Oct 052021
 
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Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (October 3, 2021)

Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

QUICK RECAP

There is adversity, and then there is what the New Orleans Saints have gone though. After being displaced thanks to Hurricane Ida, the team had to practice in Texas and play a “home” game in Florida. It didn’t end there. Week 2 against the Panthers, they were without seven assistant coaches on game day and three the following week against the Patriots because of positive Covid tests and protocols. They were also missing their star wide receiver Michael Thomas, starting left tackle Terron Armstead, starting center Erik McCoy, starting inside linebacker Kwon Alexander, starting defensive end Marcus Davenport, starting defensive tackle David Onyemata, backup wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith, and kicker Wil Lutz. All of this in the first season without Drew Brees under center since 2005.

On October 3, Week 4, it was the first time they were in front of a full home crowd since the 2019 season. The place was rocking and hungry to make an impact against the 0-3 Giants. Big Blue was also a little less than 100%, albeit not nearly down to the level of the beat-up Saints. They were without receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, in addition to marching out their fourth left guard in as many weeks. Linebacker Blake Martinez was placed on IR earlier in the week, leaving the green-dot responsibilities to Tae Crowder.

The game remained scoreless through the first quarter. NYG did show some life on both sides of the ball, however. Leonard Williams came up with a huge 4th-down stop on a running play from the NYG 29-yard line. Rookie receiver Kadarius Toney came up with a first down on a short 3rd-and-18 pass where he created it all pretty much on his own. That drive, which ended at the start of the 2nd quarter, brought NYG into field goal range. Graham Gano had his 37-consecutive made field goal streak broken on a wide-left attempt. It was the first miss since November 25, 2018, when he was with Carolina. Coincidentally, the NYG kicker at the time was Aldrick Rosas, current kicker for the Saints. Rosas missed a career-long attempt field goal of 58 yards on the following NO drive.

NYG had the ball back with great field position. John Ross III, the NFL Combine record-holder for the fastest official (4.22) 40 time ever, suited up for NYG for the first time since being signed in March. He blew by rookie corner Paulson Adebo and Jones perfectly placed the ball on his chest in stride. As he was about to breach the goal line, he had the ball jarred loose. Adebo did not realize the ball was live, giving Ross III the opportunity to pounce back on it in the end zone. The play resulted in a touchdown and NYG had the initial 7-0 lead.

NO then put together a 13-play, 8:28 drive with three third-down conversions that ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Winston to Juwan Johnson. It was the fourth time in as many weeks where the NYG defense allowed a touchdown with under 2:00 left in the first half. NO then built off that momentum in the third quarter with another touchdown scoring drive. This one only needed 3 plays, however. A 58-yard gain on a pass to receiver Marquez Callaway and a 9-yard pass to veteran journeyman Chris Hogan preceded an 8-yard touchdown run by Mr. Everything Taysom Hill. It was a physical run that saw him break four tackles. NO was up 14-7 and the raucous crowd had their swagger back.

NYG’s next drive made it inside the 5-yard line with a 1st down, but their red zone woes continued and they had to settle on a field goal by Gano. Down by 4, NO head coach and former NYG Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton went for the jugular. Winston connected with another veteran journeyman Kenny Stills for a 46-yard touchdown but a holding penalty called on tight end Adam Trautman brought it back. One play later, NO threw the ball downfield yet again, this one by Hill, but right into the hands of NYG corner James Bradberry. Instead of it being 21-10, NYG had the ball back with the score 14-10. NO was running the ball down the throats of NYG but they got just a bit too greedy and it helped out NYG.

Unfortunately, NYG could not capitalize on the NO mistake. Evan Engram dropped a 3rd down conversion pass and NO put those 7 points on the scoreboard that they missed out on earlier. It was early in the 4th quarter as Hill crossed the goal line for a second time. NO had gone on a 21-3 run in just over 17 minutes of game clock. NYG needed to respond.

They traded scoreless possessions and now NYG was also playing a game against the clock. They were down 11 with just 7:01 remaining. After a 26-yard punt return by C.J. Board that brought NYG close to midfield (a very overlooked component of the comeback effort), NYG wasted no time in putting a touchdown on the board. Jones hit Barkley on a go route with a perfectly placed ball just over the coverage of NO top corner Marshon Lattimore. Barkley was making cuts in this game we haven’t seen since 2019 and he used one of them to scamper by safety Marcus Williams for the score. NYG opted to go for 2 so they could be within 3 and they used a designed QB draw to get it done. Jones darted through the line and the score was 21-18 with over 6 minutes left.

This was the moment where the NYG defense needed to prove they were at least close to the level we expected them to be coming into this season. They hadn’t been able to come up with big stop over the previous 3 weeks and they were getting torched late in halves. Thanks to a shocking delay of game penalty, pushing NO back to 2nd-and-14 on their own side of the ball and a solid pass rush by Leonard Williams, NYG had the ball back with just over 3 minutes.

Jones spread the ball out, using targets to Kenny Golladay, Toney, Engram, Ross, and Barkley (the latter 2 did not catch those targets, however). The point was, he kept NO guessing and he took what the defense gave. They stalled as they reached field goal range and had to settle on tying the game via a 48-yarder by Gano. NO didn’t have much time left and they foolishly didn’t have any timeouts remaining. The game was headed to overtime.

NYG won the coin toss and obviously chose to start overtime with the ball. Remember the rule is if a touchdown is scored, game over. If the team who starts overtime with possession hits a field goal, the opponent then gets an opportunity to match it or score a touchdown of their own (which would end the game). Want to control your own destiny? Get in the end zone.

A Jones pass to Ross picked up 17 yards for a first down on the first play. Two plays later, he hit him for 8 yards which also netted a first down. They were pushed back to a 2nd-and-14 via a Collin Johnson illegal substitution penalty, but it took just one play, a pass to Barkley, to gain all of that back and more. They were now in field goal range. A collective gasp among NYG fans occurred on the next play where Barkley fumbled. The ball bounced around several times, NO had a shot at recovery, but tight end Kyle Rudolph recovered it. Two plays later, on 3rd-and-5, Jones hit Golladay for a gain of 23 yards. Aggressive play call and throw for an offense that did a nice job of keeping the foot on the gas.

1st-and-goal from the 6. An offense that has been downright terrible in these situations. Touchdown wins it, field goal keeps it alive and open for another potential disaster. This was the opportunity this team was in search for. They needed just one play, a handoff to their running back that is showing signs of returning to his elite ways, to end it. Barkley got over the goal line, barely, and NYG had their first victory of the 2021 season.

NYG wins 27-21.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 28/40 – 402 yards / 2 TD – 1 INT / 108.5 RAT

Jones also added 27 yards on the ground. Keep in mind that the INT was on a Hail Mary attempt at the end of the first half. This could easily be considered the best game we have ever seen out of Jones. Not just because of the career high 402 yards and yards-per-attempt (10.05), but because of the number of high-level throws he made in clutch situations. He had a notable difference in decision making. The confidence level and desire to put this team on his back, on the road in a hostile environment, missing two starting OL and his most targeted receiver, speaks volumes. His downfield passing is impressive and now that there are credible deep threats and the OL appears to have turned a corner, get ready. This may be the starting point for something we always knew COULD happen with this group.

RUNNNG BACK

-Saquon Barkley: 13 att – 52 yards – 1 TD / 5 rec – 74 yards – 1 TD

The game didn’t start off very well for Barkley. His first 4 touches netted -3 yards, and at the end of the first quarter, he had 4 total yards. From the second quarter-on, he had 13 touches for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns. The biggest positive takeaway I had from this game was the different level of movement we saw. The cuts in and out of traffic, combined with his burst and the timing of when to use it, isn’t something we have seen in quite some time. His confidence should be elevated after this game and that could be the final missing component to getting back the player who gained 2,000+ yards from scrimmage as a rookie. The negative? From the All-22 angle, he clearly missed the running lane on two inside zone runs. These were running lanes that I see most NFL backs hit, both good and bad.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Kenny Golladay: 6 rec / 116 yards

Not enough will be made of Golladay and the chunk gains he made to set up scoring opportunities for the offense. He is such a threat in traffic because of how well he comes back to the ball, using his length and strength against cover men. He also made a difference as a blocker and consistently shows high effort in that department. It may not make the highlight reel, but it makes a huge difference when receivers with that kind of size play like that.

-Kadarius Toney: 6 rec / 78 yards

Toney’s coming out party was a huge part of the NYG win and comeback effort. He made multiple big plays after the catch, showing toughness and elite-level quickness. The ways he can cut things back and pick up extra yards were on full display. This is what made him a threat at Florida in the SEC. He can simply play at a different level of speed in short spaces. He couldn’t get behind the secondary on deep routes, but that won’t be his game. His game is what we saw on 3rd-and-18, where he took a short pass and found a way past the chains. He did drop a pass and had another drop nullified by a hold on guard Matt Skura.

-John Ross III: 3 rec / 77 yards / 1 TD

With Slayton and Shepard out and this being Ross’ first game back from being on short-term IR, the opportunity could not have been better for the 9th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The oft-injured speedster made his presence known right away with a 51-yard touchdown. Nearly just as important were his two other catches on the overtime drive. I don’t want to inspire too much over-excitement about one player from one game, but I will say this: Ross has missed 36-of-55 games since his career began. Most (not all) were injury-induced. Plain and simple, we have not seen the best out of the 25-year old Ross, who was drafted the same year as Evan Engram to put things into perspective time-wise.

TIGHT END

-Speaking of Engram, we have another negative to add to the list. He dropped a 3rd-down pass that was thrown a little behind him. He did catch his 5 other targets for just 27 yards total. He was also given a rushing attempt near the goal line that lost 3 yards. He played 68% of the snaps and was in some visible pain at different points of the game. I don’t want to look too deeply into it with my very limited knowledge, but Engram’s body language was very odd in this one.

-Kyle Rudolph caught 2 passes for 24 yards, including 1 for 20 yards. He was given an opportunity on 3rd-and-goal, but he couldn’t out-position the much smaller NO corner Lattimore. He looks like he is playing in slow motion. He is a fine player to have on the side, but he isn’t a feature-player who should be targeted in vital situations. There isn’t enough talent left in him.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-This is some of the best pass blocking we have seen from the NYG offensive line in over 28 games. Zero sacks and just 3 QB hits from defenders who defeated a blocker.

-Another elite-level performance by Andrew Thomas on the blind side. He allowed 1 pressure and that was it. NO rotated a few backup-caliber pass rushers at him and none had any success. His pass protection tape was a clinic on how to get the job done in a variety of ways. Right tackle Nate Solder allowed 1 pressure, a great game for him, and better than what he has been putting on tape since being on this team. They were giving him a ton of help against Cameron Jordan, one of the top-10 defensive ends in the game.

-The interior played a solid game, notably in pass protection. Matt Skura, the fourth starting left guard in 4 weeks. He finished with the worst grade in the group, allowing a TFL, a pressure, and was flagged for a holding penalty. Will Hernandez also allowed a TFL and 1 pressure, but threw a couple of key blocks on big gains. I was most impressed with his effort, hustle, and effectiveness down the field. On three occasions he was 10+ yards beyond the line of scrimmage making blocks that helped gained more yardage. Center Billy Price was clean after a rough first two drives. Much better than a week ago.

DEFENSIVE LINE

-I knew Leonard Williams had a solid game when I watched the live tape. Upon the re-watch and All-22 review, he clearly was the difference maker on this defense. He had 5 pressures in a game where the NYG pass rush didn’t record any sacks. In their defense, NO called just 23 pass plays. Williams also came up with a huge stop in the first quarter on 4th down to force a turnover on downs. What stood out about that play was how far away it was from the snap. Williams nearly reached the sideline to run down Alvin Kamara and then had to work over and around others to complete the play against a back who is always near the top of the league in yards after contact and broken tackles. The defensive tackle had 6 tackles.

