Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

06 Jan 2008

Audibles at the Line: NFC Wild Card Games

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2008.

For the next two weeks, we'll be splitting Audibles in two, one for each conference. This edition discusses only the two NFC Wild Card games. Click here to read about the two AFC Wild Card games.

Washington Redskins 14 at Seattle Seahawks 35

Doug Farrar: Sigh. Deion Branch is inactive (calf). When Tim Ruskell's history is written, he's going to want the details of the Branch trade redacted. Branch is like that really expensive piece of exercise equipment you spend an obscene amount of money on in a fit of resolute desperation. It sits in its area, used occasionally at first, but it eventually becomes a shelf/storage area for other things.

Sean McCormick: It's amazing -- who would have thought Bobby Engram was the best player on that undefeated Penn State 1994 team? Anyone?

Doug Farrar: It's interesting that Jamie Moyer raised the 12th Man flag before the game, because I've always thought of Engram as the Seahawks' Moyer. A guy who came from another team in a relatively unheralded move, hung around every year without any overwhelming physical gifts –- just an absolute commitment to consistency –- and you look up after a few years and he's setting team records.

Bill Barnwell: Weird blitz when the Seahawks overloaded right, then had the two standing defenders run a twist despite the outside blitzer having a free lane to the quarterback. Seemed excessively cute. Fortunately, Todd Collins threw an out about six yards over his receiver. Speaking of Seahawks blitzes, I can't believe that you would blitz a corner on the Redskins.

Doug Farrar: Yeah, John Marshall will do that -– run weird stuff when he has the players to just get the job done. "Excessively cute" is a good way of putting it.

Huh. The Redskins double-teamed Patrick Kerney on one early play with right tackle Stephon Heyer and defensive tackle Lorenzo Alexander. They're really ramping it up for him. Early on, Clinton Portis gets nothing from the Seattle defense.

Ah, and there's the first obligatory, "Hey, we're in Seattle -- let's play grunge on the cuts to commercial" moment.

That Leonard Weaver first quarter touchdown on the draw play was kind of a "wow" moment. Gregg Williams had a pass defense on that play with one or two guys in the parking lot. That Holmgren felt comfortable calling a draw with four wide may say something about a new faith in the offensive line. On the other side, Kerney's playing out of his mind today. They'd better not put one man on him too often. And Chris Cooley as the second man isn't going to be the answer.

Bill Barnwell: Does anyone else see the Seahawks wearing green shoes and think, "No fair! They get to use turbo!"? Just me?

I love how people have said that Jason Campbell's release is Leftwich-like. It's patent racism. Campbell's release is significantly faster than Collins'.

I think you're going to see more Todd Yoder on the next drive, lining up next to Stephon Heyer, which limits what the Redskins can do offensively. They're going to probably bust out more 2-TE, 2-RB sets, and Santana Moss simply hasn't been good enough this year to beat a good secondary all by himself.

Doug Farrar: We were certainly expecting more of Yoder on the right side than we've seen so far.

And with Matt Hasselbeck checking off to a shotgun formation at the end of the first quarter, we'll reveal that the Seahawks have the fourth-best DVOA from the shotgun (Jacksonville, Indianapolis and New England are better), despite the fact that Mike Holmgren inherited Bill Walsh's distaste for the formation. Seattle ran shotgun plays only 80 times in the regular season on 590 pass attempts, the lowest percentage in the NFL.

Stuart Fraser: I often wonder if small sample size/high DVOA splits like that are just caused by "the defense didn't prepare for it because the offense never does that" rather than anything intrinsically good about the team's execution. I have no idea how we'd be able to tell the difference, of course.

Doug Farrar: It's entirely possible. The sight of a Holmgren team running the shotgun could shock defenders into submission.

Michael David Smith: Howard Green just made the play of the day so far by drilling Todd Collins just as he threw a pass that probably would have gone for a touchdown.

Doug Farrar: Oh. I don't think there was any question. Marcus Trufant was watching for UFOs or something on that play.

Aaron Schatz: I maintain what I wrote in the FO Wild Card Preview and the Baseball Prospectus chat: I think the Seattle secondary is overrated. I'm not saying they suck, but they look better than they really are because the front seven is so good, and Marcus Trufant doesn't really seem like a Pro Bowl corner to me. (What is Roderick Hood doing that weekend?)

Doug Farrar: Well, that's what we don't know -- just how much having to be on an island (Trufant is also benefiting from much better safety help) and having to cover longer due to an inefficient pass rush affects cornerback play. We know it does, but how much? I don't think Trufant is quite as good as he's been this year, if that makes any sense, nor was he as bad as he was last year when Seattle's safety play was a joke. Other factors can contribute. In 2006, Walt Harris had a "career year" by picking off a bunch of backups and the 137-year-old Brad Johnson.

Near the end of the first half, Leroy Hill sacked Todd Collins by pushing Ladell Betts into him. THAT was impressive.

Mike Tanier: The Redskins used a lot of cute motion and fake reverses in their first few drives, then they simplified things. I have a funny feeling that they realized "hey, the Seahawks don't really care where Lorenzo Alexander and Mike Sellers are lined up, and we are only confusing ourselves."

Miscommunication seems like a big problem for the Redskins offense. You had the "Hike, HIKE, HIIIIIIIIKE!" delay of game penalty, which might have been crowd noise, but then you had the Peterson sack, where Jason Fabini passed Peterson off to Clinton Portis, who had no idea that he would have someone passed off to him.

By the way, in terms of "quick release," the backup quarterback who wins a few games always has a quicker release than the starter. He's also always a "better fit" and "plays within the system." If its a white/black thing, those points are just made more loudly. Release speed is one of those eye-of-the-beholder things if you haven't been coaching or scouting for 15 years. It's pretty much a B.S. dump for quarterback arguments, unless we are talking about Byron Leftwich, who really does have a slow release.

Bill Barnwell: It's one thing if it's just the wrist snap of the release, but Collins actually winds up. And he has the Pennington out going on, too.

Doug Farrar: I don't think Collins has a perceptibly quicker or slower release than anyone else -– he's just smart enough to know when to dump the ball off, as opposed to Trent "Stickum" Green or Matt Hasselbeck on the first-half sack, when the guy who got to him had time to run out to F.X. McRory's and get a sandwich and return for the quarterback takedown. Or Ben Roethlisberger, for goodness' sake. Get rid of the ball, dude! Actual quick release, like Marino or Namath had, is a rare gift, right?

Bill Barnwell: I don't know. I will say this, though: One thing both Campbell and Collins do really well is sell the pass on running plays. A lot of quarterbacks will make cursory glances down the field, but the Redskins obviously drill on it and really do create confusion.

Will Carroll: Can't this be measured? Hasn't Jaws done something on this?

Mike Tanier: You could time the release, just like you can put a quarterback's passes on a radar gun to see how fast they are. Then, Ingle Martin wins the radar gun test and suddenly he's supposed to have the best arm in history. Time the release in a Combine setting and you have no idea what will really happen when the kid is trying to process information. Time it a hundred times for 20 different throws in game situations, take the mean and the standard deviation, and you get ... a big mess. And the quickest release in the world doesn't matter if the kid never decides to throw.

Will Carroll: Right, which is why I'd be more interested in doing it with game film. Pair it up with hurries/pressure and it could be pretty telling.

Ryan Wilson: Every week, I wonder why teams choose not to cover Chris Cooley. The Seahawks are the first team in a while who are doing a great job of shutting him down. Antwaan Randle El and Santana Moss are making plays -- nothing big, but a few completions each -- but given that both are coming off injuries, I think Cooley's the most dangerous of the bunch. And the Seahawks are right to key on the tight end. Of course, a dominating pass rush helps with such things.

Vince Verhei: Cris Collinsworth says right before halftime that the Redskins need to run the ball. Cris, I'm afraid they've tried, and that's not working either.

Bill Moore: I listened to some of the first half on the radio. Boomer Esiason donates a dollar amount for every sack to his foundation. Does anyone else find it ironic that Boomer donates money for sacks?

Stuart Fraser: I wonder if that comes as a result of Boomer saying to a bunch of inept offensive linemen "If I had a dollar for every time I'd been sacked..."

Doug Farrar: Great play call by Al Saunders to go with the play-action to Sellers on fourth-and one at the end of the third quarter. Brian Russell got flagged for pass interference, but that might have been a touchdown otherwise.

