Oct 072019
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (October 6, 2019)

Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings 28 – New York Giants 10

QUICK RECAP

The former division foe Kirk Cousins returned to MetLife Stadium, this time as a member of the 2-2 Minnesota Vikings. Cousins, who came in with a 3-5 career record against NYG, has always feasted on poor defenses and non-playoff teams. The Giants, a non-playoff team with the 25th-ranked defense, entered the game without their top three inside linebackers and a starting outside linebacker in addition to Saquon Barkley still being sidelined by an ankle injury. With the Eli Manning era in the rear view mirror, hopes were that the results against MIN would change, as he was 3-6 with a 56.1 QBR against them, the lowest QBR of any team he ever faced.

For the first time all season, NYG did not score on their opening drive. They were up against the 6th-ranked defense in the NFL, by far the stiffest test of Daniel Jones’ inaugural season. That defense gave Jones and the offense multiple opportunities to make something happen but, as was the case all afternoon, Big Blue did not capitalize. In addition to the initial “0” on the scoreboard, running back Wayne Gallman jogged off the field after a violent hit to the head. It ended his game, leaving just UDFA Jon Hilliman and fullback Elijhaa Penny remaining in the backfield.

Already up 3-0, MIN got the ball back and picked up chunk gains en route to an 11-play, touchdown-scoring drive. They barely broke a sweat, as the defense forced a 3rd down only two times, the second of which resulted in a 15-yard pass from Cousins to Adam Thielen for the 6 points.

Thanks to a 52-yard kick return by rookie Corey Ballentine, NYG began their next drive at midfield and it took just 5 plays to reach the end zone. A picture-perfect pass and a picture-perfect catch from rookie Daniel Jones to rookie Darius Slayton on a 35-yard ball that beat one of the better corners in the NFL, Xavier Rhodes, put this game at 10-7. The crowd got back into it and the team was showing some of the fight they put in display in their previous two weeks, both wins.

MIN was stuffed on 3rd-and-6 on the ensuing drive via a sack by Dexter Lawrence and Markus Golden, however an illegal contact penalty called on Janoris Jenkins gave MIN new life and they were able to march into field goal range and re-take the lead, 13-7. MIN drove the ball deep into NYG territory on their next possession but on that drive, MIN running back Dalvin Cook fumbled twice. The first time resulted in no damage but the second one, just a few yards shy of the end zone, was recovered by Tuzar Skipper. NYG was gaining momentum but they had to start their drive on their own 1-yard line.

Head Coach Pat Shurmur opted to try and get some breathing room via the inside run, something we all knew wasn’t going to be very productive today. MIN, as they did all afternoon, aggressively sent multiple defenders up the inside lanes and it was Anthony Barr who leaked through and put Hilliman on the ground almost immediately after he got the ball. The play resulted in a safety and NYG was down 15-7. They soon put up another 3 points after another rather easy drive into NYG territory. The MIN offense was doing whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, however they wanted against the NYG defense. MIN took a commanding 18-7 lead into the half. While it was only 11 points, MIN had out-gained NYG 351-92 to this point. Those 351 yards were the second most by any team in the first half of a game all year across the league.

MIN had two big penalties on the opening NYG offensive drive in the second half. A horse collar tackle by Rhodes after a 12-yard completion to Slayton put NYG into MIN territory. Later, on a 27-yard field goal attempt, former Giant Linval Joseph roughed up snapper Zak DeOssie, giving the Giants a fresh slate of downs at the 5-yard line. The offensive line started to fully crumble at this point, as center Jon Halapio was flagged for a hold and Mike Remmers allowed a sack. It was yet another opportunity missed. NYG ended up settling for a 32-yard field goal by Rosas, making the score 18-10.

MIN needed just 5 plays, again, to get into the end zone as Cousins found Thielen for another score, making it 25-10. Thanks to three separate MIN penalties that gave NYG three first downs, NYG found themselves just a few yards away from the end zone. They had two shots at it from inside the 5-yard line but it resulted in 0 points. The score remained 25-10 as the fourth quarter began. If you’re keeping track, that is two straight possessions where NYG had a combined 8 plays from inside the MIN 10 yard line an they netted 3 points total in that span.

After a quick stop, NYG got the ball inside the MIN 30-yard line again and once again, NYG walked away with 0 points. With time starting to dwindle and the MIN running game continuing to gain what they needed when they needed, 5 more minutes came off the clock and 3 more points when up next to the “MIN” on the scoreboard.

It was 28-10 and the Giants offense had to really start forcing things. Their next drive didn’t last long, as Jones was intercepted for the first time of the day by Barr, the same player that made the tackle that resulted in the safety early on. MIN bled the clock out and that was it.

NYG loses 28-10.

QUARTERBACK

-Daniel Jones: 21/38 – 182 yards – 1 TD / 1 INT. Jones also gained 12 yards on the ground via 3 carries. After two starts against bottom-third defenses, we knew Jones was going to have his handful against the Mike Zimmer-led defense that entered the game #6 in the NFL. In addition, play caller Pat Shurmur worked under Zimmer prior to accepting the job here in NY, thus there had to have been a little extra forecasting going on. That is exactly what seemed to be the case, as MIN had a quick and aggressive response for Jones in almost every situation. He didn’t have a lot of space to work with in the pocket and the timing of things just wasn’t there. Jones missed Sterling Shepard two times on plays that should have been touchdowns and he took a sack on 4th-and-goal from the 3-yard line. This was a necessary experience for Jones and in a series full of “first times”, just add this one to the list in addition to the upcoming short week.

RUNNING BACK

Jon Hilliman: 9 att / 20 yards – 1 rec / 4 yards. Hilliman took over the first string running back spot once Wayne Gallman went down with a concussion. Hilliman, who did not earn a 53-man roster job at the end of training camp. Hilliman, who was the number three rusher on a 1-11 Rutgers team in 2018. That was the presence in the backfield behind Jones against a top tier NFL defense. It went as well as expected, as he never posed as a threat and averaged 2.2 yards per carry.

-Wayne Gallman left early with a concussion and I would bet my bottom dollar he will be out this week against NE because of the short rest. Elijhaa Penny, a fullback who has a few running back traits, finished with 15 yards on 3 carries in addition to a 4-yard catch. I’m sure NYG will bring in a back this week for depth purposes, but I project Penny to be pretty involved.

WIDE RECEIVER

-Darius Slayton: 4 rec / 62 yards / 1 TD. Slayton and Jones have an obvious connection and it put up the early 7 points for NYG. His development this season will be very important for next year, as he figures to be a key component to the future passing game. Slayton only saw 5 targets but he made the most of them. I like the ability to push the secondary but he is also proving to be more than just a deep guy. His routes and awareness near the sidelines look good.

-Sterling Shepard had 5 catches for 49 yards on 10 targets but his stat line could have been so much stronger if Jones had hit his spots. Shepard was getting open up and down the field against man coverage all afternoon but he just couldn’t get on the same page as Jones.

-In Golden Tate’s first game in a Giants uniform, he caught the first pass of the game and went into hiding for the majority of the contest after. He finished with 3 rec / 13 yards while playing two-thirds of the team’s snaps. I wouldn’t say he looked rusty but he didn’t look like the Tate I have seen in the past. This was also a tough game to evaluate, as the passing game just didn’t reach a flow consistently.

TIGHT END

-Evan Engram: 6 rec / 42 yards. Engram once again led the team in targets, this time with 11. He is the most dangerous threat on this offense when Barkley isn’t out there and MIN did a great job containing him. He saw a lot of bracket coverage besides routes into the flat. Engram had a drop and was manhandled twice in the running game in addition to being flagged for a hold. The MIN defensive ends are as physical and powerful as it gets and these are guys Engram just won’t be able to compete against. Engram had 2 balls that hit his hands that he didn’t bring in. I did not label them drops, but big-time players have to make those plays.

-In a game where NYG basically gave up on running the ball, Rhett Ellison’s impact was minimal.

OFFENSIVE LINE

-Bad day overall for this group. MIN has a formidable defensive front, a position group I would rank in the top 5 across the league. Mike Zimmer also dialed up a lot of complex blitzes and stunts and the lack of chemistry along the OL with a rookie QB was exposed.

