Tag Archives: NY Giants

Steve Kallas on WFAN with Mike Francesa (12/02/08)

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Steve Kallas on ESPN SportsCenter with Sage Steele (12/02/08)

BEWARE THE “NO PLAXICO, NO PROBLEM” “EXPERTS,” ESPECIALLY IF YOU’RE A GIANTS FAN

                                Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

Well, the Giants young receivers have really lit it up the first two weeks of the season.  Steve Smith and Mario Manningham have crashed the party and emerged as bona fide NFL receivers.  But before you (the hard-core Giant fan) buy into the fact that the Giants don’t need a Plaxico (or even an Amani Toomer), have an understanding of what the other teams are doing to defend the Giants. 

Steve Smith has caught 16 passes for 214 yards and one touchdown in the first two games.  Mario Manningham has been just as good, if not better, catching 13 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns.  These are stunning numbers.  But it’s also pretty obvious what defenses, at least in the first two weeks of the season, are doing when they play the Giants.

WHY SO MANY PASSING YARDS?

That’s pretty easy to break down.  Clearly the game plan of both the Washington Redskins in Game 1 and the Dallas Cowboys in Game 2 was to stop Brandon Jacobs.  Jacobs seems to have been virtually invisible in the first two games, carrying 16 times for 46 yards against the Redskins and 16 times for 58 yards against the Cowboys.  But what that really means is that defenses decided from the get-go to put eight guys in the box most of the time, something that rarely, if ever, happened when Plaxico Burress commanded double-teams on virtually every play.

With virtually no double-teams on the wide receivers, Eli Manning, Smith and Manningham (with protection from an excellent offensive line) went to town and put up great numbers the first two weeks of the season.  But both of the teams they played did what they originally planned to do:  shut down Brandon Jacobs and the running game.  The Giants are only averaging 100 yards rushing per game – not the stuff playoff wins are made of (which is what you’re really talking about if you’re a hard core Giants fan).

WHAT WILL DEFENSES DO NOW AGAINST THE GIANTS?

At some point (probably sooner rather than later), since the Giants have shown they can throw the ball, defensive coordinators will have a tougher decision to make.  Should they not gang up on Jacobs and leave seven in the box?  Or should they do what the Redskins and Cowboys have done – shut down Jacobs but potentially get exposed in the passing game?

Well, that will be the week-to-week decision that defensive coordinators will have to make when they play the Giants.

BACK TO NO PLAXICO

It’s very clear to an intelligent Giants fan how much the loss of Plaxico really hurt the Giants last season.  It was never more obvious than in the playoff loss to the Eagles (see Kallas Remarks, 1/13/09, It (Virtually) All Goes Back to Plaxico). 

You may recall the play.  Very early in the game, the Giants drive down the field and have a third and eight from the Eagles nine with the game barely four minutes old.  This was Plaxico time:  you know, that Eli Manning fade into the end zone where Plaxico goes up and jumps over the two smaller defensive backs trying to defend him.  But with no Plaxico, Eli throws a short pass to Derrick Ward out of the backfield for five yards.  The Giants settle for an unsatisfying field goal — and it only got worse from there.  

So the Giants can and should get enormous credit for quickly developing a passing game.  But what’s really happened is that they’ve been successful against defenses geared to stopping the run.  If and when defensive coordinators believe they have to go double-team a Steve Smith or a Mario Manningham, you’ll see their numbers go down and Jacobs’ rushing yards go up.

That’s one of the beautiful things about football:  it’s a balancing act between rushing the ball and passing the ball.

SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM IF YOU’RE A GIANTS FAN?

The problem is that, come the swirling winds and cold of maybe November, and probably December and January, it’s hard to throw the ball all over the field, especially at Giants Stadium.  So the balancing act is skewed towards stopping the run later in the season.

That’s when the real test will start for the New York Giants.  They’ve passed the first test in nice weather.

But it will be very hard for them to pass the final test in a playoff game in January because, no matter what you hear, they still haven’t replaced Plaxico.  Beware the “No Plaxico, No Problem” “experts.”

We’ll see what happens.               

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

IT (VIRTUALLY) ALL GOES BACK TO PLAXICO

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

It’s finally dawned on everybody how much the Giants missed Plaxico Burress in their failed defense of last year’s miracle Super Bowl win.  Could the Giants have won it all without him?  Sure they could have, but their margin for error disappeared in a Manhattan night club during Thanksgiving weekend.

If you’re a Giant fan, it didn’t take long to notice how much Burress would be missed in Sunday’s loss against the Eagles.  The Giants get the ball, get great field position on the opening kickoff (Eagles 35), go for it on fourth and two (Jacobs for three yards) and then have a third and eight from the Eagles nine (the game is barely four minutes old).  They’re certainly not going to run it from there and it’s hard to believe they would get a first down.

