New York Giants 37 – St. Louis Rams 27
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pass protection was not only surprisingly good, but Giants’ running backs also gained 131 yards on 30 carries.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Devon Kennard (4 tackles) was quieter than usual.
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.
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.
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.
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.