Reflecting on the 7 Defining Moments of the New York Giants' 2013 Season
The New York Giants' 2013 season wasn’t supposed to end like this.
After starting with so much hope of getting into the postseason tournament to possibly become the first team in NFL history to play in a Super Bowl held in their home venue, the Giants' season unraveled faster than a poorly constructed web of lies.
When it was all over, the Giants saw their record drop to 7-9, their worst year-end mark under head coach Tom Coughlin since 2004.
As a result, the Giants are, for the first time in quite a while, looking at a major overhaul not just of their roster but also likely their coaching staff as well.
“There is definitely some reconstruction that needs to be done,” said Giants Senior Vice President and general manager Jerry Reese during his year-end press conference with the media.
“You’ve seen teams turn it around quickly in this league, but we definitely have some personnel issues that we need to resolve as we move into the next season, and we’ll work our butts off to resolve those things.”
Earlier this month, Jennifer Khedaroo touched upon some of the biggest moments from the 2013 season. Here’s my list at some additional moments that defined a disappointing Giants season.
The Super Bowl Countdown Clock
It was a very basic concept and good intention—a piece of paper with a large blue number that hung beneath the sign “Countdown to the Super Bowl,” and that indicated the number of days until Super Bowl XLVIII.
But you know what they say about good intentions? Apply there because the Giants' Super Bowl countdown clock, the brainchild of general manager Jerry Reese, turned out to be an even bigger bust than some of his middle-round draft picks.
The problem with the clock, for starters, is that when it finally did come down off the bulletin board where it hung for four months, a good number of players who were asked about it said they never really noticed it.
So why was the clock a defining moment in the season?
Because if Tom Coughlin, whose creativity and research at unearthing different motivational tactics and quotations didn’t drive home the sense of urgency to all of his players, what chance did a piece of paper with a number resembling a "now serving" counter in a deli counter have?
If these grown men needed to be reminded daily about why they were there, then what does that say about the personnel Reese put into that locker room to begin with?
Breaking a Leg
Injuries are a part of football. Still, when they happen, it doesn’t make it any less tolerable, especially when they happen to a key player.
So when running back Andre Brown suffered his second straight broken tibia, this one happening in the preseason finale against the New England Patriots, it sent the Giants rushing game into a tailspin.
Brown was placed on the temporary injured-reserve list and eventually came back in Week 10 of the season.
Before his return, the Giants only had one game in which they topped 100 yards rushing (against Chicago). They finished 2-6 over that period.
The Six-Game Losing Streak
While it's true that any team can win on any given Sunday, perhaps the most alarming aspect of the Giants' six-game losing streak to start the season was how noncompetitive and flat the team sometimes looked.
The video pretty much sums up the story of that forgettable period, but here's a look at some other stats that are worth noting:
Avg. Rushing Yards/Game
Is it any wonder why the Giants struggled out of the chute given all of these numbers?
Two Goose Eggs
There were 256 regular-season games played this year. Of those, there were just three games in which the loser was shut out.
It was the first time the Giants were shut out twice in a regular season since 1996, the last year of Dan Reeves’ tenure as head coach.
What's more, those two losses proved to be a real eye-opener regarding the makeup of the battered Giants roster, which was simply no match for the playoff-bound Panthers or Seahawks.
A Beas(on) of Light
After trying to unsuccessfully fill the middle linebacker job with Mark Herzlich and free agents Dan Connor and Aaron Curry, general manager Jerry Reese took a drastic step.
Reese, who regards his draft picks like gold, gave up what was reported by Jordan Raanan of NJ.com to be a seventh-round draft pick to the Carolina Panthers for Jon Beason, a three-time Pro Bowler.
Beason made his Giants debut on defense against the Chicago Bears in Week 6 and immediately had an impact. He recorded 12 total tackles (11 solo) and played a large role in limiting running back Matt Forte to just 67 yards on 19 carries in that game.
He also continued to be a part of the team’s solid run defense which held some of the league’s top rushers—Adrian Peterson (Minnesota), LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia), Eddie Lacy (Green Bay) and Alfred Morris (Washington)—to under 100 yards each.
“Jon came in, and I think he stabilized our defense,” said Reese of the impending unrestricted free agent.
“He came in, he had a voice right away and he fit in very quickly with the players. He did a good job for us. We think it was a good trade at the time, and we still think it was a good trade.”
There’s not a single person in the Giants organization who is willing to give quarterback Eli Manning a pass for the season he had.
Oh sure, by playing behind an offensive line that at times resembled a sieve, Manning was probably hit as much this season as the punching bag that hangs in the team’s weight room.
Indeed, the 39 sacks he had to absorb were a new career high, so it is certainly understandable if Manning might have been a little squeamish every time he lined up under center.
However, Manning wasn’t blameless in the offense finishing 28th in the league and the passing offense finishing 19th overall.
After completing a career-high 62.9 percent of his passes in 2010, Manning’s completion percentage has dipped each year since, with this season’s number falling to 57.5 percent.
The problem was that many of the balls he threw either were put into tight spots or were simply not on target.
His most famous off-target throw this season was a doozy.
In a Week 6 game against the Chicago Bears, the Giants were down 27-21 in the fourth quarter but were driving late in the game.
With the ball on the Bears’ 35, Manning tried to connect with tight end Brandon Myers in the middle of the field. Unfortunately, the pass got away from Manning, as several more of his passes would do this season, and sailed way above the 6’4” tight end’s reach.
Instead of falling harmlessly to the ground, it was picked off by Bears cornerback Tim Jennings, his second interception of the game and Manning’s third of the night.
With two minutes left, the Bears were able to run out the clock and hang on for the win.
Although Myers would later take the blame for not getting high enough, a better-thrown pass might very well have made the difference.
A Big D(isappointment)
The date: Nov. 24, 2013. The opponent: The Dallas Cowboys. The place: MetLife Stadium.
The game, while not quite as large-scale as the one that will be played at the East Rutherford venue on February 2, had all the electricity of a playoff game—minus the elaborate halftime show.
And rightfully so, as a win by the Giants, who had strung together four consecutive wins, would have put them in excellent shape in the NFC East race.
After falling behind 21-6 in the third quarter, the Giants finally decided to stop letting the Cowboys push them around in their own stadium.
So they battled back, tying the score on a four-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Louis Murphy with 4:45 left in the game.
The problem was that they left the Cowboys with too much time on the clock. Quarterback Tony Romo engineered a 14-play, 64-yard scoring drive that ended with kicker Dan Bailey nailing a 35-yard field goal as time expired.
The result? A 24-21 Cowboys win and their first sweep of the annual division series against the Giants since 2007.
Immediately after that loss, the excitement that had been so prominent in the Giants' locker room leading up to that game, dissipated.
The Giants went on to lose two of their next three games by a combined 77-38 score—their only win being a seven-point decision against the Washington Redskins and their one-time dangerous starting quarterback, Robert Griffin III.
The Giants were also blown out by the San Diego Chargers, 37-14, and shut out by the Seattle Seahawks, 23-0, the latter of which was their second shutout loss of the season.