A little bit of location background before we get into the actual game.
1) It has long been decided that if SUS Steeler Nation (BH, Mahatma) watched the game with SUS G-Men Nation (White Boy and myself) it would be the end of the website and our friendship, and there would be a long and bloody courtship of MissMet and SHMUCK, the neutral parties caught in the middle. That said, when a mutual friend (technically White Boy's friend but part of the Steeler crew) suggested that we all watch the game together, the one thing that BH, Mahatma, myself and to a lesser extent White Boy agreed upon was that this was THE WORST IDEA IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND. It's the equivalent of bringing two countries into peace negotiations when both countries are perfectly willing to let a war sort everything out.
2) We ended up going to Blondie's on the UES because White Boy was already there, in spite of spending all week saying how he didn't want to go there because he nearly got into a fight with a Dallas douchebag. Basically, White Boy was for Blondies before he was against it before he was for it.
3) Blondie's is a Giants and Browns bar. When they both play at the same time, one floor is a Giants bar, and the other floor is a Browns bar. Unfortunately, my boy Drizz was the first one of us to get a table with a lady friend who happened to be a Browns fan. Yada yada yada, we ended up watching the Giants/Steelers game with a bunch of Browns fans. For what it's worth, there were some quality "Fuck The Steel-ers!" chants that went down as the Browns fans turned their attention to the Giants game. The lesson as always: friendships are built upon finding common ground.
Some thoughts about each side of the football:
- As much as anyone can hate anything about a team that is 11-1 in calendar year 2008, I hate Kevin Gilbride's play calling. When we run, it seems like we should pass, and when we pass, it seems like we should run. And when we need 8 yards on third down, we call for screens. I like our personnel as much as the next Giants fan, but you can't ask Ward and Boss to consistently break 3 tackles in order to get the first down.
- The running game was adequate at best. Jacobs and Ward each had a few solid runs, but they couldn't run with consistency for most of the game, and definitely not with the 150+ yard effort that Giant fans have become accustomed to. Hrmm, if only there was someone the Giants could put in when Jacobs and Ward don't have it...
- Oh, and on those goal line plays-the refs blew the first call. The ball crossed the plane. And on the second play, I think Jacobs got in, but it was the kind of close play that would have been impossible to overturn, regardless of what the refs' original call was.
- Let's talk wide receivers, shall we?
- Steve Smith is simply becoming the man on 3rd down. He's always getting open, and Eli is always finding him. My main beef would be that he seems to have trouble locating the first down marker-often he seems to get 7 when the team needs 8, etc... That said, the possibility exists that defenses are only giving him 7 in those situations. Either way, it's nitpicking over a guy who should be a solid #2 by next year.
- Which is not to say that Toomer is expendable. The old pro came through in a huge way on that 4th down, which, if nothing else, gave Carney a much easier kick.
- And Plax? Well he's done better. The Giants haven't necessarily been hurt by his lack of production a good deal of the year, but if he doesn't prove himself to be invaluable, the team simply won't tolerate his off the field shenangians. My prediction: Plax is gone before next year. There's a solid argument to be made that Hixon, who has done EVERYTHING asked of him this year, can be a legitimate #1/deep threat. And Plax's crap is only going to be tolerated if he proves to be irreplaceable.
- But other than special teams, the hugest difference between these two teams was on the O-Line, where Eli seemingly didn't get touched all day despite the consistent blitzes of the Steelers D. There's only so many ways to say that this is THE BEST O-LINE IN THE NFL.
- I don't know if you guys have heard, but apparently the Giants D-Line is good. It's funny, it didn't feel like they were putting that much pressure on Ben during the game, but the end result, and some of the highlights tell a much different story. Another solid game.
- Most of the sacks took time to develop. The question that brings up is this: was the Giants secondary that good or did Ben hold the ball for too long? I'm gonna go with a little from Column A, a little from Column B on this one. On most of those sacks, I have to think Eli would have gotten rid of the ball for an incomplete pass.
- This seems to illustrate the main difference between Ben and Eli: the former is of the 'gambler' mode where he believes he can always make a play happen, even if there's no play, while the latter is of the safer variety, generally willing to throw an incomplete pass to avoid a sack when nothing is available. This is not necessarily a knock on Ben, who quite often does create plays by holding the ball longer than most quarterbacks. But Ben's highs are higher than Eli and his lows will be lower.
- Good to see the linebackers and the secondary make some plays. Speaking of which, let's discuss each of the dudes who had an int
- Ok, I'll ask the question. Is Corey Webster a) a shutdown corner or b) are teams just deciding to pick on Aaron Ross. My guess is B, though Webster has certainly made a nice transition from worst quarterback in the history of the NFL early last year to a good young corner with lots of potential. And Ross? Well, he still has lots of potential and will improve.
- And for what it's worth, nice play by Webster, picking off Ben on 4th down and losing 5 yards by not batting the ball down. Oh well, I'll take it.
- Kenny Phillips made a stupid helmet to helmet hit early in the game. But that doesn't take away from the fact that Kenny Phillips is basically the next great safety in the league; though it must make Redskins fans sick to see a young, hard hitting safety wearing #21. Nice INT, Kenny.
- Bryan Kehl. Love me some Mormons. I realize that on Kehl's interception, the ball found its way into Kehl's hands, but that's still the type of play that would not have ended in an interception two years ago. Some solid instincts for the fourth round pick from BYU.
- And speaking of which, let's take a near-mid year look at this year's draft class, shall we?
- 1st round-Kenny Phillips-See two bulletpoints ago. Stud.
- 2nd round-Terrell Thomas-Nothing yet. That's ok
- 3rd round-Mario Manningham-Been inactive mostly because you can't carry 7 receivers each game. Patience though, he'll be solid.
- 4th round-Bryan Kehl-Starting in place of Gerris Wilkinson due to injury. By the end of the year, he'll be starting in place of Gerris Wilkinson due to talent.
- 5th round-Johnathon Goff-Who
- 6th round-Andre Woodson-he's been cut and signed a few times to and from the practice squad. Unfortunately for Andre, I think we're pretty good at QB right now.
- 6th round-Robert Henderson-Apparently this guy is a DE. Whatever, it's all good.
- So yeah, not as good as last year's draft class, but by the end of the year, watch for Phillip and Kehl to be starting and for Thomas (especially with Dockery (who sucks) out) and Manningham to provide meaningful contributions to the squad.
- But getting back to the Ben INT's, James Butler. For someone who is considered to be far and away the worst starter on this team, he had a very good game. Yes, he was embarassed on the 2nd half td by Nate Washington. But he had a very tough interception and made the hit that created Kehl's interception. I'll take it.
And last but not least, Special Teams:
- Domenik Hixon. Ridiculous. I can't say this enough- a lot of people don't think he's going to be anything special, but every time that he has been on the field, he has been one of the better players out there, either returning punts or lining up wide. He needs more touches; but so does most of this offense.
- Great job of kicking by John Carney. A ball took a left turn through the goalposts, and you can't help but think that he planned it. I can sit here and worry that his kicks aren't going through the goalposts, but you know how you know your team is very good and very balanced? When two of your bigger worries are a) why doesn't our kicker put the ball in the end zone on kickoffs? and b) is this the week that our lousy kicker who put the Giants in the Super Bowl returns?
- And lastly, a quick note about the Steelers longsnapgate.
- Remember in 2k2 when the Giants were on their seemingly 8th long snapper and it cost them on the final play in the first round of the playoffs? Well, what goes around comes around. Sorry Steeler fans, but as much as any team playing as well as the Giants is owed anything, we, the fans, were owed that.