*Here are my observations of watching the Giants yesterday, followed by watching their 10-minute highlight on Youtube, courtesy of the NFL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KavGZDEgjog.
The Giants looked great on their opening drive, but that was their high point. In addition, the defense had major struggles in the first half, before getting some pressure on the quarterback late in the first half and the second half. Add it up and it was a 28-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
The first drive was outstanding; if anything, it was better than last week’s opening drive. The line blocked well and Saquon Barkley was outstanding, scoring on a very nice run going through a lane and cutting right on a 45-degree angle, beating the defender past the pylon. Helping out on Barkley’s touchdown was the line’s blocking plus having Bennie Fowler, Russell Shepard, and Rhett Ellison all lined up in trips on the right edge. All three sealed off defenders and enabled Barkley to burst into the open. Unfortunately, the running game did not click that way the rest of the game.
From the last drive of the first half, the Giants were able to generate pressure, most of it coming from the outside, getting three sacks in that span. On the last drive of the first half, Lorenzo Carter and Markus Golden sacked Allen and the Bills drew a personal foul penalty that would not have happened if there wasn’t any pressure. On Buffalo’s opening third quarter drive, they had third-and-8 from their 28 when Olsen Pierre came in off a stunt, shed his blocker quickly, and sacked Allen, with Carter and Golden supplying outside pressure that forced Allen to step up and run into Pierre. On Buffalo’s next drive, Golden sacked Allen with Oshane Ximines joining him just after Golden’s initial hit, followed by Pierre. Golden and Ximines were lined up as 4-3 ends in this package, something the Giants employed during the game. On third-and-goal in the fourth quarter, pressure from Golden and Pierre forced Allen into throwing the ball away and settling for a field goal attempt. True, the Bills ended up with a touchdown because Dexter Lawrence had a personal foul that I did not think was flagrant.
The pressure was better late than never and more of that in the weeks to come will result in an improved performance from the defense.
Three straight touchdowns in the first half was hard to watch. More wide open Bill receivers were open as the half progressed, as the Giants could not generate much pressure and leaving the secondary on their own.
What I find disappointing is the play of Dalvin Tomlinson and BJ Hill, as they are not making their presence known. I had high hopes for them and they are having a hard time shedding blocks and getting penetration. The improved pass rush of the second half came from the outside, not from the interior. On Buffalo’s first touchdown drive on second-and-7, Tomlinson takes himself out of the play and Hill gets to Frank Gore a split-second late, enabling Gore to gain 8 yards and a first down to the 11. On Josh Allen’s touchdown run, both were completely taken out of the play. The following drive, Gore gets 9 yards on first down through the middle with both players and Lawrence getting pushed to the left side of the hole Gore ran through. If the Giants are going to improve as a defense, those two must improve. I will give Lawrence a pass since he is a rookie and I expect him to improve.
The third touchdown was a 99-yard drive, something Antonio Hamilton did a beautiful job of keeping the ball in play and preventing the ball from getting into the end zone. But Buffalo marched down the field and made it look easy – as easy as Dallas made it look last week. The touchdown came when Isaiah McKenzie took a pitch and went left for the touchdown with Jabrill Peppers being wheeled along like a child for 10 yards by Buffalo tight end Dawson Knox: a rookie.
DeAndre Baker had another tough day, but he wasn’t being beaten anywhere near as often once the pass rush became a factor. Peppers is struggling and he also needs to improve. Janoris Jenkins was beat a few times and some of those were plays he had no chance on plus plays when Allen had too much time to throw. Antoine Bethea was not noticeable with any mistakes the way he was last week and maybe that is a good sign. There certainly weren’t the communication breakdowns he and Peppers had last week.
Unfortunately, the running game did not click that way the rest of the game. Barkley ended up with 107 yards, but 48 came on his last two carries of the opening drive. He had more touches than last week, but I still think he needs a few more touches for him to be more effective.
Last, but not least, Eli Manning. It’s fashionable to say it’s not his fault, but he was part of the problem today. After the opening drive, the Giants could not generate any offense, as Manning was terrible with little accuracy on his passes. At least four passes were tipped or batted at the line of scrimmage – one resulting in an interception before the half. Even the passes he completed looked sluggish: nothing in the passes between quarterback and receiver had any smooth flow to them. His interception late in the fourth quarter looked like he was heaving it as far as he could, hoping something would stick; it did not look like he was passing to any particular defender. He does not want to get hit and will do anything to avoid it – one example was throwing a pass away towards Barkley’s back. He looks more and more like a beaten man and there is little energy from the offense, if any. There was on the opening drive and it dissipated after that. We had Jeb Bush as the “low-energy candidate” and now we have Manning as the “low-energy quarterback.”
The Giants have Barkley and a solid offensive line right now and the old excuse of “he doesn’t have time” is no longer there. In fact, after Barkley, the offensive line is the least of the Giant worries. Yes, the receiving corps is banged up with Sterling Sheppard and now Cody Latimer out with concussions, in addition to the 4-game suspension of Golden Tate. And I don’t think the diva who is in Cleveland would have made much difference. In truth, Latimer and Bennie Fowler have had their good moments. Evan Engram has 16 receptions to date, although I wish he would be more open when he catches it; he seems to have a defender within a yard of him.
Manning’s stats were 26-45-350 yards, but take away two late heaves: one to Engram for 34 yards and another to TJ Jones for 27, he was 24-43-189 yards – not much over 4 yards per attempt.
Right now, the Giants are in quarterback limbo. I am all for having Daniel Jones sit and learn this year, but I think he will be in the lineup at some point this season. My first guess was the game following the bye week, but that is the Sunday before Thanksgiving against the Bears and that may be too long. It could be sooner, I just don’t know when. I wouldn’t be shocked if it happened after next week’s game against Tampa Bay. While he may not be ready, the one positive I see with Jones coming in would be a badly needed dose of energy.