Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Giants: Eagles and Cowboys were killers

The Cowboys beating the Giants at the new stadium was a killer for the Giants season, but the Eagles really killed the Giants this year. Not only did they sweep the Giants, the second one in the Giants building in one of the most devastating losses in NFL history. But - they lost in their own building to the 2 TD underdog Vikings Tuesday night. Consequently, the slim chance that the Giants had to make the playoffs evaporated. When the Saints won last night against the Falcons, the Giants lost one slim chance to make the playoffs. Their second opportunity was the Bears beating the Packers next weekend and the Giants beating the Redskins. However, with the Eagles losing, the Bears are now locked in to the number 2 seed and have absolutely nothing to play for next week when they play the Packers. Had the Eagles beaten the Vikings, then the Bears would have had to win to lock up the number 2 seed and stay ahead of the Eagles. Now, that is not required by the Bears. The only motivation for the Bears might come if the Falcons lose, because then a Bears win would give them the number 1 seed. However the Falcons are playing the Panthers and it is unlikely they will lose, so the Bears have nothing to play for.

Giants didn't deserve it. They needed to win one of the two games against the Eagles and Packers and failed.

Giants: Packers game review II

Defense was really overwhelmed on Sunday, but it was definitely a team effort. The offense didn't help by turning the ball over and giving a short field to defend. Furthermore, the offense scored two TDs in the first half on two long pass plays and the time of possession was really short. The offense did not get the running game going consistently, gaining only 90 yards rushing on the day. The few times that the offense seemed like it was going or got an attempt for a big running play, the RBs put the ball on the turf.

Turnovers hurt for two reasons, 1-you lose an opportunity to score and give the other team an extra opportunity to score. Perhaps more importantly, 2- you flip the field position of the game. In this context there are two kinds of turnovers - some interceptions that come at the end of a long attempt down field with no runback, give the opponents an extra possession, but in terms of field position are not much worse than a punt. However a fumble, is always at the spot of the turnover and gives away whatever field position your offense has established until then and takes away the opportunity, at the very least, to punt and push the opposing offense's starting field position back.

What was so upsetting about the two fumbles by Jacobs and Bradshaw Sunday is that they were so sloppy and were completely avoidable. Sometimes the defense makes a great play, and hits the ball with their helmet, or has a great strip with one or two people unexpectedly knocking the ball loose and there is little the RB could have done to prevent it. However, on Bradshaw's fumble, he was facing the defense, could see where the defender's were coming from and should have secured the ball. The defender, from a few feet away, reached out and slapped the ball knocking it loose. The fact that he was a few feet away indicates that it was not a hard swat and he barely reached the ball. Bradshaw was carrying the ball low and loose in one hand, not high and tight. When his starting job was taken away, he was ticked off, but he did not change his method or style of carrying the ball. He always carries it one in arm, always away from his body where it is unprotected and sometimes carries it loosely, not tight and secure even in the one hand he uses. It is pure fortune that he didn't fumble more often since being demoted. Either the coaches didn't coach him well or he's not coachable, but there were no consequences to his fumbles. He may not have gotten the honor of starting, but after a game, his carries were up as high as they had been when he was not starting. He should have been out of the lineup save for a pass play here or there and DJ Ware should have taken his carries.

Jacobs fumble was not quite as bad, but also was very avoidable and inexcusable. He was behind the defense and Matthews caught up to him from behind, slightly to Jacobs' rear left. Matthew reached forward with his let arm and grabbed Jacobs by his left shoulder pad. When a RB sees or feels contact, he's got to increase security on the ball. Jacobs should have wrapped up the ball with both hands as soon as he felt Matthews, but he didn't and Matthews swung his right arm around and punched the ball out. The RBs have not exhibited even the slightest notions of ball security, even after all the fumbles. If you keep doing the same things, you'll get the same results; it is pure luck that the RBs didn't continue to fumble for those few games after Jacobs replaced Bradshaw. BTW - great move by Boss trying to pick up the fumble with his hands instead of falling on it.

Eli's INTs were pretty bad, but I don't even care about the last few - he was desperate and was taking chances hoping for a play. Of course, it wouldn't be a Giants game if one INT didn't bounce of the intended receiver's hands and went to the defender on yet another tipped ball INT. Of course the game was well over by that time.

I have been one of Eli's biggest proponents and supporters, but it is certainly legitimate to ask - how good is he? Last two weeks, two QBs completely took away the game from the Giants, one with his feet and one with his arm. Eli has played well at times this year, and in fact played brilliantly on occasion, but we haven't seen him really dominate a game and win it all by himself. Maybe that's just the type of player he is. We know he is good enough to win a championship - he's got that on his resume already - but I would have liked to see him play at a high level more often this year. And those INT's..... ugh.

We were all feeling good and confident that the starting OL had been restored the last few games, but I will ask now, with admitted hindsight - was that really such a good thing? O'Hara did not play well at all in these last two games, getting beaten often on running plays and passing plays right up the middle. He simply whiffed on several blocks giving the DT penetration up the middle which ruins passing and running plays. One could validly ask whether it was such a good idea to move O'Hara back at C and Seubert out of that slot, back to G replacing Boothe who had been playing well. It was probably worth a try; it would be a complete second guess to say they should have left O'Hara on the bench. But once you saw the OL blocking ineffectively, they should have tried a different alignment and reverted back to what had worked when O'Hara was out.

The second point about the OL is this: I understand that it is good to get your starters back, but this is the same OL that started for us in the Super Bowl year of 2007. In fact they were together on the team for a year or two before then, although not in that exact configuration. (2007 was Diehl's first year starting at LT from the beginning of the year.) My point is - while stability in the OL is good, how many other teams in the NFL have the exact same starters this year that they did four years ago. The OL is getting a little long in the tooth, with O'Hara, Seubert, Diehl and MacKenzie getting on in years. When that happens, either performance goes down or injuries start to pile up. To be fair, the Giants did add a few OL-men through FA and the draft in Andrews, Beatty and Petrus. Andrews showed some ability before his back issue, but the other two have not started or gotten any playing time other than to replace an injured player. Giants have to get better and younger in the OL. It was inconsistent this year.

In the middle of the year when the defense looked perky, I was worried that some other team would swoop in and steal Fewell from the Giants, making him their HC and the Giants would have him for only one year. Now I am worried that some other team will NOT swoop in to steal him from the Giants and we will have him for more than one year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Giants: Packers game; the party's over

Life in the NFL is really crazy. They call it a week-to-week league, more than any other sport, and that assessment could not be more accurate. Giants were half a quarter away from winning the division, would have had a lock on the 2nd seed and the best chance of all the other NFC teams to knock off the Falcons and go to the title game. Instead, the worst 8 minutes of defensive play, coaching blunders, ST mistakes and player errors leads to what probably could be called the worst loss in NFL history. Then, in a game where everyone expects the Giants to be professional, to play with heart and to come back with a gritty performance, the team follows it up with an even worse performance, giving up 45 points and making 6 turnovers yesterday in Green Bay. Two of the turnovers came in desperation time when the Giants took ridiculous gambles to try to get back in the game and one of the turnovers was not really a turnover, the ref missed the call when the Green Bay DB was out of bounds and did not make a legal catch. But 6 turnovers is still 6 turnovers. The scoreboard and the stat sheet don't lie. The exact same thing that has been plaguing the Giants all year, turnovers, continued to be the Achilles heel yesterday. There are some things that coaches can fix and somethings that they can't. If the team has a severe player weakness at one position or another, there is not much a coach can do to "coach 'em up" to get around it. If the OL can't block, if the DL doesn't have pass rushers, if the RB doesn't have speed, no amount of coaching can make the OL bigger, the DL quicker or the RB faster. But turnovers - teaching ball security - sitting guys down if they don't listen - that's something that a coach can work on. This coaching staff didn't do it.

The question that needs to be asked is why did this happen and how do the Giants fix it? Is this a coaching failure, a player's failure or the front office. Frankly, I think everyone has to play a part. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I love Eli and think he is a top QB, but he had a miserable season. Thirty TD passes is a great number and if he throws for 250 yards next week against the Redskins he will go over 4,000 yards again, but twenty-four interceptions is just horrible. Tom Brady has gone more than 300 pass attempts without throwing an INT and I doubt that Eli has gone 30 throws this year without an INT. His 24 INTs have come on 522 attempts, which is an average of 1 INT every 21.75 throws. Ridiculous. Somehow it looked to me at times that Eli lost some arm strength this year. There were some times where he under-threw receivers on deep balls and did not get enough zip on the underneath routes. I am not sure if this is true or if there were some other circumstances that made it appear this way. Another reason that offense had so many INTs and so many up and down games comes from the coaching staff. The passing offense is too complex, requiring too many on-the-fly reads and adjustments so that it is too easy for the QB and WR to not be in sync. Even yesterday, there were several times when Eli came to the sidelines talking to his WR, motioning with his hands that he should have gone outside instead of inside, and Gilbride was yelling at Hagan that he should have run his route differently. This was week 16. When exactly are the players going to master the offense? It's either because the offense that the coaches have designed is too complex or the coaches can't teach it to the players. Either way, Gilbride's offense is not as effective as it should be. Finally, I am not letting the WRs and the front office off the hook. As much as we liked the WR group early in the year, when all three, Smith, Manningham and Nicks, were humming, they sure took a dive when Smith went out. As much as I like each one, there is not enough pure, raw speed on the offense at WR, or at RB for that matter. Look at the Eagles and Packers, the teams Giants played last two weeks and both create enormous matchup problems for defenses. You can play them great for 3 quarters, but if you make one or two mistakes, they burn you for TDs. Giants rarely do that . Too much of the Giants passing offense requires perfection - the perfect route, the perfect back shoulder fade, perfect timing between the QB and WR. Look how simple the Packers passing offense was - when the Giants were playing zone or giving a cushion, they ran quick slants. When the Giants were up tight and playing pressure with their CBs, the Packers WRs would try to go deep. Simplicity is sometimes beauty - but you need the speed threat and depth at WR to pull it off and the Giants don't have that.

