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14 Jan 2008

Audibles at the Line: NFC Divisional Games

compiled by Doug Farrar

Each weekend, 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. If you missed the Audibles which covered the AFC divisional playoff games, you'll find it here.

Seattle Seahawks 20 at Green Bay Packers 42

Aaron Schatz: It's annoying when they play the same promotional commercials over and over during a game -- "You're risking a patient's life here," "Her father is the district attorney!" etc. It is even more annoying when they have the little graphics dance across the bottom of the screen to promote some show, especially when the graphics actually block out part of a play.

But we reached the absolute nadir of network promotion at the start of today's FOX pregame show, when they cut in promos for "Sarah Connor Chronicles" as if the "Connors" were breaking into the network feed.

Curt Menefee is trying to do a simple open, promoting the Packers-Seahawks game, and he can't even finish a sentence. You know, just in case we were going to miss the commercials for "Sarah Connor Chronicles" which would run every 20 minutes for the next four hours. Menefee is talking about Brett Favre and the FOX visual is a Terminator skull. What the hell? At some point, don't the guys from FOX Sports need to stand up to the guys from FOX Entertainment and say "enough's enough?"

Doug Farrar: Well, THAT's an interesting start to the game. Two Green Bay fumbles, two Seattle touchdowns to start the game. And just so we know we're not dreaming up in Seattle, Deion Branch goes down after apparently being injured in a collision with imaginary gophers. He's just running a route, no contact, and pling! Down he goes with what looks like a knee thing -- later word infers that it might be ligament damage. Seattle's line is pass-blocking very well at the start.

On the Bobby Engram touchdown, I still say that force-outs need to be reviewable, although that would have taken Seattle's second score off the board.

Stuart Fraser: You don't think Engram would have got down in-bounds had he not been thrown out by the defender? Moreover, you don't think the Seahawks would have scored eventually anyway? A shootout in the snow at Lambeau Field. I dunno what I was expecting, but this is a surprise.

Ryan Wilson: Ryan Grant is on pace for 115 fumbles today. I think that would be a playoff record.

Sean McCormick: That can't be how Ryan Grant envisioned the game going when he got out of bed this morning.

Stuart Fraser: I dunno, it kind of reminds me about something an old school friend used to say about wishing in small print. "In my dream scenario, I'd make two huge momentum-changing plays with my first three touches, leading to double-digit lead." (Well, assuming Hass and Co. come through on the drive, anyway.) He only forgot to specify "for Green Bay."

Bill Barnwell: That Nick Barnett play on Seattle's second drive wasn't pass interference; that was pass abuse. Or pass violence.

Doug Farrar: Seattle runs a zone blitz on Green Bay's first drive, with Patrick Kerney falling into coverage, which leads to a long uncovered run after catch by James Jones on the other side. I really don't like the idea of Seattle blitzing Brett Favre a great deal. He's very tough to pressure, and the margin for error that blitzing leaves behind doesn't favor the Seahawks in this case. They need to trust their linebackers and safeties, who cover short routes very well. You can see right away why the Pack led the NFL in yards after catch -- they've got these big, rangy guys who can accelerate out of their cuts and head upfield very quickly. Great blockers, as well. Great touchdown drive response by Green Bay.

Sean McCormick: Terrific communication between Favre and Greg Jennings on that touchdown pass. It looked like it was supposed to be a fade but the corner (Kelly Jennings) was playing outside technique and took it away. Most times that will result in a quarterback chucking it up anyway and hoping for the best, but both Favre and Greg Jennings saw the coverage and adjusted the pattern and the throw to attack on the inside.

Doug Farrar: I think Favre was pointing out a huge (literally) mismatch on his left side. I'm sorry, but Kelly Jennings cannot cover Greg Jennings one-on-one with no safety help. He's giving up about a foot in height and what looks like 50 pounds.

Bill Barnwell: Moose Johnston just pointed out that it was a run play that was audibled at the line. It looks like, maybe, there was still a little miscommunication on what exactly the pattern was going to be. One of the things I'm noticing is how well the Packers wideouts sell on play action, especially Donald Driver. On the rollout and throw to Donald Lee, Driver had a gorgeous sell of a run block before heading out and occupying the safety's attention long enough to create space for Lee.

(With 5:04 left in the first quarter, Favre throws over the middle to Bubba Franks, who seems to rumble for a first down on third-and-7 from the Green Bay 39. The short spot is reversed on review. First down, Packers.)

Stuart Fraser: Does anybody other than me think that the challenge of the spot on that screen to Franks was a really dumb idea? Sure, it's not the best spot ever, but these rarely get overturned and in any case, dude, it's a fourth-and-6 inches or so. Seattle's defensive line doesn't fill me with foreboding at the thought of a fourth-and-short conversion.

Doug Farrar: Well, score one for Brett Favre and TundraVision. My only objection is that I don't think it was conclusive that he was not down before he extended his arm, which is supposed to be the basis for overturning the spot. I wouldn't have argued if the original spot had given Green Bay a first down, though.

That long Ryan Grant run with 2:30 left in the first quarter wasn't about overpursuit -- it was about a devastating block on LeRoy Hill by Bubba Franks. The Seahawks need to draft a tight end who can block like that, without question. What the Seahawks do not need is a tight end who can fumble like Marcus Pollard. Because they already have that.

Sean McCormick: I thought the refs got it right on the review.

Marcus Trufant isn't going to make himself a lot of money in the off-season at this rate. That "tackle" attempt where Ryan Grant jumped right over him was pretty feeble. And he's been soft in coverage so far, too.

Aaron Schatz: Who is this person wearing Atari Bigby's uniform, who suddenly is playing great in pass coverage and not getting called for any penalties?

Bill Barnwell: I think I am going to start throwing things if there's really an Atari Bigby lovefest during this game. Yes, he has "range." The reason he has range is because he's often nowhere near the play. Of course, he did just make a nice play in coverage on Pollard. So I'll grudgingly retract that. On the other hand, Nick Collins appears to be on a mission to overrun every play.

Doug Farrar: Yes, but Pollard's "range" started to decline when he celebrated his 80th birthday.

Ned Macey: I take umbrage when people question former Colts! Pollard was fifth in the league in DVOA this season and has fumbled, get this, five times in his entire career or once every 70 catches. That's just a fluky play, caused largely, I think by the weather, since it appeared Pollard was actually spending too much time worrying about ball control.

Doug Farrar: You may take all the umbrage you wish, sir. I see the selection of a tight end very early in Seattle's 2008 draft.

Aaron Schatz: Let me note that I am not celebrating Bigby's range. I'm celebrating a couple good pass defenses, big hits, and the first time I've seen him play 20 minutes without a flag.

Ned Macey: I also think it will be funny that Grant will be considered a fumbler for the next year or two even though he only fumbled once all regular season.

One week after the Seattle front dominated the Redskins offensive line, they are getting gashed on the ground. Grant is gaining consistent yardage plus the occasional big play. Is it me, or have the Packers completed only like one or two passes on Marcus Trufant? They are attacking Jennings mercilessly, and even when he has good coverage, they seem to be completing passes.

Doug Farrar: This Green Bay offense is very interesting. It starts out short so often and then just explodes at the second level. Pass and run. With the blocking receivers and athletic linemen that can get downfield, it just bulldozes people. As a defense, you think you've got them stopped short and they fool you over and over. Incredibly frustrating to stop.

On Green Bay's first touchdown, I wondered why Kelly Jennings was covering Greg Jennings solo. On Green Bay's third touchdown, I will not ask why Jordan Babineaux was covering Greg Jennings solo, because there is no acceptable answer. Nice Venus De Milo moves there, Jordan.

Aaron Schatz: Mmmmmm ... gummy Jordan Babineaux...

Bill Barnwell: I'm impressed at the job Mark Tauscher is doing on Kerney. Kerney's been completely silent in the first half.

Aaron Schatz: And they aren't doubling much either. It's mostly just Tauscher, one-on-one.

Vince Verhei: The announcers touched on this at the end of the half, but Seattle's defensive tackles are getting manhandled for maybe the first time all year. They're getting no pressure up the middle, and I'm not looking at play-by-play, but it feels like every run is getting at least 3 yards. They're not getting any pressure from the edges either. Favre is hanging back and nonchalantly looking over the zone, finding and hitting open guys. I don't like the idea of blitzing Favre either, but we can say for certain that rushing four and dropping seven isn't working. And if the Seahawks are missing tackles, you know at least one of them was by Brian Russell. In this case, it came on one of Grant's big runs from Seattle's 35-yard line or so.

Part of this is that the refs have decided this is another "There is no holding in the playoffs" game. Both teams' blockers are hooking, snatching, tearing down defenders and mostly getting away with it. Favre and the Packers are exploiting that. Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks, not so much. Even when they're able to get a wide receiver on a linebacker in coverage, they've lost the matchup. And yes, Atari Bigby is playing his ass off.

Also, Shaun Alexander ain't no kind of threat any more. Breaking news, I know.

Doug Farrar: In the first half, Seattle rushed for six yards on nine attempts. Tim Ruskell, win or lose, your off-season mission is as clear as it could possibly be.

About the penalty thing … Patrick Kerney was getting held ridiculously in the Redskins playoff game as well. And if the Green Bay secondary is allowed to play physically? Okay, nothing you can do about that. Matt Hasselbeck going off about it does nothing to help. Now if you counter by playing physically and you're getting flagged, THAT's when you have a real complaint. I haven't seen that. Holmgren barking at the officials at the end of the first half was a bad flashback to a game I don't ever care to recall again. Say what you want about officials -- and I've said my share -- but these guys aren't robots. You have to play with the crew as they're calling things, not the way you think they should be calling them. Though they were the least-penalized team in the NFL this year, the Seahawks seem to have a real problem with that.

Heh -- and as I write that, Woodson and Harris both get called for holding on the same play, six minutes into the third quarter. This reminds me of the late calls on the Ravens secondary after they mauled the Pats' receivers all the way through the first half of the Rex Ryan Timeout Game.

Stuart Fraser: If I were to be really cynical, I might suggest that the refs waited until a big Seahawks first down when they knew the holding penalties would be declined, and then decided to call them.

Vince Verhei: On Hasselbeck's third-down incompletion on the first second-half drive, he had wide-open field in front of him to run. He could have hopped on one leg and picked up the first down.

Bill Barnwell: Not true. Atari Bigby's range would've run him down from 30 yards away and made him spontaneously combust.

Sean McCormick: I thought he had room to run, too, but defenses tend to close much faster than you expect when it's a quarterback running with it.

Stuart Fraser: The announcers were treating fourth-and-inches from around midfield as an absolute punting situation for both teams. Was Bill Walsh opposed to going for it? Is it a Holmgren thing? Is it just me, used to the aggressive group of coaches who control the top AFC teams?

Aaron Schatz: Look at the Aggressiveness Index chart in Pro Football Prospectus 2006 and you'll see that for the most part the Walsh and Holmgren line of coaches shows up very low on the list. Oddly the exceptions are the guys who were defensive coordinators for the teams on that line, like George Seifert and Ray Rhodes.

This is the kind of observation that might just be a case of your memory being tricked by recent events, but it seems to me that we always said that you could use a lower-round pick or undrafted guy at running back and get good numbers as long as he was behind a good offensive line. What amazes me about the running backs who "came out of nowhere" this year is the skills that they have which clearly have nothing to do with their offensive lines, and you wonder how nobody ever noticed that these guys were good. Earnest Graham, the way he always pushes forward for extra yardage. Ryan Grant, the way he hurdles guys and fakes out safeties. Brandon Jacobs, how on earth he lasted until the fourth round I have no idea. And so on.

