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5 plays that led to a Giants’ beatdown by the Chargers

NFL: New York Giants at Los Angeles Chargers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants lost their ninth game Sunday as the Los Angeles Chargers defeated the struggling Giants, 37-21. The game wasn’t nearly that close.

The Giants scored two touchdowns in the game’s final five minutes, and 21 of the Giants’ 65 offensive plays were run in garbage time. New York had little success throwing the football other than a third-and-10 60-yard pass to Kyle Rudolph, the longest reception of his career.

The Chargers possessed the football a total of 34:20 to the Giants 25:40, and that’s with just about seven minutes coming at the end of the game in the fourth quarter. The inability of the Giants’ offense was on display again, which puts the Giants’ defense into a precarious situation with little rest. Here are five plays/situations that led to this beatdown.

Play(s) 1: Failing to capitalize

There’s no video for this sequence of plays. Within the closing minutes of the first half, the Giants had two offensive possessions. The Chargers held a 17-7 lead, and the Chargers were receiving the ball to start the second half. The first started at the 4:15 mark at the New York Giants 25-yard line. The Giants ran the football on first down for a good 7-yard gain; the Giants ran on second-and-3, and Saquon Barkley lost a yard, setting up a third-and-4 where the Giants ran once again. Barkley fell forward for 2 yards, and the Giants punted the football.

New York’s defense forced a three-and-out, so the Giants’ offense collected the football with 1:40 left in half at the Chargers’ 41-yard line. The Giants threw an incomplete pass on first down, then lost 2 yards on a short pass to Barkley. Mike Glennon then threw an incomplete pass, and the Giants punted the football back to the Chargers with :40 left in the half.

New York’s offense had two three and outs in two possessions in a pivotal part of the game where competition wasn’t out of reach. They were conservative, ineffective, and kept leaving their defense out on the field for exploitation.

Play 2: Score before the end of the half

On a third-and-11 play with less than 20 seconds left in the half, quarterback Justin Herbert rolls to his right and fires a dart to Jalen Guyton for a 59-yard touchdown. Guyton split a two-high, unconventional, type of defensive look. New York’s defense has often been at the end of first-halves throughout the season. It happened again, but after a forced three-and-out, which occurred with less than two minutes in the half. The Giants’ defense did not play well, but they are far from the biggest issue with this team.

Play 3: The dagger

Jared Cook’s (87) touchdown to make the score 37-7 seemed like the final dagger in a lifeless Giants’ effort that had a garbage time resurgence to make the score superficially respectable. Another third-down touchdown on a play-action high-low concept with Cook running the seven route. Linebacker Reggie Ragland (55) couldn’t locate Cook well enough to force an incompletion. The touchdown might have been the dagger, but the Giants’ offense was virtually lifeless well before this play early in the fourth quarter.

Play 4: Third-and-4 to Mike Williams

The Giants run man coverage in many third-and-short situations; it has worked for them at times this season, but they were exposed on this third-and-4 against Mike Williams (81). Horizontal breaking routes pose problems for man coverage, especially when working through traffic.

It’s a one-touchdown game at this point in the matchup. If New York could have forced an incompletion, the Giants could have stalled the onslaught that inevitably ensued. Whatever Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi called seemed to work in these high leverage situations. This play went for 25 yards and helped set up the Chargers’ first field goal.

Play 5: ‘Tis the season

It’s the holiday season, and Kyle Rudolph galloped his way to his longest career gain. Before Sunday, Kyle Rudolph’s longest gain was 47 yards; it makes too much sense that he would have a 60-yard catch as a 32-year old tight end coming off of foot surgery.

The Chargers send five pass rushers, and Rudolph finds his way behind the coverage as the underneath defenders react to other routes. With a red nose, and holiday glee, he fought for extra yards as he shrugged tacklers off till he fell to the ground: the play set up the Giants only non-garbage time touchdown - a 3-yard pass to Elijhaa Penny.

This play might be more important than we realize because, on this third-and-10, if the Giants just punt, then they might have had zero points which would have given the Chargers defense incentive to not allow garbage points at the end of the game. It’s entirely possible that the Chargers defense would not have taken their foot off the gas pedal after Joey Bosa’s strip-sack early in the fourth quarter.

Either way, this is the longest Giants pass all season - yeah...I know. I wonder what the odds were on Rudolph having the longest reception for the Giants by the end of the season (still have four games!), and it didn’t even go for six.