Setting the Stage:
Christmas Eve dual between also-rans who are out of the playoffs. Growing up in Metro NY, the Giants were always the hometown heroes (My family had season tickets/the Cards were always "STL" on the crawl beneath the scoreboard - one of those "other" (unimportant) teams from far away. We had end zone seats, and I was up there in the stands for the "Goodbye Allie" chants, negative helicopter messages and cheers for Charley Conerly, Kyle Rote, "The GIff", Andy Robustelli, LT, Banks, Carson, the two Rosies (Grier and Brown) and all the others. (The game would be going on, but I'd be focused like a laser beam on the StL score). I have to admit that, whenever the Cardinals lose, I always check the Giant score because their losing would make a Cardinal defeat go down easier.
Giants are 2 & 12 but almost upset the Eagles last Sunday, losing 34 - 29. The Cards were tossed out of the playoff mix by the Redskins in a 20 - 15 "pitchers dual." For the second straight week, the Cards failed to score a TD. The final two games will be"gut-checks" for the entire Cardinal roster. (Steve Keim suggested that we can expect major changes in the off-season). Drew Stanton is expected to replace touchdown-starved Blaine Gabbert this Sunday.
Giants' Last Game
(Note - There were more points packed into the first half of this game than all 4 quarters of each of the past two Cardinal games). Eli Manning had a career-type performance in a near-win over Philly, but Giant fans had their hearts broken when the Eagles came back late to paste a 34 - 29 loss on the Giants' resume. Difference between winning and losing came down to abysmal special teams play on the part of the Giants (i.e. blocked XP, failed 2pt conversion, blocked punt, shanked punt). Sound familiar? Stats suggest that another key factor was Foles' effectiveness (& conversely the Giants' weakness) in the red zone .
Giants received. TB on KO. Eli engineered a 13 play TD drive ending in Darkwa's one yard TD run off RG. XP was blocked. (Other Key Plays: Manning to Lewis for +25...Manning to Shepard for +13... Sack for minus-4). Giants 6 - Eagles 0.
TB on KO...Foles at QB...Foles engineered a 7-play TD drive featuring a Foles to T Smith completion with an interference flag tacked on. Final play of drive was a 3-yd pass to Jeffrey (reviewed and upheld). (Other Key Plays: Foles to Jeffrey for +12 and Foles to Agholer for +14). Eagles 7 - Giants 6.
TB on KO. Eli led his offense on another TD drive - this one using 10-plays ending on a Manning to King 13-yarder. (Other Key Plays: Manning to Engram for +28...Manning to Lewis for +13). Giants 13- Eagles 7.
TB on KO. Completions to Agholor (+9) and Barner (+18) were undermined by a sack and fumble (recovered by Philly) and put Philly on the Giant 49 when the quarter ended.
First Quarter Score: Giants 13 - Eagles 7.
Philly punted from the Giant 49 on the second play of the quarter. Touchback net defensive holding gave the Giants the ball on their own 20. On the fourth play of the Giant possession, Manning hit Shepard (who turned a short-middle completion into a long-gainer) for a 67 yd TD. (Eli's making it look easy). Giants 20 - Eagles 7.
KO returned to Eagle 27. Three & out. Punt from Philly 31 downed at Giant 23. On the first play from scrimmage, Engram gained +14 yds on an TE-around. Four plays later, the Giants punted from their own 40. Fair catch at Eagle 20. Eagles moved to the Giant 44 in 7 plays but failed to convert a 4th & 1.
Giants took over on their own 45. Three plays later, Mannings pass for Darkwa was intercepted by Darby, Philly ball on thei Giant 20. On the 5th play of the possession, Foles hit Ertz for a 10-yd touchdown.Giants 20 - Eagles 14.
KO returned to Giants 23. Three and out. Wing's punt was blocked. Eagle ball on Giants 18. Three plays later, Foles hit Burton for a +13 yd TD. Eagles 21 - Giants 20
KO returned to Giant 25. 2:15 till half. Vereen rambled over LG for +17. Giants moved into FG range in 10 plays before settling for a Rosas 28-yard FG. Giants 23 - Eagles 21
0:27 left. KO returned to Philly 12. Foles took a knee.
1st Half Score: Giants 23 - Eagles 21
Philly received. KO returned to Eagle 26. Foles put together an 11 play drive ending in a 28-yard Elliott field goal. (Other Key Plays: Foles to Jeffrey for +19). Eagles 24 - Giants 23.