Aaron Schatz: Which is stranger: Rambo returning after something like 10 years, or Todd Collins returning after something like 10 years?

Vince Verhei: Rambo. Collins was a backup plan born out of desperation. Rambo was made by design.

Mike Tanier: The first Todd Collins movie was actually pretty good. Richard Crenna played Jim Kelly.

Vince Verhei: At the end of three quarters, it seems like the worst player on the Seahawks has actually been Matt Hasselbeck. He's missed a number of open receivers, often on third down. I find this all a little shocking.

Doug Farrar: I'd have to agree. Hasselbeck's interception at the start of the fourth quarter was thrown into a triangle of Redskins, with Engram incidentally in the play.

Mike Tanier: I dunno, Alexander is pretty bad. I've never seen a guy with his size and reputation hit the line of scrimmage and just stop. The guy finished maybe two or three runs tonight. Overall, though, Hasselbeck has not been himself.

Stuart Fraser: So which of the four guys who tried to cover the fade to Moss in the corner of the end zone was supposed to be on Randle El, do you think?

Doug Farrar: Don't know. I was blinded by Todd Collins' perfect quarterback rating.

Here's what's interesting to me: The Redskins clawed their way back into this game in the fourth quarter by doing what the Seahawks do. They're taking away the blitz by sending out more receivers, and the Seahawks capitulate by playing base coverage, or at least a coverage with far less pressure up front. Then, Collins just singes the zone like Hasselbeck does. I'm thinking to myself, "Seattle's getting beaten by what they see in practice."

However, to get no points off the botched kickoff return (and I just know that some half-assed talking head will have the "Sean Taylor stopped that ball in the air" thing going) when Shaun Suisham missed a 30-yarder is a huge break for the Seahawks. Down 14-13 with 10 minutes left, if they don't mix up their defensive fronts a little more, they will lose this game.

Stuart Fraser: I will just confirm that the UK SKY analysts suggested that Sean Taylor stopped the ball in the air.

Aaron Schatz: Did Holmgren stop blitzing linebackers because the Redskins were suddenly sending out more receivers? Or did he suddenly get conservative on defense with a lead, and the Redskins reacted by sending out more receivers?

Vince Verhei: To answer Aaron's chicken-or-egg question, it looked to me like the Seahawks called off the dogs first, then Washington started flooding the field with receivers. Collinsworth suggested that Seattle couldn't blitz because of all the receivers ... well, why not? You can still rush five once in a while, can't you?

Doug Farrar: The second Hasselbeck interception to Landry was inexcusable. You're out of the pocket, your fourth receiver is covered, throw the damn ball away. That's not his wrist. That's his brain. Just a horrible throw.

Vince Verhei: Yeah, right after I noted how lousy Hasselbeck was, he actually got worse. His accuracy got better, but he started making horrible decisions. Throughout the game, he held the ball too long several times.

Doug Farrar: Nate Burleson's catch with seven minutes left in the game on third-and-6 saved Seattle's season. Wonderful pitch-and-catch with Springs right on him. And for those Seattle fans complaining about officiating, Nate got away with a full-on Michael Irvin push-off there.

Bill Barnwell: So, whose fault is the subsequent Seattle touchdown? Pierson Prioleau? I can't imagine that he was so mesmerized by the play-fake that he decided to let Hackett run right by him, so I would assume he thought he had safety help behind him?

Aaron Schatz: Uh, Prioleauis the safety help. Well, the safety anyway. Do they give safety help to a safety who is in man coverage?

Vince Verhei:NFL Gameday broke down the Hackett touchdown. Remember earlier in the quarter, when LaRon Landry twice broke on Hasselbeck's passes to the right for interceptions? Well, Hasselbeck remembered too. He pump-faked to the right, and Landry abandoned ship and went sailing to that side of the field, leaving Hackett wide-open. It wasn't clear live, but it was a great example of chess-match football.

Bill Barnwell: Well, the first Collins interception was one of the uglier plays you'll ever see. Moss runs a bad route. Collins throws it anyway and overthrows Moss. Moss gives up on the ball. Trufant runs right down the field and picks up an extra $3 million in free agency. Just embarrassing.

Doug Farrar: Marcus Trufant had the denouement to our cornerback discussion with the late Collins pick, but that interception should be scored as a punt return after Collins' pocket collapsed. Santana Moss was in a different zip code. Hasselbeck will be sending Collins a "Thank you for taking me off the hook" card.

Aaron Schatz: That Todd Collins interception came from Rocky Bernard bumping the offensive lineman back into Collins while he was in motion. I don't know if it was the wisest throw, but it isn't like he just launched it. I can't tell if Santana Moss was coming back on a curl and the ball just went too far because Collins was hit, or if he gave up on the play entirely, cause he was just standing there slack-jawed.

Doug Farrar: As the game was winding down, Cris Collinsworth said that Trufant should be the game's MVP. Trufant had a very good game, but I'll take Patrick Kerney. He had Washington's offense on a string all the way through the first half. Also, I think that Leroy Hill's further development this season makes him an equal third in what I believe to be the NFL's best 4-3 linebacker corps. What Tim Ruskell has made Seattle's defense into over the last three years is something to behold. A Holmgren team led by its defense? Hasn't happened in over a decade. Last time it did happen was in Green Bay, which is where the Seahawks head next.

New York Giants 24 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14

Bill Barnwell: One of the major issues with the Giants defense in the preseason and early in the year was overpursuit. They got better during the year, but there was a Graham run in the first quarter that showed the huge cutback lanes available to a back with the vision to exploit them.

We were right and wrong about David Diehl, by the way. Wrong in that he hasn't been a sieve at left tackle, and he's a pretty good run blocker. Right in that as a pass protector, he's pretty weak, especially with bigger right ends, who just get underneath him and bull rush him all the way back into Eli.

Aaron Schatz: I'm watching with Ian Dembsky (ex-Scramble writer), who has a good point: When the Giants brought in the super tight formation on third-and-1 in the first quarter, why leave Plaxico Burress on the sidelines? Why not at least bring him in, split him wide, and force the Bucs to put one (and maybe two) defenders on him? If they only stick one guy out there, and you don't feel the run is there, you can audible to the quick hitch and pretty much get the first down.

Russell Levine: An honest-to-goodness Michael Clayton sighting! That's like seeing a bald eagle in the wild.

Stuart Fraser: What the...? Brandon Jacobs' "celebration" after scoring the Giants' first touchdown seemed kinda, um, bats**t.

The Giants are running outside a lot. This does not, subjectively, sound like the smart play against a Monte Kiffin defense. Is there any reason to suggest one should actually do this?

Vince Verhei: Twice on that drive -- the first pass to Amani Toomer and the touchdown to Jacobs -- the Bucs had defenders in position to make tackles after short gains. Both times, Brian Kelly and Derrick Brooks gambled and played for the ball, and when they missed, the receivers gained a lot of yards on the ground.

Russell Levine: Jeff Garcia is hitting the ground on every dropback and Tampa Bay is really scuffling for every yard now. They have to stick with the run game as long as the game is close.

I'm very impressed with Eli Manning's patience. He is very much taking what the Bucs give him, which is the key against this defense.

Sean McCormick: Speaking of impressive, Corey Webster is doing a terrific job against Joey Galloway. Webster is such a bad tackler that it's hard to remember he does anything well, but he's been step-for-step with Galloway on just about every throw.

Bill Barnwell: This means Corey Webster gets to make the team next year. Ugh.

Aaron Schatz: Will somebody please tell Tampa Bay that they cannot block the New York front four with just their five offensive linemen?

Question about forward progress: Ike Hilliard caught a ball at the sideline, but the momentum of the catch is backwards. Where was the ball spotted? Where he landed at the end of the catch, or the farthest forward he was when he began the dive?

Michael David Smith: When your own momentum carries you back, you do not get the benefit of forward progress.

Doug Farrar: I liked the screen Eli threw to Brandon Jacobs in the red zone on the first drive of the second half. He saw where the defense wasn't and made the smart play. Showed me that he will, as Russell said, take what is given.

It seemed to me that the Bucs went to more straight coverage and less stack-the-box as the second half began, and that was a good move. You have to be able to trust your front seven to deal with Jacobs as opposed to making your Cover-2 corners go one-on-one too often. I think that's what gave New York three points instead of seven on that drive.

