New York Giants: 2013 Week 14 NYG at SD

SAN DIEGO -- New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning said he didn't realize running back Andre Brown had fumbled on his second-down carry with 2:35 left in the first half, so he didn't race to the line to try to get a play off before the Chargers could challenge that Brown had. Having better information sooner, the Chargers called timeout, challenged the play and won, so they got the ball at the Giants' 39-yard line. San Diego led 17-0 at that point, but the Giants were moving the ball and believed they could get in position to cut down the lead before halftime. Instead, the Chargers covered those 39 yards in five plays to take a 24-0 lead into the halftime locker room.

Running back Danny Woodhead ran for 4 yards on the first play, then Philip Rivers hit tight end Antonio Gates for a 23-yard gain that moved the ball to the Giants' 2-yard line. A false start moved them back to the 7, and Ryan Mathews picked up 1 yard on first down. San Diego called a timeout with 24 seconds to go in the half.

On the next play, Woodhead ran a route. Defensive end Justin Tuck, in coverage, bumped him as he came across the line, then broke inside, presumably to cover the run. The problem was, cornerback Trumaine McBride also broke inside, and Woodhead was able to run, uncovered, into the end zone, where Rivers found him for a 6-yard touchdown pass. That made the score 24-0 in favor of the Chargers -- a nearly insurmountable lead, as the Giants have only exceeded 24 points in two of their 13 games this season.

Nicks has rare big game in Giants' loss

December, 8, 2013
SAN DIEGO -- The easy joke is that you can forgive New York Giants' wide receiver Hakeem Nicks for not knowing he wasn't in the end zone, since he hasn't been there all season. Nicks went up to catch Eli Manning's Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half of Sunday's 37-14 loss to the Chargers. He outfought defenders for it and came down with the ball at the six-yard line. Then he got up and started acting as though he'd scored a touchdown, because he believed he had.

"I thought I was in the end zone until I got up and everybody was just looking at me," Nicks said. "I was thinking, 'Why isn't anyone celebrating?'"

Nicks did nothing wrong on the play. He went for the ball and got it. Had he actually been in the end zone, he would not have been able to catch it. But as it stands, he is still without a touchdown catch in this, the final season of his contract with the Giants.

He didn't have a bad game, though. He caught a 51-yard pass early in the game that he thought would help the offense get going. He had a 28-yarder in the second half, and ended up with 135 yards on five catches. He and tight end Brandon Myers each were targeted seven times to lead the team. And the two Nicks didn't catch, while they weren't uncatchable, were balls Manning threw behind him on short routes across the middle.

"Each week I strap it up and I'm ready to go," Nicks said. "I had a lot more opportunities today and I wanted to take advantage of it."

It's hard to imagine the Giants re-signing Nicks, especially since he'll likely be looking for the biggest contract he can get. But a strong final month would help him in that pursuit, whether it's the Giants who sign him or some other team.

Chargers fans greet Manning with jeers

December, 8, 2013

SAN DIEGO -- The public address announcer let the fans here at Qualcomm Stadium know who was starting at quarterback for the New York Giants. And as Eli Manning jogged out onto the field for the game's first series, they let him have it.

Fans of the team for which Manning famously didn't want to play when it drafted him first overall in 2004 hadn't had a chance to boo him since early in the 2005 season. But they have not forgiven Manning for spurning them, and they booed him every time he came onto the field and every time he dropped back to pass.

Having lost the game 37-14, Manning was in no mood to discuss the San Diego fans' treatment of him.

"Fans have never affected my play," Manning said. "I just tried to go out there and play good football."

After drafting Manning first overall in 2004, the Chargers immediately traded him to the Giants for quarterback Philip Rivers (whom the Giants selected fourth overall as a condition of the trade) and several other picks. Among the newspaper front pages of franchise highlights hanging on the wall in the press box is one from the 2005 game in which the Chargers beat Manning and the Giants 45-23 here in 2005. Until Sunday, that was Manning's only career game in San Diego.

Sunday, fans chanted things at Eli that we cannot print here. They held up unflattering signs. And as the teams went in for halftime with the Chargers up 24-0, the fans chanted "We love Philip" in reference to Rivers, who'd thrown three touchdown passes in the first half.

"I think that's more for you all or the fans I guess," Rivers said of the Manning issue. "I felt like I was competing, and we were competing, against the Giants' defense. I know that's a sidebar story, but I've never felt like it's me vs. him."

Rapid Reaction: New York Giants

December, 8, 2013

SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' 37-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers:

What it means: The Giants fell to 5-8 with three games left to play and therefore cannot finish with a winning record. Since the Eagles and Cardinals won, this loss eliminated the Giants from playoff contention. Obviously, they hung in longer than could have been expected after starting the season 0-6. But that 0-6 start meant they couldn't afford any more stinkers. And this was a stinker.

Stock watch: Run defense, DOWN. A Giants strength for much of the season, the run defense failed the Giants in this game. They went into the game concerned about Danny Woodhead because he and the manner in which the Chargers use him are different from any running back they'd yet faced. And Woodhead had a big game. But so did Ryan Mathews running between the tackles.

Nicks Watch: Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, a nonfactor in the passing game for most of this season, had catches of 51, 37 and 28 yards in the game. The middle one was a Hail Mary short of the end zone at the end of the first half. The other two were deep downfield in traffic. Nicks was able to outfight defenders for the ball all three times but still isn't separating from them. He also had a couple of drops on shorter patterns, though each of those seemed to be thrown a bit behind him. And he briefly left the game in the second half with some sort of leg injury. Nicks will be a free agent at the end of the year and is likely in his final month as a Giant.

Tuck Watch: Justin Tuck, also a pending free agent, had two sacks after collecting four last week in Washington and is now up to 8.5 for the season. Unlike Nicks, Tuck appears to be making an inspired case to stay.

Turnover redux: Eli Manning threw his 20th interception of the season and had another potential pick overturned by replay review. The Giants are the only NFL team with at least one turnover in every game this year.

What's next: The Giants return home, where they will host the Seattle Seahawks in a 1 p.m. ET game at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. The Seahawks are tied with the Broncos for the best record in the NFL.
SAN DIEGO -- The New York Giants trail the San Diego Chargers 24-0 at halftime here at Qualcomm Stadium. This is significant because the Giants have exceeded 24 points in only two games this year. So while a comeback isn't impossible, obviously, it's quite difficult to imagine.

This is the worst the Giants have looked since September, when they were in the middle of a season-opening six-game losing streak and weren't even in some of their games. They have turned the ball over twice. They cannot protect quarterback Eli Manning. They have been flagged for three penalties, including one that gave Chargers kicker Nick Novak a second try after he missed a 41-yard field-goal try. (He made it from 36.) Chargers running backs Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead have combined for 77 rushing yards on 17 carries, which eats at something the Giants actually have done well this year. The Giants also are struggling in coverage in the secondary, especially with Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen, who has two touchdown catches and may have done more damage if he hadn't had to miss a large chunk of the first half due to a shoulder injury. He caught one touchdown pass before the injury and one since.

The turnovers are Manning's 19th interception of the season and Andre Brown's first fumble, and obviously they have made a difference, as the Chargers scored touchdowns on the drives that resulted from each. They're not getting enough pressure on Rivers, who is 16-for-21 for 177 yards and three touchdowns. San Diego had the ball for 19:27 of the first half to the Giants' 10:33. They seem as though they believe they can beat the Chargers deep, and Hakeem Nicks of all people had a 51-yard catch early in the game. But the offense doesn't have any consistency, and it's mainly because Manning doesn't have enough time. The interior of the Giants' offensive line has been a problem all year, and reserve left guard James Brewer has had an especially bad game so far.

If it reads as though I'm just listing things the Giants have done poorly, it's because there's not a lot more to say. This Giants' season has been over since September, and even though it's been a while since they've looked this bad, it was unreasonable to expect them not to have another stinker before it was all over. Assuming they don't come back and they fly home with a 5-8 record, the Giants could be eliminated from contention for the postseason with a 49ers victory over Seattle this afternoon.

W2W4: Giants at Chargers

December, 7, 2013
SAN DIEGO -- The New York Giants are 5-7 and in third place, still mathematically alive in the race for the NFC East but needing a ton of help to make their hopes realistic. The San Diego Chargers are 5-7 and in third place, eliminated from their division race but still very much alive in the pitiful race for the final AFC wild-card spot. These two teams meet at 4:25 pm ET on Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium, and here are a couple of things to keep an eye on in the matchup.

Third-down terrors: The Chargers have converted 46.4 percent of their third-down attempts this year, second only to the Broncos in that department. Giants linebacker Jon Beason specifically mentioned third-down running back Danny Woodhead as a player for whom his group would have to account. The Giants have been good all year at limiting the production of running backs, but offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said Woodhead is a different kind of back than they've faced, and that the way the Chargers use him presents different challenges. Woodhead leads all NFL running backs this year with 61 receptions and is second to the Saints' Darren Sproles among running backs with 482 receiving yards.

The turnover battle: The Chargers' defense has forced only 11 turnovers this year, which ranked them 29th in the league through Week 13. The Giants' offense, of course, has committed a league-leading 31 turnovers and at least one in every game. But while they turned it over 23 times and forced only seven while losing all of their first six games, the Giants have turned the ball over only eight times and forced 13 while going 5-1 in their last six games. So if the Chargers can't take the ball away (as they have not been able to do all year), they forego a significant potential advantage against the Giants.

Is this the week for Hakeem Nicks? This replaces our weekly "Is this the week for Eli Manning?" segment, since Manning was a cool 22-for-28 in Sunday's victory in Washington and obviously has overcome at least some of the comfort issue that arose early in the season due to the Giants' inability to protect him. What would help even more is a big game from Nicks, who was once Manning's top wide receiver but has been a shell of himself in his contract year. Nicks has yet to catch a touchdown pass this season and hasn't had more than 51 receiving yards in a game since Week 6. Fellow wideout Victor Cruz (who himself hasn't been to the end zone since Week 4) said he thought the Chargers' defense would offer the Giants opportunities to hit big plays in the passing game. What remains to be seen is whether Nicks can get open and catch the ball well enough to take advantage of those opportunities.