Darius Slayton – © USA TODAY Sports
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Detroit Lions 31 – New York Giants 26
With the signs becoming more and more clear that the Giants 2019 season is a one-way street to the cellar yet again, Big Blue traveled to middle-of-the-pack Detroit just days after the Lions traded away their second best defensive back while also missing their top defensive back and starting running back. After an embarrassing loss at home against the Cardinals, NYG had to set the tone early and prove they were past it. Prove they are better than they were in 2018. Prove they are on the way up. All of that against a 2-3-1 team.
The Giants got the initial momentum with a Janoris Jenkins’ interception, his fourth of the year, from the volatile Matthew Stafford. However, as we have grown accustomed to, NYG turned it over just three plays later. The league-leader in turnovers, NYG has made this a habit we are all too familiar with. Jones was hit by an untouched blitzer who came directly up the middle, a major no-no for offensive line play, and the ball traveled backward out of his hand even though he was in a clear throwing position. Saquon Barkley didn’t seem to match the urgency going after the loose ball that former Giant Devon Kennard had. The result was a scoop-and-score for DET as the home team went up 7-0 early.
After a NYG 3-and-out, DET got the ball back and on a 3rd-and-15 from midfield, Stafford went deep to emerging big play threat Marvin Hall for a 49-yard touchdown as he got behind safety Michael Thomas. And just like that, NYG was losing by double digits in the first half for the fourth straight week and 7th time in 8 weeks.
As Daniel Jones has already proven multiple times, he was able to get this team back on track and stay unrattled. They opened the second quarter with a touchdown scoring drive, capped by a Jones-to-Darius Slayton pass. DET kicker Matt Prater missed a 53-yard attempt on the ensuing drive, giving NYG prime field position, and Jones once again connected with Slayton for the second score in as many drives. Kicker Aldrick Rosas missed the extra point, however, making the score 14-13 DET, but the momentum had clearly shifted.
The refs clearly hurt NYG with a poor call on the next drive. They forced a DET punt but David Mayo was flagged for running into the kicker. By running into the kicker, they actually meant he grazed the punter’s shoelace and thanks to an NBA-caliber flop job, the flag was thrown and DET had the ball back with a fresh set of downs at midfield. DET was able to move the ball up enough to give Prater another shot, this time from 52 yards, which he made to give DET a 17-13 halftime lead.
DET came out and scored on their opening drive in the second half. It was a 10-play drive that ended with a pass from Stafford to Kenny Golladay, one of the emerging young stars in the league. NYG was down 24-13 and if they were going to prove they had some fight, it had to be on this drive. NYG was aided by two DET penalties, one of which was on a failed 3rd-down conversion attempt that led to a Jones-to-Engram 2-yard pass for 6. With a 3-and-out forced on the next DET drive, NYG had their first real shot at taking the lead as the third quarter was closing out.
On 1st-and-10 from midfield, Jones hit Golden Tate for a 14-yard gain on a flea flicker. NYG was starting to step on the throat of DET, but the play was called back as Nate Solder, the second highest paid offensive tackle in football, was flagged for a hold. Instead of 1st-and-10 from the DET 38, it was 1st-and-20 from the NYG 38. The Giants punted three plays later.
DET took their shot at their own flea flicker/double pass-type trick play; they were able to convert it into a 41-yard touchdown. No holding on the left tackle, either. DET took a commanding 31-19 lead but there were still 12 minutes left in the game.
After a back-and-forth drive that included two sacks allowed by the second highest paid offensive tackle in football, NYG did cross into DET territory and were faced with a 4th-and-6 situation. Being down 12, they had to go for it because a long field goal would have still kept it a 2-score game. Jones was bombarded by a 7-man pass rush and threw an incomplete pass to Tate.
The defense remained stout as DET had issues getting a first down to keep the clock moving, but the Giants kept coming up short when it mattered most. Jones took two straight shots into the end zone to his man Slayton, neither of which was converted. Slayton was interfered with on the first attempt and even though the pass interference challenges almost never work, I thought it was puzzling why Pat Shurmur didn’t throw the red flag. That was a crucial play and not using the challenge was a poor decision.
NYG did get the ball back one more time, and thanks to a 25-yard pass interference penalty, they were able to get into the red zone. Jones connected with Barkley for a 4-yard touchdown, Jones’ fourth of the day. NYG got to within 5 but a failed onside-kick attempt led to a couple Stafford kneel-downs.
NYG lose 31-26.
