Giants 42-Eagles 7: Hits, Misses & Musings
I spent the better part of my ride home from Sunday night’s game trying to think of a fitting analogy to best describe the Giants’ 2012 season.
I finally settled on a childhood favorite of mine, the fable of The Tortoise and the Hare by Aesop, which, if you’re not familiar, you can read here.
Of if you’d rather have the condensed version of the tale, the gist of the story is that the hare, thinking he had all the time in the world to beat the tortoise in a race, decided to slack off only to awaken when it was too late – and to find that the tortoise, whom no one would have even imagined could beat a hare in a footrace, had indeed won.
So what does this have to do with the Giants’ 2012 season? Repeatedly, we heard the players say after a loss that they weren’t worried, that the season was a marathon and not a sprint.
It was almost as though they were shrugging off that, like the hare in the fable, they had perhaps grown fat with their positive press clippings that came with being the defending Super Bowl champions or that perhaps someone would stumble, and all would be right again.
It didn’t work out that way, and the Giants, after a disappointing second half of the season that saw two uninspired and forgettable losses to the Falcons and the Ravens, awoke from their slumber to thump the Eagles into oblivion.
But it was too late. Gone was having destiny in their hand. And with that, gone was their chance of defending their world title.
It’s a harsh lesson, but one that the Giants faithful can only hope that, whichever players are back next year, remembers and passes down to any of the new players who are coming in via free agency or the draft.
There are many hits to be handed out despite the Giants failed to get into the playoffs. Here are a few that stick out the most to me.
There must be something to playing against the Eagles for linebacker Chase Blackburn, who earlier in the season had one of his best games against Philly and who had yet another good game in the regular season finale. The Giants’ best pass rusher, Blackburn was all over the place, very nearly sacking quarterback Michael Vick., And when he wasn’t harassing Vick, he was limiting the damage LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown tried to inflict against the Giants run defense.
What was particularly impressive with Blackburn is that of his seven tackles, the majority came at or near the line of scrimmage and not seven or more yards down field, as we had seen from others on the defense in previous weeks.
I don’t know what the future holds for Blackburn, an unrestricted free agent, but he’s definitely one of the most underappreciated linebackers out there.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride split the carries between David Wilson and Ahmad Bradshaw, and guess what? both were effective, especially Bradshaw, who has operated on one leg almost all season. by reducing the workload, he was kept fresh, and boy did he look pretty good in the process. Assuming he returns next season – right now it’s probably 50/50 as he’ll likely have to take a pay cut – I hope that he considers following his lead blocking a bit better than he did at times this year.
A solid showing from Martellus Bennett, who mostly blocked in this one and did so effectively. He spoke the day after about how he hoped to be back next year – he’s an unrestricted free agent – because he believes that another year in this offense will put him and Eli Manning together on the same page, something that wasn’t always evident this year.
People like to pick on offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride – why I honestly don’t know – but give him and the rest of the staff credit for aggressively going after the Eagles’ defense’s weak link, the linebackers, who were at fault for a couple of big Giants pass gains, including one of Manning’s five touchdown throws that came on a wheel route.
I thought both Giants offensive tackles turned in good games. David Diehl, who went up against DE Brandon Graham, needed very little help and while Graham was successful with some early game pressures, credit Diehl for tightening his bootstraps and shutting the youngster down.
Will Beatty was almost spotless in his showing. I don’t think we heard Trent Cole’s name uttered once – and that’s saying a lot considering Cole is one of the Eagles’ best pass rusher, if not their best. While Beatty appeared to be the guilty part who yielded the Eagles’ lone sack, it was hard to tell if Philip Hunt, the linebacker was supposed to be blocked by Kevin Boothe.
And how can I forget the entire organization for reaching out to the Sandy Hook Elementary School community? The Giants hosted roughly 200 teachers, parents, students, and administrators, making them a big part of the pregame ceremony and it was just one of the most touching things I’ve witnessed.
To see all those little bundled up children — well let’s just say I didn’t need my binoculars to take note of how wide their eyes were in getting the opportunity to mingle with their heroes. It was simply an awesome way to pay tribute to a community that was rocked to its core by a senseless act of violence that we might never understand.
And along those lines, kudos to the Eagles, who were just as responsive as when they ran out of the tunnel trough the group assembled on their side, their players stopped to high-five all the children. As one of my colleagues had said at the time, that was a sure-fired way to stop the crowd from booing, and sure enough, the Giants fans, always classy, did just that.
Finally, love him or hate him, former Eagles head coach Andy Reid had a tough season, both personally and professionally. Perhaps the most devastating blow to him was losing his son Garrett back in August, an occurrence that no parent should have to go through.
Yet Reid somehow found the strength to carry on and continue to coach, even as the team around him was falling apart. Sure, he’s gotten the better of the Giants these past few years, but I think we can all agree that what he went through what with losing his son puts everything into perspective.
Not too many misses in this one and I actually contemplated skipping this part only to realize that you can’t have a one-sided review. So here goes.
What was Justin Tryon thinking on that opening onside kick? Instead of falling on the ball, he got greedy by trying to scoop it and score. Granted, that’s what the defense is taught to do when a ball is live — scoop and score – but this wasn’t defense.
