Los Angeles Rams 17 – New York Giants 9
After being embarrassed by the Niners JV team at home in Week 3, the 0-3 Giants were back on the road, flying across country to play in the brand new, stunning stadium that hosts both the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers. Their opponent was the former coming in after a 2-1 start where they averaged 30 points per game. The Giants, on the other hand, came in with the last-ranked offense in the league and having not won an out-of-division road game since mid-November of 2018.
This one began right where the abysmal performance last week ended. NYG began with the ball and ran three plays: a drop, a sack, and passing play that lost 7 yards. The Rams then nickel-and-dimed their way up the field via a 12-play drive with little-to-no resistance from the Giants defense. Tight end Gerald Everett scored on a 2-yard touchdown run and the Rams had the quick lead that they never let go of.
The NYG offensive line got absolutely pummeled on the next drive, with Andrew Thomas and Kevin Zeitler being the main culprits. They punted following a 3rd-and-27 play that netted 8 yards. On the very first play of the Rams ensuing drive, Everett caught a short pass over the middle and had the ball jarred loose by the pursuing defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, which was recovered by cornerback James Bradberry. NYG began the drive on the LAR 34-yard line. They did get into the red zone but a 2-yard loss on a passing play followed by a Zeitler false start put them in 3rd-and-long on their final play of the drive for the third time in as many drives. Fortunately, because of the starting field position, NYG was still able to put 3 points on the board via a 35-yard field goal by Graham Gano.
The Rams went three-and-out on their next drive, but then so did NYG. The Giants line continued to look overmatched, allowing two straight sacks. The Rams then went on another long drive, this one 15 plays, to put up another 3 points on the board. Their running game started to take over a bit but a theme we saw from the NYG defense for the rest of the afternoon arose on this drive. The Rams got to 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard line but the following three plays netted -10 yards. They settled for a 32-yard field goal to make it 10-3. The Giants then ended the half with a quality, clock-efficient drive that saw them convert 3-out-of-3 third-down conversions. Gano put a 37 yarder through the uprights and they were down just 4 points at halftime despite gaining just 67 net yards in the first half.
As ugly as it has been this season and as much as I have a personal belief into not putting a lot of credit on moral victories, we saw something positive happen early in the second half. As NYG stopped the Rams and on their first offensive drive, a fight broke out between center Nick Gates and LAR star defensive tackle (and arguably the top defensive player in the NFL) Aaron Donald. It wasn’t a push and a shove. It wasn’t just trash talk. These two were going at it pretty aggressively. Gates, a third-year undrafted free agent who wouldn’t start on nearly any team in the league against Donald, a perennial All Pro and Defensive Player of the Year candidate. It struck some extra life into the Giants on both sides of the ball. No, there wasn’t a dramatic touchdown at the end of this drive (NYG made it to the LAR 43 and punted) but there was a different feel to both sides of the ball after that scuffle.
Two drives later, NYG made their way into the red zone but a string of positive plays was cancelled out by an illegal formation and false start penalty, respectively. They had to settle for another field goal, this one from 27, to make it a one-point game. NYG had all of the momentum and this one appeared it would come down to the field position game and which offense could come up with the big play. NYG then forced another 3-and-out but came up short on their own next offensive drive even though Wayne Gallman’s longest run of his career (26 yards) got them to midfield.
The Rams began their next drive with just under 10 minutes left, and on 3rd-and-3 from their own 45-yard line, the solid Giants defense had a break in coverage. Cooper Kupp made his way up the seam with nobody covering the deep middle. Goff found him and Kupp made his way into the end zone thanks to the miscommunication and a badly missed tackle by Bradberry. This was the big play I talked about someone needing. It was 17-9 with about 7 minutes left.
The Giants had two possessions left. They made it into LAR territory both times, but two inaccurate Jones’ throws ended both drives. The first one was on a 4th-and-11 where he air-mailed one to Golden Tate. The second one was a forced 2nd-and-5 pass with one minute left that ended up in the arms of LAR corner Darious Williams. Jones had an easy first down run in front of him but he made the wrong decision and it cost them a shot at tying it up.
