Or are the Giants just terrible on defense? After watching Sunday's 35-13 victory over the New Jersey Gigantes, I think it's the latter. Until the fumble/interception series where the Giants defense decided to surrender, the game was quite close. Hell, it was 14-13 going into the fourth quarter. And the Giants had the Packers' D somewhat on the run in the first half-- no sacks, no turnovers, few pressures, several big runs and catches after missed tackles, the big touchdown to Burress. Without a few boneheaded penalties by the Giants, New Jersey would have had far more points than the ten they had at halftime.
Although the D started playing better as the game went along, the main thing that shut down the Giants offense was the Packers offense-- by holding onto the ball. And they way they did it was through controlled, short passes. In fact, on the touchdown drive that made it 21-13, the Packers threw 9 straight passes. And none, from the line of scrimmage to the point of reception, went longer than ten yards. You'd think a legitimate defense and a competent coordinator would have figured this out. You know, maybe thought, after about the sixth straight pass,"ok-- let's cover receivers man to man, and get close to the line of scrimmage. Maybe we'll keep one safety back in case Driver gets loose, but that's it. Everyone else should be in their man's face." But either this didn't occur to the Giants, or their personnel were too incompetent to carry it out. Because there were Packer receivers, either tight ends, backs, or wideouts, running open on short routes on almost every pass play. Now maybe the Packers were just in a groove, and even a talented defense would have had trouble shutting down all the options. But I don't know. I chalk up the offense's success, which kept the NY offense off the field, more to the Giants' defensive incompetence than to the Packers' execution.
For example, until the hilarious DeShawn Wynn touchdown run in the fourth quarter, the Packers running game had done basically jack squat. I understand that the Giants' best defenders are D-linemen, but still. There were several swinging door plays, where guys like Colledge or Tauscher just let defenders run right past them and kill the back for lost yardage. Ugh. Thankfully, the pass blocking, especially toward the end of the game, was decent. But if you've shut down one aspect of a team's offense, like the running game, you'd think your team would have a huge advantage on defense-- you've forced the offense to pass, so play the pass! But the Giants were incapable of doing so, or too dumb to try. So what I'm saying is, that while the Giants game was encouraging, no one should get too excited. That was a seriously flawed team the Packers beat, and the game was close until the last ten minutes.
Here are my concrete thoughts about the team's performance. The offensive line performed only slightly better than the Eagles debacle. The run blocking was generally mediocre with frequent bursts of terrible. Thankfully, it appears that most of those huge busts for losses can be corrected-- because on each it was clear that someone screwed up-- they weren't physical breakdowns. The pass blocking, except on a few occasions, was pretty good. The backs (Jackson, Wynn, Grant, and Hall) caught the ball well out the backfield, and showed up occasionally on running plays, with Wynn's TD runs being the highlight of smart running. And it's hard to get too upset with the team's running backs when every four plays a defensive lineman bear hugging them three yards deep in the backfield.
Favre played an excellent game. He "managed" things well, yes. But he had several great passes-- the feather to Lee in the corner of the end zone, the zinger to Driver on a broken play, and the perfectly placed bomb to Jones in the second quarter. Driver looked like himself, after playing slow and gimpy the last game.
The offensive coaching staff deserves credit too-- they accommodated their shaky offensive line and non-existent running game by calling quick pass after quick pass. I don't know how that will work against a team that has a better secondary. But it certainly worked against the Giants' iffy linebackers and defensive backs.
As for the defense, the first half was not impressive, though the Giants do have a very good offense. The Packers got lucky with some penalties, and the Giants missed some opportunities. Woodson looked bad when he had to tackle-- like he was doing Deion Sanders impersonations. Al had multiple penalties. Hawk drew a penalty and missed a couple tackles. But when they got the lead in the second half, and got some time off the field due to the offense's nice drives, they started playing downhill. It looked like the Packers' depth wore out the Giants, especially New York's offensive line, because in the last quarter the Packers were getting consistent pressure. Kampman had a great forced fumble, KGB was in Manning's face on nearly every passing down, and Williams' interception was hilarious. (What was Manning thinking on that one?) Then, after the Pack ran up the score, the line knocked out the Round Mound of Touchdown, Jared Lorenzen, after about five plays. Also awesome. In addition, I was glad to see that they held up, and didn't surrender that last minute touchdown to the Giant's third string qb. I hate it when my teams give up meaningless last second scores.
In sum, the performance was uneven-- a good passing attack, a poor rushing game, good special teams returns and coverage but bad kicking, good defense in the second half, but iffy in the first.
As far as next week goes, even with Norv Turner at the helm (Chargers' GM A.J. Smith can draft, but he is not a good judge of coaching talent), the Packers will have to turn in a far more solid performance against San Diego if they want to have a chance to win that game. Personally, I'm pessimistic about their chances. It looks like Jennings and Morency still won't be back, and the O-line is likely to go backwards on run downs (the enormous Jamar Williams) and get shredded on passing downs ('roid freak Shawn Merriman). And the Chargers, although their rush defense is better than their passing D, have far better athletes in the secondary and in their linebacking corps than the Giants. What I'm saying is-- the short passing game may not work next weekend. And if that happens, it could be ugly, because the Packers will not be able to run the ball, and will not be able to protect Favre on deep drops. I think the D can hold up against LT for a little while-- but they're going to need a lot of protection, which I don't think the offense will be able to provide.