-Nate Solder and Mike Remmers couldn’t seal the edge nor could they anchor their positions. Solder was flagged for 2 holds and also allowed a pressure and a sack. Remmers allowed 2 pressures and a sack but actually graded out worse of the two, as his inability to hold the point-of-attack made things really tight for Jones to work within the pocket. While he has been an upgrade over what NYG dealt with in recent years (Bobby Hart / Chad Wheeler), Remmers has been a let down so far.

-The interior wasn’t much better. In fact, if you’re Kevin Zeitler and Jon Halapio, you graded out worse than both the tackles. There were multiple miscommunications between the two, as they were visibly frustrated with each other after a couple passing plays where MIN generated pressure and on the safety where LB Anthony Barr ran straight through their gap to make the tackle. Zeitler allowed a pressure, a TFL, and had an allowed sack cancelled by a questionable illegal contact penalty by MIN. Halapio constantly got minimal to no push in the running game and was flagged for a penalty for illegally going downfield too early on a screen. Will Hernandez allowed 2 pressures and a sack as well.

EDGE

-With no Lorenzo Carter in the picture, it was Tuzar Skipper and Oshane Ximines playing opposite of Markus Golden. Skipper and Ximines were both overwhelmed against the outside running game and it helped create the space for Dalvin Cook to really get going. When that guy reaches space, he is near-unstoppable. Skipper and Ximines got picked on in this one and offered near-nothing as pass rushers.

-Golden had 5 tackles and a sack with 2 pressures. He has been a steady outside presence and also made a couple physical hits in the running game. His is getting more and more nimble as the weeks go which tells me his confidence in growing.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

-Dexter Lawrence had a sack nullified by a holding penalty in the secondary but he recorded one in the fourth quarter. He had 5 tackles in addition along with a forced fumble and looks like he may be the best player on the entire defense.

-Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill were a tough evaluation in this one. MIN employs a zone-blocking scheme where they really get guys moving laterally. Both seemed to struggle against it, as they were on skates multiple times and ended up creating massive cutback lanes for the MIN backs. Hill did record 5 tackles and he forced Cousins into quick decisions as a passer a few times, but Tomlinson’s lack if impact continues.

-R.J. McIntosh had a sack and a pressure from his 3-4 DE role. He can shoot the gap well and should factor more and more on passing downs throughout the season.

LINEBACKERS

-No Alec Ogletree. No Tae Davis. No Ryan Connelly. Upon further review of the defense’s horrid performance, much of it can be attributed to the lack of impact along the second level. I respect the grit and hustle that both David Mayo and Nate Stupar bring to the table but this got ugly fast. Neither were filling lanes which allowed the OL to reach them 3-5 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. At that point, the lanes are wide open for the running backs and with a head full of steam, that is nearly impossible to stop. Both were concrete blocks against the lateral-route passing game MIN had success with all game as well. This is going to be a problem as long as these two are in there.

-Josiah Tauaefa got his first NFL regular season action after being called up from the practice squad. He responded with 3 tackles, including 2 TFL. Don’t sleep on this kid, as he led NYG in tackles during preseason and he shows more downhill presence as a run defender.

CORNERBACK

-Janoris Jenkins and Deandre Baker did an OK job defending the outside. Both, however, were awful against the run. Jenkins had 2 missed tackles and Baker had 1 himself. They were both part of the horrid secondary tackling stemming from poor angles and poor technique. Baker still lacks confidence, as he is too-often falling in coverage and tripping over his own feet. He fell to the ground on an Adam Thielen touchdown where he could have been in position to break up the pass had he not. He was also flagged for a taunting penalty when NYG was holding on for dear life. A free 15 yards from the rook.

-Grant Haley was torched in this one. He allowed a touchdown to Thielen and continues to show he has no ability to defend downfield passes and routes. The turnaround speed isn’t there and the lack of size exposes a lack of ability to make up for getting beat off the ball.

SAFETY

-Even though Antoine Bethea led the team with 11 tackles and a few of those were very high quality, his lack of speed and twitch is hurting this defense on a weekly basis. The 35-year old took a couple of awful angles at Dalvin Cook and was promptly burned for it.

-Jabrill Peppers saw some more LB-type action in this one and that is one of the positives he brings to a defense. He is effective in multiple roles. He had 5 tackles, a TFL, and a forced fumble on a Dalvin Cook run that would have put MIN inside the NYG 5 yard line with a fresh slate of downs. He got beat across the middle on a couple crossing routes, however.

-Sean Chandler saw some action in this one (10 plays) and ended up missing 2 tackles and allowing a 3rd-down conversion where his lack of presence and aggression caused the chains to move. Hesitation and poor tackling, not a good combination for that position.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-K Aldrick Rosas: 1/1 (Made 32).

-P Riley Dixon: 3 punts – 44.7 avg / 33.0 net.

3 STUDS

-WR Darius Slayton, S Jabrill Peppers, DT Dexter Lawrence

3 DUDS

-OG Kevin Zeitler, LB Nate Stupar, CB Grant Haley

3 THOUGHTS ON MIN.

  1. I have picked MIN to win the NFC North for 4 straight years. In 2016 they finished 3rd, in 2017 they finished 1st, in 2018 they finished 2nd, and right now they are currently 3rd. They are one of the most inconsistent teams in the league and what I mean by that is, when this team is on they can beat anybody and I mean that. Their defense is strong on every level and they have one of the best RB/WR combinations in the league. Shaky QB play and an inconsistent OL has held them back but it looks like they are on the verge of turning both of those corners. If they do, I think they can be considered a legit Super Bowl contender.
  1. Anthony Barr has long-been one of my favorite defenders in the league. How many guys that measure 6’5/255 can play in coverage like does? But also rush the passer with a developed skill set? And then also explode downhill and drive a running back through the ground? MIN was smart to sign him long term and even though he doesn’t always blow up the stat sheet, the amount of things he can do at a high level in one game week to week is rare.
  1. MIN has been one of the better drafting teams in the NFL, particularly on defense. It is amazing how hitting on these high picks can make your team competitive year in, year out. Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, Shamar Stephen, Antony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Ben Gedeon, Trae Waynes, Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, Mike Hughes….go find me a team with a better homegrown defense than that. You won’t.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

  1. There were a number of signs in this game that this team isn’t ready to compete. NYG had several opportunities to take advantage of MIN mistakes, but they did not. They had two straight possessions where they had a combined 8 plays inside the MIN 10-yard line. That netted NYG 3 total points. MIN left Sterling Shepard all alone for a touchdown on 2 occasions and they did not result in any touchdowns. MIN got penalized 12 times (5 of which resulted in NYG 1st downs) while NYG was penalized just 5 times. All these should have at least made this a game because good teams capitalize on mistakes made my the opposition and NYG walked out of this one with…10 points. Not good. Not ready.
  1. Let’s not start this “sky is falling” mindset when thinking about this team. My thought that these guys will be sub .500 squad has never wavered. Sure, things can happen and we still want them to “go for it”. But in all reality there are holes all over the place and when NYG has faced off against quality opponents, they haven’t gotten the job done. They are a few steps behind and much of this year will be about finding the guys who will be the nucleus for years to come.
  1. Whether or not Saquon Barkley dresses for the game Thursday night, NYG needs to bring in another body for the backfield. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Penny get the majority carries but there needs to be more security for a running game.
Oct 062019
 
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Sterling Shepard, New York Giants (October 6, 2019)

Sterling Shepard could not hold onto this pass in the end zone – © USA TODAY Sports

MINNESOTA VIKINGS 28 – NEW YORK GIANTS 10…
The Minnesota Vikings soundly defeated the New York Giants 28-10 on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. With the loss, the Giants fall to 2-3 on the season.

New York entered the game with injury issues at running back and linebacker. Running back Saquon Barkley (ankle), linebacker Ryan Connelly (Injured Reserve – knee), linebacker Alec Ogletree (hamstring), linebacker Tae Davis (concussion), and linebacker Lorenzo Carter (neck) did not play. Worse, the Giants lost running back Wayne Gallman (concussion) in the 1st quarter. The Vikings were able to exploit these absences. The Vikings also both lines of scrimmage.

