Dec 082014
 
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Markus Kuhn, New York Giants (December 7, 2014)

Markus Kuhn – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 36 – Tennessee Titans 7

Game Overview

The New York Giants dominated one of the NFL’s worst teams (30th in both offense and defense) that was also missing key players, especially on the offensive line and wide receiver. So it’s important to take this win with a very big grain of salt. The win also practically ensures that the Giants will not receive a top-5 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

All that said, after seven straight losses and two months of losing football, it does feel good to see our team finally win a game.

Offensive Overview

The Giants had five first-half possessions and scored on four of them. In the first half, the Giants picked up 14 first downs, were 6-of-10 (60 percent on 3rd down), and accrued 258 total net yards. Interestingly, the Giants’ first half strategy was heavily oriented to the pass as New York passed 30 times in 42 plays (71 percent) and almost 88 percent of the yards gained came through the air (226).

The issue was New York had to settle for field goals on three of those drives with possessions ending at the 2, 1, and 18 yard lines. In other words, the Giants were 1-of-4 (25 percent) within the red zone in the first half. On the Giants’ 12 first-half rushing attempts, they only gained 32 first-half yards (2.7 yards per carry).

With a 23-0 lead, the defense dominating, and memories of last week’s pass-play disasters, it was understandable for the Giants to go more conservative in the second half, especially after QB Eli Manning’s boneheaded interception that was returned for a touchdown. In the second half, the Giants passed the ball 13 times (for 34 yards) and ran it 16 (for 113 yards). (This does not count Ryan Nassib’s two kneel downs for -3 yards).

Only two plays went for over 18 yards, but those two plays (the 50 yard reception by Odell Beckham and the 50-yard run by Andre Williams) accounted for 1/4 of New York’s offense.

Quarterback

One again, it was a tale of two halves for Eli Manning. Eli was very sharp in the first half, completing 20-of-29 passes for 226 yards and one touchdown. That said, he did miss on two passes late in the first half inside the red zone.

In the second half, Eli did not play well, completing 6-of-13 passes for 34 yards, and one terrible interception that was returned 23 yards for a touchdown. The interception was an incredibly stupid play by Manning as the Giants were leading 30-0 at that point, and the only way the Titans could possibly get back into the game was turnovers. Instead of trying to make something out of nothing by carelessly flinging the ball to a well-covered Larry Donnell to his left, Eli should have tried to run for the first down or just taken a slide. At worst, bring on Steve Weatherford and punt. Don’t give the Titans any hope. In addition to that single play, Manning just wasn’t as accurate in the second half despite a number of passes called in obvious running down situations.

Running Backs

The running game was much more productive in the second half than the first, as the Giants running backs rushed for 32 yards on 12 carries (2.7 yards per carry) in the first half and 104 yards on 15 carries (6.9 yards per carry) in the second half. Of course, those numbers are inflated by Williams’ 50-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-1 in the 3rd quarter.

Williams (52 snaps) was the bell cow, accounting for 131 of New York’s 142 rushing yards (92 percent). He also caught three passes for 16 yards. The second offensive touchdown drive was all Williams and his blockers as he carried the ball three times for 59 yards and the score.

Rashad Jennings (14 snaps), who was battling an ankle injury, only ran the ball twice for five yards and had one catch on 3rd-and-long for 17 yards on a very well-executed screen pass. Orleans Darkwa (6 snaps) carried the ball once for no gain and had one incomplete pass thrown in his direction.

Henry Hynoski played 24 snaps and his lead blocking in the second half was a big factor in Williams’ productivity.

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham (67 snaps) was targeted 15 times, catching 11 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. The bulk of his productivity came in the first half again when he caught nine of those passes for 117 yards. Beckham also showed off his arm strength with a deep pass that covered about 65 yards in the air.

Beckham had an 18-yard catch on New York’s first drive that ended with a short field goal. His biggest impact came on New York’s next possession as all four plays involved passes to Beckham with the talented receiver catching a contested 50-yard deep ball, a short 7-yard reception, and two plays later, a 3rd-and-3 15-yard TD reception while he was being smacked by the safety. Beckham also caught two short third-down conversions on the second FG drive. On the negative side, Beckham was flagged with an unsportsmanlike penalty and he dropped what should have been a 45-yard touchdown pass in the 4th quarter.

The second most productive wideout was not Rueben Randle but Preston Parker (42 snaps) who caught all five passes thrown in his direction for 50 yards. Two of those catches came on the opening FG drive as Parker caught a 12 yarder on 2nd-and-6 and a 15 yarder on 3rd-and-4. On New York’s second FG drive, Parker had another key 13-yard catch on 3rd-and-4. He also had a 17-yard catch on the final first-half FG drive.

Rueben Randle (50 snaps) had one catch for nine yards. Kevin Ogletree (15 snaps) had three passes thrown in his direction, but did have a reception. Corey Washington played four snaps and was not targeted.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell (49 snaps) caught 4-of-7 passes thrown in his direction for 28 yards. He dropped a pass 3rd-and-6 pass right in his hands that would have given the Giants a 1st-and-goal situation in the 4th quarter. Daniel Fells (32 snaps, one target) did not have a catch while Adrien Robinson (13 snaps) made a tough catch on a low throw on 3rd-and-1 that unfortunately did not pick up the first down.

I watched the blocking of the tight ends more closely on the opening drive. Robinson had a nice block on the game’s initial play. Fells failed to make his block later on a run by Williams that went nowhere. Donnell made a really nice block as an upback leading the back through the hole on another carry. Donnell’s man was the guy who hit Manning hard on the deep shot to Beckham in the 4th quarter.

Offensive Line

The same offensive line that played for the first 10 games of the season started in Tennessee with Justin Pugh back at right tackle. Against a defense that was 8th in the NFL in sack production, the Giants did not allow a sack although Eli Manning was officially hit five times, three times by DE Jurrell Casey.

The running attack continues to sputter though the Giants certainly had some second half success running the ball, most notably on the 50-yard touchdown run.

The two weak spots remain OC J.D. Walton and RG John Jerry. For example, on the only New York drive in the first half that did not result in points, Walton’s bad block on 1st-and-10 led to a 1-yard loss. On 2nd-and-11, Manning had to quickly unload the ball as Jerry’s man blew past him to hit Manning as he threw the ball. Jerry gave up another quick pressure in the second quarter.

J.D. Walton gets pushed back, disrupting running play

J.D. Walton gets pushed back, disrupting the running play…

...then John Jerry gets beat inside, causing rushed throw.

…then John Jerry gets beat inside, causing a rushed throw.

But there were other slip ups up front that hurt the running game. In the 2nd quarter, LT Will Beatty could not handle DE Jurrell Casey at the point-of-attack and Williams was tackled for a 3-yard loss.

RDE disrupts running play by defeating block of Will Beatty.

RDE disrupts running play by defeating block of Will Beatty.

On the positive side, there was superb blocking Williams’ 50-yard touchdown run by Beatty, tight ends Robinson and Fells, and fullback Hynoski.

50-yard TD with good blocks from Robinson, Beatty, Fells, and Hynoski.

50-yard TD with good blocks from Robinson, Beatty, Fells, and Hynoski.

And my whipping boys, Walton and Jerry did a really nice job on a 3rd-and-long screen pass that picked up 17 yards and set up the last field goal.

A well-executed screen with good downfield blocks by Walton and Jerry.

A well-executed screen with good downfield blocks by Walton and Jerry.

Beatty was flagged with a holding penalty and Richburg with ineligibly downfield on a screen pass.

Defensive Overview

The Giants dominated defensively, shutting out the Titans, holding them to 12 first downs (three in the first half). The Titans were held to a paltry 207 total yards (62 in the first half). The Giants accrued eight sacks, three turnovers, and scored defensively.

While such a performance should not be discounted against any pro team, keep in mind the Titans were 30th in offense and dead last in scoring coming into the game, and they were without both offensive tackles and their best wideouts due to injury.

Defensive Line

The Giants held the Titans to 61 yards rushing and 27 of those yards were from the quarterback. Indeed, backup quarterback Jake Locker was the team’s leading rusher. In addition, the Giants defensive line was credited with four sacks.

There are currently only three defensive ends on the roster. Jason Pierre-Paul (50 snaps, 7 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for losses, 1 QB hit, 1 forced fumble) and Damontre Moore (45 snaps, 2 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for losses, 2 QB hits) saw the bulk of the action though Kerry Wynn (35 snaps, no tackles) played quite a bit.

Tennessee was missing both their offensive tackles. JPP took advantage of that and was the most disruptive defensive player on the field. Interestingly, Perry Fewell finally had him playing quite a bit at left defensive end, though Pierre-Paul continued to flip-flop between both end spots. Not only did Pierre-Paul have two sacks but he was a factor on the pass rush throughout the contest. For example, JPP’s pressure caused the quarterback to step up into the pocket and into the waiting arms of Jameel McClain on the team’s first sack. Similarly, on the Devon Kennard sack the caused the fumble returned for a touchdown, it was JPP who initially contacted the quarterback.

Pierre-Paul had initial contact on fumble play returned for TD.

Pierre-Paul had initial contact on fumble play returned for TD.

Pierre-Paul’s first sack came late in the first half as he also stripped the ball. However, Pierre-Paul should have simply fallen on the fumble instead of trying to pick it up as Tennessee recovered instead. JPP’s second sack came on the Titans’ last offensive series.

JPP beats left tackle to sack QB and cause fumble.

JPP beats the left tackle to sack QB and cause a fumble.

Pierre-Paul was also a factor against the run, as best illustrated by his penetration on the second offensive snap of the 3rd quarter that disrupted one running play.

JPP blows up running play.

JPP blows up running play.

Like Pierre-Paul, Moore was flipped-flopped from side to side. He was not terribly stout at the point-of-attack against the run, particularly at left defensive end. I saw one late 1st quarter running play where he was easily shoved back four yards by the tight end. To me, since he doesn’t look bigger than Devon Kennard, Moore is probably better suited to the right side of the defense in non-obvious pass-rush situations.

Moore - playing LDE - gets pushed back 4 yards by TE

Moore – playing LDE – gets pushed back 4 yards by TE

Moore came up with his first sack late in the 3rd quarter. However, two plays later, Moore was flagged with an unnecessary roughness penalty, wiping our a defensive touchdown. Moore’s final sack came on the Giants’ last defensive play as Moore nailed the QB for a 10-yard loss on 4th-and-9.

At defensive tackle, as usual, Johnathan Hankins (27 snaps, 1 tackle, 1 QB hit) saw the most action but Jay Bromley (23 snaps, no tackles) was #2 in the number of snaps received. Hankins had one very good pass rush where he smacked the quarterback as he released the ball, causing an incomplete pass on a play where the receiver was wide open. He also was right on top of the quarterback on Moore’s sack that ended the game on 4th-and-9.

Hankins beats LG to hit QB, causing an incomplete pass.

Hankins beats LG to hit QB, causing an incomplete pass.

Mike Patterson (19 snaps, 1 tackle), Markus Kuhn (16 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 fumble recovery), and Cullen Jenkins (14 snaps, 1 tackle) all saw playing time too. Kuhn had the defensive score. Patterson made a nice hustle play down the line of scrimmage on the tight end on his sole tackle.

