Saturday, September 27, 2008

Big Blue, the Bye and the Beast, Pt. II: The Focus

(To read Part I, click here.)

The Giants' early season success this year has followed the same formula as their post-season success last year: playing tough, playing as a team, and taking care of the football. It has also helped that they haven't had to play the Bucs, Cowboys and Packers in the first three weeks, but by and large the Giants are winning games because they have the winning intangibles to go along with their tremendous talent.

Perhaps most significant of these intangibles is what I'll call a champion's attitude: confidence, swagger, and mental toughness. This attitude has jumped out at me this season as it seems to permeate into every facet of their play. I get the impression that not only do the G-men believe they can win any game they play, but that they also know what it takes to prepare and perform at a level necessary to do so. Winning the Super Bowl will do that for you...

One aspect of that attitude is playing one game at a time, and trying to elevate your game each and every week. Champions don't just settle for playing better than the other team, they strive to play better than they did the week before. The Giants' showed a marked improvement across the board from Week 1 to Week 2. Granted, it helped that they were playing the Rams, but still they had issues that needed work in the first game, and they corrected them in the second.

Week 3 was a different story, as the Giants played what was clearly not their best football against a struggling Cincinnati Bengals team. The offense struggled to get into the end zone and could not establish the run; the defense let the Bengals march down the field multiple times and gave up too many third down conversions. Part of this was execution and part of it scheme.

After a narrow escape in Week 3, I think the early bye comes at an opportune time for the defending champs to reflect and correct what is necessary. On the one hand, it's troublesome because it leaves a long, punising 13 week stretch to close out the season (though I think that provides all the more reason to push for that Division Title and 1st round bye), but on the other hand, it allows Big Blue to refocus as their season enters the next phase. The competition is going to get tougher, much tougher, and the Giants need to refocus in order to continue their success.

As Big Blue enters the next phase of their season, improvements in the following four areas will be critical to their continued success:

  • Offensive play-calling: One thing is clear about the Giants offense through 3 games - they've got more weapons than they know what to do with...literally. With 3 starter-quality running backs and a six-pack of talented receivers, the Giants have still struggled at times to produce offensively or put touch downs on the board. This is not necessarily for lack of execution, but rather poor play calling. When it's first and goal to go and you don't try running the ball when you've been running wild all day, that's a problem; when Brandon Jacobs is shut down by 9 guys in the box and you don't pass the ball, that's a problem; when you don't utilize the youth and speed at the bottom of the receiving corps when the same old thing isn't working with the 1 & 2 guys, that's a problem.

Giants Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride
  • Prognosis: Say what you will about OC Kevin Gilbride, but Eli Manning is very comfortable with him, and he did help win the Giants a championship. Perhaps he is too limited in how he thinks to attack the opposing team: a 1-2 RB punch; there's a depth chart at wide receiver for a reason, etc; but I think that unless the Giants are posting 24 points or more a game and getting the ball in the end zone on consistent basis, Tom Coughlin and the New York media will not let it sit. Gilbride's still feeling out the offense much like the players are still feeling each other out. Things will click eventually...Perhaps a Burress-less offense in Week 5 will give the OC a chance to experiment a little bit more.
  • Green zone efficiency: The Giants are 5 for 11 in trips to the "Green zone" this season, around 45%. This number needs to improve, and as the play-calling becomes more developed and diversified, it should. The Giants drive the ball very well. If they start coming away with 7's instead of 3's at the ends of their drives, look out.
  • Forcing turnovers: The Giants have only forced one turnover through three games. As pretty as Justin Tuck's "pick 6" was, the defense will have to do a lot more as the competition picks up. The Giants have taken care of the football so far, allowing only one turnover themselves, which has helped minimize this shortcoming, but the G-men can't count on that the rest of the season (though it would be awesome). A number of players in the secondary have come close to picking passes off, and during the bye week, it's been a point of emphasis at practice. Steve Spaguolo's says turnovers come in spurts. Hopefully the Giants can start a streak on Sunday against the Seahawks.
  • Improving 3rd down efficiency on defense: Finally, the Giant defense will have to improve on third down percentage, where they have allowed opponents a 37% conversion rate so far this season. This number jumped considerably after the Bengals converted 59% of their third downs in Week 3, and it should settle back down in the coming weeks. The defensive game plan against Cincinnati was perhaps more responsible for this figure than any lack of execution. The Giants were playing deep and concentrating on the Bengals pro-bowl wide outs. This left some holes that the Bengals were able to exploit, and I think the Spags and company will make the necessary adjustments.
With much to work on, the early bye week could stand to be of great help to the Giants. As I've mentioned, I look at this season in stages, with Stage 1 obviously being the 3 games before the bye. Stage 2 consists of 4 games, starting with Seattle in Week 5 and finishing with Pittsburgh in Week 8. The level of competition in Stage 2 goes up a notch, but it builds gradually each week. This phase presents the opportunity for the Giants to continue to gradually improve each week, and win football games. All four match-ups in Stage 2 are winnable ones, and having a 6-1 or 7-0 record before a brutal 9 game stretch that features 5 divisional games would be a tremendous advantage for the Giants.

That brings me to my final point: The NFC East is far and away the best division in the NFL right now, with all four teams capable of earning a playoff spot. After Week 4, the Giants find themselves in sole possession of first after the resurgent Redskins upset the Cowboys. The Eagles also lost to the Bears in a close game to fall to 2-2. This early lead is not something the Giants can afford to take lightly, and it makes each of the games in Stage 2 all the more critical.

If the Giants can protect this lead, however slim, it will be to their benefit and have major implications for the playoffs in this tight division. The Cowboys are combusting and the Eagles are beat up. Philly will have to play the Redskins in Week 5, who then have a lighter load the following two weeks. If the Giants can get back on track and make the necessary adjustments in the coming weeks, they should be able to stay on top of the heap.

It will all come down to sustaining that champion's attitude, constantly improving, and taking it one game at a time.

Stage 2 starts Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

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Please leave your comments! I like hearing from readers. Also, you can now subscribe to Giants' Steps via e-mail using the subscription feature on the left side, below the Shot of the Week.

Stay tuned!

- Will

Continue reading "Big Blue, the Bye and the Beast, Pt. II: The Focus"

Friday, September 26, 2008

Big Blue, the Bye and the Beast, Pt I: The Numbers

A look at the standings will tell you that the Giants could not have asked for a better start to their 2008 season: going 3-0 overall , 2-0 at home, and 1-0 in the NFC East before heading in to their early bye week in Week 4.

With a schedule that gets visibly more challenging as the season progresses, racking up as many wins as possible in the early part of the year is critical for the G-men moving forward. This becomes all the more imperative when you look at the division they play in. The NFC "Beast" through 3 weeks is 10-2, and 8-0 against opponents outside of the division. All four teams could take one of what will surely be three playoff spots for the Beast, so every win, even at this early stage in the season, carries a lot of weight. At 3-0, so far, so good.

The Giants celebrate after John Carney kicks the game-winning field goal in overtime in Week 3.

The Stat Sheet: Offense

Through 3 games, the offense ranks third in the league overall, averaging just over 400 yards per game. They have scored an average of 27.7 points per game, sixth best in the NFL. They average 6 yrds per play (7th in the NFL) and have a 3rd down conversion percentage of 46% (T-5th in the NFL).

Eli Manning has looked sharp, reflective of the great strides (giant steps, eh? eh?) he made last year during Big Blue's playoff run. He's thrown for 765 yards, with 4 TDs and one pick so far, and a he also ran one in for a score in Week 1. He continues to show poise in the pocket and make smart decisions with the football. Most importantly, he has continued to display his signature ability to score points when it counts: answering the Rams scores in Week 2 and leading the Giants down the field in OT in Week 3.

Eli's supporting cast on offense has shown flashes of its potential brilliance in the first 3 weeks. The Giants' O-line is physical, athletic, and one of the best in the league. Success starts with them. The receiving corps is loaded with talent, and most importantly, healthy. It is perhaps the deepest and most dangerous it's ever been.

