New York Giants 23 – Denver Broncos 10
Heading to Denver in prime time after a 7-day run that saw the loss of 4 of the team’s top 5 wide receivers and starting weakside linebacker to injury in addition to the suspension of their slot cornerback appeared to be a situation that was going to be as bad as it can be. Denver has was won 25 of their past 30 games on their home turf, including all 3 this season. The number one defense in the league matched up against an offense that has been struggling mightily. A secondary and pass rush that has been shutting down passing games with ease and the top ranked run defense with the backing of a home crowd on a Sunday night. This had the makings of just ugly for NYG. In typical NFL fashion, Eli Manning yet again proved but he and the league are as unpredictable as ever.
The Giants dominated the time of possession early on. They forced two three-and-outs defensively. And with Offensive Coordinator Mike Sullivan now calling the plays, there was a consistent and steady flow off the bat spearheaded by a running game that went from evolving over the past few weeks to domination in Denver. The Giants made it down to the Denver 8-yard line, 1st-and-goal, with rookie Evan Engram taking over as the team’s primary target in the passing game, catching 2 passes for 37 yards. Aldrick Rosas kicked a 25-yard field goal to give the Giants the initial lead, something they wouldn’t give up the rest of the game.
On Denver’s third possession of the game, they began near midfield thanks to a catch interference by Michael Hunter on a punt play. Former Giants kicker Brandon McManus, whom had already missed 3 field goal attempts at home in 2017, went wide right on is 35-yard attempt. There was blood in the water and NYG too advantage of it. Led by a 47-yard run by Orleans Darkwa, the Giants marched down the field and capped the drive with a 5-yard pitch-and-catch for a touchdown from Manning to Engram. NYG had a commanding 10-0 lead early in the 2nd quarter.
Once again, Trevor Siemian and the balanced Broncos offense appeared to be driving until he threw an interception to safety Landon Collins. Collins returned it 21 yards setting up the Giants on their own 35-yard line. A quick three-and-out partially because of a 3rd down delay-of-game penalty gave the ball back to Denver who, once again, drove down the field via play-action passes and attacking the top Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Their red zone woes continued, however, and they settled for a field goal attempt by McManus, this one he made. 10-3 Giants with just over 4 minutes left in the first half.
The Broncos defense forced the Giants into another three-and-out as the momentum appeared to be shifting. A big play from the Giants defense was needed. On 3rd-and-10, Siemian continued to throw to Jenkins’ side one too many times, as the Giants top cover man picked off a pass to the left and returned it for 43 yards into the end zone. The Giants took a 17-3 lead into halftime with Siemian in the locker room early getting his non-throwing shoulder checked out which he appeared to injure trying to tackle Jenkins.
New York and Denver exchanged 4 play drives to start off the second half. On the Giants second possession, they were led by a 21-yard catch-and-run by Engram, the rookie who will likely view this game as his breakout. His speed and size gave the Denver coverage fits. For the first time this year, Ben McAdoo opted to let kicker Aldrick Rosas go for a 45+ yard field goal. The rookie lined up from 51 yards away and nailed a 51-yarder that would have been good from 60. New York took a 20-3 lead and it was now up to the defense to prevent the 12th-ranked offense in the league from giving the team another blown lead.
The Broncos quickly got to midfield and started to approach field goal range. A sack by the run-stuffing Damon Harrison put a roadblock in the Broncos plans. They opted to go for a 53-yard field goal, which would cut the lead to two possessions. Kerry Wynn broke through the inside gap and got his hand on the low-line drive attempt, getting enough of it to prevent the ball from ever having a shot at even reaching the goal post. The score remained 20-3 as the Giants took over close to midfield.
Manning hooked up with Engram for yet another impact, 19-yard play, getting the Giants to the Denver 38-yard line. On 3rd-and-3, Engram however suffered his second drop of the night forcing NYG to give Rosas another shot at a long field goal, this one 49 yards. Denver’s own hybrid defensive lineman, Adam Gostis, snuck through the line and got his hand on this one, making it the second block in as many attempts for in this match-up.
As the 3rd quarter was drawing to a close, wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas were injured. Sanders was eventually carted off while Thomas was fighting through a significant limp. The team was down 17 points with one quarter left and their top two targets were either not on the field or a shell of their actual selves. Jason Pierre Paul recorded his second sack of the night and then on 4th-and-5, Thomas was stripped by Jenkins and the ball as recovered by Eli Apple. Giants ball near midfield again with a 17 point lead.
A quick three-and-out and a punt gave the Broncos the ball back on their own 15-yard line and they put together perhaps their best drive of the night. Despite losing another wide receiver, Isaiah McKenzie, to injury, they drove all the way down to the Giants 1-yard line. The Giants defensive front came up big and forced a turnover on downs. New York was able to take 2 minutes off the clock, giving the ball back to Denver at their own 42-yard line.