Linebackers

With Jacquian Williams and Mark Herzlich both out with concussions, the Giants were short at linebacker with only Jameel McClain, Devon Kennard, Spencer Paysinger, and newcomers James Davidson and Paul Hazel active.

McClain (58 snaps, 8 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for losses, 1 QB hit) and Kennard (32 snaps, 6 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for losses, 2 QB hits, 1 forced fumble) were very active for the second game in a row. No other linebacker showed up on the stat sheet as Paysinger only played nine snaps.

McClain had the team’s first sack and Kennard followed that up later in the first quarter with a sack and forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown. McClain made a nice tackle on a 3-yard screen play that looked poised to pick up more. Kennard’s second sack – where he was unblocked – knocked the Titans’ starting quarterback out of the game.

Defensive Backs

Titans’ wideouts were limited to 12 catches for a total of 148 yards, but keep in mind that Tennessee’s two top wideouts were missing from this game and former Giant Derek Hagan was Tennessee’s leading receiver with six catches for 62 yards. The two Titans quarterbacks completed 23-of-35 passes for 206 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions (57.6 QB rating).

The only big breakdown came late in the game on a 30-yard completion where there appeared to be some confusion between safeties Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown.

Zack Bowman (no defensive snaps) appears to have been demoted. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (58 snaps, 0 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass defense) and Chykie Brown (56 snaps, 5 tackles) started with Mike Harris (50 snaps, 3 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for losses, 1 QB hit) receiving significant playing time as the slot corner.

DRC played well and picked off a pass that he returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. A penalty wiped out the TD, but the interception stood. I thought he got a little sloppy with this tackling however.

I liked what I saw from Harris. He missed a sack in the first half when the QB ducked under his blitz, but later redeemed himself with a 10-yard sack on 4th-and-5 in the fourth quarter. Harris was often matched up on dangerous RB Dexter McCluster, and he did a nice job on him. Harris also nailed Hagan for a 2-yard loss on a WR-screen in the 4th quarter.

At safety, Stevie Brown (58 snaps, 2 tackles) continued to start along with Antrel Rolle (58 snaps, 4 tackles, 1 pass defense). Quintin Demps (26 snaps, 3 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass defense) and Nat Berhe (3 snaps, 1 tackle) saw playing time as well.

On the play where Moore’s penalty wiped out a defensive score by DRC, Rolle was also flagged with unsportsmanlike conduct for pretending to take pictures of Rodgers-Cromartie…a stupid, immature stunt by a veteran of Rolle’s stature. Rolle did cause a late interception with his hit on TE Delanie Walker that was picked off by Demps on the rebound.

Chykie Brown seemed to do OK but was flagged with an unnecessary roughness penalty.

Special Teams

Josh Brown was 5-for-5 on field goal attempts, making it from 20, 19, 36, 52, and 42 yards. Five of his nine kickoffs went for touchbacks. The longest Tennessee kickoff return went for 23 yards.

Steve Weatherford punted four times, averaging 46.5 yards per punt (40.5 yard net). He nailed a 61 yarder that bounced into the end zone and only netted 41 yards – this is why Tom Quinn was upset on the sidelines. The Titans only returned one punt for four yards.

Preston Parker returned one kickoff for 20 yards but only reached the 17-yard line. Odell Beckham returned four punts for 49 yards, with the longest being for 21 yards. He seems poised to break one.

Paul Hazel was flagged for being offsides on a kickoff.

(New York Giants at Tennessee Titans, December 7, 2014)
Dec 052014
 
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Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (November 30, 2014)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at Tennessee Titans, December 7, 2014

The season that would not end…the slow death of the 2014 New York Giants season continues. Giants fans wait 7-8 months for football to begin and now they can’t wait for it to be over and to see how management is going to address this steaming pile of crap.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Is Eli hearing footsteps again?
By the end of the 2013 season, not only was Eli Manning seriously hurt, but he had become shell-shocked behind one of the worst NYG offensive lines in recent memory. There was a legitimate fear that the exceptionally poor protection could have a long-term psychological impact on his game. Enter Ben McAdoo and a somewhat improved offensive line that helped to restore his confidence in the first half of the 2014 season. But the offensive line has begun to deteriorate again and consequently so has Eli’s confidence. To be blunt, he doesn’t trust his line and it’s affecting his game.

Second Down
Is Andre Williams an NFL starter?
With Rashad Jennings (ankle) ailing, Andre Williams most likely will start against one of the NFL’s worst run defenses. Williams may have five touchdowns but his is averaging a pathetic 2.9 yards per rush on 134 carries. Thus far, the super-productive collegiate back who many thought was a steal simply looks like “just a guy.” Obviously, the offensive line has a role in that, but Williams has to play better. If not, then he is yet another draft mistake by Jerry Reese, Marc Ross, and company. It will be curious to see if he or fellow rookie Titan Bishop Sankey has the better game.

Third Down
Are Larry Donnell and Rueben Randle part of the long-term solution?
Truth be told, Larry Donnell really has played above expectations this year with 51 catches for 516 yards and six touchdowns. But after the early-season game against the Redskins where Donnell looked like a budding star, more was expected down the stretch. Was that just a one-time flash in the pan? Randle has 56 catches for 609 yards and two touchdowns. That’s not enough for a #2 receiver in a passing league. He only has one 100-yard game this year. Randle has the ability, but he’s got to want it.

Fourth Down
On a defense that has to be overhauled in the offseason, who will be part of the solution?
The million dollar question is will Jason Pierre-Paul be back? For as much grief as he gets from fans, he’s still the best defensive lineman on the team and the guy who other teams worry about. If he walks, that opens up yet another huge hole on a defense sorely lacking talent (plus, it will mean the premature departure of yet another 1st round draft pick). But the Giants should not dramatically overpay JPP. One assumes Johnathan Hankins and Jay Bromley will be part of the fix, but what about Damontre Moore? Based on comments from coaches this week, it’s clear that they still don’t view him as a full-time starter. If that is the long-term view of his game, the Giants really have some huge holes on the defensive line. Aside from Robert Ayers (now on IR), is there anyone else really worth bringing back up front? At linebacker, Devon Kennard seems like a player. Jameel McClain has been decent. But these two are not overly speedy and the rest of the linebackers just aren’t that good. In the secondary, as long as everyone returns healthy, and if they can re-sign Walter Thurmond (a big if), they should be in good shape at corner. But safety is an issue, especially if Antrel Rolle leaves.

BREAKING DOWN TENNESSEE:

OFFENSE
Strength?
Like the Jaguars last week, the Titans are not very good on offense. They are 30th on offense in yardage and 32nd in points scored. The Titans are terrible on 3rd down (dead last in the NFL) and they turn the ball over a lot. That said, when healthy, they have the makings of an up-and-coming young offensive line. The problem is their line, including LT Taylor Lewan (ankle) and RT Michael Oher (toe) have been battling injuries. Chance Warmack is the right guard. Lewan and Warmack are both high 1st rounders who many Giants fans wanted to draft. Delanie Walker has been productive catching the football at tight end and could present some match-up issues for the Giants as could RB Dexter McCluster. Giants fans will remember how this runner-receiver-returner killed the Giants in Kansas City last season.

Weakness?
The Titans struggle to run the ball (27th in the NFL). And while they are better passing (20th), they are starting a rookie quarterback with a bum right shoulder and have suffered some significant injuries at wide receiver. Justin Hunter was placed on IR and Kendall Wright has a hand injury that caused him to miss some practice time this week.

DEFENSE
Strength?
Like the Jaguars, the Titans are statistically pretty bad on defense, but they do one thing really well – rush the passer. They are 8th int he NFL in sacks with 31 and in their new 3-4 defense has enable pressure from multiple players (15 Titans have sacks). See Tom Coughlin’s comments below on which defenders have stood out to him.

Weakness?
The Titans are 30th in yards allowed and 32nd in points allowed. They are dead last against the run. The Titans are 18th against the pass, but that is more a function of the pass rush than a suspect secondary.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Dexter McCluster returned a punt for 89 yards and a touchdown against the Giants in 2013 as a Chief. New Yorkers are also familiar with ex-Jet Leon Washington’s return game (8 career kickoff TDs). Rookie Bishop Sankey has actually been more productive on kickoffs this year than Washington.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Eli Manning
The Giants need to get Eli through the next four games both physically and mentally intact for the 2015 season.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin - “(The Titans’) defense is led by Jurrell Casey, an outstanding rush defender up front. Derrick Morgan, Jason McCourty is having an outstanding year. You can’t help but noticing him on tape. And the two inside backers, (Wesley) Woodyard and the rookie, (Avery) Williamson, and also (Michael) Griffin, the safety, are doing an outstanding job.”

Ken Whisenhunt - “When I look at the (New York Giants) I just look at what I see on tape. I see a team that plays hard and make some plays and has weapons. We certainly have our concerns. You know just from looking at it what their record is, but I think they are a team that is better than what their record is…Certainly (Odell Beckham) is growing as a young player. I think you can see his confidence has increased and he is making a lot of plays and he is one you certainly have to be aware of, but to me it all starts with the quarterback. He is a very good player, established player in the league and I have a lot of respect for what he has done. I think you have to make sure you that you try to contain him.”

FINAL WORD:

I have a hard time seeing the Giants winning another game in 2014. Defensively, a lack of demonstrated success (i.e., confidence), injuries, and a growing belief that Perry Fewell is probably on his way out will likely continue to cause defensive breakdowns, even against terrible offensive teams like the Titans. Offensively, while the Titans are terrible statistically, they do one thing that has caused the Giants problems – they rush the passer. An aggressive 3-4 defense, the Titans will blitz from every angle and this Giants’ offensive line gets confused very easily by blitzes, and stunts, and probably their own damn shadows. If the Giants can protect Eli and not turn the ball over, they should win easily. But I don’t see them doing either. Titans 19 – Giants 10.

Dec 022014
 
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John Mara, New York Giants (November 30, 2014)

John Mara – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Jacksonville Jaguars 25 – New York Giants 24

Game Overview

The Giants managed to find a way to do the impossible. Leading 21-0 in the second quarter against a 1-10 football team – a team with the NFL’s 31st-ranked offense and 30th-ranked defense – the Giants collapsed and lost the game 25-24.

It was an epic defeat – even for a 3-9 football team that has now lost seven games in a row. Ironically, the loss may ultimately end Tom Coughlin’s NFL head coaching career in the very city where it all began.

It was a team-wide embarrassment for the Giants:

  • The offense only scored three points and gained six first downs in the second half. Worse, they allowed two defensive scores. As Coughlin said after the game, the Giants probably would have won the game had they just knelt on the ball in the second half.
  • On special teams, Josh Brown missed a 43-yard field goal in a game the team lost by one point.
  • Defensively, statistically the Giants played well for most of the game, but once again, with the game on the line, the defense allowed the opponent to easily march down the field and score the game-winning points. There was also a dropped interception that could have prevented a field goal and a 6-play, 67-yard touchdown drive that was far too easy.

