Dave Klein was the Giants' beat
writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books
and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls.
Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.
ON SECOND THOUGHT: IT'S ALL BUT OVER NOW...
AND THERE'S ENOUGH BLAME TO GO
AROUND DESPITE SOME STELLAR MOMENTS
It seems like yesterday
the Giants were all full of excitement and momentum, talking about running the
table for a chance to qualify for the post-season and the big things every NFL
team desire most.
In fact, for most
of the first half of Sunday's game in Philadelphia, it looked like all that stuff
was, just maybe, real. Had the Giants turned the corner? It sure seemed as though
they could defeat the defending Super Bowl champs, get to four wins, close the
gap in the NFC East a bit and take aim at a depleted Chicago Bears team next week
in hopes of notching one more conference victory and really get into the meat
of a winning streak.
Just like that,
however, it was all gone.
And now, with
dreams of sugar plums, winning streaks and playoff berths dashed to the rocks,
the Giants are back to figuring out what happened, who is to blame and where do
they go from here anyway?
You want to
blame it on Eli Manning, don't you? In part, that would be fair, but it might
be a bit of a reach. Sure, he threw an ill-advised pass that wound up being intercepted
near the end zone. Yes, he missed a wide-open Rhett Ellison in the end zone on
a failed (and ill-advised) two-point conversion.
However, he hit 26 of 37 passes for 297 yards, one touchdown and one interception,
and he also suffered two sacks and several pressures/hits. Manning wasn't great
despite the numbers but had rookie Saquon Barkley been utilized more in the second
half with the same success as the first, Manning's performance would have been
good enough to win.
Head coach Pat Shurmur
has announced that Manning will be the starter next week against Chicago, and
he was quick to chastise a media that continued to ask when rookie Kyle Lauletta
would finally start so that the team could "see what it has."
"Why are you jumping over Alex Tanney?" Shurmur asked. The coach pointed
out that Tanney is the No. 2 and proposed a scenario that would see the journeyman,
and not the rookie, being the next man up. It's a fair point. Don't you think
that Lauletta would be the No. 2 instead of Tanney if he was ready? Remember,
Lauletta has not even been active all season, and if you saw him in the pre-season
and at camp, you should know that he has plenty to learn. Tanney, while not as
athletically gifted as Lauletta, is certainly more polished and experienced.
Manning has no concerns about the team looking ahead over the final five weeks
despite the likelihood that the playoff dream is over.
"I think we've been practicing well." Manning said. "We've been
playing tough games and being competitive. All the games we've played, they've
been close. The ones we've won have been close and down to the wire. The same
last week. In this league, you got to make the plays in the critical moments,
and we didn't do it this past game, unfortunately, and didn't get the win.
"We've got a good group of guys," he said. "It's important to guys.
We feel like we're going to keep fighting, we're going to keep preparing, and
going out there and still chase that feeling of that locker room after a win.
That's a good feeling. It makes the week go easier. It makes Mondays feel better.
It makes Tuesdays, it makes everything just easier to take when you're winning
football games. So, that's what we're chasing."
You want to blame Shurmur for calling his own plays, ignoring Barkley in the second
half and failing to score enough points to win, don't you? That might be fair,
but with a 2-to-1 pass/run ratio, he at least tried to take advantage of the Eagles
banged up secondary. However, there has been no clear explanation as to why Barkley
had just five touches in the second half after scoring twice and racking up over
100 yards of total offense in the first half. Shurmur's team failed to adjust
to the Eagles' adjustments and it cost the Giants the game.
You want to blame the offensive line, but the unit had a decent if not stellar
afternoon; better on passing plays than on rushing downs. You can't blame kicker
Aldrick Rosas, but you could ding punter Riley Dixon, who had a 56-yarder but
also a shank that set the Eagles up for points.
You could blame the defense, which allowed 14 points in the second half against
an offense it had dominated in the first. In fact, you can pointedly blame the
run defense, which allowed 39 rushing yards in the first half then 88 in the second
half for a total of 127 yards and a touchdown. The defense let the Eagles control
the ball for nearly 20 of the final minutes and dominate on all fronts.
Oh, and that defense was seemingly without defensive end Olivier Vernon, who has
all but disappeared in the last few weeks despite being apparently healthy and
on the field for 86 percent of the plays on Sunday.
"This game didn't work out in the way we wanted it to," Shurmur said
when asked about what it takes to keep the team from giving games away at the
end. Tongue in cheek, perhaps? "Two weeks prior, it did. They had the ball,
the two games that we've won, the team we were playing had the ball at the end
and we didn't let them in the end zone. That was good. Yesterday was not."
How about the officials, who failed
to call an interference penalty against the Eagles that prevented Odell Beckham
Jr. from catching a potential touchdown? The crew also missed a leg-whipping penalty
near the end of the game that would have given the Giants and Rosas a 63-yard
field goal try. While that may have been unlikely, it would have given them a
chance ... except that every team gets bad calls against them (and, in turn, for
them as well) and suffers at the hands of the officiating crew regularly. That's
the human element and it won't change anytime soon.
That's it? No one else to blame? No, this is a team in transition if no a total
rebuild. Let's not forget, we're approaching the one-year anniversary of the termination
of former general manager Jerry Reese and head coach Ben McAdoo. New GM Dave Gettleman
has purged about 60 percent of last year's roster, and a few gambles haven't all
worked out as well as the team hoped they would.
Wait until next year? With a team like this, that might be the best strategy of
all. More on that later, but there another phase of the rebuilding process is
looms large now.
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