NFC East: Kurt Warner
The reason, according to the folks at ESPN Stats & Information who administer the Total QBR stat, is Griffin's fumble late in the first half with the Redskins leading just 14-3. Washington recovered the fumble, so there was no harm done, but the fact of the fumble with the game still in doubt does damage to the player's QBR. That play dropped Griffin's from 99.7 to 93.5 at that moment. None of the other guys -- Tom Brady in 2010, Drew Brees in 2009 or Kurt Warner in 2008 -- fumbled in their perfect-passer-rating games.
For the week, Griffin's Total QBR ranks third so far in the NFL behind those of only the Saints' Brees and the Patriots' Brady. For the season to date, Griffin's Total QBR of 70.7 ranks eighth in the league.
Some other NFC East-related Total QBR notes from Sunday:
The Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo had a total QBR of 19.5 in the first half Sunday against the Browns, but he had a Total QBR of 78.0 in the second half and overtime as the Cowboys came back to win.
The Philadelphia Eagles' Nick Foles posted a Total QBR of 7.2 on Sunday in Washington in the first NFL start of his career. That's the fourth-lowest by a rookie in his starting debut over the last five years, trailing only the debuts of Brandon Weeden, Ryan Tannehill and Jimmy Clausen. It's also worse than any game Michael Vick played over that same time span.
If you want a high Total QBR these days, you want to be playing quarterback against the Eagles' defense. Through the first six games of the season, opposing quarterbacks had a Total QBR of 28.2 against Philadelphia. But in the four games since the Eagles fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and replaced him with Todd Bowles, opponents have a league-high Total QBR of 87.1 to go with a staggering 78.4 completion percentage, 9.4 yards per pass attempt, 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Last week, former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner did some radio interviews in which he said that, given the dangers that are becoming more and more evident all the time now, he'd prefer that his sons not play football. And former NFL wide receiver Amani Toomer, who was a teammate of Warner's with the Giants in 2004, went nuts on Warner, ripping him for being "disingenuous" and "trashing" the game of football. You can read a summary of that foolishness here.
Now, in case you hadn't heard, Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora is now on Twitter -- a development about which everyone in the football world with the possible exception of Jerry Reese and the Reese family is and should be thrilled. Umenyiora decided this morning to weigh in on the whole Warner-Toomer deal. You can read his tweets here on his Twitter page, but this is what he said, tweet by tweet:
"By the Way, Kurt Warner is Right to think how he is thinking about his kids and football."
"Its an awesome game and has done a lot for me, but i know when im 45 there is a strong chance il be in a wheelchair."
"If i can avoid that for my son, i will. But if he wants to play i wont stop him"
"Love Toomer thats my Guy, but he is dead wrong for attacking Kurt like that"
First off, that last one. Umenyiora is 100 percent correct about Toomer, whose reaction to what Warner said was way beyond wrong. Toomer acted as though Warner had been touring the country making anti-football speeches and publishing op-ed articles in major newspapers decrying the game. In fact, all Warner did was answer a question on a radio show and give his honest opinion about his own family. Toomer was so far out of line in his reaction that what he said was a hundred times more troubling than what Warner said.
But as Umenyiora suggests, not only is Warner's opinion justified, it's an important one to bring to the forefront of this and all future discussions about the sport. Umenyiora expresses love for the game and doesn't seem to regret his conscious decision to have made it his life's work, but he seems to believe there's a "strong chance" it will land him in a wheelchair at a still-early point in his life. Those are very serious conflicting emotions, and the best way to allow those charged with reconciling them to do so is to encourage an open, honest and frank discussion of the attendant issues. I have no idea whether he's being overly dramatic with his wheelchair comment, but it's obviously something he's thought seriously about, and it's certainly worth considering in light of the current and growing emphasis by the NFL on player safety and the burgeoning awareness of the issues NFL players face in the years that follow the ends of their careers.
It's good to see a player as good and as prominent as Umenyiora -- one who was a teammate of Toomer's -- talking sense instead of talking tough. Because the important thing in all of this isn't whether you want your kids to play football or not. The important thing is that all sides and opinions need to be heard as football potentially confronts and existential crisis. This is about finding solutions, and figuring out the right and sensible way to move forward -- not about whether it's wrong to criticize the game just because you made money playing it. Here's hoping that what we hear from folks like Umenyiora helps folks like Toomer understand what this discussion is really about, and what the proper way is of conducting it.
