Saturday, October 22, 2005

Giants Look To Bounce Back Against Denver

Once again, the Giants (3-2) failed to take advantage of a bye week, losing at Dallas in a turnover filled game 16-13 in overtime. They turned the ball over five times and had issues scoring in the red zone after the D forced four turnovers.

This Sunday against a quality opponent in Denver (5-1), Big Blue must be razor sharp in all facets. Since dropping the season opener at Miami, the Broncos have won five straight. They are coming off a 28-20 victory over the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. However, it was a game they dominated for three quarters and led 28-3 before hanging on.

Quarterback Jake Plummer threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Plummer is in his third season with Denver. He has not thrown an interception in the last 17 quarters since a 20-17 win over San Diego in Week Two. This season, Plummer has tossed for 1141 yards, seven TDs, three Ints and also has run for a score. Coach Mike Shanahan believes Plummer's solid play could be due to finally adjusting to their system.

"He's in his third year," Shanahan said. "He feels comfortable with the system. I think it's a process and hopefully, he can keep it up."

Plummer's favorite target through the air is vet Rod Smith. He leads Denver with 34 receptions for 432 yards and two scores. Ashley Lelie (14 catches, TD) is the deep threat. The Giants secondary will need to keep Plummer from getting into a groove with both receivers.

On the ground, second-year back Tatum Bell leads Denver with 395 rushing yards and three TDs. He enters Sunday with back-to-back 100-yard games against Washington and New England. The Giants D must contain him or it could be a long day. If Bell is shutdown, Mike Anderson and ex-Giant Ron Dayne might get some carries.

On offense, Tiki Barber (397 rushing yards, 4 TDs- 1 receiving) could have his hands full with the NFL's fifth rated rushing defense (88.3 yards-per-game). He knows that the offense must do a better job when opportunities present themselves.

"The defense created turnover after turnover, but we were too inept to capitalize," he said. "The offense is out of sync."

Second-year QB Eli Manning looks to bounce back from a subpar performance in which he was only 14-of-30 for 215 yards, a TD, Int and a lost fumble at Dallas. Manning has thrown for 1,200 yards and 10 scores already this season. He could be without primary target Plaxico Burress (30 receptions-for-451 yards, 4 TDs) though. Burress didn't practice Friday due to back spasms and is questionable for Sunday.

If Burress can't go, Amani Toomer (11 receptions, TD) and tight end Jeremy Shockey (22 catches-for-380 yards, 3 TDs) should see the ball plenty.

The Giants play three of their next four games at Giants Stadium, including a divisional test next week against Washington. Coach Tom Coughlin knows how vital this stretch is.

"One game at home against this AFC team and a trip to the West Coast as well," said Coughlin. "So this particular phase, I think, is a defining part of our season. We have to play our way through this most difficult stage....We are going to be at home and we have got to continue to have the home field advantage and play the way we have been playing at home."

The Giants defense ranks dead last at stopping third downs. Time and time again last Sunday, they allowed Drew Bledsoe to pick them apart in those situations. Dallas converted nine-of-16 third downs while Big Blue's offense was an inept one-for-eleven. That can't happen against the Broncos or it won't be pretty.

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