Yesterday we mentioned the composure and toughness of Eli under the duress of that 49ers defensive line.
Today the WSJ gives Eli accolades on his performance.
Eli becomes the VOCAL leader by lecturing his teammates about the need for 100% focus on their preparation this week. Too much distraction and hoopla will be going on in Indy next week. They’re all business this week.
An interesting piece in NYT on the preparation of the FG unit leading up to the NFC Championship game, lots of wet balls and mud. Maybe they saw too many replays of the Trey Junkin snap and Matt Allen non-hold?
Note: A post will follow later this a.m. on an analysis of the offense and their failure to adjust to the 49er pass rush in the 2nd half.
The NY Giants are going to Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI!!
Defense wins championships. In today's pass-happy NFL, where the rules are designed for high scoring, this NY Giants defense came together in the last 5 weeks and snuffed out the San Francisco 49ers.
Let's first give credit to Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin. Reese made a bold prediction in August. “We’ll get into the playoffs," Reese said, "and we’ll make a run.” Five months later, Reese is a prophet. After defeating the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship 20-17 in OVERTIME, his much maligned team is headed to Indianapolis to play in Super Bowl XLVI. Tom Coughlin, for his part, oversaw a "Giant" transformation, taking a 7-7 team with two elimination games and brought them to the doorstep of another title. Coughlin did a fabulous job of having this team ready, and presided over much needed changes made by DC Perry Fewell.
1. Defense WINS championships. This is rule 28 in our Rules For Winning in the NFL. Against the 49ers, the Giants played like past Giant defenses. They were suffocating. Take away the two touchdown plays to 49ers TE Vernon Davis, and the 49ers offense was stuck in first gear the entire game. The 49ers were ONE for THIRTEEN on third down. One for Thirteen! And their only third down conversion came on the last play of regulation. Despite gaining 150 yards on the ground, their passing attack was grounded. 49ers quarterback threw for 196 yards. As stated earlier, subtract Davis' gains of 73 and 26 yards, Smith threw for a measly 95 yards. And his wide receivers caught a total of ONE pass. Michael Crabtree caught one pass for 3 yards. The mitigating factor for the Giants success on defense was their defensive line. The Giants were able to put pressure on Smith. The Giants tallied three sacks. Something the Saints could not do at all. This pressure made Smith show his true colors. He is a much-improved, but nonetheless limited NFL quarterback.
2. Turnovers. All season long, the 49ers were making a living off of turnovers. They led the NFL in the important giveaway/takeaway ratio. A whopping PLUS 28. And they continued this opportunistic behavior in the playoffs. Last week, they force 5 turnovers in their match up with the Saints. However, Sunday night was a different story. The Giants won the turnover battle. They were a PLUS two in this game. And 10 points were the result of turnovers. In fact, check out this statistic: In their last five games, the Giants are PLUS nine in takeaways. They have 11 takeaways and just TWO turnovers.
3. Tom Coughlin. The Giants head coach has been a pinata on this blog. Why? His teams have had talent. And time and again, they have underacheived. After the Redskins game, it certainly appeared this team was headed for yet another second half collapse. But this did not happen. Coughlin deserves tremendous credit for getting his team prepared and ready to play. Even if they lost tonight, his team had fight. And as a fan, this is all you could ask for. As a matter of fact, Coughlin's Giants outplayed the 49ers. How did they do it? They played disciplined football. In a cold, wet, boggy, and noisy Candlestick Park, the Giants played with poise. This mental toughness was needed to stay toe to toe with a steadfast 49ers team. The Giants beat the 49ers at their own game. As stated earlier, they did not turn the ball over.
4. Road Warriors. The Gmen played 60 minutes of football on the road and did not blink. As long as Coughlin is head coach of the Giants, his team's legacy will be known as a ROAD WARRIOR. In the 2011 NFL Playoffs, there have been 10 playoff games. The road team has a 2-8 record. Guess which team has the only two wins? Yes, the Giants are the only team to win on the road. Fittingly, they have earned a spot in Indy.
