Kudos to ...
Dexter Lawrence — Sexy Dexy played one of his best games as a Giant. He was the only Giant pass rusher to lay glove on Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield, registering both the Giants only sack and only hit on Mayfield. He also batted down a pass on a fourth-and-2 at the Giants’ 43-yard line that was headed for a wide open Austin Hooper. Lawrence finished the game with a season-high 6 tackles.
Offensive line (especially Andrew Thomas) — Coming off a rough game against the Arizona Cardinals in which they allowed 8 sacks, the Giants’ offensive line was solid Sunday night against an excellent Cleveland defensive front.
Star defensive end Myles Garrett beat Thomas to share a sack with Larry Ogunjobi in the waning seconds of the game, but was otherwise quiet. Former Giant Olivier Vernon, matched up with Cameron Fleming, was also quiet. Colt McCoy was sacked just that one time and hit on seven other occasions. Mostly, he had time in the pocket to get the ball out.
The Giants also ran the ball fairly effectively as Alfred Morris (7 carries, 39 yards, 5.6 yards per carry) and Wayne Gallman (9 carries, 29 yards, 3.2 yards per carry) found room at times. The game just did not unfold in a way where the Giants could stick with the run the way they would have liked.
Run defense — With the size and talent they have on the defensive line the Giants figured to match up pretty well with the powerful Cleveland running game. They did. Nick Chubb, who entered the game averaging 5.9 yards per carry, had 15 carries for 50 yards (3.33 per attempt) and Kareem Hunt had 7 carries for 21 yards (3.0 per carry).
Wet Willies to ...
The fake field goal — As I wrote in the early morning hours after the game, I had no problem with Joe Judge’s aggression on fourth down. The Giants were an undermanned underdog and they had to have something special to win the game.
Head coach Joe Judge said he “thought the scheme was sound” on the fake field goal, which saw punter/holder Riley Dixon throwing to center/snapper Nick Gates. It didn’t work, though, not close. Gates ended up in the middle of the end zone triple covered.
Casey Kreiter (58) and placekicker Graham Gano (5) were open. Shoot, Kreiter even had Dexter Lawrence and Dalvin Tomlinson in front of him as a blocking convoy. If that ball goes to him and he catches it, that might be a touchdown. Still, tasking a punter with going through progressions and finding his second or third option is a big ask.
Pass rush — Cleveland, even with a third-string right guard playing because of injuries, has an excellent offensive line. Still, one sack and one hit on Mayfield is pretty sad. Leonard Williams, Jabaal Sheard and Carter Coughlin, the guys who have been creating some pressure for the Giants in recent weeks, were non-factors in the pass rush. When defensive coordinator Patrick Graham dialed up the blitz all he managed to do was open up windows in an already-depleted secondary.
Red zone offense — The Giants drove the ball into the Cleveland red zone on their first three possessions. Two of those ended with failed fourth-down gambles, the other with a 37-yard Graham Gano field goal. That’s 3 points when the Giants had an opportunity for 21.
“We moved the ball up and down the field and we just have to figure out how to score touchdowns, that’s the bottom line,” said quarterback Colt McCoy. “Our defense is playing well, they only gave up 20 points.”
The Browns had scored 40+ points in back-to-back games before Sunday night. Holding them to 20 should have given the Giants a chance to win, but they couldn’t find the end zone.
The first drive featured the failed field goal fake, but McCoy also overshot Evan Engram in the end zone on third-and-5, not giving the tight end a chance to make a play.
The second drive featured a second-and-11 from the Cleveland 19-yard line throw from McCoy to Engram. That looked like it would be a touchdown, but Browns safety Karl Joseph got a hand in at the last second and broke up the play. Was the ball just a yard underthrown? Maybe.
The third drive ended with the failed Gallman run on fourth-and-2. On second-and-6 from the 10-yard line, a scrambling McCoy tried to throw Darius Slayton open, but Slayton lost his footing and could not get back to the ball.
There was also a fourth-quarter throw from McCoy to Golden Tate from the Cleveland 21-yard line that was in Tate’s hands, but was broken up by Browns cornerback Kevin Johnson.
Kwillies to ...
Dion Lewis — A 48-yard kickoff return to open the game, but also a fumbled return for a second straight week. The Giants fortunately recovered this one, but that has to stop. The primary reason Lewis is back there is dependability.