Posted on: January 11, 2009 7:06 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2009 1:51 am

EAGLES/GIANTS RECAP: Its All Over Now, Baby Blue.

Eagles 23, Giants 11

Giants leave their stepping stones behind, and have the rug pulled out from under them.


Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you.
Forget the dead you've left, they will not follow you.
The vagabond who's rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore.
Strike another match, go start anew
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.
From Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"

As the game moved along, quarter by quarter and minute by minute the inevitability of what was taking place was clear. It was like getting a shot at the doctor; you're sitting on the examination table, watching him tie the rubber hose around your arm. He rolls the little bottle around in his palms, then removes the syringe from the wrapping. Plunger pushed in, a dip in the bottle, plunger pulled back. The a couple of flicks of the finger. Then the obligatory comment, "Now... this won't hurt a bit." and in it goes. It stings for a bit, but eventually the pain goes away and you realize there was really nothing to it.

There was a purpose to that long-winded "ode to a needle": There's a wide dynamic of emotions a fan can experience following a game like this. Perhaps it's age, or familiartiy, or the understanding that repeating as champion in today's NFL is not easily accomplished. However, I think that it's the simple fact that Tom Coughlin's team did not seem right from the get-go. It will sting for a bit, but eventually the pain will go away and we'll realize that - at least from the Giants - there was really nothing to them.

The Eagles were the vagabond wrapping at the door today, and have recently been likened to last year's Giants; the wild card team with the big heart, hitting on all cyliders at just the right time. They're now wearing the "clothes" that the Giants' were donning last year at this time -and they're dressed for success.

I'd like to take a moment to congratulate Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles - for their perseverance and will to win this game at all costs. Healthy players, smart game planning and a little luck all play a part in earning a victory. The "luck" part for the Eagles today was catching Eli Manning on a bad day. But that wasn't the deciding factor in game; Philadelphia earned the victory and were clearly the better team today. Now they pack their bags for a date with the Arizona Cardinals and an NFC Championship game, visiting the very site where less than a year ago, Big Blue made magic, and NFL history.

For Tom Coughlin, General Manager Jerry Reese and the Giants organization - an offseason of "what might have been". Maybe Reese can snag a free agent wideout the likes of T.J. Houshmandzadeh to replace Eli's missing deep threat, and if the first two years of his tenure are any indication, he's more than likely have another solid draft come April. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnoulo might be a head coach somewhere in 2009; though the doors of opportunity are starting to close fast. Derrick Ward will likely want to prove he can be a starter and will want starter money - if there's a team willing to give him the shot.

Below are two reasons why the New York Giants lost their Divisional round playoff game to the Eagles this afternoon - and despite what the FOX NFL team of Troy Aikman and Joe Buck would have you believe, Plaxico Burress isn't one of the two reaons. If he were, then we may as well throw in the loss of Osi Umenyiora in the preseason and the retirement of Michael Strahan. 

These two things - and not the personnel on the field - will haunt the Giants in the weeks and months to come...

1. The "eyes" have it; and Eli just didn't have it today.

Trying to guage Eli Manning's emotion is like trying to tell the difference between regular or decaffeinated, but there are those rare times that it's written all over his face; and today, his face was a novel. His passes wobbled, he was off target a number of times, and threw into tight coverage way too often. But the true measuring stick for Eli is his eyes. If written it many times throughout the season; When he's on his game, his eyes are scanning the field, looking for his options and knowing where to go. Today, his eyes locked on his primary target - from the moment the ball was snapped until the point of release. Asante Samuel and Brian Dawkins didn't have much guess work to know where the ball was going. Something wasn't right with Manning, and when that's the case he tends to lose focus and downfield awareness of the defense. Even though the teams were within 2 points of each other for a majority of the game, Eli's interception to Samuel (which led to the first Philadelphia touchdown) was a back-breaking tone setter.

