EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — It certainly wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t without some nail-biting, head-scratching moments. It was, truthfully, without much functional offense from either team.
Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles was, though, a victory for the New York Giants. That, as Stone Cold Steve Austin would say, is the bottom line. Here are some ‘things’ I think’ after the Giants improved to 4-7.
Giants’ secondary deserves some credit
I looked up during the Eagles’ final drive and saw a No. 38 lining up in the Giants’ secondary. My first thought was ‘who the heck is that?’ I had to turn to my flip card to realize that it was practice squad defensive back Steven Parker, elevated to the roster for Sunday’s game.
Parker was on the field because the Giants were just about out of defensive backs. Safety Logan Ryan (Reserve/COVID-19 didn’t play). Starting cornerbacks Adoree’ Jackson (quad) and Darnay Holmes (chest) did not play in the second half after suffering injuries.
Rookie Aaron Robinson, in only his third game, moved from the slot to an outside cornerback role. Julian Love dropped down from safety to the slot. J.R. Reed, plucked off the Los Angeles Rams’ practice squad a few weeks ago, filled in at safety for the entire second half — the most extensive defensive duty of his career. Parker was an extra defensive back at game’s end.
With all of that, the Giants survived two potential Eagles’ game-winning drives in the closing moments. Robinson was involved in two plays with Philadelphia’s Jalen Reagor, a second-down play in the end zone and a fourth-and-10 play that would — at least — have given Philly a first-and goal at the 1-yard line.
Reagor told media that he considered both to be drops. The Giants, as Julian Love said, considered them to be “heart-stopping” plays they survived.
To be honest, as Chris Pflum wrote earlier, I have no idea what the Eagles were doing on offense. They ran for 208 yards. They could have run for 300 as the Giants defense did not really stop them. The Eagles stopped themselves by throwing so much.
Hurts threw 31 passes, the most he has thrown in a game since Week 7. Again and again, I thought the Eagles threw the ball when they didn’t have to.
Holmes got a huge red zone interception. Tae Crowder ended the first half with an end zone interception on a play from the 1-yard line. Xavier McKinney had a third-quarter interception.
“We wanted him (Hurts) to beat us throwing,” Love said.
Fortunately for the Giants, that is precisely what Hurts and the Eagles tried to do.
Playing for the present
On Sunday morning, I wrote a ‘7 thoughts for the final 7 games’ post. One of my thoughts was about making sure young players were getting opportunities the rest of the way. It was clear Sunday that Joe Judge is still playing for the present and not the future. Which, to be honest, is understandable since the Giants need to win some games for Judge to be guaranteed a future with the team.
Lorenzo Carter returned from a three-game absence to start on the edge. Quincy Roche, who has played well in recent weeks, was relegated to being the third edge defender. I don’t believe Elerson Smith played on defense at all. Carter played well enough, but I still don’t believe he has a future with the Giants. I believe Roche and Smith do, and the more snaps they get the better.
At right tackle, Nate Solder continued to play instead of Matt Peart. I think that’s the wrong decision. Judge and his coaching staff, though, are sending an unmistakable signal that they do not believe Peart is a long-term starter on the Giants’ offensive line.
The offense is definitely not fixed
So ... maybe Jason Garrett was not the entire problem with the Giants’ offense.
To his credit, Freddie Kitchens (do we call him interim offensive coordinator now?) did some interesting things.
I have never seen a flea flicker tight end screen before. The Giants ran one and Evan Engram gained 20 yards. Kitchens made good use of Daniel Jones in the run game. He made sure to keep Keny Golladay involved. Golladay had seven targets, three of which came in the red zone. He ended up with three catches for 50 yards, including back-to-back 18-yard grabs on a critical 70-yard fourth-quarter drive that ended in a 39-yard field goal.
The passing attack was still almost entirely short, quick throws. The run game, aside from a 32-yard Saquon Barkley run and a couple of decent runs by Jones, was ineffective. At least the Giants looked like they had a plan.
Still, they scored just 13 points. They went 1 of 3 in the red zone. Trying to protect a 13-7 lead with 1:34 to go they could only run :23 off the clock before punting and giving the Eagles a final chance to a come-from-behind victory they nearly got. There were still a couple of drive-killing penalties. The Giants’ last two touchdowns have been passes to the unlikely duo of left tackle Andrew Thomas and fourth tight end Chris Myarick, the first touchdown grabs for either.
Reality is, the Giants can’t block much of anything with regularity. An offensive line that has one true NFL starting-caliber player on it isn’t going to hold up long in pass protection, and won’t get much push in the run game. The Giants cannot truly open up the offense until they find some blockers they don’t have to scheme around.
So, Kitchens and the Giants will continue to look for creative ways quickly get the ball to play-makers in space, and ways to turn non-descript players like Myarick into guys who can make key contributions.
Taking note of Michael Strahan
One of the best defensive players in the history of the franchise, Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan, had his jersey — finally — retired by the Giants during a halftime ceremony.
It was fitting, then, that the Giants won a low-scoring, defensive struggle.
Judge said that the team’s defensive players, who would have been kids when Strahan was helping the Giants win the 2007 Super Bowl, “absolutely” were aware of the presence of a legendary Giant.
“We’re always big on the history of the organization. We talk about the area, the people we represent and the history of the organization, who came before us in terms of who we represent,” Judge said. “When you’ve got a guy being honored like that, you don’t want to go out there and lay an egg. Let’s just be honest with what it is, you don’t ever want to do that, but you don’t want to go out there – Michael Strahan is out there being honored for the great player that he was and what he did for this team – you don’t want to go out there and lay an egg, especially defensively. Those guys are conscious of it.”
A winning streak against the Eagles?
Before a late-season victory over Philadelphia last season, the Giants had lost eight straight games to the Eagles. They have now won two straight. The Giants have won three straight games at home, with the prior two victories coming over the Carolina Panthers and Las Vegas Raiders. That marks the first time since 2016 that the Giants have won three straight at home.
Could that be a teeny, tiny sign of progress?
Speaking of MetLife
I honestly thought the stadium would be overrun by Eagles’ fans on Sunday. There were a decent number in the building, but that really wasn’t the case. The building wasn’t close to full, and there were a significant number of Philly fans in attendance, but this was an excited, pro-Giants crowd. I loved the fact that the Giants wore their white throwback uniforms. I loved the white towels the Giants handed out being waved by fans during key moments.
It certainly wasn’t great football. As I said, it certainly wasn’t a full house. It might, though, have been the most fun Giants’ fans have had at MetLife Stadium in a long time.
Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton certainly enjoyed the post-game atmosphere.
No better feeling on Sunday than to watch losing eagles fans exit MetLife— Darius Slayton (@Young_Slay2) November 28, 2021
A note about Dave Gettleman
That really isn’t a surprise. We have been saying for months that the Giants don’t really want to fire Gettleman. Maybe behind the scenes they have “encouraged” him to retire. A retirement, though, would Judge and Giants owners to say nice things about Gettleman on his way out the door, thank him for his work, and all of that. It spares them the ugliness of an announced firing.
We will have plenty to say about potential candidates in coming days, with an eye toward executives who have some ties to the New England Patriots, where Judge was before becoming Giants’ head coach.