<![CDATA[NBC New York - Giants]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcnewyork.com/feature/giants http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/4NY_Horizontal.jpg NBC New York http://www.nbcnewyork.comen-usWed, 07 Dec 2016 10:09:22 -0500Wed, 07 Dec 2016 10:09:22 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Giants' Offense a Sluggish Mess in Loss to Steelers]]> Mon, 05 Dec 2016 10:12:26 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-627708408.jpg

If Rashad Jennings is your second-leading receiver and has as many catches (6) as rushing attempts (6 for 19 yards), you’ve probably drawn up a blueprint for failure. As fate would have it, that’s actually what the Giants did in dropping a 24-14 contest to Pittsburgh, snapping their six-game win streak and announcing to the rest of the NFL that they’re not yet Super Bowl contenders. 

The beginning of the game played out like a bad joke. I’d said previously that the Giants needed to stop opening games with dives up the middle and swing passes with Jennings. So what did they do on the first two plays? *Sigh* 

Sure, Eli Manning made a heady move on the third play, shoveling to Jennings as the pocket collapsed, with Jennings running 20 yards. Little did we know that was going to be the Giants second-longest play of the day and Manning’s last great individual effort. Let’s face it, Eli (24 of 39 for 195 yards, two TDs and two INTs) was awful and seemed incapable of looking to anyone but Odell Beckham (10 catches for 100 yards). 

As you’d expect, Beckham led the Giants in targets (16). What you wouldn’t expect (or hope for) is that he’d have twice as many targets as the next most-targeted receiver (Sterling Shepard, 8) or that Victor Cruz would have zero targets or that you’d throw in the direction of Larry Donnell (yeah, he’s apparently back in the mix) down near the goal line. 

That pass (which, if completed, would have put the Giants ahead 6-5 in, uh, the second inning) was intercepted by Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons and returned 58 yards to the Giants’ 40 yard line, extinguishing a 12-play drive. Three plays later, Ben Roethlisberger (24 of 36, 289 yards, two TDs, one INT) threw to the back of the end zone, where Antonio Brown made a balletic 22-yard touchdown grab to put Pittsburgh ahead 11-0. 

After Brown scored, the camera panned to the Giants’ sideline where Beckham was smiling widely, acting of course as if the game were all about the two of them. 

But really, can you blame him? Manning seemed unwilling to look elsewhere. The offensive game plan was predictable and largely uninspired. The defense, meanwhile, played relatively well. Yes, the defense gave up 118 yards on the ground to Le’Veon Bell –- the first 100-yard rusher the squad has allowed all year. And yes, Landon Collins made perhaps his first big gaffe of the season in letting Steelers tight end Ladarius Green slip past him for a 20-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, which put Pittsburgh up 21-7. 

But the defense was put on its heels early thanks to the Giants’ offense: a holding penalty in the end zone on the Human Stickum Ereck Flowers (who leads the league in holding penalties) negated a first down pass to Beckham and instead gave the Steelers a 2-0 lead; then the Manning-toward-Donnell disaster flipped the field on the Giants. 

Frankly, if it weren’t for individual efforts by Olivier Vernon (two sacks) and Eli Apple (an INT and a fumble recovery), the Giants would have gotten beaten much worse. 

The Giants (8-4) are now three full games behind Dallas, whom they will face next Sunday in a game that has already been flexed to the evening slot on NBC. Hopefully this game against Pittsburgh served as a wake-up call (particularly to the coaches and Eli Manning). Get somebody other than Beckham involved. And for heaven’s sake, stop opening the game by trying to establish Rashad Jennings!



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants vs. Steelers Could Be a Super Bowl Preview]]> Fri, 02 Dec 2016 13:54:13 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Brown-Steelers-v-Colts-AP.jpg

This week’s game between the Giants and the Steelers could be a Super Bowl preview between two teams with similar DNA on both sides of the ball -- or it could simply be a game between two teams with great potential who will end up missing the playoffs. 

Does that seem crazy? If so, which part? 

The 8-3 Giants are riding high on a five-game winning streak, but this is their remaining schedule: @Steelers, Cowboys, Lions, @Eagles, @Redskins. 

In short, the Giants could very well be 8-8 on New Year’s Day and on the outside looking in when the playoffs start. Am I being pessimistic? No, I’m being realistic. The combined records of their next five opponents is 35-20, and three of those teams -- Cowboys, Lions, Steelers -- currently sit in first place in their divisions. The remaining two opponents are divisional rivals who will either still be playing for their own playoff berths in the last two weeks or will at the very least desperately want to screw things up for the Giants. 

But first things first: Pittsburgh. 

The Steelers are what the Giants would be if they ever took the governor off their offense and let things ride. Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown is always looking to go deep, no matter the situation. Third and two? Good bet they’re going deep. Fourth and short? Same thing. Contrast that with avowed aggressor Ben McAdoo, who says the Giants are always looking to attack and then punts on fourth and short in Cleveland territory in the first quarter last week. 

If Brad Wing or Robbie Gould feature prominently for New York this week, the Giants are going to lose by 100. 

Luckily for New York, the Steelers’ defense reminds no one of the 1990s Blitzburgh crew. There are holes throughout this defense, including the huge one Ezekiel Elliott ran through in lifting Dallas to a come-from-behind victory in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago. 

Like the Giants, Pittsburgh has the kind of offense that looks unstoppable at times. Want to play safety deep to keep Brown from going over the top? The Steelers can counter with the versatile Le’Veon Bell, the league’s best running back when he’s not serving suspensions for smoking pot. 

Pittsburgh’s offense has definitely lost a step with the suspension of Martavis Bryant (who is another herb aficionado) and injuries to Markus Wheaton and Darrius Heyward-Bey. But unlike the Giants, who likewise have an All-Pro wide receiver in Odell Beckham Jr., the Steelers have several All-Pro linemen (center Maurkice Pouncey, guard David DeCastro), so losses in the wide receiving corps are more easily masked. 

Let’s face it, if the Giants lost Beckham, they’d be toast. Their entire offense is predicated on Beckham drawing double coverage. For some reason they seem to think that the best way to exploit this is by consistently handing off to Rashad Jennings. It’d be like if the Steelers exploited a double coverage of Brown by running dives with full back Roosevelt Nix. 

This game will have a playoff feel because these are two teams with playoff aspirations who are good barometers of how each other will fare for the rest of the season. The Steelers lost to the Cowboys at home -- a team the Giants (and only the Giants) beat, and on the road no less. Can they beat the Giants in Pittsburgh? Maybe. Is this the first of two times the teams will meet this year? Maybe. Could both of those teams still miss the playoffs? You bet. 

The Giants are rolling right now, but it’d be inaccurate to call them hot. They’re winning, but they’re not doing it in very convincing fashion. Beating Pittsburgh on the road would convince a lot of people that the Giants are Super Bowl contenders.

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<![CDATA[Grading the Giants After Beating the Winless Browns]]> Mon, 28 Nov 2016 15:06:35 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/TLMD-eli-manning-giants-efe-11.jpg

My parents were both teachers, so they spent a good portion of their lives assigning grades to others.

I’ve never had that pleasure of sitting in absolute judgment of others, so I’m going to create an opportunity here – assigning grades to the Giants’ offense, defense, special teams and coaching in the wake of their 27-13 victory over the winless Browns.

Who knows, I might even grade the Giants’ cheerleaders, too. What’s that, they don’t have any? Well, then that makes my job simple: They get an F. Not an incomplete; an F!

(I’m beginning to think I missed my calling as a teacher.)

Offense: C+

 In beating the Browns, the Giants won their sixth game in a row -- their longest win streak since 2008 – and it was the first time this season they’d beaten any opponent by more than a touchdown. Eli Manning was a workmanlike 15 of 27 for 194 yards, 3 touchdown passes and no interceptions. On the season, he now has twice as many touchdown passes passes (20) as interceptions (10), which is great until you realize he should probably have more of each.

I still think this Giants offense is too conservative and plays to the level of its competition. They look for balance in the run-pass game (as evidenced by the two three-and-outs featuring Rashad Jennings in the scoreless first quarter) instead of playing a more chuck-and-duck offensive scheme. Look, I know their offensive line is spotty and that Manning doesn’t have all day to throw. But move the pocket, get creative. Would it kill Eli to roll out once a decade?

His best pass of the day was probably to Dwayne Harris on a fade route in the end zone, with Harris making the kind of decisive over the shoulder grab that is sometimes missing when he’s fielding punts.

The Giants went over 100 yards rushing for the third straight game, but neither Rashad Jennings (15 carries for 55 yards) or Paul Perkins (9 carries for 29 yards) were impressive on the ground. But by all means, let’s keep opening the game with swing passes to Jennings followed by a run by Jennings to set up third and long.

Not surprisingly, the Giants swallowed up massive amounts of yards when they got the ball in the hands of Odell Beckham Jr., who caught 6 passes for 96 yards and 2 touchdowns. He’s going to need another game like that if the Giants hope to keep pace with the Steelers next week.

Still, 27 points against the Browns, who came in near the bottom of every defensive category ever conceived? Not great. Particularly when you consider the Giants went scoreless in both the first and third quarters.

Defense: B

  You know how you keep an undermanned team like the Browns within striking distance? You play a lot of zone defense, which allows opponents like Terrelle Pryor to catch 6 passes for 131 yards. The Giants sacked Josh McCown seven times – led by Jason Pierre-Paul, who had 3 sacks, a fumble recovery (that was more like an interception) and a touchdown.

