Thursday, December 23, 2010

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. 

8 comments:

wolfman said...

Attached are comments from an email thread about these blogs:

AF COMMENT:

If they miss the playoffs its Cowher time. All Coughlin had to do was
put in the "hands" team and Reid said he wouldn't have bothered to
on-side kick! Now i'm getting pissed again- tackle celek!!! put in the
hands team!!! punt it out of bounds!!!! make one play!!! fire
everyone!!! including the players!!! i hate them all and i also hate
the mets by the way!!!! and i hate sandy alderson and his sweaters!!!

WM COMMENT:

I'm not a Cowher fan. If they are going to change from Coughlin, they should get someone actually different than Coughlin, not another coach cut out of the same cloth with the same skills and resume.

EO COMMENT:

what has bill cowher accomplished that tom coughlin hasnt?
last time i checked i think that guy lost 3 afc championship gmaes at home when he was abig favorite in all 3.... steelers have done just fine since he left as well....

GK COMMENT:

i really dont know why i am getting involved here, but here goes:

I agree with Ari on this one. Coughlin should have been fired a long time ago (particularly for the way he handled the plax situation). Hes a total hard ass disaster who has lost control of his team. Its not as bad as the recent brad childress or wade phillips situations but its def similar. (childress and phillips had different issues with their respective teams but couglin has similarities to each of those guys).


WM COMMENT:

I am not saying Coughlin is god.... he might need to go... but i would find someone different than cowher to replace him.

AF COMMENT:

Wolfman - you know i love you but coughlins best days are behind him. The
guy looked like a crazed lunatic yelling at dodge at the end of that
game. Coughlin himself is as much to blame for the loss as dodge! and
the season is not over??? come on i'm a met fan i'm a professional in
knowing when a season is over and it ended with jackson taunting us
before he crossed the goal line.


As to cowher, i disagree completely- hes a great coach. The reason why pit is still a good team is bc of his work- he built that foundation and tomlim is riding high on it. As a dolphins fan (i note that I follow the giants and root for them), i hope that the dolphins fire sporano and sign Cowher.

David L said...

GK Please stop with the whole I am a dolphins fan persona. We all know the truth. Deep down you want to root for the New York Football Giants but are not ready to admit defeat in the Fish Department. Its ok. I give it one 2 years tops before you are sitting in your Season Tix seats with Mo eating hot dogs rooting for the G men. AF i now the mets and knicks have been huge letdowns over the past lifetime but lets not throw in the towel on the Giants yet. As fior the Cowher Dillema, I agree that he is not the answer for the same reasons as mentioned earlier. If we ant to change things up dont bring in another in your face coach, not that I think we should bring in a foot loving Rexxy type either. Cowher is a great coach but if you are going to change things up CHANGE them. In regards to this weeks game, lets hope the d line can get to Rogers early and get him the hell out of the game quickly. I am not ready to give up on them yet.

Ari said...

GK kills me with this dolphin thing. the guy crushed on marino in first grade! he's retired for years its time to move on.

David L said...

I know seriously. And the whole Laces Out thing. I mean come on thats bush league stuff. Ray Finkel was right. GK has a lot to learn from him.

Doron said...

Forget about coaching changes for a minute. My quick take on last week: yes, it sucks the way they blew it, it was shocking, disappointing, etc. But in my opinion (despite the first 52 minutes), the Eagles are simply a better team. And they have our number. I think they're the best team in the NFC, and I thought we'd lose a close game. Again, the WAY it happened- brutal. But the actual outcome (losing a close game to a great team)- not as brutal as it appears. Now, let's focus on the possibilities for the rest of this season. I think, despite the numerous mistakes this team makes on a pretty regular basis, the team is overall mentally tough. I actually think they will rebound this weekend and not be devastated by the loss. That being said, playing in GB is a very tough challenge, as they have an excellent defense, a very good QB who's back, and top play-making receivers. So the Giants are not going to have an easy time bouncing back- but I feel semi-confident they still can and will.

