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Grades are in for the Jets Week 17 win over the Bills


Mark Brunell is living proof that 40 is the new 20 as the eighteen year NFL veteran tossed two touchdowns and earned a 86.8 quarterback rating. Brunell directed a Gang Green passing game that served second fiddle to a punishing ground and pound attack. Playing in relief of starter Mark Sanchez, quarterbacks Mark Brunell and Kellen Clemens combined to go 7 of 14 for 116 yards, two passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and one interception. The passing game was efficient and solid, but the running game stole the show.

Grade: B


Move out of the way LaDanian Tomlinson; take a seat Shonn Greene, rookie tailback Joe McKnight has arrived. The first year back out of USC tallied 158 rushing yards on 32 carries along with a 25 yard punt return to boot. Buffalo’s worst ranked rush defense lived up to the billing, as they had no answers for Gang Green’s ground and pound game which hung up 276 rushing yards on Sunday. Even fullback John Conner aka the “Terminator” joined the parade as his 16 yard touchdown rumble in the fourth quarter put the finishing touches on the Jets 38-7 romping of Buffalo.

Grade: A


Prior to Sunday the Jets ranked last in the NFL in interceptions; with the defense hauling in only eight picks through 15 games. Gang Green victimized Buffalo’s sophomore quarterback Brian Brohm limiting him to a laughable 17.9 quarterback rating. Marquis Cole snatched a pair of interceptions, the first of which he returned 37 yards for a touchdown. Safety Dwight Lowery and Calvin Pace chipped in with one interception apiece; ravaging a downtrodden Bills passing attack.

Grade: A


Buffalo’s run game was non-existent as tailback Fred Jackson was denied his second consecutive 1000 yard season needing 102 yards to reach that plateau. Jackson carried 13 times for 35 yards with a long scamper of six yards on the afternoon. Rookie sensation C.J. Spiller was equally unimpressive taking three carries for five yards as the Jets bottled up Buffalo’s run game.

Grade: A


Placekicker Nick Folk made good on his only field goal attempt on the day of 28 yards, while punter Steve Weatherford dropped four of his six punts inside the 20 yard-line. The Jets were superb in kick return coverage limiting Buffalo to a 17.6 average on six returns. C.J. Spiller, a first year running back/returner out of Clemson, and special teams extraordinaire, took a pair of punt returns for 22 yards each. Overall, a fantastic job by the special teams of dominating the field position battle.

Grade: A


Head Coach Rex Ryan elected to rest most of his starters, allowing Mark Sanchez to play only the first possession of the game, a drive during which he did not attempt a pass. The guys in headsets utilized Brad Smith as a dynamic Wildcat quarterback as his opening drive run of 40 yards sparked the Jets rushing game. New York earned a dominating victory while they were able to keep key players on both sides of the ball fresh; kudos to Gang Green’s coaching staff.

Grade: A

Take it to the Banks

Washington returner Brandon Banks is having a phenomenal rookie campaign. The diminutive wide receiver was undrafted out of Kansas State, but has shown breakneck speed; forcing coaches and general managers to second guess their decision to pass up on the young upstart this past NFL draft. Banks is averaging nearly 29 yards per kickoff return and has a 96 yard touchdown return to his credit. The 23 year old stands only five foot seven inches tall (listed at five foot seven) providing him the ability to vanish behind his bulky and mammoth blocking team until he finds a crease in the coverage and is off in a flash.

Giants’ special teams coordinator Tom Quinn provided his assessment of Washington’s outstanding rookie kick returner:

“He’s fast, very fast. He’s hard to find back there, in the wedge with big guys in front, it’s hard to find him. He’s spitting out of there fast.”

Punter Matt Dodge has been working on his directional punts this week in practice in order to limit Bank’s space to work, thereby neutralizing his speed. Quinn didn’t rule out the possibility of resorting to squib kicks if Big Blue cannot contain Washington’s rookie returner early on.

“You try to keep it out of his hands as best you can, exclaimed Quinn. {He’s} obviously proven what he can do and he’s shown the same thing at the college level when we evaluated {him} there. You try as best you can to move the ball around on him. But he plays it well off the ground on kickoffs and he’s fast enough to get to wherever you punt the ball. “

A crucial aspect of New York’s kick and punt coverage will be their discipline in pursuit of Banks, wrapping him up and tackling by committee.

