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Tag:cowboys
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: August 6, 2009 7:48 pm
Edited on: August 7, 2009 2:57 pm
 

"10" Reasons for $97 Million

                               "Manning Up" for the QB   
   

For all those opposed, don't worry; your guy will get his.
And his contract will be bigger than Eli's (having Eli to thank for it). 
            

Let's get one thing straight right now... Eli Manning is by no stretch of the imagination as talented, battle tested or proven as his older brother (even though he'll be paying the dinner checks from now on) or Tom Brady. He lacks the raw tools and athleticism of Drew Brees. Many will argue he's not as gutsy, talented or tough as Ben Roethlisberger, Donovan McNabb or Tony Romo either.

Here's my take on six years and $97 million: He's worth every penny. Why?

1. Because he's managed to avoid flipping over his motorcycle handlebars and crashing head-first into a windshield. He's also avoided getting wrapped up in a rape accusation. Perhaps luck plays a big part in that. I'll take someone who makes their own good luck.

2. Because his face appears in 'Oreo League' Ads, Toyota & Reebok commercials, as well as fundraising campaigns for The Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Phoenix House, The Red Cross and his own cause - The Eli Manning Children’s Clinics. And because he doesn't appear on the covers of Star Magazine, People, OK, US and The National Enquirer - or as a weekly stunt on TMZ.com - about how he's dumping 'this' pop-star girlfriend for 'that' actress girlfriend or 'the other' who's-that-girl girlfriend.

3. Because he has yet to openly display contempt for teammates or his coaching staff - regardless of whether he's agreed with them or not. He's never once complained about the lack of having a legitimate "number one" reciever (since the only one he's ever had has either been less than 100% healthy, serving a suspension or in bed recovering from self-inflicted gunshot wounds).

4. Because he has arguably put up with more scrutiny and criticism than any other QB in the NFL today without being able to use age, racial discrimination or injuries as a "crutch" - and as much by his own fan base than that of the rest of the league, despite popular belief. On the contrary; the last name 'Manning' has been nothing more than a mountain this guy has had to climb since the day he was drafted.

And Every one of the other Quarterbacks mentioned above - talented and deserving, one and all - will eventually sign bigger and better contracts than the one Eli just signed. Sans McNabb perhaps; unfortunately for Donovan, father time might have something to say about that.  

And when that comes to pass - for most in the NFL universe - the stars will once again be aligned as they should be. "Shoot - if he's making that much? You just know I gotta be worth THIS much..."

For now, the Giants Organization will simply enjoy the eclipse. And try not to look directly into the balance sheets.


By the way - here's the other 6 reasons he's worth every penny: 


5. January 2nd, 2004 - Giants 28, Dallas 24.
With Big Blue down 24-21 with just 11 seconds left in the game, Rookie QB Eli Manning comes to the line and looks at the Dallas defensive alignment. He pulls up from under center and audibles. In subsequent press conferences, coach Tom Coughlin will admit that a pass play had been called for - which Dallas must have anticipated. Instead, Eli hands off to Tiki Barber, who scampers three yards up the middle for a touchdown.

6. October 23rd, 2005 - Giants 24, Broncos 23.
Manning's first monsterous regular-season comeback victory. For the second week in a row - and the third time in the 13 starts in his career - Manning engineers a victory out of the jaws of defeat on the final drive of the game. With the Giants losing by 13 with 12 minutes left in the game, Eli spearheads - not one - but two touchdown drives, and Big Blue pulls out the improbably victory at the Meadowlands on an Amani Toomer game-winning score with 5 ticks left in the 4th quarter.

7. September 17th, 2006 – Giants 30, Eagles 24.
This was a huge 4th quarter performance for #10. Down 24-7 at the start of the fourth quarter, Manning engineers his biggest rally - and has the best statistical game of his career (31 for 45, 371 yards, three TDs) - to tie the game with a field goal drive in the final seconds. A 31-yard pass to Plaxico Burress late in overtime sealed the victory - with two Eagles defenders bearing down on him and knocking him flat on his back just as he released the ball.

8. December 2nd, 2007 – Giants 21, Bears 16.
With their season slipping away, the Giants trailed 16-7 before scoring twice in the final 6:54. Manning shakes off three awful quarters of football by throwing a 6-yard touchdown pass to Amani Toomer
to cap a 75-yard drive and close the gap to 16-14. After a Bears punt, Manning executed a 77-yard drive - including a 24-yard pass to David Tyree and a 15-yarder to Plaxico Burress that put the ball on the 2 - which culminated in a Droughns TD run with 1:33 remaining.

