New York Giants 31 – Miami Dolphins 24
Tubbs: Crockett. James “Sonny” Crockett.
Crockett: Very good, Tubbs. Next week we’ll work on your name.
Tubbs: University of Florida. All-American wide receiver number 88? Am I right or what?
Crockett: Oh, that was a long time ago.
Tubbs: You were sensational. I remember one time I watched you run a screen pass 90 yards with 10 seconds left on the clock, man, for the winning TD against Alabama.
Crockett: It was 92 yards, Tubbs. Six seconds remaining.
Tubbs: Yeah, well, excuse the hell outta me. You know, not that Vice isn’t the most glamorous gig in the world, Crockett, but what happened, huh? I mean, you must have had half the scouts in the NFL on your tail.
Crockett: Traded it all in on two years in the Southeast Asian Conference.
Crockett: No, Coney Island.
The dialogue is as sharp as the Giants’ tackling. Just because something airs in prime time doesn’t necessary mean it’s very good. And while a national television audience was treated to a “thriller” with five lead changes, it doesn’t change the fact that these were two mediocre-at-best 5-7 football teams fighting to remain relevant for at least one more week. The good news is it was the Giants who came out on top and extended the significance of their season. Giants’ fans will have a short week to feel better until the Carolina Panthers pummel their team on Sunday. And in the back of all our heads will remain the one constant nagging fact – if the Giants had just taken care of business at the end of just a couple of their heart-breaking, inexcusable losses, they would have walked away with the division.
Miami Vice’s glitzy music and visual effects drew viewers to an otherwise crappy product. Odell Beckham has the same impact. Many casual fans tune in to watch him, not the New York Football Giants. Why else would the NFL keep putting the Giants in so many prime time games? Under the Monday night lights in Miami, “OBJ” and his quarterback did not disappoint.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been arguing that if Manning and Beckham don’t play near-perfect games, the Giants don’t have much of a chance to win. Look no farther than this game. Manning and Beckham played at an IMPACT level of play. Manning only threw four incomplete passes and had an off-the-charts quarterback rating of 151.5. Beckham had 166 yards receiving and two touchdowns, including a superlative, toe-dragging effort and an 84-yard game-winner. Yet, despite this near perfection, the Giants only beat a bad Dolphins team – one that has already fired its head coach and both coordinators – by a touchdown. The Giants are a football team with two outstanding players and not much else. And every little mistake made by Manning and Beckham gets accentuated in each game because of it. Simply put, they are held to a higher standard.
Given the historical context of what has transpired late in games with the Giants this year, the real story of this particular contest was what happened after the Giants went up 31-24 with just over 11 minutes left to play. Granted New York was aided by Miami mistakes, but the defense prevented points on two Dolphins’ possessions, including forcing a three-and-out after the Giants’ offense dangerously went three-and-out inside their own 10-yard line. Then, the Giants ran their 4-minute offense to perfection, literally taking 4 minutes and 39 seconds off of the clock to secure the win. That’s the way you end a football game Crockett and Tubbs!
Also credit the Giants for their composure. The Giants had a huge advantage in penalty yardage as the Giants were flagged only three times for 25 yards while the Dolphins were flagged 12 times for 123 yards. The penalty yardage difference was about the full length of a football field.
Eli Manning was as close to perfect as a quarterback can be in a football game. He completed 27-of-31 passes (87 percent) for 337 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions en route to a 151.5 quarterback rating. Manning earned “NFC Offensive Player of the Week” honors for the second time this season because of this performance. For the first time in a month, Manning spread the ball around as not only were eight different receivers targeted, but four of those had five or more passes thrown in their direction. Were the targets better this week or did Manning make more of a conscious effort to get them the ball? Unknown. But the results were promising. He completed his first eight passes and also hit nine in a row in the second half. Manning got rid of the ball very quickly, frustrating the Miami pass rushers.
