Another Monday morning. Another post-mortem on a game the New York Giants should have won, but did not. Let's review the carnage of Sunday's 24-20 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in our traditional "Kudos & Wet Willies" style.
Kudos to ...
Odell Beckham Jr. -- When the Giants can get the ball to Beckham, easily their best player, good -- sometimes great -- things happen. Beckham had seven catches for 146 yards, including a perfectly timed 67-yard touchdown on a slant pattern. The question for Ben McAdoo and Tom Coughlin is, why, after targeting Beckham 10 times in the first half, did the Giants only throw the ball to him twice in the second half?
Shane Vereen -- This is why the Giants signed him as a free agent, and why it might well be the best move they made during the offeason. Vereen had eight catches for 76 yards, including a 37-yard catch-and-run on a third-and-five that set up a Giants' touchdown in the third quarter. Now, if only Vereen -- who won a Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots a year ago -- could teach his teammates how to finish games.
Devon Kennard -- There is one impact player on the Giants' defense -- Kennard. He's it. He had nine tackles, two hits on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and a pass defensed. Too bad he doesn't have much help.
Brad Wing -- Why did the Giants cut Steve Weatherford and trade a conditional draft pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for the left-footed Australian? Well, Sunday was a perfect example. Four punts, three downed inside the 20, including a perfectly hit punt that Dwayne Harris caught at the 2-yard line.
Dwayne Harris -- The aforementioned Harris had a fantastic day on special teams, showing the biggest reason the Giants paid him a lot of money in the offseason. There was that brilliant catch of the Wing punt, and some terrific return work. He averaged 38.5 yards on two kickoff returns, including a 41-yarder. Harris averaged 16.5 yards on four punt returns, including a 29-yarder. His job is to change field position, and he did that consistently Sunday. Sadly, the Giants could not take advantage.
Wet Willies to ...
Eli Manning -- Manning's 105.4 passer rating might be the most misleading quarterback rating ever. A 105.4 would indicate that Manning had a terrific game when, in fact, you can lay this loss right at the feet of the franchise quarterback. For the second straight week. You could have foreseen a lot of things with these Giants. You could not, however, have foreseen Manning being the biggest reason the Giants are 0-2.
His third-quarter fumble, with the Giants leading by 10 points and inside the Atlanta 10-yard line, completely changed the tone of Sunday's game. The Giants, with a fragile psyche after Week 1, went from being on the verge of grabbing control against the Falcons to on their heels waiting for the Falcons to roar back. Which they did.
Manning committed a second fumble, which he got away with thanks to a Larry Donnell fumble. He committed a costly fourth-quarter delay of game, failing to either get Weston Richburg to snap the ball or call a timeout. On the final drive, three off target throws -- yes, two were sort of catchable -- helped doom the Giants.
On first down at the 50-yard line, Manning threw too high for a leaping Larry Donnell. Yes, Donnell said afterwards that "the great ones" make that catch, but the ball was off target. On second down, Manning badly underthrew a wide open Jerome Cunningham at the 25-yard line. Yes, Manning was pressured by Adrian Clayborn but with the game on the line you have to step into that throw and take the hit, not bail out. On fourth down, his pass to Parker inside the 30 was at the receiver's shoe tops.
Preston Parker and Rueben Randle -- OK, cue up the "it was a mistake cutting James Jones chatter again. Because, yes, it was. Parker was credited with two more drops Sunday, including the final play, bringing his total to five in two games. Randle, a player the Giants need desperately to step up with Victor Cruz still out, was a non-factor for the second straight week. He had one catch for five yards and one drop. That's it.
Run blocking -- The Giants average of 4.2 yards per carry (23 rushes, 97 yards) on Sunday was deceptive. They got a 35-yard run from Andre Williams and an 18-yard scramble from Manning. Otherwise, nothing from their run game. They couldn't get a critical two yards when they needed them in the fourth quarter and had five runs for negative yards. Rashad Jennings had nine carries for just 12 yards and Vereen had 19 yards on six carries. Hard to believe the Giants could miss journeyman tight end Daniel Fells as much as they did, but Larry Donnell is an atrocious, completely ineffective run blocker and the Giants were forced to rely on him. Considering the lack of a blocking tight end I am a bit surprised fullback Nikita Whitlock played only nine snaps.
The defense as a whole -- I don't even know where to begin in terms of giving individual "Wet Willies" on the defensive side of the ball. The whole group, with the exception of Kennard, deserved a "Wet Willie" for the totality of its ineffectiveness. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie playing only seven snaps (burner/concussion) didn't help, but there just aren't any difference-makers on that side of the ball.
The defense gave up 13-play, 86-yard touchdown drive at the beginning of the game. The Giants gave up touchdown drives of 12 plays, 91 yards and seven plays, 70 yards in the fourth quarter.
Inconsistent pass rush, inability to cover the middle of the field against the pass, inability to get off the field on third down (the Falcons went 11-of-17 on third down, 65 percent conversions). Prince Amukamara is a stand-up guy, but when the game was on the line showed once again that he doesn't measure up against the best receivers in the league, getting absolutely smoked by Julio Jones on a 37-yard pass that set up Atlanta's winning score. Uani 'Unga gives the Giants everything he has at middle linebacker, but his lack of experience is hurting them.
Kwillies to ...
Larry Donnell -- A touchdown catch and a critical fumble recovery were on the positive side for the tight end. His inability to haul in Manning's high throw and his pitiful efforts at run blocking -- he's going to get a running back killed one of these days -- are to the negative side. It's a mystery to me why a 6-foot-5, 275-pound man seems unwilling to stick his body in and try to block someone.
Ereck Flowers -- Love this kid's attitude, his worth ethic, his toughness. Love the fact that he went out Sunday without complaint and played when he was obviously less than 100 percent. Unfortunately, he didn't play very well (-6.1 Pro Football Focus grade) and left in the third quarter after re-injuring his left ankle. You will hear some say he can't handle speed rushers. I won't say that because it's not fair to judge when he's trying to do so with a damaged ankle. Tough day for the kid, but there are brighter ones to come.
When yours truly pinned the blame for Sunday's loss on Manning and the offense, some folks jumped into the @BigBlueView Twitter timeline to disagree. I am going to stand by that.
The Giants have defensive shortcomings. Obvious ones. Everyone knows it. And yes, they gave up two long scoring drives at the end of the game. Sandwiched in there, though, was a key fourth-quarter stop by the defense that should have been enough to salt the game away.
In the end, the Giants gave up 24 points. When they only give up 24 points they have to win football games. Remember when GM Jerry Reese was tallking about expecting, and needing, the offense to put up 28 points a game? So far, , he had been deadly accurate. The Giants have given up 27 and 24 points and he Giants have lost both games,
In both of these games, the offense had opportunities -- you might even say they had the obligation -- of clinching games that were within their grasp. In both games, the offense came up short.
The defense is a problem, yes, but we aren't seeing anything from that group that we really didn't expect. The biggest issue is that in the first two games the offense has come up far short of expectations.