New York Giants: eddie lacy

Bruce Irvin, Hakeem NicksAP PhotoBruce Irvin and the Seahawks are beatable on the road. Can Hakeem Nicks and the Giants win?

The 11-2 Seattle Seahawks have had their playoff spot wrapped up for a couple of weeks already and have their eyes on the top seed in the NFC. The 5-8 New York Giants were eliminated from playoff contention Sunday and openly admit that they're playing for pride from this point forward. These two teams meet Sunday at MetLife Stadium -- a place the Seahawks hope to return to in early February for the Super Bowl.

ESPN.com Seahawks reporter Terry Blount and Giants reporter Dan Graziano break down the matchup between the league's best team and one of its most disappointing teams.

Graziano: Terry, let's start with Seattle's exciting young quarterback. The Giants this year have seen Terrelle Pryor, Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III, who are the only quarterbacks with more rushing yards than Russell Wilson has. From your standpoint, what sets Wilson apart from those other mobile quarterbacks?

Blount: Dan, there are so many intangibles about him that defy description. Some obvious ones are his character, his attention to every detail in his preparation and his underrated skills as a passer. But more than anything else, Wilson has the unusual ability to perform at his best when things appear to be at their worst. I've never seen him rattled, and he rarely makes a careless mistake. He has led the team to nine game-winning drives in his short career, and he almost did it again Sunday at San Francisco. As for his mobility, one thing that clearly sets him apart is his ability to make accurate throws downfield while he's running in either direction.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Eli Manning got off to a really rough start this season. What happened, and where is he now compared with seasons past when he was playing at a Pro Bowl level?

Graziano: Manning's biggest problem at the start of the season was his protection. The offensive line, never great to begin with, was hit with injuries to key starters and never got the kind of blocking help it received in past years from supplemental positions like running back and tight end. Manning has already taken more sacks (33) than he has ever taken in a full season, and there are three games to go. He also had no running game whatsoever for the first half of the season until Andre Brown got healthy. And top wide receiver Hakeem Nicks has had an awful season in the final year of his contract. Manning obviously could play better, and he'd admit he has missed his share of throws. But I think he's a quarterback who really needs to be comfortable with his surroundings, and this year that hasn't been possible for him.

The Seahawks are so dominant at home, but while they've been good on the road they are clearly not as good. We know about the home crowd and the advantage it gives them, but are there on-field things they don't do as well on the road?

Blount: One noticeable difference in the past three road games is that Wilson hasn't run much because defenses are trying to keep him in the pocket. Wilson had one carry for 2 yards last week at San Francisco, and only 38 yards on seven carries in the past three road games combined. They won two of those three games, however. Still, after Wilson ran for 102 yards at Indianapolis in Week 5 (ironically, one of Seattle's two road losses) teams have focused on not allowing him to beat them with his feet. He's running well at home (he rushed for 47 yards against New Orleans two weeks ago) but not so much on the road.

If the Giants pull off the upset Sunday, they'd send a message that despite a disappointing season, they still have the ability to get it done against the best of the best. Do you get the sense that they'll have a little added fire against a team that many people believe is Super Bowl-bound?

Graziano: I do. A few of the Giants have already talked about that in the wake of the loss Sunday that eliminated them from postseason contention. There's a lot of talk around East Rutherford about "playing for pride," and that's not hollow with this group. They held together after the 0-6 start and have been professional in their play and their preparation since. This isn't a team that has or will quit on its season. It's just a team that's not very good. I don't think they have the personnel to hang with the Seahawks on Sunday, but if they lose it won't be for a lack of effort.

They do have a tendency to seek and drum up external motivation, and Seattle's excellent record will provide some of that. Tom Coughlin said Monday that they looked forward to measuring themselves against a team like this. The only dissenter so far is wide receiver Victor Cruz, who said he'd be "even more disappointed" if the Giants won this game, since it would tell him they had the capability to play with top teams all year and just didn't.

San Francisco had a strong game on the ground Sunday, and the Giants' run game has been considerably better in the second half. Is it possible to run on the Seahawks, or was that a one-game fluke by Frank Gore?

