The New York Giants traveled up to Western New York to face off against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night in what was a homecoming game for head coach Brian Daboll. The oddsmakers thought it would be a homecoming game for the Bills, as well, in the sense that they expected Buffalo to run away with it. Someone forgot to tell the Giants, though, and for 60 football minutes, they gave the Bills all they could handle.
After a last-gasp pass fell incomplete — the second one in the end zone after a pass-interference penalty called on linebacker Terrel Bernard gave the Giants a second chance — the game ended in a 14-9 victory for the Bills. Frankly, the final pass of the game, which went from quarterback Tyrod Taylor to tight end Darren Waller, probably involved a pass-interference penalty that many believe is called more often than not, as slot corner Taron Johnson was all over Waller right from the jump. However, the officials let the play stand, and the Bills came out on top.
Buffalo’s top-end play makers on offense were stifled by some of the Giants’ better defenders, and a toothless Giants offense had opportunities against Buffalo’s new-look defense, but could not capitalize when it mattered most. Here’s how our five Giants to watch performed this week.
RB Saquon Barkley
In what has become a troubling trend over the years with head coach Sean McDermott and his defenses, the Bills were able to limit the Giants’ ground attack for most of the game, but they allowed a string of very long runs that nearly ruined their other successes. Overall, Barkley had a solid, if unspectacular day, carrying 24 times for 93 yards and adding four catches for five yards. On New York’s first drive of the fourth quarter, Barkley moved the Giants from their own 10-yard line to Buffalo’s 37-yard line on just two carries. He totaled four carries for 65 yards on that drive alone, meaning that he ran it 19 times for a total of 28 yards on the rest of the night. That included a rush for no gain that served as the last play of the first half, as quarterback Tyrod Taylor checked to a run play with 14 seconds remaining and no timeouts. While head coach Brian Daboll was mad — really mad — that Taylor checked to the run, my question is this: If you didn’t want him to change the play... why would you give him the option? That play was huge in the grand scheme of the game. Barkley looked to be suffering no ill effects from the high ankle injury that kept him out of the previous three contests.
T Evan Neal
Neal played all 77 of New York’s offensive snaps, which became quite important as they lost yet another offensive tackle to injury in this one. Left tackle Joshua Ezeudu left the game with a toe injury and he had to be carted to the locker room, leaving offensive lineman Justin Pugh — who was signed off his couch, by his own admission — to play left tackle. The Giants’ beleaguered offensive line held its own against a strong Bills pass rush, as they allowed just three sacks on the night. Tyrod Taylor was himself, taking safe, easy throws and throwing the ball on time, which helped to keep that piecemeal offensive line in good standing. Neal didn’t allow a sack on the day.
EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux
The wiry edge rusher was definitely in the middle of the action all night, as he played on 56 of the 61 defensive snaps New York had in the game. Thibodeaux totaled just one tackle for his time, though, and his biggest moment was actually his involvement in a fracas near the end of the third quarter where he was one of three Giants to earn unnecessary roughness penalties. Given that Dion Dawkins also drew a penalty for unnecessary roughness, and the NFL is the only place where three penalties equals one penalty, the foul ended up offsetting. Thibodeaux was controlled by Buffalo’s offensive line, which has been very good in pass protection so far this season.
DL Dexter Lawrence
The big man was another part of the three-headed penalty monster in that third-quarter kerfuffle, as was Leonard Williams. Lawrence also had just one tackle in spite of playing 80% of the Giants’ defensive snaps, but similar to defensive tackle Poona Ford with Buffalo, this is more a product of his role as the one-tech than it was a knock on his ability. The Bills, for their part, were able to run the ball effectively for most of the evening. The problem was that they didn’t start trying to run it consistently until the second half. The interior offensive line of right guard O’Cyrus Torrence, center Mitch Morse, and left guard Connor McGovern did a great job once again.
CB Adoree’ Jackson
The veteran corner was part of a committee that bracketed wideout Stefon Diggs, as the Giants doubled Diggs for most of the night and dared someone else to beat them. Rather than try to do that, Josh Allen spent most of his night trying to beat that double-team. He was able to do so, completing 10-of-16 passes thrown to Diggs for an even 100 yards, and 9-of-14 passes for 69 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception to everyone else. Jackson had six tackles and no pass breakups in the game. He left for two series due to a neck injury, but he was able to return afterward and log 79% of the Giants’ defensive snaps.