Naughty Nurse: Coughlin's Giants difficult to diagnose

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Apr 14, 2012



By Adam Dobrowolski
Cold, Hard Football Facts Diagnostician
 
If the 2011 NFL season is to be remembered by anything besides a resolved labor dispute and a massive offensive explosion, it will be a déjà vu stunt the Giants pulled off that would make Phil Connors blush.
 
Just like in 2007, the New York Giants stumbled through the regular season and came on strong to topple a deadly efficient New England Patriots offense to win the Super Bowl. Just like in 2007, they nearly took down the league’s top dog in the regular season, only to get the job done in the playoffs. Just like in 2007, the Giants went directly through Dallas, leaving New York with four Super Bowl titles, just one shy of their NFC East rivals.
 
While the 2007-08 postseason run by the G-Men provided at the time the greatest Cinderella story in NFL history, this team perhaps did one better. Despite a 6-2 start, New York wasn’t quite ready for the big time, with looming battles against the top three NFC teams (49ers, Saints and Packers). They would lose to all three teams as part of a four-game losing streak.
 
Perhaps, though, the Giants found something good to work with in their 38-35 loss to the Packers. After all, it was a 38-35 loss to the 16-0 Patriots in 2007 that gave them grounds to work with for their Super Bowl XLII upset victory. Despite the 6-6 record, New York still had legitimate hopes for a push to the playoffs.
 
New York forged ahead with two wins over Dallas and a monster Week 16 win with their Meadowlands counterparts, the Jets, to finish with a 9-7 record and win the NFC East. The Giants did so by the skin of their teeth, as both the Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles blew five fourth-quarter leads, while Eli Manning put together his best season of fourth quarter play en route to five fourth-quarter comebacks.
 
The postseason then played out exactly like it did four years ago: easily handle a weak AFC South playoff team, upset the NFC top seed despite recent struggles against that opponent, squeak by the surprising 13-3 NFC second seed with the help of an overtime turnover, and knock down the ego of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick just a bit more with a monumental Super Bowl upset.
 
Along the way, Eli Manning probably had “I Got You, Babe” stuck in his head at some point.
 
Nevertheless, the 2011 Giants became the first 9-7 team to win the Super Bowl, as well as the only NFL champion to be outscored in the regular season (394-400). They can only hope for a better encore than shooting away their awesome start to the 2008 season.
 
The 2011 storyline: The Giants looked very mediocre through the regular season after playing through a gauntlet of opponents that included four teams with at least 13 wins. However, thanks to Tom Coughlin’s sterling record of playoff upsets, New York once again defies the odds to become Super Bowl champions. All rivals feel blue.
 
The Vital Signs
Coach (record): Tom Coughlin (74-54 with Giants; 142-114 overall)
2011 record: 9-7 (24.6 PPG – 25.0 PPG)
Record against the spread: 8-7-1
Record vs. Quality Opponents: 1-3 (25.8 PPG – 33.5 PPG)
Record last five seasons: 49-31 (.613)
Best Quality Stat in 2011: Real Passing Yards per Attempt (4th)
Worst Quality Stat in 2011: Bendability (21st)

ALL QUALITY STATS RANKINGS IN 2011
OVERALL QS SCOR BEND RPYPA DRPYPA QBR DQBR OPR DPR PRD OHI DHI REL
11 12(t) 18 21 4 20 8 17 6 20 12 19 13(t) 12
Overall =Overall position in Quality Stats Power Rankings; QS= Quality Standings; SCOR = Scorability; Bend = Bendability; RPYPA = Real Passing Yards Per Attempt; DRPYPA = Defensive Real Passing; QBR = Real Quarterback Rating; DQBR = Defensive Real Quarterback Rating; OPR = Offensive Passer Rating; DPR = Defensive Passer Rating; PRD = Passer Rating Differential; OHI = Offensive Hog Index; DHI = Defensive Hog Index; REL = Relativity Index.
 
Statistical curiosity of 2011: Excluding the strike-shortened 1982 season, there are 30 NFL playoff teams in the Super Bowl era that were outscored in the regular season.  Those teams own a 23-29 combined playoff record. However, only three teams won multiple playoff games or made it as far as the conference championship (1978 Oilers, 1996 Jaguars, 2011 Giants). Along the way, Eli Manning became the winningest quarterback on the road in the playoffs (5). Thanks, Tom Coughlin.
 
