First Impressions: Giants thump Panthers

October 25, 2021

Once again, Sunday’s win over Carolina proved one thing: Winning is way better than losing!!!

And while 2-5 is way better than 1-6, you are still down there in draft pick territory. Again, what grates, and is going to grate pretty much all year is that the season was so close to really mattering. Throw out an inconsequential offside call in Washington and you are 3-4. And 3-4 is so different than 2-5. And make a first-down from midfield in the final two minutes against Atlanta and you are 4-3 and right in the playoff picture, Two plays. That’s all. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again in many ways the season was blown when the Giants went 0-3 in those first three eminently winnable games, especially the two at home against Denver and Atlanta. And so much of that is on Joe Judge and the coaching staff who couldn’t have played those first three games anymore conservatively than they did.

Interestingly, the Giants are actually in the midst of the toughest stretch of their schedule when supposedly they were going to be lucky to win even one game. And so far, they’re 2-2 in the first month of that 7-game stretch so who knows.

Going into Sunday’s game with the Panthers we said to a friend, that with so many offensive starters injured including just about all the impact skill people, that if the Giants were going to have any chance at all, the defense, which has been kind of dormant all season, would have to finally step up. And boy, did they! In fact, if we are giving out game balls, the whole defensive line gets one for a truly dominating performance. Certainly, Dex Lawrence gets one. He drew a couple of critical holding calls, had a sack and was a force all afternoon. Same for Leo Williams, who had a sack and a half, forced a safety and appears to be starting to dominate again like he did last year. Meanwhile, rookie DE/OLB Az Ojulari became what we believe was the first Giants outside edge-rusher to actually run around someone all year and had so much fun doing it that he kept doing it all afternoon and finished with 2.5 sacks in his best game of the year. At the same time, DE/OLB Quincy Roche got some snaps and delivered a produced a couple of impact plays. It bears noting that Roche actually had almost as many snaps (23 to 27) and Zo Carter and more than Oshane Ximenes who had been getting most of the snaps out there earlier in the campaign.

In fact, just about everyone on the defense made some plays. A couple more to note: LB Benardrick McKinney, whom the Giants siged last week, only played 11 snaps, but made two thumping hits. Which is probably pretty close to two more than Tae Crowder and Reggie Ragland, the incumbent starters have had since Blake Martinez went down. Speaking of McKinney, we think we have seen Xavier coming up and making plays way closer to the line of scrimmage in the past couple of games than he had been earlier in the year when the Giants had him almost exclusively patrolling 20-30 yards downfield. In fact, it appeared that Patrick Graham did make a not that subtle a switch in the scheme by regularly bringing 7-8-and even 9 guys up into the box against the Panthers. In contrast, through the first 6 games the Giants had almost never varied from their base 4-2 with the LBs lined up 5-6 yards off the LOS and everybody else on D out of camera range.

So which D shows up the rest of the way. Who knows? That’s why they actually play the games. But if the Giants D actually comes to play over the second half of the season – and they really didn’t through the first 6 weeks – it becomes a much better team, especially if they can start to get some of the injured offensive guys back.

For those that lost count, the Giants were down 6 offensive starters going into the Carolina game: RB Saquon Barkley; WRs Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard, who was a late scratch Sunday; not to mention their best two offensive linemen Andrew Thomas and Nick Gates. As a result, the Giants were never going to up big numbers, and they didn’t, but lead by QB Daniel Jones they scratched out enough for the  win. In fact, I was reminded a little of Phil Simms at his gutsy best watching Jones against the Panthers. And while the TD drive that put the Giants up 12-3 midway thru the third quarter will probably never been remembered as one of the greatest ever in Giants history – not when you are 2-5 – but it really was quite remarkable, especially Jones’ role.

Let’s rewind the tape. The Giants had gone three and out on their first two drives to start the second half and one was starting to imagine the game ending 6-5 on a 60-yard Panthers FG at the buzzer, but the Giants were able to put together an 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive. The signature play, of course, will be Jones’ OBJ like catch of a pass from Austin ‘The Popgun’ Pettis. The one-handed catch itself was remarkable, but the fact that Jones was able to hold onto the ball when he was plastered by two DBs while going to the ground. As impressive as that play was it wasn’t the key moment on the drive. That came on the previous play when Jones may have made maybe the best play of his career. Facing 3rd and 12 from midfield, Jones evaded the rush of Panthers’ DE Brian Burns who had been in the Giants backfield all afternoon; got out into the flat and lobbed a perfect toss over the head of a couple of LBs to RB Davontae Booker for the first down. And yes we should mention, just for good measure that Jones added runs of 7- and 9-yards later in the drive. After that we could breathe!

Of course, it wasn’t all good for the offense. They failed to score any points at all from a second-and-goal from the one-foot line as all three plays were exactly what you would have expected the Giants to run on that particular down. Memo to Jason Garrett: maybe call the obvious play the defense has to be expecting on a down on which they aren’t expecting that particular play. At the same time, the big issue for the Giants offense right now is that they are moving the ball, but just aren’t putting the points on the board when they get the chance. Against the Panthers, for example, they had 5 drives stall because of stall because of penalties or other negative type plays.

By the draft numbers: Interestingly, even with the win the Giants only lost one spot in the weekly updated selection order for the 2022 draft. If the draft were held this week, the Giants would pick 6th with their own pick. They also would be picking 16th with the Bears selection.

In the meantime, enjoy the week!!