For most of the game it looked as though neither team was particularly interested in, or capable of, winning.
We could say that the 5-3 score, which persisted for about 44 minutes into the game, was evidence of a titanic battle between the defenses. But watching the game, it was more the result of two beat up, bad offenses not being able to get much of anything going. As a fan of the sport, much of this game was just hard to watch.
But still, a win is a win, and let’s see what we can take away from the game.
Facets to build upon
I’m not ever going to cheerlead. I firmly believe in calling things as I see them and being honest in my praise and criticism.
And there were a couple legitimate bright spots for the Giants throughout this game that they might be able to build upon going forward.
The first is the play of the Giants’ depth receivers.
While the Giants were certainly glad to have Darius Slayton and Evan Engram on the field, I can’t imagine they were particularly excited to see Dante Pettis, Collin Johnson, and David Sills V out there. They would much, MUCH rather see Sterling Shepard, Kenny Golladay, and Kadarius Toney.
But I have to give the depth guys kudos for doing their jobs. Nobody had a “big” game for the Giants — Slayton was the leading receiver with 5 catches on 9 targets for 63 yards. But they all did enough for the Giants to get the win. They were mistakes and miscues, some route mistakes, errant throws, and dropped passes. But where the Panthers’ receivers just couldn’t do enough to extend drives and take advantage of opportunities, the Giants were able to do so enough and it eventually paid off.
The second is the play of the run defense.
Yes, the Panthers’ offensive line was just as beat up and reshuffled as the Giants’ offensive line has been. But after the first drive, the Giants’ run defense settled in and did enough to force the football into Sam Darnold’s hands. They still gave up some chunk runs, but never quite allowed Chuba Hubbard or Royce Freeman to completely break loose. That likely turned out to be the difference in this game.
With neither offense gaining much traction until Jason Garrett reached DEEP into his bag of tricks, it seemed likely that the first team to score a touchdown would win. That could well have been the Panthers if they managed to get some kind of traction in their ground game.
Sam Darnold is not a starting NFL quarterback
Yes, this was a win the Giants desperately needed. They overcame a bevy of injuries to get a win as underdogs at home.
But it’s also true that they went up against the right opponent at the right time.
They had the fortune to go up against a similarly beat-up and skidding Panthers team that managed to play utterly abhorrent football. The Panthers were apparently allergic to actually catching the ball, their offensive line was worse than the Giants’ and Joe Brady’s play calls did little to help.
But I have to take a minute to call out the play of quarterback Sam Darnold.
Darnold’s internal clock seemed consistently off. His throwing mechanics are still as shoddy as his rookie year, his throwing motion itself leads to wild inaccuracy, and his decision making is just bad. The rest of the Panthers’ offense did Darnold few favors, but it’s also obvious that they couldn’t count on him to pick up the slack.
It was literally jarring to go from watching Dak Prescott and Matthew Stafford to Sam Darnold — they look like they’re playing a completely different game.
The Giants’ defense had their best statistical performance of the year, but they were certainly helped by Carolina’s offensive ineptitude.
I’m not going to tell you how to feel, but this game definitely wouldn’t have been a blow-out win against a competent opponent.
Pass protection is still an issue
The Giants did just about everything they could to slow down the Panthers’ pass rush, but it still wasn’t enough.
They tried to run the ball, they tried using read-option and RPO plays, they used bootlegs and roll-outs, and they lived on a steady diet of play-action and quick passes. Even so, Daniel Jones was under duress for most of the game. It was always going to be that way with the injuries the Giants have had along the offensive line, but the fact that the Panthers’ defense was still able to derail the Giants’ offense for most of the game is still concerning.
The Giants spent plenty of time on the Panthers’ side of the field, but they only sporadically moved the ball in a positive direction. Put it this way: it took them almost 45 minutes of game clock to finally take advantage of the opportunities they were given.
As Ed said to me after the game, “It’s a mostly terrible game between two terrible teams, I get it.” The Giants managed to be not-terrible just enough to finally capitalize.
The good news is that the Giants won’t be facing a top defense next week in the Kansas City Chiefs.
We’ll likely see a very similar game plan next week against the Chiefs, and it might be in the Giants’ best interest to maintain that style of football going forward.
That being said, I think I could stand to see Jones carrying the ball less. I absolutely get doing whatever you need to in order to generate some kind of offensive production, but Jones getting hurt on a read-option play would just be self-defeating. Sometimes discretion is the better part of not having to count on Mike Glennon.
Did the Giants just get lucky?
This has nothing to do with this game.
But I have to wonder if the Giants might have caught a break for Monday Night Football next week. Over in Tennessee, the Titans completed a 27-3 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
And while that would normally set off alarm bells for the next team to face the Chiefs, the end of the game saw Patrick Mahomes take a hard hit on a desperate bid to convert a fourth-and-18. After the hit, Mahomes needed to be helped off the field and was quickly ruled out of the game.
It was a bad ending to one of the worst games the All Pro quarterback has played since entering the NFL.
As of this writing, it’s been reported that Mahomes cleared the concussion protocol and was just held out of the end of the game as a precaution. However, could the news for the Giants be so good as to include a start by Chad Henne on Monday Night Football? This might be a case of personal bias coloring my perception, but the Giants have seemed to have had a relatively high rate of opposing quarterbacks getting hurt just before they play the Giants in recent years.
My motto when golfing is “I’d rather be lucky than good,” and while I don’t actually mean it, the Giants would likely take this stroke of luck if it comes their way.
Never mind wanting to play every opponent at their best, the Giants would certainly rather not have to face a fully healthy Mahomes with something to prove.