Sorry for the delay in getting this post up .... we lost power in the storm in the Northeast last weekend and it has still not been restored. As you can imagine this has interfered with my convenient access to technology, but the show must go on, so here goes.
It seems like too often this year, I am a Giants apologist for a game against a weak opponent that the team should have won handily, but didn't. It started with a sloppy looking win against the Rams (1-6), a 4th quarter win against the Cardinals (1-6) and another 4th quarter comeback win against the Dolphins (0-7). Throw in the dreadful loss to the 2-5 Seahawks and you can certainly see why the NFL doesn't give the Giants much respect. Here's what I mean by no respect: Giants and Patriots are both 5-2; Giants are coming off a win, while Patriots are coming off a loss; yet Patriots are favored by 8 1/2; in some sports books by as much as 9 1/2. That's OK - it certainly is true that the soft part of the Giants schedule is in their rear view mirror and the hard part is in front of them. We will see what this team is made of.
Back to the game, though - it's really strange, but somehow I felt the Giants controlled the game more than the score really indicated. Dolphins had two TD drives on their first two possessions in the first half, but they didn't really manhandle the Giants in those possessions. They converted 5 of 7 3rd downs in the first half which is a high percentage for any team. One of the two missed third downs was converted on 4th down when the QB Moore ran for a TD. Of those first down conversion, two were on scrambles by the QB where bad angles and poor tackle on the pass rush let him get away. Good play by him, but a good play by the Giants defense that they just couldn't close. I am not saying that this was good, but these two TD drives by the Dolphins should have/could have been stopped with cleaner tackling rather than inferring that the defense stinks.
In the second half, the Giants defense picked it up and played better. The Dolphins came out of the tunnel at half time and ran three very nice plays that netted them 50 yards and put them in position for a FG. But that was their last successful series of the day and they barely even had any positive plays the rest of the game. Their next 5 possessions consisted of 4 punts and an INT. Of those 5 possessions there were only 2 first downs and a total of 36 yards of offense. There were also 4 sacks.
The bad part of the Giants offense was that the running game was ineffective. I can't even blame this one on poor blocking by the TE and FB; the OL flat missed a lot of assignments. It was strange, because they pass blocked fairly well, just did not open seams for the running game.
Eli played a great game. He had receivers open, but often had to throw the ball with perfect accuracy, timing and touch to get the ball there. He is seeing the field very well, making great decisions and has been very accurate with his throws.
Steve Smith had a really good run with the Giants and I was sorry to see him go. But Cruz might be a bigger play maker than Smith ever was. Smith ran great routes, got open and caught the ball well, but often flopped to the ground as soon as he caught the ball. Cruz is still learning and occasionally runs the wrong route, occasionally turns up field before he has looked the ball all the way into his hands resulting in a few drops, but has several times made big plays after the catch and seems much more dangerous than Smith ever was. Think back to the TD in the Eagles game where he broke a few tackles, made a DB miss and turned a 15 yard pass into a 75 yard TD. He made two big plays in the Seattle loss and made a great move after the catch this past week against the Dolphins leading to the winning TD. Smith may be more solid and we will always remember his tremendous contribution to the 2007 Super Bowl, but Cruz makes more big plays. Good things just seem to happen when he is on the field. (Credit my son DSW for that last observation.)
Looking back at the prospects of this Giants team - they have 3 wins against soft teams, one win against an Eagles team that did not yet have its act together when they played them and what has to be considered a solid win against the legitimate Bills before the bye. That's not bad, and 5-2 is 5-2 (though they should be 6-1). The real season starts next Sunday.