Posted on: November 6, 2008 1:56 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2008 11:57 pm

New York Giants 2nd Quarter Report Card - D/ST

Big midterm exam vs. Eagles counts heavily towards final Grade

 1. An NFL teams' _____________ is directly proportionate to its _____________.

O  credibility; win-loss record

focus; discipline

O  overall ability; individual accountability

rushing success; offensive lines' performance

All of the above

Click on this link for the Offense report card www.sportsline.com/mcc/blogs/entry/

DEFENSIVE LINE / LINEBACKERS:  A+  (last quarter A+) This grading period started off on a bad note. Monday Night Football is always hit or miss for the Giants, but their trip to Cleveland was as uninspired performance by the defensive line and linebackers since week 2 of last season, when the Green Bay Packers came into the Meadowlands and ran roughshod over them. They did not register a single sack on Derek Anderson (who's job had been temporarily saved that night) and RB Jamal Lewis had his best game of the season to date. Granted, Antonio Pierce and Gerris Wilkinson were both hobbled with injuries, but that game served as a wake up call to these units. Since then, they've regrouped and regained their ferocity; they held Frank Gore to 11 yards on 11 carries the following week; they buried Ben Roethlisberger the week after, sacking him four times and knocking him down an incredible 16 times; and picked up where they left off at Heinz field by terrorizing both Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger last week against Dallas.

The Giants are 2nd in the league in sacks; outside of Pittsburgh's dynamic duo of Harrison and Woodley, Justin Tick and Mathias Kiwanuka are the most dynamic pair of defensive inds in the game today. The effort and effectiveness of Kiwanuka - shifted from linebacker to end after the loss of Osi Umenyiora - has given the d-line the continuity it needs to remain tough against the run. Fred Robbins and Barry Cofield have also stepped up their game, and their ability to force pressure on the inside has greatly improved since last season.  

Danny Clark continues to play well at outside linebacker, providing sufficent speed to cover the middle of the field where the Giants have historically been exposed by tight ends. Rookie Bryan Kehl has shown what a 4th round draft pick from BYU can do. He's filled in quite nicely in the absence of Gerris Wilkinson, and will no doubt continue to get playing time as the season progresses. In addition, Chase Blackburn has seen his role increased, even after the return of captain Antonio Pierce form a quad injury.


DEFENSIVE SECONDARY:  B+  (last quarter B+)  This unit could have garnered an "A" or even an "A+" for their performance over the past four weeks, but certain factors - some in their control, some not - have to be considered in grading.What works in favor of a B+ rating is the fact that the Giants are 2nd in the NFL only to Pittsburgh (AGAIN with the Steelers! Geez...) in total passing yards allowed and average yards per game, not to mention their newfound penchant for creating interceptions.

CB Corey Webster (3 INT), along with safeties James Butler and Michael Johnson (2 INT apiece) have been very proactive in reading the quarterback and getting to the ball. Of the Giants 11 INT's this season, 9 of them were picked in the last three games. They're not blowing coverage assignments as much as they had last year, and appear to be instinctively aware of how to react after the receiver has possession (for the most part - Butler's tap dance during Nate Washington's TD reception would be exhibit 'A' against that opinion). The play of 2nd year man Aaron Ross and Webster have pretty much relegated veterans R.W. McQuarters and Sam Madison to backup and special teams roles. Rookie Kenny Phillips continues to impress coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, and Spags has responded by gradually increasing Phillips' playing time. Phillips is a heady player (which is how the organization would explain their desire & tendency to go after Miami U players year after year) with a nose for where the play is developing. He hits hard and can punish receivers, which is an element the Giants defense has been missing for a while. And with Kevin Dockery sidelined last week, Rookie Terrell Thomas got his first start of the year. Now that Thomas' nagging injuries are behind him, Spagnuolo might look to get him more involved as well.

The reason that the 'B+' grade sticks for this report card is two-fold: First of all, the quaterbacks they've faced have not been world beaters. They were ineffective against Derek Anderson (who was granted a stay of execution based on that game). Then they took on Big Ben Roethlisberger. Yes, they picked him off four times in rather athletic fashion (three, if you discount the desperation pass in the final seconds), but Pitt was without WR Santonio Holmes, and Roethlisberger's erratic performance had more to do with his getting drilled into the turf 20 times as opposed to making bad decisions. Then there was J.T. O'Sullivan, Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger. No explanation necessary. the other concern had been the lackluster play of Aaron Ross. Josh Morgan and Braylon Edwards schooled Ross in back-to-back games. He was better in Pittsburgh, and really started to return to form against Dallas. He's had a reoccurring shoulder injury which has no doubt affected him, but if he's in the game he's got to perform.

