By Curt Macysyn
It would be easy to blame a late Eli Manning interception for the demise of the New York Giants (6-10) against the Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) on Sunday. But a porous defense, shoddy special teams play and a non-existent running attack were just as much to blame as the G-men ended the season just as they started it, with a loss, 34-26 at the New Jersey Meadowlands.
Hopefully the glasses that Giants’ co-owner John Mara was wearing at the game were not rosed colored. While the G-men became more competitive as the season wore on, they are still not playoff caliber. Offensively, Big Blue has become a one-trick pony, as Odell Beckham, Jr. has dominated the stat sheet week after week since making his debut in October. This week, Beckham got support from fellow receiver Rueben Randle, but New York still has no consistent rushing attack, and the tight end play has deteriorated over the course of the season.
Based upon three players, Manning, Beckham and Randle, the Giants hung with the Eagles, but when in doubt, talent rules in the NFL, and the Birds simply have better players overall. The echoes coming from the canyons of MetLife Stadium point to a return of both head coach Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese, but after a third straight season out of the playoffs, the window may be closing on the Tom and Jerry show.
TEAM OFFENSE: B
Eli Manning did not have a stellar effort with only completing 53 percent (28 for 53) of his passes on the afternoon. Then again, Manning had 429 passing yards as well. No doubt his interception was a poor throw, and he could only muster one touchdown pass on the afternoon.
Odell Beckham, Jr. had 12 catches for 185 yards and a touchdown grab, as well as his usual assortment of highlight catches. The Eagles tried desperately to double cover Beckham, which required someone else to step up on the offense. In the first half, receiver Rueben Randle was on fire, and he finished the day with six catches for 158 yards. Randle has shown improvement since being benched twice over the past month. The future for this tandem seems bright, if Randle can channel the progress of the past couple of games.
Tight end Larry Donnell had two catches on six targets for 26 yards, but also he had his weekly dropped passes. Ben McAdoo dialed up Adrien Robinson’s number on a seam route, but the third-year tight end has not progressed to a point where he can be even a minor threat in the passing game. The position screams out for an upgrade in the off season, so Manning can find an intermediate threat, especially in the red zone.
Another area that demands an upgrade is running back. New York could only muster 76 yards on the ground, as Andre Williams (2.9 yards per carry) and Rashad Jennings (3.3 yards per carry) are not inspiring as a rushing attack. Maybe injuries were to blame for the lack of production by Jennings, but he has never played a full NFL season either.
Another holding penalty by Will Beatty negated a Manning to Randle touchdown pass in the third quarter. Center J.D. Walton had an unnecessary roughness penalty in the second quarter, but the offensive line did not allow a sack either. Justin Pugh did well in his rematch with Connor Barwin, as Barwin only had two tackles and barely a sniff of Manning in the pocket.
Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo gets an overall grade of (B) as his offensive system seems to have promise, and the front office needs to get him a serviceable tight end and dependable running back. By the way, everyone chuckled when McAdoo indicated that he wanted to run 70 offensive plays per contest this year. The G-men ran 78 offensive plays against the Eagles on Sunday.
TEAM DEFENSE: C
The defense gave up 164 yards on ground, mainly to LeSean McCoy and Chris Polk. McCoy had 99 yards on 17 carries (5.8 yards per carry), and Polk had 38 yards on seven carries (5.4 yards per carry) with a touchdown. New York’s rush defense was abysmal all season, and perhaps defensive coordinator Perry Fewell loses his job because of the unit’s inept performance all season.
The Giants’ play at safety has been sketchy all season, and this game represented more of the same. Yes, the defense did lose Stevie Brown to a foot injury early in the contest, but Brown also took a bad angle on Jordan Matthews’ 44-yard TD catch in the first quarter.
Antrel Rolle suffered through another subpar performance. It will be interesting to see if the veteran safety makes it back to New York, as he is set to become an unrestricted free agent. Quintin Demps was on a one-year contract, and he did not distinguish himself over the course of the year at the safety position either. Rookie safety Nat Behre was injured in the first quarter and did not return.
Jameel McClain was miscast as middle linebacker since Jon Beason went down for the season, but McClain, as most of the Giants’ linebackers, is porous in pass coverage. Mark Herzlich might not be an every down player, but he remains a solid special teams performer and backup. Herzlich had seven total tackles and a quarterback sack for the game. Rookie Devon Kennard sat out the contest with a toe injury.
Ravens’ castoff Chykie Brown once again proved why Baltimore released him earlier this year. Brown had a pass interference call on a Stevie Brown interception in the first half, on a Sanchez pass that was completely underthrown. Then Brown also committed a silly neutral zone infraction in the second half as he was matched up against tight end Zach Ertz. Hard to figure what Brown did at practice during the week to continually earn his repetitions.
Another mid-season pickup, cornerback Mike Harris was all over the field for New York with 10 tackles and an interception. Harris appears to have a nose for the football, and he should have earned a longer look in training camp next season as potentially a slot cornerback.
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul continued his hot streak with two more quarterback sacks, giving him 12.5 sacks on the season. JPP also had five tackles, as he appears to head into free agency. Pierre-Paul can void his 2015 contract with the Giants after the season is over, and he will undoubtedly do that. Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn also had a quarterback sack of Mark Sanchez.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
Kicker Josh Brown had another great game, as the veteran kicker was four-for-four on field goals, with a long of 53-yards. Brown was also solid on kickoffs as well throughout the season, and he justified Tom Coughlin’s decision to keep him over Brandon McManus in the preseason.
Special teams coordinator Tom Quinn would seem to be on shaky ground, as his unit was underwhelming all season. His unit was nondescript in its return game, but scuffled in punt coverage. This week, the unit gave up the first punt block in the career of Steve Weatherford, which was promptly returned 27 yards by Trey Burton to give the Birds a 24-16 lead early in the third quarter. The G-men never recovered from the special teams’ breakdown, and that score proved to be the difference in an otherwise statistically even contest.
Preston Parker had his bacon saved by Mark Herzlich on a kick return fumble in the first quarter after Jordan Matthew’s touchdown. The Giants’ return game did not provide much assistance in field position game on Sunday, or throughout the 2014 season.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on Examiner.com.