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Giants grades: 'D' for defense; offense, coaching just OK

New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmure gestures

New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmure gestures on the sidelines during the first half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Indianapolis, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/AJ Mast) Credit: AP/AJ Mast


In a stadium where he won Super Bowl XLVI, and where a statue of his brother stands at the front entrance, Eli Manning completed 25 of 33 passes for 309 yards, ran for and threw a touchdown. It was his best game of the season. But it wasn’t enough. The Giants needed a little more: A touchdown instead of a field goal early in the fourth, a first down when pushed back against their own goal line later in the quarter, or a long completion to get in field goal range in the final minute. They didn’t get any of those. Saquon Barkley was held in check for the second straight week, rushing for 43 yards with none longer than 6. When Evan Engram has the longest run of the game for the Giants, it’s not a great sign that things are clicking.


There were some big plays, like the interception by Curtis Riley in the first half that looked as if Andrew Luck drew him in the gift exchange he was so alone, or the strip-sack by Olivier Vernon that was negated by a penalty. There was also a strong second-effort sack by Tae Davis. But when the Giants needed stops in the second half they couldn’t make them. It didn’t help that they were without their two captains and two best tacklers on that unit. Riley later returned the favor to the Colts by blitzing through a gap and running right past a handoff for a touchdown. The Giants played a Santa Claus pass coverage – soft in the middle – and Luck was able to find too many open targets between the numbers. Luck finished 31-for-47 for 357 yards.


The biggest special teams play of the game may have been just getting the punt off from the Giants’ own 6 late in the fourth quarter. Riley Dixon was kicking from the end zone and managed to get the punt away for 42 yards. Aldrick Rosas connected on field goals of 40 and 27 yards. The Giants didn’t get many chances to return the Colts’ kicks, either, although Jawill Davis continues to make some scary decisions deep in his own territory. He came dangerously close to touching one punt while waving everyone away from it. That would have been a football disaster.


Pat Shurmur dug deep into the playbook to come up with a few end-arounds and reverses, most of them paying off. There were four carries by non-traditional ball-carriers for 28 yards. Shurmur considered taking a safety when the Giants were pinned deep in their own territory. That would have made it 27-23 with less than four minutes left. The Colts still would have needed a touchdown to win, but they probably would have had to go a lot further than the 53 yards they required after the punt. With only one timeout left, the Giants coaches need to do a better job reminding Barkley to get out of bounds on the final drive. Shurmur was itching to challenge a 29-yard reception by the Colts late in the third quarter but he didn’t. He would have probably lost that and a timeout with it.

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