Dec 292020
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (December 27, 2020)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

The NFL season is full of streaks both hot and cold, for every respective team in the league. The ones that trek through the peaks and valleys the best while minimizing the down times and maximizing the good times are the teams standing tall at the end. The best can still turn those low points into wins while the bottom feeders just can’t seem to hide their issues well enough. The Baltimore Ravens entered the week 16 matchup winners of 3 straight averaging a league high 40 points per game over that span behind the surging Lamar Jackson, who caught fire over that period (10 touchdowns). The Giants entered the game going in the complete opposite direction. They had lost two straight and scored a combined 30 points over the previous 3 weeks, 10 less than what BAL was averaging per game. In the putrid NFC East, however, they were still alive.

The BAL offense continued their impressive, machine-type offensive work early on. They scored touchdowns on both of their first two drives while chewing up the majority of the first quarter-clock. They held onto the ball for 13:17 while NYG possessed it for 1:43 and got flagged for two false starts while accruing 18 total yards. BAL added 3 more points on a 20-yard field goal by All-Pro kicker Justin Tucker, following another long drive, this one 13 plays. With 5 minutes left in the first half, BAL had run 36 plays and NYG just 10.

NYG’s offense did start moving the ball on their final possession of the half, as they had to start eating away at the 17-point deficit. They found themselves in the red zone with 1:25 left and this is where I felt they mismanaged the clock. Following a 4 yard completion to Sterling Shepard on a 1st and 10, BAL called a timeout. They knew there would be enough time to potentially get the ball back. NYG then proceeded to call two high-difficulty pass plays to undrafted rookie Austin Mack. Both fell incomplete and BAL did indeed get the ball back with 2 timeouts and over 1 minute on the clock following Graham Gano’s 31-yard field goal.

BAL then ran another 10 plays that brought them all the way to the NYG 10-yard line, but they were finally stopped by a quality pass rush which made them settle on another field goal, this one from 28 yards, that Tucker nailed through the uprights to give BAL a commanding 20-3 lead at the half. BAL out-gained NYG 282-95 yards and won the time of possession battle 22:38 to 7:22 in the first two quarters. Complete domination.

NYG began the second half with a three-and-out, but the defense did stop BAL for the first time soon after. The NYG offense then started to wake up with chunk gains from Wayne Gallman, Dante Pettis, and C.J. Board. They got into the red zone with a 1st-and-10, but the first two plays from there were a 5-yard loss on a screen to Sterling Shepard and then a 7-yard loss on a sack. They had to settle on a field goal which Gano nailed from 42 yards. This was his 29th straight successful attempt, tying an all-time NYG record.

BAL ended the 3rd quarter with another touchdown-scoring drive spurred by a 25-yard run by rookie running back J.K. Dobbins. Jackson ended the drive by finding a wide open Dez Bryant in the end zone. Yes, the same Dez Bryant who was playing in his 5th game since the start of the 2018 season and formerly of the division-rival Dallas Cowboys. The 32-year old was surrounded by open turf as the NYG secondary had a miscommunication in coverage.

NYG then began the 4th quarter with their own marathon, clock-eating drive that was 15 plays long. This was very much aided by BAL mistakes, however. After a set of plays that saw Jones sacked on three-straight drop backs, BAL running back Justice Hill was flagged for a roughing-the-punter penalty which gave NYG a fresh start from their own 37. BAL was flagged 3 more times on that drive and even though the NYG offense still seemed lethargic and sloppy, they were able to score a touchdown on a 3-yard pass from Jones to Shepard. NYG had narrowed the gap to 14 points with just under 9 minutes remaining. A three-and-out by the BAL offense gave NYG the ball back but NYG was never able to breach midfield. After a 12-yard completion to Shepard, NYG went incomplete-incomplete-sack-incomplete on the following four passing plays. Yet another pathetic display of offense.

BAL drove the ball all the way down to the NYG 1-yard line after starting at the 35. A fumble on the exchange between Jackson and running back Gus Edwards was recovered by the newly-extended Logan Ryan for the lone ball-turnover of the game. NYG had under 2 minutes left and no timeouts. One of the worst two offenses in football could not even reach midfield, yet again, despite BAL playing a soft defense and aiding them with a 10-yard pass interference. The game ended with the final four NYG offensive plays netting 3 total yards on a scramble by Jones before turning it over on downs and back to BAL for the victory formation kneel-down.

NYG loses 27-13.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 24-41 / 252 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 84.6 RAT

The stat line actually made Jones’ performance look better than he played. It wasn’t a good game for the sophomore, as he missed on multiple throws that, simply put, he needs to make. He was short on a couple deep balls to Slayton, he was high on a couple of open slants where he had pressure coming right at him, and he did not process information quickly enough when BAL sent the house in their blitz packages. While the offensive line didn’t do him any favors and we just don’t see these receivers ever running with space around them, his performance did not help this team. Was he rusty after a few weeks of being in and out of practice and games? Was he overwhelmed by the aggressive BAL defense? Did he not respond well to not really being able to use his legs? Or is he just not that good? I’ll discuss further in the closing comments.

RUNNING BACKS

-I really don’t get why NYG hasn’t been using Wayne Gallman more in the first half these past few weeks. He carried the ball 6 times for 27 yards and caught 2 passes for 26 yards. In the first half, he touched the ball 3 times. Granted, BAL dominated time of possession and NYG only ran 18 play,s but I still think Gallman has been productive enough to warrant more consistent touches in the first half where a team can dictate play calls more than the game situation. The same can’t be said in the second half.

-Dion Lewis had 15 yards on his lone carry and Alfred Morris had a 9 yard catch and gained 4 yards on 3 carries, including a key 3rd-and-1 conversion.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Sterling Shepard had a season high 9 catches and 77 yards with a touchdown, just his second of the year. It’s been over two months since he last scored. Shepard played a really tough, competitive game from the slot and outside positions. He came up with a big 3rd-down conversion on the lone NYG touchdown scoring drive.

-Darius Slayton caught 2 passes for 26 yards and dropped another one, although it was a tough grab due to an off-throw by Jones. He still needs to start showing the ability to make these tough catches and be more physical against contact. If he wants to be a guy who can run in a straight line and catch passes with nobody on him, fine. But if he is going to be more than the occasional deep threat, he needs to more consistently make the tough plays.

