Eric Kennedy

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Larry Donnell, New York Giants (November 16, 2014)

Larry Donnell Almost Comes Down with Game-Winner – © USA TODAY Sports Images

San Francisco 49ers 16 – New York Giants 10

Game Overview

It was a tight game and the Giants came very close to pulling off the upset, but this team finds new ways to lose every week.

The 32nd-ranked and now injury-depleted defense played much better this week, good enough to win. Special teams even made plays. But Eli Manning – who came into this contest with only six interceptions – almost doubled that total in a single game with five. And the offensive line was outright dreadful, directly impacting the Giants’ ability to run or throw the football.

Offensive Overview

The Giants scored on their first possession – the first time they have done that in 21 games. It was an impressive 5-play, 63-yard effort that ended with a touchdown.

After that? The Giants had 11 more possessions:

  • Five interceptions.
  • Three Punts.
  • Two turnovers on downs.
  • One field goal.

In a game decided by less than a touchdown, the interceptions proved decisive. One handed the 49ers three points. Three others occurred in San Francisco territory, including the 17- and and 4-yard lines. That’s a 9-point swing right there.

Quarterback

By far, Eli Manning played his worst game of the season, finishing 22-of-45 for 280 yards, 1 touchdown, and 5 interceptions (36.6 quarterback rating).

Was Eli hampered by no running game? Yes. Was he hampered by terrible pass protection? Yes, far worse than the official stats indicate. But this was “bad” Eli at his worst, falling back to some bad habits. He was taking chances with the football instead of taking the sack or throwing the ball away.

Manning made some excellent plays under duress. None better than his 17-yard completion on 3rd-and-10 in the 4th quarter on a play where he should have been sacked as the right side of the line collapsed. Manning also made a superb throw to Rueben Randle on 3rd-and-12 as not one, but two, free blitzers smashed into him. Manning never lost confidence in himself to the bitter end. But he was one of the major reasons – if not THE reason – why the Giants lost the game.

On the first pick, Eli stared down Beckham but you also have to give credit to ILB Chris Borland for making a great jump on the ball. “I thought I could get it in there, the guy jumped it pretty well, the linebacker,” said Manning.

The second pick was bad. The Giants were in field goal range. Manning was focused on Rueben Randle but the corner had him well covered. Eli should have come off that throw and looked for another target. “I had a little quick out, the corner jumped it, tried to pull it back and couldn’t pull it back in time and it went to another defender,” said Manning. In other words, it sounds like Manning decided at the last second to not make the throw but unleashed the football regardless. You can’t do that.

The third pick was a bad overthrow in the direction of Randle. Eli was under immediate pressure and rushed his throw. “I tried to hit a corner route to Rueben, I don’t know if I just overthrew it,” said Manning. “I was on the ground, I didn’t see how it all finished up.”

Pocket collapsing on Manning as he rushes his throw

Pocket collapsing on Manning as he rushes his throw

The pass rush also directly contributed to the fourth interception as RT Charles Brown completely whiffed on the rookie defensive end and Manning was hit as he threw.

Pocket collapses again on Eli on 4th interception

Pocket collapses again on Eli on 4th interception

Running Backs

With Rashad Jennings back after missing four games, it’s pretty safe to say we know where the major problem lies with the running game. It’s the offensive line. Jennings, who surprisingly played 59 snaps, finished the game with 59 yards on 18 carries (3.3 yards per carry). Andre Williams only played nine snaps and had two carries for a total of two yards. Henry Hynoski had one carry for four yards on 3rd-and-1.

Wide Receivers

Rueben Randle had seven catches for a career-high 112 yards. Those are impressive numbers, but also keep in mind that he had 15 passes thrown in his direction. Randle was very sharp early, catching two passes on crossing routes for a total of 38 yards on the team’s lone TD drive. My biggest problem with Randle in the game was his inability to make the game-winning TD catch on 2nd-and-goal from the 4-yard line. There was contact with the defender, but he could have made the play.

So close to winning the game

So close to winning the game

Odell Beckham was largely quiet for three quarters but came on late. He finished with six catches for 93 yards. But like Randle, seven other passes thrown in his direction fell incomplete (including two drops) or were picked off. The highlight of the game was obviously his 37-yard circus catch down to the 4-yard line on what very well could have been the game-winning touchdown drive.

Fans and the media have criticized the play calling on the goal line, but the 49ers loaded up in the box, daring the Giants to make plays on the outside, something New York has done well all year (the Giants are actually one of the NFL’s best red zone teams this year). Two of the fade passes hit the receivers in the hands. They didn’t make the play.

Preston Parker was a non-factor, catching only one pass for nine yards. Corey Washington was on the field for nine offensive snaps but was not thrown to.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell started off strong, catching three passes for 54 yards in the first half, including a 19-yard touchdown on the team’s opening drive. He also made a spectacular 30-yard reception on 3rd-and-4 in the 2nd quarter despite being mugged on the play. But he was held without a catch in the second half. And while it would have been a difficult catch, he had both hands on the 3rd-and-goal potential game-winning touchdown throw with just under five minutes to play. (Though, I personally thought he was also mugged on this play).

A lot of contact by the safety before the ball arrives

A lot of contact by the safety before the ball arrives

Offensive Line

Just dreadful, especially after RT Justin Pugh left the game with a strained quad muscle after only playing eight snaps. His replacement Charles Brown was atrocious, both as a run blocker and pass blocker. Coughin was asked how Brown did. “Not very well,” responded Coughlin. That said, some of Brown’s problems in pass protection were also caused by RG John Jerry’s poor game. Both VETERAN linemen played like they had never seen a stunt before and got in each others way. “We didn’t initially stop the first rusher in order that we could then switch it off,” said Coughlin. “We had too much penetration.”

Once again – for the fifth game in a row – the Giants were out-muscled and out-played up front. The Giants averaged 3.1 yards per carry and the Giants had problems running the ball even when the Niners were playing nickel defense. Rookie ILB Chris Borland gave the Giants fits, not only with his two picks, but his run defense. It’s like he had an invisible cloak as Giants blockers just let him run right by them a number of times, including FB Henry Hynoski and Jerry.

Eli Manning was under constant duress, far worse than the official two sacks and seven quarterback hits indicate. This is especially troublesome when you consider the 49ers were 25th in sack production coming into the game. “There was pressure, sometimes to the point where (Eli) wasn’t going to be able to function if he didn’t release the ball when he did,” said Coughlin a day after reviewing the tape.

Look at these two back-to-back plays on the Giants’ second possession which ended in a three-and-out. Extremely poor blocks by Jerry at right guard led directly to 2nd and 3rd down incompletions.

John Jerry gets beat on incomplete 2nd down pass

John Jerry gets beat on incomplete 2nd down pass (3-man rush on play)

John Jerry gets beat on incomplete 3rd down pass

John Jerry gets beat again on incomplete 3rd down pass

The left side of the offensive line had issues at times as well. On the play before Eli’s second interception, Manning had no time as Weston Richburg failed to pick up the end stunt.

Weston Richburg beaten on stunt by Aldon Smith

Weston Richburg beaten on stunt by Aldon Smith

But the big problem was the right side. Charles Brown and John Jerry were the worst players on the field. Late in the second quarter, rookie linebacker Aaron Lynch literally knocked Brown on his ass and sacked Eli, fortunately the play was wiped out by an illegal holding penalty. At the start of the 3rd quarter, Jerry got beat for a sack/forced fumble. On the very next snap, Brown and Jerry failed to properly pick up a stunt and Eli was sacked again.

Charles Brown and John Jerry fail to pick up stunt and Eli is sacked again

Charles Brown and John Jerry fail to pick up stunt and Eli is sacked again

These are just a few snapshots of the problems. Brown’s play actually deteriorated as the game progressed. By the 4th quarter, the 49ers were simply toying with him. And the offensive line – as an entire unit – just collapsed on New York’s final drive with 1:09 to play. Eli never had a chance.