KO returned to Giant 23. Giants went 3 & out. Wings (34 yd) punt went O-O-B at the Eagle 41. Five plays later, Foles hit Agholor for a 10-yard TD. Eagles 31 - Giants 23.
KO returned to Giant 20. Manning led the Giants on an 8-play TD drive capped by a 57-yd TD by T KIng off a short pass. 2-pt conversion attempt failed when Manning was sacked. Eagles 31 - Giants 29.
KO returned to Philly 31. Philly held to 3 & out. Punt downed at Giant 19. Giants moved to their own 24 as the 3rd quarter ended.
Third Quarter Score: Eagles 31 - Giants 29.
Giants moved into FG range at the Philly 29 before Rosas' 48-yd FG attempt was blocked by Jenkins. Eagles took over on their own 38 and managed to get to the Giant 2-yd line in 13 plays (draining 7:30 worth of clock time) before settling on a 20-yd Elliot FG. ((Key Plays: Foles to Agholor +10...Foles to Ertz +15. Foles to Agholor +16....Foles to T Smith +10). Eagles 34 - Giants 29.
3:56 left. Giants behind by less than a TD (but a FG won't win it)....KO returned to Giant 20. Giants drove to the Philly 11 in 12 plays before surrendering the ball on downs. (Drive used all but 0:48 seconds & resulted on no Giant points). (Key Plays: Manning to Lewis for +25...Manning to Shepard for +13).
Philly took over on their own 26 and went 3 & out. Punt returned to Giant 27. Two plays later, clock ran out.
Final Score: Eagles 34 - Giants 29.
Key Game Stats
Giants Stats to Date
Passing - Manning was 37 of 57 - 434 yds, 3 TD'sand 1 interception. (Foles: 24 of 38 for 237 yds, 4 TD, 0 Int).
Rushing --Gallman ran for 39 yds on 8 carries. Giants totalled 75 yds on 23 carries. (Philly runners gained 108 yds on 27 carries)
Receiving - Shepard had a monster game (139 yds and a TD on 11 receptions. Engram also had a big game with 87 yds on 8 receptions (These days, Fitz would kill for those numbers). Gallman had 6 catches, Vereen had 5 catches and Lewis had 4 catches. (Kind of tells you that Eli was spreading the ball around pretty good Sunday).
Tackles - Apple and D Thompson led the Giants with 9 tackles apiece. Goodson had 7. Adams had 6.
Sacks - Vernon had the only Giant sack. Giants gave up only one sack).
3rd Down Conversions - Giants converted 10 of 18 for 55%. Defense allowed Philly to convert 6 of 13 for 55%
Rushing Avg - Giants averaged 3.3 ypc rushing (& gave up 4.0 ypc)
Net Punting Average - Wing averaged 18.5. (Philly punter averaged 40.0).
Penalties - Giants were penalized 5 times (Phillies were flagged 7 times)
Red Zone Efficiency - Giants: 2/4 = 50% (Philly: 4/6 = 66%.
Turnover Ratio: Minus-1. Manning threw one pick. Foles threw zero. Neither team gave up a fumble.
First Downs - Giants 242 / Opponents 284
3rd Down Conversions - Giants 69197/ Opponents 82/195
Passing YPA- Giants 6.1 / Opponents 7.8
Rushing YPC - Giants 3.8/ Opponents 4.3
Sacks - Giants 22 / Opponents 30
Field Goals - Giants 16/22/ Opponents 26/33
Time of Possession - Giants 28:36 / Opponents 31:58
Turnover Ratio minus-4
Giants in a Thumbnail
In a word - Unpredictable. As he proved Sunday, Eli can be more explosive than a firecracker. Part of his success is due to an assortment of pass catchers who can go up (& come down with) the ball. (Compared to Cardinal receivers - who only seem to win about one-third of their contested ball/clutch catch battles - Giant receivers seem to win about 75% of theirs'. Apparent Giant weakness - (1) Special teams. (They looked eerily like last year's Cardinal ST's) and (2) losing 3rd down offensive and defensive battles.
Key Player Season Stats
Manning: 18 TD's...10 Int...3,073 Yds..84.2 QBR
Darkwa: 145 for 587 yds...4.0 YPC...4 TD's
Gallman: 86 for 369 yds...4.3 YPC...0 TD's
Vereen: 42 for 150 yds...3.6 YPC...0 TD's.
