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Five Things: Week 18 – New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles

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In what was tipped to be a rebuilding season, the Giants exceeded all expectations and will next head into the playoffs. Before that, though, we had the small task of taking on the Eagles, who had everything to play for. Here are five things that stood out:

Well Deserved

Was this the most entertaining loss to the Eagles ever? With the Giants firmly secured in the No. 6 spot in the playoffs, it made little sense to risk any of the starters, regardless of the fact that this was a divisional game. Due to the risks afforded to starting backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor, it was decided that Davis Webb would be front and under center.

Webb, who first joined the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2017, re-joined the team as a third-string quarterback this offseason and was finally rewarded for his hard work and dedication to the league.

Admittedly, the first half didn’t go according to plan, with some ugly sequences, including the fake punt and reverse to Cager. The second half, on the other hand, was much better, with Webb scoring a rushing touchdown by running through the Eagles’ Reed Blankenship while also doing something Daniel Jones hasn’t done this year: passing a touchdown to Kenny Golladay.

The 75 Million Dollar Man

We might as well carry on where we left off with the last point and talk about Kenny Golladay. It’s no secret that his decline from reliable contested ball catcher to benchwarmer has been one of the few sour points this season, and due to a combination of a huge cap hit and lack of production, it’s very likely he will be let go in the offseason.

Golladay’s stats for the season prior to Sunday’s matchup were 198 snaps, 10 targets, four receptions, 51 yards, and no touchdowns, not exactly wide receiver one material. Let’s not beat around the bush Sunday’s game wasn’t exactly a breakout performance with a measly two catches on seven targets for 30 yards and a touchdown, but the touchdown itself was a look at what might have been. It’s likely this will be his one and only Giants touchdown, with the catch happening on the last offensive snap of the game and it being unlikely that his performance has threatened the trio of Slayton, James, and Hodgins.

Evan Neal’s Tough Season

It’s been a baptism of fire for the young rookie, and the season itself has likely been full of just as many high points as low points for him. With most of the starters being rested, that wasn’t the case for Neal, who played the entirety of the first half before being replaced by Matt Peart. Despite his limited action, it was unfortunately another rough outing as both Haason Reddick and Brandon Graham were able to get pressure on Davis Webb.

Neal, who missed four games due to an MCL sprain, finished the regular season with 738 snaps across 13 games. 453 of these snaps were in pass-blocking sets, with Neal giving up 22 hurries, 10 quarterback hits, and 7 sacks; that’s a total pressure rate of 8.6%, the highest among rookie tackles (minimum 400 snaps). Bear in mind, however, that we had similar issues with Andrew Thomas, who had a pressure rate of 9.3 in his rookie year, which was the worst in his draft class. Hopefully, Neal follows a similar trajectory.

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Defensive Backups

Despite the 22-16 loss, there were plenty of plus points for the Giants’ defense, which contained the Eagles starters for most of the game, only giving up one touchdown and constantly forcing Philadelphia to settle for field goals. Here are a few defenders that stood out:

  • Tomon Fox: Despite his stat sheet only showing four tackles (one for a loss) and three hurries, the undrafted free agent was a constant thorn in Jalen Hurts’ side.
  • Micah McFadden: Impressive throughout the game and finished with seven tackles (one for a loss) and one sack.
  • Dane Belton: A solid showing from the rookie safety, as he finished with six tackles, one pass breakup, and an end zone interception.
  • Jarrad Davis: The veteran made his Giants debut and shone with 10 tackles (one for a loss), 1 quarterback hit, and a half-sack.
  • Nick McCloud: The cornerback was one of a few recent starters that played, but instead he shone in the pass rush this week with five tackles (one for a loss), two quarterback hits, and one and a half sacks.

Minnesota It Is

For the second time this season, the Giants will travel to Minneapolis to take on the Minnesota Vikings on Wildcard Weekend. The first game between the teams back in Week 16 was a tight affair that was decided by a franchise-record 61-yard field goal by Greg Joseph, but there is more riding on this game than just revenge.

The Giants have slowly been getting their injured players back, and after resting most of their starters against the Eagles, they should have not only a well-rested team but a strong one as both Xavier McKinney and Adoree Jackson, who missed the previous meeting, should be back. Adoree’s return will be especially critical as he will follow the regular season leader in both receiving yards and receptions, Justin Jefferson, who torched the Giants secondary for 133 yards in Week 16.

