Nov 222017
 
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Tavarres King, New York Giants (January 1, 2017)

Tavarres King – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Washington Redskins, November 23, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
When Roger Lewis, Jr. came down with that miracle catch in overtime against the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend, I jumped up and yelled, “YES!!!!!!” Two plays later, when place kick Aldrick Rosas kicked the game-winning field goal, I was not sure how I felt. Did the Giants just hurt themselves in the draft? Does the win impact how ownership views the long-term effectiveness of how the team is being run?

To those who say positioning at the top of the draft does not matter, I remind everyone of the nightmare of the 1996 NFL Draft. Drafting 5th, everyone assumed that the Giants would have a shot at Simeon Rice or Jonathan Ogden. But when those two players – along with Keyshawn Johnson and Kevin Hardy – surprisingly went before the NYG pick, the Giants were screwed. The Giants did not need or want Lawrence Phillips. Nobody wanted to trade with the Giants, and they were “forced” to picked a half-blind defensive end from the University of Oklahoma. The lesson of this story? Falling a spot or two at the top of the draft can make all of the difference in the world.

Then there is the management/ownership issue. We all know that the Giants would prefer to not make any changes. It’s not in the team’s DNA. That conservative nature has been a tremendous asset at times, but it has also been a liability too. What we do know is this: a defense that had largely quit the previous two games, including the anemic San Francisco 49ers, decided to show up against the Chiefs. That’s exceptionally maddening. And nothing has changed in terms of evaluating Jerry Reese’s decision-making in the draft and free agency at a number of positions, including both lines and the linebacker position.

So where does this leave us? Two beat-up teams with very little to play for playing on a very short week and a national holiday in front of what is anticipated to be yet another small crowd. Given those circumstances, the Giants can win this game. Moreover, looking at the schedule, the Giants could actually win a few more games before this is over. Again, this leaves me with mixed emotions.

Side Note: Someone asked me this past week why I am not doing my usual game previews that focus on match-ups against the upcoming opponent. The two-fold answer is (1) since the team was done in October, I see these more like preseason game previews, and (2) as we’ve seen in just the past two weeks, match-ups don’t count right now, effort does.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Orleans Darkwa (hamstring – probable)
  • WR Sterling Shepard (illness – questionable)
  • OL Justin Pugh (back – out)
  • OL D.J. Fluker (toe – out)
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (knee – probable)
  • DE Olivier Vernon (shoulder – questionable)
  • DT Damon Harrison (ankle/elbow – questionable)
  • DT Dalvin Tomlinson (ankle – probable)
  • LB B.J. Goodson (ankle – out)
  • LB Calvin Munson (quad – doubtful)
  • LB Jonathan Casillas (neck – questionable)
  • LB Kelvin Sheppard (groin – questionable)
  • LS Zak DeOssie (trap – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
One game does not make a trend. Heck, one season does not make a trend (innumerable examples such as RGIII). But have the Giants gotten lucky again with an other undrafted free agent? Chad Wheeler’s first start was beyond encouraging. I’m sure there will be rough moments to come, but if he is a viable NFL starter and Ereck Flowers continues to settle down, then there is at least somewhat of a foundation to work with. Then you factor the emergence of D.J. Fluker, who won’t play this week and will be a free agent, and there are some encouraging signs. Unfortunately and ironically, Justin Pugh (1st round) and Weston Richburg (2nd round) were supposed to be part of the solution, and now they are just question marks who may sign with other teams in the offseason. If Pugh and Richburg are off the team in 2018, those are two more wasted premium picks and holes to fill. Had they panned out, a line of Flowers-Pugh-Richburg-Fluker-Wheeler may have been a solid one.

As for this particular game, with Pugh and Fluker out, it looks like either Jon Halapio or recently-signed journeyman John Greco will start at guard. I’d prefer to see the 26-year old Halapio over the 32-year old Greco at this point. Regardless, the emerging running game will likely take a hit without the physical Fluker in there.

The latest red flag is the Sterling Shepard situation. At first it was supposed to be a migraine, now Ben McAdoo said they are not sure what is going on. Hopefully this isn’t a long-term concussion concern. As Sy’56 addressed in his KC game review, how will Roger Lewis build upon his game-winning catch? Or was this his flash-in-the-pan moment? Moving forward, the Giants have Odell Beckham and Shepard, and not much else in the wide receiving department.

Given the state of the various, makeshift component parts, the Giants offense will continue to struggle for the remainder of the season. The best the Giants can hope for is a 20-point-type “offensive explosion” from this group, and as we saw last Sunday, even that may be pressing it.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
Want to see how much effort is a determining factor in a football game? Watch the exact same Giants defense against the 49ers and the Chiefs. How will the defense perform against the Redskins? Tell me how hard they are going to try first. The Giants held the Chiefs to nine points because defenders such as Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins decided to play up to their ability. Those two are difference makers when they are on their game.

On the other hand, I would like to single out Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson for continuing to play hard despite their respective injuries. They are not using the 2-8 record as an excuse to sulk or miss time. Harrison comes to work every game even though it is clear that ankle injury is hurting him. Harrison is the type of guy I want on my football team. Give credit to Jerry Reese for spending $$$ on him. But the JPP re-signing still looks like a mistake. And I’m not sure how the Giants will address this in the offseason given the cap hit involved with moving him. These last six games are important for Pierre-Paul’s status.

I was skeptical of the Ross Cockrell trade… Steelers fans were overjoyed when Pittsburgh ditched him. But Cockrell has played at a respectable level. Again, the talent is there in the Giants secondary. Collins, Jenkins, DRC, Cockrell. That’s why the performance of the defense this year is so thoroughly revolting. Give me a couple of stud DTs and a strong secondary, and 9 times out of 10, I show you a very respectable defense. Opinions will vary on the reasons but effort, coaching, outside pass rush, and linebacker play are all contributing factors in the defense’s demise. (Speaking of the pass rush, do you realize the Giants only have 14 sacks?! And as much as we knock JPP, he has 4.5 of those – or 1/3 of the team’s total. No other defender on this team has more than two sacks after 10 games.)

Which brings us to Eli Apple. His development (or lack thereof) in the final six games is probably the top issue to watch on defense during this final stretch. The effort just hasn’t been there. Is that because of his mom’s health situation? Or is the game simply not that important to him? Is he a winning or losing football player? With DRC getting up there in age, if Apple is a 1st-round bust, then the Giants have yet another glaring hole to fill.

Lastly, what a mess at linebacker! B.J. Goodson – who has had injury issues all season – must have a high-ankle sprain to be out this long. Calvin Munson and Jonathan Casillas are still hurting. Even the recently-re-signed Kelvin Sheppard immediately got hurt. The Giants’ linebacking corps will be a patchwork mess on Thursday. Look for the Giants to employ more three-safety looks, hoping not to become too vulnerable against the run.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Aldrick Rosas is going through a shaky period here. He needs a perfect game soon. How bad has the Giants’ return game been this year? The team’s longest kickoff return is 30 yards and longest punt return 20 yards. The Giants are currently 23rd in kickoff returns (20.4 yards per return) and 25th in punt returns (5.8 yards per return). Tom Quinn – meet door.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on Roger Lewis, Jr.: “Lewis is a guy that’s been around, he’s a young player, had a big role on special teams, and really grew into his role on offense. You see how important it is to him to develop chemistry with the quarterback. He’s been outspoken on it, and he works hard on it every day in practice. He’s one of our work dogs out there, he really works hard at practice, and it shows up when you look at the numbers each and every day on the GPS, and also the targets as well.”

