By Aaron Weiss
In a season that somehow keeps getting worse, the Giants lost their week five matchup against the now 1-4 Los Angeles Chargers 27-22, dropping to 0-5. The Giants simply could not hang around with the Chargers after suffering a rash of injuries, in what ended up being one of the worst three hour periods in New York Giant history. Let’s break down what little went right, everything that went wrong, and anything else in between while look forward to New York’s week 6 match-up.
Wayne Gallman & Orleans Darkwa – The Giants may finally have a run game! Gallman, playing his second regular season game, and Darkwa, coming back from injury, combined for 19 carries, 126 yards and a touchdown. The pair alone had the Giants best single game effort on the ground this year (with a 91 yard performance coming in second and a 62 yard performance coming in third), which doesn’t include contributions by Shane Vereen and Odell Beckham, who brought the Giants’ run game total to 152 yards on 25 carries. Darkwa has looked impressive all year when he’s been healthy, and Gallman has made a impactful impression to start his career, averaging 3.8 yards per carry after contact. Given the other developments of the day, look for the Giants to try and push this pair further into the spotlight.
Darian Thompson – Thompson was all over the field on Sunday. He may not have the skillset or the star power of his fellow safety Landon Collins, but Thompson recorded his first interception, along with a team high 11 tackles, 2 passes defended, and 1 QB hit. To date he hadn’t made much of an impression to distance himself from fellow sophomore and last year’s starting safety Andrew Adams, but performances like this will secure his status as the starting Free Safety.
Damon Harrison & Dalvin Tomlinson – While the Giants got absolutely steamrolled by Chargers RB Melvin Gordon, the big interior duo on the Giants’ defensive line did a remarkable job holding Gordon and anyone else trying to work down the middle in check. Gordon rushed 7 times down the middle for a measly 22 yards (3.1 yards/carry), as opposed to 13 carries for 83 yards (6.4 yards/carry), when rushing to the left or right side of the offensive line (although Gordon did have a 26 yard run up the middle negated by a holding penalty). Snacks Harrison also excelled in pass defense, recording 4 QB hurries on 24 pass rushing snaps.
Penalties – Once again this season, the Giants’ agonizing mental mistakes were overshadowed by worse ones from an opponent, but that’s no reason to give the Giants a pass. The G-Men had 10 penalties for 67 yards (as opposed to LA’s 11 penalties for 87 yards). Some of the more egregious penalties were unnecessary roughness from BJ Goodson, running into the kicker from Nordly Capi (which thankfully didn’t extend the Chargers’ drive), and 2(!) defensive offsides penalties from beleaguered edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul (his 50.4 PFF grade is 24.2 points worst than his previous worst PFF grade). In a game where everything outside of New York’s control went wrong, the Giants couldn’t make sure to do the easy things right.
Pass Protection – Bobby Hart and his 36.6 PFF grade returned to the lineup after missing time with an injury, and boy oh boy did it show. Unlike Philip Rivers, who wasn’t sacked once, Eli Manning was brought down 5 times, losing 42 yards and one fumble in the process. Manning took 7 QB hits on the day, and once again he often looked spooked in the pocket. To be clear, the offensive line continues to “improve”, with the average rush yards before contact increased to 2.0, but once again this offensive line showed it couldn’t stop the duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
Injuries – Wow. Just wow. In what has to be one of the most wrath of godlike moments in NFL history, the Giants lost 4 of their 5 active WR’s on injury throughout the game. WR Sterling Shepard sprained his ankle early in the second quarter, only to have fellow WR Brandon Marshall hurt his ankle the very next play (while Coach McAdoo called his injury a sprain, the fact that he’s undergone surgery implies it’s something more serious). Special teams ace and plugin WR Dwayne Harris broke his foot on a special teams play in the third quarter, and, most significantly, superstar WR Odell Beckham fractured his ankle in the fourth quarter, a huge blow both in the short term (he was scorching hot against star cornerback Casey Hayward, making 5 catches on 8 targets for 97 yards and a touchdown, and Eli Manning would fumble the ball the play after Odell left), and in the long run. Of the 4, only Sterling Shepard avoided injured reserve, and he is listed as day to day, although the odds he plays this upcoming week are slim. This rash of injuries left Eli Manning with one active healthy receiver for the last few minutes of the game, Roger Lewis, and on the Giants last make or break drive, Manning had Lewis and TE Rhett Ellison lined up outside, with TE Evan Engram on the inside and pass catching specialist RB Shane Vereen in the backfield, a recipe that led to a disastrous interception. No offense, and no quarterback (excepting perhaps Aaron Rodgers) can successfully win a game with only a 4th string wide receiver and no other WRs, and the rash of injuries doomed any chance that Giants had to win a close game they so desperately needed.
NFC East Picture:
In one of the more contentious divisions to date, it was the Philadelphia Eagles who stood out the most, convincingly beating the Arizona Cardinals 34-7, and going to 4-1 on the season in the process. Washington had a bye week, and the Dallas Cowboys met the same fate most teams do when facing the inhuman god that is Aaron Rodgers, falling to 2-3. Barring a miracle, the Giants are out of playoff contention, but for the first time this season, it looks like one of the teams in the NFC East is on the cusp on breaking away from the competition.
Next Week: The Giants signed veteran WR Tavarres King, who they cut in the offseason, and practice squad WR Travis Rudolph to replace Beckham and Marshall (they also signed WR Darius Powe, who they also cut in the offseason, to the practice squad). That means, unless Sterling Shepard makes a remarkable comeback and plays this week, that King, Rudolph and Lewis, who have a combined 19 career receptions (15 for King, 4 for Lewis and 0 for the rookie Rudolph), will go head to head with Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr, and Bradley Roby, who have a combined 55 career interceptions and 7 Pro Bowl appearances. The rest of the Denver defense is just as intimidating, and while the Giants may make headway against the run, they still only ran the ball to the left side twice against the Chargers, so clearly there are still issues to be addressed. While it would not be surprising to see the Giants’ defense push around Trevor Siemian and the mediocre Denver offense, it’s honestly more likely that the Giants score a touchdown on defense than offense. There’s no way, especially on the road, and with the Broncos coming off their bye week that this Giants’ team beats the 3-1 Denver Broncos.
Prediction – Broncos win 17-3