Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Giants: Review of Tampa Bay game

Sometimes, when your team dominates the team lining up against them, you come away from the game and say: "wow, we're really good". This weekend against Tampa Bay, the domination was so complete on both sides of the football, that we honestly have to walk away from the game and say: "wow, they really stink". This just might be one of those rare instances, where you recognize the weakness in the opponent rather than the strength of your favorite team. The domination was at the line of scrimmage, and down the field. On offense and on defense. In the passing game and in the running game. The Buccaneers didn't make a play all day long and the only time they ventured onto the Giants side of the field, it was because of a gift pass interference penalty called against Bruce Johnson. Giants moved the ball on the ground, in the air and did not even attempt a deep pass all day. I think they played conservatively and tried to eat clock on offense in order to protect the thin defensive line and keep them off the field. That plan worked, obviously, because the Giants had 43 minutes of possession. I said that the Giants would not want to come into the game with only 6 DL-men dressed, and they didn't. They dressed Justin Tuck as a backup 7th DL-man but he played only on 3rd and long situations. Frankly, I thought this was an imprudent risk to take with the best player on defense, but the Giants lucked out and he came out of the game unhurt; Tuck played only 8 snaps.

Eli wasn't as sharp as he was against the Cowboys, but he didn't need to be. He played well enough to win; Eli gets it in gear when the game is on the line. It's hard to say that a $100M QB could be underrated, but I contend he is. He doesn't get recognition for how good he's become and how much more of an accurate passer he is now than he was in his first two years in the league.

Back to the game...

I think I've made it clear that I don't love Kevin Gilbride. I don't think he's completely incompetent like those that have dubbed him "Killdrive"; I think he's a capable OC, but is less than brilliant and creative. But I do have to give him credit where it is due at reshaping the Giants passing game this year with the different personnel and different style of WR that are on the team now. Last year, the other thing that really aggravated me about his personnel usage is that he did not work the young substitutes into the game, he went totally with the starters. So when Plaxico went down, nobody was ready. This year even that seems to be different and he seems to be trying to get the young players in the game. As an example, let me break down one play that I liked on Sunday, a 24 yard pass to Boss in the 3rd quarter that set up the Giants FG. It was 1st and 15 from the Bucs 36. Giants got two TEs in the game, which they often do, this time it was Boss and Beckum. Usually, they line up on opposite sides of the line and have 1 WR split out on each side of the field. This time, they line both WRs on the right side of the offense and lined up Boss tight to the left and split the speedy Beckum out wide to the left. The Bucs were playing their base defense, 2-deep zone with 3 LBs in the game. Because the Giants had 2 WRs to the left, one S was locked up giving deep help on that side of the field. On the other side of the field, the Bucs decided to send their other CB to line up wide against the speedy Beckum, which means that Boss was lined up against a LB. Boss and Beckum ran seam routes and the S on that side of the field started to go to the sideline to give help on Beckum, especially because Eli looked the S off and was looking towards Beckum. Finally, Beckum cut off his route and pulled up to make more space for Boss. The S did not have time to get back and give the LB help on Boss and Eli hit him on a beautiful seam route for 24 yards over the LB. Probably if the S had stayed on Boss, he would have been the one to cut off his route and Beckum would have continued deep. It had all the components you're looking for from the OC: variation of the formation with two TEs on the same side of the field; getting the young TE in the game; getting a favorable matchup on the LB; perfect throw from the QB and nice catch by the TE.

I can not figure out why Sinorice Moss can't get on the field more. He must really be messing up in practice - because every time he gets into the game he makes big plays. He made a gorgeous catch on the TD pass from Eli and I think it was the first pass they threw to him this year. At least he's been on the field more this year. But mostly he has run clear out routes which is certainly effective with his great speed. He runs deep taking half the DB-field with him and it opens up the rest of the field.

McKenzie sprained his knee Sunday and Beatty acquitted himself quite well as a substitute. Boothe replaced Seubert who went out with a shoulder injury and did well also.

This game showed much better blocking success from the TEs in the running game. Darcy Johnson was active and Boss is really using his size effectively in run blocking.

Nice moment in the game Sunday: when the Giants defended the 4th and goal from the 5 yard line to preserve the shutout, DC Sheridan was seen smiling, more animated than I remember seeing him and he hugged his assistant coaches.

Everyone keeps dismissing this game because the Bucs are so bad. I agree that the Bucs are pretty bad, but they didn't look this inept in their first two games, so the domination had to at least have something to do with the strength of the Giants.

The other good news from this game is the emergence of three players on the defensive side of the ball. This was the best Fred Robbins has looked all year. He looked quick and strong and we can hope that his recovery from his knee surgery is moving along. Michael Boley looks great. He played well against the Cowboys, but couldn't play a full turn because it was his first game back and is probably not quite in game shape yet. But he looked great Sunday against the Bucs too. We knew he was fast, but I didn't think he was this aggressive and this good a tackler. He is good against the running game and plays very well in space. The third player that looks to have greatly improved is Kiwanuka. He looks like he bulked up a little bit in the off season. He is much more stout against the run and has not lost his quickness as a pass rusher. I am very encouraged by his play - he looks great.

Terrell Thomas continues to impress; he is an outstanding cover CB. Ross is a better tackler and gives better run support, but I am not sure Thomas should be removed from the starting lineup when Ross comes back, which he may this week. Dockery may come back this week also.

A note about the Cowboys: it's early, but my early season take on the Cowboys is that their WRs are rather ordinary, their passing game lacks a real deep threat and the big plays on offense comes from their running game, especially Felix Jones, who is a real blazer. After a few games, the league will figure out that they should defend the Cowboys the way everyone tried to defend the Giants when Burress went out and in the first two games of this year: stack the line of scrimmage against the running game, play their WR man-to-man with only a little help and make Romo beat you in the passing game.

Saints look dangerous. Brees is an excellent QB and they have always had a high octane offense. Now it seems that the Saints have a decent defense and that could make them real threat in the NFC. The game in week 6 against the Saints will be very interesting. After week 5, the Giants schedule gets very difficult with tough games seemingly every week.

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