THE FINAL WORD
It’s always tough for the road team to win on Thursday night. Throw in the 2-8 record and playing on Thanksgiving and it is easy to see the Giants losing this one. That said, the Redskins lost a heart-breaker last week and are extremely banged up. The franchise is practically giving away tickets for free right now so the crowd may be sparse and demoralizing to a team that had been in the playoff hunt. What I expect is a very ugly football game between two bad and beat-up teams. It may be one of those games where you question which team wants to lose it more. Effort and turnovers will most likely be determinative.

Jan 022017
 
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Devon Kennard, New York Giants (January 1, 2017)

Devon Kennard – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 19 – Washington Redskins 10

Overview

This was a strange but encouraging game for the New York Giants. The Washington Redskins had everything to play for – win and they were going to the playoffs; lose and they were staying home. The game really meant nothing for the Giants other than staying sharp and avoiding injuries.

The Giants dominated the first half, sat two of their best players in the second half (Odell Beckham and Janoris Jenkins), allowed the Redskins to tie the game midway through the 4th quarter, and then calmly put the game away late. It was either a testament to a good Giants team peaking at the right time or an immense choke job by the Redskins. Most likely, it was a bit of both.

Regardless, give Ben McAdoo credit. He took a risk taking this game as seriously as he did. And he was rewarded by not only giving his team some momentum going into the playoffs, but he ended the post-season hopes of a hated division rival. In short, the Giants were ready to play a game in which they were at a natural emotional disadvantage.

Giants on Offense

I speculated in my game preview: “My guess is will see a heavy dose of the ground game – both to continue to prime that aspect of the offense for the post-season run, but also to protect Eli.” This is essentially what the Giants appeared to do. The run-to-pass ratio was a startling 40 to 28. The Giants played it VERY conservatively, which did indeed give them a chance to work on their anemic but improving ground attack and protect Eli Manning. At times, the offense had the feel of treating this contest as a preseason game.

The good news is the Giants ran for a season-high 161 yards and dominated the time of possession (35:52 to 24:08). The Giants did not turn the football over. That has happened four times this year, and it is no coincidence that the Giants won all four of those games.

The worries remain however. The Giants have not broken the 20-point mark for five games in row. The offense only scored 13 points against the Redskins, totaling just 17 first downs, 332 total net yards, and 171 net yards passing. The Giants were 6-of-17 (35 percent) on 3rd down, 0-of-1 on 4th down, and 1-of-3 (33 percent) in the red zone. Eight of their 12 possessions (67 percent) resulted in punts. Half of their possessions (six) resulted in three-and-outs, including five in the second half of the game.

Quarterback

In some ways, it has been a good season for Eli Manning, who topped the 4,000-yard mark for the sixth time of his career, and who just about tied his career-high completion percentage figure (63.1 percent). But Manning’s TD-to-INT figures (26-to-16) were disappointing as was his yards-per-pass attempt figure (6.7). To be blunt, the offense took a major step backwards in 2016, as the passing game fell from 7th in 2015 (271.4 yards per game) to 17th in 2016 (242.4 yards per game). Manning threw nine fewer touchdown passes and two more interceptions than he did in 2015.

Against the Redskins, the Giants only generated 13 points on offense. Only four drives gained more than one first down despite a season-high 161 yards rushing and allowing only one sack and two quarterback hits. To be fair to Eli, the Giants played it very conservatively on offense, and Ben McAdoo sat the team’s best offensive weapon for the bulk of the second half. Manning did complete 63 percent of his throws (17-of-27). But those 27 throws only generated 180 yards of offense with 24 percent of that production coming on one pass play for 44 yards. Only one other pass play gained more than 20 yards. Manning’s internal clock is off. He seems to feel pressure when it’s not really there. He misses seeing some open receivers and has been too inaccurate. Manning has also been lucky that some passes have not been picked off, including an early pick-6 chance by Josh Norman in this game.

Running Backs

As I’ve talked about for several weeks, Ben McAdoo and his offensive staff have made a conscious effort to get the ground game going, come hell or high water. The Giants ran the ball 40 times in 68 offensive snaps. The big news was that Paul Perkins was given his first official start and the rookie responded with 102 yards on 21 carries (4.9 yards per carry). This was the first time a Giants running back gained 100 yards during the 2016 season. Perkins had runs of 22 and 14 yards. But there were also key shorter runs like his tough 4-yard gain on 3rd-and-3 on the first scoring drive. Perkins is quicker and more instinctive than Rashad Jennings. There are similarities between Perkins’ late-season emergence and that of Ahmad Bradshaw during his rookie year in 2007. Perkins was targeted twice in the passing game, but both those attempts fell incomplete.

Rashad Jennings still got his touches, carrying the ball 18 times for 52 yards (2.9 yards per carry) and one touchdown. The problem with Jennings is that he simply isn’t producing. He’s averaged only 3.3 yards per run all season. If Perkins is the new Bradshaw, Jennings certainly is not Brandon Jacobs. Jennings caught one pass for five yards.

Wide Receivers

Despite sitting most of the second half, Odell Beckham, Jr. still finished the game as the team’s leading receiver with five catches for 44 yards, three of which came on the lone touchdown drive. Perhaps the most memorable aspect of Beckham’s game was what he didn’t do, that is, retaliate against asshole corner Josh Norman, who was clearly trying to get under his skin.

With only 180 passing yards, the other receivers were fairly quiet. Sterling Shepard caught three passes for 30 yards and gained nine yards on an end-around. Victor Cruz had two catches for just seven yards.

The offensive play of the game was Eli Manning’s perfectly-thrown 44-yard deep pass to Tavarres King (18 snaps) after the Redskins had tied the game 10-10. This play put the Giants in field goal range and enabled the team to regain the lead late in the 4th quarter. Rogers Lewis (16 snaps) and Dwayne Harris (8 snaps at wide receiver) were not targeted.

Tight Ends

Jerell Adams (shoulder) did not play. Larry Donnell (25 snaps) played but was not targeted in the passing game. Will Tye caught four of five passes thrown in his direction and had a team-high 47 receiving yards, including a 24-yarder. The blocking by Tye and Donnell was decent – both were often sent in motion as lead blockers. However, Donnell was flagged with a holding penalty.

Offensive Line

Marshall Newhouse started at right tackle for Bobby Hart (forearm). The offensive line had a solid game. Against a Redskins team that had 37 sacks coming into the game, the line allowed one sack and only two quarterback hits. New York also rushed for a season-high 161 yards. Ereck Flowers was flagged for holding and Newhouse for illegal use of hands, the latter wiping out a 16-yard gain on 3rd-and-8 and leading to a punt. Left guard Justin Pugh gave up the only sack on a spin move by former Giants defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins in the 4th quarter.

Giants on Defense

Coming into this game, the Redskins were 3rd in offense in the NFL, averaging 411 yards and almost 26 points per game. They were 14th in rushing, averaging 4.6 yards per rush, and 2nd in passing. A very aggressive Giants defense – missing Jason Pierre-Paul and sitting Janoris Jenkins in the second half – did the following to Washington:

  • 10 points (0 in the first half)
  • 16 first downs (4 in the first half)
  • 284 net yards (83 in the first half)
  • 38 net yards rushing (10 in the first half)
  • 246 net yards passing (73 in the first half)
  • 3 turnovers
  • 1 defensive score

Washington only had two drives longer than 34 yards. One was an 11-play, 76 yard drive that ended with a touchdown. The other was a 4-play, 57-yard drive that ended with an interception. Washington’s 13 drives resulted in two scores for 10 points, a missed 57-yard field goal, three turnovers, and seven punts. The Redskins came into the game with the FEWEST three-and-outs in the NFL with just 20. New York forced FIVE three-and-outs on Sunday.

