NFC East: Greg Jennings

PHILADELPHIA -- Cary Williams realized he had a problem when he began to hear the same thing from the most important people in his life.

The Eagles cornerback heard from his brother and his best friend. His longtime pastor expressed his concern. And finally, when his wife Amanda confronted him about the issue, Williams knew it was time to face the truth.

He was being too darn nice.

"When my wife said it, it really kind of sunk in," Williams said. "I had to listen. She's been following for a long time and watching when I played. She said I just didn't have the same aggressiveness I used to."

[+] EnlargePhiladelphia's Cary Williams
AP Photo/Michael PerezCary Williams and the Eagles won the NFC East in 2013 despite allowing the most passing yards per game in the NFL.
The Williams they knew had a mean streak -- on the football field, that is. Williams is a doting husband and father off the field. On it, he has an edge. Or at least he did when he was playing with the Baltimore Ravens. Since signing with the Eagles as a free agent this year, Williams' inner circle noticed a change in his on-field demeanor.

"I gave a bunch of excuses why," Williams said. "When I looked in the mirror, it is what it is. I am what I put out on the field. I just wanted to come out and play with aggressiveness and a passion for the game. You have to have that type of nastiness to you, to a degree."

If the words of his wife and family and friends didn't do it, then the Eagles' 48-30 loss in Minnesota would have. The secondary, including Williams, was beaten up and down the field by Vikings receiver Greg Jennings and his cohorts.

With Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery of the Chicago Bears coming to town, Williams knew it was time.

"I had to get back in character," he said.

And he did. The whole secondary played with an aggressiveness and physicality that was missing from the Minnesota game. Williams broke up two passes intended for Marshall. The second was an especially physical play that had Marshall looking at Williams like he'd gone crazy.

"Our corners challenged them," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "Our corners stepped up on their own and handled them. I had a lot of things in the plan, but as I watched it unfold and saw how the corners were holding up -- and they really were holding up well -- I left them out there on their own. They did a great job."

Williams and Bradley Fletcher seem better against bigger, more physical receivers. That's not a bad thing with Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys coming up this Sunday. Bryant is a favorite target of Tony Romo, but with Romo reportedly sidelined, he may be even more of a security blanket for backup quarterback Kyle Orton. He's the kind of receiver who can catch balls thrown near him, even if he's covered.

That will require Williams to stay in character.

"People were telling me I'm not the same guy I was in Baltimore, with the ferociousness," Williams said. "When they said that, I had to change the perception. Hopefully, I did."

He did it by being the nasty, aggressive Williams -- the one his wife and pastor want him to be.

Rapid Reaction: Philadelphia Eagles

December, 15, 2013
12/15/13
4:23
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Quick thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles' ugly 48-30 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday:

What it means: Eagles coach Chip Kelly officially has a bad loss on his NFL résumé. His Eagles were in first place in the NFC East, facing a 3-9-1 team without its best player, running back Adrian Peterson. Instead of securing their hold on a playoff berth, the Eagles were flat and looked unprepared and poorly coached in all three phases. Kelly didn’t use running back LeSean McCoy enough and handed the Vikings three points by going for a fourth-and-1 at his own 24-yard line in the third quarter. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis had no answers for Matt Cassel, even with the Vikings down to a practice-squad running back. Special-teams coach Dave Fipp’s plan to kick away from Cordarrelle Patterson gave the Vikings great field position all game.

Shredded and wounded: Philadelphia's secondary was terrible even before losing nickel corner Brandon Boykin (possible concussion) and safety Kurt Coleman (hamstring). Cassel beat the Eagles deep for a 57-yard touchdown to Greg Jennings in the first quarter. He was able to convert third downs all too easily. Safety Patrick Chung was benched in favor of Coleman, then had to return when Coleman got hurt. Colt Anderson, forced into action, got burned on a big play by tight end Chase Ford. To make matters worse, the secondary committed a rash of penalties in the fourth quarter to fuel a Vikings touchdown drive.

Stock watch: Falling: Nick Foles. He wasn’t Sports Illustrated-cover-jinx terrible, but the magic carpet ride is over. Foles took sacks by holding the ball too long. He threw a jump ball for DeSean Jackson that was intercepted. Foles was also called for a penalty for an illegal block, which negated a Jackson touchdown run on a reverse. Foles threw three second-half touchdown passes, but his chance to stage a comeback win was undermined by the Eagles’ inability to stop the Vikings at all.

