Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Truly A Mixed Bag

Tom Coughlin said the 21-20 loss to the Chargers wasn't all bad, and he's right. But there were still plenty of negatives to go around to produce a loss that never should have happened. As you'll see in this report card, a lot of people on the sideline are going to be sentenced to wearing the dunce caps and sitting with their backs to the rest of the class.

QUARTERBACK: Can't blame Eli Manning for much in this one. His old accuracy returned as he went 25-of-33 for 215 yards and two touchdowns. Most comforting about his work was the fact that he did not throw an interception after tossing six the previous three games. He was sacked five times, but it could easily have been seven or eight had it not been for a couple of nice scrambles away from the pressure. I think we can put to rest any further talk of his injured plantar fascia bothering him after watching how well he moved. He did have a delay of game penalty, but it didn't ruin a real scoring threat. Aside from the risky touchdown throw he made to Steve Smith, fitting the ball between two tightly-covering defenders, and failing to see Kevin Boss wide open in the end zone, he operated a good, controlled passing game. Most of the throws were on the safe, shorter side, and that's a good thing. GRADE: B.

RUNNING BACKS: Brandon Jacobs is still looking for his first 100-yard game of the season, though he certainly would have had it if the coaching staff had put the ball in his hands more than 11 times. He still got 67 yards out of it for a season-high 6.1-yard average. He knocked down linebackers and defensive backs on several runs when he got his pads low and ran like he should. He also had a great blitz pickup on a seven-yard throw to Smith on the first possession. Ahmad Bradshaw wasn't much of a factor in carrying 14 times for 39 yards. But Danny Ware was, gaining nine yards on his first two carries of the season to set up a field goal. GRADE: B.

RECEIVERS: Hakeem Nicks caught three passes for 39 yards and continued to impress as he stepped around right cornerback Antonio Cromartie to turn a short gain into 29 yards and a first down. Steve Smith is back to being Manning's go-to guy with eight catches for 57 yards and a touchdown. Boss should have had two touchdowns yesterday, but Manning failed to see him. Instead, he had one for eight yards where he got nice separation in the end zone to go along with a nine-yard catch on which safety Eric Weddle laid him out with a helmet-to-facemask hit. Tough guy that he is, he wobbled off the field and was back for more later. Mario Manningham ran some decent routes and caught all six passes thrown to him for 52 yards. Don't forget Nicks' nice end-around, too. GRADE: B+.

OFFENSIVE LINE: They run-blocked okay for the most part, as the 116-yard combined effort showed. But they let down in key spots, like the Giants' final scoring drive when they couldn't open a hole for Brandon Jacobs to punch it into the end zone. Chris Snee's hold on that possession, with the ball at the 4, was a real killer. And the pass protection was shaky as Manning took five sacks, including a strip sack by Shaun Phillips and a game-ending sack by Shawne Merriman, his second of the game. GRADE: D.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Another up and down game for this unit. Osi Umenyiora continues to show up for one or two plays per game, this time strip-sacking Philip Rivers on third-and-nine to knock them out of field goal range in the second quarter with the score tied. After that, where was he? Nowhere. Chris Canty got his first work since the opener at defensive tackle, but didn't make a big impact. Fred Robbins' bull-rush sack started a great three-and-out sequence for the defense, just when they needed it at the start of the fourth quarter. Also in that series was a tackle by Justin Tuck that resulted in a nine-yard loss, and a no-gain tackle by Mathias Kiwanuka. Tuck also did a great job smelling out a Vincent Jackson reverse, but he failed to keep up with Antonio Gates in coverage on the zone blitz. Again, he was the most active of the linemen the whole game. The front-four pressure was inconsistent, though, and they seemed to run out of gas just when it was most important, late in the fourth quarter. GRADE: C.