Defensive Line

The Washington Redskins have a very good offensive line, yet New York largely controlled the line of scrimmage, holding the NFL’s 14th-ranked rushing attack to a measly 38 yards and 2.5 yards per carry. As expected, given the absence of Jason Pierre-Paul, most of the pass rush came from blitzes as defensive backs had three of New York’s four sacks. The only linemen to register hits on QB Kirk Cousins were Damon Harrison (25 snaps, 4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss) and Olivier Vernon (2 tackles). Harrison’s 10-yard statement sack knocked the Skins back to their own 4-yard line on their second drive. He also broke up a screen pass in the 4th quarter. Romeo Okwara (41 snaps), Owamagbe Odighizuwa (31 snaps), and Kerry Wynn (12 snaps) were shut out in the stat department. Johnathan Hankins (27 snaps), Jay Bromley (8 snaps), and Robert Thomas (6 snaps) were each credited with one tackle.

Linebackers

Keenan Robinson (47 snaps, 7 tackles) and Jonathan Casillas (38 snaps, 6 tackles, 2 pass defenses) were very active, combining for a total of 13 tackles. Devon Kennard (30 snaps, 2 tackles) continues to be employed both at linebacker and defensive end in pass rushing situations. His pass pressure was a factor on Kirk Cousins’ second game-deciding interception. Kelvin Sheppard (10 snaps) only had one tackle, but it was a tone-setting 3rd-and-1 stuff on the Redskins opening possession. Thirteen of Cousins’ 22 completions and 126 of his 287 passing yards went to RB Chris Thompson (6 catches for 37 yards), TE Jordan Reed (5 catches for 40 yards), and TE Vernon Davis (2 catches for 49 yards) – but much of that tight end yardage came against the defensive backs.

Defensive Backs

Janoris Jenkins (23 snaps, 1 tackle, 1 pass defense) sat out the second half with a sore back. He shut out his opponents. Coty Sensabaugh (ankle) and Nat Berhe (concussion) did not play. Redskins wide receivers were held to just nine catches for 161 yards, with 49 yards coming on one pass play to Pierre Garcon, who had four of the nine receptions. Giants killer DeSean Jackson was limited to two catches for 34 yards, and dangerous slot receiver Jamison Crowder only had two catches for 16 yards.

The star of the game was undoubtedly Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC) who had two interceptions, one sack (on 3rd-and-8), and one tackle for a loss. His first interception stopped a scoring threat in the 3rd quarter and his second all but ended the contest when Washington was threatening to tie or win the game. DRC dominated his match-ups. So did Eli Apple (4 tackles) except for the Redskins lone TD drive. Apple first gave up back-to-back plays that gained 33 yards. He then got beaten by TE Jordan Reed for the 1-yard touchdown slant. Apple was very aggressive against the run, helping to blow up two running plays.

Landon Collins led the team with eight tackles and two tackles for losses. He also had a 12-yard sack on 3rd-and-14, as did corner/safety Leon Hall (31 snaps, 4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss) on 3rd-and-10. Collins did give up a 31-yard completion to TE Vernon Davis on the Redskins field goal drive. He also was flagged with a late hit penalty. Hall saw more playing time at safety at the expense of Andrew Adams (31 snaps, 1 tackle). On Pierre Garcon’s 49-yard catch-and-run, Adams not only got beat in coverage, but he failed to make the tackle after the catch.

Trevin Wade (41 snaps, 4 tackles) ended the game by recovering a fumbled lateral for a touchdown. He did give up an 11-yard completion on 3rd-and-6 on the TD drive when he fell down on the play.

Giants on Special Teams

Robbie Gould made both of his field goals (22 and 40 yards out). He has not missed since coming to New York (10 straight kicks). All four of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks and the Redskins had no kickoff return yardage.

Brad Wing punted eight times, averaging 45.4 yards per punt (but only 37.9 yard net). One of his punts resulted in a touchback. Dangerous punt return Jamison Crowder returned five punts for 40 yards, including a 19-yard return that was factor in setting up Washington’s first score of the game.

The Giants did not return a kickoff. Dwayne Harris returned six punts for 46 yards (7.7 yards per return) with a long of 12 yards.

(New York Giants at Washington Redskins, January 1, 2017)
Jan 022017
 
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Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants (January 1, 2017)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

NEW YORK GIANTS 19 – WASHINGTON REDSKINS 10…
In a game that did not mean much to the New York Giants, they played the role of spoiler on Sunday by defeating the Washington Redskins 19-10 in a game Washington had to win in order to make the playoffs. The Giants finished the 2016 regular season with an 11-5 record and 4-2 in the NFC East.

The Giants will face the Green Bay Packers in Wisconsin in the first round of the NFC playoffs on Sunday at 4:40PM ET.

The story of the game was a New York Giants defense that shut down what had been the NFL’s 3rd-ranked offense. Washington was held to 16 first downs, 284 total net yards, and 38 net yards rushing. The defense totaled four sacks, two interceptions, and recovered a late lateral for a touchdown.

The Giants played the game fairly conservatively on offense, calling 40 rushing plays to 28 passing plays. New York accrued a season-high 161-yards rushing, while quarterback Eli Manning completed 17-of-27 passes (with one sack) for just 180 yards. But the Giants dominated time of possession (35:52 to 24:08) and did not turn the football over. The red zone continued to be an issue as the Giants were 1-of-3 (33 percent) in such opportunities.

The Redskins had six first-half possessions, with the first five resulting in punts and the last with a missed 57-yard field goal as time expired. At the half, the Redskins only had four first downs, 73 yards passing, and 10 yards rushing.

After a three-and-out on their first offensive drive, the Giants scored a total of 10 points on their next two possessions. First came a 13-play, 56 yard drive that ended with a 22-yard field goal when the possession stalled at the 4-yard line. Then came an 11-play, 74-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by running back Rashad Jennings. New York’s final two possessions of the first half resulted in punts.

The Giants had a chance to extend their 10-0 lead at the beginning of the 3rd quarter after driving 59 yards in eight plays to the Washington 16-yard line. But instead of kicking the field goal, Head Coach Ben McAdoo decided to go for it on 4th-and-2. Manning’s pass to wide receiver Odell Beckham was incomplete and the Giants turned the football over on downs.

After both teams exchanged punts, the Redskins threatened after quarterback Kirk Cousins completed a 49-yard pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon. But cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie ended this threat with an interception at the Giants 5-yard line. The Giants went three-and-out and Washington finally got on the board late in the 3rd quarter with a 32-yard field goal after a 19-yard punt return and a 5-play, 33-yard drive.

Momentum clearly shifted in the 4th quarter after another three-and-out by the Giants and then an 11-play, 76 yard drive by Washington that ended with a 1-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to tight end Jordan Reed to tie the game at 10-10 with 8:13 left to play. After both teams went three-and-out, the Giants regained the advantage after an 8-play, 58-yard drive set up a 40-yard field goal by place kicker Robbie Gould. The big play on this drive was a 44-yard pass from Manning to wide receiver Tavarres King. The Giants now led 13-10 with 2:12 left to play.