What’s next: The Eagles face two must-win games. They host the Chicago Bears next week in a game that was flexed into prime time. Then they finish the regular season at the Dallas Cowboys, a game that could decide the NFC East title. The Eagles, who would lose on tiebreakers if they finish with the same record as the Cowboys, made things harder on themselves by not taking care of the Vikings.

Halftime thoughts: Giants look fantastic

November, 25, 2012
11/25/12
10:12
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants appear to have done their homework during their bye week. Lackluster losers of two straight November games heading into their Week 11 bye, the Giants have come roaring out of the gates tonight to take a 31-10 lead over the Green Bay Packers at halftime. ESPN North blogger Kevin Seifert, seated to my right here in the MetLife Stadium press box, reports that the 31 points are the most any team has scored against the Packers in a game this season. To repeat, it is halftime.

What has gone right for the Giants? Just about everything. They have sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers three times, and the third one came equipped with a forced fumble by Osi Umenyiora that set up Ahmad Bradshaw's 13-yard touchdown run in the half's final minute. They have a Corey Webster interception to go with the fumble. Eli Manning, who hadn't thrown a touchdown pass since Week 7, has thrown one each to Rueben Randle and Victor Cruz. Bradshaw has 56 rushing yards and Andre Brown 27 behind a fired-up offensive line that's blocking as well as it has in any game all season, and Bradshaw also picked up 59 on a screen pass on the Giants' first possession of the game.

Early on, when Jordy Nelson whipped Webster for a 61-yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 7-7 in the game's first five minutes, it looked as though this might be a shootout between two of the game's top offenses. But it has quickly swung the Giants' way. They looked energized and sharp, smoothly working their way in and out of various personnel groupings on offense and defense, and they appear to be confusing the Packers on both ends. Middle linebacker Chase Blackburn has one of the sacks and has been integral to the pressure they've been able to put on Rodgers. And Randle, the rookie second-round pick out of LSU, looks as though he might be developing into a reliable third wide receiver option. He is sometimes on the field even when Cruz is not, and his presence on the outside opposite Hakeem Nicks can enable the Giants to deploy Cruz in the slot, where he can get mismatches against linebackers and safeties.

The Packers are obviously never out of a game with Rodgers and all of their offensive weapons. But they're outmanned tonight with key players such as Greg Jennings, Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson out of the game with injuries. And if the Giants can keep the run game going the way it's gone so far, they should be able to control the clock enough in the second half to prevent a three-touchdown comeback. A Giants victory would keep their lead in the NFC East at two games over the Cowboys and Redskins with five games left in the season.

Kenny Phillips returns for Giants

November, 25, 2012
11/25/12
7:15
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants safety Kenny Phillips, who has been out of action since injuring his knee in the team's Week 4 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, is active and expected to start Sunday night's game against the Green Bay Packers. Phillips' return is huge for a Giants defense that has thrived on turnovers but has struggled for consistency this year. He helps the run defense as well as the coverage schemes, and it's conceivable that his absence is a big part of the reason they've struggled up front in the pass rush as well.

Linebacker Keith Rivers also returns to action for the Giants after missing the last two games with an hamstring injury. And running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who has been limited in practice for weeks with foot and neck problems, also is active for the game.

The Packers are down several significant players, including wide receiver Greg Jennings, linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Sam Shields, all of whom are inactive for the game. Matthews sits with a hamstring injury, and Jennings has been out since September with an abdominal muscle injury. Star safety Charles Woodson also is sidelined with a broken collarbone, making this Green Bay defense more vulnerable than it even was when the Giants beat the Packers in the playoffs in January.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning has not thrown a touchdown pass since Week 7 against the Washington Redskins, and the Giants are looking to get their offense in gear with the Dallas Cowboys and Redskins suddenly right behind them in the NFC East race.

I will be here at MetLife Stadium tonight, along with NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert and NFL columnist Ashley Fox, as well as the crew from ESPNNewYork.com. Check out our Countdown Live chat during the game.