Five nuggets of knowledge about Super Bowl XLVI:
Home sweet road: The New York Giants have won six straight playoff games on the road or at neutral sites dating to 2007, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Eli Manning has been the quarterback for all six of them, and his six career postseason wins away from home tie him for the record with four other quarterbacks, including the New England Patriots' Tom Brady. (The others are Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach and Joe Montana, so not a bad list.) Manning's ability to remain cool under all kinds of pressure has been well-documented, and his record in hostile or neutral environments in postseason games offers yet another example.
Hot at the right time: The Giants are the third team in history to reach the Super Bowl after failing to win at least 10 games in the regular season (not counting strike-shortened seasons). The previous two were the 2008 Arizona Cardinals and the 1979 Rams. Each of those teams lost its Super Bowl, so a Giants win would make them the first Super Bowl champion to enter the playoffs with fewer than 10 wins. The Giants are already the first team to reach the Super Bowl after being outscored by their opponents in the regular season. They scored 394 points and allowed 400 on their way to a 9-7 regular-season record. Those 2008 Cardinals (plus-1) and 1979 Rams (plus-14) were the teams with the worst point differential in Super Bowl history until this year.
Peyton's place: Eli Manning is playing the Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where his brother Peyton Manning has established himself as an all-time great quarterback with the Colts. Peyton had a head start on Eli and has fashioned a brilliant Hall of Fame career, but little brother's playoff numbers stack up with big brother's. Peyton Manning is 9-10 all time in postseason games with a 63.1 completion percentage and a 29-19 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Eli Manning is 7-3 in the postseason with a completion percentage of 59.8 and a TD-INT ratio of 16-8. If Eli throws three touchdowns on Sunday, it would give him 11 touchdown passes this postseason, which would tie the record for a single postseason set by Montana in 1989 and equaled by Kurt Warner in 2008.
Tough guys: According to ESPN Stats & Information's "Next Level" stats, the pass-catchers in this game are very difficult to tackle after they catch the ball. The stat they use is "yards after contact," which differs from "yards after catch." Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who's been struggling with an ankle injury since the AFC Championship Game, led the league with 290 yards after first post-catch contact. Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz was second with 245. Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker was third with 242 yards, and Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was fourth with 231.
Kurt Warner, who took two different teams to the Super Bowl and won one, was asked in an NFL Network interview if he thought this was a "make-or-break" year for Tony Romo in Dallas. Warner answered as though the question was foolish (which it is), asked who else Cowboys fans would rather have in Romo's place and said Romo is "safe in Dallas for a long time to come." That's called perspective, folks.
Calvin Watkins believes the Cowboys will and should keep Roy Williams around at least one more year as "an insurance policy" at wide receiver, especially given Dez Bryant's youth and status as a still-unknown quantity and the cap hit they'd take by cutting Williams. Seems to me he's a pretty good No. 3 receiver, even if the Cowboys obviously paid much more than that to get him.
New York Giants
Albany is upset that the Giants aren't going there for training camp this year, and Mark McGuire wonders if they'll ever come back. He fears "the power of inertia" and correctly points out the advantages the Giants will find in holding training camp at their home facility this year: "Better facilities (three grass fields, a turf field outdoors and a full-sized indoor field), less of a hassle, and certainly fewer logistical concerns that come with moving your base of operations 150 miles north for three or so weeks. In a word, easier." I'd say Mark's fears are well founded.
Giants.com takes a look at James Brewer, the project offensive lineman the Giants drafted in the fourth round. The analysis makes it clear, more than once, that the Giants in no way expect Brewer to play for them this year. They believe he has talent, though, and that he and Will Beatty are the tackle tandem of the Giants' future.
Plaxico Burress said in a recent interview that playing for the Eagles "would be a dream come true." He's working it hard, no doubt. He also mentioned the Jets and the Texans in the same interview, but he's been pretty clear since his release that his first choice is Philadelphia. Remains to be seen if the feeling is mutual.
And in case you weren't reading the blog on a Sunday, I did address the DeSean Jackson stuff here. Lots of people commented. Many, it would seem, did so without having actually read what I wrote, which happens. But I wanted to let our regulars know it was there in case you were busy with yard work or whatever Sunday and didn't know about the piece. I still think it's good that Jackson is speaking at schools about bullying, as he did again Saturday in Santa Monica. I just think it's a shame that he chose to so publicly use the same kind of language bullies use against their victims and failed to make the connection.
Mike Jones looks at the Redskins' running back situation and wonders if what they have is enough or if they need to go get a veteran to add to the mix. I think they will, but I think they'll look for a guy who can serve more as a backup and mentor than a No. 1-type back who'd take carries away from Ryan Torain and Roy Helu. Somebody asked about Brian Westbrook recently, and that might make sense here.
