Curran's Patriots-Giants preview
Curran's Patriots-Giants preview
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Any idea the Patriots are out to exorcise demons of 2007 and 2011 is screwy. But the fact that the principals from the Giants in those games – Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin (and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo in 2007) – are still present makes New York an opponent worth taking much more seriously than the Todd Bowles, Jay Gruden, Gus Bradley outfits the Patriots have seen over recent weeks.
OK, so no demons were exorcised. But the Patriots did keep a new one from being spawned in one of the great regular season games they’ve played.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
The absence of Sebastian Vollmer, Tre Jackson and Marcus Cannon (not to mention IR’d linemen Nate Solder and Ryan Wendell) is going to stretch the Patriots to the limit once again up front. They’re likely looking at Cameron Fleming at left tackle, most likely, and possibly Bryan Stork back at right tackle again. They are at the very edge of the breaking point depth-wise right now. Next would be hauling tight ends like Michael Williams and Gronk in to guard the edges, one presumes. The depth they have on is Chris Barker, who'll be promoted from the practice squaad, and he’s a guard (6-2, 300). The Giants have been fairly impotent at bringing pressure this season. They have nine sacks. Jason Pierre-Paul will be playing in his second game of the year after his fireworks mishap. He could change things a bit going up against either tackle. Any lack of protection could prevent the Patriots from taking full advantage of a secondary that’s permissive. New York’s allowed 2,832 yards passing so far and 17 touchdowns. On third down, the Giants are allowing 47.6 conversions. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a playmaking corner, Jayron Hosley is average and the safeties – Landon Collins and Brandon Meriweather – can both hit but aren’t great in coverage. If the protection is there, the Patriots should go up and down the field on them. The Giants are smashed up at the linebacker position. Jon Beason is done for the year and Uani Unga, a starter, is out for the game. That presses former short-term Patriot Jonathan Casillas into action. The Patriots may be in survival mode a little bit with their injuries up front so, if I were betting, I’d look for this to be a big LeGarrette Blount game. Hand off, keep clock and chains moving, throw when needed to loosen them up. James White will be eased in as the third-down back. It will be interesting to see how he performs.
The Patriots ran the ball down the Jints throat on their first drive then petered out a little after that. LeGarrette Blount carried 19 times for 66 yards. The absence of Dion Lewis was obvious. James White combined for two carries and two yards. The Patriots managed just 77 yards on 23 carries. A previously punchless pass rush got to Tom Brady three times for sacks and stripped him twice. Not a stunner with Stork at right tackle and Cameron Fleming at left tackle; Josh Kline and Shaq Mason at the guards and David Andrews in the middle. That collection would have seemed unfathomable in August. Once Julian Edelman went out in the first quarter, you could see the impact on Brady. He still finished 26 for 42 for 334 and two touchdowns. The pick on the goal line was a sloppy throw that both he and Brandon LaFell tried to take the blame for. The only way it wasn’t on Brady was if he expected LaFell to stop at the goal line because the throw was so far behind LaFell. Brady also had the long would-be pick to Landon Collins on the final drive that was a real head-scratching decision. Over the coming weeks, we’ll likely see him go downfield a lot more as the loss of Edelman and Lewis will narrows the number of short-range options for Brady.
WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL
The Giants have been absolutely punchless in the running game with Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams, averaging 3.8 per carry and managing just three touchdowns on the ground. They don’t figure to get going against the Patriots who’ve been brilliant against the run this year. Furthering the uphill climb for New York is the absence of tight end Larry Donnell. That means it’s Eli Manning and the wideouts against the Patriots pass rush and cover guys. Odell Beckham Jr., is going to be absolutely blanketed. He’s one of the five best wideouts in the league, the Giants have few other threats, it’s impossible to imagine the Patriots not sending multiple bodies at him and forcing Manning to go elsewhere. His other options are Rueben Randle and Shane Vereen. Both can make plays. Neither is a player that will absolutely take over a game. The Patriots should have Jabaal Sheard back on the prowl defensively. They’ll be without Jamie Collins who is down for the second straight game with an illness. I am told Collins is improving but got real weak and run down while ill. It’s not a dire situation (the specter of MRSA always looms in the NFL and it’s scary) but enough to lay him plenty low.
Manning played out of his mind. He had two 31-yard completions to Will Tye and Rueben Randle on the Giants’ second quarter touchdown drive that were perfect throws. If the throw to Beckham on the 87-yarder was intended to be inside and lead his receiver away from Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty, that’s a helluva throw. More likely, he got away with being a little loose and it worked out to his great benefit. The 30-yarder to Dwayne Harris on third down late in the fourth that put the Giants at the Patriots 5 was outstanding and the would-be touchdown throw to Beckham was right where it had to be. When one takes out Beckham’s first catch of the day, the brilliant wideout had just three catches for 17 yards. This was the best example of how good Butler can be and it came on a day he let up a touchdown that could have put him in a funk. Defensively, the Patriots got victimized at the linebacker level in the passing game as Jonathan Freeny and Jon Bostic both seemed to have busts. Justin Coleman and Rashaan Melvin are going to need to elevate their work. Coleman gets after it pretty good, though, so there is some potential there. The red zone defense allowed just one touchdown in five trips down there and that’s pretty good. The Patriots will need to be that good defensively because the 35-point outings may be gone for a while given the losses on offense.