The worst part of the coaching is the inability and unwillingness to change things up, both over the course of the season or within a game. The Giants Fewell was given high marks for the 3-S look and for the aggressive blitzing, but he didn't know when to adjust. He did not dial back the blitzes against the Eagles, and the league caught up to the Giants 3-S look as Rodgers, last week and a few others earlier, burned it for a few big plays. The 3-S look gets the best defenders on the field, but it makes the edgy, leaning forward and aggressive, anxious to come up hard and fill the lanes on a running play. When that happens, a play action fake makes them get beat on their pass defense responsibility which is what happened to Rolle yesterday.

I don't think Coughlin is a terrible coach. In fact, I think he has a very good football mind, is a good organizer and motivator. I also admire him personally, especially for the community and charity work he has done. But I think the coordinators he has are not great: Gilbride is not creative enough and Fewell is too inexperienced and not a good game manager and adjuster. Therefore, I think Coughlin needed to be a stronger influence with them and a better manager of his coordinators for the team to succeed. He wasn't. If it's possible to change coordinators and have Coughlin a little more hands-on with his coaches to exert his influence a little more, I think Coughlin could survive. Alas, I don't think it works that way in the NFL. If the Giants should win next week and somehow sneak into the playoffs because of some help from other teams, Coughlin might survive. Unlikely.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Giants: Packers preview

Rodgers is playing. Packers are 5-1 at home. Packers apparently rediscovered their running game last week, getting 140 yards rushing against the Patriots. Packers are 8-6 and two of those losses came with Rodgers missing much of the Lions game and all of the Patriots game with that concussion. That makes this a very tough game.

Furthermore, the match ups and style of offense that the Packers play is difficult to defend and a tough match up for the Giants. Packers do a lot of spread formation with 5 WR looks. Some of them are disguised, where they come in with 4 WRs, a RB in the backfield and send the RB in motion to get to the empty backfield. There is always one receiver who is hot among these 5, so if you blitz, Rodgers can get rid of the ball quickly. If you don't blitz and rely on 4 attacking their 5 OL-men, you might be at a disadvantage and have to rely on your DL to get to the QB all by itself on every passing play. Giants, to combat this, need a big game from their DL and need to blitz intelligently. There's nothing wrong with blitzing from this set, but it leaves your DB-field 1-on-1 with every one of the Packers WRs. If that happens, one missed tackle or bad angle results in a big play. The Giants need to blitz their S and/or  LB when they blitz and leave the CBs in coverage. Look for a lot of 3-S, 2-LB personnel grouping to combat the Packers passing attack and leave stopping the run up to the DL. The other side of the coin is that the Packers don't run the ball very well and if the Giants are effective at stopping the run, they will leave the Packers in 3rd and long. If that is the case, when they go to this spread formation, a blitz forces Rodgers to go to the short, hot receiver and the Giants can stop it short of the first down. There are a lot of "ifs" in that layout .... If Giants stop the run.... If they keep it 3rd and long ..... If they tackle effectively and prevent yards after catch.... If the DL has a good day. Packers are tough with dangerous WRs and a great QB. Their weaknesses on offense are a so-so OL and a poor running game. Giants have to take advantage of that to stop the Packers.

On defense, the Packers play a 3-4 with one very good LB in Matthews and a strong CB in Woodson. I think Woodson is a bit overrated. He is a gambling CB who gets away with a lot of holds when he guesses wrong and gets beaten. A double move to Mario Manningham to pick on Woodson's aggressiveness will work on Sunday. If Woodson matches up against Nicks, I would not be afraid to go after him with Nicks either. On the other side, the CB is Tramon Williams, not nearly as accomplished a player as Woodson.  Gilbride and Manning's MO has been to go after the weaker side and pick on him in important spots. They don't go after him on every play, because that gives the defense a chance to adjust and reveals their strategy. Rather, they establish the advantage, but spread the ball around and pick on the weak link in the big spots of the game. Packers defense is good and will be geared to stop the Giants running game. Giants need a big game from their OL to establish the run, control the Packers front 7 and give Eli room to throw. With Steve Smith out, Boss becomes an important weapon to attack the middle of the field. Gilbride figured this out and started to use him more in the last few weeks. He remains an important weapon to occupy the Packers LBs and prevent them from attacking and blitzing  too freely. Giants should not be afraid to pass first to set up the run late. Both - early in the down sequence (1st and 2nd downs) as well as early in the game to establish a lead.  They have to be aggressive with the offense and put up points, because the Packers spread offense can be dangerous.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Giants: Simms comments

I don't want to plug a show on this blog (not that this blog carries so much weight in the sports entertainment world), but I do want to relay what this week's episode of Inside the NFL on Show Time had to say about the Giants-Eagles game. First of all, the idiots spent more time discussing whether Coughlin was right or wrong yelling at punter Matt Dodge after the game than they did actually analyzing the game. Like anybody gives two hoots about that. They actually spent more time castigating Coughlin for it - poor rookie Dodge, lots of other things went wrong in the game, it wasn't just his fault. Blah, blah, blah. What a bunch of dopes. Look at it this way - here we are discussing whether Coughlin should be fired or not, in fact everyone in the league is talking about that. If the Giants had won the game, they would have virtually clinched the division title and probably a 2 seed in the playoffs, which would give them a leg up to win the title. I think the coach can be forgiven a momentary explosion for, in one moment, going from seeking a title to possibly getting fired and should be given a pass for yelling at the punter. This is especially true when he has been extraordinarily patient with him all year, kept him on the team after numerous punting mistakes, and nurtured him into a decent punter, notwithstanding this terrible mistake. The guy may have cost Coughlin millions of dollars and a place in NFL history. That's all.

After these idiots finished discussing the Coughlin yelling incident, they got to the game - discussing why and how the Giants lost. Simms said exactly what I did on this blog. This was an enormous failure of the coaching staff. When the Giants went ahead on the Boss TD by 31-10 with 8 minutes left, they should have gone back to playing a conservative defense, not rushed so much and made the Eagles earn every yard instead of giving them big chunks by gambling on exotic blitzes. Every big play the Eagles made, said Simms, was on a Giants blitz. He further said that it doesn't matter that the aggressive defense was working up until that point, it was the time in the game to dial it back. That's what coaches are supposed to do - recognize when the tempo in the game needs to be changed and when to go from an aggressive to a conservative tone, both on offense and defense. The mistakes that the players made happened when they were exposed by these blitzes.

Just so you know - Warren Sapp thinks the Giants are done.

Coughlin may survive this season. I am not saying he must get fired, although the ST coach surely has to go and it would be nice to get an OC in here with some fresh ideas. But - if the Giants lose their last two games and don't make the playoffs, there is a chance that Coughlin will not be brought back. If that happens, the question is, who should be the next coach. Cowher's name has been bandied about, but I don't like Cowher as a replacement for Coughlin. He's the same coach in a different skin. Perhaps he had marginally more success in Pittsburgh, but he's got the same attitude, the same personality and is cut out of the same cloth. If the Giants were to look for a new coach, I would not mind if John Fox come back to the Meadowlands, even though he has had some mediocre results and may have underachieved a bit since he took the Panthers on their Super Bowl run a few years ago. The coaches I would really like and may be available are: Jeff Fisher, who will probably become available in Tennessee because of the Vince Young mess or Marty Monhinweg, the OC at Philadelphia. He is very creative and has some HC experience, though it was not a very successful run. The Falcon OC, Mularkey and the Saints OC Carmichael are also very creative, but I am not sure if they are HC material.

Giants: Eagles III

Many football fans, when commiserating, one might even say whining, about a particularly painful loss by their team will talk about bad breaks, lucky plays by the opponents, fortune or even the alignment of the stars that took the game away from their beloved home team. You'll never hear me say that about a Giants loss (well almost never) and you will especially not hear me say that about this past week's game against the Eagles. Before we summarily dismiss that statement about luck, however it is worthwhile to spend a few minutes to define what we mean by luck in a football game. Sometimes it would be a fortuitous bounce of the ball, a blown call by an official, a remarkable play by a player who has never been known to make such a play in the past, or a play that has almost never been known to happen, is extremely rare and happens at the exact right moment in the game. One example from this current NFL season that nobody could argue with calling it lucky, might be the end of the Jaguars game a few weeks ago. The score was tied and only seconds were left in the game. The Jaguars had the ball out near midfield and decided to take one last shot into the end zone, what has become known as a Hail Mary and tossed a long ball that barely reached the goal line. The defender on the play was in perfect position, jumped and instead of trying to intercept the ball, batted it down with a strong forward motion of his arms so it would fall incomplete and send the game into overtime. Incredibly, the ball did not hit the ground, but it went directly into the arms of a Jaguar player, who caught the ball and walked into the end zone for the winning TD. Was this luck or skill? Obviously, the QB had to throw the ball a great distance to reach the end zone and the WR had to make an unbelievable catch to hold on to the batted ball. But there is no arguing that this was a lucky bounce of the ball and it occurred at a crucial moment of the game. This play had a remarkably low chance of success, say 1 in 100, and it happened. That is luck. Looking back at the Giants 2007 Super Bowl, we can say that the David Tyree helmet catch, in this context, should be considered a lucky play. Eli is not known for his scrambling and managed to elude a near sack with Patriots players getting their hands on him and Tyree was not known as a great WR, yet made a great catch on the play. Once again, the idea here is that the play had a very low probability of success, for argument sake, let's say 1 in 100, but it worked nonetheless. Being a student of probability and statistics, I assert that one could definitely argue that a similar result, despite extremely low probability of success worked for the Eagles on Sunday. There were 5 or 6 plays that all had low probability of success for the Eagles on Sunday in the 4th quarter, and every one of them, consecutively, worked. The fumble by Manningham, where no defensive player stripped him, he dropped the ball near the sideline and the ball which could just as easily have rolled out of bounds was recovered by the Eagles; the scramble by Vick, where Grant had him sacked and he ducked under his tackle to run for 30 yards; the scramble by Vick on 3rd and 10 from the 12 yard line, where he ran for 35 yards; the 65 yard pass play to Celek where Phillips went for the ball instead of the tackle; the punt return by Jackson where he dropped the ball, then picked it up and ran for a TD to end the game. All five of these plays were a result of great skill and tenacity by the Eagles, but all of them also had a relatively low probability of success. For argument's sake, if we assume a probability of success of each one of 25%, then the overall probability of all five of them succeeding is 1 in 1024. Enough probability.... my point is that the Eagles took the game from the Giants; it was skill, not luck. But they did need some good fortune to have all these somewhat unlikely events to occur, and they needed every one of them to fall into place in order to win.

