Dec 182016
 
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Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple, New York Giants (December 18, 2016)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 17 – DETROIT LIONS 6…
The New York Giants defeated the Detroit Lions 17-6 on a rainy afternoon at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. With the victory, the Giants improved their overall record to 10-4. The Giants have now won eight out of their last nine football games. The Giants have not yet clinched a playoff spot but will do so if they can win one of their last two games.

It was an unspectacular but efficient performance by the offense as the Giants accrued only 17 first downs and 300 total net yards (114 rushing, 186 passing). But New York did not turn the ball over, was 7-of-15 (47 percent) on 3rd down, and was 2-of-2 (100 percent) in the red zone.

Meanwhile, the Giants defense dominated for the second game in a row, holding the Lions to six points, 16 first downs and 324 and total net yards (56 rushing, 268 passing). The defense forced two turnovers and Detroit was 0-of-3 (0 percent) in the red zone.

The Giants had six first-half possessions. New York began the game with an impressive 10-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a 6-yard touchdown throw from quarterback Eli Manning to wide receiver Sterling Shepard. However, the Giants offense went three-and-out on their next two possessions. After a Detroit turnover, the offense mounted an 11-play, 51-yard march that ended with a 47-yard field goal by place kicker Robbie Gould. The Giants last two possessions of the first half did not result in points.

Of Detroit’s five first-half possessions, only two gained more than 17 yards. The Lions drove 40 yards in 11 plays on their second possession to set up a 48-yard field goal. Their most serious threat came on their next drive. Quarterback Matthew Stafford hit wide receiver Golden Tate for a 67-yard passing play. But on the next snap from the Giants 11-yard line, defensive back Leon Hall forced fullback Zach Zenner to fumble after a 7-yard gain. Defensive end Olivier Vernon recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchback. The Lions only gained one first down on their final two possessions of the first half.

At the break, the Giants led 10-3.

Detroit cut into that lead on their first possession of the second half by driving 45 yards in 12 plays to set up a 33-yard field goal. But those were the last points of the day for the Lions. Detroit’s final five possessions resulted in three punts, an interception by cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the end zone with just over two minutes to play, and 48 garbage-time yards after getting the ball back with 12 seconds left.

The Giants were not much more impressive offensively with four of their five possessions resulting in punts. But sandwiched in the middle of that offensive futility was an 8-play, 71 yard drive that ended with a one-handed touchdown reception by wide receiver Odell Beckham from Manning. That touchdown gave the Giants a 17-6 advantage with 5:47 to play.

The Giants did miss an opportunity to add more points when Beckham had a 4th-quarter 63-yard punt return for a touchdown nullified by an illegal block penalty on safety Eric Pinkins.

Offensively, Eli Manning completed his first 11 passes, a career-high to start a game. He finished the game 20-of-28 for 201 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions.  His top targets were Odell Beckham (6 catches for 64 yards and a touchdown), Sterling Shepard, (4 catches for 56 yards and a touchdown), and tight end Will Tye (4 catches for 25 yards). Running back Paul Perkins gained 56 yards on 11 carries and running back Rashad Jennings gaine 38 yards on 18 carries.

Defensively, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was credited with 7 tackles, 1 interception, and 3 pass defenses. Cornerback Eli Apple had 7 tackles, 2 tackles for losses, and 1 pass defense that saved a touchdown. Olivier Vernon had 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, half a sack, 2 quarterback hits, and a fumble recovery.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle), safety Nat Berhe (concussion), quarterback Ryan Nassib (elbow), defensive tackle Robert Thomas, linebacker Deontae Skinner, wide receiver Tavarres King, and offensive tackle Will Beatty.

Cornerback Janoris Jenkins left the game in the second quarter with a back injury and did not return. “He took a knee to the back and he’s still being evaluated,” said Head Coach Ben McAdoo.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Ben McAdoo and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

POST-GAME NOTES…
At 10-4, this is the Giants’ first season with double-digit victories since 2010, when they finished 10-6. The Giants did not make the playoffs that season.

The Giants won their sixth consecutive home game, their longest such streak since they won their first six at home in 2008.

The Giants finished 7-1 at home, their best record in the 7-year history of MetLife Stadium (previous best: 6-2 in 2012) and their best home record since they were 7-1 in Giants Stadium in 2008.

The Giants are 5-1 this season when they rush for more than 100 yards.

First-year head coach Ben McAdoo is the fourth Giants coach to win at least 10 games in his debut season, joining Allie Sherman, Dan Reeves, and Jim Fassel.

QB Eli Manning is now the seventh quarterback in NFL history with at least 4,000 completions. He is also now eighth on the NFL’s all-time pass attempt list with 6,735.

ARTICLES…

Dec 162016
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 6, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Detroit Lions at New York Giants, December 18, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
At 9-4, the New York Giants are close to finally returning to the playoffs. But they are not there yet and they can still screw this up. This is a dangerous game for the Giants. Sunday’s contest against the Detroit Lions is sandwiched between two division games, with the following game against the arch-rival Philadelphia Eagles coming four days later on Thursday night. After the Giants biggest win of the season thus far, will New York suffer an emotional letdown against the first-place, 9-4 Detroit Lions?

Amazingly, eight of Detroit’s nine wins have been 4th-quarter comebacks. If the game is close, the Lions believe they will pull out the win.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Shane Vereen (concussion) – questionable
  • OG Justin Pugh (knee) – probable
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) – out
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (knee) – probable
  • DT Johnathan Hankins (shoulder) – probable
  • LB Keenan Robinson (shoulder) – questionable
  • LB Mark Herzlich (concussion) – probable
  • S Nat Berhe (concussion) – questionable
  • LS Zak DeOssie (hamstring) – probable

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
It’s bad and getting worse. The Giants are now down to 27th in offense in terms of yards and 25th in terms of scoring. Eli Manning hasn’t topped the 200-yard passing mark in the last three games. The last time he threw for more than 260 yards was on October 16th against the Ravens. Victor Cruz has caught FOUR passes since the bye week. The starting tight end – Will Tye – hasn’t caught more than two passes in a game the last four contests. The Giants are 30th in the NFL in rushing (both yards per game and rushing average).

Enter the Detroit Lions, who are middle-of-the-pack in yardage allowed (15th) but 10th overall in scoring defense (20.6). “Last seven ballgames, they’ve given up about 16 points and have caused 10 turnovers,” said Ben McAdoo. “It starts upfront. They’ll try and squeeze you. They play the wide-nine as they try and play with width and work hard up the field. Try and get to the quarterback first and play everything else along the way. Their secondary and the linebackers are doing a nice job playing to the front. They’re well-coordinated.”

In Detroit’s 4-3 defense, the players to watch up front are DE Ezekiel Ansah, ex-Raven DT Haloti Ngata, and DE Kerry Hyder. Ansah is the primary pass-rushing threat even though he has no sacks thus far this year (14.5 in 2015). Hyder is a player who has come out of nowhere to lead the Lions in sacks with eight. So both Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart will be under the spotlight once again. Ngata is on the downside of his career but he can still present problems. What will be interesting to see is how effective left guard Justin Pugh will be coming off of a knee injury that caused him to miss the last five games. Middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead leads the team in tackles (107) and Darius Slay is developing into one of the NFL’s better cornerbacks. Linebacker DeAndre Levy has missed most of the season due to injury but is getting healthy again. He’s strong in coverage. [LATE NOTE: Ansah (shoulder), Slay (hamstring), and Levy (knee) are “questionable” for the game.]

Weather may be an issue again on Sunday with rain in the forecast. Through 13 games, the Giants are averaging 3.4 yards per rush. The Lions have allowed 4.3 yards per rush. With Eli struggling and the defense peaking, I would not be shocked to see McAdoo make a big commitment to the run on Sunday. But in the end, the Giants will be what they have been – the Manning-to-Odell Beckham show. If that duo can click, the Giants will move the ball and score. If they struggle to connect, the offense will be dead in the water. It would be nice to say the Giants can diversify their passing game, but they have proven incapable of doing so. At some point, the coaches have to decide whether Victor Cruz – who is struggling to separate – is helping or hurting the offense. I’d be tempted to get a more vertical threat such as Roger Lewis more playing time.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Giants defense is coming off its best game and the team is now 7th in scoring defense (18.8 points per game). But with the Giants offense struggling and a diverse passing offense coming to town, the Giants defense can’t afford to let the positive press go to their heads. Jason Pierre-Paul is still out.

Statistically, the Lions are just 21st in the NFL in yards per game and 17th in scoring (22.7 points per game). But quarterback Matthew Stafford is having a tremendous season with a 22-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio and completing 66.7 percent of his passes. Stafford has five targets with over 42 receptions, including WR Golden Tate (71 catches, 3 touchdowns), ageless slot WR Anquan Boldin (55 catches, 7 touchdowns), RB Theo Riddick (53 catches, 5 receiving touchdowns), WR Marvin Jones (46 catches, 4 touchdowns), and TE Eric Ebron (43 catches, 1 touchdown). There is no one target to concentrate on.

The Lions do not run the ball well. They are 29th in rushing (25th in yards-per-rush with 3.8 yards per carry). Detroit only has four rushing touchdowns and Riddick leads the team with just 357 rushing yards. Obviously, the Giants don’t want to allow the Lions to get their ground game going on Sunday (especially if the weather is bad), but the defensive focus will be more on the 13th-ranked passing game.

The Giants have to feel good about their cornerback match-ups on Tate, Boldin, and Jones. An interesting battle will be Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie vs. Boldin – these two played together with the Cardinals. Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple will likely cover Tate and Jones most of the time. The issue will probably be covering Riddick and Ebron as receivers. (LATE UPDATE- Riddick is “doubtful” with a wrist injury and Ebron is “questionable” with a knee injury). Ebron is having a decent year and the Giants have a way of making opposing tight ends look like superstars. So pass coverage by Landon Collins, Jonathan Casillas, Keenan Robinson (who has a shoulder issue), and Devon Kennard will be key. My guess is we don’t see a lot of Kelvin Sheppard this week.

