Dec 312013
 
 December 31, 2013  Posted by  Game Previews and Reviews
Jerrel Jernigan, New York Giants (December 29, 2013)

Jerrel Jernigan – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 20 – Washington Redskins 6

Game Overview: This was a miserable football game played in ugly weather conditions by two bad football teams, each looking to end a terrible season on a positive note. Although the Giants won the game, it was a hollow victory, especially given the possibly offseason-altering injury to left tackle Will Beatty, who suffered a fractured leg. The injury not only potentially adds yet another critical need to a very long list of team needs, but also could very much negatively impact the Giants’ salary cap situation given the $19 million in guaranteed money in Beatty’s current contract which was signed last February. This is not to mention that by winning, the Giants also dropped to 12th spot in the first round of the upcoming draft with the Lions and Titans now picking in front of New York.

There is only one “good” thing that came out of this game and that is the punch-in-the-face warning team management received: Eli Manning is not indestructible. If they continue to short-change the offensive line, not only will the offense continue to struggle, but it is now crystal clear that you are really putting the centerpiece of the franchise at risk. If I’m John Mara and Steve Tisch, I put Jerry Reese on immediate notice and demand that he never allows the offensive line to fall into this embarrassing state ever again. The physical breakdown of Chris Snee, David Baas, and David Diehl was easy to predict. Snee and Diehl have been physically declining for some time. Baas has been injury-prone from day one, and instead of hedging their bets with him, the Giants re-structured him twice and worsened his long-term cap impact. Even before the injury, the lucrative, long-term contract given to Beatty was looking like a huge mistake. And behind these starters, there wasn’t much talent waiting in the wings.

I’m sure when the story of the Giants’ 2013 season is written, most of the emphasis will be placed on the poor play of Eli Manning and the team’s league-leading 44 turnovers (29 interceptions and 15 fumbles). But what I will remember is how bad the offensive line was, and how that contributed to the Giants’ worst rushing attack since 1945, and how Eli Manning – a quarterback historically difficult to sack – was sacked 39 times and became gun-shy. Because of the offensive line breakdowns, this team was regularly in 3rd-and-long situations. My disappointment – unlike most fans – is not directed at the coaching staff, but the poor personnel decisions made by the front office.

Offensive Overview: Just dreadful when you consider the fact the Redskins are terrible on defense (31st in points allowed coming into this game and 21st in total defense). The Giants had 16 legitimate offensive possessions. Eight ended with punts and three with turnovers. The Giants had 14 first downs and were 3-of-14 on third down. The Giants were held to 156 net yards passing. The team did have 122 yards rushing, but 57 of those came from WR Jerrel Jernigan. Giants’ running backs only managed 67 yards on 30 carries (2.2 yards per carry). Given the heavy rains, the lack of running game doomed the Giants’ offense from the get-go as passing the football in such weather conditions is difficult at best.

Quarterbacks: You almost couldn’t write a sadder and more appropriate finish. Once again, Eli had no ground game and shaky pass protection. Jerrel Jernigan came to play at wide receiver, but none of the other wide receivers and tight ends did. The heavy rain also made it difficult to throw the football. The result? Eli was knocked out of the game with a high ankle sprain right before the half, finishing the game 10-of-24 for 152 yards, 1 touchdown (on an excellent deep throw), and 1 interception (a high throw caused by Manning’s inability to put weight on his injured ankle). Despite some errant throws and drops, despite the lack of running game and poor pass protection, and despite the ugly weather, Manning was on pace for a 300-yard passing game before he got hurt. Eli should have had one other pass intercepted when Hakeem Nicks stopped his route short across the middle. Based on Eli’s reaction, Eli expected Nicks to keep running.

Curtis Painter was terrible. He fumbled two snaps and finished the game 2-of-8 for 11 yards with one interception. The interception really wasn’t on him, but he was lucky a couple of other passes were not picked off.

Wide Receivers: The best player on the field offensively for the Giants was Jerrel Jernigan. He caught 6-of-7 passes thrown in his direction for 90 yards and a touchdown. He also carried the ball twice for 57 yards and a touchdown. On the Giants’ first scoring drive of the game, Jernigan was responsible for 54 of the 75 yards on the Giants’ first touchdown drive, including a 30-yard catch and run and then the 24-yard touchdown. He also scored from 49 yards out on his end around late in the third quarter for the Giants’ second touchdown.

Rueben Randle was a non-factor before leaving the game with a knee issue that troubled him all week in practice. Hakeem Nicks caught 2-of-4 passes thrown in his direction for 50 yards before leaving the game with an ankle injury in the second quarter. Nicks had to fight for the football on both catches. He stopped running his route on a pass that should have been intercepted and was flagged with offensive pass interference on the play where he got hurt. Louis Murphy was not impressive, only catching 1-of-5 passes thrown in his direction. He had one very bad drop over the middle in the second quarter on a play where he could have done damage after the catch. He also dropped one on the play where Beatty was hurt. Julian Talley did not have a catch, being targeted twice and dropping one. Jernigan, Murphy, and Talley were the only receivers to play in the second half.

