If Al Pacino has taught us anything, it’s that on any given Sunday, something something scream yell claw for every inch. Also, many things can happen, and few of them are predictable.
But here’s what we know to be true about the New York Giants, the same Giants who have now been eliminated from the playoffs despite a resounding win today over Philadelphia. Regressing back to the mean leads to a pretty crappy New Year’s Eve.
Today was, of course, a final grasp of sorts, a grasp at anything. The Giants needed help, and were waiting for a Bears loss that didn’t happen. While the arithmatic led to a possibility — a chance — it wasn’t a favorable one. Now the carnage assesment begins, a damange report that’s pretty easy.
First, the simple math: winning only three of your final eight games is bad (#analysis). It’s especially awful after we saw a polar opposite Giants team during the first half of the season when they lost just twice. It wasn’t just the losing, either. No, the Giants’ late-season losses were often much, much more than mere defeats.
If the Redskins win tonight and advance to the playoffs, the Giants will have lost three times to playoff teams down the stretch, showing that a defending champion couldn’t pace itself against the upper echelon of the league in 2012. But despite Eli Manning’s struggles (rantings on that in a minute) the epicenter of the Giants’ decline was on the defensive side of the ball. Of their five second-half losses, they allowed 30 or more points in three of them. What’s more concerning is that the average margin of defeat in those five losses was 15.4 points.
There were injuries, with Prince Amukamara dinged, because he’s generally only existed in a bandage of some kind. Justin Tuck was bruised too, but that doesn’t account for the most significant defensive decline. A deep, fast, and agile front four that was the motor behind 48 sacks last year (fourth best in the league), finished with only 31 this year, a significant drop for a unit that relied on consistent pressure to ease the burden on a mediocre secondary.
Jason Pierre-Paul epitomized the gaping hole that was the Giants’ pass rush. A year ago he was in the conversation with the likes of J.J. Watt and Aldon Smith et al as one of the league’s premier young pass rushers. Now? He’s gone from 16.5 sacks, to just 6.5. Regression defined.
Meanwhile, Manning was the offense’s enemy. If we set aside his five touchdowns today in what is now a win devoid of any meaning, starting in Week 8 he had four games when his passer rating dropped below 60.0, along with five games when his completion percentage dipped south of 55 percent. Also, his passing yards per game fell by 62 yards from his lofty pace of 308.3 weekly last year.
It was, overall, a slow and gradual death, and one that made us remember that a year ago this championship team barely made the post-season dance with a 9-7 record, even though they went through a mid-season stretch in which they lost four straight games.
One year later, and that same record achieved by late-season losing instead of winning draws scrutiny and lamenting, not praise. Never change, NFL.