GREAT WIN! The Giants undressed Atlanta and played outstanding football. The NY Giants are playing their best football of the season right now. That is what matters. That makes this team 'live' to go as far as they want. On Saturday we gave 9 concrete reasons for why the Giants can go far in the playoffs, and the performance the Giants gave on Sunday does everything to confirm that view.
We have been begging for Fewell to abandon his Tampa 2 passive scheme for the past two seasons. In the first 50 minutes of the game, when it mattered, when the Giants put away the Falcons, we were able to tally a total of 45 defensive plays. Multiple Choice: Out of 45 plays, how many of them of them were zone coverage?
D) More than 28
In this playoff game, Fewell called a grand total of 8 zone playcalls out of 45 total plays, or 18%. FANTASTIC!!! In those 8 plays, the Giants got roughed up for 20 yards, 18 yards and 21 yards, but we are not advocating playing man coverage 100% of the time either. Because the Giants played predominantly (82%) man coverage, Julio Jones and Roddy White had a miserable day at the office. Combined they went for 12 catches for 116 yards. LOL!! 59 of those yards came from the passive zone! And one of those 3 catches was in a 3rd and 21 situation where they only got 18 underneath. Subtract 5 yards in garbage time. So essentially the man coverage allowed the two wideouts to get a grand total of 55 yards on ~8 catches. That's a zero, folks. As in- a shutout. And when you add a great effort in run defense with some tremendous short yardage stops, Atlanta shot a zero on offense. BRAVO PERRY FEWELL. Because this is now the 3rd consecutive strong defensive showing, kudos to Tom Coughlin for getting them ready to play when it matters most.
It is not who you play, but when you play them. The Giants are now a very dangerous team to be playing against because they have tremendous confidence. All three phases of their game are coming together at the same time.
The last rule we have, the final word, is that Defense Wins Championships. So when Gilbride couldn't get the offense out of Park in Q1, it was the defense that stymied Matt Ryan and kept the game close. The defense bought the offense enough possessions so that by the time they got their fourth touch, they drove the ball down the field for a TD. Do you remember how this drive began? It began with small ball. It was a boring pass over the middle to Victor Cruz for 6 yards which set up 3rd and 2. Eli scampered for 14 yards and the floodgates opened. Thereafter, the running game loosened up with runs of 8, 0, SMALL PASS TO MOVE CHAINS FOR 7 yds to Bradshaw, 34, 9, 6, 6, and 4 yards. The final pass was a 4 yard slant to Nicks in the end zone.
Usually we do the Good, Bad and the Ugly. Today it is the Great, the Good and the Bad.
1) Perry Fewell. We called for the DC to be fired. After almost 2 years of failure, getting stuck repeatedly like a pinata, it was frankly obvious to us that if he could not change by this point, when was he ever going to change? Maybe after the Washington horror show, maybe he knew he was in grave danger of losing his job and abandoned his Tampa 2 base. That's a guess. Maybe it was Coughlin who urged him to change. But however it happened, it has happened. In the last three games, the Giants have given up 14 to the Jets, 14 to Dallas and now 0 to Atlanta. Is it a coincidence that those three games are the fewest points allowed of ANY games this season? I for one do not think so, given the increased usage of man coverage. The Giants should use more press too, but at least it is simplifying the defense and making Romo, Sanchez and Ryan earn it. None of them did. We'll have all week to discuss Aaron Rodgers, but make no mistake- the Giants defensive effort has been resurrected by man coverage.
2) Gilbride Small Ball. Eli had 11 completions to RBs and TEs. Ballard moves the sticks, Beckum moves the sticks, Bradshaw moves the sticks on the first TD drive. Let's see more of it earlier, but the strobe light seems to be on.
3) Those 3rd and 4th down stops were electric. Mike Smith's decision to go for it and the sneak playcalling were a little charitable, but the Giants did a great job of stopping it.
1) Nicks. Notice how Cruz is getting more attention?!! And how Nicks now has the single coverage? The slant was there all day for the X receiver. This is the exact opposite of the Plax, so this bodes very well for Manning, Nicks, Cruz, Gilbride, the offense and the entire team. Translated: as long as our guys stay healthy, it is hard for Gilbride to screw this up. He's simply got a lot of weapons.
2) Run Defense. They doubled/chipped JPP often, but that couldn't stop him from racking up 8 total tackles. Chase Blackburn is having fun out there, putting up 9 tackles.
3) The crowd noise. It really made Matt Ryan a weak QB. He had trouble audibling or running the no-huddle.
4) Corey Webster and Aaron Ross shut down White and Jones.
5) LBers and Safeties minimized Tony Gonzalez.
6) Brandon Jacobs! He's got some playoff mojo going, and this team thrives off the big fella having that mojo. 14 carries for 92 yards. The job that Boothe and Snee did pulling on the big run was terrific. Remember that it is Brandon Jacobs leading the scrum before kickoff. They feed off of his confidence.
7) Eli Manning. Yawn. 23/32 for 277 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs. He is playing at a consistently high level and his poise/escapability in the pocket is becoming Peyton-esque.
