Seattle Seahawks 36 (2-3) – New York Giants 25 (3-2)
by rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com
Game Summary: Eric of BBI said it early in the year and it’s already ringing true just five games into the season: “The Giants will win a couple they’re expected to lose (Philadelphia) and lose a couple they’re expected to win (Seattle).”
Face it folks, the Seattle Seahawks are not a good football team. They have several solid players and a fairly decent front seven (ranked 9th against the run in the NFL coming into the game) but other than that, there isn’t much to hope for if you’re a Seattle fan this year.
New York was at home coming off two emotional, hard fought road wins with a share of first place in their pockets to face a team that had beaten them only once in 11 previous trips east to the Meadowlands.
When the Giants do not win, there are usually a couple of glaringly familiar themes that come to bear. On Sunday, once again, we say a team that couldn’t run nor defend the run. So far this year, that hasn’t been a complete harbinger of doom. But when you combine it with 5 turnovers and sloppy, unsuccessful special teams play the recipe for disaster is complete.
The Giants were missing two more bodies on Sunday, as C David Baas and HB Brandon Jacobs couldn’t go due to injuries. In their place, the Giants started OL Kevin Boothe at center and HB D.J. Ware saw time in the backfield. Rookie Du Jour Da’rel Scott was active but saw no time in the backfield. During the game, they also lost RG Chris Snee and long snapper Zak DeOssie to concussions. It’s amazing how injury riddled this team really is.
The Giants also committed a litany of penalties, from a personal foul on a helmet to helmet blow by Kenny Phillips to put the Seahawks in a first and goal situation on the Giants 11 yard line on the first drive of the game to a false start penalty on LT William Beatty on first and goal from the Seattle 5 yard line with a minute and a half to go in the game. The Giants committed 7 penalties on the day, but none bigger than the two false starts deep in Seahawks territory late in the 4th quarter.
Even with all the mistakes, the Giants still were in position to wrest this game away from the Seahawks in the final minutes. Frankly, it should never have needed to get to that point. Midway through the third quarter with the game tied at 14, the Giants knocked starting QB Tavaris Jackson out of the game, leaving Charlie Whitehurst in charge of the Seattle offense. Charlie Whitehurst, with a resume of playing in just 8 games in his 6 year NFL career, engineered 13 points (caveat: 3 came off a turnover in which Seattle gained no yardage on the drive) over the last 24 minutes of the game. Combined with a Seattle defense that created 3 turnovers, a safety and a touchdown over those same final 24 minutes, the Giants were done.
Offense: The offense came out clicking on the first drive of the game, moving 80 yards on 7 plays for a tying touchdown. On the drive, the Giants looked crisp both running and throwing, and it certainly appeared that they were in for a good day. Following that drive however, the offense wasn’t able to get untracked and gained just 26 yards on 20 plays and committed two turnovers prior to the last drive of the half. The Giants accumulated 20 rushing yards (2 on a scramble and 18 by HB Ahmad Bradshaw) on their first 3 plays of the game and then ran into a brick wall, gaining just 15 yards on their next 11 carries, which included two Manning scrambles for a total of 3 yards. The Giants got it going on their last drive of the half, navigating 59 yards on 4 plays (all through the air) in just 41 seconds to tie the game just before halftime. It seemed that momentum had shifted and that the Giants had weathered a storm in which they could have found themselves down by two or three scores.
The third quarter was a disaster for the offense. Again, on 12 total plays in the quarter, the Giants gained just 36 yards. The Giants managed just 5 net rushing yards on 5 carries, including a devastating 5 yard loss for a safety. New York managed just one first down in the quarter, and didn’t convert a 3rd down. In fact, at the start of the fourth quarter, the Giants were 0-8 in converting third downs.
New York managed to catch lightning in a bottle early in the fourth quarter when on their only third down conversion of the day, QB Eli Manning hit WR Victor Cruz for a very fortunate 68 yard touchdown pass to take the lead. The Giants got the ball back with the lead for the first time all day and promptly turned it over at their own 25 yard line, leading to the game tying field goal for Seattle.
