Setting the Stage:
Late Breaking - Cardinal fans received a scare from a Friday injury report listing Carson Palmer (right shoulder) as "questionable," but D. Urban advises that this should not be "cause for concern" (i.e. he's rested it in practice before, and followed this with a lights out performance the following Sunday. According to Coach Arians: "It's a nerve thing...Sometimes at his age, it's good not to throw in practice.").
Both the Giants and the Cardinals played Monday night (the Giants had the early game; Cards KO was at 10:30 pm ET). Giants got blown out by Detroit. Cards came from behind to win a squeaker over San Diego. Cards were feeling good about themselves/Giants weren't. That all changed somewhat for the Cardinals upon receiving news that their star pass rush specialist and veteran leader, John Abraham was contemplating retirement. Cards need this win; their remaining schedule doesn't get any easier. Giants' confidence seems shaky. (A skeptical local media doesn't help). But Coughlin has brought his teams back from the depths in the past.
Giants were waxed by the Lions 35 - 14. Cards came back in the 4Q to edge the Chargers 18 - 17. The Giant defense allowed an improvising Matthew Stafford to complete 22 of 32 passes for 346 yards. By contrast, Giant QB Eli Manning was held to 18 for 33 and 163 yards. Head coach Tom Coughlin acknowledged that the Giants played poorly in most aspects of the game and that "we don't have a lot to be proud of", characterizing it as a "nightmare performance."
On the 4th play of the first Detroit possession, two Giant DB's ran into one another, allowing a wide-open Megatron to beat them deep for a 67 yard TD.
After going 3 & out, the Giants gave up a 9 play (5:35) TD drive with Megatron once again catching a TD pass- this one for 16-yards.
The 2 teams exchanged possessions and the Giants finally mounting a 13-play (4:56) drive that extended into the next quarter.
First Quarter Score: Lions 14 - Giants 0.
Benefitting from 3 costly Lion penalties, Manning managed to lead his offense to the Detroit 1-yard line, where he completed a 4th-down TD pass to his TE (Pay attention, Mr. Bowles!) Donnell.
The two teams exchanged possessions and the Lions were able to get in field goal range the next time they got the ball. But Freese was wide left. Giants took over with 1:55 left till halftime, but were unable to move into Lion territory and surrendered the ball just before halftime.
First Half Score: Detroit 14 - Giants 7.
On the third play of the opening Giant possession, Manning's pass was intercepted. Lions had to settle for a 28-yard FG.
Giants went 3 & out. Detroit was able to move to the Giant 9 before settling for a 27-yard FG.
On the first play of the next Giant possession, Manning's pass for Cruz was picked off. 5 plays later, Stafford scrambled in for a 5-yard score.
Manning then led his offense on a 14-play (6:58) scoring drive that extended into the 4th quarter.
Third Quarter Score: Lions 27 - Giants 7.
Giant drive was capped by a one-yard TD run by Jennings. 11:53 left to play...
Lions chewed off 7:14 off the clock on a 12-play TD drive resulting in a 3-yard TD run by Bell. 2-pointer was good.
4:39 left...Giants ran off 5 plays before turning the ball over on downs. Knee-time...Game over.
Final Score: Detroit 35 - Giants 14.
What the Game Stats Tell Us
Giants gained 53 yards on 22 carries. Jennings carried 16 times for 46 yards.
Donnell led Giant receivers with 5 catches, followed by Jennings and Jernigan with 4 apiece. (Cruz caught 2). Longest gain through the air was 21-yard completion to Jennings.
Manning was picked off 2 times and sacked twice.
Stevie Brown led all Giant tacklers with 9 followed by Amukamara (8) and J Williams (7)
Giants had zero interceptions. Ayers is credited with the only Giant sack.
Giants were 3 for 13 on 3rd downs. By contrast, the Lions were 10 for 15.
Giant offense netted 197 yards (vs. 417 by Lions).
