Richie James – © USA TODAY Sports
The third road game in four weeks, including the second flight of 6+ hours, dropped the Giants in Seattle. The resurgent Seahawks came into the match-up with a 4-3 record, just months after a personnel move that screamed rebuild. Quarterback Russell Wilson was no longer calling the shots as QB1 for the first time since 2011, which was Pete Carroll’s second year with the club. Once Wilson took that job over as a 3rd-round rookie in 2012, the club had 9 straight winning seasons, 8 playoff appearances, 2 NFC Championship victories, and a Super Bowl win. 2021 saw their streak of .500+ ball come to an end and the Wilson + Carroll + Seahawk relationship was clearly fractured. Fast forward to the last game in October of the 2022 season and Carroll, the oldest coach in the NFL, quickly had his team back atop of the NFC West.
Since Week 3, SEA had averaged scoring 11 points in the first quarter. Their offensive game plan early in games was a key reason for their success. Despite dominating the time of possession by a 2:1 ratio, the NYG defense held them scoreless. The problem? NYG continued their offensive trend of getting off to a slow start by not only going scoreless through the first quarter but also going three-and-out on all three of their possessions. Saquon Barkley touched the ball just once over those first nine plays. Through 8 games, NYG has scored 23 points in the first quarter, an average of less than 3 points.
The second quarter began with SEA in the middle of a marathon drive that lasted 15 plays. It included two fourth-down conversions from inside the NYG 20-yard line as the team was not settling for three points. Geno Smith, a 2013 second-round pick (the year NYG took Justin Pugh in round 1), found D.K. Metcalf alone in the end zone for the three-yard score. On the third play of the next NYG drive and 12th offensive play for the team, the Giants finally picked up their first first down. It came after consecutive touches for Barkley, go figure. The drive was halted at midfield and punter Jamie Gillian masterfully pinned SEA inside their own five. The biggest play of the game to this point ensued.
Smith threw a short pass to Tyler Lockett, the smaller half, but to some the stronger half, of the dynamic SEA wide receiver duo. Adoree’ Jackson knocked the ball loose on the tackle and scooped it up himself. NYG now had the ball, first-and-goal, on the two-yard line. With help from extra linemen, including Nick Gates, Barkley scored his fifth touchdown of the year to tie the game up. NYG then kept ahold of the momentum with two sacks on the next SEA drive. They were about to get the ball back but a Richie James fumble on the punt return gave life back to SEA. The defense stopped the bleeding, holding SEA to a field goal.
NYG had the ball back with 1:31 left following the kickoff with all three timeouts at their disposal. With such low production over the course of the half (46 yards) and knowing they were going to start the second half with the ball, this was the opportunity to get their momentum back. Instead, they ran the ball twice and did not use their timeouts. On 3rd-and-2, they finally opted to pass the ball, but Jones was sacked. SEA called timeout to make NYG punt the ball. They did, and SEA took a knee to take the three-point lead into the locker room. Very odd ending to the half.
NYG opened the third quarter with their longest drive of the game. 14 plays, including a first-and=ten in the red zone. They totaled three yards on three plays from that point and the drive resulted in just three points via a 31-yard field goal. The tie at 10 did not last long, as Myers hit a 51-yard field goal for SEA on the next drive as the third quarter was coming to a close. NYG’s offense was starting to click but they continued to shoot themselves in the foot. On a 1st-and-10 from the SEA 29-yard line, Barkley took an eight-yard loss on a misdirection run. There were quite a few communication-based mistakes in this one. The Seattle crowd, also nationally known as the “12th Man,” did indeed have a major impact on the game.
