I really don’t like to include coaches in our weekly “Kudos & Wet Willies” review. After Sunday’s 25-22 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles it is, however, impossible not to give New York Giants coach Pat Shurmur a “Wet Willie” for what went down during a game that crushed the Giants’ fleeting hopes of a miraculous second half of the season.
I have liked much of what Shurmur has done since becoming Giants head coach, and I have written as much. He’s brought a sense of professionalism and organization that were missing, and has managed to keep the locker room together despite the awful start. He deserves credit for those things.
Shurmur’s game management and play-calling, though? Those things were curious, at best, on Sunday. As they have been at other points during the season.
- Against the New Orleans Saints in Week 4 Shurmur kept his timeouts in his pocket at the Saints burned the final 2:32 of the first half, netting a field goal that gave them a 12-7 halftime lead. The Giants lost 33-18.
- Against the Atlanta Falcons the Giants, without any timeouts remaining and trailing 23-13, ran back-to-back failed quarterback sneaks from the Atlanta 1-yard line. By the time they scored on a 1-yard pass from Eli Manning to Odell Beckham Jr. there were only 5 seconds remaining. The Giants lost 23-20.
- From Weeks 4 thru 8, a stretch of five games, Barkley carried the ball no more than 15 times in any of those games.
Sunday was another game that left Shurmur needing to explain himself afterwards. And it left Odell Beckham Jr., and probably other players, questioning what the coach was thinking.
The egregious first-half interception by Manning is a mistake an NFL quarterback can’t make. You just can’t risk taking probably points off the board by chucking an ill-advised pass to a double- or triple-covered receiver down the middle of the field. Terrible.
Still, you also have to question Shurmur for even giving Manning the option of making that mistake. With 17 seconds left from the Eagles’ 27-yard line, easily in range for an Aldrick Rosas field goal that would likely send you to halftime with a two-score lead and a timeout still in your pocket, you don’t dial up a shot play down the middle of the field. You run the ball or dial up a safe throw to Saquon Barkley, take your timeout, kick the field goal and get to halftime feeling good about yourself.
Shurmur knew he made a mistake.
“I’ll take that,” he said. “We were attacking too deep and that’s not on any of them. That’s on me.”
Still, Shurmur’s been an offensive coach for a long time. He should have known better.
The way Shurmur used — or more accurately didn’t use — Saquon Barkley in the second half was also inexcusable.
Four carries for 7 yards? One reception for 4 yards? After a first half that saw him run nine times for 94 yards, catch six passes for 37 yards, and score on a touchdown run of 51 yards and a pass reception of 13?
So, too, was Shurmur’s explanation for why Barkley was on the bench for a key third quarter series with Philadelphia having closed within 19-14 and the Giants desperately needing a drive. Shurmur said the Giants “were going to spell him (Barkley) a little bit as we go.”
“Spell him” from what? He had a full halftime to rest and had touched the ball twice — just twice — in the third quarter when the Giants decided to spell him. Geesh! He’s 21 years old. He had touched the ball 17 times at that point. He didn’t need to be spelled. He needed to be in the game — one the Giants were supposedly desperate to win — trying to make a difference.
Getting the ball to Beckham only twice in the second half was another issue. That’s seven touches in the second half for your two best players, perhaps the best receiver and running back in the sport.
Throw in the failed two-point conversion after the first drive as another miscalculation. Yes, the Giants could have, maybe should have, converted it. You just don’t, however, chase points when you don’t have to. That almost always comes back to bite you.
Now, on to the rest of the “Kudos & Wet Willies.” After Sunday’s debacle, we’re doing them in reverse.
Wet Willies to ...
Eli Manning — Nice numbers — 26-of-37, 297 yards, a touchdown, an interceptions, a passer rating of 91.1. Like so many games during the Giants’ 1-7 first half, though, they were empty ones.
Manning wasn’t good enough on Sunday. Anyone who reads this space regularly knows I will defend Manning when I think he deserves defending. There are some who believe the Giants’ problems would all go away with anyone but Eli at quarterback, and that’s just not true.
Still, it’s pretty darn hard to defend some of what we saw Sunday.
- The Giants shouldn’t have been going for a two-point conversion at the end of their first drive of the game. They did, however, and Manning — with time — never saw a wide open Rhett Ellison. Two points down the drain.