Breakfast links: A day about football

November, 22, 2012
11/22/12
8:00
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Actually, this is pretty much my favorite day of the year, and for reasons that have nothing to do with football. I've got a pretty excellent life, and an incredible family, and ever since I was a kid I always enjoyed the idea of a day set aside to appreciate those things. Now that I have a wife and two boys of my own, it's even more special. I hope each and every one of you gets to take a moment today to smile about whatever it is you love about your life, and to give thanks for it. I can promise you that's how I'll be spending my day. Well, that and cooking. And watching football.

Scaled-down links today. You'll all have more than enough to fill you up later on.

New York Giants

The Green Bay Packer who has the Giants worried as they prepare for Sunday night's game is not superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers, or wide receivers Greg Jennings (he's hurt anyway) and Jordy Nelson, or even linebacker Clay Matthews. It's Randall Cobb, who's emerged as the Packers' do-it-all menace this year, that the Giants believe they need to stop.

Dallas Cowboys

Dez Bryant hasn't wanted to talk about his complicated off-field life this season, but that all changed Wednesday, when for some reason he decided to open up to reporters about his relationship with his mother, his kids and everything that goes on when he's away from the field. Jeez, I mean, if Bryant's in a good place off the field as well as on it, the Cowboys have to be flat-out fired up about what he can do, no?

Washington Redskins

In his first game after missing five straight with a foot injury, Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon was a bit of a non-factor Sunday against the Eagles. And it's reasonable to think the main reason the Redskins have him out there is to make opposing defenses think a little, maybe to draw some attention away from the receivers whose feet don't hurt. But offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan thinks Garcon is capable of contributing more to the offense than he did Sunday, so we'll see. Both Garcon and linebacker London Fletcher, who's got a 234-game consecutive-games streak on the line, are listed as questionable for today's game against the Cowboys in Dallas.

Philadelphia Eagles

Quarterback Michael Vick and running back LeSean McCoy are still dealing with concussion problems, and it looks as though Nick Foles is likely to make his second start at quarterback and Bryce Brown his first at running back for the Eagles on Monday night against Carolina. Nothing certain yet -- remember, the Eagles have an extra day to make these decisions. But that's the way things appear as of now.

Halftime thoughts: Hakeem the dream

January, 15, 2012
1/15/12
6:20
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Well, you're all going to want to talk about the call that should have been overturned and wasn't, and I understand being mad. Looking at the replay, I was 100 percent sure Greg Jennings fumbled the ball in the final minutes of the first quarter and that the New York Giants were going to get the ball back in Packers territory with a 10-3 lead. I can't explain why the call wasn't reversed on replay, and I understand that, if the Giants lose, that's what the vast majority of you will want to talk about all week. Maybe all offseason.

But I'd rather talk about Hakeem Nicks, who had five catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns to help the Giants take a 20-10 lead into the half of a playoff game that could send them to the NFC Championship Game. Nicks delivered the Giants' patented long catch-and-run touchdown with a 66-yarder in the first quarter, and he went up to catch Eli Manning's 37-yard Hail Mary as time ran out on the second quarter. Those two plays were the highlights of a dazzling offensive first half in which the Giants outgained the Packers 311 to 170 and in which many more good things happened for them than bad.

Even on the call, if you'll allow me to play devil's advocate (since that's part of my job description), the Giants weren't exactly blameless. That drive, you'll remember, started from the 40-yard line after Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes shanked a kickoff out of bounds. And the tackling by the Giants before and after the bad call was worse than the call itself. The Giants had chances to make plays that would have at least limited the damage to a field goal, and they did not.

Besides, to focus on the call would be to ignore the incredible number of things that went right for the Giants in the first half, in spite of their own poor tackling, Tynes' poor kickoff and Tynes' blocked field goal. The Packers' tackling was even worse. The Packers dropped at least four passes. The Giants' defense drastically improved its coverage and tackling in the second quarter, and even seemed to be working on ways to stop Aaron Rodgers from scrambling for third-down pickups against them.

The Giants were 5-for-9 on third down and possessed the ball for 16:38. If the defense can continue the improvement it showed in the second quarter, and if they can get any kind of running game going at all (23 of their 37 yards came on an Ahmad Bradshaw run just before the half-ending Hail Mary), they have a pretty good chance to cash this in and earn a trip to San Francisco to play the 49ers next week for a shot at the Super Bowl.

Rodgers and the Packers get the ball back to start the second half, so we'll see if the Giants can keep the momentum on their side.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers are about as healthy as they can be for Sunday's divisional round playoff game. The Giants' inactives list is the same as it was last week, and the Packers have only one injured player, linebacker Robert Francois, who will be inactive.

Active for the Packers will be wide receiver Greg Jennings, who missed the past couple of games of the regular season due to injury, and starting tackles Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga, who also battled injuries during the final few weeks of the season. It will be interesting to see how healthy the tackles are and how they hold up against the Giants' edge pass-rushers.

Active for the Giants will be wide receiver Mario Manningham, who had struggled with knee problems in the second half of the season but was active for the first playoff game last week, and cornerback Aaron Ross and running back D.J. Ware, each of whom suffered concussions in last week's victory over the Falcons. Linebacker Mark Herzlich, still out with an ankle injury, is the injured player on the inactive list.

Full list of inactives:

GIANTS

WR Ramses Barden

RB Da'Rel Scott

LB Mark Herzlich

OL Jim Cordle

DE Justin Trattou

DT Jimmy Kennedy

OL James Brewer

PACKERS

QB Graham Harrell

CB Davon House

LB Rob Francois

OL Herb Taylor

TE D.J. Williams

DE Howard Green

LB Vic So'oto
I'm not doing any more work Friday. Leaving for Green Bay in the morning, so I'm going to spend the rest of the day and night with my family. So I was going to leave you with a post on the injury and weather reports for the game, but there's a bit of a nothing-to-see-here element to both.

The Giants are listing linebacker Mark Herzlich as out and listing everyone else -- including running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and D.J. Ware and cornerback Aaron Ross -- as probable or not listing them at all. The Packers are listing both of their starting tackles, Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga, as well as wide receiver Greg Jennings, as probable. The only Packer who's on the injury report and isn't probable is linebacker Robert Francois, who's doubtful with a hamstring injury. So basically, if you were wondering about anyone who's been banged up, the answer is that they'll almost certainly play.

As for the weather ... sorry to disappoint those who want a snowy game. But while it has snowed a great deal in Green Bay the past couple of days and it appears snow will be on the ground when we arrive tomorrow, the forecast for Sunday continues to call for a relatively balmy high temperature of 32 degrees and no precipitation.

So, with no real news to report on injuries or weather, I leave you with the Giants offensive line's response to being called "not the toughest" by Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji. Giants guard Chris Snee, a Boston College guy like Raji, made some cracks about how it kept him up all night, then delivered the discount doublecheck:
"All kidding aside, no one cares what B.J. had to say," Snee said. "Sometimes when you're young and you make it to a Pro Bowl and then to a Super Bowl and you have your own commercial, you feel the need to talk. We'll do our talking on Sunday."

Good idea. I'll do mine from the press box. Enjoy your Friday evening and your Saturday of NFL playoff football. Talk to you from Wisconsin.
Just feels like something's missing. A Tuesday with no Power Rankings. What do we have to get angry about? Well, there's the chat. And you know you can always count on the links.

New York Giants

Ian O'Connor chatted with Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who admits he missed being in the playoffs "a lot."

I don't understand the deal with Greg Jennings and what he said on Twitter, because I heard a live interview with Jennings on the radio on Sunday morning in which he said the Packers don't even think about the 2008 playoff loss to the Giants. So I don't get what that's about. Regardless, Antrel Rolle, who never stops talking, says the Giants are better now than they were when the Packers beat them by three points on Dec. 4. And I think he's right.

Philadelphia Eagles

John Smallwood says it's a mistake to read Jeffrey Lurie's postseason news conference as a Super Bowl-or-bust ultimatum for Andy Reid. I'm not sure who read it that way. But I do think Reid's 2012 team needs to at least threaten the doggone thing or else Lurie's 2012 postseason news conference is going to have a different outcome for the Eagles' head coach. The Eagles will need to be one of the best teams in the league in 2012. A Super Bowl title, as Lurie knows, depends on too many capricious elements to serve as the basis for an ultimatum.

Sheil Kapadia has a breakdown of the Eagles' secondary performance in 2011 under coach Johnnie Lynn, who was fired Saturday.

