Sunday, October 26, 2008

Giants-Steelers: Post-game Reaction

Giants beat the Steelers to improve to 6-1

That was a big win for the G-men on a big weekend for the NFC East. Every team in the division picked up a win this weekend and the Giants were able to keep pace with a hard fought comeback against one hell of a football team.

The defense was outstanding and played what I thought was probably their best game of the season: tremendous effort and intensity getting to the quarterback, 4 HUGE turnovers, solid tackling, generally speaking, and most significantly in my mind, young guys stepped up.

Kiwi takes down Big Ben for one of his career-high 3 sacks on the day. (AP Photo)

S Kenny Phillips had a great game, making some big-time tackles and getting his first career interception. He also had delivered the lumber on that hit in the first quarter for which he was given a bogus personal foul penalty. LB Bryan Kehl stepped up in the starting role and had his first career interception as well, and third-year DE Mathias Kiwanuka appears to be settling back in on the line as he had a career day, picking up 3 sacks and recovering a fumble.

Rookie S Kenny Phillips grabs his first career pick and the Giants' fourth on the day. (AP Photo)

The offense struggled to find the end zone against the best defense in the league, despite being handed some phenomenal field position in the first half. For the first three quarters we had to settle for field goals, which was tortuous when Pittsburgh kept landing the big play, but true to form, Captain Comeback Eli Manning served up some fourth quarter magic and led Big Blue on a touchdown drive to take the lead late in the game.

The offense also saw the young players continue to make huge contributions. Steve Smith is emerging as one of the Giants' most dangerous weapons on offense, and Kevin Boss had some huge plays to grab the victory, including the game-winning touchdown grab. Old reliable Amani Toomer also had a big game.

Let's not forget, the Giants' offensive line held the most prominent pass rush in the league to 0 sacks on the day. Tremendous job across the line by those guys. If some of them don't make the Pro Bowl this year, it will be ridiculous...

All in all it was great win and a very exciting game. I think this will be a huge boost to this team going into next week's home game against Dallas. Between the home crowd and the outstanding performances in this week's win, I think this team's looking at a 7-1 start.

... ...

Please leave your COMMENTS and subscribe to Giants' Steps!

Stay tuned later in the week for "Under the Lens" as we'll break down Big Blue's victory in Steeltown!
Continue reading "Giants-Steelers: Post-game Reaction"

Monday, October 20, 2008

Under the Lens: 49ers @ Giants, Week 7

The New York Giants got back in the win column Sunday, defeating the visiting 49ers 29-17. The win at Giants Stadium improves the team's record to 4-0 at home, 1 win better than they were all of last season. The win also takes the G-men to 5-1 on the season, their best start through six games since 1993.

Brandon Jacobs and Chris Snee celebrate one of Jacobs's two TD's on the day. (AP Photo)

At 5-1, the Giants are certainly in good shape, but despite being off to one of their best starts in recent history, Big Blue still has a ways to go before they're playing their best football. Sunday's outing was enough to remind fans that the Giants from the previous week were an anomaly - indeed there were some major positives to be taken from Sunday's game - but the sloppy showing against a struggling San Francisco team also revealed a few cracks in the Giants' big blue armor...


After posting 0 turnovers, 0 sacks, and 0 punts against the Browns, the Giant defense had much to prove coming off one of their worst performances in recent memory, and against the Niners, they rebounded in a big way. In many respects, it was back to business as usual for the Big Blue D. They shut down RB Frank Gore and beat up on QB J.T. O'Sullivan all afternoon. They also did some uncommon things, generating multiple turnovers for the first time all season and putting points on the board for just the second time this year with a safety in the fourth quarter.

Many positives from the defense's performance Sunday, but still plenty to clean up...
  • PRO - Run Defense. The Giants held the Niners to just 35 yards on the ground and limited San Fran's stellar running back to only 11 yards on 11 carries. J.T. O'Sullivan even out-rushed Gore, mostly while running in terror from the Giant defensive linemen. San Francisco averaged a measly 2.2 yards per carry running the ball and converted only one first down on the ground. Another impressive statistic is that the Giants recorded 12 tackles for a loss against the Niners. Outstanding job all around on the defensive line.
  • PRO - QB Pressure. J.T. O'Sullivan was not comfortable all day, thanks to some tremendous pressure from Big Blue's D. They sacked the hapless QB 6 times and forced 3 fumbles. The Niners fumbled a fourth time on an exchange between O'Sullivan and Gore. O'Sullivan's final fumble was kicked out of the back of the end zone by a Niners' receiver for a safety. DE Justin Tuck led the way with two sacks and two forced fumbles. Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, Dave Tollefson, and Chase Blackburn added a sack apiece.
  • PRO - Turnovers. Last week -3, this +3, and oh what a difference it makes when you win the turnover battle. S Michael Johnson picked off two O'Sullivan passes, including one tremendous grab in the end zone right before the half. DE Matthias Kiwanuka recovered a 49er fumble to pick up the third takeaway of the game.
  • PRO - Points! The Giant defense translated their pressure and takeaways into points for just the second time all season, forcing a safety in the fourth quarter. If the 49er receiver had not kicked the ball out of the back of the end zone, the play might very well have resulted in a defensive touchdown for the G-men. Big play-making possibilities...
  • PRO - Chase Blackburn. Filling in for an injured Antonio Pierce, the fourth year linebacker had a career day, picking up 10 tackles, including his first career sack, and a forced fumble. Perhaps more impressive than his statistical performance though, Chase also did an excellent job directing traffic on the defensive side of the ball. Big Blue really didn't miss a beat with their field general watching from the sidelines.
Chase Blackburn (#57) and Michael Johnson (#20) both had big days for Big Blue. (AP Photo)
  • CON - Pass Coverage. The major area in which I felt the Giants struggled was pass coverage. Big Blue allowed 256 yards through the air, as San Francisco averaged over 6 yards per pass play. They converted 12 of their 13 first downs via the pass, and connected on four plays of over 20 yards, the most memorable being the 30 yard touchdown pass to Josh Morgan. Now granted, the big play is one area in which the 49ers excel - they're among the top teams in the league in converting plays of 20 yards or more - but the Giants cannot afford to let this sort of pass coverage continue. Things could have been a lot worse if they were playing a better team with a better QB. O'Sullivan missed his receivers on a number of occasions when they were wide open. Big Blue will have to tighten up.
PROJECTION - More or less the same. I think this is what the Giants' defense is going to give us from here on out. Obviously, the pass rush is their bread and butter, and this week they were finally able to convert that pressure into turnovers and points. The linebackers still have not shown much in pass coverage though they do have athleticism at the position to do it. The secondary, while starting off the season with four outstanding games, has been rather quiet since. Webster and Ross will need to step it back up again and see if their unit can produce more big plays.

