Jabaal Sheard – © USA TODAY Sports
The Giants’ 3-game winning streak landed them in 1st place this past week, albeit with a 4-7 record. That has been the way of 2020, however. The NFC East hadn’t collectively beat a team with a winning record to this point in the season and NYG traveled to Seattle to start off a four-game span matched up against four winning ball clubs. This test would be extra difficult, as quarterback Daniel Jones was sidelined with an injury and the Seahawks ranked 3rd in the NFL in points scored. SEA quarterback Russell Wilson entered this game with a career 53-16 record at home and on the other side was Colt McCoy, who hadn’t won a game as a starter since 2014.
The SEA offense easily drove the ball down the field on the game’s opening drive. Their first five plays gained 5, 6, 11, 24, 11 yards, respectively. The NYG defense has specialized in a bend-don’t-break style for most of the season and that trend continued. Once inside the red zone, NYG forced three straight incompletions and SEA ended up having to go for a 31-yard field goal by Jason Meyers. He nailed it, good for his 24th straight made attempt.
NYG then went three-and-out but forced SEA to do the same. The banged up SEA secondary started to get exposed on the second NYG drive, as McCoy found his three main targets (Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, and Evan Engram). They got the ball into the red zone but a pass that made its way to and through the hands of Engram led to an interception by Quandre Diggs. NYG wasn’t going to have a big margin for mistakes like this and failing to put points on the board while getting so close was a potential killer.
The NYG defense gave up a few chunk gains but ended up with another stop thanks largely to a sack by Jabrill Peppers. The two offenses failed to sustain drives. Both defenses were applying pressure to the passer and neither running game was finding enough room to really work. It was the NYG defense and their surprise edge presence Niko Lalos coming away with his second turnover in as many weeks after a botched snap by Wilson. NYG had the ball at midfield but the offensive struggles remained. They went three-and-out.
SEA got the ball to midfield, but Leonard Williams was leading constant pressure on Wilson. They were able to force yet another punt with Michael Dickson pinning the NYG offense inside their own 5-yard line. There was under a minute left and NYG simply wanted to make it to halftime down by 3. They ran the ball three straight times and it net gained 6 yards. SEA used all of their timeouts so they could have one more shot at lengthening their lead. The offense didn’t need to come back on the field, however. The punt was blocked in the end zone by Ryan Neal and recovered by SEA but the ball made its way out of bounds quickly enough to make it a safety (2 points) rather than a touchdown (6 points). SEA did get the ball back one more time, starting at midfield, but they weren’t able to get points and went into halftime with a 5-0 lead.
Wayne Gallman, one of the offensive catalysts in the recent NYG winning streak, carried the ball just 4 times in the first half. NYG knew that approach needed to change, and that it did. The old-school, smack-you-in-the-mouth, run-up-the-middle strategy started off the second half. He gained 16 bruising yards on 3 carries. It did not amount to much, as NYG ended up punting, but the tone was set. The physical brand of Big Blue football is back and here to stay. After forcing a quick punt, NYG got the big play they were searching for from Gallman. A 60-yard run all the way down to the SEA 17-yard line put NYG in position to take over the lead. Two Alfred Morris runs later, the 31-year-old back who carried the ball one time in 2019 crossed the goal line for the first time since 2018. NYG then went for 2 and McCoy found Sterling Shepard for the conversion to give NYG a 3-point lead, 8-5.
The NYG pass rush and sheer dominance up front, matched with timely plays by the defensive backfield, kept the SEA offense returning to the sideline. The NYG offensive momentum continued on their next opportunity, scoring another touchdown via a 6-yard pass from McCoy to Morris. Wayne Gallman set up this score as well, as he started off the drive with 39 yards on three carries.
A 9-point lead in the 4th quarter in Seattle. This is where NYG stood before rookie corner Darnay Holmes picked off a Wilson pass that was deflected off fellow rookie Tae Crowder. NYG was able to turn that into 3 points via a 48-yard field goal by the automatic Graham Gano. The lead was elevated to 12 points and the SEA offense, which seemed to have no answers for the NYG defensive front, had under 10 minutes to attempt a comeback.
