Oct 122016
 
Eli Manning, New York Giants (October 9, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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Green Bay Packers 23 – New York Giants 16

Overview

OK maybe Giants fans need to step back onto the ledge. A disturbing trend with the New York Giants has developed since 2012: losing. The Giants now find themselves in the midst of yet another 3-game and possibly longer losing streak. Such losing streaks make it exceptionally difficult for an NFL team to make the playoffs – even Roger Goodell’s watered-down, crappy-level-of-play league.

My wife asked me, “Do the Giants just suck again?” Ouch.

I found myself trying to justify that things are not as bleak as the results. I said, “The sum doesn’t seem to equal the parts right now.” But I also am reminded by Bill Parcells’ famous quote, “You are what your record says you are.”

I touch upon it more below, but long story short is that most of the Giants high-priced, multi-million dollar “star” players are not playing like stars.

Giants on Offense

I will repeat what I said last week: you can’t win in the NFL if you don’t score. And for the second week in a row, the Giants offense only scored one touchdown. For the second week in a row, the Giants didn’t score a touchdown in the first half.  The Giants won another game earlier this year against the Saints where the offense did not score a touchdown. The Giants have only scored more than 20 points once this season, and that was in a 29-27 loss to the Redskins.

The picture is worse this week. In the other contests, the Giants had at least been gaining yardage. This week, the Giants only accrued a paltry 219 total net yards (43 yards rushing, 176 yards passing). Those are Dave Brown-era type numbers. The Giants had four first downs in the first half. FOUR. They finished the game with only 14 first downs and 23 minutes in time of possession. Third down remains a problem as New York was 4-of-13 (31 percent) on third-down conversions.

What stands out like a sore thumb is exactly what I talked about in the game preview: the Giants are not making big plays. The Giants only had one offensive play over 20 yards (a 27-yard completion to Will Tye). Opposing defenses are concentrating on Odell Beckham and making sure that Eli and Odell don’t hurt them deep by playing two-deep safety coverage. The Giants have not been able to make teams pay by either running the ball or hurting them consistently underneath. The Giants only had 54 offensive snaps against the Packers. They only ran the ball 14 times.

This offensive ineptitude does not make much sense. This was Ben McAdoo’s offense last year, not Tom Coughlin’s. Eli Manning is in the third year of a system that he thrived in last year. The only change in the offensive line has been Bobby Hart playing at right tackle. The Giants parted ways with the disappointing Rueben Randle but added Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz. The running back situation has been in a state of flux due to injuries but they are not what drove the offense in 2015. Something is wrong but it is difficult to identify what the reason or reasons are. The Giants should not being doing this poorly on offense. If this continues throughout the season, Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan will be made the scapegoat by season’s end even though he currently is not calling the plays.

Quarterback

This is the type of game that Eli Manning’s critics love. This is where they come out of the woodwork and state his overrated or done. Eli played like crap on Sunday night. He was the major reason the Giants lost the game. Manning appeared jittery and was not terribly accurate. Right before halftime, with the Giants trailing 14-6, Manning missed a wide open Will Tye deep for what may have been a touchdown. On the very next snap, Manning fumbled the ball away after being sacked, setting up a late field goal for the Packers. It was a 10-point swing in the game.

Manning barely completed 50 percent of his throws, finishing the game 18-of-35 for a measly 199 passing yards, 1 touchdown, and no interceptions (he was lucky a pass on the team’s lone TD drive was not intercepted). This was against a Packers defense that had been 29th against the pass and that was missing its best corner. On a night when the Giants needed their $24 million (2016 cap number) to come up big, Eli came up terribly small.

Eli had a great 2015 campaign. Why is he playing worse? The wide receiving corps is stronger. He may be missing Shane Vereen, but is there that big of a drop off from Vereen to Bobby Rainey? I don’t buy the argument that age is catching up with him. Eli is a “young” 35-year old. He doesn’t have a lot of wear-and-tear on him. Is he hurt? Is it simply a funk? Is the McAdoo-Sullivan-QB Coach Frank Cignetti dynamic holding him back? I have no idea. But he should be playing better than he is.

