Saturday, August 15, 2015

Giants offense sputters from start in loss to Bengals

Tom Coughlin thought the Giants acquitted themselves well in their two joint practices against the Cincinnati Bengals this week. But Friday night’s preseason opener against the same team? Not so much.

The Giants fell into an early hole, their offense never got untracked, and the Giants dropped a 23-10 decision to the Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium. The teams had practiced together on the fields across the street from the stadium on Tuesday and Wednesday.

>> WATCH HIGHLIGHTS FROM GIANTS VS. BENGALS
“I thought our two days of controlled work against Cincinnati were better than the way in which we played tonight,” Coughlin said.

The head coach stressed that the Giants have much work to do, as he always does after the first game. He certainly hopes for and anticipates a better performance by the starting offense when the Giants next play, on Aug. 22 at home vs. Jacksonville.

Eli Manning and the first team played four series, totaled 28 net yards, went zero-for-four on third-down conversion attempts and picked up just one first down.

“I didn’t like the way we started the game offensively,” Coughlin said. “There was no tempo, no rhythm. Three and out, three and out. That didn’t start us off very well. I just think our tempo and our rhythm has got to be upgraded.”

>> GAMEDAY TWEETS FROM CINCINNATI

Their first possession lost two yards. They began their second series on the Bengals’ 35-yard line, thanks to a 70-yard kickoff return by rookie Akeem Hunt. But the offense didn’t gain a yard before Josh Brown was wide right on a 53-yard field goal attempt. Their third opportunity began poorly when top draft choice Ereck Flowers was penalized 10 yards for a facemask. The Giants punted again after Preston Parker couldn’t secure Manning’s pass on third-and-three.

With the Giants trailing, 10-0, Manning came out for a fourth series with 1:59 remaining in the first quarter. The second play was a short pass over the middle that Andre Williams turned into a 16-yard gain. But Shane Vereen was stopped for no gain on third-and-one, and the Giants had to give up the ball.

“Of course, would have liked to move the ball a little bit better, do a little better on our third down production,” said Manning, who completed four of eight passes for 22 yards. “(The) second play we (lost five yards) and got into third and long. So a couple third and longs. Our third and manageable situations, we didn’t convert. Missed one to Preston, and then had the run we didn’t get. We've got to look at that and see where we can make improvements.”

Although they expected to play better than they did, the members of the first offense were not about to panic after a 15-play outing.

“Not at all,” said running back Rashad Jennings, who ran twice for 14 yards. “We had great composition all practice. We did a lot of good things during the practices. We did do some things well here during the game, but not like we need to. We’re critiquing ourselves and getting ready for this run. That’s what the preseason is made for. What you want to see, especially on film, is making sure you’re not losing the physical battles. Everything else can be coached.”

“I thought we would do a little bit more off the jump there,” guard Justin Pugh said. “They came out and they stopped a couple plays and we had a penalty here or there; things just kind of slowed us down. We weren’t really able to get into that fluid zone, so to say. So we’ll go back, watch the film, get better and learn from it. We've got three more (preseason) games to really build on it.”

The starting line remained in the game for a fifth series, the first with backup quarterback Ryan Nassib taking the snaps. Orleans Darkwa rushed for 22 yards and capped the 67-yard drive by diving over the pile for a one-yard touchdown.

Nassib played the majority of the game and completed eight of 18 passes for 79 yards, plus three rushing attempts for 18 yards. The Giants’ only other points came on Brown’s 41-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

The three Giants quarterbacks – Manning, Nassib and Ricky Stanzi – were a combined 15-of-33 for 135 yards, with a long completion of 28 yards (Nassib to tight end Jerome Cunningham).

“Their defensive front was difficult for us to handle,” Coughlin said. “We didn’t have much going for us in the pass game at all. If it wasn’t a protection breakdown, it was an inability to connect or coverage was good.

“The plan tonight was to play everybody, which I think we did. We rolled people in and out, just pretty much the way we expected to. The group that had the middle quarters had a lot of snaps. You’re talking about guys that were in the high 20’s and some in the low 30’s for snaps. That was a lot of snaps for the first preseason game, but that’s the way it was planned. The Nassib group was to get the majority of the snaps, and they did.”

The first team defense surrendered 10 points in the opening quarter, on Andy Dalton’s three-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu and Tom Obarski’s 46-yard field goal. James Wilder Jr. scored on a two-yard run and Obarski kicked second-half field goals of 25 and 21 yards.

"We needed to come out and start fast, knowing it was going to be a short night for the (starters),” linebacker Jon Beason said. “I would like to see us play a little faster. I think that would’ve covered up a lot of things. They were able to have some success. They hit us with some runs, some passes. But, overall, we need to start faster.”

So does the offense, which Coughlin expects to take a step forward when the Giants face the Jaguars.

“I expected more,” Coughlin said. “I think the players certainly had to expect more. We’ve got a chance now  - with another practice week and moving forward with installations - I think a chance to do some things with the ball down the field much more than we have in right now. It seemed like a lot of the things we did were very short. We got the ball off on some check downs, which we had to tonight. Sometimes that’s what happens, you have to take the thing that’s open. I did expect the ball to be down the field a little bit more.

“It’ll be the second game of preseason, and it’s time to do some things, put some things together.”

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