Behind veteran play-makers Burress and Toomer, Steve Smith is emerging as a dangerous weapon in the slot and one of Eli's go-to guys on 3rd down. Domenik Hixon provides Eli with another big target and the Giants with a credible fourth receiver for the first time in years. Sinorice Moss remains buried at the bottom of the pile, but he is healthy for the first time in his career and had an excellent pre-season. Rookie Mario Manningham shows a lot of promise, but has yet to be activated for a game. Second-year TE Kevin Boss adds another weapon on offense with size, sure hands, and open-field speed.

Boss has also developed in his role as a blocker in the Giants' potent rushing attack. The three-headed beast known as "Earth, Wind and Fire" - Brandon Jacobs, Derek Ward, and Ahmad Bradshaw - gives the Giants one of the deepest backfields in the league. Jacobs through 3 games has looked like a monster, and is ranked 12th in the league in rushing. He has rushed for 244 yards on 50 carries: 81.3 yards per game, with 4.9 per carry and a TD. His numbers could be bigger, if not for Derek Ward. Ward ranks 22nd in rushing with 177 yards on 26 carries: 59 yards per game, and 6.8 yard per carry. Bradshaw has not gotten as many carries as his teammates, but showcased his explosive, play-making ability in Week 2 when he posted 2 scores and over 80 total yards, nearly all of which came in the fourth quarter.

The Real Big D

On the defensive side of the ball, the Giants have looked strong, though they struggled against a talented Bengal offense in Week 3. Big Blue's D is currently ranked 6th in the league in total defense, allowing 252.3 yards per game and 14.3 points per game (4th best in the NFL). They have allowed 167.7 passing yards per game (8th best in the NFL) and 84.7 rushing yards per game (7th best in the NFL). The Giants are also fourth in the NFL in yards allowed per play at 4.3.

Prior to Week 3, the Giants were in the top 5 in total defense, run defense and pass defense. After the Bengals managed to convert on 10 of 17 3rd down attempts however (59%), these figures dropped. So far this season, the defense has allowed 37% 3rd down conversion rate, a number will have to decline in order for the Giants to be successful down the road.

One area that is definitely not in question is the Giants' formidable pass rush. In the absence of Strahan and Umenyiora, New York's talented D-line has kept pace with last year's league-leading sack total, amassing 13 through 3 games, tying them for first in that category with the Eagles. The Giants have had 6 sacks in each of the last two games. DE Justin Tuck has emerged as a tremendous force, but to the surprise of some, it is DT Fred Robbins who currently leads the team with 4 sacks. DT Barry Cofield has also played exceptionally well in the middle, while DE Mathias Kiwanuka came on strong in Week 3 after nursing an ankle injury for the first few weeks.


The linebacker corps had the biggest overhaul this off-season, losing two players to free agency and one (Kiwanuka) to the D-line, and is still adjusting to its new personnel. Antonio Pierce remains in the middle and continues his solid play and leadership on the defensive unit. Newcomer Danny Clark is adjusting to the strong side position, and has shown some big play ability in the first few games, knocking down balls and making plays behind the line of scrimmage. On the other side, rookie Bryan Kehl and 3rd year player Gerris Wilkinson have been sharing duties at weak-side. They have shown signs of their athleticism but neither has yet to claim to the position with their play on the field.

The Giants' secondary has been solid. Both starting corner backs, Aaron Ross and Corey Webster have been playing outstanding football in this early part of the season. Ross has shown speed and strong fundamentals. He has amassed 17 tackles on the season to go with one pass defensed. On the side, Webster has been all over the field. Against the Bengals in Week 3, he had 8 tackles, one sack, a forced fumble, and one pass defensed. He has five passes defensed on the season, to go with 11 tackles.

Kevin Dockery has also played well at corner, racking up 15 tackles himself, however in the past few weeks he has missed a number of opportunities for turnovers and made a few mental errors in coverage. Turnovers are one area where the defense has struggled, producing only 1 through three games. Generating turnovers changes games and the Giants must improve in this category as the level of competition increases as the season goes on. The secondary will play a pivotal role in this area.

Elsewhere in the secondary, veteran Sam Madison returned to action in Week 3 after off-season hernia surgery and showed up to make the big play to the ball down on 3rd down in overtime. Madison played very well when healthy last year and I would look for him to see more action in the coming weeks. His eye for the ball and sense for the game should see him out there on 3rd downs and medium yardage situations.

At the other end of the age spectrum, rookie S Kenny Phillips is coming on strong, showing off his speed and his ability to deliver the big hit. If his development continues as many claim it can, the Giants will have a tremendous weapon at the position. Fellow rookie, Terrell Thomas has yet to see action with a hamstring injury. We will see if he can make an impact once he is healthy. He was practicing on a limited basis in Week 3. Perhaps the bye week will provide enough time for him to get healthy and on the field full time.

Can I Kick It?

Finally, special teams is not without its story lines too. 44 year old K John Carney was brought in as a temporary replacement for injured K Lawrence Tynes, NFC Championship hero and recipient of a multi-year deal from the Giants over the offseason. Carney has been superb, going 9 for 9 with two field goals of over 45 yards. He also kicked the game-winning field goal in overtime in Week 3. With Tynes now healthy and seemingly ready to go for Week 5's game against Seattle, Big Blue faces a dilemna as to whether or not to keep two kickers on the roster, and if they don't, who will be let go.

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There are many positive things to like about the Giants' performance so far this season. In this section we've taken a look at how the team stands up with the rest of the league, and how players have performed thus far. But football is not just about statistics and numbers; there are many intangibles and additional factors that come into play, as the Giants are well aware. In the next section we will put all of this into context, including a look at the impact of the early bye week and the NFC East, and assess what the Giants will need to do to continue their winning ways.

Continue to Part II...

Continue reading "Big Blue, the Bye and the Beast, Pt I: The Numbers"

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Big Blue on the Web: The No-Burress Zone

There's an abundance of non-Plaxico news out there this week and a number of good stories on the G-men that you should check out. But before we look at that though, I'd like to acknowledge the passing of former Giants' CB and radio analyst for over forty years, Dick Lynch. He passed on Wednesday morning after a tough battle with Leukemia. He was 72.

By all accounts, Lynch was a wonderful guy, a family man, and a great Giant. He will clearly be missed by many, and the Giants faithful send their condolences to the Lynch family.

Bob Papa discusses his former friend and broadcast partner in this week's Papa's Perspective.

Mike Eisen at remembers the former Giant.

... ...

Here are some other stories from the past week, including some post-game write-ups and a few player profiles amongst other things...

Giants vs. Bengals post-game:

The Giants' no huddle offense

Mike Garafolo from the Newark Star-Ledger gives us a look back at CIN-NYG

Ralph Vacchiano from the NY Daily News takes a closer look at the Giants' pass rush, sans Strahan and Osi.


Vacchiano takes a look at the Giants' start.

Player features:

Here comes Fred Robbins...

Ahmad Bradshaw doesn't mind the shortage of carries; he's all about team.

Mike Garafolo gives us some interesting stats on Kevin Boss and the Giants' running game.

SporsCenter interview with Coach Coughlin:

TC talks about the team's early season success and the impact of last year's run on the 2008 squad.

Stay tuned for some Burress-related news and opinion at the end of the week. And as always, please leave your comments and sign up for the RSS feed. If you're a regular Blogger user, you can now also sign up to follow this website on the lower left-hand side.
Continue reading "Big Blue on the Web: The No-Burress Zone"

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Burress suspended 1 game

There's nothing I hate more than being surprised by bad news from Giantsland, and this morning ranks up there with "Toomer Done for the Season" from Week 9, 2006: Plaxico Burress has been suspended by the team for two weeks - one game - and can not return to the team until October 6th.

The whole story is yet to emerge, but the gist is that Plax didn't show up to team meetings on Monday and could not be reached on his cell phone. GM Jerry Reese and Coach Coughlin informed him of his suspension in a meeting on Wednesday morning for "insubordination."

