Tuesday, October 11, 2011

N.Y. Giants ~ Snarred by a Trap Game

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE


Game Five Preview; The Birds, ACT III
Post-Game Summary; Big Blue Bird Droppings

Prior to the game with Seattle, I didn't believe any reasons existed to have a conversation discussing the importance of beating the Seahawks and looking good doing it.  Because Seattle had proven rather inept so far this season, I expanded on that and said than anything less than a convincing victory would be an embarrassment and a complete and utter disappointment, because frankly, this was the Seahawks we were talking about.  And a loss I believed, would open the door for all the criticisms levied against these Giants to rush back in and find a spot to occupy within this season-long discussion of ours.

There will be no talking about being early NFC East favorites now.  After Sunday, there is only shame.  Welcome to Tuesday, when a 3-2 record rings hollow in a division up for grabs.

The best aspect of New York's game Sunday was without a doubt, Steve Weatherford.  He had a booming day punting the ball.  But because he was punting from deep within Giant territory so often, Seattle enjoyed great field position virtually all afternoon.  However, when your punter ends up being the team's best player and your silver lining, in most cases you know things went horribly as a team.

DEFENSIVELYThe Giants allowed thirty-five points, and it should have been more.  Much blame falls on the Offense for that.  But Seattle did things to the Defense that opened up a lot of eyes; both good and bad.  In spite of Seattle's day long success with the no-huddle offense; a scoreboard reflecting thirty-five points allowed; and a forty-seven yard jaunt by Marshawn Lynch setting up Seattle touchdown number two; I think the Defense and Perry Fewell did very well over all.

However, Seattle's plethora of penalties and gift turnovers did play into how well the Defense actually performed.  And there was a tremendous breakdown in the Secondary that needs addressing.  Either way, they were pressed into bad field position and put in poor situations by the Offense for much of the day.

Seattle went No-Huddle for a great majority of the game.  The scheme was a huge Seahawk success.  On Seattle's first possession of the game they marched eighty yards for a touchdown.  Fair enough.  Perry Fewell needed a possession to think that through.

Blame Marshawn Lynch's forty-seven yard rush up the right side on......?  You pick.   Seattle was not in 'no huddle' for that play.  And for a moment, we made Lynch look like the second coming of Curt Warner.  The fact remains, minus Lynch's ponderous jaunt, the Seahawk running game gained +/- seventy-five yards on twenty one carries after you factor out the QB scrambles.  I'll take that.  In the grand scheme of things, I'd rate the play as unfortunate which gets magnified after a bad day.  However it does speak directly to our problems stopping the run over the last two weeks.  And it was Seattle's second legitimate score of the opening quarter.

Osi, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Mathias Kiwanuka stood out with very timely sacks and strips.  Deon Grant and Antrel Rolle both made key tackles on a pair of nicely timed blitz packages dialed up by Coach Fewell.  Tavaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst shouldn't have looked as good as we think they looked.  They only appeared that way as long as they stayed in 'no-huddle'.  I'd take that with a grain of salt.  There is an intended pun in saying that though.  Whitehurst was salt in our wounds either way you look at it.

Because the Defensive gaffe of the day was without a doubt, the play which put Seattle ahead 29-25 late in the fourth quarter.  The Seahawks were still in no huddle on a second and ten play from the Giants twenty-seven.  Osi jumped offside and created a free play for Seattle.  The Secondary blew coverage when Aaron Ross and Rolle both committed to the outside and completely lost the slot receiver leaving him WIDE OPEN for a touchdown.  It was a shame too, because it was Aaron Ross' interception which set up the Giants' game tying touchdown to Hakeem Nicks before the first half ended.

The play continued an alarming trend of giving up huge plays via the air.  Is this due to poor communication on the field?  Lack of talent?  Poor coaching?  In order - that particular play resulted from atrocious on-field communication.  Secondly, Ross; Rolle; Webster; (Phillips); and Grant aren't giving teams any reasons why they shouldn't throw the ball deep against them.  And thirdly, maybe not so much Perry Fewell, but what exactly is the Secondary's real two headed monster; Corners Coach Peter Giunta, and Safety Coach David Merritt; teaching these guys?  Or are those two the ones who aren't communicating well enough between each other?  It warrants questioning.

The bottom line on the afternoon, the Defense repeatedly was asked to bail out the Offense from all the trouble they kept putting the Giants in.  I'm going to give Coach Perry Fewell a huge pat on the back for this game.  But he needs to come up with a plan for future no-huddle schemes against us and talk to his Secondary coaches pronto.

OFFENSIVELY -  Yes; They were very offensive.  I was offended.  The Offensive Line was exceptionally abrasive Sunday.  Lets start with them.

But first......., I'm not going after Kevin Gilbride this time.  He let Ahmad Bradshaw rush the ball seventeen times Sunday.  Seattle was focused on stopping him and making Eli throw.  That's cool - I get that.  I know how it goes sometimes.  I just hope Gilbride doesn't lose patience with Sunday's results.  I did feel however, there was yardage for Bradshaw to be gained by bumping things outside more; pulling Guards; more pitches; and more screens.  But I have no gripes with Gilbride this week.  Actually, I thought our opening drive was very creative.