To their credit, the Giants did put two more promising drives together and it still appeared that they’d be able to pull this game out of the fire. Unfortunately, a false start penalty from a first and goal situation from the Seahawk 7 yard line caused them to have to settle for a lead gaining field goal and then another false start penalty from a first and goal situation from the Seattle 5 yard line on their next possession again changed strategy and the next play resulted in the fateful 94 yard interception return that effectively ended the game.
Ultimately, the Giants were made to be one dimensional for vast portions of the game as they were completely unable to sustain a running game after the first three plays of the day. The Giants were in second or third and long all day and rarely were able to overcome it. Sprinkle in the penalties deep in the green zone, and it was for the most part another long day punctuated with explosive plays once in a while along the way.
Quarterback: With no semblance of a running game to keep the Seattle pass rush honest, QB Eli Manning was forced to hoist the offense on his shoulders and try to win it through the air. Always a tough task, it was compounded by the fact that he was missing his starting center David Baas, and later was without starting RG Chris Snee. On the day, Manning completed 24 of 39 (62%) pass attempts for a career high 420 yards, 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Manning’s passer rating was a respectable 91.8. His total QBR rating, however, was just 18, which was 25th out of 28 quarterbacks that played on Sunday. For reference, Total QBR is measured on a 0-100 scale with a score of 50 considered average.
Not to be an Eli apologist, but Manning’s first interception was the only one that really could be pinned entirely on him. On the play, Manning had WR Hakeem Nicks open down the right sideline but did not lead him outside. Seattle had deep safety help that would have been beaten had Eli not left the ball inside. The fact is he did just that, and it resulted in a fairly easy interception by S Earl Thomas. The second interception, the one that sealed the game, wasn’t Manning’s fault as he was throwing to a spot. On the play, WR Victor Cruz ran a quick out and in route but slipped in his break and didn’t get to his spot on time. The ball bounced off his hand and then another Seattle defender before settling into the waiting arms of four year CFL veteran Brandon Browner who returned it 94 yards for a touchdown. The final interception was in garbage time with just seconds left on the clock and the game’s outcome already determined.
Manning also fumbled twice on Sunday, and was receiving a lot of errant snaps from backup C Kevin Boothe that were throwing off his rhythm and timing. On the first fumble, a third and 7 play from the Seattle 17 yard line, New York was in shotgun formation with Bradshaw to Eli’s right and WR Mario Manningham split wide also to the right; slot receiver Victor Cruz on the weak side; the TE, Jake Ballard, on the strong side was lined up on the line of scrimmage but not tight to the left tackle; and Nicks lined up on the numbers outside and off the line of scrimmage behind Ballard. Seattle sent 5 men after Eli, and the blitzer was picked up easily by Bradshaw. Manning had initial time as the right side of the line blocked well, but LT William Beatty was left alone on DE Chris Clemmons who ran around him and forced the sack and strip from behind Manning. Seattle recovered the ball at the Giant 25 yard line.
The second fumble was also deep in Giants territory, but this time they were able to recover. The problem was twofold on the play. First, Manning never handled a very low snap, and before he could cover it up Clemens was again right on top of him and was able to force the ball forward where C Kevin Boothe fell on it. The Giants were in a similar alignment as they were on the first fumble, and Seattle sent 6 men at Manning. It ended up an overload on the weak side to Manning’s left, and when the linebacker came LG David Diehl engaged him while Beatty engaged the DT, leaving Clemens a free run at Manning.
The most disconcerting play by Manning on the day, however, was in the first quarter. After drawing Seattle offsides with a hard count on a third and 9 play leaving the Giants with a very manageable third and 4 from their own 19 yard line, Manning somehow allowed a delay of game to happen. Right back in third and 9, Manning was unable to convert and the Giants had to punt. It’s simply something that cannot happen, and yet it did.
Despite the shenanigans and hijinks surrounding the offensive play, Manning still nearly pulled out a win in the final minute and did have his team in the lead with less than 5 minutes to go in the game.
Running Backs: The Giants running game was nonexistent after the first two Bradshaw runs of the game. While it’s a well-worn adage that you score through passing but you win through running, a case can be made that the Giants are not doing near enough in the running department to win games. Case in point, the Giants had a fourth quarter lead following a fluke touchdown and a subsequent stop of Seattle after four plays. The Giants had the ball on their own 20 yard line with just over 10 minutes to go. This is the time in the past where the Giants would pound the defense into submission and win the game. On Sunday, the Giants ran Bradshaw for 3 yards then passed twice, the final one turning into the Cruz fumble at the 25 yard line ultimately resulting in the game tying field goal. Without even the threat of a running game, it’s not possible to salt away a lead.