-Danny Shelton had a horrible game. He was on the field for just one-third of the snaps, mostly running downs, but his negative plays were a huge part of the success NO had on the ground. He was pushed back multiple yards several times. A nose tackle that big and that ineffective in space needs to, at the very least, maintain the point-of-attack at the line of scrimmage.

-Austin Johnson and Dexter Lawrence were up and down. Lawrence had the better game, finishing with a pressure, TFL, PD, and 6 tackles. He was not the issue when it came to NO running the ball well. Johnson added 6 tackles and played a physical game, but was really hit or miss against the inside run. He was very poor against the pass as well.

LINEBACKER

-Tae Crowder and Reggie Ragland were fighting an uphill battle against a Saints running game that saw their offensive line easily reaching the second level. They both missed 1 tackle (Crowder’s being a lowlight on the first Hill touchdown), but also combined for 17 tackles. For what they had to deal with, I would grade their performance in the positive.

-Make it four weeks in a row for rookie Azeez Ojulari making a stop in the backfield. Also, make it four weeks in a row where he was quiet for the vast majority of the game, notably as a pass rusher. Lorenzo Carter missed 2 tackles, had 1 pressure, and finished with 4 tackles (all were assists). I zeroed in on every Carter pass rush and he just doesn’t have it. No moves, no ability to disengage, and no tight turns around the edge. It has been a poor start for him.

CORNERBACK

-James Bradberry had a big interception and 2 tackles, however he was burned deep and also missed a tackle. While the interception was a needed big play for both him and the defense respectively, I am still a bit worried about the amount of separation we are seeing receivers get on him.

-Adoree’ Jackson got beat on 3rd down two times and also missed 2 tackles. He was picked on often, as seen with his 7 tackles. While Jackson is a better option than what NYG has been marching out there at the position in recent years, he has yet to show he is worth the hefty price tag. I’m not optimistic about this one.

SAFETY

-The safeties were the position group on this defense I was most excited and optimistic about coming into this season. Jabrill Peppers and Xavier McKinney have dampened those thoughts. Peppers allowed a touchdown to Juwan Johnson, a former undrafted receiver who was shifted to tight end. He was injured on that drive and sat out the rest of the game. McKinney missed 2 tackles and was horrible in coverage. He allowed a touchdown that was nullified by a NO holding penalty. His angles in pursuit were very poor as well.

-Logan Ryan and Julian Love, however, played well. Ryan led the team with 9 tackles and Love added 6. They were both all over the field and seem to be better football players than athletes, while the two names above are the complete opposite. I want the instincts and football intelligence at this position more than I want the athlete.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Graham Gano: 2/3 (Made 23, 48, Missed 35)
-P Riley Dixon: 4 punts / 39.3 avg / 37.0 net

3 STUDS

-QB Daniel Jones, DT Leonard Williams, OT Andrew Thomas

3 DUDS

-DT Danny Shelton, S Xavier McKinney, OLB Lorenzo Carter

3 THOUGHTS ON N.O.

(1) 2021 will be the biggest test of Head Coach Sean Payton’s career. Since he took over in 2006, the team has finished top 5 in the league in scoring 10 times and top 5 in yards 11 times. Those are stunning numbers. In recent years, however, it is the defense that has stepped up as the team has spent more and more draft resources on the other side of the ball. Four of their past six first round picks have been spent on defenders and they now have the 15th most expensive defense while they have the 26th most expensive offense. Things have changed so much, and the question will be whether or not Payton can pivot well enough without Brees. It hasn’t panned out so well in New England so far.

(2) How good can this Saints team be? Jameis Winston at the helm leaves me overly skeptical they can be a true NFC contender. My thoughts won’t go beyond there even though I think the defense is more than solid. Winston has thrown the ball 20, 22, 21, and 23 times. Those aren’t completions, those are attempts. He ranks 30th there. 18 QBs have completed more passes than he has even attempted. You can only ride Alvin Kamara for so long and at some point, they won’t be able to protect the quarterback forever. His bonehead decision-making is going to show up at some point and that delay-of-game penalty in the 4th quarter was a microcosm if who he is. I projected them to miss the playoffs prior to the season and I still believe it to be true.

(3) The one hope NO can rely on is the mere fact a huge portion of their starting lineup is injured (and due to come back). Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, Erik McCoy, Terron Armstead, Marcus Davenport…are just a few names they will have back in the coming weeks.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

(1) The passing game on play-action. More specifically, the passing game on first down play-action. Jones went a perfect 7 -or-7 for 84 yards (11.0 YPA). First down play-action is one of the most well-known and proven strategies to enhance a passing game and early-down offense in general. Defenses are more prone to playing the run and will “bite” more easily. Even if they don’t bite, it slows down the initial pass rush, putting the offensive line in position to succeed more often and easily. We need to see more of this, it works as well as anything on this offense.

(2) So, is it time to turn around expectations for this team? Not quite. Just like it was foolish to write them off at this time a week ago. NYG has a tough slate of games in the coming weeks, very tough. Arguably most-difficult-in-the-NFL tough. However, momentum and confidence in sports are something that cannot be objectively measured by fans and media. As smart as some people think they are, it cannot be measured or accounted for from our perspective. Don’t try. Winning matters. Winning tight games matters. Coming from behind matters. Even when you want to lose games so you can draft Chase Young who is, by the way, NOT one of the 191 players in the NFL who have a sack this season. His 2 QB hits, however, are indeed tied for 102nd in the NFL along with the likes of former Giant Kyler Fackrell, Chiefs safety Daniel Sorenson, and Jets cornerback Bryce Hall.

(3) Last week I wrote that the NYG offense was not performing poorly. Not to the level that some were acting. They were awful in the red zone and awful inside the opponent’s 5. I didn’t feel like getting into a back-and-forth with emotional NYG fans who throw more unnecessary tantrums than my 1-year old. However, now that most are under a better mindset. Some of the most objective numbers I look at from a team offense perspective in relation to the other 31 teams:

Yards Per Play: 8th (6.2)
Turnovers: 3rd (3)
1st Downs: 20th (82)
Penalty Yards: 12th (207)
Score percentage: 12th (41.5)

This is an above average offense trending toward a top 10 offense. Get on board.

Oct 032021
 
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Jabrill Peppers, New York Giants (October 3, 2021)

Jabrill Peppers celebrates OT coin toss – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS 27 – NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 21 (OT)…
It took overtime to do it, but the New York Giants won their first game of the 2021 season on Sunday afternoon by upsetting the New Orleans Saints 27-21. The Giants scored 17 unanswered points late in the contest. With the win, the Giants are now 1-3 on the season.

While New Orleans dominated the Giants in the running game (170 to 83 yards) and time of possession (37:31 to 27:35), New York held the advantage in total yards (485 to 405) and net yards passing (402 to 235). The turnover battle (one apiece) and first downs gained (21 each) were equal.

Offensively, the game did not start off well for the Giants, who only picked up one first down on their first two drives of the game, both resulting in quick punts. New York managed to gain three first downs and 57 yards on their third possession, but that drive ended with place kicker Graham Gano missing a 35-yard field goal (his first miss in 37 attempts).

Meanwhile, the Saints were having their own issues on offense. Their first drive picked up 13 yards before being forced to punt. New Orleans gained 44 yards and reached the New York 29-yard line on their second possession, but on 4th-and-3, running back Alvin Kamara was held short of the 1st-down marker by defensive end Leonard Williams and linebacker Lorenzo Carter, turning the football over on downs. The Saints reached the New York 40-yard line on their third possession, but missed a 58-yard field goal.

The scoreless game broke open midway through the second quarter. On the first play of the Giants’ fourth drive, quarterback Daniel Jones threw a deep strike to wide receiver John Ross for what was originally ruled a 51-yard touchdown. Officials later ruled that Ross fumbled as he was reaching the end zone; however, since Ross recovered the loose ball within the end zone, the touchdown was upheld. The Giants led 7-0.

However, as has been a constant occurrence this year, the Giants’ defense weakened at the end of the first half and surrendered the lead. The Saints drove 75 yards in 13 plays, with quarterback Jameis Winston throwing a 15-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-6 with less than 30 seconds to play before halftime. The first half ended with an intercepted pass on a Hail Mary from Jones.

The game was tied 7-7 at the break.

Momentum kept shifting the way of the Saints at the beginning of the 3rd quarterback. New Orleans received the ball to start the second half, and it only took them three plays to gain 75 yards and score an 8-yard touchdown on run by quarterback Taysom Hill. The Saints were now up 14-7.

The Giants responded with a 10-play, 70-yard drive, setting up a 1st-and-goal from the 3-yard line. But New York couldn’t push it in and the Giants settled for a 23-yard field goal to cut the score to 14-10. It appeared matters would get worse for the Giants on New Orleans’ second drive of the half when Winston threw a 46-yard touchdown pass. However, the play was nullified by an offensive holding penalty. On the very next snap, cornerback James Bradberry intercepted a deep pass from Hill at the New York 12-yard line.

The Giants picked up one first down and punted. The Saints appeared to take control of the game on the ensuing drive as they drove 63 yards in 11 plays, with the possession ending with another 8-yard run by Hill for the touchdown, this one on 3rd-and-2. The Saints were now up 21-10 with just over 12 minutes left in the contest.

Both teams exchanged punts. New York got the ball back with seven minutes on the clock. Wide receiver C.J. Board first returned the punt 28 yards. Then, on the first offensive play, Jones found running back Saquon Barkley wide open down the left sideline. Barkley caught the ball, cut back inside, and scored from 54 yards out. Jones then scrambled for the 2-point conversion and the score was 21-18 with less than seven minutes still left to play.

The Saints gained two first downs and ran almost four minutes off of the clock. The Giants started their final drive of regulation at their own 24-yard line with 3:01 to play. New York was able to gain 59 yards in 11 plays to set up a clutch, 48-yard field goal by Gano to tie the game with about half a minute left to play. The big play on the drive was a 28-yard catch-and-run by wide receiver Kenny Golladay on 3rd-and-7. The Saints could do nothing on their final two plays and the game went to overtime.

The Giants won the toss and never looked back. New York drove 75 yards in nine plays, including a 17-yard pass from Jones to Ross, an 18-yard pass to Barkley, and a 23-yard pass to  Golladay on 3rd-and-5. On 1st-and-goal from the 6-yard line, Barkley scored to win the game. (Barkley did fumble on this drive and tight end Kyle Rudolph saved the day by recovering the fumble).

Offensively, Jones finished the game 28-of-40 for 402 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He also rushed four times for 27 yards. His leading receivers were Golladay (6 catches for 116 yards), wide receiver Kadarius Toney (6 catches for 78 yards), Barkley (5 catches for 74 yards and a touchdown), and tight end Evan Engram (5 catches for 27 yards). Barkley was the leading rusher with 13 carries for 52 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, the Giants allowed 170 yards rushing, including 120 yards by Kamara and two touchdowns by Hill. New York defenders did not sack the quarterback and were not credited with a quarterback hit. They forced no fumbles but did pick off one pass.

Video highlights are available at Giants.com.

ROSTER MOVES, PRACTICE SQUAD ACTIVATIONS, INACTIVES, AND INJURY REPORT…
On Saturday, activated WR John Ross (hamstring) from Injured Reserve to the 53-man roster. The team also elevated OC Jonotthan Harrison to the 53-man roster from the Practice Squad.

Inactive for the game were WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring), WR Darius Slayton (hamstring), OG Ben Bredeson (hand), DE Raymond Johnson, CB Sam Beal, and CB Josh Jackson.

