This is a Giants blog, so I am not going to go way off topic and turn it into a general NFL blog, but it is worthwhile to review a few interesting points from some of this last weekend's games.
Colts - Chargers: Field Position (again)
In a piece I posted on this blog a few weeks ago reviewing the Giants-Panthers game in week 16 of the NFL regular season (that game seems like just a distant memory now, doesn't it?), I tried to emphasize the importance of field position in any football game. Seems obvious to all football fans, but my point was that football is ALL about field position and it is much more important than we give it credit for. In that Giants-Panthers game, the biggest play of the game, without which the Giants would not have won was the punt by Feagles and the downing of the ball on the 1 by Terrell Thomas. It allowed the Giants to get great field position back and push the ball in for the tying TD. The same field position lesson can be taken from the Chargers-Colts game on Saturday night. Chargers won the game in OT and the teams had essentially the same yardage in the game, but the difference in this game was the punting and resultant field position gained by Chargers punter Scifres. At the pure statistical level, the Chargers averaged a net of 51 yards and the Colts averaged a net of 31 yards on 6 punts. That's a 20 yard difference on 6 punts, for 120 yards in total field position for the game. I've never seen a punter dominate a game like that with so many 50+ yard punts, no return yardage and pinning the opposition inside the 10 several times. You could argue that the punter set up all 17 points that Chargers scored during regulation. Here's why:
In the first quarter, with the Chargers down 7-0, Scifres hit a 50 yard punt from his side of the field that pinned the Colts down on their own 3. The Colts punted back and the Chargers got the ball back with improved field position, in Colts territory and moved in for the tying TD.
In the 2nd qtr with the Chargers trailing 10-7 and a 4th down on their own 28, Scifres hit a ridiculous 67 yard punt with a 2 yard return giving the Colts possession on their own 7. When the Chargers defense held, they got the ball back on their own 45, for a nearly 30 yard improvement in field position. They drove in for a TD to put them ahead 14-10.
Finally, in the 4th qtr, with 2:50 left in the game, trailing by 3 and a 4th and 19 at their own 47, Scifres hit a 50 yard punt that was downed at the Colts 1. Manning failed to move his team off the goal line and when they punted back, the Chargers regained the ball on the Colts 38 for a 15 yard gain in field position from their previous possession. From there they moved in for the tying FG.
Applying this lesson to the Giants game, we can say that Feagles does a good job punting for the Giants. He does not have a huge leg and is not likely to nail any 67 yard punts like Scifres did. But he is accurate, does get good hang time and is very capable at placing punts down inside the 10 yard line. The problem with the Giants is with the kickoffs and the kick coverage. Giants have been giving up way too much field position on kickoffs this year and it is largely due to Carney's somewhat shorter and somewhat lower kicks. I would stick with Carney because of his deadly accuracy and decent length on FGs. But it will be interesting to see if Coughlin dresses two kickers, as he did once before this year and lets Tynes kickoff and Carney handle the FG duty. It means that the Giants would have to dress one less ST player to accommodate that. But in the playoffs, you might want to use an extra starter or two on ST coverage, and perhaps you can get away with dressing two kickers.
Eagles looked pretty strong in the second half. The things I take away from this game going into the Eagles-Giants match up is: Eagles secondary plays very aggressively, lots of press coverage, tries to read the WR routes and the eyes of the qb, and jumps every route they possibly can to make a pick. Samuel did this to Tavaris Jackson for 6 points on Sunday. Jackson locked on to the WR early and sent Samuel a Western-Union about where he was going with the ball, so it did not need a lot of smarts to jump that route. Furthermore, the WR on the play ran a very poor route - he slowed down noticeably before he made his cut to the outside, chopping his feet, and leaning to the outside before he cut to the sideline. It was obvious what route he was running. Samuel played back making it appear like he was playing a soft corner and giving a big cushion to the WR. But he broke forward well before the ball was thrown, because it was so obvious what the play was, where the qb was going with the ball and had an easy pick-6 on the play. I am hoping Eli-Gilbride and the Giants WRs saw this and recognize how to play this. It seems to me that the Eagles DB's could be vulnerable to double moves because of the aggressive coverage that they use, but more about that when I do Eagles-Giants preview.
The good thing from the Giants point of view is that it looked like the Vikings were able to run the ball against the Eagles a little bit. They totalled 150 yards rushing, though 17 of the yards did come on scrambles by Tavaris Jackson. It will be critical for the Giants to move the ball offensively against the Eagles - in the December 7th game against the Eagles, Giants had trouble because of aggressive Eagles defense, ganging up against the run and letting the wind do its job against the pass.