Washington quickly moved the ball to the Giants 43-yard line. But Rodgers-Cromartie all but officially sealed the game with his second interception at the Giants 25-yard line, which he returned 28 yards. The Giants then went three-and-out for the fifth time of the second half, but there was only six seconds left on the clock when the Redskins got the ball back. On Washington’s final play, cornerback Trevin Wade picked up a fumbled lateral and returned it 11 yards for a touchdown. The Giants took a knee on the 2-point conversion attempt.

Running back Paul Perkins rushed for 102 yards on 21 carries, while Jennings chipped in 52 more yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Beckham was pulled from the game in the third quarter, but had five catches for 44 yards.

Rodgers-Cromartie finished the game with two interceptions, one sack, and one tackle for a loss. Defensive tackle Damon Harrison, safety Landon Collins, and cornerback Leon Hall each had sacks as well.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were right tackle Bobby Hart (forearm), tight end Jerell Adams (shoulder), defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle), cornerback Coty Sensabaugh (ankle), safety Nat Berhe (concussion), linebacker Ishaq Williams, and running back George Winn.

Right guard John Jerry (burner) and wide receiver/returner Dwayne Harris (knee) both were injured in the game against the Washington Redskins 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)
  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (Video)
  • WR Victor Cruz (Video)
  • WR Tavarres King (Video)
  • LG Justin Pugh (Video)
  • CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Video)
  • S Landon Collins (Video)

ARTICLES…

Dec 302016
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 25, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Washington Redskins, January 1, 2017

THE STORYLINE:
This is effectively a playoff game for the Washington Redskins. For the New York Giants, it’s a tune-up for the playoffs and a chance to hurt their long-time division rival. There is not a lot of playoff experience on the Giants roster and this game will provide a preview of the type of intensity the Giants will face next weekend. The stadium will be rocking. The Redskins will be desperate.

Ben McAdoo has said his starters will play the entire game. That remains to be seen. While keeping sharp and building momentum are important, so is not suffering injuries to key players in a relatively meaningless game.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • TE Will Tye (illness) – probable
  • TE Jerell Adams (shoulder) – questionable
  • RT Bobby Hart (forearm) – probable
  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (core muscle) – out
  • LB B.J. Goodson (concussion) – questionable
  • CB Janoris Jenkins (back) – questionable
  • CB Coty Sensabaugh (ankle) – questionable
  • S Nat Berhe (concussion) – out

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The good news is that the Giants running game is finally showing some signs of life. The bad news is that Eli Manning simply is not having the type of season hoped for and expected. The naysayers are pointing to his age and saying this is the beginning of the inevitable deterioration. Since Eli’s 400-yard game against the Ravens on October 16, he only has ONE 300+ yard game to his credit, and that came in his last game when he threw three killer interceptions against the Eagles. Back in September, Manning also threw two killer interceptions in a 29-27 loss to the Redskins. Proponents will point to “playoff Eli” (8-3 post-season record). The next two games will be very telling about how worried the Giants should be about the quarterback position heading into the new year.

Unless he dramatically ups his game in the playoffs, we probably are witnessing the end of Victor Cruz in a Giants uniform. Cruz simply isn’t producing. He has 37 catches and one touchdown this year, and that score came in the season opener. The last time Cruz was a consistent scoring threat was 2012. It would be nice for Cruz to finish up his Giants career on a high note, but that probably is not in the cards. The good news is that Cruz did have eight catches in the Philly game. Let’s see if he can build off of that.

What will be fascinating to see is if there is a “playoff” version of Odell Beckham, Jr.? Every sport has its superstars. But the real legends make their mark in the post-season.

As for the Redskins, they are a bit of an odd team defensively. They are 29th overall on defense (22nd in scoring defense). They are 25th in run defense and 28th in pass defense. But the Redskins can get after the quarterback and have two quality corners. Washington has 37 sacks on the year with a trio of pass-rushing threats at linebacker in their 3-4 scheme, including Ryan Kerrigan (11 sacks), Trent Murphy (9 sacks), and Preston Smith (4.5 sacks). Right defensive end Chris Baker is a solid player and Giants fans are very familiar with cornerback Josh Norman. He and fellow corner Bashaud Breeland are both coming off of 2-interception games against the Bears.

To the point, this is the weakest defense the Giants will see from here on out. Teams can run, pass, and score on the Redskins. But Washington can present problems for Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart. Eli Manning will be at some risk in this game. I would not be shocked to see him bail on some plays if he is about to get clobbered. Much attention will be given to the Beckham-Norman head-to-head match-up. My guess is will see a heavy dose of the ground game – both to continue to prime that aspect of the offense for the post-season run, but also to protect Eli.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Giants defense really struggled in the September game against Washington. The defense allowed 400 yards of offense, did not force a turnover, forced only two punts, gave up three leads, and allowed six plays of 20 yards or more.

Remarkably, the Redskins are 3rd in offense in the NFL, averaging 411 yards and almost 26 points per game. They are 14th in rushing, averaging 4.6 yards per rush, and 2nd in passing. While Washington’s skill positions get a lot of attention, the Redskins field one of the biggest and best offensive lines in the NFL. Left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Brandon Scherff are Pro Bowl players. The Redskins will count on Williams to erase New York’s best pass rusher, DE Olivier Vernon.

QB Kirk Cousins is within striking distance of a 5,000-yard season despite throwing the same number of passes as Eli Manning. His 24-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio is not as impressive. Cousins has a bit of Jekyll and Hyde in him. If you want to bring out the worst in Cousins, you have to take away his running game, which is easier said than done with that big offensive line and running backs Robert Kelley and Chris Thompson. Kelley is the pounder while Thompson provides the flash and catches the football out of the backfield (43 receptions).

Where the Redskins really hurt you is the big play. They are second in the NFL in plays over 20 yards with 74. While Cousins can do damage down the field with the vertical game, especially with WR DeSean Jackson (18.0 yards per catch), many of the big plays come from receivers doing damage after a short reception. Both Jackson and slot WR Jamison Crowder are very adept at this as well, as demonstrated by their punt return backgrounds. That said, Washington can threaten defenses in the passing game in all three levels. Jordan Reed is one of the most dangerous pass-receiving tight ends in football. TE Vernon Davis is nearing the end, but he is still a viable target with over 40 receptions. And then there is WR Pierre Garcon who leads the team with 75 catches.

The Giants must limit the damage Washington does on the ground or it will be a long day. So much of Washington’s offense is based off of play-action and the threat of the run. New York is not likely to get much heat on Cousins without blitzing.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Jamison Crowder is tied for first in the NFL averaging 13.1 yards per punt return, with one 85-yard touchdown return. He had a 50-yard return in the September game against the Giants. In that game, the Redskins also ran a fake punt that picked up 31 yards. The Giants blocked a punt against Washington (erased due to an unrelated unnecessary roughness penalty).

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Head Coach Ben McAdoo on Washington’s offense: “Offensively, Kirk’s playing at a high level. He’s seeing the field, moving in the pocket well, we know he can make all the throws. Their offensive line has gelled together nicely. Robert Kelley and Chris Thompson provide a strong one-two punch at the running back position and they’re loaded on the perimeter with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder. Crowder is really playing well for them.”

THE FINAL WORD:
It’s strength on strength (Giants defense versus Redskins offense) and weakness on weakness (Giants offense versus Redskins defense) in this game. But it’s hard to see the Giants matching the Redskins intensity and sense of urgency since this is a de facto playoff game for Washington. We saw against Philadelphia (first half-quarter of the game) what happens when the other team plays with more of both.