Center J.D. Walton continues to struggle with big, physical tackles. He was also flagged with a holding penalty, helping to halt the Giants’ last drive right before halftime.

To me, the dreadfulness of this line is encapsulated by its inability to gain an inch of space for Rashad Jennings on the 4th-and-an-inch play in the third quarter. In fact, Jennings actually lost ground on this play. 4th-and-an-inch – perhaps even less than that! The result didn’t shock any of us because we know how bad this line is.

Jennings never had a chance

Jennings never had a chance

Simply too much penetration by safety and defensive lineman

Simply too much penetration by safety and defensive lineman

The screen game was not good either. On one middle screen late in the game, Jerry not only did not blocking anyone, he literally tackled Rashad Jennings.

Defensive Overview

When compared to the terribly poor defensive performance the previous four games (over 400 yards of offense allowed), the Giants defense improved this week by allowing “only” 333 yards (148 yards rushing, 185 yards passing). The more impressive stat was only allowing 16 points (really 13 when you consider that one interception set up the 49ers at the Giants’ 29-yard line).

The 49ers only scored three points off of five New York Giants turnovers.

Not counting the kneel downs, the 49ers had 10 legitimate possessions. They scored nine points on three drives in the first half with another drive ending with an unforced fumble and another with a punt. In the second half, they scored on their opening possession, turned the ball over on downs off a botched field goal, and punted three times.

The one play that really hurt was the 48-yard touchdown catch-and-run by WR Michael Crabtree early in the 3rd quarter.

That said, there issues with the defensive schemes that continue to bug me. On a key 3rd-and-5 play on the 49ers’ first scoring drive, Fewell sent two blitzers (Jameel McClain and Spencer Paysinger) off of the left side and dropped DL Mathias Kiwanuka (playing DT on this snap) into coverage against TE Vernon Davis. As is usually the case, the opposing offense easily recognized and blocked the blitz. Kiwanuka, who should not be called upon to cover a receiver the caliber of Davis, was caught in a chase position. An easy first down was the result.

Giants send two blitzers and drop Kiwanuka

Giants send two blitzers and drop Kiwanuka

Blitz is easily blocked and Kiwanuka is in no position to defend pass

Blitz is easily blocked and Kiwanuka is in no position to defend pass

Defensive Line/Linebackers

The 49ers rushed for 148 yards, averaging 4.0 yards per carry. They controlled the clock for almost 35 minutes and were a decent 6-of-14 on third down (43 percent). With those numbers, you would expect the 49ers to have generated more points. Not counting the drive where the 49ers started on the Giants 29-yard line (49ers only gained three yards on three plays on this possession), the defense really only allowed three scoring drives: two field goal drives and one touchdown drive.

On these three drives:

  1. First field-goal drive: 49ers running backs gained 29 yards on four carries, the biggest being RB Frank Gore’s 17-yard gain (to the right) – the longest on the day for San Francisco. QB Colin Kaepernick also lost seven yards on a QB run.
  2. Second field-goal drive: The 49ers ran the ball four times for 23 yards with the longest run by a 16 yarder by Gore (to the right). But the Giants’ defense also caused two -1 yard runs on this drive.
  3. Touchdown drive: The 49ers only ran the ball once on this three-play drive, an 11-yard gain by Gore (to the right).

The 49ers did move the ball well on their opening possession, including gaining 47 yards six runs (16 coming on a QB scramble). But the drive ended with an unforced fumble by Gore.

So overall, the 49er running game, though very productive, did not help the 49ers generate a lot of points.

That said, there were some worrisome breakdowns. On the 17-yard gain by Gore on the first scoring drive, the left-side of the defense was nowhere to be found.

Robert Ayers, Mike Patterson, and Mark Herzlich easily washed inside...

