Sunday, October 9, 2011
Weaknesses come back to haunt Giants
By Ohm Youngmisuk ESPNNewYork.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The jubilation that the New York Giants felt after their dramatic victory in Arizona last week was replaced by maddening frustration on Sunday afternoon.
Several players dressed quietly in the locker room while others were at a loss in an attempt to explain the Giants' inexplicable 36-25 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at home.
How does a Seahawks team that had not won a game in New York -- against the Giants or Jets -- since 1983 and had lost 11 of its past 12 games on the East Coast beat a streaking Giants team?
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Turn the ball over five times, struggle to establish any kind of running game and play soft defense and the Giants have a recipe for a humbling and disastrous loss to the Seahawks.
"About as miserable a feeling as we have had here in a long time," said head coach Tom Coughlin.
Well, the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last December was more heart-wrenching. But at least that took a comeback for the ages by Michael Vick and an unbelievable punt return by DeSean Jackson.
On this day, the Giants were beaten in the second half by guys like Charlie Whitehurst, Doug Baldwin and Brandon Browner.
"It is shocking the way we played as a team and as a unit," cornerback Aaron Ross said.
Perhaps one thing lost during the euphoria of the Giants' three-game winning streak and their two consecutive dramatic fourth-quarter comebacks was the fact they won despite some considerable flaws.
As great as Eli Manning has been at times this season, the Giants haven't been able to run the ball. And for every sensational catch by Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, the Giants' defense has had trouble containing opposing playmakers, especially on the ground.
On Sunday, those weaknesses -- including last year's biggest wart (turnovers) -- came back to haunt the Giants.
Ahmad Bradshaw gained 58 yards rushing on just 17 carries and did not score a touchdown. Playing without an injured running back Brandon Jacobs (sprained MCL) and center David Baas (neck/burner), the Giants' run game managed to average just 2.8 yards per rush.
"We have to do a better job with our execution," Coughlin said. "We have to do a better job scheme-wise of finding a way to handle, two weeks in a row, the safety has been down in there and it has been a problem. We can do a better job than that."
It might not get any easier considering that the Giants' best offensive lineman, Chris Snee, suffered a concussion near the end of the game and had to spend the night in a local hospital under observation.
It's possible the Giants will have to face an upstart Buffalo team next week without their starting center and right guard.
A costly interception by Eli Manning ended the hopes of a Giants rally against the Seahawks.
But at least the Giants have been able to make up for the lack of a ground game with a potent air attack. Manning threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns and the Victor Cruz show continued with eight receptions for 161 yards and one incredible, one-handed, juggling, 68-yard touchdown off a tipped ball in the fourth quarter.
That Cruz touchdown helped put the Giants up 22-19 with 12:37 remaining in the game. A third straight comeback was in the works.
But the defense, which will certainly leave defensive coordinator Perry Fewell sleepless after Seattle, could not hold two fourth-quarter leads.
The Giants had a chance to make up for a lackluster first half in which they surrendered 242 first-half yards of total offense to a team that came into the game averaging 254 yards per game to rank dead last in the NFL in total offense.
Despite Pete Carroll telling reporters during the week that the Seahawks were going to go no-huddle, the Giants couldn't stop Tarvaris Jackson from slicing up their secondary. Marshawn Lynch, who came into this game with a total of 141 yards rushing, had 68 yards on the ground in the first half on just five carries.
"We knew it was coming, we prepared for it but we just didn't have an answer for them today," defensive end Osi Umenyiora said of the Seahawks' no-huddle. "We practiced for that all week. We knew it was coming. We just weren't able to stop them."
But that was all forgotten by the fourth quarter when the Giants had a chance to put the game away. Up 25-22 with 4:49 to go, the Giants allowed Whitehurst, who came in after Jackson left with a pectoral injury in the third quarter, to march the Seahawks 80 yards in just more than two minutes for a touchdown. Whitehurst hit a wide open Baldwin on a 27-yard touchdown pass after Ross and Antrel Rolle both went to cover the outside wide receiver, Ben Obomanu.
On that same play, Umenyiora jumped offside but the officials did not whistle the play dead. Ross said he and Rolle just had a communication breakdown and that they did not stop on the play due to the flag.
The Giants may have been playing without defensive captain Justin Tuck, who sat out with a neck and groin injury. Still, this is the kind of breakdown the team can't afford to have. And when Manning and Cruz had an opportunity to author another comeback victory, Cruz slipped on a short route at the Seahawks' 6-yard line and had a pass glance off his fingers and into the hands of Browner, who returned it 94 yards for the game-sealing touchdown. Manning ended up throwing three interceptions, something the Giants will rarely survive.
"It's a shame that you lose a game on that type of play," Manning said. "You kind of rather get outschemed or outplayed."
The Giants' schedule is absolutely brutal starting in November, when they will have to find a way to stop Tom Brady, Vick, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers among others.
That's why the Giants have to win the games they are supposed to win. There isn't going to be much room for error later in the year.
The Giants have to figure out a way to start running the ball. And more importantly, they have to find a way to fix their defense. Otherwise, they will eventually be staring at the wrong kind of streak, the kind that leaves them frustrated and speechless in the locker room after games.