9. January 13th, 2008 – Giants 21, Cowboys 17.
This technically was a fourth-quarter comeback, but not really. No matter, as Manning connected on two TD passes to Amani Toomer, and steered an early 4th quarter scoring drive that proved to be the game winner (trailing 17-14, Brandon Jacobs’ stumbled into the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run just over 2 minutes into the fourth quarter). Manning’s best moment was the touchdown drive in the final seconds of the first half. All of a sudden, Tony Romo went from being the next great QB of the NFL to a great big question mark; Vacations with girlfriends and sobbing wide receivers aside, Eli Manning played well enough to leave his cleat marks on the backside of the Dallas Organization - which would have been the most any Giants fan could have hoped for coming into the 2007 season. That is, until... 

10. February 3rd, 2008 – Giants 17, Patriots 14.

Down 14-10 with 2:39 to go against the 18-0 New England Patriots - with NFL immortality on the line and all the decks stacked against him - Eli Manning took over on his own 17-yard line… 


 "OK Eli... tell me right now. What did you do with your brother's contract?"






Posted on: December 16, 2008 11:31 am
Edited on: December 16, 2008 2:24 pm
 

NY Giants: What Are We Witnessing Here?

Mediocrity Exposed, or just missing Lynchpins? 

           

For the road to Super Bowl 43 to pass through East Rutherford, Big Blue needs two healthy bodies and one clear-minded leader to face Carolina this Sunday.

It was evident from the first snap Eli Manning took; DeMarcus Ware bolted from the left side untouched and plowed into Eli, knocking the ball loose (recovered by the Giants) and creating a 2nd down & 19 situation. That is not how this Giants team starts games. Or at least, it wasn't.

The Giants had an opportunity on Sunday night to all but seal the deal for themselves - a first round bye and home field throughout the playoffs were not guaranteed, but were more realistic than irrational reach when John Carney booted the opening kickoff in Irving, Texas. Defeating the Cowboys in their final visit to Texas Stadium would have been the cherry on top of what has been a season more successful than even the most ardent fan could have imagined. Alas, victory wasn't in the cards - and Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg may become a fitting symbol for the defending Champions who are now displaying a less egregious, but more demoralizing form of self-injurious behavior... One lands you on the DL with a suspension; the other gets you a plane ticket and hotel accomodations should you be fortunate enough to make it to the NFC Championship.

Give credit where credit is due. The Cowboys took care of business at home against a division rival, and they need the victory to stay alive for the postseason. They're defense continues to get healthy and improve, getting more aggressive as the season rolls along. Though receivers Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith showed a lot of toughness and fight, losing tackle Kareem McKenzie to an injury and guard Rich Seubert to an undisclosed illness for the second half did the Giants in as they couldn't get the running game established. In the end it was the eight sacks on Manning and the overall inability to sustain drives that made the difference in the game.

In last year's season opener in Dallas, Manning suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder. Luckily he didn't miss any time, as the injury wasn't serious enough that he couldn't play through it. As a Giants fan, hoping that Manning would emerge unscathed from the piles of white jerseys was the hardest part of getting through the entire game on Sunday. Hats off to Dallas - no one should question their talent or legitimacy regarding the playoffs; Tony Romo was back behind center and was not going to give up - regardless of the amount of pain the Giants' pass rush inflicted on him. 

While the past two games against the Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles were dissapointing, there's as many reasonable excuses to point towards as there are unreasonable ones. Mediocre teams don't pull off an 11-3 record in the NFL by sheer luck; meaning, the Giants are not mediocre. They are what their record says they are, and despite the past two weeks and the Burress situation had a very impressive string of victories against solid opponents heading into week 14. Some of what we're seeing with the Giants is obvious. No matter the circumstances, Philadelphia was hell-bent on leaving the Meadowlands with a victory two weeks ago, and Brian Westbrook was the project manager. 

Was it the distractions of week-long headlines about the Latin Quarter, New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Antonio Pierce that derailed the Giants against the Eagles? It certainly had an affect on them. But then what about their performance in Dallas? Did Tony Romo's presence make that much of a difference? Even in the two regular season games the Giants lost to them last year, they played with more intensity and managed to stay in the game until the end. On Sunday, the difference was alarming; the 7-3 lead the Cowboys held for most of the game felt like 27-3. So what has happened the past few weeks to keep the Giants from being competitive against these teams?