Dallas Cowboys

Tim MacMahon reports that Cowboys secondary coach Dave Campo, who's been with the team 18 years, won't be back in 2012. As we've written here before, Jerry Jones is all-in on Jason Garrett as head coach, and it appears this offseason will offer Garrett the chance to make his own coaching staff a little bit.

Along those lines, Calvin Watkins wonders if former Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano, who has a good relationship with Garrett from the time they spent together on the Cowboys' staff, could return as an offensive line coach. Lots of shuffling still potentially in the works here.

Washington Redskins

Evan Bliss hands out some awards for the Redskins in the wake of their 2011 season. It's not pretty.

John Keim reviews the offensive line, and concludes that the Redskins will need to find a new right tackle and add depth behind the starters at the other positions. The line was an area of strength for the Redskins for much of the season, while it was healthy and not suspended.
The only fans who complain about calls not going their way are fans of the team that lost. Every NFL game -- heck, every sporting event that uses carbon-based life forms as officials -- has good calls, bad calls and calls that could have easily gone the other way. New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin says he's "sick to his stomach" about this photo that GM Jerry Reese showed him of a play on which Jake Ballard was ruled out of bounds in the end zone in Sunday's loss to the Packers, and I'd venture to say that more than 100 of you have sent me a link to this photo on Twitter.

Please stop. I've seen it. And yeah, in that photo, it looks like he's in bounds. In other shots from other angles we all saw Sunday, it looked as though he was out. It was close, and none of us actually knows whether he was in or out. Fact is, he was called out in a game that features human officials with an imperfect instant replay system backing them up. And in such a game, calls are going to be missed. Giants fans are also upset about a Greg Jennings touchdown catch that could have been ruled a non-catch according to the "Calvin Johnson rule," even though officiating guru Mike Pereira said on Twitter on Sunday that the rule only applies to a player going to the ground to make a catch.

Look. I know Giants fans are upset. I understand it would have been awesome to see your team beat the unbeaten Packers. Heck, I'd have loved to write it. Great story. But it's insane to think the officials cost the Giants the game. The Packers have won 18 games in a row, one of which was a Super Bowl. To think that they would need help from some kind of officiating conspiracy to beat the Giants is the height of arrogance and paranoia.

Officiating calls are like the weather. They affect both teams and you can do nothing about them. No matter how egregious you may think a missed call is, the players and coaches in the game always have the opportunity to overcome it. Such was the case with the Giants on Sunday, whether those calls were accurate and fair or not. And they lost. Time to move on, folks. You too, Messrs. Reese and Coughlin.

Green Bay Packers silence Troy Polamalu

February, 7, 2011
2/07/11
12:45
AM ET
Troy PolamaluRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesTroy Polamalu didn't record a tackle until the beginning of the fourth quarter.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Green Bay Packers spent the past two weeks trying to figure out how to neutralize the 2010 defensive player of the year. They accomplished that task by pretty much turning Steelers safety Troy Polamalu into a non-factor.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers vowed to know where Polamalu was on every play. And his ability to whistle passes through tight windows actually made Polamalu look slow for much of the evening. The man who had seven interceptions this season tried to force the issue and started guessing in a frantic effort to make plays. It may have been one of the worst games of his career, and it couldn't have happened on a bigger stage in a 31-25 loss to the Packers in Super Bowl XLV.

Reporters offered the soft-spoken Polamalu a lifeline by bringing up the Achilles tendon injury that's plagued him throughout the season. He headed that off quickly, saying he simply ran into a quarterback who's on fire.

"It was the healthiest I've been," Polamalu said, "the best I've felt probably since the middle of the season."

Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings caught both of his touchdowns against Polamalu. Jennings said that on the first score the Steelers were in a Cover 2 scheme and Polamalu was forced to choose between covering two receivers running similar routes.

"He chose wrong," said Jennings, whose 21-yard touchdown gave the Packers a 21-3 lead in the second quarter.

The Packers didn't show much interest in the running game (11 attempts), in part because they didn't want Polamalu near the line of scrimmage. Because Green Bay constantly spread the field with four wide receivers, Polamalu rarely played close to the line.

"We wanted to keep him out in space," said Jennings. "If you can contain him in some ways and keep him on a guy that he's uncomfortable with, you have a lot better chance."