Two X factors I think will be S Kenny Phillips and CB Sam Madison. Phillips has not shown much yet, but he's only played six games as a pro. Most of the Giants' outstanding rookie class last year did not make any significant contributions until the second half of the season. He's shown flashes, but let's hope KP will soon start to deliver on some of the hype.

Madison meanwhile has not seen much action yet this season. Given the struggles of the secondary in recent weeks though, I think he could still make meaningful on-field contributions. He has a savvy and an eye for the ball that the younger players are still developing. He's not the speedster he once was, but he could play a critical role in getting offenses of the field in 3rd down situations, as he showed with his play in Week 3 against the Bengals.


The Giant defense definitely picked up some slack Sunday from a mediocre offensive performance. Eli Manning protected the football this week, but as his completion percentage (16/31) suggests, the passing attack was not at its best. The Giants gained 161 yards through the air, which I believe is their lowest total all season. 7 different players caught passes, led by Derrick Ward, who had 3 grabs for 50 yards.

The Giants' running attack also struggled. Big Blue ran the ball over 32 times but only amassed 112 yards on the ground, averaging 3.5 yards a carry: both numbers well below season averages. Conspicuous by its absence were the crushing stampedes down field that embody the Giants' superior off-tackle runs. I'm not sure if the Niners shut that down or if the Giants just didn't call them as much...Brandon Jacobs' 26 yard touchdown run came off-tackle, I believe.

Regardless, there were a number of positives to look at as well. Brandon Jacobs ran for two scores, including the afore-mentioned 26 yard dash, and Plaxico Burress caught his third touchdown of the season with a great grab in the back of the end zone. Let's break it all down...
  • PRO - Pass Protection. The offensive line did a tremendous job of giving Eli time to throw the ball, regardless of whether or not anyone caught the passes. Eli was not sacked once the entire game, and was hit only once.
  • PRO - Earth, Wind and...Sparky? It was nice to see Bradshaw getting more carries this week, and getting them early. "Fire" provided a spark to the Giants' attack but didn't exactly burn the Niners on Sunday as he fumbled the ball twice. The first was over-turned as Bradshaw had a shin down when the ball came loose, and the Giants recovered the second. Both should be corrected as they were simply a matter of Bradshaw protecting the ball better when being tackled.
  • PRO - Going for it on 4th Down. A nice momentum-builder early in the game on 4th-and-1, and especially cool to see Bradshaw get the call.
Second-year RB Ahmad Bradshaw saw action early and often on Sunday. (AP Photo)
  • CON - The Plaxico Burress Effect. If only the coaching staff could be as creative with the passing game. You'll notice, despite what some might say, "Plaxico Burress" himself is not a CON, but rather the adverse affect he can have on the Giants' offensive game plan. The Giants have a lot of weapons who can catch the ball, and it seems to me that whenever the passing attack struggles it's because Burress gets a lot of balls thrown his way and half of them don't yield any results. Burress is a tremendous weapon, but if you always use the same sword, the blade's going to get dull. Spread the wealth...
  • CON - Penalties. As a team, the Giants committed 11 penalties, which I'm pretty sure is a season high, giving up 80 yards. 6 of those penalties came on offense, and most of them were simply stupid. Coughlin will not tolerate this sort of sloppy play and the Giants can not afford it against better competition.
PROJECTION - The run will get better and the pass has to. The G-men will be going up against some high-pressure defenses and explosive offenses in the final 10 games of the season. With a currently suspect pass defense, Big Blue's O will have to pick up its game. They've shown they have the ability to drive down field and put points on the board, but now they must do it consistently. Pass protection, establishing the run, and spreading the ball through the air will be the three keys for Eli's boys to be still standing when the dust settles.


Two surprises on "Teams" this week: 1) Lawrence Tynes once again sat out, and 2) San Fran once again blocked a field goal for a touchdown. I'm not sure what will happen with the kicking situation, but Carney has been consistent. As for the blocked FG, I don't expect to see too much more of that in the coming weeks. It goes to show you though, Special Teams can swing the momentum of a game in an instant.

Of other note, I thought the punt and kick coverage on Sunday was really outstanding. San Francisco really didn't go anywhere once they got the ball. P Jeff Feagles also had a great game, including sending one punt inside the 5 yard line. Unfortunately, it was negated by a Domenik Hixon penalty.


Lots of love to go around this week. Everyone on the D-line gets a game ball, including back-up Dave Tollefson for some outstanding play; Chase Blackburn did an awesome job; Michael Johnson for his two interceptions; Brandon Jacobs for his pair of scores; and Jeff Feagles for being older and better than everyone else who plays his position.


Business is about to pick up, as they say. Big Blue heads back out onto the road to take on the 5-1 Pittsburgh Steelers. This will be the Giants' toughest challenge yet, and how they perform should be a good indicator of how they may fare through the final 10 games. So far, the G-men have not had the best of luck against the AFC North, getting thrashed by the Browns in Week 6 and being pushed to over time by the lowly Bengals in Week 3. If the Giants play the type of football they've shown themselves to be capable of playing, they should be able to take home the win. Right now, it's all about consistency...

... ...

Please leave your COMMENTS and subscribe to Giants' Steps!
Continue reading "Under the Lens: 49ers @ Giants, Week 7"

GSTV weighs in on the win

Here's my immediate reaction to yesterday's win from GSTV:

Long story short, we did what we needed to do to get the win against a pretty sloppy team. The defense did a lot of things well, including shutting down the run and getting to the quarterback. Once we forced the game into J.T. O'Sullivan's hands he threw it right to us. Speaking of which, nice to see us getting some turnovers for a change.

