The Giants entered this game on a three game losing streak, with playoff hopes fading rapidly, and desperation in the air. Playing the defending champions at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, one of the most challenging venues in the National Football League, they put up a good fight for three quarters of the game, but collapsed in the fourth quarter, losing their fourth straight 38-17. But the Giants didn’t just lose the game, they were embarrassed on defense, giving up 350 yards rushing and 5 rushing touchdowns to a Seattle offense that pounded, pummeled, and punished a once proud unit that appeared to give up late in the game. It was the third most yards rushing surrendered in team history, the most since November 26, 1978, the game after the infamous Joe Pisarcik fumble game, and is the nadir of the Tom Coughlin era of Giants football, eclipsing the DeSean Jackson punt return of 2010. A steady rain fell throughout the game, capturing the mood of the 2014 Giants perfectly – wet, gloomy, and rapidly slipping away.
The Giants won the toss and elected take the ball and hoped to get off to a fast start. After a quick 12 yard completion to Daniel Fells, the offense stalled following two incompletions, and Steve Weatherford punted, giving Seattle the ball their own 20 yard line. Russell Wilson, the underrated but highly effective Seahawks quarterback, wasted little time, completing two passes for 55 yards, then utilizing his running game to cover the final 25 yards, moved Seattle 80 yards in 6 plays to give the Seahawks a 7-0 lead in just 3:19 on a one yard run by Marshawn Lynch. The Giants defense offered little resistance on the drive.
On the first play of Seattle’s drive, a quick out to Lynch, Zack Bowman was blocked on the play, but didn’t appear to be fighting to get off of it as Lynch flew by him for a 23 yard gain. While he was playing only days after being hospitalized with the flu, his lack of effort on the defense’s first play foreshadowed the Giants defense effort for the game. The second play was a 32 yard completion to tight end Cooper Helfet against Quintin Demps and Devon Kennard, neither of whom appeared to cover the third year year tight end. It was another lackluster effort that resulted in Demps benching in the second quarters. He returned in the third quarter and registered an interception.
On the subsequent drive, the Giants started moving the ball as Eli Manning completed passes to Rueben Randle and Preston Parker and Andre Williams hard running gave the Giants a first down at mid field. A holding penalty on rookie guard Weston Richburg put the Giants in a 2nd and 15 hole that they could work out of and the drive ended in another Weatherford punt.
The Giants defense stepped up and on the first play of Seattle’s drive, Bowman intercepted an under thrown Wilson pass intended for Paul Richardson, giving Manning a first down on Seattle’s 24. Wilson was under heavy pressure fro Jonathan Hankins on the play. Using 5 plays and completions to rookie sensation Odell Beckham, jr., Manning capitalized, rolling out to his right and finding Parker in the back of the end zone for a 6 yard touchdown, tying the game at 7.
Seattle started driving again, but a sack of Wilson by Robert Ayers, one of the few bright spots on the Giants defense, forced a punt as the first quarter wound down. On Seattle’s drive, Wilson gained 12 yards on a designed run off the right of the Giants defense. There was no back side contain. Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell took note and would exploit this weakness in the Giants defense throughout the game and Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell did not adjust to stop it. Wilson gained over 100 yards rushing for the third time this season. Jermaine Kearse also had three steps on Bowman on a third down pass, but Wilson, under a heavy rush from Jason Pierre-Paul, over threw him.
One of the most talked about match-ups coming into the game was Beckham against Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. Manning tested Sherman early in the game and Beckham proved that he could beat the all-pro. On a drive that spanned the first and second quarters, the rookie caught two passes for 70 yards, with 44 coming against Sherman on a double move. Beckham juked and then ran by Sherman who could not keep up with him. The second play was a leaping catch against Marcus Burley. The two big plays gave the Giants a first down at the Seahawks 3 yard line where bruising run by Williams gave the Giants the score and a 14-7 lead. He broke three tackles and ran with purpose, moving his legs and the pile to score the touchdown. The drive covered 80 yards in just 5 plays and took 2:23.
