Baltimore Ravens 33 (10-5) – New York Giants 14 (8-7)
By rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com
A few weeks ago I made the point that the Giants had arguably played their worst game in two years against the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s hard to believe just five games later, New York has actually played two worse than they did then. The game against the Ravens was for all intents and purposes a continuation of the beating they took from the Falcons last week. Nothing changed, nothing got better, and as a result the Giants playoff hopes are all but doomed.
Once again, New York was down 14 points before the locals could even get comfortable in their seats. The Giants’ first two drives were both three-and-outs, gaining two net yards and accounting for three minutes in time of possession. Baltimore’s first two drives consisted of 18 plays, 120 yards, 7:35 in time of possession, and mostly importantly, two touchdowns. Though New York closed to within seven points on their next drive, it never felt like the Giants were going to get back into the game. New York had six “drives” in the first half. Four of those resulted in three-and-outs and resulted in -8 net yardage. Their other two drives were just five plays each and accounted for 97 yards (77 on one, 20 on the other) and the lone touchdown of the half. Forty-three of the yards on the touchdown drive came on one play. If you’re keeping score at home, that means on the other 21 offensive plays New York ran in the first half, New York gained just 46 net yards (2.19 average PER PLAY!)
Three Baltimore drives and 10 points later, the Ravens walked into the tunnel at halftime with what every New York Giants fan knew was an insurmountable 17-point lead.
The first half stats were stunning. Yardage: Baltimore 289, New York 109. First Downs: Baltimore 15, New York 4. Offensive plays: Baltimore 41, New York 22. Third down efficiency: Baltimore 6-8, 75%, New York 0-5, 0%. Time of Possession: Baltimore 17:21, New York 12:39.
It got worse in the second half. New York ran just nine plays for a total of six yards and one first down on two drives totaling just 3:06 in the third quarter. Unbelievably, when the Giants took over with just 7:25 left in the game and put together an 11-play, 80 yard touchdown drive, they’d run just 12 plays for 12 yards and one first down. Incredibly, New York had just 3:53 time of possession in the second half going into that final drive.
On the day, Baltimore gained 533 yards including an astounding 224 on the ground, registered 25 first downs, converted 61% of their third downs, ran an incredible 81 offensive plays, only punted twice, and held the ball for 39:21. Additionally, Baltimore came into the game dead last in the league at sustaining drives of 10 plays or more. Naturally, the Ravens had four drives of 12 plays or more (14, 12, 16 and 13). The only thing that kept the final score relatively “close” was the fact that Baltimore had to settle for four field goals on drives that ended at the Giants’ 12 yard line or closer.
There isn’t much to talk about with regards to the offense. Other than the 43-yard pass to WR Rueben Randle and the 14-yard touchdown run by HB David Wilson on the Giants’ third drive, New York did very little with the ball. Seriously, what’s to talk about when you control the ball for a mere EIGHT minutes in the entire second half? How does one discuss six three-and-outs and just 34 offensive plays over the first nine New York drives?
QB Eli Manning had another tough game, completing just 14-of-28 passes for 150 yards and one touchdown. I suppose one can look on the bright side and note that he didn’t throw an interception. Manning was under pressure all day, suffering three sacks and absorbing at least nine hits.
The running game once again went nowhere. HB Ahmad Bradshaw was wearing a knee brace that was obviously affecting him greatly, particularly in blitz pickup. Bradshaw gained just 39 yards on a paltry nine carries. HB David Wilson carried just three times for 17 yards and the 14-yard touchdown that temporarily made the game seem close. Many in The Corner Forum believed that Wilson’s role was reduced because of his back flip antics in the end zone following his touchdown. That was not at all the case. The Giants were playing catch up and were forced to throw on over 70 percent of their plays (32-of-45). It’s obvious by the fact that the Giants employed both HB Kregg Lumpkin (who ironically missed a blitz pickup that led to a sack) and even FB Henry Hynoski in the backfield to block on passing plays that they do not trust Wilson in pass protection. That’s why he only saw the playing field four times.
WR Hakeem Nicks only saw three passes thrown in his direction and didn’t catch a ball. Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon only had five passes thrown at them each and caught three balls apiece. Rueben Randle caught just one pass, yet the 43 yards gained on that reception actually led the Giants. Cruz again took a wicked shot to the head, this time from S Ed Reed who hit him with his shoulder. It looked innocent enough, but you cannot hit a receiver in the head. Cruz has taken a lot of shots this year and frankly, it’s impacted his play this season.
TE Martellus Bennett paced the team in catches (4) and targets (7) for just 27 yards. Additionally, on the opening Giants drive of the third quarter Bennett simply missed a beautifully thrown pass down the middle of the field that would have set the Giants up with a first down close to the Baltimore 40-yard line. Instead, they punted.
The offensive line was not very good on Sunday, but as noted they were not getting much help in blitz pick-ups from the Giants backs. RG Chris Snee deserves a lot of respect for gutting out and playing through a painful hip injury, but seriously he’s going to get Manning killed if he continues to play as he is. C David Baas is also battling through injuries and it’s showing. Baas cannot stay healthy and it’s really hurt the team. There is simply no anchor in the middle of the line. The only bright spot on the entire line this season has been the steady if not solid play from LT Will Beatty, who is starting to look like he may become a great one. Beatty, LG Kevin Boothe and TE Bear Pascoe blocked Wilson’s touchdown run perfectly.
