Monday, November 23, 2009

Not Exactly Dean's List Material

We've got a condensed week going here, with only one real workday before the Denver game on Thanksgiving night. So we have to be a little flexible. You're getting the report card today instead of tomorrow, so that tomorrow we can jump right into those fearsome (not so much, maybe) Broncos.

You'll see that the grades are a real mixed bag. Some good, some very good, and others pretty bad. In all, a winning report card, but certainly nothing like what they're seeing in say, oh, Indy or New England, or Minnesota. And that's appropriate, considering the Giants basically had to beat Atlanta on the basis of Matt Ryan's bad call of the overtime coin flip.

That'll teach him to call tails.

Here are the grades.

QUARTERBACK: Eli Manning threw a first-possession interception two plays after a sack and a fumble, and nearly threw another the second time around. But he settled down nicely after that and went 25-of-39 for a career high 384 yards and three touchdowns. He spread the ball around, hitting eight receivers. But most important was his use of Kevin Boss, who has become a real and needed threat in the Red Zone. For the first time in more than a month, Manning looked good working the deep sideline. He hit seven throws of 20 yards or more, including a perfectly-thrown 51-yarder to Steve Smith and a key 29-yarder to Mario Manningham that set up the winning field goal. GRADE: A.

RUNNING BACKS: Brandon Jacobs jumped on that Manning fumble and ran in a touchdown, but otherwise the ground game was underused again. That's not entirely his fault, as he came out of the game in the third quarter with a thigh injury. Still, they could have used Ahmad Bradshaw to pick up the slack, but it didn't really happen. The sum total was 26 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown, with Jacobs accounting for only 12 carries for 39 yards. A huge part of the problem came on first down, where eight of their runs on first down netted them gains of three yards or less, or outright losses. GRADE: C.

RECEIVERS: Can't say enough about these guys this week. Manning found eight of them, and even stone-handed fullback Madison Hedgecock got into the act with two catches, including a three-yard touchdown catch on a sweet route toward the sideline. Kevin Boss looked like an absolute monster after a season of underuse as a pass catcher as he made five catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns, including a very tough four-yard scoring catch with two defenders around him in the end zone. Manningham looked a lot like Amani Toomer with his sideline work and finished with six catches for 126 yards. Smith laid out for Manning's 51-yard heave and reeled it in like Hemingway hooking a marlin. Hakeem Nicks had a 30-yard completion, but his biggest was the seven-yarder for a first down on the winning field goal drive. The routes were clean, and the separation was just enough to allow Manning to fit the balls into tight spots. GRADE: A.

OFFENSIVE LINE: You have to blame some of the running problems on their lack of overall push. Manning did see some early pressure, but they settled down later. The quarterback never had all day to search out his receivers, but he did have just enough time to make things happen. He was only hit twice, and sacked once. GRADE: B.

DEFENSIVE LINE: If anyone sees Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, Chris Canty, and Rocky Bernard, tell them to check in with Tom Coughlin. It's a contract requirement that they play in actual games when they can. That quartet was basically invisible, save for Cofield's late hit on Jason Snelling that set up Jason Elam's unsuccessful field goal attempt. No pressure up the middle, and Snelling made decent yards between the tackles. They were especially exposes on Snelling's first of two touchdown runs, when he started left, cut back right, and went untouched into the end zone. At least the ends did something. Justin Tuck had four tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble, and Osi Umenyiora had a fumble recovery to go along with two quarterback hits. Mathias Kiwanuka had two hits on Ryan and a pass breakup. But the effort was hardly consistent. The pressure hardly got there in the second half. The whole line seemed to run out of gas under Ryan's fast-paced execution. Their inability to at least pressure Ryan into premature throws the whole second half and make a couple of run stops on third-and-1 in the fourth quarter allowed the Falcons to continue exhausting scoring drives of 18, 12, and 12 plays as they stormed back to tie in regulation. GRADE: D.

LINEBACKERS: Michael Boley played a great game with a team-high 13 tackles, a sack, two quarterback hits, and two tackles for losses. But he was right there on Tony Gonzalez' tying touchdown and should have knocked down that end zone throw. Chase Blackburn had seven tackles, including one behind the line, in a good, last-minute performance in place of injured MLB Antonio Pierce. And Danny Clark had five tackles. That's the good news. The bad news is that the Giants blitzed quite a bit, and all but one of them were held up enough to let Ryan get off his passes. At times, the blitzing linebackers got there a click too late. At others, they weren't even close. GRADE: C.

