The New York Giants have been known for their defense for much of their history.
Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, and Michael Strahan are three defensive stalwarts whose careers were capped off by induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There are other players whose defensive prowess not only made the Giants formidable but made the G-Men champions.
The 2017 edition of the Giants defense is one of the NFL’s more fearsome units, on par with other Giants championship defenses. The offense, on the other hand, looks good on paper but has yet to live up to their potential.
The Giants got their posteriors handed to them in the 19-3 regular season opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Last season, the Giants defense carried the team to the postseason for the first time since winning Super Bowl XLVI. The same was expected in 2017 but the offense was supposed to do their part by scoring more points. It didn’t happen Sunday night at AT&T Stadium.
The Cowboys’ offense had 136 yards in the first quarter, holding the ball for 12 minutes, 14 seconds. The Giants offense, on the other hand, only gained four yards in two minutes, 46 seconds of possession. Despite the disparity in time of possession, the Cowboys entered the second quarter with a 3-0 lead.
“Whenever it is lopsided in time of possession, especially in the first game, there is no way to get prepared for that amount of plays,” linebacker and defensive captain Jonathan Casillas said. “I think the time of possession in the first half was so lopsided it definitely had an effect on us for a bit.”
Naturally, the defense showed signs of fatigue from being on the field so much. In spite of that, Dallas held a 16-0 lead at the half. The Giants defense held the Cowboys offense scoreless for the first 28 minutes of the second half. The offense didn’t bail them out in the least.
The frustration of the defense was best symbolized by defensive tackle Damon Harrison. The Man Called Snacks was seen shaking his head after the Giants offense was hit with a penalty for having 12 men on the field.
When it was all said and done, the Giants’ only points came in the form of a 25-yard field goal from placekicker Aldrick Rosas.
In spite of the lack of offensive firepower, Casillas took responsibility for the defense’s part in the loss.
“At times, we gave up a little bit too much, on defense we were leaking yard and of course the offense has to score more points,” Casillas said. “I think the defense has to do a better job of getting the ball and getting that field position.”
The Giants’ defense carrying the team is not a new concept. In 2016, they allowed the second fewest points in the NFL (only the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots’ defense allowed fewer points). The Giants offense averaged a little more than 19 points a game last season, ranked 26th in the league.
The Giants’ biggest margin of victory in 2016 was 14 points against the at-the-time winless Cleveland Browns. The Browns win in Week 12 was the last time the Giants scored 20 points or better, a span of seven games including the playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.
In fact, the Giants only scored 20 points or better in seven of their 17 games in 2016. Four of those 20-point performances were against sub .500 teams.
The lack of offensive production hasn’t fractured the team…yet. In 2016, the Giants coaching staff did an admirable job of keeping the focus on winning and losing as a team. When a team wins 11 games and makes the playoffs off for the first time in five years, its flaws are masked or ignored altogether.
The regular season opener against the Cowboys brought all the Giants’ flaws to life. It is important to remember that it was only the first game of the season, the first time many of the starters played any meaningful football in almost eight months.
Still, the offense needs to score more points. The Giants will not put a fifth Lombardi Trophy in the case without scoring touchdowns. Field goals are not going to cut it.
Head coach Ben McAdoo, whose own coaching foibles contributed to the Giants loss, thought the team didn’t perform in all three phases of the game.
“The defense has got to get off the field,” McAdoo said. “Our time of possession was out of whack. It was a combination of all three phases. Field position, special teams was a factor in there, defense has got to get off the field and the offense has to possess the ball and move the ball.”