The NFL season is full of streaks both hot and cold, for every respective team in the league. The ones that trek through the peaks and valleys the best while minimizing the down times and maximizing the good times are the teams standing tall at the end. The best can still turn those low points into wins while the bottom feeders just can’t seem to hide their issues well enough. The Baltimore Ravens entered the week 16 matchup winners of 3 straight averaging a league high 40 points per game over that span behind the surging Lamar Jackson, who caught fire over that period (10 touchdowns). The Giants entered the game going in the complete opposite direction. They had lost two straight and scored a combined 30 points over the previous 3 weeks, 10 less than what BAL was averaging per game. In the putrid NFC East, however, they were still alive.
The BAL offense continued their impressive, machine-type offensive work early on. They scored touchdowns on both of their first two drives while chewing up the majority of the first quarter-clock. They held onto the ball for 13:17 while NYG possessed it for 1:43 and got flagged for two false starts while accruing 18 total yards. BAL added 3 more points on a 20-yard field goal by All-Pro kicker Justin Tucker, following another long drive, this one 13 plays. With 5 minutes left in the first half, BAL had run 36 plays and NYG just 10.
NYG’s offense did start moving the ball on their final possession of the half, as they had to start eating away at the 17-point deficit. They found themselves in the red zone with 1:25 left and this is where I felt they mismanaged the clock. Following a 4 yard completion to Sterling Shepard on a 1st and 10, BAL called a timeout. They knew there would be enough time to potentially get the ball back. NYG then proceeded to call two high-difficulty pass plays to undrafted rookie Austin Mack. Both fell incomplete and BAL did indeed get the ball back with 2 timeouts and over 1 minute on the clock following Graham Gano’s 31-yard field goal.
BAL then ran another 10 plays that brought them all the way to the NYG 10-yard line, but they were finally stopped by a quality pass rush which made them settle on another field goal, this one from 28 yards, that Tucker nailed through the uprights to give BAL a commanding 20-3 lead at the half. BAL out-gained NYG 282-95 yards and won the time of possession battle 22:38 to 7:22 in the first two quarters. Complete domination.
NYG began the second half with a three-and-out, but the defense did stop BAL for the first time soon after. The NYG offense then started to wake up with chunk gains from Wayne Gallman, Dante Pettis, and C.J. Board. They got into the red zone with a 1st-and-10, but the first two plays from there were a 5-yard loss on a screen to Sterling Shepard and then a 7-yard loss on a sack. They had to settle on a field goal which Gano nailed from 42 yards. This was his 29th straight successful attempt, tying an all-time NYG record.
BAL ended the 3rd quarter with another touchdown-scoring drive spurred by a 25-yard run by rookie running back J.K. Dobbins. Jackson ended the drive by finding a wide open Dez Bryant in the end zone. Yes, the same Dez Bryant who was playing in his 5th game since the start of the 2018 season and formerly of the division-rival Dallas Cowboys. The 32-year old was surrounded by open turf as the NYG secondary had a miscommunication in coverage.
NYG then began the 4th quarter with their own marathon, clock-eating drive that was 15 plays long. This was very much aided by BAL mistakes, however. After a set of plays that saw Jones sacked on three-straight drop backs, BAL running back Justice Hill was flagged for a roughing-the-punter penalty which gave NYG a fresh start from their own 37. BAL was flagged 3 more times on that drive and even though the NYG offense still seemed lethargic and sloppy, they were able to score a touchdown on a 3-yard pass from Jones to Shepard. NYG had narrowed the gap to 14 points with just under 9 minutes remaining. A three-and-out by the BAL offense gave NYG the ball back but NYG was never able to breach midfield. After a 12-yard completion to Shepard, NYG went incomplete-incomplete-sack-incomplete on the following four passing plays. Yet another pathetic display of offense.
BAL drove the ball all the way down to the NYG 1-yard line after starting at the 35. A fumble on the exchange between Jackson and running back Gus Edwards was recovered by the newly-extended Logan Ryan for the lone ball-turnover of the game. NYG had under 2 minutes left and no timeouts. One of the worst two offenses in football could not even reach midfield, yet again, despite BAL playing a soft defense and aiding them with a 10-yard pass interference. The game ended with the final four NYG offensive plays netting 3 total yards on a scramble by Jones before turning it over on downs and back to BAL for the victory formation kneel-down.
NYG loses 27-13.
-Daniel Jones: 24-41 / 252 yards / 1 TD – 0 INT / 84.6 RAT
The stat line actually made Jones’ performance look better than he played. It wasn’t a good game for the sophomore, as he missed on multiple throws that, simply put, he needs to make. He was short on a couple deep balls to Slayton, he was high on a couple of open slants where he had pressure coming right at him, and he did not process information quickly enough when BAL sent the house in their blitz packages. While the offensive line didn’t do him any favors and we just don’t see these receivers ever running with space around them, his performance did not help this team. Was he rusty after a few weeks of being in and out of practice and games? Was he overwhelmed by the aggressive BAL defense? Did he not respond well to not really being able to use his legs? Or is he just not that good? I’ll discuss further in the closing comments.
