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Giants-Bills ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’: 2 yards from victory edition

Let’s review Sunday’s narrow loss to Buffalo

NFL: New York Giants at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s review the New York Giants’ near-miss 14-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night in our traditional ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’ style.

Kudos to ...

Saquon Barkley — So, yeah, Barkley means a little something to the Giants’ offense. He carried 24 times for 93 yards and busted off runs of 34 and 19 yards. He obviously wasn’t cutting and moving like we know he can, but he added an element to the offense that has been missing.

Bobby Okereke — Okereke was everywhere vs. the Bills. Two terrific plays, a forced fumble and a tipped pass, led to turnovers. Okereke was a sideline-to-sideline presence, finishing with 11 tackles (two for loss), two passes defense, and a forced fumble. After a slow start to the season, in recent games Okereke has been showing why the Giants gave him a four-year, $40 million free agent contract.

Micah McFadden — McFadden was the beneficiary of Okereke’s forced fumble and tipped pass, with a fumble recover and an interception. McFadden had seven tackles, a quarterback hit and a pass defensed. He played like a starting NFL linebacker.

Wan’Dale Robinson — The second-year wide receiver continues to show his value. He had eight receptions on eight targets for 62 yards. Many of those earned first downs. He also had some yards after catch, which had been missing in earlier games.

Darius Slayton — Slayton and Tyrod Taylor developed a connection back in 2022 when Slayton spent most of his time working with the backups. Sunday, they capitalized on that. Slayton had catches of 31 and 27 yards en route to a four-catch, 69-yard night.

Justin Pugh — I don’t care what the Pro Football Focus grades say about Pugh’s work Sunday. What the veteran offensive lineman did vs. the Bills was remarkable. He started an NFL game almost a year to the day after surgery for a torn ACL, less than two weeks after signing with the Giants and with only one padded practice under his belt. He moved to left tackle after Joshua Ezeudu got hurt. Pugh played 151 snaps at left tackle for the Giants in 2015. Since then, he has played five snaps at that spot.

Initial review by PFF had Pugh giving up two sacks and a hurry on 40 pass-blocking snaps. Whatever. After saying during the week he wasn’t sure he could hold up for a full game, Pugh played 77 snaps. The fact that Pugh both made it through the game and played representative football is amazing.

Offensive line — Honestly, the offensive line as a whole was fine. I thought the Giants, even though they never got into the end zone, had a much better plan. Trying to shorten the game, they stuck with the run even when it wasn’t working — something we have been calling for. They moved Tyrod Taylor out of the pocket, something they haven’t done enough with Daniel Jones. They ran some play-action from under center. The line protected well ebough for Taylor to take a couple of deep shots. Taylor was sacked three times, hit five times and the Giants ran 34 times for 132 yards (3.9 per attempt).

Wet Willies to ...

Remarkably, in a losing effort there really aren’t any individual ‘Wet Willies’.

The end of the first half — Disastrous. That is the only way to describe Tyrod Taylor “alerting” to a run from the Buffalo 1-yard line with :14 left and no timeouts remaining. The play failed, the Giants could not get the clock stopped, they got no points and that was ultimately the play that cost them a monumental upset.

There really is no debate about the fact that running the ball there was a mistake. Throw the ball and you get at least two plays before needing to kick a field goal if you can’t get into the end zone. Kwillies to ...

Tyrod Taylor — The veteran backup played well enough in his first start for the Giants in two seasons. He went 24 of 36 for 200 yards, didn’t turn the ball over, made some terrific throws and ran five times for 24 yards.

The decision to hand the ball to Barkley rather than throw at the end of the first half, though, skews everything.

A thought on the final play

Giants fans are up in arms about the no-call on the final play of the game. Yes, it was pass interference. No, I’m not going to rip the officials. The Giants got one defensive pass interference call to even give them that chance. Did you really think they were going to get two? This is hardly the first time an official has swallowed a whistle on a game-deciding play. — it happens all the time. Does that make it right? Maybe not, but that’s how it is in all sports.

I’m also fine with the final play call. The Giants gave Darren Waller, their best receiver and best red zone option, a chance to make a play. It didn’t work. It’s a brilliant call if it works. Since it didn’t, Giants fans think offensive coordinator Mike Kafka is an idiot. Which he’s not. The play call was for the proper player.