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The Giants Passing Offense Has Gone Silent

Giants won't go anywhere without fixing the passing game

By Josh Alper
|  Tuesday, Nov 6, 2012  |  Updated 1:54 PM EDT
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The one thing that everyone can agree on is that the Giants passing offense has taken a serious turn for the worse in recent weeks.

There's a lot less agreement about why they've taken that turn. Eli Manning, opposing defenses, the wide receivers, play calling, pass protection and miscommunication have all been mentioned in the wake of Sunday's loss to the Steelers. 

Manning is obviously the place to start and he'd be the place you finish if not for the two Super Bowl rings he's won in the past. One of the benefits of winning championships is that everyone looks elsewhere for answers because they can't comprehend that Manning is struggling. 

The truth is that Manning looking like Mark Sanchez is clearly a big part of the problem. Accuracy is the biggest issue right now as Manning is sailing passes high, wide, long and short far too often for the team to be successful. 

On Sunday, the only two successful passing plays of the game were deep heaves that wound up drawing pass interference flags. There are worse strategies given the way the game is officiated these days, but it is hardly reassuring that the Giants have resorted to simply wishing and hoping for flags instead of executing actual football plays. 

Were this just one game, you'd shrug it off. It's three straight games, excepting the game-winning score against Washington, and there hasn't been any sign that things are about to flip on that front.

Since that wasn't a problem all year, that suggests a communication breakdown with the receiving corps. There have definitely been moments when quarterback and target have not read the route the same way, but it isn't particularly easy to believe that a team clicking as well as the Giants were clicking has suddenly stopped being able to work together. 

Which leads us to the way teams are defending the Giants, notably the way they are keeping their safeties back to keep from getting beaten deep down the field and the way they are defending Hakeem Nicks. Nicks has been hampered by foot and knee injuries this year and it seems to have taken a toll on his ability to get separation from defenders. 

That's left more attention for Victor Cruz and his low output the last two weeks suggests the Giants are going to keep seeing a lot more of these looks. Cruz also seemed to be hesitant on Sunday, perhaps as a result of taking big hits in each of the last two weeks when Manning's terrible throws have left him out to dry. 

It would probably help if there was a third receiver doing something similar to what Mario Manningham did last season, but the team hasn't gotten anything consistent from the rest of their receiving corps. It was an issue this summer and one that was perhaps ignored too quickly once the season got going because defenses don't seem to be stretched nearly as thin as they were before Nicks' current condition revealed itself.

All of these things could be solved and it wouldn't make a difference if the Giants can't protect Manning, which brings us back to the headscratcher of a decision to put David Diehl back into the lineup even though his inability to pass block has been known for years. That changes the play calling, especially when the run game isn't able to keep defenses from pinning its ears back. 

On the play calling front, it hasn't been all that good but the Giants have always seemed to win in spite of Kevin Gilbride's approach to offensive football rather than because of it. Tom Coughlin isn't one to make radical changes at midseason when is team has a winning record, so you should probably get used to it. 

Ahmad Bradshaw always plays hard, but the results suggest his foot injury is more serious than he or the team is willing to admit. Andre Brown has had a bit more success, although the team seems no more willing to give him a bump in playing time than they do to start allowing players to show up to meetings at the time they're scheduled to begin. 

It's a little bit of everything, in other words, and the Giants need to figure out which levers to pull in order to bring things back into alignment. The good news is that the Eagles' loss on Monday means that the Giants haven't lost anything from their lead in the NFC East and the play of the other three teams suggests that there's not much to worry about in another down year for the division. 

Going beyond that is going to take a return to the potent days of the recent past, however, and the Giants would make everyone breathe a little easier if they do it sooner rather than later. 

Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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