Dec 102013
 
 December 10, 2013  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers (December 8, 2013)

Keenan Allen Beats Terrell Thomas for a TD – © USA TODAY Sports Images

San Diego Chargers 37 – New York Giants 14

Game Overview: The game was over by halftime. The game was also too reminiscent of the 2012 blowout losses to the Bengals, Falcons, and Ravens, and this year’s blowout loss to the Carolina Panthers. To lose is one thing. But to lose this badly, to another 5-7 team, with your playoff hopes (though fleeting) still alive, is disgusting.

Something is wrong. This goes beyond X’s and O’s and the players on the field. The Giants may not be a good team anymore, but they should not be getting their asses kicked like this. Not with the skill position players this team has on offense and not with this defense.

The 2007 and 2011 Giants, with most of the same coaches and many of the same key players, were two of the most mentally-tough and resilient teams I’ve every seen in sports. The source of that toughness and resiliency must be attributed to Tom Coughlin. But the 2012 Giants were not tough or resilient and neither is the 2013 edition. Too often over the course of the last two seasons, quite frankly, this team has not been prepared to play a competitive football game. That’s on the coach. It’s part of the job description.

Quarterback: Yet another poor performance by the passing game. At the half, Manning was 9-of-15 for 148 yards and one interception. Take away the Hail Mary and Manning was 8-of-14 for 105 yards. This against the NFL’s 28th pass defense. The most disturbing element of the Giants’ offensive woes is that they have come against some of the NFL’s worst pass defenses. The Giants continue to average only one TD pass per game. There were two more interceptions in this game, raising Eli Manning’s total to 20. And another delay-of-game penalty. The most important statistic? Points. Zero first-half points, 14 at game’s end.

To be fair to Manning, some of the first-half failures were not on him. On the 3rd-and-2 incomplete pass on the opening drive, TE Brandon Myers should have worked back to quarterback. An easy completion would have been the result. After Manning hit WR Hakeem Nicks for a 51-yard pass play on the second drive, Manning threw slightly behind WR Rueben Randle. The pass bounced off of the defender’s face mask and was intercepted. On the third drive, a 4-yard pass to RB Andre Brown should have picked up more yards, but Brown fell down. On the next play, on 2nd-and-6, LG James Brewer misses a block, and the Giants are in 3rd-and-11. Five-yard completion to Myers, punt. On the fourth drive, Manning did under throw Louis Murphy on a fly route and he slightly threw behind Nicks on 3rd-and-11. The next first-half drive ended with a Brown fumble.

In the second half, Manning found Victor Cruz for five yards on 4th-and-2 on the Giants’ first touchdown drive. On the second TD drive, Eli made a nice play by stepping up into the pocket away from a free blitzer to hit Randle for 18 yards on 3rd-and-4. Manning’s 3rd-and-6 pass was almost intercepted in the end zone, however, as he was bailed out by an illegal contact penalty. Two plays later, he made a heck of a throw, threading the needle to Myers for a touchdown. What probably sticks out most to fans is how the game ended. On the second-to-last drive, down 34-14 with 6:40 to play, and with pressure bearing down on him, Eli’s pass to Cruz should have been intercepted. Then with 2:00 left to play, down 37-14, either miscommunication with Louis Murphy or a poor pass led to an easy interception.

Running Backs: Andre Brown continues to run tough, but at the half, with Brown receiving all of the rushing touches, the Giants had “amassed” only 24 yards on eight carries (3.0 yards per carry). Worse, Brown’s fumble at the Giants’ 39-yard left with 2:35 left before halftime set up the Chargers’ third touchdown of the first half, and essentially sealed the game. The 68 yards gained by Brown and Peyton Hillis in the second half were irrelevant because the defense could not make a stand.

