Oct 032017
 
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Wayne Gallman, New York Giants (October 1, 2017)

Wayne Gallman – © USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25 – New York Giants 23

RECAP

Typical fall weather in Florida. The sun was out, bright and shining, during pre-game warm ups then at the snap of a finger, the first few drives were played in a torrential downpour of rain. The day’s weather replicated the emotions of the Giants week 4 match-up against the Bucs, sitting at 1-1 having played just 2 games as a result of their forced week 1 bye due to weather.

The Giants offensive line saw a two-part shuffle in the starting lineup, with 2017 free agent signing D.J. Fluker getting the start at right guard, shifting John Jerry over to left guard and Brett Jones into his normal backup role. It didn’t matter who was in there early, as Bucs DT Gerald McCoy was bursting through the line whenever and however he wanted, causing major disruption early in the game. He had three tackles for losses during the Giants’ first three drives. He made both Jerry and Fluker look like high school freshman getting beat by Division I recruits. Whether he was penetrating and altering the running game’s plan or getting into Manning’s face on simple three step drop backs, he was the star of the show early.

The Bucs jumped out to an early 13-0 lead in the first quarter, with 2 touchdowns both from Jameis Winston’s arm. The first, a simple fade-type pass to their own star receiver (who near-rivals Beckham’s career numbers) Mike Evans, beating Eli Apple who did not even locate the ball. The second was a major breakdown in coverage by the Giants linebackers. Rookie tight end O.J. Howard was left all alone on a play-action right, pass left design and ended the 58-yard score with not a single defender anywhere near him. The one positive here was a missed extra point by Nick Folk, an important and oft-repeated theme of the day. The Bucs had 13 points on 12 offensive plays at the end of quarter 1. The Giants…0 points on 19 plays.

On the Giants 6th possession of the game, they finally started to piece together a positive drive into Bucs territory. They made it to the Tampa 21-yard line, 1st and 10. After a near first-down catch-and-run by Brandon Marshall, they lined up for a 3rd-and-1 on the 12-ard line. A quick inside handoff to Shane Vereen was stuffed right away by former Giants DE Robert Ayers, who beat Ereck Flowers off the ball to his inside shoulder. The Giants settled for a 30-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas, making it 13-3 with 7:21 left in the first half.

The Bucs went 3-and-out on their next drive thanks to creative play calling by Steve Spagnuolo, who put safety Landon Collins in position to disrupt the passing game via the blitz all afternoon. On 3rd-and-10, he forced Winston into a quick decision, throwing a ball right into the waiting hands of tackle Jay Bromley, who at least tried to drop in back in coverage. The ball literally went through his hands and we were all reminded that there is a reason why some guys play on the line. That could have been a major missed scoring opportunity for the Giants, but Manning and the offense responded.

Had it not been for an Odell Beckham drop (his second of the quarter), the 7-play drive would have been completely full of positive plays. Manning spread the ball around and ended it with a career long 14-yard touchdown run – the first (and currently only) Giants rushing touchdown of 2017.

Winston and the Bucs got the ball back with 3:17 and marched down the field, all the way to the Giants 1-yard line. A season that seemed to be hanging on by a thread got a major surge from the defense, holding the Bucs to a field goal and limiting the damage. The score going into halftime was Bucs 16 – Giants 10.

In the third quarter, the Bucs inched their way into field range, taking advantage of an over-aggressive Giants back seven and missed tackles. The Bucs backup running back, Jacquizz Rodgers, ran low to the ground and let the Giants defensive backs over-pursue, making it an easy task to run through arm tackles and gain extra yards. Nick Folk lined up for a 49-yard field and missed, supplying the Giants with solid field position as their quest for another comeback ensued.

The Giants marched down the field, never gaining more than 10 yards with the exception of a 13-yard run by rookie Wayne Gallman. After being a non-factor in the first three games, Gallman got his opportunity after the struggling Paul Perkins struggled to get up from a physical tackle by Kendell Beckwith. Gallman seized the opportunity, ending the drive with a 4-yard touchdown catch which put the Giants ahead for the first time, 17-16. The Giants then forced a 3-and-out capped by their lone sack of the day by the blitzing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Momentum had fully shifted in Tampa.

The Giants entered the 4th quarter in Bucs territory. With Weston Richburg out with a concussion, Brett Jones stepped in and helped pave the way for yet another positive, piece-by-piece drive. They set Aldrick Rosas up for a 43-yard field goal attempt, but the rookie pushed it wide right, giving him is first miss of his career including regular and preseason.

The Bucs moved the ball over midfield but were forced with a tough 4th-and-2 decision on their own 36-yard line. Go for it? Or give Nick Folk another chance? This time from 53 yards. They chose the former and Landon Collins continued to do what he does best, disrupt. He broke up a pass intended for Cameron Brate, turnover on downs. The Giants suffered a 3-and-out, but the negative of that was overshadowed by punter Brad Wing’s second complete shank in as many weeks, with this punt traveling a mere 15 yards, keeping Tampa right near midfield.

It didn’t take long for Tampa to reach the red zone with the biggest culprit being a half-effort missed tackle by Rodgers-Cromartie that led to a 30-yard gain by receiver Adam Humphries. The Giants lack of quality tackling is a major issue that supplied the Bucs with way too many valuable yards late in the game. Cameron Brate caught a touchdown over the middle as Jonathan Casillas was simply over-matched dropping back into coverage. The Bucs took the lead back but missed the 2-point attempt. 22-17 with 7:44 left.

On the second play of the Giants ensuing drive, which started at the 25-yard line, Manning hit Beckham for a 42-yard downfield pass. We almost forget how good Manning is at this kind of throw in this kind of situation. With the offensive line altering the Giants approach to the passing game, it is almost upsetting to see what this duo could be if there were 5 capable guys up front. Beckham was off and on the field with his ankle injury continuing to flare up. Between that and a dislocated finger suffered earlier in the game, hats off to this hard-nosed, always-hustling superstar. Gallman helped inch the Giants up to the 2-yard line and on 3rd-and-goal, Manning found Rhett Ellison for the lead-changing touchdown. Beckham did catch a 2-point conversion attempt to give the Giants a safe 3 point lead, however he (barely) stepped out of bounds prior to catching the ball and ended up having to give the points back for illegal touching. The Bucs were getting the ball back, down 1, with 3:16 left.

This is where big-time defenses step up. Sacks, pressure, turnovers….something. The Giants, however, continued to underwhelm on that side of the ball by allowing the Bucs deep into field goal territory in just 5 plays, the back-breaker being a 26-yard pass to Brate, whom beat Collins fairly easily. That play gave the Bucs tight ends a total of 6 catches for 143 yards (and 2 TDs). Instead of making plays, tackles were being missed left and right and no pressure was being put on Winston. Because the Giants mismanaged their timeouts in the 2nd half via a foolish challenge and timeout on a 2-point conversion, they were left watching the clock dwindle as the Bucs perfectly set up Nick Folk for a game-winning field goal. The 34-yard attempt snuck through the uprights by less than a foot, no time remaining. Giants lose 25-23.