One variable to keep an eye on is that Stafford has a significant injury to the middle finger of his throwing hand. He played with it last Sunday and fully practiced this week, but it could be a factor, especially if the ball is wet. The Lions have only turned the football over 10 times this year (7 interceptions and 3 fumbles). Also, DE Olivier Vernon will be facing rookie left tackle Taylor Decker.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Detroit Lions are very good on special teams across the board. They are top-10 in both punt and kickoff coverage. The punter and kicker are having fine seasons. Andre Roberts has returned two punts for touchdowns this year and is averaging over 14 yards per punt return. He also returns kickoffs.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on Detroit’s offensive weapons: “They’re all players that would probably be featured in other places. With the collection of guys they have, they have a pretty unique group and a guy that’s pretty special delivering the ball. Marvin Jones, we looked at him as a free agent. He’s a very talented player. He doesn’t just go long; he can really stick his foot in the ground and separate. (Anquan) Boldin is tough playing inside. He’s a completion waiting to happen. (Golden) Tate can do a lot of different things for you, short, deep, in the backfield, whatever the case may be. (Theo) Riddick is a guy that is a matchup challenge coming out of the backfield getting screens and burst routes. He can run away a little bit. (Eric) Ebron is a young, developing player. He’s a big target and can run down the middle of the field. Put the fear in two-deep coverage.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Historically-speaking, this is the type of game the Giants would lose… coming off of an emotional divisional win, now facing a non-division opponent with another division game on the horizon. It will be interesting to see if a Ben McAdoo-coached team suffers a letdown in this spot. The Lions are a well-coached team with a solid defense, diverse passing game, and very good special teams. This game will be close. And the new Cardiac Kids in Detroit believe they will win the close game. The difference maker in this contest could be returner Andre Roberts.

Dec 122016
 
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Romeo Okwara, New York Giants (December 11, 2016)

Romeo Okwara – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 10 – Dallas Cowboys 7

Overview

This was the New York Giants most important victory since the 2011 NFL season, ironically the last time the Giants swept the Dallas Cowboys. Despite winning six out of their last seven games heading into this contest, many were predicting doom and gloom for New York down the stretch after the team’s 24-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Dallas Cowboys were supposed to make mincemeat out of the Giants and celebrate their division title on New York’s home field. Making matters worse, all of the Giants Wild Card challengers won earlier in the day.

As good as this feels, the jubilation from the victory must be short lived. The nine wins have not guaranteed a playoff spot and the Giants have three difficult games coming up, including two division match-ups on the road. But being 9-4 overall and 3-1 in the NFC East is much, much better than being 8-5 overall and 2-2 in the division with three games to go.

The game was an old-fashioned, defensive slug match with both teams combining for only 25 first downs, 520 total net yards, and 17 points. There were six turnovers and the Giants and Cowboys were a combined 3-of-29 on third down. Not counting the final turnover on downs, neither team reached the red zone.

Fans will long remember this cold night game with a dusting of snow on the field. And the ghosts of the Giants defensive past must have watched with pride.

Giants on Offense

Despite the thrilling win, we should not lose sight of the fact that the New York Giants offense is playing like crap and getting worse. In a game of immense magnitude, this was a PATHETIC effort across the board on offense. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • 10 points
  • 12 first downs
  • 260 total net yards
  • 2-of-14 on third down
  • 3.1 yards per rush
  • 23 percent of the offense coming on one play

This is the fifth time this year the Giants have been held to under 300 yards of offense. And I will keep beating this dead horse until proven otherwise – the Giants offense is completely dependent on the big passing play. Other than Odell Beckham’s 61-yard score, no other play gained more than 19 yards.

The offense should be ashamed and embarrassed. If the Giants are going to make a serious run this year, the offensive players had better get their collective heads out of their asses. And pronto.

Quarterback

Eli Manning played like shit. And he’s getting worse. This is the third game in a row Manning has passed for under 200 yards. Yes, the offensive line stunk. Yes the running game was under-productive. But Manning has been encumbered with those issues in previous seasons, including the 2011 title run. In the first half, Manning was 10-of-16 for 80 with two lost fumbles (one where the ball simply slipped out of his hand on what should have been a 24-yard touchdown to Roger Lewis). He also threw one deep pass that should have been intercepted. In the second half, he was 7-of-12 for 113 yards. And 61 of those yards came on a slant pass for the team’s only touchdown. The other six passes accrued just 52 yards. Worse, on one of the Giants few scoring threats, he threw an interception at the Cowboys 15-yard line with 9:40 left to play when a field goal or touchdown would have been huge. And the Giants were VERY lucky the Cowboys dropped two more throws that could have been picked off, including one in Giants’ territory with 2:52 left to play.

Running Backs

You can’t say the coaches were not persistent. Not counting two kneel downs, the Giants ran the ball 31 times in 62 offensive plays. That’s the very definition of balance. The problem was that both Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins each only gained 45 yards on 15 carries. Bobby Rainey had the other carry for 5 yards. In total, the Giants gained 95 hard-fought yards (3.1 yards per carry). Shane Vereen returned but only played three snaps before suffering a concussion. All four backs were targeted in the passing game, but their efforts only amounted to 26 yards on five catches (5.2 yards per catch). Perkins was flagged with another false start. He also fumbled on the team’s field goal drive and was fortunate to recover.

Wide Receivers

Tell me if you heard this before? It was Odell Beckham and not much else. Beckham was targeted nine times, only catching four of those passes for 94 yards and a touchdown. While his superlative 61-yard catch-and-run on the slant pass proved to be the game-winning score, Beckham also dropped two passes. The first should have been a 31-yard touchdown pass late in the 1st quarter.

Sterling Shepard caught three-of-four passes thrown his way for 39 yards. Shepard’s primary contribution was his 14-yard reception on 4th-and-3 that set up Robbie Gould’s 39-yard field goal. Victor Cruz was a non-factor with one catch in four targets for four yards and one drop. He could have helped out Manning on his interception by coming back for the ball. Roger Lewis was targeted once but he did not have a catch.

Tight Ends

Ever since he arrived on the scene in New Jersey, Ben McAdoo’s offense has favored the tight end over the fullback. And for six years, McAdoo was the tight ends coach in Green Bay. But you would be hard pressed to find a more unproductive group of tight ends in the League. Will Tye and Jerell Adams combined for four catches for 30 yards (7.5 yards per catch). These two do give a good effort when blocking.

Offensive Line

Not good. The Giants ran the ball on half of their offensive snaps and only averaged slightly more than three yards per carry. And while Eli Manning was officially hit only four times, he was under duress too much against a team not known for pressuring the passer. Bobby Hart’s holding call sabotaged the opening drive of the game. Manning was sacked three times in the first half. Right guard John Jerry failed to pick up the stunting end on the first sack. The second “sack” came when the ball slipped out of Eli’s hand just as a free blitzing linebacker was about to hit him. Left tackle Ereck Flowers appears to be regressing and was badly beaten for a sack-forced fumble turnover on the final sack of the first half. He also failed to spot a blitzing linebacker on the play where Manning was hit late and then allowed another hit on Manning on the same drive. To his credit, Flowers did regain his composure and played better in the second half. Left guard Marshall Newhouse was flagged with a holding penalty that wiped out a 21-yard run by Paul Perkins. And as pointed out by Cris Collinsworth, Newhouse missed his pulling block on the inside linebacker a couple of times on running plays.

Giants on Defense

THIS is New York Giants defense. The NFL’s 4th-ranked offense was held to:

  • 7 points
  • 13 first downs
  • 260 total net yards
  • 1-of-15 on third down

Dallas’ 15 offensive drives resulted in:

  • 1 touchdown
  • 1 missed field goal
  • 1 turnover on downs
  • 3 turnovers
  • 9 punts

Dallas’ longest gain of the night was their 31-yard touchdown pass. No other play gained more than 18 yards. There were three sacks, eight quarterback hits, five tackles for losses, two interceptions, nine pass defenses, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. Dez Bryant was held to one catch for 10 yards and a fumble. Jason Witten only caught four passes for 26 yards. Wow! And beyond all of the stats, with the game in the balance throughout the 4th quarter, the defense didn’t break. Hell, it didn’t even bend. Ben McAdoo put the game in their hands and they won it. This was old fashioned Giants football!

Defensive Line

Perhaps the Giants best defensive performance in years was accomplished without DE Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants were down to only three defensive ends as Owamagbe Odighizuwa (knee) was also inactive. In stepped undrafted rookie free agent Romeo Okwara, making his first NFL start in perhaps the most important game of the regular season. The result? Okwara, despite a bit of a rough start, finished the game with a team-leading 8 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 sack, a team-high 3 quarterback hits, and 1 pass defense. Are you kidding me? DE Olivier Vernon (5 tackles, 1 QB hit) didn’t put up the same numbers against top-flight left tackle Tyron Smith, but Vernon gave Smith issues as the game wore on and Dak Prescott felt his presence. Reserve Kerry Wynn chipped in with two tackles. Vernon was flagged for being offsides.

Inside, Damon Harrison (4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss) and Johnathan Hankins (2 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss) helped hold down Ezekiel Elliott to a “quiet” 107 yards on 24 carries. And the line did a good job of making sure Prescott did not hurt the defense with his feet (only one carry for one yard). Hankins was flagged with a defensive holding penalty.

Linebackers

Based on the first-half numbers, it looked like Ezekiel Elliott was in store for a huge night. He carried the ball 15 times for 86 yards in the first half, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. But in the second half, Elliott was held to a paltry 21 yards on nine carries. More impressive was a pass defense that held Giant-killer TE Jason Witten to four catches for 26 yards, Elliott to no catches, and Lance Dunbar to just three catches for 12 yards.

Devon Kennard, New York Giants (December 11, 2016)

Devon Kennard – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Devon Kennard had a big night with 6 tackles, 2 tackles for losses, 1 sack, 1 pass defense, and 1 forced fumble. Keenan Robinson had 6 tackles and a pass defense. Jonathan Casillas was credited with 5 tackles and a sack. Kelvin Sheppard had three tackles.