Sean McCormick: Playing for Northern Illinois might have something to do with it.

Aaron Schatz: Are the Seahawks contractually obligated to run Shaun Alexander into a pile for two yards once every five plays? And has the Seattle defense made a play at all since those two fumbles?

Doug Farrar: Yes, and no. But the suckitude of the Seattle run-blocking has been this team's Achilles' heel for two seasons.

Pollard whiffs a ball in the end zone with four minutes left in the third quarter, as Tony Siragusa begins a sentence as follows: "I played with Marcus Pollard in Indianapolis…"

Ned Macey: After my Marcus Pollard defense in the first half, I must note after two more drops (one in the end zone and one on fourth down) that what is likely his last game as a Seahawk has to be the worst game of his life.

There was something on the Pro Football Reference blog last week about the fact that the supposed advantage of the bye isn't that big a deal -- mostly it is just better teams winning at home. Still, I feel there is always a game or two like this were one team that is slightly better than its opponent just destroys them. It's been 42-6 after the two Grant fumbles, no meaningful punts by the Packers.

For all the talk about Hasselbeck's complaining, they never really showed us the Packers' secondary being physical. They showed the play right afterwards that was incomplete to Nate Burleson, but Al Harris appeared legal on that play. I can't wait for the days when we have coach's film to watch. In such a pass-happy era, we are so limited as analysts because we only see what is going on with the intended receiver. Al Harris may have held on 80 percent of the plays or 5 percent, but we have no idea.

Aaron Schatz: And with 12:34 left in the fourth quarter, on fourth-and-2, we have our official Gregg Easterbrook "why are you punting?" moment. Game over. Seattle-Green Bay game summarized in one sentence: The Seattle defensive line was as bad this week as they were good last week.

Vince Verhei: I'd like to thank the FOX crew for using a sideline cam during LIVE ACTION for several plays at the end of the third quarter. This made it impossible, for example, to note Green Bay's off-balance offensive line on Grant's big run (well, his latest big run) until they showed it to us on replay. My day as a Seahawks fan looks pretty much ruined, now they're going out of their way to make sure my day as a football fan is shot to hell too. So thanks, FOX. I appreciate it.

Something Doug wrote about earlier this year: The Seahawks' tendency to overpurse opens giant holes for cutback runs. How many of Grant's yards came on runs where he broke back against the flow of the play?

Doug Farrar: Someone e-mailed me asking if I thought the horrid run defense had anything to do with the weather conditions. Footing was a problem, as was Seattle's difficulty with cutbacks, as were the Green Bay two-fullback or fullback/tight end formations -- the inverse wishbone, U Formation, or whatever it's called. But the big thing is that the Packers' receivers and tight ends just block very, very well. This is obviously heavily ingrained as a skill of crucial importance from the first day you're a Packer. That's what makes them tough despite all the passing craziness. Ryan Grant would hit a cutback, Lofa Tatupu or Leroy Hill would come up to plug it, and boom! There's Bubba Franks with the block to keep the lane open.

Seattle was horrible with outside contain in this game –- very obviously out of position far too often. Ryan Grant likes to bounce outside. Many backs do, and usually, Seattle has the personnel to respond. It's hard to take down a running back with a head of steam (unless his name is Shaun Alexander) when you're trying to recover from bad positioning, slick field or no. Not really a news flash.

Bill McCartney used to say that "Defense is about knowing where your help is." Very little help on Seattle's defense in this game, when working in tandem is what has defined them. Guys weren't together at all. The images I'll take away from this game are Patrick Kerney yelling at teammates on the other side of the field to get in their correct positions, and the look on Brett Favre's face when he saw Kelly Jennings playing man on Greg Jennings on that early touchdown. Deon Grant ranked first in Stop Rate against the run among all NFL safeties, but he was nonexistent in this game.

That said, this was just as much about what the Packers did to the Seahawks as what they did to themselves. Sometimes, you just get waxed by a better team, and you have throw out the stats and look at what needs fixing in the off-season.

New York Giants 21 at Dallas Cowboys 17

Bill Barnwell: Since no one asked, here's my preview of this game. The Cowboys went after Eli Manning with their linebackers in Week 10, like they do with most teams, and the Giants exploited it with Jeremy Shockey being matched up in man against Roy Williams. Now, the Giants don't have Jeremy Shockey. End of preview.

I like the Giants' game plan early on, in that they're trying to run at DeMarcus Ware, but it's going to be a long day if Plaxico Burress can't get open. I'd like to see them run more max protect and try and take some shots at Ken Hamlin and Roy Williams ("We were Pro Bowlers, honest!") with some double-moves, but if Burress isn't getting open on the slant, the hitch-and-go isn't going to work.

Vince Verhei: Did I just see the Giants doctor wearing a tweed jacket and cap? Did Wellington Mara hire this man when he took over the team in 1966?

I think it was Dr. Z at Sports Illustrated who described Marion Barber best: He runs angry. He treats every carry as if it were his last, pushing, scrapping, striving for every inch. May not lead to a long career, but it sure is effective. In fact, I wonder if that's why he's been coming off the bench all season, because they knew his style makes him vulnerable to injury. And now, in the playoffs, where it's win or else, starting him is worth the risk.

Doug Farrar: Shaun Alexander, on the other hand, runs pouty.

Vince Verhei: So after a weekend filled with long, slow drives, Dallas gets the king of them all: a 20-play, 10-plus-minute death march capped by a Barber touchdown. There were some stuffed runs and incompletes mixed in there, but they converted an astounding six third downs to pull it off. That's what this game plan forces offenses to do: Execute over and over again, and the Cowboys did, leaving the Giants less than two minutes to answer.

And then Eli Manning says, "SCREW THIS!" and quickly makes big throw after big throw to lead the team down the field for a touchdown. The Cowboys were rushing four and generally not getting there, giving him time to find guys, and find them he did. He threw one incompletion, a high pass in the end zone that resembled a classic Eli overthrow, but I actually think it was a smart play, throwing the ball away when nobody was open. The touchdown pass to Amani Toomer with just seven seconds to go was another smart play. Toomer was basically coming across the goal line, and there was a slim chance he could have been tackled before getting there. But that's OK, because the Giants had one timeout left. Eli, knowing this, didn't have to worry about the clock expiring at the goal-line, a la the Titans-Rams Super Bowl. Great drive by the younger Manning.

Aaron Schatz: There seem to be three main stories through the first half: The Giants offense is playing more like they did the last two weeks, not the first 15; the Dallas defense is playing more like they did the last month, not the first three; and Marion Barber is quite the talented player and not starting him all this time was stupid. I haven't seen a lot of controversy. The Dallas offense may only have 14 points but it doesn't really look like they're struggling. This is our fourth straight game with long, extended drives where both offenses seem to be playing pretty well.

Bill Barnwell: Is there anyone who's a bad matchup against Roy Williams in man coverage? They're lining up Kevin freaking Boss one-on-one against Williams outside. And somehow, he's a Pro Bowler.

The thing for the Giants is that their front four absolutely, positively needs to rush Tony Romo into making a mistake. Not just stopping them, but pressure resulting in a turnover. And they haven't yet, outside of the play where Corey Webster showed off his ball skills.

Both these teams should really be in max protect formations. Each of their secondaries are suspect and the only thing that's really going to muck up their offense is a sack. I'd keep eight, nine guys in and let my wideouts and tight end (well, Jason Witten) go attack the mediocre cover guys that are assigned against them.

Meanwhile, the Giants remain competitive pretty much entirely owing to awful tackling by the Cowboys, both on defense and special teams.

Doug Farrar: Boy, Patrick Crayton's third-and-13 drop late in the third quarter was a real killer. New York scored on their subsequent drive, and I wonder if I haven't just seen three of four games this weekend turn on dropped passes. Pollard, Northcutt, Crayton.

Aaron Schatz: Romo had Patrick Crayton on that third down. Had him. He had Corey Webster beat. Timing was completely off.

Ryan Wilson: It looked like Crayton quit running around the 10- or 15-yard line, and then turned it on when he saw the ball was coming his way. If he doesn't slow up, there's a much better chance he makes that catch, because Romo put it in a pretty good spot.

Michael David Smith: I would argue that the Colts-Chargers game turned on a dropped pass, too; if Kenton Keith catches that ball instead of having it bounce off his hands for an interception, I think the Colts win.

Vince Verhei: I haven't watched a ton of Giants games this year. Does Brandon Jacobs celebrate every touchdown by throwing the ball as hard as he can against a wall and/or shot clock? He did this last week against Tampa Bay too.

Bill Barnwell: In Brandon Jacobs' world, the play clock is a scourge waiting to be exterminated. No idea why. Crayton's drop doesn't matter if the Cowboys don't ankle-tackle R.W. McQuarters on the punt return. Much more egregious play.

Aaron Schatz: Remarkable how the Giants have keyed on Barber in the second half. They're swarming him immediately on every handoff.

Bill Barnwell: It's seriously annoying me, though. It seems so obvious. Go full house, play action, send Witten out there against Kawika Mitchell. Repeat.

Aaron Schatz: Hats off to the Giants. "Eli Manning is growing up" sounds so clichéd, but it does seem somewhat true. This is reminding me a lot of the 2003 Carolina Panthers. Their quality of play in the postseason does not retroactively turn their regular-season wins into dominant three-touchdown victories. That's not how it works.

Doug Farrar: Manning was able to respond and set the pace at the end of the first half, and there were very few of those "right in the lumberyard" throws.

Bill Barnwell: Wow. As a fan, I'm happy. As a analyst, I'm shocked. I mean, essentially, what we saw was a confluence of several things, namely superior special teams, an awesome second half from the front seven, luck (namely running into two teams whose star wideouts have been banged up), and a really solid offensive game plan both weeks.

This was also the bad Tony Romo game that people warned would happen. He was trying to make plays at the wrong time, struggling with his reads, and making throws off his back foot. He looked more like Eli Manning than Eli himself, who seemed cool and collected even under a heavy pass rush, eating the ball when he needed to. I'll have more thoughts later, but I'm going to go celebrate.

Doug Farrar: Since I don't watch the Giants every week, two guys I haven't seen a lot this year that our numbers like: Fred Robbins and Justin Tuck. I'm very impressed by both players. Once New York started getting pressure in the second half, you could feel it slipping away. I hope that Steve Spagnuolo gets some credit and a few namechecks this offseason when everyone's praying to statues of Jason Garrett.

Bill Barnwell: Robbins is a product of Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora (and Tuck), as he constantly has just one blocker to worry about. Giants defensive tackles often have great numbers in our PBP metrics, but that doesn't match up with their reputation or performance when they leave (I'm thinking Kendrick Clancy or William Joseph here).

Aaron Schatz: This is what is known as the "Antwan Odom effect."

Bill Barnwell: Tuck also sees a lot of single blockers, but he's a beast, a consummate pass rusher with the speed to close down running backs on pitches designed to go by him. He's not a complete end yet, but he's really, really freaking good. Arguably better than Strahan at this point.

I think one of the things that we don't see in play-by-play is that the Giants can roll out an elite pair of defensive ends and pass rush from their front four on every down. Offensive linemen never get to take a play off against a middling rusher, and there's not a team in the league you can say that about otherwise.