8) Weatherford. His great punting in Q1 helped control field position when the Giants offense was in quicksand.
1) The foul-up at the end of H1 where they needed to ask for a (3rd down) measurement was obvious to everyone except Gilbride and Manning.
2) The Aaron Ross injury. How serious? Coughlin hopes it is minor. We need him. Amukamara was in the dark on the playcalls and will get victimized by Rodgers if he has to start this Sunday.
3) Lawrence Tynes missed chippy.
4) Penalties. 7 for 73 yards. Let's remember it was the Snee holding call which set up the Safety. That holding call also negated a 13 yard small ball reception by Bradshaw. GB will make the Giants pay for these mistakes.
When the Giants play man coverage, they make the opponent's offense earn their yards. Aaron Rodgers will rack up plenty of success vs man coverage this coming Sunday. No bother. It will be twice as bad in zone, so make them earn it. Between an effective pass rush and man coverage, maybe Rodgers hits us for 20something points instead of 30something points. Then the game becomes winnable. Eli can put up 30 vs GB's defense, so if the Giants play their 'A game' they can be 'live' in this game. The list of reasons why the Giants can be competitive in the playoffs had the very last reason:
"9) The Green Bay Offensive Line. Yes, let them beat the Falcons first. But if you'll permit us to get ahead of ourselves, the Giants DL can get matched up vs a 15-1 Packers team with an injured OL. Shock the world. Dream. RT Bulaga is hurt, RG Sitton is hurt, LT Clifton was banged up. C Wells is hurt too. Sitton is their best OL in terms of consistency and there are question marks about whether he can suit up."
Anything is possible. Man coverage. Small Ball. Eli Manning.
Reminder: Follow us on Twitter during the game. If you tweet us we'll do our best to reply, as appropriate.
Phil Simms joined Mike Francesa for the wildcard weekend installment of the NFL Now on WFAN. He talked about a few topics, but let's get right into the Giants.
NYG-ATL. Falcons can play a few different games. Hurry up offense of Atlanta can be used occasionally to make the opponent's defense get conservative. Falcons have a diverse running game. Matt Ryan, at 6'5" is a tall 6'5". He's a good short thrower. ATL's corners, Robinson and Grimes, are good corners who have not had good seasons here in 2011. They are pretty good tacklers, and that will be necessary to stem the YAC of Victor Cruz. The huge key that Simms saw for the Giants the last two weeks- they quit blitzing so much, allowing the DL to come up big. Simms made an unsolicited remark that we have been saying since the Draft Project- "DL Marvin Austin (rookie, IR) is going to be really really good."
UltimateNYG here. The Showtime comments were not on the web. But Simms picks the Giants. (Collinsworth takes the Gmen, Sapp takes ATL.) Here is the interesting thing about Simms on Fewell's use of less blitz in Weeks 16 and 17> with Tuck getting healthier and Osi back, it does change the chemistry and effectiveness of that unit. Tuck is NOT 100%. But even at 80% he needs to be guarded. At 60%, which is where he has been for much/most of the season, he is a shell and practically hurts the team more than he helps. (I don't particularly care for former Giants players calling out these players to get on the field, because in the case of Tuck it really didn't work, as he was doing more harm than good by being out there.)
One thing to be wary of for the Giants- let's say the Falcons go hurry up. What is the BASE defense the Giants will revert to if they can't get a call in from the sideline? Is it the Tampa 2? Or is it man with Safety coverage bracketing for the deep throw? The former loses, the latter wins.
Yesterday, the WSJ gave some comments that were helpful in understanding today's matchup. For starters, they cited the Massey-Peabody power rating numbers, but this metric is so limited at this time of year because it does not accurately reflect the nature of some teams. As an example, it gives the Giants essentially a neutral rating of 0.0. But we have shown that the Giants have been tough as dogs and weakers as favorites all season. (They were 11-4-1 if you faded the line in every game, simply taking whoever was the underdog.) Today's NYG-ATL matchup reminds me of the one "tie," where the Giants won by 3 when they were favored by 3 over the Bills. Why? Because the 4-1 Bills as dogs still had the respect of the Giants in much the same way that the ATL Falcons as dogs very much have the Giants respect. The Giants would be foolish to look past the Falcons, and I cannot imagine they wil do that.
The second item from the WSJ weekend preview notes the following about ATL: "Spread offenses really can expose the nickel defense. The pass rush also has not been a consistent strength. Offensively, the Falcons get away from their DNA of being a power-run team. WRs Jones and White have suffered from drops this season, and the OL is far better in the run game than pass blocking."
Final thoughts on this game: It is the Giants game to win or lose. Note how yesterday both home favorites got off to slow starts and came on in the second half. Earth to Kevin Gilbride, this is not what you want to do EVER in these playoffs, here or vs any good team. Get Eli into the flow of the game early so that the offense is effective and breaks up that ATL "DNA." Use the flare (I have given up on the screen) underneath to get some first downs and set up the rest of the offense. Bradshaw will be better than Hynoski, but both are fine in picking up 6-8 yards. Weatherspoon is a good LBer who will handle that assignment but it is important to split his duties instead of letting him freelance the middle of the field without that challenge. No predictions, but if Fewell plays man/press, the Giants should win this game. One big question--- what is the status of Corey Webster's hamstring? If he is hobbled, the Giants will have trouble in this game because they'll use more Tampa 2 to protect him. Webster needs to be 100% and in man coverage period.