(Jeff Garcia throws a laser right to Corey Webster in the end zone, after Webster leads Galloway outside on the route and has the jump on the play.)

Bill Barnwell: Where was this Corey Webster all season?

Russell Levine: I'm not sure Galloway's problem is just his shoulder. He can't seem to run at all. Still, that was an awful decision by Garcia.

Doug Farrar: That was a CFL-quality decision by Garcia, because Webster literally had the inside track all the way on that route. Garcia doesn't have the arm to make that throw. You need a freakin' rainbow to make that happen.

When Aaron went on Bill Simmons' podcast earlier this week, Simmons was talking about how the Pats didn't blitz Eli and how that made it so much easier for him to do what he did. That's probably true in that case, but I'm seeing something really different here. I wondered at the time about the decision to play the run so much before, and Eli seems to be flummoxed by Tampa Bay's more standard coverage -– like he's going through his options and the processing isn't happening. Previously, he could just identify the receiver who was beating single coverage. He adjusted to it later, because he had a lot of time in the pocket. The Bucs played the run and they played the pass, but they weren't aggressive in their pass rush.

Russell Levine: Tampa seems content to stick with the plan, not to change things up on defense. They need to start blitzing Manning and try to force him into one of those back-foot throws.

Bill Barnwell: They need to do something different. The Giants are marching down the field on them and the Buccaneers aren't playing disciplined football. Guys are being irresponsible trying to make a big play.

Ahmad Bradshaw looks really nice. He's being patient with his cuts and he has the speed to accelerate once he finds the hole.

Aaron Schatz: I definitely think Tampa Bay is giving up a couple extra yards on each run by trying to get in there with a strip instead of just tackling guys. I'm also not so sure why the comments in Audibles have been mainly anti-Manning today. Since the first quarter, he's looked pretty damn good for the second straight week. Grey Reugamer has done an excellent job filling in for Shaun O'Hara. The Bucs just look bad all around, except for Earnest Graham, who keeps fighting and fighting for extra yardage. Has anybody noticed that Garcia isn't scrambling at all?

Russell Levine: 24-7, ballgame. Score one for the "played meaningful snaps down the stretch" crowd. Garcia has played his worst game of the year, the Tampa defensive line can't get off the ball, and the defense has missed tackles and made stupid plays. I'd almost like to see Luke McCown.

Aaron Schatz: I'm not sure how much this has to do with rest/no rest at the end of the year. In the first quarter, Tampa Bay did not come out flat. They came out very strong, then slowed down in the second quarter. I'm sure a lot of Giants fans will say, "See, we knew the Giants were this good all along," but seriously, how can anybody say that the Giants were playing like this before the second half of the Week 16 Buffalo game? They looked nothing like this for a long stretch of the season.

Bill Barnwell: Oh no, Manning's been very good today. Of course, he's human, he's had a couple of bad throws, but like I said last week about command and control, Manning's had both today -- the back-shoulder throw to Burress comes to mind. If he was this guy all the time, there wouldn't be a reason to criticize him.

Doug Farrar: I think he adjusted well to what he saw early, took a bit of a header at the start of the second half, but adjusted well again. If you talk about Now Value, he's been one of the better playoff quarterbacks so far.

Has Garcia even had time to scramble? He's had Giants on him from the snap just about all day.

Aaron Schatz: Ian and I are trying to figure out what changed at halftime of Week 16 to turn the Giants into a strong team. Ian: "The only thing that has changed is that they have more injuries. Maybe their backups were better than their starters all along." You know what, it has meant more Ahmad Bradshaw and Gerris Wilkinson, and Corey Webster looks pretty darn good today. (I'm not saying Bradshaw is better than Jacobs, just better than Droughns and Ward.)

Mike Tanier: This looks like the same Giants team I saw most of the year. If the front four can trump your front five and you don't have great receivers, they can shut you out (or close to it) and set their offense up with good field position. The running game is strong, and Eli is good enough to win if he isn't forced to be a hero. Take Galloway out of the Bucs offense and this is what you will get: average passes going about 2.5 yards down the field, and throws to Galloway becoming interceptions because Galloway cannot break free.

That eight-minute touchdown drive at the end of the third and start of the fourth quarter was just the symptom of a defense that had been beaten up and thought it has to create a turnover to give the offense any chance.

Aaron Schatz: I disagree, I don't think the Giants have been this good all year. The pass rush, yes, but not the defensive coverage in the secondary and not Eli Manning. How many times this year have you seen Corey Webster -- or Sam Madison or Kevin Dockery -- step for step with someone as fast as Joey Galloway?

The Giants offense had a turnover in every game during the regular season. Thirty teams had at least one game without any offensive turnovers. The only teams that did not were the Giants and Texans. Tampa Bay only had two or more offensive turnovers in five games out of 16. So yeah, this game went a little bit against the standards set by previous performance.

Ned Macey: I believe we're asking the wrong question. The question is not, were the Giants always this good? The question is, were the Bucs actually really this bad? I think the answer to this game may lie there more than the other way. A Bucs team without a healthy and/or effective Galloway is a joke.

As for the Giants consistency, they beat who they should beat and lost to who they should lose to. Everybody played the Pats well down the stretch, and I think that game gets a bit of an asterisk -- remember when we were pimping Kyle Boller? I think maybe the Giants are the league's 10th best team instead of 16th, but the win today, to me, just proved that Tampa Bay isn't really that good.

I'd also note that Cato June was out, and the Bucs a) were very stout against Brandon Jacobs and b) gave up 200 receptions over the middle. I think those things are all related.

This game definitely will be seen as striking a blow for playing through Week 17. I think it is silly to make any judgment based on one game, and I would rest my players. As a fan, however, I think it is great if playing through Week 17 will be much more interesting to watch.

Stuart Fraser: The Steelers didn't play the Patriots (or anybody else) well down the stretch, and I don't remember pimping Kyle Boller, I remember wondering what the hell had happened to Willis McGahee.

Mike Tanier: I will grant you the secondary in terms of play-in, play-out quality (not just jumping in and picking off a pass after the front four killed the quarterback). But Manning looked pretty good at times early in the year, like against the Cowboys. This just looks like this year's caliber Giants team: They were overvalued when they were playing the Falcons every week, then I prematurely wrote them off then the Redskins beat them and Shockey got hurt. They are better than the Bucs but not in the same league as the Cowboys.

As for Garcia, well, this is Garcia without weapons and facing a good defense.

Michael David Smith: This was the Detroit Lions version of Jeff Garcia.

Doug Farrar: I wrote something elsewhere this week about the fact that in college, the phrase "system quarterback" is pejorative, but in the NFL, where survival is more important than potential, it's much less so. Garcia is a system quarterback. He can run a specific type of West Coast offense template very well if he has help. That's not a slam, because there are quarterbacks in his league who couldn't run a Holmgren/Reid/Gruden offense at all, just as Todd Collins was useful this year for Washington because he knew Al Saunders' system so well. Garcia isn't going to invent things. He's a curator, not an architect.

The Tampa Bay line is the youngest in the NFL and it will take time to develop. But they are simply overwhelmed against lines with speed rushers. In the season opener against Seattle, Patrick Kerney went nuts and Garcia was knocked out of the game. Mobile quarterbacks can be mobile in and around the pocket if a part of the line breaks down and they have an opening to exploit. It's a bit tougher when the protection is getting decimated as a unit, over and over again. He couldn't do that rollout stuff because there was nowhere to roll out.

Vince Verhei: I think a lot of the praise for Eli Manning and the Giants offense has been overblown. They played good, not great. I give them credit for not turning the ball over, and I don't think any balls were even close to intercepted. That's good. But most of their big plays on offense, both on rushes and passes, came after missed tackles by Tampa Bay. It's not like they turned into the Air Coryell Chargers.

The biggest reason they won was because their defensive line absolutely, utterly dominated the Bucs' offensive line. Garcia never had time to get comfortable in the pocket, never had time to find running lanes. Like everyone else, I'm not sure how they controlled Joey Galloway -- it looked like they were playing single coverage on him most of the time. Those corners did do a good job of taking away the inside part of the field and forcing him to the sideline. Maybe Galloway's weaker on sideline routes than he is on post patterns? Regardless, they pulled it off, and Tampa Bay at this point has no other dangerous weapons.