S Jabril Peppers (hamstring) left the game in the 4th quarter and did not return. He did make the correct call on the overtime coin toss.

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…
This was the Giants’ first victory in New Orleans since 1993. They had lost their five previous games in New Orleans.

This was the Giants’ first victory after overcoming a fourth-quarter deficit of at least 11 points since 2012.

The Giants had lost their previous 16 games in which they trailed after three quarters.

The Giants are 13-6-2 in overtime road games.

The Giants’ 402 net passing yards is the ninth-highest total in franchise history. The 402 yards is a career high for QB Daniel Jones. The 400-yard game was the first by a Giants quarterback since Eli Manning in 2017.

The interception of Daniel Jones’ pass on the Hail Mary at the end of the first half ended his streak of consecutive passes without throwing a pick at 124.

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

Oct 012021
 
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THE STORYLINE:
If you read last week’s game preview, I used a post from Osi Osi Osi OyOyOy in my opening statement. He finished with the words, We better win. The Giants didn’t. We all know that their season is in grave danger of slipping away before it seems like it started. Again. This really is starting feel like the movie Groundhog Day, where no matter what the protagonist Bill Murray does, he can’t seem to end a waking nightmare that keeps repeating itself.

This season wasn’t supposed to be like the previous four. We convinced ourselves this was the right head coach, and that he was really now calling the shots over the bumbling general manager. On paper, the team had a strong offseason, addressing a number of need areas, making a decent defense stronger and dramatically upgrading offensive weapons.

There are lots of excuses why the Giants are 0-3 and appear to be perhaps the worst team in the NFL. The Giants gambled on staying relatively pat on the offensive line and lost. Retirements and injuries (particularly Nick Gates and Shane Lemieux) didn’t help. In addition, injuries to many of the newcomers such as Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, John Ross, Adoree’ Jackson, and Elerson Smith sabotaged the expected upgrades. Saquon hasn’t looked like Saquon, and may never regain that form. Evan Engram is hurt (again) and unreliable (again). The expensive, high-priced secondary with tons of free agent and draft capital isn’t playing like we expected. Judge and his coaching staff had made a number of questionable in-game decisions.

Everyone has their own theory on who is most to blame. The owner, the general manager, the coaches. Personally, I’m past the finger-pointing stage. I just want it fixed. No more excuses. Fix it. This isn’t fun anymore and sports is supposed to be fun.

In a nutshell, we all know the issues. The offense doesn’t score enough points. The defense has no mental toughness, and falls apart in the clutch. The special teams have already lost one game too. You can’t win when all three phases of your team suck.

The season is not dead yet, but it is clearly on life support. The Giants have one of the toughest remaining schedules in the league. Injuries are mounting. There is little room for error now. The only way to get out of this mess is to circle the wagons, ignore the outside noise, and just focus on winning that next game. Nothing else matters. One game at a time. But win that first game and go from there.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (knee)
  • FB Cullen Gillaspia (ankle)
  • WR Kenny Golladay (hip)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (hamstring – out)
  • WR Darius Slayton (hamstring – out)
  • TE Kaden Smith (knee – questionable)
  • OG Ben Bredeson (hand – out)
  • LB Tae Crowder (hamstring – questionable)
  • CB Keion Crossen (elbow – questionable)
  • S Logan Ryan (hamstring)
  • S Nate Ebner (quad – questionable)
  • LS Casey Kreiter (knee)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
What really killed the Giants last week was the two long first-half drives that only resulted in six points. The Giants did what they were supposed to until they shot themselves in the foot in the red zone. Score touchdowns there instead of field goals and the Giants win that game.

The current state of the offensive line is due to a number of factors including front office/coaching misjudgment (mainly Matt Peart), two unforeseen retirements, and terrible injury luck (Shane Lemieux, Nick Gates, Ben Bredeson). Indeed, the left guard position appears jinxed as the Giants will have their fourth starting left guard in four games. Nate Solder has never played well as a New York Giant. Indeed, I’d rather have Peart out there taking his lumps at this point than wasting snaps on Solder, who won’t be here next year. The good news is that Andrew Thomas is starting to string some nice games together. Will Hernandez has 14 games left to make a case why he should be an NFL starter. Ben Bredeson (when he returns from a hand injury), Wes Martin, Billy Price, and Matt Skura are auditioning for the future as well. It is what it is. The front office has been scouring the trade market, waiver wire, and practice squads for answers.

One could argue that the offensive line disarray is the primary cause for the running game issues. But those watching the games can see the 2021 version of Saquon Barkley is a shadow of his rookie form. Jason Garrett says Barkley is still rounding into form and is getting better and better. I don’t see it yet. What a tragedy it will be if Saquon never consistently plays like he did in 2018, which was one of the most remarkable seasons a running back has ever had in the NFL. Barkley needs to stop dancing around, hit the damn hole, and gain those tough yards. The big plays will come. But they won’t if the team keeps finding itself in 2nd-and-11 and 3rd-and-9 because Barkley didn’t gain those five yards he should have picked up. At the same time, the coaching staff has to put him in better position to gain confidence. Get him more into open spaces. In a nutshell, help him get his mojo back.

The Giants also appeared jinxed at wide receiver. They simply can’t get this unit anywhere near full strength for even one game. All three of their top receivers are now hurt, with two missing this game. Fortunately, the Giants appear to have above average depth at the position. The Giants will now have to rely on Kadarius Toney, even though he is still way behind due to a lost spring and summer. Despite a nagging hip injury, Kenny Golladay appears to be heating up. And Collin Johnson has been a pleasant surprise. C.J. Board and practice squaders Dante Pettis and David Sills may also have to pick up the slack. On a side note, every year I fall for the Sterling Shepard hype. I want to like the guy as a player. But he simply cannot stay healthy. Every year, he gets hurt and misses games.

The tight end position has been a major letdown. Again. I’m just an average fan running a blog. How come I can tell that Evan Engram is a coach killer and this fucking front office and coaching staff (and previous coaching staffs) can’t see it??? They made their own bed. Now they have to sleep in it. Kyle Rudolph has been a big disappointment too. He was supposed to be a major factor in the red zone. To date, he hasn’t.

Which leaves us with Daniel Jones. He’s not playing poorly. But he’s not playing great either. He’s kind of in no-man’s land and in a way, that’s the worst possible outcome for the Giants right now because the Giants still really don’t know what they have in him. Is he the future of this team or no? Most fans don’t think the coaching staff is helping him out with the play calling. And clearly there are continuing personnel issues all around him on the offensive line, at wide receiver, at running back, and at tight end. Turnovers are down. Embarrassingly, but also to his credit, he’s the team’s leading rusher. But does he have “it”?

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
I don’t know why but this defense is simply mentally weak. They did a great job last week until there were 2 minutes left before halftime, then they fell apart in the clutch. Again. Same thing happened in the second half. Again. The struggling offense takes a lead, and the defense can’t hold it. With the game on the line, they collapse every single week at the end of the game. What is going on? It’s almost like they expect to fall apart, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. As fans, we all sense it too. Whatever the reasons, Patrick Graham, his coaches, and players have to figure this out soon. Jobs are on the line.

Losing Blake Martinez for the season is a devastating blow. Tae Crowder, who of course tweaked his hamstring this week in practice, has to pick up the slack. Reggie Ragland can help on running downs, but I think I would go with Carter Coughlin more at this point. While he has limitations to his game, he makes plays. I wouldn’t discount Justin Hilliard either.

The two problem areas on the defense right now are obvious. The secondary isn’t playing up to the level that was expected. This was supposed to be one of the top units in the league and one of the best NYG secondaries ever. And it’s not just one guy but everyone. James Bradberry is not playing at the Pro Bowl level he played at last year. Adoree’ Jackson was supposed to be better than this. Jabrill Peppers remains a frustratingly inconsistent player. Even Logan Ryan made mistakes last week that cost the Giants the game. Xavier McKinney? Darnay Holmes? Make some plays.

The other problem area is the lack of pass rush. Azeez Ojulari is flashing, but he needs to do so more consistently. Oshane Ximines isn’t the answer. Lorenzo Carter flashed in camp, but that has not translated to the regular season. It may be time to start using Quincy Roche a bit more along with Ojulari.

Finally, turnovers are the great equalizer. Games are won and lost with turnovers. Giants defensive players have let far too many potential turnovers slip through their fingers through the first few games. Hold onto the damn ball!

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
I don’t see what the coaching staff sees in Riley Dixon. In the offseason, I would move on from him. It’s also time to use Kadarius Toney in the return game. The Giants need points anyway they can get them.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Joe Judge on teaching a team how to win:You’ve got to cut out the mistakes that keep you from being successful. That’s turnovers, mental errors, penalties. You’ve got to cut those things out. When you eliminate those things that slow your opportunities for having success, all of a sudden you find yourself in the right position… The truth is what’s on tape… Until you get those things corrected as a team, you’re not going to have the opportunities for success that you should have. Close isn’t good enough. We’re not playing horseshoes and hand grenades. We have to have results.

THE FINAL WORD:
This is a winnable game for the Giants. It’s up to them whether they want to dig themselves out of this hole or remain a joke. No one can help them but themselves.

Oct 022018
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 30, 2018)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints 33 – New York Giants 18

QUICK RECAP

Two of the 5 longest tenured quarterbacks in the NFL went head to head at MetLife Stadium as the 2-1 Saints and their dangerous offense came to take on the 1-2 Giants who gained some momentum last week in Houston.

NYG kept that momentum rolling with an early 7-0 lead on a short Eli Manning pass to Sterling Shepard. It was a drive full of chunk-yards acquired in a variety of ways. The Giants offense was “rolling” if you want to call it that as a continuation from last week. The Giants defense forced a 3 and out, or so they thought. In typical aggressive Sean Payton fashion, NO executed a fake punt from their own territory. 11 plays later NO got on the scoreboard with a 42 yard field goal.

The Giants began with second quarter a shot to their own foot, an offensive pass interference on Russell Shepard that pushed them into a very unfavorable 1st and 20. The conservative NYG offense paired with a defense that had this scheme pegged correctly all afternoon made that a near-impossible hill to climb. Once again the NO offense drove up the field with little-to-no issues presented by the NYG defense. They were also aided by a phantom horse collar tackle called on Janoris Jenkins. NO got within one, as kicker Will Lutz knocked through his second field goal.

This was the point where NYG needed to show their offense was actually on the right track. However on 1st and 10 at midfield, backup running back Wayne Gallman fumbled on initial contact and it was scooped up by CB Marshon Lattimore who brought it back to the NYG 11 yard line. The NYG defense continued their bend-don’t-break theme, holding the elite offense to their third field goal in as many drives.

NYG then started to revert to their weeks 1 and 2 ways, meaning a 3 and out and a lack of flow. Manning misfires, no time in the pocket, and being put into very unfavorable 3rd down situations. Brees brought the Saints offense into the red zone via a 25 yard gain on a screen pass to star running back Alvin Kamara and all of the sudden they were back in the red zone. Once again, the NYG defense did a solid job of holding them to yet another field goal for the fourth drive in a row. This brought the half to an end, NYG was down 12-7 but it could have been so much worse.

The Giants lack of commitment to the run game was as evident as ever in their first possession of the second half. Barkley gained 5 yards on their first play and from there on out, NYG threw the ball 6 straight times and even though yards were gained, the dink and dunk approach eventually led to a sack that once gain put them in an insurmountable 3rd down position. They returned the ball to NO and the sleeping giant, the Saints’ offense, scored their first touchdown of the day on a 9 yard run by Kamara.

NYG did respond with a field goal largely thanks to their biggest gain of the day, a 28 yard run by Barkley. The score was 19-10 and the NYG hope was hanging on by a thread. Someone on this defense needed to step up and make a play. A turnover, a sack, something.

The 4th quarter began with a 14 play, 6:39 drive that resulted in the Saints second touchdown of the day, a physical 3 yard run by Kamara. Down 16 with under 7 minutes remaining, NYG put together a touchdown drive against a prevent defense. It was capped by an impressive Barkley touchdown where he jumped over everyone on the field. After a successful 2 point conversion, it was a 1 possession game with just under 4 minutes remaining.

Confidence wasn’t high until the NO kick returner Ted Ginn muffed the kickoff, struggled to regain control of the ball, and ended up being tackled on the NO 2 yard line. The crowd once again had juice. And then the worst of 4 badly missed calls by the refs took place. Dalvin Tomlinson jumped the snap and was about to hit Brees before he hit the back of his drop back in their own end zone, but center Max Unger got away with a tripping penalty and a few seconds later Brees threw the ball downfield on the move and connected with tight end Josh Hill for a 21 yard gain.

NO then, piece by piece, like watching a slow death, made their way to midfield. The two final kicks to the NYG chances were a 3rd down pass interference call on Donte Deayon and one final touchdown run by Kamara, a 49 yard dash up the middle.

Saints win 33-16.

QUARTERBACKS

Eli Manning: 31/41 – 255 yards – 1 TD / 0 INT. After a step forward in Houston last week, Manning and the offense took another two steps back against a defense that had given up an average of 34 points per game over the first three weeks. Manning was getting the ball out in under 2.0-2.5 seconds for the vast majority of the day. Think about how much a play can truly develop in that amount of time. Manning looked a little gun shy, a little shaky and hoppy in the pocket. Most of the time, it was warranted. The pocket was small (especially in contrast to what Drew Brees had to work with) and the Saints secondary was defending against the deep ball from the beginning. Through 4 games, Manning is completing 74.2% of his passes. That mark, in his 15th season, is the highest it has ever been throughout the first 4 games of any season. He’s been sacked 15 times already, fourth most in the NFL. With all of that said, Manning missed three throws that I would consider on the easy/simple side and is letting the situation around him make him worse, to be blunt. As hard as it may be, he is a $22+ million quarterback that needs to play better if this team is going to turn it around.

RUNNING BACKS

-Saquon Barkley: 10 att / 44 yards / 1 TD – 6 rec / 56 yards. It wasn’t a very impactful day for the rookie. However when 100 total yards on just 16 touches is considered a quiet day, we have to keep things in perspective. When Barkley did hit a little groove, it is easy to notice how his presence impacts the defense. As a blocker, this was the first time he graded out negatively. He is never going to get a ton of action in that department, but he needs to be better than he was Sunday. He allowed 2 pressures.

-Wayne Gallman: 2 att / 6 yards – 3 rec / 17 yards. Gallman’s biggest play of the day was a negative. He fumbled after a first down catch, which Saints CB Marshon Lattimore returned to the NYG 11 yard line. It turned into 3 points for the Saints, which took the lead from NYG.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Sterling Shepard: 10 rec / 77 yards / 1 TD. Shepard made a few difficult catches on the day. Eli really trusts him in 50/50 situations despite the lack of size. The touchdown reception was both an excellent route and snag with both his hands, as was the catch late in the game the brought NYG near the goal line.

-Odell Beckham: 7 rec / 60 yards. Beckham led the way with 11 targets, 2 of which were very bad misfires from Manning. Beckham had a hard time getting behind the Saints secondary, or even close to it. They shaded a safety in his direction nearly every time he ran vertical. Combine that with Manning getting the ball out so quickly, he didn’t have any big play opportunities. The longest NYG passing gain was to Beckham, 27 yards, most of which were gained after the catch. It seemed to be a frustrating day for league’s highest paid receiver. He is a competitor that wants to win, wants to make the big impact and it just hasn’t happened yet. His time will come.

TIGHT ENDS

-Rhett Ellison: 3 rec / 29 yards. With Evan Engram out with a knee injury, we knew we would see an uptick in Ellison’s playing time. He earned a solid, slightly above average grade as a blocker and came up with few solid grabs over the middle. He is a consistent “fall-forward” type who carries defenders on his back old school style. He had a chance at a touchdown pass for the second straight week in the 3rd quarter, but NO safety Vonn Bell made an outstanding late play on the ball to jar it loose.

-Scott Simonson saw a decent amount of time as well. Much of his duty revolved around chip blocks on NO DE Cameron Jordan. He did a fine job there and came up with a key block on Barkley’s 28 yard run.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

-Nate Solder was solid for most of the game, but didn’t stay consistent from start to finish. He had a rough stretch towards the end of the 3rd quarter into the beginning of the 4th where he allowed a tackle for loss and a sack. He also allowed 1 pressure in the game.

-Admirable effort by Chad Wheeler. Although he was receiving help for most of the day on NO star edge rusher Cameron Jordan, he competed hard and won most of his 1 on 1 battles with the multi-time Pro Bowler. He still has episodes of being physically overmatched, but there is a lot of “want-to” in his game. He improved from last week and that is all you can as for at this point.

GUARDS/CENTERS

Lowest grade on the OL goes to Center John Greco, who received some praise a week ago. He allowed 1 sack, 1 pressure, and was called for a holding penalty. Can’t expect much out of him at this point, but communication along the OL does seem better minus the occasional hiccup here and there.

-Will Hernandez has now put 2 solid weeks in a row together. He was the highest graded NYG OL in this one and the sack he allowed late can’t be held against him. His hands looked strong and accurate and he was able to anchor against some solid bull-rushing DTs.

-Patrick Omameh was solid in the first half, not so much in the second half. He allowed 1 pressure and struggled to adjust to defenders in space. His reactions are very delayed. Spencer Pulley actually got in as a 6th OL four times. An interesting personnel decision now that Engram is out. If you need an extra blocker, might as well bring a guy in that gets paid to do it for a living.

EDGE

-Connor Barwin and Kareem Martin took most of the snaps and neither had much of an impact. Much of the NYG pass rush-woes can be blamed on these two. There isn’t anything dynamic in either of their skill sets and repertoires. Both were dominated at times in the running game, as neither have quick twitch reactions or show the ability to break off blocks.

-Lorenzo Carter played less than both Martin and Barwin, but finished with 1 more tackle and played good assignment football. Even though I still think he is a year or two away from being a real impact player, it may be time to shift more snaps in his favor.

-Kerry Wynn didn’t record anything on the stat sheet, as he only played about a third of the defensive snaps. Puzzling why he is on the sideline so much after such a strong game in HOU, maybe there was an undisclosed injury. He still led the team with 2 pressures.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson recorded 2 tackles each, with one of Harrison’s being a TFL. The main 2 rushers for NO led the way with over 7 yards per carry and while that did have more to do with the edge defenders, these two were neutralized in a few key moments. Tomlinson shared the team lead with 2 pressures, one of which may have resulted in a safety had he not been tripped by NO center Max Unger. The tripping penalty was not called.

-BJ Hill’s playing is still limited, but he did record a sack for the second week in a row and is now the team leader in that department through the first quarter of the season.

LINEBACKERS

-Ray-Ray Armstrong is without-a-doubt viewed as the better option alongside Alec Ogletree. He dominated the snaps 4:1 between him and BJ Goodson. While the size, speed, and hustle are attractive to the naked eye, Armstrong was outclassed in coverage and against the quickness of Alvin Kamara. And please, stop celebrating after a tackle on a 8 yard gain by the opponent.

-Alec Ogletree had a solid run defending game. He had 12 tackles and 2 TFL. Ogletree is proving to be an excellent reader of the opposition. Sort of like Antonio Pierce used to be, moving towards the action before the play is headed there, sniffing out misdirection, and finishing when he gets there. The middle of the field in coverage continues to be a problem. The reasons for that include Ogletree, but they do not center around him.

CORNERBACKS

-A very tall task for Janoris Jenkins, who faced off against the record setting Michael Thomas. For the most part, his performance was admirable but unspectacular. He was beat in a few key moments in the second half. One play I was very unhappy about was a 3rd and 1 rush to the left side, Jenkins totally side-stepped a downhill-moving Kamara and missed the tackle. The play resulted in a first down and NO later scored 3 points.

-BW Webb was attacked most of the day and he had his fair share of ups and downs. He had an impressive pass break up near the end zone but was also flagged for illegal hands to the face away from the ball on a 3rd down stop. On the very next play, NO scored a touchdown. Huge momentum shift.

-Donte Deayon’s playing time continues to see an upward boost with Eli Apple out. He made two impressive plays on the ball, showing his elite-foot speed and reaction. That can really go a long way but it doesn’t come without a price. Deayon’s lack of size is a factor that shows up often. He is easily blocked by receivers and ball carriers too often break through his contact. In addition, he was flagged on a 3rd down stop for pass interference while trying to recover after being beat off the ball by Cameron Meredith. There is a lot of give and take with a player like Deayon. However on a defense that lacks a playmaker on any level, he may be the one I trust the most to eventually force a turnover as crazy as that sounds.

SAFETIES

-A dominant version of Landon Collins was on display in this one. A team leading 14 tackles, a pressure, and an elite-level pass break up that prevented a touchdown. This was the most we’ve seen him near the line of scrimmage this year and it worked out well. He was the one defender that was consistently getting Kamara on the ground by himself.

-Curtis Riley on the other hand had arguably his worst game as a Giant thus far. He had 2 missed tackles that resulted in absolute daggers to the defense. It may be considered unfair, but so be it. The last line of defense, the safety, has to be one of if not the best tacklers on the team. Riley is not that. In addition, there in no playmaker in him as a pass defender.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (Made 33). Rosas remains perfect on the year.

-P Riley Dixon: 4 Punts – 51.0 avg / 42.3 avg. He still had a couple hang time shortcomings, but overall a decent day.

-PR/KR Jawill Davis: Quiet day for Davis, who was active for the first time. He had one questionable decision to take it out from 6 yards deep on a kickoff, but this team needs a spark and I don’t mind the chance.

3 STUDS

-S Landon Collins, WR Sterling Shepard, OG Will Hernandez

3 DUDS

-EDGE Kareem Martin, S Curtis Riley, OC John Greco

3 THOUGHTS ON NO

-There is a lot to be said for Drew Brees and Sean Payton working together for what is now their 13th season. 13 years, one system. Several running backs, receivers, linemen, and tight ends. But one scheme that these two grew together from the start. I don’t want to put excuse on the table for Manning (this is his fifth offensive coordinator and third head coach), but there is countless value in the continuity and chemistry between this long of a QB/system relationship. Something to think about if NYG does end up going for a QB in the 2019 NFL Draft – is Shurmur the guy you want to tie to your young QB? If not, is it plausible for him to be a 1 and done?

-How can you not discuss Alvin Kamara when talking about the Saints. The 2017 3rd rounder who had some minor character concerns coming out is one of the most unique running backs I have ever seen. His contact balance, agility, and multiple levels of burst are all rare and he carries all of them. NO needs to make sure they don’t run this kid into the ground which should be easier now that Mark Ingram is past his suspension. He has MVP written all over him.

-The Saints were my preseason pick for the NFC Championship winner. Like most, I am not completely sold on their defense, however I think it can be “good enough” if they can get home field advantage. Their offense is capable of putting up 35+ against anyone if needed, and I mean that. And their 2017 draft may be one of the best of all time. That class turned around the fortune of this franchise at the snap of a finger. It CAN happen that fast.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-The first quarter of the season is over. NYG is on pace for 4 wins and even though this team looks like they are light years away from being a legit contender, the worst part of their schedule is over in my opinion. While coming out of this at 2-2 was the goal, I’m not sure it was very realistic. These 2 games coming up against what I consider to be middle-of-the-pack NFC teams is an opportunity to get this team back to even. I know everyone wants to obsess with labeling this season contention or a bust right now, but you have to let this play out and take it one week at a time. Instead of thinking about final record, the focus is now on a very beatable CAR team.

