Cincinnati Bengals 31 (4-5) – New York Giants 13 (6-4)
By rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com
New York imploded on Sunday, playing arguably their worst game in two years in the face of an opportunity to put a stranglehold on the NFC East division race. New York did nothing well. Absolutely nothing. The offense could not sustain a drive, the defense was unable to stop the Bengals on three third down opportunities that resulted in touchdowns, and the special teams were just as bad.
The Giants simply didn’t appear ready. We’ve seen this before. As optimistic as Giants fans are in the face of a quick 14-0 deficit, to me this game seemed over with less than five minutes gone in the game. First, the defense allowed a five-play, 79-yard touchdown drive in which every single play was successful for Cincinnati. The drive culminated in a 56-yard touchdown pass to an absolutely wide open A.J. Green. On the play, Corey Webster appeared to pass off Green to…nobody. S Stevie Brown bit hard on a fake pitch to the running back and Green was alone.
When the Giants subsequently went three-and-out on their first drive, P Steve Weatherford drove a 61-yard punt out of bounds at the Bengals 14-yard line. Incredibly, the punt was called back because journeyman CB/Gunner Justin Tryon willfully ran out of bounds down the left sideline. When Weatherford boomed the next punt 59 yards, the coverage team missed two tackles and PR Adam Jones returned the ball to the Giants 11-yard line. Three plays later, on 3rd-and-10, CB Jayron Hosley gambled on an interception, missed, and WR Andrew Hawkins had the Bengals’ second touchdown.
4:07 off the clock, and the rout was on.
Sure, the Giants had chances to get back in the game. Jones fumbled a punt that the Giants recovered on the Bengals 27-yard line and advanced the ball to a 3rd-and-4 from the six-yard line. As has happened way too often this year New York failed to convert and settled for a field goal.
The teams traded field goals to end the half, but the Giants again were disappointing in the green zone when QB Eli Manning took a sack on first down from the Bengals 14-yard line. Two plays later, on 3rd-and-9, Manning decided not to throw to a wide open Victor Cruz that may have resulted in a first down out of bounds. Instead, he threw to the back of the end zone to Martellus Bennett. Bennett made the catch, but was unable to keep his feet in bounds. Bingo bango bongo, another field goal.
The first half stats provide a snapshot into how much of a waxing it was becoming for the Giants. New York gained just 111 net yards. Giants running backs attempted just five rushing plays in the first half, gaining a mere 15 yards. Not many teams can win gaining just 15 yards rushing in the first half of a game. It was an astonishing display of ineptitude. Eli Manning threw an astounding 20 times in comparison. A 1-4 run-to-pass ratio is not going to win games.
The litany of disgusting first half statistics continued. New York converted just one-of-seven third downs. They allowed the Bengals to convert three-of-six. Eli Manning was sacked twice, while QB Andy Dalton never had a Giant near him. New York was 0-2 in the green zone, settling for two field goals. Cincinnati held the ball nearly four minutes longer than the Giants.
The Giants had another opportunity a third of the way through the third quarter to change the game. After getting good field position behind a solid punt return from WR Rueben Randle, the Giants got a couple of first downs and were set up at the Cincinnati 27-yard line. Manning checked to a run and HB Ahmad Bradshaw delivered a strong run down to what would have been another first down at around the Bengals 16-yard line. Unfortunately he fumbled while trying to gain extra yardage when the ball was swatted out of his arms. The Bengals recovered and the opportunity was lost.
The next two New York drives ended in disastrous Eli Manning interceptions deep in Giants territory. Cincinnati converted both into touchdowns (each on third down) and the game was essentially over. The Giants turned the ball over three straight times on a fumble and two interceptions, then turned the ball over on downs, and again with a fumble on five straight possessions. New York is not a bad football team. Cincinnati is not a good football team. What happened to this offense over those roughly 12 minutes is unacceptable.
To add insult to injury, the FOX broadcast left the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter to go to the Saints-Falcons game. I didn’t see any of the fourth quarter. Maybe that’s a good thing.
Eric from BBI posted that the game was close with regards to the final statistics. That is misleading. After the score was 31-6, the Giants gained 169 of their 318 total yards on their last three possessions. They produced 13 of their 21 first downs on those drives as well.
Minnesota 2007. Cleveland 2008 . Saints, Eagles, Broncos, Vikings and Panthers 2009. Packers 2010. Saints 2011. These games happen. The question is, will this be 2011 or 2009?
It’s not worth breaking down each unit this week. They were all bad. As Corner Forum contributor NyquistX3 illustrated in this thread with excellent commentary by contributor Joey in VA, the Giants did not execute well. The things that the Giants were doing successfully earlier this year are not clicking right now. There are reasons for this. First and foremost, the Giants are hurting. G Chris Snee, C David Baas, TE Martellus Bennett, HB Ahmad Bradshaw and WR Hakeem Nicks are nowhere near 100%. Add to that the fact that RT David Diehl is not playing well and Victor Cruz suddenly can’t get open and the Giants are in disarray on offense.