It’s important to keep in mind that Miami had the 30th-ranked run defense coming into this game. So better productivity was expected. No Giant broke the 100-yard mark, but for at least one week, Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo allowed one back to be the workhorse and the results were better. Rashad Jennings carried the ball 22 times for 81 tough yards (3.7 yards per carry average). He had runs of 21, 11, and 12 yards. But there were also too many no gain and negative yardage plays. The highlights were two back-to-back runs that picked up 30 yards on the first TD drive, the 12-yard run off of the goal line right before Beckham’s 84-yard score, and the 3-yard run on 3rd-and-2 late in the game. Jennings also had a 19-yard reception on the third TD drive. Throughout, Jennings fought hard after contact as most running plays were not particularly well blocked.
The other three backs only had seven carries for 13 yards. That doesn’t include Andre Williams’ botched handoff that resulted in turnover. The play punctuated a horrible night for Williams who was benched after the play and finished with three carries for three yards, including two negative-yardage runs. For some reason, the Giants have been unwilling or unable to get the ball to Shane Vereen as a pass receiver. He caught one of only two passes thrown in his direction, his one catch being a fairly well-executed 10-yard screen pass down to the Miami 5-yard line late in the first half.
Odell Beckham not only made his typical highlight-reel catches – the superlative, toe-dragging 6-yard catch that tied the game at 24-24 and the 84-yard, game-winning explosion – but he helped to secure the victory with his two catches in the 4-minute drill to end the game. A 5-yard reception on 3rd-and-3 doesn’t look big on the stat sheet, but it was an extremely difficult catch in the clutch that finally allowed the Giants and their fans to breath a sigh of relief at the end of a football game.
As mentioned above, Manning and Beckham finally received some assistance from teammates. Rueben Randle caught 5-of-6 passes thrown in direction for 58 yards and a touchdown. Dwayne Harris caught all five passes thrown at him for 41 yards, including a 12-yarder in the 4-minute drill. Hakeem Nicks (1 catch for 5 yards) has yet to make much of an impact in three games. He did break free deep on one of Manning’s rare misfires.
One of the big negatives from this season was Larry Donnell regressing and finishing on IR after his breakout 2014 campaign. One of the positives however has been the emergence of Will Tye as a viable receiving threat at tight end. Indeed, if Tye remains humble and stays focused, he could have a bright future as he is an athletic target who can get down the field. Tye caught all five passes thrown in his direction for a total of 30 yards and a key 5-yard touchdown right before halftime. Nevertheless, despite apparent effort, the blocking by Tye and Jerome Cunningham isn’t very good.
Overall, the line did a decent job, especially if you consider the quality of the the Dolphins’ defensive line and the Giants’ injury situation. Ereck Flowers is the definition of toughness. He has played on a high ankle sprain all season that he aggravated last week. He gutted it out much of the game, but was clearly limited, and eventually re-injured himself again and was forced to leave in the 4th quarter. Before he left, he gave up some pressures, including a big hit in the end zone. When Flowers left the game, Justin Pugh once again shifted from left guard to left tackle, with Dallas Reynolds coming in at left guard. Both Pugh and right guard John Jerry also suffered burners in the game.
The four Giants’ running backs rushed the ball 29 times for 94 yards. That’s 3.2 yards per carry despite a few runs of over 10 yards. There were too many negative- or zero-yardage carries. And short yardage continues to be a major problem with the Giants not being able to convert on 3rd-and-1. While he didn’t embarrass himself, Jerry had his hand full with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh who caused issues in run defense most of the night, including a 6-yard loss early in the game. Jerry, who has never been a good run blocker, couldn’t deal with Suh’s power. The two best players remain Pugh and center Weston Richburg, the latter still recovering from his own high ankle sprain. Pugh was hit or miss on his short pulls to the right side. The pass protection looked better than it really was due to Eli Manning’s pocket presence and quick throws, but Manning was not sacked and officially hit only three times. Marshall Newhouse was solid but was also flagged with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on an extra point attempt. Kudos to Pugh to coming to Manning’s defense after a late hit.
The bad news is that the Giants gave up three touchdown drives of 70, 80, and 61 yards. The good news is that the defense forced four punts on Miami’s last four possessions. Miami had 64 offensive snaps but chose to run the football to their running backs only 17 times (a little over 1/4 of the snaps). Running back Lamar Miller had 12 carries for 89 yards and two touchdowns. Miller’s two touchdown runs covered 52 yards. His other 10 carries gained 37 yards, though one was a key 2-yard carry on 4th-and-1 on the Dolphins’ first TD drive. The Giants also had problems with defending the quarterback on read-option running plays (4 carries for 24 yards). In the pass rush department, the Giants only sacked Ryan Tannehill once (by Robert Ayers) and hit him officially five times (once each by Jason Pierre-Paul, Ayers, George Selvie, Cullen Jenkins, and Nikita Whitlock). Jenkins was flagged with a 5-yard encroachment penalty.