It was time for the perfect Plaxico play:  that fade into the corner of the end zone where, even if double-teamed by two 5’11” defensive backs, Burress would almost always find a way to bail out Eli, out-jump the DBs, give the Giants a lead and set the tone for the game.  The TV announcers didn’t quite understand that because this was about who was on the field, not who was off the field.

    

But, of course, Plaxico, rightly or wrongly (we’ll get to that later), had already been banished from Giant Land.  So Eli threw a short pass to Derrick Ward out of the backfield and Ward got five yards to the Eagles three which led to an unsatisfying field goal and a 3-0 lead.

    

And it would be mostly worse from there.

     

MVP:  JIM JOHNSON

      

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson made no bones about how much better off his defense would be in the Giant game with Plaxico off the field.  Indeed, it was obvious early on that Johnson put that extra man in the box and, while the Eagles didn’t shut down the Giant running game, they certainly limited it.  The wear and tear over the course of a game that bruising Brandon Jacobs would normally put on a defense never happened in this game. 

    

In fact, it was late in the game when the Eagle defense seemed fresher, stopping the Giants on third and short and fourth and short multiple times.  Say what you want about the play calling in the fourth quarter (especially that bizarre wildcat-like call on third and three), the reality is that the Giants couldn’t rush the ball for a first down on fourth and inches, fourth and two and a few other key situations.   

    

So Eli couldn’t throw to his favorite receiver and the Eagles put an extra man down in the box to control and, at key times, shut down the Giant running game.

    

And it’s all because of Plaxico.

      

THE WIND, THE DEFENSE

      

Others can blame the wind and the stunning difference between the ability of Donovan McNabb to throw the football and the inability of Eli Manning to throw the football.  And they’d be partially right. 

      

Others might blame the Giant defense but that would be unfair.  They played well and, even though they never sacked McNabb (for the third time this year, astounding), they shut down Brian Westbrook and made the Eagles earn every yard and point.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE FIELD GOAL KICKER?

      

Well, it’s hard to blame John Carney, who had a stellar season for the Giants.  But the whole should-we-have-two-kickers (Lawrence Tynes kicked off and was available for long field goals) and when-does-Carney-not-kick-it-and-Tynes-does (50 and out, according to the coaching staff) was always a little strange.  So, when Carney kicked and missed field goals of 46 and 47 yards (both had the distance but not the accuracy), it makes you wonder what would have happened if they had decided to let Tynes kick them from 45 and out instead of 50 and out. 

    

Of course, we’ll never know but that could have been a turning point in the game.

 

IS PLAXICO COMING BACK NEST YEAR?

      

Fascinating post-game stuff as Tom Coughlin, intelligently, refused to answer any questions about the possible return of Plaxico.  Interestingly, however, general manager Jerry Reese seemed to welcome the return “if things work out.”

    

The more interesting question was whether the Giants should have brought Plaxico back for these playoffs after a four-game suspension.  After all, he’s still innocent until proven guilty and he hasn’t been indicted yet (although that might be coming in March). 

    

The Giants made a decision in early December to rid themselves of Plaxico for the rest of the season.  From a football perspective, that was a damaging, even season-ending, decision.  But from a public relations perspective (presumably), it had to be done.

    

The notion that they will bring him back next year (absent an acquittal or dismissal of all charges, both longshots in this writer’s opinion) is strange.  If they’re going to do that, then why didn’t they bring him back for the playoffs?  He certainly seemed to have player support in the locker room.  Maybe the conflicting interests of Plaxico and team leader Antonio Pierce (at the club with Plaxico and he (Pierce) maybe – or maybe not – tried to “hide” the gun) got in the way of team solidarity.

    

Whatever the truth, the reality is that a stupid night clubbing in Manhattan with a loaded firearm cost the Giants a better chance than they had to win the Super Bowl.

    

And that has to be hard to swallow from the top of the organization down to the water boy.  And equally hard to swallow for the lifelong, die-hard Giant fan.

    

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

NO PLAXICO, NO SUPER BOWL?

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

Well, the Giants are at the toughest part of the season where they might very well miss Plaxico Burress the most.  They’re stuck playing the tough Philadelphia Eagles and that’s a bad thing for them (Tom Coughlin would never say it, but do you think that the Giants would prefer to have played the Cardinals?  You betcha).