Three answers: Fred Robbins, Brandon Jacobs, Antonio Pierce.

Every team in the NFL will suffer their share of losses, injuries and off-the-field turmoil. The Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals have proven that some will suffer more than others (check out the Bengals blog by fellow member IGetNoRespect for a well written, heartfelt look at the rash of injuries his team has experienced).  As the 2008 NFL season got underway, the Giants had their own issues to cope with. Michael Strahan retired, Kawika Mitchell and Gibril Wilson - two main cogs in the defensive gears - were lost to free agency, K Lawrence Tynes suffered and leg injury, and Super Bowl hero David Tyree ( their best special teams player ) was put on the PUP list. Then the most devistating of all: losing Osi Umenyiora for the season to a torn lateral meniscus in a preaseason game with the Jets. This was a lot to overcome for the Giants, and to Tom Coughlin's credit they've managed to do just that. The underlying concern has been how they would do if hit with a few more injuries to key positions. In the Giants case, it could take a potentially elite team and render them quite ordinary, All the depth in the world couldn't change that. 

Now we come to the crux of the Giants current state, which is that the wheels are beginning to wobble a bit. Check the lynchpins. 

I'll begin with Antonio Pierce. Pierce is the captain and emotional leader of the new "Crunch Bunch" (a little nostalgia for inspriration - I used to have a poster with Lawrence taylor, Harry Carson, Brad Van Pelt and Brian Kelly wearing hard hats sitting on top of a bulldozer). But Pierce has found himself on the outside looking in; standing around the pile-ups as opposed to being buried in them, and watching backs and tight ends run past him instead of being taken down by him. Here is what I wrote following the loss to the Eagles back on December 7; it's eerily applicable to his performance in Dallas, and I see no reason to alter my commentary of Pierce's performance two weeks ago, while offering it up as somewhat of a bullet point (no pun intended) for future consideration: Antonio Pierce is playing this (Plaxico Buress situation & overall distraction) 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... He was caught out of position quite often, and over-pursued on many of the plays out of the backfield... I'm curios to know if anyone else thinks that Chase Blackburn should have taken over for him at some point... He just seems out of it.

Now let's take a look at Brandon Jacobs. The loss of Jacobs is something the Giants offense can deal with when playing less physically overbearing opponents. However, the Eagles and Cowboys are anything but pushovers; both teams have stout, quick defensive lines that pride themselves on physical domination at scrimmage. What has made the Giants running game so efficient is the 1-2-3 combination of Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw. Community member Jimmy the Greek might appreciate the culinary references I like to attribute to Earth, Wind and Fire:  I call them TenderizeMarinade and Cook. Jacobs is the Tenderizer - he pounds you, pulverizes you until your soft and malleable. Ward comes in at this point and gives the offense a little flavor; a little spice to liven things up and provide some zest. Once Bradshaw enters the game, it's time to cook the meat - and the Giants like it "well done". That's the game. Have you ever tried marinating a steak fresh out of the freezer? It doesn't work, does it... well, without Jacobs there to punish a few defenders, the running game doesn't work either. Not against the like of Dallas and Philadelphia anyway.

Finally, the underrated defensive tackle Fred Robbins - the unknown soldier. Robbins has been nursing an injured shoulder for a month. Over the past three weeks, Robbins sat out the Redskins and Cowboys games, and played sparingly against the Eagles. Jay Alford has been filling in for Robbins and while he's done a fine job, does not have the strength, size or experience that Robbins has. In tandem with fellow defensive tackle Barry Cofield, Robbins wreaks havoc in the middle of the line, bottles up runners and forces them to the outside where Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka can either run them them down or allow the linebackers to track them as Tuck & Kiwanuka rush the QB. Clinton Portis was pretty much shut down in large part because of nagging knee injuries; and with Cowboys guard Montrea Holland out, much of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's success in pressuring Tony Romo was a result of mismatch opportunities against Cory Proctor. But don't think it's gone unnoticed that Tashard Choice & Brian Westbrook gained the majority of their rushing yards straight up the middle of the field. In fact , 22 of Westbrook's 33 carries against the Giants were right up the gut, and with the exception of his 30-yard TD run, his 10 carries to the outside only garnered 11 yards. Tashard Choice's blast right through the heart of the line for his 38-yard score further emphasizes the point that Robbins' presence on the field is sorely missed. 

We'll know a lot more as information is released about the Giants infirmary as the week progresses, but it's not overstating it to say that a healthy Brandon Jacobs and a healthy Fred Robbins are a must for the upcoming matchup against Carolina.

And Antonio Pierce having his head in the game wouldn't be the worst thing either. 

Lynchpins. They don't look like much, but they keep the wheels from falling off.

Posted on: December 10, 2008 2:25 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2008 2:30 pm
 

A Good Old Fashioned Wild West Shootout

 "The Searchers" vs. "True Grit"


     

 

After crushing losses, it's a showdown in Big D for two teams and their slingers.

Hey, there. I hope you don't mind me being wamble-cropped. I got a little barrel fever and some backdoor trots after drinkin' that rot-gut last night at the saloon. Say... d' ya hear about the big showdown on Sunday? Yep - right down the road in Dallas, no lie. Gonna be raisin' some cain that night! Why don't ya have a seat by the fire for a little Blarney...

Them city slickers are coming to town, led by the one they call "the stranger" - except this ain't no ordinary stranger. The hometown folk of Dallas have heard tales of bravery and grit about the stranger, who with his gang rides across the country as I speak, making their way to Big D to take on their beloved blue starred sheriff. Now they've heard it said the stranger from the east claims to be the best there is after taking down the biggest, baddest gunslinger there ever was - "Kid Brady".

It happened in Glendale, Arizona - 'bout 700 miles west of Big D - and despite takin' on a couple of uppish varmints from Philly and Cleveland, ain't nobody drawn first and gunned this stranger down. It's been a tight scrouging for the stranger; challenge upon challenge from every tenderfoot with a pistol and a box of bullets... but more often than not the stranger walks away with a clean choke strap and not a wrinkle on his bat wings, while the others are carted off to the marble orchard. 

Now this ain't the first time we've run into the stranger, no sir. Why... we were around his parts not too long ago but the sheriff, well he was a little under the weather... had a little trouble with his trigger finger, you understand. He's alright now but he better be ready come the showdown. The stranger ain't no bunko artist, but that don't mean he can't beat ya. Injuries & retirements, even self inflicted gunshot wounds haven't derailed the stranger and his gang of city slickers. And pretty soon the desert dust will kick up through the fussed dark, where the stranger from the east will emerge - slickers behind him all the way. 

The blue starred sheriff is the target, and by Sunday evening the stranger will stand alone on one end of main street -  his shootin' hand dangling at his side, fingers wigglin' n' waiting to grab that old rackatee when the sheriff comes out to face him from the other side. You'll know the stranger when you see him; he'll be the quiet one rigged up on the bangtail he was riding between hay and grass. That bronco's name is True Grit.

But what of the sheriff? Well... he's a flannelmouth, I'll give him that. He's a dabster with the dames and a devil on the draw; He plays to the gallery and plays second fiddle to no one... and you can bet your gold rib wrenches he ain't gonna let no stranger from the big city ride into town thinkin' he's jimmying a bull in Big D. There's a lot of tradition in Dallas, particularly when it comes to the job of being sheriff... There's been some mighty fine ones throughout the years - some high-falutin' types, and some that kept their Justin's up and they're hair case over their eyes - but every one of them would brisk up when it was time for a showdown. 

But until recently, the folks in Big D had thoughts of hangin' up their fiddles; it had been quite some time since the law in these parts wasn't just putting a spoke in the wheel. But while some of his predecessors have been left for buzzard bait, this new sheriff keeps on fightin' and keeps on the win. When the town folks pinned that shiny blue star on this one, they saw the potential for a revitalized city - a restoration of respect for the name "Dallas" - that people across the nation would again look upon with admiration.

The sheriff - he's got oates, that's for sure... but the citizens of Dallas are still waiting for the rock. And you can't buy the rock with oates. These folks are dyed in the wool, true to their sheriff and his men. What they want now is for the one with the blue star to keep them from goin' up the spout, and seeing those city slickers knocked galley-west would be the first step. They're fair to middlin' with this lawman, and mad as hornets that they might get the short end of the stick if the sherrif and his men aren't packin' iron when the stranger and his gang pull into town.

So for the sherrif, the target is the stranger... and by Sunday evening the sherrif will stand alone on the other end of main street -  his shootin' hand dangling at his side, fingers wigglin' near blue lighnin' as he stares down the stranger waiting on the other side. You'll know the sherrif when you see him; he'll be the bull with the boyish smirk on his bazoo, wearing the star they gave him that represents everyone in the town he serves. Those folks are known as The Searchers.

