Posted on: December 28, 2008 12:39 am
Edited on: December 28, 2008 9:27 am

NY Giants "Things to Do" list for Sunday 12/28

The three R's of preparing for the Playoffs.

For the Giants, Playoffs begin in two weeks. Defending the title? That begins Now.

Despite the fact that the Giants have wrapped up home field advantage and a first round bye in the post season, it's not likely that Tom Coughlin will approach Sunday's game against the Vikings conservatively. That's not to suggest that Coughlin wouldn't - or shouldn't - rest a couple of key players to give them an extra week of much needed recovery time. There's enough depth on this team, particularly at running back and on the defensive line, that affords Coughlin the opportunity to outright sit a couple of players, limit the playing time of a few others, and still maintain a full head of steam as Big Blue goes for their 13th win of the season.

The Giants may face Minnesota in the playoffs a few weeks down the road. For that reason alone, a convincing victory Sunday against this Minnesota team - that must win to guarantee themselves a playoff appearance  - is important. It would send a strong psychological message right to their thought process. A convincing victory with many of their first-string players wearing baseball caps - instead of helmets - would send a strong emotional message to their hearts. Either affect goes a long way... the Vikings are a solid team that's had the Giants number in recent years.

Besides, "taking it easy" down the home stretch is not how Coughlin operates. Historically, he's never pulled back the reigns. "You can't play like that," said veteran wide receiver Amani Toomer. "You never know who you're going to play, so we're not going to hold anything back. That doesn't seem like how Coach (Tom) Coughlin would play the game."

Offensive lineman David Diehl agrees. "I think you just do what you have to do to win the football game, regardless. Don't get me wrong, there's little different things you can do here or there. But we are who we are. This is our 16th game. We've shown what we do."

"I hear things like we have everything locked up and all this nonsense, but we still have to go out and play well," added Chris Snee. "If we go out and take a step backwards, it doesn't make sense to me. We have to keep that winning feeling."


THINGS TO DO LIST for Sunday 12/28


  RB Brandon Jacobs    DT Fred Robbins

Fred Robbins returned to action last Sunday night after a fairly significant layoff due to a shoulder injury. The good news is that he looked strong and healthy, while the not-so-good news is that he wasn't nearly as effective stopping the run as he normally is. He will play some to get reacclimated and work on his rhythm, but they should replace him at some in the first half with Jay Alford. Though he played last week, scored three touchdowns and was effective in spots, Brandon Jacobs is still nursing two sore knees and should be riding the pine this Sunday in Minneapolis. The closest he should get to the field is when bringing some water to Derrick Ward as he comes off the field. Ward will get the start in the backfield, but will likely give way to Ahmad Bradshaw for the majority of the second half. I don't doubt that Brandon could play if he had to, but the reason to sit him is two-fold. His knees are one reason...

 DE Jared Allen

... is the other reason. Let's see... Matt Schaub. Aaron Rodgers. Kyle Orton. I won't go as far as to call Allen out as a cheap shot artist (as many in the media have), but I'll say that late hits, low hits and injuries seem to follow this guy around. Allen is the kid you knew in school that you couldn't quite put your finger on; he could be fun to hang out with and seemed friendly enough - but trouble always seemed to find him and you never felt 100% comfortable in his presence. Heck, I'd go as far as to say the Giants should play straight two tight end sets and have three guys keeping strict tabs on Allen to make sure he's got a white jersey on him at all times. Which brings me to item #2 on the list...


  QB David Carr

Coach Coughlin will go all out for the win. That's fine with me, as long as he does so with Carr in the second half.

and Recycle

 WR Mario Manningham

Second year receiver Steve Smith had a very similar season last year to the one Manningham is having this year. Not so much in terms of grasping the offense and understaning the playbook, but more so regarding the nagging minor injuries and lack of playing time leading into the final weeks of the season. Smith had 1 catch for 8 yards the entire season heading into the week 17 matchup with the New England Patriots. He caught 3 balls in that game for 27 yards, and while he may have turned a few heads and had some - like myself - saying "Hey, the kid looks pretty good", nobody could have predicted how those extra reps would help him become a key contributor in the postseason. When I watch the game Sunday afternoon, I want to see Manningham get some serious playing time. I want to turn my head and say "Hey, the kid looks pretty good."