Sep 262016
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 25, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Washington Redskins 29 – New York Giants 27

Overview

Stating the obvious, this was a bad loss. Every team in the reinvigorated NFC East won on Sunday except for the Giants. The 2015 version of this team reared its ugly head as breakdowns on offense, defense, and special teams all contributed to a very close, heart-breaking defeat.

We’ll address the more specific factors why the team lost below, but the best indicator of success and failure in the NFL is the turnover differential. And for the third game in a row, the Giants turned the ball over more than their opponent. Through three games, the Giants have turned the ball over seven times (4 fumbles, 3 interceptions) and only have one take-a-way (which was a gimme muffed punt). You can’t keep losing the turnover battle and win. It will catch up to you and it did on Sunday.

Another factor was penalties. Coming into the game, the Giants had only committed seven (accepted) infractions on the season. On Sunday, the Giants were penalized 11 times for 128 yards. And a few of these penalties came at the worst time on offense, defense, and special teams.

Giants on Offense

Despite accruing 457 total net yards (337 passing, 120 rushing) and 28 first downs, and being a respectable 44 percent on 3rd down conversions, the Giants offense was a major factor in the loss. Significant negatives included:

  • Three turnovers (2 interceptions and 1 fumble). The RB Shane Vereen fumble occurred on the Washington 34-yard line late in the first half, possibly eliminating at least a field goal opportunity. The QB Eli Manning first interception occurred in the end zone, erasing certain points. The last interception was devastating as the Giants were attempting to set up a game-winning field goal attempt.
  • For the second game in a row, red zone offense was an issue. New York was 2-of-5 (40 percent) in red zone chances and had to settle for field goals of 29 and 30 yards. As mentioned, they also turned the football over in the red zone.
  • Killer (and dumb) penalty on center Weston Richburg for unsportsmanlike conduct. This occurred on play where Eli Manning hit Odell Beckham for a 24-yard gain down to the Washington 5-yard line. Instead, the Giants were moved back to the 20-yard line. Two plays later, Manning was intercepted in the end zone.
  • The top PRODUCTIVE receiving targets remain Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Victor Cruz. However, the other tight ends and backs are not making plays. The top three wide receivers caught 15-of-21 passes thrown their way for 264 yards and one touchdown. Manning was 10-of-17 on his other throws to tight ends and backs for 86 yards and two interceptions.

Overall, the Giants scored touchdowns on half of their six first-half possessions with two punts and a turnover. In the second half, the Giants scored only two field goals on five possessions with one punt and two turnovers.

Interesting note: the Giants did not run the football in the 4th quarter despite the game being close.

Giants on Defense

Losing corners Eli Apple and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie hurt, but the overall defense took a major step backwards on Sunday. Not only did the Giants give up 403 total net yards (313 passing, 90 rushing) but they had a number of other issues:

  • For the third game in a row, the defense did not force a turnover.
  • The Redskins scored on 4-of-5 first-half possessions and would have been a perfect 5-of-5 for not the boneheaded play by Kirk Cousins to not throw the ball away on the last play of the first half.
  • The defense allowed drives of 60 (11 plays), 75 (2 plays), 56 (8 plays), 50 (3 plays), 68 (15 plays), and 56 (10 plays) yards in the game. This allowed Washington to hold a sizeable time-of-possession advantage (33:26 to 26:34). The Redskins were only forced to punt twice all day.
  • The Giants had the lead three times in the second half. The defense could not hold that lead.
  • Coming into the game, the Giants defense had only allowed three plays of over 20 yards with the longest being 23 yards. On Sunday, the Skins had six plays of 20 yards or more, including 55 yards (touchdown), 44 yards (touchdown), and 31 yards. The most-damning play was the 55-yard touchdown allowed on a WR-screen on 3rd-and-15. But the two-play, 75-yard drive after the Giants had gone up 21-9 late in the first half also hurt. The Giants defense actually held the Redskins to 0-for-4 in the red zone and 0-for-2 in goal-to-go situations. But half of the Skins points came on two plays that covered 99 yards.
  • The 15-yard roughing-the-pass penalty called on DE Olivier Vernon on an incomplete 2nd-and-14 pass on the game-winning drive may have saved the day for Washington.

Giants on Special Teams

Special teams were a major reason why the Giants lost this game:

  • The Giants gave up a 50-yard punt return early in the second quarter. The Skins only netted nine yards after the return, but it was enough to set up a successful 45-yard field goal.
  • The Redskins were able to regain the lead 26-24 after they successfully executed a fake punt that picked up 31 yards.
  • Andrew Adams’ unnecessary roughness penalty in the 4th quarter erased a blocked punt by DE Romeo Okwara that would have given the Giants the ball inside the Redskins 20-yard line.

Overall, this defeat was a team effort from the starting quarterback down to the man who was signed to the 53-man roster on Saturday. A play here or there, and the Giants would have won this game. Those words sound hauntingly reminiscent of 2015.

(Washington Redskins at New York Giants, September 25, 2016)
Sep 252016
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (September 25, 2016)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

WASHINGTON REDSKINS 29 – NEW YORK GIANTS 27…
Sloppy and undisciplined football cost the New York Giants on Sunday afternoon as they fell to the division-rival Washington Redskins 29-27 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. With the loss, the Giants overall record now stands at 2-1 (1-1 in the NFC East).

The Giants out-gained the Redskins in first downs (28 to 20), total net yards (457 to 403), net yards rushing (120 to 90), and net yards passing (337 to 313). But for the third game in a row the Giants lost the turnover battle (3 to 1). They also committed 11 penalties for 128 yards. There were untimely mistakes in all three phases of the game.

The game was going New York’s way for most of the first half as the Giants led 21-9 with 4:12 remaining in the 2nd quarter. But the Redskins out-scored the Giants 20-6 the rest of the game.

The Giants went three-and-out on their first possession but immediately got the ball back when wide receiver/special teams ace Dwayne Harris recovered a muffed punt at the Washington 28-yard line. Three plays later, running back Shane Vereen scored from one yard out and the Giants were quickly up 7-0. The ensuing kickoff went out-of-bounds, giving the Redskins the ball at the 40-yard line. They gained 29 more yards to set up a successful 49-yard field goal. Giants 7 – Redskins 3.

The Giants went up 14-3 on the their third possession as the team drove 75 yards in eight plays. Quarterback Eli Manning found running back Bobby Rainey for a 24-yard gain, and two plays later hit wide receiver Sterling Shepard for a 23-yard score. The Redskins responded with another field goal as they drove 60 yards in 11 plays to set up a 33-yard effort. The Redskins held on the next Giants possession and Washington returned the punt 50 yards to New York’s 36-yard line. The Redskins could only gain nine yards but it was enough for a 45-yard field goal that cut the score to 14-9.

The Giants scored their last touchdown of the day on their fifth possession as New York drove 75 yards in eight plays, culminating with a 2-yard touchdown run by running back Orleans Darkwa. This was the high-point of the afternoon for the Giants as they now led 21-9 with 4:12 to go before intermission. Yet in two plays, the Redskins cut the score to 21-16 as quarterback Kirk Cousins found wide receiver DeSean Jackson for a 31-yard gain and then a 44-yard touchdown.

