Ravens 33 – Giants 14: Hits, Misses & Musings
Believe it or not, the Giants are still mathematically alive for a playoff berth.
But let’s be real. Given how they’ve played the last few weeks–the sloppiness, the lack of urgency, and the “Oh well,” attitude that they’ve shown–do they really deserve to be in the post season this year?
I’ll let defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul answer that one.
“Do we deserve it by the way we played?” he asked, repeating a question posed to him although adding a saltier language to the equation. “I don’t think so. We went out there and (wet) on our legs. There’s really nothing more I can say.”
He didn’t have to – his emotional outburst in a room filled with stunned silence, slumping heads and, well, defeated teammates, said it all.
The Giants had their chances. But like the wandering boyfriend who always thinks that his transgressions will be forgiven, there’s simply no forgiving a team that, for the most part, took an attitude in which we were constantly told, “There’s still a lot of football left.”
Well guess what? There isn’t a lot of football left—just one game to be exact. And all those squandered opportunities in which the mistakes seemed to repeat themselves in later losses add to what’s been a frustrating season.
This is a defeated, banged up team facing a long off-season, one that even if it should back into the playoffs, has failed some many times to finish games, to heed their coach’s words, and to play the kind Giants football that saw them trounce playoff bound teams like the 49ers and the Packers.
Maybe it was just being complacent in knowing that they won the Super Bowl and that realistically, very few teams can win back-to-back championships?
Maybe they became so enamored with their early season press clippings that they thought they could overcome adversity?
Maybe they were emotionally drained given all the tragedy the local area experienced?
Maybe it was the coaches and their cockamamie, complicated schemes that are unyielding to the specific talent and how they fit within the schemes?
Or maybe they just weren’t as good as everyone thought they were.
There are not a lot of hits to be handed out this week given the outcome, but a small handful of guys did stand out.
I don’t know what the future hold for Domenik Hixon—I hope he’s back with this team next year—but he’s been a major bright spot on an otherwise disappointing offense. With defenses figuring out that in order to shut down the receivers by jamming them, Hixon is actually the one receiver who fights back.
And you know what? He makes plays when they need to be made. Yes, he had the offensive pass interference call this week, but again, give credit to him for fighting off the jams, something we haven’t seen the others receivers have success with.
I haven’t mentioned him much this year, but I thought punter Steve Weatherford had a fine showing. Getting good coverage to go along with his fine punting, Weatherford finished with a 52.5 gross and a 45.0 net as he delivered with the long distance kicks to at least do his part in giving the defense a chance.
For all the problems the offensive line had, one guy who really stood out for the better was Kevin Boothe, who played as clean of a game as there was. He’s been bringing it every week, and has been true to his assignments and reliable with his execution. He might not make any post season all-star teams, but he’s been as steady as they come.
If you’re looking for another guy who brings it every week, look no further than fullback Henry Hynoski. In a room full of players, many of whom give off the strong impression that they’ve given up this year, Hynoski brings his ‘A’ game every week. Its’ just a shame that he plays a position that will never see 100% of the offensive snaps.
I also thought that defensive tackle Chris Canty had a solid game until he suffered a knee injury. Canty, along with Jason Pierre-Paul, were really the only two defensive linemen who were churning on every snap, being proactive rather than reactive and while their final numbers didn’t show it, they were disruptive forces.
I think this week’s review has to start with the coaching staff. I like defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and don’t think he’s a bad coach. But with that said, why did he pick this week to take the wrapping off a new defensive alignment that featured four defensive linemen, four linebackers, and only three defensive backs, one of which was a safety?
Maybe it was that safeties Kenny Phillips and Tyler Sash were inactive so the three-safety package was out, or maybe they just wanted to make sure that the banged up Ray Rice wouldn’t scorch them on the ground (here’s a novel idea – get the front four to play better).
Anyway, the biggest problem I had with this look, besides the fact that it didn’t work, is that is put the one defensive unit that has been an enigma for as long as I can remember on full display to fail. The Giants linebackers are not a big and physical group, and I would think that you’d need a big physical group to make this alignment work better.
And one last though on the 4-4-3 look – after the game, the players admitted there was some confusion in getting lined up. Again, with the playoffs on the line, why mess with something new after only what, three days of practice? That’s like the equivalent to making Eli Manning, a right-handed quarterback, throw lefty in a big game.
