Sunday, January 11, 2009

Divisional Playoff Game Thoughts

what a freaking game today. it was ugly, it was physical, it was wonderful. to go on the road for the second week in a row and take it to the defending champs. phew! what a thoroughly enjoyable run this team is having.

there were many good performances today, but i think the big difference between these two team was QB play. i have no doubt that if you swapped manning and mcnabb, you'd be looking at a giants win right now. mcnabb may not have the physical tools he did when he was younger, but he's playing better than he has in a long time.

today wasn't a very good day for him statistically but he made all the plays the eagles needed to win. he made a number of clutch throws -- especially the stunning 3rd and 20 pass to avant -- but the play that stood out to me was a short pass to kevin curtis for the first down late in the third quarter just after carney missed a 47 yard field goal. the eagles had just gotten the ball back and needed a nice long drive to take some time off the clock. on first down around mid-field, the play call was a quick slant to curtis on right. the giants called for a zone blitz with justin tuck dropping into that passing lane -- the exact right defense for the play. i'm not sure how, but mcnabb saw tuck dropping into that lane and double clutched, waiting for curtis and tuck to run by each other and then threw a dart for a 15 yard catch and run. most QBs throw it right into tuck's belly on that play, heck i've seen don throw it right into a defender's belly in that exact situation before. maybe you can't read too much into a single play, but i'm impressed that he appears to be still growing and learning as a QB.

other thoughts:

- kudos to the coaching staff. they went with a balanced approach in the first half -- lots of running followed up with deep drops looking for a big play -- but the giants were getting way too much pressure on mcnabb and the offense was completely out of sync. the second half was a completely different story -- pass, pass, pass, pass -- but mostly quick drops and underneath routes. halftime adjustments.

- love that we continue to see the QB sneak! how about the difference between a mcnabb sneak and a half-hearted manning sneak?

- the defense played a terrific game today but they sold out to stop the run and there were guys running free in the secondary. thankfully, eli manning was the opposing QB and almost all of those guys were missed badly.

- bunkley and patterson were simply awesome today -- especially on those two stuffs on 4th and short.

- does asante samuel exert some sort of gravitational pull on footballs? asante, my apologies for thinking that the biggest difference between you and lito was your ability to stay healthy/play in pain. you're twice the corner that lito ever was. also, i really enjoyed how you ran the pick back right at eli, even though eli obviously had no desire or intent to get in on the tackle.

- the play mix today was 45 called passes and 23 called runs -- 66% passing

- fox flashed back-to-back stats during the game -- apparently the giants and eagles were ranked first and second this year in points scored during the last 2 minutes of the first half. did everyone see that? how do we reconcile that with the notion that the eagles suck at the 2 minute drill? is it possible that my contention that there are no teams who are "good" at the 2 minute drill is accurate? what causes that disconnect? i'm not sure exactly, but i don't think anyone can complain today, the 2 minute drill at the end of the first half was a thing of beauty.

- footballoutsiders are feeling pretty good about themselves today. the eagles finished at the top of their ratings this year (first time ever for them and first time ever for a wild card team). makes a lot more sense now than at the end of the regular season.

- thank goodness eli manning still stinks. this myth that's been growing about him ever since he happened to be on a team that won a superbowl has been annoying.

- andy opened himself up for a lot of criticism when he continued to pass (and pass downfield) with the lead. lot of guts andy.

- does anyone think that playing on the road has been good for this team? that the pressure of winning in front of the home crowd might have made the birds play a little tighter?

next up, the cardinals. eagles open up as 3.5 point favorites on the road...




Anonymous Anonymous said...

Allow me to sheepishly recant. I was 1 million% wrong on Samuel. The guy is a big game gamer. God he is lighting it up and taking half the field away during this run. I blew that one and I recant. He is very good and I'll take regular season dropsies for post season INT any day.

Great game by Don. TMG you nailed it. It wasn't big things, it was those little plays like the back breaking scramble and completion on 3rd and 20. The INT were flukes and not his fault. That is a very tough place to throw the ball at any time, let alone January in the playoffs. Kudos!

Great games by Gocong and Bradley. Always where they were supposed to be, always breaking things up, always bringing the wood. I was down on Gocong and the verdict is still out, but one thing seems to be that these two are very smart guys who understand what this complex D is trying to do. That makes a huge difference.

I actually loved the Jackson pass late in the game because the series before they ran ran ran and punted. The Giants never expected a bomb and with one more step he scores. Would've been nice to not pussy foot on the goal line and end the game, but I did like pissing another 2 minutes off the clock down there.

