I found myself confused, but more than that, I felt empty. Monday simply left me deflated; the opportunity for the New York Giants to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the NFC East was placed squarely in front of the Giants as they took the field in Cleveland.
Let me start by stating that I believe the Giants were not complacent, nor did they take the Browns too lightly. In addition, I feel like Cleveland has been grossly underachieving this season.
That being said, there was an element missing from the Giants on Monday that left me feeling lost. Where was the fire? Where was the pressure on Derek Anderson?
This has been a defense that played with so much heart and fire down the stretch last season, and carried that same terrifying (for opposing QBs) speed and aggressiveness into the start of this season. Granted, losing Osi Umenyiora to a knee injury and Michael Strahan to retirement hurt, Lord knows the Giants could have used the two DE's that night.
However, this line is not made of cast-offs either—Justin Tuck has been looking great, and Mathias Kiwanuka is another difficult matchup.
To his credit, Joe Thomas held Justin Tuck in check most of the night. Thomas, a No. 3 overall draft pick from last year, did what he was drafted to do, and in defense of Tuck, you cannot win every matchup—no matter how badly you wish it were so. Therein lies the rub, when one guy is being locked up, someone must pick up the slack. Where, then, should it come from?
What impressed me last year about the Giants' D, more than any one player, was the timing and placement of the pressure. Watch the Super Bowl. Whether or not the Giants were sending a blitz or not, the defense had the Patriots on their heels.
When they dropped men into coverage, it was often not the standard dropping of LBs off the line. Sometimes they could drop Umenyiora and send Pierce after the quarterback off the end.
When they did blitz, they masked it very well, both in terms of timing and location—which it should be noted is the trademark of Jim Johnson, the Eagles' Defensive Coordinator, under whom Giants Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo coached. Where was this scheming, confusing D? Every time we brought pressure it seemed the Browns were ready.
In the end, I have faith Spagnuolo will make the necessary adjustments. He shows tenacity that I enjoy watching. Losing to the Browns could also prove to be the kick in the pants the Giants needed to stay near the top.
I do not look at this game as a failure. The Browns were better than their record, but in order to remain competitive in the NFL, you need to know that everyone is capable of beating you on any Sunday and even more so when you are the defending Champions.
We need to see that swagger back in our D. Consider me one guy who sees a rough Sunday for San Francisco coming up on Oct. 19.