-C.J. Board caught a pass for 16 yards and Dante Pettis caught 2 passes for 33 yards in his first game-action with the team. Remember, San Francisco was very excited about this kid not so long ago. Talent is there, but he has had durability and mental-capacity issues.

-Austin Mack saw more playing time than he has seen in a while. He was targeted three times and didn’t come away with anything. He had a really bad drop on a 3rd-and-4 would-be conversion. He was also flagged for a holding penalty on a kick return.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram had 7 catches for 63 yards. The “big play threat” is now averaging a career-low 10.4 yards per catch. Three of the four Giants leading pass catchers are averaging 11 yards per catch or less. Engram does provide spark and twitch but he just doesn’t create enough big plays for a guy who everyone says is dripping with talent. He graded out average as a blocker.

-Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo were quiet in their respective backup roles. Smith did provide a couple of quality run blocks.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-It was a horrid day for this group, especially in the second half. They just did not come to play across the board. Center Nick Gates was the only one who graded at the average point; everyone else was below the desired mark.

-Rookie Matt Peart allowed 2.5 sacks despite being on the field for just 17 plays. He looked confused and it made him move awkwardly with very little power presence. Cameron Fleming outplayed him by a long shot, allowing just 1 pressure but was also flagged for a false start on a 3rd down. Killer.

-Shane Lemieux continues to struggle when it comes to maintain quality presence and contact as a pass blocker. He allowed 2 pressures and a sack. This coaching staff really seems to favor him over Will Hernandez, who played just 10 snaps, but I think it may be time to let the latter back in this upcoming week. Lemieux just can’t get it done as a pass blocker on an island and opponents now know this. They will keep isolating him.

-Kevin Zeitler was flagged for a false start and allowed 1 pressure and a half-sack. Rookie Andrew Thomas was also flagged for a false start and he allowed 2 pressures. Both got good push in the running game, however. It didn’t help much though.

EDGE

-On a day where the NYG defense could neither rush the passer nor stop the outside run, one can only shake their head. That is exactly what happened. Jabaal Sheard had 2 tackles and Cam Brown finished with three. They both missed a tackle and neither got a pressure. They were facing the backup tackle tandem on an offense that has been mightily struggling with pass blocking. Brown did make an impressive play where he ran down wide receiver Devin Duvernay, possibly one of the 20 fastest players in football. He is interesting, but that is all I will say about him for now. Still a long ways to go.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-This was supposed to be a huge game for these guys. The BAL rushing offense came into this game ranked number one in the NFL. There is no secret to stopping this offense. You have to stuff the run and make Jackson throw. NYG failed, miserably. I have been vocal about the NYG defensive tackles being a key cog to the defensive improvements we have seen this season. With that said, they were outmatched for the majority of the game.

-Dexter Lawrence was the one guy who could have passed as a good player at times in this game. He finished with 5 tackles and a pressure. He remained active throughout the game and made a few plays away from the ball.

-Leonard Williams finished with 1 tackle and 1 pressure in his worst game of the year. Dalvin Tomlinson added 4 tackles and a pressure, but was over-matched in the first half when BAL jumped out to that early lead.

-B.J. Hill added 3 tackles and a pressure.

LINEBACKER

-Blake Martinez was hot and cold. I still don’t think he is 100% based on how he is moving in pursuit. He did play with some decent power and strength, finishing with 12 tackles. He had a big-time fill and stuff on a 3rd-and-2 failed attempt in the second half when NYG still had some life.

-Tae Crowder struggled. The best athlete in this group did show some speed and twitch as usual, but he missed a team high 3 tackles and was flagged for a block in the back on a kick return. He finished with 8 tackles, but it was his worst game of the year and it was against the stiffest competition he has been up against.

-David Mayo was on the field for 44 plays and somehow did not record a single tackle. He missed 2 of them. He was outclassed when it came to speed and agility.

CORNERBACK

-James Bradberry was back on the field after missing a game. BAL barely even looked his way. He did finish with 3 tackles.

-Part of the reason why Bradberry didn’t get tested was Isaac Yiadom. It was his worst game of the year. He missed 2 tackles, lost outside contain on a 3rd-down conversion, and allowed a touchdown to Marquise Brown.

-Logan Ryan saw a lot of time at nickel. He did finish with 8 tackles and a fumble recovery, but missed 2 tackles. Both of his misses were big and it appears he allowed a touchdown on a misread in zone coverage. Ryan does give NYG a lot of hot and cold. By no means was the extension a bad decision, but there are reasons why nobody in the league wanted him at a significant contract price this past offseason. He needs to clean the mistakes up, especially the ones that revolve around tackling.

SAFETY

-Julian Love saw less playing time. It looks like Xavier McKinney has passed him on the depth chart and it didn’t go well in BAL. McKinney was beat by tight end Mark Andrews multiple times. He also missed 2 tackles. The one thing I will say that I did like was his playing speed. He gets from point A to point B faster than anyone else on the defense.

-Jabrill Peppers had 6 tackles and a TFL. Nothing stood out, good or bad.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 2/2 (Made 31, 42).
-P Riley Dixon: 3 Punts / 47.0 avg / 35.0 net

3 STUDS

-WR Sterling Shepard, LB Blake Martinez, OC Nick Gates

3 DUDS

-DT Leonard Williams, CB Isaac Yiadom, EDGE Jabaal Sheard

3 THOUGHTS ON BAL

This is one team I just wouldn’t want to play in the postseason. Sure, they haven’t done much there since Jackson has been in the fold. Sure, their passing game isn’t dangerous. Sure, their offensive line isn’t quite what it was a year ago. However, when this team is hot, they show dominance that is as high as anyone. You know what they’re doing, and you just can’t stop it.

Want to know the sign of as really good coaching staff? One that can adjust. One that is not stubborn and set in their ways. Look no further than BAL. They took in Jackson (after trading up for him with the last pick of the 2018 Draft) and morphed their scheme and surrounding cast in a blink of the eye when they put him into the starting role. They stocked up on tight ends. They stocked up on physical downhill running backs. They stocked up on big offensive linemen. BAL has, by far, been the top rushing team in the NFL since the start of 2019. Next up, they have to get it done in the playoffs.

