By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
The game began with large sections of barren seats.
The second half started with more empty seats than people.
By the time the debacle that was the Giants’ 51-17 loss to the Rams ended Sunday, there were barely enough people left to make a noise. And what there was of that noise wasn’t exactly a happy sound.
This is how things will look at MetLife Stadium from now on, thanks to a total no-show by the defense, a butterfingered showing by the offense, and a key breakdown on special teams.
Muffled voices, disgusted patrons.
For an idea of what’s ahead, let the mind wander to five weeks from now when the Cowboys walk in. They might think they’re back at AT&T Stadium, as so many fans will be selling their tickets to area-based Dallas rooters. And there are more of those than one might think.
If there was any doubt that 1-7 equals a lost season, this should do it. Of all the losses they’ve taken, Sunday’s was the inexcusable one. Unforgivable because they looked so disorganized and helpless in all three phases that the postgame questioning focused more on heart than execution.
Of course, the whole Janoris Jenkins situation had a hand in that. He became the second Giants cornerback to draw a suspension for failing to report back from the bye week on time, or even calling someone to say he’d been delayed. The ham-handed way Ben McAdoo explained the situation on Tuesday made it look like he was hiding something on top of losing his grip on the locker room.
Sunday’s performance didn’t help his case, either. Four pass plays of 45 yards or more, including Jared Goff’s screen to Robert Woods that went for a 52-yard touchdown on third and 33 made it look like the defense just quit. Add to that a couple of 20-plus-yard runs by Todd Gurley and Tavon Austin that led to touchdowns, and you have a total goose egg by the defense.
That’s not to mention the three first-half turnovers — fumbles by Eli Manning and Wayne Gallman and a Manning interception — that produced 17 points, Cory Littleton’s blocked punt that led to another touchdown, and Aldrick Rosas’ missed field goal at the end of the first half that kept Big Blue from entering the third quarter trailing by two scores as opposed to three, and the Giants put together one of the most embarrassing performances in recent history.
Certainly, on points alone, it was their worst home loss since the Browns put up a 52-spot on them during the final game of the 1964 season. And that ended a 2-10-2 campaign.
At this point, the Giants will be lucky to equal that year’s win output. Though they have 0-8 San Francisco next week, there’s no guarantee they’ll slip past them in Santa Clara. Imagine the hue and cry if Jimmy Garropolo tears up the secondary like Goff just did.
This was embarrassing enough, however. The touchdown passes were hard enough to take — 52 to Woods, 67 to Sammy Watkins. But then there were the 21-yard, Austin run to the 1 and Gurley’s 44-yard completion to the 1 on the next possession, both of which set up touchdowns.
Have they quit? Probably not.
But has McAdoo lost the hearts and minds of his players? Have they stopped listening?
It all amounts to a lost season, with little hope of it improving over what could seem like an interminable final eight games.
That makes for a lot of empty seats down the road. And the fannies that do show up will be ones wearing opponents colors for the most part.
The late Wellington Mara didn’t dread losing as much as the prospects of an empty stadium. He saw it happen in his lifetime, and now his son, John, is seeing it again.
He can only hope that what happened Sunday is rock-bottom, both emotional and physical. Because if it wasn’t, MetLife will become an unbearable place to spend a cold, windy afternoon in December.
They simply won’t show up. The fans, that is.
Please follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino