Dec 182018
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 16, 2018)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee Titans 17 – New York Giants 0

QUICK RECAP

With the Giants playoff hopes still alive, barely, the feisty Tennessee Titans came to town as they are on the post-season bubble in the AFC. The rain was coming down hard and it showed no signs of slowing down all afternoon. Without Odell Beckham, this Giants team headed into their 14th game of the season in the midst of changing their losing culture. Yet another shot to play against a team that was simply at a higher level than themselves. A nice “prove it” opportunity.

With the rain coming down hard, this had defensive battle written all over it especially considering the lack of firepower on both offenses. TEN dominated the ball early on with drives of 10 and 15 plays, respectively. They sandwiched a Giants’ 3 and out drive. On TEN’s second possession, they scored a touchdown that ended up being the only points on the board until the end of the third quarter.

Derrick Henry, who had a career game a week earlier against the sinking Jaguars, picked up where he left off. He scored that first quarter touchdown on a 4th and goal from the 1-yard line. The oversized back was running with a downhill force that reminded me of a young Brandon Jacobs. His force and power created hesitation among most Giants defenders, as it appeared to be a business decision when it came down to trying to tackle him or not. He constantly pushed piles forward, broke several tackles, and simply wore the entire defense in the ground. He had 127 yards on 21 carries in the first half.

As one-sided as the game felt heading into halftime, the TEN lead was only 7 points and we’ve seen this NYG offense pick up steam in recent weeks. We knew it was at least possible to change the tone in the second half. They did exactly that on the first drive of the 3rd quarter, as Manning found Sterling Shepard for NYG’s longest gain of the day, 38 yards. They were in TEN territory with a first down. Thanks to a couple Manning to Engram connections, they were in the red zone with a fresh 1st and 10. But after a penalty and a loss of 1 yard on a pass to Shepard, they were staring at 3rd and 20 from the TEN 29 yard line. They simply needed a few yards so the field goal attempt in the rain wouldn’t be too high-risk. Manning dropped back and made an uncharacteristic, overly aggressive throw into traffic which ended up being intercepted by TEN safety Kevin Byard. It was a turning point in the game that completely took the wind out of the sails for NYG.

TEN was content with their lead and they didn’t deter from their game plan. Run the ball hard and often, taking advantage of the poor tackling back seven of NYG. When you hear coaches talk about “wearing down a defense”, well this is exactly what they mean. NYG’s effort and passion certainly could have been better, but at the end of the day these guys were just getting beat at the point of attack over and over with a 235 pounder coming downhill hard and fast. At some point, defenders start to lose desire and hope, and that is exactly what happened in this one.

Manning turned the ball over again via a fumble on the next NYG drive, setting up TEN on the NYG 14-yard line. Six plays later, Henry stampeded into the end zone to make the lead 14-0, but it might as well have read 31-0.

The rest of the game consisted of NYG struggling to put together drives and TEN simply but effectively chewing up the clock. It was such a simple equation that it almost became maddening to watch. This was the closest we’ve seen this team to completely mailing it in well before the game clock expired as the Titans stayed hungry and assertive on both sides of the ball. This one couldn’t be over soon enough. TEN lengthened their lead to 17-0 in the 4th quarter and NYG was able to get the ball to the TEN 4 yard line, but they failed to convert. Too little, too late, anyway.

NYG loses 17-0.

QUARTERBACKS

-Eli Manning: 21/44 – 229 yards – 0 TD / 1 INT. Manning also lost a fumble in this one, giving him 12 turnovers on the year. Twelve is a career low in that department. Thus as tough as this season has been offensively, the turnovers haven’t been the issue. Manning’s biggest deficiency is he simply just can’t create anything on his own. He can make the throws when the time is there, but his mobility is worsening weekly it seems. And at the end of the day, this league is all about adjusting and creativity. With Manning, there is a deficit in both.

RUNNING BACKS

-Saquon Barkley: 14 att – 31 yards / 4 rec / 25 yards. The TEN defense did an outstanding job defending Barkley. It was the best job I’ve seen all year when it comes to a defense maintaining gap integrity. They were stout, they filled lanes, and they swarmed to the ball after keeping Barkley contained to small windows. TEN isn’t a sexy team, but they do things the right way and they play together. Barkley still had a couple runs that showed off his impressive balance and burst, but arguably the league’s top back was held in check all afternoon.

WIDE RECEIVERS

-Sterling Shepard: 2 rec – 37 yards. This is the kind of game where you can really notice the fact that Shepard is a complimentary player, not a focal point. Without Beckham on the field, Shepard just can’t get enough done on his own. Manning threw him a 50/50 ball where Shepard actually had the initial positional advantage, but he wasn’t close to coming down with it. That is simply not his game. He also had 2 drops in the rainy weather.

-The combination of Bennie Fowler, Corey Coleman, Jawill Davis, and Russell Shepard combined for 7 catches – 92 yards. I’m not sure any of these guys will be in the picture in 2019, but they have these next couple of weeks to leave a good taste in the coaches’ mouths. Davis is interesting, as he ran some good routes and has proven to be effective with the ball in his hands.

TIGHT ENDS

-Evan Engram: 8 rec – 75 yards. It was nice to see Engram back in his former role before his string of injuries this year. The explosive, dangerous weapon made couple of big 3rd down catches and gained a good amount of yards after the catch. He is at his best when he runs crossing routes in space so he can really gear up for after-catch yards. He was Manning’s go-to target in this one and I expect to see more of the same these next 2 weeks. When he’s on and involved often, it’s hard not to get excited about what he can be.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

-Even with Brian Orakpo out, Chad Wheeler was overmatched from start to finish. It was one of his worst 3 performances of the season. The former undrafted free agent was flagged twice, allowed 1 TFL, and 1 sack. Something you don’t see on paper was his inability to get off combo blocks to the next man up. Part of that can be attributed to quality defensive line play by TEN, but Wheeler showed a lack of power presence in this one.