“It’s how you fit their return that’s the most important thing, noted Quinn. Staying in lanes, attacking the wedge, proper wedge fits, and getting guys to gang tackle. Don’t give him an open seam he can attack.”

In a game that may very well boil down to a field position battle, New York does not underestimate the importance of their special teams’ coverage unit. Coach Quinn is confident that his unit understands their coverage assignments; now it’s just a matter of executing the game plan come Sunday.

Osi On Fans "They Can Do Whatever They Want"

Defensive end Osi Umenyiora admitted that he is not as outspoken as fellow line mate Justin Tuck nonetheless; he lamented Big Blue’s sluggish start last Sunday all the same.
“We know better than we came out and played last week,” Umenyiora said. “There is no excuse for that. Given the situation and the fact that it was a game that we had to win, there was no excuse for coming out and playing the way we did. Guys didn’t really realize that until they saw how serious we were at halftime.”

Umenyiora talked about his own half-time speech last season, quipping that since then he has opted to defer to other vocal leaders.

“Last time I did it was the Denver game last year, but that didn’t end too well,” joked Umenyiora. “That ended bad, very, very bad. I’m not really that type of person. I don’t like to talk and do all that stuff. Whenever it’s called upon or I feel like something needs to be said, then I’ll say it, and that was definitely one of those situations.”

New York is in the right frame of mind; not underestimating the importance of their upcoming divisional contest with Washington. Big Blue is hopeful they won’t require a locker room tirade to fire them up this week.

“No question it was a lesson learned,” noted Umenyiora. “I don’t think it’s going to take people getting up and speaking the way we did for us to come out and perform the way we did that second half. “

As New York marched into the tunnel at halftime against Jacksonville, they exited to a chorus of boos raining down from fans. In his seventh year with the Giants, Umenyiora understands the passionate fan base in New York, noting that they demand nothing short of excellence.

“I’m used to it,” commented Umenyiora. “That’s just the way fans are, but they have every right to be like that. They’re paying $120 dollars a ticket to come watch us play, and you can’t go out there and stink it up like that, especially not in New York. As long as they’re paying to come watch us play, they can boo and they can do whatever they want to do. It’s well within their rights to do that.”

Adding Fewell To The Fire

In his first year as the Giants defensive coordinator, Perry Fewell has revitalized a pass rush that brought Big Blue a Super Bowl just three short seasons ago. New York’s season sack total of 32 puts them third in the league tied with Green Bay and St. Louis; trailing league leading San Diego by only two sacks. In addition, the Giants rank number two in overall defense and holds claim to the league’s best pass defense yielding merely 186 yards per game.
That may not be good news for Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who is on pace to throw more touchdowns than interceptions this season (11 touchdowns, 13 interceptions through 11 games). Fewell purports that #5’s struggles are a result of his continuing acclimation to a new offense.

“Even though he’s grasped the system, it’s not the one like he was comfortable with in Philly, commented Fewell. “I still see the savvy veteran quarterback that has a strong arm and he’s able to break you down. If he wants to scramble, then he can look all over the field and throw the ball from one side of the field to the other.”

McNabb’s elevated interception total does not fall solely on the quarterback’s shoulders and according to Fewell, McNabb’s supporting cast is not as talented or proven as in years past.

“I think some of it is his receivers not being at the right spot at times," suggested Fewell. “Some of the times, he throws some bad balls. He has learned a new offensive system and everyone is not in the right spots and the ones he expects them to be in. He’s had some receivers that have changed positions and he doesn’t have a consistent receiving corps like Eli.”

Fewell plans to utilize multiple fronts and disguise coverages to add to McNabb’s confusion and disrupt his receivers’ route adjustments.

“It’s not like he’s not the general of the offense, but he doesn’t know where everyone is deployed and where everybody is," noted Fewell." He has made some mistakes as far as that is concerned from what I can see on tape.”

Fewell said that despite McNabb’s struggles this season, he has the intangibles to pose a dangerous threat to New York on Sunday.

“I see the veteran leader as a quarterback who’s willing to carry his football to if he has to," said Fewell.