-The theme of this game, personally, was the desire for someone on this defense to make something happen. We know the offense is sputtering and there are a few reasons for that. We know there should have been more commitment to the running game. We know the combination of a shaky QB and a porous, unreliable offensive line is a recipe for disaster. But this defense really has nothing that can change a game. No pass rush. No safety making plays. Just a bend-don’t break group that can’t hang with the league’s top offenses. That, to me, is just as frustrating and detrimental to this team overall as anything.

-Olivier Vernon, when he returns, really needs to show something. Well, more than just something. He has a cap number of $20 million each of the next two years. While youth on his side, injury history and on-field production are not. Loyalty to big contracts is one thing, but being strapped down on a team with so many holes is another. Getting him off the books and Manning likely off the books in 2-3 years from now presents a huge load of cap space that can be dispersed elsewhere. And with that in mind, the edge rusher might be THE spot this team can focus on this offseason in addition to QB.

Sep 302018
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 30, 2018)

The Agony of Defeat – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 33 – NEW YORK GIANTS 18…
The New York Giants were beaten by the New Orleans Saints 33-18 on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. With the defeat, the Giants fell to 1-3 on the season.

For the bulk of the game, the problem for the Giants was once again an offense. The Giants could not score 20 points, nor gain 300 yards, against what had been the NFL’s worst-ranked defense. And the team’s long play of the day against the Saints was only 28 yards. Running back Saquon Barkley was only given 10 carries and team backs only had a total of 12 carries. Wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. only caught seven passes for 60 yards. And while quarterback Eli Manning completed 31-of-41 passes, he only passed for 255 yards with his longest completion being 27 yards late in the game. The Giants also fumbled the ball away twice.

The game actually started off great for New York. The Saints received the ball to start the game, but went three-and-out and were forced to punt. The Giants responded on their first possession with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a 2-yard touchdown pass from Manning to wide receiver Sterling Shepard. The Giants were up 7-0.

It looked as if the Giants had stopped New Orleans for a second three-and-out on their second possession. But on 4th-and-2 from their own 33-yard line, the Saints bravely ran a fake punt that picked up 10 yards and a first down. The Saints went on to set up a successful 42-yard field goal and cut New York’s lead to 7-3.

The Giants picked one first down on their second series but were forced to punt after an offensive pass interference penalty called on wide receiver Russell Shepard set the team back. The Saints drove the ball 69 yards in nine plays to set up a second field goal, this one from 34 yards out. Things quickly got worse as on the subsequent series running back Wayne Gallman fumbled the ball away after a short completion (some felt it should have been ruled an incompletion). The loose ball was recovered by the Saints and returned 37 yards to the New York 11-yard line. While the Giants’ defense held, the Saints kicked a third field goal to go up 9-7.

The Giants’ fourth possession resulted in a three-and-out with less than three minutes before halftime. That allowed the Saints to extend their lead 12-7 with a 7-play, 40-yard drive that set up their fourth field goal. So after the Giants’ initial offensive drive, the next three series resulted a turnover and two quick punts.

The third quarter did not go much better for the Giants, who picked up one first down and then punted. The Saints then took charge of the game by responding with a 7-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on their initial possession of the half to go up 19-7 (running back Alvin Kamara scored from 9 yards out). The Giants finally got on the scoreboard again with a 10-play, 75-yard effort. But that long drive did not result in a touchdown, but only a 33-yard field goal by place kicker Aldrick Rosas.

Near the end of the 4th quarter, the Giants’ defense did force a three-and-out. But New York’s momentum quickly fizzled as Barkley lost seven yards on the drive’s first play. The Giants punted three plays later. The dagger came with the Saints’ ensuing possession as they drove 74 yards in 14 plays. Kamara scored from three yards out and the Saints were now up 26-10 with less than seven minutes left to play.

The Giants scored their final points on the following series, but it was too little too late. Barkley scored from one yard out on a 10-play, 75-yard possession. The 2-point conversion attempt also succeeded, but the Giants still trailed by eight points with just under four minutes to play. Any hope of sending the game into overtime with a second score and 2-point conversion quickly disappeared when Kamara ran for his third touchdown of the game, this one from 49 yards out. In garbage time, New York’s final possession ended with a sack and fumble by Manning.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the New York Giants were linebacker Olivier Vernon (ankle), cornerback Eli Apple (groin), tight end Evan Engram (knee), wide receiver Cody Latimer (knee), cornerback Antonio Hamilton (groin), quarterback Kyle Lauletta, and center Evan Brown.

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

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Pat Shurmur and select players will address the media on Monday.

Sep 282018
 
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Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (September 23, 2018)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: New Orleans Saints at New York Giants, September 30, 2018

THE STORYLINE:
So the 2018 version of the New York Football Giants has a little fight in them after all. The short-term importance of last Sunday’s victory over a talented Houston Texans team cannot be understated. Had the Giants lost, their season would have all but officially been over on September 23. It was a gutty and unexpected performance.

But the team is not out of the woods just yet. As I mentioned last week, there is a huge difference between 0-3 and 1-2. Well, there is also a huge difference between 1-3 and 2-2. The Giants can build upon last week’s success or watch it largely flushed down the drain. It’s up to them.

The Giants have had a weird recent history with the Saints filled with some ugly blowouts. But this game is at MetLife. That will help.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Jonathan Stewart (foot – out)
  • WR Cody Latimer (knee – out)
  • WR Stacy Coley (hamstring – questionable)
  • TE Evan Engram (knee – out)
  • NT Damon Harrison (knee – probable)
  • LB Olivier Vernon (ankle – out)
  • LB Connor Barwin (knee – probable)
  • CB Eli Apple (groin – out)
  • CB Antonio Hamilton (groin – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Will this be the week where the Giants finally get the 30-point monkey off their back? It’s the right opponent. Defensively, the Saints are 30th in yards allowed (30th in pass defense, 6th in rush defense). The Saints are also dead last in scoring defense.

All Giants fans know what the game story was last weekend. The team’s offensive line went from “beyond abysmal” to “below average” status. But that somewhat sad improvement was all Eli Manning, Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Saquon Barkley needed to do their thing. It was direct proof of where the issues lie. If this line can just be mediocre, this offense can be very dangerous and exciting to watch.

As Sy’56 correctly pointed out, Chad Wheeler is getting a bit too much of the credit. That was an Ereck Flowers-esque performance that fans were willing to ignore out of the satisfaction of seeing that sun flower eating machine standing on the sidelines. I felt the steadying force was the presence of veteran John Greco manning the middle and directing traffic. I mocked the Giants when they re-signed the aging veteran. I couldn’t have been more wrong on that one. Clearly what the team needs is for the offensive line to build upon and improve from last week’s performance, not regress. Give Eli some time. Let Beckham and Shepard do their thing. Give Saquon some room to make a man miss.

Unfortunately for the Giants, Wheeler will be matched up against the Saints’ best pass rusher, defensive end Cameron Jordan, who already has four sacks on the season. The Giants should consider giving Wheeler some help and not let Jordan ruin the game. With Evan Engram out, it would make sense for Scott Simonson or Rhett Ellison to at least chip on him.

With New Orleans’ pass defense being so bad in comparison with their more stingy run defense (allowing only 3 yards per carry), the temptation would be for New York to concentrate on throwing the ball more. I wouldn’t do that. The Saints haven’t seen a back like Saquon. Plus, you do not want the Saints teeing off on Manning. And you want to control the clock. You have to be a bit stubborn and patient when running the football. Give Saquon enough touches and he’s going to burn any defense.

That all said, the Saints’ secondary has not been good. And they lost their nickel corner Patrick Robinson with a broken ankle. The obvious counter-move for the Giants is to exploit the new nickel corner with both Beckham and Shepard. The Giants will miss Evan Engram and the vertical threat he poses, but Rhett Ellison is a reliable, sure-handed receiver who Eli trusts. In the short-term, the Giants may actually do a bit better moving the chains as Ellison is more dependable.

Stating the obvious, the Giants need to score more points than they usually do to win this game. 17, 20, and probably 24 points isn’t going to do it. But don’t look at the big picture and just focus on one play at a time. Run Barkley. Take your shots with Beckham and Shepard. The points will come.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
For better or worse, this will be fascinating to watch. We’re about to get a more complete read on James Bettcher and his troops as the Saints’ offense is a much different animal than what the Giants have faced in the first three games of the season. The Jaguars, Cowboys, and Texans are run-oriented offenses with quarterbacks who could hurt you with their feet. That’s not to say the Saints’ offensive line isn’t physical or the Saints can’t hurt you running the football (19th in yards per rush), it’s just that their passing game is so dynamic. The Giants haven’t seen an offense like this. And it will be a real test for the secondary and linebackers in coverage. And to make matters worse, Eli Apple is out yet another week and Antonio Hamilton is questionable.

Enter Alvin Kamara, a running back who plays like a wide receiver. The good news for the Giants’ defense is they have practiced against this type of back since OTAs in Saquon Barkley. The bad news is the Giants may not have anyone who can match-up with him. Kamara has rushed for 141 yards in three games, but more alarming is he has caught 30 passes for 289 yards during that same time span, averaging almost 10 yards per catch. Brees is smart. When he needs to move the sticks, he checks down to Kamara on option routes. So the question for the Giants is do they put a linebacker like Ray-Ray Armstrong on him, safety Landon Collins, or a reserve corner? Obviously, things will switch up as the Giants move from man to zone coverage, and attempt to disguise their coverages. But it will be interesting to see who has Kamara on most plays. I would not play B.J. Goodson much in this game.

But the threats don’t end with Kamara. Wideout Michael Thomas has caught an unbelievable 38 passes for 398 yards and three touchdowns in just three games. The Saints use Thomas like Beckham. They’ll move him around, including into the slot. Literally two-thirds of Brees’ passes go to Kamara and Thomas.

Giants fans are well aware what happens when the team loses track of the “lesser” players. Receivers like Ted Ginn, who only has 12 passes, have hurt the team before. Tight end Benjamin Watson can also be a thorn. So while the defensive focus must be on the two bigger threats, those covering Ginn and Watson must do their job.

Which brings us to Drew Brees. The guy is a machine. I never thought I’d see the day when a quarterback was completing over 80 percent of his passes. That’s almost unfair. In three games, Brees has thrown for over 1,000 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. His season QB rating is 122.2. He can only go down, right? Let’s hope so. There is no good answer to defend him. If you come after Brees, he’s smart and experienced enough to read it and burn your defense for a long touchdown. If you play back, he can dink and dunk you to death. Again, Bettcher will obviously switch things up. And it’s in Bettcher’s nature to attack. We’re about to find out just how gutsy and fearless Bettcher is. The smart play would probably be to play it safe, rush four, and play back. The good news for the Giants is that Brees is the most immobile QB they have faced. The Giants’ pass rush has actually been better than the stats show as mobile quarterbacks have gotten away from them in all three games. Brees shouldn’t be able to do that.

