Dec 292014
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 28, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Philadelphia Eagles 34 – New York Giants 26

Game Overview

This game was not only a microcosm of the season but the past few seasons. The Giants can throw the football, but they can’t run it. The defense and special teams stink. The Giants can’t beat a team with a winning record. And they can’t beat the Eagles.

Offensive Overview

The Giants gained over 500 yards of offense and passed for 429 yards, the latter being the fourth highest in franchise history. They had 78 offensive snaps and controlled the time of possession by almost 10 minutes (34:37 to 25:23).

The Giants scored on 4-of-7 first-half drives and and 2-of-7 second-half drives, but only managed two touchdowns as New York was 1-of-3 in the red zone.

The Giants were 7-of-18 on third down (39 percent). The running backs only gained 76 yards on 25 carries (3 yards per carry).

Quarterback

Eli Manning completed 28-of-53 passes for 429 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception for a 78.3 QB rating. The yardage total is obviously impressive (4th highest in team history), but he only completed 52 percent of his passes, threw into double coverage some, and was lucky a few of his passes were not picked off.

That said, the lower completion percentage was not only a question of inconsistent accuracy, but some dropped passes, some non-calls by the referees, and a strategy to take more shots down the field.

“Now was the percentage the way you’d like it? Probably not,” said Tom Coughlin after the game. “But there were some deep shots that we wanted to take. We wanted the one-on-ones and we wanted to take some shots and we did. Unfortunately, most of them were not completions and they go in the book as incomplete. But it was part of what we wanted to do.”

Examples of some of the negative plays? On the second Giants’ possession that ended with a punt, the Eagles blitzed Eli up the middle and he somehow missed spotting Rueben Randle and Larry Donnell in the middle of the field as he threw the ball away deep (Eli was lucky intentional grounding was not called). On the following 3rd-and-9 play, Manning badly overthrew Odell Beckham.

Eli missed some opportunities like on this incomplete play.

Eli missed some opportunities like on this incomplete play.

Trailing by eight with over three minutes to play, the Giants had one final chance to tie the game, but Eli’s deep pass to Rueben Randle was picked off.

“It was just underthrown,” said Manning. “Rueben read the coverage right. They were jumping the outside route. He converted it to a go. I just couldn’t get enough on the throw. I saw it clean. They were in a quarters coverage. There should have been a window out there to hit the throw to Rueben. I couldn’t step into the throw. The ball floated up a little bit. I left it a little inside and let the safety make a play on it. It wasn’t a bad read. It was just kind of a poor throw based on the circumstances.”

Running Backs

Same old story…lots of run attempts…very little productivity. And this against the 17th-ranked defense against the run. Andre Williams carried the ball 15 times for 43 yards (2.9 yards per carry) and one touchdown. Rashad Jennings carried the ball 10 times for 33 yards (3.3 yards per carry). Williams caught all three passes thrown in his direction for 19 yards, while Jennings caught 3-of-5 passes for 21 yards.

Williams did have a nice 9-yard run on 3rd-and-1 on the opening touchdown drive and an 8-yard run on the first FG drive. And Jennings had a nice 16-yard reception on 3rd-and-13 in the first quarter and an 18-yard run in the third quarter. But too often it was only 1-3 yards per attempt, or worse, a negative-yardage play.

Part of the problem may be the use of differing blocking schemes.

“We were dabbling a lot between schemes, whether we were outside zone, whether we were a zone team or a power team, what fit our personnel the best,” Williams said. “As we continue to learn the offense and learn what we’re good at, we’re bound to get better…I think we’re capable of both. I just don’t know if we knew when and where we were supposed to do what. It all comes with newness, new faces, and new players. Everything was new this year, especially for me. I think that played a big role.”

Wide Receivers

It was the Odell Beckham (12 catches for 185 yards and one touchdown) and Rueben Randle (6 catches for 158 yards) show. And both could have had an even bigger day as Beckham was actually targeted 21 times and Randle 13 times. As productive as these two were, the Eagles also had an unbelievable 11 pass defenses in the game.

The Eagles got away with obvious pass interference on Beckham on a few plays, including deep shots in the first and second quarters. Beckham had a nice 22-yard sideline reception on the Giants’ first FG drive on 3rd-and-5. Three plays later he had a 17-yard reception. Beckham had two catches on the Giants’ second-half field goal drive, including a spectacular, leaping 16-yard reception on 3rd-and-and-20 that set up the successful 53-yard field goal. Later in the quarter, Beckham had a shot at a perfectly-thrown deep ball down the middle of the field by Manning but the safety knocked the ball out of Beckham’s arms. Three plays later, Beckham could not come down with another deep pass, this time along the right sideline. Of course, the big highlight was Beckham’s 63-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown.

However, that was basically it for Beckham. “He was sick on he sideline,” said Coughlin. “He was ill and was vomiting and so on and so forth. They held him. He didn’t come back with a lot of strength right there.”

Randle made a great 43-yard catch despite double-coverage on the opening touchdown drive and followed that up on the next play with an 18-yard reception down to the 1-yard line. In the second quarter, Randle made another big play with another athletic 36-yard grab on 3rd-and-7. Three plays later, he caught a 25-yard pass. These plays helped the Giants get into FG range. However, the drive stalled when Randle was flagged with an offensive pass interference (pick) penalty.

Also on the downside, Randle really should have have come down with three more catches, including a 3rd-and-9 pass in the second quarter and a 3rd-and-11 pass on the play before the blocked punt. On the Giants’ third-quarter drive that ended with a 53-yard field goal, Randle had a key 24-yard catch-and-run on 3rd-and-2. After a 15-yard catch by Beckham, Randle appeared to have caught a 34-yard touchdown pass but a holding penalty wiped out the play. Then the inconsistency returned as Randle dropped the very next pass.

The only other receiver targeted in the game was Preston Parker, who caught 2-of-4 passes thrown in direction for 20 yards. He had a key 13-yard reception on 3rd-and-10 two plays before Beckham’s 63 yard catch-and-run.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell caught 2-of-6 passes thrown in his direction for 26 yards. On the Giants’ first FG drive, Donnell didn’t do a very good job of picking up a pass rusher on an incomplete 2nd-and-5 pass. One play later, Manning tried to hit him deep on the end zone, but he couldn’t make the play and the Giants settled for three points. On the following drive, Donnell got wide open on a 3rd-and-5 play but dropped a pass thrown behind him and the Giants had to punt. Donnell did have a 10-yard catch on 3rd-and-5 in the third quarter. Eli went deep to Donnell again in the fourth quarter but couldn’t connect.

Adrien Robinson could not make a play on a deep pass opportunity.

Offensive Line

Pass protection was pretty good as Eli Manning was not sacked and only officially hit three times. That was quite an improvement over the first Giants-Eagles game when Manning was sacked eight times, especially when you keep in mind that the Giants took a lot of deep shots down the field in this game.

Run blocking remains a sore spot as the Giants only averaged three yards per carry on 25 attempts against the NFL’s 17th-ranked run defense.

For example, on the first play of the second NYG drive, OC J.D. Walton and LG Weston Richburg allowed the Eagles’ nose tackle to run right past them to nail Jennings for a 3-yard loss.

Jennings has no chance as NT runs by Walton and Richburg.

Jennings has no chance as NT runs by Walton and Richburg.

Here you see Fletcher Cox shove Walton back into the backfield, disengage, and nail Williams for no gain.

Fletcher Cox abusing J.D. Walton.

Fletcher Cox abusing J.D. Walton.

After Jenning’s 18-yard run in the third quarter, Walton got shoved back again on a 3-yard loss. Then he made matters worse by getting flagged with a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. Two plays later, Walton was flagged with a false start and the Giants found themselves in a 3rd-and-29 situation, largely due to Walton.

Of course, the huge offensive line mistake was the holding penalty on LT Will Beatty that wiped out Rueben Randle’s 34-yard touchdown. The Giants had to settle for a field goal instead.

Even late in the game when the Giants were down by 8 points in the fourth quarter, and the Eagles probably looking pass first, the Giants couldn’t run it. Look how neither Walton nor Beatty can get any movement at the point-of-attack.

Both Walton and Beatty stonewalled and Jennings is bottled up.

Both Walton and Beatty stonewalled and Jennings is bottled up.

Defensive Overview

Just another dreadful performance. The Giants’ defense gave up 27 points, 23 first downs, 426 total net yards, 262 passing yards, and 164 rushing yards. The Eagles converted 7-of-16 third-down attempts (44 percent). And Philadelphia gained 20 yards or more on EIGHT plays.

The defense allowed the Eagles to score two touchdowns on their first two possessions, allowed the Eagles to drive the field at the end of the first half to set up an easy field goal, and couldn’t stop the Eagles in the second half once the Giants had twice cut their lead.

Yet after the game, Coughlin – at least publicly – seemed borderline delusional about the play of his defense against an Eagles’ offense led by Mark Sanchez of all people.

“I thought our defense battled,” said Coughlin. “Their first score was right down the field and score, but once we settled down, we did a decent job of holding them. I’m not sure what the number of punts were or anything like that. We did have some three and outs, which was very good and put ourselves in position…Defensively, again, I say we had a good plan, the plan was well taught. I thought we did a pretty good job, although you always say you’re going to try to stop the run. They had a lot of run yardage as it turns out.”