-Nate Solder didn’t fair much better. He continues to have multiple peaks and valleys within each game and it can be maddening considering he protects the blind side. He allowed 2 pressures, 1 sack, and was flagged for a false start. This year can’t over soon enough for the NFL’s highest paid offensive lineman.

GUARDS/CENTERS

-It wasn’t a pretty day for the interior run blocking. Will Hernandez, once again, graded out as the best NYG blocker but even he barely scratched above the average mark. He allowed a pressure early in the game but settled in nicely after outside of some miscommunications between him in OC Spencer Pulley. Pulley continues to be a weakness, as he allowed a sack and a pressure in addition to being tossed around in the running game.

-Jamon Brown is playing for a starting role, whether it be here or for another team, next season. As I said last week, his play has been very up and down. He and Pulley also showed confusion against inside stunts and delayed blitzes. I feel like I have seen enough out of Brown to say he isn’t the long term answer at RG for a team that is going to need a plus-group up front in 2019. He is better than what they’ve had, but he is very limited.

EDGE

-Olivier Vernon was overmatched by Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan. He finished with 3 tackles and a pressure in this one which isn’t terrible considering TEN threw the ball just 20 times. However his performance as a run defender was low-level. He gets good initial contact at the point of attack but he simply couldn’t free himself.

-Kareem Martin had one of his busier days as a Giant, finishing with a season high 9 tackles. TEN was running the ball early and often, thus the spike in his production. I will say this about Martin, it seemed like he was the only defender on this team that wasn’t intimidated by Derrick Henry. He is very stout in the trenches, but won’t offer much other than backup-caliber edge rushing ability.

-Kerry Wynn and Lorenzo Carter combined for 6 tackles on the day. Neither of which were standout in any area.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

-In a scheme where the defensive approach is about penetration, both Dalvin Tomlinson and BJ Hill are good fits inside. They got off the ball well and made the TEN rushing attack alter their approach. The problem that comes with that penetration is the fact that new windows and lanes are created. A back with good vision and good downhill force can take advantage of that in a big way, much like Henry did all afternoon and the week prior against JAC. Tomlinson and Hill did not play poorly, but this was certainly a game where Damon Harrison was missed. They combined for 8 tackles and 2 pressures, but when a team runs the ball 45 times for 215 yards at a consistent rate, the guys inside need to shoulder a big part of the blame.

-Josh Mauro had a very loud game. 6 tackles and 2 TFL are very impressive for a rotational player along the defensive line. However he was flagged twice, one of which was on a 3rd down stop that would put TEN on the 7 yard line. The facemask resulted in a fresh set of downs for TEN, which they used to score their second touchdown of the game. Mauro has been a solid player for NYG but his aggression has hurt them a few times.

LINEBACKERS

-Alec Ogletree, another peaks and valleys player who was brought in this offseason, finished with 7 tackles and a TFL. He missed 1 tackle on the day, which wasn’t bad compared to what else we saw against Henry. He was physical from start to finish but just didn’t win his one on one battles with blockers.

-BJ Goodson led the team with 9 tackles, as expected because he is the team’s best inside run defender. One thing Goodson does well is come downhill with a lot of force. He doesn’t adjust well, as that was the cause for both of his missed tackles, but he is a good enforcer in the middle. I think it is important this team keeps him here and keeps getting him more playing time.

CORNERBACKS

We’ve seen this out of Janoris Jenkins a few times since he singed with the team. Lack of inspiration, inconsistent effort. On multiple occasions he made a business decision to not pursue Henry carrying the ball downhill. While I do understand the fact there is a 50+ pound difference between the two and nobody wants to see Jenkins get hurt, it is a hard thing to watch. You really have to take the good with the bad when it comes to Jenkins, their best DB by a long shot.

-BW Webb also missed 2 tackles on the day and was beat on 3rd down a couple times by lackluster wide receivers. While I don’t see less effort in his game, he does scream inconsistent against the run. Not the worst thing in the world in today’s NFL, but still enough to bother me.

-Grant Haley saw a slight downtick in snaps but that wasn’t a result of his play. TEN was all-in on trying to run the ball, so getting bigger personnel in there was important. He continues to impress in the slot coverage game.

SAFETIES

-Curtis Riley was back to his normal ways, missing 3 tackles and looking lost in coverage when Mariota rolled out in either direction. When I watched the All-22 angle, it was blatantly obvious he had no idea what to do when Mariota was moving. Again, I’ll give him that he has fast and physical, but it is almost too much for his own good.

-Michael Thomas had a solid game. He finished with 7 tackles and a sack. He has been exactly as advertised since coming over from MIA. Good locker room presence, a leader on the field, and stout run defender. However he did miss 2 tackles on the day.

-Sean Chandler didn’t play much, but he was crucial on the Thomas-sack. He delayed his blitz perfectly and snuck through the action up front right as Mariota went to his second read. He has made a few “knack” plays, meaning things you don’t teach but simply come from feel. Very important for a safety.

SPECIAL TEAMS

-P Riley Dixon – 6 punts – 39.5 avg / 38.2 net. He pinned TEN inside the 5 once and inside the 20 another time. He also ran for a first down on a fake punt on a well timed decision by the coaching staff. TEN had no idea it was coming.

-Quiet day for the returners Jawill Davis and Corey Coleman.

3 STUDS

-S Michael Thomas, TE Evan Engram, LB BJ Goodson

3 DUDS

-CB Janoris Jenkins, OT Chad Wheeler, QB Eli Manning

3 THOUGHTS ON TEN

-It is refreshing to see a team like TEN win games. They’ve lost some big ones this year, too. They are very-throwback in that they love to run the ball, they play good defense, and they don’t shoot themselves in the foot. I think even the strongest of NFL fans can’t name more than 10 Titans players. In this era of gaudy stats and spread attacks, give me a team like TEN that can play in any conditions, any time of year, at any stadium.