Best game of 2011: 21-17 v. New England (Super Bowl XLVI). In the words of a hot shot: “Duh, winning!”
 
However, to be a fair diagnostician, let’s eat up a few more statistical morsels about New York’s great playoff run. First, the 2011 Giants became the fourth team with a game-winning touchdown drive in the final minute of the Super Bowl. (The 2007 Giants werer another one of the four.) Second, Eli Manning’s combined stat line for the final drives of Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI: 10-of-15, 153 yards, 10.2 YPA, TD, 0 INT, 112.36 passer rating, two 30+ yard plays. Third, the Giants made a second-half comeback in all four of their Super Bowl wins.
 
Worst game of 2011: 23-10 loss vs. Washington Redskins (Week 15). Of course, the most unglamorous part of the G-Men’s sudden rise to a championship was the fact that they were swept by the lowly Redskins. This included a stink bomb performance in Week 15, one week removed from their season-saving road win in Dallas. Had the Cowboys not blown fourth-quarter lead after fourth-quarter lead, this could’ve been the loss that sent the Giants packing. Lucky for them, the Cowboys had the backbone of a jellyfish in the fourth quarter last year, and the post-Week 15 festivities would go down in Giants lore.
 
Strength: Eli Manning. While his Sunday staredown might not be all that intimidating, he’s proven the world with his recent fourth-quarter play and the his two Super Bowl championships that he’s a winner. While he might not own elite stats, his toughness and fortitude vault him into the discussion with players like brother Peyton, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers.
 
Statistically, he actually played his best season in 2011. Manning helped the Giants to finish fourth in Real Passing Yards per Attempt (7.67), eighth in Real Quarterback Rating (85.35) and sixth in Offensive Passer Rating (92.87).
 
Weakness: Secondary. Just by looking at the Quality Opponents the Giants faced in the regular season, there were definite weaknesses on the defense. Fortunately for New York, the pass rush got healthy just in time for January, which allowed the team to slow down Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
 
However, it’s not fair to just look at the playoffs, even if the Giants beat four teams with a top 10 Offensive Passer Rating. In six such regular season games, the Giants allowed 182 points (30.3 PPG). Before the Week 17 win against Dallas, they allowed 168 points (33.6 PPG). Bottom line, New York couldn’t stop great offenses until the defensive line was completely healthy.
 
As a result, the Giants finished a meager 20th in Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt (6.41), 17th in Defensive Real Quarterback Rating (77.51) and 20th in Defensive Passer Rating (86.10).
 
General off-season strategy/overview: First, the Giants needed to avoid losing pivotal pieces to their Super Bowl puzzle. They were smart to let Mario Manningham elsewhere, because the Giants didn’t need to spend any money to decorate their championship hood any further. Similar sentiment applied to now former longtime running back Brandon Jacobs. Also gone is ineffective cornerback Aaron Ross and supplementary defensive end Dave Tollefson. Therefore, the Giants survived free agency.
 
Meanwhile, they needed to address the back seven between free agency and the draft. New York already got started by trading for linebacker Keith Rivers and signing defensive backs Antwaun Molden and Chris Horton. However, that won’t be nearly enough.
 
The return of Terrell Thomas from injury should help, as well as Prince Amukamara’s second year in the pros. However, free safety Antrel Rolle is more mouth than production, so the Giants should draft a safety somewhere in the early rounds. The linebacking corps needs a boost, and there’s unfortunately not a great middle linebacker prospect that will drop to the Giants in the first round. The best bet is to draft a ‘tweener, like Dont’a Hightower (if he falls to 32) or a pure outside linebacker like North Carolina’s Zach Brown or Oklahoma’s Ronnell Lewis.
 
Totally premature 2012 diagnosis: Things are looking up for the Giants when it comes to the regular season. All three of the 10-6 teams that won the Super Bowl followed up by earning the top seed in the NFC (1989 49ers, 14-2; 2008 Giants, 12-4; 2011 Packers, 15-1). However, two of the three went one-and-done, while the other repeated as Super Bowl champions.
 
Where do the Giants fall? Judging by the weaknesses in the back seven, and the propensity for the defensive linemen to get injured, the forecast seems to lean towards the one-and-done category.
 
Bottom line, the Giants aren’t fading fast, but more magic from Coughlin's wild stallyns isn’t on the horizon just yet. Expect Eli to play elite football again, enough to edge out the Eagles and Cowboys for another NFC East crown. However, don’t be shocked at all if one of those rivals return the favor in the postseason.
 

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