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Eli Manning, New York Giants (February 5, 2012)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New England Patriots at New York Giants, November 15, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
The diehard optimistic fan can wax poetic about why the Patriots are overrated and why the Giants will beat them on Sunday. But the facts are that the defending Super Bowl Champs, a team that hasn’t won fewer than 12 regular-season games in the last five years, and which has a legitimate shot at going undefeated in 2015 is playing a Giants team that has cumulatively hovered around .500 during the same time period, including this season.

The Patriots have the top-scoring offense in the NFL and a top-5 scoring defense. They have arguably the best coaching staff and quarterback in football. The Giants have the 21st-ranked offense and 32nd-ranked defense. While the Giants have a very good quarterback and solid coaching staff, they are clearly a club in transition with yet another injury-depleted and thin roster.

In all likelihood, the Giants are going to get spanked on Sunday.

That all said, any outstanding NFL team is beatable if you catch them on an off day while you are playing good football. The Giants don’t have to be perfect to beat the Patriots. That’s a mindset that too many of their opponents take and they psyche themselves out by doing so. Play sound, fundamental football and keep mistakes to a minimum. But you don’t have to be perfect. And don’t be something that you are not.

tve37790-3-1365“The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function: without mercy, without compassion, without remorse. All war depends upon it.” – Ronald Spiers, Band of Brothers

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – out)
  • TE Larry Donnell (neck – out)
  • LG Justin Pugh (illness – probable)
  • RG Geoff Schwartz (ankle – probable)
  • LB J.T. Thomas (ankle – out)
  • LB Uani ‘Unga (neck – out)
  • CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral – out)
  • CB Leon McFadden (groin – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
There are two basic and probably overly-simplistic schools of thought on how to approach this game offensively. The traditional mindset would be to play ball control, eat up the clock, and keep the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands for as long as possible. At the other end of the spectrum is the acceptance that it will be a shootout and you need to be aggressive and score as many points as you can as quickly as you can.

On Wednesday, Coughlin hinted that you can do both. “No, we will do what we do,” said Coughlin. “(Keeping the ball away is) always a consideration but the thing you have to realize, again, is that although we do have a relatively fast pace (offense) as the league goes percentage-wise, we are out over the ball quite extensively. And the reason for that is obvious, the quarterback has an opportunity to evaluate what the defense is doing and that’s important to us.”

My interpretation of that statement is that while the Giants are a no-huddle offense, that doesn’t mean they snap the ball quickly. They get up to the line, force the defense to set, and then Eli takes his time to read what the defense is doing. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. And the Giants’ West Coast Offense has not been predicated on the quick-strike, deep ball this season. The focus has been on Eli getting rid of the ball quickly, out of the shotgun or with 3-step drops, easing the burden on the offensive line, with an emphasis on short- to medium-range passes. My guess is that most of the Giants’ long scoring drives this season have been 8-12 play affairs. Even in the offensive “explosion” against the Saints, the plays per touchdown drive were: 10, 9, 10, 4, 11, and 3.

So my expectation for the Giants’ offense against the Patriots? Don’t do anything different. Be what you are and focus on what you do well. Don’t try to become a heavy ball-control, smash-mouth running attack. It’s not the Giants’ style and it most likely won’t generate enough points. You can move the football, control the clock, and still score with a short-to-intermediate passing game. The Giants have the offense do do all three.

Brandon Jacobs, New York Giants (February 5, 2012)

Brandon Jacobs – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Giants’ fans know all about Bill Belichick’s prowess as a defensive coach. The Patriots are currently 8th in total defense based on yards and 5th in scoring defense. They are 3rd in run defense and 16th in pass defense. While the pass defense is middle-of-the-pack, the Patriots have gotten after the quarterback, being tied for 2nd in the NFL in sacks with 27. The main sack men have been DE Chandler Jones (9.5 sacks), reserve specialist DE Jabaal Sheard (4 sacks), LB Jamie Collins (4.5 sacks), and LB Dont’a Hightower (3.5 sacks). “They do mix pressures in, but primarily they get after it with their rush group,” said Tom Coughlin.

Jones is a major disrupter and the Patriots will move him around the line. He will likely test both Ereck Flowers and Marshall Newhouse. Collins has been bothered by serious illness for two weeks and may not play. He’s a super-athletic talent who will be missed by the Patriots if he can’t go. Sheard has also been bothered by an ankle issue.

The Patriots’ secondary really hasn’t been tested much this season as New England hasn’t played many of the game’s better quarterbacks. Gone is Darrelle Revis at corner. Super Bowl hero Malcom Butler is listed as the left corner but will often stick with the opponent’s best receiver. Logan Ryan starts opposite of him. Both are steady, but not really standouts. The third corner – Justin Coleman – is a rookie. New England does have a very strong safety duo in Devin McCourty (who the Giants heavily pursued in free agency) and Patrick Chung.

The Patriots’ 3rd-rated run defense is probably a bit overrated as most of their opponents feel the need to abandon the running game. The Patriots do give up 4.1 yards per rush (tied for 15th in the NFL). So I would expect Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo to still mix in the run with the pass. But you also have to figure that they know they have to score points out of the passing game. You can just hear Belichick now, “This is still a Beckham and Vereen game. Make them throw it to Randle, Harris, and Tye.”

So the questions are can Coughlin and McAdoo out-scheme Belichick to get Odell Beckham and Shane Vereen viable opportunities in space? And if not, can Rueben Randle, Dwayne Harris, and Will Tye make the Patriots pay on a consistent basis throughout the game? If Collins is out, it may open up things for Vereen although you have to figure Belichick will scheme for him, perhaps with a third corner or safety.

As is the case with any game, but particularly against an elite team like the Patriots, ball security is crucial. Don’t turn the football over. Don’t beat yourself.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The problem is that, on paper, the Patriots’ offense versus the Giants’ defense is a huge mismatch. Not just statistically, #2 offense (#1 scoring offense) verus the #32 defense, but the strength of the Patriots’ passing attack is the way they attack the short-to-medium parts of the field against the nickel corner, the safeties, and the linebackers – all areas of weakness on the Giants. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have undoubtedly seen the struggles of free safety Landon Collins. They know middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley is really a run-down player. And Belichick let strong safety Brandon Meriweather and outside linebacker Jonathan Casillas depart New England – he knows their strengths and weaknesses. Throw in Brady versus Jayron Hosley and Trevin Wade, combined with a pass rush that has generated nine sacks in nine games, and this one looks ugly, ugly, ugly.

Brady has been in the same system for 16 years. He knows how to read a defense and he is as good as it gets in terms of getting rid of the ball quickly to the right man in an accurate fashion. “He knows exactly where he wants to go with the ball for each different look that a defense gives him,” said defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins.

While the Patriots will take an occasional deep shot, they really are not a vertical offense. They dink and dunk you to death, and are the NFL’s top offense in converting on 3rd down (almost 50 percent of the time). Opponents that count on them to make a mistake to sabotage drives are usually left disappointed. Brady has a TD-to-INT ratio of 22-to-2 and the Patriots have only lost three fumbles all year. They are tops in the NFL with only five giveaways. They also don’t shoot themselves in the foot with dumb penalties.

The bizarre but amazing element of their offense is they don’t hang their hat on one thing. One week, the will put the ball up 50 times in the air and ignore the ground game, the next they will pound the ball between the tackles. NFL analyst Greg Cosell said it best, “The Patriots don’t have a system, really. They’ll just figure out what you don’t do well, and win by attacking it.”

Chase Blackburn, New York Giants (February 5, 2012)

Chase Blackburn – © USA TODAY Sports Image

While there is no one go-to guy, Brady certainly has his favorites, this year being WR Julian Edelman (who is very dangerous out of the slot, especially on 3rd down), All-World TE Rob Gronkowski, and pesky WR Danny Amendola. Edelman and Amendola beat you with quickness while Gronkowski’s combination of size and overall athleticism is a match-up problem. The big loss was RB Dion Lewis (Shane Vereen’s replacement) who was lost last week for the season. He was a big factor in the Patriots’ passing and running game with his speed and quickness. WR Brandon LaFell has a big game against the Redskins with over 100 receiving yards.

The other issue for the Patriots is that their offensive line is a mess due to various injuries. Thus far, it hasn’t hurt them as Brady is able to get rid of the ball in about two seconds on passing plays. And teams more geared up to defend the pass and all of Brady’s weapons have made themselves more vulnerable to the run. You saw that last week when the Patriots’ big power back, LeGarrette Blount, ran for 129 yards against the Redskins despite a patchwork offensive line that at one point had a tight end playing right tackle. Their top three tackles are either out or ailing and they also have issues inside at guard. The Patriots really have done it up front with smoke and mirrors. That all said, no one has really feared the Giants’ defensive line this year. Jason Pierre-Paul may be back, but Johnathan Hankins is now done for the season.

Can Steve Spagnuolo really switch things up enough to confuse Tom Brady in his 16th season? And does he want to do too much of that with a rookie at free safety and a relative newbie at middle linebacker? In other words, it may backfire. And do you really want to blitz Brady – a QB adept as anyone at reading what defenses are doing – all that much? Keep in mind that two of your top corners are Trevin Wade and Jayron Hosley.

“With any quarterback that gets it out that quick, the best way to defend is to affect the guys he’s throwing to,” said Spagnuolo. “So we’ve got to find ways to cover better and maybe mix and change things up a little bit. But if you’re an offensive lineman, you probably want to play – I mean everybody wants to play with Tom Brady, right? But if you’re an offensive lineman, he can really make you look good.”

Contrary to what I said about the offense not breaking away from who and what they are, I might do some things differently in this game against this opponent on the defensive side of the ball. As crazy as it sounds, I would give Nikita Whitlock more snaps at defensive tackle. I would really vary my fronts, employing my ends more often at tackle too. Now Blount and the other reserve backs may exploit this, but I’ll take my chances with a better pass rush and hits on Brady than the Patriots’ ground game. I would not blitz much…only an occasional linebacker or safety blitz. The important thing is to get pressure on Brady up the gut, in his face. And when he does complete those short passes, run to the football and gang tackle. The Patriots do a lot of damage with yards after the catch.

Ultimately, I’m not sure the Giants have an answer to Edelman in the slot and Gronkowski at tight end. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie seems wasted trying to cover the outside guys while all of the damage is being done between the hashmarks. Might Spagnuolo employ DRC in some sort of unique capacity?

“We have to cover better,” said Spagnuolo. “We’ll mix the coverages up a little bit, and maybe get a couple of knockdowns. There’s no secret to it. He’s back there in the gun and he’s going to throw it. We have to find a way on the back end to play a little bit tighter.”

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Giants have played against a number of quality special teams units this season and New England is no exception. The Patriots are 3rd in the NFL in covering punts and 10th in the NFL in covering kickoffs so the blockers and returners (Dwayne Harris and possibly Shane Vereen) will have their work cut out for them. Place kicker Stephen Gostkowski hasn’t missed a field goal or PAT all year, and leads the NFL in touchbacks with 42 (another problem for the NYG return game). Danny Amendola is the primary kickoff and punt returner. He’s steady, but usually does not break one. Julian Edelman will sometimes return punts, however, and he has four career punt returns for touchdowns.

Zak DeOssie, New York Giants (February 5, 2012)

Zak DeOssie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Giants’ special teams will likely have to make an impact play for the team to upset the Patriots, either with a return or blocked kick. Keep in mind that Patriots will run trick plays on special teams at unusual times. For example, they successfully kicked an onside kick after scoring on their opening possession against the Redskins.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin on getting pressure on QB Tom Brady: “Oh, it’s difficult. He’s the quickest in the league getting rid of the ball, that’s a fact. But you have to try. Whether you try with four, five, six, whatever…at certain points of the game you got to try. ”

THE FINAL WORD:
No one except some diehard Giants’ fans expect the Giants to win this game. And because this is an out-of-conference opponent, you’d pick to lose this game instead of one of the four NFC games the Giants have remaining on their schedule. That all said, the problem is the Philadelphia Eagles, who are 4-4 and favored to win against the Miami Dolphins at home on Sunday. The odds are that the Eagles will be 5-4 and the Giants 5-5 at the end of the day.

