Unpacking The Loss: Arizona

In all honesty, this segment is a lot more fun to write when the Giants win…. but I suppose that goes without saying. In a very, very evenly matched game, the Arizona Cardinals came away with a rare win on the road in Giants Stadium to a shocked crowd.

Quick Recap

Cardinals Giants
Time of Possession 29:44 Time of Possession 30:16
Total Net Yards 288 Total Net Yards 327
Total Rushing/Passing Plays (includes Sacks) 60 Total Rushing/Passing Plays (includes Sacks)

66

Average Gain per Offensive Play 4.8 Average Gain per Offensive Play 5.0
Total First Downs 15 Total First Downs 15
Third Down Efficiency 3/14 – 21% Third Down Efficiency 4/15 – 26%

Perhaps the most shocking things about the way the Cardinals played Sunday night was the emphasis on running the football and creating a confusing and aggressive defensive scheme that kept Eli Manning and the Giants offense out of sync for the bulk of the game. Truth be told — the Giants unquestionably had enough opportunities to win Sundays matchup with the defending NFC champs, but some costly mistakes in the form of dropped balls, bad coaching decisions, and unfortunate turnovers late in the 4th quarter let the game slip through the grip of the Giants offense.

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Offense: Running

Cardinals Giants
Net Yards Rushing 72 Net Yards Rushing 107
Average Gain per Rushing Play 3.3 Average Gain per Rushing Play 4.1

The Giants took an efficient edge with running the football by amassing quite a few more yards than the Cardinals. But for some reason the Giants thought limiting Brandon Jacob to 13 carries was the best thing to do when he was clearly having the best game of his 2009 season. Jacobs repeatedly ran for huge gains and was back to his hard hitting style, plowing through defenders setting an unmistakeble tone for the game that had me wondering why he ever came out of the game.

Rushing ATT YDS TD LG
B. Jacobs 13 76 1 25
A. Bradshaw 12 32 0 14

Seriously — if it ain’t broke don’t fix it! Jacobs clearly dominated with his opportunities, why not exploit a fired up 265 pound machine when he’s up and ready to rumble? I love Ahmad Bradshaw, don’t get me wrong — but Jacobs clearly had the hot hand this game and it was plenty evident early in the game. So I just don’t get why Jacobs saw so little action on a night when he was raring to go.

Bradshaw had an off night you might say, whether it be that he didn’t get the opportunity to run outside or just couldn’t make anything happen. And of course his night was capped by a costly fumble in Cardinals territory while the Giants were driving with a chance to tie the game. Bad timing for that kind of mistake — but I might suggest to Coach Gilbride that instead of using Bradshaw to gain 1 + 2 yards up the gut like Jacobs usually does, get him the ball in a position where he can cut back and make guys miss… like some dump off passes, pitches, screens, etc. That’s where his speed and versitility will truly be utilized. While many have a sour taste in their mouth concerning Bradshaw, I think Mario Manninghams drop in the end zone should have you feeling much more bitter at this point.

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Offense: Passing

Passing CP/AT YDS TD INT
E. Manning 19/37 243 1 3

Unfortunately this game was decided by turnovers, and Eli Manning’s 3rd interception sealed the loss for the Giants unfortunately. His last throw of the night sailed hopelessly into triple coverage in what perhaps his worst decision of 2009. But perhaps one of the reasons Eli thought he had to force that throw was because the Giants decided to kick a field goal from the 2 yard line on the preceding drive instead of punch it in the end zone. But there will be more on that coaching decision later…

Cardinals Giants
Net Yards Passing 216 Net Yards Passing 220
Times Sacked (Number-Yards) 2 – 15 Times Sacked (Number-Yards) 3 – 23
Pass Comp-Att-Int 20 – 36 – 1 Pass Comp-Att-Int 19 – 37 – 3
Average Gain per Passing Play (includes Sacks) 5.7 Average Gain per Passing Play (includes Sacks) 5.5

Based purely on the numbers — you deduce again that this game was very evenly matched. The respective defenses did well to pressure the quarterbacks and force several 3 and outs. However I think there were some poor game management decisions and Eli in his press conference has shifted the blame onto himself…. and I’m talking again about the deep balls thrown for interceptions.

First off, the deep ball to Hixon that was intercepted in the endzone can be construed as a great defensive play and there was nothing wrong with taking that risk with Hixon who had his man beat. I get that, and it’s duly noted. However, when you’re moving the ball methodically down the field getting into your opponents territory, coming off a week where deep shots down the field failed miserably, why not stay with the running game and short passes that were working up until the risky deep ball that went for an INT? This reliance on the deep ball has me nervous because it’s been proven that Eli Manning wins Giants games by playing Giants football — power running and high percentage short passes, minimizing turnovers. That was the 2007 playoff run that we all remember. Spreading the ball around to the tune of 200 yards of passing and two touchdowns, no interceptions, 30 carries for Jacobs, 12 for Bradshaw, Kevin Boss with a touchdown… and in the end it was Superbowl rings for everyone. Coincidence that the deep ball was not an integral part of that offense? No. It was a surprise play on 3rd and short, not a staple. Eli needs to get back into that mode of constraining how he manages this Giants offense because they are on the verge of losing control over what they do best — win games by playing Giants football.