Polamalu was even more pensive than usual following the game. He took blame for both touchdown passes to Jennings and indicated that he put his cornerbacks in bad situations by trying to get too "creative." Rodgers connected with Jordy Nelson for a 38-yard pass early in the fourth quarter that set up the Packers to take a 28-17 lead. Polamalu also took the blame for the pass to Nelson and the subsequent 8-yard touchdown pass to Jennings.

He guessed that Jennings was going to run a post because he'd seen him do it so many times on film, but the wide receiver ran a corner route and scored easily.

"That was completely my fault," said Polamalu. "Earlier in the game, they ran Jennings down the middle and I was anticipating that same pass play and I guessed wrong."

Polamalu's given the freedom to freelance in this defense because he's such an instinctive player, but perhaps a more conventional approach would have served him better against Rodgers. The Packers made him uncomfortable throughout the game. Polamalu has told reporters in the past that he constantly fears getting beat despite his brilliant play. But on Sunday night, his fears were realized against a quarterback who can pretty much do anything he wants right now.

This isn't the first time this season the Steelers' secondary has looked vulnerable, but Polamalu often made up for its errors. In this game, he was the one making a lot of the mistakes. The Packers took the Steelers' most unique player and made him a liability.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was asked repeatedly about Polamalu's performance after the game. When someone asked whether he thought Polamalu made an impact in the game, Tomlin replied, "I'll let you be the judge."

It was one of those rare evenings when having one of the most versatile defensive players in the game didn't help the Steelers. Now, they have a lot of time to think about what went wrong. I guess Polamalu can be flattered the Packers were so worried about him.

But that won't bring much solace on this evening.

Antrel Rolle's complaining again

January, 18, 2011
1/18/11
4:41
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New York Giants Pro Bowl safety Antrel Rolle waited until Week 2 of his first season with the club to go off on his head coach and teammates. You may recall the former Cardinals player complaining that Giants coach Tom Coughlin dropped the team off at the stadium too early in Indianapolis and he questioned the team's leadership skills.

Things eventually calmed down and Rolle seemed to enjoy himself with his new team. He made some ridiculous comments about fans booing the Giants, but for the most part, he became well-liked by his new teammates. But as ESPNNewYork.com's Ohm Youngmisuk points out, Rolle was up to his old tricks while appearing on a radio show in Miami. He thinks Coughlin could stand to loosen up a bit more. You know, like the head coach who shares a home field with the Giants.

[+] EnlargeJordy Nelson and Antrel Rolle
AP Photo/Jeffrey PhelpsJordy Nelson and the Packers' receivers burned New York's secondary for 396 passing yards in Week 16.
"As a person I don't have any problem with Coach Coughlin," Rolle said. "We have a great relationship. When you're talking about the coaching side of things, do I feel like things are a little too uptight? Yeah, I do. I feel like if he just loosened up just a little bit, still run the ship the way you want to run it, still run the program the way you want to run it but let us have a little fun ... because at the end of the day that's what it's all about."

"And people like to talk about Rex Ryan and this that and the other. That team is going to war for him," Rolle added.

Someone needs to plant a bug in Rolle's ear that he's made enough war references for one season. And maybe they could also remind him that it seems like poor form to pine away for the coach of their neighborhood rival. To make matters worse, Giants safety Kenny Phillips followed Rolle's lead and started praising Ryan. (What's said in Miami doesn't stay in Miami.)

"I would love to play for a guy like Rex," Phillips said. "He goes to bat for his players. He'll take the blame, he allows you to be you. He's not asking you to hide. If you're a guy that likes to talk, go out and talk, long as you back it up. Like [Antrel] said, his guys are playing for him and I'd love to be a part of that."

From what I can tell, Rolle and Phillips continued to embarrass themselves throughout the interview. Perhaps the safeties could have a little more "fun" if they weren't allowing Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson to shred them for big gains during a blowout loss to the Packers.

One of the Giants' biggest issues down the stretch was the back end of the defense. And when general manager Jerry Reese is trying to decide how to address those issues this offseason, something tells me he'll remember those comments from Rolle and Phillips.

Sometimes it's OK to lay low when you've collapsed at the end of the season and blown an opportunity to make the playoffs. Rolle and Phillips apparently missed the memo.



Kenny Phillips talks about his comments regarding Tom Coughlin and Rex Ryan.