Russell Levine: I certainly don't have anything negative to say about Manning. He played exactly how you have to against Tampa Bay. You're not going to pile up huge numbers, but you have to stay patient and take the checkdown.

Galloway not being able to run was huge. He's the only guy on that team who can threaten a defense downfield. Webster played very well on the ball, but I have to believe that his ability to run step-for-step with Galloway had a lot to do with Galloway being hurt.

This was still a positive year for the Bucs. As Doug pointed out, the line is very young and made great strides today. They have to figure out what to do at quarterback, although Garcia can probably give them another year, and they need some more weapons at receiver. It was nice to see a bit more of Clayton the last couple weeks, but he'll never be more than a possession guy.

The defense also got a lot younger this year, and things look positive with Jovan Haye, Greg White, and Gaines Adams, who looked like a bust the first month but really came on the second half. Tanard Jackson looks like he'll make a terrific safety, and Barrett Ruud had a great first year at middle linebacker. They'll have to figure out what to do with Brooks and June, who basically play the same position. I think they both have huge balloon years in their contracts next year, so I wouldn't expect both to be back.

I think the Giants certainly have a chance at Dallas, especially if they can get after Tony Romo the way they did Garcia today.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 06 Jan 2008

81 comments, Last at 09 Jan 2008, 10:51pm by Chris

Comments

1
by TomC (not verified) :: Sun, 01/06/2008 - 11:46pm

The strangest thing about the TB/NYG game was watching the Bucs shoot themselves in the foot over and over while the Giants played basically mistake-free (except for a brief rash of penalties in the 3rd quarter). Those roles were supposed to be reversed.

Oh, and: First?

2
by Carlos (not verified) :: Sun, 01/06/2008 - 11:46pm

When the Giants brought in the super tight formation on third-and-1 in the first quarter, why leave Plaxico Burress on the sidelines? Why not at least bring him in, split him wide, and force the Bucs to put one (and maybe two) defenders on him?

I have this same question for every offense every time they go "jumbo" in short yardage. Why do that and make the D's job so easy? Don't they watch the Pats go 4 wide, spread the D and then QB sneak for 3 yards every time?

Anyone care to defende EVER going jumbo? Even on the goal line, put even two WR out, one each side, and you have tremendous option value.

3
by Temo (not verified) :: Sun, 01/06/2008 - 11:53pm

I like Mike Tanier's synopsis of the 2007 New York Giants. I think it encapsulates that team very well.

4
by Carlos (not verified) :: Sun, 01/06/2008 - 11:55pm

I was just about to chime in, when I got to Ned's comment:

I think the answer to this game may lie there more than the other way. A Bucs team without a healthy and/or effective Galloway is a joke.

Now all I need to say is "ditto."

5
by johnt (not verified) :: Sun, 01/06/2008 - 11:56pm

And the Bucs are in the early running for Sore Losers of 2008 after taunting Eli before the game...

“He made little, annoying third-down conversions when he needed to,” linebacker Barrett Ruud said. “If it is third-and-8, he gets 8½ yards. That was frustrating.”

Yeah, that's called "a high value play". You might want to ask your offense to try them sometimes.

Next week I wouldn't be surprised to see the Giants win... provided TO is out or hobbled. He's so much of that team's success it's scary.

6
by Temo (not verified) :: Sun, 01/06/2008 - 11:59pm

2. I suspect it's because not all NFL coaches have confidence that their front 5 can clear out enough room for that 3 yard scamper. And I'm not altogether certain how many more options putting guys out wide gives you. You can still pass out of a jumbo package, or do a roll out, or do a lot of different things.
I think in the end if you need a few yards, most coaches would rather just pack the big guys in and go from there. I do understand why maybe the giants shouldn't however- their O-line has a pretty good power rating and they've got a physical receiver who can muscle out a first down on a short pass.

7
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 12:00am

Blast you prolific FO people!! I've got five days to write a 12,000 word dissertation on Dubya's foreign policy and this sort of distraction doesn't help! I suppose there's going to be another one of these entertaining and worthy articles appearing tommorrow!! Have you people no thought for the productivity of your readers???

Look what you've driven me to?? I'm using multiple punctuation!!!!!

8
by Tom (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 12:29am

Big rumor on the Giant's boards is that Coughlin flipped out on Gilbride after the Skin's debacle(54 passes in that wind).

Supposedly, the passing game has been simplified(reads have been made simpler), from one of the more complex offenses in the NFL.

9
by Some Dude (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 12:43am

Just want to point out that its not that hard to see Bald Eagles in the wild anymore...they're not even endangered at this point. What does this have to do with football? Just saying we need to regauge our Michael Clayton metaphors.

10
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 12:44am

"Release speed is one of those eye-of-the-beholder things if you haven’t been coaching or scouting for 15 years. It’s pretty much a B.S. dump for quarterback arguments, unless we are talking about Byron Leftwich, who really does have a slow release."

I totally disagree, of the top of my head quarterbacks withh very quick releases: Manning, Brady, Favre and Grossman (just to show it's not just good quarterbacks, Rex actually has a lightning release, he just has very little idea of where to throw the ball) Slow releases, Leftwich and Alex Smith.

For most quarterbacks the quickness of the release is due to good technique, Favre is just a freak.

Are there going to be any AFC audibles?

11
by Bald as Matt (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 12:52am

9. Yes, the Bald Eagle is off the endangered list - it's been moved to the perfectly healthy category of "threatened"; Sort of like Gruden's job security level.

12
by BillWallace (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 1:18am

re: skins game

1) I thought Todd Collins played really really well. The OLine was outclassed, probably more by Seattle playing well than them playing badly. Portis didn't play too well, and there were a couple key receiver mistakes. I thought Collins was great though... how can you expect better with no running game and poor protection?

2) re: the fumble/incomplete. It was irrefutably an incomplete pass. Simple physics... the defender's arm was going backwards and hit Collins' arm with full force, yet the ball went 15 yards forward. Collins was not running forward at the time. Ergo, Collins' arm was moving forward at the time it was disconnected from the ball. The refs probably realized that fact and that's why they ruled incomplete on the field.

3) Portis missed a wide open hole on a 3rd and 1 early in the game, and ran right into 2 defenders... they replayed this like 4 times.

4) I love Cooley, but he needed to make that catch after the lucky kickoff... that was so huge.

5) If Taylor can affect the path of the ball in the air, he's a real dick for pushing that FG wide left.

6) Seattle played really great. Congratulations to them, I think they have a good shot at GB.

13
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 1:27am

Regarding "Are these the real Giants?", it's interesting to look at the 4 losses to Dallas, Green Bay, and New England. Against the Pats and Packers, the Giants actually had the lead at halftime in both games. Against the Cowboys, the halftime scores were 17-16 Dallas (missed XP) and 17-17. They were horrible defensively in the second half of all four games. I thought these were 4 of Eli Manning's best games this year.

Put me in the column of someone who didn't think Tampa was that good. However, don't make excuses for why they lost. If they made plays on the 4th ranked DVOA pass defense, it couldn't have been a fluke. Eli deserves his credit.

14
by justanothersteve (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 1:36am

1) Richard Crenna played Jim Kelly. Brilliant.
2) Grey Ruegamer is still playing football? Are there so few quality NFL centers that he's still playing? And I thought the shortage of decent QBs was bad.

15
by MdM (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 1:36am

Well done, Eli.

16
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 1:50am

Re: SEA-WAS
1) I said it somewhere else but the play of the game was Cooley not getting that pass near the goal line. I have no idea why the NFL doesn't allow the kicking team to advance onside kicks. I'd like to see Suisham back. I hope they don't do something foolish like trade for Nugent.

2) Moss' play on the interception I think he said after the game it was an out-and-up, and Trufant didn't even bite on the out... so Moss didn't expect Collins to do something so foolish.

3) On the Seattle Hasselbeck TD. Washington's CBs after Rogers went down were, Springs, Smoot, Torrence, and David Macklin. For those keeping score Macklin was never activated and never saw the field (okay, he might've in one game but I don't remember when). Ergo, Wasington doesn't have a 4th CB, so their 4th CB was Prioleau... uck! I didn't see Landry bite on the play (they didn't show a decent replay did they on NBC?) But to me it was Prioleau who got burnt... yes he was a safety. I wonder why they didn't have Landry on the WR but I have no idea who their next DB off the bench is after Prioleau. Thought it was a cruel bit of fate that they were short a competent coverage DB, but them's the shakes.

