Washington Redskins 20 – New York Giants 14
The eternal football debate when your team loses: did you simply lose to the better team on that day, or did you not match their intensity and beat yourself? The New York Giants insist the latter. They claim they slept walk through three quarters. But that simply could be a coping mechanism. We’ll never really know for sure.
Empirically, all we can go by is what we see on the tape. And it’s not good. The Giants got their butts whipped in the trenches. The Redskins out-rushed the Giants 105 yards to 33 yards. Eli Manning was sacked three times and officially hit eight more times while Kirk Cousins wasn’t sacked and only hit three times. Even though the Giants ran 67 offensive plays, they only held the ball 24 minutes while the Skins ran one fewer play and held it 36 minutes. New York lost the turnover battle 3-0. While none of those turnovers led to Redskins’ points, they did deprive New York of at least one red zone scoring opportunity in the third quarter.
In the end, at least on this particular day, the Washington Redskins were the better team. They played better on offense and defense.
As for the New York Giants, shame on them. Shame on the entire franchise for putting that product on the field in a game of this magnitude. Had the Giants won, they were almost a lock to win the NFC East and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Now they will have to scratch, claw, and pray to make it. Shame on them. They had claimed that the four heart-breaking losses earlier in the season have made them more mentally tough. Bullshit.
Thanks to General Manager Jerry Reese and the team’s unending injury situation year after year, this team lives or dies with its quarterback play. They can’t rely on a defense or running game – both of which are once again among the NFL’s worst. So when Eli Manning and the passing game is clicking, this team has a chance to win any game. If they are not clicking, a loss is inevitable. Manning did not play well on Sunday. The first interception was not on him. Even though the second was tipped into Dwayne Harris’ hands, that was a poor decision on the part of Manning. Fans are debating who was more to blame on the killer red zone interception in the third quarter – Manning or wideout Rueben Randle – but the ball was thrown behind Randle. At other moments, a somewhat rattled Manning threw the ball up for grabs before settling down in the 4th quarter and making some clutch throws, none better than his 4th-and-16 touchdown throw to Randle. He later added a 21-yard strike to Odell Beckham. But it was too little, too late. On a day when the Giants run-to-pass ratio was 13 to 54, the passing game simply did not produce. There were too many misfires and throws into traffic. The Giants’ first 10 drives ended in three interceptions and seven punts. The Giants were 3-of-15 (20 percent) on third down. Manning was also flagged with a delay-of-game penalty on the play before his first interception.
The Giants’ four running backs rushed for 32 yards against the 30th-ranked run defense in the NFL. New York only gained one rushing yard in the entire second half, and that was by wideout Dwayne Harris. Now to be fair, those stats are skewed because the Giants only rushed the ball 13 times despite having 67 offensive snaps (and only rushed the ball three times total in the second half). But the longest run of the day was only eight yards. Despite having six carries, Rashad Jennings only accrued 14 yards (2.3 yards per carry). Orleans Darkwa carried the ball twice for two yards and Andre Williams carried it twice for one yard. Shane Vereen had 15 yards on two carries, but his drop caused the first interception.
The stats are even more alarming when you consider that the Giants actually started the game running the ball well. They gained 24 yards on four carries on their initial possession. In other words, the Giants gained only nine rushing yards on 12 of their 13 offensive possessions.
Against an injury-depleted and suspect secondary, more was expected. Once again, Odell Beckham was the headliner with 9 catches for 142 yards and a sensational, one-handed, diving touchdown grab that cut the score to 20-14 with just under five minutes to play. But like against the Patriots, too many of Eli Manning’s throws to Beckham fell incomplete. Against New England, Beckham caught 4-of-12 targets thrown in his direction. Against Washington, Beckham caught 9-of-18 targets. That’s 17 incompletions to one receiver in two games. The Giants are trying to get the ball to Beckham more, but even though he is getting his 100+ yards, the passer-to-target efficiency isn’t there and drives are stalling. If we’re going to be honest, the Redskins’ cornerbacks did a nice job on Beckham most of the game.
With the Redskins rolling their coverage to Beckham, this was a golden opportunity for Rueben Randle to have a big game and he laid an egg. He had one catch in six targets. He didn’t come back for the football on one end zone shot and two plays later drifted backwards on his route, allowing the cornerback to come underneath and pick off the ball. Randle dropped a pass and seemed completely out of sync with Manning. Dwayne Harris also did not produce, catching 2-of-5 targets for 28 yards. Hakeem Nicks got his feet wet catching 1-of-2 passes thrown his way for 4 yards. In the end, Beckham caught 142 yards and the other four active receivers caught 72 yards on a day when Manning dropped back 54 times.
Will Tye and Jerome Cunningham were the only two right ends active. Tye had a solid day, catching 6-of-8 targets for 74 yards. Tye caught three passes for 52 yards on the Giants’ second TD drive, including a 28 yarder on 4th-and-2. Cunningham was targeted four times, but only caught one pass for 2 yards. Cunningham (and RG Bobby Hart) completely whiffed on their defenders on a running play that lost four yards in the 3rd quarter.