Oh, and according to this recent and hilarious item on Mike Shanahan, he loves Donovan McNabb. Says McNabb is one of the best guys to be around. So that's good to know. What I get out of this is that Shanahan would love to keep McNabb around in Washington to hang out with him and have dinner every now and then, but not to play quarterback for him.
That'll do it for today's edition of "Breakfast links." You know I'll be back with much more later on. See ya.
To survive in the NFC East, you usually must have the "go-for-it’’ mentality.
Redskins owner Dan Snyder usually goes for it in free agency or trades. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is always willing to go for the home run. The Eagles are consistently aggressive. The Giants have a great flair for personnel.
But NFC East teams were safer, maybe smarter, in the 2011 draft. The Cowboys and Eagles took offensive linemen in the first round. Both were safe, solid picks. The Eagles, in fact, passed up the chance to gamble on Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, who has off-the-field issues, for the safe selection of Baylor guard Danny Watkins. The Giants drafted to the ratings on their board instead of reaching for players at need positions.
If that wasn’t enough, the Redskins kept trading down and acquiring picks. The NFL may be struggling through the "Year of Living Dangerously" on the labor front, but the NFC East played it safe for three days.
The NFC East was starting to become Jurassic Park for offensive linemen. The Redskins and Cowboys let their offensive lines get too old and paid the price. The Giants are on the verge of doing the same. The Cowboys made the best moves, taking Tyron Smith, the 6-5, 307-pound offensive tackle from Southern Cal in the first round, and Missouri State guard David Arkin in the fourth. Smith’s selection was the best. Outsiders thought the Cowboys would jump at the chance to fix last year’s problems at cornerback, but Jones rightfully looked at 2010 as off seasons for talented cornerbacks Terence Newman, Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick. Whether Dallas plays Smith at left tackle or right is irrelevant. The Cowboys are younger at tackle with Doug Free, their top priority for re-signing, and Smith. It also helps that offensive line coach Hudson Houck comes from USC and knows how to take young, talented blockers and turn them into stars. Kudos to Jones for not being cute and trading down for more picks.
MOST SURPRISING MOVE
The Redskins skipped the chance to draft a quarterback even though they are going to move Donovan McNabb and don’t have Rex Grossman signed to a contract. Here’s why: John Beck might be their quarterback in 2011 unless something opens up in free agency or a trade. That’s right, John Beck, the former second-round pick of the Miami Dolphins who is 0-4 as a starter in the NFL. When Beck came into the league in 2007, he was considered a Kurt Warner-type quarterback, but like Warner, he’s already well-traveled. (He's with his third team.) There is a belief in Redskins Park that they don't need to rush into a quarterback as they did last year in making the McNabb trade. Knowing they weren’t drafting a quarterback, the Redskins worked on getting bigger players to fit their 3-4 defense.
FILE IT AWAY
The Redskins made five draft trades that enabled them to increase their number of draft choices from eight to 12, an unusual strategy for a franchise that loves to go for splash and flash. So file away the names of the players acquired and watch whether they become valuable role players or potential starters down the line. Ryan Kerrigan (left outside linebacker) and Jarvis Jenkins (defensive end) could be starters in the 3-4 defense, and third-rounder Leonard Hankerson is an interesting receiving prospect. The key name to file away is halfback Roy Helu from Nebraska, a fourth-round pick whom the Redskins actually traded up to get. The other names to file away are safety Dejon Gomes, wide receiver Niles Paul, running back Evan Royster, wide receiver Aldrick Robinson, cornerback Brandyn Thompson, guard Maurice Hurt, defensive end Markus White and defensive tackle Christopher Neild
Cowboys: Cliff Harris, free safety
Case for enshrinement: He was a finalist in 2004 and certainly deserves to be in the Hall. For years, safeties entering the league were compared to Cliff Harris. He was the rare player who was excellent against the pass but could also blow up running plays. He took Tom Landry's complicated flex defense and added his own spin. Harris, a highly intelligent player, finally made it into the club's hallowed Ring of Honor in 2004.
Harris studied opponents for hours at a time and he punished wide receivers who ventured over the middle. Cardinals great Larry Wilson, who's in the Hall of Fame, has said that Harris was the best safety he'd ever watched. Harris went to six Pro Bowls and he and Ken Houston were considered the best safeties from the '70s.
Case against enshrinement: It's tough to build a case against Harris. But the fact that he had only 29 career interceptions probably works against him. Wilson had 52 and Houston finished with 49. Harris walked away from the game after the '79 season when he was still going to Pro Bowls (age 31). I'm sure he could have collected 10 to 15 more interceptions.