After barely escaping Sunday's game with a win, and looking sluggish on both sides of the ball, the last thing the Giants need is a distraction like this. The full details have yet to emerge, but even if Burress had a viable reason for missing Monday's meetings, it seems absurd to me that he wouldn't have contacted someone on the team to let them know about it.

It's very tempting for me to lose it here, but I want to wait until more information becomes available, and until I have adequate time to process this. I'll keep you posted as details emerge.

In the meantime, here are some write-ups of the story from around the web:

John Clayton lays down some facts and figures on this story:

Some good stuff from Matt Mosley at the ESPN's NFC East Blog


Mike Garafolo weighs in from the Newark Star-Ledger

And finally a video; Mark Schlereth from ESPN reacts:

Continue reading "BREAKING NEWS: Burress suspended 1 game"

Under the Lens: Bengals @ Giants, Week 3

Hey all. There won't be a full recap this week on the game as my ridiculous sleeping habits (or lack there of) finally caught up with me on Monday and Tuesday. As if staying up until 4 am wasn't bad enough, the G-men had to make it an OT affair...keeping me up and giving me a near-heart attack all in one.

But, all's well that ends well, and for the Big Blue faithful, Sunday's game ended with what counts: the win. After seven lead changes on the day, Giants' kicker John Carney drilled his fourth field goal of the afternoon to seal a victory for the G-men, 26-23.

For this week's "Under the Lens" - where we take a closer look at some key aspects of each week's game - we'll review the ins and outs of Week's 3 win with a 3-part video from Giants' Steps TV.
Normally, I plan to keep the two things somewhat seperate, but again, not enough gas at the beginning of the week to get both things done.

So, without further ado, I present to you Parts I, II and III of Week 3's recap from Giants' Steps TV(GSTV):

Part I

Part II

Part III

That will wrap up this week's special video-version of "Under the Lens." Later in the week will recap the weekend's "Key Contests" and link up another round of Giants news. Also stay tuned to GSTV. There will be some more vids at the end of the week.

Finally, you may also have noticed the blog's looking a bit different. I'm currently experimenting with some new looks and features in hopes of improving the site. Please be patient during this trying time, and if you have any suggestions, let me know!

Alright, that'll do it.

Be good,


Continue reading "Under the Lens: Bengals @ Giants, Week 3"

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Giants make it to 3-0

Well, they made it terrifying, but the Giants' pulled it off in OT, winning 26-23 on a John Carney field goal.

A lot to talk about this game, but as it's 4:30 am here, it'll have to wait until tomorrow.

Quick rundown: Eli Manning's arrived, the Giants are deep at WR, TE Kevin Boss had more receiving yards than Plaxico Burress, and the Giants can still get to the QB without Strahan and Osi.

That and much more coming up tomorrow...

Big Blue is 3-0. PHEW!!!

Continue reading "Giants make it to 3-0"

Week 3 Inactives

Here are your inactives for today's game with the Bengals...

Players of note: Bengals' CB Jonathon Joseph and SS Dexter Jackson are both out for this game, as is TE Ben Utecht.

For the G-men, it's looking like the usual suspects, but DE Dave Tollefson gets the look this week in place of Jerome McDougle. It will be Tollefson's first game of the 2008 season. RB Reuben Droughns is in the line-up today; RB Danny Ware is out. Rookie WR Mario Manningham is also inactive.
Continue reading "Week 3 Inactives"

Key Contests Preview: Week 3

Week 3 features a LOT of exciting match-ups around the NFL, and while many of them warrant a closer look, this week's "Key Contests" can only focus on four of them. In Week 3, we'll take a quick look at all three of the Giants' NFC East rivals' games, as well as the Giants' next opponent - the Seattle Seahawks.

After this weekend, the Giants could find themselves in sole possession of first place in the NFC East, if they can do the job against the struggling Cincinnati Bengals. All three of their division rivals square off against tough competition this week, as Washington hosts the Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia welcomes the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Dallas heads north to Green Bay to take on the Packers. Seattle meanwhile hosts the lowly Rams before their own bye week in Week 4.

Arizona Cardinals @ Washington Redskins

This first Key Contest features two teams coming off of wins in Week 2. Arizona comes in at 2-0, behind an explosive offense that's been putting big points on the board in the last two weeks. The Cardinals defense meanwhile is playing solid football, allowing just 23 points total in the first two games.

The Redskins are now 1-1, after a fourth quarter comeback against a highly-regarded Saints team. Jason Campbell looked like a different quarterback last week, as he had a monster game, and the 'Skins' skill players reemerged after a quiet Week 1 to carry Washington past New Orleans.

Look to see if Washington can continue on last week's success and if the Cardinals can handle some tougher competition. Should be a good game...

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Philadelphia Eagles

Pennsylvania hosts this week's second Key Contest, as Pittsburgh and Philly clash for bragging rights in the Keystone state. This contest is sure to be a physical battle between two aggressive, blitzing defenses, and two versatile, talented offenses.

The Eagles' defense, after allowing only 3 points against the Rams in Week 1, surrendered 41 points against the Cowboys last Monday night. Dallas' behemoth O-line was able to withstand the Philadelphia pass rush and the Eagles' secondary got burned over the middle and on deep balls when their front seven couldn't bring pressure on Tony Romo. Jim Johnson's defense will look to rebound against a weak Steelers' offensive line.

On the other side of the ball, QB Donovan McNabb is looking like his old self after battling injuries for the last few seasons. He will have to contend with a miserly, blitzing 3-4 Steelers defense this week, and will try to counter the Steelers' pressure by spreading the ball to his young wide receivers and dynamic running back, Brian Westbrook.

This promises to be a very physical match-up and an entertaining game. Keep an eye on the Eagles defense to see how they rebound from their 41-point drubbing, and watch McNabb and company to see how they cope Pittsburgh's relentless pass rush.

The final NFC East Key Contest this week features two of the conference's best so far in this young season. Both teams are 2-0 and riding high behind their young, talented quarterbacks. The Cowboys are coming off a big win on Monday night in which they racked up 41 points. The Green Bay offense has been just as beastly.

QB Aaron Rodgers has completed 70% of his passes in his first season as starter in Green Bay, and has 4 touchdowns to go with 0 interceptions. He has a talented runner in the backfield in Ryan Grant, and an explosive corps of wide receivers who can threaten deep, making this Packer offense dangerous from a number of angles. Last week against the Eagles, the Cowboys revealed their secondary is susceptible to the deep threat.

For Rodgers, some of his limited action during the Brett Favre era came last season against the Cowboys. In relief of the injured Favre, Rodgers put up 201 yds and a touchdown on the way to a big win in Big D. He will look to recreate that performance this weekend.

See if the Cowboys can recover from an intense Monday night game in time to face this talented Packers team. It will be interesting to see how the Green Bay offense contends with Dallas' aggressive 3-4 scheme, and how rookie RB Felix Jones can impact the game on Special Teams.

Finally, we turn to the Giants' next opponents, the Seattle Seahawks, in the final Key Contest for this week. It will be a clash of two NFC West teams looking for their first win of the season. The Seahawks, projected by many to win the NFC West this year, are still searching for a "W" before their bye week next week. They are coming off of a tough overtime loss to the 49ers, and have been battling some major injury issues at the wide receiver position with their top four receivers unable to play.

The Rams meanwhile have been absolutely abysmal this season, and honestly, there is little hope in sight. Seattle's tough, pressuring defense and their Pro-bowl QB Matt Hasslebeck should carry them past the Rams this week. The one thing to pay attention to is to see how good they look doing it.

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That will wrap it up for this week's "Key Contests." As always, post your comments and share your thoughts. I want to hear from the people!

Continue reading "Key Contests Preview: Week 3"

Friday, September 19, 2008

Gameday Preview, Week 3: Cincinnati Bengals

Giants look to go 3-0 heading into bye week

The G-men are hoping they can head into their bye week next week a perfect 3-0 with a win this weekend against the visiting Cincinnati Bengals. The Giants have looked impressive on both sides of the ball in their first two wins, dominating opponents on defense and showing signs of an explosive, dangerous offense. Last week they silenced the Rams 41-13, as Eli Manning threw for three touchdowns, "Earth, Wind and Fire" rushed for over 200 yards combined, and the defense threw in 6 sacks and 6 points on a Justin Tuck interception that was returned for a touchdown.

