Sloppy Play, Sputtering Offense Send Big Blue To The Dreaded 0-2

By Jason Keidel
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The Giants fired coach Tom Coughlin for several reasons, but high among them was the sense he lost the team, that it was playing sloppy football and lacked the white-hot intensity and intelligence that for so long defined Coughlin’s clubs.

Enter Ben McAdoo, who had the brand recognition of a pair of eyeglasses. We were told he ran the offense for Coughlin and that he was one of those mysterious “quarterback whisperers” that seem to dot the NFL map. We don’t know exactly what earned them these spiritual handles; we’re just told they have the secret offensive sauce.

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In Monday night’s 24-10 loss to Detroit, the Giants would have made Coughlin cough up his lunch. They were absurdly sloppy, from whistle to gun, from turnovers to brutal penalties. Perhaps the most glaring or memorable penalty was during a first-and-goal on the Lions’ 1-yard-line, when they got flagged for holding. The Giants got no closer to the goal line and wound up kicking a field goal. Instead of inching to 17-14, making them a field goal from tying the game, they were down a full touchdown, 17-10.

And for all the talk about Big Blue owning the Big Apple and Gang Green looking like a high school club, and for all of Jets coach Todd Bowles’ incompetence and McAdoo’s ingenuity, here’s a stat that will demand a double take: Over the last seven games, the Jets have scored 111 points while the Giants have scored 92.

Odell Beckham Jr.

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. reacts on the sidelide in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 18, 2017. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Among the laundry list of errors came with 13:55 left in the fourth quarter, when wide receiver Brandon Marshall beat his man and sailed down the right sideline. A perfect pass from Eli Manning found Marshall in stride, which bounced off Marshall’s chest.

Then we have special teams. Two plays after Marshall dropped the ball, the Giants punted to Jamal Agnew, who spun, darted, then dashed down the left sideline for a touchdown, putting the Lions up, 23-10. Then the Giants blocked the extra point, but alas, they were offsides, which allowed Detroit to boot the next kick through the uprights.

All the fears fans had were glowing at MetLife on Monday night. The Giants couldn’t run the ball (62 yards), with Shane Vereen leading the club with a paltry 28 yards. They couldn’t protect the passer, with left tackle Ereck Flowers playing like he was drunk, staggering around the backfield while Ziggy Ansah breezed by him all night. And their dagger-in-the-heart punt return looked eerily like DeSean Jackson’s epic runback a few years ago.

And with the game practically on the line, on fourth down with 9:49 left in the fourth quarter, exactly at midfield, the Giants couldn’t muster 3 yards, with Vereen getting tackled in the flat about 8 inches short of the first down.

John Madden lamented exactly that kind of play for 30 years. While barking in the booth, Madden never understood why teams threw 6 yards on third-and-8, 4 yards on third-and-6, or, in this case, 2½ yards and fourth-and-3.

Again, with 4:30 left in the game, their absolute last chance to make a comeback, the Giants, facing fourth-and-10, snapped to Manning, who threw a laser to Odell Beckham Jr., who dropped it. But even had he grabbed it, the route and subsequent pass traveled just 8 yards.

As if last night weren’t ugly enough, the Giants also honored the 2007 squad that shocked the world, winning the wild card, surprising the Cowboys in Dallas, stunning the Packers in that epic, frigid game in Green Bay, then shocking the perfect Patriots — and the world — in the Super Bowl in Phoenix. On Monday night, the Giants were everything that team 10 years ago was not.

Eli Manning

Giants quarterback Eli Manning, bottom, gets tackled by the Lions’ Cornelius Washington during the fourth quarter on Sept. 18, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Then Detroit just punked them the rest of the game, running the ball at will. Just hand it to Ameer Abdullah and let him stampeded the Giants’ back-seven. The Lions’ were 30th in the NFL in rushing last year, averaging 83 yards per game. On Monday night, they ran like the Lombardi Packers, as though Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung ran the rock toward paydirt. Not only did the Lions double-up the Giants on the ground (rushing for a grotesque 138 yards), they also held the ball for five minutes longer than the home team (32:47 to 27:13).

We know some of the daunting data. Since the NFL expanded to 12 playoff teams, only 12 percent of clubs that start 0-2 make the postseason. And since they expanded each conference to four divisions, that number shrinks to 10.5 percent. And this is the first time in franchise history the Giants have started 0-2 while losing both games by at least 14 points.

Yes, the 2007 Giants, ironically enough, started 0-2 and wound up beating the 18-0 Patriots in the biggest upset since Namath worked the Colts in Super Bowl III. But these Giants don’t have that sort of talent, temerity or intelligence, especially on offense. They don’t have a single running back whom would draw interest from other teams. Their supposedly robust receiving corps — can someone tell Brandon Marshall the season started? — looks like a skeleton crew plus Beckham.

And they don’t have the coaching of a big-time ballclub. Maybe McAdoo is the quarterback whisperer. But perhaps he needs to stop whispering and yell at that sorry team after two sorry performances. Or else, pretty soon the town will no longer care about his team.

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel