Monday, October 14, 2013

Bears game review

If it's possible for one game in a winless 6 game opening of the season to be more depressing than the others, this Bears game last Thursday night might be it for me. Coming into the game, in fact coming into the season, it appeared that on offense Giants had an abundance of skill position players, a great QB and the big question was the OL. Could they block for them, open some holes in the running game and provide some protection for Eli? In those first 5 games the answer was no. The OL was horrid, providing no running game and no protection for Eli, leaving the Giants with no way to move the ball on offense. When thing got dicey, Eli tried to win the games all by himself, took some chances he shouldn't have taken and ended up throwing the ball to the guys with the other colored jerseys way too often. That was the first 5 games of the season. But going into the 6th game, hope springs eternal, and there was just a tiny ray of hope. It was true that the two RBs set to carry the ball this season were both out with injuries and the Giants had a retread Jacobs at RB. But the Bears DL was weakened by injury and the Giants had a competent OL-man Diehl starting his second game after coming back from injury. Not that Diehl is an all pro, but he has shown flashes of slightly-above-average in his career and maybe he would get his sea legs back and play well. So the hope was that the OL would be representative of a decent OL, that Eli would finally have time to throw and that the Giants would play well. In fact it worked out better than that - OL also opened some holes for the running game and Jacobs had 100+ yards, mostly behind the right side of the OL with Pugh who played very well and Diehl who also played well. The Giants definitely played better than they had in their previous 5 games, but the depressing thing for me is that they still lost to a very-mediocre Bears team.

Defense was cut up badly in the first half, giving up 17 points to the Bears (7 coming courtesy of a pick 6 by Eli) and looked like they could not stop the Bears at all. Sometimes an offense scores points but they look like they are working hard and struggling to do it - the Bears offense in first half looked like it just walked through the Giants, with nearly every play working successfully. Giants defense did have one good stop on 4th down after the first Eli INT, but after that it was just too easy for the Bears. In the 2nd half, the Giants defense was a little better, giving up only 3 points and forcing several punts. It appeared to me that it was more the Bears misfiring on some 3rd downs than great pressure or play by the Giants defense, but at least the defense got in position to get the stops. When the Giants got the ball back with about 4 minutes left and Eli started moving them down the field, it sure looked like they were in position to win again on a 4th quarter TD drive. But Eli's pass was about 6 inches too high and the TE Myers did not turn his body around early enough in his route to see the ball coming, tipped it up in the air and yet another INT ended the disappointing evening.

Of Eli's 15 INTs this year, 5 of them have come when he has targeted Randle and this is disproportional to the total number of targets he gets compared to other potential pass receivers in the offense. Randle has a lot of talent, but he is often not on the same page with Eli. All the INTs go in Eli's statistics column, but many of them are the result of this overly complex offense by Gilbride and the WR/QB not making the same read of the defense and subsequent adjustment to their routes. Actually, calling it complex is not the right word - it's not complex so much as it is filled with instantaneous decisions and reads by the entire offense. They've gotten away with it for years because Eli is such a cerebral QB. But it is very high risk as we saw Thursday night.  Randle reads one thing, Eli reads another. 6 points for the other guys. Tipped ball because the receiver is not in perfect position, perhaps because he is hesitating after the snap trying to read the defense - INT. That was not only Myers on Thursday, but that was also the opening night INT on the tip off of Da'Rel Scott's hands and probably a few others. There have been some times when Nicks cut off his route and Eli threw it to where he should have been. Eli has to take some of the blame, but he has not played as badly as it appears from his statistics.

The other thing that makes this Gilbride offense obsolete and a liability is that in the new world of the NFL, with the current collective bargaining agreement, it is much more important to bring in young players and inexpensive FAs and get them productive right away. The current collective bargaining agreement has two important financial elements: (1) a very slow rise in the salary cap from the 2010 number (deal became effective in 2011); (2) a rookie salary cap. If the salary cap is rising slowly, it made it very difficult for a team to keep the higher priced veterans and makes it difficult to bring in new high priced FAs. To manage this cap, teams must draft well and get their draft class productive right away, rather than waiting a season and a half to get them on the field. Second, if they need to fill a roster slot with a FA, rather than giving a big contract to an expensive FA, they will try to find a middle of the road FA who is looking to prove himself and give him a cheap 1 year contract. Giants did this with Kawika Mitchell in 2007, with Martellus Bennett last year and with several others along the way. All this means much more turnover in the roster and the need to get new players accustomed to the offense so they can be productive immediately. That just does not happen with Gilbride's offense and it's time to go.

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