By Jason Keidel
The area around the Meadowlands have a certain, native smell. It’s a cocktail of swamp and smoke and the shards of industry. But if you drove by yesterday afternoon, the area was particularly pungent around MetLife Stadium, where the Giants were a kind host to the Seattle Seahawks.
It was a strange, 24-7 affair that was competitive in the first half, until the Seahawks (4-2) finally realized the Giants (1-6) had no talent on offense and salted the game away late. At one point in the third quarter, Eli Manning had 50 total yards passing. Orleans Darkwa was their leading rusher, with 35 yards. His biggest run was seven yards. Russell Wilson’s longest run? Seven yards.
And yet the Giants started the second half with a 7-3 lead, largely because of a feisty defense and endless flags tossed toward Seattle. The G-Men may have found a solid tight end in first-round pick Evan Engram, who snagged the club’s lone TD pass.
But more than anything, this game was a referendum on an alarmingly failed season for a team many of us projected as a playoff contender. While the Giants are technically still alive in the playoff chase, they are, by any sane metric, playing for pride and draft position. If they weren’t disappointing enough through five games, they lost their best player, all-pro wideout Odell Beckham Jr, and then lost his wingman, Brandon Marshall. Injuries will keep both players out for the year.
The injury bug just compounds the fundamental problems around Big Blue, all of them on offense. While the defense carried them to an 11-5 record last year, a season sprinkled with some Beckham jaw-dropping moments, this year the defense is shouldering the entire team’s future. And with the league forever tweaking its rules in favor of offense, that won’t work.
So while we got so excited to see Brandon Marshall swap locker rooms from Gang Green to Big Blue, many missed some essential flaws with the team. Chief among them is their offensive line, which can’t pass protect, leaving Eli Manning to take an even greater pounding than normal. And, of course, they can’t run block. Adding to that gap in their game is the dearth of decent running backs at their disposal. When Orleans Darkwa is your feature halfback, you’d better have a nuclear passing attack, and the Giants were laughably short on skill players yesterday.
By the end of the game, the Seahawks saw more action during a sideline scuffle between Doug Baldwin and assistant coach Tom Cable. The Seahawks are an NFL mutation of the Bronx Zoo, those petulant Yankees teams of the late-’70s that stopped punching each other just long enough to win two World Series. Pete Carroll takes a liberal approach to coaching, urging his men to bank and ball on emotion.
By the time Seattle stopped shooting itself in the foot, it cruised past the Giants, even experimenting with trick plays, like a 40-yard flea-flicker that found pay dirt with 9:49 left in the game. It was a meandering play that could have been defended — and was, really, with Paul Richardson and Landon Collins each cradling the ball in the end zone when they landed. But these are the Giants, and this is 2017, when nothing goes Big Blue’s way.
In fact, it sort of felt like Seattle was the home team. Beyond the freckling of gray jerseys in the stands that favored the visitors, the Seahawks won their lone Super Bowl title at MetLife three years ago. It was a sad sight and an ugly game by the home club.
The Mara family has shown most generous patience when it comes to their coaches. So it’s hard to imagine Ben McAdoo squirming on the hot seat. But this season is a disaster. The Big Apple knew one of its teams would be competitive, while the other would be wholly gruesome. It just had them switched. The Giants, an NFL version of an original-six franchise, are embarrassingly bad.
Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKeidel.