Dec 162020
 
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Andrew Thomas and Daniel Jones, New York Giants (December 13, 2020)

Andrew Thomas and Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

Two teams going in two completely different directions. ARI came into this week 14 match-up losers of three straight, and four of their last five. Their lone win over that stretch came at home against BUF at the hands of a last second Hail Mary. On the other hand, NYG was coming off 4 straight wins, including one over SEA the previous week. Starting quarterback Daniel Jones was back in the lineup, Blake Martinez was active after missing some practice time because of a back injury, and the overall health of the NYG squad ranked near the top of the league in a sport where attrition means everything.

The last time Jones turned the ball over was November 2 (week 8) against Tampa Bay. He then went three straight games without giving the ball to the other team (plus he missed last week’s match-up because of a hamstring injury). That is simply mentioned because the one glaring black eye to the start of Jones’ career has revolved around turning the ball over, namely fumbles. It has been getting cleaned up, NYG has been winning, and the arrow for both Jones and the franchise was pointing up. That isn’t how things began, however.

Jones was sacked by former Giant Markus Golden, who was traded by the club in October, on an untouched rush. Jones was starting his release and the timing of the hit was perfect for a forced fumble. Golden scooped up the loose ball himself and returned it to the NYG 9-yard line. The NYG defense stepped up though. They came up with 3rd and 4th down stops from the 1-yard line, keeping the score at 0-0. The NYG offense responded with a 3-and-out before punting the ball back to ARI, where Christian Kirk had a 24-yard return. ARI started their second possession from the NYG 38. This time, ARI was able to put points on the board via a 34-yard field goal by Mike Nugent.

NYG gained a combined 15 yards on their next two drives. ARI started their fourth possession of the game in NYG territory, the third time they started near midfield or better. The NYG defense remained tough though, keeping them to another 3 points. ARI was up 6-0. It was time for the sleepy offense to step up, as they didn’t want a repeat first half performance from last week where they didn’t score at all. That attempt would have to wait. Dion Lewis fumbled the ensuing kick return, giving ARI the ball at the NYG 21-yard line. For the fourth time in five possessions, ARI was starting near midfield or better and it was the third time they were inside the NYG 40. The NYG defense gave up a 15-yard run to ARI running back Kenyan Drake but got it to 3rd and Goal from the 7. Kyler Murray was pressured by multiple rushers and heaved a fade away pass toward the back of the end zone. There was one ARI tight end and three NYG defensive backs in the area but it was Dan Arnold who brought it in for the touchdown. ARI went up 13-0.

The NYG offense approached midfield for the first time but they were stopped on a 3rd-and-7 attempt where Jones did not throw to the open receiver (Lewis) for the second time in as many possessions. They were forced to punt back to ARI and Kirk once again returned it to near midfield. They had under 20 seconds left and no timeouts, but a few chunk gains got them within field goal striking distance. Nugent missed a 55-yard attempt, but it was nullified by a late false start whistle, thus creating a shot for ARI to go for a last second touchdown. With Murray and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on the field, this was not something to overlook. Murray ended up being pressured and scrambled his way down the field for 12 yards and was taken down. It was 13-0 at halftime and NYG was out-gained in yards 199-58.

To make matters worse, ARI began the second half with the ball. They manufactured an 11-play drive that consisted of 8 runs and 3 passes. The final run was a 1-yard touchdown by Drake. It was 20-0 and NYG was entering a do-or-die situation to keep this game reachable. Similar to last week’s game in Seattle, Wayne Gallman was featured at the start of the second half after having a quiet first two quarters. He touched the ball on the first 5 plays, gaining 35 yards. Golden Tate then came up with the big play, making a catch in traffic for a 39-yard gain that brought NYG to the 1-yard line. Dion Lewis then snuck his way into the end zone on the next play and just like that, NYG was on the board but still down 20-7.

The NYG defense forced a punt on the ensuing ARI drive, giving Jones and the offense an opportunity to take the full momentum of this game back. The response? 3-and-out. NYG had a 3rd-and-1 and the play call plus decision by Jones created a deep pass to Sterling Shepard. It fell incomplete.

Kenyan Drake fumbled two straight plays on the next drive but NYG couldn’t grab either one of them. ARI ended up putting 3 more points on the board via a 34-yard field goal by Nugent as the fourth quarter was under way. The next NYG drive netted -1 yard over three plays and they punted yet again. Punter Riley Dixon barely wore his sideline jacket in this one. The NYG defense, despite showing 23 points allowed, continued to play solid football. They forced another ARI punt after two straight plays that saw takedowns behind the line of scrimmage. The NYG offense continued to falter, however. Their next drive consisted of Jones being sacked twice and two false starts by the offensive line. NYG was forced to punt.

With about 5 minutes left, NYG started using their timeouts but ARI was able to push the ball down the field with a balanced attack. This drive netted another 3 points, this time via a 30-yard field goal by Nugent who was perfect on the day. It was 26-7 with just over 2 minutes left. Colt McCoy trotted out with the offense, as Jones was visibly limping during and after the previous drive. The final offensive play was McCoy being sacked by Haason Reddick, his career high fifth of the day, which forced a fumble that was recovered by ARI.

NYG loses 26-7.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 11-21 / 127 yards / 0 TD – 0 INT / 70.9 RAT

Jones did not have any rushing attempts on the day. After missing a game with his hamstring injury and unsure of his status until late in the week, Jones did not look like himself in this one. I can’t imagine missing one game can make a player “rusty.” What I think happened here was simple. Jones knew he was not going to be playing with his normal arsenal of personal weaponry. Designed runs weren’t a part of the game plan and scrambling was something he had to avoid as much as possible. That, combined with a sneaky-good ARI pass defense filled with quality defensive backs and a NYG offense line that started to break down in the second half, he just seemed to have no shot. Can this be pegged on him? Not completely. However, he missed Dion Lewis on two straight 3rd-down plays that easily could have altered the trajectory of the game. He fumbled three times and even though one of them was completely not his fault, the other two showed weak ball handling. Jones looked lost in this one.

RUNNING BACK

-Wayne Gallman: 12 att / 57 yards and 3 rec / 16 yards

Gallman had a really quiet first half. He did touch the ball 8 times but only gained 25 yards (3.1 yards per). We saw a different level of production in the second half for the second week in a row. He touched the ball 6 times and gained 48 yards (8 yards per). I think we are at the point now where Gallman needs to be the feature player on this offense. We need to see more early down running with him, we need to see him getting the ball on 3rd-and-short, and we need to get him the ball in the screen game. This is no longer a back who had a couple of decent games in a row. Especially if Jones is going to be limited, Gallman needs to start getting the ball 20+ times per game at the minimum.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton was targeted 8 times and caught 3 passes for 31 yards. It has been a disappointing, dry run for Slayton over the past 2 months. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since October 18, he has 10 catches over the past 5 games, and he hasn’t eclipsed 100 yards since October 11. He was man-handled by the physicality of Patrick Peterson on a few occasions, both as the ball came at him and off the line. This continues to be a major issue for him.

-Sterling Shepard had 3 catches for 35 yards and Golden Tate had 1 catch for 39 yards. There aren’t many teams that have gotten less production from their wide receivers this season. More on that below.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram had 2 catches for 18 yards. Both of them came on the last drive of the game when Colt McCoy was under center and the game was basically all but over. He was nowhere to be found in this one.

-Kaden Smith had a catch and Levine Toilolo’s main contribution came on special teams with a couple of physical hits. Neither had a strong impact, good or bad, on the game.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-A week after Andrew Thomas put out the top performance of his rookie season, he took a significant step back. He allowed 2 sacks and 2 pressures in addition to be flagged for a false start. Before the game I was speaking with a former scout and we agreed that Reddick was a worst-case matchup for Thomas. Short, shifty, powerful, and bendy. Thomas just couldn’t seem to square Reddick up and his hands + feet were never in sync. Myles Garrett is on tap.

-The right side of Kevin Zeitler and Cameron Fleming did a nice job in the running game but both allowed a sack and a pressure each in pass protection. Rookie Matt Peart rotated in for a bit (11 snaps total) and allowed a sack. Shane Lemieux had a rough day for the second straight week. He allowed 2 pressures and a sack and Will Hernandez also allowed a sack when he rotated in. Center Nick Gates was the only offensive lineman who didn’t allow a sack on the day but he, too, did not grade out above average. Overall, this was one of the worst OL performances we have seen all year.

EDGE

-Carter Coughlin led the way in this group, as his role appears to be increasing more and more. He has clearly made an impression on the coaching staff, as he has played 39%, 63%, and 81% of the defensive snaps over the past 3 games, respectively. He set a career-high 7 tackles, added a TFL, and pressured the QB two times. They are moving him all over the place and he is thriving.

-Jabaal Sheard had 2 tackles, 1 TFL, and a pressure that led to a sack. For a veteran signed in-season of the street, Sheard has played well. Cam Brown added a pressure but still hasn’t seen a consistent volume of snaps. I think this pass rush could benefit from seeing him on the field more and remember, he is not just a pass rusher. I would argue he can impact the game more as a run stuffer based on what I’ve seen this year.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-Dalvin Tomlinson had the best game of the trio that has been playing well all year. He had 3 tackles, a sack, a TFL, and 2 pressures. He was a factor all afternoon, constantly breaking through the line and forcing the offense to react to him. Really solid performance here.

-A week after Leonard Williams had his best game as a Giant, he failed to pressure the quarterback one time, a first this season. He did add 4 tackles and he maneuvered his way off blocks well against the run. When Williams struggles to impact the passing game, there just isn’t much on this defense that can fill the void.

-B.J. Hill, Austin Johnson, and Dexter Lawrence all added a pressure, respectively. Hill also added a TFL and Lawrence added 3 tackles, including a key 3rd-and-goal stop at the 1-yard line. Overall, the NYG run defense wasn’t good in this one, but these guys all did their job up front.

LINEBACKER

-We were unsure all week the status of Blake Martinez after suffering a back injury last week. He ended up playing but it was clear he was laboring out there. While he had 7 tackles, it was evident he didn’t have the same pop on contact and he looked a little slow to fill.

-Tae Crowder is evolving into a quality blitzing linebacker. He had 2 pressures and 4 tackles. David Mayo and Devante Downs didn’t play much, but when they did, they struggled. They weren’t beating blockers to the spots and it created extra room for the ARI running backs. They played less than half the snaps Crowder did.

CORNERBACK

-James Bradberry had a really solid game. He had 7 tackles and a high-difficulty pass break up in the end zone that could have easily been a touchdown. He wasn’t matched up against DeAndre Hopkins for the entire game but when he was, I thought he was the winner. Isaac Yiadom added 3 tackles and played a physical brand. He got beat in zone coverage a couple times where it didn’t look like he quite knew what was going on around him. Again, he plays way too scared of getting beat deep and it allows for a lot of action underneath to transpire.

