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A look back at the Giants' blowout loss to the Packers


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I know the popular game being played in the fallout from Sunday’s 41-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers is “Blame the Coach.” And I know the most popular coach in the game is always the one not in the game right now. I get all that.


But I’m reluctant to blast the Giants’ coaches to the extreme for the loss to the Packers and start pounding the Bill Cowher drum because a lot of players that are supposed to know better made crucial mistakes they’ve been schooled on not making for years now:


1. Safeties Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant along with cornerback Corey Webster should know how to play a Cover-2 man defense by now. (See below.)


2. Ahmad Bradshaw should realize he needs to protect the football. After all, hat’s why he was benched.


3. Eli Manning knows not to throw recklessly into coverage.


4. Kevin Boss recognized too late he should have just pounced on a fumble.


5. Hakeem Nicks can’t push off.


6. The coaching staff grabbed the momentum of this game. The players gave it back.


What I mean on that last point is the Giants’ offensive coaches are often very good about making the initial adjustments in a game. In fact, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride is among the best at figuring out quickly what opposing defenses have game planned. Gilbride said earlier this season, when asked about the offense’s slow starts, sometimes the first bunch of plays are just to see what kind of looks he’s getting. And he wasn’t just trying to put some spin on a bad situation. He was telling the truth. That information is crucial to his adjustments and he makes them better than anyone.


Plus, Tom Coughlin often does a good job of getting his players to shake off rusty starts and believe they’ll make a comeback. I could even see him on the sideline encouraging the players when it was 14-0.


Bottom line: this game was turning in the Giants’ favor. Why? Because the coaches were helping take control of it. You could see the way their plan and adjustment was falling into place. That's what good in-game coaching looks like.


But what stopped that momentum? Dumb mistakes by players who know better.


I’ve heard from fans saying all these undisciplined mistakes are on Coughlin. How? What more could he do to let Bradshaw realize he has to stop fumbling? He demoted him, for crying out loud. And how many times does he have to remind Manning, Jacobs and everyone else to be smart with the ball? These guys know better.


In this league, it’s about putting together a winning team and then getting some breaks to go your way in December and January. Each season with the Giants since 2005 (his first year with the team went up in smoke because of Manning’s rookie year), Coughlin has put together a winner with a chance to make a run. That’s a rarity in the NFL and it’s something that puts this team in position to make a run at a Super Bowl come the start of each December. Sure, it’s happened only once, but don’t forget only one team gets to win a championship every season.


Coughlin deserves his share of the blame (and he’ll get his gasser below), but when I went over the game in my head late Sunday night, I thought to myself, “Would that team have had a better chance to win on Sunday if Cowher was the coach?” Honestly, the way they were making mistakes to take the game out of the coaches’ hands, the answer was no.


One other thought: is this situation as bad as '06, when the Giants decided to keep Coughlin? I understand there's been disappointments since then, but don't forget one of them was when Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg. That team was going places before that fateful moment.


Now, all that being said, I reserve the right to change my mind based on how this team plays on Sunday against the Redskins. You'd have to think the front office is looking for signs of life from a team that believes in Coughlin. He might very well be coaching for his job this weekend.


* * * *


Monday, as I'm sure you all understand, was a travel nightmare, so this review was put together in fits and starts and late into Monday evening/this morning. I also ran out of time so I just gave a quick, quick, quick glance at the final 10 minutes of the game.


If I forgot something or somebody, just let me know down below and I’ll adjust accordingly. This was some rough trip getting back home, but I know you like reading these reviews as much as I love doing them, so I gave it my best shot.


* * * *




Packers LB Clay Matthews. He’s rushing the passer, he’s chasing down a run to the opposite side of the field, he’s coming from behind RB Brandon Jacobs to knock the ball loose for a key fumble, he’s in coverage, he’s taking on lead blocks, he’s fighting off a blocker in a flash to make a stop for a loss and he’s nearly chasing down Nicks on his 36-yard TD. In other words, he’s everywhere because he hustles. And that’s a bit rarer than it should be in this league.


Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. It’s really not fair for a defense when he can throw the ball like he does and then has very good scrambling ability. Early in the game, on a second-and-10 from the Giants’ 21-yard line, as soon as he recognized a Cover-2 man look, he tucked the ball and ran. In Cover-2 man, the DBs have their back to the quarterback, so it makes it very tough for them to defend the scramble. That was the case on that play, as Rodgers ran 15 yards for a first down. Three plays later, he threw his second TD pass of the day. He was also a dual threat with his feet and arm, as evidenced by S Kenny Phillips’ freezing on an 11-yard scramble by Rodgers in the fourth quarter. Phillips was afraid to go after Rodgers and risk leaving a receiver open, even though there wasn’t one in the area. Rodgers’ numbers on a day when he really started to put himself in the conversation about elite NFL quarterbacks: 25-for-37 for 404 yards and 4 TDs. (And those numbers would have been even better if not for three drops by his receivers.)


Packers WRs Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and James Jones. Look, the Giants’ secondary did not play a very good game. But these guys were outstanding. Case in point: the 33- and 36-yard catches by Driver and Jennings, respectively, on the Packers fourth touchdown drive. Webster and Terrell Thomas couldn’t have possibly covered those routes any better in 1-on-1 matchups. (And the Driver catch was made possible by Grant cheating toward Nelson in the slot -- which you couldn't blame him for doing after Nelson's 80-yard touchdown in the first quarter.) I mean, Webster was even holding Jennings’ hand right before he made the diving catch. They were just tremendous routes, throws and catches. That drive, to me, was the killer and one that broke the Giants’ spirit more than any of the six turnovers or other plays by the Packers’ offense.


Pack DT B.J. Raji. He’s how you create pressure with only a three-man rush. The Washington Twp. native gave C Shaun O’Hara fits Sunday.


Packers RB Brandon Jackson and the other RBs on blitz pickups. The Giants clearly wanted to use LB Michael Boley to attack Rodgers Sunday. A few times it worked. But there were times where Boley didn’t get home and it hurt the defense badly. One of those times was a first-and-10 from the Packers’ 10 after the Giants’ first touchdown. Boley was picked up by FB Quinn Johnson. He looked like he wanted to juke Johnson but got stuck in the mud while Rodgers hit Jennings for a quick slant and 16 yards underneath Webster, who was in off coverage. Watching that play again, perhaps Boley would have been better served to give Johnson a bull rush and knock him into Rodgers. A few plays later, Boley got stood up by Jackson, giving Rodgers time to throw a back-shoulder pass to Jones that should have been caught for 20+ yards. Jackson, in particular, was outstanding with his blitz pickups on Sunday.


Green Bay CB Charles Woodson. He had a brutal first half, including a pair of plays on which he had trouble keeping his footing on a slick field. But he came back strong in the second half and his strip on Bradshaw was obviously enormous.


Packers FB John Kuhn. There's a reason he's a fan favorite: he's a hard-nosed player they love up there. Though I could do without the "Kuuuuuuuuhn" chant after his recovery of Rodgers' fumble on a third down.


Green Bay CB Tramon Williams, LB A.J. Hawk, CB Sam Shields and S Nick Collins. They combined to give Manning his first four-interception game since the loss to the Vikings in 2007.


DE Justin Tuck. He deserved a better outcome.


WR Mario Manningham. Should have been a game-breaking 85-yard touchdown. It wasn’t.


* * * *




Coughlin. As promised.


Rolle. He has to do a better job on Nelson's touchdown (and give him credit for taking the blame), Grant has to do a better job playing the deep half and Webster has to do a better job on the outside slowing down the release of that receiver or forcing him to the inside to cut down the real estate Grant has to cover on that play.


Grant. He said after the game Nelson wasn’t his guy. Well, sure, but that’s his deep half. As a “safety,” he has to make sure the Giants are safe from home run balls on his side.


Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. Fewell had his corners play a lot of off coverage in Cover-3 looks. That didn’t work out so well. In fact, when asked on Twitter at the half what the Giants should do defensively in the second half, I said they should have started giving Webster more help up top so he could be more aggressive. I just didn’t like the coverage calls Sunday against receivers who were getting vertical much too easily. And there were a few times (first-and-10 from the Packers’ 37 with 3:48 left in the second quarter) when the Packers’ play-action fakes froze the defenders who were supposed to provide coverage help underneath. (In the case of the play I just mentioned, it was Grant who was unable to get underneath a hook that turned out to be a 26-yard gain.)


