Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Giants: Cowboys game review I

You can't overstate how great Eli was in this game and how spectacular he has been all season. I talked about it in my previous post but it should not go unsaid or unrepeated. First the raw statistics: 135 yards and 2 TDs in the 4th quarter, bringing the Giants from 12 points back with 6 minutes left. Giants had to score two TDs, but with only 6 minutes left, not only did he have to score, but the first one had to be quick. So Eli took them 80 yards in 2:27 for that first score on the pass to Ballard. Then the Giants defense got a 3 and out on Dallas next possession, thanks to an overthrow by Romo to a wide open Miles Austin (why was Austin smiling widely when he was trotting off the field after that failed connection?). When Giants got the ball back, Eli had 2:12 to get the Giants into the end zone and he took 1:26, leaving 46 seconds on the clock. Good thing Mannigham dropped that perfect throw by Eli with 1:33 left. If he had scored then, Cowboys would have not been forced to take their two timeouts and would have had an additional 35 seconds on the clock. The way Giants defense was playing, Cowboys probably would have scored a TD.

Eli and Nicks hooked up on a beautiful play on that forst 4th qtr TD drive, Eli hitting Nicks for 24 yards on the right sideline just as Nicks was going out of bounds. He tapped that last toe an inch in on the 8 yard line right before the Ballard TD.

On the 64 yard Manning to Nicks pass in the first quarter, I thought Nicks should have scored on the play. He didn't put it into that extra gear after the catch and was caught by the S. Giants had to settle for a FG there and I thought that was a big stop by the Cowboys. The play calls were a little unimaginative by Gilbride there. He called two fade patterns, one to Manningham and one to Beckum. Giants have sued that successfully this year, so you have to figure teams are looking for it. It was a little strange throwing it to Beckum - the idea of the fade there is that the WR has to be quick enough to beat the CB to the corner of the end zone, or big enough to jump over the DB and have the QB throw it up high. Manningham is equipped to out-quick the DB and he has run that well, but I don't love Beckum in that spot. He is not quicker than the CB and is not bigger. Giants scored 37 points, so you certainly can't complain about the offensive production, but getting stopped twice in the red zone and being held for short FGs hurt the Giants positioning in the game.

The other time Giants were stopped for a short FG was after the Felix Jones fumble. Giants started on the 15 yard line and couldn't punch it in. I have to give them a break there, because Ballard was held the entire time on his pass route by the S and it was ridiculous that the refs did not throw a flag.

Giants running game which has been MIA virtually the entire season seems to have had a revival the last two games. Jacobs is running with purpose, downhill and hitting the holes more quickly. But you have to credit the revamped OL opening holes in the middle of the defense for the RBs. Petrus looks like a much better G than Diehl. He is quicker, more athletic and a little stronger. Diehl may be too big to play G, but Petrus has been making some excellent blocks. By the way, Diehl had a lot of trouble with Ware in pass blocking last week, even though he did not get in to make any sacks. Eli got rid of the ball quickly and moved away just enough to neutralize his rushes, but Diehl did not have a very good game. If you still have the game on DVR, look at the blocks Petrus made on Jacobs TD runs (especially the second one)  and then again on Ware's 2 point conversion. But one other huge factor in the Giants improved running game has been the improved play of Hynoski. I don't know if he's moving more quickly because he is more confident in his assignments, but he is engaging his blocks further upfield, hitting the defenders with more power and playing with more energy. Pascoe is still up and down, occasionally making decent blocks and occasionally getting completely getting blown up and whiffing. But, with improvement in the OL and Hynoski coming on, the running game is definitely improved.

With all of the injuries to the offense - Nicks, Manningham, Bradshaw and Jacobs all missed quite a bit of time and now with the OL injuries, you have to give credit to Gilbride for keeping the ship afloat. I don't want to give him too much credit, because a lot of his success is on Eli's blessed right shoulder. They talk about QBs that are coach killers, well - Eli is a coach saver. Coughlin and Gilbride should pay 20% of their salary to Eli for "protection". While I can be magnanimous with Gilbride, I am not giving Fewell a free ride. Even though the injuries have been severe on the defensive side, especially in the DB-field, there are just too many flaws with this defense that fall on the coach's plate to be excused. Even though Giants have had 6 DBs lost, the fact remains that right now, Ross, Amukamara and Webster are playing and they were penciled in to be 3 of the top 4 CBs on the team. Up until this week, there have been no injuries to the safeties. Giants also did lose their starting MLB Goff, but have other talent that they brought in at LB that should be playing better by now.

What falls on Fewell's plate are the missed assignments by the defense that happen way too frequently. That is the DC's accountability - that is what coordinating and coaching is. His schemes are way too simple and predictable; simple for the opposing QB to read. I also don't like his personnel usage. In the first half when the Cowboys were running against the Giants easily, they were sitting in their nickel package too often without a MLB on the field. Kiwanuka is playing LB way too much, especially with Osi out and Tuck injured. Finally, the one great player Giants have on defense, JPP, is only playing his optimum position, RDE because Osi is injured. I guarantee - if Osi had been healthy, he would have started at RDE, meaning that JPP would have been shifted to DT. If that had happened, the Giants defensive performance would have been even weaker and they would have lost the game.

I guess the topper for me was the interview I heard by Justin Tuck in his spot on local radio in NY. When asked by the interviewer why the defense was so bad Sunday, Tuck gave what has to be considered a shocking response and a screaming indictment of the coaching. He said that the Giants had read the Cowboys tendencies and saw certain plays out of certain formations. In response to how the Cowboys lined up, Giants game plan was to automatically check into certain coverages based on those formations. In the second half, when the Cowboys saw how the Giants were reading these formations, they made some subtle shifts and used different formations that were not exactly consistent with their tendencies. Giants defenders did not know what to expect or which defense to automatically check into. As a result there were several miscommunications and you saw the results - in addition to getting beat individually, they were not coordinated in their defensive calls and left guys wide open just because of blown coverages. If there is a more direct (though polite) way to say "we were outcoached" I can't imagine what it is. Cowboys made adjustments that confused the Giants defense. End of case.

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