Eli Manning and Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images
Los Angeles Chargers 27 – New York Giants 22
With two 0-4 teams facing off at MetLife Stadium, something had to give. The stadium notably lacked life, as it rained all morning prior to kickoff, creating an eerie, something-just-isn’t-quite-right-type feeling. Just 3 and a half hours later, that eeriness was proven right. The 2017 season couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start leading up to this match-up, or so we thought. This 2017 Giants squad was about to find themselves on the wrong side of team history.
The defense was stout early, not allowing a first down over the course of their opponent’s first three drives. With Kerry Wynn on the field in place of the injured Olivier Vernon and Ross Cockrell seemingly having passed Eli Apple on the CB depth chart, there was a sense of new energy and confidence. On the second possession, LA quarterback Philip Rivers did not see the shotgun snap coming from deep in their own territory. With the fear of oncoming defenders potentially landing on the ball for a defensive touchdown, he smacked the ball out of bounds for a safety.
The Giants offense paired this hot start with something we haven’t seen yet, a consistently-productive running game. Orleans Darkwa got the start in the backfield and they rode his hot hand all the way into the end zone, as he carried the ball 6 times for 58 yards in the first quarter, the final carry being a 23-yard touchdown. The line, particularly inside, was dominant at the point-of-attack and things were looking up as the Giants took their 9-0 lead into the 2nd quarter.
On the Chargers’ fourth drive of the game, they began to move the ball via a balanced run/pass attack. Their star running back, third-year Melvin Gordon, hadn’t been seeing success as much as last season to this point. They were noticeably trying to force-feed him the ball via the ground and air, as he got the ball 4-out-of-8 plays including the one that got him them into the end zone on a 6-yard catch after he easily beat B.J. Goodson in coverage. Speaking of Goodson, he was exploited as a pass defender on a couple of occasions on this drive and his 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for physically contacting a ref was a huge, costly mistake.
With the Giants lead cut down to 2, rookie Wayne Gallman was the feature player on the next drive. He was consistently making the first man miss, getting the Giants near midfield but in typical 2017 NYG fashion, the offensive line was completely blown up on a 3rd-and-1 attempt, ending in a 2-yard loss, forcing NYG to punt. The Giants defense got back on track, forcing three straight 3-and-outs. The combination of poor field position, dropped passes, and a dominant Damon Harrison continued to shut down this Chargers’ offense. They converted just 1-of-7 third downs, a theme that would not exactly stick for the rest of the game.
The Giants’ offense had their best opportunity of the day to create distance on the scoreboard just past the halfway point of the 2nd quarter. 1st-and-10 at the Chargers 39-yard line. A bad drop by Darkwa, an overthrow by Manning to Engram down the sideline, and a false start by tackle Bobby Hart pushed them out of field goal range and into a punt situation. Valuable points were left on the board via shooting themselves in the foot.
To finish off the first half, LAC put together the first of their three 11+ play drives. They drove all the way down to the Giants’ 6-yard line but thanks to one of Keenan Allen’s three drops on the day, they settled for a field goal as the time ran out. LAC headed in to the locker room up 10-9 despite being outplayed by the Giants the entire half.
The start of the second half was an interesting case of back and forth as both teams had the momentum in their laps, but failed to seize the opportunity to fully secure and run away with it. After going 3-and-out, the Giants punted the ball to LAC. Speedster Travis Benjamin keyed a 19-yard return giving the Chargers 1st down at midfield. At the snap of a finger, they were inside the Giants 10-yard line looking to lengthen their lead. Darian Thompson, whom played the best game of his young career by a wide margin, intercepted a 3rd down pass intended for Allen. He went down in the end zone, securing the touchback and gave Eli Manning the opportunity to shift the lead again.
The Manning-to-Beckham connection finally woke up, connecting twice for 31 yards. On 3rd-and-5 from the LAC 29-yard line, Manning overcame his deep ball accuracy issues from the first half and dropped the ball in a bucket to Roger Lewis for a touchdown. It was as good of a pass as anyone could have thrown in that situation and Lewis did a fine job of tight-roping the sideline and holding onto the ball as he crashed to the ground. The Giants took 16-10 lead and against an 0-4 team, this was supposed to be the stopping point.
