I used to write a weekly article for my own site years ago. The title, "Looking Backwards Going Forwards," was an expression taken from my high school football coach. As silly as it sounded, it was something catchy my readers could latch on to. Whether it's a feeling of nostalgia, or just the urge to get some writing done, I have the urge to revive this little article series.
I hope you all enjoy it.
As a Giants fan, I'm excited about the possibilities with this team. While the numbers weren't spectacular for facing off against a mediocre team, they were good enough to get the win, and an improved performance in the second half of the game gave me hope for the future.
Before I talk about the future, though, I really should address the nagging issue I have: the numbers. The one that bothers me the most are the turnovers: four. While I agree that they're not the fault of Eli Manning, they're still turnovers - and tipping the ball into the defenses hands has been a problem for the New York Giants since Eli took over as Quarterback.
The thing is: I don't really understand WHY we have so many turnovers on tipped balls. Eli, when he doesn't throw a ball directly into a disguised coverage, usually throws the ball where either the defender can't get to it, or all he can do is tip it away. His ability to place the ball in the right spot at the right time is uncanny, and yet our receivers ability to almost spike these balls as if they're volleyballs is unsettling. It's something that WR coach Sean Ryan, in his first season, will need to address and hopefully solve, before next weeks game.
Two other numbers bothered me this week: the Giants had 6 runnings plays that lost yardage, and third down efficiency was down to 35%.
The running game was ... average at best. 118 rushing yards on 36 rushing plays for an average of 3.3 yards per carry. 3.3 YPC multiplied by 3 downs is 9.9 yards. That's a 3 and out. The running game is SO CLOSE to being what this team needs it to be - 3.5 yards per carry - and yet it is so far away. They gave up 6 negative yardage rushing plays for a loss of 23 plays.
Let's be honest with ourselves here: this is not what the Giants want out of the rushing game, but unless things improve significantly this average rushing game is what we can expect. It'll be "good enough," and "serviceable" but it won't be fantastic.
With the number of dropped passes and tipped interceptions, that really bothers me. This Giants team needs something to stand out - either rushing or passing - and neither of them do right now.
Third down efficiency has to improve. 5 conversions on 14 attempts (35%) is not going to win a lot of games. In comparison, the New England Patriots were 9 for 13 on third downs (69%) and the Houston Texans were 6 for 11 (54%). Incidentally, Indianapolis had a similar third down conversion ratio: 4 for 12 (33%). If we expect to continue winning games, our conversion percentage must increase, and fast.
There are a ton of positives here, though. Eli Manning continues to evolve and he's now seeing and making passes that he wasn't able to only a few years ago. The passing game looks like it'll be a force to be reckoned with, and may force other teams to respect it, opening up the opportunity for the running game to get its legs.
The defensive front looked awesome. Heck, even though the NASCAR front gave up a mid-field pass, they collapsed the pocket in record time - if Moore doesn't get that pass out as fast as he had the Giants would have five sacks on the day.
I like what this defense is capable of doing. Now, I want to see them do it against a consistently good opponent, and they'll get that chance against Indianapolis this week.
This game is going to be a tough one. Looking at the Colts loss, you can see that Peyton is out of sync with his receivers. Something just doesn't seem right with this team and you know that they did not want to drop the opening day divisional match to Houston. You know that they're looking to get in sync and get a win.
You also know that Peyton can absolutely decimate the middle of our field.
The Colts are, by and large, a passing offense. They had 419 yards passing and only 44 yards rushing in the game against Houston. Their pass blocking - which is some of the best in the league - combined with the uncanny abilities of Peyton Manning is a hell of a show to behold. They have won at least 12 games every season since 2002, and just because they dropped thee first game for the first time since Peyton's rookie season doesn't mean they're going to fall to 9-7.
To put it another way: the Giants have faced a mediocre team in the Panthers, and now they're going to face a consistently good team in the Colts. Can they do it?
I think they can, but I have my doubts. The major thing that concerns me is the passing game: the Colts looked off, and yet they put up 419 yards through the air and averaged 7.1 yards per passing play. That 7.1 yards is right in the middle of our field - that same zone that every single last one of us is concerned about. It's the same zone where our defense is weakest. It's the point of attack that the Colts will attempt to exploit.
Unless, of course, our defensive front can put Peyton on the ground. We need our front four to put the Pressure on Peyton and limit his ability to control the field. Houston managed to sack him twice, and I think our defensive front is good enough that we should be able to beat that number. NASCAR managed to collapse the pocket quickly against Carolina in the one play they were in - don't be surprised to see them in against Peyton multiple times in this game.
We should also be able to throw and run on the Colts. Let's face the cold hard reality of Houston: they don't have an amazing QB-WR combination. We have a QB and several WRs that can be a threat. If IND focuses on stopping the running game - as I suspect they will, since they were humiliated on the ground for 257 yards - the Giants have more than enough offensive firepower to keep IND on its heels and hesitant to bring the run blitz.
In other words: expect a couple of screen passes and a lot of quick passes towards the sidelines as IND tries to cram the middle.
That's good news for us, in case you haven't noticed, because Nicks and Manningham are pretty darn good receivers on the outside.
I have no doubt that the Colts can put up a lot of points against our vulnerable defense. I just think that the Giants can put up more.