Three weeks ago I wrote that the Giants’ blowout defeat was the “Right Kind of Win” which allowed them to show their domination of the NFC.
Even brilliant people like me can be wrong from time to time.
Given the psyche of this Giants team, a grind-out win against a surging team like the Jaguars should do much more to boost the confidence of this battered team as they head into a tough stretch of games to end the season. Seattle has talent of course, but they are underachievers, and putting up 41 points against such a team did very little to help the Giants in the long run. Just look at the two losses that followed.
This game against the Jaguars had a much different feel. Like their losses to the Cowboys and Eagles, there was very little sense of urgency in the first half. But a whole new team took the field in the third quarter, and the team learned a valuable lesson as a result: the Giants can beat any team as long as they are in the right mindset. Based on reports, several leaders on the defense made this happen during halftime, so we will begin our new weekly breakdown here.
With a seriously battered offense, the defense had to play at the top of their game to win this for the team. This was definitely not the case in the first half, but the real defense showed up as soon as the third quarter started.
To be summed up in three words: The First Half. Maurice Jones-Drew single-handedly shredded the defense for the first two quarters, and David Garrard, though aging, showed his versatility with some key running yards. 207 rushing yards is not acceptable for a team hoping to make the playoffs. The Giants defense has to come out strong and ready to play for 60 minutes if they want to keep winning.
To be summed up in three words: The Second Half. To come out and dominate when the first 30 minutes were so terrible is a commendable thing. The important lesson here is not what happened during the first half, but to understand just how much this team can overcome to win a game. This attitude needs to be built upon throughout the season. This should not be difficult, considering that the last three defensive plays ended in sacks.
Defensive Player(s) of the Week
If reports are accurate, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora are the heroes of the defense with their halftime ownership of their poor performances and challenge to the team to go out and win this game. It’s amazing what a few words can do to inspire a team, especially when it comes from fellow, respected players. I’m sure the coaches had a few choice words, but there is always something more significant when it comes from a peer. Michael Strahan was known to be a lightning rod with his pre-game huddles, especially during the 2007 Super Bowl winning season. Maybe Tuck and Umenyiora are taking over this role? If this will be the result then let’s hope so!
My second winner of this prestigious award goes to Terrell Thomas, who has had another great day with two key plays that changed the game. He clearly took the halftime speeches to heart as he came away with an interception to start the third quarter, which then lead to a Giants field goal. He book-ended the second half with a forced fumble against David Garrard to end the game.
The battered, patchwork offense continues to improve with each passing week. This game was no work of art, but they got the job done.
Field goals in place of touchdowns. Through three quarters, the offense only managed to score three field goals and no touchdowns before their fourth quarter rally. Needless to say, this is not going to be acceptable down the stretch, especially if the defense has another tough day. They have to start getting into the end zone early and often.
Play-calling and ball protection. I have spent a good deal of time complaining about Kevin Gilbride and his conservative calls. But he was much more aggressive against the Jaguars. Eli Manning had a bad game against the Eagles last week, and what he needed was to establish a rhythm early and confidence from his coach. The first play from scrimmage was a pass, and even though Eli only made 24 passing attempts, he completed 14 for a total of 226 yards, averaging 9.4 yards per attempt, his highest of the season. The game plan was clearly meant to boost his confidence, and it worked.
None of this would not have been possible, however, without ball protection. For the fourth week in a row, the battered o-line prevented Eli from being sacked. He had plenty of time to make good decisions, something that he lacked last week. Additionally there were no turnovers, something the team desperately needed.
Offensive Player of the Week
Although the now infamous halftime speech came from defensive players, no individual player overcame their poor first half performance more than Kevin Boss. After a holding penalty that cost the Giants a touchdown in the first half, he caught the winning touchdown after breaking a tackle on third down, short of the first down marker, and ran for the touchdown.