By Brad Carroll
For three quarters, the New York Giants were on par with the defending champion Seattle Seahawks at their place Sunday afternoon. For three quarters, the Giants had played even football in a hostile environment and actually looked like they could pull what would have been a big upset and get right back into the postseason conversation.
Then came the fourth quarter and everything fell apart. The Seahawks scored 21 unanswered points in the final period to not only beat the Giants, but turn the game into a blowout. The 38-17 loss might not have been as bad as the final score would indicate, but that doesn't mean much for a team that now resides in a tie for last place in the NFC East at 3-6.
The Giants were one quarter away from creating a brand new season with renewed hope of a turnaround after an uneven first half. Now, the Giants would have to win six of their last seven games just to be in the conversation for a playoff berth at year's end. Right now, there's no reason to believe the Giants can go on that run.
And it has just as much to do with the defense than it has with the offense this season. Giants safety Antrel Rolle called the defensive performance Sunday "worse than embarrassing," and he's right in one big way. Big Blue were beaten black and blue up front, allowed an unreal 350 rushing yards to the Seahawks. That number is more suited to a Big Ten team playing a cupcake from Division I-AA rather than two NFL teams playing each other.
Marshawn Lynch rushed for 140 yards and four touchdowns. Russell Wilson added 107 yards on the ground and a score. Some guy named Christine Michael added 71 yards on just four carries. Seattle averaged 7.8 yard per rush.
The Giants forced three turnovers but it didn't make a difference in this game.
The next two weeks will determine whether or not the Giants have a shot at anything positive this season, as they host the 49ers and Cowboys in back-to-back weeks. Wins those games and the season means something again. Lose even one and we'll be talking about potential draft picks soon enough.
Here is a look at our keys to a Giants victory and how they actually played out on the field.
Block Out The Noise
Why It Was Key: If the young players can't block out the noise of Seattle's "12th Man," this could turn into a nightmarish trip for the Giants. Last year, the Seahawks won 23-0 at MetLife Stadium. That might be considered low if the Giants lose their way mentally on offense. The Giants practiced for the noise all week, so there should be no surprises. They just have to handle it now.
How It Played Out: Without a running game, the Giants had no shot to take the crowd out of the game. But overall, the noise didn't do much damage to the Giants, it was everything else that went wrong. The Giants couldn't stop Seattle's rushing attack, couldn't run themselves and Eli Manning threw a bad interception at the end of the third quarter that changed the momentum of the game. Manning had the Giants at the Seattle 39 with a chance to take the lead, but was intercepted on a deep pass to Odell Beckham Jr. near the end zone. Seattle went on to score three straight touchdowns to turn the game into a blowout.
Get Pressure On Wilson
Why It Was Key: If the Giants rediscover their pass rush, they could force Wilson into bad throws and capitalize with a turnover or two. The Giants will be that much closer to pulling the upset if they can bring the heat on Wilson.
How It Played Out: On the surface, the Giants accomplished their goal, sacking Wilson twice and intercepting two passes. But Wilson had his way with the Giants defense on the read-option, picking up 107 yards on 13 rushes and scoring a touchdown. He averaged 7.6 yards per carry. The Giants pointed at their inability to stop the read-option in the second half, where the Seahawks outscored them 24-0, as reason for the loss. Getting any kind of pressure on Seattle became a moot point when the Giants couldn't stop the running game. The Seahawks gained 350 yards on the ground, the most rushing yards the Giants have allowed in a game since 1978.
Run The Ball
Why It Was Key: In the Seahawks' only loss at home this season, 30-23 to Dallas, the Cowboys rushed for 162 yards on 37 carries, a 4.4-yard per carry average. DeMarco Murray went for 115 yards and a touchdown and Joseph Randle added 52 yards on five rushes. Dallas ended up out-gaining Seattle 401-206 overall. The Giants don't have a running back as good as Murray, but if they follow the same blueprint, which is controlling the game on the ground, they can pull the upset. It rests on the legs of rookie Andre Williams.
How It Turned Out: It was another brutal day for Williams and company, as the Giants rushed for 54 yards on 17 carries. Williams had just 33 yards on 13 carries. When the Giants won three straight games, they averaged 157 yards on the ground, with Rashad Jennings leading the way. But since Jennings has been lost to injury, the Giants have done nothing in the running game. Williams, as the team's feature back, has totaled 106 yards in the past three games, an average of 35 yards per game. Obviously, that's not going to put the team in the win column. To make matters worse, Peyton Hillis was lost early with a concussion and Michael Cox suffered a lower leg injury that had him in a wheelchair after the game. That leaves the Giants with just one healthy back in Williams. The Giants would be helped a ton if Jennings can return next week. If not, this season will get a lot worse against San Franisco.