After a devastating 24-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon, the New York Giants have probably been reading a lot of negative headlines.
Overblown reactions about offensive line play, Ben McAdoo’s play calling, and Eli Manning’s untimely demise will dominate New York’s sports pages. Fans will be treated to a steady diet of “Are the Giants for real?” questions — probably until the season ends.
Shades of the yearly Tom Coughlin late season collapse will haunt the McAdoo era Giants fan, who will be forced to relive years of December pain over the course of the next few weeks.
My advice to Giants fans: ignore it all.
The facts remain that the Giants are still an 8-4 team, in pole position for the top wild card spot in the NFC with multiple winnable games left on the schedule. They have a top 10 defense, a Super Bowl winning quarterback, and one of the most dynamic offensive playmakers the NFL has ever seen. And no, I’m not talking about Ereck Flowers.
Despite the offense struggling again on Sunday, Odell Beckham Jr. was nothing short of phenomenal. He hauled in 10 receptions for 100, by far the Giants’ leading receiver on the day. No New York wide out had more than four receptions on the day, and no player had more than 34 yards receiving. It was the Odell Beckham show in Pittsburgh, and everyone in the stadium was well aware.
OBJ was even effective as a decoy, providing the impetus for one of the most creative play calls of the year for New York. With the Giants facing third down and five and needing a score, Eli ran a double play action, in which he faked the hand off to Rashad Jennings, faked a reverse to Odell, only to dump the ball on a screen to Jennings, who was able to get the first down.
That play doesn’t work if defenses aren’t absolutely terrified of Beckham, and it demonstrates one of the creative uses the Giants have found for their superstar receiver.
Despite his dominance on Sunday, it’s hard to watch the Giants and feel like Beckham couldn’t do more. While he had 10 receptions on Sunday, just one was in the first half. Perhaps getting him involved earlier could help establish the dangers of this offense and allow others to get open and make plays.
However, it became clear on Sunday that on the offensive side of the football, the Giants will go to Beckham every time they get backed into a corner. Why they keep acting like they spread out the football is anyone’s guess.
Down the stretch against Pittsburgh, it became abundantly clear that the Giants were prepared to give the ball to Odell on nearly every play. So, why pretend in the first half that you’re going to spread it out? Why not run that same hurry up, quick slant offense that they use in the two minute drill, which has decimated opposing defenses all season? It fits the strengths of this offense and mitigates the weaknesses.
Instead we get what we saw on Sunday. McAdoo running his same ’11’ personnel on every single play, utilizing uncreative formations and play calling to stumble his way into victories with his defense bailing him out late in close games. That’s not a recipe for success in December, and certainly not a recipe for success in the playoffs.
If the Giants want to correct their offensive course, they need to make defenses so hyper-focused on Odell that they don’t care about anything else. Throw at him the first eight plays of the game. Run a reverse with him. Even let him throw a pass in the first quarter.
Just make him so visible in each and every game that the opposing defense is sitting on their sideline thinking, “How in the world can we stop this guy?”
As much as Giants fans want the hallmark of this team to be balance, the realities of the roster prevent that. Instead, New York should focus on leveraging its superstar players to make defenses uncomfortable, and it starts with Odell.
Bill Nayden | elitesportsny.com | December 7, 2016