The most important things to remember about this game is that it’s the first preseason game and the Giants new offense is only half installed. The objective for these games is for coaches to evaluate players and gauge progress against a live opponent. There were some positives and a few issue to be worked on. All in all, a solid effort on defense, and indications that the offense is still a work in progress. Although the Giants won 17-13 (Told you to take the points), Tom Coughlin will have plenty of areas to talk about, when the team reconvenes on Tuesday. They came out with only one significant injury, a sprained knee by tight end Daniel Fells, severity undetermined, which is always the prime objective in preseason games – avoiding serious injuries. Post game, Coughlin praised the team efforts, but said the team needs to cut down on penalties. He also declined to speculate on David Wilson’s pending neck evaluation, which will take place tomorrow.
The Giants sent out Jonathan Hankins, Steve Weatherford, and Justin Pugh, who were joined by Hall of Fame, team captain in perpetuity, Harry Carson. They won the toss and the Giants took the ball, with a touchback giving them the ball on the 20. The first play was an overthrow to Jerrell Jernigan on a play where the team look confused. Rashad Jennings was stuffed when tight end Larry Donnell, lined up in the backfield, missed a block. A short pass to Jennings did not net a first down and the team went three and out. The Bills first possession netted them one first down, but on their second series, a pass intended for rookie Sammy Watkins was batted down by Mathias Kiwanuka and the Giants got the ball back.
The Giants second series was shades of 2013 as Manning rolled away from pressure to his left, was hit by Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams, and fumbled, setting the Bills up with the ball on the Giants 22. The Giants defense stiffened, and linebacker Jacquian Williams narrowly missed an interception, allowing the Bills to tally the first score, a 30 yard Dan Carpenter field goal, for a 3-0 lead.
Manning stayed in for the team’s third drive and things started to click for the running game when rookie Andre Williams check into the game. Alternating carried with Jennings, Williams carried the ball 5 times for 35 yards, with a long of 21 and scored a three yard touchdown. He looked quick through the hole, had a burst, and did not go down easily. Jennings also carried the ball 5 times on the drive fro 25 yards. His long run was 12 yards. The touchdown, and long, exciting extra point, gave the Giants a 7-3 lead. The improved rushing game was encouraging although the Giants first team offensive line was facing the Bills second team defensive line on the drive. Had the Giants failed to move the ball, it would have been telling. The Giants scoring drive was 12 plays and 80 yards.
Josh Brown’s kickoff went though the end zone and Jeff Tuel took over at quarterback for the Bills. He lead the Bills on a 15 play, 80 yard drive that was extended by an illegal contact penalty on cornerback Kyle Sebetic after the Giants had Tuel stopped for no gain on third and 4 at the Bills 47. The Giants defense stiffened again inside the 5, stopping the Bills on third down, but Doug Marrone opted to go for it on fourth and two at the 2 yard line and Tuel hit wide receiver Robert Woods for the touchdown. Another longer, more exciting extra point made the score 10-7 Buffalo.
The subsequent Giants drive featured some impressive Ryan Nassib passing, as the second year quarterback took over for Manning. Manning finished the night 6 of 7 (85.7%) for 43 yards with no touchdown and no interception and the one fumble that resulted in a Buffalo field goal. Manning’s passer rating was 92.3. Nassib started off hot, hitting Donnell for 12, and his favorite target, wide receiver Marcus Harris for 25, but the drive stalled at the Bills 28 and kicker Brandon McManus connected with a knuckle ball kick from 47 yards out to tie the game at 10.
After a three and out by the Bills, the Giants took over at their own 28 and Nassib went to work again, hitting Harris twice, and driving the team out to the Giants 47, before a negative pass to Hillis and two straight incompletions caused the drive to stall. Special teams, a challenging area last season, were a disaster again, as Cooper Taylor missed a block, allowing Weatherford’s punt to get blocked by Bills wide receiver Marcus Easley, setting up the Bills with great field position at the Giants 38 with 0:50 remaining in the first half.
Three straight Tuel completions put the ball on the 22, and a Zack Bowman pass interference penalty – he tackled receiver T.J. Graham – gave the Bills first and goal on the 7. The next play gave both Bowman and Taylor redemption. Bowman made a great play to reach in on another pass intended for Graham without interfering and batted the ball up and into the arms of Taylor who intercepted in the end zone to snuff out the threat. The touchback gave the Giants the ball on the 20 and with only 20 seconds left in the half, the Giants kneeled down to run out the clock, satisfied with the 10-10 tie.
A few things were apparent in the first half, especially when the starters were in. Ben McAdoo likes varied formations. He used three different 3 tight end sets. McAdoo also sent in seven different personnel groupings. The Bills threw away from cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, targeting instead, cornerback Prince Amukamara. This bears watching and may make for a challenging season for Amukamara. Based on his play last season, he should be up for it. The offensive line needs more time. The group blocked well against the Bills second team, but were not cohesive against the Bills starters. Overall, it wasn’t a pitiful performance, as was the case in a number of last season’s games, but it takes time for offensive line players to gel, and that showed. The quarterbacks had anup and down performance, not yet looking comfortable making the reads in the offense.
Henry Hynoski has some nice blocks, and Harris built on the strong showing he’s had in camp. The defensive line was active, batting the ball down, but didn’t consistently pressure the quarterback. Receivers did not appears to be running free in the secondary against the starters, like they were last season. Jernigan settled down after his confusion of the first play, and made a couple of nice catches. The duds – Donnell missed at least two blocks, and Jayron Hosley struggled in coverage. John Connor was out blocked by Hynoski who is not firmly in the lead in the fullback battle.
As the second half got underway, the Bills got the opening kickoff and Tuel remained in the game. Starting on their own 20, after a touchback by McManus, the Bills drove 43 yards, all on the ground, mostly by former Eagle Brice Brown, and aided by a holding penalty on Hosley. The drive was stopped cold when Bowman intercepted Tuel in the end zone on a deep pass intended for Easley. The ball was underthrown, and Bowman made nice play to cut Easley off and intercept.
Nassib remained in the game for the Giants, but facing increased pressure from Buffalo, he reverted to the form he showed as a rookie, and had a pass intercepted by Bills cornerback Ross Cockrell.The interception was negated by roughing the passer call, a blow to the head, on defensive tackle Stefan Charles, but two plays later, Nassib was called for intentional grounding, and the drive stalled at the Giants 43. Weatherford punted.
Thaddeus Lewis took over for Tuel at his own 20 and passed the Bills to the Giants 33 where Carpenter hit a 50 yard field goal, giving the Bills a 13-10 lead. The drive included a defensive holding penalty on Hosley that was declined, adding to the cornerback’s rough outing.
Nassib hit receiver Mario Manningham for 17 yards, and a penalty on the next play for defensive holding on Buffalo safety Jajuan Harley tacked on 5 more yards, but two Kendall Gaskins runs and an incomplete pass forced the Giants to punt. After the Bills went three and out on a drive that started in the third quarter and ended in the fourth, Nassib made his best play of night, uncorking a 43 yard bomb to wide receiver Cory Washington, who used his 6’4″ height to pull the ball down over 5’11” Bills cornerback Michael Carter, and ran the remaining 30 yards for a 73 yard touchdown to give the Giants a 17-13 lead with 13:29 left in the game. The signature play of the game, Washington got himself noticed by fighting for the ball and making a play when the opportunity came. Nassib redeemed himself after several questionable plays and ended his night on a high note, finishing 7 of 12 for 139 yards, 1 touchdown and no interceptions. His passer rating was 126.7.
The Bills took over after a touchback by Brown, and started moving the ball with runs and short passes, until and incomplete pass, and a sack by defensive end Kerry Wynn forced the Bills to punt with 10:27 left in the game. Curtis Painter came in to quarterback the Giants, and Michael Cox at running back. Cox carried the ball 8 times for 10 yards, but that included 3 plays where he got no blocking and lost combined 15. The Giants kept the ball for 12 plays, and more importantly, almost 8 minutes, and although the drive didn’t produce points, the punt pinned the Bills inside at their own 15 yard line.
We’ll do a deeper dive on some game stats at another time.
Two plays put the ball out to the Giants 30, but then rookie defensive end Jordan Stanton registered a sack on Lewis, stripped the ball, and Wynn tried to scoop it up and run with it instead of falling on it. The Bills recovered after a scrum, but wound up with a 3rd and 30 and turned to ball over on downs. With insufficient time outs left, the Giants were able to run out the clock and secure the victory.
The second half was rougher, as expected, featured more penalties, lower quality play, and liberal substituting of players. Harris, who finished the night with 4 receptions for 49 yards and Cory Washington with his spectacular play for the game winning touchdown, both bolstered their cases for more reps in practice. Gaskins and Cox had some nice runs behind a shoddy offensive line. Wide receiver Preston Parker made some nice moves returning punts.