Dec 022014
 
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John Mara, New York Giants (November 30, 2014)

John Mara – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Jacksonville Jaguars 25 – New York Giants 24

Game Overview

The Giants managed to find a way to do the impossible. Leading 21-0 in the second quarter against a 1-10 football team – a team with the NFL’s 31st-ranked offense and 30th-ranked defense – the Giants collapsed and lost the game 25-24.

It was an epic defeat – even for a 3-9 football team that has now lost seven games in a row. Ironically, the loss may ultimately end Tom Coughlin’s NFL head coaching career in the very city where it all began.

It was a team-wide embarrassment for the Giants:

  • The offense only scored three points and gained six first downs in the second half. Worse, they allowed two defensive scores. As Coughlin said after the game, the Giants probably would have won the game had they just knelt on the ball in the second half.
  • On special teams, Josh Brown missed a 43-yard field goal in a game the team lost by one point.
  • Defensively, statistically the Giants played well for most of the game, but once again, with the game on the line, the defense allowed the opponent to easily march down the field and score the game-winning points. There was also a dropped interception that could have prevented a field goal and a 6-play, 67-yard touchdown drive that was far too easy.

Leading by 21 points, it was almost impossible for the Giants to lose this game against this particular opponent. But the 2014 Giants found a way. This team is psychologically fragile, now shell-shocked, and expects the worst to happen. And it usually does.

The New York Giants are a broken franchise.

Offensive Overview

  • First Half: 23 rushes, 19 passes, 0 sacks, 21 points, 16 first downs, 254 total yards (177 yards passing, 77 yards rushing), 6-for-8 on third down (75 percent). No turnovers.
  • Second Half: 12 rushes, 19 passes, 4 sacks, 3 points, 6 first downs, 75 total yards (36 yards passing, 39 yards rushing), 1-for-7 on third down (14 percent). Three fumbles lost, including two for defensive scores.

Some will contend the Giants got too conservative in second half, but the Giants were very conservative in first half too. They rushed 23 times and passed 19 times in the first half, nevertheless scoring touchdowns on three straight possessions and going 3-for-3 (100 percent) in the red zone against the NFL’s top red zone defense.

For example, on the first touchdown drive, the Giants ran the the ball 13 times out of 19 plays. On third touchdown drive, the Giants ran the ball four times in seven plays. Both touchdowns on these drives came on runs.

In the second half? The Giant rushed 12 times and passed 19 times. The big difference? The blocking fell apart as the Giants no longer had much success running the football and Eli was sacked four times. Obviously, the two defensive scores on passing plays were decisive. In fact, one can legitimately argue had the Giants not passed the ball in the second half of the game, but just run and punted, they would have been far likelier to have won against the particular opponent. In other words, perhaps they were not conservative enough. That won’t work against most teams, but it probably would have worked in this game.

Quarterback

Eli Manning finished the first half 15-of-19 for 177 yards and a touchdown (123.0 QB rating). He completed 9-of-15 passes for 70 yards in the second half. While he threw no interceptions, he fumbled the ball away twice, including for one score.

Running Backs

Again, a tale of two halves. Rashad Jennings (47 snaps) carried the ball 19 times for 65 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. This despite a poorly blocked play that resulted in an 11-yard loss and exacerbated by Jennings’ ill-advised decision to reverse field. Before Jennings left with an ankle injury, he only manged 26 yards on seven carries in the second half. Jennings also should have fallen in on Manning’s fumble in the end zone instead of trying to pick it up and run it out. Jennings caught 3-of-5 passes thrown in his direction for a grand total of three yards.

Andre Williams (26 snaps) finished with 21 yards on eight carries. Williams caught 2-of-3 passes for 16 yards, including an 18-yard screen pass on the second TD drive.

Wide Receivers

Rueben Randle (45 snaps) was benched for the first quarter due to being late for a team meeting on Friday. He caught 3-of-4 passes in his direction for 52 yards.

Odell Beckham (69 snaps) caught 7-of-8 passes for 90 yards. The Giants need to get the ball more into his hands, but the offensive line needs to give Manning time to do that too. Beckham was targeted six times in first half and only twice in second half. His biggest first-half play was his 29-yard run-and-catch off a short pass. His only second-half receptions came on New York’s only scoring drive in the second half? Coincidence? Not likely.

Kevin Ogletree (21 snaps) caught two passes for 25 yards and Preston Parker (62 snaps) caught two passes for six yards and a touchdown. Ogletree had key 12-yard catch on 3rd-and-6 on third TD drive. Parker dropped a perfectly-thrown TD pass right before Jennings’ 17-yard TD run. Corey Washington played two snaps.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell (54 snaps) caught 5-of-7 passes thrown in his direction for 55 yards. He caught a 14-yard out pass on 3rd-and-7 on first TD drive and a 32-yard reception on the second TD drive. But his fumble proved extremely costly as it was returned 41 yards for a touchdown. On the following drive, he could not make the catch on 3rd-and-3 when contacted by the defender. Daniel Fells (27 snaps) missed a block and his man is the one who sacked Manning and forced the other fumble that resulted in a touchdown. Fells had a shot at recovering the loose ball but missed it. Adrien Robinson played three snaps.