The Giants celebrate Justin Tuck's 4th quarter score in Week 2.

On the heels of such a performance, the Giants now rank in the top 5 in both total offense and total defense. They rank 4th in total offense with an average of 397.5 yards per game, and third in total defense, allowing an average of only 205 yards per game. They also rank 5th in both rushing yards per game and rushing yards allowed, with averages of 177.0 yards and 76.0 yards respectively. The Giants have limited opponents to a stingy 10 points a game, second best in the league.


The Bengals, at this point in the season, are the polar opposites of the defending champs. Cincy ranks among the bottom five teams in most offensive and defensive categories. They rank 30th against the run for example, allowing more than 200 rushing yards per game. This is not surprising given the Bengals' history of poor D, though it may not be the biggest problem in its 0-2 start.

What's most surprising about the struggles of this 2008 Cincinnati team is that the once prolific offense has become even more pathetic than the defense. With a Pro-bowl QB in Carson Palmer, who has thrown for 4,000 yards in previous years, and two Pro-bowl caliber wide receivers in Chad Johnson and T.J. "Hoashmazode" ("Yes! Lock it up..."), Cincy's O has only scored 10 points through 2 games. They rank 30th or worse in points per game, total yards per game, passing yards per game, 3rd down percentage, and time of possession.

The Bengals are standing on the edge of a precipice. Chad Johnson says the team has lost its "mojo" and nobody's playing with much confidence. He is confident though that it will only take one big play to get the ball rolling again for his team. Given their offensive firepower, whatever the statistics, this possibility must not be overlooked...

One thing not being overlooked is this comparison of this 0-2 Bengals team with 2007's 0-2 Giants, in the sense that Cincy has a chance to turn things around and right the ship in the 3rd week of the season, much like the G-men changed their season last year with a 4th quarter goal-line stand against Washington in Week 3. This storyline certainly makes this weekend's match-up more dramatic, but football isn't played in the papers, and once the game gets underway, the Giants should bury any talk of an upset, along with the Bengals' season.


Across the board, the Giants match up favorably against the Bengals. They have the offensive and defensive lines to control the line of scrimmage, and the offensive firepower and defensive athleticism to exploit Cincy's weaknesses and potentially make this a long day for the Bengals. Here's a closer look at some key match-ups that will determine the outcome of the game:
  • Giants' O-line vs. Cincy's Defense: Establishing the Giants' potent running attack will be critical in controlling the clock and determining the outcome of this game. This will depend first and foremost on the ability to control the line of scrimmage. With the fifth best rushing attack going up against the third worst rushing defense, look for Diehl, Seubert, O'Hara, Snee, and McKenzie to open up some big holes for the Giants' three-pronged running attack of Jacobs, Ward, and Bradshaw. I expect another 200+ yard effort and hopefully a few scores for this talented trio of backs.
  • Giants' Front 7 vs. Cincy's O-line: Just as critical to the Giants' success will be the play of the D-line and linebackers on the other side of the ball. Stopping the run and pressuring the QB will be essential to controlling the clock, forcing mistakes, and containing the Bengals' offensive weapons. One source of Cincy's offensive futility has been poor offensive line play. Defenses have been able to bring pressure on Carson Palmer and stop the Bengal offense from gathering any steam because of the porous offensive line. This is another match-up that favors Big Blue as the Giants' defense excels in areas where the Bengals offense struggles. I look for the G-men to bring the heat yet again and try to generate some turnovers.
  • Giants' Secondary vs. C.J. & T.J.: If stopping the Bengals' offense starts with pressuring the QB, it ends with locking up the wide-receivers. The Bengals have two very dangerous weapons in the passing game, who haven't gotten off on the right foot this season. That could change at any minute. It will be up to the Giants' secondary to contain these two stars. CBs Aaron Ross and Corey Webster have been playing outstanding football early in the season, showing athleticism, speed, and good judgment in the field. This must continue while other players step up their game in order to keep Cincinnati out of the end zone and out of the game.
  • Giants' WRs vs. Bengals' Secondary: Finally, while the Bengals' boast 2 big weapons in the passing game, last week's win over the Rams suggests that the Giants could have 5 or 6 big weapons of their own. Eli Manning's targets could have another big day against the beat-up Bengals' DBs. Bolstered by an outstanding running attack, the Giants' passing game looks to step up its chemistry and productivity, building on last week's performance. A second consecutive points-fest on Sunday could mark the emergence of an elite Giants' offense.

The Giants match up very well against their Week 3 opponent, though nothing is a "gimme" in the NFL. Getting the "W" this week means continuing to show the attitude, effort, execution and teamwork that Big Blue has displayed thus far this season. As far as I'm concerned, the Giants are playing at a level I haven't seen for quite some time. There is a swagger and confidence about this team since last year's Super Bowl run. They know how good they can be, and they know what it takes to get to that level.

I believe "that level" is an elite level, and part of reaching that level is being consistent, always improving, and not falling into a trap against inferior teams. Winning in week 3 will be critical for the Giants not only in terms of becoming a better team, but also in terms of their schedule this season. After the bye week, the level of competition will pick up a notch, and come mid-season, Big Blue will be clashing with some of the NFL's best.

The Giants need this win this week to buffer against any impact of these bigger challenges down the road. Furthermore, going into a bye-week, it's important to finish on a high note, so that the team can continue to build on its early season momentum. It will also be important for creating momentum at home and really maximizing the "advantage" in "home field advantage."

Finally, Week 3 also presents the chance for the Giants' to take sole possession of first in NFC East early in the season. The other teams in the division are all squaring off against likely playoff contenders in Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Arizona, and if things go New York's way in those games, the Giants could take an early lead in the race for the division title.


Here are some things to watch for as the Giants look to elevate their game, and improve on last week's performance:
  • Continuing to get the ball in the end zone; 7s, not 3s
  • Making more big plays on defense
  • Getting to the QB
  • Minimizing penalties


Here are the two players I think could play big roles in Sunday's game:

WR 87 Domenik Hixon - Hixon showed up big time last week on both Special Teams and Offense. He had a punt return for 50 yards (he now leads the league in that category) and he pulled in 3 catches for 60 yards, including a couple of crucial catches in the 4th quarter to sustain Giant drives. This week, he could be a big factor again in both capacities. He's a popular target for Eli, and surrounded by so much other talent at the position, he could take advantage of some defensive match-ups in 3WR and 4WR sets to have another big game.

S 21 Kenny Phillips - On defense, rookie sensation Kenny Phillips could turn some heads this weekend. As I said before, containing the Bengals' receiving tandom of Johnson and "Hoashmizode" (you should really watch that video) will require others in the secondary to step up their games. I think KP is the man to do it. He showed off his much-publicized speed last week when he closed the gap on Tory Holt in 3 nano-seconds to almost pick off the Rams' only touchdown of the game. I think he eliminates "almost" from that sentence this week and has a big day.

... ...

Should be a good game for the Big Blue faithful this weekend. I'll be tuned in on internet TV, as usual. This will be my last game from China as I'm moving back home in a couple weeks, so it will be special watching my last 1 am Giants' game for while...

Here's my prediction: Giants win, 34-13

... ...'s preview of Bengals@Giants's Bengals' Scouting Report

Continue reading "Gameday Preview, Week 3: Cincinnati Bengals"

Big Blue on the Web: Extended Edition

A lot of news out there this's a rundown:

First, there's this gem...

I think it's pre-Super Bowl. Even though it's from a guy named "BradyFan," I still have to give him some props. Awesome stuff.

From Giant'

Fierce Pierce Report (9/18)

Papa's Perspective (9/18)

From the Newark Star-Ledger:

Kiwanuka expects to be 100% soon

Giants' Tuck ready to be team's next great threat...

Unsettling season has effect on Chad Johnson's mouth

News and notes from Giants' practice 9/17

From The New York Post:

Giants' backfield-by-committee running wild

From Newsday:

What a difference a year makes for Spagnuolo

New York Daily News:

Antonio Pierce excited to play Bengals

Eli looking to stretch Big Blue's air attack

There's the run down on Big Blue for the week. Post your comments. I want to hear from you guys!

