NFL Nation: 2011 Week 2 Rapid Reaction Rams-Giants

Rapid Reaction: Giants 28, Rams 16

September, 19, 2011
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Thoughts on the St. Louis Rams' loss to the New York Giants on "Monday Night Football" at MetLife Stadium:

What it means: The Rams fell to 0-2 for the fourth consecutive season thanks to sloppy play that prevented them from finishing drives. But with every other NFC West team also losing in Week 2, the Rams did not lose ground in the division standings. They should be able to build on some of the strides they made in the passing game, particularly in their ability to get the ball deep to Danario Alexander. Then again, the Rams' success in that area also reflected the weakened state of the Giants' secondary. That won't be repeatable against every opponent.

What I liked: The Rams followed through on their stated intent to throw the ball deep. Sam Bradford’s 68-yard completion to Alexander on the Rams’ first drive moved St. Louis into position for a field goal. Later in the quarter, Bradford’s sideline strike to Lance Kendricks from the no-huddle offense showed Bradford’s accuracy and Kendricks’ ability to get beat coverage. Alexander set up another field goal with a 35-yard reception. Alexander can be a difference-maker for the Rams if he can overcome knee troubles the way he did Monday night. On defense, Quintin Mikell picked off a pass and pressured Eli Manning. Chris Long collected his second sack of the season.

What I didn’t like: The Rams were sloppy in their execution and flawed in some of their offensive play selection, in my view. Rookie receiver Greg Salas, returning punts while veteran Danny Amendola recovers from a dislocated elbow, muffed one in the first quarter. The Giants recovered. The Rams threw a backward pass to Cadillac Williams on third-and-8, handing a touchdown to the Giants when Williams misplayed the ball and wasn’t aware the play remained live. Michael Boley returned it for the Giants. Even the usually reliable Donnie Jones shanked a punt for the Rams. Bradford was under pressure frequently and the Giants were wise to his bootleg tactics, repeatedly forcing Bradford to throw away the ball hastily. There were also too many tipped passes, including one that otherwise would have found Alexander for a touchdown. On defense, the Rams again weren't consistently strong against the run. The Giants probably should have run it more.

Bradford under duress: Bradford failed to complete any of his seven first-half passes when put under duress by the Giants. He become more productive in this area after halftime, completing six of his first eight attempts against added pressure, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to Alexander. Amendola was one receiver Bradford could trust to be in the right place, on time, and with sure hands. But with Alexander emerging, Bradford has found a more physically dynamic target.

No star power: Steven Jackson was inactive with a strained quadriceps. The Rams missed his physical running.

First-round debut: Rams rookie defensive end Robert Quinn got extensive playing time, even on early downs, and sacked Manning in the third quarter.

What's next: The Rams return home for games against Baltimore and Washington over the next two weeks. They are the only team in the league without a division game before Week 9.

Rapid Reaction: Giants 28, Rams 16

September, 19, 2011
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' eventful 28-16 victory over the St. Louis Rams on "Monday Night Football":

What it means: It's a win, plain and simple, and it's one the Giants needed to get. Were there issues with Eli Manning's accuracy and the secondary and more injuries at the receiver position? Oh, yeah, you betcha there were. But the Giants made enough big plays when it counted that they were able to take full advantage of a Rams team that couldn't get out of its own way. What it means is that the Giants are 1-1, and not 0-2, headed into next week's division showdown with the Eagles in Philadelphia.

Heart and soul: The Giants welcomed their best player and defensive leader, Justin Tuck, back after he missed the Week 1 game with a neck injury. The difference he made was clear. The Giants' defensive line may have played fine without him last week, but with all of the weaknesses they have right now in the secondary and at linebacker, they missed his difference-making plays up front.

Receiver shortage: Hakeem Nicks recovered from his midweek knee injury enough to make an early difference with a brilliant touchdown catch in the first quarter. But the Rams were able to contain him the rest of the way, and the final drive of the first half was costly to the Giants' receiving corps. Mario Manningham suffered a concussion making a key catch on a deep ball, and Domenik Hixon injured his knee catching the touchdown. Neither returned to the game. The good news is that Steve Smith will be active for Sunday's game. The bad news is that he'll be wearing an Eagles uniform.

Secondary depth: Aaron Ross has struggled since becoming a starting cornerback in place of the injured Terrell Thomas, and his struggles continued again Monday, to the point where he was benched for a time in the second half in favor of Michael Coe. The good news for Ross is that Coe was even worse, and he was back in the game soon thereafter -- even returning punts! The problem for the Giants in the secondary right now is a lack of depth. Ross is better suited to a backup role and finds himself overexposed as a starter. And with nothing behind him, the Giants have no one who can sub in for him or Corey Webster when they're struggling or need a break. They need to use Antrel Rolle as a nickel corner and mix and match with extra safeties. They need Prince Amukamara to hurry back, and hope.

What of the QB?: Manning was shaky early on, underthrowing Manningham on some deep balls and missing shorter-range throws. But he got into a rhythm and looked better late. I still think the Giants need to commit to the run game, but they didn't seem to want to do that fully, even though the Rams weren't stopping them. So we'll see what kind of offensive game plan they come up with against the Eagles. The passing game doesn't feel trustworthy right now.

Weak sisters: It appears as though playing the NFC West teams will be a benefit to teams in the NFC East this year. The division that failed to produce a .500 team in 2010 is off to a rough start once again, and is a combined 2-6 overall and 0-4 against the NFC East after two weeks. The Rams, a preseason pick by many to be a surprise team, have looked awful twice. Monday night they effectively handed the Giants two touchdowns while clearly outplaying them in the first half -- one with a muffed punt and one when Cadillac Williams failed to recognize that the lateral he'd dropped was a live ball and Michael Boley scooped it up and ran in for a touchdown. The Giants made some plays, but the Rams helped them win this game. It won't always be so easy.

What's next: The Giants travel to Philadelphia for a Sunday afternoon game against the Eagles, who have beaten them each of the last six times they've played. The Eagles have yet to announce who will start at quarterback, since starter Michael Vick left Sunday night's game with a concussion and backup Vince Young has yet to play since injuring his hamstring in the preseason. Mike Kafka could be the starter for the Eagles against the Giants' pass rush.