Washington Redskins 23 (5-9) – New York Giants 10 (7-7)
by rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com
We’ve all seen this show before. The Giants had everything they want right in front of them coming off a huge win at Dallas to put them back in first place. New York just needed to beat the hapless Washington Redskins, losers of 8 out of 9 coming into this game, to keep pace with Dallas, eliminate the Eagles from playoff contention, and guarantee a win-and-in showdown on New Year’s Eve against the Cowboys.
You can’t even say that the unthinkable happened. There can’t be a Giants fan on the planet that wasn’t worried that the Giants were going to blow this one. This has happened three times now this season. The Giants lost at home to a Seattle team that was playing bad football when they visited New York, and again to an injury riddled and demoralized Philadelphia squad that looked to be playing out the string at that point. So why should anyone have thought the Giants would bring there A game on Sunday against the Redskins? And we all know that this isn’t an anomaly. New York finds a way to blow these games every single year, at home, in big settings. Corner Forum contributor SoZKillA started a thread listing these head shakers if you care for a reminder.
There is no explanation for this. There are no excuses. Hands down, the Giants should have beaten the Redskins. Instead, despite Washington turning the football over on two of their first three drives, New York never got into the game and lost in convincing fashion, 23-10. And the score was a lot closer than the game actually looked.
Unbelievably, New York still controls their own destiny. Now, however, they must beat both the New York Jets and the Dallas Cowboys to win the division and host a Wild Card game at home. Think about that for a second. Because they haven’t been able to beat teams that they are clearly better than (on paper, at least), New York now has to beat six consecutive teams with winning records to win the Super Bowl this season. Ironically, at least three would have to come at home where they simply and inexplicably do not play very well. Does anyone else believe in these rainbows and unicorns? Yes, it’s happened before. The Giants came back from the dead in 2007 and won it all but this team just feels a lot different than the 2007 team.
The game on Sunday was a disaster on both sides of the ball, particularly in the first half. New York’s first five possessions were pathetic. They ran just 17 total plays (drives of 3, 4, 3, 2 and 5 plays) gaining just 50 yards and three 1st downs. New York punted 4 times and suffered a turnover on those drives. Their final drive of the half wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty either, as Manning managed to get the Giants into field goal range despite themselves and get 3 points on the board. New York did not convert a 3rd down in the half (0-4). One stat that is truly unfathomable to believe is that New York didn’t cross into Washington territory until 33 seconds remained in the half!
The defense wasn’t much better. Despite picking off Grossman on two of his first three drives, they still allowed Washington to dictate the pace of the entire first half by allowing three drives of nine plays or more and seven plays on another. Those drives accounted for 17 points (the defense did hold Washington on a 4th and 1 late in the 1st half), 193 yards, and 14 1st downs. Fourteen! The defense simply could not get off the field, yielding six 3rd down conversions on nine attempts in the first half (and another 4th and 1).
The second half wasn’t much better. The Giants held Washington, in full ball control clock eating mode, to just two field goals but the offense continued to sputter. When they finally did start moving the ball, they couldn’t finish. No one can say they didn’t have their chances to pull this game out of the fire, but if we’re all being honest what would be taken from it? Yes, the Eagles would have been eliminated and that would have been nice. But it just doesn’t seem that this team has whatever it is that it takes to be consistent winners.
The two statistics that really hurt on Sunday were turnovers and penalties. The Giants forced two early turnovers and got absolutely nothing out of either ensuing possession. Meanwhile, the Redskins were able to turn three Eli Manning interceptions into 10 points. The Giants were penalized eight times for 75 yards including three personal foul penalties. Washington was penalized just twice all game for 48 yards, but one was a long interference call that ended up not hurting them. It was apparent from nearly the beginning of the game that Washington was playing with greater discipline, focus, and determination.
I had an email exchange with Eric from BBI a few weeks ago after the Eagles game where I said that I thought the season was over, that the wheels were about to fall off. Eric’s responded that as bad a loss as it was, he felt that the Giants would get to 6-6 and then could go on a run. His fear was that they’d get to the final game of the season and then break our hearts. It looks like it might actually happen.