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Five Things: Week 16 – Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants

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The Giants went toe-to-toe with the Vikings this week before Greg Joseph sealed the 27-24 Minnesota victory, putting an end to Giants fans’ hopes of clinching a playoff berth with two games remaining. Here are five things that stood out:

One-Score Game…Again

Prior to Sunday’s matchup, both the Vikings (10) and the Giants (8) had combined for a total of 18 wins by one score, so it was written in the stars that this week’s encounter would end in the same way. By virtue of Greg Joseph’s 61-yard field goal, the Vikings now have 11 wins, the most one-possession wins in NFL history, only a week after they claimed the biggest comeback win record.

Admittedly, being in close games is something that has benefited the Giants this season, with our record in such games now 8-3-1, but with the personnel that we currently have on the roster, it’s not a sustainable model for success. The Giants have only been in three games that were not decided by a single score: losses to Seattle, Detroit, and Philadelphia.

Even more concerning is the fact the Giants haven’t scored more than 30 points this season and haven’t been over 25 since their trip to London. The last game in which the Giants scored more than 30 and won was a 41-35 overtime win against the then-Washington Redskins in December 2019.

Good But Not Quite Enough

The most frustrating part of the loss to the Vikings was that for most of the game, the Giants not only proved that they were deserving of their record but that, for the most part, they were an equal competitor. The stat line after the game showed that the Giants not only outgained their opponents, 445-353, but they also matched their first down total of 23 as well. The issue was a series of miscues that likely prevented the Giants from walking away with the win.

The Giants lost the turnover battle 2-0, with the usually reliable rookie Daniel Bellinger losing a fumble late in the first quarter and Daniel Jones throwing an interception to Patrick Peterson early in the fourth. There was also a blocked punt that set up the Vikings deep in the Giants’ territory, a series of penalties on both sides of the ball, and two drops in the fourth quarter by Richie James, one of which killed a drive and forced the Giants to settle for a field goal.

The State of the Receivers

It’s no secret that the Giants’ wide receiver group has struggled this year. Kenny Golladay, who accounts for 10% of the Giants’ total salary cap, is currently sitting at 51 yards for the season, while Isaiah Hodgins, who is our third-lowest-paid player, has 350 despite playing one less game. Astoundingly, yesterday’s starting trio of Darius Slayton, Richie James Jr., and the aforementioned Hodgins account for a combined 2.5 million dollars, which is less than Jahan Dotson’s or Chris Olave’s rookie contracts.

Despite this, the three managed to combine for 258 yards on 26 targets, easily the best performance from the Giants’ starting wide receivers this season. Hodgins, who was previously on the Bills practise squad, was outstanding once again, finishing the game with another touchdown and likely the highlight moment for the offence with his full-stretch catch. Slayton made the most of his limited targets, converting one short pass for 32 yards and setting up Saquon Barkley’s late touchdown, and James, despite his drops, still finished with a team-leading 90 yards on eight catches.

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Improving Defensive Line

As part of a continuing trend, the Giants’ defensive front was able to generate almost consistent pressure on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins thanks to defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s blitz schemes. Obviously, this can prove to be a double-edged sword, which the Vikings were able to take advantage of late in the game, but with the Giants’ defensive backfield as weak as it is, it’s a risk worth taking.

This week, the Giants’ defenders were able to spread the load as Leonard Williams, Azeez Ojulari, Oshane Ximines, Jaylon Smith, and Landon Collins all recorded sacks. However, one huge contributor to this recent resurgence has been the return of Azeez Ojulari. Since his return in Week 13, the Giants’ sack average has gone from 1.9 sacks per game to a phenomenal 4.75 sacks per game. Ojulari’s individual stat line during this time? 16 pressures, 7 hurries, 4 quarterback hits, and five sacks.

Just One More Win

The biggest silver lining here, though, was that despite the loss, the Giants’ playoff hopes are no worse off than they were prior to the game. With the Seattle Seahawks losing to Kansas City, the Lions losing to the Panthers, and the 49ers beating the Commanders, none of the Giants’ closest rivals gained any ground.

Due to this, the clinching scenario for the Giants this coming week against the Colts is simple, win and you’re in. Otherwise it’s a case of scoreboard watching and hoping that the following happens:

Seattle loss + Washington loss or

Seattle loss + Detroit loss + Green Bay loss or tie or

Washington loss + Detroit loss + Green Bay loss