Player Quotes source: NY Daily News

Posted on: November 24, 2008 12:34 am
Edited on: December 28, 2008 9:06 pm

RECAP: Giants 37, Cardinals 29

And the Beat Goes On...


Without Jacobs or Burress, Manning takes control; Domenik Hixon's 261 all-purpose yards lead the way in Giant Victory

The Arizona Cardinals viewed this game as a "statement" game. At 7-3, they could wrap up an NFC West title with a win over the Giants. What better way to announce both the arrival and legitimacy of your team by beating the defending Super Bowl Champions - at the very stadium where they shocked the world just 10 months ago?

If you were a Giants fan tuning into the game just before kickoff, it might have been a bit surprising to find Brandon Jacobs in street clothes. There was speculation that Jacobs may sit to rest his swollen knee, but the reality of that 6'4", 264 pound bulldozer wearing less gear than his head coach began to sink in as Derick Ward was warming up along the New York Giants sidelines for his first start of the season. After the first Giants offensive series, wide receiver Plaxico Burress was held out for the remainder of the game with an aggrivated hamstring. Without their most dominant runner and arguably most important receiver on the field, the Giants once again controlled the flow of the game and made a statement of their own. That statement was "10-1", with a 37-29 win over the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, AZ.

The Cardinals were extremely pumped for this game, since they had put so much emotion into what the outcome would mean for their eminence within league circles. The intensity they brought to the field in the first half visibly affected the Giants' normally "flaccid" reactions to opponent celebrations or taunts. In the first half, center Shaun O'Hara was flagged for unnecessary roughness, and Amani Toomer was called for unsportsmanlike conduct; both penalties were the result of releasing frustration over the physical nature of the game to that point.

Much like the Eagles game two weeks prior, the final score doesn't indicate the control defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and his defense had over the Cardinals offense. He did a phenominal job for the better part of three and a half quarters in keeping the monsterous tandem of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald in check. WR Steve Breaston was the Cardinals second leading receiver as a result; as fellow blogger Yanks1in99 had pointed out earlier this week, you have to pick your poison with Arizona. Because the secondary was effective in shadowing the two main guns, Breaston often found himself in one-on-one coverage. Kurt Warner worked the formula that had seen success against the Giants defense in other matchups this season; quick drops and quick releases on crossing patterns. Warner surpassed the 300-yard mark for the fifth straight game; but with the exception of a late TD pass to Boldin with just over four minutes remaining in the game, the majority of his 351 yards were between the 20-yard lines.

Two important assignments I had hit on in my "Things to Do" list for this game were carried out. First was the need to get physical with Boldin and Fitzgerald at the line of scrimmage. My take on this was that Safeties Kenny Phillips and Michael Johnson would be backing up Aaron Ross and Corey Webster, and couldn't allow the underneath completions to turn into huge gains, since Boldin and Fitzgerald make their living by yards after the catch. Proof that the Giants carried out Steve Spagnuolo's decree today of allowing "no more than 4.0 yards after the catch" was cornerback Aaron Ross' four penalties, including hands to the face, illegal contact and pass interference calls where he locked arms with who he was covering. Fox color analyst Daryl Johnston noted, "You need to be physical with these receivers, and have to expect to take a few of these calls against you". The star of the Giants secondary was rookie Kenny Phillips; he was sent in on a number of blitzes after Warner and was spot on in his coverage all day. In one of the best defensive plays I've seen this season, Phillips broke up a sure touchdown in such a heads-up manner that makes you wonder why defenders don't do it more often. With 5:32 left in the first half, Arizona was on the Giants 8-yard line; Warner threw a bullet over the middle to Larry Fitzgerald in the back of the endzone. Fitzgerald caught it leaping, slightly above his helmet and appeared to have a firm grasp on it. Before he could come down with both feet, Phillips turned toward him and simply popped it out of his hands with a little jab. So in the moment, so simple, yet so effective. Rookie cornerback Terrell Thomas got his first NFL interception (Waner's only pick on the day) with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game.