They had to claw their way back into field goal range before Gano hit a 45-yarder to tie it back up. That would be it for NYG points. The first fourth-quarter possession for SEA needed just five plays. Smith hit Tyler Lockett for a 33-yard touchdown a drive after Lockett dropped a sure-thing touchdown. The eighth-year pro, known for never making mistakes, and that fact very much hiding his diminutive size shortcomings (take notes, Wan’Dale), was having one of the worst games of his career. A fumble that turned into points, a dropped touchdown that led to SEA settling on 3 points instead of 7. Lockett redeemed himself by giving his team a commanding seven-point margin. The NYG offense continued to struggle. Keep in mind they had just 13 points, more than half of which came largely because of the Lockett fumble inside the SEA five-yard line.
They responded to the SEA score with a three-and-out, but then so did SEA. NYG was getting the ball back with just over six minutes left. The scapegoat of the game, if one had to be chosen, Richie James, fumbled his second return of the afternoon. SEA recovered, scored another touchdown on the legs of rookie running back Kenneth Walker III. All of the sudden SEA had a 14-point lead. NYG’s next drive made it inside the SEA 30-yard line. From there, NYG went sack-incomplete-incomplete, giving SEA the ball back with just over two minutes left.
They did gain a first down but because NYG had all of their timeouts and the two-minute warning, they got the ball back one last time. Jones completed 1-of-4 passes and was sacked twice before the clock ran out.
NYG loses, 27-13.
-Daniel Jones: 17/31 – 176 yards / 0 TD – 0 INT / 71.4 RAT
Jones also added 20 yards on the ground. This was the fourth time we have seen Jones finish with under 200 yards of total production in a game this season. The first half was torture for the offense overall (46 yards, just 2 yards per play). We can point to multiple factors when searching for why, and Jones is on the list. My key example there comes from their opening drive of the game. They ran a mesh-concept that every single offense uses in these 3rd-and-3-7 yards to go situations. Two crossers underneath and a third target that sits in the middle. The design worked, the routes were good, and tight end Tanner Hudson was wide open with nobody around him on the other side of the first down marker. Jones did not see it, threw to Marcus Johnson (who was covered tightly), and NYG came up a yard short, punt. Jones did not pull the trigger on that play and four others (I’m being conservative). He also overthrew two downfield passes where his guy had multiple steps ahead of the defender. We can keep repeating ourselves over and over about the lack of weapons Jones has. You know, I know, everyone knows it. But that does not excuse a game like this one. The good quarterbacks in this league raise the level of players around him, plain and simple. He did not get the job done in this one.
-Saquon Barkley: 20 att – 53 yards – 1 TD / 3 rec – 9 yards
Week 8 brought us the lowest production from Barkley we have seen in a game all year. A big part of this was excellent scheming and execution by the SEA defense. Part of it was some poor blocking, and the other part of it was predictable play calling by NYG. They ran the similar power run with two pulling blockers from one side to the other that we saw them run over and over in Jacksonville. The results were very different, and it was obvious the NYG tight ends were going to keep getting blown up in the trenches. Looking back on it, I think Kafka would certainly re-think his approach on the play calls for Barkley. He also dropped a pass and lost his balance a couple times where there was some space available.
-Matt Breida added 5 yards on the ground and 10 yards in the passing game on 3 touches. He played just 14 snaps to Barkley’s 52.
-Darius Slayton stepped up with a solid game. He had 66 yards on 5 catches, two of which were huge third-down conversions. They were both in the second half, they were both physical catches that required plus-ball skills, and they both led to scores. Six of their thirteen points came on these two drives where he came up big.
-Marcus Johnson had 1 catch on 6 targets for 3 yards. That catch came on the first drive of the game and that was all we heard from him. He added another drop. Rookie Wan’Dale Robinson 2 catches for 15 yards and David Sills had 1 catch for 5 yards. I’ll do the math for you. The NYG receivers totaled 9 catches for 89 yards. In week 8 alone, 13 individual receivers had more yards across the league. To those keeping score at home for the season: Tyreek Hill leads the NFL with 961 yards in receiving. All of the NYG receivers, combined, have 875 yards on the year.