And those Super Bowl losses to the Steelers in the '70s didn't help matters. If the Cowboys win one of those games, they probably would have two or three more players in the Hall than they have. I think Harris would've been one of those players.
Bottom line: In a lot of ways, Harris redefined how the safety position was played, and that should be rewarded by the selection committee.
Best player who will never make it: For my money, it's Drew Pearson. His stats don't hold up in this era, but he played a huge role in Roger Staubach's success. And though he had only a couple of 1,000-yard seasons, he made clutch catches seemingly all the time. Ask Redskins fans from the '70s if they think Pearson belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Eagles: Donovan McNabb, quarterback
Claim to fame: Took over as the full-time starter in 2000 and took the Eagles to five NFC title games and one Super Bowl in that decade. Has been selected to six Pro Bowls and has the fourth lowest interception percentage of all time. Became the first NFL quarterback to throw 30 touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions in 2004. The best quarterback in the history of the Eagles.
Case for enshrinement: His numbers compare favorably to Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, who never won a Super Bowl. And McNabb put up monster numbers with average to subpar wide receivers (except for Terrell Owens).
DeSean Jackson was a rookie when McNabb led the Eagles to the NFC title game in '08. Other than the Patriots, the Eagles were the most dominant team of the past decade and McNabb played a huge role in their success. McNabb also compares favorably to Hall of Famer Steve Young, although he's missing one very important piece of jewelry. McNabb's one of only six quarterbacks to pass for 25,000 yards and rush for 3,000. And his lower-body strength still makes him one of the most difficult quarterbacks in the league to sack. McNabb's lost some of his athleticism, but he still has a cannon for an arm.
Case against enshrinement: Those five NFC title games we discussed? Well, the Eagles lost four of them. And it's not as if McNabb strung together excellent performances in those games. He'll also be remembered for throwing three interceptions against the Patriots in the Super Bowl following the '04 season. It was the beginning of the end of the McNabb-T.O. relationship.
I think McNabb will always be appreciated more by the national media more than the folks in Philly. Every game has been dissected, so Eagles fans simply got to know him a little too well. His career has honestly been more consistent than Kurt Warner's. But Warner has the ring and he finished strong with the Cardinals.
Bottom line: Another trip to the Super Bowl would help his cause immensely, but he's already in the Canton conversation.
Best player who will never make it: Wide receiver Harold Carmichael's numbers might not look special compared to Randy Moss and Owens, but he was an elite receiver from his era. His numbers completely trump Hall of Famer Lynn Swann's. Carmichael finished with 254 more receptions and 28 more touchdowns than Swann. Of course, Swann has the four rings and that's the biggest reason he's in Canton.
Giants: Tiki Barber, running back
Case for enshrinement: He finished strong with five consecutive seasons of at least 1,200 yards rushing. And his 15,632 yards from scrimmage (rushing and receiving) ranked him 10th on the league's all-time list upon his retirement following the '06 season. In 154 regular-season games, Barber averaged 101.5 yards from scrimmage per game. That puts him in an elite group with the likes of Walter Payton and Barry Sanders.
Barber led the franchise in all-time receptions with 586 at the time of his retirement. And he was still on top of his game when he walked away after '06 -- as evidenced by a 200-yard performance against the Redskins. He was the Giants' leading rusher in 80 consecutive games from 2002 until 2006, which speaks to his consistency.
Case against enshrinement: Super Bowl rings talk, and Barber retired a season before the Giants broke through in '07. And he certainly left a lot of yards on the table when he walked away at age 31. There's a chance that he could've had at least two more highly productive seasons. Like Emmitt Smith, he had the ability to avoid the big hits that knock running backs out of games. Barber was one of the best backs in the league over his final five seasons, but I suspect that won't be enough. And it doesn't help that Ricky Watters is ahead of him on the all-time rushing list. Watters isn't getting in the Hall -- and Barber probably will meet the same fate. By the way, can any of you make a case against Strahan? I'd be interested to see what that looks like. I guess you could point out the fact that Kevin Greene has nearly 20 more career sacks. But that's about as far as I got.
Bottom line: Barber's early retirement probably cost him a shot at the Hall.
Best player who will never make it: I realize that Phil Simms has said he wouldn't elect himself, but I think he deserves honorable mention. He took a beating his first few years in the league and then had to deal with Bill Parcells, a man who chews up quarterbacks. What Simms did in Super Bowl XXI was remarkable. His 22-of-25 performance earned him the Super Bowl MVP. Simms was a huge part of Parcells' success with the Giants, so I'd have no problem with him being in the Hall of Fame.