Defensive Backs

In a game where many players stood out, Janoris Jenkins deserves special recognition. He held Dez Bryant to one catch for 10 yards, forcing a fumble after that catch that helped to seal the game. Bryant was targeted a Dallas team-high nine times and that lone catch came late in the 4th quarter. Jenkins picked off another pass intended for Bryant in the 2nd quarter. And his 4th-and-10 breakup of Prescott’s last pass effectively ended the game.

As a unit, Cowboys wide receivers were held to 10 catches for 127 yards. Terrance Williams was left all alone for an easy 31-yard touchdown in the 1st quarter. (Landon Collins accepted blame for the blown coverage and it looked like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had initial responsibility for Williams). Williams’ other four catches gained just 45 yards. Slot receiver Cole Beasley caught four passes for 41 yards. Both Eli Apple (2 tackles, 1 pass defense) and Rodgers-Cromartie (5 tackles, 2 pass defenses) had strong games. Leon Hall tracked down a poorly-thrown Prescott ball for a key interception and 29-yard return. Coty Sensabaugh (2 tackles) has quietly contributed to this team as has undrafted rookie free agent Andrew Adams (3 tackles). Landon Collins was credited with 6 tackles, 1 QB hit, and a fumble recovery late in the game. He was often singled up on Witten and he kept him largely quiet.

Giants on Special Teams

A major factor in this victory was the punting of Brad Wing, who punted nine times, averaging 43.2 yards per punt (42.9 yard net) on a cold night. Five of his punts landed inside the 20-yard line with two downed by Dwayne Harris at the 3-yard line. The Cowboys returned three punts for a total of three yards. One of Robbie Gould’s three kickoffs resulted in a touchback. Dallas only gained a total of 28 yards on their two kickoff returns.

The Giants kickoff return game was not much better as both of Bobby Rainey’s efforts gained only 20 yards each. Odell Beckham returned four punts for 22 yards, the longest being 12 yards. But he also muffed a punt that he fortunately recovered. Dwayne Harris returned one punt for four yards. B.J. Goodson was flagged with an illegal block on one punt return.

(Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, December 11, 2016)
Dec 122016
 
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Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins, New York Giants (December 11, 2016)

Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 10 – DALLAS COWBOYS 7…
The New York Giants defeated the heavily-favored Dallas Cowboys 10-7 on a cold Sunday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. With the victory, the Giants swept the season series against the Cowboys and improved their overall record to 9-4 (3-1 in the NFC East). Dallas fell to 11-2 (3-2 in the NFC East).

In a defensive war, both teams struggled mightily on offense. The Giants and Cowboys each accrued an identical 260 total net yards with Dallas gaining slightly more on the ground and New York slightly more in the air. The Cowboys only finished with 13 first downs and were 1-of-15 (7 percent) on 3rd down and 1-of-2 (50 percent) on 4th down. The Giants only gained 12 first downs and were 2-of-14 (14 percent) on 3rd down and 2-of-2 (100 percent) on 4th down. Both teams turned the football over three times.

The Giants did not score in the first half. Their seven first-half possessions resulted in five punts and two fumbles as New York only accrued six first downs and 84 total net yards. The Giants were limited to 30 yards rushing in the first half on 10 carries. Quarterback Eli Manning completed 10-of-16 passes before intermission for 80 yards and was sacked three times. Two of those sacks resulted in fumbles that were recovered by Dallas.

Meanwhile, the Giants defense kept New York in the game against what had been the NFL’s 4th-best offense. Only two Cowboys drives in the first half picked up more than one first down. Dallas did drive 67 yards in 10 plays on their second possession to take a 7-0 lead when quarterback Dak Prescott hit wide receiver Terrance Williams for a 31-yard score. The Cowboys also drove 42 yards in five plays on their seventh and last drive of the half, but place kicker Dan Bailey missed a 55-yard field goal effort as time expired (the ball hit the crossbar). Dallas’ five other possessions resulted in four punts and an interception by cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who kept Cowboys star wide receiver quiet all game.

At the half, Dallas led 7-0.

As good as the Giants’ defense was in the first half, it turned it up another notch in the second half. Dallas only picked up three first downs and 76 total net yards for the rest of the game. The Cowboys’ eight second-half possessions resulted in five punts, two turnovers, and one turnover on downs to finish the game. Cornerback Leon Hall intercepted Prescott as the Giants picked off a quarterback twice who had only thrown two interceptions all year coming into the game. Bryant caught one pass all night – for 10 yards. And after this catch, Jenkins forced a fumble that safety Landon Collins recovered with 2:13 left to play.

The Giants’ offense continued to have issues in the second half. Like the first half, New York only accrued six first downs. Four drives ended with punts and Manning was intercepted for his third turnover of the game. But the Giants’ second and third drives of the 3rd quarter provided New York with their margin of victory.

First, an 11-play, 35-yard drive set up a successful 39-yard field goal by place kicker Robbie Gould. (The Giants converted on 4th-and-3 on this drive). Then after Hall’s interception and a running back Rashad Jennings’ run that picked up no yardage, Manning found wide receiver Odell Beckham on a slant pass. Beckham caught the ball and raced his way to the end zone en route to a 61-yard scoring strike. Remarkably, those ten points were enough for the Giants to win the game.

Offensively, the numbers were not good. Manning finished 17-of-28 for 193 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He also lost two fumbles. Beckham caught 4-of-9 targets for 94 yards and a touchdown. No other target had more than three catches and 39 yards. Running backs Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins each rushed 15 times for 45 yards.

The defense won the game. Dallas was held to 108 net yards rushing and 152 net yards passing as the Cowboys never reached the red zone. Jenkins and Hall both came up with interceptions. Jenkins also forced a fumble that Collins recovered. Defensive end Romeo Okwara, who started for the injured Jason Pierre-Paul, led the team with 8 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 sack, 3 quarterback hits, and a pass defense. Linebacker Devon Kennard was credited with 6 tackles, 2 tackles for losses, 1 sack, 1 pass defense, and 1 forced fumble. Linebacker Jonathan Casillas had the team’s third sack. Overall, the Giants defended nine passes with two each by Jenkins and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Perhaps the unsung hero of the game was punter Brad Wing. He punted nine times, averaging 43.2 yards per punt (42.9 yard net) with no touchbacks and five punts downed inside the 20-yard line (and two downed inside the 5-yard line by Dwayne Harris).

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were left guard Justin Pugh (knee), defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle), defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa (knee), linebacker Mark Herzlich (concussion), safety Nat Berhe (concussion), wide receiver Tavarres King, and quarterback Josh Johnson.

Running back Shane Vereen (concussion) left the game in the 2nd quarter. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (burner) did as well, but he returned.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Ben McAdoo and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

POST-GAME NOTES…
The Giants have clinched a winning record. It is their first since 2012, when they finished 9-7.

The Giants swept the Cowboys for the first time since 2011. They have won three consecutive games against the Cowboys after losing five in a row.

The Giants improved to 6-1 at home, including 2-1 in NFC East games. That ties their highest victory total in MetLife Stadium since it opened in 2010 (they were 6-2 in 2012).

The Giants’ Sunday night record improved to 21-28-1, including 11-12 at home.

The Giants won a game in which they scored no more than 10 points for the first time since December 28, 2002, when they clinched a playoff berth with a 10-7 overtime victory against Philadelphia.

This was the seventh time in their history the Giants played a regular-season game against a team that had won at least 11 consecutive games. The Giants have been the home team in every game. They’re 2-5 in those games, and each of the last five games has been decided by just three points.

QB Eli Manning’s 28 passes increased his career total to 6,707, which moved him past Vinny Testaverde (6,701) and into ninth place on the NFL’s career list. Manning’s 17 completions increased his career total to 3,997 completions and moved him past Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Moon (3,988) and into seventh place on the all-time list.

WR Odell  Beckham’s touchdown was his 34th on a pass from Manning. That is the most by any receiver. Beckham had been tied with WR Plaxico Burress, who played for the Giants from 2005-08.

ROSTER MOVES…
On Saturday, the New York Giants activated running back Shane Vereen from Injured Reserve to the 53-man roster. To make room for Vereen, the team terminated the contract of offensive guard Adam Gettis.

Vereen was placed on Injured Reserve in September 2016 with a triceps injury that required surgery. Vereen was originally selected in the 2nd round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. The Giants signed him as a free agent in March 2015. As the team’s third-down back, playing in all 16 games with no starts, Vereen had his most productive year in the NFL as a pass receiver in 2015, catching a career-high 59 passes for 495 yards and four touchdowns. It was the most receptions by a Giants running back in a single season since Tiki Barber. Vereen also carried the ball 61 times for 260 yards (4.3 yards per carry).

Gettis was signed to the Practice Squad in September 2016 and to the 53-man roster in November 2016. Gettis was originally drafted in the 5th round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins. He has spent time with the Redskins (2012-2013), Steelers (2014), Giants (2014-2015), Raiders (2015), and Giants again (2015-2016).

Dec 092016
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 11, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, December 11, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
What are the New York Giants to the television networks, media, and football fans who don’t root for the Giants? The big-city market team with a super-talented, prima donna wideout and an overrated, mistake-prone quarterback. This weekend they are supposed to be victim #12 for the media darling, “unbeatable” Dallas Cowboys. This game is expected to be a mere formality. Dallas is supposed to cinch the NFC East title on the Giants home field and celebrate in the MetLife locker room with a grinning Jerry Jones looking on in amusement.

Ever since the Giants beat the Cowboys in the season-opener, Dallas has gotten stronger and won 11 games in a row. They are playing with tremendous confidence. And an NFL suffering through a terrible ratings drop is praying for a Cowboys Super Bowl run, so expect no help from the officials.