If the Giants can somehow pull off the upset, it would be a huge boost for their chances to win the division. Hopefully, they play loose but also play smart, physical football. New England’s offensive line is really beat up. And losing Dion Lewis was a big loss. If the Giants somehow catch Brady on a bit of an off day, they have a shot.

Nov 112015
 
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Ron Swanson

New York Giants 32 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 18

Overview

It’s said that possession is 9/10ths of the law, something Tom Coughlin and his charges clearly believed in on Sunday afternoon in Tampa Bay. Despite being out-gained 385 to 327, the Boys in Blue held serve for 34:55 and won the turnover battle 3-2 en route to an odd victory over the horribly-clad Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fashion critique aside (as I pen this, I’m clad a taco-stained t-shirt and gym pants that have never seen the inside of an actual gym), the Bucs kept the afternoon interesting with big plays, dropped passes and ultimately a desperation-heave-turned-Giants-touchdown to seal the win. Bucs WR Mike Evans tried to be a WR, then a QB on the game’s final play, but in the words of the immortal Ron Swanson, “Never half ass two things, whole ass one thing.” With that said, you have my whole ass for this week’s recap.

Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (November 8, 2015)

Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

It’s not how you start but how you finish and the Giants started horribly, tossing the ball back to the Bucs at their own 13-yard line just 9 seconds into the game. Buoyed by the return of digitally-challenged DE Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants’ defense went from gossamer to at least cheese cloth this week, and held the Bucs out of the end zone despite the short field. The teams then traded field goals until a Rueben Randle from Eli Manning pass put the G-Men up 10-6. Then the Bucs began to simply self-destruct like an Imperial Probe Droid, fumbling on their next possession to hand the Giants an easy 28-yard field and a 17-6 lead. After a few more boring field goals (seriously I hate them and I don’t know why), the Giants led 20-12 until Captain Irresponsible, Jameis Winston, showed off his athletic ability on a 10-yard TD run to cut the margin to 2.

Two more boring, rainy wet field goals pushed the visitors ahead 26-18, still one a one possession game but with 18 seconds and no timeouts, the Bucs turned to desperation and trickeration when Winston hit \Evans on a short pass which Evans then heaved backwards to G Logan Mankins who…well he’s a guard, he didn’t catch it…Trevin Wade swooped in for the scoop-and-score and the Jints were just above .500 again, sitting at 5-4 alone in first place in the hideous NFC East. For Mankins, it must pain him to see the Giants after Justin Tuck used him like an old hanky in the Super Bowl and he clumsily coughed up a game-sealing TD years later.

Quarterbacks

After peppering the Saints with 6 TDS, Eli’s follow up game started horribly. Manning’s first pass hit Odell Beckham Jr. in the hands, albeit a tad behind him, and the ensuing deflection was picked off by DB Sterling Moore. Eli came right back and led the team down the field for a tying field goal, going 4-of-7, rhythmically firing to Randle, Beckham and Vereen. Eli came back on the next drive going a perfect 7-of-7 for 46 yards and a TD to Randle, as he stepped up into a clean pocket and delivered a strike to one of his former LSU pass catchers. Eli came right back on the Giants next drive, firing another dart to RB Shane Vereen for his second TD and a 17-6 lead. Manning did throw an untimely pick as the Giants were driving up 20-12, which led to Odell’s heinous assault on Harry Carson’s favorite prop. Manning was pressured a little more in the second half, but the Alterraun Verner interception aside, he was able to lead his team on two FG drives and ended with a modest 213 yards on 26-of-40 passing. Most importantly though, Manning directed the offense efficiently and got his team into position to score 6 times and hold the ball for over 35 minutes.

Andre Williams, New York Giants (November 8, 2015)

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Running Backs

Clearly Andre Williams has taken umbrage with my criticism, so you’re welcome Andre. The Poughkeepsie native bulled his way to 30 yards on 7 carries, nothing big but his 4.3ypc average is a huge improvement over the 2.7 ypc average he dragged Sisyphus-style into this game. Shane Vereen catches the ball out of the backfield as cleanly as any RB this team may have ever had. Vereen doesn’t break stride, catches cleanly, tucks and runs with no loss of speed or balance. Vereen struggled on the ground with only 14 yards on 6 carries but his 29 yards and TD receiving added a needed dimension to the Giants’ ball control attack. Rashad Jennings got the heavy work load on the ground, carrying 13 times for a modest 3.7 ypc average and 48 total yards, but the grinding of the ground game played a huge role in a contest where the heat and humidity were high and possession was crucial.

Wide Receivers

Gatorade bucket assaults aside, Odell Beckham Jr. came to play on Sunday but had a very up and down afternoon. The 2nd-year phenom pulled down 105 yards on 9 grabs and was visibly irate after being somewhat responsible for both of Manning’s picks. After having his route jumped by CB Alterraun Verner, Beckham slapped a bear hug on Verner and rode him a few yards before suplexing him to the ground in disgust. OBJ dropped another easy pass from Manning on the Giants second drive, but followed that up with a long reception and drew an unnecessary roughness against LB Lavonte David after the play. Rueben Randle seemed to just sit 12 yards down the field on the left and catch the ball, wonky hamstring and all. Randle finished with 40 yards on 5 grabs and pulled in one of Manning’s two TD passes. Dwayne Harris victimized David again on a crossing route as the former Husker LB decided to drop Harris about 12 yards downfield on a crossing route, but only netted one yard on one catch on the afternoon.

Tight Ends

What was once Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells is now Will Tye and Jerome Cunningham. Tye had a chance for early glory with a well-run seam route that was just knocked down in the end zone. Tye finished with 2 catches for 19 yards and was serviceable blocking in-line. New TE call-up Jerome Cunningham pitched in with 2 catches and 10 yards, one of them coming on a 3rd-and-3 on the Giants’ second TD drive of the game.

Offensive Line

Another clean sheet for the big dudes, but it wasn’t always pretty. Pretty though isn’t this team’s blueprint but tough certainly is. The big guys paved the way for 114 yards on the ground and once again C Weston Richburg was outstanding, consistently thwarting inside pressure while handling line calls from his play-changing QB. It’s not talked about, but Manning’s ability to step up into a clean pocket to deliver downfield is Richburg’s responsibility and the second-year pivot did it nearly perfectly on Sunday. LT Ereck Flowers was called for a hold that wiped out Vereen’s long run but replay after replay showed nothing. RT Marshall Newhouse played his best game in blue, and LG Justin Pugh was his usual active, pulling self, helping the inside run game to its ball controlling afternoon.

Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (November 8, 2015)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Line

After a bye-week-quality outing in New Orleans, the Giants’ DL was lively on Sunday with the return of oven-mitted DE Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP made an impact early, extending his arms and jolting LT Donovan Smith to hold the edge and stop the Bucs cold on the home team’s first drive. Pierre-Paul got close to Winston on several plays, and hustled on every snap. His presence will be a much-needed jolt after the pass rush’s disappearance thus far in 2015. DT Johnathan Hankins ripped the ball out Doug Martin’s hand as the 2nd quarter opened but tore his pectoral in the process, landing the big run-stuffer on season-ending IR. Cullen Jenkins had the wack of the day on WR Mike Evans after he bounced off of DRC, just planting the 6-5 former Aggie into the turf. DE Damontre Moore was able to do his usual thing, show up for a play and commit a stupid penalty.

Linebackers

Criticize a guy, and he proves you wrong (Donald Trump will never send me a million dollars, the selfish jerkface). It happened with new Giant LB Jasper Brinkley. Brinkley played much faster than he did in the Bayou, leading the team in tackles. Brinkley shot inside to drop RB Doug Martin for a one-yard loss, and two plays later pounced on a Martin fumble to give the Giants possession deep in Bucs’ territory. Brinkley was aggressive and powerful inside, providing some much needed pop in the center of the defense. Devon Kennard seems to be over his injury woes, chipping in with 6 stops and continually forcing the issue in the running game. Jonathan Casillas was again doing everything on Sunday, covering down field and helping in the running game, but again not many big plays. Overall a steady day for the former Patriot who collected 6 stops.

Defensive Backs

Trevin Wade turned in his best day as a Giant on Sunday, blanketing WR Mike Evans on the Bucs’ first possession to hold Tampa Bay to a FG after starting their drive on the Giants’ 13-yard line and finishing the game with a scoop-and-score after Evans heaved the rock to G Logan Mankins. Wade also managed to recover a fumble early in the 2nd half after a Charles Sims fumble that bounced down the field like a spastic chicken. Clearly Wade can now catch greased lightning, but it will be some time before he eats lightning and craps thunder and becomes a greasy-fast Eyetalian (sp) tank. Wade then showed off his greasy-fastness by running down RB Charles Sims on the heels of a 59-yard jaunt. S Landon Collins flat out missed on Mike Evans 68-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter. Teams are starting to exploit the rookie S down the field. S Brandon Meriweather was a victim of an awful personal foul midway through the 2nd quarter, launching his 197lbs into 307lb center Joe Hawley. Meriweather’s reputation may have elicited the flag because it was neither late nor unnecessary from where I sit. Number 22 also appeared to briefly kill DE Robert Ayers as the two combined to bring down RB Charles Sims, and chipped in with a 3rd-down stop on Jameis Winston to force a Bucs’ FG try. DRC was at it again, popping WR Mike Evans and being right on top of the big receiver on two of Evans’ many drops. Call it what you want, but DRC’s shot early in the game may have contributed to Evans’ inability to hang on when #41 was lurking nearby.

Brad Wing and Josh Brown, New York Giants (November 8, 2015)

Brad Wing and Josh Brown – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Special Teams

K Josh Brown was perfect on field goals, going 4-for-4 and hitting both of his extra points. Brown has not missed in 23 FG attempts. P Brad Wing only had one punt but it was a 64-yard bomb, and the coverage units were again solid, surrendering only 88 total return yards. Dwayne Harris picked up 54 yards on 2 kick returns to round out a solid but not very notable day for the specials.

Coaching

Ben McAdoo’s offense was clicking down the field for the most of game, and his plan to attack the edges and soft spots in the cover 2 (slant and deep seam areas) with his array of pass catchers was enough to propel his offense to a nearly 10-minute edge in time of possession and a performance that was enough to keep the Bucs off balance all day. Without a great running attack, McAdoo is utilizing short passes to Shane Vereen on the edges like short runs and they are keeping defenses honest and mostly unable to double any WR downfield for too long. McAdoo, in true West Coast offense style, is stretching the field horizontally first, then attacking downfield. Credit McAdoo as well for integrating Will Tye and Jerome Cunningham into the game plan after losing his top two TEs.

Steve Spagnuolo’s charges were humbled a week ago, lost their best DT as the 2nd quarter opened and inserted the 3rd MLB of the year into the starting lineup. Sprinkle in some JPP and a breakout-game from his new Mike LB and the defense was back on its feet. Of note throughout the game was JPP at RDE, but in plenty of those sets he was lined up as a rush LB in a hybrid 3-4 front which created favorable match-ups for the talented DE. The defense was again like a neutered dog (sackless). But there was more pressure and few near-misses from Pierre-Paul, that with a few more games under his belt should result in some much-needed QB heat as this team heads into the 2nd half of the season.

How good is Weston Richburg? Sure it’s a 5-yard run. But after double-teaming DT Gerald McCoy with LG Geoff Schwartz for a 9-yard gain on the previous play, Richburg then gets singled up on DT Akeem Spence and it does not go well for the 307 lb DT. Most of the Giants’ rushing yards came inside, and it was the play of Richburg that created most of those opportunities.

richburg1Notice where Spence starts the play, and where he ends up 4 frames later.

