Diary of a Giants Fan: Giants Lose A Heartbreaker – Grades
What the heck just happened. I mean. What the heck, JUST HAPPENED?!
Well, I said that it might have been a trap. And hey, it was a trap. That's as confusing, thrilling, befuddling, infuriating and down right depressing a game as you'll ever see. The Giants came into it a heavy favorite (build me up), as they should have been, but something just didn't feel good about the game. And boy did it show itself right from the start.
Seattle took the opening kickoff and promptly marched down the field for a touchdown. The Tarvaris Jackson led offense moved with an efficient flow in their hurry-up offense, taking advantage of the inexplicable space Giants' defensive backs were giving to Seattle wide receivers. The touchdown was the first the Giants had given up in the first quarter all season and was the exclamation point on what was an awful start for New York...Just disgusting. 0-7 Seattle (tear me down).
But there was some hope. The Giants took the ensuing possession and Eli Manning began to move his team down the field. A few great passes from the quarterback, including one to Jake "Kevin Boss Who?" Ballard had the Giants in the red zone. Following an end around to Cruz (really Gilbride? An end around to Cruz? Remind me when that dang play has ever worked) Manning would find Ballard and he'd rumble his way into the end zone for a score. Excellent answer, 7-7 (build me up).
Then everything got a little...muddy. A few punt exchanges and and a pair of fumbles later the Seahawks had the ball inside Giants territory. A big Marshawn Lynch, yes former Bills back up Marshawn Lynch, run set up a first and goal and ultimately a Seattle touchdown. 7-14. The Giants answer was a feeble one as they were forced to punt back to the apparent world-beating Seattle Seahawks and their by all appearances all-pro quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (tear me down)...Does this read as bitter as I am?
Jackson began to lead his team back down the field and just as all seemed lost, with Seattle back inside the Giants' 5, Big Blue got a gift they didn't deserve. The Seattle up-back, who'd been given the ball for three straight plays, ran into his offensive line and fumbled the ball. The flaccidity of the Giants offense continued, however, with an Eli Manning interception and several horrific drives following that.
Yet the Giants would, so cruelly, give us hope at the end of the half when, after taking possession inside a minute, they'd drive down the field. A few great passes would move the Giants into Seahawks territory where Manning would find Nicks for a spectacular touchdown. The half would end there, tied at 14.
Taking stock at half time the Giants had to be thrilled. Not because they'd played great football, they hadn't, but because it could have been and should have been so much worse. While the defense was playing well, especially the defensive line, they'd allowed Seattle to drive to the goal line too many times and if not for a few timely turnovers in the red zone Seattle would be crushing Big Blue. You read that right. Seattle. SEATTLE, would be crushing Big Blue. Ugh. Offensively Tom Coughlin's squad was an absolute dumpster fire. They hadn't been able to establish the run, nor really establish the pass -though they were far better through the air. The only thing they had been able to establish was terrible blocking, to be honest. The offensive line was having by far its worst game of the year. If the Giants had any hope of winning they'd need to tighten things up defensively and gain some offensive continuity (running the ball well, then passing). But hey, we were in a game we probably shouldn't be and we were getting the ball to start the second. There was hope (build me up).
Then the second half started...with a nice. Big. Thud. A holding penalty pinned the Giants back early and a punt was very much in their future. At this point the Giants defense was the only thing keeping them in the game. The secondary was playing surprisingly decent and the Giants pass rush was in full effect, roughing up Tavaris Jackson enough to knock him out of the game and begin the Charlie Whitehurst era (Who knew this is what would spell our doom?). If the Seahawks wanted to take the lead, it seemed they'd need to figure out a way to do it on defense (don't you just love foreshadowing?)...
Enter D. J. Ware and the most poorly blocked run play ever. On a first down run inside the Giants' five the offensive line made the curious choice to "ole" their rivals and the Seahawks were able to stop Ware in the end zone. Safety. Seriously? A safety? We're just inventing ways to anger me now. 14-16 Seattle (tear me down). More poor, poor offense led to continued Seattle possession. It was just a matter of time before they broke through, which they did with a field goal. 14-19. Eli Manning would need to lead his team on a touchdown drive if they were going to get the win, now. "Magic Eight Ball, can they do it?" "Outlook not so good."
But then, the Giants caught lightening in a bottle. Well, Victor Cruz caught lightening in a bottle. As things had begun to look increasingly bleak Eli Manning dropped back and found two Seahawks defenders, though neither of them could catch the ball and it tipped into the hand of Victor Cruz. The receiver took the one handed grab all the way to pay-dirt and with a two point conversion the Giants led 22-19 (build me up.)
