Tag:Donovan McNabb
Posted on: January 11, 2009 7:06 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2009 1:51 am

EAGLES/GIANTS RECAP: Its All Over Now, Baby Blue.

Eagles 23, Giants 11

Giants leave their stepping stones behind, and have the rug pulled out from under them.


Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you.
Forget the dead you've left, they will not follow you.
The vagabond who's rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore.
Strike another match, go start anew
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.
From Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"

As the game moved along, quarter by quarter and minute by minute the inevitability of what was taking place was clear. It was like getting a shot at the doctor; you're sitting on the examination table, watching him tie the rubber hose around your arm. He rolls the little bottle around in his palms, then removes the syringe from the wrapping. Plunger pushed in, a dip in the bottle, plunger pulled back. The a couple of flicks of the finger. Then the obligatory comment, "Now... this won't hurt a bit." and in it goes. It stings for a bit, but eventually the pain goes away and you realize there was really nothing to it.

There was a purpose to that long-winded "ode to a needle": There's a wide dynamic of emotions a fan can experience following a game like this. Perhaps it's age, or familiartiy, or the understanding that repeating as champion in today's NFL is not easily accomplished. However, I think that it's the simple fact that Tom Coughlin's team did not seem right from the get-go. It will sting for a bit, but eventually the pain will go away and we'll realize that - at least from the Giants - there was really nothing to them.

The Eagles were the vagabond wrapping at the door today, and have recently been likened to last year's Giants; the wild card team with the big heart, hitting on all cyliders at just the right time. They're now wearing the "clothes" that the Giants' were donning last year at this time -and they're dressed for success.

I'd like to take a moment to congratulate Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles - for their perseverance and will to win this game at all costs. Healthy players, smart game planning and a little luck all play a part in earning a victory. The "luck" part for the Eagles today was catching Eli Manning on a bad day. But that wasn't the deciding factor in game; Philadelphia earned the victory and were clearly the better team today. Now they pack their bags for a date with the Arizona Cardinals and an NFC Championship game, visiting the very site where less than a year ago, Big Blue made magic, and NFL history.

For Tom Coughlin, General Manager Jerry Reese and the Giants organization - an offseason of "what might have been". Maybe Reese can snag a free agent wideout the likes of T.J. Houshmandzadeh to replace Eli's missing deep threat, and if the first two years of his tenure are any indication, he's more than likely have another solid draft come April. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnoulo might be a head coach somewhere in 2009; though the doors of opportunity are starting to close fast. Derrick Ward will likely want to prove he can be a starter and will want starter money - if there's a team willing to give him the shot.

Below are two reasons why the New York Giants lost their Divisional round playoff game to the Eagles this afternoon - and despite what the FOX NFL team of Troy Aikman and Joe Buck would have you believe, Plaxico Burress isn't one of the two reaons. If he were, then we may as well throw in the loss of Osi Umenyiora in the preseason and the retirement of Michael Strahan. 

These two things - and not the personnel on the field - will haunt the Giants in the weeks and months to come...

1. The "eyes" have it; and Eli just didn't have it today.

Trying to guage Eli Manning's emotion is like trying to tell the difference between regular or decaffeinated, but there are those rare times that it's written all over his face; and today, his face was a novel. His passes wobbled, he was off target a number of times, and threw into tight coverage way too often. But the true measuring stick for Eli is his eyes. If written it many times throughout the season; When he's on his game, his eyes are scanning the field, looking for his options and knowing where to go. Today, his eyes locked on his primary target - from the moment the ball was snapped until the point of release. Asante Samuel and Brian Dawkins didn't have much guess work to know where the ball was going. Something wasn't right with Manning, and when that's the case he tends to lose focus and downfield awareness of the defense. Even though the teams were within 2 points of each other for a majority of the game, Eli's interception to Samuel (which led to the first Philadelphia touchdown) was a back-breaking tone setter.