Running Backs

The NFL’s #1 run defense was clearly not afraid of the Giants ground game. And the Giants coaching staff clearly did not think much of its own chances either. Giants running backs carried the ball 14 times for 42 yards (3 yards per rush). If you take away one 14 yard gain by Bobby Rainey, then those numbers look even worse. Orleans Darkwa’s seven carries gained just 11 yards. Yikes. Rainey gained 22 yards on five carries. Take away the 14 yard gain, and his other four carries gained eight yards. Paul Perkins had two rushes for nine yards.

The backs were more productive in the receiving game as Rainey caught all six passes thrown in his direction for 52 yards. Perkins caught one pass for 13 yards – he looks very dangerous on screen passes.

Wide Receivers

Opposing teams are keeping their safeties deep and doubling Odell Beckham. Wouldn’t you? Beckham was targeted twice as much (12 times) as any other target but only had five receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown. The other two “stalwarts” in the receiving corps were invisible against one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses. Sterling Shepard caught two passes for 14 yards. Victor Cruz was shut out. The Giants are going to have to closely monitor the Cruz situation. Is he still getting his feet back underneath him or is he permanently damaged goods? If it is the latter, the Giants would be best off moving Shepard to the slot and starting Tavarres King outside. In other words, don’t waste valuable playing time on a player who may be cut on a losing team. At some point a decision has to be made whether it is time to move on.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell did not play because of a concussion. Will Tye had the Giants longest play of the night: a 27-yard gain. He also had a hard-fought 10-yard catch-and-run. He made nice plays on both of these receptions and got wide open late in the first half on what should have been a long touchdown had Manning not missed him. Rookie Jerell Adams caught his first two NFL passes and finished with 27 yards and actually looked pretty good as a receiver.

Offensive Line

The charge that Jerry Reese has largely ignored the offensive line is largely false. After all, the team has two first round draft picks and a second round draft pick on the OL. That’s a higher investment than most teams. The problem is the Giants don’t seem to be getting a good return on their investment. Bad drafting? Players out of position? Bad coaching? Everyone has a theory. Both tackles – Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart – had a rough night and were a major factor in the offense’s ineptitude. I’m not shocked that the two young players are having issues in pass defense. What is alarming is that the Giants front five can’t seem to run block against defenses that are not playing the run. Flowers (holding), Hart (false start), and Pugh (holding but declined) were all flagged with penalties too. Hart gave up the sack where Manning fumbled the ball away near the end of the 2nd quarter. Flowers gave up two sacks in the 3rd quarter and was lucky another 4th quarter sack was wiped out due to offsetting penalties. Flowers got worse as the game progressed.

Giants on Defense

When Steve Spagnuolo doesn’t have his full toolkit, he plays scared. And he did it against the Packers. Right or wrong, his intent was not to give up big passing numbers to Aaron Rodgers with a depleted and beat up secondary. To the Giants credit, they only gave up 23 offensive points and 259 net passing yards to one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers barely completed half of his passes, completing 23 passes with 22 incompletions and two interceptions. One would normally like the Giants chances in that situation. The problems were the Giants gave up 147 yards rushing and could not exert any kind of pass rush against the quarterback. The defense allowed three 70+ yard drives in the first half, two of which resulted in touchdowns. And with the game still in the balance late in the 3rd quarter, the Giants allowed two 65+ yard drives that took over 10 minutes off of the clock and resulted in field goals. The Giants had one last chance late when they cut the score to 23-16 with 2:54 to go, but the defense could not make a stand.

Defensive Line

The Giants simply are not getting their money’s worth from Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon. The Giants had no sacks and only three QB hits – one by Vernon, one by Damon Harrison, and one by Johnathan Hankins. This is the third time in five games where the Giants don’t have a sack. Indeed, there were more than a few plays where Rodgers had all the time in the world to throw. It was embarrassing.

