Giants-Lions Week 1 Thoughts: Debacle in Detroit

New York Giants at Detroit Lions

One year ago when the Giants lost 36-31 to the Cowboys in Dallas on Sunday Night Football, I was disappointed about the Giants’ sloppy six-turnover effort. But it was promising knowing that despite turning the ball over six times (three interceptions, three fumbles), Eli Manning threw for 450 yards and four touchdowns, Victor Cruz had three touchdowns and 118 receiving yards and Hakeem Nicks had 114 receiving yards.

On Monday night when the Giants lost 35-14 to the Lions in Detroit, I was disappointed because I had waited since Nov. 24 (Week 12) for a meaningful Giants game and they turned in an embarrassing effort. There wasn’t anything promosing about Monday night. Eli Manning looked like he was asked to learn sign language in Ben McAdoo’s offense and either he learned it incorrectly (unlikely) or his receivers didn’t care to learn it (very likely), the Giants’ receivers couldn’t hang on to passes, the offensive line left Eli exposed enough to nearly end his career and the hyped-up secondary looked as bad as any Giants secondary in recent years.

Monday night went as bad as anyone could have imagined for the Giants in the first game of the season. Calvin Johnson set the tone, the Giants’ offensive problems looked like a continuation of the preseason and the Lions walked into a win that not even Jim Caldwell could mess up. A year ago, we had the “Disaster in Dallas” to begin the 2013 season and on Monday night, we had the “Debacle in Detroit” to begin the 2014 season.

– Let’s start with Eli Manning because it’s up to him to make the 2014 Giants’ season not play out the way 2013 did. The problem with Eli’s success is that his success is tied directly to that of Ben McAdoo and his receivers. Eli (18-for-33, 163 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) was far from his best and far from even mediocrity, but McAdoo, who was supposed to come here and make the Giants’ offense Packers East, was calling plays the way Kevin Gilbride would have, and Eli’s receivers, clearly lost with the new offense, were busy running wrong routes and dropping passes.

Eli looked ridiculous giving hand signals at the line rather than yelling “Omaha!” or telling everyone at home who is wearing the mic on the defense. It was almost as if Eli was being threatened with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for talking as he turned to receivers to give them index finger into hole signals, looking like he was a fourth grader who realized for the first time that he could do things with his hands to represent intercourse. And he looked lost trying to let Larry Donnell know where he was supposed to be on the line by using his hands to look like he was wringing out a wet towel and by touching his body all over the place as if he was trying to let a hitter and baserunner know that a hit-and-run is on.

Eli can’t do it by himself because no quarterback can, but things don’t seem like they are going to get better around him. The offensive line is bad and there’s no real help on the way. The Giants’ best receiver is a 21-year-old rookie, who has never really even practiced with the team, let alone played in a game or built any chemistry with Eli. And the offensive coordinator has never been an offensive coordinator before at any level. So let’s get to that offensive coordinator.

– Mike Tirico decided to chime in and take a shot at an offensive line-less and receiver-less Eli by hyping up Aaron Rodgers and saying how we should all be thankful Rodgers was born since he is so brilliant in the same offense Eli is trying to run. But Jon Gruden stepped in and shot down Tirico’s ridiculous praise for Rodgers by mentioning the obvious fact that “Rodgers has been in that system for years, Eli has been in this system for months.”

That system is the Packers’ or Mike McCarthy’s and now it’s Ben McAdoo’s, which is some form of those mixed with his own additions and modifications.

Ben McAdoo was hired on Jan. 14, which means he had 238 days until opening night to get the Giants’ offense set. The NFL schedule was released on April 23, which means the Giants knew for at least 138 days that they would be playing the Lions. That means for the last 138 days McAdoo has been thinking up his first-drive plays to use against the Lions. So what did the Giants run on their opening drive (trailing 7-0)?

First-and-10 at New York 20: Rashad Jennings left tackle to New York 18 for -2 yards.

Second-and-12 at New York 18: Rashad Jennings right tackle to New York 19 for 1 yard.

Third-and-11 at New York 19: Eli Manning pass incomplete short right to Jerrel Jernigan.

Run, run, pass intended to the fifth- or sixth-best offensive option to begin the season with a three-and-out? Are we sure Gilbride didn’t make a promise with Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin that he would resign, but the Giants had to promise to use whatever three plays he wanted to begin the 2014 season? I thought we were going to get a taste of Aaron Rodgers and put an emphasis on the passing game in the 2014 NFL in which every rule change and adjustment to the game has been made to help the quarterback, receivers and passing in the league. But instead we got the same exact offense we were supposedly getting rid of.

In the third quarter, after giving up a field goal to trail 17-7, the Giants took over at their own 20 following a touchback. Here’s how McAdoo decided to orchestrate the ensuing drive:

First-and-10 at New York 20: Rashad Jennings up the middle to New York 20 for no gain.

Second-and-10 at New York 20: Rashad Jennings right tackle to New York 23 for 3 yards.

Third-and-7 at New York 23: Eli Manning pass short middle to Jerrel Jernigan to New York 26 for 3 yards.

Does that sequence look familiar?

In the fourth quarter with 4:39 left and the Lions leading 35-14 and the game out of reach, the Giants had the ball with a chance to get some garbage-time plays in and get some vital practice with their new offense against a non-practice and non-preseason opponent. Here’s how that drive went:

First-and-10 at New York 20: Eli Manning pass short right to Rashad Jennings to New York 35 for 15 yards.

First-and-10 at New York 35: Eli Manning pass short left to Rashad Jennings to New York 44 for 9 yards.

