be effective running and passing the ball.

LT Will Beatty did an outstanding job on David Wilson’s 16 yard run late in the first quarter. With LG James Brewer pulling right to misdirect the DL, Beatty feigned a down block to pull the DE inside, who was then chipped by C Kevin Boothe who in essence ran a twist with Brewer. Beatty then turned outside and sealed off the play side LB giving Wilson the edge and the Giants a much needed shot in the arm on their lone first half touchdown.

Defensive Line: DTs Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins had little trouble early neutralizing the Pats running game and getting consistent push on the pocket. Unfortunately for Justin Tuck, he was victimized early by an end around that was good for 16 yards. Tuck didn’t bite on the offensive tackle blocking down and was in good position to make a play, but the Pats ran a delayed trap with their FB who was able to create the room WR Josh Boyce needed to get to the edge for a solid gain. As the game wore on and my pre-season patience was spent, DTs Shaun Rogers, Marvin Austin and Mike Patterson played plenty in the second half, presumably auditioning for Tom Coughlin. Unfortunately for Austin, Patterson and Rogers had more impact and won the roster spots, thus spelling doom for the former Tar Heel who spent more time in the training room than in the locker room during his inglorious run in blue.

Linebackers: After playing better last week, the LBs were again maddening. Keith Rivers showed good hustle early clamping down on an outside run, but following it up with getting caught looking inside on Josh Boyce’s end around. This group continues to be victimized by play action and misdirection, something that does not bode well in the NFC East. Mark Herzlich was again active against backups, with a total of 8 stops and an interception.

Defensive Backs: Starting safeties Antrell Rolle and Ryan Mundy both had big hits on the Patriots’ first drive, both down low on swing passes outside. The reason I mention that is two-fold: (1) Rolle seems to be moving without a hitch after his ankle sprain and (2) it appears that we may see more single high safety coverage this year. On back to back plays on the Pats’ opening drive, the duo was lined up in 2-deep coverage, but at the snap the safety who had more eligible receivers on his side slid down to a traditional strong safety alignment and the other bailed out to a cover-3 technique. Thankfully QB Ryan Mallett was off target on a couple of passes, because CB Prince Amukamara was clearly playing cover 2 press and watched as the WR flew past him. LB Jacquian Williams flattened out to the same area which is the indicator that it was in fact cover 3 with the CBs having deep third and the OLBs covering the flats and hook zones. Don’t think teams won’t see that miscue on tape and look to exploit it. The backend communication has to improve or this defense will be on its heels plenty this season, no matter who is back there on deep patrol.

Pre-Season Odds and Ends:

“Forget it Jake (BBI), it’s Chinatown (Pre-Season)” Pre-season does it to me every year. I get unhinged over unacceptable play, despondent over dreadful defense, perturbed at poor passes and I bemoan barely NFL caliber blocking from a chorus line of players who try as they may, just don’t quite have what it takes. Jake Gittes couldn’t change Chinatown and we can’t change the pre-season, no matter how maddening and pointless it seems at times. Consider the casualties: Victor Cruz’s heel, Andre Brown’s leg, Stevie Brown’s ACL, David Baas’ MCL, Andre Robinson’s foot, Aaron Curry’s comeback, Mark Herzlich’s starting job, David Diehl’s thumb, Marvin Austin’s potential and the 3 or 4 minutes each week you lose mucking through this rehash. It’s enough to make you swear off the pre-season. That is until next summer when you’re tired of re-runs, mosquitoes and everyone’s predictable vacation pictures on Facebook (“LOL Little Timmy Luvs the sand just like gammaw! LOL”-kill me) you will hunger for that first game and be right back here 4 weeks later wishing the backups would just go away already.

Running Backs: HB David Wilson is almost ready for prime time. Consider Wilson’s 24 pre-season carries as one game and you see an eye-popping 179 yards and a 7.5 yard average per tote. I can hear the “Take away that 84 yarder and..” crowd now, but even if we do Wilson is good for 23 carries for 95 yards and a solid 4.1 yard average. Make no mistake, Wilson will have defensive coordinators uneasy because of his ability to score any time he has the ball. Couple that with a QB who can threaten teams all over the field with an array of pass catchers and you may have one of the most explosive Giants offenses we have ever seen.