Perkins: 35 for 73 yds...2.1 YPC. 0 TD's.
Engram: 63 for 710 yds...11.3 YPR. 6 TD
Shepard 54 for 686 yds...12.7 YPR. 2 TD
Vereen: 44 for 253 yds.....5.8 YPR...0 TD's.
Lewis : 32 for 376 yds....11.8 YPR...2 TDs.
Gallman: 28 for 149...5.3 YPR...1 TD
25 for 302...12.1 YPR...3 TDs
Field Goals -
Wing : Avg: 44.5
Kalif: 8...3.8 YPR
Harris 7 6.9 YPR
Kickoff Returns -
Harris: 9 for 188....20.9 YPR
11 for 186...16.9 YPR
for 172...21.5 YPR
L Collins (103)...Harrison (66)...D Thompson (64). ..JPP (62)...Munson (56)
Sacks - NYG 22 (Opponents 30)
JPP (6.5)....Vernon (4.5)...Kennard (3.0)
Interceptions - NYG 8 Opponents' 11)
J Jenkins (3)...L Collins (2)
WR....18 Lewis...19 Rudolph
LG .77 Jerry..
OC .69 B Jones.....75 Halapio
RG.....68 Hart...........73 Greco........71 Mama
RT ..63 Wheeler.....68 Hart
TE.....85 Ellison........88 Engram......89 J Adams...43 S Smith
QB ...10 Manning.... 03 G Smith.....05 Webb
WR....87 Shepard....83 Raymond...84 Sharp...
RB ....26 Darkwa.....34 Vereen........22 Gallman...28 Perkins
WR....12 T King.......19 Rudolph
LDE 97 Mauro..........72 Pierre..............94 X Williams
DT 98 Peters .........95 Gunter
DT 92 Rucker.........90 Nkemdiche
SLB 55 C Jones........54 Albright
ILB 20 Bucannon....58 Wright............50 G Martin
ILB 56 Dansby........57 Bynes
WLB 43 Reddick.......96 K Martin
LCB 21 Peterson.....26 B Williams
RCB 25 T Williams...28 Bethel.
SS 36 Baker..........34 H Miller
FS 32 Mathieu ......41 Bethea
Matchup: Giant Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Update - Sources report that Davis Webb took a bunch of snaps with the Giant starting offense. If he starts, we'll be facing a talented, cannon-armed but inexperienced rookie with no track record as a pro. Strictly a guess, but we'd expect Bettcher to throw the kitchen sink at him (lots of stunts & false looks).
Forget about the season's numbers and focus on last week's Giant vs. Eagles game. Eli Manning was on fire, and so was his receiving corps - Eli was hitting his TE (Engram). He was connecting with his RB (Vereen). He was finding his wideouts (KIng, Shepard and Lewis). And still it wasn't enough to claim a victory.
If there's been one major weakness over the entire season, it's been the Giant O-line. (Cardinal fans are all too familiar with what happens when your QB lacks time to locate, decide and hit his receivers).
Card defenders will find it difficult trying to gang up on one or two Giant receivers and ignore the others because Eli can spread the ball round so well. But we do expect Bettcher to be aggressive and hopefully force Eli into making bad decisions. . Look for Chandler Jones, K-Mart, Tyrann and Budda to blitz from every angle.
Key Matchups: Cardinal secondary vs. Engram, King, Sheppard, Vereen and Lewis...C Jones vs. Flowers...K Mart vs. Wheeler.
Matchup: Giant Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Although Giant mgt says they like their RBs (Vereen and Darkwa), this is not a team with an overpowering run game (or dominant RB). Expect the Cards to focus less on stopping the run and more toward slowing down Eli's (or Webb's) passing attack. (Note - Cardinal defense has been getting pretty beat-up of late - so much so that it's difficult to predict who will or will not suit up each Sunday. Makes it difficult to figure out matchups.
We like the way C Jones has developed into more than just and edge rusher and how K-Mart has emerged on the opposite side. But we don't know who we'll have inside - Will Bynes be healthy enough to start? What about Bucc? And how about Dansby? The DL is also banged up, and we'll just have to hope the rotation will provide enough depth for our linemen to get the job done.
Key Matchups: Darkwa or Vereen vs. Cardinal team run defense.
WR1 11 Fitzgerald.......14 Nelson.........16 C Williams.