Second-and-1 at New York 44: Eli Manning pass incomplete deep right to Victor Cruz.

Third-and-1 at New York 44: Andre Williams left end to New York 44 for no gain.

Fourth-and-1 at New York 44: Andre Williams up the middle to New York 44 for no gain.

Eli Manning had 32 passes targeted at receivers. Here’s the breakdown of where those pass attempts went to:

Larry Donnell: 8 (24%)
Jerrel Jernigan: 7 (21%)
Victor Cruz: 6 (18%)
Rashad Jennings: 5 (15%)
Rueben Randle: 3 (9%)
Daniel Fells: 1 (3%)
Corey Washington: 1 (3%)
Andre Williams: 1 (3%)

Cruz, the team’s best receiver, was targeted just the third-most times and Rueben Randle, the team’s second-best receiver, was targeted the fifth-most times, four times less than Jernigan.

One game might not be enough for me to start asking to bring Kevin Gilbride, which would be the equivalent of me asking for the Yankees to bring A.J. Burnett or Nick Swisher or extend Mark Teixeira’s contract for five more years, but that’s all we have to go off of right now and McAdoo didn’t impress in his Giants debut.

– Victor Cruz caught two passes for 24 yards and was targeted six times. I believe five of those six times came after a rough first quarter for Manning when it was obvious that Cruz was upset and frustrated he wasn’t getting the ball. I was upset and frustrated too. Especially since Jerrel Jernigan was all of a sudden being thrown to as if he had become 2009 Steve Smith or 2011 Cruz. But as Manning started to go back to his trusted receiver, Cruz bobbled and dropped his passes, several of which were for potential big gains.

The Giants chose to pay Cruz (five years, $43 million) instead of Nicks and then decided not to pay Nicks at all after his 13-game, touchdown-less 2013 season, so he went to Indianapolis for cheap and signed a one-year, $3.975 million deal. Cruz is not a No. 1 receiver even if he is supposed to be. He is a No. 1 receiver the same way Chien-Ming Wang was an ace. He is a slot receiver, who put up big numbers because he was on the field with Nicks, who is a real No. 1. Monday night was a glimpse into life without a true No. 1 receiver to protect Cruz and he was awful.

– In the third quarter, the Lions, leading 17-7, started first-and-10 at their own 25 and Robert Ayers sacked Matthew Stafford for a loss of five yards and celebrated as if he was Jay Alford ending Tom Brady and the Patriots’ quest for perfection in Super Bowl XLII. Losing by 10 points and getting to the quarterback for the first time in the game in the third quarter and acting the way Ayers did was embarrassing. Two plays later, Golden Tate caught a 44-yard pass on third-and-11. For some reason, I didn’t see Ayers on camera acting as if he just doubled an 11 and got a 10 with $20,000 on the table following Tate’s big play.

I didn’t think anyone could one-up Ayers’ celebration, but on the same drive, just six plays after Ayers’ sack, Prince Amukamara was able to knock the ball out of Joseph Fauria’s hands in the end zone on second-and-Goal from the 9 to prevent a touchdown and then one-upped Ayers. Amukamara emphatically gave the incomplete sign as if he was signaling that the winning run had scored in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7 of the World even though Fauria had caught a 26-yard pass on second-and-13 from the Giants’ 35 just two plays earlier to put the Lions at the Giants’ 9.

– Calvin Johnson had seven catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns and it felt like way more than that. His first touchdown, a 67-yard wide-open reception, gave me flashbacks to the days of DeSean Jackson backpedaling and simultaneously laughing at the Giants’ secondary. Except this Giants’ secondary was supposed to be different. But in Tom Coughlin’s halftime spot with ESPN, he summed up the first half by saying, “We hung in there,” which showed the Giants haven’t changed. If the Yankees are using, “Our history. Your tradition,” then maybe Coughlin just gave the Giants their slogan for 2014. “The 2014 New York Giants: We hung in there.”

The problem is the Giants didn’t continue to “hang in there” after Coughlin offered that wisdom. The Giants were then outscored 13-0 in the third quarter and 21-7 in the second half on the way to their three-touchdown loss. “We hung in there” isn’t a phrase that breeds confidence let alone winning and the Giants did anything but “hang in” a game they allowed the Lions to go 10-for-15 on third down. To make matters worse here is how those successful third downs played out:

1. Third-and-9 at Detroit 33: 67-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson.

2. Third-and-13 at New York 16: 16-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson.

3. Third-and-3 at Detroit 38: 9-yard pass to Golden Tate.

4. Third-and-4 at New York 47: 24-yard pass to Calvin Johnson.

5. Third-and-11 at Detroit 24: 44-yard pass to Golden Tate.

6. Third-and-5 at New York 5: 5-yard touchdown run for Matthew Stafford.

7. Third-and-7 at Detroit 23: 22-yard pass to Calvin Johnson.

8. Third-and-5 at 50: 11-yard pass to Calvin Johnson.

9. Third-and-4 at New York 13: 10-yard pass to Golden Tate.

10. Third-and-3 at New York 37: 12-yard pass to Golden Tate.

Those third-down letdowns were the bad part of Giants football that still hasn’t changed and maybe never will, but it doesn’t look like the good part of Giants football is going to return soon to make up for it.

It’s almost impossible to remember that this team won the Super Bowl 31 months ago and it’s hard to remember that this team won seven games just last year since right now seven wins seems unfathomable. The Yankees barely got me to the Giants, and right now, I don’t see the Giants even getting me to the Rangers.