Siemian went 4/6 for 55 yards, capping the drive with their only touchdown of the night to tight end Jeff Heuerman. After a failed onsides kick attempt and good field position, the Giants rode another long Darkwa run into field goal range and Rosas made his third one of the night, this one from 40 yards. The Broncos squeezed one more play in but nothing from that point mattered. Giants win 23-10 in Denver.
- Eli Manning: 11/19 – 128 yards – 1 TD/0 INT. With multiple weapons no longer in the picture, the outlook and approach of this offense had change. Manning has always done a nice job with young, under the radar receivers and this game was no different. He wasn’t asked to do much but he did protect the ball against one of the scariest pass defenses in the league at their place. Him and Engram have seemed to develop the relationship this team will be heavily relying on the rest of the season. This is something that I saw developing at training camp and the best has yet to come.
- Orleans Darkwa: 21 att/117 yards – 1 rec/13 yards. The highest rushing total for a lone Giants rusher since, get this, January 3, 2016 (Week 17 of the 2015 season)! Darkwa started off hot and ended hot. His aggressive downhill style is a force when the blocking is there.
- Wayne Gallman: 9 att/27 yards – 2 rec/7 yards. There wasn’t much of a need for Gallman other than giving the hot-handed Darkwa a breather. The combination of these two can be something to really work with, as their running styles couldn’t be more different.
- Roger Lewis: 1 rec/15 yards. With such a limited amount of passes thrown and Engram being their top target, Lewis couldn’t really get involved. Also keep in mind that being matched up against Aqib Talib forced Manning to look away from him. Lewis’ lone catch was a big one, a 3rd-and-10 conversion on the Giants lone TD scoring drive. Next up? Richard Sherman.
- Tavarres King: 1 rec / 7 yards: In his debut back with the team, King was thrown to 3 times. I expect him to be more involved over the next few weeks, as Eli seems to at least have some trust in him. Travis Rudolph is knocking, however.
- Evan Engram: 5 rec/82 yards – 1 TD. This was a huge, huge night for the Giants first rounder. Not just the production, but the fact he stepped up as the team’s primary receiving option and looked dominant doing it is a sign of things to come. The quick speed he has for a player his size may be unmatched in this league and once he gets over the little hesitations I see here and there, there is no ceiling for him. Huge test or him against SEA coming up.
- Rhett Ellison: 0 rec/0 yards. He played about two-thirds of the team’s snaps. The team’s running success was in part because of him. What I like most here is how hard he runs downfield to throw the extra block. Watching the offensive tape over and over makes me appreciate what he brings to the table as an intangible guy. And I am holding on the concept that he can be a difference maker in the passing game if he gets the looks.
- Tackles: Considering who these guys went up against, both Ereck Flowers and Justin Pugh had a very solid game. Flowers graded out at 2.78, right around the “average” line of my grading system. The two sacks he allowed were not fully his fault and if anything, were both more on Manning. Flowers actually didn’t run block well and a number that stood out to me were the 5 tackles he allowed, his highest of the season. Pugh graded out at 2.9 and was primarily matched up against Von Miller – that is a major victory for the team’s best OT. He allowed 1 sack 1 tackle on the night.
- Guards/Center: D.J. Fluker, in his first start of the season, dominated in the run game. His 2.93 grade was the highest of the night, as he was moving guys off the ball consistently from start to finish. He is probably the biggest difference maker in this Giants running game that appears to be taking off finally. John Jerry and Brett Jones graded out at 2.89 and 2.81 respectively, rounding out the first time the linemen have all graded out above the average mark on my sheet in the same game since last year. Jones had some play-changing blocks but also allowed 4 tackles, a high number for a center.
- Ends: One of my preseason predictions gone wrong was Jason Pierre-Paul being in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. I wouldn’t call his start to the year “horrid”, but it was nowhere near where I thought he would be. Well he took a step in the right direction finally, finishing the night with 3 sacks and a forced fumble. There was less dancing around to his game and I’ve always felt when he was more assertive, more straight-lined, with his approach that is when we see the dominant JPP. He has another opportunity coming up this week to take over. Kerry Wynn got the start on the other side and played solid run defense, recording a tackle for loss. Rookie Avery Moss played nearly half the team’s snaps but didn’t make much of an impact. The power presence simply isn’t there yet.
- Tackles: Damon Harrison continues to be the bright spot of the defense. He finished with 4 tackles and a sack where he was moving like a 275-pound pass rushing tackle. His impact is felt almost every play, as he was double-teamed on 78% of the plays he was in. Rookie Dalvin Tomlinson took yet another step forward in his progression, getting off the ball exceptionally well and altering the plans of the Broncos running game. They averaged just over 2.5 yards per carry largely because of these two. Jay Bromley and Robert Thomas actually got close to even playing time at the position to help keep those two fresh and did a fine job inside.