Leading by 21 points, it was almost impossible for the Giants to lose this game against this particular opponent. But the 2014 Giants found a way. This team is psychologically fragile, now shell-shocked, and expects the worst to happen. And it usually does.

The New York Giants are a broken franchise.

Offensive Overview

  • First Half: 23 rushes, 19 passes, 0 sacks, 21 points, 16 first downs, 254 total yards (177 yards passing, 77 yards rushing), 6-for-8 on third down (75 percent). No turnovers.
  • Second Half: 12 rushes, 19 passes, 4 sacks, 3 points, 6 first downs, 75 total yards (36 yards passing, 39 yards rushing), 1-for-7 on third down (14 percent). Three fumbles lost, including two for defensive scores.

Some will contend the Giants got too conservative in second half, but the Giants were very conservative in first half too. They rushed 23 times and passed 19 times in the first half, nevertheless scoring touchdowns on three straight possessions and going 3-for-3 (100 percent) in the red zone against the NFL’s top red zone defense.

For example, on the first touchdown drive, the Giants ran the the ball 13 times out of 19 plays. On third touchdown drive, the Giants ran the ball four times in seven plays. Both touchdowns on these drives came on runs.

In the second half? The Giant rushed 12 times and passed 19 times. The big difference? The blocking fell apart as the Giants no longer had much success running the football and Eli was sacked four times. Obviously, the two defensive scores on passing plays were decisive. In fact, one can legitimately argue had the Giants not passed the ball in the second half of the game, but just run and punted, they would have been far likelier to have won against the particular opponent. In other words, perhaps they were not conservative enough. That won’t work against most teams, but it probably would have worked in this game.

Quarterback

Eli Manning finished the first half 15-of-19 for 177 yards and a touchdown (123.0 QB rating). He completed 9-of-15 passes for 70 yards in the second half. While he threw no interceptions, he fumbled the ball away twice, including for one score.

Running Backs

Again, a tale of two halves. Rashad Jennings (47 snaps) carried the ball 19 times for 65 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. This despite a poorly blocked play that resulted in an 11-yard loss and exacerbated by Jennings’ ill-advised decision to reverse field. Before Jennings left with an ankle injury, he only manged 26 yards on seven carries in the second half. Jennings also should have fallen in on Manning’s fumble in the end zone instead of trying to pick it up and run it out. Jennings caught 3-of-5 passes thrown in his direction for a grand total of three yards.

Andre Williams (26 snaps) finished with 21 yards on eight carries. Williams caught 2-of-3 passes for 16 yards, including an 18-yard screen pass on the second TD drive.

Wide Receivers

Rueben Randle (45 snaps) was benched for the first quarter due to being late for a team meeting on Friday. He caught 3-of-4 passes in his direction for 52 yards.

Odell Beckham (69 snaps) caught 7-of-8 passes for 90 yards. The Giants need to get the ball more into his hands, but the offensive line needs to give Manning time to do that too. Beckham was targeted six times in first half and only twice in second half. His biggest first-half play was his 29-yard run-and-catch off a short pass. His only second-half receptions came on New York’s only scoring drive in the second half? Coincidence? Not likely.

Kevin Ogletree (21 snaps) caught two passes for 25 yards and Preston Parker (62 snaps) caught two passes for six yards and a touchdown. Ogletree had key 12-yard catch on 3rd-and-6 on third TD drive. Parker dropped a perfectly-thrown TD pass right before Jennings’ 17-yard TD run. Corey Washington played two snaps.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell (54 snaps) caught 5-of-7 passes thrown in his direction for 55 yards. He caught a 14-yard out pass on 3rd-and-7 on first TD drive and a 32-yard reception on the second TD drive. But his fumble proved extremely costly as it was returned 41 yards for a touchdown. On the following drive, he could not make the catch on 3rd-and-3 when contacted by the defender. Daniel Fells (27 snaps) missed a block and his man is the one who sacked Manning and forced the other fumble that resulted in a touchdown. Fells had a shot at recovering the loose ball but missed it. Adrien Robinson played three snaps.

Offensive Line

Justin Pugh (quadriceps) did not play and was replaced by Geoff Schwartz for the second week in a row. But Schwartz (14 snaps) was carted off of the field early with a serious ankle injury and did not return. He was replaced at right tackle by James Brewer (46 snaps). Brewer left the game in the second half with a concussion. When he left the game, John Jerry moved from right guard to right tackle and Dallas Reynolds (14 snaps) played right guard.

The offensive line was not “good” but it was respectable in the first half, especially in pass protection. I was underwhelmed by the run blocking, particularly by RG John Jerry (as inconsistent as they come and responsible for too many negative plays; he doesn’t sustain or completely misses too many blocks; he also is easily confused by stunts and blitzes), OC J.D. Walton (just gets pushed around too much – he’s not an NFL starter), and LG Weston Richburg (doesn’t play with much power and seems undersized for position). Likewise, James Brewer just seems like a soft player. He rarely plays to his size. He shouldn’t be in the NFL.

On the first drive, Jerry’s poor run block led to an 11-yard loss on 2nd-and-6 and subsequent punt. Brewer and Reynolds were flagged with false starts. But the unit gave up no sacks and no QB hits in first half.

Like they did against the 49ers, the offensive line deteriorated in the second half. Manning was sacked and fumbled the ball away on the second NYG offensive snap of the 3rd quarter. While TE Daniel Fells gave up a hit, so did Jerry and Walton who let one inside rusher blow past them (and instead of trying to recover the ball, both Will Beatty and Walton just stood there watching).

After the offense came back onto the field, on their very next pass play, on 3rd-and-2, Manning was sacked again as Beatty – for some inexplicable reason – let his man just blow past him, and Walton again got bulldozed back into Manning. On the next series, on 3rd-and-2, Manning’s arm was hit as James Brewer’s opponent ran right past him (and based on Tom Coughlin’s reaction, Rashad Jennings should have chipped the end and helped Brewer on this play). Incomplete, missed field goal.

As the game progressed from the third into the fourth quarter, it became clear that the offensive “brain trust” was justifiably concerned about the line’s ability to protect Eli even on short pass plays. But the running game got worse too. There isn’t too much you can call offensively when you can’t block for the run or the pass.

Early in 4th quarter, Andre Williams got nailed in the backfield when Brewer failed to get a hand on the defensive tackle who then easily got past Walton (according to David Diehl, Brewer was largely to blame here). On the next play, Manning had time but couldn’t find anyone open and was sacked. On the next play, Donnell fumbled. Jacksonville 22 – New York 21.

When Brewer went out and Jerry moved to right tackle and Dallas Reynolds came in at right guard, it got worse and Jacksonville smelled blood in the water. Now trailing because of the two defensive scores, the Giants couldn’t run and Eli wasn’t given a clean pocket. Most pass attempts were short because there was no time to throw anything farther down the field.

When the line finally gave Eli some time on its last scoring drive, Eli was able to complete four straight passes, but the drive stalled in the red zone with a 1-yard loss running play and two incomplete passes (despite decent protection).

When New York got the ball with 28 seconds left, down by one, the game ended on an appropriate note as Jerry and Reynolds got destroyed on a stunt and Manning was sacked and lost the ball.

Defensive Overview

Even had the Giants won this game, the improved defensive performance would have had to be taken with a grain of salt given the level of incompetence of the Jaguars’ offense (31st-ranked offense, terrible offensive line, rookie quarterback).

But anyone wearing blue-colored glasses when looking at this defense has be depressed by yet another late-game collapse by that side of the ball. Despite everything that went wrong after the 21-0 lead, the Giants were still up 24-22 with 3:26 to play and Jacksonville starting at their own 20-yard line. Eleven plays later, with 28 seconds left in the game, the Jaguars kicked the game winner.

In a game decided by a single point, the Giants dropped an interception that would have prevented a field goal. In fact, the the Giants could not force a turnover against a team that had turned the ball over in every game it had played this year.

The defense forced seven punts, but they also gave up long drives of 70 (field goal), 67 (touchdown), and 55 (field goal) yards – all resulting in points. On the touchdown drive, the Giants appeared confused by the Wild Cat and Read Option plays that picked up 28 yards before the 30-yard touchdown pass.

These deficiencies largely erased an excellent start for a Giants’ defense that did not allow a first down on Jacksonville’s first three possessions of the game. The Jaguars first 1st down came with about 5:30 left in the first half. There were two three-and-outs in the fourth quarter too. But then came the game-winning drive. Not good enough.

Defensive Line/Linebackers

The Giants played a lot of players on defense.

Jason Pierre-Paul (66 snaps, 4 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QB hits) played virtually every snap at defensive end. With Mathias Kiwanuka (knee) out, Damontre Moore (43 snaps, 1 tackle, 2 pass defenses) saw the most action he has all season. Robert Ayers (34 snaps, 1 tackle) left the game with a season-ending pectoral tear. As a result, Kerry Wynn (3 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 QB hit) surprisingly played quite a bit (22 snaps).

The Jaguars could not run the ball on the Giants except by using unconventional methods such as the Wild Cat or Read Option. But the five QB runs by Blake Bortles picked up 68 yards, the most damaging coming on the game-winning field goal drive when it appears that Pierre-Paul was out of position, biting too hard on the inside fake to the running back (though the linebacker to that side might have been responsible too). It was too bad for JPP who otherwise played well against a very talented left tackle. His best play was his outside speed rush where he sacked Bortles on 3rd-and-8 in the 4th quarter. He also deflected a two-point conversion attempt and caused the left tackle to hold on the final game-winning drive.

Moore played decently, tipping two passes and flashing at times on the pass rush. He and Johnathan Hankins combined for a 1-yard loss on a running play too. But Moore also had a holding penalty and appeared to be out of position on a Wild Cat run that picked up 16 yards on Jacksonville’s lone offensive TD drive.

Ayers was playing very well as a pass rusher until hurt. I spotted three excellent pass rushes by him, including two that really caused sacks that others ultimately got credit for. But he also badly missed a tackle on a running play that should have lost yardage but gained 17 on the first-half FG drive. Kerry didn’t look bad. He cleaned up on one of Ayers’ pressures for a sack. He did get flagged with an illegal use-of-hands penalty.

Inside, Johnathan Hankins again logged the most time (40 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit) followed by Markus Kuhn (27 snaps, 0 tackles), Mike Patterson (23 snaps, 4 tackles), and Jay Bromley (16 snaps, 2 tackles). The tackles were very stout inside against the run. Hankins cleaned up one of Ayers’ pressures for a sack and also caused a holding penalty that wiped out a Jacksonville TD in the first half.

At linebacker Jameel McClain (68 snaps, 9 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit) and Devon Kennard (46 snaps, 3 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 2 QB hits) saw the most action. Mark Herzlich (23 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 TFL), Spencer Paysinger (22 snaps, 0 tackles), and Terrell Manning (1 snap, 0 tackles) played more sparingly.

McClain and Kennard were both very active. The two combined for three sacks. Kennard also tackled the back for a 3-yard loss, but also dropped an easy interception off a deflected pass in the end zone that could have prevented a FG. Paysinger was on the same side as JPP on Bortles’ killer 20-yard run on the last drive, but was too easily blocked.