2. In-game decisions that were offensive, rather than offensive minded in-game decisions.

  • There was one bright spot for the Giants today, and it was Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs had 19 carries for 92 yards and appeared to be the only player in a blue jersey that Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson was unable to handle. Yet every time New York found itself driving the ball successfully, they took the ball out of Brandon's hands. I don't want to ramble with examples here, but here's one that sticks out: Following DT Fred Roobbins' interception and return to the Philadelphia 33 yard line in the 3rd Quarter, two consecutive handoffs to Jacobs went for 11 and 5 yards. The momentum was shifting. Number 27 was then called off to the sidelines in favor of Ward; two unsuccessful pass plays later, the Giants had to settle for a field Goal. This brings us to...                                                                                                                                           
  • Field goals... or punt? The turning point of the game for me - and I felt it the moment it took place - was when Coughlin decided to go for a 47-yard field goal with 4:29 remaining in the 3rd quarter instead of punting. Philly was leading 13-11 at that point, and Carney had already missed a 46-yard attempt earlier in the game (and badly, I might add). The Giants had recorded a safety the last time the Eagles were pinned back on their goal line, which might have been in their heads should they have found themeselves in that same spot. Your punter is Jeff Feagles - one of the best to ever play the game - and with the wind to his back, had already placed one perfectly inside the 5-yard line today. They should have pinned them back and not taken the risk on allowing Donovan McNabb to have 1st and 10 at midfield. Carney missed the kick, and McNabb marched them down the field and found TE Brent Celek in the end zone to put the Eagles up by a score of 20-11 on the first play of the 4th quarter. Which brings us to...                                                                                                                                                                                                            
  • The fourth Quarter... following the Brent Celek touchdown. On their next two possessions, the Giants ran 11 plays - 10 of which were running plays. It's understandable to a point, considering the inconsistency of their quarterback throughout the afternoon. But that said, he is still your quarterback, and unless the Giants coaches new something we didn't you have to continue plugging away and keeping the Eagles defense off-balance as best you can. On both possessions, the Giants were faced with a 4th down and a decision to make. And on both occasions, they went for it. The first time (on 4th and inches), they lined up Jacobs in the backfield and tried a quarterback sneak up the gut with Eli. That's like using a toothbrush to drive a nail into a wall when you've got a hammer right there in your tool belt. For the next drive (on 4th and 2) Kevin Gilbride decided to go with what they should have gone with the first time and ran Jacobs straight up the middle. Neither conversion was successful. The Giants miscue on the initial 4th down attempt perfectly prepared Jim Johnson's defense for the second 4th down attempt.

And it's all over now, Big Blue.

Thanks to the Giants for an enjoyable season, despite the letdown today. They handled themselves well through all the distractions and controversy, and overcame a lot of obstacles to put themselves back in contention. In a week or so, I will post my Giants 2008 Season Team Awards in recognition of the highlights - and lowlights - of the season.

Now it's off to the Eagles boards to offer my congratulations.


Statistical Sources: nfl.com, cbssports.com


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: January 9, 2009 4:23 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2009 8:35 pm

UPDATED: MADDEN '09 Divisional Round Sim RESULTS!

BigBluGeekazoid: The Results are in!

 "Great football is - is - is about great football *players* playin..' ya see... you need good football players in - in a big game and then ya -ya get great football, and - and - and that's what *that's* all about."

Semi-sim #1: BALTIMORE @ TENNESSEE - Saturday 4:30pm ET

*Prediction: Section_725: "It doesn't appear so cut and dry. (Titans) on a coin flip - How is that for a scientific method?"

*Prediction: BigBluMasochist: "Kerry Collins has to win this one for Tennessee, which doesn't bode well for them."

                                                                             31                   34 



  • TEN: McCareins 437yard TD Pass from Kerry Collins; Bironas PAT (BAL 14 - TEN 10)
  • TEN: Chris Johnson 1-yard TD Run; Bironas PAT (TEN 17 - BAL 14)
  • BAL: Matt Stover 40-yard Field Goal (TEN 17 - BAL 17)
  • TEN: Rob Bironas 52-yard Field Goal (TEN 20 - BAL 17)


  • BAL: Willis McGahee 64-yard TD Run; Stover PAT (BAL 24 - TEN 20)
  • TEN: Bo Scaife 3-yard TD Pass from Kerry Collins; Bironas PAT (TEN 27 - BAL 24)


  • TEN: Chris Johnson 1-yard TD Run; Bironas PAT (TEN 34 - BAL 24)
  • BAL: Willis McGahee 2-yard TD Run; Stover PAT (BAL 34 - TEN 31)


  • SACKS ALLOWED:     BAL - 1           TEN - 4
  • TURNOVERS:              BAL - 2           TEN - 0
  • TIME OF POSS (X3):   BAL - 27:06   TEN - 32:54


  • PASSING:      BAL - Flacco 11 of 20, 180 yds, 0TD, 1 INT... 
  • PASSING:     TEN - Collins 16 of 24, 231 yds, 2 TD, 0 INT
  • RUSHING:     BAL - McGahee 19 for 128 (2 TD)... McClain 10 for 36 (TD)... Flacco 3 for 19... Neal 2 for 5 
  • RUSHING:    TEN - C. Johnson 17 for 106 yards (2 TD)... L. White 8 for 53... Collins 2 for (minus) 2
  • RECEIVING:  BAL - Fitzgerald 7 for 91.. Breaston 4 for 67 (TD).. Urban 4 for 19.. Doucet 3 for 15.. Pope 1 for 6
  • RECEIVING: TEN - M. Clayton 5 for 141... D. Mason 3 for 22... Heap 3 for 17



Semi - sim #2: ARIZONA @ CAROLINA - Saturday 8:15pm ET 

*PredictionImJustLazy03: "My head tells me to take the Panthers, but I think the Cardinals will eek this one out..."

*Prediction: Section_725: "...ultimately, the more balanced Carolina offense will win the game for them."

