Viewpoint Giants performance a mixed bag in loss to Jags
EAST RUTHEFORD, N.J. — If you are a Giants fan, one of those fans who has kicked around since the days at the Yale Bowl, it’s understandable if you kicked the coffee table after this 20-15 season-opening loss to Jacksonville. Understandable if you screamed: “Same bleeping Giants!”
If you are Patrick Carl Shurmur, coaching your first Giants game, assuming control after Ben McAdoo’s 3-13 disaster, it’s also understandable that you talk about the tiny margins that separate victory from defeat. Understandable when you assert: “We’ll get that fixed. This is a new team. We got new systems. I’m certainly hugely disappointed we lost for our fans and ownership and for those players. But there’s a lot of good in that locker room.”
If you go by the various predictions the Giants entered 2018 as a difficult read. Some have the Giants near the top of the NFC East. Some have the Giants near the bottom of the NFC. Vegas ultimately fell toward the middle, putting the over-under on wins at seven.
And when the opener was over, after the Giants had lost by five in a game where the Jags were favored by three, Giants fans could tread out to the garden of hope and recognize that a flower named Saquon had begun to bloom and a Flowers named Ereck again had wilted. You could welcome back OBJ as a record-breaker and sound like a broken record if you cried out the problems on the offensive line are unsolved.
First, the bad.
Because, hey, this is New York.
The Giants were hanging around, down 13-9, early in the fourth quarter. Right tackle Flowers, who gets no love from Giants fans, and frankly doesn’t deserve much, got beat on the edge by Yannick Ngakoue. Forced to step up in the pocket Eli Manning had his pass deflected at the line by Abry Jones. The ball popped up nicely for linebacker Myles Jack to grab the interception and jog untouched 32 yards to make it 20-9.
“They had a pretty good fake blitz that put Ereck in a bind trying to block two guys,” Manning said. “Unfortunate the ball just got tipped. Bad things happen and sometimes you can’t control those things.”
If Flowers couldn’t be totally blamed on the pick-six, he could be excoriated for tripping and holding penalties on the first three snaps and later in the first half getting beat on a Manning sack. Right about now, yes, Giants fans are begging for Streisand and Diamond to sing, “You don’t bring me Flowers anymore.”
At any rate, the game was over.
And then it wasn’t.
On the second play of the next series, Saquon Barkley took an inside handoff, cut between Calais Campbell and Jack and cut outside to break a tackle by Ronnie Harrison. Sterling Shepard, who dropped a big pass in this game, did a nice job shielding Barkley from Jalen Ramsey. Barkley burst down the sideline past a diving Tashaun Gipson and was gone for 68 yards.
First NFL game for the kid out of Penn State. First NFL touchdown for the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft. It was a beauty. The Giants were immediately back in it at 20-15.
“Great run,” Shurmur said. “That’s why we drafted that young man.”
“I told him multiple times I’ve had dreams of him running down the field, breaking for the end zone,” Odell Beckham said.
Barkley, ineffective in the first half with 18 yards on 12 carries, finished with 108 yards on 18 carries. Ineffective is a relative term because the Jags have such a good defensive line. He dropped a couple of passes, too, although he had plenty of company there. Nevertheless, there’s no doubt Barkley and Beckham give the Giants a terrific 1-2 punch.
“Tough kid,” Ramsey said of Barkley. “I like him.”
He also got stopped on the two-point conversation after his TD.
“Obviously, we wished it went a lot better,” Barkley said. “We kind of killed ourselves. There was great blocking up front, a great hole [on his touchdown], and I was able to make my guy miss.”
From there, well, let’s just say there were enough close plays to leave Giants fans kicking the coffee table and leaving Shumur convinced, over morning coffee, that he’ll be able to fix some things before Sunday night’s game at Dallas.
Things like Manning just missing OBJ in stride early in the third quarter for what would have been a touchdown.
“It just hit the tip of his hands,” Eli said. “I could have put it in a better spot, given him a better shot.”
“It’s close,” OBJ said. “It’s football.”
Things like the Giants going for it on fourth-and-2 midway through the third quarter on the Jags’ 38 and Barkley hurdling just inches short of the first down.
Things like burning a timeout on the first play of the second half because Manning’s helmet was messed up and he couldn’t hear the play calls.
“Just died on me,” Manning said. “I got a new helmet.”
New helmet. New season. New ups. New downs. Janoris Jenkins got beat early, bounced back for one interception and almost another. Eli Apple played particularly well after past disasters, and the D didn’t allow any second-half points. Manning just missed that pass, but Beckham caught 11 balls for 111 yards and drew two pass interference calls. He made history for most catches in the first 50 games of an NFL career. Maybe a little tentative early, but OBJ showed he is back from his broken ankle.
And then with a puncher’s chance left, the Giants could stop bemoaning that lost timeout because Kaelin Clay fumbled away a punt with 45 seconds remaining.
“We definitely did a lot of good things,” said Manning, 23 of 37 for 224 yards. “We were just inches away. Unfortunately, we were on that side of the inches today.”
“We competed all the way up to the end and had a lot of energy,” Beckham said. “There are a lot of positives we can take, but you just want the W.”
Yep, just enough things to believe good is coming this season.
And just enough bad to kick the coffee table and scream, “Same bleeping Giants!”