Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ya Gotta Believe!

Give Bill Sheridan this. The defensive coordinator is an optimist.

He believes that his unit will come out full bore Sunday against the Vikings in an effort to redeem itself after last week's heart-less catastrophe against Carolina. And, yeah, he believes he'll be back in the same defensive coordinator's spot next year.

Now, you'd be hard-pressed to find any coach around the league who would say publicly he's a goner. Former Giants DC Tim Lewis went that route in Pittsburgh before he showed up here and, surprise, Bill Cowher fired him. But outside of that, I haven't heard too many assistants predict their own demise.

So it's understandable that Sheridan would take a bright attitude despite his unit's precipitous fall from grace this year.

"Absolutely," he said when asked if he expects to survive his rookie season.

And what would his pitch to Tom Coughlin be?

"The same reason why he gave me the job, because he thinks I’m competent and do a conscientious, diligent job," Sheridan said. "That’s what I told him when I interviewed for it before. I said, ‘To me the most important thing is competence, that you can give (the players) a plan on a weekly basis that will put them in the best position to defend and beat your opponent. That’s why he gave me the job. And if he’s evaluated I’m still competent in that area, that’s what I would tell him."

There's no doubt Sheridan tried his hardest to be a good coordinator. But injuries hurt, and the miscommunication problems with the secondary must be laid at his doorstep. In his favor is Coughlin's tendancy toward loyalty to his assistants.

Sheridan said he hadn't given his job security a great lot of thought.

"I’m not concerned about it,” Sheridan told the media. "I know you guys are very concerned about it, but I am not concerned about it. You guys are doing a great job of being concerned about it, but I am not."

EP

Tuck's Knee

DE Justin Tuck stayed on the sideline during practice with a sore and swollen knee, according to Tom Coughlin, and could be a gametime decision.

Tuck, who has played through two bad shoulders since he injured the left one in Week 2 on a trip by Cowboys tackle Flozell Adams, came in this morning complaining of sorness. Coughlin said they're trying to nurse him into the game.

"I’ll let you know tomorrow," Coughlin said of Tuck's status.

In other injury news, DE Chris Canty has been declared out with a sprained right MCL.

"He was in the line of play and one of the guys coming off got kind of shoved a little bit and tripped and went into the side of his leg," Coughlin said of the injury that occured toward the end of yesterday's practice.

T Kareem McKenzie and CB Corey Webster, both with knee sprains, did not practice again. Coughlin would not rule them out yet, but if neither gets back to practice tomorrow it's unlikely they'd play.

But RB Ahmad Bradshaw, who spent today on the bike, is expected to get back to work tomorrow, as was his custom throughout the season.

Coughlin said Canty's injury was the reason he placed both CB Aaron Ross and RB Brandon Jacobs on injured reserve and signed QB Rhett Bomar and S Sha'reff Rashad from the practice squad. Their two replacements, OL Rueben Riley and WR Bruce Francis, both participated in practice.

"Well, to be honest with you, when the unfortunate – I call it an accident – we were almost through with practice when Chris Canty hurt his medial collateral," Coughlin said. "It kind of changed some things because of the numbers. We needed some help. So we wanted to get some guys in here that could help us practice. And so we did a couple of things yesterday in advance of the end of the week.

Back From Practice

Four Giants stayed on the stationary bikes during the media access to practice today, most notably DE Justin Tuck with an undefined malady. We'll probably get an update later from Tom Coughlin.

The others were expected: CB Corey Webster (knee), T Kareem McKenzie (knee), and RB Ahmad Bradshaw (ankles and foot). DT Chris Canty (knee) was not at practice, presumably staying inside to take treatment on what is believed to be a sprained right MCL.

EP

Early News

A little early news before we head out to practice on a snowy New Year's Eve day. The Giants placed CB Aaron Ross (hamstring) and RB Brandon Jacobs (knee) on injured reserve and replaced them with QB Rhett Bomar and S Sha'reff Rashad from the practice squad.

Now, don't get excited. We're probably not going to see either of the two replacements Sunday. Teams tend to elevate people from the practice squad at this point to secure their contract rights for next season. Otherwise, they would become free agents once the season ends.

The official end for Ross and Jacobs comes as no surprise. It was unlikely Ross would play again after he re-injured the left hamstring two weeks ago. That was the same hamstring that kept him inactive the first nine games of the season.

Jacobs' right knee injury, thought to be a torn meniscus, will undergo arthroscopic surgery next week. He was declared out of Sunday's game yesterday.

To replace Bomar and Rashad, the Giants signed OL Rueben Riley and WR Bruce Francis to the practice squad.

EP

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pro Bowler O'Hara

Shaun O'Hara was typically gracious about his Pro Bowl nod, the only Giant to make the roster.

"It's definitely an honor," O'Hara said. "As a lineman, you're always uneasy to get any personal recognition. But it's a big honor for the entire offensive line. It's a reflection of our line as a whole."

Probably not. That offensive line was not the power line of the last two seasons, and there will likely be change in a starting unit that had played a record 38 straight games intact before right tackle Kareem McKenzie missed Week 7 against Arizona with a groin injury.

Still, O'Hara was probably the steadiest of the bunch, which also had left tackle David Diehl and right guard Chris Snee voted to first alternate status.

EP

Playing Eli

Had some pretty good opinions both ways on whether the Giants should continue to play Eli Manning in Sunday's meaningless game. Remember, he is playing with an injured foot that has kept him on the injury list as probable since he originally hurt it against Kansas City.

Well, no matter what anyone thinks, it's a sure thing Manning will start. And neither coach nor quarterback would have it any other way.

"If we felt – the medical people felt that there was an issue there with risk, then we would certainly take that into full consideration," Tom Coughlin said. "But I would say this to you, if you were to speak with Eli Manning about not playing in the game, that would not be a very pleasant conversation."

Would have loved it if Coughlin channeled Herm Edwards on that one. "You play to win! YOU-PLAY-TO-WIN!"

Said Manning, "No, that wouldn’t be a good conversation. I definitely want to play and play well.

"We still have some young guys on this team. There are things we need to improve on and fix after last week. We are trying to fix those things and make sure we get better this week."

So expect him out there, at least at the start. If things get out of hand early, then maybe a glimpse of David Carr wouldn't be outlandish in the second half.

EP

Osi In A Bind

Defensive end Osi Umenyiora managed to be both apologetic and cryptic in some wide-ranging comments today. But the one thing that he left undetermined was his role in the Giants' defense next season.

The only definitive statement on his future was that he is not strictly a third-down lineman, a contention many who have watched him this year might have a problem with. Other than that, he's not sure what his role will be, or which team it might be with.

He wouldn't even go so far as saying he had no intention of asking for a trade or release from a contract that runs through 2012 and will pay him an economical $3.1 million next season.

"We've got to focus on Minnesota right now," Umenyiora said. "After that, all these other things I promise you will take care of itself, man. After that, we'll go from there."

That's not exactly what you'd call an absolute no, especially in light of the fact that Umenyiora said things definitely have to change on the defense to bring a smile to his face. He apologized for the way he acted after Sunday's loss, saying his thoughts about this being possibly his last game as a Giant was a function of "being angry and frustrated, without much thought," from things having gone so horribly wrong.

But also part of it was his lack of playing time. Long believed at odds with defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan dating back to his training camp walkout, Umenyiora silently accepted his demotion to situational pass rusher after the Denver game. He said, though, that he expected that to change next season.

"I am not a third down player; I am not a third down rusher," Umenyiora said. "I can play the run and I have played the run this year.

"I think I had a bad game against Denver, a bad quarter against Denver, and things kind of snowballed from there, but in actuality who on this team has played excellent every single game. Things happen, so I cannot take that away from myself because I am only in on third down and people say I can’t play the run. That’s absolute B.S because I can and the film is there to prove it."

Umenyiora said it would be a waste of money to continue to pay him as a one-down lineman.

"For me, personally, not playing on first and second down and making the amount of money I'm making, and just playing on third down and being chip-blocked 90 percent of the time, I don't think they can pay me just to do that," he said. "These are very smart businessmen we're dealing with, and I don't see a way they'd be able to do that."

Although he refused to openly criticize Sheridan, one can bet that he won't be a happy camper if the rookie coordinator is retained.

That's not likely to happen, as few coordinators around the league would survive such a sharp decline in unit production as the Giants have had. But it is possible that a new coordinator could see what Sheridan saw in Umenyiora's run defense.

And this is where Umenyiora's perception of himself and reality diverge. Despite being blocked out of runs with clock-like consistency this season, he maintained that he played the run as well as he ever did.

"I'm not sure what tape everybody's been watching," he said. "It seems everybody's been watching a different film. I'm just as explosive. I'm still the same player that I was. Dr. Warren, Ronnie Barnes, all those guys did a tremendous job putting me back together. I don't look at myself and see any difference in the player I was before. And anybody who knows football and watches football said the same thing."

Apparently, Sheridan didn't think so, otherwise he wouldn't have demoted Umenyiora for Mathias Kiwanuka. As it happened, the run defense improved after that, and three of the next four opponents totaled under 100 yards rushing.

Now, despite Tom Coughlin's proclamation Monday that Umenyiora will remain a valued and integral part of the team, there is controversy surrounding the defensive end's future.

"I love this team," Umenyiora said. "I've spent the last seven years of my life here, and I have a lot of great friends here. But the situation cannot continue the way it is. Some things definitely need to change.

"I'm not a general manager, so I don't know what's going on. I've tried for the most part to do everything that's been asked of me. But the last couple of weeks -- obviously I'm a great competitor and a man of great pride -- it's been difficult. It's been rough. But I've tried to keep my mouth quiet and do what's been asked of me."

