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Tom Coughlin and Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants (November 3, 2014)

Tom Coughlin and Ahmad Bradshaw – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Indianapolis Colts 40 – New York Giants 24

Game Overview

The New York Giants were badly beaten by a healthier team with vastly superior personnel and completely comfortable with their offensive and defensive schemes.

The Giants record since 2011 (19-21) and the number of uncompetitive games this team has played proves beyond a shadow a doubt that this team simply lacks talent to seriously compete for a playoff spot. The Giants are getting crushed far too regularly, and not just by top teams but average teams like the Panthers and Lions. Say what you will about the coaching staff (some of it warranted), but how many top 100 players are on this roster?

I’ve said it again and again – injuries and bad picks have gutted the 2008-2012 New York Giants draft classes. There are only five players left from the 31 players taken in the 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 drafts: Will Beatty, Jason Pierre-Paul, Prince Amukamara, James Brewer, and Jacquian Williams. And the five players from the 2012 NFL draft still on the roster are not performing at a high standard:  Rueben Randle, Jayron Hosley, Adrien Robinson, Brandon Mosley, and Markus Kuhn. You can’t have five “bad” drafts in a row and not have that impact your team.

New York Giants - Indianapolis Colts November 3 2014 (2)

 

New York Giants - Indianapolis Colts November 3 2014 (3)

As for the game itself, the Giants offense never gave the team a chance, and then the defense collapsed in the third quarter.

The warning signs were there before the game started:

  • The Giants had not scored an opening-possession touchdown in 18 consecutive games, the NFL’s longest streak. (Now unfortunately 19 games).
  • Coming into the game, the Colts had outscored their opponents in the first quarter, 68-13. The Giants had been outscored, 48-14. (The Giants actually held their ground here, only being outscored 3-0 by Colts in first quarter).
  • Other than the game against the Steelers, the Colts have been the NFL’s stingiest defense on third down. (The Giants were 4-of-16 or 25 percent, which is actually better than most of the Colts opponents, believe it or not).

The Colts have the NFL’s #1 offense and average over 30 points per game. Everyone knew for the Giants to have a chance, they would have to score points early and often. The Giants failed miserably, scoring one field goal in eight first-half possessions. They punted seven other times, going three-and-out four times and only gaining one first down on two other drives. The Giants were very fortunate that the defense kept them in the game, only trailing 16-3 at the half.

During the Giants three-game winning streak, it seemed as if the Giants were finally grasping Ben McAdoo’s offense, and being more and more comfortable with the up-tempo, no-huddle style. For some reason, the pace has slowed and the entire offense seems out of sync during the last three losses. Perhaps that is due to the loss of Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings. Perhaps most significantly, the offensive line is regressing again despite the same five linemen starting every game this year.

The Giants finally scored their first touchdown in the third quarter, but it was too little too late as the defense – now missing Prince Amukamara – imploded as the Colts scored three touchdowns in the third quarter and tacked on another field goal early in the fourth quarter to take a commanding 30-point lead. For the Giants to have a chance, it was necessary for the defense to force some turnovers, and it didn’t – no interceptions or fumble recoveries. And the Giants gave up eight plays over 20 yards, including four plays over 30 yards.

This once-proud franchise is clearly on downward talent spiral. At this point last season, the Giants were 2-6. Now they are 3-5. They are what they are – a bad football team. Many fans don’t want to admit that one obvious truth. It’s easier to make excuses. But the road to recovery begins with accurately recognizing your own problems.

One offseason and a handful of new players are not going to fix this mess. Hopefully management recognizes that. The Giants talk tough and can play well in spurts, but when better teams punch them in the mouth, the air goes out of their balloon and they wilt. Unlike the 2007 and 2011 New York Giants, there isn’t much toughness or resilience. And they aren’t very good.

Quarterback

The greatest tragedy of this season is that Eli Manning is actually having one of his best seasons and it is being wasted. That said, the Giants passing game in the first half was not good. Eli only completed 9-of-23 passes for 97 yards (52.3 quarterback rating). Not all of that was on him as he was the victim of a number of dropped passes. But a few of his throws were off the mark and his delay of game penalty after a kickoff return was inexcusable. In the second half, he completed 18-of-29 passes for 262 yards, but the bulk of that damage came far too late to matter.

