Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Giants: Eagles game review II

As distasteful as it was, I watched the game again, recorded on my DVR, in order to review what really happened and where the Giants lost the game. Watching the game live I had the feeling that the Eagles completely dominated, were much more talented than the Giants on both sides of the ball and that the Giants were lucky to even be in the game. I got a much different impression when I was watching the game a little dispassionately, for some analysis and not rooting hard while watching it live. The truth is that the Giants defense played really well. They had a very good game plan and executed it very well. They did make a few mistakes and did have the big blown assignment on the 50 yard TD run that turned out to be the winning TD, but they really contained the Eagles offense very well. The Giants turned the ball over several times leading directly to 9 Eagles points. They got a first quarter TD and the 50 yard run after the Giants stopped the Eagles on the play before, but gave it back because of the off side penalty on JPP.

The strategy that Fewell used was not dissimilar to what we discussed in the pregame posts. Use the 3 S / 2 LB formation almost as the base defense to combat the Eagles speed. Keep DBs back on passing downs, playing more zone than usual and keeping the dangerous WRs in front of them. Don't be afraid to blitz Vick, but when you do, bring a S or CB instead of LB who will be quicker and therefore have a better chance of containing him. The idea was that it would be OK to give up some yardage on the underneath passes, but take away the long balls that Vick throws well. Rely on the athleticism of the DL to combat Vick's running and do not use a spy  to track him down. All that worked very well, we saw Rolle blitzing often from the right side of the defense, forcing Vick to run to his right where he could not throw the ball on the run - that was a very smart wrinkle by Fewell. Eagles got one TD early and after that only four FGs, three of them gifts after Giants turnovers, until that last run. That sequence was an absolute heart breaker. Eagles had 3rd and 6 with 4 minutes left and Vick got chased and forced into an incomplete pass but JPP was off side on the play. They reran the play and the Giants stopped them again on 3rd and 1 but then gave up the long 50 yard TD run when Reid went for it on 4th down. That is two weeks in a row where a minor, inconsequential penalty at the line of scrimmage cost the Giants a TD two plays later. Last week the false start by Beatty negated Jacobs rushing TD and two plays later the pick 6 cost the Giants the game. This week the off side by JPP took a 4th and 6 and gave the Eagles a 3rd and 1 which they hit for the long play.

The other disheartening part of that play was how close the Giants came to stopping it for a loss. Osi saw the pitch and broke to the ball, missed tipping it by about an inch. If he knocks it down, the Giants win the game.

Boley had a poor game missing contain on a few outside runs, though he did get a few good blitzes and hits on the QB. Rolle played very well in run support and disrupted Vick's passing game with his blitzes. Tuck was outstanding. He had a few sacks, the forced fumble which led to the TD that put the Giants ahead early in the 4th quarter and had a few other excellent plays disrupting the Eagles offense.

Overall, while the defense played really well, on offense, the Giants made a ton of mistakes. I am not limiting myself to the turnovers, there were also lots of mental errors, physical mistakes and a strategic issue which the Giants have to address. The WRs made a few plays but had several mental mistakes. On the Giants first drive of the game, Eli hit Nicks on 3rd and 10 for about 35 yards but Nicks did not keep his feet in bounds. On the second drive of the game, Eli hit Manningham for 6 yards on 3rd and 8 when Manningham had at least a 5 yard additional cushion to run the route deeper and get the first down. Later in the game, Eli threw a crossing route to Nicks about 1/2 foot high and too far out in front of him, but the defender had fallen down and Nicks could have caught the ball after which he would have run for 40 yards. Manningham and Boss missed blocks on a WR bubble screen to Calhoun that was set up perfectly and would have gone for a big gain.

Physically, the Giants did get beat up in two areas: the first was the TE blocking for the running game, which was really poor and it affected the running game more than the OL. Boss has been getting better as a blocker but he had a real bad game Sunday night and Beckum was invisible. I am not going to blame Beckum because he is small for a TE, but if there was ever a time for him to step up and at least be a down field threat, which is why he was brought here, now is the time. Pascoe was defeated on several blocks also but did have some plays where he stuck his man and opened some space for the few effective runs that the Giants had. Strategically, it is hard to be a power running team when your TEs are average blockers and your RB has a shifty cut back style. I don't understand why Gilbride only runs the ball inside. Think about it - the only time the Giants run wide is when they are in 3rd and 2 or 3 and they throw the little pitch to Bradshaw which they think will surprise the defense. Giants did not run outside once against the Eagles, it was all behind the T and off the C and G. I don't get why Gilbride does that: with a shifty, speedy back like Bradshaw; you have to run outside occasionally. The strength of the Giants OL, I think is the athleticism at the G position. When you run inside only, you minimize their ability to pull and get out in front of an occasional outside run. I understand that things may be different now with the beat up OL, but being predictable with the running plays is not good either. 

