Three Giants writers give their takeaways from Sunday's 23-0 loss to the Cardinals:
Giants.com writers give their takeaways from Week 16 and look at the state of the Giants heading into the season finale vs. Washington.
What else can go wrong? In a season that has included mistakes from all three units and nearly every player on the team – from stars to role players – there is still one game left. It always seems like the Giants are doing just enough to lose football games, turning possible wins into losses.
Early in the season, the team couldn't run the ball on early downs, sticking themselves into constant low percentage situations on third downs. Against the Cardinals on Christmas Eve, the Giants got themselves into very manageable down and distance, but it didn't matter. They were still only 1-for-14 on third down. Then you have the injuries. When the Giants finished the game against the Cardinals, they had three players on offense playing the position they were supposed to play at the start of the year: quarterback, left tackle and right tackle. On defense, the line was intact, but elsewhere only Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Darian Thompson and Devon Kennard were playing their normal positions.
Sometimes there are years where nothing goes right, and you can put 2017 firmly in that column. If the Giants played this season from the beginning 100 times, they would likely never have another year like this one. It was Murphy's Law.
Everyone has heard the phrase "adding insult to injury," but the reverse is happening to the Giants. On the way to their franchise-record 13th loss of the season, the Giants lost their leaders in tackles (Landon Collins/forearm fracture), receptions and touchdowns (Evan Engram/ribs) and receiving yards (Sterling Shepard/neck).
We'll await their statuses for Week 17, but New Year's Day can't come soon enough for Big Blue. Like many of them this year, Sunday's loss spoke for itself. It's hard enough to beat your opponent; it becomes nearly impossible to do it when you first defeat yourself. Pile the injuries on top, and that's the state of the Giants heading into the season finale. Beyond that, there are major questions that need answering in a critical offseason.
In the span of a week, we saw the Giants' offense put forth its best and poorest performances of the season. The biggest difference: third-down efficiency. In Week 15 against the Eagles, the Giants were a season-best 10-for-18 (56%) on third down. Eleven of those 18 attempts were from five yards or less, and the Giants converted nine of them, including two for touchdowns. A week after Eli Manning and company faced numerous manageable third downs and converted them, that wasn't the case against the Cardinals. This past Sunday, the Giants converted just one of its 14 third downs (season-low 7%). Nine of those 14 were from three yards or less, yet they converted none of them. Two resulted in sacks and another in an interception. That's the big reason why one week the offense produced season-highs of 504 yards and 29 points and the other 293 yards and no points. Without a consistent running game (43 yards), Manning had to throw the ball 45 times. The more times you put the ball in the air, the more likely you are to face pressure and turn the ball over, and that's exactly what happened against Arizona.
When the offense struggles, you need other facets of the team to step up, and one of the biggest issues the Giants have struggled with this season is complementary football. For the second straight week, they were plagued by special teams mishaps as Aldrick Rosas missed a 33-yard field goal with the Giants trailing 3-0 in the second quarter. Additionally, three of the team's 10 accepted penalties were against the special teams. The Giants entered Sunday tied for the second fewest penalties in the NFL, but that was an issue across the board against the Cardinals as the offense committed five and the defense two, including a roughing the passer penalty against Olivier Vernon late in the second quarter after an incomplete pass on third-and-three. Instead of a field goal attempt, the Cardinals were able to continue a drive that ultimately resulted in a touchdown. When you combine undisciplined football with offensive struggles, especially by a team decimated by injuries, it's virtually impossible to win.