“The ball was high at times during the game,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “Fundamentally, he obviously just has to get the ball down. He knows that. We talked about it and hopefully we will get better at that.”

Running Backs

The Giants running game has simply disappeared with Rashad Jennings being hurt. Andre Williams had yet another disappointing game, rushing 12 times for 22 yards (1.8 yards per carry). Peyton Hillis had four carries for 20 yards. In other words, the Giants top two backs combined for 42 yards. That’s not going to get it done. As The Bergen Record pointed out, 11 of the Giants 3rd down situations were nine yards or more. Much of that is due to the failed running game.

The Giants have talked about Williams’ lack of patience as a runner and how this is normal for a young back. That may be true, but he really still is not getting a lot of running room to operate with. Is that because teams stack up against the inside run, or simply the Giants’ offensive line getting out-muscled on a down-by-down basis? Regardless, Williams didn’t help matters with his fumble that turned a 2nd-and-6 situation into a 3rd-and-12 situation. Williams’ best run of the night was a 9-yard carry outside a poor block by Larry Donnell. He juked the oncoming defender and finished the run with power. There was an odd play late in the second half where Weston Richburg pulled to his right, but Williams ran left to the spot vacated by Richburg. It seems to me he ran the wrong way.

Williams had two nice back-to-back plays on the Giants first TD drive when he caught a short pass on 3rd-and-10, broke two tackles, and powered his way down to the 1-yard line. He was hit at the line on the very next play but still managed to score.

Hillis flashed on two back-to-back plays that were well-executed: a 26-yard screen pass followed immediately by a 16-yard run. But even on these plays, it’s clear that Hillis is a lumbering back who struggles to create on his own. Hillis also missed a blitz pick-up on 3rd-and-9 on the same drive, leading to an incompletion and punt.

Peyton Hillis, New York Giants (November 3, 2014)

Peyton Hillis – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Henry Hynoski picked up a 3rd-and-1 first down on a rare carry.

Wide Receivers

The Giants miss Victor Cruz. But they are also being very much hurt by the fact that Rueben Randle is increasingly looking like a 2nd-round bust. After three seasons, there is still too much miscommunication between Randle and Manning, and that has to be on the wideout. Randle was targeted 11 times but only caught four passes for 49 yards. Early in the game, Manning expected Randle to continue his route across the middle of the field on 3rd-and-9, but Randle stopped and the Giants were forced to punt. In the second quarter, Randle dropped a 3rd-and-7 pass inside the Colts red zone. The Giants were forced to settle for a field goal.

Third receiver Preston Parker was terrible. He was targeted six times, dropped three passes, only caught one pass for seven yards, and left the game with a foot sprain. The Giants should consider replacing him with Kevin Ogletree in the slot.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (November 3, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

One of the few players to play well was Odell Beckham who caught 8-of-11 passes thrown in his direction for 156 yards. He had a key 19-yard reception on 3rd-and-10, but he also dropped a pass in the first half. For the first time in a Giants uniform, Beckham demonstrated his dangerous run-after-the-catch ability on his 59-yard play on the Giants first touchdown drive.

Corey Washington saw action in the second half and finished with four catches for 48 yards and 20-yard touchdown. He’s still very raw and will make mistakes, but given the reality of the 3-5 season, it’s time to give him more playing time.

Larry Donnell, New York Giants (November 3, 2014)

Larry Donnell – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Tight Ends

The Giants need more out of Larry Donnell, who caught four of eight passes thrown in his direction for 25 yards and one touchdown. He dropped a well-thrown deep pass from Manning in the first quarter.

Offensive Line

Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo keep giving this line an opportunity to improve its ability to be physical and run block. The line keeps failing miserably. Despite all intentions, de facto, the Giants are a one-dimensional team. When they run the ball, it’s almost like throwing away snaps. The Giants have two options – they can continue to work at improving their run game and pray; or they can largely abandon the run, put Manning at far greater risk, and pray.