Giants Notes: Friday Before The Redskins

Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was not a participant in practice for the third consecutive day. He attended practice and was seen playing catch on the sideline, but did not run or participate in any drills. Nicks has been ruled out for this week against Washington…Steve Smith was in pads participating in team drills, but the Giants have listed Smith as doubtful.
Left tackle David Diehl practiced in pads and participated in individual drills. He has been officially listed as doubtful for this Sunday. Coach Coughlin addressed Diehl’s progress. Bu saying “He’s working.” It might be an uphill battle for Diehl, who has been battling chronic hamstring issues this season. “We’ll see about the ready part. He’s working,” commented Coughlin.

Center Sean O’Hara was at practice but participated in strictly individual drills….Guard Shawn Andrews is officially ruled out, battling severe back pain. Coughlin has not seen any progress from Andrews. “No. Still struggling,” noted Coughlin…Coughlin commented on the status of defensive back Will Blackmon saying that “He’s made progress, but not as fast as we’d like.” Blackmon will miss this Sunday’s game as he has been ruled out.

Gilbride Targets Hall

DeAngelo Hall is a marked man, as he should be. The all-pro cornerback has amassed five picks on the year, accounting for half of Washington’s season total. Remarkably, Hall intercepted Jay Cutler four times during the Redskins 17-14 week seven win over the Bears.
Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride knows all too well of Hall’s proclivity for making game-changing plays.

“You’re certainly appreciative of his ability to intercept the ball”, exclaimed Gilbride. “He has very good ball skills. He’s like a lot of those terrific corners that will gamble, they’ll take a chance, sometimes they make a play, sometimes you make a big play on them because of their risk taking.”

In six career games against Big Blue, Hall has collected four interceptions and 11 pass deflections. Gilbride will be watching Hall intently looking for the opportune time to exploit Hall’s aggressiveness.

“He’s one of those guys that has the ability, if you throw it incorrectly or he guesses right, he’s going to catch it,” commented Gilbride. “You’re certainly very cognizant of where he’s at. And you should be attentive to where he’s at on any particular play. If cheats on one then we can take advantage it, or maybe just stay away.”

Nicks Close to Return

Two weeks ago, Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks’ leg required emergency surgery which sidelined him last week against Jacksonville and will put him on the shelf again this upcoming Sunday. Nicks was not a participant at practice but plans to resume light running next Wednesday.
Head coach Tom Coughlin addressed Nicks’ recovery with the media on Thursday.

“Good Progress, good progress. They are not ready to let him run yet,” Coughlin said. “But if he continues like he is, they will, I think, allow him to start to exercise shortly.”

Giants Notes:

The prognosis on guard Shawn Andrews’ back was not as promising as he has not participated in this week’s practices. Andrews has a history of back problems, for which it’s yet to be determined whether they’re chronic in nature. “It’s more than muscle or disc issues. It is a concern,” uttered Coughlin…On a positive note, cornerback Aaron Ross was a limited participant in practice, but appears to be pushing through his back ailment. “He worked well, noted Coughlin. I can see him getting better, getting stronger, feeling better about himself.”…Coach Coughlin expects all players healthy or not to provide unwavering enthusiasm this Sunday. Big Blue aims to be focused and aggressive from the opening snap, not relying on riveting and emotional half-time speeches to rile them up, such as Justin Tuck’s impassioned plea last Sunday. “Support, encourage, and be there for each other,” noted Coughlin. “Make sure that everyone

Practice Updates: Black & 'Big' Blue Injuries

Head coach Tom Coughlin, along with offensive coordinator Dan Gilbride provided news and updates on a black and Big Blue team.
Reports on left tackle David Diehl’s injury (hip/hamstring) were encouraging, but Coach Coughlin was not ready to slot him in for Sunday’s game.

“Diehl has been getting a couple of snaps, he did individuals, got a few snaps. It’s going to be a process,” Coughlin said. “We are going to have to see how he is today, how he is tomorrow and the whole deal.”

Coughlin is pleased with wide out Steve Smith’s progress as he recovers from a torn pectoral muscle.

“Limited {in practice}. He took a couple of routes as a scout squad player,” Coughlin said.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride indicated that Smith will likely see action this Sunday.

“It looks like he’s going to give it a go. I think we’ll see him out there,” Gilbride said.

Manning Talks Skins

Suffice it to say that Eli Manning has terrorized the Redskins secondary the past two seasons.
The Giants quarterback readies his team for the first of two divisional engagements with Washington. In two meetings with the Redskins last year, Eli completed a scorching hot 39 of 55 passes for 467 yards, connecting on four touchdowns while flinging a lone interception. Big Blue swept both games of the series, but Manning recognizes that facing an aggressive Hogs defense, ball security will remain paramount this Sunday.

“They’re talented,” noted Manning. “They do a good job of getting to the quarterback, they cause turnovers, they do a good job mixing up their coverages. It’s a matter of having a good plan for everything they do.“

The Redskins defense will likely be playing without their leading tackler and playmaker LaRon Landry, whose sore Achilles has held him out of practice thus far this week. The Skins rank dead last in the league in overall defense, yielding 401 yards per game with 269 by way of the air attack and 132 on the ground. Manning understands that Big Blue’s red zone efficiency will have to improve as they failed to convert on three chances last Sunday against Jacksonville.

It would seem that Washington’s porous defense should provide ample opportunities for Manning to put six’s on the board this Sunday.

“They tend to win games when their defense plays well and doesn’t give up many points, so we have to find ways to move the ball, protect the ball, and getting opportunities and putting it in the end zone,“ Manning said.

With the Giants making claim to a 1-2 divisional record, Big Blue can ill-afford to drop another game in the NFC East. Three of New York’s five remaining games will be against divisional rivals, as the magnitude of each game grows down the homestretch.

“I think they’re all big at this point,” suggested Manning. “In the division with Washington, it’s going to be a big game. This will be a great crowd, another home game, and we need to go out there and play our best football.”

Sorry Angela, Tony: He's The Boss

In the first quarter, Kevin Boss caught the ire of the coaching staff with a holding penalty that negated Mario Manningham’s nine yard touchdown. In the final period, the Giants tight end may very well have salvaged Big Blue’s season.
It was a routine play as this past Sunday, the Giants faced a third and 10 from Jacksonville’s 32 yard-line, down 20-17 with just under four minutes remaining in the game. Quarterback Eli Manning took a quick drop and slung the ball over the middle to Boss, who rumbled and stumbled all the way past the goal line for the game winning score. For Boss, his heroic catch and run pardoned his first half error.

And he knows it.

“I wanted to make up for a few mistakes I had, it felt good,” Boss said.”It wasn’t the most glorious route or graceful run after the catch, but I’m sure glad I made the score.” For Giants fans, the lack of style points on the play was more than made up for by the fact that it gave New York a 24-20 home win over the Jaguars.

With wide receivers Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks hobbled by injuries, Boss and fellow tight end Travis Beckum are expecting to play a more integral role in New York’s passing game. Boss has three touchdowns, 192 receiving yards and 24 receptions over his past four games; filling the void left by Big Blue’s injury plagued receiving core.

“This could be a good opportunity for Travis and I to get more involved in the offense,” suggested Boss. “We’re going to make the most of our opportunity. “

The soft-spoken tight end admitted he was inspired by Justin Tuck’s fiery half-time speech, citing it as the impetus for the Giants superb second half performance. The fourth year player commends the veteran Tuck for embracing a leadership role, willing New York to victory.

“It was hard not to hear it,” noted Boss. “We’re on opposite ends of the locker room. You couldn’t help but overhear it. It fired up everyone in the room. I think everyone who was listening took a little energy away from that. It got us going for sure. Tuck has definitely stepped up into a leadership role big time this year. With Eli [Manning

Just Call him McNag

Donovan McNabb’s first year with the Washington Redskins has been a tumultuous ride both on and off the gridiron. It began with Redskins’ head coach Mike Shanahan questioning McNabb’s conditioning level, benching #5 in favor of Rex Grossman during the last two minutes of the Redskins week 8 matchup with the Lions. Shanahan insisted that Grossman gave Washington the best chance of winning, as the Redskins proceeded to fall 37-25 to the woeful Lions. During the Redskins’ bye week, it was announced that McNabb agreed to a five year, $78 million dollar contract extension with Washington.
Perhaps the heavy wallet slowed him down.

The team’s next game on Monday Night Football, McNabb and the Redskins played host to his former club, the Philadelphia Eagles, losing in a rout 59-28. The Redskins have split their last two games and the dust from last month’s controversies has appeared to settle. McNabb is relieved that those issues are behind him, and now he can concentrate on winning games.

“Things have settled down,” acknowledged McNabb. “I don’t have to answer those questions too much anymore. At least that’s a bonus. Again, I think for all of us that we have to move on from the situation and focus on what we have to do to be a good football team over here.”