LINEBACKERS: The re-appearance of Michael Boley did make a difference, as he contributed seven tackles and a pass breakup. But he got caught up on Rivers' throw on the final touchdown drive that found RB Darren Sproles wide open in the middle, a bad error. Second-round rookie Clint Sintim, in his first significant time on the defense, did well in coverage in place of the slower, much older Danny Clark. But Antonio Pierce again was better pre-snap than post-snap. He finished with three tackles, but hit the quarterback only once despite several blitz opportunities. And the best he could do on Rivers' touchdown pass to Kris Wilson was to give Wilson a frustrated chuck in the back well after Wilson had secured the ball in the end zone. GRADE: D.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Corey Webster had his hands full with Vincent Jackson and, truth be told, he didn't do a horrible job against the 6-foot-5, 230-pound target. Jackson did catch two scoring passes off him, including the game-winner, and Webster did commit pass interference against him in the end zone to set up the Wilson touchdown. But he did have five tackles, including one behind the line. Can't blame Terrell Thomas for much of anything. In fact, his late-game interception and 33-yard return to the Chargers' 4 should have iced the game and made him a hero. That was his team-leading third pick of the year, and he finished with a team-high nine tackles. Bruce Johnson had a couple of nice breakups, one on Jackson, but might have been burned had Rivers spotted the receivers he let loose. Aaron Rouse did provide an upgrade over C.C. Brown. Michael Johnson had an interception, but blew it all when he failed to get over to help Webster on the final scoring pass. GRADE: C.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Ugh! A real disaster, starting with a botched field goal operation that forced Lawrence Tynes to bypass a 39-yard, first-possession attempt because Jeff Feagles couldn't get the ball down. Make that, and it's not even an issue at the end. Feagles had another lousy day punting, too, as two of his five punts went for 32 and 31 yards, giving the Chargers a short field to work with. They scored touchdowns off each of them. Kevin Dockery rammed Sproles senselessly on a fair catch. Domenik Hixon had exactly one punt return worth talking about, a 13-yarder. The kickoff coverage was okay, and Tynes skipped two into the end zone. GRADE: F.

COACHING: This is really where the game was lost. Just bad decisions all around. Tom Coughlin should have gone for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 4 late in the fourth quarter. A touchdown would have made it a two-possession game and put it out of reach. At worst, they don't make it and San Diego is backed up against their goal line, which changes the way Rivers would have had to play the final two minutes. Instead, he sent Tynes out for the field goal and a six-point lead. Coughlin also should have overridden some of the passes offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride order in favor of handing the ball to Jacobs, who was knocking people over. I'm beginning to believe the coaches think Jacobs is too fragile, and if overused will miss a significant portion of the season. He made two excellent runs his first two carries, and then he was out of the lineup for Bradshaw. In fact, Jacobs was in and out of the backfield the whole game. No way Bradshaw should have more carries than him. Most of the blitzes Bill Sheridan called did not get home, allowing Rivers plenty of time to find receivers and forcing Webster to play an imposing receiver like Jackson one-on-one for the most part. Also questionable is his decision to have Tuck, the defense's most consistent player against both run and pass, drop back from the pass rush to chase Gates on two key plays, neither of which worked out well. With the ball on the 14 and the Giants needing a touchdown, the play-calling went: Screen to Nicks for no gain, Jacobs up the middle for five, and Jacobs up the middle for five. Play-action, anyone? GRADE: F.

The floor is yours.



  1. Ern,

    Agree with your assessment pretty much head on. My biggest issue, as you point out, was the complacency shown by the coaching staff on that final drive. Rather than attempt to clinch the game on offense, all the Giants did was force the Chargers' hand. If they fail to convert, SD takes over at their own 4 needing a FG to tie, and it's likely that if SD did drive toward the Giants' endzone they themselves would have settled for a FG. On top of that, it's not like 20 yard FGs have been gimmicks for Tynes (in hindsight, seems like this would have been a good time to miss one - couldn't have made the result any worse!) Week after week coaches throughout the league make questionable decisions, most of which err on the side of caution. I understand not wanting to take reckless chances (I don't necessarily mind the first three plays following the holding call in order to run some clock, but only if you're going to go for it on 4th), but too often it seems likely a good Madden player can outcoach these guys making millions, at least from a strategic standpoint in terms of clock management (see: Andy Reid in any close loss, Sunday's game against Dallas being no exception when he opted for a 52 yard FG cutting the deficit to 4 with a little over four minutes to play and no timeouts left - Philly never got the ball back).

