By Brad Carroll
The Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, San Francisco 49ers … and the New York Giants. Those are your 2017 NFL franchises who have yet to win a game this season. Three of those teams were expected, one is a huge surprise, but all have little to no chance of making the postseason.
For the second straight week the Giants lost in devastating fashion, this time on a Nick Folk 34-yard field goal to send the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 25-23 victory Sunday night, and in the process, putting Big Blue in some unflattering company.
The Giants are now 0-4 on the season and the thoughts of a postseason appearance have all but evaporated. Sure, there is still a chance, but for the Giants to even come close, they would need to go 9-3 from here on out, and possibly 10-2. It won’t be easy, especially considering the team can’t even find a way to win one game this season.
The only team in NFL history to make the playoffs after starting 0-4 is the 1992 San Diego Chargers. That’s it. The Chargers finished that season 11-5, qualified as a wild card team, and won their first playoff game before losing in the following round.
On paper, the Giants will have a huge opportunity to win their first game of the season as they host, ironically enough, the Chargers. In fact, if the Giants don’t beat the Chargers at home next week this could turn into one of the worst seasons in team history. They have games against the Broncos and Seahawks after that, so the schedule does the Giants no favors.
On Sunday, the Giants once again found themselves in an early hole, trailing 13-0 after the first quarter, before making a comeback, taking the lead for the first time late in the third quarter, and after falling behind, took the lead again with 3:16 to go in the fourth quarter. But the Buccaneers answered by going 59 yards in nine plays to end another possible Giants victory with Folk's game-winning field goal.
Let’s take a look back at the Giants' keys to victory against the Buccaneers and how that game plan actually turned out on the field.
Did Offensive Line Protect Eli Manning?
The Giants used their third different grouping on the offensive line in four games Sunday, and while the the Buccaneers had no sacks and just two quarterback hits, as a whole, the line still struggled to control the line of scrimmage. The Giants running game didn’t make any kind of impact, totaling 91 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown. Twenty-two yards and the touchdown came from Manning. It’s possible the Giants may have found a new go-to rusher, as Wayne Gallam had 42 yards on 11 carries, which was by far the team-high. He also had a touchdown reception. The supposed top back, Paul Perkins, had 9 carries for 13 yards. Those numbers won't result in victories.
Did Odell Beckham Jr. outshine Mike Evans?
Beckham Jr. had a big game for the Giants, pulling in seven passes for 90 yards, but couldn’t get into the end zone. He also had what would have been a possible game-changing two-point conversion catch in the back of the end zone waived off because he had gone out of bounds before making the grab. Evans caught five passes for 67 yards and a touchdown for the Buccaneers. His touchdown grab gave the Bucs the lead in the first quarter. Evan had the bigger impact plays, as he also had a 31-yard reception, but Beckham Jr. certainly held his own. But the difference between having that two-point conversion and not made all the difference in the final result.
Did Giants Defense Stop Run?
Tampa Bay had a great day running the ball, and that allowed it to open up the passing game as well. Jacquizz Rodgers had 83 rushing yards on 16 carries, a 5.2-yard per carry average. As a team, the Buccaneers had 111 rushing yards and averaged over five yards per attempt. The running game was solid enough to allow Jameis Winston to pick apart the Giants secondary, as he threw for 332 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Giants weren’t outclassed by the Buccaneers Sunday, far from it, but the difference between winning and losing on a final field goal attempt is slim, and that’s what we saw in Tampa Bay.