Wide Receivers: Hakeem Nicks (5 catches for 135 yards but 43 of those coming on a harmless Hail Mary) still has not caught a touchdown pass since Week 14 of the 2012 season. Victor Cruz (5 catches for 42 yards) still has not caught a touchdown pass since Week 4. These are the Giants’ two starting wide receivers! Rueben Randle hasn’t caught more than three passes in a game since Week 5. In an NFL where a 4,000-yard passing season is no longer unusual, these facts boggle the mind. Louis Murphy saw the most action he has all season (13 snaps), was thrown at twice, but had no catches, and one led to an interception where one wonders if he was on the wrong page with Eli again. Jerrel Jernigan did not play on offense.

Shaun O’Hara talks about how Randle should have run a crisper route on Eli’s first interception at Giants.com.

What’s becoming more clear to me is this: teams are doubling Victor Cruz, and Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle are not getting open against single coverage. Too often against the Chargers, replays showed that Eli didn’t have anyone obviously open down the field. Every throw appeared to be contested.

Tight Ends: With the receivers being shutout in the touchdown department, Brandon Myers has been the beneficiary in recent weeks, catching his third touchdown pass in the last three games. But he was held to a pedestrian 26 yards on four catches. Bear Pascoe had 13 snaps, and caught one pass for 14 yards. Larry Donnell saw two offensive snaps. Adrien Robinson still has not played this season.

Offensive Line: The offensive line could only help to generate 24 first-half rushing yards against the NFL’s 22nd-ranked rushing defense. Pass protection was actually pretty good in the first half, although LG James Brewer allowed one big hit that caused an incompletion. Three plays later, Brewer whiffed on a run block that led to a 5-yard loss and helped to stall a drive. David Diehl gave up a second-half sack on a drive that fortunately ended with a touchdown. On the second-to-last drive, on 4th-and-5, both LT Will Beatty and Brewer were beaten on a sack. (Beatty was flagged for a false start earlier on this drive).

If you didn’t see the game and just read the fan reviews, you would come away with the impression that Brewer was terrible from start to finish. That is not true. He had one very bad series in the first half and he was responsible for a sack in the second half. In total, he had three bad plays that really stood out. Beatty rebounded with a nice game in pass protection and RT Justin Pugh and OC Kevin Boothe were solid in pass protection.

Defensive Overview: In the last seven games, the Giants are 5-0 when facing a sub-standard passing game and 0-2 when facing a respectable offense. One can argue that despite the defensive collapse at the end of the Cowboys’ game, the defense did not deserve the lion’s share of the blame for that loss. That could not be said against the Chargers as San Diego scored on seven-of-nine offensive possessions and only were forced to punt once. Charger scoring drives went for 50 (touchdown), 76 (field goal), 67 (touchdown), 39 (touchdown), 80 (touchdown), 75 (field goal), and 18 yards (field goal). In the first half, the Chargers were an unbelievable 7-of-9 on third down (78 percent); they finished 10-of-15 (67 percent) for the game. Four of San Diego’s drives had 11 plays or more. San Diego racked up 250 first-half yards and rushed for 144 yards overall. QB Philip Rivers finished the game 21-of-28 with three touchdown passes and a QB rating of 137.4. No interceptions, one pass defense, as Rivers completed 75 percent of his passes. Just nauseating. There is no excuse for the Giants’ defense to perform that poorly. None. Shame on the coaches and shame on the players.

Defensive Line: Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka each received 63 snaps (88 percent of the defensive snaps). Damontre Moore saw 15 snaps (21 percent). Tuck and Moore were each flagged for being offsides; Kiwanuka had his third personal foul penalty in three games. Tuck’s offsides gave the Chargers a first down on 3rd-and-4 on a drive that ended with a touchdown. Tuck did have two sacks, another QB hit, and a forced fumble that set up the Giants’ first touchdown. The pass rush early on wasn’t that bad, but Rivers did a great job of getting rid of the ball quickly and the Giants’ coverage was not tight enough to disrupt the rhythm between passer and receivers. However, the Giants’ run defense, which had been a strength most of the season, was poor. San Diego was able to run between the tackles and outside the tackles too consistently all game, especially out of the shotgun. Linval Joseph saw 78 percent of the snaps while Cullen Jenkins saw 64 percent, Mike Patterson 44 percent, and Johnathan Hankins 26 percent. Jenkins jumped offsides too, leading to a free play that picked up 39 yards.