Well, thanks for listenin' to me ramble like that. I'll tell ya one thing... when it's over, it's gonna take the starch out of one of those boys. I can hear them spurs jinglin' now...

 


 An apropos tidbit for Terrell Owens: Pop Your Corn is old west slang, meaning "to say what you have to say, speak out"

old west terminology & slang reference: legendsofamerica.com

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/
10752270/11517623

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: November 5, 2008 2:33 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2008 12:44 am
 

New York Giants 2nd Quarter Report Card - Offense

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 Defense & Special teams report cards: http://www.sportsline.com/mcc/blogs
/entry/10752270/11536496

At the halfway point of the season, the Giants are 7-1 and find themselves on top of the very competitive NFC East. Despite Monday night's lackluster performance against the Ben Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington (6-3) is going to be a force in the division along with Philadelphia (5-3) and Dallas (5-4), who is crackling with anticipation at the likely return of QB Tony Romo just in time to save their season - and potentially a few jobs. 

Most pundits, analysts and commentators have declared that as many as three of the four NFC East teams should make the postseason. The road to the NFC East Title, however, is paved with land mines and pockets of quicksand. Make no mistake about it - that's the road these four teams are going to be looking up on 'MapQuest'. The land mines are the divisional matchups taking place between now and December 28th - 7 games between the four teams to be exact - waiting to pick each other off one by one as they head towards January. Anyone who suffers a blow by tripping one of those landmines will undoubtedly find their way into a pocket of quicksand - in the form of a crushing defeat at the hands of non-divisional teams such as Arizona, Minnesota or Carolina - that will seal the deal for them and shut the door on a playoff berth. These obstacles, trap doors and explosives are merely tests - tests that impact the final regular season grades these NFC East teams hope propell them into the postseason. 

With these tests looming straight ahead, there isn't much study time. Not enough time to go over everything there is to know. The big midterm exam for the New York Giants is this Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field. The first half of the year has shown us where the strengths are, and where the areas of concern might be. This is a crunch-fest - a good ol' fashion cramming - a time to have faith in what's worked consistently (what we know) and focus more on what hasn't worked consistently (what we don't know). Grades of "A" or "B+" signify what the Giants should feel comfortable in answering correctly, but a grade of  "B" or below means they need to crack the books if they hope to lock down a playoff spot.  

 

OFFENSIVE LINE:  A  ( last quarter - A+ ) Masters Seubert, Diehl, O'Hara, Snee and McKenzie - This unit continues to be the backbone of the team. The successes of the defensive line are more glamorous, more noticeable; the D-line and O-Line have contributed equally to the teams' ability to control the battle of field position and time of possession week in, week out. The Giants have slipped to 2nd in the league in rushing offense (behind Atlanta), but by only 6 yards with 26 fewer rushing attempts. New York still leads the league in average per rush, and are 2nd to Baltimore with 72 rushing 1st downs. They have also provided excellent pass protection; despite giving up four sacks to Dallas last week, they're ranked 5th overall having only allowed 10 sacks on Eli Manning in 8 games. Philly will be the third tough matchup in a row for this O-line - it will be interesting to see how they perform.      

QUARTERBACKS:  B  ( last quarter - A ) Eli Manning was sporting a 99.7 passer rating after the first four games, with 6 TD's and 1 INT. He's since dropped 10 points in rating, down to 89.7 and has 6 TD's and 4 INT's over the last four games. Whereas manning appeared to be seeing the field better and not telegraphing his passes early on, he started off this grading period with a bad outing against Cleveland (which accounted for 3 of his 4 INT's) and an unimpressive performance against San Francisco - where he was lucky he wasn't picked off three more times. Of course, the disruptions of the Plaxico Burress situation haven't helped matters. In Cleveland - the first game following Plaxico's suspension - it was very obvious that Manning was forcing the ball to Burress, which was a mistake. Last week against the Cowboys, Manning's sideline pass intended for Burress was intercepted for a TD by Mike Jenkins. Just as obvious was the sense that Burress broke his route and expecting Manning to follow his lead downfield when it was too late. The dropsies have also plagued certain Giants, most notably Burress along with FB Madison Hedgecock and Brandon Jacobs out of the backfield. But drops and distractions aren't to blame for Manning's questionable performances - his ability to scan the field and avoid throwing into danger is. Since he was able to play with more focus and awareness in the Pittsburgh & Dallas games, it looks like he may be moving in the right direction. Let's see what happens in Philadelphia.  

