By: Michael Gagliardi
I’m not a big Marvel movie guy, but boy did this game remind me of Thanos from Avengers, Infinity War. To explain, if you don’t know the movie, Thanos (the villain) has to kill the girl who he has practically raised as a daughter (because she is the person he loves the most) in order to essentially obtain all the power in the universe. She appears to him as a child version of herself after he kills her, and asks him, “did you do it?”, to which Thanos responds, “Yes.”
“What did it cost?”, she asks him.
“Everything,” says Thanos.
That’s how Giants fans feel after this important win over the Bengals:
“Did you [win]?”,
“What did it cost?”,
On-the-nose movie references aside, Danny Dimes was balling on Sunday and had Evan Engram not fumbled the ball in the end zone, and Darius Slayton not dropped Jones’s 60-yard pass right in stride, the score of the game would have better reflected how well he played. Unfortunately, however, Jones left the game with a strained hamstring in the middle of a sure touchdown drive and is doubtful for the Seahawks game this Sunday. Colt McCoy stepped in and showed all the Jones haters who wanted to bench #8 a couple of weeks ago what a real backup QB looks like. This is by no means a knock on McCoy, as it is ridiculously hard to come into a game and play QB without practice reps with the first team. The defense stepped up, however, and turned the Bengals over all day, saving the win for McCoy and keeping Giants fans’ playoff hopes alive. Jabrill Peppers, Logan Ryan, Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, and even Jabaal Sheard balled out and did what they were supposed to do against a backup QB. Special teams were uncharacteristically bad, but I’m willing to chalk that up to a bye week hangover and hope that Joe Judge killed them in the film room for their performance. The rookies have been playing an increased part this season as well, and they had a big role in this win.
Inactive/Injured/DNP: Matt Peart (3rd), Chris Williamson (7th--Practice Squad), TJ Brunson (7th):
Matt Peart came down with COVID, so he was out for this week. Cam Fleming played overall pretty well, but his 3 costly penalties make me never want to see him on the field again. When Peart comes back this week, I hope that the Giants let their future right tackle start his first game.
TJ Brunson was not active for this game, once again. Expect to see him on kickoff coverage this Sunday, as I’m sure Joe Judge is going to immediately throw out whatever weak link was on that kick coverage unit this past week.
Chris Williamson has been cut from the team to open up a roster spot for the king himself, Alex Tanney, Trickshot QB. We may see Williamson on the practice squad again after this week when the Giants unload either Tanney or practice squad QB, Clayton Thorson.
LT Andrew Thomas (1st):
Andrew Thomas was pretty much spotless on Sunday. He was so good, that there really isn’t much to say about him, as he allowed zero pressures on the day. Many people may say that this was because the Bengals have a dismal pass rush unit, but Thomas was almost exclusively blocking Carl Lawson, who is a quality pass rusher, and would be a #1 or #2 on the majority of teams. Thomas held him to no stats, other than 2 tackles, one of which was assisted. This is why the Giants drafted Thomas at 4th overall: his athleticism allows him to be absolutely dominant. His problem at the beginning of the season was that he would let up the inside move ridiculously easily, and recover by opening up his hips. Now, Thomas has clearly been coached better (looking at you, Marc Colombo) and has started making protecting the inside his number one priority. He has stopped oversetting, and now has the confidence that there are maybe 4 or 5 guys in the whole league who can compete with him athletically on an outside move. Thomas even added a couple of beautiful pancakes for good measure, on one of which, he body-slammed a linebacker (somehow without holding), and walked away acting like nothing ever happened. Oh, and look who the Giants moved to the right side to lead block for Wayne Gallman’s TD run? Andrew Thomas. The Giants clearly trust Thomas to pave the way for ball carriers, and it is well deserved, as he has been a beast in the run game all year.