The flow of the game and the foregoing analysis might even be considered to be a little misleading, because the Giants and Eagles are two teams that are built differently. the Giants are constructed more like an old school team. Classic drop back passer, power running game and an offensive philosophy that believes in balance between the pass and run, rather than relying on big plays. The Eagles, on the other hand, definitely are not your grandfather's football team. They have an offense that is completely predicated on speed, a running QB and making big plays. With that kind of team, they are not going to slowly and methodically move down the field and gradually build a big lead. Rather, they are all about the big play and are more likely to have games like they did Sunday - where they look weak at times on offense, because their speed players can't overcome the power of the defense. But then they find a little crack in the defense, a mistake, a bad angle and their speed and explosiveness takes a 5 yard play and makes it 35. They take a 20 yard play and take it all the way. The Giants defense dominated through 3 1/2 quarters, but then the mistakes they made were all capitalized on by an Eagles team that is built to do exactly that. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Giants: Eagles review II

The game Sunday got out of hand so quickly and went downhill so fast that there wasn't even time to fret, be worried and have that uncomfortable, queasy in-the-pit-of-your-stomach feeling that the game was slipping away. It was over that quick. Eight minutes on the game clock and maybe 25 minutes on the wall clock. Eagles did not have long, slow torturous drives, where we could stew in our juices and be nervous. It was a few huge plays and zap... over. Like pulling off a Band-Aid. They had so many big plays, it felt like we were playing Madden 2004 (that's the one where Vick was on the cover.... you know before his little episode as a  torturer and murderer of puppies and prior to his stay in Leavenworth as a convicted felon. I hear he's on the cover of PETA 2011. A real role model.)  It's just now actually starting to sink in what a big opportunity the Giants missed on Sunday, and how many individual plays (not to mention coaching decisions talked about in the last blog post) that slipped through the Giants fingers, that if any one of them had played out differently, the Giants would have won. The worst errors by the Giants were: the inexplicable fumble by Manningham, not being hit or stripped, trying to get out of bounds and just dropped the ball, a play that opened the door for the Eagles; the play by Phillips to go for the INT and allow Celek to run for a TD when the score was 31-10; the mistake by Ross to lose contain and allow Vick to run for 35 yards on 3rd and 10 from the Eagles 12 when the score was 31-24; the scramble by Vick up the middle ducking under a sack by Grant. Of course, I am not including the ST failure of peeling back to block instead of staying up to recover the KO.

But you know me, ever the glass-is-half-full kind of guy, I want to spend some time analyzing what went right on Sunday in the first 3 1/2 quarters, when the Giants played well and dominated the Eagles.

Eagles did a fairly good job stopping the Giants running game. There was more running room than the first game, but still too many runs for zero or negative yardage. In the first game, the Giants RBs ran for only 39 yards and Sunday they ran for 100. The Eagles did a  lot of run blitzing against the Giants, with the LBs really playing down hill, and guessing when and where the Giants were going to run. There are really only a few remedies for countering those run-blitzes: swing passes to the RB out of the backfield, pitches to the outside where he can get around the pressure or anticipate where the blitz is coming from and slant the run in the other direction. Trap plays may not even work, because the trapping G usually knocks down a DT. If there are extra LBs charging into the backfield, there's not much the OL can do. Why then doesn't every defense run-blitz much more? Because if you guess wrong and the offense throws a little dump off to a TE or RB in the area vacated by the LB, it could go for a big gain. Furthermore, if the blitzer misses the RB, he also proceeds to the second level of the defense with a good gain. O'Hara's blocking was a little spotty in the middle of the OL, which is really to be expected after missing 6 or 7 weeks. The hope is that he will get better as the weeks go along and there will be enough season left where it matters.

The pass blocking by the OL was good, there were several times where Eli had a good clean pocket to throw from. But the truth is that Eli does not get nearly enough credit for moving around a bit in the pocket when there is a rush, buying himself a few more seconds and finding an open space to throw from, which makes the OL look better. I am not saying he is a scrambler or a fast runner, but he is definitely more elusive and has better pocket presence than everyone realizes.

I thought Eli threw the ball very well Sunday, made good decisions with the ball and was very comfortable in the pocket. I usually rant about the uncreative, unimaginative Gilbride (aka Killdrive) and what a mediocre OC he is. I have to give him his due this past Sunday, the game plan was perfect. I said in my pregame analysis that the Eagles CBs were so aggressive and eager to make a play on Eli's passes, that they would bite hard on fakes and would be vulnerable to a double move. I also felt that Manningham on the outside should be the go-to-guy on that deep ball, since Nicks was more likely to be double teamed and given safety help over the top. That's exactly what Gilbride dialed up in the first half on Manningham's first TD. It was a double move, where the CB was beaten so badly, he wasn't even backpedaling or running backwards as Manningham started on the second half of his route. The CB's feet were planted, he was on his toes ready to explode forward and jump what he anticipated the route would be. Manningham ran right through him and the CB was called for illegal contact. Great call, great route, perfect pass by Eli, dropping it right into his receiver's arms. The second part of the game plan was to not be afraid of taking some deep shots down the field early, which even if they did not work would loosen up the Eagles CBs, make them play with a slightly bigger cushion and open up short routes. This worked perfectly and Hagan was wide open for several short and medium routes catching 3 balls for about 40 yards. The other component of the game plan that I liked and wrote about in my preview of the game was to attack the Eagles rookie MLB not just by running at him, but by throwing to the TE on seam routes and option routes in the middle of the field. Gilbride called several of these and Boss had a big second half, catching 3 passes for 59 yards and a big TD. The TD he caught was specifically targeting the MLB, who made a mistake on the play and did not stick with Boss, leaving him open in the back of the end zone. Boss dropped 2 or 3 balls in the first half, one right up the seam over the MLB that would have gone for 40 yards. It is interesting that the Eagles S spent a lot of time paying attention to the WRs, so the TE was often matched up against a LB. That is a big advantage for the Giants against the Eagles defense and I am sure the OC will use that if the Giants get the opportunity to play the Eagles again. I would have liked to see the Giants try some seam routes to Beckum also, who was brought in specifically for that purpose - Boss is an excellent receiver, but Beckum has more speed and might be able to break one of those seam routes all the way. Now that the Giants have started to throw more aggressively to the TE and he has made some big plays, the rest of the league will be aware of him as a threat and it will open up passing lanes and wider areas of the field for the WRs.

Aaron Ross had his best game of the year on pass defense, getting in perfect position several times and defending passes to Avanti and another WR (can't remember who) on a crossing route. JPP continues to come on - he didn't get to Vick for a sack, but knocked down 2 passes at the line of scrimmage. I can't say enough about Justin Tuck - if it's possible to be an under-the-radar, unrecognized superstar, he is it. He was making plays in the running game and in the passing game on Sunday. I particularly liked one sack of Vick, because it showed Tuck's instincts, film study and football IQ in addition to his raw skills. Tuck was coming up field on a passing play with Vick slightly outside the pocket, behind and slightly to the inside of his RT. Tuck was coming at the RT on an angle from the outside. He engaged the RT and leaned his right shoulder to the inside, making it look like he was going to take an inside route to Vick. As soon as Vick saw this, he ran out of the pocket and ran to his right. Tuck anticipated this all the way, because as soon as he had engaged the RT, he ran away from him, straight up the field on a path that intersected with where Vick would be, not where he was when Tuck started the move. Great play by Tuck.  It looked to me like Fewell wasn't substituting and rotating as aggressively as he usually does in the DL and they may have gotten a little tired in the 4th qtr as a result. Truth is, Giants had 33 minutes of possession, so it wasn't the total possession in the entire game, but the fact that the Eagles had 3 possessions (almost in a row) in that 4th qtr because of the onside KO, that may have tired them out. Canty had a solid game as did Cofield and Bernard, but Osi was pretty quiet. Giants stayed with the 3 S alignment most of the game, which makes sense with the speed and athleticism that the Eagles have.Tollefson is out for a few weeks, so I am hopeful that 2nd round draft choice Linval Joseph gets activated and takes some snaps. He is a DT and Tollefson was a DE, but the Giants use Tuck a lot at DT, so it probably means that Tuck will get a few more snaps at his normal DE position. Canty can play DE also.

Because the Buccaneers and Packers both lost last Sunday, the Giants have the upper hand in the playoffs. If they beat the Packers, not an easy task on the road, they will make the playoffs. If they lose to the Packers this week, they still have an outside chance of making the playoffs, but will need some help from other teams.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Giants: Eagles game review / Coaches mistakes


At times like these, when your team suffers a bad defeat or some other serious misfortune, it requires some sense of calm, serenity and perspective. You have to make sure you don't just react emotionally to what happened but evaluate and analyze somewhat dispassionately. It is exactly in this spirit of dispassion and intellectual evaluation that I can say with complete conviction that this was not just the worst loss in Giants history. It was the worst loss in NFL history. I don't know if the Elias Sports Bureau can go back and look at games where a home team, leading by 3 TDs has ever given up 4 TD in 7 minutes to lose the game, but even if they could find such a game, I doubt that it would even match all the surrounding circumstances in this game. For one thing, first place in the division and a second seed in the playoffs were on the line. Second additional factor, that can't be evaluated statistically but has to be considered when evaluating the magnitude of a loss is the level of dominance that the Giants had exhibited throughout the first 3 1/2 quarters. The Giants were not just winning the game, they were dominating. The Eagles did absolutely nothing on offense - the Giants were pressuring Vick, stopping their running game, stopping their passing game and keeping him pinned in to the pocket so that he could not run. The 10 points the Eagles scored to that point came as a direct result (as usual) of Giants turnovers - 3 points on a Manning INT and 7 points after Manningham fumbled and gave the Eagles the ball at the Giants 20. But the Giants got some gift points on turnovers also and I am not blaming this loss on those two turnovers, I am merely pointing out that the Eagles offense was stopped cold and got their 10 points only by getting short fields against the Giants defense. Leading 31-10 with 7 1/2 minutes to go required a colossal sequence of coaching blunders that, if any one of them were not made, would have resulted in a Giants win. Let me be clear - there were four or five coaching decision, both strategic and tactical, that had to be made incorrectly in order for the Giants to lose and every single one of them was made incorrectly by the Giants coaching staff. The Eagles are an explosive team with two exceptional play makers that had to be good enough and dynamic enough to take advantage of these coaching blunders, but the Eagles were good enough to do so. Their coach was good enough to see the openings and take the game from the Giants. Let me review the coaching blunders one by one.

