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Giants-Vikings ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’ review — Back to reality edition

Who deserves praise? Who deserves criticism? Let’s find out

Minnesota Vikings v New York Giants
Dexter Lawrence pressures Kirk Cousins.
Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

It’s an unhappy Monday for the New York Giants and their fans after a humbling 28-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Let’s review in our traditional “Kudos & Wet Willies” style.

Kudos to ...

Dexter Lawrence — In case you are still complaining about the decision to draft Lawrence at No. 17 instead of a pure pass rusher or an offensive tackle, I’m just going to say this. It has only taken five games for one thing to become absolutely clear — Lawrence is a stud, and easily the best defensive lineman the Giants have.

Lawrence had a sack, a forced fumble, a quarterback hit and five tackles on Sunday. He would have had a second sack if not for an illegal contact penalty on Janoris Jenkins.

In all of that, his most impressive play might have been busting it to tackle Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook 22 yards down the field on a Vikings screen pass. Name me another 340-pound man who can run well enough to do that?

Darius Slayton — If the rookie fifth-round pick isn’t already the Giants No. 3 receiver, he certainly should be.

The Giants drafted the speedy Slayton hoping he would be a deep threat, and he certainly is that. The 35-yard touchdown pass he caught from Daniel Jones on Sunday was undoubtedly a tremendous throw. It was, in my view, an ever better route and catch by Slayton.

At the top of the screen, watch what Slayton does to 2017 All-Pro cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Rather than just try to outrun him, Slayton jumps to the outside. The change of direction forces Rhodes to flip his hips and that’s enough to allow the rookie to run away from him. The catch is really a fingertip grab.

Slayton caught four passes for 62 yards. Over three games, he has nine catches and is averaging 17.4 yards per reception.

Jabrill PeppersPeppers made a hustle play that temporarily kept the Giants’ hopes alive Sunday, chopping the ball out of the arms of Cook near the goal line late in the third quarter.

Corey Ballentine — It was just one play, but his 52-yard kickoff return in the second quarter gave the Giants a bit of life and once again highlighted the speed and athleticism that make you wonder why the sixth-round pick isn’t getting any defensive reps.

Elijhaa Penny — As pretty much the last man standing in the Giants’ backfield, Penny had a modest but valuable gamee\. He had 3 carries for 15 yards and 1 catch for 9. He lost a reception to a holding penalty on Nate Solder and a 13-yard run (which would have been the Giants’ longest of the day) to a holding penalty on Evan Engram.

Wet Willies to ...

Grant Haley — As poor as the Giants were on defense Sunday it is really hard, and perhaps unfair, to single out any one player. Still, Haley was absolutely no match for Minnesota’s Adam Thielen on Sunday.

I’m not going to complain about the Giants singling up Haley on Thielen, though it would have been nice if they bracketed Thielen with safety Antoine Bethea or a linebacker. I’ve complained enough about the Giants not playing enough press man. I’m not going to be a hypocrite and complain when they do. Haley just wasn’t good enough.

What I am going to complain about is this. Haley is a former undrafted free agent. He’s played well, at times. Those times have not included the last two weeks. Haley, remember, could easily have given up two long touchdowns against the Washington Redskins if Case Keenum were a better quarterback.

My complaint? The Giants continue to watch Haley struggle while fourth-round pick Julian Love and Ballentine, both highly-praised during preseason, sit and watch.

Nate Solder and Mike Remmers — Neither veteran offensive tackle, Solder on the left and Remmers on the right, was good on Sunday. Danielle Hunter, lined up most of the time on Remmers, had two sacks, seven tackles and two quarterback hits. Griffen had a sack, a quarterback hit and three tackles. It seemed like both did even more than that.

Solder had only a 70 percent pass block win rate, third-worst of any offensive lineman who played Sunday. He has had two really rough games in his last three. To his credit, Solder was critical of himself Sunday night. Solder had a rough start last season and rebounded during the second half of the year. The Giants need to hope for something similar this time around, as well.

Remmers? He’s a stop-gap at right tackle. The Giants don’t have a better option right now, so all they can do is run him out there and hope he plays better than he did on Sunday.

DeAndre Baker — The Giants trailed 18-10 in the third quarter when Baker stopped Dalvin Cook for a 3-yard gain and inexplicably decided to stand over him and taunt the running back who had been having his way with the Giants. That cost the Giants 15 yards, turned a third-and-8 at the Minnesota 35-yard line into a first down at the 50, and led to a touchdown that made it 25-10 and effectively ended the game.

Golden Tate — The veteran wide receiver was quiet in his return from his four-game PED suspension. He had only 3 catches for 13 yards, two of which came on the Giants’ final possession.

My problem isn’t really Tate’s lack of production. Coach Pat Shurmur said after the game he needs to do a better job of getting Tate involved. My problem is with what Tate said after the game when asked if this was the role (only 46 of 69 snaps, and just 6 targets) he could expect going forward:

“I hope not, I hope not. Obviously, I want to be out there as much as possible, but we’ll see. It’s the first week back for me. I hope my role increases, but we’ll see.”

I don’t know if Tate was really unhappy after the game — I didn’t talk to him. After letting his team down and missing four games because of his own inexcusable mistake, he shouldn’t, though, say anything that even hints at dissatisfaction after playing one game. In my view, with this team, he hadn’t earned that right.

Final thoughts

Realistically, Sunday’s outcome is what should have been expected. Without Saquon Barkley, and then losing Wayne Gallman early, the one-dimensional Giants were never going to have any sort of consistent success against the terrific Minnesota defense. On offense, the Vikings’ style and game plan highlighted all of the weaknesses of the Giants’ defense.

Just a couple of other things I wanted to mention:

  • There was discussion of whether or not Pat Shurmur should have challenged the fourth-down play Sterling Shepard could not hold in the end zone, looking for a pass interference call. I had zero problem with either going for the first down or challenging the call. There was 9:01 left, the Giants were down by 15 and the defense had no chance of getting a quick three-and-out from the Vikings. The Giants, thus, had no chance if they didn’t get a touchdown. I believe Shurmur knew he was unlikely to win the challenge, but he took the chance because he had no other viable alternative.
  • There were some who were taken aback by our “worst performance” headline on our Daniel Jones story. It wasn’t horrible, and it wasn’t “Wet Willie” worthy in my view. It was, easily, though, the least effective of the three games he has played. It’s our job to tell you what we see, and that’s what we saw. Yes, without Barkley or even Gallman. Yes, under duress from the Minnesota pass rush. But, yes, he looked for the first time like a rookie quarterback. There are going to be games like this, probably worse ones, along the way. That’s all part of the deal as he learns. He looks like a kid who will be really good for a really long time. Sunday, though, just was not a banner day.