Talk about a homegrown defense and just a team overall that drafts well. Over 75% of their starters / heavy rotation guys were drafted by BAL over the past 8-10 years. Dating all the way back to 2013 (!)…BAL has drafted one current big-time contributor to their defense OR had a big-time defensive player sign elsewhere because of cap economics.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

Some of you need to read this. I try to avoid talking like this within the reviews but not this time. It is OK if you believe Jones is not the answer. It is OK if you think Jones is the answer. Nobody can objectively determine that right now. One thing we all can and should agree on: you don’t know. I don’t know. He doesn’t know. She doesn’t know. The kid has played TWENTY-FIVE games behind a bottom-5 offensive line, the worst set of receivers in football, a tight end who is among league leaders in drops, and a star running back who has missed 14 of 25 games in which Jones started. He needs to be better and I have been vocal about that. You can even argue NYG should start over at QB in the upcoming draft. But to say Jones and NYG should be better because he was the #6 pick (means almost nothing, do some research), or that Jones is a definitive bust, you just sound foolish. This kid has shown more in 25 games than SO MANY quality quarterbacks. That is a fact.

The most disappointing part of this NYG loss was the defensive line. I had high hopes that they would rise to the occasion and put this team back on track. They failed miserably. This is the issue with building a defense on big-and-physical but slow-and- limited athletes who do most of their work between the tackles. Football is a game of space and speed, and NYG just doesn’t have enough up front. They aren’t dynamic enough within the pass rush unless it is schemed.

Here we are entering Week 17 with what I consider a realistic shot at making the playoffs. Not because NYG has played well, but because this division is historically bad. No matter the case, I think rooting for a loss so they can pick higher in the draft is just wrong. If WAS loses to a motivated PHI (which I think will happen), the Giants will have an opportunity to play in a playoff game. Playoff experience is huge for so many young ball clubs. This is the biggest game NYG has had late in the year in a very long time and if they come out firing on all cylinders after such a poor 3-week stretch, it is a great sign for the future. Whether they make the playoffs or not, that is a fact. If they come out and lay an egg and continue their bottom-level offensive football against a horrid defense like DAL, then it is a huge negative sign for the future in my eyes. From that perspective, I think it is pretty easy to decide what you are rooting for. I hope you understand that.

Dec 272020
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (December 27, 2020)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

BALTIMORE RAVENS 27 – NEW YORK GIANTS 13…
The New York Giants were soundly defeated 27-13 by the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. It was the team’s third loss in a row, dropping their overall record to 5-10. But because both the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Football Team both lost, the Giants are still alive for the NFC East title.

The game was not even as close as the two touchdown differential would suggest. The Ravens out-rushed the Giants 249 yards to 54 yards. In total, Baltimore held a 432 to 269 yard advantage over New York and dominated time of possession 35:09 to 24:51.

Baltimore never punted in the first half, scoring on all four of their offensive possessions. Every one of these methodical drives was 10 plays or more and 60 yards or more:

  • 13 plays, 82 yards, 6-yard touchdown pass
  • 10 plays, 65 yards, 2-yard touchdown run touchdown
  • 13 plays, 60 yards, 20-yard field goal
  • 10 plays, 65 yards, 28-yard field goal

Meanwhile, the Giants only had three offensive possessions in the first half:

  • 3 plays, 3 yards, punt
  • 5 plays, 23 yards, punt
  • 11 plays, 64 yards, 31-yard field goal

At the half, Baltimore held a commanding 20-3 lead, but it felt even worse with the Ravens out-gaining the Giants 282 yards to 95 as the Ravens ran 44 offensive plays to the Giants 18. In fact, the Giants only ran three offensive plays in the entire 1st quarter, not including two false start penalties.

Both teams exchanged punts to start the 3rd quarter. The Giants then drove 66 yards in 13 plays to set up a 42-yard field goal and cut the score to 20-6. However, the Ravens put the game to rest on the ensuing possession with a 7-play, 59-yard drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the 4th quarter. Baltimore now led 27-6.

Aided by a roughing-the-kicker penalty on 4th-and-23 and three defensive penalties, the Giants drove 76 yards in 15 plays to cut the score to 27-13 on quarterback Daniel Jones’ 3-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Sterling Shepard. Unbelievably, this was Jones’ first touchdown pass since Week 9 against Washington. However, the drive took over six minutes to complete with the 4th quarter about half over.

The New York defense finally forced a three-and-out, but the Giants could not convert on 4th-and-19, turning the ball over on downs at their own 35-yard line with less than five minutes to play. The Ravens reached the New York 1-yard line but fumbled the ball away at the 2-minute warning. The Giants finished the game by turning the football over one downs again on an incomplete 4th-and-7 pass at their own 44-yard line.

Daniel Jones completed 24-of-41 passes for 252 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. He was sacked six times and officially hit 11 times. He did not fumble the ball. His leading targets were Shepard (9 catches for 77 yards and a touchdown) and tight end Evan Engram (7 catches for 65 yards). The Giants were held to a measly 54 yards on 12 carries, with running back Wayne Gallman carrying the ball six times for 27 yards. The Giants were 1-of-10 on 3rd down conversions.

The defense recovered one fumble, but that turnover was not created by a forced fumble. The Giants did not sack the quarterback and only hit him three times. The Giants also did not defend a single pass or make a tackle for a loss during the entire game. The Ravens averaged 6.2 yards per rush on 40 carries. There were a lot of missed tackles. The Ravens were also 8-of-11 (73 percent) on 3rd down conversions.

The special teams allowed an 17-yard and 19-yard punt returns and a 23-yard kickoff return to the 41-yard line.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVES AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were WR Golden Tate (calf), FB Eli Penny (illness), OT Jackson Barton, OL Kyle Murphy, and DE R.J. McIntosh.

The Giants reported no injuries but TE Evan Engram looked dinged up at the end of the game.

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:

POST-GAME NOTES…
The Giants have lost 10 or more games for the fourth consecutive season.

The Giants lost their third consecutive game and each defeat was by at least 14 points.

The Giants trailed at halftime, 20-3, the fourth consecutive game they scored three or fewer points in the first 30 minutes.

The Giants have scored only two touchdowns in the three-game losing streak and they have not scored more than 20 points in five consecutive games.

The Giants ran just three offensive plays in the first quarter. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is their lowest total in an opening quarter in at least the last 40 years.