With the defense more concerned with the pass than the run, more pressure was placed on the guys up front to do the job against the rush without extra support (Landon Collins). They largely failed. The Packers ran for 147 yards on 32 carries (4.6 yards per rush). The Giants did a better job on James Starks (12 carries for 33 yards) than Eddie Lacey (81 yards on 11 carries) and fullback Aaron Ripkowski (17 yards on two carries). Hankins was flagged with encroachment and Vernon with a personal foul after one of the interceptions. Vernon did have two tackles for losses and Harrison deflected a pass.

Linebackers

Better in pass coverage than run defense. My biggest problem with our linebackers is they seem invisible. Against the run and on screen passes, I saw a lot of running around with no effect. Their instincts just seem off. Kelvin Sheppard isn’t good against in any area. He had a chance to recover a potential game-turning fumble late in the 4th quarter and blew it. Jonathan Casillas started the season off strong but has reverted to his career journeyman form. He screwed up big time with his mistackle of WR Randall Cobb on 3rd-and-9 in the 4th quarter. This enabled the Packers to keep alive their final, time-consuming field goal drive. Keenan Robinson did some nice things in coverage, including knocking away an endzone pass, but he wasn’t very physical or instinctive against the run either. The stat sheet tells me Devon Kennard played, but you could have fooled me.

Defensive Backs

What should have been a team strength has become an area of weakness due to a rash of injuries. Two of the top three safeties (Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe) were out. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (groin) was in and out of the lineup all night. Eli Apple came into the game with a bum hamstring and left in the first half with a groin injury. Given all of that, it is fairly remarkable that Aaron Rodgers was held to a 50 percent completion percentage and 259 yards passing. The obvious bright spot was Janoris Jenkins with his three pass defenses and two interceptions (unbelievably, the defense’s first turnovers of the season). He saved a TD on the first play of the 4th quarter too. Each week Landon Collins is near the top of the tackle list. He also had a pass defense this week, but gave up a key 21-yard completion to Randall Cobb on 3rd-and-4 late in the 3rd quarter. Andrew Adams had five tackles and a pass defense. Bad news? He wasn’t noticeable. Good news? He wasn’t noticeable. Leon Hall had issues on the Packers opening touchdown drive, giving up three completions before Apple was burned for the 2-yard touchdown. Hall continued to struggle on the next drive and was lucky a penalty erased what should have been a 21-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-6. Michael Hunter gave up the 29-yard touchdown pass to WR Davonte Adams. Trevin Wade deflected away a late touchdown pass, but fell down on the 13-yard completion on 3rd-and-10 that sealed the game for the Packers.

Giants on Special Teams

Josh Brown was a perfect three-for-three on field goal attempts (47, 41, 30). Three of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks with the Packers only averaging 21 yards on two returns. The Packers only returned one punt for three yards as Brad Wing average 39.2 yards per punt with three downed inside the 20-yard line. However, Roger Lewis was flagged with a 15-yard penalty for interfering with the returner.

Dwayne Harris injured his jaw and toe in the game. He returned one punt for six yards and three kickoffs for 103 yards (34.3 yards per return). Bobby Rainey also returned a kickoff 37 yards. In other words, the Giants kickoff return team had a good night.

Coaching

The Giants have to start moving Odell Beckham around more like they did his rookie season. Teams are doubling him far too easily. They also need to make more of a concerted effort to get the ball to Sterling Shepard. Defensively, it’s hard to be too critical after holding down the Packers’ passing game with a patchwork secondary. That said, where is the pass rush? And the team has once again developed an annoying habit of being unable to make a late defensive stand.

(New York Giants at Green Bay Packers, October 9, 2016)
Oct 102016
 
Eli Manning, New York Giants (October 9, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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GREEN BAY PACKERS 23 – NEW YORK GIANTS 16…
The New York Giants lost their third game in a row, losing to the Green Bay Packers 23-16 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Sunday night. The Giants are now 2-3 and in last place in their division.

The Packers gained a 17-6 advantage by halftime as the Giants offense continued to struggle. In six first-half possessions, New York only gained four first downs and 93 total net yards (79 passing 14 rushing).

