Arizona Cardinals 27 – New York Giants 21
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.
-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.
-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.
-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.
-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.
-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.
–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.
-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.
-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.
-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.
-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.
-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.
-WR Golden Tate, CB Grant Haley, LB Alec Ogletree
-OT Mike Remmers, TE Evan Engram, S Antoine Bethea
3 THOUGHTS ON ARI
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.