Photo courtesy of NY Daily News
Players, coaches, pundits, experts, fans and others are all trying to figure out why their teams didn’t make the players. The answer of course is obvious… they didn’t have enough victories. For some teams, they didn’t have the right coach or their talent just isn’t good enough to compete. This was not the case for the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants. They had the coaching, the offense, the defense and the special teams to win and compete for a second straight Lombardi Trophy, but they didn’t get it done.
I’ve been reading others try to nitpick and find the cause of the Giants’ failure, and I think some make some good points. My personal opinion is that the season was lost in the fourth quarter of Week 2, when Hakeem Nicks injured his knee. After a loss to the Cowboys opening night and a terrible first half against the Buccaneers, Eli Manning and company did what they do best and responded with a comeback. Manning threw for 510 yards and three touchdowns. Nicks had 10 catches for 199 yards and a touchdown in that game. It looked like the Giants offense was poised for another monster year, and statistically it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t enough.
Nicks missed the three games following the Tampa Bay game and when he came back he never was the explosive receiver Manning needed to get the wins the team needed to win the division or make the playoffs. Nicks finished the year with 53 catches for 692 yards and only three touchdowns. Manning finished the year with 38 completions, 985 yards and three touchdowns less than the 2011 season.
Injuries, of course, are not an excuse. Great teams overcome adversity… blah, blah blah. But in a season where the Giants missed the playoffs by one game and lost two divisional games by a combined three points (one game Nicks missed and the other he was not himself), it is safe to assume that everyone wishes the team had its number one receiver at full strength. Manning admitted to Michael Eisen, Senior Writer/Editor, at Giants.com that missing Nicks and then having him come back not 100% was an issue.
“Hakeem had great toughness, wanted to be out there,” Manning said. “But, since really week three, not having him able to practice, and be at full speed and work on things, it’s tough. I think he’ll tell you that he wanted to be out there, and he was hurt, playing hurt, and he just wasn’t quite the same playmaker that we have become used to when he can play.”
Eli knew it was tough not having a playmaking Nicks in the mix, and Giants fans should have seen it too. There were many passes that Manning targeted Nicks and he just couldn’t get to the ball. Plays he would have made in 2011 that he couldn’t in 2012, and should be making in 2013.
A healthy Nicks, certified star in Victor Cruz, Domenik Hixon, and potential star Rueben Randle should give Manning all the weapons the Giants need to win the NFC East and have a chance at another title.