An illustration on the run blocking came late in the first quarter. RT Justin Pugh, who has really regressed this year, completely whiffed on his block on one run by Andre Williams. On the very next snap, OC J.D. Walton could not sustain his block on the defensive tackle who stuffed the run. Two plays, two bad blocks, two yards. Even worse, on the game’s first offensive play, the Giants didn’t even bother to block the weakside end, leading to a 1-yard loss.

Too often, the opposing team is simply not being moved off of the line of scrimmage. Look at the following shot where Walton, Pugh, and Donnell are stalemated BEHIND the line of scrimmage. Williams has little chance on this play.

Giants Blockers Stalemated at Line of Scrimmage

Giants Blockers Stalemated Behind Line of Scrimmage

And the OL continues to make life more difficult for Manning. On the second Giants possession, Pugh was flagged with a false start (now 1st-and-15). After a dropped pass by Larry Donnell, Will Beatty got beat to the inside and Eli was hit as he threw the ball (2nd-and-15 turns into 3rd-and-15). Giants run and punt. On the next series, John Jerry failed to pick up a stunt on 3rd-and-12 and Eli had to throw the ball away. Pugh also had an illegal use of hands penalty. The final dagger was Will Beatty getting beat to the outside on strip-sack-fumble that set the Colts up on the Giants 4-yard line and an insurmountable 37-10 advantage.

Weston Richburg left the game with a sprained ankle. Before that, he gave up a sack when he failed to pick up a stunt.

Even when the game was out of hand, the OL continued to piss me off. Pugh lazily allowed the end to get past him, nailing Hillis for a 4-yard loss. Then Jerry got beat for a sack-strip-fumble on Manning. Jerry Reese’s draft picks – including the two high-round draft picks at tackle – and free agent acquisitions on the offensive line suck.

Defensive Line

The Colts came out throwing, only running the ball with their backs four times in the first half of the game for a total of 20 yards. Andrew Luck threw 31 first-half passes, which is a high number for a full game. He completed 17 of those for 202 yards. The problem was that outside of DE/DT Robert Ayers (3 tackles, 1 sack, 7 quarterback hits, and 1 forced fumble), the rest of the line did not get enough heat on Luck. Ayers deserves special kudos. Seven QB hits is an exceptionally high number for one player. And he did that in 45 defensive snaps.

Jason Pierre-Paul (65 snaps) did not make the impact expected and/or hoped for. He finished the game with only 2 tackles, 1 QB hit, and 1 pass defense. Mathias Kiwanuka saw his snaps reduced (57) and finished with 4 tackles and 2 QB hits. He was also flagged with an illegal use-of-hands penalty. Damontre Moore saw his playing time increase (25 snaps) and finished 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, and 1 QB hit.

Inside, Mike Patterson (24 snaps, 1 tackle) started along with Johnathan Hankins (48 snaps, 1 tackle, and 1 pass defense). Neither made much of an impact, nor did Markus Kuhn (22 snaps) and Jay Bromley (16 snaps, 1 tackle). I spotted both Hankins and Bromley hitting Luck, but it wasn’t enough.

In the end, the Colts running backs only carried the ball 22 times, and finished with less than 100 yards on the ground. But they didn’t really try to run the football until the score was out of hand (37-10) and then they did so pretty easily – 45 yards on six carries on their final scoring drive that ended with a field goal. That said, it was the passing game that killed the Giants. The Giants got 11 QB hits and quite a few pressures from blitzes, but only sacked Luck once despite him dropping back 47 times. And seven of those QB hits came from one player. If the Colts didn’t call off the dogs at the end of the third quarter, the score would have been worse.

Linebackers

Jameel McClain and Jacquian Williams played all 75 defensive snaps. Devon Kennard only played 28 as the Giants were often in their nickel package. The Colts did not run the football until the second half. Pass coverage was an issue however.

Given the fact that the Giants often left their linebackers all alone with the Colts’ talented tight ends, it appears that Perry Fewell was more concerned about the wide receivers as I assume safety attention was focused elsewhere. The man on the spot using this strategy was Jacquian Williams, and Andrew Luck repeatedly threw in his direction.