The Chargers pieced together another 12-play drive, their second in three possessions. Towards the start of this possession, however, the refs overlooked a major penalty that could have easily altered the outcome of this game. On 2nd-and-9 from the LAC 9-yard line, Rivers was pressured and as he began to vacate the pocket, he threw the ball away where there was no Chargers’ receiver. He made the throw from his own end zone, thus it should have been a safety, as intentional grounding was never called. The refs claimed he made it out of the pocket, but that was not the case. What should have been 2 points and possession to the Giants turned into an eventual touchdown. Rivers completed three passes on 3rd down this drive, one of which was 3rd-and-15 and the last being a 18-yard gain the play before their touchdown to tight end Hunter Henry, whom beat Collins for the ball.
Down 17-16, Manning responded by inching his way up to midfield before pump faking a short slant to Beckham, whom got an easy and free release to his deep route and ended up with no one around him as he jogged into the end zone with what ultimately ended up being his last touchdown of the season. The Giants, with what has now become too much the norm, failed to manage the clock properly as they lined up for a 2-point conversion attempt. They were bumped back a crucial 5 yards and weren’t even close to securing the 7-point lead. New York led 22-17.
After trading back and forth possessions, the Chargers added 3 more points at the end of an 11 play drive. On the next drive, the Giants almost-hopeless season turned, well, hopeless. Beckham was badly injured and carted off, making him the fourth receiver of the day to leave the game with an ankle/foot injury. The pass catchers were decimated from a personnel standpoint, the Chargers offense was showing they could drive the ball down the field without much of a problem, and the Giants lead was only at 2. On the next play, Manning was sacked by, you guessed it, another stunt play by the Chargers defense and ended up losing the ball via fumble. LAC recovered and it took them just 3 plays to score on a Rivers pass to Gordon. The score was 27-22 just like that and NYG had little to no hope of moving the ball with their injuries and shaky offensive line play.
The Giants were able to muster together two first downs and got over in to LAC territory, for a short time. Bobby Hart, who had a game to forget, was flagged for illegal hands to the face and instead of it being 2nd-and-2 on the LAC 40-yard line, it was 1st-and-20 from the Giants’ 42-yard line with 1:20 left on the clock. Four plays later, Manning was intercepted by safety Tre Boston and that signaled the end. The Giants lose, 27-22, and fall to 0-5.
- Eli Manning: 21/36 – 225 yards – 2 TD/1 INT – 83.7 rating. As we’ve seen the previous two weeks, Manning showed up in the second half. He was spreading the ball around, getting it out quick, and was responding to pick up the Giants shaky defensive play. He did struggle mightily in the first half, especially with the deep ball. He had two plays where Beckham was open downfield for a touchdown, but overthrew him by 5+ yards. He was sacked 5 times and lost a fumble.
- Orleans Darkwa: 8 att – 69 yards – 1 TD. After missing a game with injury, Darkwa came back as the starting running back and gave the Giants their best performance out of the backfield this season. He showed off his aggressive downhill style that initially drew everyone to him early in his career. His 23-yard touchdown run saw a combination of good blocking and late movement to miss tacklers. The one glaring issue here, however, was his 3 drops. Not good.
- Wayne Gallman: 11 att – 57 yards – 5 rec – 27 yards. Another impressive game for the 4th-round rookie who ran with such an elusive style. Gallman, on multiple occasions, showed the ability to create something out of nothing. Intended running lanes aren’t always there and with the good backs, that doesn’t always matter. Gallman is showing a trait that can be very hard to find.
- Shane Vereen: 5 att – 18 yards – 4 rec – 27 yards. His biggest play of the game was called back by a Roger Lewis hold. His one-handed grab and 20-yard scamper was a thing of beauty. That play is what I think NYG could have and should have been using in recent weeks more often. He is such a weapon in the screen game with his awareness of defenders and blockers in space.
- Odell Beckham: 5 rec – 97 yards – 1 TD. The last game we will see Beckham play in 2017 was a solid one. He was quiet early but if it weren’t for a few overthrows by Manning, we could be talking about a breakout performance and NYG win. Who knows, maybe even a healthy Beckham. 2017 couldn’t have gone worse for the kid who wants to be the highest-paid player in the NFL. These next 6-9 months of rehab will tell us a lot about him and his future with the team. Mouth shut, get to work. You have a ways to go.
