Her final Kudos & Wet Willies game recap of the New York Giants’ 2022-23 season comes a little later than usual. Here it is though, so we come to our recap of the Giants’ divisional round loss to the Philadelphia Eagles 38-7.
There are no individual “kudos” today in relation to Saturday night’s performance. There is no earned. Coach Brian Daboll called the defeat a “crash landing,” which was appropriate. The Giants were uncompetitive, and no one played well enough or had enough positive influence to earn an individual “kudo.”
What the Giants as a whole get “kudos” for is to be there at all. For the surprising, fun season they’ve had. For making it fun to watch – and cover – Giants Football again. For bringing energy back to MetLife Stadium. For bringing hope back to a franchise that had become a laughing stock.
The end was a crash landing. The journey itself? A surprisingly pleasant ride.
Wet Willies to…
run defense — This area of the Giants’ defense has been problematic all season. The Giants surrendered at 5.3 yards per rush attempt during the season, the second-lowest in the NFL. On Saturday, the Eagles did what they wanted on the ground, rushing for 268 yards for 44 carries (6.1 yards per attempt).
There was some hope that Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams would be able to at least reach a stalemate with Eagles center Jason Kelce and the rest of the Eagles’ inside offensive line. Didn’t happen.
The Giants’ inside linebackers weren’t good enough to provide any real playmaker support. Another thing that’s been an issue all season that the Giants need to address in the offseason. This season, the Giants full-backs have put the edge well at times. Not Saturday.
offensive line – We saw this against the Eagles in week 14 and again a bit in week 18. Aside from the All-Pro-worthy brilliance of left tackle Andrew Thomas, the Giants’ offensive line is no match for the waves of talented players the Eagles are fielding against them.
Haason Reddick had 1.5 sacks, three quarterback hits and a tackle for loss. He didn’t do all that damage against rookie right tackle Evan Neal, but he prevailed with Neal for the third time this season. The Giants’ No. 7 still seems to have a bright future, but he has plenty to do this offseason. He needs to get better in 2023.
Quarterback Daniel Jones has been sacked five times and hit eight times. In my view, the Giants have some capable players down the offensive line. You need at least one high-level guy in the middle.
wide receiver — The Giants have had outstanding play from Isaiah Hodgins, Darius Slayton and Richie James this season. The trio did far more than expected. However, if you thought the Giants were set for wide receivers, the Eagles debunked that idea on Saturday night.
Hodgins had a catch for 3 yards. Slayton had a catch for 4 yards and FOX broadcaster Daryl Johnston criticized his route on the pass that James Bradberry intercepted. Richie James had seven receptions but dropped an easy 77-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The talented Eagles secondary, led by former Giants Bradberry and Darius Slay, covered the Giants’ wide receivers.
Check out Next Gen Stats wide receiver separation table:
Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka was often able to open his receivers. He couldn’t do that against Philadelphia. James’ breakup numbers are skewed by the Eagles’ one fourth-quarter reporting bust that he didn’t get to capitalize on.
The Giants will benefit if Wan’Dale Robinson is healthy next season. However, Saturday night made it clear that they need a WR1.
Fourth Down Decisions — Honestly, that’s not really a ‘Wet Willie’. I just felt like I needed to find a place to address the two controversial fourth-down decisions that Daboll and the Giants’ analysis gurus made Saturday night.
The first drop in fourth and eighth place was off the Eagles 40 on the Giants’ first drive absolutely right decision. The Giants were already 7-0 down, and Philadelphia had already established that it could do what it wanted offensively. As so often this season, the Giants had a chance to respond quickly. They were the underdog, the less talented team. If they wanted to win the game, they had to try. To do that, they had to be willing to take risks.
There were two problems. First, Jones inexplicably turned third-and-3 into fourth-and-8 by taking a sack. The quarterback moved outside the pocket and held the ball…and held the ball…and held the ball. It was obvious that no one had opened up. At some point the ball had to be thrown out. The 5-yard loss, which pushed the ball off the Eagles’ 35-yard line to the 40, took the field goal off the table and forced Daboll’s hand.
The second problem, of course, was that the Giants, forced into a longer developing game by the yards needed, couldn’t handle the Eagles’ passing rush.
The second decision was to stab on fourth and six from the Giants’ 42-yard line while they were 28-7 behind and 13-21 in the game absolutely the wrong decision. It’s one of the few times I’ve disagreed with Daboll on an umpire’s decision this season.
If you go into the game thinking you need to take risks and be aggressive in the first quarter, how can you put the ball back three points behind the Eagles in the fourth quarter? There was no way the Giants were going to get the ball back often enough to even stand a chance of making it a competitive game after poking there.
“They hadn’t scored a goal this half. I’m counting on the defense being maybe just secure enough to maybe get a three-and-out,” Daboll said. “Then they had a long drive. We probably could have tried, but we didn’t work well enough to be in it, so we did.”
Well executed or not, punting felt like raising the white flag.