Blount: Some Seattle fans might say it was a one-play fluke, the 51-yard run by Gore on the final drive that set up the game-wining field goal. Take that off the table and the Seahawks did OK against the 49ers' rushing game. However, one stat is a little scary. Of San Francisco's 163 yards on the ground, 137 were before contact, including Gore's big run. The Seahawks have been up and down on this all season. They held Adrian Peterson to 65 yards and allowed only 30 yards rushing at Arizona, but also had back-to-back games in which they allowed 200 yards rushing. Now they have to get it done without linebacker K.J. Wright, who had 80 tackles this season. He's out with a broken foot. It's hard to predict, but the Seahawks are so focused on the pass rush that they can get burned sometimes on the ground.

The Giants have struggled to stop the run, and Marshawn Lynch is one of the best backs in the league. I'm guessing the Seahawks are going to give him the ball early and often, especially if the weather is bad. Will the Giants load the box to try to stop Lynch?

Graziano: Actually, stopping the run is one of the few things the Giants have done well. They've held down some top backs, such as Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Alfred Morris and Eddie Lacy. Until the Chargers got 144 yards on 40 carries against them Sunday, this had been a fairly consistent strength. So they'll be keyed on Lynch for sure.

Before the Packers game a few weeks ago, I asked Justin Tuck if Lacy reminded him of anyone. He said, "a bigger Marshawn Lynch," and then complained that they had to deal with Lynch again a few weeks later. They stacked the box against Lacy that day, but they weren't scared of Scott Tolzien's ability to beat them downfield even if they used single coverage on his receivers. Wilson is likely to make them think twice about committing as much to the run as they did that day, and they'll likely rely on the guys in their strong defensive-tackle rotation to get off of blocks better than they did in San Diego.

Giants lace up Eddie Lacy

November, 17, 2013
11/17/13
10:05
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- To put as much pressure on Packers' quarterback Scott Tolzien, who made his first career start Sunday, the Giants knew they needed to shut down running back Eddie Lacy.

"It's like basic football. As long as you take care of the run, they're going to be forced to pass to get more extra yardage," Giants defensive tackle Mike Patterson said. "We were looking forward to that."

[+] EnlargeEddie Lacy
Elsa/Getty ImagesPackers RB Eddie Lacy had little room to run against the Giants' much-improved defensive front.
The Giants continued their stretch of being stout against top running backs as they held the rookie phenom to just 27 yards on 14 carries in their 27-13 win on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The Giants held Lacy to his fewest rushing attempts in a game in which he wasn't injured.

"We did a great job against (their rushing attack), which we have done all year against the run, against a very good back, and a very good offensive line as well," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said.

Lacy has been one of the league's best rookies this season as his physical, downhill running style has made him a nightmare for opposing defenses. With Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers sidelined, Green Bay hasn't shied away from feeding the youngster and hoping he can help carry their offense.

The Packers tried establishing Lacy early Sunday, giving him the ball on first and second down on both of the first two Packers' drives. But the Giants filled the holes and didn't let him get to the second level of their defense. Lacy was usually swarmed by a group of defenders as soon as he broke the line of scrimmage, and didn't have much room to work with all game. His longest run was just five yards.

Lacy did have an impressive run in the fourth quarter, when he carried defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins into the end zone for a four-yard score that sliced the Giants' lead to 20-13 with 12:43 remaining. Lacy had 48 total yards and he also caught two passes for 21 yards. The 48 combined yards are at least 25 less than his rushing yards in each of his past six games.

"I think everyone played pretty well up front physical-wise. They have some big offensive lineman, can't count them down, those boys out there playing real well," Patterson said. "Up front everyone did well staying low, using our hands, playing the keys, and everything kind of came out our way."

When the Giants prepared to face the Vikings on Oct. 21, they entered that weekend's game ranked 26th in the league against the run. Over the past month, as they've shut down top running backs like Lacy, LeSean McCoy and Adrian Peterson, the Giants improved to 11th entering Sunday's game.

Linebacker Jon Beason complimented the defensive line for its work in the trenches Sunday.

"You get those guys lined up collectively, they're as good as anyone, and I really believe that," Beason said. "It's like having windshield wipers out there. If they're going to make all the plays, that's fine with me. I'll stand in the second level, watch and enjoy the popcorn."