- Brandon Marshall: 2 rec – 15 yards. Speaking of individual situations that couldn’t have gone worse this year, Marshall’s 2017 is now over as well. An ankle injury that required surgery will sideline him the rest of the year. Marshall didn’t impact the game, or the season, much. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him hang up the cleats for good in the coming months.
- Sterling Shepard: 1 rec – 9 yards. On a day where 4 of the top 5 NYG receivers went down, Shepard was the day’s first. He was hurt in the 2nd quarter and he too, won’t be back for awhile. If the season continues to go down the path it is currently headed, the team may very well opt to keep him out until 2018.
- Roger Lewis: 1 rec – 29 yards – 1 TD. Eli Manning deserves a ton of credit for the touchdown pass to Lewis, perfectly dropped in the bucket where only he could grab it. However Lewis showed tremendous ball skills by getting both feet down in a tight space and holding onto the ball after hitting the ground hard. There is a draw to this kid’s talent, one of the top UDFA’s from the 2016 Draft Class who would have been a mid-rounder had he not had some previous off-field issues. This is his opportunity. Lewis is now the team’s number one wide receiver.
- Rhett Ellison: 1 rec – 9 yards. Ellison played a season high 71% of the team’s snaps, partially due to the multiple injuries at wide receiver. I’ve been banging on the table since week 1 in Dallas that this guy needs more playing time. He needs more looks in the passing game. Well, by default that is about to happen.
- Evan Engram: 0 rec – 0 yards. For the first time in his young career, Engram was shut out. His opportunities were almost zero, as well. He was thrown to 4 times but on none of them did he really have a credible chance at bringing in. He is going to be the feature part of this offense now and I’m not sure if that is a positive or not. I assume they are going to split him out wide most of the time, but there he may be matched up against the opposing top CB. That’s what I would do if I was against the Giants. Will he be able to separate? Or is he a guy who needs the outside receivers to take pressure off him? A positive note: Engram has graded out positive as a blocker in all 5 games this year.
- Tackles: Ereck Flowers had his best game of the season, and his upward trend is very encouraging. He didn’t always look pretty or efficient when it came to technique, but point blank he got the job done. His grade of “3” is exactly where I would want any starting OL. That is graded as a plus performance. Bobby Hart, on the other hand, mightily struggled. He allowed 3 sacks, 3 pressures, and committed 2 penalties. Two of his sacks were partially a result of Manning evading the pocket and running into the defender, however. Hart was getting beat from the start and put out the worst-graded NYG OL performance of the year.
- Interior: Justin Pugh continued to stay at the level he’s pretty much been at all year. Solid, slightly above average. He moved back to LG after his short tenure at RT and the fact he can maintain his level of play inside-out is going to add some money on to his contract come this offseason. D.J. Fluker replaced John Jerry early, getting a shot at facing off against his former team. He had a very up and down game. His ups, as we expected, came in the run game. A lot of movement up front and he sustained his blocks. As a pass blocker, he struggled. He allowed 3 pressures and the inability to pick up stunts is just alarming. How he can make this mistake over and over is just awful. Center Brett Jones was the surprise of the day, as he graded out at 2.95, second highest on the team. He is as gritty as it gets and reminds me a ton of former Giants’ OL Rich Seubert.
- Defensive Ends: With Oliver Vernon on the sideline nursing his ankle injury, Kerry Wynn got the start. He proved he just isn’t an every-down guy, as his impact was never felt. Jason Pierre-Paul continued his disappointing season, finishing with a mere 4 tackles and 1 QB pressure. Unlike previous weeks, the Chargers were dropping back deep, giving several opportunities for the ends to make their mark. It never happened, as Rivers wasn’t sacked once. Pierre-Paul has struggled mightily to disengage from blocks despite getting off the ball well. And the two offsides penalties for lining up in the neural zone are almost inexcusable. Rookie Avery Moss got on the field for 29 plays. His lack of power presence was apparent.
- Defensive Tackles: The Damon Harrison/Dalvin Tomlinson duo inside continues to be a strength. The Chargers really struggled to consistently gain yards on the ground between the tackles. Harrison played arguably his best game of the season, eating blockers and space with ease. He added 5 tackles, one of which was for a loss and broke up a pass. Harrison also showed some pass rush we haven’t really seen much of this year. Jay Bromley played about half the team’s snaps and was able to hit Rivers a couple times.