As to predictability of the running game: the Eagles flowed to the ball so smoothly, it was almost as if they were in the huddle and knew the play call. On one play, as Eli was handing the ball to Jacobs, the Eagles already had both S running up to the line of scrimmage and were in the box. The play had no chance.

Note to Gilbride for Eagles rematch: a trick play where the RB gets the ball and pitches back to the QB for a down field pass will be wiiiiiide open based on the way the Eagles guess and attack the line of scrimmage on running plays.

The second area where the offense was defeated was at the LG and C position. Boothe was OK in pass blocking but was not quick enough to get out and block in running plays. Seubert was not awful and I will give him a pass for playing out of position, but there were several running plays going to the right side which were blocked fairly well by the RT and RG which did not work because Boothe and Seubert did not effectively seal the back side of the Eagles defense and LBs flowed over to stop the play.
Giants have a real challenge with how to remake the offense in the next few games with Manningham as the only WR who was on the opening day roster able to suit up this Sunday. Your first instinct is to go to the power running game, use double TE sets and maybe Giants get lucky and Hedgecock comes back to help with that. But with the weak blocking performance of the TEs last week and the injured OL, it's a lot to ask. I would throw the ball early in the downs because the Jaguars defense will surely be up at the line to stop the run. When the Giants are in 3rd and long, they should be conservative, go to screens and draws and if they have to kick it away and rely on their defense, so be it.

 I would also try to use the RBs in the passing game and load up with an extra OL-man for extra pass protection so the RBs can release out of the backfield with more confidence. The Giants have been talking all season about team first and accountability. If there is real accountability, the Giants should sit Bradshaw and play Ware.

This punter is making me (and everyone else) crazy. He shanked a 25 yard punt this week and also nailed a few long ones. He dropped one snap and, luckily nobody was rushing him. He picked it up and hit his longest punt of the game, which of course shows that this is all mental with him. When he has too much tome to think, he misses them. When he picks it up and has to just "grip it and rip it" he hits a 65 yarder. On average, his distance was pretty good, but average does not indicate consistency. One 65 yarder and a 25 yarder comes out to an average distance of 45. But the 25 yard punt puts your defense in the whole, while the 65 yard punt went into the end zone, came out to the 20 and did not give the team a great field position advantage. I understand why the Giants are smitten with Dodge; he has a huge leg. But it is 10 games into the season and he has not settled down yet. Time for some action.


Doron said...

Part I of my comment:
I actually had a different reaction to the game this week. Of course I was disappointed, of course it is brutal to watch turnover after turnover. The fact that Eli has been careless with the ball (on certain throws, and on that run, which we know he’s had problems with before) is disconcerting. The penalties and mistakes- yes, it’s a pattern, not a fluke. Having said all of that, I took away some other, positive, things from this game (I know, no moral victories- but just some notes). First, the D played very well. As you’ve pointed out, Fewell has probably been outcoached in a couple of losses this year. Well he did a great job this week, and the defensive as a whole had a really good night. As Collinsworth kept pointing out on the broadcast, the Giants D kept pressuring Vick from the left side (left side of offensive line), and forced Vick into some difficult situations (running right, so took away some of his ability to throw- as a lefty). Yes, we did get lucky on a few plays (overthrows to DeSean Jackson, the dropped TD by Avant)- but all in all, we didn’t give up the huge, over-the-top deep plays that Philly has thrived on, and we didn’t give up any of those 3rd down, momentum-changing big runs by Vick. We hit him, and hit him hard. Great games by Rolle, Tuck, Thomas, even Deon Grant. Of course, we still got caught out of position on that late TD run by McCoy- unbelievable turn of events, as Osi was so close to knocking that ball out of Vick’s hands, and 2 seconds later McCoy goes untouched for 6.