Take care,

Continue reading "Big Blue on the Web: Extended Edition"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Key Contests Recap: Week 2

Hey everybody. Here it is a little later than usual: an abbreviated version of "Key Contests" for Week 2. I'm preoccupied these days getting ready to move back home from China, and I've also been caught up with the new Giants' Steps TV. Trying to start up two sites simultaneously is a tough. Who knew?

That said, here is the run-down for Week 2. All three NFC East division rivals were in action this week, as were the Giants' Week 3 opponents - the Cincinnati Bengals - as they took on the Tennessee Titans. Here are a few thoughts on each game...

Key Contest 1: New Orleans Saints @ Washington Redskins

Washington came back in the fourth quarter to beat a tough Saints team
29-24 and an earn their first win of the season, and Head Coach Jim Zorn's first win in the NFL. The team was much improved following a lackluster performance Week 1 against the G-men. QB Jason Campbell went from looking lost one week to looking on top of his game. He went 24 for 36 and threw for more than 300 hards; he also had a touchdown.

Washington's offensive weapons looked much more weapon-like: RB Clinton Portis had 90+ yards on the ground and two rushing TD's; TE Chris Cooley returned from the dead with 5 catches for 70+ yards; and WR Santana Moss had more receiving yards Sunday than his younger Giant brother has had in his entire NFL career.

Washington looked impressive in the Week 2 win, which suggests a couple of things. First, as Campbell and co. get the hang of their new offense, they figure to be a factor in the NFC. They will probably not make the playoffs, considering their division, but they are a much better team than they showed in Week 1. The NFC East is by a long stretch the best division in the NFL, top to bottom. This could either be good news for the G-men, as they can be battle-tested come playoff time, or it can be trouble, in that everybody beats each other silly before the season's over...

For all the stat's: Saints at 'Skins Game Book

Key Contest 2: Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys

The other two NFC East powerhouses had a real shoot-out down in Dallas on Monday night, with the Cowboys holding off the Eagles 41-37. Dallas, like the Redskins, retook the lead in the fourth quarter, one of eight games over the weekend in which the winning team won in the last fifteen minutes of the game. There were seven lead changes in the Dallas-Philly game itself.

Both sides looked impressive offensively, much like they did in Week 1. Tony Romo threw for over 300 yards, while the usual suspects in his supporting cast all had big games. TE Jason Witten had 110 yards on 7 catches; T.O. only caught 3 balls, but two of them were for scores; and RB Marion Barber had 63 yards rushing, 51 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns: 1 on the ground and 1 in the air. Rookie RB Felix Jones was electrifying in the return game, returning one kickoff 98 yards for the score.

On the other side of the field, Philly and Donovan McNabb looked strong. I thought last week he seemed a little tentative in the open field. This week however, he looked mobile and confident, willing to put his body in harm's way to make a big play. When he was not scrambling though, he was completing 25 of 37 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown. As usual, Brian Westbrook was McNabb's main weapon, accounting for McNabb's only TD pass, and adding two more on the ground.

Elsewhere on offense for Philly, with two starting receivers out early in the season, rookie WR Desean Jackson is emerging as a big weapon, racking up back-to-back 100 yard receiving games. The rookie did have one major gaff Monday night though when he had a 60+ yard TD denied because he tossed the ball aside before he crossed the goal line. Nonetheless, impressive offensive performances by both teams...

There should be some battles in the middle of the season as the Giants hook up with these two rivals in weeks 9 and 10. I don't think the Giant D will be giving up 30 or 40 points though.

Stats: Eagles at Cowboys Game Book

Key Contest 3: Tenessee Titans @ Cincinnati Bengals

And finally, next week's opponent, the Bengals fell to 0-2, losing at home 24-7 in tough gusting wind to the tough Tennessee Titans. On either side of the ball, the Bengals are struggling big time. This week's Gameday Preview will dive deeper into their problems.

Despite having some marque names on offense, the Bengals only mustered 7 points on Sunday. QB Carson Palmer had a meager 134 yards on the day, and threw two interceptions. His big-name wideouts Chad 8-5 and T.J. "Hoashimazode" (know your fantasy players) both failed to make an impact.

On defense, the Bengals are arguably even more abysmal. What I will call "The Paper Curtain" has surrendered over 220 yards on the ground against the Titans, and currently allows an average of over 200 rushing yards per game. "Earth, Wind and Fire" and the Giants O-line must be licking their chops...but again, we'll look at that more closely in this week's Gameday Preview, due up later this week.

Stats: Titans at Bengals Game Book

That'll do it for this week's Key Contests. Keep checking in on the site and please feel free to POST YOUR COMMENTS! I want to hear from Giants' Nation!
Continue reading "Key Contests Recap: Week 2"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Giants' Steps TV Cleared for Launch!

Introducing Giants' Steps TV, the You Tube channel devoted entirely to the New York Giants and the Giants' Steps blog!

I thought it would be cool and different to update the blog with video entries once in a while, and then I thought "why not use You Tube to spread the big blue word?" Thus was born the idea for the Giants' Steps channel. Below you will find GiantsStepsTV: Episode 1.

In the future, new episodes and videos will be displayed across the top of the blog in the "On the Air" section. A permanent link to Giants' Steps TV can be found in the "Linked Up" section on the right-hand side of the blog.

I'm excited about both of these new web ventures, and I think Giants' Nation will be too. You can subscribe to both sites to keep up with the latest, and please post your COMMENTS. I look forward to hearing from you. With your help, we can make these sites great places for the Big Blue faithful to follow, support, and discuss their team!
Continue reading "Giants' Steps TV Cleared for Launch!"

Monday, September 15, 2008

Under the Lens: Giants @ Rams, Week 2

Week number two, win number two. The G-men rolled over the Rams 41-13 on Sunday and improved to 2-0, their best start since 2005. The Giants fought for four quarters, and made big plays on both sides of the football. What was most encouraging is that they made important improvements coming off of their first win, and in doing so in such dominant fashion, showed that they have a winning attitude and a gifted group of players that could carry them far this season.

The biggest thing I liked about this game was the score. At the final whistle, it read "41-13," but it could have been 41-6 or worse(better?). I'm still not convinced that Tory Holt caught that pass (nor am I convinced that Kenny Phillips picked it off, as he claims), and both Rams field goals were in the mid-50s range, not exactly close to the uprights. The Rams could not advance the ball past mid-field because the Giants defense shut them down big time. Let's take a look at Big Blue's D first.

D is Nuts

Big Blue's D held the Rams offense to 201 net total yards, 13 first downs (11 excluding penalties), and a 23% 3rd down conversion rate. The Rams averaged a meager 3.7 yards per play. After two weeks the Giants defense ranks second in the league in average points allowed (10.0), third in yards per game (205.0), and fifth in passing and rushing yards allowed per game (129.0 and 76.0, respectively). While the Rams offense was inept, the Giants defense showed why their dominant defense should continue to improve:
  • PRO - Pressure on the Quarterback. The 2008 Giants looked like their old selves on Sunday, sacking the opposing QB six times. DE Justin Tuck and DT Fred Robbins each had two , while MLB Antonio Pierce and second-year DT Jay Alford had one apiece. After Osi's injury I think a lot of people underestimated the D-line's ability to bring pressure, especially from the tackle position. I think we're beginning to open some eyes. Guys like Alford and Robbins could rack up a half dozen sacks each this year, as I see it. As for Osi's successor, I think Kiwanuka will get to the QB eventually. Between the ankle injury and Orlando Pace standing in his way, he had enough to contend with last weekend.
"Robbins SMASH!" - Fred Robbins

