By Brad Carroll
As unlikely as it might have been, the New York Giants could have given themselves an outside shot at making the playoffs as a wild card team if they could beat the San Francisco 49ers Sunday afternoon. At the least, they could have made the last six games of the season meaningful if they could win at home. Five interceptions and just 10 offensive points later and the Giants are officially cooked.
The Giants fell to 3-7 after a 16-10 loss to the 49ers at MetLife Stadium, which is actually a worse record after 10 games than the team had last season, the one where Big Blue got off to an 0-6 start. It's been that kind of season for the Giants.
Eli Manning and the offense was every bit as bad in this game as they were last year. Manning, who threw 27 interceptions last year, tossed five picks against San Francisco. The fifth interception came with the Giants in position to take the lead with under five minutes to play from the San Francisco 4. Manning's pass was tipped at the goal line and picked off to end the team's final threat. The Giants actually had four chances from the four to take the lead, but three incomplete fade routes and the final interception later and Big Blue lost for the fifth straight time.
Overall the Giants offense was putrid, with the offensive line unable to hold their own, as Manning was under pressure and the running game stalled again. Rashad Jennings returned to the backfield but was ineffective, gaining 59 yards on 18 carries. And then there was the turnovers.
The much-maligned defense, the worst in the NFL statistically, actually played well, allowing just 185 passing yards and keeping Frank Gore under 100 yards rushing. The biggest number, however, was 16, as in the amount of points they let up. Those are winning numbers for a defense.
Even the special teams came up with what could have been a game-changing play, recovering an onside kick midway through the third quarter after the Giants cut the deficit to six. But Manning took just three plays to give momentum away, getting picked off at the San Fran 25.
The Giants season is over well before Thanksgiving for the second straight season, a sad stretch of football for Big Blue that has been more about losing and interceptions than winning. Here are the players that had a positive impact in the latest loss to the 49ers and those who were most responsible for the defeat as we hand out Game Balls and Game Falls.
Josh Brown: He's a perfect 9-for-9 in field goals this season, including one from 43 yards out against San Francisco, but Brown gets on this list for his effort on an onside kick in the third quarter. Brown surprised the 49ers with an onside kick straight-on after the Giants cut their deficit to 16-10, but Ray Ventrone stayed put and had the ball bounce into his arms. Brown wouldn't be denied a successful onside attempt, however, tackling Ventrone and grabbing his arm enough to pry the ball loose. Mark Herzilch ended up recovering the ball for what should have been a momentum-grabbing play. We all know how it turned out, but it doesn't negate the effort put together on the play by Brown.
Mark Herzilch: The other half of the onside kick tandem, Herzilch had a great game filling in for injured starter Jacquian Williams. He had nine tackles, including six solo, and had a pass break-up as well as his onside kick recovery.
Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr.: The Giants at least keep getting production from their young receivers, with Randle joining the party this week. Randle had seven catches for 112 yards, a 16-yard per catch average. He led the team in both categories after taking a backseat to Beckham Jr. the past few weeks. Beckham Jr. had another big game himself, catching five passes for 93 yards. Those two performances were about the only thing positive from the Giants offense Sunday.
Eli Manning: He reverted back to the interception machine he was last year and early this season, tossing five picks against the 49ers to give the Giants little chance to win the game. For the Giants to be within six and still having the ball with a chance to win in the final seconds shows just how much Manning cost the team the game with his turnovers. In three fourth quarter drives, Manning threw an interception at the San Francisco 20, threw another pick at the goal line and then completed one of four passes for four yards on the final desperation drive to win the game. Manning didn't get any help from his offensive line, but he was terrible and it cost the team the game.
Offensive Line: Just when you thought the offensive line couldn't get any worse, the Giants proved it can and it will. When Justin Pugh, who hasn't been good at all this season, went out with a quad injury early in the game, the next man up, Charles Brown, played more like Charlie Brown, getting schooled by the San Francisco rush defense. Brown and John Jerry couldn't handle their side of protection and the line as a whole allowed two sacks and seven quarterback hits. There wasn't much run blocking either, as the Giants gained just 65 yards on 21 carries.
Rashad Jennings: It was thought his return to the starting lineup would change the fortunes of the Giants rushing attack, but it was more of the same. Jennings ran the ball 18 times for just 59 yards against San Francisco in his first game back from injury, which was about the same production Andre Williams had the past four games. That's not saying much. There was no spark from the return of Jennings to the lineup.
Larry Donnell: He had three catches for 54 yards and a touchdown, but Donnell had a big drop on the third fade route the Giants threw from the four yard line late in the fourth quarter. Manning put the ball in perfect position for Donnell to come down with it, and the tight end did. But upon hitting the turf, the ball came loose and the Giants lost an opportunity to take the lead with under five minutes to play. Manning was intercepted on the next play.
Jason Pierre-Paul: He was once one of the most feared defensive lineman in the league, but Pierre-Paul has lost all of that playmaking magic. He had just one tackle Sunday against the 49ers and has a total of 3.5 sacks on the year. The Giants might let Pierre-Paul leave via free agency, that's how sudden his drop has been on defense.