The Giants finished the preseason undefeated, a perfect 5-0 record, and sustained one injury that will impact the opening day roster. Fullback Henry Hynoski suffered an apparent rotator cuff injury that will likely end his season and give John Conner the job by default. Gauging the Giants starting units performance is challenging as Patriots played their second team from the get go, but one thing is certain – the passing offense is worrisome.
The Patriots won the toss and Jimmy Garoppolo started the game in place of Tom Brady. After completing a pass to Kenbrell Thompkins for a first down, Garoppolo has two passes batted on successive plays and the Patriots were forced to punt. The Giants offense looked to be able to run with authority as Rashad Jennings had big holes to run through in gaining 20 yards on 3 carries on the team’s opening drive, however, it was again Patriot backups. Eli Manning threw two passes on the drive, both to Rueben Randle. One was dropped, and the other, the two were obviously not on the same page, resulting in an incompletion on third down and a Giants punt.
The Giants starting defense was once again around the ball on the Patriots second drive as Zack Bowman had a diving interception overturned by a questionable illegal contact penalty. After the gifted first down, the Giants defense stiffened, and almost intercepted the ball again when Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie batted the third down pass to Aaron Dobson up into the air and just out of the reach of the reach of Jacquian Williams to force another Patriots punt.
The final drive by the Giants starters was a three and out, with Manning overthrowing a wide open Victor Cruz. On third down and two, Manning found tight end Kellen Davis who was unable to push the much smaller defensive back Tavon Wilson for the first down. On the drive after the punt, Bowman made another diving interception, and this one counted, setting up the Giants at their own 48 as Ryan Nassib entered the game at quarterback.
Two Andre Williams runs and a completion to to tight end Larry Donnell left the Giants just short of a first down in Patriots territory. Tom Coughlin elected to leave his offense on the first and try to pick up the the first down on the ground. Running right, behind John Jerry and Roger Gaines, Williams found a seam and burst into the secondary, gaining 38 yards and setting the Giants up with goal to go as the first quarter ended. They were unable to capitalize, as Nassib couldn’t find Donnell in the end zone twice and Brown kicked a 24 yard field goal to give the Giants a 3-0 lead. The scoring drive covered 46 yards and 8 plays, with the bulk coming on Williams fourth down run, the signature play of this game.
On the subsequent drive, the Patriots best of the night, Garoppolo mixed runs and passes to drive the team into Giants territory before dropping a perfect 33 yard pass to Aaron Dobson over Trumaine McBride for a touchdown. The play was challenged by the replay official and upheld and the Patriots took a 7-3 lead after going 8 plays in 82 yards. Brady held for the extra point, making a rare appearance in the fourth preseason game.
The Giants followed the Patriots best drive of the evening with one of their own as veteran running back Peyton Hillis carried the ball 7 times for 31 yards, Nassib threw a strikes to tight end Daniel Fells and wide receiver Jerrell Jernigan for a 26 and 22 yard gains, respectively, and the Giants found themselves first and goal on the Patriots 3 yard line. Hillis was given first crack and gained a yard. On second down Ben McAdoo called quick hand off to fullback Connor who was stuffed for no gain. On third down, Hillis plunged into the line again, and came up short, bringing up fourth and goal, and once again, Coughlin left his offense on field. Hillis leaped over line on the fourth down play and landed in the end zone for a Giants touchdown, a 10-7 lead, finishing a 14 play, 80 yard drive that took 7:35 off the clock.
New England answered with a 10 play drive of their own that was extended when Spencer Paysinger was screen out in an apparent illegal pick play by Dobson allowing rookie running back James White to gain 29 yards on 3rd and 5. This non call and another on a pass to Preston Parker in the end zone on the Giants previous drive were curious given the points of emphasis that have dominated the preseason during the first three weeks. It hopefully signals a return to more reasonable, although inconsistent officiating, that NFL fan have become accustomed to in recent years. A sack by Mike Patterson after the pass to White stalled the Patriots drive and they settled for a 37 yard field goal and a 10-10 tie, as the game reached half time. Curiously, the team announced that Jonathan Hankins was starting the game for Patterson, yet the veteran defensive tackle played late in the second quarter.
The Giants received the third quarter kickoff and the game seemed to become a typical late preseason affair and a succession of three and outs kept the teams exchanging punts until midway through the quarter. Garoppolo, who played the entire game for the Patriots, then took advantage of a talent mismatch, and completed passes to experienced second year receiver Thompkins and Dobson, who were working against third string Giants defenders and he marched the Patriots down the field, with 9 passes on a 12 play, 59 yard drive. The young Giant defenders made a stand in the red zone and forced a 21 field goal try and a 13-10 Patriots lead.
