The Giants' offense struggled Thursday night in a 20-10 loss to Redskins:
LANDOVER, Md. – Ben McAdoo's assessment of the Giants' offensive performance Thursday night was as accurate as it was succinct.
"Wasn't very good," McAdoo said.
No, it wasn't. And that, more than anything else, was the reason the Giants lost to the Washington Redskins in FedExField, 20-10.
Where to start? The offense accounted for only three points. The Giants gained 170 yards on 55 plays, an average of 3.1 yards a snap. They totaled seven first downs – one in the second half, and that with 1:16 remaining in the game. It took two passes that gained 36 yards on the Giants' final drive to put Eli Manning over 100 yards for the game. The Giants converted only two of 14 third-down opportunities. They traveled inside the Washington 20-yard line just once in 13 possessions, and came away with a field goal – but only after they couldn't connect on an almost-certain touchdown pass.
The loss dropped the Giants to an unfathomable 2-9, and three games behind their nearest competitors in the NFC East (Washington and Dallas are 5-6).
"It's no fun losing," Manning said. "It's no fun not scoring. Not enough points offensively. Yeah, it can wear you out. It can test you, but you've got to keep going to the drawing board and find ways to play better and move the ball and score some points."
The reality is it's difficult for the Giants to do that as presently constructed. They've played six games without Odell Beckham, Jr., Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris. With Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg and D.J. Fluker not playing, their offensive line is severely depleted. Sterling Shepard, the best receiver remaining on the active roster, missed his second consecutive game and fourth of the season.
"You miss him," Manning said of Shepard. "He's one of our go-to guys. He has some experience and he's a playmaker. I thought he was going to give it a shot today. He kind of went through some chair drills this morning and was there, and then we got word he wasn't going to go."
Not all the offensive deficiencies can be blamed on the absentee players. Left tackle Ereck Flowers was flagged for holding three times, but only one was accepted. Manning was sacked four times. Rookie tight end Evan Engram dropped three passes, including one on the game's first third down. Running back Shane Vereen was open in the flat for a walk-in touchdown, but Manning overthrew him, forcing Aldrick Rosas to kick a 30-yard field or the game's first points.
"I have got to hit Shane on that," said Manning, who completed 13 of 27 passes for 113 yards, but didn't throw a touchdown pass for the second game in a row – which hasn't happened in five years. "It was a screen, trying to pop him out of the backfield. I thought I had to throw it a little sooner than I wanted to – kind of float it up there for him where maybe he can adjust and get to it. But I just put a little bit too much on it and we got to hit that one."
"That's a throw and catch we have to have," McAdoo said. "It should have been a touchdown."
Engram has been a consistent performer this season, but he's had trouble holding onto the ball two games in a row. And the thin Giants offense can't overcome those miscues.
"Our margin for error is small with the way things are right now," McAdoo said. "We know that going in. We can't press. We can't go out there and press. Evan looked like a rookie playing on a short week tonight, and he needs to get that out of his system, he needs to learn from it. I'm confident that he will learn from it and move on.
"I think early in the ballgame, we had some opportunities where we dropped some balls, could have been a big play, had a first down, could have completed the ball, we missed a throw early. I think all that stuff catches up with you when you have to drop back and you don't get to drop back on your own terms. There were some times where we were physical in the ballgame running the football, but certainly too many hits on the quarterback. But there's plenty (of blame) to go around."
The Giants, who next play on Dec. 3 in Oakland, had a few performances that will help carry them forward. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins scored their only touchdown when he intercepted a Kirk Cousins pass in the third quarter and returned it 53 yards for his second touchdown of the season. That tied the score at 10-10. The Giants recorded a season-high six sacks, including 3.5 by defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon. Landon Collins had 14 tackles for the second straight game.
But the defense also had issues. Cousins threw touchdown passes of 15 yards to Jamison Crowder (who got open in the end zone while the quarterback bought time), and the 14-yard game-winner to Josh Dotson (who beat Jenkins, playing with an ankle he injured when he was tackled crossing the goal line on his touchdown). Ross Cockrell was penalized 37 yards for pass interference to set up the first of Nick Rose's two field goals, and five yards for defensive holding on third down on the possession that ended with Dotson's touchdown.
"We know that we had an opportunity to get off the field on third down, they called the holding penalty on me and I take responsibility for that," Cockrell said.
"Defensive-wise, I feel like we were fighting through adversity," Collins said. "We were playing our best ball, trying to make plays, trying to get the ball back to the offense as quick as possible, try to play field position, too."
But the Giants just couldn't score the points they needed to beat a team that had also struggled of late.
"You want to be able to get out there and make some plays," running back Orleans Darkwa said. "It was kind of frustrating. But at the end of the day, we can figure out what we can do to get better. We can't beat ourselves down about it. We got some time to get rested and get some guys healthy, but we got to get ready and look forward to our next opponent."