San Francisco 49ers 31 – New York Giants 21
Nine weeks into the season, two of the three worst teams in the NFL took the field in San Francisco. The Niners were expected to be in this position, as they are building their defense year by year via the draft and recently-acquired QB Jimmy Garoppolo to be the leader of their offense moving forward. While he is still learning the playbook, the Niners are relying on 2017 3rd rounder C.J. Beathard to move the chains and score points. On the other side is future Hall of Famer in Eli Manning but both support systems are hurting big time. The combined list of players on injured reserve is massive and the talent on the field for this game was one of the lowest we have seen, and will see, all season.
The two teams traded field goals on their respective opening possessions and after a 4th-and-1 stop by Olivier Vernon and the newly signed Kelvin Sheppard, the Giants took advantage of the good field position and Aldrick Rosas put another 40+ yard field goal through the uprights to make it 6-3.
The Giants were in position to take full control of the first half when Niners fullback Kyle Juszczyk fumbled the ball as he was falling to the ground near midfield. Three plays later, the Giants were approaching the red zone but pressure from the San Francisco front forced Manning into a rookie-caliber mistake. Instead of tucking the ball and taking a sack, he tried to shovel the ball forward with no target in sight and it ended up resulting in a silly 2nd-down fumble.
What Beathard did three plays later is what the Giants were attempting to do. He took the momentum swing and turned it into a San Francisco score, connecting with speedster Marquise Goodwin who easily beat Janoris Jenkins downfield. It was an 83-yard score, the longest of the season for SF.
The Giants responded with a touchdown of their own, Manning to Engram, taking the lead back at 13-10. With just over 2 minutes remaining the their possession beginning on their own 24-yard line, signs were pointing towards the Giants going into halftime with a lead. However, with ease, Beathard once again drove his team down the field and connected for another touchdown, this time to TE Garrett Celek. The tackling and pursuit angles of the defense were downright pathetic. Tight ends have scored touchdowns in 10 straight games against the Giants and the theme of the coaching regime continues, same mistakes and shortcomings week after week.
NYG took 5 minutes off the clock to open the 3rd quarter, highlighted by explosive runs by Wayne Gallman and arguably the Giants’ catch of the year by Sterling Shepard. Rosas, however, pushed a 34-yard field goal attempt wide right keeping the score stuck at 17-13 Niners. The Niners put together a drive of their own but it was halted by an Olivier Vernon interception. Once again, the momentum was there for the taking but the Giants simply couldn’t step up, once again.
The Niners continued to creep their way up the field and ended up getting in the end zone on the first play of the 4th quarter via a Beathard 11-yard scamper into the end zone. On 3rd-and-2, Jason Pierre Paul was running away from the rolling out quarterback and cornerback Eli Apple made the decision to not try and prevent him from reaching the end zone. It was as pathetic of a play and overall effort I’ve seen all year, nail in the coffin. Within another 3 minutes of game clock, SF scored another touchdown via a Matt Breida 33-yard run and the Giants were down 31-13 to the 0-9 Niners.
The Giants did score a garbage touchdown at the end of the game on a pass to Roger Lewis from Manning, but the game was over as there was only 1:07 left. A failed onside kick attempt later, Giants lose 31-21.
- Eli Manning: 28/37 – 273 yds – 2 TD/0 INT. Add a fumble to the evaluation of Manning – one of his worst we’ve seen. Manning’s deep throws (20+ yards) were more accurate than we’ve seen in recent weeks. His presence and confidence in the pocket have gone up now that Flowers has really stabilized his play on the left side. Manning made some solid throws into tight windows, showing zip and accuracy. He has never been an athletic mover when scrambling or rolling out, but he seems to be losing a step when he tries to evade pass rushers.
- Orleans Darkwa: 14 att/70 yards – 2 rec/18 yards. Darwka also ran for a 2-point conversion late in the game. Darkwa has proven that when he gets moving downhill with some space to work with, he can be a consistent tackle breaker who picks up plenty of yards after contact. When the team gets an extra tight end on the field, his success is much greater. He won’t create much on his own via movement, but he is a more than solid bruiser.
- Wayne Gallman: 3 att/22 yards. Snaps were limited for Gallman, only being on the field for 15% of offensive plays. What I’m seeing with him though is an outstanding job of being efficient with his footwork and decision making. He is very assertive and quick to react.