Place kicker Graham Gano has succeeded on 29 consecutive attempts, a streak that is both a career best and ties the Giants’ record with Josh Brown, who succeeded on 29 straight attempts in 2014-2015.

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

Dec 252020
 
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Joe Judge, New York Giants (January 9, 2020)

Joe Judge – © USA TODAY Sports

THE STORYLINE

2020 has been a very strange year and that strangeness has extended to the NFL and the New York Giants. In a shocking move, the Giants hired a relatively unknown, 38-year old special teams coordinator as the franchise’s new head coach  in January. Although he had no head coaching experience at any level, Joe Judge immediately began to win over skeptical fans during his fiery, introductory press conference. More so than any Giants head coach in memory, Judge took his own sweet time in methodically putting together what appeared to a strong coaching staff. Fans were largely unimpressed with the slew of players added in free agency, headlined by high-priced acquisitions James Bradberry and Blake Martinez. Most of the anticipation and focus centered on the 2020 NFL Draft, with the Giants holding the fourth overall selection.

Then COVID-19 hit.

“15 days to stop the spread” morphed into something far darker. One of the minor casualties appeared to be the 2020 NFL season. From a purely parochial, pro sports viewpoint, it appeared that Joe Judge’s inaugural season was irrevocably sabotaged. Teams were not able to meet with players before the draft. No rookie mini-camp, no OTAs, no veteran mini-camp, zoom calls instead of face-to-face interaction, abbreviated and restricted training camp, no preseason. Would a full season even be possible?

All of this for a team that had won just 12 total games in 2017, 2018, and 2019 and was now on its fourth head coach and second general manager since 2015. There was a sense that the Giants were in perpetual rebuilding mode, merely spinning their wheels. The last thing the franchise and Joe Judge needed was the COVID albatross.

Among fans, the doom-and-gloomers initially ended up being right. The young team with a new coach missed a preseason that it desperately needed. The early schedule was a bitch. And disaster struck when the Giants lost their best player, Saquon Barkley, early in Week 2. The Giants quickly found themselves 0-5. Yet another season appeared over by October. The Giants got embarrassed by a 49er JV team and let two leads against the Cowboys disappear. Fans turned on turnover-machine Daniel Jones and there was talk that the Giants may own the first pick in the 2021 Draft and select Trevor Lawrence.

Then something unexpected happened. The Giants started playing better. The Giants won their annual “feel good” game against Washington. New York lost two heart-breakers against the Eagles and Buccaneers, games in which the Giants held 4th-quarter leads. The Giants then went on a 4-game winning streaking, beating Washington, the Eagles (finally!), the Bengals, and the Seahawks (holy crap!). Unbelievably, the Giants were tied for first place in December. And had they made a play here or there against the Cowboys and Bucs, they could have been in the midst of a 7-game winning streak and a commanding NFC East lead.

What happened? Daniel Jones stopped turning the ball over. And the entire defense and offensive line were coming on. The former under Patrick Graham, who had only just become a defensive coordinator in 2019 in Miami. The latter despite offensive line coach Marc Colombo unexpectedly being fired during the surge.

Giants fans who had become accustomed to losing football were now giddy in December! That all changed when the Cardinals bitch-slapped the Giants 26-7 in mid-December. An offense that had struggled to score all season and already missing Barkley could not also deal with an obviously hobbled Daniel Jones. Worse, the schedule was clearly getting tougher again. The Giants (not unexpectedly) fell to 5-9, one game behind Washington with two games left to play. That’s where we are right now.

Why the recap? Because I think many Giants fans have lost their freaking minds.

Giants fans before the Browns game: “We have no chance! We’re going to get killed!”

Giants fans after the Browns game: “We suck! How could we lose to the Browns?!”

Many (not all, but many) Giants fans are still living in denial. They don’t seem to REALLY understand that this team has won just 17 games in four years. The fact that the Giants are one game out of first place in arguably the worst division in NFL history doesn’t change that fact. The Giants STILL have significant talent issues on offense and defense. The Cardinals and Browns beat the Giants because they are the better teams. The Giants are improving but they have a long way to go.

Now to the good stuff. The Giants can still make the playoffs. The Baltimore Ravens should win this game, but the Giants are certainly capable of pulling off the upset if a few things break their way. Despite all of the shit that has happened this year, the Giants are still only one game out with two games left to play. Not ideal. But if you painted this picture in September, many Giants fans would have been thrilled to be in this position.

THE INJURY REPORT

  • QB Daniel Jones (hamstring/ankle – questionable)
  • WR Golden Tate (calf – out)
  • TE Evan Engram (calf – probable)
  • OT Matt Peart (ankle – probable)
  • LB Blake Martinez (ankle – questionable)
  • CB Darnay Holmes (knee – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE

I love you guys, but you are driving me crazy. Since September, I’ve pointed out the personnel limitations on this side of the ball. I told you all how catastrophic the loss of Saquon Barkley would be to this talent-deprived unit. Where I was wrong is I didn’t fully realize how inept our receiving targets were going to be this year. I foolishly expected more out of Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Golden Tate, and Evan Engram. These “big four” have just SEVEN touchdown receptions in 14 games. As a team, the Giants only have nine touchdown passes. That’s beyond dreadful.

Jason Garrett has a long history of coaching top-10 offenses in this league. That’s just a fact. “But look at his talent in Dallas!” That’s my point. The New York backfield last week included Colt McCoy (8-22 starting QB) and Alfred Morris (32-year old RB who had one carry in 2019). Shit, that was the Redskins backfield in 2014 (a team that finished 4-12). “Garrett should be able to do the same with McCoy, Morris, and Tate as Cleveland does with Mayfield, Chubb, and Landry!” (See how stupid this sounds?)

I still haven’t given up on Daniel Jones. I may be dead wrong, but I feel he has been sabotaged with poor surrounding talent. He played much better as a rookie, but Barkley only missed three games last year. When a defense focuses all of their attention on Barkley, it opens everything up everyone else. This year, when his protection got better, Jones stopped turning the ball over. The hamstring and ankle injuries obviously affected his play against the Cardinals. It remains to be seen how much they will hinder him against the Ravens and Cowboys. Keep this in mind: Daniel Jones started 12 games in 2019 and 12 games thus far in 2020. He threw 24 touchdown passes last year. He has eight this year. You can draw your own conclusions as you best see fit.

