There’s so much to talk about after a week 2 loss, but let’s start with a quick recap of what went wrong…
Through one half of football, I thought there was plenty of reason for our boys to feel confident headed to the locker room. The prolific, 7-TD Peyton and his offense were largely held in check; Moreno had the lone touchdown on a 20 yard rush that leaked outside, but the defense was able to contain the passing attack and had forced a fumble in the redzone. We weren’t getting all the way to Peyton, but he seemed to be feeling some pressure evidenced by incompletions in bunches. Aside from a play or two where he lost his footing, Terrell Thomas looked solid in his nickel duties, both covering Welker and busting up WR-screens. Paysinger/Williams were handling Julius Thomas well. Our offense was clearly struggling, but at least they were predictable problems — lack of any rushing attack, leading to an un-watchable red zone offense, resulting in field goals galore. Nothing new. Despite their issues, our offense is always threatening with home run ability. On the verge of going into halftime with a 12-10 lead, the game still felt under our control. But an ugly interception by Eli to effectively end the half… (on a ball he was trying to throw away, when we were already within field goal range)… turned out to be an excellent foreshadowing of what the second half had in store.
First play of the second half, Eli takes a sack. The offense goes 3+out, and Holliday returns the punt 22 yards to give Denver a short field. They capitalize on a Welker touchdown. We respond immediately with a Jacobs touchdown, but our drive was sustained by four penalties, one of which was a weak pass interference on a 3rd and Goal from the 2 yard line. Tough to say we deserved more than a field goal. On the first play of the next Broncos drive, Prince Amukamara has a beautiful forced fumble, but Mark Herzlich bobbles the ball and give it right back. That drive ends in a Moreno touchdown, almost identical to his first. Note that this is the end of the 3rd quarter, and we’re only down 24-16 — it’s a one possession game. Hold on though, because the first play of the 4th quarter is a fluke interception, and Denver is on the NYG 36. That ends in a Julius Thomas touchdown, 31-16. The game is starting to slip away, and our offense goes 5+out picking up only 11 yards. This Weatherford punt gets returned 81 yards for a touchdown, via Trindon Holliday. 38-16, ball game. Eli goes on to throw 2 more interceptions (and a touchdown) but I don’t care about any of that. Can’t fault anyone for finishing out the game.
Looking forward, the main concern on this team is the run. After the game, Coughlin expressed how “unlike us” it is to have so few rushing attempts, and clearly this is going to be his focus for the foreseeable future. Coach said that, at least for this game, Jacobs was short yardage/goal line, Da’Rel Scott was the third down back, and Wilson had his set of plays. I don’t know if this new look earth-wind-fire has any hope, but if they do, they’ll need a lot more help from our offensive line. There is way too much penetration into the backfield, and getting [C] David Baas back didn’t help at all. The only things I can think of to help that situation are 1) use Myers in passing situations only, having Pascoe and Donnell handle the run blocking and 2) hoping that as Hynoski and Baas (and Diehl) get healthier, the unit as a whole can gel and progress.
Another concern for me is the [MLB] position, which is now left to Mark Herzlich with Connor on IR. We were able to get by defending the run with our nickel package against the Broncos, but Paysinger and Williams are really more suited for coverage than run stopping. When we have to go up against a physical ground attack, I’m very nervous that our defensive line won’t be enough to mask our weak linebackers. We’ll get a better sense of that this week against Carolina. I have a feeling that Fewell had this problem in mind while infusing the 3-4 package, which could help us get more of our defensive linemen on the field at once.
The things I won’t panic about yet? Eli, the pass rush, special teams. Manning’s interception total is grossly inflated at this point, and frankly, turnovers aren’t a new development. He has always been prone to a pick here and there, but he’s managed to overcome them to win games before. This year’s receiving corps is the best Eli’s ever had, and they’ll win some games for us on their own this season, believe it. Two games is too few to be overreacting about this.
After performing below average last year, everyone is surprisingly eager to declare our pass rushers ineffective. Peyton Manning is a tough guy to get sacks on, and I think we’ve applied consistent pressure both weeks so far. Our defense has been dealing with horrible field position due to all the turnovers, and they’ve largely been able to respond. Don’t forget that Pierre-Paul is still working his way back to full strength; our star defensive player doesn’t even start, and his snap counts are still being held low. I think that the combination of our defensive line and secondary are going to cause a lot of problems for opponents. The issue will remain to be whether our offense can give them a break once in a while.
Steve Weatherford tweeted out after the game apologizing for “punting poorly”. The apology was warranted, and in my case, accepted. We awarded Weatherford with a long term deal because he has been one of the more consistent players in the league at his position, and his dedication to the craft is obvious. Do you remember how Matt Dodge reacted to the DeSean Jackson disaster? He told us that he could walk out of the stadium with his chin up. Because he had the love and support of his family and pastor. Ridiculous. By comparison, the apology from Weatherford was a breath of fresh air. As for our return game, I expect Wilson to get back to his splash-making ways as the three man running attack gets on track. The less burden he feels from our offense, the better. Wilson returning is another factor that can help our defense, with regard to field position.