The second thing I felt the Giants defense had to do was rattle Kurt Warner's cage. I don't remember seeing a single statistic on screen during Fox's coverage (we wouldn't want to take precious camera time away from field reporter Tony Siragusa,  now would we?) but Warner had to have been knocked down 16-20 times, as linemen Justin Tuck, Fred Robbins and  Dave Tollefson were harrassing Warner all day. During the Cardinals fist possession of the second half, I counted four straight knockdowns where Warner had just gotten the pass off in time, but wound up flat on his back. The Giants were able to stop the run with ease as the Cards gained a paltry 23 yards on 15 carries for 1.5 yards a carry. The gap space provided by Arizona's spread-out offensive line created easy lanes for the Giants secondary to plow through on blitz packages. The other defensive highlight was on the sack of Warner, where Justin Tuck overshot his rush but then caught him from behind and swatted the ball loose. Mathias Kiwanuka recovered the fumble.

On the offensive side of the ball, Eli Manning had one of his best performances of the year. He was highly efficient, completing 26 of his 33 passes for 240 yards and 3 touchdowns. Manning had two passes dropped on him today; one by Amani Toomer during the first drive of the game that was right in his gut and would have been good for about 20 yards. Kudos, however, goes to fullback Madison Hedgecock - not only for finally catching (and holding onto) a pass, but for a nice cutback on a defender for a 2-yard touchdown. Amani Toomer and TE Kevin Boss caught Manning's other two touchdowns. Toomer and Boss both had 4 receptions on the day, but New York's leading receiver was Domenik Hixon. His six catches for 57 yards are just the beginning of his contributions on the day.  

Hixon was outstanding on kickoff returns; on back-to-back kickoffs in the 2nd quarter, Hixon had returns of 83 and 68 yards. Hixon finished the day with 201 return yards, on three kickoffs and two punts. "Great blocking, if you look on the film, the guys up front blocking - they give you the seams" Hixon told reporters after the game. "A couple times, I don't think I was touched at all until I was tackled. It was a phenomenal job and it starts with them." 

The normally solid running game suffered a bit without Jacob's bruising presence, but Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw filled in well enough to maintain the offensive balance necessary for Eli to pass effectively. Ward - who found out an hour before kickoff that he would start - finished the day with 99 total yards and a touchdown. "I don't think it's a mental adjustment" said Ward, "Throughout the course of the week, I practice like I'm the starter. Even if I'm taking second-string reps or whatever, so to be able to go out there and duplicate, replicate what I do during practice - it pays dividends for the offense when we play on Sundays."

Things don't get any easier for the Cardinals -  they have a date with the 5-5-1 Eagles on Thanksgiving Day. A win in  Philadelphia will also accomplish the goal of grabbing the NFC West title. But head coach Ken Whisenhunt wanted that goal to be reached today. What Arizona did get out of today's loss will be similar to what the Giants got out of their Monday night loss in Cleveland to the Browns; a wake up call. The Cardinals are an extremely talented team, and  some better special teams coverage and a few tweaks to their defensive scheme could have possibly made this game a lot closer than it was.

As for the Giants, they scored 37 offensive points - on the road, without their starting running back, and without one of their starting wide receivers. If there was any doubt that the offensive line  - especially the play of guards Rich Seubert and Chris Snee - is the most valuable component of the Giants offense, today's game should eliminate it. Speaking of making statements; the Giants offense wanted to serve notice as well; while not as flashy, or perhaps even as talented as the Arizona Cardinals - they could keep bulbs active on the scoreboard and move the ball at will, too. That moment came in the third quarter. The Cardinals had possession for 4:40, drove 90 yards in 12 plays and RB Tim Hightower's 1-yard plunge cut the Giants lead to five, 24-19. On the very next drive, New York knocked 4:34 off the clock on a 10-play, 80 yard drive that culminated with a 10-yard TD strike to Boss, which hammered out the dent Arizona had just put into their lead. That's what the past five games have been about for the Giants; answering the bell. "Give us a challenge, we'll face it, and we'll meet it. No... we'll bury it."