That has been to come in on obvious passing downs and do what he has always done best -- rush the passer. And, in fact, for a few weeks, his frequency in the backfield did improve. He had two of his team-high seven sacks in two of the last three games, and added a forced fumble against Philadelphia.

But he said he by no means wants to keep that role.

Nor does he prefer the controversial route to a solution.

"That's not the way I want to represent myself," he said. "I just said some things that day that were part of the frustration and anger of the moment. It's not something I plan on doing again.

"But at the end of the day, I can't settle for anything less. I can't settle for not playing or doing anything like that."

Depending on what happens in the offseason, he may have little choice about it.

EP

Now It's Canty

The hits just keep coming for the Giants. Now it's Chris Canty, who left the locker room on crutches because he injured what is believed to be a right MCL near the end of practice.

Canty missed seven games with a hamstring and then a calf issue following a brief appearance in the opener. He was to undergo testing.

The frustration continues for Canty.

"You know, I don't want to talk about it," Canty said. "We'll have the doctors take a look at it and take it from there."

Whatever happens, it's a good bet Canty won't be there for the finale on Sunday.

EP

Jacobs Done

That right knee injury Brandon Jacobs battled for much of the season turned serious enough over the past week to end his season.

According to Tom Coughlin a few minutes ago, Jacobs will undergo arthroscopic surgery next week, which means he's out for Sunday's finale. This makes the fourth straight season Jacobs has failed to last all 16 games.

"Brandon's always had some issues," Coughlin said, referring to an uncertain timeline on this particular injury and its effect on a sub-par season. "But he wouldn't use it as an excuse, and neither will I."
Jacobs finished his season with 224 carries for 835 yards and five touchdowns. Far worse than those numbers is the average breakdown, which comes to 3.7 yards per carry. That's a huge dropoff from the 5.0 average of his previous two seasons, and the 4.7 career average he brought into 2009.
He failed to have a 100-yard game, and only four times did he carry 20 times or more in a game. He went out with a dismal six-carry, one-yard effort against Carolina.

Coughlin said he hasn't decided on placing Jacobs on injured reserve to free up a spot for another running back, perhaps Nehemiah Broughton from the practice squad. But he did say Ahmad Bradshaw, still struggling with two ankle sprains and a broken fifth right metatarsal, won't be able to shoulder a full workload. So either DJ Ware or Gartrell Johnson will have to step up.

And by Coughlin's comments, one can assume it will be Johnson.

"Of course, Ware had that unfortunate incident (dislocated elbow) at the very beginning of the season," Coughlin said. "He came back and got nicked again. And to be honest, on special teams, when he was back, he didn't do much. He didn't provide us with a lot.

"Gartrell would give us a chance. He flies around. So with Danny, we're trying to make him understand a lot of things about consistency and what our expectations are no matter what spot we're in. Hopefully, he's going to learn that."

This is the second straight year Jacobs will miss time because of a knee issue. And all Coughlin can do is hope the scope will fix it permanently. One can doubt that, however, since Jacobs' usual, pounding running style opens him up to lower leg injury.

Even the decision to run him outside this year didn't produce season-long durability.

In other injury news, T Kareem McKenzie (knee), CB Corey Webster (knee), and CB Aaron Ross (hamstring) did not practice. G Rich Seubert (knee) was scheduled to participate in some individual and team drills, but was to be limited.

EP

Here Again

One last Wednesday at the old homestead. We'll get Tom Coughlin in a few minutes. Looking for updates today on Corey Webster, Aaron Ross, Kareem McKenzie and Rich Seubert.

We'll also undoubtedly be taking to Shaun O'Hara about his Pro Bowl selection.

Here's the preliminary injury list:

RB Ahmad Bradshaw (ankles and foot), RB Brandon Jacobs (knee), QB Eli Manning (foot), WR Mario Manningham (shoulder), T Kareem McKenzie (knee), DT Fred Robbins (lower leg), CB Aaron Ross (hamstring), G Rich Seubert (knee), and CB Corey Webster (knee).

Now, a question. Does it matter to anybody what the Giants do Sunday against Minnesota? Is there a difference between 9-7 and 8-8? If they beat the Vikings, will it truly wash away the hideous taste of last week?

The floor is open.

EP

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Only One Pro Bowler

Center Shaun O'Hara was named as a backup to starting center Andre Gurode of the Cowboys on the NFC Pro Bowl squad, as announced a few minutes ago by the NFL.

WR Steve Smith, LT David Diehl and RG Chris Snee were voted first alternates. Kick returner Domenik Hixon and defensive end Justin Tuck were voted as third alternates, and Eli Manning, coming off his best statistical season, was voted a fourth alternate. They'll go if anybody backs out.

I can understand some people getting upset that Smith didn't make it. But let's face it, Giants receivers have never put up big numbers. And when you've got guys like Larry Fitzgerald, DeSean Jackson, and Sidney Rice as the top three, it probably came down to a close vote between Smith and the Cowboys' Miles Austin, and Austin squeaked in there.

As for Manning, the three who made it were Drew Brees, Brett Favre, and Aaron Rodgers. Hard to argue with that, especially since they stand Nos. 1, 3, and 4 among league passers.

As for Tuck, he paid the price for the entire defense's failings.

Thoughts?

EP

Who's In, Who's Out

Now that all the playoff stuff is over and done with, it's not going to matter a whole lot if the Giants finish 9-7 or 8-8. No matter what happens in Minnesota Sunday, there are going to be changes ahead.

It's a bit premature to target who will be coming in from the outside because we won't know until March if 2010 will be an uncapped year. If it is, the free agent pool will be diluted simply because the free agent eligibility goes up to six years from its current four without the cap. But it's never too early to surmise who the Giants might jettison in their search for a fix, especially for a defense that gave up 40 or more points four times this year.

One thing is a surity. Tom Coughlin goes nowhere, nor does he deserve to. Preparedness is different than execution, and Coughlin's teams were nothing if not prepared. One would have to think that if certain people return to health next season -- Kenny Phillips, Corey Webster, Aaron Ross, Osi Umenyiora -- the results may be way different than this year.

As for the offense, there's no doubt the young wide receivers have a good thing going, and Eli Manning is as responsible for that as anyone. He had some ups and downs, but overall he had his best statistical season ever. He'll finish with over 4,000 yards if things go right Sunday, and his 27 TDs is a career high.

So who's in and who's out? Just my opinion, but...

OUT:

DC Bill Sheridan -- Don't be surprised if Dick Jauron, an old Coughlin cohort from Jacksonville days, comes to the rescue. He's got a good defensive mind and he's experienced in the coordinator's spot. There's just no way Sheridan, or any coordinator, could or should survive a season where their unit was so ineffective. Forget about the yards they allowed. They've given up 383 points so far, fifth-most in the league behind only Detroit, St. Louis, Kansas City and Tennessee. That's a steep decline from 2008, when Steve Spagnuolo's group landed in the top five in fewest points allowed.

Antonio Pierce -- Breaks my heart to say this because I love his on-field leadership, but maybe it's time he moves along. Time to get somebody younger and faster in there, like Jonathan Goff, who proved he has much potential, or an early draft pick. If he's interested in coaching at all, it wouldn't be a bad move for the Giants to offer him that break-in job as an assistant linebackers coach.

C.C. Brown -- Outskie! Nice try bringing him in from Houston, but the guy never fit the defense. Seemed to be a slow learner and an even slower coverage guy. Can't have that at safety, but Phillips' return would make him unnecessary, anyway.

Chris Canty -- I wouldn't mind seeing him go at all. He was supposed to bring pressure up the middle, pass-batting ability with those big wings, and some gap-clogging. He delivered none of it as he battled a couple of injuries. Sounds like damaged goods to me, so get rid of him if there are no cap implications. A new collective bargaining agreement that includes a salary cap would save him, however.

Fred Robbins -- His time has come and gone. Bye. I could be wrong here because I didn't think he'd make it to training camp this year.

Kevin Dockery -- I once thought he was going to be an excellent cornerback. But he couldn't even stick as a nickelback in this, his contract year. Cooked up too many times. No sense in offering him a restricted free agent tender.

Kareem McKenzie -- Another one of my favorite people, but it's time to start getting some new blood into that line. Will Beatty proved he can do the job. Now it's time to start him fulltime, either on his more natural left tackle spot, which would move David Diehl either to guard or right tackle, or just put him in straight-up for McKenzie. Either way, Kareem's time is up.

Madison Hedgecock -- He's not a bad blocker, but his pass-catching ability is from hunger. Need a more well-rounded fullback.

Lawrence Tynes -- I'm not saying this is automatic, but they at least need to bring in some legit competition for him in camp, preferably someone who can hit the end zone consistently on kickoffs. If he gets outkicked, he gets outkicked.


IN:

Umenyiora -- He's in. It takes a long time to heal from knee surgery, and it would be unfair to say he's washed up after just this year. He needs another season. And I wouldn't mind at all to see his workload curtailed to passing downs so he can concentrate on getting to the quarterback. Better than seeing him get blown up on the run half the time, right?

Michael Johnson -- Tough call. Boy, he had a lousy year. But he's still a hard hitter when he gets to somebody. And since you can't retool everything at once, he may have to stick around. Phillips' returning range will make Johnson a better safety, anyway.

Corey Webster -- Oh, he stays. There was a stretch of games where he was the best cornerback on the team. Terrell Thomas also sticks, as does Aaron Ross. Thomas had an excellent year overall. Ross needs another year to see if his hamstring will hold up. If it can't, he's gone after next season.

