Posted on: December 27, 2009 6:40 pm
Edited on: December 27, 2009 6:44 pm

The Twelve Days of 2010 Training Camp

Those looking for the last great performance at Giants stadium this afternoon missed it by seven months...

Springsteen brought the house down in May of this year. Tom Coughlin's Giants finished the job today by imploding the spirits of every fan - whether in the stadium or not - and we watched those spirits collapse into the stadium's footprint. In May, Bruce was the Boss. Today, Jonathan Stewart was the Boss - and every yard he gained on the helpless Giants defense was another carefully placed powder charge that fired, crippling the fragile infrastructure of the Giants 2009 season.

A cloud of dust and smoke. A loud, thunderous rumble. The Giants season is over, put in in the books.

I know I've been AWOL on the blogs this year, and I apologize for that. To get into the reasons behind that would be a book.
There isn't much to say about this season, but for the sake of closure I offer these obvious observations.

1. We know that there's something very special about rookie Hakeem Nicks, and that Steve Smith has more than opened some eyes with his performance this season.

2. We know that this once formidable offensive line - that's played together more than any other in the league - may be fastly growing old together right before our very eyes.

3. We know that injuries absolutely decimated the Giants secondary. And regardless of that fact, Bill Sheridan showed no growth as a defensive coordinator as the season moved along.

4. We know that Eli Manning is beginning to hit his peak as a quarterback, and that the next two or three years will be optimum for his chances at winniung another championship.

And now, my wish list for the 2010 season - festive in song of the season.


On the first day of training camp, my Giants gave to me
A new tackle next to Chris Snee.

On the second day of training camp, my Giants gave to me
Stick-Um wax for Mario,
and a new tackle next to Chris Snee.

On the third day of training camp, my Giants gave to me
Three and out on defense,
Stick-Um wax for Mario,
and a new tackle next to Chris Snee.

On the fourth day of training camp, my Giants gave to me
Four solid quarters,
Three and out on defense,
Stick-Um wax for Mario,
and a new tackle next to Chris Snee.

On the fifth day of training camp, my Giants gave to me...
FOOT... GELS for... Manning!
Four solid quarters,
Three and out on defense,
Magnigrips for Mario,
and a "Bye-bye Kareem McKenzie".

On the sixth day of training camp, my Giants gave to me
Six years for Blackburn...
FOOT... GELS for... Manning!
Four solid quarters,
Three and out on defense,
Krazy Glue for Mario,
and a "chat" with Marcus McNeill.

On the seventh day of training camp, my Giants gave to me
Seven in the red zone,
Six years for Blackburn...
FOOT... GELS for... Manning!
Four exciting quarters,
Three would even do!
Stick-Um wax for Mario,
and a new friend for right guard Chris Snee.

On the Eighth day of training camp my Giants gave to me
Eight free parking passes!
Seven in the red zone,
Six years for Blackburn...
Four-quarter effort,
Three would be a treat,
Mario on the bench,
and a new tackle next to Chris Snee.

On the ninth day of training camp my Giants gave to me
Nine ladies dancing (What? Sure, I'm a die-hard Giants fan - but I'm still a red-blooded American male!)
Eight free parking passes,
Seven in the red zone,
Six years for Blackburn...
Foot... gels for... Manning!
Four quarters please,
Three would be a treat,
Mario on the bench,
and a new tackle next to Chris Snee.

On the tenth day of training camp my Giants gave to me
Ten bucks a beer!? (new stadium, folks)
Nine ladies dancing
Eight free parking passes,
Seven in the red zone,
Six years for Blackburn...
Foot... gels for... Manning!
Four quarters, fellas!
How about a half?
Mario's fetching drinks,
and a draft trade-up for Bruce Campbell!

On the eleventh day of training camp my Giants gave to me
Meet Leslie Frazier!
Cup o' suds a sawbuck
Nine dames a dancin'
Valet parking passes,
Seven in the red zone,
Six years for Blackburn...
Foot... gels for... Manning!
Four solid quarters,
Three and out on defense,
Man, oh, Manningham,
and a Maryland Terrapin freak!

On the twelfth day of training camp my Giants gave to me
Bye-bye Billy Sheridan!
Meet Leslie Frazier!
Drunk and broke - but happy
Washing off the perfume
Valet scratched my Buick,
Red zone's still a desert,
Chase is the man!
Four solid quarters,
Three and out on defense,
Super glue for Mario -


Posted on: October 18, 2009 9:15 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2009 9:18 pm

Giants Wk 6 Recap: Legitimacy Takes a Hit

Brees exposes & exploits Big Blue secondary; too much, too quickly for Manning to overcome.

 The Giants were left in the dust all day.

I wrapped up a rather protracted preview to this game by stating that "...no matter which team wins, you can be sure the one that loses will be heard from come the playoffs. And that's really what everyone should be looking for in this game - legitimacy."

The Saints solidified their legitimacy. There's no questioning the fact that they've sured up their defense - the secondary in particular - and are now prepared for the long haul on both sides of the ball.

It was obviously a big day for former Giants Tight End Jeremy Shockey who's four receptions for 37 yards including a TD all came within the first 17 minutes of the game. He was fired up, and more than willing to showboat it a bit (along with others on the Saints) in celebration of the debauchery taking place. New York simply had no answer for Shockey, Lance Moore or Marques Colston - there were nothing they could do to respond to the dancing or  jawing. Give credit where credit is due; Sean Payton's team showed up to play today. They viewed this game as a "statement", and they served notice to the rest of the league today that they are top dogs.

When the revelation comes

The Giants secondary was clearly a source of concern for Tom Coughlin heading into this week's matchup in New Orleans.

There's nothing that New Orleans showed today that isn't expected from them week in and week out. Perhaps the team they did it against was surprising, but no one questions the firepower. Drew Brees (20-33 for 369, 4 TD's) was spectacular; even though he got a little help from the sloppy play of Giants safety C.C. Brown and CB Kevin Dockery, his accuracy was perfect and his reads of the defense were on the money.

