New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin headed for the locker room on Sunday evening with that trademark red glow emanating from his cheeks; whether it was the icy chill that settled on the Jersey swamps or the sheer embarrassment at his team’s woeful passing game, we may never know.
Coughlin certainly has cause for it to be the latter. In a penalty-ridden (11 each) contest that was from from aesthetically pleasing, the Giants’ passing offense was severely lacking once more as the Dallas Cowboys completed the double over their NFC East rivals.
The Giants most senior wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was ruled out prior to kickoff with a groin injury, something that should not have been too much of a concern for the G-Men. Heading into the last year of his initial rookie contract, Nicks has shouldered the brunt of the speculation that his time in the Big Apple is withering away. The fact that his numbers are down, coupled with the emergence of sophomore Rueben Randle, has thrown weight behind the reasoning in favor of Nicks’ departure.
It was widely suggested that the fifth-year wideout may be shipped out in return for some favorable draft picks during the trade window, though that never materialized; after the first game he missed this season, we’ve got an inkling as to why the powers that be were so keen to keep him in blue.
It’s a stone-cold fact that when it comes to the passing game, there is no bigger opportunity in this league than when lined up opposite the Cowboys’ defense. Monte Kiffin‘s unit ranked dead-last in the NFL heading into Week 12, something that the Giants did their utmost to rectify. The Eli Manning-led Giants offense combined for just 154 passing yards in the contest, which is some 159 yards short of the average passing YPG conceded by the Cowboys’ defense.
While those involved in the home side’s ground game did their utmost to keep the chains moving, the efforts of Andre Brown (21 carries, 127 rushing yards) and Brandon Jacobs (nine carries, 75 rushing yards) came in vain as the Giants were forced to give the ball away countless times due to failed passing plays.
Though his numbers have notably decreased in 2013, the Giants felt absence of Nicks against a Cowboys outfit that he posted 114 receiving yards against on the opening week of the season. Though unspectacular, Nicks’ average of 4.2 receptions and 62 YPG this season would have been most welcome on a day when Manning misfired for the most part.
Stand-in Jerrel Jernigan persevered, but his understanding with his quarterback was clearly lacking as he ran the incorrect route on a number of occasions, leaving Manning yearning for the knowledge that is entrenched within his absent receiver.
The fact that running back Brown led the team in receptions tells the story of the Giants’ passing game on this day. Randle led the team once more with 64 yards on just three receptions, though his touchdown that we have grown accustomed to was missing in action. With Nicks in street clothes, the Giants looked to Victor Cruz to step up in leading role which he has filled for the past two seasons. However, his mixed bag of a year continued as he had just one reception and a costly fumble that was returned for a defensive score.
With seven losses in 2013, the Giants now have as many regular season defeats as they had when they last went on to lift the Super Bowl — the only issue being that they still have five games to go in 2013. After failing to take advantage of such porous pass defenses as the Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings during their recent winning stretch, Manning’s frailties are more apparent in defeat; his final figures of 174 passing yards was the lowest recorded by a team against the Cowboys this season.
Though Nicks has been deemed expendable by some sections of the media and Big Blue faithful, he could have made all the difference in what was a close-knit, but ultimately disheveled affair. The Giants are now looking at needing five straight wins in order to have any chance of keeping this excruciating season alive.