-Is Marcus Mariota the answer for that team? I’ve been asking myself that for a couple years now and I still don’t know. I’ve seen a lot of this team since the start of 2016 and I haven’t seen him improve much, if at all. Yes, you can obviously win with him, he has proven that. But when NYG go into QB-fantasy land and just cant wait to get their hands on a fresh, new, young to replace Manning, all I will say is I hope that guy is better than Mariota.

-I can remember writing Derrick Henry’s scouting report a few years ago. I had so many game notes with the word “freak” next to his name. He really is a rare player and I’m not just noting it because of his performance the past 2 weeks. When he hits a groove, he is as tough to play against as some of the top backs. His issue is that he won’t do much without space and his running style will likely keep his success short-lived if he is getting 25+ carries per game. TEN did the right thing by signing Dion Lewis this past offseason but even then, I think he is going to have a Brandon Jacobs type ending to his career.

3 CLOSING THOUGHTS

-I’ve given Pat Shurmur a lot of credit for keeping this team from dwindling down the toilet. They have played hard, tried to win games, and shown a lot of “want-to”. Well, something happened to completely reverse that approach when TEN came to down. Was it the rain? Was it Derrick Henry? Is there some drama going on with Beckham’s mysterious mystery and how he is talking about it publicly? One thing I will be looking for IND is a return to their former-hustling ways against a team that has a lot to play for. I am not sold on him being the guy in 2019 just yet.

-Almost every team has a loss like this throughout the 16 game season. Ugly, lacking passion, boring, hopeless. Because of that, I somewhat give them a pass but I just hate this seems to always happen at home every year. NYG’s home record just doesn’t scream home-field advantage. In 2017 they lost by 34 to the Rams, in 2016 the lost by 14 to the Vikings, in 2015 they 32 to the Vikings, in 2014 the lost by 16 to the Colts, in 2013 they lost by 23 to the Seahawks….all at home. Is this a coincidence? Is there someone to blame? Fans? Owners? Coaches. Just a very frustrating fact that Big Blue does NOT play any better at home.

-The final 2 weeks could be the best shot for NYG to see if there is anything to work with when it comes to Kyle Lauletta. With that said, we don’t get to see practice so it could be already known he simply isn’t ready. His short stint against WAS didn’t exactly strengthen his case. But I will say, it would be nice to see what he can do before we head into the offseason which is just a couple weeks away. Manning has shown his limitations and even though I think he has a good shot at being the guy in 2019, I don’t think we need to see him play anymore this season. The damage has been done and nothing will reverse his 2018 performance.

Dec 162018
 
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Evan Engram, Saquon Barkley, Eli Manning; New York Giants (December 16, 2018)

A Disappointing Day for the Offense – © USA TODAY Sports

TENNESSEE TITANS 17 – NEW YORK GIANTS 0…
The New York Giants saw their slim playoff hopes evaporate on Sunday as the team was shut out 17-0 by the Tennessee Titans at a rainy MetLife Stadium. The Giants are now officially out of the playoff hunt. With the loss, the Giants fell to 5-9, guaranteeing their fifth losing season in the past six years.

While Tennessee only passed the ball for 86 net yards, the Titans out-gained the Giants in first downs (22 to 15), total net yards (301 to 260), net yards rushing (215 to 47), and time of possession (35:21 to 24:39).

The Giants’ five first-half possessions ended with four punts and a sack as time expired. Yet only trailing 7-0 at halftime, quarterback Eli Manning had two killer turnovers to start the second half, including a bad interception and fumble. The Giants survived the first, but not the second as Tennessee’s second touchdown near the end of the third quarter all but officially sealed the game. The Titans added another field goal in the fourth quarter as the Giants punted two more times. Until New York’s last drive, the closest the Giants got to the end zone was the Tennessee 29-yard line. The Giants reached the 4-yard line on their final possession but turned the ball over on downs.

Manning finished the game 21-of-44 for 229 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. He was also sacked three times. His leading receiver was tight end Evan Engram (8 catches for 75 yards). Running back Saquon Barkley was held to 31 yards on 14 carries.

The defense kept the Giants in the game until late in the third quarter, but they did not create a turnover and only had one sack (by safety Michael Thomas).

Video lowlights are available at Giants.com.

INACTIVE LIST AND INJURY REPORT…
Inactive for the New York Giants were wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. (quad), quarterback Kyle Lauletta, tight end Garrett Dickerson, center Evan Brown, nose tackle John Jenkins, cornerback Tony Lippett, and safety Kamrin Moore.

Center Spencer Pulley (calf) and cornerback Antonio Hamilton (quad) both left the game with injuries and did not return. Defensive end Kerry Wynn (unknown) had post-game x-rays taken.

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.

Dec 142018
 
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Pat Shurmur, New York Giants (August 17, 2018)

Pat Shurmur – © USA TODAY Sports

Game Preview: Tennessee Titans at New York Giants, December 16, 2018

THE STORYLINE:
The storyline? Somehow the once 1-7 New York Giants are still alive for playoff spot with three games left to play. And had the now 5-8 Giants, still in last place in the NFC East, not blown their most recent game against the Philadelphia Eagles, they would actually have a serious shot at making the post-season.

The 4-1 run over the last five games is a testament to the continued fighting spirit of a still undermanned and patchwork team, as well as an indictment of the quality of their recent opponents (or more specifically, the quality of their opponents’ quarterbacks). But is it improvement. The Giants are actually beating teams. And as I pointed out last week, they are actually beating up on teams.

It is not likely the Giants will make the playoffs. Their destiny is only partially within their own hands. But you can only control what you can control, and the next task is to beat the Tennessee Titans. This is the type of physical opponent who has given the Giants problems in recent years. The Titans will be a far better litmus test to evaluate how much progress the 2018 New York Giants have truly made.