The Giants defense continued to play well, handing the offense back the ball and giving them a chance to add to the lead. Big mistake. If Perry Fewell was a real defensive genius he would have figured out a way to keep Seattle on the field infinitely, without giving up yards or points. Handing the ball back to the offense just resulted in a poor possession which ended with a Victor Cruz fumble, which, unfortunately was actually a fumble (though I maintain that he was trying to give himself up while standing there). The Seahawks would take possession inside field goal range, do nothing, and take the field goal. 22-22 (tear me down).
The ensuing possession was one that so very much a New York Giant possession. After looking largely flacid offensively, the Giants inexplicably found offense. Manning took the team down the field with completions to both Pascoe and Ballard - who was doing his best Mark Bavaro impersonation as I shout at the television "DON'T FUMBLE! GO DOWN! DECLARE YOURSELF DOWN!" The Giants had found a rhythm, moving the ball through the air and on the ground, it looked like nothing would stop this team (build me up). Then. The Giants stopped themselves. A penalty and poor play calling stalled the drive and the G-men would settle for a Lawrence Tynes field goal. 25-22.
The Gents were playing with the lead again and the defense would just have to hold on for the win. Would they? Hell no. Charlie "Who in God's name is Charlie Whitehurst" Whitehurst would suddenly become John freaking Elway and lead the Seahawks straight down the field and sneak in a touchdown pass while the Giants secondary was apparently not paying attention. 25-29 (tear me right the hell down).
It was up to Eli Manning now to try and win the game. A man I'd heralded as one of the best two minute quarterbacks alive last week, a monicker which he'd backed up earlier in the game, would need to orchestrate another two minute drive. Things started out well. Manning was escaping pressure and finding receivers, moving the team with relative ease. In short order Big Blue had driven the length of the field and was sitting on the five yard line (BUILD ME UP!).
Manning dropped back and threw a pass to Cruz who slipped on the turf. He reached out with one hand to try and make a spectacular catch but it tipped off his hand and into the arms of a Seahawk defender. He'd run the length of the field for the score. 25-36 (Do I have to say it?). No one's fault. Just an unfortunate and horrifically ill-timed play...Crap.
The Giants would drop the game by that score, a really gut-wrenching and depressing loss. This was a team the Giants should have beaten, plain and simple. The offense, which showed flashes of brilliance, was largely horrific, looking lost and totally ineffective for large portions of the game. The offensive line had its worst game all season. They didn't do their job. Period. Defensively, this was one of the team's better games. They gave up a lot of yards, but they were on the field an awful lot, and came up with timely turnovers. In the end, this was a game that had a two point conversion, a safety, a bunch of inexplicable turnovers, a quarterback injury, a defensive touchdown and some musical chairs in the Giants offensive line. It was just a weird game. Weird, and depressing, and it's loss at a time in which the schedule is only going to get harder. Not good. Not good.
GRADES: Offensive Line - F: They had an awful, awful game. They opened up no room for the running backs and gave Eli almost no time with which to throw. Much of the blame for the poor offensive play is theirs. Terrible.
Wide Receivers - B-: Nicks, Cruz and Ballard made great plays throughout the game to give Manning some much needed help. Though they ran some poor routes and Cruz turned the ball over. Manningham hasn't gotten open all year. Good game. Not great.
Running Backs - C: Didn't have a lot of room to run, though I expect better. Bradshaw had a great end to the game, however.
Eli Manning - B: I know this sounds crazy given how much I've harped on the poor play of the offense, but it seemed at times, particularly at the end of the game, that Eli was pulling this team to victory. He threw open a lot of receivers and made great throws when he needed to. You can't fault him on the last two interceptions, one was a fluke with a receiver who fell down and the other when the game was over. He threw for 400 yards and had three touchdowns. Overall, not his best day, but he was a bright spot for this Giants offense, some help from his line would have gone a long way.
Special Teams - C: Good punts by Weatherford, poor coverage by everyone else.
Defensive Line - A: Clearly the best part of the Giants game today. Umenyiora and JPP were men possessed. This line consistently got pressure on Seattle and netted yet another quarterback knocked out of the game.
Linebackers - B: The corps made some great plays, including Boley who once again had a good game. They weren't a problem that's for sure - though their tackling could be better.
Defensive Backs - C-: This wasn't a really awful game for the defensive backs, though when you consider that Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst had the success that they did, I refuse to be impressed. I also can't get that final touchdown out of my mind in which the secondary looked lost, as though they were still warming up.
As I look back, all the grades seem a little high. FORGET IT, GIVE THEM ALL F'S! Next week the Buffalo Bills invade the swamps of jersey. That should be fun. My preview of the game will be found right here later in the week. Follow me on Twitter @JoeBianchino, and as always, Go Giants...I guess.