The first few games of the year, fans of a particular team will go from the apex to the ash heap in a heartbeat. Your team wins one game and you're excited and poised for a Superbowl run. Your team loses one game and you're sure that they're the worst team in football and headed for an 0-16 season. Of course on this blog, we tend to take a more mature, measured approach, but in this case, I think it might be time, if not to push the panic button, at least to realize that it is time for some changes. The situation I am referring to, of course is the OL and the coaching.
I was fairly upbeat after the first game because Gilbride had a good game, did some intelligent things and actually made some successful adjustments in the 2nd half. However, he seemed to revert to form last night and did not put the offense in the best position to win the game. It's hard to completely blame Gilbride, because the OL was so badly manhandled last night, and this is not something coaching, schemes or play calling can fix. There's nothing that makes an offense look quite as bad as poor OL play. Eli is lucky to have escaped without injury. Perhaps they could have stuck a TE next to Diehl to give him some help on Freeney or a RB to give a little chip block, instead of sitting in the backfield looking for blitzing LBs. However, one time that they did try this, Travis Beckum looked back to Eli right before the snap, whiffed on his block and Freeney went breezing around both Diehl and Beckum and had a clear shot at Eli. Beckum stood there like a statue. Ironically, even a statue takes up space and Freeney had to take a wider path to Eli around Beckum, which allowed Eli to take a step forward and complete the TD pass to Manningham in the 3rd quarter. In a weird way, I guess this means that the strategy might have worked, if it was implemented more often. Of course, Gilbride is the most predictable play caller and designs the most conservative pass routes for the Giants. It seems like 80% of the Giants routes are these hook routes which puts no pressure on the DBs. How many times last night did you see a Giants WR run hard at the DB and come back for the ball. And how many times did you see the DB hold his ground and actually jump over the WR and deflect the ball away. Now look at the Colts pass routes which all had the WRs running when they caught the ball either down the field away from the line of scrimmage or parallel to it. If you catch a hook route, you have no chance to make yards after the catch. However, if you run slants, crossing routes or out patterns, you have a big opportunity to do so.
Fewell looked good in that first game, partly because he was going against the worst QB in football. Unfortunately, he seemed to borrow a page out of Gilbride's "predictable" book in the second game. Even the announcers were saying that the Colts were happy to run at the Giants when they had only 1 LB and 6 DBs in the game. To make matters worse, the Giants dressed only 2 DTs, sitting down both Rocky Bernard as well as rookie Linval Jospeh (who did not dress last week either). I guess the logic was that the Colts would pass-pass-pass so the Giants strategy would be to have extra pass rushers in there. Consequently, they decided to dress Tollefson instead. (Tollefson is the Giants version of Notre Dame's Rudy.... great guy, big motor, huge heart and absolutely no talent.) So the Giants dressed 5 DEs and only 2 DTs last night. No doubt, they analyzed that they needed the extra pass rushers, and furthermore, the Giants played Tuck and Kiwanuka at DT at times, so they didn't need as many DTs. If only the Colts had cooperated and passed the ball all night like they were supposed to. Then Giants could have generated a pass rush wth the DEs and the DBs would not have been obliterated time and again by the Colts in the running game. Because they dressed two DTs, they were dead tired by the 2nd quarter and I think we saw that the Giants run defense got worse and worse as the night wore on. It's OK to come up with a plan of what the opponents are going to do, in fact that's what coaches are paid to do. But if they do something different, you have to be prepared to change and adjust to what they actually are doing. Furthermore, you have to dress the personnel to do it. Sheesh.... this is not rocket science.
After the game, all Coughlin would say is that "we were out-executed". That's great.... how about out-coached? Saying that his team was "out-executed" is coach-speak for saying: "I had a wonderful game plan, if only the stupid players would have executed it, we would have won." Reminds me of the old Casey Stengel line, when he was managing the 120-loss Mets of the early 60's. Casey said: "I manage good, but, boy do they play bad". In Stengel's case, he was probably right - but it's not completely true with the Giants.
To demonstrate his point, Coughlin will run the film and show how the Giants defense got defeated time and again by 1-on-1 blocks in the running game, proving that they were "out-executed". However, if your defensive plan calls for 6 DBs on the field on every down and a 210 pound safety is supposed to take on a 340 pound OL man who (big surprise) flattens him, why did the defense not stop the play? Technically you could say that the DB was "out-executed" by the OL-man, but I would argue that the team was out-coached and a mismatch was created by the other team making it impossible for that player to succeed. It's the coach's job to put players in a position to succeed, not to create a situation whether they will almost certainly fail because they over matched. And then, complain that they were out-executed, to boot.
I am not ready to throw in the towel on this season, but the OL has to be fixed and the coaching needs to get more creative. Nothing much is going to happen about the coaching - Giants won't make a mid-season change. But the OL has to change and it's not likely to do so unless there are actually some changes made. I know that sentence sounds repetitive and redundant (actually, so does this sentence), but what I mean is this. Nothing is going to improve if the coaches just instruct the players to play harder and play better. If Beatty hadn't broken his foot, he would be (or should be) starting against the Titans in place of Diehl. Maybe Andrews should get a start at LT.
Before I get too carried away, let's remember that Indy is a tough place to play. The stadium is so loud that the OL can't hear the snap count and the QB has to go with a silent count. This requires the OL-men to look back at the QB or the C and take their eye off their man until they see the ball snapped, which gives the pass rusher an advantage. To make matters worse, I think the Colts saw something in the Giants timing of the snap, because there were at least 2 or 3 times where I saw a Colts DE raise up before the ball was snapped or just as it was getting snapped and actually was moving forward (though not crossing the line for an off side penalty) before the T got out of his stance, giving him no chance to make an effective block. So maybe the OL is not as bad as it looked last night (that has to be true). But they didn't look that crisp in game 1, so this is definitley the biggest concern threatening a successful Giants season. More on the game later in the week.