A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, New York Giants General Manager George Young pulled the trigger on a trade with the Houston Oilers for a backup running back named Rob Carpenter. A fifth year pro, Carpenter became relegated to fullback duties when the Oilers drafted Earl Campbell in 1978. Apparently the Giants had their eyes on Carpenter for a few years. He was a good blocker, good runner and had excellent hands. Perhaps most importantly, he was tough. Carpenter had been averaging 300 yards per season for the Oilers in his 3 + seasons with the team but was deemed expendable in head coach Ed Biles scheme which featured Earl Campbell and Tim Wilson as the blocking back.
I have some not-so-fond memories of this time as a young Giants fan. I remember full-well hearing Leon Perry’s name being called on third and one. The result more often than not was Fourth and One. The Giants were forced to punt the ball. (Going for it at that time was all but unheard of).
The Giants traded undisclosed draft picks for Carpenter, thought to have been as low as a third round pick. As it turned out, the trade was a good one for the Giants. Lifting up a weak running game that featured Billy Taylor, Doug Kotar and Leon Perry, Carpenter went on to have the best season of his career rushing for 833 yards including 4-100 yard games.
Carpenter led the Giants to their first playoff victory in decades with 33 carries for 161 yards as well as 4 receptions for 32 yards in a 27-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. He continued to play for the Giants until 1985.
Fast forward to present day. The Giants have lost their all-world back Saquon Barkley to a season-ending acl injury. As if anything more could go wrong in the world this season, the best player on the Giants went down with a major injury in Game 2. Barkley was the key to the Giants offense. So heavily relied upon to move the chains for the Giants, his backup, Wayne Gallman was not even activated for the game.
The Giants slept walked through the first half against the Chicago Bears making the Mitch Trubisky-led offense look better than they were. The Bears wide receivers featuring Allen Robinson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Anthony Miller and Darnell Mooney effectively offset the run game led by David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen. The Bears led the Giants, 10-0 before the Giants’ Daniel Jones threw his first interception of the day. Total yardage thus far in the game was entirely in the Bears favor; 81 yards to the Giants 4.
On their final drive of the first half, Trubisky operated like a surgeon. Using weapons Darnell Mooney, Javon Wims and Ryan Nall, Trubisky ended the drive with a touchdown pass to Moody over struggling cornerback Corey Ballentine. Trubisky was 5 of 5 on this drive for 56 yards. The Giants pass rush on this drive was nowhere to be found.
The Giants, on the other hand, were rumbling, stumbling and fumbling. Their first three possessions featured a fumble, a punt and an interception before Barkley went down with his season-ending injury. The Giants attempted a 57-yard field goal with 2 seconds left in the half. The result was a miss. The GMEN had 31 passing yards in the first half. The score was 17-0 at the half. For those of you scoring at home, the last time the Bears shutout the Giants in the first half was 1991. Surprising as it was, the Giants were still in the game.
In the words of NFL coaching immortal Knute Rockne, “build up on your weaknesses until they become your strong points”. Perhaps these words were among the half time speech given to the team by head coach Joe Judge as the Giants made a valiant effort in the second half.
After an opening drive that included a third down sack of Daniel Jones by the Bears’s Akiem Hicks, the Giants showed some life on the next drive when Julian Love intercepted a Trubisky pass that was tipped by cornerback James Bradberry. The Giants proceeded to turn the drive into 3 points and they were on the board… score 17-3 in favor of the Bears.
After losing wide receiver Sterling Shepard to what would be a season-ending toe injury, the Giants used an assortment of players including Wide Receiver C.J. Board and Tight End Kaden Smith on an 8-play, 91 yard scoring drive resulting in a Dion Lewis touchdown for the GMEN. The Giants were back in this one, 17-10.
On the Bears next drive, Giants cornerback James Bradberry proved his worth with an amazing interception of Trubisky. Using his newest favorite weapons, CJ Board and Kaden Smith, Daniel Jones drove the Giants down to field goal position where new kicker Graham Gano made the score 17-13… game on!
The Bears followed up with a drive that caught the Giants defense off guard with 57 yards on the ground. They attempted to end it with a long field goal attempt which was no good. With 2:02 left in the game, the Giants would get the ball back on what would wind up being their final drive of the game.
The GMEN proceeded to keep to keep their drive alive with two fourth down conversions. Finally, with time winding down to 8 seconds left, the GMEN were called for offensive pass interference as Wide Receiver Golden Tate pushed off his defender. Game over. The Giants lost 17-13. Although nobody likes a loss, it is easy to see the positive in the Giants second half performance. One can’t help but believe that they could have pulled out a victory with additional time on the clock.
Moving forward, the Giants signed free agent running back Devonta Freeman to fill-in for the injured Saquon Barkley. Freeman is a 28-year old two-time Pro Bowler who can do it all; run, catch and block. Some think Freeman’s best years are behind him. I ask all fans to remember the Rob Carpenter lesson. An early-mid season key addition to your team can infuse energy and enthusiasm.
Whereas I am not necessarily looking for a playoff visit this year for the 0-2 Giants, I do think that the addition of Freeman will help the GMEN on putting a few more W’s on the board this year. I do see some positive signs on both sides of the ball for the GMEN and loved the second half effort displayed in the Bears game, albeit in a loss. With the addition of Freeman and continued improvement on both sides of the ball, I think this team might surprise. Just some thoughts from an ignorantly optimistic Giants fan!
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