It wasn’t easy, or pretty, but the New York Giants got a victory that had to have on Sunday, defeating the Los Angeles Rams, 17-10. Let’s look at 10 things we learned about the Giants on Sunday.
1. Giants are alive in playoff chase
Mathematically, of course, the Giants would have been alive whether they won or lost. Realistically, this was a game the Giants desperately needed to stay within striking distance in both the NFC East and the NFC wild-card race.
The Dallas Cowboys are 5-1, and the Giants could pretty much have forgotten about catching them if they had not won on Sunday. Not only that, NFL Network flashed a stat on Sunday showing that 4-3 teams have a 47.9 percent chance of making the playoffs, while 3-4 teams have just a 19 percent chance.
So, huge victory for the Giants.
2. Landon calling
We have seen safety Landon Collins be unable to come up with interceptions a few times the past two seasons. Sunday, he made two huge interceptions on tipped passed, being directly responsible for 14 of the team’s 17 points.
Oh, and “Kudos” to Tom Rock of Newsday because I will admit “borrowing” the “Landon calling” subhead from him.
3. Odell Beckham wasn’t nearly 100 percent
There was word before the game that Beckham did not do his normal pre-game routine, and that he spent time in conversation with coach Ben McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese regarding the status of his injured hip.
Beckham played, catching five passes for 49 yards, including a big 22-yard catch on the Giants’ game-winning drive, but he was clearly limited.
“It took a lot to get ready for this game. It was all mental preparation,” Beckham said. “Even going through warmups I didn’t quite know what to expect. It was pretty painful.
“Mr. Mara, Mr. Reese gave me an opportunity to play. You play for your brothers out there. It was great to be able to come here and fight with them ... There was a seed of doubt, but you’re going to do whatever you need to do to be out there with your team.”
4. The Giants must like playing from behind
6-0 vs. Dallas
14-0 vs. Minnesota
7-0 vs. Green Bay
10-0 vs. Baltimore
10-0 vs. St. Louis
The Giants even broke their habit Sunday of deferring when they win the coin toss. Taking the ball didn’t help, though, when Larry Donnell fumbled on the second play of the game.
Ben McAdoo and Co. need to spend some time during the bye week figuring out how to get off to better starts.
5. The Giants’ offense is a mess
The Giants won a football game Sunday, but their offense had almost nothing to do with it. They won because Landon Collins was fantastic, because their defense as a whole was outstanding and because Los Angeles quarterback Case Keenum isn’t very good.
The Giants have under-performed on offense all season, and Sunday was just another example. There are myriad of obvious issues.
- They can’t run the football. Rashad Jennings did manage a 1-yard touchdown run, but the Giants ran 20 times for 36 yards, a paltry 1.8 yards per carry. Over and over, they try that same shotgun run up the middle, and get virtually nothing out of it.
- There’s no imagination in the passing game. It’s just an endless series of slants, hitches and dump offs to the running backs or tight ends.
- They quite obviously don’t trust the offensive line to hold up long enough to allow them to push the ball down the field. They rarely take shots.
6. Robbie Gould will be just fine
Gould, the new Giants’ placekicker, wasn’t tested with any long kicks. He made his only field goal, a 29-yard effort, after only one day of practice with the team, and hit two extra points. The Giants trusted him enough to allow him to place three of his four kickoffs to force returns, a strategy that worked as the Giants made stops inside the 25-yard line on each of them.
7. The Giants found a pass rush
Finally, the Giants found a way to consistently apply pressure on a quarterback. They ended up with three sacks, with Jay Bromley and Damon Harrison each getting one, and Jason Pierre-Paul and Kerry Wynn splitting one. Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon constantly applied pressure off the edges, and Steve Spagnuolo was aggressive in dialing up blitz packages. One other thing I liked was seeing Devon Kennard play defensive end in passing situations, something I have been calling for.
8. Dwayne Harris is one tough guy
You might have been surprised to see Harris returning a punt for the Giants in the fourth quarter after he was carted off right before halftime, but I really wasn’t. Harris has been doing things like that for two years. If he can walk and the trainers don’t take his helmet, he’s playing. You have to love the guy’s toughness.
9. Third down still an issue
The Giants did a lot of good things on defense, but handling third- and fourth-down situations wasn’t one of them. Los Angeles went 9-of-19 (47 percent) on third down, and converted a fourth-and-10 to keep their final drive alive. Spagnuolo has the bye week to figure out what he can do differently in those spots.
10. The Giants need a real tight end
Cross your fingers and hope that rookie Jerell Adams develops, because right now the Giants are desperately in need of a competent tight end. Larry Donnell just isn’t that guy. He can’t block, which handicaps the running game, and he’s scary every time the Giants throw him the ball. Was anyone truly surprised he fumbled on Sunday. Will Tye? Let’s just call it discouraging that he hasn’t played well enough to push Donnell to the bench.
The way things look now, no one should be surprised if the Giants use an early pick on a tight end in the 2017 NFL Draft.