Defensive Line/Linebackers

Really shitty run defense once again against the Eagles as Philadelphia gouged New York for 164 yards, averaging over 5 yards per carry. The pass rush was not as consistent as the team’s four sacks suggest.

The best of a mediocre bunch was Jason Pierre-Paul (5 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 tackles for losses, 2 QB hits). The Giants didn’t get much out of Kerry Wynn (3 tackles) and Damontre Moore (1 tackle) at defensive end. Cullen Jenkins (1 tackle) also played some end but was largely invisible.

The tackles played very poorly, especially Johnathan Hankins (2 tackles, 1 QB hit) and Mike Patterson (4 tackles). Their defense on the goal line early in the fourth quarter was embarrassing as the running back jogged into the end zone untouched. Markus Kuhn (3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 QB hit) was a little better, but not much.

The linebackers just didn’t make enough plays although Mark Herzlich flashed statistically with 7 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 tackle for a loss. He did sack Sanchez and made a nice tackle short of the first-down marker on a 3rd-and-2 run. Jameel McClain had eight tackles and one pass defense in the end zone at the end of the first half. Spencer Paysinger played but didn’t show up on the stat sheet.

On the first running play by the Eagles – a play that picked up 23 yards – JPP, Patterson, and Hankins were all blocked and McClain overran the play.

JPP, Patterson, and Hankins blocked; McClain overruns the play.

JPP, Patterson, and Hankins blocked; McClain overruns the play.

On the very next snap, both McClain and Herzlich bite badly on the play fake to the left as WR Jordan Matthews crosses wide open behind them to the right en route to his 44-yard catch-and-run TD.

Linebackers leave big hole in coverage by biting on play-action fake.

Linebackers leave big hole in coverage by biting on play-action fake.

On 2nd-and-15 on Eagles’ next possession, note how Hankins and Moore are easily blocked up front and no other linebacker or defensive back is anywhere near the line of scrimmage to help out against LeSean McCoy on an 8-yard run.

Moore and Hankins blocked and no one else there to stop McCoy.

Moore and Hankins blocked and no one else there to stop McCoy.

After Eagles pick up first down on 3rd-and-7, Wynn fails to account for Sanchez on a read option (and McClain is completely driven away from play) on 15-yard run by a nimble-footed quarterback (sarcasm off).

Kerry Wynn bites on play fake and Sanchez runs around him for 15 yards.

Kerry Wynn bites on play fake and Sanchez runs around him for 15 yards.

And then there is this little gem where the Giants’ defense appears unbalanced towards the side with fewer players. Everyone bites on McCoy’s first step to the left before he cuts back to the right and there is NO ONE on the perimeter of the defense to stop the run and McCoy gains 21 easy yards. This was a big play on the Eagles’ touchdown drive that put Philadelphia up 31-19.

No one outside to stop McCoy on 21-yard gain.

No one outside to stop McCoy on 21-yard gain.

How bad was the defense? With the Eagles up by 8 points with 4 minutes left to play, and Philadelphia facing a 3rd-and-18 from their own 8-yard line, the Giants should have been prepared for a draw play. Instead they gave up 17 yards on the draw and almost a first down.

Defensive Backs

Mark Sanchez completed nearly 64 percent of his passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns. WR Jordan Matthews caught eight passes for 105 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown pass. The other wideouts to catch passes were Jeremy Maclin (3 catches for 49 yards) and Riley Cooper (2 catches for 37 yards). The tight ends caught 5 passes for 57 yards and a touchdown.

Mike Harris (10 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass defense) was beat by TE Zach Ertz for 18 yards on Philly’s first offensive snap. Two plays later, Stevie Brown (3 tackles) looked pathetic and slow trying to make a tackle on WR Jordan Mathews, who is not known for his speed, on his 44-yard touchdown catch-and-run. On the next possession, Harris was beat by Ertz again for 10 yards on 3rd-and-7.

Chykie Brown (6 tackles, 1 pass defense) had good deep coverage on Cooper on the Eagles’ second drive, but he was later flagged on this same drive with a questionable and game-altering 41-yard pass interference penalty on a play where Stevie Brown picked off Sanchez at the NYG 9-yard line. Three plays later, on third-and-goal, TE Brent Celek scored on a 1-yard TD reception by beating Harris who got caught up in the goal line congestion. Harris missed a tackle on McCoy after a short pass early in the 4th quarter on a play that picked up 15 yards and then got beat by Matthews on an 8-yard slant down to the 1-yard line. Chykie Brown got flagged with an offside penalty on 3rd-and-13 that helped the Eagles move a bit closer for their last field goal.

Antrel Rolle (8 tackles) just doesn’t seem to be making plays anymore against the run and the pass. On 1st-and-goal from the NYG 6-yard line, Mark Herzlich gambles on Mark Sanchez keeping the ball on a read-option play. Instead, RB LeSean McCoy has the ball. In my opinion, Rolle has to cover the gap on the potential cutback run more aggressively than he did. Instead, Rolle only makes the tackle after McCoy gains five yards down to the 1-yard line.

Antrel Rolle needs to make the play sooner in the hole on the goal line.

Antrel Rolle needs to make the play sooner in the hole on the goal line.

Late in the third quarter, Rolle had McCoy all alone but let him get away for an 11-yard gain.

Rolle has McCoy 1-on-1 but lets him get away on 11-yard run.

Rolle has McCoy 1-on-1 but lets him get away on 11-yard run.

Rolle also committed a 15-yard face mask penalty on the Eagles’ last scoring drive.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (2 tackles) gave up a big 20-yard completion to Maclin on 3rd-and-16 on the Eagles’ FG drive right before halftime. He also didn’t make much of an effort to get off a block on Matthew’s 44-yard touchdown. Quintin Demps (3 tackles) didn’t make any plays.

But what really drives me nuts are plays where receivers are simply left wide open, either from flaws in the defensive schemes and/or mental mistakes by the players.

Note how no one is anywhere near two Eagles receivers on this 3rd-and-7 play where Matthews picked up an easy 24 yards.

It's 3rd-and-7, not 3rd-and-27.

It’s 3rd-and-7, not 3rd-and-27.

And no one covers Jeremy Maclin on a short crossing route that picked up 25 yards.

Easy pitch-and-catch again for Sanchez and his receiver.

Easy pitch-and-catch again for Sanchez and his receiver.

And at the end of the first half, the corner and safety (Rolle) were nowhere to be found on a 22-yard completion to Cooper.

Seriously?

Seriously?

There were a few positives, but not many. Chykie Brown knocked away one pass. Harris did pick off Sanchez and returned the ball to the Eagles’ 49-yard line and tipped away a pass intended for Ertz in the end zone at the end of the first half.

Special Teams Overview

The punt blocked for a touchdown early in the third quarter was a difference maker. Punter Steve Weatherford’s other six punts averaged 41.8 yards, but only a 33.7 net. The Eagles returned two punts for 15 yards with a long of 13 yards. Zack Bowman made a nice play on one return by tackling Sproles right away.

Josh Brown was 4-of-4 on field goals, including kicks of 38, 20, 36, and 53 yards. Five of his seven kickoffs went for touchbacks. The Eagles returned one kickoff 29 yards and the other only went for 11 yards.

I have no idea why the Giants were trying to draw the Eagles offsides with a hard count on a fake FG attempt since the penalty would not have helped them there. Instead, Weatherford was flagged with a false start.

The Giants did not return a punt as all seven were fair caught by either Rueben Randle (5) or Odell Beckham (2) – bad job by the Giants in holding up the Eagles’ gunners.

Preston Parker’s three kickoffs were returned to the 24, 19, and 20 yard lines. He fumbled his first kickoff return but was fortunate the loose ball was recovered by Mark Herzlich.

(Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, December 28, 2014)
Dec 262014
 
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New York Giants Helmets (October 27, 2013)

New York Giants Helmets – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, December 28, 2014

The 90th season in the history of the New York Football Giants is about to end. After making the playoffs in five of seven seasons (2005-2011), including winning two NFL titles, the Giants have now missed the playoffs three straight seasons and five of the last six seasons. The Giants have have had two losing seasons in a row for the first time since 2003-2004 (Jim Fassel’s last season and Tom Coughlin’s first season).

With the benefit of time, it is easier to see that the overall problem has been the steady decline of overall starting talent and depth. Injuries have been a factor but so has questionable drafting and free agent moves. The proof is in the pudding. How many players on the current roster would you rank among the best in the NFL? How many are Pro Bowlers?

2014 clearly was not a success. There were some positives, the most important being the reconstruction of QB Eli Manning (who statistically has had one of his best seasons after playing his worst) and the emergence of WR Odell Beckham (perhaps the best player to come out of the 2014 NFL Draft). The tight ends played better than feared. And as could be expected, the offense did improve as players became more comfortable with Ben McAdoo’s system.

But minus Geoff Schwartz and no viable depth, the offensive line continued to remain a terrible liability. The team lost David Wilson for good, Rashad Jennings could not stay healthy, and Andre Williams struggled. The Giants averaged less than four yards per rushing attempt. Victor Cruz suffered a season-ending and potential career-altering knee injury. Rueben Randle did not develop as hoped.