My gripes are solely on the players this week.  The O-Line was dreadful.  There was a fumbled snap the Giants self-recovered in the second quarter.  Two penalties with first down and goal to go, on two separate occasions used to be unheard of around these parts.  Now it happens with gaining frequency.  The penalty against Jake Ballard, while infuriating, is still understandable.  The Giants are still trying to piece together TE.  A penalty to David Diehl was uncommon and Will Beatty's killed.  And last week, reliable Chris Snee had two. 

The two point Safety against the Giants came as a direct result of a blown assignment by the Line; more specifically the Tight End again; Jake Ballard.  His missed block/no block/no show gave Seattle a clear shot at D.J. Ware and two points the other way.

Over all, there were no holes anywhere to be found for Ahmad Bradshaw to run through.  Most all attempts to run off-guard or off-tackle were stuffed.  And I'll pile on by saying I don't think the position of Fullback is up to snuff either.  Let's not mention names, OK?

But the O-Line was clearly compromised at Center.  There was the mentioned fumbled snap Blue managed to recover on a third down play just before half-time.  And Chris Snee was forced to leave the game late with one of the two possible concussions suffered by the front-line unit.  So moving forward, we now know the Line has stability and cohesion issues.  And as a result or not, I feel there's also a little lack of creativity on run blocking schemes and expanding the Line's repertoire.

Lastly, the Offensive Line is getting Eli sacked with Giant regularity.  They allowed three more Sunday. 

I accused Eli of having happy feet over the first two or three games of the season.  The last two weeks, he has stood firmly in the pocket making good throws.  But Eli's first two turnovers against the Seahawks were dreadful.  They could have cost us dearly and somehow didn't.   He was sacked and fumbled early in the first quarter.  We've seen that before.  But Osi Umenyiora negated the turnover by causing one of his own on the ensuing Seattle possession.  In the second quarter, the Defense bailed Eli out again after he put up a pass that had "Intercept me!  - signed Eli Manning" branded on it.  That INT was all on Eli. -  It was the old, I never saw the Safety.  Then Jason Pierre Paul and the Defense wiped out that turnover as well by forcing Seattle into a three-and-out.

Like I said earlier, the first scoring drive of the game was a nicely crafted drive.  In my preview post, I asked for more passing to the Tight End and got it right off the bat.  There were two big catches by Jake Ballard; his second resulting in the touchdown.  And then there was the touchdown drive featuring Hakeem Nicks before the first half ended.  If anything, that reinforces why we have confidence in our ability to score.  Eli has always done exceptionally well with less than 2:00 over his entire career.  He was successful again Sunday before the first half expired.  And he almost pulled it off again with less that two minutes in the fourth quarter.

But with no running game going, we started the second half like this:

1) Four plays; Punt.
2) Three plays; Punt.
3) Safety - 2 pts.
4) Four plays; Punt.

While over that same time, the Defense sacked and blitzed Seattle and limited them to a field goal and just a 17-14 Seahawks' lead.


That leads us to the moment when Mr. Feast or Famine himself; Victor Cruz; decided to "single-handed" take control of this game and make either the Giants or Seahawks a clear cut winner in what was to that point, a tight, if not frustrating contest.  Victor Cruz has rapidly earned a reputation for being a miracle maker, and at the same time, being the root cause of utterly bizarre catastrophe.  In the last two weeks he shown us why.  Sunday, he validated it.

From the Giants' own thirty-five yard line, Eli heaved up a Hail-Mary pass that was tipped and found it's way into the hands of Victor Cruz who scampered the rest of the way for a sixty-eight yard touchdown and a 22-19 lead after a successful two-point conversion.

On the Giants next possession, Victor Cruz fumbled a five yard catch at the Giants' own twenty-five yard line which the Defense did well to limit damage to a field goal and a 22-22 game.

Coach Gilbride then dialed-up another Tight End based drive that put us first and goal on the Seattle seven yard line.  Then.....Bam!  Ballard!  Flag!  -  First and goal from the twelve now.  Giants get held to a field goal and lead 25-22.

Seattle scored on the ROSS-N-ROLLE PLAY (see Defense).   It's now a 25-29 game.  Whatever!

The Giants had the ball with 2:37 left on their own twenty.  Fine.  This was OK by me.  This was just one of those games right?  Up the field we'd go and score the winning touchdown.  And off we went.

But this is when the O-Line troubles and questions really became an issue.  Chris Snee left the game, and Jim Cordle was now playing Center.  They pressed on.

Eli rolled right and lofted a pass to Victor Cruz who again made an amazing tipped ball reception.  The play took the Giants to Seattle's twenty-five yard line.  Another pass to Cruz gave the Giants first and goal from the five.  And....POW!  BAM!  FLAG!  -  Will Beatty.  First and goal from the ten now!

And then?   ....Eli dropped back, spotted Cruz again, and threw a well timed pass off Cruz' break.  The problem was, Cruz slipped on his route and could only manage to tip the ball.  The ball tipped off his outreaching hand, off one Seahawk, and into the arms of another who returned the ball ninety-four yards for a back-breaking touchdown.

Eli's subsequent interception on the next possession was inconsequential.  The damage was already done.  The Giants had beaten themselves.

How do you judge a game like this?  I'm still struggling with that.  They got hammered in field position all game, but the end result came about by some bad luck.  What is certain though, is the Giants blew a grand opportunity to flex a little muscle in the NFC Eastern Division with this loss.  Instead of separating themselves, they fell victim to the Trap Game, and today merely run with the pack.


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