Nassib had the Giants poised to answer the score as he, with Michael Cox running the ball, completed two passes to Donnell and the Giants were in business at the Patriots 34. Adrien Robinson replaced Donnell as the third quarter, and most likely his Giants career, came to a close. Robinson made a terrific catch on 3rd and five for a first down, but had the ball stripped for a fumble that the Patriots recovered to end the Giants threat. The play was a microcosm for Robinson’s career, a flash of talent followed by a huge disappointment.
The Giants defense held, forcing a punt, and another bubble player, Preston Parker, was deep to field it. Parker has made a push for a roster spot of late, but muffed the punt, and while he recovered it, that won’t earn Coughlin’s trust. Curtis Painter took over for the Giants and Kendall Gaskins followed Robinson block around right end for a 19 yard gain. After two more short Gaskins runs, Painter found Donnell for 17 yard putting the team in range for the tying field goal. Taking a sack on the next series, and getting called a delay of game, it appeared Painter would allow the Patriots to make a stand, but he found Gaskins over the middle for 12 on 3rd and 22 giving Josh Brown a make-able 45 yard field goal, and setting the stage for a possible coaches nightmare – overtime in the preseason.
After the teams exchanged punt, the specter of overtime dominated the thoughts of those in attendance and Bill Belichick found himself facing 4th and 1 at his own 39 with 2:49 remaining. Deciding to gamble with nothing on the line, Garoppolo threw behind receiver Josh Boyce and the Giants took over with excellent field position. Had this been a regular season game, the Patriots would have surely punted.
The Giants ran the ball 5 straight times to run the clock down, however, Belichick curiously used one of his timeouts to preserve 38 seconds and give Garoppolo a few two minute drill snaps. Brown kicked a 37 yard field goal, the Patriots ran three plays without calling another time out, and the Giants finished the preseason 5-0 for the first time since 1985, with a 16-13 victory.
Weston Richburg and John Jerry went the distance at guard, as Coughlin’s thought they needed the work before a challenging match up at Detroit in 10 days. This would indicate that Brandon Mosley’s back is not coming around as quickly as the team had hoped. The Giants ran the ball behind Jerry several times and although it was against inferior talent, he seemed to get an impressive surge on several plays.
Israel Idonije, who did not make the Giants360 projected 53, helped his cause with two sacks in the game. He excels on special teams, and may steal a spot on the defensive line from Jordan Stanton, who would then be a candidate for the practice squad.
Donnell caught 4 of 6 passes thrown his way for 60 yards, cementing his spot as the top tight end of a non spectacular group. He’s still young, and will improve as a blocker. Manning was an unimpressive 1 of 4 for 0 yards passing in his limited appearance.
After the game, Eric Herman and Jayron Hosley were placed on the Reserve Suspended list while the serve their four game suspensions. Hosley was suspended for violating the leagues substance abuse policy, and Herman for the performance enhancing drug policy. Twenty additional players will have to cut, or placed on various reserve list, if eligible before Saturday at 4 PM as the Giants must reach the roster limit of 53 players.
Not helping their cause for making the team were Parker, who muffed a punt, Julian Talley, who dropped a pass from Painter in the fourth quarter that would have set the Giants up to take the lead without Belichick’s preseason chicanery, Robinson with his continued inconsistent play, and Trumaine McBride, who was out of position on several plays.
Coughlin’s faces a difficult decision at running back, where Hillis, Cox, and Gaskins have all played well enough to justify roster spots. Only two of the three will be kept. If Cox or Gaskins is waived, they would be prime candidates for a practice squad spot.
Besides Hynoski’s rotator cuff, the only other injury of note was to wide receiver Mario Manningham who left the game with a calf injury. He wasn’t targeted with a pass and has likely seen his last snap as a Giant.
During this preseason, the Giants second and third teams consistently outperformed the first team, leading to wins in all five games. This is an indicator of depth on the roster and bodes well for the future of the team, however, offensive line struggles, and the failure of the passing game to find it’s rhythm during the early part of the preseason games leads to the conclusion that this team will struggle in September. The Detroit Lions have a fearsome front four and we will find out on September 8th just how challenged this offensive line will be. The starting front four on defense have also not gotten much of a pass rush, with only Mike Patterson registering one of their 14 sacks. Damontre Moore, who will be a pass rush specialist rang up 4 sacks during this preseason.
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