Brandon Jacobs -- We all know he's fragile, but when his battering-ram power is used properly, he's a force. Guys like him, you get what you can out of them, and if they miss a few games because of injury, you live with it. I think a healthier Ahmad Bradshaw and DJ Ware will allow Jacobs to get back to a more familiar style next season, so keep him around.

JUSTIN TUCK -- Of all the defensive players, Tuck was the one guy who put out every game. Busted up shoulders, aches and pains all over, he was in there pitching. He plays inside and out, and is good enough to adapt to any system the new defensive coordinator dictates, be it the 4-3 or 3-4. Love his fire. While we're at it, keep Mathias Kiwanuka around, too. He's still developing, but he didn't have an awful year.

Michael Boley -- Yeah, he sticks. Good speed when healthy. Could use some remedial work in covering the tight end, but he was never really at full strength this year. I think with an offseason of rest, he'll be much more effective on the blitz next season.

Barry Cofield -- He's okay as a nose tackle.

Jeff Feagles -- If you're thinking his problems this year were caused by his advanced age, I disagree. Too much coaching, if there can be such a thing. The staff needs to step back from reminding him to be deathly afraid of these top-flight returners and let the 22-year-old veteran do his job. He's got plenty left.

OC Kevin Gilbride -- He'll drive you mad at times with his playcalling in the Red Zone, but if he can get that straightened out he's not bad. He can work on getting Manning to stop fiddling around with the calls at the line. Remember, it was his group that put up 30 or more points six times this year, and three times in the last four games.

Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham -- Yes, even Manningham, providing someone can explain to him that that thick line on each side of the field is out of bounds. They're dynamic and diverse, a nice surprise after heading into the season with so many questions. Also can't wait to see what next year holds for Ramses Barden, the tall, small-school wideout who never got off the inactive list.

Domenik Hixon -- Borderline case here. He's not a bad returner, and not a horrible fourth or fifth option as a receiver. But if they can find someone better on the open market, they should go after him.

Kevin Boss -- They need guys like him; smart, tough, good hands, good blocker. If they can take him out of max protection mode next year, I think they'll find they have a pretty good receiver who can work that skinny post for some big gains. He takes a heck of a licking and keeps getting up. Guys like that are invaluable.

That's the partial list. Tell me what you think.

EP

Extra Credit?

Under ordinary circumstances, the Giants might have been offered extra credit homework to help boost their grades. But as a teacher friend of mine once said, you can't get extra credit if you don't do the assignment to start with.

Guess that's where we're at after that team-wide no-show against Carolina. Can't get extra credit for a game you never bothered showing up for. In fact, since the combination of that loss and Green Bay's and Dallas' wins eliminated them from the playoff picture, we've got a good mind to hit the whole team with a week's detention.

Please sign and return to principal.

QUARTERBACKS: Eli Manning was 6-for-6 on the first drive and should have been 7-for-7 with a touchdown if not for a penalty that called back his perfect end zone pass to Steve Smith. If anybody was trying out there -- and there weren't many of them -- he was. Manning finished 29-of-43 for 296 yards and a touchdown, which was fine. But he did throw two interceptions, too. And what was that scramble and lateral try all about? Just go down with the ball next time. GRADE: C.

RUNNING BACKS: Fullback Madison Hedgecock basically threw a defender to the ground on that touchdown pass, ruining what should have been a successful first possession. Then he compounded matter when the game was out of hand by dropping an open throw in the end zone. His blocking was anything but superb. Brandon Jacobs was limited to six carries for a yard as he went back to his old dancing ways. And now a knee injury that has bothered him all year seems to be flaring up to serious proportions. Ahmad Bradshaw was only okay with 11 carries for 53 yards. A 60-yard team effort against any team just isn't going to cut it. GRADE: D.

RECEIVERS: Steve Smith had a decent game with seven catches for 70 yards and a touchdown, and he should have had another. But the other guys weren't much of a factor, and one, Mario Manningham, was a detriment as he fumbled the ball to end that first drive. They should have gotten at least a field goal out of that, but Manningham lost concentration again and let the ball go in the Red Zone. Hakeem Nicks failed to make a big play, and couldn't get into the end zone on a fourth-quarter completion that should have produced points. No matter, Smith scored his touchdown a couple of plays later. Kevin Boss, Domenik Hixon, both non-factors. GRADE: C.

OFFENSIVE LINE: No holes for the running game, and too porous in pass protection. Yeah, there were two injury-driven position changes with Kevin Boothe at left guard for Rich Seubert and Will Beatty in for Kareem McKenzie at right tackle. But Beatty had done well in two previous starts, and Boothe had played well as an everywhere backup. So there really was no excuse for the constant blocking breakdowns that kept Manning on the run and forced him to take four sacks. A lot of that heat came up the middle, so blame Boothe, Shaun O'Hara, and Chris Snee for that. GRADE: F.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Guess that line that abused Washington was just an abberation. Aside from Justin Tuck's sack on the Panthers' first play, they did absolutely nothing. Gap control? A foreign concept. How about the whole left side getting blown apart on Jonathan Stewart's 52-yard run? How about Stewart running inside and out for 206 yards, and the Panthers' 247 total rushing yards standing as the biggest total in Giants Stadium history? Mathias Kiwanuka, who had a solid season as a run-stopper, was soft on the corner, and Chris Canty and Barry Cofield got pushed around like wind throwing around confetti in the middle. Osi Umenyiora was in for only a handful of plays, but he did absolutely nothing with his opportunities. GRADE: F.

LINEBACKERS: There wasn't a single linebacker who even breathed on Moore, let alone delivered a hit. No pass breakups, either. So what did they do all day. What they usually do. Chase around the tight end (Jeff King had a wide open touchdown) and make tackles far from the line of scrimmage. Michael Boley was the only linebacker to shoot in for a tackle behind the line. Jonathan Goff was a non-factor, and Danny Clark was invisible. Utterly inconsequential. GRADE: F.

SECONDARY: You know that contract Kevin Dockery thought might be coming his way after that good showing against Washington? Forget it. He looked absolutely sick against the Panthers, missing at least two tackles that wound up in big gains and failing to break up even one pass. Not to pick on him -- he just looked the worst of all of them -- but it was sad seeing him miss Steve Smith near the line on his 11-yard gain in the Panthers' first touchdown drive. Terrell Thomas got pushed back on Muhsin Muhammad's touchdown catch and missed Stewart on his 52-yard journey. Michael Johnson actually broke Smith's arm on his third-quarter touchdown catch, but a simple wrap-up would have taken Smith down short of the goal line instead of giving him the chance to bounce off Johnson and traipse into the end zone. You get points here for preventing points, not breaking bones. No interceptions, and undrafted rookie Bruce Johnson was the only defensive back credited with a breakup. Again, this unit has been battered with injuries throughout the year and played without corners Corey Webster and Aaron Ross. But they didn't even show up, and that's unforgiveable. GRADE: F.

SPECIAL TEAMS: They couldn't even get the extra point operation down this time. Jeff Feagles did fine in the punting department, and the kickoff coverage was just okay. But Hixon's kickoff returns never gained the Giants any outstanding field position, and that was as much a fault of his blockers as himself. Lawrence Tynes hit a 40-yard field goal. GRADE: D.

COACHING: It's my contention -- and you may correct me if I'm wrong -- but coaches can all the plays they want; they're not going to work unless somebody executes. And when a team doesn't even bother showing up, execution can't happen. Tom Coughlin has to take the ultimate responsibility for that. Somewhere between Saturday night and the second possession Sunday afternoon, the Giants lost their will. Down 3-0, with everything to play for, everything simply stopped. Until then, though, at least the offense did well. Kevin Gilbride called a masterful first possession, and it wasn't his fault that Manningham fumbled. But virtually nothing he called after that worked. And the defense was a shambles from the get-go. Bad calls, bad schemes, uncontested passes, a back who looked like an unbroken Mustang running the prarie. Just horrible. The players didn't play, but the coaches have to take the fall here, too. GRADE: F.

Okay, gang. Your turn.

EP

Monday, December 28, 2009

And One More Thing

For all those rooting for Carolina coach John Fox to come back here as defensive coordinator after he gets fired, forget it.

The Charlotte Observer is reporting that both Fox and GM Marty Hurney will be given the opportunity to return next season. That's the final season of Fox' contract, and he won't be given the customary extension at the end of this season. But it doesn't look like he's going anyplace, either, especially with a potential lockout after the 2010 season.

No sense in hiring a new guy for one year and then having to pay him to sit idle for the next, right?

EP

Fie On Harry!!!

No, it wasn't that Shakespearean, the Giants' basic reaction to Hall of Fame linebacker's Harry Carson's criticism of his former team hiding its collective pride yesterday.

But you get the idea.

Carson's quotes, "I'm not saying that they don't have pride, but I don't see where the pride is coming from. Wellington Mara always said, 'Once a Giant, always a Giant.' And guys who have played here have a certain sense of pride that we have to adhere to. I don't necessarily see that same pride amongst the guys who are here now," were met with mostly jeers from the current Giants.

"It doesn't mean anything to me," linebacker Michael Boley said. "These guys in this locker room, we play the game. Any words coming from the outside fall on deaf ears. I don't care who it is. If we listened to everything that was said outside these walls, we'd drive ourselves crazy. We know what goes on with us, so we can't really focus on what's said outside."

Perhaps a little crazy is what the Giants need right now.

Terrell Thomas actually agreed with the old, hard-nosed linebacker who was never adverse to re-arranging the furniture during the team's more contemplative times.

"You can't take it to heart because he's not in the locker room and he's not making the plays, but I definitely respect him," Thomas said. "And I agree with him because we didn't play with any passion. With everything on the line, the playoffs and the last game at Giants Stadium, we had too much momentum in this game not to. We had opportunities, we just didn't seize them."