I didn’t think Osi Umenyiora had a good game in the run defense, which is just not a strength. There were a few runs to his side of the field that looked too easy as he struggled to hold the edge. Case in point: on a LeSean McCoy run, he over-committed to the inside that Keith Rivers had already closed and not stand his ground to stop the run.
I waited all year to see the Dancing Rhino touchdown celebration dance and what happens? It takes place in the fourth quarter of the game when I’m in the process of writing on deadline! and had my face buried in my laptop.
That’s my bad. Anyway, here’s hoping there will be much more to come from this bruising young blocker who has shown that he can run more like a gazelle than a Rhino when it comes to the passing game.
I wrote about this in my article about Antrel Rolle’s assessment of the defense, but it bears repeating here.
When defensive coordinator Perry Fewell talks about guys being in position to make plays, he’s not just talking about being in the right spot to come up with a sack or interception. He’s talking about multiple players being in the right spot to create a domino effect that makes the play go in their favor.
An example on that was Stevie Brown’s interception, which was made possible not only thanks to Brown being in the right position, but also due to a blitz that got home and created pressure, and a great effort by Jacquian Williams to force the tight end to take an outside release that left him out of position to make a play on the ball.
That’s the kind of well-oiled play the defense hasn’t always had. If they can find that on a more consistent basis, we just might see them climb out of the cellar in the league rankings next year.
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Have we seen the last of linebacker Michael Boley? That wouldn’t surprise me. I thought about his reduced playing time and how the coaches said that it was because of injury, and then I remembered that Boley wasn’t on the injury report during the last few weeks.
While I’m not saying he isn’t banged up – all of the guys who have played this year are banged up in some way, shape or form—the point is he was active and I suspect the reduction in his snaps was not due so much to his injuries as perhaps it might have been due to his occasional bouts with looking disinterested out there.
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For those of you who were clamoring to see the young guys, you got your wish – sort of. Youngsters such as running back David Wilson, James Brewer, Rueben Randle, Mark Herzlich, and Spencer Paysinger all saw snaps in this game, providing a glimpse of what is yet to come. And while it wasn’t always pretty, at least this way the coaches have some sort of idea what these young pups can do in game time situations.
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I had an interesting debate with a colleague about whether the Giants simply woke up or their success was simply a matter of playing against a poor Eagles team.
I’m of the opinion that it’s the former. While I agree that the Eagles were a shell of their former selves by the time they got to this game, there were still players out there who were playing for their jobs, and who took pride in doing so. To suggest that the Eagles mailed it in, to me, is silly.
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And about that touchdown dance, Henry Hynoski? Ok, I’ll admit that I chuckled when I first saw it. I’ll even admit that I had a feeling that he might do something like that if he scores (and I had a feeling it was just a matter of time before he did).
My only question is what took offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride so long? Yeah, I know Hynoski had a couple of chances earlier that didn’t go as planned, and yes, I know that Hynoski is at the bottom of the chain as far as ball distribution. However, I’ve been saying for the longest time that I think this kid can be a nice little weapon out of the backfield.
Seriously, on an offense with so many skill players, how nice would it be to erase any certainty on behalf of the opponent that when your fullback is on the field, it won’t necessarily be a run or a lead block? All it took was to see how Hynoski literally ran free on his touchdown run to know that teams weren’t really expecting much from him as a potential receiver.
Oh and I’m going to go on record now as saying that I think come next year, Hynoski is going to get serious Pro Bowl consideration.
THE FINAL WORD
Several of you asked me about my year-end thoughts on how to fix the Giants.
Well the good news is that I spent the better part of New Year’s Day putting that all down in a file, even going so far as to include salary cap scenarios and figures.
Some 6,000 or so words later, I feel really good about the article and my supporting arguments, cap figures, and scenarios. I actually can’t wait until the issue comes out, but first, we’re working on our 2012 season wrap-up issue that we hope to complete within the next two weeks (that’s also available for pre-order, by the way).
The bad news? Because we’re going into the off-season, the boss wants the article for the subscription product that means I won’t be able to share it in the blog as I had planned. (Though I did get the approval to do a blog post on the salary cap that I hope to work on next weekend.)
The issue in which the article is going to appear is our February issue, and we will be looking to release it in early to mid February.
If you are interested, you can pre-order it for just $5.00 in our online store. Once the issue is released, it will be e-mailed to you.
Before I wrap up this edition of “HM&M,” I want to thank you all for spending the season reading this blog, especially this weekly feature which is mixed in with ramblings that happen to be floating around in my head.
I really appreciate the visits and the interaction with you in Letters to the Editor and on Twitter, and I hope that even though the Giants season is done, you will stick around and stay in touch as it’s going to be a busy off-season leading up to April 15, the start of the off-season conditioning program.
I also want to invite you to send your questions for a special year-end Fan Q&A. I usually try to run these Q & As on Twitter, but the problem I have, is that sometimes I don’t have enough characters to give a full response.
So send your questions to me by this Friday, and I’ll go through as many as I can for a special mailbag piece to run next Monday.
Thanks again, and Happy New Year!