Oct 032013
 
Share Button
Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs (September 29, 2013)

The Backbreaker – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Kansas City Chiefs 31 – New York Giants 7

Two years ago, the New York Giants were NFL Champions. One year ago, the Giants were 6-4 heading into their bye. They then went 2-1 immediately after the bye with impressive blowout victories against the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints. Since that time, the Giants are 1-6 and have been blown out in five of those six losses. The fall from grace has been so quick and so dramatic that most Giants’ fans are simply left shaking their heads in bewilderment.

The Giants have been outscored 146 to 61 this year. The 146 points is an NFL-high and the Giants have given up 31 or more points in all four losses (though a significant chunk of those points are on the special teams and offense). Meanwhile, the offense has scored only one touchdown in the last two games. In four games, the Giants have turned the ball over an astounding 16 times. Both kickers are in a funk and the Giants have given up two punt return touchdowns.

In other words, the Giants have been terrible on defense, offense, and special teams. It’s no wonder they are 0-4.

Two other key stats, and ones that showed up decisively against the Kansas City Chiefs are third-down offense and defense. The Giants are dead last in the NFL in both offensive and defensive third-down efficiency. In the Kansas City game, the Giants were a dreadful 1-of-14 on third down on offense (7 percent) while the Chiefs were an excellent 9-of-16 on third down (56 percent).

If you can’t convert on third down, you can’t sustain drives. All you can do is rely on the big play and that’s all the Giants’ offense has become: a hope and a prayer. There is no rhythm to the Giants’ offense at all, and as Tom Coughlin admitted to after the game, play-calling has become like “throwing a dart at a board” because of it. And just when the Giants seem to be getting some momentum, an untimely penalty, dropped pass, or just coming up short of the first-down marker derails a drive. The Giants are getting no breaks. But good teams make their own breaks.

On the flip side, the defense did play much better this week. Coming into this game, the Chiefs had not turned the football over. The Giants were able to pick off QB Alex Smith twice and recover a fumble. For three quarters, the defense only gave up one significant drive, but it was a big one: a 98-yarder that resulted in a touchdown. Two things hurt the Giants defensively in this game. One, they often did a great job on first and second down, but then could not get any pass rush on third down. And two, Alex Smith hurt the defense with his feet (seven rushes for 37 yards, including two key runs on the 98-yard drive). Despite that, the defense kept the Giants in the game for three quarters until they broke in the fourth. Eight Chiefs drives ended in punts or turnovers. It’s the only reason why the number of offensive plays for each team was relatively equal (70 to 61).

Special Teams: Special teams cost the Giants dearly in this game. Not only in terms of on-the-field mistakes that led to points for the Chiefs and took points off the board for the Giants, but in terms of overall confidence and momentum. Chief examples:

  • The Chiefs were forced to punt on their first drive. Rueben Randle returns the punt 43 yards to near midfield. Instead an illegal block by DE Justin Trattou puts the Giants’ struggling offense in a very uncomfortable position from their own 8-yard line with the crowd going nuts. The penalty wiped out early psychological momentum.
  • In the second quarter, the Chiefs nail a 51-yard field goal to take a 10-7 lead. QB Eli Manning leads the offense on their second-best drive of the game (54 yards), but PK Josh Brown misses the 44-yard field goal at the end of the half. Again, momentum and any emerging confidence are erased.
  • A combination of excellent blocking and a great move by David Wilson set up what might have been a 105 yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the third quarter, but for some reason, Wilson cut back inside.
  • Both offenses are struggling mightily in the third quarter. It’s a still a three-point game with less than two minutes to play before the fourth quarter. Steve Weatherford, who seems to have lost all of his directional skill, punts straight down the middle of the field to Dexter McCluster who jukes and jives for 89 yards and the back-breaking touchdown. Bad punt by Weatherford, possibly two illegal blocks by the Chiefs, but also two missed tackles by Keith Rivers and Allen Bradford.
  • The Chiefs salt the game away in the fourth quarter with a marathon, 14-play, nine-minute drive that results in a touchdown. On the possession, the Chiefs are stopped at the NYG 35 and successfully hit a 53-yard goal, giving Kansas City a 13 point lead. However, an illegal formation penalty on the Giants gives the Chiefs a first down and they go on to make it a 17 point game with just under six minutes to play. Any chance of a comeback is gone.

The only positive that came out of this game on specials was Damontre Moore. He partially blocked a punt and was very active on the coverage teams.

