By Steve Silverman
The Giants should not have fooled anyone during the last month.
Four wins in five games was a nice respite from a 1-7 start, but the team buried itself in the first half of the season. The Giants don’t have the one dominant player on defense who can turn any game in their favor, nor do they have a quarterback who can get the job done at this point in his career.
No, the protection is not good enough to help Eli Manning, and the Tennessee Titans pressured him in Sunday’s 17-0 shutout, but Giants fans realize by this time that their quarterback does not have the quickness nor athleticism that quarterbacks must have in the modern game.
A quarterback must be able to do more than slide in the pocket in 2018, and we’re not sure that Manning can even do that. He must be able to take two or three quick steps – at the very least – in order to get away from the first wave and give his receivers a chance to get open.
Once the Giants get a defensive lineman or linebacker who wreak havoc every time he steps onto the field and a quarterback who has the quickness/creativity to let his receivers break into the open, they will have a chance to compete in what appears to be a mediocre division.
Actually, that may not be fair. By the time the Giants are ready to play in 2019, the Cowboys and Eagles may be quite a bit better. Dallas saw its five-game winning streak come to an end Sunday by playing a clunker at Indianapolis, but the trio of Dak Prescott-Ezekiel Elliott-Amari Cooper looks very good. The Cowboys are also quite close on defense, with defensive end Demarcus Lawrence and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch leading the way.
The Eagles have been in a funk most of the year, but they certainly woke up Sunday night in beating the heavily favored Rams in Los Angeles with backup Nick Foles at quarterback. The Eagles are much more likely to be the team they were in 2017 when the 2019 season kicks off.
The Giants have a brilliant, young running back in Saquon Barkley, but the Titans came to the logical choice that they were not going to let him run wild against them. They concentrated their efforts on making sure they stopped Barkley before he got started, and the plan worked out perfectly.
That is what happens when a good team with playoff aspirations is all-in during a late-season game against a pretender. They set challenging goals and they accomplish them, even when they are playing on the road.
Barkley saw what was happening throughout the game, and he was somewhat diplomatic in the lockerroom.
“It kind of comes with the territory, especially when you have a lot of success in the run game,’’ Barkley said. “Obviously a lot of teams are going to put a lot of focus on stopping, not me as an individual but our run game. We still got to make plays.’’
It’s clear that the Giants are one-dimensional with their gameplan, and when they have to go to Plan B, it falls apart.
The Giants had to put the ball in Manning’s hands, and a third-quarter interception followed by the quarterback’s fumble on the next series basically gave the game to the Titans. Tennessee shut down the run and then dared the Giants’ aging signal caller to beat them with his declining skills. That was not about to happen in what turned out to be another in a series of disappointing efforts.
Head coach Pat Shurmur will put this game in the rear-view mirror and try to get ready for the hottest team in the league in Indianapolis. The Colts went through their share of difficulties during a 1-5 start, but head coach Frank Reich knew that it was just a matter of time before franchise quarterback Andrew Luck shook off all the rust.
The Colts have won seven of eight games, and they have a shot to run down either the Baltimore Ravens or Pittsburgh Steelers for the No. 2 wild-card spot. The Colts can’t afford to lose to the Giants since their season finale against the Titans could determine their playoff future.
If the Giants thought the Titans were a challenge, wait until they run into a buzzsaw on Sunday. Anything but a spectacular effort could result in this broken team’s worst loss of a brutal season.