The New York Giants had an opportunity Monday night to grab control of the NFC East, to stamp themselves as a legitimate force to be reckoned with in the fight for the division crown. Instead, as they have regularly over the past three-plus seasons, the Giants came up small in a big spot.
Penalties. Turnovers. Poor offensive line play. Zero pass rush. Ineffective special teams play. Curious personnel decisions and play-calling. All of these things have plagued the Giants for years, and all of them reared their ugly heads on Monday night in an embarrassingly one-sided 27-7 loss to a Philadelphia Eagles team that, truthfully, doesn't appear to be that good.
The Giants wake up this morning 3-3 and, tiebreakers aside, tied with the Eagles atop the NFC East. That's the bright side. They missed an opportunity, though, have now lost four straight NFC East road games, and re-opened the question of whether they are actually any better than the Giants' teams of the past two seasons that finished with losing records.
Now, on to the "Kudos & Wet Willies."
Kudos to ...
The Giants' opening drive
In fact, we could extend that "Kudos" to everything that the Giants did in the first 9:36 of the game. Right up until the Larry Donnell interception/fumble that changed everything.
The Giants' first drive was a thing of beauty -- it's as good as the offense has looked at any time during Ben McAdoo's 22 games as offensive coordinator. Eight plays, 80 yards, time of possession of 4:37, a 13-yard touchdown pass to Odell Beckham. Eli Manning went 5-for-5 for 59 yards. Rashad Jennings ran three times for 16 yards. There was a terrific mix of run and pass, and the Giants' struggling running game was finding success. The 13-yard touchdown pass to Beckham was outstanding, as the empty set the Giants used with Beckham as an inside receiver created a one-on-one mismatch with Eagles' linebacker DeMeco Ryans.
Things continued to go swimmingly when the Eagles got the ball as the Giants forced a three-and-out. They then used nine plays and one Eagles' penalty to move efficiently from their own 37 to Philly's 23. They appeared to be in control of everything and headed to a second score.
Then came the Donnell play. Nothing good happened for the Giants after that.
There are at least a couple of players deserving of some praise. So, let's do that before we move on.
Jennings had 13 carries for 63 yards, an average of 4.8 yards per carry. The Giants were successful running the ball whenever they had Jennings in the game in single-back sets. So, why didn't they do more of it? Why did they go away from Jennings, opting for two-back sets with Andre Williams (5 carries, 6 yards) and Nikita Whitlock, and to run with Shane Vereen (4 carries, 0 yards)? It's not Jennings' fault the Giants didn't ride with what was working. In an apparent desire to keep showing the Eagles different looks the Giants never forced the Eagles' hand, they never forced the Eagles to stop Jennings. Jennings perhaps should get a "Kwillie" because he did commit a costly fumble. The Eagles, though, never stopped Jennings. The Giants, and Jennings' own miscue, stopped Jennings.
Six tackles, a gift interception on a throw to nowhere by Sam Bradford, two passes defensed and at least one vicious -- but perfectly legal -- hit on a Philly receiver. The guy isn't a long-term answer for the Giants at safety, but he has played well for them this year. And he has played within the rules. You have to give him some props.
Wet Willies to ...
Everything beginning with the Donnell fumble
There is really no way to parse individual "Wet Willies" out of the mess the Giants made beginning with Ryans taking the ball away from Donnell, and ultimately the game away from the Giants. You can, and probably should, give Donnell a "Wet Willie." Damontre Moore and his "poor football IQ" get one, too. Punter Brad Wing was, to put it kindly, not good. This loss, though, was a collective effort. So, the entirety of the Giants' absolute futility that began with Donnell's inability to secure what should have been a catch is what draw the "Wet Willie."
Let's talk about some of the things that went wrong for the Giants.
- They gift-wrapped 21 Philadelphia points. The drive-sustaining penalties on Moore and Nikita Whitlock led to 14 Eagles' points. There was also the awful "you knew it was bad news as soon as he threw it" Pick 6 that Eli Manning handed to Philly's Nolan Carroll.
- The Giants couldn't block the Eagles defensive front. They surrendered three sacks Monday after giving up only four in the first three games. Manning was also guilty of two really ugly, panicked intentional grounding penalties. The Giants gave up 16 total pressures in Manning's 42 drop backs, meaning he was under pressure 38.1 percent of the time. Manning's time to release the ball of 2.53 seconds, per Pro Football Focus, was his highest this season. Marshall Newhouse couldn't block Connor Barwin, but he wasn't alone. Weston Richburg couldn't handle Bennie Logan and Geoff Schwartz gave up two sacks and two hurries. No Giants' offensive lineman could really claim to have played well.
- After starting 10-for-10, Manning went just 14-for-28 with a slew of ugly grounding penalties, tipped balls and off-target throws. He finished with a passer rating of 62.3.
- Brad Wing is absolutely outstanding when the offense reaches the midfield area or crosses the 50-yard line and his job is to directionally place the ball inside the 20-yard line, preferably inside the 10. The question with Wing that really had yet to be answered in five games is what would happen when the Giants needed distance from their punter. The answer Monday night wasn't pretty. Wing hit punts of 27 and 37 yards in those situations, and had two other punts that only worked out to be adequate because of the distance they rolled. Not good at all.
- Offensively, the Giants established that they could run the ball well with Rashad Jennings (13 carries, 63 yards) and that they could throw the ball to Odell Beckham (7 catches, 61 yards). The question for McAdoo is why the Giants went away from those things. Why was Jennings, despite his fumble, on the sidelines watching Andre Williams gain 6 yards in five utterly futile rushing attempts? The Giants, incidentally, have yet to rush for 100 yards in a game this season. Why was Beckham only targeted once -- and held without a catch -- in the second half? You have to at least try to get the ball to your best player. Don't you?
- Defensively, the Giants don't have a pass rush to speak of. Their seven sacks are tied for worst in the league. It is pretty embarrassing when your 250-pound fullback might be the most dependable pass rusher you have. Moore, we know, can rush the passer. His penchant for foolish penalties, though, negates a lot of the good he might be able to do and is part of what is limiting his playing time. Scream at Steve Spagnuolo for not blitzing more Monday night, but he was caught between a rock and a hard place. The Giants' best blitzing linebacker, Devon Kennard, didn't play. Also, with Jayron Hosley and Trevin Wade playing in place of Prince Amukamara and Trumaine McBride the Giants were seemingly reluctant to send extra rushers and expose them.
- The Giants get a collective "Wet Willie" for losing a game Sam Bradford and the Eagles begged them to take, with four turnovers -- including three Bradford interceptions.
- Twelve penalties for 92 yards. Two of those penalties led to Philadelphia points. The sum total of all of the penalties showed a lack of discipline on the part of a team that has little margin for error.