Tom Coughlin said the 21-20 loss to the Chargers wasn't all bad, and he's right. But there were still plenty of negatives to go around to produce a loss that never should have happened. As you'll see in this report card, a lot of people on the sideline are going to be sentenced to wearing the dunce caps and sitting with their backs to the rest of the class.
QUARTERBACK: Can't blame Eli Manning for much in this one. His old accuracy returned as he went 25-of-33 for 215 yards and two touchdowns. Most comforting about his work was the fact that he did not throw an interception after tossing six the previous three games. He was sacked five times, but it could easily have been seven or eight had it not been for a couple of nice scrambles away from the pressure. I think we can put to rest any further talk of his injured plantar fascia bothering him after watching how well he moved. He did have a delay of game penalty, but it didn't ruin a real scoring threat. Aside from the risky touchdown throw he made to Steve Smith, fitting the ball between two tightly-covering defenders, and failing to see Kevin Boss wide open in the end zone, he operated a good, controlled passing game. Most of the throws were on the safe, shorter side, and that's a good thing. GRADE: B.
RUNNING BACKS: Brandon Jacobs is still looking for his first 100-yard game of the season, though he certainly would have had it if the coaching staff had put the ball in his hands more than 11 times. He still got 67 yards out of it for a season-high 6.1-yard average. He knocked down linebackers and defensive backs on several runs when he got his pads low and ran like he should. He also had a great blitz pickup on a seven-yard throw to Smith on the first possession. Ahmad Bradshaw wasn't much of a factor in carrying 14 times for 39 yards. But Danny Ware was, gaining nine yards on his first two carries of the season to set up a field goal. GRADE: B.
RECEIVERS: Hakeem Nicks caught three passes for 39 yards and continued to impress as he stepped around right cornerback Antonio Cromartie to turn a short gain into 29 yards and a first down. Steve Smith is back to being Manning's go-to guy with eight catches for 57 yards and a touchdown. Boss should have had two touchdowns yesterday, but Manning failed to see him. Instead, he had one for eight yards where he got nice separation in the end zone to go along with a nine-yard catch on which safety Eric Weddle laid him out with a helmet-to-facemask hit. Tough guy that he is, he wobbled off the field and was back for more later. Mario Manningham ran some decent routes and caught all six passes thrown to him for 52 yards. Don't forget Nicks' nice end-around, too. GRADE: B+.
OFFENSIVE LINE: They run-blocked okay for the most part, as the 116-yard combined effort showed. But they let down in key spots, like the Giants' final scoring drive when they couldn't open a hole for Brandon Jacobs to punch it into the end zone. Chris Snee's hold on that possession, with the ball at the 4, was a real killer. And the pass protection was shaky as Manning took five sacks, including a strip sack by Shaun Phillips and a game-ending sack by Shawne Merriman, his second of the game. GRADE: D.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Another up and down game for this unit. Osi Umenyiora continues to show up for one or two plays per game, this time strip-sacking Philip Rivers on third-and-nine to knock them out of field goal range in the second quarter with the score tied. After that, where was he? Nowhere. Chris Canty got his first work since the opener at defensive tackle, but didn't make a big impact. Fred Robbins' bull-rush sack started a great three-and-out sequence for the defense, just when they needed it at the start of the fourth quarter. Also in that series was a tackle by Justin Tuck that resulted in a nine-yard loss, and a no-gain tackle by Mathias Kiwanuka. Tuck also did a great job smelling out a Vincent Jackson reverse, but he failed to keep up with Antonio Gates in coverage on the zone blitz. Again, he was the most active of the linemen the whole game. The front-four pressure was inconsistent, though, and they seemed to run out of gas just when it was most important, late in the fourth quarter. GRADE: C.
LINEBACKERS: The re-appearance of Michael Boley did make a difference, as he contributed seven tackles and a pass breakup. But he got caught up on Rivers' throw on the final touchdown drive that found RB Darren Sproles wide open in the middle, a bad error. Second-round rookie Clint Sintim, in his first significant time on the defense, did well in coverage in place of the slower, much older Danny Clark. But Antonio Pierce again was better pre-snap than post-snap. He finished with three tackles, but hit the quarterback only once despite several blitz opportunities. And the best he could do on Rivers' touchdown pass to Kris Wilson was to give Wilson a frustrated chuck in the back well after Wilson had secured the ball in the end zone. GRADE: D.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Corey Webster had his hands full with Vincent Jackson and, truth be told, he didn't do a horrible job against the 6-foot-5, 230-pound target. Jackson did catch two scoring passes off him, including the game-winner, and Webster did commit pass interference against him in the end zone to set up the Wilson touchdown. But he did have five tackles, including one behind the line. Can't blame Terrell Thomas for much of anything. In fact, his late-game interception and 33-yard return to the Chargers' 4 should have iced the game and made him a hero. That was his team-leading third pick of the year, and he finished with a team-high nine tackles. Bruce Johnson had a couple of nice breakups, one on Jackson, but might have been burned had Rivers spotted the receivers he let loose. Aaron Rouse did provide an upgrade over C.C. Brown. Michael Johnson had an interception, but blew it all when he failed to get over to help Webster on the final scoring pass. GRADE: C.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Ugh! A real disaster, starting with a botched field goal operation that forced Lawrence Tynes to bypass a 39-yard, first-possession attempt because Jeff Feagles couldn't get the ball down. Make that, and it's not even an issue at the end. Feagles had another lousy day punting, too, as two of his five punts went for 32 and 31 yards, giving the Chargers a short field to work with. They scored touchdowns off each of them. Kevin Dockery rammed Sproles senselessly on a fair catch. Domenik Hixon had exactly one punt return worth talking about, a 13-yarder. The kickoff coverage was okay, and Tynes skipped two into the end zone. GRADE: F.
COACHING: This is really where the game was lost. Just bad decisions all around. Tom Coughlin should have gone for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 4 late in the fourth quarter. A touchdown would have made it a two-possession game and put it out of reach. At worst, they don't make it and San Diego is backed up against their goal line, which changes the way Rivers would have had to play the final two minutes. Instead, he sent Tynes out for the field goal and a six-point lead. Coughlin also should have overridden some of the passes offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride order in favor of handing the ball to Jacobs, who was knocking people over. I'm beginning to believe the coaches think Jacobs is too fragile, and if overused will miss a significant portion of the season. He made two excellent runs his first two carries, and then he was out of the lineup for Bradshaw. In fact, Jacobs was in and out of the backfield the whole game. No way Bradshaw should have more carries than him. Most of the blitzes Bill Sheridan called did not get home, allowing Rivers plenty of time to find receivers and forcing Webster to play an imposing receiver like Jackson one-on-one for the most part. Also questionable is his decision to have Tuck, the defense's most consistent player against both run and pass, drop back from the pass rush to chase Gates on two key plays, neither of which worked out well. With the ball on the 14 and the Giants needing a touchdown, the play-calling went: Screen to Nicks for no gain, Jacobs up the middle for five, and Jacobs up the middle for five. Play-action, anyone? GRADE: F.
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