The Packers started the game with a 16-play, 75-yard march that took 8:42 off of the clock and culminated with a 2-yard touchdown pass. After gaining one first down, the Giants were forced to punt. Green Bay once again drove deep into Giants territory but cornerback Janoris Jenkins intercepted quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the New York 5-yard line. After both teams exchanged punts, the Giants “drove” 26 yards in five plays to set up a successful 47-yard field goal by place kicker Josh Brown. Packers 7 – Giants 3.

The Packers responded with a quick 5-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that started with a 31-yard gain by running back Eddie Lacey and ended with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to wide receiver Davante Adams as the Packers went up 14-3. After a three-and-out by the Giants, Jenkins intercepted Rodgers for the second time, setting up the Giants at the Green Bay 40-yard line. New York was only able to gain 17 yards on this “drive” but it was enough to set up Brown for a 41-yard field goal.

The Giants defense forced a three-and-out, but the Packers got the ball right back when quarterback Eli Manning was sacked and fumbled the ball away at the New York 31-yard line with 1:15 to play before halftime. The Packers were only able to net five yards, but it was enough to set up a successful 44-yard field goal as time expired. Packers 17 – Giants 6.

After both teams exchanged punts to start the 3rd quarter, the Giants cut the Green Bay advantage to 17-9 as New York gained 41 yards in nine plays to set up a 30-yard field goal by Brown. Both teams went three-and-out. Green Bay then extended their lead to 20-9 early in the 4th quarter on a 9-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 33-yard field goal.

The Giants gained one first down and punted again. The Packers then drove a dagger into the Giants with a 13-play, 73-yard drive that took 6:22 off of the clock and resulted in 25-yard field goal. This gave Green Bay a 23-9 lead with 6:39 left to play. The Giants finally scored their first touchdown of the night on their next, and unfortunately, last possession. New York drove 63 yards in 10 plays as Manning hit wide receiver Odell Beckham for an 8-yard touchdown with 2:54 left in the game. However, the Giants defense could not hold as the Packers gained 13 yards on a 3rd-and-10 pass to seal the contest.

Offensively, Eli Manning was held to 18-of-35 for 199 yards, 1 touchdown, and no interceptions. Running back Bobby Rainey was the leading receiver with six receptions for 52 yards. Beckham caught 5-of-12 passes thrown in his direction for 56 yards. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard only had two catches for 14 yards and wide receiver Victor Cruz was shut out. Giants running backs were held to an embarrassing 42 yards on 14 carries. Overall, the Giants only gained 219 total net yards and were 4-of-13 (31 percent) on 3rd down.

Defensively, the Giants allowed 406 total net yards (147 rushing, 259 passing). Jenkins did have two interceptions and the team defensed nine passes, but the Giants did not register a sack and only hit Rodgers three times.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were free safety Darian Thompson (foot), safety Nat Berhe (concussion), defensive tackle Robert Thomas (illness), running back Rashad Jennings (thumb), tight end Larry Donnell (concussion), offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse (calf), and quarterback Josh Johnson.

Cornerback Eli Apple, who came into the game with a hamstring injury, left in the first half with a groin injury. Wide receiver/Returner Dwayne Harris suffered jaw and toe injuries.

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

  • Head Coach Ben McAdoo (Video)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)
  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (Video)

ARTICLES…

Oct 072016
 
Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (November 17, 2013)

Jason Pierre-Paul Returns an INT for a TD – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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Game Preview: New York Giants at Green Bay Packers, October 9, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
After an encouraging start, the New York Giants prospects for a successful season are beginning to fade a bit as injuries combined with odd scheduling have most pundits expecting the Giants to lose their third game in a row. Green Bay has had two weeks to prepare for this game while the Giants have had a short week. And the last quarterback you want to face with a depleted secondary is Aaron Rodgers.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Rashad Jennings (thumb) – questionable
  • TE Larry Donnell (concussion) – out
  • RT Marshall Newhouse (calf) – out
  • DE Olivier Vernon (wrist) – probable
  • DT Robert Thomas (illness) – probable
  • CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (groin) – questionable
  • CB Eli Apple (hamstring) – questionable
  • FS Darian Thompson (foot) – out
  • SS Nat Berhe (concussion) – out

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The New York Giants are moving the football (6th in the NFL in yards), but they are not scoring enough (27th in the NFL). That in a nutshell is all you need to know. From my perspective, the overriding issue is that teams are defending against the deep passing game, daring the Giants to beat them with the running game and short passing game without making a killer mistake (penalty, dropped pass, turnover, sack, etc.). Red zone offense has also been a problem in some games.