The Giants quickly drove to the Washington 30-yard line with two minutes to go, but two negative plays pushed the Giants into a 2nd-and-27 where Vereen fumbled the ball away after a 12-yard gain. The Redskins then threatened late in the half, driving to the Giants 4-yard line, but with only seconds to go, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul sacked Cousins and the clock expired. At the half, the Giants led 21-16.

After the Redskins and Giants exchanged punts to start the 3rd quarter, Washington went up 23-21 when Cousins found wide receiver Jamison Crowder for a 55-yard score on 3rd-and-15. The Giants responded with a drive to the Redskins 10-yard line, but were forced to settle for a 29-yard field goal by place kicker Josh Brown. Giants 24 – Redskins 23.

The Redskins then regained the advantage 26-24 early in the 4th quarter after a lengthy 15-play, 68-yard drive ended with a 25-yard field goal. This drive was aided by a successful 31-yard pass on 4th-and-12 out of a punting formation.

The mistake-prone Giants quickly drove to the Redskins 5-yard line on the ensuing possession, but an 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on center Weston Richburg (which caused him to be thrown out of the game) pushed the Giants back. Manning was then intercepted in the end zone, ending the threat. The Giants then blew a big opportunity after a blocked punt was wiped out due to an unnecessary roughness penalty on safety Andrew Adams. Instead of getting the ball inside the Washington 20-yard line, New York had to start their possession at their own 30. They did drive to the Washington 12-yard line but were forced to settle for a 30-yard field goal that gave the Giants a 27-26 lead with 7:53 to go in the game.

Nevertheless, New York’s defense could not hold the lead as Washington managed another long possession, driving 56 yards in 10 plays and taking over six minutes off of the clock. The 37-yard field goal gave Washington a 29-27 lead with 1:51 to play. After the Giants converted on 3rd-and-14 with an 18-yard pass from Manning to wide receiver Victor Cruz, the game was ended when Manning was picked off over the middle by defensive back Su’a Cravens with just over a minute to play.

Offensively, Eli Manning completed 25-of-38 passes for 350 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. His leading receivers were wideouts Odell Beckham (7 catches for 121 yards), Sterling Shepard (5 catches for 73 yards), and Victor Cruz (3 catches for 70 yards). The only backs to carry the ball were Shane Vereen (11 carries for 67 yards) and Orleans Darkwa (10 carries for 53 yards).

Defensively, defensive tackle Damon Harrison led the team with 10 tackles and 1 tackle for a loss. Defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon each had sacks and the two combined for 3 tackles for a loss and 4 quarterback hits as well.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were running back Rashad Jennings (thumb), offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse (calf), free safety Darian Thompson (foot), defensive tackle Robert Thomas (illness), quarterback Josh Johnson, wide receiver Roger Lewis, and defensive tackle Montori Hughes.

Cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (groin) and Eli Apple (hamstring) left the game with injuries and did not return. There is no official word yet on the severity of either injury although Rodgers-Cromartie had a noticeable limp in the locker room after the game.

Running back Shane Vereen said after the game he had to see the doctor, but he did not disclose what his injury was.

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 three games have been decided by a total of six points.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham caught his 200th career reception in his 30th game. That is the fewest number of games a player needed to reach 200 catches in NFL history. Beckham increased his career total to 3,035 receiving yards in, again, 30 games. That is an NFL record.

GIANTS SIGN ANDREW ADAMS TO 53-MAN ROSTER, CUT MICHAEL HUNTER…
The New York Giants signed safety Andrew Adams to the 53-man roster from the Practice Squad on Saturday. To make room for Adams, the Giants waived cornerback Michael Hunter.

ARTICLES…

Sep 232016
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (September 24, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: Washington Redskins at New York Giants, September 25, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
This is a big game. Going up 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the NFC East this early would put the Giants in the early driver seat for the division title. The Redskins are the defending NFC East Champions and we’ve seen what happens when the Giants and their fans take the Redskins too lightly (see last year’s game in Landover, Maryland). The Redskins season teeters on the brink as losing would give them a 0-3 record and a 0-2 division record. Expect their best effort.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Rashad Jennings (thumb) – questionable
  • RT Marshall Newhouse (calf) – out
  • DE Olivier Vernon (wrist) – probable
  • DT Robert Thomas (illness) – out
  • FS Darian Thompson (foot) – out

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The Washington Redskins are struggling on defense, currently ranked 28th overall (21st against the pass, 27th against the run). Their defensive line is mediocre at best and the secondary has had issues. That said, there are some match-up concerns for the Giants in this game. The Redskins operate a 3-4 defense but they will switch things up quite a bit with various packages. With Marshall Newhouse out, expect the Redskins to try to isolate their best pass rusher – Ryan Kerrigan (who has given the Giants problems in the past) – on Bobby Hart or Will Beatty. Preston Smith and Trent Murhpy are two other LB/DE ‘tweeners who can rush the passer.

The Giants will likely attack the Redskins with a balanced attack, employing an equal amount of running and passing plays. Jennings’ left thumb injury is a concern as the Giants have had issues holding onto the football. The team has one solid rushing game and one poor effort so it will be interesting to see how the team is able to run the ball against a Washington defensive front that has had problems.

What we have seen through the first two games is that Ben McAdoo is heavily relying on the Eli Manning to Odell Beckham-Sterling Shepard-Victor Cruz trio. There has been talk all week about Beckham versus Josh Norman, who is clearly Washington’s best defensive back. Norman did not shadow Cowboys’ wide receiver Dez Bryant last week but there has been some reporting that he will shadow Beckham in this contest. The Giants can’t and won’t get caught up with these concerns. Beckham is talented enough to beat any cornerback in the NFL and the Giants can exploit the other defensive backs in the secondary with any of their top three receivers.

What the Giants do need to stop doing is turning the football over. That hasn’t cost them yet, but it will if it continues. They have four turnovers in first two games. They also need to get back to their Week 1 success in the redzone.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
On paper, this looks like a good match-up for the Giants. Much of the success of the Redskins offense is based on their ability to run the football. While they are currently ranked 25th in rushing in terms of yards per game, Washington is 6th in the NFL in yards-per-carry (4.7). If the Giants can duplicate their early season success in stopping the run, that will place a lot more pressure on QB Kirk Cousins, who has been shaky thus far. Cousins has had some rough moments against the Giants and the Giants are due for some turnovers (none so far despite a far more athletic, aggressive, and talented defense).

That all said, while the Cowboys get all of the attention in the division for their offensive line, the Redskins have a pretty darn strong group as well. The Men in Blue up front had better not take them lightly. Matt Jones is a very talented running back and the Giants need to keep him in check. Much of the Skins offense is also centered around play-action – look for a heavy dose of that as Washington tries to sucker the Giants young and aggressive safeties. Landon Collins and Nat Berhe are going to be on the spot.

Cousins is a strange quarterback. At times he looks terrible, at other times he looks amazing. While he has justly been criticized for a rough start (1 touchdown, 3 interceptions), he still is completing an outstanding 65 percent of his passes. Cousins tends to throw more underneath (hence his higher completion percentage) and when he throws farther down field, he tends to get into trouble. That said, the Redskins have some very dangerous outside weapons including DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Jamison Crowder. There will be a temptation by the cornerbacks to sit on the shorter stuff, but they need to be very careful of the occasional deep shots. In addition, Washington will employ bubble screens to the wideouts so the corners will have to be aggressive in countering that. Tight end Jordan Reed is an exceptional receiving tight end who has giving the Giants fits.