2. In-game decisions that were offensive, rather than offensive minded in-game decisions.

  • There was one bright spot for the Giants today, and it was Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs had 19 carries for 92 yards and appeared to be the only player in a blue jersey that Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson was unable to handle. Yet every time New York found itself driving the ball successfully, they took the ball out of Brandon's hands. I don't want to ramble with examples here, but here's one that sticks out: Following DT Fred Roobbins' interception and return to the Philadelphia 33 yard line in the 3rd Quarter, two consecutive handoffs to Jacobs went for 11 and 5 yards. The momentum was shifting. Number 27 was then called off to the sidelines in favor of Ward; two unsuccessful pass plays later, the Giants had to settle for a field Goal. This brings us to...                                                                                                                                           
  • Field goals... or punt? The turning point of the game for me - and I felt it the moment it took place - was when Coughlin decided to go for a 47-yard field goal with 4:29 remaining in the 3rd quarter instead of punting. Philly was leading 13-11 at that point, and Carney had already missed a 46-yard attempt earlier in the game (and badly, I might add). The Giants had recorded a safety the last time the Eagles were pinned back on their goal line, which might have been in their heads should they have found themeselves in that same spot. Your punter is Jeff Feagles - one of the best to ever play the game - and with the wind to his back, had already placed one perfectly inside the 5-yard line today. They should have pinned them back and not taken the risk on allowing Donovan McNabb to have 1st and 10 at midfield. Carney missed the kick, and McNabb marched them down the field and found TE Brent Celek in the end zone to put the Eagles up by a score of 20-11 on the first play of the 4th quarter. Which brings us to...                                                                                                                                                                                                            
  • The fourth Quarter... following the Brent Celek touchdown. On their next two possessions, the Giants ran 11 plays - 10 of which were running plays. It's understandable to a point, considering the inconsistency of their quarterback throughout the afternoon. But that said, he is still your quarterback, and unless the Giants coaches new something we didn't you have to continue plugging away and keeping the Eagles defense off-balance as best you can. On both possessions, the Giants were faced with a 4th down and a decision to make. And on both occasions, they went for it. The first time (on 4th and inches), they lined up Jacobs in the backfield and tried a quarterback sneak up the gut with Eli. That's like using a toothbrush to drive a nail into a wall when you've got a hammer right there in your tool belt. For the next drive (on 4th and 2) Kevin Gilbride decided to go with what they should have gone with the first time and ran Jacobs straight up the middle. Neither conversion was successful. The Giants miscue on the initial 4th down attempt perfectly prepared Jim Johnson's defense for the second 4th down attempt.

And it's all over now, Big Blue.

Thanks to the Giants for an enjoyable season, despite the letdown today. They handled themselves well through all the distractions and controversy, and overcame a lot of obstacles to put themselves back in contention. In a week or so, I will post my Giants 2008 Season Team Awards in recognition of the highlights - and lowlights - of the season.

Now it's off to the Eagles boards to offer my congratulations.


Statistical Sources: nfl.com, cbssports.com


Posted on: January 10, 2009 10:42 pm
Edited on: January 11, 2009 12:36 am

Big Blue Gearing Up at the Meadowlands

Is "overconfidence" a requirement to be a fan?

   Coach preps his men for battle, Friday 1/9.

If there was one game on the NFL playoff schedule for this weekend that most of us would have put in the books, it was the Cardinals and Panthers. The Panthers are the more balanced offensive team. They have the secondary to keep up with the Arizona receivers that Altlanta didn't. Arizona's defense is small and weak against the run. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower won't be able to run... blah blah, blah bla blah.

I'm sitting here watching the closing seconds tick away in Charlotte. It's 33-13. Soon the players & coaches will be shaking hands, giving interviews or heading toward the locker rooms. Except for Jake Delhomme, who'll be heading directly for the parking lot, car keys in hand. He'll probably drive home with his helmet still on. I don't think of the Ravens beating the Titans earlier as an upset. It's an upset as far as seedings go, but in reality you could see that one coming; you might have almost expected it.

But Arizona? Wow...

