It’s that time. Let’s get to what amounts to a pretty ugly ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’ review of a pretty ugly performance by the New York Giants on Sunday in a 27-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. It’s wet and miserable outside today in upstate New York, and I’m guessing that’s sort of appropriate for what you’re about to read.
‘Kudos’ to ...
Saquon Barkley — There are no participation trophies in the NFL, and despite what he said after the game it was crystal clear that Barkley wasn’t close to being his old self in his return from a high ankle sprain. He still averaged 4.0 yards on a season-high 18 carries and lost a 32-yard run to a holding penalty, so he made an overall positive impact despite some mistakes and some physical limitations. As badly as the Giants played overall, pretty much doing anything positive is enough to earn a “Kudos.”
Michael Thomas — Thomas, a Pro Bowl special teams player in 2018, said that special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey had challenged him to play better. He did, with a second quarter blocked punt in the end zone that turned into a momentum-changing touchdown when Elijhaa Penny recovered to cut the Giants’ deficit to 17-14. Unfortunately, they could not take full advantage.
Golden Tate — The veteran receiver had six receptions, each of which resulted in a first down, for 80 total yards. Several of those were tough catches over the middle. Tate also had a 17-yard punt return.
Grant Haley — In a game where the Giants’ run defense was embarrassingly inept, Haley was a glaring exception. I know many have been wondering why Haley has been playing in the slot and Julian Love has been chained to the bench. Sunday was an example of why. Haley’s run defense and physicality at the line of scrimmage were spectacular for a 5-foot-9, 190-pound player. His seven tackles didn’t come close to telling the story of how well he played in run support, something he has done well all season.
‘Wet Willies’ to ...
Pass protection — Eight sacks and 12 quarterback hits in 43 drop backs is atrocious work for an NFL offensive line, even if we have to recognize that a bunch of those were due to an indecisive rookie quarterback holding the ball too long and getting himself into trouble. Big-time edge rushers have destroyed the Giants all season (think Shaq Barrett of Tampa Bay) and Chandler Jones of Arizona had four sacks, four quarterback hits, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Nate Solder and Mike Remmers are stand-up guys who have had good NFL careers, and the offensive line is better than a year ago despite Sunday’s results, but it’s increasingly apparent that GM Dave Gettleman has to address at least one if not both tackle spots during the upcoming offseason.
Run defense — The Giants gave up touchdown runs of 22, 20 and 20 yards, as well as 126 total yards to Chase Edmonds. A kid from Fordham who had a career-best of 68 yards in 22 NFL games prior to Sunday. Defensive back Michael Thomas was critical of the team’s tackling, edge-setting and gap discipline, especially early in the game. That about sums it up.
Aldrick Rosas — Rain or no rain, missing 37-yard field goals is devastating. Rosas hit the right upright with one late in the third quarter with the Giants trailing by 10. Make that kick, the Giants could possibly have gone into the final 4:29 tied and avoided the debacle of how that unfolded. The 37-yard miss was the shortest by Rosas since 2017.
Daniel Jones — He’s a rookie and you hope he learns, but Jones’ ball security is currently a major issue. His interception on Sunday was thrown into double coverage and never had a chance to turn out well for the Giants. Three more fumbles. Far too much indecision. A beautiful 28-yard touchdown throw to Rhett Ellison isn’t enough to keep him out of the ‘WW’ category.
Evan Engram — The Cardinals entered the game as the worst team in the league at covering tight ends. Somehow, the Giants managed to only target one of the NFL’s premier pass-catching tight ends five times. Still, Engram had an opportunity to make an impact late in the first half and dropped a deep ball from Jones inside the Arizona red zone. On the next play, a Will Hernandez holding penalty negated a 32-yard run by Barkley. The Giants ended up not scoring, and that sequence was as damaging to their chance to win the game as any throughout the 60 minutes.
Pat Shurmur and James Bettcher — If you’ve been around here for a while, you know I usually shy away from including the coaches in ‘K&WW.’ Can’t help it today. Shurmur handled the final 4:29 terribly, and explained his handling of said 4:29 in an equally befuddling manner. He chose to run the ball on third-and-20 from the Arizona 47-yard line at the end of the first half and couldn’t pick up enough yardage to get Aldrick Rosas close enough for a field goal attempt. He continues to smash his head against the wall and challenge pass interference penalties. I think Shurmur is going to be the Giants’ coach at least the rest of this year and next, but games like Sunday just give ammunition to those who wonder about him as an NFL head coach. Read Thomas’s words and you know the Giants’ defense was not ready for what it saw from Arizona. The Giants were also undisciplined, not doing the fundamental things well until they were already down 17-0. Those things are on Bettcher.