I’ll tell you who my wild card for this game is: Landon Collins. He hasn’t had a great start to the year. He’s due for a big game. And Landon is the kind of player who be a difference maker as a blitzer and creating turnovers. If Landon plays poorly, the Giants are probably in trouble; if he plays well, the Giants may be able to slow down this offense.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Knock on wood again. One of the biggest and flying under the radar surprises this year has been Aldrick Rosas. On the other hand, the Giants are still having ball security issues with their punt returners. They ditched Kaelin Clay, but Stacy Coley also muffed a punt last week. And Coley’s dealing with a hamstring now. We may see Odell returning a punt in the game out of necessity.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Defensive Coordinator James Bettcher on the Saints’ offense: “Before the snap some of the things Drew is able to get up and do and change protections, change routes, change formations at the line of scrimmage so it’s going to be a great challenge. The running back is a really special player. A guy that they use in the backfield to carry the ball, heavily in the screen game or they split him out and use him as a slot-type receiver. They’re going to find ways to target him and get him touches and Thomas is another really, really talented receiver on the perimeter. Has really strong hands at the point when balls are up and some of those 50/50 balls he’s a really good player in those scenarios.”

THE FINAL WORD:
When I predict a win, they lose; when I predict loss, they win. Giants get crushed this weekend.

Sep 202016
 
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Lea Thompson

New York Giants 16 – New Orleans Saints 13

Overview

“Things are different now.”

Those brilliant, Shakespearean-like words were uttered by one of the finest actresses in silver-screen history, Lea Thompson, in the all-time classic Red Dawn. And as I watched the New York Giants against the New Orleans Saints that magnificent prose from 1984 kept ringing in my ear.

The Giants have won the first two games of the season despite being held to under 21 points in both games. They oddly out-rushed the Cowboys and beat the high-powered Saints without scoring an offensive touchdown. Now one would think that turnovers were the great equalizer but the Giants defense has not yet forced a turnover this year. Worse, the Giants are actually -4 in turnover differential.

So how are the Giants winning? Defense. Hard-hitting, sure-tackling, fundamentally-sound defense. They’ve held both the Cowboys and Saints to one touchdown apiece. I’ve opined in the past that a defense that lives and dies off of turnovers will eventually whither. Because while turnovers are often the product of good defense, they are also often based on luck. This Giants defense isn’t based on luck. It is showing flashes of Giants teams of old – hit, tackle, stop the run, get after the passer, cover the offensive targets.

Just wait until they get a bit lucky and the turnovers start flowing their way.

So a Giants defense that has been cellar dwellers for the past few seasons is showing some bite. And the Giants are winning close games, even when their offense has yet to click on all cylinders. Indeed, things are different now.

Giants on Offense

This is a bottom-line business and the bottom line is the Giants offense scored nine points. The problems were obvious: an inability to run the football, dropped passes, turnovers, and 0-for-3 in the red zone. Smartly, the Saints played it safe on defense, giving up the dink-and-dunk stuff, hoping the Giants would make mistakes during longer drives – which they did. The good news? The Giants still managed to generate 22 first downs and 417 net yards of offense, were close to 50 percent on 3rd down efficiency, only committed two penalties, and dominated time-of-possession by eight minutes.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 18, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterback

The Giants scored nine offensive points? Eli Manning must have sucked, right? Far from it. In fact, had it not been for a number of costly dropped passes, his already strong numbers would have been outstanding. As it was, Manning finished the game 32-of-41 for 368 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions. The biggest knock was his fumble that gave the Saints the ball at the NYG 25-yard line.

But with the game tied twice in the 4th quarter, Manning coolly led his team on two go-ahead field-goal drives. On the first, Manning was 5-of-6 for for 68 yards, including a 32-yarder on 3rd-and-8 to Sterling Shepard. On the second drive, he was 3-of-4 for 51 yards. The one miss was a bad drop by Odell Beckham. Manning threw for six yards on 3rd-and-1 and 34 yards on 3rd-and-8 on this game-winning effort.

Running Backs

The two-headed committee that was so successful against Dallas largely flopped against the Saints. Rashad Jennings only rushed for 27 yards on 13 carries (a measly 2.1 yards per rush) and suffered a hand injury that limited his touches in the second half (only three carries after intermission). Shane Vereen carried the ball 14 times for 42 yards (3.0 yards per rush) and fumbled the ball away at the Saints 36-yard line. Orleans Darkwa had one carry for -1 yard. The three backs did catch a cumulative six passes for 50 yards.

Victor Cruz, New York Giants (September 18, 2016)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

The three-head monster continues to evolve despite a number of costly mistakes. Sterling Shepard’s breakout game didn’t take long as the rookie caught all eight passes throwing in his direction for 118 yards, including two 32-yard receptions, both coming on 3rd down. Odell Beckham caught 8-of-11 targets for 86 yards, but might have been the goat for his late drop on the game-winning march. Beckham did draw two pass interference penalties as well. Victor Cruz saved Beckham on the very next play as he out-fought the corner for the key offensive play of the game – a 34-yard catch down to the Saints 2-yard line in the waning moments of the game. Cruz finished with four catches (in eight targets) for 91 yards, but dropped three passes that hit him in the hands. His longest reception (a 40-yarder) was ruined by his fumble.

Dwayne Harris (3 snaps) and Tavarres King (1 snap) barely saw the field.

Tight Ends/Fullbacks

One gets the sense that if the Giants had a consistent play-maker at tight end, this offense would really reach a new level. Larry Donnell had a key 15-yard touchdown pass against the Cowboys, but that was it. This week he caught 4-of-5 passes thrown his way, but those were for only 24 yards and the one drop came in the end zone. Will Tye caught 2-of-3 targets for 10 yards. 34 yards total from your tight ends is not terribly productive.

Offensive Line

This performance was reminiscent of last season. The Giants had problems running the football, especially near the goal line. Eli Manning was for the most part protected. He was hit officially three times, with two of these unfortunately being sacks. Both tackles were flagged with holding penalties on the same drive. The weak spot was Marshall Newhouse, who also left the game late with a calf injury that may cost him some time. Newhouse gave up both sacks on back-to-back plays. Bobby Hart came in to replace him for a dozen snaps.

Giants on Defense

The Giants defense has forced no turnovers and only has two sacks in the first two games. But they are hitting, tackling, and playing fundamentally-sound football. The defense also seems much faster. As hoped, other teams are finding it extremely difficult to run against the Giants. In a football game that was tight throughout, the Saints largely eschewed the run with only 13 carries for 41 yards (3.2 yards per rush). Some other stats of note were the Giants had five tackles for a loss, six quarterback hits, and a very good seven passes defensed.

Defensive Line

Last week, the defensive line had no sacks and officially only three quarterback hits. This week, the defensive line had no sacks and officially only four quarterback hits. This just shows you that you can’t base everything on stats. The defensive line as a unit is playing well. The hits and sacks will come. The Saints hardly bothered to run against the Giants and when they did, they were not terribly successful, gaining only 41 yards with the longest run being nine yards. Indeed, unlike last year’s team that regularly gave up the big play, the longest play for the Cowboys was a 21-yard pass play. The Saints had two plays over 18 yards (both passes – one for 21 and one for 23). Why the big turnaround? Yes, coverage matters but so does the pass rush. While the Giants are not getting there yet, the quarterbacks are aware of New York’s rushers.

Despite coming into the game with injuries, Jason Pierre-Paul (1 tackle, 1 QB hit, 1 pass defense) and Olivier Vernon (1 tackle, 1 QB hit) played virtually the entire game. Neither stood out on the stat sheet. JPP was flagged for a neutral zone infraction.

The interesting item to note this week was the reduce snaps for Johnathan Hankins (45 snaps, 4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 2 quarterback hits) and especially Damon Harrison (34 snaps, 4 tackles) as the Giants used more of their DE/DT “Nascar” hybrids inside. Romeo Okwara (19 snaps, 1 tackle) and Owamagbe Odighizuwa (16 snaps) were the beneficiaries of added playing time. Okwara got flagged with an offsides penalty that erased a sack by Vernon. DT Jay Bromley (7 snaps) and DE Kerry Wynn (5 snaps) did not play much. Hankins blew up a screen pass for a 3-yard loss.

Linebackers

Again, what is interesting is the snap distribution. You can’t make plays if you are sitting on the bench. Only four linebackers saw the field on defense. Keenan Robinson (52 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 pass defense) played more than any linebacker. Jonathan Casillas (41 snaps, 6 tackles, 1 pass defense) also was on the field quite a bit. Devon Kennard (10 snaps, 2 tackles) and Kelvin Sheppard (10 snaps, 1 tackle, 1 pass defense) did not play much. Robinson and Casillas give the Giants linebacking corps a more athletic feel than in recent years as both run well and can cover. Robinson flashed, starting with a textbook tackle for a 2-yard loss on the Saints second series. Three of the pass break-ups came from the linebackers.

Defensive Backs

When you hold Drew Brews to 263 yards passing with the longest play be 23 yards, you are doing your job. Brees was spotted at times looking for his first, second, and third options without luck.

I hate to harp on snap distribution, but there were some interesting developments here too. Like last week, Landon Collins (62 snaps, 6 tackles, 1 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 1 QB hit) was a fixture at strong safety and free safety snaps were split between Darian Thompson (45 snaps, 4 tackles) and Nat Berhe (17 snaps, 1 tackle), with Thompson receiving far more playing time this week due to his shoulder injury improving. Collins is starting to come on. He expertly stuffed a run on the first series and then sacked Drew Brees on 3rd-and-9 on the second series. The only major snafu was when WR Willie Snead split the safeties for a 17-yard touchdown reception.

What is far more interesting was Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (39 snaps, 2 tackles) was fourth in snaps at cornerback behind Janoris Jenkins (59 snaps, 8 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 2 pass defenses), Eli Apple (59 snaps, 7 tackles, 1 pass defense), and Leon Hall (41 snaps, 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 sack). Remarkably, Hall’s sack on 3rd-and-10 was the first of his long career. On back-to-back plays in the 2nd quarter, DRC expertly defended a deep pass and then Jenkins blew up a WR-screen that lost two yards. Apple made a nice tackle in run support but then gave up a 17-yard reception (on 3rd-and-9) and a 23-yard reception on the Saints only scoring drive of the first half. Jenkins did a fantastic job of sticking with his man across the field and knocking the intended pass away in the 3rd quarter. DRC did give up a 15-yard reception on 3rd-and-7. Apple had good coverage on two deep shots in the 4th quarter as did Jenkins on another.

https://twitter.com/VeteranScout/status/777996459266322432

Giants on Special Teams

Of course the play of the game was the field goal attempt that was blocked by Johnathan Hankins and returned 65 yards for a touchdown by Janoris Jenkins.

Josh Brown returned and was 3-for-4 on field goal attempts. He missed from 53 yards out while making his efforts of 48, 19, and 23 yards. Two of his four kickoffs resulted in touchbacks; the other two returns only gained 24 yards total.

Brad Wing only punted twice, averaging 58 yards per punt (44.5 yard net). The Giants gave up 21 yards on one of those returns and six on the other.

Dwayne Harris did not get a chance to return a kickoff and returned one punt for nine yards.

(New Orleans Saints at New York Giants, September 18, 2016)
Sep 182016
 
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Jonathan Casillas and Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants (September 18, 2016)

Jonathan Casillas and Janoris Jenkins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 16 – NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 13…
The New York Giants gutted out a 16-13 win over the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The game-winning 23-yard field goal was kicked by Josh Brown as time expired on the clock. The victory improved the Giants record to 2-0, the first time the team has started the season with two wins since 2009.

Remarkably, the Giants beat the high-powered Saints without scoring an offensive touchdown. The Giants dominated the stat sheet, out-gaining the Saints in first downs (22 to 16), third-down efficiency (47% to 23%), total net yards (417 to 288), net yards rushing (64 to 41), and net yards passing (353 to 247). But the Giants fumbled the ball away three times (for a -3 turnover differential) and were halted on a 4th-and-goal attempt.