I can honestly say - with a straight face - that I've never, ever had a feeling of overconfidence about the Giants prior to a playoff game. I've been confident in their ability, readiness and determination. It's a confidence that is born from trust, and if you're a Giants fan right now you're lucky enough to be able to trust these coaches and players when looking at ability, readiness and determination. But I'm never confident they'll win the game - in my way of thinking, that's overconfidence. There's enough evidence in the trash talking you'll find in threads, sports bars, at work, or just about anywhere opposing team jerseys meet up that support the notion - beyond a shadow of a doubt - that the sentiments expressed by many fans are simply an expectation of complete and utter dominance of the enemy.

Overconfidence and expectation. If you're a fan of an NFL team you can live without it, and will be better off for doing so. If you have it, you must have both - you can't have one without the other. And as a fan of an NFL team myself,  I'll never understand how another fan of any NFL team can have it.

I'm certainly not a paranoid or pessimistic fan. You know those folks, don't you? The one's that always prepare for the worst possible scenario. In fact, I'm pretty laid back about the whole thing... until I hear the pregame scene set from the announcing team. That's when the butterflies wake up and I lose my hearing when the wife and kids come in and ask me if I want to join them for a board game. I say "GIANTS!" and they get the hint. Once the game begins though, I'm fine. The kickoff is a shot of sedative. I strap in and enjoy the ride. By the way, the announcers for tomorrow are Joe Buck and Troy Aikman - the booth will just be glowing with personality, insight and entertainment...

I wonder what was going through Tom Coughlin's mind as he walked on the grass in an empty stadium as his players stretched, warmed up and ran light drills yesterday afternoon? I wonder about what's going on in his head as he gears his team up for this event? Whatever he's thinking, I'm sure he - and his players - are ready. When I give in and resign myself to the fact that the team is confident, it makes it easier for me to sleep tonight. Not because I "know" they'll win (because I don't), but because they'll give it everything they've got. And what they've got is a real team - in the truest sense of the word.

I expect defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to go with a lot of nickel and dime packages, so that a safety or corner can shadow RB Brian Westbrook instead of Antonio Pierce. Pierce is not quick enough, and the secondary will provide the necessary speed and open field tackling ability you need to contain Westbrook. I expect Brandon Jacobs will be healthier than we've seen him over the last month, and running with more determination and power. I expect Eli Manning to manage the game well and make a few big plays when necessary. That's all I expect.

But I'll never expect to win the game. And I'm confident that it will be a good one, because they always are between these two teams.  


Posted on: December 7, 2008 8:09 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2008 12:17 am

RECAP: Eagles 20, Giants 14

Twisting in the Wind

Powerless defense. Indefensible drops. Westbrook. 

Big Blue wins the NFC East title.

"The pessimist complains about the wind;
the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails."

William Arthur Ward

Was it the wind, that at times reached 40mph gusts? Perhaps it was the distractions and interruptions of the past week, and maybe Tom Coughlin just didn't have the ability (or strength) to get his troops focused enough for a football game this afternoon. Or maybe the Eagles just played extremely well today; perhaps Andy Reid's crew was better prepared than Coughlin's. In reality, it was a little bit of everything - the Giants had an opportunity to wrap up the NFC east and secure a first-round bye in the playoffs with a victory over the Eagles this afternoon, but the Giants and their fans were left twisting in the wind as the Eagles monopolized the clock by almost 10 minutes and piled on the yardage much more than the 20-14 final score can possibly convey. The Giants were 3-11 on 3rd down conversions, and 0-3 on 4th down conversions. They went for it on 4th down in the first quarter, and they went for it on 4th down in the last quarter. There's one word to characterize the Giants today... "uncharacteristic".

There is a lot more than the final score that the Giants will be concerned about following today's game, the least of which is whether or not this group of receivers will be able to carry on without #17. Brandon Jacobs left the game midway through the 3rd quarter after appearing to twist his ankle as he was tackled by DT Brodrick Bunkley, and the normally stout defensive line - while able to pressure Donovan McNabb early in the game - was manhandled by Jon Runyan and the rest of the Eagles' offensive line on almost every play in the second half.