SPECIAL TEAMS:  B  (last quarter B+)  John Carney is 18 for 19 in field goal attempts, and what's more impressive is that his 44-year old leg is 3-3 on attempts from 40-49 yards. His kickoffs have been noticeably been shorter of late, landing between the 10 and 15 yard lines but without the hangtime we saw in weeks 1 through 4. At some point, Coughlin will make the decision to save Carney's accuracy and experience for field goals, and utilize Lawrence Tynes' younger, stronger leg for kickoff duites. Jeff Feagles is still doing what Jeff Feagles does; he's only been called upon 30 times this season (less than four times a game) but still manages to use the field position he's been afforded to his advantage, landing 13 of those inside the 20.

Domenik Hixon and Ahmad Bradshaw have continued to handle punt returns and kickoffs, respectively. They aren't averaging significant yardage, though. Hixon has returned punts at an average of 9 yards a clip, while Bradshaw's 20.6 yards per KOR is on the low end of the league average. While they've done a fine job protecting the ball and avoiding trurnovers, it would be nice to see those averages go up a bit as they get more comfortable in their roles - especially heading into the meat of the schedule. he Giants punt and kickoff coverage has been spectacular, thanks to the efforts of the aforementioned Ahmand Bradshaw, Zac DeOssie and Chase Blackburn. They rank 2nd in the league in average kickoff return yardage allowed, and 3rd in the leage in average punt return yardage allowed.


Statistical sources: sportsline.com, nfl.com, pro-football-reference.com


Posted on: October 19, 2008 8:59 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2008 1:27 am

Giants/49ers Recap: All That Glitters Ain't Gold

29-17 not as good as it sounds

NY wins 5th in Sloppy Fashion - with a strong pass rush and a lot of luck.

Watching the game between the Giants and 49ers today conjured up memories of two of my favorite movie moments. Do you remember the opening scene to "Office Space", where Peter Gibbons and his coworkers are stuck in morning rush hour traffic? Peter would swerve out from his lane when he saw movement to his left, only to find himself at a dead stop watching cars pass him to his right. The other scene is from "Meet The Parents", as Gaylord Focker sped from red light to red light in a race to beat Jack back to the house before he discovered that it wasn't the "real" Jinxy.

For anyone unfamiliar with these movies, I apologize for such an extraneous reference - at the same time, I suggest you visit your local Blockbuster once in a while. For those of you who know exactly what I'm talking about but did not see the game, you get an idea of what it was like; there were periods of complete stillness followed by bursts of exitement that eventually came to grinding halts. When two teams combine for 24 penalties totaling 214 yards, it tends to slow the tempo a little.

San Francisco came into the Meadowlands with Frank Gore - 4th in the league in rushing with 524 yards and an impressive 4.9 yards per carry. They also brought J.T. O'Sullivan, who's lost some of the luster he had earlier this year following 7 interceptions in his last three games. O'Sullivan also leads the NFL in fumbles. On the other side of the ball, the Giants were taking the field without their defensive leader, linebacker Antonio Pierce (quad), and their starting weak side LB Gerris Wilkinson (mcl strain). Chase Blackburn and Bryan Kehl started in their place, respectively.

The good news for New York was that the relentless pass rush - that was non-existent in Cleveland - returned full force. They tallied six sacks on the day, including 2 from Justin Tuck and one from Fred Robbins, which ties them for the team lead with 5. The secondary was suspect, but all-in-all Steve Spagnola's crew managed to force four turnovers - an element of their game that has been lacking so far this year.

The Giants started off sluggishly on offense. Eli Manning was more accurate than his stats would indicate (16 of 31, 161 yards, 1 TD), in part the result of three dropped passes by Plaxico Burress, Brandon Jacobs and Amani Toomer in the first two drives alone. Manning was far from looking sharp, however. He had 4 passes batted away and was very close to being picked off three times - one on an out pattern to Steve Smith that Nate Clements read perfectly but couldn't leap high enough to grab. Another of Eli's throws seemed to be purposefully targeted at a white road jersey that simply couldn't hold on to the gift it was given. In the 4th quarter, Manning threw towards the right sideline for Toomer, but FS Keith Lewis cut off the pass and knocked it down - there's no reason why he shouldn't have caught that ball.

On the Niners second drive of the game, an illegal motion penalty and two Frank Gore runs that resulted in negative yardage pinned San Francisco back to their own 15. The Niners punted and Domenick Hixon took it in at the NYG 46. Four plays later, Brandon Jacobs found a seam on the right side of the line and rumbled toward the sideline, untouched, for a 26-yard touchdown to put them ahead 7-0.