Oddly enough, coach Tom Coughlin didn't see it as a lack of pride or effort. Perhaps he was just trying to cover for his players, but he said the pride of team he has preached since the day he arrived in 2004 was there before, during, and after the game.

"I don’t think that it is effort, I really don’t,” Coughlin said. “I think that every man wanted to play and wanted to play well. I think there could be some question about when things aren’t going well, how do we do. Maybe we don’t answer, we don’t play as well as we can coming from behind. Or when we talk about coming out after the half and stopping them, and they go down in four plays and score. These things are emotional, as well. They are draining. Maybe, perhaps, you can talk about that a little bit, but I would not say that the effort was not there."

As for Carson's comments about a lack of pride, he said he'd seen flashes of that very quality during the up-and-down season.

"I didn’t hear that. You are telling me this probably for the first time here. The unfortunate thing is it’s probably as inconsistent as our season has been.

"You have some very, very good examples of our pride. You have the Dallas game, I thought was well exhibited and certainly Washington was well exhibited. We tried like heck against Philadelphia here at home and if it wasn’t for the turnovers and the punt return, I think that would have been a game that came right down to it as well.

"We talk about New York Giant pride, we do know what it is. Perhaps it hasn’t been shown in all respects this year. Believe me, it is talked about and it is there."

You'd have needed an electron microscope to find it yesterday, however. Even punter Jeff Feagles acknowledged that. And there's nobody in that locker room who has seen more than the 22-year veteran.

"We are all stunned and disappointed and it is very, very embarrassing," Feagles said. "I feel sorry for what we put on that field yesterday to the fans that have been here for a long, long time and more importantly the owners of this team. To go out there and do what we did yesterday is totally unacceptable, embarrassing and we should all be very, very sad about it. I know I am.

"Of all the losses, this one hurts the most, because it had a lasting effect. We are out of the playoffs and we came in here as the last team for the Giants in Giants Stadium. (This) is no way to go out."

EP

Jacobs Knee

Looks like Brandon Jacobs is battling a knee problem now.

That could be one excuse for his six-carry, one-yard effort against the Panthers. Another could be the offensive line's utter inability to keep the Panthers' front from penetrating. Whatever the case, the 6-foot-4, 264-pound running back who has shown the power of a battering ram and the delicateness of a capodimonte statuette, is hurting once again.

"He's sore and his knee is swollen," Coughlin said. "I hope it's something he can overcome in a week's time. He's had some issues along the way he's had to deal with."

If he can't make it, this will mark the fourth season in a row he's failed to suit up for all 16 games. It was a goal of his in training camp to last the full season.

CB Corey Webster (knee), T Kareem McKenzie (knee), G Rich Seubert (knee), and CB Aaron Ross (hamstring) also remain uncertain for Sunday. Webster, in particular, has swelling around the knee that has not subsided over the past week.

"They all want to play," Coughlin said. "They're all trying like heck to play. But they all still have medical issues. We'll see. They want to practice, they want to be involved. But there are still some issues."

EP

No Change With Osi

You can call Osi Umenyiora overrated all you want. And you can go on and on about how ineffective he was this year.

But as far as Tom Coughlin is concerned, the defensive end isn't going anywhere.

One day after Umenyiora said he might have played his last game as a Giants, Coughlin offered up a vote of support. He said Umenyiora was part of the meeting the coach had with his 10-member "leadership council" but did not speak to him privately about his comments.

"I'm familiar with what he said," Coughlin said, chalking up Umenyiora's sentiments to frustration. "He's very much in our plans. I'll just tell you he's a very important asset to our team."

He wasn't yesterday. Because of his demotion to strictly pass-rush situations, Umenyiora played only about 14 snaps or so and did not have a statistic. That's no tackles, no sacks, no pressures. Niente!

The Panthers did run 46 times, a fact Coughlin used to explain Umenyiora's absence. But then, Umenyiora was invisible a lot this year, even before he lost his starting job to Mathias Kiwanuka. Still coming off last year's knee surgery, Umenyiora was your basic non-factor against the run and only a sometime visitor to the backfield on passing downs.

He is signed through 2012, and fairly cheaply at that. So one can assume he will be sticking around, and also bet he'll not be getting that lucrative extension he's been after until he proves he can at least approach his Pro Bowl level of 2007.

Whether he ever assumes a starting role again is another story.

"We'll try to evaluate all those things," Coughlin said. "He's a very good football player. How all those things fit together, I'm not going to go into that right now. He's a very good football player. Always has been. Great pride. Does an exceptional job getting after the passer."

Maybe in other seasons. Not this one. But Coughlin can be excused. He needs Umenyiora for another game, so trashing him wouldn't make any sense.

I think he sticks. He'll be healthier, which means he should at least return to being a forceful pass rusher. And what team couldn't use a 28-year-old sacker?

Do you guys want to see him around next year?

EP

Apologizing

They didn't offer to refund any of those PSL's you've paid for next season. But at least Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin formally apologized for what one might understate as a bad effort in yesterday's 41-9 loss to the Panthers.

"I apologize. I’m sorry," Manning said. "I wish I had an answer. I wish we could have come out and played better football. I don’t have the answer to why it happened or why it has happened kind of throughout the season where we have been up and down in our play.

"We have to find a way to be more consistent. That is what you see from the good teams in this league – they are consistent week in and week out. You might not win every game but you are going to be in the fight for every game."

Coughlin was equally apologetic, and understandably perplexed, at his team's collective no-show.

"I do think of one thing I want to say to our fans," Coughlin said. "I think to a man, we'd like to apologize for yesterday. I think, for whatever reason, a team that had an awful lot to play for, that had opportunities there, that was playing in Giants Stadium for the last regular-season game, didn't play up to our capabilites. It's been a very frustrating thing."

Others didn't apologize, some because they didn't think of it, and others because they never made themselves available for such trivial matters. Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck (surprisingly), Fred Robbins, Chris Canty, and Michael Johnson reprised their Sunday roles by being no-shows in the locker room during today's media access. Brandon Jacobs scurried away from questioners, but he always does that on Mondays, anyway.

Mathias Kiwanuka, voted by the media members as this year's Good Guy Award winner for his cooperation, dressed and walked away from the media, saying, "Sorry, can't do it."

Time for a re-vote, maybe?

Well, that's for another time. The pressing issue now is where the Giants go from here. Most immediately, it's to next Sunday and a chance to finish up 9-7 against the Vikings in Minnesota. Given that the 11-3 Vikes may well have a chance to swipe home field advantage away from the slumping Saints, assuming a win tonight over Chicago, they may well play that game to the hilt. And that's not particularly good news for a Giants team that could be in for some major changes come the offseason.

"We'll see what happens in the offseason," Manning said. "We've got to go out to Minnesota and play well and end this season on a good note. If we can go and win nine games in a season, it's not great, not good enough to make the playoffs, but you can build off that.

"Then, we'll work this offseason. We do have young guys who were banged up and hopefully they'll get better next year. And there's changes one year to the next. We'll get to work and see if we can get better."

Linebacker Michael Boley's first season as the team's prized free agent pickup comes to an end, expects there will be significant change.

"It's inevitable," Boley said. "It's just the nature of the league."

He had no suggestions for general manager Jerry Reese or Coughlin, for that matter.

"It doesn't matter what I think," Boley said. "It is what it is."

Plenty of players, however, will be playing for their jobs next week.

EP

Asking A Question

In the spirit of the day, I want to know your opinion on something.

What was a worse loss, "The Fumble" in 1978 or yesterday's 41-9 mess against Carolina.

Give me your reasons. And while you're at it, if you wish, you can rank it historically among both home, road, Giants Stadium, Yankee Stadium, and Polo Grounds losses.

EP

Hate To Do This...

But here are the highlights from whatever that mess was yesterday.

First one to say, "Ya know, it didn't look half as bad on tape as it did live," or "They really did do a lot of positive things," gets a sock in the kisser.


EP

Sunday, December 27, 2009

And That, As They Say, Is That

The Giants officially exited the playoff picture a few minutes ago as the Cowboys beat the Redskins 17-0.

Just as well. The way the Giants played today, it would have been an injustice for them to stay in the race, much less squeak into the sixth seed. Now it's time to look to the offseason, and don't be surprised if there are some major changes in the offing, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

EP

Notes and stats

Here are the notes from Mike Eisen at Giants.com and the stats package from NFL.com.

Read them if you dare.

EP

Game 15 Summary

Well. Wasn't that something. The Giants sent their Giants Stadium into the history books with arguably their worst performance in its history.

We're going back 34 years now, but given the circumstances and the playoff stakes, this might well go down as the Giants' worst performance ever. Not because they lost 41-9 to the Panthers. Losses are losses. But in doing so, there was no heart, no fire, no guts.

As it was, it was statistically their worst home loss since Dallas beat them 35-0 on opening day of the 1995 season. It was the third-worst home loss ever at the stadium. But again, given the circumstances, one could call this one the worst of them all.

The players were contrite afterward, but the fact is they're pretty much out of the playoffs. Dallas would have to lose tonight and next week to Philadelphia, and the Giants would have to beat Minnesota to take the sixth seed. Green Bay clinched the fifth seed with their romp over Seattle today.

After the 8-7 Giants came up empty on the first drive, thanks to Madison Hedgecock's hold that nullified Eli Manning's 26-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith, it all went down the drain. In the end, there would be a slew of missed tackles by the defense that allowed Jonathan Stewart to gain 206 rushing yards, and the Panthers' 247 total rushing yards was only their second-highest allowance this year by four yards.