What's impressed me about Spagnuolo is his ability to adapt his scheme as the year's gone on to his personnel. After the utter failure that was the first two-and-a-half games, he's done a great job of getting his best players on the field, and as often as possible, in the roles that fit them best. He's been brave enough (assuming he deserves some credit for this) to bench Corey Webster when he was embarrassing at corner and to move Mathias Kiwanuka around after it was obvious the linebacker experiment was failing. I don't know if he's a head coach yet, but he's a legitimate defensive coordinator.

So, what do you do now? Tom Coughlin's earned an extension, no?

Aaron Schatz: The thing about the Giants pass rush is that this was there all year long. They finished first in Adjusted Sack Rate by a healthy margin. So the presence of the pass rush really does nothing to explain what changed in the past three weeks. That's one of the two things that HASN'T changed. (The other: The running game has been good all season.) To me it really is about the passing game. Here are the Giants' offensive passing DVOA ratings since Week 12:

12 (MIN): -76.4%
13 (CHI): -19.0%
14 (PHI): 19.6%
15 (NYG): -29.9%
16 (BUF): -137.6%
17 (NE): 61.6%
18 (TB): 103.6%
19 (DAL): 52.2%

The Giants were one of two teams that had an offensive turnover in every single regular-season game (along with Houston). They don't have a single turnover in the two playoff games.

Weeks 1-16: Eli Manning completes 56 percent of his passes, with 19 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

Weeks 17-19: Eli Manning completes 70 percent of his passes, with 8 touchdowns and 1 interception.

Ned Macey: I would add last year's Colts defense to Aaron's Carolina analogy. The good news for the Giants is that both of those seemingly out-of-character performances lasted all the way through the Super Bowl.

I think it is no surprise that the one dominant half of defensive football turned in all weekend came when the Giants' front started dominating. The common theme in all the other games was that there was plenty of time for quarterbacks. The only chance that either road team has next week is to dominate the line of scrimmage defensively. These are the two best pass rushes in football, but they're going against two quarterbacks who are nearly impossible to sack.

Finally, in the Giants' defense, they're playing with a hobbled number one receiver and still making plays on offense.

I fear that Tony Romo may equal Daunte Culpepper in his prime: a good-to-very-good quarterback who looks extraordinary because of his top wideout.

Aaron Schatz: One more note on the weird, sudden improvement of the Giants over the past three weeks: People keep talking about how amazing it is that the Giants are 9-1 on the road. People forget the flip side: This team was 3-5 at home, and two of those wins came against the 49ers and Jets. That's amazing too, only not in a good way. Why the dichotomy? I have no idea.

Doug Farrar: Last week, we had a "Trend or Fluke" discussion about Norv Turner and Eli Manning. Where are we now? The weight of history has me hesitating just a bit on Norvalicious, but I'm starting to think that Eli will outrun that Jay Schroeder comparison I've had in my head. And if the Chargers shock the world, it WILL change my mind about Norv, because I believe that it would be absolutely, literally impossible for a poorly-coached team to beat the Patriots this season unless there is one obvious injury. He's earned some respect with this run because his team didn't just tank it and lose their first playoff game, but that would put Norv past the "it's just the players" argument once and for all.

Vince Verhei: We have 10 years of mediocrity to look back on, so we can safely assume that the last two games are a fluke for Norv. And really, what have we seen in those two games to indicate he's a brilliant coach? What new game plans or schemes has he unveiled? I guess you can give him credit for the way Philip Rivers played today, but Rivers also looked good before he ever worked with Norv.

Eli, on the other hand, just turned 27. His peak is realistically three years ahead of him, and we may have just seen the light bulb turned on.

Aaron Schatz: I still like the comparisons to Drew Bledsoe or Jim Everett, which I made in this BP chat. Very talented, good enough to lead a team to the Super Bowl or make the Pro Bowl a couple times, but never quite one of the top quarterbacks in the league, because you never know when they'll melt down completely out of nowhere.

Ned Macey: Aaron's comps are probably better, but I've always thought of Manning as sort of a Jake Delhomme in terms of quality. In the 2003 playoffs, Delhomme was 59-for-102 for 987 yards with six touchdowns and one interception. That run didn't exactly presage some great career, and his previous performance record was much shorter than Manning's, and he was only one year older.

As for Norv, I hate to keep being the pro-Norv guy. I swear I don't think he is a great coach, but what did he do today? He's an offensive coach that just went into Indianapolis with a hobbled Antonio Gates and proceeded to lose LaDainian Tomlinson in the first half and Rivers in the third quarter. Against the No. 3 pass defense in DVOA, they scored 28 points and averaged 13.6 yards per pass. Now, either Norv had an amazing game plan, or Dwight Freeney is the best pass defender in football.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 14 Jan 2008

145 comments, Last at 16 Jan 2008, 1:53am by Eugene


by kyle (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 11:49am

and what to my wondering eyes should appear?

i got up this morning looking to read this with breakfast, saw it wasn't up, floundered around in XPs, and then, voila!


by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:02pm

What amazes me about the running backs who “came out of nowhere” this year is the skills that they have which clearly have nothing to do with their offensive lines, and you wonder how nobody ever noticed that these guys were good. Ryan Grant, the way he hurdles guys and fakes out safeties.

Would that be Ryan "Not Appearing In Your Prospectus" Grant you're talking about? (That better be one hell of a sixth-round pick, Jerry.)

by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:09pm

BTW, I'm not really knocking BP or the Giants about Ryan Grant - I didn't have any more of a clue than anyone else. I just find it amusing.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:09pm

FWIW, the Packers are the youngest team in the NFL and if one lends any credence to player quotes the few veterans on this team really do make a difference. Namely that Donald Driver and Bubba Franks really drive home the point about needing to block. With Franks it's because that is the man's only remaining skill so no surprise he is highlighting it. With Driver it's because the guy is a pro's pro. The guy does everything he can to help a team succeed. Last year Greg Jennings was a wuss as a blocker. This year he will go toe to toe. James Jones and Ruvell Martin are also willing to throw down with defenders.

One thing that was apparent from the very start of the game was that the Packers wanted to REALLY hit folks. Nick Barnett has been playing at a fever pitch all season so when he got whacko early I knew Sanders had decided to turn guys loose and to h*ll with the consequences. Al Harris was slamming guys to the ground all game. Bigby of course was cracking receivers all game long. This has been something of a challenge for Sanders (the DC) as he has walked a fine line in having his defense playing out of control and this is a unit that was the most penalized in the league. So most of the time the Packers D plays tough but you can see that a guy like Barnett REALLY wants to blow someone up. I think Sanders decided to remove the choke chains. Which is a huge risk because as Aaron noted Atari Bigby is a flag waiting to happen. You give that guy the green light and he would take out his grandmother. But maybe by not having to think about stuff and just reacting Bigby played better. Or maybe he just got really lucky. My guess is the latter.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:18pm

On the Giants being 9-1 on the road and 3-5 at home, maybe they just play better the farther they are from Tiki Barber. Just in case, the Packers should send him some free luxury box seats.

by Black Squirrel (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:18pm

Has FO ever researched how defensive performance is affected by fatigue? Earlier this year, I heard a commentator mention that coaches around the league believe defenses play much worse after they've been on the field for 50 plays.

I bring this up because the Giants' pass rush was strongest in the fourth quarter even though the Cowboys had a major possession advantage yesterday. They couldn't touch Romo in the first half, yet they finally started harassing him during the last few Dallas drives.

Is it possible the Cowboys offense wore itself out?

by JasonK (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:19pm

#2: It could've been worse-- if the trade hadn't happened, Grant probably would've been cut. Sure, in hindsight, it would've been smarter to keep him instead of Reuben Droughns or Ahmad Bradshaw. It's tough to blame the coaching staff for not wanted to cut the only RB on their roster who had actually played an entire NFL game as a starter, and Bradshaw is younger, cheaper, under contract for longer, and appears to have a bright future.

As for the games, I'm another rather giddy Giants fan. A few observations:

--The Cowboys' playcalling down the stretch was really quite lousy. When the Giants pressure started getting to Romo, they never responded with any typical pressure-beating plays (screens, slants, draws, dumpoffs, etc.). They just kept trying to hurl the ball downfield.

--It looked to me like the Cowboys huge time-of-possession advantage almost worked more in favor of the Giants. By the end of the game, the 'Boys OL looked tired. Marion Barber looked worn-out in the second half, too-- this was the heaviest workload he's seen all season.

--Amani Freaking Toomer!!!

by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:19pm

My theory is that the Giants passing game is coming on because of... drumroll please...

Steve Smith. Drafted in the 2nd round as part of the Giants' forever futile quest for a real live #3 receiver. Gets hurt in Week 2, spends most of the season out, comes back near the end of the year. And, suddenly, in the NE game, Eli starts throwing the ball his way, and Smith starts catching them.

Are Eli and Smith starting to devlop that mythical QB-WR rapport? Do the Giants finally have passing options other than "overthrow Burress" or "dink it to Toomer"? For the first time in his career, I am cautiously optimistic.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:24pm

I will point out that in the fourth quarter it looked like twice the Cowboys had a screen set up only to have the Giants clearly see it coming forcing Romo to improvise.

That's where observers come up with the "hard to beat a team 3 times" perspective. By now the Cowboys and Giants have to know one another REALLY well. And if you have guys who can recognize the "tells" that's an advantage.

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:25pm

"I fear that Tony Romo may equal Daunte Culpepper in his prime: a good-to-very-good quarterback who looks extraordinary because of his top wideout."

You guys are just getting around to this realization? Take away Witten and TO and his big O-line and the guy is prone to rash decisions and forcing the ball. I'm not saying he's a bad quarterback, but he's more Rex Grossman than Tom Brady. Its miraculous he only had the 1 pick in the game (of course, that 1 pick was the game) - he forced at least two other throws that could've/should've been picked.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:27pm

I don't think any recap could sum up what happened to the Cowboys better than Wade Phillips, despondent after the game, unable to find his car keys (linked in name)

by Independent George (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:27pm

#8 - I think it's perfectly obvious that all WRs should have their name changed to 'Steve Smith' upon declaring for the draft.

Also, in paragraph two, you left out "run backwards after making the catch" and "bounce it off Shockey's hands".

by JasonK (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:28pm


You may be right in a roundabout way. I think that the insertion of the rookies Smith and Boss into important roles in the passing game has forced Gilbride & Coughlin to cut down the amount of option routes. I don't think I saw another team in the league who had as many incompletions (and interceptions) because the QB threw the ball expecting the receiver to make one particular cut based on the defense, only to see him mak a different one. (Shockey in particular is notorious for this.) Eli looks like a different QB when he's confident that his receivers are making the breaks he expects them to.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:29pm

I’d like to thank the FOX crew for using a sideline cam during LIVE ACTION for several plays at the end of the third quarter. This made it impossible, for example, to note Green Bay’s off-balance offensive line on Grant’s big run (well, his latest big run) until they showed it to us on replay.