                                                                             15               24


  • NOTE: Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin removed from starting linups due to his Hamstring injury.
  • CAR: John Kasay 51-yard Field Goal (CAR 3 - ARI 0)


  • ARI: Neil Rackers 42-yard Field Goal (CAR 3 - ARI 3)
  • ARI: Neil Rackers 27-yard Field Goal (ARI 6 - CAR 3)


  • CAR: Jonathan Stewart 77-yard Run TD; Kasay PAT (CAR 10 - ARI 6)  
  • ARI: Neil Rackers 37-yard Field Goal (CAR 10 - ARI 9)


  • CAR: Jonathan Stewart 29-yard TD Run; Kasay PAT (CAR 17 - ARI 9)
  •  ARI: Steve Breaston 43-yard TD Pass from Kurt Warner; 2-point conversion failed (CAR 17 - ARI 15)
  • CAR: DeAngelo Williams 3-yard TD Run; Kasay PAT (CAR 24 - ARI 15)


  • SACKS ALLOWED:     ARI - 4            CAR - 1
  • TURNOVERS:              ARI - 3            CAR - 0
  • TIME OF POSS (X3):   ARI - 27:57    CAR - 32:03


  • PASSING:       ARI - Warner 19 of 27, 198 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT... 
  • PASSING:     CAR - Delhomme 8 of 20, 65 yds, 0 TD, 1 INT
  • RUSHING:      ARI - E. James 13 for 33... Hightower 8 for 9
  • RUSHING:    CAR - J. Stewart 12 for 110 yards (2 TD)... D. Williams 19 for 114 yards (TD)... Hoover 3 for 1
  • RECEIVING:   ARI - Fitzgerald 7 for 91.. Breaston 4 for 67 (TD).. Urban 4 for 19.. Doucet 3 for 15.. Pope 1 for 6
  • RECEIVING: CAR - S. Smith 2 for 24... D. Hackett 2 for 13... Muhammad 2 for 11... D. Williams 2 for 14 



Semi - sim #3: PHILADELPHIA @ NEW YORK - Sunday 1:00pm ET


*PredictionThe Muffin Man: "I have to go with the Giants, as I am angry at the Eagles for beating the Vikings."

*Prediction: BigBluMasochist: "I don't predict Giants games."

*Prediction: Section_725: "Ah, the matchup everybody is looking forward to, well... except for fans of those other teams."

*PredictionImJustLazy03: "Not sure home field helps much in this one, but that extra week off (for NY) sure will."

                                                                            37             3


  • None


  • PHI: David Akers 22-yard Field Goal (PHI 3 - NYG 0)
  • PHI: L.J. Smith 18-yard TD Pass from McNabb; Akers PAT (PHI 10 - NYG 0)
  • Note: Giants OL Shaun O'Hara left the game with a knee injury
  • PHI: David Akers 35-yard Field Goal (PHI 13 - NYG 0)



  • PHI: Brian Westbrook 4-yard TD Run; Akers PAT (PHI 27 - NYG 3)
  • PHI: Correll Buckhalter 3-yard TD Run; Akers PAT (PHI 34 - NYG 3)
  • PHI: David Akers 44-yard Field Goal (PHI 37 - NYG 3)


  • SACKS ALLOWED:    PHI - 5           NYG - 3
  • TURNOVERS:             PHI - 1           NYG - 4
  • TIME OF POSS (X3):  PHI - 40:54   NYG - 19:06


  • PASSING:      PHI - McNabb 20 of 30, 294 yds, 2 TD, 0 INT... 
  • PASSING:    NYG - Manning 15 of 26, 128 yds, 0 TD, 4 INT
  • RUSHING:    PHI - Westbrook 22 for 97 (TD)... Buckhalter 4 for 19 (TD)... McNabb  3 for 16
  • RUSHING:   NYG - B. Jacobs 9 for 38... D. Ward 4 for 14... Bradshaw 6 for 26
  • RECEIVING:  PHI - D. Jackson 6 for 96 (TD)... Baskett 4 for 83... Curtis 3 for 21... R. Brown 2 for 26...
  •                                    L.J. Smith 2 for 29 (TD)  Avant 2 for 21... Westbrook 1 for 18
  • RECEIVING: NYG - Boss 2 for 42.. Hixon 2 for 38.. Jacobs 1 for 19.. Manningham 1 for 18.. Smith 1 for 11 



Semi - sim #4: SAN DIEGO @ PITTSBURGH - Sunday 4:45pm ET


*PredictionImJustLazy03: "Big Ben in for a Big Game here, probably a pass heavy 'O' for the Steelers."

*Prediction: NFL_Solomon: "Eli Manning sucks."