THE INJURY REPORT:

  • WR Odell Beckham (quad – out)
  • TE Rhett Ellison (ankle – probable)
  • LT Nate Solder (abdomen – probable)
  • S Curtis Riley (wrist – probable)

NEW YORK GIANTS ON OFFENSE:

The Giants will be facing a tough 3-4 defense. Tennessee is 9th in the NFL in yards allowed and 4th in scoring defense (less than 20 points per game). The Titans are also 6th in pass defense in the entire NFL. Most notable is that the Titans have the #1 redzone defense. Because Tennessee isn’t a big media market, many fans have not heard of their best players. Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey (7 sacks) is one of the best in the business. The back seven linebackers and defensive backs are tough and active. Aside from Casey, most of the pass rush comes from their linebackers.

Eli Manning’s press conferences are routinely boring affairs. But he made some very interesting comments this week. Eli said the Giants’ offense is still figuring out its path.  When asked what he meant by that, Manning responded, “Just our identity and being able to run the ball. I think that’s been the biggest difference since the bye. Just an emphasis on running the ball, the play-action. A lot more under center. Not as much shotgun. Not as much seven-step drop. Just having everything build off the run game.”

A myth has developed around Manning’s career that he was only good when he had the benefit of a good running game and defense. Nothing could have been more opposite from the truth during his career-season in 2011. But with age and the unending beatings he has taken over the past six years, Manning has morphed into that type of quarterback. I wouldn’t call him a “game manager” because he’s still capable of big-time games and big-time throws. But even he himself seems to recognize that he is at the point of his career where relying on the run is better for him and the offense as a unit.

The coaching staff and the players now seem to fully understand that the centerpiece of this offense is not Eli Manning. And it’s not Odell Beckham. It is a 21-year old kid from Penn State who has only played in 13 professional football games. The more Saquon Barkley touches the ball, the more likely the New York Giants will win the football game. Overly simplistic and sophomoric analysis? Perhaps. But when the kid gets his 20 touches, good things happen.

It will also be important for Evan Engram to build upon last week’s game. For the first time in 2018, Engram looked like the player many of us expected him to be. His two long, run-after-the-catch plays against Washington were difference makers. The Giants need more of that.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON DEFENSE:

The game plan is easy to identify but harder to implement: stop the run. The Titans are 11th in the NFL in rushing. But they are #3 in rushing attempts. In a pass-happy NFL, almost half of their offensive snaps are rushing attempts. And it’s a three-headed monster:

  1. Derrick Henry is the 6’3”, 247-pound, powerful punisher. Henry is averaging 4.9 yards per carry and has nine rushing touchdowns. (Though note his 712 rushing yards is inflated by last week’s 99-yard run in which Pop Warner teams have tackled better).
  2. The much smaller (5’8”, 195 pounds), but quicker Dion Lewis who has 50 receptions out of the backfield in addition to his 477 rushing yards. Keep in mind, the Giants don’t have a good track record covering backs.
  3. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has rushed for 339 yards and two touchdowns this year. The Giants have struggled with mobile quarterbacks, including Josh Johnson last week.

When the Titans do put the ball up, aside from Lewis catching the ball out of the backfield, wide receiver Corey Davis (54 receptions) is the main target. Mariota is completing 69 percent of his passes, but only has 11 touchdown throws. The Titans also have allowed 43 sacks (tied with the Giants for 3rd worst in the NFL).

Interestingly, 10 of New York’s 24 sacks have come in the last two games. Olivier Vernon is starting to tease again. But containing Mariota on the ground will be one of the biggest keys to this game. The Giants must maintain disciplined pass rush lanes. And they need to cover Lewis. Linebacker coverage has been a sore spot.

NEW YORK GIANTS ON SPECIAL TEAMS:

The Giants face a major test this week in kickoff return specialist Darius Jennings who is averaging over 34 yards per return, including a 94 yarder. Adoree’ Jackson is also a dangerous punt returner.

THE FINAL WORD:
The Titans are a tough, physical 7-6 football team that plays outstanding defense and can rush the football. This is the type of team that has given the Giants fits during the 2012-17 period. But the Giants are starting to show their own brand of toughness. This will be a good test for them. The Titans don’t score much, but other teams don’t score much on them either. Give Barkley 20 touches or more, stop the run, and prevent the big return on special teams. Get to 6-8 and live to fight another day.

Dec 082014
 
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Markus Kuhn, New York Giants (December 7, 2014)

Markus Kuhn – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 36 – Tennessee Titans 7

Game Overview

The New York Giants dominated one of the NFL’s worst teams (30th in both offense and defense) that was also missing key players, especially on the offensive line and wide receiver. So it’s important to take this win with a very big grain of salt. The win also practically ensures that the Giants will not receive a top-5 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

All that said, after seven straight losses and two months of losing football, it does feel good to see our team finally win a game.

Offensive Overview

The Giants had five first-half possessions and scored on four of them. In the first half, the Giants picked up 14 first downs, were 6-of-10 (60 percent on 3rd down), and accrued 258 total net yards. Interestingly, the Giants’ first half strategy was heavily oriented to the pass as New York passed 30 times in 42 plays (71 percent) and almost 88 percent of the yards gained came through the air (226).

The issue was New York had to settle for field goals on three of those drives with possessions ending at the 2, 1, and 18 yard lines. In other words, the Giants were 1-of-4 (25 percent) within the red zone in the first half. On the Giants’ 12 first-half rushing attempts, they only gained 32 first-half yards (2.7 yards per carry).

With a 23-0 lead, the defense dominating, and memories of last week’s pass-play disasters, it was understandable for the Giants to go more conservative in the second half, especially after QB Eli Manning’s boneheaded interception that was returned for a touchdown. In the second half, the Giants passed the ball 13 times (for 34 yards) and ran it 16 (for 113 yards). (This does not count Ryan Nassib’s two kneel downs for -3 yards).

Only two plays went for over 18 yards, but those two plays (the 50 yard reception by Odell Beckham and the 50-yard run by Andre Williams) accounted for 1/4 of New York’s offense.

Quarterback

One again, it was a tale of two halves for Eli Manning. Eli was very sharp in the first half, completing 20-of-29 passes for 226 yards and one touchdown. That said, he did miss on two passes late in the first half inside the red zone.