Richburg2At the snap, notice that everyone is still in their stance and Richburg is already engaged with DT Akeem Spence, moving his feet to get position on the 307 lbs run-stuffer.

richburg3With LG Justin Pugh pulling, and Schwartz and Newhouse double-teaming DT Gerald McCoy, Richburg already has Spence 3 yards in the backfield and turned out of the hole with outstanding footwork, hand placement and power.

richburg4Darkwa follows Pugh outside of McCoy, but the size of the hole Richburg creates causes LB Lavonte David to hesitate in pursuit instead of abandoning his run fit now that Spence is completely blocked into the backfield and turned completely around. The lower circle shows where Spence started and you can see where Richburg took him, impressive power and technique from the 2nd year center.

NFLW (NFL for Women)

For one week only, the NFL for Women is back. The Joey family dinner coincided with the Giants 4PM start and my quasi-Giants fan sister caught a glimpse of JPP’s oven mitt being wrapped mummy style on the sideline.

Sister: “What happened to his hand?”

Me: “That’s JPP, he blew off 1.5 fingers shooting off fireworks like an idiot”

Sister: “How can he play like that? What does he play?”

Me: “Defensive End, how do you not know this??”

Sister: “Oh you don’t need no hands for defense.”…Yes my sister was born in New Jersey like all of us siblings but the time spent living in Kentucky and Virginia (and possibly a little vino but that’s just hearsay and rumor as she emphatically reminded me) seems to have dulled her grammatical edge. As for possibly imbibing during the game and forgetting who JPP was, I will again invoke my fictional hero Ron Swanson. “Son, there is no wrong way to consume alcohol.”

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

This week’s award goes to almost all of us Giant fans for the silly conjecture and wild speculation after JPP’s hand-altering Independence Day mishap. People from BBI far and wide wanted him cut, wondered why he wasn’t talking to anyone after the Giants dispatched Jessie Armstead and Ronnie Barnes to evaluate the wreckage, and generally wrung our collective hands for months on end about what would become of our Pro Bowl end. It was only one week, but JPP playing with kitchen wear on his damaged mitt, was about as good as one could have expected given his injury and time away from the team. If I knew JPP, and he knew of our illustrious award, I’m sure he’d tell us all to cram it in our cramholes, and I think I speak (or type) for everyone when I say I’m happy to cram this one.

(New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, November 8, 2015)
Nov 082015
 
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Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (November 8, 2015)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 32 – TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 18
The New York Giants defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 32-18 on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. With the win, the Giants improved their overall record to 5-4, remaining in sole possession of the NFC East. The victory was a costly one, however, as it is believed that defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins suffered a torn pectoral muscle that would likely end his season. The game did mark the return of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who played more than expected (46 snaps).

The game was tighter than the final score. While the Giants out-gained the Buccaneers in first downs (24 to 19), total number of offensive plays (73 to 59), and time of possession (34:55 to 25:05), the Buccaneers out-gained the Giants in net yards rushing (136 to 114) and net yards passing (249 to 213). The Giants turned the football over twice (two interceptions) and the Buccaneers three times (three lost fumbles).

The contest did not start off well for New York. The Giants received the ball to start the game and quarterback Eli Manning was picked off on the first offensive play. His pass thrown behind wide receiver Odell Beckham bounced off of Beckham’s hands and was intercepted by defensive back Sterling Moore, who returned the ball 18 yards to the Giants’ 13-yard line. However, New York’s defense held and Tampa Bay settled for a 25-yard field goal.

The Giants responded with a 10-play, 63-yard drive, moving the ball from their own 20 to Tampa’s 17-yard line. But the drive stalled at the 17 and the Giants tied the game with 35-yard field goal by place kicker Josh Brown. The Buccaneers quickly regained the lead on the next possession as quarterback Jameis Winston hit wide receiver Mike Evans for a 68-yard pass-and-run down to the Giants’ 12-yard line. There the defense stiffened again and the Buccaneers settled for a 28-yard field goal. Buccaneers 6 – Giants 3.

Back came the Giants on their third possession with a 12-play, 80-yard effort that ended with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Manning to wide receiver Rueben Randle on 3rd-and-5. The drive was aided by three Tampa Bay penalties as the Giants went up for the first time, 10-6.

Shane Vereen and Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 8, 2015)

Shane Vereen and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Giants got the ball right back at the start of the second quarter when Hankins forced running back Doug Martin to fumble. The loose ball was recovered by linebacker Jasper Brinkley at Tampa’s 28-yard line. However, this was the play where Hankins got hurt. Nine plays later, Manning found running back Shane Vereen for a 4-yard touchdown reception and the Giants were now ahead 17-6.

The Buccaneers threatened on their fourth possession, driving 65 yards in 11 plays. Fortunately for the Giants, Tampa Bay’s kicker missed a 43-yard field goal. The Giants moved the ball 32 yards in six plays but were stopped at on 4th-and-2 at the Buccaneers’ 35-yard line on an incomplete pass to Beckham. Tampa Bay then quickly drove to inside the New York 10-yard line where the defense stiffened again, forcing another short field goal with only seconds before halftime. At the break, the Giants led 17-9.

The Buccaneers received the ball to start the third quarter. On 2nd-and-3 from the Tampa 45-yard line, Brinkley knocked the ball out of running back Charles Sims’ hands. The fumbled ball was knocked backwards and finally recovered by cornerback Trevin Wade at the 24-yard line. The Giants’ offense could not pick up a first down as New York settled for another 35-yard field goal by Brown to go up 20-9.

Tampa chipped into that 11-point lead on their second possession of the half by driving 49 yards in 10 plays to set up a successful 53-yard field goal. The Giants now led 20-12. New York then moved the ball 47 yards down to the Tampa 33-yard line. But on 3rd-and-9, Manning’s pass intended for Beckham was intercepted by cornerback Alterraun Verner at the 27 and returned 16 yards to Tampa’s 43-yard line. The Giants’ defense came through by forcing a punt after the turnover.

The Giants picked up one first down on the ensuing possession but were forced to punt. Here the game got too close for comfort as Sims broke off a 59-yard run and four plays later Winston scrambled for a 10-yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion attempt failed and the Giants only led 20-18 with 9:25 to play.

Brad Wing and Josh Brown, New York Giants (November 8, 2015)

Brad Wing and Josh Brown – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With the pressure on, the Giants drove the ball 42 yards in six plays and Brown nailed a 53-yard field goal as the Giants extended their advantage to 23-18 with 7:18 to play. The Buccaneers’ offense managed to cross midfield on the ensuing possession, but after three straight incomplete passes Tampa punted the ball away with just under five minutes to play.

New York’s offense then put the game away by driving the ball 54 yards in 10 plays, taking 4:34 off of the clock, and putting the Giants up 26-18 with 23 seconds left to play. With Tampa desperately attempting to tie the game, the exclamation point was put on the contest when Trevin Wade recovered a fumble on an attempted lateral and waltzed into the end zone for a defensive score with no time on the clock.

Manning finished the game 26-of-40 for 213 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. His leading receivers were Beckham (9 catches for 105 yards), Randle (5 catches for 40 yards and a touchdown), and Vereen (4 catches for 29 yards and a touchdown). The running backs chipped in with 115 rushing yards: Rashad Jennings (48 yards on 13 carries), Andre Williams (30 yards on 7 carries), Orleans Darkwa (23 yards on 6 carries), and Vereen (14 yards on 6 carries).

Defensively, Brinkley led the team with 7 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery. Pierre-Paul was credited with 2 tackles and 2 quarterback hits. Wade recovered two fumbles, one for a touchdown.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
DT Johnathan Hankins suffered what is believed to be a torn pectoral muscle early in the second quarter and did not return. If his pectoral muscle is torn, Hankins is likely done for the season. He will have an MRI on Monday.

POST-GAME REACTIONS…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Tom Coughlin and the following players are available at Giants.com:

  • Head Coach Tom Coughlin (Video)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)
  • WR Rueben Randle (Video)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Video)
  • LB Jasper Brinkley (Video)
  • CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Video)

POST-GAME NOTES…
Inactive for the Giants were WR Victor Cruz (calf), TE Larry Donnell (neck), LB J.T. Thomas (ankle), LB Uani ‘Unga (neck), CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral), CB Leon McFadden (groin), and OT Bobby Hart.

ARTICLES…

Nov 062015
 
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Shane Vereen, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Shane Vereen – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, November 8, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
One gets the sense that someone is toying with our emotions with this team. On the negative side, the team has once again been sabotaged by injuries – some bizarre – that have directly contributed to the inconsistent product on the field. Will Beatty tears his pectoral muscle lifting weights in May, JPP blows his hand up in July, the Giants place four safeties on IR before the season even starts, Victor Cruz recovers impressively from his knee injury but is lost for three months due to a “calf strain”, Daniel Fells contracts MRSA, Prince Amukamara injures his pectoral muscle during a critical stretch of games, Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle are hampered by nagging hamstring injuries, and Jon Beason proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is made of glass. Then you throw in three losses where the Giants held the lead by a touchdown or more in the 4th quarter and lost, including two games in painfully bizarre fashion (Eli telling Rashad not to score in Dallas; the series of events leading up to the 50-yard game-winning field goal in New Orleans). It’s like fate is working against the Giants.

But… the NFC East is still a mess and the Giants at .500 still find themselves in first place at the midway point of the season. Despite the morale-sapping setbacks, the team is still competing and has just as good a chance as the Eagles, Redskins, and Cowboys to win the division. Some reinforcements seem about ready to return. The sense is if the Giants can just get to the bye week at 5-5, they can make a run at it.

The loss to New Orleans was bad. Given the prevailing assumption that the team will lose to the Patriots on November 15, the Giants find themselves in another apparent “must-win” situation this weekend. It’s the third time this has already happened this year: 0-2 facing the Redskins, 1-2 in the division and facing the Cowboys, and now this game. If the Giants lose, they will probably be 4-6 at the bye week with almost zero room for error in the final six games. The Giants must win this game to remain relevant.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Rueben Randle (hamstring – questionable)
  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – out)
  • RB Orleans Darkwa (back – probable)
  • TE Larry Donnell (neck – out)
  • RG Geoff Schwartz (ankle – probable)
  • OT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP/most likely out)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (hand – roster exemption/most likely will play)
  • LB Jon Beason (ankle/knee – out)
  • LB J.T. Thomas (ankle – out)
  • LB Uani ‘Unga (neck – questionable)
  • CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral – out)
  • CB Leon McFadden (groin – questionable)
  • S Craig Dahl (neck – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Was the offensive explosion against the Saints more of mirage given the state of New Orleans’ defense or an indication that Eli Manning and the offense is about to reach a new level? Keep in mind that the offense only scored two touchdowns in two games before the contest against the Saints. The Buccaneers are a middle-of-the-pack defense (16th overall, 17th against run, 15th against pass) that had been adept at forcing fumbles (9 fumble recoveries in addition to only 4 interceptions). It’s 4-3 defense, anchored by left defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (4.5 sacks), who unfortunately will be playing against New York’s weak link up front, Geoff Schwartz. But both McCoy (shoulder) and right defensive tackle Tony McDaniel (groin) have been limited this week in practice. Leading sacker, right defensive end Jacquies Smith (5 sacks), has missed practice with an ankle injury (Late Note: Smith has been ruled “out” of the game). Left defensive end William Gholston (knee) has been limited. So the defensive front is a bit beat up.

Typical of a Lovie Smith style of defense, what the Buccaneers do well is run to the ball. “They run very well, they’re very quick, they’re penetrators, the linebacker level is very fast, they do an outstanding job of pressuring the quarterback even with four defenders,” says Head Coach Tom Coughlin.

Linebackers Lavonte David, rookie Kwon Alexander, and Danny Lansanah are undersized, but all are good athletes who make plays. David in particular is a fine all-around play-maker. Alexander is coming off a “NFC Defensive Player of the Week” performance against the Falcons. On the other hand, Tampa Bay’s defensive backs are a pretty non-descript group.