Bradshaw, to be fair, didn’t have a lot of room to operate. The line did not open many holes and there are still way too many missed assignments or poor blocks coming from the fullback and tight end positions.
On the two failed drives deep in Seattle territory, the Giants squandered a first and goal at the 7 and a first and goal at the 5 yard lines. Two false start penalties pushed them outside the 10 yard line for long goal to go situations. It’s safe to assume that the Giants changed strategy and decided not to run from first and goal situations outside the 10 yard line.
On the day, Bradshaw finished with just 58 yards on 17 carries, a 3.4 ypc average. Bradshaw was targeted 5 times by Eli Manning and caught 2 for 27 yards. Two screens were aborted, one from the Seattle 12 yard line on second down. He also converted a two point play on an inside handoff.
HB D.J. Ware only got 4 carries on the day, so there was no change of pace or attempt by the Giants to mix up or share the load as they try to do when Brandon Jacobs is in the game. Ware was absolutely smothered for a safety that wasn’t even remotely his fault as he lost 5 yards on the play.
Rookie Da’Rel Scott, who dressed for his first game, saw no action.
FB Henry Hynoski had another tough day leading for Bradshaw and wasn’t targeted in the passing game. He left the game with a stinger in the second half.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: It’s clear that the Giants wide receivers are the strong suit of the team. Victor Cruz has emerged as a force and has stepped up and become one of the leading receivers in the league. Despite not being in heavily targeted until the past couple of weeks, Cruz is the 16th leading receiver in yards in the entire NFL. On Sunday, the young man had his ups and downs. Cruz caught 8 of 11 balls for 161 yards and the incredible 68 yard touchdown pass that gave the Giants a fourth quarter lead. On that play, Cruz out-dueled two Seattle defenders in which was essentially a jump ball, gathered in the tip, and raced to the endzone. The only negative about the play is that in what seems to be a tendency with Cruz, he didn’t gather the ball in with two hands when he probably should have.
Cruz had two missteps on Sunday. The first was trying to do too much with the ball under duress at a critical time deep in his own territory. On the play in question, a 3rd and 7, Cruz caught the ball short of the sticks by about 2 yards and was immediately hit. At that point, the only smart thing to do would be to go down. The fumble cost the Giants about 40 yards of field position and the Seahawks didn’t need to gain a single yard in order to make the tying field goal
On the final drive, Cruz made an incredible fingertip catch and run for 41 yards and then immediately caught the next pass down to the 5 yard line. Unfortunately, Cruz slipped out of his break on the final play of the drive and instead of knocking the ball down he instinctively tried to catch it but only tipped it up into the defenders resulting in the interception. These are coachable mistakes, and from all evidence he’s going to learn from them.
WR Hakeem Nicks was the forgotten man of the offense until the final drive of the first half when he exploded for 3 receptions, 49 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown was an incredible individual effort to get by the cornerback on the outside and then move back to the inside and lay out for the touchdown. Unfortunately, Nicks only had one more reception on the day and was called for a questionable pass interference penalty when he apparently blocked downfield too early on a very well executed screen pass to Ahmad Bradshaw.
WR Mario Manningham had a couple crucial catches, but his only chance for a touchdown came in the third quarter when Manning overthrew him deep. On the day, Manningham was targeted 9 times, catching 5 for a total of 56 yards.
TE Jake Ballard is quickly making people in The Corner Forum forget Kevin Boss. On the first drive, Ballard caught 2 passes on well run routes, and on the second bulled his way into the end zone for a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, Ballard caught a 32 yard pass that was Mark Bavaro like in which he carried multiple defenders on his back for an extra 5 yards.
Ballard still has his issues as a blocking TE, and although it’s not clear, it seemed after several slow motion review of the safety that he was supposed to come down and block the DT that stuffed Ware. The problem is that although he was moving in that direction, he could have been reacting to someone else’s missed assignment. Bear Pascoe also got into the receiving game and was pressed in to service at full back when Hynoski left the game. Frankly, seeing both Pascoe and Ballard in routes at the same time is somewhat depressing.
