Monday, September 13, 2010

NFC East: It's Gonna Be A Bumpy Ride!

By Tony Mangia


Last December the New York/New Jersey Giants said goodbye to the old Giants Stadium with an unemotional and uninspiring performance that brought back all the worst team memories of the '60's and '70's. Fans were one Eli Manning incompletion from fond memories of Joe Pisarcik and another one yard gain by Brandon Jacobs from going back to the highlight films of Ron Dayne. Yesterday, the Giants exacted revenge on last years party-crashers, the Carolina Panthers, and if the other division games are any indication, this could be a wild season for the NFC East.

The Giant defense held the vaunted running of Carolina to 89 total yards. Last year the Panthers ran roughshod over the Giants in a 41-9 win while shutting down any life in the Giants offense. This time around it was the Giants who manhandled the opponent for their first victory in the new Meadowlands Stadium. The Giants can now wipe the stench of last year's final game at the old stadium off their uniforms. Head coach, Tom Coughlin called it a "historic first win."


Quarterback Manning--who faces his brother Peyton next week--was erratic at first. He finished the game completing 20 of 30 passes for three TDs but his high throws slipped through his receivers hands and produced three interceptions. The sloppy start by the offense almost gave away the game to the Panthers. Only a key end-zone interception by safety Deon Grant saved the G-men before halftime---a tribute to new defensive coach, Perry Fewell's "read and react" coverage plan. The defense held the Panthers to three field goals in which they could have easily scored touchdowns.

Justin Tuck said the "second half was truly fun." The Panthers hapless quarterback, Matt Moore, was pressured all through the final two quarters by the Giants linemen and played catch-up by tossing floaters over the heads of anyone in the team's white jerseys and into the arms of the blue ones. Rookie backup Jimmy Clausen had to come in and clean up for the battered Moore.


Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw showed some flashes of brilliance and spooned some water on the running back brush fire conundrum. Brandon Jacobs jawed all week about being the backup but did nothing to solidify his position. The way the Houston Texans' running game zig-zagged all over the Colts yesterday, next week's game should be a good audition for both backs.


The biggest surprise was the three TD catches by wide-out Hakeem Nicks. Manning was able to spread the offense and the wealth to his young receivers. Last season's stud, Steve Smith and Mario Manningham caught 5 and 4 passes respectively. The only stumble for the Giants was the neck injury to Kevin Boss. The tight end is a go-to on third downs and a reliable blocker and the team carries only one replacement TE on the roster.

The new stadium was filled with empty seats. Whole sections were empty. The mezzanine section behind the 50-yard line was sprinkled with a few fans. Who could afford it--PSLs for $12,000 and game tickets at $500. The team announced a paid attendance of 72,245 meaning that over 5,000 tickets were unsold. Unheard of and embarrassing for Giants fans.


The Philadelphia Eagles got themselves a little problem--a QB controversy. After starting QB Kevin Kolb--who was anointed starter after the team traded longtime Philly QB Donovan McNabb-- got his bell rung, backup Michael Vick finished the second half and almost beat the favored Green Bay Packers. Vick finished his first meaningful game, since being released from prison, with 175 passing and over 100 on the ground. He was tackled a yard away from continuing a game-winning drive. Kolb's injury won't be fully assessed until the NFL doctor's check his concussion. The NFL doesn't play around with those types of head injuries anymore. This could lead to more time for Vick to prove himself. Can't wait for the first Eagles/Redskins game.

The Philadelphia menage a trois saga only gets better after McNabb beat division rival the Dallas Cowboys in a Redskins uniform this time. Something he had a hard time doing in the City Of Brotherly Love. The over-hyped Cowboys imploded on their own. Twelve penalties--including one on the winning score--and a bone-headed fumble led to an unbelievable Redskin touchdown right before the half. Tony Romo seems to be in Jessica Simpson mode again--high expectations, low results.

Football's toughest division--sorry AFC East--does battle again.

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