FS Xavier McKinney (2nd):
Xavier McKinney finally found his first NFL action, after coming back from a foot stress fracture. He was clearly on a leash though, as he only saw 5 defensive snaps. His other 9 snaps came on special teams, where he recorded a very athletic assisted tackle on kick coverage. I wish there was more to say about X-man for this game, but on his 5 defensive snaps, he really did not do much while on the screen. I guess that’s a good thing when 4 of these 5 snaps were in coverage, but I hope to see more of him this coming week.
CB Darnay Holmes (4th):
Darnay Holmes is progressing as a rookie corner like DeAndre Baker never did last year. He has been getting better every game, and on Sunday he really showed up big time. He was the one who knocked down the pass on Niko Lalos’s crucial diving interception and was constantly in great coverage all day. Of course, it helped him that Joe Burrow wasn’t playing, but the Bengals’ receivers were still the same. He also laid out Brandon Allen on a blitz, which I really hope we continue to see going forward from Holmes. The play that people will blame him for, however, is the pass interference in the end zone on the Bengals’ final scoring drive. This was an awful call. Holmes never grabbed any part of the receiver’s body and was in perfect positioning to knock down the pass. The officials just saw that he didn’t turn around and assumed that it had to be PI. Holmes will soon learn, especially with veterans like Bradberry and Logan Ryan around him, that turning your head can make a big difference in whether or not a penalty is called. Holmes came up with 3 tackles, and one miss, which was not egregious. He has come a long way as a tackler this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing him cover the top 10 receiving corps of the Seahawks this week.
G Shane Lemieux (5th):
To the surprise of many, Shane Lemieux once again got the start over Will Hernandez at left guard, and we’ve got ourselves a competition on our hands. Hernandez rotated in for a series here or there, but Lemieux got almost double the number of offensive snaps than he did. Lemieux continued to be a mean-ugly guard in the run game, moving people all over the field. This has been a constant in his game this year, and it’s a great sign for things to come. It looks like Lemieux fixed his oversetting problem this past week in practice, as he did not really make that mistake on Sunday. On all but a handful of pass protections, he looked extremely solid, and more like Hernandez in the fact that he was facing his guy more at the point of attack. That being said, he had his moments of getting torched in pass-pro as well. One bad habit that he was doing on Sunday was lowering his head at the point of attack in pass protection, which allowed his man to beat him with finesse moves and make him look silly. Yes, Lemieux allowed zero pressures, but that’s because he was lucky enough to have help from Nick Gates on these plays to save Jones’s and McCoy’s lives. Overall though, Lemieux looks really solid out there, and it’s becoming more and more clear that Kevin Zeitler may be a cap casualty next year with the Giants having two young guards with plenty of potential.
EDGE Cam Brown (6th):
With Oshane Ximines not coming back this year, which was a surprise, it seems like the Giants are putting more on the plates of Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin to play from scrimmage. Brown totaled 2 pressures on the day, one of which was a QB hit where he chased Brandon Allen out of the pocket, and instead of going for the safe play and tackling him by the legs for a loss, Brown decided to punch at the ball, which he jarred loose only for Allen to bobble and catch it. However, the ball did not come out and it ended up looking like a horrible missed tackle. You can’t fault the kid for trying to make a huge play, but he has to realize that you’ve got to get the man to the ground and make the safe play in this situation, especially when you’re playing a backup QB who will turn it over anyway. His other pressure came after some nice hand fighting, and he forced a throwaway. Despite getting pressure, Brown’s tackling fundamentals that showed up on his college tape showed through, and he missed an easy tackle when he was covering a check-down pass. He should have had his man dead to rights for a 4 yard gain, but instead of making the safe play and doing a fundamental roll tackle, Brown dove at the ball carrier (like he tended to do in college), and he slipped off. He has to realize that you will never tackle anyone at the NFL level diving around like that, even if it worked for you at Penn State. Missed tackles aside, Brown ended up making the most important tackle of the game, and maybe of the season. On the Bengals’ final punt return, it looked like the returner was going the distance, with 3 blockers in front of him and only Riley Dixon to beat, but Cam Brown used his athleticism to come out of nowhere and make a ridiculously impressive diving shoestring tackle, saving a sure touchdown. If Brown can continue to be as athletic as he was on this play and improve his fundamentals, then the Giants just might have a late-round gem, but improving his fundamentals is an absolute must.