-Rookie nickel Darnay Holmes was out with an injury, thus Logan Ryan filled that role for the majority of the game. He had 5 tackles and a near-interception pass break-up that was knocked away by Hopkins; savvy move by the veteran receiver. Ryan missed 3 tackles on the day. One of the more important players on this defense, Ryan is often a hit-or-miss player and today he missed too many times.

SAFETY

-With Ryan playing more nickel corner in this one, we saw rookie Xavier McKinney on the field for 38 snaps, just under 50%. He made 4 tackles and showed his superior athleticism and burst. Him flying around with Jabrill Peppers (more on him below) was fun to watch and could be a big thing in the future if the veteran stays here long term. From the All-22 tape, McKinney looked more reactionary than instinctual, which is common for a young safety in the league.

-Julian Love had 9 tackles (second most of his career) on just 57% of the snaps. I noted him a lot in this one, just playing extra fast and aggressive. He had a really nice fill on a goal-line stand and looked rangy on a couple of lateral Kenyan Drake rushing attempts. The one issue, from my perspective which doesn’t mean much I know, was the zone coverage. I won’t pretend to know how to play defensive back in the NFL, but Love was beat a few times on passes up the middle. He doesn’t seem to attach himself to receivers entering his zone, but rather stays back and just “floats” if that makes sense. The college corner is a quality athlete who doesn’t seem to have a ton of confidence in zone coverage and that is an issue for me.

-Jabrill Peppers continues his red-hot level of play. He led the team with 13 tackles, 2 TFL, and forced a fumble. He was all over the field and looks like he can be labeled as both the best linebacker and best safety on this team. He played both roles. This defense has turned a sharp corner and he may be the leading catalyst.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: No FG attempts
-Riley Dixon: 8 punts / 48.8 avg / 36.6 net

3 STUDS

-S Jabrill Peppers, EDGE Carter Coughlin, CB James Bradberry

3 DUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, OT Andrew Thomas, WR Darius Slayton

3 THOUGHTS ON ARI

Haason Reddick. After watching the new NYG defense run over the first 4-6 weeks of the season, he was the name I circled when it came to 2021 NFL Free Agents to try and sign. The Kyler Fackrell role (BUCK linebacker) in this scheme needs to be effective on the outside but also transform into an extra inside linebacker in specific looks. Reddick has a lot of experience playing inside, which is where ARI predominantly played him for the first three years of his career. His 5 sacks in this game were a little overblown when it comes to how good he is, but the point remains. Fackrell is a one-year rental and Reddick can be the long-term solution for NYG. He is “multiple” in that he can credibly wear different hats for a defense, but the specialty is on the outside despite lacking traditional outside tools.

I don’t believe in ARI in its current state and I don’t believe in Kyler Murray. I’ll go on record with that and will be the first to eat my words if I end up being wrong. ARI is a gimmick offense that does have a lot of talent, absolutely. When everything clicks, they can score on anybody, yes. Murray can take over a game, yes. That, to me, is not what makes a team get in and stay in the elite tier, however. They are reliant on the uniqueness of their offense and Murray’s arsenal. Unique can work like a gem at times (remember Miami’s wildcat offense?) but NFL defenses catch on. Very few offenses and quarterbacks can stay at the top week-to-week and year-to-year. Murray just doesn’t throw the ball from the pocket like those guys and there are things in his game that I just don’t see lasting.

The one area of their team that is stand-out strong and does not get enough attention in the secondary. They’ve really hit on their draft picks over the years and even though Patrick Peterson is not what he once was, there is still plenty in the tank left. Byron Murphy, Budda Baker, Jalen Thompson, and Deionte Johnson were all drafted within the past 3 years. If NYG can build the secondary like this in the next year or two, watch out.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

While the offensive shortcomings can at least be somewhat attributed to Jones, one needs to really look at what this team has at WR. Over his last 19 games, Sterling Shepard is averaging 9.7 yards per catch and has 3 touchdowns. Golden Tate has been good for 2 catches per game over his last 7 and can rarely get open by himself. Darius Slayton has not taken the step up from his impressive rookie year. Evan Engram is among the league leaders in drops since he has been in the league. This team is starving for a true outside threat and if you look at David Gettleman’s history in pro personnel both with NYG and CAR, they are going to go after someone in free agency. The following are projected to be free agents this offseason: Kenny Golladay / DET, JuJu Smith-Schuster / PIT, Allen Robinson / CHI, Corey Davis / TEN, Sammy Watkins / KC. There are a handful of lesser-tier free agents as well but I think they will go big at this spot this offseason.

We should not be surprised to see NYG lay such an egg after such a strong win in SEA last week. This is life in the NFL for a team that is “middle tier.” One week, you create hope of playoff caliber football and the ability to beat anybody. The next week, you look like a team that can’t do anything right. Big picture, everybody. This is part of growing and evolving into a team that can win games in the postseason. They are still on the right path.

Up next are the Cleveland Browns in front of a national audience. I would love to say CLE is overrated (which was my thought early in the year) but this is a legit playoff caliber team playing really good football on both sides of the ball. The greatest test will come defensively on the ground, where Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are the best 1-2 backfield duo in the game. In addition, they are running behind one of the top 3 offensive lines in the league this year. The NYG defense has been outstanding this year, but this will be a different kind of test.

Dec 132020
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (December 13, 2020)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

ARIZONA CARDINALS 26 – NEW YORK GIANTS 7…
The New York Giants got their collective asses kicked by the Arizona Cardinals 26-7 on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. With the loss, the Giants fell to 5-8 on the season.

The statistical domination was total. The Cardinals out-gained the Giants in first downs (22 to 10), total net yards (390 to 159), net yards rushing (159 to 78), net yards passing (231 to 81), and time of possession (37:52 to 22:08). The Giants also lost the turnover battle 3 to nothing.

To say the Giants’ offense struggled would be an understatement. Quarterback Daniel Jones returned to the starting lineup after missing a game due to a hamstring injury, but he clearly was not healthy. Jones only completed 11 of 21 passes for 127 yards. He was sacked six times, losing 52  yards in the process. His back-up, Colt McCoy, was also sacked twice. No-name Cardinals linebacker Hasson Reddick set a single-game franchise record with five sacks and forcing three fumbles.

The tone was set on New York’s first drive. After picking up two first downs and reaching midfield, Jones was sacked by former Giants linebacker Markus Golden on 2nd-and-10. Jones fumbled on the play and Golden recovered the football and returned it 30 yards to the New York 9-yard line. The Giants’ defense did stop the Cardinals on 4th-and-goal. That was the high point of the game for New York.

New York went three-and-out on their second drive, but the Giants’ special teams gave up a 24-yard punt return to the Giants’ 38-yard line. The Cardinals gained 22 yards in six plays to set up a 34-yard field goal. Cardinals 3 – Giants 0.

After two punts by the Giants and one by the Cardinals, Arizona extended their lead to 6-0 after driving 34 yards in 11 plays to up a 34-yard field goal. Matters got quickly worse when running back Dion Lewis fumbled on the ensuing kickoff return. The Cardinals recovered at the New York 21-yard line. Quarterback Kyler Murray threw a 7-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-goal to give Arizona a 13-0 advantage.

Both teams had two more possessions before intermission, but neither scored. The Cardinals continued to lead 13-0 at halftime.

Arizona received the football to start the 3rd quarter. They immediately drove 77 yards in 11 plays to go up 20-0. The Giants responded with their only scoring drive of the game. After a 39-yard pass from Jones to wide receiver Golden Tate, Lewis scored from one yard out to make it 20-7.

After that, it was all Cardinals. The Giants only gained two first downs for the rest of game, punting three more times and fumbling the ball away again on their last possession. While the Cardinals also punted twice, they added two more field goals to comfortably extend their lead to 26-7. The game was never in doubt.

Video lowlights are available on Giants.com.

NEW YORK GIANTS ROSTER MOVES…
On Friday, the New York Giants placed cornerback Madre Harper on Injured Reserve with a knee injury. To fill that roster spot, the Giants signed safety Montre Hartage from the Practice Squad.

The Giants signed Harper off of the Practice Squad of the Las Vegas Raiders in late September 2020. This year, he has played in nine games, mainly on special teams.

After spending time with the Giants in training camp, the Giants re-signed Hartage to the Practice Squad in late October 2020. He was signed to the 53-man roster in November and moved back to the Practice Squad earlier this month. Hartage originally signed with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2019 NFL Draft.

PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATION, INACTIVES AND INJURY REPORT…
CB Jarren Williams was activated from the Practice Squad for this game.

Inactive for the game were CB Darnay Holmes (knee), WR Dante Pettis, OT Jackson Barton, OL Kyle Murphy, DE R.J. McIntosh, and LB T.J. Brunson.

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Joe Judge and select players will address the media by conference call on Monday.

Dec 112020
 
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THE STORYLINE

There was a great disturbance in the Force last weekend. We all felt it. The New York Giants were not supposed to go into Seattle and rough up the Seahawks the way they did. There was nothing flukey about the win. The Giants were the better team on both sides of the football, even with back-up quarterback Colt McCoy facing off against MVP candidate Russell Wilson.

The Giants should have been dead at 0-5 and 1-7. They are now on a 4-game winning streak and tied for first place in the NFC East. Yes, it’s a crappy division. But the Giants have a real shot at making the playoffs if they can win two or three of their last four games. Three of those games are at home. The other is just down the road a bit Baltimore.

First up is the Arizona Cardinals, who were 5-2 in October, but have lost four of their last five games and are now 6-6. To be fair, the one win was against impressive Buffalo and their last three losses came against the respectable Seahawks, Patriots, and Rams. Nevertheless, this appears to be a game between two teams heading in opposite directions. The Giants are trying to keep momentum going and the Cardinals are trying to stop the bleeding.

THE INJURY REPORT

  • QB Daniel Jones (hamstring – questionable)
  • OT Matt Peart (ankle – questionable)
  • LB Blake Martinez (back – questionable)
  • CB Darnay Holmes (knee – questionable)
  • CB Madre Harper (knee – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE
The big question is will Daniel Jones play? And if he does, how effective will he be and will he not re-aggravate his hamstring injury? It’s not just a matter of the injury limiting his rushing ability, but ability to throw the football forcefully with accuracy and velocity.