The story of the game for the Giants was their defense and special teams. In seven first-half possessions, the Saints only gained six first downs. They punted the ball away five times, had a field goal blocked, and kicked another field goal with their only productive drive of the first half (11 plays and 54 yards).

Meanwhile, the Giants offense bumbled and stumbled in the first half even though the team punted the ball away only once (on their first drive). The Giants had an impressive 14-play, 80-yard possession end on 4th-and-2 at the 3-yard line with an incomplete pass to wide receiver Odell Beckham. Then came three straight offensive possessions with fumbles – one each by running back Shane Vereen, wide receiver Victor Cruz, and quarterback Eli Manning.

The drama began after Manning’s fumble which gave the Saints the ball at the New York 25-yard line. The defense held and forced New Orleans to attempt a 38-yard field goal. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins blocked the attempt. The loose ball was picked up by cornerback Janoris Jenkins who then raced 65 yards for the first score of the day for either team with 2:30 to play in the 2nd quarter. The Saints then responded with their one scoring drive of the first half. At the break, the Giants led 7-3.

The Giants missed a 53-yard field goal and the Saints punted early in the 3rd quarter. The Giants then put together an 11-play, 54-yard drive that ended with a 48-yard field goal by Josh Brown. The Saints responded late in the 3rd quarter/early in the 4th quarter with a 9-play, 74-yard drive that ended with 17-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Drew Brees. The score tied the game at 10-10.

The Giants immediately followed this up with an impressive 11-play, 74-yard drive that unfortunately stalled at the 1-yard line after facing a 1st-and-goal from the one. Brown’s second field goal of the day gave the Giants a 13-10 advantage with 8:46 to play. After both teams exchanged punts, the Saints tied the game after an 8-play, 47-yard drive set up a successful 45-yard field goal with 2:54 to play.

Then came the game-winning possession by the Giants as New York drove 70 yards in 11 plays. They converted two 3rd downs, including a 6-yard pass on 3rd-and-1 to wide receiver Sterling Shepard and a 34-yard pass to Cruz on 3rd-and-8 down to the Saints’ 2-yard line. After three kneel downs by quarterback Eli Manning, Brown kicked the game-winning 23-yard field goal with no time left on the clock.

Offensively, Manning finished the game 32-of-41 for 368 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions. His leading receivers were Shepard (8 catches for 117 yards), Beckham (8 catches for 86 yards), and Cruz (4 catches for 91 yards). The leading runners were Vereen (14 carries for 42 yards) and Rashad Jennings (13 carries for 27 yards).

Defensively, the Giants did not force a turnover for the second game in a row. The first sacks on the year were generated by safety Landon Collins and cornerback Leon Hall.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were defensive tackle Robert Thomas (illness), quarterback Josh Johnson, running back Bobby Rainey, running back Paul Perkins, wide receiver Roger Lewis, offensive tackle Will Beatty, and defensive tackle Montori Hughes.

Safety Mykkele Thompson injured his knee and right tackle Marshall Newhouse strained his calf in the game. Neither returned. Newhouse was seen after the game with his right foot in a boot. Running back Rashad Jennings had x-rays after the game and his hand was heavily wrapped.

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

POST-GAME NOTES…
The Giants have won six consecutive games when holding the opposition to fewer than 20 points.

The Giants improved to 50-39-3 in home openers, including 3-4 in MetLife Stadium.

Ben McAdoo joined Dan Reeves (1993) and Joe Alexander (1926) as the only head coaches in franchise history to win their first two games as a Giants head coach.

This was the 30th game in which quarterback Eli Manning led the Giants to victory when they were tied or trailing in the fourth quarter.

Manning’s career yardage total increased to 44,762. That moved him past Drew Bledsoe (44,611) and into 10th place on the NFL’s career list.

The Giants scored on a blocked field goal for the first time since December 7, 2008, when cornerback Kevin Dockery scooped up a blocked attempt by Philadelphia’s David Akers and returned it 71 yards for a score.

PRACTICE SQUAD MOVES…
The New York Giants have re-signed quarterback Logan Thomas to the Practice Squad and terminated the Practice Squad contract of linebacker Deontae Skinner. Thomas had been cut from the Practice Squad on Tuesday to make room for Skinner.

Thomas was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. The Dolphins claimed Thomas off of waivers from the Cardinals in September 2015 and the Giants claimed him off of waivers from the Dolphins in June 2016.

Skinner was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the New England Patriots after the 2014 NFL Draft. He has spent time with the Patriots (2014-2015) and Eagles (2015-2016), the latter waiving him on August 22.

ARTICLES…

Sep 162016
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New Orleans Saints at New York Giants, September 18, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
The opening day victory against the Dallas Cowboys was huge. The obvious goal now is to get off to a 2-0 start by winning the home opener against a team that has given the Giants issues in recent years. Steve Spagnuolo and his defensive unit were humiliated last season as the Saints put up 52 points against New York. That marked yet another game where the Giants struggled on defense against an elite quarterback, in this case Drew Brees, who has had some of his best games of his career against the Giants. Enter Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins, Eli Apple, and Darian Thompson. We’re about to find out how much things have really changed on the defensive side of the ball.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) – questionable
  • DE Olivier Vernon (wrist) – probable
  • DT Robert Thomas (illness) – out

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The Saints are going to put points on the board. So will the Giants. The traditional ways to approach this game are to either (1) slow the game down, maintain possession, and keep the Saints explosive offense off the field; or (2) be aggressive against a terrible defense and beat the Saints at their own up-tempo game. In the dome in New Orleans last year, the Giants got into a shootout and Eli Manning threw six touchdown passes – yet the Giants lost. But now the defense is improved. So the temptation will be to attack, attack, attack against a weak cornerback group that just lost its best player. That said, Ben McAdoo also has to like what he saw out of his ground game against Dallas last week combined with the possibility of wet weather on Sunday.

The 4-3 Saints defense is not good. They lack talent at all three levels. But they do have some strength down the middle with ex-Lion Nick Fairley at defensive tackle, ex-Ram James Laurinaitis at middle linebacker, and Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd at safety. Right defensive end Cameron Jordan is a very good player. We’ll get a far better read on Ereck Flowers this week. This is a match-up that could be a problem for the Giants. I’d be tempted to shift a tight end over there to help out Flowers. The cornerback situation for the Saints is a mess. Their best corner – Delvin Breaux – is out and all they are left with are no-names with little experience.

If I’m the Saints, I play it safe on defense, give up the underneath plays, and force the Giants to drive the field without making mistakes (penalties, negative yardage plays, turnovers). If they aggressively challenge Eli Manning, I think Odell Beckham, Sterling Sheppard, and Victor Cruz will eat them alive with big plays down the field (assuming the weather cooperates). But if the Saints play off with more defenders in coverage, like I suspect, then Manning will have to be patient and the ground game will have to produce. And like against the Cowboys, the Giants need to score touchdowns rather than field goals in the red zone. My guess is this is a game where Shane Vereen could possibly thrive as a runner and receiver. I think the short pass to him will be there all day long.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Drew Brees loves playing the Giants. But historically this Saints team is not the same on the road as it is at home, including against the Giants (see Giants 52-27 win in 2012 at the Meadowlands). And the 2016 New York Giants defense is not the 2015 version. Brees and the Saints are going to score. The key is to limit the damage. New Orleans is very, very good at converting on 3rd down and keeping drives alive. Again, weather could play a factor here too.

Brees is the heart-and-soul of the offense. He makes it go. They key is pressure him, make him uncomfortable, without leaving gaping holes in the secondary for him to exploit (like last year’s game in New Orleans). I would not send a lot of blitzes but rely on the front four to apply pressure, and often utilizing the Nascar package when the down-and-distance enable the Giants to do so. This is a game where ends Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul can really make a difference. Brees is not a scrambler. The Giants can pin their ears back and get after him. Now the risk obviously is that Saints cross up the Giants with a heavy dose of running back Mark Ingram, but that’s a risk they are probably willing to take. The thought here is Damon Harrison and Johnathan Hankins can hold down the fort and limit the damage.

The Giants do match up well on the back end because of their corners. Janoris Jenkins seems to have the ideal skill set versus the quick and speedy WR Brandin Cooks. I’d use Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple to take out the other wideouts – Willie Sneed and Michael Thomas. The Saints will probably try to free up Cooks by moving him to the slot quite a bit. Ex-Colt tight end Coby Fleener was added in the offseason, but so far he has not produced as expected. Still, given the Giants poor history of defending tight ends in recent years, the defense needs to account for him.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Saints have good coverage teams and Ben McAdoo has voiced his concern that the Saints will take some chances with trick plays on special teams. Josh Brown returns from suspension and a butt-load of negative media. It will be interesting to see how he responds.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on Saints DE Cameron Jordan: “Jordan is a guy that is a very talented player, as well. He’s a guy that can wreck a game and destroy a game. We have to make sure we’re aware of where he is. He’ll line up in multiple spots.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Many Giants fans are gun-shy of the Saints because of recent history when playing them down in New Orleans. But the Giants match-up extremely well with the Saints on both sides of the ball. Look for the Giants to win by at least 10 points.

Nov 042015
 
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animal-house-speech

New Orleans Saints 52 – New York Giants 49

Overview

What? Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! And it ain’t over now. Cause when the goin’ get tough…The tough get goin! Who’s with me? Let’s goooo! That’s how I felt when do-everything CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie laid the wood on WR Willie Snead and Trumaine McBride raced home for a 49-42 lead and finally a glimmer of hope emerged from the Superdome (or Mercedes Benz Bowl or whatever, I don’t care). Down 42-28, the G-Men once again summoned what the legendary Mick Foley would call their testicular fortitude. After a Dwayne Harris TD pulled the visitors to within 7, the Giants’ defense actually appeared for a series, forcing a 3-and-out which Eli Manning and his top WR trio turned into a 3-play, 65-yard game-tying drive.

Once down 14 in the final stanza, the Giants now had life, actual life after Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Ben Watson and Brandin Cooks ran up and down the field with no resistance for 3.5 quarters. Facing a 2nd-and-6 at the Giants’ 43, Brees found Snead on a quick in-route. DRC applied a perfect tackle, the ball popped loose and Trumaine McBride was off to a 63-yard score and a miraculous 49-42 lead. Predictably, the Saints answered with a 14-play, 80-yard drive that left Eli and company 36 seconds to win the game. Ordinarily not much time but in a game that featured 13 TD passes, 36 seconds is a lifetime. Two Manning incompletions sandwiched around a 5-yard pass to RB Shane Vereen and 20 seconds remained. Punter Brad Wing seemingly put the game into overtime with a 46-yard punt. But Marcus Murphy returned the ball 24 yards, coughed it up and Snead grabbed it and was down at the 47-yard line. But a penalty flag lingered. After much consternation, the referees deemed there was no penalty and the ball was to be moved back one yard because a fumble inside of 2 minutes cannot be advanced. But then, as it had all day, disaster struck any chance the Giants had of stealing a win in the Bayou. After another pow-wow, the referees determined (and it was clear) that Wing had winged Snead down by the face, not only frowned upon, but an actual infraction that turned an OT game into a 50-yard Kai Forbath game-winner.

Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Quarterbacks

Welcome back to the Big Easy, Easy Eli. His hometown was good to the New Orleans native. The former Ole Miss Rebel torched the Saints to the tune of 350 yards and 6 TDs while completing 73% of his aerials. Eli was nearly perfect, but his now-I-have-it, now-I-don’t-fumble midway through the second quarter was his only real mistake along with possibly an overthrow to Dwayne Harris early in the game down the right sideline. That’s just nitpicking when looking for something bad in a loss. Let’s be honest, if the G-Men pulled this one out, Eli would have been the hero for his 42 points and 6 TDs. Eli was effective on just about everything, short throws to backs, the quick slants and even the broken play when he heaved the ball deep to Odell Beckham Jr. for a TD and found Dwayne Harris in the middle of the end zone on another 4th down scoring play that kept the Giants in the game.

