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Four things we learned from the Giants’ latest hearbreaker

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The Giants should have won the game, but what can we learn from their loss?

NFL: New York Giants at Indianapolis Colts IndyStar-USA TODAY NETWORK

The New York Giants almost followed through with a stunning upset victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

The Giants drew first blood with a touchdown on a brilliantly called and executed drive on their first possession of the game, and stymied the Colts’ offense for its first three possessions. They never trailed until the final 55 seconds of the game.

Unfortunately, the Giants ultimately let their lead slip away.

The 2018 season is finally (mercifully) almost over, but there are things we can learn about the Giants as we near the beginning of the 2019 pre-season.

The Giants still need to learn how to close out games

Did Janoris Jenkins’ bone-headed holding call to negate Olivier Vernon’s strip sack cost the Giants the game? Possibly.

Did Eli Manning’s game-ending interception negate what had been one of his best games of the season up until that point? Maybe.

Was Pat Shurmur’s decision to run the ball from the Giants’ goal line despite Saquon Barkley averaging just 2.0 yards per carry on the day the right call? Personally, I don’t think so.

All of those contributed to the Giants’ loss — save, of course, Eli’s final throw, which was the nail in the coffin. Although, considering how he, and the Giants, had played up until that point, he probably shouldn’t even have been in the position in the first place.

The Giants looked like the better team for the first 55 minutes of the game, only to cough up the win at the end.

It is far from the first time that we’ve seen this happen. The defense was unable to get off the field when they absolutely need to, the offense was unable to make a play, and the Giants committed penalties to extend opposing drives while sabotaging their own. Those same issues cropped up and cost them games leading to their 1-7 start, they cost them the second game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and nearly cost them the game against the Chicago Bears, and made the games against the San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers far closer than they needed to be.

The Giants have a whole host of personnel decisions to make and holes to fill in the coming off-season. However, learning to deal with success, making better decisions with the game on the line, is a must for the whole team going forward — players and coaches. Even with glaring holes on their roster, the Giants have proven this season that they have the firepower to compete with most teams in the NFL. Hopefully some of those holes will be filled in the offseason, but it won’t matter until they can play winning football for 60 minutes, not 55.

The offensive line doesn’t have to limit the offense

Last week, many criticized Pat Shurmur for abandoning the running game when the Giants’ offensive line utterly failed to open any holes against the Tennessee Titans. This week, the Giants clearly did not trust their offensive line against Against the Colts’ defensive front seven. They opened the game with quick misdirection plays and quick passes to create confusion on the Indianapolis defense, and it worked. Rather than try to impose their will on the Colts’ defensive line, the Giants only asked the Giants to hold their blocks while Manning got his playmakers the ball on the perimeter. In the passing game, the Giants only asked the linemen to hold their blocks for a couple seconds, or used play-action and roll-outs to slow down the pass rush and move Manning away from it.

And the offense responded with methodical, relatively efficient drives.

When the line were forced to block straight up, it didn’t hold up well. But the Giants showed that an out-classed offensive line didn’t have to limit them, nor that a quick strike offense had to play within five yards of the line of scrimmage.

For the most part, this was the best game Pat Shurmur has called all year, right up until the end.

The Giants’ defense could be really good

We’ve known all year long that the Giants’ defense was going to be making due without ideal pieces at every position — or even most of them. The pass rush was going to be a problem, and the secondary was thin even before Eli Apple was traded to the New Orleans Saints. But even so, there are flashes of what we could eventually see from this scheme once the Giants plug some holes.

B.J. Hill has been a pleasant surprise all season long, and Lorenzo Carter harrassed Andrew Luck all game long.

The Giants were largely unable to even slow the Colts down this game, but Bettcher’s scheme showed its potential for the future. The Giants mixed and matched fronts and personnel, sending a variety of blitzes. And while they (officially) only had one sack on the game, Andrew Luck was pressured harried throughout the game.

Unfortunately, those roster holes made themselves known throughout the game, and the Giants’ defense just couldn’t come through when it mattered.

Some kickers ARE football players

This has nothing to do with the Giants, but I just had to bring it to everyone’s attention. (And frankly: the season is almost over, that was a tough loss, and it’s almost Christmas. We should probably laugh a bit.)

Usually the joke is that kickers aren’t football players, that they’re usually among the best golfers on the team because they don’t have anything better to do than work on their swings.

But some kickers definitely are football players. Case in point, Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bosher.

I wonder if the can play safety?