We did a Q&A Exchange with Ricky Keeler of Foxboroblog.com. Our answers to his questions are posted here.
1. The Patriots have the #32 defense in the NFL. And the Pats are also last in pass defense. How are you going to win a Super Bowl w/o defense?
I think the Patriots can win a Super Bowl with the defense they have, but they will need Tom Brady to score 24+ points per game in order to do that. The defense in between the 20's has not been great at all, but once a team gets in the red zone, the Patriots continue to bend but not break. For example, three weeks ago against the Dallas Cowboys, the Patriots' D continued to hold Romo into field goals and kept the offense in the game. Plus, they still have an ability to force turnovers. The run defense has done a good job all year in containing some good backs in Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, Ryan Mathews, so they at least make you have to win with the pass. Last year, the defense improved in December so I still hold out hope they can improve. They can't be worse, can they? It is not about what you do now, but what you do in December. They have time to improve while Brady and the offense put up points.
2. We saw last week how the Steelers went to a spread offense and passed the ball seemingly every play w/o an answer from the Patriots. How would you gameplan on offense vs the Patriots defense?
In order for the Giants to win this game, if I was Kevin Gilbride, I would allow Eli Manning to throw the ball over and over again. New England does get some rush with Wilfork and Andre Carter, but not enough to be a threat play after play. You do have to mix some run in with Bradshaw, but the Giants just have to spread the Patriots out as you said and continue to look at the middle of the field. The Patriots are weak in the secondary and this is where I fear a guy like Victor Cruz can make an impact in this game even if Hakeem Nicks does not play because they have the ability to stretch the field with their vertical ability. I would not rule out Mario Manningham making an impact as well. It is not the best receiving corps with New York, but if Nicks plays, at least they have a game changer.
3. The Patriots had no answer vs Heath Miller. Do the Pats have a Safety or LBer who can cover the TE?
This is not a problem that the Patriots will have to deal with this week because although you have Jake Ballard who has talent, he is no Kevin Boss. I would be more concerned if Boss was playing because Heath Miller is not your normal tight end. He is a better pass catcher than run blocker. If the Patriots run into that problem in the future, I look for guys like Rob Ninkovich and Dane Fletcher to jam those guys at the line of scrimmage. They said postgame that not jamming Miller hurt them on those 3rd down plays for the opening drive and Brandon Tate was not exactly a player that other.
4. Man/press coverage made it harder on Brady. What does your offense do without a blazer at WR who can go over the top vs the press?
This problem has been an issue for the Patriots ever since that Jet playoff loss in January where Revis and Cromartie were jamming the wide receivers and Brandon Tate was not exactly a guy that other teams were worried about downfield. Lately, people have been asking the Patriots to bring Randy Moss back. I liked Moss in 2007, but he quit the last couple of seasons with Brady and Cassel. He didn't buy into the team concept and when you don't do that here like we saw with Leigh Bodden, you are gone! We thought that Chad Ochocinco would be that guy which is why I wanted him in Foxboro back in January, but he has not been a factor. I look for Taylor Price, their 2nd year WR out of Ohio to make an impact downfield eventually, but as long as Brady has the tight ends, they will be fine in scoring points over the middle of the field.
5. Mayo is reasonable, but Chung (overrated), Meriweather (cut), McCourty (decent) are mediocre. Why have your drafts on defense in the last 4 years have been so bad?
The team misses Scott Pioli and Thomas Dimitryoff. It is just that simple. Bill Belichick is a great coach in terms of in-game strategy and putting together a game plan, but his talent evaluation skills just do not live up to that reputation since those two players have left. He still tries to plug players in and make it work, but that has not worked the last two seasons on the defensive side of the football. Hopefully, the Patriots will start using their picks instead of trading down to keep looking for value. They have 2 first round picks again next year, so we will see if BB can draft that impact pass rusher that can change a game for the Pats defensively.
6. Albert Hayneworth hardly plays, the defense changed to a 4-3 scheme because of him, and Ocho Cinco has caught ~9 passes the entire year... what happened to this free agency?
The free agency signings have not been great but they did not give up that much in order to get the guys, so it will not hurt them in the long term. I think Chad will eventually make an impact, but it has not been a great start for him because we hardly ever see him on the field anymore. As for Haynesworth, he still gets double teamed by opposing defenses, but is not the pass rusher they wanted at defensive tackle. However, it has not been a total bust because of Andre Carter. Carter is the only Patriot who can sack the quarterback it seems like and brings a veteran presence to a young team.