4) Shawn Springs got worked. Hasselbeck was throwing those sideline plays fantastically.

5) Offensive and defensive lines were the difference in the game. Did Washington register a sack, more than the play Hasselbeck nearly fumbled on? Seriously, there was no rush whatsoever and when someone did blitz it seemed like his strategy was to just slam into the OL/RB in his way. Egads get a DE.

6) Collins played okay, for Collins but he had a lot of passed defensed due to zero ball velocity. His arm is probably worse than Pennington's. He also has no nimbility. He can't move. .. he was a sitting duck... no sliding no movement... no feel for pressure. It was awful watching them tee off on him when all he had to (a few times) was step up into the pocket or move a bit to the left or right. I'm sure the OL really appreciated that.

7) Engram was holding on the Weaver TD. I think it made a difference... Torrence was going to at least hit him. Anyway, we all know holding doesn't exist anymore (well everyone except for Hoch's crew today).

8) I liked the Redskins adjustment to short passes and it seemed to work... I wish I knew why Collins threw that desperation bomb up to Moss.

9) Landry played wonderfully. There's a pretty sad picture of him sitting on the bench dejected with a few fans holding up 21 posters... I think it's an AP picture but man...

10) Seattle deserved to win this game... it was like a championship boxing match where SEA hit WAS with some body blows early on and got them tired out. WAS got some wind back and stunned SEA with some nice uppercuts but horribly missed a knockout shot. SEA then got its feet and just knocked out the overmatched contender.

I'm pretty sure most rational Redskin fans were happy with the end of the season and the 6th seed...

17
by krugerindustrialsmoothing (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 2:03am

Farrar, that CFL quip was a lazy cheapshot comment and smacked of incompetence well over the border of ignorance. Sometimes the easy lines are just that for a reason, try and do better next time would you?

18
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 2:13am

Some quick thoughts, and I'll read above in better detail and comment more thoughtfully tomorrow:

-I only saw bits of each game, but it was a lot of fun. I love the playoffs! (Especially when I don't have a rooting interestin in either team...I appreciate all the nuances all the more).

-I know there will probably be loads of ref gripes (there always are...mostly undeserved as many point out, because ultra-slow replay and 1000 camera angles make us all much worse critics than we have any right being), but I thought the WAS-SEA game was very inconsistently refereed (at least in the first half, which is all I saw). Throughout the first quarter, one team was getting all the calls, but then that reversed in the second quarter. Just messy. Who was that crew again?

-Was it me, or did Tampa Bay not seem to realize they were playing in an...um...playoff game? Down by 17 with 8 minutes to go and they merrily throw checkdown after checkdown, keep trying to run the ball for 3 yards, and take their time getting up to the LOS. Yes they scored a TD, but it took them 5 minutes to do it, and by the time they did, they had no realistic chance of winning the game. Margin of defeat is meaningless in the playoffs (as in the regular season, but moreso in the playoffs when there is no next week). They should have been taking shots downfield, and hope for an interference call or a blown coverage, even without Galloway.

19
by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 2:22am

Oh, also, not watching many Seahawks games this year, I hadn't realized that Seattle's front seven, especially Kerney and their LB's, were THIS good.

How did they end up with Peterson? I thought he played for the Niners? It's just not fair to put him beside Tatupu...

20
by NF (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 2:24am

On the subject of Michael Clayton, FO should do a study on young wide receivers who have a few good or great years, then abruptly fall off the face of the earth, only occasionally returning to form many years later. It is bizarre that players who were that good so quickly would simply become much worse WRs without warning. Look at the list of biggest sophomore slumps under the Michael Clayton entry in PFP 2006 for some examples.

21
by Chris M (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 2:36am

Stuart Fraser:
The Giants are running outside a lot. This does not, subjectively, sound like the smart play against a Monte Kiffin defense. Is there any reason to suggest one should actually do this?

Because the backup center was a sieve.

22
by dirge (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 2:51am

Ugh.. so much about the SEA-WAS summed up everything there is to being a Seahawks fan.
An early lead? check.
Missed opportunities? check.
An opponent playing well for 5 minutes and thus potentially deciding the game? check.
Only recently has there been the final criteria: ridiculous plays that swing the Seahawks' way when it counts? check.
Is Holgrem a genius for only pulling out all the stops for the playoffs or is he just a complete, but lucky, imbecile?

I was at the game and still have a hard time speaking. The crowd never let down, even after the muffed kickoff; even after Hasselbeck's second INT. The defense was , as usual, amazing except for a few gaffs. Those gaffs are going to kill us on the 12th. I know the Packer's pass defense is soft. I know they haven't really beaten a good team this year (one can quibble about San Diego at that point in the season). But that goddamn Farve. I've hated him since I knew how to hate.

23
by Doug Farrar :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 2:58am

#19 - They wanted to make a splash after losing Steve Hutchinson to the Vikings in the 2006 preseason, and he was the big-ticket player on the market. Tatupu and Hill both came on board in the 2005 draft.

24
by Owl Jolson (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 3:13am

Re: 18
I think the shots down field were exactly what killed the Bucs. They seemed to move the ball very well with the dink and dunk method. None of their points came from huge pass plays.
Just when they started to get in some kind of rythem someone (Gruden? Garcia?) lost patience and it was hail mary time.
I thought Graham was outstanding AGAIN. It will be interesting to see what happens next year with Williams healthy.

25
by Joe in Seattle (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 3:14am

#19

Obviously I am biased, but the Seahawks front 7 is one of the best in the NFL, and probably the most underrated (at least to casual fans).

Guys like Kerney and Peterson get all the props, (which they do deserve-they have played fantastic) but it's guys like Rocky Bernard, Brandon Mebane and Leroy Hill that are the unsung hero's of the defense. Hill is really developing into a great all-around linebacker, he was pretty bad in coverage last seasons, but has really REALLY improved this year.

The secondary might not be as good as they look, but I can't say enough for the impact Deon Grant has had on that group. Grant has been great stopping the run and he's probably the main reason the Hawks haven't been killed by the long ball this year.

I agree with what Cris Collinsworth said at the end of the game: If Brain Russell went to the NFL combine he probably wouldn't get drafted. Of course Collinsworth meant it as a compliment that Russell is a savy veteran who has "intangibles". I meant as a fact that Russell isn't very good.

26
by Joe in Seattle (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 3:16am

oh, and the Hawks front 7 is doing all this without Marcus Tubbs.

27
by Carlos (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 3:16am

Okay, my take on the SEA-WAS game, other than Congrats to the Seahawks for winning the game going away, and some post-mortem on the Skins.

1. SEA's front seven was way too much for the Skins, especially the Skins playing backups at RG and RT, but probably even for the starters.

2. SEA's punter was awesome. And their PR game was terrific, too.

3. Not a complaint about the officiating (which I thought was fine, and I don't complain abt it anyway out of principle), but a question. What exactly is the rule for down by contact? I'm thinking of Landry's first pick where he had a pretty good runback, after he collided w/ SEA player but what looked like before he controlled the ball. Anyone know the actual rule?

4. WAS was done in in the first half by lousy playcalling. They haven't been able to run effectively all year, they don't seem to know that you run b/c you're winning, you don't win b/c you're running. I've had enough of Gibbs 2.0 and am ready for the next coach in the carousel. This guy just looks nothing like Gibbs 1.0, who wasn't nearly this conservative (yes, Gibbs 1.0 had his fetish with ancient slow big RBs, but that was fine b/c he was willing to chuck it deep with great regularity). This offense has put too much pressure on the D for years now. The D was held together w/ duct tape for yesterday's game, but the O did absolutely nothing to help.

5. Collins played about as well as I could have hoped for.

6. Appropriate ending for the second rough season in a row for Santana Moss. I don't understand giving up on the route just because you're not open. I definitely don't understand failing to make the tackle. That was not your classic "pick 6."

7. But at the end of the day, I blame Saunders/Gibbs for Moss' physical breakdown over the last 2 seasons. Moss is way to small to be asked to take the abuse he does by running all those bubble screens. Notice how they worked well 2 seasons ago, but since then they don't and they've just contributed to too much wear and tear on a tiny, tiny WR. Moss could have several more good-to-great years in Indy's offense, but in Al Saunders' he's probably dead meat.