Eli Manning forced the issue on Sunday, and he paid for it. His two interceptions were completely due to very poor decisions. Last week in one of his pressers, HC Tom Coughlin implored him to take the sack and live for another down. On back-to-back possessions he ignored that advice and threw balls that had no business being thrown. Manning has had a tough five weeks. He hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since the game-winner against Washington four weeks ago. He has thrown for more than 215 yards just once in the past five weeks, and for less than 200 in three of those games. After only being sacked six times in the first eight games, he’s been sacked six times in the last two including four times at Cincinnati. In the last four games, Manning has just one touchdown and six interceptions and has not had a passer rating over 79.
As stated, it’s not all Eli’s fault. New York has been unable to establish and maintain any semblance of a running game in the last month to start games. Manning is constantly in long down-and-distance situations, and with Bennett and Nicks hurting, his receivers are not getting separation. Cruz has been in a slump. He’s not getting separation even in one-on-one situations and he’s dropping catchable balls. Receivers Randle, Hixon and Barden have been unable to pick up the slack and TE Travis Beckum has been invisible since returning. The Giants are no longer getting big plays. On Sunday, New York had just one big play until garbage time.
The offensive line did not play well, particularly RT David Diehl. He got his job back after injury and the Giants have been horrible on offense ever since. Is there a correlation? It’s not completely clear. Manning has held the ball much longer the last couple of weeks because he simply doesn’t have open receivers. That’s part of it. But the Bengals aren’t exactly known for their pass rush and still managed four sacks and seven quarterback hits. Diehl has given up a lot of that pressure.
The only positive to report about the offense on Sunday was that HB Andre Brown ran well in garbage time according to the stats…again, I did not get to see the second half…and WR Hakeem Nicks 9-of-14 balls thrown to him for 75 yards. Nicks’ catches were mostly made across the middle or on quick outside throws along the line of scrimmage. Nicks, possibly due to his injury, is not stretching the field at all at this point.
Defensive Front 7:
I saw very few positives from the New York Giants defense on Sunday. The lone bright spot was the continued maturation of CB Prince Amukamara. Prince played very well despite giving up a touchdown. On that particular play, Prince had tight coverage on WR Mohamed Sanu and despite getting his hands on the ball and delivering a solid hit, Sanu held on. It was just a very good play by Sanu to make the play.
Again, Corner Forum contributor Joey in VA posted a solid synopsis of the flummoxing play from the defense in this thread that’s both insightful and angry. Joey is a firm believer that you keep your big bodies inside and you play your fast ends outside. New York didn’t do that often enough on Sunday, switching up the line constantly. What’s most troubling is that the Giants defensive line is not getting to the quarterback right now. They’re just not being disruptive in any way. QB Andy Dalton had all day to throw and with that kind of time, he doesn’t make mistakes. The defensive tackles were in on just four tackles all game. According to the official stats, the Giants had just one quarterback hit all game.
The secondary misses Kenny Phillips, there is just no way around it. Stevie Brown has made plays, but he’s given up some big ones as well. His bite on play action on the fifth play of the game set the tone for the entire day. To compound things, the Giants are playing soft in coverage, which is allowing the opposing quarterbacks get the ball off quickly which helps to neutralize the pass rush. New York has been most successful in the past playing more aggressive coverage. This year, they’re playing off coverage and the come backs, curls and slants are absolutely killing them. It also seems that CB Corey Webster is regressing. He’s quickly becoming the number two corner as Amukamara improves. S Antrel Rolle has been missing in action during the past two weeks. Again, Cincinnati made hay in the middle of the field over and over again, and that’s due to the inability of the linebackers and Rolle to cover the tight ends and receivers in space.
Justin Tryon made the game changing gaffe that caused the avalanche to begin in earnest. His unforced penalty changed field position by 75 yards when the Giants were unable to make a simple tackle on the second punt. Incidentally, that was the only penalty the Giants committed in the first half. What a penalty!
The rest of the game was fine for specials, especially the punt returns of Rueben Randle. Randle had two solid returns. The kickoff return teams were mediocre at best. Wilson has been trying to bust one, but has been unable to find room where he had earlier in the year.
The Giants have a bye week to self scout and try to adapt to the fact that other teams are figuring out what they’re doing on both sides of the ball. What’s troubling is that after five weeks of mediocre offensive play, some against suspect defenses, they need the bye to make adjustments. The same goes for the defense. Frankly, New York is not getting home with four down linemen and they have rarely thrown a wrinkle into the defense. The Giants are reacting, not dictating, and that’s happening on both sides of the ball. Fewell needs to get more aggressive. So does Gilbride.
The Giants blew a golden opportunity. There’s not much more than can be said about that. Dallas has a much easier schedule than the Giants from here on out and it’s quite possible that they will be 6-5 before the Giants take the field again against Green Bay. Additionally, the Redskins are not out of this. They could also win their next two to get to 5-6 and they have one more game with the Giants coming up. So which is it? Is this 2009 or is it 2011? Time will tell.