With a slightly hurried up offense, Wilson drove the ball down the field with an 11-play, 82-yard drive. This was heavily aided by a defensive holding penalty on Holmes on a 3rd-and-15 stop. On the next play, Wilson found running back Chris Carson for a 28-yard score. This brought the score to 17-12 with over 6 minutes left, not a strong position considering how elite Wilson has been in come-from-behind scenarios. McCoy was going to have to make at least a couple plays for NYG to maintain this lead and take home the win, and that he did. He hit Darius Slayton (his first catch of the day) and Evan Engram for two first downs that were not deep passes, but tight window throws that needed quick decisions and accuracy. They were able to get the ball past the 2-minute warning prior to punting back to SEA. Even though they did not put more points on the board, the amount of time taken off the clock was crucial. Now, it was up to the NYG defense.
The first four plays of the final SEA drive netted 34 yards. They were into NYG territory with a minute left. With a 5-point lead, this drive was going to end the game either with a SEA or NYG win, no ties. Wilson then threw two incomplete passes before getting sacked by Leonard Williams, the defensive star of the game who had his way with the SEA offensive line. SEA was faced with a 4th-and-18 before James Bradberry broke up the final pass of the game on a Hail Mary-type play for the win.
NYG wins, 17-12.
-Colt McCoy: 13-22 / 105 yards / 1 TD – 1 INT / 67.4 RAT
When the reports became verified that Daniel Jones would be out for the game, the outlook for this already-tough matchup was bleak at best. A backup quarterback on the road against a top 5 offense led by a MVP candidate is less than ideal. McCoy didn’t take the game by the horns by any means, but this is where having a veteran back there can be a huge benefit. We knew McCoy wouldn’t be dropping dimes and/or getting chunk gains with his legs, but there is a sense of confidence and calm with a guy like McCoy. He stayed within himself, he didn’t make any colossal mistakes, he didn’t try to do too much. He made a few clutch throws and didn’t lose the game for NYG. That is the backup’s job in a situation like this. Nice job by McCoy and I think we may see him for one more game.
-Wayne Gallman: 16 att / 135 yards
A tale of two halves. I’m not quite sure why NYG didn’t feature more of him in the first half, but when they came out for the 3rd quarter it was evident they knew what to do. Gallman had 4 attempts for 6 yards in the first half, 12 attempts for 129 yards (just under 11 yards per carry) in the second half. This was against a SEA run defense that ranked top 10 in the NFL and averaged 64 yards allowed per game over the previous 5 weeks, which included games against the NFL’s top 2 rushing attacks. Gallman is no longer a back who is just able to have a couple good games. This is a legit NFL runner who breaks tackles, has good vision, and will eventually make the big play as long as he gets consistent looks.
-Alfred Morris: 8 att / 39 yards / 1 TD and 1 rec / 6 yards / 1 TD.
Hats off to Morris. A 31-year-old who had one carry in 2019 and who many had assumed was simply washed out of the league for good. This was a practice squad signing in-season that many questioned. An aging back without recent success on a team that wasn’t going anywhere. Why not go for someone young? Why not add a back with more speed or versatile skill set? Another major win for the pro personnel expert Dave Gettleman.
-It was a really quiet day for the Giants receivers. Golden Tate caught all 4 of his targets for 30 yards and Sterling Shepard caught 1 of his 6 targets for a 22 yard gain. Darius Slayton saw just 1 target, which he caught for 14 yards in a big moment in the 4th quarter. When you have a backup quarterback with limited arm talent in the game, the receivers simply won’t be able to impact the game much. However, the underneath skill sets of Shepard and Tate especially can still make a difference. Slayton’s main role on this offense stems from being a deep threat and if McCoy is the one throwing the ball, opposing defenses simply won’t be as thoughtful in that regard. Not a bad game by these guys at all, just limited opportunities and if anything, they did a fine job when their number was called.
-Evan Engram: 4 rec / 32 yards
-I had a feeling Engram would be the most targeted pass catcher with McCoy under center. NYG has been trying to feature him more and more and he did get the ball thrown his way a team-high 8 times. It seems to happen nearly every week now. The broadcasters see him make a nice play, discuss how special of a talent he is, and then he makes a major mistake. Engram dropped a ball in the red zone that was tipped into a SEA defender’s hands for the interception. He dropped another pass in the 4th quarter. Both of the drops were at least somewhat caused by quality defensive plays. However, a big-time tight end needs to make those catches. The first one that led to the interception was another potential game-altering play. One positive on Engram that surprised me was how well he blocked in the second half. He had multiple key blocks when NYG got their ground game going.
-Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo were both on the field for more than 55% of the plays. That fact in combination with Engram being on the field for 77% of the plays is noteworthy. That will rank at or near the top of the league in double/triple tight end sets, respectively. This offensive game plan and halftime adjustments deserve a lot of credit. Smith had a reception for 3 yards and Toilolo didn’t see the ball once. They were on the field to help contain the fast-moving, lateral linebackers. They were both excellent in the second half.