Minnesota took control of the game early, controlling the ball and the clock for 12 of 15 minutes in the 1st quarter, en route to an early 10-0 lead. Shoddy coverage tackling did not help. First, the Vikings drove 62  yards in 11 plays, settling for a 31-yard field goal. After the first Giants’ possession stalled at the Minnesota 39-yard line, the Vikings then embarrassingly drove 98 yards in 11 plays, with quarterback Kirk Cousins throwing a 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Adam Thielen on 3rd-and-4 on the first play of the second quarter, beating cornerback Grant Haley. At this point in the game, Cousins was 9-of-10 for 119 yards.

Cornerback Corey Ballentine sparked the Giants on the ensuing kickoff by returning the ball 52 yards to midfield. Five plays later, quarterback Daniel Jones threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Darius Slayton. New York had cut the lead to 10-7.

The Vikings scored points again on their third possession, this time moving the ball 45 yards in eight plays to set up a 48-yard field goal to extend the lead to 13-7.

After the Giants punted the ball away on their third possession, the Vikings drove from their 20-yard line to the New York 24-yard line. On 2nd-and-6, running back Dalvin Cook broke off a 19-yard run, but safety Jabrill Peppers stripped him of the football at the 5-yard line. Linebacker Tuzar Skipper recovered the loose ball at the 1-yard line. However, on the very next offensive snap, running back Jon Hilliman was tackled in the end zone for a safety. The Vikings now led 15-7.

After the free kick, the Vikings extended their lead to 18-7 with a 32-yard field goal after a 9-play, 49-yard drive. Other than the fumble at the 5-yard line, Minnesota scored on their four other first-half possessions. On the other hand, New York’s five first-half possessions resulted in one touchdown, a Minnesota safety, and three punts. The Vikings held the ball for over 20 minutes in the first half.

The Giants began the third quarter with a marathon 15-play, 61-yard drive that unfortunately only resulted in a 32-yard field goal despite the Giants facing both 1st-and-goal from the 6-yard line and 1st-and-goal from the 5-yard line. That field goal represented New York’s last points of the day.

The Vikings then responded with a devastating 5-play, 67-yard drive that ended with a 9-yard touchdown from Cousins to Thielen again, this time beating cornerback Deandre Baker. Minnesota now led 25-10 with just under five minutes to go in the 3rd quarter.

New York threatened to score a touchdown again on their second drive of the half, reaching the Minnesota 3-yard line. But on 4th-and-2, Jones was sacked for a 9-yard loss at the end of the 3rd quarter.

After a three-and-out, the Giants drove into Vikings’ territory again, but turned the ball over on downs after a 4th-and-12 incomplete pass from the Minnesota 27-yard line. The Vikings then added another field goal, from 45 yards out, after gaining 46 yards on nine plays. With just over four minutes to play, the Vikings held a commanding 28-10 lead.

New York’s last possession ended on 4th-and-2 when Jones was intercepted. Minnesota then ran out the clock.

New York’s offense only gained 211 yards, 147 net passing yards and 64 net rushing yards. Worse, the Giants were 0-for-2 in the red zone. Jones completed 21-of-38 passes for 182 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He was sacked four times for a loss of 35 yards. His leading targets were tight end Evan Engram (6 catches for 42 yards), wide receiver Sterling Shepard (5 catches for 49 yards), and Slayton (4 catches for 62 yards and a touchdown). Hilliman only gained 20 yards on nine carries.

Defensively, the Giants allowed 490 yards and 22 first downs to an offense that had been struggling. Minnesota rushed for 211 yards and Cousins completed 22-of-27 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns. Peppers did force one fumble that Skipper recovered. Defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, defensive lineman R.J. McIntosh, and linebacker Markus Golden also had sacks.

Video lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVES AND INJURY REPORT…
RB Saquon Barkley (ankle), LB Alec Ogletree (hamstring), LB Tae Davis (concussion), LB Lorenzo Carter (neck), QB Alex Tanney, OT Eric Smith, and OT/OG Chad Slade were inactive.

RB Wayne Gallman (concussion) left the game in the 1st quarter and did not return.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Transcripts and video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Pat Shurmur and the following players are available in The Corner Forum and at Giants.com:

WHAT’S UP NEXT…
Head Coach Pat Shurmur and select players will address the media on Monday. The players return to practice on Tuesday.

Oct 042019
 
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Daniel Jones, New York Giants (September 29, 2019)

The Sun Never Sets on Daniel Jones – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants, October 6, 2019

THE STORYLINE:
Believe it or not, the regular-season is already one-fourth done. And for the first time in three years, the Giants’ season isn’t all but over by October. But we should step back for a second and look at the big picture.

In my opinion, as long as Daniel Jones remains healthy enough to play most of the remaining 12 games, this season has already been a tremendous success. My biggest fear heading into this season was that the Giants would remain in mathematical contention for the bulk of the season, preventing the franchise from benching Eli Manning and getting a good read on Jones. To be blunt, I feared the Giants wasting another season with an aging quarterback who was never going to be apart of the turnaround. I never, never, never expected the franchise to make the switch as soon as Week 3. This is really a big, big deal.

And after the Giants announced the switch and before Jones started his first game, there were quite a few Giants fans who were projecting the Giants finishing with a top three 2020 draft pick, firing Pat Shurmur, and drafting Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, or Jake Fromm.

Oh how things can quickly change in two weeks! Look, as I’ve stated before, it’s way too early to really know if Daniel Jones will be the franchise quarterback that this team needs. NFL history is filled with flashes in the pan who quickly fade into oblivion – after a few games, even after a season or two. But barring injury, Jones will get 14 regular-season games to prove his worth as a rookie. That’s invaluable. And as of right now, any talk of drafting another quarterback in 2020 seems crazy.

Turning to the short-term, the Giants are actually very much alive, being only one game out of first place in the NFC East. Dallas looks like the prohibitive favorite to win the division, if for no other reason that their defense is vastly superior to the Giants’ defense. But could the Giants stay in contention for a Wild Card spot in November and December? We shall soon find out.

The 2-2 Vikings are a talented team coming off of a tough loss and feeling a little bit desperate. There is a lot of pressure on them to beat an “inferior” Giants team. A few days after this game, the Giants travel to New England to play the NFL Champion Patriots. The Giants may quickly find themselves at 2-4. This is a big game for the Giants too. 3-3 sounds a lot better than 2-4.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Saquon Barkley (ankle – out)
  • RB Wayne Gallman (neck)
  • RG Kevin Zeitler (shoulder)
  • LT Nate Solder (neck)
  • LB Alec Ogletree (hamstring – out)
  • LB Tae Davis (concussion – out)
  • LB Lorenzo Carter (neck – questionable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The Giants have played four teams in a row with very tough defensive front sevens. It gets no easier this weekend against the Minnesota Vikings, arguably the best defense the Giants have faced thus far. The Vikings are 6th in overall defense in terms of yardage allowed and 5th in terms of points allowed (15.8 per game). They are top 10 in both run and pass defense. On the defensive line, DE Danielle Hunter, DE Everson Griffen, and former Giant DT Linval Joseph are Pro Bowlers. So is LB Anthony Barr, CB Xavier Rhodes, and S Harrison Smith. The key, albeit scary, match-ups for the Giants in this game are tackles Nate Solder and former Viking Mike Remmers against ends Hunter and Griffen.

The Giants are not likely to score many points against the Vikings. What the offense, Daniel Jones, and the other ball handlers need to do is not make it easier on Minnesota by turning the football over. Ball security has been an issue for Jones and the running backs. Do not give a struggling Vikings’ offense a short field to work with, or worse, give the Vikings a defensive score. If this ends up being a tight, low-scoring affair, the team that makes the most mistakes will most likely lose the game. Winning the field position battle could also be decisive.

The game within the game this week will be Pat Shurmur, who calls the plays, facing his old team and his old head coach, Mike Zimmer (defensive background). Each knows each other and what they like to do. Shurmur is also intimately familiar with the Vikings’ defensive personnel.

Turning to the big picture, we once again look at Daniel Jones. Again, it’s early. But there are some important early signs that give us reason to be extremely hopeful. For one, the criticism of his arm strength ended up being a myth. While Jones doesn’t have a rocket, he can make all of the different types of throws an NFL quarterback is required to make. Indeed, we have now repeatedly seen that he can fire the ball into tight windows. More than that, his accuracy is better than Eli Manning’s, even when Eli was in his prime. Time and time again, Jones has perfectly placed the ball to allow his receivers to do maximum damage after the catch.