Yet for some reason the team was often playing zone behind Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, Snacks Harrison and Johnathan Hankins, who were cooking bacon in McCown’s kitchen all afternoon, which should have allowed the Giants to play man coverage in the secondary.

The defensive line forced three fumbles – two on McCown, one on Isiah Crowell – while the secondary had no interceptions. The impression that the secondary played an average game seemed to eat at cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who took to Twitter (where today's men settle their beefs) and threw major shade at Pryor.

If the Giants play zone defense against the Steelers, Antonio Brown is going to set every single-game NFL receiving record and Jenkins will spontaneously combust.

Special teams: B

Giants fans vividly remember how Pro Bowl cornerback Jason Sehorn blew out his knee returning kicks and was never the same player. So there’s a bit of trepidation when Beckham is returning punts or kickoffs. But let’s face it, the Giants’ best player is probably their best option these days in the return game, because Dwayne Harris (who muffed a punt last week) and Bobby Rainey (who lost a fumble versus the Browns) are engendering no confidence these days.

Beckham had a few electric runbacks versus Cleveland, including a touchdown that was called back on a penalty. The Giants should continue to run him out there on punts. Does it increase his potential for injury? Sure. Does it increase his potential for blowing a game wide open? Absolutely. There’s no reward without risk, and right now the Giants can’t afford to risk anyone other than Beckham fielding punts.

Brad Wing had another great game: 9 punts, 5 inside the 20, with a long of 58. Conversely, Robbie Gould was only 3 of 4 on extra points and did not attempt a field goal. If the Giants ever need a clutch field goal down the line, maybe Beckham can kick it for them.

Coaching: C

  For a team that has won six games in a row, has secured its first winning season since 2012 and is in line to be the fifth seed in the playoffs, the Giants are still underperforming in the eyes of many people, particularly fans -- who see an explosive offense that too often lies dormant, a coaching staff whose play-calling seems locked in the 1970s (balance, balance, balance!) and a special teams that is often exciting for all the wrong reasons.

Ben McAdoo continues to call the plays and they can be maddening at times. Like yesterday punting on 4th-and-1 from inside the 50 yard line in the first quarter. Where was the aggressiveness he has been espousing? You don’t think you can get one yard on the Browns in that situation? What kind of message is that sending?

If McAdoo would relinquish the play calling duties to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, he would probably be up for less criticism. If McAdoo looked like he was enjoying himself more, he would probably get a longer leash from fans. And if McAdoo would shave off his mustache, he would look less like an extra from “Boogie Nights.”

The Giants’ potential is so self-evident that it can become exasperating when the team seems to be its own worst enemy – not because of physical or mental mistakes, per se; but because they don’t play consistently play to their own strengths. It shouldn’t take till the fourth quarter to put away a team like the 0-12 Browns.

Cheerleading: F

 

Overall grade: C+

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<![CDATA[Giants Win Fifth Straight Versus Bears But Concerns Linger]]> Mon, 21 Nov 2016 12:14:22 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Giants-Bears1120.jpg

The Giants won their fifth straight game by defeating Chicago 22-16 on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, raising the team’s record to 7-3 and bolstering fans’ postseason aspirations. Let’s face it, if the Giants don’t reach the playoffs, it would be a colossal disappointment. Then again, they haven’t won any of their games by more than a touchdown, including Sunday's nail-biter over the Bears, so how good are they really? 

Before we start setting aside all our Sundays in January to watch Giants playoff games, we need to assess the team's current status with a gimlet eye. There were a lot of pros and cons to take away from this Bears victory, so let’s break them down. 

On One Hand: For the first time in 18 games, the Giants did not turn the ball over. 

On the Other Hand: The Bears dropped at least two surefire interceptions from Eli Manning, including one late in the fourth quarter when the Giants were clinging to a six-point lead and Manning hesitated before trying to hit Rashad Jennings in the flat -- a pass that was bobbled by Jennings and then dropped by the Bears defender. Manning cannot keep making those late-game, mental mistakes. 

On One Hand: Rashad Jennings surpassed more than 85 yards rushing for the second straight game. 

On the Other Hand: In the fourth quarter, as the team was trying to salt away the victory, Jennings had eight carries for a putrid 22 yards. 

On One Hand: Ben McAdoo spoke all week about how the Giants would continue to be aggressive, and indeed the team converted a huge 4th-and-2 in the first half as Manning connected with Sterling Shepard, which led to a Jennings touchdown run. 

On the Other Hand: McAdoo’s play calling in the second half was anything but aggressive. He continually dialed up Jennings for fruitless dives, and in the fourth quarter the team went three-and-out three times. 

On One Hand: Shepard caught a touchdown pass for the second straight game. 

On the Other Hand: Odell Beckham (five receptions, 46 yards) seemed less than pleased that he had not been overly involved in the offense (or maybe he was still miffed that he lost a $25,000 pinky ring at a strip club). 

On One Hand: Dwayne Harris had a great kickoff return to open the second half. 

On the Other Hand: His muffed punt in the fourth quarter almost cost the team the game. 

On One Hand: Robbie Gould missed two of his three extra-point attempts in windy conditions. 

On the Other Hand: Gould had good company in his ineptitude, as kickers missed 12 PATs Sunday across the league. 

On One Hand: Landon Collins had an interception for the fourth straight game, his pick of Jay Cutler sealing the victory. 

On the Other Hand: The defense allowed two passes of more than 30 yards and four passes of more than 20 yards to a Bears offense that is among the league's worst. 

On One Hand: Jason Pierre-Paul had his best game of the year, recording 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and four solo tackles. 

On the Other Hand: He won’t be playing against a banged up Bears offensive line each week. 

On One Hand: Olivier Vernon had one sack and the key pressure that led to Cutler’s game-ending interception. 

On the Other Hand: We don’t want to spoil ourselves thinking of how well Vernon and Pierre-Paul are starting to play together. 

On One Hand: Eli Manning was not sacked in the game. 

On the Other Hand: He probably should have taken a sack or two on throws that could easily have been picked off. 

On One Hand: The Giants came back from being down 16-6. 

On the Other Hand: It’s pretty bad to let an undermanned Bears offense score on its first three possessions on the road. 

On One Hand: The Giants are winning. 

On the Other Hand: How long can they expect the defense to keep bailing them out?

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<![CDATA[Giants Look to Hone Super Bowl Blueprint Versus Bears]]> Fri, 18 Nov 2016 13:17:25 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/eli+manning+with+coach.jpg

With 122 yards rushing in last week’s game against the Bengals, the Giants snapped an NFL-record five straight games with fewer than 80 yards on the ground. Remarkably, the Giants have now won four games in a row despite having the No. 31 rushing attack in the NFL. If the playoffs started today, the (6-3) Giants would be the No. 5 seed. 

That reasonably begs the question: Can the Giants win the Super Bowl with such an atrocious running game? 

If you go back through history, several Super Bowl winners have been big outliers on offensive and defensive sides of the ball -- including the 2011 Giants, who were ranked 25th in offense. 

Here are some others: 2006 Colts (23rd-ranked defense); 2008 Steelers (20th-ranked offense); 1995 Cowboys (32th-ranked head coach). 

Just kidding, Barry Switzer. You were probably at worst the 30th-ranked head coach that year. 

Speaking of Dallas, the 8-1 Cowboys are widely considered the best team in the NFL this year. Their lone loss? Week One at home to the Giants. Sure, a lot has changed for both teams since that matchup. One thing that hasn’t changed? The Giants’ running game is still terrible. 

Sure, they clinched last week’s win over the Bengals with a 9-yard run by Rashad Jennings. But if you think that’s going to become the norm, you’re huffing paint. 

Still, in this day and age, with the passing game emphasized and the running game demoted (unless, of course, you have an awesome offensive line like Dallas), it seems like the blueprint for winning a Super Bowl could reasonably include: 

a) Explosive offensive game. The Giants have the No. 9 passing offense in the NFL behind Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, etc. The team only handed offensive play-calling duties over to Mike Sullivan two weeks ago before the Eagles game. It stands to reason the passing game will only improve. 

b) An underrated defense. Look, the 2016 Giants are never going to be confused with the ’85 Bears, but they have the No. 1 ranked red zone defense. They make the stops when they have to. They’re below average in points allowed per game (20.4, 22nd in the league), near the bottom in interceptions and second to last in sacks (13). Know who else is at the bottom of the league in sacks? Oakland and Pittsburgh, two teams whose Super Bowl blueprints closely resemble that of the Giants. 

Almost every team in the NFL has an Achilles’ heel this year. The first-place Texans (I know, I know, the AFC South) have the league’s worst passing game. The Seahawks, who just beat New England on the road and are widely viewed as a top Super Bowl contender, are only slightly better than the Giants on the ground, ranking 30th with just 77.7 yards per game. 

The Raiders, who would be the No. 2 seed in the AFC if the playoffs started today, have the No. 29 ranked defense. The 6-4 Falcons are 27th on defense. 

In short, there’s no 1972 Dolphins or 1996 Green Bay Packers in this mix --the only two Super Bowl winners that were ranked No. 1 overall in both offense and defense. Can the Giants’ piece together a Super Bowl blueprint? Until someone else beats Dallas this year, you tell me why not. 