The revelation for the Giants today is quite simple; the solution however is not. This team's pass defense is in trouble without safety Kenny Phillips (on I.R.) and CB Aaron Ross, who's yet to see the field this season while dealing with a hamstring injury.

Phillips is just a second year player, but there's no way he would have let Robert Meachem catch that touchdown in the second quarter. C.C. Brown was flying in from Meachem's right side and was seemingly in perfect position to make a play on the ball, but inexplicably ran behind Meachem instead of in front of him. A simple read on the pass that should have resulted in a broken play - and could have resulted in an interception - ended up being a touchdown that for all intents and purposes put the game out of reach. Out of reach in the 2nd quarter.

Kevin Dockery (in just his second game back from a hamstring injury) and Brown appeared to be crossing each other up all afternoon; Dockery was fading off his coverage expecting Brown to take over, except Brown wasn't there most of the time. The frustration spilled out following the 3rd quarter touchdown by Colston (who had a monster game with 8 receptions for 166 yeards) - when Dockery turned to Brown with his arms outstretched in a "where the hell were you?" sort of way. The conversation between the two continued on the sidelines afterwards.

Considering the manner in which Drew Brees had picked them apart and demoralized them by the end of the first half, Coughlin has to be concerned about how he's going to tighten things up in the weeks ahead - or at least conceal the deficiencies a little bit. The days of Jamarcus Russell, Matt Cassel & Byron Leftwich are over, boys.

Oh, when the sun refuse to shine

No one expected the Giants to contain Brees or come close to maintaining the 104 YPG average they've built through five games by smothering the talented receiving corps of the Saints. But defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan's plan seemed to admit the fact that they couldn't stop Brees; there was absolutely no pressure on the Saints QB today, giving him all the time in the world to pick and chose his targets. For the most part, the Giants rushed the front four - that was all. DE's Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora could not penetrate from the outside due to the strong play of tackles Jermon Bushrod & Jon Stinchcomb. After the game, Uminyiora said "Pretty much were able to do what they wanted to do. ... If you give him (Brees)and that offense enough time, that's not good and that's what happened today."  

The linebackers dropped back in pass coverage to assist the depleted secondary to no avail. Even when it was apparent by the start of the 2nd quarter that Brees was going to have his way with the passing game, Sheridan stuck with the four man rush. In my view (and granted, I'm no defensive coordinator) it might have been adventageous to send the house a few times and at least get Brees thinking this wasn't going to be a cakewalk. Coughlin said in his postgame press conference, ""I don't know that we ever hit him..."

Revealed today was the fact that Bill Sheridan may not be quite as adept at making the crucial in-game adjustments necessary to give his unit a chance to redeem itself. It's what made former coordinator and current Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo such an essential ingredient in Big Blue's successes over the past three years; the Giants would not have stayed with the same look to start the 2nd half as they did today. They would have blitzed, and blitzed and then blitzed some more. Spagnuolo knew that when something wasn't working one way, it would only have a chance if it was tried another way.

Bill Sheridan needed to pressure the QB today. He needed to recognize that his pass coverage was a 350-lb lineman with greased palms trying to pull himself to the top of a gym rope - and that he needed to make adjustments today. The simple fact is that he didn't. That's fine when you're ahead by 21 points; it's not fine when your down by 21 points. 

When the rich go out and work

As bad as things got today, the offense wasn't necessarily part of the problem. Despite fumbling the ball on a blind-side hit and throwing an ill-advised pass under pressure which led to an interception, Eli Manning didn't play poorly. He overthrew a couple of passes in the early goings; Eli was probably hyped up over the magnitude of the game, as well as being home for the first time as a pro (he grew up just 2.5 miles away from the Superdome). He was still a leader on the field, even when things seemed hopeless. He was animated with Ahmad Bradshaw following his interception, urging him on to recognize the blitz from the defensive backfield and get his head in the game.

Manning has taken some flack for now being the highest paid QB in the league, but he's making an honest effort at earning every dollar of it. At one point in the 4th quarter - when the Giants were down 41-20 - Manning took the snap at the Saints 10-yard line, scrambled out of the pocket and rolled back about 15 yards to avoid the rush of defenders. He sprinted across the field to the left and threw across his body on the run - a dart in the end zone to Brandon Jacobs, who he somehow found nestled amongst a crowd of blue and white jerseys. Had the score not been nullified by a holding call, it would have pulled them within two touchdowns with over 12 minutes remaining.

Oh, how  I want to be in that number

For a team that has been used to landing on the good side of stats and numbers, the Giants were slapped in the face and given a dose of their own serum today. The Saints bested them in time of possesion by almost 13 minutes and won every offensive category in terms of total yards, number of offensive plays, and rushing & passing yardage.

When the scales tip so violently in the oppositions favor so quickly, the 'expected' flies out the window. The Giants could have made this more of a game today but they ran into a better, more prepared team. It's that simple.

The Giants could possibly meet up with New Orleans again in the postseason; as I said at the top of this article, "...no matter which team wins, you can be sure the one that loses will be heard from come the playoffs." This does no more to hurt the Giants chances at taking the NFC East title than a loss to any other team, because we all knew they weren't going undefeated. What it does is give them a golden opportunity to experience the harsh reality of what they're capable of at this point in time when facing an elite opponent. I'm sure that Coughlin, the players and the rest of the coaching staff will not sleep well tonight if at all. "Harsh" is the preferct word to describe their current reality.

Manning was quoted after the game as saying, "It's not the way I imagined it all week, but if you play football long enough you encounter all sorts of games and situations. I look at it as a loss. We need to go back to work this week, fix some things and try to improve." 

To quote the end of my previous blog entry - where I took the liberty of rewriting George Orwell's Animal Farm to suit my personal needs - "All losses are equal, but some losses are more equal than others". This loss is very equal. They are capable of turning this around and grabbing a few more W's before reaching the bye week, but they are going to need to make adjustements - first a foremost with their secondary and overall defensive game planning. 