The Giants don’t have to be perfect to beat the Cowboys. They weren’t perfect on September 11th when they beat them 20-19. But New York will have to play its best game of the season thus far to win. Do the Giants want to be fodder for Dallas’ highlight reel or do they want to steal their headlines? It’s been a long time since the Giants have won a high-profile December game against a quality opponent with playoff implications for both teams.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR/Returner Dwayne Harris (ankle) – questionable
  • TE Larry Donnell (illness) – probable
  • OG Justin Pugh (knee) – questionable
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) – out
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (knee) – questionable
  • DT Johnathan Hankins (quadriceps) – questionable
  • LB Mark Herzlich (concussion) – out
  • CB Coty Sensabaugh (ribs) – questionable
  • S Nat Berhe (concussion) – out

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
It’s a stunning statistic. The Giants are now 26th in offense. We’re reached Dan Reeves/Dave Brown-era levels. This isn’t supposed to happen with Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, and a supporting cast that was expected to be stronger/more experienced than the group that finished 8th in offense in 2015.

The media and fan knee-jerk reaction is to change this or change that. With four regular season games left, it’s too late to make dramatic changes anywhere. You have to go with what you have and pray you execute better. If it fails, the organization will have to make tough assistant coach, scheme, and personnel decisions in the offseason. The problem is obvious. Opposing defenses are not allowing Beckham to wreck the game. They double- and sometimes triple-team him with a safety deep. They dare the Giants to nickel-and-dime them without making mistakes. The Giants can’t run the ball against defenses playing back. And Sterling Shepard, Victor Cruz, and the backs and tight ends are not doing enough damage DOWN THE FIELD in the passing game to compensate. It’s really that simple. The big question is how much is coaching exacerbating the problem? Some contend the Giants are far too reliant on the 3-WR, 1-TE, and 1-RB (“11” personnel) formation and have become far too predictable. Running out of the shotgun doesn’t seem to be very productive.

The good news is that the Giants may have Justin Pugh and Shane Vereen back this week. The bad news is that both are not 100 percent and both will be rusty.

Dallas doesn’t have a lot of stars on their defense. But they are well-coached. They are 18th overall (2nd against the run, 29th against the pass). More noteworthy, despite giving up a lot of passing yards, they are 5th in scoring defense, allowing only 19 points per game.

“The defense is playing very fast and aggressive, like they always do,” said Ben McAdoo. “They do a great job hunting the ball carrier. (Demarcus) Lawrence is giving them a nice boost, along with (Tyrone) Crawford, and (Maliek) Collins is playing really well as a three-technique. (Sean) Lee and (Byron) Jones have paired to be a great tandem in coverage at the linebacker and safety spots.”

The Giants are 31st in rushing and the Cowboys are 2nd against the run. The Cowboys are 29th against the pass. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. Expect another game with the pass-to-run ratio is 2-to-1 or even 3-to-1. Hopefully the weather cooperates. It’s not realistic to expect Rashad Jennings or any of the tight ends to make a serious impact. It will have to be Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Victor Cruz, Shane Vereen, and Paul Perkins as receivers. Eli Manning has to elevate his game. He can’t play like he did last weekend or the Giants have no chance.

Bottom line? The Giants are averaging 20 points per game. Dallas is allowing 19 points per game. If the Giants don’t score a touchdown more than that, they probably will lose.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
There is no way to sugar-coat it. Losing Jason Pierre-Paul the week before playing the Cowboys is not good. It’s not even so much about his pass rush but the fact that JPP is one of the best run-defending defensive ends in football. But the situation is what it is and you have to move on. Throughout their history, undermanned New York Giants defenses have risen to the occasion and defeated offensive juggernauts when they weren’t supposed to. Now is the time for Kerry Wynn, Romeo Okwara, and Owamagbe Odighizuwa to make a statement.

The challenges are severe. The Cowboys are 4th in the NFL in offense. They are 2nd in rushing and 19th in passing. The Cowboys have the best offensive line in football. The best running back. One of the best wide receivers in football. A Hall of Fame tight end. And a big, mobile quarterback with a 108.6 QB rating and a 19-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott has gotten better with each game. Through 12 games, he has an astounding 1,285 yards and 12 touchdowns. Elliott is averaging 4.9 yards per carry. He’s the complete package. He can beat you with power, moves, instincts, and speed. And Elliott is very good catching the ball, averaging 11.5 yards per catch (on par with many receivers). Quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Dez Bryant, and tight end Jason Witten present their own unique challenges, but the bread-and-butter of this offense is obvious: Elliott running behind a superb run-blocking offensive line. Everything is secondary to limiting the damage on the ground. The good news is the Giants held Elliott to his season-low in Week One (51 yards, 2.6 yards per carry). But Elliott will no doubt carry that chip on his shoulder into this game against a defense missing JPP. And the Giants defense just gave up its first 100-yard game last weekend, mostly after Pierre-Paul left the game.

Olivier Vernon is playing better now than he did earlier in the year. He needs a top-notch effort against one of the best left tackles in football (Tyron Smith). Whomever plays left defensive end will face the lesser player, Doug Free. But the real battle will be inside with Johnathan Hankins and Damon Harrison against a VERY strong interior, including two Pro Bowlers. This is a game where the Giants will need Devon Kennard to step up both as a run defender and pass rusher, including from a down position. Kelvin Sheppard – the run-down middle linebacker – will be on the spot to get off of blockers and make tackles.

The Cowboys take advantage of their strong running game to open up things in the passing game. Linebackers tend to bite on play action and opposing secondaries have less help on the back end to deal with Bryant, Witten, and lesser receivers who still can do damage (slot receiver Cole Beasley actually is the leading pass receiver on the team with 60 catches, compared to Bryant who has 37). Giants fans know what Bryant (17 yards per catch, six touchdowns) and Witten (52 catches) can do. But also keep in mind that Prescott can run the ball – he has 217 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

The Giants have no choice but load up against the run and hope their talented secondary can handle the passing targets mostly on their own. I anticipate we’ll see Landon Collins up near the line of scrimmage a lot, but he and the linebackers can’t be too aggressive on play-action. That’s easier said than done. Getting heat on Prescott will be difficult without JPP. Vernon will have issues with Smith. The reserve ends really haven’t demonstrated any pass-rushing prowess this season. Neither have the defensive tackles. And the pass rushers can’t go all out as they will have to maintain pass-rush integrity against the mobile quarterback. Spagnuolo will have to blitz but the Giants lack top-notch blitzers too. The best bet for Steve Spagnuolo is probably to mix things up and hopefully confuse the rookie quarterback and his blockers.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
To make matters worse, the Cowboys have a huge advantage on special teams. They have the best place kicker in football who is virtually automatic even from long distance. The punter is outstanding, averaging over 46 yards per punt. Dwayne Harris was a difference-maker in the game in the Meadowlands last year, but he is battling a number of injuries and has struggled. Robbie Gould has been shaky. Don’t be surprised if we see Odell Beckham returning punts.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on how teams approach Odell Beckham: “He attracts a lot of attention. It’s a challenge to get him the ball. Teams pay a lot of attention to him. You know going into the game they’re going to have a plan for him. In the past, there may have been one way to take him away. Now, what we’re seeing is they have a few different ways to try and take him away and make you go the long road. We just have to be patient. That’s where the consistency part of things really shows up. You have to be patient and consistent. You have to eliminate the unforced errors. You’re not going to get many opportunities to let him blow the top off of things… When you have a premier player, they don’t want to have a premier player wreck the game.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The good news is the one team to beat the Cowboys is the Giants. And they did it in Dallas so they certainly can do it at home in New York, like they did last season. The Giants are not scared of the Cowboys. The bad news is while the Cowboys offense has gotten better, the Giants offense has stagnated. And it’s Cowboys who are oddly built to win in cold weather and not the Giants. I’d feel more confident about this game if Pierre-Paul was playing. But I think stopping the run and rushing the passer is going to be a problem without him. The Giants have to figure out a way to score more than 20 points in this contest against a team that is allowing less than that per game. The Cowboys also have the advantage in terms of the kicking game. It’s a game like this where the Giants need a team-elevating effort from Eli Manning. It’s been a long time since that happened. Manning has to be more than “good” on  Sunday night. He has to be “great.”

Dec 052016
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 4, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Pittsburgh Steelers 24 – New York Giants 14

Overview

The knee-jerk overreaction to wins and losses by NFL fans and the media is annoying, but it’s the time we live in. The New York Giants are 8-4 with a good chance to make the playoffs. Don’t lose sight of that fact.

This loss was significant because it all-but-ended any hopes the Giants had to catch the Dallas Cowboys for the division title. But if you were going to pick one game for the Giants to lose among the last five, this was the game – the sole remaining AFC opponent on the regular-season schedule.

Give the Pittsburgh Steelers credit because they soundly beat the Giants. But there were a number of plays in this game that had a dramatic impact on the outcome. Yes, you can say that about virtually any NFL game, but there were some key swings in this contest. For example:

  • With the game tied 0-0, late in the 1st quarter, facing a 3rd-and-14 from their own 5-yard line, QB Eli Manning hit WR Odell Beckham for a 15-yard gain. But a holding penalty was called on Ereck Flowers in the end zone. Not only did Pittsburgh go up 2-0, but they got the ball right back at their own 36-yard line on the free kick. They only needed 38 yards to set up a field goal and go up 5-0. Keep in mind that the thing that set all of this up was the questionable offensive pass interference call on Odell Beckham before the safety.
  • On the Giants ensuing possession, they drove to the Steelers 9-yard line. It appeared at worst the Giants would cut the score to 5-3 and at best go ahead 7-5. On 2nd-and-4, Manning’s pass is picked off and returned 58 yards to the NYG 40-yard line. Three plays later, the Steelers are up 11-0. In hindsight, this interception was probably the key play of the game.
  • Late in the first half, the Steelers are at the NYG 42-yard line facing a 3rd-and-17. QB Ben Roethisberger throws a short WR screen to Eli Rogers, who frustratingly picks up 18 yards on his only catch of the game. This enables the Steelers to go up 14-0 at the half.
  • Despite earlier season success on 4th down, the Giants were 0-for-3 on 4th down attempts in the second half, including a failed 4th-and-1 from the 3-yard line and a 4th-and-9 sack from the 24-yard line. In both cases, the Steelers came darn close to being penalized (pass interference and unnecessary roughness).