- Shane Vereen: 5 att/11 yards, 4 rec/27 yards. Vereen actually led the RB group in plays for the first time this season. He has proven to be the top pass catcher and blocker among the group. Vereen has been underused all year but at this point, youth is going to have to win out.
- Sterling Shepard: 11 rec/142 yards. Both were career highs for the second-year receiver. He and Evan Engram are the feature players in this offense and the fact they are so young is a good thing. The rest of the season will be huge for their progression as players in this league. Shepard started to see more double teams towards the end of the game, which is something he has rarely seen to this point in his career. He made one of the toughest catches we’ve seen all season in the 2nd quarter and has proven to be a tough, blue-collar gamer. Shepard fits well with the slot position.
- Roger Lewis: 3 rec/33 yards – 1 TD. Lewis still struggles to consistently run himself open via quickness and route running, but he showed some toughness in traffic. He got after it and made a nice ball-skill catch TD late in the fourth quarter.
- Tavarres King: 2 rec/22 yards, 1 rush att/11 yards. King had an impressive run on his reverse during the first drive. He is playing fast and hungry, but there simply isn’t a lot to work with talent wise.
- Evan Engram: 6 rec/31 yards – 1 TD. Engram saw a lot of attention from the SF defense, something I expect most if not all teams to do from here on out. Again, it will be good for his long term progression. The route he ran on his touchdown catch was a thing of beauty. Eric Reid is a very good cover safety against tight ends, but Engram made him shift his weight with a fake out-cut before darting up the short seam and locating the ball right away and bringing it in as he approached the back of the end zone. His footwork as a route runner is top notch. Engram, however, had his second worst blocking grade of the season as he just couldn’t handle the physical SF edge defenders which resulted in a few runs being stopped short.
- Rhett Ellison and Jerell Adams: Both were mainly in there to block, Ellison more so than Adams. They both graded out very high and are proving their value despite not being featured in the passing game often. This running game has reached another level since their playing time has increased.
- Tackles: Ereck Flowers continues his hot play. This is by far the best stretch we have seen out of him in his young career. It will be interesting to see how he finishes up with some better pass rushers coming his way. The hand accuracy, footwork, and effort have all been solid. The one thing I see him consistently struggling with however is reaching guys to his inside shoulder on running plays. Not an easy task, but it resulted in a TFL in this game and a no-gain run stop on another. Justin Pugh went down, again, with an injury. The question now has to be asked when trying to decide whether or not to sign him to a long term deal this upcoming offseason, is he too injury prone? He allowed a sack prior to getting hurt. His replacement, Bobby Hart, gave up another horrific sack where he didn’t touch the defender and actually fell to the ground trying to do so. His days have got to be numbered.
- Interior: John Jerry and D.J. Fluker were inconsistent early on. Fluker was late to recognize lateral movement and Jerry misfired his hands three times in the first quarter. However as the game went on, they both evened out and graded out with positive performances. Brett Jones had a solid, yet unspectacular game at center. His pass blocking, especially on deep drop backs, was below average.
- Ends: We can discuss a quality run defense game by Jason Pierre-Paul with his 5 tackles, 2 of which were for a loss. However his lack of impact on the passing game is frightening. I only counted 5 double teams/chip blocks, which means the average-level SF tackles had no issues with him. Olivier Vernon had a solid game. He had a TFL, 2 QB pressures, and a tipped pass that resulted by an interception by himself. His pass rush impact is inconsistent at best, as well.
- Tackles: Damon Harrison was having another solid game, breaking through the line and affecting the SF running game by himself. He is virtually unblockable and the coaching staff has done a nice job watching his snaps to maintain effectiveness. He went down with an injury and left the field on a cart, however. Dalvin Tomlinson and Jay Bromley both had quiet games, but they did a lot of dirty work. Their glaring negative was almost no pressure on passing plays besides one time each.
- With B.J. Goodson out, Calvin Munson got another start and he finished with 6 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. He is getting overwhelmed on inside running plays but has shown range and good angles when moving laterally. Jonathan Casillas struggled, missing 3 tackles and just being burned on a couple others. He looks out of shape and stiff. His 6 tackles make it appear that he had a better game than he really had. Kelvin Sheppard surprisingly had solid presence inside. The newly-signed inside linebacker who is familiar with the team and its defense made quality reads and physical hits. If nothing else, it is good to see a hustler out there who will still lay the wood.