Colt McCoy did enough in the second half to win the game (and not lose it) last weekend, but the offense is clearly more limited with him at the helm. If he is called upon again, hopefully we’ll see a repeat performance, not making the killer mistakes and making a few clutch throws when needed. The Giants got by the then 5th-ranked Seattle offense by scoring under 20 points (again). They are tempting fate if they can’t score more than 20 against the now 5th-ranked Cardinals offense. Stating the obvious, the Giants need to score more points and take some pressure off of their own defense.

New York’s four-game “renaissance” has been sparked by two things: (1) defense and (2) the offensive line. For Giants fans who have become accustomed to shitty offensive line play for a decade, the rapid turnaround by the offensive line from a joke to clearly one of the best units in the NFL has been a revelation. Let me say that again, the New York Giants offensive line is now one of the best OL groups in the entire league. While there are the inevitable miscues by a young group still gaining chemistry and cohesion, the offensive line is simply punishing people up front.

The Giants (including fired OL coach Marc Colombo) were right about Nick Gates. If he stays healthy and grounded, he has more physical ability because of his size than renowned team centers Bart Oates and Shaun O’Hara. Gates plays with a nasty chip on his shoulder and I love it. After a very rough start, Andrew Thomas is now developing into a shut-down left tackle who mauls people in the run game. Fellow rookie Shane Lemieux brings more youth, spirit, aggressiveness, and mobility and seems to be stealing Will Hernandez’s job, despite the fact that Hernandez is still a solid player. The “old man” of the group, 30-year old Kevin Zeitler is reverting to his old solid form. The other veteran, Cam Fleming, is the weak link but with four games left to play, the Giants may not want to tinker too much with the OL down the home stretch with the playoffs on the line. Still, Matt Peart (if he can stay healthy) is pressing him.

The biggest beneficiary of the offensive line play has been Wayne Gallman, a back who seemed to be out of favor with the previous and current coaching staffs. Remember, Joe Judge and Jason Garrett didn’t turn to Gallman when Saquon Barkley went down but in-season pick up Devonta Freeman. When Freeman got hurt, they had little choice but to turn to Gallman. As has been pointed out by many, Gallman is running with a toughness greater than his more linear build would indicate. He’s showing nice patience, instincts, and elusiveness. He’s also starting to break off some big runs.

This all bodes well against an Arizona Cardinals team that is middle-of-the-pack defensively (18th) and 21st against the run, allowing 123 rushing yards per game. Statistically, the Cardinals are better against the pass than the Seahawks, but much worse against the run. The Cardinals have some talented familiar faces in the secondary, including corners Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick. Our old friend Markus Golden is also starting at linebacker.

“This is a blitz heavy team,” said Joe Judge. “We have to be alert for a lot of movement, a lot of pressure throughout the game plan. They do a very good job of changing up on you. They’ll blitz linebackers, DBs, whoever’s involved, everyone is going to get a turn.”

Stay with what is working. Pound the rock. Wear down the Cardinals. One of the ways to really frustrate and really hurt blitzing defenses is to run the ball down their throats. All of that trickery doesn’t matter when you are lying on your ass.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE

Like Seattle, Arizona’s strength is clearly on the offensive side of the football. The Cardinals are 5th in the NFL in yards gained and 9th in points scored, averaging almost four touchdowns per game. With the Giants still averaging less than 20, you see the problem. The defense needs to come up big again against a quality opponent.

There has been some excellent discussions in The Corner Forum about how Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham’s scheme is relying more on size, strength, and power up front to create pass rush issues than employing the typical dominant edge rushers in a 3-4 system. That does not mean that the edge rushers aren’t making some plays, or that Graham isn’t sending inside linebackers and defensive backs on blitzes. But the chaos is starting up front with Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson, and B.J. Hill getting a push up the middle. All quarterbacks hate pressure up the middle and it is the quickest way to disrupt a passing play.

Savvy veteran Russell Wilson was clearly frustrated last weekend by the pressure up front and confused by what the team was doing in the secondary. Just as importantly, the Giants’ pass rush was disciplined. Wilson continuously spun out of trouble only to find yet another defender preventing him from escaping outside of the pocket. That same discipline will be needed against quarterback Kyler Murray.

The very first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the undersized (only 5’10”) Murray can throw the football. But he is whirling dervish who reminds me of Bo Jackson in the old Nintendo Techmo Bowl video game…

Murray is 67 percent passer who has thrown for 22 touchdowns (against just 10 interceptions). He’s not just a runner. Literally one-third of his passing yards have gone to wideout DeAndre Hopkins (85 catches, 1,019 yards, 5 touchdowns). But he will spread the ball around to the other targets: WR Larry Fitzgerald (43 catches), RB Chase Edmonds (42 catches, 3 touchdowns), WR Christian Kirk (35 catches, 6 touchdowns), among others.

That all said, it’s his running ability that really scares defenses. Murray has rushed the ball 102 times for 665 yards (6.5 yards per carry) and an astounding 10 touchdowns. And with Murray receiving so much attention because of designed QB runs that often fool the socks off defensive players, running backs Kenyan Drake (4.3 yards per carry, 8 touchdowns) and Chase Edmonds (4.9 yards per carry) can and will hurt you. Overall, Arizona is 3rd in the NFL in rushing, averaging over 150 yards per game. The Cardinals can run it. And they can throw it. This is a very tough match-up for the Giants.

“This is a team that’s very explosive,” said Judge. “(Head Coach) Kliff (Kingsbury) does a great job in terms of scheme, using tempo, really creating match-ups for his players and letting them play to their strengths. (Murray) is obviously a dynamic player… This guy does a great job improvising on his feet, extending plays, keeping his eyes down field and making big throws. He has a rocket for an arm, and this guy can be as aggressive as he wants to because he’s very, very accurate with the ball. You put that along with the receivers he has to throw to. This is a group of weapons that’s very explosive. Offensively though, it really starts with the running game with them. Drake and Edmonds, these guys are both having good seasons. They do a very good job of getting the ball downhill at you. They have a very good zone run game. They’ll also mix up some game plan runs and pulls and gap schemes. Kliff does a good job of mixing that in with the tempo and keeping you on your toes.”

The focus must be on stopping the run and keeping Murray in the pocket. Mix and match coverages and try to confuse him in the passing game. The good news is this should be a similar game plan to what the Giants did in Seattle. The bad news is that LB Blake Martinez and CB Darnay Holmes are “questionable” for the game. The Giants need both to play.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS

I’m not sure what is going on with the Giants special teams all of the sudden, but a Giants team that is encumbered with an offense that struggles to score 20 points simply cannot afford to have repeated major breakdowns on special teams. New York escaped the last two games despite bad special teams play. But they are playing with fire if the don’t turn it around. It’s time to return to this being asset for us.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH

Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham on Kyler Murray: “Murray is true speed. When I’m talking to the players, true speed. Not fast, not quick, we’re dealing with true speed. Any mistake, it can be a touchdown at any given moment. That’s what you’re dealing with, with this guy. Whether it’s the run game or the passing game, he can get away from you and then get the ball down the field. That’s what I mean by true speed and the ability to score a touchdown at any point on the field. He’s pretty dynamic. We have a big challenge ahead of us.”

THE FINAL WORD

Heading into last week’s game, I figured the best the Giants could do over the course of the upcoming two games was lose to Seattle, but beat Arizona. Beating Seattle took a lot of immediate pressure off until Washington upset Pittsburgh. Despite the fact that the Giants have won four in a row and Arizona has lost three in a row, this is clearly a very dangerous game for the Giants. The Cardinals are desperate. I just can’t see New York escaping with a win unless they score more than 20 points. They can do that, but it’s been a challenge for them all year. Again, my emphasis would be running the ball. This will help control the clock and keep Arizona off of the field. But can New York stop Arizona from running the ball? This might be one of those rare games that ends before 4PM.

Oct 212019
 
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Michael Thomas, New York Giants (October 20, 2019)

Michael Thomas – © USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals 27 – New York Giants 21

QUICK RECAP

Coming off of extra rest, coming back home, up against a rookie quarterback without his best skill position player behind him, up against a rookie head coach, up against a west coast team on a cool and rainy day. All of this with their star running back Saquon Barkley back from injury a few weeks earlier than originally projected, NYG was a near-4 point favorite against the 2-3-1 Arizona Cardinals.

As previously stated, the rain was coming down early and it remained at a steady pace for the entire game with short spurts of intensity. Any hope of this weather actually impacting Kyler Murray and the Cardinals went out the window right away. Before we could blink, it was 14-0. They scored on the opening drive via a 20-yard run by Chase Edmonds, and after a Daniel Jones interception, it took just three plays to get another 7 on the board via another 20-yard touchdown run by Edmonds. If you are wondering who Chase Edmonds is, don’t mistake him for Emmitt Smith based on this game. He is a second-year back from Fordham who, in the 24 games prior to this one, had 369 on 84 carries with 1 touchdown.

The second quarter began with ARI closing out their third drive, which can also be termed as their third scoring drive as Zane Gonzalez nailed a 47-yarder through the uprights. It was 17-0 and Jones hadn’t yet completed a pass beyond the line of scrimmage. If NYG was going to bounce back after a horrific start, it had to start at this moment, and it did.

Jones led a drive that consisted of a 20-yard run by Barkley and a 20-yard completion to Golden Tate. He lofted a ball downfield toward the end zone perfectly between layers of the defense and right into the bread basket of tight end Rhett Ellison who barreled over ARI safety Budda Baker for NYG’s first touchdown. As bad as the start to the game was, at least it was early and NYG finally showed a pulse. That pulse strengthened on the next ARI possession, as Michael Thomas blocked a punt that landed in the end zone with Elijhaa Penny landing on it just inches away from the boundary It was a special teams touchdown, exactly what NYG needed to formally get this team back in the game and within one score.

After forcing an ARI punt on the ensuing drive, NYG got the ball back on their own 20 with just under 6 minutes left in the second quarter. They were due to start the second half with the ball, so this was the opportunity to squeeze as they already had their hand on the throat of ARI. They inched their way up the field and actually got as far as the ARI 31. It was 2nd-and-4, well within Aldrick Rosas’ field goal range but the next two plays were a harsh but very real reminder that this team quite simply stinks. Barkley ran laterally and couldn’t find a lane, so he opted to run backwards and take a 6-yard loss. This was after he already turned a 2-yard loss in to an 8-yard loss earlier in the game. 2nd-and-4 became 3rd-and-10 from the ARI 37-yard line. NYG just needed a few yards to put them back in to field goal range. On an incomplete pass to Tate, right tackle Mike Remmers was flagged foe a holding penalty. It was now 3rd-and-20 from the 47. NYG ended up punting and went in to the half down 3.