Running Backs

The RB rotation keeps highlighting a different player each game. This time it was #34 Shane Vereen who stole the show with 145 total yards, 8 catches and a TD. Rashad Jennings had the most yardage from scrimmage of the group with 85 total yards and an impressive 5.4 yards per carry. Andre Williams again struggled with 7 yards on 5 carries and it may be time for the former Eagle to take a seat for a few weeks. He’s wasting carries. Orleans Darkwa ripped off a 17-yarder in the first quarter but only saw the rock 4 times total for 23 yards due to an injury.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Wide Receivers

Rueben Randle opened the team’s first possession with a 19-yard deep-in from Manning and was accosted by penalty-machine and repeat PED-offender Brandon Browner a few plays later with no call. Randle was suplexed later in the first quarter by Mr. PED and Browner cost his team another silly 15 yards. Browner seemingly grabbed on every single play and seems to not fully comprehend the playbook. Browner had a sure INT just plays later but you guessed it, Brandon Browner held Randle in the end zone to get to the ball – just a horrific display. Odell Beckham Jr. seemed to enjoy his return to New Orleans as well, hauling in a team-high 130 yards and 3 TDs on 8 grabs. Beckham cashed in on the Giants’ first drive with an inside rub route on 4th-and-goal, and followed that up with a 50-yard, cross-field, broken-play TD from Manning that shows how dangerous these two are when healthy and focused. In the absence of Victor Cruz, Dwayne Harris has stepped up game after game for the G-Men. Harris made two fourth quarter, red zone TDs and finished with 37 yards on 3 grabs – another impactful effort from the former Cowboy.

Tight Ends

Poor Larry Donnell, at least he doesn’t look like Yaphet Kotto. Donnell set up the Giants’ second TD of the day with a diving 22-yard grab but did not return after injuring his neck. Kotto…err Tye was pressed into a lot of action on Sunday and was up and down. Just in case Rueben Randle was feeling singled out, Browner also illegally pulled Tye to the ground late in the first half to keep a Giants’ TD drive going. Tye then made an athletic grab one play prior to Shane Vereen’s TD grab to showcase his improving ability to contribute when it matters. Tye and Donnell are very different players with different skill sets, but Tye looks to have some promise as a slot weapon. Tye made a long catch that was negated by an Ereck Flowers hold, but it’s something to watch as he progresses. Tye did fumble the ball after a short catch on 3rd-and-16, but expect growing pains with this group as injured as it’s been.

alike

Kotto…or Will Tye???

Offensive Line

42 points is tough to argue with but 3 sacks and early trouble running left with two stuffs inside the 3-yard line may have made things feel little uglier than the final numbers suggest. Manning was dumped on his keister on the Giants’ second drive but that may go to TE Will Tye as opposed to RT Marshall Newhouse – an unblocked LB is usually someone’s fault but it’s never easy to know who. LG Justin Pugh was beaten inside for a sack in the 2nd quarter and was blown up by DT Kevin Williams inside on a goal-line series, but he righted the ship as the game went on. LT Ereck Flowers struggled at times with the tiny speed rushers that Fat Gandalf sent at him, and his hold negated a big completion to TE Will Tye – not the rookie left tackle’s best game. RG Geoff Schwartz was kind enough to get dinged so we could be re-introduced to the most-easily-moved 330lb human being of all time, John Jerry. RT Marshall Newhouse surprisingly pitched a shutout against DE Cameron Jordan.

Defensive Line

I wanted to leave this entire section blank, along with LBs and DBs, but I love pain I guess. Promising enough start, with DT Jon Hankins and DE Robert Ayers shutting down a Khiry Robinson toss for no gain on the Saints’ first drive of the game. After that, hide yo’ kids. Not once but twice I saw 330lb DT Jon Hankins IN COVERAGE! Yes I get the fire zone concept but using your best DL to waddle backwards and flail helplessly at passes is not the best use of resources. Hankins was in coverage again on Colston’s joke of a TD pass, but it was hardly the big fella’s fault. Overall though, bad, just bad. No pressure, no sacks and the Saints did whatever they wanted all day long. DE Kerry Wynn made the only good play of the day, dropping RB C.J. Spiller for a loss. Yes, a Giant defender not named DRC made a play, but in the words of Bill Parcells…that’s like throwing a deck chair off of the Queen Mary. Whoopdee doo in an otherwise putrid performance.

Linebackers

You’re all worthless and weak! Now drop and give me twenty! If only Niedermeyer was in charge of our LBs instead of Marty Funkhouser, maybe they’d have shown up on Sunday. I must admit, I did see LB Jon Casillas make a stop, but I also saw him flailing helplessly as Saint after Saint tip toed by on the way to the end zone. Uani ‘Unga had a shot at an interception but decided he didn’t want to help either. Jasper Brinkley was pressed into service, and after this game he should be pressed into a cube. He was completely useless in coverage and against the run. The LBs were polite though, leaving plenty of room for Saints’ players to run around and have a good time.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Trumaine McBride, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Trumaine McBride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Backs

Thank you sir! May I have another? Why yes, yes you can you can have 7 TD passes thrown against you in one game. Out of this entire gang, only DRC did anything of note with his jarring tackle that fell into the hands of Trumaine McBride and gave the Giants their only glimmer of hope on an otherwise abysmal defensive day. S Landon Collins had his worst game as a pro, often falling flat footed when forced to turn his hips and open up to the outside. Collins bit hard on the Saints’ first TD, taking the few false steps forward on a flea flicker that Drew Brees required to toss the ball over the rookie’s oddly square head. (Have you looked at his head in interviews? It’s like a 4-slice toaster with hair). Trevin Wade got in on the fun with the Saints pinned at their own 4-yard line by losing the ball in the air and giving up a 46-yard completion to TE Ben Watson. Just awful technique, as Wade was stride for stride with Watson down the sideline. Wade got a bird’s eye view on Brandin Cooks first TD, seemingly admiring the 2nd-year WR’s route-running and refusing to get a hand on him. Wade and Collins chipped in again with horrific technique and coverage on Brees’ 4th TD pass of the game. Wade slowly trailed Snead across the formation only to see Collins stand flat-footed again and do nothing to help. Thank God for DRC. His interception and tackle that became a TD were the only bright spots for this defense. In fact, the only non-horrible, stomach-turning why-am-I-watching-this-defense-flop-around-like-armless-babies moment for the defense.

Special Teams

Well, as of this moment, Tom Quinn is on DOUBLE SECRET PROBATION. Yes, the special teams dream weaver finally got his charges to win a game last week. But in true bizarro-season style, the special teams shanked the game away in the waning moments, forever erasing Matt Dodge from our memories. Well maybe not erasing, but at least he has a buddy now that P Brad Wing decided to yank a Saint down by the facemask, putting the home team 15 yards closer to victory. Overall, good kick coverage again as the Saints managed 26 yards on 2 kickoff returns but the 24 yards by Marcus Murphy on the final punt return coupled with Wing’s gaffe was the difference in this game. Quinn’s return game was strong though, with 169 yards on 5 kick returns, the long a 46-yarder by Shane Vereen.

Anatomy of a Busted Coverage

So who to blame on the Marques Colston TD? Sure it’s one play among about 50 you could get ill watching, but this was the most egregious of all the egregiousness we saw on Sunday. The Giants came out in 2-deep coverage, but motion by WR Willie Snead moves S Brandon Meriweather (#22) into the slot. That’s where the breakdown begins. This should now be 3-deep coverage with Collins (#21) covering the deep middle and Hosley (#28) covering the deep third. The slot defenders in this formation are Trevin Wade (#31) and S Brandon Meriweather. The CBs are DRC (#41) and Jayron Hosley. As Snead motions, #22 slides up into slot coverage.

Colston1

Colston 2Collins should have moved off his hash to the deep middle as #22 slides into the slot. Collins stays put though to keep an eye on the TE, which he should not have done.

Colston3How do we know this? Watch up top, as DRC and Trevin Wade correctly play the coverage. DRC stays in the flat and Wade goes deep with his man indicating either man-coverage or Cover-3. Collins keeps eyes on the TE, but LB Uani ‘Unga and DT Jon Hankins drop into the hook zones to defend against the TE and any crossing routes from this formation, which negates the idea that it’s man coverage. That means that Collins should have abandoned the TE, and known by the shift that he was the lone deep safety with Meriweather now underneath. Further evidence is that Meriweather gives Colston an inside release and jams him towards the middle, a clear indication that (1) he knows he has help, and (2) he knows it’s a timing route and he can affect the play with a good jam. It’s possible that #28 should should have run deep in the slot as Wade did up top, but the shift of ‘Unga, Hankins and Meriweather show pretty clearly that they are the LBs in coverage for this formation and they have the short middle. Hosley though doesn’t get any width as Meriweather does, indicating he likely had deep third on his side. Most of the fault lies with Collins, but it appears Hosley read the shift incorrectly and wasn’t able to help by being in a trail position on Colston. The deep third is missing two people and Marques Colston races to pay dirt.

Coaching

Daniel Day Spagnuolo HAS no grade point average. All courses incomplete. That’s honestly as fairly as it can be put, incomplete. I cannot even fail Spags this week because he simply didn’t show up nor did his defense save for DRC on two plays. There was no scheme, there was no plan, there was mayhem for 4 quarters and it was revolting to watch. Drew Brees practically held a 7-on-7 drill for 3 hours. It was as rough to watch the second time as it was in real time and I saw nothing to change our collective opinion that this film should be burned and never spoken of again.

OC Ben McAdoo again annoyed with his RBBC approach that seems to go by series. But how can you argue with 42 points? Well if you’re the Saints, you argue back with 52, but I digress. I’m still confused by the rigidity of the RB distribution. At some point you have to ride the hot hand and control the clock and the game, but that doesn’t appear to be the approach in any game thus far. McAdoo’s passing game was nearly perfect even after losing starting TE Larry Donnell and playing from behind from the 2nd quarter on. Excellent work with Eli and company this week.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

The CiiyCA committee had too heated of a debate as to who should win the trophy this week for us to settle on a winner too quickly. Among the nominees: Sean Payton, HC of the Saints for what one staffer said was “His I’m sorta making kissy face but maybe I’m eating lemons face..face, I hate it and I want to punch it but I’m afraid there will be a bounty on us.”  Another potential winner was color man (which quite frankly we find offensive and racist and prefer they be called Former Player American Announcer Guy) Daryl Johnston for taking eons to get out any sentence then the sentence being insignificant because it’s three plays later and usually wrong. He is for all intents a purposes, the Jonathan Casillas of announcers, lots of stuff on the stat sheet, but damned if we know if what it is. If I had a coin I would have flipped it, but during my review, the gem below from Johnston after Orleans Darkwa was stuffed..NOT by Kevin Williams on the goal line cemented the former Cowboy as the winner. Read the following as quickly as possible with a slight lisp, with only pauses at the ellipses, no voice inflection and a hint of incredulity at the first bold section and you’ll hear it all over again in horrible nightmarish fashion.

“Kenny are they still running it right at Kevin Williams are we still running it right at huh uh Kevin Williams that guy was a beast on the opening series when they came down the field…I think they ARE still going right at Kevin Williams number ninety three he doesn’t make the play on that one actually nice job by Justin Pugh but the linebackers fillin’ the hole look at them stop Orleans Darkwa right there you can see all of his momentum going forward just shut down immediately.”

(New York Giants at New Orleans Saints, November 1, 2015)