Defensive Backs

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (17 snaps, 2 tackles) played sparingly as Zack Bowman (61 snaps, 1 tackle) and Chykie Brown (55 snaps, 7 tackles) saw the most action, followed by Mike Harris (22 snaps, 1 tackle).

Antrel Rolle (7 tackles, 1 TLF, 1 pass defense) and Stevie Brown (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit) played all 68 snaps. Quintin Demps (0 tackles) played 26 snaps.

Bortles only threw for 194 yards, but he did complete 60 percent of his passes, and most disturbing was 3-for-4 for 34 yards on the game-winning drive. The big mess up there was Bowman getting beat on the 23-yard slant on 2nd-and-15. Bowman also got beat deep for the 30-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. DRC hardly played but caused two incompletions with physical hits. Chykie Brown was a bit shakier this week, and missed a tackle, but his play didn’t really harm the Giants.

Stevie Brown made a nice play earlier in the game by not biting on misdirection and tackling the ball carrier for no gain. I thought he had a shot at an interception in the second quarter but couldn’t come down with the ball (his 8-interception season in 2012 appears to have been a fluke). Antrel Rolle was quiet yet again. He was flagged with a late hit but followed that up with an excellent play on a screen pass for a 2-yard loss.

Special Teams

Josh Brown picked a bad time to miss his first field goal of the year, this one from 43 yards out. His 33 yarder put the Giants up 24-22 with 3:26 to play.

Two of Brown’s five kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. The Jaguars returned three kickoffs for 51 yards, the longest being only 21 yards.

Steve Weatherford punted five times, averaging 51.8 yards per punt (47.8 yard net). The Jaguars returned three of those punts for a total of 20 yards, with the longest being 10 yards.

The Giants only returned one kickoff: 22 yards by Preston Parker. Odell Beckham returned five punts for 48 yards with the longest being a 23 yarder. But he shouldn’t have fielded one punt inside the 5-yard line. Two plays later, Jacksonville scored on defense when Eli was sacked at the 8-yard line.

(New York Giants at Jacksonville Jaguars, November 30, 2014)
Nov 282014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 23, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at Jacksonville Jaguars, November 30, 2014

Before December, the Giants have been officially from playoff contention. It is the third season in a row, and fifth time in six years, the Giants will not be in the playoffs. The remaining five games are now more about preparing for 2015.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
What does Odell Beckham Jr. do for an encore?
It was the catch that broke twitter as Odell Beckham Jr. dove backwards and pulled in the uncatchable with three fingers. So, what’s he do for an encore? Despite missing the first six games of the season, Beckham is closing in on 1,000 yards receiving and making general manager Jerry Reese look very smart for drafting the rookie with the No. 12 pick int he draft this year.

Second Down
Can Perry Fewell save his job?
There’s a good chance nothing can save Fewell’s job as the Giants defense, even with its additions, is 31st in the NFL. Last week’s game-winning drive by the Dallas Cowboys was filled with questionable calls from Fewell and even bigger questions as to the players he chose to put on the field. Can Fewell salvage something, anything, these last five games to show he can still be a solid defensive coordinator in the NFL?

Third Down
Will Damontre Moore play more?
The New York Giants are in desperate need of a pass rusher. Arguably the team’s most talented continues to sit on the sideline. With the team officially eliminated from the playoffs with the Detroit Lions victory over the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving, there’s nothing to lose by playing Moore every snap. Mathias Kiwanuka has struggled this year, Moore hasn’t been given the chance to. Will the defensive coaches put the second-year pro on the field?

Fourth Down
How will the Giants play against Jacksonville?
The New York Giants got through the easy portion of their schedule with victories over the “bad” teams in the NFL. After going winless against the good teams, how will New York now play against the one-win Jaguars? There’s nothing to play for anymore for the Giants, will they play down the Jaguars?

BREAKING DOWN JACKSONVILLE:

OFFENSE - by Connor Hughes
Strength?
With Maurice Jones-Drew in Oakland, Denard Robinson has been a pleasant surprise for the Jacksonville Jaguars on offense. Robinson has rushed for 508 yards this season and four touchdowns. He’s averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

Weakness?
Blake Bortles had a nice preseason for the Jaguars. Blake Bortles has not had a nice regular season for the Jaguars. Since being handed the starting quarterback job back Sepember 21, Bortles has thrown just eight touchdowns to a league-leading 15 interceptions. Bortles has thrown an interception in every game he’s played and multiple interceptions in five of nine starts. The rookie is taking his lumps and the Giants secondary should be able to take advantage.

DEFENSEby Eric Kennedy
Strength?
Despite the fact that the Jaguars are 30th in defense, they can rush the passer. Jacksonville is third in the NFL in sacks with 33. And 14.5 of those sacks have come from the interior defensive line. The defense of the Jaguars is also extremely tough in the red zone, allowing an NFL low 39 percent conversion rate.

Weakness?
The Jacksonville secondary is not very good. Not only are the Jaguars 27th in pass defense but secondary only has two interceptions on the season (three others by non-defensive backs).

SPECIAL TEAMS - by Eric Kennedy

Jordan Todman leads the NFL with 23 kickoff returns of 20 or more yards and his 26.3-yard average is sixth in the league.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Eli Manningby Connor Hughes
Eli Manning has been under fire the last two games as the quarterback has been one of the reasons the Giants have lost each. Had it not been for five interceptions versus the San Francisco 49ers, and an overthrow to Preston Parker against Dallas, there’s a chance New York sits better than 3-8. Manning has always been a quarterback that puts his numbers aside and takes chances when things start looking bad. Things are now looking bad, Manning could look to start forcing the issue.

Against Jacksonville, Manning should be able to find the same success he had earlier in the season. Or, things continue to spiral down.

New York Giants Offensive Line - by Eric Kennedy
As noted above, the Jaguars can rush the passer, statistically better than the 49ers and Cowboys who gave New York’s line problems. The Giants offensive line needs to protect Eli to allow him time to get the ball to downfield targets who should be able to exploit a pretty bad secondary. Also of note, the Jaguars are 28th in run defense. New York’s ground game has been anemic for six games. It’s time to turn that around.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin - “I worry that we’re not winning the games that were the close games. I worry that we put ourselves in position to score and we don’t score, and we don’t win. One week, it’s score and the next week, it’s stopping them…There is no doubt that (the team almost waits for something to go wrong). Why would we have the ball first-and-goal at the four (against the 49ers) and not score?…(Against the Cowboys), they’ve got to go 80 yards. We have eliminated getting beaten by a field goal. They’re got to score a touchdown. They’ve got to go 80 yards and they’ve got to score a touchdown. Why would that not be a challenge?”

Gus Bradley - “I think their skill positons, their receiving corps, tight end, and Eli Manning, I think they are very talented on the perimeter. Obviously with Odell Beckham Jr., he has kind of made a name for himself the last five games. We really liked him coming out in the draft, as did many teams.”

FINAL WORD:

(by Connor Hughes) The Giants aren’t a very good team right now, but they’re much better than the Jacksonville Jaguars. Truthfully, I believe it will take New York making all the wrong mistakes to even give Jacksonville a chance, and even then New York could probably still pull out a win. The Giants offensive line should be able to control the line of scrimmage which in turn will open up running lanes. If the Giants can establish a rushing attack, that then makes the passing game more effective. I believe they’ll get both going against Jacksonville. Giants 24 – Jaguars 14.

(by Eric Kennedy) The Jaguars may be 1-10 but they continue to play hard and many of their games against far better teams have been very competitive, including the Colts last week. For weeks, some of the Giants players have been saying they could still make the playoffs. Well, officially that pipe dream has ended. Will the team come into this game with the proper frame of mind with reality finally hitting them in the face? I think Perry Fewell’s defense is simply just bad and the defensive players uninspired. I also worry about Eli against this pass rush. Jaguars 20 – Giants 3.

Nov 262014
 
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Amari Cooper, Alabama Crimson Tide (November 8, 2014)

Amari Cooper – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft – November 26, 2014 Report

By Colin Lindsay (Great Blue North Draft Report)

After posting some draft comments last weekend, a couple of erstwhile, not to mention discerning, BigBlueInteractive.com regulars asked if I would consider posting some draft thoughts based on where the Giants stood regarding the 2015 draft between now and the end of the season given there isn’t much else to really get excited about in Big Blue land. Along the way, I’d also hope that at least when it comes to the draft that folks really try and think like a pro rather than carry on like a pampered frat house sophomore or a drunk hollering in a bar.

First off, people just have to stop talking about Jerry Reese’s draft picks. JERRY REESE DOESN’T MAKE THE PICKS! Neither does Marc Ross for that matter. The fact is that the Giants invest literally millions of dollars and hundred of man hours putting a grade on every draft eligible player out there and then coalescing as a collective around the guys they like.

Second, if guys are going to talk about the draft, it would be nice if they understood how it really works. In particular, when people say the it’s a lottery or a crapshoot what they mean is that the draft IS a lottery or a crapshoot. It is like flipping coins. George Young probably said it best when he said that when it comes to the draft you gather as much information as you can get, make the best picks you can, and then you cross your fingers. Hit a bunch of heads and they call you a genius; hit too many tails and they start calling your 4th round picks – that only had a 25% or so probability of ever working out in the first place – that don’t work out BLUNDERS!

Thirdly, folks could really humor this old draft guy by not posting who they’d take. Trust me, nobody cares! Fact is nobody should care who I’d take. Folks might care a tad, though, who I think the Giants might be looking because I have a pretty good track record of dissecting and predicting what they might be thinking, although nobody’s perfect!

Where we stand … If the draft were held this week the Giants would have the 7th pick in the opening round, the same as last week as each of the team’s just ahead of the Giants also lost. Of course, the lay of the land could change for the Giants as the next couple of weeks as they head into what can only be described as the ‘easy’ part of the schedule. Indeed, the Giants next four opponents have a combined record of 10-34, whereas during the current 6-game losing streak the opponents combined W-L record was 45-21. In fact, if its any small consolation to Giants’ fans, the 8 losses so far this year came against teams with a combined winning % of almost 70%; indeed, even throw out the wins against the Giants and they are still 53-27 or 66% against the rest of the league.

The good news for the Giants is that even if they are able to win the majority of their remaining games, although that’s hardly a given, they won’t lose all that many draft spots as there are just aren’t a whole lot of teams within striking distance ahead of them in the standings. In fact, even were the Giants able to run the table the rest of the year, they aren’t likely to draft much higher than the 13-14 range.

The less good news for the Giants if indeed their 2015 first round pick is to be in the #7 range is, at least how looks right now (although of course a whole bunch is going to change between now and April 30), that it appears that there is a major drop-off after the top 4-5  players in this year’s draft which right now look to be QBs Mariota and Winston (assuming he doesn’t get red-flagged), DEs Williams and Gregory and WR Cooper. Of that group, Alabama WR Amari Cooper is the most likely to somehow slip down to the 7th spot – and it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise that if the Giants had their druthers they would love to add a big-play receiver like Cooper to pair with Beckham and hopefully Cruz, but it could very well take a trade up to guarantee getting the Tide star.

At the same time, again at least at this point in time, it does not appear as if there would be a particularly neat match between the top players available and the Giants’ draft priorities. The next best guys, at least on a consensus NFL board, for example, look like Alabama SS Landon Collins and OTs Brandon Scherff of Iowa and A&M’s Cedric Ogbuehi. Each would fill a need, but none is the kind of real impact player that a team like the Giants would likely like to add if they were to get a top 10 pick this year. Collins, for example, is more an in-the-box type SS and the Giants would almost certainly prefer a rangy FS type. Of course, the Giants would be very intrigued by a so-called Blue Goose-can’t miss OT, but I am not sure there is such an animal in this year’s draft. Scherff, who has been described as this year’s Zach Martin, might be the most interesting OL option if it came to that. He’s not that athletic, but is a big, really tough, physical guy who you could start out at OG, but ultimately move to either OT if the need arose.

That said, I don’t see the Giants entering the draft with the OL the #1 priority. The one real gap they have is RG and there other ways to address that than use the highest pick you have had in almost two decades. My best guess is that heading into the 2015 draft the Giants top priorities will be a) upgrading the pass rush; b) adding some more weapons on offense including another WR and RB; and c) adding some speed and athleticism to the defensive back 7, along with the OL. Obviously, they likely won’t be able to accomplish everything with just three premium picks, but obviously some of those issues can be addressed just as well in free agency.

In fact, in the end, if the Giants were ultimately to pick around #7, there is a very good chance that the player they take isn’t rated quite in that area at this time as there are a bunch of players hovering just outside the top 10-15 right now with the upside to go higher. That group includes WRs Kevin White of West Virginia, Michigan tweener Devin Funchess, Davante Parker of Louisville, Jaelen Strong of Arizona State, along with enigmatic 6-5 Dorial Green-Beckham of Oklahoma, 6-9 Baylor DE Shawn Oakman, and dynamic Washington OLB Shaq Thompson. Time will tell.

Of course, the draft runs more than one round and if the draft were held this week the Giants would also have the 38th and 71st picks. And if there is some good 2015 draft news for the Giants its that it appears there will be excellent depth at several positions of interest including RB, WR, and safety, while there should also be some decent depth at positions like OG, OT and MLB. There could also be a couple or three DE prospects available in the second round, including Nate Orchard of Utah, Kentucky’s Bud Dupree and LSU junior Danielle Hunter; however, DE does not look like it will be particularly strong at the 2015 draft and any team that wants to upgrade at the position won‘t want to dawdle.

Meanwhile, the list of other players that could be on the Giants’ radar in the second round include RBs Tevin Coleman of Indiana, Miami’s Duke Johnson and Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska; WRs Sammie Coates of Auburn and Stanford’s Ty Montgomery, South Carolina OG A.J. Cann; and safeties Gerod Hollimon of Lousiville, Cody Prewitt of Ole Miss and Derron Smith of Fresno State. For the record, there could also be a number of very good OT candidates in the 2nd round including Tyrus Thompson of Oklahoma, Ty Sambrailo of Colorado State, Ereck Flowers of Miami, and Spencer Drango of Baylor.

Nov 242014
 
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Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (November 23, 2014)

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Dallas Cowboys 31 – New York Giants 28

Game Overview

The catch was nice, but who really cares? The Giants are 3-8, losers of six straight and one of the worst teams in the NFL.

Last week’s game review started off with the following sentence:

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

Did it really surprise anyone that the NFL’s 31st-ranked defense allowed the Cowboys to march 80 yards in seven plays and two minutes for the game-winning drive? Did it surprise anyone that the Giants couldn’t even gain one first down in their last desperate attempt to tie the game?

The fans and media expect the New York Giants to lose every week. But what’s worse, the New York Giants players expect to lose every week now. Two and a half seasons removed from their last NFL Championship, the cultural mindset of this team has changed completely.

But hey, at least ownership is happy.

Robert Tisch after Dallas scores its first touchdown

Steve Tisch after Dallas scores its first touchdown

Offensive Overview

The Giants out-gained the Cowboys in total yards (417 to 385), first downs (27 to 18), and time of possession (35:07 to 24:53). The Giants were nearly 70 percent on their third-down conversions (11-of-16). Both teams committed one turnover. The Giants had fewer penalties. The Giants ran more offensive plays (74 to 53). With numbers like that, you expect to come out on top.

Not counting their last possession in the second quarter (9 seconds left), the Giants had four first-half possessions and scored touchdowns on three of them, including drives of 13 plays and 80 yards, 6 plays and 66 yards, and 11 plays and 80 yards. At the half, the Giants led 21-10.

In the second half, the offense cooled dramatically. In hindsight, the Giants were too conservative on their first two series of the third quarter. The Giants went three-and-out on their first two possessions, drove to the Dallas 18 before Eli threw a killer interception, and then punted again. By this point in the game, the Cowboys had gone up 24-21.

Finally with nine minutes to go, New York drove the ball 93 yards in 14 plays, taking over six minutes off of the clock to regain the lead 28-24. But the Giants’ defense quickly surrendered the lead again. With one minute to go, the Giants had a legitimate opportunity to at least give Josh Brown a chance to tie the game, but New York couldn’t pick up one first down and turned the football over on downs. Six second half possessions – one score. Not good enough.

Quarterback

Again without a viable running game (2.8 yards per carry) and inconsistent pass protection, Eli Manning played mostly well and finished the game 29-of-40 for 338 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception (112.3 quarterback rating).

Those are very strong numbers – and usually game-winning numbers.

But the one interception when the Giants were driving for a touchdown late in the third quarter is what most people will remember, not the four long touchdown drives orchestrated by him.

On 2nd-and-10 from the Dallas 18-yard line, Manning had WR Preston Parker running absolutely free over the middle of the defense. Eli’s pass was high and intercepted. The pick was returned 45 yards and the Cowboys scored four plays later. It was a 10 or 14 point swing in the game.

Missed opportunity #1

Missed opportunity #1

“Just high, just threw it high,” said Manning. “(Parker) was a little flatter than I anticipated and just kind of… no excuse though, you’ve got a guy running open, I’ve got to hit him right in the numbers.”

Head Coach Tom Coughlin also seemed to suggest that there was an issue with the route by Parker.

“There was a little bit more of an adjustment that had to be made in the route and that was the expectation,” said Coughlin. “As a result, the ball was thrown high and it ended up being a tipped ball.”

Following up this screw-up, on the very next possession, Eli missed seeing Beckham breaking free for what should have been an 87-yard touchdown.

Missed opportunity #2

Missed opportunity #2

To Eli’s credit, he helped to orchestrate the 14-play, 93-yard drive in the 4th quarter that gave the Giants a 28-24 lead with three minutes to go. He had one last opportunity to tie the game late, but his offensive line didn’t give him the time.

Running Backs

A common theme in all six straight losses? The Giants can’t run the football. Rashad Jennings carried the ball 19 times for 52 yards (2.7 yards per carry) and Andre Williams carried the ball 10 times for 35 yards (3.5 yards per carry). Williams did have an 18-yard run and scored a 3-yard touchdown, but he was also very lucky that his fumble right before the score wasn’t ruled a turnover. The biggest positive impact by the backs was in the passing game where Jennings caught 8-of-10 passes thrown his way for 68 yards, including a 27-yard swing pass on the last TD drive. That said, Jennings was held just short of the 1st down marker on the Giants last 4th-and-2 offensive play.

In recent weeks, Henry Hynoski has become a bit of a short-yardage specialist for the Giants. He picked up 4 yards on 3rd-and-1 early in the game.

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham remains the sole bright spot in otherwise dreadful season. His 43-yard touchdown reception is clearly one of the best in NFL history. Unfortunately for the Giants, Beckham’s impact was largely limited to the first half, where he caught all eight passes thrown in his direction for 125 yards and two touchdowns. In the second half? Beckham caught just 2-of-3 passes for 21 yards. He did leave the game early in the fourth quarter with a painful back injury, but returned.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (November 23, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

In the first half, he had a key 12-yard catch on 3rd-and-5 on the first scoring drive and a diving 13-yard catch on 2nd-and-11 on the second scoring drive, which was capped by his brilliant one-handed 43-yard reception.

But it’s interesting to see how fast he has become the ONE guy the other team worries about, and how the Giants are beginning to take advantage of that to open up other areas of the offense. For example, on the first TD drive, on 3rd-and-3, Beckham was lined up in the backfield. Eli – with time – looked in his direction, drawing the defense, then threw a slant pass to a wide open Rueben Randle for a 21-yard gain.

Eli glances at Beckham, drawing defense's attention...

Eli glances at Beckham, drawing defense’s attention…

...that leaves Rueben Randle wide open on the slant

…that leaves Rueben Randle wide open on the slant

A few plays later, Manning faked an end around to Beckham, opening up an exceptionally well setup screen pass to Rashad Jennings that gained 15 yards. The drive finished with a 3-yard touchdown to Beckham.

Eli fakes end around to Beckham, again drawing defense's attention...

Eli fakes end around to Beckham, again drawing defense’s attention…

...instead Eli dumps ball off to Rashad Jennings on well-orchestrated screen pass

…instead Eli dumps ball off to Rashad Jennings on well-orchestrated screen pass

Beckham continued to make an impact on the run-heavy third TD drive by helping the Giants to convert on 3rd-and-8 (14-yard catch) and 3rd-and-6 (12-yard catch). Note the interesting four-receiver set employed by Ben McAdoo.

four receiver bunch formation designed to get Beckham open quickly

four receiver bunch formation designed to get Beckham open quickly

Beckham  had a 12-yard reception on 3rd-and-2 in the third quarter two plays before Manning’s interception.

Rueben Randle was only targeted three times, catching all three passes for 36 yards. Preston Parker caught one pass for 16 yards. Of the 38 passes thrown, only seven were thrown at the #2 and #3 wideouts. Parker was flagged with a false start early in the fourth quarter, contributing to a failed possession.

Tight Ends

For the first time all season, all three tight ends were actively involved in the passing game. Daniel Fells actually led the group with 3 catches (out of four targets) for 35 yards. He was up and down in the blocking department. And he had two critical 13-yard receptions in two 3rd-and-12 situations. Larry Donnell caught 2-of-4 passes for 24 yards. He had a key 16-yard reception in heavy traffic on 3rd-and-7 on the Giants’ last TD drive. His blocking was also up and down, but he gives a good effort. Adrien Robinson caught a 1-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-goal to put the Giants up 28-24 with three minutes to play. Robinson did a nice job of selling the fake on his initial block.

Offensive Line

There were two line-up changes with Geoff Schwartz starting at right tackle for the injured Justin Pugh and Adam Snyder starting in place for the benched Weston Richburg. Richburg returned to the lineup late in the game when Snyder left with a knee injury. James Brewer also saw some snaps at left tackle when Will Beatty suffered an eye injury (but later returned).

Run blocking remained a problem as the Giants only averaged 2.8 yards per carry against a middle-of-the-pack defense. The Giants had problems blocking MLB Rolando McClain (11 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss) all night. There was one drive – the third TD drive of the first half – where the Giants did get the ground game going. On this drive, the Giants ran the ball eight times for 45 yards, including runs of 12 and 18 yards. But it was fleeting moment in the game.