NYG loses, 17-9.
–Daniel Jones: 23-36 / 190 yards / 0 TD-1 INT / 65.7 RAT
Jones was once again the team leader in rushing with 45 yards (Gallman also added 45 yards). It was a brave effort for Jones, notably in the second half. He made some big plays with his legs and had NYG won this game, it would be discussed more. After a full career of watching an immobile quarterback in Eli Manning, this is a new way to gain yards for this team. Is it better? Or will it end up being better? Jones is still very late to see things and he wasn’t doing the offensive line any favors in the first half with how long he was holding onto the ball. 177 of Jones’ total yards came in the second half but we still aren’t seeing him make much happen with his arm in relation to downfield and/or big-time throws. He scrambled his way to his biggest plays which in a simple world means just as much as making plays through the air. But how sustainable is that? Quarterbacks need to be throwers first and second, and a runner third (unless your name is Lamar Jackson). Right now, Jones is overly reliant on scrambling and this team needs to hope that doesn’t become the crutch he constantly relies upon.
-Devonta Freeman and Wayne Gallman appear to be the ideal 1-2 punch this team needs to move forward with. They combined for 78 yards on 17 carries. There isn’t anything spectacular about that but Gallman had the biggest run of the day (also the second longest gain for NYG) and Freeman earned some tough yards. Freeman ran with more confidence in this game and as I said last week, I expect him to hit full stride after another game. He started to show some extra bounce and pop in the second half. I am excited to see how far he can take it.
-Dion Lewis was on the field for more snaps than Gallman but I think that has more to do with this coaching staff trusting him more in pass protection. He did have a nice 10-yard gain for a first down to convert a 3rd-and-10. In terms of upside and this team actually scoring touchdowns, however, Gallman gives them more hope.
-Golden Tate caught four passes for only 20 yards. Jones missed him badly on two occasions. Darius Slayton led the team with 48 yards but caught just 3 balls. 33 of those yards came on one play, the vast majority of which were after the catch. He was a non-factor most of the afternoon and was clearly overmatched by the LAR outside corners, Troy Hill and Jalen Ramsey. Damion Ratley added 34 yards on 3 catches and C.J. Board dropped his lone target.
-This offense is starving for more talent at wide receiver. Tate is an underneath threat only who will occasionally make a play with his feet after the catch, and Slayton has been badly exposed over the past 3 weeks.
-Evan Engram opened the game with a drop. He ended up with 35 yards on 6 catches, leading the team with 10 targets. It seems to me that every week we see Engram’s elite physical tool flash just to be disappointed by the fact that he simply he isn’t a very good football player. Perhaps he can thrive in the right scheme and situation, but it has been a maddening to follow him throughout his rookie contract. Engram also allowed a half-sack and was the reason for another TFL, even though it wasn’t his man who made the actual tackle.
-Kaden Smith added a catch for 10 yards, playing about a third of the snaps. He was flagged for a false start in the first half as well. Is Smith a better TE than Engram simply because you know what you’re getting and he will be much cheaper against the cap? He runs like has cement blocks attaches to his feet, however, and his blocking isn’t dominant or anything close to it. This really has evolved into a position of weakness.
-The first half may have been the worst offensive line showing we have seen in years, and that is really saying something. This group got pummeled and rookie Andrew Thomas was a main culprit. Thomas tied for the worst grade I’ve given to the position since I started charting the NYG offensive line. He allowed 2.5 sacks, 2 pressures, and allowed a TFL. The most alarming truth about it? It was different guys who kept beating him. Sometimes a pass rusher simply has a specific blocker’s number. Not this time. Thomas was getting beat by multiple guys as if they were taking turns against him, knowing that was the easy access point. He did play better in the second half but there is no denying the fact he just isn’t sustaining good contact.