W2W4: Giants vs. Packers

November, 16, 2013
11/16/13
2:00
PM ET
The New York Giants have won three games in a row following an 0-6 start and marching their way back toward .500 as they take on the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at 4:25 pm ET at MetLife Stadium. This game was originally scheduled for 8:30 pm ET, but has been moved up four hours as part of the league's flex scheduling rules. So if you're going to the game, or if you have plans to watch it, bear in mind the start time isn't the same as the one on the magnetic schedule you got at the beginning of the year.

Here are a few things besides that to watch in Sunday's Giants-Packers game:

An Andre Brown encore? After rushing for 115 yards on 30 carries in his season debut Sunday against the Raiders, Brown is back and hoping for a big follow-up now that he's clearly the No. 1 man in the Giants' backfield. Green Bay counters with some big, mean monsters in the middle of their defensive line, and B.J. Raji & Co. will be tougher for the Giants' interior offensive linemen to push around than the Raiders were. Brown looked good keeping his legs moving and gaining yards after contact, but it's possible the contact could come a lot sooner this week between the tackles.

Wary of Packers' run game, too: On Thursday after Giants practice I asked Justin Tuck if there was anyone of whom Packers rookie running back Eddie Lacy reminded him when he watched Lacy on tape. Without hesitating, Tuck said, "A bigger Marshawn Lynch." Pretty high praise there. We looked it up, and Lacy does actually list at 230 pounds to Lynch's 215, but Tuck said he didn't know the numbers. "All I see is a lot of broken tackles," he said. The Giants aren't spending time thinking they got a break because Aaron Rodgers is injured and out for this game. They're locked in on Lacy and the best rushing attack the Packers have had in years.

Who is Scott Tolzien? On the Packers' practice squad two weeks ago, Tolzien has been elevated to the starting quarterback's role due to injuries to Rodgers and backup Seneca Wallace. The Giants admit they don't know much about Tolzien and haven't seen much tape on him, but what little they have seen shows them he's not afraid to throw deep and take chances downfield. A Giants secondary that feels very good about itself right now sees that as a potential opportunity to create turnovers and tilt the field position and the game in their favor.

Could Eli air it out? Giants quarterback Eli Manning leads the league with 16 interceptions, 15 of which came in the first six games. Manning has appeared more cautious over the past three games, perhaps making a more conscious effort not to turn the ball over. But that's not really who he is. This week could offer him a chance to take more chances. The Packers' defense has only intercepted three passes this year -- the lowest team total in the league.
Scott Tolzien and Mathias KiwanukaGregory Shamus/Getty ImagesNew Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien will face Mathias Kiwanuka and an improved Giants pass rush.
 
The New York Giants will be looking for their fourth win in a row following an 0-6 start. The Green Bay Packers will be trying to snap their first two-game losing streak since 2010. The two teams square off Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

ESPN.com Giants reporter Dan Graziano and ESPN NFL Insider Matt Williamson (filling in for Packers reporter Rob Demovsky) break down the matchup for you.

Dan Graziano: Hey, Matt. Thanks for filling in while Rob's on the inactive list this week. The big question the Giants have this week is: Who is Scott Tolzien and what can we expect to see from him? So let's start with that one.

Matt Williamson: Well, Dan, that's a good question! I don't think we really know the answer, but he did move the team well in relief of an injured Seneca Wallace and was generally a smart distributor of the football. And we know Green Bay has weapons to get the ball to. We don't have a lot of tape to evaluate, but I think the Packers are better off with Tolzien over Wallace while Aaron Rodgers recovers from a broken collarbone.

While we are talking quarterbacks, what on Earth is going on with Eli Manning? Despite this winning streak, he really has not played well.

Graziano: Matt, my theory on Eli is that the protection issues at the beginning of the season were so egregious that he just fell into this zone of discomfort from which he's been unable to extricate himself. He just doesn't look right back there, and while the protection issues have improved some, they're still present. The Giants have had no blocking help from the tight-end position at all. They're vulnerable in the middle of the line, and I'm not sold on either tackle, to be honest. They haven't had reliable blitz pickup help from the running backs.

Downfield, Hakeem Nicks isn't playing wide receiver the way he used to play it. A lot has gone on around Manning to make him far less comfortable with his surroundings, and I'm not sure what it's going to take before he starts playing with that old Eli confidence again. Great quarterbacks make the best of bad situations, and Manning has not done that this year. As the Giants' situation improves, they will need him to play much better if they're really going to make this miracle run they still believe they can make.