Defensively, for all intents and purposes, the Giants lost Jon Beason during the OTAs. It was anticipated that the Giants’ secondary would be one of the best in team history and carry the defense, but the Giants lost Prince Amukamara, Walter Thurmond, Trumaine McBride, and Cooper Taylor to injury, and Will Hill to drugs. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was never healthy. Antrel Rolle regressed and the other safeties weren’t very good. Linebacker play was at best mediocre. While Jason Pierre-Paul did play better than the previous two years, he didn’t really make a big impact until it was too late. Mathias Kiwanuka didn’t get the job done. Cullen Jenkins was hurt. Johnathan Hankins played above expectations, but Damontre Moore played below them.

By all indications, Tom Coughlin and the bulk of his coaching staff will return in 2015. The larger question is the talent arrow now pointing up or down with this team? The Giants are getting a lot of positive contributions from young players such as Beckham, Richburg, Williams, Donnell, Pugh, Hankins, Wynn, and Kennard. Hopefully guys like Cruz, Amukamara, Ayers, and Schwartz come off season-ending injuries and return to form. But will JPP and Thurmond be back? What about Rolle? Can the Giants adequately address talent-deficiency issues on the offensive line, tight end, linebacker, and safety? There are still some significant questions about the overall state of the defensive line and wide receiving corps too. In a nutshell, the Giants need more impact players…more difference makers.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Is this Perry Fewell’s last stand?
There has been much speculation that Perry Fewell’s job is in jeopardy. His defense is 28th in the NFL. Injuries undoubtedly have been a factor, but Fewell’s defenses have been cellar-dwellers for much of his tenure in New York. While the defense has improved its play in the last month, that success has come against some of the NFL’s worst offenses. On Sunday, even with Mark Sanchez at quarterback, the Giants will face one of the better offenses and an offense that Perry Fewell has struggled to counter. Perhaps the decision on whether to retain or fire Fewell has already been made. If not, this game may ultimately decide his fate.

Second Down
Can the Giants get out of this game injury free?
Given the fact that this game will be played on December 28, serious injuries suffered in this game could impact a player’s availability in 2015. The last thing the Giants need is another injury to a player important for their future.

Third Down
Can the Giants get over their mental block with the Eagles?
For some reason, in recent years, the Giants have more problems with the Eagles than they do with any other team. The Eagles are a decent team but they should not be giving the Giants as much problems as they have in recent years, including earlier this year when the Eagles absolutely dominated them. To be blunt, there is not a huge talent differential between these two teams. It’s time for New York to man up and take care of business.

Fourth Down
Can Eli Manning and Odell Beckham end the season on high statistical notes?
This game is basically meaningless other than draft position and whether or not the narrative heading into the offseason will be more positive or negative. And football is supposed to be a team sport and not about individual accomplishments. That said, it would be nice for Eli Manning and Odell Beckham to continue to add to their positive overall individual statistical accomplishments. Manning is having one of his best overall seasons ever and it would be nice to further accentuate a very solid TD-to-INT ratio (29-to-13). He is two TDs short of his career high. And his 13 interceptions are his second-lowest ever since he became a full time starter. He’s less than 20 yards from his fourth 4,000-yard season. Odell Beckham? He’s breaking records left and right every time he plays.

BREAKING DOWN PHILADELPHIA:

OFFENSE
Strength?
The Eagles are 5th in offense in terms of yards gained and 3rd in terms of points scored (over 29 per game). Their fast-break offense enables them to run on average 70 offensive snaps per game which is very high. The Eagles also tend to do very well early in games,  having scored 85 points on their first and second drives.

Partly due to injuries, the offensive line has had its up and downs this year. But the offensive line still has a number of talented players, especially on the left side with LT Jason Peters and LG Evan Mathis. The Eagles have a lot of talent at the skill positions including RB LeSean McCoy (149 rushing yards against the Giants in October), RB Darren Sproles, WR Jeremy Maclin (1,269 yards and 10 touchdowns), WR Riley Cooper, WR Jordan Matthews (7 touchdowns), TE Brent Celek, and TE Zach Ertz (coming off a 15-catch game). McCoy and Sproles can hurt you both running the ball and catching it, and present match-up problems for linebackers in coverage.

Weakness?
The Eagles turn the football over a lot, including both interceptions (20) and lost fumbles (15). Mark Sanchez has been inconsistent at quarterback, and is more at ease with the short- to intermediate-throw than the long ball.

DEFENSE
Strength?
The Eagles are ranked 25th in defense (three spots higher than the Giants). Earlier in the season, turnovers largely covered up bad play. That said, back in October, this 3-4 Eagles defense dominated the Giants at the line of scrimmage and shut out New York. Philadelphia can rush the passer as they are second in the NFL with 49 sacks. RDE Fletcher Cox is very good. Reserve pass rushing specialist DE Vinny Curry has nine sacks. LOLB Connor Barwin has 14.5 sacks and gave RT Justin Pugh fits in the last game. ROLB Trent Cole (6.5 sacks) has a history of playing well against New York. Reserve Brandon Graham can play a number of positions and also rush the passer.

Weakness?
The Eagles secondary isn’t very good. They give up a lot of yards and a lot of big plays. They have given up 64 plays of 20 yards or more, the highest in the NFL. The Eagles are also 23rd in scoring defense, allowing almost 25 points per game (which makes the shutout against the Giants even more disconcerting).

SPECIAL TEAMS
The Eagles have scored six touchdowns on special teams: two on punt returns, two on kickoff returns, and two on blocked punts. Darren Sproles is very dangerous on punt returns as is Josh Huff on kickoff returns.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Odell Beckham
Not to sound like a broken record, but he’s THE reason to watch this game. Can he break 100 yards again?

The Offensive Line
If they can pass protect, the Giants can score a lot of points against this defense.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTHS:

Tom Coughlin – “Probably the best thing we have done is take care of the football. Offensively, the ball has not been turned over in two weeks, so I am hoping we can do that again.”

Chip Kelly – “(On Odell Beckham) They are moving him around more. Obviously, you have to know where he is at all times. They seem like they are putting him in more positions…In my opinion, I thought he was the best in the draft, I think he is showing people that.”

FINAL WORD:

The Eagles really are a middle-of-the-pack team that was thriving off of turnovers and big plays on special teams earlier in the season. But for some reason, they seem to have the Giants’ number. Offensively, if the Giants can protect Eli Manning, New York can score a lot of points on this defense. Can the offensive line play two strong games in a row against an opponent who rushes the passer so well?

Defensively, the Eagles are a match-up problem for the Giants. Devon Kennard (toe) will not play and the Giants will be forced to play a three defensive back package most of the game with the slow Jameel McClain and Mark Herzlich at linebacker. The Eagles should be able to run and pass against that defense unless Mark Sanchez plays like crap and/or the defensive line dominates. The Giants simply are not athletic (or good enough) at linebacker an safety to cover these backs and tight ends.

The Giants defense was pretty bad against a mediocre Rams offense last week, and it could have been much worse had not the quarterback missed wide open targets. I don’t see the defense playing very hard to save Perry Fewell’s job, and I wonder if this game will mark the last of Tom Quinn too – especially if the special teams gives up a score.

Eagles 38 – Giants 24.

Dec 222014
 
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Tom Coughlin and Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 21, 2014)

Tom Coughlin and Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 37 – St. Louis Rams 27

Game Overview

Despite the Rams’ overall record, this was a surprisingly easy win against a very tough opponent. St. Louis has one of the very best defenses in football yet the Giants put up 514 yards and 37 points against them.

Aside from the victory itself, the most encouraging aspect of this game was that this was the first time in a long while where another team punched the Giants in the mouth and New York didn’t back down from the fight – both literally and figuratively. That bodes well moving forward.

The downside was the defense surrendered 27 points and 387 yards against what had been the 26th-ranked offense in the NFL. Indeed, had you told me that the Rams would do that well on offense before the game, I would have said there was no way the Giants would have won this contest.

This was a game the Giants’ offense won.

The easy victory is even more astonishing when you consider the fact the Giants were flagged 12 times for 149 yards. Most teams don’t overcome nearly 150 yards in penalties and still win.

Offensive Overview

So much for my pre-game prediction that the Giants would score only three points. The Giants scored 37 and accrued 514 total net yards with 128 yards rushing and 386 yards passing against a defense that had only allowed 12 points in their last three games and had held the Denver Broncos to seven points. The Giants were 8-of-17 (47 percent) on third-down conversion attempts and controlled the clock 10 minutes more than the Rams. And very importantly, the Giants did not commit a turnover.

The Giants were also incredibly balanced, rushing the football 34 times and passing 33 times. And the big plays were back as the Giants had seven plays of over 20 yards and three plays over 40 yards.

The only real downside was red zone efficiency where the Giants were only 3-of-7 (43 percent) or the Giants would have put up over 50 points.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 21, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterback

Eli Manning played one of his best games in his 11-year career. Indeed, Manning’s 148.8 quarterback rating was his highest in a full game ever. Manning was a near perfect 16-of-18 for 200 yards and one touchdown in the first half, and finished the game 25-of-32 (78 percent) for 391 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. However, there were a few risky throws in the second half where Eli was lucky a defender didn’t come down with the pick.

Lost in the Odell Beckham hype is that when you give Eli Manning solid pass protection, he can be as good as any quarterback in the NFL. How this message is lost on (or underplayed by) Jerry Reese is beyond me.