-Andrew Thomas graded out the best we have seen this season. His rookie year has taken a turn for the best. The biggest positives I see are the more consistent anchor and hand placement once he is engaged in pass protection. He really is a powerful kid who can handle the size and strength of the NFL. He is not a guy who gets tossed around. When those hands get to where they are supposed to be and his feet are under him, he shows dominant traits.
-Cameron Fleming split snaps with Matt Peart, with the former getting more. Fleming allowed a sack but was just fine otherwise. Peart seemed a little rusty in his 15 snaps. He was off balance and inaccurate, which is understandable considering he just came back from missing a few weeks of work.
-Inside, Kevin Zeitler and Nick Gates were really physical and consistent. They both finished above average grade-wise. Shane Lemieux and Will Hernandez split snaps at left guard, with the former starting and seeing the majority. This was a tough game for the rookie, allowing 3 pressures, 1 of which led to a sack. Even though he left a lot to be desired out there as a pass blocker, Lemieux was once again effective with his run blocking efforts. He is so much quicker off the ball and is so much better with lateral adjustments in comparison to Hernandez, who also allowed a pressure. I think Hernandez may be a backup the rest of the year.
-Even though I still have this spot as the top defensive need, maybe the top overall need on the team, this crew has been over-extending themselves when it comes to their results vs. expectations. We saw more key plays in this game from this group than we have all year. Cam Brown had 2 tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 pressure in just 10 snaps. Niko Lalos had 2 tackles and a fumble recovery. Jabaal Sheard had 4 tackles, a half-sack, and 2 pressures.
-The surprise of the day, however, was Carter Coughlin. The 7th-round rookie played a season high 45 snaps and finished with 2 tackles and 3 pressures. They moved him around into multiple roles throughout the game. They sent him in as an edge rusher, as a blitzing inside linebacker, and as a spy on QB Russell Wilson. He had a key pressure on Wilson that stemmed from him not being fooled by play-action and showing closing speed to prevent Wilson from reaching the sideline on a bootleg. Outstanding game for these guys as a group.
-The debate is now closed. It is over. The trade for Leonard Williams was a major success. We are no longer looking at a guy who gets a few pressures here and there. We are no longer looking at a guy who doesn’t impact the game enough. Williams is on a different level right now. He had 5 pressures and 2.5 sacks. This is the most dominant DL performance we have seen in a long, long time. I received a text from a scout I speak with on a regular basis and he asked if this seals the deal of locking him up long term. I think Williams has a unique and rare combination of tools and skills that are an ideal fit for this scheme. Patrick Graham has learned how to use him, learned how to get him in a lot of one-on-one match-ups via scheming, and Williams is responding in a big way. My reply was, “Yes…but it may cost watching Tomlinson walk.”
-Dexter Lawrence and Dalvin Tomlinson combined for 3 tackles and Lawrence added 2 pressures. Both were actually a little weak against the run in this one. They were giving up more ground than we have been used to seeing, but they both rose up in the key situations. B.J. Hill added 1 pressure and was flagged for holding.
-Blake Martinez led the team with 10 tackles and also broke up a pass and forced a fumble. He was injured late in the game. It was a back injury that, according to media reports, won’t sideline him for any notable time. Martinez kept the glue together after a rough start.
-Tae Crowder was back out there making plays. If NYG can find a consistent play-maker to pair with Martinez inside, this defense will be on another level. So far, Crowder is proving to be a part of that discussion. He had 7 tackles, 1 pressure that led to a sack, and a sack himself. His notable trait is quality open-field tackling. It stems from his twitch and speed that a lot of the other inside linebackers just do not have. And that does not come at the expense of his contact strength and presence. He really has been an ideal fit for this defense and has a role to play.
-James Bradberry had 7 tackles, 1 PD, and 1 forced fumble. The match-up against D.K. Metcalf was one I was looking forward to. If I had to pick a winner, it is going to Bradberry by a thin margin. This is the kind of WR who he does well against; one who works with size, straight lines, and long speed. Bradberry can handle that well while also proving to be ball-savvy and a true play-maker. Metcalf did drop a ball (more on that below) but when these two were truly matched up one-on-one, Bradberry contained him.