Giants on Offense: Fourteen offensive possessions. One touchdown, one missed field goal, one turnover on downs, one interception, two fumbles, and eight punts. The longest “drive” was 74 yards but 69 of those yards came on one play. The next best drive was the 10-play, 54 yard possession that resulted in Brown’s missed field goal. The Giants didn’t gain more than 25 yards on any other single possession until their last drive of the game (43 yards). The Giants had six first downs in the first half (three coming on the missed field goal drive) and no first downs on their first five possessions of the second half. Almost ¼ of the Giants’ offense for the entire game came on one play.

The passing attack was too high risk. There were some manageable down-and-distance situations in this game, but too many passes were low-percentage deep shots down the field. That didn’t make sense for a team struggling to convert on third down as well as with a shaky blocking front (line, tight ends, backs).

Quarterback: I hold Eli Manning to a higher standard. He’s not playing as well as he can. Though it may be understandable given the state of his pass protection (including backs and tight ends), he’s obviously not comfortable in the pocket. Manning’s feel for the pass rush seems off. He’s been behind mediocre pass protection before and simply had a knack of getting rid of the ball quickly, even off his back foot. Now, at times, he seems to be rushing throws when he doesn’t need to, and at other times holding onto the ball too long. On the sack-fumble, he’s just got to get down there and take the sack without risking the turnover. He should have felt that defender.

Eli screwed up at the end of the first half after completing the 4th-and-2 pass to Victor Cruz to the Chiefs’ 28-yard line. Instead of calling a timeout, Manning (and Coughlin) allowed 10 seconds to run off the clock and then hurried a play that only picked up 2 yards. By doing so, Eli lost an opportunity to run perhaps two more plays before the field goal that was missed.

Manning finished the game 18-of-37 for 217 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Who was to blame on the pick? Either a bad read by Eli or Rueben Randle.

Wide Receivers: Victor Cruz (10 catches for 164 yards and 1 touchdown) is playing well (though it’s time to ditch the salsa). But Hakeem Nicks (3 catches for 33 yards) and Rueben Randle (1 catch for 7 yards) are not. Eli threw in Nicks direction nine times and Randle four times. That’s 13 attempts with only four completions for 40 yards. Not good enough. Nicks dropped a deep pass that would have been erased due to a holding penalty, but it was still a bad drop. Perhaps it is that injured finger he suffered earlier in the season, but Nicks tried to catch a few attempts with one hand, and that appeared to cost him on another chance where I thought he should have come down with the ball.

Running Backs: Though not great, the Giants actually ran the ball decently, as the backs gained 86 yards on 19 carries (4.5 yards per carry). David Wilson (13 carries for 55 yards, 4.2 yards per carry) ran well. He needs to receive more touches. Da’Rel Scott gained 26 yards on five carries, but dropped a ball on a well set up screen pass and inexcusably fumbled as Eli handed him the football. He was subsequently waived. Brandon Jacobs had one carry for five yards.

Tight Ends: The Giants are carrying four tight ends on their 53-man roster but getting very little production in return. Bear Pascoe is no threat as a receiver and his blocking is often subpar, as it was against the Chiefs. Brandon Myers seems like a journeyman H-Back who can’t block and catches passes only when ignored by the defense. Larry Donnell has tools, but is still a work in progress. And Adrien Robinson’s is having a wasted season with a preseason foot injury that still hasn’t healed.

The tight ends were thrown to twice in the game. Net result was zero catches for zero yards. Worse, their blocking wasn’t good. Pascoe and Myers often get stood up and even driven back. They don’t create movement. Worse, sometimes they don’t make contact. On New York’s next possession after their only touchdown, Pascoe ran right by a linebacker who nailed David Wilson behind the line. The linebacker was the number one threat to disrupting the play and Pascoe should have taken him out. Then when DE Tamba Hali got near Eli on all-out blitz, Pascoe whiffed on making any contact on Hali, leading directly to the sack-fumble. Earlier in the game, Donnell gave up an immediate pass pressure too. The moral of this story is to not always blame the offensive line for blocking issues. (Though that said, hey Giants, next time don’t design a play where Myers has to block a player the quality of Hali one-on-one, which occurred on a play-action pass in the second half).

Offensive Line: From left to right, the Giants started Will Beatty, Kevin Boothe, Jim Cordle, James Brewer, and Justin Pugh. Cordle, Brewer, and Pugh hardly have any starting experience and this lineup had not played together as a unit all season. With that lack of chemistry and cohesion, facing the NFL’s leading sack-masters, I thought the line played fairly well. Giants’ running backs averaged 4.5 yards per carry – though that number was a bit inflated by some draw plays on 3rd-and-long. The Giants are running better between the tackles than outside of the tackles, and the low point in the rushing game was the failed 3rd-and-1 toss in the third quarter.

