Posted on: November 13, 2008 11:39 am
Edited on: November 14, 2008 12:26 pm

Giants running game vs. Ravens rushing defense

King Kong vs Godzilla

What will happen when the Irresistible Force meets the Immovable Object this Sunday at the Meadowlands?

I have this vision in my head I can't shake: Brandon Jacobs being flown in by helicopter a-la "Operation Dumbo Drop" to the summit of Mt. Fuji, where awaiting his arrival - clenched teeth, fists securely on hips and head held high - is Ray Lewis. Jacobs is released from the harnesses and plummets to the ground, rolling as he lands to break his fall and taking cover behind a large boulder. Lewis begins to stomp towards the boulder when Jacobs grabs his legs from behind and the battle begins. Fire, lightning, and a whole lot of destruction ensues as the two rumble their way down the mountain and drag each other through the Atami Castle and crash into the Pacific Ocean. 

Anyone who's been around long enough to remember the epic battle that occurred in the climactic scene of Ishiro Honda's 1962 movie "King Kong vs. Godzilla" can relate to the story above. It's a ridiculous vision, but it's the one I have - my reoccurring theme whenever a much anticipated game is on the horizon that has a story line such as this one.  

The Baltimore Ravens have had the most dominating rushing defense in the league this season, allowing opponents a measly 67 yards per game. When Baltimore ceremoniously dismantled the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, the Ravens defense was considered to be one of the best NFL fans had ever seen; at least since the days of Buddy Ryan's '46' of the Chicago Bears in the mid '80's. In the four seasons following that Super Bowl, Baltimore's run stopping ability struggled at times, but was still formidable (their worst ranking was 13th in 2002). But over the last three years, Coordinator Rex Ryan (Buddy's son) has roused the dormant beast - and the resurrection of  the Ravens defense is complete. His 3-4 scheme is thriving with such talents as Terrell Suggs, Bart Scott and of course Mr. Lewis. Ryan's squad finished 2nd in the league in run defense in 2006 & 2007; they're currently 1st in the NFL as they travel to New Jersey this weekend. Their travel companions are a 2.8 yards per carry average and a shot at sole possession of first place in the AFC North (they're tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who host a desperate San Diego Chargers team). 

The Giants - as an organization - have always placed more emphasis on the running game than the passing game. From the dissapointing Doug Kotar, Larry Csonka &  Bobby Hammond era of the mid 1970's to today, New york has fixated on the ground attack. It served them well in later years with the likes of Joe Morris, O.J. Anderson, Rodney Hampton and Tiki Barber. But what we've seen from the Giants backfield since the latter part of last season is an entirely different beast. It has three heads, and every head has it's own unique talent. Combined with a Pro-Bowl caliber offensive line that's opening holes to the tune of 169 rushing yards a game, the Giants are 1st in the NFL in rushing offense this year with 1,520 yards and a 5.2 average per carry.  Brandon Jacobs is 4th in the league with 806 yards, which is impressive when you consider he's 12th in the league in rushing attempts.

Ray Lewis and the Ravens will not be the only obstacle the Giants have to overcome on Sunday. A successful Giants' ground game will be reliant on the energy level of an offensive line that's been through the ringer the past three weeks. Three weks ago they faced James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and the Steelers. That contest seemed to take a lot out of them, because the Dallas Cowboys registered four sacks on Eli Manning a week later, which is the most they've allowed in a single game so far this season. They rebounded last week against the always physical and sometimes nasty play of the Philadelphia Eagles (not that there's anything wrong with that... it's a divisional game, both teams were ticky-tack), allowing just one shot on Manning while Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw ran for a combined total of 219 yards.

You have to wonder how much gas is in the fuel tank, at least for this week's game. I have no doubt that the o-line is primed for the long haul. They're a stable, solid unit that is firing on all cylinders. Had the schedule makers constructed things differently - if the Giants last three games were against the Rams, Seahawks and 49ers for example - confidence in their energy and readiness would make this an even matchup. The reality may be - and Giants fans need to be prepared for this possibility - that the o-line has no more than a punchers chance in this one. It will take a herculean effort for them to get the job done on Sunday. Fortunately, these are the five guys who can do it if anyone could.   

King Kong & Godzilla's battle raged into the Pacific Ocean, as I previously mentioned. At the end of the film, Kong comes out of the water and pounds his chest before swinning off into the sunset toward his home on Faro Island. You're left to wonder what happened to Godzilla. Did Kong defeat him? Is Godzilla dead? Did he slip away, retreating to safety so he could live to fight another day? We already know the answer to that one - 40 years of lesser quality sequels (everything's relative) proved that Godzilla was not done, not by a longshot. Gojira - as the japanese call him - would be back as a force to be reckoned with for a very long time, wreaking havoc on evil monsters all over the eastern hemisphere.  

Whatever the outcome of the Ravens/Giants game on Sunday, I have a suspicion that the loser will be heard from later in the year and live to fight another day, a force to be reckoned with.


movie info source - Barry's Temple of Godzilla: www.godzillatemple.com ; statistical source: sportsline.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/

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


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