NBC must regret moving the New York Giants to primetime. In perhaps the dullest game of the season, Big Blue lost 20-6 to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday Night Football.
Nothing about this game was particularly suprising. The Giants’ already anemic offense played backup quarterback Colt McCoy in place of the injured Daniel Jones. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett missed the game due to contracting COVID-19, forcing tight ends coach and ex-Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens to call plays. A low point total was to be expected, and New York certainly didn’t exceed those expectations.
The Giants actually moved the ball into the red zone in each of their three first half possessions (not counting their kneel down to end the half), but somehow only came away with three points. Dion Lewis returned the opening kickoff all the way to midfield, and New York drove the ball to Cleveland’s eight-yard line. Facing a fourth-and-5, the Giants lined up in typical field-goal formation. Instead of taking the three points, New York shifted into a bizarre look that had only three lineman blocking and punter Riley Dixon in the shotgun. Dixon tried to hit center Nick Gates over the middle of the field for a touchdown, but the Browns covered the play well. The throw sailed high and out of reach, leaving New York with zero points after a turnover on downs.
New York did kick a field goal on their ensuing possession, after Cleveland turned the ball over on downs at midfield and McCoy found Darius Slayton down the left sideline for a 35-yard completion.
Latest Giants News
After a Browns 13-play touchdown march, the Giants moved the ball deep into Cleveland territory with a solid mix of Alfred Morris runs and play-action passes. On a fourth-and-two from the six-yard line, head coach Joe Judge opted to go for it, but Wayne Gallman‘s run out of shotgun fell just short. Big Blue once again came up empty handed on a scoring opportunity. The Browns proceeded to execute a 10-play, 95-yard touchdown drive to take control of the game heading into halftime.
The second half was mostly uneventful, with Cleveland scoring an insurance touchdown and New York kicking a meaningless field goal in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, the Giants performed as well as could be reasonably expected with their top cornerback James Bradberry unable to play while on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. New York held up well against Cleveland’s vaunted rushing attack, holding them to just 3.5 yards per carry. But without Bradberry and slot cornerback Darnay Holmes, who missed his second consecutive game with a knee injury, the Giants couldn’t hold up in coverage. They utilized a soft zone to prevent big plays, but which allowed quarterback Baker Mayfield to complete 27 of 32 pass attempts for 297 yards and two touchdowns. Ultimately, keeping a team to 20 points should be considered a success in today’s NFL, but the Giants’ offense couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain.
Path to the Playoffs
Despite their mind-numbing loss on Sunday night, the Giants still have a path to the NFC East crown with just two weeks remaining. The first thing to know is that the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys is a must-win. Dallas’ victory over the San Francisco 49ers evened them with the Giants in the standings. Now, regardless of what happens next week, the winner of that Week 17 matchup will be ahead of the loser due to tiebreakers.
If the Giants also beat the Baltimore Ravens next week, all they need is for the Washington Football Team to drop one of their final two games. If New York loses to Baltimore, they need the Carolina Panthers to beat Washington and the Cowboys to beat the Philadelphia Eagles. They would then need the Eagles to beat Washington in Week 17. No matter how ugly the last two games have been for Big Blue, they still have meaningful football ahead of them.
Here are your Week 15 “Podium/Sodium Players”, i.e, three players Giants fans would like rewarded for their play, and three they’re pretty salty about.
Gold Medal: OT Andrew Thomas
Coming off last week’s embarrassing pass-blocking performance against the Arizona Cardinals, the Giants offensive line needed a bounce-back game. The unit delivered on Sunday night, and Thomas was a big reason why. He neutralized Myles Garrett, one of the sport’s preeminent edge-rushers, for most of the evening. Garrett did manage to beat him once for half a sack, but that was with less than a minute left when the game was all but over.
It’s been a roller coaster rookie season for Thomas. He struggled mightily throughout the first half of the year, but appeared to turn the corner starting in Week 8. The Cardinals game was a regression to his poor early-season form, so it was good to see him respond with a strong showing against quality competition.
Silver Medal: DT Dexter Lawrence
Lawrence has flown under the radar somewhat in his second season, but he made a few noticeably impressive plays Sunday night. The second-year man out of Clemson got the Giants lone sack of the game. He finished second on the team with one and a half tackles for loss. He also batted a pass on fourth-and-2 that ended Cleveland’s first possession with a turnover on downs. Lawrence also contributed to New York’s stout run defense all game. Encouraging stuff from a very important player for the future of this defense.
Bronze Medal: ILB Blake Martinez
Another productive day for the reliable Martinez. He once again led the team in total tackles with 10, and also led the team with two tackles for loss. His instincts and decisiveness from the second level have been a huge factor in New York’s strong run defense this season.
Salty: S Jabrill Peppers
Giants fans have come to love Peppers over the course of this season, but he wasn’t his usual omnipresent self against his former team. He only finished with four tackles, with just one solo and none for a loss. The Michigan product didn’t make an impact in coverage either, as he finished with zero passes broken up. Everyone has an off-day, and Peppers has certainly earned his with high-level performance this season. On Sunday night, though, he simply wasn’t the playmaker he typically is.
Saltier: QB Colt McCoy
McCoy’s final stat line wasn’t terrible, as he finished with 221 yards on 19 for 31 passing. But there were points left on the board thanks to some poor throws. He underthrew Evan Engram in the endzone in the first quarter on a play that should’ve been a touchdown. The offense just has no dynamic ability with McCoy under center. The Giants need Jones to come back if they plan on winning again this year.
Saltiest: RB Wayne Gallman
If New York had any designs on winning this game, they had to rely on the formula that worked so well when McCoy started two weeks ago in Seattle. In that game, Gallman rushed for 135 yards on 16 carries. The fourth-year back didn’t come close to replicating that performance on Sunday. He only managed 29 yards on nine carries. If anything, Morris was the more effective runner on fewer carries, as he averaged 5.6 yards per attempt compared to Gallman’s 3.2. This game is a reminder to Giants fans why a healthy Saquon Barkley is so critical to the offense.