EDGE Carter Coughlin (7th):
Coughlin had 19 defensive snaps on Sunday, which is the most of his career. It seems like, despite Cam Brown’s athletic advantage, the Giants see Coughlin as the safer option in non-3rd down situations. Coughlin was not very effective rushing the passer for the majority of the game, however, as he only got 2 pressures on 12 pass-rushing snaps. He did get pressure where it mattered though, as he bull-rushed Bobby Hart into Brandon Allen’s lap, cutting him off from stepping up and allowing Jabaal Sheard to get in for the game-sealing sack-fumble. He seemed rather comfortable in coverage, however, which makes me interested to see if he can play ILB if pass-rushing doesn’t work out for whatever reason. On special teams, Coughlin had a tackle on kick coverage but overall did not show fantastic pursuit. That being said, nobody played well on kick coverage Sunday, but I expect more out of Coughlin with how solid he’s been so far.
ILB Tae Crowder (7th):
Crowder was clearly being eased back in from injury this past week, as he only saw 13 defensive snaps. Despite the low snap count, he recorded 3 tackles and looked much more comfortable flowing to the ball in the run game than he has in his other appearances this year. In my opinion, the way Crowder was filling gaps in the run game was a big reason that the Bengals couldn’t get anything going on the ground all day. In coverage, Crowder let up one catch for 13 yards on a quick-hitting flat route, behind the line of scrimmage. Crowder was in man coverage on this play, but it was an extremely hard play for him to get into the flat that quickly from his pre-snap position. Maybe he was out of position before the snap, but that’s not something that anyone not in the huddle can comment on. Let’s just put it this way: if he made the tackle, everybody would have been raving about what a great play it was. Overall, Crowder looked solid his first game back and has made it pretty clear to me that he is the second-best inside linebacker on the team.
Honorable Mention EDGE Niko Lalos (UDFA):
This is a quick shout-out to undrafted free agent Niko Lalos who just got elevated from the practice squad this past week, and went on to get a game-changing diving interception and be in very good coverage, leading to Logan Ryan’s crucial strip and recovery late in the 4th quarter. He also got pretty good movement on Bobby Hart on a few plays throughout the game. It turns out that LeBron James, given that they share a high school alma mater, tweeted him good luck before the game. Someone should really tell LeBron to do that more often.
What to Expect in Week 12:
The Giants go to the newly-christened Lumen Field in Seattle to take on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, and this one may get ugly. Other than Jones being doubtful for the game, my biggest fear is the Seahawks’ deep receiving corps, which takes the top off of secondaries much better than the Giants’ on a regular basis. Let’s just say that James Bradberry (the best CB in the league this year) shuts down DK Metcalf. That’s great, but then the Seahawks still have Tyler Lockett to go up against Isaac Yiadom all day. The scrappy DJ Moore will likely go up against Darnay Holmes in the slot, so it is vital that he builds on his great performance this past week. One X-factor (no-pun-intended) this week could be Xavier McKinney getting more time at FS, which would allow Logan Ryan, rather than Isaac Yiadom, to play more CB2 and cover Lockett. Offensively, we just have to hope for the best, and that McCoy can limit turnovers.
As far as the other rookies go, once again I hope Peart starts over Fleming, as I want to see him play a full game finally. Thomas hopefully will play as well as he has in the past 3 weeks, and Lemieux’s continued competition with Hernandez will continue to be extremely intriguing. Coughlin and Cam Brown just have to continue building on their good plays and correcting their mistakes (especially for Cam Brown). They will both likely see a lot more action with Kyler Fackrell going on IR this week. Hopefully, TJ Brunson can round out the field and see some special teams action as well.
The way I see it, the Giants defense will play well this week and keep it within a reasonable margin, but the Giants offense won’t be able to get off the ground with Colt McCoy, resulting in a final score of Seahawks 22, Giants 13.