In the second half, Eli did not play well, completing 6-of-13 passes for 34 yards, and one terrible interception that was returned 23 yards for a touchdown. The interception was an incredibly stupid play by Manning as the Giants were leading 30-0 at that point, and the only way the Titans could possibly get back into the game was turnovers. Instead of trying to make something out of nothing by carelessly flinging the ball to a well-covered Larry Donnell to his left, Eli should have tried to run for the first down or just taken a slide. At worst, bring on Steve Weatherford and punt. Don’t give the Titans any hope. In addition to that single play, Manning just wasn’t as accurate in the second half despite a number of passes called in obvious running down situations.

Running Backs

The running game was much more productive in the second half than the first, as the Giants running backs rushed for 32 yards on 12 carries (2.7 yards per carry) in the first half and 104 yards on 15 carries (6.9 yards per carry) in the second half. Of course, those numbers are inflated by Williams’ 50-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-1 in the 3rd quarter.

Williams (52 snaps) was the bell cow, accounting for 131 of New York’s 142 rushing yards (92 percent). He also caught three passes for 16 yards. The second offensive touchdown drive was all Williams and his blockers as he carried the ball three times for 59 yards and the score.

Rashad Jennings (14 snaps), who was battling an ankle injury, only ran the ball twice for five yards and had one catch on 3rd-and-long for 17 yards on a very well-executed screen pass. Orleans Darkwa (6 snaps) carried the ball once for no gain and had one incomplete pass thrown in his direction.

Henry Hynoski played 24 snaps and his lead blocking in the second half was a big factor in Williams’ productivity.

Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham (67 snaps) was targeted 15 times, catching 11 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. The bulk of his productivity came in the first half again when he caught nine of those passes for 117 yards. Beckham also showed off his arm strength with a deep pass that covered about 65 yards in the air.

Beckham had an 18-yard catch on New York’s first drive that ended with a short field goal. His biggest impact came on New York’s next possession as all four plays involved passes to Beckham with the talented receiver catching a contested 50-yard deep ball, a short 7-yard reception, and two plays later, a 3rd-and-3 15-yard TD reception while he was being smacked by the safety. Beckham also caught two short third-down conversions on the second FG drive. On the negative side, Beckham was flagged with an unsportsmanlike penalty and he dropped what should have been a 45-yard touchdown pass in the 4th quarter.

The second most productive wideout was not Rueben Randle but Preston Parker (42 snaps) who caught all five passes thrown in his direction for 50 yards. Two of those catches came on the opening FG drive as Parker caught a 12 yarder on 2nd-and-6 and a 15 yarder on 3rd-and-4. On New York’s second FG drive, Parker had another key 13-yard catch on 3rd-and-4. He also had a 17-yard catch on the final first-half FG drive.

Rueben Randle (50 snaps) had one catch for nine yards. Kevin Ogletree (15 snaps) had three passes thrown in his direction, but did have a reception. Corey Washington played four snaps and was not targeted.

Tight Ends

Larry Donnell (49 snaps) caught 4-of-7 passes thrown in his direction for 28 yards. He dropped a pass 3rd-and-6 pass right in his hands that would have given the Giants a 1st-and-goal situation in the 4th quarter. Daniel Fells (32 snaps, one target) did not have a catch while Adrien Robinson (13 snaps) made a tough catch on a low throw on 3rd-and-1 that unfortunately did not pick up the first down.

I watched the blocking of the tight ends more closely on the opening drive. Robinson had a nice block on the game’s initial play. Fells failed to make his block later on a run by Williams that went nowhere. Donnell made a really nice block as an upback leading the back through the hole on another carry. Donnell’s man was the guy who hit Manning hard on the deep shot to Beckham in the 4th quarter.

Offensive Line

The same offensive line that played for the first 10 games of the season started in Tennessee with Justin Pugh back at right tackle. Against a defense that was 8th in the NFL in sack production, the Giants did not allow a sack although Eli Manning was officially hit five times, three times by DE Jurrell Casey.

The running attack continues to sputter though the Giants certainly had some second half success running the ball, most notably on the 50-yard touchdown run.

The two weak spots remain OC J.D. Walton and RG John Jerry. For example, on the only New York drive in the first half that did not result in points, Walton’s bad block on 1st-and-10 led to a 1-yard loss. On 2nd-and-11, Manning had to quickly unload the ball as Jerry’s man blew past him to hit Manning as he threw the ball. Jerry gave up another quick pressure in the second quarter.

J.D. Walton gets pushed back, disrupting running play

J.D. Walton gets pushed back, disrupting the running play…

...then John Jerry gets beat inside, causing rushed throw.

…then John Jerry gets beat inside, causing a rushed throw.

But there were other slip ups up front that hurt the running game. In the 2nd quarter, LT Will Beatty could not handle DE Jurrell Casey at the point-of-attack and Williams was tackled for a 3-yard loss.

RDE disrupts running play by defeating block of Will Beatty.

RDE disrupts running play by defeating block of Will Beatty.

On the positive side, there was superb blocking Williams’ 50-yard touchdown run by Beatty, tight ends Robinson and Fells, and fullback Hynoski.

50-yard TD with good blocks from Robinson, Beatty, Fells, and Hynoski.

50-yard TD with good blocks from Robinson, Beatty, Fells, and Hynoski.

And my whipping boys, Walton and Jerry did a really nice job on a 3rd-and-long screen pass that picked up 17 yards and set up the last field goal.

A well-executed screen with good downfield blocks by Walton and Jerry.

A well-executed screen with good downfield blocks by Walton and Jerry.

Beatty was flagged with a holding penalty and Richburg with ineligibly downfield on a screen pass.

Defensive Overview

The Giants dominated defensively, shutting out the Titans, holding them to 12 first downs (three in the first half). The Titans were held to a paltry 207 total yards (62 in the first half). The Giants accrued eight sacks, three turnovers, and scored defensively.