    

As you probably know, the Giants split the two games with the Eagles, each team winning on the road.  In the first game, Brandon Jacobs had 22 rushes for 126 yards and two TDs and Burress had a TD catch.  In the second game, Brian Westbrook, with 33 carries, eventually broke through the Giants defense with a couple of big plays.  Jacobs came out midway through the third quarter with an aggravated knee injury and just had 10 carries for 52 yards and no TDs.  Burress, of course, had self-destructed eight days earlier.

    

The Giants can’t win the Super Bowl without Burress AND Jacobs.  But, with a bye week, the Giants (and Jacobs) will be healthier.  But will they be rusty?

     

Don’t forget, when the Eagles did beat the Giants, the Giants were 11-1 and cruising to the division and the playoffs.  And while you don’t want to lose three of four going into the playoffs (as the Giants have), the Eagles have been on life support for what seems like the second half of the season.  They needed that win at the Meadowlands on 12/7 much more than the Giants did.  You could even make the case that the Eagles are this year’s version of last year’s Giants.  The question is:  Will the Giants be playing the role of last year’s 13-3 Cowboys?

    

With the Eagles defensive genius, Jimmy Johnson, already scheming for next weekend, the Giants will have their work cut out for them.  What they lose with Burress is that guy who can outleap all the DBs to pull down a fade in the end zone.  Or, when Eli’s in a lot of trouble (and you know that he will be on a number of plays), he can’t throw it up for grabs and let Burress make a play.  That’s, potentially, very problematic for the Giants.  And, potentially, game-losing.

    

Everybody now understands that taking Burress out of the game means no guaranteed double-team on virtually every play by the Eagles defense.  Instead, they will bring another man into the box which will take away from the Giants dominant running game.  That, more than anything else, will be the key to the game.

    

On the other side of the ball, it will be mostly about Brian Westbrook.  He hurt the Giants badly in the second game, getting over 200 all-purpose yards and leaving all Giant fans with that view of Antonio Pierce haplessly chasing after him for that big touchdown.  While you can’t totally blame Pierce (how many linebackers really can cover Westbrook?), the point is the Eagles will pound away and then try and find a way to get that mismatch again.

    

While the Giants were (obviously) in a much bigger hole last season and pulled off a miracle post-season, this year they have a very difficult path playing one team (the Eagles) that beat them at the Meadowlands, another (Carolina, presuming that they both win) that was a 50-yard field goal away from beating them at the Meadowlands and a very tough AFC team waiting near the end of the rainbow.

    

The Giants’ road would be tough even with Plaxico Burress.  Without him, it’s much tougher.  While the Giant organization tried to do the right thing here (although some still say Burress should be playing under the he’s-innocent-until-proven-guilty theory, certainly a good argument from a legal perspective), you know they left their best chance to win the Super Bowl on the sidelines (or in a club) a few weeks ago.  Now the question becomes, can they actually do it now without Burress?  We’ll see what happens. 

    

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

GIANTS (KIND OF) GOING THE RIGHT WAY; JETS SHIP BE SINKIN’

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

Well, there’s seeming euphoria for Giants fans and seeming disaster for Jets fans in the wake of the Giants OT home win against Carolina and the Jets disastrous 13-3 loss to Seattle on the road.  While the Jets have engaged in a Met-like collapse (maybe worse, if that’s possible), the Giants certainly aren’t the shoo-in Super Bowl winner they were viewed to be just a few weeks ago.

 

LET’S START WITH THE GOOD

     

The Giants used a stunning running game (Derrick Ward, 215 yards, and Brandon Jacobs’ punishing runs to put the team over 300 yards rushing) to squeak by a better-late-than-never Panthers team.  But the Giants barely avoided a Jet-like collapse (although at a higher level – they still had already clinched the division win or lose) and are now the number one seed with home advantage throughout the playoffs, a key factor for this year’s playoffs.

    

It’s interesting to note that, for decades, it’s always been thought that the offensive line makes the running back and not the other way around.  While that’s still true, you have to wonder, with the presence of (a still not 100%, it says here) Brandon Jacobs, whether that made the line better or the defense weaker or Derrick Ward better or all of the above.  Jacobs and his health are clearly the difference-maker for this team (watch the Dallas Game if you disagree) although, maybe, the health of the offensive line also was better against Carolina.

    

Despite the bouquets being thrown at the Giants, don’t forget that they were a 50-yard field goal (virtually impossible at the Meadowlands on a swirling December day) away from a terrible defeat.  Carolina has a lot of weapons and they have one that the Giants don’t have – a top-shelf receiver.  Carolina has their own excellent running game and, although their defense is just good, not excellent, they showed that they could play with the Giants. 

    

I just don’t think that was true when the Giants had Plaxico Burress.