Tight Ends: If I didn’t outright predict it, I meant to. Not in a Dionne Warwick Psychic Friends way either, I honestly thought the Giants would end up carrying 4 TEs when I saw Brandon Myers and Adrien Robinson’s blocking this pre-season. Myers has neither the will or the ability and Robinson simply makes too many mistakes, which leaves us with old reliable Bear Pascoe to be the blocker at TE and the improving Larry Donnell to likely be the second blocker in the mix. Myers should be more Y receiver than TE, and give Eli a great security blanket in the intermediate areas of the field. A reliable target down low like Myers should be a great complement to the field stretching abilities of Cruz, Nicks, Randle, Murphy and Wilson.

Defensive Line: The revamped defensive line seemed to be as advertised, bigger, badder and meaner against the run, and hopefully led by resurgent DE Justin Tuck. After sitting out the opener, Tuck responded with three solid outings and finally displaying the type of solid run technique that vaulted him to elite status in 2010 and 2011. Tuck’s shoulder injuries cannot be understated here. The ability to extend your arms and keep OL from getting inside leverage is D-Line fundamentals 101, but Tuck was unable to do that for the better part of the past 2 seasons (I still blame Fat Flozell Adams for that) and his play and the defense’s suffered as a result. At his best, Tuck anchors the left side against the run, staying parallel to the line of scrimmage, preventing OL from getting to the second level and setting the edge against the outside running game. I watched Tuck very closely this pre-season and his technique is once again rock solid as was his performance. Joining the joyride is veteran DE Mathias Kiwanuka who in the place of the balky Jason Pierre-Paul has been perhaps the best defender on the team this preseason. Kiwi is back at end where he belongs, and has been turning running plays inside with picture perfect technique and leverage. A healthy and energetic #94 will play a big role for this defense as the season unfolds. New DTs Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and Shaun Rogers (he didn’t play last year so he’s new to me) seemed to be the shot in the arm this interior sorely needed to reclaim the line of scrimmage. Fighting for a career, Patterson responded with a very strong pre-season, adding a 1.5 sack finale against the Patriots to secure his spot among the final 53. Time again that trio was able to maintain their gaps and collapse the pocket when needed, showing the flexibility to stuff the run and harass QBs into hurried throws. DT Linval Joseph won’t be alone this season as he was for most of 2012, with Chris Canty on the PUP for half the year and struggling for the remainder, and young ineffective contributors Markus Kuhn and Marvin Austin not giving him much help. Speaking of Austin, this pre-season marked the end of his frustrating tenure as a Giant. Armed with physical talents that few DTs possess, Austin fell victim to the injury bug for 2 years, and was out of football for nearly 3 when coupled with his suspension while at the University of North Carolina. With a full off season under his belt this was Austin’s last chance to prove he belonged in Blue but his bid fell short as Mike Patterson far outplayed him and rookie DT Johnathan Hankins was likely drafted to take his place.

Offensive Line: The Giants struggled through the preseason offensively and some of that falls at the feet of the now under fire Offensive Line. The original starting five of Beatty, Boothe, Baas, Snee and Diehl has become Beatty, Brewer, Boothe, Snee and Pugh, which may be an upgrade when all is said and done. LT Will Beatty was simply outstanding this preseason, injuries behind him, the former UConn Huskie has cemented himself as the Giants best OL and in my view one of the better LTs in all of football. He’s not at the pinnacle, but he’s not far behind after his strong pre-season showing. Beatty was active against the run, flawless against the pass and at times downright nasty, which is something we have yet to see out of the oft nicked tackle. RT Justin Pugh, the Giants mildly surprising first rounder, acquitted himself well after stepping in for the injured David Diehl and seemingly going from untested to battle hardened in a few snaps. The man Giant fans love to call T-Rex (by fans I mean me, short arm jokes are always funny) is as advertised, a polished technician with a little bit of attitude. Watching Pugh and RG Chris Snee should get fun as the season wears on and the two establish some chemistry up front. LG James Brewer is I admit, a personal favorite and his start against New England in the pre-season finale had me giddy. Giddy you ask? Yes, giddy. My job is stressing me out, families of fruit flies seem to be on every piece of produce that enters my house, I can’t keep basil from dying and I haven’t been on a vacation in 2 years. Watching an erratic but talented backup OL finally get his shot is what I call fun nowadays so quit laughing at my pain and read on. Brewer’s debut at LG was against backups, but I saw solid footwork especially in pass protection, where Brewer has tended to struggle. Brewer was aggressive and displayed the type of power that could get him a permanent gig up front. Having a wide bodied mauler at LG would do wonders for this running game, here’s hoping #73 continues his ascent and becomes a regular fixture on the offensive line.