With both Weston Richburg (ankle) and Justin Pugh (concussion) out, the Giants made the unusual move of switching Geoff Schwartz to left guard, preferring to play John Jerry at right guard. Those plans had to be scrapped before intermission when the injury-prone Schwartz fractured his lower leg. Jerry then moved back to left guard and rookie Bobby Hart was inserted at right guard. It was pretty clear the coaches didn’t really trust the interior trio of Jerry, Dallas Reynolds, and Hart in terms of the ground game as the team only ran the ball three times in the second half, and all three of those runs were outside efforts. Yes, the Giants were down by three scores but they didn’t call any of their usual inside shotgun running plays to Vereen or Jennings. Pass protection also became an issue as Eli Manning was sacked three times, officially hit eight times, and was never really comfortable in the pocket. RT Marshall Newhouse had issues in particular with OLB Ryan Kerrigan, who had two sacks against him. Newhouse also gave up the third sack to DE Chris Baker on a stunt. John Jerry was flagged with holding when the Giants were moving the ball on their third possession, helping to stall a drive when the score was still 0-0. Ereck Flowers had some issues on a couple of outside pass rushes. Reynolds whiffed in pass protection on the end zone shot to Randle where Eli was forced to drift backwards. Given the circumstances, Hart performed better than expected.
The defensive line was out-played up front. The run defense was decent in the first half, allowing the Skins’ running backs only 30 yards on 11 carries (2.7 yards per carry). But the Washington ground game picked up momentum in the second half, gaining 74 yards in 22 carries (3.4 yards per carry). That’s not stellar productivity for the Redskins, but it was enough to help control the clock and eliminate any chance of a comeback.
The bigger problem was the complete lack of a pass rush. Kirk Cousins was not sacked and only hit three times, two of those by defensive linemen Cullen Jenkins and Robert Ayers. Cousins rarely was under any duress and at times it must have seemed like training camp drills for him. Jay Bromley was flagged with a roughing-the-passer penalty when the Skins were attempting to run out the clock after New York’s first score in the 4th quarter.
The linebackers were fairly active with Devon Kennard (10 tackles), Jasper Brinkley (6 tackles, 1 TFL), and Jonathan Casillas (5 tackles, 1 pass defense) accruing 21 tackles. J.T. Thomas returned to action after missing a few games but did not show up on the stat sheet. A killer play in the game was the 45-yard screen pass to RB Matt Jones late in the first half that helped to set up the touchdown that put the Redskins up 17-0…both Kennard and Brinkley misread the play. Casillas also missed a tackle after a short throw on 3rd-and-22 that helped the Redskins get into more manageable field goal range.
Kirk Cousins completed 20-of-29 passes (69 percent) for 302 yards and a 114.4 quarterback rating (Eli’s QBR was 59.4 or half that). Aside from one huge play, the Redskins’ wide receivers did not do much damage. Pierre Garcon was held to 3 catches for 35 yards, Jamison Crowder 2 catches for 12 yards, Ryan Grant 1 catch for 19 yards, and Chris Thompson 1 catch for 9 yards. And Giants-killer DeSean Jackson only had two catches, one of which went for 3 yards. The problem? Jackson’s only other catch went for 63 yards and a touchdown when he badly beat CB Jayron Hosley (who was subbing for the injured Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) and S Brandon Meriweather. “It was a speed break out the huddle,” Jackson said. “We said we were going to hurry up and hike the ball. We kind of caught the defense off guard.” The next longest completion to a wide receiver was the 19 yarder to Jones. Rodgers-Cromartie dropped what should have been a 64-yard interception for a touchdown in the first quarter when the game was still 0-0.
Aside from Jackson, the real thorn was tight end Jordan Reed, who caught eight passes for 98 yards, including catches of 26, 20, and 20 yards. The first 20 yarder came on the Redskins’ second TD drive and the the second one came on 3rd-an-5 with 3:29 left on the clock and the Giants trailing by six points. Craig Dahl was beaten on both plays.
Not good enough. Jay Bromley did block a 51-yard field goal effort. And the Redskins longest kickoff return was 25 yards. But Jamison Crowder had two 12-yard punt returns. Dwayne Harris only gained 14 yards on four punt returns and 19 yards on one kickoff return. Harris’ decision to return the last Redskins’ punt inside the 5-yard line was a dumb decision that cost the Giants yards and a few precious seconds. He also muffed a punt that he recovered. Brad Wing had two punts result in touchbacks (though both had a chance to be downed at the 1-yard line) and three downed inside the 20. He averaged 50.4 yards per punt with a net of 41.
Offensively, the Giants were hamstrung by the offensive line issues and not having an A-game from Manning his his targets. But this running back-by-committee approach is not working. Stick with one or two guys. The Giants had a nice rhythm running the ball on their first drive. Vereen had back-to-back runs for a total of 15 yards and he never ran the ball again. Dumb.
I hated the defensive play calls after the Giants cut the scored to 20-14. The Giants played it too conservatively, not coming after Cousins. Worse, despite not bringing extra rushers, they left Dahl all alone on Cousins’ go-to guy – Jordan Reed – on 3rd-and-5 with 3:29 left to play. He’s the guy you want to double in that situation. Dumb.
Cram it in your Cramhole Award
Even though Joey couldn’t do the game review this week, I decided to keep this going in his honor. The choice was obvious: the entire New York Giants team. How in the world do you play so poorly with so much at stake? It’s one thing to lose. It’s another be trailing 20-0 in the 4th quarter to the Washington Redskins. The Giants didn’t score a single point on their first 10 offensive possessions. The defense didn’t force a turnover or register a sack. Shame on the players and coaches.