-Sticking with the negatives, Kevin Zeitler had a negative grade. He allowed a TFL, 1 pressure, and was flagged for a false start. Four weeks in and I will go on record now saying he is now a shell of what he used to be and the end may be closer than we thought for him. He just doesn’t get the knee bend and he just doesn’t shift laterally like he used to.
-As for the positives, Nick Gates and Will Hernandez did a fine job containing Aaron Donald when they faced off against him. I’ve been vocal about Gates and his poor play that has led to the inside running game woes. I will say this, however: his level of play has improved weekly. At the end of the day, that is all you want to see from a young player who is playing a new position. Is he the answer long term? My guess is no. However, I do think he can be valuable as a versatile backup. Hernandez and right tackle Cam Fleming each allowed a pressure but were graded above average as run blockers. They also seemed to turn it up a notch after the Gates-Donald fight.
-It was a really quiet day by the edge group, the biggest weakness on this team by far. Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, and Markus Golden were on the field for a combined 72 plays. They combined for 1 pressure, 1 tackle, and 2 assists. Ouch.
-The Giants held the Rams to a season low 240 total yards and 58 rushing yards. In fact, only three teams have held the Rams that low since the start of Sean McVay’s tenure as Head Coach in 2017. The 2019 Ravens (4th-ranked NFL defense), the 2019 Niners (2nd-ranked NFL defense), and the 2018 Bears (1st-ranked NFL defense). It really was an admirable effort and it was led by Dexter Lawrence. LAR averaged 2.5 yards per carry largely because of how well he played. He had 6 tackles, 2 TFL, and a QB hit. Re-watching the game, it was clear just how dominant he was.
-Leonard Williams was active against the run, finishing with 5 tackles and he has Lawrence to thank for a few of them. Williams was neutralized as a pass rusher, however. He gave NYG nothing there in this one.
-Anthony Johnson made a big impact on the game despite only playing 13 snaps (23%). He had a sack and a forced fumble on a good hustle play that was recovered by NYG and led to their first 3 points of the day. Dalvin Tomlinson had 2 tackles, 1 TFL, and a pass deflection.
-Best game of the year so far for Kyler Fackrell. Remember, this guy had 10 sacks just two years ago. He had 4 tackles, 2 TFL, and 1 sack. He really is an ideal fit for the BUCK linebacker position, a spot that can be used as an edge defender as well as an extra inside linebacker. Really hard player to find and he fits that role like a glove. He came up with a big game after coming up short last week against SF.
-Blake Martinez continues to fly around and pile up the tackles. You know he is good when making 13 tackles, 1 for a loss, simply seems routine. Martinez made the right decision to get on a defense that has this kind of presence along the defensive line. He goes untouched often, knows when to pounce, and he is a true finisher. Watching him play just reinforces the notion that the team has been lacking at linebacker for far too long.
-Tae Crowder saw the first action of his NFL career. After Devante Downs, who has struggled, missed a tackle on the first drive, Crowder came on the field and it was easy to see how much faster he is. He had 2 tackles and was mere inches away from an interception. He out-snapped Downs 33-3. I think it is safe to say we have a new, young linebacker to watch in the coming months.
-James Bradberry had a good game in coverage and he did recover a first quarter fumble that led to 3 points for NYG. However, he missed a tackle on the 4th quarter Cooper Kupp touchdown that made it an 8-point game. In addition, he did a poor job setting the edge against the run on a couple of occasions.
-Corey Ballentine didn’t see one snap at cornerback. Ryan Lewis stepped in as the main man on the outside opposite of Bradberry and had a solid game. Like Isaac Yiadom, he gives a ton of cushion which LAR took advantage of on 3rd down a couple times. Darnay Holmes remained at nickel and had an uneventful day, but he did struggle to set the edge on 2 runs.
