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Five Things: Week 17 – Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants

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The New York Football Giants are in the playoffs! The G-Men dominated the Colts from the get-go and punched their ticket to the playoffs with a convincing 38-10 victory. Here are five things that stood out:

The Curse Has Been Broken

Prior to the Giants’ last playoff game in January 2017 against the Green Bay Packers, the now-infamous boat picture featuring the teams’ wide receivers was released. Since then, it’s felt like a curse has followed this team, but after five straight losing seasons, three head coaches, and some of the most downright uninspiring football many Giants fans have seen, the curse is over.

This wasn’t the only hoodoo to be broken on Sunday, however, as the Giants also put the nail in the coffin on two other scoring stats: the first is that the Giants finally scored over 30 points after failing to do so since an October 2020 loss against Dallas (that’s 43 games ago), and the second is that this is the first time we’ve scored more than 30 points at home since a 36-20 win over the Miami Dolphins in 2019.

So, with a raucous crowd behind them, the Brian Daboll-led Giants broke the curse and secured the sixth seed in the playoffs. They now have the option of resting their starters in the game next week against the current number-one seed Philadelphia Eagles, who ironically do not have the luxury as their defeat to the New Orleans Saints has opened the door for both San Francisco and Dallas to beat them to the punch.

Franchise Quarterback

At the beginning of the season, when it was revealed that the Giants wouldn’t be taking up the fifth-year option in Daniel Jones’s contract, many thought the writing was on the wall for the Duke product, and most of the chatter in the offseason focused on how many weeks Jones would get before Tyrod Taylor would lead the team for the rest of the year. How wrong we all were, and for that, Daniel, we are sorry.

Jones was already posting career numbers prior to the game against the Colts, but his performance in this game was a defining moment for him, with chants of “MVP” ringing around the stadium after he ran in for his second rushing touchdown and a fourth total touchdown. Finishing the game with 177 passing yards, two touchdowns (one to Richie James Jr. and one to Isaiah Hodgins), 91 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns, and a passer rating of 125.2 Jones received a standing ovation from all four corners of the stadium when he was removed from the game on the Giants’ final drive.

The Defensive Front

Although the defence only had two sacks against the Colts, it was yet another stellar performance from the Giants’ defensive line as they finished the game with four quarterback hits, three tackles for loss, and one pass defended. This is despite the fact that for a majority of the game they only had two of their fearsome starting front four as Leonard Williams was limited to 29 of the snaps due to a stinger and Azeez Ojulari, who is recovering from last week’s ankle injury, only had six.

Both of the sacks were phenomenal plays, but they will be remembered for very different reasons. Kayvon Thibodeaux was unblocked as he ploughed through Nick Foles, unfortunately injuring the quarterback. A lot of ire has been cast at the young pass rusher as he started to do snow angels next to the injured Foles. It’s my belief that Kayvon had no idea that Foles was badly hurt, and this was backed up by his post-match comments. Dexter Lawrence’s sack, however, will be remembered for how he abused Quenton Nelson, the highest-paid guard in the league, and used him as a weapon to sack Sam Ehlinger in the third quarter.

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Landon Turns Back Time

It’s been a tough few years for Landon Collins. After being drafted by the Giants in 2015, Collins would be named to the all-rookie team, a first-team all-pro in 2016, and a pro bowler for three straight years between 2016 and 2018. The Giants, however, would let him go as an unrestricted free agent after 2018, and after three injury-ridden years in Washington derailed his promising start, he started this season without a team. Collins rejoined the Giants in October, albeit on the practise squad, and was promoted to the active roster on December 22nd.

On Sunday, with the Giants up 14-3 late in the 2nd quarter and the Colts driving near midfield, Collins cut in front of a Nick Foles pass intended for Parris Campbell and returned it to the house for the Giants’ first pick-six of the season. Collins, whose last pick-six was back in 2016 against the then-St. Louis Rams in London, is still only 28 and could be a valuable veteran presence for the Giants for both the rest of the season and beyond.