On offense, the passing game looked pretty shoddy while the running game did enough, but probably should've produced more yards. There's a lot to clean up before Pittsburgh and hopefully, we'll take care of it this week.

Check back in soon for a closer look at Week 7's win with "Under the Lens."
Continue reading "GSTV weighs in on the win"

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gameday Preview, Week 7: San Francisco 49ers

Giants look to rebound against San Fran...

Everybody falls down, and the Giants fell hard last Monday night, getting thumped by the desperate Browns 35-14. What matters now is how the G-men get back up, how they respond when they come back home to Giants stadium to host the 2-4 San Francisco 49ers.
Eli Manning and company will look to bounce back against San Fran on Sunday.

Sunday's game is a critical one for Big Blue for a number of reasons. First, it's important that the Giants get back in the win column this week. They do not want to lose multiple games in a row, and quite frankly, they need a win THIS week. This will be the Giants' last game against a sub .500 team for quite some time as their schedule gets considerably tougher from Week 8 onwards. At worst, the Giants need to come out of the first 6 games 5-1.

But more importantly than the record, Week 7's contest will be about building momentum for the tough stretch ahead and erasing all memory of a forgettable performance in Week 6. Dismal defense and turnovers beat the Giants as much as the Browns did, and Big Blue will show what they're made of when they take the field at Giants' Stadium this Sunday against the Niners...


San Francisco comes to the Meadowlands looking to stop a 3-game losing streak. To do that, they will rely heavily on RB Frank Gore. Gore leads the league in total yards from scrimmage and ranks fourth in the league in rushing with 524 yards. After Frank Gore however, the Niners boast a very modest offense, ranked 19th in the league in total yards per game and pass yards per game (307.2 and 193.5 respectively). Their overall rushing attack is also quite pedestrian, as they rank 17th in the league with 113.7 rushing yards per game.


San Francisco ranks a little higher in terms of points per game - 12th in the league - with 23.5 points per game. This speaks to the efficiency and big-play threat of OC Mike Martz's offense, in my opinion. The Niners lead the league in plays over 20 yards with 22.

The 49er offense has excelled in a few other areas this season too. They have a allowed a league-leading 23 sacks through 6 games, and speaking of quarterbacks, QB J.T. O'Sullivan has thrown a league-leading 8 interceptions. The Niners as a team have a -5 turnover differential, tied for second worst in the league.

On defense, the Niners boast a lot of talent but have not performed very well thus far. They rank 26th overall in total defense at 350.5 yards allowed per game, 28th in points allowed per game (27.8), 20th against the pass ( 226.3 ypg) and 22nd against the run (124.2 ypg). Led by two play-makers at line backer, they will look to reverse their fortunes against the Giants. LB Kevin Willis, tackling machine and last year's Defensive Rookie of the Year, has picked up 54 tackles so far this season, third best in the league. Veteran LB Takeo Spikes has picked off three passes over the last three games. Behind play-making ability like this, San Francisco's D will look to bring its A game against the defending Super Bowl champs this Sunday.

The Giants will have to do the same.


We're going to do things a little bit differently this week. Here's what the Giants need to do to win on Sunday:
  • Establish the Run. One bright spot from last week was the running game, which leads the league with 181 yards per game. More impressive than total yards per game though is yards per carry. The Giants average a stellar 6.1 yards per carry as a team. Jacobs (5.7 yards per carry), Ward (7.4 yards per carry), and Bradshaw (6.6 yards per carry) have been phenomenal behind one of the most cohesive and athletic O-lines in football. If this team runs the ball 30 or more times, there's no way they shouldn't win.
  • Stop the Run. Frank Gore is one of the most dynamic players in the entire NFL. It will be absolutely imperative for the Giant D to shut him down if they're going to win this game. The Giant LBs will have to contain the run a lot better than they did last Monday, and perhaps we will see 8 or 9 guys in the box from time to time. Maybe this is the week that S Kenny Phillips can show us a little something.
  • Get to the QB. If you can restrict the run then that puts more pressure on J.T. O'Sullivan. What will put even more pressure on the turnover-prone QB... is more pressure. After getting shut out with 0 sacks last week, the D-line is looking to rebound. According to DE Justin Tuck, the Browns only had 4 passing plays in which the QB held the ball for more than 3 seconds (the pass rusher's typical allotted time to get to the QB), including two roll-outs. This week against the 7 step-dropping Mike Martz offense, with a league-leading 23 sacks allowed, the G-men should have a little more time to get to the passer.
  • Make Tackles. The pass rush was one staple of the Giant defense that was nowhere-to-be-found against the Browns; good tackling was another. Big Blue gave up a number of big plays and first downs because of bad tackling. After four games of good tackling to start off the season, I suspect the D will be eager to get back to form this weekend.
  • Win the Turnover Battle. One thing that has been lacking all season has been generating turnovers on defense. The Giants only have two takeaways all year. Prior to Game 5 that didn't matter too much because the offense was protecting the football, but after Eli's 3 pick performance against Cleveland, it becomes a more pressing problem. The Giants will have to do a better job protecting the football on offense and hope to force a few turnovers against a mistake-prone 49er offense if they hope to lock up the win this week.
KEY MATCH-UPS (Individual Edition)

There are a few intriguing individual match-ups that will be just as critical to the Giants' success this Sunday.
  • RB Brandon Jacobs vs. LB Kevin Willis - Jacobs and Earth, Wind and Fire could be due for a big game this week coming off of that loss to Cleveland. The run game has shown itself to be the bread and butter of this offense and OC Kevin Gilbride hopefully got the message. Standing in Jacobs's, Ward's, and Bradshaw's ways will be tackling machine Kevin Willis. I'd love to see Jacobs level the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year a la Laron Landry...
  • WR Steve Smith vs. LB Takeo Spikes - Takeo Spikes is another play-maker in the Niner LB corps. His three picks in the last three games reflect his presence in the middle of the field. One Giant who's made his presence felt in the middle of the field has been slot sensation Steve Smith. Smith had the best game of his career in the loss to the Browns, and he has as many catches this season as Plaxico Burress. This could be an intriguing battle.
  • The Giants' LBs vs. RB Frank Gore and TE Vernon Davis - It will be incumbent on Antonio Pierce, Danny Clark, and rookie Bryan Kehl (starting in place of Gerris Wilkinson) to contain the run and neutralize the Niners' talented tight end. With Pierce banged up and the outside backers struggling to establish themselves, this will be one of the most critical battles on the field on Sunday. Danny Clark's shown flashes of his play-making ability early in the season and Bryan Kehl is an impressive athlete with a lot of potential. Both men will have to step it up big time this week.
  • Giants' DC Steve Spagnuolo vs. 49er OC Mike Martz - Behind the action on the field will be two great minds on the sidelines. Spags will most certainly be looking to get his defense back on track and back on the attack against Martz's Niners. After Cleveland dialed up a good game plan last week to neutralize the Giants' strengths, we'll see what Martz has up his sleeve.

