The New York Giants have played 120 minutes of football in 2017. They have run 108 plays. And they’re still waiting for their first offensive highlight.
We watched them sputter against Dallas last week, transforming the season’s first Sunday Night Football contest from an intriguing divisional battle into a good time for a nap, and we’ve now watched them try just as meekly to score against Detroit, transforming a Monday night matchup of two reigning playoff teams into another slog. They lost 24-10 on Monday, with the offense returning to its Week 1 hibernation after an early score.
Two weeks, two prime-time performances, two complete duds. The 2017 Giants are boring. Get them off my TV.
A good offense speeds; it glides downfield; it runs fluid plays and manipulates tempo to score. The Giants—well, the Giants plod. Eli Manning has never been the most graceful quarterback, nor the offense he captains the most dynamic, but the team’s recent stretch is dismal even by his established standards. Counting last year’s playoff loss, New York has scored fewer than 20 points in eight straight games, the franchise’s longest streak since 1978-79 and the longest for any team since the 2014 season.
Every part of the offense has floundered thus far in 2017. Paul Perkins, the nominal lead running back, has carried the ball 14 times this year; his longest gain is 4 yards. Odell Beckham Jr. missed Week 1 due to an ankle injury, then was largely quiet on Monday, catching just four passes for 36 yards. Fellow receiver Brandon Marshall was supposed to provide a worthy complement to Beckham’s singular brilliance, but the former Jet has nabbed just a single grab in each game. The entire offensive line is a sieve and let Detroit’s defense collect five sacks for the first time since 2015.
Statistically, the Giants’ quarterback doesn’t look so bad, as my colleague Riley McAtee wrote after last week’s three-point showing. Manning doesn’t have one of his trademark multi-interception games yet, and he’s completed 73 percent of his passes at a rate of 6.6 yards per attempt. But outside of Monday’s touchdown toss to rookie tight end Evan Engram, he hasn’t made a single throw that felt like it was a threat to score, and he’s seemingly traded offensive philosophies with the Chiefs’ Alex Smith. Now, Smith is taking shots downfield and trading increased risk for greater potential reward, while Manning has exchanged his usual array of floaters for checkdowns. Even when the old Manning failed, he at least created highlights while doing so. This year’s Giants have exhibited no offensive energy or entertainment value at all.
Here, some proof, as you might have missed a representative sequence as your eyes glazed a smidge more with each 5-yard Manning dumpoff. In the third quarter, trailing 17-7 and having gone punt, punt, punt, interception with no first downs in its previous four drives, New York drove to Detroit’s 1-yard line. On first-and-goal, Perkins was stopped for no gain, on a play that didn’t count anyway due to a holding penalty. First down from the 11 yielded an incomplete pass, second down a 2-yard rush, and third down a Manning checkdown well short of the end zone. New York then lined up for a fourth-down try, only to receive a delay-of-game penalty and have to kick the field goal. The fans in Jersey booed—not for the first time or the last during the game. The team didn’t reach the red zone again all night.
There’s also the matter of New York’s competition on Monday. The Lions have made the playoffs in two of the past three seasons, but losing to Matthew Stafford is still an indictment of any team. Since the start of the 2014 season, including the postseason, Detroit has gone just 2-18 in games against playoff teams. The history suggests New York isn’t a playoff candidate, but that much was already clear from watching the Giants scuffle against the Cowboys and Lions. NFL viewers don’t need any more proof.
To that end, it’s both a shame and a redundancy that New York is slated to feature in two more prime-time matchups this year—at Denver on an October Sunday night, at Washington on Thanksgiving—and has a number of other games that could receive top TV billing. In another year, with another Eli, Giants-Seahawks, Giants-Chiefs, Giants-Raiders, and Giants-Cowboys Part 2 would all be candidates for national exposure. To avoid subjecting viewers to more arrhythmic three-and-outs, I hope only that the network executives have watched all 120 minutes of dreary Giants football thus far. But I wouldn’t blame them if they haven’t had the stamina or tendency toward schadenfreude to make it all the way through.