What did we learn during the New York Giants’ 24-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday? Mostly that the offense, maddeningly under-whelming for most of the season, simply isn’t good enough to get the Giants deep into the playoffs, or maybe into the playoffs, as currently constructed.
"We are who we are right now. We need to go back to work. You can't just flip a switch and have things change." - Coach McAdoo— New York Giants (@Giants) December 5, 2016
The defense wasn’t perfect, but it did everything it could to keep the Giants in the game. The offense simply couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain.
Despite entering the game 8-3, the Giants’ offense had been plagued by penalties, inconsistent offensive line play and missed opportunities, all combining to both keep the Giants from possessing the ball for any considerable amount of time or put many points on the board. All of these things were present Sunday.
An Ereck Flowers holding penalty in the end zone cost the Giants two points. A John Jerry holding penalty negated a 21-yard pass to Sterling Shepard that would have given the Giants a first-and-goal at the 10-yard line.
A Manning interception at the goal line on a telegraphed play call to tight end Larry Donnell, his first snap on offense in several weeks, killed a scoring drive. By the way, did anyone really think the Steelers weren’t going to be able to figure out the ball was going to Donnell when he showed up on the field for the first time in about a month? The Giants missed a third quarter opportunity when Will Tye couldn’t hold a pass on fourth-and-1 from the Pittsburgh 3-yard line.
Four times in the second half the Giants took possession of the ball between their own 40-yard line and midfield. The only points they got came on a 1-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard in the waning seconds, and even that score was aided by 22 yards in Pittsburgh penalties.
With the exception of a few plays, when the Giants weren’t throwing the ball to Odell Beckham they weren’t getting anything accomplished. That is too reminiscent of the past couple of seasons.
"You're always frustrated after a game you don't score enough...we did some good things, we just didn't make enough plays." - Eli Manning— New York Giants (@Giants) December 5, 2016
That’s a typical Manning response, and it’s not inaccurate. It’s just growing old because we have heard it too often this season, whether or not the Giants have been winning.
The Giants are still in a good playoff position, the fifth seed at 8-4 with the Washington Redskins (6-5-1), Minnesota Vikings (6-6) and Green Bay Packers (6-6) trying to catch the Giants and 7-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers for wild-card spots.
The disconcerting thing, though, is that the Giants can’t beat good teams with their offense playing the way it did Sunday. And Sunday’s performance was not an isolated instance. It was simply more of what we have seen all season. There are always mistakes. There always seem to be missed opportunities. There always seems to be someone left out of the offense — this week it was Victor Cruz. There is always something that leaves you scratching your head — this week the inexplicable and ultimately decision to put the forgotten Donnell into the game and design a play for him.
For the past few weeks the Giants have been managing to win games despite their offensive ills. Sunday’s game, though, showed that they have to find a way to fix what ails their offense if they are going to be a factor in the playoffs. Or even win enough games down the stretch to get there.
The worrisome thing is, after 12 games can we really expect a dramatic turnaround?