RB 34 Derrick Ward - Coming off of his first 100 yard game of the season, in which he average over ten yards per carry, D-Ward could be due for another big day when the G-men look to play to their strengths and run the rock against the 49er defense. He's shown his patience and quickness when given the ball and that could bode big things for "Wind" this Sunday.

CB 31 Aaron Ross
- Aaron Ross played his worst game of the season against Cleveland, a drastic departure from what has otherwise been superb play in early 2008. He will look to rebound this week, and will have to, in order to allow the Giants to maximize their pass rush and shut down the 49er offense.

... ...

I'm hyped up for this game and ready for the Giants to get back in the win column. It's an important game for Big Blue as they will look to establish momentum going into a very tough part of their schedule. They will also attempt to win their 4th game at home in as many tries, one more win at Giants Stadium than they had all of last season.

Prediction: Giants get back on track, 27-17

... ...'s preview of 49ers @ Giants's 49ers Scouting Report

Continue reading "Gameday Preview, Week 7: San Francisco 49ers"

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Under the Lens: Giants @ Browns, Week 6

As you probably know by now, Cleveland throttled the Giants 35-14 on Monday night, handing Big Blue their first loss of the season and their first loss since December of last year. It also snapped the team's impressive road winning streak at 11. But while losses are inevitable for any team in the course of an NFL season, the way the Giants lost Monday was very disappointing.

WR Braylon Edwards (left) was a big part of Cleveland's win on Monday Night.

Across the board, Cleveland outplayed the G-men and dominated the game. If not for 10 Browns' penalties, this game could have been a lot worse. The Giants' offense failed to establish any momentum as Eli turned the ball over three times, while the Giant defense was practically non-existent. Cleveland marched up and down the field, racking up 454 yards of total offense and hitting big play after big play. There's a lot for Big Blue to work on coming off of this game if they are going to get back on the winning track this week against San Francisco. Let's a take a look...


The Giants' offensive woes on Monday night are perhaps not immediately evident looking at the statistics, save one: the 3 interceptions. The G-men had a respectable 373 yards of total offense, including 181 yards rushing. They had 23 first downs (more than the Browns) and converted 5 of 9 third down attempts, 56 percent, and Jacobs and Ward both had solid outings, with Ward quietly picking up his first 100 yard game of the season. The rushing attack was one of few bright spots for the O, so let's start there.
  • PRO - Solid Rushing Performance. As I said, 181 rushing yards in a game is pretty solid, and wouldn't you know, the Giants remain the leagues premiere rushing attack averaging...that's right...181 yards per game. D-Ward led the way with 101 yards and averaged over 10 yards a carry on Monday night, while the rushing game as a whole averaged 7.2 yards per carry, impressive numbers.
  • CON - Offensive Play-calling. Given the rushing attack's impressive numbers, it's a little bit baffling that the team only carried the ball 25 times. Granted, they fell behind late in the game and needed to throw the ball, but this team should be running the rock 30-35 times a game. Starting the second half out with a deep bomb that was picked off, instead of pounding it when the Browns were only up 3 was just bizarre. And balancing the run and pass was one thing, but balancing the pass alone was another. After lighting up the Seahawks from every direction in Week 5, it seemed to me like the pass attack was a little too Plax-heavy. He's a tremendous weapon, don't get me wrong, but does anyone else think he could be just as dangerous as a distraction for opposing defenses?
  • CON - Turnovers. Obviously. When you go -3 in the turnover differential, you're probably not going to win too many games. Eli threw some bad balls that I'm sure he'd like to get back. 1 INT through 4 games, 3 INTs in one game. As we've seen, the offense's stats weren't too bad on Monday. Take away the turnovers, and you've got a different ball game.
Shake it off, Eli.

PROJECTION - Up. While some are clamoring that the Giants' lucky streak is over, Eli's back to his old self and the coaching staff should be fired, I'm pretty sure that this game was an anomaly and not the norm. Eli, despite a bad game, was still the same confident, Super Bowl-winning quarterback he was the first four games. His demeanor with the media was completely different from how it's been in the past. He's his own biggest critic and will work hard in the film room and on the field to correct these easily fixable mistakes.

The coaching staff too will learn from Monday's lessons and refine their game plan before going in to face San Fran this week. It's all about three things: run, run, and run. Rush the ball 60-65% of the time and spread the ball in the passing game and things will be okay.

If only the defense were so easy...


To put it bluntly, the Cleveland Browns abused the Giant defense in Week 6. As I mentioned, they accumulated 454 total yards: 310 yards through the air and 144 on the ground. They averaged a ridiculous 10+ yards a play in the passing game and a solid 4.8 yards with the rush. They converted on 9 of 13 third downs, and did not punt the ball a single time. There was a lot to dislike about the defense on Monday night.
  • CON - Did not Control the Line of Scrimmage. The rushing statistics give it away. When you can't stop the run, your defense is going to have a long day. Cleveland has a solid offensive line with a pair of talented tackles. Jamal Lewis was able to run the rock so effectively because the Browns controlled the line of scrimmage. The Giant front four could not get penetration, and the linebackers just did not contain well.
Jamal Lewis runs it in for the score in the second quarter.
  • CON - No QB Pressure. The Giants for the last season plus have been known for their ability to put pressure on the QB. Naturally though, when you don't control the line of scrimmage you're not going to put too much pressure on a quarterback. When you give Derek Anderson, a Pro Bowler last year, 10 seconds to throw the ball, he's going to make some plays, especially with the talent around him. Cleveland had been underachieving all season and they finally showed up to play on Monday. Sadly the Giant D just wasn't ready for it.
  • CON - Poor Tackling. You make mistakes against a good team and you're going to get burned. The Giants had been technically sound for most of the first four games, but Monday you saw missed tackles, tackling guys forward giving them additional yards, and some all-around sloppy play.
  • CON - 3rd Down Efficiency. The G-men could not get off the field. Even with the Browns committed 10 penalties, they could not stop them on 2nd and 3rd downs.
  • CON - No Turnovers. In a game when the defense could not even force a punt, it might seem a bit excessive to fault them for not producing any turnovers, but that's what they get paid to do. If this defense is going to turn things around, they need to start forcing offenses to turn the ball over.
PROJECTION - Up, because you can't really get much worse. There's too much talent on this defense and on the coaching staff to not fix this. I trust that the players are sufficiently embarrassed enough that they will not have a repeat performance any time in the near future. Spagnuolo will dial up some new schemes and the D should look more like its old self.