They have to. "Legitimacy" is on the line. 


Posted on: October 14, 2009 2:39 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2009 2:06 pm

NY Giants Week 6 Preview: Saints of Circumstance

When the first whistle blows, there will be two undefeated NFC juggernauts going toe to toe. When the last whistle blows, there should be no questions asked about the legitimacy of either team.

In case you haven't heard, there's a big game taking place at the Superdome this weekend. The Saints - with their revitalized defense and strong-as-ever offensive attack  - lie in wait with their ears to the ground, waiting to pounce the moment a thundering herd of blue from New York reaches the watering hole...

There are number of interesting storylines attached to this game. There's Eli's Plantar fasciitis, which is a simple case of painful tissue swelling on the underside of the foot. There's deportee Jeremey Shockey - which is a simple case of painful tissue swelling between the ears. There's 5-0. There's 4-0. There's NFC bragging rights on the line, at least until the Giants travel to Minnesota for the last game of the regular season (depending on how the rest of the year shakes out, of course - the Saints do not face the Vikings this season). 

A somewhat overlooked element in this contest is the improvement both teams have made in what were believed to be their weakest areas. The Giants limped towards the finish line last year with no "legitimate" number one receiver, and concerns about their ability to score points and duel with high-flying teams like the Cowboys, Eagles, Cardinals and Saints were more than warranted. For New Orleans, it was their defense; there's no denying the fact that watching the scoreboard at a Saints game last year was like watching the backbox of a pinball machine played by 'Tommy' himself.  Had they been able to clamp down on their opponents to compliment the offensive production, they may have been the odds-on favorite to make it to the Super Bowl.

Fast forward to 2009.

There's lots to like about the 2009 New Orleans Saints, but first and foremost is their improved defense. Veteran Darren Sharper has single handedly turned one of the worst secondary units of 2008 into one of the most feared in 2009. New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has obviously worked well with new CB's Malcom Jenkins and Jabari Greer, but Sharper has been the primary influence, and his presence on the field is unmistakeable - it could turn out to be the best off-season signing of the year by any team.

The Saints currently boast the 6th rated defense in the league, so it isn't the secondary alone that's to credit for the turnaround. Allowing only 83 yards per game on the ground, with 10 sacks through four games against teams with pretty good offensive lines speaks volumes about their play at the line of scrimmage.

The offense continues to shine; despite less-than expected production over the last two games vs. the Bills and Jets, I'm not convinced (as many fans and analysts seem to be) that the Saints are somehow suddenly being "figured out". Rest assured that Drew Brees, Marques Colston and co. are still a force to be reckoned with. When WR Lance Moore is fully healthy again - and Sean Payton figures out why he's not getting Reggie Bush more involved in the game planning - they'll be back to putting a 40-spot on the board.

In regards to the running game, the Saints have one. Mike Bell was impressive the first two games of the season, and Pierre Thomas was equally impressive in the last two - this could be the makings of quite a 1-2 punch out of the backfield for New Orleans.

Imagine what Drew Brees could do with an effective running game?

Just imagine what the Yankees could do if they added Matt Holliday & Jason Bay to their already potent lineup... or just go with the odds that the Yankees will actually sign those two, wait until next year and see it for yourself.  

On the flip side, there's lots to like about the 2009 New York Giants, but first and foremost is their newfound corps of wide receivers. What initially appeared to be a severe void in their offense is now their most valuable resource. Second-year man Mario Manningham is proving that he may, indeed, have been the steal of the 2008 draft. His penchant for bobbling the ball is more than just dramatic flair; his circus catch against Cowboys corner Terence Newman in week 2 was exciting highlight material, but his inability to NOT bobble every pass thrown to him against the Bucs a week later was cause for concern. It goes without saying he's commited to improvement, which is why I'll say it. Rookie Hakeem Nicks has bounced back rather nicely from his week 1 injury to show he's capable of being the big-play threat Eli Manning needs, and Steve Smith has been nothing short of spectacular - playing more like the Steve Smith (yes, the other Steve Smith), and producing even better stats than that Steve Smith is. I think...

In a preseason blog, I called out Smith for letting a 60-yard dart slip right through his hands on a sure touchdown - I think my exact words were, "If Smith (and Hixon) - the team's starter(s) - can't make those catches in a preseason game, what will they do when it really counts? I guess he showed me.

Eli Manning finally seems 100% at ease with his offense, and perhaps those distractions of Shockey and Plaxico Burress were a little too much too deal with week in & week out. He's already built a strong report with these three receivers, and they seem to be just as synced up with him as Burress and Amani Toomer ever were.

The one concern I have is Brandon Jacobs. After their opening game against Washington, I wrote about the hit LB London Fletcher threw on him that would have knocked most human beings into a month-long coma. The funny thing was that Jacobs really didn't seem at all stunned by the hit, though he left the game for a bit and was looked at by the trainers. In the postgame blog, I wrote that "He didn't miss any time, but he never quite seemed the same after that."

Unfortunately, Jacobs still hasn't looked the same. He's suddenly and unexplainably become a very "tackleable" running back. This is not the Brandon Jacobs we've grown accustomed to, and had it not been for the exceptional play of Ahmad Bradshaw this season we'd be finding photos of the Giants running game on the back of milk cartons - "Have you seen this ability?". At some point, Brandon needs to shake off whatever is holding him back - if he's going to go down at the initial point of contact, then he's not very useful. 

And in the end - after extolling the virtues of the successful revamping of both the Giants wide receivers and the Saints secondary, what will this game come down to?

Can Steve Smith get open on Darren Sharper?

Will Manning continue his heads-up, mistake free play?

Can the Giants score from inside the 20's?

Will Pierre Thomas & Reggie Bush run all over the Giants defense the way Marion Barber & Felix Jones did?

Do the Saints have a plan to contain Ahamad Bradshaw?

Can Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora get to Brees quickly enough to force turnovers?