  • PRO - Generating Turnovers. With more pressure will come more opportunities to generate turnovers and make the big play on defense. Justin Tuck notched the defense's first turnover of the season in stellar fashion, picking off Marc Bulger at the line of scrimmage and returning it 41 yards for a touchdown. As I said leading up to last week's game, if the Giants defense is to make the step from excellent to elite, it will need to start generating more turnovers and points. For the first time in many years, I feel like the personnel and athleticism in the secondary and at the LB position are strong enough to make that final step.
  • PRO - Making Tackles. Of course, the staple of any good defense is strong fundamentals, and for the second week in a row, the Giants were by and large in the right places making stops. Only on a few occasions did RB Stephen Jackson get away from them, and thankfully, the Giants secondary was there to clean up any potential mess.
  • PRO - Excellent Pass Coverage. The Giants' young, talented secondary continues to look impressive early in the season. Aaron Ross and Corey Webster had statistically quiet, but nonetheless strong games. Kevin Dockery also did well, but on a few occasions he tried to anticipate the play and guessed incorrectly. Thankfully, the Rams offense couldn't make much of these mistakes, and in each instance you could see Steve Spagnuolo giving Dock the "attaboy, now don't do that again" helmet slap...You're not Sam Madison yet, young blood. Speaking of young, rookie Kenny Phillips showed me a glimpse of that speed I keep reading about. He closed the gap on the Tory Holt's "touchdown" like a bolt, really impressive. He claims the pass was also picked off...I couldn't tell much at all from the camera angle. One final note, apparently Ross injured his shoulder in the game. I saw Pierce waving frantically to the sideline at one point, but Fox didn't make any further mention of it during the broadcast so I wasn't sure what happened. On Tuesday Ross, seemed to be fine.
  • CON - Penalties. If there was one area where the defense could improve on, it would be penalties. The defense committed three penalties, two of which allowed the Rams to convert on 3rd down. This is an area the whole team needs to improve upon, and I look for Tom "I may be nice now but I'm still a disciplinarian" Coughlin to remedy this problem before Week 3's contest.
PROJECTION - Up. This defense can only get better as they gel and build chemistry going forward. I'm not too worried about the penalty situation as I think TC will clear it up. As each element gets a better feel for each other and the young guys internalize Spags's system, I expect to continue to see big things from Big Blue's D.

On an individual level, Justin Tuck is already playing like a Pro-bowler and I think other players on the D-line will start to emerge in a similarly impressive fashion. I think Bryan Kehl could evolve into a real beast at LB and I think Danny Clark is a stand-up guy, great leader, and helluva player. I also really like what I'm seeing from the secondary and expect to see them coming up with turnovers in the very near future...possibly against a talented passing attack like Cincinatti?

Now to the offense...

O, O,'s Magic

Eli Manning and the Giant offense had much to work on heading down to St. Louis. After scoring on their opening drive of the season, the Giants' offense stalled on the next three, including two more trips into the red zone, forcing them to settle for field goals. What's more, the Giants did not score a single point in the second half of Week 1.

What happened? Three reasons stood out to me: 1) lack of offensive chemistry, 2) failure to spread the ball effectively, 3) questionable play calls. While Plaxico Burress had his usual plax-tastic performance Week 1, no other Giants receiver had more than 2 catches. On a number of plays the receivers and QB appeared to be on different pages. Similarly, in the back field, Brandon Jacobs put in a beast of a game, but neither he nor Derek Ward got the ball in the red zone, and second-year stud Ahmad Bradshaw didn't even see one carry.

There was considerable room for improvement for Eli and the O going into St. Louis, and improve is what they did...

  • PRO - TOUCHDOWN! The Giants offense scored four TD's, three in the air, and one on the ground. Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, and Ahmad Bradshaw each pulled in an Eli pass for 6 points, and Bradshaw added another 6 on a 30-plus yard dash into the end zone late in the forth quarter. I could do with a few more 40 pointers this season...
  • PRO - Balanced passing attack. More impressive to me than how many points the Giants scored was how many people contributed on offense. Eight different players caught a pass in Sunday's win. Toomer led the way with 6 catches for 67 yds; Burress had 5 catches for 81 yds, including a ridonculous move on Rams' FS O.J. Atogwe to break free for the TD; and Domenik Hixon showed that he can provide the Giants with a viable fourth wide receiver option. I think Sinorice Moss could fill this role too this year, being healthy, but it seems like they don't want to give him the chance. He or Steve Smith, or the thus-far inactive Mario Manningham, would be perfect for those Go-routes they kept trying to run with Toomer. How many times was he one-on-one with the CB and just couldn't get by him? Two or three times I felt like a speedier receiver could've smoked the opposing CB. I thought we were working on the deep threat this season...
  • PRO - Dominating the line. Of course, at the heart of this Giants offense is a beastly offensive line. The unit is tight, tough, and talented enough to take on anybody. They won't fly under the radar for much longer the way this offense is clicking... FB Madison Hedgecock and TE Kevin Boss also made a number of nice plays run-blocking, and deserve a lot of credit. Boss and his fellow TEs look to be improving a lot in the blocking department. When this naturally-gifted pass catcher gets the ball thrown his way, I expect good, good things.
  • PRO - Earth, Wind, and Fire! Behind the furious five, the Giants boast a treacherous trio in their backfield, freshly dubbed: "Earth, Wind, and Fire." Such an awesome force on the ground is worthy of such an awesome nickname. All three backs had at least 50 yards rushing; Brandon "Earth" Jacobs was just a few yards short of his second 100-yard game in as many chances, and Ahmad "Fire" Bradshaw scored two touchdowns. If we went with another blast-from-the-past theme, could we make Danny Ware "Water" and Reuben Droughns "Heart"? "By your powers combined..."

Jacobs, Ward, and Bradshaw congratulate each other on their awesome new nickname...and Bradshaw's touchdown.
  • PRO - Eli Manning is a Super Bowl MVP. Finally, Eli Manning looks like he has turned a corner since last year's playoff push. He protects the football, he makes smart decisions, he moves the offense. With a great line and running game to support him, I expect Eli and his receivers can further develop their chemistry moving forward. If that can happen, I think this Giants' offense can continually score in the mid-to-high twenties.
  • CON - Penalties. It's hard to find much wrong when your team scores 41 points, but again, as with the defense, penalties were troublesome, especially when they're unnecessary Delay of Game penalties. I think that'll be resolved by next week though...
PROJECTION - Keep it up! The Giants offense has the talent to come at opposing teams from any angle. It's a question of building chemistry and remaining consistent. If Eli continues to look Super Bowl-ian, look out NFC.

Special Teams

I didn't forget. A much better effort this week I thought on "Teams." Carney continues to inspire "Lawrence who?" questions...Hixon handled punt return duty this week with R-dubs nursing a calf injury. He definitely added some spark and had a great return towards the end of the game to set up the final touchdown. I understand TC wasn't happy with kick-off returns though. Now that Hixon is over his back injury, will he switch to KR when McQ comes back? I guess we'll wait and see...

Game Balls

Finally, this week's game balls:
Eli, Plax, Amani, E.W.F., the O-line, Kenny Phillips for being terrifyingly fast, Justin Tuck for being a beast, and Freddy Robbins.

Up Next: the Cincinnati Bengals

Week 2 was a good momentum builder for Big Blue. They came out, spread the ball, and attacked the Rams weaknesses on offense through four quarters. On defense, they got to the quarterback, tackled well, and made the big play. Week 3's match-up present a challenge and an opportunity for the G-men to continue to build chemistry and momentum in all phases of the game.

Later in the week, we'll look preview Sunday's game and talk about the key match-ups and challenges for the Giants as they look to go 3-0.

Stay tuned!
Continue reading "Under the Lens: Giants @ Rams, Week 2"

Big Blue on the Web: Post-game Edition

Here's an smattering of articles and media on yesterday's win over the "Hrams" (think Borat).

One piece of news is particularly exciting: I no longer have to refer to the Giants' ridiculous running back stable as "the three-headed monster," and neither do you! Jacobs, Ward, and Bradshaw have a new nickname, and it's AWESOME!