I think they did that in attempt to avoid the snow. It wasn't very effective so they stopped, but it was getting hard to see anything through that snow.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:33pm

crack is correct. I spoke to some friends who are in the TV biz and the one guy surmised that the overhead view was just a whiteout. Hence the reason for the sideline angle.

by RoyFlip (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:36pm

#2- You see it in high school: Ben Roethlesburger sitting behind the coach's son until his senior year. You see it in college: Tom Brady sitting behind the coach's favorite. You see it in the pros even more often: Talented nobodies sitting behind high draft picks. Coaches and GM's can see the guy sitting is better, but they have to prove that they are too smart to have made a mistake and have to be forced into making a change.

by Eric J (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:39pm

I'm pretty sure Brandon Jacobs went to Southern Illinois... Northern Illinois did produce Michael Turner, however. Come to think of it, Tony Romo's from Eastern Illinois...

by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:45pm

#12, 13

Yeah, there was a reason I didn't include Shockey among Eli's options. Because, well, he hasn't been all that good for a couple years now. And taking away his ego, freelancing, and drops are all *good things*. I know he's popular and has a high cap number, but I wouldn't mind seeing if we could trade him, or something.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:46pm

If anyone's curious as to why it took Grant half a season to get in the starting lineup McCarthy did have him in there early but he made several mistakes in pass blocking, going the wrong way, etc. so ended up back on special teams. Once it was clear Jackson wasn't working and Morency couldn't stay healthy Mike geared him up for the Denver game after the bye.

He has his flaws. He runs high so he will take some hits and likely fumble more than he has to this point. He's not the best in pass catching. He's a so-so blocker.

But what is undeniably true is that he doesn't tippy toe to the line. He plants and GOES. And he punishes defenders which reminds many of Ahman Green in his heyday. Twice this season Grant has sent defensive backs to the sideline with injury after being tackled.

by Dean (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:47pm

I can't wait for TWIQ. Lets face it, Owens would know a thing or two about being unfair to quarterbacks.

To Giants fans everywhere, congrats and thank you. Yesterday, we were all Giants fans.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:47pm

12/13/18: This just adds more credence to my theory that Eli's resurgence can be at least partially explained by Shockey's absence.

by JasonK (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:48pm


I hadn't noticed that, actually. (Probably a bit too distracted with company, disbelief, and booze.) That'll be something for me to look for if I can convince my fiancee to let me use the big TV long enough to re-watch the game sometime this week.

by DanS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:54pm

Hey Aaron,

What do you think the giants should do with the first overall pick?

by ammek (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:55pm

The third-down question has to be asked here. You mention Dallas's six third-down conversions on the mega-drive; Green Bay also converted its first seven, six of them through the air, on third-and-6,7,7,6,8 and 4 respectively. And that's not to mention the Patriots. I've never seen anything like it; it must be hell for a defense.

Kudos for bringing up the Packers' downfield blocking. The OL hasn't been so proficient in the regular season, yet it just dominated Saturday. GB had ranked 30th on runs with 1 and 2 yards to go, but they went insane against Seattle, which was a big part of going 6-for-6 in the red zone. On Grant's first TD run, the lead blocker (Clifton) blazed the trail ... and found there was no-one left to block. He just charged into a big space and fell on his ass in the end zone!

Franks' block on Hill was important but misdirection plays worked all afternoon for GB, in part because Seattle was overpursuing vigorously. Babineaux seemed particularly prone. On Grant's 22-yard run up the left sideline, Clifton just shepherds a couple of Seasheep into the pen and locks them in, leaving the field completely open for Grant.

The Packers did a fine, fine coaching job to improve this team from where it was after the Soldier Field disaster. The execution was just light years away, and instead of sticking forlornly to their playbook as in the wind in Chicago, they gave Grant a rest after the fumbles, adjusted for the snow, and went back to their plan after Favre had calmed the youngsters down.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:57pm


Jacobs transfered to Southern Illinois from Auburn after being told by Auburn that they were going to move him to linebacker. Yes at one time Auburn had a backfield that had Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams, and Brandon Jacobs in it. Jacobs was a Juco transfer to Auburn as well.

by Flounder (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 12:57pm

Re: 20 Absolutely. T.O. always sticks by his QBs! Did any reporters start laughing when he said that?

by Independent George (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:01pm

#18, 21 - to be fair, though, "Get Shockey killed over the middle" was also a pretty significant part of the old game plan.

by Joseph (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:03pm

Maybe I should make this comment in the AFC thread, but Norv Turner IS mentioned here. I noticed LIVE that NT sent Darren Sproles in for the play at the end of the 3rd--where he subsequentely took it in for the 50+ yd TD. Maybe this is a coach hearing the play call from the OC and getting the right personnel in the line-up. Maybe Michael Turner would normally run that play if LT is healthy (MT being the 3rd down back) and Coach Turner wanted a fresh pair of legs.
I will say this in NT's defense: He ran a great offense in Dallas with extremely talented offensive players, resulting in 3 SB wins and life-long love from Troy Aikman. Now he has a pretty good offense to work with (and a D) and he goes 11-5 with 2 playoff wins. Anybody surprised that you pair a decent coach with good talent and get good results?
Anyone think that the Chargers players aren't playing their tail off for their new coach who seems to be generally bashed by the media, just to prove said media wrong?
BTW, if recent AFC history holds true, Chargers upset NE and win SB (see Pittsburg & Indy last two years--winning it all the year AFTER being the #1 seed with high expectations.)

by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:04pm

Hidden play that turned the Dallas game; The Leonard Davis personal foul.

The score was 17-14 Dallas at the end of the third quarter, and Romo completed a pass for a 1st down on the play. Davis then throws in his bone-headed cheap-shot. The 1st down is nullified and instead of 1st & 10 at their own 33, Dallas have 2 & 18 on their own 12. Two plays later, Crayton drops a sitter and the Cowboys are forced to punt. McQuarters gets a great return, and six plays later, The Giants take a lead the never relinquish.

While Dallas had a number of poor penalties (false start, delay of game), they are understandable. Davis nailing Strahan after the play wasn't, it it went a long way towards costing his team a place in the NFCCG.

by DCD12 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:05pm

I thought the Dallas gameplan was curious. They seemed to relish long, clock-killing drives, a sort of "limit the number of possessions" approach. But that's a recipe for keeping the game close. I thought that the Cowboys, a team clearly better than the Giants (with a hobbled secondary and all), should have played a bit more open and tried to open up a lead.

by croxall (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:11pm

I mentioned in the preview thread that I thought the week off may have been of benefit to getting a number of Packers defenders back to health and midseason form. And it did appear to me that Pickett, KGB and Kampman were all noticeably more effective than they had been for some time.

I have no idea to what extent, and no idea how you measure or predict this, but I do believe the bye was of benefit to Green Bay in that this was greater than the ‘better team playing at home’ advantage; I contend that if this game had taken place last week, it might well have been closer. I’d be interested to hear anyone’s thoughts on that.

And yes, Jordan Babineaux covering Greg Jennings is not a matchup you’d seek out defensively. Which leads me to ponder the defensive gameplan the Giants will use next week – if it features R.W. McQuarters covering Greg Jennings then they could be in for some similar pain. And the tackling of Corey Webster against the league’s best YAC receivers and a physical runner like Ryan Grant is a nightmare matchup for the Giants.

It probably hinges on what pressure the Giants can bring. Green Bay’s somewhat maligned guards came through this test, but face a stiffer one next week.

by Graham (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:12pm

Bill McCartney used to say...

Bill McCartney has been coasting on past glories for years. He hasn't had a good album since Flaming Pie.

by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:13pm

For all the issues with refereeing that came up in the game thread, and the weather notwithstanding, the Packers absolutely CANED the Seahawks on Saturday. They were better in all 3 phases. What suprised me most was the total ineffectiveness of the Seahawks D. When I'd seen them this year (which wasn't often) their defense had always been solid. Yesterday they got whipped.

In any event, while I was an honourary Giant yesterday, this week I shall be rooting hard for Green Bay, as Farve beating the Patriots in the SuperBowl would be beyond awesome. If however, Lil' Bro' gets it done, the Giants will have my full support in the big game.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:15pm

One shouldn't underestimate the return of Korey Hall, the Packers fullback. He was out the last several games and his replacment, John Kuhn, isn't in the same stratosphere as Hall in blocking. Hall just BLEW UP several Seahawks.

And the formation with two fullbacks and Grant as the tailback generated lots of positive plays. Don't be surprised if that is a play-action setup for the Giants come Sunday with TE Donald Lee releasing and getting down the middle.

I was surprised (and relieved) that Ruvell Martin and James Jones were on the field much more than Koren Robinson. Both those guys have flashed more than KR this season.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:16pm

#29 - good point about the penalties. The entire time I was watching, I kept thinking to myself, "So that's what it feels like when the other team self-destructs." It was a new experience for me - I was frightened.

by Kurt (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:17pm

20 - It's possible that Owens has actually matured in his old age.

On the other hand, did anyone else get a Bill Sheehan-type vibe from that? ""This is not about Tony. You guys can point the finger at him, you can talk about the vacation, and if you do that, it's really unfair!"

by BDC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:21pm


Couldn\'t you say the same for most QBs? Take away their top two receivers and their Oline and they aren\'t great anymore?

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:22pm


Interesting that you bring up the penalty talk from the game thread because I read all of the articles from both the Milwaukee-Journel as well as the Seattle papers and not one, NOT ONE, player or coach said "boo" about the officials.

And Mike Holmgren is not one to bite his lip.

Didn't even see anything on a few Seattle blogs I checked out.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:24pm


Back in 2005 Ted Thompson gutted the Packer offensive line, traded Javon Walker, Bubba Franks got old and slow and it was repeated comments from all the talking heads that "Favre is washed up".


by JasonK (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:24pm


The Cowboys took plenty of shots at quick scores; they just didn't do so successfully. Romo missed his guy deep once or twice, the Giants made good plays in coverage once or twice, and the rush got to Romo several times when he was looking to throw long.


Fortunately for NY, they'll probably have Sam Madison back, and possibly Aaron Ross as well. But, yeah, a team like GB with three very good, healthy WRs will present a major challenge that the Giants haven't seen thus far in the playoffs.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:25pm

35: Dallas has been killing themselves with penalties all season, and I'm not surprised that it caught up with them.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:27pm


Actually, I think both primary backups in GB, James Jones and Ruvell Martin, could start for about half the teams in the league. And Koren Robinson has his moments though his hands are iffy.

by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:30pm

McQuarters played a pretty good game in coverage yest. I'm as surprised as anybody, but I've actually become pretty comfortable with him as a #3 corner. Does anyone know the situation on Aaron Ross? Is he going to be ready for the NFCCG? And what about Madison? Madison on Driver would seem to be a great matchup of two guys who know (and use) all the tricks.

by Flounder (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:34pm

Re: 38 There was even comments in the post-game chat on MJS that the officiating was terrible in Seattle's favor. Many fans really can't think clearly about officiating in the heat of the moment, to be sure.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:36pm

Re: 36

I was thinking the exact same thing. When he mentioned the vacation, out of nowhere, completely unprovoked, my laughter quickly became hysteria.

by Otis Taylor 89 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:42pm

Is it me or did the ball never come out of Romo's hand the same after he hurt it against the Eagles? All the deep balls he threw yesterday just were dead ducks compared to earlier in the year.
I'm no Cowboy fan, but I really like Romo.
I also feel bad for Wade Phillips. Boy, he's lost some tough, tough games in his career:
- Motor City Miracle;
- Yesterday;
-14-2 SD to the Pats last year;
-1998 Wild Card, Flutie fumble at the 5 yd line.

by coltrane23 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:42pm

I felt like Saturday's 'Hawks loss exposed a limitation of the defense's construction under Ruskell. The entire 'Hawks defense looked like a bunch of sports cars out on the ice, while the Packers looked like a bunch of 4x4s.

I don't want to take away from what the Packers did, because I think they'd have won that game with snow or without. As long as the Packers were able to stick with the run, they'd have manhandled that smallish D regardless of the surface, but for me the snow really highlighted a philosophical flaw in the D. It's fine if the O can build a lead and the D can pressure the passing game, but if the O can't sustain a lead and the D has to defend the run, they're in trouble.

