Before we begin this version of the Sergio Leone classic, allow me to say how great it was to enjoy NFL football this weekend. In light of the year we are all experiencing, NFL football is a much welcomed diversion from Covid- related news updates. Amazingly enough, it appears that the NFL has found a way to provide us with a revised version of entertainment, albeit with few-to-no fans in the stadium and sideline personnel wearing masks. (One recommendation I do have to make; lay off the closeups of Chiefs coach Andy Reid if he continues to wear the plastic mask shield. His shield was covered in an unappealing moisture fog cloud). And let’s all keep our fingers crossed that there are no health repercussions as a result of the games being played this past weekend.
Now for the much anticipated season opener between the Giants and the Steelers, whose outcome came at no surprise. The Steelers won the game, 26-16, but for Giants fans, it could have been worse. The truth of the matter is that the GMEN were in the game much of the first half and were actually leading the Steelers 10-3 after their third drive of the game. Then reality set in. There was a tougher, more polished team in this game that was not from New York with a Superbowl-winning quarterback leading them named Ben Roethlisberger. Truth be told, the Steelers were manhandling the Giants on several fronts. After the Giants held a brief 10-3 lead, an impressive New York drive was stalled when the Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt intercepted a Daniel Jones pass. Ben’s pass to Ju-Ju Smith Shuster over new Giants cornerback James Bradberry made the score 10-9. The tide had indeed turned.
The Giants were unable to get Saquon Barkley going pretty much the entire game. Run blocking was non-existent. The Steelers stated after the game that their primary mission was to render Saquon Barkley ineffective during the game. They succeeded in achieving this goal. This is how the Giants linemen fared against the Steelers:
Linemen Rankings From Pro Football Focus:
LT-Andrew Thomas: 60.8
LG-Will Hernandez: 46.3
C- Nick Gates: 54.4
RG- Kevin Zeitler: 49.6
RT- Cameron Fleming: 51.6
The Giants proceeded to go nowhere on their next possession. Saquon continued to get stuffed on or near the line of scrimmage. At this point in the game, he had 7 rushes for -6 yards. This is not a recipe for winning the game. And when James Connor went down with an injury for the Steelers, his replacement, Benny Snell ran hard on the Giants to the tune of 19 carries for 113 yards.
The Giants and the Steelers exchanged possessions leaving the ball in the hands of the Steelers. Big Ben looked to be in form as he continued to find Ju-Ju Shuster Smith open. Rookie Darnay Holmes was unable to stay with him. A 13-yard pass from Ben to James Washington made it 16-10 at the half. Ben was 5-7 for 67 yards and a touchdown on this last drive.
With the Giants trailing 16-10 in the third quarter, Daniel Jones ended a heroic 19-play drive that could have put them ahead with an awful interception just outside of the end zone. This blunder was a key point in the game for the Giants, who never recovered. Pittsburgh took control of the remainder of the game.
The Steelers went on a 9-play 62 yard drive that made the score 19-10, Steelers. The inability of Barkley to gain positive yards on offense combined with the inability to stop linebacker Bud Dupree from getting to Daniel Jones was a theme that remained constant throughout the second half of the game.
The Giants did score again on Darius Slayton’s second touchdown reception of the day. The Steelers added one more score. The final score was 26-16 Steelers. Now for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly !
- The Giants were in this game, for the most part
- Rookie LT Andrew Thomas was not abused by TJ Watt and Bud Dupree. The remainder of the Giants O-line were.
- Darius Slayton is a star. He picked up where he left off last season with 2 TD receptions and over 100 receiving yards
- Both Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence registered sacks in this game
- LB Blake Martinez was all over the field in this game. As advertised, he recorded 12 tackles (8 solo)
- We didn’t really expect to win this game, did we?
- Nick Gates struggled in his first attempt at the Center position for the Giants
- Cam Fleming struggled in his first outing at Right Tackle for the GMEN
- The Giants run-blocking was non-existent against the Steelers
- The Giants could not stop the Steelers from converting any key plays, a disturbing issue that seems to have carried-forward from last season.
- Both Cornerbacks James Blackberry and Isaac Yiadom were beaten for touchdowns
- Saquon Barkely had 15 rushes for 6 yards
- Evan Engram continued to no-show in key games with 2 receptions for 9 yards. He dropped passes and missed blocks.
Next week we are off to Chicago. It will be interesting to see if Joe Judge’s young squad can build off this outing against the Steelers.
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