Running Backs

Andre Williams (47 snaps) had his second 100-yard game in three weeks, carrying the ball 26 times for 110 yards (4.2 yards per rush). While those numbers are inflated by his impressive 45-yard run in the third quarter, Williams did generally run for positive yardage throughout the game and kept a tough Rams’ defense honest. Indeed, I was surprised to see that Williams only rushed for 32 yards on 13 carries in the first half as I felt his toughness between the tackles had a greater impact on the game than that low productivity. Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo have been slammed by many fans for being too stubborn by sticking with an unproductive running game, but in this contest, that balance bore fruit. The Rams could not simply pin their ears back and attack Manning.

Although Williams did give up the sole sack of Manning on a safety blitz, Williams did a very good job most of the contest in pass protection, something many feared would be a problem for him his rookie season given his lack of experience in doing so in college.

Orleans Darkwa (20 snaps) only carried the ball four times, but he picked up 21 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and scored on an impressive 12-yard touchdown run where the Rams originally had him bottled up, but he kept his legs moving and cut back to his right for the score.

FB Henry Hynoski only played 15 snaps.

Rueben Randle, New York Giants (December 21, 2014)

Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

Before addressing the amazing Odell Beckham, let’s first commend Rueben Randle for an excellent game. Randle (64 snaps) caught all six passes thrown in his direction for 132 yards (22 yards per catch average) and a touchdown. Indeed, this was the type of game many of us had hoped to see from Randle throughout this season. Whether this performance is only a tease or the start of improved productivity from Randle remains to be seen. But Randle was a major factor in this contest. His big plays included a 49-yard reception on the Giants’ opening scoring drive, a 16-yard reception on 3rd-and-16 on the second scoring drive, a 19-yard reception on the fourth scoring drive, a 7-yard touchdown reception on 3rd-and-3, and a 31-yard reception on 3rd-and-4 when the Giants were attempting to run out the clock.

Wideouts – even top ones – are usually not as productive game in and game out as Odell Beckham. Facing one of the best defenses in football, and against a coaching staff and secondary intent on not letting him beat them by any means necessary (including cheap shots and dirty play), Beckham responded with an 8-catch, 148-yard, and 2-TD performance. Beckham caught more passes in the first half (five) but only gained 30 yards. That said, one of those five receptions was a 9-yard touchdown catch.

Beckham (68 snaps) only had three receptions in the second half, but the first was the back-breaker for the Rams. After St. Louis had pulled within seven points near the end of the third quarter, Beckham caught an 80-yard strike from Manning on 3rd-and-10. The play took all of the wind out of sails of the Rams and pretty much ended the game. How did Beckham get so wide open? Ironically it was Randle who drew double-team attention over the middle, and Beckham made a heck of fake to the outiside (don’t blink or you will miss it) to create separation from the defensive back. On the Giants’ next possession, Beckham also caught a 29-yard reception on 3rd-and-4 on the FG drive that put the Giants up by 17 points with 8:29 to play.

Randle draws the double team on crossing route as Beckham's fake to the outside creates separation on the 80-yard TD.

Randle draws the double team on crossing route as Beckham’s fake to the outside creates separation on the 80-yard TD.

For all of Beckham’s on-field productivity (Beckham extended his Giants and NFL rookie records with his eighth consecutive game with at least 90 receiving yards), his confidence/cockiness also appears to be having a positive emotional impact on his teammates. And when the Rams went after the team’s best player, they came to his defense in a big brouhaha on the Giants’ bench in the second quarter. That type of fight has been missing from the Giants for the last three seasons. Beckham was flagged with a questionable taunting penalty after his first TD.

The only other wide receiver to catch a pass was Preston Parker (23 snaps), who caught three passes for 32 yards before he was ejected from the game in the second quarter for coming to Beckham’s defense. But Parker had an impact before he departed with a 8-yard catch on 3rd-and-6 on the second scoring drive. He caught a couple of passes despite taking big hits from Rams defenders. However, he was flagged with an offensive pass interference penalty when he started blocking too early on a TE screen.

Kevin Ogletree (19 snaps) and Corey Washington (3 snaps) were not targeted.

Daniel Fells, New York Giants (December 21, 2014)

Daniel Fells – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Tight Ends

The Giants ran a bunch of two tight end formations.

Larry Donnell (47 snaps) caught 4-of-5 passes thrown in his direction for 42 yards including an 11-yard reception on the first scoring drive and an impressive,leaping 23-yard reception on 3rd-and-3 on the third scoring drive. He did drop one pass.

Daniel Fells (43) snaps) caught 2-of-3 passes thrown his way for 20 yards. He had a nice 12-yard reception where he dragged his tackler a few extra yards after the catch.

Adrien Robinson only saw six snaps.

Offensive Line

In my opinion, as good as Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, and Rueben Randle looked, the story of the game was the Giants’ offensive line against one of the best defensive lines and front sevens in football. It wasn’t picture perfect. Yards per carry were not ideal and pass protection sometimes looked better than it was given short drops and Eli’s quick release, but the Giants clearly won the battle up front. Nobody expected that. What I really liked was the big guys didn’t back down from the chippiness of the Rams players. There was a lot of pushing and shoving after plays and the Giants’ offensive linemen did not back down.

I have given RG John Jerry and OC J.D. Walton a lot of grief this season but both may have played their best game as Giants on Sunday. Jerry in particular deserves special mention for his superlative effort of keeping rookie DT sensation Aaron Donald invisible. Justin Pugh also did a real nice job on Chris Long.

Many are going to slam Will Beatty for his four holding penalties against DE Robert Quinn (two on pass blocks, two on run blocks). I won’t. I thought a couple of those penalties were somewhat borderline and Quinn, who had 10.5 sacks coming into this game, was largely kept away from Manning. Quinn only had one official hit on Manning and the Rams only had three hits overall. Only three hits? Who would have thought that? The only sack given up was by RB Andre Williams on a failed blitz pick-up.

Picture-perfect pass protection on 3rd-and-16 play.

Picture-perfect pass protection on 3rd-and-16 play that picked up 16 yards.

Here Eli makes pass protection look better than it was as he throws off back foot for 23-yard gain.

Here Eli makes pass protection look better than it was as he throws off back foot for 23-yard gain.

Another clean pocket for Manning on 19-yard completion to Randle.

Another clean pocket for Manning on 19-yard completion to Randle.

Note the pocket again on the 3rd-and-4 play that picked up 29 yards to Beckham.

Note the pocket again on the 3rd-and-4 play that picked up 29 yards to Beckham.

Pass protection was not only surprisingly good, but Giants’ running backs also gained 131 yards on 30 carries.

This run only picks up six yards, but note no penetration by defense.

This run only picks up six yards, but note no penetration by defense.

A huge hole right up the middle against the vaunted  Rams defensive front, leading to a 45-yard gain.

A huge hole right up the middle against the vaunted Rams defensive front, leading to a 45-yard gain.

Defensive Overview

The impressive offensive performance covered up for an almost equally disappointing defensive performance. Even with the the injuries the Giants have suffered on defense throughout the season, there is no way the Giants should have given up 27 points, 387 yards, and 23 first downs on only 54 offensive snaps to the 26th-ranked offense with Shaun Hill at quarterback. The Rams averaged 7.2 yards per play and they were 2-of-3 (67 percent) in the red zone. The Giants not only allowed Hill to throw for 290 yards, but the Rams also rushed for 106 yards. Mental breakdowns remain a problem and it could have been worse as the Rams missed some golden opportunities to wide open receivers in the passing game.

The Giants’ offense kept gaining multiple-score advantages, and the Giants’ defense kept allowing the Rams to get back into the game. The Rams scored 10 points on their final two possessions of the first half to cut what had been a 20-3 lead to 20-13. They gave up a 90-yard touchdown drive after the Giants went up 27-13 and later gave up a 3-play, 66-yard touchdown drive in just over a minute when the Giants were up 37-20.

The only positive overall defensive team stat was that the Rams were held to 1-of-6 (17 percent) on third-down conversions.

Defensive Line

The Giants did not play as well against a better offensive line than the team has played in the last three weeks. RB Tre Mason rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries (5.8 yards per carry). WR Tavon Austin chipped in 25 yards on three end arounds. The Giants only officially hit QB Shaun Hill five times, with three of those hits coming from the defensive line. That said, both sacks did come from the defensive ends.

A very clean pocket for Shaun Hill.

A very clean pocket for Shaun Hill.

Jason Pierre-Paul (4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 QB hit) remains the Giants’ most disruptive player but he was only so-so in this game. His sack came on the Rams’ first drive on a 3rd-and-4 play where he lined up at LDE and ran a stunt with DT Cullen Jenkins. Pierre-Paul was flagged with an offsides penalty that wiped out an interception. (Though the QB probably wouldn’t have thrown that pass without the offsides). That said, Pierre-Paul did cause two holding penalties by LT Greg Robinson in the fourth quarter.

Huge hole for Tre Mason as McClain is blocked and JPP is caught too far upfield.

Huge hole for Tre Mason as McClain is blocked and JPP is caught too far up field.

JPP blocked and linebackers and safeties nowhere to be found on 12-yard gain.

JPP blocked and linebackers and safeties nowhere to be found on 12-yard gain.

