Atlanta Falcons 34 (12-2) – New York Giants 0 (8-6)
By rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com
Here we go again. One week after putting up the most points since 1986, the Giants got shut out in a regular season game for the first time since 1996 (they were shut out by Carolina in the 2006 playoffs). New York was flat. Plain and simple, from the opening return that Wilson took out of the end zone despite being around 8 yards deep, this team wasn’t on point. They had no focus. They looked disinterested.
Could they be reeling from the recent tragedies that have hit close to home? This is the second time this season that the Giants have come out flat after a national tragedy hit in their area. The first time was against the Steelers following Hurricane Sandy and this time it was after the awful shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in nearby Newtown, CT.
When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, southwestern Connecticut was Giants country. The demarcation point between Giants and Patriots fandom was set somewhere in the Hartford vicinity back then, and from what I understand that is still the case. There is no doubt in my mind that the horrible event affected the team. They said they wanted to win for the fans after both tragedies, to allow the fans to take their minds off the situation for a few hours but both times were unable to deliver. I know how hard it is to perform your job and/or task after a tragedy. Focus isn’t the same and it’s harder than hell to keep your concentration. You can’t help but have your mind wander.
I’m not giving the Giants an excuse or a get out of jail free card. The NFL is a sixteen game schedule and every single one is of utmost importance. You can’t have a throw away game in the NFL. You can’t rest players like you can in the other three major leagues. We all know the Giants can still win the East and they control their own destiny as far as the playoffs go. If they win their next two games, they’re in despite the fact that they’ve fallen from first place to third place in the NFC East.
New York absorbed the worst shutout defeat by a defending Super Bowl Champion in history, and became just the fourth team in NFL history to score more than 50 points one week and then get shut out the next.
Wouldn’t these be great little tidbits for the 2012 America’s Game program?
The Giants were playing without HB Ahmad Bradshaw after losing HB Andre Brown two weeks ago, leaving relatively untested rookie David Wilson to try and carry the load with help from street free agent Kregg Lumpkin. Additionally, David Diehl is now the undisputed starter at RT, Hakeem Nicks is still not anywhere near 100%, and C Kevin Bass along with RG Chris Snee are playing through various injuries. Let’s face it folks, this offense is beat up something fierce. Still, they were no more beat up this week than they were in the second half against the Saints and they did a pretty good job then.
New York never got in any type of sustained groove all day. On their second play from scrimmage, Eli Manning made the worst decision of the season to throw to Nicks despite bracket coverage that allowed his nemesis, Asante Samuel, to guess and make a play on the ball for an interception. Naturally, the interception turned into an Atlanta touchdown and once again the Giants were down very early in the game. On Sunday, they never recovered. On their next drive, the Giants were unable to capitalize on a first and 10 from the Atlanta 19-yard line and then missed a 30-yard field goal. That’s the way the game went for the offense all day.
Despite the two turnovers, New York was actually done in most by the fact that they were unable to convert two fourth-and-one opportunities when trying to claw back into the game. Twice in the first half, HC Tom Coughlin decided against attempting field goals (granted, both were after Tynes missed the 30-yarder) and both times the Giants couldn’t convert. Most devastating and lost in most of the commentary is the fact that both fourth down failures came after third and very short (third-and-two and third-and-one) opportunities. The Giants had two chances on each drive to convert a short distance and failed. Combined with the two first-half interceptions that led to 10 Atlanta points, and the missed field goal, New York was out of the game at halftime.
The second half offense isn’t even worth commenting on as there really was none. New York’s first drive was a 9 play jaunt that gained 55 yards to the Atlanta 25 yard line, but going for it again on fourth down and two yards to go, Manning’s throw to Lumpkin was knocked down at the line of scrimmage. That play occurred with just under seven minutes left in the third quarter. What I’m about to write is not a typo. Over the next 22 minutes, the New York offense ran just five plays for 18 yards, one first down, and committed another turnover on a fumble. New York held the ball for only 1:40 the entire fourth quarter.
Do you want to hear an amazing stat? The Giants scored no points yet only punted twice in nine possessions. New York’s offense committed three turnovers, gave up the ball on downs three times, and missed a field goal on another drive. You can’t make this stuff up.
QB Eli Manning is not playing good football. The problem is that there is no way to know why. Is he not trusting his line any longer and trying to get rid of the ball too early? Is he not in sync with his receivers? Nicks isn’t 100% and Cruz has obviously been, well, ‘cautious’ over the middle in recent weeks. There is no lack of running game, as the Giants fell just short of 100 yards in the game for what would have been the fifth time in a row.
So what is it? What makes him target Hakeem Nicks despite being covered by his absolute nemesis on the second play of the game? Why is it that his deep balls are inconsistent all of a sudden? One is overthrown by three yards, the next is underthrown by three yards. Then he puts one right on the money. What is causing the inconsistency?
Manning finished his day completing just 13-of-25 passes for a whopping 161 yards. The pressure wasn’t intense, but Manning did have pressure. He was sacked once for a two yard loss and hit just twice. Manning’s two interceptions helped lead him to a woeful 38.9 passer rating and an astoundingly bad and completely embarrassing 4.8 QBR. Yes, that is correct, a 4.8 out of 100. The only two worse this week were Chad Henne and Joe Flacco. Even Mark Sanchez had a higher rating at 6.8.
If the Giants are to win the next two games and make a run, Manning has got to turn his game around and stop throwing early interceptions that are leading to early deficits.
David Wilson got his first start, subbing for injured HBs Ahmad Bradshaw and Andre Brown. Wilson had his ups and downs, carrying 12 times for 55 yards with a long of 25 yards. Unfortunately, Wilson was unable to convert a fourth-and-one play with six minutes left to play in the second quarter with the Giants trailing 17-0. Frankly, it felt as though the game was over right then and there. Wilson made one reception and showed some power and determination by catching the swing pass and taking on three tacklers and still getting 11 yards and a first down.
It’s important to note that Wilson got absolutely steamrolled by blitzing linebacker Sean Weatherspoon which put pressure on Manning (who was hit and dropped by Weatherspoon) and may have caused him to throw into coverage on the first interception. Wilson was trucked, rag dolled, blown up, whatever adjective you want to use but frankly that’s why he hasn’t played on passing downs before now. Incidentally, Manning had Bear Pascoe all alone five yards downfield across the middle on the play. Interestingly, nobody on the broadcast noted this issue.
Kregg Lumpkin played well in his first sustained action, well, ever. He set career highs in carries with 9, yards gained with 42, and also had a career long run of 22 yards. The problem was that before Wilson’s failed fourth-and-one, Lumpkin gained just one yard on third-and-two. Later, Lumpkin failed on another third-and-one that led to another failed fourth down conversion for the Giants. Lumpkin’s fumble was a fluke play as the ball was punched out from behind. Lumpkin didn’t even know a player was there to make that play.
WR Domenik Hixon once again impressed for New York, catching five of six passes for 80 yards, his most productive day in quite a while. Hixon lately seems to be the most consistent of the wide receivers.
Victor Cruz was targeted just five times, catching three for only 15 yards while Nicks only caught three of seven balls thrown his way for 40 yards. Both of Manning’s interceptions came on balls thrown in the vicinity of Nicks.
TE Martellus Bennett was invisible on Sunday. Manning went his way just twice and Bennett caught one for 15 yards.
I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to the offensive line, but frankly the protection for Eli Manning seemed pretty good for most of the day. Other than two long runs that accounted for nearly half the Giants rushing yards, the Giants ran 19 times for just 50 yards. That’s a 2.6 ypc average. Not good.
Once again, New York was powerless to stop the running game and powerless to get to the quarterback. As such, QB Matt Ryan was able to completely eviscerate the Giants secondary. Ryan finished completing 23 of 28 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensive Front 7:
All that needs to be said about the defensive line is this:
- 1st down at NYG16 : 14:03 Michael Turner rush to the right for 3 yards to the NYG13. Tackled by Keith Rivers.
- 2nd down at NYG13: 13:28 Michael Turner rush to the left for 8 yards to the NYG5. Tackled by Spencer Paysinger.
- 1st down at NYG5: 12:53 Michael Turner rush to the right for 4 yards to the NYG1. Tackled by Linval Joseph.
- 2nd down at NYG1: 12:14 Michael Turner rush to the right for 1 yard for a TOUCHDOWN.
Four plays, 16 yards, one first down, one touchdown. One lineman was in on a tackle over the four plays, Linval Joseph. Joseph only had two other tackles on the day. Chris Canty did his best to clog the middle, recording five solo tackles including the only Giant sack.
I have no idea what Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, or Jason Pierre-Paul did on Sunday but it wasn’t playing football. The three of them were in on just 7 of 64 tackles during the game and never really got close to Ryan. Osi was credited with two quarterback hits but I don’t recall them impacting the play.
The linebackers didn’t play well either, particularly Michael Boley who had just two tackles while trying to cover TE Tony Gonzalez. Between Boley and Rolle trying to cover him, Gonzalez caught six of seven passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. Neither could stay with Gonzalez. Chase Blackburn continued his solid play at MIKE, making seven tackles and breaking up a third down pass to Gonzalez. The rest of the linebackers didn’t do much to distinguish themselves, but frankly Mathais Kiwanuka is not and should never again be a linebacker.
Before this week’s game, Corner Forum contributor Joey in Va posted a thread in which he extolled the virtues of Giants understudies from the past several years and how they’ve been able to step up late and help the Giants move forward. One of the players discussed, Jayron Hosley, was flat out horrible on Sunday. I mentioned in the thread that Hosley looked like a lost colt, all arms and legs, when he was forced outside late in the Saints game. Well on Sunday he was beaten like a red-headed step child by Julio Jones on the game sealing touchdown that opened up the second half and was picked on constantly by Ryan. Frankly, Hosley at this point of his young career has no business as a starting CB on the outside.
Not to be outdone, Corey Webster was beaten by Jones on his second touchdown and gave up a number of deep balls to WR Harry Douglas. Webster’s lost year continues.
Safeties Will Hill and Stevie Brown played well, but Antrel Rolle was invisible most of the game. Rolle only had one tackle and had no impact plays. Rolle was also beaten by Douglas.
Sometimes it’s best not to read your own press clippings. There is no way that KR David Wilson should have taken the opening kickoff out of the end zone. His decision hurt the Giants. On the whole, the Giants return teams did nothing spectacular. The coverage teams basically had the day off as the Giants only punted twice and kicked off once.
K Lawrence Tynes once again missed a chip shot field goal. The kicker who was so reliable early on is now causing everyone to hold their breath every time he kicks.
Who knows what actually happened to this team this week, but it’s clear that HC Tom Coughlin did not have this team ready to play on Sunday. Yes, injuries are hurting the Giants but there is no excuse for what happened on Sunday. Preparation has to be questioned on both sides of the ball.
Two games left. Win both and go to the playoffs. I believe if they win both, they will be NFC East Champs. It will all depend on which team decides to show up on Sunday.