Redskins: Gary Clark, wide receiver
Case for enshrinement: The thing that always jumps out at me is that Clark had 65 touchdowns in only 167 games. Art Monk's in the Hall of Fame with 68 touchdowns in 224 games. But I don't want to turn this into an anti-Monk argument. I think they probably both deserve to be in the Hall.
The fact that Clark was the top receiver on what I thought was the best Redskins team ever ('91) holds a lot of weight with me. He caught 70 passes for 1,340 yards and 10 touchdowns that season. Clark also had seven catches for 114 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl win over the Bills.
Clark was a player who inspired all of his teammates. And as of a couple of years ago, he was still inspiring the Redskins. Santana Moss told me about a time when Clark showed up to practice and told him to kick it into gear. Moss went on to finish the season strong after that talk in '07. Of all those great players from the Gibbs I era, Clark's the guy who always stands out to me. Perhaps he's hurt by the fact that Monk and Ricky Sanders were both so good.
Case against enshrinement: He simply didn't do it for long enough. And one of his Super Bowl rings came in a strike-shortened season. If he'd played 16 games in the strike-shortened '87 season, I believe Clark would have had another 1,300-yard season. Those were pretty rare in those days, but he made it look easy.
Clark got a late start because he spent a couple of seasons in the USFL. Those are two years he could've put up big numbers for the Redskins in the mid-'80s. But to nearly reach 11,000 yards in a relatively short career (compared to Monk's) is pretty remarkable.
Bottom line: Despite his brilliance, he just doesn't have the numbers to get in.
Best player who will never make it: I hope I'm wrong about this one, but it's unlikely left tackle Joe Jacoby will enter the Hall. The Hogs finally have a representative with Russ Grimm. I think those dominant teams of the '80s that blew open holes for John Riggins deserve more, but it probably won't happen. Jacoby was a trailblazer of sorts because he didn't get in a three-point stance on obvious passing situations. He was one of the first players to do that, and it soon caught on around the league. I think it's pretty much a wash when you put Grimm and Jacoby next to each other, but that's just me. I'm also a big fan of defensive end Charles Mann's work in the '80s and early '90s.
Now, let's hear some of your arguments.
Holmgren isn't scheduled to address reporters until Friday, so no one really knows why he was working the room. But knowing that he's one of the most interesting -- and patient -- guys in the NFL, I decided to pepper him with a few Donovan McNabb questions. Holmgren recently hired former Eagles general manager Tom Heckert to take over the same role in Cleveland. There's been speculation that the Browns might try to make a play for McNabb or even his backup, Kevin Kolb.
Of course, Holmgren can't field that type of question because it could be viewed as tampering. But I did ask him what he thought about the fact that a lot of Eagles fans are ready to see McNabb go.
"I'm astounded by that," Holmgren told me. "I'm like most of the folks around the league. With all that he's done for that team over the long haul...I guess part of it's that he hasn't been able to get over the hump [and win a Super Bowl]."
I asked Holmgren whether he thinks McNabb could play as long as Brett Favre or Kurt Warner, and he sort of hesitated.
"It's looking like, physically, he could play a long time," said Holmgren. "But he's a guy that when he loses the ability to move around, it'll probably be near the end."
I asked Holmgren whether Heckert was trying to convince him to start signing Eagles players.
"Heckert's driving me crazy," joked Holmgren.
It was obvious that Holmgren has a huge appreciation for McNabb's body of work. Does that mean he's willing to trade the No. 7 pick overall for McNabb? That seems pretty far-fetched to me. Heckert is a big fan of Kolb's but it's unlikely the Eagles would trade him at this point. Even if the Browns were willing to give up a second-round pick for Kolb, I still don't think the Eagles do it.
"Everything is going to come up that involves me," McNabb said. "It seems like every offseason involves Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb, so we're going to hear about that the whole offseason. So get ready: Is Brett retiring? What's he going to do? And in Philly Donovan McNabb ... so get ready for that. But I don't get involved in all that."
Well, it's sort of hard not to get involved when you're a key figure in one of the most compelling storylines of the offseason. McNabb and Favre will be linked for different reasons this time around. If Favre truly walks away (riiiight), then Brad Childress will likely make a play for McNabb. But for now, McNabb wants to reiterate that he works in South Philly.
"We can win in Philly," McNabb said. "There's a place I want to be. It's the NovaCare Center. That's in Philadelphia. One NovaCare Way, where the Eagles practice and then they eat cafeteria food and they watch film and we eat and we have fun."
So we finally got to the heart of this saga. McNabb can't walk away from the cafeteria food at the NovaCare Center.
Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb has a home in nearby Chandler, Ariz., and he has plenty of friends on the Cardinals roster. I know that head coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff have immense respect for McNabb. It's hard to imagine the Eagles giving up McNabb for anything less than a first-round pick, but let's keep our eye on this situation.
If we're saying that Minnesota and Arizona are both in play for McNabb, I think he would prefer playing for the Cardinals. I realize the Vikings have more weapons, but playing in Glendale would much better for McNabb and his family -- especially if he received a new three-year contract.
I've been mentioning the Browns as a potential suitor because their new general manager Tom Heckert knows McNabb so well from his time with the Eagles. We'll keep you posted throughout the offseason.
The Cardinals aren't supposed to travel across the country and beat the Giants in the Meadowlands -- yet that's exactly what happened. The Giants have lost two consecutive games and that cushion they had on the Eagles and Cowboys in the NFC East has all but vanished.
Since leading his team to a Super Bowl in 2007, quarterback Eli Manning has usually bounced back from poor performances, but he's put back-to-back clunkers together against the Saints and Cardinals. He had a chance to atone for his poor effort late in the fourth quarter Sunday, but he floated a ball on the sideline that was intercepted by Cardinals cornerback Antrel Rolle.
The Cardinals did a nice job of bringing pressure up the middle and Manning rarely had an opportunity to step into throws. He spent so much time at the line of scrimmage checking out of plays, that he never seemed to get in a rhythm. His 62-yard touchdown pass to rookie wideout Hakeem Nicks gave the Giants a 14-7 lead in the first half, but the Giants weren't able to build on that lead.
The Cardinals' secondary was banged up in the second half, which should have allowed Manning to feast on inexperienced players. Instead, he went at veterans Bryant McFadden and Rolle. The Giants trailed 24-14 in the fourth quarter, but then they started moving the ball. They could have made it 24-21 but wide receiver Mario Manningham dropped a certain touchdown pass. It's a disturbing trend with Manningham -- and it's going to eventually earn him a spot on the bench.
The Cardinals held Steve Smith in check most of the evening but he broke through late in the game. He made a brilliant catch to keep a drive alive late in the game and he probably should have drawn an interference penalty on the play before Rolle made the game-sealing interception. Cardinals cornerback Michael Adams was covering Smith in the middle of the field and he never turned around to actually make a play on the ball. He was face-guarding Smith -- and it worked.
The Giants defense did a nice job of taking away the deep ball and pressuring Kurt Warner. All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald finished with six catches for 83 yards, but the Giants can certainly live with that. I thought the Giants' defense played well enough to win, but the offense simply made too many mistakes. The fumble by Ahmad Bradshaw with just over four minutes left in the game was an absolute killer. Bradshaw had just rumbled for 14 yards when he was stripped of the ball.
The Giants would have had the ball in Cardinals territory with plenty of time to work with. Instead, they needed a desperation drive starting near their own goal line. Running back Brandon Jacobs returned to his punishing ways in running for 76 yards on 13 carries, but the Cardinals did a really nice job of bottling up Bradshaw. In fact, the run he fumbled on was his longest carry of the game.
The thing that would worry me the most about the Giants is the fact that the Cardinals' offensive line pushed them around in the fourth quarter. Defensive end Justin Tuck had to leave the field because of an injury and suddenly the Giants were on their heels.
It's acceptable to go on the road and lose to the undefeated Saints. Losing at home to a team from the NFC West is not a good sign for this team.
In time, the Giants will get cornerback Aaron Ross (hamstring) and linebacker Michael Boley (knee) back on the field. But for now, this is a vulnerable team. It's hard to imagine a three-game losing streak by a Tom Coughlin team, but it's definitely something that could happen with a game in Philly looming.
The fact that the Cowboys won a big game against a quality NFC opponent further reduces the Giants' margin for error. This team is having an identity crisis right now, and they need to get it figured out.
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Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 7.
|Ezra Shaw/Getty Images|
|The Cowboys will need to pressure Atlanta's Matt Ryan on Sunday.|
The highly anticipated debut of Skins playcaller Sherm Lewis is upon us. OK, that's probably an overstatement. No one knows what to expect from a guy who hasn't coached in almost five years and isn't familiar with the Redskins' personnel. Redskins owner Dan Snyder and his right-hand man Vinny Cerrato have become one of America's great comedy duos -- and Jim Zorn is their No. 1 prop. I think this game has disaster written all over it for the Skins. The Eagles are coming off a dreadful performance against the Raiders. I think this will look a lot more like the team that made it to the NFC title game. In my mind, the Redskins' only hope is to score on defense. I think Jason Campbell will play well, but there are not many quarterbacks who can overcome this type of adversity.
