I’ve been pouring over the game film, so here are some general thoughts on the D.  Observations on individual players will follow in the next post.

Obviously, it wasn’t our best effort.  23 points on 347 consequential yards, with an untimely choke at the end of regulation.

And we were lucky to give up only 23 points.  The Bengals horrific clock management at the end of regulation kept 4 points off the board.  Earlier in the game, on the second series, an obvious endzone pass interference by Butler on Houshmenzadeh was not called, leading to the Bengals settling for a field goal.  And in the third quarter, and endzone drop by tight end Daniel Coates – who was double-covered by Dockery and Butler, neither of whom managed to get a hand on the ball – led to field goal instead of a touchdown again.

A key factor in the D’s struggles was the ineffectiveness of the blitz.  Yes, we had those 6 sacks, but Palmer – who did an outstanding job hitting his hot routes – burnt us on many a blitz.  As Justin Tuck himself said, “Sometimes, the stats are misleading.  We had six sacks today, but I don’t think we rattled [Palmer.]”

With a game like this, it’s hard to separate out where blaming the defense ends and crediting the offense begins: Was it Spags’ fault those blitzes didn’t work out, or was it because the Bengals’ line did a good job picking them up while Palmer got the ball out quickly and accurately?  Surely some credit must go to the Bengals’ game-plan, which was predicated on quick passes – to the elusive Chatman and the Housh, a big target – designed to neutralize our blitz.

On a somewhat related note, sometimes the offensive play call just happens to work out given what the defensive call is.  There’s not a “moral of the story” to every play, where you can neatly ascribe blame to a given defender for any big gain.  Sometimes the defensive play-calls, coupled with the offensive play-calls, give the defenders little chance to do their jobs well (and vice versa).  There’s not much to say after something like this, other than to hope we’re a little more lucky next time.

This seemed to happen to the Giants D on Sunday, including three big plays that totaled 76 yards and were instrumental in 10 Bengals points:

The most prominent of these was the Perry touchdown in the second quarter, when the Bengals went up 10-7 and we all knew we were in for a game.  It was 2nd and 10 and Spags guessed pass, which meant our dime defense was in. 

Normally, the dime defense is the “safest” defense, designed to minimize chance of a big play, but in this case it backfired.  Because of the personnel grouping, Michael Johnson had linebacker duties.  After slo-moing the tape a few times, I realized that it was his responsibility to fill the gap through which Perry galloped on the way to the endzone.

But because Johnson was in unfamiliar environs, he was hesitant to fill the gap, which allowed a blocker to engage him and clear a huge, gaping hole.  That, right there, sprung Perry, who sprinted through the hole “unmolested” – I can’t write that with a straight face – and away from Corey Webster, who was occupying the safety position.  (I don’t mean to overstate the point on this one: a hold on Johnson at the end of that initial block, a slow reaction to step up by Webster, and Big Fred’s and Tollefson’s getting more washed down than they should have didn’t help either.)

Why were we in the dime defense on that 2nd and 10?  A 25-yard gain two plays earlier might help explain why.

On 2nd and 10, we blitzed a safety off the quarterback’s blind side, which left Dockery singled up against Chatman with no deep help on that side of the field.  The  Bengals picked the blitz up, and Palmer hit a little hitch to Chatman, who had been given a huge cushion by Dockery.  Because he caught the ball with so much space in between him and Dockery, he had room to maneuver, and maneuver he did, scampering for 25 yards on the play.

This was an instance of Palmer doing an excellent job hitting his hot read and a blitz backfiring.  It also underscored how things aren’t as cut and dried – Dockery sucks! – as they often appear.  (Dockery does suck, and we’ll get to that in the next post, but he’s not as bad as he looked on that play.)

Also, this play to Chatman explains why Spags called the dime defense on 2nd and 10 on the Perry play.  When an offense is designed to get the ball to the receiver on the edges, it’s good to have as much speed as possible.  On the Perry play, we went speed while they went power, and we paid the price.

The third play I noticed in which we got caught in a bad defense for their play-call was on the Bengals’ last series of the first half, when we sent a zone blitz with Tollefson dropping back into pass coverage.  Unfortunately, Tollefson wound up being responsible for picking up Housh, who was dragging across the middle.  Not surprisingly, he didn’t get there nearly quickly enough, and Housh caught the ball with nobody around him, free to pick up 26 yards.

Again, it kinda just so happened that a wide receiver was running a shallow crossing pattern in Tollefson’s territory here.  It could have been a tight end, who would have been easier for Tollefson to spot and react to.