Now THAT was one hell of a win, wouldn't you say? The Giants came into last week's game hungry and they feasted on Chicago's poor offensive line. With 10 sacks in the game, the only real disappointment was the play of the Giants offense and the special teams, which both contributed to the 3 lonely points that Chicago put up.
The big question is can the Giants build on this victory for next week?
Unfortunately, the Giants have to shift gears quickly this week from a team that had a horrible offensive line to one that is built to compete - and beat - the Indianapolis Colts. To put it bluntly, the Giants defensive line needs to seriously step up its game if it hopes to stay competitive in this league, especially against a strong AFC south team.
The Bears are 23rd in points, 25th in yards, 17th in passing yards, and 31st in rushing yards. It's no surprise that the Giants defense performed well against those numbers, quite frankly the Arizona Cardinals could produce a decent defensive game against numbers like that. Jay Cutler isn't going to get the job done in Chicago as long as that offensive line continues to under perform.
I'm not going to spend much time on the defensive performance. I mean, what could I talk about? The Giants defense played an amazing game that's hard to pick apart. There are some things I could nit-pick on, like Corey Webster giving up on a play, assuming that the outside man would make the cover (he did) - that's not a huge problem in a win like this, but it's something that needs to be addressed. Instead of putting someone in double coverage, Corey just trotted to the side and let the play die.
That's nice when what you think is going to happen, happens; but, when the statistics catch up to you Corey could have cost us a big play (if Jay Cutler had thrown a perfect ball). It's rare, sure, but it happens. That lack of follow-through is apparent on almost every defensive play. It's not just Webster, though: Kenny Philips, Terrell Thomas, and Antrel Rolle were all guilty of this last week.
Beyond that though, the Giants defense stopped the Quarterback, which is exactly what they're designed to do.
Unlike the Bears, the Houston Texans are built to win. They're 4th in the league in scoring points (27), 2nd in yards (415), 8th in passing yards (243) and 1st in rushing yards (172). What's worse is that their passing game generally consists of short, quick passes, keeping Matt Schaub safe and getting first downs.
If you're a Giants fan, you just winced in pain because you know several key facts:
- You can't have an effective passing game without an effective offensive line.
- The Giants are weak over the middle and are forced to play soft.
- Getting to the QB this season has been difficult against opponents that are better than average.
- We can stop the run when we focus on it, but that hurts out backfield.
With all of that in mind you might be concerned. Our defense this season has been very one-dimensional: we either focus on stopping the pass OR stopping the run. It was rare for us to be able to stop everything Chicago threw at us (mostly because we knocked out two of their Quarterbacks, forcing them to use the run). The problem that the Giants face is that Houston is a multi-dimensional offense - they can throw the ball down the field and they can run.
This means that the Giants will be forced to focus on multiple aspects of the game, which is something we really haven't seen this Perry Fewell defense do - they've either been "all-in" against the pass or the run, OR they've focused on getting the Quarterback.
Sure, it's worrying when you don't know how a defense is going to perform when given a new set of obstacles to take down, but there are two glimmers of hope here:
- Matt Schaub throws interceptions. He has 1 INT per game, and if OAK wasn't completely incompetent (dropping clean picks) he would have a 2 INT per game average.
- Matt Schaub gets sacked. Sure, he hasn't been sacked as much this season, but his offensive line can really screw the pooch sometimes. He's been sacked 11 times this season, and almost all of those were against NFC East opponents - the Cowboys and the Redskins, two teams that have pretty decent pass rushing capabilities.
I'm not saying that the defense is going to have a dominant performance this week, though, because Houston can keep us on our toes by mixing up the pass and run calls - and I need to see a LOT more out of the front four before I even begin to think it's OK to not have a heart attack every time someone runs the ball on us. So, on the defensive side of the ball, I'm worried.
On the offensive side of the ball, I'm not as concerned, although I have my reservations.
Houston has a great run defense this season - they're ranked 2nd in the league with 70 yards allowed per game, and against this offensive line that can't open a rushing lane to save their lives. Unless Ahmad Bradshaw has a career day where he can break past the Houston front (and he could), this is going to be an ugly running situation for the Giants.
Which means that to score points the Giants will be forced to throw the ball. Can they do it? Well, yeah, actually. Houston is dead last in the NFL in yards allowed at 408 and that's all because they're dead last in passing yards allowed at 337. They've also allowed 25 points per game, 26th in the league, and that didn't come from their rushing defense. With players like Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, and Hakeem Nicks, the Houston defense is going to find it challenging to slow down the Giants offense.
Now, don't listen to the pundits on this one. A lot of them are saying garbage like "you can't rely on Eli Mannings arm to win games" and "Eli is obviously the biggest problem [...] because with 10 sacks in a game, the Giants should have won the Chicago game by 20 points" because that's just not true (for reference, the first quote came from ESPN, the second from NFL Network's GameDay Final).
FYI to the pundits out there: the Giants are 7th in yards per game at 369, 9th in passing yards at 235, and 7th in rushing yards at 133 (that's right, this team that can't run the ball is 7th in the league); but, they're 21st in points scored at 18. That's not a Quarterback problem, that's an execution problem.
The problem the Giants have right now isn't Eli Manning - he's probably the best thing going for the offense right now. No, the problem is twofold: Jacobs and Bradshaw keep losing balls inside the five yard line, and the Wide Receivers really need to look the ball into their hands and THEN worry about Yards After the Catch. Go watch the Chicago game again and watch Steve Smith on a couple of 3rd down plays, Manningham on a long play, and Hakeem Nicks on a short over the middle pass - all three of those plays had the receivers looking away from the ball before it was caught.
It's a problem that Giants first year Wide Receivers Coach Sean Ryan needs to have fixed this week, otherwise I seriously fear for the mans job. The Giants wide receiver corps has dropped more passes and had more tipped balls for interceptions this season than I care to remember.
Since we're on the topic of coaches that really ought to lose their jobs, the Giants better pray that Tom Quinn pulls a rabbit out of his hat this week, because if the special teams performs as poorly this week as it did against ... well, does it matter what opponent it was against? The Giants special teams just downright suck, and Tom Coughlin knows it. Just listening to his post-game press conferences, you can hear the frustration with the special teams play in his voice - every time he has to mention them he tries to keep it short, and the more he has to talk about it the more annoyed he gets.
If we give Houston the starting field position that we gave Chicago, we're not going to win this game. Maybe the defense keeps it close and we have a shot at winning it, but given the combination of poor field position and the scoring potential of the Houston Texans, I'm really concerned.
I really am having such a hard time picking this game because of the imbalances and uncertainties here. On one hand, Houston can score, but on the other the Giants are built for sacks and tackeaways. On one hand Houston can stop the run, but on the other they can't do anything against the pass. On one hand the Giants offense is dangerous as hell, but on the other hand they shoot themselves in the foot too often.
So, when I have a hard time picking a game like this, I simply look at the special teams play and who has the home field advantage. These advantages, in my mind, clearly belong to Houston (unless you're psychotic and think the Giants have the home field advantage). I would love to be proven otherwise, but I just can't make a homer pick here - Houston will in all likelihood pull this one out.