Good-bye "Three-headed monster," hello...
"Earth, Wind and Fire" Backfield Leads Giants with Power

Bradshaw Gets Back in the Game

Justin Tuck is a beast and gentleman...
Justin Tuck won't let first touchdown slip away

From the original AP (Associated Press)
Giants ride defense to 2-0 start, Rams 41-13

Here's a short summary of yesterday's game from Matt Mosley at the NFC East blog... Quick Take: Giants 41, Rams 13

Rachel Nichols's post-game interview with QB Eli Manning...

Here are a few more Giants-related links from ESPN:

An excerpt from Tom Coughlin's book, "A Team to Believe In"..
Coughlin: Hero's poignant words inspired Giants

A nice piece on Jerry Reese from ESPN The Magazine
"Up Front"

Continue reading "Big Blue on the Web: Post-game Edition"

Tuck and Roll: Giants stomp Rams 41-13

DE Justin Tuck returns an interception 41 yds for a TD.

The New York Giants extended the road winning streak to 12 games on Sunday as they clobbered the St. Louis Rams 41-13 and improved to 2-0 on the season. On offense, Eli Manning led the way going 20 of 29 for 260 yards and 3 touchdowns. On defense, Michael Strahan's heir-apparent Justin Tuck continued his impressive play, recording 3 tackles, two sacks, and returning an interception for a touchdown. Despite being early in the season, Sunday's game was a statement game for New York, and the statement was clear: the defending champs are the real deal.

A number of questions surrounded the Giants coming into Week 2:

  • Would the team improve on their effort from last week or "play down" to their opponents as other Giants teams of the past have done?
  • Would the offense find the end zone and convert opportunities, or would it settle for field goals and stall?
  • Would the coaches find ways to better utilize the vast pool of talent on offense?
  • Can the defense take it to the next level and make that "big play"?

The answer was positive across the board for Big Blue on Sunday, as they clobbered a Rams team that looks like it could challenge the infamous 0-16 record mark this season (they've been outscored 79-16 in two games and allowed their opponents over 900 yards). The scoreboard for this one read 41-13, but the score could just as well have been 41-0, if you take away Tory Holt's questionable touchdown and consider the low percentage of Josh Brown's two 50+ yards field goals.

In many ways though, the questions above reflect a deeper question that analysts, "experts," and fans have been asking since training camp opened in July: "Is this 2008 team of the same championship caliber they showed at the end of last season, or were the 2007 Super Bowl champs just a decent team that got hot at the right time?"

Though it's still hard to assess the balance of power in the NFL this early in a season, the Giants' routing of the Rams suggests that Big Blue is more than just a flash-in-the-pan champion, they're right there on top of the heap. This team looks to have some tremendous talent on both sides of the football, but more importantly, it looks to have the qualities of a champion - selflessness, team work, work ethic, confidence, and execution - which are what truly make teams great.

The Stats

The Giants out-gained the Rams 441 yards to 201 yards in Sunday's contest, and held the ball for 31:42. 200 of those 441 yards came on the ground as New York's talented trio of running backs and outstanding offensive line cut up the Rams defense. Brandon Jacobs led the way with 93 yards, while Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw added over 50 yards each. Bradshaw, getting his first carries of the season, also added a 31 yard rushing touch down, the first rushing TD for Big Blue this season.

Brandon Jacobs (27), Derek Ward (34), and Ahmad Bradshaw (44) ran for a combined 200 yards on 28 carries on Sunday.

Bradshaw also caught one of Eli Manning's 3 touchdown passes on the day, catching a screen pass and scampering 18 yards into the end zone. Eli also threw TD's to WRs Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer. The two reliable receivers had 5 catches for 81 yards and 6 catches for 67 yards, respectively.

In addition to some great individual performances on offense, the unit also performed very well collectively. The offensive line performed very well, paving the ways for Jacobs, Ward, and Bradshaw, and allowing Eli Manning time to make play after play. Though nobody caught a pass, the TEs also looked good in blocking. Also, for the first time in recent memory, the Giants had a viable 4-receiver line-up on the field. Steve Smith and Domenic Hixon made critical catches to sustain Giants' drives and set up scoring opportunities.

... ...

On the other side of the ball, the Giants defense continues to build momentum. The front seven brought the heat on Rams' QB Marc Bulger all game long, recording 6 sacks and creating pressure from all angles against an outmatched Rams' offensive line. Justin Tuck and Fred Robbins each had 2 sacks, while LB Antonio Pierce and DT Jay Alford each added another. Big Blue's D was also able to add another element to the formula this week - the big play.

Adding to an already monster game, DE Justin Tuck picked off a Marc Bulger pass at the line of scrimmage and returned in 41 yards for a score. It was his first career TD and the first defensive TD for the Giants this season. If the G-men can make such plays a regular part of their performance, the sky's the limit for what this D can do.

... ...

Special Teams was much improved this week. K John Carney remained solid filling in for Lawrence Tynes, converting 2 field goal opportunities and getting some leg on his kick offs. On kickoff coverage, the Giants denied the Rams any shot at good starting field position. Domenic Hixon had a nice punt return in the fourth quarter to set up the final Giants' touchdown.

... ...

With the win, the Giants improve to 2-0 and assume first place in the NFC East. Next week they return home to host the 0-2 Cincinnati Bengals.

Stay tuned for "Under the Lens," a more in-depth look at the Giants' performance from Sunday, as well as a post-game edition of Big Blue on the Web. Below you can find additional highlights and statistics from Week 2's win.

Recap Links

You can find's highlights and statistics for this game below:

Stories and audio interviews from can be found on the lower right column of this blog. The same stories and video interviews can be found by clicking here (stories) and here (Giants Multimedia).
Continue reading "Tuck and Roll: Giants stomp Rams 41-13"

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Big Blue on the Web

Here it first embedded video on the Giants' Steps blog! A quick write-up of the video can be found in the full post, linked below.

It's an interview with Giants WR Amani Toomer from ESPN's First Take at the beginning of the week. In the interview, he touches on Tom Brady's injury and his own experience coming back from knee surgery. I didn't think of this before, but were he and Brady teammates at Michigan? I'll have to check on that...He also talks Michael Strahan, and which up-and-coming Giant fans should keep their eyes on. Continue reading "Big Blue on the Web"

Blog Update

Hello all,

As you have probably noticed, the blog has a new layout, which allows me to maximize space and add a few more features that otherwise would have been lost in an endless single column.

Notice, on top you can find a NYG news wire, which tracks the latest Giants' news from around the web. In the new left-hand column, you can now access the Blog Archive list more easily, as well as the Features list, which includes what will become regular pieces on my blog.

Also new on the left-hand side, the "Shot of the Week" picture. This week's shot features RB Brandon Jacobs freight-training Laron Landry. From this point forward, I move that "Brandon Jacobs" be used as a verb. For example:

"In 2008, Michael Phelps Brandon-Jacobed the competition on his way to eight gold medals."

"Oh snap! That dude just got Brandon-Jacobed!"

Finally, in the right-hand column, you will the Giants' record and schedule information, a reader survey, links to Giants-related links, and an RSS feed from

I'm always working on new content for the site, so keep your eyes open. Stay tuned later today for Week 2's "Key Contests."


Continue reading "Blog Update"

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Week 2 Injury Report

Here's your injury report for Week 2's match-up with the Rams.


DE Mathias Kiwanuka (Ankle) - P
LB Jonathon Goff (Back) - P
DE Jerome McDougle (Knee) - P
CB R.W. McQuarters (Calf) - Q
K Lawrence Tynes (Knee) - O
CB Terrell Thomas (Hamstring) - O


WR Drew Bennett (Foot) - O
DE Leonard Little (Hamstring) - D
G Jacob Bell (Hamstring) - Q
WR Donnie Avery (Knee) - P
P Donnie Jones (Knee) - P
DE James Hall (Thigh) - P

DE Mathias Kiwanuka looks like he'll be ready to go after a near escape from serious injury on the final play of Week 1's game against the Redskins. 'Skins' Tackle Chris Samuels took down Kiwi by the ankles as the Giant's DE beat him and Samuels' body fell on top of Kiwi's legs.

Also of note, rookie LB Jonathon Goff could make is first appearance as a Giant after suffering fractured transverse process in the first game of the pre- season.