There are no “excuses” for failure in football, but there are “reasons.” Face it folks, injuries and the fact that young players have not developed as expected have destroyed what this defense may have been able to accomplish this season. Many of the fans in The Corner Forum have blamed Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell and his schemes for their failures this season and there may be some merit to those complaints. On Sunday, however, New York employed the style the fans have been screaming for and tried to play more press coverage and send more blitzes in on QB Joe Flacco. It didn’t work, as Flacco carved up the secondary particularly when he saw one-on-one coverage. Baltimore had six plays of more than 20 yards, and four of 35 or more.
Baltimore has not been a very good offensive team over the second half of the season, yet they looked like San Francisco circa 1989. Baltimore employed a hurry up offense early that kept the Giants from substituting as they would have liked. New York tried to go with a four linebacker look to stop the run and it was as effective as putting a brown paper wall in front of HBs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. The Giants abandoned that look early, but in retrospect it worked better than what they tried to do in the second half when Baltimore ran for 137 of their 224 yards. Both Rice and the rookie Pierce ran for more than 100 yards.
The youngsters at linebacker simply haven’t progressed. Mark Herzlich led the linebackers with seven tackles, but frankly he looks lost out there. For each tackle Herzlich made, it appeared he missed one. Spencer Paysinger has seen more time lately, but again he’s not contributing with any impact plays down near the line of scrimmage, and though he was sent on a couple blitzes on Sunday, he got nowhere near Flacco. Paysinger seems to play tentatively, waiting for something to happen and then reacting to it. Chase Blackburn is also a guy to respect, but he’s just not fast enough to be an impact middle linebacker. It speaks volumes that Blackburn is the best linebacker of this bunch and has been unable to be beaten out for a job by Herzlich, Williams or Paysinger. Michael Boley was on the bench more than on the field for the second week in a row. Keith Rivers nearly had an interception, but there isn’t much more to discuss with him either.
Other than DT Chris Canty and DE Osi Umenyiora, the Giants defensive line was once again missing in action on Sunday. Justin Tuck did not play. Jason Pierre-Paul and Linval Joseph did absolutely nothing. When the Giants’ big names up front are missing in action, bad things happen downfield. Not to be outdone, DE/LB Mathais Kiwanuka also was a no-show on Sunday until he was able to sack Flacco on a third-and-one play down near the goal line. At that point, New York was down 30-7 with just seven and a half minutes to go in the game. A pyrrhic victory, at absolute best. Part of the problem with the defensive line is that the linebackers cannot stop the run. The Giants linebackers are assigned to hit holes created by the linemen to stop the run, but just don’t do it. As such, the opposition is constantly in manageable down-and-distance situations and the Giants defensive line cannot tee off and get after the QB. Interestingly, when the Giants had Baltimore in long third downs on Sunday, they still couldn’t get to Flacco. New York allowed Baltimore to convert twice on third-and-19 and once on third-and-nine.
How bad is your secondary when QB Joe Flacco decides to pick on your number one cornerback instead of a rookie who has looked lost most of the season? Corey Webster was torched constantly on Sunday. By unofficial count, Flacco threw at him 13 times. WR Torry Smith, who was rumored to be out with a concussion early in the week, abused Webster over and over to the tune of five catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. If you want to know how often Webster was thrown on, just look at the fact that despite playing one-on-one coverage all day, he made seven solo tackles.
The rest of the secondary wasn’t much better. Flacco threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns on his way to a 114.2 passer rating. As mentioned, New York tried to send more pressure in on Flacco, blitzing significantly more than normal. When the Giants couldn’t get home, hitting Flacco just twice all game, Flacco just dumped the ball off short to Rice (six receptions on seven targets for 51 yards) or TE Dennis Pitta (four receptions on five targets for 56 yards) or went over the top against one-on-one coverage. Amazingly, WR Anquan Boldin caught all seven passes thrown his way before leaving with a shoulder injury.
S Antrel Rolle made 10 tackles as he constantly had to make up for missed tackles by the linebackers. S Stevie Brown nearly had an interception.
P Steve Weatherford had a good game. The rest of the special teams were average, but the punt return team did allow Baltimore to average eight yards per return which is unsatisfactory.
The Giants tried to change things up on defense and it didn’t work. The strategy, in my opinion, was sound. The Giants had been unable to stop the run all year and decided that if they could bottle up Rice and Pierce, they’d have a good chance of rattling Flacco into mistakes. As has been the case all season, the Giants failed to execute the plan. I’m not sure you can blame Fewell for that.
HC Tom Coughlin continues to state that the Giants have had good communication, good weeks of practice, and seemingly are ready to play on game day. While the first two may be true, it sure looks like the third isn’t. The Giants simply looked flat on both sides of the ball to start the game once again. As for the offense, nothing is working. I’m not sure why OC Kevin Gilbride called for a direct snap to Ahmad Bradshaw on their first drive needing two yards to convert a third down. Bradshaw has a bad knee and one would think they would try something a little more conservative. Why not an I formation FB blast? Even if you don’t make it, it’s something different and certainly would not be expected.
After another 6-2 start, the Giants have stumbled down the stretch and are currently 2-5 since then. Deja-vu all over again. As I mentioned, the Giants are beat up on both sides of the ball and are not getting improvement from their young players and that’s part of the problem. The Giants have also had a very tough second-half schedule, but there is no reason to put any blame there after defeating the likes of the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints.
The Giants aren’t out of the playoff hunt, but it’ll take a small miracle to get in and then if they do, is it even remotely possible that they have a run in them this year? I started a thread last week saying the Giants would win the division at 10-6 because Dallas would lose to the Saints and then beat the Redskins and that the Redskins would beat the Eagles then lose to Dallas. Those scenarios may still occur, as the first half has already happened. What I didn’t expect was for the Giants to tank on Sunday. How awful will it be if everything falls right again for the Giants next week, but they lose to the Eagles?