New York Giants at Cincinnati Bengals: Hero and Zero of the Game
Here is a short list of once-promising road trips that proceeded to go terribly wrong: The Lord of the Rings trilogy that dastardly felt as long as the Harry Potter series; every chicken that has endeavored to cross the street, including the one stapled to the dead baby; the New York Giants' 31-13 pool of urine left at Paul Brown Stadium.
Between their late loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, the well-recited history of their second-half collapses, and the lingering emotions spawning from ongoing Hurricane Sandy aftermath, one would imagine that potential Hall-of-Famer Tom Coughlin would have his team crisp, motivated, and ready to go against the slumping Bungles.
Instead, the "soft and mushy" Big Blue road warriors appeared unfocused and out-manned, as their third-down woes continued on both sides of the football. Factor in a little bad luck, and by the end of the third quarter, everyone was chugging Will Hill's Adderall-flavored Gatorade.
Before we kick off our annual angry mob for the heads of Eli Manning and his coaching staff, let's award credit to the reappearing act of those well-striped tigers who finally awoke from their catnap in the mighty jungle under .500. In all honesty, though, this contest's outcome was determined throughout the opening drive.
Hero - A.J. Green (7 receptions, 85 yards, 1 TD)
You expect sexier numbers from the Player of the Game and a premiere wide receiver in this league, especially after his first-quarter 56-yard touchdown bomb. However, the 6-foot-4 207-pound sophomore specimen out of Georgia was the mainstay game plan from the get-go, and New York's secondary failed the test early (it was probably all of that ADHD Hill was warning us about).
Two of the first three plays of the game were seven-yard completions to Cincinnati's big Green target, with Andy Dalton marking his territory immediately. Moments later, Corey Webster blew his assignment, and Green was easily able to record a score for an eighth consecutive outing.
The young and opportunistic defensive backfield of the Giants needed their shutdown cornerback to moderately contain the stud AFC wideout in order to dictate their time on the field, but despite a modest four catches for 15 yards from there on out, the damage was already done.
Green's presence was dutifully accounted for, leaving the likes of Andrew Hawkins and Mohamed Sanu free to make an impact even in instances of solid coverage. Big-league blocking up front made up for an ineffective ground attack and neutralized the Giants' nonexistent pressure of an invigorated Dalton, who threw each of his touchdowns to four different receivers and was turnover-less for the lone time this season.
The oxygen supplied by their No. 1 wide receiver first and foremost supported the life of the offense's 31-point explosion.
Honorable Mention - Adam "Pacman" Jones (a 68-yard punt return to prelude a second scoring drive, a clinching forced fumble, and three defended passes); essentially both trenches.
Zero - Ahmad Bradshaw (10 attempts, 57 yards, 1 lost fumble)
Yes, Eli Manning has not thrown a touchdown pass in 12 straight quarters or eclipsed 200 passing yards in roughly forever, but - arrant second-half interceptions aside - dropped passes, a lackadaisical surrounding cast, and intermediate playcalling would eventually dry Drew Brees' spell as well.
The Giants are not pushing the football vertically or powerfully north-and-south, and artificially-footed Bradshaw is not getting the job done as the club's overkilled starting running back.
What's worse is that New York was still prime for a patented comeback, down 17-6 but threatening early in the third quarter. Nevertheless, Bradshaw's 11-yard rush (his largest gain of the day) that carried the drive into the red zone...ended in Jones' forced fumble at Cincinnati's 16. Carlos Dunlap recovered the loose change, and the Giants' momentum had all but drowned.
You're absolutely right, though - that was Eli's fault, too. As for the elite quarterback's three self-inflicted wounds that would soon follow...well, that's because Rex Ryan refuses to bench Mark Sanchez.
Honorable Mention: Eli Manning/Tom Coughlin/Kevin Gilbride/lack of pass rush/Frankenstorm/my New Jersey friends who are inexplicably Bengals fans and attended the game...and David Wilson - try kneeling the kickoff in the end zone for a change and wrangle the No. 2 slot in the depth chart away from Andre Brown, you alleged first-round talent.
Cincinnati's upcoming schedule allots for another wild-card run, while a bruised tristate ego enters its bye week with Lawrence Tynes (a career-high 28 [28-yard] field goals) and Steve Weatherford (a 53.3 punt average on Sunday) as its best athletes.
Much like Superstorm Sandy, all we can do is come together, pick up the pieces, and move right along. This PSA is sponsored in part by: Will Hill's Adderall.