For this week’s game against Chicago, the winning blueprint seems straightforward: 

a) Stop Bears rookie running back Jordan Howard, who is second in the NFL with 5.3 yards per carry. 

b) Don’t fall asleep on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. The Bears score the second fewest points per game in the NFL (15.7, just above the Rams), but Cutler still arguably possesses the strongest arm in the NFL. At 2-7, the Bears have the second-worst record in the NFC. They aren’t going to the playoffs. They have nothing to lose. That makes for a dangerous opponent. Fear Jay Cutler (or at least act like you do). 

c) Protect Eli Manning with extra blockers. The Bears actually have a pretty good defense. They’re 11th in yards allowed per game, just above the Cowboys, and they’re tied for eighth in sacks (24). Eli has been an All-Pro this year about throwing the ball into the ground at the first whiff of pressure, so hopefully he’ll maintain that approach. 

If the Giants can win this game and again next week against the Browns, they’ll be 8-3 and right near the top of the NFC playoff standings. Do they have a Super-winning blueprint? Well, it’s safe to say a Super Bowl contender wouldn’t lose to the likes of Chicago or Cleveland, so we will see.



Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Lean on Running Game to Best the Bengals]]> Tue, 15 Nov 2016 10:40:54 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-623253262.jpg

The Giants beat the Bengals 21-20 on Monday night, and they sealed the victory by running the ball with Rashad Jennings. Well, knock me over with a feather. 

Facing a third-and-six with 2:50 left in the fourth quarter, the Giants converted after handing the ball off to Jennings, who ran for 9 yards, surprising every sentient creature on earth. 

The most surprised person was probably Bengals’ middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict, whose first move after the snap was to take a step back, reasonably expecting the Giants to throw a mid-range pass to try to keep the drive alive. 

Kudos to Eli Manning for recognizing the coverage and calling the audible to Jennings, who made the most of the opportunity and ran right up the gut and past a blocked Burfict. Manning obviously has a lot more faith in Jennings than most team followers. Jennings ran for a season high 87 yards, and the team (122 yards) surpassed 80 yards on the ground for the first time in six games, snapping a record streak of futility. 

Jennings had a long run of 25, averaging nearly 6 yards per carry on 15 attempts. Rookie Paul Perkins totaled 31 yards on nine carries. Manning, meanwhile, had 4 yards on three carries, the kind of average we might have expected from Jennings. 

I’ve hammered Jennings in this space, consistently calling for the team to either abandon him as the starter or to abandon the running game altogether. I mean, this isn’t the 1970s or the era of 3 yards and a cloud of dust. The Giants have now won four games in a row and they’ve done it with a terrible running game. They’ve shown it can be done. But by putting the rushing attack on the backburner, they also retain an element of surprise, as evidenced by Jennings’ pivotal scamper. 

The team’s offensive line –- already without top guard Justin Pugh -– was overwhelmed all night by Bengals’ nose tackle Geno Atkins, who was in Manning’s grill throughout the game and finished with two tackles and a sack. But it was back-to-back sacks of Andy Dalton on the Bengals’ last possession that forced Cincinnati to punt and set the stage for Jennings. 

Last year, the Giants blew five fourth-quarter leads, a prime reason Tom Coughlin was not retained as head coach. During halftime of Monday’s game, Coughlin was among the most recent inductees into the Giants’ Ring of Honor. In the third quarter, he was in the booth for an interview when announcer Sean McDonough asked him if it was difficult to come back and watch this team. Coughlin danced around the issue a bit, but I suspect it’s very difficult to look at this Giants’ 6-3 team and not wonder, “Where was all this talent last year?” 

Sterling Shepard, Jerell Adams, Oliver Vernon, Janoris Jenkings and Snacks Harrison have all been impact additions this season. And when you add in a resurgent Landon Collins, who is in the early discussion for Defensive Player of the Year, you can imagine Coughlin shaking his head and thinking, “Heck, I would have won with this team.” 

That’s debatable. What’s not debatable is the Giants are closing out games they tended to lose last year. And they're doing it with gutsy calls (like Ben McAdoo going for it on fourth and goal early in the fourth quarter, when Manning hooked up with Shepard for the go-ahead touchdown). And they're doing it with a defense that is consistently making huge stops when it needs to. 

The Giants now face the two worst teams in the league (at home versus Chicago and on the road at Cleveland) before a brutal five-game stretch to close the year (at Pittsburgh, vs. Detroit and Dallas, at Philadelphia and Washington). 

Big Blue is riding high, but I don’t know how many more times you’re gonna fool an opponent by running Jennings on third-and-six.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Audition for Playoffs Against Bengals]]> Mon, 14 Nov 2016 08:09:06 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/179*120/PaulPerkinsGiants.jpg

The Giants turned a much-needed corner in last week’s 28-23 victory over the Eagles. Coming out of their bye week, the traditional time to make adjustments to the team’s scheme and depth chart, the Giants finally committed to rookie running back Paul Perkins.

Are we done with the days of Rashad Jennings as the starting running back? Probably not. But when it comes to classifying the pecking order in the team’s backfield, terms like “starting” and “change of pace” are all relative when you have the most inept running game the NFL has seen since 1933.

That’s right. Last week the Giants failed to notch more than 80 rushing yards for the fifth straight game, the first time that’s happened since rushing records were first recorded during the Great Depression, according to the Associated Press.

Amazing, not least because the team has won three games in a row.

That’s the Giants, though – an historical outlier that still wins games.

Not content with scrapping the running game altogether (though maybe they should), the Giants handed Perkins 11 carries last week, more than double his career carries (10) coming into the game. They also hit him for three receptions for 15 yards.

Perkins didn’t exactly set the world on fire, notching just 32 yards on the ground, with a long of 14, averaging 2.9 yards per carry. But he has the home run capability that Jennings lacks. And with home run capabilities outside with Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and another emerging rookie, Roger Lewis, the Giants now have an offense that is explosive and multi-faceted.

Coming out of the bye, head coach Officer Farva wisely relinquished play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. Why you would have an offensive coordinator and now allow him to make the play calls never made sense. You hire guys to do a job and you should let them do it.

Now the Giants face Cincinnati on Monday night. The Bengals are coming off their bye week and will undoubtedly have made some adjustments themselves. The team is 3-4-1 and have played a brutally competitive schedule. They’re every bit the team that got beaten in the Wild Card game each of the last five years. This team is wholly unpredictable – capable of coming out and blowing the Giants off the field with a No. 6-ranked offense – featuring Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill.

On defense, they have playmakers at all three levels: Pro Bowlers Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins on the line, law-flouter Vontaze Burfict at linebacker, and Reggie Nelson in the secondary. Vegas ought to have the odds at 3:2 that Beckham and Burfict will get into a fight.

If the playoffs started today, the Giants would be the No. 5 seed. Are we ready to call them a playoff team? Well, if they beat the Bengals to raise their record to 6-3 – with upcoming games against the Bears and the Browns – then the Giants will definitely have turned a corner.

Keep handing the ball to Perkins, keep throwing the ball to Beckham, Shepard and Lewis. There’s a lot of home runs on this roster. The Giants just have to hit ‘em. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Prove a Year Makes a Big Difference]]> Mon, 07 Nov 2016 13:12:17 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/ap-jordan-matthews-final-play-giants.jpg

What a difference a year makes, huh? Last year, the Giants set a new standard for blowing fourth quarter leads in distinct ways. If it wasn’t clock mismanagement, it was questionable play-calling. Or it was head-scratching throws by Eli Manning, or a defense that couldn’t make a much-needed stop.

Contrast that with the resilient team that beat Philadelphia 28-23 on Sunday, pushing New York’s record to 5-3, good for second place in the resurgent NFC East and two games behind Dallas (7-1). The Eagles were the ones exhibiting all those bad tendencies, while the Giants made more big plays in all three phases of the game. 

There were plenty of big plays, insanity and ineptitude in this contest, so let’s hand out some recognition for Hero, Nero, Zero 

Hero: Keenan Robinson. 

Yes, Odell Beckham Jr. had a nice game, with two electric touchdowns –- taking one slant at the 26-yard line and slicing through the Eagles’ secondary, and notching his second by leaping over a d-back in the end zone. And so did Eli Manning (four touchdown passes and one ghastly interception near the end of the game that called for the defense to bail him out). But Robinson had a game-turning play that was somewhat overlooked in the moment. 

With the Giants leading 21-10 and seemingly in control of the game with 5:42 left in the second quarter, New York punted to Darren Sproles, who is the one guy on Philadelphia with the ability to flip the field quickly. Sproles dashed down the middle of the field and cut to the sideline and only had one person to beat –- Robinson. 

Robinson got just enough of Sproles that the Eagles’ punt returner stepped out of bounds after a 66-yard kick that put the Eagles on the Giants’ 15-yard line. Four plays later, the Eagles turned it over on downs when Sproles was stopped for no gain on 4th-and-1. Instead of it being 21-17, it was still 21-10. In a game that was ultimately decided by five points, Robinson’s play was huge. 

Nero: Janoris Jenkins. 

There is a good reason many guys play defense and not offense: They have bad hands and/or bad instincts with the ball. Jenkins is a terrific player, but at times he seems to check out, both physically and mentally. He missed an easy interception against the Eagles in the end zone when the ball went right through his hands. And after Jason Pierre-Paul blocked a Caleb Sturgis field goal in the second quarter, Jenkins picked it up and was running amid a pack of Eagles when he tried to lateral it to a teammate. I try not to yell at the television, but I screamed, “Don’t do that!” and sure enough, the ball was fumbled. 

