Monday mornings will be a lot better for the next several months. Football talk about Sunday's games will take over offices, along with the talk of the Monday Night Football broadcasts. Life is good.
There were a few surprises and one controversial call that will be disputed for weeks to come. But the focus of this edition of Monday Morning Quarterback will focus on the New York Giants and their inaugural first win at New Meadowlands Stadium.
First, lets take a look at how the offense performed.
- Eli Manning looked fantastic in his home opener, completing 20-30 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns. Manning did throw three interceptions which were not his fault. On multiple occasions his receivers let balls fly right through their hands and into the waiting arms of a Panthers defender. Manning should have finished the day 25-30 for over 300 yards and no interceptions.
- Hakeem Nicks made up for causing Manning's first interception by hauling in all of his touchdown throws. Nicks scored from 26, 19 and five yards out respectively. He ran solid routes and Eli placed the ball perfectly on each throw. Nicks also made a nice sideline catch, keeping both feet in bounds and holding on to a ball being swatted at by the defender.
- Mario Manningham and Steve Smith also played well, combining for nine catches and 128 yards receiving. Manning seemed to find these guys whenever he needed a third down conversion, which is right up Smith's alley. Manningham broke away from defenders and Manning completed a long third-down conversion to him to keep one drive going.
- Kevin Boss went down with a neck injury and concussion in the first half. Boss took a hard hit and was immediately carted off. Travis Beckum came in for Boss and did a lackluster job. Tackle Will Beatty came in on running situations to play tight end because of Beckum's inability to block.
- The running game struggled early on with Ahmad Bradshaw while Brandon Jacobs looked fairly decent. The running game looked much better in the second half when Bradshaw was able to break a 39-yard run and fall just short of the goal line. He would punch it in three plays later from four yards out. The Giants finished off the game with 118 rushing yards which is something to build on for next week.
Overall the offense played as many expected, using the run game sufficiently but relying on their passing success from last year with their young corps of receivers. It was nice to see Manning spread the ball to all three of his major targets.
The receivers and backs did drop a number of easy catches that resulted in turnovers. We will attribute that to the rain. But it better be improved upon in order for this team to have success down the stretch. Four turnovers in most games will result in a loss.
Now lets take a look at the defense.
- The Giants came into this game healthy. That is going to be the big story this year along with how they adapt to Perry Fewell's new defensive scheme. So far they look like they are taking the scheme with stride.
- The defensive line looked pretty good in Sunday's opener. The rushing duo of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart rushed for only 74 yards, 29 of which came on a draw play by Williams that completely caught the defense napping. The defense continuously stuffed plays at the line and contained the dangerous duo from doing much.
- The line also got a lot of pressure on Matt Moore. Mathias Kiwanuka made two sacks. Osi Umenyiora made a nice outside move and came from behind to force a fumble. The hit left Moore shaken and he came out after the series was completed. Moore left with a concussion.
- The secondary also looked good. Deon Grant made a spectacular interception in the end zone on a bad throw by Panthers quarterback Matt Moore. Kenny Phillips and Terrell Thomas also made Moore pay with interceptions in the end zone. A few lapses allowed for Moore to convert some long third downs and a lengthy touchdown pass to Steve Smith. Hopefully this will be fixed for the coming weeks.
- One of the biggest stories on Sunday was Kenny Phillips starting for the Giants. His injury last year was considered by some to be career threatening, but Phillips showed no signs of the knee troubling him. Phillips collected four tackles, including a touchdown-saving shoestring tackle of DeAngelo Williams in the red zone that may have very well changed the momentum of the game. Keep an eye on Phillips' knee, because it may make or break how this secondary plays.
The defense played good in their first game with a new coordinator. Perry Fewell seems to have his defense on the right page and ready to stop the run and pressure the quarterback. If the secondary can play solid against the pass this team will make a long run at another Super Bowl.
Lastly, lets look at the special teams play.
- Lawrence Tynes is having trouble getting his kick offs down the field. He routinely failed to get the ball farther than the 10-yard line. The Panthers had good field position after almost every kickoff. This doesn't go solely on Tynes. The coverage must be better.
- Matt Dodge had a sub-par first NFL experience. One punt was a low line drive that allowed the Panthers to have great field position and another was blocked for a safety. Not they way you want to start your NFL career.
- The biggest story on Sunday for the special teams was captain Chase Blackburn being helped off the field after an apparent knee injury. Blackburn is the Giants best special teams player and the leader of the unit. It was being called a sprain early on. Let's hope that's all it is.
Overall the Giants played good in their first game. Some kinks need to be worked out on both sides but nothing major. The Giants will look to their secondary to perform next week against a Colts team that saw Peyton Manning throw for over 400 yards and three touchdowns against the Texans.
Here's to a quick work week for the Sunday night showdown between the Manning brothers.