-Daniel Jones: 28/41 – 322 yards – 4 TD / 0 INT – 124.2 QBR. Jones also added 13 yards on the ground. He fumbled the ball twice, both on hits that occurred as he was throwing, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Jones has ball security issues to clean up but neither of these fumbles can be put on him, as they weren’t an issue of holding onto the ball during and after contact. Jones kept NYG in this one with several throws into tight windows. His confidence is growing every week and he is proving to be a guy who plays with no fear. He dealt with a dirty pocket most of the game and after seeing someone like Sam Darnold completely alter his approach because of pressure, it is an encouraging sign to see Jones playing with toughness in the face of adversity so often.
-Saquon Barkley: 19 att / 64 yards – 8 rec / 79 yards / 1 TD. Barkley was just an inch away from breaking off a big play on two occasions. Even with that, Barkley gained 143 yards from scrimmage, which is above his career average. Looking at the numbers, it was a productive day. However after re-watching the game, I came away saying Barkley left some out on the field. His blocking was atrocious on two straight plays where he allowed a pressure and then a sack. There seems to be a lot of hesitation in his game right now, perhaps he isn’t fully mentally back from the ankle injury. He gets a pass because he did gut out some tough runs in the second half but as the guy this team is going to build around, he needs to, at least, make more impact without the ball as a blocker.
-Wayne Gallman, on the other hand, quietly had a solid game in limited snaps. He had a 20-yard run on a 3rd-and-26 play that put NYG in position to convert a 4th own late (which they failed). But his biggest impact came as a blocker. He really stuck his nose in there on a couple of occasions that enabled big gains.
-Golden Tate: 8 rec / 85 yards. Really gutsy performance by Tate. He has turned into quite the 3rd-down weapon for Jones. He is playing tough and hard nosed as he approaches the ball and after the catch.
-It looked like it would be a big day for rookie Darius Slayton, as he caught 2 touchdowns in the second quarter on consecutive drives. Both catches were great adjustments to the ball with a corner draped all over him. Those ended up being his only 2 catches of the day, however, and he dropped an easy catch later on. Slayton also allowed a TFL and did not block well overall.
-Cody Latimer had 2 rec / 28 yards and Bennie Fowler brought in 2 rec / 21 yards. Latimer is a guy I wish got more looks because it seems he can make big-time catches in traffic when given the opportunity. He had a really nice one-handed catch in this one. Fowler was flagged for an offensive pass interference but also came up with a clutch catch.
-Evan Engram: 4 rec / 40 yards / 1 TD. Not a bad day for the inconsistent, but high-ceiling Engram. He continues to flash the elite ability we know he has on all fronts as a pass catcher. Quickness, explosion after the catch, route running…etc. However his blocking received a really poor grade in this one. Many will point to the middle of the offensive line when trying to figure out why NYG had so much trouble inside, but the Engram had a really hard time sealing the edge. He allowed a TFL, and on a few occasions got squeezed to the middle which gave Barkley no wiggle room when the lanes were clogged. Really poor day in the trenches for him.
-The ugly gets uglier for Nate Solder. He completely fell apart in the second half and it had a major impact on this team’s comeback effort. It is now at the point where this offense may need to alter its approach and shift constant help in his direction. He allowed 2 sacks and 1 pressure and was flagged for a big holding penalty. His balance and footwork are very poor right now and good pass rushers eat that up with ease.
-Mike Remmers graded out average, which is better than what we have seen lately. He allowed 1 pressure but had a couple of key blocks in the running game.
-The interior got pushed around all game, as NYG just couldn’t get the inside running game going. They also were schooled by delayed inside blitzes. You are NEVER supposed to see an untouched linebacker up the middle on passing plays and it happened multiple times. Jon Halapio allowed a pressure and a TFL. In addition, any communication issues need to come back to him. Kevin Zeitler and Will Hernandez were good in pass protection for the most part, but they got minimal-to-no push in the running game.
-Lorenzo Carter and Markus Golden both registered a sack and two TFLs, respectively. They combined for 9 tackles and both are emerging as consistent, reliable, yet limited threats. Golden has a lot of “gamer” in him, finding the ball often and making impact on contact. Carter is still very much a work in progress that gets stifled and rendered ineffective too easily, too often, but his talent is making things happen on occasion nearly every week.
-Really quiet day for Oshane Ximines, who has been struggling these past 2 weeks. We have known this for awhile – the lack of power and strength is an issue and this offseason will be huge for him.
-Overall the trio of B.J. Hill, Dexter Lawrence, and Dalvin Tomlinson held the point-of-attack well. They were up against a group of backup running backs as DET tries to get past the injury of Kerryon Johnson. Tomlinson was the highlight of the group, finishing with 3 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 TFLs. The interior of the DET offensive line has struggled this year but their center, Frank Ragnow, is a quality player. Tomlinson schooled him with quickness and effective arm-over techniques a few times.