The Giants were fortunate to recover the fumble, but a huge momentum swing was almost thwarted because Jenkins was trying to do too much. 

Zero: Touchdown passes by Carson Wentz. 

The Eagles’ rookie quarterback passed for 364 yards, but with a pedestrian completion rate (27 of 47) and two interceptions. It was just the second game of his young career that Wentz didn’t throw a touchdown pass. The other was against Washington, but in that game he didn’t toss any picks. 

The Eagles’ chance for a comeback ended when Wentz threw incomplete to Jordan Matthews in the end zone as the Giants’ defense got Manning off the hook after a tipped pass INT with under two minutes left. 

The 2015 Giants would have found a way to lose a game like this. The story this year has been different.



Photo Credit: Andrew Kulp | The700Level]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Hopefully Said 'Bye' to a Lot of Things ]]> Sat, 05 Nov 2016 19:32:00 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/203*120/usatsi_9625455_138566172_lowres.jpg

Coming off their bye week, the Giants are 4-3 and tied for second place in the NFC East with this Sunday’s opponent, Philadelphia. Bye weeks are cited as the time for teams to get healthy, make scheme adjustments and perhaps tweak their roster. In short, they’re an opportunity to say “bye” to certain things that just aren’t working.

As the Giants prepare for the second half of their season, they hopefully bid sayonara to the following things:

Bye: To an anemic running game, which is averaging 70.3 yards per game, good for last in the NFL.

Bye: To Odell Beckham Jr.’s penchant for undermining his brilliance by getting flagged for selfish behavior.

Bye: To head coach Ben McAdoo as the offensive playcaller, as the scheme has become predictable and the Giants are an unimpressive 26th in points (19.0 per game).

Bye: To Rashad Jennings as the starting running back.

Bye: To ranking last in the NFL in time of possession.

Bye: To fumbling on the first possession of games.

Bye: To ranking 28th in the NFL in third-down conversions.

Bye: To being tied for the league’s second-worst turnover ratio (-7).

Bye: To ranking 6th in the NFL with 275 yards passing per game with only 8 touchdown passes.

Bye: To having the second fewest sacks (9) in the league.

Bye: To having the second fewest recovered fumbles (1).

Bye: In short, to a defense that hasn’t made enough plays so far.

If the Giants can effectively say “bye” to even half of those things, they will go far this season.

Now let’s say “hello” to some things related to this week’s game against the Eagles.

Hello: To a stout Eagles defense that is allowing 16.7 points per game, ranked 4th in the NFL.

Hello: To a Philly defense that has 22 sacks, good for third most in the league.

Hello: To a Giants offensive line that has only allowed 11 sacks, second fewest in the league.

Hello: To another quick throw from Eli Manning, whose penchant for dumping the ball at the first sign of trouble is part of why he has been sacked so infrequently.

Hello: To Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who has played terrific so far this season.

Hello: To first year Eagles coach Doug Pederson, who made some questionable late-game decisions in the team’s 29-23 loss to Dallas last Monday.

Hello: To Darren Sproles, the one game-changer the Eagles have on offense.

Hello: To whoever the Eagles are rolling out at wide receiver these days.

Hello: To Eagles fans making the trip north from Philly. Please pick up after yourselves.

Hello: To a Giants victory in a must-win divisional game.



Photo Credit: Andrew Kulp | The700Level]]>
<![CDATA[Landon Collins the Hero as Giants Beat Rams in London]]> Mon, 24 Oct 2016 09:57:55 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Rams-lose-to-Giants-in-London.jpg

The Giants beat the Rams 17-10 in London, England, pushing their record to 4-3 as they enter the bye week. There was plenty of heroics, insanity and ineptitude surrounding this game, but these were the standouts for Hero, Nero, Zero.

Hero: Landon Collins

Even before he intercepted a tipped pass and returned it 44 yards to tie the game 10-10 in the second quarter, Landon Collins seemed like an outlier among his teammates. I tweeted early in game, when the offense looked lethargic, “Well, at least Landon Collins made the trip.”

He seemed to be around the ball on every play, thumping ball carriers with authority. He’s becoming one of the best safeties in the league, justifying the second round pick the Giants spent on him in the 2015 draft. He led all defenders with eight solo tackles. In addition to the pick-six -- when he turned into a running back and ran about 75 yards in cutting back and forth -- he added a second pick in the second half.

Two picks, doubling his career total.

The Giants had been trailing 10-3 and their offense was struggling when Collins flipped the game’s momentum. He didn’t cause the tip, but he took advantage of the opportunity and then some. On a day where the Giants’ rushing game (36) once again failed to gain 40 yards total, and with Odell Beckham (5 catches for 49 yards) and the passing game held largely in check, New York needed someone to step up and make a big play. Collins delivered.

Nero: The NFL

I love the occasional NFL game in London, England, the rare opportunity to wake up early on a Sunday, brew some coffee and cook some breakfast while a game is on. But I live on the East Coast, so the game started at 9:30 a.m. – not the West Coast, where Rams fans had to wake up at 6:30 a.m., for a so-called home game.

I understand the NFL schedule is created far in advance, and that the Rams were slated to play the Giants back when the team was still playing in St. Louis. But that doesn’t meant the start time can’t be adjusted. Heck, the NFL flexes games in and out of its Sunday night schedule and national televised games on the regular. You’re telling me changing the start time from 2:30 p.m. in London to, say, 5:30 p.m. or later is a big lift? If so, I’d like to hear why.

As usual, the NFL is tone deaf. The Rams just moved to Los Angeles, the second-biggest television market in the country. And in a game in which they are facing a team from the biggest TV market, they schedule it for 9:30 a.m. on the East Coast and 6:30 a.m. on the West Coast. Brilliant. Nothing like fumbling a prime opportunity to grab good TV ratings.

Zero: Giants playing this week

The team is now on bye, and at 4-3 has to feel pretty good about its direction. Two straight victories in close games – against good defenses in Baltimore and St. Louis – should give the Giants plenty of confidence that the team can win games late – a complete reversal of last year’s squad, which seemed to find new and creative ways to blow late leads.

The team’s next three games are at home – Eagles, Bengals, Bears. Then they hit the road to face the Browns. All four of these games are winnable.

The Giants are not a great team. They’re a good team that shows flashes of greatness. And they still have no running game. But they’ve proven they’ll be competitive in just about every contest. The second half of the season should be exciting for Big Blue.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Josh Brown Should Be Out for Good]]> Fri, 21 Oct 2016 09:42:39 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/josh+brown+alternate+giant.jpg

So here was Giants owner John Mara on WFAN talking to Mike Francesa on Thursday about embattled kicker Josh Brown:

 

“He admitted to us he’d abused his wife in the past. What’s a little unclear is the extent of that.”

 

Digest that one for a bit.

 

Yeah, it’s freaking enraging, not least because Brown – whose pattern of emotional and physical abuse of his ex-wife was outlined in recently released documents – was not cut by the team immediately. No, John Mara and the rest of the Giants’ brass (who’ve no doubt spent 99.9 percent of their work lives surrounded by alpha male grunters) said they would revisit the issue of Brown’s employment when the team returned from playing the Rams in London, England.

 

The Giants left Brown at home, a half nod toward the realization that the kicker (who already served a one-game suspension this year for his domestic abuse issues) was not a good ambassador for our nation’s game of well-regulated violence.

 

Unbelievable.

 

The Giants try to portray themselves as a Tiffany franchise, a winner of four Super Bowls which has always exemplified the best the sport has to offer. A team who has won titles helped in large part by such paragons of virtue as Lawrence Taylor and Plaxico Burress. The Giants are a fraud, no better than any other franchise that bases its roster decisions on a finely tuned calibration of whether it will help the team win games.

 

Get bent.

 

Big Black and Blue. Because yeah, you’re giving harbor to a freaking admitted serial domestic abuser in Josh Brown. Him and his irreplaceable right leg were left behind in the United States as the team went to England for this game. We’ll see who the team taps as his temporary replacement. For now, though, he’s the Out in our look at the players and coaches who will have the biggest impact on this game. Now let’s look at Probable, Questionable and Doubtful. 

Probable Player of the Game: Aaron Donald 

Donald, who was drafted one spot behind Odell Beckham in the 2014 NFL Draft, won Defensive Rookie of the Year and has been to two Pro Bowls. The Giants’ offensive line, which has played well this season (in pass protection, anyway), will have to keep Donald out of Eli Manning’s grill in order to give Beckham and his receiving mates time to get open. 

Last week against the Ravens, Giants head coach Officer Farva finally started calling for regular shots down the field. The offense responded, with Manning throwing for more than 400 yards -- more than half of that going to Beckham (222 yards receiving, a career high). 

This game is starting at 9:30 a.m. ET, a beautiful outlier in a season full of 1 p.m. starts. Breakfast with Beckham. A cup of joe and bombs away against the Rams. If I have to wake up early to watch Ben McAdoo calling early-drive run plays for Rashad Jennings, I’m gonna be bloody pissed. The Giants should take the running back position out behind the shed and put it down. 

Questionable Player of the Game: Eli Manning. 

After laying an egg in three straight games, Manning came to life against the Ravens last week. He threw in rhythm and didn’t have to think (always a good thing where Manning is concerned), hammering Baltimore down the field once McAdoo and his brain trust took the training wheels off. 