The most telling part of this game is the fact that the Giants - who've made a living by controlling the game clock and overall tempo - did not have a drive more than 5:34 the entire game. And that drive ended in a blocked field goal on a brilliant play by DE Trent Cole, who literally placed his hands on the backs of two Giants lineman and leapfrogged over them - had enough time to get his footing and leaped straight up in front of John Carney's 47-yard attempt.

The most (and only) positive moment of the game came with 4 seconds left in the first half. Philadelphia was lining up for a 31-yard field goal in hopes of going up 13-0, but Justin Tuck knocked it out of the air and CB Kevin Dockery scooped it up and ran it back 71 yards for the Giants first score of the game. It seemed that all the momentum had shifted from one sideline to the other at that point. It seemed that way. It wasn't.  

Eli Manning had a rough day to say the least; to say the most, Manning did everything he was supposed to do and got nothing for his efforts. Manning's numbers look putrid - 13 of 27 for 123 yards and a touchdown. It should be mentioned that Eli was 6 for 6 with his only TD on the Giants last drive of the game; prior to that, Manning was 7 of 21 for 66 yards. The tone was set early in the game, as Manning was not at all in sync with primary target Domenik Hixon. A crushing blow that the team never recovered from occurred at the start of the 2nd quarter. On 1st and 10, Manning dropped back and heaved a beautiful spiral from his own 8-yard line that sailed 55 yards right into the arms of Hixon. Unfortunately, Hixon - who had about 5 yards of separation on the cornerback - misjudged it and the ball shot right through his arms and onto the turf. A sure touchdown opportunity was gone with the... nope, not gonna say it... and the Giants were back to their own 15-yard line, 2nd and 10. That's when the 'dropsies' virus began spreading like wildfire to the rest of the receivers; Fullback Madison Hedgecock's stone hands were back on display just  four plays later as he let a high but catchable ball slip through his grasp on a screen play that left nothing but open field ahead of him. Later on, Steve Smith dropped a bullet right on the numbers that would have resulted in a much needed 3rd down conversion. 

Eli isn't absolved of any wrongdoing. As both time and opportunities were slipping away in the second half, Manning made an ill-advised pass deep down the middle of the field as he was being rushed that would have been picked off by Brian Dawkins were it not for his collision with a fellow teammate. At the 9:35 mark in the fourth quarter - when the Giants were down 17-7 - they went for it with a passing play on 4th and 1 at the Philadelphia 38. Manning stepped up in the pocket to avoid the blitz and had an opening to run straight ahead. Had he done just that, he would have picked up the first down and then some. Eli got a little case of "happy feet" and pulled up before hitting the line of scrimmage and threw a short pass to Sinorice Moss that fell incomplete.

The Giants' offense seemed to be a tale of two game plans; in the early going they were very confident and loose - almost too lose. Kevin Gilbride called for a double reverse to Mario Manningham on the fifth play of their first drive that not only seemed out of place, but resulted in a 12-yard loss. The deep pass incompletion to Hixon seemed to mark the end of that game plan, and the start of the more conservative approach Giants fans have been accustomed to. The problem was that Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Johnson had an answer for everything the Giants tried to do. Linebackers Stewart Bradley and Akeem Jordan combined for 13 tackles on the day, and swarmed the middle in taking away both the outside run and the short passing game. D-backs Asante Samuel, Dawkins and Quintin Mikell were all over the Giants receivers. There were a few instances where Manning had no choice but to muscle the ball into Hixon's gut, despite being draped, because there were no other options open. It was impossible to tell if Kevin Gilbride had actually made adjustments at the half, because they never really had an opportunity to show us - the opportunities they did have, they squandered.