Webster and Thomas. All that being said about the coverage calls, you’ve got to cover guys when you’re matched up with them.


Manning. I kept watching the first of his fourth-quarter interceptions over and over, trying to figure out what the Packers did on that play. It looks like they ran some kind of zone coverage they disguised very well because Manning obviously thought Shields was going to sit on the out route by Manningham. But Shields was intent on bailing on that one and undercutting WR Derek Hagan’s sail route while passing Manningham off to Woodson. That’s what he did and that’s why Manning threw a soft pass underneath Hagan there. Manning also had a bad interception in the first quarter when he looked for Nicks on a deep square in that never materialized. Nicks said Manning told him he just tried to get rid of the ball early. What he should have done was dump it over the middle to a wide-open Bradshaw, who had plenty of room to run for the first down. Bad decision and bad game for Manning in a big spot.


Nicks. He and Manning were way out of sync Sunday and you got the impression it was Nicks who was making the wrong reads on a few plays. Also, as Troy Aikman noted, there was no need for him to push off on Williams in the fourth quarter. Nicks could have come back to the ball without the shove. So instead of first-and-10 at the Packers’ 27, it was second-and-18 at the Giants’ 30, and Manning threw a pick that led to the touchdown that put this game away.


Boss. Fall on the ball.


O’Hara. Speaking of plays that could have negated Manning’s interception, if he had snapped the ball while Packers DE Erik Walden was in the neutral zone, it’s offside on the Packers. That’s a tough one for O’Hara to see, so ordinarily we’d cut him slack. But he had a very tough time with Raji on Sunday. He just doesn’t look like himself and the foot must still be an issue. You wonder if desperate times will call for the Giants to move Rich Seubert back to center this weekend.


Bradshaw and Jacobs. I’m starting to wonder if we’re going to see some drastic moves made to the Giants’ backfield before the start of next season.


* * * *




Usually, what we see in the press box is what the coaches are getting in their box. And I can tell you the TV feed was delayed for us. That means the Giants didn’t have much time to decide whether to challenge the Jacobs fumble. They probably only got a quick look then had to take a chance a player’s foot was out before or while touching the ball. I can’t kill Coughlin for throwing the flag there because there was a lot of action near the sideline. It’s worth a chance in that spot.


Speaking of that play, I couldn’t believe the ball didn’t go out of bounds or that a foot didn’t touch the sideline. The last time I saw a play like that where the ball and all feet somehow stayed in bounds was, ironically, the Packers’ loss to the Bears in Week 3. Bears LB Brian Urlacher forced a fumble Chicago recovered to set up the game-winning field goal. Again, how about the irony it went the other way for Green Bay this time?


Thomas’ personal-foul was absolutely inexcusable. He was trying to tell the official Driver had a piece of his face mask, but there are better ways to respond than to whack your opponent in the head. Also, there might have been coincidental penalties if DT Linval Joseph hadn’t stopped Driver from getting to Thomas. He appeared ready to retaliate. Perhaps that drive, which gave the Pack the lead for good, would have ended differently if Driver had gotten flagged as well.


* * * *




I suppose it’s extremely fitting P Matt Dodge’s first punt landed out of bounds.


I just had a feeling the Packers’ offensive game plan was sharp after a second-and-11 on their third drive. The Giants were in their dime defense and showing an “amoeba” front in which they have a few standing blitzers. They dropped out of it and the Pack ran a screen pass. It was the perfect call at the time and picked up 10 yards to set up a third-and-1 Green Bay converted on its way to a touchdown.


You know by now I love the Fox broadcasts and instances like this are why: the replay of the second-and-8 with 5:40 left in the second quarter gave you a perfect look at what Rodgers saw on that play. I’m sure his eyes widened when he saw Driver running clear toward the left side of the end zone while Phillips pitter-pattered. But DE Osi Umenyiora saved a TD when he got in Rodgers’ face and forced him to move. Good play by Umenyiora, great play by Fox.