LT 69 Holden...........64 Barnes
LG 75 Boone
C 53 Shipley...........79 Tuerk
RG 70 Boehm
RT........73 Wetzel...........78 Painter
TE .87 Niklas............86 Seals-Jones
WR2 .13 Ja Brown......12 Jo Brown.....
QB 05 Stanton....... 07 Gabbert........09 Barkley
RB 23 A Peterson....33 K Williams....35 Penny.....37 Foster....48 B Hill
TE 84 Gresham
LDE.......90 Pierre-Paul...72 Wynn
LDT.......98 Harrison.......99 Thomas
RDT......94 Tomlinson.....96 Bromley
RDE.....54 Vernon...........91 Moss...........78 Okwara
SLB......59 Kennard........55 Armstrong
MLB....93 Goodson........46 Munson......47 Sheppard
CB......24 Apple..............23 D Morris
SS......21 L Collins..........29 Berhe.........36 Murphy
FS ......27 D Thompson
.....41 DRC................37 Cockrell
Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Giant Pass Defense
The Cardinal OL remains awful. Gabbert found it difficult to be effective with so little time to throw - so we get Drew Stanton back. (BA feels he gives us the best shot at winning).
Cardinal pass catchers tend to to lose too manhy jump ball battles and fail to make enough clutch grabs. Stanton is not known for throwing easy-to-catch balls. Key to this game can very well turn on which team's receivers make the highest percentage of clutch catches.
Pattern of late has been for the Cards to settle for field goals in the red zone. Fortunately, another pattern has been for Giant pass defenders to give up TD passes in the red zone. Game may hinge on who wins the red zone battle.
Key Matchups: Card OL vs. Pierre Paul, Kennard and Harrison...Fitz vs. Apple. Nelson vs. DRC. The Browns vs Dixon. Seals-Jones or Nikklas vs. Thompson or Collins. K Williams vs. Thompson or Collins
Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Giant Run Defense
Despite starting the season with D Johnson, C Johnson and Ellington and then signing Adrian Peterson, the Cards find themselves down to the bare nub depthwise. Looks like, once again, it's going to be (sore-ribbed, bad ankled) Kerwynn WIlliams and big RB Elijah Penny.
Actually, the Cardinal running attack has improved a bit of late and we should expect BA to rely on it to at least bring a semblance of balance to the Cardinal offense.
Giant run defense, while not dominating, seems solid enough to avoid beng blacktopped by the Cardinals or any other opponent.
Key Matchups: K Williams vs. L Collins...Boone, Boehm, Shipley vs. Harrison, Tomlinson, Vernon
K 02 Rosas
P 09 Wing
H 09 Wing
LS 51 DeOssie
KR 34 Vereen
PR 83 Raymond
K 04 Dawson
P 02 Lee
H 02 Lee
LS 46 Brewer
KR 33 K Williams
PR 33 K Williams
Matchup: Giant Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Giants are going through what the Cardinals went through a year ago and it could turn out to be their undoing. Their punter (Wing) has shanked more than his share of punts and had one blocked last Sunday. Rosas had an XP blocked. Brewer's return should calm things down a bit for the Cardinal kicking game.
Neither team stands out in the return game.
Key matchups: Hard to say, but it sure looks like the only positive ST matchup we'll have all year will be this week vs. the Giants.
NYG Interim HC Steve Spagnuolo. OC M Sullivan. DC Steve Spagnuolo ST T Quinn. Giants made a late-season coaching change, but you never know how these deals will work out (i.e. sometimes it provides an energy-boost/other times it represents a distraction). Giants situation is hard to read.
Cards - They're out playoff contention. How hard and well they play will be a test of team charactor (& BA's coaching ability).
Cards - Golden out. More to follow.
Skins - TBD
How to Beat the Giants
Giants are 2 & 12. Cards are near .500. If both teams play with equal intensity, the Cards should win. There is no magic matchup "bullet" here. Just two teams going toe-to-toe, with the team that gets the most out of its god-given collective talent most likely to win. Cards have home field advantage and their W & L record compared to the Giants suggests a slight edge in talent; so it should all come down to just playing hard and not getting rattled. (The Webb factor could be a bit disconcerting - Cards have problems dealing with rookie QBs making their firsrt starts).
We're out of the playoffs. Many Cardinal die-hard fans are turning to the Draft, scoping out possible coaching changes. We -on the other hand - continue to focus on football & the right to proudly wear our Cardinal BB hat with pride down at the mall.
It's only football.