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

Big Blue Gearing Up at the Meadowlands

Is "overconfidence" a requirement to be a fan?

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

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

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

But Arizona? Wow...

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

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

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

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

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

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


Posted on: November 16, 2008 9:09 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2008 3:11 pm

RECAP: Giants 30, Ravens 10

Score one for the Irresistible Force

It's business as usual for the Giants running game as they improve to 9-1, and take command of the NFC playoff picture

The Baltimore Ravens came into today's game boasting the strongest rushing defense in the league, only allowing 65.4 yards per game. And as most expected, they extended their streak of not allowing a single running back in a game to gain 100 yards rushing to 29 games. But they certainly aren't happy about it. Ahamad Bradshaw - third from the top of the New York Giants RB totem pole - fell just short with 96 yards. And the only reason he didn't get the extra four was because the only thing left to do at that point was ask Eli Manning to take a knee at the Ravens' 16 yard line for the last two plays of the game to see zeros on the clock and secure the Giants 30-10 win at the Meadowlands.

The much anticipated showdown between the Giants running game and the brick wall known as the Ravens defense wasn't much of a showdown at all. In fact, I'd bet that Ray Lewis - who on his conference call with reporters earlier this week said, "The bottom line is that we stop the run.  That is fact." and said of starting RB Brandon Jacobs, "I don’t care how big his size is, football is football" - is probably embarrased at his defense's performance this afternoon. That's not to say it wasn't the effort of the giants offensive line, or the will of Jacobs, Ward and Bradshaw to get every last inch of field available to them that made the difference in this matchup. The Giants - despite an 8-1 record and being defending Super Bowl champs - were the ones who had everything to prove today. No one expected them to rush for 207 yards. No one.

Two hundred seven yards.

Jacob's set the bar high on the Giants' first possession, running for 53 yards and the game's first touchdown. On his first touch of the game, Jacobs ran to the right and smacked into a wall of players, but spun 270 degrees around and shot out towards the left for 36 yards on what was the most vital play of the game. The importance of gaining nearly half the total average the Ravens allow per game - in just one busted play - was something they never seemed to recover from. On 1st down from the Ravens 10, Jacobs plowed through the middle of the line and banged a few bodies before getting tripped up at the 1-yard line. By the time he scored the first Giants' touchdown two plays later, the faces of the Ravens defense told the story. They were already worried about what to expect next. By the end of the first quarter, Jacobs obliterated that per game average with 11 carries, 72 yards and two touchdowns.

Ravens defensive end Trevor Price was quoted after the game as saying "When you do that against our defense, you have some confidence. It makes things easier. The way it happened was a fluke; We had him, but he bounced and went all the way to the other side. You don't think that a big back can run that fast, but he does". So much for not caring how big his size is.

Unfortunatley, the first quarter would be his last quarter; despite not appearing to have been hurt, Jacobs left the field and headed into the locker room with initial reports being that he was going in for x-rays. Later in the second quarter, it was said that Jacobs simply needed some re-taping. In any event, Jacobs stood cheerfully on the sidelines the rest of the game and handed the reigns over to Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw. We should expect to hear something by Tuesday if Jacobs did, in fact, sustain an injury of some kind. Derrick Ward shouldered the load through the second and third quarters, gaining 41 yards on 11 carries. Ward's true impact was in the passing game when Baltimore started to put more pressure on Manning, catching 4 passes for 54 yards.

Eli Manning (13 of 23, 153 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) looked sharp in the ealry going with a nice 21-yard strike to Plaxico Burress that set up that first Jacobs score. The Ravens were able to defend nicely against the pass, and Manning had some trouble getitng the ball to his well covered receivers. Manning's only TD pass was a 1-yard toss to TE Darcy Johnson early in the 2nd quarter.The interception by Ray Lewis at the 1:51 mark of the second quarter was a brilliant play; Lewis floated in the underbelly of the Giants receiver routes and saw Manning was looking for TE Kevin Boss. Boss was running to the middle of the field from the right, so Lewis got down low and broke in front of the pass form the left.

The star of the game was Ahmad Bradshaw. 8 of his 9 carries - all in the fourth quarter - totaled just 19 yards. But that one carry... the one with 14:31 left in the game. The first play of the drive... the handoff he took from Manning at his own 19-yard line that ended on the Ravens 2 yard line. That was the carry. The Giants were leading 27-10 at that point, and there wasn't much proof that the Ravens were going to come back in this one. But after having given up 120 yards on the ground, Bradshaw's 77-yard sprint right up the middle of the field was the salt in the wound. On the play, Ray Lewis was directly in front of Bradshaw as he wiggled through two defenders in the backfield; Lewis over-pursued Bradshaw and was only able to wrap his left arm around his waist as he cut to his right. Bradshaw was at full steam and broke away from Lewis on his way to the other end of the field. The Giants could only muster a field goal on the drive, but it was the final plunge they needed to drive a steak through the heart of the best rushing defense in the NFL today.

