By Ernie Palladino
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The Manning Bowl didn’t go the way the Giants’ end of that combo wanted it. But something more serious than sibling rivalry happened in the Giants’ 41-23 loss to the Broncos at MetLife Stadium Sunday.
The Giants not only looked bad much of the time, but three horrendous things occurred in a five-minute span between the third and fourth quarters that usually define bad teams.
Forget Eli’s 0-3 lifetime mark against his brother. Or that the Broncos beat the Giants in New Jersey for the first time since 1980. The bigger picture shows the Giants not as a good team struggling under a hard-luck 0-2 record. They’re bad right now, plain and simple.
Eli had four interceptions on the day, though one was a prayer at the end of the first half and another was a poorly thrown ball at the end of the game when another touchdown wouldn’t have mattered, or even made this blowout look at all respectable.
It was the three plays that defined where the Giants stand, simply because bad things happen to bad teams.
Play No. 1: With 3:08 remaining in the third quarter and a single point separating the teams, Demaryius Thomas fumbles into the arms of Prince Amukamara. The Giants should have been in business deep inside Denver territory, but Amukamara couldn’t hang onto the ball. Instead, he fumbles it back and trailing running back Knowshon Moreno picked it up for a first down at the Denver 37.
The winning Manning made the Giants pay for that. Soon enough, the Broncos sat at the Giants’ 25, and Moreno ran in his second touchdown of the day, ironically on the same type of off-right-tackle jaunt that produced his first score in the second quarter.
Play No. 2: The Giants have the ball on the succeeding possession. It’s the fourth quarter now, and Eli Manning makes a short, second-down toss to Rueben Randle. Tony Carter breaks it up. However, the ball bounces off Carter’s foot and lands in a scrum where Chris Harris comes down at the Giants’ 36 with Manning’s second interception.
Moreno and his quarterback moved the ball quickly, and Peyton found tight end Julius Thomas for an 11-yard touchdown pass to bring the game to 31-16.
Play No. 3: Just two minutes later, Denver’s defense stopped an offense that not only rushed for just 23 yards total, but at this point could not complete a critical pass. Fourth down, and Steve Weatherford let go one of his four line-drive punts in an absolutely horrible performance. Returner Trindon Holliday picked it up and brought it back 81 yards for a touchdown with 10:13 remaining in the game.
It was over at 38-16, though the Broncos would add one more field goal that turned Eli’s 23-yard scoring throw to Da’Rel Scott with 3:59 to go into a minor annoyance.
Sure, you can add the turnovers and key drops by Brandon Jacobs, Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Myers to the heap. Add the 3-for-12 on third down, and their inability to produce touchdowns on two out of three trips into the red zone.
There was plenty to be concerned about here. But those three plays in just under six minutes of the third and fourth quarters underlined it all. The Giants have problems, issues that might not even have cropped up had someone secured the bouncing ball as the end of the third quarter neared.
“We always talk about getting the ball,” Coughlin said of Amukamara’s flub. “When the ball is on the ground, it’s ours. We haven’t gotten many of them, and that one was in our hands and we didn’t even get it. That’s part of the frustration.”
And the worry.
The Giants are 0-2. It’s not an inescapable hole. There may be many days ahead.
But flukes don’t happen to good teams. The performance level must rise.
Do that, and maybe the ball will start bouncing the Giants’ way. But right now, they’re a bad team.
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