Williams finished the game with 17 tackles (13 solo). He had an active first series with good short coverage on two passes to Colts’ running backs. But he missed a tackle on Andrew Luck on 3rd-and-4, keeping alive a drive that ended with a field goal. Williams was later beat by WR T.Y. Hilton over the middle for a 13-yard gain, but that’s an unfair match-up for any linebacker. In the second quarter, Williams had pretty tight coverage on TE Coby Fleener on the 21-yard gain on the play before the 32-yard touchdown pass to Fleener where the Giants’ defense was caught napping. Later in the first half, Williams had good coverage on Fleener on a 3rd-and-7 incomplete pass. He had tight coverage, but gave up a 13-yard completion to Fleener on the next possession.

Perhaps Williams’ worst play was getting beat deep by TE Dwayne Allen for 35 yards on 3rd-and-8 on the first series of the second half. This was the biggest play on a drive that ended with a touchdown and 23-3 lead. On the next series, Williams had good coverage on an incomplete pass to Allen, but he gave up an 11-yard completion to Fleener on a 3rd-and-8 on a drive that ended with a TD and 30-10 lead.

Kennard was flagged with a costly 15-yard facemask penalty on the Colts’ first touchdown drive.

Defensive Backs

The secondary did not play well and mental, as well as physical, breakdowns continue under Perry Fewell’s defense. One of the key moments of the game was when the Giants’ defense was not set on a far-too-easy 32-yard touchdown pass to Fleener. (Tom Coughlin really should have called a timeout before the snap). That play put the Colts up 10-0. What also bothers me is that a couple of times linebackers were called upon to cover wide receivers with no other defender in sight on crossing patterns over the middle. It happened with Williams on Hilton and McClain on Hakeem Nicks.

That said, it is important to recognize that the Giants have now lost three of their best corners – Prince Amukamara, Walter Thurmond, and Trumaine McBride – and their remaining top corner – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – is playing hurt. Antrel Rolle (all 75 snaps, 7 tackles, 1 pass defense) is not playing as well as he did last year and the Quintin Demps (74 snaps, 3 tackles, 1 pass defense) and Stevie Brown (21 snaps, 2 tackles) are a big downgrade from Will Hill. Rolle dropped an interception that would have prevented a field goal.

After Amukamara (17 snaps) left the game, the Giants were really in a tough predicament against this offense. The top corners remaining were the gimpy Rodgers-Cromartie (63 snaps, 1 tackle), Zack Bowman (53 snaps, 1 tackle), and Jayron Hosley (41 snaps, 3 tackles, 1 pass defense).

Hosley looked decent at times, but had issues on other plays as the slot corner. The biggest play he gave up in the first half was a 27-yard catch-and-run to WR T.Y. Hilton on a shallow crossing pattern. But he did cause a couple of incomplete passes too with solid coverage. In the second half, Hosley was beaten by WR Reggie Wayne on 3rd-and-5 on a play where the Giants sent an all-out blitz. Wayne then ran away from Hosley for the 40-yard score.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, New York Giants (November 3, 2014)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

DRC’s worst play came on the 2nd-and-15 31-yard touchdown throw to Hilton where Rodgers-Cromartie had an interception ripped right out of his hands. Instead of 16-3 and Giants ball, the game becomes 23-3.

Special Teams

Josh Brown was 1-for-1 on field goal attempts, hitting his 38 yarder. One of his three kickoffs went for a touchback. One return went for 30 yards on a player where he tackled the returner. The other return only went for six yards after a pop-up kick.

Steve Weatherford punted eight times (seven in the first half), averaging 44.1 yards per punt (39.4 net). He did not have a good night, with two poor back-to-back efforts in the first quarter (37-yard punt that was returned for 15 yards and a 35 yard punt). The Colts returned five punts for a total of 38 yards (7.6 yards per return).

The Giants only returned one punt, with Odell Beckham losing three yards. Three other punts were fair caught by Rueben Randle. In a nutshell, the Giants punt return game remains a non-factor.

Michael Cox returned four kickoffs for 88 yards (22-yard average). The longest was a 33-yard return on the game’s first play, but he also made a bad decision to return one out of the end zone on a play where he only reached the 9-yard line (this was very poorly blocked too by the Giants). Another return only reached the 16-yard line.

(Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants, November 3, 2014)
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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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