But beyond all of that, two other aspects of Jones’ game have stood out to me. First, regardless of the pass rush, he keeps his eyes transfixed down the field. While this has hurt him a few times in terms of having the ball knocked out of his hands, his ability to maintain his focus under duress and maneuver around in the pocket (sometimes only ever so slightly) has allowed him to spot targets opening up downfield and to make the key throw at the last half-second. Secondly, Jones is already reading coverages likes a seasoned veteran. For example, on the touchdown throw to Gallman last weekend, Gallman was his fifth option on the play. FIFTH! I bet you there are some veteran quarterbacks who have started three years in this league who have yet to throw to their fifth option on a play. And Jones just did it in his second game!

Finally, something that has not received enough attention this week is how dramatically the New York receiving corps has changed. To start the season, New York’s receivers were Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, Russell Shepard, and Cody Core. Two-fifths of that corps has now been replaced by Golden Tate and Darius Slayton. T.J. Jones has also come and gone. The net effect is the receiving corps looks far stronger now.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Giants’ defense hasn’t given up a touchdown in six quarters. Is that misleading? I would argue  yes, but we shall see. Unfortunately, one of the key players leading the apparent turnaround, inside linebacker Ryan Connelly, is done for the season. A 5th-round rookie, he was already wearing the green dot on his helmet. It’s a huge loss for a defense trying to gain some respectable consistency. Making matters worse is that Alec Ogletree and Tae Davis are both out again. All of the sudden, ex-Panther and 49er castoff David Mayo becomes a key figure moving forward. And God help us if Nate Stupar is on the field. Look for the Giants to continue to use the three-safety package.

As I talked about last week, the good news for the Giants’ defense is the defensive line is starting to exert itself. Dexter Lawrence is showing why he was a 1st-round pick. B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson are flashing, as are edge rushers Markus Golden, Oshane Ximines, and Tuzar Skipper. Coming off perhaps his worst game as a pro, Janoris Jenkins rebounded with “defensive player of the week” honors. Deandre Baker has had two quiet (in a positive sense) games in a row. Jabrill Peppers just made his first impact play. But the opponent last week was a dysfunctional Redskins team. A bigger sample size is needed.

Minnesota has its own issues. There appear to be too many cooks in the kitchen on the offensive coaching staff. And quarterback Kirk Cousins is under fire from the media, fans, and most notably, fellow teammates. He’s one of those quarterbacks who can look very good in one game, and then awful in another. You never know which version of Cousins you will get. But, the Vikings have three very dangerous difference-makers on offense: RB Dalvin Cook, WR Stefon Diggs, and WR Adam Thielen. These are all 1,000-yard producers. Cousins will also throw to his tight ends (Pro Bowler Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith). Most notably, Cook is the team’s leading pass receiver.

But make no mistake about it, the Vikings are a run-first team. Cook is averaging almost six yards per carry and already has five touchdowns on an offense that has been struggling. His back-up, rookie Alexander Mattison, is averaging over five yards per carry. The Vikings are a physical, old-school football team. They run the football behind a physical offensive line and play great defense. If the Giants have any shot at the upset, they need to stop the Minnesota ground attack, or at the very least, limit the damage. When the Vikings see three safeties on the field, they will challenge that with the ground game, as well as the injury-depleted inside linebacking corps.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Here comes the first real serious challenge for the New York coverage teams. Marcus Sherels has five career punt returns for touchdowns, including one already against the Giants. As for the New York return game, it will be interesting to see if Jabrill Peppers or Golden Tate becomes the feature punt returner now that T.J. Jones has been let go.

There is a very good chance that special teams and field position will decide the outcome of this game.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula on facing the Vikings’ defense: “Yeah, they’re really good… We all want to be aware of the kind of defense we’re facing. They’re talented across the board. They have a really good scheme. They feed off of mistakes made by the offense. As most defenses are, they’re even better in long yardage. I think the biggest thing, the point of emphasis, is getting the ball out on time, making good decisions, don’t think you have to make big plays and don’t think you have to win the game on every play. We talk about, as we do every week, staying ahead of the chains, so to speak. Staying out of those long yardage situations.”

THE FINAL WORD:
This is a big game for both teams. Neither wants to fall to 2-3. And the Giants play the Patriots on a short week after this game. Most pundits expect the Giants to be 2-4 soon. Much depends on the Vikings. Do they come into this game pissed off and ready to take it out on the Giants? Or has this week’s turmoil started to wear on their psyche? To be determined. This may be a horrible time to play the Vikings or a good time. The problem for the Giants are the match-ups up front. That usually doesn’t bode well.

Oct 042016
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (October 3, 2016)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Minnesota Vikings 24 – New York Giants 10

Overview

Giants fans need to step away from the ledge. The loss to the Minnesota Vikings was not unexpected, especially given the quality of the opponent, the Giants current injury situation, and the hoopla surrounding the Vikings first Monday night game in their new stadium. For the Giants to pull off the upset, they were most likely going to have to win the turnover battle, have the passing game excel, the defensive line dominate, and/or the special teams to out-play its counterpart. None of these things happened. The Giants lost fair and square. If New York fails to make the playoffs again this season, it won’t be this game the Giants look back to and regret. It will be the Week 3 loss to the Redskins.

Giants on Offense

You can’t win in the NFL if you only score 10 points. And you are not likely to win if you lose the turnover battle. Aside from interception, the biggest issue for the Giants was the disconnect between Eli Manning and his top three wide receivers. This was a major factor in the team being an abysmal 2-of-12 (17 percent) on 3rd down and 0-of-2 (0 percent) on 4th down. When you can’t matriculate the ball down the field, you have to rely on the big play. But the Giants only had one offensive gain over 20 yards in the game.

Another negative factor in sustaining drives was penalties. After being relatively clean in the first two weeks of the season, the Giants had penalty issues for the second game in a row as the Giants were flagged 8 times for 69 yards. Half of these were on offense and were an issue in stalling three drives. The book on the Giants now is this: don’t let them beat you deep in the passing game; make them drive the length of the field in small chunks and they’ll shoot themselves in the foot.

The Giants had 11 offensive possessions. Six resulted in punts (including the first five), an interception, two turnovers on downs, and two scoring drives. Not good enough.

Quarterback

There is something about the Minnesota Vikings that brings out the worst in Eli Manning. Fans can exclaim that is rubbish, but we’ve seen it before. Lawrence Taylor used to have the same problem with the Los Angeles Rams. Long story short, the Giants were not going to beat Minnesota unless Eli played well and he didn’t. Despite having reasonable pass protection (no sacks and only 2 quarterback hits), Manning appeared jumpy in the pocket and had accuracy issues. He was out-played by his counterpart that was only traded to the Vikings a few weeks ago. Manning finished 25-of-45 for 261 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception. In other words, he had 20 incompletions and only averaged 5.8 yards per pass play. This is even worse when you consider 67 of those yards came on a dump off to a running back.

Running Backs

With Rashad Jennings (#1 back) out again and Shane Vereen (#2 back) possibly done for the season, the Giants relied on a trio of back-ups who performed pretty darn well, especially considering the quality of the opponent. The Giants only rushed the ball 18 times out of 63 plays, with only six rushing attempts in the second half. But they averaged a very respectable 4.3 yards per rush. Orleans Darkwa saw the bulk of the work (12 carries for 48 yards) followed by Bobby Rainey (4 carries for 22 yards), and Paul Perkins (2 carries for 8 yards). The backs were also heavily involved in the passing game with Rainey catching 7-of-9 passes thrown his way for 43 yards, Perkins 2-of-3 passes for 72 yards, and Darkwa 0-of-2 passes. Perkins had the offensive play of this night with his nifty 67-yard catch-and-run where he demonstrated good vision and speed. He did have issues in pass protection however.

Wide Receivers

Along with Manning, the wide receivers were the major offensive letdown on the evening. To win, Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Victor Cruz had to play well. They didn’t. Beckham had his worst game as a pro since the second game of his career. He only caught 3-of-9 passes thrown in his direction for a measly 23 yards. Beckham dropped a pass and had a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. There also was major confusion between Manning and Beckham on the deep interception that started the 3rd quarter off on a bad note – this was a key momentum killer in the game. Shepard was also surprisingly kept quiet, catching 4-of-7 targets for only 30 yards. Cruz caught 5-of-9 passes for 50 yards and was flagged with an illegal block penalty. The longest reception by any of these three was 14 yards!