SECONDARY: It was truly amazing how wide open Atlanta's receivers were in the fourth quarter as the Falcons came back from two touchdowns down. Forget about interrupting the flow with an interception. The defensive backs weren't even close enough to stop receivers from making yards after the catch. Eric Weems was wide open against rookie Bruce Johnson on his four-yard touchdown catch that narrowed the gap to 31-24. Michael Jenkins and Roddy White both caught 20-plus-yard passes down the stretch. Safety Aaron Rouse came up with a horrendous late hit on the third-quarter field goal drive. Aaron Ross did okay at safety in his first action of the season with four tackles. As the defensive line lacked pressure in crunch time, the secondary lacked coverage, and it nearly cost the Giants a game. GRADE: F.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Lawrence Tynes is going to make Coughlin lose what's left of his hair with his inconsistency. Another miss, this one from 31 yards, followed by overtime heroics on his 36-yard make that, were it two yards longer, would have sailed wide right. His worst performance came on the kickoffs, however, as Atlanta got consistent field position at the 35, 40, 37, and 35 that resulted in three touchdowns and a missed field goal. The kickoff coverage unit didn't help Tynes, either. Domenik Hixon looked better than he has in recent weeks, and came within a shoestring tackle of breaking a kickoff return for a touchdown. Jeff Feagles' punting was improved on three kicks for a 41-yard average, but the coverage allowed Weems a 17-yard return. GRADE: D.

COACHING: Have to hand it to Coughlin. He kept his team's heads together during the bye week when the collective psyche could have spiraled into despair. He obviously got on his coordinators, too, though only one seemed to absorb the message completely. Kevin Gilbride found out that amazing things can happen when you let your quarterback throw the ball into the end zone once inside the Red Zone. The offense had four trips there before the overtime and came away with three touchdowns and a missed field goal. It would have had four TDs if Manning had thrown to an open Hakeem Nicks on the sideline instead of a double-covered Boss. For once, this writer had no issues with the Red Zone playcalling. Still, when the Giants were still up by a touchdown with 5:53 remaining in regulation and they needed to run the clock down, what was called after the Giants got to their 41? A first-down pass, second-down run, third-down pass. Total runoff of the five-play drive: 2:09. The defense? That's another story. The worst Red Zone defense in the league continued as such, allowing four touchdowns and a field goal on six trips there. He dialed up plenty of blitzes, but most never got there. Judging by the number of open receivers in the second half, one must conclude the coverage schemes were flawed. The entire defense seemed to run out of gas, and even Antonio Pierce's emotional sideline pleas couldn't get them going. GRADE: C.

Issues, anybody?



  1. It looked like most of our blitzes were 2 players trying to run through the same hole.(Not positive. I go to the games, so don't get the benefit of replays). This worked early in the season against bad teams. But when good teams learn that is how you are going to attack you they make adjustments.

    Has Sheridan ever made an adjustment?

  2. It seems as thoug they have a decent game plan going in (watch the first half), but there are no adjustments made in the second half. And it's not the players.

    A lot of teams have far less talent on defense and play admirably. I guess it has to be scheme, but I don't know. Ernie, any ideas?

  3. Sheridan has not demonstrated an ability to adjust his schemes. Perhaps its inexperience as the head guy or just plain stubborness. LB blitzes are easily identified pre-snap and the opposition has blocked these well. Safety blitzes are not happening in this scheme. The occasional corner blitz, but this seemed to happen more with SPags than it does now. I don't think its all Kenny Phillips absence. He was just beginning to get accustomed to the system, he was not yet a main cog yet. It has to be the scheme and the personnel. The front 4 have got to pick up their play; are Kehl, Goff or Sintim the answers or are we continuing our never ending quest for a big time LB.

  4. Ernie,

    Good grades and good assessment. I agree totally with the review especially the part about how Atlanta's WR were wide open and our guys are just having to make catches in traffic. Eli's TD to Boss on the 4 yard pass was a bullet between two defenders who knew it was coming. The throws to Manningham were dead on. Eli won that game for us. I'd giev him an A+ and a star, also one of these stars to Boss.

  5. ERnie I agree with your grades;

    Give Eli an A+, he won that game yesterday. he was great, so was Boss. Everyone else was just OK with the possibly exception of Manningham, but he needs to do it week in and week out.

  6. I think u are a little harsh on the LB. I thought they played well. What is the schedule for this week Ern??? Full practice today and tom? Flight wed night????? u going to denver?

  7. My last post didnt go in????? What is the team schedule for the week??? U going to Denver Ern?

  8. its seems like the linebackers both blitz through the same gap, and are often blocked into each other. when you bring 2 and no one gets near the QB there will be a wr, or te running free. i really dont understand why there is no creativity in their blitz schemes

  9. Ernie,

    Do you think Tuck's shoulder is slowing him down? And is Osi still not 100 percent with his knee?

    I just ask because if they're fighting through these things that could be the reason why the front four are struggling so much.