    

Does it always come back to Plaxico?  Well, no, but clearly the Giants have come back to the pack when you project to the upcoming playoffs.  Will the Giants run the ball?  Of course they will.  Will the Giants be successful running the ball?  Well, probably.  But what the Giants don’t have now, that they had last year in that miraculous playoff run, is that wide-out who can destroy a corner one-on-one (see the Packer game last year).  They don’t have that wide-out who draws a double-team on virtually every play (do you think that helps the running game when Burress is there?).  They don’t have that 6’5” wide receiver who, in a jam, Eli Manning can throw it up for grabs to or throw it into the corner of the end zone to knowing the Giants have the advantage on that play.

    

And that’s, potentially, a huge problem.

 

LET’S MOVE TO THE BAD

     

After getting one of the greatest gifts in an NFL game from Dick Jauron (and J.P. Losman) since Joe Pisarcik (or was it Larry Csonka?) fumbled the ball into Herm Edwards’ hands at a time long ago, the Jets laid yet another egg against a better-playing-than-you-think Seattle team on the West Coast in terrible weather.  Seattle really has been playing well of late – they had the Patriots beat very late in that game and they came back to beat the lowly Rams last week.  And despite the terrible criticism of Seneca Wallace by those who don’t watch, he’s been VERY good of late (20-28, 212 yards, 3 TDs v. Patriots, 15-25, 226 yards v. Rams, 9 TDs v. 1 INT. for the season and he’s mobile).

    

But this wasn’t about the Jets inability to get to the quarterback who was protected by a line that, for all we know, could have been in the witness protection program until this past Sunday (cause they certainly weren’t starting in NFL games).  After all, Seattle only scored ten points.

    

This was about the Jets inability to make much happen on offense.  While Thomas Jones continues to have a Pro Bowl year, the lack of allowing Leon Washington to carry the ball on offense has hurt the Jets tremendously.  Why?  Well, just look at the Giants on Sunday.  That cross-up from the pounding Jacobs to Derrick Ward was a key to the Giants beating Carolina for the #1 seed in the NFC.  While the contrast isn’t as great between Jones and Washington, it is still there and that ability to change-up is something the Jets should have used in past weeks and should have at least tried (despite the weather) Sunday in Seattle.

              

LET’S MOVE TO THE UGLY

     

Well, there’s lots of ugly to go around for the Jets.  Brett Favre has seemed disconnected from the team for weeks.  He’s almost in a daze during these post-game press conferences and many would say he’s in a daze during the games as well.  Are you shocked that Favre leads the league in interceptions?  Are you shocked that Favre continues to underthrow receivers (in good weather and bad)?  Come on.  This guy’s at the end of the line and, whatever you think of MVP candidate Chad Pennington (he brought a lot more than excellent QB play to a team that lost 15 games a year ago – that’s what MVPs do), you have to believe that he would have done as well or better if he were the QB of the NYJ.

    

The coaching staff?  Well, Eric Mangini has fallen a long way from a guest shot on the Sopranos to this.  It’s hard to believe these stunning losses (and remember, the Patriots were an OT coin flip away from giving them a terrible loss before the roof caved in).  It has to be laid at the feet of the coaching staff.

    

Can they make the playoffs?  Well, the Jets have as much chance to make the playoffs as they had to win the Bills game – before Dick Jauron called that pass play.  I guess Jet fans can hope for lightning to strike twice – and that’s what they are hoping for (with Dick Jauron playing the part of lightning against the Patriots).

    

But ugliest of all, for the knowledgeable Jet fan, is the fact that the Jets small window is quickly coming to a close.  The Patriots, who might be 11-5 and fail to make the playoffs, would have had a win or two more if they hadn’t lost their best running back (Maroney), their best defensive back (Harrison) and their best linebacker (Thomas) for the season.  They’ve worked minor miracles in New England this year (did I forget to mention they lost their quarterback as well?) and still might be on the outside looking in.

    

The point for the Jets, of course, is if most, or all, of these guys come back next season, the battle will be for second place (and the wild card) in the AFC East.  And the Patriots won’t forget these guys next year (I thought they were trying to send the NFL a message by pounding the division winning Cardinals into submission – the Cardinals might be 8-8 and still make the playoffs).

     

WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US?

       

So, to recap, the Giants had a huge win but clearly have come back to the pack.  They no longer have that separation from themselves to the rest of the league.  They also don’t have that key receiver who, if he didn’t always get separation (and many times he did), could always outleap virtually every DB in the league.