7. Prediction for this game? For this season?
BB not only stands for Bill Belichick, but it stands for bounce back! The Patriots never seem to lose two games in a row and it will hold true Sunday. Eli Manning will have success in terms of yards, but he is due for some turnovers. Give him credit, he has played like an elite quarterback this season, but he is not a guy that can go a long span of time without a turnover. They are banged up with Bradshaw and Nicks, but I see Cruz hurting the Patriots' secondary. However, if the Giants can't get after Brady, Tom will exploit that secondary that is not much better. Patriots are going to win this game and go to play the other New York team 6-2. Pierre-Paul gets some sacks in this game, but on 3rd and medium, Brady will hit Gronk and Hernandez for 1st downs and keep drives alive. PATRIOTS 27 GIANTS 17
We did a Q&A Exchange with Ricky Keeler of Foxboroblog.com. Our answers to his questions are posted here.
Wonder roots for the Giants. He roots for the Jets even more. And if you add up those two, it is probably equal to his hate for the Patriots. Yes, Wonder loathes the Pats the way we cannot stand teams like the Eagles and the Cowboys. So Wonder knows the Patriots inside out- I cannot imagine anyone better to give us a preview of what the Giants need to do to win on Sunday.
Here is a list of the things Wonder wants to see:
1. Eli no huddle.
2. Spread offense.
3. Webster on Welker.
4. Ballard could have a huge game.
5. Ross on Ocho Cinco.
6. Utilize Andy's favorite play against the Pats, the screen pass.
7. PRESS COVERAGE. ALL DAY. ALL NIGHT.
8. Practice the DIME 4-1-6 all week long. Heck, go 5-0-6.
9. Rolle on Gronkowski. Who covers Hernandez???> ?> Phillips?
10. Don't need to run the ball much, get RB touches with use of draws, dumpoffs, and screens.
11. No run-stuffers on DL, just pass rushers: Tuck, Osi, Kiwi, JPP, and Canty.
12. Cruz in the slot, assuming Nicks healthy.
Wonder on the NYG offense- Mayo and Spikes cannot cover, so you spread'em out. Line up Ballard wide, who is going to cover him? Put Bradshaw in the slot. Eli is made to beat the Patriots. Do not want to see the Giants run the ball much. Need to score lots of points. Must continue to attack them through the air. The screen pass is MADE to beat this weak NE defense that has weak LBers in coverage. "Gilbride should be fired on Monday if he does not throw at 6-8 screens."
Wonder on the NYG defense- TEE OFF ON BRADY. Practice the dime all week long and do not worry about them running on you. Ryan Clark said the Steelers used the most press coverage in the last 6 years this past Sunday vs the Patriots- keep doing that. Pass rush, press coverage, dime coverage. Take Brady's head off. Phil Simms said this vs the Steelers and he was right: don't worry about the run. And btw, if NE beats you on a 70 yd TD pass, do not worry, it is allowed to happen. What you do not want is for them to control the clock and move the chains with their pass all day. That means sure tackling and no YAC. Brady is a rhythm QB, so you must throw off his timing. If you give him a soft Tampa 2 zone, he will rip you apart. "If Fewell gives him that piece of cr*p T2 zone, he should be fired on Monday morning."
For Wonder's $, +9 points is too many, the Giants should score 24 (if not more) and you take the +9 points. "The Giants have a shot at winning this game if they play their cards right and don't turnover the ball."
UltimateNYG here. The reason why we penciled this game in as the start of the real regular season is that we all understood that Brady and Belichick were going to bring the Giants a game. What we did not know is that the Patriots would be DEAD LAST (#32) in team defense, allowing 424 yds/game. So that makes this game not only an opportunity for the Giants, it makes it the kind of game that can propel the team into the playoffs. THIS GAME IS WINNABLE. If the Patriots defense was mediocre, I would not be thinking this way. It is a very soft defense, so all the Giants need to do is execute well on offense and do more than a few things on defense to slow down Brady just a little bit. Gilbride MUST take responsibility for the game. If he attacks on every possession and assumes that it is his game to win, the Giants can win this game. If he plays footsie, the offense comes out tentative and lacking urgency, the team will lose critical minutes that it simply does not have. 60 minutes. We have been talking about that all season. Well, this is the time to deliver. You can get away w less than 60 minutes like the Giants did vs Arizona and Miami. But that will not wash here.