Offensive Line: Yes, the Giants were missing C David Baas and had to spend time with backup lineman Jim Cordle, signed last week, at center and also right guard. That should be no excuse for not being able to sustain anything on the ground and also allowing so many pressures on Eli Manning. This group now has 9 games (4 preseason) and a training camp under their belts and they still have two all pro caliber players on the line in RG Chris Snee and RT Kareem McKenzie. The fact is, not a single player on the line is playing to their potential. The guard play in particular has been suspect and William Beatty is having a lot of trouble on speed rushes at left tackle. As noted above, he allowed two early pressures, one leading to a strip sack of Manning. On the day, Manning was hit twice and sacked three times. Those stats are misleading, as Manning was also forced to scramble three times and was under constant pressure. Back up C Kevin Boothe was erratic at times on his shotgun snaps, causing all kinds of timing issues for Manning. The half second lost corralling the ball and resetting is all the defense needs to get after and rattle the QB. Easily, this is the most disappointing unit on the team this season. David Diehl does not look like the answer at LG, Snee is having a tough year and probably had his two worst games back to back last week and this. McKenzie is still solid but is not grading out nearly as high as he has in the past. The Giants sorely need to get Baas healthy and back into the lineup.
Defense: It appears that teams have figured out that a good way to attack the Giants is using the hurry up offense. Once again, the Giants played primarily from the big nickel package and on the first drive of the game Seattle gashed them for a relatively easy touchdown. As people have pointed out in The Corner Forum, this wasn’t the Packers. This was the Seattle Seahawks offense, and offense that has had one good half all season. They allowed the 32nd ranked team in the league tear them apart on the ground and through the air. And when the average Tavaris Jackson left the game in the 3rd quarter with an injury, they allowed backup Charlie Whitehurst, a QB who had seen action in just 8 games during his 6 year career, come off the bench and run the hurry up as if it’s been something he’s done a thousand times, and complete 11 of 19 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown in just under 25 minutes of play. Unacceptable.
To make matters worse, the Giants allowed Seattle to run the ball 29 times for 145 yards, an astounding 5.0 ypc average. Marshawn Lynch carried 12 times for 98 yards, again for a mind boggling 8.2 yards per carry.
The odd thing about this game was that the defense wasn’t getting gashed drive after drive. On five successive drives bridging the third and fourth quarters, the Giants forced 4 three and outs and a 1 play kneel down. Following those 5 drives, the defense held the Seahawks to two harmless 5 play drives. All of the scoring by Seattle was done in the first and fourth quarters.
The three critical drives were the first one of the game in which Seattle went through the defense like a hot knife through butter. The second one was the 2 play 48 yard drive in which Lynch took a first down carry 47 yards to the Giants one yard line. On that particular play, it appeared that LB Mathais Kiwanuka was held and CB Corey Webster never saw the play develop and literally ran himself away from it. Lynch scored on the next play. The third was 7 play 80 yard drive mounted by the Seahawks that began with under 5 minutes remaining and the Giants in the lead. New York allowed a critical 3rd and 7 conversion near midfield and then allowed a 27 yard pitch and catch between Whitehurst and Baldwin for the easiest touchdown imaginable. On the play, the Giants were offside and seemed to give up on the play, anticipating a whistle. To their credit, Seattle played through and completed the play. It appeared that S Antrel Rolle was anticipating a switch with CB Aaron Ross and possibly over the top help. The switch didn’t happen, Rolle was caught flat footed, and the safeties never helped out. It was the back breaking play of the day for the defense.
With all this failure occurring, one would think the Giants didn’t do anything good on defense and that’s not true. Although a minimum of four interceptions were dropped by Giants defenders, they still forced 3 turnovers. Two saved certain points, and the third was turned into 7 by the Giants offense. On the day, the Giants got very good pressure on the Seattle QBs and recorded 6 sacks and 8 more QB hits, forced and recovered 2 fumbles and nearly recovered an unforced fumble as well. To go with the one interception, the team defensed 7 passes.