RUNNING BACKS:  A+  ( last quarter - A In the 1st quarter report card, I made the statement that it's hard to determine sometimes how much of the actual work Earth, Wind and Fire does, and how much of it is a byproduct of the ability of the Giants O-line. As the season moves forward the running backs and the line will get tired; a few more bumps and bruises with emerge. Brandon Jacobs has been the workhorse for the squad carrying 66 times for 300 yards (4.5 YPA) with 4 TD's in the last four games, and has taken the bulk of abuse from opposing defenses. That said, the contributions Derrick Ward has made to the offense has been arguably the most valuable. In that same 4-game span, Ward has 39 carries for 220 yards (5.6 YPA) with a TD, but added 12 receptions for 120 yards. The difference in their running styles, speed and skillset has kept opposing defenses on their heels. Jacobs still needs to improve his nose for finding the gaps, as he still tends to run directly into piles from time to time. The reason for the increase in grade to A+ has more to do with Kevin Gilbride's recognition of this tandem's possibilities; their ability to remain effective at their roles without fighting for playing time, and the impact it has on the offense as a whole.

RECEIVERS:  B+  ( last quarter - B )  Mr. Burress will be held accountable for his own actions, and will no longer affect the grade for the rest of the students. Therefore he will be graded seperately from here on out. 

Stop the presses - there's been a Kevin Boss sighting. In the last two games, against their toughest opponents, Boss has 7 receptions for 64 yards. Whether they kept him on the line to hone his blocking skills or he's simply running crisper routes, Boss is starting to rebuild that report with Manning they had during last year's playoffs. Steve Smith has become the primary target for Manning with 21 receptions for over 200 yards in the last four games. While the yardage might seem low, it's due to Eli spreading the wealth to include other's - like veteran Amani Toomer (who seems to make at least one incredible catch every week), Derrick Ward, Domenick Hixon and now Boss. The weak link for the passing game is the backfield (minus Ward). Jacobs and Hedgecock have combined for 8 catches and 9 drops. 

Plaxico Burress: D-  Plaxico is a disruptive young man who is pushing his coaches and teammates to the point of no return. Since his last report card Plaxico has run poor routes, missed a mandatory therapy session, has yelled at both his head coach and quarterback on the sidelines and has had very little overall impact on the offense with the exception of demanding defensive respect by sheer virtue of his presence. Here's the cold, hard fact: The Giants don't need Plaxico as badly as once thought.

Would they, I, and every other Giants fan prefer to have Plaxico? Absolutely. Would his loss be devistating? Maybe, maybe not... his skills and raw talent, his toughness are all undisputed. His route running ability -  once his strong suit - is now questionable. They need a receiver like Plaxico Burress, but they don't need this. How long will Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese continue to put up with his tirades and dismissal of team policies? If the Giants continue to win while Burress averages 30 yards a game, it won't be for long. Besides, Mario Manningham is waiting in the wings to take his place in more ways than one.

 

Stats courtesy of sportsline.comnfl.com

 

Posted on: November 2, 2008 9:50 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2008 10:28 am
 

Recap: Giants 35, Cowboys 14

D-Town Beat Down

No Romo, no cornerbacks, no contest as Giants roll to 7-1

 

For those who sit in the red and blue seats of the Meadowlands, a matchup with the Cowboys can churn up both the glow of optimism and the worst of anxieties. From a Giants perspective, you couldn't have asked for a better outcome; from the first possession it was clear that the Giants were not going to look past this game to next week's prime time matchup with Philadelphia. The running game was back in top form, as the three-headed monster rumbled for 200 yards and averaged 5.9 yards per carry. The defense picked up where it left off last week in Pittsburgh, swarming the pocket and making life miserable for the Dallas quarterbacks (yes, I said quarterbacks) while the secondary continued it's penchant for nabbing interceptions. And despite some Eli Manning turnovers, the passing game was sharp - especially in the red zone.

What's lost in this victory - at least from the point of view of a Giants fan - is the sheer satisfaction of dominating the Dallas Cowboys. It's no secret to either fan base the hatred each shares for the other organization. And yet a 21-point victory left very little above and beyond the "W" itself and the assurance that the Giants are playing as sound and complete a game as they ever have. Because a 35-14 victory against this Cowboys team is not necessarily fun. Against this Cowboys team, that sense of guarded optimism was put aside to allow that brash confidence to shine through - and the Giants delivered. This Cowboys team is truly lost. Lost without their heart and soul - #9. Lost without a defense that feels obligated to tackle and huslte. Lost without a head coach that doesn't drip with self-loathing each and every time his team takes another penalty or his quartbacks throw another pick. Dallas is obviously counting the seconds until the return of Tony Romo; one must question whether #9 even has enough to offer what his team clearly needs.