-The loss of Daniel Bellinger was expected to be felt at least a little bit. After re-watching, especially from the All-22, it was much more than a little bit. Tanner Hudson was the biggest liability on the team when it came to the running game’s struggles. He allowed 2 TFL and a pressure. Some may look at his receiving line (3 rec / 58 yards) and come away with the notion he had a solid game there. All three of Hudson’s catches came on the final two drives of the game with SEA up by fourteen and playing softer coverage. He also dropped a ball earlier on.
-Chris Myarick and Lawrence Cager both allowed 1 TFL each as well. A terrible game in the trenches for this group. All the talk about bringing in a wide receiver to help spur the passing game overall is warranted. I am confused why there is not more discussion about the tight ends when considering the economics and where this offense as a whole needs help. More on that below.
-The offensive line as a whole lost at the point-of-attack for the majority of the game. Their solid stretches in play brought the offense to another level. When they faltered, it compounded to the skill positions. Inconsistent game overall.
-Andrew Thomas, you guessed it, pitched another shutout. His pursuit of the coveted All-Pro label is not quite there yet, but he is getting close. It will come down to his ability to remain consistent at his current level. NYG could not be asking for better football from their left tackle.
-Tyre Phillips, the fill-in at right tackle for rookie Evan Neal, had a poor game, the lowest grade on the line. He was flagged for two false starts (common in Seattle when the crowd is in it) and he also allowed both a pressure and a sack. His gap-blocking in the running game was the one positive, but he struggled mightily on outside-zone runs. He appeared to be confused and slow to react.
-Inside, third stringer Joshua Ezeudu was good for most of the game. He was heading toward an above average grade, and he threw the best block of the group on Barkley’s touchdown run. However, he allowed 2 pressures and a sack late. His anchor isn’t ready yet for pure bull rushers and the stunt/twist game is moving a bit too fast for him. Right now, he is a one-dimensional blocker who does his best work as a pulling guard across the line.
-Mark Glowinski allowed a pressure and a sack while center Jon Feliciano allowed two pressures and was inconsistent in the running game. He wound up on the ground often, never a good sign for interior blockers.
-Nick Gates returned after nearly seeing his career end after a gruesome leg injury last season that requited multiple surgeries. When it comes to what I know about the human body and rehab, this will be just as much about how he responds to just a little bit of live action (five plays) days later as it was about seeing how effective he still is. From those five snaps, it certainly appears the baseline ability is still there. Now? The team will see how his leg and surrounding joints recover. If he checks multiple boxes, I think Gates is going to be a big part of this offense over the final third of the season. They need him and if he is just 90% of what he was pre-injury, getting him a starting spot is a no brainer. He looked good and brought some of the Gates-type attitude to the offense.
-I start this group off with a rookie. No, not Kayvon Thibodeaux. Tomon Fox made a big impact on this game, and I did not fully appreciate the effort until I re-watched it. The undrafted free agent led the team with 8 tackles and 2 TFL while adding a pressure on his 27 snaps. He played less than half the snaps, plays an OLB/DE hybrid position, and finished with that much production. Maybe LT was onto something. Fox was the most physical player not named Dexter Lawrence in this game for NYG.
-Thibodeaux had a quiet game. He finished with 1 pressure and missed a tackle. I did not like some of the movement we saw out of him in space. Lateral stiffness and poor reaction. We know he runs in a straight line well and his get off is very good. I need to see more suddenness, though.
-Elerson Smith saw his first action of the year with 7 snaps on defense. His lone tackle on the day came on special teams. With Fox emerging and the expected return of Azeez Ojulari and Oshane Ximines, Smith may have a hard time getting on the field. He needs to flash, and soon.
-Jihad Ward continues to set a strong edge as a run defender and showed the versatility to line up inside again even more so after the Nick Williams injury. That is where he broke up a pass from. His limitations in space did hurt the defense a couple times.