They get another break this week with Rodgers out and Tolzien in, but they are already talking about that improved Packers running game. What do you see from Eddie Lacy & Co. and how do you think they'll attack the Giants, who have generally been pretty good against opposing running backs this season?

Williamson: This Packers' running game is terrific and should continue to excel even with less of a passing threat. The left side of the offensive line is playing great, but isn't healthy on the right side and has had to do a lot of shuffling of personnel there. Still, the rushing attack isn't easy to prepare for, as the Packers can run a wide variety of plays out of a wide variety of personnel groupings and formations. Lacy is quick to get downhill and is a punishing runner who can wear a defense down, and he also excels at reading his blocks and showing patience with the ball in his hands -- rare traits for a rookie running back. The Packers' ability to run the ball will probably be the most crucial component of this game.

Along those lines, I feel like the Giants might actually have a respectable rushing attack of their own now with Andre Brown carrying the rock. Do you agree?

Graziano: Yeah, the 30 carries and 115 yards for Brown on Sunday in his first game back off a twice-broken leg were eye-opening. I think the workload they gave him showed that the Giants knew just how much they were missing this season at running back. David Wilson never got going and then got hurt, and they patched it together with Brandon Jacobs and Peyton Hillis. But watching Brown run with vision and power and gain yards after contact Sunday, it was obvious that he's the Giants' best option going forward and the best they've had all season.

The injury risk has to be considered, given Brown's history, but at this point the Giants need to win pretty much every game, and they're going to have to lean hard on Brown to do it. Even if he can't be as productive every week as he was against the Raiders, the legitimate threat he poses on film should open up the play-action passing game as a way for Manning to combat those protection issues.

So the Giants feel they can offer a balanced offensive attack against a Packers defense that couldn't get the ball back from the Eagles in the final 9:32 of Sunday's game. Was that a LeSean McCoy issue, or are the Packers really struggling on defense right now?

Williamson: The Packers are struggling on defense and allowing too many big plays. I expected last week's return from injury by Clay Matthews to pay off much more than it did. However, we know Matthews is a great player, and maybe he just needed a week to get back into the swing of things. I still expect Matthews to torment the Giants' tackles this week.

On the inside of their defensive line, the Packers have a lot of sheer mass and power with guys like B.J. Raji, Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett. I also expect the Giants' interior offensive line to have a difficult time moving this group in the running game. This could be a bounce-back week for Green Bay on this side of the ball.

The Packers' run defense had a difficult time when the Eagles stacked both of their offensive tackles on the same side of the formation. While I expect the Giants could use some personnel groupings with six offensive linemen, I don't see them duplicating what Philadelphia did to make room for McCoy.

Watching the Giants game from last week, I noticed they had a difficult time getting the Raiders' Pat Sims blocked. Sims is a big-bodied and powerful defensive tackle in much the same mold as the Packers' group. I think that bodes well for Green Bay this week.

And expect the Giants to have a difficult time blocking little-known Mike Daniels in the passing game. Daniels has taken over the Cullen Jenkins role -- a spot Green Bay drafted Datone Jones for in the first round -- as an interior pass-rusher, and he has excelled.

The Giants' defense is based entirely on great defensive line play. This is a deep group with a ton of important resources tied up in it, but it hasn't been an elite group. It is improving, however. Where do you see this unit right now and this week against the Packers?

Graziano: Well, the sack numbers have come up. The Giants had only six sacks in their first seven games, but then got eight in their past two games. So they've moved from last in the league in sacks, where they spent most of the season, to a tie for 30th in that category. Odd thing is, of the eight sacks in their past two games, only four have come from defensive linemen. Safety Antrel Rolle has as many sacks (two) in the Giants' past two games as defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has in their past 16.

The line has been very good, as I mentioned, against the run this year. But over the first seven games of the season, opposing quarterbacks did a good job of unloading the ball before the Giants' pass-rushers could stop them from doing so. Not sure they get the full test this week against Tolzien, but at some point we're going to find out whether the front four really has improved, or whether it has just been feasting on lesser competition.

Thanks again, Matt. Catch you online in one of our game chats soon, I'm sure.

 

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