Kerry Wynn (3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 QB hit, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery) did not play as superlatively as his stats suggest, but he played well and seems to be growing in confidence the more he plays. He intercepted a deflected pass late in the first quarter to end one scoring threat. Wynn picked up a sack after the Rams failed to block Pierre-Paul and JPP’s pressure forced the quarterback into the arms of Wynn. Wynn ended the game with a fumble recovery on a bad snap by the center. Wynn has good size and he is a heady player with very good awareness.

Oddly, the only other defensive linemen to show up on the stat sheet were Johnathan Hankins (1 tackle) and Jenkins (1 QB hit). It was a game to forget for Hankins who was barely noticeable and was flagged twice (offsides and defensive holding). Jenkins had a couple of decent rushes but was flagged for a borderline roughing-the-passer penalty.

Mike Patterson, Markus Kuhn, Jay Bromley, and Damontre Moore all played but did not show up on the stat sheet and did not make their presence felt in the game.

Linebackers

The linebacker/safety coverage on the tight ends was not ideal as Rams tight ends caught eight passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. Running backs chipped in with three receptions for 26 yards. In addition, the linebackers were nowhere to be found on a couple of longer RB Tre Mason runs.

Note how Herzlich, McClain, and Brown are all bunched together on pitch play to left that scored.

Note how Herzlich, McClain, and Brown are all bunched together on pitch play to left that scored.

Jameel McClain led the team in tackles (7) and QB hits (2). On one blitz up the middle, he smashed into Shaun Hill as he released the pass, helping to cause an incompletion and punt.

A blitzing McClain smashes into the QB, causing an incomplete pass on 3rd down.

A blitzing McClain smashes into the QB, causing an incomplete pass on 3rd down; JPP also hit the QB on the play.

In the second half, McClain was unblocked on an outside blitz, causing an incompletion on 3rd-and-6. This was an unusual formation from Fewell as he had two linemen in a down position, one standing up (Wynn, who stunted all the way to the right), and McClain rushing from a two-point stance. This seemed to confuse the Rams.

Rams blockers were confused by this formation.

Rams blockers were confused by this formation, leading to a QB hit and incompletion.

Mark Herzlich had 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, and 1 pass defense, but he also got burned in coverage on a 23-yard touchdown pass by TE Lance Kendricks in the third quarter.

Herzlich beat badly for a 23-yard TD.

Herzlich beat badly for a 23-yard TD.

Devon Kennard (4 tackles) was quieter than usual.

Defensive Backs

Shaun Hill completed 24-of-32 passes (75 percent) for 290 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception (not his fault) for a 110.2 QB rating. And it would have been worse had Hill not missed some wide open receivers, including one in the end zone at the end of the first half.

Shaun Hill missed this wide open receiver at end of first half on what should have been a TD.

Shaun Hill missed this wide open receiver at end of first half on what should have been a TD.

Tight end wide open deep down middle but Hill overthrows him.

Tight end wide open deep down middle but Hill overthrows him.

In terms of the wide receivers, the only consistent performer was Kenny Britt who caught 9-of-11 passes thrown in his direction for 103 yards. The other Rams’ receivers only caught four passes, but one of them was a 47-yard touchdown pass where either CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie or S Stevie Brown or both mentally messed up. These mental breakdowns are a regular occurrence in Perry Fewell’s defense and it is getting old. This was not the case of two inexperienced players who were filling in for injured starters making a mistake – it was the team’s premiere CB and starting free safety.

Who was supposed to cover the WR deep on this TD? Who knows? But this happens to often.

Who was supposed to cover the WR deep on this TD? Who knows? But this happens too often.

The only defensive back to break up a pass was nickel back Mike Harris. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was flagged with a 26-yard pass interference penalty on a play where he intercepted a pass. This was key play on the Rams’ first touchdown drive. DRC also had another interception wiped out on a free play due to an offsides penalty.

Zack Bowman didn’t look sharp. He got beat on a deep post to Kenny Britt. The ball was underthrown and Bowman was lucky a flag was not thrown.

Antrel Rolle (5 tackles) and a face mask penalty was pretty quiet.

Special Teams

Josh Brown and Zak DeOssie were flagged with personal foul penalties on Rams’ returns that helped St. Louis get two field goals. The Giants also had a 29-yard field goal blocked late in the 4th quarter. Brown did kick field goals of 29, 37, and 52 yards.

Brown kicked off eight times with three of his kickoffs going for touchbacks. The other five were returned for an average of 18 yards per return with a long return of 25 yards. Orleans Darkwa forced a fumble on the Rams’ first kickoff return that Nat Berhe recovered. Berhe also made a nice play by tackling the ball carrier at the 10-yard line on another return.

Steve Weatherford punted three times, averaging 50.7 yards per punt but only netting 30.3 yards. The Giants gave up punt returns of 41 and 17 yards to Tavon Austin.

Preston Parker returned one kickoff for 24 yards and Quintin Demps returned one for 21 yards. The Giants did not return a punt as Odell Beckham fair caught three.

(New York Giants at St. Louis Rams, December 21, 2014)
Dec 192014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at St. Louis Rams, December 21, 2014

The Giants 2-game winning streak – which really should have been a 3-game winning streak had it not been for the unbelievable collapse against the Jaguars – has some fans feeling a little better than they did last month. However, despite their 6-8 record, the Rams are a major upgrade in competition for New York and the best team the Giants have played since losing to Dallas on November 23. The Rams are an ascending team that has beaten some of the NFL’s best, including the Broncos and Seahawks. There are some serious match-up problems for the Giants in this game. We’re about to see if this little December “run” has been a mirage.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Can the blockers up front give Eli Manning a chance?
The Rams have arguably the best defensive line in football. On top of that, Gregg Williams is one of the most aggressive defensive coordinators in football. He doesn’t care if his down four can do the job all by themselves, he will still bring the blitz in any situation. The Rams are fast, physical, and very good up front. This may be the best pass rushing team the Giants face all year and that’s saying something when you consider some of the teams the Giants have already played. Two huge match-up problems for the Giants are DT Aaron Donald (8 sacks) versus RG John Jerry and RDE Robert Quinn (10.5 sacks) versus LT Will Beatty. The Rams also have an NFL-high 23 sacks from blitzes and will be facing a group of linemen, tight ends, and backs who have not excelled against blitzing defenses this year.

Second Down
Will Eli Manning avoid the killer mistake?
Love him or hate him, we all know that Eli at times will make some mind-blowing mistakes, especially when under constant duress and/or becoming frustrated. With no running game, Eli will be under siege on Sunday. He is going to get hit a lot. He is facing a team whose defense is peaking. But the Rams do have issues of their own on offense. Eli has to play smart and not put his defense in a bad position. Throw the ball away. Take the sack. If the play isn’t there, punt. Don’t turn the football over. That includes fumbles as well as interceptions. Eli has to become more of a game manager on Sunday.

Third Down
What can Odell Beckham do against a talented and well-coached defense whose #1 game plan will be to take him out of the game?
Odell Beckham is now officially a marked man. Ben McAdoo has done a fantastic job of moving him around – outside, inside, backfield, etc. – just to make it more difficult for opposing defenses to double and possibly triple-team him. Gregg Williams is a dick, but he’s a very good defensive coordinator. He will make it his defense’s duty to not let Beckham beat them. The Rams will get their hands on Beckham, hit him with or without the ball, and try to get into his head. St. Louis defensive backs have talked about it all week…they are intent on not letting Odell do his thing against them. Can Odell overcome all of that and get into their heads?

Fourth Down
Can the Giants defense rise to the challenge?
The Giants offense will not be able to score a lot of points against this opponent. The only chance the Giants have is if the NYG defense – which has played very well at times during the last three weeks – can play a complete game on Sunday against a team with quarterback issues. Much of that is on the players, but also much is on Perry Fewell. The Giants can ill-afford giving up a couple of touchdown drives. The Giants need to play like the Cardinals did against the Rams – blow for defensive blow – in  a game that ended 12-6. The defense can’t start slow or finish slow. No letup. Force three-and-outs and turnovers.

BREAKING DOWN ST. LOUIS:

OFFENSE
Strength?
The Rams have some size on the offensive line and some talented skill players. I would say the best thing they do offensively is use misdirection and trick plays to help cover for issues at the quarterback position. WR Tavon Austin is a very fast, quick, dynamic play-maker who actually touches the ball more as a rusher (31 rushes) than receiver (28 receptions). The troubled but talented ex-Titan Kenny Britt can make plays. TE Jared Cook leads the team in receptions. The Rams will spread the football around. There are seven players on the team with over 20 receptions.

Weakness?
The quarterback. Aging journeyman Shaun Hill has taken over for Austin Davis. Hill is more of a game manager and is being called upon not to lose games. The Rams are 26th in offense in terms of yards and 20th in terms of scoring. They struggle to run the ball at times although rookie running back Tre Mason can break the big play. The Rams have given up 41 sacks.

DEFENSE
Strength?
The Rams are very talented in the front seven and have very good overall defensive team speed. The Rams are 11th on defense but that ranking is a bit misleading as the Rams defense has been getting better as the season has progressed. St. Louis is very good in third-down situations and in the red zone. They have only given up 12 points in the last three games.

RDE Robert Quinn and LDT Aaron Donald are the main headliners up front but LDE Chris Long – who missed most of the season – has returned and he is very good as well. Alec Ogletree and James Laurinaitis are former high-round draft picks and 3-down linebackers who lead the team in tackles.