                                                                            14                19                                                                     


  • NOTE: Chargers RB LaDanian Tomlinson removed from starting lineups due to groin injury.
  • PIT: Willie Parker 13-yard TD Run; Reed PAT (PIT 7 - SD 0) 
  • Note: Steelers WR Nate Washington missed the remainder of the half with a head injury


  • PIT: Santonio Homes 62-yard TD Pass from Roethlisberger; Reed PAT (PIT 14 - SD 0)
  • PIT: Jeff Reed 37-yard Field Goal (PIT 17 - SD 0)
  •  SD: Nate Kaeding 45-yard Field Goal (PIT 17 - SD 3)


  • SD: Nate Kaeding 55-yard Field Goal (PIT 17 - SD 6)


  •  SD: Chris Chambers 19-yard TD Pass from Philip Rivers; Darren Sproles 2-pt conversion (PIT 17 - SD 14)
  • PIT: Safety - Philip Rivers sacked in SD end zone (PIT 19 - SD 14)


  • SACKS ALLOWED:    SD - 3          PIT - 3
  • TURNOVERS:             SD - 2          PIT - 1
  • TIME OF POSS (X3):  SD - 33:12   PIT - 26:48


  • PASSING:       SD - Rivers 18 of 29, 209 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT... 
  • PASSING:       PIT - Roethlisberger 16 of 19, 248 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
  • RUSHING:      SD - Sproleses 18 for 119... Hester 6 for 21... Rivers  2 for 9
  • RUSHING:      PIT - Parker 19 for 76 (TD)... M. Moore 4 for 8... C. Davis 1 for 3
  • RECEIVING:   SD - A. Gates 8 for 100.. V. Jackson 5 for 46.. Chambers 2 for 23 (TD).. Sproles 2 for 15..
  •                                    Manumaleuna 1 for 25
  • RECEIVING:   PIT - H. Ward 9 for 107.. Holmes 3 for 85 (TD).. Washington 2 for 34.. H. Miller 2 for 22 


Thanks for the input, everyone! I'm looking forward to next week's Conference Championship matchups! Enjoy the games this weekend.




Posted on: December 22, 2008 1:52 am
Edited on: December 22, 2008 10:12 am

RECAP: Giants 34, Panthers 28 (OT)

Running down a Dream


Ward runs for 216 yards; Jacobs' 3 touchdowns lead Giants to OT victory.

The road to Super Bowl 43 will go through East Rutherford. 

Who was that guy wearing #34 tonight?

Derrick Ward has been as valuable a member of the Giants offense as anyone this season, but the effort he put forth tonight was nothing short of unbelievable. So it's appropriate that on a windy night in East Rutherford, New Jersey that "Wind" howled for 216 yards rushing as the offensive catalyst. "Earth" provided the points, as Brandon Jacobs rumbled in for 18 of them to help Tom Coughlin and his team finish off a terrific football game in overtime and claim the top seed for the NFC playoffs. The Giants running game regained its mid-season form to the tune of 301 yards, averaging 7.3 yards a carry as a result of Ward's explosives.

After the game Derrick Ward told NBC-NY sportscaster Bruce Beck "We knew that coming into this game tonight, we had to come out and play like the more desperate team... we needed this, we needed it more and we played like it"

Brandon Jacobs simply said, "Sweet as candy".

This game could have easily ended in regulation; The Panthers attempted a 50-yard field goal on 4th and 5 with :09 seconds remaining, but John Kasay appeared to stutter-step a bit as the ball was snapped, and it sailed just wide to the left, missing the post by no more than two feet. That was just one of the many magical moments in this game, as both teams came to claim home field in the playoffs. They came ready, and they came able - but Derrick Ward came in just a bit more willing than everyone else. Just as important was the Giants offensive line reestablishing itself as a force to contend with and to game plan around. Eli Manning was sacked three times tonight - a trend that needs to be dealt with  - but his overall pass protection was otherwise solid, and the run blocking was as good as it's been all season.

The Giants came out flying as fast as the arctic wind swirling around the Meadowlands. On the fifth play of the game, Manning scrambled away from the grasp of Julius Peppers and tossed a perfectly targeted 40-yard strike into the chest of a double-covered Domenik Hixon. The Giants eventually settled for a John Carney field goal for the early lead. For the remainder of the first half it was the DeAngelo Williams show.

Williams shredded the Giants defense for three touchdown runs in the first half, as the Panthers found themselves moving the ball very effectively thanks to the precision passing of Jake Delhomme who completed 8 of 10 to start the game. Particularly crushing blows were landed on a 60-yard completion to Mushin Muhammad, and a 35-yard strike to pro-bowl receiver Steve Smith; but when in range, DeAngelo got the call. Williams added a fourth touchdown in the second half on a beautiful 30-yard run to the outside, and would have been the toast of the coast had Carolina pulled this one out (the loss, along with Derrick Ward's performance, will unfortunately overshadow an otherwise phenomenal night for him). 

The Giants defense did not look sharp for the better part of the first three quarters, despite the return of sorely missed DT Fred Robbins; Justin Tuck - who did not show up on the injury report - was playing with the flu and was clearly in a haze for most of the night. He actually appeared to vomit on the field following a play in the 4th quarter, forcing the Giants to take a time out they would have preferred to save for later in the game. I don't know if it was better or worse for Justin to be taken in and out of the game as much as he was in the final minutes; understandably, the coaches wanted to give him some rest between plays but the man was literally wobbling at points. I wasn't sure if I should be applauding his efforts or screaming at him for not taking himself out of the game. Eventually the defense buckled down through some halftime adjustments to stop the run, as well as changing coverage schemes on Steve Smith.