Pierre-Paul recovered a fumble early in the game forced by safety Landon Collins. He also had a good early pass rush on Tannehill, but also continued to show the same problems he did under Perry Fewell in dealing with the read-option. Ayers later had the same problem twice against the read-option – which doesn’t bode well for the upcoming game against the Panthers. Pierre-Paul missed a tackle on the 38-yard touchdown run, but he did a nice job of staying at home on an end around that he completely disrupted. He also started to get more heat on the quarterback in the second half. Jenkins did get a monster hit on Tannehill. Ayers caused a key holding penalty that pushed Miami out of field goal range in the 4th quarter.
It was a pretty quiet game from the linebackers. Jasper Brinkley had six tackles, J.T. Thomas three tackles, Uani ‘Unga three tackles, Jonathan Casillas two tackles, and Mark Herzlich one tackle. While Herzlich did force a fumble, there were no sacks, tackles for a loss, quarterback hits, interceptions, pass defenses, or fumble recoveries. Thomas missed a tackle on Lamar Miller’s 14-yard touchdown run that should have gone for minimal yardage (a blitzing Dahl running around a block didn’t help here either). Unga and Casillas both missed tackles on the 38-yard touchdown run. Casillas also missed a tackle early in the 4th quarter after a short 3rd-and-2 completion for a first down.
Ryan Tannehill dropped back to pass 42 times. He was sacked once and completed 25-of-41 passes for 236 yards. So the Dolphins averaged 5.8 yards per pass play (as a comparison, the Giants averaged 10.9 yards per pass play). The biggest negative was Prince Amukamara getting beat by wide receiver Kenny Stills for a 47-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-7 in the 3rd quarter (Dahl couldn’t get over in time to help out either). The Dolphins only had one other pass play over 20 yards – a 25-yarder to Jarvis Landry in the 4th quarter also against Amukamara. The only Miami player to do consistent damage against the Giants was Landry, who caught 11-of-18 passes thrown in his direction for 99 yards (9 yards per catch). Tannehill did not target any other receiver more than five times, and did not connect with anyone else more than three times.
Giants’ defensive backs broke up seven passes, three by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, two by Trevin Wade, and two by Dahl. DRC gave up a 12-yard completion to Landry on 3rd-and-11. He had perfect deep coverage on the very next snap but couldn’t come down with the pick. Wade was matched up against Landry in the slot for much of the game. While Landry did some damage against Wade, he held his own against Miami’s best player, and made a couple of key pass defenses in the 4th quarter. Wade did miss a tackle after a short catch by the running back that picked up a first down.
Landon Collins forced a fumble that was recovered by Pierre-Paul, but he also missed a tackle in the backfield on a 3rd-and-1 toss that picked up a first down on a drive that ended with a touchdown. Dahl made a nice play of disrupting a 3rd-and-2 pass that led to a punt, and his breakup of a deep pass to the tight end on 3rd-and-20 in the 4th quarter was a huge play. Cooper Taylor did not play much, but made some noise, accruing three defensive tackles and one tackle for a 3-yard loss.
Josh Brown was having a superb season but has now missed two 48-yard field goals in two games. He did hit a 35-yarder early in the game. Two of his six kickoffs resulted in touchbacks, but Miami was able to gain 109 kickoff return yards on four returns, including a 36-yard return by Jarvis Landry. Brad Wing averaged 45 yards on four punts. Landry returned two punts and one was a 20-yard return. Dwayne Harris returned one kickoff for 22 yards (four others resulted in touchbacks). Harris returned two punts for 35 yards, including returns of 20 and 15 yards and could have had a lot more had he not slipped on one return.
Cram it in your Cramhole Award
I have to give to the Buffalo Bills and the Chicago Bears for kicking us in the nuts for their close losses to the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins. It simply is just one of those years.