By Jon Wagner
In winding down a lost season, the New York Giants lost by 23 points for the second straight week on Sunday — this time, they turned back the clock to the type of offensive futility that Giants fans haven’t suffered through since the mid-1990s.
Enduring a 23-0 blanking by the NFL-best Seattle Seahawks (12-2) at MetLife Stadium, the Giants (5-9) — who hadn’t been shut out at home since a 2005 playoff defeat to the Carolina Panthers by the same score — and who ironically lost to that team, 38-0, in Carolina, in Week 3 this year, were held scoreless twice in a season for the first time in 17 years, and were shut out at home for the first time since the opening week of the prior season.
That loss was a 35-0 defeat to Dallas, a game that was the inaugural one called by well-known Giants radio play-by-play announcer Bob Papa, on September 4, 1995.
Toward the end of Seattle’s victory, Papa, noting the Seahawks’ unyielding aggression, even with a big lead, compared Seattle’s intensity to a popular television show on the Discovery Channel. “I know they’re called the Seahawks, but this feels like ‘Shark Week,’” he said.
New York’s defeat clinched the first losing season in the decade-long era of head coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning since the two teamed up for the first time during a 6-10 year in 2004. Since then the Giants had produced a pair of 8-8 years and six winning seasons, two of which finished with NFL titles, in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI.
Meanwhile, having positioned themselves well to secure the top seed in the NFC playoffs, the Seahawks hope to return to the same field against much stronger competition than the Giants were able to offer, in seven weeks, when MetLife Stadium hosts Super Bowl XLVIII.
If Seattle — which finished the road portion of its schedule at a franchise best 6-2 — can continue to play anywhere near as well as it did while dominating New York, the Seahawks might very well not have to leave home again until they reach their second Super Bowl and possibly win their first on the Giants’ home field.
Manning (18-for-31, 156 yards, three sacks), who faced pressure throughout the game, threw a career-high five interceptions (two each by corner backs Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell) and also tied a career mark for a season with his 25th pick, with two weeks still to play.
Although New York was still within two touchdowns, down 13-0, at halftime, the Giants were outgained, 209-54 yards, and Seattle had a dozen of the game’s 14 first downs by that point.
After the teams traded punts on their initial possessions, the Seahawks took over at the New York 42-yard line after another Giants punt and a 19-yard return, to set up a 49-yard field goal that gave Seattle a 3-0 first-quarter lead.
Late in the second quarter, the Seahawks turned Manning’s first interception into a the game’s first touchdown, as quarterback Ryan Wilson (18-for-27, 206 yards, one touchdown, one interception, four sacks; eight rushes, 50 yards) completed a 25-yard pass to wide receiver Doug Baldwin (six catches, 71 yards, one touchdown) before running back Marshawn Lynch (16 rushes, 47 yards, one touchdown; six catches, 73 yards) extended Seattle’s lead to 10-0 on a two-yard touchdown run.
Following a New York three-and-out, the Seahawks drove 38 yards for a 44-yard field, to go up, 13-0, with three seconds left in the half.
Starting at the Giants’ 45-yard line, after another three-and-out on New York’s first drive of third quarter, a third Seattle field goal pushed the lead to 16-0.
The fourth quarter didn’t start any better for the Giants, as Manning threw his fourth pick on the first play of the period, which gave the Seahawks a short field at the New York 16-yard line.
Six plays later, Wilson connected with Baldwin on a 12-yard touchdown pass to close the scoring and crush any hopes of a Giants rally that would never come anyway.
While New York held Seattle to a respectable 327 total yards, the Giants managed just 181 yards from scrimmage, including a mere 25 rushing yards on 14 carries.
Taking their 2-5 road record to Detroit (7-6) next week, New York will try to do a much better job of playing the spoiler role against a fellow NFC opponent seeking to stay in the conference playoff chase.