After two straight games in which the offense was clicking on nearly all cylinders, New York’s offense was pathetic on Sunday. For much of the first half, they couldn’t even get out of their own way. New York committed penalties, dropped passes, didn’t establish or sustain any sort or running attack and therefor no rhythm. In the second half, it wasn’t that much better. Poor execution caused two interceptions. Poorer execution allowed another goal line drive go for naught. It’s been talked to death, but it honestly felt like this game was over when Hakeem Nicks dropped a sure, easy peasy lemon squeezy touchdown pass that would have put the Giants up by a score of 7-3. Momentum is a funny thing, and if Manning and Nicks hit on that play, the Redskins may have folded the tents early. Instead, it was as if the Giants knew they were snake bitten on the day and they were unable to put together even one routine drive all game.
In a game with everything on the line, New York had their worst 1st quarter of the season, gaining just 29 yards, ironically all on the ground. New York had just 3:58 time of possession in the quarter. On the day, the Giants converted just three of nine 3rd down opportunities. What may have gone under the radar is the fact that the Giants actually outgained Washington in yardage (324 to 300).
Eli Manning has had two rough outings this season and both came at the hands of the Washington Redskins. That’s not to say that he had a particularly bad outing, he just didn’t get a lot of help and was victimize twice on interceptions that really weren’t his fault. Eli started off slowly, missing on his first six attempts. Even that’s a little misleading because two of those throws were flat out drops (Nicks and Ballard) and two others he simply got rid of the ball because no one was open. Manning did everything he could to bring the Giants back in the fourth quarter once again, but twice he was turned away at the goal line.
Manning completed 23 of 40 passes for 257 yards, no touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Manning’s passer rating was a season worst 45.5 (91.7 on the season) and his Total QBR was a horrid 7.1, the first time he’s been under 50 all season (50 is considered the median). Manning is still ranked 9th in the league at 61.1. Manning is also currently the third ranked QB in the NFL with 4,362 yards.
New York had moderate success running the ball early in the game, but because they got absolutely no help from the passing game it was hard to stick with it after the game started to get away. After starting with three straight incomplete passes on their first drive, New York got the running game going on their next possession but didn’t stick with it. It’s hard to fault them for trying to pass because Washington was stacking the box and Manning did throw two balls on the drive that should have been caught. The first was a drop by Ballard that would have been a first down and the second was the awful drop by Nicks on what should have been a long touchdown.
Ahmad Bradshaw rushed just 10 times but for 58 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Jacobs ran 8 times for 33 yards. That’s 91 total yards at a 5.1 ypc clip, but again only 18 carries isn’t going to do it – a significant factor in the huge disparity in time of possession between the two teams.
Though he played sparingly, Henry Hynoski had another solid game. He did catch 2 passes for 13 yards, including a very nice catch and run for a first down where he ran through the defender for the last 5 yards.
Danny Ware didn’t get a carry but had an eventful play in which he was unable to maintain control of the football at the goal line and ended up having a touchdown reversed. I usually don’t interject in these reviews from a personal standpoint but this call has me absolutely baffled. It appeared from all replays that he had control with both feet on the ground when the ball across the plane of the goal line before he bobbled it. I could be wrong, but that’s how it looked to me. If so, why wasn’t this a touchdown? And the Greg Jennings play from two weeks ago is a touchdown? Consistency simply isn’t there with this particular rule and it makes a case for centralized replay challenges ala the NHL. Even if Ware’s second foot wasn’t down, how does that ball get spotted at the 2 yard line? It just didn’t make any sense.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
Eli Manning threw to his wide receivers 27 times, but completed only 14. That wasn’t all on Manning. Hakeem Nicks couldn’t find the handle on several passes and ended up with just 5 catches on 12 looks for 73 yards. Nicks dropped two sure touchdown passes and had a third that he actually caught nullified by a penalty. Inconsistency along the entire corps caused too many down and distance problems that the Giants were unable to overcome. Nicks is now ranked 10th in the NFL with 1,098 yards.
Victor Cruz was targeted 9 times but only caught 5 passes for 44 yards. Cruz is seeing a lot more press and double coverage as teams are now trying to slow him down at the line. Cruz is still ranked 4th in the NFL with 1,194 yards receiving.