The story of  the game was the Eagles' #36. The Giants defense came out strong in the first quarter, and appeared to be getting plenty of pressure on Donovan McNabb. As was the case in their first meeting in week 10, Brian Westbrook found very little room to run. But by the 2nd quarter, Westbrook's 2-yard runs were becoming 5-yard runs; and once Westbrook got his legs moving there was no stopping him. Westbrook finished the day with 131 yards on the ground, 72 receiving yards and two touchdowns. To give you an idea on how much the Eagles offense dominated the Giants, Westbrook gained 203 total yards; the Giants gained 211. Westbrook has always been a Giants killer, and he looked nothing like the guy they held to under 30 yards in Philly; today he looked 100% healthy. To get back to halftime adjustments, whatever it was Steve Spagnuolo tried to put in place to keep "22 eyes on #36" (as he was quoted saying) in the second half , it was even less effective than what he did in the first half. The fact that the Giants defense was on the field for all but 3 minutes of the third quarter had everything to do with the outcome of this game. Philadelphia started the 3rd quarter with a seven-minute drive that ended with Akers' second blocked field goal of the game, but when the Giants gave it back to them a little over three minutes later, McNabb knocked another six minutes of the clock and rammed a 40-yard Brian Westbrook TD pass down their throats. It didn't matter that the 4th quarter has just gotten underway... the game was over.

It was their own fault; as I stated earlier, Philadelphia converted on just about every third down situation in the second half, and the Giants were inneffective in wrapping up players and preventing yards after first contact. With his outstanding performance today, Westbrook surpassed the great Harold Carmichael to become the Eagles' all-time leader in yardage from scrimmage.

Donovan McNabb must also be creditied for a solid game, as he held his ground in the pocket as long as he could and still managed to complete his passes - or bolt to the outside when no one was open and hurt the Giants with his legs, five times scrambling for decent yardage (three times on 3rd down to move the chains and keep the clock ticking).

As I type up this recap, the Cowboys are in a battle with the Steelers, just over my right shoulder. All I hear is "ball comes loose..."  and either "Steelers recover" or "Cowboys ball" - lots of turnovers. And... Tony Romo has just turned it over for the fourth time...  Deshea Townsend runs it in for the score...the Giants win the NFC East, which I'm happy about.  At least something positive to end this day.

All this and three blocked field goals.

That damn wind!



Notes and Commentary: CONFIDENCE - where it is, and were it isn't... 

CONFIDENT: Despite their terrible performance today, I'm confident that these Giants receivers are capable of producing; there's been too many positives this year out of Steve Smith and Domenik Hixon to think that today was anything more than a bump in the road. There's been a lot of distractions in the past week, and it obviously played a part in the outcome. You never want to see easy passes dropped, but this is nothng new for Eli Manning. Neither is playing without #17, and the loss in Cleveland showed that this offense can bounce back from poor outings. Under the leadership of veteran Amani Toomer, these receivers are going to be OK.

CONFIDENT: The defense was not prepared for the Eagles today. It's very unlike them to be caught off guard, but Steve Spagnuolo has been able to regroup before, so there's no reason to think he won't have them ready for Dallas next week. having said that, there's got to be concern over the Antonio Pierce situation...

NOT CONFIDENT: Antonio Pierce is playing this up as if everything is fine, and that there's nothing taking his focus way from football. After watching him and the rest of the defense today, I wouldn't necessarily agree. It may be unfair to lay everything on Antonio, but he was not on his game today and was surprised to see that he led the team with 12 tackles. Pierce seemed to commit himself way too often one way or another while shadowing Brian Westbrook, especially on the touchdown pass; Westbrook broke out of a cluster of bodies behind the line of scrimmage and turned to face McNabb. Pierce started to break toward him, but Westbrook slipped a little to the outside and caught Pierce out of position. Westbrook caught the ball and ran right past pierce for the TD. I'm curios to know if anyone else thought that Chase Blackburn should have taken over for him at some point in the second half? He just seemed out of it.

NOT CONFIDENT: The latest word is that Brandon Jacobs' knee injury isn't that serious. While that's great news, my first thought was - "Really? He limped off the field and stood on the sidelines for the rest of the game, but it's not serious... If wasn't serious, why didn't he get back out there ? And if it was even a little serious, why wasn't he in with the trainers getting it worked on, or resting it?" 

Jacobs left the Ravens game after one quarter with a knee injury; He sat out the Cardinals game, then returned for the Redskins game last week. He left today's game... the running game relies on two things - the offensive line and the consistency of its three moving parts. The last thing the Giants need to worry about is Brandon Jacobs' durability.


stats source: sportsline.com

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