8. I get that Portis is the "heart and soul" of the team, but remind me why they're paying Betts so much money and they never gave him a shot all year?

9. After the "great CB debate" on the preview thread, I thought both secondaries played quite well. Obviously, SEA had the two pick 6s, so hard to say they didn't win, but WAS' corners played well, with a much much worse front seven.

9. WAS hasn't had a good DE since... Mann and Manley. They tried the draft (Kenard Lang anyone) and FA, but they cannot land the guy. I'd sure rather have Patrick Kerney than Andre Carter.

10. Maybe you can't tell the difference between a slow and quick release, but we can all observe throwing motions. Jason Campbell drops the ball very low in his windup, and that is surely a contributor to his crazy fumblitis. Some QBs manage to always keep the ball high. I don't know if JC can be taught that, but it's a real weakness if not corrected.

11. I thought Alexander actually looked quite effective, and I thought the Hawks play calling mixed in enough running to keep the skins honest. Of course I thought Morris looked better, but Shaun looked pretty good to me.

12. As well as the Hawks played, I don't give them much chance next week. I really wasn't impressed with Hasselback. GB has much better pass rushers than Washington does, and the corners are probably a wash. I put Hasselback down for another 2 picks next week, easy.

13. Hard to figure out where to go from here for the skins. Been treading water for a few years now. This year they did show a lot of depth, but Taylor's death, and the very serious knee injuries to Rogers and McIntosh combine to wipe out the 3 best young defenders on an otherwise pretty old team. The OL is old, the DL is old, the best receiver and best running back have a lot of wear and tear and aren't very big to begin with, the LBs are old (ex the injured Rocky) and the starting corners are old (and Springs supposedly hates Gibbs). Campbell has looked decent, but seldom anything more than that. Outside of Montgomery, Cooley and Campbell, the rest of the good starters have a lot of miles on them.

28
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 3:53am

The Seahawks front 7 is pretty sick. With Tubbs, they'd be even better. and Trufant is having a good year too.

I chose them as my NFC Superbowl pick pre-playoff. (I think Dallas quietly sucked down the stretch, and I think they can play with Green Bay). One down, two to go.

Though the rest will be tough. The Seahawks have this bad habit of being world beaters at home and losing to the Panthers on the road.

29
by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 4:02am

Karl Cuba,
What are you, a moron!!?? You damn them for being so efficient with the NFC audibles and being a sexy but very lethal distraction (hey, pal, I'm shirking work too, you know), and then you ask for more!!??!! (enough punctuation??) You masochist!!!!! Hit me over the head with an anvil!!!

For the record, I am finishing a report for a client that WAS due 12/31. Now a week late. I have another due 1/11 that I have yet to start on and it takes about 2 weeks to complete. And what am I doing at 11 pm on a Sunday while my wife and kids sleep? Reading audibles!!!!! About teams I'm not particularly interested in!!!!! (Actually, I just finished reading Dungy's book, then after this I will jump on my work. I swear. Really. Unless the AFC Audibles is published in 20 seconds.) damn football, damn it damn it damn it. At least I am not alone.

30
by Sidney (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 4:17am

TB was the NFL version of Hawaii. They played a trash conference and then had the cupcake out of conference schedule due to their last place effort in 2006. I usually think the FO numbers are good but watching TB and looking at your numbers there was no way to make math and reality merge. That was a below average team that got lucky with that schedule and then got whipped by a very average team.

31
by NY expat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 4:46am

re: 5
Great quote -- maybe Eli can get a HeadOn commercial out of that

32
by calbuzz (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 6:44am

30. Does that argument apply to the Seahawks as well?

32
by Jon (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 6:44am

14, he's been good enough in spot duty for us. 21, I disagree. Jacobs had his hamstring injury flare up again, and TB was totally selling out to stop the run.

34
by Vince Verhei :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 6:53am

AFC Audibles are up now. Sorry they're so late. Some things went awry this evening. There's a link at the top of this page.

35
by JasonK (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 9:21am

Click my name for the most unlikely picture I've seen this year.

36
by Stereochemistry (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 10:22am

"They played a trash conference and then had the cupcake out of conference schedule due to their last place effort in 2006"

Last place schedule's only account for two games, which I believe they split 1-1, losing to the Lions and beating the Redskins. Their other games included the NFC South (5-1), NFC West (2-2), and AFC South (1-3)

While I believe you meant division instead of conference, the terms are probably interchangeable with that adjective.

37
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 10:33am

WA-SEA

--Kind of surprised not more mention of the dropped passed by the 'Skins in the first half. That stuff killed multiple drives

--If I were a Seattle fan I wouldn't be overly impressed about seeing my DE overpower a kid tackle playing on the road in that atmosphere. Ye old "Christians/Lions" thing

--Rocky Bernard deserves more pub. Man gets upfield without getting gashed on running plays. Kind of the John Randle that people thought existed versus the guy who ignored running plays

--The Seattle punter was really helping the cause in the first half. Nice work there

--If Seattle can't run the ball effectively (which is where GB has struggled on defense the last month) Hasslebeck will have to be better than he was on Saturday.

--Where is the speed on the Seattle offense? Al Harris has lost a step but his issues won't be exploited if nobody on the Seahawks can get separation.

--Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton (GB tackles) are good pass blockers. They have regularly faced speed rushers all season and more than held their own. Where the GB line has been vulnerable is up the middle due to guard position being unstable with nobody really staking a claim to the position.

NY-TB

--Let me guess this straight. TB is 7th in DVOA to finish the season, I believe somebody described this as one of the biggest mismatches of the season, and because ONE GUY for Tampa may or may not be 100% Tampa Bay "s#cks"?

I have no dog in defending NY's honor but that is a pretty bizarre perspective.

For the lack of a Galloway the game was lost?

This was standard Kifin defense. Come on like gangbusters to begin the game and if you can weather the storm and work them come the 4th quarter those light in the pants D-linemen are spinning their wheels and you can ram it down their throat. It's been that way for years. Why is anyone surprised? Kifin's approach does not work if his team's offense doesn't stay on the field. And the Giants defense punked the Tampa offense.

TB doubled Osi clearly counting on their tackle to handle Stahan one on one and it blew up in their face. The old dude was all over Garcia. The best was when he started out on the rush, saw the screen and peeled back to drag down the running back.

And no mention of how the Giants battled through the heat?

Man, Tampa had all KINDS of advantages yesterday between the great start and the weather and NY kicked their *ss from here to tomorrow.

Look, I am a firm believer in DVOA. But after yesterday one of the following has to be true:

--Galloway is the greatest offensive player in the NFC

--DVOA has a super-duper crush on Tampa

--NY played a really good all-around game

Tampa playing poorly was not in evidence. They were just flat out b*tch-slapped.

38
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 11:01am

Re: 30/32

The handful of times I saw TB this year I was always left struggling to reconcile the team I saw with the FO figures. They just weren't that good. I never had that same feeling watching Seattle. Their play seemed a bit better and for most of the year they were considerably lower in the FO metrics than was TB.

39
by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 11:14am

The Tampa O-line got schooled, so badly in fact that Garcia didn't even have room to move around. I also thought that NYG did a terrific job in making adjustments, as in the 1st quarter Tampa looked much the better team on both sides of the ball.

40
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 11:35am

James:

Over and over and over again we see how mediocre to poor offensive line play impacts the game and yet a good many teams still seem to take a blase approach to offensive linemen when it comes to constructing a roster.

I am not criticizing the playoff teams as the ones who had poor line play were also working through injuries, particularly Pittsburgh.

Just that if I were a team on the outside of the playoffs and watched the games I might re-think my draft/free agent strategy based on how the critical nature of solid offensive line performanced JUMPED OUT of the television at the viewer.

Before a franchise does anything else it should get linemen and coach the cr*p out of them. Everything on offense is pretty much secondary until you have 3/5 of a crew that can block worth a tinker's d*mn

41
by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 12:07pm

Badger,

Agreed. One of the worst thing about following Miami these past few seasons has been the continuing ineptitude of the O-line. Things have improved over the past two seasons (from a very low base; 2004 was ugly), but generally the Miami offense has sucked because no-one can block.

42
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 12:14pm

By the way, if refs really are "swallowing the flags" on holding penalties then a guy like Mark Tauscher is going to have a field day. Mark's bad knee has caused him to grab a bit more due to impaired lateral movement. You let him glom his paws on a DE and it's over as that dude has some serious hand strength.