Eli sucked. That petrified sneak had no prayer. the guy needed less than 6 inches and he LOST yardage. Awful awful play call there by the Giants. I realize it is 6 inches, but how do you remove Hedgecock and not run Jacobs when you need 6 inches.

Also awful by Coughlin, how do you waste a critical TO with a challeneg for 3 inches? It sends a bad message and really hurt you later. Coughlin did a terrible job today in crunch time.

Eli was bad, but let's not take away the SB win. He faced an 18-0 team, was in the grasp, spins out, and connects on that bomb to Tyree. Then he tosses the game winner to Plax. The guy collapsed once Burress went down, but he won a Super Bowl and made a few key plays to do it, so I will tip my hat to him for that game.

Westbrook isn't right. That is of concern to me. He ran terribly today. He just didn't seem to follow blocks well and kept turning things inside when he had clear lanes outside. He also got stuffed on that swing pass. he is obviously hurt, but how badly?

This O line did not give up a sack to the Giants this! That is a super D line and the Birds just stoned them all year.

Dawk literally doesn't care about his body or safety. The guy threw himself around like a missile today. He sold out every play. That's what HOF players do. This whole team sold out vs. two very physical teams the last two weeks. When you can take a team's best punches and then make the other team submit with your best punches...well that's the kind of ball this Birds fan loves.

Great games by Akers and Rocca. Field position hurt the Giants all day.

I concur that playing away from the Linc has been good for this team. Less pressure and enables them to play loose and a heavy underdog role.

It's all about rhythm and balance. The Giants had an 8 game run this year and now look shaky. the Birds looked shaky for much of the season and suddenly look very confident. I think things have come together well-lots of depth on D with no one banged up significantly, an offense who can take chances because they know the D can recover from a mistake, a QB playing smart ball, a coach moving toward a balanced attack, a team with nothing to lose. Why not them? Why not?


12:09 AM EST  
Blogger Simon said...

Public Apology:
I must apologize to Big Red. First year I ever doubted him and he proofed me very wrong...sorry.

Absolutely great game all around. Great game plan and adjustments. I especially loved the roll-outs by McNabb. ths was the first game I watched this season were I did not scream at the TV because of a stupid play call.

Great Game by 5. I actually liked the 2nd pick by him. It was 3rd down, they had to punt, so at least he tried complete the pass. So what it was was at the 20.

4:54 AM EST  
Anonymous Phil said...

5's lone pick last week was exact same situation, 3rd down with INT at or inside the 20. He could literally be re-writing his PHI legacy. Oh, I hope.

I don't think anyone's giving this D as much credit as it deserves. People are talking about BAL, but PHI's playing as good or better D right now. Totally shutting things down once the other team crosses the 50. Seeing quite a bit of run blitzes on early downs, which are laregly working but I don't think they're blitzing as much on obvious passing downs. Maybe Andy isn't the only one that's changed up is play calling here.

7:36 AM EST  
Anonymous Phil said...

Is it just me or is McNabb selling the play-fake better than he usually does? He seems to be over-exaggerating it (almost hunching over) like Manning and Favre usually do.

8:21 AM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

Eli was bad, but let's not take away the SB win. He faced an 18-0 team, was in the grasp, spins out, and connects on that bomb to Tyree. Then he tosses the game winner to Plax. The guy collapsed once Burress went down, but he won a Super Bowl and made a few key plays to do it, so I will tip my hat to him for that game.

agree, just as i tip my hat to trent dilfer for winning a superbowl (or brad johnson or jeff hostetler or mark rypien), i give eli credit for being on a team that won a superbowl too. playing great for a game or two doesn't equal great QB. i think repeatability is an important characteristic.

did eli play great in that superbowl or was he a game manager who was the beneficiary of one miraculous catch and two dropped interceptions all on the same drive?

I think things have come together well-lots of depth on D with no one banged up significantly, an offense who can take chances because they know the D can recover from a mistake, a QB playing smart ball, a coach moving toward a balanced attack, a team with nothing to lose.

just wanted to note that the game balance was 66% passing. :)

9:20 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But that didn't feel like 66% passing because they did a lot of short routes underneath for 6-8 yards. Quick hitters and such that seemed like extended hand offs. Plus Red kept injecting runs to keep the Giants honest in the second half. I honestly think if Westbrook hadn't been hurt, he could've run for 60-70 yards in the second half because he had a bunch of runs off tackle and counter where he turned the play in vs. taking it outside or he just didn't have that second gear to make one guy miss and gain another 20 yards. The runs Red did call were effective runs, and I also count McNabb rolling and being mobile as a pseudo run because it breaks down the D and leaves guys wide open in space.

