Once again the Giants provided us with a loss in a game they were predicted to lose, but — once again — it was a close loss and a potentially exciting conclusion.
The Giants are sitting at a 2-9 record after 11 games for the second time in three years. We will be taking closer looks and deeper dives into the game tape later in the week, but for now, let’s take a look at some things we learned in the immediate aftermath of the game.
The Giants might be facing a special teams overhaul
Two missed field goals were one of the deciding factors in this game, but I’m not going to single Aldrick Rosas out for them. The first one was on a downright bad snap from long-time long-snapper Zak DeOssie which saw the ball roll back to Riley Dixon.
In talking and working with Joe DeLeone these past few months, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for how much timing and confidence matter in the entire special teams operation. DeLeone is a long snapper for the University of Rhode Island. Throwing off the timing and forcing the miss on that first field goal likely factored into Rosas’ miss on the second field goal and potentially even the opening kickoff of the second half.
The Giants’ special teams play was embarrassing this game and has been a problem that has repeatedly cropped up this season. They very well may be looking at the end of Zak DeOssie’s career, potentially having to find a new kicker (a fraught prospect), and McGaughey could find himself without a job.
The running game continues to struggle
The first two weeks of the season it looked as though whatever else we might say about the Giants’ offense, at least they would be able to run the ball. In weeks one and two, the Giants picked up 280 yards on just 37 attempts, good for an average of 7.6 yards per carry.
Since then the Giants’ running game has cratered.
This game the Giants’ rushing production was dominated by a 26-yard scramble by Daniel Jones and a 22-yard run by Saquon Barkley. Outside of those two runs, the Giants’ backfield accounted for 39 yards on 19 carries (2 yards per carry). Defenses seem to have figured out the Giants’ blocking scheme and have consistently swarmed to the ball, limiting Barkley’s ability to make individual defenders miss and create magic out of nothing.
The good news, and silver lining in all of this is that Barkley does appear to be getting healthier after the bye week. He was able to make a defender miss and turn nothing into magic on that 22-yard gain, and then again force a would-be tackler to miss and create a third-and-1 opportunity. He is regaining some of the twitchy-explosiveness we have come to expect from him, but he still needs help from the Giants’ play-calling and run blocking. Even at his best, Barkley isn’t going to make much magic happen if opposing defenses are able to tackle him at the mesh point.
The Giants need to ask serious questions about their coaching
I started off by talking about the Giants’ special teams. I didn’t want to let Rosas off the hook, so much as note that it is a complete operation that is failing.
None of that, however, explains or excuses the Giants allowing themselves to get suckered by the Bears on fourth down. The Bears looked as if they were going to go for a fourth-down conversion late in the game, forcing the Giants to leave their defense on the field. But then the Bears did what looked like nothing so much as a complete line change in hockey. The Bears took all but two offensive players off the field, put their punting team on the field. The Giants were allowed by rule to substitute and put their punt return team on, but for some reason Pat Shurmur and Thomas McGaughey elected to leave the defense on the field, forcing Janoris Jenkins into an unfamiliar role.
Elsewhere we saw the Giants’ commit bad and poorly timed (as though there are many good times to have a penalty) penalties all over the field. The Giants gave the Bears free yards with a number of off-sides penalties.
We saw the offense allow free rushers into the backfield all game long. The Giants’ play-calling left much to be desired after the first quarter and a half. And even as the Giants were pushing for a come-from-behind win, their offensive pace could be described as ponderous.
Ian Rapoport reported before the game that if Pat Shurmur is fired, the Giants could target Jason Garrett to be their next head coach. I’m not going to advocate for Garrett — particularly while Shurmur is still employed by the Giants — but if the Giants weren’t already asking some serious questions about their coaching staff, they should be doing so now.
The Giants need to show more against bad teams
I predicted the Giants would lose (24-20, so at least I was close). But it is frustrating to see other teams play poorly and the Giants fail to capitalize.
The Bears routinely gifted the Giants’ great field position, starting drives on their own 40 and 42-yard lines, as well as the 50-yard line and the Bear’s 48-yard line. Mitchell Trubisky threw a pair of just BAD interceptions, including one arm-punt to Julian Love. The Bears dropped three potential interceptions of Daniel Jones and had as many penalties for even more yards than the Giants. Trubisky has only eclipsed 250 yards passing twice this year, but managed 278 (which would have been more had TE Ben Braunecker not dropped a likely touchdown pass) against the Giants.
These are games that teams are supposed to win. For much of the first half it looked as if the Giants were ... There. Whether or not the Bears were going to mess up seemed to determine whether or not the possession went the Giants’ way.
I freely admit that the Giants’ last two drives had my heart rate up to about 120 bpm (per my Fitbit), and it looked like the Giants might be able to do what they had done before and take advantage of a fringe team trying to run out the clock as early as the start of the fourth quarter.
There were positives to take away from the game, such as Barkley’s long run or Jones’ touchdown pass to Golden Tate. But while those flashes were there, they were mired in the play of a team that can’t seem to make up its mind whether or not it wants to be building.