You may have thought I was getting weak. I wouldn’t blame you. The last post I wrote while watching QVC and hemming your sister’s skirt. I was overflowing with joy; straight up giddy in fact. Sue me.
But I took a long look in the mirror this morning. I wiped the smile from my face. No points allowed on defense? Great, that’s their job isn’t it? Eli throws 3 TDs and the rushing attack combines for over 100 yards? Good to know. But those first couple drives? C’mon KillDrive are you serious?
That’s really all I got. I’d love to be more pissed. Trust me, I was beside myself when on second down after a crucial 4th down stop Gilbride throws a shovel to Bradshaw that loses yards. I was angry. I was angrier still when the Falcons registered a safety.
But what happened after on both sides of the ball was too impressive for even me to complain about.
While there wasn’t a gluttony of sacks today (2), on most drives Matt Ryan was forced from his comfort zone. The first sack was registered by a less likely candidate than usual; Rocky Bernard. Osi Umenyiora, of course, notched the second, on what could likely be his final play ever in Giants Stadium.
The true triumph of the defensive line today was the overall containment of the Atlanta ground game. “Smash Rush” as my intern calls it, was in full force today as the interior of the line shined brightest. The defensive shutout was made possible by not one, but two 4th&1 stops against an athletic QB sneak.
The DE’s have been getting the headlines and that’s all well and good. They deserve them. However, the DT’s have been gradually making more noise during the later portions of this season. Bernard got the sack today, but Chris Canty helped put the final nail in the Jet’s coffin when he forced a safety on Mark Sanchez. Linval Joseph enjoyed a breakout game against Green Bay. He recorded 9 tackles in the losing effort. I am very interested to see how dangerous this unsung, interior unit will be next season when Marvin Austin returns. I still maintain that he was a steal in the 2nd round despite his washout rookie season.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Giants were dangerous once they found their groove. As I said during my chat with Brent Axe on Friday, another receiver other than Cruz would need to step up. I put it on Nicks to retake his spot as top target. He didn’t disappoint. I could complain that his 72 yard TD reception only TIED a franchise post-season record, but I’ll let it slide this time.
Let’s face it though, we didn’t expect Nicks to slide quietly into that proverbial good night. No knock on Cruz, but Nicks has turned a head or two himself over the past three years. My biggest passing game question mark was Mario Manningham.
Manningham’s ride with the Giants has been an interesting one. His rookie year in 2008 was simply embarrassing. He is forced into a starting roll to open 2009 and records the first TD of the season. By mid 2010, his acrobatic footwork and a rash of injuries move him up the ranks to the top WR slot. He descended once again this year to 3rd option as Victor Cruz burst onto the scene.
Other than a wide open TD catch in Dallas last month, he’s been quiet down this final stretch. His performance today is key because not only did it help secure this win, but he will raise some eyebrows in the Packer film session this week. That means that the Green Bay secondary, which was atrocious against the pass this season, will have to concern itself with a healthy trio of dangerous WRs before they even consider the talented Jake Ballard.
The rushing attack was obviously formidable today and that is quite refreshing. Maybe I was spoiled over the past four years, but I still don’t get the feeling that Brandon Jacobs is imposing his will when he runs. I remember the performances of ’07 and ’08. I remember watching in person as he and Derrick Ward scampered all over the Carolina defense to clinch the 1st seed in the NFC. Am I complaining? Maybe a little. But at the end of the day (more money for Rolle), I’ll trade the 1,000 yard individual seasons for combined 100 yard games in January.
I’ll be back later this week with my projections and matchups for Green Bay. Thanks to Jeff Triplett and a forgotten Ballard TD, I have plenty to stir the pissed-off pot with as the week goes on.