The Broncos were superior in all three phases in Sunday’s 41-23 defeat of the Giants. Their offense was more balanced, more efficient. Their defense made the Giants’ offense earn everything. A fourth-quarter punt return score by the swift Trindon Holliday was the clincher for Denver.
In short, the Broncos were much too much for the skilled-but-sloppy Giants, who have committed 10 turnovers in starting 0-2.
Plenty of tough games remain on the Giants’ schedule, including meetings with Green Bay and Seattle. Without improvement, the Giants cannot contend with the high-level teams that regularly advance to play in January and February.
In fact, the Giants may have a hard time winning at winless Carolina on Sunday if they don’t address some of the flaws they have shown early this season.
Those blemishes comprise most of the five takeaways we gathered from Sunday’s defeat against powerful Denver:
1. The Giants’ running game is a real liability.
The Giants attempted 19 rushes on Sunday, gaining 23 yards. That’s 1.2 yards per carry, and that is no way to establish any balance on offense whatsoever.
Wilson and newly re-signed Brandon Jacobs each got seven carries on Sunday. Wilson had just 17 yards, with a long rush of six.
Three of Jacobs’ attempts came inside the Broncos’ five-yard line — an indication he’s going to be a primary short-yardage option. While he scored the Giants’ lone rushing TD of the game, he gained just four yards.
Da’Rel Scott’s biggest impact came in the passing game. He was targeted four times, and he turned a short reception into a 23-yard touchdown with 3:59 left. Scott’s five carries went for just two yards.
Wilson’s workload and effectiveness remain two issues to watch. If he starts to become more productive, the Giants’ offense will have a little more punch. However, Jacobs and Scott have roles, meaning Wilson’s going to have to show something early in games to start getting more touches. In short, he has to force the Giants to keep him on the field.
2. The early-season mistakes could cost the Giants’ late-season wiggle room.
The Giants’ four turnovers Sunday all came on Eli Manning interceptions. The two most costly came when the game was still in doubt. The first was late in the second quarter, when Manning was intercepted in the endzone with the Giants in field-goal range. After the game, Manning indicated he was trying to throw the ball away, according to a transcript of his postgame remarks from the club.
The second pick came with the Giants down 24-16 early in the fourth quarter. Broncos cornerback Tony Carter knocked away a pass for Rueben Randle and deflected the ball with his leg, and teammate Chris Harris caught the carom.
The final two picks were with the Giants down three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The third interception was a force by Manning into coverage, and the last pick came with the Giants down 18 points with less a minute left.
In the eight full seasons he has played as a starter, Manning has never thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in any season. He’s earned some benefit of the doubt. This was not his best game, but there’s no real reason for alarm.
The biggest concern about the Giants’ 10 turnovers in two games? With a few less mistakes, they might well be 1-1. Certainly the Cowboys could have been defeated with some better play a week ago. The Giants also materially hurt themselves with mistakes against Denver, too.
With the two losses right off the bat, the Giants have reduced their margin for error for the rest of the season.
3. The Giants again made a key mistake in the punting game.
Last week, a Cowboys punt inadvertently struck cornerback Trumaine McBride and set up a Dallas touchdown. This week, Giants punter Steve Weatherford had a fourth-quarter punt returned for a touchdown by Holliday, who picked up the low, bouncing kick and took it the distance.
“I thought our punting game was not up to standards tonight,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said afterwards.
Weatherford is a capable punter, and a better performance in Week Three wouldn’t at all be a surprise. The Giants will need solid play from their specialists and coverage-team players against dangerous Panthers returner Ted Ginn.
4. The Giants did not get enough out of their pass rush.
Throughout his career, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has been masterful at avoiding sacks. However, the Ravens did sack him three times in the season opener. The Giants, though, didn’t sack Manning once in Denver’s Week Two victory, and the future Hall of Fame quarterback completed 30-of-43 passes for 307 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Through two games, the Giants have just two sacks, both against Tony Romo in Week One.
All things considered, the Giants’ defense has played respectably against two potent offenses to begin the season. But more pass-rush pressure is needed.
5. The NFC East is a mess — and that’s good news for the Giants.
For all of the Giants’ problems, they are one game back in the NFC East. Philadelphia, Washington and Dallas also lost on Sunday, meaning Coughlin’s club didn’t lose any ground. Also, Washington and Philadelphia each surrendered more than 500 yards in defeat in Week Two. If there’s a powerhouse in the East, it is hiding as well as the Loch Ness Monster.