Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Giants: Da Bears review

Before we get too excited about the mashing of the Bears by the Giants defense, let's remember the main thing about all sports competitions: when you win it doesn't mean that your team is great, it just means that you're better than the other guys. The Bears OL is just awful. It's certainly encouraging that the Giants DL took advantage of it and absolutely pulverized their offense with an overpowering pass rush - but we have to remember that the Bears OL is awful. (I've said it a second time.) The fact that the Giants defense dominated does not necessarily mean that the defense is great and has finally turned the corner - it means that they beat up on a terrible Bears OL. (Third time.)  It's really worse than that really, because the Giants beat them conventionally, man-to-man, with very few blitzes, schemes or tricks in the line, revealing just how lame the Bears OL really is. (Get the picture yet? Bears OL stinks.) Furthermore, they beat them at every spot on the line, so there was not even anywhere for the Bears to cover up and help out. If one DL-man is creating havoc with your offense, like Peppers was doing to Diehl, you can figure out how to give him help. For the Giants, they occasionally lined up a TE on the left side, instead of on the right where it is more common to do so. They had a RB give a little help by chip blocking occasionally to help Diehl (or MacKenzie, when Peppers lined up on his side.) But there was no opportunity for Martz to do this, because virtually every OL-man on the Bears was getting beaten. Tuck and Osi each had 3 sacks, but Canty and Cofield were getting pressure up the middle also and each had a sack. Cutler did not have a chance and after about the 6th or 7th time he was hit he was starting to get a little nervous in the pocket, which is certainly understandable. It appeared to me that he was occasionally looking at the onrushing DL instead of down field at his pass receivers. The Giants DB-field played very well, making it harder for Cutler to get rid of the ball quickly and Fewell called a very good game also, mixing coverages well. Giants switched often from a straight zone (which they played infrequently) to man-to-man, to man-zone combinations (which they played most often). Cutler, who has a great arm but has not quite mastered the finer points of playing QB in the NFL was befuddled. (That's a nice way of saying he's a dope.) On Terrell Thomas' interception, Cutler hit him right between the numbers. Actually, Thomas was playing the outside zone and no Bears WR was running through his zone (bad route combination by Bears - you should always have a WR running through the zone you're trying to throw into, in order to clear out a defender and give the intended receiver only one man to beat instead of two). The Bears WR was running a shallow crossing route, and the Giants defender was trailing by a step on his back shoulder. Cutler was looking at this trailing Giants defender and did not even see Thomas who stepped right in and easily caught the ball.

Before we start crowing about how the Giants defense is back, how this looks just like 2007 when the defense got off to a bad start before they found themselves and the DC learned about the personnel - let's see the defense do it against a good offense. This Sunday should be a good test, with the talented Texans on the road. They have a very good QB, a great WR in Andre Johnson and are a very well coached team. I don't expect 10 sacks and dominance like we saw this past Sunday, but let's see if they play well.

A word about Martz and his offense: Martz is an absolutely awful coach. He has this reputation as a brilliant, creative coordinator, who is way ahead of all other OC's in the league. Nothing could be further from the truth. He has one strategy: have his QB throw deep down the field and use his RBs often coming out of the backfield in the passing game. Occasionally he throws in some trick plays, but always calls them at the wrong time. This strategy worked great when he was with the Rams and had one of the most talented offenses in the history of football - they were called the greatest show on turf. Remember that team? They had two great WRs in Isaac Bruce and Tory Holt; an excellent passer in Kurt Warner; a great OL led by the best LT of his generation in Orlando Pace and perhaps the best all-around RB in the history of the game in Marshall Faulk. For good measure, his offense played in a dome so he never had to worry about weather and it was playing on turf which accentuated the tremendous team speed that they had. I could have coached that team and scored 4 TDs per game with them. Just to prove my point - you recall that when a tough defense got to them, smacked them in the mouth and got a little pass rush, their efficiency went way down, because they were completely one-dimensional. You may also recall that when Warner played for the Giants, his main problem was holding the ball too long, no doubt a holdover of the habits he developed with Martz, when the only thing they did was take 7 step drops and throw deep to one of those gifted receivers. You will observe that Martz is trying to do the same thing with the Bears. Cutler was taking 7 step drops all night long, not the smartest thing to do when your OL is getting blown up by a pass rush. You will also note that Forte, their RB is having a great year so far catching the ball out of the backfield, a la Faulk. Giants closed that up real well because they were ready for it and because Boley had a very good game in coverage even though it did not show up on any stats sheets anywhere. Also, with the RB always releasing from the backfield and running pass routes, you have less protection for your QB in case a pass rusher comes free. I've said enough and I think you get my point. Martz did nothing to help his QB Sunday night by adjusting the pass routes, the play calling or the protection schemes. He is a waaaaay overrated coach with a reputation built on one of the most talented offenses ever assembled that anyone could have coached.

