Very troublesome loss tonight, as the Giants have left the window open for either Washington or Dallas to steal the division. I’ll break down the last quarter of the season for the NFC East later (it’s a doozy), but for now let’s just recap what went wrong against the Redskins…
Penalties (particularly on offense) — absolutely killed the Giants, and are easily the biggest reason for our loss. Tom Coughlin must be furious. First drive of the game – we march from the NYG 10 down to the WAS 23, a false start on [RT] Sean Locklear stops us in our tracks and we settle for a field goal. Second drive – we march from the NYG 24 to the WAS 30, a suspect intentional grounding call on [QB] Eli Manning leads to a missed FG by [K] Lawrence Tynes. Snap was bad, but Tynes got a good look at it anyway. Doesn’t matter who’s to blame, those 3 points could have won us the game. First drive of the second half – holding on the kickoff by backup [OL] Jim Cordle pushes our starting field position from the 19 to the 9, leads to a punt. Third drive of the second half – Cordle is called AGAIN for holding on the kickoff, this time negating a 49 yard return to midfield, and bringing it back to the NYG 8. Yuck. That led to a 3+out and a punt from the NYG 7 after a sack on 3rd down. Fourth and final drive of the second half – Manning converts a critical 3rd and 10 from the NYG 43 with 4:42 left, only for it to be called back on a [LT] Will Beatty hold. We punt on 4th and 16, decline a running into the kicker penalty (which looks questionable now, no?), and never see the ball again. Even on our only touchdown drive, we had to overcome a false start by [WR] Hakeem Nicks on a 3rd and 5, a delay of game on a 2nd and 11, and a [RT] Sean Locklear hold on a 1st and 10. Disgusting. There were only 2 drives that went un-penalized, both ending in field goals; One was the 2 minute drill at the end of the first half, and the other was the possession off the game’s only turnover. We went into the evening as the league’s 2nd least penalized team, averaging 4.4 a game. The Giants had 9 penalties tonight, at least half of them very costly.
Settling For Field Goals — is nothing new for this offense, and is by far the worst aspect of our team. Why can’t we ever finish off drives? Tonight we got bit by penalties, but this problem runs deeper than just that. Yeah, I hate watching Bradshaw run into a wall every time we try to run inside the 20, but our passing game gets just as bottled up when those zones get tighter near the end zone. So I have no solution to offer other than better execution, which is the most overstated non-advice in the business. If you have an idea, send it Kevin Gilbride’s way.
Giants Run Defense — could not handle the triple option, even though it was their second crack at it. [RB] Alfred Morris was consistently gaining yards after contact, and RG3 was gashing the defense for enormous gains whenever he kept it. Looked like the defensive ends were either guessing wrong or getting fooled, but either way they need to shoulder some of this blame. And 0 sacks… man, that’s just a stat we don’t like to see here in New York.
Got plenty more to say, so let me immediately clarify that I think our defense pulled their own weight tonight. For the most part, they held a dynamic Redskins offense in check, and their first touchdown was such a fluke. Un-flukin’-believable. That play really rubbed me the wrong way. Obviously there is plenty of bias in this next statement, but a forward fumble should never be allowed to result in a touchdown. Additionally, the offense shouldn’t be able to advance the ball after a recovery at all, regardless of which direction the fumble went. Can the defenses in this league ever catch a break? Anyway, [MLB] Chase Blackburn managed to force another fumble (his 3rd against Washington this year, only turnover of the game), and although we never sacked him I was pleased with the amount of times RG3 was hit. Bottom line is that our offense needs to score more than 17 points. Simple as that. Also worth noting: we stayed in a base 4-3 for most of the game, with Blackburn flanked by [OLB]s Michael Boley and Keith Rivers. Although [SS] Kenny Phillips was active, he barely saw the field. We’ll never know if our 3-safety magic with a healthy Phillips could have had continued success against RG3, but oh well. Let’s hope it reappears against New Orleans next week. And wreaks havoc.
Let’s end this sad story by addressing the Giants running game, which in a word is… confusing. In the first half, I was pleasantly surprised with both the creativity and success of our plays for Bradshaw. There was a good balance of power runs and counters, both under center and in the gun, and even a direct snap wrinkle that picked up a first down. All said creativity and success seemed to fade in the second half, for reasons unknown but not unprecedented. If I got one thing right in the pregame, it was the low expectation for [RB] David Wilson. Whenever he’s in the backfield, the play selection is incredibly transparent and ineffective. I don’t think it’s entirely his fault, either, as there is clearly a lack of trust being given from the coaching staff. We need to find a way to run the ball while Bradshaw takes a breather, and there’s no shortage of options among [RB]s Kregg Lumpkin, Ryan Torain, and David Wilson. Just pray that we get it all figured out by next week, because one more loss and our season is slipping away…