Big picture, here is where the Giants are at: This year, the Giants can be respectable on offense when the offensive line is having one of its “good games” and Daniel Jones is relatively healthy. This is NOT a team that can count on its wide receivers and tight ends to make plays in the passing game. There is no depth at these positions either; none of the young players pushing the non-productive starters (Austin Mack is not going to save the day). Even Wayne Gallman has seen his carries decline from 24 to 16 to 12 to 9 in the past four games. As a group, many if not most of the wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs currently on the roster will not be on this team in 2021 (and a few won’t be in the NFL). The Giants are a bad offensive football team because they have bad offensive personnel at the skill positions. Read that last sentence again.

What about the future? The building blocks on the offensive line appear to be in place. They just have to continue to grow together and gain cohesion and chemistry. Sy’56 strongly argues to add additional pieces to the line in order to turn this into a real strength. He argues a very good offensive line can cover up a multitude of sins. Assuming the Giants move ahead with Daniel Jones, the offensive offseason priorities have to be centered around upgrading the wide receivers and tight ends. No one here scares other teams. Also pray that Saquon Barkley can return near full strength. Long story short, in many ways, this team doesn’t even have major component parts on the roster yet. The rebuild continues.

As for the game against the Ravens, for the Giants to have a chance, they have to play like they did against Seattle. Run, run, run behind a big and physical offensive line that will hopefully be “on”… because if they aren’t, the Giants are toast. Unfortunately, Baltimore has the NFL’s 9th-ranked defense (10th against the run, 14th against the pass, 4th in scoring defense).

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE

Like the injuries to Daniel Jones, the loss of James Bradberry due to a COVID precaution came at a bad time. His absence, along with nickel corner Darnay Holmes (a de facto starter), was keenly felt against the Browns. The loss of these two players had a trickle-down effect throughout the entire pass defense. It also demonstrated just how thin the Giants are at the corner position thanks to botching the Deandre Baker and Sam Beal picks.

Assuming Holmes plays, the Giants will be near full-strength on defense (late note: LB Blake Martinez was a late addition to the injury report). For the third week in a row, the Giants will be playing a top-four rushing attack. The Cardinals are #4 and the Browns are #3. This weekend, the Giants play the #1 rushing team in the NFL as the Ravens average almost 173 yards per game, or one yard less in what they average throwing the football (31st in the NFL). Usually, run-centric teams can have issues scoring, but that isn’t true for the Cardinals, Browns, and Ravens. Baltimore is 6th in the NFL in scoring, averaging 29 points per game (the Giants have dropped to an embarrassing 17 points per game).

Even more so than the Cardinals, the focal point of the Ravens’ rushing attack is their quarterback, Lamar Jackson (828 yards rushing, 6.1 yards per rush, 7 touchdowns). Running backs Gus Edwards (578 yards, 4.9 yards per rush, 6 touchdowns) and J.K. Dobbins (568 yards, 5.2 yards per carry, 6 touchdowns) contribute another 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a team, the Ravens have 21 rushing touchdowns.

Lamar Jackson has thrown for one yard less than Daniel Jones this year. But while Jones has eight touchdown passes and nine interceptions, Jackson has thrown for 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions on 50 fewer attempts. The efficiency of his game is why he has a QBR 20 points higher than Jones. Only three Ravens have more than 17 receptions on the season: WR Marquise Brown (49 catches, 703 yards, 5 touchdowns), TE Mark Andrews (48 catches, 598 yards, 7 touchdowns), and WR Willie Snead (31 catches, 408 yards, 3 touchdowns).

When Jackson is “on,” he’s truly a difference maker who can dominate a game with his arm and feet. But when he is “off,” the Ravens suffer and can be beaten. The Giants clearly need to focus on defending the run, especially the more “gimmicky” designed QB runs. Kyler Murray was good practice for the Giants. But also keep in mind the Cardinals soundly crushed the Giants 26-7 just two weeks ago.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS

The game within a game this week is two former special teams coordinators turned head coaches matching off against each other. New York’s late-season downward spiral on special teams continued last weekend with the odd fake field goal attempt against Cleveland. The Ravens have returned one kickoff for a touchdown this season and their punt returner is averaging a respectable 8.6 yards per punt return. They also have superb kickers.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH

Head Coach Joe Judge on the 2020 Baltimore Ravens: “You talk about them as a team, they obviously went through that three-week stretch where they played on kind of not normal weeks. Short schedules, long schedules, guys being pulled out for COVID, whatever the reason is. Obviously, they’re getting guys back now healthy. They’re really hitting their stride. This is a very good team. It’s going to take everything we have to prepare for them. We have to have our best on Sunday.”

THE FINAL WORD

The Baltimore Ravens are arguably the best team the Giants have faced this year. They have top units on offense, defense, and special teams. As Judge pointed out, they had to deal with unbelievable COVID issues, but are now hitting their stride. On paper, this is one of the worst teams for the Giants to be facing in a must-win situation. But it is what it is. The Giants put themselves in this position by losing earlier games to the Cowboys and Eagles. For all intents and purposes, this is a playoff game.

My head says “no way” but my heart says “Go Giants!”

Oct 172016
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (October 16, 2016)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 27 – Baltimore Ravens 23

Overview

A New York Giants offense that has struggled to score this year, including scoring only two touchdowns in three games, managed a “breakout” game against the Baltimore Ravens with 27 glorious points. This despite only being 4-of-14 (29 percent) on 3rd down, rushing for a pathetic 38 yards, being 0-for-2 in the red zone, and maintaining possession for only 25 minutes. So how did they do it? The big play finally returned.

Giants on Offense

The Giants ran the ball 17 times and passed 47 times. The Giants are becoming much more pass-centric than they were under Tom Coughlin.

The running game was a joke. The Giants struggled in short-yardage and in the red zone. The Giants were -3 in turnover differential (2 interceptions, 1 fumble). The second-leading receiver had 34 yards. How hell did the Giants score 27 points? The big play returned to the Giants arsenal. Seventeen of the Giants 27 points really came from three pass plays from Eli Manning to Odell Beckham: 75-yard touchdown, 66-yard touchdown, and a 43-yard deep throw that set up a field goal. The team’s fourth longest play was a 24-yard strike from Manning to wideout Roger Lewis, Jr. The bulk of this latter drive and one other field goal drive was earned the old-fashioned way of simply plugging along with smaller chunks of yardage.

