Dec 212013
 
 December 21, 2013  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
Eli Manning, Kevin Gilbride, New York Giants (December 15, 2013)

Eli Manning and Kevin Gilbride – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Seattle Seahawks 23 – New York Giants 0

Game Overview: Most of us did not expect the Giants to win this game. Seattle is clearly the better team, perhaps the best in the NFL. An 11-2 team coming off of a loss, playing at the site of this year’s Super Bowl, and still fighting for playoff positioning, the Seahawks had something meaningful to play for. Pride, self-respect, and job security were the Giants’ only real motivation.

But we see over-matched teams put up a strong fight on a weekly basis in the NFL. And the Giants’ coaches and players correctly approached this game as a measuring stick against the class team in the NFC. In a way, this was New York’s last best chance to make a statement in an otherwise dismal 2013 season. Sadly, but fittingly, the only statement the Giants made was how poor a team they have become.

The Giants’ defense and special teams units did come to play. The offense did not. Indeed, the story of this game was New York’s offensive impotence. Impotence is a harsh word. By definition, it means lacking physical strength, vigor, and power. It implies being weak or helpless. But there is a deeper, darker connotation given the word’s association with the male anatomy, suggesting a lack of manliness.

The Giants did not lose this game because of coaching. They lost it because – man for man – the Seahawk defenders were better than the Giant offensive players. That is difficult for many fans to accept, but it the simple truth. No amount of coaching can overcome a situation where you can’t block your opponent, you can’t run the football, you can’t break loose of coverage, and your quarterback is inaccurate and reckless with the football. More than that, super-talented, tough, and physical defensive teams challenge the manhood of their opponents. They’ll kick sand in your face and laugh so you had better come prepared to fight and get your hands bloody. The offensive line, tight ends, running backs, wide receivers, and quarterback did not. They sadly accepted their beating and went home humiliated.

Offensive Overview: The Giants were in deep trouble as soon as it was clear they could not run the football. Seattle made New York completely one dimensional, holding the Giants to a paltry 25 yards rushing and a 1.8 yards per rush average. It is the goal of every team to make its opponent one-dimensional, but that especially plays into the hands of the Seahawks who have the NFL’s #1 pass defense. Seattle can rush the passer and their back seven is quick, fast, physical, aggressive, and supremely confidant in coverage. With no running game, the only chance the Giants had at generating points is if Eli Manning and his receivers played at an elite level. As has been the case all season, they did not.

The results were atrocious. By halftime, the Giants had only gained 15 yards rushing, 39 yards passing, and two first downs. Manning had thrown three interceptions and had a 22.4 quarterback rating. The Giants did not even cross mid-field until midway through the fourth quarter. With Manning in the game, New York had 13 offensive possessions. Eight ended with punts, five with interceptions. If the game had been twice as long, eight full quarters, the Giants probably still would not have scored.

In re-watching the game, what stood out to me was this: Seattle was not only stouter and more physical at the point of attack, but their overall athleticism was superior. The Seahawk defenders were quicker and faster. The lack of speed and overall athleticism on the Giants’ offense was obvious.

Quarterback: This was perhaps Eli’s worst game in his worst season. Yes, Eli had no running game. Yes, his pass protection was terrible. Yes, his receivers had problems getting open and were too often out-fought for the football, but all five of Eli’s interceptions were poor throws. Two sideline throws should have been more to the outside, the Hail Mary was short of the end zone, a crossing route was thrown behind the receiver, and his last end zone throw was well short of the back pylon. Eli’s mechanics are terrible and he is playing with very little confidence. The Giants had no chance to win this game with him playing like crap. Sometimes the elite, high-paid quarterback has to carry his team. Eli doesn’t do that anymore. Continually challenging CB Richard Sherman also didn’t seem to be a very smart move.

In Eli’s defense, no one on offense helped him out. Not his blockers, not his receivers, not his running backs. It’s hard for one man to beat the NFL’s best defense all by himself.

Wide Receivers: Based on their statements after the game, the coaches and quarterback were clearly annoyed that the receivers did not fight harder for the football and it is hard to argue with them. While the throws were inaccurate, incompletions instead of interceptions may have been the result, had the receivers been able to compete a little harder for the football. At the half, Eli had thrown eight passes to Cruz, Nicks, and Randle. The results? Two completions for 21 yards, a dropped pass by Cruz, and three interceptions. Cruz was knocked out of the game early in the third quarter. Nicks was shut out in the second half and Randle was shut out for the game. The only receiver who did anything was Jerrel Jernigan who had seven catches for 67 yards, all in the second half. He did have one drop, but he also made a heck of a play by staying on his feet after S Kam Chancellor almost beheaded him.

Running Backs: With Seattle completely controlling the line of scrimmage, the Giants’ running game had no chance. Andre Brown was held to an embarrassing 17 yards on 11 carries (1.5 yards per carry). Peyton Hillis, who was forced to leave the game with a concussion, ran the ball three times for eight yards. The Giants’ backs were not a factor in the passing game either. Brown caught four of five passes thrown in his direction for a grand total of nine yards. Hillis caught two passes for 24 yards. Brown failed in blitz protection on two plays where Eli was sacked. Hillis looked like one of the few offensive players willing to put up a fight.

Tight Ends: Brandon Myers continues to see the bulk of the snaps (78 percent) with Bear Pascoe (16 percent), and Larry Donnell (11 percent) pulling up the rear. Run blocking was obviously an issue. Myers did pick up three first downs with three catches for 37 yards. Pascoe was held short of a the first down marker with a 2-yard catch on 3rd-and-3. He had another catch for 10 yards against CB Richard Sherman.