Enough can't be said about the performance of Joe Flacco (20 of 33, 164 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT). While his stats won't indicate it, he showed great pocket presence and awareness of when to run the ball. The fact that Flacco was the teams leading rusher - accounting for 57 of the Ravens' 121 yards - says a lot about what he had to deal with in this game. He was sacked only one time and knocked down a few others, and of the two interceptions he threw one was not his fault; a nicely thrown ball on a crossing pattern by WR Derrick Mason bounced off his facemask and into the hands of Giants CB Aaron Ross, which Ross returned for a 50-yard touchdown. It was Ross' second interception of the game. They were also the first two interceptions Flacco had thrown since week 5 at Indianapolis. Despite the picks, Flacco had everything working against him today and yet he was the main reason the Ravens had a punchers' chance in the second half. His arm strength is unquestionable and his mobility is a terrific asset. Most impressive was his focus and demeanor in a critical game that was slipping away from him - he didn't look like a rookie.

For those seeking resolution to this week's overused paradox (I'm as guilty as anyone) promoting today's game as the "irresistible force" meeting the "immovable object", the answer was as clear as the season is long. And as always, we learn from this game as we have many others that there's no such thing as a sure thing. One thing is for sure - the Giants are for real. Most thought they hit their stride, that Manning finally matured and the team got a bit lucky in the playoffs. Most thought they defeated an over-confident, underachieving Patriots team with an injured quarterback in the Super Bowl. Many said they benefitted from weaker opponents earlier this season. Many felt they won in Pittsburgh because of a bad snap to an injured punter. Some argued that they beat Dallas because Romo was sidelined and the defense was depleted. Some contend they were lucky in Philadelphia after almost giving the game away, saved only by lousy play calling on Andy Reid's part.

In the days ahead, we might hear from a few that think the Ravens run defense simply had a bad game.

The Giants are 9-1. What else is there to say? 



 Another one bites the dust: Once again, the Giants were successful at stopping their opponents' leading rusher. Willis McGahee joins a distinguished list of backs this season such as Frank Gore, Marion Barber, Brian Westbrook and Clinton Portis. To appreciate the effectiveness of the Giants defense against these elite backs so far this season, look at the combined statistics of all five 75 carries, 198 yards /  2.6 yards per carry / 0 touchdowns.

 3 X 200 = 3-0: The Giants have rushed for over 200 yards in each of the last three games.                                                                               

 Corner-back in business: CB Aaron Ross' two interceptions were his first of the season. After a run of games where receivers were getting the better of him (beginning with Braylon Edwards in Cleveland, week 5) Ross' picks and his 50-yard touchdown should go a long way in rebuilding his confidence. 

 #372: Ravens Kicker Matt Stover set a record for consecutive PAT following Le'Ron McLain's 10-yard TD reception .

 Health Kick: Lawrence Tynes was handed FG kicking responsibilities for the first time since returning from his leg injury. His first few kickoffs were short, as he was reaquainting himself with the swirling winds of the meadowlands. John Carney was deactivated for the game.

'You play to win the game' : This Wednesday marks the 30th anniversary of the "Miracle at the Meadowlands" or as Giants fans call it, "The Fumble". On November 19th 1978, the Giants were perfectly positioned to pull off a huge upset over the Philadelphia Eagles. With possession, a 17-12 lead and time running out, a simple kneel-down would have ended the game. Inexplicibly, Joe Pisarcik attempted to handoff to Larry Csonka. Pisarcik fumbled the ball, and an Eagles cornerback named Herman Edwards picked up the loose ball and ran 26 yards for the touchdown. Former linebacker Harry Carson still considers that the worst defeat he was ever a part of, and perhaps the worst in Giants franchise history. '"HEL-LO!"


statistical sources: sportsline.com, nfl.com  /  Trevor Pryce quote: cbs sports wire reports  /  Ray Lewis qoutes: nyg.scout.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.


*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 1, 2008 8:21 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2008 11:55 pm

Seahawks/Giants preview: No more needling NY

Let's acknowledge the elephant in the room, and then show him the door.

There was a blogger on a Seahawks fan page that posted some sick stuff about NY. There's plenty of places to access this info so I won't dignify it anymore. Enough said - Topsy, its time for you to leave now. Hmm... that wasn't a pleasant reference either (if interested, search "Topsy" / "Coney Island". I have to warn you, it's a sad story).