Leading 31-10 with 7 minutes left, the defense should be willing to give up a score, but should be in a prevent defense, forcing the opponent to take its time to go the length of the field to score. Instead, on the first play (maybe second play?) after the Boss TD, the Giants were in a single safety high formation with Phillips the only S deep in the middle of the field. Furthermore, the Giants were in a rather exotic zone blitz, which had the CB coming off the edge and Tuck (and perhaps Osi too, not sure) dropping back in the middle of the field in coverage. The blitz did not get home to Vick and you therefore had Tuck running 20 yards down the field to try to stay with TE Celek. Vick got the ball to Celek on a nice throw over the outstretched hand of Tuck, while  Phillips, instead of going for the sure tackle and giving up a 20 or 30 yard play, looks like he went for the ball, missed it and Celek eluded him for a 65 yard TD. The coaches will probably tell you that Phillips made a mistake by going for the ball and not playing safe by going for the TE, but the coaches put the player in a situation where he had no margin for error and where leaning slightly the wrong way ended up in the worst possible result. Is it a player's mental or physical error when the coach puts him in a difficult situation and he fails? That's a rhetorical question - it is a coaching error for the coach putting the player and the team in a position where there was so little margin for error. Aside from the tactical error of exposing Phillips, much worse than that, it  was the coaching gaffe of the highest magnitude to choose a defensive alignment that was strategically incorrect at that point in the game.

That was the first strategic / tactical error and the first play that had to go against the Giants in this perfect storm in order to lose a game like this. Second, even more incredibly, the Giants stayed in that defense a few more times in the next several Eagle possessions which opened running lanes for Vick to take off on and gobble up enormous chunks of yardage. Think about it - you have a running QB, perhaps the fastest player and best runner at any position in the league playing QB and you keep blitzing CBs and dropping DL-men into coverage. What happens then is: if Vick somehow gets past the wave of CB blitzers, on the back end of the defense, instead of having to elude quick, nimble DBs who might be able to run him down and contain him, he has slower DL-men in space to contend with who have no chance at all of keeping up with him. That was a strategic coaching mistake that was inexcusable. I can handle a bad play call here or there. I can accept when the opposing coach outguesses you on a defensive formation or anticipates what you are going to do and has the perfect response. But when you make a strategic miscalculation of that magnitude, it is nothing less than a complete failure of the coaching staff. What happened with this formation? On one of the plays (they are a bit of a blur, so I don't quite remember the sequence of when it happened) Aaron Ross blitzed from the right side of the defense and Tuck and Osi dropped into coverage in the middle of the field. Ross was supposed to go on the outside, stay in his rush lane, keep contain and make sure Vick did not get around him to the outside. Ross made the wrong move, did not keep contain, went to the inside and  Vick went outside him and went for about 35 yards. Was this a mental error by Ross? Maybe - but again, the coaches picked the wrong defense and put the player in a difficult position where one subtle mistake ends up in a huge play for the other team. Ross is a DB and he doesn't blitz that often. Even when the Giants blitz DBs, it is usually Rolle or Thomas, almost never Ross or Webster, so the Giants coaches put a player in a position he was not used to playing and asked him to make a play from that spot. To make my point with an extreme/absurd example, if the coaches were to ask a lean WR to to block a great pass rushing DE and he failed to do so - is that a mental or physical error by the player or a coaching error by putting a player in a suboptimal situation, one in which he was likely to fail. Obviously, Ross rushing off the corner is not as extreme or absurd an example, but the idea is the same. Ross is not used to rushing the passer and might be expected to make a mistake on the angle of his rush. Tuck and Osi are pass rushers and are not used to running down field and making tackles in open space. The coaches put the players in a position where they were likely to fail.

The next colossal failure was on the onside kickoff. Sitting in the stands, my son and I turned to each other and said: would you try an onside kickoff here if you were Reid? We weren't sure, but we agreed that the Giants have to guard against it. The Giants ST were not ready for it and the Eagles, unbelievably, recovered it with so much ease that the Eagle who recovered it probably could have run for about 10 yards after grabbing it. The Giants should have had their hands team on the field to guard against the onside kickoff. If they felt the team that was out there was good enough to cover the KO, they at least should have been in position to try for the recovery. Instead, they were running back getting in position to block for the return. After the game, the Giants coaches said that they warned the players to watch out for the onside KO. But they also said that they did not want to give up the yardage on the return by putting the hands team in the game.  Reid said that if the Giants had put their hands team in the game, he probably would not have tried for that play and would have kicked deep. Here, the coaching failures run deep at several layers. First, at that juncture in the game, leading by two TDs with 7:20 left, it is certainly true that an extra 10 or 15 yards of field position is way less important than possession of the ball. Of course, you might criticize that statement as ridiculous - 10 or 15 yards of field position is always less important than possession of the ball. Really what I mean is that at that point in the game, the clock is more important than field position. If the Giants were to get the ball on their own 15 instead of their own 30 by playing the hands team, they still need to get a few first downs to run the clock, punt and again play conservative defense to prevent the Eagles from scoring quickly. The theory of not wanting to give up field position is that even if the Giants have to punt the ball back, the extra field position gained on the KO return would mean that the Eagles would have that much further to go to score when they get the ball. However,  with the Eagles big play offense, 15 yards of field position hardly means anything. If they were going to score with starting position of their own 20, they would also score from their own 30. Time was the enemy, not yardage. Consequently, the coaches should have sacrificed the yardage because the clock was the the key strategic resource to manage, not field position. Furthermore, the fact that the coaches say that they told the players to watch out for an onside KO is an extremely lame excuse and is more infuriating to me. It is the coaches absolving themselves of guilt and throwing the players under the bus. Apparently, the "team" concept that the coaches try to engender, that everyone is accountable and responsible to each other for mistakes applies only to the players but not the coaches.  If the players didn't "listen" to the coaches, it means that the coaches didn't impress well enough on the players what to do. Either way, it's a coaching mistake. They may have told them to watch out for the onside KO, but the players obviously didn't hear it - coaches did not get their message across, which is what coaches are supposed to do. 

The only mistake in that entire sequence that perhaps can be attributed to a player's physical and/or mental error is the punt that did not go out of bounds. Even there however, the punter Dodge has a huge leg and has been up and down all year. He was awful in the beginning of the year, dropping the ball, shanking punts, hitting low returnable balls, but seems to have steadied a bit in the last few weeks. However, it is unacceptable that the ST / punt coach did not get him to master kicking the ball out of bounds by this point in the season. There are circumstances in some games in every season where this is the required play. It doesn't even matter that DeSean Jackson, the most dangerous punt returner was back there returning. It could have been Refrigerator Perry returning punts, but still, the only way for the Giants to lose the game at that point was to kick the ball in bounds and give the returner a chance. Perhaps this was the play closest to a physical player error, but the fact that in week 15 the ST coaches have not brought the player along to the point where he could execute this play is an indictment of the coaches also. One statistic from Elias: this is the first game in NFL history where a punt return for a TD to win the game was the last play in the game. Inexcusable.

Players play and coaches coach. Coaches are supposed to put players in the right position to make plays and they failed miserably. Back in 1978, the play called "the fumble" happened. The Giants were beating the Eagles, had the game won, only had to take a knee and the win the game. Instead, the coach called for a running play and QB Pisarcik mishandled the exchange with RB Csonka, resulting in a fumble, Herm Edwards swooping in to pick up the ball and run for a TD winning the game. The coach, John McVay was fired by Wednesday. The coaching failures yesterday were much worse than that game. For one thing, that Giants team in 1978 was terrible and had no chance of going anywhere that season. For another thing, that was one play, one misjudgment, one miscalculation, egregious though it might have been that cost the Giants a game that they had in their grasp. In yesterday's game, it was not one coaching mistake; rather  it was 4 or 5 and they were errors of the strategic, game management type that coaches should NEVER make. If the Giants were now 7-7 instead of 9-5 and had no chance of making the playoffs, I would fire them all by Wednesday. The fact that the Giants have so much talent and might actually make the playoffs anyway, does not absolve this coaching staff of guilt or incompetence. 

In later posts, when I calm down a bit, I'll try to analyze what went right in this game. That is the most annoying, disheartening, discouraging thing about this game - the fact that the Giants were dominating the game, shows that they have enormous talent on this team and can play with any team in the league. That's for another day.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Giants: Eagles 12:40AM Sunday morning, final thoughts

Last regular season home game of the year. Can't wait.

A few last minute notes:

There's more than one way to put pressure on a weak MLB than to just run right at him. That still requires getting past the Eagles DTs, Patterson and Dixon who are solid, though not spectacular players. Getting the RBs and the TEs involved in the passing game in the middle of the field, especially out of a two TE personnel grouping also tests the MLB in coverage. I look for the Giants to run behind the right side of the OL and test the new LDE of the Eagles, but the impressive thing about the Giants running game last week was that they ran everywhere - right, left and middle. A varied running game, with some deception, i.e. some traps, some designed cutback runs, or false steps in the backfield, where RB takes a step in one direction and then goes the other way with some influence blocking by the OL and TE could be really effective.

In the passing game, a double move and deep balls to the TE off of play action fakes should be in the game plan.