The Giants mapped out this game from the first possession. A 6:13 opening drive capped off by an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kevin Boss to put New York ahead 7-0. On the drive Manning was 5/6 for 63 yards, including a 22-yard bullet to Plaxico Burress (3 for 34) into Dallas territory that set them up for the score.

Brad Johnson managed to get Dallas to the Giants 25-yard line with a 28-yard completion to Roy Williams. On the very next play, Johnson looked to Terrell Owens over the middle but was intercepted by Corey Webster, who spun off of Owens and drifted towards the sideline, gaining 57 yards on the return down to the Dallas 27. Brooks Bollinger was now warming up on the sidelines and huddling with Jason Garrett - the change everyone was waiting for was not too far away. A little over two minutes after the Webster interception, Manning hit wide receiver Steve Smith (5 for 29 on the day) on a 5-yard touchdown to give the Giants a 14-0 lead. However, Eli Manning's next two drives would not go as well as his first two.

Early in the second quarter, Manning followed a delay of game penalty (that damned play clock again) with a fumble; while whipping his arm back to pass, he let it slip out of his grasp, untouched. DeMarcus Ware pounced on the loose ball to give Dallas possesion at the Giants 16. Two plays later, Johnson (5 of 11, 71 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT) threw over the middle to Terrell Owens for what should have been a completion. Owens (5 for 36) was popped by Antonio Pierce and Kenny Phillips, which popped the ball out of Owens grasp and onto the turf. Safety Michael Johnson recovered the loose ball to give possession back to the Giants at their own 6 yard line. After three Brandon Jacobs carries for 13 yards, Manning threw a quick shot short right intended for Burress that was intercepted by Mike Jenkins who skipped 23 yards into the Giants end zone for the score, cutting the Giants lead in half 14-7. On the play, Eli was clearly expecting Plaxico to turn left at the line and wait for the pass, but Burress shot between the defenders waving his hand in a "hit me deep" motion - kind of tough to do when the QB is already in throwing motion. Burress could be seen on the sidelines jawing at Manning; Eli had his back to him looking to the sky with sort of a "whatever, dude"  look on his face. Manning would eventually hit pay dirt again, finding Amani Toomer over the middle for an 11-yard touchdown to give the Giants a 21-7 lead at halftime.

As expected, Brooks Bollinger started the 2nd half for Dallas. His numbers were slightly more respectable (9 of 16, 63 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) but he wasn't any better off than Johnson in the pressure department. The Dallas offensive line collapsed time after time under the Giants front four, lead by Justin Tuck (2.5 sacks) and Mathias Kiwanuka (1 sack). Bollinger's second pass of the day was intercepted by James Butler, who ran it back 9 yards to the Dallas 19; two plays later, brandon Jacobs 12-yard run gave the Giants a 28-7 lead. 

Bollinger clearly provided the arm strength Wade Phillips had been longing for, and even led the 'Boys on an impressive 8:24 drive that culminated with a nice 8-yard TD pass to Terrell Owens to again trim the Giants lead in half, 28-14. The Giants would get those 7 points right back on the next drive. Brandon Jacobs topped the 100-yard mark for the third time this season with a 31-yard run (Jacobs finished the day with 117 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown). Derrick Ward took over at this point and carried the load on a 9-play, 67-yard drive that he finished off with a touchdown of his own to make it 35-14, Giants.

NOTES:

*A crack in the Dam? The normally stalwartly Giants offensive line allowed 4 sacks against Dallas - the most in a single game so far this season. While their run blocking remained superb, they struggled on passing plays and had trouble picking up the blitz at times.

*Butler's tangled web: Safety James Butler left the game in the third quarter with a sprained knee and didn't return. To add insult to injury, Butler - who appeared to be smiling and joking with the trainer - tripped himself up at the mouth of the tunnel as he headed in to the locker room, getting his cleat caught in the goal post netting. He tumbled forward, having to brace his fall on all fours as the trainer freed his foot from the entanglement. No word yet whether that fall exacerbated the injury.

*Ba-ba-ba, Ba-Barber ran... into a brick wall. The Giants defense was strong against the run again today, holding Marion Barber to just 54 yards on 19 carries. Barber's longest run of the day occurred in the 2nd quarter for 21 yards - which means his remaining 18 carries went for 33 yards.