Number 17 is number five. If the Giants were an engine that was just rebuilt, Plaxico Buress would be one of those extra parts sitting off to the side of the driveway that didn't seem to fit anywhere. You don't know where it was supposed to go, but you know it's probably something important. Weeks later, you hope that you won't wind up getting stuck in the middle of nowhere if the engine breaks down. But the engine works... and keeps running, and keeps running. At this point, it's clear that Steve Smith and Amani Toomer are more reliable, more integral and more important to the Giants offense than Plaxico. Domenik Hixon is more athletic and more of a potential gamebreaker; Kevin Boss is more steadfast and tough.  

Off and on. And off. K John Carney was given the start today over Lawrence Tynes (who started last week in place of John Carney, who had started for...). Tom Coughlin made the decision to go with the healthier, more reliable veteran once it had been announced that the University of Phoenix Stadium roof would be closed.

Anything less than a 4.0 average is a passing grade. As mentioned above, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo put it to his secondary that he wanted the Cardinals receivers wrapped up as quickly as possible - the goal was to limit Boldin, Fitzgerald and co. to a game average of 4.0 YAC or less. The end result was 3.4 YAC.

Distance, but with familiarity in the rear-view. With the Carolina Panthers losing to the Falcons 45-28, the Giants are two games up on the rest of the NFC in jockeying for that  #1 playoff seed. However, with their 35-22 drubbing of San Francisco, the Dallas Cowboys are primed for another big run. Healthy and jelling again, Tony Romo and Terrell Ownes combined for 213 yards and a TD through the air. The Giants have a trip to Dallas in three weeks, where the 'Boys will be looking to even the score after the pounding they took in the Meadowlands. Arizona is playing very good football and the Panthers are still sitting at 8-3, but Dallas may just be the team to worry about most. "Getcha' popcorn ready!"


Statistical sources: sportsline.com, foxsports.com 

Daryl Johnston quote: Fox Network  /  Domenik Hixon, Derrick Ward quotes: giants.com/multimedia 

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.


*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: October 5, 2008 5:16 pm

Manning, Giants shoot down Seahawks

Hixon, Jacobs shine as G-Men start season 4-0

Coughlin & company sent a clear message to the rest of the NFL - "We ARE the champs, and I got your '6th seed in the NFC' predictions RIGHT HERE!" - in trouncing the Seahawks 44-6 at the Meadowlands Sunday. It was their largest margin of victory since defeating the Eagles 62-10 back in 1972, and puts an exclamation point on their first-place status in the NFC East.

There was no question from the git-go who was in control. On their first posession, Brandon Jacobs 44-yard run was immediately followed by Manning's 32-yard TD strike to Domenik Hixon. The Giants landed the first punch and never stopped swinging, beating up on the Seahawks 44-6. New York scored on their first six posessions, and as I had pointed out in my "Giants to do list" posting for this game, exploited the Seattle secondary early and often. In his first 7 completions, Manning connected on passes of 32, 22 and 29 yards. David Carr replaced Manning to start the fourth quarter, and even threw TD pass of his own to Sinorice Moss (yes, I said Sinorice Moss). Moss had two TD's on the day.

Manning set a personal best with 215 yards passing in the first half, and Brandon Jacobs' (15 carries, 136 yards, 2 TD) 44-yarder was his longest career run from scrimmage.

Manning got everyone into the act, especially Domenick Hixon who started in place of the suspended Plaxico Buress. Hixon had 4 catches for 102 yards and a TD before the half. He also had a nice run on an end around for 16 yards. Hixon left the game with just under 3 minutes left in the 2nd quarter after taking a shot from behind courtesy of Josh Wilson. Hixon was sitting on the ground after making a sliding catch; before he could get to his feet, Wilson came flying in and rammed Hixon in the back of his helmet. Hixon was diagnosed with a concussion, but was on the sidelines late in the game with a big smile on his face.