THE KICKING GAME
Giants kicker Josh Brown is a good one. Punter Brad Wing has a 40.8 net. The Giants have allowed a punt return touchdown this season. Return man Dwayne Harris takes care of the punts and kickoffs and can get loose.
A brilliantly blocked 82-yard punt return by Danny Amendola set up an answering touchdown in the third quarter; Stephen Gostkowski’s 54-yarder at the buzzer will be long remembered. The Patriots allowed a 17-yard punt return to Harris which is a little uncharacteristic. Allen had a 39.8 yard net as a result. Matt Slater went out with what looked like a painful shoulder in the second quarter after a special teams tackle but returned to finish the game.
PATRIOTS MEDICAL REPORT
OUT: OL Marcus Cannon (toe), LB Jamie Collins (illness), OL Tre Jackson (knee), OL Sebastian Vollmer (concussion); QUESTIONABLE: CB Justin Coleman (hand), WR Keshawn Martin (hamstring), G Shaq Mason (knee), DE Jabaal Sheard (ankle); PROBABLE: WR Julian Edelman (knee), DB Duron Harmon (knee)
Edelman broke his foot and will be down for eight to 10 weeks which means a hoped-for return in January. Coleman competed with that broken hand but gave up a couple of plays.
GIANTS MEDICAL REPORT
OUT: CB Prince Amukamara (pectoral), WR Victor Cruz (calf), TE Larry Donnell (neck), LB J.T. Thomas (ankle), LB Uani Unga (neck); QUESTIONABLE: CB Leon McFadden (groin); PROBABLE: G Justin Pugh (illness), G Geoff Schwartz (ankle)
GAME WITHIN THE GAME
How the Patriots patch it together once again on the offensive line. And whether or not the Giants are able to exercise any kind of pressure at all on an offensive line that’s duct-taped and spackled or if the Patriots are at a point with their offense where it doesn’t really matter that much.
They made it through. And next up, they’ll have to deal with that nasty Bills front. That group was easy to throw around in the first game when the Patriots had their full complement of playmakers getting open quickly. Now, with the only waterbug left standing being Amendola, the OL will have to hold blocks longer as plays will take longer to develop.
GIANTS GOTTA STOP
LeGarrette Blount. Hold down the Patriots running game and make Brady have to drop back and scan and then they’ll have a shot at exploiting the offensive line’s pieces playing out of position. But the Patriots front does have run-blocking ability so it will be interesting to see if they can just get up to ramming speed and go from there.
Blount had a helluva run on a first-and-goal play in the third that gained just 3 yards but set up his eventual 1-yard run. And he was a horse on the Patriots first drive. But the Giants did a good job of patching up the run defense after the Patriots first drive of downhill runs.
PATRIOTS GOTTA STOP
Odell Beckham Jr. That’s the offense right there. He has 59 catches for 759 yards. The next best receiver’s got 36 for 424 (Randle). Vereen’s got 34 catches for 309. Donnell is out. And they’ve only run for 870 yards in nine games. Take out Beckham and the Giants are dead.
What an interesting matchup that wound up being. Because Manning’s heat index was through the roof, the Patriots weren’t able to rest easy with Butler taking care of Beckham but Butler did a terrific job in holding him down.
DON'T BE SURPRISED IF …
This is not the imagined shootout we are expecting. The Patriots should be able to stop the New York offense. The condition of the Patriots offensive line is going to put them in a “let get out of here” mode.
Kinda got it right. Not dead-on, but kinda. The offenses were both challenged pretty hard to both keep drives going and finish them off which is why there were six field goals combined.
THAT SUMS IT UP PATRIOTS STYLE
“He is a great player and he’s certainly a guy that has made some phenomenal plays for them. One of the things Eli Manning is doing right now though is he is distributing the ball and he’s getting it out fast, he’s getting it out to a lot of different receivers.” – Matt Patricia, Patriots defensive coordinator, on Odell Beckham.
THAT SUMS IT UP GIANTS STYLE
“He's been to the Super Bowl six times. He has two losses. And we all know who those two losses are to. And as men, we all know that sticks in your mind. He's probably going to downplay it as much as he can. I know Bill, I see what he does, he downplays everything. But definitely in the back of his mind, he wants to kick the Giants' butt, and beat (quarterback) Eli (Manning). Definitely. And at home, too." – Jonathan Casillas, Giants linebacker, on what he presumes Bill Belichick’s minset is.
I’m not convinced Casillas had any great insight into what Bill Belichick was thinking – Casillas wasn’t around Belichick long enough to gather penetrating knowledge about the man. But … I don’t disagree with Casillas either.
THE WINNER IS...
Patriots 24, Giants 10
Patriots 27, Giants 26