Busy week this week. Sunday was absolutely chock-full of sports, and it was brilliant. Formula 1 qualifying was delayed until Sunday morning because of Hurricane Patricia's impact on Austin's Circuit Of The Americas, so the day started with that, and was shortly followed by the London game, which was better than expected.
After that, we had the usual slate of games kick off, though I was busy making dinner for my family to keep track of anything too detailed. I had the New York Jets vs. New England Patriots game on in the kitchen, but those carrots weren't going to peel themselves so I had only marginal interest. After that, I did something risky. I set in forth a process of time-delays to ensure I could maximize my sports intake for the day.
I paused the F1 race so I could enjoy a proper sit-down family dinner. That alone was dangerous, but to then also pause the New York Giants game on top of that was a little too bold. I figured that I could watch the race, and the game would only be about 40 real-life minutes in by the time it ended. Ad-breaks and stoppages would account for nearly half of that so I thought I'd be back up to speed by half-time.
So close. I forgot to tell my Dad that this was my plan. I had watched the race with him (he's head of Motorsport Ireland, the governing body for four-wheeled auto sports over here, so yeah, I guess you could say that this is sort of his thing) and then retreated to a different room to watch the Giants via Game Pass -- albeit with a little bit of territorial proxy fidgeting to get around blackout restrictions.
With the New York leading 7-6 in the second quarter, my Dad poked his head around the door.
"I see the Giants are losing."
"What ... no ..."
"Oh, it said on the TV that they were losing just now."
"No, I'm watching it delayed. Damn. Crap."
"I'm gonna leave now."
He means well. Thankfully, what he was talking about was a 13-10 halftime deficit. Nothing to worry about really, but in my head -- because of the way he phrased it -- I envisioned a much worse scenario. Totally serves me right for attempting to complicate a great day of sports. Silly Alex.
The Giants defense has been much maligned this year, and much of that criticism is deserved, but the one area where they are flourishing is turnovers. The basic job description of a football defense is to stop the opponent from scoring while providing the best possible field position for the offense. Is there a more refined form of doing that than the turnover?
The Giants have been opportunistic on defense by getting their hands on the ball quite often. Their 11 interceptions and five* fumble recoveries combine to form a unit that ranks third-highest in turnovers. While this team may be having trouble stopping the other team in a traditional "three plays and a punt" format, they seem to have a nose for the football.
When you combine this with how careful their offense have been, it paints a gallery-worthy picture. The Giants have a plus-10 turnover differential. This is the best in the league. Let's print out those last two sentences, frame it, and hang it in the Tate Modern because that is some artful stuff right there. Best in the league, fellas. Plus-10. Whoo-boy.
*[Fumble recovery numbers vary from source to source right now. I suspect this is because of the strange Cole Beasley fumble/muff from Sunday's game. I have included it as a fumble here, as does Pro Football Reference and NFL GSIS. ESPN currently do not include it. Official reviews happen during the days following a game, so sites may be updated as that occurs.]
1st time Giants have had kickoff return TD and Int return TD in same game since Nov. 4, 1951 vs New York Yanks— Katie Sharp (@ktsharp) October 25, 2015
After Sunday's 100-yard kick return, Dwayne Harris now leads all kick returners with an average of 36 yards per return. Pair that with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's pick-six and it's surprising that the Giants offense had time on the field at all. As Katie Sharp mentions above, this scoring combination hasn't happened since 1951 against an in-state rival, the New York Yanks.
At first I thought that was a typo and there maybe was a New York Yankees football team, much the way we had the New York Giants and the New York Football Giants for many years. Forgive my lack of baseball knowledge, because no, I was wrong. The Yanks were a totally different team altogether. Formed in 1949, they lasted just three seasons and folded in 1951. A Dallas businessman bought out the player contracts and shipped them all to the Lone Star state to become the Dallas Texans.
The Texans didn't last much longer, and moved to Maryland after one season and thus, the Baltimore Colts were born. The official bloodline of the Indianapolis Colts begins in Baltimore and doesn't acknowledge its New York heritage, but I thought this was interesting nonetheless.
The point is; the Giants have been so bad at scoring defense and special teams contributions for so long, that the last team they doubled-down on is not only not part of the league, but so old that they are no longer considered part of the approved history.
I don't actively root against many players in the league. In fact, there are a bunch of individual guys I like on teams I don't like. Tony Romo is one. That's right. Romo, the Giant Killer himself, is someone I actively want to see play well because the sport is better when he's around. But, when it comes to the opposite, when it's a bad dude on an unlikable team? Schadenfreude, my friend.
This stat is a textbook example of correlation over causation, because Greg Hardy has been playing well, but it doesn't matter. This makes me happy. Jerry Jones and the Cowboys need an ethical kick in the butt week-in and week-out until they acknowledge their mistakes -- nay, their wrongdoings -- in their employment of Hardy.
