EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New head coach. New offensive and defensive coordinators. A roster choc full of new players. Yet, these looked like the same old New York Giants.
There were some positive signs. A nice night for Darius Slayton with 102 receiving yards and two touchdowns. A sack for Leonard Williams, which means he has already doubled his total of 0.5 in 2019. Some good moments from the defense. A 19-play drive by the offense.
Yet, far too much about the Giants’ 26-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was familiar.
The Giants’ offensive line was a disaster when it came to run-blocking. Saquon Barkley had 15 carries for 6 (yes, 6!!!) yards. That’s an average of 0.4 yards per carry. Barkley had eight runs that went for negative yardage. He never had a chance.
Jones committed two turnovers, both interceptions. The first looked simply like a terrific play by T.J. Watt. The second was unforgivable, and probably ended the Giants’ hopes of an upset.
On the 19th play of an impressive 87-yard, 8:50 drive, Jones was rolling to his left. Under duress from Bud Dupree Jones had two acceptable choices. Throw the ball away or eat it. Instead, he did this:
MINE‼️— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 15, 2020
#PITvsNYG on ESPN | @CamHeyward pic.twitter.com/ny1p0HFvwp
We spent an entire offseason talking not only about Jones’ propensity to fumble, but his decision-making under pressure. This was not a good decision.
“That’s something we can’t have happen,” coach Joe Judge said.
Jones said the interception was “obviously a play I’d like to have back.”
Here is another illustration where you can clearly see that Jones had no chance of completing this pass no matter where he threw it.
Cameron Heyward's interception of Daniel Jones in the end zone stalls the #Giants offense late in the 3rd quarter.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 15, 2020
Bud Dupree forced his 7th turnover caused by pressure since the start of last season, most in the NFL in that span.#PITvsNYG | #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/sbhHshEo6V
The Giants couldn’t take advantage of a muffed Pittsburgh punt that gave them the ball at the Steelers’ 3-yard line, settling for a field goal.
The Giants couldn’t close out the first half, giving up an an eight-play, 78-yard drive at the end of the half that allowed the Steelers to go to the locker room with a 16-10 halftime lead.
The Giants couldn’t convert on third down (1 of 6) or stop Pittsburgh often enough on third down (5 of 9).
The Giants couldn’t get any points out of a 19-play drive.
Maybe worst of all, the Giants sounded like they have too often in recent years. Players made available via Zoom calls kept answering questions by saying they needed to see the film. That they needed to get back to work.
Here’s Lorenzo Carter:
“I really haven’t had a chance to watch the film, but I know we’ve got some fighters. I know we’re going to go out there, we’re going to scratch and claw. Nobody gave up, even at the end of the game when it was really kind of over, we went out there and just kept fighting, and that’s what we’re going to do. Week in and week out, we’re going to keep fighting, we’ve got fighters on this team. That’s nothing new, it’s nothing I didn’t see all of camp, and we’re going to keep doing it and just try to keep getting better.
“I just see the progress that we made and trust the coaching staff. We put in the work. All the offseason, all the camp, we’ve been putting in work. To come out there and just come up short, it hurts, it definitely hurts, but we see the kind of guys we have. We’ve got some tough guys in this locker room, a group of leaders. We’re ready to get back in there, watch the film tomorrow and get back to work.”
They need to. There is, obviously, a lot of work to be done.
Kudos to ...
Darius Slayton — Six catches on six targets, 10-2 yards, 2 touchdowns. Yeah, this kid is pretty good.
Blake Martinez — It’s dangerous to judge a linebacker by number of tackles. As a member of the Green Bay Packers Martinez had a mixed reputation. Yes he made a lot of tackle. He didn’t, though, make many impact one. He did Monday. Martinez had 12 tackles, may at or near the line of scrimmage.
Jabrill Peppers’ punt returns — Peppers averaged 13 yards on three punt returns, including a 20-yarder that he nearly broke for a much bigger return.
Leonard Williams — Complain about Williams all you want, he was really good Monday night. Williams had a sack, a tackle for loss, two quarterback hits, a pass defensed and five tackles. He was an impact player most of the night. Lorenzo Carter was active early on and Dexter Lawrence had a sack, but it was Williams who played like the real defensive line difference maker.
Wet Willies to ...
Run-blocking — The Giants gained 29 yards on 20 carries, and 22 of those came on four scrambles by Jones. Barkley had that ridiculous stat line. Dion Lewis had one carry for 1 yard. Per Pro Football Focus, Giants running backs averaged being hit 1.3 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Barkley lost yardage on eight of his 15 carries.
The Steelers’ defense is good. But, that good? Blame new starting center Nick Gates. Blame right tackle Cameron Fleming. Blame the play-calling. Blame the pandemic. Blame whoever or whatever you want. The Giants best player never had a chance.
Press box PA system — You don’t care about this, but it made a weird, kind of uncomfortable night even worse. I don’t know what was going on with the PA system, but I’m not sure we heard a complete sentence all night without the system cutting out. Ridiculous. And annoying.
Evan Engram — The Giants needed a big night from their tight end. They didn’t get one. Engram caught two passes for just 9 yards in seven targets. Engram dropped the first pass thrown to him and had a 24-yard catch negated when. he was called for offensive pass interference. Engram also did not appear to get off the line of scrimmage well on a third-and-goal incompletion from Jones.
Cameron Fleming — The veteran tackle vs. T.J. Watt was never going to be an advantageous matchup for the Giants. Watt, though, had his way with Fleming as he had an interception, a tackle for loss, two passes defensed and two quarterback hits. If Fleming keeps playing like that Giants fans might start to wish Nate Solder didn’t opt out of the 2020 season.
Kwillies to ...
In case you aren’t familiar, a ‘Kwillie’ is a combination ‘Kudo’ and ‘Wet Willie.’ These guys did things that ended up both helping and hurting the Giants.
Daniel Jones — Jones did plenty of good things. He completed 26 of 41 passes for 279 yards. He threw a pair of touchdown passes, including a 41-yarder to Darius Slayton. He made some plays with his legs. He threw that awful interception, though. Also, on a third-and-goal from the 3-yard line Jones missed what should have been an easy flip to Evan Engram for a touchdown.
Jones’ two interceptions led to nine Pittsburgh points, and the second one took pretty much ended any hope the Giants had of winning the game.