- The interception at the end of the first half was just awful. Foolishly aggressive play call by Shurmur or not, and the coach admitted that it was, that ball simply can’t be thrown into double or triple coverage down the middle of the field. By any quarterback. You might be able to live with that kind of mistake from a rookie quarterback — at least you could call it a learning experience. For a 15-year veteran with two Super Bowl MVPs to make that throw is just ... let’s just call it unacceptable.
- I don’t know if the third-and-18 third quarter timeout was called by Shurmur or Manning, but that’s simply another thing that can’t happen. Shurmur said the Giants were “going to try and get it right.” That’s nice, but it was third-and-18 and they threw a swing pass that lost 2 yards. That’s what they wasted a timeout for?
- The Giants gained 346 yards in the first half, their highest total in any half since they gained 353 yards in the first half at Houston on Dec. 8, 1985. But after finishing the first half with 19 points, 15 first downs and 346 yards, the Giants’ second-half output was three points, three first downs and 56 yards. Manning threw for 61 yards in the second half.
Manning has plenty of games where he looks like he can still play quarterback at a high level. Then things like Sunday happen, the Giants fall to 3-8, are headed toward a fifth losing season in six years and you are reminded that the clock is ticking on his time as the Giants’ franchise quarterback. How much time is left? One game? Two games? Another season as a placeholder/mentor for a high draft pick? That’s anybody’s guess.
Olivier Vernon — Vernon is supposed to be the biggest impact player on the Giants’ defensive front seven. Sunday, though, was the third straight game in which the edge player had no impact at all.
He had two meaningless tackles and was credited with a pair of quarterback hits vs. the Eagles. He now has three tackles and three quarterback hits in three games. Vernon has one sack in six games.
Plainly, that’s not good enough. It makes you wonder if Vernon, who missed five games at the beginning of the season with a high ankle sprain, is healthy.
Giants’ defense — I could probably focus on bad run defense. Or, talk about poor tackling. Or, talk about giving up 10 points on the last two Eagles drives. Or, talk about the defense giving up points on three of Philly’ final four possession, or 5 of their last seven.
Or, I could just talk about all of it and say the Giants’ defense isn’t very good. Because it isn’t. The shortest Eagles’ possession in the final three quarters, excluding a one-play kneel down, was six plays. And that ended in a 72-yard touchdown drive.
The Giants sacked Carson Wentz three times. In the second half, though, they were dominated at the line of scrimmage and couldn’t get a stop when they needed one. The Eagles gained 88 yards rushing in the second half, with rookie Josh Adams getting 80 of those on 18 carries. In the final two Philadelphia drives, seven plays, 61 yards for a touchdown and 10 plays, 50 yards for the game-winning field goal, the Giants never really came close to stopping them.
Collins is a difference-maker. Vernon should be a difference-maker, but hasn’t been. Other than that, the Giants just don’t have a lot on that side of the ball. Janoris Jenkins used to be a difference-maker, but he isn’t any longer. B.J. Hill and Lorenzo Carter might one day be difference makers, but they aren’t there yet. The rest? Right now, pretty much just a collection of replaceable — and upgradeable — parts.
Kudos to ...
Saquon Barkley — When he was given a chance on Sunday Barkley continued to do Barkley things. Nine first half carries for 94 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown. Six receptions in seven targets, including a 13-yard touchdown.
It’s not his fault that for some incomprehensible reason the Giants chose to completely ignore their primary offensive weapon for most of the second half. Barkly surpassed 100 yards in total offense for the 10th time in 11 games. It’s too bad that the Giants too often waste his immense talents.
Aldrick Rosas — Successful field goals of 25, 51 and 29 yards make Rosas 23 of 24 (95.8 percent). The Giants stuck with Rosas despite a rough rookie season in which he made only 72 percent of his field goals, and that move is paying dividends. He is turning into a quality young kicker.
Corey Coleman on kickoff return — Coleman continued on Sunday to make you wonder why the Cleveland Browns never figured out what a devastating weapon he can be on kickoff return. He had three returns for an average of 33.7 yards, including a 46-yarder. As a wide receiver, though? There is work to be done there. Coleman dropped a wide open slant pass in the third quarter with the Giants leading 19-14, a play that could have kick-started a much needed drive. Three plays later the Giants punted.