Giants were only penalized 4 times (half as many times as the Lions).
No fumbles lost by either team.
Giant Rushing Plays: 22/Passing Plays: 35.
Time of Possession: Giants 23:56/Lions 36:04
WR1 82 Randle 13 Beckham Jr.
LT 65 Beatty 71 C. Brown
LG 70 Richburg 61 D. R'yn'lds 68 Snyder
C 55 Walton
RG 75 Mosley 77 Jerry
RT 67 Pugh 73 Brewer
TE 84 Donnell 85 D. Fells 81 Robinson
FB 45 Hynoski
WR2 80 Cruz 12 Jernigan 83 Parker 88 C Washington
QB 10 Manning 09 Nassib
RB 23 Jennings 44 A. Williams 33 Hillis
DE 93 Campbell 96 K,Martin 95 Kelly
NT 92 D. Williams 66 Ta'amu
DT 98 Rucker 72 Stinson
SLB 91 Sh'ghnssy 94 S. Acho 53 Keiser
ILB 50 Foote 54 Demens
ILB 51 Minter 56 Carson
WLB 59 Benard 57 Okafor 97 Alexander
LCB 21 Peterson 28 Bethel
RCB 31 Cromartie 25 Powers
SS 22 Jefferson 36 Bucannon
FS 32 Mathieu 26 R. Johnson
Matchup: Giant Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Mastering the nuances of the new Giant west coast offense is a work in progress, with the fallout of the Detroit loss resulting in a "throw it more to me" attitude among Cruz and other Giant receivers. Cruz, Randle, Beckham and Jernigan are all capable receivers but (with, perhaps, the exception of Cruz) can hardly be categorized as an elite unit. Interior of the Giant line has been struggling and could be vulnerable to a Cardinal inside pass rush that, although they netted no sacks, gave Rivers headaches a week ago. Although the Card pass defense did show some improvement covering the two elite Charger TE's, the Cardinals should be especially wary of the Manning - Donnell connection. .
Key Matchup: Cardinal safeties and LB's vs. Donnell.
Matchup: Giant Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Giant running attack only gained 53 yards last week (close to the yardage the highly-rated Cardinal run defense gave up vs. Chargers). Ryan Matthews did torch Tony Jefferson and the Cardinal run defenders on a 20-yard one-cut TD run last week. An important Tom Coughlin MO: When he feels cornered, he'll typically revert to a physical, smashmouth offensive strategy (the theory being - if you can dominate your opponent physically on offense, the other nuancy aspects of the game (like schemes, matchups etc.) don't matter as much. So don't be shocked if the Giants come out with two TE's or run Jennings between the tackles a lot behind Hynoski.
Key Matchup: Jennings vs. Buchannon
WR1 11 Fitzgerald, 19 Ginn, 13 John Brown
LT 68 Veldheer, 79 Sowell
LG 62 Larsen, 61 Cooper
C 63 Sendlein, 62 Larsen
RG 74 Fanaika, 78 Watford
RT 70 Massie, 79 Sowell
TE 87 Niklas, 85 Fells
WR2 15 M. Floyd, 13 Jaron Brown
QB 03 Palmer, 05 Stanton 06 Thomas
RB 38 Ellington, 30 Taylor, 20 Dwyer, 39 Hughes
TE 89 Carlson, 84 Housler
LDE 94 Kiwanuka 91 Ayres 72 Wynn
LDT 99 C. Jenkins 96 Bromley
RDT 95 Hankins 93 M. Patterson 78 Kuhn
RDE 90 Pierre Paul 98 D. Moore
SLB 59 Kennard
MLB 53 J. McClain 58 Herzlich 52 Beason
WLB 57 J. Williams 54 Paysinger
LCB 21 DRC 38 McBride 31 Bowman
RCB 20 Amukamara 24 Thurmond III
FS 27 S. Brown 35 Demps
SS 26 Rolle 34 Berhe
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Charger Pass Defense
Carson Palmer's right shoulder issue (dismissed by BA as simply "a nerve thing") is said to not be cause for concern (but as a nervous Cardinal fan, consider me concerned). Giants have a few guys who can get after the passer (in Kiwanuka, Pierre Paul and Ayres). Pierr Paul is nicked up. So too may be Kiwanuka. The Giant starting secondary (DRC, Amukamara, S Brown and Rolle) looked good on paper but blew at least a couple of coverages big time and got shredded by Stafford. Whether they have much backup depth and talent figures to be challenged by Cardinal 4 and even 5 -receiver sets (&/or greater involvement by Cardinal RB's and our TE's. The Cardinal OL had a bit of trouble communicating dealing with crowd-noise (from, of all things, the home crowd). While, by and large, they played a sound game, there were more occasional mental and physical breakdowns than you'd want or expect there to be on a playoff-bound offensive line. Palmer used his legs more than (either he or the fans) expected, in order to buy more time when under pressure. The tactic seemed to work (certainly better than when he'd either hurry his throws or get hit in the pocket). Potential problem here is durability. (i.e. we hope he errs on the side of caution).
