There was plenty we already knew about the 2018 Giants that was confirmed in this mess of a Monday night game:
- The third iteration of the rebuilt offenisve line is bad.
- The Giants have all the firepower they can ask for in Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Saquon Barkley.
- They are also utterly incapable of consistently putting it to use.
- The Giants’ defense is flawed, but tries hard and shouldn’t be blamed for their losing record.
However, there were some things that we learned.
Eli can still throw down the field
The Giants signaled that they were going to be aggressive with their receivers when the first pass of the game was a 10-yard play to Beckham. The Giants were cautious in their use of Saquon Barkley, but finally showed a willingness to challenge a poor secondary with Beckham and Sterling Shepard. Manning completed 71 percent of his passes, finishing with 399 yards passing and a yards per attempt of 10.5, his highest of the season.
While the Giants did get good runs after the catch from both Beckham and Shepard, Manning also looked down the field far more than he had against the Eagles.
Eli’s game was far from perfect, but it was nice to see him threaten a defense down the field, even in the face of pressure — Something the Giants largely have not done this season. We won’t know whether or not the Giants can sustain
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Eli Manning just looks like a different quarterback when he has the option to attack a defense, rather than just take what it gives him.
The Giants can’t play in the red zone
For all the Giants’ offensive firepower, it shouldn’t really surprise that they are utterly inept in the red zone.
The short field that comes with play in the red zone has a bunch of effects on the game. Everything is sped up because offenses simply can’t stretch defenses out they way can between the 20s. Secondaries don’t have to cover as much space, receivers don’t have as much space in which to work, and passing windows are smaller.
The red zone is the area of the field in which all the little problems elsewhere on the field rear their heads at once, and the Giants have plenty of them. Slight miscommunications are magnified and being just off-target becomes wildly inaccurate. And small lapses in blocking can become drive-killing mistakes. The Giants routinely do all of these on offense, and it shows in Red Zone play which is just bad. It isn’t as simple as just having a big receiver — Both Sterling Shepard and Odell Beckham are capable of playing far larger than they measure thanks to their quickness and 40-inch vertical leaps. Evan Engram was a premier red zone threat in 2017, but he isn’t used in the same way in this offense.
The Giants’ offensive line can’t hold up or create any kind of room for Barkley to run the ball.
Poor play calls and miscommunications waste opportunities.
The Giants have a lot of little (and some very big) problems which compound and magnify each other, and need to be solved individually before they will have consistent success in the Red Zone.
The pass rush might have some life
The Giants came in to Monday night with the worst pass rush in the NFL. Granted it was against an offensive line that has done about as good a job of In Olivier Vernon’s second game back, the Giants’ pass rush finally started to show some life.
With Olivier Vernon giving the Falcons’ offensive line a legitimate pass rush threat to worry about, the Giants’ other rushers began to find some success, with Kerry Wynn, Lorenzo Carter, Mario Edwards (negated by a defensive holding penalty), all getting to Ryan. James Bettcher also mixed in plenty of schemed pressure with some aggressive blitz calls, which forced Matt Ryan to speed up his process.
For the third time this season the Giants’ defense did enough for the team to win. They held an offense which had averaged nearly 30 points a game to 23, and gave the offense opportunity after opportunity to win the game. And once again, the Giants’ offense failed to capitalize.
It remains to be seen if the Giants can repeat the defensive feat against the Washington Redskins’ talented offensive line, but for now it was good to see.
Pat Shurmur’s bad decisions continue
Giants’ head coach Pat Shurmur has made curious, or downright bad, decisions throughout the season.
There was consternation regarding Shurmur’s decision to go for 2 points on the team’s first touchdown. That call made sense from a math perspective — best case, the next score would be for the win, worst case it was still a one score game. The move also signaled to his team that he IS trying to win the game, something that his offensive scheme hasn’t always indicated. THAT decision wound up being moot, as the team scored another touchdown and completed a second 2-point conversion attempt.
MUCH more egregious, Shurmur called a pair of quarterback sneaks in the final minute with the Giants out of time outs and desperately trying to mount a comeback. Manning took advantage of a bad Falcons offense to get the Giants in scoring position in a flash. But with no timeouts remaining, the Giants had to score, and quickly. Failing that, they needed to get the clock stopped. Instead, the Giants ran a pair of quarterback sneaks with an offensive line that had been utterly dominated all game long.
This is on top of the schematic decision to not use Saquon Barkley as a downfield passing threat. Barkley was targeted plenty, 10 times, catching 9. But on those targets, he only got 51 yards, with a long of 14. Shurmur flatly refused to send Barkley down the field in a game where Sterling Shepard had 167 receiving yards and Odell Beckham 143 and a touchdown.