Giants kept running but finally passed test late by Johnette Howard (Newsday, Monday September 22, 2008)
The Giants can put lipstick on a pigskin, as Eli Manning and the offense did by the rousing end of their escape yesterday against the Bengals with two late game-deciding drives. But the Giants didn't have to rally for their 26-23 overtime win because they underestimated the still-winless Bengals.
"Flat? Awww, don't gimme that," Giants coach Tom Coughlin justifiably growled. The Giants' formidable "power of will" - the phrase Coughlin coined a second later to better explain how they won - both saved the offense, yet nearly cost the Giants the game.
The Giants were absolutely determined to run the ball against Cincinnati. That is the understatement of the year, if that is possible. When that didn't really work, they insisted on trying to run it some more. Good Johnette, keep going, love ya babe. They ran in the first half with Brandon Jacobs, who had his first sluggish game of the season. And when that didn't work, they ran it with Derrick Ward, who started the second half in Jacobs' place to try to supply a spark.
The Giants insisted ( great choice of words!) on running the ball even though the Bengals were missing 50 percent of their starting secondary and using a couple of rookies, one at safety and one at cornerback, against the formidable receiving duo of Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer. (Hmm, maybe Johnette is onto something here?!!) Then the Giants kept emphasizing the run late into the fourth quarter because they wanted to keep Cincinnati's high-powered offense off the field as much as they wanted to score points themselves. But when the Giants didn't score, all that running the clock did was help keep Cincinnati in this game. Brilliant, Lewis. He's thinking- 'I'll be a genius because I can be dumb but not as dumb as meathead.'
You can see how it could happen. A week earlier, the Giants had shredded St. Louis for more than 200 yards rushing. The Bengals' defense had been coughing up about the same amount of yardage during an 0-2 start. But you could also see that this game didn't finally tilt the Giants' way until Manning began winging the ball late out of grim necessity as the final minutes bled away with the Giants down by four. (Please see halftime post, Johnette is putting in print what we ALL KNEW!) "It's good to know we can still do that," Manning said. "We find a way to get past my coordinator's horrendous playcalling."
The Giants' moronic game plan really was awe-inspiring for its stubbornness. Stubbornness?!! Ms. Howard is so flattering to Gilbride. How about inane? But it was frustrating for them at times, too, after dropping 41 points on the Rams, and talking the previous two weeks about taking the next step and becoming a big-play offense that strives for blowout wins.
With the talent and playmakers the Giants have, they can still get there. Just get rid of Meathead. All this game suggested was the goal remains a work in progress because the chances of Meathead getting fired are somewhere between zero and nonexistant. As good and magical as Manning and the Giants offense become in the clutch, they have a bit of a split personality at times, too. Split, as in split between all the talent wanting to explode with points versus the ineptitude of Gilbride wasting the talent. Sometimes they swagger around like worldbeaters. And sometimes, even in their own minds, they seem to revert to the heroic plodders who shocked the world by winning the Super Bowl. As Burress put it, "It's not always easy for us, and it's not always pretty." READ: Meathead- you are UGLY, let Eli throw the ball when they have 13 men in the box.
The Giants have talked a lot about not getting much respect. But if anything, the Giants might have given Cincinnati's offense a little too much for far too long. The Giants didn't look at their patchwork secondary and test them again and again - especially deep (operative word, a pass greater than 8 yards) - until late. They didn't say, "You worry about stopping us." Their approach was ambitious, all right, but in a different and more convoluted way: The Giants wanted to score some and chew up the clock and deal with their anxiety about what Cincinnati's offense might eventually do.
But when the Giants' running game didn't exactly produce the comfortable margin they would've liked, the Giants didn't abandon the plan until they absolutely had to. Frightening. But give the Bengals credit., for their coaches were genius in understanding how neanderthal Gilbride the Meathead is. Toomer and Coughlin said their defense changed a lot of things they'd shown in their previous two games. "They hardly did anything we'd seen them do before," Toomer said. "And that happens. But it took us awhile to adjust." Awhile, as in, WE"RE GONNA LOSE THE FREAKING GAME IF WE DON"T PASS IN OUR LAST POSSESSION!
The Giants did - just in time. Manning and Burress, Toomer and tight end Kevin Boss were the difference on their touchdown drive at the end of regulation, and then on the field-goal drive to win it. But the Giants struck just the right tone afterward as they looked ahead to their coming bye week and the rest of the season beyond that.
One offensive player after another (yes, the ones on planet earth as opposed to planet Meathead Neanderthal) echoed what Burress said: "There's a lot we can improve." Yah, like giving Gilbride a lobotomy.
Remaining unbeaten while they're still figuring it out isn't a bad place to be. Amen.
This article by Johnette Howard was excellent. She has to get access to the players and coaches, so she cannot directly call the Meathead a Meathead. That is our job.