*Where's Witten? Dallas tight end Jason Witten played the entire game despite suffering from a broken rib. No telling how much the rib limited him, but he finished the game without a single catch. Witten has not gone without at least one reception in a game since 2004. Perhaps the quarterback situation had a little something to do with that as well.

*17th nervous breakdown: Since returning from his 2-week suspension, Plaxico Burress has a 4-game streak going: four consecutive games where he's caused problems for his team:

1. In his return against Cleveland, he seemed to forget his routes and could not sync up with Eli Manning 

2. Against the 49ers his choice remarks towards the officials (following an admittedly weak offensive pass interference call) cost them a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. His tirade spilled over to the sidelines; Tom Coughlin yelled to Plaxico "What the hell are you doing?", to which Burress appeared to respond "Whatever the f--- I want to" along with a few more explitives.

3. Against Pittsburgh, he watched from the bench for the first 19 minutes of the game. This because he felt therapy for his neck injury wasn't necessary and decided to blow off his scheduled session on Saturday morning. Burress claimed he was unaware the treatment was mandatory.

4. Today against Dallas, Burress called an audible after the snap and blew off the designed play, resulting in an interception for a score. Then went after Eli on the sidelines.

Plaxico doesn't get it and never will. The Giants don't need him that badly. Yes, they need Plaxico - his height, his hands, his toughness and his route running ability. But they don't need this. Shockey learned that in training camp, and you wonder how long Coughlin and GM Jerry Reese will continue to put up with his crap. The Giants continue to win games while Burress has averaged 35 receiving yards per game. Heck, Sinorice Moss and Mario Manningham can put up those type of stats. Too bad Plaxico doesn't get that.

 

Posted on: November 2, 2008 1:42 am
 

NY Giants "Things To Do" list for Sunday Nov. 1st

I apologize for the late entry on my weekly "Things To Do" article. Long story short, I was horsing around with my kids when my hand slipped and I smacked my chin on the floor and two teeth bit clear through my tongue. I just got back an hour ago - I'll save you the gory details. After 5 hours in the emergency room explaining how "I bih mah gung" and a few stitches from Dr. Christian "Is it safe?" Szell, suffice it to say that extra hour of sleep tonight couldn't have come at a better time. Plenty of "liquid snacks" for the big game tomorrow, and I'll be good to go for the postgame blog.

1. The "Marion" man - There's no need to remind Justin Tuck who keeps the Cowboys offensive engine running: "It escalates it - Especially with a quarterback like Brad who's not as mobile. If you can get Barber off early in a game and establish that running game, that doesn't allow third-and-long situations to allow us to get after the quarterback. Obviously he's our No. 1 focus."  DT Barry Cofield had this to say about Barber: "He's still a special back, but I think he runs even harder now than he did in college. It's like he has a bigger chip on his shoulder now than ever. He's just so physical, it's like he seeks out contact, seeks out the hits, wants to prove he can run through everybody. I think he may think it's a macho situation the way he runs."

2. Get physical with the wideouts - Conventional wisdom says that Marion Barber will get the Lions share of the workload tomorrow. But Brad Johnson will be expected to throw the ball at some point, and both the Browns and Steelers showed that three-step drops and quick passes can be effective against the Giants secondary. Combined with Johnson's inability to throw the deep ball anymore,his #14 has been imprinted all over the field the past two games - getting sacked 8 times by two teams that haven't had great success getting to quarterbacks this season. Dallas will want to keep Johnson upright by going with quick passes and letting the receivers do the work. Aaron Ross and Corey Webster should be lined up closer to scrimmage and chucking Terrell Owens and Roy Williams within the 5-yard  zone to disturb their routes as often as possible.

3. Let it fly: attack downfield - Recent matchups between these teams have been high-scoring affairs. Through good times and bad, Eli Manning has generally had success throwing the ball against Dallas. With the Cowboys secondary either injured (Anthony Henry and Terence Newman) or suspended (Whack-man), Manning should be able to get sufficient protection from his offensive line to find open receivers against rookie Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick. Second year player Alan Ball is expected to be used in Nickel packages. With Dallas' offensive firepower at an all-time low, the last thing they want to do is get into a shootout.

 

Justin Tuck & Barry Cofield quotes source: NY Post - "Giants Know Barber Will Make Cowboys Go" by Paul Schwartz

 

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