While I don’t like to blame officials for losses, poor officiating was a factor in this game. Some reporters have discounted this by saying the Giants dramatically won the penalty aspect of the game. The Giants were flagged only four times for 24 yards while the Steelers were flagged 12 times for 115 yards. However, that does not erase the fact that there were a number of critical non-calls at key points of the game. These were non-calls that changed the complexion of the contest.

My point in all of this? A play here or there, and a call here or there, and this game could easily have had a different outcome. With as much that went wrong on offense, defense, and officiating, this game was still just 14-7 with 6:30 left in the 3rd quarter. How frustrating was this game? On four Giants drives that reached the Steelers 9-, 3-, 30-, and 24-yard lines, the Giants came away with ZERO points.

Giants on Offense

One game doesn’t make a trend, but 12 do. The Giants are obviously struggling on offense in 2016. This was not supposed to be the case. And it’s the same issue it has been virtually all season: if the Giants can’t make big plays in the passing game, they struggle to move the football. The team can’t run the ball. It struggles on 3rd down. Receivers not named Odell Beckham have not made enough plays. The offensive line has not advanced as expected. While Eli Manning has had a decent year, he hasn’t elevated this offense.

Why are the Giants struggling on offense? Everyone has their own primary theory, but it’s the old coaching versus talent debate when things are not going well. We heard it last year on the defensive side of the ball. We are hearing it now on the offensive side. Some argue it is the players. Others argue that Tom Coughlin made Ben McAdoo look better than he is. Others blame the offensive coordinator and say Ben McAdoo has too much on his plate with the play calling. Regardless, the results are not pretty.

In all-too-common statistical theme, look at these numbers against Pittsburgh: the Giants ran 55 plays (one was a kneel down) for 234 total net yards (178 passing, 56 rushing). That’s embarrassing. New York was 4-of-11 (36 percent) on 3rd down and 0-of-3 (0 percent) on 4th down. The Giants were shut out in the first half and only scored their second touchdown with 26 seconds left in the game.

The Giants passed the ball 41 times and only ran it 13 times – a 3-to-1 ratio. But those 41 pass attempts only resulted in 178 net passing yards, or 4.3 yards per pass play. New York’s longest play of the game was for only 25 yards. The Giants had one drive over 57 yards and that resulted in an interception. Eight of New York’s 12 possessions gained 18 yards or less. Another only gained 28 yards.

Quarterback

Playing in a hostile environment against an upgrade in competition, the Giants needed Eli Manning to play well. He didn’t. The Giants were shut out in the first half as Manning completed 9-of-14 passes for 70 yards. Oddly, Manning and the Giants offensive braintrust only targeted Odell Beckham once in the first half with 47 of the passing yards being accrued by Rashad Jennings and Will Tye. Perhaps the back-breaking play of the game was Manning’s interception deep in Pittsburgh territory. The Giants trailed 5-0 and looked poised to either cut into that lead or go ahead. Instead the interception was returned 58 yards, setting up the Steelers first touchdown of the game. It was a 9- to 13-point swing (the Steelers went for two but failed). Manning was 15-of-25 for 125 yards and two touchdowns in the second half, but the first TD was set up by a fumble recovery deep in Steelers territory. And the last scoring drive came with under two minutes to go with the Giants trailing 24-7. Manning seems jumpy and he is having trouble connecting with receivers down the field – not a good combination.

Running Backs

The Giants running game is not functional. Schematically, the almost-exclusive reliance on running out of the shotgun formation simply is not working. The Giants only ran the football 13 times, and that is not going to get it done. Paul Perkins carried the ball seven times for 38 yards, with 18 of those yards coming on one carry. Rashad Jennings carried the ball six times for 19 yards. Jennings caught all six of his targets for 34 yards and a touchdown, but four of those receptions only netted a total of ONE yard. Perkins was not targeted. Jennings gave up the Giants first sack with an embarrassing attempted blitz pick-up. (Side Note: I have no idea who designed the play where Jennings lined up behind Beckham and was promptly tackled for a 4-yard loss, but that one needs to come out of the playbook).

Wide Receivers

In the last nine games, Sterling Shepard has averaged 29 yards receiving per game. Victor Cruz is averaging 42 yards per game in the 11 games he has played this year. In a WR-centric offense whose base is the 3-WR set, that’s not going to get it done. Cruz was shut out in this game with no targets. Shepard caught 4-of-8 targets for a grand total of 21 yards and one meaningless late game touchdown. Roger Lewis caught one pass for eight yards. So once again, Manning was left with the double-teamed Odell Beckham, who was targeted an exceptionally-high number of 16 times, but only one of those came in the first half. Beckham finished the game with 10 catches for 100 yards, and the team’s two longest gains (25 and 23 yards). There was a lot of contact on Beckham in this game that was not called and could have kept drives alive. I just didn’t care for the way the Giants called the game with respect to Beckham. One target in the first half and 15 targets in the second half? It’s almost as if they knew they screwed up and tried to overcompensate.

Tight Ends

If Beckham is doubled and the other wide receivers are not producing, one would think the tight ends would be heavily contributing to the passing game. Wrong. Will Tye, Jerell Adams, and Larry Donnell were targeted eight times. The results? Three catches for 32 yards. Worse, Donnell and Tye were involved in probably the offense’s two worst moments of the game: Manning’s first interception that completely shifted momentum back to the Steelers and the failed 4th-and-1 effort at the 3-yard line. Since Tye became the starting tight end after the bye week, he’s only averaging 26 yards per game with only one touchdown. Manning took a shot deep to Adams early in the game, but Adams completely misjudged the ball. Tye had a 16-yard gain on 2nd-and-21, but he got tripped up far too easily on a play that he might have scored on. A few plays later, Manning was picked off.

Offensive Line

Giants backs actually averaged 4.4 yards per carry against a top-10 run defense, but the team only ran the ball 13 times. Believe it or not, Manning was only officially hit three times. But two of these were sacks and Eli hasn’t looked comfortable behind this line all year. John Jerry was flagged with a holding call that wiped out a 21-yard pass reception. Ereck Flowers was flagged with a holding call that caused a safety and a false start. Flowers allowed too much pressure throughout the game, including the 4th-and-13 pass that was intercepted and the 4th-and-9 sack (Marshall Newhouse and Weston Richburg didn’t handle the inside pressure on the latter either). Jerry’s failure to pick up the blitz on the 4th-and-1 incomplete pass came at a bad time.

Fans keep saying Jerry Reese has to address the line. But the Giants have spent two #1 and a #2 draft pick on the offensive line in recent years. The truth of the matter is the Giants are not getting the production out of Flowers, Justin Pugh (who missed his fourth game in a row), and Richburg that they expected. The problem was supposed to be the right side of the line. Flowers has been too inconsistent at left tackle – allowing too much pressure and being flagged too much. But you also have to wonder about the Giants personnel acquisition versus scheme. For example, Flowers’ strength is his run blocking. He can muscle and maul as good as anyone in the NFL (think Jumbo Elliott when he played left tackle for the Giants). But the Giants run a pass-centric, finesse offense that runs the ball as more of after-thought out of the shotgun. Imagine Flowers playing left tackle for the Steelers. I bet you he would be a heck of a player in their scheme.

Giants on Defense

Given the Giants defense only gave up two drives longer than 48 yards, it is hard to blame it for this loss. But I’m not willing to let it completely off of the hook. The Steelers offense scored five times (two touchdowns, three field goals) and accrued almost 400 net yards of offense (272 passing, 117 rushing). The Steelers were 7-of-15 (47 percent) on 3rd down and 1-of-1 (100 percent) on 4th down. While the Giants defense forced two punts to start the game, this was only after the Steelers were able to move the ball and thereby pin the Giants back inside the 20 on their first two possessions. The defense only forced one three-and-out all game and Pittsburgh was able to control the clock and keep the Giants offense off of the field.

To me, the lowlights were:

  • Allowing the quick 3-play, 40-yard touchdown strike after Eli Manning’s first interception. That was too easy.
  • Allowing the Steelers to convert on 3rd-and-17 on their last field goal drive before halftime.
  • Allowing the Steelers to drive 88 yards in seven plays right after the Giants had cut the score to 14-7 late in the 3rd quarter.
  • Allowing the Steelers to salt the game away with their 11-play, 48-yard field goal drive that took 5:17 off of the clock.

The Steelers scored on 3-of-5 possessions in the first half. The defense performed better with two forced turnovers and two punts in the second half. But that 88-yard drive was a killer.

Defensive Line

It was a mixed bag for the defensive line. The Giants held running back Le’Veon Bell to 31 yards rushing on 11 carries (2.8 yards per carry) in the first half. However, after Jason Pierre-Paul was lost to injury, and as the Steelers began to wear down the Giants defense, that changed in the second half. Bell’s final 17 carries picked up 87 yards (5.1 yards per carry). Ben Roethlisberger has been difficult to sack all season, with just 14 sacks coming into this game. Olivier Vernon sacked him twice. He was also credited with two tackles for losses. However, no other defensive lineman hit the quarterback. Damon Harrison has been amazingly productive as a tackler. He had nine more in this game and now is third on the team with 72 tackles on the season. Johnathan Hankins was fairly quiet with two tackles. Reserves Kerry Wynn (2 tackles), Romeo Okwara (2 tackles), Jay Bromley (1 tackle), and Robert Thomas (no tackles) did not stand out. I will make one note that sounds like a cop-out – there was a lot of jersey-grabbing by Pittsburgh blockers.

Linebackers

Like the defensive line, better in the first half against the run then significantly worse in the second half. Though the defensive backs deserve some of the blame on the tight end coverage, Pittsburgh’s backs and tight ends were far too productive in this game. And it could have been worse if not for a few dropped passes. Tight end Ladarius Green had six catches for 110 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Jesse James had three more catches for 32 yards. And running back Le’Veon Bell had six catches for 64 yards. In other words, all but nine of Roesthlisberger’s completions went to these three players, who were also responsible for 206 of the 289 passing yards. Four of Pittsburgh’s five longest completions went to Bell (37 and 21 yards) and Green (33 and 20 yards). Jonathan Casillas and Keenan Robinson seemed late to react in coverage and Casillas missed some open-field tackles. Cassilas’ effort on Bells’ 19-yard run late in the game was embarrassing.

