Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images
Green Bay Packers 23 – New York Giants 16
OK maybe Giants fans need to step back onto the ledge. A disturbing trend with the New York Giants has developed since 2012: losing. The Giants now find themselves in the midst of yet another 3-game and possibly longer losing streak. Such losing streaks make it exceptionally difficult for an NFL team to make the playoffs – even Roger Goodell’s watered-down, crappy-level-of-play league.
My wife asked me, “Do the Giants just suck again?” Ouch.
I found myself trying to justify that things are not as bleak as the results. I said, “The sum doesn’t seem to equal the parts right now.” But I also am reminded by Bill Parcells’ famous quote, “You are what your record says you are.”
I touch upon it more below, but long story short is that most of the Giants high-priced, multi-million dollar “star” players are not playing like stars.
Giants on Offense
I will repeat what I said last week: you can’t win in the NFL if you don’t score. And for the second week in a row, the Giants offense only scored one touchdown. For the second week in a row, the Giants didn’t score a touchdown in the first half. The Giants won another game earlier this year against the Saints where the offense did not score a touchdown. The Giants have only scored more than 20 points once this season, and that was in a 29-27 loss to the Redskins.
The picture is worse this week. In the other contests, the Giants had at least been gaining yardage. This week, the Giants only accrued a paltry 219 total net yards (43 yards rushing, 176 yards passing). Those are Dave Brown-era type numbers. The Giants had four first downs in the first half. FOUR. They finished the game with only 14 first downs and 23 minutes in time of possession. Third down remains a problem as New York was 4-of-13 (31 percent) on third-down conversions.
What stands out like a sore thumb is exactly what I talked about in the game preview: the Giants are not making big plays. The Giants only had one offensive play over 20 yards (a 27-yard completion to Will Tye). Opposing defenses are concentrating on Odell Beckham and making sure that Eli and Odell don’t hurt them deep by playing two-deep safety coverage. The Giants have not been able to make teams pay by either running the ball or hurting them consistently underneath. The Giants only had 54 offensive snaps against the Packers. They only ran the ball 14 times.
This offensive ineptitude does not make much sense. This was Ben McAdoo’s offense last year, not Tom Coughlin’s. Eli Manning is in the third year of a system that he thrived in last year. The only change in the offensive line has been Bobby Hart playing at right tackle. The Giants parted ways with the disappointing Rueben Randle but added Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz. The running back situation has been in a state of flux due to injuries but they are not what drove the offense in 2015. Something is wrong but it is difficult to identify what the reason or reasons are. The Giants should not being doing this poorly on offense. If this continues throughout the season, Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan will be made the scapegoat by season’s end even though he currently is not calling the plays.
This is the type of game that Eli Manning’s critics love. This is where they come out of the woodwork and state his overrated or done. Eli played like crap on Sunday night. He was the major reason the Giants lost the game. Manning appeared jittery and was not terribly accurate. Right before halftime, with the Giants trailing 14-6, Manning missed a wide open Will Tye deep for what may have been a touchdown. On the very next snap, Manning fumbled the ball away after being sacked, setting up a late field goal for the Packers. It was a 10-point swing in the game.
Manning barely completed 50 percent of his throws, finishing the game 18-of-35 for a measly 199 passing yards, 1 touchdown, and no interceptions (he was lucky a pass on the team’s lone TD drive was not intercepted). This was against a Packers defense that had been 29th against the pass and that was missing its best corner. On a night when the Giants needed their $24 million (2016 cap number) to come up big, Eli came up terribly small.
Eli had a great 2015 campaign. Why is he playing worse? The wide receiving corps is stronger. He may be missing Shane Vereen, but is there that big of a drop off from Vereen to Bobby Rainey? I don’t buy the argument that age is catching up with him. Eli is a “young” 35-year old. He doesn’t have a lot of wear-and-tear on him. Is he hurt? Is it simply a funk? Is the McAdoo-Sullivan-QB Coach Frank Cignetti dynamic holding him back? I have no idea. But he should be playing better than he is.
The NFL’s #1 run defense was clearly not afraid of the Giants ground game. And the Giants coaching staff clearly did not think much of its own chances either. Giants running backs carried the ball 14 times for 42 yards (3 yards per rush). If you take away one 14 yard gain by Bobby Rainey, then those numbers look even worse. Orleans Darkwa’s seven carries gained just 11 yards. Yikes. Rainey gained 22 yards on five carries. Take away the 14 yard gain, and his other four carries gained eight yards. Paul Perkins had two rushes for nine yards.
The backs were more productive in the receiving game as Rainey caught all six passes thrown in his direction for 52 yards. Perkins caught one pass for 13 yards – he looks very dangerous on screen passes.
Opposing teams are keeping their safeties deep and doubling Odell Beckham. Wouldn’t you? Beckham was targeted twice as much (12 times) as any other target but only had five receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown. The other two “stalwarts” in the receiving corps were invisible against one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses. Sterling Shepard caught two passes for 14 yards. Victor Cruz was shut out. The Giants are going to have to closely monitor the Cruz situation. Is he still getting his feet back underneath him or is he permanently damaged goods? If it is the latter, the Giants would be best off moving Shepard to the slot and starting Tavarres King outside. In other words, don’t waste valuable playing time on a player who may be cut on a losing team. At some point a decision has to be made whether it is time to move on.
Larry Donnell did not play because of a concussion. Will Tye had the Giants longest play of the night: a 27-yard gain. He also had a hard-fought 10-yard catch-and-run. He made nice plays on both of these receptions and got wide open late in the first half on what should have been a long touchdown had Manning not missed him. Rookie Jerell Adams caught his first two NFL passes and finished with 27 yards and actually looked pretty good as a receiver.