Seattle gained 19 yards on the ground and appeared to be moving the ball easily against the Giants defense when Robert Turbin fumbled after being hit by Jacquian Williams and Jameel McClain, who punched the ball out. Antrel Rolle recovered at the Seahawks 47 and it appeared that the Giants were going to start to pull away on the strength of an opportunistic defense. An offensive pass interference call on Parker, one of the points of emphasis this season being called more regularly by NFL officials, put the Giants in a 2nd and 21 hole and the drive ended in a punt. Parker did make contact while the pass was in the air.
While the turning point in the game would not occur until the fourth quarter and the Giants remained competitive, the Seahawks 15 play, 85 yard touchdown drive that consumed 8:25 foreshadowed the outcome better than anything else that occurred in the first half. Mixing Lynch runs with designed Wilson runs that took advantage of the lack of Giants back side pursuit, Seattle gained 82 yards on 12 carries and pushed the Giants defense all over the field. On the three plays Wilson did pass, he was sacked by Jonathan Hankins, threw an incompletion, and gained 7 yards twice. The Giants inability to stack the line to stop the run and refusal to guard against Wilson running away from the flow of the play doomed them to one of the worst run defense performances in team history. Lynch’s second rushing touchdown tied the game at 14 with 2 minutes left in the half.
The Giants did stop Wilson on one third down run, when Stevie Brown held him to 1 yard on a third and 4, however, Seattle was able to convert the fourth down when Wilson found Kearse easily for 7 yards against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for one of his two completions of the drive. Helfet screened Rodgers-Cromartie out on the play, however, no penalty was called. On the only other play that the Giants appeared to have a back side containment plan, Wilson faked Williams out of his shorts and gained 8 yards on third and 2. Neither Pierre-Paul not Mathias Kiwanuka appeared to have contain responsibility for Wilson as they collapsed the line routinely on plays, implying that the linebackers were responsible for this big rushing afternoon.
Manning was able to drive the Giants 57 yard in 11 plays for a 41 yard Josh Brown field goal as time expired in the half, giving the Giants a 17-14 lead. The team played well in the first half, but surrendered 149 yards rushing, with more than half coming on the Seahawks last drive. Adjustments were needed at halftime to slow the Seahawks rushing game. Seattle would get the second half kickoff.
Three of the first four plays in Seattle’s opening drive were runs, netting 39 yards, two by Lynch and one by Wilson, demonstrating that Fewell failed to adjust the Giants defense to slow down the Seattle ground attack. Demps stepped in front of a deep pass intended for Doug Baldwin for an easy interception at the Giants 10 yard line. Manning drove the Giants into Seahawks territory before back-to-back incompletions to Rueben Randle ended the threat and Weatherford punted. Newcomer Chykie Brown watched motionless from the 6 yard line as Weatherford’s punt hit at the 2 and bounced into the end zone rather than try to catch it and down it for a big special teams play. The net 20 yard punt gave Seattle the ball at the 20 yard line.
The Giants appeared to have Seattle stopped on a 3rd and 7 from their own 34 when Wilson evaded sacks by Pierre-Paul, Ayers, and Damontre Moore to complete a 60 yard pass to Kearse, who was covered by Williams. The mismatch allowed Kearse to get three steps on the linebacker and when Wilson scrambled away from the Giants pressure, he was able to easily haul in the arching pass. The Giants defense stiffened and stopped both Lynch and Wilson’s rushing attempts, forcing Seattle to settle for a field goal, tying the game at 17 with 4:13 remaining in the quarter.
After a touchback on the ensuing kickoff, the Giants drive the ball the the Seattle 39 on 6 plays when the play that turned the tide of the game permanently in the Seahawks direction occurred on a 1st and 10. Manning dropped back to pass, and looked for Donnell down the seam. His tight end covered, he threw up a jump ballfor Beckham in the end zone, who was covered by Sherman. Beckham batted the ball up to avoid a Sherman interception, and the tipped ball was intercepted by a trailing Earl Thomas, who returned it from the end zone all the way to the Seahawks 42. Manning admitted after the game he should have thrown the ball away. It was a good play by Beckham to try to avoid a Sherman interception, but another back break for the Giants that a trailing Thomas was in position to intercept.
Following the turnover, Seattle drove the 58 yard for the go-ahead touchdown on 7 plays, all on the ground, in 2:52 and took a lead they would never relinquish, 24-17. After a three and out by the Giants, Seattle again drove, primary running the ball, 53 yards in 7 plays, to take a 31-17 lead. Lynch scored both touchdowns, giving him 4 on the game. On the second touchdown drive, The Seahawks fumbled twice, one by Wilson, and one by Lynch, but managed to fall on the ball both times and continue their relentless ground assault to a 14 point margin. The Giants defense was spent, and offered little in the way of resistance, only desperately swatting at the ball, but failing to capitalize when it was jarred loose.
The Giants were unable to answer, with one drive ending on a 4th and 10 incompletion, and another on a Manning fumble when the wet ball fell out of this hand. After the interception, Seattle ran the ball 13 times for 165 yards and 3 touchdowns, an average of 12.69 per carry. To make matters worse, Fewell was shown on the sidelines smiling and joking while the defense was exhausted and collapsing, making it seem like he did not have a care in the world. He is certainly bothered by the fourth quarter collapse, but his aloof demeanor on the sidelines, combined with the Giants showing yesterday has many calling for his immediate dismissal.
Giants360 is not in favor of a mid-season coaching change for the team. They are generally ineffective and lead to further disorganization and disarray in the locker room. At the end of the season, after the final seven, now largely meaningless games are played, the Giants will evaluate Tom Coughlin and his staff and make a determination as to the future of the team. Not before. Coughlin has commented that the season is “draining” and may be ready to retire, making the decision moot.
It would be a bad decision to change Manning’s offense two consecutive seasons. If he is forced to relearn footwork and plays again, it will be another setback in the dwindling years of his career. Ben McAdoo should be retained regardless of the decision made by or about Coughlin. Discussions about coaching changes should be tabled until after the game against the Philadelphia Eagles on December 28th.
Despite the 38-17 final score, there were some bright spots for the Giants. Manning enjoyed mostly solid pass protection against a team with a good pass rush. He was sacked twice, but was able to take several shots down the field. The Giants pass rush was also potent, sacking Wilson twice and pressuring him into two interceptions. Parker enjoyed a bounce back game, catching 7 of 7 passes for 79 yards and the touchdown. Williams, despite carrying the ball only 13 times for 33 yards, ran hard and appeared to be making some better decisions. He still has a ways to go, but will develop into a solid NFL starter.
The brightest spot of all remains Beckham, who 7 of 9 passes thrown his way for 108 yards, despite drawing Sherman in coverage most of the time and being double covered other times. The rookie has shown game changing ability and has superstar potential.
Next up for the Giants are the San Francisco Forty-Niners at Metlife Stadium. Surprise winners in overtime at the Superdome against New Orleans yesterday, the Forty-Niners are in the thick of the playoff hunt again despite rumors of coach Jim Harbaugh’s lame duck status and locker room disarray. At 5-4, San Francisco trails division leading Arizona by three games.
The Giants injuries woes continue as running back Peyton Hillis exited the game early with a concussion and did not return and running back Michael Cox is lost for the season with a broken lower left leg. Cox was seen in a wheelchair after the game but accompanied the team back to New Jersey last night. The Giants will be looking to add at least on running back this week, and perhaps more than one if Hillis’ concussion keeps him out and Rashad Jennings is not ready to return this coming Sunday. One name to look out for is Kendall Gaskins who was impressive in preseason action, but lost out on the practice squad spot to Cox.