For the first time in 13 years, Eli Manning got to stand on the sideline and watch his Giants teammates play. And what he saw sure must have looked familiar.
Despite the new quarterback, it was the same ugly result for the Giants, proving pretty clearly that he was far from this team's biggest problem. The Giants couldn't run; their receivers couldn't get open with any regularity; and the offensive line, as usual, couldn't block.
Geno Smith? He did just fine. But his offense managed a measly 265 yards in a 24-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders.
While Ben McAdoo got to realize his dream of having a mobile quarterback with a stronger arm to run his offensive scheme, it turns out these Giants are exactly what we thought they were. They are a team with a flawed roster, a neglected offensive line and a lineup decimated by injuries.
In other words, don't blame this mess on the quarterback -- either of them. Also, good luck getting a real, fair evaluation of the young quarterbacks down the strength. This roster doesn't exactly give them a great chance to succeed.
That said, here are a few more thoughts from the Giants 10th loss in 12 games this year:
- First thing's first: Was it enough to save McAdoo? Time will tell. But honestly, if John Mara and Steve Tisch needed to see what happened in this game to make their decision, the result of this felt inconclusive. The Giants showed fight. The quarterback switch wasn't a huge spark for the offense, but Smith played well. The problems the Giants had -- the defense, the offensive line -- were basically the same ones they had all season. Nothing really embarrassing happened (at least that we're aware of yet). If McAdoo is fired, then Mara and Tisch already had their minds made up. If not, maybe they're just waiting for the next cartoon anvil to drop on the Giants' heads.
- When the Giants decide the fate of GM Jerry Reese, they should keep this in mind: No matter who the quarterback is, they have no chance playing behind the same terrible offensive line. At this point the line is so battered by injuries it's not even fair. They were without guard Justin Pugh, center Weston Richburg and guard D.J. Fluker. But it hasn't been good all season, and left tackle Ereck Flowers continues to play terribly. The amount of times their running backs were hit in the backfield, before they even got to the line of scrimmage, was mindblowing. Two sack fumbles came from devastating hits on Smith. And no matter how much he tried to create room to throw with his feet, it seemed like Khalil Mack or Bruce Irvin was too close for comfort. Surely, Manning can relate.
- That said, Smith was not terrible. He probably could've been a little more careful with the ball on the two fumbles, especially the one deep in Raiders territory at the end of the first half. But he was everything his teammates said he was. He has a strong arm. He was relatively accurate with his throws. And he extended plays with his legs, particularly on the Giants' touchdown drive in the first half. In the end, Smith completed 21 of 34 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown. Most of the passes were short, and they tried to roll him out a lot to create something, so it's hard to tell if he proved a lot either way. But for his first full game in two years, it wasn't bad, especially given the supporting cast around him.
- It was nice to see Paul Perkins back in the lineup and getting carries for the first time since Week 4. His appearance lends a little more credence to McAdoo's assertion that the benching of Manning was about looking at new players at every position. Yes, Perkins, who was anointed the starting running back in the preseason, was terrible early in the season, but he's only 23 years old, too young to bury completely. Why not give him a few carries down the stretch? Perkins had only three carries for 12 yards, but at least that's more productive than keeping him glued to the bench.
- Sterling Shepard makes some plays that make it look like he's going to be a star someday, or at the very least a dangerous No. 2 option with Odell Beckham Jr. if this Giants offense ever fixes its issues. Sunday's exhibit came in the fourth quarter when he ran a crossing route over the middle and Smith threw a pass behind him. Somehow, Shepard turned, leaped, made the catch and didn't seem to break stride at all. It turned into a 47-yard gain that set up a touchdown. Shepard finished with three catches for 56 yards.
- A very overlooked part of the Giants' collapse this season has been the deterioration of the run defense, which came into the game ranked 31st in the NFL. It remained terrible. The 51-yard touchdown run up the middle by Marshawn Lynch (17 carries, 101 yards) was totally inexcusable, and the short touchdown by DeAndre Washington in the third quarter was just as bad given the way he broke through the defensive line with ease. Maybe it's all the linebacker injuries. But back to front, the tackling from the Giants' defense has been suspect all year.
- If tight end Evan Engram had hit the rookie wall the last few weeks, he bounced off it nicely on Sunday with seven catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. He also made a ridiculous, one-handed grab over the middle and in traffic in the fourth quarter. His sixth touchdown of the season set a record for a Giants rookie tight end.