43
by Independent George (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 12:52pm

#42 - bonus points for proper use of the word, 'glom'. I love random use of obscure & archaic words in wholly unexpected contexts.

44
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 1:02pm

IG:

Mom was an English teacher. I really had to ratchet back how I spoke in college and early on in my career because folks thought I was "being cute" or "too academic" or some such.

It obviously still seeps in every so often. Glad to know I am not going to get someone griping that they had to "pull out a dictionary" to read my post. That happened in meetings several times. It never occurred to me that words like "truculent" or "unfathomable" were all that onerous in daily reading.

45
by Independent George (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 1:38pm

Truculent is another good one, but I would have thought unfathomable was perfectly cromulent to most people.

I mostly have problems when I use nonsense words which I mistakenly assume people would get, like 'gruntled' or 'embiggens'.

46
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 1:57pm

It's not that Galloway is that good, it is that everybody else is that bad. There was a similar effect for the Vikings. Sidney Rice, at this point in his career, is nothing but a mediocre guy with some promise. However, since everybody else is so terrible, even losing a mediocrity is a severe blow. Galloway is actually good, and allows Garcia to maximize what he has left.

Adrian Peterson, if he was watching the Bucs defense, had to be wondering if he'll ever get run against such alignments again.

As far as Santana Moss on Collins' first pick six, how you give up like that, simply because the corner didn't bite on the first move, is beyond me, especially in that game situation. If Moss ever has the gall to complain that the ball isn't being thrown his way enough, he should be forced to watch that play on a repeating loop for eight hours straight.

47
by Costa (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 2:00pm

44:
While "onerous" is a rather standard word nowadays, I still think you were trying to pile on there. :)

48
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 2:05pm

Will:

Well, that's certainly plausible.

I just think in a game where everyone, indluding folks here, talk about the group effort needed to succeed the notion that ONE guy, a receiver no less, can cause a complete offensive collapse strikes me as excuse-making of a fairly extreme nature.

Costa:

Ya'know the word that I still use and folks grumble about my usage of "big words"? Puerile. Go figure......

49
by Independent George (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 2:16pm

For me, the appeal isn't just a word's obscurity, but also its archaicism, and its context. There's just something I love about the use of 'tipplemeister', 'canoodle', or 'kerfuffle' in a wholly unexpected context.

50
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 2:23pm

IG:

It's hilarious you mention kerfuffle. I was visiting my folks over the holiday and was in an animated football discussion with my brothers when my mom walked by and asked, "Is this another football kerfuffle?"

51
by Kurt (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 2:44pm

13 - Regarding “Are these the real Giants?”...

Don't be silly. Remember - it's not the "real Giants" until they lose. If Dallas buries them next week, watch the usual suspects show up, telling us that DVOA had the Giants pegged right all along, etc. etc.

52
by Kwame Flaherty (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 3:38pm

I'm a Giant fan with a TB observation. It might be time for Gruden to re-evaluate his passing game philosphy. Defenses are too fast and smart to run 4 your crossing routes for the entire game. The better offenses in the league (New England, Colts, Green Bay, Dallas,Browns,Benglas) get big chunks of yards. And while Galloway was able to do that most of the year, the roots of his passing game is the 5 yard cross/slant.

53
by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 3:41pm

Love where this thread has gone. But isn't "embiggens" actually a word? Remember the Simpsons episode? In the end, Lisa looked it up, and it was a word. I am no English major, and I'm sure it shows, so maybe the Simpsons fooled me, but when Lisa looked it up, that was good enough for me.

54
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 3:51pm

If Taylor can affect the path of the ball in the air, he’s a real dick for pushing that FG wide left.

Yikes! That was a little harsh (regardless of how funny it was).

55
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 4:32pm

"It might be time for Gruden to re-evaluate his passing game philosphy. Defenses are too fast and smart to run 4 your crossing routes for the entire game. The better offenses in the league (New England, Colts, Green Bay, Dallas,Browns,Benglas) get big chunks of yards."

New England is a really bad example. Most of NE's yardage comes on short slants/crossing patterns to Kevin Faulk/Wes Welker/Donte Stallworth.

New England's offense is very similar to Tampa Bay's, with one glaring difference: talent (at WR and QB). Last year, NE's offense was almost exactly what TB is running this year.

56
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 4:41pm

53: Embiggens is a perfectly cromulent word.

57
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 4:43pm

For the Giants, I wonder if it's a coincidence that they started playing better after Shockey was injured. Maybe he's been what's holding Eli back all this time.

58
by Independent George (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 5:04pm

One interesting thing I noticed about Eli in this game was that when he missed, he generally missed low; was this something that he was coached to do? That's what McNabb has been doing in PHI for his entire career - by aiming low, if he misses, the ball bounces off the turf instead of being intercepted. If so, I wonder if that's par with Tiki Barber holding the ball higher - a simple fix that yields incredible results. (And, as in the case with Tiki, I scratch my head wondering why nobody ever tried that before).

59
by Kwame Flaherty (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 5:29pm

55: I think the difference between NE and TB is it seems Gruden wants to play this style. Not that he's playing this way because he lacks talent and he has too. He went out and signed Ike Hilliard, Garcia, drafted Clayton. He played this way with Oakland with Rice and Brown. New England on the other hand(this year)seems to take what the defense gives them, regardless if its the short ball or deep ball.

60
by Black Squirrel (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 6:04pm

You know, all of the talking heads almost had the Giants/Bucs game exactly right last week. They kept talking about how New York's young quarterback had to have the best game of his career. In fact, the young CORNERback was the one who played an excellent game.

61
by mush (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 6:07pm

Todd Collins at minimum should understand the Al Saunders offense a lot better than Jason Campbell. He's been in it, what, 7-8 years?

62
by Zach (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 6:45pm

I realize there was only a short time that Guy Whimper was on the field but it seemed to be that he was very effective in both the passing and running game. I was wondering if there is any chance or talks about him possibly winning the starting LT spot for next year and allowing Diehl to move back to guard where he is clearly more comfortable and effective.

63
by Nate (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 6:47pm

57:
It is not a coincidence that the offense has played better without Shockey. When he was in there, he is so good that Eli and the offense feel pressure when Shockey has no catches. They would force a call or throw to him. Now, if Kevin Boss doesn't get a catch, or thrown too, its no big deal.

Of course Shockey is extremely talented, but he is a loudmouth who demands the ball. That's why he and Burress on the same team can be dangerous (especially in a windy stadium where a power running game should be used).

I am not saying that I don't love Shockey. I do. He is a mismatch to a defense and has worked really hard to become a good blocker. But the Giants have enough playmakers on offense not to worry about needing to feed the TE the ball.

64
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 7:07pm

I don't see enough of the Giants to know whether it is true, but I've read from time to time that he free-lances on his routes quite a bit. If so, I can see how that would hinder a qb's development.

65
by Nate (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 7:27pm

Will,
I haven't heard about him free-lancing, but I do know that they run a lot of 'option' routes with him. Maybe he chooses the wrong option too often.

66
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 8:47pm

There's nothing sillier than saying Shockey's absence has helped Eli. How does that sound when the game after he was injured was one of Eli's worst games ever? The only way anyone could think that is if they believe Eli had no good games this year prior to the last two. That's simply not true.

The one game this season the Giants made a concerted effort to get Shockey the ball, he was the second rated WR for the week (according to DPAR).

67
by Stoppable Manning (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 9:06pm

#64 & 65: Talking about Shockey? Because, yeah, he screws his routes on a regular basis. At least it seems that way, just eyeballing it from home.

Last year I saw some statistical evidence that would back it up too: IIRC, Shockey's catch % was significantly lower than Eli's completion % in the depth of field that Shockey gets the vast majority of his reps (he lives on 6-10 yard routes in Coughlin's offense). I still think Shockey is a hell of a player, but you've just got to keep things simple for him. Option routes aren't for everyone.

68
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 10:21pm

Jason Campbell has a slow release too. Probably #2 to Leftwhich.

25- I agree 100%, Seattle has the best LB core in the NFC and Leory Hill is a very underrated LB. Look at that core, Lofa, JP and Hill. I've been touting Hill for half the season now. Also, Patrick Kearney playing in loud SEA and ATL stadiums helps him because the loud noise forces the RT to wait longer to release. SEA as one of the loudest stadiums in the league was a good FA choice for him.

