At 1-6 and a majority of their stars out due to injury (or, in the case of cornerback Janoris Jenkins, suspension), New York Giants fans perhaps thought there was no way this season could possibly get worse.
Then came Sunday.
The Los Angeles Rams came to MetLife Stadium and led by as much as 38, providing a fresh dose of humiliation to the reeling Giants, who fell by an eventual 51-17 final. It’s the Giants worst defeat at the new Meadowlands stadium since its opening in 2010.
With the win and a loss by the Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles (6-2) was able to establish some breathing room in the NFC West division chase.
The Giants, however, are left second guessing themselves once more, rotting at the bottom of the league. A 14-play, 67-yard drive that took up half the first quarter, perhaps the Giants’ prettiest offensive display of the season, was instantly forgotten after a five-yard Eli Manning pass to Tavarres King knotted the score at seven. The Rams then rattled off 17 consecutive unanswered points, the Giants only able to stop the bleeding an Aldrick Rosas field goal.
Los Angeles continued their dominance in the second half, scoring on their first three second half possessions to go up 48-10. Overall, the Rams scored on eight of their first nine possessions, and outgained the Giants 473-319 on offense. Quarterback Jared Goff led the way with 311 and four touchdowns, two of which went to wide receiver Robert Woods.
In addition to finding King and becoming the seventh quarterback in NFL history to reach 50,000 yards, Manning found tight end Evan Engram for a score in the final quarter. However, he was also responsible for two turnovers, including a fumble on the Giants’ first drive of the game.
The Turning Point
It’s debatable whether it was cruel or kind of Los Angeles to keep the Giants in the game with several penalties, but that’s the situation they found themselves with a 10-7 lead in the second quarter.
After the Giants’ second lost fumble of the game, rookie running back Wayne Gallman being the guilty party, the Rams got the ball at exactly midfield. They quickly drove to the Giants 29, but back-to-back penalties, an offensive pass interference by receiver Cooper Kupp and a chop block by guard Robert Saffold, set the Rams with a 3rd and 33 at their own 48.
A Goff screen pass to Woods was made with the intention of merely getting back in kicker Greg Zuerlein’s range, but good blocking and a lack of Giants effort turned it into much, much more.
Thanks to some key blocks by Kupp and tackle Andrew Whitworth, Woods was able to go the distance, a 52 yard score that ended the game before it really began. Further embarassing was the effort of some Giants on the long run, as they noticeably slowed down as Woods got closer to the end zone. The Giants more or less folded after that, as Los Angeles continued their stretch of 17 unanswered.
If it weren’t for rookie tight end Evan Engram, you could make a case that the Giants should be relegated to the Arena Football League. Engram scored a touchdown for the third consecutive game, albeit one that merely cut the deficit to 31.
That was the lone bright spot for the Giants, who let a brilliant scoring drive go to waste in the early going. While Manning hit yet another personal milestone, his other throws couldn’t raise the Giants from the depths of the debacle. With the Giants looking to get back in the game, some costly overthrows that missed King and Sterling Shepard in the second quarter kept the deficit where it was. When the ball actually did get to Shepard, he was serviceable (70 yards on five receptions), but had two big drops.
The running game put in a serviceable effort, with 111 yards on 26 carries, but Gallman’s fumble set up Wood’s memorable/embarassing run to glory. Orleans Darkwa led the way with 71 yards on 16 carries, including a 24-yard rush in the first.
The last time the Giants faced off against the Rams, last season’s 17-10 victory in London, the defense keyed the Giants to victory, forcing four turnovers.
What a difference a year makes.
The Rams scored on their first four possessions, putting the Giants in the early hole and failing to establish any momentum from the methodic scoring drive in the first. It put the Giants in an early hole, one they would fail to escape from, nor would they come anywhere near getting out of it.
The pass defense was bad enough…on the next drive after the 3rd and 33 touchdown, Goff found a wide open Sammy Watkins for a 67 yard touchdown in two plays…but the run defense also struggled. A combination of Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown combined for 116 yards, while receiver Tavon Austin added 34 more on six carries. Allowing 162 yards on the ground total, with Gurley adding two scores, it was a stark contrast to the Giants allowing only 76 yards last season.
How, you may ask, did this debacle get started? Why, a touchdown by an opposing tight end, of course, as Goff found Tyler Higbee for a red zone score on the Rams’ first possession. Dating back to last season, the Giants have now allowed a tight end to score on them in nine consectuive regular season games.
Special Teams: F
Having missed four of his previous seven attempts, Rosas could slightly relax when he nailed a 50 yard field goal that stopped the Rams’ first half surge. He immediately proceeded to kill any goodwill created from that boot with a missed 45-yarder that ended the first half.
Punts were disastrous for the Giants. Though Brad Wing was solid, averaging over 50 yards on four boots, including one that went for 66, returner Pharoh Cooper was able to make the Rams offense’s job all the more easier with solid returns, nabbing 55 yards on a trio of opportunities. The final insult came with a blocked punt in the third quarter, one that put Los Angeles in prime position to take their biggest lead of the day at 48-10 three plays later.
After the game, head coach Ben McAdoo what his halftime message was to his woebegone. The second-year coach replied with the shortest speech ever.
It simply marked another day where the temperature on the seat of not just McAdoo, but everyone on the coaching staff, rose a little higher. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who has been mum on the tight end touchdown epidemic, failed to make adjustments against the Rams’ high octane offense. It also appeared that those taking the snaps of the suspended Jenkins weren’t ready for it, allowing LA receivers to get open all game.
In perhaps a microcosm of the Giants’ season, MetLife Stadium, half-empty for a majority of the game, erupted in boos with whatever crowd was left when McAdoo elected to punt with the Giants down 48-10 in the fourth quarter. There’s been debate as to whether McAdoo has lost the locker room. There’s no doubt, however, that McAdoo has lost the Big Blue faithful.