Defensive Backs: CB Aaron Ross had a rough pre-season, watching an INT turn into a TD against Reggie Wayne, and committing a few dopey penalties along the way. Fellow CB Jayron Hosley had a solid interception return but overall was shaky, giving up a TD pass to T.Y. Hilton and at times looking lost yet again. Losing interception machine Stevie Brown will hurt, someone from the group of Terrell Thomas, Cooper Taylor and Will Hill has to step into the breach and make a contribution or the Giants will be hard pressed to compete for a post season berth.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at New England Patriots, August 29, 2013)
Aug 272013
 
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David Wilson, New York Giants (August 24, 2013)

David Wilson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Jets 24 – New York Giants 21 (OT)

Author’s whiny excuse: Before we get started, please note that the NFL Network replay took us from 7:37 left in the half right after Justin Tuck’s INT to 2:00 left in the half with the Giants facing a 3rd and 2 form the Jet 2. That’s one Giant and Jet offensive series and 8 more plays of another Giants drive completely cut out the broadcast. If you notice something I left out that was impactful, please keep in mind it may have happened during this Heidi like interruption and fast forward. The stinking Jets…always the stinking Jets, now on with the show.

Game Overview: The Agony of Da Feet- Ok kids, it’s only pre-season but losing to the Jets always stinks. THE JETS!! I do not expect the Giants to make Rex Ryan happy unless they change the name of MetLife Stadium to Dr. Scholl’s Field and give away dirty insoles to the coach with the whitest teeth. Disturbing foot fetishes aside, Ryan saw his rookie QB Geno Smith toss 3 ugly interceptions and saw Mark “Where’s my Hair Tie” Sanchez get knocked out of the game by…wait for it, former 2nd rounder DT Marvin Austin. Throw in an 84 yard TD run by David Wilson on the game’s first snap and you have all the makings of another Jet excuse-a-thon. Yet somehow the Giants managed to boot away this game despite some highlight reel plays by the beleaguered Giants defenders and a Wilson run that even a Hokie hater on Long Island could appreciate. (No one in particular, just musing about David Wilson).

After Wilson’s electrifying TD run, the defense saw fit to short circuit the effort with 4 straight penalties on the Jets’ second possession leading the way for Geno Smith to toss a relatively uncontested 22 yard TD pass to Ben Obomanu, tying the score at 7. After two Giant punts and one Jet punt sandwiched in between, Prince Amukamara gave the Giants life by snatching the ball out of Ryan Spadola’s presumably Capicola covered hands to give Eli and company the ball at the Jet 44 yard line. The Giants would end up kicking themselves again for a missed opportunity as Eli led his charges to a second ugly 3 and out in a row. One ill-advised outlet pass to David Wilson for a loss of 4 and floated a ball out of Hakeem Nicks cut short any chance to capitalize on Amukamara’s turnover. Stevie Brown felt the agony of da feet, as his left foot got caught awkwardly in the MetLife turf, resulting in a torn ACL and lost season for the ball hawking safety from Michigan. I won’t harp on the curse of the Jets preseason game, but can someone find a witch doctor, shaman, monk, wizard, priest, rabbi or anyone who has ridden in the Mystery Machine to find and end this thing once and for all? Personally I take it as a sign that the Jets should be disbanded and sold for parts (dibs on Rex’s teeth, I need to replace some fence posts).

Granted the dog a** Jets won the game but not without using their #1 offense until the 4th quarter and using incumbent starter Mark Sanchez to mop up against guys who will be mopping somewhere in the not too distant future. No play summed up the Jets desperate need to feel good than “Solider” TE Kellen Winslow, (who doesn’t deserve to be called junior out of respect for his supremely more accomplished father), woofing up the Giants sideline after making one catch against backups in the 3rd quarter of a pre-season game. It’s war out there though, right Kellen? You’re a perfect Jet, big name, big mouth, and little production.