- B.J. Goodson was solid in run support, mainly inside. However, he was beat badly in coverage on multiple occasions, furthering the fear around the idea he may not be an every-down guy. Melvin Gordon beat him badly in to the flat for the Chargers first score in quarter 1.
- Keenan Robinson, a player that is supposed to be making his money via ability to cover backs and tight ends, was getting beat routinely in addition to shoddy run defense. With The Giants up by 2 with 3 minutes left, Robinson failed to stick with Gordon into the flat for his second easy touchdown catch of the day. Jonathan Casillas was banged up and tried to play through it, but his impact on the game was never felt.
- 2016 first round pick Eli Apple has officially lost ground on the depth chart, having sat on the sideline for the first three defensive series. Apple didn’t have a bad game once he got on the field, however. He played stout run defense on the outside, totaling 5 tackles. One glaring negative from Apple that may only bother me: can he please not openly laugh on the sidelines while the rest of the team is staring at the ground as their record is just minutes away from being 0-5? His little-kid approach was shown during training camp as well. Ross Cockrell got some more playing time as a result, but allowed two big third-down conversions and had 2 missed tackles.
- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins both played well. Unfortunate this team is wasting such solid veteran CB play on such a bad year, because it’s a really tough position to fill.
- Darian Thompson has struggled this year, but his performance against LAC was very encouraging. He intercepted a pass in the end zone and had two high-level deflected passes. Thompson was also a factor as a blitzer and run defender, leading the team with 11 tackles.
- The second-leading tackler, Landon Collins, played through a lower-body injury sustained in the first half. His aggression is usually a weapon for this defense but it turned out to be a negative on a few occasions against the Chargers. He over-pursued play-action fakes and was beat in coverage for a touchdown and two separate third-down conversions. The injury may have slowed his reactions a tad, but Collins had his worst game of the year and it really hurt this defense at the most inopportune times.
- K Aldrick Rosas: 2/2 extra points. I found it interesting that McAdoo, for the second week in a row, would not attempt a 50+ yard FG attempt with the strong-legged Rosas.
- P Brad Wing: 8 punts – 44.1 avg. Wing pinned the Chargers inside their own 20 four times, and inside their own 10 twice. Very good bounce back performance for him after two consecutive weeks of game-altering punts, in a negative way.
- Return: Dwayne Harris had his best game of the season, returning 3 punts for 38 yards. He was making a difference in the field position game before his injured his foot, which ended his season.
- S Darian Thompson, OT Ereck Flowers, DT Damon Harrison
- OT Bobby Hart, DE Kerry Wynn, S Landon Collins
3 THOUGHTS ON LAC
- The Chargers may have shown up 0-4, but they are not a bottom feeder in the NFL. They were seconds away from a win in Denver, their kicker missed a chip shot field goal at the end of their week 2 game against Miami. This is not a bad team, in fact, this may be the best Chargers team we have seen in years. If there is a team you want to bet on that appears to be down and out, but can comeback in to playoff contention, Chargers should be that team.
- Hard to watch Russell Okung, who was available this past offseason, dominate at left tackle week after week. NYG had a shot at this guy and I was told Okung was interested in playing here. The issue with being stubborn about past draft picks that aren’t panning out is the missed opportunity to getting a guy like this. This guy should have been in an NYG uniform, not the LAC one.
- Not sure how many people pay attention to the CB Cameron Heyward, but he is one of the top 5-6 CBs in the league. He has really developed nicely after inaccurately being labeled a slot-only CB.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
- On October 8th, the 2017 season has now become all about next year and beyond. They aren’t doing any damage this year, but the value of watching and paying attention now is trying to find players that you can move forward with. Can Brett Jones be a cheap starter at OC? Is Wayne Gallman a starting caliber RB? Are any of these WRs going to be in the rotation next year? Can Eli Apple progress?
- Eli Manning will not, and should not, be benched for Davis Webb. It is a ludicrous idea. He is still going to be the guy next year and Webb never showed anything that would lead you to believe he is the next guy. Remember, he is a 3rd round project that nobody wanted to see the field this year.
- Is Ereck Flowers turning it around? He has gotten better 3 weeks in a row, with this game being the best we’ve seen possibly over his whole career. I firmly he is not the left tackle you want long term, but if he can prove to play at a decent level from here on out, NYG may have their RT of the future.