Now to be fair, Eli made atleast 3 crucial 4th quarter throws that could have decided a different fate for the Giants. The first was a dropped pass threaded between two defenders from 35 yards out right into Mario Manninghams hands on the goal line, who proceeded to drop the perfectly thrown guaranteed touchdown. More than any other mistake Sunday night, this one was the worst because it happened in the end zone – there was no guessing involved as to what might have happened if Manningham caught the perfectly thrown ball. It would have completely changed the outcome of the game.

The second fantastic pass Eli threw was a 25 yard first down to Kevin Boss that put the Giants in Cardinal territory. Unfortunately a couple plays later Ahmad Bradshaw fumbled and the ball went right back to Arizona. But the pieces were in place to finish that drive with points on the board.

The third pass Eli threw was to Steve Smith for 35 yards and a major first down to keep the 2 minute drill going, it was an unexpected reception by Smith who made an amazing catch and right up until the end I felt the Giants could keep it going and tie the game back up. But alas it was a disappointing night for Giants fans as Eli’s next pass was brought in by the opposition for the final nail in the coffin.

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Offense: Receiving

Receiving REC YDS TD LG
H. Nicks 4 80 1 62
S. Smith 4 69 0 34
M. Manningham 4 47 0 20
K. Boss 3 35 0 25
B. Jacobs 2 11 0 6
D. Hixon 1 6 0 6
A. Bradshaw 1 -5 0 -5

Hakeem Nicks was able to turn an otherwise busted pass to Mario Manningham into a 62 yard score for the Giants. You may think it was a lucky catch or a fluke — and you might be right. My question is, how was he that wide open in the first place? There was a radius of 15 yards all around him…. why didn’t Eli throw to him to begin with!?!? Great to see the rookie make things happen even when the plays weren’t designed for him.

Steve Smith was quiet right up until the last drive, so if Eli insists on making things work in the passing game then I think he still needs Mr. Dependable working things out on the receiving end, and Smith was not around enough Sunday night to be effective. Coverage was tight and Manning was pressured enough that he couldn’t find his guy consistently on 3rd downs. Give credit to the Cards there.

Why is Kevin Boss not being used in the passing game? The guy is unbelievably talented with great hands and the Giants are sitting on this incredible untapped resource. Is anyone else as baffled as I am on this?

Ahmad Bradshaw is not getting the short passes that he should be — he turns a 3 yard dump into a 20 yard play in two seconds if you let him. I appreciate not wanting to overly rely on that play but only calling it once for Bradshaw over 60 minutes is not going to cut it, I’m sorry.

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Defense

Overall I think the defense did play better this week, there were 2 takeaways on the night that were made possible by getting pressure on Kurt Warner. On the first drive of the game there was a forced fumble by Justin Tuck. Mathias Kiwanuka also seemed to have success getting into Warner’s face when needed.

But perhaps the best aspect of the Giants defense was the fact that they were able to put their team in a position to win in the fourth quarter by containing a high powered offense, 3 forced punts at crunch time is no easy task. Unlike last week in New Orleans, the defense did their job well and should feel good about their performance.

CC Brown was all over the place making huge hits, Corey Webster shut down the aerial attack for the Cardinals any time a ball was thrown near him, and Danny Clark had a nice sack when he was sent up the middle to get in Warner’s space.

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Special Teams

Jeff Feagles had a horrible game, I don’t care of Coughlin said it was all part of the game plan. Netting less than 30 yards on a punt sucks, period.

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Coaching

Other than Coughlin challenging Justin Tuck’s forced fumble right off the bat, I find myself scratching my head with personnel changes, play calling, and game plans in general this week. The most concerning examples are why Jacobs got so few touches when he was clearly so fired up, why weren’t there even more blitz packages called by Sheridan, and perhaps most importantly…… why did the Giants settle for a 19 yard field goal from the 2 yard line late in the fourth quarter?

That one decision I think cost the Giants a legitimate shot to win that game — because instead of getting inside the 35 yard line on their final drive they would have had to go all the way for a score. Not having to only settle for a field goal to tie put even more pressure on Eli and a sputtering offense, and it took away confidence from the players I think to have them go all the way down the field in crunch time and come away with 3 instead of 7. Next time I want to see a bold decision to go for it on the goal line, I dont care if its a 1 posession game or not with a field goal. You play the game to win, afterall… staying aggressive in that situation is something the Giants need to get better at if they want to win these close games.

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Alright I’ve had enough of the drama for one week… I seriously hope the Eagles game next week ends better for everyone, and I hope this segment wasn’t too difficult for you to relive. Leave your frustraion in the comments if you’d like, and I’ll catch you later on this week.

cheers

-ai


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