New York Giants Inside Slant

Coach Jim Fassel might consider firing his offensive coordinator (himself) before management decides to replace the head coach. He clearly lost the chess game with the Patriots' Bill Belichick and was out-maneuvered when contemplating a challenge that he probably would have won

INSIDE SLANT

Predictability is good in such endeavors as the stock market, airplane schedules and the changing of the seasons.

It is not so good -- in fact, it is terrible -- when you are calling plays for your offense in a professional football game.

And so the New York Giants are 2-3 on merit.

Defenses have come to understand that coach Jim Fassel, who is also the team's offensive coordinator, has become predictable, and in his case it is predictability to a fault.

"We know what works and we want to use those plays," he said after the team's 17-6 loss to New England on Sunday. "If we weren't prepared, then it is the head coach's fault. I thought we had an acceptable game plan. It's on me. I am the head coach and I am responsible."

Fassel embarrassed last year's offensive coordinator, Sean Payton, by relieving him of his duties following a 17-3 Monday Night loss to Philadelphia and announced he would take over the job for the remainder of the schedule. He got the team to the playoffs before that nightmare in San Francisco ended the season abruptly.

Payton, relegated to working with quarterback Kerry Collins and his backups, Jesse Palmer and Jason Garrett, was dismissed shortly after the season ended. However, he was snatched up almost immediately by the new head coach in Dallas -- right, Bill Parcells -- as "quarterbacks coach and assistant head coach," so as not to intrude on the recently named offensive coordinator, Maurice Carthon. Now the Cowboys are 4-1 and in first place in the NFC East Division while the Giants and Eagles are looking up at them from a last place tie.

Collins had four interceptions on Sunday, two of which were created by passes being tipped at the line of scrimmage by tackle Richard Seymour, who was also responsible for a third when he jostled Collins' elbow as he released a pass which came up short and fluttery.

"It's frustrating," Collins said.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

-- CB Will Peterson was beaten, barely, on a 39-yard completion late in the third quarter from Tom Brady to former Giants wide receiver David Patten. It resulted in a first down at the Giants' 18-yard line and a subsequent one-yard touchdown run from Mike Cloud. But there was serious doubt that the pass was an official completion, as Patten seemed to step out of bounds. But Patriots coach Bill Belichick's instant decision to call for a spike on first down eliminated Fassel's obvious decision to challenge. Was the pass a legitimate catch? "I didn't think so," said Peterson.

-- LG Rich Seubert had problems with DT Richard Seymour on certain critical plays, but overall played well against the 6-6, 310-pound former first-round pick. "He's big and he's quick," Seubert said. "That's not a good combination for a guard when you have to deal with that kind of tackle."

--- K Brett Conway, who filled in for the injured Matt Bryant, made two of four FG attempts, converting 22- and 34-yard tries, failing on longer ones of 47 and 49 yards. "It felt good to be out there kicking again," he said. "But I sure do wish I had made those two long ones."

-- DE Michael Strahan had two sacks (the only two the Giants recorded) for 21 yards in losses, moving his career total to 99.5. He is second on the team's all-time list but needs 33 more to tie the record holder, linebacker Lawrence Taylor.

-- QB Kerry Collins was frustrated by his game, during which he nevertheless completed 34 of 59 passes for 314 yards. "We are just this close," he said, holding his thumb and forefinger just a sliver apart, "but I guess that's an old story for teams that lose."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I sure hope the Yankees play better tonight than the Giants did today. I don't think I can stand to see another game like this." -- A man dressed with a Giants jacket and a Yankee hat on his way from Gillette Stadium to Fenway Park for the Sunday night ALCS game with the Red Sox. Fortunately, he was spared further ignominy by the daylong rain, which finally resulted in a postponement.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

REPORT CARD VS. PATRIOTS

PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- The Giants completed a bundle of passes but not the key ones. RB Tiki Barber, all alone in the end zone, slipped and fell while unguarded and saw QB Kerry Collins' sure TD pass sail over his head. He blamed the footing, which for an almost new stadium (Gillette opened last year) is worn and churned into mud, especially down the center of the field. The receivers were generally able to keep their footing, however, as Collins completed eight passes for 80 yards to TE Jeremy Shockey and six for 58 to WR Ike Hilliard. The blocking overall was acceptable except for when LG Rich Seubert couldn't keep DT Richard Seymour from knocking down passes. Collins was also harassed from the left side due to breakdowns by RT Chris Bober. Collins also threw four interceptions, two of which were precipitated by Seymour batting down attempts at the line of scrimmage.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- RB Tiki Barber gained 71 yards in 22 carries, certainly acceptable, but he fumbled once on his first carry of the day and reserve LB Matt Chatham picked it up and returned it 38 yards for the Patriots' first TD. There was almost no involvement from any other back (one carry by Delvin Joyce) despite coach Jim Fassel's promise to get Barber some rest during a game. His responses continue to be confusing when asked why power backs Dorsey Levens and Ron Dayne spend game after game on the Game Inactive list.

PASS DEFENSE: C-plus -- For the most part, QB Tom Brady was rushed and hurried, although the Giants came up with no interceptions. In the first half, for instance, Brady was one for 10, and generated a total of 29 yards of offense compared to the Giants' 199 -- and the Patriots ended the half with a 7-3 lead. The only sure pressure on Brady was supplied by DE Michael Strahan, who had both the Giants' sacks. DT Cornelius Griffin continues to play poorly. The linebackers, especially MLB Mike Barrow WLB Dhani Jones, were active and led the team with 10 tackles each. The secondary needs to improve; even the pair of gems-in-the-rough on the corners, Will Peterson and Will Allen, has been disappointing.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Much better than the defense against the passing game. Kevin Faulk and Mike Cloud broke a few long ones or the Giants' total of allowable ground yards would have been even better. But when the key plays are all converted by the offense, such as an 18-yard Faulk run up the middle on third-and-seven, grading becomes spotty at best.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- It is beginning to look as though signing UFA Brian Mitchell was an exercise in futility. The NFL's all-time return leader has yet to break a punt or a kickoff for significant yardage and as the season continues is beginning to look slower and less likely to suddenly burst through kick coverage units and into the clear. Brett Conway, the recently-signed replacement for Matt Bryant (pulled hamstring, three to five weeks), made two of four, missing the two longer FG attempts of 47 and 49 yards. The Giants' kick coverage was solid.

COACHING: C-minus -- Coach Jim Fassel might consider firing his offensive coordinator (himself) before management decides to replace the head coach. He clearly lost the chess game with the Patriots' Bill Belichick and was out-maneuvered when contemplating a challenge that he probably would have won -- a 39-yard pass to WR David Patten that was initially ruled good. It wasn't, but Belichick quickly instructed QB Tom Brady to get up to the line of scrimmage and spike the ball. A challenge cannot take place once the next play has been run, and a spike is a play. The official announced that the play that might have been challenged was no longer eligible for review. Defensive coordinator Johnnie Lynn insists on using the three-man rush, eight-men deep in a three-zone formation that almost always gives up a long first down. He did so again Sunday on third-and-16 and it resulted in a 21-yard completion to WR Davie Givens.


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