It is time for this week's 'Kudos & Wet Willies.' Our review of the New York Giants' loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers reflects, I think, the ugliness of Sunday's game from the Giants' perspective.
[Related: 'Studs and Duds | SB Nation New York]
Kudos to ..
Michael Boley: I can't pin the Giants' defensive failures on Boley. He had 11 tackles and a touchdown on the Ben Roethlisberger fumble.
Antrel Rolle: Rolle had a pass batted down on a blitz and nine tackles, including one on the goal line that created the fourth down on which Pittsburgh unsuccessfully tried a fake field goal. He had nine tackles.
Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora: Each of the Giants trio of defensive ends made his presence felt in this game. Pierre-Paul had eight tackles (two for loss), a sack and a hit on Roethlisberger. Tuck has his most productive game of the season with two sacks, five tackles (two for loss), two hits on Roethlisberger and a pass batted down. Umenyiora had seven tackles and a sack.
Wet Willies to ...
Eli Manning: Yuck! Manning was 10-for-24 for 125 yards and one interception. A lot of ugly throws. Even some of his completions were off-target balls receivers hauled in. Manning had a ridiculous passer rating of 41.1 against the Steelers. I hate to say this but Manning looked an awful lot like Mark Sanchez on Sunday.
Special teams (aside from Michael Coe): Coach Tom Coughlin called the coverage of punts and kickoffs "terrible," and he was right. The Giants surrendered 249 return yards, including returns of 68, 63 and 50 yards. Steve Weatherford made a nice play to save a touchdown on Emmanuel Sanders' 63-yard run, but it was Weatherford's horrid line-drive punt that created the return in the first place.
Coe made a great read on the fake field goal, Justin Tryon downed a punt at the two-yard line and David Wilson had a couple of decent kickoff returns. This, though, was a day on which special teams really let the Giants down.
Run defense: The Steelers ran for 158 yards and Isaac Redman, Pittsburgh's third back, had 147 yards on 26 carries. The tackling was terrible. The Steelers didn't do much of anything fancy, they just kept running between the tackles and pushing the Giants back or running through them.
Mark Herzlich fans won't like this, but Herz has to take a hit for some of what went on. He had eight tackles, but the Steelers ran right up the gut -- at Herzlich -- all day. When you fail to play the run up the middle, which the Giants did, the middle linebacker has to shoulder some of the responsibility. Don't take that, however, to mean Herzlich gets all the blame. He doesn't -- not by a long shot. The defensive tackle play can't be good when a team is just plowing straight ahead like that. It probably didn't help that Chris Canty missed most of the second half with an apparent groin injury. Mathias Kiwanuka was, again, invisible. And we already mentioned that the tackling -- from nearly everyone -- was poor.
David Diehl: He was not good in his first start since injuring his knee, and I know we are going to get calls all week for Sean Locklear to return to the starting lineup. I lost track of the number of pressures Diehl allowed. The Pro Football Focus numbers are probably going to be ugly.
The offense as a whole: No first downs in the fourth quarter. Less than 25 minutes of possession for the game. Only 182 total yard and 13 first downs. The Giants ran only 48 offensive plays. Manning was atrocious. The longest run of the day was nine yards. The running game, in reality, has not been what it needs to be for the past three weeks. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz were rarely open. Manning could not seem to get on the same page with any of his receivers. Penalties cost the Giants a field goal at the end of the first half as Lawrence Tynes came up short after a pair of false starts.
The coaching staff: The Giants are now 1-8 in Week 9 under Coughlin. That is a weird number, but it's there. Sunday's game was difficult for the Giants due to the circumstances of last week, but the Giants really have been regressing since their Week 6 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Coughlin gets testy when he is asked about the Giants' history of second-half issues during the regular season, but he has work to do.
On defense, it seems like every week there is a leak somewhere on the defense. Perry Fewell has got to take a hit for that. You want to believe this defense has too many talented players, and has accomplished too much over the years, to have the types of issues it has had much of the season.
I'm not really sure where the high-powered Giants' offense has gone, but it has vanished and Kevin Gilbride needs to find it again. It seems like the current plan is 'let's go three-and-out' or 'let's get good field position, get nothing done and kick a field goal.'
The passing game has turned into "chuck and duck" too often, with Manning throwing the ball as far as he can and hoping something good happens. For whatever reason, receivers aren't getting open, Manning's throws have been off target and there are too many mis-communications.
The running game has reverted to numbers that remind you of last season. I thought Ahmad Bradshaw ran hard Sunday and got what he could, but you have to wonder how much his foot issue has to do with the running woes. I still believe Andre Brown needs more carries -- there just seems to be a different burst right now when Brown hits the hole as opposed to Bradshaw. No matter who is running, though, the Giants need a better push up front.
[Related: Did Victor Cruz fake injury? | Behind The Steel Curtain]
Let's not over-react to one loss, albeit a game in which the Giants played poorly. The Steelers are a good football team and the fact that they won Sunday does not exactly register as one of the biggest upsets of all time. Watching the game and knowing the Giants' history of second half of the season struggles, however, there were troubling signs.
Mostly, it is troubling that these types of less-than-stellar effort keep happening to the Giants at home. Two of their three losses this season are at MetLife Stadium, and every home game has been a struggle. For whatever reason, playing at home is not an advantage for the Giants.
It was troubling to see breakdowns in every area of the game on Sunday -- offense, defense and special teams. The only thing the Giants really did well is rush the passer. Penalties hurt them and I thought the Steelers physically dominated the line of scrimmage. The Giants' only touchdown drive was helped by two questionable Pittsburgh penalties, and I'm still not sure Andre Brown actually scored. The Boley recovery for a touchdown on the Roethlisberger fumble is another play that could have gone against the Giants.
In many ways, the Giants were fortunate not to get blown out of their own building on Sunday.
It is, however, hardly time to panic. Even if the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New Orleans Saints Monday night the Giants, at 6-3, will be the only team in the NFC East above .500 so they are still in firm control of the division. After the past few weeks, though, you would be right to be concerned.
There are some undeniable cracks in the foundation of the bridge Coughlin wanted to build this season. The Giants need to get to work fixing them.