5. Eli Manning. Already possessing a Super Bowl ring and MVP, this guy has to be the most improved player in the NFL. Going into this season, NFL.com's Steve Wyche wrote about how Eli planned on not being a turnover machine. Boy, Eli has played extremely well this season and in this year's playoffs. Last night, on a wet field, Eli Manning threw the ball 58 times. Out of those 58 throws, he was hit TWENTY times and sacked six times by a terrific defense. Let us face it, he got the snot knocked out of him. Even though, he was roughed up by the 49ers stalwart defensive line, Eli managed to throw for 318 yards and two touchdowns. His touchdown throw to Mario Manningham was a tremendous pass. Eli stuck that ball in a very tight window. His progress this year has been astonishing. If it were not for Eli Manning's play, this team does not make it to the Super Bowl. Trent Dilfer heaped tremendous praise on the Giants QB, saying that no stats could explain how Eli, under terrible playing conditions and vs a tremendous defense, took care of the ball and won the game for his team.
6. Special teams. Devin Thomas and Steve Weatherford were outstanding. Thomas was at the right place at the right time not once but twice. His fumble recoveries helped the Giants win this game. As for Weatherford, his deft handling of an errant snap by Zak DeOssie avoided a potential nightmare. Since he was able to place the ball cleanly for Tynes, the Giants are packing their bags for Indianapolis. Weatherford's hold at least takes some of the sting from Trey Junkin's unfortunate botched snap against the 49ers in the 2003 playoffs. Furthermore, Weatherford's punting was a difference maker in this game. Out of his 12 punts, two landed inside the twenty yard line. His 40.6 yard average per punt with a long of 57 yards helped balance field position. Jacquian Williams' tremendous forced fumble on Special Teams won the game for the Giants. His effort and athleticism on that play were key to breaking a logjam that could have seemingly gone on all night.
7. Victor Cruz and Jason Pierre-Paul. What can be said about these two stars? They have made impact plays time and time again, in games when the Giants played well and in games when the team disappeared. These two players were there again last night. Cruz had 10 catches for ~half of Eli's passing. And Jason Pierre-Paul made stop after stop, harrassing Alex Smith everywhere. On one play of note, JPP is going north to pressure the QB, then amazingly runs south in an instant to tackle Smith and prevent a first down.
8. Too many supporting players to name in a single post. Ahmad Bradshaw collected 126 total yards from scrimmage. Aaron Ross and Corey Webster essentially shut out the Niner wideouts. The entire Giants DL bent but did not yield to the opponent's run game. Hakeem Nicks played hurt but still contributed. Mario Manningham's lone reception was a huge TD grab. He held on for the reception despite taking a big hit on the play. The Giants OL had a rough night but they went up against a lot of talent in players like Aldon and Justin Smith.
With this win, the Giants are FIVE and ZERO in NFC Championship games. In two weeks, the Giants have an opportunity to win their fourth Lombardi trophy. The Giants have saved a season and have Super Dreams!
8 man box. Put pressure on Alex Smith to beat you. Where? On the outside. He is most comfortable with the inside passes, ie a crossing route or seam pass. Make him make the harder and more precise throw to the edge of the field. If he is able to make a perfect throw deep and out, it may be a big play, but make him earn that. New Orleans gave him inside throws and Smith had a good day.
It is the reverse for the SF running game. Take away the edge and maintain the lane discipline. Iupati likes to pull to spring those edge runs.
Who is the one player that is dynamic in the offense? Vernon Davis. Bracket him. I'll take my chances with Webster in 1 on 1 vs Crabtree. And as noted this week, without Braylon Edwards, I am comfortable with Ross in 1 on 1 also, with maybe some deep help from Phillips if required. After reviewing more film from the Packers game last week, I was impressed with how well Ross did vs Jordy Nelson. Everyone saw the play where Ross got beat on the slugo where Osi had the sack strip, but Ross held his own against a quality WR, owing more to the simplified man coverage assignments he is getting. Ginn is questionable, but even if he plays he is a step down from Edwards. Once again, there is nothing that can consistently roast this Giants defense except TE Davis. That doesn't mean that Hunter or a guy like Walker can't beat you for a nice 15 yd gain to move the sticks, but that is the battle. The war is Vernon Davis.