NYG and ARI traded 3 and outs to begin the 3rd quarter. On the second Giants’ drive, they once again were approaching field goal territory. On a screen play design, Barkley was a bit late getting to his spot as the pass catcher and Daniel Jones held onto the ball for a hair too long, as Chandler Jones easily beat Evan Engram for the sack, jarring the ball loose which ARI recovered it. It seemed like the game was on repeat at this point, as Edmonds scored his third touchdown of the afternoon on the third play of the drive via a 22-yard run. ARI scored their second touchdown off a NYG turnover and the score was 24-14.

NYG continued to show they both still had some fight and they were able to move the ball on offense at this point. Once again they marched in to ARI territory. On a drive that consisted of a 15-yard gain on an unnecessary roughness penalty by ARI and a gutsy 4th-down catch and throw from Jones to Tate, NYG lined up for a 37-yard field goal to make it a one score game again. The ball came off right and it end up hitting the goal post, no good. NYG was still down by 10 as the 4th quarter approached.

After a stop, NYG put together their best drive of the day. It was 8 plays long with gains of 10-11-20-6-13-6-9-7, with the final play being a touchdown run by Barkley. NYG came up with yet another stop as Kyler Murray was making multiple rookie mistakes and the ARI offensive line began to falter. NYG had the ball back with over 4 minutes, down 3. On a day where they played awful on both sides of the ball, they had a real chance and were in the middle of a 21-7 run after their horrendous first quarter.

On the most important drive of the game, NYG lasted 5 plays and it consisted of 2 sacks and a lost fumble. NYG was faced with a 3rd-and-18 situation, and Pat Shurmur, who has been rightfully questioned for game management this season, opted for a draw that gained a few yards. NYG had the ball on the NYG 33, 4th-and-15. He stated he knew he was going for it on 4th down no matter what, which makes the draw play-call seem highly odd. On that 4th-and-15, NYG turned it over yet again and ARI turned it into 3 more points, making it 27-21.

NYG had the ball back, without any timeouts, starting at the NYG 12 yard line. The drive was 6 plays long and Jones was sacked twice and pressured twice. The ARI defense finished with 8 sacks on the afternoon, after averaging just over 2 sacks per game heading in to the contest.

ARI wins, 27-21.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 22/35 – 223 yards – 1 TD/1 INT – 78.6 QBR. Jones also added 35 yards on the ground but he did fumble 3 times, 2 of which resulted in turnovers. That is where we need to start with him, as turnovers can kill a QB and we can officially call this a legitimate problem for Jones, as some of you got upset with me calling this out in preseason. Jones isn’t holding onto the ball with two hands often enough and as I said a couple months ago, NFL defenders will know that and they WILL exploit it. As a passer, Jones often had his first read taken away and he had a hard time progressing elsewhere. Combine that with poor OL play and a rather limited WR group, it just ended up being the perfect storm. Jones made a couple of gutsy, high-level passes in this one but don’t let it overshadow that he played poorly. Rookie growing pains, we call them. And hopefully they are just that, only that.

RUNNING BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 18 att – 72 yards – 1 TD / 3 rec – 8 yards. It was Barkley’s first game back after missing 3+ games with an ankle injury suffered September 22. He seemed hesitant at first but he did rattle off a gain of 20 yard and also had a gain of 32 yards called back because of a hold. His speed was still there, but maybe the cutting was slightly hesitant. Barkley had a loss of 8 on a short pass and a loss of 6 on a short run. He needs to stop running backwards, period. Sure it may work out once every ten tries and NYG has themselves a highlight-reel run, but those two plays hurt the offense. Sometimes the mission isn’t to simply miss tacklers, it is t simply fall forward and take the gains ARI gives. Barkley also allowed a sack and may have been responsible for another, but it was hard to tell based on watching the all-22. I think we will see a really fired up and motivated and confident Barkley next week in Detroit now that he knows his ankle can handle it.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard was out again with a concussion, thus Golden Tate took over the primary receiver job and, after a poor effort on a early pass over the middle, played outstanding. Tate made several “tough-guy” catches in traffic in key moments. He had 6 rec / 60 yards, with each one going for a first down including two on third down and one on fourth down. He was clutch and tough.

-This is where a lack of consistency and big play ability hurt NYG. Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, and Darius Slayton did combine for 10 receptions but it was only for 96 yards, under 10 yards per. Fowler added a drop.

TIGHT END

-It was a day to forget for Evan Engram. He was targeted 5 times but walked away with just 1 catch for 6 yards while dropping 2 balls. The rain may have been a precursor of what was to come but it didn’t seem to impact that many plays throughout the game. Engram has been among the league’s leaders in drops since he began his career on a per-game basis and if he is ever going to reach the ceiling we know he has, those need to stop. He also allowed a TFL and a sack.

-Rhett Ellison of all people came up with the biggest play of the game, a 28-yard touchdown catch. His blocking was above average in this one, but he did allow a TFL and a pressure. He made some key blocks later on, however, on big plays including the Barkley touchdown.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Before I get into these guys individually, I have to say this group has been a woeful disappointment as a whole. It is the best group we’ve had up front in a few years, but that isn’t saying much and I still the line stinks. I can’t really think of another way to put it. It all starts outside.

-Nate Solder is proving he wasn’t, he isn’t, and he won’t be the answer at left tackle. The contract is monstrous and I have to believe he is here for at least another season and that is a tough one to swallow. He allowed 2 sacks (the first of which was more on Jones), 2 pressures, 1 TFL, and was called for a hold. Can we have one, just one game where he makes it all four quarters without a negative play? Mike Remmers was actually a bit worse if you can believe it. It’s great Greg Olsen thinks he was a good teammate in 2015 and all, but this guy is only playing because there is nothing on the roster behind him. Again. Remmers allowed a season-high for all OL on this team, 3 sacks along with 3 pressures and was called for a hold on a 32-yard Barkley run that would have put NYG close to the end zone. This was a Bobby Hart-caliber game from the guy Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur just had to have.

-The play inside wasn’t much better, but they had better moments here and there. Will Hernandez and Jon Halapio both allowed a pressure and Hernandez was flagged for a hold. Kevin Zeitler was off the radar in this one, earning the highest OL grade on the team for the 5th time in 7 weeks.

EDGE

Markus Golden and Lorenzo Carter both had pretty active days against the lackluster ARI tackles. Also keep in mind that ARI only threw the ball 21 times plus the 6 passing plays that resulted in a Murray scramble. There weren’t a ton of looks for these guys when it came to traditional passing but they still impacted the game. Carter had 3 tackles and 2 pressures along with a pass break up. He did get flagged for a personal foul as he dove on top of Murray who was giving himself up – dumb penalty that led to an ARI touchdown. He also had a hard time defending the run. Golden added 2 pressures and 5 tackles, but also missed 2 tackles, one of which was on a play that ARI scored a touchdown on.

-When looking, and re-looking at the ARI touchdown runs, a few things went wrong for NYG obviously but the play of Oshane Ximines stands out the most. He was obliterated at the point-of-attack twice, just completely washed out and he didn’t have the power to either get off of the block or anchor his position. He had 1 pressure in this one.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-If there is a quiet concern I have that I don’t see anyone else talking about, it is the defensive line and their lack of ability to create. It can be hard to measure the quality of B.J. Hill, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Dexter Lawrence because a lot of their value is dirty work, stuff you don’t see in box scores. But these guys, against a below average offensive line, played terrible as a group yesterday. The lateral movement wasn’t there and they weren’t getting off of blocks. Too many gaping holes and that wasn’t just on them, but part of the blame goes there.

-I found interesting that B.J. Hill and Olsen Pierre basically split snaps with each other. Was that an indictment on Hill? Was it more based on this week’s game plan and match-ups? Hill has been better than his numbers suggest but Pierre did have an active game. He was twitchy and around the action often, finishing with one of NYG’s 2 sacks. Certainly something to keep an eye on moving forward.

LINEBACKER

-Alec Ogletee was the lone bright spot of the group, finishing with 8 tackles / 1 TFL. He was the one guy on this entire defense who was playing a physical brand, knocking back blockers and actually making an impact on tackles. He was around the ball often and didn’t have any misses.

-David Mayo was credited with a sack on a group effort and also had a pass break up. Beyond that, I was disappointed with his play. He was slow to fill lanes and it resulted in two of Edmonds’ three touchdowns. The hesitation and lack of quick speed in his game was a perfect match for what ARI was trying to do on offense. He was a target in zone coverage as well.

CORNERBACK

-Grant Haley has been on the wrong side of these evaluations all season but I have to tip my cap here, he played his butt off. He made several plays behind the line of scrimmage that, had he not, would have resulted in big plays. He finished with 7 tackles and 1 TFL in addition to forcing action three other times that led to TFL or no-gain plays.

-Deandre Baker had 4 tackles and a deep pass break up. He seems more confident in his reads and assignments, but I’m not so sure he is going to be a productive run defender. He clearly chose not to fill a gap on two occasions and while I understand a lot of corners do that in today’s NFL, I still hate to see it.

-Janoris Jenkins wasn’t challenged much but the one time he was, he got flagged for a downfield pass interference. The flag was challenged by Shurmur and even though the call was upheld, I don’t think it was a penalty.

SAFETY

-Don’t be fooled by the box score, as Antoine Bethea and Jabrill Peppers combined for 17 tackles / 1 TFL / 1 PD. Both played poorly with an extra spotlight on Bethea, who keeps taking poor angles to the action and his lack of speed makes it impossible for him to make up for it. Peppers was a victim of others getting washed out directly into his path a few times, but he too missed a couple tackles and was beat on 3rd down a couple times. Very poor game for these guys.

-Michael Thomas had a productive game, recording 4 tackles, 1 TFL, and a blocked punt that resulted in a touchdown for NYG.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 0/1 (Missed 37)

-P Riley Dixon: 3 punts / 37.3 avg – 36.3 net

-Golden Tate and Darius Slayton handled return duties.