-Darnay Holmes and his physical, aggressive, fast brand continued to both help and hurt the defense. He did have 5 tackles and an interception, while simply adding physical a presence to the secondary. He plays a man’s game. The glaring negative was similar to what we saw last week. Holmes was flagged for holding on a 3rd-and-15 stop in the 4th quarter while SEA was mounting their comeback attempt. The next play? A SEA touchdown. His mistakes are coming at the worst time.
-Isaac Yiadom had 4 tackles and 2 pass break ups, one of which was a high-level play in the end zone in the first quarter.
-The trio-safety group of Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan, and Julian Love have hit a really nice stride. And to think that arguably the most talented (but unproven) player in the group itself, Xavier McKinney, only saw 6 defensive snaps. The fact that he could add a boost to the unit in the coming weeks is a great sign.
-Similar to Leonard Williams, the unique and versatile skill set of Jabrill Peppers has been figured out by Patrick Graham. He is now regularly making quality plays. He had 5 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 pass break ups. Peppers was also the most physical player on the defense and he made it known on a few occasions. He did get beat on the Chris Carson reception for a touchdown, but he also broke up a 3rd-down pass into the end zone.
-K Graham Gano: 1/1 (Made 48). Gano also missed one extra point for the first time this year.
-P Riley Dixon: 6 punts / 43.5 avg / 32.7 net
-DT Leonard Williams, RB Wayne Gallman, OT Andrew Thomas
-LG Shane Lemieux, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, TE Evan Engram
3 THOUGHTS ON SEA
- Wide Receiver D.K. Metcalf is the freak athlete in a league full of freak athletes. He really has blossomed/broken out in his sophomore season. The league leader in receiving yards also ranks third in yards per catch and he ranks fifth with 9 touchdowns. However, just how good is he? I think far too many are too quick to label him a top-shelf receiver. He leads the league with 9 drops. He has caught 64% of his targets (120th in the NFL), and he still has significant issues as a route runner. Metcalf was picked 64th overall in the 2019 Draft (partially because of neck injury concerns) but many said it was the steal of the draft. There were many enamored with his size and speed, and yes, some even thought he was really good because of what he looked like with his shirt off. This is where I stand with Metcalf: he is a Terrell Owens-type weapon who will force a defense to really plan around him. He can take over a game. He can change an offense. However, similar to Engram, I can’t consider him elite if he continues to drop this many passes. I just can’t get there on him.
- I love to track the SEA team building process every year. They move around via trade on draft weekend as much as anyone. They trade for players nearly every year. They get aggressive in free agency. They take calculated chances on players with both health and character issues. Why does it work so well? They have a culture there and it comes from the top. Whether or not you like Pete Carroll, that was a notable attribute to his coaching skill set right away. NFL players are not robots. They are real people just like you and I. The culture is absolutely vital to sustained success in this league and It should make NYG fans feel encouraged.
- SEA is 8-4 with games left against NYJ, WAS, LAR, and SF. Despite this loss vs NYG, I think they are on the right track to win 10 games. Their defense has completely turned things around I still consider them a top 5 offense in the NFL. This would make it their 8th 10-win season in 9 years, a commendable stat. Sustained success in the league is really tough to achieve. And even though they have had so many ups and downs with personnel on both sides of the ball in recent years, it all comes down to the QB. If you have someone truly elite back there combined with a quality coach and front office, you truly have a credible shot every year.
- Defense, defense, defense. It is back. Going to SEA and allowing just 327 yards (3rd-lowest of the season for them), allowing just 12 points (their lowest since December 17, 2017) was the sign I was looking for when I questioned just how legit this defense can be down the stretch. They did not just contain Wilson and the team’s high-powered offense, they completely dominated. The pass rush, the secondary, the physical nature, the forced turnovers…everything was there.
- It will be really interesting to see how this coaching staff handles the offensive line down the stretch. These next 4 games will dictate whether or not NYG plays in the postseason and the margin for error is really small, as WAS pulled off the upset in PIT and is trending up. Will they continue to rotate at LG and RT? Or has this been a trial to see who really are the best players and will those players now receive all of the snaps? Will Hernandez seems to be a thing of the past already and Cameron Fleming continues to be the weak link who hurts the offense every game.
- Next up is a home game against ARI, a team that has lost 4 of their last 5 with their only win over that stretch coming from the Hail Mary pass from Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins. This will be another tough test for the NYG defense, as Murray just presents a lot of different issues and scoring points hasn’t been an problem for them since Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury took over. They are banged up on defense and have allowed 28+ points 5 of their past 6 games and they are most vulnerable against the run. Wayne Gallman should be able to keep his momentum going.