Back to the Giants defense: I am very encouraged by how well Goff is playing. He is very quick and he is strong enough to stand up to the running game. He is very smart and he is developing a real good instinctive football IQ, because he always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

Terrell Thomas might be the Giants best cover CB, which is a good thing because Webster is very good also. Aaron Ross had his best game of the year and we can be hopeful that he is getting his timing back. I love that Fewell continues to use the 3 S in an attempt to get the best DBs on the field. Deon Grant is a very good player and the S unit on the Giants have made twice as many plays in the first 4 games of the season than the S group did all last year.

The DTs, especially Canty are playing very well. As mentioned above, the Bears have a poor OL so we can't use that game as the ultimate barometer, but overall Canty is playing very well. He is in great shape; he is a mountain of a man and hard to move out of the middle, but he is also very quick and uses that quickness both for a good pass rush as well as to move down the line when the running play is away from him. He was great against the Bears and also played well the week before against the Titans. There was a Linval Jospeh sighting this week as the 2nd round draft pick finally dressed for a game. He actually made one really good play coming down the line to stop a screen play. This was encouraging because it required reading the offensive play rather than just pushing against the man in front of you; perhaps he is starting to "get" the defense and we could see more of him. Even if Kiwanuka dresses this week, I would rather see the coaches sit Dave "Rudy" Tollefson and dress Joseph. They have enough DEs (4) with Osi, Tuck, JP-P and Kiwanuka. Even if Kiwanuka does not recover in time for this week's game, they can dress Joseph and use Canty as a 4th DE if they need to. (I'm still annoyed that they kept Tollefson and cut Alford.)

Two key defensive plays by the Giants early in the game: Bears ran a little hitch route to Hester and he was one-on-one with Webster in the open field. If he gets by Webster there, he makes 40-50 yards and maybe goes all the way. Instead, Webster tackled him for a short gain and the defensive momentum started to pick up. (Thanks to my friend Ray for pointing out this early important play.) Another key defensive play was the deflection by Webster of the long sideline pass intended for Hester. Actually,  Hester had him beat by a yard or two but Webster stuck up his hand at the last moment and deflected the ball. I think a better pass by Cutler might have gotten in there. Cutler threw the ball too flat. If he had thrown it higher and more out in front of Hester, allowing him to run under it more, it might have been complete.

The Giants running game got going a little better when Hedgecock went out and Pascoe had to take his snaps as FB. This could be a better combination when Bradshaw is running the ball, because AB needs quickness in his blockers, not power. Pascoe could be a better fit and will also be more of a threat if he catches a pass, which the FB occasionally does.

Contrasted to Martz game plan, Gilbride had Eli throw deep only once or twice. He was clearly afraid of Peppers eating up the Giants OL (rightfully so) and wanted to stay away from a big Bears pass rush. Eli threw deep on the first play of the game and could not deliver the ball deep enough to Smith because Peppers, in fact, smashed him as he was throwing the ball. He also threw a deep ball to Manningham early in the 2nd half. Manningham broke his stride, stopped and tried to jump for the ball which fell incomplete. Manningham made a mistake - he should have kept running and tried to run under the ball; he might have caught it. He knows how to do this and usually he does (he did it perfectly on the play the week before when Bradshaw got called for the chop block.) The play ended in a safety, but Eli hit Manningham for about 50 yards down the sideline.

More stuff on the game later this week.

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