Mike Garafolo of the Newark Star-Ledger provides his preview for this Sunday's game here. In it he discusses how the Rams' injuries on the offensive and defensive lines will affect the match-ups at the line of scrimmage.

Finally, in this week's "Big Blue Hits," a radio segment on featuring LB Danny Clark and S Sammy Knight, yours truly gets a shout-out. You'll notice at the end of the show Danny Clark refers to a fan in China who posted a question on his website. That fan in China was me!
Continue reading "Week 2 Injury Report"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gameday Preview Week 2: St. Louis Rams

The Road Warriors Ride Again

"Warriors, come out and plaayyyyyyy..." - 1970s' cult classic, The Warriors
On one side of the defending champions' Super Bowl rings, in between each player's name and number, it reads: "Eleven Straight on the Road." Eleven straight wins away from Giants Stadium; eleven straight wins in enemy territory, eleven straight road wins - an NFL single-season record. In denying New England's date with destiny in win number eleven, the Giants also rewrote history in their own right, earning them the moniker "Road Warriors."

The Road Warriors will look to make it twelve straight away from the Meadowlands this Sunday as they head to St. Louis to take on the Rams, a team that was absolutely embarrassed in their 38-3 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1. The Rams, who finished 3-13 in 2007, looked like they could fare even worse in 2008.

Coming out on the wrong end of such a one-sided beat-down, and opening the season in front of their home fans, the Rams will look to come out fired up. Some point to the Giants' recent history of "playing down" to their opponents, and worry that if these two elements mix, the Giants will risk a letdown. The Rams have a lot of talent on their roster, regardless of what last week would lead you to believe. They feature a number of pro-bowlers on both sides of the ball, including RB Stephen Jackson, QB Marc Bulger, WR Tory Holt. Certainly, if the Giants don't show up to play, even the lowly Rams could seemingly steal a win. (For more on the Rams' roster, beat writer Michael Eisen provides a full team scouting report here.)

Stats and accolades aside however, while an upset this weekend is possible, it is not plausible, and here's why:


All off-season the Giants have preached one thing - becoming a better football team. While every team may talk that talk, the Giants have a unique experience that leads me to believe they will walk the walk as well this season. In 2007, they began the season buried in a ditch; they finished on the mountain top. Getting to the summit was not easy, but required a team putting all of the pieces together at the right time.

Few teams have ever gone through such a dramatic roller-coaster ride in a single season, and I think the short time in which the Giants went from the bottom of the pile to the top has allowed them to understand and capture exactly what it takes to stay there. When the Giants talk about becoming a better football team, it means playing every week like they played those last six weeks of the season - playing like champions.

Champions do not measure their performance against that of their opponent, but against their own potential; champions correct mistakes and elevate their game week after week; champions show up to play, no matter how "easy" the opponent.


Of course, it was not only attitude but also ability that carried New York to a championship last season...and most of that ability is still wearing Giants blue.

The Giants match up favorably in a number of categories against an out-classed Rams team.

  1. Giants' Front 7 vs. Rams' O-line: The Giants' front seven are physical, athletic, and can bring the pressure from all sides, which does not bode well for a Rams offensive line that is beat-up and looked awful last week against Philadelphia. Spagnuolo's defense will employ a similar scheme to that of Jim Johnson's Eagles, which could result in a long day for QB Marc Bulger and RB Stephen Jackson. No time to throw and nowhere to go...
  2. Giants' Receivers vs. Rams' Secondary: While the Rams defensive backs should not perform as poorly as they did last week, that still doesn't mean they will perform well. Led by Plaxico Burress, the Giants receiving corps will look to get behind the secondary and attack down field.
  3. Giants' Running Attack vs. Rams Defense: The Giants stable of running backs and outstanding O-line should control the line of scrimmage much like they did last week against the Rams' dinged up D-line. DE Leonard Little will not play because of a hamstring injury while second overall pick DE Chris Long will be working with a broken thumb. Also, do not forget, Sunday will be Giants' FB Madison Hedgecock's coming out party against the team who cut him one year ago. "Mad Dog" will be looking to put some bodies in the turf.


Despite talk that the team will come out fired up at home and looking to rebound from their embarrassing season opener, the reality is that the Rams already act like they have given up on this season. Listening to Coach Scott Linehan or Marc Bulger speak to media on Wednesday, neither one gave an impression that they felt this team had any chance of winning this week against the Giants. Rumors are also circulating that many in the Rams locker room were joking around and laughing after getting their butts handed to them against Philly.

Last week St. Louis looked like they were just waiting for things to happen - no one had fire, no one wanted to step up to make it happen. It sounds like the Rams are still just waiting for something to happen. The Giants will not give them anything.

  • Strike early and often: Put the Rams in a hole early, and then bury them in it. If the Giants can open like they did against the Redskins...factor in better red zone efficiency... it will force St. Louis to play catch-up. If they fall behind early, the Rams must rely less on Stephen Jackson and the running game. This will open the door for New York's pass rush to bring the house at QB Marc Bulger and a weak offensive line.
  • Control the line of scrimmage: New York's physical lines must neutralize St. Louis's running game from the start, while also establishing their own. Controlling the clock and the flow of the game will require the Giants running attack and run defense to be on their A games.
  • Green Zone efficiency: The Giants will have to perform better in the "green zone" than their 1-for-3 effort against the Redskins last week. The longer they let St. Louis hang around, the more dangerous they'll become. It's important we put touchdowns on the board, and don't settle for field goals. Sevens, not threes.

  • Green Zone efficiency: Like I said, before: sevens, not threes. Look for the Giants to explore more options in near the goal line this week.
  • Kick-off coverage: It's important that special teams give the Giant defense good field position to work with. By keep the Rams in their own territory, it will help open things up for the pass rush and Spagnuolo's more elaborate blitz packages.
  • Big Plays on Defense: If this defense is going to take that next step, it must got beyond its aggressive attack and find more ways to make the big play - creating turnovers and occasionally scoring on defense. Such plays can change the complexion of a game in just a few seconds. Just look at the Bears against Indianapolis the other night.
  • Chemistry in the Passing Game: On a couple of occasions in Game 1, Eli Manning and the Giants receivers looked a little out of sync. Since a number of the wide outs missed time during pre-season, this could be expected. Look this week to see how Manning and company move the ball through the air. I will be particularly interested to see how the younger guys are used against a struggling St. Louis secondary.
  • Distribution of Carries: Ahmad Bradshaw was conspicuous in his absence last week, not carrying the ball once against the Redskins. Tom Coughlin attributed it to an error on his part and said it had nothing to do with the player. Look to see if and how AB is incorporated into the RB rotation this weekend, and how the load is split with him, Jacobs, and Ward. Perhaps he will be brought in in red zone situations.


Each week I'll give you two players to keep your eyes on. Typically I will select one offensive player and one defensive player. This week's players to watch are:

RB 27 Brandon Jacobs - "B-Jake" is looking for a big year and he certainly got off on the right foot last Thursday picking up 116 yards on 21 carries. Jacobs will be looking for another excellent performance this week behind a stellar offensive line and a full back with something to prove to his old team.

CB 23 Corey Webster - If the Giants are looking for big plays on defense, it might come from Corey Webster. Webster regained his starting role last year in the playoffs and had a couple of picks, including one in Green Bay that set up Lawrence Tynes's NFC Championship-winning field goal. Last week he had 3 passes defensed while playing very well in coverage. Look for him to take advantage of pressure on the Rams QB this week and make some plays.

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Playing better football begins with improving on your last game's mistakes. This week will be a good indicator if the Giants are ready to take it to the next level. If they can improve on their first performance, it will help them build momentum as their schedule gets tougher. Getting off to a fast start and scoring touchdowns in the red zone will be critical, as will maintaining their level of intensity throughout the game. Special teams will need to improve on their kick-off coverage and the Giants defense needs to bring the heat and try to generate turnovers.

I expect the Giants to win this one easily, perhaps not in blow-out fashion like the Eagles, but in dominant fashion, stuffing the Rams offense and controlling the clock with a strong balanced attack.

Final score: Giants win 27 - 6


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