Robert Ayers, Mike Patterson, and Mark Herzlich easily washed inside…

opening up the entire left-side of the defense

opening up the entire left-side of the defense

This drive stalled however when Jason Pierre-Paul and Devon Kennard blew up a read option play to the right side of the defense, with Kennard tackling the quarterback for a 7-yard loss. It was a nice play by Pierre-Paul who originally took the bait inside but was athletic enough to re-direct and force Kaepernick into Kennard’s path.

Pierre-Paul and Kennard cause 7-yard loss

Pierre-Paul and Kennard cause 7-yard loss

Really, most of the damage in the running game seemed to come against the left side of the defense and away from Pierre-Paul and Johnathan Hankins. Here we see Gore’s 16-yard gain on the second field goal drive. Mathias Kiwanuka is pushed way inside by #71, Herzlich is blocked by #77, and the TE (#89) takes out Antrel Rolle. (Markus Kuhn was also knocked to the ground). Jameel McClain can’t make the play.

Kuhn, Kiwanuka, Herzlich, and Rolle all effectively taken out of the play

Kuhn, Kiwanuka (by #71), Herzlich (by #77), and Rolle (by #89) all effectively taken out of the play

On the very next play, Kiwanuka has the quarterback dead to rights, but can’t make the play and Colin Kaepernick scrambles for nine yards.

Kiwanuka should nail the QB for a big loss but allows him to get around him

Kiwanuka should nail the QB for a big loss but allows him to get away

The leading tacklers for the Giants were the linebackers: McClain (all 68 defensive snaps, 14 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss), Kennard (55 snaps, 9 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss), and Herzlich (48 snaps, 9 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, and 1 pass defense). Herzlich was a bit up and down, but he brought some needed emotion to the team. The trio of McClain-Herzlich-Kennard isn’t a very athletic or speedy group and that showed up on the film. Spencer Paysinger played 13 snaps and had three tackles.

Kiwanuka (64 snaps, 4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss) led the defensive line in tackles, but did not play well. Pierre-Paul (64 snaps) only had one tackle but was stouter against the run. DE/DT Robert Ayers (39 snaps) finished with 2 tackles, 1 sack (the only by the Giants), 1 QB hit, and 1 tackle for a loss. DE Damontre Moore (18 snaps) had the Giants only other QB hit as New York only officially hit Kaepernick in the pocket twice. The Giants pass rush was obviously not good on Sunday.

Johnathan Hankins (54 snaps, 2 tackles), Mike Patterson (35 snaps, 3 tackles), and Markus Kuhn (18 snaps, 2 tackles rotated at defensive tackle and did not really stand out. Jay Bromley was available but did not play.

Defensive Backs

The 49ers were limited to 193 yards passing as Colin Kaepernick only completed 15-of-29 passes. 48 of those yards came on their lone touchdown of the game. The 49ers only had two offensive plays over 20 yards.

On the long touchdown throw, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (41 snaps, 2 tackles, 2 pass defenses) was beat by WR Michael Crabtree to the inside for an intermediate gain. But the real problem was S Quintin Demps was caught badly out of position and failed to prevent the long score.

Crabtree beats DRC to the inside but Demps is way out of position, failing to prevent long TD

Crabtree beats DRC to the inside but Demps is way out of position, failing to prevent long TD

The other big negative play was a 35-yard pass interference penalty on 2nd-and-18 by Rodgers-Cromartie, who continues to be plagued by IT band issue that limits his snaps and affects his play. The pass interference penalty helped to set up San Francisco’s first field goal. The announcers felt interference should not have been called, but DRC did not help his case by turning around for the football. Early in the game, Rodgers-Cromartie made a nice play by defeating a block and knocking away a pass on a bubble screen. He also knocked down a 2nd-and-11 pass near the goal line in the 2nd quarter. Late in the 2nd quarter, WR Michael Crabtree beat DRC for a 25-yard gain, the only other long pass play.

