Takeaways from the Giants 31-26 Loss to the Lions

The Giants lost their fourth game in a row and their ninth game in their last 11. Yet somehow some of what we're seeing seems to be repeating itself week after week.
Author:
Publish date:

The Giants have to do something, and I guess a players-only meeting won’t hurt, but I’m just not sure how much it’s going to help.

I get the idea—the players are going to challenge each other to execute the way they should. But what concerns me with these player-only meetings is that it’s excluding the coaches from the problem.

Now the players might say that the coaching staff gave them a good game plan and that they failed to execute. ButI'm sorry; I'm just not buying that because from Day 1, I've wondered about the fundamentals and why they continue to lack week in and week out.  

This is a Giants team that for whatever the reason has been sorely lacking in the fundamentals—blocking, tackling, catching balls, etc.

From the outside looking in, I’m not sure if that’s a result of the coaching or some other factor—the media, remember, doesn’t get to watch the entire practice session during the season.

And while some might point to limitations handed down by the CBA, then how is it that some other teams look far more polished executing the fundamentals?  

Personally, I have little issue with this group’s effort—if that lacked, then I would think they’d be getting blown out every week.

What I have concerns about is whether they’re being coached too much on scheme instead of the fundamentals needed to make the schemes work.

What’s the Identity?

Maybe I’m the only person who’s confused by this team and what its identity is, but when I am asked to describe what this team is, the word that comes to mind is inconsistent.

On the one hand, this is a rebuilding team that has committed to breaking in youngster s like quarterback Daniel Jones, receiver Darius Slayton, defensive Dexter Lawrence, etc.

That’s all fine and dandy, but if you’re going to commit to the youth movement, then I’m not sure how you can expect them to “compete” with the big boys who are more settled on the roster.

In a way, the young players are competing—yes, they’re making mistakes, but they’re also learning on the job.

This is a developmental year for a team that has undergone a massive roster overhaul in the last two off-seasons, and which is starting from scratch.

And herein lies my other source of confusion with this team. They felt that Daniel Jones and Darius Slayton were ready to cut their teeth, but Julian Love can’t buy a snap on defense?

If you’re going to consider this a developmental year win which you are bringing the core group of youngsters up to speed, then why not give Love and, once he’s healthy, Corey Ballentine, some snaps and let them cut their teeth as well?

What about Aldrick?

No one is talking about this because there are more glaring problems, but Aldrick Rosas, who a year ago was Mr. Reliable, was a significant issue in this loss.

Not only did Rosas miss an extra point in the second quarter (which probably contributed to head coach Pat Shurmur’s going for a two-point conversion in the third quarter despite having plenty of time left), but he also didn’t strike the onside kick very well after the Giants had made it a 31-26 game.

Rosas is now 16 of 17 on PATs and four of six on field-goal conversions.

No he hasn't had as many opportunities, but he has to be better with those he does get.

Those Sneaky Lions

Kudos to the Lions for their rather sound strategy on special teams—kickoffs in particular—that worked very well until the Giants adjusted.

The Lions had kicker Matt Prater kick high looping kickoffs that landed just shy of the goal line, which forced kickoff returner, Darius Slayton, to bring the ball out. Slayton finished with five kickoffs for 102 yards, a 20.4-yard average before he was finally relieved of the role in favor of the more experienced Cody Latimer.

Regardless, the strategy worked well for the Lions, as the Giants’ starting field position off kickoffs alone was their 18-yard line.

Where’s the Blitz?

At the start of training camp, I remember asking James Bettcher and a couple of defensive players what kind of identity they were looking for from this defense.

All of them shared a consensus, which was to put forth an aggressive attacking defense.

Fast forward to the halfway mark of the season, and I’m not sure we’ve seen enough of that. I don’t know if that’s because Bettcher doesn’t feel comfortable with the back end of the defense. 

But what’s mind-boggling is that you take a game like this week in which the Giants did a decent job of shutting down the run, they still couldn’t find a way to pin back the Lions’ ears with some semblance of a pass rush.

At first glance, there was very little blitzing; for some reason, the Giants devoted more defenders in coverage rather than come after Matthew Stafford.

It didn’t work as Stafford carved up the Giants pass defense, just as other quarterbacks before him this season have done.

And while on the subject of the defense, through eight games, the Giants allowed an average of 386,7 yards per game. They are giving up an average of 27.2 points per game.

Something’s going to have to give.

Throw. On. First. Down

On their opening drive, the Lions hit a 9-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to Golladay to make it 24-13.

So what do the Giants do on their first drive? They become predictable but running the ball on first down four out of five times (the one time they didn’t was on the unnecessary roughness call to Jarrad Davis).

Although that drive ended win a 2-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Jones to Barkley, the Lions helped things out there by contributing 15 yards in penalties.

Continuing the thought after the Giants forced the Lions to go three-and-out, their first two first-down plays were runs up the middle by Barkley.

The total yards gained on those six first-down runs up the middle by Barkley?

Five.

I understand that you want to put the ball in the hands of your best playmaker, but at this point, it’s almost becoming predictable that the Giants are going to hand it off to Barkley on first down. 

And defenses, as we saw this week, have adjusted to where they now anticipate it coming.

For as good as Barkley, is if the defense knows what kind of play is coming and what direction it's coming from, how is he expected by his lonesome to defeat a gang tackling effort?

And if that’s not enough to leave you scratching your head, what about the fact that Daniel Jones had completed 64.71% of his pass attempts on first down entering this game?

The point here is yes, put the ball in Barkley’s hands, but when it becomes predictable as it was this week, then maybe it’s time to change things up a bit by throwing it or having Barkley run in a different direction rather than up the middle.