Ya never know what you’re gonna get with Eli. He could throw for 500 yards in this game or throw five picks. Maybe both. 

Doubtful Player of the Game: Todd Gurley 

Gurley, who came into this year as presumably the best young running back in football, has gone missing in several Rams games. Last week, in a tightly contested loss 31-28 to the Lions, he only got 14 carries. How is that possible? You’d almost think the Rams were led by some promoter of mediocrity like Jeff Fisher. 

What’s that? Fisher IS the coach of the Rams? Well then, carry on towards your 7-9 record, Los Angeles. 

Out: John Mara. 

Cut Josh Brown, ya simp!



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hero, Nero, Zero in Giants' Win Over Ravens]]> Mon, 17 Oct 2016 08:52:46 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/167*120/OBJGiantsRavens1016.jpg

Odell Beckham Jr. got down on one knee and proposed to a kicking net after scoring the deciding touchdown in Sunday’s 27-23 victory over the Ravens, but the player who should have been on his knees giving thanks for the existence of Beckham is Giants tight end Larry Donnell, who was in line to be the goat if the Giants lost.

On the play before Eli Manning and Beckham connected on 4th and 1 with Beckham taking the ball 66 yards to the house, Donnell caught a Manning pass in the flat. All he needed to do was turn up field, lower his shoulder and push through a much smaller defensive back to get the first down. But as Donnell has proven time and again in his three-year career, if the option to avoid a big hit is there, he will take it – diving, flipping or jumping to avoid low hits, losing focus on protecting the ball. And so Donnell juked a bit on the defender and then stepped out of bounds to leave the Giants a yard short of the first down.

The incompetence of his move was quickly eclipsed when Manning hooked up with Beckham; but the Giants should never have been in a 4th and 1, anyway. So, yeah, Beckham should certainly be the Hero in Donnell’s universe today. Now let’s hand out the laurels for Nero and Zero.

Nero: Ben McAdoo.

During the postgame press conference, McAdoo once again played Cliché Coach to the hilt, delivering terse responses to reporters’ questions and trying his best to look like Bill Belichick cross-pollinated with one of the mustachioed cops from “Super Troopers.”

His best response, however, was when he said Beckham had been humbled after his recent travails –- crying on the sideline, attacking the kicking net, saying he wasn’t having fun anymore, etc.

Humbled? I saw a lot of things from Beckham Sunday – eight catches, 222 yards receiving, two long touchdowns, a gritty bounce-back performance after fumbling on the game’s first play. But his humility must have been sent with the advance team for next week’s game in London.

Beckham scored the go-ahead touchdown, immediately took off his helmet and barked something at an official. Then he went and proposed to the kicking net. He was flagged 15 yards for losing his helmet and could easily have been flagged an additional 15 for yelling at the ref. The Giants had to kick from 15 yards deeper on the ensuing kickoff, valuable yardage that contributed to the Ravens having two good shots on throws into the end zone to end the game.

But yeah, Beckham has become more humble. You could see the steam coming out of Bill Cowher’s ears as he discussed Beckham in the postgame show. It’s not impressive coaching when you continue to let your diva wide receiver set the tenor for your team, Officer Farva.

Zero: Running game.

Rashad Jennings returned after missing three games with a wrist injury and the Giants’ ground game picked up right where it left off: 38 yards on 17 carries.

It’s amazing that a team with an offense like this –- where the defense has to respect so many receiving weapons -– can’t establish any kind of consistent rushing attack.

Just dump it altogether. Put Manning in the shotgun and run the hurry-up offense, which worked well against the Ravens and allowed the offense to get into a rhythm. Leave Bobby Rainey or Paul Perkins in the backfield as a check down option, but forget about running consistently between the tackles with this collection of players.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Turning Point in Giants' Season vs. Ravens]]> Fri, 14 Oct 2016 10:52:24 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Eli_manning_offense.jpg

With a 2-3 record, three straight losses and a two-game deficit to the Cowboys in the NFC East standings, the Giants are ostensibly facing a must-win game in hosting the 3-2 Ravens. 

But it’s only a must-win game if the Giants are going to get it together and turn themselves into a playoff team that can play well into January. If they’re going to just piddle along and be a .500 team, then a loss here would keep the team on target. Next week they face the Rams and Jeff “Mr. 7-9” Fisher, so a loss to the Ravens and a win against Los Angeles would have the Giants sitting at 3-4 entering the bye week. 

Hurray. 

Woot, woot. 

I’m done selling this team as Super Bowl aspirants. Teammates spent the week not throwing Eli Manning under the bus, which tells you a lot about the Giants –- a team whose quarterback has a rich pedigree and who will be given the benefit of the doubt if his career slides into mediocrity. 

Manning is a future Hall of Famer and a two-time Super Bowl MVP. When he’s not winning title games against New England, he’s the steward of a mediocre franchise. The Giants have missed the playoffs the last four seasons.

Not an organization that typically makes a splash in free agency – akin to the Steelers and Packers in their commitment to developing home-grown talent – the Giants went out this past winter and dropped the gross domestic product of Iceland to acquire free agents Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins and Snacks Harrison. 

Have they been disappointments? No. They’ve all played extremely well. Vernon grades out as one of the top edge defenders in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. Jenkins had two interceptions of Aaron Rodgers last week, which Manning and the Giants’ offense turned into squat. 

The Giants aren’t bad. They’re just unexceptional. A bad team gets blown out on the road against Green Bay. The Giants only lost by seven (and covered the spread, so thanks for that). The offense, which was explosive last year, is just dull and inefficient. Slants underneath to Beckham. No running game. Missed passes to wide open tight ends down the seam. A fumble by Eli. We’ve all seen this team. It’s the same Giants team that occasionally beats a great team, but more often than not plays down to the level of its competition. 

A Giants team that has Super Bowl aspirations would steamroll a mediocre team like Baltimore at home. A Giants team that will probably hover around .500 all season – leaving people to wonder if Eli is washed up – will play a close game against the Ravens. 

It’s time to figure out what kind of team we have with the 2016 Giants.



Photo Credit: Matt Ludtke]]>
<![CDATA[Time to Find Manning's Successor as Eli Struggles Again]]> Thu, 13 Oct 2016 10:14:31 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/193*120/GettyImages-602990848.jpg

Eli Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP and future Hall of Famer, but the Giants need to formulate a succession plan right quick or risk wasting the prime of superstar wideout Odell Beckham Jr. 

Manning (18 of 35, 199 yards, 1 touchdown) was once again dreadful on Sunday night against the Packers in a 23-16 loss, his entire evening perfectly encapsulated by back-to-back plays late in the first half.

First, he overthrew a wide open Will Tye on a potential touchdown pass down the seam, a catch Tye might have made if he were an athletic tight end like Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham. Then, on the ensuing play, Manning fumbled and the Packers recovered, setting them up for a late field goal to take a 17-6 lead into the half. 

For their part, the Giants had to settle for field goals three times. Two interceptions by cornerback Janoris Jenkins were wasted because Manning and the offense couldn’t put the ball in the end zone. Granted, the offensive line –- particularly left tackle Ereck “Flagged Again” Flowers –- wasn't terrific in protecting Manning, who was sacked four times. And the running game was basically non-existent with Orleans Darkwa (7 carries for 11 yards) and Bobby Rainey (5 carries for 22 yards). 

But Manning was indecisive and inaccurate all night, his lone touchdown coming late in the fourth quarter when Beckham saved him at the back of the end zone with a balletic toe tap. 

Few wide receivers in the NFL could have come up with that play, underscoring Beckham’s importance to a team that is taking on water –- a three-game losing streak that leaves them two games behind the Cowboys in the NFC East. 

Was Manning the only person at fault for the Giants’ woes against Green Bay? Not by a long shot. The defensive line ran into a superior Packers’ offensive line and got no pass rush all night. According to Pro Football Focus, Aaron Rodgers had the longest average time to throw of any quarterback in the league this week, at 3.28 seconds. 

It’s amazing Rodgers (23 of 45, 259 yards) didn’t throw for more yards and deep passes given his ability to sit in a lawn chair and smoke Cubans as the Giants’ pass rush floundered around him. Meanwhile, the Giants’ secondary played pretty brilliantly given its responsibility of maintaining coverage for that long. 

New York’s running game remains awful. And Beckham still makes it all about him, celebrating his late touchdown –- with the team still losing –- by hugging and kissing a kicking net, making light of last week’s tantrum when he punched one of the net’s relatives. 

But a lot of this has to land at the feet of Manning. He’s now ranked 31st among NFL quarterbacks (47.5) according to PFF -– coming in behind basically everyone not named Ryan Fitzpatrick (42.2). 

Manning’s streakiness has always been part of his makeup. But against a Packers’ secondary that was missing Sam Shields, he was 0 for 5 on pass attempts of 20-plus yards. He needs to get better if the Giants are going to salvage the 2016 season. 

Regardless of how he plays down the stretch, general manager Jerry Reese needs to focus on finding Manning’s successor –- either via the draft or via trade. Ryan Nassib doesn’t look to be the answer. And despite the Giants’ best efforts to get Beckham involved anyway the team can –- he got knocked out of bounds on an attempted end-around pass -– it’s probably best if he’s not the team’s quarterback of the future.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Beckham Harkens Back to Divas of Yore]]> Fri, 07 Oct 2016 11:00:55 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/odell+beckham+jr_EDIT.jpg

Odell Beckham Jr.’s recent diva-like behavior is a reminder that the NFL was once rife with the likes of Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, Keyshawn Johnson and Randy Moss, a group whose attention-starved antics and combustible personalities often eclipsed the brilliance of their on-the-field performances. 

