My sincerest apologies to all of our faithful readers who have missed this all important weekly column. An epic snowstorm knocked my power out until Wednesday, and by then the coverage for the Giants/Dolphins game would have been pretty repetitive. And well, let’s face it, despite the W the column itself would have been on the bleak side.
Fortunately that is not the case this week! A huge win against the Patriots have many comparing the similarities between this team and the 2007 version. And why not? The Pats have not lost a home game since 2008, so does this mean the road warriors are back? The Giants lost their first road game of the season in 2007, only to become the world champions after an endless number of games away from New Jersey. A loss in Washington to start this season was tough to take, but suddenly this team is starting to turn heads. Let’s break this one down.
The Giants D looked great for most of the game, but the fourth quarter was stressful to watch. They changed their strategy and started applying pressure on the quarterback instead of taking away his targets, as they had done the rest of the game. This is not the Tom Brady of 2007, who becomes flustered when he is continuously blitzed. Like any great quarterback, he clearly worked on that flaw in his abilities. So instead, the Giants copied the Steelers and gave extra help to a weak secondary, and it paid in dividends. But, the con here is that they didn’t stick with that game plan as much as they should have toward the end of the game, and it could have cost them. I’m not saying a coach can’t mix things up and take a few chances, but they knew what would work and that has to be the core of the game plan throughout.
Ok, that was a weak con that I came up with there, but that’s because the defense played remarkably against an incredibly deep offense. Despite the injuries, this unit did something that most other teams cannot boast about; they frustrated Tom Brady early and often. I’m not sure I have ever seen him throwing tantrums like that throughout an entire game. He and his receivers still had good numbers, but the rushing game was a non-factor, and the defense forced four turnovers, three of which came from Brady himself by way of two interceptions and a fumble. Despite all the problems from last year, the turnover factor was a big reason the Giants were ever in a position to win games. The D knows how to read quarterbacks to come up with big plays, get to the quarterback to strip the ball, and can tackle a running back while putting the ball on the ground.
One other thing. I like the game plan that the defense utilized this week and I have to imagine they will use it again. The secondary is weak and everyone knows it, so providing extra support in the backfield to take away a quarterback’s options is important. It goes against what we as fans have come to expect from this team, that the blitz attack is king, but this worked well. Brady is not a mobile quarterback, so unless they are up against a team like the Eagles they should look to follow this model more often.
Unfortunately, the Giants as a team had problems giving the ball away as often as they stole it last year, and special teams tried to even the score with two fumbles, one of which was lost at a crucial point in the game. This was the last thing that Aaron Ross needed when he is finally starting to gain some support from the fanbase. That was elementary stuff that just can’t happen again. He did not appear to take his eyes off the ball, he simply seemed to misjudge where it would land. I am lukewarm about him in the secondary, because while he does have flashes of the talent he was supposed to bring to the defense, they are only flashes. But I like him as a return guy and I have to believe this was a fluke.
Steve Weatherford just gets better and better each game. He really is becoming the reincarnation of Jeff Feagles that I have been hoping to see. If I were the Jets I would not be happy we let this guy go.
I have always been an Eli supporter, though I definitely understand people questioning his abilities and decision-making. He had a brilliant performance that fits in with the rest of this season, but that interception in the endzone was brutal to watch. As soon as he let go of that ball I knew there was no way it was going to end well. It was important to pick up 7 points on that drive, and it was third down so it was now or never. But he always gets himself into trouble when he makes a desperate throw. There’s a certain level of maturity that comes with biting the bullet and throwing it away on third and goal, and accepting the fact that you have to settle for a fieldgoal attempt. He is on his way to understanding this, but he is obviously still learning. That is a play that will bother him for awhile, and I hope it’s enough to teach him to not risk the turnover when you are in the red zone.
For the rest of that game, Eli played very well. He was calm as always, spread the ball around, trusted his receivers and made good decisions. Trust is probably the biggest factor here, and let’s face it, this unit of receivers are not always easy to trust. Brandon Jacobs is the biggest culprit here, with all the noise he has been making in recent weeks, which he followed up with a horrible performance against the Dolphins last week. Now here he was, going in for Bradshaw, a favourite target of Eli’s, and he had to step up. There was nothing gaudy about his performance, but he was solid and did everything that was asked of him. The way the running game has been lacking this year, I don’t know that the numbers would have been all that much better with Bradshaw in there. Ware also provided a good change of pace in the backup position.
Injuries also make it tough for Eli to trust what he has to work with, and missing Nicks definitely hurts the team, but again, the guys who were there stepped up. They had a case of the drops last week but that was not a problem yesterday. And a special shout out to Jake Ballard with that beautiful diving catch in the endzone to score the winning touchdown. I always liked what Kevin Boss brought to the table for this team and was nervous that we wouldn’t have someone with decent hands to make those catches over the middle, but Ballard has surpassed anything that Boss would have done if he were still here, and it’s incredibly exciting to watch.
All in all, a great team win for the Giants. There is a long way to go this season, and the Giants will face many difficult teams along the way, but for now, we can enjoy this win and the hope it brings, that maybe the Giants will continue to defy the odds and go far this season.