Offensive Line: Just a shit show. An offensive line is truly the sum of its parts. Individual excellence can easily be erased if there are breakdowns by others, including the tight ends, fullback, and even wide receivers blocking on the edge. But there was no individual or group excellence on this day as the Giants’ got their asses kicked all across the board. Seattle absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage. New York was held to 25 yards rushing. Pass protection was very shaky. Eli was constantly under pressure. The coaches tried to adjust with a moving pocket times in order to keep Eli upright, but Eli doesn’t excel in this type of situation. Shorter passes didn’t work either as Seattle quickly closed on the slow running backs and tight ends.

The tone was set from the very first offensive series. DT Red Bryant blew by Kevin Boothe and was immediately in Eli’s face causing an incompletion. On 2nd-and-10, Boothe was shoved back into the backfield on a run that picked up no yards. Then on 3rd-and-10, Eli was swarmed under by three Seahawk defenders for an 8-yard sack.

Like the first half, the tone was set on the first drive of the second half, Boothe was abused by DT Brandon Mebane on a 4-yard loss for Brown. James Brewer missed his trap block on a Brown run that picked up no yards. And then Justin Pugh was beat for a strip sack. By game’s end, Eli had been sacked three times (and Curtis Painter a fourth time) with seven official hits. But the pressure was greater than those numbers indicate. James Brewer was flagged with holding and forced to leave the game with an ankle injury. His replacement, Brandon Mosley, was flagged with a 15-yard face mask penalty. Justin Pugh probably had his worst game, both run and pass blocking. David Diehl looked overmatched, struggling with both power and quickness. Kevin Boothe played terribly, as Bryant and Mebane had their way with him. The best of the bunch was Will Beatty.

Defensive Overview: I am proud of the way the Giants’ defense played. Given no respite by the Giants’ offense and continually placed in difficult field position situations, the defense kept the Giants in this game longer than they should have been. Despite the fact that New York only had 54 yards and two first downs at half, Seattle only led 13-0 at intermission. And Seattle only managed an additional field goal in the third quarter until really putting the game away in the fourth with their second touchdown of the game.

The 23 points given up are even more impressive when you consider the fact that the Seahawks started their five scoring drives from the New York 42, Seattle 38, Seattle 34, New York 45, and New York 16.

RB Marshawn Lynch was held to 47 yards on 16 carries (2.9 yards per carry). QB Russell Wilson only passed for 206 yards and he was sacked four times and picked off once. If it were not for Wilson’s elusiveness as scrambler and thrower, Seattle’s offense really would have struggled. But Wilson made a number of amazing plays to get away from Giants’ pressure.

Defensive Line: A strong game up front, particularly from DE Justin Tuck (6 tackles, 0.5 sacks), DT Linval Joseph (5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 sack), and DT Cullen Jenkins (3 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 2 quarterback hits, 0.5 sacks). Tuck was more of a factor on the pass rush than his numbers would indicate though he did get embarrassed by a stiff arm from the QB on a run that picked up 16 yards. DE Mathias Kiwanuka was credited with 4 tackles (two for losses) and a quarterback hit. Johnathan Hankins (3 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss) saw more snaps that Mike Patterson. Damontre Moore (2 tackles) received 19 snaps and DT Marcus Kuhn (1 tackle) 10 snaps.

Linebackers: Jon Beason (93 percent of the snaps) and Spencer Paysinger (71 percent of the snaps) saw the bulk of the action as Jacquian Williams (25 percent), Keith Rivers (22 percent), and Mark Herzlich (12 percent) were relegated to lesser roles. Paysinger was the Giants’ leading tackler with eight; Beason finished with seven. Beason had a number of big hits on the physical Lynch, but he also missed a tackle on a 30-yard pick-up by Lynch after a short pass completion. Williams did cause one incompletion by coming free on a blitz. I thought Spencer Paysinger played well.

Defensive Backs: Prince Amukamara, Antrel Rolle, Will Hill, Trumaine McBride, and Ryan Mundy saw the bulk of the action. Interestingly, Mundy was used heavily for the first time in weeks and had a strong game with 6 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, and 1 sack. Rolle is having his best season as a Giant and picked off his sixth pass of the season. Rolle’s forceful open-field tackles made a difference in the game. In my mind, he’s been the MVP of the team this season. Will Hill had 6 tackles. Terrell Thomas only was in the game for 19 snaps. McBride was the weak link as Seattle successfully targeted him a number of times. McBride was beaten for what should have been a 29-yard touchdown had not WR Golden Tate stepped out of bounds. In the second half, he gave up a couple of easy completions on a field goal drive and was beaten for a TD on 3rd-and-goal from the 12.

Special Teams: The Seahawks have outstanding special teams and while the Giants did not “win” the special teams battle, they did hold their own. Steve Weatherford punted eight times, averaging 47.5 yards per punt (38.4 net). Seattle’s seven punt returns went for 73 yards. That would have been better had the Giants not given up one good return for 22 yards. Seattle had no kickoff return yards as Josh Brown’s lone kickoff was a touchback.

Seattle has been exceptional covering punts all season and Rueben Randle only had once chance that he returned for four yards. Jerrel Jernigan had three chances to return kickoffs and averaged 24.7 yards per return. He had a chance to break a longer return on a 31-yard effort that was exceptionally well blocked by the Giants.

(Boxscore – Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants, December 15, 2013)
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Eric Kennedy

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

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