Updated at 11:45 AM w/QB grades
…a lot of people seemed to want to blame Herzlich seeing that Redman’s big game matched up with Blackburn’s injury. He was actually very good with his reads and fits in the run game. In fact, he was much quicker reacting than Blackburn and much less reckless against play action, although we did not see a ton of it. As a result, he put himself in position to make some plays, some of which he did not convert. When we have the opportunity to make plays, we have to make them, but not a terrible job for a guy who has not seen a ton of snaps.
…Kiwi did not get a ton of plays at linebacker but did a decent job of setting the edge when playing in the 7 technique.
…We were pretty good in coverage. We did not play a ton of man or Tampa two that would require Herzlich to cover receivers in space or down the seam, which may or may not have been for personnel reasons, or just a response to the dink and dunk offense Haley has brought to Pittsburgh this year. He did get beat on the Sanders touchdown.
...the Steelers beat us up primarily with man block schemes (iso, wrap, power, etc). While, zone plays require offensive linemen to cover up bodies and allow the back to pick a hole teams who line up and run man schemes are relying on their guys to be physical and get push in the run game. The fact that they came into this game expecting to physically dominate up front and went on to run the ball the way they did was frustrating, especially because I did not really see us getting overpowered. What I did see, however, was us getting beat schematically. The Steelers rarely if ever ran the ball to the weak side, and because we played with two linebackers for much of the game with only six in the box, they were able to use guard wrap plays and motions in the backfield to create extra gaps we could not fill. There is an example of this below…
1. We already are at a disadvantage with 7 gaps and a 6 man box, something we saw a lot of Sunday. This means on run to the strong side, Herzlich must fill the C gap and Boley must stack behind the defensive tackle in the weakside A gap and be able to play strongside A or the cutback into backside B. This is not uncommon and when they block it straight up like this, it is not a huge problem. The left guard should not be able to get to Boley on run right.
2. What the Steelers did quite a bit is bring an extra blocker to the strong side, primarily a fullback or in the case, a pulling guard to pick up the playside backer. The play side guard and tackle then double team on the first level and one will come off the block to pick up Boley. This is a much better angle than trying to block Boley straight up with the left guard.
3. This now creates an extra gap to the strong side. With the center and left tackle picking up the defensive tackle and end to the weakside, we are left with five gaps and only four defensive players, including Boley scraping over the top. We now have Herzlich taking on a pulling guard and can either play this with his inside should, forcing the play to the inside, or his outside shoulder, forcing the play to bounce. I have seen it coached both ways, but with the double team coming for Boley, it doesn’t matter here. Redman will be patient and break his run off of the guard’s block.
...this is something we got again and again. I understand we have some injuries at the linebacker position, but we continuously tried to play this either straight up with a 6 man box, or by having a safety screw down into a Cover 3 look to fit into the uncovered gap. In this case, we saw one of two things, either we gave away the coverage too early, or we tried to disguise the Cover 3 look and had a safety trying to make plays in the run game from 12 yards deep. Last week with a healthy Rivers was the most I have seen us use our base personnel instead of these two linebacker nickel packages. Then he got hurt again and it just seems like we don’t have enough guys healthy who we trust on the field to play these looks properly at this point.
..we know Snee got hurt in this one. It looks like it happened real early in the game and it got worse as the game went on. I am not making excuses for his poor play but I am making excuses as to why he stood up and didn’t move every play. This is not Chris Snee. I am very surprised the Giants training staff/coaches didn’t get him out of this game. Both for his own health, the prospects of the team in this game and the prospects of the team going forward. If you have the game DVR’ed I strongly encourage you to watch any chunk of the game, especially in the second half and focus in on Snee and how badly he is hurt. He got a -6 in this one and he is certainly not a -6 player.
…Beatty came out of the gate looking like an all-pro, recording “1” worthy play after another. What a start by him and it all points back to his impressive footwork both in the pass and run game. It has always helped him in pass pro but he is showing how good he can be run blocking when he gets his feet moving. Beatty received a 1 on 3 of the first seven snaps.
