The New York Giants showed all the signs of being a bad football team on Sunday night. In fact, they have been showing those signs for the past three weeks, during which time they have gone from 2-0 to 2-3 and to the bottom of the heap in the NFC East.
Offensively, they were awful during a 23-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers. They couldn’t pass or run block. Even when he had opportunities, Eli Manning couldn’t throw the ball on target to open receivers. They couldn’t take advantage of outstanding field position generated by the kickoff return group all night. The Giants managed only three points off two Janoris Jenkins’ interceptions, one in Green Bay territory. With three superior wide receivers, the Giants got one measly touchdown against a defense missing its two starting cornerbacks.
Defensively, they couldn’t rush the passer. Alleged Giants’ pass rushers needed binoculars to find Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers as he surveyed the field for receivers. They gave up 147 yards rushing. They missed too many tackles. They struggled, as they have all season, to get off the field on third down. Even when the Packers tried to give the Giants a break, like James Starks did by basically handing the ball to Kelvin Sheppard with Green Bay trying to run out the clock, the Giants couldn’t take advantage.
Discipline? Odell Beckham behaved himself this time. Good teams with discipline, though, don’t have players shoving reporters in the locker room after games.
With all of that said, let’s get to the “Kudos & Wet Willies.”
Kudos to ...
Janoris Jenkins — Jenkins did everything he could to keep the Giants in the game Sunday night. He came up with a pair of interceptions, the Giants first two of the season, and also had three passes defensed. One of those came in the end zone, denying Green Bay a touchdown.
Keenan Robinson — A linebacker who can cover? What a concept! Robinson was officially credited with one pass defensed, a terrific, athletic play to reach back and knock an Aaron Rodgers’ pass to Richard Rodgers that looked like a sure touchdown, away in the end zone. I thought he had at least two, but I will figure that out when I review the tape.
Kickoff return — Dwayne Harris averaged a whopping 34.3 yards on three kickoff returns, including a 42-yarder. With Harris out late in the game with a toe injury, Bobby Rainey added a 37-yard return. In an era where kickoff return opportunities don’t come that often that is really excellent work. Too bad the Giants’ offense couldn’t take advantage. Three times the Giants started outside their own 30-yard line after kickoffs, one of those times outside the 40. The only time they scored was a touchdown on their final possession of the game.
Pass defense — The work by Jenkins and Robinson was most notable, but let’s give the entire secondary some props. With as much time as Rodgers had to survey the field Monday night it is amazing that he didn’t have a monstrous night passing the ball. Instead, he went a pedestrian 23-of-45 for 259 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Credit everyone in the secondary with outstanding work.
Wet Willies to ...
Ereck Flowers — The second-year offensive tackle was horrific Sunday night. Pro Football Focus officially credited Flowers with allowing one sack and six hurries, compiling a poor 40.1 overall grade. It seemed like whoever Flowers was blocking spent the night flushing Manning out of the pocket. Flowers committed a holding penalty, his sixth penalty of the season. That’s twice as many as any other Giant has. Per official NFL stats, four of those penalties have helped stall Giant drives. Per PFF, Flowers had a second sack and an additional hurry nullified by penalties. He also reportedly shoved a member of the media in the locker room after the game. GM Jerry Reese has drawn a line in the sand with Flowers at left tackle. This was not an encouraging night.
Bobby Hart — The second-year right tackle wasn’t any better than Flowers. He allowed a sack, which turned into a fumble by Manning that was recovered by Green Bay and cost the Giants three points. Per PFF, he also allowed two quarterback hits and four hurries. Hart committed a false start penalty.
Thus, the two tackles combined were responsible for pressures on 14 of Manning’s 39 dropbacks (35.8 percent). It’s no wonder Manning was obviously uncomfortable in the pocket.
Pass rush — It was almost completely non-existent. Yes, Rodgers is one of the best in the league at moving around, avoiding sacks and buying time for his receivers to get open. He did that at times Sunday night. For most of the night, though, Rodgers was able to stand unperturbed in the pocket and wait for someone to get open.
Eli Manning — Not good. Not good at all. Yes, Manning was pressured a ridiculous number of times Sunday due mostly to the pitiful play of his offensive tackles. Still, there were opportunities for plays that Manning didn’t make. He missed a wide open Will Tye for what should have been a momentum-changing 61-yard touchdown late in the second quarter. You can rightly argue that Tye could have, and should have, made a better effort, but an NFL quarterback has to hit that throw. He missed a wide open Odell Beckham in the second quarter. Manning was off target all night, much like he was in Minnesota. Manning was never intercepted by Green Bay, but easily could have been on a couple of occasions. The Giant offense is not functioning with any consistency, but things would look a lot better if Manning was hitting the plays that are there to be made.
Running game — Perhaps this isn’t fair since the Packers came into the game leading the league with a ridiculous average of 1.8 yards allowed per rushing play. Still, 15 carries for 43 yards (2.9 per rushing attempt) isn’t going to get it done.
Run defense — Yes, Eddie Lacy (11 carries, 81 yards, 7.4 yards per carry) deserves some credit for hard, powerful running. Still, the Giants gave up 147 yards rushing on 32 carries (4.6 yards per attempt). They couldn’t get stops on short-yardage runs and a number of times they had Lacy or James Starks bottled up at the line of scrimmage only to fail to make a tackle and wind up giving up big gains.
There is still time for the Giants to turn things around, but not much. The Dallas Cowboys are 4-1 and looking like the team everyone thought they would be a season ago. Rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are outstanding players. The Philadelphia Eagles are a surprising 3-1, and despite Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Lions they look like a good team. The Washington Redskins, 0-2 when the Giants let them off the mat in Week 3, are suddenly 3-2. The Giants? They look like the worst team in the division.
The Giants have four of their next five games at home, interrupted by a trip to London to face the St. Louis Rams. Looking farther ahead, after that they travel to face the Cleveland Browns before beginning a touch five-game stretch to end the season.
To make those final five games meaningful the Giants have got to quickly solve what ails them. The way the rest of the NFC East teams are playing, the Giants probably need to win at least four of those next six games to have a chance. Can they? Perhaps, but it is certainly difficult to feel good about what we have seen the past three weeks.