During Sunday's game, a NoMore.org ad featuring William Gay of the Pittsburgh Steelers was separated by less than 30 seconds of a shot of a domestic abuser earning millions of dollars by playing for the world's most valuable sports franchise. I don't like this guy, and my reasons are just. Hardy is a bad person, and thankfully, isn't getting the luxury of enjoying a day's work on top of earning a fat paycheck.
Tom Coughlin celebrated his 100th win as head coach of the Giants with Sunday's victory over the Cowboys. His 168 total wins are second most among any active coach in the league, with only Bill Belichick and the Patriots outscoring him. Coughlin will certainly go down as one of the great coaches in history, regardless of how his last days in New York play out.
This is a man who won 68 games with the Jacksonville Jaguars. That's an average of 8.5 wins per season. Do you realise what Gus Bradley would give to get even one 8.5 season out of that team right now? In 1999, Coughlin's Jags went 14-2. That's as many wins as their last five seasons combined.
This defense has just nine sacks through seven games. That's pitiful. The once feared Giants' pass rush is currently third-worst of any team in the league. I know there's more to pressuring the quarterback than just the sack totals, but does this team look misrepresented by that number? I don't think so.
If anything, it's a miracle that they've even brought down the quarterback at all. Damontre Moore is responsible for one-third of the Giants' sacks, yet his poor decision -aking earned him a night of inactivity last week. It's gotten that bad.
Many may point to Jason Pierre-Paul as a potential savior for this team going forward, but those who think he's bringing back that 2011 form this season need their stomach pumped because they've likely swallowed dangerous amounts of Big Blue Kool-Aid. Anything this team gets from Pierre-Paul in 2015 will be a bonus. If he plays a considerable amount of snaps over the second half of the season, then two or three sacks would be an optimistic number. He may not even crack the starting lineup for several weeks if he's not currently in game shape.
Meanwhile, the Giants will have to get by with a defensive interior that somehow still includes Markus Kuhn, and an edge rotation of players who lack the consistency to be an every-down threat. Robert Ayers might be the best of a mediocre bunch right now, but he's had trouble staying healthy. Kerry Wynn is good, but mainly at run defense, and Cullen Jenkins is an aging defensive tackle forced into spot-duty amidst a rash of injuries.
I'd like to say that this coaching staff will acknowledge these shortcomings and tailor their gam eplan accordingly, but the basic personnel issues we're already seeing in the line rotation points to a bigger problem; lack of self awareness. Whether it's Kuhn or Kiwanuka, this has been a team willing to put struggling veterans on the field at the expense of talented development projects. Until issues like these clear themselves up, expect to see more low production metrics.
The last two games have totally destroyed the top run defense that this team boasted about in the early weeks of the season. After being top-five in terms of yards-per-game allowed for most of the year, the Eagles and Cowboys put up big numbers on the ground. The Giants now rank just 21st overall, allowing an average of 113.4 yards per game.
Eli Manning has not been good on the road this year. The Giants in general have struggled, going 1-2 away and 3-1 at home, but Manning's performances are particularly glaring.
|Attempts||Completions||Comp. %||Yards||TD||INT||Avg. yards per attempt||Avg. yards per game|
I'd like to point to one column and say that its specific difference is especially bad, but the more my eyes dart between the numbers, the more I see a complete breakdown. There are eight different stats listed here, and Manning's numbers have been dramatically worse on the road in every single one.
Ryan Smith (@RSmithNYG) October 25, 2015
Not much to say here. This is just frustrating.
The Downright Confusing
The Giants' 13 first downs on Sunday was the fewest they've achieved in a win since Week 8, 2012. The interesting difference here is that in 2012 Kevin Gilbride was still offensive coordinator and we all know his system relied on deep vertical throws to generate big plays. Now, under Ben McAdoo, it's a different story altogether. McAdoo's lateral-separation West Coast offense shouldn't produce strange numbers like these, and if it does, it should probably spell disaster for the Giants' chances of winning. Not this wee,k though, because they minimized the damage with zero turnovers, and were bailed out by a pair of scores from other areas of the team.
On the other side of the ball, the Giants have allowed 161 first downs in 2015, which is tied with the Jaguars for the most in the league. This is a somewhat skewed number as the top teams are all those who have not yet had their bye week, though it still points to a troubling inability to play stable defense. This isn't a metric that reflects big plays, rather it points to a multitude of sustained drives and this reinforces what we see on tape; the Giants getting beaten with short underneath passes. Another number backs this up. The New York defense is the worst for total number of pass completions allowed with 188.
Despite being known for his famous catch against Brandon Carr, three of Odell Beckham's worst five yardage totals came against the Cowboys. In each of those games, the Cowboys held Beckham to less than 50 yards receiving. This is a little offset by the 146 yards from his famous catch game, but it's interesting that Beckham's most famous moment, came against a team that holds him to an average of less than 65 yards per game. Based on his career totals, Beckham generates 96.3 receiving yards per game. Dallas knocks off about a third of that production and should be commended for it. It's not a popular angle in terms of narrative or artificial excitement -- things that sports media thrives on -- but it's interesting.