-Logan Ryan and Adrian Colbert played the majority of the snaps at safety. They did a nice job defending the deep ball, as Goff wanted to go downfield a few times but they locked things up right away.
-Julian Love saw a decrease in snaps and he was the likely guilty culprit on the Kupp touchdown where it was clear there was a coverage breakdown. I can’t say for sure but looking at what everyone else was doing on the defense, I think it was Love who guessed wrong.
-K Graham Gano: 3/3 (Made 35, 37, 27)
-P Riley Dixon: 5 punts / 43.2 avg / 40.0 net
-DT Dexter Lawrence, LB Kyler Fackrell, LB Blake Martinez
-OT Andrew Thomas, OG Kevin Zeitler, S Julian Love
3 THOUGHTS ON LAR
- When you really break down the LAR offense, it is amazing how simple the concepts are. They really don’t do much to try and trick you and there are elements to it that are woefully predictable. It is refreshing to watch, really. It comes down to simple execution and the offensive line doing their job.
- If there is one weakness to this team that is going to prevent them from getting back to their 2018 form, it is that offensive line. It is an under-manned group full of average players but lacking a guy who can consistently win one on one. Even Andrew Whitworth, a likely Hall of Famer, has lost some of his juice. They’ve put a lot of mid-round draft resources into the group and they are “good enough” to get the job done and they have quality depth. However, I think they need one more stud there and it will be tough to acquire because of how much money they have tied up elsewhere.
- LAR has gone against the grain a bit in terms of how they are building their roster. Jared Goff has the 3rd-highest QB cap number, Aaron Donald has highest DT cap number, Jalen Ramsey has the highest CB cap number. It is great to be able to hold onto all of them but that is going to put a ton of pressure on their drafting in the coming years. That will make or break the success of this team in the next 5 years.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
- We are 16 games into Daniel Jones career. You can’t call it “one season” because he has had 2 offseason programs with the team. If the Giants keep losing and he keeps turning the ball over, the ongoing discussion will be whether or not you give up on a quarterback if Trevor Lawrence is there for the taking. I think it is too soon to go down that path but let’s take a look at how he and Eli Manning stack up after 16 games. It may shed some light on the need for understanding patience and realizing the turmoil of this team over the past 3-4 seasons may be unfairly dampening your view on Jones himself. Remember, just wait until the end of the year to even think about what NYG will do at the position.
- Jones: 375- 608 (61.7%) / 3,916 yds (6.4 y/a) / 26 TD – 17 INT / 21 fumbles / 82.9 RAT
- Manning: 251-503 (50%) / 3,145 yds (6.2 y/a) / 21 TD – 18 INT / 3 fumbles / 68.7 RAT
- In this weeks version of, “We still have a chance…” I steer the bus down the divisional road. This is where the season really starts for NYG. I don’t think it is any secret that 7-8 wins for any team in this division will be good enough to create meaningful football in November and December. The division games are always more important but when you know nobody is going to run away with it, they are even more so. DAL has 1 win. WAS has 1 win. PHI has 1 win. Five of NYG’s next six games are against the NFC East. This is THE stretch of the season.
- Every year I wait four weeks before I start to put significant labels on teams. I always feel the NFL media and fans are way too knee-jerk with their reactions. Humans tend to lack confidence in expressing their own opinions, therefore causing people to exaggerate in the hopes that others will listen to them. Through four weeks, I think you can really gain a pulse on the teams and put together a credible forecast. My feeling for NYG is a young team that will give different players and different groupings a shot each week with the idea that a few will show they belong here in the coming years. Are they trying to win? Sure. However, I think Judge cares much more about this team’s long-term plans. He wants to know who can help this team in 2021. I say this because, I don’t think fans should be stressing about wins and losses as much as they have during the final years of Manning’s career. Yes, it is hard to watch at times and the “you never know” mantra lives on, but I would challenge some of you to watch the game through the different light. Look for things that will help next year (example from this game being DT Lawrence / LB Crowder / LB Martinez).