East Rutherford, N.J. - The Giants lose to the Broncos 27-13 at MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon. It was a disappointing start to the 2021 season, where the offense resembled the 31st ranked 2020 unit we grew to despise.
Our hopes rose after the 42-yard pass to Darius Slayton on the game's opening drive, but the Giants punted the football three reps later after two negative plays.
The defense's ability to play man coverage was taken to task by Broncos offensive coordinator (and former Giants head coach) Pat Shurmur, and the result wasn’t pretty for the Giants.
The strength of the 2020 Giants was the vaunted young defense led by coordinator Patrick Graham. Throughout the offseason, the discussion surrounding the Giants’ defense was the potential ability for Graham to employ more man coverage concept in 2021 (the Giants ranked near the bottom of the league in man coverage).
As talented as this Giants’ defense appears, they significantly struggled to get off the football field on Sunday. The Broncos had drives of 10, 15, and 16 plays; and then, on the 63rd defensive snap in the middle parts of the fourth quarter with the score 20-7, Melvin Gordon ripped off a 70-yard touchdown run after an undisciplined roughing the passer call against rookie edge rusher Azeez Ojulari.
The combination of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Shurmur nickel-and-dimed the Giants up and down the field. It wasn’t the best look for the defense. There was a point where the Giants offense didn’t see the field for just under an hour. With 6:46 left in the third quarter, the Giants mounted a 10-play drive cut short by a Daniel Jones fumble.
When the defense returned to the football field, they played much more zone coverage. I enjoyed seeing the five-man pressure packages that featured Logan Ryan and Darnay Holmes, but the Giants will have to evaluate how they employ man coverage. The incredibly long gap in play makes the offense harder to evaluate, but seven points are, well, seven points.
The game was a one-score affair until the latter half of the third quarter, but this game could have gotten out of hand much quicker. A Logan Ryan fumble in the Broncos’ red zone spared the Giants, but the ensuing offensive drive was a three-and-out.
The Giants' defense was just incredibly inefficient on third/fourth down as the Broncos' offense was collectively 10-18 in those situations. There’s nothing more disheartening than forcing a fourth down and subsequently allowing a first down, and that happened three times this week.
There weren’t many positives in this 27-13 loss. However, it was nice to see Ojulari record his first career sack. Blake Martinez continued to show why he’s one of the more underrated linebackers in the league, albeit his missed tackle on a 4th-and-1 touchdown catch by tight end Albert Okwuegbunam was out of character.
The Broncos' tight ends beat the Giants' safeties, despite the impressive forced fumble and strip by Logan Ryan on Okwuegbunam. Primary tight end Noah Fant caught six out of eight targets for 62 yards, and Okwuegbunam caught all three of his targets for 16 yards and a touchdown.
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The Giants utilized platooning along their offensive line. Nate Solder was swapped out for Matt Peart before the end of the half, as was Shane Lemieux for newcomer Ben Bredeson. Andrew Thomas looked good in the game, which is a positive take among many negative feelings, but Broncos’ EDGE Von Miller recorded two sacks, one against Solder and the other against Peart.
New York couldn’t establish the rushing game with Saquon Barkley, who had ten carries for 26 yards. The offensive philosophy seemed similar to 2020. Other than some impressive garbage time receptions by Kenny Golladay, the offense was wildly unimpressive again.
Kadarius Toney saw two touches in the first half, and then he was largely left off the field. Tight end Kyle Rudolph looked a step slow and had some miscommunications with Daniel Jones, undoubtedly the result of the two not having much time together in the preseason.
Receiver Sterling Shepard was a bright spot; he caught 7 of 9 targets for 113 yards and a touchdown. His routes looked smooth, he appeared to be healthy, and I expect him to be a dangerous weapon for this middling Giants’ offense.
Jones continued an up-and-down, frustrating career. There were a few extemporizing plays where Jones did a great job picking up the first down with his legs. There were also some touch passes on deep dig routes. There were some throws where the velocity and placement, from the far hash to the sideline, were impressive.
However, he continued to lock onto targets too long, forced precarious throws into unnecessary situations, and his ball placement on some passes was suspect. The inconsistency can be maddening.
Jones’s offense scored 13 points at the end of the day, six of which came on a last-second run up the middle in a landfill type of garbage scenario. He finished the game 22 of 37 for 267 passing yards and one touchdown and had six carries for 27-yards and a score.
The execution on both sides of the football was inadequate. Denver outgained the Giants 430 yards to 314, 95 of those Giants' yards coming late in the fourth quarter during garbage time.
The Broncos held the ball for 35+ minutes, while the Giants were just under 24. New York’s defense couldn’t get off the field when it mattered, and Big Blue’s offense struggled, again, to mount drives.
This was a disappointing debut for the Giants. The time to figure out these issues is vastly accelerated by an upcoming appearance on Thursday Night Football, where New York will visit the Washington Football Team, who lost at home to the Chargers, 20-16. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick left the game, his status unknown for Thursday night.
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