For the third time during this final stretch run of 2020, the Giants were no match for their opponent.
The Baltimore Ravens, a team still trying to lock up a playoff berth like the Giants are (despite their continual downplaying the importance over winning enough games to qualify for a postseason berth versus merely "improving") had a greater sense of urgency than the Giants.
While no team is ever going to be perfect, the Giants have been regressing at a steady yet alarming rate over the last three weeks. They have learned, for example, that they can not overcome the loss of the running abilities of both Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones--look at the run game production since Jones was hurt.
They are learning that they don't have a game-breaking receiving threat on offense or a solid No. 2 cornerback. And even their run defense, which had been in the top half of the league for the better part of the season, suffered a classic kick in the groin by a Ravens team that consistently exploited the edges. At the same time, the Giants suddenly forgot how to tackle.
"That's not us," said defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence, who also added, "We're not embarrassed; that's just what we put on tape today for the first half.
"We don't accept that. We have to correct that and see what was going on. We have to watch tape and fix it for the next game."
Things tend to happen in a game, and indeed the Giants had their share of stuff happen. But that they've been playing like it's early in the preseason instead of it being late in the regular-season continues to underscore not only how much this team is still lacking at certain spots but how far it still has to go.
“Games are always going to show you what you need to correct,” said wide receiver Sterling Shepard. “It’s a good look for all the guys to play those caliber teams. We have to play better. That’s the bottom line.”
Next week would sure be a good start before time officially runs out.
Some other quick hits...
1. Despite a report from NFL Draft analyst Tony Pauline claiming that the Giants are leaning toward parting with general manager Dave Gettleman, I don’t think that happens, not after Gettleman revamped the organization’s scouting and personnel functions in a way that was starting to work as intended this year.
The Giants, remember, already went through that scenario with three different head coaches. I don’t see them going through that on the back end of things.
What I think makes the most sense is an arrangement similar to what the Panthers appear to be planning, where it looks as though they are going to lean more on head coach Matt Rhule regarding personnel decisions.
For the last three years, Gettleman has taken more of a collaborative approach with the head coaches, getting them the players they want while at the same time taking care not to mortgage the team’s financial cap future.
For proof of that, look at all the Arizona Cardinals defensive players the Giants brought in in 2019 and tell me those moves didn’t have former defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s fingerprints all over it.
But getting back to my point about a potential role change, the previous two head coaches of this team lacked a true vision of how to build what they wanted the team to look like and hence are believed to have leaned a little more heavily on the general manager for guidance.
Judge, on the other hand, not only has a vision, he has a plan to get to where he wants this team to be, perhaps making him a little less dependent on the general manager.
To be clear, I don’t see the Giants scrapping the general manager position, and I’m not so sure to the outside world anything will change as far as titles if they do make any kind of change.
But sometimes, a title holder’s responsibilities change. I could certainly see that being the case within the Giants where Judge, instead of saying, “I want a player with X, Y, and Z qualities” and then leaves it up to Gettleman to find the right fit, starts mentioning specific names of guys he wants and leaves it to Gettleman and Kevin Abrams to get the contract in place.
And not to look too far ahead, but I suspect that if the Giants go through this type of arrangement and see that it’s working, I could see Gettleman retiring and being replaced by any of those Patriots' front office connections that Judge has from around the league.
2. As many of you know, I was thrilled when the Giants hired Jason Garrett as their offensive coordinator. I believed (or maybe I should say I hoped) the Giants offense would be a scoring machine.
Well, I was wrong. The Giants have failed to score at least 20 points nine times this season. And in their last three games, they scored 26 points, one point less than what the Ravens scored this week alone.
That’s not good enough. Not by a long shot. And no, I don’t want to hear that the Giants have been without Saquon Barkley for most of the season (the Giants didn’t score 20 points in the two games in which Barkley was active either). I don’t want to hear how it’s all been on execution.