QUARTERBACKS

  • Eli Manning: 30/49 – 288 yards – 2 TD/0 INT – 3 att – 21 yards – 1 TD. For the second week in a row, Manning led multiple touchdown-scoring, lead-changing drives in the second half. He had pressure in his face for the majority of his drop backs, but he wasn’t sacked once and appears to be adjusting very well to what the players around him can supply. His poise under pressure has always been a strength and he continues to give this team a fighting chance despite several factors around him heading in the wrong direction.

RUNNING BACKS

  • Wayne Gallman: 11 att – 42 yards – 2 rec – 8 yards – 1 TD. We saw a different level of explosion and decision making with Gallman during training camp in comparison to the other NYG running backs. With Paul Perkins continuing to struggle in addition to getting nicked up, Gallman got his shot in the second half and was one of the main reasons this offense had balance from there on out. He was able to find small windows, dart through them, and make positive plays out of nothing. His touchdown catch in the 3rd quarter and positive blocking grade may very well get him the starting nod in the near future.
  • Shane Vereen: 5 att – 14 yards – 1 rec – 11 yards. Continues to be underplayed, being on the field for just 28% of the plays in this one. Positive things happen with this guy on the field and he needs to get more action. I will keep saying this until it happens.
  • Paul Perkins: 9 att – 13 yards – 1 rec 6 yards. The nightmare season continues for Perkins, who may now have a rib injury to deal with in addition. Perkins finished with 13 yards but had a 14-yard run. Yes, do the math. That means otherwise, he carried the ball 8 times for -1 yard. Perkins is now averaging 1.9 yards per carry on the young season and while it isn’t only on his shoulders, the success Gallman had when he came in might be a damning fact for the second-year back.

WIDE RECEIVERS

  • Odell Beckham: 7 rec – 90 yards. Beckham is clearly still fighting the ankle injury he sustained during preseason, although he is still fully capable of making plays up and down the field. He came down with a 42-yard reception late in the game with his blazing speed and also came up with a 15-yard gain where he broke 3 tackles with a combination of strength, toughness, and quickness. Beckham, however, dropped 2 more passes and wasn’t aware of the out-of-bounds along the back of the end zone on their crucial 2-point conversion.
  • Brandon Marshall: 6 rec – 46 yards. Halfway through the game I had the thought that Marshall was just so much bigger and stronger than the Tampa corners, the Giants might as well just keep feeding him the ball underneath until the defense stopped it. For the most part, Marshall handled them in those situations but he too is still dropping too many passes. Off the top of my head he already has 5 on the young season.
  • Sterling Shepard: 5 rec – 54 yards. He was thrown the ball 5 times and he came down with all of them. Shepard is showing the necessary toughness and grit over the middle. He is a great option for this offense to have when primary reads aren’t there.

TIGHT ENDS

  • Evan Engram: 6 rec – 62 yards. As the weeks go by, it seems to be the case more and more that Engram is entrenched as the team’s number two receiving option. He is moving exceptionally well and making high-difficulty catches each game. Four of his 6 catches went for a first down and I think moving forward, he needs to be targeted on 3rd down. That only happened twice against the Bucs. He also had a positive blocking grade for the third straight week.
  • Rhett Ellison: 2 rec – 11 yards – 1 TD. Ellison played a season-high 39% of the plays, but I still don’t think it is enough. He saw a couple plays at fullback but with the amount of “11” personnel the Giants use and the emergence of Engram, he is stuck on the sidelines. He has been thrown the ball 5 time this year, and he has 5 catches. The yards he can gain after contact and the reliability as a blocker is part of what the Giants are missing. Two birds, one stone.

OFFENSIVE LINE

  • Tackles: Both Ereck Flowers and Justin Pugh recorded their best grades of the season in this game. Manning wasn’t sacked once and even though the Bucs DEs leave a lot to be desired, these guys deserve at least some credit. Flowers did however allow two tackles for losses and Pugh struggled to maintain his anchor ability after he tweaked his back. But these guys fought hard and played better than any of their previous games. Pugh graded out at a “3”, which is right where I consider the best performances week in, week out around the league. Let’s not forget he is out of position. Makes me really think about him as a left tackle for the long-term future.
  • Interior:  Weston Richburg put together another solid game until he left with a concussion. Brett Jones stepped in and didn’t really factor in either direction. D.J. Fluker and John Jerry got off to horrific starts, as Gerald McCoy had his way with both of them for pretty much the entire first quarter. They cleaned it up well and both played at a very high level in the second half. They both snuck past the bare minimum grade of what I would consider acceptable, but still have plenty of room to improve. Fluker deserves a shot to stay at RG for the near future.

DEFENSIVE LINE

  • Ends: Jason Pierre Paul recorded 4 tackles, a half sack, and a QB hit. But he continues to underwhelm and is being neutralized by a lone blocker too many times. They are trying to move him around exploit match-ups, but he simply isn’t beating anyone right now. My expectations were so high for him this year, and he is far from meeting them. Olivier Vernon only made it 22 plays before re-injuring his bum ankle. Kerry Wynn and Romeo Okwara both got the opportunity to step up, and neither could produce any pressure. Both had a hard time holding up against the run, as well. Poor game for those two that certainly contributed to the Bucs 5+ yards per carry.
  • Tackles: Two of the bright spots were the consistent high level of play from both Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson. Harrison missed a short stretch with a minor knee tweak, but he demanded so much attention and started to disrupt the passing game via the bull rush with more and more frequency. Tomlinson is playing better each week, showing more confidence and pop off the snap. He is going to make things happen for this defense down throughout the season. Jay Bromley’s missed interception may be one of the NFL’s bloopers of the year and his stoutness against the run hasn’t improved. He is a liability to the defense.

LINEBACKERS

  • B.J. Goodson returned from a 2-week injury-caused hiatus. His presence makes a huge difference for this defense. He is the one defender on this team who I completely trust when it comes to actually bringing down the ball carrier when he has the opportunity to do so. He finished with 6 tackles on the day. His coverage was sub-par, something we saw up close and in person at camp.
  • Jonathan Casillas and Keenan Robinson are getting simply out-matched in coverage and in space. These two need to stop missing tackles and stick to their cover assignments or else tight ends will continue to torch this defense for, how many years in a row now?
  • There are far bigger issues on this defense than Devon Kennard and his versatility in terms of assignment and alignment is respectable. However his weakness in space, most notably coverage, is a huge liability to the defense that will continue to have a big negative impact.