Not much to comment on here. John Carney has dropped on the impressive-o-meter in the past few weeks and word is Tynes will be back in uniform very soon. Whatever happened to Domenik Hixon returning kick-offs? I guess he was on PR for a while, but oh yeah, the Browns didn't punt the ball on Monday.


Not much love to go around this week, but Steve Smith, Jacobs, and Ward had commendable outings. Hopefully next week, we'll bounce back and there will more to celebrate.


The Giants will come back home to face another NFC West team. This is a must win game for the Giants in my book, as they can't have to go into a very difficult stretch 4-2. They are 2-0 against the West so far this season. I suspect that Eli and offense will rebound and the defense will be in better form. It's a statement game for the G-men. Let's see what they have to say...

Stay tuned for a preview of this weekend's game coming up on Friday, as well as a preview of the game of GSTV.
... ...

Please leave you COMMENTS! A lot of things to talk about this week...
Continue reading "Under the Lens: Giants @ Browns, Week 6"

GSTV Episode 6: Browns Torch the G-men on MNF

Here's the recap of Monday Night's beating from GSTV:

A full write-up will be up Wednesday.
Continue reading "GSTV Episode 6: Browns Torch the G-men on MNF"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Key Contests Recap: Week 6

A wild Week 6 saw five games decided in the closing seconds and 3 NFC East teams get smacked in the mouth. I'll have a full write-up of the Browns' thrashing of Big Blue on Wednesday morning. In the mean time, there's a recap of the game on GSTV...

As for the other Key Contests, the Cowboys and Redskins were both upset. The Cardinals victory I predicted, but they almost gave it away with some sloppy defense at the end. The Cardinals came through in OT and helped to soften the blow of Big Blue's beat down. Some other notes from the game, Tony Romo broke his pinky finger on his throwing hand in OT and will miss approximately 4 weeks. This just in: Larry Fitzgerald is ridiculous...

The other upset I did not see coming. Coming off their bye, with new Coach Jim Haslett, the previously winless Rams shocked the Redskins in their own stadium and ended Washington's 4 game win streak. If Washington fans are looking for an explanation here, I would point to their team's 3 turnovers. If this week taught us anything, it's that it's very hard to win a game when you turn the ball over that many times.

The lone NFC East team to pick up a win in Week 6 was the Philadelphia Eagles, who went out West and defeated the San Fransisco 49ers 40-26 to improve to 3-3 and gain some ground in the division. This game was not as close as the score would suggest. San Fran was leading at one point in the 4th quarter and had the chance to tie the game at the end before QB J.T. O'Sullivan threw a pick 6. Philly heads into their bye week while the Niners head East to Giants Stadium in what will be a big game for both teams.

Again, a wild Week 6. I had high hopes for the G-men to put some distance between them and the rest of their division following the Cowboys' and Redskins' losses, but alas... We'll have to rebound next week at home.

Full write-up of the Monday Night meltdown Wednesday.

... ...

Please leave your comments! Also, see the new survey this week and don't forget to subscribe to the blog or become a follower of Giants' Steps on Blogger!
Continue reading "Key Contests Recap: Week 6"

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Key Contests Preview: Week 6

All three division rivals are in action this week in some intriguing match-ups, including one contest against the Giants' opponents for next week, the San Fransisco 49ers. Washington will look to continue their hot streak against the lowly St. Louis Rams, Philadelphia will take on San Fran and attempt to right the ship after losing two in a row, and in another late game, two high-powered offenses square off in the desert as the Cowboys and Cardinals clash in Arizona.


The Redskins are the hottest team in the league right now having won four games in a row in impressive fashion, including two huge wins on the road against division rivals Dallas and Philadelphia. QB Jason Campbell has looked impressive, having not committed a turnover so far this season. His supporting cast, led by RB Clinton Portis, is also coming into its own in Jim Zorn's offense. The only question about the outcome of this game will be how much the Redskins win by.


Donovan McNabb stated this week he is "embarrassed" by his play and his team's play after losing two games in a row. After a hot start the Eagles are struggling, and to make matters worse they will be without the centerpiece of their offense this week, Pro Bowl running back Brian Westbrook, who is out with broken ribs. Thankfully, they're playing a mediocre San Fransisco team, which leads the league in sacks allowed. Against the potent pass rush of Jim Johnson's defense, I expect San Fran will struggle to find their offensive rhythm. Philadelphia should get back in the win column this week and avoid falling further in the NFC East standings.


The #1 scoring offense takes on the #4 scoring offense in what promises to be an exciting showdown in Arizona. Dallas has been dealing with a lot of off the field issues in the past few weeks and speculation is running wild about the status of their locker room. I think this team could be another loss away from unraveling. I also think that that loss could come today against the prolific passing attack of Kurt Warner and the Cardinals. Granted, Arizona will be without star Anquan Boldin, but Dallas has struggled against the deep ball...and that's where the Cardinals excel. If Arizona's defense can limit the Dallas running attack, then I expect we'll see an upset in the desert this week.

Enjoy the games everybody. I'll be back with a preview of the Giants game shortly.


Continue reading "Key Contests Preview: Week 6"

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Gameday Preview, Week 6: Cleveland Browns

Big Blue looks to keep on rolling...