Giants tackle Kareem McKenzie also suffered a concussion, leaving early in the first quarter. 3rd year man Kevin Boothe filled in admirably in place of McKenzie, and held his own against Seattle lineman Patrick Kerney. In total the Giants racked up 523 yards of offense (compared to the Seahawks187), including 254 on the ground. Derrick Ward played his role as the change-of-pace back with 7 carries for 40 yards, and as become the SOP Ahmad Bradshaw took it home in the 4th quarter with 11 rushes for 65 yards. The line pushed the Seattle front four clean off the ball, clearing gaping holes all day and despite allowing a sack, Manning had nothing but time in the pocket.

Matt Hasselbeck (11 for 21, 105, 1 INT) found early success with his favorite WR's Deion Branch (3 for 31) and Bobby Engram (8 for 61), both of whom returned from injuries and played their first games of the season. Hasselbeck had really struggled in his first three outings without Branch (foot) and Engram (shoulder), but their return today had little impact on Seattle's offensive woes. Even Julius Jones (17 for 61) ran well for the most part. The Giants hit Seattle with too many haymakers early on, pinning them to the ground and stifling their offense at  just the right moments (Seattle was 1-11 on 3rd down conversions).

Thoughts and conclusions

*The Seattle defense, while problematic in the secondary, has a very strong front seven. The Giants had no trouble in the ground game today, and EWF (Earth, Wind and Fire) are obviously a force the rest of the NFL will have to worry about. Is it gauche to go out on a limb and proclaim this threesome the most dangerous running game in the league?

*Eli Manning has four games under his belt in '08 and so far we've seen no signs of those "WTF" moments. As each successful game goes by, it's getting easier to beleive that yes - in fact - his time has come.

*Plaxico Burress will not pull a Shockey: Unlike Jeremy, Plaxico will take what he witnessed on the field at the Meadowlands today and be driven to come back with a vengance and make his mark in the Giants offense. Let's just hope he finds his rolodex before his next sick day.

*It's nice to know that Lawrence Tynes will be available should anything happen to John Carney. Carney is 12-12 in FGA this season and will not be replaced unless absolutely necessary. I know the old saying - you don't lose your starting job due to injury. But this isn't exactly Phil Simms & Jeff Hostetler here.

Posted on: September 30, 2008 8:30 pm

Bengals v Giants - Signs of Growth, Signs of Life

This is one the Giants would have lost last year.

Like a kid with a melting ice cream cone, he sees it starting to slip off the edge of the cone. He licks that side, but pushes it too far over the other edge of the cone. Then at the moment it slides off its sugary hollow perch, he freezes – and watches in dynamic slow motion as it wafts its way down to the sidewalk. Eventually that kid learns to recognize the warning signs and knows when to grab a bowl, or just eat it really fast.  

Reaffirming what they accomplished during their playoff run, this 2008 Giants team once again showed that recognition against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. Despite needing John Carney to boot his fourth field goal of the day - in overtime - they didn’t let it slip away this time. That just might be the sign of a team and coaching staff that learns from its mistakes; a team that could be ready to take that next big step into the ranks of the NFL elite. Every team has a bad game; not every team loses those games.  

In their 26-23 victory at Giants Stadium on Sunday, The Giants dodged a bullet shot by a wounded and desperate team that should be better than they are. Injuries and question marks liger on the defensive side of the ball, while Carson Palmer and the offense has yet to get untracked. Week 3, on the road against the Super Bowl Champs put Cincinnati right in that make-or-brake mode, and they certainly played that way.

After a miserable first possession – which included two sacks, a forced fumble and a false start penalty – Palmer and running back Chris Perry started to find their rhythm. Palmer’s primary targets in the first half were Antonio Chatman & T.J. Houshmandzadeh, combining for 9 catches and 110 yards. Ocho Cinco had uno catch for seis yards.  

