This is not the way the New York Giants wanted to start the second half of their season.
The Giants collapsed on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, losing 30-10 in a game that never really felt that close. The Giants are now 3-7 on the season and firmly in control of the basement of the NFC East.
Coming into the game it looked as though the Giants and Buccaneers were teams heading in the opposite direction. While Tampa is certainly the more talented team, they are missing several key offensive and defensive pieces and coming off a two-game losing streak. The Giants, meanwhile, won two of their last three and were getting players back healthy following their bye week.
This looked like a game the Giants could steal against a better opponent and kick off a winning streak as we head toward December.
But that isn’t what happened. At all.
Let’s see what we can take away from the Giants’ latest humiliating loss.
Will Hernandez’ rough night
I think we have to start with the Giants’ right guard. Hernandez was supposed to be the rock in the middle of the Giants’ offensive line, the guy they can count on with all the uncertainty at every other position (save left tackle). And while Hernandez has flashed some truly impressive reps, those highs are always counterbalanced by some absolutely cringe-inducing lows.
This game might just be the worst by Hernandez to date. The Buccaneers’ defense ran roughshod over the Giants’ offensive line in general and Hernandez in particular. The rep against Ndamukong Suh stands out as a terrible, but we also have to remember the three (or more?) holding penalties to drive the offense back.
The Buccaneers’ own miscues and penalties kept the Giants in the game into the third quarter. Hernandez almost single-handedly killed any chance the Giants had to make this game competitive. This game was the last thing the Giants want to see with Hernandez approaching the end of his contract and the team desperate for answers to get off the hamster wheel that is their eternal offensive line rebuild.
Offensive line struggles again
Okay, now we need to spin forward to the rest of the offensive line.
The Buccaneers’ defensive is beat up. They were missing Vita Vea and Jason Pierre-Paul has been playing through a torn rotator cuff. On the back end, Sean Murphy-Bunting just came back from injury and Carlton Davis is still on injured reserve.
But even so, the Giants’ offensive line couldn’t buy Daniel Jones any time in the passing game, nor could they generate any kind of consistent push in the running game. Hernandez might have been the biggest offender on the interior offensive line, but he was far from the only one. Each of the interior players was just outmatched, and the offensive tackles were consistently being bulled back into the pocket.
The Giants are now staring down the barrel of a dangerous Philadelphia Eagles defensive line with a short week to find anything like an answer.
Poor fundamentals reared their ugly heads
The Giants’ defense had been on a roll coming into this game. They dominated the Carolina Panthers, held the Kanas City Chiefs under 20 points, and frustrated the hell out of the Las Vegas Raiders. It looked, for all the world, like
Now, credit where credit is due, the Buccaneers’ offense had a great game plan and opened the game with a phenomenal script. The Giants’ defense looked completely lost on that first drive and the Buccaneers’ play sequencing had the defense looking all over the field wondering where the ball was going to go.
Those first two drives told Bruce Arians, Byron Leftwich, and Tom Brady a LOT about how the Giants would respond through the rest of the game. The Giants’ offense also didn’t do the defense any favors with quick three-and-outs, no points, and costly turnovers. The defense was once again in the position of having to play perfectly to give the team any hope of winning.
But this time they didn’t play perfectly. Not even close.
Players in the secondary took some horrible angles to the ball, and then completely failed to tackle well once they got to the ball. There were players who were out of position or overly aggressive, creating opportunities for yards after the catch (or contact). The Giants’ pass rushers struggled to get off their blocks all night long and got approximately no pressure on Tom Brady (and no, I don’t really give them credit for the sack of Blaine Gabbert. It’s Blaine Gabbert ... I forgot he was even still in the league).
And then there were the untimely penalties to help the Buccaneers and hurt the Giants.
Discipline has been a problem for the Giants dating back to the first preseason game. And while the players certainly bear plenty of responsibility for this loss, the consistent lack of discipline falls squarely at the feet of the coaches.
The offense stays in its shell
The Giants’ offense went into its shell after a terrible stretch against the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams. They only scored 3 offensive points through the first 44 minutes against Carolina, scored 17 against Kansas City, and only 16 offensive points against the Raiders.
This week the Giants only scored 10 points, 7 of which were an absolute gift off the hands of Mike Evans. I’m not sure the Giants would have scored any touchdowns had they not gotten that tip-drill pick.
And over this four-game stretch, Daniel Jones has thrown for 203, 222, 110, and 167 yards. His average completion has traveled just 3.55 yards (10-feet, 8 inches) in the air.
We can blame the offensive line all we want, but the Giants aren’t the only team with a suspect offensive line. \While the constant stream of short passes might supplement the running game and (generally) keep the ball and Jones safe, they rarely lead to points.
The Giants signed Kenny Golladay to a $72 million contract and invested a first-round pick in Kadarius Toney, but Andrew Thomas now has more receiving touchdowns than both of them combined.
But that’s what the Giants’ offense is right now — they only feel comfortable attacking the defense when they have a perfect opportunity, and only ever seem to get explosive plays when Jason Garrett flips to the back page of his playbook and calls a trick play.
The time for excuses is long past.