-Because Nick Williams went down with a biceps injury early, we saw an uptick in playing time for both Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence. For the short term, it wasn’t a bad thing at all. Williams had 8 tackles, 5 pressures, a sack, and was the finisher to a TFL by Fox. He was so dominant in the first quarter that SEA adjusted their blocking scheme on him. He still broke through the line for most of the game. Lawrence finished with 4 tackles and 3 pressures. These two were the driving force behind stuffing the SEA run game, ranked #1 in the league in yards per attempt coming into Week 8, until late in the game. Admirable and dominant effort from these two.
-As noted above, Nick Williams went down early with a biceps injury. Him, D.J. Davidson, and Henry Mondeaux all being injured have left this interior line very thin. Justin Ellis is a two-gap run plug at this point, an average one, and won’t be anything more. This team needs to get more depth on this front. Williams and Lawrence cannot play that much week to week.
-This defensive coaching staff has made a routine of altering their personnel groupings and individual snaps for certain players week to week based on match-ups. So, this may not mean anything, but it may mean something. Tae Crowder was removed from the middle and Jaylon Smith was inserted. Then, rookie Micah McFadden saw five more snaps (27 to 22) than Crowder on the weak side. This is something to keep an eye on. Smith brings a higher level of decision-making and doesn’t miss tackles like Crowder (who missed another 2 in this game). McFadden is not the athlete Crowder is, but he excels at hand-fighting with blockers and has more ability downhill. The rookie finished with 4 tackles and sack, Smith finished with 7 tackles, and Crowder finished with 2. Lastly, I think it was Crowder who was guilty culprit on the blindside block that was flagged on the punt (Jason Pinnock was wrongfully called by the refs).
-Playing cornerback in this league is hard. It is the hardest position to play in football other than quarterback. Playing cornerback in the Wink Martindale scheme is hard because of how often they are left on an island. Adoree’ Jackson was having his best game of the season until the fourth quarter. He broke up a pass on 3rd down, he broke up a pass in the end zone, he forced and recovered a fumble that led NYG to their first and only touchdown of the day. SEA had just 13 points at the 10:00 mark in the fourth quarter and Jackson was one of the catalysts to the group’s effort. He was burned by Tyler Lockett for a near-touchdown but was bailed out by an out-of-character drop by the receiver. On the very next drive, Jackson was burned again for a touchdown that ultimately decided the game. It was not a bad game for Jackson, and it should not be labeled so even though he was on the wrong end of the highlight reel. Martindale is the Bruce Arians of defense. “No risk-it, no biscuit.” It can work often with the right guys, but the law of averages will see the guys lose like that from time to time.
-Fabian Moreau had an early pass break up on a pass intended for D.K. Metcalf. He spent a lot of time one-on-one against one of the biggest freaks and best deep threats in the NFL and fared well. He did this without safety help over the top for most of the game too. Nice game for him and he added 5 tackles.
-Nick McCloud and Darnay Holmes both saw about half of the defensive snaps. McCloud getting the nod at nickel was noteworthy. First, Holmes competed with safety Dane Belton for snaps but they played different positions. Now, we see McCloud getting the nod over Holmes. Interesting development here and he did play well. He had a pressure that caused a sack and Holmes was beat up a bit on short-to-intermediate throws.
-Julian Love had 7 tackles but allowed a touchdown in zone coverage early in the game to Metcalf. Xavier McKinney added 2 tackles and a sack but missed a tackle on the late Kenneth Walker touchdown. And Dane Belton played just 10 snaps. The safety group overall lacked impact in this one.
-K Graham Gano: 2/2 (Made 31, 45)
-P Jamie Gillian: 6 punts / 53.7 avg – 47.7 net
-EDGE Tomon Fox, DT Leonard Williams, OT Andrew Thomas
-WR Richie James, TE Tanner Hudson, OT Tyre Phillips
3 THOUGHTS ON SEA
1. Right up there with NYG is SEA when talking about the league’s biggest surprises. I projected them to go 5-12 and finish in last place in the NFC West. My main reasons for this incredibly wrong prediction were the perceived downgrades in the passing game on both sides of the ball. From Russell Wilson to Drew Lock (many believed he was the guy prior to camp) at QB, two rookies stepping in at OT, two rookies stepping in at corner, and unproven pass rushers led me to believe they would get smoked there. Man, was I wrong. Not only is this team playoff bound, I think they are going to win the NFC West if they stay healthy. And playing at that place in the postseason will be a TOUGH assignment.
