You know it’s a sloppy game when two teams combine for eight turnovers. Yes, Seattle came away with the win, but this was anyones game right until the end. Even if the Giants had won this one, it would have been their ugliest win all season, and there would still be far more negative things to say than positives. So, let’s break this one down.
Overall, this was a very uninspired showing by the Giant’s defense. Let’s face it, when two guys named Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst can go 26/41, 315 yards and two touchdowns combined, you know your defense isn’t doing its job. Everyone knows the secondary is the weakest spot of the team, so it’s up to the line to put pressure on the quarterback and force mistakes. The Giants did not do this effectively enough. Yes, there were a handful of sacks, and eventually Jackson went out with an injury, but this actually felt like a turning point for the defense. There wasn’t much passion in their game from the first snap, but it felt like they really stopped trying once Whitehurst was in the game. That can’t happen no matter who is under center.
The rush defense is still in very bad shape. I did not see much improvement over last week’s performance. Marshawn Lynch gained 98 yards on only 12 attempts. I still think not having Tuck in the lineup is hurting this unit, but they have to be able to adjust, plain and simple, especially since it is unclear when he will be back. My guess would he will wait at least until after the bye, and with the surprisingly good Bills coming to town, the rush defense needs to find a way to show up. In fact, the entire defense needs to stop sleepwalking through the game.
In most situations, when a defense can recover two fumbles and an interception, they are putting their team in a great position to win. The Giants defense has continued this trend from last year by causing multiple turnovers. This was the only reason the Giants were as successful as they were last year, after Eli’s league-high interceptions and the ghastly number of fumbles committed by the offense. And, despite their poor overall play, the efforts on turnovers are the only reason this game was close.
Special shout out to Osi, who has now caused two turnovers in his first two games of the season, and Aaron Ross, for another nice interception that helps make up for his less than stellar pass coverage. Ross’ overall performance has improved, so even though he still fails to live up to expectations, I can’t knock him right now.
Bad Eli. In recent weeks it has become clear that the lack of an effective run game means the success of this offense lies squarely on Eli’s shoulders. Overall this season, he has stepped up and performed very well. Yesterday, however, was reminiscent of last year, where Eli put up big receiving numbers, and big turnover numbers. Like last year, the three interception stat sounds worse than it is, in terms of judgment against Eli. The second one, the one that killed the team, doesn’t happen if Victor Cruz doesn’t slip. It’s really no one’s fault, players slip at times, and you can’t knock Cruz for trying to bobble it off his finger tips. After all, it worked earlier in the game. It was a dangerous throw, but it was placed perfectly where Cruz would have been. And of course, the third INT was a desperation throw, which again doesn’t happen if Cruz makes the catch.
The interceptions were bad, but I am more concerned with Eli’s fumbling, which is something that has always been a problem and clearly hasn’t improved. Two fumbles, one of which was lost, just can’t happen. Hopefully David Baas will be back and we will see less bad snaps, but Eli has to work on holding onto the ball when he is hit. With the number of sacks he is on pace to take this year, this could turn very ugly very fast.
Good Eli. It’s not on too many people’s radar, but Eli went 24/39 and threw for a career high 420 yards on his way to three touchdowns. The rushing game only picked up 69 yards, so once again Eli had to take full control of this offense. Turnovers killed an otherwise great game on his part, which is a shame. I refuse to believe he will have this many turnovers again in a given game. Despite the mistakes, I can say with confidence that he needs to continue to play as he has been this season for the Giants to have any chance to make the playoffs.
The Giants did not convert on third down in this game. This has been something they have struggled with all season, and it needs to stop. A team cannot hope to find much success if they can’t keep the drive going, and can’t give their defense a chance to rest. One of the things they worked on in the offseason was to avoid so many third and long situations. Overall this season there has been some improvement in this area, but with the running game so poor they still haven’t been able to grab just those couple of yards.
I like what I am continuing to see out of Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard. Cruz’s one handed catch was a thing of beauty. I am less concerned that he caused a turnover and more pleased with the athleticism this guy possesses. He is only a second year player but he is basically a rookie playing in his first month or so of games that matter. He will make mistakes, but his instincts are good, he is a terrific athlete, and he never gives up on a play. It’s no wonder Eli is developing such confidence and a strong rapport with him.
The same can be said for Jake Ballard, who has made some nice catches in recent weeks. I want to see more throws in his direction. Deception is an important part of this game, and if this offense has one more weapon that the competition might not be expecting, that can only mean good things for this team.
Obviously this was a bad loss, one that we as fans will feel for a long time. But what matters is the team needs to feel it too. They need to be embarrassed right now, and need to get that fire burning again. They do not have too many soft games left in their schedule, so now is the time to step it up and prove they are the team they think they are.