Will Manning's foot hold up for an entire game?

Will Jeremy Shockey be able to control his rage once he realizes that his former team is completely ignoring him and his pissing-match tactics?

Is there enough going on here to get your mouth watering?

Could I write a little more like Pete Prisco?

I make no predictions. I expect this game to be all it's hyped up to be - one for the ages. Or at least "one for" this season. For now, it's the best the NFL can possiby offer - and no matter which team wins, you can be sure the one that loses will be heard from come the playoffs. And that's really what everyone should be looking for in this game - legitimacy. There's enough mediocrity and lackluster play to go around - it's high time that we have more than one or two teams with a stranglehold on the NFL. There's nothing wrong with having seven or eight teams fighting for 'elite' status. 

A loss is a loss, and win is a win. But if I may take liberties with literary greatness, I'll credit George Orwell and say that - as you and I both know... " "All losses are equal, but some losses are more equal than others".

References: TheTimes-Picayune.com, pro-football-reference.com

Posted on: September 28, 2009 2:47 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2009 2:50 pm

New York Fans Have 'Two For The Show'

If you're looking for a backup running back that can single-handedly take control of a game, then look no further than East Rutherford: Leon Washington & Ahmad Bradshaw are #1 and #1A in the NFL

 Bradshaw's proving that 'Fire' can replace 'Wind'.

When the Jets and Giants offenses take the field for their first possession of a game, it's veteran Thomas Jones and 'Mount' Brandon Jacobs who are called upon to get things going. They are fixtures - penned in under all circumstances for the opening drive on gameday, and have earned those roles the hard way. Their presence in the backfield is unquestioned; their contributions are worthy of praise and their commitment to victory is always apparent. Each back brings something to the table that forces opposing defenses to plan around and prepare for, and over the past few seasons they've been instrumental in the level of success their organizations have attained. They get the attention and focus, and are expected to start the engines.   

But what happens if that engine begins to sputter? When the flames turn blue and begin to flicker - and the most subtle breeze threatens to extinguish what's left of the fire - fans of these New York teams have grown accustomed to seeing their leading men take a back seat while their understudies come in and stoke the furnace to get the engines chugging again.

In reality, the term understudy is not an entirely accurate description. An understudy is someone who learns the entirety of a lead performer's role so they are able to replace that regular performer when/if required. When looking at the roles asked of the Jets' Leon Washington and the Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw, it's obvious - they have their own parts to play, and in many respects they are stealing the spotlight from the leads. And their head coaches wouldn't have it any other way.

Leon Washington earned the tag "game breaker" right off the bat; the 117th overall pick in the 2006 draft, Leon began turning heads in the '06 preseason with his speed and agility on kick returns. At the time, the Jets had signed Kevan Barlow away from the 49ers as the heir apparent to Curtis Martin, who had just retired. It didn't take long for Washington to outshine his lead performer, and Jets fans immediately recognized him for the threat that he was. Against the Detroit Lions in October, Washington racked up over 120 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns in a 31-24 victory. He would prove dangerous in the passing attack later on that year with over 100 yards through the air against the Miami Dolphins on Christmas day. He wrapped up the year as the team's rushing leader, and despite taking a back seat to Jones the following season has been a force to be reckoned with ever since - giving opposing defensive coordinators and special teams coaches fits in preparing for him. 

Ahmad Bradshaw's rise to prominence came a year later, having been drafted as the 250th overall pick out of Marshall in '07. Unlike Washington, Bradshaw's career started with less fanfare and more trepidation on the part of his coaching staff. His preseason performance was lackluster, prone to fumbling on kickoff returns and struggling to find open running lanes. Veteran Reuben Droughns began the 2007 season as the kickoff returner, but the aging Droughns started to show signs of slowing down and his abilities were quickly deteriorating. That - combined with injuries to Jacobs and Derrick Ward - gave Bradshaw the opportunity to show his stuff. His was given his first significant role in a game against the Buffalo Bills on December 23rd - and responded with 151 yards rushing on just 17 carries, including an 88-yard TD where he shot through the line like a missle and sprinted all the way to the end zone untouched. His team leading 42-yards rushing in Super Bowl XLII and heads-up recovery of an Eli Manning fumble further increased his stock. Despite losing 60-days worth of training camp heading in to the 2008 season (spent in Abingdon Regional Jail for violating probation for a juvenile charge), he worked his way back into shape and led the Giants in yards per carry with 6.7 for the season, being the third man on the totem pole in the "Earth, Wind and Fire" trio of running backs. 

Bradshaw is currently leading the Giants in rushing with 201 yards (5.7 per carry), despite touching the ball 23 fewer times than starter Jacobs. This past Sunday in Tampa Bay, Bradshaw did what Jacobs could not; find the open lanes and make defenders have to work at dragging him down. Even though the Giants dominated field possession, the game clock and every offensive statistic possible, this could have been a very different game if Bradshaw was not there to keep the clock ticking and the chains moving. 

Washington - despite being knee deep in a contract dispute - is the good soldier who puts his head down and does his job. He continues to be the x-factor for the Jets - and even though his performance this past Sunday against Tennessee was subdued in comparison, who can forget last years matchup in Music City when the Jets rolled to a 34-13 victory over the undefeated Titans? Washington ran for 83 yards on just 8 carries, and his 61-yard TD dash in the last quarter turned out to be the nail in the coffin. Whatever the details of his contract dispute are, it's hard to imagine that someone as valuable to his team as Washington is could be asking for anything more than he rightfully deserves.

This is not in any way meant to diminish the talent of other quote-unquote backup running backs in the league; some of the more valuable 2nd stringers like Mewelde Moore (Pittsburgh) and Darren Sproles (SD) have been clutch for their teams. And yes, there are other backup RB's out there such as Dallas' Felix Jones and New Orleans Pierre Thomas who have shown amazing ability off the bench and on special teams. But they haven't dominated games. They haven't been out there standing head and shoulders above the other 21 players on the field; like a solitary sailboat in an endless blue ocean, you fixate on the boat because there's really nothing else for you to look at.  