I think Carl Banks summed up the Jets’ chances the best when talking about Mark Sanchez “You go from a butt fumble to a shotgun snap that you just drop”. Butt fumble, we will always love you.

Quarterbacks: I hope Olivia said there’d be says like this, because Eli had one. Hitting only 8 of 20 passes for 83 yards and just looking off the whole night, the two time Super Bowl MVP had a forgettable night. Despite three first half interceptions from his defense and an 84 yard jaunt by his 2nd year HB, the Manning led Giants offense was only able to muster 10 first half points despite a first and goal at the 4 and 3 gift interceptions that gave his offense good field position against a shaky Jets defense that jettisoned its best player in lieu of paying him. Ten years in the league and 2 rings gives a guy a pass during the preseason, but this was ugly Eli at his ugly worst.

With his helmet on, backup hopeful QB Curtis Painter reminds me of the wide eyed Tobias Beecher, thankfully he doesn’t play like him. (NTTAWT!) Painter missed his first attempt to Jerrel Jernigan (which instantly had me hoping that Adibisi would slap him in the huddle) but actually played fairly well in his first extended action despite running for his life behind a backup preseason OL. Look, I know Seal Team Six faced mortal danger in killing Osama Bin Laden, but let’s see them line up behind a 3rd string OL in mop up duty in a pre-season game and see how tough they are. Despite 7 straight missed passes Painter finished a respectable 13 for 29 for 140 yards in just over a half. It’s probably not enough to unseat David Carr, but Painter was a gamer.

Running Backs: Emerging HB David Wilson had a Barry Sanders like game, with 92 yards on 5 totes with one electrifying 84 yard TD run that was the pinnacle of the Giants evening. So that’s 4 carries for 8 yards on his other efforts, but this type of hit and miss running will show up until Wilson matures on the field a bit more and is able to set his blocks and be more efficient play to play. In the meantime, having a back that can score from anywhere on the field should keep some safeties honest and open up the middle for Victor Cruz once he’s back and healthy.

Ryan Torain may not make the squad but it won’t be for lack of effort against the Jets. The former Bronco and Redskin ran punishingly every time he got the rock. I realize 33 yards on 7 totes isn’t Jim Brown territory but Torain was downright Dorsey Levens vs. the Eagles tough out there. Andre Brown essentially took batting practice in the 2nd quarter, running 7 boring times for 17 boring yards – expect more when the bullets are live.

Wide Receivers: Minus Victor Cruz, the Giants again struggled mightily through the air. Oft dinged WR Hakeem Nicks again looked off with his QB, collecting only one catch for 34 yards and generally looking out of sync. Roster hopeful Julian Talley pulled in 3 balls for 37 yards and looked decent doing so. Certainly a long shot, Talley showed good burst off the line and good body control in his routes. Not the biggest or fastest guy out there, Talley looked like a poor man’s Ike Hilliard to me. It may be his next to last game in blue but Talley turned in a solid 2nd half. Leading the way for the Giants offense is another training room regular, Jerrel Jernigan. The 5-8 former Troy product turned in a 5 catch 66 yard performance and even drew a double team over the middle on a couple of occasions. Jernigan though, short armed a pass in the red zone (read: gator arms) which to me is inexcusable at any level, especially for a guy looking to make a name with Victor Cruz sidelined. Jernigan has the quickness and appears to have the hands, but something is missing that may never surface with the talented but underperforming WR. Jernigan doesn’t seem to trust himself or want the ball badly enough at times.

Tight Ends: Brandon Myers may have caught 79 passes in Oakland last year, but his job will be to block at times, something he just does not seem to relish. On a counter play midway through the 2nd quarter, Myers was blocking the backside and instead of walling off the play, he meekly tossed a shoulder while turning sideways. That halfhearted shoulder lunge is the mark of a man who does not relish contact and does not want to be a good blocker badly enough. I’m not Myers, it’s hard to question the toughness of an NFL caliber player for a guy who sits at a desk but compared to his peers, Myers is not willing and looks very hesitant to get dirty blocking. Adrien Robinson again had his ups and downs run blocking, looking a little unsure of who to block and when in his time out there. It should come as no surprise the coaches are harping on backup TE Larry Donnell, who has the size to be the blocking TE this team will sorely need.