Final Word: Packers-Eagles

January, 7, 2011
1/07/11
4:00
PM ET
Wild-card Final Word: NY Jets-Indy | Baltimore-K.C. | N.O.-Seattle | G.B.-Philadelphia

Three nuggets of knowledge about Sunday's Eagles-Packers wild-card game:

[+] EnlargePhiladelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy
AP Photo/Scott A. MillerPhiladelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy had just five attempts for 24 yards in last year's wild-card game loss against the Cowboys.
Are Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg capable of committing to the running game? If they were ever going to do it, this would be the game. The Packers allow 4.7 rushing yards per game -- among the most generous in the league. LeSean McCoy is also a weapon in the passing game with 78 catches, and I think he needs at least 20 touches in this game. In the second half of the season, the Eagles rarely gave him more than 15 carries per game, and that needs to change against the Packers. The longer you keep Aaron Rodgers off the field, the better chance you have of winning. Rodgers' numbers over the past seven starts are pretty remarkable in terms of TD/INT ratio (16-2). The Eagles have a big-play offense, but they've shown the ability to sustain drives with the running game in the fourth quarter this season. Why not do some of that in the first half Sunday?

Can the Eagles' secondary do anything to slow down the Packers' receivers? You hear coaches talking all the time about "tackling the football." We know the Eagles are going to give up some plays against the Packers, but the defensive backs have to be fundamentally sound when it comes to wrapping up the Packers' wide receivers. Greg Jennings is about as good as it gets at running after the catch (RAC). The Eagles will concede some of the underneath passes, but they can't get caught gambling on interceptions. Asante Samuel's a Pro Bowl corner, but he's also a boom-or-bust player. He has to keep his eye on these receivers before looking back at the quarterback Sunday or he'll get beat on a double move. And the same thing goes for Dimitri Patterson on the other side. You better believe that Rodgers will be throwing to Patterson's man from the start.

The Eagles need to put points on the board early. Every team talks about setting the tone early, but the Eagles are one of the best teams in the league at making it happen. Eagles tight end Brent Celek told me last night that the Eagles have emphasized starting quickly all week. And this goes for both sides of the ball. I think Reid and Mornhinweg will try to send a message early in this game. If they can get DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin loose on a double move, it could put the Packers in a tough spot early. I realize the Packers are prolific on offense, but remember that they had to win one game this season 9-0, and they beat the Bears last Sunday by scoring only 10 points. If the Eagles can open the game with one of those patented big plays, the Packers might feel a little pressure. And yes, I'm predicting a deep ball to Jackson on the first play from scrimmage.

Quick Take: Packers at Eagles

January, 2, 2011
1/02/11
8:03
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Three things to know about next Sunday’s Packers-Eagles wild-card game:

1. Can the Philadelphia Eagles recover from two consecutive losses to end the season? I don't think a season-ending loss to the Cowboys on Sunday will have a major impact because the Eagles left most of their stars on the sideline. In fact, it was pretty impressive that a bunch of backups nearly handed the full-strength Cowboys a loss. But the loss to Minnesota last Tuesday is still baffling. The Eagles actually had something to play for in that game, and they didn't show up. If Michael Vick continues to recover from his quadriceps injury and DeSean Jackson's foot heals, the Eagles should regain their devastating speed. Resting the starters against the Cowboys was the right move. Now, the Eagles will face one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Aaron Rodgers. The Chicago Bears held the Packers down for much of Sunday's game, but Rodgers was able to connect with Greg Jennings on a gorgeous throw to set up the winning touchdown.

2. Michael Vick began his remarkable season against this team. When Kevin Kolb left the Eagles' season-opener against the Packers with a concussion, Vick was sensational in relief. He threw for 175 yards and a touchdown to go along with 103 rushing yards. He famously said after the game that he thought the Eagles would've won had he been on the field the entire time. Andy Reid ended up making Vick the starter, and the rest is history. But this week, the sixth-seeded Packers will be game-planning for Vick. Cornerback Charles Woodson may be headed to the Pro Bowl, but I believe that Tramon Williams has had the better season. The Packers' defensive backs will try to be physical with Jackson and Jeremy Maclin at the line of scrimmage. The Packers held Jay Cutler and the Bears to a field goal Sunday in bailing out what is normally a prolific offense. Why did the Bears play their starters when nothing was on the line? It's probably because they desperately wanted to keep a dangerous team such as the Packers out of the playoffs. I think the Eagles would've preferred playing the Giants a third time to playing the Packers again.

