It is go-time for the Giants’ offense. The training wheels must be discarded. The walking boots have got to go. There are eight games remaining and bumping along, scoring less than 20 points a game, must be a thing of the past.
Sure, they are coming off a victory but a team cannot thrive when the success flows out of an anomaly. Making the wrong kind of history is not where it is at for the Giants.
It has been nearly 14 years since the Giants won a game the way they did in beating the Raiders 23-16 this past Sunday, with their quarterback throwing for 96 net passing yards.
The last time made complete sense, as three weather systems were jammed into three hours of unseasonable warmth, an ill wind that caused a stark temperature drop, rain that changed to snow and sleet. Apocalyptic-type stuff to the uninitiated or just another afternoon on the shore of Lake Erie near the Western New York city of Buffalo.
It was two days before Christmas, December 23, 2007 and it was no day to be outside if your job description was “NFL quarterback.’’
Eli Manning dared to attempt 15 passes and completed only seven. The Giants, needing a victory to clinch a spot in the playoffs, were down 14-0 to the Bills and all hell was breaking loose.
Manning’s “production’’ that game: 94 net passing yards. The Giants wisely kept to the ground and hulking Brandon Jacobs (143 yards, two touchdowns) and rookie Ahmad Bradshaw (151 yards, including a game-sealing 88-yard scoring run) plowed the Giants to a 38-21 victory, a postseason berth was secured and the rest is in the books.
Why go down memory lane now with this? Well, that was the last time the Giants won a game with less than the 96 net passing yards Daniel Jones cobbled together this past weekend.
You do not win very often in the NFL with less than 100 net passing yards. The Giants might go another 14 years before this happens again. They dare not try to make a habit of this.
Jones’ 110 passing yards were the lowest total in his 35 career starts. (The 96 net passing yards is derived from Jones losing 8 yards on two sacks and wide receiver Kadarius Toney losing 6 yards when he was sacked on a double-pass play that never launched). Jones threw only four passes to his wide receivers and completed three, for a mere 37 yards. The Giants were out-gained by the Raiders in yardage (403-235) and had eight fewer first downs. They won because their defense was great in the red zone, because they ran for 149 yards to break even in time of possession and because safety Xavier McKinney scored on a 41-yard interception return, providing the winning margin with the Giants’ first defensive touchdown of the season.
“We have the versatility as a team to be able to play different ways,’’ Jones said. “This team, our team, we can do a lot of different things and attack different ways.’’
Can it? Where is the evidence the Giants’ offense is multifaceted? Last week, they scored 17 points and lost 20-17 in Kansas City. This past week, the Giants on offense scored 16 points and they won. For a team that so infrequently walks off the field with more points than the other team, the Giants will gladly take this one and run into their bye respite.
But, know this: The way they beat the Raiders is not a sustainable way to win in the NFL.
Averaging 19.9 points a game is not going to cut it. The 2020 Giants scored 17.5 points a game. The slight bump-up this season is not enough.
There are reasons for the meager improvement. Saquon Barkley has played in only five of the nine games. The offensive line lost two starters, Nick Gates and Shane Lemieux, and the best of the bunch, left tackle Andrew Thomas missed four of the last five games with a foot injury. Kenny Golladay and Toney have been in and often out.
It is time to pare down the injury report. These nagging physical issues cannot all get cleared away in two weeks but most of them must be rectified. Coach Joe Judge said Monday that Barkley and Thomas will be on the field this week for practice and he is hopeful they will make their returns Nov. 22 in Tampa. Golladay and Toney should be healthier. It is about time.
This team is feisty, but not dominant on defense. Ball control on offense and holding the opponent under 20 points won a game for the Giants in Week 9. That formula cannot be what the Giants lean on in their final eight games. If they do, it will get them a win here or there and not much more.
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