Weakness?
Perhaps the secondary. It’s a feisty group with good overall athleticism. But even though the Rams are ranked 10th in pass defense, their pass rush probably covers up for some vulnerabilities in the secondary. The problem is you have protect your quarterback long enough to exploit their defensive backs. The Rams run defense has not been consistent, but remains 12th against the run.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Coached by Jim Fassel’s son, the Rams probably run more trick plays on special teams than any other pro team. They are very fast on specials and dangerous on punt and kick returns. Tavon Austin has one punt return for a TD and Benny Cunningham is averaging almost 30 yards per kickoff return.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

RG John Jerry
John Jerry isn’t very good. And Aaron Donald – who may end up being defensive rookie of the year – is the type of player who Jerry is likely to struggle against big time.

WR Odell Beckham
He and Eli are carrying the offense right now. And Beckham – who may end up being offensive rookie of the year – is THE reason to tune in and watch the Giants right now.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin on the Rams – “The team is built on speed and physicality…They are allowing in the last five weeks just 9.2 points per game…allowing in the green zone just 14 touchdowns, the fewest in the NFL. In the last nine games they have 35 sacks.”

Jeff Fisher on the improved Giants pass rush – “I think the Giants are playing better as a team. When you get a lead like they did against Washington, in particular, they are able to roll up and rush. I think their pressure is also a result of the match-ups up front. Their ends are outstanding. They have been winning the match-ups against tackles and they have played some young quarterbacks that are holding the football.”

FINAL WORD:

The Rams defense versus the Giants offense is a scary match-up. The Rams have shown some vulnerability to the run, but the Giants haven’t been able to run the football against any halfway decent run defense. If the Rams were not a blitzing team, the match-ups up front would be scary enough, but throw in Gregg Williams’ aggressive and confusing blitz packages, and one has to seriously fear for Eli Manning’s safety in this game. Eli will be under a tremendous amount of pressure. He has to play smart. Giants fans won’t like it, but I think the Giants have to play it conservatively on offense if for no other reason than to protect the quarterback. I might take some shots on first down. But don’t be surprised to see some head-scratching runs on third down.

The only way I see the Giants winning this game is if the Giants’ defense matches the Rams’ defensive intensity and the Giants somehow manage to not get out-played on special teams. But as well as the Giants’ defense has played at times during the last three weeks, they really have not played a complete game. And while the Rams are not a good offensive team, they run a ton of misdirection and misdirection gives Perry Fewell’s players fits.

Two more bad signs? Jeff Fisher and Tom Coughlin go way back and Fisher has good success against Coughlin. And as good as the Giants used to be in playing in domes, they have now lost four of their last five in domes.

Most importantly, the Giants may have the better quarterback and Odell Beckham. But the Rams are the better football team.

Rams 20 – Giants 3.

Dec 162014
 
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Odell Beckham and Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Odell Beckham and Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 24 – Washington Redskins 13

Game Overview

A bad 5-9 football team beat a worse 3-11 football team.

Offensive Overview

It was the Eli Manning and Odell Beckham show and not much else. The Giants only gained 287 total net yards and 143 of those yards came on passes from Manning to Beckham. In other words, half the offense. The Giants only had three plays over 20 yards, and all three were passing plays from Manning to Beckham for 35, 31, and 21 yards. And all three touchdowns were Manning to Beckham connections.

The Giants only rushed for 49 yards. In five first-half possessions, the Giants only gained seven first downs, punted four times, and only netted 95 yards. It took the team 12 plays to travel 56 yards on their one first-half scoring drive.

In the second half, the lone field goal was set up by an onside kick (the Giants could not gain a first down after the successful recovery). There were two more punts and one turnover on downs. The good news is that Manning and Beckham hooked up for their second and third touchdowns on the day.

How bad would this team be without Manning and Beckham?

Quarterback 

Overall, Manning played fairly well given the complete absence of a running game. He finished the game 23-of-34 for 250 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions (118.5 QB rating). Most of the yardage came in the second half as Eli was held to 9-of-16 for 79 yards in the first half of the game. That said, on the 3rd-and-7 play after the onside kick recovery, Manning was fortunate that the linebacker did not intercept his pass intended for Preston Parker. There were two plays that stood out to me in the second half. The first was the 35-yard touchdown pass to Beckham where Manning looked off the coverage to the right, helping Beckham to pull loose from the coverage. The second was his remarkably accurate 18-yard throw to Rueben Randle on 3rd-and-8 despite rolling to his right and throwing back across his body. That’s a throw that normally gets quarterbacks in trouble.

Running Backs 

A virtual non-factor. Rashad Jennings carried the ball once for three yards before leaving the game with a re-aggravated ankle injury. Andre Williams (56 snaps) carried the ball 18 times for a pathetic 44 yards (2.4 yards per carry). His longest run was six yards. The “best” run of the day was Henry Hynoski’s 2-yard gain on 4th-and-1. But Hynoski was unable to convert on a 3rd-and-1 play late in the second quarter, killing a drive.

Wide Receivers

It was the superlative Odell Beckham and not much else from the other wideouts. Beckham caught 12-of-15 passes thrown in his direction for 143 yards and three touchdowns. He and Manning were the offense as the other four wide receivers on the team only caught seven passes for 71 yards.

Ironically, it was a bit of a rough start for Beckham as he couldn’t drag his foot inbounds on one third-down conversion attempt that would have kept the opening drive alive. He later couldn’t handle a somewhat high throw on the first play of the ensuing drive. But the drive ended with an excellent touchdown reception by Beckham despite tight, aggressive coverage by the Redskins’ defensive back.

Odell Beckham comes up with TD despite tight coverage

Odell Beckham comes up with TD despite tight coverage

Besides the 143 receiving yards, Beckham also helped to cause an additional 70 penalty yards as the corner who was covering him was flagged five times on two pass interference, one defensive holding (declined), and two personal foul penalties. Of course, Beckham’s two second-half touchdowns were decisive. In the third quarter, he demonstrated excellent acceleration by sprinting through the middle of the defense for a 35-yard touchdown. On the drive where the Giants really put the Redskins away, Beckham had a key 21-yard reception on 3rd-and-2. And while he dropped his first TD attempt on this drive on 1st-and-goal, he made up for it on 2nd-and-goal with his 6-yard TD reception.

Rueben Randle, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Randle (31 snaps) was benched in the first quarter for the second time in three games. When the Giants drafted Randle’s former collegiate teammate and friend Odell Beckham, I thought that might spur Randle to greater heights. It appears to have had the opposite effect. As BBI poster RetroJint said, Randle seems to be “stuck at the crossroads of indifference and envy.” Randle’s one big contribution – and it was a significant play – was his 18-yard reception on 3rd-and-8 that set up the last touchdown. But he also could not come down with a couple of passes that hit him in the hands, including a contested 3rd-and-7 reception that would have kept a drive alive earlier in the game.

BBI poster Emil wrote the following after the game:

Fans don’t often get to see this side of football because all eyes are on the QB at the snap when you watch on TV, but check out the replay of Beckham’s last TD. He wins the route right off the line of scrimmage by attacking the defender’s outside shoulder (his shoulder to the sideline). He uses his feet to get the DB to open up the inside and Beckham exploits it for the TD. It all happens in about a second and the DB is toast. Game over.

Many WRs are fast, many are big, some are big and fast. Few are big, fast, and textbook route runners. In fact, with this new generation of large WRs, most get by on their physical talents because they can. Doesn’t take much for a 6-3+ WR to gain the advantage on a DB. Beckham doesn’t have that luxury. He is fast, and has an incredible catch radius, but he is not big. By running perfect routes, pretty much all the time, he gains separation without getting in the space of the defensive back. It is simply amazing to watch.

Would also point out, this is one of the reasons Beckham gets separation and Randle does not. Randle, who never seems to get separation, runs inconsistent routes and has lazy footwork. Not to mention, he seldom uses his size to his advantage. If Rueben Randle could add some polish to his game, like Amani Toomer did, he would be a real asset in this offense.

Preston Parker played 36 snaps and has one catch for 12 yards. Kevin Ogletree played 19 snaps and had three catches for 25 yards. He had a key 15-yard catch on 3rd-and-4 on the Giants’ first touchdown drive. Corey Washington caught one pass for four yards on his only snap of the game.

Tight Ends

The tight ends were strangely quiet in the passing game as Larry Donnell (38 snaps), who torched the Redskins earlier in the season, had only two catches for 11 yards. Daniel Fells (29 snaps) had one catch for 16 yards that helped to ignite New York’s go-ahead touchdown drive. Adrien Robinson played 12 snaps.

Sometimes the issues with the blocking are with the tight ends and not the offensive line. For example, in the second quarter, Donnell’s man penetrated into the backfield and completely disrupted a run by Williams.

Larry Donnell's opponent penetrates into backfield, disrupting play

Larry Donnell’s opponent penetrates into backfield, disrupting play

Offensive Line

The offensive line remains a sore spot. The line as it is currently constituted simply cannot run block effectively against decent run defenses. The Giants were held to a pathetic 49 yards rushing. Sometimes it is borderline comical. There was one run on the TD drive where RT Justin Pugh got stood up, and a pulling LG Weston Richburg slammed into him, knocking Pugh to the ground and allowing Pugh’s man to make the tackle. But the main issue is the Giants simply are not knocking people off of the line of scrimmage. For example, on the graphic below, Larry Donnell is called upon to block the defensive lineman on a down block and Will Beatty is called upon to pull and take out the linebacker. Neither can do their job and Williams has no place to run.