3 STUDS

-WR Golden Tate, CB Grant Haley, LB Alec Ogletree

3 DUDS

-OT Mike Remmers, TE Evan Engram, S Antoine Bethea

3 THOUGHTS ON ARI

  1. Put me in the group that didn’t think it would work for Kingsbury in the NFL. But after 7 games, I have to give him a lot of credit here especially considering they went winless over the first 4 weeks. Now I won’t crown them in any regard just yet, as the combined record of the three teams that beat are 3-18 but I do think they are out of the basement in the league. Kingsbury is a creative mind and isn’t afraid to improvise to keep the defense guessing. He has made adjustments each week and even though not all have worked out, one can easily note the difference between an offensive mind that can be a hybrid rather than one that has a hard time changing.
  1. In regard to Kyler Murray, I have seen 5 of his games this year and I am not yet convinced it is going to work out for him. He has a hard time seeing things mentally, and physically all the talk about his height was credible. From the All-22 tape, it is evident he just can’t clearly locate defenders and receivers over the line. His game is very dependent, maybe too much so, on running around and I have never liked that in QBs. Too much risk. I will admit he is a very tough guy to defend, though.
  1. How far is this team from legitimate contention? Well let’s not even talk about this season. I think the NFC West is the best division in football and ARI can’t hang with any of the three teams above them. They have a really tough schedule from here on out and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them with a 5-10-1 record at the end of the year. I do think they are a step ahead of NYG when it comes to personnel but their offensive line needs work and their best defenders are on the wrong side of 30 next season. Not ideal timing considering the strength of the division, but I expect them to be one of the more aggressive teams in the 2020 offseason.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. Did Dave Gettleman get fooled by NE? Nate Solder was signed to a long-term, monstrous contract prior to 2018 and almost all of us were happy with it. I think most fans don’t truly know about guys on other teams, thus the assumption that anyone who started for NE for a long time should be good enough, no? Fans can have the out, but Gettleman cannot. He has been nothing short of terrible since the day he began playing for NYG and I think it’s an indictment on the Pro Personnel staff for not seeing these issues and being fooled by the fact that Tom Brady makes blockers look way better than they are. It is one of the special traits to his game. That signing alone can really hold this team back for multiple years.
  1. I think we can officially put Pat Shurmur on the hot seat. I went back and looked at my game reviews from 2018 and a lot of problems I see now are what we talked about last year. Lack of innovation. Lack of ability to get the ball in the hands of key players. Lack of offensive line blocking adjustments. I do think the camaraderie and overall hustle/passion is better than what we have seen in recent years, but I never go into a week thinking Shurmur gives NYG the coaching edge. While two seasons may not be a fair amount of time for a coach that has weak personnel, now is the time to do it (by now I mean end of 2019). Let Daniel Jones grow up with a new voice, don’t change things on him 2-3 years from now.
  1. At what point does NYG start getting active on the trade market? Are there pieces on this roster that other teams want? Does it send a bad message to the team? They have one more week. Janoris Jenkins is the only piece that I can see getting anything better than a 4th-round pick. The Saints and Seahawks are two teams I would be targeting with him.
Oct 202019
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (October 20, 2019)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

ARIZONA CARDINALS 27 – NEW YORK GIANTS 21…
The New York Giants saw their season all but officially slip away on Sunday by losing 27-21 to the Arizona Cardinals at a rainy MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants are now 2-5 on the season, losing their last three games.

The Giants sleepwalked through the first quarter and quickly found themselves in a 17-0 hole at the start of the second quarter. The Cardinals drove 75 yards in 13 plays on their opening drive, converting on a 4th-and-3 at the Giants’ 35-yard line, and finishing up with a 20-yard touchdown run by running back Chase Edmonds. The Giants then gave the ball right back to the Cardinals on quarterback Daniel Jones’ interception into double coverage, returning the ball to the Giants’ 32-yard line. Three plays later, Edmonds scored his second 20-yard touchdown run. New York went three-and-out on their second drive and the Cardinals gained 54 yards in nine plays to set up a successful 47-yard field goal.

Down by 17, the Giants quickly got back into the game. First, New York drove 79 yards in just four plays, including a 20-yard run by running back Saquon Barkley, a 20-yard reception by wide receiver Golden Tate, and then a 28-yard touchdown pass from Jones to tight end Rhett Ellison.

The Cardinals muffed the ensuing kickoff and began their drive at the 14-yard line. On 3rd-and-5, quarterback Kyle Murray was sacked by defensive lineman Olsen Pierre for a 15-yard loss. Arizona attempted to punt out of the endzone, but safety Michael Thomas came clean up the middle and blocked a punt that running back Elijhaa Penny recovered in the endzone for a touchdown. All of the sudden, the game had tightened to 17-14.

Both teams had long drives before halftime, but neither got close enough to attempt a field goal. At the half, the Cardinals continued to lead by three points, 17-14.

Both teams exchanged three-and-outs to start the third quarter. On New York’s second possession of the half, the Giants reached the Arizona 37-yard line. But on 2nd-and-8, Daniel Jones was sacked for a 12-yard loss, losing the ball to Arizona in the process near midfield. Three plays later, Edmonds scored his third touchdown of the day, this time from 22 yards out. The Cardinals were now up 24-14.

The Giants responded with a 12-play, 49-yard drive that included a 4th-and-6 conversion on a 15-yard pass from Jones to Tate. Unfortunately, the possession ended with a missed 37-yard field goal by place kicker Aldrick Rosas as the third quarter was closing out.

New York got the ball back with just under 13 minutes left to play and tightened the game again with an 8-play, 82-yard drive. Barkley scored from seven yards out to cut the score to 24-21 with just over eight minutes left.

The Cardinals gained one first down but then were forced to punt. The Giants were only down by three points with 4:23 left on the clock. However, a porous offensive line that allowed eight Cardinals’ sacks on the day, could not protect Jones. Head Coach Pat Shurmur oddly called a running play on 3rd-and-18, and followed that up with a 4th-and-15 pass attempt that resulted in another strip-sack fumble recovery at the New York 17-yard line. The Cardinals settled for a 35-yard field goal with just over two minutes left in the game.

The Giants had one final shot to win the game. But nothing went right. Wideout Darius Slayton only reached the 12-yard line on the kickoff return. Jones was sacked two more times and the game ended with a 4th-and-29 incompletion.

Against what had been the NFL’s 30th-ranked defense, the Giants only gained 263 net yards and scored 14 offensive points. The Giants were 4-of-12 on third down and 1-of-3 on fourth down. Jones completed 22-of-35 passes for 223 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. He was also sacked eight times (hit 12 times), losing 67 yards and fumbling three times in the process (two of which were recovered by the Cardinals). In addition to the sacks, Cardinals also had seven tackles for losses. Tate was the leading receiver, with six catches for 80 yards. No other receiver had more than 35 yards. Barkley carried the ball 18 times for 72 yards and a touchdown.

The defense “only” allowed 245 net yards, including 89 net yards passing. But the Cardinals rushed for 156 yards and had three easy 20+ yard touchdown runs by Edmonds. The Giants did not force a turnover on defense. Olsen and linebacker David Mayo had the only sacks for the Giants.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVES AND INJURY REPORT…
WR Sterling Shepard (concussion), CB Corey Ballentine (concussion), QB Alex Tanney, TE Garrett Dickerson, OT Eric Smith, OT/OG Chad Slade, and LB Chris Peace were inactive.

LB Lorenzo Carter injured his ankle but returned to the game.

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Pat Shurmur and select players will address the media on Monday. The players are off on Tuesday and return to practice on Wednesday.

Oct 182019
 
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Evan Engram, New York Giants (September 29, 2019)

Evan Engram – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants, October 20, 2019

THE STORYLINE

If there is any remote possibility that the New York Giants make the 2019 season about more than the development of rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, then Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals is a must-win. The Giants currently stand at 2-4 (1-1 in the NFC East), one game behind the 3-3 Dallas Cowboys and 3-3 Philadelphia Eagles. If the Giants can get to 3-4, they will still be very much in the hunt. However, if the Giants lose to the 2-3-1 Cardinals and fall to 2-5, then the season will probably be all but officially over in terms of playoff possibilities.

Brewing in the background is growing fan discontent with Pat Shurmur, who continues to make questionable in-game decisions. While it is difficult to see the Giants parting ways with their third coach in five years, especially given his “quarterback whisperer” relationship with Daniel Jones, the franchise must decide if Shurmur is capable of becoming a winning head coach. This is a big game for Pat Shurmur too.

THE INJURY REPORT

  • RB Saquon Barkley (ankle)
  • RB Wayne Gallman (concussion)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (concussion – out)
  • TE Evan Engram (knee)
  • DL Olsen Pierre (concussion)
  • CB Corey Ballentine (concussion – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE

Predictably, Daniel Jones is experiencing a rough patch after a hot start. This was exacerbated by facing two of the League’s top defenses (Patriots and Vikings) without his best weapons. While the ups and downs will continue, what we want to see are more ups than downs and increasing consistency. Jones seems to have the right attitude:

Looking back on the month, kind of up and down. I’ve been inconsistent overall. I’ve been good and been bad. I think there are certainly a lot of things to learn. When you look at the scheme or some of the decisions, some of my habits or bad habits, I think there are a lot of things to learn. So, I’ll kind of separate those problems, (and) those individual issues and try to improve. But also, just getting more comfortable and getting more accustomed to what we are doing. I think I’ll continue to learn and grow, but I’ve certainly had the opportunity to learn a lot this month… I think in the pocket, making sure I’m keeping two hands on the ball. When I’m running, securing the ball. I think that’s part of it. Just making good decisions. I think being aggressive when the opportunity is there, and not when it’s smart not to be aggressive. Just kind of managing that, understanding those situations, and learning from them.

What Daniel Jones said above is exactly what this learning process is all about. And he seems to understand the process. It’s not fun and can be painful, but he is not running away from the challenge. When this season is over, Daniel Jones will have four preseason games and 14 regular season games to go back and study and learn from. He is getting first-hand experience about the speed and complexity of pro defenses, when to take chances, and when not to. But also keep in mind that player development is not always linear. There will be dips.

Think of  how Eli Manning developed. He was atrocious at times during his rookie season, but provided a ray of hope with his comeback win against the Cowboys in the 2004 season finale. Then in 2005, he led his team to a division title, upsetting the Denver Broncos in memorable fashion. But Eli really didn’t “arrive” until the 2007 playoffs, with three and a half years of starting experience under his belt. Same story with Phil Simms, who was despised by half the fan base from 1979 until he finally rid himself of the bulk of those critics in January 1987, when he was 31 years old!

The good news for Jones is he will have Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, and Evan Engram back. But Sterling Shepard is still out. Nevertheless, as long as the offensive line does a reasonable job, Jones should be able to do some damage against the Arizona Cardinals’ 30th-ranked defense. This will be a nice change for the Giants’ offense after facing the Cowboys (9th), Bills (3rd), Vikings (5th), and Patriots (1st). All four New York Giants’ losses came against those teams, as New York scored a total of 55 points (13.75 points per game, which included a defensive score). On the other hand, the Giants’ two wins came against the Buccaneers (22nd) and Redskins (26th), as New York scored a total of 56 points (or one more point than the other four games).

The Cardinals have not been able to stop the run or the pass. However, outside linebackers Chandler Jones (4.5 sacks) and Terrell Suggs (4 sacks) can rush the passer. And the Cardinals get back All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson this Sunday after he missed the first six games due to an NFL suspension.