The charge that Jerry Reese has largely ignored the offensive line is largely false. After all, the team has two first round draft picks and a second round draft pick on the OL. That’s a higher investment than most teams. The problem is the Giants don’t seem to be getting a good return on their investment. Bad drafting? Players out of position? Bad coaching? Everyone has a theory. Both tackles – Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart – had a rough night and were a major factor in the offense’s ineptitude. I’m not shocked that the two young players are having issues in pass defense. What is alarming is that the Giants front five can’t seem to run block against defenses that are not playing the run. Flowers (holding), Hart (false start), and Pugh (holding but declined) were all flagged with penalties too. Hart gave up the sack where Manning fumbled the ball away near the end of the 2nd quarter. Flowers gave up two sacks in the 3rd quarter and was lucky another 4th quarter sack was wiped out due to offsetting penalties. Flowers got worse as the game progressed.
Giants on Defense
When Steve Spagnuolo doesn’t have his full toolkit, he plays scared. And he did it against the Packers. Right or wrong, his intent was not to give up big passing numbers to Aaron Rodgers with a depleted and beat up secondary. To the Giants credit, they only gave up 23 offensive points and 259 net passing yards to one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers barely completed half of his passes, completing 23 passes with 22 incompletions and two interceptions. One would normally like the Giants chances in that situation. The problems were the Giants gave up 147 yards rushing and could not exert any kind of pass rush against the quarterback. The defense allowed three 70+ yard drives in the first half, two of which resulted in touchdowns. And with the game still in the balance late in the 3rd quarter, the Giants allowed two 65+ yard drives that took over 10 minutes off of the clock and resulted in field goals. The Giants had one last chance late when they cut the score to 23-16 with 2:54 to go, but the defense could not make a stand.
The Giants simply are not getting their money’s worth from Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon. The Giants had no sacks and only three QB hits – one by Vernon, one by Damon Harrison, and one by Johnathan Hankins. This is the third time in five games where the Giants don’t have a sack. Indeed, there were more than a few plays where Rodgers had all the time in the world to throw. It was embarrassing.
With the defense more concerned with the pass than the run, more pressure was placed on the guys up front to do the job against the rush without extra support (Landon Collins). They largely failed. The Packers ran for 147 yards on 32 carries (4.6 yards per rush). The Giants did a better job on James Starks (12 carries for 33 yards) than Eddie Lacey (81 yards on 11 carries) and fullback Aaron Ripkowski (17 yards on two carries). Hankins was flagged with encroachment and Vernon with a personal foul after one of the interceptions. Vernon did have two tackles for losses and Harrison deflected a pass.
Better in pass coverage than run defense. My biggest problem with our linebackers is they seem invisible. Against the run and on screen passes, I saw a lot of running around with no effect. Their instincts just seem off. Kelvin Sheppard isn’t good against in any area. He had a chance to recover a potential game-turning fumble late in the 4th quarter and blew it. Jonathan Casillas started the season off strong but has reverted to his career journeyman form. He screwed up big time with his mistackle of WR Randall Cobb on 3rd-and-9 in the 4th quarter. This enabled the Packers to keep alive their final, time-consuming field goal drive. Keenan Robinson did some nice things in coverage, including knocking away an endzone pass, but he wasn’t very physical or instinctive against the run either. The stat sheet tells me Devon Kennard played, but you could have fooled me.
What should have been a team strength has become an area of weakness due to a rash of injuries. Two of the top three safeties (Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe) were out. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (groin) was in and out of the lineup all night. Eli Apple came into the game with a bum hamstring and left in the first half with a groin injury. Given all of that, it is fairly remarkable that Aaron Rodgers was held to a 50 percent completion percentage and 259 yards passing. The obvious bright spot was Janoris Jenkins with his three pass defenses and two interceptions (unbelievably, the defense’s first turnovers of the season). He saved a TD on the first play of the 4th quarter too. Each week Landon Collins is near the top of the tackle list. He also had a pass defense this week, but gave up a key 21-yard completion to Randall Cobb on 3rd-and-4 late in the 3rd quarter. Andrew Adams had five tackles and a pass defense. Bad news? He wasn’t noticeable. Good news? He wasn’t noticeable. Leon Hall had issues on the Packers opening touchdown drive, giving up three completions before Apple was burned for the 2-yard touchdown. Hall continued to struggle on the next drive and was lucky a penalty erased what should have been a 21-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-6. Michael Hunter gave up the 29-yard touchdown pass to WR Davonte Adams. Trevin Wade deflected away a late touchdown pass, but fell down on the 13-yard completion on 3rd-and-10 that sealed the game for the Packers.
Giants on Special Teams
Josh Brown was a perfect three-for-three on field goal attempts (47, 41, 30). Three of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks with the Packers only averaging 21 yards on two returns. The Packers only returned one punt for three yards as Brad Wing average 39.2 yards per punt with three downed inside the 20-yard line. However, Roger Lewis was flagged with a 15-yard penalty for interfering with the returner.
Dwayne Harris injured his jaw and toe in the game. He returned one punt for six yards and three kickoffs for 103 yards (34.3 yards per return). Bobby Rainey also returned a kickoff 37 yards. In other words, the Giants kickoff return team had a good night.
The Giants have to start moving Odell Beckham around more like they did his rookie season. Teams are doubling him far too easily. They also need to make more of a concerted effort to get the ball to Sterling Shepard. Defensively, it’s hard to be too critical after holding down the Packers’ passing game with a patchwork secondary. That said, where is the pass rush? And the team has once again developed an annoying habit of being unable to make a late defensive stand.