By Steve Silverman
There used to be something special about the Giants and 49ers meeting on Monday night. The matchup conjures up images of Mark Bavaro running over a bevy of 49ers tacklers and carrying them for a game-changing first down.
There was also a famous 1990 confrontation between two 10-1 teams at Candlestick Park in 1990 that was expected to be a shootout between Joe Montana and Phil Simms. Instead, two rock-ribbed defenses met each other and the Niners scored the only touchdown of the game on a Montana-to-John Taylor pass as San Francisco prevailed by a 7-3 score.
Monday night’s game between the Giants and Niners was mildly entertaining, and the Giants came away with a 27-23 win at the football palace known as Levi’s Stadium. While the team that inhabited dilapidated Candlestick back in the day was one of the most modern and innovative, futuristic Levi’s Stadium is host to one of the most basic and predictable teams in the NFL.
The win means the Giants are no longer tied with the Oakland Raiders as the league’s worst team. Now they are tied with the Cardinals for the third-worst record in the league. (They are actually one-half game better than the Niners who have a Week 11 bye.)
Yes, Eli Manning came through with a game-winning drive against one of the worst teams in professional football. Yes, the Giants are still mathematically alive in the shockingly low-end NFC East. Yes, the Giants are still a very bad professional football team that needs to make finding an elite quarterback their No. 1 organizational priority.
In other words, little has changed from last week, the week before, or two months before that. Eli can get the job done when the offensive line gives him stellar protection and he has time to make a sandwich, put it on a plate, grab a pickle and then take two bites.
The line basically did its job against the Niners, as Eli was sacked just one time. But that’s not going to happen more than once the rest of the season. Eli has shown he is simply too slow in his reactions to play NFL football at a starting level any longer.
It’s one thing if the Giants are playing the Niners or the Bucs – whom they will host this week – but it will be quite another when the hated Eagles host the Giants the Sunday after Thanksgiving. When Michael Bennett, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham get after Manning, it will be carnage.
Taking any other point of view at this point is simply folly. The evidence has been presented and the jury has come out with its unanimous verdict. It’s time for the judge to make a visionary ruling and remove the quarterback and protect him from future punishment and injury.
It has been difficult for management and the coaching staff to accept – with the exception of former head coach Ben McAdoo – but it has to be done.
Until that happens, the Giants are living in some kind of dream world that the calendar can get turned back to 2011 and that another Super Bowl run is coming. It’s a joke, and everyone who looks at the team with an unbiased eye knows that’s the case.
So, the dreamers out there slept a little better Monday night, particularly when they thought about Eli’s game-winning TD pass to Sterling Shepard and the Niners’ failure to come through with their own game-winning drive in the final minute.
Ooh, the Giants stopped Nick Mullens from beating them.
The same thing could happen against the Ryan Fitzpatrick and the putrid Bucs this Sunday. But there is no reason for anyone to be fooled. The Giants aren’t likely to win a game after that, and it will be a brutal end to the season.
So these two games against the Niners and the Bucs are likely to be the highlight of the season. Enjoy it while you can, because a brutal winter is coming.
Speaking of the Bucs, they are coming off a remarkably inept performance against the Redskins, as they dropped a 16-3 decision to the Redskins.
That game comes on the heels of a 501-yard performance in their game against the Carolina Panthers in Week 9. That’s the biggest drop-off from one week to the next in NFL history, as no team that gained 500-plus yards in one week had ever been held to three points the next.
Dirk Koetter, your Uber is waiting, and you can take it right to the airport as the Bucs prepare to change coaches once again.