McNabb is giddy at the prospect of facing Big Blue as he has compiled an 11-7 career mark against the Giants, tossing 25 touchdowns, rushing for three scores while tossing only six interceptions. McNabb attributes his success against the Giants to his familiarity with their defensive schemes, something which he developed in his twelve plus seasons in the NFC East.

“It’s just a comfort level in the team that you’re with and the things that you’re able to do,” indicated McNabb. “Guys around me made plays, and when you’re playing against a team twice a year, you have a feel with them, like what they’re going to do, their defense’s fronts and blitzes, and the answers to some of their questions. That’s something that is obviously a lot different being with a different ball club, but when you play against a team for eleven years, you build a good relationship with them, as far as what they’re doing and the defensive coordinators and things of that nature. “

McNabb is fully aware that he will be facing a vaunted Giants pass rush that has a reputation for thumping opposing quarterbacks. The Redskins quarterback has been sacked 46 times and lost four fumbles in 18 career games against Big Blue.

“We have to recognize the blitz and be able to get the ball out, and give our guys opportunities to make plays,” stressed McNabb. “We have to be able to run the ball, and run our offense.” And don’t think for a moment that the Giants aren’t aware of McNabb’s track record against then. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin summed up McNabb’s propensity for stinging Big Blue in big games.

“Stinging” seems to be the choice word.

“You could put it that way,” admitted Coughlin. “He’s going to be in a different uniform-that would be a little different for all of us-but we have played against Donovan many times and he certainly is an outstanding quarterback and leader of his team, no matter whether it’s Philadelphia or Washington.”

Coughlin was also asked to provide his reaction to Philadelphia trading Donovan within the division. The usually stoic head coach Coughlin was curt with his reply.

“My thoughts can’t be expressed at this time,” Coughlin said.

Coughlin Giddy for Sunday?

We shoudln't say downright giddy, but the New York Giants and their head coach are ready for this Sunday’s pivotal NFC East game.
Head coach Tom Coughlin is eager for this Sunday’s game to get underway, as his Giants play host to the Washington Redskins. Coughlin indicated that despite the Redskins losing record, they have been competitive in virtually all of their games. Coughlin has the utmost respect and admiration for Washington’s coaching staff and praises their hard-hitting defense.

“The Washington Redskins are 2-1 in the division, they’ve beaten Philadelphia, they’ve beaten Dallas,” commented Coughlin. “They are a team that has played any number of very, very tight ball games. A Mike Shanahan team - Jim Haslett has done a good job on the defensive side of the ball. They have an outstanding veteran secondary, they’re very aggressive.”

The Redskins have great playmaking ability in the passing game, led by Donovan McNabb, a player the Giants are familiar with as the veteran quarterback once played for NFC East foe Philadelphia. Coughlin admits that divisional games are in essence two games as head to head record and divisional records are deciding factors for playoff positioning - a win for one team is boosted extra by the loss of the divisional rival.

Coughlin declared that special teams and field position will be a critical component of this Sunday’s contest, a sore spot for Big Blue thus far this season. The Giants head coach is wary of the threat the Redskins pose.

“Offensively they feature the run game; they are a big play offensive team,” noted Coughlin. “They have receivers that can cover the big field. [Brandon] Banks is an outstanding returner. He creates positive positions for their offensive football team.”

Pat on the Back

The New York Giants offensive line has been injury riddled of late, yet despite their setbacks the unit has not yielded a sack to an opponent over the past four games. Head coach Tom Coughlin signified that the line’s stellar play is a testament to positional coach Pat Flaherty, who has emphasized a selfless mindset and consistent performance.
“Pat Flaherty has done an excellent job working with the offensive line, building cohesion as a unit,” Coughlin said during his Wednesday press conference. “This group takes great pride in their play and guys are willing to step up and fill a role.”

Coughlin provided practice and injury updates for injured center Shaun O’Hara (foot), tackle David Diehl (hip/hamstring), as well as guard Shawn Andrews (back).

“O’Hara will do some light running to test out his foot,” indicated Coughlin. We’ll see how he responds and go from there.”

There was some progress from Diehl on Wednesday as well.

“David Diehl will try some individual drills,” commented Coughlin. “We’ll see how he feels and his status for Sunday’s game is uncertain.“

The prognosis for Andrews is not as good, says the head coach.

“Shaun will be kept out of practice today,” said Coughlin. “We’ll see how he progresses throughout the week.”


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