Owens taking a Sharpie out of his sock to autograph the football and hand it to his financial advisor after scoring a touchdown on Monday Night Football. Owens doing sit-ups in his driveway as he held a press conference to criticize the Eagles and Donovan McNabb while working his way toward a release from the organization. Owens’ publicist saying TO had not in fact tried to commit suicide by overdosing on pills, as he had 25 million reasons (in dollars) to live. 

Chad Johnson changing his surname to Ochocino in honor of his uniform number, 8-0. Johnson on the sideline wearing a yellow blazer with the words “Future H.O.F. 20??” on the back. 

And so on and so forth. 

Some of these antics were bold, entertaining and inspired (like Owens whipping out the Sharpie). A lot of them were loutish and worthy of disdain (like Moss squirting a water bottle at an official). 

The era of the diva wide receiver had its moment, but ultimately gave way to the likes of Calvin Johnson and now Julio Jones -- players who mostly let their actions do the squawking. Jones doesn’t lose his cool and try to decapitate Josh Norman. He doesn’t get flagged for multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that severely harm his team’s fortunes. He doesn’t cry on the sidelines and he doesn’t try to throw uppercuts to kicking nets. He doesn’t mug in pregame warmups by constantly displaying his God-given ability to make one-handed catches. 

Jones doesn’t tick off his mild-mannered quarterback or have coaches telling the media that his antics might get him benched or even suspended by the team. He doesn’t need a talking to by his general manager in the locker room following another outburst. And he doesn’t whine that he’s not having fun anymore. 

Beckham does all that. What Beckham doesn’t do is what Jones has done this year -- score touchdowns, amass 300 yards receiving in a single game and be a leader on a winning team. I know that Beckham really wants to do those things, which partly explains why he was tearing up on the sidelines. But he needs to wise up quick or he’ll become like those aforementioned divas of yore -- who were all traded at the heights of their career, sometimes several times. 

Talent only takes you so far. Temperament decides the rest. Beckham can say the right things and apologize, claim that he wants to be a role model to children, etc. But he needs to walk it. 

It’s safe to say that Beckham is probably the most important player in this matchup with the Packers. The game will be nationally televised on NBC on Sunday night. All eyes are going to be on him. So that takes care of the first segment of Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out. Let’s look at the rest. 

Questionable Player of the Game: Olivier Vernon. 

The high-priced free agent signee has played extremely well through his first four games, ranking fifth among edge defenders according to Pro Football Focus. That productivity has yet to produce a sack, turnover or highlight reel play, and now Vernon is dealing with a wrist injury. Getting past left tackle David Bakhtiari (eighth among offensive tackles according to PFF) to make plays on Aaron Rodgers or Eddie Lacy is hard enough with two good mitts. 

Doubtful Player of the Game: Ereck Flowers. 

Believe it or not, Flowers is just a few slots behind Bakhtiari among all tackles, ranked 10th according to PFF — this despite leading all tackles in penalties this year with five. Flowers is gonna to be seeing a lot of Clay Matthews, who --despite his amusing new turn in the State Farm commercials -- is having a terrible season (91st among defensive ends). If he’s gonna hold Matthews, hopefully he gets a big handful of the dude’s long, flowing hair, if only to remind people that it’s stupid to give football players something to grab that’s attached to your head. 

Out Player of the Game: Rashad Jennings. 

According to the latest reports, Jennings’ thumb is feeling better and he has a decent chance to play. Please don’t. Tell the coaches you think the team’s best chance of maintaining a consistent ground game is to run the ball with Orleans Darkwa. If you can’t do that, can you please tell the team’s offensive architects to throw the ball down the freaking field? We don’t need to see anymore crying from Beckham.



Photo Credit: Jim Mone]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Win 3 Undesirable Phases Against Vikings]]> Tue, 04 Oct 2016 14:38:56 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/usa-odell-beckham-giants.jpg

If you want to know how to stop the best receiving threesome in the NFL, just ask Giants head coach Ben McAdoo. New York’s offensive game plan against Minnesota could be reduced to two elements:

  1. Have Eli Manning throw the ball into the ground at the first sign of distress, eliminating the possibility of being sacked or intercepted.
  2. Don’t ask Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard or Victor Cruz to win you the game. Instead, dink and dunk and don’t attempt any passes over the top until the second half, when Minnesota (like the rest of the viewing public) will have hopefully been lulled to sleep by your offensive scheme.

The first element was largely successful. Manning was not sacked in the team’s 24-10 loss to Minnesota, demonstrating cat-like quickness in throwing the ball into the turf whenever a Viking player came within sniffing range. His only failure came in the second half, when he threw his only interception of the game when he and Beckham miscommunicated on a deep throw.

In implementing the second element, New York was nearly perfect, as well. Beckham, Shepard and Cruz were never a threat to take over the game, combining for 103 yards receiving (or roughly one-third of what Julio Jones dropped on the Panthers). The Giants’ longest completions were to tight end Will Tye (18 yards) and running back Paul Perkins (who turned a dink into a 67-yard scamper).

It’s games like this when I’m glad I merely cover the Giants and don’t actively root for them. If they were my team, I’d probably be looking for a new TV, because my remote would have been thrown through the screen by game’s end.

Penalties, Turnovers, Stupidity: They once again won all three phases. Let’s take a closer look.

Penalties: After earning only seven flags during the team’s first two games (both wins), the Giants have now been flagged 19 times in the last two contests. Ereck Flowers was nailed for a brutal false start on the team’s opening drive against the Vikings, when the team had a third and five and was on the outer edge of field goal range. The team didn’t convert on third and ten and had to punt.

Turnovers: The Giants forced a three and out on the Vikings’ ensuing possession. But Giants’ returner Dwayne Harris fumbled the punt, and eight plays later Minnesota scored on a one-yard dive by Matt Asiata. Ben McAdoo is constantly talking about the importance of protecting “the duke,” his term for the football. At this point, the team might as well refer to it as “the puke,” because they keep coughing it up.

Stupidity: Oh, look, it’s Odell Beckham losing control of his emotions and earning a costly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Rinse and repeat.

So, yeah, a lame offensive game plan, complemented by winning the worst three phases of the game. The Giants have the fewest sacks in the NFL (four) and they're the only team without an interception. A bend-don’t-break defense that doesn't create turnovers is not going to cut it when your offensive game plan is so uninspired.

But hey, at least Eli didn’t get sacked.



Photo Credit: The Associated Press]]>
<![CDATA[Time to See How Good Giants Can Be Versus Vikings]]> Mon, 03 Oct 2016 09:10:19 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/160*215/GettyImages-6029981121.jpg

If I were writing this preview of the Giants-Vikings game a few days ago – when Minnesota was fresh off thumping the Carolina Panthers on the road – I would probably have said that Minnesota is for real and the Giants are in deep trouble. 

I mean, eight sacks and three interceptions of Cam Newton? In Carolina? Seeing that evisceration –- and knowing the proclivities of Elisha Manning –- it’d be reasonable to think we could be looking at a Monday night game in which the Vikings amass double digit sacks and a half dozen turnovers in hosting the Giants. 

But my feeling toward this game has changed. And not because of anything the Vikings or Giants have done. No, I watched the Atlanta Falcons face Carolina on Sunday and they picked up where the Vikings left off, with Matt Ryan throwing for 503 yards (with 300 of them to Julio Jones) in beating the Panthers 48-33. I feel confident in saying Cam Newton has no chance of returning to the Super Bowl to act like a baby after his team loses. 

Four games is a small sample size, but the Panthers have now lost to Trevor Siemian, Sam Bradford and Matt Ryan. Carolina is just not that good, thanks in no small part to the loss of cornerback Josh Norman to Washington in free agency. In turn, the Vikings’ 3-0 record – with wins against Tennessee (yawn), Green Bay (meh) and Carolina – looks much less impressive than it did just a few days ago. 

Granted, Atlanta came in with the No. 1 offense in the NFL, due largely to playing against the Buccaneers, Raiders and Saints – ranked 19, 31 and 32 in the league. 

In short, Minnesota is not that good because Carolina is not that good. And that’s good news for the Giants, because frankly Big Blue looked like the late-era Coughlin Giants in losing to Washington last week. 

Turnovers, Penalties, Stupidity: New York owned all three phrases in its loss to Washington. And yet they still had an opportunity to win the game late. Unfortunately, Manning had a late brunch appointment to keep and tossed another godawful interception to end the team’s comeback bid. 

The Giants now face Minnesota, which on paper is a classic confrontation between a top offense (Giants, No. 2) versus a top defense (Vikings, No. 6). History says that in matchups such as these, the defense traditionally comes out on top. Particularly at home, where through one game Minnesota’s new stadium has already proven to be deafening with piped-in noise. (What, you’d put it past those Minnesotans? The Twins did this during the 1987 World Series; just ask Al Michaels.) 

We’re quickly going to see just how good the 2016 Giants are going to be. After this game, they stay north to play Green Bay. It’s not unreasonable to think they’ll be 2-3 seven days from now, not least because the Packers were on bye this week and will be well rested. 