These are two prolific athletes. They may be backups on the depth chart, but they are second to none when it comes to the intensity and passion they spill all over the gridiron. In a day and age where leaders need to lead both statistically and emotionally, it's nice to know that there are two young men here in the Apple that have the same potential to do what players like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson and Randy Moss can do - that is, to hoist their temmates up on their shoulders and offer them a ride.

The fact that they come out of nowhere to do this makes the experience that much sweeter. 

Every team is in the same boat; they trust their captains and sail the NFL seas with confidence in their crew. But every once in a while, things can slow down and goals become harder to reach than first thought. When spirits are low and someone needs to step up, Leon Washington and Ahmad Bradshaw seem to provide the gusts needed when the sails are up.

References: pro-football-reference.com, nfl.com

Posted on: September 27, 2009 5:43 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2009 8:21 am

Trampled Bay

Earth, Fire & Weather too Hot for Bucs to Handle as Big Blue Rolls Bucs 24-0

 Ahmad Bradshaw led the way with 104 yards

This past week, coach Tom Coughlin threw down the gauntlet.

Despite being fresh off the heels of a big divisional win on the road in Dallas, Coughlin challenged his team to show up in Tampa this weekend prepared to prove to him that the effort displayed last Sunday night was just a fluke, and that they could control the running game on both sides of the line. He wanted to see his defensive line shut down former teammate Derrick Ward and the rejuvinated Cadillac Williams - and the offense to regain it's form and command with the ground attack that led the NFL just a season ago. Coach Coughlin should leave Raymond James stadium this afternoon with a sense of relief and pride in the fact that his linemen responded on both counts, even it's due in some part to the uninspired play of the Buccaneers.

As if the heat brought down from Coughlin's ultimatum wasn't enough to deal with, temperatures on the field were a blistering 100+ degrees by game time. It was all just enough to ignite the running game; Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs combined for 196 yards - with some extra sprinkled in by rookie Gartrell Johnson and QB Eli Manning - to rack up 226 yards on the ground this afternoon as the Giants buried the lifeless Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24-0.

Eli Manning didn't have to do that much in today's game; he threw two touchdown passes to Steve Smith and Sinorice Moss (his first catch of the year) and was able to keep himself from trying to hard to squeeze passes in where they shouldn't be. The second TD strike to Moss was the one that put them up by 24 and iced it for New York. Backup David Carr was brought in off the bench with just under 12 minutes left in the game, which gives you an idea of what a stranglehold the G-Men had on this contest.

The defense did their share by limiting the Bucs to a measly 86 yards of total offense; QB Byron Leftwich will be waking up in a cold sweat all night dreaming that he's about to get knocked to the ground again. Despite not regisgtering a sack in the game, the front four of the Giants were able to penetrate the Bucs o-line at will, which resulted in numerous ill-advised throws by Leftwich (one of which was intercepted by cornerback Terrell Thomas). In the fourth, Tampa head coach Raheem Morris brought in 2nd year QB Josh Johnson in lieu of the ineffective Leftwich. Johnson appeared to bring a bit of a spark to the Bucs offense, and was able to thread the needle a couple of times despite prettu tight coverage by the Giants secondary - which continues to play well despite missing the services of starting cornerbacks Kevin Dockery and Aaron Ross.

Johnson - who Morris had referred to as his "permanent backup" to either Leftwich or QB of the future Josh Freeman - may need to get a little more attention from the coaching staff in the weeks ahead if Tampa plans to be part of a postseason race. He engineered the only substantial drive of the game for the Bucs, and even got them down to the Giants 5-yard line. He must have been pretty jacked up at the opportunity to score, as all four of his passes sailed high and fast, over and through, his receivers.

In the end, this was a solid effort from the Giants. They beat a team by 24 points they should have beaten by 24 points, and regardless of gameplans or ineptitude, it's difficult to shut down any professional ball club for a full 60 minutes. Next week, Big Blue travels to Kansas City for their third straight road game to take on the 0-3 Kansas City Chiefs - who just had their dorrs blown off by the McNabb-less, Westbrook-less Philadelphia Eagles. Manning and company will need to keep their heads on straight and take it one game at a time, as the week 6 showdown at the Superdome against the seemingly unstoppable Saints looms larger and larger as a potential matchup for NFC conference dominance.

It's not work that kills... 

By now, it's apparent that the active members of the Giants secondary have been reaping the benefits of the work they've put in through preseason and at practice over the past couple of weeks. It's clear that defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan has spent a lot of time with newly acquired C. C. Brown, rookie Bruce Johnson and the rest of the defensive backfield to fill the void left by the injuries to Aaron Ross and Kevin Dockery.

With news breaking this week that sensational 2nd-year safety Kenny Phillips will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury, this group will have to work even harder to maintain the cohesiveness shown over the first three weeks of the seaon. 2nd-year CB Terrell Thomas seems to be putting things together; he's getting to the ball much faster than he had last season, and his open field tackling is much improved. With the steady & reliable Corey Webster being the veteran and de facto leader of the group, the Giants could be doing a lot worse.

... it's worry.

Is it too soon to start worrying about Brandon Jacobs?

Ever since absorbing that massive hit at the hands of Redskins defender Albert Haynesworth in week 1, Jacobs has not looked like the same back. Since the 2nd half of that game, Jacobs has been prone to being dropped on the first or second touch of a defender, which is very unlike him. His downhill running style and propensity for bulldozing defenders is clearly lacking; his physical dominance is just not there right now. He doesn't seem slower, he doesn't appear to be "hurt" in the traditional sense. He just seems to be going down too easily. Fox commentator Tony Siragusa said it perfectly during today's game, "Brandon isn't utilizing his size to his advantage. He needs to start creating holes instead of waiting for holes to open up." Yeah, Tony. We know. That's why I hope it's too early to worry about him.

