In the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to Washington the Giants ran 18 offensive plays and all of them were passes (including two that were flagged for penalties in the secondary, one against each team). That was an even more glaring distribution when you realize the Giants had been running the ball well through the first three quarters with Shane Vereen and Orleans Darkwa totaling 120 yards and two TDs on 21 carries. Their last run in the game was a 6-yarder on second-and-1 by Darkwa with eight minutes remaining in the third quarter and the Giants down 23-21.
So why the sudden devotion to the passing game? There was plenty of time left, even on the final drive with two timeouts in pocket.
“We felt that we had an opportunity to take advantage of our matchups on the perimeter,” Ben McAdoo said on Monday.
The problem was that not all of the passes went to the perimeter players. At least not the ones who have become Giants playmakers (i.e. the receiver trio of Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz). Eli Manning completed 10 of the 16 passes for 137 yards. On passes to the “big three” he was 8-for-10 for 115 yards.
When Manning went away from those “perimeter” targets he was 2-for-6 for 22 yards and two interceptions. There was a 16-yard pass to Vereen and a 6-yard completion to Larry Donnell. That was it. His first pick was on a pass intended for tight end Will Tye down the seam, the second interception was on a crossing route for Vereen (whom, we learned on Monday, suffered a triceps injury that had been bothering him for a while).
“We were moving the ball in the pass game,” McAdoo said of the reliance on Manning throwing the ball. “There were some runs that we may have had to get out of due to the box and to the looks. We were being aggressive trying to win the football game.”
The lesson seems to be this: When trying to “win the football game,” stick to the proven playmakers.