The winning streak is over for the New York Giants, who got manhandled and tossed around in a 24-14 loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This wasn’t the way the game was supposed to play out for the Giants, who came into Pittsburgh with a six-game winning streak and (supposedly) one of the hottest teams in football. But one game before their Sunday night battle with the Dallas Cowboys, the Giants played small and got pushed around by the Steelers in what might be their worst loss of the season.
The Giants first four possessions of the game – punt, safety, interception, punt – tell the tale of a day where the offense was horrific in the first half. The Steelers took a 14-0 lead into the locker rooms at halftime, a Ben Roethlisberger 22-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown as well as two field goals and the aforementioned safety accounting for their points.
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While the Giants did come alive a bit in the second half with two touchdowns, the offense still moving at a plodding pace. Two interceptions by Manning, thrown in the second and third quarters, killed what seemed to be promising drives for the Giants. A third quarter connection between Manning and running back Rashad Jennings made it a 14-7 game early in the third quarter, but the Steelers answered back. Roethlisberger found Ladarius Green for a 20-yard touchdown pass, the second time in the game that the Steelers quarterback took advantage of an embarrassing breakdown in the Giants secondary for a touchdown.
The Giants went 0-for-3 on fourth down attempts, all of which came in the second half.
Three Things We Learned from the Giants in Week 13:
The offense is overrated
After six straight weeks, many Giants fans and media members were ready to proclaim this offense as turned around after some early season struggles. Yet Sunday showed the inadequacy of the line, the lack of true production from the running backs and a quarterback who never seemed on-point with his wide receivers.
Manning’s two interceptions and the constant pressure allowed by the Giants offensive line led to a dormant afternoon for the offense in general. While Sterling Shepard, shutout with no receptions and no targets last week, showed some flashes it was still a poor and disjointed display from an offense that was supposed to be elite.
The bad game for Manning had no true silver lining as he finished 24-for-39 for 195 yards and two touchdowns as well as two interceptions.
Vernon has the edge
One play after Jason Pierre-Paul left the game in the second quarter with a groin injury, Olivier Vernon got his first sack of the game, extending his streak to five games with a sack. He had two sacks all told, part of a game where he registered four tackles.
The fact that the Giants continued to get positive results from Vernon off the edge with the loss of Pierre-Paul on the other side is promising, given the uncertain nature of JPP’s injury. But it is clear that the Giants pass rush, so dominant the pass three weeks, won’t be the same without Pierre-Paul on the field.
On the flip side, Vernon continues to shine in recent weeks and is paying the Giants back nicely for that monster contract he landed in free agency this offseason.
There goes momentum
So far this year, the Giants have taken care of business against hapless teams, their recent six-game winning streak coming against some of the worst teams in the NFL. Of their eight wins this season, only two are against teams with winning records. And with only one team in their last remaining four games currently holders of a losing record, the Giants march to the playoffs certainly won’t be easy.
The Dallas game at MetLife Stadium next Sunday isn’t must-win for their postseason ambitions but the Giants grip on a Wild Card spot got a whole lot more tenuous with this loss. Factor in the way that they played and they don’t look like a team ready for a playoff run.