But think about this- we’re in Philly, our offensive line is in shambles, our running game produced next to nothing, we’re down a great receiver in Smith and have basically no depth at WR (this is even before Nicks…ugh), Philly came in playing at an incredible level (being anointed a top 2-3 team in NFL), we turned the ball over, put our defense in a bad spot time after time in the first half, our special teams had more shaky moments….and yet (a) Eli throws 2 second half TDs to put us in front, and we’re a few stops away from leading this game with the ball with 4 minutes left and (b) even after the McCoy run and 2 point conversion, we’re still driving and if Eli slides feet first, we’re heading towards (maybe) a game-tying TD. I mean, that’s a lot of adversity to overcome, and we were right there. The turnovers have to somehow stop (or slow down), Ahmad needs to break out again, Eli can’t be careless, etc.- but if we start to get healthy down the stretch (O Line, WR), with a few “easier” opponents down the road, maybe we could actually peak at the right time this year, rather than early-mid part of the season. Now, there are some big Ifs there, and unfortunately the Nicks injury REALLY hurts the team. He has obviously blossomed into a top-tier WR in the league, and is such a huge weapon (and security blanket for Eli at this point). Boy, can defenses start honing in on the running game now (and even double team Manningham, who has definitely had some nice moments, but is still best suited as a slot/No. 3 option rather than the main guy). So this is going to be a tough challenge for the offense. I’d love to see Eli step up and lead this undermanned unit to some victories down the stretch here. That’s what top QBs do (and I too have always been a HUGE Eli guy)- we know how other top QBs have performed amazingly without significant weapons: Rivers (practically their whole team), Peyton (ditto), Brady (Moss implosion), Rodgers (Finley, Driver, Ryan Grant). Eli might not be Peyton/Brady, but he is a top-flight QB, and I want to see him rise to meet this challenge.

Part II of comment coming...

Doron said...

Part II of my comment:

Now, I used quotations for “easier” opponents coming up, because as hard-core Giants fans know, we usually do not make things too easy for ourselves, regardless of opponent (often playing to the level of the opponent). And I usually like to take things 1 game at a time (cliché as it is). But I want to take a look at the remaining schedule and the NFC playoff picture generally to see where we could end up in January (if anywhere). Bear with me:

Giants could realistically go 4-2 (let’s give them home wins vs. Jax, Wash, and road wins at Minny and Wash). 2 losses (Philly, at Green Bay). AGAIN, I KNOW IT MAY NOT PLAY OUT THIS WAY. But just for the sake of looking into the crystal ball...4-2 would take us to 10-6.

The problem right now is that I can see 5 teams that I’ll call “locks” for the playoffs:
Eagles (NFC East winner), Green Bay (North), Atlanta/Saints (South), Seattle (or Rams) (West). Those 4 division winners, plus I’ll say the 2nd place team in the South (Atlanta/Saints). So we’re down to 1 spot. And right now, it looks like a 3 team race: Giants (6-4), Bears (7-3), Tampa Bay (7-3). So we’re already a game behind and need some help, even though I think these 2 teams are doing it with smoke and mirrors. Looking at the other 2 schedules:

Bears- I could see them (hopefully) losing 4 games (Philly, Pats, Jets, Packers). That would mean 9 wins, but if they eke out a 3-3 record down the stretch, they get to 10. Boy did they look bad in our building earlier- how is this team 7-3?!

Bucs- Maybe 3 losses? (Baltimore, Saints, Falcons). 3 very winnable games otherwise (Washington, Detroit, Seattle). Again, 3-3 gets them to 10, but if they win a key division game too against Saints or Falcons? Then they get to 11.

So right now, I’m already “scoreboard watching”- of course, if the Giants go out and lose to Jax this week, we’ll be almost done (not mathematically of course, but we just cannot afford to lose this game). So we have to take care of our own business. If we do that, and I’m fairly confident that we can (and can go 4-2), I actually think we’ll be in ok shape and maybe end up in a tiebreaker scenario with either the Bears or Bucs, or both. And then we get into those crazy NFL rules (head to head, best conference record, etc.). It’s frustrating, because a few weeks ago we had a full WR corps and were looking at a very bright season; now, we’re answering questions about another collapse, signing guys from the UFL and hoping to sneak into a tiebreaker with 2 inferior teams who I think the Giants would beat on most days. But that’s life in the NFL.

wolfman said...

It's true that there were several plays in this game that, if any one of them had gone differently, the Giants would have won. In fact, if Nicks keeps his feet in bounds on the first pass of the game, the entire game has a different complexion. (One thing I did not mention was the OBVIOUS face mask that was not called on Corey Webster running back the blocked FG to end the half. The rule is that the half can not end on a defensive penalty, so if the penalty was assessed, the Giants would have had a free kick at a 43 yard FG.)

Having said that, there were also plays that went in the Giants favor, so the team that won deserved to win.

The point that you make that is good however, is that at full strength, I believe the Giants can beat the Eagles. If Giants get some of their players back, and can hang in there with a few wins until that happens, they will have a chance.

It's not too early to do scoreboard watching, but there are too many permutations to figure out what could happen and a lot of the Giants playoff competitors are playing each other in the last 6 weeks.

One thing that hurts the Giants is that even though I think the Buccaneers are not great, they play the Panthers twice, so they are guaranteed to get to 9 wins and may easily get to 11 if they split their other 4 games. With Saints and Falcons also in that division, could be 3 playoff teams from NFC South.