The Giants offensive line showed toughness.
Improvement is what’s needed most.
Playing as the underdog in a matchup billed as a first-round knockout for the Rams defensive line, the offensive line allowed five sacks (a sixth was negated by penalty) and was flagged for three false start penalties Sunday in a 17-9 loss to the Rams.
Ugly numbers no matter how much credit unproven center Nick Gates gets for standing up to All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald. After Donald got in Gates’ face to talk trash, Gates shoved his hand in Donald’s face, they slapped each other and needed to be separated as offsetting penalties were called for unnecessary roughness.
“We just got into it,” Gates said. “He’s a good player, I’m a good player. Emotions get high out there.”
The Giants outgained the Rams (295-240) and held a seven-minute edge in time of possession — usually signs an offensive line is winning the battle. That would be misleading, however, because the Rams had four sacks on the Giants’ first four possessions, three of which ended in fourth-and-19 punts. The Giants haven’t scored a touchdown in two games.
“I saw an improved unit this week,” Giants coach Joe Judge said. “You play a team like the Rams with an outstanding pass rush, you just can’t lose your mind when they make plays. You have to keep pushing forward and be productive. That said, we have to eliminate some of the easy plays we made for them early in the game.”
Of the Giants’ 67 net offensive yards in the first half, 56 came before a field goal in the two-minute drill, with the Giants playing two rookie offensive tackles. Third-round pick Matt Peart temporarily replaced Cam Fleming as part of a pregame plan. Fleming played the second half.
The rushing attack showed signs of life in the second half, with a season-high 136 yards led by 45 yards apiece from Daniel Jones and Wayne Gallman.
“When it came down the stretch, I thought they held up for the most part against a very stout rush,” Judge said. “Obviously not enough to take some of the production off the line that the Rams had.”
Donald didn’t wreck the game, but the Giants are not worthy of general manager Dave Gettleman’s preseason assessment that the offensive line is the “closest we’ve been” to a solution in three years on the job.
“We had a plan for Donald, and I think we executed the plan,” Gates said. “We’ve just got to be better. I think we tried to get two guys on him as much as we can. We gave up what, four, five sacks? That can’t happen.”
The front line doesn’t deserve all the blame. Others are exacerbating the issue.
Jones’ internal clock continues to be set wrong, as he holds onto the ball too long in the pocket. He was stripped on a sack but recovered the fumble.
Receivers continue to struggle to gain separation — an area where the injured Sterling Shepard is missed.
“There is never one person who is responsible for everything,” Judge said.
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