The Chiefs threw the kitchen sink at the line with a variety of blitzes and stunts and Kansas City did manage to accrue three sacks and six QB hits. Cordle was probably the weak link as he was flagged with a holding call, had a bad miscommunication with Boothe on a sack, and badly missed DT Dontari Poe on another pass rush. Still, he played better than expected. James Brewer played a pretty sound game at right guard as did Justin Pugh at right tackle. Will Beatty did a decent job for most of the game against a very good opponent, but had a couple of second-half mistakes including a holding penalty on a 16-yard completion to Nicks, and he gave up a sack to DE Tamba Hali with less than two minutes to play.

Giants on Defense: Except for one drive, the Giants did a great job against the Chiefs until the fourth quarter. Take away the 11-play, 98-yard drive that included seven first downs, and the Chiefs only picked up seven first downs and three points in their other nine drives in quarters one, two, and three. After the punt return for a touchdown, the Giants defense finally broke in the fourth quarter (aided by an illegal formation penalty on special teams).

One complaint with the defense is a long-standing one. The Giants are a terrible blitzing team. I don’t know if it is talent or schematic or a combination of both, but when the Giants blitz, they never get there. It doesn’t matter if they bring defensive backs or linebackers. It doesn’t work.

Defensive Line: Strong run defense and weak pass rush. RB Jamaal Charles was held to 14 yards rushing on seven carries in the first half. The only other rusher was QB Alex Smith. In the third quarter, the Chiefs only gained three first downs total on four possessions and Charles was held to seven yards on four carries. That means 44 of his 65 rushing yards came in the fourth quarter when the defense began to wear down. The Giants’ defensive tackles were very good against the run.

The problem up front was the pass rush. No sacks and only two official quarterback hits (one by Cullen Jenkins and one by Shaun Rogers). The Giants are simply getting almost no pass rush from Jason Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Justin Tuck. I spotted one pressure from Kiwi and one hit from JPP. Pierre-Paul is playing patty cake with opposing linemen and is easily single-blocked. Tuck is hustling and playing hard, and he played the run well, but the his pass rush game seems to have vanished. I expect more from Kiwanuka, but he appears to be just another overpaid guy out there.

Linebackers: I thought this was the best I’ve seen from Spencer Paysinger (7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery) and Mark Herzlich (8 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 pass defense) to date. Each played downhill very well, coming up aggressively against the run. It was more of a mixed bag in pass coverage such as when Herzlich gave up a 25-yard pass against the reserve tight end on 1st-and-25 in the fourth quarter. Paysinger was close to TE Sean McGrath but gave up a 20-yard reception; later, he did a nice job in coverage down the field on Jamaal Charles. Keith Rivers and Jacquian Williams barely saw the field.

Defensive Backs: The Chiefs were not able to do much damage with the outside receivers until Dwayne Bowe’s late 34-yard touchdown. Most of Alex Smith’s passing yardage came on short- to intermediate routes to the reserve tight ends (7 catches for 91 yards), RB Jamaal Charles ( 5 catches for 62 yards), and slot receiver Dexter McCluster (5 catches for 48 yards).

Prince Amukamara played a great game, shutting out his opponent and doing a fantastic job of jumping an inside route to pick off an Alex Smith pass. He also knocked away a pass on a similar play and that was almost intercepted too. That’s as good as it gets in coverage. Aaron Ross, filling in for the oft-injured Corey Webster, was OK. He gave up a few plays on the 98-yard drive including a 16-yard pass interference penalty, a 12-yarder to the tight end, and played too soft for an easy catch when the Giants brought the blitz. Ross later left the game with a back injury. Because the oft-injured Jayron Hosley (hamstring) was unavailable, the Giants had to rely on Trumaine McBride and he performed pretty darn well. Terrell Thomas missed a tackle on RB Jamaal Charles and also gave up a 34-yard touchdown to Bowe late in the game.

I thought the safety play was a little more suspect. Antrel Rolle did come up with an interception on a deflected pass, but he had some issues in coverage. Rolle badly whiffed on an open-field tackle attempt on Jamaal Charles’ 31-yard catch-and-run that helped set up KC’s first touchdown, which came when Rolle was beaten by TE Sean McGrath on 3rd-and-goal. And it was the 23-yarder to McGrath against Rolle that set up the 51-yard field goal.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at Kansas City Chiefs, September 29, 2013)
Print Friendly

Eric Kennedy

Founder and owner of BigBlueInteractive.com, which is now entering its 20th season. Follow Eric on Twitter @BigBlueInteract.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.