…and on that note so did the entire Giants offensive line throughout the whole first half. That includes David Diehl, who we have all been very critical of since this one. He was very solid in the run game, much better than Locklear and that is something that benefits the Giants a bit more right now. First half grades Beatty: 4, Boothe: 2, Baas: 0, Snee: -2 (injury), Diehl: 2 (+3 in run blocking).
…I am not responsible for grading him but I do get to watch Martellus Bennett on every play and he has become a hindrance in run blocking. As pleasant of a surprise that he has been as a receiver, his blocking has left that much more to be desired. He has shown he has the ability so hopefully he will pull his head out of his ass any day now.
…many of us felt last season that David Baas performed below expectations, expectations from the high praise of him by the Giants and also the sizable contract that they gave him before last season. Since we started the Ultimate22 this season it has been more of the same. Starting from Week 4, Baas has posted five out of six negative grades including a -5 in Week 7 followed by a -7 in Week 8 against the Cowboys. Over this time he is another guy (much like Bennett) who has been a hinderance on a running game that seems on the verge of "showing signs." Baas improved a bit this week with a -1 but will be tested against Bengals DL Geno Atkins, a player that some who do similar work feel is the best in the league at the position.
…as we have mentioned several times this season the offensive line does an outstanding job of blocking together in pass protection. This means trusting the communication from the other linemen as they pass along blitzers and stunters. You can say a Dick LeBeau defense is the ultimate test in this regard and the Giants offensive line passed it going away.
…not directly related to the offensive line but, this was an interesting thing to read. Something to keep an eye out for this Sunday.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
…as much as the play calling has been coming under criticism over the last few weeks it seems to me that the bigger issue is the execution over that time frame. The Giants are best when they use their “small ball” approach and attack the middle of the field with short, quick routes and then expose the defense for a big play or two down the field. The Giants have been trying to do this but just simply haven’t been successful. Of Eli’s 28 drop backs there where 19 short, underneath routes over the middle. That doesn’t include the short out routes that the Giants love to run as well. The gamelan to attack with the short passing game as an extension of the run game is there, it just is not being executed as well in recent weeks. TOTAL SHORT UNDERNEATH ROUTES: CRUZ-8, BENNETT-7, NICKS-3, RANDLE-1, HIXON-0.
…the Giants wide receivers didn’t have as awful a game as their numbers would suggest. Although Cruz was the only wide out to put together a decent stat line the Giants’ receivers did an OK job getting open. Although “OK” is not what Big Blue strives for each week it was some what of an accomplishment considering how physical Pittsburgh’s secondary was and that the Giants were unable to get into a rhythm offensively for the second consecutive week. A dropped pass here and an overthrown ball there that go the other way and the offense could have had a much better day.
…although Beckum played OK in the limited snaps he saw it was clear that Pascoe was missed, especially around the goal line. The Giants are much more comfortable running to Pascoe’s side in short yardage situations and he was missed, especially when the Giants failed to convert for a TD while inside the five in the second half.
…Charge Eli with the error on the Q1 interception. He is so great at getting rid of the ball this season (always under the 3 second mark on the stop watch and verified by his league low sack rate) but this one was onto the four-second and the result should be no surprise.
…normally one of the league's best downfield passers, Eli missed on the game's first play on a deep post to Nicks who had gotten over the top on the defense. Later in the game on O-play 23 Eli underthrew Hixon on a great route that got Hixon a few yards over the defense. Eli threw it way short and was bailed out by Hixon coming back for the ball and drawing the interference.
…Eli graded out at a -1 for the game (which on the surface doesn't seem that bad) but it should be noted that he graded out at a -2 on the near-Ike Taylor interception in the end zone in the first quarter. Eli put it right in the basket for Taylor and that is unacceptable from him on a broken 3rd down play inside the 5. Can't happen.