Linebackers: Jon Beason (100 percent of the defensive snaps) had nine tackles. Spencer Paysinger (58 percent) had four tackles, Jacquian Williams (42 percent) four tackles, and Keith Rivers (33 percent) three tackles. But the Chargers rushed for 144 yards. San Diego running backs and tight ends caught 12-of-16 passes thrown in their direction for 147 yards. And the two failures played off of each other. For example, late in the second quarter, a play-action pass by Rivers to Gates led to a 23-yard pickup down to the Giants’ 2-yard line. On this play, both Beason and Williams bit on the fake, leaving Gates wide open. This play worked because the Chargers were running the ball so well.

Paysinger, for some reason, was left all alone with WR Vince Brown and a 36-yard pass interference penalty in the end zone was the result on a 3rd-and-3 deep pass that set up San Diego’s final touchdown of the game. That’s not on Paysinger, but a mental mistake by someone else or shoddy coaching.

Defensive Backs: The life seemed to right out of the Giants early in the game. After Manning’s interception on New York’s second drive of the game, Rivers hit rookie WR Keenan Allen for a 43-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-3. Allen badly beat CB Terrell Thomas on the play. Thomas also later gave up an easy 8-yard out pass to TE Antonio Gates on 3rd-and-4 and missed a tackle on a short completion that picked up another first down.

Antrel Rolle, Prince Amukamara, and Will Hill played virtually every snap. Jayron Hosley seemed to see more time as the game wore on at the expense of Trumaine McBride.

I didn’t understand why Amukamara was playing so far off the ball against an offense that thrives on the short-passing game. He allowed a couple of easy completions because of this, as well as not being in proper position on Allen’s second touchdown on 3rd-and-goal from the 4-yard line. McBride failed to pick up RB Danny Woodhead for a 6-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left before the half. Will Hill did cause one incompletion by successfully defending a pass intended for Gates on 3rd-and-2 on the Chargers’ first drive. Hosley was out-fought by a 5’9” running back on a jump ball that picked up 39 yards.

Special Teams: Steve Weatherford had another strong outing, averaging 47 yards on three punts (46.3 yard net). Punt and kickoff coverage was very good as the Chargers averaged only one yard on two punt returns and 17 yards on two kickoff returns. Rueben Randle never had a chance to field a punt (the Chargers only punted once all day and that went out of bounds).

As Special Teams Coordinator Tom Quinn has mentioned, blocking on kick returns remains a problem. Michael Cox only averaged 18.8 yards per return on six kickoff returns with the long only being 23 yards (and Ryan Mundy was flagged for holding on that return).

CB Charles James handed the Chargers three points in the second quarter. The Chargers missed a 41-yard field goal, but James was offsides and the Chargers made the ensuing 36-yard attempt, giving San Diego a 10-0 advantage.

Coaching: The Giants did not seem mentally prepared to play this game. There were a lot of mental mistakes.

Also, in terms of tactics, Perry Fewell’s decision to rush three on 3rd-and-12 in the second quarter left Rivers with a ton of time and an easy 15-yard completion on a drive that put the Chargers up 17-0. When is Fewell ever going to learn that rushing three in such a situation is a bad idea? Stupid.

Unlike most, I don’t really blame the coaches for not getting another play off before the two-minute warning on Brown’s fumble. First, it wasn’t instantly clear that Brown fumbled. More importantly, the next snap was third-and-10, and trailing 17-0, it was critical for the Giants to call the right play and pick up the first down. If you want to blame anyone, blame Brown for fumbling the football or the run blockers for allowing the defenders to make a play.

I also credit the offensive coaches for not panicking the second half. Some fans didn’t like the fact that the Giants continued to run the football in the third quarter, but that decision did lead to two touchdowns. Had the defense been able to hold at all, the game would have gotten more interesting.

(Boxscore – New York Giants at San Diego Chargers, December 8, 2013)

 

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Eric Kennedy

Founder and owner of BigBlueInteractive.com, which is now entering its 20th season.

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