The Giants 4-0 start and their dominant win over the Seahawks in Week 5 has the sports media world buzzing: Are the Giants going to repeat? Are the Giants the 2008 New England Patriots? Is New York going to go undefeated? Of course, most of this speculation is absurd, but the Giants have definitely looked impressive thus far.

Certainly, the answer to that last question is most likely "no," as last year we saw that teams just can't go through an NFL season without suffering a loss here or there. But while perfection in the standings is improbable if not impossible, this Giants season is still all about the pursuit of perfection - perfection on the field.

Antonio Pierce and company are still looking to improve.

What separates this Giants team from teams of the past is its relentless work ethic and drive to improve. Despite shellacking Seattle last week, the Giants have not grown over-confident or complacent; they retain that same attitude and work ethic that has brought them so much success in the first part of the season. Improve each week; the next game is the most important one...

And the next game for Big Blue is on the road this week against the 1-3 Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football.


After narrowly missing the playoffs last season, there were high hopes for the Browns coming into 2008, but poor play and a number of key injuries have caused them to struggle thus far. Statistically, their offense is the worst in the league. QB Derek Anderson has struggled after a Pro Bowl season last year, throwing 6 picks and just 3 touchdowns and posting a dismal QB rating of 49.9. WR Braylon Edwards has also struggled. Last year he finished with over 1200 yards receiving. A quarter of the way through this season, he is on pace to finish with only 300 yards receiving.

The Browns do have a lot of other weapons on offense though. RB Jamal Lewis is a force in the backfield and TE Kellen Winslow is one of the best receiving TEs in the NFL, though he has been hospitalized this week with some mystery illness. Free agent pick-up WR Donte Stallworth is set to make his regular season debut on Monday night.

The Browns have been mediocre on defense, ranking 15th in the league in yards allowed per game and 22nd in the league against the run. They are ranked 10th in both points allowed per game (19.5) and passing yards allowed per game (187.0). Look for both of these numbers to rise when the best offense in the NFL rolls into town.


The statistical gaps between these two teams don't guarantee anything however, and in order for the G-men to notch their fifth consecutive win this week, they'll have to win a few key battles. The most fundamental will be the most critical: establish the Giants running attack, spread the ball offensively, shut down the Browns' running attack and generate turnovers on defense.
  • Giant Running Attack vs. Cleveland Front 7: When you establish the run, you set up in the entire offense. In the Giants' case, when you establish Brandon Jacobs you set up the opposing team to be completely slaughtered. When Jacobs opens well, the Giants offense rolls, just look at St. Louis and Seattle. The bruising back not only sets up Eli Manning and the passing game, but also lays the table for the second and third acts of the Giants dynamic running game. Even without the Browns calling out Jacobs this week, look for the G-men to stuff it down their throats from the opening drive.
  • OC Kevin Gilbride vs. Himself: Last week without Plaxico Burress the Giant offense exploded for 44 points, partially due to a strong outing from Brandon Jacobs, but also in part due to outstanding play-calling. Kevin Gilbride dialed up a perfect game plan and took full advantage of the deep pool of talent at his disposal. He balanced his attack and spread the ball around. He even called a reverse for Domenik Hixon in the first quarter...a reverse! It will be interesting to see how KG follows up this week with the return of Plaxico.
  • Giants' Front 7 vs. Cleveland Running Attack: For the Giant defense to truly exploit their opponents' weaknesses, they must first stop Jamal Lewis. Last week against the 3rd best rushing attack in the league, Big Blue shut the Seahawks down and dominated the line of scrimmage. Look for the Giants front 7 to build off of last week's performance as the unit continues to gel together. If they can take away the run game, that will put more pressure on struggling QB Derek Anderson, increasing the likelihood for sacks and turnovers.
  • Giants' Secondary vs. Cleveland's Receivers: Of course, the latter will be contingent upon the Giants' secondary continuing their outstanding play against some talented Cleveland receivers. This young unit has been phenomenal over the first four games and CB Kevin Dockery notched the group's first turnover last week. Spagnuolo said that turnovers come in spurts. Let's see if the streak can continue this week.


And so it is, turnovers headlines this week's things to watch for.
  • Turnovers: Will be critical to taking momentum away from the Browns and elevating the level fo the Giants' defense going forward.
  • QB Pressure: Analysts this week are looking for Justin Tuck and company to have a big game this week against a beat-up Cleveland O-line. If Anderson faces a lot of pressure, it could allow for some big plays by the Giant defense.
  • Giants Early Rushing Success: If Big Blue can establish the run early, the Browns D is in for a long night.
  • Who's on the Field on Offense? The personnel on the field Monday night will serve as a good indicator for what direction the Giants offense is going. If we see a lot of Smith, Hixon, and Bradshaw, Big Blue should be taking care of business. Perhaps even Sinorice Moss can continue to make more of a contribution following his success last week.


RB 27 Brandon Jacobs - After being called out my Browns' DT Badmove McFootinmouth, I expect Jacobs and the O-line to be aggressive and hit Cleveland in the mouth from the opening drive. It could be another 100+ yard performance for the man-beast, coming off of one his best games of the season.

DE 91 Justin Tuck - Justin Tuck has not had a sack in two games. The Browns right tackle is returning from injury and I expect Tuck to do injury the Browns' pride with a truly cromular performance.

... ...

I'm excited to watch my first Giants game from U.S. soil in over a year on Monday night, and even more excited to be watching it in HD on a real TV and not a grainy 3 inch window on my computer. It's an important game for Big Blue to continue to build momentum and a cushion over the division before some tougher competition in the second half of the season. I expect the Road Warriors to get their 12th straight away from Giants stadium and make it 5-0 on the season.

Prediction: Giants win, 31 - 10

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

Continue reading "Gameday Preview, Week 6: Cleveland Browns"

Giants' Steps TV returns: Week 5 Seattle stomping

Giants' Steps TV returned to the air this week. Below is a two-part recap of the Giants' victory over the Seattle Seahawks.


Some more thoughts...


A preview of Monday night's match-up with the Browns will be up soon, as will a look ahead to this week's Key Contests. I'm back in the land of the pigskin and pumped for my first full weekend of NFL football!

Stay tuned...
Continue reading "Giants' Steps TV returns: Week 5 Seattle stomping"

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Giants' Steps Back on its Feet

Hi everybody. After a short hiatus to move back home and enjoy a holiday along the way, I'm back on American soil and Giants' Steps is back up and running.