- One of the reasons many Rams fans and teammates were not upset to see Janoris Jenkins leave in free agency last year was…well…exactly what we saw Sunday. Jenkins, for the most part, has been an outstanding CB for NYG since signing in 2016. However a suspension handed down by Ben McAdoo last week and a horrid 2017 season for the Giants have taken the wind out of his sails and it showed up in San Francisco. Jenkins was torched deep, intermediate, and short all afternoon. He missed three tackles, two of which were I would say a result of less than 30% effort. It was an embarrassment and he should have been benched mid-game.
- Eli Apple continues to show the lack of “want-to” in his game, as noted above. The lack of effort he showed on the touchdown run by Brethard has become the new norm with him. He did make a couple physical hits earlier, but this stuff is simply inexcusable. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had a quiet game, as his assignments were usually covered up or Beathard wasn’t looking their way. On the long touchdown to Goodwin, Cromartie may have blown his deep coverage assignment but I’m not positive what coverage they were in. I’ve watched it a few times from the all-22 and I am 50/50 on what his role was there.
- Landon Collins and Darian Thompson played every defensive snap. After Collins put out his worst performance of the season last week, the defensive play calling had him closer to the point-of-attack where he does his best work. He led the team with 7 tackles but is still showing poor angles towards the ball. The further into space he gets, the worse he looks. And he can’t use the age factor as a reason. It is an alarming trend that we have seen this year considering he is a safety. Darian Thompson finished with 6 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. He has been playing a very physical brand but his range in coverage doesn’t give this defense a ton of stability on the back end. Andrew Adams played in certain packages and had an impact early, but was quiet in the second half.
- K Aldrick Rosas: 2/3 – Made 47, 42, Missed 34. Rosas has been very inconsistent this season and his long-term status as the Giants kicker is up in the air.
- P Brad Wing: 3 punts – 41.3 avg.
- WR Sterling Shepard, DE Olivier Vernon, QB Eli Manning
- CB Janoris Jenkins, RT Bobby Hart, LB Jonathan Casillas
3 THOUGHTS ON SF
- Another team that is doing it right when it comes to rebuilding their roster with a new, fresh head coach. They have some important pieces in place already and much of their fate will be on the shoulders of Garoppolo moving forward. But I like what they have in their front seven defensively and a couple of the pieces they have at the skill positions offensively. If their secondary and OL can be shored up, I think they can compete as soon as next year.
- There were a few people I got to talk to during the pre-draft process who were very high on C.J. Beathard. His situation at Iowa was as bad as anyone’s when it came to scheme/offensive line/receivers, thus he was overlooked by many. He does have some of the essentials you need in an NFL QB. He is mature beyond his years, composed under pressure, and tough as nails. The way he took over the game at times with his legs made me think of former SF quarterback Alex Smith.
- Keep an eye on this Matthew Breida kid, the running back that scored a 33-yard touchdown. While Carlos Hyde has the #1 job locked up for at least another year, there is a through the roof upside with Breida. His speed and burst to that speed are as good as I’ve seen in the entire league and he runs so much bigger than 200 pounds. When he gets some strength added to his game, he has the makings of a big-play back who you can’t keep off the field.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
- Typically in the NFL, a coach who has had the season McAdoo has had in 2017 would not have made it home with a job after losing to an 0-9 team by 10 points. But it is simply not the Giants way to fire a coach like this in-season. It’s not going to happen.
- A case could be made that Weston Richburg and Justin Pugh are the two most reliable OL on the team. They are both free agents this upcoming offseason and if this OL is going to need most of the attention in terms of building for 2018, what do you do with these guys? Those spots might be hard to fill via free agency, and the Giants can’t afford to use two of their first three picks on the OL. The issue is both of these guys have had a very hard time staying healthy and their price demands may make it tough to bring them back. The whole situation of building the 2018 OL is going to be very tricky.
- Creating a culture of winning, hard-working, team-first attitudes would be a top priority of mine if I were ever building a team. Getting a team full of guys who love the game and want to win at all costs. They are out there and it can carry weight into the scouting process. I’m not sure the Giants’ front office has done a good job of this. There are too many guys who don’t get after it, don’t play hard, don’t put the team first. Long term, they shouldn’t be here. That would be priority number one for me this offseason.