OK then, on to this week's game.

The Seahawks have not been kind to the G-Men recently. Their last two meetings took place at Qwest Field, and the results were - how do I put this - humiliating. In 2005, a matchup billed as the fight for NFC dominance, Jay Feely lost his New York priviledges with three botched field goals. In 2006, three Eli Manning INT's helped Seattle jump out to a 32-point halftime lead that Big blue would not recover from.

Things are different in 2008. Eli is now a Super Bowl MVP, which in the game of professional QB unlocks confidence and respect. Special features correspondent Tiki Barber is out - Earth, Wind and Fire are in. Matt Hasselbeck is a little older, a little slower; Shaun Alexander is selling pennants by the wading pool in Volunteer Park, and the Giants somehow find themselves in an unfamiliar place called "the upper echelon"

Plaxico Burress won't play Sunday's game at the Meadowlnads, since it will be day 13 of a 14-day suspension handed to him by Coach Coughlin. Burress' no-show act ticked off Coughlin enough to roll the dice and sit him out this week. Let's hope this isn't a sign of things to come for Plax - because the Giants will use him like "Plax": they'll swish him around in their jaws for a while then spit him out (see Jeremy Shockey).  He's a vital part of this offense, and half of the most prolific 1-2 TD punch in the NFL over last two years. The Giants can't afford to lose him, but certainly won't hesitate to pull the trigger. I'll officially be concerned if the NFL's probe into alleged domestic violence incidents over the summer involving Burress (that he apparently forgot to inform the league about) lead to another fine and suspension. The good news is that second year running back Danny Ware may have some time off pretty soon, and perhaps could keep him company. Hit a couple of college football games.

I know, I know. I'm a Giants blogger - why am I writing like an Eagles troll? Sorry, but I call it as I see it and it's what you get. The Giants are all about standards, baby. Shape up or ship out (again, see Jeremy Shockey). As a Giants fan I expect a little more from my guys. Any Giants fan should.

Reports indicate that Mathias Kiwanuka's ankle is still bothering him, and the bye week couldn't have come at a better time. I remember watching Chris Samules wrap his arms around MaKi's ankles like he was hugging his favorite teddy bear on the very last play of the season opener. MaKi got up limping, and of course I assume the worst. Apparently there's still some pain and swelling in the left ankle, but it hasn't kept him off the field. One observation; the Giants have 13 sacks in their first three games, but Kiwanuka has only one of them. And that's not because they're double-teaming him instead of Justin Tuck.

The Giants D will have it's hands full this week \with the Seattle running game. The Seahawks are 2nd in the league in rushing, averaging 160 yards per game. Julius Jones is the reason for the resurgance of the seattle ground attack - JJ has found new life in the north despite sharing the spotlight with former Falcons / Redskins / Lions bulldozer T.J. Duckett. At least it's something JJ is accustomed to, but Duckett is no Marion Barber. Jones has taken the leadership role in this tandem and has been, umm... DYNO-MITE! Sorry, I couldn't help myself.  

As for Elisabeth Hasselbeck's brother-in-law, He's sporting a whopping 60.1 passer rating (hey, they blast Eli for this useless stat all the time!) with a 48% completion rate. By the way, I should have mentioned that he hasn't had his two favorite wide receivers, Deion Branch ( anterior cruciate ligament surgery back in February) and Bobby Engram (broken shoulder). As luck would have it, we'll have the pleasure of watching these fine men make their 2008 debut this Sunday, since both have stated they'll be ready for the Giants game. I suspect their timing with Hasselbeck will be slightly off, but don't be surprised if Branch plays a big role in this game.

Since I've been a little tough on No. 8, I'll give him a little hit for his website: http://www.matthasselbeck.com/

See you after the game on Sunday - Go Giants!

DICK LYNCH (1936 - 2008) - Giants Cornerback from 1959 to 1966; announcer on Giants radio broadcasts from 1967 to 2008. Lynch passed away last week at his home in Douglaston, Queens. He was a beloved member of the NFL community and will forever be a New York Giant. Like fellow New York broadcasting legend Ralph Kiner, he spent his last few years in the booth struggling to find his words. Being cynical by nature with a twisted sense of humor, I had a good chuckle each time Mr. Lynch would stop talking in the middle of a story and never finish it. Or would correct himself if he said the wrong player's name an hour after the fact. In the case of Raloh Kiner, I didn't realize how much I'd miss his presence in the booth when he was gone. I know I'll feel the same about Dick Lynch. As usual, I won't realize how I should have appreciated the man before it was too late.


Statistical sources: sportsline.com, seahawks.com, giants.com, pro-football-reference.com, matthasselbeck.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