    

The Jets are on the cusp of completing a gigantic collapse.  They no longer control what happens to them.  All they can do is go out and play hard and beat a Dolphin team that has their ex-QB and less talent than they do.  But, even with a win, it will probably be too little, too late.  And then the vultures will start circling.

    

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

GIANTS GOING THE WRONG WAY; JETS (DESPITE A WIN) ARE EVEN IN WORSE SHAPE

                               Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

    

It was a tough Sunday for New York (New Jersey?) football fans as the Giants were manhandled by the Cowboys and the Jets, despite one of the luckiest wins you’ll ever see, were in even worse shape than the Giants.  Thankfully, the absurd “New York” Super Bowl conversation of just a few weeks ago has disappeared, a victim of Plaxico Burress’s gun and the Jets coming back to reality.

 

WHAT’S HAPPENED TO THE GIANTS?

 

Well, you didn’t have to be a brain surgeon or a football genius to know that the Giants would miss Plaxico Burress.  But, with the addition of an injured Brandon Jacobs (and, thus, the elimination of the main part of their running game), Eli Manning was under siege all night against the Cowboys.  On top of that, with no receivers requiring a Cowboy double-team and nobody to catch a fade in the end zone (see Kallas Remarks, 12/2/08), the Giants, offensively, are a mess.

    

The real question, of course, is what happens when Jacobs comes back (because, as we know, Plaxico isn’t coming back)?  The Giants can win without Burress, but they won’t do any playoff damage without Burress and Jacobs.

    

Can the Giants make a run without Burress?  Absolutely.  But they only have a few weeks to get it together.  Are they in trouble against Carolina?  You betcha.  The Panthers have been the fashionable, “in-the-know” pick in the NFC the last couple of seasons but have always fallen on their collective face.  This year, because of the Giants superb start, the Panthers have been under the radar.  Not anymore.

    

What happened to the Giants’ defense?  Well, no matter what Antonio Pierce says, his play has fallen off since the Burress shooting.  He’s probably got problems at home with the release of that video from the strip club of him and a woman (not his new wife) kissing at the strip club (that’s pre-Burress shooting but the same night).  As a football fan, you’d like to leave all that stuff aside, but it’s come front and center because of the Giants poor play.  And while the defense played well against the Cowboys, the picture of Pierce getting beat by (and being unable to run down) Westbrook of the Eagles is one that will stay in the minds of Giant fans the rest of the season (unless, of course, they make that dramatic turnaround).

 

WHAT’S HAPPENED TO THE JETS?

     

The Jets are in far worse shape.  Brett Favre, who seems to have been in a laconic state both on and off the field the last few weeks (his press conferences are filled with slow answers to simple questions – where’s the fiery leader of the Packers who was a three-time MVP?), doesn’t have the answers.  The coaching staff, under siege, doesn’t have the answers.

    

Without some stunning stupidity from the Bills’ coach, Dick Jauron, who, despite the fact that the Bills were running on the Jets like the Jets were playing with ten, not 11, called a bizarre pass play late in the game that resulted in a game-winning fumble/TD for the Jets, the Jets would already be done.  But a win is a win is a win (you know the drill) and the Jets are still alive.

    

Are the Jets in trouble against lowly Seattle?  You betcha.  Seattle almost beat the Patriots two weeks ago (of course, people who don’t watch the Patriots regularly had no understanding that a healthy, running Seneca Wallace would cause the slow Patriots much more trouble than the banged-up Matt Hasselbeck) and did beat the lowly Rams last Sunday.  The Jets have to fly cross-country, have been terrible on the West Coast (0-3) and are clearly close to playing themselves out of a playoff spot.

    

Worse, the Jets are probably ranked fourth out of the four teams who are 9-5 (Ravens, Patriots, Dolphins and then the Jets).  Maybe the Jets can beat the Dolphins in the last week of the season because it’s a home game but, again, if the Bills could just about beat them (sometimes smart coaches like Jauron either over coach or outthink themselves), than home field advantage isn’t what it should be for the Jets.

 

WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE THE GIANTS AND THE JETS?

 

Well, the Giants are going to get a bye and may even be the number one seed, although it says here that they’re going to have lots of problems with Carolina.  The bigger picture for the Giants is whether they can shore up their collective psyche to overcome the Burress mess and get a healthy Jacobs back to make a run in the playoffs.

    

The Jet problems are much greater.  They control their own destiny, blah, blah, blah, but it’s going to be very difficult for this team, as it is now, to beat Seattle on the road and Miami (and Chad Pennington) at home in Game 16.  Only two of those four 9-5 teams will make the playoffs: the AFC East winner and the Wild Card.  The Jets, despite monster wins over the Titans and Patriots, are going the wrong way.  We’ll see.

  

© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.