Failure is said to be a better teacher than success.
Well if that’s the case, then the 2-7 New York Giants are getting a master-class in 2019. Week after week the Giants find new and interesting ways to let close games slip away from them. This week the Giants were within a score of the division rival Dallas Cowboys with less than 12 minutes left in the game, only to fall 37-18 by the time the game is done.
As we do every week, let’s see what we can take away from the Giants performance.
The Giants have found their kickoff returner
The Giants have largely lost the field position battle with primary kick returner Corey Ballentine in the concussion protocol the last couple weeks. While Ballentine returned to the field this week, the Giants kept Cody Latimer back to receive kicks as the rookie corner got snaps on defense.
The decision paid off as Latimer routinely made Dallas pay for skying kicks and forcing returns. Latimer hit his top speed quickly and did a good job of setting up blocks, averaging more than 30 yards per return. Between Latimer’s returns, punt returns from Golden Tate, and turnovers, the Giants were routinely beginning their drives from midfield. That yardage is usually hidden in the final stats, but it has an impact over the course of a game. The Giants have suffered from poor kick returns, but to get production like this from Latimer is a silver lining in a disappointing game for the Giants.
The Giants need more than two defensive tackles on regular downs
The Giants added Leonard Williams to try and help their pass rush. He did show up early in the game and came away with a hit on Dak Prescott.
The Giants tried to change up their look on defense by playing just two down linemen on a number of “regular” downs and distances. Unfortunately, that didn’t work and the Giants just couldn’t slow down Ezekiel Elliott until the very end of the game. That kind of look might help in long downs and obvious passing situations, but considering the strength of their defense is the defensive tackle position, they need to lean into that. They can’t take their best players off the field and expose a vulnerable linebacking corps to opposing offensive linemen.
The Giants need to re-re-rebuild their offensive line
The last two offseasons we have heard all about how the Giants were going to fix the offensive line. They have made massive investments in the offensive line, parting ways with Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, D.J. Fluker, and Brett Jones signing Nate Solder, Patrick Omameh, and Mike Remmers. They drafted Will Hernandez at the top of the second round, and traded for Kevin Zeitler.
Last year the Giants gave up 47 sacks, the most of Eli Manning’s career. So far this year the Giants have given up 28 sacks which is tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins for fourth-most in the league. They are on pace to give up 50 sacks this season.
If you’re going to build around one player, he needs to produce
There is a lot wrong with the 2019 Giants, but maybe the most glaring is that the offense just isn’t producing. They have only broken 20 offensive points twice this year, and have struggled to find an identity or any kind of consistency. A big part of the problem is that the Giants are built to run through Saquon Barkley, and defenses have been able to take him away. He hasn’t been able to find any running room since coming back from injury — and Tampa Bay held him to 10 yards in a half even before he was injured. He has been a reliable check-down option in the receiving game, but the Giants just don’t use him as a down-field threat. Even his 65-yard catch and run was a short pass with good blocking in space.
The Giants have other weapons, but can’t seem to figure out how to get them involved in truly meaningful ways. As it stands now, if Barkley isn’t producing this offense just looks lost.
Big plays bite the Giants again
The Giants were able to keep the game close for much of the night. The Giants were only down by five points with a little more than 11 minutes left in the game. Dallas was playing poorly all night long, hamstringing themselves and helping the Giants with penalties, miscues, and all-around sloppy play.
The Giants just couldn’t capitalize, scoring just one touchdown and settling for field goals every other time they visited the red zone. And then their penchant for giving up big plays bit them.
Early in the game Dallas got life with a 42-yard catch and run for a touchdown by tight end Blake Jarwin. Dallas went up by two possessions on a 45-yard catch and run by Amari Cooper. That play apparently came off of a busted coverage in which some Giants defensive backs were playing man, while others played zone. Hiccups are to be expected with young players and young units, but issues become problems when they persist and don’t get resolved.
This is a problem, and the Giants are now lead the NFL with 11 plays of 40+ yards given up.
The Giants need to play with the urgency of Football Cat
Yeah, I couldn’t not mention Football Cat. I’m an animal lover and that cat running on the field was approximately the best thing to happen all night.
It also could have given the Giants some lessons in playing with urgency. The Giants got the ball back after forcing a punt with 4:18 left in the game and down by 12 points — two touchdowns and they win. The Giants then lethargically slogged down the field getting to Dallas 24-yard line with 22 seconds left on the clock. Then Daniel Jones was sacked one last time, fumbled, and the Cowboys returned the ball for a touchdown.
I’m not going to sit here and say that the Giants quit at the end of the game, but they did not look like a team trying to win with enough time left on the clock.
This isn’t the first time we’ve had some serious questions about the Giants’ play at the end of halves. These Giants just seem to fall apart in crunch time, with questionable decisions from the coaching staff and poor play on the field.