Many eyes will be on Saquon Barkley. Is he truly healthy enough to play? How much of an issue will the ankle be? He’s a difference-maker as a runner and receiver if he is good to go.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE

The Giants’ defense is coming off of their best effort of the season, but one game does not make a trend. And while the defense was much better against the Patriots, the team still gave up 27 first downs and 427 yards of offense. The Cardinals play fastbreak football, spreading teams out with four-WR packages, which opens things up for their super-athletic, but diminutive, rookie quarterback, Kyler Murray, as a runner and passer. After struggling early, Arizona’s offense has played much better the past two games. Moreover, the Cardinals’ quarterback and receivers are eyeing New York’s 31st-ranked pass defense, being very familiar with ex-Cardinal Antoine Bethea.

Aside from Murray, who was the first player taken in the draft. The Cardinals still have dangerous weapons. Running back David Johnson is a threat running and catching the football (2nd on the team in receptions with 30, including three receiving touchdowns). Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is still productive, leading the team with 35 catches.

Murray has thrown for over 300 yards in three of his six starts, completing over 64 percent of his passes. He also has rushed for 238 yards, averaging over 6 yards per carry. Historically speaking, these type of mobile quarterbacks have always given the Giants fits. The Cardinals employ the read-option with designed running plays specifically for Murray.

Not to sound like a broken record, but the defense is showing some signs of improvement because the defensive line and edge rushers are playing better. Markus Golden is starting to look like the guy he was in 2016 before he tore up his knee. Dexter Lawrence is really coming on and pushing the pocket. Much now depends on the ability and consistency of inside players such as Alec Ogletree, David Mayo, Jabrill Peppers, and Antoine Bethea. The middle of the defense continues to be the area that burns this team. When they play better, it shows up immediately on the field.

The game plan is fairly obvious. Contain Murray, maintain disciplined rush lanes, even if it negatively affects the pass rush. The secondary will be stressed by the multiple WR sets combined with Murray’s ability to keep plays alive. There will be times when the linebacker or defensive back will have to make an instant judgment as to whether or not to stick to his man in coverage or come up and chase Murray. That’s a dangerous situation.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS

With Corey Ballentine out, either Darius Slayton or Cody Latimer will be returning kickoffs. Riley Dixon’s punting has become erratic again.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH

Defensive Coordinator on David Mayo and Jabrill Peppers: “I love what David Mayo has done, I really do. He’s come and worked his tail off. David’s another guy that loves the game. This guy really loves the game, he’s tough, he’s physical. It’s not shade on anybody that’s on our roster anywhere. What it allows us to do is put another DB on the field. I think just going back to what I believe, the more spread they get, the more space the game becomes, the more second level players you want to try and get on the field. I think Jabrill, we know he can do just about anything. It’s just us doing a good job managing the situations and the things we put him in so he can play fast and we don’t slow him down.”

THE FINAL WORD

This is a must-win game for the Giants if the team wants to keep any playoff hopes alive. What will be interesting to watch is if the offense can get back on track and score more than 20-24 points, and see if the defense can build upon their last performance. This is an unusual opponent and the Cardinals’ offense is quite capable of embarrassing this defense.

Dec 272017
 
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Olivier Vernon, New York Giants (December 24, 2017)

Olivier Vernon – © USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Cardinals 23 – New York Giants 0

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 27/45 – 263 yards – 0 TD/2 INT. Manning also lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. It was a rough day for Manning, as his 57.9 QB rating was his second lowest of the year. Manning’s footwork and release points were just simply off for the majority of the game. The NFL’s best defense over the past 2 months appeared to be in his head more than it should have been, as he was sidestepping pressure that wasn’t always there and rushing throws that he didn’t need to. His accuracy was an issue for almost the entire game.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Wayne Gallman: 10 att/18 yards – 6 rec/44 yards. There weren’t enough opportunities for Gallman to find his groove. They were playing from behind for the majority of the game and the fast, physical defensive front was too much for the Giants OL to handle. Seeing him take big hits week after week and getting right back up is a good sign. He has plenty of toughness and with another couple of years of NFL weight training, he can be our guy. His movement and vision are very good.
  • Orleans Darkwa: 6 att/10 yards. Darkwa didn’t have any luck against this defensive front, either. Darkwa has really disappeared in the second half of the season. He hasn’t averaged over 3 yards per carry since November 19 against the Chiefs. Bad hands, bad vision, won’t create much on his own.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Sterling Shepard: 5 rec/45 yards. Also had a drop on a poorly thrown, but catchable 3rd-down pass from Manning. After a career game last week, Shepard didn’t factor much before aggravating a neck injury that forced him to miss most of the 4th quarter. They tried sending him deep on a couple of occasions, but him and Manning just couldn’t connect. And Shepard isn’t a deep separation guy, doesn’t have that next gear.
  • Roger Lewis: 4 rec/40 yards. Lewis was the most targeted receiver of the day, getting 11 looks from Manning. He responded with his worst performance of the season. He had 3 drops and ran poor routes, struggling to gain separation on simple routes. Lewis is catching the ball with his body too often and has proven that despite more opportunity in 2017, he is a #5 WR at best. He did not take a jump up that totem pole this season.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Rhett Ellison: 4 rec/60 yards. With Engram going down early with a rib injury, Ellison saw a spike in playing time and targets. In my end of year review, I will discuss Ellison as one of the most underused players on this team. He responds well to his targets percentage wise as much as any pass catcher on this team and he has a way of always finding extra yards.
  • Jerrell Adams: 4 rec/31 yards. Adams also saw a spike in playing time and caught all of his targets. Adams is a slow-twitch athlete who doesn’t dominate as a blocker the way he should, but he has done well in his limited opportunities as well. The tight end position appears to be set for the next few years.
  • Evan Engram: 1 rec/12 yards. Went down with a rib injury early, sat out the rest of the game and will likely sit next week. Capped an outstanding rookie season.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Ereck Flowers went backwards, especially in the 2nd half. He had a terrible series, allowing 1 pressure and 2 holds within one drive. He had 2 other pressures in addition, struggling to stick with stunts and late movement. His game seemed off in comparison to what we have seen over the past 3 months. He needs to finish strong, because that LT spot is far from securely his. Bobby Hart allowed 2 pressures and a sack. Not much needs to be said here; he is not a starting caliber OL in this league and I’m not sure he backup caliber, either.
  • Interior: Brett Jones had another below average performance, as did Jon Halapio. They were unable to hold the point-of-attack or lock on to their respective defenders. John Jerry allowed a TFL and 1 pressure, but graded out as the top OL in this game with a mark right at the average point. He isn’t a guy who played bad enough to lose his job but he also isn’t a guy who played well enough to keep it heading in to the 2018 offseason.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Damon Harrison continued his All-Pro caliber play. I don’t spend much time even looking at the Pro Bowl rosters, but I will say it again, there is not a better DT in the NFL. He had 2 TFL, 2 pressures, and continued to make plays sideline to sideline. His impact within the tackle box is as dominant as any player in the league at their respective position. Dalvin Tomlinson was quiet, but also effective at controlling the inside gaps. Jay Bromley did record a TFL, but he led the DL in negative plays mainly from him getting pushed back 2+ yards multiple times.
  • Ends: A very solid performance from the starting duo. One thing that can be tough to do is take the previous disappointments and not let them impact the current evaluation. Jason Pierre-Paul has been the most underperforming player on this 2017 team, but he was very disruptive in this game. Blowing up tight ends and tackles at the point-of-attack and finishing with 4 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 pressures. Olivier Vernon added a sack/fumble of his own along with a pressure and 3 tackles.

LINEBACKERS

  • Kelvin Sheppard led the team with 9 tackles. More of the same with him, solid play between the tackles with a lot of physical presence behind his hits, but anything in to space and he gets exposed badly.
  • This was the first extended look I got at the newly signed Ray-Ray Armstrong. He played 40% of the team’s snaps and flashed some of the athleticism and power this LB corps has lacked for a long time. He still doesn’t look like a natural linebacker out there, showing hesitation on his reads and too many recovery steps.

CORNERBACKS

  • Ross Cockrell continues to show he deserves a long term spot on this team, meaning he needs to be on this team in 2018. He brought in 2 interceptions, both of which he showed excellent body control and ball skills, 1 of which was in the end zone. This will be one of the major positives that comes out of the 2017 season; he has played exceptionally well and has steadily improved with the more playing time he got.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has impressed me. Not necessarily in that his level of play has been what it used to, although he has been more than solid, but in his constant hustle, leadership and effort. After his suspension earlier in the year, I thought this was going to end ugly in NY for him, but he plays as hard as anyone on this team.
  • Brandon Dixon went through some growing pains in this one, being outclassed by Larry Fitzgerald on multiple occasions. Outclassed to the point that on double routes, Dixon couldn’t stay within 4-5 yards of him. He allowed a touchdown to Fitzgerald and John Brown.

SAFETIES

  • After one of his most physical tackles of the year, Landon Collins went down with a broken arm which will end his season. He had a good, but far from great, season. Collins needs to be used carefully, because there is a lot he simply cannot do in coverage.
  • Andrew Adams received more playing time via the Collins injury, and he did not respond well. The sixth sense I talk about when looking at safeties is something he just doesn’t have. Far too many times he is dropping into zone coverage unaware of who and what is around him. He also missed 2 tackles. Darian Thompson had 4 tackles and picked up deep routes well, although he wasn’t challenged much.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Aldrick Rosas: 0/1. Rosas missed his lone opportunity of the day, a 33-yard attempt that sailed wide left.
  • Brad Wing: 6 Punts – 43.8 avg – 39.0 net. Wing suffered an ankle injury on an uncalled roughing the kicker penalty.