One of the few big holes for the Giants' backs...this was a well-blocked play

One of the few big holes for the Giants’ backs…this was a well-blocked play

Pass protection was decent early but deteriorated as the game wore on. The two sacks came late in the second quarter. On the first, Schwartz had some problems with the defensive end. Then Beatty and Snyder couldn’t handle a stunt, resulting in a 9-yard sack. When the Giants got the ball back after the sole Dallas turnover at the Cowboy 42-yard line, Beatty gave up immediate pressure, Manning was hit and threw the ball away and intentional grounding was called. This prevented the Giants from getting into field goal range right before intermission.

Pass protection was strong early, as on this TD pass to Beckham

Pass protection was strong early, as on this TD pass to Beckham

It didn’t get better after the break. Beatty and Snyder had problems with a stunt early in the third quarter and Eli was forced to dump the ball off prematurely on failed 3rd down conversion attempt. The line came up small on the last desperate drive as Schwartz was bull-rushed twice into Eli’s face and then Jerry let his man blow by him to hit Manning.

Defensive Overview

Just another really shitty performance by the NFL’s 31st-ranked defense. Again, this is the third time in four seasons that the Giants are on pace for giving up over 6,000 yards of offense (the only times in team history this has happened).

The defense allowed RB DeMarco Murray to run for 121 yards on 24 carries (5 yards per carry). Once again, Romo owned the Giants. Last month in the first Giants-Cowboys game, Romo completed 17-of-23 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns. His QB rating was a gaudy 135.7. This game? Romo was 18-of-26 for 275 yards and four touchdowns with a QB rating of 143.4.

The defense can’t blame fatigue on their performance. Dallas only ran 53 offensive plays. But Dallas averaged 7.3 yards per play. 150 yards came on FIVE pass plays.

There were some positive signs. The Cowboys were 4-of-10 on third-down conversions. And in five first-half offensive possessions, while the Cowboys did score 10 points on two long drives, they also went three-and-out twice and fumbled the ball away once.

But in the second half, Dallas scored three touchdowns in five possessions. Worst of all, once again, as has been the history of this unit for the past three years, the defense could not hold a late-game lead as the Cowboys tore through the defense to win the game, driving 80 yards in just seven plays and two minutes.

The defense came up smallest at points in the game where you think they should have been motivated to perform at their best: (1) allowing the Cowboys to drive 77 yards in 9 plays right after Beckham’s one-handed catch, and (2) with the game on the line at the end.

Deciding not to copy the game-winning defensive scheme of the Washington Redskins to blitz Tony Romo heavily – especially with his bad back – Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell usually decided to rush only four, with little impact.

It was a typical – but still odd decision – by a coordinator who has to know his job is on the line. What did he have to lose? On the game-winning drive, by rushing four, plus not using pass rushers Robert Ayers and Damontre Moore, Fewell probably has sealed his fate. Romo went 6-for-6 for 66 yards on the final 80-yard drive.

Defensive Line/Linebackers

The Giants allowed the Cowboys to average 5 yards per carry on the ground against a defense intent on stopping the run. It didn’t matter. Look at the Cowboys’ third drive of the game. Five of the nine plays were runs with gains of 5, 13, 4, 4, and 3…nothing spectacular…just slow death. And the productive running game set up excellent misdirection plays including a 27-yard screen pass off a fake end around and then a 4-yard shovel pass to TE Jason Witten for the TD.

While Tony Romo was sacked twice and officially hit four times, the numbers are misleading. Romo often had all night to throw, especially on the game-winning drive when he had between 8-10 seconds on two plays, including the game-winning touchdown throw.

It was not a good performance by anyone in the front seven. Jason Pierre-Paul (53 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 QB hit, 1 fumble recovery) probably played the best. He had a few nice plays against the run and pass, including drawing a holding penalty that wiped out a 39-yard pass play, but it wasn’t enough. More was needed and is expected, especially on the game-winning drive by Dallas.

Mathias Kiwanuka (45 snaps, 1 tackle, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble) and Robert Ayers (20 snaps, 1 tackle) were too quiet. Kiwanuka continues to receive the bulk of the playing time despite (1) a knee injury that has caused him to miss practice time each of the last few weeks, and (2) ineffective play. Damontre Moore (1 tackle, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 sack, 1 QB hit) only played 6 snaps. His sack was more of a coverage sack, but at least he got to the QB.

Inside, Johnathan Hankins (48 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 QB hit) played virtually the entire game. One gets the sense he isn’t getting much help. Mike Patterson (27 snaps, 3 tackles) and Markus Kuhn (13 snaps, 0 tackles) are simply not getting the job done. Jay Bromley played six snaps but did not show up on the stat sheet. Perhaps the Giants made the wrong decision to let Linval Joseph go, even with his big contract.

Despite briefly leaving the game with a knee injury, Jameel McClain (53 snaps, 5 tackles) played most of the defensive snaps, followed by Devon Kennard (34 snaps, 5 tackles), Mark Herzlich (25 snaps, 6 tackles), and Spencer Paysinger (6 snaps, 2 tackles). No one really made any plays of note, especially against the run.

The linebackers and safeties actually did a decent job on the top two tight ends as Jason Witten was held to 4 catches for 30 yards (and one touchdown) and Gavin Escobar did not catch a pass. But James Hanna did make a 27-yard reception against Paysinger on a 3rd-and-1 play-action fake where everyone bit on the run fake.

Defensive Backs

Tony Romo completed 18-of-26 passes (69 percent) for 275 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions (143.4 QB rating). Romo threw 26 times and there were no interceptions and only one pass defense.

Most of the damage in the receiving game was done by WR Dez Bryant (7 catches for 86 yards and 2 touchdowns) and WR Cole Beasley (2 catches for 66 yards and 1 touchdown).

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (40 snaps, 5 tackles) and Zack Bowman (43 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 pass defense) formed the primary cornerback duo with Jayron Hosley (29 snaps, 2 tackles) and Chykie Brown (20 snaps, 1 tackle) also receiving significant playing time. DRC played pretty well.

At safety, Antrel Rolle (53 snaps, 7 tackles) continues his very quiet season. Stevie Brown (42 snaps, 3 tackles) saw more action than Quintin Demps (29 snaps, 3 tackles). Rolle has a sure interception in the end zone pass right through his hands. One play later, Dallas kicked a 38-yard field goal.

The inability to stop the Dallas ground game (which is also the responsibility of the defensive backs who had trouble getting off blocks) caused problems in the passing game.

For example, note how both Hosley and Brown bit too hard on the end around fake to the wide receiver. This left the running back all alone on a screen play that picked up 26 yards down to the NYG 7-yard line.

Jayron Hosley and Stevie Brown badly bite on the end around fake

Jayron Hosley and Stevie Brown badly bite on the end around fake

One of the big screw-ups of the game was obviously Beasley’s 45-yard touchdown catch-and-run. Hosley was beaten badly by Beasley and then Bowman missed a tackle. Aside from this play, Bowman actually played pretty well against the pass, including a late knock down of a key 3rd-and-3 pass intended for WR Terrance Williams.

Then on Dallas’ next possession, I have no idea what the Giants were doing when they left Bryant all alone for an easy 31-yard touchdown.

Oompa Loompas

Giants zone defense on Bryant’s 31-yard TD

On Dallas’ game-winning drive, the first really big play was the 21-yard pass to Beasley, where nobody seemed to cover him.

On two of the last three pass plays, including the game winner, you can’t blame the secondary. Romo had all night to throw. You can’t expect to cover for 8-10 seconds.

Special Teams

Josh Brown did not attempt a field goal. Four of his five kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. One return went for 22 yards.

Steve Weatherford punted four times, averaging 55 yards per punt (only netting 38 however). Dallas returned all four punts for a total of 68 yards, averaging an unacceptable 17 yards per punt return.

The Giants only returned one punt with Odell Beckham losing 1 yard on his only return. Preston Parker returned four kickoffs for 99 yards, with a long of 37 that helped to set up one score. But he also screwed up by fielding one return close to the sideline, his momentum carrying him out at the 13.

(Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, November 23, 2014)
Nov 202014
 
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New York Giants Defense (October 19, 2014)

New York Giants Defense – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, November 23, 2014

Some New York Giants fans are still in denial. They refuse to accept that 2014 New York Giants – like their 2013 predecessor – are a bad football team. The Giants are 31st in the NFL on defense. They are 21st in rushing and haven’t come close to 100 yards rushing in weeks. The Giants have a terrible offensive line. They have one receiver who scares anyone. Assets? Eli Manning and Odell Beckham. And every now and then Larry Donnell flashes. That’s about it.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a 3-7 football team that plays like a 3-7 football team despite one of the better QBs in the NFL and incredible head coaching continuity. The Giants may upset someone, but usually when they play a good football team, they are going to get beat. That won’t change until they get better players on offense, defense, and special teams.

The players should be on watch. The remainder of this season they will be closely evaluated by a franchise that will have to dump half its roster again in the offseason. There are no guarantees that another team will offer them employment either. Jobs are at stake.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Will Eli Manning bounce back?
Contrary to what many idiots in the media have been saying this week, Eli is was actually having one of his best seasons until last Sunday despite the fact he (1) was coming off April ankle surgery; (2) was learning a completely new offensive system, terminology, footwork fundamentals, routes, etc.; and (3) he was surrounding by a mediocre supporting cast, exacerbated by the loss of Victor Cruz. But last Sunday against the 49ers, Eli fell back into some old bad habits and forced some throws.

Eli is a competitor and wants very much to win and is willing to take chances when the chips are down. But he has to accept that the rest of 2014 is more about 2015 and beyond. His focus at this point should be to continue to acclimatize himself to this West Coast system. Don’t force the issue, but treat the remaining six games almost as practice for 2015. Work on his technique and understanding of this system. If the play is there, make the throw. If not, throw the ball away. For his own physical and psychological well-being, let’s not start inflating those interception totals again. Keep the nay-sayers at bay.

The good news? The Giants are not facing a top-10 defense this week.

Second Down
Can Odell Beckham continue to bring the “wow” factor?
Let’s be honest. The only reason some Giants fans continue to tune in at this point is Odell Beckham. He hasn’t been perfect (media and fans have underplayed some of his drops), but it is obvious to everyone that he is the only truly exciting player on the Giants roster right now. And despite his tremendous productivity in just a few games, there is a sense that he has only scratched the surface. Is he capable of practically single-handily taking over a game, and winning a game the Giants should otherwise lose?

Third Down
Can the Giants stop the run?
The Giants are dead last in run defense. 32 out of 32, allowing an average of 145 yards per game. Dallas is 2nd in the NFL in rushing, averaging over 153 yards per game. Dallas’ strength is New York’s weakness. It’s pretty easy to figure out what the game plan will be.