The Giants have a habit of playing up and down to the level of their opposition. We are hoping it will be a good thing this Sunday, because we think the Giants will be ready, focused and determined vs a good team. Before you get too worked up about an upset, let's just keep our feet on the ground and remember that the Pats are a very good team at home (3-0). They are coming off a loss, and that means Belichick will be at his best. When the Patriots have the ball, you know that Brady is going to have success, so it is a matter of limiting it to manageable points. Fewell's defense is clearly weaker than Gilbride's offense in all areas except the pass rush. If the Giants lose this game, it will most likely be because Fewell could not gameplan and scheme properly. (The other reason will be because of offensive turnovers, but Eli should not have that problem here.) There are no excuses at Week 9. Suit up and play!
Will the lack of a running game and a porous rush defense come back to haunt the Giants? Yes, Halloween is over. It is November. Especially in these two areas, the Giants are not scaring anybody. On the other hand, the NFL is a passing league. Giants quarterback Eli Manning is playing extremely well. The Giants four headed monster pass rush, or as CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf coined it, the Kraken (a reference from Clash of the Titans) without question, is the best in the league. The Giants lead the league with TWENTY SIX sacks. Can the Giants ride Eli's superb play and this dynamite pass rush to Indianapolis? The next five games will give us more than a clue. But is this ongoing problem with the rushing attack and rush defense something to be concerned about? On the surface, it does not seem to be a problem. The Giants have a 5-2 record and sit atop the NFC East. So it cannot be too much of a problem. Right.
Last season, the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers were ranked 24th in the league in rushing. And 18th in the league against the rush. So we can deduce, this old axiom of running the ball and stopping the run is a fallacy. Additionally, Tom Coughlin's mantra of balance on offense must be a myth.
Wait just a minute.
According to an article written by Wayne Larrivee , voice of the Green Bay Packers, the Pack made adjustments in their final seven games and in the playoffs. In order to complement the Packers potent passing attack, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy made a commitment to run the football. His strategy paid off. In their final seven games, the Packers averaged 108 yards on the ground. They continued to run the ball effectively in the playoffs. As for the defensive side of the ball, in the playoffs, the Packers run defense was stingy. The Eagles gained just 82 yards, the Falcons an anemic 45 yards, and the Bears 83 yards. In conclusion, Larrivee believes in order to win a Super Bowl championship, a team must be able to run the ball and stop the run.
Can the Giants follow the Packers lead? Sure. Certainly, they could figure things out. But in the meantime, the Giants are really struggling in both areas. Currently, the Giants are ranked 30th in rushing. They are averaging 85.6 yards on the ground. This is confounding because the Giants identity has always been characterized by a power running attack. Indeed, there have been changes made to their offensive line. With a compressed offseason, this new line would need time to adjust to one another. However, the Giants are at the half way point. By this time, they should have worked out any kinks. But this is far from the case. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw has one 100 yard game. On the defensive side of the ball, the Giants are not much better. They are ranked 28th against the rush allowing an average of 130.1 yards per game. So what gives? Despite these putrid numbers, the Giants have a 5-2 record and sit atop the NFC East. The rest of the pack in the division have 3-4 records. What has been the difference? Last year, the Giants were a turnover machine. The magnanimous Giants gave the ball away 42 times. Oh by the way, this led the league. Conversely, this year has been a completely different story. The Giants are 6th in the league in the important takeaway/giveaway ratio. They are a PLUS 5. In their last two wins (which were close games decided by three points), the Giants did not turn the ball over. This interesting statistic from the New York Times tells the story about Coughlin's Giants and turnovers. There is generally a correlation between winning the turnover margin and winning the game. Since 2004, when Coughlin became coach, the Giants are 13-30 in regular-season games in which they commit more turnovers than they force and 41-8 when they force more than they commit. They are 13-10 when the numbers are equal.
If the Giants can sustain and or improve their turnover ratio, Eli can continue his outstanding play, the Kraken can continue to churn out sacks (/strip turnovers) and the Giants can contend for a playoff berth. But beginning with this game against New England, the Giants must improve their rushing attack and rush defense. Otherwise, the GOOD teams will be able to exploit the Giants. Yes. Bill Belichick's Patriots have an atrocious pass defense. However, what Belichick does better than any coach in this league is game plan. Look for him to run the ball against the Giants defense. Recall a few weeks ago, Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a huge game against the Jets gaining 136 yards on the ground. Attack this Giants defense and be relentless. Because Phil Simms pointed out, the Giants unravel when things are going south. “The thing that bothers me about the Giants, they don’t handle adversity well. As soon as something goes bad, it stays bad for a long time. A lot of times that’s talent. Talented guys can turn it around. But it could be the mentality too. Professional football, 80% of it is adversity. Something is always going wrong in the game (of football). The Giants have to correct that. You do that a lot of ways. Of course you do it with leadership, with players making plays, coaches designing things to get the football team out of that situation and get them rolling again. When the Giants roll, that DL, the WRs, Eli Manning, when they are hot, they are as good as there is in the NFL.”