Front 7: New York was once again without Justin Tuck at defensive end. Facing facts, it’s clear he’s needed back because the DEs as constituted are, for the most part, a non factor in the running game. There is no problem with the pass rush, as indicated above. Isolating at times on DE Jason Pierre-Paul, it seems that he’s just a split second unsure of diagnosing whether the play is a run or pass. That hesitation was the difference between a tackle at or near the line of scrimmage or a decent gain on a couple of plays. JPP gets down the line of scrimmage and can chase from the backside, but it’s going to take time before it’s instinctive rather than reactive. When it becomes instinctive those gains will be much less substantial. As it is now, instead of hitting the carrier as he gets to the hole, he’s following into the hole and getting in on the play from behind. Justin Tuck learned from Michael Strahan, one of the best two way DEs in Giants history, how to be more instinctual and that is missing right now on this defense without him in there.
DE Osi Umenyiora did have one hell of a play on a Marshawn Lynch run in which Lynch tried to bounce the ball outside on a second and 10 play from the Giants 11 yard line. Osi stayed with him and jarred the ball loose. The play was huge at the time because Seattle was trying to capitalize on a Giants turnover.
The Giants did not blitz as much as they have in the past and part of the reason could be due to the nature of the hurry up offense that was being employed by Seattle. Even sending four, however, the Giants had the Seahawk QBs under duress and hit them a ton.
Osi also had 1.5 sacks and significant pressures all day against Seattle. He doesn’t at all look like a player who had recent knee surgery. JPP had 2.5 sacks and also was all over the backfield. The DT’s again were active, and it’s not going to be long before a Linval Joseph pass defense is going to lead to an interception. Joseph tipped two more balls at the line of scrimmage, but like everyone he’s tipped so far, they floated harmlessly to the turf.
OLB Mathais Kiwanuka is not having a very good year at linebacker. In the review last week, it was mentioned that Kiwi had his best game there due to the number of tackles he was in on. It was pointed out that although he is in on tackles, there are many times when he’s out of position. On Sunday, Kiwanuka again looked to be too reactionary, much like JPP against the run, and gets to the play late or not at all. This is especially true in pass coverage. When he lined up at DE, however, it was another story. Kiwanuka had several pressures, 2 QB hits and a very impressive sack off a speed rush. As Mike Garafolo of the NJ Star-Ledger stated in his “Beat Writer’s Blog” on Monday, Kiwanuka is a defensive end.
The rookie linebackers were a mix of good and bad again on Sunday. There is no doubt that MIKE Greg Jones and WILL Jacquian Williams have the talent to progress and be serious contributors to this defense. It can be argued that Williams is the best linebacker not named Boley to play for the team in several years. He, like Jones, still has trouble shedding blocks and getting to the ball carrier but he’s been a plus for the most part in coverage, evidenced by another pass defensed on Sunday. Williams also led the team in tackles with 7 solo. Jones was in and out of the game a lot due to the Big Nickle package. The interesting thing is one would have thought Jones would see more time than Williams in this package but it seems to be changing to more Williams.
SAM Michael Boley continued his solid season on Sunday, but he did drop a gift interception at his own goal line early in the game. Fortunately, it wasn’t a missed opportunity because Umenyiora’s forced fumble happened on the very next play.
Secondary: For a team that plays primarily a nickel defense, the Giants sure let two unheralded QBs carve them up this week. It’s as if the Giants cannot adjust to the routes being run against them. There are way too many slants that look like pitch and catch plays being completed in front of the CBs and linebackers. There is one or two seam passes completed every week for 20-30 yards on plays you’d expect to be covered. Every game, there are one or two completions in the void areas of the zones on the sidelines. For all the bad, however, the Giants rarely get beaten deep over the top. It’s been a pick your poison dilemma, and it’s obvious the Giants are more comfortable taking their chances with off coverage than tight man to man that might leave a corner one on one to get beaten deep.
On Sunday, Seattle converted 14 of 22 first downs via the pass, none more important than a 3rd and 7 from their own 45 yard line with 4:03 to go in the game. The Giants were in a soft cover zone and the slot receiver Doug Baldwin settled in the void in front of LBs Williams and Boley for an 8 yard gain and the clutch first down.
