NEW YORK GIANTS FOOTBALL:
With a Record of "Six and Sick" and Four Games To Go,
Big Blue's Season Boils Down to a Showdown Against
Our Old Nemesis, the Dallas Cowboys.
WEEK FOURTEEN PICKS
POST: Secondary Issues a Primary Concern
GIANTS vs. COWBOYS:
Two things happened on Offense last week that are worth discussing; A) - For the first time in many weeks, the running game rushed for 100 yards behind... B) - a revamped Offensive Line due to Center-David Baas being a late minute scratch with migraine head-aches; and maybe more than just that.
But what that did was get Mitch Petrus inserted into the game at left Guard while David Diehl slid over to Tackle again. Kevin Boothe moved over and started at Center. And together, along with the return of Ahmad Bradshaw, turned up the power on the Giants' Running Game again. Is there something to that O-Line combination? After all, it was Mitch Petrus' first career start.
We know Ahmad Bradshaw often finds his own cracks and creates his own holes to run through. Last week in his return, he didn't have quite the day Jacobs had rushing the ball however. The clearest evidence the O-Line was doing something right was noticeable in the way Brandon Jacobs got into Green Bay's secondary. The maligned back rushed eight times for fifty-nine yards. And with a hop here and a skip there, he could have rushed for much more. But he's never been accused of being a hurdler, now has he? Those tree trunks of his were made for running in two directions; straight; and right at people.
Sounding like a broken record now, with pitches and screens; etc.; the Giants can minimize Dallas' run-blitz which is what every team has been doing against Jacobs up the middle. Most of Brandon's success has been coming on either side of the Tackle; usually with Kareem McKenzie opening things up and Bear Pascoe doing a better job lately at Fullback.
Last week proves Brandon Jacobs is not just a useless cog with a big mouth. And the relationship between the O-Line and the backfield is a symbiotic one. That's why I never came down too hard on Jacobs; not without pointing out the ground work for a poor performance first. I never did say the criticisms against him weren't fair though. I just felt he's been misused.
But here we are at the precise point of the season why I always said it's important for Coach Gilbride to give Brandon Jacobs more touches throughout the season. Independent of Eli Manning, this is the time of season when the Giants need Brandon most. This is the game when we need THE BULLY, to push Dallas around; and to revive a term; playing smash-mouth football. With Ahmad Bradshaw back; a seemingly effective combo on the left side of the O-Line; and Jacobs showing he can still thump and bump, the Giants need to regain their identity; stay true to themselves, and play Giants football in order to beat Dallas Sunday.
A guy like Jacobs needs touches; even ineffective touches. And with Bradshaw still uncertain on his foot, Brandon just may get the touches he's craving for against the Cowboys. And finally the Giants may have stumbled across a combination on the left side of the O-Line that could finally benefit everyone. Coach Gilbride deserves his credit for sticking with the running game. And as it turned out last game, Bradshaw turned into the set-up man for the big-rumblin' Brandon Jacobs.
Go back to Smash-Mouth 101. Use as directed: 1) - Run the ball. 2) - Run with Power. 3) - Control the clock. 4) - No stupid penalties against the O-Line; and converting third downs all will serve to keep Tony Romo off the field.
So what exactly was the O-Line doing right? They pushed the Packers D-Line backwards off the snap. But you can do that against the Packers because in Rogers they trust. I don't know if the Giants will be able to push the Cowboys' front around as easily. But let's hope so, because Brandon Jacobs has promised to unleash "The BULLY" against a very chatty Dallas team. After a week of much flappin' on their part, the Cowboys could use a good slap in the face. But Jacobs will only be able to "punk Dallas" defenders if the O-Line performs similar to the way which opened up holes last week against the Packers. And well, Dallas' defense is just a little more stout against the run than Green Bay's is. But the run must be sold none the less for the sake of Play-Action.
The left side of this O-Line also kept Eli Manning's blind side well protected, while the Line as a whole kept him upright long enough for Eli to engineer better than ten points over the Giants' season average against the Packers...which should have been good enough - But wasn't for reasons other than lack of Offense.
So Offensively speaking, if the Giants are to win the most important game of the season with their playoff chances in the balance, it all has to start up front with the Offensive Line. They must keep DeMarcus Ware away from Eli Manning. That will fall on David Diehl, and to a lesser degree, Mitch Petrus, the Tight-Ends and backfield. With help, I'm satisfied Diehl can handle the challenge and minimize damage Ware brings from Dallas' right side. Dallas will get through once in a while, but Diehl won't get embarrassed.
