Last night felt like days of old, when the Giants could be completely incompetent in one drive then, for no good reason, start dominating and executing exciting plays. It’s like watching the lights turn on with the flip of a switch. Maybe the unpredictability of this team is what keeps me coming back for more, because you never know which version of the Giants will step onto the field at any moment, let alone any given Sunday.
So even though there was plenty to be concerned about after last night’s 28-16 victory over the Rams, there was something oddly comforting about the way in which the Giants won. Let’s break this one down in this week’s Pros and Cons.
Of all three units, the defense was easily the worst, with Aaron Ross leading the way. Kudos to Tom Coughlin for benching him, but I won’t say much more on that topic since it is already well publicized. But in general the entire secondary did not seem to improve at all from last week, and it will only get worse as they go up against more talented teams. Time and again receivers were left wide open in the middle of the field with plenty of room to catch and run, forcing the defense to rely on their open field tackling abilities. This is a major weak spot and every one of their opponents knows it, and will continue to exploit them unless they can find some kind of solution to the problem. That no huddle offense the Rams used against the defense was just ugly to watch, and I was surprised they didn’t seem to put much effort into going back to it after the first quarter or so.
But then again that could be because the defensive front showed that they are still a dominant force to be reckoned with. Having Justin Tuck back clearly did wonders for the overall morale of this unit, and I just hope Osi can add to that fire soon. They were especially great in the red zone, and that kind of play will keep your team in a position to win every time. Even though Sam Bradford started strong and seemed comfortable through much of the first half, the D took that away from him, not an easy thing to do once the quarterback is settled into a rhythm. This shows the resilience of this unit, and we just have to hope that they lead the secondary with this example.
Also, special shout out to the entire unit on the lateral pass that was returned for the touchdown. Michael Boley, rightfully so, gets the credit for being the guy who grabbed the ball and ran it back for the score, but all the defensive guys around him were on the same page and made a couple blocks that allowed him to score. Great heads up by all those guys.
The first half. It was painful to watch. Things looked promising during that opening drive until Manning threw that interception. Neither he nor Manningham saw Quintin Mikell coming across the field. Eli stared his receiver down, making the interception all too easy. No one looked comfortable after that, especially Manning. His throws were off target and for the first time in awhile I did not see much evidence of lack of communication or receivers running the wrong routes, which means much of the fault fell to Eli. And the fact that the running game could not be established early hurt the team during that first half.
Also, Manningham’s near-miss of a big throw from Eli in the second quarter. It could not have been thrown better, and if it’s caught in stride it’s an easy six points. He recovered enough to catch it, but you have to keep your eyes on the ball and you have to catch it in stride when it’s thrown that perfectly. Plus, injuries are now affecting the offense, with Manningham and Hixon both hurting today. Hopefully we won’t miss these guys for long.
Despite all that, like the defensive front, this offense is also resilient. Eli shines most during the two minute drill, and he executed it well to close the first half and give his team the boost they needed to come out strong in the third quarter. And I need to give credit where credit is due, Gilbride called a better game during that second half by spreading the ball around, using his backs and tight ends for the short passes underneath, and didn’t give up on the running game. During the preseason when we were told we would see new things coming from the offense, this is closer to what I had in mind. I was happy that these guys not only got the opportunity to perform, but they executed well and gained crucial yards. It was especially important for Eli to gain confidence that his backs and tight ends can catch the ball and run.
Special shout out to Domenik Hixon for that amazing catch in the endzone, and his efforts on third down. Steve Who??? Let’s just hope that calf injury isn’t serious.
The personal foul on Zak DeOssie late in the game when the Rams were pinned back to the 5. He is a great special teams player so I won’t kill him too much on this, but in a close game that’s the kind of mistake that can cost the team a win.
For the first time in a long time, special teams was fantastic all game. Great heads up on that muffed punt that led to an easy and crucial touchdown early in the game. This unit kept the Giants in the game, when was the last time any of us could say that? I also liked moving Aaron Ross into the return position, he is better suited for this role. It’s great that there are several guys that can handle this responsibility, if for no other reason than that Hixon does not need to risk injury here.
Shout out to Sam Weatherford, whose directional punting and strong leg makes me feel like the ghost of Jeff Feagles has returned!
Against a more dominant team, the Giants do not come away with a win based on this performance. Or, at the very least, it’s a much more difficult road to victory. But the Giants find ways to win, and there are several positives from which to grow here, certainly more than last week. With the injury to Vick (though I doubt he sits this one out) combined with the morale boost from this game, I feel much better about the trip to Philly this weekend.