Pennington Challenges Press: Manning’s Moral Victory
By Michael Avallone
The Giants and Jets enter their Christmas match-ups with vastly differing wish lists. For Gang Green, a win against the AFC East-leading Patriots would pull them within one game of the division lead after a convincing 37-14 thrashing of the Seahawks. As for the G-Men, well, they’re simply asking Santa for a victory after playing their best game in weeks. Unfortunately, it ended in a 33-30 defeat against the AFC-leading Pittsburgh Steelers.
PASSING OFFENSE (A) – The Jets finally got an outstanding game from QB Chad Pennington who had labored a bit since coming back from his injury. The Jets QB was 18-of-24 for 253 yards and three TDs, two of them to WR Santana Moss (5 catches, 79 yards). Pennington converted all five third down pass attempts and picked apart the Seattle secondary with an array of precision, play-action passes.
RUSHING OFFENSE (A) – It’s no wonder the Seahawks were crushed in this game. They were out gained by over 200 yards and a large part of that was the inability to stop New York’s rushing attack.
Gang Green ran for 229 total yards, 134 by RB Curtis Martin (2 TDs) and another 84 by backup RB LaMont Jordan. Both players averaged a healthy 5.6 yards-per-carry, tiring the Seattle defense in the process.
PASS DEFENSE (B) – Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck was accurate, completing 22-of-30 passes (2 TDs, 1 INT) but Gang Green’s defense didn’t allow a pass play over 20 yards. With the Jets linebackers dropping back into pass coverage, Hasselbeck found the going much tougher and was able to find WR Darrell Jackson only four times for 45 yards.
RUSH DEFENSE (A) – New York made sure that Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander – who came into the game leading the league in rushing yards with 1,385 – would not run wild. Mission accomplished. Gang Green held Alexander to just 77 yards on 19 carries, part of a swarming defense that sacked Hasselbeck three times and limited Seattle to just 88 total yards on the ground.
Alexander also coughed up the ball at the goal line, resulting in a turnover in what was one of his uglier games this season.
The Jets (10-4) made a strong statement after their loss the previous week to the Steelers. Though the Seahawks (7-7) have only won four their last 11 games, New York made sure they stepped on Seattle’s throat early and never let up. Now comes the test at the Meadowlands against a certain-to-be angry New England Patriots team. Can Pennington get the N.Y. press off his back and win a “big game?” It won’t be easy…
Up Next: vs. NE (12-2) Prediction: NE 22, NYJ 14.
New York Giants
PASSING OFFENSE (B-) – After asking for (and receiving) simpler play calling, Giants QB Eli Manning finally took some positive steps in what has been a rude awakening to the NFL. Though he passed for only 182 yards and was intercepted once, he was an efficient 16-of-23 and threw two TD passes to boot. TE Jeremy Shockey, fast becoming a favorite target for Manning, caught only three passes for 13 yards but did snare his sixth touchdown catch of the season. A telling sign for Manning – he was 8-for-11 when the Steelers called a blitz.
RUSHING OFFENSE (C) – Nothing to write home about, as RB Tiki Barber rushed for only 76 yards on 18 carries (with one TD). However, it was a far cry from his previous two weeks when he ran for only 93 yards combined. Still, Barber has put together a fantastic season heading into the final two weeks: 1,314 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns to go with 543 more yards receiving. Big Blue picked up eight first downs on the ground and the run blocking was better than it had been in weeks.
PASS DEFENSE (D) – This explains why the Giants could score more in one game than they had in the previous two weeks combined and still come out on the losing end. Pittsburgh star QB Ben Roethlisberger busted out of his personal slump in a huge way, throwing for a career-high 316 yards on 18-of-28 passing. Though he was intercepted twice, Big Ben picked apart New York’s secondary, connecting with WRs Antwaan Randle-El and Hines Ward a combined 14 times for 283 yards.
RUSH DEFENSE (D) – Steelers RB Jerome Bettis looked more like a freight train than a bus, carrying the ball 36 times for 140 yards and the game-winning TD late in the fourth quarter. Overall, Pittsburgh gained 160 yards on the ground though Giants DE Osi Umenyiora and LB Nick Greisen combined for two sacks and 28 tackles for a defense that has been decimated by injuries.
Their play was better, but the results were the same for the Giants (5-9) who have now lost seven games in a row. Playing the Steelers (13-1) riding a six-game losing streak is not a great way to begin the Christmas week, but Big Blue hung tough and showed no quit. A visit to Cincinnati this weekend will be an easier test but Manning has to build on last weekend’s performance for New York to have a chance.
Up Next: @ CIN (6-8) Prediction: NYG 21, CIN 20.
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May you all have a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season.