As is usually the modus operandi  for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, he focused on the one player he felt could hurt the Giants the most; not that the tandem of Williams and rookie Jonathan Stewart can't do a lot of damage, but Smith is the guy that will kill you if too much attention is payed to stopping the run. Whatever Spagnuolo did, it worked; Smith finished the night with 3 receptions for 47 yards. It was Smith's second lowest output of the season and halted a 4-game streak of 100+ yard performances. He was shut out the entire 2nd half and the overtime; his last reception occurred with 4:34 left in the second quarter. That play was a 3-yard quick out to Smith which was initially ruled a touchdown, but was overturned on a Tom Coughlin challenge because Smith's knee was down before the ball broke the goal line. It only delayed the inevitable however, as Williams plunged in from the 1-yard line on the very next play to put Carolina ahead 21-10.

The Giants scored another 3 before the half came to a close, but at 21-13 appeared to be as out of it as they had been the past two weeks against Dallas and Philadelphia. After exchanging punts to start the second half (twice for Carolina, who received the opening kickoff), the Giants put together one of their quintessential drives... they took 8:36 of the clock on a 12 play, 84-yard drive that culminated in a TD pass to tight end Kevin Boss that pulled New York within a point at 21-20. Boss had another key grab on the drive, when faced with 3rd and 10 form their own 16 yard line, Manning found Boss on the left side for 11 yards which kept the drive alive. Four plays later, Derrick Ward ran for 22 yards that put the Giants at the Carolina 33 yard line.

Following DeAngelo Williams' fourth TD run, the teams exchanged punts again. The Panthers found themselves pinned back on their own 5 yard line, and punter Jason Baker could only muster a 49-yard kick with so little room to work with. The Giants took the ball from the Carolina 44 and rammed another one in - Jacobs' second touchdown of the night brought them within two points, 28-26. Kevin Boss was again a key contributor on this drive, as his 12-yard catch on 3rd and 5 planted Big Blue right on the Carolina 5 to set up the score. Coughlin emphatically waved at the offense to stay on the field for the 2-point conversion. A nicely designed play faked the handoff to Jacobs running right, as Eli dropped back and hit Hixon to the left as he ran under the coverage of cornerback Ken Lucas. Tie Game. Carolina got the ball back with 3:15 remaining in regulation, and executed a perfectly constructed drive to get them within field goal range with just :09 seconds left on the clock. As I stated earlier, Kasay's kick sailed left... overtime.

The Giants won the toss and went 3 & out on their first drive. Carolina returned the favor, and punted deep into Giants territory. R.W. McQuarters fielded the kick at his own 19, but misjudged the ball as it came down; it bounced out of his cradled arms as panther blue & white jerseys descended upon him. Luckily for the Giants (and McQuarters in particular) he was able to regain control as he fell ass-backwards, but now Eli Manning had to start this drive from the 13. Here's how it all went down from there:

Derrick Ward: 51-yard run up the middle to the Carolina 36... Brandon Jacobs: 3-yard run to the Carolina 33... Manning: incomplete pass to Hixon... Ward: 14-yard run right to the Carolina 19... Ward: 17-yard run right to the Carolina 2... Jacobs: 2-yard touchdown run left guard.

Don't you just love those full play-by-play charts?

Two heavyweights standing toe-to-toe in the center of the ring. This was a fantastic game to watch, and the Panthers showed what a heck of a football team they are. Despite the lackluster play of the Giants in recent games, it's not easy to go on the road and face the defending champs in their house, frigid temperatures and windy conditions to boot. And yet they almost left New Jersey with a huge win had it not been for a boot a few feet to the left - and they would have more than deserved it. 

For the Giants, the goal they've tried to reach for weeks now is securely in their back pocket. The team swagger that Antonio Pierce had talked about "getting back" is back - for now. It will be interesting to see how the Giants handle next week's game in Minnesota. Everyone talks about the fact that last year, they played all their starters against the Patriots in week 17... there's no denying that decision - and their performance in that one game - set the stage for one of the most incredible and unlikely playoff runs in NFL history. But then, at that time, they needed that game - they needed that effort against an undefeated team. They needed to see that they could play with the best of them, and needed to gain the confidence that would fill the tank for the long drive to Glendale, Arizona. Some will rest; I would be shocked to see Fred Robbins, Aaron Ross (who suffered a concussion in tonight's game) or perhaps even Jacobs on the field at the Metrodome this Sunday. I don't know what to expect, and I have no thoughts at this point. I just know it feels different this year, so I'm not expecting the same all-out effort I had the pleasure of seeing live in week 17 last year.

In his postgame press conference, Coach Coughlin said, "You talk about losing two games to divisional teams, but losing them really in not good fashion - particularly offensively. So to go out and to play well... to hang in there - to have the opportunity to get the thing to overtime, was a very very good sign."

A very good sign indeed coach. A very good sign indeed.