  10. looked to me that osi was getting chipped and double teamed a lot

  11. If Osi's motor was as big as his mouth the Giants would have two pro-bowl ends.

  12. Couldnt agree with your assessment more, especially on the D-Line. Tuck and Osi got pretty good pressure most of the game (they did tire late however), but Ryan was able to step up freely into the pocket because the tackles got NO PUSH WHATSOEVER. Very frustrating to see Tuck, Osi, and Kiwi just missing sacks and Ryan squirming free because Cofield, Robbins, etc are no where to be found. If those guys dont get their act together, we are in trouble.

    And the 'late hit' on Aaron Rouse was a terrible call. The replay showed Snelling wasnt even out of bounds on the hit. Rouse also had a big tackle for a loss to stall an earlier Falcon drive, so I thought he played well in run support.

  13. Hey EP,
    Can't argue with the grades you've given...
    Just wanting to add that it looked like Bruce Johnson got exposed for the first time this year - gave a couple big catches and had two penalties if I recall correctly... Dockery needs to get his head out of his rear and fight his way back onto the field... QUICK!
    Also, the two calls on Aaron Rouse were BS!!!!! Neither one seemed to have much effect on the runner, so why make the call... The last one was really just a one-armed shove that the runner barely noticed... Keep the game physical refs, please! In fact, I think we may have found a player with this Rouse kid... looking forward to seeing more from him... already like him much more than CC Toast.

  14. I am now looking at the teams problems as a coaching issue. Clearly the O line has not played as well as last year and I wonder if it is related to the O line coach (I do not recall his name) we lost to Miami. Our defense is lost and performing more like the defense Spag's inherited then the one he coached last year and I think he has arguably better players. I do not dislike our new D coordinator but he does not have them playing well. He calls plays but does not seem to scheme the defense or adjust as the game goes forward. Yesterday after the half Atlanta came out and kicked the defense each possession and we had no adjustments. What do you think?

  15. Is it me or have we hardly seen Tuck rush from the tackle spot this season? I don't really remember seeing any stunts either. Tuck is your best rusher, why don't the Giants move him to wherever the weak link on the O-line is?

  16. No stops in the second half for the D. This has to be an adjustment thing. To the observer from the stands it seems that teams have found out that quick drops by the QB and chipping by the RB pretty much nullify the Giants pass rush. I agree with the post above about Bruce Johnson, I give him credit, he plays hard. I have no idea when Dockery will be back, he was inactive yesterday.

    I agree with Wayno about the LB, they had a good game against a good running team with an exceptional TE. Nice win, and we get a bronco team that was rocked by the Charger team we should have beaten


  17. It seemed to me the last two games that the defensive game plan at the end of each game was not to allow a big play. They played soft and the completions came easy for both Ryan and Rivers even if we had pressure. By the time their offenses got in our red zone the defense was gassed. Also the D line played better last year with O out and no Strahan then this year with Rocky (where are you)Bernard, Canty (come out where ever you are) and O who has one move a speed rush. There must be a way to get these players who have had success in the past to be more involved and productive. I thought going into the year that the depth on the D line was supposed to be a big Plus at the end of games. I have not seen it and Atlanta sure did not feel it yesterday. I wonder what Jerry Reese real thinks about the coaching staffs use of the players he has brought in.

  18. Ernie,
    If the secondary gets an "F" the Dline needs to get an "F-"!!! What is going on with this Dline? At home we allowed a team with a struggling QB and a third string RB to put up 31 points. Jason Snelling scores 2 TD's? Are you kidding me? All four of our DT's have been invisible all season. This is the most depressing win I've ever seen. While it's great to finally get a win after 6 weeks the reality has set in that we are not a playoff team. As for this quote:

    "Smith laid out for Manning's 51-yard heave and reeled it in like Hemingway hooking a marlin."

    Isn't the performance of this defense depressing enough? Do you have to give me flashbacks from my college American Lit. classes? Shame on you Ernie. But if you must reference Hemingway I think comparing this defense to the emasculated Jake Barnes is more appropriate.

  19. yeah, it's tough to get too excited by this win since they did ring up 31 pts on us... with a 3rd string back...
    Here's hoping Orton's ankle sprain is in even worse shape after yesterday....(:

  20. Better to be lucky than good. Atlanta's dropped TD pass,Johnson was to busy covering the goal post again,lucky it was dropped. Boley had great coverage on the TD,Johnson was late coming over and should have been there to brake it up. Ross can't be ready to play safety fast enough.WE will be LUCKY to go anywhere this year if Johnson is still on the field.Just heard Pierce on the WFAN,said key to Red Zone D is anticipation and quick reconition-reaction, that's not Johnson,he plays like a deer in the head lights.