Key Matchup: Ayers vs, Veldheer. Palmer's shoulder vs. Giant secondary,
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Giant Run Defense
Giant run-defense only surrendered 76 net rushing yards vs. the Lions. Cardinal runners, while not having a spectacular game, were able to get the job done - whether it be Ellington popping through for 1- 15 yards or Taylor picking up a crucial 7 yards up the middle to ice the game. Prediction: Cards will try to establish a running attack (if for no other reason than to establish play action). Giants will try to stop them.
Key Matchup: I think it will be Dwyer and Taylor between the tackles vs. McClain, Hankins and c. Jenkins. (Ellington will see more action this week in the passing game
P 05 Weatherford
K 03 J. Brown
H 05 Weatherford
LS 51 DeOssie
KR 35 Demps 83 Parker 12 Jernigan
PR 83 Parker 82 Randle 12 Jernigan
K 07 Catanzaro
P 09 Zastudil, 02 Butler
H 09 Zastudil
LS 82 Leach
KR 19 Ginn 12 John Brown
PR 19 Ginn 21 Peterson 12 John Brown
Matchup: Giant Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Zastudil (groin or hammy) was injured and replaced by Butler last week. Butler's punting appeared to be sound, but his apparent inability to get the ball off quickly resulted in a blocked punt that could have proved disasterous. Although Butler has served as holder in previous NFL duty, Zastudil was still available to handle these duties as well. Giant special teams seem to be competent though unspectacular. Ginn has to make better decisions about returning deep KO's or downing them in the end zone (He typically got no further than our own 15-yard line). Catanzaro's foot was definitely stronger than Feely's and consistently went through the EZ; thereby eliminating the threat of a long return. Card coverage teams were uncharacteristically lethargic last week.
Key matchups: Ginn vs. Giant coverage teams.
Coughlin has to raise Giant spirits during a period when they are transitioning to a new offense. BA has to keep the Cards focused, humble and poised (especially in light of all the personnel departures on defense). In the past, when Coughlin has felt cornered, he's "gone back to basics" - resorting to a more physical "smashmouth" approach to the game. Don't be surprised if he doesn't try to jam the ball down our throats between the tackles behind a lot of straight-ahead double-team blocking. (Cards had better bring their big-boy pants to MetLife stadium). Expect Coach Arians to focus on our "keeping on doing what we're doing", meeting the Giants' physicality head-on and exploiting mismatches while cleaning up a few areas of shaky production.
Cards can build on the experience of their come-from behind win." Giants have to have short memories. I feel good about most of our matchups, but that carries with it the assumption that we'll play hard and maintain our poise for the entire 60-minutes. We play on the road in the northeast, but may have caught a break if Giant fans decide to take their frustrations out on the home team should things not go OK early.