*DeAngelo Williams' touchdown in the 4th quarter was his sixth rushing score from 30+ yards this season.  It puts him in the record books, sandwiched between the great Jim Brown and ...the great Jim Brown. "First Down" did it 7 times during the 1958 season, and 6 times during the 1963 season. Congratulations to DeAngelo on an amazing year.

 *According to play-by-play man Al Michaels, the pass interference call on Panthers CB  Ken Lucas was the first defensive pass interference call on Carolina this season

Quote sources: WNBC-TV, New York

Posted on: December 20, 2008 4:34 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2008 1:00 am

NY GIANTS "Things to Do" List for Sunday 12.21

Mirror Images


Antonio Pierce sees two 11-3 teams with striking similarites. He also sees one team that's not being given a chance in the current of thought.

Antonio Pierce thinks Carolina is very similar to Big Blue: same record, great running and strong defense. While his team is hosting the Panthers on Sunday night for what will determine everything regular season success has to offer for the post season - the top seed and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs - he's well aware that most sports radio hosts, newspaper columnists and talking heads on TV are not just questioning the Giants' chances, but are flat out picking them to lose. And Pierce seems quite comfortable with that.

During his weekly interview on WFAN 660 AM, Pierce was asked by host Mike Francesa if there was any sense that the Giants themselves had doubts about whether they felt they were the same team as they were a month ago, when they were in the midst of an impressive 7-game winning streak against solid teams like the Steelers, Eagles, Cardinals and Ravens. "That question doesn't even come into our minds" Pierce stated emphatically, "Hey, we faced two good teams that are fighting for a chance to get in the playoffs... people wish for us to be perfect but we're not...we didn't play perfect ball for two weeks, but does that totally erase the fact that we're 11-3 with a chance to play for the number one spot in the playoffs and a bye in the first week? We've put ourselves in a good position and now it time to finish it... get our swagger back."

That's right, Antonio.

I personally like the fervor behind his words... but should I (and other Giants fans) be a little skeptical about his choice of words? Do they come off as - pardon the pun - a tad defensive? Maybe. As the conversation progressed, Pierce discussed his ongoing issues with the Plaxico Burress investigation. "I'm going about my business the way I go about my business... I'm going out there and playing football, you know? When I'm at work, I'm at work. When I'm dealing with those things, I'm dealing with those things - that's life. That's no different than if I'm dealing with problems on my own that didn't have to do with that situation that happened."

That answer... I like. Why? Because it's never the fact that a player is distracted that bothers me. It's the fact that I never know how that player is dealing with the distraction that does. Hey - even if it's less than forthcoming, at least it's enough to carry me through until 8:15 tomorrow night. 

Pierce holds the Panthers in high esteem; he sees a strong likeness between Carolina and the Giants "A solid offensive line, a solid quarterback, great receivers and a good defense". He specifically acknowledged their terrific running game. He said it's going to be a lot of hard work and preparation to stop the combination of Jonathan Stewart - "a guy who's very big" - and DeAngleo Williams - "a guy who's very fast". With the anticipated return of a healthy Brandon Jacobs, the Giants will need to old up a mirror to that image, and show everyone why they were on top of the league in rushing for the better part of the season.

Pierce also touched on the current thought in the sports media - the current of thought - that the Giants have "lost something".

The tide is high when your team is winning, but the level of confidence in a team is directly proportional to their last watermark. Everyone knows that commontators and anylists make their living off the fortune and misfoutune of teams, players, coaches, etc. Every team in the NFL has gone through it this season. The Colts are the darlings of the NFL right now, but in week 6 there wasn't a single person talking about how they'd bounce back. Speaking of the Colts, was there anyone who predicted the Steelers would be fighting for the #1 seed this week at Tennessee after they lost to Indianapolis? Ben Roethlisberger was raked over the coals after his performances against the Giants and Indianapolis. Look at him now - nothing has changed, he's still the same. Just like Peyton Manning, who is apparently surprising everyone with his play over the past eight weeks. Perhaps they thought having knee surgery less than two months before the season began wasn't a big deal. The sports media is a river; drop a team or player in the river, and they'll control the flow based on the most recent events. If you don't agree, ask yourself this question: What have they been saying about the Cowboys over the last three weeks? What will they say about the Cowboys if they lose convincingly to Baltimore tonight, and where will the current take them?

So after watching NFL Live last night, I was neither surprised or bothered by the fact that Trey Wingo, Mark Schlereth and MarcellusWiley felt it was a foregone conclusion that Carolina would continue to play their hot hand and win the matchup. In the Meadowlands... in the snow... in freezing temperatures... despite the crowd, and despite the return of Brandon Jacobs and most likely defensive tackle Fred Robbins. The Panthers are hot, the Giants are not; that's what sticks to the wall. Being considered a team that shouldn't necessarliy get consideration worked well for Big Blue last year. Let's see if that same flow in the river works this week.