Tight Ends/Fullbacks

Larry Donnell suffered a concussion early in the 2nd quarter. Will Tye was the only factor in the passing game, catching 4-of-6 passes for 43 yards.

Offensive Line

The offensive line played well. The Vikings were averaging five sacks per game but the Giants offensive line held them sackless and only allowed two hits on quarterback Eli Manning. Against a very good run defense, the team also averaged 4.3 yards per rush. The biggest negative were two penalties on LT Ereck Flowers: a false start and a holding penalty (though the holding call was questionable). Bobby Hart was also flagged with illegal use of hands but that was declined.

Giants on Defense

The Giants defense was severely hampered by three de facto starters missing the game (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Eli Apple, and Darian Thompson) and a primary back-up (Nat Berhe). This turned a team strength into a team weakness. To compensate, the Giants needed an exceptionally strong game from their front seven. They didn’t get it.

Coming into the game, the Vikings had the 31st-ranked offense. Minnesota gained 22 first downs, 366 total net yards (262 passing, 104 rushing), and controlled the clock for over 35 minutes. The Vikings converted half of their 3rd-down conversion attempts. The Giants did not force a turnover, register a sack, and only hit QB Sam Bradford (101.9 QB rating) twice. The Giants also only defensed one pass.

New York’s defense did not make a stand after Dwayne Harris’ muffed punt, allowed a long 2nd-quarter touchdown drive, and most damning, could not stop the Vikings after the Giants cut the score to 17-10 early in the 4th quarter. Minnesota drove 76 yards in eight plays to put the game away.

Defensive Line

This is not what the Giants expected. With both primary offensive tackles out of the game, defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon were non-factors in a game where the Giants expected and needed them to make a difference. Each registered one hit on the QB – the only two hits on the night. The inside tackles were not much better as what had been an anemic Vikings ground attack gained 104 yards and scored twice, and Sam Bradford was rarely pressure up the middle.

Linebackers

The linebackers came up small, particularly team captain Jonathan Casillas who had issues tackling in the open field. Coverage was also an issue as many of the Vikings successful pass plays came against CB Trevin Wade or over the middle against the under coverage. There were no impact plays to speak of – no sacks, no forced turnovers, no pass breakups. Casillas, Keenan Robinson, Kelvin Sheppard, and Devon Kennard did combine for 21 tackles.

Defensive Backs

The Giants were simply undermanned here with corners Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple and safeties Darian Thompson and Nat Berhe being out. The Giants were forced to start defensive backs who were at the bottom of the depth chart in Trevin Wade and Andrew Adams. Both had issues. Wade in particular was a disaster, giving up 70 yards on two deep passes to WR Charles Johnson and a 7-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-4 to TE Kyle Rudolph. When the Vikings needed a play, they went after Wade. Adams – as would be expected of a green, undrafted rookie starting for the first time – was exposed as well, being late to help out in coverage. Aside from a pass interference penalty, Janoris Jenkins had a decent game. Landon Collins led the team in tackles and also had a tackle for a loss. Unbelievably, the Giants only broke up one pass all night.

Giants on Special Teams

Dwayne Harris started the game off with a bang on a 44-yard kickoff return, but his muffed punt after the Giants defense forced a three-and-out inside the Vikings 10-yard line set the tone for the night and directly led to a 7-0 lead. It was an early momentum killer in a hostile building. The Giants didn’t gain any punt return yardage on the evening.

The coverage teams actually did a respectable job against a very dangerous return team as the Vikings only gained 29 yards on kickoff returns and 13 yards on punt returns. Brad Wing average 46.7 yards per punt with three of his six punts being downed inside the 20-yard line, including one at the 1-yard line. Josh Brown hit his only field goal attempt of the night, from 40 yards out.

Coaching

As expected, criticism of the new head coach is beginning to mount. Many of those who were praising him two weeks ago are starting to say he was the wrong hire. It’s simply too early to make those kind of judgments. That said, the Giants did mismanage the clock at the end of the first half, which prevented the team possibly taking two more shots at the end zone. Turnovers remain an issue and the passing game seems out of sync. Being a 39-year old head coach and NFL play-caller at the same time isn’t easy. If Mike Sullivan had more experience with the West Coast Offense, he’d probably be calling the plays. The McAdoo-Sullivan marriage seemed odd from the start other than Sullivan’s familiarity with Eli Manning. Steve Spagnuolo is quickly gaining a reputation as a guy who can coach only when he has all of his chess pieces still on the board.

(New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings, October 3, 2016)
Oct 042016
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (October 3, 2016)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

MINNESOTA VIKINGS 24 – NEW YORK GIANTS 10…
The New York Giants were soundly beaten by the Minnesota Vikings 24-10 on Monday night at new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. With the loss, the Giants fell to 2-2.

The three most telling statistics in the game were the turnover differential, 3rd-down efficiency, and time of possession. For the fourth game in a row, the Giants lost the turnover battle (2 to 0) with the New York defense yet to force a fumble or interception this season. The Giants were 2-of-12 (17 percent) on 3rd down while the Vikings were 8-of-16 (50 percent). The Giants were also 0-for-2 on 4th down. The Vikings owned the clock (35:32 to 24:28).

The Giants had six first-half possessions with the first five resulting in punts and only six 1st downs. The only points came on their last drive, an 11-play, 44-yard affair that resulted in a 40-yard field goal by place kicker Josh Brown.

Meanwhile, the Vikings scored two first-half touchdowns. The first was set up on short field after Dwayne Harris muffed a punt at the Giants 41-yard line. Six plays later, the Vikings were up 7-0 on a 1-yard touchdown run. In the 2nd quarter, Minnesota put together a 9-play, 75-yard march that gave them a 14-0 advantage on a 7-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-4.

The Giants offense remained anemic in the 2nd half. The Giants five possessions resulted in an interception, a punt, a touchdown, and two turnovers on downs. New York drove 91 yards in five plays for their only TD of the night, with the big play being a 67-yard catch-and-run by running back Paul Perkins on a pass from quarterback Eli Manning. Two plays later, running back Orleans Darkwa scored from one yard out.

The Vikings drove to the Giants 28-yard line on their first possession of the second half but missed the 46-yard field goal. Nevertheless, Minnesota got the ball right back after Manning’s interception, and they  only needed to gain 17 yards to set up a successful 44-yard field goal. The Vikings last scoring drive – an 8-play, 76-yard effort – came in the 4th quarter and resulted in a 4-yard touchdown run.

Offensively, Eli Manning finished 25-of-45 for 261 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception. His top pass receiving targets were running back Bobby Rainey (7 catches for 43 yards) and wide receiver Victor Cruz (5 catches for 50 yards). Wide receiver Odell Beckham was held to a career low three catches for 23 yards. Running back Orleans Darkwa was the leading ball carrier with 48 yards on 12 carries.

Defensively, as mentioned, the Giants were shut out in the turnover department for the fourth game in a row. New York did not register a sack and quarterback Sam Bradford was officially hit only twice. The Giants also only defensed one pass.

Video highlights/lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the game were cornerback Eli Apple (hamstring), free safety Darian Thompson (foot), safety Nat Berhe (concussion), defensive tackle Robert Thomas (illness), running back Rashad Jennings (thumb), offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse (calf), and quarterback Josh Johnson.

Tight end Larry Donnell suffered a concussion in the game.

POST-GAME REACTION…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Ben McAdoo and the following players are available at Giants.com:

  • Head Coach Ben McAdoo (Video)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)
  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr. (Video)
  • WR Victor Cruz (Video)

ARTICLES…

Oct 012016
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 27, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Game Preview: New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings, October 3, 2016

THE STORYLINE:
The Giants are not in bad shape at 2-1, but they blew a big opportunity last week against the Redskins and now face one of the NFL’s better teams on their home turf in prime time. Worse, the Giants have major injury issues that will have an impact on the contest. This is an important game for the Giants as the Cowboys and Redskins are likely to win this week against powder-puff opponents (the Eagles have a bye).