The offense did nothing positive after that, at least when the game remained in reach, which wasn't long. Special teams did zip. The defense, so dominant against Washington, sleep-walked through the game.

It all left Tom Coughlin stunned and ashen after the game.

"For us to play the way we did today, there's no excuse," he said. "We've got one more game to play and we've got to recover some kind of respect for the way the game is supposed to be played."

Defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who spent most of the time on the bench and finished with no stats whatsoever, said this may well have been his last home game as a Giant. So one might take from that that an offseason trade or outright cut could be in the offing, given his friction with defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan dating back to his training camp walkout, his unrequited desire for a contract extension, and his overall ineffectiveness throughout the season.

He's signed through 2012, but there's every reason to believe the Giants might get rid of him in the event of an uncapped season with no salary cap implications.

"I don't know what happened, man," Umenyiora said. "What'd I play, five snaps today? Unbelievable. Probably my last game at Giants Stadium, probably as a Giant. The way things have unfolded this year, unbelievable."

For the Giants, it wasn't just an opportunity lost. It was one that was given away, gift-wrapped, given up. They flat-out quit for the better part of three quarters.

"I'm pissed," linebacker Michael Boley said. "We had everything to play for. The heart wasn't there today. You're just like, 'Wow, how can we come out and do that?'"

"I'm not going to try and sit here and figure it out," said Shaun O'Hara, the center who had a new guard next to him in Kevin Boothe and a new tackle in Will Beatty on the right side. "Everything we played for, we had all the motivation and reasons to go out and play. It's very frustrating.

"But I'm really sad for this organization, this franchise, to finish like this. It's very upsetting. With respect to what this game meant, it was more than a game. It was a farewell to the stadium."

About all they can hope for now is a strong finish in Minnesota and a 9-7 non-playoff season. After playing what might go down as the worst game in Giants Stadium history, they don't deserve much more.

"I wasn't prepared for this," Coughlin said. "I'm at a loss for words."

Even the even-keeled Manning expressed embarrassment.

"Yeah," he said. "With an opportunity to get into the playoffs and we knew how much this game meant to us for our team and for our fans. The last game in Giants Stadium. A big game. A game everybody was excited about and we just had too many mistakes."

Mistakes wasn't the word. A total foldup is more like it. Horrible. Just horrible.

BIG PLAYS:

The Giants moved the ball well on the first possession and seemed ready to score their second first-possession touchdown in two games. But as Manning let fly with a 26-yard throw to wide open Steve Smith in the end zone for a touchdown, fullback Hedgecock pulled down a defender for a holding call. They still had a chance for a field goal after Ahmad Bradshaw ran for six and Manning went incomplete to Kevin Boss, but on third down Mario Manningham fumbled his 16-yard completion and linebacker James Anderson recovered.

That recovery led to a 15-play drive that ended in John Kasay's 38-yard field goal. Even though the Giants trailed just 3-0, they never took another forward step until the fourth quarter, when all was lost.

Stewart, looking like the bruising Brandon Jacobs of the previous two years, ran 29 yards through a gaping hole in the middle for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead in the second quarter.

On the possession after Matt Moore hit Muhsin Muhammad on a 22-yard scoring throw on which Muhammad beat Terrell Thomas, Manning's second-down pass to Smith was intercepted by cornerback Richard Marshall at the Giants' 29 for the second turnover, which was converted into a touchdown and a 24-0 lead.

Stewart took a fourth-quarter tackle up the middle and shook off tackles by Chris Canty and Thomas for 52 yards to the 1, where Brad Hoover took it in for a 41-9 lead.

THE VETS:

Eli Manning: He went 29-of-43 for 296 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, but much of that was garbage-time padding that started even before halftime.

Brandon Jacobs: Talk about a disaster. He received no blocking whatsoever and finished with six carries for a yard. Because the Giants fell behind so quickly, the running back was basically abandoned early, resulting in the whole ground effort gaining just 60 yards.

Kevin Dockery: So much for that new contract. He was burned repeatedly and missed at least four tackles on both run and pass.

Rocky Bernard: The under-achieving defensive tackle pickup of the offseason had his number called only once, on a fourth-quarter hold.

THE KIDS:

Will Beatty: He made his third start, second straight, at right tackle for injured Kareem McKenzie and didn't do half was well as he did the first two. He couldn't keep the pressure out, and his run blocking was almost non-existant on the corners.

Hakeem Nicks: He finished with six catches for 44 yards and was a basic non-factor.

THE UGLY STUFF:

Just look at the stats: 416 total yards for the Panthers, 67 percent third-down percentage. 247 yards rushing, minus-3 in the takeaway ratio.

Look beyond the stats and there were countless missed tackles, both at the point of attack and in the open field. The defense, which recorded five sacks last week against Washington, gave Matt Moore all the time he needed to throw three touchdown passes. And there simply was no run defense, up the middle or on the edges. A complete defensive catastrophe.
THE BUMPS:

WR Steve Smith bruised his shoulder in the fourth quarter and did not return.

EP

The Game

Inactives

Here are the Giants and Carolina inactives.

GIANTS:

WR Ramses Barden
CB Corey Webster
RB DJ Ware
CB Aaron Ross
T Kareem McKenzie
G Rich Seubert
WR Sinorice Moss
TE Scott Chandler

Kevin Boothe starts for Seubert at LG, and Will Beatty makes his third start at RT for McKenzie.

PANTHERS:

RB Tyrell Sutton
CB C.J. Wilson
RB DeAngelo Williams
DT Derek Landri
T Rob Petitti
WR Dwayne Jarrett
DE Hilee Taylor

EP

12:45, Be There!

Live Blog starts at 12:45 p.m. Bring your comments, opinions, memories, etc.

Just look for the Cover-It-Live box and follow the directions.

See ya then. Be back with inactives a little later.

EP

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Another Reminder

We'll be closing out the Giants' era at Giants Stadium tomorrow with a live-blog starting at 12:45 p.m. Maybe somebody will get the ball rolling with one of their favorite memories of the stadium, and that will lead us right into this most important game itself. So don't miss it.

Just look for the Cover-It-Live box and follow the directions to file comments. See ya then.

EP

Kiwi, Tuck, and Cofield

Here's a video of Mathias Kiwanuka, Justin Tuck, and Barry Cofield talking about the wonders of Julius Peppers, who had a sack and five hurries against Brett Favre last week, the overall Panthers' offense, and the importance of this game.


video

EP

Game 15 Scouting Report

CAROLINA PANTHERS (6-8) vs. GIANTS (8-6)

THE TEAMS: The Giants will close out their home since 1976 with this one, so that alone should fire them up. But the fact that they have a very real shot at a playoff spot if they continue to win will also serve as major motivation. Given the fact that Carolina is no longer the pushover of the early season, having just come off a win over Minnesota Sunday night, the matter of motivation was Tom Coughlin's easiest job this week. "There isn’t any need to sell it," he said. "We all, as you were, I’m sure you were sitting in the hotel room and turned it on just as we did. We finished our night meetings and then we went upstairs and the Sunday Night Football thing. They played very well and were very impressive. Anybody that saw it and our players are certainly going to see it over and over. They had to be impressed by it. Very physical defensively, offensively, special teams, the running game, the young quarterback Moore making plays. There was an awful lot to look at. As I said last week, people, it’s on tape. There isn’t anything that you have to make up. There it is right for the players to see. It was there versus Washington and it is certainly there versus Carolina." The Giants took a playoff mentality into Washington and came away with their most complete victory of the season. They'll have to equal that against a resurgent Carolina team that has won two of the last three and just handed Brett Favre a game-long battering. But they haven't won two straight games since the five-game winning streak.

THE HISTORY: The series is tied 2-2, and the Giants won the last two meetings, including last season's finale at Giants Stadium, 34-28 in overtime to clinch the top seed in the playoffs. The teams have met once in the postseason, the Panthers winning 23-0 in 2005.

INJURIES: Giants -- T Kareem McKenzie (knee), G Rich Seubert (knee), CB Aaron Ross (hamstring), and CB Corey Webster (knee) are doubtful. LB Chase Blackburn (ribs), LB Michael Boley (triceps), RB Ahmad Rashad (ankles and foot), S C.C. Brown (hamstring), CB Kevin Dockery (ankle), LB Jonathan Goff (hamstring and ribs), QB Eli Manning (foot), WR Hakeem Nicks (hamstring), and K Lawrence Tynes (hamstring) are probable.

Panthers -- RB Tyrell Sutton (calf) and RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle) are doubtful. CB Richard Marshall (ankle), QB Matt Moore (shoulder) and RB Jonathan Stewart (Achilles) are questionable.

WATCH THIS: Eli Manning is on an elite streak the last two games, going a combined 46-of-64 for 659 yards, six touchdowns, and no interceptions. He's spreading the ball around, having hit 10 receivers against Washington alone, including tight ends Kevin Boss, Travis Beckum, and Bear Pascoe. He'll have to continue that mistake-free efficiency against a Carolina squad that boasts an outstanding pass rusher in Julius Peppers and a strong secondary headed up by veteran cornerback Chris Gamble. The combination of the two has allowed the Panthers to minimize the big-play potential of opponents, and was especially effective as they limited the Vikings to all of 267 total offensive yards in last week's win. "They are a talented defense," Manning said. "You can’t afford to make mistakes, turn the ball over. We just have to be consistent. They are a tough defense and it’s not a team that we play all that often." They could counter that with another dose of the middle slip-screen pass that worked so well with Ahmad Bradshaw.