Coaching Excellence

As mentioned earlier in this article, the Giants have fired three head coaches since their last appearance in the postseason, and during that time, we’ve also gone through four offensive coordinators, three defensive coordinators, and two general managers. The difference now, though, is that we finally have a complete coaching and back-office setup that seems set up for the future, and once we shake off the cap shackles brought on by the Dave Gettleman era, this Giants team could return to the days of competing for the NFC East division every year.

As far as the present goes, we can look forward to a playoff berth that we can be proud of regardless of the outcome, and despite us having a young roster, many of whom have never experienced the playoffs before, we have a coaching staff that has been moulded by them. Brian Daboll was the Patriots’ offensive coordinator for much of their AFC dominance, as well as the Bills’ offensive coordinator in recent years. Wink Martindale coached in four playoff games while in Baltimore, allowing only 20 points per game, and Mike Kafka was the QB coach at Kansas for the past few years, including their Super Bowl victory in 2020.

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Five Things: Week 13 – Washington Commanders at New York Giants

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In a game that offered little in terms of playoff clarity for both teams, the New York Giants and Washington Commanders played out a drab 20-20 tie. I suppose a silver lining is that I can continue my “good, bad, and ugly” theme from last week. Here are five things that stood out:

The Good

In a game that is likely to be remembered for all the bad, there were still a few positives to take away for the Giants.

Isaiah Hodgins played in his fourth game since joining the team from the Buffalo Bills practice squad, ending the game with five receptions of six targets for 44 yards and a touchdown, his first in the NFL. Not only has Hodgins shown safe hands since joining (13 receptions of 14 targets), but as he showed on a third-and-10 catch in the first half, he’s got the determination to fight for the dirty yards.

We also finally had the emergence of a pass rush, as for the first time this season we were able to see Azeez Ojulari, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Dexter Lawrence, and Leonard Williams all on the same field together. Although Williams had to leave the game in the second half with a neck injury, the Giants recorded five sacks in the game with Thibodeaux, Lawrence, and Ojulari, who also recorded a fumble and recovery, each grabbing one along with fellow linemen Jihad Ward and Justin Ellis.

The Bad

After a 10-day break following the Cowboys’ second-half thrashing, you’d think the Giants would be raring to go, but it was a lethargic start on both sides of the ball. Daniel Jones scrambled and then fumbled the ball on only the fourth play of the game; the defence then decided that missed tackles were the order of play (a total of eight on the day according to PFF), leading to the Commanders scoring 10 points in the first quarter.

The Giants did manage to clean up their play for the 2nd quarter and the start of the third scoring 20 unanswered points but after that, the offence descended back into their sluggish play and looked devoid of inspiration. With the game score at 13-20 in favour of the Giants with just over three minutes of the third quarter gone, the Giants had plenty of time to find anything that would have likely sealed the win, but their next eight drives (overtime included) went punt, punt, punt, punt, kneel, punt, punt, and finally, the missed field goal to end overtime.

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The Ugly

Other than the result, there were plenty of moments in the game that left many a Giant fan dumbfounded.

We’ll start with Jon Feliciano’s decision to run from his position on the field to the sideline to flex. Now admittedly, Feliciano has since said he was flexing in the direction of Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton, who had just converted a first down, but the wily veteran should know better than to test this season’s referees, who spotted the myriad of Washington players around him and put two and two together. The ensuing flag negated the yards gained, and instead of being able to capitalise on the momentum to increase their lead, the Giants ended up punting the ball away just four plays later.

Overtime itself was another story with a couple of facepalm moments, but none more than when the Giants lined up for a third-and-three just inside Washington’s half and, as the ball was snapped, Saquon Barkley and Richie James ran into each other, leaving Jones to give up a sack. The decision to get cute with the play calling ultimately ruined what was a promising drive that could have ended the game.

Worst Coached Game of the Year?

It’s safe to say that if you isolated the first half of the season, you could argue that the coaching staff would all be deserving of nominations for honors, but in the last few weeks, mistakes, poor clock management, cautious play calling, and not resolving the season’s Achilles heel of slow starts have brought Giants head coach Brian Daboll back down to earth.