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Rashad Jennings (thumb) – questionable
  • RT Marshall Newhouse (calf) – out
  • DE Olivier Vernon (wrist) – probable
  • DT Robert Thomas (illness) – out
  • CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (groin) – questionable
  • CB Eli Apple (hamstring) – doubtful
  • FS Darian Thompson (foot) – out
  • SS Nat Berhe (concussion) – out

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The Vikings have been outstanding on defense to start the season (6th overall, 9th against the pass, 7th against the run). The problem for the Giants is that the Minnesota defensive strength is their front seven and the Giants offensive weakness is the line. The Giants will faces challenges across the board. RDE Everson Griffen (4 sacks) is one of the best two-way weakside ends in the game and he will battle LT Ereck Flowers, who has had issues in the past in pass protection. Still-green RT Bobby Hart will be opposed by LDE Brian Robison (2 sacks) and Danielle Hunter (3 sacks). Ex-Giant defensive tackle Linval Joseph (3 sacks) is also off to a strong start. The linebacking corps is strong too, led by Anthony Barr, who can do it all. Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks is a rapidly rising player. Chad Greenway has given the Giants problems in the past. Long story short, Eli Manning will likely be under duress and not have a lot of time in the pocket. And safety valve Shane Vereen is now on IR so the pressure will be on the tight ends and Bobby Rainey to pick up the slack both as receivers and blockers.

The Minnesota secondary is quite good too, led by right cornerback Xavier Rhodes and free safety Harrison Smith.

The strategic question is how much to rely on the ground game and max protect? If the Giants defense were mostly healthy, Ben McAdoo may have wanted to play this more conservatively as Minnesota’s offense has struggled. Now the Giants may have to be more aggressive, assuming the Vikings will have more success moving the football. The risk here is turnovers. The Vikings are 2nd in the NFL in forcing turnovers (5 interceptions, 4 fumbles recovered) for a superb +8 turnover differential. The Giants have been on the other end of the spectrum (5th in the NFL in turnovers, -6 in turnover differential). To me, the key to this game is for the Giants offense to stay out of negative plays – turnovers, penalties, sacks. Don’t get into 2nd-and-15 and 3rd-and-11 situations over and over again.

I suggest a lot of 3-step, get-rid-of-the-ball-quickly type pass plays. Bing…bing…bing. If the play isn’t there, throw it away. Count on Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz, and Sterling Shepard to make plays after the catch. I would not rely a ton on Rainey who has a history of fumbling. Run the ball with Orleans Darkwa between the tackles. Worst case scenario? Punt. Keep your composure in the loud, hostile environment. Ball security is imperative. Eli is going to be pressured and get hit. He has to not fumble it away or make dumb throws into coverage.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Vikings have been hammered by injuries on offense, losing their starting quarterback, running back, and left tackle. They had to over-pay to trade for Sam Bradford from the Eagles but he has kept the team afloat. Still, the Vikings are currently 31st in offense (28th in passing, 32nd in rushing). The problem for New York is half their secondary is missing as they are down three safeties (Darian Thompson, Nat Berhe, Mykkele Thompson) and possibly two cornerbacks (Eli Apple is doubtful and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is questionable).

The Vikings ground game – as the stats show – has been anemic and they are without All-Star Adrian Peterson. The Giants must keep the back-ups from being a factor so they can concentrate on helping out their weakened secondary. Only three Vikings have more than three catches on the season thus far: WR Stefon Diggs (20 catches, 1 TD), TE Kyle Rudolph (14 catches, 2 TDs), and WR Adam Thielen (11 catches). Look for the Giants to keep Janoris Jenkins on the dangerous Diggs and to focus their undercoverage on Rudolph. Much depends on if DRC plays or not. If he can’t go, much pressure will be placed on corners Leon Hall and Trevon Wade to deliver. Bradford and the Vikings have to be licking their chops at whomever is playing free safety (Hall or Andrew Adams?).

RDE Olivier Vernon has been hampered with a nagging wrist injury but he gets an opportunity to play against T.J. Clemmings who was shifted to left tackle due to an injury to the starter. The Giants will need a big game from him as well as everyone up front to stop the run and put more consistent heat on the passer than they have done so far this season. This would be a good spot for either Vernon or Jason Pierre-Paul to have a breakout game.

Remarkably, through three games, the Giants defense has not forced a turnover. And Bradford has not yet thrown an interception. This is the type of game that will likely be decided by turnovers.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Giants have become one of the more dangerous punt and kick blocking teams in the NFL. But punt coverage continues to be an Achilles heel and must be tightened up. Marcus Sherels is a very good punter returner and Cordarrelle Patterson an extremely dangerous kickoff returner. The Vikings have an amazing 11 kickoff/punt return touchdowns in the last five seasons. Close defensive games are often decided by special teams plays.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Ben McAdoo on the Vikings defense: “Everything is tied together. You can’t just give their front credit. It’s their front four in combination with the linebackers. The way they rush. Then the secondary ties into everything that they do. They play well together and on time together. They know you’re going to have to get the ball out in a hurry. Their secondary fits in accordingly.”

THE FINAL WORD:
The Vikings are 3-0 and feeling good about themselves. The Giants are coming off an embarrassing loss. Normally, I like the Giants chances in this situation as I do think the Vikings are playing a bit over their heads and the Giants haven’t hit their stride yet. But the injury situation is not good, and the Vikings will be looking to make a statement on national television at home against a Giants team that tends to struggle on Monday night. My gut says the Giants fall to 2-2.

Dec 282015
 
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butchsun1

Minnesota Vikings 49 – New York Giants 17

Overview

Oh, good. For a moment there I thought we were in trouble. – Butch Cassidy

The Giants got clobbered but I wouldn’t read too much into this one particular game. The Giants found out the day before that their playoff hopes were dead and were bound to suffer an emotional letdown against a quality opponent headed to the tournament. The Giants were missing one of their two superstars. And a weak and poorly-constructed roster once again is feeling the effects of an inordinate number of players on Injured Reserve (currently up to 18). Throw in the mental strain of six devastating 4th quarter collapses and it was only a matter of time before the Giants were on the receiving end of good old-fashioned ass whooping.

The more troubling concerns are the longer term trends. While the blowouts are down this year, they have continued since 2012. For the last four seasons, the Giants have fielded weak, injury-depleted rosters. They seem no further along on their rebuilding process than when they started.

The bottom line is this is a bad football team. It simply does not have the horses to consistently compete. Until the Giants acquire better players and players who are not so injury-prone, they will remain an also-ran who at best flirts with a playoff appearance.

Tom Coughlin will likely be fired or forced to retire in early January. This is a bottom-line business and the Giants have missed the playoffs six of the last seven years. He and his hand-picked defensive coaches have been unable fix a defense that remains a disaster.  The team hasn’t been able to consistently run the ball for years. The Giants remain an unconfident, uptight, finesse team that lacks toughness on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Coughlin must share a significant portion of the blame for those faults. In addition, other than Eli, Coughlin’s old warriors are gone and his cachet doesn’t carry much with the new guys. He will be 70. Sadly, it’s time for a change.

Offense

We now know what happens when Odell Beckham does not play. The results were not pretty.  The Giants had seven offensive possessions in the first half. Two resulted in interceptions and four with punts. The Giants had six first downs in the first half, three coming on their lone scoring drive that resulted in a short field goal. The Giants did not complete a pass until the second quarter and only had five pass completions in the first half. Running back Rashad Jennings accounted for 100 of the Giants’ 112 first-half yards.

For the game, New York was 1-of-11 (9 percent) on third-down conversion attempts and 0-of-2 (0 percent) on fourth-down conversion attempts. The Giants did not score a touchdown until the game was out of reach (32-3). Over half of Manning’s passing yards came on two pass plays. If that was not bad enough, the offense was directly responsible for two touchdowns by the opposition and put their own defense in bad field position situations all night.

Quarterbacks

Missing the target that had been responsible for 26 percent of the team’s receptions, 36 percent of the team’s passing yardage, 41 percent of the team’s receiving touchdowns, and opening up opportunities for his teammates, Eli Manning struggled mightily. He did not complete a pass until New York’s second drive in the 2nd quarter. He was 5-of-13 for 77 yards in the first half, and 50 of those 77 yards came on one play. His first-half quarterbacking rating was 19.2. Two of his three interceptions led directly to two touchdowns. Vikings’ defensive backs only had five interceptions on the season coming into this game. Manning also could not handle a shotgun snap on 3rd-and-16 that led to a 13-yard loss. In the end, over half of his 234 passing yardage came on two pass plays. He only completed 15 passes in the game. There was another delay-of-game penalty to boot. Ryan Nassib came into the game late in garbage time and was 5-of-5 for 68 yards and a touchdown.