The linebackers were in on a lot of tackles (26). Casillas and Kelvin Sheppard each had eight tackles (tied for second on the team). Casillas also forced a fumble that set up the Giants first touchdown. Robinson had six tackles. Devon Kennard had four plus the team’s only other QB hit (aside from the two sacks by Olivier Vernon).

Defensive Backs

Pittsburgh’s wideouts only caught nine passes for 83 yards. And six of those went to All-Pro Antonio Brown, who was limited to 54 yards (9 yards per catch). But his outstanding 22-yard reception over corner Janoris Jenkins hurt (though much of the blame here goes to Leon Hall who was playing safety and ran himself out of coverage). So did Eli Rogers’ 18-yard bubble screen gain on 3rd-and-17, which led to a field goal. Landon Collins also gambled and lost on a 3rd-and-4 pass to tight end Ladarius Green for a killer 20-yard score late in the 3rd quarter. Otherwise, Collins played well and was credited with seven tackles and three pass defenses. Eli Apple had a big game with five tackles, one tackle for a loss, one interception, two pass defenses, and one fumble recovery. Apple did give a 12-yard completion on 3rd-and-6 on a field goal drive. His pick was the first of his career and impressive as he took the ball away from the intended wideout. Apple also knocked away a 3rd-and-3 pass in the 4th quarter. Jenkins made a really nice play by tackling Brown for a 1-yard loss on a WR screen.

Giants on Special Teams

Brad Wing punted four times with a 44.3 yards-per-punt average (39.3 yard net). One punt resulted in a touchback and none were downed inside the 20. The always-dangerous Antonio Brown did not return a single punt. The Steelers returned two kickoffs – one for 24 yards and one for 23 yards.

Robbie Gould made both of his extra points (hooray for small victories!). Only one of his three kickoffs resulted in a touchback. The Giants were not able to recover his onside kick at the end of the game.

Dwayne Harris has been battling a variety injuries all year. He was forced to leave the game early with an ankle issue. Before he departed, Harris returned one punt for one yard, and two kickoffs for a total of 40 yards (22 and 18 yard returns). Bobby Rainey had a 38-yard return late in the game.

(New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers, December 4, 2016)
Dec 042016
 
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Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants (December 4, 2016)

Janoris Jenkins beaten for TD – © USA TODAY Sports Images

PITTSBURGH STEELERS 24 – NEW YORK GIANTS 14…
The New York Giants were soundly beaten by the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-14 on Sunday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. With the loss, the Giants record fell to 8-4. The defeat all but officially ended the Giants division title hopes.

The problem for the Giants remains an offense that has struggled to score points all season. The Giants were shutout in the first half and scored a garbage touchdown very late in the game to make the score look more respectable than it actually was.

The Steelers out-gained the Giants in first downs (20 to 16), total net yards (389 to 234), net yards rushing (117 to 56), net yards passing (272 to 178), and time of possession (34:08 to 25:52). The Giants offense turned the football over twice and continued to struggle on third down (3-of-11, 36 percent). The Giants were also 0-for-3 on 4th down.

Not counting a kneel-down before intermission, the Giants had four offensive possessions in the first half. They resulted in a safety, interception, and two punts with the Giants only picking up five first downs and 91 net yards of offense. Meanwhile, the Steelers punted twice and managed three scoring drives (one touchdown and two field goals) in the first half.

Pittsburgh got on the board late in the 1st quarter when left tackle Ereck Flowers was called for a holding call in the end zone, resulting in a safety. After the free kick, the Steelers drove 38 yards in seven plays to set up a 44-yard field goal to go up 5-0.

A big turning point in the game came on the Giants third possession. New York had driven from their own 29-yard line to the Steelers 9-yard line. On 2nd-and-4, quarterback Eli Manning’s pass intended for tight end Larry Donnell was intercepted at the 2-yard line and returned 58 yards to the Giants 40-yard line. Three plays later, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger found wide receiver Antonio Brown for a 22-yard score. (The Steelers 2-point conversion attempt failed). The dramatic swing led to the Steelers now being up 11-0.

After a three-and-out by the Giants on their fourth, the Steelers ate up the rest of the first half with a 15-play, 64-yard drive that resulted in a 34-yard field goal. The Steelers converted on 3rd-and-17 on this possession. At the half, Pittsburgh led 14-0.

After both teams exchanged punts to start the 3rd quarter, the Giants drove deep into Steelers territory on their second possession of the second half. But Manning’s 4th-and-1 pass from the Steelers 3-yard line intended for tight end Will Tye was incomplete, and the Giants turned the football over on downs. Nevertheless, the Giants got the ball right back when linebacker Jonathan Casillas forced a fumble that cornerback Eli Apple recovered at the Steelers 17-yard line. Two plays later, Manning hit running back Rashad Jennings for a 13-yard touchdown pass. Despite everything that had gone wrong up to this point, the Giants found themselves only trailing 14-7.

Unfortunately, it was at this point that the defense gave up their longest drive of the game. Pittsburgh drove 88 yards in seven plays to take a 21-7 lead when Roethlisberger threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ladarius Green. The Giants went three-and-out on their ensuing possession but got the ball back late in the 3rd quarter when Apple intercepted Roethlisberger at the Giants 47-yard line. New York could not take advantage as Manning’s 4th-and-13 pass from the Steelers 35-yard line intended for wide receiver Sterling Shepard was intercepted at the 6-yard line.

The Steelers picked up one first down and punted. The Giants got the ball at midfield but again could not take advantage. Manning was sacked on 4th-and-9 from the Steelers 24-yard line. The Giants were now 0-for-3 on 4th down conversion attempts in the second half.

Pittsburgh ate up 5:17 on the ensuing possession, driving 48 yards in 11 plays to set up a 38-yard field goal with 1:39 left to play. After a 38-yard kickoff return by running back Bobby Rainey, the Giants drove 52 yards in five plays to put up a late touchdown on the scoreboard. Manning hit Shepard for the 1-yard score and a more respectable, but misleading, 24-14 final result.

Offensively, Eli Manning finished the game 24-of-39 for 195 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. He was sacked twice. His top target was Odell Beckham who caught 10 passes for 100 yards. No other player had more than 34 yards receiving. Running backs Paul Perkins and Rashad Jennings only rushed for 57 yards on 13 carries.

Defensively, the Giants allowed running back Le’Veon to rush for 118 yards and catch another 64 yards. Tight end Ladarius Green caught six passes for 110 yards. The Steelers had five scoring drives (two touchdowns and three field goals). Defensive tackle Damon Harrison led the team with nine tackles. Jonathan Casillas forced a fumble that Eli Apple recovered. Apple also had the team’s sole interception. Defensive end Olivier Vernon had both of the Giants two sacks and also had two tackles for losses. Safety Landon Collins defensed three passes.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were left guard Justin Pugh (knee), safety Nat Berhe (concussion), linebacker Mark Herzlich (concussion), defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa (knee), offensive lineman Adam Gettis, wide receiver Tavarres King, and quarterback Josh Johnson.

Injured in the game were defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (groin), defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (bruised thigh), cornerback Coty Sensabaugh (ribs), and wide receiver/returner Dwayne Harris (ankle). Hankins returned to the game. Pierre-Paul will have an MRI on Monday.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Ben McAdoo and the following players are available at Giants.com:

  • Head Coach Ben McAdoo (Video)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)
  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (Video)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Video)
  • CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Video)

ROSTER MOVES…
On Saturday, the New York Giants signed linebacker Deontae Skinner to the 53-man roster from the Practice Squad. To make room for Skinner, the team waived center Shane McDermott.

Skinner has spent time on both the Giants 53-man roster and Practice Squad this year. Skinner was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the New England Patriots after the 2014 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Patriots (2014-2015) and Eagles (2015-2016), the latter waiving him in August.

McDermott has spent two stints on the team’s Practice Squad and was signed to the 53-man roster in November. McDermott originally signed by the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2015 NFL Draft, but the Cowboys cut him in September that year. After a brief stint on the Panthers Practice Squad, the Giants signed McDermott to the Practice Squad in November 2015.

ARTICLES…

Dec 022016
 
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Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (August 9, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Pittsburgh Steelers, December 4, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
I get the sense that many Giants fans are not enjoying this season. They see the Giants as a flawed team and that the roof will eventually collapse. These fans are disappointed that the offense has fallen from top 10 in 2015 to now 21st in the NFL. The running game is 31st in the NFL. Every game is a nail-biter. The Giants have fattened their win total against weak teams. All of these facts or impressions are correct.

But every team has its flaws. And the Giants are a legitimate 8-3 team with a franchise quarterback who is playing decently but has yet to hit his stride, arguably the best wide receiver in football, and a physical defense that can stop the run and the pass and is continuing to improve. The Giants are capable of losing to any team but they are also very capable of beating any team. The Giants are about to enter the toughest part of their schedule – the part that will ultimately define their season – but they should not fear anyone who they are about to play.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a perennial tough out. They have their own franchise QB, arguably the best wide receiver in football, a two-way threat at running back, and a tough, prideful defense. And the Steelers become all that much more difficult to defeat when they are playing at home. That said, the Giants should be insulted that the Steelers are a solid touchdown favorite in this game.

This is a big game for the Giants. Win and their division title/#1 seed hopes are still alive and well. Lose and the Giants will be relegated to fighting for a Wild Card spot.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR/Returner Dwayne Harris (wrist) – probable
  • OG Justin Pugh (knee) – out
  • OL Brett Jones (calf) – questionable
  • OL Marshall Newhouse (knee) – questionable
  • DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (knee) – out
  • LB Mark Herzlich (concussion) – out
  • S Nat Berhe (concussion) – out

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
It seems like the Steelers have been playing their trademark 3-4 defense forever. However, while Pittsburgh’s defense has played better in recent weeks against offensively-challenged opponents, they have fallen to 19th in the NFL this season (9th against the run, 23rd against the pass). The Steelers are middle-of-the pack in sacks (24) with no premiere pass-rushing threats. The heart and soul of the defensive team remains the linebacking corps. These are the run stoppers and pass-rushers on the team. You have to be ready for any of them to come after the quarterback. They are fundamentally sound, tough, physical players who play with a lot of pride. This is what makes their defense tough.

