Oakland Raiders 24 – New York Giants 17
In what may have been the most controversial week in NYG history after the benching of legendary quarterback Eli Manning for Geno Smith, Big Blue headed to the Black Hole to take on the 1st-place-pursuing Raiders. They were missing their own two star receivers as the Giants continued to compete with a roster full of replacement-level players.
The Giants started off with the ball and were 3-and-out, a result that was repeated over their first three drives. The Raiders, on the flip side, scored a touchdown on their first drive. Marshawn Lynch dashed through the middle with the Giants linebackers getting lost in traffic and 51 yards later crossed the goal line for the game’s first score.
On the Giants fourth drive, they finally found some flow. Smith had a nice stretch, going 4/5 for 54 yards, including a 29-yard pitch, catch, and run to Evan Engram. Orleans Darkwa finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run up the middle to eve the score at 7 a piece.
After a 4th-and-1 stuff, the Giants got the ball back near midfield and 2 plays later, they were already in field goal range. Smith stayed hot until he fumbled on a sack by the untouched Bruce Irvin. Raiders took the ball back put together a 12-play drive that resulted in a 39-yard field goal. Raiders led 10-7 with less than 4 minutes left in the first half.
With under 1 minute left I the half, the Giants forced a punt from deep in Raiders territory, but a well executed block attempt resulted in OAK punter Marquette King tucking the ball rather than kicking, giving the Giants the ball on the OAK 9-yard line. The opportunity for a major momentum shift heading in to halftime was there for the taking. After an offsides penalty brought NYG to the 4, Smith dropped back on 2nd down and once again was sacked, lost the football, and turned it back over to OAK. Giants went in to halftime trailing 10-7.
Quality defense, or poor offense depending on the way you look at it, dominated the 3rd quarter. Neither team could really get a drive going and it ended with a Landon Collins fumble recovery created by cornerback Brandon Dixon in his first game with the team. The NYG offense failed to capitalize with another 3-and-out, giving OAK the ball back at the start of the 4th quarter.
The short passing game was able to pick up big chunks of yardage, getting OAK to the NYG 9-yard line and on first down, Deandre Washington rushed into the end zone with Landon Collins badly missing a tackle on the play. NYG then responded with a touchdown drive of their own, with Smith hitting Engram in the end zone after he ran an outstanding route. The score was 17-14 but the all-of-the-sudden hot OAK offense put together another short touchdown drive, this time ending with a pass from Carr to Johnny Holton from 9 yards out.
NYG was down 10 with 3:19 left. They got up into field goal range with OAK playing a prevent defense and because they were down 2 scores, they attempted and made a 52 yard field goal. After an unsuccessful onsides attempt, OAK rushed for a first down and NYG had to watch the clock disappear as they lost their 10th game of the year.
- Geno Smith: 21/34 – 212 yards – 1 TD/0 INT. Smith also fumbled twice, turning the ball over both times. In the first NYG game where Eli Manning did not start in 210 games, Smith did a fine job of staying focused and playing within himself. He avoided the bad decisions and made some really strong armed throws into tight windows. The accuracy wavered back and forth a bit, but Smith did not lower the level of this offense by any means. He played a decent game.
- Orleans Darkwa: 14 att/32 yards – 1 TD. There wasn’t a lot of running room for Darkwa, as the middle of the OAK defensive line dominated the point-of-attack from start to finish. Darkwa, in addition, didn’t break tackles at the rate he has been all year. He isn’t a guy who will create much on his own.
- Paul Perkins: 3 att/12 yards – Perkins wasn’t on the field much, but that shiftiness and ability to miss contact when he gets just a little bit of space jumped off the screen in his three carries. He is a guy whot got a raw, raw deal in 2017.
- Sterling Shepard: 3 rec/56 yards. Shepard goes unappreciated by some because he won’t ever be a number one guy and won’t ever be a deep threat. But this kid, a second-year WR, is as tough as they come and shows some of the best ball skills you will find in the league.
- Tavarres King: 4 rec/23 yards: King led the team with 9 targets, as Smith was looking his way several times on short routes near the sideline. He does a nice job of getting open, but beyond that he is just a limited player. He also had a drop late in the game.
- Evan Engram: 7 rec/99 yards – 1 TD. After a really tough 3-week stretch, Engram has come on strong two straight weeks, with this OAK game being arguably the best we have seen this year. He made an amazing one-handed grab over the middle with a defender draped all over him, ran an amazing route on his touchdown catch that tricked fellow rookie safety Karl Joseph badly, and had one amazing run after a catch that reminded all of us that this kid is a wide receiver-caliber athlete. He has some “special” in him and the fact he has responded very well to his mid-season adversity is a very good sign.
- Tackles: After a tough game last week, Chad Wheeler was entering Oakland with a huge test on his hands. Prior to suffering a concussion in the 2nd half, Wheeler had allowed a sack and 2 pressures. Not bad, but certainly not good, either. Wheeler has outperformed Bobby Hart (whom came in for the injured Wheeler) but he still has a long ways to go in terms of earning a future job here. Ereck Flowers graded out below average for the 5th time this year. He also allowed a sack and 2 pressures, appearing to struggle with any sort of different look the Raiders threw at him. Stunts, blitzes, zone blitzes – he just doesn’t see that stuff.
- Interior: Center Brett Jones had his worst game of the year, and just like a lot of young centers in the league, has seem to worsen over time. The league has started to figure him out, especially trying to get him on an island as a pass blocker where he is a low-level player. John Jerry had a quiet game, no major mistakes but he rarely got movement off the line of scrimmage as a run blocker. Jon Halapio actually graded out as the best Giants OL of the day, right at the point where I call it “above average”. He won almost all of his 1-on-1 battles and the sack he allowed was more due to Geno Smith than anything.
