By Curt Macysyn
Game day did not start well for the New York Giants (5-5), as Big Blue had to scratch their best lineman Justin Pugh even before the game began. Pugh has been suffering with a mystery ailment for the past week, with the team going so far to place Pugh in the concussion protocol, and he was declared inactive for Sunday’s game.
Things got better right before kickoff with a loss by the Philadelphia Eagles against the Miami Dolphins in the City of Brotherly Love, as Big Blue was assured of remaining in first place regardless of the outcome against the New England Patriots (9-0). The Giants gave a good effort as they tried to take down the undefeated New England Patriots, but once again lousy clock management doomed Big Blue.
Instead of running down the game clock in the waning minutes of the contest, the Giants bumbled multiple passing plays and handed the New England Patriots almost two minutes to get the game winning field goal attempt. Coming into the game, Steven Gostkowski had not missed a field goal attempt this season for New England, and his 54-yard kick with one second remaining lifted the Pats to a 27-26 victory over the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
The Patriots were perfectly content rolling the dice with press coverage all afternoon against Odell Beckham Jr. Yes, that strategy blew up on the 87-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, but OBJ was held in check for most of the game after that. Beckham had only four catches in 12 targets, as he dropped a few and quarterback Eli Manning forced a few too many Beckham’s way. Manning was able to spread the ball around as eight different players caught passes, including Dwayne Harris (six catches, 82 yards, one touchdown) who came up big time and time again.
Overall Manning and the Giants offense were statistically better than the Patriots. In fact, Manning did not throw an interception, while Brady did. Big Blue had 422 yards of total offense, while the Pats had 406 total yards. More production on the ground is definitely needed, as the four man running back rotation has not been working.
You cannot completely fault the Giants defense, except for giving up big plays to Rob Gronkowski (76-yard touchdown) and Brandon LaFell (54-yard catch) that really hurt. Uncharacteristically, the front four did get pressure on Brady and forced a couple of Brady fumbles as well. Trumaine McBride’s goal line interception against Brady thwarted a Patriots scoring chance.
In some cases, the Giants front four got pressure on Brady, and the unit was able to sack him three times. Landon Collins turned an easy interception into a much more difficult play, and by not coming up with the crucial pick, Collins handed the Patriots new life. Pre-draft questions about Collins’ pass coverage skills which apparently caused his draft stock to plummet appear to be well founded.
Other defenders like Jasper Brinkley (12 tackles and one sack) and Craig Dahl (seven tackles and one sack) were stout all afternoon. Bill Belichick was not going to have Jason Pierre-Paul beat his team, as JPP was mostly double-teamed all afternoon, but he did get pressure on Brady and freed up his linemates. Poor tackling allowed Danny Amendola to squeeze a few more yards out of a hitch play that set up the final field goal.
Special Teams: C
The special team has been an advantage for the Giants this season, but the unit was not at its best against the Patriots. Danny Amendola was allowed to get to the left sideline on his 82-yard punt return that was only thwarted by Amendola being tripped by a teammate before getting into the end zone. The Giants also had costly penalties that cost the offense field position on their first two punt returns.
With two kickers who have not missed this season, one knew that either Josh Brown or Steven Gostkowski would be called upon to win the game. Brown continued his hot streak as he made four more field goals, including a 53-yarder late in the third quarter.
Offensively, the Giants did their defense no favors by poor clock management again. First, you have to question why offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo largely abandoned the running game, especially when New York was holding the lead in the third quarter. Putting Brady back on the field unnecessarily is clearly playing with fire, and the Giants eventually got burned.
Then after Beckham dropped a touchdown catch just before the two minute warning, McAdoo dialed up another fade pass to Dwayne Harris, when a running play would have forced the Patriots to expend their final time out. On third down, at least Manning had the good sense to touch down in bounds, so the clock would continue to run, and forced Belichick to take his final time out.
But the clock management damage was done, as the Giants got the worst of both worlds when they settled for a 29-yard Josh Brown field goal on their final drive. In the process though, Coughlin and company handed the Patriots nearly two minutes (1:47) to get into field range, which they did, as Steve Gostkowski nailed a 54-yard field goal with :01 remaining.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo did yeoman work in getting his troops mostly in the right positions to have the Giants in position to win the game. Keep in mind the unit turned Brady over twice, and they forced another fumble by Brady. This may have been Spagnuolo’s best game plan of the season, but it went for naught because of missed opportunities and poor clock management.
The Giants head into their bye week with a 5-5, as they continue to tread water at the top of the NFC east division. After the bye, Big Blue faces off with the suddenly hot Washington Redskins, a game that will have first place on the line on November 29th.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past four seasons for Examiner.com, and he is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Born and raised in New Jersey, Curt attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, N.J. and is a graduate of Rutgers University – New Brunswick. Follow him on Twitter @CurtMac23 for the latest NFL and New York Giants news.