Lots to talk about this week, and no I won’t even go near the kneel down controversy.
Although it’s easy to get lost in the celebration coming off the huge comeback victory over Tampa Bay, it’s important not to forget the near disaster that was the first 3 quarters. Ugly interceptions, injuries to starters, inability to score touchdowns in the red zone, and a secondary we can only describe as unreliable (at best) highlight the reasons for concern despite an emotional high after Sunday’s game. Some awful things, some incredible things, time to break it all down.
For the most part, the Giants offense didn’t look too bad. The main issue here is Manning’s 3 turnovers, all interceptions, all leading to touchdowns (one pick-6). That’s 21 points against that Eli takes the majority of the blame for. Did he make up for it? Boy, did he ever, but those mental errors and errant throws remind us of a time when we questioned whether Manning would ever cut it as a franchise quarterback. Yet for the time being it appears he got it all sorted out huh? 510 yards, 3 shy of Phil Simms’ single game franchise record, and the majority of it coming in a 25 point fourth quarter. This is the 7th time since the beginning of last season that Eli has led us (/had to lead us) on a game winning drive. There’s no question that right now, no QB is better at it, but as a fan I really wouldn’t mind avoiding anxiety and winning comfortably once in a while.
In a scene reminiscent of last week, the Giants again fell victim to a goal line stand and had to settle for a field goal after failing to punch it into the end zone. There were dropped balls from [TE] Bennett and [OT] Beatty (okay, he’s an OT, but he was wide open), and any running play is more likely to lose yards than gain the handful we need for a score. I really don’t know where to start assigning blame, other than to offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride for not throwing a fade to [WR] Hakeem Nicks three times in a row. Maybe using a different running back or rearranging the offensive line near the goal line could help, and speaking of which…
It seems like starting [RB] Ahmad Bradshaw (neck), [RT] David Diehl (knee), and 3rd [WR] Domenik Hixon (concussion) will all be missing time with their respective injuries. I don’t need to explain why this is bad, but I will offer reasons things may work out just fine. [RB] Andre Brown stepped in for Bradshaw and arguably played better than we have seen from Ahmad this season. It looks as if Brown will keep it simple, run the designed play, and won’t try to do too much. In an offense that will clearly be defined by the passing attack, this could in fact be a better fit for us at running back. Some extra snaps going [RB] David Wilson’s way won’t hurt, either. Losing David Diehl is certainly a blow to our already fragile offensive line situation, but we were lucky to have OT Will Beatty ready, even if he did have 2 false starts. Diehl went down late in the first quarter, and on a total of 51 dropbacks this game Eli was sacked a total of 0 times. Not too shabby. Domenik Hixon is a reliable member of our team and has sadly had injury problems throughout his career (missed all of last year with an ACL), but his absence does open up opportunity for [WR]s Ramses Barden and Rueben Randle (who also replaced Hixon at punt return duty and looked better than anyone really could have expected). Whichever receiver is the third option must be ready to make plays against single coverage, because secondaries will have their hands full with our two top dogs.
Flip to the good: any doubters that the New York Giants have the best tandem of wide receivers in the league have been silenced, at least for one week. Hakeem Nicks (10 rec, 199 yds, 1 td) and Victor Cruz (11 rec, 179 yds, 1 td) seemed unstoppable ALL game, not just at the end. Those stats don’t even include the handful of holds/PIs Tampa Bay took trying to defend them, which accounted for additional chunks of yardage and first downs for the Giants. The duo didn’t drop a pass thrown their way. Hakeem was very noticeably playing through pain at the end of the game, even having to sit out one play after limping off the field… only to come back for a catch-and-run slant on the very next play. If you ask me, it isn’t fair to point a finger at the Buccaneers’ secondary, either. Expect big numbers to continue pouring in from these two.
Sadly, there remain to be question marks on the defensive side of the ball for Big Blue. Now I thought they played a very solid game this week, and the points scored against us were much more the fault of turnovers and special teams giving Tampa short fields than anything else. That being said, our corner backs were again exploited, most notably on the touchdowns to Vincent Jackson (against [CB] Michael Coe) and Mike Williams (against [CB] Justin Tryon). The touchdown Tryon gave up also allowed Tampa to tie the game with just under 2:00 left in the game. But there is some silver lining when it comes to our secondary… rookie [CB] Jayron Hosley started opposite Webster and very quietly played a solid game, and [CB] Prince Amukamara will be ready to go on Thursday @Carolina. IF Prince plays like a starter (and that is an intentionally capitalized if), it’s POSSIBLE all of the holes in the giants secondary will have seemingly magically disappeared. Cross your fingers, say a prayer, what have you. So far, our defensive ends have not been doing what we’re used to seeing from them… which is consistently pressuring + sacking the quarterback. Turning up the pressure can only help the boys behind them in coverage. [DE] Jason Pierre-Paul did record the first sack for our ends this week, but we have come to expect much more from them. Maybe the replacement referees aren’t calling holds, maybe teams have focused in on stopping them, but no matter what the case, these defensive ends are too proud to allow us to keep asking why they aren’t showing up on the on the box score… right?