What a win last week against the Seahawks. If I can, I'll get an episode up on You Tube recapping the game, but I'll just say a few things about it here...

  • That's what happens when the Giants execute to their potential.
  • Sunday's whooping confirmed what I and many other Giants fans have thought for a while - this team is loaded. Without Burress , the Giants biggest offensive weapon, the team poured it on, led by its "#4" and "#5" receivers Domenik Hixon and Sinorice Moss. Great games by both players.
  • When you set up Brandon Jacobs early, all three backs can get enough carries to make an impact. And what an impact they make. All three had great games, combining for over 200 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jacobs is simply a special player, and Ward and Bradshaw could also start in this league. Bradshaw had a beastly run towards the end where he broke a handful of tackles and cut up the Seahawks defense like an expired credit card. He was one cut away from taking it to the endzone but it looked like he lost his footing.
  • Eli Manning has turned a corner and remains in his Super Bowl-winning form. He's making smart decisions, not forcing anything, and being tough in the pocket. Most importantly, he's protecting the football. He played a phenomenal game on Sunday. People are even starting to question whether he's better than Peyton. This past year at least, he just might be...
  • Kevin Gilbride deserves a lot of credit for the way he called that game - spreading the ball around, pounding Seattle in the mouth, attacking down field, and using all of the weapons at his disposal. He even mixed it up with a reverse in the first quarter to Hixon. This was an area I thought the Giants needed to improve in and last week, they did. Keep it up, KG.
  • When the play-calling is sound and spread out, the Giants get in the end zone. 7's, not 3's. They scored on their first 6 possessions and had over 300 yards of offense in the first half alone.
  • On defense, after allowing the Bengals to convert 60% of their third downs in Week 3, the Giants shut down the Seahawks, allowing only 1 third down conversion and 13 first downs for the entire game. They stuffed Seattle's third-ranked rushing attack and held them to only 60+ yards on the ground.
  • The Giants D also got their second takeaway of the season on a 44 yard Kevin Dockery INT. Great job by Doc finally getting his hands on the ball, and a nice run back. Speaking of the secondary, Dockery, Ross, Webster and company are playing some lights-out football right now.
  • K John Carney showed signs of why he may not be the obvious upgrade to the injured Lawrence Tynes. A number of his kickoffs Sunday failed to reach the 10 yard line; one went out of bounds.

  • If not for a couple of penalties on defense, the score of Sunday's game might have been 44-0.
  • Antonio Pierce: since when does that guy NOT wear sleeves?
  • I'm very happy for Sinorice Moss. People have questioned whether or not he was "ready" to contribute. Granted the guy's first two seasons have been disappointing, but after finally being healthy and having a very strong pre-season, I thought this year it's just been a matter of getting the call. Glad that he did, and I hope he can continue to find opportunities even with Plaxico back.
  • Speaking of Plax- welcome back, let's play football.
  • In other WR action, congrats on your first NFL catch Mario Manningham...the first of many I hope.

It's certainly been a good week for Big Blue. What cracks me up though is how now the same people who were dismissing the Giants as a fluke, or claiming they'd lost too many key players to contend again, are now comparing them to the 2007 New England Patriots and singing the repeat song. I heard one reporter even asked a Giants player if he thought the team could go undefeated. Ridiculous.

The season is young, and you don't crown a champion in Week 5. It's a long, tough road through an NFL season and one blowout victory will not make you or break you. One thing for sure though is the Giants are a deep, talented team and with a lot of weapons and a lot of confidence.

Confidence and the championship attitude could carry the Giants far this season. The keys are taking it one game at a time, improving each week, and playing not just better than your opponent, but as well as you can.

The pieces are in place for another special season. Next stop, Cleveland.

Continue reading "Giants' Steps Back on its Feet"

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Gameday Preview, Week 5: Seattle Seahawks

Giants look to break the bye-week trend against Seahawks

Heading into Week 5's showdown with the Seattle Seahawks, three story lines from the past two weeks lend a new level of drama and significance to the game: the defending champion Giants are undefeated and in 1st place in NFC East; they have a dismal 4-15 record after the bye week; and they will try to buck that trend this week without suspended wide receiver Plaxico Burress.

QB Eli Manning's play is one reason why the Giants are
currently on top of the toughest division in football.


At 3-0, the Giants have exclusive possession of first place in a very talented and competitive NFC East. Dallas and Washington trail with records of 3-1, and Philadelphia brings up the rear at 2-2. As the Giants enter a four game stretch against non-divisional opponents, it presents them with a great opportunity to keep a one game cushion before the final 9 games of the season when they have to play 5 divisional games.

The NFC East arguably features the four best teams in the conference this season. It's an extremely talented and competitive division, and every game counts...

This tight competition adds another layer of relevance to this week's match-up with the 1-2 Seahawks. The Giants lead the overall series 7-5, but Seattle has won the previous two meetings, both of which were played at Qwest Field, home of the infamous "12th man." This week's game will be played at Giants Stadium, and the Giants are hoping that the Big Blue faithful can function as a 12th man in their own right. The G-men should take whatever help they can get if they're hoping to shake the post-bye week pattern...of losing.

Listening to the "experts" discuss this trend, there sounds like there is no single cause to blame for the Giants' lack of success following the bye. It seems as though it could just be an unfortunate coincidence...that has haunted Big Blue since the bye week's inception in 1990.


Remember this though, the Giants had a bye week last January. The following week they won the Super Bowl. If any Giants team can kick the habit this week, it's the 2008 Giants, for precisely the reasons I've been emphasizing this whole year: a champion's attitude, excellent preparation, and getting the job done on game day.

Seattle is also coming off of a bye week. Under current coach Mike Holmgren, they too have fared poorly, going 2-7 following the bye. Other facts of note: the Seahawks have gone just 3-8 in their past 11 games east of the Mississippi River. And under Holmgren, the 'Hawks are 14-25 in the East, and only 6-19 since 2003. In the last two seasons away from Qwest field, they are a mediocre 7-9, compared with a 12-4 record in front of their home fans.