While on the subject of the coaches, can someone please explain to me why David Wilson , who is not strong enough to handle pass blocking duties on a full time basis, remains on the bench, yet Ahmad Bradshaw, whose foot and knee issues have robbed him on any lower body strength (not to mention quickness) was out there this week?
Thankfully the coaches did come to their senses by installing Henry Hynoski in that role, but not before Bradshaw showed that he just couldn’t anchor against the pass block.
And one more head scratcher from the coaches – Prince Amukamara was active for just four snaps. Why even bother to activate him if he’s not even close to being able to handle a bigger work load?
I understand that there is a depth issue, but given the trends of late, opposing offenses have gone after Corey Webster with no mercy so would having Amukamara out there more often made more of a difference?
Maybe Amukamara felt he wasn’t able to go on after playing in his four snaps – he did say after Wednesday’s practice that he felt sore, but encouraged. I really don’t have the answer.
Speaking of Webster, what on earth has happened to him? There was a time not too long ago where opposing teams didn’t dare to throw toward his side of the field. Now? Webster is targeted more times than a carnival duck at a shooting range, and with alarming success.
He simply isn’t seeing the ball as well, and while it’s possible that an early season hamstring might still be affecting his play, the fact of the matter is, at least according to a NFL pro level scout with whom I had a conversation earlier this year, Webster is on the down side of his career.
Oh what to do with Martellus Bennett? On one play, such as David Wilson’s 14-yard touchdown run, he looks like a keeper. But then on a handful of other plays, Bennett appears to be disinterested, which was a knock against him when he came over from Dallas. The talent is there, but the consistency level is such a red flag that is a big concern about this impending free agent.
Last one for this week is center David Baas, who had his struggles with the inside blitzes the Ravens constantly threw at the Giants. This appeared to be one of those games where the center, the orchestra leader of the offensive line, just didn’t set the right tempo for his mates.
His run blocking was also shoddy as he failed on several occasions to sustain, making for a less than stellar showing. Yes, Baas is injured and yes he missed a couple of days of practice, but if a guy’s well enough to be out there playing, he better be at the top of his game for such a pivotal game.
Which leads me to one final overall ‘miss’ for this week. If a guy is injured to where he can’t practice at least partially, then I’d think twice about putting him out there, especially skilled positions where practice and timing is key.
Remember, the practices have been watered down so much by the new CBA even to the point where teams are limited in terms of how many times they can wear full pads. And to add to that, the practices are not run at full game speed, again due to safety concerns, which means there’s no tackling involved.
So if a guy is going to be held out of practice for two days only to return toward the end of the week as limited, is it really helping him or the team, especially if said player is a skill player whose job relies on timing and communication with his teammates?
Is anyone else tired of hearing how the team had such a good week of practice only to see them come out and lay a bomb? Seriously, I’d rather they say nothing about the week of practice than to continue to try to inspire false hope.
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I found it interesting that head coach Tom Coughlin hinted that he might sit some of his injured guys in the regular season finale. Think back to 2007 when they faced the Patriots in the regular season finale in a game where the outcome didn’t matter one way or another. Still, Coughlin played all of his starters, sending a strong message of belief in his team.
If he sits guys who might be capable of going this week with rest, he’s basically saying that he’s given up, in my opinion, especially with a sliver of hope of getting into the playoffs. And is that really the message to be sending to a team that is in a free fall right now?
You might say that these last two weeks are purely the result of the defense’s failures, but the fact of the matter is that the offense hasn’t helped their cause either. They’ve converted just 10 of their last 20 third down conversion attempts over the last two weeks – that’s 50% folks, and that’s not going to get it done.
Also in this week’s game, six of the Giants 10 drives were three-and-out. And of those drives, they had a couple of penalties that converted short yardage into long yardage. That also isn’t going to get it done.
If the Giants don’t get into the playoffs this year – and let’s be real, given the way they’ve played what with squandering away a 6-2 record and laying two straight bombs, do they really deserve to be in there? – it will be the first time since B.E. – before Eli, or more precisely, 2003, that neither the Giants nor Jets will be in the post season.
THE FINAL WORD
I really don’t have anything else to add based on this week’s performance other than to say that the Giants fans deserve better than what they have seen. Let’s hope this team ends it on a positive note this weekend against the Eagles.