The game plan is obvious. Stop the run. Get after Cousins and force him to make bad decisions.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The added talent and athleticism on the Giants roster is starting to translate to special teams. For example, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins are a threat on every field goal attempt. What the Giants need to clean up is their punt coverage (kickoff coverage – knock on wood – has been good so far). Dwayne Harris is due to break one.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Steve Spagnuolo on the safety position: “Yeah, it’s getting to be a concern. We’ll miss Darian Thompson. He kind of communicated back there and kind of glues things together. Landon’s just got to step up and help out the guy that’s next to him, whether it’s Nat Berhe or whoever it is. But, we’re getting thin at safety.”

THE FINAL WORD:
This is a game that a Tom Coughlin team (circa 2012-15) would lose. It scares the heck out of me because this is probably the Redskins season. Meanwhile, the Giants have been feeling good about themselves and talking a bit too much trash for my taste this week. The Giants are the better team, but if they don’t match the Redskins intensity, they will lose.

Nov 302015
 
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monty

Washington Redskins 20 – New York Giants 14

Overview

The eternal football debate when your team loses: did you simply lose to the better team on that day, or did you not match their intensity and beat yourself? The New York Giants insist the latter. They claim they slept walk through three quarters. But that simply could be a coping mechanism. We’ll never really know for sure.

Empirically, all we can go by is what we see on the tape. And it’s not good. The Giants got their butts whipped in the trenches. The Redskins out-rushed the Giants 105 yards to 33 yards. Eli Manning was sacked three times and officially hit eight more times while Kirk Cousins wasn’t sacked and only hit three times. Even though the Giants ran 67 offensive plays, they only held the ball 24 minutes while the Skins ran one fewer play and held it 36 minutes. New York lost the turnover battle 3-0. While none of those turnovers led to Redskins’ points, they did deprive New York of at least one red zone scoring opportunity in the third quarter.

In the end, at least on this particular day, the Washington Redskins were the better team. They played better on offense and defense.

As for the New York Giants, shame on them. Shame on the entire franchise for putting that product on the field in a game of this magnitude. Had the Giants won, they were almost a lock to win the NFC East and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Now they will have to scratch, claw, and pray to make it. Shame on them. They had claimed that the four heart-breaking losses earlier in the season have made them more mentally tough. Bullshit.

Quarterback

Thanks to General Manager Jerry Reese and the team’s unending injury situation year after year, this team lives or dies with its quarterback play. They can’t rely on a defense or running game – both of which are once again among the NFL’s worst. So when Eli Manning and the passing game is clicking, this team has a chance to win any game. If they are not clicking, a loss is inevitable. Manning did not play well on Sunday. The first interception was not on him. Even though the second was tipped into Dwayne Harris’ hands, that was a poor decision on the part of Manning. Fans are debating who was more to blame on the killer red zone interception in the third quarter – Manning or wideout Rueben Randle – but the ball was thrown behind Randle. At other moments, a somewhat rattled Manning threw the ball up for grabs before settling down in the 4th quarter and making some clutch throws, none better than his 4th-and-16 touchdown throw to Randle. He later added a 21-yard strike to Odell Beckham. But it was too little, too late. On a day when the Giants run-to-pass ratio was 13 to 54, the passing game simply did not produce. There were too many misfires and throws into traffic. The Giants’ first 10 drives ended in three interceptions and seven punts. The Giants were 3-of-15 (20 percent) on third down. Manning was also flagged with a delay-of-game penalty on the play before his first interception.

Running Backs

The Giants’ four running backs rushed for 32 yards against the 30th-ranked run defense in the NFL. New York only gained one rushing yard in the entire second half, and that was by wideout Dwayne Harris. Now to be fair, those stats are skewed because the Giants only rushed the ball 13 times despite having 67 offensive snaps (and only rushed the ball three times total in the second half). But the longest run of the day was only eight yards. Despite having six carries, Rashad Jennings only accrued 14 yards (2.3 yards per carry). Orleans Darkwa carried the ball twice for two yards and Andre Williams carried it twice for one yard. Shane Vereen had 15 yards on two carries, but his drop caused the first interception.

The stats are even more alarming when you consider that the Giants actually started the game running the ball well. They gained 24 yards on four carries on their initial possession. In other words, the Giants gained only nine rushing yards on 12 of their 13 offensive possessions.

Wide Receivers

Against an injury-depleted and suspect secondary, more was expected. Once again, Odell Beckham was the headliner with 9 catches for 142 yards and a sensational, one-handed, diving touchdown grab that cut the score to 20-14 with just under five minutes to play. But like against the Patriots, too many of Eli Manning’s throws to Beckham fell incomplete. Against New England, Beckham caught 4-of-12 targets thrown in his direction. Against Washington, Beckham caught 9-of-18 targets. That’s 17 incompletions to one receiver in two games. The Giants are trying to get the ball to Beckham more, but even though he is getting his 100+ yards, the passer-to-target efficiency isn’t there and drives are stalling. If we’re going to be honest, the Redskins’ cornerbacks did a nice job on Beckham most of the game.

With the Redskins rolling their coverage to Beckham, this was a golden opportunity for Rueben Randle to have a big game and he laid an egg. He had one catch in six targets. He didn’t come back for the football on one end zone shot and two plays later drifted backwards on his route, allowing the cornerback to come underneath and pick off the ball. Randle dropped a pass and seemed completely out of sync with Manning. Dwayne Harris also did not produce, catching 2-of-5 targets for 28 yards. Hakeem Nicks got his feet wet catching 1-of-2 passes thrown his way for 4 yards. In the end, Beckham caught 142 yards and the other four active receivers caught 72 yards on a day when Manning dropped back 54 times.

Tight Ends

Will Tye and Jerome Cunningham were the only two right ends active. Tye had a solid day, catching 6-of-8 targets for 74 yards. Tye caught three passes for 52 yards on the Giants’ second TD drive, including a 28 yarder on 4th-and-2. Cunningham was targeted four times, but only caught one pass for 2 yards. Cunningham (and RG Bobby Hart) completely whiffed on their defenders on a running play that lost four yards in the 3rd quarter.

Offensive Line

With both Weston Richburg (ankle) and Justin Pugh (concussion) out, the Giants made the unusual move of switching Geoff Schwartz to left guard, preferring to play John Jerry at right guard. Those plans had to be scrapped before intermission when the injury-prone Schwartz fractured his lower leg. Jerry then moved back to left guard and rookie Bobby Hart was inserted at right guard. It was pretty clear the coaches didn’t really trust the interior trio of Jerry, Dallas Reynolds, and Hart in terms of the ground game as the team only ran the ball three times in the second half, and all three of those runs were outside efforts. Yes, the Giants were down by three scores but they didn’t call any of their usual inside shotgun running plays to Vereen or Jennings. Pass protection also became an issue as Eli Manning was sacked three times, officially hit eight times, and was never really comfortable in the pocket. RT Marshall Newhouse had issues in particular with OLB Ryan Kerrigan, who had two sacks against him. Newhouse also gave up the third sack to DE Chris Baker on a stunt. John Jerry was flagged with holding when the Giants were moving the ball on their third possession, helping to stall a drive when the score was still 0-0. Ereck Flowers had some issues on a couple of outside pass rushes. Reynolds whiffed in pass protection on the end zone shot to Randle where Eli was forced to drift backwards. Given the circumstances, Hart performed better than expected.

Defensive Line

The defensive line was out-played up front. The run defense was decent in the first half, allowing the Skins’ running backs only 30 yards on 11 carries (2.7 yards per carry). But the Washington ground game picked up momentum in the second half, gaining 74 yards in 22 carries (3.4 yards per carry). That’s not stellar productivity for the Redskins, but it was enough to help control the clock and eliminate any chance of a comeback.