The slow start is not something new, but for some reason, we’ve been unable to ascertain what the root cause is. Earlier in the season, it wasn’t too much of an issue due to our second-half comebacks, but with the Giants’ offence now wildly inconsistent, we need to play from the first play to the last.

Mike Kafka’s play-calling hasn’t been awful, but it also hasn’t set the world alight either, and there were multiple missteps this week. There was the decision to not take a shot into the endzone late in regulation on third and one and to call a run, either of which shows a distinct lack of trust in either Daniel Jones or the wide receivers, plus the aforementioned overtime play and punt, which gave most of us the impression that the staff were happy to not lose rather than win.

A Tie, Really?!

The scoreboard may read tie game, but in the hearts of the fans and the players, this was just as deflating as a loss. Coach Daboll may have downplayed it by saying, “It’s better than a loss; not as good as a win,” but in the grand scheme of things, this one had to sting, especially since it was against a divisional rival.

The strange thing is that due to the scheduling this season, the Commanders will now take their late bye week while the Giants will need to be vastly improved as they take on another divisional rival, the high-flying Philadelphia Eagles before we do it all again against the Commanders, this time at FedExField in a game that has now been flexed into the Sunday Night Football spot.

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Five Things: Preseason Game 2 – Cincinnati Bengals at New York Giants

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Preseason game two is in the books and another win for Big Blue this time over the Cincinnati Bengals. Here are five things to mull over:

Decisive Daniel

Brian Daboll kept his cards close to his chest this past Friday, refusing to say whether Daniel Jones would play in the preseason game against the reigning AFC champions, but he will be pleased with the performance of his much-maligned quarterback after deciding to start him.

After multiple weeks of inconsistent practises and an up and down showing last week against the New England Patriots, Jones produced an assured performance, albeit against the Bengals’ 2nd string team as the starters were held out.

Jones was under centre for most of the first two quarters before Tyrod Taylor replaced him on the Giants’ fourth possession. During those three possessions, Jones played 24 snaps, completing 14-of-16 passes for 116 yards. The only mark on his stat sheet will be the interception. Nevertheless, Daboll was keen to express though that he thought rookie Tight End Daniel Bellinger should have caught the ball that ricocheted into the hands of Bengals rookie Safety Daxon Hill.

Fourth-Quarter Comeback

As the fourth quarter got underway last night, the Giants were 16-7 down and heading towards defeat. However, a quick field goal after a stalled drive that started in the 3rd quarter was converted, and the game was suddenly closer at 16-10.

The Bengals’ next drive ended around midfield when Evan McPherson missed a 58-yard field goal. This meant Davis Webb found himself with great field position, knowing that the team needed a touchdown. Nine plays later, Webb would connect with Alex Bachman for a 22-yard touchdown. He then followed it up with a run of his own to convert the two-point conversion, and suddenly it was 16-18.

The Bengals would answer that with a touchdown of their own, but a failed two-point conversion would give the Giants an opportunity to seal the game. In a drive that took just over two minutes, Webb would find Bachman again for the go-ahead touchdown, and Jamie Gillan converted the extra point. The final play of the game would come after undrafted rookie free agent Tomon Fox smashed into Trenton Irwin to cause a fumble that was recovered by newly signed Olaijah Griffin.

Injury Ravaged

The Giants entered Sunday’s game with EIGHTEEN players unavailable due to injury. For the stats people out there, that’s 21% of the roster and it doesn’t include the five players either on injured reserve or the physically unable to perform list.

It was due to these issues that the Giants had to start their sixth player at Centre Max Garcia, which subsequently put Daboll in two minds on whether to play his starters.

Most of the players did play, and unfortunately, things only got worse. In the first half alone Wide Receiver C.J. Board injured his ribs, Kicker Graham Gano suffered a concussion as a result of having to make a tackle on a returned kick, and rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux was almost carted off with a knee injury but luckily only strained his MCL. Nothing changed in the second half as last week’s standout, Darrian Beavers, left with a knee injury, which has now been confirmed as an ACL tear, ending his season.

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Take a Punt

As alluded to in my previous point, Graham Gano left the game in the first half with a concussion, leaving the Giants in the precarious position of not having their standout kicker available for the rest of the game. Normally, in a situation like this, you would start going for two-point conversions, but preseason allows opportunities for experimentation. 