- After a rough start to the year, Keenan Robinson played his best game of the year. He was very consistent with his assignments against the run and made an impact in coverage, break up 2 passes. He finished with 6 tackles. B.J. Goodson also finished with 6 tackles and 2 pass break ups, although he is still struggling often when it comes to recognizing pass and getting to his spot and/or man.
- Devon Kennard had a quiet night but his versatility and multiple roles helps this defense in several ways. Calvin Munson was brought in as an early run-down defender and finished with 2 tackles.
- With Dominique Rodgers-Cromarite serving his one game suspension handed down by Ben McAdoo, someone had to step up. Eli Apple had his best game of the year and one of his best since being in the NFL. He broke up 3 passes, wasn’t flagged once, and was very physical in the run game. Janoris Jenkins was picked on early and did get a beat a few times (including a pass interference penalty) but came up with the biggest play of the night – a pick 6 at the end of the 2nd quarter that gave the Giants a double digit lead.
- Ross Cockrell and Donte Deayon both saw plenty of time with the Broncos playing the majority of the game from behind. It was Deayon’s first game action and he was very sure of himself and his assignments. Watching the “All-22” tape, I can tell Deayon knew where to be and who to get to. He is an excellent mover in coverage and if he can hold up physically, can bring plenty to the table in nickel/dime packages .
- With Denver only handing off the ball off 15 times, Landon Collins’ didn’t have his usual impact in the box. He finished the game with 0 tackles for the first time in his career. However his 2nd quarter interception with the Broncos driving was a major momentum shift in the game that prevented them from putting valuable early points on the board. Collins also was somewhat limited, playing 64% of the teams snaps. Darian Thompson had another solid game, finishing with 5 tackles and more importantly getting near the action often.
- Nat Berhe and Andrew Adams played about 20% of the teams snaps and didn’t make much of an impact. Berhe did miss a TFL opportunity which has become the norm for him.
- K Aldrick Rosas: 3 / 4 – Made 25-51-40 – Missed 49. An important step for Rosas, who really has been overlooked in long field goal attempts so far this year. Rosas’ 51-yarder hit halfway up the kicking net with velocity; it may have been good from 65.
- P Brad Wing: 6 punts – 49.8 avg. His 46-yard net average is top tier. Wing had a solid night that helped NYG win the field-position battle.
- Return: Ed Eagan – 1 PR for 20 yards. With Dwayne Harris gone for the year, this is a job that is there for the taking and the shifty Eagan took advantage on his one shot. I like how quickly he can accelerate north/south while maintaining the ability to cut laterally at any given time.
- RB Orleans Darkwa, OG D.J. FLuker, DE Jason Pierre Paul
- OC Brett Jones, DE Avery Moss, WR Roger Lewis
3 THOUGHTS ON DEN
- Coming into the year, my biggest worry about this defensively-dominant team was a lackluster offensive line paired with a QB who doesn’t seem to have a ceiling higher than middle of the road. That can be a rough combination and considering Paxton Lynch won’t be ready until next year at the earliest, DEN may have a hard time holding onto that wild card spot. Unless their defense dominates week in, week out, they are going to have a lot of trouble winning enough games.
- CB Aqib Talib may not be everyone’s favorite person, but re-watching his all 22 tape and with what I have seen on those tapes the past 3 years, I have to say I think he is the best CB in football right now. Granted Roger Lewis may not have been the stiffest challenge Sunday night, but the way he moves before reads are supposed to be made combined with his size, speed, and ball skills is almost unfair.
- Left tackle Garett Bolles was a very much talked about prospect last year because of his interesting situation. Older than the average rookie, a rough past, sloppy technique at times, short tempered. But in his short career to this point, he may have the left tackle spot locked up in DEN for the next 7-10 years. He looked fantastic.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
- Do we need to evaluate the Giants playoff chances every week? No. One week at time and let this thing play out. There IS still a chance and the biggest weakness on this team has turned a corner, the offensive line. Plays are being made by the defense, and Eli Manning specializes in these situations. Keep all of those in mind.
- 4 of the 5 top WRs were injured last week and all of the sudden this Giants offense looked efficient, consistent, and reliable. Funny how that works. You will never catch me saying they are better off without those guys on the field, but something needs to be said for the fact they were just fine against the BEST defense at THEIR place. Quality offensive line play and a new play caller made all the difference. It would be great to see this offense actually take steps forward to prove to everyone in the building and on the sideline that star players aren’t always needed, a team that plays together to win is all you need.
- Did Ben McAdoo “save his job”? Well first of all I don’t think his job was ever that much in danger the way some were saying. It simply isn’t the Giants way to fire someone after his second year, the first of which he made the playoffs. But him turning the play calling duties over and suspending the team’s #2 CB after an 0-5 start were both ballsy moves. And they both worked out very well. If he can get this team to a 2-5 mark heading into the bye week, I don’t think there is anything that can happen that would get him fired in 2018.