Offensive tackle Kareem McKenzie injured:

McKenzie was injured during a Lawrence Tynes field goal with just under six minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. He limped off the field and remained on his back for quite some time while trainers examined his right knee. Later he was taken to the locker room on a flat bed for x-rays. No reports were available as of this writing, but let's just say it wasn't looking very optimistic. Guard Rich Seubert also left the game in the third quarter with an apparent right shoulder injury, but remained on the sideline with a wrap and didn't appear to be in much pain. McKenzie and Seubert - along with David Deihl, Shaun O'Hara and Chris Snee - currently lay claim to the longest active streak for offensive lines in the league, with today being the 34th consecutive start for the team of five. Rookie William Beatty would most likely take over the duties at tackle should McKenzie miss any significant time.
Posted on: September 22, 2009 12:23 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2009 12:24 pm

Life with Coherence, Interference & Perseverance:

Mario Manningham, 'Apocalypse Now' & Temporary Relief

You didn't quite expect it... so when it actually happens, you don't know how to respond.

Anyone familiar with the old HBO comedy series Dream On can relate to my perpetual state of being, and the pop-culture references my brain will conjure up to find parallels between real-life goings on and my favorite movie or TV moments my conciuosness has sopped up over the years like an electronic wave decoding sponge. This was the case on my way home from work this past Friday, where it happened to me again; and usually, two collected thoughts will not stand alone in the rattling cage between my ears without at least a third slipping between the bars... when somehow a busy weekend on the horizon melded with The New York Giants receiving corps and the film Apocalypse Now.
Does this at all sound familiar? It's been a long week at work, you're beat. You just want to relax at home and be left alone. But of course, there's a wedding that night that you're already late for - for a couple you don't know or really care for, and surely you won't know anyone else who's attending so you'll become quite friendly with the bartender very quickly. Then there's that "project" in the yard you've avoided all summer should be done Saturday morning because in the afternoon you have to drive the kids to dance class and a soccer game. Later on it's a birthday party at "Toss-A-Cookie" or another of the quaint little inforr playgrounds where the screams of children could drown out the sound of an CH-46 Sea Knight flying overhead. And don't even consider resting Saturday night because you just found out you're hosting the in-laws for dinner.

Sunday is the day to "finally clean out that storage room", fix little odd and ends and "discuss" your family budget (and why you have to stop spending money - don't you have enough XBOX 360 games?) . You'll try to catch some NFL action between here and there but you know you'll be lucky if you can catch a few radio minutes in the car on your way to-and-from the hardware store. Of course, you'll only hear the end of the pregame show, then the end of first quarter break and some mindless banter to fill time while the trainers help some special teams guy off the field - never once giving a score. You park, open the front door and Disney Channel is on your television. The only thing harder than pulling a guy away from a tv when football is on is taking back control of the remote when your kids are watching High School Musical 3: Sing Along version for the third time.

This is what you have to look forward to as you park in front of your house. First you scrape the curb with your tires a few times, then you get the angle just right. Turn the ignition off to the auxiliary position - because whatever blah-blah is on the radio is enough of an excuse to keep you in the car for just a few more minutes. Delay the inevitable.

Then the vision... I suddenly turn into Dream On's Martin Tupper... and now I'm Martin Sheen... I'm Captain Willard in one of my all-time favorite cinematic classics Apocalypse Now...

As if the voices punching through my speakers and getting absorbed into the seat upholstery were G.D> Spradlin and Harrison Ford themselves...  I start walking to the front door as the walkway takes on the shape and feel of the Nung River running up into Cambodia. 

My overly talkitive and extremely uncomfortable next door neighbor is wearing a cowboy hat; standing at an angle with both hands on his hips, he couldn't care less that I'm not even listening to him as he begins to run through his list of crap he's got going on this weekend. He's Colonel Kilgore... he's shirtless, and he's wearing that stupid hat and I'm not listening to a single word he says.
Why? Because the jungle thickens and the sunlight begins to disappear as I make my way to the front door... Pretty soon I'll be in the house.

Colonel Kurtz is waiting for me. I can visualize the conversation already.

"Hey honey - I'm home"

"...Are you an assassin?"

"I'm... I'm your husband."

"You're neither. Your a grocery clerk. My hired hand for the weekend... who's going to miss the Giants game on Sunday"

"Umm, no? I told Lance that if I wasn't back at the boat by sundown to call in the air strike..."

"What are you talking about? Who the hell is Lance?"

"Never Mind. Did we get mail? I need reading material, have to hit the bathroom . Be out in an hour or so."

You walk in, put your bag down... there's a note on the table.


Well, well, well... I grab the spatula out of the drain and whack myself on the forehead... nope, not dreaming. 

"C'mon! That never happens!". Of course it doesn't, but it's nice to dream isn't it?

Now we come to this season's New York Football Giants, and the . Much like an wide open, no strings attached weekend that's just been thrust upon you, you start to feel relieved; you have nothing to worry about, and you sit there wondering how lucky you are. Why? It's not because you have this weight lifted off your shoulders, or that all the things you've wasted precious time stressing about have apparently vanished into thin air.

No, the most amazing thing is that you never thought you'd live to see the day.

So what do you do? How do you harness this new-found zest?

Right - you don't. Why? Because you and I both know you'll spend the entire time wondering when the phone will ring.

"Hi, It's me  - the kids were bored so they wanted to come home. Let's have a GARAGE SALE on Sunday!!"  

"Well, I uh..."

"Super - how does noon to 6 sound? We can invite my family over for dinner afterwards. Wanna Barbecue?"

Lets look at what we know so far about the Giants:
Eli Manning - despite a pick and a few ill-advised throws - has been as close to perfect as one could expect, and as always he's cool and comfortable when the clock is ticking down and the game's on the line.

Except for the injury to Justin Tuck (thanks to the normally disciplined Flozell Adams), the D-Line is in tact and better than ever. The Secondary is doing a decent job despite missing the services of Aaron Ross and Kevin Dockery - thanks largely in part to the outstanding play of safety Kenny Phillips, who is pushing through despite a knee injury. "Earth" and "Fire" will get untracked soon enough.