I had predicted a 10-6 season and loss in the divisional round before the season started. The Seahawks have a list of needs for the offseason that looks a lot like last off-season's: TE, G, DT, S. Only now it should be obvious to the 'Hawks FO that they can add RB to the list.

by jd (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:46pm

"Bill Barnwell: Since no one asked, here’s my preview of this game. The Cowboys went after Eli Manning with their linebackers in Week 10, like they do with most teams, and the Giants exploited it with Jeremy Shockey being matched up in man against Roy Williams. Now, the Giants don’t have Jeremy Shockey. End of preview."

That's some nice analysis but you forgot to mention the absence of Tiki Barber. Oh and Coughlin's a meanie too right?

by Johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:47pm

Was that Dallas-Giants game the first game ever where an offense goes on a 10 minute drive and it's the offense that gets tired and not the defense?

by David (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:48pm

My favorite part of Packers/Seahawks: Brandon Jackson, my first Loser League pick of the year, returned from injury to rush 8 times for 34 yards and no touchdowns. I love that guy.

by Scotty (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:49pm

I wonder how you guys feel about working a "weather adjustment" into DVOA after the Packers game. It seemed that the unit most affected by weather (if any were) was Seattle's defense, which goes in the face of convention. Furthermore, you couldn't even call it a weather game since the first quarter was snow free. Do you only adjust by quarter? Sounds like a mess for you to figure in the off season.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:50pm

Is it me or did the ball never come out of Romo’s hand the same after he hurt it against the Eagles?

As an Eagles fan, if we can take credit for ruining Dallas' season I'll consider this year a success.

by JasonK (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:50pm


I'm not sure how I implied that GB's backup WRs were less than adequate. I was including Jones in my statement that GB's top-3 WRs frighten me. (Is he not the #3 WR?) I did neglect to mention Martin, who I recall being reasonably impressed with when I've seen him.

by Kurt (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:52pm

8 - Steve Smith has shown a spark, but I don't think your post is entirely fair to the best WR the Giants have ever had in terms of total career (Toomer) and the best WR the Giants have ever had in terms of peak value (Burress). Seriously, after 30 years of Ike Hilliard, Stephen Baker, Mark Ingram, Lionel Manuel et al, I'm not going to complain about their current starting WRs.

by Johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:52pm

Oh and who is in charge of scouting running backs for the Giants and why isn't that person a house hold name. Jacobs, Ward, Bradshaw and Grant. The guys a witch. Some how right now you get the feeling the Giants wish they had Grant on the team instead of Rueben Droughins.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:53pm

Re: 51

Actually, that is exactly what you'd expect. The only weather that really effects offenses more than defenses is high wind.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:55pm


Wasn't suggesting you were. Just pointing out that GB goes four deep. And five if you believe some. I anticipate GB to employ it's five wide formation at times on Sunday. Despite the Giants D-line, I am pretty sure McCarthy will take his chances with a solid pass-blocking O-line and a qb that is very good at keeping a play alive.

by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:57pm

Call me crazy, but I like this Boss kid a lot... maybe enough to dangle Shockey in the trade market. Any rational observers- not the "loudmouth shockey drops everything" crowd- have thoughts on Boss? I've seen a kid w good hands, decent speed/moves, solid after the catch, and a tight route-runner. Haven't noticed him as a blocker- how is he there?

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 1:59pm

"Who is this person wearing Atari Bigby’s uniform, who suddenly is playing great in pass coverage and not getting called for any penalties?"

I'm guessing it's the Atari Bigby who was named NFC Defensive Player of the month for December.

by Flounder (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:01pm

Re: 53 I think you misread Badger's post. It seemed to me that he was essentially agreeing with you.

by Scotty (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:01pm

Re: 56

I agree w/ you. But conventional wisdom does not.

More significantly how do you account for "snow" in this game vs the Browns/Bills game earlier this year. That is what I think would be such a huge challenge.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:04pm

He did catch a TD pass, unless that does not count in loser league.

I am not sure, but they did show Boss feebly attempt to block I think it was Ware one time.

by Flounder (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:04pm

Re: 59 I didn't think that award was too deserved. He had a nice INT against the Lions, but the others were pure luck, and were actually the result of being so far out of position to defend the pass he was actually in position for the INT once the ball was tipped.

by Arson55 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:07pm

Not one mention of that false start on Ware that...wasn't? And can be directly linked to the Giant's first score.

Not that I'm making excuses for my team. They had every chance to come back from that, but they didn't want to win. Way to go Crayton, way to repay the team for that new contract. And Fasano, come on, I've been saying all season that you weren't used enough, and then you prove me wrong by dropping a touchdown. Way to cave, Adams, Kosier. Man, the offense sucked in the second half.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:12pm

Atari Bigby being the NFC Defensive player of the month in December was a joke. If you watch the games all but one of his interceptions were the result of catching tipped passes which he would NOT have caught if he were in proper position.

C'mon dude. Check things out. Bigby has been smoked more this season than a hash pipe.......

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:22pm

Check things out. Bigby has been smoked more this season than Travis Henry's hash pipe.


by coltrane23 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:23pm

Re: 65

I was really hoping to see the 'Hawks exploit Bigby in coverage, but after he scored a couple of big hits early it seemed like they avoided him at all costs. The one attempt I saw to attack him was the one play where he defended Pollard beautifully.

You're telling me they couldn't get a WR in the slot to match up against him? I think the snow affected the smallish receivers too, but they were going to have a tough time on the outside against Harris and Woodson regardless of weather. I figured the TE and the slot WR would have to have a big day for the passing game to succeed, but it didn't happen.

by MCS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:25pm

Music City Miracle? I'm unfamiliar with the Motor City Miracle.

by Mike H (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:28pm

The giants were better on the road because of a fluke schedule.

To simplify, if you take out the divisional games (since they played those teams home and away), the Giants lost against the 3 toughest opponents (NE, GB, MIN, who all happened to be at home) and beat everyone else. That works out to 5-0 on the road, and 2-3 at home.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:30pm


The expectation was for the Seattle slot receivers to HAVE a big because the Packers stink at covering the slot man BECAUSE of guys like Bigby/Collins/Bush/Williams typically stinking up the joint.

However, the Seattle receivers as a group don't have any serious speed. THAT is what gets the Packers. Their dbs are athletic enough but so cosumed about getting beat deep they keep everything in front of them.

Sanders likely saw that nobody on Seattle runs THAT well and told his guys to get up them. And after Bigby put a beat-down on a few that had to be in the back of a few minds.

by Stoppable Manning (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:33pm

"Aaron Schatz: One more note on the weird, sudden improvement of the Giants over the past three weeks: People keep talking about how amazing it is that the Giants are 9-1 on the road. People forget the flip side: This team was 3-5 at home, and two of those wins came against the 49ers and Jets. That’s amazing too, only not in a good way. Why the dichotomy? I have no idea."

Aaron, increasingly over the last several years, it seems like the Giants don't have the homefield advantage of most NFL teams. Its almost like they play worse at home. I blame the huge season ticket waiting list: most of the current ticket holders have had their seats for decades. These guys are getting old and cranky, and the stadium goers have grown famous for screaming 'down in front!' to anyone who dares to stand and cheer, even during NYG defensive stands. How to quantify these affects on the teams, I have no idea, but its my best guess...

by Arson55 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:37pm

The Cowboys have no home field advantage to speak of either. Some of my fellow Cowboys fans are just stupid, and don't know what the hell they're doing.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:38pm

Post 71:

Well, most of the seats in Lambeau have been owned by families for decades and if you want to troll for the re-make of "Cocoon" that would be a great place to start. Only if 3 out of every 4 cast members was shaped like Wilford Brimley.

The best, if you will, example of that is the Bears game. To the folks under 50 the big divisional rival is Minnesota. But to the old-timers it is the Bears. So very few folks sell those seats. It's a Flomax commercial writ large.

by Spenserhawk (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:43pm

"BTW, if recent AFC history holds true, Chargers upset NE and win SB (see Pittsburg & Indy last two years–winning it all the year AFTER being the #1 seed with high expectations.)"

I had noticed that trend as well...

by Spenserhawk (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:50pm

"C’mon dude. Check things out. Bigby has been smoked more this season than a hash pipe……."

I agree completely but I have to admit he played pretty good yesterday. Maybe the coaching staff is finally convincing him to play with his brain.

The one thing Bigby has going for him is he is starting to develop a reputation as a hitter...even if he is out of position (which is often) just knowing that he is back there is good for a drop or two a game. I still like Rouse better but if he can play like he did yesterday...

by justanothersteve (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 2:51pm

- I do wonder whether cleats might have been a difference in GB yesterday. Ryan Grant's pretty fast, yet somehow Brian Russell caught him from behind. Longer cleats slow you down but give better traction. Just curious.
- Let's see. Ryan Grant was overshadowed at Notre Dame by Julius Jones. Selvin Young was stuck behind Cedric Jones at Texas. Brandon Jacobs transferred after seeing Ronnie Brown AND Cadillac Williams higher on the depth chart at Auburn. Going further back, Priest Holmes backed up Ricky Williams. I'm sure I've missed a few. If I'm a GM and needing some cheap RB help, I'm looking to see who backed up Darren McFadden, Jamaal Charles, Mike Hart, and Steve Slaton.

by Gerry (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:03pm

"Sure, in hindsight, it would’ve been smarter to keep him instead of Reuben Droughns or Ahmad Bradshaw."

Droughns-- no question. However, I am not sure that over the long haul, on an even playing field (meaning same offense and same personnel), that Grant is better than Bradshaw, who has been pretty impressive in his carries.

by Kurt (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:21pm

More touchdowns for the Giants - 3 in three trips to the redzone. They've now scored 13 TD's and 2 FGs in their last four games.

Their quality of play in the postseason does not retroactively turn their regular-season wins into dominant three-touchdown victories. That’s not how it works.

Ah, Aaron. Sweet, innocent Aaron. A bright young man, who someday will understand that the basic unit of measurement in football is not "dominant three-touchdown victories".

by NY expat (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:22pm

Actually, the Giants D was indeed running on fumes. Lee Jenkins has an article on SI where Justin Tuck answers a question with, "But when it ended, the exhaustion came. I really don't want to get up right now."

I was reading some of the in-game posts on the forum and seeing the criticisms of the conservative playcalling at the end of the game by the Giants, but I think that's who they are right now. The strength of the team is clearly the D-line. Having the offense take advantage of a few opportunities, but not taking many risks otherwise, probably gives them their best chances. And since I don't see anyone else bringing it up, who gets credit for the Giants turnaround on penalties this year? (Ok, I mean besides Luke Petigout.)
One more quote from the Jenkins article that I enjoyed quite a bit: "We'll be an underdog, and we'll be the worst team in NFC Championship Game history," guard Chris Snee said. "But we'll be happy about it."

by Otis Taylor 89 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:32pm

I also feel bad for Wade Phillips. Boy, he’s lost some tough, tough games in his career:
- Motor City Miracle;
- Yesterday;
-14-2 SD to the Pats last year;
-1998 Wild Card, Flutie fumble at the 5 yd line.

Ah, yes, that would be Music City Miracle, not "Home of Jerome Bettis Miracle".

by JCRODRIGUEZ (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:47pm

"And The Legend of Tony Romo continues to GROW!" the abscence of that phrase, alone, will make the rest of this NFL season a bliss...

by Gerry (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 3:50pm

I don't know. Owens looked pretty healthy to me. He blew by NY's defense on a bomb that Romo, getting decked, underthrew. He had no problem getting open on his TD or on the TD that was missed when Romo, getting decked, missed him on a crossing route.