  2. Good Card Ern. U finally take Tynes and the coaching staff to task. The Snee call was %100 BS and coughlin and snee are just afraid of a fine and future retribution. Snee had his arms inside and used leverage to take the fat tub of lard down. That changed the game and I am over bashing the GMEN and back to bashing the refs as i was all sunday night when i rewinded that play cbs didnt show a replay on 20 times.

  3. The coaching and personnel decisions have been an issue for most of the season. The tendency to drop Tuck out into coverage is mind boggling. Pierce is arguing with everyone, and is just way too theatrical. I wish he'd just put his hat on and play. Webster is NOT a pro bowl corner, and has been exposed week in and week out since the announcers started mentioning pro-bowl in the same sentence. Terrel Thomas is the best corner on this team, even when Ross is healthy. Can't wait to draft a real safety and some secondary help; it can't come soon enough.

  4. Did anyone else notice that Webster let up on that final touchdown pass? Jump, dive, something!!! Don't let that guy catch the game winning touchdown! I still think Webster is a good CB, but we do need Ross...badly!! They do complement each other well. I agree Ernie, this game showcases the problems with our coaching right now. I like your grade for them. Special teams is starting to kill us. On offense, I have been screaming for more playaction for weeks! Use Jacobs 20-25 times, if he gets hurt, he gets hurt and cross that bridge when it comes. That can set up nice playaction plays! Simplify the offense, using the run to set up playaction, flea flickers, etc. Are there any veteran middle LBs on the market next year? Good ones? I am very worried about the season now. 5-0 to 5-4!?!? Not good. The Gmen need a spark and I don't think the coaches have an answer! I have confidence in TC, but not in any of the coordinators.

  5. Funny that as much as Giants fans disagree we are all on the same page regarding the coordinators.

    Ern, may I suggest for the next poll asking if one or both of our coordinators should be replaced.

  6. Wayno: definitely seemed like a bogus call, but that play hardly cost the Giants the game - 2nd and Goal from the 1 would have surely been nice, but far from a guarantee for these boys, especially if Coughlin was only going to kick a FG anyway...

    Anon/CE: Right on about Webster - the guy is definitely a good corner, certainly better than the Wills who were nauseating to watch earlier this decade. Thomas has been a solid #2 most of the year, and Johnson has shown some promise for sure. I'm not quite sold on Ross being the answer across from Webster, he definitely seems like he could be legit but he has yet to make the jump that Webster made during the playoff run turning into a reliable CB. Gotta get him back on the field of course to see what he brings... Of course, the problem is not the CBs, but the safeties. Johnson is adequate as long as the safety alongside him is BETTER than he is, which is clearly not the case with KP out. This is absolutely a concern for next year, probably the biggest concern given that KP might never be back to 100%. Wouldn't mind trading some D-Line depth (anyone but Tuck) to move up in the draft and take that Berry kid out of Tennessee. Speaking of...

    EP, any chance you can do something about a look ahead at the offseason (which is hopefully much further away than it would seem to be right now) during this bye week? Obviously it's early but I'd love to be distracted from this losing streak with some speculation...

  7. I agree generalfamily, even though we are only at week 9, this losing streak is tough and forcing me to think to the future. Looking at the rest of the schedule, I fear this team going 8-8 or hopefully 9-7. Is this going to be the uncapped free agency year, given the current CBA? What can we expect next year in terms of draft and free agency? EP, can you help us forget about the current state of '09 for a week?

