New York Giants
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Here’s why the defensive side of the ball for the New York Giants is the reason for the team’s disappointing 5-11 campaign. 

When a team finishes at the bottom of their division with five wins, there’s a lot of questions to ask. With a lot of questions come much blaming and finger-pointing.

Let’s look at the real reason why the New York Giants had such a disappointing 2018 season?

Many take the easy route (the Ben McAdoo route, I should say) and point the blame towards the quarterback. All the critics and fans are concerned over long-time quarterback Eli Manning, and his future going forward. Many wish to move on from Manning and look towards a new leader for this offense. Yes, he’s 37, just finishing his 15th season with the Giants, but is he the real reason?

These same people like to look past the fact that the Giants don’t necessarily have an impressive offensive line. Yes, it got better as the season progressed. However, when the group of five weren’t at their best, that’s when the Giants started off 1-7. Let’s not play the “Eli isn’t a mobile quarterback” card either.

Eli has never been a good running quarterback. When was there a year in which he was?

These fans and critics that blame Eli for this disappointing season are also ones to overlook the Giants defense. Or should I say, the real issue the Giants should be focusing on in this upcoming offseason.

After James Bettcher’s first year as defensive coordinator for Big Blue, the way I see it is this: He probably should be out. Maybe give him a chance in 2019 to improve on the system, but if things don’t get better on that side of the football, the organization should be done.

You all should be too.

Let’s look at simple facts and statistics. The Giants were 24th in the NFL with 371.4 yards allowed per game. This is also last in the NFC East. They were thus 23rd in the NFL with 252.8 passing yards allowed per game and 20th in the league with 118.6 rushing yards allowed per game, ranked 3rd and last in the division respectively. They also finished 23rd in the NFL with 412 points (25.8 per game) allowed all season. Another statistic that happens to be dead last in the NFC East.

I understand a lot of people like to look past statistics and numbers, and say they “don’t mean much.” I don’t get why, but I understand that people do it. It’s proof of how below-average of a defense they were all year. They couldn’t defend the pass that great, couldn’t defend the run that great, and couldn’t keep teams off the scoreboard for the most part. Of course the numbers matter, it’s what proves each of those three statements to be true.

Now, let’s look at a few scenarios from games this year. Some scenarios include games the Giants ended up winning closely, even though it shouldn’t have even gotten close from the beginning. But that’s thanks to Bettcher’s defensive group. They simply couldn’t ever get a stop when they needed to late in games.

Week three against the Texans, as the Giants were 0-2 on the season thus far. Defense played great in the first half actually, allowing only six points. However, the second half of the game wasn’t the same story. They allowed Deshaun Watson and the Texans to score 16 points in the second half, including two touchdowns. It made it a close towards the end, as the lead was cut to 27-22 Giants.

Big Blue did eventually win the contest, but why overlook the fact that the game got interesting when it shouldn’t have been? There’s no excuse for letting a second-year quarterback score two late touchdowns on you. The Giants should’ve won that game by much more than five points. Those late scores shouldn’t have been allowed. Period.

Fast forward one week, they’re playing the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium. The Giants offense, down 26-10, scored in the fourth quarter and converted on a two-point conversion to make it a one-possession game. All the defense needed was to make one stop on the Saints to get the ball back for a potential game-tying drive. Of course, that wasn’t how it went.

Needing one stop against this Drew Brees-led Saints offense, running back Alvin Kamara took it 49 yards to the house in front of the fans at MetLife. The score sealed the deal on the game, and sort of started the narrative of the Giants fourth-quarter defense being a real issue. In my opinion, at least.

Week 8, the Giants faced off against the division rival Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium. Down 13-6 in the fourth quarter, it was the same scenario as the match up against the Saints.

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Defense needed one last stop on Washington to get the ball back late, and Adrian Peterson did his best impression of Kamara in week four. He went 64 yards off the right tackle to the end zone, and basically sealed the deal on the Redskin win. They went up 20-6 at that point, and eventually won the game 20-13.

Then there was the ever-so entertaining game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With the Giants up 31-14 going into the fourth quarter, the match up shouldn’t been all but over, with Big Blue taking the home victory.

However, then the game got interesting, of course. The Giants defense allowed three touchdowns in the final quarter as the Bucs ended up coming within a touchdown of Big Blue at one point. If it weren’t for the Giants offense led by running back Saquon Barkley, the Giants wouldn’t have pulled off the victory, 38-35. Because the game was won, it didn’t seem like the defense was an issue really worth discussing. But when you look back at how that game was played, that side of the ball truly was a real concern.

We’re not even close to being done with these scenarios. Thanks, James Bettcher.

In week 12, the Giants were at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia squaring off against the Eagles.

A tie game late in the fourth quarter, the Giants needed to just prevent Carson Wentz and the Eagles from entering field goal range for kicker Jake Elliot. Of course, the stop didn’t occur, as the Eagles were able to get into field goal range and Elliot drained a go-ahead 43-yard field goal, giving the Eagles the much-needed win. It lessened the Giants playoff chances by a whole lot that day.

Fast forward a week, as the Giants faced off against the Chicago Bears. Yes, I know, that was a big overtime win for the G-Men. The Bears were obviously a playoff team and we still put up 30 points on that powerful defense. But that’s not the point.

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The Giants were up 27-17 in the fourth quarter. The game shouldn’t have even gotten to overtime at all. But the Giants defense somehow allowed backup quarterback Chase Daniel to lead a comeback to send the game to OT. This included a Tarik Cohen game-tying touchdown pass. Yes, a halfback pass is what spoiled the Giants’ plans of winning in regulation. There’s no excuse. It was embarrassing. Although they didn’t lose in the end, it was almost like they deserved to.

Week 16, the Giants were already eliminated from playoff contention and were playing Andrew Luck and the Colts in Indianapolis. It was still a game the organization wanted to win, as they looked for some sort of motivation going into the offseason.

Up 27-21 in the fourth quarter, allowing the Colts into field goal range wasn’t an issue for the Giants. They could do that, they just needed to keep them out of the end zone as the Colts needed a touchdown on their final offensive drive.

That’s when Luck hit receiver Chester Rogers on the left side of the end zone for the score with under a minute to go. They eventually converted on the extra point, as the Colts stole a win from the Giants in the final seconds. It became typical at that point to witness what Giants fans had witnessed. Just one stop, that’s it!

Lastly, the final week of the regular season against the Cowboys. The Giants were up 35-28, with the Cowboys driving to score the game-tying touchdown. The game didn’t matter for either team as far as the playoffs. The Giants were eliminated by that point and the Cowboys were locked into the fourth seed for the NFC. However, the Giants were still motivated to defeat their division rival. Everyone except for the defense, however. More specifically, the secondary.

On a fourth and 15 play, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott hit receiver Cole Beasley on a 32-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone. Then, on the ensuing play, the Cowboys converted easily on a two-point conversion that gave them the lead and the eventual victory. It came down to two plays for the Big Blue defense, and they couldn’t get it done on either.

So there it is. Factual statistics and factual scenarios that may open people eyes to the real reason why the New York Giants showcased a 5-11 mark this season. But go ahead, blame the quarterback who’s accomplished everything he can for this organization for the last 15 years.

Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.