Favored to win the NFC West at the beginning of the season, the Seahawks have been decimated by injuries, mostly at wide receiver, and have struggled to find wins early in 2008. Their only win came in Week 3 against the lowly Rams. While they post some impressive numbers offensively - 11th in the league in points and yards per game (25.7 and 336.7, respectively), and second in the league in rushing yards per game at 166.3 yards per game - Seattle also struggles in some categories. They are 26th in the league in points allowed (26.7 points a game), and 25th in the league in pass yards allowed per game (226.3 yds per game). This could be an excellent opportunity for Eli and company to break out the deep ball they've been so keen on since training camp.


That task may be complicated this week though as the Giant passing attack will have a different look: they will be without their top weapon - suspended receiver Plaxico Burress. I haven't spoken much about this issue on the blog, but here's the breakdown:
  • First, it sucks that this had to happen but I think it was the right decision. Team comes first and nobody, no matter how productive, is above the team. That's how you win games; that's how you win rings.
  • Second, football aside, there may be some bigger problems here that I hope Plax and his family can resolve. There's been talk about domestic disputes, police, and other things. He's got an infant son at home, and that is no kind of environment for a baby to be in.
  • Third, Plaxico has had a history of disciplinary problems his entire career. There's been rumors circulating that he's been fined around 40 times since joining the Giants. Maybe so, but no one can deny that he hasn't proven himself on the field. He went out for every game last season when he couldn't even practice and had a career year. If this suspension does not affect him or the locker room negatively going forward, then I say forget about it, move on, play football.
  • Finally, this could potentially be a blessing in disguise. The Giants are loaded at WR with talented players not dressing or seeing any playing time come game day. Without Burress, everybody moves up the depth chart and Sunday's game could be a prime opportunity for the young guns - Smith, Hixon, Sinorice Moss, and Mario Manningham - to show what they can do, not only to the fans but also to the coaching staff. I mentioned in my Bye Week Report that maximizing the use of offensive talent would be crucial to the Giants' progress this season. Week 5 forces the coaches to put these guys under the spotlight. I think they'll like what they see...


And that brings us right into the Key Match-ups for this week's showdown.
  • Giants' young WRs vs. Seahawks' secondary: Domenik Hixon will start in place of Burress, while Steve Smith will stay in the slot. These two are already proving themselves as reliable targets for Eli Manning and both have already made an impact on the passing attack this year. Third year player Sinorice Moss only has one catch this season and has seen little action, but as I've mentioned before on the blog, he had a strong preseason and is healthy for the first time in his career. Rookie Mario Manningham has yet to be active for a game, and this week he is battling an illness that may or may not affect his availability for Sunday. How these young players perform in Week 5 will have a critical impact on the outcome of the game.
  • Giants' running game vs. the Seattle front 7: The Giants' talented offensive line should have something to prove this week. Not only are they going up against an athletic, talented Seattle front 7 that can get after the quarterback, but they'll also be looking to rebound in the running game after struggling against Cincinnati. In Week 3, the Giants' running attack failed to generate its usual momentum, as the Bengals shut down Brandon Jacobs and threw off the rhythm of the entire Giant running attack. Look for a faster start this week to set up the vicious three-pronged ground game. When Jacobs can pound it successfully, Ward becomes all the more dangerous, and Bradshaw becomes all the more explosive.
  • Giants' LBs vs. the Seattle running game: Seattle currently boasts one of the strongest running attacks in the league, albeit in part because of compensating for a depleted passing attack. The Giants defense is coming off of a lackluster performance against the Bengals in which they gave up nearly 5 yards a play and converted on nearly 60% of their third down attempts. With a stout front four, it will fall to the Giants' Linebackers to shore up the run defense and take away the Seahawks' running attack. This will put more pressure on QB Matt Hasselbeck and feed into the Giants' pass rush.
Seattle WRs Bobby Engram and Deion Branch
will make their season debuts this Sunday.

  • Giants' secondary vs. the Seahawks' WRs: Seattle will have a healthy wide receiving corps for the first time all season as play-makers Deion Branch and Bobby Engram return to action. It will be up to the Giants' secondary to shut them down and take away as many of QB Matt Hasselbeck's weapons as possible.


Those are some key match-ups that will have considerable impact on the outcome of this game. Here are a few other general things to pay attention to on Sunday:
  • Gilbride and the WRs: How are the young wide receivers used in their new roles. Can Gilbride dial up the right plays and take full advantage of the talent at his disposal?
  • Eli and the WRs: How comfortable will Eli be without his favorite target out there on the field? Will he still maintain his outstanding early-season form?
  • Turnovers: The Giants need to start taking the football away from the other team. It's been a point of emphasis during the bye week, and players have had their opportunities in the first three games. With any luck, this week they will start taking those opportunities.
Now for a few players to keep your eyes on...


Normally, each week I spotlight one offensive and one defensive player to keep your eye. Well, this week, in the interest of not being repetitive and telling you to watch out for Domenik Hixon again (you should really pay attention to all the young WRs), I've decided to spotlight two defensive players instead.

DE 97 Mathias Kiwanuka
- Kiwi's been dealing with a sore ankle for the last two games. He has said the bye week allowed him to rest it and the ankle is feeling much better. He got his first sack of the season in Week 3, I look for him to add to that this week. If he's as healthy as he can be, he will only be more explosive and dynamic, and that will open up opportunities for the rest of the front four to get at the QB.

CB 27 Sam Madison - The old timer saw some of his first action of the season in Week 3 and showed up to make a big time bat-down in over time. One of the best players in the secondary last season in my mind, I expect Sam could see more playing time now that he's healthy again, especially if the defense is struggling to get off the field or missing opportunities to get a take away.

... ...

I'm looking forward to Big Blue getting back in action this week, in what should be a great game. I look for both teams and the crowd to come out fired up. If the Giants bring their A game and successfully make some needed improvements in areas I've mentioned above, I think they'll take it.

Prediction: Giants win, 27-16

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

... ...

Please leave your COMMENTS!

SITE NEWS: You can now subscribe to Giants' Steps via e-mail, or, for all the Blogger users out there, you can become a Follower of the Giants' Steps blog. Both can be accomplished by consulting the features in the left-hand column.

And the rest of it here.
Continue reading "Gameday Preview, Week 5: Seattle Seahawks"