If left tackle David Diehl and whoever is at right tackle, either Kareem McKenzie or Will Beatty, can neutralize the come-from-anywhere Peppers as they did the Andre Carter-Brian Orakpo combination last week, Manning might just find enough time to look downfield to Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith. The former will be coming back after a tight hamstring sidelined him following the first half last week. If he makes it, put him down for at least one long play manufactured by his fancy footwork. And Smith, now with 90 catches for 1,093 yards and six touchdowns, is always reliable whether going to the sideline or crossing the middle of the field.

The key here, though, is controlling Peppers. He comes off a one-sack, five-pressure game against Brett Favre. He has 9 1/2 sacks, but his team-high 32 pressures have had a big hand in Carolina's pass coverage compiling 19 interceptions, fifth-best in the league. Gamble leads the Panthers with four, but right corner Richard Marshall, middle linebacker Jon Beason, and strong safety Sherrod Martin have three picks apiece. Despite the team's offensive woes, John Fox' defense has played hard throughout the season. It has allowed 30 points just twice, so it should be a challenge for an offense that has scored 30 or more points in four of its last five games.

Getting the running game going again will be key. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride mixed the run and pass well last week, striking a 30-30 balance. The week before it was 38 pass, 31 run. So it looks like someone has reigned in his instinct to put the ball in the air automatically. Against Philadelphia, he even ran the ball when trailing, a departure from most of the season. The ground game has been effective, if unspectacular, with 247 yards the past two games.

The defense sacked Campbell five times and exploited a Washington line in flux. Carolina also has its problems, having replaced its two tackles. Justin Tuck has 5 1/2 sacks, a sack and a half less than team leader Osi Umenyiora, but Tuck has been the team's most consistent visitor to the backfield. Mathias Kiwanuka did another good job last week in hitting the quarterback three times and making five tackles against the run. The total run defense has improved, in fact, since Tom Coughlin benched Umenyiora on run downs for Kiwanuka. Opponents haven't run for 100 yards in three games. And the pass rush, with Umenyiora not having to worry about stopping the run, has also looked better. A lot of that has to do with the emergence of Jonathan Goff as a solid force at middle linebacker. He's got a sack and an interception along with two quarterback hits since taking over from Chase Blackburn three games ago against Dallas.

A little pressure is what they'll need to hold down Moore, who has gone 2-1 in the three games since taking over for Jake Delhomme. He's a mobile quarterback who can get the ball downfield. Moore comes off a 21-of-33, 299-yard, three-touchdown performance against Minnesota, including a 42-yarder to Steve Smith. He's been sacked six times in three games, but has only thrown two interceptions on the season.

Smith leads the Panthers with 60 catches for 922 yards (15.4 average) and six touchdowns. Eight of their receivers have at least 12 catches, but the passing game is generally a short one as five of those average 10.7 yards or less per catch.

Jonathan Stewart heads a solid running game, coming off a 109-yard, one-touchdown performance. He became the first individual back to rush for 100 yards against the Vikings this year. Stewart is doing basically a solo act the last two games since DeAngelo Williams sprained his ankle, but there's no doubting his production. He's got eight touchdowns on the season and can certainly power his way up the middle as well as hit the corner. The Giants' run defense may be looking like its old self again after allowing just 89 yards to the Redskins, 36 of which came on Campbell's scrambles.

The Panthers' punt and kickoff return game is only average, at best, so a kickoff coverage unit that dropped returners three times inside the 20 last week should have a good chance at winning the field position battle. John Kasay is 17-of-22 in field goals this year, and over the long haul has been far more consistent than Lawrence Tynes, having missed only two of 16 attempts inside 50 yards. The Giants' kicker has hit six field goals in a row.

Domenik Hixon had a 30-yard kickoff return that almost broke for a touchdown. He also has a healthy 15.1-yard average on punt returns, including a 79-yard touchdown to give the Giants the sixth-best punt return unit in the league. The Panthers' punt coverage is ranked seventh, so it should be a good matchup.

PREDICTION: Quite simply, with Minnesota coming up for the finale, the Giants can't afford to lose this one. I'm not saying it's going to be a repeat of last week, since that performance came out of nowhere, but they will find a way to exploit that banged up offensive line. If Manning continues to throw like he has been over the past couple of games, they'll put up enough points to overcome whatever Carolina does. Giants 28-17.

EP

Friday, December 25, 2009

Father Christmas, Brother Ed

Merry Christmas, everybody. And for all you good little Giants fans, here's something for the stocking -- another Q&A swap with my buddy Ed Valentine over at Big Blue View. Ed promised me that he wouldn't hit the Christmas Eve eggnog too hard before answering these, but the way this season has gone, could you really blame him if he did?

Anyway, don't forget to catch my answers at Big Blue View.


Here's Kris Kringle, I mean, Ed.


1. Okay, ask the question again. Do the Giants make the playoffs?

"Oh, that question is sooo hard to answer. I have been polling folks at Big Blue View about that weekly since the Denver game, I think. My gang is keeping the faith, as about 70% have said 'yes' to that question two weeks in a row. I am going to go with my community on this one and say 'yes.' Granted, the Redskins are a mess but the Giants showed better effort and cohesiveness against the Redskins than they have in a long time. Resilience and playing their best when no one believes in them is becoming a trademark of Tom Coughlin's Giants teams, and I think they are doing it again. I think they are going to win out. If they do, I have to believe Green Bay or Dallas will find a way to lose one game. I'm sure that is partially my heart talking and not my head, but that's what I'm going with."

2. Was the pass rush that produced five sacks against the Redskins real, or was it a one-game mirage?

"I hope so, but I am not convinced. Osi Umenyiora played as well as he has all year, and I need to see him do it again. What I really liked was Bill Sheridan using some of those 'overload' blitzes where two or more guys come through the same gap. Where has that been? And, the way things have often gone for Sheridan this year, will that continue to be a staple of the blitz package or will it disappear like C.C. Brown?"

3. The offense has put up 30 or more points in four of the last five games. Is it Eli, or is it Gilbride?

"It's both. As I wrote Wednesday at Big Blue View, Eli is unquestionably having the best season of his career. There is no doubt he is the Giants MVP. You also have to give Gilbride credit, and I know there are a lot of vocal fans who still can't stand the guy. But, c'mon! The Giants are averaging 27.6 points per game, Eli is en route to his first 4,000-yard passing season, and the Giant are becoming as explosive offensively as any team in the league not named New Orleans. His play-calling against Washington was extraordinary. Screens, draws, subtle changes in the blocking schemes and formations to help the running game. Every so often KG has a game where his play-calling is a real head-scratcher, but he is a pretty darn good offensive coordinator."

4. How shocking would it be if Carolina wins Sunday?

"It would stun me, I know that. I know what the Panthers just did to the Vikings, but I think that was their one moment in the sun the rest of the way vs. a team that really was probably due for a bad game. To me, it's all about the Giants defense. Can they come with the same intensity and effort they showed last week, and against Dallas? If they can I think they win. Even with their own Steve Smith, I don't think the Panthers hurt the Giants with the deep ball if the Giants continue to avoid coverage breakdowns and get some pressure."

OK, what do you guys think?


EP

Thursday, December 24, 2009

No Suspension

Good news. Brandon Jacobs was not suspended for his fight with Albert Haynesworth last week.

Bad news, for him. He got docked $7,500 (American) for his failed attempt at a one-punch knockout. So he will be available for Sunday.

Also forgot to mention that Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) practiced today.

Now, for the important stuff. We had lobster, clams, scallops and shrimp in a fra diavolo sauce for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner. Tell me what you guys had. Or, if Christmas Day is your big day, run down the menu.

EP

Injuries

That lengthy injury report from yesterday was pared down significantly today. Only five players were not working in the team's first full-scale practice of the week.

CB Corey Webster (knee), T Kareem McKenzie (knee), G Rich Seubert (knee), and CB Aaron Ross (hamstring) were out. And RB Ahmad Bradshaw (ankles and foot) remained out, as is his custom. He might work tomorrow.

Everybody else was in, including QB Eli Manning (foot), LB Jonathan Goff (hamstring and ribs), LB Michael Boley (triceps), LB Chase Blackburn (ribs), CB Kevin Dockery (ankle), and S C.C. Brown (hamstring).

EP

Nicks On Smith



Steve Smith is one of Hakeem Nicks' idols.

No, not the one that lockers right next to him, the one Nicks calls, "My dog." We're talking about that fast, fleet guy who catches all those touchdown passes for the Panthers. Nicks and Smith have never met, even though Nicks played at the University of North Carolina. But Smith reached out to him when he was drafted, and the two have had a couple of phone conversations after his Carolina teammate, Panthers defensive end Hilee Taylor, hooked them up.

"I was a big fan of Steve Smith in high school, actually," said Nicks, who grew up in Charlotte. "I never met him, but we talked on the phone before. After the draft, he heard in passing that he was my favorite receiver, and he reached out to me because I had a Carolina teammate who went to the Panthers.

"He just gave me some advice after the draft. Just stuff about preparing to go to training camp and staying on top of things. Just normal advice."

Smith said he had no problems reaching out to Nicks.

"Hakeem is from Charlotte and he went to school here and obviously he played up in Raleigh," Smith said. "So I have known about him a lot and I know some people that have had very good things to say about him; he is a high character guy. And so I just kind of reached out to him. I think we talked for about an hour.

"I just told him the sky is the limit. He has a great opportunity in New York. It is a big market. He has a lot of opportunities to play. They drafted him. His performance – he played down here. The Meineke Bowl was outstanding. Just take that same mentality up there in New York and I think he will be a star. Only time will tell if he listened or not."

Apparently, he did. Nicks has become a big-play name in a very short time with the Giants. And he plans to seek out Smith after the game. They had actually met once, but only for a brief period. "Not enough to sit down and talk," Nicks said.