But first, Minnesota: an offense led by quarterback Sam Bradford, wide receiver Stefon Diggs and some running back not named Chuck Foreman. I see the game unfolding in one of two ways –- the Giants get out to an early lead by bombing away with their three-headed receiving corps, dooming the Vikings to attempt a comeback with Bradford and a pedestrian Minnesota offense against a much-improved Giants defense (that nonetheless stunk against Washington last week). 

Or I see Manning going full Mr. Hyde and committing so many turnovers that the Minnesota defense will carry countless fantasy owners to victory. 

The Giants have played close games all year – none decided by more than a field goal. But also, none against a defense like Minnesota’s. If they try to go ball control with Orleans Darkwa, Odell Beckham Jr. will probably be wearing a field goal kicking net by halftime. 

It’s time to see what this Giants team is capable of –- on the road, on Monday Night Football, against a supposedly great team (led by Sam Bradford). 

Good teams win road games like this. Are the Giants a good team? Well, if they lose this game, they’ll be in last place in the NFC Least, so I guess we’ll see. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Drop Seesaw Game to Washington]]> Mon, 26 Sep 2016 09:36:35 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Redskins+Giants+0925.jpg

The Giants suffered a bitter 29-27 defeat to Washington on Sunday, undone by ghastly turnovers and bonehead penalties at the worst possible times. It was a seesaw game with five second-half lead changes, and there were a lot of ups and downs for both teams.

On One Hand: Eli Manning threw for more than 350 yards for the second straight week.
On the Other Hand: He threw as many touchdown passes (1) as he did interceptions in the end zone.

On One Hand: Shane Vereen stepped in for the injured Rashad Jennings and totaled 66 yards on 11 carries with one touchdown.
On the Other Hand: He fumbled for the second straight week.

On One Hand: Vereen’s failure to protect the ball opened the door for Orleans Darkwa, who had 10 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown.
On the Other Hand: Giants coaches will probably overlook the fact that Vereen and Darkwa combined for 118 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns and go back to running Rashad Jennings into the back of linemen’s butts.

On One Hand: Defensive end Olivier Vernon had his first sack as a Giant.
On the Other Hand: His penalty for smacking Kirk Cousins in the back of the head on third down allowed Washington’s game-winning drive to continue.

On One Hand: The Giants were ahead 21-9 in the second quarter, with a blowout seemingly imminent.
On the Other Hand: One second after learning that the Giants hadn’t allowed a single play of more than 30 yards all season, they allowed two such consecutive passes to DeSean Jackson – covering 80 yards and a touchdown.

On One Hand: The Giants are now minus-6 in the turnover department.
On the Other Hand: It’s pretty amazing they’re 2-1 with such a bad differential.

On One Hand: Kirk Cousins cost Washington 3 points and maybe 7 points by holding the ball too long and taking a sack at the end of the first half, when Washington still had one timeout left.
On the Other Hand: He didn’t commit any turnovers and Eli Manning was the one who threw two fourth quarter interceptions.

On One Hand: Neither team played particularly well on special teams.
On the Other Hand: Only the Giants allowed the opposing team’s punter to throw a long pass down the sideline to convert on fourth down.

On One Hand: Washington played it conservative by running the ball on third down late in the game, with the Giants stopping them and forcing a punt.
On the Other Hand: You sensed Manning and the Giants weren’t going to pull it out.

On One Hand: Odell Beckham had seven receptions for 121 yards, including one stiff arm of Josh Norman.
On the Other Hand: On the team’s final possession, he committed an obvious pick on Norman and earned a penalty that negated a pass to Sterling Shepard and backed the Giants up. Oh, and he looked like he was about to cry after Manning’s first fourth quarter pick, when Beckham vented by throwing his helmet into the kicker’s practice net.

On One Hand: The Giants’ version of Cerberus (Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz) all had more than 70 yards receiving and once again proved that defenses have to pick their poison in stopping the Giants’ three-headed receiving corps.
On the Other Hand: The team only had one passing TD and managed just two field goals in the second half.

On One Hand: The Giants played a third straight game decided by less than a field goal.
On the Other Hand: This is the first one they’ve lost.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants vs. Washington: A Look to the Future]]> Fri, 23 Sep 2016 08:52:31 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/Odell-Beckham-Jr-Josh-Norman-Dustup-1221.jpg

The Giants face each NFC East opponent twice per season, and it’s always interesting to see how fortunes have changed for the respective teams in between their two head-to-head matchups. But instead of looking back to how things have changed between Then and Now for the Giants and Washington (since, ya know, they haven’t played each other this year), let’s try something new and look ahead – to how things will change between this Sunday’s game and the teams’ next matchup in the regular-season finale on Jan. 1.

Now: It’s 2016.
Then: It’ll be 2017.

Now: New York is 2-0 and Washington is 0-2.
Then: The Giants will be playing for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, and Washington will be playing.

Now: Washington coach Jay Gruden is calling out quarterback Kirk Cousins and saying he needs to play better.
Then: Cousins will once again be among the league’s best quarterbacks and Washington will plan to reward him by slapping the franchise tag on him again and make him sing for his dinner for the second straight season in 2017.

Now: Odell Beckham Jr. has zero touchdowns.
Then:
He’ll have more than a dozen, helped by the three he’s going to post on Washington cornerback Josh Norman this week.

Now: Rashad Jennings is the Giants’ starting running back.
Then: The Giants’ offensive brain trust will still be driving fans nuts by consistently running him on first down.

Now: I spend an ungodly amount of time reading the SI Vault.
Then: Nothing will change.

Now: The Giants have a turnover ratio of -4.
Then: They’ll be really dangerous when luck helps that ratio to balance out.

Now: Cowboys fans are quietly thinking they still have a shot at winning the NFC East because they hung with the Giants in Week 1 and beat Washington last week.
Then: Cowboys fans will be talking about how good the Yankees are going to be in 2017.

Now: Sterling Shepard is an early favorite for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Then: He’ll be a late favorite to win it.

Now: High-priced free agent acquisition Olivier Vernon has no sacks.
Then: He and Snacks Harrison will still be quietly winning in the trenches and setting the tone for the entire defense.

Now: Washington is 25th in the NFL in rushing.
Then: Matt Jones will have about 25 fumbles.

Now: Ben McAdoo seems to be wound a bit too tight.
Then: He’ll maybe stop acting like a cliché football coach.

Now: I’m enjoying all things pumpkin spice.
Then: I’ll be enjoying all things gingerbread.

Now: Washington safety DeAngelo Hall sniped at former teammate and current Giants linebacker Keenan Robinson for criticizing his old team, with Hall saying he didn’t even know Robinson was on a roster this year.
Then: Robinson’s comment that his old team had a toxic locker room will still describe Washington.

Now: Wide receiver DeSean Jackson and tight end Jordan Reed give Washington a potent downfield passing game.
Then: Reed will hopefully be leading my fantasy team to a championship and Jackson will probably be injured.

Now: Jay Gruden is Washington’s head coach.
Then: He’ll have thrown most of the Potomac basin area under the bus.

Now: We live in a republic led by President Barack Obama.
Then: Let’s enjoy the present, shall we?



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Almost Game Plan Their Way Out of 16-13 Victory]]> Mon, 19 Sep 2016 15:04:58 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/171*120/GettyImages-602999270.jpg

A win is a win is a win, but man did the Giants go out of their way to secure the 16-13 victory in their home opener against the Saints.

 

One year after Eli Manning (6) and Drew Brees (7) combined for an NFL record 13 touchdown passes as New Orleans beat New York 52-48 in the Crescent City, the two teams largely played a game of field position –- and largely because the Giants seemed to think they were playing the reincarnation of the Bears’ 46 defense. It took until late in the second half for the Giants’ offensive architects to realize running the ball on just about every freaking first down was akin to starting a drive at second and 10. 

I said in previewing this game that New York would be making a mistake if they tried to control the clock by running the ball heavily with Rashad Jennings. Did they listen? No, they have a restraining order against me and I’m not allowed to contact the team in any capacity (which is a long story). But if you had a fantasy roster of Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Sterling Shepard and, uh, Rashad Jennings, where are you putting your money? If you want to win (or do better than barely escape with a 16-13 victory at home), you’re not trying to play keep away with freaking Jennings. 

Sigh. 

Anyway, let’s hand out some hardware for Hero, Nero, Zero, even though I’m tempted to make this a Nero, Nero, Nero affair with all the honors going to the Giants’ offensive coaches. 

Hero: Victor Cruz. 

Late in the fourth quarter, with the score tied 13-13, the Giants finally tired of running to darkness and threw a long pass down the near sideline to Odell Beckham Jr. The ball landed right in his Hamburger Helper mitts –- and he dropped it. It was one of the few deep throws attempted all day by Eli Manning, who probably had the quietest 300-yard passing game in NFL history (368 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions). 

If you have a future Hall of Fame quarterback and this particulate triumvirate of receivers, how are you not taking shots down field on the regular? Most likely Beckham, Shepard or Cruz is going to come down with the pass or at the very least break it up, which is exactly what happened on the play directly after Beckham’s drop. Manning threw long for Cruz and the salsa king of Chicago (is he from the Windy City? Well he should be) went up, tangled with the Saints’ d-back and game down with the ball on New Orleans’ doorstep. 

After killing the clock to assure Drew Brees wouldn’t have time for a game-winning drive, the Giants lined up for the game-winning 23-yard kick from Josh Brown. I’m glad it was only a chip shot for Brown and not something that he deserved praise for afterwards. This game was hard enough to stomach without having to see Brown (who missed Week 1 after being suspended for a domestic violence incident with his ex-wife) feted as a hero. 