Let us hope the Giants stay hot and begin to gradually improve upon their weaknesses (run game and run defense). Sunday's game will be their first test.
It is nice to get paid for playing 60 minutes, show up for only ~40 of them, still win and collect that game check. As one commenter noted this past week, it is nice to have two bye weeks in a row.
The Giants did not play a bad game today. This was not the sloppiness of earlier games this season. We will not crucify the Giants for "sleepwalking thru the first half," to borrow a quote from Paul Dottino. What we will say is that the Giants are not a good enough football team to mail it in vs the rest of their schedule, and we certainly hope they do not have any belief they can do that.
The Dolphins are not a good football team. No, they are not as bad as 0-7 would indicate either. But they let the Giants take control of the game in Q4 by going passive when they had tempo. So the Giants burned a weaker team and took what they felt they were entitled to- a win.
1. Eli Manning. He feasted off the Dolphins pass defense and went 31/45 for 349 yds, 2 TDs and 0 INTs. Yes, he actually carried the Giants today when the running game was non-existant. He was accurate, he found a plethora of WRs and did all the things an "elite" qb does to help his team to victory.
2. Victor Cruz continues to shine. He leads the NFL in pass receptions in Q4 (before Welker's game vs Pitt). He has a nose for the end zone, shedding tacklers en route a sweet TD that sealed the win. The accolades for this WR are going to continue in years to come, assuming he stays healthy. He did this from the slot, another good sign too.
3. 5 sacks. When the Giants defense is in passing situations, they can pin their ears back and get after the QB. Osi's sack sealed it, but Kiwi (1.5), Joseph, JPP and Tuck all had their hand in it.
4. Corey Webster. Fewell is letting CWeb go in lockdown mode 1:1 the way Spags did it in '07 and '08, so is it a surprise that Brandon Marshall is not running wild all over the field?! Of course not.
5. Bradshaw is scrappy. His stats won't show it, but he got back in the game and assisted the team in subtle but critical ways in that last TD drive. He had a key blitz pickup in the latter part of Q2 also when the team was down and needed some rhythm. That blitz pickup gave Manning the time to find Cruz on 3rd and 9, moving the chains instead of being a 3 and out. 10 plays later the Giants can go into the half down by 4.
6. Ballard. What more can you say about this UFA TE?! Another 4 catches.
7. Manningham. He looked like he was on the same page with Eli for the first time in a while. We need him, especially when the rushing attack is so anemic.
1. There is no running game. 61 yards on 19 attempts?! Woof. The OL is not pushing off the line of scrimmage and the holes are not big enough, so they close that much faster.
2. Brandon Jacobs is tiptoeing again. It is that same tentativeness we saw last year when he was playing hurt. Well, he just came back from injury, but if this is what he has, then he better either heal up before he comes back or get more medical attention, because he looks worse than harmless out there. Those cries this week for more touches have to be backed up with aggressiveness on the field, not drops on screen passes and meekness at the line of scrimmage.
3. That 3 man rush. On 3rd and 9, it allows for Moore to get too much time and then a scramble for a 1st down. All of which led to a TD 6 plays later.
4. The Osi gap. Bush ran thru the hole off Left Tackle a few times. And the tackling of Bush in the secondary was shoddy.
1. The Giants did not play a full game. The Gmen took 54 minutes to take the lead. The Dolphins believed they could win and you must match that intensity every week. The Giants did not play 'badly' early on, but they did not play with emotion and intensity to match a Dolphins team that was ready. The Dolphins offense got conservative in Q4. Even though you can credit the Giants defense with not allowing a 1st down in Q4, you also have to recognize that the better teams will attack in Q4 and not make it so easily scripted. Sparano's team has dropped 3 games in Q4: CLE, DEN and NYG.
Summary- The Giants got their business done. Barely. A win is a win in the NFL. The 2011 season begins next weekend in Foxboro.