Now, I think we can sneak into the playoffs as the 6 seed (whether it's by winning out, or even if we get in backdoor by losing to the Packers, beating Skins, and having the Packers lose to the Bears in week 17...still possible). IF we can get there, here's what I think.
There are 2 teams I don't want to play in the NFC: Eagles and Saints. IF we sneak in as the 6 seed, I'm really rooting hard for the Eagles to end up with the 2 seed and the Bears to end up as the 3 seed (note: if Bears and Eagles both win out, Bears get 2 seed- so I'll actually be hoping the Jets beat the Bears this weekend). Because I'll feel pretty good about going into Chicago in Week 1 of the playoffs. Winnable game. And, IF we did that, we'd go into Atlanta in week 2. Yes, they're great at home, solid team, etc. But guess what: beatable. And if things shake out that way, we bypass the Eagles and Saints for a few weeks, while they would play each other in round 2.

Again, this is all a bit premature, given that there is of course a decent chance we don't even make the playoffs much less win a few games there, but that's what I'm looking at. Despite all the mistakes, turnovers, collapses, I still believe in this team, and I think it has many of the necessary traits and ingredients to actually make a real postseason run (if we get there...).

wolfman said...

All,

I don't think the Eagles are the best team in the NFC. I think the Giants are just as talented. The Eagles have one player, Vick, who is a wild card, who went wild on Sunday running the ball and won the game by himself. That is not going to happen every week. But the Giants have a much better defense from 1 through 11. I don't think there is a single player on the Eagles defense that would start over his counterpart on the Giants. Not one. Defense wins championships. The Giants lost Sunday because of failure of the coaches to protect the lead, NOT because the Eagles are superior.

Doron said...

Mr. Wolf-I think the Giants might be just as talented (more on DEF, than offense), BUT- there's only so many teams another team can beat us and yet we claim we're just as good if not better. The fact is, Vick might be just 1 player, but he's playing at such an incredibly high level that the team is a legit top 5 team in the league thanks to him. They've only lost 1 game all year that Vick has started and finished (at Bears, by 5 points). They have a better record, they've beaten us twice. They're better. And let's not overrate the Giants D either- some of the stats are great, but watching every game closely, you can see that their linebackers are still relatively weak, and their secondary definitely can be beat. They've given up big plays, made mistakes, etc. Again, I like our team, and we have a shot against anyone. And at times, we've looked great, and I'm happy the Fewell has shaped this D into a pretty good one (even dominant at times). But if we don't get a pass rush (e.g. against the Cowboys/Kitna), any decent QB can pick us apart. Talent can get you so far- but we have to do it on the field. I'm sure that the 2007 Patriots (and Cowboys, and maybe Packers too) felt that they were the more talented, better team than us that year, but we have the ring.

And (despite what we know from 2007), I don't believe that each and every year "defense wins champtionships". Sometimes, yes. Other years, it's high-scoring offenses (Saints, a few of those Patriot teams). Certainly a team has to play defense well enough to not be outscored; but these days, unsurprisingly, many defenses elevate their games when they play from ahead (last year's Saints and Colts, this year's Eagles and Falcons). So how do the individuals on the 2 defensive units stack up- don't know, but yes, many Giants ahead (though I'd take Asante Samuel and Trent Cole any day)- but ultimately, if we can't stop Vick, it doesn't matter.

wolfman said...

Doron: good points, but I have to disagree with you about how good the Eagles are. The fact that they beat us twice goes to their credit, but you have to look beyond the score to analyze them. Their defense is really ordinary.

I also have to disagree with you about our defense, which I think is very good. Our defense, and particularly our secondary that you said can be picked apart by any decent QB - was not picked apart by Vick on Sunday. The Eagles did nothing in the passing game. They had one long play to Celek, a few short plays here and there, and everything else was runs by Vick. They hit us with a few long runs. That was it. DeSean Jackson and Maclin did nothing in the passing game and they were 1-on-1 with our CBs all day.

Let's not forget - the reason we lost Sunday was not because the Eagles were better, it was because of a colossal coaching collapse by entire Giants staff. HC, OC, DC and ST. Every one of them had a hand in it, as I posted in my first blog post on the game. Players on the field - we were better.

By the way - I don't know if you watch Inside the NFL on ShoTime, but Phil Simms said EXACTLY the same thing I said in that post. He said the coaches failed miserably by not managing the game right when the score was 31-10. He said they didn't become more conservative, they kept blitzing and they put the players in situations where they were going to fail. (He must have read my post.) I don't know if our coaches will get the message and fix this, but as far as players on the field, they're not better than us.

-wm