The New York Giants are 3-1. Somehow. They won ugly on Sunday, beating the Chicago Bears, 20-12, in a grinding, last-man-standing kind of battle between two very obviously incomplete teams.
The Giants won despite seeing both quarterbacks suffer injuries that left them without the ability to pass the ball for the final 8:24 of the game. They won despite throwing for only 82 total yards. They won despite not scoring a touchdown in the second half. They won despite losing seven players to injuries during the game. They won despite a first-half fumbled punt by Richie James that set up a Chicago field goal, and an ill-advised deep throw by Taylor that turned into an interception. They won despite allowing Chicago quarterback Justin Fields to throw for a season-high 177 yards and run for 52 more yards.
They won. They are 3-1. Somehow. The only team in the NFL with a better record right now is the 4-0 Philadelphia Eagles. Let that sink in.
How has this happened?
“I think the players played good when it counted the most. Give all the credit to the players,” Daboll said. “I think the assistant coaches and coordinators are doing a good job of putting them in position, and those guys are playing hard for 60 minutes. So, I’d say give the players, first-and-foremost, all the credit. And give the assistant coaches and coordinators the second part of it.”
Let’s go through some of the ‘things I think’ after Sunday’s victory.
A grease board? Seriously?
Daboll won’t take any of the credit, but he and his coaching staff deserve plenty of it for where the imperfect, injury-ravaged Giants are. Especially for winning on Sunday.
The Giants kept losing players. They couldn’t pass the ball even before losing both quarterbacks because, well, they don’t have anyone who can catch it. Still, they just kept going, kept grinding.
“You just move on. I mean look, you feel for the players that get injured that give everything they have during the week to get their bodies and their minds right. And if somebody’s out, that’s why you have other players on the roster that you have confidence and faith in, or they wouldn’t be on the roster,” Daboll said. “That’s our job as a coaching staff is to make sure you’re prepared for whatever situation comes up. Is it always going to be great? No, it’s not. There’s certainly things that we can all do better, starting with me. But I just think that’s what you do in a leadership position, too. You don’t panic. You try to stay composed. You try to give people a plan that they can go out and execute and believe in when they need to do it.”
So, when the Giants ran out of quarterbacks — at least quarterbacks physically capable of moving — the Giants adapted.
Barkley played quarterback. Jones took snaps and handed the ball off, sort of playing quarterback. And Daboll went on the hunt for a grease board. Yes, a grease board. Anyone who has played sandlot football has drawn up plays in the dirt. In the fourth quarter, that’s pretty much what the Giants were doing.
Daboll said that he, offensive line coach Bobby Johnson and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka were making up plays on the fly.
“We talked. And Kafka (offensive coordinator Mike Kafka), he had some things. He’s had Tyreek (Hill), and he’s had other guys. So, when that went on, we just sat down, and I said, ‘Where’s the grease board?’ I know not many people use grease boards. Five people gave me an iPad at the same time. I said, ‘I want a grease board,’ which is rarely used nowadays.,” Daboll said. “We talked about a few things. But we had things that were already in the game plan. So, it’s just a matter of ‘Let’s go to three-back personnel’ that they haven’t seen all game and run one of our plays from our – it’s not the wing T – but the three guys in alignment, and let’s use that. If it works, let’s come back to it.”
Barkley said it was “like you were eight years old playing with your friends on Sunday getting ready. You’re just drawing it up. ‘I’m the quarterback, this is what we are going to do, this is how we’re going to do it.’”
With all of that going on, the Giants managed a 13-play, 54-yard drive that killed 6:34 and ended in a field goal, then managed to kill all but the final 17 seconds after a Gary Brightwell fumble recovery with 2:01 to play.
Offensive line shoulders the load
With everything that was going on, with the Bears being able to see clearly that the Giants were virtually unable to pass the ball even before losing their quarterbacks, the Giants still managed to run for an incredible 262 yards, averaging 6.0 yards on 44 rushing attempts. Saquon Barkley had runs of 29 and 18 yards en route to 146 yards on 31 carries. Mostly, though, this was as workmanlike a performance as Barkley might have ever had as a Giant with the team grinding out yards the hard way.
Barkley gave credit to the offensive line.
“I will say this – it is really hard to run the ball in the NFL when it’s a loaded box. I can’t really take credit for that. It’s all about the game plan, it’s all about the system, it’s all about starting up with (center) Jon (Feliciano) making the right calls and DJ putting us in the right position, the o-line communicating and getting to the second level.,” he said. “My responsibility is to just trust it. There’re some plays I wish I had back, I feel like I could have done a better job but that’s within every game. Like I said, when there’s a focal point of stopping the run and you see me go out there making some of those plays, it all starts with the offensive line. I got to give credit to them today.”
Guard Ben Bredeson, who flipped from the left to right side for a few plays when Mark Glowinski went out to be checked for an ankle injury, said Giants’ offensive linemen “absolutely” wanted to take control of the game given the circumstances.
“We were saying that in the huddle,” Bredeson said. “We really dug in after last week, especially as an offensive line, we wanted to play extremely well. Like I was saying before, I think we’re playing for each other at a really high level.”
“We didn’t flinch,” said left tackle Andrew Thomas, leader of the Giants’ line. “We had injuries. Glow went down for a second, guys switching, everyone down and Devery came in. I think we were just resilient as a group, we communicated, we didn’t flinch, we knew what time it was, what what was on the line and we executed.”
The defense didn’t rest
I think this game was a huge test for a Giants’ defense that had a couple of sub-par performances the last couple of weeks. They passed with flying colors.
The Giants defense gave up 146 yards rushing to the Carolina Panthers in Week 2 and 176 to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3. The Bears entered the game as the league’s second-ranked rushing team, a one-dimensional offense built to win just one way.
The Giants gave up 149 yards rushing, but even though Chicago quarterback Justin Fields ran for 52 yards on seven carries and passed for a season-high 174 yards the Bears never really gashed the Giants.
Fields has runs of 16 and 12 yards, but the longest gain by a running back was 11 yards by Trestan Ebner.
“Last week, they ran the ball on us pretty good,” Lawrence said. “And this week, we wanted to test our toughness, not let that happen again. We had to just get 11 guys to the ball. Everybody gang tackling, knocking them back.”
The Giants also got a season-high six sacks, with Dexter Lawrence getting two, Tae Crowder and Jihad Ward each getting one and Azeez Ojulari getting a sack/fumble.
- Davis Webb vs. Aaron Rodgers. That’s what we might get next Sunday if Jones or Taylor can’t play. God forbid we get that and then Webb gets hurt. The Giants could be playing a fourth quarterback who isn’t even on the roster as of now. Hard to imagine.
- Chris detailed the final, crazy play of the game, a seemingly never-ending lateral play that had to have everyone thinking ‘Stanford band play.’ Maybe the craziest part was the celebratory fireworks going off while the ball was still being tossed around.
“I hear the fireworks going off. I’m like, oh, the game must be over then I see them still going I’m like, this is crazy,” Thomas said.
At least it ended well for the Giants.
- Special teams are certainly a mixed bag. Fumble recoveries, fumbles, some good punts and some that aren’t so good by Jamie Gillan, some penalties, some good coverage and some bad. I think as part of our upcoming quarter-pole coverage this week we will have to take a deeper dive into that group’s performance.