Road games against the Seattle Seahawks have proven to be aching for opposing teams largely thanks to the team's fan base, "The 12th man."
Seahawks fans are notoriously one of the loudest, most disruptive, and intimidating home crowds in the NFL and have swung things in favor of its hometown team for years.
Just look back at the Seahawks' first playoff game under head coach Pete Caroll. The 2010 Wild Card game against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints has been famously dubbed as "the Beast Quake Game."
The classic game earned its title after the crowd's reaction to a 67-yard touchdown run by running back Marshawn Lynch was so raucous that the vibration from the stands caused readings from local seismographs to read as if there had been an earthquake.
This year, the Giants won't have to worry about the 12th Man thanks to the coronavirus, as Lumen Field will be empty due to state-wide quarantine restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As much of a disadvantage as a road crowd can be, Giants head coach Joe Judge said he takes no pleasure in playing in front of empty stands, even if, in this case, it theoretically works to the advantage of the Giants.
"That is a great place to play. It has a great fan base, and it has great energy in that stadium," Judge said. "In terms of the big picture question about no fans in the stadium, look, I'm going, to be honest with you, that's something everyone in this league misses. If anyone tells you they don't, they're lying.
"Whether it's at home and they got your back, or you're on the road and they're all against you, either way, it's the kind of energy you really feed off of right there."
Judge also believes that sometimes the energy of an opposing crowd can even play to a visiting team's advantage.
"You still do have that tunnel vision when the game gets going where you zone it out and you're locked completely in that you really don't hear a lot of the noise on the outside. But even when you're so zoned in that you don't hear the noise, you still know the energy in the stadium, and the players do too on the field and on the sideline," Judge said.
"That's a critical part of the game that we're all looking forward to getting back, sooner than later. In terms of dealing with fans, hopefully, they understand how valuable they are to the game for us."
The Wilson Solution
The Giants' defense will be taking on an MVP candidate on Sunday in Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Wilson is 3-0 in his career against the Giants, having passed for 712 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions in those games while also rushing for 167 yards and one touchdown.
Wilson brings a dual-threat efficiency at quarterback that the Giants have not yet seen from any other opponent this season outside of maybe Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in Week 5.
The Giants gave up 24 points in two and a half quarters to the Cowboys when Prescott was on the field. This week, Wilson will bring an even more refined and experienced element to the field on Sunday alongside his versatile skill set as a quarterback.
Would Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham utilize a spy on Wilson in certain packages to try and keep him contained from breaking out of the pocket and beating the Giants with his legs?
"Sometimes you might get specific and have a particular person spy on him. What you're looking for is somebody who can tackle, somebody that has the speed to stay with him," Graham said.
"They have to have some savviness about him too. Sometimes when you talk to a player about what spy is, they just sit back there and now you just gave the quarterback more space."
However, a spy is still no sure-fire solution to containing a quarterback, let alone one as savvy as Wilson.
"I can tell you stories of using a spy before and the spy didn't tackle the quarterback and the spy wasn't good enough to get the quarterback. You try to figure the best guys to tackle them," Graham said.
For Graham, the best way to slow down Wilson is with an effective pass rush, which will be a priority for the Giants on Sunday.
It won't be an easy task, though, as the Giants' edge rusher group has been shaved down to its thinnest lineup of the season.
Three of the Giants' presumed top pass rushers going into the season--Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, and Kyler Fackrell--are on injured reserve. Meanwhile, Markus Golden was traded to Arizona back in October.
That has left the Giants with an edge rush group of rookies Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown (who is on the injury report with an illness), and veterans Jabal Sheard and Trent Harris, both added in-season.
Regardless of who gets the call, it will be a challenge to keep the outside contain and prevent Wilson from scrambling out of the pocket and picking up yardage with his signature chunk runs on Sunday.
Short Yardage Burst
The Giants have emerged as one of the best offenses on critical short-yardage situations in the NFL this season.
On third-and-3 or less, the Giants have converted 71% of their opportunities (sixth in the NFL). From 4-6 yards, the Giants have converted 53% of their chances (ninth).
Much credit for this metric is due to the continued improvement of the offensive line and the gritty, uncompromising attitude that has been coached into them throughout the season.
Running back Wayne Gallman has also been critical. His power running style and tendency to fall forward for extra yardage have fit what offensive coordinator Jason Garret is looking to establish with the Giants' offense this season.
But one unsung hero in this metric is fullback Eli Penny, an often forgotten player by fans but a heavily popular figure in the locker room. Penny's lead blocking out of the backfield has been the x-factor in the Giants' power running game this year and a big reason for their growing success on short-yardage conversions.
"Eli has been a really good player for us. Whatever we have asked him to do, he goes in and plays and is effective," Garrett said. "As a blocker, as a runner, he's just a good football player. He's one of those guys that as a coaching staff you're always saying, we have to find ways to get him more opportunities."
"Typically, good things happen when he's out there. He had more snaps in the game the other day and again he took advantage of them. They are not easy situations. They are ones that you have to embrace and really you have to convert."
Golden Tate Was "Ready, but Not Prepared" to Step in at Quarterback
Quarterback Daniel Jones's hamstring strain last week left the Giants with one healthy quarterback--backup Colt McCoy--to finish out a little more than a half of football.
But what would have happened if McCoy had gotten hurt?
The answer is receiver Golden Tate might have had his number called.
"I would say I was ready but I was not prepared," Tate said, looking back. "Hopefully it doesn’t get there, but I guess that’s part of being resilient."
Like everyone else around the league, Tate took note of what happened in Denver, when the Broncos had to play a game against the Saints without any of their quarterbacks. Denver turned to Kendall Hinton, a practice squad receiver, to handle their passing duties.
Hinton finished completing one out of nine pass attempts for 13 yards. He also threw two interceptions and was sacked once as the Broncos lost to the Saints 31-3.
Tate sounded relieved that he didn't get pressed into action at quarterback.
"Yeah, it’s one of those things that sounds really cool, like guys just talking about it not thinking it’s realistically going to happen. But then once it becomes potentially realistic, you’re like ‘Oh, oh. This could be scary,’" Tate said.
"I think I’m one of the candidates that could go out there if something were to happen, God forbid. I’m not sure what any of us emergency quarterbacks need to do to prepare for that big moment. We’ll cross that bridge if we get there."
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