In all of the euphoria over the New York Giants' 27-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills Sunday, and the fact that the Giants sit in first place entering their bye week, let's not forget those two huge touchdown plays the defense surrendered in the first quarter.
I wanted to take some time to go back and look at what -- in my mind -- happened on each of those plays. Take them out of the equation and the Giants played a solid defensive football game, but you can't continue to win when you surrender 80- and 60-yard touchdown plays.
Fred Jackson's 80-yard run
Fred Jackson 80 yard TD run vs. Giants. (via SoutHcouGars2010)
There are so many issues with the Giants' defense on this play that it isn't even funny. Let's go through them.
Those issues begin with something that you don't see in the YouTube clip above. Before the snap there is confusion on the Giants' defense. Linebacker Michael Boley is frantically turning every which way trying to get guys lined up, and is actually caught off guard by the snap and never actually gets into the play, just getting washed into the mess.
The second issue is that the defensive tackles get completely blown off the line. Rocky Bernard, in particular, is pushed waaaay to his right and out of the play.
Next is what happens with Kenny Phillips. Again, tough to see in the YouTube clip, but Phillips was in the box on the play, reads it and tries to shoot into the backfield to make a play. Only Phillips can't get there, diving and coming up with air as Jackson shoots by into open space. I honestly don't know if Phillips made the right play or not. He went for the big play rather than taking the conservative route to Jackson and probably stopping him for a five-yard gain. I do know he wasn't fast enough to make the play he tried to make.
Finally, there is the atrocious angle taken by Deon Grant. As the deep safety, Grant has got to be able to make that stop -- or force Jackson to make a cut so someone else can make the play. Grant, though, is way too aggressive, runs right at Jackson and allows the Buffalo running back to simply zoom right past him.
The alignment issue at the snap really bugs me. At some point, you have to just turn around and play. KP's choice bugs me -- or maybe it's that he wasn't fast enough to make the play he wanted to make that bugs me. I'm not sure. Finally, Grant's lack of discipline in containing the play bugs me.
Naaman Roosevelt's 60-yard touchdown
10/16/11 BUFFALO BILLS NAAMAN ROOSEVELT 60 YD PASS PLAY FOR TD VS NY GIANTS!!! (via blubarycroc)
As with the Jackson run, there are multiple things that bother me on this play.
Let's start with this. Primary fault for this play, at least from what I can see, has to go to Giants' safety Antrel Rolle. The Giants are in zone, with Rolle in the slot and new defensive back Justin Tryon on the outside. When Roosevelt catches the ball it looks as though he has beaten Tryon to the inside. In fact, though, it appears to me that Tryon is attempting in vain to cover Rolle's mistake.
At the snap of the ball you see Rolle, who has inside coverage, sprint immediately toward the sideline, anticipating an outside throw. Tryon, though, already has outside coverage and Rolle's move leaves the quick square-in to Roosevelt completely uncovered.
You clearly see Ross, covering another Bills' receiver across the middle, jogging once the play is made rather than hustling to get in on the play. When Roosevelt cuts across the middle Ross simply continues to jog, never making an effort to try and cut off the middle of the field or chase Roosevelt down.
The second problem is Webster's reaction, or lack thereof. He is in the middle of the field, the last Giant who has a shot at Roosevelt. He sees the completion, but never stops, breaks down and puts himself in a defensive position where he is even able to attempt a tackle on the play. Roosevelt simply runs right by him, and Webster's lack of reaction actually trips Tryon and takes him out of pursuit.
The initial mistake on this play was Rolle's, as far as I can determine. The lack of hustle/urgency by Ross and Webster, though, was inexcusable. Remember in the preseason when we watched Justin Tuck chase a running back 40 yards down the field and make a play inside the five-yard-line? That is how an athlete is supposed to play, not quitting until the whistle. That kind of effort was missing on that play, and it cost the Giants a touchdown. And very nearly a game.