Ben McAdoo knows Lovie Smith well from both of their time in the NFC North. If the Giants can handle McCoy (a big “if”), they should be able to do some damage on the ground as well as deep shots down the field. I would run the ball between the tackles and off tackle against a beat-up defensive line and an undersized linebacking corps – don’t run laterally against their quickness. Passes to the inexperienced tight ends and Shane Vereen could be more problematic this weekend given the athleticism of the linebackers. This is another opponent where Odell Beckham could make a lot of noise against a somewhat shaky secondary.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Tampa Bay may have a rookie quarterback and some injury issues on offense, but they have some dangerous weapons who should be licking their chops against one of the NFL’s all-time worst defenses (at least statistically). Of course, all eyes will be on Jason Pierre-Paul, but he can’t do it alone. The Giants need someone else besides Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to show up and make plays.

The Buccaneers are actually 11th in overall offense – 4th rushing the ball and 23rd passing the ball. As the stats suggest, the absolute defensive emphasis should be on stopping the run and halfback Doug Martin who is averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Martin is the key. He’s a tough, instinctive runner helped by two fine guards in ex-Patriot Logan Mankins and rookie Ali Marpet. The left tackle, Donovan Smith, is also a rookie. It’s a very big line that can punish a defense run blocking.

At the same time, don’t sleep on the passing game. Rookie #1 pick Jameis Winston has been coming on. In the last three games, he has thrown for 683 yards, four touchdowns, 0 interceptions and completed almost 65 percent of his passes. The Buccaneers have completed 25 passes of 20 yards more already this year – it’s a passing offense predicated on the big play.

Second-year wide receiver Mike Evans is a mammoth player for his position who makes plays down the field with his size and overall athleticism. But the Bucs are hurting at the position due to injures to Vincent Jackson (knee – out) and former Giant Louis Murphy (out for the season). The tight ends are Austin Seferian-Jenkins (who has been troubled by a shoulder injury) and former Giant Brandon Myers. Winston will dump the ball off to the backs (Martin and Charles Sims – 34 catches and 3 touchdowns).

Stop the run, roll coverage towards Evans, and don’t let Winston hurt you with his feet. “Because of the strength of their running game, their play action is very good and he has the opportunity to isolate one-on-one with Evans or whoever on the outside,” said Coughlin. “(Winston) throws the go ball, the deep ball, the post ball, all the deep over routes, the (rollout throws), all of those types of routes he does very well. And if you signify by opening the middle of the field up for him, then he’ll run.”

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Tom Coughlin provided a very good scouting report on Tampa Bay’s special teams: “They’re fourth in the league in punt return, second in the league in kickoff return, fifth in the league allowing only 4.7 yards per punt return, opponent punt return. Their outstanding punt returner and kickoff returner is Bobby Rainey. They have speed and quickness in their special teams unit.”

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin on the Tampa Bay offense: “You have to stop the run. Everything, the play action, all of those good things that they do, it’s all based on that. You have to realize, you have the young quarterback, and he’s done an outstanding job. But the running game is preventing a lot of issues. His third downs are less, you have less yardage to accomplish the majority of the time. All those things fit the young quarterback.”

THE FINAL WORD:
This is a must-win game. No excuses. No late-game collapses. No questionable coaching decisions.

Nov 042015
 
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animal-house-speech

New Orleans Saints 52 – New York Giants 49

Overview

What? Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! And it ain’t over now. Cause when the goin’ get tough…The tough get goin! Who’s with me? Let’s goooo! That’s how I felt when do-everything CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie laid the wood on WR Willie Snead and Trumaine McBride raced home for a 49-42 lead and finally a glimmer of hope emerged from the Superdome (or Mercedes Benz Bowl or whatever, I don’t care). Down 42-28, the G-Men once again summoned what the legendary Mick Foley would call their testicular fortitude. After a Dwayne Harris TD pulled the visitors to within 7, the Giants’ defense actually appeared for a series, forcing a 3-and-out which Eli Manning and his top WR trio turned into a 3-play, 65-yard game-tying drive.

Once down 14 in the final stanza, the Giants now had life, actual life after Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Ben Watson and Brandin Cooks ran up and down the field with no resistance for 3.5 quarters. Facing a 2nd-and-6 at the Giants’ 43, Brees found Snead on a quick in-route. DRC applied a perfect tackle, the ball popped loose and Trumaine McBride was off to a 63-yard score and a miraculous 49-42 lead. Predictably, the Saints answered with a 14-play, 80-yard drive that left Eli and company 36 seconds to win the game. Ordinarily not much time but in a game that featured 13 TD passes, 36 seconds is a lifetime. Two Manning incompletions sandwiched around a 5-yard pass to RB Shane Vereen and 20 seconds remained. Punter Brad Wing seemingly put the game into overtime with a 46-yard punt. But Marcus Murphy returned the ball 24 yards, coughed it up and Snead grabbed it and was down at the 47-yard line. But a penalty flag lingered. After much consternation, the referees deemed there was no penalty and the ball was to be moved back one yard because a fumble inside of 2 minutes cannot be advanced. But then, as it had all day, disaster struck any chance the Giants had of stealing a win in the Bayou. After another pow-wow, the referees determined (and it was clear) that Wing had winged Snead down by the face, not only frowned upon, but an actual infraction that turned an OT game into a 50-yard Kai Forbath game-winner.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterbacks

Welcome back to the Big Easy, Easy Eli. His hometown was good to the New Orleans native. The former Ole Miss Rebel torched the Saints to the tune of 350 yards and 6 TDs while completing 73% of his aerials. Eli was nearly perfect, but his now-I-have-it, now-I-don’t-fumble midway through the second quarter was his only real mistake along with possibly an overthrow to Dwayne Harris early in the game down the right sideline. That’s just nitpicking when looking for something bad in a loss. Let’s be honest, if the G-Men pulled this one out, Eli would have been the hero for his 42 points and 6 TDs. Eli was effective on just about everything, short throws to backs, the quick slants and even the broken play when he heaved the ball deep to Odell Beckham Jr. for a TD and found Dwayne Harris in the middle of the end zone on another 4th down scoring play that kept the Giants in the game.

Running Backs

The RB rotation keeps highlighting a different player each game. This time it was #34 Shane Vereen who stole the show with 145 total yards, 8 catches and a TD. Rashad Jennings had the most yardage from scrimmage of the group with 85 total yards and an impressive 5.4 yards per carry. Andre Williams again struggled with 7 yards on 5 carries and it may be time for the former Eagle to take a seat for a few weeks. He’s wasting carries. Orleans Darkwa ripped off a 17-yarder in the first quarter but only saw the rock 4 times total for 23 yards due to an injury.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

Rueben Randle opened the team’s first possession with a 19-yard deep-in from Manning and was accosted by penalty-machine and repeat PED-offender Brandon Browner a few plays later with no call. Randle was suplexed later in the first quarter by Mr. PED and Browner cost his team another silly 15 yards. Browner seemingly grabbed on every single play and seems to not fully comprehend the playbook. Browner had a sure INT just plays later but you guessed it, Brandon Browner held Randle in the end zone to get to the ball – just a horrific display. Odell Beckham Jr. seemed to enjoy his return to New Orleans as well, hauling in a team-high 130 yards and 3 TDs on 8 grabs. Beckham cashed in on the Giants’ first drive with an inside rub route on 4th-and-goal, and followed that up with a 50-yard, cross-field, broken-play TD from Manning that shows how dangerous these two are when healthy and focused. In the absence of Victor Cruz, Dwayne Harris has stepped up game after game for the G-Men. Harris made two fourth quarter, red zone TDs and finished with 37 yards on 3 grabs – another impactful effort from the former Cowboy.

Tight Ends

Poor Larry Donnell, at least he doesn’t look like Yaphet Kotto. Donnell set up the Giants’ second TD of the day with a diving 22-yard grab but did not return after injuring his neck. Kotto…err Tye was pressed into a lot of action on Sunday and was up and down. Just in case Rueben Randle was feeling singled out, Browner also illegally pulled Tye to the ground late in the first half to keep a Giants’ TD drive going. Tye then made an athletic grab one play prior to Shane Vereen’s TD grab to showcase his improving ability to contribute when it matters. Tye and Donnell are very different players with different skill sets, but Tye looks to have some promise as a slot weapon. Tye made a long catch that was negated by an Ereck Flowers hold, but it’s something to watch as he progresses. Tye did fumble the ball after a short catch on 3rd-and-16, but expect growing pains with this group as injured as it’s been.

alike

Kotto…or Will Tye???

Offensive Line

42 points is tough to argue with but 3 sacks and early trouble running left with two stuffs inside the 3-yard line may have made things feel little uglier than the final numbers suggest. Manning was dumped on his keister on the Giants’ second drive but that may go to TE Will Tye as opposed to RT Marshall Newhouse – an unblocked LB is usually someone’s fault but it’s never easy to know who. LG Justin Pugh was beaten inside for a sack in the 2nd quarter and was blown up by DT Kevin Williams inside on a goal-line series, but he righted the ship as the game went on. LT Ereck Flowers struggled at times with the tiny speed rushers that Fat Gandalf sent at him, and his hold negated a big completion to TE Will Tye – not the rookie left tackle’s best game. RG Geoff Schwartz was kind enough to get dinged so we could be re-introduced to the most-easily-moved 330lb human being of all time, John Jerry. RT Marshall Newhouse surprisingly pitched a shutout against DE Cameron Jordan.

Defensive Line

I wanted to leave this entire section blank, along with LBs and DBs, but I love pain I guess. Promising enough start, with DT Jon Hankins and DE Robert Ayers shutting down a Khiry Robinson toss for no gain on the Saints’ first drive of the game. After that, hide yo’ kids. Not once but twice I saw 330lb DT Jon Hankins IN COVERAGE! Yes I get the fire zone concept but using your best DL to waddle backwards and flail helplessly at passes is not the best use of resources. Hankins was in coverage again on Colston’s joke of a TD pass, but it was hardly the big fella’s fault. Overall though, bad, just bad. No pressure, no sacks and the Saints did whatever they wanted all day long. DE Kerry Wynn made the only good play of the day, dropping RB C.J. Spiller for a loss. Yes, a Giant defender not named DRC made a play, but in the words of Bill Parcells…that’s like throwing a deck chair off of the Queen Mary. Whoopdee doo in an otherwise putrid performance.

Linebackers

You’re all worthless and weak! Now drop and give me twenty! If only Niedermeyer was in charge of our LBs instead of Marty Funkhouser, maybe they’d have shown up on Sunday. I must admit, I did see LB Jon Casillas make a stop, but I also saw him flailing helplessly as Saint after Saint tip toed by on the way to the end zone. Uani ‘Unga had a shot at an interception but decided he didn’t want to help either. Jasper Brinkley was pressed into service, and after this game he should be pressed into a cube. He was completely useless in coverage and against the run. The LBs were polite though, leaving plenty of room for Saints’ players to run around and have a good time.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Trumaine McBride, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Trumaine McBride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

Thank you sir! May I have another? Why yes, yes you can you can have 7 TD passes thrown against you in one game. Out of this entire gang, only DRC did anything of note with his jarring tackle that fell into the hands of Trumaine McBride and gave the Giants their only glimmer of hope on an otherwise abysmal defensive day. S Landon Collins had his worst game as a pro, often falling flat footed when forced to turn his hips and open up to the outside. Collins bit hard on the Saints’ first TD, taking the few false steps forward on a flea flicker that Drew Brees required to toss the ball over the rookie’s oddly square head. (Have you looked at his head in interviews? It’s like a 4-slice toaster with hair). Trevin Wade got in on the fun with the Saints pinned at their own 4-yard line by losing the ball in the air and giving up a 46-yard completion to TE Ben Watson. Just awful technique, as Wade was stride for stride with Watson down the sideline. Wade got a bird’s eye view on Brandin Cooks first TD, seemingly admiring the 2nd-year WR’s route-running and refusing to get a hand on him. Wade and Collins chipped in again with horrific technique and coverage on Brees’ 4th TD pass of the game. Wade slowly trailed Snead across the formation only to see Collins stand flat-footed again and do nothing to help. Thank God for DRC. His interception and tackle that became a TD were the only bright spots for this defense. In fact, the only non-horrible, stomach-turning why-am-I-watching-this-defense-flop-around-like-armless-babies moment for the defense.