- Ends: Olivier Vernon finished with 4 tackles, 1 of which was for a loss. His impact went far beyond the stat sheet, as he was very disruptive. He was consistently getting penetration outside, setting the edge against the run which is a crucial role. He had a hard time getting by Donald Penn in the passing game, but when Penn went down with an injury, he absolutely abused rookie David Sharpe. Jason Pierre-Paul had a quiet game – 3 tackles, also 1 of which was for a loss. There has been talk about a lack of effort with him and while I do think his engine is a little hot/cold, I’ve always noted that his conditioning worsens as the year goes on. That is something I have had on him for the past few years. He just tires out too fast.
- Tackles: Because we see it each week, the appreciation for Damon Harrison may get overlooked here and there. But he had another incredible game, tossing blockers aside with ease and making tackles. There isn’t a DT in the game like him. Dalvin Tomlinson was up and down. His movement ability and initial pop can make plays, but there are still stretches where he gets blown back 3-4 yards in short-yardage situations. The one weakness to his game is that he isn’t overly stout against power plays. Jay Bromley played just under 40% of the snaps, and struggles to make any impact. He is kind of just there. He isn’t hurting the defense, but doesn’t do anything to stand out.
- B.J. Goodson was back, but went down with another injury. He is very effective when he’s in there but the question deserves to be asked, is this guy going to be able to hold up in the NFL with his physical play? This LB situation may be priority A for the new regime when it comes to the defense and as much as I like Goodson, I’m not sure he is someone who can be relied on.
- Kelvin Sheppard led the team with 8 tackles and even though he isn’t a starting-caliber player in this league, he does bring physical presence and attitude to the defense. He is a guy worth having around. Calvin Munson looked good in space and recorded NYG’s lone sack. It’s been a solid year for the UDFA. Devon Kennard split time between LB and DE again, but didn’t do much to stand out.
- With Janoris Jenkins on IR, opportunity arose for practice squad CB Brandon Dixon. And I’ll say this about him, I look forward to watching what he can do the rest of the year. He competed really hard and seemed to have the reaction speed I look for. While the OAK receivers were missing their top 2 guys, Dixon had some serious speed to defend against. He broke up 2 passes and forced a fumble that was recovered by Landon Collins. He did, however, drop an easy interception.
- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had 2 hustle plays that I was more than happy to track. He had a little stretch earlier in the year where I wondered if he was checking out, but he has been playing his butt off these past few weeks.
- Don’t look now, but Ross Cockrell might be the second-best CB on this team behind Jenkins. He has been getting better each week and the All-22 tape is very complimentary of him. I think he is a piece worth holding onto hard this offseason.
- Landon Collins had another solid game. It seems like the scheme is keeping him close to the line of scrimmage more often than what we saw earlier in the year, which is a good thing. He is a dominant downhill player with sideline-to-sideline range against the run, but he just isn’t a quick-twitch cover man. He also struggles on angles against speed, the missed tackle of Deandre Washington on his TD run was another example of that.
- Darian Thompson did an excellent job in deep coverage. Raiders QB Derek Carr was looking to throw deep four times but Thompson’s quick reads and movement got him in position to prevent the attempts. His play has really elevated in the past 4-5 weeks.
- K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 – Made 52 yds. Rosas got one shot late in the game to make it a one score game, and he booted a 52 yarder that hit halfway up the net. When this kid lines it all up, he has as strong a kick as anyone in the NFL.
- Brad Wing: 7 Punts – 48.4 avg. His 45.1 net is an outstanding, top-tier performance. Sometimes we forget how much easier it is for kickers in weather like that.
- TE Evan Engram, DT Damon Harrison, CB Ross Cockrell
- OC Brett Jones, Jason Pierre-Paul, OT Chad Wheeler
3 THOUGHTS ON OAK
- All of the sudden this team is in a 3-way tie for 1st place in the AFC West. They are potentially on track for a home playoff game. Keep that in mind when you remember this team started off 2-4 while the Chiefs were surging to a 5-0 start. Every year there are examples of overreactions to stretches in a season and people needing to simply let things play out. A lot can and does happen in 17 weeks.
- WR Johnny Holton is going to be a big name within the next year or two. He is one of the fastest players I have seen all year and his route running has improved by leaps and bounds from preseason. With Crabtree and Cooper out, he got to display his ability and I liked what I saw.
- OAK has one of, if not the, highest-paid offensive lines in football. And they have graded out to be a top 10-unit, but that’s about it. Buyer beware when throwing huge money at players on the OL.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
- The Eli Manning benching for Geno Smith topic has been discussed over and over and I am sure we are all sick of it. My thought from the beginning has been this and I won’t say much else on the matter: Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese knew their time was coming to and end unless a late-season surge (wins) occurred. I think an underlying thought was to try to catch lightning in a bottle a la Case Keenum in MIN, and see if Geno could win a few games via good performance so that McAdoo/Reese could make a plea to ownership stating it was Manning’s fault, not theirs, for the horrid 2017.
- Who’s up next for NYG as GM and coach? We can throw the usual names around that always pop up: Saban, Shaw, McDaniels, Gruden, etc. I think NYG is going to be patient on this to see if any current coach shakes free from a firing of their own. I think they want someone IN the game to coach, not someone that has been on the outside. Two names who I think are on their own respective hot seat who owners will like: Marvin Lewis from CIN and John Fox from CHI.
- As for the team that still has 4 games to play, I think the energy will be high now that the coach is out and Eli is back in the saddle. We see things like that happen often. And I think NYG wins this week against DAL.