ReFo: Giants @ Falcons, Week 15
I took my family to Disney World early in the year and while I was there met a significant number of Giants fans. Many were holidaying on the proceeds of their team’s success as they’d had the foresight to realize the 50-1 Super Bowl odds being offered on their 7-7 team were generous in the extreme. While you can never write a player like Eli Manning off, if similar odds were offered this year, they shouldn’t be anywhere near as tempting. I’ll explain why in a moment, but not before saying why Atlanta, although markedly superior to the Super Bowl Champions in this game, also look far from favorites.
The Falcons are well coached and extremely solid in all facets of play, but don’t appear to have whatever “it” is that scares other teams. I can’t think of any likely NFC playoff contenders that wouldn’t go to Atlanta fancying their chances.
Of course the Falcons won well, but they didn’t exactly destroy the Giants the way the scoreboard might suggest — they simply played their usual conservative game and waited for their opponent to implode.
New York Giants – Three Performances of Note
Bad Day Blues
While Eli Manning (-3.2) hasn’t had his best year to date, this was only his second really poor display following on from his nightmare against the Steelers. He certainly didn’t play well against the Bengals, but there was some mitigation in that game (the four drops etc.) which he didn’t have here. Sure, he was pressured on a relatively high percentage of passes (38%) but that’s nothing compared to what he dealt with last year and, although it didn’t show on his face, his actions spoke of a player struggling with his own form. The second interception in particular was a poor throw, but the gaffs on the short stuff stand out most — the overthrow to Victor Cruz that sailed, the couple he put into the ground late on. This is not what we’ve come to expect from a guy who people want to discuss as a future Hall of Famer. For now, I think he’d simply settle for an average display and a win.
Similarly to his quarterback, this hasn’t been a great year for Justin Tuck (-1.3) and although ‘disastrous’ would be far too strong, calling it “the worst season of his career” may be fair. He’s flashed his old skill, as he did against the 49ers’ RT, Anthony Davis, giving him a day to forget, but that was very much the exception. When Tuck made his first tackle mid-way through the third quarter (a clean-up as Jacquizz Rodgers doubled-backed into him) commentator Daryl Johnston sounded genuinely surprised. It made me question exactly how much video work he’d done for this to be a shock. He’s now averaged two tackles and two QB disruptions a game (although he drew a blank against Tyson Clabo here) and although that’s OK if you wish to be an average NFL end, I’m sure Tuck aspires to significantly more.
Out of Place
It’s usual in these pieces we try to give fans at least a smidgeon of good news but frankly, unless you are desperate to hear about a decent, but hardly earth shattering display from Chris Canty, I think it’s better to focus on the areas of concern. Foremost among these is the role and performance of Antrel Rolle (-3.7). He still plays slot corner significantly more than his skill set should dictate (exactly 50% of his snaps), and watching him trying to match up with Harry Douglas was not great viewing for anyone but Falcon fans. Add to this four missed tackles and you have his worst game of the year. He’s not a poor player, but using him as a cornerback will almost certainly make him look like one.
Atlanta – Three Performances of Note
Making the Grade
One of the biggest steps forward for the Falcons this year has been shoring up Matt Ryan’s blindside. It’s not that Sam Baker (+2.6) will make the Pro Bowl (oh, hang on a second, in this media bubble he just might) but after the debacle of previous seasons, where apparently he wasn’t fully fit, this is a huge improvement. Going against Osi Umenyiora, Matthias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul he surrendered only a single hurry, wasn’t flagged and held his own in the running game.
One of the biggest surprises to me this year has been the lackluster play of Sean Weatherspoon (+3.2). After an excellent sophomore season I was fully expecting him to kick on and become one of the elite NFC linebackers but instead his play, particularly in run defense, has regressed markedly. He’s relied on both his coverage and ability to get pressure on blitzes to keep from falling into the realms of the DeAndre Levy’s of the league.
What I saw here though was different — he was actually beating good players in the running game to make tackles. Although he also beat linemen, perhaps the best example of this was the way, on 4th-and-1, he knocked back FB Henry Hynoski in the hole and made the tackle on David Wilson for no gain (6:08 to go in the second quarter).
Justin Blalock (-3.3) is one of those players I struggle to define. When he’s poor (as he was here) is he a good player having a bad day, or is it vice versa? Is he really a rank average player who sometimes plays well? In the past two years we’ve never given him a grade over +2.9 or below-3.9 — this from a guy with over 2000 snaps in that time period. I know some people hate the term, but maybe Blalock is the definition of ‘Journeyman’.
Here he was beaten for his first sack of the season by Chris Canty, and also allowed a hit when he got lost on a stunt by Umenyiora. He false started on the play directly after the sack, and also had trouble with Canty while run blocking too. The thing is, although this wasn’t a good day for him, you know it’s about as bad as it will get and in all likelihood he’ll be better next week — just not much better.
– Some good news for the Giants. Chase Blackburn’s coverage stats: Thrown at twice, giving up one reception for minus three yards with the other pass knocked down.
– Due to the blow-out nature of the game RT, Lamar Holmes (7 snaps) saw the first offensive snaps of his career.
– Talk about armchair ride — Matt Ryan was pressured on only 14% of drop-backs.
PFF Game Ball
He made plays when it mattered and overall, Sean Weatherspoon was the best player on the day.