-I really don’t get why NYG hasn’t been using Wayne Gallman more in the first half these past few weeks. He carried the ball 6 times for 27 yards and caught 2 passes for 26 yards. In the first half, he touched the ball 3 times. Granted, BAL dominated time of possession and NYG only ran 18 play,s but I still think Gallman has been productive enough to warrant more consistent touches in the first half where a team can dictate play calls more than the game situation. The same can’t be said in the second half.
-Dion Lewis had 15 yards on his lone carry and Alfred Morris had a 9 yard catch and gained 4 yards on 3 carries, including a key 3rd-and-1 conversion.
-Sterling Shepard had a season high 9 catches and 77 yards with a touchdown, just his second of the year. It’s been over two months since he last scored. Shepard played a really tough, competitive game from the slot and outside positions. He came up with a big 3rd-down conversion on the lone NYG touchdown scoring drive.
-Darius Slayton caught 2 passes for 26 yards and dropped another one, although it was a tough grab due to an off-throw by Jones. He still needs to start showing the ability to make these tough catches and be more physical against contact. If he wants to be a guy who can run in a straight line and catch passes with nobody on him, fine. But if he is going to be more than the occasional deep threat, he needs to more consistently make the tough plays.
-C.J. Board caught a pass for 16 yards and Dante Pettis caught 2 passes for 33 yards in his first game-action with the team. Remember, San Francisco was very excited about this kid not so long ago. Talent is there, but he has had durability and mental-capacity issues.
-Austin Mack saw more playing time than he has seen in a while. He was targeted three times and didn’t come away with anything. He had a really bad drop on a 3rd-and-4 would-be conversion. He was also flagged for a holding penalty on a kick return.
-Evan Engram had 7 catches for 63 yards. The “big play threat” is now averaging a career-low 10.4 yards per catch. Three of the four Giants leading pass catchers are averaging 11 yards per catch or less. Engram does provide spark and twitch but he just doesn’t create enough big plays for a guy who everyone says is dripping with talent. He graded out average as a blocker.
-Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo were quiet in their respective backup roles. Smith did provide a couple of quality run blocks.
-It was a horrid day for this group, especially in the second half. They just did not come to play across the board. Center Nick Gates was the only one who graded at the average point; everyone else was below the desired mark.
-Rookie Matt Peart allowed 2.5 sacks despite being on the field for just 17 plays. He looked confused and it made him move awkwardly with very little power presence. Cameron Fleming outplayed him by a long shot, allowing just 1 pressure but was also flagged for a false start on a 3rd down. Killer.
-Shane Lemieux continues to struggle when it comes to maintain quality presence and contact as a pass blocker. He allowed 2 pressures and a sack. This coaching staff really seems to favor him over Will Hernandez, who played just 10 snaps, but I think it may be time to let the latter back in this upcoming week. Lemieux just can’t get it done as a pass blocker on an island and opponents now know this. They will keep isolating him.
-Kevin Zeitler was flagged for a false start and allowed 1 pressure and a half-sack. Rookie Andrew Thomas was also flagged for a false start and he allowed 2 pressures. Both got good push in the running game, however. It didn’t help much though.
-On a day where the NYG defense could neither rush the passer nor stop the outside run, one can only shake their head. That is exactly what happened. Jabaal Sheard had 2 tackles and Cam Brown finished with three. They both missed a tackle and neither got a pressure. They were facing the backup tackle tandem on an offense that has been mightily struggling with pass blocking. Brown did make an impressive play where he ran down wide receiver Devin Duvernay, possibly one of the 20 fastest players in football. He is interesting, but that is all I will say about him for now. Still a long ways to go.
-This was supposed to be a huge game for these guys. The BAL rushing offense came into this game ranked number one in the NFL. There is no secret to stopping this offense. You have to stuff the run and make Jackson throw. NYG failed, miserably. I have been vocal about the NYG defensive tackles being a key cog to the defensive improvements we have seen this season. With that said, they were outmatched for the majority of the game.
-Dexter Lawrence was the one guy who could have passed as a good player at times in this game. He finished with 5 tackles and a pressure. He remained active throughout the game and made a few plays away from the ball.
-Leonard Williams finished with 1 tackle and 1 pressure in his worst game of the year. Dalvin Tomlinson added 4 tackles and a pressure, but was over-matched in the first half when BAL jumped out to that early lead.
-B.J. Hill added 3 tackles and a pressure.
-Blake Martinez was hot and cold. I still don’t think he is 100% based on how he is moving in pursuit. He did play with some decent power and strength, finishing with 12 tackles. He had a big-time fill and stuff on a 3rd-and-2 failed attempt in the second half when NYG still had some life.