While such a performance should not be discounted against any pro team, keep in mind the Titans were 30th in offense and dead last in scoring coming into the game, and they were without both offensive tackles and their best wideouts due to injury.

Defensive Line

The Giants held the Titans to 61 yards rushing and 27 of those yards were from the quarterback. Indeed, backup quarterback Jake Locker was the team’s leading rusher. In addition, the Giants defensive line was credited with four sacks.

There are currently only three defensive ends on the roster. Jason Pierre-Paul (50 snaps, 7 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for losses, 1 QB hit, 1 forced fumble) and Damontre Moore (45 snaps, 2 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for losses, 2 QB hits) saw the bulk of the action though Kerry Wynn (35 snaps, no tackles) played quite a bit.

Tennessee was missing both their offensive tackles. JPP took advantage of that and was the most disruptive defensive player on the field. Interestingly, Perry Fewell finally had him playing quite a bit at left defensive end, though Pierre-Paul continued to flip-flop between both end spots. Not only did Pierre-Paul have two sacks but he was a factor on the pass rush throughout the contest. For example, JPP’s pressure caused the quarterback to step up into the pocket and into the waiting arms of Jameel McClain on the team’s first sack. Similarly, on the Devon Kennard sack the caused the fumble returned for a touchdown, it was JPP who initially contacted the quarterback.

Pierre-Paul had initial contact on fumble play returned for TD.

Pierre-Paul had initial contact on fumble play returned for TD.

Pierre-Paul’s first sack came late in the first half as he also stripped the ball. However, Pierre-Paul should have simply fallen on the fumble instead of trying to pick it up as Tennessee recovered instead. JPP’s second sack came on the Titans’ last offensive series.

JPP beats left tackle to sack QB and cause fumble.

JPP beats the left tackle to sack QB and cause a fumble.

Pierre-Paul was also a factor against the run, as best illustrated by his penetration on the second offensive snap of the 3rd quarter that disrupted one running play.

JPP blows up running play.

JPP blows up running play.

Like Pierre-Paul, Moore was flipped-flopped from side to side. He was not terribly stout at the point-of-attack against the run, particularly at left defensive end. I saw one late 1st quarter running play where he was easily shoved back four yards by the tight end. To me, since he doesn’t look bigger than Devon Kennard, Moore is probably better suited to the right side of the defense in non-obvious pass-rush situations.

Moore - playing LDE - gets pushed back 4 yards by TE

Moore – playing LDE – gets pushed back 4 yards by TE

Moore came up with his first sack late in the 3rd quarter. However, two plays later, Moore was flagged with an unnecessary roughness penalty, wiping our a defensive touchdown. Moore’s final sack came on the Giants’ last defensive play as Moore nailed the QB for a 10-yard loss on 4th-and-9.

At defensive tackle, as usual, Johnathan Hankins (27 snaps, 1 tackle, 1 QB hit) saw the most action but Jay Bromley (23 snaps, no tackles) was #2 in the number of snaps received. Hankins had one very good pass rush where he smacked the quarterback as he released the ball, causing an incomplete pass on a play where the receiver was wide open. He also was right on top of the quarterback on Moore’s sack that ended the game on 4th-and-9.

Hankins beats LG to hit QB, causing an incomplete pass.

Hankins beats LG to hit QB, causing an incomplete pass.

Mike Patterson (19 snaps, 1 tackle), Markus Kuhn (16 snaps, 2 tackles, 1 fumble recovery), and Cullen Jenkins (14 snaps, 1 tackle) all saw playing time too. Kuhn had the defensive score. Patterson made a nice hustle play down the line of scrimmage on the tight end on his sole tackle.

Linebackers

With Jacquian Williams and Mark Herzlich both out with concussions, the Giants were short at linebacker with only Jameel McClain, Devon Kennard, Spencer Paysinger, and newcomers James Davidson and Paul Hazel active.

McClain (58 snaps, 8 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for losses, 1 QB hit) and Kennard (32 snaps, 6 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for losses, 2 QB hits, 1 forced fumble) were very active for the second game in a row. No other linebacker showed up on the stat sheet as Paysinger only played nine snaps.

McClain had the team’s first sack and Kennard followed that up later in the first quarter with a sack and forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown. McClain made a nice tackle on a 3-yard screen play that looked poised to pick up more. Kennard’s second sack – where he was unblocked – knocked the Titans’ starting quarterback out of the game.

Defensive Backs

Titans’ wideouts were limited to 12 catches for a total of 148 yards, but keep in mind that Tennessee’s two top wideouts were missing from this game and former Giant Derek Hagan was Tennessee’s leading receiver with six catches for 62 yards. The two Titans quarterbacks completed 23-of-35 passes for 206 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions (57.6 QB rating).

The only big breakdown came late in the game on a 30-yard completion where there appeared to be some confusion between safeties Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown.

Zack Bowman (no defensive snaps) appears to have been demoted. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (58 snaps, 0 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass defense) and Chykie Brown (56 snaps, 5 tackles) started with Mike Harris (50 snaps, 3 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for losses, 1 QB hit) receiving significant playing time as the slot corner.

DRC played well and picked off a pass that he returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. A penalty wiped out the TD, but the interception stood. I thought he got a little sloppy with this tackling however.

I liked what I saw from Harris. He missed a sack in the first half when the QB ducked under his blitz, but later redeemed himself with a 10-yard sack on 4th-and-5 in the fourth quarter. Harris was often matched up on dangerous RB Dexter McCluster, and he did a nice job on him. Harris also nailed Hagan for a 2-yard loss on a WR-screen in the 4th quarter.

At safety, Stevie Brown (58 snaps, 2 tackles) continued to start along with Antrel Rolle (58 snaps, 4 tackles, 1 pass defense). Quintin Demps (26 snaps, 3 tackles, 1 interception, 1 pass defense) and Nat Berhe (3 snaps, 1 tackle) saw playing time as well.