Kevin Dockery has provided some excellent coverage this year. I saw some terrible luck on catches as Megatron Calvin Johnson made a spectacular catch ( as well as others) when he provided close defense. The knock is his size, which makes sense why the 6'5 beast jumped over him and caught the ball but he played better than I thought he would.

Corey Webster on the other hand DID play like the high draft pick he was supposed to be, and Gerris Wilkerson 2 weeks in a row. Did you catch that highlighed play where he was WILL and ran through the line for a nice TFL? I'd agree that Webster often looked lost and out of place this year and most of the time looked like the Giants weakest corner. Ross provided good coverage, Madison was hit or miss and Webster often looked lost. It was nice to see him play well.

Vince V- You can't have it both ways. If the Giants play more aggressive and have both big plays and bad plays their DVOA will reflect it. They played a more conservative game this week and eliminated the bad plays ( but didn't have as many big plays) like say the Redskins. Only the Pats and Colts can have big plays without the negative plays.

62- The Giants took a mid round flier on Guy Whiper because he was an athletic guy and they wanted him mold him ALA a Jason Peters in Buffalo. He did look good out there.

I am glad the public is finally seeing some of the Giants potential. I still think they are better than most people think they are as well as FO.

I think one of the main reasons why the run game works is because Eli goes a good job of audibiling into and out of running/passing plays. He IS a smart quarterback but has had some problems with execution. I'd even argue that a lot of the problems were bad weather and bad luck. Not ALL of the problems but at the end of the year when he had tailed off he played in some horrible conditions, and I felt throughout the year ( besides Minnesota) that a lot of those interceptions could have been prevented by his receivers.

Speakig of the Giants receivers, they led the league in drops. Plax and shockey aren't known for their hands, but Toomer had the dropsies this year too. Not to mention the RBs both Ward and Jacobs dropped their fair share. I believe there were 12 dropped balls in the windy Redskins game at the end of the year.

but back to the run game. I believe the Giants threat of passing downfield ( not the Redskins or Chiefs offense) led the backs to have some favorable running lanes and 7 man fronts. The throw in the run audibles Eli provided and I believe people underrate Eli's impact on the run game.

Eli may have made some poor throws this year and failed to execute, but he put his teammates in position to make plays and that is all you can ask of a quarterback. ALL of the running backs were put into good position and excelled.

I think Gerry Reese got the draft right last year by not succombing to the media and drafting a RB or T, but building up the D. I say the Giants bring in a S to replace James Butler or bring in a big play LB or beast DT.

69
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 10:26pm

I guess what I think people are underrating is the fact that some plays are doomed from the start, and some quarterbacks run those plays and some audible out.

The Redskins didn't audible this year but the Giants did. Eli would do a good job of changing a pass play to that signature off tackle draw play they run ( with snee pulling to the left), or changing a run left to a run right.

I believe neither the FO or pop media has factored in Eli's impact on the run game. It is easier for a casual fan to see Peyton impact the run game, but Eli does too. I'd be more than happy to elaborate on it if needed.

70
by Kurt (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 10:53pm

This is probably nitpicking, but can anyone explain why the Giants were handing off after the McQuarters pick? Just take three knees and punt - the only chance Tampa had was for the Giants to fumble there.

71
by Rick (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 10:54pm

I was so unsure of who would win this game, I chose not to bet at all on it. A 9-7 conference winner with only 2 wins against decent competition (Tennessee and Washington) or a 10-6 team with only 1 win against decent competition (Washington), but plays well on the road?

Seriously, this was a toss up of 2 very mediocre teams, at best. In the end, I though Garcia's history against NY would win out, but that wasn't enough to bet on. He's also aging and didn't have as good a supporting cast as he had last year or in SF.

So much was similar between these 2 teams, even the records of the teams they played against was the same (both played teams with a total of 102 wins and 106 losses). DVOA was divergent, with TB looking better than NY, except that NY had been playing well in the final few weeks while TB was resting, with nothing to gain or lose.

Ultimately, the win for NY doesn't say alot except that they can beat competition that is very similar to them in quality. But we knew that, because they beat Philly and they split with Washington - both very similar teams to New York. The best thing NY had going in their favor was they played in the toughest division in football and came in second, while TB won the division that is arguably the weakest.

I don't think they can beat Dallas, and I hate Dallas. But Dallas, even without TO, should be better than this fair to middling squad of Giants.

72
by Rick (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 11:03pm

I like the commentary about Shockey and how the Giants have performed without him. I think it's true that without Shockey they are a better team.

People talk about Shockey being the "emotional" leader of this team. I see him as much a problem as a leader. He likes to screw with his routes, is a great blocker who misses blocks, falls down frequently after catching the ball, and generally gets penalized for stupid things.

Overall, Boss produces almost as much as Shockey without the stupid mistakes. I'd rather see him out there because he makes the team more consistent. In 4 games, he has 2 TDs to Shockey's 3 all season, 3.3 YAC to Shockey's 4.4 (not a huge differential). The kid can flat out play, he doesn't miss his blocks and can hit hard. I'd take him over Shock anyday.

73
by Kurt (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 11:14pm

So much was similar between these 2 teams, even the records of the teams they played against was the same (both played teams with a total of 102 wins and 106 losses).

The math doesn't work out on this - they played 16 teams, each of which played 16 games, so the opponents' total records shoud each add up to 256 (or 234 if you exclude games against Tampa or the Giants), not 208.

74
by Black Squirrel (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 11:41pm

This talk of Eli Manning being helped by Shockey's absence is ridiculous. Eli has played well in consecutive games with Shockey in the lineup on plenty of occasions.

According to the 2008 draft order on nfl.com, the combined records of the Giants' and Bucs' opponents this season were:

Bucs: 120-136
Giants: 132-124

75
by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 11:42pm

Shockey has all the talent in the world after the catch, but Boss very well might have better hands. I've seen Shockey drop way too many routine balls.

Shockey also has these emotional 15 yard penalties/complaints to the refs. I think the biggest problem though is when him and Plax complain to Eli for the ball. Think about that. He has two premaddonas that want him to force them ball into them and that's not good. Just let Eli read the defense and throw the ball to the open guy.

76
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 01/08/2008 - 6:00am

Vince V- You can’t have it both ways. If the Giants play more aggressive and have both big plays and bad plays their DVOA will reflect it. They played a more conservative game this week and eliminated the bad plays ( but didn’t have as many big plays) like say the Redskins. Only the Pats and Colts can have big plays without the negative plays.

Well, that's kind of my point. People seemed ready to anoint him to the Peyton-Brady level based on this game, and I'm just saying, he wasn't THAT good.

77
by mush (not verified) :: Tue, 01/08/2008 - 7:58pm

76: People seemed ready to anoint (Eli Manning) to the Peyton-Brady level based on this game, and I’m just saying, he wasn’t THAT good.

Total strawman argument. No one's said that, no one's saying that. Geesh. It's easy to win debates when you make up the flimsy other side.

78
by Nick F (not verified) :: Tue, 01/08/2008 - 10:57pm

RE: Bobby Engram being the best player on the 1994 Penn State team.

Kyle Brady? Marco Rivera?

79
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 01/08/2008 - 11:50pm

Vince V- But when Eli was playing in a complex offense and had troubles people didn't discount what was being asked of him and didn't look at the subtle effects he had on say the run game.

2 weeks ago against the Pats he played well in that offense, and last week I'd agree that less was being asked of him and he shined against a top notch defense on the road.

People are NOT discounting the fact that less was asked of him, but in the past they never factored in the more responsibility when he wasn't playing so well.

It goes with the old cliche that you get too much credit in the victory and too much blame in the defeat.

My point is that if you want to poop on everybodies parade now based on the responsibility, you should have been standing next to me as one of the few people defending him when things weren't going so well.

80
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 01/09/2008 - 1:32pm

But when Eli was playing in a complex offense and had troubles people didn’t discount what was being asked of him and didn’t look at the subtle effects he had on say the run game.

Do you ever get tire of typing the same exact thing over and over and over again? At this point I can only assume that you are some kind of malicious spam-bot unleashed on the internet to besmirch the reputation of anyone who happens to share your name.

81
by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 01/09/2008 - 10:51pm

Wanker79- Why do I get underneath your skin so much? Why attack me?

If you disagree with my point, then refute it.