On defense, the game plan last time was really good, forcing Vick to his right by blitzing Rolle often from the right side of the defense. When that happens, the DE on the other side can rush straight up field expecting Vick to roll out to that side and go to where he anticipates Vick will end up, not where he is in the center of the field when he takes the snap. In addition, look for a big game from JPP coming from the opposite side, which is Vick's blind side, since he is a lefty. Eagles starting RT, Justice might be out, so Giants need to take advantage of him or his replacement in the pass rush.

Keys for the Giants are: don't turn the ball over; run the ball effectively; keep Vick more or less contained; keep the WRs in front of you. Simple game plan, but I think it works.

Nobody asked me but: the Eagles were all over the papers saying how they're going to stop the run, force the Giants to pass and (chuckle, chuckle) pick Eli off (smirk, smirk) all game long (snort, laugh, spit-eating-grin). No team would say this about any other team, player or QB in the league and I hope Eli absolutely sticks it to them tomorrow. I hate teams with no class.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Giants: Friday before the Eagles game

This is it. Game of the Century V2. In game 1 against the Eagles, the Giants could not run the ball at all and it really hurt the offense. Giants ran for only 61 yards that game, the only game of the year where the Giants were held under 100 yards rushing.  Was that game an anomaly? Or is the Kevin Killdrive offense so predictable and the Eagles so familiar with their in-division rivals that they simply cut everything off. Don't forget, last time, the Giants did not have a full complement of WRs for the Eagles to worry about and the OL was hurting, with O'Hara still out, Diehl out, Boothe in his first game at G and LT Shawn Andrews hobbling around on a weak back.

The truth is, even that 61 yard rushing total was misleading, because 22 of the 61 yards came on scrambles by Eli Manning, one of them ending in the fumble that effectively ended the game. So looking at the RBs, their results were even poorer: Bradshaw had 12 carries for 29 yards and Jacobs had 5 for 10 yards, for a total of 17 carries for 39 yards. Of those 17 carries by the RBs, 15 went to the right side, behind the side of the OL that was solid, uninjured and had played a few games together. The situation is different this time around - all 5 OL-men that started the season, and if fact the same 5 that started the Super Bowl in 2007 are healthy and participated fully, with no limitations in practice. I suspect that the Giants will slide O'Hara in at C and move Seubert back to G, sending Boothe back to the bench as a very good substitute. On the other side of the ball, facing this reconstituted OL is an Eagles front that has 2 starters, the MLB and the LDE out because of injury. The replacement for Bradley at MLB is also hobbling, so the Giants will have no excuses if they can't get their running game going. In fact, I think that is one of the keys to the game. Will the Giants OL and running game be productive and even dominant over the Eagles defense.

On the defensive side of the ball, can the Giants recreate their good scheme from the first game and keep Michael Vick contained? The worry there is that Andy Reid is a great offesnive coach and, having looked at Fewell's scheme, I am sure he will be able to come up with somehting to counter what the Giants did the first time around. Eagles are loaded with speed, so the Giants DBs have to keep everything in front of them and the Giants DL, playing so well in the last few games, have to put more pressure on Vick and keep him contained.

On offense, aside from running the ball effectively, the Giants should not be conservative with their passing game and should try to make big plays down the field. The Eagles think they can pick off Eli every time he throws the ball and have said as much in the papers. They will be jumping routes anticipating these easy throws by Eli. With the OL back in shape, Eli should have time to go down the field and test the Eagles secondary. With Eagles DBs playing aggressively, a double move on the outside to Manningham would be an interesting play. The Eagles sell out to stop the run, even more than other teams and they should be vulnerable to play action fakes or even a trick play - like a handoff to Jacobs and a pitch back to Eli.

On the first play of every game, it seems, Eli fakes a hand-off to the RB on a run to the left, rolls out to his right and throws either a 6 yard pass to the TE or a 12 yard pass slightly deeper on the sideline to a WR. Why not try something different and throw deep early on the Eagles. That would set an aggressive tone to the game, but at the end of the day, in the northeast, you have to pound the other guys with your running game.

Looking back at the last game, the Giants played poorly, could not run the ball, turned it over 5 times and still managed to take the lead in the 4th quarter on the road. If they elevate their game just a little and can move the ball better offensively, they have a good chance to win the game.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Giants: Playoff Arithmetic

The Giants win over the Vikings was enormously important, inartistic though it might have been. With 9 wins in the bank, it is almost unimaginable that they will not get to 10 in the last game of the year against the Redskins. Washington has nothing to play for, is all beat up with injuries and is not very good besides that. Giants will have everything to play for and Redskins will be going through the motions.  Assuming that gets the Giants to 10, it means that if they just split their other two tough games, this week against the Eagles and next week against the Packers, they will get to 11 wins. If I calculate things correctly, they are assured of a playoff spot. If they beat the Eagles and Redskins, they will win the NFC East division title, because then the best the Eagles can do would be to tie the Giants at 11 wins. If so, the Giants will win the tiebreaker with the Eagles on the strength of a better conference record. Giants would be 9-3 in the conference and the Eagles would be 8-4. At that record, the Giants would also have a chance at the second seed in the conference. The Bears would have to win their last 3 games and finish with 12 wins in order to get the second seed, because the Giants beat them and have the head to head tiebreaker. Bears games are interesting - they have the Vikings this week, which they should win since the Vikings do not have a QB to send out on the field. They have the Jets the following week, which looks like a winnable game the way the Jets have been playing the last two weeks. They have the Packers the last week of the season, and the Packers are definitely stumbling now. Bears could definitely win out and get to 12, but if they lose one of their last three, the Giants would get the second seed with 11 wins. If the Giants win all three of their remaining games, they have the second seed guaranteed.

If the Giants lose to the Eagles but beat the Packers and Redskins, they have a very good chance to get the second wild card and be the sixth seed. They would have a tie breaker over Packers with the head to head win. The only other team that could beat them out is the Buccaneers if they win their last 3 games. Giants have tie breakers over them in strength of victory, which is the cumulative record of the teams you have beaten. Since the Bucs have played the 1-12 Panthers and the sub-.500 NFC West, and have not beaten a team with a record over .500, the Giants have that tiebreaker.

Check the NFL tie breakers to make sure I am right.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Giants: Thoughts before the Eagles game

Steve Smith has a cartilage injury to his knee, requiring surgery and is done for the season. Mario Manningham had a hip flexor injury and apparently this injury is not as serious as it could have been and he may even play Sunday versus the Eagles. The Eagles have some serious injuries themselves on defense that they just suffered this past Sunday that could negatively affect their play. The injuries could be a real influence to the play of the game and the strategy that the Giants employ in the game. Specifically, MLB Stewart Bradley is out indefinitely with a dislocated elbow. There's a chance he could come back in the playoffs, but he is surely out for the rest of the regular season. The Eagles also lost their starting LDE Brandon Graham, their first round draft choice, who is out for the year with a knee injury. With 2 starters in the front 7 out because of injury, particularly the MLB who is key to their run defense, the Giants could easily decide to lean on the power running game and give the Eagles a heavy dose of Jacobs and Bradshaw. Adding to the attractiveness of this strategy is that the Giants running game has really picked up, gaining 200 yards in each of the last two games. The OL seems restored to health and is playing well. Jacobs is running more resolutely and better than I have seen him run in years. The Eagles defense and team is built much like the Colts  - for speed and not for power. Andy Reid's theory is that his offense is explosive and will usually be able to get a lead in the game. If the opposing offense is playing from behind and is forced to pass, Reid's fast but undersized DL will blitz and pass rush all over the yard. Since the Eagles front is missing two key run stoppers from this already-light defense, the formula of running at them seems like an obvious tendency. If Giants employ this strategy, they have to stick with it and not come away from the run if they fall behind early. However, I am still fundamentally a believer in the "pass early, so you can run late" game planning philosophy. You have to mix in enough pass to keep the other guys honest. If, in addition to Bradley and Graham, DB Assante Samuel is out, the Giants should really have an advantage on offense and will have no excuses for not moving the ball..

If Manningham does not play, it means that Derek Hagan who has played well enough, will play and get some more action in the passing game. I said this after the last Eagles game, and I will repeat it here. The Eagles sell out so hard to stop the run, knowing the Giants playbook as well as they do and commit everyone - LB's, CB's and S's - to stop the run when they read it, that a simple trick play would surely work. Send Jacobs into the line, then have him turn and pitch it back to Eli. It will be wiiiiiide open down field.

I read that the Giants are happy with the progress of Devin Thomas, the WR/KR they picked up a few weeks ago from Redskins. Maybe we'll see him Sunday in the passing game.

It is really annoying how complex the Gilbride offense is. It is the reason that it takes WRs weeks and maybe even an entire season to learn the system, get comfortable with all the sight adjustments. pre-snap reads, route adjustments, etc. that they have to do. It may be a reason for all the INT's this year. Each year Gilbride and Manning tweak the offense, expand the play book and add a little more to it. It may have reached the tipping point and is so complex that it often leads to the QB being unsure where the WR is going to be and therefore him throwing without conviction. It could also lead to hesitation in the route running leading to less separation by the WR. The biggest thing we are seeing now is how long it takes for new WRs to learn and internalize the offensive system of Gilbride, which is the strongest indication of its complexity. Experienced WRs like Clayton and even Devin Thomas take a long time before they can even step on the field. Sinorice Moss never quite got it and Manningham was on the bench for a year before he could take an offensive snap. WRs have to make sight adjustments, read the defenses for zone or man and adjust the routes, make subtle route changes on the fly. We saw just two weeks ago that Manning and Manningham were not on the same page - Eli wanted Mario to run deep and he cut off his route. That's not good at this point in the season. By contrast, Norv Turner's offense and his routes are much more simple and compact, though certainly no less effective as is Caldwell's system on the Colts. Both Chargers and Colts have had a ton of injuries at the WR and TE position and have had a revolving door of new WR's coming in being basically very effective almost immediately. That never happens on the Giants. The burn in and training period is too long. Maybe if Chargers don't make the playoffs, Norv gets fired, Gilbride takes one of the open coaching positions (Dallas, would be perfect) and the Giants get to hire Norv Turner as OC.

A double TE formation, with a play action fake and the Giants TE's going down the middle on seam routes, to take advantage of and put pressure on the replacement MLB, might be a good thing to try.

