From the desk of: DO IT FOR THE DUKE
NEW YORK GIANTS FOOTBALL: Big Blue Coaching Helps G-Men Get a Firm Grip on First Place.
We have till Wednesday to feel great about this team Giant Fans. That's what regular seasons are all about. They're filled with surprises and disappointments. They are for savoring and celebrating the good, and grumbling about the bad things that happen week to week. This last Sunday was a good thing in the grand scheme of things. So, having started with Sunday night and lasting through tomorrow, let's let this last game glow as a defining moment in our season thus far, before we have to forget it and move on.
But first, this...
All the Media's babble about Eli being "elite" or not, was and still is completely comical. How they (the Media) feed on each other's regurgitation I suspect even makes maggots want to puke sometimes. So allow me to simplify this for them. Eli is a damn good quarterback. He's our QB. He is a Giant. I trust him with all my Big Blue being to lead this team through any situation and against any team. I supported him as a rookie, through the years, and during all those interceptions last season. I have never wavered once. There is no conversation needed - much less one about whether Eli is elite or not. He is the New York Giants quarterback whom I think is capable of great things just as other quarterbacks around the league are capable of accomplishing great things as well. That's it. The state of Eli being elite, and the author of the question who opened his valve spewing all this oral pollution into the airwaves in the first place mean absolutely nothing. Elite quarterbacks can lose games too. See Tom Brady. See Tom Brady throw cups of water in disgust.
As I now step off my soap-box, I merely mean to say - You can't quantify everything. That's why this is sport; based on competition and not about branding an "E" onto some athlete's buttock. Elite indeed. Pfff! Shut up!
Back to the game...; Eli wasn't exactly pretty Sunday. In fact the game might have been a little bit of a regression of sorts. He shied away from taking hits and as a result threw many times off his back foot again. Old problem. - After week one and two, Eli for the most part has stood tall in the pocket this season. But in this game, there was a figurative step backwards in that respect considering the Patriots did not officially record a sack. Oh, then there was the matter of an interception in the end zone. I questioned the play selection before the snap. I thought we should run the ball in that 3rd and goal situation. But that's between Gilbride and me. It actually took a fine play to intercept the pass though. Manningham could also have perhaps closed the gap and come back for the ball. It's really here nor there though. We won, so unfortunate plays like this usually go over looked.
But Eli was great late, just like he's been since he was a rookie. And Sunday, he was flat out awesome when the Giants needed him most (...again!). In his nearly season-long recurring role as Captain Come Back, Eli orchestrated not one, but two 4th quarter come-backs to lead his team to victory. That sort of thing is becoming old hat for Eli. It seems as if most of the Giants wins this season have been of the 4th quarter come-back variety. And while Eli's demeanor still remains conservative as usual, he's made it known loud and clear with his play, who's steering this ship. Awe-Shucks nothin'. Eli is in charge.
Sunday, with no Hakeem Nicks, Eli threw for 20/39; 250; 2TD; 1INT - to guys like Ramses Barden who made a much needed and very timely return to action; Victor Cruz; and Mario Manningham who for the moment, is thrust into playing big brother for the non-injured receiving youngsters still able to play. More importantly, Eli is getting the Giants though sticky situations with the surprisingly sure hands of tight-end Jake Ballard. The big man has come through big time in big situations making big plays for Big Blue this season. None were bigger than a pair of 4th quarter catches including the game winning touchdown against the Patriots.
The touchdown to Ballard that put the Giants ahead 24-20 was a result of Coach Kevin Gilbride using the running game to keep the Patriots honest. And I commend Coach for it. The rush by Jacobs the play prior to the TD made the Pats bite on play-action on the ensuing play springing Ballard loose. Gilbride stayed patient with the run all game and it paid off. But earlier in the game, when Eli's pass resulted in an end-zone INT, I questioned why Coach Gilbride would risk jeopardizing the game-tying field goal by putting the ball in the air. In his defense and in addition to comments I made above, there is also something to be said for killer instinct. And for a full game, I think Coach Gilbride mapped out a fine plan. And not just this game, which was commendable in itself; - Coach Gilbride is showing an adjusted approach to the running game overall (perhaps prodded by Coach Coughlin). It's been a slight adjustment; but an adjustment none the less. Between Brandon Jacobs and D.J. Ware, the Giants rushed the ball twenty-five times. Brandon Jacobs had eighteen of those rushes. Coach Gilbride remained very patient indeed considering the way the game played out.
The controversy between Jacobs/Gilbride is..., or better yet, never was; Period. I told you Brandon Jacobs was fine in spite of some ill-advised comments he made. After all, it was Brandon Jacobs who raised his Head Coach on his shoulders after the game inside a victorious Giant locker-room. Above all things, he's a good team mate and his words were never an issue; only to the Media, but certainly not to me.