Rolle is very difficult to block in space – and apparently not just for plodding linemen. What a job Rolle did to avoid Driver’s block attempt on the quick throw on third-and-8 with 5:33 left in the second quarter. He, CB Aaron Ross and Boley combined to take down Nelson and force a fumble. Props to Boley for getting there after coming on a blitz. He might have been the one who knocked the ball loose, even though Rolle was credited with the forced fumble.


O’Hara said the Packers wanted to make sure the Giants threw the ball much of the game. O’Hara said the Giants checked out of a running play on Manningham’s 85-yard touchdown because they saw a “diamond” look from the Green Bay front, which means their center and guards were both covered. It’s very difficult to run against that look. You wonder if Green Bay would have tried such an approach if WR Steve Smith was still healthy and in the lineup.


Speaking of Manningham’s TD, that was a prime example of Manning taking advantage of the Packers’ showing Nicks respect and rolling bracket coverage his way. That left Manningham 1-on-1 with Williams, who played that one poorly.


We’ve talked at length about Bradshaw’s role on third-and-short and how the Giants often go to that well. The Packers were ready for it on the direct snap early in the third quarter. You could see the Packers’ defense signaling to each other before the play and all of them pursued to the side of the bunch formation immediately at the snap. They knew what was coming there. Credit to Woodson, obviously, for the forced fumble on that play, but also props to Hawk, who nudged Bradshaw as he tried to recover, thus allowing S Atari Bigby to recover. Williams made a similar play to knock Boss off the ball as he was trying to recover Jacobs’ fumble.


The Giants did use Bradshaw as a decoy on the following series for a fake screen that set up a 27-yard pass to Nicks, who was matched up with Hawk because Bradshaw went in motion. The Giants were successful with a similar fake screen against the Jaguars.


Though it was a bit tough to hear on the broadcast, I can tell you K Lawrence Tynes got a handful of boos from the Lambeau crowd when he trotted out for his 38-yard field goal. Those are well-earned boos for him after his game-winner in the NFC Championship a few years ago. Speaking of that game, though they won't say it, you'd have to believe a lot of Packers are pleased they exacted some revenge, especially if they wind up getting in the postseason while the Giants don't.


I put an asterisk next to Bradshaw’s 12-yard screen pass on a third-and-9 late in the third quarter. I thought that was going to be a turning point. And perhaps it would have been if Jacobs didn’t fumble.


If you get a chance, watch LT David Diehl’s reaction to Jacobs’ fumble when he realizes Green Bay’s recovered. (Or just see the photo to the right.) He puts both of his hands on his head. I’d imagine plenty of you did the same exact thing.


And the final word on the Jacobs fumble: if he doesn’t nudge Collins as he tries to recover the ball, Collins would have touched it while out of bounds and it would have been Giants ball. No way you fault Jacobs at all for that, of course; just saying the play could have ended differently.


These kinds of plays don’t matter much when you get hammered like the Giants did, but LB Jonathan Goff made an outstanding play on the Packers’ fifth offensive play when he took on TE Andrew Quarless and made the stop on Jackson all in one motion. Gorgeous play.


And finally, for those who believe the Giants are the only team that suffers injuries, that was a Packers team that has 15 players on IR, including seven starters. Injuries just aren’t an excuse. Sorry.



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Great analysis.


I said it before in a prior thread: Bradshaw and Jacobs don't have a divine right to the starting job at running back. Neither one of them can be trusted with the ball. So, get a new, fresh running back, preferably from the SEC, and send a fucking message already.....there should be plenty of opportunities in the 2nd/3rd/4th rounds.

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O’Hara. Speaking of plays that could have negated Manning’s interception, if he had snapped the ball while Packers DE Erik Walden was in the neutral zone, it’s offside on the Packers. That’s a tough one for O’Hara to see, so ordinarily we’d cut him slack. But he had a very tough time with Raji on Sunday. He just doesn’t look like himself and the foot must still be an issue. You wonder if desperate times will call for the Giants to move Rich Seubert back to center this weekend.




For some reason, being a starter means you play even when you are not 100%.


Reminds me of when Tuck played after getting injured by Flozell Adams....he clearly was not himself

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