I was really looking forward to the Thursday night game this week, but sadly it was a demonstration of the criticisms of the Thursday night games with sloppy football, lots of penalties, and an easy win for the home team, although it didn’t turn into the kind of blow out that so plagued us last year. It started badly for Washington with a drive that saw a deep third down pass to Chris Thompsons for thirty-three yards wiped out by a penalty, a missed pass on the replayed third down, offsetting penalties on the resulting punt, and finally a blocked punt that bounced out of bounds in the end zone for s safety. This pretty much summed up the entire game for Washington, but let’s start with probably the most successful group in this game.
On offence the Giants looked like they were continuing the transition started last year into Ben McAdoo’s offence. They moved the ball well enough, and although they would like to run it more effectively, the passing game was working well with Odell Beckham looked good, helping Eli Manning out with an excellent grab in the end zone for a touchdown, and Rueben Randle led the team in receiving yards with one hundred and sixteen yards of seven catches, as well as adding a late touchdown. Manning finished with solid numbers, but there were still some missed chances and overthrows including one that he was very lucky not to have picked off. The running game never seemed to get going, and the highlight was Andre Williams running through Washington Safety Trent Robinson, who failed to get lower than Williams and so bounced off spectacularly. Unfortunately that was pretty much it for the running game highlights. The really worrying thing for the Giants though is the number of times they had to settle for field goals, they got one touchdown in three trips to the red zone in this game, giving them a measly three for the year from eleven red zone visits. If they can’t improve their efficiency in their opponents half then they are going to continue to struggle to win games.
The Washington defence continued to hold up fairly well, but they were not dominant and failed to stop the Giants slowly eking out their lead. They were sound in run defence, but failed to generate a pass rush with only two quarterback hits in the entire game. It is therefore unsurprising given the time he got in the pocket that Eli Manning was able to find his receivers, with his misses being more down to his erratic play than pressure or tight coverage, and his overthrow in the first quarter that just hit the ground before DeAngelo Hall could grab it was the nearest Washington came to causing a turnover all game.
Unfortunately, this could not be said for offence with Kirk Cousins throwing two interceptions, in a performance that wasn’t so much dreadful, as not quite good enough for so long that the accumulated damage had the same destructive effect as a full on melt down. They were unable to run the ball as well as in previous games, and for some reason the rookie Matt Jones, who has shown promise so far and did get over one hundred yards last week, got more carries that Alfred Morris, even though Jones fumbled the ball out of the end zone for a turnover whilst reaching for a touchdown. The problem was this failure to establish the run game, and the slowly expanding lead the Giants created, leant to a problem that Bengals fans will be all too familiar with. Whilst Cousins needed to play better, Jay Gruden had him drop back to pass nearly fifty times and this is too many times unless you have a truly top class quarterback. Washington did not end the game that far behind the Giants, and if they had been able to establish the run or at least run a more balanced attack, perhaps Cousins will have had an easier time and they would have been more successful. I will look at one of Cousins’s interceptions in a bit, but this version of the Washington offence is not going to win a lot of games.
The Giants defence did well against the run, and their secondary got a couple of interceptions and managed for the most part to contain Odell Beckham, but they didn’t get much pass rush with their only sack of the game coming from a six man blitz. They did get some quarterback hits and pressure, but this was more situational as a combination of their lead and Washington’s reaction repeated dropping back to pass, meant that the defensive linemen could spend a large amount of the later game simply rushing the quarterback.
I feel like I leave this game with more questions that answers, it was interesting to hear the commentators talk up how pleased Coughlin was with his special teams play, and then late in the game see the Giants give up a one hundred yard kick off return to Washington as they made this game closer than it perhaps should have been.
The Giants remain in contention in their divisions, but they need to close out games and to improve their scoring efficiency if they want to mount and effective campaign this season. Washington are progressing, but we are getting to a point where they may need to address the long term answer at quarterback if none of their current players truly demonstrate that they are the solution, and no one has done so far.
This weeks adventures in coaching tape is looking at two plays that caught my in this game.
I will start with Kirk Cousins first interception. Washington line up with 22 personnel in a strong side offset I formation with tight end Jordan Reed lined up as an outside receiver, whilst the Giant line up in their base 4-3 showing blitz with their middle linebacker. Washington run a play action pass whilst the Giants rush six using some delay/zone concepts, but what is interesting is that Cousins barely offers the ball to his running back, locks onto his receiver and throws the ball without a pause. The Giants rush their strong safety who has swapped with Prince Amukamara on the right side of their defence, who drops a few steps as the play begins, identifies what is happening, and simply beats Jordan Reed to the ball. It looks like a bad play on Cousins part as Amukamara can simply spy into the backfield, identify what is going on without much deception and make a play on the ball.
The second play I was curious about was a wide open pass that Jordan Reed caught in the third quarter. This time Washington lines up in 12 personnel with both receivers and tight ends lined up tight to the single back formation. The Giants again are in their base 4-3 formation, with strong safety Landon Collins lining up over tight end Derek Carrier on the left side of the defence. The Giants play a the three deep zone, with the linebackers and Collins playing zone underneath, but Jordan Reed is able to run a simple out pattern, whilst barely getting jammed by linebacker Devon Kennard, and so gets between the two sets of zones to pick up eighteen yards before Amukamara can force him out of bounds. There always ways to attack a zone, but I would have thought that Kennard has to disrupt a receiver running through his zone more than that if he is going to allow them behind him, particularly as there was lot of room as the outside receiver was running a deep go route on the play.