The Giants swept the Dallas Cowboys and took the NFC East! And more importantly, we saw Coughlin's Coordinators use more fundamentally solid gameplans in setting up the win. We do not want to get TOO excited just yet, but there is something here to be very positive about with respect to the Giants' playoff chances.
Generally we use a format of the Good/Bad/Ugly, but for this game which ends the regular season, we have to separate the discussion into Part 1 for the Dallas win and Part 2 for the State of the NY Giants going into this playoff game vs the Atlanta Falcons.
If my wife and I were going to have another child (we're not), I'd give serious consideration to naming it Victor/ia. The guy is simply all-world. I cannot imagine what 2012 will be like with Nicks healthy, because Cris Collinsworth and all of us are running out of superlatives for Cruz. Last week he eclipsed Amani Toomer's single season receiving yard record for the Giants, and this week he shattered the record by racking up another 178 yards on 6 catches. 1536 yards in a single season! Folks, those are Jerry Rice-type of numbers. Granted he did this vs a poor secondary, but last week he did it against a good one and his consistency is tremendous. At this point I have to once again remind myself and everyone else- he has done this with SEVEN STARTS and is still learning in what is effectively his rookie year. Of course it helps that he has a Pro Bowl QB in Eli Manning, who is also playing at all-world level. One surpasses the other inside of a single play, where Eli has eyes behind his head (his pocket presence has leaped to otherworldly), escapes sideways and finds Cruz for a great reception to the 9 yard line for the dagger. Pete raved about him in August of 2010, but even then none of us could have imagined this kind of player. He has now blown open two games singlehandedly with his YAC. We noted yesterday how Coughlin remarked that "when a defender takes the wrong angle on Cruz, he makes them pay." Amen to that. And the Giants collect. Let's take a moment to finally thank Brandon Stokley for something- the word is that when they brought this guy in, it awoke Cruz to the need to play at a higher level. And has he ever!
The entire team played well in this effort. I must give props to Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell and Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride for doing some of the things we have asked of them. Those schemes paid off handsomely last night, and we'll talk more about them in Part 2.
Let's rattle off some of the good things to acknowledge how great this win was: Pascoe hurdle, Kiwi's energy everywhere, Boley's flying circus stop on 4th and 1, Ross and Webster in man coverage, Williams and the Safeties vs Witten, Cruz and Manning again because it will never be enough, Manning's hard count offsides successes, Manning's SLIDES after running (hooray!), JPPJPPJPPJPPJPPJPP, the Osi stunt sack, Hynoski hurdle with a total of 4 receptions on top of good blocking, Rolle INT, solid run defense, Fewell's changing pass rush looks (many of which are afforded by a healthy Osi and healthier Tuck).
This was a fantastic win. I admit it- I bitched and moaned about how the Giants were disgraceful and embarrassing vs Washington two weeks ago. Collinsworth conveniently forgets about that game in his praise of the Giants. (Yep, nice when it doesn't matter, until it does matter.) How could a team that could dump a game like this be viable in the playoffs, I asked? Well, THIS IS HOW> YOUR COORDINATORS START SCHEMING PROPERLY. What we saw vs Dallas by Gilbride was much more small ball- the dumpoffs/flares to RBs, FBs, TEs that give Eli the rhythm that we have been BEGGING FOR for literally years now. What we saw vs the Jets and Dallas was much more man coverage and more press coverage too. So when Collinsworth praises Fewell for turning the corner, that is what it is about. We tweeted early in the game that giving up 10 yards to Bryant is FINE. And yes, you can help your pressing corner over the top too. But when you are playing more press and more man, at least you make the QB earn it. Gone are the wide open WRs off of free releases and zone sit-downs. Instead, they'll get their completions from beautifully thrown balls that are threaded perfectly. THEY'LL GET THEIRS. But here is the point: WE'LL GET OURS TOO. We scripted the only way to win it all this season after the NE and SF games... that our offense simply has to outscore the opponent's offense. The Giants offense can score like mad IF they play enough small ball to keep the defense off the field and let Cruz et al work their wonders. As long as Fewell attacks with man and press and Gilbride plays small ball the Giants DO have a shot.
Is this the Gilbride strobe or is it going to become a staple? Is Fewell going to revert to lots of zone which shreds us to pieces or is he going to abandon that base defense? IF, BIG IF, but if the light bulb has gone off and they are willing to stick with these schemes, then the Giants can be very VERY competitive throughout the playoffs. After Washington, I gave the Giants a 0% chance of doing anything in the playoffs. That was incorrect. The Giants are still going to have a difficult time with Rodgers or Brees, but at least they can be competitive and let the chips fall where they will. As long as Gilbride and Fewell are going to gameplan like they did vs Dallas, we have a shot in ANY playoff game.
Before we get too giddy, let's remember who the Giants beat these last 4 games: Dallas and the NY Jets. Romo was impaired last night. Let's also remember that Victor Cruz rescued us on a number of occasions- the 3rd and 7 bomb, if incomplete, gives Dallas the ball down 21-14. Let's remember that Gonzalez and Finley and Graham are much better right now than a hobbled Witten. MUCH BETTER. Let's also remember that the Giants got some incredibly fortunate bounces on some horribly ugly plays (Ware fumble on hard count penalty vs Dallas, Jacobs fumble recovered by Eli, muffed Blackmon punt). The Giants sh*t smells like perfume but if those bounces go the other way everyone is screaming bloody murder. The point is that winning is the best deodorant and right now, the Giants smell pretty good at 0-0 in the second season.
SMALL BALL PASSING (10 combined catches to Hynoski, Pascoe, Ware, Bradshaw... and would have been 11 if Jacobs doesn't drop one)
PRESS COVERAGE 75%+ of the time
MAN COVERAGE 85% of the time
MIXED LOOKS FROM DL ON PASS RUSH
HEALTHY TUCK AND OSI for the 5-headed monster
THE POISE OF ELI IN THE PLAYOFFS
We've been very tough on Fewell this season. The power he holds over the pathway for the Giants is tremendous. If his adjustments are real and the days of the passive Tampa 2 are behind us, anything is possible. If you give the opponent a lot of pressure in press, man and (mixed up looks in) pass rush, you are essentially getting a 2007-2008 scheme. And we know that in 2007 and 2008 anything was possible. Is this 2007? No it is not. The Giants still lack the leadership of a Strahan. But in 2007 the Giants did not have a QB that was half as good as Eli is right now. (In 2011, he has had 10% more attempts and has passed for 4933 yds vs 3336 yds.) And in 2011, the Giants have a WR that is playing off the charts. Collinsworth is becoming enamored with the Giants OL. I am not sold at all- this running attack still smells at times. But the pass blocking is good and Eli's pocket presence is the stuff that can build 'destiny' runs. So let's see if there is some January magic.