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Steelers 24, Giants 14: “Kudos & Wet Willies” review

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A grumpy “K&WW” after a disturbing loss

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New York Giants v Pittsburgh Steelers
Odell Beckham, since all the Giants did in the second half was throw the ball to him.
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

For the first time in seven games, the New York Giants came out on the short end Sunday, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-14. That makes this edition of “Kudos & Wet Willies” an unhappy one. Still, we have to do it.

A quick comment. This was just one loss. The Giants are 8-4 and still in good position to make the playoffs. This loss, though, was alarming because of how utterly incompetent the Giants were on offense.

Let’s get to it.

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Kudos to ...

Olivier Vernon — Two sacks, making this the fifth straight game with at least one for the defensive end. Vernon was also credited with four hurries. Making it even more impressive, he basically did it alone. Jason Pierre-Paul went out with a groin injury in the first half. Defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins and Damon Harrison were also banged up during the game, at times leaving Vernon as the only starting defensive lineman on the field.

Eli Apple — A terrific interception, a fumble recovery and a pair of passes defensed for the rookie. He makes mistakes occasionally, but the first-round pick looks like he is en route to a terrific NFL career.

Wet Willies to ...

Giants’ offense — Pathetic. When the Giants play like that on offense, which they have too often this season, it gets tough to look at Ben McAdoo and that monstrous play card. I wrote about this Sunday night, but the Giants can’t expect to make a deep playoff run with the offense playing that poorly. With the playoff race tightening thanks to Sunday’s loss and a tough four-game stretch to finish the season the Giants might be fortunate to reach the playoffs if they can’t play better offense than what they showed Sunday.

The only meaningful score they had came when the defense handed them the ball at the Pittsburgh 17-yard line. Eli Manning had a crushing interception on the goal line in the second quarter. By the way, did any Giants fan watching the game not know the ball was going to Larry Donnell, playing his first — and only — offensive snap since Week 7 on that play? Steelers’ linebacker Lawrence Timmons certainly did.

Four second-half possessions began between the Giants’ 40-yard line and midfield. Yet, the Giants only scored a meaningless touchdown in the final seconds. This week, it was wide receiver Victor Cruz who never even saw a ball come his way. How is it that the Giants can’t figure out a way to utilize all their players?

Obviously, the offensive line play wasn’t good enough. That leads me to my next “WW.”

Ereck Flowers — The second-year left tackle was awful on Sunday, there’s no other way to put it. Well, there is but we’re going to keep it clean.

Flowers had a holding penalty in the end zone for a safety. He had a false start penalty. He is now tied with Taylor Lewan of the Tennessee Titans and Demar Dotson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the most penalties by an offensive tackle this season, 11.

At this point, the Giants really don’t have much choice but to ride with Flowers at left tackle for the rest of the season. They can’t completely reconfigure their offensive line this late in the year, and if the Giants thought Will Beatty had anything left they would have found a spot for him by now.

I would put John Jerry up for a “WW” as well, even though I know Pro Football Focus disagrees. Jerry had a critical holding penalty and missed a block on the fourth-and-1 that caused Manning to hurry his throw.

Eli Manning — Initially, I wanted to give Timmons credit for a great play and not really kill Manning for the goal line interception. Timmons did make a terrific play, but you just can’t have that happen. Manning either didn’t recognize where Timmons was, or simply didn’t put enough air under the throw.

Other than that one throw it is hard to pick on Manning for a specific play. The second interception is forgivable. It was fourth-and-13, he was under duress, the Giants were in desperation mode and the ball had to go somewhere. Still, this is Manning’s offense and it didn’t perform well — and hasn’t performed well all season. He has to take a chunk of the blame for that.

Kwillies to ...

Odell Beckham Jr. — Ten catches for 100 yards in 16 targets. At times, throwing the ball to Beckham was about the only hope the Giants had of mustering any offense. Manning targeted Beckham on 15 of his 25 second-half throws. I know the Giants are better when Beckham is involved, but that was ridiculous. Of course, Beckham’s comments about the Terry MacAuley officiating crew are going to lighten his wallet, and really didn’t help anything.