3. The Eagles' secondary is about to encounter perhaps the best group of receivers in the league. The Packers' receivers do a tremendous job of running after the catch, as the Giants learned last week. If Rodgers gets in a groove early, the Eagles could be in trouble. The Eagles have given up 31 passing touchdowns this season, which ranks them right behind the Cowboys in terms of worst in the NFC. Rodgers thrives on finding his receivers on crossing routes and watching them add 20 or 30 yards to the play. The Eagles' defensive backs must do a much better job tackling against this group. The Eagles have the offensive firepower to keep up in a shootout, but Reid doesn't want it to come to that. Philadelphia's biggest flaw is its defense, and the Packers have the weapons to expose it. Fortunately for the Eagles, the Packers' offensive tackles have struggled at times. This is the type game when defensive end Trent Cole's ability to get leverage will help in a big way. And the Eagles must figure out a way to keep defensive end Juqua Parker from playing too many snaps. D-end Darryl Tapp made some nice plays against the Cowboys on Sunday and the Eagles need him to continue his strong play. But I can't imagine a better first-round matchup than this. If you can think of the last No. 6 seed that looked this scary, let me know.

Rapid reaction: Packers 45, Giants 17

December, 26, 2010
12/26/10
7:49
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. –- A look at the New York Giants' loss against the Green Bay Packers.

What it means: The Giants wasted an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot and now have to rely on help from others to get into the postseason. They didn’t get much help from their defense, which could not stop the Packers and Aaron Rodgers. The Giants said they were fully recovered from their collapse last week against Philadelphia, but they quickly spotted Green Bay a 14-0 lead. The Giants tied it at 14 with 5:13 left in the second quarter but were outscored 24-3 from that point until 6:58 remained in the fourth. The Giants now are on a two-game losing streak and are in serious jeopardy of missing the postseason for the second straight season. Adding insult to injury, the Giants likely will be stuck in Green Bay for another night because of the snowstorm blanketing New York and New Jersey.

Mr. Rodgers' neighborhood: Last week, Michael Vick destroyed them. This week, Rodgers took apart the Giants' defense. Returning from a one-game absence due to his second concussion, Rodgers looked completely healthy and recovered. He sliced the Giants defense up, completing 25 of 37 passes for 404 yards and four touchdowns. It is Rodgers' first 400-yard passing game. The Giants’ secondary had trouble all day sticking with Green Bay’s Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and James Jones. Jennings burned the Giants for 7 receptions for 142 yards.

Recovery time: It took the Giants a quarter to snap out of their funk from the Philadelphia loss. They fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter. Jordy Nelson caught a quick pass and took it 80 yards after he got by Antrel Rolle at the line and sprinted past Deon Grant, who was out of position. Then Rodgers hit James Jones for a three-yard touchdown with 1:53 remaining in the first quarter. So if you were keeping count, the Giants were outscored 42-0 from the last eight minutes of the Philadelphia game to the end of the first quarter of the Packers game. The Giants tied the game at 14-14, but the slow start didn't help and it got Rodgers and the Packers' offense cooking.

Killer turnovers: As has been the case pretty much all season, the Giants couldn’t get out of their own way as turnovers absolutely killed them. Eli Manning threw an interception that led Green Bay’s second touchdown in the first quarter. And then both Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs fumbled in the third quarter. The Bradshaw fumble early in the third led to a Green Bay field goal. And the Jacobs fumble came in Green Bay territory when they were driving, and trailing 31-17. Manning finished with four interceptions. On an interception in the fourth quarter, cornerback Sam Shields appeared to have a foot out of bounds on the interception, but the Giants were out of challenges.

What's next: The Giants finish the season against the Washington Redskins. The Giants must win and hope for help to get into the playoffs. The simplest way is if Green Bay loses on Sunday and the Giants win, they are in. Unofficially, they might still be able to get in with a win and two losses by New Orleans starting on Monday night against Atlanta. The NFL will release official playoff scenarios later in the week. The Giants won’t have to deal with old friend Donovan McNabb with Rex Grossman now starting. But the Redskins haven’t quit on the season and could make life difficult for the Giants, who have beaten the Redskins in eight of their past nine meetings.

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