Fourth Down
Can the Giants stop the pass?
Just one month ago, the Giants played Tony Romo and the Cowboys. The results? The Cowboys accrued 20 first downs and 423 yards of offense. Dallas was 9-of-14 on third down (64 percent). The Cowboys were 3-for-3 (100 percent) in the red zone. Romo only had 6 incompletions, and none in the second half of the game where he was a perfect 9-for-9. Dallas also had five pass plays over 20 yards. WR Dez Bryant had 9 catches for 128 yards and TE Gavin Escobar 3 catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns. WR Terrance Williams had the third touchdown reception. Giant-killer TE Jason Witten was kept quiet but we all know his ability. Now the Giants are without their most consistent corner (Prince Amukamara) and best coverage linebacker (Jacquian Williams).

BREAKING DOWN DALLAS:

OFFENSE
Strength?
The Cowboys have no major weakness on offense other than a recent historical tendency to act like a bunch of spoiled babies on the sidelines when things don’t go there way and Tony Romo’s fragile back. They are 6th overall in the NFL in terms of yards gained, averaging 387.5 yards per game. The Cowboys are tied for 7th in terms of points with 26.1 points per game. They are 2nd in rushing and 17th in passing. RB Demarco Murray – by far – is the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,233 yards. WR Dez Bryant is one of the most dangerous players in the NFL. TE Jason Witten is a future Hall of Famer and back-up TE Gavin Escobar caught two touchdown passes against the Giants in October. Tony Romo is completing over 68 percent of his passes and has a QB rating of 107.2. And if that were not enough, Dallas arguably has the NFL’s best offensive line with three first rounders who are playing like first rounders.

Weakness?
Bryant is the one true stud the Cowboys have at wide receiver. Terrance Williams has six touchdowns, but only 27 catches. The next most productive wideout is Cole Beasley with 16. The Cowboys are also -1 in turnover differential having turned the football over 18 times (10 fumbles, 6 interceptions by Romo, 2 by the backup).

DEFENSE

Strength?
Dallas is in the middle of the pack defensively, ranking 15th in terms of yards allowed (14th against pass, 12th against run). There are no obvious defensive superstars on the team but the unit has played much better than expected. Before the season, it was anticipated Dallas’ defense would be one of the worst in the league. Their strength has been their overall consistency. MLB Rolando McClain has been a major addition as a fiery leader and play maker. CB Orlando Scandrick is their best defensive back who can play both outside and the nickel.

Weakness?
On paper, this defense should be much worse than it is. Perhaps Dallas’ offense is so productive that it hides the defense. Dallas only has 16 sacks on the year. And their third-down defense is subpar, allowing teams to covert over 42 percent of the time. Dallas suffered another big hit at linebacker when they lost Justin Durant late last month.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Place kicker Dan Bailey is exceptional. He’s automatic from even 50+ yards. Dwayne Harris averages over 25 yards per kickoff return and almost 9 yards per punt return..

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Odell Beckham
If one player could help pull off the upset, it’s Odell. But the opposition will begin to concentrate more and more attention on him.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
With no Prince Amukamara, the Giants not only need Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to play well against Dez Bryant, they will need him to stay on the field for most of the game. DRC hasn’t played a full game in quite some time due to his IT band (back/hamstring) issue.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin - “Keep fighting, keep fighting, keep fighting, that is all it takes, one game at a time, bounce back. Again, it is about all of those eyes that look at me on Wednesday morning, I am thinking about them, quite frankly, trying to bring them through the disappointment toward the next opponent.”

Jason Garrett - “That has always been something that we have strived for around here – to  be a balanced attack, to be able to attack a defense a lot of different ways…Really, when you are talking about any of this stuff it starts with the guys up front. We made a real commitment to get better on the offensive line here in the last three or four years by using first round pick to draft guys. We think it has been a good investment for our team and it really allows you to do what you want to do offensively. It allows you to feature the skill players that you have both in the running game and in the passing game…The idea is that we want to be a more physical football team, control the line of scrimmage more and be a team that can run the football. Fortunately, we have been able to draft the guys we have up front and we think they are some really good, young, cornerstone type of players who can be here for a long time.”

FINAL WORD:

The Giants should be able to move the football better against this opponent than they have in recent weeks as long as the offensive line plays better this week against a lesser defensive opponent. Justin Pugh (quadriceps) is probably out so look for Geoff Schwartz to start at right tackle. The Giants need John Jerry to bounce back.

However, the real problem for the Giants is on the defensive side of the football. The Giants what they are – the 31st-ranked defense in the NFL and the 32nd-ranked run defense. And the Giants linebackers don’t match up well against the Cowboys tight ends and running backs in coverage.

Look for Beckham to take one to the house on special teams, but it won’t be enough. Cowboys 42 – Giants 27.

Nov 172014
 
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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)
Nov 142014
 
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Steve Weatherford, New York Giants (January 22, 2012)

Steve Weatherford – © USA TODAY Sports Images

San Francisco 49ers at New York Giants, November 16, 2014

The New York Giants once promising three-game winning streak seems like a far distant memory as the 2014 season is beginning to seemed headed for a very familiar path. With the San Francisco 49ers coming to MetLife Sunday afternoon, a loss could all but eliminate the Giants from postseason contention for a third consecutive year.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Can Odell Beckham Jr. continue to be special?
Odell Beckham Jr. is looking like he could be arguably the best player selected in the 2014 NFL Draft. In his last two games, Beckham has 254 receiving yards and, despite playing in just five games overall, could become the Giants leading receiver this week.  The 49ers are another tough task defensively, especially if Aldon Smith dresses. How will Beckham play?

Second Down
Can Rashad Jennings make an impact if he returns?
Since Rashad Jennings suffered a knee sprain versus the Atlanta Falcons, the Giants have yet to win a game. Andre Williams has shown promise, but is far from a feature back at this point in his career. Peyton Hillis is what he is and Michael Cox is now on injured reserve. When Rashad Jennings left the Giants lineup, so to did their rushing attack. Jennings is expected to return this Sunday, but will he make an impact? He hasn’t played in a month. How much can he handle?

The Giants have been known, at least as of late, to not baby players in their first game back (i.e., Beckham and Andre Brown). Will the Giants lean on Jennings heavily as well?

Jason Pierre-Paul (90), Justin Tuck (91), New York Giants (January 22, 2012)

Pierre-Paul and Tuck – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Third Down
Where is Jason Pierre-Paul?
This is Jason Pierre-Paul’s contract season. The season where players normally break out. While Pierre-Paul has been stout against the run, the fierce pass-rushing, unblockable, first-team All-Pro from 2011 still hasn’t taken the field. He’s flashed, sure, but has yet to do it on a consistent basis. This season, he’s on pace for under seven sacks (6.2).

Fourth Down
Can the defense stop the read option?
It’s coming, you can better believe that. Back when Colin Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Super Bowl, he did it by unleashing the read option. If anything, the Seattle Seahawks, who ran for 350 yards against New York last week, learned a thing or two from San Fran. Kaepernick is faster than Russell Wilson and is a better runner. Can Perry Fewell’s defense keep him contained? If not, New York has very little chance to win.

BREAKING DOWN SAN FRANCISCO:

OFFENSE - by Connor Hughes
Strength?
While Kaepernick hasn’t taken the “next step” as an elite passer in the NFL, it isn’t for lack of targets. Be it the receivers, or tight end, the 49ers have some of the best weapons in the NFL. At Kaepernick’s disposal this year are Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Stevie Johnson, Brandon Lloyd and Vernon Davis.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie should be able to handle whomever he lines up from, but those after? The Giants cornerback position, which was once one of the deepest in the NFL, is dangerously thin. Not to mention, who will cover TE Vernon Davis?

While the game plan will be to shut down the 49ers running game, containing the pass is another must for New York. If one gets going, the other is sure to follow. The Giants can’t put a ton of small bodies on the field because the 49ers will then run the ball. They can’t come out in their base constantly as the 49ers will pass.

Sunday is a very, very tough test for the Giants.

Weakness?
Since dazzling the NFL his first year seeing extensive action, Kaepernick has struggled at times with San Francisco. His decision making has been questionable, his accuracy subpar and Kaepernick has struggled getting off his first read.

Kaepernick has thrown 13 interceptions in his last 25 games. He completed 58 percent of his passes last year, and 61.9 this year. He’s averaged just 7.69 and 7.50 yards per completion sine 2010.

DEFENSE - by Eric Kennedy
Strength?
A week after playing the NFL’s 4th-best defense, it doesn’t getting any easier this week with the Giants facing the 3rd-best defense in terms of yards allowed (5th against pass and 7th against the run). The strength of this 3-4 defense team remains the front seven with stalwarts such as LDE Ray McDonald, RDE Justin Smith, and outside linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith. Rookie inside linebacker Chris Borland has been exceptional.

That all said, don’t discount the secondary. The safeties have been excellent. Free safety Eric Reid is fast developing into one of the best in the game. Ex-Colt strong safety Antoine Bethea is having an excellent season.

Weakness?
It’s not so much a “weakness” as the corners simply are not as strong as other areas of the defense. Also, the 49ers lost their nose tackle last week, but Glenn Dorsey returns this week after a preseason biceps injury.

The biggest weakness to date has been the 49ers are 25th in the NFL in sacks. Getting Aldon Smith back from suspension should improve their pass rush however.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Connor Hughes –
Colin Kaepernick
While not as efficient as a passer, Kaepernick is a far better runner than Seattle’s Russell Wilson. After struggling against Seattle, how will the Giants defend Kaepernick? It’ll be an interesting test for the Giants and it’ll be fun to watch how Fewell elects to defend it.

Eric Kennedy -
Rashad Jennings
For the Giants to have a chance in this game, the need the running game to be more productive. That will be difficult against one of the NFL’s best run defenses. Plus Jennings is still not 100 percent and likely to be rusty. Still, he should be a shot in the arm to the offense and might make a bigger impact as a receiver.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin - “(The 49ers) are going to run. That is their deal. They are going to set things up with the run. You have to be very, very good and very, very strong. We need turnovers. We need field position.”

Jim Harbaugh - “(Against the Seahawks, the Giants) got hit on a couple quarterback-sucker plays and a few zone-read keepers by the quarterback that amounted to some big yardage. I anticipate that will be fixed by the time we play.”

FINAL WORD:

Connor Hughes – It’s truly mind-boggling how injury depleted the Giants have been over the last few years, but this year is even more than most. The Giants are without nearly half their starting lineup and truthfully, I don’t believe they have enough to stick with San Francisco for four quarters.  New York will keep it close, but in the end, the 49ers pull it out. San Fransisco 28 – New York 20.

Eric Kennedy – It makes little sense to pick the Giants in this spot but I think New York rebounds with a win this week. I expect the 49ers to come into this game overconfident, and two back-to-back cross-country road trips should take some life out of them. The San Francisco win against the Saints in New Orleans was impressive, but the 49ers have been a bit shaky this year. Much depends on which version of Colin Kaepernick shows up. When he is “on”, he can make some unbelievable throws, especially outside of the pocket. But when Kaepernick is “off”, he can be really bad. Pray for the latter this weekend. Giants 24 – 49ers 13.