Glenn still looked hobbled. But I think people are overstating how bad off the Dallas receivers were. Owens looked fine and Crayton was fine. The Giants D just did a good job.

by Tom D (formerly just Tom) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:20pm

Isn't the Motor City Miracle that Matt Millen still has a job?

by Jerry (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:21pm

Re: #58

On Shockey v. Boss -- It's become sort of a chic thing to say that the Giants don't miss Shockey much, and I suppose it's true to an extent, as Eli has played well in the past 3 games. The one area where they certainly do miss Shockey is blocking. Among the elite receiving TEs, Shockey is one of the better blockers. Boss just isn't there right now. It's hard to project how he'll be down the line, but he doesn't get any push and he gets tossed around from time to time. I don't have the #'s, but it seems that the Giants have been far less successful in short yardage since Shockey went down.

by Jerry (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:27pm

Regarding Droughns v. Grant, it seems obvious that the Giants should've kept Grant at this point, but you have to remember where they were in the preseason.

Their top 2 guys (Jacobs and Ward) had not been a feature back for any length of time and the #3 guy (Bradshaw) was a rookie. It seems reasonable that the team would want to keep a vet on the roster, considering the fact that the other guys were probably the most inexperienced group of RBs in the league. Who knows how much Droughns may have helped the other guys develop throughout the season? There's more to football than the 60 minutes on Sundays and I can't fault the team for keeping on veteran in the group.

by Arson55 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:39pm

Gerry, #82, it isn't so much that the Giants did a good job. It is more like the Cowboys didn't take advantage of the chances they got. Crayton's drop on that huge third down, Fasano's drop in the end zone, Romo missing a few open recievers when he had chances. The Cowboys just killed themselves with poor play in that second half. The Giants, on the other hand, made plays when they had to. The Cowboys choked theirs away.

by Roscoe (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:44pm

79 - Since you brought it up, I think the Giant's play calling on that last possession was awful. They have a quarterback completing on 2/3 of his passes, and were facing defense stacked up against the run. A play action pass on first or second down would have been very low risk, and if successful for a first would have ended the game. Instead, they run it into the line on first and second, finally try to pass on third and long, punt from the goal line, and give the Cowboys another shot from inside the 50.

by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:47pm

I have to say I might be the biggest Jeremy Shockey fan around so I find the "Eli is better without him around" theory to be ridiculous. It's obvious this coaching staff doesn't know how to integrate the TE position into the passing game where it can be a major weapon. The one time this season Shockey was THE focus of the passing game, he responded with a MONSTER game.

I have to disagree with people who think the Giants were too conservative on the last 2 drives. On the second to last drive, they got a 6 yard run on first down and a 3 yard run on second down. On 3rd and 1 (perhaps 2), OBVIOUSLY they were going to run. The problem was the play call/personnel. Running a toss play with Brandon Jacobs is plain stupid... not conservative, but just stupid. On the final drive, everyone knew they were going to (correctly) run the ball on the first 2 plays to move the clock. However, the play call on 3rd and 4 was ridiculous. The end zone camera showed there was no short patterns in the middle of the field. Toomer ran a 2 yard pattern (no exaggeration) to the far left, Smith was double teamed to the right, and for some unknown reason, Boss and Burress were were running 20 yards down the field. It was a good decision and a terrible play call.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:49pm

Goodness, who knows what numbers Favre would have now, if the Packers hadn't blown the coaching hires between Holmgren and McCarthy? I know, Sherman's w-l record wasn't bad, but he was totally negligent in coaching his HOF qb. If the Packers had hired Reid instead, the Packers would have made much better use of Favre's talents for 7 years.

Not much to say about a game in whch one team just gives a beat down like Sonny Corleone did to his no-good brother in law Carlo. I half expected to see Bigby taking his shoe off in the fourth quarter, just to give some poor supine Seahawk a few contemptuous whacks. I hope painkillers were availalble on the flight back to Seattle.

Well, I've been rooting hard for the Packers ever since they gave a similar beat-down to the Vikings. Despite being a life-long Vikings fan, I've never disliked the Packers, even though there is no team I'd rather see the Vikings beat, and there is nothing short of a Vikings Super Bowl victory (no, I'm not drinking) that would be better than beating the Packers in the playoffs, like in '04.

I really don't dislike the Giants, either, however, and the other player with a magnificent career who will running onto Lambeau next Sunday is Strahan, who probably is the best defensive linemen in the NFL, in terms of sustained excellence, since White and Smith. Hats off to both guys.

On the other hand, I love Marion Barber, and I tend to like Romo and Wade Phillips, but there is something really wonderful about seeing Jerry Jones on the sideline with the look on his face that was captured by the FOX cameraman yesterday. Geez, I wonder if I could get a screen capture of that blown up, Fathead-style?

by JasonK (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 4:54pm


I agree, although I will add that it was a savvy move by Eli to take the sack on that 3rd down play, rather than throw it away or into coverage. He had the opportunity to unload the ball while he was trying to elude the pressure, but he wisely took the safe route and went down so that the clock would continue to run.

by Flounder (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:31pm

Re: 90 I haven't seen a replay, but I remember thinking at the time that if he'd broken left instead of right that he may have been able to run for a first down.

by doktarr (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:34pm

RE: 23,

As long as you're calling out Aaron for a bad prediction, let's give props to Sean McCormick for the best slate of predictions:

* 5/6 AFC playoff teams (Bengals in stead of Titans)
* 4/6 NFC playoff teams (Eagles and Saints in stead of Giants and Bucs)

* Player to exceed KUBIAK: Romo
* Player to underperform KUBIAL: Deuce McAllister

* Miami to have the first pick

That's some awfully solid prognostication.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:39pm

Oh, in case anyone didn't notice at the Packers/Seahawks coin flip the players were laughing afterward as they left the field. Apparently after the Packers won the toss and said they wanted the ball Favre chimed in with "And we're going to score!"

Based on two data points I think teams should avoid this phrase in this situation in the future. 'Cause in both cases the immediate ramifications were BAD.

by panthersnbraves (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:40pm

72. Maybe it's because the Dallas fans are spread out over the rest of the country.

At the Dallas/Panthers game last year(Tony's coming out party), I had to explain to my pre-teen son that when the home team fans sell their tickets, it means "sometimes fans from the other team drink too much and shout bad words at odd intervals."

by Spenserhawk (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:44pm

"I haven’t seen a replay, but I remember thinking at the time that if he’d broken left instead of right that he may have been able to run for a first down."

I was thinking the exact same thing when I saw that play (especially on the replay.) I'm not quite sure why he decided to cut it back to his right.

by Jon (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:47pm

re: Ryan Grant

I intensely followed the NY camp reports this year. Grant was looking very good, but had one key flaw that made him expendable: fumbles! I warned Packer fans about it, but it wasn't really an issue until this game.

Jacobs is just so much different than most RBs that it's hard to put him in the "RBs are expendable" box. He has peculiar skills. That pick was a total roll of the dice. IIRC, the Giants were poised to select Marion Barber with that pick before Parcells swooped in.

Bradshaw is a little different. This was a guy who had a 3rd round grade, and fell because of the off-the-field issus. The camp/practice reports were absolutely glowing though. The Giants actually chose to keep him over Ryan Grant.

One last point, re: Fred Robbins. I too remember Clancy scoring a big contract from playing next to Strahan, and similar cases in the past (i.e., Lance Legree), but Robbins really has been a find ever since he was brought in from Minnesota. He's been a very good pass-rushing DT for the team.

by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:50pm

agreed- Eli needs to work on his scrambling. He's only got 82 yards on scrambles this year and is 27th out of 29 ranked QBs in running dvoa.

He's like a pitcher who bats .087 You don't need to hit .300 as a pitcher, but getting the average up to .160 would help out your cause sooo much.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:50pm


I have written here and elsewhere that Grant running high exposes him to fumbles. And he has had several "almost" fumbles during the season that didn't register as such due to being down by contact by the call on the field.

I want to believe that with coaching and "live game" experience this issue will be mitigated. But then Ahman Green never got any better so who knows?

Oh, wait. Mike Sherman's coaching staff.

Never mind......

by Spenserhawk (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 5:54pm

"On the other hand, I love Marion Barber, and I tend to like Romo and Wade Phillips, but there is something really wonderful about seeing Jerry Jones on the sideline with the look on his face that was captured by the FOX cameraman yesterday. Geez, I wonder if I could get a screen capture of that blown up, Fathead-style?"

I respect the fact that Jerry Jones really cares about his team and it's great to see an owner with that kind of enthusiasm but the knucklehead really hasn't figured out that coming down to the sidelines during the game or giving away NFC Championship game tickets before you've earned your spot has to be distracting for the coach and/or players.

by Spenserhawk (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:02pm

"I want to believe that with coaching and “live game” experience this issue will be mitigated. But then Ahman Green never got any better so who knows?

Oh, wait. Mike Sherman’s coaching staff."

Agreed...fumbling can be corrected with good coaching...Tiki Barber was a classic example. I'm hoping that w/ Edgar Bennett coaching the running backs (one of the best when it came to holding on to the ball) he is part of the reason why up until Saturday that Grant had done a reasonably good job at holding on to the ball. And in all honesty I think most running backs would've fumbled that second one...that was a solid hit right on the ball.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:14pm

One of the advantages the Packers have on offense is that Favre/Driver and Favre/Jennings possess the ability to communicate with just a glance or nod of the head. The Favre/Driver thing is understandable as the two have been playing together a long time but the Favre/Jennings connection is rather remarkable.

My favorite was against I believe KC where Jennings route was to be across and Favre got the line of scrimmage cocked his head to one side in Jennings direction who changed to a skinny post. And after the game Favre commented that "last year I would have had to use a hand signal, now this year he gets it".

And I'm thinking, "Gets what? Hello?".

by Gerry (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:15pm

"Not one mention of that false start on Ware that…wasn’t?"

Except it looked to me like it was.

And those are offset by Dallas only once being called for too few men on the line, despite the tackle often being lined up 2 yards behind the line.

by Arson55 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:40pm

Gerry, his first movement was up. He doesn't actually start forward until after the ball is moving back. This isn't the first time Ware has been called offsides when he had good timing. He's really quick so that when he times the snap right sometimes it looks like he jumps early. It used to be an issue for Dwight Freeney frequently too. I haven't seen him have trouble with it for awhile though. I don't know if Freeney just slowed down or the officials adjusted for him.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 6:49pm

#99, I dunno, giving a guy credit because he cares about the team he owns seems like seeting the bar too low. I mean, does being better than Mike Brown or Bidwell Sr. really count for much?

I despise the guy's public persona ( I try to avoid talking about private morailty until somebody has been convicted by a jury) because he thinks that because he made some good guesses about where to sink oil wells, and played on a great Arkansas team back in the mid 60s, that means he is a good evaluator of football players. I despise the fact that Jimmy Johnson put together a great team for him, and then Jones was too much of an ass to make a professional attempt to retain Johnson for a longer period of time. I despise the fact that I'm reading reports that with Parcells gone, and a 13-3 record, Jones is reverting to thinking he is a genius again.