Offensive Line

Justin Pugh (quadriceps) did not play and was replaced by Geoff Schwartz for the second week in a row. But Schwartz (14 snaps) was carted off of the field early with a serious ankle injury and did not return. He was replaced at right tackle by James Brewer (46 snaps). Brewer left the game in the second half with a concussion. When he left the game, John Jerry moved from right guard to right tackle and Dallas Reynolds (14 snaps) played right guard.

The offensive line was not “good” but it was respectable in the first half, especially in pass protection. I was underwhelmed by the run blocking, particularly by RG John Jerry (as inconsistent as they come and responsible for too many negative plays; he doesn’t sustain or completely misses too many blocks; he also is easily confused by stunts and blitzes), OC J.D. Walton (just gets pushed around too much – he’s not an NFL starter), and LG Weston Richburg (doesn’t play with much power and seems undersized for position). Likewise, James Brewer just seems like a soft player. He rarely plays to his size. He shouldn’t be in the NFL.

On the first drive, Jerry’s poor run block led to an 11-yard loss on 2nd-and-6 and subsequent punt. Brewer and Reynolds were flagged with false starts. But the unit gave up no sacks and no QB hits in first half.

Like they did against the 49ers, the offensive line deteriorated in the second half. Manning was sacked and fumbled the ball away on the second NYG offensive snap of the 3rd quarter. While TE Daniel Fells gave up a hit, so did Jerry and Walton who let one inside rusher blow past them (and instead of trying to recover the ball, both Will Beatty and Walton just stood there watching).

After the offense came back onto the field, on their very next pass play, on 3rd-and-2, Manning was sacked again as Beatty – for some inexplicable reason – let his man just blow past him, and Walton again got bulldozed back into Manning. On the next series, on 3rd-and-2, Manning’s arm was hit as James Brewer’s opponent ran right past him (and based on Tom Coughlin’s reaction, Rashad Jennings should have chipped the end and helped Brewer on this play). Incomplete, missed field goal.

As the game progressed from the third into the fourth quarter, it became clear that the offensive “brain trust” was justifiably concerned about the line’s ability to protect Eli even on short pass plays. But the running game got worse too. There isn’t too much you can call offensively when you can’t block for the run or the pass.

Early in 4th quarter, Andre Williams got nailed in the backfield when Brewer failed to get a hand on the defensive tackle who then easily got past Walton (according to David Diehl, Brewer was largely to blame here). On the next play, Manning had time but couldn’t find anyone open and was sacked. On the next play, Donnell fumbled. Jacksonville 22 – New York 21.

When Brewer went out and Jerry moved to right tackle and Dallas Reynolds came in at right guard, it got worse and Jacksonville smelled blood in the water. Now trailing because of the two defensive scores, the Giants couldn’t run and Eli wasn’t given a clean pocket. Most pass attempts were short because there was no time to throw anything farther down the field.

When the line finally gave Eli some time on its last scoring drive, Eli was able to complete four straight passes, but the drive stalled in the red zone with a 1-yard loss running play and two incomplete passes (despite decent protection).

When New York got the ball with 28 seconds left, down by one, the game ended on an appropriate note as Jerry and Reynolds got destroyed on a stunt and Manning was sacked and lost the ball.

Defensive Overview

Even had the Giants won this game, the improved defensive performance would have had to be taken with a grain of salt given the level of incompetence of the Jaguars’ offense (31st-ranked offense, terrible offensive line, rookie quarterback).

But anyone wearing blue-colored glasses when looking at this defense has be depressed by yet another late-game collapse by that side of the ball. Despite everything that went wrong after the 21-0 lead, the Giants were still up 24-22 with 3:26 to play and Jacksonville starting at their own 20-yard line. Eleven plays later, with 28 seconds left in the game, the Jaguars kicked the game winner.

In a game decided by a single point, the Giants dropped an interception that would have prevented a field goal. In fact, the the Giants could not force a turnover against a team that had turned the ball over in every game it had played this year.

The defense forced seven punts, but they also gave up long drives of 70 (field goal), 67 (touchdown), and 55 (field goal) yards – all resulting in points. On the touchdown drive, the Giants appeared confused by the Wild Cat and Read Option plays that picked up 28 yards before the 30-yard touchdown pass.

These deficiencies largely erased an excellent start for a Giants’ defense that did not allow a first down on Jacksonville’s first three possessions of the game. The Jaguars first 1st down came with about 5:30 left in the first half. There were two three-and-outs in the fourth quarter too. But then came the game-winning drive. Not good enough.