Special Teams

Well, as of this moment, Tom Quinn is on DOUBLE SECRET PROBATION. Yes, the special teams dream weaver finally got his charges to win a game last week. But in true bizarro-season style, the special teams shanked the game away in the waning moments, forever erasing Matt Dodge from our memories. Well maybe not erasing, but at least he has a buddy now that P Brad Wing decided to yank a Saint down by the facemask, putting the home team 15 yards closer to victory. Overall, good kick coverage again as the Saints managed 26 yards on 2 kickoff returns but the 24 yards by Marcus Murphy on the final punt return coupled with Wing’s gaffe was the difference in this game. Quinn’s return game was strong though, with 169 yards on 5 kick returns, the long a 46-yarder by Shane Vereen.

Anatomy of a Busted Coverage

So who to blame on the Marques Colston TD? Sure it’s one play among about 50 you could get ill watching, but this was the most egregious of all the egregiousness we saw on Sunday. The Giants came out in 2-deep coverage, but motion by WR Willie Snead moves S Brandon Meriweather (#22) into the slot. That’s where the breakdown begins. This should now be 3-deep coverage with Collins (#21) covering the deep middle and Hosley (#28) covering the deep third. The slot defenders in this formation are Trevin Wade (#31) and S Brandon Meriweather. The CBs are DRC (#41) and Jayron Hosley. As Snead motions, #22 slides up into slot coverage.

Colston1

Colston 2Collins should have moved off his hash to the deep middle as #22 slides into the slot. Collins stays put though to keep an eye on the TE, which he should not have done.

Colston3How do we know this? Watch up top, as DRC and Trevin Wade correctly play the coverage. DRC stays in the flat and Wade goes deep with his man indicating either man-coverage or Cover-3. Collins keeps eyes on the TE, but LB Uani ‘Unga and DT Jon Hankins drop into the hook zones to defend against the TE and any crossing routes from this formation, which negates the idea that it’s man coverage. That means that Collins should have abandoned the TE, and known by the shift that he was the lone deep safety with Meriweather now underneath. Further evidence is that Meriweather gives Colston an inside release and jams him towards the middle, a clear indication that (1) he knows he has help, and (2) he knows it’s a timing route and he can affect the play with a good jam. It’s possible that #28 should should have run deep in the slot as Wade did up top, but the shift of ‘Unga, Hankins and Meriweather show pretty clearly that they are the LBs in coverage for this formation and they have the short middle. Hosley though doesn’t get any width as Meriweather does, indicating he likely had deep third on his side. Most of the fault lies with Collins, but it appears Hosley read the shift incorrectly and wasn’t able to help by being in a trail position on Colston. The deep third is missing two people and Marques Colston races to pay dirt.

Coaching

Daniel Day Spagnuolo HAS no grade point average. All courses incomplete. That’s honestly as fairly as it can be put, incomplete. I cannot even fail Spags this week because he simply didn’t show up nor did his defense save for DRC on two plays. There was no scheme, there was no plan, there was mayhem for 4 quarters and it was revolting to watch. Drew Brees practically held a 7-on-7 drill for 3 hours. It was as rough to watch the second time as it was in real time and I saw nothing to change our collective opinion that this film should be burned and never spoken of again.

OC Ben McAdoo again annoyed with his RBBC approach that seems to go by series. But how can you argue with 42 points? Well if you’re the Saints, you argue back with 52, but I digress. I’m still confused by the rigidity of the RB distribution. At some point you have to ride the hot hand and control the clock and the game, but that doesn’t appear to be the approach in any game thus far. McAdoo’s passing game was nearly perfect even after losing starting TE Larry Donnell and playing from behind from the 2nd quarter on. Excellent work with Eli and company this week.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

The CiiyCA committee had too heated of a debate as to who should win the trophy this week for us to settle on a winner too quickly. Among the nominees: Sean Payton, HC of the Saints for what one staffer said was “His I’m sorta making kissy face but maybe I’m eating lemons face..face, I hate it and I want to punch it but I’m afraid there will be a bounty on us.”  Another potential winner was color man (which quite frankly we find offensive and racist and prefer they be called Former Player American Announcer Guy) Daryl Johnston for taking eons to get out any sentence then the sentence being insignificant because it’s three plays later and usually wrong. He is for all intents a purposes, the Jonathan Casillas of announcers, lots of stuff on the stat sheet, but damned if we know if what it is. If I had a coin I would have flipped it, but during my review, the gem below from Johnston after Orleans Darkwa was stuffed..NOT by Kevin Williams on the goal line cemented the former Cowboy as the winner. Read the following as quickly as possible with a slight lisp, with only pauses at the ellipses, no voice inflection and a hint of incredulity at the first bold section and you’ll hear it all over again in horrible nightmarish fashion.

“Kenny are they still running it right at Kevin Williams are we still running it right at huh uh Kevin Williams that guy was a beast on the opening series when they came down the field…I think they ARE still going right at Kevin Williams number ninety three he doesn’t make the play on that one actually nice job by Justin Pugh but the linebackers fillin’ the hole look at them stop Orleans Darkwa right there you can see all of his momentum going forward just shut down immediately.”

(New York Giants at New Orleans Saints, November 1, 2015)
Nov 012015
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 52 – NEW YORK GIANTS 49…
The New York Giants lost a heart-breaker at the Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday, falling 52-49. With the loss, the Giants fell to 4-4 overall.

In a game that featured 13 touchdown passes and over 1,000 yards of offense, the game-winning, 50-yard field goal was kicked as time expired. The field goal came on the very next snap after the Giants punted the ball away from their own 25-yard line with 20 seconds left to play. The Saints’ returned the punt 24 yards, fumbled and recovered the fumble, and punter Brad Wing was flagged with a 15-yard facemask penalty to set the ball up at the New York 32-yard line with five seconds left in regulation.

The Giants’ offense accrued 42 points, 28 first downs, and 416 total net yards (87 rushing and 329 passing). Quarterback Eli Manning was 30-of-41 for 350 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to have a 6-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio and still lose a football game.

The problem for the Giants was their atrocious defense that allowed seven touchdowns, 35 first downs, and 608 yards of offense (103 rushing and 505 passing). Quarterback Drew Brees, who was not sack and rarely pressured, threw seven touchdown passes. The yardage and first down totals were the second most ever allowed in franchise history.

The Giants had the football five times in the first half and scored three offensive touchdowns on drives of 60, 79, and 80 yards. They punted on the two other drives after going three-and-out. Wide receiver Odell Beckham scored on a 2-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-goal and a 1-yard touchdown pass on 2nd-and-goal. Running back Shane Vereen caught a 2-yard touchdown pass with only two seconds on the clock before halftime.

But the Giants trailed 28-21 at the half because the New York defense allowed four consecutive touchdown drives of 80, 96, 80, and 60 yards. They only forced one punt on the initial possession.

In the second half, the Giants scored on three more offensive possessions of 65, 80, and 65 yards with Beckham catching a 50-yard touchdown and wide receiver Dwayne Harris catching 9- and 20-yard touchdown passes. The 9-yard touchdown came on 4th-and-5.

Dwayne Harris, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Dwayne Harris – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The defense forced two turnovers in the second half, including scoring on a 63-yard fumble return by cornerback Trumaine McBride that cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie forced, giving the Giants a 49-42 lead with 7:11 to play. But the defense simply could not hold as Saints scored on three 80-yard drives, the last to tie the game with 36 seconds left to play. Rodgers-Cromartie was involved in the other turnover, intercepting Brees inside the New York 10-yard line after tight end Will Tye fumbled the ball away at the 36-yard line.

The leading rusher for the Giants was running back Rashad Jennings with 54 yards on 10 carries. The leading receivers were Beckham (8 catches for 130 yards, 3 touchdowns), Vereen (8 catches for 60 yards, 1 touchdown), wide receiver Rueben Randle (5 catches for 55 yards), and Harris (3 catches for 37 yards, 2 touchdowns).

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
TE Larry Donnell (neck) and RB Orleans Darkwa (back) left the game with injuries. WR Dwayne Harris (knee/ankle), RG Geoff Schwartz (ankle), and CB Jayron Hosley (facial laceration) were all hurt, but returned to the game.

POST-GAME REACTIONS…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Tom Coughlin and the following players are available at Giants.com:

  • Head Coach Tom Coughlin (Video)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)
  • WR Odell Beckham (Video)
  • LB Devon Kennard (Video)
  • CB Trumaine McBride (Video)
  • S Landon Collins (Video)

POST-GAME NOTES…
Inactive for the Giants were WR Victor Cruz (calf), DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (hamstring), LB Jon Beason (ankle/knee), LB J.T. Thomas (ankle), CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral), DT Louis Nix, and OT Bobby Hart.

Jasper Brinkley started at middle linebacker for Beason and Jonathan Casillas started at weakside linebacker for Thomas.

ARTICLES…

Oct 302015
 
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Orleans Darkwa, New York Giants (October 25, 2015)

Orleans Darkwa – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at New Orleans Saints, November 1, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
The victory against the Cowboys may have been the team’s most significant win since 2011. If the Giants had fallen to Dallas, they would have been 1-3 in the NFC East with two losses to the Cowboys. Now at 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the NFC East, the Giants find themselves very much in the hunt for the division title with nine games left to play.

But it’s important to keep in mind that this remains a thus-far seriously-flawed team that has greatly benefited from a weak division. The offense – which was supposed to be the strength of the team – is currently 23rd in the NFL in yards per game (14th in passing and 25th in rushing). And despite the strong initial start in run defense, the once-proud NYG defense doesn’t do anything well except generate turnovers – and that’s a well that can dry up very quickly. The Giants are 29th in defense, having fallen from 1st to 21st in run defense in the span of a few weeks, and 30th in pass defense. The fact that the Giants are one game in first place is a minor miracle.

The good news is that there is potential to improve, especially if the team starts to get some players back and if those players can play at a level anywhere near their previous form (Jason Pierre-Paul, Victor Cruz, Will Beatty). Offensively, the line and running game appear to be slowly improving and the passing game has yet to hit its stride. Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, Rueben Randle, and Dwayne Harris are capable of much more. Defensively, the pass rush will probably remain an issue unless JPP, Robert Ayers, Devon Kennard, and Damontre Moore come on. But the Giants were missing a lot of defensive players in the first half of the season who are getting healthier, including JPP, Ayers, George Selvie, Kennard, Jonathan Casillas, and Amukamara. The more the players become comfortable with Steve Spagnuolo’s new scheme, the better they should play. And the special teams are playing extremely well.

The short-term problem for the Giants is that many of those reinforcements are not quite ready yet. The Giants will have to scrape by for 1-3 more weeks. It’s a bad time for Amukamara to be out. The linebacking corps is beat up with Beason, Thomas, and ‘Unga ailing. The obvious goal is to win two important NFC games in the next two weeks against the improving Saints and Buccaneers. Get to 6-3.

Do not underestimate the Saints. They are 3-4, the Giants 4-3…not much difference. And the two teams are very similar in a lot of ways…winless start to the season, winning 3-out-of-4 of their last four (Giants actually 4-out-of-5), franchise QB, struggling defense, running game showing signs of life. Giants’ fans know the narrative coming into this particular contest. New York has gotten fat by beating the likes of Kirk Cousins, Tyrod Taylor, Colin Kaepernick, and Matt Cassel. Can the the 30th-ranked pass defense not get embarrassed by Drew Brees? Can a Giants’ offense that has scored two touchdowns in two games keep pace?

This is a big game. 5-3 is a lot better than 4-4.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Odell Beckham (hamstring – probable)
  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – out)
  • RG Geoff Schwartz (ankle – probable)
  • OT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP/out)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (hand – roster exemption/out)
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (hamstring – out)
  • LB Jon Beason (ankle/knee – questionable)
  • LB J.T. Thomas (ankle – out)
  • LB Uani ‘Unga (neck – probable)
  • CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
After an initial positive start under Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan in 2013 (ironically replacing the then-maligned Steve Spagnuolo), the Saints have struggled on defense for the last season and a half. There was significant turnover on the defensive side of the football in the offseason, and although the defensive unit has played much better in recent games, it still ranks 30th overall (one spot below the Giants’ defense). They are 26th against the pass and 29th against the run.