No Toomer, No Burress... no problems at wide receiver. Mario manningham has been a revelation, already beginning to look every bit like the "steal of the draft" as many referred to him following his 3rd round selection in 2008. Steve Smith has remained mr. consistent, and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride is smartly utilizing him as a slot receiver, where he's most comfortable. It's only a few games, but the roles of these two playerws are starting to materialize and define themselves within the game plan, and Eli Manning seems confident in their ability to make the plays they need to.

But when will that phone call come? 

Will the dream be shattered? When will the big drop occur? When will these two seemingly reliable receivers become the "number 2's" everyone has tabbed them as? The New Orleans Saints in week 6? Next week against the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Maybe. Maybe not. This is unfamiliar territory for both Eli and for the receivers.

Regardless, here the Giants are at 2-0, off to another solid start under coach Tom Coughlin. The boat is creaky and the river is wide as it is murky. Up the river we go to face our destiny - Manning is driving the boat, Coughlin is our confident yet strict captain Willard, and Manningham is surfing the waves while Plaxico Burress is locked up tight in a bamboo cage in the rain, waiting for someone to offer hom a drag off their cigarette in the form of a second chance in the NFL. What will this 2009-2010 mission into the darkness of the jungle, the unpredictable nature of a 16-game season, have in store for the men in blue?

Nobody knows. This is a different this season, and a different set of circumstances. In the end I think the only two things I could ever hope for - a free weekend all to myself, and an enjoyable season from the Giants that I can walk away from with pride - whether it be in December or february. As guarded optimism goes, I'm stocked up. 

For now, all I have is a house full of sleeping children and a sleeping wife. The lights are all off except the flicker of the televison, and I've just stumbled upon Apocalypse Now already in progress. The darkness of Colonel Kurtz's lair is lit only by the hazy sunlight splitting through the mouth of the cave. A tired, broken Captain Willard sits with his head dangling in defeat, while Dennis Hopper's popped up, deranged photo journalist rambles on about anything he can wrap his mind around. As I listen to Hopper's voice cut the soupy air like a buzz saw, I hear the scripted words that all football fans can relate to in thinking about how they DON'T want history to remember their team's 2009-2010 season:

"This is the way it ends, man! Not with a bang but with a whimper. And with a whimper - I'm f***ing splitting, Jack!"

Posted on: September 21, 2009 1:08 pm

Mann to Mann, NYG Lucky to Escape Big-D with "V"

Super Mario Shines again as Giants spoil Cowboys Hope Opener, despite more Red Zone Woes.
 Manningham had 10 catches for 150 yards on Sunday night.

This is an excerpt from my post game blog last week following the Giants 23-17 win over the Redskins:

"Something happens to this team's offense once the field in front of them shortens to 60 feet or less...they rarely take that huge bite out of the opposition and gobble them up."

"... Coughlin and Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride had better address this quickly. Without an established big-play wide receiver, they still lack that legitimate "knockout punch". If they continue to squander red zone opportunities to the tune of 6 points per three trips, they will continue to find themselves hanging on for dear life at the end of games in which they've clearly outplayed their opponent."

In light of the events that took place in the newly crowned Xanadu of sports mecca's - where New York was outgained in rushing by 154 yards and failed to score a touchdown in five Red Zone trips - I stand by that statement.

The brightest spot of the night was - no, not the ridiculously large HD TV dangling above the field - the continued emergence of WR Mario Manningham as Eli Manning's new #1 man. Manningham is showing terrific poise under pressure, and a keen sense of when he needs to break from the route and make himself available to bail out his QB. Between Manningham and Steve Smith (both of whom caught 10 balls in the contest - a first for any pair of Giants receivers in a single game in franchise history), Manning has found himself in a much better position than anyone would have expected at this early point of the season.

If head coach Tom Coughlin's "Green Zone" is more akin to a barren stretch of antarctic ice bed, then the area that lies between the opponent's 20-30 yard lines must be the "Hot Zone". It seems to be the only portion of the opposition's field where Eli can connect with receivers past the goal line - as proven by his 22-yard scoring strike to Manningham in the 2nd quarter, and his other 22-yarder to Smith in the 4th. In five trips inside the Dallas 20, Lawrence Tynes provided the only points with four field goals. He also provided a scare by missing a 29-yard chip shot to close the first drive of the 2nd half that would have put NY up by 6.

The Giants running game was practically non-existent, gaining all of 97 yards on 26 carries. The real spark plug was once again Ahmad Bradshaw, who didn't have quite as good a game as many have come to expect since taking over the #2 spot on the depth chart. The Dallas defense really clamped down on the line of scrimmage and was succesful in taking away the running game from the Giants, who's normally stout offensive line was unable to plow any openings for Brandon Jacobs. Bradshaw's ability to deak oncoming defenders out of the backfield provided a much needed boost at times (more often than not creating 'something' out of 'nothng'), but it was Dallas' Marion Barber and Felix Jones who dominated the ground game.   

The Cowboys offensive line was able to stave off the front four of the Giants, and with the quick & elusive team of Barber and Jones running their counter attacks all night, linebackers Michael Boley (the former Atlanta Falcon making hs first start with the Giants), Antonio Pierce and Chase Blackburn had all they could handle just trying to keep up with them. In addition to the phenomenal run blocking, the Dallas O-Line provided plenty of time & protection to QB Tony Romo, who did everything he could to hand this one to his opponents by throwing two inexcusable interceptions - one that landed right in the cradle of rookie CB Bruce Johnson that went 37-yards the other direction for a touchdown. In fairness to Romo (something I never imagined I'd say), LB Antonio Pierce showed a little veteran savvy just before Romo took the snap by recognizing the play and calling an audible to pull his secondary off the line to drop back into pass coverage. 

