Burgundy and Gold grab bag: So near, and yet so far

The team called the “New York Giants” has been playing its home games in East Rutherford, New Jersey, for 34 years (it makes the Burgundy and Gold playing in Maryland while practicing in Virginia and using Washington in its name seem somewhat OK).

And while those in and around New Jersey may say that it’s practically New York, it’s akin to my Arlington friends saying they’re basically in D.C. While that might be true, in the world of absolutes it isn’t.

While the Washington Football Team came close to snapping its losing streak and avoiding last place in the NFC East, it ultimately fell short in a 20-19 loss to the previously-winless Giants. And while the team isn’t technically that far off from leading the worst division in the league, there’s more than a Hudson River’s width between this team and actual contention.

Quarterback and Forth — Kyle Allen in his first 60-minute effort for the WFT completed 31 of 42 passes for 280 yards, throwing two touchdown passes while tossing an interception and losing a fumble. The turnovers proved costly, with the INT leading to the Giants’ first touchdown and the fumble being returned for their other TD. He was sacked three times. Dwayne Haskins after missing most of the week with illness was at the stadium Sunday, but inactive.

Running Rarely — The team gained 86 yards on 24 carries, and with both of Allen’s attempts coming on scrambles, that means 22 of their 69 offensive plays were planned runs. The firm of McKissic & Gibson saw J.D. run the ball eight times for 41 yards, while Antonio gained 30 yards on nine attempts. Both contribute in the passing game as Gibson caught four passes for 25 yards and McKissic notched 53 yards on six receptions, and many view the short passes as long handoffs. Peyton Barber? Just four carries for six yards (he has 47 yards on 28 attempts this fall) with a single four-yard reception, proving he’s more associate than partner in this running game.

Short Stuff II — The air attack averaged nine yards per completion, a 45% increase from last week but still far from ideal. That’s the byproduct of 11 passes to running backs. Once again standing tall is Terry McLaurin, whose seven catches for 74 yards put him on the pace for 96 and 1299. Logan Thomas (three catches for 42 yards and a touchdown) averaged more than 10 yards per reception for the first time this fall, while Cam Sims (a 22-yard TD reception) made his first catch of the year longer than nine yards.

Third and … What was That? —  The Burgundy & Gold moved the chains on eight of 15 third downs, their best showing of the season. The only planned run saw J.D. McKissic gain one yard on 3rd & 2; they’d convert their fourth down attempt. Kyle Allen completed 10 of 12 passes with seven conversions; he also scrambled to move the marker and was sacked on the other two pass plays (the sack resulted in a fumble and a Giants TD). His top target? Terry McLaurin was thrown to five times, making four catches and moving the chains three times. His reception that didn’t move the marker put the team in position to kick a 34-yard field goal, as opposed to a 54-yarder. Stat of the day: 11 of their 15 third downs were on the Giants’ half of the field. Yardage breakdown: 2-3 on short-yardage, 4-6 on medium (four to six yards needed), and 2 for 6 on long-yardage. Many more manageable situations than last week.

D’s Glass is one half-full, and one half-Fuller — Take away the turnovers that gave the Giants a short field and a touchdown and the defense did its job. But the Giants did average 5.1 yards per rush and converted seven of 11 third downs. (They converted 40.6% over the first five weeks). Cole Holcomb led the team with six tackles playing for the first time since suffering an injury in week one. Ryan Kerrigan tallied the team’s lone sack of the day; after recording eight in week one, they’ve been held to eight over the last five weeks. Meanwhile, Kendall Fuller’s fourth interception in three weeks puts the cornerback in a tie for the NFL lead with Miami’s Xavien Howard (who has picks in four straight weeks).

Special Situations — If one good thing came out of Sunday’s loss, it’s that Tress Way was only pressed to punt once (after kicking 10 times the previous week) — and he made it count with a 55-yarder. Way currently ranks fifth in the league, with a 48.6 average and his 32 punts on the season are three behind the Jets’ Braden Mann. Dustin Hopkins kicked field goals of 28 and 55 yards while missing from 47, three of his four kickoffs were touchbacks not including his onside attempt that was recovered by the Giants. The return game didn’t deliver much, averaging two yards on punt returns and 17.5 on kickoff returns. Coverage teams acquitted themselves well.

Flying Flags — Eight penalties for 50 yards, although two came in the final minute (one was an offside on the onside kick and the other was too many men on the field for the first kneel down). Of the previous six, two were offensive (illegal motion and a false start) while the four defensive flags were for roughing the passer, unnecessary roughness, pass interference and encroachment. The most costly infraction? Kyle Allen’s illegal motion turned a 2nd & 8 from the Giants 30 into a 1st & 15 from the 37. They would gain eight yards on the next two plays before missing a 47-yard field goal in a game they’d eventually lose by a point.

Digesting the Division — Dallas (2-4) is in first place despite their loss to Arizona; they now own a half-game lead over Philadelphia. The Cowboys own the fourth seed in the NFC while the Eagles (1-4-1) are a half game better than last place in the division while holding down 12th place in the conference. The New York Giants (1-5) own the tiebreaker with the Washington Football Team thanks to their win over the Burgundy & Gold and are 13th in the NFC. The last place WFT is 14th thanks to a better conference record than Atlanta and Minnesota.

East is Least — More lumps taken as the division is 5-18-1 after six weeks. The low-water mark for current quartets is the 2008 NFC West, which won a combined 22 games during the regular season yet still generated a Super Bowl participant. (Arizona went 9-7 before catching fire against an upset-riddled bracket). Currently there’s a race between the NFC West (16-7) and the AFC North (15-7-1) for the best record in the league. Meanwhile, the AFC owns a 13-9-1 advantage in the interconference contest — thanks in no small part to the NFC East’s 0-6-1 mark.

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