Running Backs: While the blocking up front was mostly abysmal, Andre Brown (13 carries for 11 yards) did not seem to run with much power or determination. Worse, he fumbled for the second week in a row and he can thank his lucky stars the defense bailed him out twice (though he still cost the Giants’ three points in this game). Peyton Hillis did not have a lot of yards (56 yards on 17 carries), but he ran with much more authority. Hillis was targeted five times in the passing game but only came up with one catch for six yards.

Tight Ends: In a game where the Giants needed their starting tight end to step up big, both due to the weather and the injury situation at wide receiver, Brandon Myers came up small. He was thrown to five times, and only caught two passes for nine yards. Both of the interceptions were off the hands of Myers. The first was slightly deflected by a linebacker, making it a difficult, but not impossible catch. The second was a very high throw from Manning who could not put weight on his injured ankle. But both plays were very frustrating and too reminiscent of the interception late in the Chicago game. He also dropped a pass early in the game. Myers remains a liability as a blocker. Bear Pascoe and Larry Donnell played, but you never would have noticed.

Offensive Line: I went into this game thinking that the Will Beatty, James Brewer, Kevin Boothe, David Diehl, and Justin Pugh combination should be able to do an adequate job on the Redskins’ defensive front. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Redskins dominated the line of scrimmage for most of the game. The Giants had 32 yards rushing at halftime on 13 carries and the pass protection wasn’t much better. Brewer left the game early with an ankle injury and was replaced by Dallas Reynolds who got Eli Manning hurt. Will Beatty broke his leg in the third quarter and was replaced by Stephen Goodin. The Giants ran the ball a bit better in the fourth quarter, but that is probably misleading as the Redskins were not playing very hard at that point. Kevin Boothe played horribly, especially on running plays. David Diehl did not play well in what is likely his last game, struggling at times on both run and pass blocks. Kudos to Stephen Goodin who did a respectable job at left tackle after Beatty was injured.

Defensive Overview: The Giants’ defense dominated the game against a Redskins offense whose backup quarterback had been playing fairly well and one of the better rushing teams in the NFL. That said, it should be noted that the Redskins’ offensive players didn’t appear overly inspired and they dropped quite a few passes. Nevertheless, the Giants held Washington to only 12 first downs (two in the first half), 5-of-20 on third down, 91 yards rushing, and 160 yards passing. The Redskins had 17 offensive possessions. They punted nine times, turned the ball over four times, turned the ball over on downs twice, and kicked two field goals. The defense really did a fine job of holding the Redskins to a field goal after Andre Brown fumbled the ball away at the NYG 18-yard line.

Defensive Line: The Giants’ defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage as the defensive tackles and defensive ends all played well against the run. Washington was held to 20 yards on 10 carries in the first half. Washington ran for 91 yards in the game, but 25 of those yards came with less than two minutes left when the Giants were in prevent. DE Justin Tuck once again played very well against Washington, accruing 6 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 1 quarterback hit, and 1 forced fumble. He was a factor on the pass rush throughout the game. DT Cullen Jenkins had 4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 sack, 1 quarterback hit, and 1 forced fumble. DT Linval Joseph (4 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 fumble recovery) and DE Mathias Kiwanuka (4 tackles, 1 quarterback hit, 1 pass defense) played well too. Reserves DT Johnathan Hankins (1 tackle) and DE Damontre Moore (2 quarterback hits, 1 pass defense) flashed although Moore was flagged with a neutral zone infraction.

Linebackers: Jon Beason (9 tackles) and Jacquian Williams (7 tackles, 3 pass defenses) were the team’s leading tacklers. Williams had his hands on two potential interceptions for defensive scores but dropped both. Spencer Paysinger and Keith Rivers each had four tackles, and Rivers recovered a fumble. Williams and Paysinger seem to be coming on a bit.

Defensive Backs: CB Prince Amukamara did an excellent job holding Pierre Garcon, who came into the game with 107 receptions, to a harmless 6 catches for 56 yards. Amukamara was officially credited with 5 tackles and 2 pass defenses.

The only other wide receivers to catch passes were Aldrick Robinson (3 catches for 33 yards) and Santana Moss (2 catches for 13 yards). 13 other passes thrown in the direction of Robinson and Moss were not completed. CB Trumaine McBride played very well too, with two interceptions and 6 pass defenses (a very high number for one game). CB Terrell Thomas saw the most action he has seen in weeks and finished with 5 tackles and 3 pass defenses.

At safety, Will Hill had 5 tackles and Antrel Rolle 5 tackles, 1 pass defense, and one dropped interception.

Special Teams: The Giants forced nine punts and came darn close to blocking a punt a few times. With Randle out of the game, Jayron Hosley became the new punt returner and only manged 9 yards on 3 punt returns. Michael Cox returned two kickoffs, almost breaking one that he returned 32 yards but he couldn’t keep his feet.

Steve Weatherford punted eight times, averaging 44 yards per punt (41.1 net), but it was not his best game with a few low, line-drive punts. Punt coverage was very good as Santana Moss was held to 23 yards on five returns (4.6 yard average). Charles James continues to impress as a gunner and Julian Talley flashed with one big hit. The Redskins had three decent kickoff returns (26, 27, and 25 yards).

Josh Brown was 2-of-3 on field goals. He hit from 34 and 38, but badly missed from 50.

(Box Score – Washington Redskins at New York Giants, December 29, 2013)
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Eric Kennedy

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

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