2. Through the halfway point of the season, the SEA rookie class is the best in the NFL, and I don’t think anyone is close. Listen to the first 6 picks of this class. OTs Charles Cross (rd 1) and Abraham Lucas (rd 3), who are both among the top 4 rookie tackles in the NFL. Only Ikem Ekwonu (CAR) is ahead of them right now while Tyler Smith (DAL) can be debated. RB Kenneth Walker (rd 2) is among the NFL lead in yards over the last 3 weeks and the best eyes/minds I see in NFL analysis are raising him to be one of the top 10 backs in the NFL right now. All of them. CBs Coby Bryant (rd 4) and Tariq Woolen (rd 5) are their top two corners and the latter shares the league-lead in interceptions. There are strong rookie classes, and there is a class like this that if they keep it up, could go down as one of the most impactful ever in their inaugural season.
3. Love or hate Pete Carroll, and most do despise him (in and out of league), the dude can flat out coach. Perceived as a defensive guy, Carroll is very much involved and in control of the offense from a macro-perspective. There have been interesting situations with him and different play-callers over the years. He wants things his way and the second they go too pass-heavy, he fires them. Russell Wilson leaves town and he looks like a shell of his former self, his Seahawk self. Geno Smith gets a starting job for the first time since 2014 and is all of the sudden in the MVP discussion. That, the fact they are doing this with rookie contributions at major positions, and the fact their defense looked more prepared for the NYG offense than anyone we have seen so far brings me to the idea that Carroll is heading toward a Coach of the Year Award.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
1. This will be the final input I have on the trade deadline. At the point of this writing (late Monday night), no trade has been made. The rumors are circulating, and I do think there is validity behind NYG inquiring about wide receiver talent. If this was year three, or even year two of this regime I would lean strongly toward a deal being done. But when reflecting on how many times Joe Schoen has brought up the lack of salary cap health and the fact they are in year one leads me to believe they will not trade pick(s) for a receiver. If there is a trade to be made, I think it is more likely we see them trade a late day-three pick (or a late swap) for a defensive lineman or a tight end. The DLs I think fit the situation (scheme, contract, team) are Michael Brockers (DET), Roy Robertson-Harris (JAC), and Bilal Nichols (LV). The TEs I think fit the situation (scheme, contract, team) are Ian Thomas (CAR) and Eric Saubert (DEN). I still think they will lean no trade but could make a play for Odell Beckham in free agency soon (however I think he wants to be with a more credible SB contender).
2. The bye week is coming at a good time. I mean, mid-year is always a good time. But I like how a few of the key players who are out (Ojulari, Neal, Ximines, Lemieux, Bellinger), but are expected back at some point, will simply miss one less game with the bye coming right now. This has been an eventful first 8 games to the season with a lot of drama and emotion (on and off the field). Regroup, heal up, and come back hungry.
3. What is the one thing I want this coaching staff to spend the most time on as they self-scout this week? The answer is simple. Improve their first-half offense. They are 30th in first-half points. They are 30th in first-half time of possession. Early-game offense is often scripted, especially in the first quarter. Their script (and execution) has been poor. Next up I want to see more pass rush. Despite being the most blitz-heavy team in the league, they rank in the bottom half of every noteworthy pass rush metric. And this is the result even though DT Dexter Lawrence is in the discussion for a spot on the All-Pro team. Looking at you, edge defenders. Let’s see the arrow point up. And lastly, find a new punt returner. That is all.
Enjoy the week off everyone – it has been a fun season so far. Thanks for letting me be a part of it.