Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Giants: More on Eli and offense from Cowboys game

Eli now has 4,105 yards total passing, which exceeds his career best year with 3 games still to play. I think the yards may be a little harder to come by in the next few weeks, because the Giants are playing these three games on the east coast where the weather is sure to be poor for at least one of the games. Furthermore, the middle game against the Jets presents a real challenge because they have a very strong pass defense. Putting those little facts aside, there are only two passers in history that have thrown for more than 5,000 yards in one season. Dan Marino, who has the record with 5,084 yards, is the first and and Drew Brees is the other. This year there could be 4 QBs that pass the 5,000 marker and Eli has an outside chance at being one of them. (Brees, Brady and Rodgers are the other 3.) In order to hit 5,000 yards for the season, Eli needs to average 298 yards per game over the last 3. Challenging, but not impossible, especially when you consider the fact that he is averaging 315 yards over the first 13 games.

Every game, Eli makes one or two throws that just make you catch your breath and say "wow". This game there were a few and in fact, the remarkable thing is that he is making the game look so easy, that there were only a few. One of my favorites in this game was the 24 yard throw to Nicks down to the 8 yard line right before the Ballard TD pass that made the score 34-29. Eli was rushed on the back side by DeMarcus Ware and up the middle by Spencer. He saw the rush coming before it was right in his face and moved out of the pocket to his right to avoid the rush. Nicks ran a post route to the middle of the field, then cut it off and ran back to the sideline, beating the coverage by a step. Eli had a really small window to fit the ball into and the timing had to be perfect. A half second early and Nicks does not clear the defender. A half second late and Nicks can't keep his feet in bounds. If the ball is off target and Nicks has to reach down or reach up even a little, the timing is also thrown off and Nicks cannot tap his toes in bounds. Eli unloads a rocket that hits Nicks right in his hands, chest high who then snatches the ball out of the air, gets the toe on his left foot down about two inches in bounds and then goes out to stop the clock. It required a great catch by Nicks too, any small bobble or shifting of the ball before securing it and he catches it out of bounds. His huge hands clamped down on the ball and he secured it as soon as it hit his hands.

The pass to Manningham, that he dropped for what would have been the go ahead TD was also a great throw. It needed to be up in the air to get over the head of the trailing DB, but if Eli threw it up too high, there would have been time for the S to get over and hit Manningham. It got up and down perfectly - an excellent throw, even though it was incomplete.

I also loved the first play of the winning TD drive, not so much because the throw was so special, but because it demonstrates how great an overall QB Eli has become. Giants had the ball with 2:12 left and needed 58 yards for the score. Giants were taking a lot of deep shots down field to their WRs up until that point in the game, and an edgy QB might want to go for a big chunk there to get the drive started. Eli knew that there was plenty of time and Giants still had two TO's left, so he was not going to force anything. Through most of the game Cowboy's DC FRR (Fat Rob Ryan) had thrown a lot of very different and creative blitzes at Eli in his attempt to confuse the Giants QB as he had predicted in pregame press conferences. After getting burned on these blitzes, Cowboys dropped everyone in coverage and had only 3 rushing the passer. Their DBs were flooding the intermediate and deep zones, double covering all the WRs. That left Ballard 1-on-1 with a LB and Eli hit Ballard perfectly with an easy pitch and catch and a 21 yard gain to get the drive rolling.

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