On the ensuing possession, O'Sullivan (16 of 28, 256 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT) appeared to find a rhythm remeniscent of Derek Anderson on Monday night; quick drops and quick releases on slant patterns as he marched the Niners up the field. The drive stalled and San Francisco settled for a 40-yard Joe Nedney field goal. The Giants scored again on the next drive with another Jacobs TD run of 2 yards to make the score 14-3. The drive went 8 plays for 73 yards, but 46 yards of it were the result of two Nate Clements penalties - an unnecessary roughness for 15 yards and a pass interference call on Plaxico Burress for 31 yards.

Speaking of Burress, the Giants nearly had a potential meltdown on their hands. Following an undeserved offensive pass interference call with 7:19 left in the half that had Burress visibly upset, he was called for unsportsmanlike conduct as New York was lining up to punt. His jawing continued as he passed Tom Coughlin heading back to the bench (leaving himself a 10-foot buffer between the two). Coughlin appeared to be asking him what the hell he was thinking out there. I haven't been able to decipher what Burress said in response, but the look on his face indicated it wasn't of the "rated PG" variety. Though the exchange was never heated, Eli Manning and others had to calm Plaxico down for some time before the next possession.

Rookie wide receiver Josh Morgan (5 for 86, 1 TD) and O'Sullivan started clicking in the 2nd quarter, connecting on 3 passes for 58 yards on the next possession - including a 30 yard TD strike to make it 14-10. John Carney kicked his 13th consecutive field goal to put the Giants up 17-10 at halftime. Carney's streak would come to an end in dramatic fashion later in the game.

Aaron Ross, who was covering Morgan, struggled all day along with the rest of the Giants secondary. Despite two Michael Johnson interceptions in the 2nd quarter (which were more a result of exrtemely poor decision making by O'Sullivan), the Giants pass coverage looked very beatable this afternoon. San Francisco receivers were open more often than not. Had it not been for O'Sullivan's inexperience and some timely drops, San Fran's passing stats may have looked quite exceptional; it seemed like Steve Spagnola was in zone coverage, with d-backs always converging on the receiver after he'd already made the catch over the middle and gained some yardage. The loss of Pierce no doubt had a hand in this, but the speed we saw earlier in the season has not been there for the past two games.

A Manning-to-Burress hookup for 6 yards at the 9:13 mark of the third quarter extended the Giants lead 24-10. Despite O'Sullivan's success in finding open receivers in the second half, his penchant for fumbling and Frank Gore's inabitlity to penetrate the Giants front line pretty much sealed the 49ers fate. Their only other score was on a blocked field goal attempt with 2:03 left in the 3rd quarter when Jeff Feagles appeared to bobble the snap from Jay Alford, and Carney booted a line drive right into the open hand of Manny Lawson. Nate Clements scooped it up within a second and dashed 74 yards into the Giants end zone to make it 24-17.

O'Sullivan fumbled four times resulting in two turnovers; the last one happened as he was sacked by Justin Tuck at his own 20 yard line. The ball squirted out and rolled quickly towards the end zone when Josh Morgan intentionally kicked it past the end line, resulting in a safety for New York which gave them the 29-17 victory.  


*Niners RB Frank Gore was held to 11 yards on 11 carries. It was his lowest yardage output as a starter in his career - and the least amount of yards he's rushed in a game since December 11th, 2005 when he had 2 carries for 5 yards.

*Derrik Ward had another impressive day: 4 carries for 19 yards & 3 receptions for 50 yards. It makes you wonder; if Ward were to take the majority of the snaps, would he be nearly as effective?

*Eli Manning - again - didn't appear to recognize when he was potentially throwing into trouble. It wasn't as noticeable as it was in Monday night's performance, but for the second game in a row he failed to utilize pump fakes, and wasn't checking off as often as he usually does. Maybe he felt he didn't have to, but as I stated above he was very lucky to escape this game without an interception.

*One of the characteristics of the Giants defense the past few years had been giving up the big pass at the most inopportune time. While that trend had reversed itself toward the end of last season, the 21-yard completion from O'Sullivan to Arnaz Battle in the 4th quarter was a bit frightening. Why? Because it was 3rd and 20, and the Giants were leading by 10 points early in the fourth quarter. That play won't be remembered, only because Josh Morgan - who had been solid all day - let a 40-yard pass that was right on the money slip through his hands. Had he hauled that ball in, San Francisco would have had 1st and 10 on the Giants 19 yard line.  

*The Giants were flagged for 11 penalties totaling 80 yards.  

*Plaxico Burress caught his 3rd touchdown this season, but had less receiving yards than Ward (50), Steve Smith (39) and Toomer (31). 


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com