CORNERBACKS

  • Not a bad day for the two starters, Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple, but far from great as well. Apple was beat badly for yet another touchdown in the first quarter when his lack of skill set showed up again. He doesn’t get it yet. Jenkins continues to play bigger than his size and continues to break up passes (2). However he had two very bad missed tackles that did end up impacting the game.
  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was the only other CB to play, as he was on the field for the majority of the defensive snaps. I respect what he has turned his game into now, as he no longer has that top-level speed and athleticism. He is very good at anticipating and playing smart. Rarely is he caught out of position or surprised. However his missed tackle on Humphries that I noted above was just downright awful and lazy. And the sad part, it has become the norm with him at least once per game.

SAFETIES

  • A top defensive grade for Landon Collins is slightly overshadowed by his bad coverage on the final drive of the game when Cameron Brate beat him downfield. The timing of that beat couldn’t have been worse. Other than that, Collins led the team with 7 tackles, 2 pass break ups, and 3 QB pressures. The coaching staff is using him in so many ways and he is at such a high, difference-making level.
  • Darian Thompson and Andrew Adams pretty much split duties next to Collins, with Thompson still getting the edge in volume. This shouldn’t last much longer, as his two missed tackles this week were a big deal. His range couldn’t keep up with DeSean Jackson deep and he isn’t making quick enough decisions. Adams needs to be given the majority snaps now.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Aldrick Rosas: 1 for 2 (Made 30, Missed 43). Rosas was put in another pressure situation this week and failed. Those 3 points that were left on the board were huge. Looking forward to seeing how he responds.
  • P Brad Wing: Same story as last week. Overall a solid day until the pressure was really on and he responded with a 15-yard shank. When it gets in your head, it’s over. The Giants can’t let this happen week after week; he needs to put together a few good weeks now.
  • Dwayne Harris: Non factor again.

3 STUDS

  • QB Eli Manning, RT Justin Pugh, RB Wayne Gallman

3 DUDS

  • WR Brandon Marshall, DE Kerry Wynn, S Darian Thompson

3 THOUGHTS ON TAMPA BAY

  • Watching Gerald McCoy wreck havoc on the Giants offense for the entire first quarter all by himself from different angles was eye opening. Yes, it was against the Giants offensive line. However when you have a 300+ pound presence that can get off the ball fast AND powerful like that, he can make a lot of other players look good.
  • I continue to not be sold on Jameis Winston. This guy does play well late in games, but there are so many mental mistakes he continues to make week after week. His arm is erratic and he looks lost out there often, especially when you watch the All-22 tape.
  • CB Brent Grimes won me over this season. I always knew he was solid, but I admit the public perception of him and his wife being out of control via social media and a few rough games in Miami has kept him down my personal CB ranks for awhile. This dude is a legit blanket-cover guy who can hang with speed and quickness in any situation. He will continue to be among the league’s leaders in pass breakups.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  • As long as the NFC East teams continue to lose games, the Giants will have a fighting shot. Who knows? Maybe this division will be the the one where an 8-8 team wins the title and a home playoff game. Wishful thinking, I know. There is stretch of schedule coming up that they can take advantage of, starting with the 0-4 Chargers. The Giants have the toughest strength of schedule in the NFL this year and they finally get a break here at home against an absolutely miserable franchise.
  • Even if Paul Perkins comes back healthy, Wayne Gallman and Shane Vereen should be splitting the RB duties for now. Gallman brought new energy and play-making ability and Vereen continues to make things happen for this offense. Time for Perkins to take a step back. Not a goodbye, just a sit tight and watch what happens with these other guys.
  • This Giants defense has major problems, the two worst being downright awful against the run and an inability to create pressure on the passer via four rushers. You can’t have that. Spags is being forced into blitzing a lot, leaving the overly vulnerable linebackers into serious coverage roles which they simply do not have the personnel for. Time to step up JPP. That’s on you and that hefty contract of yours.

This season still isn’t over.

Oct 012017
 
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Nick Folk, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (October 1, 2017)

Giants lose at the buzzer again – © USA TODAY Sports

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 25 – NEW YORK GIANTS 23…
The losing continues for the New York Giants as the team fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. For the second week in a row, the Giants blew two 4th-quarter leads and lost the game on a walk-off field goal. The Giants are still win-less on the season with an 0-4 record.

New York went three-and-out on its first two possessions of the game. Tampa Bay took a 7-0 lead after driving 56 yards in four plays, culminating with a 6-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jameis Winston to wide receiver Mike Evans. The Giants responded by driving to the Bucs’ 30-yard line, but an incomplete pass on 4th-and-4 resulted in a turnover on downs. Two plays later, tight end O.J. Howard scored on a 58-yard reception to make the game 13-0 (the extra point was missed).

The Giants punted the ball away on both of their next two possessions. The Buccaneers punted once and missed a 46-yard field goal. New York finally got on the board in the second quarter with a 30-yard field goal by place kicker Aldrick Rosas after an 11-play, 52-yard drive. Tampa Bay went three-and-out and the Giants cut into their lead again when quarterback Eli Manning ran for a 14-yard touchdown, closing out a 7-play, 62-yard drive. But the Bucs added to their advantage late in the first half by driving 73 yards in 12 plays to set up a 20-yard field goal. It could have been worse as the defense held after facing 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line. At the half, Tampa led 16-10.

The Buccaneers missed a 49-yard field goal on their initial possession of the second half. The Giants then took the lead on their initial possession by driving 61 yards in 11 plays. Rookie running back Wayne Gallman scored on a 4-yard pass from Manning. Giants 17 – Bucs 16.

Tampa Bay went three-and-out and the Giants had a chance to extend their lead but Rosas missed a 43-yard field goal early in the 4th quarter. The Bucs turned the ball over on downs on 4th-and-2 from the Giants’ 35-yard line with safety Landon Collins breaking up the pass. The Giants could not move the ball and punted. Worse, reminiscent of last week’s lost against the Eagles, Brad Wing shanked punt only traveled 15 yards. It only took Tampa Bay four plays to drive 57 yards with Winston throwing a touchdown pass from 14 yards out. The Buccaneers now led 22-17 (the 2-point conversion failed) with less than eight minutes to play.

To New York’s credit, the offense responded with an impressive 10-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Rhett Ellison on 3rd-and-goal. The big play on the drive was a 42-yard strike to wide receiver Odell Beckham. Unfortunately, the 2-point conversion failed and the Giants only led 23-22 with 3:16 left to play.

The defense could not hold the lead. Tampa Bay gained 59 yards in nine plays with a crucial 26-yard pass on 3rd-and-1. Place kicker Nick Folk – who missed an extra point and two field goals in the game – then nailed the 34-yard field goal to win the game with no time on the clock.

Manning finished the game 30-of-49 for 288 yards, two touchdowns passing, one running, and no interceptions. His leading receivers were Beckham (7 catches for 90 yards) and tight end Evan Engram (6 catches for 62 yards). Gallman was the leading rusher with 11 carries for 42 yards. Manning was not sacked in the game.

Defensively, the Giants did not force a turnover and only accrued one sack.

The Giants had no return yardage. Rosas missed a field goal and Wing shanked a punt.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were RB Orleans Darkwa (back), RT Bobby Hart (ankle), QB Davis Webb, TE Matt LaCosse, DE Avery Moss, LB Deontae Skinner, and CB Michael Hunter.

RB Paul Perkins (ribs), OC Weston Richburg (concussion), and DE Olivier Vernon (ankle) left the game with injuries and did not return.

WR Odell Beckham (finger) and DT Damon Harrison (bruised knee) were injured but later returned to the game.

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

  • Head Coach Ben McAdoo (Video)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)
  • RB Wayne Gallman (Video)
  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (Video)
  • WR Brandon Marshall (Video)
  • S Landon Collins (Video)

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Ben McAdoo will address the media by conference call Monday afternoon.

Sep 292017
 
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Game Preview: New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, October 1, 2017

THE STORYLINE:

Well, it just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. – Miracle Max

The 2017 New York Giants aren’t all dead yet. But they are officially on life support. Lose to Tampa Bay, and Miracle Max will start rummaging through their uniforms looking for loose change.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Shane Vereen (calf – probable)
  • RB Orleans Darkwa (back – questionable)
  • OT Bobby Hart (ankle – probable)
  • OL Brett Jones (hip – questionable)
  • DE Olivier Vernon (ankle – questionable)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (ankle/wrist – questionable)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (shin – probable)
  • CB Janoris Jenkins (ankle – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
We can talk X’s and O’s, discuss personnel strengths and weaknesses, and analyze match-ups. But all of that is moot unless the New York Giants offensive coaches and players decide enough is enough, man up, and takes their frustration out on their defensive opponent. We can argue about personnel liabilities, but there is enough talent on this offense for it to not be 21st on offense in yardage and 31st in scoring. It is absolutely outrageous that the team is scoring only 12 points per game (with 24 of those points coming in the last quarter played). At least go down swinging. Get angry. Be a man.

Time has run out. The offensive coaches have to decide what the New York Giants’ offensive identity is going to be. It appears that any attempt to be “heavy handed” are fruitless with this offensive line. The Giants are DEAD LAST in rushing in the NFL. They are the only team in the League who aren’t even averaging 50 yards per game. That’s beyond pathetic. Making matters worse is that Tampa Bay is 4th in the NFL in rush defense, allowing only 72.5 yards per game. Ironically, that figure would be a season high for New York…that’s how bad the Giants running game is. But at the same time, New York has only rushed the ball 47 times in three games. Chicken or egg? Is the running game bad because of the personnel or have the coaches shown enough commitment to the run? The wiggle room is gone. They can’t afford to experiment anymore. If they are going to save their season, they need to pick and identity and sink or swim with it.

Exacerbating matters this week is the injury situation. Their most reliable back (Shane Vereen) and their most productive between-the-tackles back (Orleans Darkwa) are hurt. Neither seem to be able to stay healthy. Paul Perkins has been a major disappointment. Whether it is lack of talent, him pressing, or the guys up front, he’s barely averaging 2 yards per carry. Rookie Wayne Gallman has yet to play this year. Would the coaches dare to put the fate of their season in the hands of a rookie?

The waiving of fullback Shane Smith could be a sign that the Giants – for better or worse – are going full bore West Coast Offense finesse again. Tight end Rhett Ellison isn’t getting the snaps anticipated and his run blocking has not been as good as expected. Odell Beckham seems to be rounding back into form. Brandon Marshall finally got into the action. And Sterling Shepard broke what should have been the game-deciding play last week. Evan Engram is still green, but he’s receiving valuable playing time each week and it is only a matter of time before he explodes.

To build upon the 4th-quarter success the Giants experienced last week, New York has to cut down on the mistakes. There were too many penalties, too many turnovers, and an inability to execute in crucial situations (see both 4th-down conversion attempts). The Giants should have beaten a very good Eagles team last week and they know it.

Manning will probably have to throw the ball at least 45 times in this game. Get it into the hands of your play-makers and see what happens.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The offense has sucked. But I’m not going to let the defense off of the hook. Many anticipated that the defense would have to carry the team again this year. It was hoped that the defense might even be better than the 2016 version. That hasn’t happened. Worse, the Giants have fallen to DEAD LAST in run defense. It’s bad. They are allowing over 150 yards rushing per game. And last week, the offense gave the defense two 4th quarter leads that the defense could not hold. Yeah, yeah, yeah… the defense is on the field too much, they wore down, etc. That shouldn’t matter to very good defenses. Make a play. Get off the field. Where are the turnovers? Where are the sacks? Why is the third down defense so shoddy? This group is underachieving, and specifically Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, Landon Collins, and Eli Apple. Partially due to injury, the linebackers haven’t been as good. And Darian Thompson isn’t the safety we were told he was.

Tampa can’t really run the ball either (27th in rushing) and doesn’t even try all that much (only team with fewer rushing attempts than the Giants). So the expectation (knock on wood) is that this is a good opponent for the Giants to start improving their league-worst run defense against. Obviously the strength of Tampa’s offense is their passing game (9th in the NFL). Jameis Winston is completing almost 66 percent of his passes. His TD/INT ratio is ordinary at best with three touchdowns and three interceptions. That said, he is a big, mobile quarterback with a strong arm and some very dangerous receivers in Mike Evans and former Eagle/Giants-killer DeSean Jackson. To me, the guy on the spot Eli Apple. I expected Apple to take a major step forward in 2017. Thus far, he has been a liability. The Giants coaches have been very defensive of him and he has had plenty of good coverage too (opposing teams are not racking up big yardage on the Giants – 6th in pass defense). But opposing teams are clearly targeting Apple and those 2-3 bad plays per game are killing New York. It’s not just the coverage breakdowns, but the penalties. Apple still is too grabby. And it won’t get easier with Evans and Jackson this week.

The other guys now officially under the microscope are Pierre-Paul and Vernon. They are being paid to be difference makers. Yet they aren’t making a difference. Get to the quarterback. Landon Collins hasn’t been “bad” but I had exceptionally high expectations of him based on his preseason play. In a secondary with three Pro Bowlers – Collins, Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – the Giants have NOT intercepted a pass this year. Get the ball!

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Folks love to argue talent versus coaching, but I’ve always felt special teams was that one area where coaching deficiencies are obvious. Tom Quinn seems to do just enough to keep his job but his unit rarely excels. And worse, there always seem to be a few games each year where a major breakdown loses the game. It happened against Detroit with the punt return for a TD. And last week it happened again. Is it fair to blame Quinn for Brad Wing’s shank? Perhaps not. But damn it, it always appears to be something. To be blunt, Quinn’s special teams are a MAJOR reason why the Giants are 0-3 right now.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on the Buccaneers: “Offensively, they’re led by Jameis Winston, a very aggressive and talented quarterback. The youngest player in NFL history to throw 50 touchdowns. They’re very talented on the perimeter, as talented of a group as you’ll find in this league. Defensively, they’re fast, athletic. They make messes all over the field. They do a good job with their line stunts, and their linebackers run well to the football. (Gerald) McCoy is a tremendous player at the three technique. He can wreck a game if you don’t account for him early and often. Their linebackers are a fast flow and active group. The secondary – they play very well to the front. Special teams – (Bryan) Anger is a tremendous directional punter, does a good job hanging it up there, puts it where he wants to put it. Nick Folk is a reliable kicker. He was just down the street a little bit ago and does a nice job for them.”

THE FINAL WORD

VALERIE: “Bye-bye, boys.”
MIRACLE MAX: “Have fun storming the castle.”
VALERIE (to Max): “Think it’ll work?”
MIRACLE MAX: “It would take a miracle.”

Nov 112015
 
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Ron Swanson

New York Giants 32 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 18

Overview

It’s said that possession is 9/10ths of the law, something Tom Coughlin and his charges clearly believed in on Sunday afternoon in Tampa Bay. Despite being out-gained 385 to 327, the Boys in Blue held serve for 34:55 and won the turnover battle 3-2 en route to an odd victory over the horribly-clad Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fashion critique aside (as I pen this, I’m clad a taco-stained t-shirt and gym pants that have never seen the inside of an actual gym), the Bucs kept the afternoon interesting with big plays, dropped passes and ultimately a desperation-heave-turned-Giants-touchdown to seal the win. Bucs WR Mike Evans tried to be a WR, then a QB on the game’s final play, but in the words of the immortal Ron Swanson, “Never half ass two things, whole ass one thing.” With that said, you have my whole ass for this week’s recap.

Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (November 8, 2015)

Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

It’s not how you start but how you finish and the Giants started horribly, tossing the ball back to the Bucs at their own 13-yard line just 9 seconds into the game. Buoyed by the return of digitally-challenged DE Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants’ defense went from gossamer to at least cheese cloth this week, and held the Bucs out of the end zone despite the short field. The teams then traded field goals until a Rueben Randle from Eli Manning pass put the G-Men up 10-6. Then the Bucs began to simply self-destruct like an Imperial Probe Droid, fumbling on their next possession to hand the Giants an easy 28-yard field and a 17-6 lead. After a few more boring field goals (seriously I hate them and I don’t know why), the Giants led 20-12 until Captain Irresponsible, Jameis Winston, showed off his athletic ability on a 10-yard TD run to cut the margin to 2.

Two more boring, rainy wet field goals pushed the visitors ahead 26-18, still one a one possession game but with 18 seconds and no timeouts, the Bucs turned to desperation and trickeration when Winston hit \Evans on a short pass which Evans then heaved backwards to G Logan Mankins who…well he’s a guard, he didn’t catch it…Trevin Wade swooped in for the scoop-and-score and the Jints were just above .500 again, sitting at 5-4 alone in first place in the hideous NFC East. For Mankins, it must pain him to see the Giants after Justin Tuck used him like an old hanky in the Super Bowl and he clumsily coughed up a game-sealing TD years later.

Quarterbacks

After peppering the Saints with 6 TDS, Eli’s follow up game started horribly. Manning’s first pass hit Odell Beckham Jr. in the hands, albeit a tad behind him, and the ensuing deflection was picked off by DB Sterling Moore. Eli came right back and led the team down the field for a tying field goal, going 4-of-7, rhythmically firing to Randle, Beckham and Vereen. Eli came back on the next drive going a perfect 7-of-7 for 46 yards and a TD to Randle, as he stepped up into a clean pocket and delivered a strike to one of his former LSU pass catchers. Eli came right back on the Giants next drive, firing another dart to RB Shane Vereen for his second TD and a 17-6 lead. Manning did throw an untimely pick as the Giants were driving up 20-12, which led to Odell’s heinous assault on Harry Carson’s favorite prop. Manning was pressured a little more in the second half, but the Alterraun Verner interception aside, he was able to lead his team on two FG drives and ended with a modest 213 yards on 26-of-40 passing. Most importantly though, Manning directed the offense efficiently and got his team into position to score 6 times and hold the ball for over 35 minutes.

Andre Williams, New York Giants (November 8, 2015)

Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Running Backs

Clearly Andre Williams has taken umbrage with my criticism, so you’re welcome Andre. The Poughkeepsie native bulled his way to 30 yards on 7 carries, nothing big but his 4.3ypc average is a huge improvement over the 2.7 ypc average he dragged Sisyphus-style into this game. Shane Vereen catches the ball out of the backfield as cleanly as any RB this team may have ever had. Vereen doesn’t break stride, catches cleanly, tucks and runs with no loss of speed or balance. Vereen struggled on the ground with only 14 yards on 6 carries but his 29 yards and TD receiving added a needed dimension to the Giants’ ball control attack. Rashad Jennings got the heavy work load on the ground, carrying 13 times for a modest 3.7 ypc average and 48 total yards, but the grinding of the ground game played a huge role in a contest where the heat and humidity were high and possession was crucial.

Wide Receivers

Gatorade bucket assaults aside, Odell Beckham Jr. came to play on Sunday but had a very up and down afternoon. The 2nd-year phenom pulled down 105 yards on 9 grabs and was visibly irate after being somewhat responsible for both of Manning’s picks. After having his route jumped by CB Alterraun Verner, Beckham slapped a bear hug on Verner and rode him a few yards before suplexing him to the ground in disgust. OBJ dropped another easy pass from Manning on the Giants second drive, but followed that up with a long reception and drew an unnecessary roughness against LB Lavonte David after the play. Rueben Randle seemed to just sit 12 yards down the field on the left and catch the ball, wonky hamstring and all. Randle finished with 40 yards on 5 grabs and pulled in one of Manning’s two TD passes. Dwayne Harris victimized David again on a crossing route as the former Husker LB decided to drop Harris about 12 yards downfield on a crossing route, but only netted one yard on one catch on the afternoon.

Tight Ends

What was once Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells is now Will Tye and Jerome Cunningham. Tye had a chance for early glory with a well-run seam route that was just knocked down in the end zone. Tye finished with 2 catches for 19 yards and was serviceable blocking in-line. New TE call-up Jerome Cunningham pitched in with 2 catches and 10 yards, one of them coming on a 3rd-and-3 on the Giants’ second TD drive of the game.

Offensive Line

Another clean sheet for the big dudes, but it wasn’t always pretty. Pretty though isn’t this team’s blueprint but tough certainly is. The big guys paved the way for 114 yards on the ground and once again C Weston Richburg was outstanding, consistently thwarting inside pressure while handling line calls from his play-changing QB. It’s not talked about, but Manning’s ability to step up into a clean pocket to deliver downfield is Richburg’s responsibility and the second-year pivot did it nearly perfectly on Sunday. LT Ereck Flowers was called for a hold that wiped out Vereen’s long run but replay after replay showed nothing. RT Marshall Newhouse played his best game in blue, and LG Justin Pugh was his usual active, pulling self, helping the inside run game to its ball controlling afternoon.

Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (November 8, 2015)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Defensive Line

After a bye-week-quality outing in New Orleans, the Giants’ DL was lively on Sunday with the return of oven-mitted DE Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP made an impact early, extending his arms and jolting LT Donovan Smith to hold the edge and stop the Bucs cold on the home team’s first drive. Pierre-Paul got close to Winston on several plays, and hustled on every snap. His presence will be a much-needed jolt after the pass rush’s disappearance thus far in 2015. DT Johnathan Hankins ripped the ball out Doug Martin’s hand as the 2nd quarter opened but tore his pectoral in the process, landing the big run-stuffer on season-ending IR. Cullen Jenkins had the wack of the day on WR Mike Evans after he bounced off of DRC, just planting the 6-5 former Aggie into the turf. DE Damontre Moore was able to do his usual thing, show up for a play and commit a stupid penalty.

Linebackers

Criticize a guy, and he proves you wrong (Donald Trump will never send me a million dollars, the selfish jerkface). It happened with new Giant LB Jasper Brinkley. Brinkley played much faster than he did in the Bayou, leading the team in tackles. Brinkley shot inside to drop RB Doug Martin for a one-yard loss, and two plays later pounced on a Martin fumble to give the Giants possession deep in Bucs’ territory. Brinkley was aggressive and powerful inside, providing some much needed pop in the center of the defense. Devon Kennard seems to be over his injury woes, chipping in with 6 stops and continually forcing the issue in the running game. Jonathan Casillas was again doing everything on Sunday, covering down field and helping in the running game, but again not many big plays. Overall a steady day for the former Patriot who collected 6 stops.

Defensive Backs

Trevin Wade turned in his best day as a Giant on Sunday, blanketing WR Mike Evans on the Bucs’ first possession to hold Tampa Bay to a FG after starting their drive on the Giants’ 13-yard line and finishing the game with a scoop-and-score after Evans heaved the rock to G Logan Mankins. Wade also managed to recover a fumble early in the 2nd half after a Charles Sims fumble that bounced down the field like a spastic chicken. Clearly Wade can now catch greased lightning, but it will be some time before he eats lightning and craps thunder and becomes a greasy-fast Eyetalian (sp) tank. Wade then showed off his greasy-fastness by running down RB Charles Sims on the heels of a 59-yard jaunt. S Landon Collins flat out missed on Mike Evans 68-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter. Teams are starting to exploit the rookie S down the field. S Brandon Meriweather was a victim of an awful personal foul midway through the 2nd quarter, launching his 197lbs into 307lb center Joe Hawley. Meriweather’s reputation may have elicited the flag because it was neither late nor unnecessary from where I sit. Number 22 also appeared to briefly kill DE Robert Ayers as the two combined to bring down RB Charles Sims, and chipped in with a 3rd-down stop on Jameis Winston to force a Bucs’ FG try. DRC was at it again, popping WR Mike Evans and being right on top of the big receiver on two of Evans’ many drops. Call it what you want, but DRC’s shot early in the game may have contributed to Evans’ inability to hang on when #41 was lurking nearby.

Brad Wing and Josh Brown, New York Giants (November 8, 2015)

Brad Wing and Josh Brown – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Special Teams

K Josh Brown was perfect on field goals, going 4-for-4 and hitting both of his extra points. Brown has not missed in 23 FG attempts. P Brad Wing only had one punt but it was a 64-yard bomb, and the coverage units were again solid, surrendering only 88 total return yards. Dwayne Harris picked up 54 yards on 2 kick returns to round out a solid but not very notable day for the specials.

Coaching

Ben McAdoo’s offense was clicking down the field for the most of game, and his plan to attack the edges and soft spots in the cover 2 (slant and deep seam areas) with his array of pass catchers was enough to propel his offense to a nearly 10-minute edge in time of possession and a performance that was enough to keep the Bucs off balance all day. Without a great running attack, McAdoo is utilizing short passes to Shane Vereen on the edges like short runs and they are keeping defenses honest and mostly unable to double any WR downfield for too long. McAdoo, in true West Coast offense style, is stretching the field horizontally first, then attacking downfield. Credit McAdoo as well for integrating Will Tye and Jerome Cunningham into the game plan after losing his top two TEs.

Steve Spagnuolo’s charges were humbled a week ago, lost their best DT as the 2nd quarter opened and inserted the 3rd MLB of the year into the starting lineup. Sprinkle in some JPP and a breakout-game from his new Mike LB and the defense was back on its feet. Of note throughout the game was JPP at RDE, but in plenty of those sets he was lined up as a rush LB in a hybrid 3-4 front which created favorable match-ups for the talented DE. The defense was again like a neutered dog (sackless). But there was more pressure and few near-misses from Pierre-Paul, that with a few more games under his belt should result in some much-needed QB heat as this team heads into the 2nd half of the season.

How good is Weston Richburg? Sure it’s a 5-yard run. But after double-teaming DT Gerald McCoy with LG Geoff Schwartz for a 9-yard gain on the previous play, Richburg then gets singled up on DT Akeem Spence and it does not go well for the 307 lb DT. Most of the Giants’ rushing yards came inside, and it was the play of Richburg that created most of those opportunities.

richburg1Notice where Spence starts the play, and where he ends up 4 frames later.

Richburg2At the snap, notice that everyone is still in their stance and Richburg is already engaged with DT Akeem Spence, moving his feet to get position on the 307 lbs run-stuffer.

richburg3With LG Justin Pugh pulling, and Schwartz and Newhouse double-teaming DT Gerald McCoy, Richburg already has Spence 3 yards in the backfield and turned out of the hole with outstanding footwork, hand placement and power.

richburg4Darkwa follows Pugh outside of McCoy, but the size of the hole Richburg creates causes LB Lavonte David to hesitate in pursuit instead of abandoning his run fit now that Spence is completely blocked into the backfield and turned completely around. The lower circle shows where Spence started and you can see where Richburg took him, impressive power and technique from the 2nd year center.

NFLW (NFL for Women)

For one week only, the NFL for Women is back. The Joey family dinner coincided with the Giants 4PM start and my quasi-Giants fan sister caught a glimpse of JPP’s oven mitt being wrapped mummy style on the sideline.

Sister: “What happened to his hand?”

Me: “That’s JPP, he blew off 1.5 fingers shooting off fireworks like an idiot”

Sister: “How can he play like that? What does he play?”

Me: “Defensive End, how do you not know this??”

Sister: “Oh you don’t need no hands for defense.”…Yes my sister was born in New Jersey like all of us siblings but the time spent living in Kentucky and Virginia (and possibly a little vino but that’s just hearsay and rumor as she emphatically reminded me) seems to have dulled her grammatical edge. As for possibly imbibing during the game and forgetting who JPP was, I will again invoke my fictional hero Ron Swanson. “Son, there is no wrong way to consume alcohol.”

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

This week’s award goes to almost all of us Giant fans for the silly conjecture and wild speculation after JPP’s hand-altering Independence Day mishap. People from BBI far and wide wanted him cut, wondered why he wasn’t talking to anyone after the Giants dispatched Jessie Armstead and Ronnie Barnes to evaluate the wreckage, and generally wrung our collective hands for months on end about what would become of our Pro Bowl end. It was only one week, but JPP playing with kitchen wear on his damaged mitt, was about as good as one could have expected given his injury and time away from the team. If I knew JPP, and he knew of our illustrious award, I’m sure he’d tell us all to cram it in our cramholes, and I think I speak (or type) for everyone when I say I’m happy to cram this one.

(New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, November 8, 2015)
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Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (November 8, 2015)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 32 – TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 18
The New York Giants defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 32-18 on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. With the win, the Giants improved their overall record to 5-4, remaining in sole possession of the NFC East. The victory was a costly one, however, as it is believed that defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins suffered a torn pectoral muscle that would likely end his season. The game did mark the return of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who played more than expected (46 snaps).

The game was tighter than the final score. While the Giants out-gained the Buccaneers in first downs (24 to 19), total number of offensive plays (73 to 59), and time of possession (34:55 to 25:05), the Buccaneers out-gained the Giants in net yards rushing (136 to 114) and net yards passing (249 to 213). The Giants turned the football over twice (two interceptions) and the Buccaneers three times (three lost fumbles).

The contest did not start off well for New York. The Giants received the ball to start the game and quarterback Eli Manning was picked off on the first offensive play. His pass thrown behind wide receiver Odell Beckham bounced off of Beckham’s hands and was intercepted by defensive back Sterling Moore, who returned the ball 18 yards to the Giants’ 13-yard line. However, New York’s defense held and Tampa Bay settled for a 25-yard field goal.

The Giants responded with a 10-play, 63-yard drive, moving the ball from their own 20 to Tampa’s 17-yard line. But the drive stalled at the 17 and the Giants tied the game with 35-yard field goal by place kicker Josh Brown. The Buccaneers quickly regained the lead on the next possession as quarterback Jameis Winston hit wide receiver Mike Evans for a 68-yard pass-and-run down to the Giants’ 12-yard line. There the defense stiffened again and the Buccaneers settled for a 28-yard field goal. Buccaneers 6 – Giants 3.

Back came the Giants on their third possession with a 12-play, 80-yard effort that ended with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Manning to wide receiver Rueben Randle on 3rd-and-5. The drive was aided by three Tampa Bay penalties as the Giants went up for the first time, 10-6.

Shane Vereen and Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 8, 2015)

Shane Vereen and Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Giants got the ball right back at the start of the second quarter when Hankins forced running back Doug Martin to fumble. The loose ball was recovered by linebacker Jasper Brinkley at Tampa’s 28-yard line. However, this was the play where Hankins got hurt. Nine plays later, Manning found running back Shane Vereen for a 4-yard touchdown reception and the Giants were now ahead 17-6.

The Buccaneers threatened on their fourth possession, driving 65 yards in 11 plays. Fortunately for the Giants, Tampa Bay’s kicker missed a 43-yard field goal. The Giants moved the ball 32 yards in six plays but were stopped at on 4th-and-2 at the Buccaneers’ 35-yard line on an incomplete pass to Beckham. Tampa Bay then quickly drove to inside the New York 10-yard line where the defense stiffened again, forcing another short field goal with only seconds before halftime. At the break, the Giants led 17-9.

The Buccaneers received the ball to start the third quarter. On 2nd-and-3 from the Tampa 45-yard line, Brinkley knocked the ball out of running back Charles Sims’ hands. The fumbled ball was knocked backwards and finally recovered by cornerback Trevin Wade at the 24-yard line. The Giants’ offense could not pick up a first down as New York settled for another 35-yard field goal by Brown to go up 20-9.

Tampa chipped into that 11-point lead on their second possession of the half by driving 49 yards in 10 plays to set up a successful 53-yard field goal. The Giants now led 20-12. New York then moved the ball 47 yards down to the Tampa 33-yard line. But on 3rd-and-9, Manning’s pass intended for Beckham was intercepted by cornerback Alterraun Verner at the 27 and returned 16 yards to Tampa’s 43-yard line. The Giants’ defense came through by forcing a punt after the turnover.

The Giants picked up one first down on the ensuing possession but were forced to punt. Here the game got too close for comfort as Sims broke off a 59-yard run and four plays later Winston scrambled for a 10-yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion attempt failed and the Giants only led 20-18 with 9:25 to play.

Brad Wing and Josh Brown, New York Giants (November 8, 2015)

Brad Wing and Josh Brown – © USA TODAY Sports Images

With the pressure on, the Giants drove the ball 42 yards in six plays and Brown nailed a 53-yard field goal as the Giants extended their advantage to 23-18 with 7:18 to play. The Buccaneers’ offense managed to cross midfield on the ensuing possession, but after three straight incomplete passes Tampa punted the ball away with just under five minutes to play.

New York’s offense then put the game away by driving the ball 54 yards in 10 plays, taking 4:34 off of the clock, and putting the Giants up 26-18 with 23 seconds left to play. With Tampa desperately attempting to tie the game, the exclamation point was put on the contest when Trevin Wade recovered a fumble on an attempted lateral and waltzed into the end zone for a defensive score with no time on the clock.

Manning finished the game 26-of-40 for 213 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. His leading receivers were Beckham (9 catches for 105 yards), Randle (5 catches for 40 yards and a touchdown), and Vereen (4 catches for 29 yards and a touchdown). The running backs chipped in with 115 rushing yards: Rashad Jennings (48 yards on 13 carries), Andre Williams (30 yards on 7 carries), Orleans Darkwa (23 yards on 6 carries), and Vereen (14 yards on 6 carries).

Defensively, Brinkley led the team with 7 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery. Pierre-Paul was credited with 2 tackles and 2 quarterback hits. Wade recovered two fumbles, one for a touchdown.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
DT Johnathan Hankins suffered what is believed to be a torn pectoral muscle early in the second quarter and did not return. If his pectoral muscle is torn, Hankins is likely done for the season. He will have an MRI on Monday.

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

  • Head Coach Tom Coughlin (Video)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)
  • WR Rueben Randle (Video)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Video)
  • LB Jasper Brinkley (Video)
  • CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Video)

POST-GAME NOTES…
Inactive for the Giants were WR Victor Cruz (calf), TE Larry Donnell (neck), LB J.T. Thomas (ankle), LB Uani ‘Unga (neck), CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral), CB Leon McFadden (groin), and OT Bobby Hart.