That all said, the Saints do some things well. They have 11 take-aways this year (4 interceptions, 7 fumble recoveries) and they are tied for 12th in the NFL in sacks (16). The Saints are also very good at third-down defense (33.7 percent – 4th in the NFL).

The Saints like to use a lot of different packages and looks in order to attempt to confuse opposing offenses. “They have a number of exotic schemes that you have to be totally prepared for in terms of how they’re using their people and the numbers game, in terms of the number of defensive linemen on the field and defensive backs on the field,” says Tom Coughlin.

The best defensive players are right defensive end Cameron Jordan (6 sacks), who will face LT Ereck Flowers, and strong safety Kenny Vaccaro, who can blitz, stop the run, and cover. They have a young linebacking corps who Ryan will send after the quarterback. Blitz pick-ups will be key. If the Giants can pick up the blitz, they will have some great opportunities for big plays.

Coming off 132 yards on the ground against the Cowboys, the Giants should be able to run the ball on the Saints. My preference would be for New York to let one or two backs get into a rhythm – let Rashad Jennings and/or Orleans Darkwa receive the bulk of the carries. I also expect a big home coming from receivers Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle. Both who are due for a big game, especially against a team with a suspect secondary with one starting corner (Keenan Lewis – hip) ailing. I would also attack the inexperienced and somewhat banged up linebackers in pass coverage with Shane Vereen. Linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and David Hawthorne have missed practice this week.

The keys? No turnovers, convert on third down against a stingy third-down defense, and convert in the red zone. “We need consistency of scoring in the green zone; when we get there, we’ve got to score,” says Coughlin.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Fans rightfully are fearful of what Drew Brees can do against the NFL’s 30th-ranked pass defense. The Giants miss Prince Amukamara as Jayron Hosley has been shaky and saved at times by opposing quarterback ineptitude. The safeties have played better than expected, but still have had issues at times as Landon Collins is still learning the pro game. Worse, the Giants have an NFL-low nine sacks. Nine. Give Drew Brees time and he will tear up any secondary, let alone one with the issues the Giants have in covering tight ends and wide receivers.

If we’re being honest, the Saints are going to move the football and they are going to score. Saints’ Head Coach Sean Payton has probably preached all week: don’t turn the ball over against the Giants, that’s the only way they are stopping people.

New Orleans is 6th in the NFL on offense (3rd passing, 22nd rushing). One would think the priority would be to focus on the pass over the run. The problem is the Giants’ run defense has rapidly deteriorated the last few weeks and the Saints’ running game – led by RB Mark Ingram – is starting to kick it into gear. The Giants have to make the Saints one dimensional or they are in real trouble. The Saints have had issues with injuries on the offensive line but the regular starters are expected to play against the Giants. My focus would be to stop the run and cross your fingers against the pass.

Brees has to be salivating at facing a defense that can’t seem to rush the passer and missing Amukamara. He’s completing over 67 percent of his passes and well on pace for another 4,000 yard season despite missing a game. Brees spreads the ball around to a variety of players at wide receiver, tight end, and running back. Five players have over 20 catches: the diminutive but explosive WR Brandin Cooks (35, 444 yards), WR Willie Sneed (29, 461 yards), TE Benjamin Watson (29, 325 yards), RB Mark Ingram (29, 235 yards), and RB C.J. Spiller (21, 181 yards). That doesn’t even include WR Marques Colston (19, 220 yards). While the Saints wide receivers have not been as dangerous as in recent years, they are using their running backs more as Ingram is having a career year as a receiver. Spiller – as his 80-yard game-winning TD in OT against the Cowboys demonstrated – can be a match-up problem for linebackers. Keep in mind Jon Beason is ailing and J.T. Thomas is out. The tight end Watson caught 10 passes in the win over the Falcons.

On paper, this match-up looks like a disaster unless the Giants continue to force turnovers or begin to generate pass pressure. Though Brees has six interceptions on the season, he’s not Cousins, Sam Bradford, or Cassel. I would expect Steve Spagnuolo change things up to make it somewhat challenging for Brees, but Brees is pretty darn smart and I don’t think Spagnuolo will want to give up the cheap play. The Saints lead the NFL with 32 plays over 20 yards. Spagnuolo will try to have his unit stop the run, not get too risky in coverage, and force Brees to drive the field without making a mistake. The problem is the Saints are very good on 3rd down, converting almost 46 percent of the time. The Giants desperately need their defensive line to rebound from an atrocious game, and need big efforts from Ayers, Selvie, Johnathan Hankins, and Cullen Jenkins in particular.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Rookie Marcus Murphy has returned one punt for a 74-yard touchdown this year so punt coverage will obviously be on the spot. He also returns kickoffs, where his long has only been 35 yards. The Saints have had issues at place kicker, now with journeyman Kai Forbath handling field goals and extra points. New Orleans did block a punt for a touchdown against the Falcons.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin on the pass rush: “Somehow, some way, we’ve got to make the quarterback uncomfortable… We need more pressure on the quarterback, we need to do a better job of that.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The Giants haven’t won in the Super Dome since Phil Simms was the quarterback. That said, this is not a very strong Saints team. This contest features two bad defensive teams that can cause turnovers, and potentially explosive offenses with ground attacks that are starting to come to life. The difference could be special teams.

The match-up issues on defense are scary for the Giants. How much longer can they count on multiple turnover games? The Giants’ offense most likely will need to come up big. New York will probably need to score almost 30 points to win. This would be a good time for Odell Beckham to take over a game.

Oct 282015
 
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no-country-for-old-men-tommy-lee-jones1

New York Giants 27 – Dallas Cowboys 20

Overview

Forty minutes of possession against us, Darren McFadden running like he was at Arkansas, Eli Manning throwing no TDs, 3 interceptions by Matt Cassel, a kickoff return for a TD, a muffed punt to win a woolly contest at MetLife…I don’t know what to make of that. I sure don’t. The games you see now, it’s hard to even take its measure. It’s not that I’m afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to write to even do this job. But, I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He’d have to say, “O.K., I’ll be part of this world.” And a part of this world we are for now Big Blue Faithful, 4-3, atop the NFC East and a chance to make some noise down the stretch. Not much else you can ask for heading for the midpoint in the season but nothing will be easy and none of it makes any sense.

Down 13-10 at the half, kicking off to the Cowboys with Darren McFadden running wild, things looked bleak for the G-Men and their chance to exorcise the Cowboys’ demon that had haunted them for 5 straight games. That’s when DRC came riding in to save the day with his 58-yard interception return that ignited the Giants and sent them to a 17-13 lead as the Cowboys were working down field to open the second half. Then Brandon Meriweather intercepted Cassel at the 1-yard line. After adding a FG on a drive punctuated by a 44-yard fly to Rueben Randle and a 39-yard scamper by Shane Vereen, DRC snuffed out another Cowboys’ drive and the Giants hard-fought 20-13 lead temporarily stood. Taking the ball out of Cassel’s turnover-prone hands would have seemed wise and the Cowboys indeed turned to Lucky Whitehead, Darren McFadden and former Seahawk Christine Michael (someone listened to a “Boy named Sue” one too many times before naming his kid) for six straight plays. That running game gave Cassel the chance he needed and the veteran tossed 21- and 25-yard deep outs to Terrance Williams and Devin Street to knot the game at 20.

And then, Dwayne Harris happened. The former Cowboy, signed to a 5-year, $17 million contract in the offseason cashed in with a 100-yard kickoff return with 7 minutes left in the contest to put the Giants ahead for good and give Tom Coughlin an actual good special teams memory to hold on to. Dallas gave it a go, driving to the Giants 30, but Brandon Meriweather swatted a Cassel offering and a gang of Giants finished off TE James Hanna to kill the threat. After forcing a Giant punt with 1:36 left, the Cowboys had one more chance, but Cole Beasley bobbled the punt and it was pounced on by Myles White and the special teams saved the day for Tom Coughlin and his 100th victory as head coach of the New York Giants.

Quarterbacks

As Eli goes, so go the G-Men. A two-game slump since the 441-yard masterpiece against the Niners, but this week his teammates found a way when Eli was hemmed in. The positives are zero turnovers and Greg Hardy did not in fact in kill, maim, fold, spindle or mutilate your aw shucks signal caller. Manning was dumped twice, and completed just 13 passes for 170 yards against a defense that has struggled to stop the pass all year save for its two contests with the Giants. Manning misfired on a crossing route to Beckham to end the Giants’ second possession with another punt, and flirted with disaster as an errant pass glanced off Shane Vereen and appeared to be picked off by Byron Jones deep in Giants’ territory until a review mercifully saw the ball bounce off of the turf. Manning, as he is wont to do, followed that near-mistake with a rifle shot to Dwayne Harris on a 38-yard catch-and-run that got the Giants into field goal range. Manning had two more great passes, a 44-yarder to Rueben Randle and a drop by the same Randle on a perfectly-thrown post as the Giants were trying to add to their lead.

Running Backs

“How many of those things you got now?” – “Running Backs? Several. Well, depends on what you mean by got. Some are half-wild and some are just outlaws.” Orleans Darkwa, welcome to outlaw status. Castoff running backs seem to find a home in New York and our new outlaw fits the mold. After weeks of a certain big-mouth “writer” calling for him, Tom Coughlin dusted off #26 and lo and behold, a running game emerged. It took 25 totes but the mercurial 4 racked up a season-high 132 yards on the ground, with Darkwa bulling his way to the end zone for the group’s lone score. In true head-scratching style though, no one got more than 8 carries and it appears this rotation may just work as long as Darkwa’s role remains. Darkwa endeared himself to Greg Hardy haters everywhere by leveling the loud-mouthed DE and rumbling forward for a 10-yard gain, and then simply bulling his way to a 15-yard TD run. Shane Vereen actually led all rushers with 56 yards, ripping off a game-long 39-yarder on a Giants’ FG drive in the 3rd quarter. Rashad Jennings’ first two carries went for 8 and 6 yards, then he vanished, finishing the game with 5 more yards on 3 more carries. Andre Williams was again mostly a no-show with 13 yards on 4 carries but his 5-yard run right into Rolando McClain’s kitchen was a thing of beauty. Once a game, Williams seems to deliver a phlegm-loosening hit on some defender, perfect tonic for cold and flu season.

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham Jr. opened the account for the WRs with a 10-yard grab on the Giants’ second possession, and I have to say, an odd reaction as he got up and shook himself at CB Brandon Carr. I like the fire, but once in a while ODB does something that looks like a hissy fit. At some point, he needs to be more composed. It wasn’t until the Giants were able to establish the run that ODB was able to do some damage and the second-year phenom had another shot at a miracle catch against Carr but wasn’t able to replicate the magic of his previous catch at MetLife. Rueben Randle was the most effective target Eli had, despite only getting his hands on 2 balls, which is fine if you’re giving a physical but not for an NFL receiver. Randle turned his head and coughed enough to haul in a beautiful arcing pass from Manning that covered 44 yards with the Giants in the shadow of their own end zone. Randle pulled in the 3rd-and-5 pass with one hand and gave the Giants life enough to push ahead to a 20-13 lead. But in a game of weird plays, Randle just dropped a ball right in his hands on a perfectly-thrown post by Manning that could have been a TD or led to a TD.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell got started early, picking up a first down on the second play of the game, and another two plays later. Then he simply disappeared like most Giant aerial targets did and finished with 4 grabs for 18 yards on 5 targets. Donnell did have a great block on Vereen’s 39-yard scamper, getting good position and holding his block long enough to spring the diminutive back. Will Tye wasn’t able to handle his first target on a Manning pass on 3rd-and-4, killing the Giants’ first drive. And that was it for the rookie TE.

