This past Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals looked like the team that pushed Pittsburgh to the brink in the Super Bowl, while beating the Giants 24-17. This game was won in two places, the so-called trenches and on the sidelines.
The Giants offense looked ill-prepared to move the ball against a Cardinal defense that came into the game ranked near the bottom of the league against the pass. It was clear to me, though I am only a fan and not a coach, that the gameplan was to attack the secondary.
During the first quarter, Eli Manning was 5-10 with one interception. The interception was one that should not have happenned. Both Domenik Hixon and Dominique Rodgers Cromartie went up for the ball in the endzone, but Cromartie wrestled it away from Hixon. Touchback Cardinals. This set the tone for the rest of the game.
The Cardinals defense consistently challenged the Giants receivers, hitting them hard and fighitng them for the ball. This was evident on the last play of the game where Steve Smith lost a sure reception, on a poorly thrown ball, resulting in an interception which ended the game.
The Giants offensive line was missing Kareem McKenzie, and the Cardinals blitzed in a variety of different ways. Mostly, they ran overload blitzes which disrupted the timing of the pass coverage. Further, Eli tried to counter the blitzes by changing plays and line calls at the line of scrimmage. This caused delay of game penalties and false starts which have not been seen much from the Giants offense.
This lack of continuity was evident in the offensive statistics. Steve Smith was thrown to 10 times with only 4 receptions. Eli missed him on a play in the third quarter which would have resulted in a long TD pass. Eli misfired due to the strong rush by the Cardinals.
The running game showed some signs of life, with Brandon Jacobs averaging almost six yards per carry, on 13 carries. Only 13 carries for Brandon Jacobs is not a formula for winning, especially when he looked like he was being successful early in the game.
Clearly the formula for this Giants team needs to go back to running the ball to establish a tempo, especially when there is no tempo in the passing game. Ahmad Bradshaw was ineffective, losing a fumble and then costing the Giants on their final drive with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
The one bright spot was the play of Hakeem Nicks, who once again scored a long touchdown on a tipped pass to Steve Smith. Nicks continues to make his presence felt in the passing game and will be a factor as the season unfolds.
This week the Giants will be facing division rivals, the Phialdelphia Eagles. In a continuation of the NY vs Philly battle this fall, it promises to be a very exciting and hard-hitting game. The Eagles are within one half game of the Giants and Cowboys for the NFC East lead.
It is important for the Giants to refocus on beating the Eagles down in Phialdelphia. The Eagles will be looking at the last two weeks game films of Big Blue, and will be pressuring Manning in an effort to control the line of scrimmage. The Giants will have to rediscover the formula that was working early in the season.
Lets hope that they can hang up the phone on Donovan McNabb this time around.