Will Beatty and Larry Donnell can't make their blocks

Will Beatty and Larry Donnell can’t make their blocks

Pass protection was much better, especially in the first half. The only sack that was given up appears to have been a mental rather than physical breakdown as the Giants left the Redskins’ best pass rusher, linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, unblocked. Either TE Daniel Fells screwed up on the play or their was a flaw in the pass protection call. There was one series in the game where pass protection was an issue from a physical standpoint. Ironically, that was on the Giants’ last TD drive as Manning was hit hard a couple of times. Richburg was also flagged with a holding penalty on this drive.

The most harmful penalty was the one on the preceding series when Pugh’s holding penalty wiped out a 30-yard touchdown to Beckham. This drive ended with a failed 4th-and-1 conversion attempt.

J.D. Walton appeared to have forgotten the snap count on a 3rd-and-2 play at the Washington 9-yard line, causing a 5-yard penalty and a subsequent field goal when the Giants could not convert on 3rd-and-7.

Defensive Overview

It was largely a tale of two halves as New York’s defense was torched by Washington for 16 first downs and 265 yards in the first half, including 98 yards rushing and 167 yards passing. In other words, the Redskins gained more yards in the first half than the Giants did in the entire game. Fortunately for New York, the Redskins only managed 10 first-half points as QB Robert Griffin III inexplicably lost the ball while crossing the goal line at the end of the first half.

In the second half, New York gave up one big offensive play that set up a field goal, but otherwise completely shut down the Redskins (61 of Washington’s 107 second-half  yards came on that one play). The Redskins only gained five second-half first downs, and three of those came on the one scoring drive. Meanwhile, the Giants piled up the sacks, finishing with seven and 12 hits on the quarterback.

The Redskins did have seven plays that gained 20 yards or more. In addition, the defense was often fooled by misdirection. And there were a couple of big mental breakdowns on plays where running backs were left wide open in pass defense.

Defensive Line

For the third week in a row, the Giants played a bad offensive line and for the third week in a row, the pass rush was a huge factor, with New York accruing seven sacks. That said, run defense discipline in the first half was suspect as the Redskins gained 98 yards on 16 carries (6.1 yards per carry). And the pass rushing was more of a factor in the second half, with six of the seven sacks coming after the break.

Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Jason Pierre-Paul (68 snaps, 7 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 tackles for losses, 5 QB hits, 1 forced fumble) played a terrific game. Yes, much of his damage came in fourth quarter against a right tackle who was shifted to the left side once Pro Bowler Trent Williams left the game. Yet before Williams departed, JPP had a series of key plays against him in the third quarter, including combining with Devon Kennard for 4-yard sack on 4th-and-2, slamming Robert Griffin the III to the ground on 2nd-and-goal from the NYG 11-yard line, and then on the following play sacking Griffin for a 9-yard loss to force the Skins to settle for a FG.

After the Giants went up 24-13, Pierre-Paul and Johnathan Hankins took over the next series as JPP clobbered Griffin as he threw the ball, Hankins stunted and sacked Griffin on 2nd-and-10, and then Pierre-Paul sacked Griffin from a stand up position on 3rd-and-22.

While JPP was pretty stout against the run, he continues to over-pursue the running back on QB keepers around his end. JPP also had a defensive offside penalty.

Interestingly, Kerry Wynn (41 snaps, 7 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 QB hit) played slightly more than Damontre Moore. Wynn impressed with his hustle and instincts against the run. And for an undrafted rookie, he was probably the most disciplined defensive lineman on the field in terms of not over-pursuing the back on play-action fakes. Wynn didn’t flash as much on the pass rush, but he did pressure the quarterback once into an incompletion.

Moore (39 snaps, 5 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 2 QB hits) was flagged with a defensive holding penalty on the tight end in the second quarter. He combined with Johnathan Hankins on a key 4-yard sack inside the New York 10-yard line late in the first half. In the second half, I was impressed with his hustle chasing Griffin 23 yards down field to make the tackle. Moore also did a nice job of keeping Griffin from scrambling for a first down on 3rd-and-4 in the fourth quarter.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Johnathan Hankins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Johnathan Hankins (50 snaps, 6 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss, 2 QB hits, 1 forced fumble) played his best game as a Giant. He not only had 2.5 sacks, but he was a factor rushing the passer on a number of other plays as Redskin quarterbacks had no room to step up in the pocket in order to avoid the outside rush. For example, on JPP’s 3rd-and-goal sack, Hankins was right there too, and Griffin had nowhere to run. Two of Hankins sacks came late in the 4th quarter and helped to make the victory a comfortable one.

Cullen Jenkins (32 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 QB hit) played more than he has in weeks and saw some time both at end and tackle. His sack came on 3rd-and-4 on Griffin’s first drive. Mike Patterson (22 snaps, 1 tackle), Jay Bromley (16 snaps, 1 tackle), and Markus Kuhn (11 snaps, 3 tackles) all played in the rotation.

Linebackers

The only linebackers to play on defense were Jameel McClain (70 snaps, 6 tackles, 1 QB hit), Devon Kennard (49 snaps, 7 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 2 tackles for losses, 1 pass defense, 1 forced fumble), and Mark Herzlich (32 snaps, 4 tackles).

The run defense was shaky in the first half, as was pass coverage on running backs as Silas Redd (3 catches for 62 yards) and Chris Thompson (3 catches for 22 yards and a touchdown) were a factor in early Redskins’ success.

For example, during Washington’s first drive, on a read option, it appears that Kennard didn’t maintain his gap responsibility on a play where QB Colt McCoy picked up 20 yards on the ground. Two plays later, Kennard couldn’t get off of the block from the TE at the point-of-attack and RB Alfred Morris gained 14 yards. Later on this opening FG drive, there was no linebacker in sight on a short pass to Redd that picked up 17 yards on 1st-and-15.

On the Redskins’ TD drive, McClain was easily beaten by TE Niles Paul out of the backfield for a 17-yard reception. And it was either McClain or Stevie Brown who should have picked up Thompson out of the backfield on his wide open 9-yard touchdown reception.

On the Redskins final drive of the first half, Redd was left side open for a 37-yard gain with no one in the picture. Some linebacker or safety was at fault there.

The linebackers played better in the second half. Kennard combined with Jason Pierre-Paul to sack Griffin on 4th-and-2. And he and Herzlich were pretty tough at the point-of-attack on running plays after intermission, including on a 3-yard loss.

Herzlich was flagged with an illegal use of hands that wiped out a 1-yard loss caused by Kennard.

Defensive Backs

The Giants did a fine job on the two main wide receivers: Pierre Garcon (4 catches for 36 yards) and DeSean Jackson (3 catches for 15 yards). The only big pass play to a wideout was the 61 yarder to Andre Roberts.

But to be fair, there were breakdowns that were covered up by the incompetence of Robert Griffin III. For example, note how two receivers are wide open on this first-half 3rd-and-10 pass play where Griffin throws the ball out of bounds.

The Redskins missed some golden opportunities in the secondary

The Redskins missed some golden opportunities in the secondary

Griffin did exploit one of these pass defense breakdowns for a 20-yard gain to Roberts late in the first half.

For the second week in a row, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (57 snaps, 4 tackles, 1 pass defense) and Chykie Brown (68 snaps, 5 tackles) started at corner with Mike Harris (38 snaps, 2 tackles) being the third corner. Unlike last week, Zack Bowman (14 snaps, 0 tackles) did log some time on defense.

Rodgers-Cromartie played well. The Redskins mostly shied away from testing him. He knocked down one pass thrown in his direction to Garcon. Griffin also took one deep shot to Jackson but Rodgers-Cromartie was stride for stride with the Giants’ nemesis. While DRC saved a touchdown by chasing down Roberts on his 61-yard gain, Rodgers-Cromartie may have been the cornerback Rolle said was out of position on the play to begin with (it was either DRC or Mike Harris, and my guess was it was DRC). Nevertheless, Rodgers-Cromartie is playing more than he did during the losing streak and that is having an impact on the overall defense.

Chykie Brown did give up a 22-yard reception to Garcon on the Redskins’ sole TD drive, but once again he surprisingly kept his opponent mostly quiet. He’s playing better than expected since being cut by the Ravens.

Stevie Brown appears to have regained the starting free safety job as for the second week in a row he logged far more snaps (70 snaps, 3 tackles) than Quintin Demps (22 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 pass defense).

Cullen Jenkins, New York Giants (December 14, 2014)

Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Antrel Rolle (70 snaps, 4 tackles, 1 pass defense) did not play one of his better games. He had very good coverage on TE Jordan Reed in the end zone on the second-to-last play of the first half, but he could not come down with the interception. Rolle had a dreadful third quarter. First, he should have sacked Griffin for a loss on 2nd-and-6, but Griffin stiff-armed Rolle to the ground and picked up 23 yards. On the next series, Rolle took a bad angle on a 3rd-and-6 play that should have been limited to about a 15-yard completion. He overshot Andre Roberts who then rumbled for a 61-yard gain. On the very next snap, Rolle hit Griffin out-of-bounds for a 15-yard personal foul penalty.