I'll say it again - I hate that Eli is leading the league in INT's. It just has to stop. With the running game geared up and with the entire defense playing well, Giants have an advantage in the game and a good chance to win if Eli doesn't turn the ball over. When you think about it - of the 4 Giants losses this year, 3 have been almost the direct result of turnovers (Titans, Cowboys-II and Eagles-I).

In 2005, when the Giants won the division and Eli played his first playoff game, the Giants got smoked in the first round by the Panthers, 23-0. The reason I bring this game up is because of the offensive strategy that John Fox and the Panthers used in that game. Giants, if you remember, had a long list of injuries to their LB corps and they had  to sign football players off the street, who hadn't practiced at all with the team and were not really NFL caliber players. Fox's offensive strategy was to attack that weakness. He did that with lots of passes to the TE, to RBs on swing passes over the middle, and with a few draw plays and screen passes that typically put the most pressure on LB's. That might be a smart approach for the Giants Sunday - using TE's Boss and Beckum as well as RB's Jacobs and Bradshaw out of the backfield in the passing game. I still like the idea of max protecting with an extra RB and trying to get a TE deep off off a play action fake.

Especially against the undersized Eagles defense, I like the idea of punishing them with Jacobs and then going to Bradshaw. When the defense gets a little tired later in the game is when the speed back really can have a substantial impact. Look what the Eagles do with McCoy their RB nearly every week. He is slow getting going and then really picks things up in the 4th quarter when most defenses slow down just a smidgen. He did it against the Giants in the first game when he had little yardage for 3 1/2 quarters and broke off a 50 yard TD run to put the Eagles ahead and a 20 yard run late in the 4ht quarter to give the Eagles another  first down and seal the game. Giants have to be careful about defending that and about rotating their DL all game long to keep as fresh as possible.

The weather forecast as of Thursday night is for Sunday to be cold, but not bitterly so, with a high of about 37. The key thing that affects the passing game is the wind and, while things could change of course, the wind is supposed to be light, at about 10MPH. The low temperature will probably affect the tailgate and the freezing fans more than game itself.

Giants: Vikings review

OK - sorry about whining about Eli in the last post. Despite all the INTs this year, he still is an excellent passer and leader. Giants offense was humming through most of this year and even though it came out sluggish against the Vikings Monday night, still has been very effective most of the season. The re-emergence of Brandon Jacobs and the power running game actually bodes well for the rest of the season and the playoffs.

Personal note: my youngest son, a student at University of Michigan scored tickets for the Monday night game at Ford Field, made the one hour drive from Ann Arbor to Detroit and was sitting on the 40 yard line enjoying the game. Last time the Giants played an away game at a neutral field site was in 2007 when they played the Dolphins in Wembley Stadium. My son went to that game also. Anybody remember how that 2007 season ended? I'm just saying.

My older son (not the one in Michigan) pointed out that in the beginning of the game, Vikings played safe on defense and seemed concerned about the Giants passing game. Then when the Giants started running the ball well, the Vikings shifted and brought a lot of guys right up to the line of scrimmage - not just in the box near the line of scrimmage, but actually had 8 or 9 guys right up at the line. At times, even against those fronts, the Giants ran the ball and gained a few yards, but the Vikings did stop the runs a bit better. However, when the defense brings all these guys up to the line, there is no second level to stop a runner that breaks through. And that is exactly what happened - Vikings stopped a few runs for little or no gain, but when they missed a tackle or the Giants OL made a crease in the front, the RBs ran for big gains. That's what happened on Jacobs 73 yard run and Bradshaw's 48 yard TD run.

Seubert is really playing well at C and Boothe is playing well at LG. So - when O'Hara comes back, the Giants may just stay with the current configuration. The question is: do the Giants have a better OL with Boothe at G and Seubert at C or with O'Hara at C and Seubert at G.

Nicks looked pretty good on Monday night running freely, making his cuts and catching the ball well. On the first INT by Eli, if he had thrown the ball up in the air instead of on a straight line and let Nicks run under it, it would have been a TD because he was past the CB and would have outrun the S up the seam. It's too bad that Manningham and Smith got hurt; there is no word yet on the severity of the injuries.

My friend Ray saw that Fewell did a real good job adjusting the defense. Initially the Giants defense was very disciplined and conservative in their rushing lanes and did not want to open up running opportunities for Tavaris Jackson. When they saw that the DBs were all over the WRs and they could afford to risk some different rush packages, they went to a very aggressive package including all their tricks - CB blitzes, LB blitzes and a variety of line twists. They got home several times and really beat up Tavaris Jackson. Let's see if they can do the same against the Eagles next week. One play I particularly liked in the 2nd half was a line twist game with Tuck lining up at RDT and Osi next to him at RDE. Tuck took a hard outside rush to occupy the LT who was supposed to block Osi, while Osi was supposed to come hard inside and beat the G to the spot. Osi did his job and got to the QB, but Tuck made such an effective move that he beat the T also and they both participated in the sack.

Jonathan Goff continues to play really well and we even had a Keith Bulluck sighting, when he made an INT on the awful throw by Jackson after the long Viking punt return.

We have to continue to be worried about the ST coverage. For a while it improved, but the Giants gave up a 50 yard punt return and a 96 yard kickoff return which was called back because of a rather questionable penalty call. The weak link for the Giants all year has been turnovers and ST coverage. We are more than 3/4 of the way through the season and it still has not been completely fixed. That is a big concern; it may cost us a playoff game.

Even though Eli threw the two picks, he did a wonderful job in the 2 minute drill before the half. He hit a few nice passes and made a beautiful throw to Boss for the TD.

The OL is really playing well, both for the pass and the run; and Minnesota has a really good DL, so that was a nice accomplishment and a good game. I also liked the balance between the two RBs, their carries were almost equal. Jacobs is fresher and running better than he has since 2007. He is pressing the holes, and bouncing it outside when there is a lane for big yardage. He seems to have a real burst and a quick first step, which he didn't show earlier this year. He is hitting the holes quickly and when there is no hole, he is moving the pile and making a few yards when nothing is really there.

JPP continues to play really well. He didn't get credit for any sacks Monday night but had a few pressures that led to other Giants getting sacks and he made some real nice plays in the running game. He is really coming on and he could be an important player down the stretch especially in helping contain the dangeroud Vick.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Giants: What the heck is wrong with Eli?

A win is a win, I get that. That is especially true at this time of year when the team is getting itself in position to make the playoffs and even trying to get the best seeding that it can in the tournament. Certainly, even in terms of harbingers and predictors of future performance, there were enough good things to take out of last night's game. The defense was overpowering against a very good OL. The DBs were outstanding in coverage and the LBs played one of their better games. The running game was excellent, although not as consistent as you would like to see it (more about that in a later post). So in the big picture, a good running game and a strong defense are the exact components you want to be successful in the playoffs, especially in the northeast and in cold weather. The last three games the Giants have are all cold weather venues: at home against the Eagles next week and the last two against Green Bay and Washington, both outdoor, cold weather stadiums. But we analyze these games not just to be happy about the wins and to take pleasure in the good points, but also to criticize the worrisome aspects of the game. And I'll return to the question that is the title of this post, "What the heck is wrong with Eli?"

Let's pull out the excuses: Eli plays in bad weather, the wind and the cold play tricks with the ball and Detroit was freezing cold yesterday. Oh wait.... game was played in a dome. It's hard to hear on the road in a dome and the team is likely to miss a line call, adjustment or play change because of the noise leading to a miscommunication between QB and WR causing the INT. Oh wait.... the game was played in a neutral site and it was so quiet, it could have been a stanza in 'Twas the night before Christmas. Not a creature was stirring, not even a drunk, misguided Lions fan. Eli's WRs are injured, he's playing with subs and they don't know the offense well, so it's likely that the QB and WR won't be on the same page leading to an INT. Oh wait, Nicks was back and both the INT's were passes intended for him on perfect routes that he ran. You get the idea. Add to that the fact that Giants had 200+ yards rushing, that Eli has now been sacked only once in 6 games and has largely had a clean pocket to throw out of and there's only one conclusion to draw. But there's one other thing to lean on that adds to my argument, that upsets me even more. Eli missed a TD pass to Nicks when he had the DB beat and the ball was overthrown. I can almost live with the INT's if there is plenty of productivity to compensate for it. My assertion is not that Eli is a bad QB; in fact I still think he is a great QB, but he is sure not having a good year. He's got to get his game back together if the Giants are going to have any kind of success in the playoffs this year.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Giants: Vikings game delayed

Because of severe storm in the mid-west, the Giants - Vikings game was delayed and rescheduled to Monday night. However, I just heard a report on the news that said that because of the snow on the roof of the Metro Dome, Mall of America Dome, Hubert Humphrey Dome or whatever the heck they call the stadium nowadays, apparently, the bubble deflated and the stadium will not be playable even Monday night.

It seems to me that it is the responsibility of the home team to provide a playable stadium and if they cannot, they forfeit the right to have the game played in their city. To reschedule the game to Tuesday night on the hope that the stadium will be playable by then creates an enormous disadvantage for the Giants for the following week's game. It seems to me there are a few alternatives:

1. Vikings forfeit the game - obviously no one is going to want to do that
2. Move the game to NJ or a neutral field and play it Monday night
3. If the Vikings can guarantee that the stadium will be ready the following day, play the game Tuesday night and move the Giants-Eagles game next week to Monday night, so the Giants will have the extra day to prepare for that game.

There is precedent for option 2; it is what the league did when Katrina hit and the New Orleans Super Dome was unplayable. The Giants and Saints played in Giants Stadium. Of course it gives the Giants a bit of an advantage with what is in effect an extra home game, but if the Vikings can not provide a playable field, that's their loss. Theoretically, the game could be played on a neutral field somewhere as an alternative.