Should be quite a show, providing Nicks' tender hamstring allows him to perform. He said he expects to play, and said he had intended to go back in for the second half against Washington. A trainer's decision kept him sidelined, however.

EP

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Memories

I'm not really one of those teary guys, except when it comes to babies, puppies, Christmas Eve dinner, pizza, slasher films, and well-pitched baseball games, among other things. I prefer to consider myself a man's man.

But, hey, it's the holiday season, and the Giants will wrap up their era at Giants Stadium Sunday against Carolina. The Giants are printing up 60,000 special programs and charging $1 a throw, the same price programs went for that opening season in 1976. There will be festivities at halftime.

What I want from you -- from now until gametime -- is your favorite top-3 moments from Giants Stadium. You might have only watched it on TV, or maybe you were there. Just share.

I'll start us off.

1. The Painted Mud Speech: One of my favorite moments of all time, any stadium. It was in the moments after the 2000 NFC championship game, a 41-0 romp over Minnesota, that venerable co-owner Wellington Mara stepped to the mike in the middle of the field and basically laid out the broadcasters who spent half a game criticizing the field conditions and the Giants' record. "This team was referred to as the worst team ever to win the home–field advantage in the National Football League," Mara began. "And today, on our field of painted mud, we proved we're the worst team ever to win the NFC championship. In two weeks, we're going to try to become the worst team ever to win the Super Bowl." Pure Wellington. Succinct, polite, yet utterly biting. Too bad Jim Fassel's team couldn't have capped it with a Super Bowl victory.

2. Flipper Anderson: Sorry, guys. But the image of Rams wide receiver Flipper Anderson racing into the end zone and then disappearing into the tunnel, ball held aloft, after his overtime catch in the 1989 divisonal playoff game just sticks with me. I also remember seeing Bill Parcells utterly stunned on the sideline, a rare sight in the two seasons I covered him.

3. Lawrence Taylor: Not my favorite human being, but what a player. I'll take any instance where he chased down a running back from behind, three quarters of the way to the far sideline, after fighting off a block. Stupendous athlete.

EP

Jog-Through Injury List

Tom Coughlin said he wouldn't get a real feel for the status of the injured until tomorrow's first hard practice. But at this afternoon's jog-through, a number of players were either absent entirely or limited.

CB Corey Webster (knee), T Kareem McKenzie (knee), LB Michael Boley (triceps), G Rich Seubert (knee), and RB Ahmad Bradshaw (ankles and foot) did not practice.

CB Aaron Ross (hamstring), WR Hakeem Nicks (hamstring), K Lawrence Tynes (hamstring), QB Eli Manning (foot), LB Chase Blackburn (ribs), S C.C. Brown (hamstring), CB Kevin Dockery (ankle), and LB Jonathan Goff (hamstring/rib) took limited work.

EP

More Motivation

As if the Giants needed any more motivation for Carolina, this will be the final Giants home game at Giants Stadium. They open up the new place next season, so if nothing else the Giants will want to end the 34-year era in this building on a winning note.

Here's a video featuring Eli Manning, Justin Tuck, Rich Seubert, and Barry Cofield talking about the significance of the game and their memories of the first time they walked into Giants Stadium.


Tom Coughlin said he wanted to use all means available to ready his team for the task ahead, which is to win out. And that means beating the Panthers Sunday.

"We need everything. Everything that we can possibly use, we will use," Coughlin said.

But looking to close up the Giants' era at Giants Stadium on a good note just adds to the emotions.

"It always means extra motivation," Coughlin said. "It means the opportunity to play in front of our fans one more time in a very significant game. The opportunity for us to utilize the 12th man, if you will.

"I thought our fans have done a really good job, especially on third down situations, as we have come down here through the stretch with divisional opponents. We will need everyone to be involved in the game this weekend as well. If it is the final home game at Giants Stadium, there is a lot of historical significance to that game."

Coughlin remembered his first experiences with Giants Stadium as a Syracuse assistant.

"We can go down memory lane as much as you like. I remember many, many years ago before I ever got involved in professional football. Giants Stadium, I always thought, was the greatest football stadium in the world. It was always an honor, a privilege and an eye-opener to bring a college team, or whatever I was coaching, into that stadium.

"Then of course when I had the opportunity to come here as an assistant coach it was extremely meaningful to me and my family, being from New York state and having always been a fan of and been aware of and watched since the time I was a little guy, black and white TV. Always the Giants and the Browns in those days, that’s what it was."

"First time I ever stepped in? I can remember a couple disappointing ones. I was at Syracuse and we played Penn State here one time and got our butts kicked. I remember lots of things. I remember when I was at B.C. and coming here with the leadership for the Big East community and sitting there in the stadium and doing interviews with people and having some of the Giants players walk by and that was pretty cool. That was kind of neat."

EP

Johnson on IR

Tight end Darcy Johnson, inactive for last week's game, was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury and replaced by Scott Chandler, a tight end the Giants picked up from the Cowboys' practice squad.

The 6-7, 265-pound Chandler was originally a fourth-round pick of the Chargers in 2007, but has played in only one NFL game.

Johnson never did hit the injury report, but he said a problem with his right shoulder occurred during the Kansas City game. A recent MRI showed more damage than suspected, even though he continued practicing and playing.

Meanwhile, WR Hakeem Nicks said the hamstring injury that kept him out of the second half last week was improved, and he expects to play Sunday. In fact, he said he had intended to return to the game, but was kept on the sideline by the medical staff.

Aaron Ross said an MRI taken yesterday revealed no further damage to the thrice-injured left hamstring that kept him out of the Washington game. But he said "it hasn't gone away" either.

As for RT Kareem McKenzie's sprained left knee, he appeared to be limping slightly today, though he typically said, "I'll make it. I'm all right." And LG Rich Seubert was silent on his injured right knee.

The team will have a jog-through this afternoon, but won't get down to heavy workouts until tomorrow, when the status of all the injured will become clearer.

EP

Kind of like "A Christmas Story"

You know, the scene in the movie where the teacher reads Ralphie's theme on his desire of a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas and she ecstatically writes A-plus-plus-plus, etc. all over his paper and the blackboard? That's kind of what the Giants' 45-12 win was like. A little gem after eight games of gobbledegook.


Yes, it was only against Washington, a 4-10 team that basically quit after that first 16-play touchdown drive, just like Oakland quit at the end of that five-game winning streak. But Washington had played well of late, up to last night, and the win did keep the Giants' playoff hopes well within reach. And let's face it, when was the last time the Giants put together a team effort like that this year? Answer: A long time ago.


And for those whose answer to all this is, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid," beating Carolina and Minnesota might just shut them up. Unless, of course, Dallas and Green Bay win out and eliminate any playoff possibilites.


"We'll just take them one at a time and try to do the best we can with our circumstance, and then we'll have to see what happens," Tom Coughlin said. "We have to win games. We have to win."


Meanwhile, this report card will do wonders for the GPA.


QUARTERBACK: Eli Manning looked like an All-Pro in waiting with a 19-for-26, 268-yard performance with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He engineered the Giants' first first-possession touchdown since Oakland, and he converted on his first six third-down attempts. Better yet, he scored touchdowns in three of the four trips into the Red Zone. And talk about spreading the ball around, he hit 10 receivers for completions. Great tempo, with a minimum of pre-snap fiddling. An outstanding job. Plus, he set a career high in touchdown passes with his 26th. GRADE: A+.


RUNNING BACKS: Ahmad Bradshaw did a good job running the ball, getting 66 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries. But he looked even better catching those little slip screens, including a 14-yarder on third-and-6 in the opening touchdown drive. He'd catch two more of those. And he made a great blitz pickup to give Manning time on his 45-yard, second-quarter completion to Hakeem Nicks. Brandon Jacobs added 52 yards on 16 carries to the 114-yard overall effort. We're going to dock these guys a point, though, because Jacobs stupidly got caught up in his emotions when he tried to belt out DeAngelo Hall and Albert Haynesworth. The Giants came out of it all right because Jacobs somehow went unpunished. But he put himself at risk not only of injury -- he gave away 84 pounds to the 350-pound Haynesworth -- but of severe league sanctions. Dumb thing to do, especially at this time of year. GRADE: B.


RECEIVERS: When Derek Hagan catches a touchdown pass, you know the offense is having a good night. Mario Manningham didn't have to venture too close to the sideline, so he wound up catching three balls for 44 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown on which he was wide open by five yards. Steve Smith grabbed his sixth touchdown of the year to go along with five catches, bringing his franchise-record total to an even 90. And how about this for diversity. Tight ends Kevin Boss, Travis Beckum, and Bear Pascoe each caught passes. Boss was especially effective with three catches for 57 yards. Nicks continued to forge a big-play rep, as he took one catch for 45 and then fancy-stepped his way around his defender to a 21-yard gain. He even minimized a potentially major loss on a failed end around with some great sideline footwork. The kid's just amazing. GRADE: A.


OFFENSIVE LINE: When Rich Seubert went out with a sprained right knee in the first quarter, it made two spots that were changed in the offensive front. Didn't matter. Boothe did a fine job, aside from the sack he gave up to Haynesworth. But Haynesworth has made a lot of interior linemen look silly. Over at right tackle, second-round rookie Will Beatty produced a winning level of play in place of injured Kareem McKenzie. The line itself did a great job in blocking the run and moving the Redskins' back. The pass protection gave up just two sacks and two other hits on Manning. Some of the evening's best work came at the tackles as Beatty and David Diehl neutralized the pass rush of Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo, who combined for no sacks and just three tackles. GRADE: A.