Coach Gilbride should also roll Eli right from time to time. Eli does that fairly well. When it comes to stepping-up inside the pocket or literally shaking a pocket loose, I don't think Eli is nearly as good as Brees, Rogers, and yes...even Tony Romo. Inside the pocket, those guys can dance. Eli not so much. And then again, Eli's scrambling is a complete wash versus Dallas' speed on defense. So it looks like there will be a lot of hanging in the pocket for Eli Sunday. It could hurt at times but Eli can take a good shot. Eli has been throwing off his back foot again lately, so the closer Dallas gets to him, the more likely they can make Eli do the same. So it's incumbent on the O-Line to limit most of Dallas' harassment. At least long enough for Eli to exploit Dallas' Secondary...which Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz should find very.....exploitable.
If the O-Line allows Bradshaw and Jacobs to get to daylight and Eli can successfully continue connecting with Nicks; Cruz; Ballard; and get some other less heralded catches, enough Giants' points should be on the scoreboard by game's end for a win. And it would certainly be nice if we could score early in the game. Playing with a lead can help immeasurably with any plan to disrupt Tony Romo.
That's if the Giants can hold back the Cowboys on Defense.
Coach Fewell's reluctance to blitz has left the last bunch of QB's with a ton of time to wait and allow something to open up down field. It just so happens in the last two weeks, the Giants have played two QB's who expertly juke and snake their way inside the pocket. In the process, they've given up damn nearly ninety points. Tony Romo, like I said, is another QB who slips just out of reach. The guy hops, dodges, back-pedals, skips, and scats into open spaces, and can either kill you running the ball or by identifying the busted coverage in broken plays. Even off balance, he gets off amazingly accurate throws. Because the pass rush never really got to Brees and Rogers in time, they continually side-stepped any on-comers and killed us on third conversions by running when the eight men in coverage kept things tight down field. It's been a damned if you do; damned if you don't sort of deal.
Is that a message for Coach Fewell to get back to the four man rush and take chances with the Linebackers and hope they are up to the task? Michael Boley is back. Chase Blackburn is back from outer space to help. And Jacquian Williams looks like he enjoys getting physical. But one of them will have to be responsible for Dallas Tight-End Jason Witten. Every one in the Western Hemisphere knows he's Tony Romo's go to guy. Keep him out of the picture, and Romo goes into panic.
Maybe that's the way to go. This Defense is never better than when they are on the attack. Last week's plan almost worked. This week's plan needs to be different. Coach Fewell has been compensating for poor coverage by flooding the Secondary with bodies. But it's turned us into a read-and-react defense at the expense of aggression. And as a result, we've given up well over 300 points this season. I'm willing to take my chances that we can force Romo into mistakes before he can abuse our Secondary across the middle or over the top. If Coach Fewell tries that three man rush again like he did against the Packers, Romo will most certainly run silly on us underneath. At least with a four man rush, The Giants can maintain containment and keep Tony Romo in front of them like they do with Michael Vick.
So, it's probably time to change things up front. We need to go after Romo, and force him into hurried and harried mistakes. After all, he's good at screwing up too. And he's ripe for a December let-down! As a matter of fact, I'm banking on it. I say amp up the pass rush Coach, and make our Safeties and Corners do their jobs. Nothing ventured; nothing gained. As inconsistent as Aaron Ross and Corey Webster have been this season, Tony Romo is an old foe whom they should have a full account of his body language by now. Familiarity has to count for something; no? After that, I'm just crossing my fingers our Safeties don't get burnt like forgotten toast.
That's all I got. We know the rest. This is the Giants biggest game of the season because they made it so. The Giants were once 6-2 this season. Heading into Sunday they are now "Six and Sick" with four games to go. I only see this one way. The Giants must win out. I'm not interested in needing help from other teams. Convince me this is a playoff team by winning your way in. It all starts in Dallas, Texas, where they like everything big. But in Big Blue Country, nothing is looms larger than a Giants win.
There's been a lot of smack talk lobbed back and forth between camps. Both these teams are old, bitter rivals. The fan bases hate each other. Both teams stand in each other's way for the Division crown. And nothing would satisfy either city's fans more than a win Sunday. But both teams need two wins against each other in order to secure the division. And there's the matter of some other pressing games as well. But if your team is set on doing something special, like pulling out a crucial game against a heated foe, then I can't think of a better team to "make my day" against other than the Dallas Cowboys.
SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
"Battle for the NFC East"
NEW YORK GIANTS
The Double J Ranch