Two neutral sites that are relatively nearby and are apparently being considered are Ford Field in Detroit and Lucas Field in Indianapolis. It would be pretty cool to have the game played in Lucas Field because the Colts fans would obviously welcome Eli, their quarterback-in-law and root for the Giants. Playing at Ford Field in Detroit would also be special, but only for me on a personal level. You see, my son is an undergraduate at University of Michigan and misses a lot of the Giants home games. This would give him an opportunity to go see the Giants and root for them. (I hope he took his Eli Manning jersey with him to college!)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Giants: Vikings preview

On paper, the Vikings are really good, regardless of their issues at the QB position. On offense they have a big OL, the best RB in football in Peterson, and weapons in the passing game in Harvin, Rice and Shiancoe. Rice and Harvin are apparently nursing injuries so they may not be at full strength this week. You see how important QB play is in this league - Favre has had an absolutely awful year with 18 INTs, only 6 TDs, a host of bad decisions, poor yards per attempt and one fired coach on his resume. I think we see what happens when the Vikings get even marginally improved QB play - last week Tavaris Jackson came in and put up 38 points, despite throwing 3 INTs himself. So there is no doubt that the Vikings are a a dangerous offensive team. I have not followed them closely, but the word is that their OL has underperformed this year. Maybe the firing of unpopular coach Childress woke them up a bit and inspired the OL to play more fiercely. This will be the second team that the Giants play that has taken the unusual step of mid-season coach firing. Let's hope the results are different this time.

On the other side of the ball, their run defense is strong, but their pass defense is so-so. Their pass defense is predicated on getting after the QB and not giving him time to throw, but the DL has not played inspired football, with Jared Allen having a mediocre year. If the Giants can protect Eli, which they have done fairly well recently, with the OL getting a starter back and with Nicks and/or Smith probably coming back, the offense should be able to move the ball. I would come out throwing and establish the run later on. That's my mantra this week: Throw early, run late.

During the rash of OL injuries the Giants signed a backup OL-man named Jamon Meredith and he has been active the past few weeks. He has been playing occasionally as the extra TE and the reason I bring him up is that he is an impressive looking physical player. He is tall, looks muscular but lean, and the few times I saw him on ST, looked like he can really run. I have no information on him, other than that he is a 2nd year player out of South Carolina and I don't even know what team he was on last year. He looks good, though. Look for # 79 if you get a chance.

I was surprised to see Shawn Andrews back in the locker room and back at practice, though only working on rehabbing his back. I thought he was done for the year and maybe for his career. He spoke optimistically about returning this year, as soon as a few weeks.

I guess it was a great move by the Giants to keep Beatty on the roster and not put him on IR when he broke his foot early in the year and missed 6-7 weeks. His presence on the roster really helped these past few weeks. I'd like to see him get some more playing time and develop his skills, but I can't argue with using Diehl. The match up between Jared Allen and Diehl is a critical one this weekend.

No wind, fast turf, in the dome, starting WRs coming back  - look for Giants passing game to take some shots down field this week.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Giants: week 14 some more playoff thoughts

In event of a tie record between two teams competing for a playoff slot, the sequence for tiebreakers is:

1. head to head record
2. division record (if teams are in same division)
3. record against common opponents
4. conference record

If teams are still tied after that it goes to points, strength of schedule and finally a pass-punt-and-kick contest between the oldest son or son-in-law of the head coach. (Giants have an edge there, because Snee is our coach's son-in-law.)

If the Giants are tied with the Bears or Packers, the head-to-head result will determine the winner and there is no need to scour the schedule for results of other games. Giants already beat the Bears and have the Packers coming up on the schedule in week 16. Obviously that is an important game for possible wild card tiebreaker with the Packers.

If Giants somehow tie with the Saints, the record against the common opponents is the first tie breaker, since they did not play each other and are not in the same division. Against common opponents of the Saints and Giants, Saints are 5-0 and Giants are 3-1 with a game left against the Vikings. Therefore, Saints will win a tie breaker with Giants.

If Giants tie with the Eagles, the Giants do have an edge. Giants must beat the Eagles in week 15 in order to have a 1-1 head to head record. If the Giants also beat the Redskins, they will be 4-2 in the division and that is the best record the Eagles can attain (assuming Giants beat them next week) so division record will not be the tie breaker. The next tie breaker then becomes record against common opponents and right now the Giants are 6-3 and Eagles are 5-4 against those common opponents. Since all the games remaining for both teams are also against common opponents, if the Eagles and Giants are still tied at the end of the year, the 1 game advantage that the Giants currently have in this category will be maintained. If Giants get lucky and the Eagles lose a game to the Cowboys, their division record will be worse than the Giants and the common opponents do not even come into play.

All together now: "Let's go Cowboys" (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Giants: random midweek thoughts

This is a Giants blog, not a Jets blog, but I want to add just a comment or two about the Jets-Patriots game this past Monday night. Really this is more about Bellichick than it is about the Jets. I am really impressed with Bellichick and his team construction strategy along with his game planning skills. A few years ago, when Moss was in his prime, Bellichick used Moss to power his vertical passing game. In 2007, we all remember that the Patriots were the highest scoring team in NFL history and Brady threw 50 TD passes, the single season record. In my opinion, in response to that vertical passing game, Rex Ryan and the Jets brought in Cromartie as the second CB to play opposite Revis. Cromartie is big, athletic, has long arms, and good straight line speed. He is a perfect CB to cover a big WR who is a pure vertical threat because of those physical skills. IMO, Bellichick countered right back by remaking the roster and the strategy this season. He saw Moss' skills declining and instead built a passing attack that used quickness rather than pure vertical speed. Instead of attacking the outside of the field with speed, he is attacking the middle of the field with quickness. He is using his excellent young TEs, his pass catching RBs and small quick WRs in Welker and Branch to attack. The Jets weakness on defense is the middle of the field, with LBs being good tacklers and run stoppers but not good pass defenders. The Jets S group is also better at blitzing than it is at pass defense. This weakness is accentuated with one of the starting safeties out because of injury. On the outside, Cromartie (and to a lesser extent, even Revis) have the physical makeup to play a WR like Moss, but not the quicker Branch and Welker. Very impressive job by Bellichick.

Everyone is forgetting that the Vikings went to the NFC Championship game last year and that they have gotten back their key WR from that run, Sidney Rice. They seem to have a lot of weapons on offense: Rice, Harvin and ex-Giants TE Shiancoe in the passing game and Adrian Petereson, the best RB in football to handle the running game. They do have some questions at QB and the OL has not been playing great this year, even though they do have some big names in the OL. The team may be more energized with the replacement of coach Brad Childress, a very unpopular figure in the locker room. All things considered, this is a very dangerous game for the Giants. They really need to win, because it is both a conference game as well as against a team that will be a common opponent with the Eagles, both important tie breaker factors for the playoffs.

Eli has had his worst games against the Vikings. We all remember the awful 4 INT game in Giants Stadium as well as a few other stinkers. In all he has 9 INTs and only 2 TDs against the Vikes.

Eagles have two games left against the Cowboys, the first one this week in Big D. All together now: "Let's go Cowboys".

Giants seem to have found someone who can make some big plays in coverage on ST in Devin Harris, although it may be just a one week wonder, motivated as he surely was to make a big showing against his former team. It would be nice if the Giants could find some buzz in their KO and punt return game also. Ward had a good KO return last week, so maybe he keeps that job. But punt returns have done nothing this year. Best move Reynaud has made is to wave his arms emphatically when the punt is short and he wants to keep his Giants teammates away from it so as not to create a fumble.  How about running up and catching the ball and preventing a 15 or 20 yard roll on those short punts?

Speaking of punts, I have a proposal for what statistic to use to measure the quality we want from a punter. Everyone looks at gross yards and net yards on punting, which are surely the right measures. Furthermore, you might look at number of times the punter drops the ball inside the 20 since that can affect total yardage. Those measures are fine, but the statistic we use to measure the length of punts and the net yards is average. While that is somewhat instructive and a straightforward stat, it seems to be the wrong stat. What we want out of the punter is consistency. If he booms a 65 yarder one time and then shanks a 15 yard punt the next time, his average is the same as if he hits two 40 yard kicks, but the affect on the team is worse. On his two 40 yard punts, he is giving the defense a chance both times by not giving up field position. In the other circumstance, he is putting pressure on the defense on the 15 yard punt and not really compensating for it by getting more yards on the other punt in this hypothetical case.

You could look at the standard deviation of punt, which is a measure of how widely spread the sample is, but that it is a bit too esoteric a number and not intuitive to most people. I think what we should be measuring is the 90th percentile. In other words, we want to have 90% of the punters kicks to be good ones and are willing to live with 10% weaker kicks. The 90th percentile should be around 40 net yards and this, combined with average net yards will be the best statistic to describe the quality of the punter.

Giants: Playoff Forecasts

The Giants did their part this past Sunday by beating the pathetic Redskins, but their main opponents in the NFC playoff race all won, so there was no relative movement of the teams. Technically, because this was a conference win for the Giants, they have the lead in the wild card race, but things change week to week, so it is too early to predict anything tangible. The only team that lost was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and they are a game behind the pack at 7-5. Bucs also had a serious blow when they lost their starting CB to injury today.

It looks like the Falcons will win their division and have the best shot at the number 1 seed because of their remaining schedule. They have three nearly sure wins, with two games against the Panthers and one against the Seahawks. The fourth game on their schedule is the Saints. The Saints have a tougher schedule with a game against the underrated Rams, against the Ravens on the road and against the Buccaneers. If the Saints lose one other game, their game against the Falcons won't matter. If the Saints should run the table, I think the Falcons still get tiebreakers over the Saints. So, all in all we can certainly assume that the Falcons will win the NFC South. It looks like the Saints, currently with 9 wins should get one wild card. In the West, the Rams or Seahawks will win the division but there will be no wild card coming from the west.

That means that the Bears and Packers will fight it out for the NFC North; the Giants and Eagles will vie for the NFC East and the loser of those division races will compete with each other for the second wild card. Even though the Bears have a 1 game lead in the NFC-N, they are not a lock to win it over the Packers. Bears have a tough schedule with games against the Patriots, Vikings and Jets, while the Packers play the Lions, Patriots and Giants. The Bears and Packers close against each other. I can certainly see the Bears losing 2 out of the next 3 while the Packers win 2 out of 3. If that happens, the last game of the season between the Packers and Bears in Chicago would be for the NFC-N division title. The loser of that game would then have 10 wins and might not make it in to the playoffs at all.