Long story short – when the Manning to Beckham connection can combine for big plays, the Giants offense is a vastly different animal.

The offense only had one penalty. And while it struggled on 3rd down, the Giants were 3-for-3 on 4th down conversions.

Quarterback

Eli Manning was 32-of-46 for 403 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Fifty-five percent of his yardage went to Odell Beckham. But Manning didn’t force the ball to Odell, who was targeted 10 times (or just over 20 percent of his throws). Manning spread the ball around to nine different receivers. Manning had no support from his ground game. The big difference was the big play. Four of Manning’s passes accounted for half of the passing offense. Manning was intercepted twice, but one was a deep throw on the last play of the first half and on the other the intended receiver was knocked to the ground.

Running Backs

The running backs were a non-factor on the ground, gaining on 38 yards on 17 carries for a pathetic 2.2 yards-per-carry average. The backs did catch eight passes for 52 yards (6.5 yards per catch). Bobby Rainey dropped a pass.

Wide Receivers

If you had told me the Giants would only rush for 38 yards against the Ravens and that Victor Cruz (3 catches for 31 yards) and Sterling Shepard (4 catches for 25 yards) would only combine for 56 yards, then I would have said there was no way the Giants would have won the game. But Odell Beckham had eight catches for a career-high 222 yards and scored from 75 and 66 yards out, the latter on 4th-and-1. His 43-yard deep reception also set up a field goal. It was a dominating performance. All of this with a painful hip pointer injury. The negatives? He fumbled the ball away after a catch on the first offensive play. This set up the Ravens first touchdown. Taking his helmet off after the game-winning touchdown could have cost the Giants the game. He’s got to stop the immature crap.

The other noteworthy player was rookie Roger Lewis, Jr., who caught a 24-yard touchdown reception. Cruz dropped a pass, but did have key short catches for first downs on the first scoring drive on 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-5. Shepard also caught a 10-yard pass on 4th-and-3.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell returned from his concussion and caught six passes for 34 yards. But his bad habit of awkwardly leaving his feet and exposing himself to injury and/or a turnover reared its ugly head again. Worse, with time running out in the game and the Giants down by a field goal, Donnell ran out of bounds just short of the sticks on 3rd down, setting up an unnecessary 4th-and-1 (that fortunately turned out well). He also dropped a pass. Will Tye caught two passes for 15 yards.

Offensive Line

Bad news, good news. The bad news was the Giants couldn’t run the ball worth a lick, generating only 38 measly yards on 17 carries. They were terrible in short yardage and on the goal line. The good news was that a Ravens defense that made the Giants one-dimensional and could pin its ears back and rush the passer only sacked Eli Manning once and hit him twice. Ereck Flowers gave up the sole sack to Terrell Suggs. No penalties this week!

Giants on Defense

The defense started off poorly and finished shaky, but did a good job in between. A 70-yard field goal drive and a 30-yard touchdown drive after a turnover gave Baltimore an early 10-0 lead. The defense then forced five consecutive punts, held the Ravens to a field goal after another turnover, and made a dramatic goal-line stand. Things got dicey again with a late 56-yard field goal drive, a 75-yard touchdown drive, and an unnecessarily-dramatic finish to close the game.

The problem remains a surprising lack of turnovers being forced (none again) and a disappointing pass rush (the Giants two sacks came from a safety and a defensive tackle).

Defensive Line

The Ravens rushed for 98 yards on 26 carries, but 33 of these yards came on one gain. Not great, but respectable. The Giants gave up two short-yardage touchdowns, but also had a dramatic goal-line stand. The Giants did generate more heat on the quarterback with week. Johnathan Hankins had one sack and Jason Pierre-Paul and Romeo Okwara did register hits on the quarterback. But it was nowhere nearly enough. Olivier Vernon (2 tackles) was very quiet. Hankins had three tackles for a loss and Jay Bromley had one. Owamagbe Odighizuwa has been a non-factor since he was drafted. His roughing-the-passer penalty on a 4th-and-5 incomplete pass that should have ended the game could have proved devastating. JPP was credited with two pass breakups.

Linebackers

Jonathan Casillas (11 tackles) was very active and may have saved the game with his tackle for a loss on 4th-and-goal. Devon Kennard (6 tackles) had his best game of the season, especially against the run where he was physical and aggressive. Keenan Robinson continues to look sharp in pass coverage. Kelvin Sheppard knocked a pass away. Tight end Dennis Pitta caught 6-of-10 passes thrown in his direction for only 36 yards.

Defensive Backs

Like the Giants, much of Baltimore’s yardage came from big plays. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Landon Collins gave up a 41-yard completion on 3rd-and-9 on the Ravens first drive that resulted in 3 points. Janoris Jenkins (2 pass breakups) gave up a 70-yard bomb, but his face-mask penalty may have actually saved a touchdown as the defense held on the goal line. Trevin Wade gave up a 42-yard pass interference penalty that set up a 4th quarter field goal. The late 30-yard pass interference penalty on Rodgers-Cromartie that set up the Ravens late touchdown was completely bogus. DRC had three pass breakups, including the last heave into the end zone. He also tackled very well.

Steve Spagnuolo is using his defensive backs quite a bit on the blitz. Landon Collins sacked Joe Flacco and Andrew Adams and Leon Hall also had hits on Flacco. Collins – once again – was all over the field with 12 tackles, including two tackles for a loss. He did over-run the play on the Ravens’ longest rushing play of 33 yards. Collins also gave up a 22-yard completion on 4th-and-1 on the Ravens final TD drive and could have ended the game before Odighizuwa’s roughing-the-passer penalty with an interception but dropped it.

Giants on Special Teams

Brad Wing was superb, averaging 51.3 yards per punt with a 50.5 yards-per-punt average. The Ravens only returned one punt for three yards. Josh Brown made both his field goal efforts (21 and 31 yards) and five of his six kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. The sole kickoff return went for 26 yards.

Dwayne Harris made a number of poor decisions in fielding punts inside the 10. He returned three punts for only 11 yards. The Giants had no kickoff return yardage as every Ravens kickoff resulted in a touchback.