THINGS TO DO for Sunday December 21st:

1. "Brandon" design: If you've got it, flaunt it. Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Any similar phrase applies to the return of #27 after missing time with a knee injury. Carolina's run defense is ranked 18th in the league this year, giving up an average of 112 yards per game. New York's offensive line will need to step it up and open up lanes again with Brandon Jacobs back in the lineup. Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride must go back to the formula that was successful all season - the old "tenderize, marinate & cook" formula. Tenderize the Carolina defense with Jacobs - let him pound them, pulverize them, beat them until they are softened up. Get Derrick Ward in there to add a little flavor, a little zest. Then throw them in the oven with Ahmad Bradshaw when they're too tired and too sore to keep up with him. Game time. Easier typed, than done - but when the Giants could carry it out, it's worked all season long. It will force Carolina to respect the run a little bit more, and even if it buys Eli Manning a single extra second in the pocket it will make a tremendous difference. Right tackle Kareem McKenzie (back) and guard Rich Seubert (illness) are both listed as probable after leaving the Dallas game last Sunday night.

2. Smart, patient play from the linebackers against the run: One of the biggest differences in the Giants' defensive performance the past three weeks has been the inability to stop the run. After limited practicing on Thursday and Friday, it's possible that Fred Robbins will be back on the field. That would be great news for the Giants, whose defense has looked softer in the middle than jolly old St. Nick himself. Tahsard Choice and Brian Westbrook had no trouble smashing through the defensive tackles the past two weeks, despite the efforts of Barry Cofield and Jay Alford. Robbins, if healthy and ready, is the cure for that ill - which would allow ends Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka to pursue the run on the outside. This means that Antonio Pierce, Danny Clark and Chase Blackburn should not feel the need as much to get up on the line of scrimmage as they shadow running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Pierce, in particular, overpursued plays the past two weeks to the point of taking himself completely out of them before they ever developed. In Jeff King and Dante Rosario, the Panthers don't have the mid-range tight end threat the Cowboys, Redskins or Eagles posess; With the big passing threat of Steve Smith being more of a downfield coverage concern for the Giants secondary, the linebackers need to stick to their assignments and act as another "wave" for the front four in containing the Carolina running attack.

3. Make Jake Pay: Jake Delhomme has played well recently, but remains an up-and-down performer overall. Will anyone be able to forget his game against the Raiders earlier this season? Seven completions (27 attempts) for 71 yards and four interceptions... he has three passing touchdowns and seven interceptions in six road games this year, and the Giants Stadium winds will wreak havoc on his ability to throw downfield to his favorite target, Steve Smith. The book on Delhomme is that he'll try anyway, without regard for the conditions. Number two on this list works hand in hand with number three. If the Giants can contain the running game of the Panthers just enough to force them to air it out, Delhomme should provide Corey Webster, Kenny Phillips and Aaron Ross some takeaway opportunities.


Antonio Pierce quotes: 660 WFAN "Mike'd Up"   /   Statistical sources: sportsline.com, sportsnet.ca

Category: NFL
Posted on: October 14, 2008 3:17 am

Blue Monday: Giants 14, Browns 35

Under the Bright Lights of Monday Night, Manning & Giants fall flat as Anderson rediscovers self, Browns offense

Road Warriors no more. 

Long before the Giants rolled in to Cleveland Browns Stadium for their Monday night matchup, most fans and experts had this game mentally marked as a "W" already. The way the Giants played, they must have marked it down as well. Watching this game unfold was like watching a kid messing around on monkey bars; completely unaware of the danger he's putting himself in, you sit helplessly from a distance and watch as he eventually slips and kisses concrete with as hard fall to the ground. He shoots up quickly with that "I'm OK - I'm OK - I'm OK" face as he looks around to see if anyone noticed his embarrasing display.

While the Giants apparent lack of an actual game plan - and inability to make adjustments at the half  - hurt them, make no mistake about it: the Browns came to play. Cleveland had their best offensive effort of the season posting 454 yards, while their defense rattled Eli Manning (18 of 28, 196 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT) en route to an impressive 35-14 victory. In my "Things To Do List" posting on Wednesday, I stated that a sustained, punishing pass rush was key to unnerving Derek Anderson (18 of 29, 310 yards, 2 TD's), and if successful, the Giants might witness the torch passed to Brady Quinn before their very eyes. The only "torching" in this game was that of the Giants secondary, and as it turns out we may not see "the Mighty Quinn" for quite some time. Derek Anderson was the man of the hour, and his performance cemented his #1 status for the Cleveland Browns. 