Mario Manningham is in his contract year and is playing as though he isn’t expecting to get another from the Giants. While Mario caught 3 passes including a nice 34 yard completion, he also made one of the biggest gaffes of the game when he turned what Eli Manning thought was going to be a corner post route inside, leaving no one but CB Josh Wilson in that area to make the easy interception. That play was the dagger. If the Giants score on that drive they are down 23-10 with over 12 minutes to play and the game is back within reach.
TE Jake Ballard drop one critical pass that would’ve converted a 1st down and had only one other look all day, a 15 yard completion late in the game on a play where he ended up hurting his knee. Ballard may be out a while according to published reports. Bear Pascoe had a couple catches but again was simply horrible blocking for the run and the pass.
When they were asked to do it, the offensive line did a pretty good job opening holes for the running game, leading the Giant backs to a 5.1 ypc average. Unfortunately, they weren’t asked to do it nearly often enough as the Giants passed twice as much as they ran (43 passing plays, 18 running plays).
Pass protection was a problem. David Diehl continues to struggle at left tackle. He had a crucial holding penalty on the touchdown to Nicks that was called back. Though over the past two weeks Kareem McKenzie has been better, he still has had more trouble than normal in pass blocking.
Kevin Boothe snapped the ball better on Sunday, so the Giants have THAT going for them…which is nice…other than that he was unable to get into the second level on a back door screen pass to Bradshaw that went nowhere. In fact, the Giants’ offensive line has looked pretty poor on screen passes all year.
The only thing that’s going to stop opposing receivers from running through the New York secondary while playing zone is if the NFL allows them to install toll booths. Not to be outdone, the defensive tackles were blown off the ball consistently and were unable to stop the Redskins in short yardage. Washington ran the ball often and effectively enough to keep the Giants guessing and they were burned by play action passing several times because of it. The linebackers were consistently out of position in the running game. They overran, committed to and were unable to shed blockers, and were a non-factor anywhere near the line of scrimmage. Watching the film, Washington was consistently able to get to the second level and take on the backers and keep the Redskins ahead of the chains. When you consider that the Redskins were without several key members along the line as well as their top two tight ends, it was extremely embarrassing to watch.
The balance that Washington established on offense allowed them to convert 8 first downs via the run and 9 via the pass (they also were awarded 2 more on penalty). Continuing a trend that’s occurred all season long, New York allowed 8 of 15 third down conversions and 1 of 2 fourth downs. Most of that was done in the first half, as the defense did bear down in the second half but by then the game was for the most part out of hand.
New York’s front 7 consisted of Jason Pierre-Paul and very little else. Jason had an insane day as he was in on 16 tackles including a sack and another play for a loss. JPP also hit QB Rex Grossman 3 of the 8 times the Giants were able to get to him. Interestingly, JPP did most of his damage against the run. Justin Tuck looked like he was giving everything he could. Early on, he got good penetration and dropped RB Roy Helu in the backfield but it was apparent from the way he got up that he was hurt. Tuck’s been taking a lot of heat, but he keeps putting himself on the field and giving it a go. Some say that maybe he should sit out, but the fact is the Giants need him as they really have no options unless they move Kiwanuka, who is already getting more than a hatful of snaps at DE, back full time. Tuck was in on 7 tackles but was unable to really mount any pressure whatsoever on Grossman.
The two biggest disappointments on the line were the defensive tackles. Both starters, Linval Joseph and Chris Canty, were unable to mount inside pressure on Grossman nor stop the Washington running game after first contact. It was amazing to see the Skins backs make yard after yard after first contact. The inside of the defensive line simply couldn’t stack anyone up. Rocky Bernard was the only real force inside, but again, he wasn’t able to make plays at the line.
The linebackers were in on a lot of tackles, but that doesn’t indicate whether they played well or not. Most of the tackles were at the second level or back further in the secondary. Michael Boley looks healthy and was the Giants’ second leading tackler as he was in on 12. Kiwanuka spent about a third of his snaps at DE. Jacquian Williams was once again torched underneath in pass coverage and had just 1 tackle.
Not everything in the secondary is the fault of the defensive backs. Frankly, coverage by the linebackers has been too inconsistent and they’re still playing with too many guys in and out at different positions. The Redskins found the chink in the armor this week by going at rookie CB Prince Amukamara often enough and with such success that he was benched at halftime. Prince is simply not experienced enough to be playing as much as he is right now. Hats off to Grossman, he made the Giants pay by going after him any chance he could get.