Zak DeOssie was flagged with an illegal use of hands penalty on the Ravens’ one punt return. Jerell Adams was penalized for being offsides on a 4th-and-2 punt, which gave the Ravens a 1st down and kept the drive alive.

(Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants, October 16, 2016)
Oct 162016
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (October 16, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 27 – BALTIMORE RAVENS 23…
The New York Giants defeated the Baltimore Ravens 27-23 in a thrilling, often-ugly game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Sunday. With the win, the Giants evened their overall record to 3-3.

The Giants won the game despite a -3 turnover differential (2 interceptions, 1 fumble), being out-rushed 98 yards to 38, going 0-for-2 in the red zone, and badly losing the time of possession battle (24:56 to 35:04). Both teams were heavily penalized: Ravens 15 penalties for 111 yards and Giants seven penalties for 119 yards.

The Giants started off poorly, quickly falling behind 10-0 as the Ravens drove 70 yards in 10 plays on their opening possession to set up a 23-yard field goal and then drove another 30 yards in six plays for a touchdown on their second drive after a Giants turnover. Meanwhile, the Giants offense sputtered, failing to pick up a first down until well into the 2nd quarter. Wide receiver Odell Beckham also fumbled the ball away on New York’s first offensive play. And the Giants punted the ball away on their next three offensive possessions after the turnover.

The Giants defense settled down after Baltimore’s first two possessions. New York forced four consecutive punts during the remainder of the first half. The Giants finally got on the board late in the first half after driving 80 yards in 13 plays, culminating with a 24-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Eli Manning to wide receiver Roger Lewis, Jr. At halftime, the Ravens led 10-7.

The Giants tied the game on their first possession of the 3rd quarter as New York marched 72 yards in 15 plays to set up a 21-yard field goal. This result was a bit disappointing, however, as the Giants had the ball at 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line. After the Ravens punted the ball away for the fifth time in a row, Manning was intercepted and the Ravens returned the pick to the Giants 27-yard line. Baltimore could not pick up first down but they were close enough for a 39-yard field goal to retake the lead 13-10.

That advantage was short-lived as Manning hit Beckham deep for a 75-yard touchdown catch-and-run on the Giants next offensive snap. This gave New York its first lead of the day, 17-13. The Ravens responded with a 70-yard deep pass from quarterback Joe Flacco to wide receiver Mike Wallace that set up Baltimore at the Giants 3-yard line. But New York’s defense responded with a goal line stand-and the Ravens were unable to score on 4th-and-goal.

Coming off of the goal line, the Giants offense picked up one first down but then New York was forced to punt. The Ravens were able to drive 56 yards in seven plays – aided by a 42-yard pass interference call against cornerback Trevin Wade – to set up a 35-yard field goal to cut the Giants lead to 17-16 with 9:14 left to play. The Giants then extended their lead again after a 43-yard pass from Manning to Beckham helped to set up a 31-yard field goal with just under six minutes to go.

All looked lost when the Ravens drove 75 yards in nine plays to set up a 2-yard touchdown run and take the lead 23-20 with just over two minutes to play. This touchdown was set up by a horrific officiating call when cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was flagged with a 30-yard pass interference penalty on 3rd-and-4.

Facing a 4th-and-1 at their own 34-yard line with 1:36 left to go, Manning hit Beckham over the middle and it was off to the races as Beckham scored from 66 yards out. The Giants now led 27-23.

But the game was not over. With 1:19 left on the clock, the Ravens drove from their own 32-yard line to the Giants 24-yard line. They were aided by Beckham’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taking his helmet off on the field of play after his touchdown. Then on 4th-and-5 from the Giants 39-yard line, defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa was flagged with roughing the passer on an incomplete pass that should have ended the game. But Flacco’s last three passes fell incomplete, with the last being defended by Rodgers-Cromartie in the end zone.

Offensively, Manning finished the day 32-of-46 for 403 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Beckham caught eight passes for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns. The next leading receiver was tight end Larry Donnell with 6 catches for 34 yards. Running backs Rashad Jennings, Bobby Rainey, and Paul Perkins only generated 38 yards on 17 carries.

Defensively, safety Landon Collins led the team with 12 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, and 1 sack. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins had three tackles for a loss and a sack. Linebacker Jonathan Casillas had 11 tackles and stopped the 4th-and-goal play. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was credited with three pass breakups. The Giants did not force a turnover.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were cornerback Eli Apple (groin), free safety Darian Thompson (foot), safety Nat Berhe (concussion), offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse (calf), wide receiver Tavarres King, linebacker Deontae Skinner, and quarterback Josh Johnson.

The following Giants were injured in the game against the Ravens, but they all returned to the playing field: long snapper Zak DeOssie (ankle), wide receiver Odell Beckham (hip pointer), cornerback Trevin Wade (ankle), and linebacker Keenan Robinson (knee). DeOssie and Beckham were spotted limping pretty good after the game.

“Whatever (the hip injury) is, it was bad. It was bothering me all game,” said Beckham after the game.

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

POST-GAME NOTES…
The Giants became the third NFL franchise with 700 combined regular-season and postseason victories. They are 700-593-33 in their 92-year history. The Chicago Bears are 759-577-42 after their loss Sunday to Jacksonville. The Green Bay Packers were 754-569-37 entering their late-afternoon game vs. Dallas.

QB Eli Manning played in his 191st regular-season game in a Giants uniform. That broke a tie with former wide receiver Amani Toomer, whose 13-year career ended in 2008. Manning is fourth on the franchise’s career list for games played. George Martin is third with 201.

Manning’s record as a starter is 100-89. He is the 14th quarterback in NFL history with at least 100 regular-season victories.

Manning is the sixth quarterback with at least 100 victories and two Super Bowl triumphs with the same team, joining Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady, John Elway, Joe Montana and Ben Roethlisberger.

Manning threw the game-winning pass to WR Odell Beckham with 1:24 remaining. It was the 31st time in the regular-season that Manning has led the Giants from a fourth-quarter deficit or tie to a victory.

Manning today started his 200th game for the Giants (189 regular season, 11 postseason). He is the sixth quarterback in NFL history to start at least 200 games for one franchise, joining Elway (Denver), Brett Favre (Green Bay), Peyton Manning (Indianapolis), Dan Marino (Miami) and Brady (New England).