I told you last week, Brandon Jacobs did not have to rush for 100-yards Sunday in order to have an effective day. And Sunday proved that out. While he rushed for 18 times for 72 yards, he also had four catches for 28 more very important yards, which brought his game productivity up to an even 100-yard day. And lest we forget his eleven yard scamper for the Giants' first touchdown of the game. Was Brandon Jacobs an elite back Sunday? Not nearly. Did Brandon Jacobs step-up, put his money where his mouth was and come through for his team? Yeah. Absolutely.
Eli and Jacobs managed what they could behind a solid day by the Offensive Line. They didn't get Eli sacked and still managed to help Jacobs and Ware squeak-out 95-yards on the ground. Above all, they were disciplined over the length of an incredibly tight game. They had no killer penalties called against them; something which plagued them over several games earlier this season. While Kevin Boothe had one problem with a snap in the shot-gun, Eli said Boothe was filling in extremely well at center in place of injured David Baas.
Lately, the two biggest criticisms leveled against the Giants were they couldn't run the ball, and that they couldn't stop the run either. Well, I think Jacobs, Coach Gilbride, and the Giants got what they needed from the running game Sunday. Then there is the matter of criticisms leveled against Coach Perry Fewell for making every Johnnie-come-lately running back look like Barry Sanders this season.
That problem stems from the Giants' line-backers. Tom Brady spilled the beans once and said N.E. prepares to exploit team's weaknesses; and why not....? Who doesn't? So naturally, who didn't think the Patriots would attempt to pound the ball and tight-end us to death all game long? In New England's opening drive, they punched right through our gut for something like a 15-yard gain or so. And I thought, uh-oh. But after that, Michael Boley started to have an exceptional game.
He's been charged with bringing along a trio of rookies. Since Mathias Kiwanuka is being deployed multiple ways, Boley is responsible for the on-the-job training for the trio of rookies - Greg Jones, Spencer Paysinger, and Mark Herzlich. And as a group Sunday, they all effectively shut-down New England's running game. Coach Belichick opted to run the ball just 24-times out of 75-plays, and opted to throw the ball 49 times instead. The Giants conversely, only threw 14-more times than they ran the ball in 68-plays for the game. So again, that's a good job by Kevin Gilbride and a great job by Michael Boley's unit.
But back to Coach Fewell...,and with an understanding about what exactly ails this Defense, I think Perry Fewell is having a fine season and had himself an exceptional game against the Patriots in particular. His unit has been bend but don't break for the most part this season. And damn near every time the Offense put them into a precarious situation this season, the Defense usually stood firm and held opposing teams to field goals. And besides, what more needs to be said other than a 0-0 score at half-time against the Patriots? The Giants' front line kept an elite quarterback like Tom Brady out of his element all game and induced the mega-nova N.E. quarterback into four turnovers along the way.
No doubt, a return to health to key defensive players couldn't have come at a better time for the Giants. And the depth Jerry Reese has provided this team has gotten them through decimating injuries which have kept the Giants from fading away on crutches. But in spite of getting victimized by big plays this season; and faced with ruinous injuries to the Secondary and at Linebacker, Coach Fewell has thus far done an outstanding job. And this last Sunday, Michael Boley, Chris Canty, Mathias Kiwanuka, Michael Coe (!!), Antrel Rolle, and damn near everyone on defense played-up to their competition this time, and stopped the vaunted Patriots and Tom Brady cold...for the most part.
What the Patriots also failed to win, was time of possession battle. And that was very key to the Giants success as well.
If a punter is getting too much face time or print space in the locals, it's usually because he's doing something very wrong. But NYG punter Steve Weatherford continues to have a booming season punting the football. Far too many times for New England's tastes, they started possessions very deep within their own territory. Weatherford's foot-work should not go under spoken. The first half battle for field position was just as instrumental in this Giant victory as Eli's arm was.
While Weatherford's foot has been a tremendous bright spot on Special Teams, Aaron Ross' fumble on kick-return almost proved ruinous. The Defense held N.E. to a field goal off the miscue. And that's something the Giants' Defense has done very well this season; i.e.; - limiting opposing points off turnovers. A second straight drop on kick-return happened again shortly, but NY recovered. That's a position that's been begging for attention all season.
The Giants are now 6-2 and sitting somewhat comfortably on top of their division. For that, much credit is due to Eli, Jacobs/Bradshaw, Cruz, Ballard, Barden, the pass rush, and other factors. But know this; this game was a testament to the job Coach Coughlin does preparing his team. Jim Fassell's Giants collapsed like a cheap poker table when decimated by injuries to his top players. Coach Coughlin has his injury ravaged team firmly in first place of the NFC Eastern Division.
And this game was also a credit to Jerry Reese's talent evaluation and organization abilities, not to mention his shrewd decision making as GM of the Giants. To all their critics after Week One - BoooYah! Don't worry though. I made the same (...Coughlin) mistake in 2006.