Offensive Line

Does anyone else kinda miss Will Beatty? The combo of Geoff Schwartz and Marshall Newhouse killed a TD chance by getting blown past by Greg Hardy and Tyrone Crawford. Newhouse again struggled at times, giving up an early near-sack to DE Jeremy Mincey that was mercifully called an incompletion. Other than those two hiccups, a much better day than most had anticipated against the suddenly healthy and dangerous Cowboys’ DL spearheaded by Greg Hardy, who wasn’t exactly Anton Chigurh as many had anticipated going into this tilt. This group bounced back exactly how you’d hoped they would after the debacle in Philadelphia, a great sign going forward that this group is going to fight no matter who’s in front of them. The big boys up front paved the way for their first 100 yarder of the year. They may have found their staple running play, an inside trap that Jennings got 8 and 6 yards on early, and Darkwa utilized for the big gain below:

darkwa2At the snap, LG Justin Pugh pulls, OC Weston Richburg blocks down and RG Geoff Schwartz and RT Marshall Newhouse double the DT opposite of Richburg, creating an A Gap hole. The problem is LBs Rolando McClain and Sean Lee sit in wait to maintain their gaps.

darkwa3Pugh pulling entices Lee and McClain to follow him and Darkwa has a decision to make, follow his lead guard on a trap off tackle or hit the A gap. Darkwa makes a sudden head fake towards Pugh, Lee commits and McClain takes too long to react.

darkwa4The head fake buys Darkwa the time to burst through the A gap and pick up 9 yards as Pugh’s pulling draws the LBs attention. Credit to Richburg for an outstanding power block on the play.

C Weston Richburg had his best game of the year, consistently turning his man out of the hole to lead the way for the Giants rushing attack. Richburg had the key block on Darkwa’s TD run and 9-yard jaunt just moments earlier. LT Ereck Flowers had no trouble with anyone this time out and is fast becoming a rock on the OL. RG Geoff Schwartz gave up the sack to Hardy, who I loathe, so Schwartz gets the gas face. LG Justin Pugh was solid and his leads on the traps did their job – a solid day for the former Syracuse man.

Defensive Line

Horrible, just horrible. 233 yards to a one-dimensional team with no one at RB is abysmal. Not one player on this DL looked like anything but a small bump on a putt-putt course, the one that kinda gets in the way but ultimately doesn’t hinder you on your way to mini-golf glory. The edge containment was non-existent and BBI favorite, DE Kerry Wynn, was downright putrid, first biting inside on a Joseph Randle run on the Cowboys’ first possession and then completely losing contain on his side while simply being erased on a McFadden run on the Cowboys’ first TD drive. Wynn wasn’t alone in his crapitude. DT Markus Kuhn stood straight up and got himself taken out of the hole and pushed backwards on a McFadden 9-yard run. Not to be outdone, DE Robert Ayers gave up his lane and inexplicably chased Matt Cassel as McFadden scooted by as evidenced by this nauseating sequence. The circles indicate where Kuhn and Ayers SHOULD be; they do not make it so.

Kuhn1Kuhn starts in the A (between center and guard) gap, with DE Robert Ayers seemingly responsible for the C gap (outside the OT).

kuhn2Kuhn spots a penny on the turf (and OG Zach Martin peeks over his shoulder for a look see), instead of staying home to take on the block from TE Jason Witten and create some traffic for McFadden…

kuhn3Ayers completely abandons his gap, preferring to see what type of shoe Matt Cassel has on in lieu of taking down a ball carrier. Kuhn goes from zero to blocked faster than any DT I can remember. It has to be the fine German engineering that enables such raw speed. And there is no penny, just a gaping hole for McFadden to exploit.

DT Jay Bromley didn’t fare much better, consistently getting turned out of the hole and giving up leverage far too easily. And naturally it was Kuhn being destroyed on the Cowboys’ first TD of the game. The middle of this defense simply struggles when #78 is on the field. I have no idea how not one coach sees this. Ayers flat out missed on an easy interception chance that Cassel threw right at him, and didn’t have much impact in his first action in weeks. DE George Selvie was solid in spots as was Jon Hankins and Cullen Jenkins, but as a unit, no pressure and 233 yards rushing means you all get an F.

Linebackers

When your starting trio of LBs racks up 24 tackles, something ain’t stirring the Kool-Aid Ace. J.T. Thomas got caught for a late hit on the Cowboys’ first TD drive, just a bad error when the Giants were struggling to stop anything. But the call was iffy at best. The former Mountaineer finished with 6 stops. For the most part, this group was jumping on and dragging down anything that ambled past our DL and that was pretty much everyone with a star on their helmet. Really very little impact despite all of the tackle numbers. I guess it’s good they tackled? Jon Casillas again chipped in with 7 stops, but for the life of me, I can’t remember any of them. Veteran Jon Beason did a lot of dirty work in between the big guys, piling up 11 stops in a game that had to feel like a game of bumper pool for former Cane, with Beason playing the role of the ball. Tough day all around for the defense’s second level against the running game. They were consistently dealing with 300 pounders bearing down them as the DL failed to do anything to slow the tide.

Defensive Backs

DRC, take a bow. Hell take two or three, just don’t pull anything or you’ll be on IR by Saturday. The highly-paid and highly-productive CB was sensational despite a very iffy holding call that gave the Boys a first down as the first half wound down. DRC nearly had a first-half TD by jumping Cole Beasley’s out route. He jumped the exact same route on the Cowboys’ first possession of the second half and catapulted the Giants to a 17-13 lead. DRC wasn’t done, snatching another Cassel pass over the middle as the 4th quarter opened with the Cowboys again driving. S Brandon Meriweather took advantage of an awful Cassel pass midway through the third quarter and gave the G-Men the ball back at their own one-foot line. The former Cane did get bowled over by Darren McFadden on the Cowboys’ next possession, but Meriweather notched 7 tackles and a pick and was counted on heavily to shore up the back end of a fragile defense. And he did just that with a swat of a 3rd down pass late in the 4th quarter that helped snuff out the Cowboys’ final shot to score. CB Jayron Hosley wasn’t good at all. Hosley gave up big gains to Terrence Williams and got out-worked on a Brice Butler reception. If not for a bad Cassel pass, he was beaten badly on Meriweather’s interception. S Landon Collins notched 9 stops but he was slow in reacting to WR Devin Street and gave up the game-tying TD. Collins continued his rugged work against the run, spending plenty of time in the box, but he too shoulders some of the blame for the 233-yard mashing.

Special Teams

Special, neato, super, competent. None of these would describe the Giants’ special teams units under blackmail specialist Tom Quinn for several years, until now. Clearly Quinn’s 9-year plan is finally coming to fruition, he knew it all along. ST ace Dwayne Harris started the day with a drag down of Cole Beasley on P Brad Wing’s second punt and finished in style with a 100-yard, stadium-rocking kickoff return that punctuated an odd afternoon of weird statistics, big plays and Greg Hardy tirades. Credit LB Jonathan Casillas with an outstanding lead on Harris’ return. The coverage units were again outstanding, holding the Cowboys to 73 total return yards. Josh Brown, the cyborg kicker, again made all of his kicks.

Coaching

DC Steve Spagnuolo had no answers for a Cowboys’ running game that pounded out 233 yards. In their first 4 games, the Giants had the #1 rush defense in the league, giving up 279 yards and 69.75 ypg. In their last 3, the G-Men have surrendered 515 yards or 171.6 per game. That’s a full 100 yards per game MORE over our last 3 contests. That simply has to improve. Spags’ maddening decision to use DT Markus Kuhn extensively is reaching Tom Quinn-like proportions. What does Kuhn know and how does he know it? How is he using it to force his way onto the field and who if anyone can stop the big German? I’ll give Spags credit for dialing up a lot of pressure to force 3 interceptions. But I have to ask, what in the H E double hockey sticks is this? 3rd-and-4 and Kerry Wynn, Robert Ayers, Cullen Jenkins and George Selvie line up tight to put pressure on Matt Cassel…dun dun dunn or do they???

zoneb

zone2Yeah that’s right, 3 DL drop into coverage, Cassel misfires outside and DRC almost takes it to the house….a portend of things to come? Has ANYONE ever seen 3 DL drop into coverage???? This has to be a first for Spags.

When the Giants did use a 3-4 front with Ayers and Kennard at OLB, they fared much better against the Cowboys edge-heavy running game. But the Giants routinely returned to the 4-3 and the trampling continued for most of the contest. Credit Spags though for thoroughly confusing the veteran Cassel which led to 2 of the 3 interceptions the Giants used to pull this game out.

OC Ben McAdoo, I don’t know what to make of again. Darkwa explodes for 41 yards on 4 carries and then gets sprinkled in 4 more times total. Odell Beckham Jr. did very little and Eli Manning really only took two shots, one caught and one dropped. However, the running game worked better than it has all season with the addition of Darkwa. Credit McAdoo for adding in the former Tulane star; it paid off with 132 yards on the ground. So Mr. McAdoo, you stress balance in distributing the ball and you don’t like to threaten teams deep very often and it’s resulted in back-to-back poor output by your franchise QB and talented WRs. A win in this campaign though is a win even if your offense only managed 13 points against an outfit that surrendered 39 to the Falcons, 30 to the Patriots and 335 passing yards to the ghost of Drew Brees.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

Greg Hardy, you sir may cram it in your cramhole. By it, I mean everything you can find – guns, clipboards, horrible rap CDs with your nails-on-a-chalkboard voice on them. Hardy simply didn’t show for practice last Thursday, slapped his ST Coach’s clip board out of his hand, continued going apey for several minutes and he wasn’t even listening to the Soggy Bottom Boys. Even Dez Bryant looked sane in comparison during the duos heated exchange following Harris’ TD return. We were able to contact Daniel in MI, who unofficially didn’t give us any audio that is not certainly accurate. But here’s what we found when reading the lips of Bryant and Hardy…or at least we had the clip running on the laptop while we decided on what to have for dinner. And the results are shocking and probably fabricated.

Dez Bryant: Y’all gettin’ any rain up your way?
Greg Hardy: What way would that be?
Dez Bryant: I seen you was from Dallas.
Greg Hardy: What business is it of yours where I’m from, friendo?
Dez Bryant: I didn’t mean nothin’ by it.
Greg Hardy: Didn’t mean nothin’.
Dez Bryant: I was just passin’ the time. If you don’t wanna accept that I don’t know what else to do for you. Will there be something else?
Greg Hardy: I don’t know. Will there?
Dez Bryant: Is somethin’ wrong?
Greg Hardy: With what?
Dez Bryant: With anything?
Greg Hardy: Is that what you’re asking me? Is there something wrong with anything?
Dez Bryant: Will there be anything else?
Greg Hardy: You already asked me that.
Dez Bryant: Well… I need to see about closin’.
Greg Hardy: See about closing.
Dez Bryant: Yessir.
Greg Hardy: What time do you close?
Dez Bryant: Now. We close now.
Greg Hardy: Now is not a time. What time do you close?

(Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, October 25, 2015)
Oct 252015
 
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Jonathan Casillas, New York Giants (October 25, 2015)

Jonathan Casillas – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 27 – DALLAS COWBOYS 20…
It wasn’t pretty, but the New York Giants found a way to win a game where they were very much out-played on both lines of scrimmage on Sunday at MetLife Stadium as the Giants defeated the Cowboys 27-20. With the victory, the Giants improved their overall record to 4-3 and their divisional record to 2-2.

The Cowboys vastly out-gained the Giants in first downs (27-13), third-down efficiency (55 percent to 27 percent), total net yards (460 to 289), net yards rushing (233 to 132), net yards passing (227 to 157), and time of possession (38:04 to 21:56). But the Giants won the turnover battle (4 to 0) and scored touchdowns on defense and special teams.

The Giants received the football to start the game, picked up a couple of first downs, but were then forced to punt. The Cowboys drove 68 yards in 11 plays on their first possession but settled for a 30-yard field goal to go up 3-0 early.

After both teams exchanged punts, the Giants scored their only offensive touchdown of the game by marching 79 yards in seven plays to take a 7-3 lead on running back Orleans Darkwa’s 15-yard touchdown run. The Cowboys immediately cut into that advantage after the ensuing kickoff went out-of-bounds and the Cowboys managed to gain 30 yards in six plays to set up a 48-yard field goal. Giants 7 – Cowboys 6.