An ugly duckling...
Dallas lineman Flozell Adams tripped up Giants DE Justin Tuck in the 3rd quarter as Tuck made a bee line for Tony Romo deep in Dallas territory. While no one can fault Adams for wanting to protect his QB, the trip resulted in Tuck spending the rest of the game in an arm sling - watching from the sidelines. Initial x-rays were negative, and hopefully further tests this week don't reveal any damage. Adams actions could be tolerated for this one instance, but he tried the same thing later in the game on Osi Umenyiora, who was only playing in his second game since missing all of last season.

... graceful as a swan.
Mario manningham
 had another terrific TD catch: as he curled around behind CB Terence Newman, he bobbled Manning's pass as he fell backward in the end zone. Manningam had the wherewithal to keep his eye on the ball and reign it in while on his back to secure the score. And a less than 100% Kenny Phillips also proved to be as sharp as a tack with a heads-up play of his own, when an incomplete pass to TE Jason Witten bounced of his heel as he kicked up happened to bounce right into Phillip's gut before hitting the ground. Phillips was not awarded the TD he thought he'd scored, but the Giants did retain possesion upon review.



Posted on: September 13, 2009 9:34 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2009 10:19 pm

Giants Win Opener Old Fashioned Way:Predictably

Defense Stifles Campbell & Company 23-17; Some "Ware" & Tear, "Nicks" & Cuts Suffered.

The Giants took the season opener at the Meadowlands on Sunday with a 23-17 victory over division rival Washington. In typical fashion - in what appears to be their M.O. when facing the Redskins - they did just as much as they needed to for the win. Nothing more, and nothing less. For all intents and purposes, this game should have been a blowout. The Giants dominated the clock and their offense moved the ball at will... that is until they reached the "green zone" as Tom Coughlin refers to it.

Eli was 'Eli' - sharp as a knife in most situations, while thick as a brick in others. As we've come to expect, Eli threw the occasional ill-advised pass that can leave you scratching your head; for the record, Manning had two of those moments today, and luckily only one of them was intercepted. The beefed up Redskins pass rush - complete with newly acquired $100 million-dollar monstrosity Albert Haynesworth - definitely made their presence known as Eli took a number of shots in the backfield that he will be feeling in the morning. Manning managed to connect with 7 different receivers, which you should try to get used to since you'll be seeing a lot more of that approach to "spreading the wealth" this season.

The running game sputtered at times, but on the whole it did it's job. Brandon Jacobs appeared to injure himself in the first quarter when he took a pass over the middle and was caught by surprise as he turned up the field, where he was stopped dead in his tracks after being absolutely hammered by LB London Fletcher. Jacobs sprang up quickly, but was attended to by team trainers shortly thereafter (they seemed to be looking at his wrist). He didn't miss any time, but he never quite seemed the same after that. Ahmad Bradshaw led the way in rushing yards, and really gave the Washington defense fits at times with his "start-stop-start" motion and agility out of the backfield.

The most significant occurences in this game were the loss of two potentially key offensive contributors. Danny Ware - the newly annointed "Fire" in the "Earth, Wind & Fire" trio of running backs was lost for the day right out of the gate when he dislocated his left elbow on the opening kickoff. In the 4th quarter, rookie WR Hakeen Nicks caught a 7-yard pass but had his left ankle rolled on by - you guessed it - London Fletcher during the takedown. Nicks emerged from the tunnels later in the quarter wearng a boot to reports of a sprained ankle. X-Rays were negative, but Nicks will have an MRI this week to check for damage to the tendons or ligaments in what could be an awful blow to this offense should he miss any significant amount of time.   

The more things change...

While Steve Smith led the team with 80 receiving yards and a stellar over-the-middle grab in the 4th quarter, it was WR Mario Manningham who opened some eyes today by showing flashes of being that big-play threat we though he was when he was drafted out of Michigan two years ago.

His 30-yard touchdown catch along the sidelines in the 2nd quarter not only displayed his ability to remain focused in tight coverage, but it showed his awareness of where his feet are as he danced along the white stripe in spinning away from CB DeAngelo Hall and side stepping the incoming safety LaRon Landry before sprinting towards the end zone. While there's a long season ahead - and a lot of experience to be gained - Manningham seems comfortable in the offense, and appears one hundred-percent healthy.

...the more they stay the same.

Offensively, New York had four possessions inside the Washington 20-yard line in today's game; they came away with two Lawrence Tynes field goals and a turnover on downs on a failed 4th & 1 attempt from the 3-yard line.

Something happens to this team's offense once the field in front of them shortens to 60 feet or less; they begin to play "small ball" if there is such a thing in the NFL. I don't know if that's an appropriate use of the term, but it seems to apply to perfectly to the Giants mentality and approach to reaching the end zone once they hit the 20 yard line. Nibble off a few yards here, shave a little yardage off there - but they rarely take that huge bite out of the opposition and gobble them up.

This is something the Giants had struggled with all of last season, and Coughlin and Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride had better address quickly. Without an established big-play wide receiver, they still lack that legitimate "knockout punch". If they continue to squander red zone opportunities to the tune of 6 points per three trips, they will continue to find themselves hanging on for dear life at the end of games in which they've clearly outplayed their opponent.  

Defensively, the run defense was solid as always. Osi Umenyiora was certainly a sight for sore eyes. In his first game since suffering a knee injury (and the surgery that followed) during the preseason game against the Jets last year, he batted the ball out of the hands of Redskins QB Jason Campbell in the 2nd quarter - then scooped it up and bolted 37-yards for the score.

Without the services of cornerbacks Aaron Ross and Kevin Dockery, the secondary looked very thin. With the exception of the stellar job Corey Webster did covering WR Santana Moss, there was plenty of room for the Redskin receivers to gain chunks of yards after the catch. Newly acquired safety C.C. Brown did not look good out there; he's either still learning his role in the secondary or he's just that noticeable a dropoff from starters Kenny Phillips & Michael Johnson. Either way, he showed very little in preseason and needs to step up his game.

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