Special Teams

It was mostly a positive performance for the special teams.

Josh Brown hit a 32 yard field goal. Two of his four kickoffs resulted in touchbacks, but one was kicked out of bounds, resulting in Washington starting their possession at the 40-yard line. The Redskins returned one kickoff for 33 yards so that was not ideal either.

Steve Weatherford punted six times, averaging and netting over 43 yards per punt. Five of his six punts were downed inside the 20-yard line, and four inside the 10-yard line. And the Redskins only returned one punt for one yard. Zack Bowman did a nice job of downing two punts inside the 10-yard line.

Preston Parker returned three kickoffs for 90 yards, including a 45 yarder that set up the team’s first touchdown.

Odell Beckham returned four punts for 19 yards, with a long of 13. He was flagged for an invalid fair catch signal in the second quarter. And he muffed the last punt, leading to the team’s only turnover with nine seconds left in the game. The Giants are using him so heavily on offense that the team may want to consider pulling him off specials for the remainder of this season in order to give him a bit of a break. Adrien Robinson was flagged with an illegal block on one return.

One of the big plays in the game was the recovery of the onside kick by the Giants at the start of the third quarter. Given that the Giants were kicking off from the 35 yard line after 30 penalty yards were assessed, the decision was a no brainer but the Washington was expecting the onside kick and the Giants still recovered. It was a nice hustle play by CB Chandler Fenner.

(Washington Redskins at New York Giants, December 14, 2014)
Dec 122014
 
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Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (September 25, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Washington Redskins at New York Giants, December 14, 2014

The early audition for the 2015 New York Giants roster continues. That includes coaches as well as players.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
No major injures.
The Giants already have 20 players on injured reserve, including a potentially career-altering injury to WR Victor Cruz and career-ending injury to RB David Wilson. The last thing this team needs in December is a serious injury to an important cog that could impact the 2015 campaign. In particular, get Eli Manning and Odell Beckham out of this season healthy.

Second Down
Is Perry Fewell gone, or in the process of saving his job?
Statistically-speaking, Perry Fewell’s defense was among the NFL’s worst in 2011, 2012, and most of 2014. But the NYG defense has improved in the last two weeks by playing two of league’s worst offenses (Jaguars and Titans). It is now the 23rd-ranked defense and could continue to improve by facing offensively-challenged teams like the Redskins and Rams before facing the more explosive Eagles. The defense has been very aggressive in the last two games with many more blitzes (and successful blitzes being called).

Does Fewell only get more aggressive against lesser competition, fearing to do so against better offenses? Or is this yet another example of him changing his style mid- to late-season after repeated failure, only with him reverting to his old unsuccessful schemes if he returns in 2015?

Management has to be VERY careful here when evaluating Perry Fewell and the ENTIRE defensive staff. It must not base its judgement on the last five games of 2014, but the the entire body of evidence from 2010-2014. Despite changing components, the overall track record has not been good with many late-game breakdowns.

Third Down
Who will be part of the solution on the offensive line?
Obviously, the hope and need is that Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, and Geoff Schwartz will be part of the answer moving forward. Assuming Richburg will be the center, what positions will Pugh and Schwartz play? Is offensive line coach Pat Flaherty, who been with the team since 2004 but who has been unable to mold a cohesive unit the last couple of seasons, the right man to steward them forward?

“What’s (Pugh’s) better position? I don’t know,” said Flaherty recently. “He’s an NFL right tackle for the New York Giants and is that his best position right now? It is. I don’t see anything in the future that changes unless something happens in free agency or in the draft. Can he be a good right tackle in this league? Absolutely, I think he can be one of the best.”

Obviously much depends on what transpires in free agency and the draft in 2015. What about Will Beatty? He has rebounded from a terribly inconsistent 2013, but the Giants could do better. But with needs everywhere, is he a guy they can win with while addressing many other positions of need?

In the last three games, it will be important to see how Beatty does at left tackle and Pugh at right tackle.

Fourth Down
Who will be part of the solution on the defensive line?
For the last few years, much of New York’s issues have involved their line play on offense and defense. With important cogs like Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Linval Joseph, and Chris Canty fading out of the picture, the Giants have struggled to maintain the same elite level of play. Who on the current roster should be part of the fix? Jason Pierre-Paul has played better than his injury-plagued 2013 campaign, but he still has not regained his 2011 form. He looked very sharp last week against backup tackles but he needs to be an impact player against top-flight starters. Pierre-Paul faces some good tests down the stretch and these games will be important for him. The bad news for the Giants is if he departs in free agency, they will have yet another huge hole to fill. He still is that one guy on defense who other teams game plan around.

What about Damontre Moore? Is he a future starter or simply just a pass-rushing role player? Is Kerry Wynn just a guy? Johnathan Hankins looks like a foundation player, but what about Jay Bromley? Cullen Jenkins will probably be back one more season, but the team probably should move on from Mike Patterson. Markus Kuhn seems like just a guy.

BREAKING DOWN WASHINGTON:

OFFENSE
Strength?
Statistically, Washington’s offense (12) is better than New York’s (14). They pass the ball better (10th versus 13th) while the Giants run the ball slightly better (21st versus 22nd). The Redskins have some dangerous weapons at key positions. Alfred Morris is still one of the NFL’s tougher, more physical runners. DeSean Jackson (who has a shin injury) and Pierre Garcon are very dangerous wideouts who can break a game open. The Redskins like to throw to their tight ends as both Niles Paul and Jordan Reed each have 36 receptions. Trent Williams is a very good left tackle.

Weakness?
Though the Redskins can move the ball, they have struggled scoring (26th in the NFL) and keeping drives alive (30th in the NFL on third-down conversions). They turn the football over quite a bit too. The offensive line has struggled to protect the quarterback, and most importantly, their quarterback play – be it Robert Griffin III, Colt McCoy, or Kurt Cousins – has been suspect.

DEFENSE
Strength?
Statistically, the 3-4 Redskins defense is far better than the Giants, ranking 10th in yards allowed (to New York’s 23rd). They are 11th in run defense and 13th in pass defense. The Redskins actually have a pretty tough and physical front seven and can be difficult to run on. RDE Jason Hatcher (5.5 sacks but battling knee issue) and OLB Ryan Kerrigan (11.5 sacks) have been disruptive. NT Chris Baker and LDE Jarvis Jenkins are tough against the run, and have actually forced former NYG Barry Cofield to the bench as a top reserve. The other linebackers are no slouches either. ILB Keenan Robinson leads the team in tackles, ILB Perry Riley is athletic, and OLB Trent Murphy is an up-and-coming rookie.

Weakness?
Despite not giving up a lot of yards, the Redskins give up a lot of points, though some of that is related to offensive issues (turnovers). The secondary is not as strong, starting one rookie at corner, and the Redskins continue to have issues at safety. They can be vulnerable to the big play.

SPECIAL TEAMS
The Redskins special teams are ordinary. They have given up one kickoff return TD and one punt return TD this year.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

WR Odell Beckham
He’s the reason to tune in. This might be the week where he breaks one on special teams too.

Damontre Moore/Kerry Wynn
While Cullen Jenkins may see a lot of time at defensive end, this is a good opponent to evaluate how Moore and Wynn do against the run. Not just in terms of the physical nature of the Redskins’ running game, but also the amount of misdirection the Redskins will employ at times. Like JPP, Moore hasn’t been the most disciplined guy out there on the field in terms of maintaining his gap responsibility.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin – “You really can’t overemphasize the fact that (the Redskins’) record is 3-10. How the heck could they be the 10th-rated defense in the NFL and the 12th-rated offense? They do a lot of things very, very well. Obviously, putting it all together has been an issue. They’re not alone in that area, but they are very physical. They’re an outstanding defensive front. People don’t run the ball on them, they’re 11th in the league against the run. What they’ve really done, they’ve gone to an aggressive pressure package and they’ve made mistakes in the secondary and they’ve given up big plays. ”

Jay Gruden – “It is very difficult to be a one-dimensional team against a good pass rushing team like the Giants, the Rams, and the Colts. We have to do a good job staying in the football game, keeping the football game close where all three of our dimensions of runs, play actions, boot legs, and the drop backs are all opened in the play book, and not be one-dimensional.”

FINAL WORD:

Don’t be misled by the first meeting between these two teams. The 45 points scored by the Giants are misleading because so much of that was set up by terrible passing decisions made by Kirk Cousins (four interceptions), who no longer is in the picture. The Redskins can be very aggressive up front with a variety of blitz packages, and the Giants’ blockers have proven that they don’t handle the blitz very well. NT Chris Baker is going to be a problem for OC J.D. Walton and this is also a tough opponent to run the ball on. New York should attack early and often with the pass. If the Giants run, run, pass in this game, they may be falling right into the hands of Skins who then can be more aggressive on 3rd-and-long. Defensively, this will be an interesting game as the Redskins can run the ball and will use misdirection. Also, unlike the Jaguars and Titans, Washington has downfield passing threats who can break a game open. Eli and Odell could take over this game, but this is also a contest the Giants could very well lose. Much depends on how motivated each team is…who wants it more? I have no idea who will win, but if you were to put me on the spot…Redskins 21 – Giants 17.

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.