-Tae Crowder struggled. The best athlete in this group did show some speed and twitch as usual, but he missed a team high 3 tackles and was flagged for a block in the back on a kick return. He finished with 8 tackles, but it was his worst game of the year and it was against the stiffest competition he has been up against.
-David Mayo was on the field for 44 plays and somehow did not record a single tackle. He missed 2 of them. He was outclassed when it came to speed and agility.
-James Bradberry was back on the field after missing a game. BAL barely even looked his way. He did finish with 3 tackles.
-Part of the reason why Bradberry didn’t get tested was Isaac Yiadom. It was his worst game of the year. He missed 2 tackles, lost outside contain on a 3rd-down conversion, and allowed a touchdown to Marquise Brown.
-Logan Ryan saw a lot of time at nickel. He did finish with 8 tackles and a fumble recovery, but missed 2 tackles. Both of his misses were big and it appears he allowed a touchdown on a misread in zone coverage. Ryan does give NYG a lot of hot and cold. By no means was the extension a bad decision, but there are reasons why nobody in the league wanted him at a significant contract price this past offseason. He needs to clean the mistakes up, especially the ones that revolve around tackling.
-Julian Love saw less playing time. It looks like Xavier McKinney has passed him on the depth chart and it didn’t go well in BAL. McKinney was beat by tight end Mark Andrews multiple times. He also missed 2 tackles. The one thing I will say that I did like was his playing speed. He gets from point A to point B faster than anyone else on the defense.
-Jabrill Peppers had 6 tackles and a TFL. Nothing stood out, good or bad.
-K Graham Gano: 2/2 (Made 31, 42).
-P Riley Dixon: 3 Punts / 47.0 avg / 35.0 net
-WR Sterling Shepard, LB Blake Martinez, OC Nick Gates
-DT Leonard Williams, CB Isaac Yiadom, EDGE Jabaal Sheard
3 THOUGHTS ON BAL
This is one team I just wouldn’t want to play in the postseason. Sure, they haven’t done much there since Jackson has been in the fold. Sure, their passing game isn’t dangerous. Sure, their offensive line isn’t quite what it was a year ago. However, when this team is hot, they show dominance that is as high as anyone. You know what they’re doing, and you just can’t stop it.
Want to know the sign of as really good coaching staff? One that can adjust. One that is not stubborn and set in their ways. Look no further than BAL. They took in Jackson (after trading up for him with the last pick of the 2018 Draft) and morphed their scheme and surrounding cast in a blink of the eye when they put him into the starting role. They stocked up on tight ends. They stocked up on physical downhill running backs. They stocked up on big offensive linemen. BAL has, by far, been the top rushing team in the NFL since the start of 2019. Next up, they have to get it done in the playoffs.
Talk about a homegrown defense and just a team overall that drafts well. Over 75% of their starters / heavy rotation guys were drafted by BAL over the past 8-10 years. Dating all the way back to 2013 (!)…BAL has drafted one current big-time contributor to their defense OR had a big-time defensive player sign elsewhere because of cap economics.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
Some of you need to read this. I try to avoid talking like this within the reviews but not this time. It is OK if you believe Jones is not the answer. It is OK if you think Jones is the answer. Nobody can objectively determine that right now. One thing we all can and should agree on: you don’t know. I don’t know. He doesn’t know. She doesn’t know. The kid has played TWENTY-FIVE games behind a bottom-5 offensive line, the worst set of receivers in football, a tight end who is among league leaders in drops, and a star running back who has missed 14 of 25 games in which Jones started. He needs to be better and I have been vocal about that. You can even argue NYG should start over at QB in the upcoming draft. But to say Jones and NYG should be better because he was the #6 pick (means almost nothing, do some research), or that Jones is a definitive bust, you just sound foolish. This kid has shown more in 25 games than SO MANY quality quarterbacks. That is a fact.
The most disappointing part of this NYG loss was the defensive line. I had high hopes that they would rise to the occasion and put this team back on track. They failed miserably. This is the issue with building a defense on big-and-physical but slow-and- limited athletes who do most of their work between the tackles. Football is a game of space and speed, and NYG just doesn’t have enough up front. They aren’t dynamic enough within the pass rush unless it is schemed.
Here we are entering Week 17 with what I consider a realistic shot at making the playoffs. Not because NYG has played well, but because this division is historically bad. No matter the case, I think rooting for a loss so they can pick higher in the draft is just wrong. If WAS loses to a motivated PHI (which I think will happen), the Giants will have an opportunity to play in a playoff game. Playoff experience is huge for so many young ball clubs. This is the biggest game NYG has had late in the year in a very long time and if they come out firing on all cylinders after such a poor 3-week stretch, it is a great sign for the future. Whether they make the playoffs or not, that is a fact. If they come out and lay an egg and continue their bottom-level offensive football against a horrid defense like DAL, then it is a huge negative sign for the future in my eyes. From that perspective, I think it is pretty easy to decide what you are rooting for. I hope you understand that.