Two very similar teams played each other last night in a showing worthy of Monday Night Football’s national audience. The Giants at times looked dominant, and at other times looked incapable of stopping Sam Bradford. In the end, the NY Giants dispatched a struggling St. Louis Rams team that made too many mistakes and although gained a lot of yardage, failed to put points on the board. Here is my good, bad and ugly:
• Giants defensive front. How great was it to see Justin Tuck back on the field last night? He changes the dynamic of this defensive front 7 so much it’s scary to think about losing him for an extended period of time. Glad he’s back. And although starting DE’s Justin Tuck and JPP only shared 2 sacks between them, they were in Bradfords face constantly and shut down the Rams ground attack by getting tremendous penetration all night, especially in the red zone. How many wobbly and errant passes did the Giants force because of pressure – a ton. One of the dominant parts of the game for the Giants by a wide margin.
• Antrel Rolle. 8 tackles and a forced fumble, a great showing from Rolle all around. He picked up the slack from Aaron Ross and Michael Coe and did a great job tearing all over the field, making tackles, and pressuring Bradford when asked as well. Played really well last night.
• Michael Boley’s awareness on the fumble recovery. How about Boley realizing the backward pass was deflected, picking up the live ball, and taking it to the house after the Giants failed to touch a downed receiver earlier in the game. THAT’s how you finish a defensive play. Way to get to the ball, and finish through the whistle. That should happen on EVERY play. Way to turn an ordinary play into a game changer.
• Domenik Hixon. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again — why Domenik Hixon was not the starting #3 until proven otherwise still has me scratching my noggin. But Hixon proved last night he has tremendous big play ability. The catch in the endzone he tipped and caught was HUGE. It will be one of the plays of the year for the Giants, I’ll say it right now. Hopefully it’s an offensive turning point that the Giants can rally around for weeks to come.
• Run game. The Giants ran well, got physical, and set the tone early with the run game and stayed with it. Earth, Wind, and Fire 2.0 — I liked what I saw from everyone including Danny Ware. Play calls and execution for the most part were spot on, I loved the designed screens to both Bradshaw and Jacobs, and the pitch to Ware for the key first down late in the game was executed perfectly. The NY Giants running game is back.
• Red zone offense. 2/2 once they got inside the 20. Now they need to work on consistency moving the ball between the 20’s and they’ll be all set.
• Coaching. Keeping the players motivated, for Coughlin’s brilliant record of challenging calls, for running the ball, for benching Aaron Ross, for a great rotation of players, and getting some results on Special Teams for the first time in too long of a stretch. The Giants won the defensive and special teams battles tonight, they did not beat themselves with turnovers and penalties, and the Giants coaching staff has a moral victory they can hang their hat on going forward.
• More injuries to key players. Domenik Hixon (knee) and Mario Manningham (concussion)left the game and their status going forward is uncertain. This could be really bad for the Giants. But it’s not quite ugly… because I’ll say this about Victor Cruz — way to show up this game. You have to wonder if Cruz as well as Devin Thomas will have more opportunities next week against the Eagles.
• Eli’s INT. Eli Manning overall had a good night. Not great, certainly good though. But the first INT was tragic because the Giants had a nice drive going. He didn’t see the safety, didn’t lead Manningham, and it was doomed the moment the ball left his hand. At first I was thinking — that was too easy. Then I saw why, the safety baited Eli a bit and he simply never saw him.
• Vertical pass defense. The Giants have got to find a way to defend the middle seams, and it is by no means an easy task. I’m simply going to point out that since Green Bay torched the Giants last year, every game they’ve played since the defense has been exploited by a huge weakness. The corner/post/corner combination. I think every NFL offense utilizes this vertical passing combination, the Giants cannot defend it. Here is a good in-depth description of the strategy, here are the bullet points concerning the middle route:
The middle-read receiver will take the fastest vertical release he can. He will get a pre-snap and a post-snap look at the middle of the field. If the middle of the field is open he will go for it. If it is closed he will run a square-in route. He will take the fastest release and push to a depth of 10-12. If he reads MOFO (middle of field open) he will stick his outside foot and head for the nearest upright. He wants to catch the ball at 18-22 yards, and is expecting to get hit after he catches it.
The crux of the problem for the Giants is this — with the scheme they play the Y receiver is basically always going to always be open 18-20 yards downfield in the middle of the field unless the QB is hit, hurried, or sacked. Sound familiar? It doesn’t matter if it’s a slot receiver or tight end, he’s going to be open and the Giants base cover defense has no way to stop it. The only way the Giants have a chance to stop this play from developing is to blitz, and that leaves other options open for the QB with the defensive backfield shorthanded. And so forms the “bend but don’t break” defense that Perry Fewell talked about when he was first brought into his first presser. Annoying to watch unfold for all Giants fans, but their run and goal line defense ultimately held up.
• Aaron Ross. I don’t care if he was a #1 pick, this guy is a BUST. Ross had one good tackle on the goal line, that’s it. He deserved to be benched frankly. He stinks. Once again playing 5-10 yards off his man, I cannot believe an NFL corner would honestly think he had a right to complain after being pulled for someone else after that display. Thank the good lord the Giants coaching staff wised up and tried a new approach. I wonder if my “Aaron Ross SUCKS” tweet to Pat Hanlon had anything to do with it…. I doubt it. Even though Michael Coe let the Rams score their only TD — Ross was not working. Punt returns fine, corner blitzes, fine — he simply CANNOT play his position. And the Giants will not win if he continues to be this much of a liability.