On the play where Moore’s penalty wiped out a defensive score by DRC, Rolle was also flagged with unsportsmanlike conduct for pretending to take pictures of Rodgers-Cromartie…a stupid, immature stunt by a veteran of Rolle’s stature. Rolle did cause a late interception with his hit on TE Delanie Walker that was picked off by Demps on the rebound.

Chykie Brown seemed to do OK but was flagged with an unnecessary roughness penalty.

Special Teams

Josh Brown was 5-for-5 on field goal attempts, making it from 20, 19, 36, 52, and 42 yards. Five of his nine kickoffs went for touchbacks. The longest Tennessee kickoff return went for 23 yards.

Steve Weatherford punted four times, averaging 46.5 yards per punt (40.5 yard net). He nailed a 61 yarder that bounced into the end zone and only netted 41 yards – this is why Tom Quinn was upset on the sidelines. The Titans only returned one punt for four yards.

Preston Parker returned one kickoff for 20 yards but only reached the 17-yard line. Odell Beckham returned four punts for 49 yards, with the longest being for 21 yards. He seems poised to break one.

Paul Hazel was flagged for being offsides on a kickoff.

(New York Giants at Tennessee Titans, December 7, 2014)
Dec 072014
 
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Odell Beckham, New York Giants (December 7, 2014)

Odell Beckham – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The New York Giants defeated the Tennessee Titans 36-7 on Sunday afternoon at LP Field in Nashville, Tennessee. The win ended the Giants’ 7-game losing streak and improved the team’s overall record to 4-9. The last time the Giants won a game was the October 5 game against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Giants dominated the game from start to finish, out-gaining the Titans in first downs (19 to 12), total net yards (402 to 207), net yards rushing (142 to 61), net yards passing (260 to 146), and time of possession (34:43 to 25:17).

The Giants’ defense actually shutout the hapless Titans’ offense, with the only Tennessee points coming on a 23-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter. Not counting the kneel down at the end of the first half, the Titans had 12 possessions. They missed one field goal, punted six times, committed three turnovers, and twice turned the ball over on downs.

The New York defense accrued eight sacks, forced two fumbles (recovering one), picked off two passes, and scored when linebacker Devon Kennard forced a fumble late in the 1st quarter that defensive Markus Kuhn returned 26 yards for the touchdown. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie also scored on a 36-yard interception return, but the score was wiped out due to penalties on defensive end Damontre Moore and safety Antrel Rolle.

The Giants received the ball to start the game and drove 78 yards in 14 plays. Unfortunately, the drive stalled inside the Tennessee 10-yard line and New York settled for a 20-yard field goal. After a three-and-out by the Titans, quarterback Eli Manning and wide receiver Odell Beckham hooked up on plays of 50, 7, and 15 yards, the latter being a touchdown pass on 3rd-and-3. New York 10 – Tennessee 0.

Both teams exchanged punts and then came the play where Kuhn scored to give the Giants a 17-0 advantage. Tennessee had their most impressive drive of the game on the following possession, reaching the NYG 24-yard line, but missed a 42-yard field goal attempt.

The Giants then drove 67 yards in 16 plays but disappointingly had to settle for another short field goal after facing a 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard line and a 2nd-and-goal from the 1-yard line. After a quick three-and-out, the Giants got into field goal range again, driving 45 yards in just over a minute to kick a 36-yard field goal with seven seconds left before intermission.

At the half, the Giants led 23-0.

Tennessee went three-and-out at the start of the 3rd quarter. Running back Andre Williams picked up nine yards on the Giants’ first two plays of the half, then broke off a 50-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-1 as New York went up 30-0.

After another Tennessee punt, the Titans scored their only points of the day on an ill-advised pass by Manning that was returned 23 yards for the score. After both teams exchanged punts, the Giants went up 33-7 on a 52-yard field goal by Josh Brown.

Early in the 4th quarter, post-possession fouls by Moore and Rolle wiped out Dominique-Cromartie’s 36-yard interception touchdown. But the pick did set up New York’s final points as Brown hit from 42 yards out with 11:22 to play.

The Titans went for it on 4th-and-5 from the Giants’ 45-yard line on their next possession but cornerback Mike Harris sacked quarterback Jake Locker to end the drive. After a three-and-out by the Giants, a deep pass by Locker was intercepted by safety Quintin Demps at the Giants’ 19-yard line. Tennessee’s last possession ended on 4th-and-9 from the Giants’ 25-yard line when Moore sacked Locker.

Offensively, Manning was 26-of-42 for 260 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. He was not sacked. The leading receivers were Beckham (11 catches for 130 yards and 1 touchdown), wide receiver Preston Parker (5 catches for 60 yards), and tight end Larry Donnell (4 catches for 28 yards). Williams rushed for 131 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries.

Defensively, the Giants had eight sacks: defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (2), Kennard (2), Moore (2), Harris (1), and linebacker Jameel McClain (1). Kuhn recovered one fumble for a touchdown. Dominique-Cromartie and Demps each had interceptions.

Josh Brown was 5-for-5 on field goal attempts, including from 20, 19, 36, 52, and 42 yards.

Video highlights of the game are available at NFL.com.

Post-Game Notes: Inactive for the Giants were LB Jacquian Williams (concussion), LB Mark Herzlich (concussion), CB Jayron Hosley, RB Chris Ogbonnaya, OT James Brewer (concussion), and OG Eric Herman.

Dec 052014
 
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Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (November 30, 2014)

Jason Pierre-Paul – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants at Tennessee Titans, December 7, 2014

The season that would not end…the slow death of the 2014 New York Giants season continues. Giants fans wait 7-8 months for football to begin and now they can’t wait for it to be over and to see how management is going to address this steaming pile of crap.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Is Eli hearing footsteps again?
By the end of the 2013 season, not only was Eli Manning seriously hurt, but he had become shell-shocked behind one of the worst NYG offensive lines in recent memory. There was a legitimate fear that the exceptionally poor protection could have a long-term psychological impact on his game. Enter Ben McAdoo and a somewhat improved offensive line that helped to restore his confidence in the first half of the 2014 season. But the offensive line has begun to deteriorate again and consequently so has Eli’s confidence. To be blunt, he doesn’t trust his line and it’s affecting his game.

