Kudos to ...
Brian Daboll (and staff) — I generally keep the coaches out of the ‘Kudos & Wet Willies.’ It is impossible, though, to do that after Sunday. After a game where Daboll and his staff kept their composure with both quarterbacks hurt, with more than a half-dozen players injured during the game, drew up plays on the sideline, and helped create a path for the battered Giants to win a game.
“It felt like you’re back again as a little kid in the backyard playing football,” running back Saquon Barkley said. “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.’”
Daboll was asked about finding a way to win while facing as much adversity as the Giants faced Sunday. His initial answer spoke volumes about his attitude.
Reminded that he lost both quarterbacks and the team suffered a rash of other injuries, Daboll said:
“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. So, you have to obviously show empathy to your players that get hurt, but you’re onto the next play quickly. And you’re not worried. I mean (tackle) Evan (Neal) went out. There’s a list; you guys saw it. There’s quite a bit of guys that were out there. I do have the names. I don’t have reasons: Daniel, ARob (cornerback Aaron Robinson), (defensive lineman Henry) Mondeaux, Evan, (wide receiver Kenny) Golladay, Tyrod, so it was quite a bit of them. But I don’t think you really think about that when you’re going. Other than if it’s a play call and you need to do something different to either help a particular player or flip a formation or not call a pressure. You got to know your players.”
Daboll, a first-time head coach, went outside his circle of friends and hired a veteran NFL coaching staff filled with people who have experienced success. It has shown through four games, as an obviously incomplete Giants’ team has navigated its way to three victories in four games.
As it happens, I was sitting next to Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated in the press box at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. We were chatting about the Giants before the game and Orr said to me that Daboll is “the real deal.”
It certainly looks that way so far.
Saquon Barkley — This was a day when the Giants leaned on the star running back like they never have before. A career-high 31 carries for 146 yards when the Bears pretty much knew he was getting the ball again and again. A ridiculous, reverse field 15-yard gain on a third-and-9 screen pass that should have been blown up for a massive loss, setting up an 8-yard Daniel Jones touchdown run. A handful of snaps as a Wildcat quarterback.
When Tyrod Taylor went out of the game Barkley said “I kind of realized I’m up next. I’m the quarterback.”
Aside from Jones’ two touchdown runs, he was pretty much the Giants’ offense on Sunday.
Daniel Jones — The quarterback had only 71 yards passing (8 of 13), but he ran for 21- and 8-yard touchdowns and totaled 68 yards rushing on six carries. He also re-entered the game after Taylor’s concussion, limping his way through the final two drives on a left ankle injury that limited him to pretty much standing still and handing the ball off.
“First of all, you have to give credit to DJ coming back in the game,” Barkley said. “I can’t curse, he’s a tough you know what. Nothing but respect for him to go in and continue to fight through that for his team just shows you the type of person and type of player he is.”
Dexter Lawrence — The massive defensive lineman told me during training camp that “I just want to wreck games.” He certainly did that on Sunday.
This was likely the most dominant performance of Lawrence’s four-year career. With Leonard Williams sidelined again and the Giants’ defense feeling the sting of having been manhandled Monday night by the Dallas Cowboys, Lawrence led the charge against the Bears.
Lawrence had two sacks, the first multi-sack game of his career. Pro Football Focus’s initial game review credited Lawrence with eight total pressures, also a career high. Lawrence also had a tackle for loss.
“I’m a leader. So that’s, that’s kind of my role to do. Get everybody ready to go,” Lawrence said after the game. “Take the field, run on the field every time. That kind of shows a little intimidation. Don’t show your tired, don’t show your weakness, stand tall.”
Lawrence did that Sunday afternoon.
Offensive line — The Giants’ 262 rushing yards included some terrific individual efforts. You don’t get to that total, though, without some tremendous work by the men up front. Especially when the opposing defense knows there is little to no passing threat.
“We didn’t flinch. I mean, we had injuries. Glow [Mark Glowinski] went down for a second, guys switching, everyone down and Devery came in,” said Andrew Thomas. “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.”
Starters Thomas, Glowinski, Ben Bredeson, Jon Feliciano and Evan Neal all deserve credit. So do Hamilton (23 snaps in relief of Neal) and Josh Ezeudu (eight snaps in relief of Glowinski).
Defensive front 7 — The Giants knew the task at hand on Sunday. First, do everything they could to contain the league’s second-best rushing attack. Second, deal with a quarterback in Justin Fields who Lawrence called “slippery,” a player capable of creating big plays with his feet and his arm — even though he had not really shown the latter part in the season’s first three games.
Oh, and try to do this after a game during which the Dallas Cowboys had dominated them to the tune of 176 yards rushing.
“Last week, they ran the ball on us pretty good. And this week, we wanted to test our toughness, not let that happen again,” Lawrence said. “We had to just get 11 guys to the ball. Everybody game tackling, knocking them back type of thing.”
Chicago finished with 149 yards rushing on 32 attempts (4.7 yards per carry), but their longest run of the day was a 16-yard Fields scramble. They never really a difference-making long run.
The Giants also sacked Fields six times. Lawrence had two, Azeez Ojulari had a sack/fumble, Tae Crowder and Jihad Ward had sacks, and the Giants were credited with a “team” sack. PFF’s initial review showed the Giants with 14 total pressures.
Kayvon Thibodeaux had three tackles, a quarterback hit and an alert fumble recovery after Ojulari separated Fields from the ball.
Crowder had 11 tackles, one for loss, and was effective blitzing up the middle with two quarterback hits along with his sack.
In his 2022 Giants debut, Jaylon Smith contributed seven tackles, showing he still has good range.
Jihad Ward contributed two quarterback hits, forced a fumble and had four tackles, one for loss.
Wet Willies to ...
Wide receivers — The Giants got just three catches for 25 yards from their wide receivers in nine targets. David Sills dropped a pass that would have been a first down. Kenny Golladay was a non-factor before leaving with a knee injury. Darius Slayton dropped a deep ball, but got bailed out by a pass interference penalty. The Giants desperately miss Sterling Shepard, Wan’Dale Robinson and Kadarius Toney.
Injuries — As I do with coaches, I usually avoid listing injuries in the K&WW. After Sunday, though, it’s impossible not to mention them. Jones, Taylor, Neal, defensive tackle Henry Mondeaux, cornerback Aaron Robinson, Golladay and Julian Love were all lost during the game. That was in addition to the five Giants inactive Sunday due to injuries. There is no telling what the roster looks like Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
Kwillies to ...
Special teams — There was good and bad here on Sunday. Gary Brightwell had a critical fourth-quarter fumble recovery, but also had two terrible kickoff returns, averaging just 16.5 yards and not reaching the 20-yard line either time. Richie James fumbled a punt. Jamie Gillan averaged 54.6 yards, but a couple of those were too long, going for touchbacks. A missed 7-yard field goal by Graham Gano. Jason Pinnock had a penalty for going out of bounds that ended up costing the Giants about 15 yards of field position.