-Alec Ogletree had 5 tackles and made solid physical impact on a few occasions. Most importantly, he played 100% of the snaps and the play of the front seven was better because of it. A healthy Ogletree may be limited in some fashion still, but I think we got a reminder just how much better he is than the replacement players we had behind him.
-The debut of the newly-signed Deone Buccanon was lackluster. He was on the field for just 11 plays and he finished with a tackle and a missed tackle.
-Janoris Jenkins brought in his NFC-leading 4th interception of the season on the opening DET drive. The Lions avoided him much of the day afterwards, and it led to a really quiet day by Marvin Jones.
-Deandre Baker continues to impress, which is obviously stemming from an increase in confidence which is making him faster and more balanced. He was tested deep a couple of times and he stayed right on his man. While he did allow a touchdown to Kenny Golladay, he actually got a hand on that ball and I can’t fault him for it. He had really tight coverage on the route. Baker finished with a team-high 8 tackles.
-Grant Haley, a week after he made the “stud” list, was up and down in this one. He was picked on early as DET targeted him multiple times on third down and succeeded. He did remain active though and made a couple of nice tackles in space. Haley also had a sack.
-The big passing day for Stafford was largely a result of all three safeties getting torched downfield. All three were responsible for long touchdowns and all three had missed tackles on the day. Poor game for Antoine Bethea, Jabrill Peppers, and Michael Thomas. The one positive was a forced fumble by Peppers and recovered by Bethea, however. So those two did save face to an extent.
-K Aldrick Rosas: No FG attempts. Missed 1 out of 4 extra point attempts.
-P Riley Dixon: 3 punts / 45.0 avg / 43.7 net
-QB Daniel Jones, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, CB Janoris Jenkins
-OT Nate Solder, OC Jon Halapio, S Antoine Bethea
3 THOUGHTS ON DET
- During the game and during the re-watch I came away with the same thought on DET receiver Kenny Golladay. This kid is heading towards superstardom. At 6’4+ / 220+ with good speed and ball skills that are approach the elite level, he may be the next uncoverable target in the Mike Evans mold. He came from a lower level of college football, thus it took some extra time to initially develop but he is in the midst of becoming the league’s next big thing.
- There is often debate with Pro Football Focus and their grading system. For the most part, fans use their grades as proof when it supports their opinion and they think it is useless when it goes against their opinion. I lean towards the latter, as there is too much missing information when they grade players. I do use them for snap counts and other objective information, though. I bring this up because they have been very hard on DET linebacker Jarrad Davis. I have seen DET 4 times this year and I think he is a top 10 ILB in this league, at worst. He was a wrecking crew in this game on multiple fronts.
- How close is DET to contention? They have the QB. They have the CB. They have an above average OL. They have a balanced and deep pass rushing attack. They have a budding superstar at WR. There are a lot of pieces in place but I think they need more dependability at running back which has been a sore spot for years (yes RBs are important) and another piece or 2 along the interior of the offensive line.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
- The trade winds are in full force now. NYG is 2-6 and all but out of this divisional race. As I type this, NYG is acquiring DT Leonard Williams for an 8-week rental to see if he fits the system and is worthy of being signed to a long-term deal. If not, they will get a compensatory pick back for him in 2021, which somewhat offsets the early 3rd they are sending to NYJ and a day three pick in 2021. Next up? I think a team will come in and offer a 3rd-round pick for Janoris Jenkins, leaving NYG with the same volume of picks they entered the week with.
- Of all the scouting I do weekly, and knowing I watch 8-9 NFL games each week, there is something I am beginning to notice with Saquon Barkley. He tries really hard to avoid contact and there are times that I think he does this too much. He isn’t a soft player, although it looks like the fear of injury combined with the desire for the big play, hurts his inside running at times. Rarely do you see him shoot out of a cannon and make a quick decision to drive himself into a hole and gain the extra yard or two. He doesn’t fall forward like Ezekiel Elliot does and I think it holds this offense back a tad.
- What to do at left tackle? I disagree with the notion that Nate Solder may be traded. I can’t see it happening because he stinks and he is really expensive. How many teams would he actually help ? Not many, especially not the teams that are winning and aiming for a playoff spot. I’m not opposed to making a change and giving one of their young guys a shot. Both Chad Slade and Nick Gates did impress during preseason and while I know they may be slight drop offs from Solder’s current level of play, it wouldn’t be much. And then there is the possibility they could actually be better, don’t forget that.