Does anyone know what happened to the Spread Eagle offense? Andy Reid left Michael Vick and the Wildcat formation against the Raiders. In past weeks, he'd claimed to be saving some things. I have no clue why you wouldn't have pulled out all the stops to escape the Black Hole with a win. Reid gets enamored with his own offensive genius at times. He needs someone on the sideline Sunday reminding him to feed the ball to Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy. At least make the Redskins respect the hint of a running game. And for goodness' sakes, let Vick go out there and do something.
It's weird how we've pretty much buried this Giants-Cardinals game. Before the season, this appeared to be a pretty entertaining matchup. But then the Cardinals have sort of staggered around early in the season and the Giants were hammered by Drew Brees and the Saints. I think Bill Sheridan is going to bring just about everyone in an attempt to get some hits on Kurt Warner. Brees didn't have to worry about a pass-rush. You can't give Warner time to drop back and play catch with Larry Fitzgerald. In fact, I would have Fitzgerald bracketed at all times. The Cards aren't going to run the ball. Try to take Fitzgerald out of the game. That's easier said than done, but I can see the Giants having a big bounce-back game here. But if you let Warner have too much time, he'll treat the Giants like Brees did -- and it wasn't pretty.
First, the Cowboys have to slow down Burner Turner. Cowboys coach Wade Phillips has a healthy respect for Falcons running back Michael Turner, who isn't off to a fast start this season. The Cowboys have to be more disciplined than usual in their run blitzes. I've seen safety Ken Hamlin race right past running backs -- especially when they play for the Ravens. But if you get too aggressive against Turner, he'll make you pay by cutting on a dime. Fortunately, inside linebacker Keith Brooking knows a thing or two about the Falcons' offense. The former Falcons Pro Bowl player will be jacked up for this one -- and it wouldn't surprise me if he ends up with 13 tackles and a sack. He's been one of the biggest positives for the Cowboys. This team has to learn how to defend its new stadium. So far, it doesn't seem like that tough a place to play.
The Giants have spent part of the week trying to figure why they couldn't put any pressure on Saints quarterback Drew Brees in Sunday's 48-27 loss. And it's not like Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner's been a sitting duck this season. Giants defensive end Justin Tuck told reporters this week that Warner is unloading the ball -- snap to release -- in 2.2 seconds, which is pretty impressive.
On Thursday, Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora vowed to tweak his approach in order to put more heat on the quarterback. He thinks he's been a bit too conservative in his approach and plans to turn it loose against the Cardinals on Sunday.
"Sometimes when you get into that mind frame that you’re going to rush, you just have to rush,” Umenyiora told reporters Thursday. “You can’t be sitting over there taking what they give you. You have to dictate to them exactly what you’re going to do. I don’t want to be sitting there thinking it’s a run when it’s a pass. I just want to take off, which is what I’m definitely going to try to start doing a lot more of."The Cardinals are a much more predictable team than the Saints in that they don't try to run the ball much. The Giants can't completely blow off the running game, but I think they can be a little more aggressive against the play-action game. It also helps that the Giants have good memories from their last game against the Cardinals.
- Paul Schwartz from the New York Post says the Giants could play the "what if?" game with all their injuries -- but it would be pointless.
- Tom Rock of Newsday wonders if the Giants' once-vaunted pass rush can get to Kurt Warner. Special shoutout to defensive tackle Barry Cofield, who recently admitted to being a daily Beast enthusiast.
- Apparently Giants beat writers are now fascinated by how quickly quarterbacks release the ball after taking the snap. Kurt Warner's at 2.2 seconds, according to Giants defensive end Justin Tuck.
- Ralph Vacchiano of Daily News fame has a similar story on getting to Warner.
- Tara Sullivan from The Record talks about the Giants' interception drills Wednesday.
- Antonio Pierce left practice with a stiff back Wednesday, according to Vacchiano.
- Levi Jones thinks a roster spot with the Redskins is a "golden opportunity." All together now: hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.
- Michael Wilbon has a really good column in The Washington Post pointing out that Sherman Lewis isn't the clown that he's being made out to be in some circles. But Wilbon's conclusion confused a little bit. It's like Lewis is being forced to do this job against his will. I get the fact that he was passed over for a head-coaching jobs years ago, but if he didn't want this job, he could've simply said no.
- Rick Maese and Jason Reid teamed up to write the Steve Largent story for the Post.
- Longtime Hashmarks and Beast supporter Ryan O'Halloran also has a take on the Largent comments.
- If you're looking for hard-hitting analysis of the Skins situation, this writer really seems to be on point.
- Jason Campbell explains where he got in trouble against the Chiefs.