The bigger problem was the complete lack of a pass rush. Kirk Cousins was not sacked and only hit three times, two of those by defensive linemen Cullen Jenkins and Robert Ayers. Cousins rarely was under any duress and at times it must have seemed like training camp drills for him. Jay Bromley was flagged with a roughing-the-passer penalty when the Skins were attempting to run out the clock after New York’s first score in the 4th quarter.

Linebackers

The linebackers were fairly active with Devon Kennard (10 tackles), Jasper Brinkley (6 tackles, 1 TFL), and Jonathan Casillas (5 tackles, 1 pass defense) accruing 21 tackles. J.T. Thomas returned to action after missing a few games but did not show up on the stat sheet. A killer play in the game was the 45-yard screen pass to RB Matt Jones late in the first half that helped to set up the touchdown that put the Redskins up 17-0…both Kennard and Brinkley misread the play. Casillas also missed a tackle after a short throw on 3rd-and-22 that helped the Redskins get into more manageable field goal range.

Defensive Backs

Kirk Cousins completed 20-of-29 passes (69 percent) for 302 yards and a 114.4 quarterback rating (Eli’s QBR was 59.4 or half that). Aside from one huge play, the Redskins’ wide receivers did not do much damage. Pierre Garcon was held to 3 catches for 35 yards, Jamison Crowder 2 catches for 12 yards, Ryan Grant 1 catch for 19 yards, and Chris Thompson 1 catch for 9 yards. And Giants-killer DeSean Jackson only had two catches, one of which went for 3 yards. The problem? Jackson’s only other catch went for 63 yards and a touchdown when he badly beat CB Jayron Hosley (who was subbing for the injured Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) and S Brandon Meriweather. “It was a speed break out the huddle,” Jackson said. “We said we were going to hurry up and hike the ball. We kind of caught the defense off guard.” The next longest completion to a wide receiver was the 19 yarder to Jones. Rodgers-Cromartie dropped what should have been a 64-yard interception for a touchdown in the first quarter when the game was still 0-0.

Aside from Jackson, the real thorn was tight end Jordan Reed, who caught eight passes for 98 yards, including catches of 26, 20, and 20 yards. The first 20 yarder came on the Redskins’ second TD drive and the the second one came on 3rd-an-5 with 3:29 left on the clock and the Giants trailing by six points. Craig Dahl was beaten on both plays.

Special Teams

Not good enough. Jay Bromley did block a 51-yard field goal effort. And the Redskins longest kickoff return was 25 yards. But Jamison Crowder had two 12-yard punt returns. Dwayne Harris only gained 14 yards on four punt returns and 19 yards on one kickoff return. Harris’ decision to return the last Redskins’ punt inside the 5-yard line was a dumb decision that cost the Giants yards and a few precious seconds. He also muffed a punt that he recovered. Brad Wing had two punts result in touchbacks (though both had a chance to be downed at the 1-yard line) and three downed inside the 20. He averaged 50.4 yards per punt with a net of 41.

Coaching

Offensively, the Giants were hamstrung by the offensive line issues and not having an A-game from Manning his his targets. But this running back-by-committee approach is not working. Stick with one or two guys. The Giants had a nice rhythm running the ball on their first drive. Vereen had back-to-back runs for a total of 15 yards and he never ran the ball again. Dumb.

I hated the defensive play calls after the Giants cut the scored to 20-14. The Giants played it too conservatively, not coming after Cousins. Worse, despite not bringing extra rushers, they left Dahl all alone on Cousins’ go-to guy – Jordan Reed – on 3rd-and-5 with 3:29 left to play. He’s the guy you want to double in that situation. Dumb.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

Even though Joey couldn’t do the game review this week, I decided to keep this going in his honor. The choice was obvious: the entire New York Giants team. How in the world do you play so poorly with so much at stake? It’s one thing to lose. It’s another be trailing 20-0 in the 4th quarter to the Washington Redskins. The Giants didn’t score a single point on their first 10 offensive possessions. The defense didn’t force a turnover or register a sack. Shame on the players and coaches.

(New York Giants at Washington Redskins, November 29, 2015)
Nov 292015
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (November 29, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

WASHINGTON REDSKINS 20 – NEW YORK GIANTS 14
The New York Giants lost a critical division game to the Washington Redskins, 20-14, on Sunday afternoon in Landover, Maryland. With the defeat, the Giants fell to 5-6 overall and 2-3 in the NFC East. The Giants are still tied with the Redskins for first place in the dismal NFC East with five games left to play. However, the Giants lost starting guard Geoff Schwartz for the season with a fractured lower leg.

The Giants’ offense was dismal, being shutout for three quarters against the NFL’s 22nd-ranked defense. New York’s first two drives quickly ended with interceptions off of tipped passes. In the Giants’ five other first-half drives, the team only gained four first downs and punted the ball away five times.

The Redskins could not convert the Giants’ two first-half interceptions into points as the defense forced a three-and-out and defensive tackle Jay Bromley blocked a 51-yard field goal attempt. However, Washington was still able to take a commanding 17-0 halftime advantage due to a 12-play, 56-yard field goal drive; a 63-yard deep strike from quarterback Kirk Cousins to wide receiver DeSean Jackson after cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie left the game with an ankle injury; and a 9-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a quarterback keeper on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line near the end of the first half.

The Giants had a chance to get back into the game early in the third quarter after the Redskins turned the ball over on downs at the New York 37-yard line. The Giants responded by driving 59 yards in eight plays down to the Washington 4-yard line. But on 3rd-and-goal, Manning’s pass was thrown behind wide receiver Rueben Randle and intercepted in the end zone.

The Giants went three-and-out on their next two possessions as the Redskins added a 33-yard field goal to go up 20-0 early in the 4th quarter. The Giants made things interesting late with two touchdown throws, including a 40-yard pass to Randle on 4th-and-16 with 10:10 remaining and a spectacular 21-yard, diving catch by wide receiver Odell Beckham with 4:57 remaining.

Nevertheless, the Giants’ defense could not get the ball back quickly after the latter score, allowing the Redskins to gain 37 yards and two first downs, taking 4:38 off of the clock. The Giants started their last drive at their own 20-yard with with only 19 seconds left.

Offensively, the Giants finished with 17 first downs, 299 net yards passing, and a pathetic 33 yards rushing against the NFL’s 30th-ranked run defense. Manning finished the game 26-of-51 for 321 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. He was sacked three times and officially hit eight other times. Beckham caught 9-of-18 passes thrown in his direction for 142 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Will Tye caught 6 passes for 74 yards. No Giants’ running back gained more than 15 yards.

Defensively, the Giants allowed 18 first downs, 302 net yards passing, and 105 rushing yards. The defense did not force a turnover. Cousins completed 69 percent of his passes, was not sacked, and only hit three times.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
Offensive guard Geoff Schwartz fractured his lower leg in the first half. His season is over. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie injured his ankle but returned to the game.

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 Odell Beckham (Video)
  • WR Rueben Randle (Video)
  • DT Cullen Jenkins (Video)

POST-GAME NOTES…
Inactive for the Giants were TE Larry Donnell (neck), OC Weston Richburg (ankle), LG Justin Pugh (concussion), WR Geremy Davis, DE George Selvie, CB Leon McFadden, and S Cooper Taylor.

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