So often by the end of the game the scoreboard reflects a blowout when in reality the game was close for much of its duration. The Manning Bowl III was one such game. Though Denver ran out 41-23 winners, the game was close and a back and forth exchange until the fourth quarter when it swung on one of the more ridiculous plays you are likely to see this season.
Aiming for Reuben Randle on a routine slant, Eli Manning saw the pass deflected by covering corner Tony Carter, but instead of hitting the floor harmlessly the ball bounced off Carter’s trailing leg, airborne into the waiting arms of Chris Harris Jr. without ever touching the ground for an interception. From that drive, the Broncos went down the field and scored a touchdown, making it a 31-16 game from which there was no coming back. On such plays can games in the NFL hinge.
But let’s take a look at some players other than the headlining Mannings to see what performances stood out.
Denver: Three Performances of Note
Flags In the Secondary
The Broncos actually played pretty well against the Giants’ receivers on the back end but were the victim of some extremely tough officiating when it came to their coverage. All three of their top corners were flagged in this game, with the trio combining for six penalties with some of them falling firmly into the ‘questionable’ category. Aside from those flags, they were actually pretty successful in coverage, each picking off a pass and only Chris Harris failing to break up a pass in addition to his pick. Denver will be hoping for some more favorable officiating going forward, but despite come costly penalties they will be pleased how their coverage unit held up without their star man Champ Bailey, even if Eli Manning did finish with the inflated tally of 362 yards after chasing the game.
The Denver Broncos seem to have caught a case of the Dropsies. Eric Decker is the primary culprit, seeming unable to hold onto much this season, and tallying another pair of drops in this game, but Wes Welker also chalked up a pair of his own. As if that wasn’t bad enough, their two Thomases, Demaryius and Julius, each registered a drop too. Peyton Manning knows he has some talented receivers, but drops spreading through the team will not be sitting well with him. The Broncos will hope they can work out these mistakes early in the season and will be happy they’re still managing to win in spite of them, because they’re tougher to overcome when things get closer at the end of the season, and that’s when it really matters to the Broncos.
With Denver missing Von Miller it’s natural to ask where the pass-rush will be coming from. Some speculated that Shaun Phillips would pick up the slack, or maybe Derek Wolfe would be the biggest impact, but the truth is Denver knows they can’t replace Miller’s production with any one player, and they’re setting about replacing it from everywhere. They used 21 players on defense during the game, and 16 of them rushed the passer at some stage. Of those 16 players, only Nate Irving, who rushed just once, failed to record any pressure at all. Denver had fifteen members of its defense register pressure. The Giants’ line remains questionable, but the point is that Denver is replacing Von Miller’s pass rush not with any one player, or with a defensive line of shared rushing responsibility, but by getting the entire defense involved in bringing the heat.
New York Giants: Three Performances of Note
David Wilson’s Workload
His first game went about as badly as it could have gone. He put the ball on the ground twice, and if that wasn’t enough to get him back in Tom Coughlin’s doghouse, he compounded matters by missing a block for a sack. The Giants responded by cutting his snaps to 24 this week, and though he still started, that was 15 fewer snaps than Da’Rel Scott saw, and only ten more than newly re-signed Brandon Jacobs. Wilson looked good, though you wouldn’t know it from his 2.4 yard per carry average, but that was due to the poor run blocking in front of him far more than his own running. He is running hard, with burst, and is clearly conscious of protecting the ball, hunching over it with both hands any time he comes near contact. Maybe the Giants would be better served giving him a little bit of slack back after that performance.
The Offensive Line
The Giants haven’t had a top line for years now, and in fact their Super Bowl-winning unit was very poor, remarkably so for a team to win it all. They’ve been trying to rebuild it over the years and have added players bit by bit, but it remains some ways short of a unit that would really help them out and lift some of the weight off Eli Manning’s shoulders. With pressure coming from all over the Denver defense, the five linemen gave up a sack, a knockdown, and fifteen additional pressures between them. The fact that more of that pressure wasn’t converted to sacks is more due to the quarterback used to playing under duress than it is their ability to minimize the effect of being beaten. The real issue was in the run game though, where three of the five graded in the red, with only RG Chris Snee grading in the green with a +1.1 grade for his run blocking day. The Giants would be much more dangerous a team if they could run the ball reliably, but that’s not going to happen until the line improves.
No Heat Without Healthy JPP
At his best, Jason Pierre-Paul is comfortably the Giants best pass rusher. While he may not be quite among the league’s best in that area, he is a force they miss when he isn’t on song, and he doesn’t look 100% after coming back from injury. Though he still graded well against the run (+1.4), he could only register a single hurry from 32 pass rushing snaps. Some of that is due to Peyton Manning’s ability to get rid of the ball before pressure ever materializes, but far too much of it is JPP simply being shut down by Ryan Clady. Clady is, of course, one of the league’s premier pass-protecting left tackles, so there’s not much of a tougher test of your fitness, but in this display JPP is still a ways short of 100%.
– Eli Manning went deep (20+ in the air) seven times in the game. He completed one pass for 51 yards, but three passes to the Broncos with three picks.
– Between three backs, the Giants averaged 1.2 yards per carry on 19 attempts. They gained 23 yards, and had 24 yards after contact as a group, forcing five missed tackles.
– Peyton Manning was pressured on just six of 43 dropbacks in this game.
PFF Game Ball
In a game that wasn’t full of standout performances, Knowshon Moreno gets the nod for topping 100 yards from scrimmage on just 16 touches.
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