Nov 102014
 
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Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (November 9, 2014)

Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Seattle Seahawks 38 – New York Giants 17

Game Overview

Stating the obvious, there is enough empirical evidence to clearly demonstrate that the New York Giants are not a good football team. Most notably:

  • For the second season in a row, after nine games, the team is 3-6.
  • When the Giants play a good football team, it not only loses but it loses badly. Going back to 2013, five of the team’s last eight losses have been by three touchdowns or more. In other words, the Giants are regularly being blown out.
  • The Giants are now officially the 32nd-ranked defense in the NFL – dead last. They are 31st against the run, 25th against the pass, and 27th in scoring defense. Rewind back to training camp, the defense was supposed to be the strength of this team.

The season is over by mid-November again. Fans are already thinking about the offseason with almost half the schedule still to play. This is a pretty sad state of affairs.

Offensive Overview

Aided by a Seattle turnover, the Giants’ offensive performed reasonably well in a very tough environment in the first half of the game, scoring 17 points on six possessions. The two big offensive negatives in the first half were (1) for the 20th game in a row, not being able to score on the opening drive of a game, and (2) failing to generate any points after the second Seattle turnover near midfield.

The second half was a different story as the Giants did not score a single point on five offensive possessions, two ending with turnovers and one on downs.

Overall, the basic problem remains. The Giants haven’t been able to run the football during the four-game losing streak. Giants’ running backs were held to 43 yards rushing on 16 carries. (There was also one WR carry for 11 yards).

In the first half, the Giants ran 33 plays and passed the ball 23 times (almost 70 percent). In the second half, the Giants ran 30 plays and passed the ball 23 times (77 percent).

Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 9, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterback

Eli Manning played better in the first half, completing 16-of-23 passes for 192 yards, 1 touchdown, and no interceptions. In the second half, he completed 13-of-21 passes for 91 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception.

Manning had a couple of superb excellent deep throws in the first half including his 25 yarder to Preston Parker and his 44 yarder to Odell Beckham.

Manning’s one interception, his first since September, is somewhat correctly being pointed to as one of the reasons why the Giants failed to make this a competitive game late in the contest. The Giants had a 1st-and-10 at the Seattle 39-yard line in a tie game. He threw deep to Odell Beckham against one-on-one coverage by CB Richard Sherman. In this case, Sherman had good position and an interception off of a deflected pass was the result. Eli took a shot and trusted his rookie WR to make a play. It didn’t happen. Should Eli have played it more conservatively? In hindsight, yes. But this is the type of shot that most NFL quarterbacks will take in the direction of their best receiver. The defense collapsed after this play. Manning doesn’t play defense. Did the interception suck the air out of the defense’s balloon too? Perhaps. But it should not have. It was still a tie game.

Eli’s worst play came with the game out of reach when he fumbled the ball away without being touched.

Andre Williams, New York Giants (November 9, 2014)

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Running Backs

Giants running backs only ran the ball 10 times in the first half and six times in the second half. Andre Williams carried the ball 13 times for 33 yards (2.5 yards per carry) and scored one touchdown. Some fans contend he should be able to do more with the blocking he is getting, but I don’t see it. Williams is not getting much room to operate. Williams caught 2-of-5 passes thrown in his direction for five yards. Peyton Hillis carried the ball once for four yards and caught the ball once for five yards before leaving with a concussion, his second in two seasons. RB Michael Cox ran the ball twice for six yards and caught the ball twice for nine yards before leaving the game with a broken leg.

Wide Receivers

Two bright spots in this game were the play of Odell Beckham (7 catches for 108 yards) and Preston Parker (7 catches for 79 yards and a touchdown). Like the offense, both performed better in the first half, when Beckham had 5 catches for 92 yards and Parker had 4 catches for 49 yards. Beckham was matched up against All-Pro Richard Sherman for most of the game and caused Sherman problems at times, such as his double-move on his 44-yard deep catch. He followed that up with a 26-yard reception, setting up the Giants’ second touchdown of the game.

Preston Parker, New York Giants (November 9, 2014)

Preston Parker – © USA TODAY Sports Images

After a terrible performance against the Colts, Parker rebounded with his best game as a Giant, catching all seven passes thrown in his direction. He was flagged with a 10-yard offensive pass interference penalty that helped to stop a critical drive right after a second Seattle turnover. Parker made a very nice play on 3rd-and-4 by taking a big hit, breaking a tackle, and turning a short completion into a 20-yard gain.

Rueben Randle still is not productive enough. He caught 5-of-10 passes thrown in his direction for 39 yards. To be fair to Randle, he was obviously held/interfered with at least a couple of times but the penalties were not called.

Corey Washington was activated for the game but did not play on offense.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell caught 4-of-6 passes thrown in his direction for 26 yards. His longest receptions were only seven yards each. Daniel Fells caught one pass for 12 yards.

Offensive Line

Despite throwing the football 73 percent of the time against one of the best pass defenses in the NFL, one would think that the offensive line did a reasonable job in pass protection by giving up only one sack (another “sack” was credited when the ball slipped out of Eli’s hand). However, too often Manning had Seattle defenders bearing down on him, even on quick-pass plays or on plays where the Giants moved the pocket. Manning was officially hit nine times but the pressure was even greater than that.

Look at the following back-to-back offensive plays where Eli is under immediate pressure as first Will Beatty, then John Jerry, completely whiff (and I do mean whiff) on their blocks.

Will Beatty whiffs in pass protection

Will Beatty whiffs in pass protection

John Jerry whiffs in pass protection

John Jerry whiffs in pass protection

Here is another example where Eli is forced to unload the ball quickly as he is about to get slammed by two defenders.

No time for Eli Manning

No time for Eli Manning

On running plays, once again, the Giants got their butts whipped up front by a stronger, tougher, more physical front seven. To be brutally honest, the Giants’ offensive line is soft.

Look at this play! The defensive end easily gets past Jerry and Pugh to nail Williams, who never had a chance. One man beat two blockers!

Defensive end blows by Jerry and Pugh to hit Williams in backfield

Defensive end blows by Jerry and Pugh to hit Williams in backfield

Weston Richburg, coming off an ankle injury, was flagged twice for holding and each penalty helped to end possessions prematurely. He had issues on other plays both run blocking and in pass protection. Justin Pugh was flagged with a false start. J.D. Walton simply isn’t very good. He’s a liability as both run and pass blocker.

Defensive Overview

New York Giants defensive rankings in terms of yards allowed:

  • 2011 – 27th
  • 2012 – 31st
  • 2013 – 8th
  • 2014 – 32nd

The 2011 and 2012 Giants’ defenses each gave up over 6,000 yards of offense – the first time that has ever happened in the team’s long and storied history. That may happen again in 2014 as the defense is allowing over 400 yards per game.

Here’s a hint Perry Fewell…stop smiling.

Fewell after the Seahawks convert on 3rd down

Fewell after the Seahawks convert on 3rd down

In the Seattle game, the positives were three turnovers (two interceptions and one fumble). The Giants also forced two more fumbles that they were unable to recover. Unfortunately, both failed recovery attempts came on the game-clinching drive by Seattle that put them up 31-17.

But this was a horrific defensive performance and the players ought to be ashamed of themselves. The 350 yards rushing allowed were the most by an NFL defense in five years and the third-most in the 90-year history of the franchise.

The defense was out-muscled by a tougher, more physical opponent. Whether it was poor preparation by the coaching staff or player stupidity, the defense continually gave up the edge to QB Russell Wilson (14 carries for 107 yards and one touchdown). And the Giants wanted no part of RB Marshawn Lynch (21 carries for 140 yards and four touchdowns) between the tackles and off-tackle.

Defensive Line/Linebackers

A train wreck. 350 yards rushing? This is a game for men and the Giants didn’t play like men. And they didn’t play smart. Giant defenders over-pursued and lost contain. The most annoying thing is it isn’t like the Giants haven’t seen this style of offense before. They had to prepare for it in recent years against Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick.

As an example, look at the following back-to-back plays in the first quarter where the left side of the defense, including Ayers, completely loses contain on Wilson, who runs for a total of 20 yards.

Left side of the defense loses contain

Left side of the defense loses contain

Then they do it again on the very next play!

Then they do it again on the very next play!

In the second quarter, it was more of the same. In the first picture, either JPP or Stevie Brown lose contain on the right side of the defense; in the second picture, either Mathias Kiwanuka or Jacquian Williams lose contain on the left side.

Now right side of defense loses contain

Now right side of defense loses contain

Feeling left out, the left side decides to abandon its responsibilities

Feeling left out, the left side decides to abandon its responsibilities

But if you think the damage was limited to the perimeter of the defense, you are sorely mistaken. Time after time the Seahawks powered right up the gut or off tackle against a very soft defense in mano a mano situations. Defenders were pushed back and many yards were gained after contact. For example, there was one play where McClain hit RB Marshawn Lynch right at the line, but Lynch ran right through McClain and picked up 22 yards.

The only positives you can put to are that Robert Ayers and Johnathan Hankins each had sacks and Jason Pierre-Paul and Jameel McClain both forced fumbles.

Playing all 64 defensive snaps were McClain (12 tackles), Williams (9 tackles), and Pierre-Paul (8 tackles).

The Giants’ defensive tackles played like crap and were pushed back with ease. Inside, Hankins (51 snaps, 4 tackles) saw most of the action. Mike Patterson (28 snaps, 9 tackles) split time with Markus Kuhn (22 snaps, 1 tackle). Cullen Jenkins saw 18 snaps and had two tackles.

Kiwanuka (40 snaps, 1 tackles) did not play well. He was regularly mauled at the point-of-attack. And both he and Ayers (32 snaps, 5 tackles) lost outside contain on Wilson running plays. Damontre Moore only had three snaps (and one of those, Fewell had him dropping into coverage on a three-man rush on 3rd down that resulted in an easy completion (shocker). Devon Kennard had 22 snaps and finished with one tackle.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants (November 9, 2014)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

The Seahawks only passed for 172 yards, but those 172 yards came on 10 pass completions and the passing yards are misleading because Seattle ran the football so well. Zack Bowman and Quintin Demps had interceptions and Antrel Rolle recovered a fumble.

The Giants played much of the game in the nickel with Bowman and Rodgers-Cromartie seeing 60+ snaps and Jayron Hosley 42 snaps. Stevie Brown (35 snaps) saw more action than Demps (28 snaps), who may have been out of position on a 3rd-and-long deep pass that was luckily overthrown. Newcomer CB Chykie Brown played six snaps.

The big pass play in terms of yardage was a deep shot where – for some reason – Fewell had LB Jacquian Williams covering a wideout 60 yards down the field. But we’ve seen this before in Fewell’s defense.

Special Teams

Steve Weatherford is clearly struggling with the torn ligaments in his left ankle and his bad back. He punted five times for an average of 38.6 yards and a net of 34.4 yards. If there is any chance that he could be doing more damage to himself and/or he might not be completely healthy for training camp, the Giants should IR him now. Seattle only returned two punts for a total of one yard.

PK Josh Brown remains perfect on the year as he converted from 41 yards out. Two of his three kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Seattle returned one kickoff for 28 yards.

Seattle only punted once in the game and that punt resulted in a touchback. Two of Seattle’s seven kickoffs were returned, with Michael Cox only reaching the 19 and 16 yard lines.

(New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks, November 9, 2014)