Nero: The Giants’ offensive masterminds. 

After the game, Manning and the Giants were saying all the right things, attributing the low-scoring game to the Saints’ defensive game plan. Apparently that game plan involved hoping the Giants would barely take ANY shots down the field. 

In the first half, Jennings had this gaudy stat line: 11 carries for 24 yards, with a long of 7. Manning, meanwhile, was 15 of 18. But by all means, keep running the ball. 

Playing keep away makes sense if you’re a team with a sieve-like defense. The 2015 Giants were that team. The 2016 team are not. New cornerback Janoris Jenkins had a terrific game, breaking up several passes and picking up the ball and returning it for a touchdown after Johnathan Hankins blocked a New Orleans field goal attempt. The Saints were working hard for everything, with fleet-footed star receiver Brandin Cooks (68 yards) and Mark Ingram (9 carries for 30 yards) and Tim Hightower (3 carries for 9 yards) all held in check. 

Meanwhile, the Giants had three wide receivers with more than 86 yards receiving (including Shepard with a game-high 117 yards on 8 catches) – and they won by three points as time expired. 

But if you had Jennings on your fantasy team – final line: 13 carries for 27 yards – you must have been stoked. 

Zero: Offensive touchdowns by the Giants. 

Throw. The. Damn. Ball. Down. The. Field.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Should Ignore Time of Possession vs. Saints]]> Fri, 16 Sep 2016 09:21:09 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/nfl-por-nbc-universo-getty-images-01.jpg

You might not have noticed, but the NFL tweaked the constitution of its injury report. No longer are dinged up players classified as probable, questionable, doubtful or out.

"Probable" has been dropped from the available pull-downs (probably because the league got sick of seeing Bill Belichick screw with people by putting Tom Brady on there for about 752 consecutive weeks), and so less-than-healthy players can now only be listed as questionable, doubtful or out. How will this affect one of my preview staples – probable, questionable, doubtful and out? It won’t. I’m still rolling with it, not least because the NFL injury report is arbitrary and the NFL is run by a confederacy of dunces. 

So let’s look at the Giants’ home opener against the Saints and try to predict the effect certain players or coaches will have on the game. 

Probable Player of the Game: Olivier Vernon. 

Last year the Saints beat the Giants 52-49, with Drew Brees (7) and Eli Manning (6) combining for an NFL record 13 touchdown passes. The Saints’ defensive coordinator at the time (Rob Ryan) is now up in Buffalo, teaching a new class of pupils how to avoid contact. The Giants’ defensive coordinator at the time (Steve Spagnuolo) is still in charge of the team’s defense, but now has several players – including Vernon, Snacks Harrison, Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple – who weren’t lucky enough to participate in last year’s record-setting game in New Orleans. 

Vernon, the defensive end who came over as a free agent from Miami, had a commendable first game against Dallas. He didn’t register a sack, but he was consistently pushing the pocket and flushing out rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. Brees, for his part, is the oldest starting quarterback in the NFL (37) and won’t be easily flustered. He has one of the quickest releases in the league and throws most of his passes from his tip toes because he’s small, small, sm-all. 

New Orleans has one of the best offenses in the NFL and last week posted 34 points against Oakland (and still lost). The Giants obviously have the weapons to compete with the Saints in a track meet, but they’d probably like to avoid over-sweating. Vernon will go a long way toward determining the tenor of the game. 

Questionable Player of the Game: Rashad Jennings. 

I’m still not sold on Jennings. I understand he’s the NFL’s leading rusher since like Week 14 of last season and he has the most rushes of more than 10 yards during that stretch, but he seems to only rack up yards late in games – whether the team is winning or losing. 

This week, many Giants observers have been saying that the key to beating the Saints is keeping the ball out of the hands of Drew Brees. Toward that end, the Giants should presumably feature a whole lot of Jennings, who can run the ball and eat the clock. 

With all due respect, get the flock out of here. 

Run the ball with Jennings? As opposed to throwing the ball with Manning, Beckham, Shepard and Cruz? Against a Saints secondary that is banged up and featuring several guys who (maybe) watched last week’s Saints game while nursing a hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s? 

Yeah, no. 

I’m all for Jennings getting the rock late in the game if the Giants are ahead and the team wants to salt away the clock. That way he can pad his numbers like he always does. But time of possession is the most overrated common measuring stick in the NFL. Throw it early and often. 

Doubtful Player of the Game: Josh Brown. 

The Giants’ placekicker returns to action after a one-game suspension for a domestic violence incident. Or should I say, pattern of incidents? His ex-wife accused of him of hitting her on numerous occasions. The Giants said they performed due diligence and that Brown, a Pro Bowler last year, is still a good enough egg to kick for them. 

This game figures to be a high-scoring affair that will be dependent on touchdowns and not field goals, so it’s unlikely that Brown will feature prominently. Unless, ya know, it comes down to a game-winning field goal try. If Brown kicks the game-winner, seek out a fan wearing his jersey and ask where life went wrong. 

Out Player of the Game: Whoever kneels during the national anthem. 

This topic has been beaten to death, but has anyone run the numbers on how well players like Colin Kaepernick (backup who hasn’t seen the field) and Denver linebacker Brandon Marshall (fined for nearly decapitating Cam Newton) have performed after refusing to stand for the national anthem? ESPN’s Trent Dilfer has argued that it’s a selfish gesture that can undermine team unity. That’s debatable. We’ve only played one regular season game, so coaches aren’t yet sweating about their jobs (unless their last name is Ryan) and owners and fans aren’t restless about the product on the field. 

But the time is going to come when some player on a crappy team doesn’t stand for the anthem and the swell of public sentiment will swing soundly against them. Will one of those players be from the Giants? Not a chance. The team has been steadfast in collectively standing during the anthem. Will it be a player from the Saints? Well, you can bet it won’t be Drew Brees, who ridiculed Kaepernick for his gesture. 

Whoever kneels –- if anyone –- will be a man apart. Someone who will be on the outs with a lot of NFL fans. Unless, ya know, he plays well, and then all will be forgiven.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Giants Flip the 2015 Script to Beat Cowboys in Season Opener]]> Mon, 12 Sep 2016 09:02:24 -0500 http://media.nbcnewyork.com/images/213*120/usa-terrance-williams-cowboys.jpg

The Giants’ 2016 season opener against the Cowboys was setting up to be eerily reminiscent of the Giants’ 2015 season opener against the Cowboys, when Dallas capitalized on New York’s sloppy fourth quarter – including iffy play calling, clock mismanagement and ole defense – to deliver a groin punch loss to the G-men, a defeat that set the tone for their entire 2015 season. 

But then it didn’t happen. 

The Giants didn’t have any notable play calling gaffes, they didn’t mismanage the clock and their defense didn’t fold when desperate stops were needed. Instead, Dallas did all those things, as the Giants prevailed 20-19 in a game marked by several NFL premieres (Ben McAdoo as head coach; Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott as the rookie QB-RB tandem in Dallas; and Giants rookie wide out Sterling Shepard, who made a leaping 9-yard touchdown grab in the second quarter and – teamed with the returning Victor Cruz and some guy named Beckham Jr. – is going to give the Giants an explosive offense). 

It’s only one game, but there were a lot of heroics, insanity and ineptitude, so let’s hand out some laurels for Hero, Nero, Zero

Hero: Victor Cruz. 

Playing in his first regular-season game in nearly two years, Cruz caught the go-ahead touchdown from Eli Manning (19 of 28, 207 yards, three touchdowns and one pathetic interception) with 6:13 left in the game. 

Salsa time. 

Cruz had four catches for 34 yards, which in a vacuum doesn’t look like a particularly impressive outing. But with him in the slot and Beckham and Shepard on the outside, the Giants might have the best wide receiving corps in the NFL this season. 

Nero: Cowboys’ play calling. 

Dez Bryant is an absolute beast and can pretty much assure that any ball thrown in his vicinity is either going to be caught by him or fall incomplete. So why on the Cowboys’ final drive – when Dallas got the ball back with 1:05 left – did the last play call go to Terrance Williams in the middle of the field? 

Dallas needed to stop the clock, but Williams caught the ball and headed up field and the Cowboys were unable to set up and spike the ball to possibly set up a 62-yard game-winning field goal by Dan Bailey. Sure, Williams should have tried to get out of bounds, but if he had run right to the sidelines, the field goal attempt would have been even longer. Williams is a convenient scapegoat, but the real failure was in Dallas’ play calling. 

Zero: Touchdown and interceptions from Dak Prescott. 

Thrown into the starting role following the preseason injury to Tony Romo, the rookie from Mississippi State had a respectable NFL debut. He made a nice throw to Bryant in the end zone that was initially called a TD; the play was correctly overturned on review as the ball moved as Dez went to the ground. And Prescott committed zero turnovers and was not sacked once. 

He worked the middle of the field almost to exhaustion, with 17 of his 25 completions going to Jason Witten and Cole Beasley. Bryant, meanwhile, had one catch for 8 yards. 

For those who thought the Cowboys would transition seamlessly from the Romo era to the Prescott era, Sunday’s loss to the Giants was a reminder that Romo had/has the type of field-stretching ability that Prescott will need to exhibit to open up more running lanes for Elliott (20 carries for 51 yards). 

Dak to Dez has a nice ring to it, but we saw little of it on the field on Sunday.



Photo Credit: The Associated Press]]>