3 STUDS

  • DT Damon Harrison, CB Ross Cockrell, DE Jason Pierre-Paul

3 DUDS

  • OC Brett Jones, WR Roger Lewis, OG Jon Halapio

3 THOUGHTS ON ARI

  • This team is built to win a lot of games right now, if only they had an accomplished QB who can stay on the field and throw the ball down field with success. Yes, Eli Manning would be an ideal fit for that team while they groom a long-term answer. The defense is top 5 in the NFL and is loaded with young talent who will be around for the next few years. If Manning doesn’t shake free, this would be an ideal landing spot for Kirk Cousins.
  • Larry Fitzgerald is not a veteran WR who should hang it up. He is one of the top WRs in the game and I place him right under the Jones/Brown/Beckham tier. How he runs routes, catches the ball with his hands, and controls his body is something every young WR should study. He does everything at a high level and continues to work hard to improve, not just sustain, his skill set. He has multiple years left, no doubt.
  • Bruce Arians has always been one of my favorite coaches since his days as an OC in Pittsburgh. He has a sense of realness to him, but still a guy who grown men playing in the NFL will fear. He is a guy who I would take in NY right now if he were to ever get out of ARI. He gets the most out of his players, especially QBs.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • These games are painful and there are certain players you can’t get a fair evaluation on. Manning played poorly, made some mistakes a veteran like him should not make. But can we consider who he is throwing the ball to? And the line that is blocking in front of him? I wouldn’t call them excuses, but it has to be considered when trying to figure out if he should still be the guy moving forward. I am on record as saying that I think this team can still win with Manning but that doesn’t mean I would look past QB at #2 overall.
  • The Landon Collins/Eli Apple saga is going too far now. Collins shouldn’t be saying what he is saying to the media, the whole cancer comment was a bit too much. At this point, with how public the team’s distaste for Apple is, the trade value couldn’t be lower. So with that said, they may be forced in to keeping him another year and hoping he grows up and/or gets stimulated with the new coaching staff.
  • At this point, there is still a possibility 1 or 2 OT’s can be in the running for the #2 overall pick. Has Ereck Flowers proven he deserves to be the guy there? Or do you take his skill set and move it to RT and draft Connor Williams (Texas) or Brian O’Neill (Pittsburgh)? If Manning is going to play out this contract, the OL may have to become priority A and B this offseason and if a new shiny rookie can hack it at LT, Pugh comes back strong, and Flowers sustains this level of play at RT, we have something to work with – something much better than what we have seen in recent years. At this point, anything is and should be considered possible.
Dec 242017
 
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ARIZONA CARDINALS 23 – NEW YORK GIANTS 0…
The New York Giants were embarrassed by the sub-.500 Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, being shut out 23-0. With the loss, the Giants fell to 2-13 on the season. No other team in the New York Giants’ 93-year history has ever had 13 defeats. The Giants are also 0-11 against NFC opponents.

How bad was the Giants’ offense?

  • 12 first downs
  • 1-of-14 on 3rd down
  • 1-of-4 on 4th down
  • 293 total net yards
  • 43 net yards rushing
  • 3 turnovers by the quarterback Eli Manning, including a fumble returned for touchdown
  • 0 points

The Giants had 14 possessions. The results:

  • One missed 33-yard field goal
  • Six punts
  • Three turnovers on downs
  • Three turnovers
  • End of game after one play

New York’s longest offensive “drive” was 45 yards and only two other possessions gained more than 30 yards.

The Giants’ defense was more respectable, surrendering just 289 total net yards (74 rushing, 215 passing) and 19 first downs. Cornerback Ross Cockrell also picked off two passes in the second half. But the Cardinals’ offense managed three scoring drives:

  • 9 plays, 46yards for a field goal in the 1st quarter
  • 9 plays, 79 yards for a touchdown in the 2nd quarter
  • 11 plays, 75 yards for a touchdown to start the 3rd quarter

With cornerback Eli Apple benched, reserve corner Brandon Dixon had issues covering wideout Larry Fitzgerald, who caught nine passes for 119 yards and a touchdown.

Video lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were wide receiver Tavarres King (concussion), linebacker B.J. Goodson (ankle), quarterback Davis Webb, wide receiver Kalif Raymond, offensive lineman Damien Mama, defensive end Avery Moss, and defensive end Romeo Okwara.

Tight end Evan Engram (ribs), safety Landon Collins (fractured forearm), and wide receiver Sterling Shepard (neck) all left the game with injuries and did not return.

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

  • Interim Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo (Video)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (Video)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Video)
  • S Landon Collins (Video)

ARTICLES…

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
There is no media availability to the New York Giants on Monday and Tuesday. The team returns to practice on Wednesday in preparation for the season-finale against the Washington Redskins on Sunday.

Dec 222017
 
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New York Giants Defense (January 11, 1987)

New York Giants Defense (January 11, 1987)

Game Preview: New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals, December 24, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
For the first time in 23 years of writing game previews, I’ve got nothing. This is the nightmare season that simply won’t end. So while the Giants are set to establish a new franchise record for losses in one season, in the spirit of the Ghost of Christmas Past, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and remember happier times. Merry Christmas and a belated Happy Hanukkah!

(NOTE: Since the NFL/YouTube have blocked NFL-related content from BBI, you may have to click on the link to watch).

Sep 172014
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Arizona Cardinals 25 – New York Giants 14

REVISITING: FOUR DOWNS
During our game preview, we listed ‘Four Downs,’ which took a look at the top four questions surrounding the Giants heading into the game. Now that the game has been played and the film reviewed, it’s time to break it down.

First Down
Rueben Randle
Randle had decent game against a top-flight opponent, including a spectacular, one-handed touchdown grab. But his four catches all came in the first half and he dropped a deep pass late in the fourth quarter when the Giants were desperately trying to tie the game.

Second Down
Throw me the ball
Victor Cruz made some plays on both touchdown drives, but his 3rd-and-6 drop right after the Cardinals had cut the lead to 14-13 was a major reason why the Giants lost this game. That set up the ensuing 9-point swing caused by the two special teams disasters.

Third Down
J.D. Walton
He was OK in pass protection although there was one holding call on an inside blitz. As most centers do, he struggled with NT Dan Williams, one of the best in the business, on running plays.

Fourth Down
Prince Amukamara
I saw one mistake from Prince Amukamara, but other than that, he was his normal, solid self. It helped that he, and the rest of the secondary, were playing a quarterback that hadn’t seen action in four years. The one play where Amukamara got beat was on the first play of the game. Michael Floyd ran a comeback, Amukamara played streak. Those plays happen from time-to-time.

Aside from that, the physicality Amukamara has been playing with this year is noticeably impressive. The cornerback has crept up to the line countless times and stuck his head in to make plays on the running back. Amukamara  spoke of how he wanted to take his game to another level this year, he’s done that in Weeks 1 and 2.

OFFENSIVE OVERVIEW – by Eric Kennedy

The good news is that Eli Manning looked sharper and more comfortable against one of the NFL’s best secondaries. The offensive line looked better in pass protection, albeit against a defense that was missing its best pass rusher. At wide receiver, Rueben Randle and Victor Cruz were more involved. And the Giants may have found a tight end in Larry Donnell.

The bad news is the Giants have really struggled to run the ball in back-to-back games against two of the NFL’s better run defenses. The Giants are still losing the turnover battle and teams that do that usually lose. Victor Cruz came up small in this game. Most importantly, the Giants are averaging 14 points per game. You can’t win by scoring only 14 points per contest.

The defense is not helping out the offense. They have forced no turnovers and they have problems getting off of the field on third down. The Giants moved the ball well in the first half of the game against the Cardinals, but they only had three possessions to work with. They drove 48 yards on their first drive until turning the ball over, drove 30 before a third-down sack ended a drive, and finished off of the half with an impressive 13-play, 90-yard effort. One got the sense had the offense had more opportunities, they would have done more damage.

The second half was frustrating. A phantom personal foul call stopped the first drive before it started. The Giants drove 42 yards on their second drive before taking two deep shots that they were unable to connect on. They followed that up with an impressive 8-play, 74-yard touchdown drive. In the fourth quarter, with the Giants up 14-13, Cruz dropped a perfect pass from Manning on 3rd-and-6, leading to a punt and the two special teams disasters. When the Giants got the ball back with nine minutes to go in the game and trailing by 8 points, Eli and Company easily moved the ball down field until an unforced turnover by Rashad Jennings basically ended the game. The Giants had one more late shot, but two more dropped passes sealed their fate.

QUARTERBACK – by Eric Kennedy

Was Eli perfect? No. But this is the best he’s looked in a long time, perhaps pre-Hurricane Sandy. And he’s starting to look comfortable in this offense. Now he has to work on the consistency. He finished the game 26-of-39 for 277 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. However, had it not been for several dropped passes, he would have been in the 30-of-39 neighborhood with perhaps 350 yards or more.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Most importantly, he looked comfortable and in command. He looked more like the Eli of old.

Eli started off the game strong, connecting on his first four passes for 43 yards. His costliest mistake came on 3rd-and-8 from the Arizona 30-yard line. Pressured immediately by three defenders, including two unblocked blitzers, Manning fired a pass to “hot” receiver Victor Cruz, who stumbled coming over the middle. Whether the stumble caused Eli to second-guess himself or not as he was delivering the ball, the pass was low, bounced off of the shoulder pads of a lineman, and was intercepted off of the deflection. After two completions and two Arizona penalties, the second drive ended prematurely after two short runs and a sack. On the third and last drive of the first half, Manning was 6-of-7 for 72 yards and a touchdown.

Manning only missed two throws in the first half, going 12-of-14 for 135 yards. It was a near-perfect performance.

As mentioned, the second half was frustrating. A bogus personal foul penalty put the Giants in a 3rd-and-17 before the drive even really started. Eli never attempted a pass on this possession. On the second drive of the half, after completing two passes for 34 yards, Eli couldn’t connect on two deep shots. Other than a late throw to Donnell, these were probably his two poorest throws of the game. But he followed that up by going a perfect 4-of-4 for 43 yards and a touchdown on the next possession, not counting the 25-yard pass interference penalty his throw to Victor Cruz caused. At this point in the game, Eli was 19-of-23 with only four incompletions!

The Giants defense then allowed the Cardinals to drive the field and cut the score to 14-13. After two Rashad Jennings runs, Manning threw a perfect pass to Victor Cruz who dropped the ball. Punt return for TD. Fumbled kickoff. Nine point swing. Nothing to do with Eli.

Trailing by eight points with nine minutes to play, Manning drove his team 65 yards in 12 plays only to have the drive end with an unforced fumble by Jennings. There was another drop by Cruz on this possession. But Eli completed 5-of-9 passes for 46 yards before the turnover.

New York got the ball back at their own 15-yard line with 3:19 to play, still trailing by eight points. After a short completion, there were two more drops. On 4th-and-6, Eli threw behind Larry Donnell. Game over after Arizona took 1:23 off of the clock and went up 25-14 with 1:13 to play.

Last note: Dumb coaching decision to keep Eli in the game on last meaningless possession. Not because of the stat-packing interception but because of the injury risk poised to your franchise quarterback in such a no-win situation.

RUNNING BACKS – by Eric Kennedy

Andre Williams, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Even against good offensive lines, the Cardinals are extremely difficult to run against, and try as they might, the Giants simply could not generate a consistent ground attack against Arizona. It wasn’t that the running backs did poorly on their rushing efforts; there just wasn’t much room to run. The Giants finished the first half with only 31 yards on 13 rushing attempts with a long run of seven yards. They finished with 81 yards on 27 attempts (3 yards per carry) but even this was inflated by a late 13-yard run, down by 11 points with 30 seconds to play.

