It couldn't get much worse for the G-men on Monday as Eli struggled and the defense put up their most disappointing performance of the season. But what appears to be an Achilles heel for the Giants is their offensive play calling.
Two Monday night play calling blunders stand out in particular as contributing to an all around bad performance and Big Blue's first loss of the season.
The first crucial and most evident mistake in play calling in the game came at the opening of the third quarter. The Giants were on their own 20 on first down, and decided to air it out and go deep to Plaxico Burress, only to have a bad pass—which seemed to be Manning’s issue all night—picked off by Brandon McDonald.
This play was certainly questionable after the Giants got a lucky break on an illegal contact call at the end of the first half, negating Eli's fumble, and scored to get within six points of the Browns.
With that kind of momentum heading into the locker room and with the Giants knowing they were going to get the ball back to start the second half, why go for the home run play right out the gate?
Now it's understandable that you would do something like this up by 10 with a chance to put a team away, but not down by three after they built up some momentum. This could have been the turning point of the game.
The Giants, for the most part, ran the ball effectively with Jacobs and Ward pounding out yards. They should have started the third quarter out the right way by sustaining a nice drive, eating up the clock, and putting some needed points on the board.
Instead they made a huge mistake in play calling at a point when the Giants could have regained a grasp on the game only to allow Cleveland another scoring drive early in the second half.
Let's fast forward to the fourth quarter. The Giants, now down by 13 with ample time left on the clock, were once again moving the ball down field with a nice mixture of Jacobs and Ward.
On three consecutive plays, the running game gained 13 yards, 15 yards, and then a Jacobs run up the middle for six yards to get the Giants down to the nine-yard line with about 8:30 left in the contest.
Now, with the running game effectively moving the ball, the plan should have been to continue to run, as yards were coming in chunks at a much needed time. However, what do the Giants revert back to? Pass plays on a night when their QB and No. 1 receiver, for the most part, were not in sync (likely contributing to the time that Burress had missed).
With nine yards to go to get a score, and with enough time on the clock, the play called for Manning to roll out right looking for Toomer. The pass was yet another mistake of an under thrown ball, this time putting the nail in the coffin for Cleveland en route to their second win of the season.
Thus far, it has been apparent that no team in the NFL has the running depth the Giants do and that no one really has the contrast of brute force and quickness in their running game like that of the Giants. So why do they shy away from it, when it seems to work well?
Derrick Ward had 10 carries for 101 yards and Jacobs had 14 carries for 67 yards and a score; a pretty good day for the running game, barring that the Giants did it in a losing battle.
It seems that just when you think the Giants will and should run, they pass. We see this time and again. These inconsistencies in play calling are certainly a lot to question.
It is something that Coughlin, Gilbride, and company need to focus on, because these crucial play calls in games can ultimately become crucial turning points for the season.