Wow………..how in God’s name did that football game yesterday turn into what it did. As bad as Eli Manning looked in the first half, was as excellent he played in the second half. Manning threw three interceptions in the first half, two of them were on bad throws, the third being a good play by cornerback Eric Wright.
With the score 17-13, New York was driving the ball before the end of the half. Eli read a blitz from corner Eric Wright. Both Cruz and Manning read it and went hot route, unfortunately Wright knew exactly what was coming and came up short on his blitz and picked off the ball by Manning and made a great return for a touchdown. Fortunately the Giants regrouped in second half and rolled offensively.
The Extraordinary: As spoken above, Eli Manning’s second half was absolutely fantastic. He connected on huge pass plays to Victor Cruz, one for an 80 yard touchdown, and to Hakeem Nicks for a 50 yard play. Manning also kept the ball out of harms way in the second half, never allowing the Bucs to grab another interception. Manning finished the game 31 for 51 including 510 yards passing, a career high for himself and the second highest in New York’s history behind Phil Simms’ 513 yards.
Both Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz dominated the game Sunday. Nicks picked on corner Aqib Talib all day, even with a bad foot and being held by Talib on most of his receptions. Cruz had a comeback game from his poor performance against Dallas in the Giants home opener. He absolutely torched the Tampa Bay secondary on a third and two in the fourth quarter and Eli delivered a perfect ball for an 80 yard touchdown catch. Cruz salsa’d in the endzone in honor of his grandmother’s passing last week. Victor Cruz also remains the most elusive wide receiver after the catch making a myriad of defenders whiff on tackles.
The Giants offensive line played tremendous in this game. Manning dropped back a staggering 51 times and was sacked on none of those opportunities. Not only was Eli not sacked, but was rarely even pressured by the Tampa defense. This was also done with a makeshift offensive line, because of David Diehl’s MCL injury early in the game. With Diehl out the Giants moved Sean Locklear from left tackle to right, and inserted Will Beatty into the starting lineup at left tackle. Beatty was projected to be a starter, but had been hampered by injuries thus far.
Another positive from the offensive line was that they opened up holes for running back Andre Brown. Brown got into the game with Ahmad Bradshaw’s neck injury. Brown ran hard, but also north and south. It helped that the New York O-line got a hat on a hat and provided some adequate blocking as well. However, it would not be shocking if Brown received more playing time, if not starts with that performance yesterday.
The Perplexing: Now it is only week two, but it is starting to become worrisome that the Giants defensive line has still not developed much of a pass rush on a quarterback. The Tampa offensive line is much improved with the addition of guard Carl Nicks, who flattened Justin Tuck a couple of times, but with tackle Jeremy Trueblood inactive you figured the Giants were going to cause some havoc in the backfield. Not so. By no means am I giving up on the defensive line yet, but the New York defense is predicated on being able to just send a four man rush, dropping the remaining defenders into pass coverage. And do not forget that the Giants secondary stinks.
The Encouraging: Despite the secondary playing bad as a whole (Corey Webster, I am officially done with you, until you do something that proves to me you are still alive out there), Jayron Hosley appeared to play exceptionally well. I have not gotten the opportunity to watch the coach’s film of the game, but from what I could tell, the third round draft pick locked down whoever he matched up against yesterday. It may have seemed that way because Freeman picked on the rest of pathetic secondary, but it sure appeared that he was doing a great job. I will update this tomorrow with the correct answer on his play.
The rush defense of the Giants was much improved this week. New York was able to shut down talented rookie Doug Martin and prevented the Buccaneers offense from developing any rhythm in the running game. A big reason for this was that the tackling was much improved. Demarco Murray was able to break way too many tackles last week, which led to big gains that could have been prevented. One thing that must be said, is that despite giving up a lot of points the New York defense never gave up. They could have folded after that despicable first half by Manning, but they held in there and allowed the Giants offense to get into the game.
The most encouraging aspect of the team that I saw, was that the Giants created a running game. And it was not with David Wilson or Ahmad Bradshaw, but former draft pick Andre Brown. When Bradshaw hurt his neck, Brown came into the game and ran with authority from start to finish. When Brown got the ball he wasted no time in turning up field and running through the hole. Not to discredit Bradshaw, who has been a good Giant, but I would let him get some rest on Thursday with his neck problems and give Brown another opportunity to see what he can do against the Carolina defense.
This Thursday the Giants travel to Carolina to face the upstart Panthers. Cam Newton played terrifically on Sunday, and poses a dual threat for the New York defense. The Giants have history of struggling against mobile quarterbacks, e.g. Vince Young, Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick….Hopefully the Giants can get healed up enough to provide a competent starting lineup Thursday. That news will come out in the coming days.