DEFENSIVE LINE: Who knows what next week holds for this pass rush. But for this game, the front four was awesome in their abusing of quarterback Jason Campbell. They got pressure and sacks, five of them. Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck got sacks from the edges. Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins, both rarely heard from this year, got sacks up the middle. And Mathias Kiwanuka played another of his solid games, making five tackles, one for a loss, and hitting Campbell three times. Given the circumstances, it was the best game the defensive line played all year. Concentrating strictly on passing downs seems to appeal to Umenyiora, who also had three hits on the quarterback in his most active game to date. The run game was a non-factor as Campbell provided the rushing high with 36 yards on two scrambles. GRADE: A.


LINEBACKERS: Jonathan Goff continued to make a great case for handing him the starting middle linebacker's job next season with a sack and two quarterback hits. As badly as that unit has played in the past, he has consistently played hard and added whatever spark there was since taking over the spot against Dallas. Michael Boley had a nice breakup, and Chase Blackburn had a late pick. But for the life of them, they still can't cover the tight end. This time it was Fred Davis, a second-year tight end who should by no means be mistaken for the injured Chris Cooley, who grabbed a team-high five catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. Might as well face it, this unit is always going to be vulnerable to that position. GRADE: B.


SECONDARY: No Corey Webster. No Aaron Ross. No problem. See what a little heat on the quarterback can do? It makes the secondary look that much better. Oh, there were flaws, like that 51-yard hit on the gadget play Rock Cartwright ran, and the 47-yarder where Kevin Dockery chased Santana Moss to the 25. But overall, can't find much fault with that unit. And it always helps when the defense produces a touchdown, as Terrell Thomas did on his 14-yard return of Campbell's pressured and botched screen attempt. It was Thomas' sixth interception of the season. Michael Johnson laid a great hit on Davis, knocking the ball out of his hands at the goal line for an incomplete pass in the waning minutes of the second quarter. And Bruce Johnson did a nice job positioning himself for the interception on that ill-conceived "Swinging Gate" play that wound up the half. GRADE: A.


SPECIAL TEAMS: C.C. Brown proved he's not totally useless to this team, as his one kickoff coverage tackle pinned the Redskins deep in their territory. In fact, the Giants stopped three kickoff returns inside the Washington 20, a nice job by a unit that had given up tons of field position the past nine games. Jeff Feagles knocked a 43-yard punt out of bounds and the coverage team stopped Santana Moss on another inside the 20. Domenik Hixon had a 30-yard return against the league's third-best kickoff return unit. Lawrence Tynes hit his only field goal try, a 38-yarder. GRADE: A.


COACHING: One thing about Coughlin-coached teams, they always know where they stand at each point in the season. He obviously told his troops that they're in a playoff mode now, and the Giants responded accordingly. Much-maligned defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan looked like a genius in calling for blitzes and drops at the right times when it still mattered. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride did a great job in calling 30 runs, though he could have done with a couple of more to run the clock down at the end of the first half. Can't get out of this without a little criticism, right? But remember, this was the fourth time in five games the offense has gone over 30 points, so Gilbride is doing something right. And, hey, it wasn't a Giants' playcaller who ordered that stupid Swinging Gate play immediately after the Giants called timeout because the Giants had seen that very formation JUST BEFORE THE TIMEOUT! Zorny greenlighted that one, and in two games Dan Snyder will greenlight poor that poor guy out of town. GRADE: A.


You may proceed.


EP

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Not Happy With Jacobs

Just got off the conference call with Tom Coughlin. He reports that he has yet to hear anything from the NFL regarding the status of Brandon Jacobs.

No news may truly be good news. If the Giants are lucky, Jacobs will get off with a heavy fine for essentially starting the melee during which he threw punches at both DeAngelo Hall and Albert Haynesworth and went unpunished for it. The league had not notified of Coughlin as of about 3:15 this afternoon of any suspension of Jacobs. But that doesn't mean it can't come down later tonight.

"We review all incidents of fighting," said league spokesman Greg Aiello. "But I haven't heard of any suspensions."

It may be that Jacobs will only be fined. Trent Cole of the Eagles and Giants center Shaun O'Hara were fined $15,000 each for their altercation last week, but neither was suspended. And Cowboys tackle Flozell Adams has been kept infamously employed despite repeated flagrant personal fouls. Given the time of the season and the importance of the games, it would be a surprise if Jacobs were to receive a suspension.

Still, Coughlin was not particularly happy with his running back's extra-curricular activities.

"I don't make those calls," Coughlin said. "I'm not going to speculate on that. Quite frankly, the play was on the other side of the field and a lot of people rallied and got over there, which is something we don't want.

"We specifically preach against anything of that nature, which would hurt the team and put us in a bad situation."

Instead, the personal foul call against Haynesworth wiped out a third-down sack in the fourth quarter and led to the touchdown that made the score 45-12.

"By and large, you get involved in those type of things, there are repercussions and penalties, and it does not help your team at all," Coughlin said.

In injury news, Coughlin said he'd have to wait until tomorrow to find out how severe G Rich Seubert's knee and WR Hakeem Nicks' hamstring injuries are. They will have a jog-through in the afternoon to install their first and second down packages for Carolina. Whether those players make it will tell a lot about their availability for Sunday.

"These things are going to take a while," Coughlin said. "We've got some guys who are sore and banged up, but who's going to be able to practice and who isn't, we're going to have to give it that extra day. There probably won't be a lot said about that until Thursday."

CB Aaron Ross was scheduled for an MRI on his aching left hamstring today, the results of which are pending. Also up in the air is the status of T Kareem McKenzie's knee that kept him inactive.

EP

"I won't know any of that before you know it,"

Game 14 Summary

Don't think it's cynical at all to wonder where in the world performances like that have been the past nine games. It wasn't since Oakland on Oct. 11 that the Giants have so dominated a team as they did in their 45-12 victory over Washington. And it couldn't have come at a better time.

The Giants looked at that game with all the intensity of a playoff game, as well they should. The win enabled them to remain within spitting distance of a playoff berth. Dallas or Green Bay still has to lose a game, and the Giants have to beat Carolina and Minnesota. But they're still very much in the hunt.

And they stayed in there by putting up their biggest points total as a visitor since they laid out the Redskins with 51 points in 1954, a span of 55 years. Eli Manning continued a three-game run of big-number passing, and the patchwork defense inflicted such punishment on Jason Campbell that he was left damaged mentally and physically by game's end.

Here's the complete stats package for you. And here's Mike Eisen's notes from Giants.com.


BIG PLAYS:

On the Giants' second third-down situation, Ahmad Bradshaw ran with a slip-screen 14 yards for the first down. That play, coming in the middle of a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that marked the first first-possession touchdown since Oakland, would work all night, and Bradshaw would catch three of those for 29 yards.

On third-and-five on the Redskins' first possession, Justin Tuck charged up the middle and dumped Campbell for loss. It marked the first of five sacks on the quarterback by a rejuvenated pass rush.

On the final play of an 11-play touchdown drive, Bradshaw took the ball from three yards out and followed an excellent block by left guard Kevin Boothe, who had replaced an injured Rich Seubert on the opening drive, for his first of two touchdowns and a 14-0 lead.

Hakeem Nicks took a quick pass as the Redskins blitzed, made a backward step to elude a tackler, and raced 45 yards to the Washington 7 to set up Steve Smith's seven-yard touchdown catch and a 24-0 lead.

Undrafted rookie corner Bruce Johnson wound up in the middle of a cluster of players to grab holder Hunter Smith's dying duck off a fake field goal and returned it to the 45 as the first half expired to keep the Redskins scoreless. Washington had shifted into the "swinging gate" formation to try the pass.

THE VETS:

Eli Manning: He went 19-of-26 for 268 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions, making good decisions all along the way.

Kevin Boss: His 35-yard completion that set up the touchdown throw to Derek Hagan showed how smart he was in using all his resources, including an official that acted as a shield as Brian Orakpo pursued him.

Terrell Thomas: He made his fifth interception of the season, bringing it back 14 yards for a touchdown and a 38-6 lead.

Kevin Boothe: He did an excellent job making up for the loss of Rich Seubert in the first quarter. He sprang Ahmad Bradshaw on several good runs and was overall solid in the middle.

Fred Robbins: The demoted defensive tackle had his first sack in four games.

Steve Smith: The wide receiver jumped his franchise-record reception total to 90 with five catches for 40 yards and a touchdown, his sixth of the season, tying him with Nicks for the team lead.

THE KIDS:

Will Beatty: The second-round tackle did a sound, solid job in his second start for the injured Kareem McKenzie. Best of all, he got right in the fray when Brandon Jacobs and DeAngelo Hall went after each other.

Hakeem Nicks: Before he went out of the game, he made quite a contribution with two catches for 66 yards, including that 45-yarder. Even on his 21-yarder, he made a nice move around a defender to get the extra yardage.

THE UGLY STUFF:

Not a whole lot of that. You can get nit-picky and talk about how Haynesworth blew past Boothe for a second-quarter sack. But he recovered nicely. Or you can talk about Lawrence Tynes' inconsistent kickoffs, which never mattered in this game, anyway.

There were a couple of big plays the secondary shouldn't have given up in the second half, like Rock Cartwright's 51-yarder on a counter pass, and Kevin Gilbride's failure to run the clock at the end of the first half, allowing the Redskins to take over with 1:02 left and move into scoring position. Only the "swinging gate" fiasco saved the Giants from a late, possibly momentum-changing field goal.

THE BUMPS:

LG Rich Seubert sprained his left knee in the first quarter and did not return.

WR Hakeem Nicks strained a hamstring in the second quarter and did not return.

LB Michael Boley hurt his finger in the fourth quarter and returned.