ARTICLES…

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Shane Vereen, New York Giants (November 1, 2015)

Shane Vereen – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, November 8, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
One gets the sense that someone is toying with our emotions with this team. On the negative side, the team has once again been sabotaged by injuries – some bizarre – that have directly contributed to the inconsistent product on the field. Will Beatty tears his pectoral muscle lifting weights in May, JPP blows his hand up in July, the Giants place four safeties on IR before the season even starts, Victor Cruz recovers impressively from his knee injury but is lost for three months due to a “calf strain”, Daniel Fells contracts MRSA, Prince Amukamara injures his pectoral muscle during a critical stretch of games, Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle are hampered by nagging hamstring injuries, and Jon Beason proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is made of glass. Then you throw in three losses where the Giants held the lead by a touchdown or more in the 4th quarter and lost, including two games in painfully bizarre fashion (Eli telling Rashad not to score in Dallas; the series of events leading up to the 50-yard game-winning field goal in New Orleans). It’s like fate is working against the Giants.

But… the NFC East is still a mess and the Giants at .500 still find themselves in first place at the midway point of the season. Despite the morale-sapping setbacks, the team is still competing and has just as good a chance as the Eagles, Redskins, and Cowboys to win the division. Some reinforcements seem about ready to return. The sense is if the Giants can just get to the bye week at 5-5, they can make a run at it.

The loss to New Orleans was bad. Given the prevailing assumption that the team will lose to the Patriots on November 15, the Giants find themselves in another apparent “must-win” situation this weekend. It’s the third time this has already happened this year: 0-2 facing the Redskins, 1-2 in the division and facing the Cowboys, and now this game. If the Giants lose, they will probably be 4-6 at the bye week with almost zero room for error in the final six games. The Giants must win this game to remain relevant.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Rueben Randle (hamstring – questionable)
  • WR Victor Cruz (calf – out)
  • RB Orleans Darkwa (back – probable)
  • TE Larry Donnell (neck – out)
  • RG Geoff Schwartz (ankle – probable)
  • OT Will Beatty (pectoral – on PUP/most likely out)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (hand – roster exemption/most likely will play)
  • LB Jon Beason (ankle/knee – out)
  • LB J.T. Thomas (ankle – out)
  • LB Uani ‘Unga (neck – questionable)
  • CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral – out)
  • CB Leon McFadden (groin – questionable)
  • S Craig Dahl (neck – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
Was the offensive explosion against the Saints more of mirage given the state of New Orleans’ defense or an indication that Eli Manning and the offense is about to reach a new level? Keep in mind that the offense only scored two touchdowns in two games before the contest against the Saints. The Buccaneers are a middle-of-the-pack defense (16th overall, 17th against run, 15th against pass) that had been adept at forcing fumbles (9 fumble recoveries in addition to only 4 interceptions). It’s 4-3 defense, anchored by left defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (4.5 sacks), who unfortunately will be playing against New York’s weak link up front, Geoff Schwartz. But both McCoy (shoulder) and right defensive tackle Tony McDaniel (groin) have been limited this week in practice. Leading sacker, right defensive end Jacquies Smith (5 sacks), has missed practice with an ankle injury (Late Note: Smith has been ruled “out” of the game). Left defensive end William Gholston (knee) has been limited. So the defensive front is a bit beat up.

Typical of a Lovie Smith style of defense, what the Buccaneers do well is run to the ball. “They run very well, they’re very quick, they’re penetrators, the linebacker level is very fast, they do an outstanding job of pressuring the quarterback even with four defenders,” says Head Coach Tom Coughlin.

Linebackers Lavonte David, rookie Kwon Alexander, and Danny Lansanah are undersized, but all are good athletes who make plays. David in particular is a fine all-around play-maker. Alexander is coming off a “NFC Defensive Player of the Week” performance against the Falcons. On the other hand, Tampa Bay’s defensive backs are a pretty non-descript group.

Ben McAdoo knows Lovie Smith well from both of their time in the NFC North. If the Giants can handle McCoy (a big “if”), they should be able to do some damage on the ground as well as deep shots down the field. I would run the ball between the tackles and off tackle against a beat-up defensive line and an undersized linebacking corps – don’t run laterally against their quickness. Passes to the inexperienced tight ends and Shane Vereen could be more problematic this weekend given the athleticism of the linebackers. This is another opponent where Odell Beckham could make a lot of noise against a somewhat shaky secondary.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Tampa Bay may have a rookie quarterback and some injury issues on offense, but they have some dangerous weapons who should be licking their chops against one of the NFL’s all-time worst defenses (at least statistically). Of course, all eyes will be on Jason Pierre-Paul, but he can’t do it alone. The Giants need someone else besides Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to show up and make plays.

The Buccaneers are actually 11th in overall offense – 4th rushing the ball and 23rd passing the ball. As the stats suggest, the absolute defensive emphasis should be on stopping the run and halfback Doug Martin who is averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Martin is the key. He’s a tough, instinctive runner helped by two fine guards in ex-Patriot Logan Mankins and rookie Ali Marpet. The left tackle, Donovan Smith, is also a rookie. It’s a very big line that can punish a defense run blocking.

At the same time, don’t sleep on the passing game. Rookie #1 pick Jameis Winston has been coming on. In the last three games, he has thrown for 683 yards, four touchdowns, 0 interceptions and completed almost 65 percent of his passes. The Buccaneers have completed 25 passes of 20 yards more already this year – it’s a passing offense predicated on the big play.

Second-year wide receiver Mike Evans is a mammoth player for his position who makes plays down the field with his size and overall athleticism. But the Bucs are hurting at the position due to injures to Vincent Jackson (knee – out) and former Giant Louis Murphy (out for the season). The tight ends are Austin Seferian-Jenkins (who has been troubled by a shoulder injury) and former Giant Brandon Myers. Winston will dump the ball off to the backs (Martin and Charles Sims – 34 catches and 3 touchdowns).

Stop the run, roll coverage towards Evans, and don’t let Winston hurt you with his feet. “Because of the strength of their running game, their play action is very good and he has the opportunity to isolate one-on-one with Evans or whoever on the outside,” said Coughlin. “(Winston) throws the go ball, the deep ball, the post ball, all the deep over routes, the (rollout throws), all of those types of routes he does very well. And if you signify by opening the middle of the field up for him, then he’ll run.”

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Tom Coughlin provided a very good scouting report on Tampa Bay’s special teams: “They’re fourth in the league in punt return, second in the league in kickoff return, fifth in the league allowing only 4.7 yards per punt return, opponent punt return. Their outstanding punt returner and kickoff returner is Bobby Rainey. They have speed and quickness in their special teams unit.”

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Tom Coughlin on the Tampa Bay offense: “You have to stop the run. Everything, the play action, all of those good things that they do, it’s all based on that. You have to realize, you have the young quarterback, and he’s done an outstanding job. But the running game is preventing a lot of issues. His third downs are less, you have less yardage to accomplish the majority of the time. All those things fit the young quarterback.”

THE FINAL WORD:
This is a must-win game. No excuses. No late-game collapses. No questionable coaching decisions.