The answer to the question "Who is to blame for the New York Giants' loss?" is, of course, everybody. However, there are varying degrees of blame to go around. The players who barely saw the field can hardly shoulder as much blame as the ones who were on the field for nearly every play.
So with that in mind, let's take one last look at the Giants' embarrassing performance with our usual dissection of snap counts, and some input from Pro Football Focus.
There are two stories to this game on the offensive side. The first is the utter failure of the offensive skill position players to make a play for Eli Manning, the second is on the disintegration of the Giants' offensive line.
Odell Beckham Jr. had an outstanding afternoon, garnering a +3.2 grade from PFF and played every one of the Giants' 69 snaps. Even more impressive than his brilliant catch, Beckham recorded his seventh career game with 140+ yards receiving.To put that in perspective, he broke Jerry Rice's record of six such games in his first two years. OBJ is pretty good.
Will Tye had a good game as well, playing 45 total snaps and snagging six catches for 74 yards. The rookie tight end from Stony Brook was by far the offense's second best receiver.
The rest of the offense combined for 5 dropped passes -- although it seemed like more -- including three by Jerome Cunningham, and a pair of communication breakdowns that resulted in wrong routes run.
The Giants' injured and reshuffled offensive line took another huge blow on Sunday with the loss of Geoff Schwartz after just 16 snaps. How big a loss is he? In his limited snaps, Schwartz still garnered a +1.2 grade, fifth-highest on the team. His loss also forced John Jerry out of position to left guard, and seventh-round rookie right tackle Bobby Hart onto the field at right guard. From there, Manning was under duress the rest of the afternoon and the Giants' rushing attack evaporated -- regardless of which back was in the game.
The defensive performance was highlighted by the best game of rookie safety Landon Collins' young career.
He played 58 of the Giants' 70 defensive snaps (82 percent), recorded a team high seven tackles (two for a loss), was responsible for six of the Giants' 27 defensive stops, and had the highest run stop percentage of any safety in the NFL (16.2 percent). All that combined earned him the top grade among all Giants with a +3.4, even higher than Beckham's grade. Even more promising, Collins was only targeted once in coverage, when he was in single coverage on Jordan Reed and gave up a four-yard reception, but made the open-field tackle to stop the dangerous tight end before he could pick up the 1st down.
On the flip side of the safety coin, Brandon Merriweather -- who has become the Giants' Free Safety -- allowed three receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown. That was "good" for a perfect passer-rating against of 158.3. It seems clear that getting a true free safety has to be priority for the Giants in the off-season.
Finally, a large par of the Giants' defensive struggles had to do with their inability to pressure Kirk Cousins. They only pressured him on four of 29 drop-backs, and Jonathan Casillas was their top pass rusher with a +1.2 pass rush grade on 38 defensive snaps. Interestingly, Jay Bromley only played 16 snaps, while Damontre Moore only played eight snaps. While the Giants' desire to stop the Washington running game played a role in their personnel decisions -- Kerry Wynn and Montori Hughes played 27 and 23 snaps respectively -- it appeared as though Bromley was introduced to Coughlin's doghouse after a roughing the passer penalty on Cousins.
Ultimately, while the defense didn't play particularly well, and failed to get a stop when they needed one, It is difficult to pin much blame on them. They still held Washington to 20 points, which should be good enough for a win if the offense had played more than the final 11 minutes of the game.
Full Snap Counts
Giants Snap Counts
I usually reserve the last section for "Final Thoughts" but I want to take a quick jaunt over to the Philosoraptor's Corner for a moment.
I'm afraid that the Giants could be in trouble.
The word that Justin Pugh's concussion had made very little progress over the previous three weeks has me worried, and it has nothing to do with football. Brain injuries are scary, and they need to be handled cautiously for good reason. This isn't just his football career, but Pugh's quality of life we're talking about. On a less-severe note, I'm also concerned for Weston Richburg. High ankle sprains are dreaded for a reason, even a "mild" sprain can take six weeks to heal completely. Complete healing is important, because an incompletely healed injury can limit performance, lead to compensation injuries, and chronic injuries. If it is more than a mild sprain, it could take as long as 12 weeks to heal. And finally, while there is hope that Geoff Schwartz's season may not be over, it has to be assumed that a fracture will take some time to heal, and could be vulnerable to further injury.
If the Giants are forced to go with the offensive line configuration that finished the season for any amount of time, they will likely find it difficult to mount any sort of offense, particularly against the defensive lines remaining on their schedule.
Looking down the road and into the offseason, the Giants need to find a new No. 2 receiver, and need clarity on Will Beatty. If Beatty's rotator cuff injury isn't related to the rehab of his torn pectoral, and has pre-existing concern as Tom Coughlin indicated, then that might suggest an onset of arthritis. The Giants might need to once again invest in their offensive line this coming offseason. Resources that they need to invest elsewhere (like the defense).
As for Rueben Randle, he has proven that his only constant is inconsistency. Perhaps New York will get lucky and Hakeem Nicks' return will give them a legitimate and reliable option across from Beckham. The free agent market quite thin at wide receiver, and the Giants have to want to use their draft capital on young defenders, but they might be forced to invest in the offense once again. In his first game back in New York, Nicks only received 11 snaps, as opposed to Randle's 59. The two recorded the same number of catches, but Randle's effort has rightfully garnered some harsh criticism. It wouldn't be surprising to see Nicks start to supplant his supposed Randle as he more fully learns the play book.