Second Down
Is Andre Williams an NFL starter?
With Rashad Jennings (ankle) ailing, Andre Williams most likely will start against one of the NFL’s worst run defenses. Williams may have five touchdowns but his is averaging a pathetic 2.9 yards per rush on 134 carries. Thus far, the super-productive collegiate back who many thought was a steal simply looks like “just a guy.” Obviously, the offensive line has a role in that, but Williams has to play better. If not, then he is yet another draft mistake by Jerry Reese, Marc Ross, and company. It will be curious to see if he or fellow rookie Titan Bishop Sankey has the better game.

Third Down
Are Larry Donnell and Rueben Randle part of the long-term solution?
Truth be told, Larry Donnell really has played above expectations this year with 51 catches for 516 yards and six touchdowns. But after the early-season game against the Redskins where Donnell looked like a budding star, more was expected down the stretch. Was that just a one-time flash in the pan? Randle has 56 catches for 609 yards and two touchdowns. That’s not enough for a #2 receiver in a passing league. He only has one 100-yard game this year. Randle has the ability, but he’s got to want it.

Fourth Down
On a defense that has to be overhauled in the offseason, who will be part of the solution?
The million dollar question is will Jason Pierre-Paul be back? For as much grief as he gets from fans, he’s still the best defensive lineman on the team and the guy who other teams worry about. If he walks, that opens up yet another huge hole on a defense sorely lacking talent (plus, it will mean the premature departure of yet another 1st round draft pick). But the Giants should not dramatically overpay JPP. One assumes Johnathan Hankins and Jay Bromley will be part of the fix, but what about Damontre Moore? Based on comments from coaches this week, it’s clear that they still don’t view him as a full-time starter. If that is the long-term view of his game, the Giants really have some huge holes on the defensive line. Aside from Robert Ayers (now on IR), is there anyone else really worth bringing back up front? At linebacker, Devon Kennard seems like a player. Jameel McClain has been decent. But these two are not overly speedy and the rest of the linebackers just aren’t that good. In the secondary, as long as everyone returns healthy, and if they can re-sign Walter Thurmond (a big if), they should be in good shape at corner. But safety is an issue, especially if Antrel Rolle leaves.

BREAKING DOWN TENNESSEE:

OFFENSE
Strength?
Like the Jaguars last week, the Titans are not very good on offense. They are 30th on offense in yardage and 32nd in points scored. The Titans are terrible on 3rd down (dead last in the NFL) and they turn the ball over a lot. That said, when healthy, they have the makings of an up-and-coming young offensive line. The problem is their line, including LT Taylor Lewan (ankle) and RT Michael Oher (toe) have been battling injuries. Chance Warmack is the right guard. Lewan and Warmack are both high 1st rounders who many Giants fans wanted to draft. Delanie Walker has been productive catching the football at tight end and could present some match-up issues for the Giants as could RB Dexter McCluster. Giants fans will remember how this runner-receiver-returner killed the Giants in Kansas City last season.

Weakness?
The Titans struggle to run the ball (27th in the NFL). And while they are better passing (20th), they are starting a rookie quarterback with a bum right shoulder and have suffered some significant injuries at wide receiver. Justin Hunter was placed on IR and Kendall Wright has a hand injury that caused him to miss some practice time this week.

DEFENSE
Strength?
Like the Jaguars, the Titans are statistically pretty bad on defense, but they do one thing really well – rush the passer. They are 8th int he NFL in sacks with 31 and in their new 3-4 defense has enable pressure from multiple players (15 Titans have sacks). See Tom Coughlin’s comments below on which defenders have stood out to him.

Weakness?
The Titans are 30th in yards allowed and 32nd in points allowed. They are dead last against the run. The Titans are 18th against the pass, but that is more a function of the pass rush than a suspect secondary.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Dexter McCluster returned a punt for 89 yards and a touchdown against the Giants in 2013 as a Chief. New Yorkers are also familiar with ex-Jet Leon Washington’s return game (8 career kickoff TDs). Rookie Bishop Sankey has actually been more productive on kickoffs this year than Washington.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Eli Manning
The Giants need to get Eli through the next four games both physically and mentally intact for the 2015 season.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin – “(The Titans’) defense is led by Jurrell Casey, an outstanding rush defender up front. Derrick Morgan, Jason McCourty is having an outstanding year. You can’t help but noticing him on tape. And the two inside backers, (Wesley) Woodyard and the rookie, (Avery) Williamson, and also (Michael) Griffin, the safety, are doing an outstanding job.”

Ken Whisenhunt – “When I look at the (New York Giants) I just look at what I see on tape. I see a team that plays hard and make some plays and has weapons. We certainly have our concerns. You know just from looking at it what their record is, but I think they are a team that is better than what their record is…Certainly (Odell Beckham) is growing as a young player. I think you can see his confidence has increased and he is making a lot of plays and he is one you certainly have to be aware of, but to me it all starts with the quarterback. He is a very good player, established player in the league and I have a lot of respect for what he has done. I think you have to make sure you that you try to contain him.”

FINAL WORD:

I have a hard time seeing the Giants winning another game in 2014. Defensively, a lack of demonstrated success (i.e., confidence), injuries, and a growing belief that Perry Fewell is probably on his way out will likely continue to cause defensive breakdowns, even against terrible offensive teams like the Titans. Offensively, while the Titans are terrible statistically, they do one thing that has caused the Giants problems – they rush the passer. An aggressive 3-4 defense, the Titans will blitz from every angle and this Giants’ offensive line gets confused very easily by blitzes, and stunts, and probably their own damn shadows. If the Giants can protect Eli and not turn the ball over, they should win easily. But I don’t see them doing either. Titans 19 – Giants 10.