Punter Jamie ‘The Scottish Hammer’ Gillan took over kick-off duty and, on the whole, performed well, but the real experiment started early in the 4th quarter with the Giants facing a 4th and 9 on the Bengals’ 12 yard line. Gillan and versatile Safety Jullian Love trotted out to become Place Kicker and Holder respectively, and they connected with a 31-yard field goal. The pair returned late in the 4th to secure the XP that gave the Giants a 3-point lead.

Bach to Bach(man)

Wide Receiver Alex Bachman has been on the roster bubble the last two preseasons for the Giants, and he’s been a mainstay on the practise squad. He has seen game time with the Giants, but opportunities have been scarce, with a combined 56 snaps on Offense and Special Teams in four games. Last night, however, may have just shown exactly what Bachman can do.

In a breakout performance, he finished yesterday’s preseason game with 11 catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns, both from Quarterback Davis Webb. When asked prior to the game, Brian Daboll was complimentary about his attitude: “He showed up in the spring and worked as hard as he possibly could and got better each day. He’s one of the first guys in the weight room each day. He was down, down on the depth chart, rep chart if you will, and all he does is compete and play hard. And I appreciate guys like that. I think his teammates do, too. It was good to see him have some success out there. He’ll get more chances.”

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Five Things: New York Giants Camp Week 1

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Shedding the Minicamp Red Jersey

During OTA’s and minicamp, the Giants had key wide receivers Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard, and Kenny Golladay in non-contact red jerseys and were later joined by rookie superstar Kayvon Thibodeaux. Luckily, most of them have shed the issues that were ailing them, as well as the dreaded shirt, and were able to practice with the rest of the team. Unfortunately, camp has come too quickly for Shepard, Nick Gates, and Matt Peart, who are all coming off serious injuries that required surgery, and second-year edge rusher Azeez Ojulari, who was added to the non-football injury list, also hasn’t been able to take the field.

Offseason Offense

Last season’s offence was a nightmare to watch, but based on what we’ve seen thus far, it’s been dragged into the twenty-first century with pre-snap movement and a smorgasbord of plays. That doesn’t mean it has been plain sailing. Wink Martindale’s defence has been as aggressive as advertised and Jones’s supporting cast hasn’t helped as several of his playmakers have made costly drops. This is hardly going to dispel the pressure on them, but before we fear the worst, Jones has shown some positives. His throws seem to have some extra zip on them, and one touchdown to Kadarius Toney on day one was picture perfect.

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Front and Center

There has been much talk regarding the centre position for the Giants since neither of the uninjured players on the depth chart have extensive experience at the position. Jon Feliciano started camp as the starting center, but after experiencing heat and hydration issues, he has sat out the last two sessions. Unfortunately, this has raised some depth concerns, especially with the unknown state of potential back-up Nick Gates. Thursday was riddled with mistakes as Jamil Douglas and Ben Bredeson struggled with snaps, which led to Shane Lemieux moving to centre and Joshua Ezeudu taking the left guard snaps.

The Lesser Targeted Tight End

The unofficial depth charts for the tight end position might show Ricky Seals-Jones as the starter, but so far he isn’t the sole tight end taking reps with the 1’s. Jordan Akins, Daniel Bellinger (fresh off the PUP list after his addition last week), and Chris Myarick all took snaps, but during the sessions on day 2, none of them were targeted at all during 11-on-11 drills. I think it’s safe to say whoever is in the lineup on gamedays will be a blocker first and a receiver second.

Who Will Wear the Headset?

It’s a question that has carried through from the hiring of Mike Kafka all the way through to training camp, and by the sounds of things, we are unlikely to get an answer until the season starts. Kafka has been calling plays during training camp so far, which some view as an audition. Head Coach Brian Daboll, who called plays at Buffalo, has been asked multiple times and so far has remained coy. “We talk on a day-to-day basis on plays and things to install, but he’s been on the headset with Daniel. And he’ll be doing that through camp. And as we get closer to it, we’ll sit down and discuss it.”

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