Offensive Line: The OL shuffle is underway and hopefully not done yet. Center Jim Cordle took over for the again injured David Baas and the returns were awful. Cordle was shoved back like a big sack of flour by DL Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison over and over and his footwork getting to the second level against the Jets big 3-4 was just not very good. Harrison led the Jets in tackles from the NT spot, not a good sign for a center hoping to win a job.

Justin Pugh continued his solid play, despite a false start to start the 2nd half which I still dispute (T-Rex can do no wrong to me). Pugh did have a shaky play as journeyman LB Antwan Barnes got inside of Pugh on a 3rd down, but the T-Rex was able to hang on long enough to keep Barnes at bay until OL Selvish Capers was kind enough to let him off the hook with an ole’ of his own that saw Painter get planted by former Giant DT Leger Douzable. The backups overall struggled as a unit, but Brandon Mosley and Stephen Goodin both appeared to be more settled than they were a week ago. Not great by any stretch, but watching all 3 games so closely it is apparent that some of these guys are really working and improving week to week.

Defensive Line: Perhaps aware that Rex would be watching below the knee closely, happy feet infected the Giants DL early in the game, with DTs Cullen Jenkins and Linval Joseph tiptoeing across the line early on back to back plays on the Jets’ first scoring drive. DE Mathias Kiwanuka is playing the best football of his career this preseason. Kiwi showed the ability to stack and shed on the Jets’ first TD drive, ignoring the down block of LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, avoiding a pathetic crack back by WR Jeremy Kerley and maintaining gap integrity to pull down RB Chris Ivory for a 3 yard gain. Interestingly enough, the play was from the Pistol formation and Kiwi did not jump inside and follow Ferguson, but instead flattened out, read the QB and made the play once he saw QB Geno Smith did not have the football. The Giants DEs have eaten up the dive fakes out of the Pistol and cost the defense dearly by abandoning their gaps but that appears to be on the way to being cured, or at least was against Geno and Jets. For good measure Kiwi also flew down on a first quarter punt, forcing the Jet returner out after he’d turned the corner and appeared headed for a solid gain.

Is it a coincidence that Shallow Hal was on TV at the same time the Giants were facing the Jets? New Tony Robbins acolyte Justin Tuck must have seen Jets’ QBs as Tom Brady and envisioned that it was the Super Bowl, because #91 was…dare I say…back? Tuck showed up early, closing down a run to his side with near perfect technique, keeping his outside arm free and forcing RB Chris Ivory inside where he was dropped for a 3 yard loss. Tuck’s ability to stay low, keep his shoulders square to the LOS and string plays out is what made him a premier run defender in 2010 and 2011. That play disappeared for the most part with Tuck’s litany of injuries, but if Saturday was any indication the former Golden Domer may have a comeback year under his belt. Also of note with Tuck, he seems to be doing more hand fighting with OTs play to play, a sure sign his shoulder is up to par and he’s no longer limited physically.

DT Mike Patterson again flashed inside with 3 stops and no ground given against the run. Patterson is another defender who seems to be picking it up week by week. Patterson had great inside push near the goal line and almost tossed his man right into Geno Smith’s lap.

DE Adrian Tracy has yet to make a peep and it appeared he was responsible for Ben Obomanu on the Jets first half TD. Granted that’s a precarious spot for a DE but the Giants appeared to be in man coverage with Tracy trailing the backside WR who happened to find an opening for a relatively easy score. Put that one on Perry Fewell more than Tracy. That said Tracy sure does look like Li’l Osi out there, dodging blockers and avoiding plays like he was allergic to them. Backup DE Matt Broha took an inexcusable angle near the goal line to allow an easy Jet TD in the 3rd quarter but again, it was Jet 1s vs Giants 2s and 3s so don’t be overly concerned. Marvin Austin notched an actual sack and knocked Mark Sanchez out of the game, perhaps the light is finally coming on for the heralded UNC product. One more chance to make the roster against the Pats on Thursday, expect #96 to come out guns blazing to save his NFL career.

