Having nothing tangible to talk about other than possible friction between Brian Daboll and Wink Martindale during the bye week, New York Giants fans were deeply divided about whether they would like to see the Giants lose out and have a top five, maybe even top two, draft pick, or win as many as possible to perhaps sneak into the NFC playoffs. The Green Bay Packers and their resurgent quarterback Jordan Love would have something to say about which goal (if either) was the more realistic one.
What did we learn from the Giants’ 24-22 win over the Packers?
Being in playoff contention is not the same as being playoff-worthy
It was a windy evening at MetLife, which may explain some things, but it’s hard to believe that these two teams had a shot at making the playoffs entering the game. Both teams’ defenses are pretty good, that had something to do with things too.
The two offenses, though, were mostly terrible. I don’t know how many viewers opted for the simultaneously played Miami-Tennessee game on ESPN, but by the second half I’d guess that viewers of Giants-Packers were strictly fans of the two teams. It seemed as if every other play either lost yardage, required the two quarterbacks to scramble, or wound up as an overthrow or a drop or a fumble. This was ugly, disjointed football. Not an old-fashioned defensive struggle, just bad football. How fitting, then, that the game was almost decided by a Saquon Barkley fumble when he stumbled and hit the ground without being touched after a 34-yard run that looked like it would clinch the game for the Giants.
The Giants, at 5-8, are now one game behind the other contenders for the final NFC playoff spot. It’s still a long shot since the Eagles are up twice in the final four weeks. And we know that this team isn’t playoff-worthy. Give them credit, though, for not giving up on their season and finding ways to win.
The defense is this-s-s-s close to being really good
The Packers came into this game on a roll, having won three in a row, including victories over playoff contenders Detroit and Kansas City. For a good part of tonight’s game, they shut down the Green Bay offense and had quarterback Jordan Love flustered. (Love looked nothing like the precision passer who took apart the Chiefs’ defense last week.) Love had 322, 268, and 267 yards, with NFL passer ratings of 108.5, 125.5, and 118.6, and 8 TD passes, in the past three weeks. Tonight he had only one TD pass and 218 yards, with a 76.7 NFL passer rating.
Of course Green Bay was without injured Christian Watson tonight, but the defensive backfield was very active. Jason Pinnock was all over the field with an interception, two passes defensed (one of them a questionable non-TD call), and four tackles. Tae Banks broke up what looked like a TD pass, although late in the game he gave up the go-ahead score. Kayvon Thibodeuax had another good all-around game, with a shared sack, a batted pass, and a great run stop from behind. Azeez Ojulari finally showed up and made a few plays, with a shared sack, a tackle and three assists. Bobby Okereke had his usual very solid game, as did Micah McFadden aside from one missed tackle.
The defense is not quite there yet, though, especially late in the game. Think about it:
- Jets: They allow the Jets to drive downfield with 0:24 left on the clock for the tying field goal and then allow the Jets to drive for the winning field goal in overtime.
- Commanders: They allow Washington to go on a long drive to close the Giants lead to 24-19 late in the game, and then let them get to midfield a couple of minutes later before Isaiah Simmons interception sealed the victory.
- Patriots: They let the Patriots drive down the field for the tying field goal at the end of the game but were saved when New England missed it.
- Packers: After Barkley’s fumble, they could not keep the Packers out of the end zone to take the lead with 1:31 left.
Great defenses shut down the opposing offense when the game is on the line. Often they do that with a relentless pass rush when they know that the opponent has to pass. The Giants’ pass rush isn’t good enough to do that. It’s doing a lot of the other stuff, like finally generating turnovers on a regular basis (one interception, two forced fumbles tonight) and breaking up passes. The interior run defense wasn’t so bad tonight but we know it will need reinforcements. The big thing, though, is to find a dominant pass rusher to complement Thibodeaux and Dexter Lawrence.
The Giants’ run blocking is non-existent sometimes
One of the reasons the game was so frustrating to watch for a Giants fan was that the Giants’ offensive line was so futile in run blocking for much of the game. During the first half especially, the line got absolutely no push on any of Barkley’s runs. The blocking wasn’t any better when the Giants called screen passes. Things didn’t really open up until Matt Breida spelled Barkley for a series and gained 16 yards on two rushes. After that point, the rushing game seemed to get better, punctuated by the Barkley 34-yard run and fumble.
I won’t be too hard on the offensive line, though. They did a reasonably good job pass blocking against a tough Packers’ defensive front. Kenny Clark was disruptive, but Rashan Gary disappeared (1 tackle, 1 assist, 0 sacks), thanks to Andrew Thomas. Daboll must have been satisfied, because he gave the OL a game ball.
Tommy DeVito is a game manager...but a pretty good one
A sober view of DeVito’s tenure as Giants’ quarterback would be that he has had one good game out of the six in which he has played. Aside from his breakout game in Washington, he has been unable to put many points on the board, which in the end is what a quarterback is supposed to do.
Still, though, the Giants have won his past three starts, and you have to say that DeVito has been a major reason for each victory. Early in tonight’s game, it seemed that Daboll and Mike Kafka had dusted off the playbook from the Jets game, with an ultra-conservative offense in which DeVito was only allowed to make the safest passes. By the end of the first half he was 7 of 10 for only 48 yards.
As the game went on, though, they put the game more into DeVito’s hands. He was 10 of 11 for 110 yards in the second half, with a beautiful touchdown pass to Isaiah Hodgins (who made an equally beautiful catch, getting both feet down in-bounds) that he made out of structure when he was flushed out of the pocket. Then, after the Packers took the lead with 1:31 to go, DeVito masterfully drove the Giants downfield for the winning field goal as time expired. He completed four consecutive passes, the biggest one a great 32-yard completion to Wan’Dale Robinson, who continues to show why Joe Schoen thought he was worth a second round pick.
DeVito seemed to give up on plays pretty quickly Monday, and I’ll leave it to those who do film study to tell us whether he was not seeing open receivers some of the time or whether no one was open. What was different tonight, though, was that DeVito didn’t take a single sack, something that had defined his earlier appearances. Instead he scrambled effectively, picking up 71 yards on the ground, many of them right up the middle. He also had a couple of zone reads, including one for 26 yards that he almost got into the end zone. What was the same as his most recent games was that once again, DeVito didn’t throw an interception.
Randy Bullock must like the Giants
Bullock, you will remember, was the kicker who missed a 47-yard field goal as time expired in Brian Daboll’s first game as Giants head coach in Tennessee to set the tone for the Giants’ surprising 10-8-1 season. Tonight he missed a 48-yard field goal attempt early in the game that would have given the Giants an early 3-0 lead, but he more than atoned for that with the 37-yard field goal that won the game.
Few will remember (I didn’t), but this is Bullock’s second stint as a Giant. He was a Giant for 5 games in the 2016 playoff season, appearing in one game and making 2 of 3 extra points. Regardless, he has now won two games for the Giants in two seasons. Barkley should buy him dinner.