Inside, Lawrence Timmons is in his 10th season, but is still leading the team in tackles. Next to him in the middle is Ryan Shazier – the pup in his third year – who is coming on. Outside linebackers Arthur Moats (3.5 sacks), Jarvis Jones, and James Harrison (4 sacks – yes he’s still around) will challenge the Giants offensive tackles.

While the Steelers defense has given up yardage this year, they toughen up near the goal line and are currently the toughest red zone defense in the league. The Giants are 13th in red zone offense and have been hit or miss in this area, though better in recent weeks. Obviously, finishing drives will be important but don’t be surprised if the Giants bog down offensively as they get closer to the end zone.

The game plan seems fairly obvious. While the Giants don’t want to become too one-dimensional in order to keep the Steelers honest, the Giants 31st-ranked running game versus the Steelers 9th-ranked run defense suggests the Giants should attack primarily through the air. Keep in mind the short passing game – a trademark of the West Coast Offense – is often considered equivalent to a running play. That’s how you can view a 4- or 5-yard pass to Rashad Jennings or Paul Perkins.

On the flip side is New York’s 12th-ranked passing game versus Pittsburgh’s 23rd-ranked pass defense. The Steelers can be exposed through the air and they only have seven interceptions as a team. I feel the key to this game is composure. Pittsburgh is a tough place to play. Some teams get intimidated by mystique and crowd noise. Eli Manning has to keep his teammates calm. Don’t make stupid penalties (i.e., false starts) or force the issue and turn the ball over. Again, the Steelers are 19th in defense. The Giants can move the ball against these guys. If New York finishes their drives, the Giants will win this game.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
While the Giants and Steelers may not currently have top-10 offenses, what makes both so dangerous are they both have 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterbacks who can carry their team, and also bring their teams from behind in the clutch. Both offenses have a superb wide receiver. But the added plus for Pittsburgh is their running game. The Steelers have the NFL’s 12th-ranked offense (18th in rushing, 8th in passing). While 18th is middle-of-the-pack, running back Le’Veon Bell, who missed the first three games of the season, has exploded the last two weeks with 266 yards rushing. He also is a featured target in the Pittsburgh passing game with an astonishing 57 receptions. So as much attention as wide receiver Antonio Brown rightly receives, I feel the key to this game defensively is controlling Bell as a rusher and receiver.

Led by center Maurkice Pouney and right guard David DeCastro, the Steelers are capable of controlling the line of scrimmage. This is going to be out-right war at the line of scrimmage between the tackles. Here is where we truly find out how good defensive tackles Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hankins are. Ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon are also going to have to hold their ground on the edge. The linebackers have to get off of blocks and gang-tackle the big, powerful Bell.

In many ways, it is the Giants linebackers who will be on the spot in this game. The bulk of the Steelers offense runs through their three-headed monster of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Brown, and Bell. Not only do the linebackers have to be physical against the run, but they will have to keep Bell in check as a receiver. The Steelers don’t feature the tight end, but when they get close to the end zone, they do have four TDs on the year. Kelvin Sheppard, Jonathan Casillas, Devon Kennard, and Keenan Robinson must come to play.

Then there is Antonio Brown. If there is anyone better than Beckham, it may be Brown. He has 82 catches for almost 1,000 yards and 10 TDs through 11 games despite being the focal point of everyone’s pass defense. The good news for the Giants is that the man covering him in this game – Janoris Jenkins – practiced against Beckham on a daily basis in training camp. That level of competition will help Jenkins against a receiver with a similar skill set. Obviously, as much as the Giants don’t want Bell to nickel-and-dime the Giants to death, New York doesn’t want Brown to blow the game wide open on cheap plays either.

Teams are not getting to Roethlisberger. The Steelers have given up only 14 sacks all year (just over one per game). Part of that is the blocking up front, but Roethlisberger gets rid of the ball quickly and he is a big guy who is hard to tackle and capable of running with the football when in trouble. TACKLING – tackling Roethlisberger, Bell, and Brown – will be HUGE in this game.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Do the Giants have a place kicking problem? Robbie Gould has now missed three extra points in two weeks. It’s unnerving to be entering the final stretch, and the toughest stretch, with a big question mark at kicker.

The Steelers use Antonio Brown as their primary punt returner. He has only 14 returns all year because teams try to kick away from him. He obviously is a threat every time he touches the football (four career TDs as a punt returner). Brad Wing’s placement will be key as will be the work of the gunners. And the Giants will be a bit short-handed on special teams this week with Mark Herzlich out.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo on the Steelers offense: “You try to take one thing away and they will open up a hole somewhere else. But they have been good for a long time. The quarterback makes it all go and when you have a skill guy like Antonio Brown outside and a back like (Le’Veon) Bell that can do the things that he can do inside, it is going to make it difficult for our guys. Everybody just has to do their job, is what it comes down to. Hopefully we will have enough things to change it up to take away what they do really well. Ben (Roethlisberger) is good enough that he is going to figure out what you are taking away and then go use his other tools, so it will be that kind of game all day long. We are going to need a couple of breaks here and there and need some turnovers and our guys need to play fast and relentless and hopefully something good happens.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Football is often a game about match-ups and I like the match-ups in the game for the Giants. I think Janoris Jenkins can handle Antonio Brown. I think the Giants defense can hold Le’Veon Bell under 100 yards rushing. Pittsburgh does not have the dynamic tight end. I do worry about Bell as a pass receiver. And the Giants need to be careful of the gadget play involving Brown. On the flip side, the Giants can attack through the air and the Steelers have issues stopping the pass. Obviously, the offensive tackles need to do a reasonable job of keeping blitzing linebackers off of Eli. Much of the pass protection will be mental – picking up stunts, late dogs, etc. Red zone offense versus red zone defense is another key. What I don’t want to see is this game coming down to Robbie Gould.

Nov 282016
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (November 27, 2016)

Odell Beckham Celebrates His TD Against the Cleveland Browns – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 27 – Cleveland Browns 13

Overview

The New York Giants won their eighth game of the season, their sixth in a row, and by their largest point margin of the season by defeating the winless Cleveland Browns on the last weekend in November. Despite Cleveland’s record, this was a very dangerous spot for the Giants against an opponent they could have easily overlooked. With the offense and special teams playing at a mostly subpar level, the defense once again carried the day for New York. Good defense will almost always keep you in a game. The Giants had entered the game as the least penalized in the NFL but were flagged with nine infractions for 100 yards against the Browns. As expected, the turnover and sack numbers are beginning to favor the Giants.

Giants on Offense

The good news is that the offense scored three touchdowns and was 2-of-2 in the red zone. The offense did not turn the football over.

The bad news is that the Giants ran only 53 offensive plays (not counting the two kneel downs) and punted nine times. The offense was limited to 13 first downs, 296 total net yards (192 net yards passing), and 26:09 time of possession. The 104 yards rushing was inflated by a 22-yard end around by a wide receiver. The Giants were 4-of-13 (31 percent) on 3rd down and QB Eli Manning only completed 15 passes. The Giants began both the first and second half with four punts in a row. This all against a defense that had been 31st in the NFL.

In terms of pass/run ratio, the Giants had one of their most “balanced” games of the season. On the 53 offensive snaps, the Giants passed 28 times (one sack) and ran the ball 25 times.

Quarterback

Strange game for Eli Manning. He only completed 15 passes (15-of-27 or 56 percent). But he averaged almost 13 yards per completion, threw three touchdown passes and no interceptions, and finished the game with a 115.4 QB rating. On the first four drives of the first half, Manning was 8-of-12 for 49 yards, and was also sacked once. He missed an open Odell Beckham deep on the first possession on what could have been a 58-yard score. Manning also was way off on two other down-field shots to Beckham in the 1st quarter. On the the first four drives of the second half, Manning was 1-of-6 for no yards. But on the three touchdown drives, Manning was 6-of-9 for 145 yards and 3 touchdowns. Three of Manning’s passes gained 110 yards. And the throws to Dwayne Harris and Victor Cruz were picture-perfect. As I’ve said all year long, the Giants offense largely lives and dies by the big passing play.

Running Backs

Not a terribly productive game against what had been the 31st-ranked run defense in the NFL. If you take away the 22-yard end around by Sterling Shepard, Rashad Jennings and Paul Perkins carried the ball 24 times for 84 yards (3.5 yards per carry). One drive was stopped when Jennings was stuffed on 3rd-and-1. Jennings and Perkins were relatively unproductive in the passing game too, catching four passes for 18 yards. Perkins was flagged with a false start.

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham was targeted 11 times. He caught six of those passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns. His three highlights included his 32-yard catch-and-run touchdown, his 41-yard reception that set up the final touchdown, and his 4-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-goal that sealed the game. Beckham simply is playing at a different speed than the other players on the field.

Oddly, Sterling Shepard was never targeted in the game. His 22-yard end around helped to set up the final score. Dwayne Harris was targeted once, and it resulted in the first touchdown of the game, a 13-yard score. Victor Cruz (1-of-5) and Roger Lewis (1-of-4) were targeted nine times, resulting in only two catches for 55 yards. Lewis’ 18-yard catch came on the first TD drive while Cruz’s 37-yard catch came on the second. Cruz seems to struggle to create any kind of vertical separation from defenders, but oddly the Giants take repeated deep shots in his direction. Manning repeatedly tried to his Lewis deep, but his throws were off the mark.

Tight Ends

Will Tye caught both passes thrown his way for a total of 12 yards on back-to-back plays in the first half. That was the extent of the tight end “productivity” in the passing game. Jerell Adams was not targeted but flashed as a blocker.

Offensive Line

The good news is that despite being down to their fourth-string left guard, the Giants won the game and Eli Manning survived. Manning was officially hit four times and sacked once (coverage sack). The running backs only averaged 3.5 yards per carry however against the 31st-ranked run defense. Despite outstanding starting field position at midfield, one drive was sabotaged by back-to-back penalties, the first a holding penalty on LT Ereck Flowers and then a false start on RT Bobby Hart. The first penalty wiped out a 19-yard gain. Flowers allowed a few pressures, but the Giants took more deep shots this week and the pass protection was reasonable.

