By Grant Playter | Staff Writer
Entering Sunday’s game, the fans of the New York Giants were teetering on the brink between hope and despair. Each week, the Giants have steadily improved their game, moving away from blowouts to games being decided by last-minute plays. True, the record was 3-0, but going into this week’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the hope that the season could be saved via a colossal effort on the part of a dynamic offense and Eli Manning’s seasoned shoulders.
Alas, the end of this week’s game mirrored last week’s in a heart-breaking familiar fashion. The Giants were leading the Buccaneers 23-22 going into the final drive following an early 13-0 deficit. After a string of missed field goals, Buccaneers kicker Nick Folk held the fate of the game on his shoulders, much like Eagles kicker Jake Elliott last week. And like Elliot before him, when the chips were down and the pressure was on, Folk delivered.
Folk squeaked the ball through the goal posts, narrowly avoiding disaster when it bounced off the inner edge of the left-most goal post, securing the three points the Buccaneers needed for the win and a 25-23 win. And with it, we have likely seen the end of the Giants 2017 season before it could even really get started.
It’s a shame, particularly because the Giants didn’t play a bad game of football. They maintained majority possession, 35 to 25 minutes, and Eli Manning made his personal-best rushing touchdown for 14 yards. Another notable story throughout the night was Wayne Gallman, the rookie running back, who came in for an injured Paul Perkins part-way through the third quarter.
Shortly after seeing some use from Manning, Gallman scored a touchdown on his first professional drive, an early birthday present to the rookie, who turned 23 the day after the game. Gallman ended up having 11 receptions for 42 yards, an admirable workload and a beacon of hope in the Giants otherwise horrid running game.
Unfortunately for the team and fans alike, critical mistakes kept them from capitalizing on these successes. While Folks missed his fair share of field goals, Giants kicker Aldrick Rosas missed a field goal opportunity and punter Brad Wing shanked a kick with three and a half minutes left on the clock, giving the Buccaneers the opportunity they needed to take back the lead.
Flags weren’t flying on the Giants, nearly as often as the Buccaneers, but the ones they did get were costly. Odell Beckham Jr. was called out stepping out of the end zone on a two point conversion attempt after the Giants final touchdown of the game. This kept the lead at one point rather than three, and prevented a possible overtime in the event of a Buccaneer field goal.
And these all seem like small mistakes on an otherwise good team, but when small mistakes keep costing you big games, you need to analyze the why and how. The Giants seem to be lacking a consistent strategy. Last week, they seemed dedicated to short passes, which proved somewhat successful. This week,, they relied much more on the ground game, completely counter to last week’s game plan, and it was only after Gallman entered the game that they found any success with that compared to the passing game.
If we go back to the first quarter, the Giants were going into a first-down well within field goal range. But the call was to go for the fourth-down conversion rather than get points on the board, another instance of taking ridiculous risks rather than getting on the board, I think the Giants lack a cohesive strategy.
Football is as much a cerebral sport as it is physical, but if the people in charge of the strategy simply lean on the talents of the team, it’ll become a disorganized mess. Head Coach for the Giants, Ben McAdoo, blamed Manning for the loss in the second week of the season, but if his play-calling isn’t making a difference, I think the onus needs to land on the guys at the top, not the ones on the field.
In spite of the overflow of talent on the team, if there’s no leadership, they’re going to continue seeing losses. I want to believe the Giants can pull it back and get things together, but there’s no precedent for a team starting 0-4 to get into playoffs. And even if there is a slim chance presently, if the Giants don’t start thinking smarter, they’re gonna get hit even harder.
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