The Giants went three-and-out on their ensuing possession and Dallas then regained the lead by driving 72 yards in just six plays. The drive was aided by three defensive penalties and culminated with a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Darren McFadden, who would finish the game with 152 yards rushing on 29 carries. Cowboys 13 – Giants 7.

With 2:17 to go before halftime, the Giants did manage to cut into that score with an 8-play, 51-yard drive that set up a 47-yard field goal by place kicker Josh Brown. The big play on the drive was a 38-yard pass from quarterback Eli Manning to wide receiver Dwayne Harris. At the half, the Cowboys led 13-10.

The Cowboys received the football to start the second half and turned it over on their first three possessions after the break. First, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie picked off quarterback Matt Cassel at the Giants’ 42-yard line and returned the interception 58 yards for the defensive score. The Giants were now up 17-13.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants (October 25, 2015)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Dallas crossed midfield on their second possession but a deep pass by Cassel was underthrown and intercepted by safety Brandon Meriweather at the Giants’ 1-yard line. Aided by a 44-yard reception by wide receiver Rueben Randle and a 39-yard run by running back Shane Vereen, the Giants were able to extend their lead to 20-13 on Josh Brown’s 34-yard field goal.

Cassel threw his third interception of the game on the Cowboys’ third possession of the half. Rodgers Cromartie picked off his second pass of the game at the Giants’ 22-yard line and returned it 12 yards on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Giants picked up only one first down and were forced to punt. Dallas then proceeded to tie the game at 20-20 by driving 80 yards in nine plays with Cassel finding wide receiver Devin Street for a 25-yard touchdown midway through the final quarter.

Then came the play of the game when Dwayne Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

Dwayne Harris, New York Giants (October 25, 2015)

Dwayne Harris – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Dallas still had two opportunities to tie the game. The Cowboys drove from their own 31-yard line to the Giants’ 30-yard line with just over two minutes to play. After two plays picked up no yards, the Cowboys went for it on 4th-and-8 but failed to convert when tight end James Hanna was stopped two yards short of the first-down marker.

The Giants were not able to run out the clock but they did force the Cowboys to spend all three of their timeouts before punting. Brad Wing’s punt was muffed by Dallas returner Cole Beasley and recovered by Giants’ wide receiver Myles White with 1:26 to play. The Giants then knelt on the ball to win the game.

Manning finished the game 13-of-24 for 170 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. The leading receivers were wideout Odell Beckham (4 catches for 35 yards), tight end Larry Donnell (4 catches for 18 yards), Randle (2 catches for 68 yards), and Harris (2 catches for 43 yards). The leading rushers were Vereen (4 carries for 56 yards) and Darkwa (8 carries for 48 yards).

Rodgers-Cromartie had two interceptions, one for a touchdown. Meriweather had the other interception. Linebacker Jon Beason led the team with 11 tackles. Defensive end Georgie Selvie and defensive tackle Markus Kuhn shared the team’s only sack. Selvie was credited with three quarterback hits and defensive Robert Ayers with two.

Video highlights/lowlights and post-game locker room celebration are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (finger) and DE Robert Ayers Jr. (concussion evaluation) left the game but returned. DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (hamstring) and LB J.T. Thomas (ankle) were both injured during the game and did not return.

POST-GAME REACTIONS…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Tom Coughlin and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

POST-GAME NOTES…
Inactive for the Giants were WR Victor Cruz (calf), LB Uani ‘Unga (neck), CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral), CB Brandon McGee (back), DE Damontre Moore, DT Louis Nix, and OT Bobby Hart.

The Giants broke a five-game losing streak to Dallas. It was their first home victory vs. the Cowboys since January 1, 2012, the night they clinched the NFC East title on their way to Super Bowl XLVI.

The Giants have won their first two NFC East home games for the first time since 2009.

This was first game in which the Giants scored on both an interception return and a kickoff return since November 4, 1951. Tom Landry returned an interception 55 yards for a touchdown, and Emlen Tunnell brought back a kickoff 100 yards for another score in a 37-31 victory over the New York Yanks.

The Giants rushed for 132 yards, their first 100-yard game since they ran for 128 yards at St. Louis on December 21, 2014. They had not rushed for 100 yards in seven consecutive games, and had been the only NFL team without a 100-yard rushing game this season.

The Giants did not commit a turnover in two games vs. the Cowboys this season.

Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning each reached milestones with the victory. Coughlin won his 100th regular-season game with the Giants, and Manning his 95th. Coughlin joined Hall of Famer Steve Owen as the only coaches in the 91-season history of the franchise to reach 100 regular-season victories. Owen had 153 victories from 1930-53. Manning’s 95th regular-season victory tied Phil Simms’ franchise record. The veteran quarterback and team captain presented a game ball to Coughlin in the postgame locker room.

Coughlin became the seventh coach in NFL history with at least 100 victories and at least two Super Bowl wins with one franchise. The others are Bill Belichick, Joe Gibbs, Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, Mike Shanahan, and Don Shula.

Harris tied the franchise record for longest kickoff return touchdown. Tunnell returned a kickoff 100 yards vs. the New York Yankees on November 4, 1951, and Clarence Childs matched him against Minnesota on December 6, 1964. It was Harris’ first career kickoff return touchdown.

Josh Brown kicked field goals of 47 and 34 yards. He has now made 19 consecutive field goal attempts, breaking the team record of 17 he set from October 6 – December 29, 2013.

ARTICLES…

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New York Giants (December 16, 1962)

New York Giants (December 16, 1962)

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, October 25, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
We’re six games into the season with 10 regular-season games left to go. Everyone in the NFC East is still bunched together. At 0-2, the Giants looked dead in the water. But then Tony Romo and Dez Bryant got hurt in Dallas. And the Eagles, with their quarterback in particular, have looked mediocre at best. The Giants went on a three-game winning streak and unbelievably found themselves in first place in the division. They did so by playing hard and being more physical than their opponents.

That all changed last Monday night when the Giants continually shot themselves in the foot against the Eagles. Losing a football game because you make more mistakes than the other team is no great sin. But getting punched in the face by a division rival that has now beaten you 12 time in the last 15 games and rolling over is. The game was very much within reach still in the 3rd quarter, but the offense – which is supposed to be carry the team – went into a shell and for all intents and purposes, quit. A Philadelphia team that simply isn’t all that good bullied them into submission. The Giants were supposed to be past these type of uncompetitive blowouts.

“We just didn’t play the way we’ve been playing and, quite frankly, I was shocked by it,” said Tom Coughlin. “Where do these things come from and why at that point in time?…You keep moping along doing nothing…You can’t play like that. It’s too important…Do we remind them? We remind them so much they may be sick and tired of hearing about it.”

“We’ve got to be able to handle the big games,” said Coughlin. “The games where things don’t go our way, we’ve got to handle them better. You’ve got handle those situations better.”

So now the Giants find themselves at 3-3. Not great, but not bad. The problem is they are now 1-2 in a division that likely will not have a Wild Card playoff team. They now face the other team in the division that has owned them in recent years, as the Cowboys have won five in a row against the Giants and were a finger-tip away from winning seven in a row.

Ever since the Cowboys lost Romo and Bryant, Dallas’ strategy was simply to stay afloat until those two return. The Cowboys are close to succeeding despite their three-game losing streak because the division is so bad. The 2-3 Cowboys are 2-0 in the NFC East while the 3-3 Giants and 3-3 Eagles are 1-2 in the division. Bryant is on the verge of returning, and Romo may be back next month. Dallas has the best offensive line and defense in the division. If Dallas sweeps the Giants for the third year in a row, they have to like their chances of running away with NFC East.

On the other hand, if the Giants don’t win this game, they may be out of the division race before November for the third year in a row. Given the state of the NFC East (and the NFL) the last few years, that’s a very disturbing trend. But more may be at stake here than simply another lost season.

The Giants went into Philadelphia against a team that had not been playing well, and one that turned the football over four times in the game, and still lost by 20 points. The head coach of the Giants readily admits he was shocked and confused by the performance. Now the Giants will face the Romo-less Cowboys at home. If the Giants with $100 million franchise QB Eli Manning cannot beat either the Sam Bradford-led Eagles or Matt Cassel-led Cowboys in back-to-back weeks with the season on the line, then something is wrong and will have to change. There is no excuse for the Cowboys and Eagles dominating the Giants so completely in recent years. The new contract the Giants gave Manning in September guarantees they cannot trade or cut him in 2016. But everyone else is on the chopping block, including the coaching staff.

Win and arrow is pointing up. Lose, and the Giants will need a miracle to stay relevant despite being given a second chance this season. Ownership, management, coaches, medical/training staff, and players have no one to blame but themselves for the position they find themselves in. Team officials listed in the media guide other than the coaching staff should also be on notice here. Everyone’s gotten far too comfortable with the status quo.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Odell Beckham (hamstring – questionable)
  • WR Rueben Randle (hamstring – probable)
  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – out)
  • OT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP/out)
  • DE Robert Ayers (hamstring – probable)
  • DT Johnathan Hankins (calf – probable)
  • LB Devon Kennard (hamstring – probable)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (neck – questionable)
  • LB Jon Beason (knee – probable)
  • LB Uani ‘Unga (neck – questionable)
  • CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral – out)
  • CB Trumaine McBride (groin – questionable)
  • CB Trevin Wade (concussion – probable)
  • CB Brandon McGee (back – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The Giants have a $100 million quarterback. They have invested two #1 draft picks, a #2 draft pick, and spent $17 million on a free agent offensive guard. They have arguably a top-5 wide receiver and one of the best pass-receiving backs in football. There is enough talent here to score more than 10 points in a game against your division rivals. Everything can’t be “perfect” for Eli Manning to carry this team. If it has to be perfect, than he really isn’t a franchise QB. The Giants’ defense was responsible for 17 of the 26 points scored in the first match-up against Dallas. And the Giants offense scored only 7 points against the Eagles. That’s 16 total offensive points in two games against the Cowboys and Eagles.

Dallas’ defense held the Giants to less than 300 yards of offense in the first game, and that was without two of their very best defensive players – DE Greg Hardy and LB Rolando McClain. Both players have given the Giants fits in the past (Hardy with the Panthers). The Cowboys now have the makings of a very, very good front seven with good players across the defensive line and at linebacker. The Cowboys will no doubt see what we saw on tape against the Eagles: they will focus on the Giants short passing game because they will trust their front seven to stuff the run, and trust their pass rush to get to Manning on any deeper passing attempts. More than anything, Dallas will simply expect to be the more physical football team since they saw what happened when Philly got rough with them.

Strategy will be important, but this game will be more about attitude. Are Ereck Flowers, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, Geoff Schwartz, Marshall Newhouse, the tight ends, and fullback tough enough? Can they generate room for the running backs and protect Eli Manning? Will “good” Eli show up against the Cowboys? The answers to those questions will determine the game.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Though banged up, the Giants should have everyone on defense except for Prince Amukamara. If I’m Jason Garrett, I simply rely on my running game and defense to win this game. Matt Cassel is an upgrade over Brandon Weeden as he has started 72 regular-season games in this league. He just has to manage the game. So the game-plan is pretty clear for New York. Stuff the run and don’t let all-time Giants-killer Jason Witten beat you. Make Cassel and his wide receivers beat you. A huge match-up in this game will be the nickel back (McBride or Wade) against Cole Beasley. The Giants also need a strong performance out of Jayron Hosley, who will be filling in for Amukamara for the second game in a row. The Cowboys sometimes will cross the Giants up too by passing to the back-up tight ends. Get off of the field on third down and get the ball back for the offense in good field position. Running game, Witten, Beasley…those are the three keys.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Cowboys special teams have taken a step back this year. The Giants need to come up big here not only in coverage, but in the return game.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin: “We’ve got to be able to handle the big games.”

THE FINAL WORD:
This is as big as it gets during the regular season. The Giants attempted to remain relevant in must-win games against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium in each of the last two seasons and came up short. Ominously, they find themselves in the same position again, this time against a back-up quarterback and a team missing its top offensive weapon. If the third time isn’t the charm, then something is seriously wrong. I don’t want to be talking draft in November for the third year in a row.