With a strong chance of rain, a sloppy field and wind, this dynamic may very well put the CB at a disadvantage. Considering that Eli has the better WRs, this could/should help the Giants more than it will hurt the Giants CBs. Imagine the slippery Cruz on a slippery field! As Coughlin has noted, Cruz will make you pay if you take the wrong angle, and we could have some wrong angles and slips by defenders. Nicks is crafty with a nose for the endzone too. And Manningham has some of the quickest breaks in his route of anyone in the NFL, so he can lose a defender too.
The strength of the 49ers is their inside game. Willis. Justin Smith. Bowman. Don't bother trying to go crazy running in between the tackles. Use Bradshaw on the edge with flares and screens (although I have completely given up w Gilbride on the screen). Use Bradshaw on the checkdown. (Interesting stat: the Giants are 10-4 with Bradshaw, who did not play in the last meeting.) Eli should have success with max protect plays because if he has 7 men blocking and his 3 WRs out there with defenders slipping, he should be able to find someone. If Ballard is at all effective, use him on delayed routes outside (not inside where the LBers are).
Protect the ball. Keep penalties to a minimum. Sure hands and fair catches on punts will win the war. Watch out for the fake punt or fake FG. Don't hold the ball like a pineapple, Bradshaw!
This is the Giants' game to win. On defense, the Giants should defend the inside of the field on passes and the outside on runs. Load the box against Smith and make him beat you. Focus on Vernon Davis, as I do not believe the WRs/QB of SF are good enough to beat the Giants. On offense, a slippery field should give Nicks, Manningham and Cruz an advantage. Get Bradshaw open in space. Use Pascoe and Beckum in the red zone. If the Gmen take care of the ball and play 60 minutes they will win this game.
For the Giants, keeping Eli Manning upright is paramount for a Giants victory. Excellent pass protection by the Giants offensive line will a critical factor in this game. This is important because the Giants running game is still struggling.
Four years ago, when the Giants made their miracle run and won a Super Bowl Championship, they had a solid offensive line. The 2011 Giants have a patchwork line which has held up. But the run blocking has been poor for most of this season. Despite offensive line coach Pat Flaherty's grueling tests, the Giants still have not figured everything out. The result has been inconsistency. Indeed, the Giants running game churned out a season best 172 yards on the ground versus Atlanta, but this had as much to do with the Falcons offense not controlling the ball. The Giants had a nine minute advantage in time of possession in that game, and wore down the defense.
Bereft of a formidable rushing attack, the Giants have been winning because of Number 10. And if this Giants offensive line cannot give him time to throw, their chances of making it to Indianapolis will be small.
Prior to the Giants Wildcard game against the Falcons, star defensive end John Abraham said the following: “Pretty much just try and get as much pressure on him as possible. He does a great job with his play-action fakes, he does a great job of getting the ball out quick. In order for us to have a good day, we’re going to have to get in his face and have him move out of the pocket.” Even though the Falcons had two sacks (one of which resulted in a safety), for a majority of the game Eli had time to throw the football. Give seasoned Eli time to throw, it is death for the opponent. Manning dissected the Falcons defense in their 24-2 win.
Last week, the Packers defense did not generate enough pressure at all. Because of this, once again, Eli Manning was able to take control of this game. Without question, if if was not for a feckless referee named Bill Leavy, this game would have been a blowout. Getting back to the impotent Packers pass rush, NFL Films guru Greg Cosell viewed the tape of the Giants vs Packers match up. Cosell's take: "Packers were unable to generate consistent pressure on Manning, Focus was inside with LB blitz. And Manning with his stellar play, sent the Packers packing."
Can the Giants offensive line play well against the 49ers defensive line?
This is going to be a difficult task. Against the Saints, the 49ers defensive line manhandled them. Cosell points out, the "49ers (have) a very disruptive 4 man pass rush. They got bodies around Brees... (the) 49ers pass rush was a factor all game, Brees was not as comfortable as he normally is."