Running Backs

Rashad Jennings came to play and was astoundingly responsible for 100 of New York’s 112 first-half yardage, including one screen pass for 50 yards and nine carries for 50 yards. He finished the night with 14 carries for 74 yards (5.3 yards per carry) and two catches for 62 yards. Jennings did not pick up a corner blitz well on a play where Manning was hit. The other four backs only had six carries for 17 yards, with Andre Williams being the only other back with more than one carry (three carries for 5 yards). Shane Vereen was held to two catches for 21 yards. He also dropped a pass in the red zone where the Giants had to settle for a field goal.

Wide Receivers

Absolute shit. Minus Odell Beckham, the Giants and Eli Manning desperately needed the other wideouts on the roster to excel and they did the opposite. Through almost to the end of the 3rd quarter, when the Vikings were up 32-3, Giants receivers had three catches for 21 yards!!! Rueben Randle and Hakeem Nicks looked like they were going through the motions. Dwayne Harris dropped Manning’s first attempt. Randle dropped another on the field goal drive inside the red zone. Myles White dropped a fourth down pass.

Tight Ends

Crap. Giants tight ends had one catch for six yards in the first half. In the end, Will Tye, Jerome Cunningham, and Matt LaCosse had a total of eight catches, but seven of those came when the game was well out of hand. Tye was also flagged for an illegal shift and dropped a 4th-and-6 pass late in the game.

Offensive Line

The Giants needed a strong performance up front and did not get it. Manning was sacked four times (three times in the first half) and officially hit eight other times, even though he it seemed far more than that. Too many penalties too with Marshall Newhouse (false start), Ereck Flowers (unnecessary roughness and holding), and Justin Pugh (illegal use of hands) being flagged. The line did run block pretty well in the first half of the contest, except on a poorly-designed 2nd-and-1 play right before the pick six where two Vikings were left unblocked. Newhouse gave up the first sack on 3rd-and-10 in the 1st quarter. The second sack wasn’t on the line as the Vikings did not bite on a play-action rollout and the defensive end got around Will Tye. Pugh gave up the third sack on 3rd-and-9 and another sack late in the 4th quarter. Flowers gave up a few late pressures and a bit hit on Eli.

Defense

The defense hung in there but once again predictably faded. The fate of the Giants’ defense has been based on turnovers, and that’s never wise. The Giants have lost 17 of their last 18 regular-season games in which their defense did not force a turnover, including against Minnesota.

The defense forced three punts to start the game, including one possession that started on Minnesota’s 45-yard line. The Vikings’ fourth possession started on their 46 and resulted in an 8-play, 40-yard drive that ended with a field goal. Minnesota’s only offensive touchdown of the half came on a very short field, the drive starting on New York’s 44-yard line. The Vikings’ last first half points also came on a short field, with Minnesota only having to pick up 23 yards and one first down to set up a field goal. The defense gave up only 13 first half points despite being in bad field position most of the half.

In the second half, the Giants’ defense allowed a 58-yard drive that ended with a field goal. Another interception gave the Vikings the ball on the Giants’ 4-yard line and an easy touchdown for a commanding 29-3 lead. Then came a 47-yard drive that set up a 53-yard field goal, an onside kickoff that gave the Vikings the ball at the Giants’ 18-yard line and a turnover on downs that gave the Vikings the ball on the Giants’ 35-yard line. The biggest embarrassment for the defense was the 68-yard touchdown run late in the game when the Vikings were simply attempting to run out the clock.

Oddly, despite the team giving up 49 points, the defense only allowed the Vikings 17 first downs and 150 net passing yards. The Vikings were also only 2-of-5 (40 percent) in red zone efficiency.

Defensive Line/Linebackers

The front seven did a decent job against the run in the first half, holding the Vikings to 44 yards on 14 carries (3.1 yards per carry). The Giants also sacked Teddy Bridgewater twice, including 9-yard sack split between Robert Ayers and George Selvie on 3rd-and-5 after Manning’s first interception. Ayers got the other sack late in the first half (note to Giants…stop dancing around like dumb asses when the other team is kicking your ass on the scoreboard).

Adrian Peterson really didn’t hurt the Giants all that much until late in the 3rd quarter when he broke off a 39-yard run when Jason Pierre-Paul got double-teamed and J.T. Thomas couldn’t get off the block by the tight end. This set up a long field goal. The defense started to fade very late in the 3rd quarter and early in the 4th quarter, first with Bridgewater’s 9-yard scramble on 3rd-and-8 and then running back Jerick McKinnon’s 7-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-goal. On the later run, Pierre-Paul and Jasper Brinkley simply failed to make the play. The nadir came on McKinnon’s three runs late in the game that picked up a total of 80 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown run. Jay Bromley and Ayers were each flagged with being offsides. Thomas was thrown out of the game for throwing a punch.

Defensive Backs

Teddy Bridgewater only completed 15-of-25 passes for 168 yards. The problem remains the safeties. Craig Dahl was beaten for a 28-yard touchdown by tight end Kyle Rudolph on 2nd-and-14. Landon Collins was late getting over to help out on the play as well. Collins later gave up a 25-yard reception against Rudolph on 3rd-and-3 on Minnesota’s first scoring drive of the second half. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara didn’t really hurt their team but didn’t really help either. I didn’t like how Amukamara played patty-cake with the wide receiver on Jerick McKinnon’s 7-yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter on 3rd-and-goal. Trevin Wade, playing the nickel, made a nice play defending a 3rd-and-5 shot into the end zone, but he later gave up a 21-yard reception on 3rd-and-3 on the field goal drive right before halftime.

Special Teams

Not good. An ailing Dwayne Harris (shoulder) returned two punts for a total of 12 yards, muffing his first chance. He also let one punt hit the turf and roll that he should have fair caught. Shane Vereen returned seven kickoffs, but his longest effort was only 23 yards. Ben Edwards also returned one kickoff for 20 yards. None of Josh Brown’s kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Both of his onside kicks failed, and one was returned 27 yards to the Giants’ 18-yard line, setting up another touchdown. Brad Wing punted six times, averaging 40 yards per punt. One punt was expertly downed on the 4-yard line by Landon Collins and Craig Dahl. Wing’s 30-yard punt right before halftime helped the Vikings add an additional field goal. Punt coverage and kickoff coverage on the two traditional kickoffs were good.

Cram it in your Cramhole Award

Minus Odell Beckham, the entire wide receiving corps. Three catches for 21 yards until late in the 3rd quarter when the game was out of reach? Holy crap.

(New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings, December 27, 2015)
Dec 282015
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 27, 2015)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

MINNESOTA VIKINGS 49 – NEW YORK GIANTS 17…
The New York Giants were humiliated by the Minnesota Vikings on national television on Sunday night. With the loss, the Giants fell to 6-9, ensuring their third losing season in a row. The Giants have lost five of their last six games.

While the Vikings only slightly out-gained the Giants in first downs (17 to 15) and total net yards (368 to 363), Minnesota held dramatic advantages in rushing yards (218 to 91) and time of possession (34:57 to 25:03). The Vikings also won the turnover battle 3 to 0 as quarterback Eli Manning was intercepted three times, one resulting in an interception for a touchdown and the other giving Minnesota the football at the New York 4-yard line and leading to another touchdown two plays later.

The Giants’ defense actually held up fairly well until late in the game. They forced Minnesota to punt on their first three possessions before allowing an 8-play, 40-yard drive that set up a 32-yard field goal. They then allowed a 5-play, 44-yard drive that ended with a 28-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to tight end Kyle Rudolph. After forcing another punt, the Vikings set up another field goal late in the half by driving just 23 yards in seven plays.

Meanwhile, the Giants’ offense, minus suspended wide receiver Odell Beckham, struggled a great deal. The Giants only gained 112 net yards in the first half, and 50 of the 77 gross passing yards gained came on one pass play to running back Rashad Jennings. The Giants’ wide receivers only had three catches in the first half for 21 yards. Manning was sacked three times in the first half alone. New York only gained six first downs, three on one drive that set up a 27-yard field goal. Worse, Manning’s pass intended for wide receiver Rueben Randle late in the second quarter was picked off and returned 35 yards for a touchdown (the extra point was missed).

At the half, the Vikings led 19-3.