When the Giants are doing head-scratching things like having their receivers run these little stick routes or are trying to run wide plays inside the red zone, to name a few, that’s on the coaching. So while yes, the giants need playmakers on offense—badly—they might need an overhaul of the system they’re running so that it better fits the talent they have.
3. The Giants managed just three hits and got zero sacks against Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. Worse yet, the Giants didn’t have a single pass breakup all game in what was by far the defense’s worst showing all season.
The Giants went with a 3-3-5 alignment, which from a strategic perspective was the way to go. However, where they fell woefully short was in execution, which ties into the personnel--or lack thereof--they have.
In other words, this game exposed what the Giants lack in terms of their personnel. So while it was ugly to watch, in another regard, it was precisely the kind of game the Giants needed.
4. I’m still trying to figure out why the coaching staff insists on playing Shane Lemieux ahead of Will Hernandez, especially when the Giants are in catch-up mode where they have to pass more often.
Maybe they’re just of the mind that Lemieux, who is nowhere near as good a pass blocker as Hernandez (yet, at any rate), will have to take his lumps while learning on the job.
Whatever it is, it certainly seems like it’s been a tough act for Joe Judge and his staff to get guys experience while being competitive.
5. Crappy stat of the week: 27.2%--that's the Giants' third-down conversion rate over their three-game losing streak. You're not going to win many football games if you have that kind of conversion rate.
6. I hate to single out tight end Evan Engram as I like him, and I recognize how hard he works to be the best he can be. But surely I can't be alone in wondering about his route running at times this year.
Engram finished with seven receptions (out of 10 targets) for 65 yards, second on the team behind Sterling Shepard. But what bothered me some is that Engram was the primary target on at least three deep passes, and each time it looked like he ran his route as if he wasn't sure where to go or if he was the primary target.
With that said, kudos to the young man for his toughness in fighting through some nagging injuries. Late in the game, he appeared to tweak his ankle, but he didn't give into it and gutted it out.
7. Tae Crowder has been stable for the Giants, but this week, his play reminded us of why he was Mr. Irrelevant. First, he was repeatedly targeted in coverage. But perhaps more alarmingly, there seemed to be times when Crowder played more of a reactive type of game than a proactive kind.
A reactive defender reacts to what he sees without any regard/knowledge of who or what's going on around him. That's not the way to play linebacker in this league, by the way.
Crowder also had (unofficially) three missed tackles that he fell off of, which is not acceptable. Maybe a year in an NFL weight room fixes that moving forward, but suffice it to say, missed tackles were like mini daggers in the Giants defense's heart yesterday.
One bad performance doesn't mean the Giants should give up on the kid, but this was the type of game that exposed many flaws on this Giants team and made one realize just how ugly they are.
8. According to ESPN's Field Yates, with a loss and wins from other teams, the Giants could end up with the third overall pick in the draft depending on how the cards fall. (Note: Tankathon currently has the Giants at 8th in the draft order.)
But if the Giants win the division, the soonest they'd be drafting is No. 19.
I'm running a Twitter poll right now as to what people would rather see happen. I'd rather see the higher draft pick as regardless of who wins the NFC East, I don't see them going very far in the playoffs, and thus it's not worth it to me to give up draft position for may very well be one extra game.
But what do you think? Cast your vote on my Twitter poll.
9. The Giants might be in the postseason hunt, but are they ready for that kind of primetime exposure? Remember, this team had to be rebuilt from the bottom up, and in that regard, head coach Joe Judge does have them going in the right direction. But they're still a long way from filling out their chosen identity of being a tough, physical, and assignment smart football team.
10. This might not make you feel any better about the lopsided loss, but the Giants outscored the Ravens--a team that remember was putting up 30+ points of late, by a 10-7 margin in the second half.
Again, it's probably not much of a consolation, but it's one that the players seem to be taking, right Dexter Lawrence?
"They came out strong, but it's all about the finish and I think we finished pretty well," he said.