Rashad Jennings finished with 64 yards on 13 carries (3.6 yards per carry) and Andre Williams with 12 yards on 8 carries (1.5 yards per carry). Jennings did run tough and generated yards on his own. He also looked sharp as a receiver, catching 4 passes for 45 yards. Jennings had an 11-yard run where he broke three tackles and a 19-yard reception on a play where he broke two tackles. (He even blocked a punt in this game). That said, Jennings badly missed his block on a blitzing defender on Eli’s first-half interception, and his unforced fumble in the 4th quarter sealed the game when it looked like the Giants had a good shot to tie the game.

Williams, who never caught a pass his final year in college, caught 2-of-4 passes thrown in his direction for 7 yards. In a move I assume was designed to “punish” Jennings for fumbling the ball, Williams was placed in the game with the Giants needing to drive 85 yards with 3:19 left, down by 8 points. Williams, who is not a natural pass receiver, caught one pass but dropped the next. This seemed like an odd time to make a statement.

Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

WIDE RECEIVERS – by Eric Kennedy

The good news is that Rueben Randle finally got involved and while the numbers don’t look superlative (4 catches for 39 yards and a touchdown), it was a step in the right direction against a top-flight opponent in CB Patrick Peterson. His touchdown catch was a superb one-handed grab. The bad news is that Randle dropped a well-thrown ball by Manning on their last real chance to tie the game. Yes, there was contact between him and the corner, but he has to make that play in that situation.

For brief portions of the game, Victor Cruz had a positive impact. He really came on during the first touchdown drive, catching 3 passes for 41 yards, including a pass thrown behind him. He was also a factor on the second TD drive with a 14 yard catch and then drawing a 25-yard pass interference penalty. He finished the game with 5 catches for 60 yards. However, Cruz came up small in the 4th quarter and his dropped pass on 3rd-and-6 was a major reason why the Giants lost this game. If he catches that ball, the drive continues and the sequence of events that led to a 9-point turnaround don’t happen. Then, with the Giants trailing by 8 and the team desperately trying to tie the game, he dropped another pass. He’s been paid big bucks to a positive difference maker, not a negative one. Cruz also stumbled on his crossing pattern on Eli’s first interception – it’s unknown whether that caused Eli to hesitate on his delivery.

Jerrel Jernigan caught two passes for 15 yards and left the game with a season-ending foot injury. Preston Parker caught one pass for 29 yards. But he also lost his footing in the end zone on a throw from Manning that fell incomplete. Unfortunately, this came on the play right before Jennings’ fumble.

TIGHT ENDS – by Eric Kennedy

Larry Donnell has now been the leading Giants’ receiver for two games in a row. Two games do not make a trend, but it is a very positive sign. It’s not just the amount of catches, but the quality of catches. Donnell looks athletic down the field, he is adjusting to the ball well, and he is making difficult catches in traffic. Now if he can just work on his run-after-the-catch skills, we may really have found something. Donnell was targeted nine times, catching seven passes for 81 yards. He also had another catch wiped out due to a penalty. His blocking is not as bad as some fans think. Donnell received 58 offensive snaps while Daniel Fells received 20. Fells caught a 1-yard touchdown pass to put the G-Men ahead 14-10.

OFFENSIVE LINE – by Eric Kennedy

Bottom line is the pass protection was much better this week but the run blocking wasn’t very good. Much of that had to do with the opponent. Arizona is VERY tough to run the ball on. RDE Calais Campbell and NT Dan Williams in particular gave the Giants fits, but these two give all of their opponents fits. Also, since LB John Abraham did not play, the Cardinals pass rush was not at its best. Also, like Eli of old, I think he did a good job of making the line look better in pass protection at times by getting rid of the ball quickly. This was the specific intention of Ben McAdoo’s new offense as well.

The two linemen who had the most problems were LG Weston Richburg and OC J.D. Walton. But these two also faced the toughest opponents in Campbell and Williams. #93 and #92 for the Cardinals were all over the field on Sunday, unfortunately for the Giants. Richburg gave up two sacks to Campbell, one that was wiped out due to a questionable penalty on the Cardinals. A few plays later, the right side of the offensive line, Justin Pugh, John Jerry, and Walton seemed to be confused by a stunt as Eli was sacked on 3rd-and-7. This is not unusual for a line that has hardly played together. Walton was flagged with a holding call in the third quarter on an inside blitz. Other than that, the line pass protected fairly well. Will Beatty, Pugh, and Jerry did not suffer any significant breakdowns (Beatty did give up some pressure on the first pick).

Run blocking was another story. The Cardinals front seven is just really, really good in run defense and against an offensive line that has very little playing time together, they pretty much dominated up front. The Giants could not handle Campbell and Williams, and those two allowed the Cardinals linebackers to run cleanly to the ball carriers. It really was that simple.

DEFENSIVE OVERVIEW – by Connor Hughes

The Giants defense wasn’t without much Sunday afternoon. Linebacker Devon Kennard, defensive end Kerry Wynn and defensive tackle Markus Kuhn were the only defensive players to miss Sunday’s game.

It was strange watching Sunday’s game film, it truly was. In fact, following the conclusion of the game, I was still a bit puzzled on how the film I watched was that of a loss, not a win. The Giants rushed the passer, contained – when they had to – the run and played solid coverage. In fact, if it wasn’t for penalties, it would have been a near perfect game.

But still, it was a loss. It wasn’t as if the reason was hidden, the Giants turned the ball over four times, but it was surprising none the less.

DEFENSIVE LINE – by Connor Hughes

Start with the most glaring observation from watching the film: Jason Pierre-Paul is back. Be it 2011 JPP, or a new-and-improved 2013 one, Pierre-Paul showed Sunday that he has put the last two seasons of injury-related struggles very far in his rear view mirror. Pierre-Paul stuffed the run and rushed the passer, but there was one play that stood out more than any: His sack.

Obviously, it was a sack, so it’s going to stand out. But this one stuck out for a different reason. On the play, the Cardinals tried their best to take advantage of Pierre-Paul’s aggressiveness. Drew Stanton dropped back, and waited slightly before turning to look at his tight end. What the Cardinals wanted to do was have the tight end chip JPP, then let him go and have Stanton throw the ball right over JPP’s head. The only issue? Pierre-Paul didn’t bite.

At all.

Pierre-Paul stuck with the tight end causing Stanton to hold on to the ball. It wasn’t until the play broke down and Stanton went to run that Pierre-Paul left the tight end’s side. it was great play recognition by the former All-Pro.

Through the first two games of the season, Pierre-Paul is ranked as the league’s best run stopper as a 4-3 defensive end. Here’s a pretty accurate description of how he’s gotten those praises.

Pierre-Paul is starting to play as his mouth has indicated he would throughout the entire offseason. Those incredible plays Pierre-Paul used to make on an every-Sunday basis are beginning to return. Even when he doesn’t reach the quarterback, he’s disrupting the play. Pierre-Paul, by my count, had two bat-downs of passes. Here’s a clip of one I’m still not sure how he hit.

Another player who had a pretty good game as a defensive end was Robert Ayers Jr. During the preseason, Ayers was one of the unsung heroes who quietly played very well when in the game. It could have been a favorable match-up, but when Ayers came off the edge, he reached the quarterback with ease. Ayers had one sack clean, then one nullified by a penalty. The most impressive part of both of them was the jump he got off the ball.

When Johnathan Hankins was drafted by the Giants, it was as a big run stuffer. Two games into the season, it looks like run-stopper is just one of the many labels that will be given to Hankins. While it’s still early, the Giants may have the complete package at the defensive tackle position, something they haven’t been able to take claim to in quite some time. Hankins routinely collapsed the pocket on Stanton, running over whomever the offense put in front of him. His play progression on his first career sack was a thing of beauty:

Damontre Moore has yet to get his first career sack. Matt Stafford juked him out last week. Stanton climbed the pocket and fell into the arms of Mathias Kiwanuka/Jason Pierre-Paul this week. While he’s yet to bring the quarterback down himself, Moore still continues to flash. He got double the reps as last week and made it count. It may only be a matter of time before he supplants Kiwanuka as the Giants starting defensive end opposite Pierre-Paul.

LINEBACKERS – by Connor Hughes

Jordan Raanan of NJ.com had a great breakdown of the Jon Beason injury with a near frame-by-frame look at how the Giants captain was injured. When he was replaced by Mark Herzlich, it wasn’t pretty.

After signing with the Giants as an undrafted free agent, it appeared as if Herzlich was on the fast track to take over as the Giants middle linebacker of the future. The team gave him every shot to grab hold of the position, Herzlich just isn’t a starting middle linebacker in the NFL. He’s a fine special teams player, but defensively he’s a liability.

Another player who didn’t have a spectacular game was Jameel McClain. McClain got himself in position to make plays, he just didn’t. There were two counts that I saw where he had contain on the outside, but failed to shed his block and make the tackle. The result of both runs were first downs.

Jacquian Williams didn’t stand out for any negative reasons. He made a few nice plays on the run, and never should have been in pass coverage against a wide receiver.

DEFENSIVE BACKS – by Connor Hughes

Prince Amukamara continues to impress, as was outlined in the four downs section at the top. The physicality in which he has brought to the table this year is far more than in year’s past. There was a lot of talk last week on Amukamara being ‘better’ than Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but Rodgers-Cromartie had himself a game. There was tight coverage and physicality. He looked every bit as good as what New York hoped he’d be when it signed him to a mega deal this offseason.

Stevie Brown struggled versus the Lions, but played much better on Sunday. There was one play though he needs to make. Monday afternoon, Tom Coughlin was irate at the fact his defense has yet to force a turnover. It’s not for lack of opportunities. Similar to the offense, the playmakers need to make plays. Brown had a golden opportunity to haul in an interception and just dropped it.

The Giants are going to miss Walter Thurmond III this year. The nickel cornerback, who tore his pectoral muscle on Sunday, flashed several times the physicality the Giants were hoping he’d bring to the secondary. Thurmond loves to hit, something he clearly brought over from Seattle, and closes extremely quick on wide receivers who make catches at the line of scrimmage.

SPECIAL TEAMS – by Connor Hughes

The good first: Rashad Jennings perfectly fits what New York wants in a running back. He’s tough, he’s physical and he goes 100 percent on every single play. Doesn’t matter if he’s rushing, blocking, receiving… or playing punt team. Jennings went all out in an attempt to get a punt block and actually tipped it.

Zack Bowman caught a lot of flak for the missed tackle on Ted Ginn Jr. and it was warranted, he has to make that tackle. With that being said, he’s hardly the only one at fault:

(Boxscore – Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants, September 14, 2014)