Both CB Aaron Ross and CB Corey Webster played solid games. Webster gave up a big third down catch to Sidney Rice on a quick slant that was more a great throw from Whitehurst and even better catch by Rice. Webster had blanket coverage on the play, Seattle simply executed. Ross was burned on a couple of plays, but continues his strong play in a rebound year for him. His interception just before the half allowed the Giants the chance to even the score at halftime. Webster had the one head scratcher play when he failed to diagnose the 47 yard Lynch run was coming his way and kept going with Sydney Rice away from the play.
S Antrel Rolle was the victim of the final touchdown, but after several reviews of the play he absolutely should have had help over the top but apparently several Giants (not Rolle) thought they heard a whistle and stopped playing. At first, it appeared Rolle did the same thing but it was obvious on replay that he was expecting to switch coverages with Ross and Ross never switched. It’s a play that shouldn’t have happened, and it’s impossible to know who, if anyone heard a whistle, missed a communication or blew the play. Rolle was on Baldwin, so for all intents and purposes he gets the blame.
S Deon Grant is not playing as well this year against the run as he did last year. He is playing well in coverage, but he missed two interceptions in the first quarter that could have changed the entire complexion of the game. Grant also had a sack.
Special Teams: Seattle Seahawks average starting field position: Own 39
New York Giants average starting field position: Own 19
It is mind numbing and impossible to figure out why, but the Special Teams never seem to rise to the occasion and provide this team with any type of spark, either from an offensive standpoint by providing good field position nor by pinning an opponent deep when it’s critical to do so.
Seattle has a hell of a punt returner, Leon Washington, but there is still no excuse to not be able to get down the field and make a tackle. One time in particular, P Steve Weatherford pinned Washington, at a dead stop and at a right angle to the line of scrimmage, on the sideline and he was still able to gather himself, turn upfield and gain 14 yards on the return. Seriously, how does that happen? His toes were a mere inch from the sideline and he was at a dead stop! On the day, Seattle averaged 11.5 yards per punt return on Sunday. That should be unacceptable.
As for the Giants punt return team, twice they allowed Seattle, unimpeded, to down the ball inside the 5 yard line. Each gunner from Seattle looked like they were being escorted to the ball rather than being engaged and delayed.
Devin Thomas had a 37 yard kickoff return and that was the extent of the return game for the New York. The kick off coverage team did a solid job containing Washington and limiting his returns.
Coaching: Much discussion has been made about the time management decisions over at The Corner Forum. Ask yourself this question: If it was ok to take your time, not rush, not take timeouts with less than 30 seconds to go in the half at the Seattle 47 yard line, why are you hurrying like mad with 1:27 to go from the Seattle 5 on first down? Can you argue it both ways? Which was the right way, the way they played the first half or the way they played it in the second half?
The fact is, twice in two drives the Giants committed penalties deep in Seattle territory in first and goal situations. They had a delay of game penalty coming off a Seattle penalty. It stands to reason after that first down to Cruz at the Seattle five yard line to take one of your time outs, settle everyone down, and devise your strategy for the final 3 plays.
There has been argument that the team had momentum, so why stop it? In hindsight, because you run the risk of not getting set properly and you commit a false start penalty. William Beatty’s penalty there was a back breaker.
Perry Fewell is not without sin. He has yet to figure out how to slow down the hurry up offense, especially when he’s only sending four down linemen in on the QB. The Giants said they practiced against it all week. It makes you wonder if the offense is any good at it, too.
Final Thoughts: Injuries got worse. Now it looks like Chris Snee and Henry Hynoski could miss some time, and it sure sounds as though Tuck and Jacobs aren’t due back anytime soon. David Baas could return this week, and that will be crucial.
After a game like this one, it feels as though the cause is lost. It’s not lost due to lack of effort, it’s simply a matter of having to play the hand you have been dealt. Fate has really hit the Giants hard this year. Remember the talk about having a veteran team would actually work in the Giants favor due to the lockout? That notion is dead.
Looking ahead, there aren’t too many more Seattles left on the schedule. Too many rookies, injuries, and other circumstances such as continued pathetic special teams play is contributing to an environment exactly as envisioned by many over at The Corner Forum. This is a middling team with solid talent, a good work ethic, youth and enthusiasm. It’s also a team that is inexperienced in many areas and deficient in others. They will win some and lose some, and at the end of the season if they’re in the hunt it’s always possible for it to all come together and make a run in the playoffs. We shall see.