The easiest path for the Giants to the playoffs is for them to win 3 out of 4 including their 2 division games against the Redskins and Eagles. If that happens, it looks like the Giants would win the division on the third tie breaker, which is conference record. If they were to lose to the Eagles but beat the Packers, they would lose the division to the Eagles but would win the wild card tie breaker against the Packers.

The big question is: what has to happen for the Giants to make the playoffs with only 10 wins? There are too many possibilities to consider, but the Giants have to beat the Eagles for one of their two wins and hope that the Eagles split their two games with the Cowboys. Packers have the Patriots on the road, so there certainly could be a loss for them and a chance for the Giants to pass them in the playoff standings .

Too many permutations and possibilities to really consider what could happen, but f the Giants win 11 they are  in. If they get only 10 wins they will need some help from the Patriots, Jets and even the Cowboys.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Giants: More on the Redskins game

I am still ticked off at the INT that Eli threw. What was he thinking? Giants were up 14-0, had a 1st and goal at the 4, with 2 (or even 3) more downs to get it into the endzone. Of course, you could question the call of Killdrive to throw the ball there, after Giants had run almost unstoppably (is that a word?) in the game until then. But I will give the OC a pass because he is putting the ball in the hands of the franchise QB and he should have expected that Eli would have thrown the ball away if Boss was covered. On 3rd down, I can almost understand Eli trying to fit a ball in a narrow space, but not on 1st down. By the time the S and LB got back to help defend the play, Eli was essentially throwing into triple coverage.

I remember Boothe as being a marginal backup G last year but he seems to be playing well after his so-so opening game against the Eagles. Beatty got caught for two holding calls and one other that didn't get called. He played well enough besides that series and did help spring the RBs for a good rushing day. Nevertheless, I suspect that when Diehl is ready to come back, Beatty will resume his spot on the bench. Coaches hate penalties and mistakes and conversely love experience, so Diehl will come back for the stretch run. Andrews is feeling better, is still a few weeks (if at all) away from coming back, but it will be interesting to see what the Giants do if both Andrews and Diehl are ready to play. Seubert also played a good game at C, but if O'Hara comes back healthy and the Giants can move Seubert back to G, the Giants will have their OL back, healthy and strong. Seubert has really surprised me with his quality play this year. Last year he looked done, but I guess it was more injury (he had off-season shoulder surgery) than age.

What a great pickup Devin Harris was for the ST coverage. He made a tackle or two, blocked a punt and downed a punt on the 5 yard line. He looks like he might have the best straight line speed on the team. I hope the Giants coaches figure out how to use him and integrate him into the passing game. I wonder if he can return punts, because Reynaud sure doesn't remind anyone of Dave Meggett.

Derek Hagan's play was good on Sunday and his situation with the play of Devin Harris noted above may create a roster problem for Duke Calhoun or even Ramses Barden next summer. Too far away to think about that now - the roster changes so much from year to year. When the players you cut or release end up starting on other teams, it shows that you have talent. Bryan Kehl, Jay Alford, Leger Douzable, Charlie Pepprah and Ryan Grant (who was traded but would have been cut because of surplus players at RB) are a few recent example of this from the Giants roster. There may be some others, but these came to mind.

Did you notice that Terrel Thomas INT came from him playing the S position? It looked like the Giants pushed Rolle up into the box because of his superior tackling skills and moved Thomas back to S to take advantage of his superior speed and cover skills. They didn't do it all the time, but it shows that Fewell is thinking and creative. I would still like to see the Giants pick up a good backup cover CB. Ross has been so-so this year and there is a huge drop-off between the Giants 3rd and 4th CB. This means that the Giants are one CB injury from being vulnerable in the DB-field.

I said in the spring when the Redskins signed McNabb that it was a stupid move and it looks like, if anything, I was being understated in my criticism. It was a ridiculously stupid move. Redskins were coming off an awful season last year, with an aging weak roster and were dedicated to rebuilding it totally with new, young players. Instead, they trade for an aging QB, who relied on his legs, keep their old WR Moss and their old RB Portis as the core of the team. The only thing that would justify bringing in McNabb would be to have him tend to and guide the team and teach them what it means to be a team and a winner. Except McNabb has always been a me-first guy, is not a great locker room presence and certainly would not be considered the thinking man's QB who can tutor a young team in what it takes to win. Add on top of that, that his skills are clearly diminishing and it certainly adds up to the wrong fit for that team. Perhaps he will go to Minnesota next year when Favre retires for one last fling. It would be a mistake but at least somewhat defensible for Vikings, IMO.

Redskins defense sure missed a lot of tackles on Sunday. It actually inflated the stats on the Giants running game and made it look better than it really is. We'll take it  - give the Giants RBs credit for taking every yard they could get, but the Redskins defense, especially the LBs did not want to tangle with the Giants RBs.

Speaking of RBs, I don't get why Jacobs had only 8 carries and Bradshaw had 25. Even though Bradshaw did not fumble on Sunday, he looked to me like he was carrying the ball loosely and I don't believe he has solved his problem of putting the ball on the ground. When he was trying to make moves in traffic, he had the ball away from his body, where it can easily be knocked out. I like starting with Jacobs and I want to see him get 2/3 of the carries.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Giants: Redskins Review

There was little to complain about in this game, but we certainly have to consider the opponents before we start making reservations for Dallas in February. The Redskins looked really awful. Their defense is the worst statistically in football and they lost two of their best defenders in S Landry and CB Rogers. Shanahan helped the Giants cause out further by sitting Haynesworth. In a December game in the Meadowlands, when it's cold and windy, you have to play northeast football, which means run the ball. They had their best two secondary guys out with injury and their best run stuffer sat down by coach's decision. I have to think that the rest of the Redskins locker room was not thrilled, regardless of what they may think of Fat Albert.

Giants ran the ball convincingly and passed enough to keep the offense moving. The Redskins LBs are really poor, IMO. Fletcher and McIntosh are both slow and not that big. Orakpo on the outside has been shifted to OLB from his natural DE position and hasn't quite figured it out yet, IMO. The defensive play calling by Haslett was weak - there were several plays where the Redskins blitzed or overloaded one side to stop a  running play that they thought was going there and the Giants ran right through the vacated side to make big yardage. It takes a lot to get outcoached by Gilbride, but Haslett managed to do so.

This was Brandon Jacobs best game of the year. As I mentioned in one of last week's post leading up to this Redskins game, I have to give credit to my friend Ray for noticing last game that he looked more balanced and I think it showed even more this game. He lowered his pads and plowed through the pile when he had to and when he burst through a hole, he straightened himself up, ready to run for big yards. The two most notable plays were his first big run on the second play of the game when he ran for 30 yards around the Giants left side; and the second was his long TD run to make the score 28-0.

On the first run, there was not much of a hole at all, but he kept his balance and slid to the outside. He raised up when he got past the first weak attempted arm tackle and when he saw LB McIntosh, disposed of him easily with a stiff arm. When he made some space for himself, he burst to the outside and ran for 30. On the second run for his TD, he burst through the hole with his pads low, and when he got to the next level saw a DB facing him in the hole. He stopped, stutter stepped, let the DB lunge towards him and then cut to the outside accelerating again so no Redskin could catch him. Both of these plays required instinct, but most of all great balance, something we don't normally associate with a 265 pound man. I don't know why he has suddenly rediscovered it. I don't know if he's made peace with his role and the depth chart, if he's returning to his own style and not trying to emulate Bradshaw's or if the game is just "slowing down for him", but he has looked great these last few weeks and is definitely staying on his feet longer. I would stick with the RB rotation of Jacobs first and Bradshaw second.

The aspect of the game that has me most excited is the apparent emergence of JPP. He had two sacks, a batted pass, a fumble recovery and a few plays in the running game as well. We all knew he had special physical skills, but I think we are starting to see the emergence of a football player from under those long arms and legs, and from that strength and that incredible speed. The coaching he has received and the game experience he has gained in the first half looks like it's starting to sink in. Let me explain why I make this assertion. The two sacks he racked up yesterday were not "just" based on his pure physical skills, they were based on technique and coaching. His second sack was most exciting, so I'll start there. He was playing RDE and to start his rush, he dipped his left shoulder, took a step to the inside and showed an inside rush, getting the LT sliding and leaning to the inside. Then, he stood up, whacked the LT with his right arm to get him to continue to move to the inside and made a blurry quick next step to the outside with his right leg. He had the LT beat now, but the LT could still save the play by reaching out with his long arms and getting the rushing DE off balance. So JPP used another piece of football technique by making himself small and lowering his shoulders so the LT couldn't reach him. Now he had the LT beaten and was a step or two past him. When the QB sees an outside rush, he is taught to step forward in the pocket and let the route of the DE take him past the QB. JPP foiled this technique by reaching back with his super long and very strong left (inside) arm and tripped McNabb as he was stepping up in the pocket. I was positively giddy about this play. It showed his uncommon physical skills, but it required great technique.

His first sack also required more than just physical skills. He was lined up at LDE this time, with Tuck as DT to his inside shoulder. Tuck took an outside route, slanting towards the RT that was supposed to block JPP and occupying him for a second. JPP then looped around behind Tuck and took an inside route in the lane that Tuck was lined up in originally. The G who was supposed to block Tuck is supposed to slide off him, switch and pick up the looping DE, but JPP was too fast for him and blew right through the gap before the G could adjust, which gave JPP his other sack. This play required timing, coaching, awareness of the offensive blocking patterns and great speed to shoot the gap that was open. I am so excited about his development that I can't wait to see how he does next game.

Before we get too pumped up, we should realize that the Redskins OL is not very good and they were missing their starting LT. But - this is the first time JPP has shown something other than pure physical skill and I hope it keeps on coming..

The only thing to complain about was another INT by Eli in the red zone. I don't get it. he's a heady QB and has a great arm, I don't know why he's throwing the picks this year. On defense, there were some missed tackles and some blown assignments in the secondary, but these happened only after the score was 28-0, so I can't complain too much.