Dave Klein was the Giants' beat
writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books
and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls.
Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.
AFTER ARIZONA: THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY
Well, that didn't go as
planned now, did it?
For the pessimists
out there, the season is almost over. For the optimists, the new offense showed
some signs of life and the defensive front had a decent (not great) showing.
facts, however, are thus: there were too many dropped passes, too many turnovers,
the defense let a career backup quarterback keep his team in the game and a crucial
failure on special teams was a back breaker. The Giants have proven one thing
over the last few years: they're consistent in their inconsistency.
Sound familiar? It should. We've been down this road for the last three years,
replete with the lousy start to the season and the mystifying mistakes and the
questions about the abilities of Eli Manning and whether or not head coach Tom
Coughlin has lost the locker room. Those last two ideas? Forget them, for now.
It's hard to consider the end of an era and while that's not warranted today ...
well, it's just as hard to ignore the concept, too.
Still, there were some good signs in the loss to Arizona, positive signs amid
the shocking mistakes and deflating outcome. There were also plenty of bad and
ugly signs that must be rectified before it's too late.
Pass rushing, to a point: Jason
Pierre-Paul showed up in the first quarter and was such a monster it looked as
though he was back. He finished the game with four tackles and 1.5 sacks. Arizona
quarterback Drew Stanton was sacked four times overall (one each for Jonathan
Hankins and Robert Ayers) and he did not throw a touchdown, completing 14 of 29
pass attempts, which is just shy of 50 percent. To be fair, while headlines scream
about the backup quarterback who beat the Giants, the truth is that the Giants
beat themselves by giving Arizona plenty of chances to win. Stanton just didn't
Eli Manning, to a point:
We can dissect the first interception and decide that the pass was ill advised,
poorly executed or even reckless, but the fact is that he was trying, too hard,
to make something happen in the heat of the game with chaos and pressure all around
him. Not going to beat on him for that.
his 26-of-39 performance for 277 yards and two touchdowns was solid. Yes, there
was a second interception, but that came near the end of an already-lost game,
so forget it. Manning was strong in the first half, when everything looked shiny
and clean on Opening Day at MetLife Stadium, before the team imploded. He executed
a superb scoring drive that featured mostly the no-huddle offense and, with the
help of tight end Larry Donnell, was virtually perfect. Then came the fourth quarter,
when the mistakes and the pressure came to life and, inexplicably, it looked as
though the entire team was stricken with sloppy play and miscommunication, Eli
included. Remember, the whole thing really unraveled in the fourth quarter, after
the Giants regained the lead at 14-10.
blocking, to a point: Manning was officially sacked twice, once on a 3rd-and-7
at the Arizona 45 and again on the Giants' final drive when all was lost. He was
also sacked early in the second quarter when he failed to sense the oncoming pass
rush and fumbled the ball, though the play was nullified by one of many illegal
contact penalties enforced generously by the officiating crew. Still, the pass
protection wasn't bad, much better than it was in Week 1. Will Beatty, who had
an awful game against Detroit, allowed just one hurry, but the Cards were missing
their best defensive linemen and still, the pressure was there, especially against
the run as they held the Giants to 81 yards rushing and no scores. If this new
offense is to work, it must get better production from the running game to set
up the short, upbeat passing attack.
Donnell: The team's leading receiver, Donnell caught nearly everything that came
his way, from the easy to the difficult, and has quickly become Manning's favorite
target. That's good for them but also good for the other receivers, who will benefit
when the opposing defenses put extra coverage on Donnell, a big receiving tight
end who reminds some of Zeke Mowatt, and it's not just the jersey number.
Weatherford: With four torn ligaments in his ankle, suffered against Detroit,
Weatherford still managed a strong punting performance (4 for 44.3 yards per attempt),
though one short one was at least partially responsible for a disastrous return
by Arizona. Unfortunately, Weatherford didn't benefit from quality punt coverage
by the special teams.
For the second week straight, Hankins, in his second start, helped explain the
team's decision to let Linval Joseph go via free agency, notching six tackles
and a sack, as well as consistently plugging gaps and bringing pressure to the
Arizona offense. Hankins is a beast.
Randle's touchdown catch: While Randle still isn't completely on the same page
as Manning, and has yet to prove he can create separation add some Yards After
Catch, he still made one heckuva one-handed touchdown catch on a perfectly thrown
ball. Yes, it was a tough catch, but no one but Randle could have touched the
ball (Eli meant to do it that way), and he managed to bring the ball in safely
near the end of the first half to cap an impressive, 13-play, 90-yard drive that
ate up 7:13, much of with the no-huddle in play.
Rodgers-Cromartie: DR-C put up a solid game, allowing just three receptions on
nearly a dozen targets and, in part, redeeming himself after a poor showing at
Detroit. He also laid a major hit on Malcom Floyd, separating the receiver from
a sure catch.
Victor Cruz and the drops: Is it the
money? Is it the fame? Is he pressing or just not paying attention? Whatever is
going on with Cruz, it has to end soon because five drops in two games is not
only unacceptable but disruptive to the progress of this new offense. During the
week, Cruz publicly explained that if he only had more targets he could help the
offense overall. Well, he saw more passes come his way, catching five passes on
10 targets for 60 yards, but he also dropped three balls, including a crucial
drive-killer in the fourth quarter.
Look, the Giants need a hero and Cruz, along with Pierre-Paul and Manning, is
on the short list to be just that, maybe the leader of the pack. Time to step
The running game, or lack thereof:
Between suspect run blocking, poorly executed plays and at least one major error,
the Giants couldn't generate a legitimate running game, once again resulting in
Manning having to win the game on his own. The Giants brought in Rashad Jennings
and rookie Andre Williams for a reason yet got little production. Jennings' fumble
on an easy screen was a killer as it destroyed a potential scoring drive at the
Arizona 17 after a 13-play drive. He lost his footing and fumbled as his elbow
hit the ground. In itself, it was just one of those things and Jennings is better
than that, but there are mistakes and there are badly- timed mistakes.
disappearance: After the first quarter, Pierre-Paul was virtually invisible and
that's a concern. Was it that he didn't have the stamina against the Arizona offensive
line? Was it that he was fighting double- and triple-teams for the rest of the
game? Yes to both, but great players can often overcome those obstacles. In his
defense, when the opposite defensive end is either Matthias Kiwanuka or Robert
Ayers, the offense can afford to overload on the stud.
Damontre Moore must find a way on the field; the coaches aren't sitting him for
no reason, he has to earn it. Still, the team needs JPP to explode and play four
quarters the way he played the first.
One minute of special teams destroyed
the game: In the end, it wasn't just Eli's interception or Jennings' fumble or
even Stanton's surprise appearance. Instead, a painful, life-sucking 71-yard punt
return for a touchdown and the subsequent fumble by Quinton Demps that lead to
a field goal of the ensuing kickoff both snatched defeat from the jaws of victory
(an old but appropriate saying).
Zach Bowman for missing the tackle on Ted Ginn Jr., but several players whiffed,
too, and even co-captain Zak DeOssie admitted that the coverage unit, regardless
of a somewhat short punt, was responsible. Ginn Jr. bobbed and weaved his way
downfield into open territory. Look, the Giants were leading, 14-13, and after
the debacle in Detroit, they merely had to put up a field goal or two to protect
the lead and the victory. Instead, in the span of just over a minute, the Giants
found themselves behind, 22-14.
still was the visible, palpable deflation of the Giants, heads down, exhaling,
defeated. That, above all else, has to change. You see, there were still nine
minutes remaining. The game wasn't over yet... or was it?
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