Antrel Rolle would be an All Pro if his play could match his mouth. Rolle is intimating that he’s not playing at full strength, but there is nothing being reported regarding any injury. Rolle was unable to make several key plays. The first was allowing WR Santana Moss turn a sure 5 yard gain into 16 on a 3rd and 17, which would have stopped Washington’s first touchdown drive. Following the play the Redskins converted the 4th and 1 and went on to the touchdown. He was guilty another big lapse when he came in for Amukamara and allowed a 17 yard out pattern to Gaffney. Rolle is simply unable to play cornerback at this point in his career. Again, he’s being asked to play out of position and it’s affecting him and the team. Injuries and ineffective play of others is leading to these decisions.
Aaron Ross wasn’t very effective either, allowing several completions. The only bright spots were Corey Webster who had an interception that should have set the tone for the day on the very first play from scrimmage, and Kenny Phillips who had an interception at the start of Washington’s third drive. Webster also had a pass defensed in the end zone late in the game that prevented another Washington touchdown. It was indeed a nice play, but celebrating and carrying on with your team down 20 points with 5 minutes to go is bush league.
Last week, the special teams were better than reported in this section. Frankly, the special teams have been the least of the Giants’ problems for the better part of this season. Steve Weatherford has established himself as one of the premier punters in the NFL. Unfortunately he punted on the Giants’ first three possessions on Sunday and four times overall. He had one touchback, another out of bounds, and another downed inside the 20. The punt coverage was outstanding on the one that was returned, netting -2 yards. Kickoffs by Lawrence Tynes have also been outstanding this season, and on Sunday only two were returned for a total of 27 yards. A squib kick at the end of the first half wasn’t.
As for the return game, the Giants were unable to return either of the two Washington punts. Both Jerrel Jernigan and Da’Rel Scott did admirable jobs returning kicks, Jernigan returning two for 55 yards and Scott two for 49 yards. Both could use a little more wiggle on returns as they seemed to actually run in to tackles.
Tynes missed a 44 yard field goal and hit on a 40 yarder right before the end of the half.
The Giants didn’t seem to be ready for this game. HC Tom Coughlin has an uncanny knack of rallying the troops in the face of adversity, but with everything in front of them they simply didn’t execute on Sunday. As Corner Forum contributor Fat Man in Charlotte pointed out in a thread, how does one define “flat”? The Giants got two interceptions on Washington’s first three drives, but were unable to convert these turnovers into points. You don’t come out flat and make big plays. The Giants offense, however, couldn’t convert and a case could be made that the game plan was flawed. New York tried to beat Washington through the air early and quickly got out of sync offensively leading to a huge time of possession lead for Washington. This game was a classic trap game in the making, coming off a huge win on the road against the team in front of you to the worst team in the division at home. Coughlin also had another head scratching challenge that smacked of desperation. Whoever told him to challenge that play should not be allowed to council the sidelines again if they indeed had the same replays that they showed on TV.
It’s apparent that Perry Fewell has no answers. Players have said that the communication issues in the secondary were solved, but all of us saw Santana Moss running free across the field and into the end zone for an easy as pie touchdown that torched three Giants defenders. This time it appears Amukamara was at fault. Fewell called zone coverage against Rex Grossman for the majority of the game despite the fact it’s the one look that Grossman can actually play well against. This is it, there are only two games left and both must be won. Again, in crucial times including the crucial 3rd and 17 in which Moss gained 16, the Giants are going with a 3 man rush that is simply not working. With no pressure against a passive zone defense, the opposition is carving it up. Does Fewell think that it’s just going to start happening? Ditch it already, Perry! Let your guys man up and send pressure. There’s no use in not trying, because what’s being called now isn’t working.
If the Giants have a rear view mirror, it’s time to rip it off the windshield and just look forward. Nothing can be done about the past. It’s all about the Jets and the Cowboys. Can the Giants do it? Who knows. The same team that puts up 35 on Green Bay and 37 on Dallas could only muster essentially 3 points against the going nowhere Redskins. The Giants have given up an astounding 144 points over the past four weeks. That leaves very little confidence that anything is going to turn around now. But we’re Giants fans. We never give in until we’re out of it. There is no more time for talk, excuses, or anything else but playing smart, error free football and win games. Merry Christmas everyone.