Defensive Line/Linebackers

The Giants played a lot of players on defense.

Jason Pierre-Paul (66 snaps, 4 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QB hits) played virtually every snap at defensive end. With Mathias Kiwanuka (knee) out, Damontre Moore (43 snaps, 1 tackle, 2 pass defenses) saw the most action he has all season. Robert Ayers (34 snaps, 1 tackle) left the game with a season-ending pectoral tear. As a result, Kerry Wynn (3 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 QB hit) surprisingly played quite a bit (22 snaps).

The Jaguars could not run the ball on the Giants except by using unconventional methods such as the Wild Cat or Read Option. But the five QB runs by Blake Bortles picked up 68 yards, the most damaging coming on the game-winning field goal drive when it appears that Pierre-Paul was out of position, biting too hard on the inside fake to the running back (though the linebacker to that side might have been responsible too). It was too bad for JPP who otherwise played well against a very talented left tackle. His best play was his outside speed rush where he sacked Bortles on 3rd-and-8 in the 4th quarter. He also deflected a two-point conversion attempt and caused the left tackle to hold on the final game-winning drive.

Moore played decently, tipping two passes and flashing at times on the pass rush. He and Johnathan Hankins combined for a 1-yard loss on a running play too. But Moore also had a holding penalty and appeared to be out of position on a Wild Cat run that picked up 16 yards on Jacksonville’s lone offensive TD drive.

Ayers was playing very well as a pass rusher until hurt. I spotted three excellent pass rushes by him, including two that really caused sacks that others ultimately got credit for. But he also badly missed a tackle on a running play that should have lost yardage but gained 17 on the first-half FG drive. Kerry didn’t look bad. He cleaned up on one of Ayers’ pressures for a sack. He did get flagged with an illegal use-of-hands penalty.

Inside, Johnathan Hankins again logged the most time (40 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit) followed by Markus Kuhn (27 snaps, 0 tackles), Mike Patterson (23 snaps, 4 tackles), and Jay Bromley (16 snaps, 2 tackles). The tackles were very stout inside against the run. Hankins cleaned up one of Ayers’ pressures for a sack and also caused a holding penalty that wiped out a Jacksonville TD in the first half.

At linebacker Jameel McClain (68 snaps, 9 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit) and Devon Kennard (46 snaps, 3 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 2 QB hits) saw the most action. Mark Herzlich (23 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 TFL), Spencer Paysinger (22 snaps, 0 tackles), and Terrell Manning (1 snap, 0 tackles) played more sparingly.

McClain and Kennard were both very active. The two combined for three sacks. Kennard also tackled the back for a 3-yard loss, but also dropped an easy interception off a deflected pass in the end zone that could have prevented a FG. Paysinger was on the same side as JPP on Bortles’ killer 20-yard run on the last drive, but was too easily blocked.

Defensive Backs

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (17 snaps, 2 tackles) played sparingly as Zack Bowman (61 snaps, 1 tackle) and Chykie Brown (55 snaps, 7 tackles) saw the most action, followed by Mike Harris (22 snaps, 1 tackle).

Antrel Rolle (7 tackles, 1 TLF, 1 pass defense) and Stevie Brown (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit) played all 68 snaps. Quintin Demps (0 tackles) played 26 snaps.

Bortles only threw for 194 yards, but he did complete 60 percent of his passes, and most disturbing was 3-for-4 for 34 yards on the game-winning drive. The big mess up there was Bowman getting beat on the 23-yard slant on 2nd-and-15. Bowman also got beat deep for the 30-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. DRC hardly played but caused two incompletions with physical hits. Chykie Brown was a bit shakier this week, and missed a tackle, but his play didn’t really harm the Giants.

Stevie Brown made a nice play earlier in the game by not biting on misdirection and tackling the ball carrier for no gain. I thought he had a shot at an interception in the second quarter but couldn’t come down with the ball (his 8-interception season in 2012 appears to have been a fluke). Antrel Rolle was quiet yet again. He was flagged with a late hit but followed that up with an excellent play on a screen pass for a 2-yard loss.

Special Teams

Josh Brown picked a bad time to miss his first field goal of the year, this one from 43 yards out. His 33 yarder put the Giants up 24-22 with 3:26 to play.

Two of Brown’s five kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. The Jaguars returned three kickoffs for 51 yards, the longest being only 21 yards.

Steve Weatherford punted five times, averaging 51.8 yards per punt (47.8 yard net). The Jaguars returned three of those punts for a total of 20 yards, with the longest being 10 yards.

The Giants only returned one kickoff: 22 yards by Preston Parker. Odell Beckham returned five punts for 48 yards with the longest being a 23 yarder. But he shouldn’t have fielded one punt inside the 5-yard line. Two plays later, Jacksonville scored on defense when Eli was sacked at the 8-yard line.

(New York Giants at Jacksonville Jaguars, November 30, 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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