Zack Bowman (48 snaps, 3 tackles, 1 fumble recovery) played more than any other corner. Newcomer Chykie Brown (30 snaps, 3 tackles, 1 pass defense) saw more action than Jayron Hosley (20 snaps) and actually played pretty well. Brown had nice coverage on a deep shot to TE Vernon Davis after Eli’s first interception and later made an excellent play by diving and knocking away a 3rd-and-11 pass intended for Crabtree.

Antrel Rolle (6 tackles) and Demps (4 tackles) played all 68 snaps. Stevie Brown played 17 snaps but did not show up on the stat sheet. Safety play is killing the Giant this year. Rolle has been just OK and Demps and Brown have been below average.

Special Teams

The Giants special teams performed well in this game.

The Giants surprised everyone in the 3rd quarter with an onside kick that PK Josh Brown made possible by forcing the 49er who was in the process of securing the ball to fumble. Mark Herzlich also deserves credit for ripping the ball away.

Brown had two other kickoffs, one resulting in a touchback and the other returned 26 yards after a holding penalty was enforced.

Brown remains perfect on the season on field goals, hitting from 43 yards out in this contest.

Steve Weatherford punted three times, averaging 43 yards per punt (40.3 net).

Preston Parker returned five kickoffs, with a long of 38 yards. He reached the 22, 25, 29, 22, and 41 on his five returns.

Odell Beckham returned three punts for 39 yards, with the long being a 25 yarder.

Damontre Moore made a dumb play with a late block on a punt return.

The Giants had good coverage on the botched field goal where the holder attempted to complete a pass down field (good awareness by both McClain and Herzlich).

(San Francisco 49ers at New York Giants, November 16, 2014)
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Giants Activate OG Geoff Schwartz Off Short-Term IR: The New York Giants activated offensive guard Geoff Schwartz off off  Injured Reserve/Designated for Return or short-term injured reserve. Schwartz was placed on Injured Reserve on September 3 because of the dislocated right big toe he suffered in the preseason game against the New York Jets on August 22. Today was the deadline for the Giants to activate Schwartz or place him on season-ending Injured Reserve.

To make room for Schwartz, the Giants waived linebacker Justin Anderson, who was signed off of the team’s Practice Squad on Saturday.

Geoff Schwartz, New York Giants (August 3, 2014)

Geoff Schwartz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“I am ready to go,” Schwartz said. “I had a couple good weeks of practice. Last week was real good. I took every rep for the scout team. I felt good out there. I expect I’ll be ready to go…It was a pretty significant injury. It takes a little time for it to heal. Once you get it healed, it takes a little bit of time to get your strength back and that is kind of what it took.”

Schwartz was starting at left guard before he got hurt. He has experience at right guard and right tackle as well.

“I have no preference (about what position he will play), other than getting him going,” Head Coach Tom Coughlin said about Schwartz.

“I’ve started 11 games at tackle.” Schwartz said. “I played three and a half quarters last year at tackle in the last game of the season. I can play tackle. Obviously, I was signed as a guard, but I think they like my versatility, and I feel comfortable definitely playing tackle.”

That versatility should serve the Giants well as RT Justin Pugh was forced to leave the game on Sunday with a strained quad. His replacement, Charles Brown, was terrible, as was starting RG John Jerry.

November 17, 2014 Tom Coughlin Press Conference: The transcript and video from Monday’s press conference with Head Coach Tom Coughlin are available at Giants.com.

November 17, 2014 New York Giants Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of Monday’s media Q&A sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Article on the New York Giants Upcoming Offseason: With playoffs unlikely, here are 10 questions NY Giants must address by Ralph Vacchiano of The New York Daily News

Article on the New York Giants Offensive Line: As boring as it sounds, it’s still all about the offensive line by Dan Graziano of ESPN.com

Article on the Giants-49ers Game: Giants snap counts vs. 49ers: Andre Williams’ snaps vanish, Devon Kennard gets more playing time by Nick Powell for NJ.com

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