Brandon Jacobs 1-yard run gave the Giants a 7-3 lead early in the 2nd quarter, but Chris Perry’s 25-yard TD burst on the next Bengals’ drive gave Cincinnati the lead with 7:20 to go in the half. Perry had rushed for 61 yards by this point, and looked as if he’d give the Giants defense fits all day. Perry would carry the ball 12 more times for a total of only 19 yards. In such a close game from start to finish, it was surprising to see Bob Bratkowski abandon the run for drives at a time.   

Conversely, Palmer would throw 39 passes – including 9 straight passing attempts on the drive following Perry’s TD. Palmer had suffered a broken nose week 3 of the preseason, and blood began to stream from it again during the second quarter. That and four Giants sacks did not seem to distract him, however. He looked sharper than in his first two games and finished the first half with 141 yards passing (more than his total yards in each of his first two games). 

Palmer lead the Bengals downfield on a 13-play 77 yard drive in just over three minutes to reach the Giants 4 yard line with 55 seconds left in the half. On 3rd and 3, Mathias Kiwanuka drilled Palmer for an 8-yard loss, forcing Cincinanti on 4th and 11 to call on Shayne Graham to put Cincinnati on top 13-10 going into halftime.

In the second half, John Carney's two field goals gave New York the lead 16-13 with 11:43 left in the game; the second capping a 16-play drive that took 5:45 off the clock. But Carson Palmer answered with 62 passing yards on the very next possession, highlighted by a 17-yard touchdown strike to Houshmandzadeh. Bengals 20, Giants16.

Whereas Marvin Lewis' offensive coordinator forgot about their running back, Tom Coughlin's coordinator changed things up. Jacobs ran well at times but wasn't punishing the Bengals defense; in fact they were starting to corral him. Having both depth and variety at RB gives Kevin Gilbride the ability to change what isn't woking. So, with 4:31 remaining in regulation, the Giants started off at their own 31 yard line and Derrick Ward in the backfield. Ward (8 carries for 90 yards) rumbled for 22 yards on the first play of the drive, followed immediately by a 14 yard strike from Eli Manning to Amani Toomer – who led the Giants in receiving with 5 catches for 64 yards. A few plays after another big Ward run for 14-yards, Manning found Kevin Boss over the middle for 4-yards, connecting on their first touchdown pass this season with 1:54 remaining. Boss took a shot to the ribs and was clearly shaken up on the play, but returned to action on the next drive. Giants 23, Bengals 20.

Taking a page from the Hilary Clinton playbook, Palmer and Houshmandzadeh decided it wasn't tine to concede; they hooked up four times for 53 yards as time wound down. Graham’s third field goal sailed through from 21 yards out to tie the game with :04 left. Palmer completed 7 passes for 76 yards on the drive. Bengals fans sighed in relief at the return of their starting QB. 23-23. 

Overtime. The Giants won the toss. 5 plays later, Jeff Feagles punts and the Bengals wind up on their 25-yard line. 3 and out for Cincinnati, out trots Kyle Larson to punt. The Giants take over at their own 34. Now, its Eli Manning's turn.

Manning engineered the kind of drive Giants fans have come to expect, regardless of his performance in the previous three (or in this case, four) quarters. First came the pump & go on the outside to Plaxico Burress, good for 28 yards. A few plays later, Eli tossed a 31-yard strike to Toomer along the left sideline. Speaking of what Giants fans have come to expect, Toomer was led a bit too far to the outside requiring his patented tight-rope maneuver – a great catch and even greater effort to stay inbounds. The ball was placed at the Bengals 7. A Carney chip shot closed it out.

A real nail-biter for fans of both teams, and unfortunately for CIncinnati another Clinton commonality. But as impressive as the Giants show of team maturity and recognition in victory was the Bengals dogged perseverance in defeat. The Bengals are out to prove they're a contender, and were on a mission to prove the league that they're better than their record. In spite of losing, they went a long way in proving that Sunday afternoon.

-Original posting date: 9/21/08

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