What upside do the Giants have in the playoffs? A lot. Glenn Warciski spoke with Derek Pease of Any Given Sunday about how the Giants are playing better in the nick of time.
Why is there so much upside, given the problems the Gmen had this season? Because of many factors which we have to list:
1) The Giants have played down to and up to the level of their opponent. In the playoffs, that means no opponent will (or should) be taken lightly, so we expect the Good Giants...the one that was able to focus and play for 60 minutes vs the likes of the #1 seeded Patriots and #1 seeded Packers earlier this year.
2) Justin Tuck. He is not 100%, but he is much healthier than at any point since the beginning of the season. The healthier he is, the more realistic the Giants chances. In any game.
3) Osi Umenyiora. See Tuck in (2) above.
4) Antrel Rolle. He backed up his coach after the Washington loss and gave some players a tongue-lashing. The players responded to him. That element of leadership was missing. If it has surfaced here and now, good!
5) Fewell less zone and more man coverage. Fewell less off and more press coverage. We keep talking about it, whether it is 2010, 2011, or now in the 2011 playoffs. More pressure means more chance for wins. We have seen more of it vs Dallas and the Jets, so let that trend continue. Fewell can keep his job for all he wants if he has figured it out and does not go back to that Tampa 2, which simply does not fit our personnel.
6) Gilbride small ball. This doesn't mean you can't go deep. It just means giving Eli the opportunity to get into a rhythm more of the time.
7) Four 1-game seasons. Anything can happen. The Giants were not going to beat Dallas in the 2007 playoff game until Flozell Adams went down in Q3. He returned, but by that point Osi was getting much more pressure on Romo and the game was changed. The Giants got many good breaks in that game, including (a) two defenders taking the wrong angle on Toomer on his 50 yd TD in Q1 (b) the Eli TD at the end of the half (c) Crayton and Owens drops (d) Crayton cutting off his route in the end zone on the final drive etc.
8) Eli Manning and the Giants offense. Eli Manning has matured and played his best season as a pro. If Nicks and Ballard are physically aok, Eli Manning can stretch any defense that is in the tournament. In the 21st Century NFL, you need to pass the ball. The Giants have the 5th rated passing offense.
9) The Green Bay Offensive Line. Yes, let them beat the Falcons first. But if you'll permit us to get ahead of ourselves, the Giants DL can get matched up vs a 15-1 Packers team with an injured OL. Shock the world. Dream. RT Bulaga is hurt, RG Sitton is hurt, LT Clifton was banged up. C Wells is hurt too. Sitton is their best OL in terms of consistency and there are question marks about whether he can suit up.
It's the playoffs. It is time to get greedy. Anything can happen. Play the games. GO GIANTS!
On Sunday afternoon, the Giants play their first playoff game in 3 years. It is great to be back. It is the tournament. And this site can be critical of the coaches, but none of that matters. The Giants are 9-7, they have a ticket to the dance, and now you just have to play your hand.
The ray of hope that this blogger has clung to this season has been the fact that there is no team that isn't vulnerable to a loss. It is possible to go all the way. I don't know that I'd bet on it, but I would not count the Giants out either. Why? Because of Eli Manning, Victor Cruz and Jason Pierre-Paul. You need playmakers, and these three have been making plays all year.
What does make it interesting is that Tuck and Umenyiora are getting healthier. And with the post-season here, we no longer have to worry about Osi's contract.
Let's go back to the teams the Giants will likely have to face in order to get to the Super Bowl.
1) Atlanta- From Wonder:
"Do not worry about running the ball, get the lead, take the wind out of their sails. Atlanta needs to run the ball throughout the game. If you get up on Atlanta they are going to have much more trouble running it. In a close game, White and Gonzalez can move the sticks. Julio Jones is scary beyond belief. Smack Atlanta in the mouth and take the spirit out them."
This is the Giants' game to win. If the Giants play their 'A game' and the Falcons play their 'A game,' the Giants win this. The Giants have so many more intangibles than Atlanta. Matt Ryan has progressed nicely this season but Eli Manning took a quantum leap to stardom. That gives the advantage to the Giants. So win this game and move on.
2) Green Bay- without looking out too far beyond Sunday, the Packers defense gives up a lot of yards. Get the ball in the end zone and you have a shot.
3) New Orleans- in 2.5 weeks from now, Tuck and Osi could be totally healthy, in which case the Giants could be "live" to beat them or ANYBODY.
Summary- Attack on offense. Pressure on defense. Bring the game to the opponent. The Giants have confidence. Knock off Atlanta and get to the next round. Come out like a house on fire and make Atlanta a disoriented team. It's happened to them before on the road before and it is a good pathway for a playoff win.