The Giants were trailing 17-7 with 2:15 remaining before halftime. Manning led the Giants on an 11 play, 80 yard drive - capped off with a 3-yard touchdown to Plaxico Burress (4 for 58) with :17 left. With the Giants getting the Kickoff to start the 3rd Quarter, they seemed primed to make a game of it. Following that kickoff, the very first play from scrimmage was a deep downfield heave intended for Burress. Something went haywire as Manning's pass sailed outside while Plaxico ran inside. This was the turning point of the game. On the positive side of things,  it was a perfect strike to Browns CB Brandon McDonald who intercepted at the Browns 33 and ran it back to the Giants 46. Although the ensuing drive resulted in a Pat Dawson field goal, the tone of the game changed dramatically

After a miserable start to his season, Anderson displayed accuracy and quick decision making not seen in his first four games. Give credit to Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski for changing things up; he called plays that put Anderson in line to succeed. The game plan was built around 3-step drops and quick strikes which helped Anderson maintain a rhythm and get comfortable in the pocket. His favorite target on this night was Braylon Edwards (as if there's another), who had a monster game with154 recieving yards and a TD. Edwards torched CB Aaron Ross for huge plays of 49 and 70 yards in the first half, then again for a touchdown in the second half  in which he juked Ross into a mid-stride spin around as he hit the ground clutching his left calf in the end zone. After a long delay Ross was able to leave the field without much assistance. It may have been a legitimate cramp or injury - but as a friend intuitively noted, Ross' injury appeared to be the kind you suffer from constantly getting "burned". Browns Running back Jamal Lewis (21 carries, 88 yards, 1TD) wasn't spectacular, but he was able to find holes right up the gut and kept the chains moving.

While multiplte improvements were evident tonight, other areas of concern for Cleveland did not improve - mainly in terms of penalties, and stupid ones. 10 penalties in all for 55 yards, 7 of which were false starts and one for an illegal snap.

The Giants defense gave an uninspired performance. They couldn't stop Cleveland's offense - couldn't stall a single drive. The Browns did not punt once in this game. In addition, much of Derek Anderson's success was due to very solid offinsive line play that kept Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka at bay. The Giants didn't sack Anderson, and for all intents and purposes never laid a hand on him. Even with the great performances by Anderson and Edwards, Center Hank Fraley and the rest of the Browns O-Line deserve the game ball for the effort they gave in nullifying the Giants pass rush.

Antonio Pierce (3 tackles, 1 assist) was clearly bothered by the quad injury that sidelined him in practice late last week, and sat out a few series in the first quarter in favor of Chase Blackburn who was visibly flustered trying to manage incoming play calls through his radio. In addition to Aaron Ross, LB Gerris Wilkerson left the game with an injury as well (no word on what that injury was as of this posting).

The Giants offense had it's own set of problems; foremost were Eli Manning's struggles. First of all, Nose Tackle Shaun Rogers was a one-man wrecking crew, and he hit Manning several times including a body slam to the turf that appeared to bother Eli's throwing shoulder. Manning had the shoulder looked at following the possession and returned to action. Secondly, It was obvious that Manning was over-extending himself in trying to put the ball in Plaxico Burress' hands. Manning was timid with his release, and clearly he and Plaxico were not on the same page. Manning's safety valve was Steve Smith, who had a career high 9 catches for 94 yards. Manning really never looked anywhere else for help; he threw twice to Kevin Boss, twice to Domenik Hixon and once to tight end Michael Matthews. Where was Amani Toomer? Don't ask Eli... Two of Eli's three interceptions were the result of great secondary play by the Browns and Manning telegraphing his passes. Brodney Poole and Eric Wright - whose 95-yard interception return for a TD in the fourth quarter shut the door on the Giants for good - were locked in on Eli all night, watching his eyes and reading every move to perfection.

Overall, the Giants just didn't seem like the Giants. Manning did not seem comfortable at all in the pocket, while sacked just once but knocked down repeatedly. The wonderful connection between Derek Anderson and Braylon Edwards was stark contrast to the confusion between Manning and Burress. Manning was not utilizing the pump fake at all, and didn't seem to be scanning the field very well. Brandon Jacobs (14 for 67, 1 TD) could not help but run directly towards the nearest pile. Most peculiar was the fact that no visible adjustments had been made for the second half by either Kevin Gilbride or Steve Spagnola. This was simply one of those games that every team has at some point during a season, and that's not to take anything away from the tremendous efforts by Cleveland. The Browns were prepared, and executed their plans almost flawlessly. For the Giants, they need to put this one behind them and focus on the 49ers who come to town this Sunday.

During his postgame press conference, Tom Coughlin expressed his dissapointment in his teams' effort and applauded the Browns - particularly Anderson. Coughlin was also questioned about the long pass play to start the 3rd quarter that sailed behind Burress into the hands of Brandon McDonald - basically, who messed up - Burress or Manning? "It was designed as a post... to the inside", which indicates Manning made he error.

In an interview with WFAN play-by-play man Bob Papa, Eli Manning commented on that same interception. "It was on me, they're all on me" said Manning. "Plaxico ran down, I lost him in the line (of site) and we just missed it. He ran the right route, I just made a bad pass."

Defensive End Justin Tuck was asked about how the Giants handle this loss moving forward: " Well, I'm probably not the guy you want to ask about that" said Tuck. "To me, we might have learned something more out of this loss that if we had won. You know, we get ready for next week, we'll look at some film, see what we could have done better and work through it."

Postgame Press Conference quote source: 660 WFAN New York, Giants Radio Network

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