Linebackers: Spencer Paysinger, I apologize. I called for the hook after two so so games in which the 3rd year pro made tackles, but very little impact. Paysinger played with a lot more verve in game #3, stepping up into the hole to stuff Jet runs on 2 plays of the Jets’ first scoring drive and playing solidly down field in coverage on multiple occasions. Losing Michael Boley left a big hole for someone to fill and it appears that Paysinger is taking on the challenge to fend off talented backup Jacquian Williams. Keith Rivers had his most active day as well, notching 4 stops and similar to Paysinger, looking far more aggressive than he had in the previous two weeks. Dan Connor didn’t check in to the stat sheet, but was again consistently around the ball, which may not be enough to keep the job for long. Clearly my scorn inspires players as deposed starting MLB Mark Herzlich played an outstanding game, piling up 8 tackles and a sort of sack as Geno Smith tapped his feet out bounds for a Giants safety.

It was late in the 3rd quarter that LB Jacquian Williams finally gave the G-men a Spider moment, not backing down from WR Stephen Hill who was crying about being tackled too hard. Atta boy Jacquian, you don’t take no s#*t off nobody, good for you!

Backup LB Kyle Bosworth had an impact, notching 7 total stops and a few QB hits. I must admit, I held the movie “Stone Cold” with his uncle Brian against Kyle, but I am now willing to forego that 90 minute mistake and judge Kyle on his play only. Honestly, Bosworth may have made the roster with his play against the Jets, he was everything Aaron Curry never was, quick, physical, hungry and aggressive.

Defensive Backs: Aaron Ross may be happy to be back but he’s got a weird way of showing it, by picking up his second hands to the face penalty in as many weeks. Granted last week it was a facemask, but who am I to split hairs, especially when I make Larry David look hirsute? Ross is playing aggressively but he’s got to clean up the penalties or he’ll be encroaching on Frank Walker territory. Prince Amukamara gave up a quick out on 3rd down to Jeremy Kerley that ultimately led to a Jet scoring drive, but #20 quickly made up for it by ripping the ball out of WR Ryan Spadola’s hands over the middle two drives later and forcing Smith into his first of 3 interceptions on the night.

Slowly but surely new Giant Ryan Mundy is starting to show up. Tallying 3 stops, Mundy was active in the box and generally in good position down field. Losing Brown is a blow for sure, you can’t replace 8 interceptions easily, but Mundy may be another diamond in the rough DB find for this ever vigilant personnel department. How they keep unearthing gems from other teams is beyond me, but they clearly have the formula for filling in the roster.

The return of CB Terrell Thomas from two straight ACL surgeries was an encouraging sign, but watching him pull up and avoid contact on a screen play early in the 2nd quarter was not. At first Thomas seemed to be avoiding contact on the play, but as the game wore on Thomas got more and more comfortable around the football. T2’s progression unfolded as the game did, tentative at first and then more aggressive as the game wore on, it was a great sign from where I sit. Thomas has battled back physically to make it this far back and his only remaining hurdle was mental, which after initially playing it safe, was definitely cleared by halftime with Thomas accounting for 3 stops and showing up time and again near the play. Let’s hope his body holds up, it would be a huge boost to this team to have a player of Thomas’ talent in the secondary especially with the unfortunate loss of Stevie Brown.

Special Teams: Rookie RB Michael Cox may have the Danny Kanell, “IT” minus the penchant for trolling for his teammates significant others (hopefully). Cox doesn’t have blazing speed but averaged an impressive 26 yards per return, looking quick to the hole and aggressive running the ball back. He may not have Wilson’s home run ability but Cox may have won himself the full time job with his pre-season play thus far. Thank God or Jehovah or Buddah, whoever designed the universe for the feet of Josh Brown, which have single-footedly kept the Giants in all 3 games this pre-season. Brown missed a 53 yarder but hit on a 50 yarder and was 4 for 5, by far the most efficient Giant of the evening. Former Jet, P Steve Weatherford used his feet to drop 5 of 9 punts inside the 20 yard line and hopefully showed former Jet Special Team’s coach and whiner Mike Westhoff who deserves to still be in NY.

(Boxscore – New York Jets at New York Giants, August 24, 2013)