Seahawks vs. Giants: Takeaways from New York's 23-0 Loss to Seattle
The Seahawks (12-2) entered the game as one of the NFC's most dominant teams, and the freshly eliminated Giants (5-9) held only a slim chance to topple their vicious visitors from the West Coast at the game's outset. In the game's earliest moments, those chances virtually vanished, as the Giants were clearly unprepared for the challenge posed by the high-powered Seahawks.
After a four-game winning streak preceded by a six-game losing streak, the Giants have dropped three of their last four contests.
To what depths has the team sunk after its most recent loss?
The Giants lost their ninth game of the season, ensuring a losing record for the first time since 2004.
That season, Tom Coughlin's and Eli Manning's first with the Giants, was a 6-10 rebuilding project. Now, a decade later, the team has an influential core of Super Bowl champions, yet New York is struggling just as mightily. With two games left to play, the Giants have just five wins on the season.
Nine losses deep, the best possible record the Giants can finish with is 7-9 (the worst is 5-11). The team has often flirted with .500, finishing 9-7 in each of the past two regular seasons. In 2006 and 2009, the Giants finished right on the 8-8 mark.
Falling below that threshold is somewhat new territory for Coughlin, Manning and the rest of the Giants.
In many years, the Giants have gotten by on a little bit of luck. In 2006, an 8-8 record earned them a playoff spot due to that season's specific conditions. A year later, the most miraculous catch in Super Bowl history helped a Wild Card Giants squad bring down an undefeated New England Patriots team. In 2011, as luck would have it, the Giants became the first nine-win team to claim the Lombardi Trophy.
That luck has clearly run dry, as more of Manning's passes have landed in the opportunistic palms of the opposition rather than the waiting arms of his end-zone targets. Coughlin's face now boils red with frustration, as opposed to the familiar postseason frostbite.
As at least a nine-loss team, the Giants are far from the standards set just two seasons ago. After winning the Super Bowl, anything less than the best does not exactly sit well. What others may call a moral victory pales in comparison to a championship season.
There are no moral victories for these Giants, and playing for pride is simply not part of the New York repertoire.
This offseason will be crucial for restoring the Giants' winning ways.
In front of a home crowd, the Giants were embarrassed by the Seahawks.
New York struggled all game to gain any momentum at all. The Giants' defense did all it could to keep the team in the game, sacking Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson four times and intercepting one of his passes. They even held bruising running back Marshawn Lynch to fewer than three yards per carry, although he did get loose on six receptions for 73 yards.
Even without the services of game-changing receiver Percy Harvin, Seattle's offensive unit provided more than enough firepower to outgun the Giants' floundering offense. Seattle scored 23 points rather easily, churning out two touchdowns and three field goals without ever expressing a sense of urgency.
While Seattle's leisurely Sunday stroll produced five scoring drives, the Giants spent most of the day running for their lives—to not much avail.
The Giants, who averaged 1.8 yards per run play and 4.5 yards per pass play, did not cross midfield until late in the fourth quarter. Seattle's defense put forth a stifling effort, limiting the Giants' offense to just 181 total yards by the game's end.
The offensive line could not protect Manning, who was sacked three times and hit six more. Due to the rabid pressure, Manning could not connect with his favorite targets. The running game was completely ineffective, amassing just 25 yards.
Strangely, New York was shut out in the same week last season, when the Giants were embarrassed in a similar fashion by the Atlanta Falcons, 34-0.
This loss to Seattle reminded me more of Super Bowl XXXV, though, when the 2000 Giants fell to the Baltimore Ravens 34-7. In that Super Bowl, the Giants' lone score was a 97-yard kickoff return by Ron Dixon. That game could have gone on for 100 quarters, and the Giants may never have scored an offensive touchdown.
Just like Super Bowl XXXV, the final gun of the Seahawks game was a relief that annihilation had finally ended.
Playing into New York's offensive ineptitude was Manning's poor placement of the football.
Manning threw five interceptions against the Seahawks, more than he has ever thrown in a single game. Of the 31 passes he attempted, an astounding 16 percent were hauled in by the wrong team. He also fumbled the ball twice, but right guard David Diehl was able to pounce on both loose balls.
Interceptions have marred Manning's 2013 season. He has now thrown 25 of them, tying the career-high he first set back in 2010. At the rate he has been throwing picks this season, there's a good chance he eclipses that mark.
Manning's five interceptions versus the Seahawks raised his career total to 169, which surpassed Charlie Conerly's half-century-old franchise mark of 167 career interceptions.
The numbers do not lie. Manning throws a lot of risky balls, and he is not one to shy away from a 50-50 chance at a big completion. While this style of play lends itself to many interceptions, it also pays dividends in the touchdown column. Last season, Manning eclipsed the franchise's all-time touchdown pass record, formerly held by Phil Simms. Earlier this season, he passed Simms' yardage record.
In 2013, however, the good and the bad have not gone hand-in-hand. Instead, it has been mostly just bad.
This isn't Manning's first 20-interception season—it's his third. He reached that mark in both 2007 and 2010, but in those seasons, the touchdowns were much more plentiful. In fact, in 2010, despite setting a career-high interception mark, Manning topped 30 touchdowns for the first and only time of his career.
Manning's 25 interceptions this season completely overshadow his 16 touchdowns. The New York passer has not connected once with Hakeem Nicks for a touchdown this season, and, aside from a hat-trick of scores in Week 1 and a stray 69-yarder in Week 4, Victor Cruz has also been largely shut out of the end zone in 2013.
While Manning is clearly not at his best, until he has an improved offensive line and more consistent skill players, these are the statistics you can expect him to produce.
Tom Coughlin has led the Giants through thick and thin since taking over the reins in 2004.
In some seasons, Coughlin has pulled his team out of incredible depths; in others, New York has capsized and sunk under his leadership. Even this season has had its fair share of ups and downs.
But with a 5-9 record and no hope of reaching the playoffs, Coughlin is in uncharted waters. Pride clearly was not enough of a motivator for the Giants to make a game out of the Seahawks' visit to MetLife Stadium.
With two games left to play and the team at an all-time low during his tenure, where does Coughlin go from here?
Can he milk another win or two out of these Giants? Will it even matter if he does?
Coughlin is approaching 70 years old, and those who perennially call for his head will be particularly loud this offseason. He could retire after this season, and hardly anyone would remember him for his abysmal final campaign in charge of the Giants.
But Coughlin shows no signs of slowing down, and, more importantly, he has all outspoken members of the squad in his corner. That's pretty significant, since that has not always been the case when his job security is called into question.
The Giants are in obvious need of a significant rebuilding period. Several of the team's units need to be retooled.
As insignificant as these last two games seem, they may matter most to Coach Coughlin.
By getting some young players some time, assessing his talent and building the foundation for future success, Coughlin can prove that he is still the man for the job.