Giants on Defense

The bad news is the Giants allowed the NFL’s 29th-ranked offense to accrue 343 total net yards with quarterback Josh McCown throwing for 322 yards and wide receiver Terrell Pryor catching six passes for 131 yards. The defense was also flagged three times for 55 yards.

The good news was just about everything else. The Giants defense was credited with seven sacks, eight tackles for losses, 11 quarterback hits, five pass defenses, three forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. The Browns were 3-of-14 (21 percent) on 3rd down and 1-of-2 (50 percent) on 4th down. Fifteen offensive drives resulted in one touchdown, two field goals, three turnovers, one turnover on downs, and eight punts. The Browns were not only held to 13 points, but the Giants defense also scored. Giants defenders of the past would be very proud.

Defensive Line

As a unit, the defensive line had a monster game and everyone got into the act:

  • Jason Pierre-Paul: 7 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 QB hits, 3 tackles for losses, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery for a TD.
  • Olivier Vernon: 4 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 tackles for losses, 5 QB hits.
  • Damon Harrison: Team-high 9 tackles, 1 forced fumble.
  • Johnathan Hankins: 3 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 QB hits, 1 forced fumble.

Even reserves such as Romeo Okwara (2 tackles, 1 pass defense) and Kerry Wynn (1 fumble recovery) got into the act. In total, the line was responsible for 25 tackles, 6 sacks, 5 tackles for losses, 10 QB hits, 1 pass defense, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and one touchdown. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Linebackers

The defensive line, linebackers, and secondary limited the Browns to 58 yards on 21 carries. The 2.8 yards-per-carry average was far below what running backs Isaiah Crowell (4.3) and Duke Johnson (5.0) had been averaging. One of the Browns main targets – tight end Gary Barnidge – was held to one catch for 11 yards. Back-up tight end Seth DeValve caught three passes for 39 yards late in the game. Cleveland loves to throw to their backs and Crowell, Johnson, and Danny Vitale caught 10 passes for 69 yards. Keenan Robinson was credited with five tackles; Jonathan Casillas four tackles; and Devon Kennard three tackles. Robinson was flagged with a 15-yard penalty on a 19-yard completion on the Browns only touchdown drive of the game. Kennard nailed Crowell for a 1-yard loss after a quick throw and recovered the first fumble. Kelvin Sheppard did not show on the stat sheet, but he had good coverage on an incomplete pass in the red zone.

Defensive Backs

Terrelle Pryor caught six of 12 passes thrown in his direction for 131 yards. Fifty-four of those yards came on one pass play against CB Eli Apple, who also was flagged for a 35-yard pass interference penalty against Pryor on a FG drive. Apple came darn close to intercepting a pass on the very next play but his foot was barely out-of-bounds. The two bad plays stick out, but Apple played well otherwise.

The other three Browns receivers were limited to five catches on 11 targets for 72 yards. Janoris Jenkins was credited with 5 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for losses, and 2 pass defenses. He gave up a 14-yard completion to Pryor late in the first half but then knocked away an end zone pass to the taller Pryor, forcing a field goal. Jenkins was beaten by WR Corey Coleman for a 21-yard touchdown in the second half. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie expertly defended a late 3rd-and-19 pass and Jenkins followed that up by almost intercepting the 4th-and-19 incompletion.

CB Trevin Wade had issues on back-to-back plays late in the 2nd quarter that allowed the Browns to set up a field goal. First he was beat for 22 yards by Pryor on 2nd-and-30. On the following play, Wade was flagged with a holding penalty on a 3rd-and-8 incomplete pass, keeping the drive alive. Landon Collins had seven tackles, but uncharacteristically missed a few tackles. Nat Berhe suffered another concussion, putting his season in doubt. Andrew Adams made a very nice pass breakup on 3rd-and-8 to force a punt.

Giants on Special Teams

The special teams star for the Giants was Brad Wing, who punted nine times, averaging 47.4 yards per punt (44.7 net) with five punts downed inside the 20 and three downed inside the 10-yard line. He had one touchback. Punt coverage was outstanding as the Browns only returned three punts for five yards. Roger Lewis made a fantastic play by downing one ball at the 4-yard line.

Three of Robbie Gould’s five kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Kickoff coverage was solid as the Browns two kickoff returns went for 24 and 21 yards. Gould missed yet another extra point however.

Subbing for the injured Dwayne Harris, Bobby Rainey disappointed. His two kickoff returns went for 26 and 25 yards. His three punt returns resulted in seven yards and a muffed punt that set up Cleveland’s first scoring drive. He also was flagged with an invalid fair-catch signal.

Rainey was replaced by Odell Beckham, who had a 59-yard punt return for a touchdown wiped out by a holding penalty on Mark Herzlich and a 28-yard return wiped out by illegal block penalties on Eli Apple and Paul Perkins. His other return went for 12 yards.

(New York Giants at Cleveland Browns, November 27, 2016)
Nov 272016
 
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Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (November 27, 2016)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 27 – CLEVELAND BROWNS 13…
The New York Giants won their sixth game in a row on Sunday by defeating the winless Cleveland Browns 27-13 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. With the victory, the Giants improved their overall record to 8-3, two games behind the first-place Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East.

In a game that was close until the 4th quarter, the Browns out-gained the Giants in first downs (21 to 13), total net yards (343 to 296), net yards passing (285 to 192), and time of possession (33:51 to 26:09). But the Giants out-rushed the Browns (104 to 58) won the turnover battle (3 to 1), and scored on defense. And while Cleveland was 1-of-3 (33 percent) in red zone opportunities, the Giants were a perfect 2-of-2 (100 percent). The Giants did commit nine penalties for 100 yards.

Both teams struggled offensively for much of the first half as the score remained 0-0 until midway through the 2nd quarter. The Giants first four possessions resulted in five first downs, 65 net yards, and four punts. Meanwhile, the Browns first four possessions resulted in three first downs, 58 net yards, three punts, and a fumble. Defensive tackle Damon Harrison forced running back Isaiah Crowell to fumble, and the loose ball was recovered by linebacker Devon Kennard at the Browns 31-yard line. After an 18-yard pass from quarterback Eli Manning to wide receiver Roger Lewis, Manning then found wide receiver Dwayne Harris for a 13-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

The Giants defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing Browns possession but Cleveland got the ball right back when running back Bobby Rainey muffed the punt, giving the Browns the ball at the New York 30-yard line. Despite allowing Cleveland to convert on 4th-and-1 and to drive to the 2-yard line, the defense held and the Browns were forced to settle for a 20-yard field goal.

The Giants extended their lead to 14-3 late in the 2nd quarter as New York drove 69 yards in four plays and just 30 seconds. While two passing plays resulted in incompletions, Manning found wide receivers Victor Cruz for 37 yards and Odell Beckham for 32 yards and the score on the other two plays. However, with 1:13 to go before halftime, the Browns responded with an 8-play, 68 yard drive to set up a 25-yard field goal as time expired. At the half, the Giants led 14-6.

Like the start of the game, both teams struggled offensive at the start of the second half. New York’s first four possessions resulted in one first down, 32 net yards, and four punts. (Beckham had a 59-yard punt return for a touchdown erased by a holding penalty on linebacker Mark Herzlich). Cleveland’s first five possessions resulted in four first downs, 89 net yards, four punts, and a fumble. With just over 11 minutes to go in the game, defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins sacked quarterback Josh McCown, forcing a fumble that was returned 43 yards for a touchdown by defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Place kicker Robbie Gould missed the extra point attempt and the Giants led 20-6.

Cleveland quickly tightened the game again by driving 75 yards in five plays. McCown found wide receiver Corey Coleman for a 21-yard touchdown to cut the score to 20-13 with 8:17 left to play.

The Giants pulled away on their ensuing possession. A 41-yard pass from Manning to Beckham followed by a 22-yard gain on an end-around by wideout Sterling Shepard moved the ball to the Browns 6-yard line. Three plays later, Manning hit Beckham on 3rd-and-goal for a 4-yard touchdown.

The final two Browns drives ended with a turnover on downs at the Giants 40-yard line and a fumble forced by Pierre-Paul on a sack. Defensive end Kerry Wynn recovered the fumble to seal the game.

Offensively, Manning completed 15-of-27 passes for 194 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Odell Beckham was the only player to catch more than two passes, as he had six receptions for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Rashad Jennings rushed for 55 yards on 15 carries and Paul Perkins rushed for 29 yards on nine carries.

Defensively, the Giants accrued seven sacks, 11 quarterback hits, eight tackles for losses, five pass defenses, three forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. Damon Harrison led the team with nine tackles, and also forced a fumble. Jason Pierre-Paul had seven tackles, three sacks, three tackles for losses, a forced fumble, and a fumble returned for a touchdown. Defensive end Olivier Vernon was credited with four tackles, 1.5 sacks, five quarterback hits, and two tackles for losses. Johnathan Hankins had three tackles, 1.5 sacks, two quarterback hits, and forced one fumble. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins had five tackles, one sack, two tackles for losses, and two pass defenses. Devon Kennard and Kerry Wynn recovered fumbles.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were left guard Justin Pugh (knee), offensive lineman Brett Jones (calf), offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse (knee), wide receiver Tavarres King, quarterback Josh Johnson, defensive tackle Jay Bromley, and cornerback Leon Hall.

Safety Nat Berhe and linebacker Mark Herzlich both suffered concussions in the game. This is the second time Berhe has suffered a concussion this year. Wide receiver Odell Beckham (thumb), defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa (knee), and cornerback Janoris Jenkins (unknown) all left the game with injuries but returned. Cornerback Eli Apple suffered from cramps.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Ben McAdoo and the following players are available at Giants.com:

  • Head Coach Ben McAdoo (Video)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)
  • RB Rashad Jennings (Video)
  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (Video)
  • WR Dwayne Harris (Video)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Video)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (Video)

ARTICLES…