The game spiraled out of control in the third quarter. After the Giants went three-and-out to start the second half, the Vikings drove 58 yards in nine plays to set up a 22-yard field goal to take a 22-3 lead. On New York’s first ensuing offensive snap, Manning was intercepted for a third time in the game and the ball was returned 32 yards to the New York 4-yard line. Two plays later, Minnesota took a commanding 29-3 advantage when running back Adrian Peterson scored. After another three-and-out by the Giants, the Vikings kicked a 53-yard field goal to go up 32-3 late in the quarter.

The Giants did score on a 72-yard catch-and-run by Randle with about a minute left in the third quarter to cut the lead to 32-10. But the ensuing onside kick was recovered by the Vikings and returned 27 yards to the Giants’ 18-yard line. Six plays later, the Vikings scored a touchdown to extend their advantage to 39-10. Then came a 4-and-out by the Giants, followed by 26-yard drive that set up a 27-yard field goal, another drive that ended on downs by the Giants, and then a humiliating 68-yard run by reserve running back Jerick McKinnon. Reserve quarterback Ryan Nassib came into the game with 3:30 left and drove the Giants to a late garbage touchdown.

Offensively, Manning finished 15-of-29 for 234 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions. 122 passing yards came on two plays. No Giant caught more than three passes and no wide receiver caught more than two passes. Jennings did carry the football 14 times for 74 yards. Manning was sacked four times and officially hit eight times. Minnesota also had six tackles for losses.

Defensively, the Giants did not force a turnover. They did accrue three sacks: 1.5 by defensive end Robert Ayers, 0.5 by defensive end George Selvie, and 1.0 by linebacker Jonathan Casillas. New York also had six tackles for losses and seven quarterback hits.

Video lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INJURY REPORT…
Right tackle Marshall Newhouse and safety Craig Dahl both left the game with concussions and did not return. Linebacker J.T. Thomas injured his ankle but returned until he was later ejected for throwing a punch.

POST-GAME REACTIONS…
Video clips of post-game media sessions with Head Coach Tom Coughlin and the following players are available at Giants.com:

  • Head Coach Tom Coughlin (Video)
  • QB Eli Manning (Video)
  • RB Shane Vereen (Video)
  • OC Weston Richburg (Video)
  • CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Video)

POST-GAME NOTES…
Inactive for the Giants were LB Devon Kennard (foot), S Cooper Taylor (concussion), WR Geremy Davis, OG Adam Gettis, OT Emmett Cleary, DE Stansly Maponga, and CB Jayron Hosley.

ARTICLES…

Dec 252015
 
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New York Giants - Minnesota Vikings (December 6, 1964)

New York Giants – Minnesota Vikings (December 6, 1964)

New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings, December 27, 2015

THE STORYLINE:
The significance of this game depends on the outcome of Eagles-Redskins game played the day before on Saturday night. If the Eagles win, the Giants must win to keep their now desperate playoff hopes alive. If the Redskins win, the Giants’ playoff hopes are officially dead.

Either way, a seriously undermanned Giants team – sans Odell Beckham – are clear-cut underdogs against a well-rounded 9-5 Minnesota Vikings team on its way to the playoffs. Only a few of the ole’ football coach’s warriors from the 2011 NFL Championship remain – Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Mark Herzlich – for this potential last stand. An era may be ending.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • RB Orleans Darkwa (illness – probable)
  • WR Dwayne Harris (shoulder – questionable)
  • LT Ereck Flowers (illness – probable)
  • DE George Selvie (concussion – probable)
  • DT Markus Kuhn (knee – out)
  • LB Devon Kennard (foot – out)
  • L James Morris (quad – out)
  • S Cooper Taylor (concussion – out)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:
The 4-3 defense of the Vikings is 13th in the NFL (7th against the pass and 20th against the run). Minnesota is 4th in red zone defense. It’s solid group anchored up front by defensive tackles ex-Giant Linval Joseph and 1st rounder Sharrif Floyd and defensive ends Everson Griffen (8.5 sacks) and Brian Robison (4 sacks). The leading tackler is rookie middle linebacker Eric Kendricks (76 tackles, 4 sacks). He is flanked by 1st rounders Chad Greenway and Anthony Barr, two athletic play makers.

The secondary has performed surprisingly well but they haven’t made a lot of plays on the ball (only 5 interceptions by the defensive backs). 37-year old ex-Cowboy Terence Newman (3 interceptions) and third-year Xavier Rhodes are the starting corners. Free safety Harrison Smith leads the defensive backfield. Andrew Sendejo is the strong safety.

The game story here is the absence of Odell Beckham and how the Giants will compensate. Facing game-time temperatures of below 10 degrees, Eli Manning’s best friend would be a strong running game. New York had their best rushing performance of the season against a tough Carolina defense last week. Can the Giants build upon that performance? Beckham accounts for 26 percent of the team’s receptions, 36 percent of the team’s passing yardage, and 41 percent of the team’s receiving touchdowns. No Beckham. No Victor Cruz. Only the disappointing Rueben Randle, banged-up special teamer Dwayne Harris (shoulder), reclamation project Hakeem Nicks (4 catches for 26 yards), and ex-Packer practice squader Myles White (5 catches for 54 yards). The Giants desperately need a career-game out of Randle. If not, Manning will have to feature running back Shane Vereen and rookie tight end Will Tye. A wild card here could be tight end Jerome Cunningham.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:
The Vikings are 28th in the NFL on offense (31st passing and 5th rushing). They are a throwback-type offense that runs the ball well and likes to use the play-action pass. The Vikings don’t turn the ball over much (only 8 interceptions and 7 lost fumbles).

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t put up big numbers, but he is surprisingly efficient for a second-year player. While he only has 13 touchdown passes, he is completing over 66 percent of his passes and has a quarterback rating of 90.4. His top two targets are rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Each has 47 catches and four touchdowns. Ex-Steeler and Dolphin deep threat Mike Wallace has 36 catches and 2 touchdowns. Since the Giants have struggled covering quality tight ends, Bridgewater will likely look for Rudolph early and often. Bridgewater has some mobility and will run with the football at times (178 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns). The Vikings also like to bootleg off of play action.

Given the opponent and very cold temperatures, the defensive focus has to be on stopping the run. Running back Adrian Peterson is still one of the very best in the business. He’s virtually their entire running game with 1,314 yards and 9 touchdowns (no other back has 200 yards). Peterson can wear you out, but he can also break the big run. He has an 80-yard touchdown run his year and is averaging 4.6 yards per carry against defenses specifically designed to stop him. It’s old-fashioned power football, running the ball behind a big, physical offensive line, fullback (Zach Line), and multiple tight ends.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:
Minnesota is very strong on special teams. Cordarrelle Patterson has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season, and has four in his career. He averages over 31 yards per kickoff return. Marcus Sherels has a punt return for a touchdown this season (he has three in career, including an 86-yarder against the Giants in 2013) and is averaging almost 10 yards per punt return. The Vikings are also outstanding covering punts, being second in the NFL by allowing only 5 yards per return. They are more vulnerable on kickoff returns, being 31st in the NFL, and having given up four returns over 40 yards. Dwayne Harris (shoulder) is ailing and may not be able to play much on special teams this week. Shane Vereen may handle kickoff return chores while Ben Edwards handles punt returns.

FROM THE COACH’S MOUTH:
Steve Spagnuolo on QB Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings’ offense: “Of course like any good quarterback with a running game, he’s aided by that. They’ve become really good—(Offensive Coordinator) Norv (Turner) has done a great job—with the play action concepts that they have. They don’t do a lot, but what they do, they do it really well. Because you’re so focused on 28 (Adrian Peterson), everybody gets (sucked up). That’s the whole deal with a good running game and play action pass off of it. We’re hopeful that we can play good on first and second down and get into some unmanageable third downs for them, it’d be better for us. That’ll be the intent.”

THE FINAL WORD:
Obviously if the Redskins win on Saturday, there will be an emotional letdown and the Giants may get pummeled by a Vikings team still in a division title race. Regardless, it is difficult seeing a Giants team missing Beckham and severely limited by the 32nd-ranked defense (the Giants are only 78 yards from giving up 6,000 yards on the season again) from pulling off the upset. In extremely cold conditions, the team that runs the ball, stops the run, and plays better special teams will prevail. The Vikings are superior in all three categories.