The New York Giants have their second win of the season.
The Giants have been in close games all season long, but continually fell just short and let games slip away. But Monday night against the 2-7 San Francisco 49ers, the Giants were finally able to close out a game.
What did we learn as the Giants finally added another game to the win column?
The Giants still have no pass rush
We were somewhat excited about the prospects of the Giants’ defensive front going in to the bye week with flashes from B.J. Hill and Lorenzo Carter in addition to the return of Olivier Vernon.
Unfortunately, the bad thing about flashes is that they can be exciting, but they go away.
The Giants’ pass rush apparently missed the plane to California, and never made it to the stadium in time to play the 49ers. Nick Mullens had all the time and space in the pocket he could ask for, as the Giants’ pass rushers couldn’t disengage from blockers and pressure the quarterback in his second start.
We won’t know until we get a look at the snap counts later on, but it would appear that Carter took fewer snaps, and spent more of them in coverage than in the previous week. The Giants need to find a pass rush if they want this defense to take any steps forward.
Eli Manning isn’t dead yet
Did Eli Manning play a great game? No, not by any stretch of the imagination. He missed a deep strike to Odell Beckham Jr., curiously killed a pass play into a goal line run that went nowhere behind an offensive line that can’t run block. He only completed 61.8 percent of his passes and didn’t even throw for 200 yards.
But all things considered, Manning played well with his career on the line. Manning was only sacked once, but that had as much to do with him evading pressure in the pocket as it did the offensive line’s pass protection. He even hit some passes accurately while rolling out on bootlegs. He dissected the 49ers’ defense, distributed the ball, and took advantage of mismatches and blown coverages when they presented.
Most importantly, Manning did score a trio of touchdowns, including one to cap a wild (and penalty-ridden) nine-play drive in the final 2:45 of the game.
What does this mean going forward? Probably not much in the grand scheme of things. His career will still eventually come to an end, but it was good to see “Classic Eli” make some appearances.
The Giants are built to be a big-play offense
Pat Shurmur might not want to run a big-play offense, but that’s the team he has. It has been clear through the first nine weeks of the season that the Giants don’t have a clear view of their identity on offense.
A big part of that is because they have the personnel to be a big-play offense, but seemingly not the desire.
With Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, and Saquon Barkley, the Giants have a quartet of receiving options that are both crisp route runners but also athletic mismatches for any defense in the league. Regardless of the pass protection woes, the Giants have the ability to throw haymakers all game long on offense.
The problem has been that Shurmur wants to run a conservative, ball control offense. The Giants want to run the ball despite the offensive line’s inability to run block. They want to throw passes inside of 5 yards, even if it allows the defense to play downhill and suffocate the playmakers.
But when the Giants finally cracked the throttle following an 7-minute drive to open the second half, the team responded. They sprinted down the field in a four-play, 1:25 drive which ended in Odell Beckham Jr’s second touchdown. When the Giants moved the ball, it was on downfield shots, getting the ball to Beckham, Engram, and Saquon Barkley
The Giants’ got lucky with Jamon Brown
Brown might not have been the massive upgrade that some hoped when they claimed him on waivers.
But he has already proven himself an upgrade, and could improve as he settles in to the Giants’ blocking scheme. Eli was under some pressure up the middle, with the lone sack coming from the player for whom Brown was responsible. But more often than not, Manning had an actual pocket in which he could step up and avoid pressure off the edges. Brown even laid a key block which lead to Odell Beckham’s first touchdown. He has yet to do much to help the team’s anemic running game, but the early signs are that the Giants might have a young foundation for their future offensive line in Will Hernandez and Brown.
The Giants might have found returners
We knew Quadree Henderson has juice as a punt returner, and is competent as a kick returner. But we didn’t know that Corey Coleman had upside as a kickoff returner.
Coleman had a 24-yard return (negated by a 10-yard penalty), and then a huge 51-yard return in the third quarter. If he is able to contribute anything as a receiver, the Giants might have found another piece worth keeping around beyond this season.