  8. Spot on as always. I might actually bump the receivers to an A. They made the most out of EVERY opportunity.

    I think Eli is very close to A worthy, but as much as you fault Coughlin, I fault Eli for following through on some of those play calls. You set up outside the endzone with a chance to put the game away and the D is set back at the goalline with the middle stacked, you gotta audible out of those runs and play for the win. He may not have the arm of his brother, but he's got the head of him. He's smart enough to change things up and go for the win, but he let Gilbride/Coughlin run that game into the ground at the end.

    Give me a Smith or Manningham slant underneath that deep coverage, give me Nicks, Boss or HELL BARDEN on a fade....but running Jacobs out of shotgun?!?! Come on. The worst part is that if they at least ran Bradshaw or Ware out of shotgun they may have made the right cuts for a TD or manageable 4th down.

    Sure the play never should have been sent in, but Eli finally is the big boy on the field. He's leading the players, NOW he has to stand up to his O.C. and throw for the win.

  9. here's my biggest problem about the Giants offense.


    Shotgun is nice once in a while, BUT shotgun effectively eliminates Eli's biggest strength: Play action.


  10. My only issue with the grades is that it is tough to blame Johnson on the last TD. He was covering a guy in the seam and he can't be two places at once. Rivers admitted he went to his fithy option on that throw. I think the bigger issue with the play is someone wasn't in his face as he checked down to option 5!!!

  11. Here is the thing, the Giants actually played well in this game on offense and defense. Special teams were the disaster! Giving the opposition short fields and botched field goals really cost us. It is just that this being the 4th loss in a row for this team makes it all the harder. We aren't second guessing coaching decisions, etc. if special teams do there job!

    However, I have to say I liked what I saw. At least they compeated! They laid down in Philly and that was a total embarrassement! I don't know if the secondary is solid but let's all agree not having CC Brown in the game was a huge upgrade. As well, if Aaron Ross comes back it gives us options. Last year he looked fantastic in certain stretches of the season.

    The reality is this. We have to come out of the bye both healthy and hungry. We have to got 6-1 or 5-2 the rest of the year. I still think this team has the capability of doing that....I really do.


  12. The generalfamily wants to look ahead to the draft. Good news, plenty of safeties. Youre right about Berry, very solid player. Taylor Mays from USC is the beast of this class. Cam Chancellor from Va Tech and don't forget about Myron Rolle who opted out this year to pursue a Rhodes scholarship. A sleeper is Van Eskridge from ECU, definite pro talent and another one with smarts to boot.

  13. The game was lost on one play. When the Giants had third and goal from the 10 on that last drive (after the pick) Kildrive called a running play to Jacobs. Wait, WHAT? Do they really think they can score from there with a running play up the middle??? Why not throw it to the corner? Its only third down, the worst is its incomplete and you kick the FG anyway. Worst play call of a season of poor play calls. The Giants offense has become so predictable that I seriously doubt they will end up better than 7-9. Look at the schedule. There's only two more wins on it. sheesh..

  14. Also, blaming Feags for that botched FG in the first half is BS! Look at the replay closely. He had the ball down and set. Tynes just quit on it. Get rid of him, FINALLY! Its not his FG acurracy, its his KO depth. IT STINKS!! The returns always start from the 10 and end up at the 30 or better. Get rid of him. There's tons of good kickers out there.

  15. Very good assessment, Ernie.

    I agree on the comment above about Tynes. I don't understand why he has stayed this long. I could see it if he had deep kickoffs that pinned the other team back. But he can't even do that.

    And i agree on the coaching. Gilbride in particular is killing this team. I don't understand not taking advantage of your strengths. After all this time, i still don't think he understands Giant football and the importance of establishing the run, especially in December. No matter how this year turns out, i beg Coughlin to get rid of him at the end of the year.