For the last few weeks, the New York Giants had been making it look easy, while the Tennessee Titans made it hard for their opponents. One had to win out when they met on Sunday. The latter happened, as the Giants, coming off a 40-point outing in Washington, were shut out, 23-0, by the Titans at MetLife Stadium.
"We didn't do anything well enough to expect to win, didn't make plays, we didn't run the ball, we didn't stay on the field on offense, we had penalties, so we didn't play well enough there," coach Pat Shurmur said. "I thought on defense, they ran the ball, we didn't tackle as well as we did in the last few weeks, which extended drives for them and they beat us. There was a turnover there that turned into points. It was a close game and we just didn't find [the end zone], and when you don't get in the end zone, you can't win."
IT WAS OVER WHEN: Derrick Henry scored on a one-yard touchdown run, his second of the game, to make it a 14-0 Titans lead with 2:20 left in the third quarter. Despite Tennessee dominating the time of possession, it was still only a one-possession game up to the point.
TURNING POINTS: The Giants had been surging since the bye week for a host of reasons, but a major one was turnover differential. That wasn't the case on Sunday. The Giants turned it over on back-to-back possessions to start the second half of a seven-point game. Eli Manning threw an interception and lost a fumble on a sack in Giants territory. The Titans capitalized on the second turnover with Henry's second touchdown run.
"It was just tough to get things going," Manning said. "Give credit to the Tennessee defense. They played well. They did a good job stopping the run on some early downs. The few times we actually got some things going, we had negative plays, we had penalties where we just could not sustain the drives and keep things going. They played well and we didn't. We didn't execute well enough or make the plays we need to make. They just outplayed us."
PLAYING INTO THEIR HANDS: Tennessee takes after first-year head coach Mike Vrabel, a three-time Super Bowl champion linebacker with the Patriots. He and defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who comes from Bill Belichick's coaching tree, were able to take away the best thing the Giants had going – Saquon Barkley. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. missed his second consecutive game with a quad injury, allowing the Titans to set their sights solely on No. 26.
"I think early in the game, they defeated us up front a couple times and we just couldn't get any real traction running the ball," Shurmur said. "We obviously attempted to do it, and then we didn't stay on the field on third downs, either. Long list of things we didn't do well that keeps you from running the ball more and getting to some of the things you want to."
The Giants ran for just 47 yards, 14 of which came from punter Riley Dixon on an "improvised" fake. Barkley had season-lows in yards per carry (2.2) and yards from scrimmage (56). It was just the second time this season that the star rookie failed to reach 100 scrimmage yards.
"I think that we fell right into the Titans' hand," left tackle Nate Solder said. "They have a good team, and they've had a good strategy all season. That's how they've been winning games."
WHAT THE LOSS MEANS FOR THE GIANTS: After a 1-7 start, being in the postseason hunt in Week 15 is a credit to the coaching staff and players assembled in the locker room. But that hope is gone now. The Giants hit the road in Week 16 to face the Indianapolis Colts, who just shut out the Dallas Cowboys, 23-0, to improve to 8-6. The Giants host the Cowboys in the season finale with a potential NFC East title on the line.
WHAT THE WIN MEANS FOR THE TITANS: Tennessee continued its pursuit of a second consecutive playoff appearance, and first with Vrabel. The Titans improved to 8-6 with a three-game winning streak, which they will try to extend on Saturday when the Redskins come to Nashville. The Titans are 3-0 against the NFC East this season.