I also neglected to give Don credit for finally running the 2 minute drill well. Going into the half up 10-8 vs. down 8-7 was huge. The Giants stifled them all half, yet were down and that had to loom large in their locker room. Then to answer after the Giants go up 11-10 with a long drive and regain the lead...Don was great in the clutch yesterday. No faults with him at all.

It's funny, I was thinking about how teams match up and some teams are just terrible match ups for other teams. The Ravens and Eagles have fantastic defenses, yet Peyton Manning always throws up 4-5 TD on both teams regardless of where they play. Dallas has a very fast defense and seems to dominate teams like the Skins and even Indy, yet the Birds pop 4-5 TD vs them a lot. The Skins get gouged by the Giants, yet they completely stifle pass oriented offenses like Philly. I guess it's all about matchups in the end and I like Philly's secondary and blitz package vs. Arizone. I also don't see Donovan losing 6 turnovers like Delfraud lost the other day.



10:29 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"i really enjoyed how you ran the pick back right at eli, even though eli obviously had no desire or intent to get in on the tackle."

I'm glad someone else noticed this play, which was by far the most magic of moments from a most magical game for this guy. I wish I had that on tape.

Anyone else thing the McPhonecall was funny? I laughed my ass off despite the fact that it actually could have bitten us in the behind.


10:44 AM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

But that didn't feel like 66% passing because they did a lot of short routes underneath for 6-8 yards.

but that's exactly my contention. balance doesn't result in success or winning. running successful plays (running or passing) makes it seem balanced.

reid opened the second half with 8 straight passes. he only called 2 runs in the first 12 plays of the second half and only 3 runs in the first 19 plays of the second half.

the reason it seemed more balanced is because the plays were successful and the team marched down the field.

10:46 AM EST  
Anonymous Phil said...

I think we need to be more careful about ARI than everyone is starting out (see link below). Unlike PHI, they have already won 2 games as underdogs and have blown out CAR who was a 10 point favorite. Do the Eagles match up well? Yes, but so did the Panthers (especially without Boldin). If you think they're not using that game and what PHI did earlier as motivation this weekend, you're nuts.

They look like a much more balanced team offensively and their D is playing much better than a month ago. 36 is back to his November level of health, which is a big concern. Warner is good vs. the blitz (great at hitting slants on hot reads) and seems to be playing lights out. Oh, and ARI easily has the best player in this game (Fitz) who seems to be lifting his team onto his shoulders and carrying them to a SB birth.

This game frightens me more than NYG partly because our expectations have now been raised. There's still a "bad" Eagles team lurking in there somewhere. I just hope Dawkins can keep it hidden for 1 more week.

11:40 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is also a bad Cardinals team lurking in there too. They beat a rookie QB at home and played a great defensive game vs. an over-rated QB who turned the ball over 6 times, many of them unpressured terrible throws into heavy traffic. Westbrook's health concerns me, yes, but I think the Birds can block the Cardinals and I think McNabb is playing well and will move the ball through the air. Fitz is a matchup problem for everyone, but I have faith JJ finds a way to slow him down.

TMG while they did not run as much in the second half, they did move the QB out of the pocket which was a great coaching point and really screwed the Giants. To me that is almost a running adjustment because Don can challenge the edges and scare the sh&t out of the defense vs. sitting in the pocket. They also shelved that deep game (that awful plan they used vs. Baltimore and Washington) and stayed conservative and shallow. I liked what they did and I was Ok passing the ball, but I'll counter that they found balance by tweaking what they do and giving the Giants something else to defend (Don). Maybe that is all I want because I too loved what they did in the second half because they dictated pace and controlled the clock.

And why with over 2 minutes left is Eli throwing balls to WR in the middle of the field and WR for the Giants are turning away from the sideline vs running OB? Maybe they score a quick lucky one and put themselves in a position for an on sides kick. Birds had no sacks, not sure what the hell Gilbride and Manning were doing there. So you throw a downfield pick late, so what? As defending champ, don't you need to make some last gasp deep attempts?


12:56 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed-I too loved that play by Samuel, but nothing will top my entertainment dollar of Samuel's return vs. the Vikes and Chris Clemens picking Tavaris Jackson up like the Rock and doing the choke slam on him into the end zone. That replay could not be shown enough for me. TMG I am surprised you didn't post a link of that play for us Birds fans to revel in 10 times a day.


12:57 PM EST  
Anonymous Phil said...

Welcome to Bizarro scrapplelog where Phil is the eternal pessimist and Bumble the raging optimist. The part of "solid head coach with great 2 minut drill and half time adjustments" will be played Andy Reid, the part of "Flumoxed HC" will be played by Tom Coughlin.

1:46 PM EST  
Blogger Steve72 said...

They beat a rookie QB at home and played a great defensive game vs. an over-rated QB who turned the ball over 6 times, many of them unpressured terrible throws into heavy traffic.

With relatively minor modifications, this could also apply to the Eagles.

Arizona is not a pushover. As Phil indicated, they will have the best player on the field (did anyone else see that leaping grab he made between two defenders? Wow.

Arizona DID play Carloina tough during the regular season (despite all the "can't win on the East coast" hoo-hah), so maybe it's a matchup situation. However, I am fairly nervous about this game.

4:17 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get a dog, Steve. Nothing to be nervous about. It's all gravy at this point. Enjoy the ride.

6:41 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't win on the East Coast "hoo hah" probably stems from the 56 the Jets hung on them, the 48 the Birds hung on them, or the 48 New England hung on them. They won a huge game and have a great WR, but the Birds should beat this team and if they don't then they blew a golden opportunity.


10:53 PM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

interesting story on how the trailblazers are changing their scheduling and sleep routine to combat fatigue and sluggishness on east coast trips:


11:23 PM EST  
Anonymous Phil said...

I just read an interesting stat. Apparently, there are only 14 players on the team that went to the Super Bowl 4 years ago. You never realize how much churning this team does of its roster when the key positions (QB, RB, OT, CB) remain the same. I think the big question this offseason (win or lose Sunday) will be whether the proverbial window has been re-opened?

7:36 AM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

ha! beat me to the punch phil. i was going to write something similar -- how within the context of this year's playoff run the job that big red has done of rebuilding on the fly is actually kind of impressive.

take a look at the ages of the starters on defense. many of them are in their mid-20's and haven't even reached their peak.

7:48 AM EST  
Anonymous Phil said...

Holy crap, maybe JJ isn't the problem afterall. This little playoff run might entire a wholesale re-evaluation of this team.

11:04 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this thought interesting an dthought I'd share. My friend is a dyed in the wool Giant season ticket holder who has been saying the Giants were done for weeks. His assessment stemmed from 2 things

1. The Giants got to 11-1 and then started talking about resting guys and such. Burress did his thing, the Birds beat them at home, and the players were talking about the playoffs in week 12 instead of talking about game 13. He believed that the Birds having to play every snap kept them sharp and hungry while the Giants turned it off and thought they could just turn it on in the playoffs.

2. Spagnuolo and Gilbride have been spending time flying around for interviews. He felt both of their game plans sucked. Spagnuolo apparently committed up to 9 guys to stuff the run (and he did), but my friend said Eagles WR were wide open all day long and he never adjusted even after Red went more pass heavy. He just felt like they did a poor job preparing for this game and the Eagles coaches did a great job and not any part of this was a fluke. In his words, "you wanted it more, you kicked our ass all day long"


11:48 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

eeeesh, I'm scared. It feels like 1981.

Hopefully Hall & Oats won't put out a sequel to "Kiss on My List"

- Joe

2:43 PM EST  
Anonymous Phil said...

Joe, how can you be scared when this is all gravy?

7:54 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone who is either scared or nervous going into this game is flat out looking at things the wrong way. We should have been dead and buried weeks ago. The Eagles basically won the lottery to even get into the playoffs, and now they find themselves (and deserve all the credit for it) on a timely role.

Don't you have to sit back sometimes as a fan and simply enjoy the moment? I'm ecstatic that I have a reason to watch football passionately this Sunday. I plan to have a great time. I think we'll win this game and get another trip to the Superbowl. Why not? If the Cardinals beat us on the field, I'll be able to live with it, and I'll still consider the 2008 ride memorable.

Always in the minority,

Ed Wade

9:13 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I neglected to mention one funny tidbit from my Giant friend who is a bit of an extremist (imagine that, me being friends with extremist personalities). He said he'd love to be an owner interviewing Spagnuolo on the heels of his let down in crucial situations last Sunday, "Oh, you wnat this job. OK, tell me about what happened in the Eagles game. What's that? OK, get the f@ck out of my office!"

I found that comical because it would be the exact kind of rant and reaction I'd have.


10:28 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, sarcasm doesn't translate from type very well. It's hard to tell when you're actually talking to me.

No, not scared. In fact I'm rather calm. I'm not stressing over what can go wrong, but I've also not allowed myself to expect the world of this coming Sunday.
I am looking forward to yelling at the screen whether good or bad.

I am worried about Westbrook's health a little, and the O-line doing enough to protect Don. I'm also worried about Fitz.
But honestly, not that worried. I guess I am more worried about Hall & Oats than anything...........

- Joe

11:38 AM EST  

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