By Ernie Palladino
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If you’re looking for someone who symbolizes the Giants’ 23-0 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, we proudly offer Victor Cruz.
Just two yards short of 1,000 receiving yards, Cruz went up in the third quarter for one of Eli Manning’s throws. He came down with it 16 yards downfield, only to land on his head on a hard tackle by Jeremy Lane. He appeared to lose consciousness.
During his few moments in dreamland, Cruz’s hand came away from the ball and it touched the ground. Seattle coach Pete Carroll threw the challenge flag, and replay showed the pass was ultimately incomplete.
They took away the yardage that would have given him his third straight 1,000-yard season.
He got to keep the concussion.
Depending on its severity, it’s entirely possible Cruz could end the season just short of football’s version of a .300 batting average. He’ll probably be out for Detroit. If it’s bad enough, he won’t play against Washington. So all of that effort of the previous 13 games goes for naught.
Typical. It’s been that kind of season for the Giants. Then again, a lot had to go wrong with this group en route to only its second losing season since Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning broke into New York at 6-10 in 2004. Sunday, in front of MetLife’s three-quarters filled stands, every ill of the season reared its head.
There were the concussions to Cruz and Peyton Hillis to cover the injury front, with Cruz adding a knee sprain to the mix.
Manning, finishing up a nightmarish season, threw another five interceptions, tying his own and Charley Conerly’s single-season record of 25 interceptions. The way he’s going, he’ll shatter that mark over the final two games.
The Giants’ running game was nil. The passing game was as dead as Manning’s 31.9 passer rating. With all that taken into account, is it any wonder why the Giants, purportedly a professional football team, crossed the 50 exactly once, and even then not until the midway point of the fourth quarter?
For the 60,000 or so fans who sat between the patches of empty seats, the game was as painful to watch as it was on TV, though the living room was arguably a warmer place. If nothing else, one could have switched the TV off at halftime and slid that DVD recording of Carrie Underwood’s Eli-like turn in The Sound of Music. But that might have been too much punishment for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
It just went to underline the futility and the pain of this 5-9 disaster. The offensive line was unable to keep the Seahawks’ front seven out of the backfield. Seahawks defensive backs were all over the field, seemingly forewarned about where Manning was going to throw the ball.
And there was Eli, a decade into his career, evoking images of Jets rookie Geno Smith in his most flustered of moments.
Ultimately, though, there is the image of Cruz, the team’s most reliable, productive receiver, the man who has now made everybody forget about Hakeem Nicks. He has made the tough catches, has done his all despite the rest of the obvious flaws in his unit. He deserves to finish with 1,000 yards.
What he got instead was a brain bonk and his millennium catch overturned on a coach’s challenge because he lost control of it while he was out cold.
Chances are Cruz will stand alone next year, because Jerry Reese isn’t going to be the one who breaks the bank on Nicks, a once-fearsome receiver who now short-arms passes, fails to fight for challenged throws to the end zone, and has the look of a man who can’t wait to get out of town. The fact that he has yet to score a touchdown doesn’t add any bargaining power, either.
If the Giants were this bad Sunday, heaven only knows what the next two weeks hold. This team has never handled futility well. There’s no reason to think that the final games will involve many forays into positive field position.
It’s been that kind of year. A year of bangs and bruises, of boneheaded throws, of subpar performances.
Seattle may well return to MetLife in February for a somewhat more significant game against a far better opponent.
If they can get a hold of a ticket, maybe some of the Giants will show up, too. Might as well. Except for Cruz, the only guy who spilled any real blood this year, they weren’t around Sunday.
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