|Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks runs past Buccaneers strong safety Mark Barron (24) for a touchdown Sunday. (AP)|
The bulk of the Giants beat writers, me included, didn’t witness the skirmish that punctuated New York’s 41-34 Week 2 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We had already left the press box for the postgame press conference and didn’t realize that coaches Tom Coughlin and Greg Schiano had a heated handshake after the latter’s defense went on the attack as the former’s offense was kneeling for the win.
It wasn’t until we all began pawing at our cell phones to check Twitter that we discovered everything that had transpired.
That sort of thing isn’t completely unusual. Reporters don’t always have the best perspective on game days, and there are some details that elude our eyes until we study the tape.
With that in mind, here are some things unearthed on closer inspection:
What looked good?
- The catching clinic by Nicks: Victor Cruz made more receptions, but Hakeem Nicks’ performance (10 catches, 199 yards, one TD) was unparalleled. In addition to battling a sore foot (something he aggravated twice in the fourth quarter), Nicks was positively abused by Aqib Talib throughout the game. Nicks absorbed a lot of contact around the head, neck and shoulders as well as the usual jabs he gets for the first 5 yards of every route. But despite all of the abuse, Nicks got back up on his feet after every play and kept coming right at the Buccaneers secondary. Nicks doesn’t just share a number with Cowboys great Michael Irvin. The two have a very similar way of playing the game, and it’s somewhat atypical for the position. And Giants fans owe a special “thank you” to former New York defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan, who instructed his Tampa Bay defense to leave Nicks in single coverage. Talib was physical, but he wasn’t nearly enough to cover Nicks.
- Brown's bruising running: Andre Brown can be the between-the-backs runner the Giants need. Ahmad Bradshaw’s status is up in the air, but the way Brown ran on Sunday (13 carries, 71 yards) shows Coughlin has a tough, straight-ahead runner who’s beginning to show some patience at the line of scrimmage. Brown’s game wasn’t pretty, but it’s easy to see how he can be effective.
- DB blitzes by Hosley: Rookie cornerback Jayron Hosley will get a few sacks this season. Hosley started for Michael Coe (active, but limited with a hamstring injury) and Prince Amukamara (ankle) on Sunday, but he still played in the slot when the defense shifted into the nickel. Hosley’s burst across the line is tough to read and, at 5-10, he’s difficult to pick up at the line of scrimmage. Hosley had a sack at nickelback in the first preseason game.
- Manning, as usual: At least one of quarterback Eli Manning’s three interceptions wasn’t his fault. Bucs corner Eric Wright simply made an acrobatic play by blitzing, hitting the breaks and picking Manning’s pass out of the sky. However, Manning had a dangerous overthrow of Ramses Barden on the play before Wright’s interception, so he isn’t without blame. Of course, Manning got back on track in the second half to finish with 510 passing yards. Another of Manning’s picks may have been caused by Buccaneers defensive end Michael Bennett, who had slipped past right tackle Sean Locklear on the play.
What looked bad?
- Tuck's rough rush of the punter: Justin Tuck is extremely lucky to not have been called for roughing Bucs punter Michael Koenen in the second quarter. Tuck might have been pushed into Koenen, but flags have been thrown for far less. Tuck also did the “guilty party” dance by immediately putting his arms at his sides and shooting a look at the referee. Tuck’s entire performance was mediocre at best. He isn’t getting off blocks well this season, and his first step seems slow. Tuck and Osi Umenyiora have yet to touch the quarterback, but it’s Tuck that’s really struggling. At the very least, Umenyiora has looked fast. Obviously, Tuck had a strong finish in 2011, so there’s reason to believe he can fix the problem.
- CB Webster's overall play: Outside of his interception against the Bucs, Corey Webster played poorly so far this year, and things could actually be worse. He was beaten badly by Vincent Jackson on a go-route in the first quarter on Sunday, but quarterback Josh Freeman overthrew Jackson by a few yards. Webster was also seen getting his leg wrapped in the first quarter, so he could have had an issue. Jackson eventually did beat Webster for a touchdown reception in the second quarter. It doesn’t look like Webster is playing slower, but he hasn’t been aware of the ball.
- The defense on reverse-field plays: For the second consecutive week, the Giants defense got trapped when an opposing offense reversed fields. Some of the issue has been disengaging from blocks (yes, the replacement officials are likely overlooking some holding calls), but the linebackers might also be over-committing. Buccaneers wide receiver Preston Parker was able to gain seven yards on an end-around and running back Doug Martin had an eight-yard touchdown run because the Giants linebackers were too far up field and couldn’t react when the play went in a different direction. Outside containment is obviously an issue as well.
What is still inconclusive?
- The contributions of OL/TE Beatty: I try to resist making my own definitive statements on how any particular offensive lineman plays. You can judge the unit as a whole (or a hole), but since we don’t know each blocker’s individual assignment, it can be difficult to tell which player deserves credit or blame on any one play. But if I had to, I’d say Will Beatty recovered from that rocky start. Yes, he dropped a touchdown pass and had a false start as a tight end in the first quarter and as a left tackle in the second. But for the most part, after David Diehl went down with a knee injury, Beatty’s back didn’t appear to be an issue. Coughlin admitted Beatty showed some rust -- he missed a large portion of the preseason with a sore back and didn’t start in Weeks 1 or 2 -- but the Giants coach was thrilled that Manning wasn’t sacked. However, Beatty was fortunate that Manning didn’t go down when he was beaten by Adrian Clayborn in the second quarter. Clayborn faked as if he was dropping back and when Beatty turned his attention inside, Clayborn lunged up field and nearly got to Manning.