Manning threw three touchdown passes. The first was the 300th of Manning’s splendid 13-year career; he became the eighth quarterback in history to throw for at least 300 scores. The second broke a tie with Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway and moved Manning into sole possession of seventh place on the league’s career list.

Beckham gained a career-high 222 yards.  The 222 yards was the second-highest total in Giants history. It is exceeded only by Del Shofner’s 269 yards vs. Washington on October 28, 1962.

Beckham has eight touchdown receptions of 50 or more yards, the NFL’s highest total since he entered the league in 2014.

Beckham now has 17 career 100-yard games. That ties him with Homer Jones for third on the team’s career list, behind Toomer (22) and Victor Cruz (18).

ARTICLES…

Oct 142016
 
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Sterling Shepard, New York Giants (September 18, 2016)

Sterling Shepard – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants, October 16, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
Once again, we find the Giants in a must-win game before October is even over. This has been disturbing recurrence for the team the last few seasons. But if the Giants fall to 2-4, they have to pray that the Cowboys and Eagles lose or they are in deep trouble.

The Giants have lost three in a row; the Ravens have lost two in a row. Both teams are beat up and desperate for a win.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Rashad Jennings (thumb) – questionable
  • WR Dwayne Harris (toe) – questionable
  • TE Larry Donnell (concussion) – probable
  • TE Jerell Adams (ear) – probable
  • RT Marshall Newhouse (calf) – out
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (groin) – questionable
  • DE Olivier Vernon (wrist) – probable
  • LB Devon Kennard (concussion) – questionable
  • CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (groin) – questionable
  • CB Eli Apple (groin) – questionable
  • FS Darian Thompson (foot) – out
  • SS Nat Berhe (concussion) – out

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Baltimore’s base defense is the 3-4, something New York struggled against last week. The Ravens have the #3 ranked defense in the NFL (5th against the pass, 4th against the run). Those statistics are a bit skewed in that the Ravens have not played a murder’s row of offensive juggernauts (Bills, Browns, Jaguars, Raiders, Redskins). And Baltmore will likely be missing some key defenders such as linebackers C.J. Mosley and Elvis Dumervil. But this is tough, physical, and well-coached unit. They will hit you in the mouth. The finesse Giants offense hasn’t responded well to this kind of challenge in recent years.

To win, the Giants tackles need to play better than they did last week. Both Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart struggled with pass-rushing linebackers that are the trademark of a 3-4 defense. It gets worse this week for Flowers as he faces Terrell Suggs, who leads the Ravens in sacks. DE Timmy Jernigan has also been very disruptive. The secondary is a veteran, experienced group that also plays a physical game.

It’s hard to believe the Giants will make a living running the ball against the Ravens. They certainly didn’t last week against an equally tough and stout run defense. If I was Ben McAdoo, I would be very tempted to throw caution to the wind and give Paul Perkins a heavy dose of playing time. This is risky as rookie running backs usually need a lot of work in pass protection, and 3-4 defenses like to blitz from all angles. But Perkins appears to be the only back on the team who can create on his own, and once he gets pass the line, he’s a home-run threat.

Ultimately on offense, the Giants are going to live or die with Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Victor Cruz. Eli has to get out of his funk. And the Giants have to do a better job of adjusting to what teams are doing to them defensively. If teams are going to double- or even triple-team Beckham, then Shepard and Cruz have to make them pay. I love what I see from Perkins in the screen game – another reason why I want him to have more snaps.

“Teams want to make us go the long way,” said McAdoo. “It’s probably pretty smart. They don’t want to let Odell wreck the game. That’s been their focus. He’s had a lot of man coverage underneath and a safety over the top. Sometimes another safety leaning that way. They want to force you to go elsewhere, force you to run the ball and be patient. A lot of that has to do with if teams make you go the long way, you’re going to make a mistake and it’s going to kill the drive. A penalty or a mental error. That can certainly happen. Where we are in the season, we should be very confident in our ability to minimize the penalties. Hone in on the mental part of the game so we don’t make those types of mistakes, so we can go the long way.”

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Giants secondary is still a mess. Safeties Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe are out again. Eli Apple is officially “questionable” but he didn’t practice all week. Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie is hobbled once again. The pass rush has been anemic and now Jason Pierre-Paul joins Olivier Vernon on the injury list. Against this backdrop, the Giants face the NFL’s 22nd-ranked offense (22nd passing, 16th rushing). Like on defense, the Ravens have some key cogs missing on offense: WR Steve Smith, RG Marshal Yanda, and LT Ronnie Staley. RT Rick Wagner is also ailing but probably will play. The fly in the ointment is that the Ravens changed offensive coordinators this week – so there will be a different flavor that Steve Spagnuolo will have to adjust to. The good news is that Spagnuolo is familiar with the Ravens’ personnel, having served as an assistant coach there in 2013-14.

Terrance West has received the bulk of the touches at running back and is averaging 5.0 yards per carry. Tight end Dennis Pitta is the leading receiver on the team. Wide receiver Mike Wallace is the deep threat. With Smith out, look for Kamar Aiken (who started 14 games in 2015) and Breshad Perriman to see more action. Both are big receivers. Of course, the heart of the offensive team is Joe Flacco, who has been up-and-down, prompting the offensive coordinator switch.

With the injury issues on the Ravens offensive line, the Giants defensive line needs to step up. Those guys need to start earning their paychecks. The run defense was shoddy last week. Stop the run and make the Ravens one-dimensional. The focus in the secondary should be on Pitta. My guess is the Giants keep Janoris Jenkins on Wallace. Like last week, much depends on how long Rodgers-Cromartie can play. When he leaves the field, without Apple and the safeties, the secondary is woefully undermanned.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
John Harbaugh’s background is special teams, and year in and year out the Ravens field one of the very best units in the NFL. The are particularly adept at blocking kicks. And their returners are dangerous. The Giants catch a break with Devin Hester out.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on the Giants offense: “I need to do a better job staying committed to the run. I believe in our run game. I believe we’re making strides upfront and our backs are making progress. We need to stick with it and continue to chip away so we’re in a position to win the battle of the hitting game in the fourth quarter.”

THE FINAL WORD:
I hate making grandiose statements about one regular-season game, but if the Giants lose this one, we may be looking at another year where the season is effectively over by November. My guess is this game will come down to which quarterback plays better. I have no idea who that will be.