By Aaron Weiss
The New York Giants suffered another demoralizing loss on a game-ending field goal, losing on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 25-23. The Giants ended up once again gaining a lead in the 4th quarter, only to blow it after being incapable of halting the Tampa offense. Still, while there is next to no hope for this 0-4 squad, this team improved in many ways this week, while also taking some major steps back in other areas. So, as always, let’s break down what happened this week, and look ahead to see what’s coming up next week!
Wayne Gallman – Welcome to the NFL, Wayne Gallman! The 4th round pick out of Clemson got his first NFL action on his 23rd birthday, taking over the reins in the 3rd quarter after Paul Perkins left the field with a rib injury. By comparison, the rookie shined, putting up 42 yards on 11 carries, significantly outpacing the Giants’ other two backs on the ground (Vereen and Perkins combined for 27 yards on 13 carries; Orleans Darkwa was held out of the contest with a back injury). The rookie also caught 2 passes for 8 yards and a touchdown. His 3.8 yards per rush is normally uninspiring, but he was a breath of fresh air compared to what the Giants normally put out on the field. Look for him to join the flustercuck that is the Giants’ running back committee on a more consistent basis.
Eli Manning – Manning was at his best on the deep throw today in spite of his 5.8 yards per catch average, nailing passes of 42, 21 and 19 yards, and he remained incredibly consistent, throwing for 288 yards and 2 touchdowns while going 30/49. Plus, the old man notched his first rushing touchdown since 2014, sneaking out of the pocket and speeding in for a 14 yard score. While this entire team is in disarray, and Eli is somewhat responsible, the old stalwart mostly remains a pillar of reliability in the chaos that is this team.
Everything I’ve criticized the Giants about this year – So far this year there has been a lot of chide the Giants about, but on Sunday the Giants excelled in many aspects that they’d previously failed at. Their run game was almost as good as Tampa’s, they dominated time of possession, holding the ball for a whopping 34 minutes, they had more first downs than Tampa, they were 3/4 in the red zone, they were the far better 3rd down team (8/17 as opposed to Tampa’s 3/11), they ran 15 more plays than Tampa, didn’t turnover the ball, didn’t give up any sacks, and, perhaps most importantly, they only had one penalty for 0 yards. On paper this team corrected almost everything they’d done poorly in the past, but once again it wasn’t enough to get the win.
Aldrick Rosas – The rookie finally stumbled, missing a key 43 yard field goal in the 4th quarter, which, considering the Giants ended up losing by 2, was mildly significant. It was his first miss on the year, which complemented his competitive counterpart Nick Folk 2 missed field goals (from 49 and 46 yards). At this point it’s still unclear how good Rosas is. He’s yet to be fully utilized (for comparison’s sake, Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein attempted more FGs on Sunday (7) than Rosas has all year (5)), and he’s not been significantly challenged, having not had to kick a 50+ yard FG. So until the offense becomes a little more scoring heavy, Giants’ fans will have to wait to see what the rookie can do.
Run defense – The Giants could not contain the run game for the second week in a row, giving up 111 yards on the ground, including 83 to lead back Jacquizz Rodgers on 16 carries (5.2 yards per rush). Lead run defender Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison missed some of the game with an injury, but at the end of the day this is starting to become the standard as opposed to the aberration. Look for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to dial up more blitzes and put even more faith in his top heavy secondary, especially against run dominant teams.
Brad Wing – Wing strikes again, putting together a relatively mediocre game (plus one great 56 yard punt) that was absolutely eviscerated by a brutal 15 yard punt with just under 10 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Wing is spared from the Ugly section because unlike last week this didn’t set up the game winning score, but it did give the Bucs an easy touchdown and the lead, which took Rhett Ellison and the Giants about 4 or 5 minutes to reclaim. While it’s too early to pull the plug on the 2-year Giant now, he needs to figure out how not to choke in the clutch, or he will be out of a job.
Defense against tight ends – BJ Goodson reclaimed his role as the starting middle linebacker this week, just in time to be obliterated by Tampa’s pair of TEs. The Giants gave up 143 yards and 2 touchdowns on 6 catches to the Tampa duo of TEs (OJ Howard and Cameron Brate; the two combined for 10 targets). Howard’s touchdown came on a truly horrifying blown coverage, which allowed him to basically walk in from 58 yards out. Meanwhile, Brate had 35 and 26 yard catches, plus another 14 yard completion for his touchdown. While Janoris remains incredibly good in spite of his various ailments, and even Eli Apple looked much improved from the past few weeks, the Giants continue to have no answers over the middle of the field.
Injuries – While it was Tampa who came into the game looking like the banged up team, it’s New York that limps away. Odell Beckham left the game twice, first for an apparent ankle injury and then for a dislocated finger; he returned after both injuries and neither is projected to affect his availability going forward. Others weren’t so lucky. DE Olivier Vernon came into the game listed as questionable with an ankle injury, and he pulled up near the end of the first half, seeming to have aggravated said injury. He did not return, and it’s unclear how this will impact him next week. C Weston Richburg left the game with concussion symptoms, and while he has yet to be officially diagnosed he did not return to the game, so his availability will be dependent on his ability to clear concussion protocol. Finally, starting RB Paul Perkins left the game in the third quarter with a rib injury, which he did not return from. Without more specifics we’re left in the dark about how this will affect him going forward.
0-4 – At this point in the season the Giants should probably start packing up for the season, as their chances of a playoff berth are all but extinguished. In spite of more well rounded play the Giants shot themselves in the foot, and made a few key mistakes that doomed them to their fourth loss in a row. To add to the dumpster fire that is this season, the Giants need only look to the other locker room to find the New York Jets, universally considered the worst team heading into the season and now 2-2, tied with the defending champion New England Patriots. The Giants should be able to salvage something of this season, and it’s unlike them to tank, but a quarter of the season in and Jerry Reese reaps what he sows, especially when it comes to the Giants offense, particularly the run game and offensive line. With no hope left for 2017, Giants fans can find comfort in Coach McAdoo’s subdued Jim Mora impression.
NFC East Picture:
Washington will play tonight against the league-best Kansas City Chiefs, while the Cowboys lost a shootout against one LA team (the Rams) and Eagles won a shootout against the other (the Chargers). This leaves Philly on top at 3-1, while Washington is 2-1, Dallas 2-2, and New York 0-4. The way this division is shaping up it may only take 8 or 9 wins to take the division, so don’t count anyone out, but at this point the Giants need close to a miracle to remain in contention.
Next Week: They say misery loves company, so MetLife Stadium should be a stadium of anguish come Sunday afternoon, when the 0-4 Giants play the 0-4 Chargers (the San Francisco 49ers are the only other team currently 0-4). The Chargers are coming off a 26-24 loss to Philly, in a game where, excluding one 35 yard TD run by the 3rd string RB, the Chargers rushed 12 times for 23 yards on the ground. However, unlike fellow 2004 draft pick Eli Manning, Philip Rivers remains a master of the long ball, hitting a 75 and 50 yard pass in the contest. While I hope New York gets off the schneid, it’s all too easy to envision a game like this week where a “good enough” offensive effort and a “good enough” defensive effort is spoiled by one or two blown coverages on big plays, especially with the Giants suffering a few major injuries this week. Fingers crossed I’m wrong, but don’t be surprised if things go from bad to worse for the Giants.
Prediction – Chargers win 27-20