Yes, I also despise the fact that he is compelled to visit the sideline. I hope the Cowboys don't win a playoff game in their new Taj Mahal until 2025.

by Arson55 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:00pm

#104, who really knows if Jerry has reverted to thinking he's a genius again is Jerry. Anyone who rights anything saying that he does think he's a genius is either lying or guessing.

by Patrick Bateman (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:02pm

Will Allen, (#104): I was trying to explain to my girlfriend why people hate Dallas. One of the big reasons, for me, is how greedy Jones is. He's ones of the bad apples trying to wreck the revenue-sharing agreement that allows teams in small markets (hello, Wisconsin!) to stay competitive in the NFL. And this is in direct opposition to Wellington Mara, who (although filthy rich as well) at least had the decency to be generous and fair with respect to teams from smaller markets when he supported the revenue-sharing plan.

by TED F!@#ING GINN!? (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:02pm

Well played, #83.

by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:03pm

eh... I like the mascot-owners. Cuban, Steinbrenner, Jerry Jones, Al Davis (when he was still alive), etc. They're a lightning rod for opposing fans, they're a source of continuity and pride for the home fans, and all in all they make the game a lot more fun.

by Arson55 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:04pm

That was supposed to say: the only one who knows if Jerry has reverted to thinking he was a genius is Jerry.

And that was suppused to be writes. Damn, trying to do three things at once means I can't do any of them. Good to know. I am not a multi-tasker.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:08pm


2025? When Favre retires?

Somebody had to say it.

by Gerry (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:24pm

"I’m looking to see who backed up Darren McFadden"

That would be Felix Jones. And I think the NFL scouts are pretty aware of him. He's going to be pretty good, too. I may be biased, but I believe he is going to be really good.

by Gerry (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:26pm

"A bright young man, who someday will understand that the basic unit of measurement in football is not “dominant three-touchdown victories”."

It may not be, but stomps tend to correlate pretty well with future success, moreso than just plain old wins.

by Spenserhawk (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:26pm

RE: #104

Believe me, I'm the last person who would ever defend Jerry Jones but living in Wisconsin and having to suffer owners like Bud Selig and Herb Kohl I appreciate his enthusiasm.

In regards to the rest of your comments I couldn't agree more. The whole Jimmy Johnson thing was a travesty and I remember several post game press conferences where he would give his "expert opinion" regarding decisions that were made that just irked me beyond belief.

by Spenserhawk (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:30pm

"Al Davis (when he was still alive)"

I'm afraid that when he actually does pass on that it will be in the owner's box during a game and nobody will notice.

by Gerry (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:33pm

"isn’t so much that the Giants did a good job. It is more like the Cowboys didn’t take advantage of the chances they got. Crayton’s drop on that huge third down, Fasano’s drop in the end zone, Romo missing a few open recievers when he had chances. The Cowboys just killed themselves with poor play in that second half."

Arson, that is what the Giants normally do, so I feel your pain. However, as I said earlier (might be on another thread), there was one egregious drop by the Cowboys-- Crayton-- and one by the Giants-- Webster. Both could have been touchdowns themselves, and both resulted in touchdowns for the other teams. A wash.

Romo missed some guys with passes, but that happens when the rush is keeping one from setting and throwing. You think Romo stunk, and I think that the Giants defense, particularly the d-line, had a lot to do with Romo's accuracy problems.

The penalties, some of them were just sloppy, and one or two might have been bad calls. But a good number of them were a result of the pressure (holds, false starts, and not lining up on the line which was called once).

But as I said, I feel your pain. For a few years, it has been the Giants who would lose games by making the mistakes.

by Gerry (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:35pm

"I will add that it was a savvy move by Eli to take the sack on that 3rd down play"

Maybe. But what I thought was really savvy on that play was that while scrambling, he checked behind him to make sure he didn't get blindsided, which could easily have caused a fumble. He was definitely thinking controlling the ball more than he was thinking 'first down.'

by langsty (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:40pm

"What’s impressed me about Spagnuolo is his ability to adapt his scheme as the year’s gone on to his personnel. After the utter failure that was the first two-and-a-half games, he’s done a great job of getting his best players on the field, and as often as possible, in the roles that fit them best. He’s been brave enough (assuming he deserves some credit for this) to bench Corey Webster when he was embarrassing at corner and to move Mathias Kiwanuka around after it was obvious the linebacker experiment was failing. I don’t know if he’s a head coach yet, but he’s a legitimate defensive coordinator."

Yup. His blitz packages have gotten a lot more diverse as the year's gone on too, and you could see Dallas' protection schemes breaking down a lot late in the game.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:41pm


(1) Cuban probably isn't as smart as he thinks he is, but he is pretty damned smart.
(2) Al Davis was a coach, GM, owner, and AFL commisioner; while the game might have since passed him by, he's also a big reason why the game even exists as we know it.
(3) Steinbrenner's meddling helped turn MLB's flagship franchise into a laughingstock. The resurgance in the late 90s was due, in no small measure, to his forced separation from day-to-day operations, thereby allowing allowing people who actually knew what they were doing to stockpile young talent instead of continuously trading them for big-name has-beens. So yes, he's reminds me a lot of Jerry Jones.

by langsty (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 7:51pm

I really feel like the Cowboys should've shown more commitment to the run in the second half. They controlled the los in the first half and were having tremendous success running right at the pass rush - Flozell on Osi in the run game is a huge size/strength advantage, and you want to run at them hard, run often, run iso, get Osi (and Strahan) so worried about protecting their knees, so physically beaten up, that in the 4th quarter they're not coming off the ball. As it was, the Giants were beating the Cowboys off the snap the entire second half. That ten-minute, 20-play drive should've set the tone. It also would've made Romo's job easier and given him more play-action opportunities.

by coldbikemessenger (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 8:16pm

"I really feel like the Cowboys should’ve shown more commitment to the run in the second half. They controlled the los in the first half and were having tremendous success running right at the pass rush"

On the Cowboys first 10 1-10's, they ran 9 times.
I was livid
I was apoplectic.
I was very very angry at their very conservative offense.

by James, London (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 8:32pm


As someone with a non-rooting interest in the game, let me say that Tom Coughlins' decision to run up the middle and not try one freakin' pass on the Giants last two meaningful series left me bemused to say the least. Get a 1st down and it's over. Your QB is having a good game and Dallas are stacking the line. Pass the Ball!

Coughlins' frightened play-calling almost cost him the game, and against another offense (any of the other remaining teams), it probably will.

by TomC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 9:36pm

re: 64, 102, 103 - “Not one mention of that false start on Ware that…wasn’t?”

When I looked at the replay, I thought they might be calling Ware for being lined up in the neutral zone -- his hand was really close to being in the NZ, but it was hard to tell from the replay angle. Unfortunately, Fox completely missed Morelli's announcement of the penalty, so I'll never know.

by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 9:39pm

WOW, it looks like the Football outsiders finally watched a Giants game and had positive things to say about Eli Manning. " Lightbulb going off" Geez, who was saying things like that when people were crying for "Jake Long" pick #1.

The reason why their passing game was flawed in thos "bad" games is because they were "bad weather" games. Go watch the tape on the Buffalo game where there were 40-50 mph wind gusts. Trent Edwards was throwing dinks and dunks to his backs while Eli was throwing the ball.

The poster who highlighted Steve Smith is right on. The kid has got hands and the Giants needed another threat besides Plax, Toomer and shock ( now Boss). Steve Smith will be the replacement for Toomer either next year or in 2 years and do a fine job.

Justin Tuck is one of the best pass rushing DT's, but he is still a DT while Strahan is a very good DE against the Pass AND the run. Also remember the Giants also have Mathias Kiwinuka and his freakish skills on the shelf right now.

NOW you understand why I was so excited about the Giants this year.

With all my Giants homerism being said, Dallas shot themselves in the foot yesterday with the Patrick Crayton drops and not utilizing Marion Barber more. The guy looked like a bowling ball running over Giants defenders like bowling pins.

I'd also like to say that Antoinio Pierce missed the tackel on a long run, and the guy has got to be one of the least athletic linebackers in the league. HIM and K. Mitchell in pass coverage is like prime rib for any halfway decent tight end.

Being overrated isn't about pointing out bad players, it is about pointing out who isn't as good as they are talked about. Antoinio Pierce is no doubt a heady fan favorite super smart MLB, but he is overrated.

Most overrated Giant = Antoinio Pierce
Most underrated Giant = Eli Manning, although now the guy will start to get some credit.

Yahoo sports had some article about young quarterbacks and they rated Jay Cutler as the best, they had a bunch of other guys in there and they had Eli as the worst young quarterback. That was funny to be because most of those young guys never won anything. Eli hasn't been perfect but he is a strong student of the game and he is learning.

His receivers led the league in drops, his top guy has been hurt all year, and he has gone through transition with a revolving door at RB and a brand new LT. He is a Manning and was a lightning rod of criticism but hopefully now the Giants won't have all these negative previews next year that are irrationale.

by Chris (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 9:42pm

If you want to beat the Giants, attack K. Mitchell or Antoinio Pierce with your TE's or WR's at the hook part of the field, or just go after James Butler the Free Safety.

If you have a big strong OLine like Dallas running left at Osi with Flozel Adams at the point of attack can be decent too.

Keeping Witten back to block is a bad idea. Dallas needed to dicatate to the defense and force the Giants to cover him with those weak pass defense linebackers. K. Mitchell is clueless out in his zone.

by Big Eddy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 10:01pm

Giants-Dallas was like Ali-Liston: Dallas, feeling overconfident, wasn't in shape to play for 4 quarters, like Liston in the late rounds not able to get his hands up. Re Shockey--he has a responsibility to the team to practice with Eli in the preseason so both get on the same page. I don't know if Shockey is zigging when Eli expects him to zag, but practicing together would fix that.

by Kurt (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 10:50pm

“A bright young man, who someday will understand that the basic unit of measurement in football is not “dominant three-touchdown victories”.”

It may not be, but stomps tend to correlate pretty well with future success, moreso than just plain old wins.

I don't agree (at least in the playoffs), but that's beside the point. Nobody here has ever argued, either at the time or in hindsight, that the Giants dominated the Eagles, Lions, Bears etc. It's just another strawman, on the heels of last week's assertion that people were putting Eli in the Brady/Peyton class based on the Tampa game.

Aaron, on the other hand, spent most of the year trying to transform close Giant wins into losses and failures. That hasn't worked out.

by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 11:32pm

FOX had the overbearing promo to end all overbearing promos.

Did I imagine it? With under a minute left, Dallas down by four, they're on their 23, and either 3rd or 4th down is coming up, I can't quite recall which down it was. And at THAT moment Joe Buck starts promoting the upcoming Sara Connors Chronicle.

Nothing notable really happened on the incompletions. But we were coming up on the biggest play of the game, a play that would decide the outcome of the game, and a play that could have potentially been an all-time memorable playoff finish. And precisely at THAT MOMENT I need to know what FOX is showing right after the game?

by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 01/14/2008 - 11:46pm

Excuse me, they were at the Giant 23. So the next play was going to be a pass into the end zone that would determine which of these two teams would actually win the game. And precisely then the play-by-play announcer informs us that a show we've seen commercials for probably a dozen times during this particular game alone tells us that particular show will be on next.

They should have just put "The Sara Connor Chronicles" on the back of the QB's helmet instead of the little green dot.

by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 12:18am

"Aaron, on the other hand, spent most of the year trying to transform close Giant wins into losses and failures. That hasn’t worked out."

I don't think that is fair (and this from someone who has been saying all year that DVOA is not getting a good read on the Giants).