- Mike Wise of the Post sat down with John Kent Cooke. Fascinating interview.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
OK, I admit it. I was in charge of consulting with coaches, scouts and players to come up with two receivers for our all-decade offense, which was released Tuesday. And yes, I may have been swayed down the stretch by Keyshawn Johnson. But honestly, I think Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt deserved to be on the team ahead of T.O. and Randy Moss. Harrison and Peyton Manning formed one of the greatest duos in league history. Harrison's numbers were staggering.
|Hunter Martin/Getty Images|
|It was a tough choice to leave receiver Terrell Owens off the all-decade offense.|
Holt's six-year stretch from 2000-05 is what everyone kept pointing to. He had at least 1,300 yards in each of those seasons. Just on numbers alone, though, it's tough to argue with T.O. But with T.O., it's difficult for people to only focus on the numbers.
The NFC East didn't land anyone on the all-decade offense, which is hard to believe given the division's stature in the league. But you have to remember that the Giants, Cowboys and Redskins had some lean years early in the decade. The Eagles have been the most consistent team of the decade followed by the Giants, Cowboys and Redskins. You could probably put the Skins ahead of the Cowboys based on that 2005 playoff win, though.
Larry Allen was certainly the best guard of the 1990s, but he'd started fade by the time Bill Parcells arrived in 2003. Can you think of any NFC East players who deserved consideration? Jason Witten is the best tight end in football, but he didn't get started until 2003. It's really tough to argue with Tony Gonzalez.
Donovan McNabb should at least be in the discussion at quarterback, although there's no way he beats out Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Is he the third-best quarterback of the decade or should that honor go to Drew Brees? Kurt Warner's making a strong run at the end of the decade. Big Ben has to be in the discussion with the two Super Bowl rings.
OK, feel free to come up with an all-decade NFC East team. I'd go with McNabb at quarterback, T.O. and Plaxico Burress at the receivers (with Santana Moss in the discussion). I like Mike Sellers at fullback. Give me Witten over Shockey at tight end. And I'll take Chris Samuels and Tra Thomas as the offensive tackles -- even though they both play on the left side. Allen's the obvious choice at guard, but who do you take at the other guard spot? Ron Stone went to a couple of Pro Bowls early in the decade with the Giants and Chris Snee's one of the best in the league right now. I'll let you guys argue that one. Jermane Mayberry anyone?
Andre Gurode's the starting center -- unless you guys shoot me down. Shaun O'Hara has come on strong, but he hasn't been with the Giants as long as Gurode's been with the Cowboys. I'm going with Tiki Barber at running back, although Brian Westbrook has certainly had a nice decade. Who are we missing?
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
In case you missed it, we're now doing a Saturday mailbag each week. Here's a sample of something that came up over the weekend:
Tsbein is one of our regulars in the "comments" section. And yes, I do read them: Eli has been "plagued," and I say that sarcastically, by his good team. He has the RBs, the O-line, the defense and had a top WR. Even Fran Tarkenton slighted Eli while trying to bash Favre. Since there are no stars as WRs, do you think a big year from Eli could garner him some nationwide respect?
Mosley: Tsbein, the second part of your question was quite astute, but we have a strict 300-word limit on questions in the mailbag! But seriously, I think it's ridiculous that Eli Manning still has so many doubters. He was one of my MVP candidates heading into December last season. I think the loss of Burress certainly hurt his production, but the defensive breakdowns had more to do with the team's "collapse" than anything else. Manning led his team to a world title in 2007. I'll never forget that when analyzing his career. And unlike some critics, I don't try to poke holes in that late-season run. He struggled down the stretch in '08, but overall, he had another excellent season. I have immense respect for Fran Tarkenton's career, but there's one thing missing that Eli already has. But in all honestly, Tarkenton's work on "That's Incredible" probably made up for not having a Lombardi.
Keep the e-mails and letters coming.
Update: You guys are a tough crowd this morning! I was just linking to the mailbag to let folks know it's something we're doing every week now. But my groundbreaking "copy and paste" approach has frustrated several loyal readers. Let me add this opinion on Manning to "freshen" things up a bit: I think he's hands down the best quarterback in the NFC East -- and perhaps the entire NFC. Would you rather have an aging Kurt Warner or Manning? Is it a no-brainer that you'd take Drew Brees over Eli Manning? We've seen Manning flourish on the game's biggest stage. That has to mean something. Let's see what he can do with a full offseason of preparing for life without Plaxico Burress. If he can take this team to a Super Bowl without Plax, then many of his doubters will finally be silenced.
OK, I have some more copy and pasting to do. See you in the noon hour.