COMMENTARY | The New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens were heading in opposite directions when the two teams played each other at M&T Bank Stadium on December 23. We didn't know it at the time, but the Ravens were on a path to the Super Bowl, while the Giants were on their way to the offseason. Baltimore blew away Big Blue, 33-14, and its playoff hopes, but the game could help the Giants in the long run. The Ravens exposed the Giants' weaknesses and gave general manager Jerry Reese a blue print for what needs to be fixed in the offseason. Here's what we learned from the game.
Webster's a Weak Link -- Cornerback Corey Webster had a bad season. His struggles were underscored against the Ravens, who attacked his side of the field several times and burned him for the opening touchdown by Torrey Smith, who had five catches for 88 yards. Coming into this season, Webster was the team's best defensive back, but the Giants may want to look for secondary help in the draft. Moreover, Prince Amukamara, who will be entering his third season in 2013, must continue his growth and provide the team with reliable coverage next season. Incidentally, the Giants finished the season with the 28th-ranked pass defense in the National Football League.
Power to the Pass Rush -- The Giants' pass-rush has been the team's calling card over the last few years. It has powered New York to a pair of Super Bowls in the last five years. However, when it's not working, the Giants are a different and very beatable team. Against Baltimore, the G-Men didn't sack (or pressure) Joe Flacco. Consequently, he passed for 309 yards and a pair of touchdowns against New York's sketchy secondary. With pending fee agent Osi Umenyiora possibly on his way out, the Giants may want to target a defensive end in the first round of this year's NFL Draft.
Manning is the Motor -- When Manning is not right, everything goes wrong for New York. Against the Ravens, Manning completed 14 of 28 passes for a measly 150 yards and one touchdown. Pass protection was part of the problem (Baltimore had three sacks), so the Giants will want to bolster the offensive line in the offseason. They may want to start by re-signing unrestricted free agent linemen Will Beatty and Kevin Boothe. Incidentally, the G-Men were 6-2 in 2012 when Manning threw for at least 249 yards, so giving him time to toss the pigskin next season has to be a top priority.
A Running Joke -- As the season wore on, the Giants' run defense deteriorated to the point of being an embarrassment. The G-Men allowed 100 yards rushing in their last six games, but they reached rock-bottom against the Ravens, who gashed New York for 224 yards on the ground. New York finished the season ranked No. 25 against the run. It's going to be difficult to upgrade this position without improvement from the team's young linebackers, specifically Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger.
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