Do the Giants want to win? They sure didn’t look as if they did in yesterday’s disgraceful 41-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. But while fans will point the finger at Eli Manning once again, there was plenty of poor play on both sides of the ball.
It’s no coincidence that the sloppiness started on the very first play of the game as kicker Lawrence Tynes booted the opening kickoff out of bounds for a penalty, giving the Vikings the ball on the 40-yard line. The errors continued with David Diehl, the usually consistent left tackle who has been a key to the Giants’ success this season. Diehl was whistled for three penalties in the first half, twice for illegally lining up off the line of scrimmage. While only one of those infractions (a holding call) set the Giants back, Diehl’s gaffes showed that New York’s collective head wasn’t in the right place from the start of this mis-match.
Then there were the mistakes that won’t show up on the score sheet. Manning’s first interception came off a route that tight end Jeremy Shockey ran with his back to the ball. Manning seemed to think Shockey was going to stop and turn around and uncorked a pass straight into the hands of Giant killer Darren Sharper, who ran back the resulting pick for a touchdown. After a perfect offensive drive to open the game, the rest of the first half was riddled with similar blunders, with dropped passes and miscommunication between Manning and his receivers.
On Chester Taylor’s touchdown rush in the second quarter, it was the defense’s turn to fall apart. Just when it seemed that Taylor was caught for a loss while running to the left, four Giants, including Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck, arm-tackled the nimble-but-tough Vikings back, who used his legs to break through and get to the end zone. The second half was more of the same. Strahan, known for his iron grip, missed a potential sack of Minnesota’s quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who broke through the defensive end’s lunge to turn it into 11-yard dash.
This problem should be familiar to the Giants after their loss to the Cowboys in Week 10. Holding calls on Kevin Boss and Chris Snee cancelled out two big plays in that game as an 83-yard kick return by Ahmad Bradshaw and a touchdown run by Brandon Jacobs were negated. There were also three delay-of-game penalties called on Manning during that game, setting the Giants back on drive after drive.
This performance will no doubt bring back not-so-fond memories of last season’s 2-6 second half, as the Giants committed at least two turnovers in five of those games. The biggest mistake of that season was Mathias Kiwanuka’s near-sack of Titans’ quarterback Vince Young. The then-rookie end let Young go, fearful of a roughing the passer penalty, and on a play that would have turned the ball over to the Giants on fourth down the quarterback ran for 19 yards to keep the drive going. (Is it any coincidence that yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of that play?)
Giants fans are desperate for some reassurance that they’re not watching a replay of last year’s second-half freefall. The team seems determined not to give it to them.