EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Just when it looks like it can't get any worse … it gets worse.
Not only have the Giants lost as many games this season (five) as they lost all of last season, but they've now lost their best player, likely for the entire season, and four-fifths of what they thought would be the best receiving corps in the league.
And yes, things could get worse. Consider what Ben McAdoo said about how much the injuries to Brandon Marshall (ankle), Sterling Shepard (ankle), Dwayne Harris (broken foot) and later Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) impacted their 27-22 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
"I mean, it significantly altered the game," McAdoo said. "We had one receiver left at the end of the ball game. The guys fought hard, the tight ends stepped up and went out and worked to execute the offense. (But) they don't get a lot of reps with what they're being asked to do."
No they don't, which is why the offense stalled. Yes, it has stalled for much of the season. But in recent weeks the passing game had gotten into a rhythm. Obviously that's all gone now.
And not surprisingly that leads the list of the biggest takeaways from this disastrous game:
- Eli Manning ended up with 225 yards on 21-of-36 passing, and he threw a clutch, 49-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Beckham with a blitzing cornerback in his face. Honestly, all that is miraculous given the devastating losses to the Giants' receiving corps. They lost Shepard and Marshall on the same first-half series, and then Harris not long after. That left them with two healthy receivers (Beckham and Roger Lewis) for most of the game until Beckham got hurt in the fourth quarter.
Lewis made a terrific catch on a 29-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but he wasn't helping draw a lot of coverage away from Beckham. Neither was rookie tight end Evan Engram (zero catches on four targets), who often lined up as the third receiver. The fact that Manning was able to move the ball at all without all those receivers was pretty impressive. Don't expect that to last.
- The Giants finally got their rushing game going with the very ineffective Paul Perkins out with bruised ribs. They totaled 152 rushing yards, including 69 from starter Orleans Darkwa and another 57 from rookie Wayne Gallman. They also got a boost when McAdoo made a quick switch on the offensive line, benching right guard John Jerry (McAdoo said it was because Jerry "has been hobbled a little bit") and replacing him with D.J. Fluker. Almost immediately the Giants started running successfully to the right side. They even went that way late in the first quarter on a terrific, 23-yard touchdown run by Darkwa.
It was unfortunate that Darkwa injured his calf a bit on that run, because at that point he had six carries for 58 yards, but then didn't carry the ball during the final 17:16 of the half, and only twice more the rest of the game. McAdoo had talked about maybe riding the hot running back during the week. Who knows if he would've done it. But at least Gallman got hot, too.
- What happened to the Giants rushing defense? It was impossible to run against them last season, but this season they've been unable to stop anyone. Melvin Gordon gained 105 yards on 20 carries and the Chargers totaled 124 rushing yards. Beyond defensive tackle Damon Harrison, the Giants' top run stuffer who seems to dominate up front, the tackling has been terrible. Giants defenders seem to be more interested in delivering a hit rather than getting their arms around the runner.
So what are teams doing? They're running away from Harrison and especially trying to run to the outside, where they're having better luck breaking tackles in the open field. It was a little easier in this game with defensive end Olivier Vernon (ankle) out. The Giants linebackers just haven't been able to help out.