Aaron was trusting the numbers his system is generating. He has good reason to-- they work a lot more often than they don't. We can bitch that DVOA is wrong when it says the Giants are a below average team, but the fact is that DVOA saw the Packers coming when most people did not think they would be this good. DVOA saw the Bucs being division winners long before anyone else did. I completely understand that his system showed the Giants as being poor, and since he trusts the system (most of the time) he figured the Giants must be poor.

But give him some credit for one thing with the Giants. Starting about the time the Pats were getting ready to play the Steelers, Aaron was saying that the team that just might give the Pats a run for their money was the Giants. So he hasn't been completely bearish on us.

All those apologies out of the way, I suspect he still thinks that we aren't all that great, and that we are probably going to lose badly this week. And if we win, I suspect he'll think we will lose badly in the Super Bowl. Why? DVOA tells him so.

And I still think DVOA is missing something about this team-- that when we don't beat ourselves we can play with anyone. DVOA sees that we often DO beat ourselves. It figures that will probably happen again. But small sample sizes are small, and over a small sample of just two more games it is possible for us to play without major, backbreaking mistakes. We could possibly make it. Any Given Sunday and all that.

But if we manage to win one or, God willing, both, even if he doesn't think we are that good, I am sure he'll be extremely favorable in his writings about what the Giants accomplished this year. Heck, we already might be at that point.

by Arson55 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 12:26am

Gerry, #115, there was a drop by Fasano in the end zone as well. And Crayton gave up on a route that could have been a touchdown if he would have ran it through. Then the penalties...I didn't like the offsides calls against Dallas, but I thought the others were fair calls...but why the hell were the Cowboys doing that crap? Reeves! The dude was falling out of bounds; why did you pull on his face mask? Davis! You've been damned solid most of the year, what the hell are you hitting Strahan late for? It was infuriating. We had a lot of chances. And they played like crap every time.

In order of people I blame for the loss: Crayton cost us two touchdowns personally and sucked on punt returns (but he has the whole year). The left side of the line (Adams & Kosier). They just caved in the most important game of the year. They held the Giants in check the first two games, but decide to open the way to Romo in the playoffs? Reeves. He was awful in that drive to end the first half. If that doesn't happen we're in much better shape.

Don't take it so much that I'm not giving any respect to the Giants. They did what they had to do when the Cowboys couldn't. The Giants just wanted it more.

by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 12:28am

Gerry- Isn't it funny that a lot of people were saying DVOA isn't getting a good reading on the giants, and even after the dismal preseason predictions too?

What you are saying is that DVOA was wrong but that it is also right. So how is that different than any other ranking system?

Even the idiots on TV were saying the the Giants "might" in NY might give the Pats a run for their money. Especially if people for either team might be sitting. I like DVOA but I don't think they deserve any credit at all for anything said about the Giants, and in fact deserve the opposite. After the Giants/Pats game through all the semi praise the Giants got one of the guys said that there was no way that Giants team beats Tampa.

I am not so sure the Giants will get "favorable" writings next year. There is at least a 50% chance the word "luck" or some Billy Beane and the playoffs "sample size" or "luck" talk paraphrased down will be there for the Giants.

You are quick to forget Gerry that the outsiders had the Giants 16th after the season ended. They are in the final 4 now. Give them credit for Green Bay and Jacksonville, but certainly no credit for the Giants. Please.

by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 12:38am


What can I tell you. You guys rocked, the Giants were badly outclassed, except that we made the plays and you didn't.


You can add in that Eli missed an open Burress for no reason, we whiffed on some blocks, had Jacobs basically just lose his footing when he otherwise would have had a first down, etc. And if you go back to the earlier games between the teams, you could find many cases where the Giants *could* have made plays that would have drastically changed the games but *didn't*-- dropped passes, untimely penalties, not finishing tackles, letting Romo escape when they should not have.

Funny thing about football- the team that makes plays tends to beat the team that doesn't make plays. If you want to argue that the Cowboys more often made plays this year than the Giants, I'll agree. I'll even say that made the Cowboys a better team overall this year than the Giants. But if you try to say that if the Cowboys play error free they beat the Giants playing error free, on that I do not agree. I think they are very close in that instance. That's been my point about the Giants all year long-- they are a maddening team to root for because when they don't play sloppy they can beat any team in the NFL, even if that other team is playing well.

I don't think the Cowboys played poorly yesterday. I think they were fortunate to convert so many key third-and-longs-- and that was not likely to continue forever. I think they screwed up some plays that they should not have, but so did the Giants.

I think the Giants won the game and deserved to win the game, but that it was a close, good game.

Your mileage may vary.

by Yakuza Rich (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 1:01am

"Is there anyone who’s a bad matchup against Roy Williams in man coverage? They’re lining up Kevin freaking Boss one-on-one against Williams outside. And somehow, he’s a Pro Bowler."

Yes, Roy was thrown at a whopping 3 times for 1 completion that went 6 yards. Clearly the worst safety in the league.

*shakes head*

by Kurt (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 1:18am



Aaron and his system can be as bearish on the Giants as they like - I'm not George Costanza; not everyone has to like me or my team. But it does take quite a bit of chutzpah to accuse Giant fans of converting past wins to dominations when (a) nobody in the world cares right now whether the Giants beat the Bears by 5 or 50; and (b) I think my description of DVOA, which ranks teams behind teams with records 3 or 4 games worse, is fair, though in those cases I wouldn't call DVOA "wrong" so much as "measuring things I don't care about". His AOL column, every week, told us the Giants were enduring yet another second half swoon, because too many of their wins were by a touchdown or less.

No, I don't think Aaton has a personal "thing" against the Giants, but the overemphasis on "stomps" seems to get in the way of sound analysis around here sometimes.

by Kurt (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 1:28am

Chris -

Don't forget, "weighted" DVOA, which as I understand it measures more recent performance, ranked the Giants 22nd at the end of the year. I know that the party line is that regular DVOA predicts playoff success better than weighted DVOA - I suspect "chest size of the head coach's wife" might predict playoff success better than weighted DVOA.

Also, did you ever show up in the playoff QB rankings thread? I know several people were waiting for you, and expecting hilarity to ensue. Hopefully they found their jollies, eventually.

by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 2:23am

Kurt, I am a huge Giants fan. And we DID have another second half swoon. Thankfully, not as bad as last year's, and thankfully we recovered from it unlike last year. But we had one.

by Arson55 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 2:49am

Gerry, I do get what your saying. I'm still too down on my guys to be totally rational.

Oh, and if the Giants reach the Superbowl and have to face New England, I'll be rooting for your Giants to finish them this time. I'm sick of this Patriots are the greatest team ever nonsense. Every rational person knows that distinction belongs to the '92 Cowboys.

...kidding (well...mostly).

by t.d. (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 4:00am

I think the Giants season turned around when Shockey got hurt. He and Plax are talented, but they dropped too many catchable balls. I'm impressed at the Giants' ability to develop players. Boss has actually seemed as effective as Shockey, and both Jacobs and Bradshaw seem like they came out of nowhere. Coughlin is a lousy gameday coach, but he does have a knack for player development

by Kurt (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 10:54am


The Giants were 6-2 in the first half, because all four of their "easy" games (Miami, Jets, Atlanta, SF) were in that part of the schedule. Looking at their second half schedule, I would have been delighted with 4-4, which is what they did.

You can't say, as some did, that (a) the Giants aren't really any good, AND (b) they should be expected to go 12-4 or it's a "second half swoon". They really *aren't* a great team; I don't think even Chris would have expected 12-4.

by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 11:15am

it isnt fair that we cant comment in the "no stupid comments" section... I wanted to say something hateful and mean in there and you guys broke my dreams ;_;

by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 11:20am


Enjoying the back and forth, btw.

To me, it wasn't the record so much that made it a second half swoon, it was the way they played in those tougher games that made it a second half swoon.

We beat Washington on the road in the first half of the season, and then looked pretty bad against them in the second half of the season. We didn't just lose to Minnesota, we laid an egg of monumental proportions that convinced the rest of the world that the Vikings were, possibly, as elite of a team as any in the NFC. And for half of the game against Buffalo, we were just awful.

It wasn't just that we were having difficulty with good teams. We were stinking up the joint.

by Kurt (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 12:55pm


That's fine, I won't argue too much. Just a bit!

* Aaron was calling it a swoon before the Redskins game, not in spite of the close wins but because of them.

* Any team will have peaks and valleys, unless they're the Pats or Dolphins. IMO the Giants had two valleys - games 12-14, inlcuding the Redskin and Viking stinkers, and weeks 1 and 2 and throw in the first half of week 3 if you like.

* The Buffalo game wasn't an awful first half, it was an awful first ten minutes. A melting down team would have quit after falling behind 14-0, the Giants spent the rest of the game destroying Buffalo.

I get that it fits into the narrative - the Giants weren't going to be able to lose a game in the second half with people yelling "swoon!", just like the Chargers couldn't lose a game this year without people yelling "Norv!" But the reputation was built by going 2-6 last year, 1-7 in 2004 and 0-8 in 2003 (7 of those 8 losses were by 13 or more. Yikes!). The reputation was well-earned. This year doesn't cut it IMO.

I've enjoyed this discussion also, thanks.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 1:49pm

And I still think DVOA is missing something about this team– that when we don’t beat ourselves we can play with anyone. DVOA sees that we often DO beat ourselves. It figures that will probably happen again. But small sample sizes are small, and over a small sample of just two more games it is possible for us to play without major, backbreaking mistakes. We could possibly make it. Any Given Sunday and all that.

I completely agree with everything in this paragraph except for the part about DVOA missing something. If the Giants don't beat themselves they can play at a very high level. They've had four straight weeks of extremely good play. This may be the best four week span of Eli's career.

But that still doesn't change the fact that they are just as likely to beat themselves next week as they were five weeks ago. You (or anyone else including DVOA) can't base your opinion of the team on "if they play to the best of their ability...".

I don't think anyone (including most of the people who haven't had very many nice things to say about them) could look at the Giants' talent and not see their potential to be a very good team. But that thought was usually followed by images of Eli sailing a pass 8 feet over Burress' head or Shockey getting hit square in the chest with a pass that ended up on the ground. I'll give the Giants a lot of credit (and as an Eagles fan that's not an easy thing to do), they've showed that they can limit their mistakes in far more consecutive games than I thought they could. If they continue to play at this level I wouldn't be (very) shocked to see them beat anyone. But just don't color me (or DVOA) surprised if the underwhelming team we saw in weeks 11-15 pops back up.

by Marc (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 4:33pm

In defense of Norv, he's been a head coach with two of the worst personnel departments a coach could work with - the Charley Casserly was bad with the Redskins and Cerrato was worse and Al Davis hasn't done such a good job. It's safe to say Norv isn't a difference-maker as a coach but his teams probably haven't underachieved as much as we've been led to believe. I think a lot of people think of the 2000 Redskins as a team that should done much better with all the name players but most of those guys weren't very good at that point. The '04 and '05 Raiders seemed to have some talent on offense but they couldn't pass protect because their tackles were awful. If you can't protect the passer in turner's offense, you won't score many points.

by Eugene (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 1:53am

Is it just me or did no one else notice that on the Cowboys last 3 offensive plays that all the receivers routes ended up in the endzone? It's 2nd and 20 and you know you're in 4 down territory and you have 1 timeout(if I remember correctly)... use the middle of the field which was wide open. Send someone on a curl or a slant. You dont need to go for the endzone on every play. Even if you're not going to do that at least use the timeout before you come out on 4th down. I think that was poor playcalling by the coaching staff.