With the Giants depleted secondary, Green Bay is going to score. You have to figure the Giants are going to need at least 30 points to win this game. The Giants have no fullback and are down to Will Tye (more pass receiver than blocker) and Jerell Adams (green rookie) at tight end. My method of attack would be to throw caution to the wind and come up with 3- and 4-WR sets and pass, pass, pass against what is the 29th-ranked pass defense that is also missing its best defensive back (CB Sam Shields). The Giants are not going to win this game with Orleans Darkwa gaining four yards per clip or Will Tye or Bobby Rainey catching seven yard passes. Spread the Packers out and go for big chunks of yardage down the field. Last week, the Giants longest pass completion to a wide receiver was 14 yards. That’s not going to get it done.

Moreover, the 3-4 defense of the Packers is very tough to run against (#1 in the NFL allowing less than 43 yards per game). Their most dangerous pass rush threats are their two outside linebackers – Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. So both Giants not-so-nifty tackles will be under pressure with a heavy pass-first offense. If Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart can do a reasonable job in pass protection, then this game will come down to Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Victor Cruz doing more than they have done to date. Eli Manning has four touchdown passes. He needs to double that total in this game. Be a star. Be a difference maker. Same with Odell Beckham, who has not scored yet this year. Get a 4th wideout (Tavarres King) on the field – spread the Packers unimpressive secondary thin. Attack. And stop turning the football over!

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Giants are in a terrible situation with two of their top three safeties out and two of their top three corners hurt facing QB Aaron Rodgers and wideouts Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. You saw what the 31st-ranked Minnesota Vikings offense did against CB Trevin Wade and S Andrew Adams. The Packers have got to be licking their chops. Worse, the Packers actually have a very good ground game with Eddie Lacey and James Starks. If the Giants give their undermanned secondary additional help, Coach Mike McCarthy and Rodgers will simply call for a heavy dose of the ground game. Still, this is how the Giants will probably have to go. Force the Packers to drive the length of the field rather than give up the cheap big play deep and pray the Packers make a mistake. Rodgers is unlikely to do that, however, unless you get in his face.

Much depends on how effective Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is and how much he plays. DRC has an annoying habit of sitting on the sidelines when he doesn’t feel 100 percent. When Wade is on the field, Rodgers is going to go after him. Wouldn’t you? Nelson and Cobb are the recognizable household names, but the Packers have some good looking young receivers who can do damage too.

If the Giants are going to have any chance to win this game, the front seven has to elevate its game to a different level. The Giants have not gotten their money’s worth out of Jason Pierre-Paul (1 sack) and Olivier Vernon (1 sack). Inside, it was expected that Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hankins would be more disruptive. Owa Odighizuwa and Jay Bromley are doing nothing. The linebackers have to make big plays – force a fumble, intercept a pass, sack the quarterback. The group will have to stop the physical Lacy without an extra man in the box. And they MUST get to Rodgers without blitzing too much.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Each week, the Giants do something bad on special teams – allow big punt return, penalty that wipes out block, muffed punt, etc.. It’s a trademark of the Tom Quinn special teams. Let’s for once have a clean game while making plays that help the Giants win the game.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on the Packers offense: “They are very good. With Jordy (Nelson) back, they’re firing on all cylinders in the receiving room. They have a good group of young receivers there that are developing as well. Randall (Cobb) is always dangerous in the slot. They can bring him out of the backfield, too. You definitely don’t want to let (Eddie) Lacy and (James) Starks get rolling downhill. They are two big backs and a nice one-two punch.”

THE FINAL WORD:
This is just a bad spot for the Giants. Back-to-back road trips on a short week against a quality opponent who plays well at home and who has had two weeks to prepare. Combine that with Rodgers versus the depleted secondary and you have a recipe for disaster unless the Giants “stars” start playing like impact players.