Well here we go folks, the New York Giants are in the playoffs. After weeks of stressing and wondering: “Will the Giants collapse late in the season again?”, “Will Coughlin be fired?”, “Will they make a playoff run?”, we now know, the Giants have extended their season and have a shot at the crown, and based on what we have seen over the last couple of weeks, they should not be automatically counted out. There has been improvement on both sides of the ball, while some of the most reliable players continue to shine. So, let’s break this one down.
While there has been some improvement, the running game is still pretty dismal. True that Bradshaw can still make big scoring plays, it just really isn’t enough, and the lack of production in this area is going to hurt the Giants’ chances to advance in the playoffs. It has now gotten to the point that Eli Manning is now shouldering some of the rushing responsibilities. Just look at these numbers:
Att Yards Avg. Long
Jacobs: 7 16 2.2 6
Manning: 6 14 2.3 8
Umm, what? I’m a big fan of Eli, but the guy can’t run, and he knows it. So how is he achieving the same numbers as Jacobs? I wish I could say Ware and Bradshaw picked up the slack, but in total the Giants gained 106 yards on the ground. That won’t win many playoff games, even if Eli does continue to throw 300 and 400+ yard games.
While the running game continues to struggle, the passing game has saved the season. We have to give a big shout out to Eli for throwing his 15th fourth quarter touchdown to take the record from Johnny Unitas and Peyton Manning. It’s not often that anyone can say they have achieved something that tops either of those guys, and it has to feel especially gratifying to beat a record held by Peyton. Eli will always be compared to his brother, that’s just the way it is, so to be able to prove, at least on paper, that he is at least as good as Peyton in any area has to feel pretty sweet.
And how about Victor Cruz? He is clutch, and showing the maturity of a player well beyond that of someone in his first productive season. I would be more offended that he is not an immediate Pro Bowl selection if the whole thing wasn’t just a popularity contest. His numbers continue to be gaudy, but harder to measure is the true impact of his clutch plays. That 74 yard reception in the second half came exactly when it needed to and gave the Giants their mojo back, which carried them throughout the rest of this game.
I’ve been saying this all season, the Giants have a problem because they play to the level of their opponents. That first half was great, but they came out flat in the second half and played the way the Cowboys started this game. They could have finished them off early in the third quarter but instead let them hang in there and gain momentum. That can’t happen against better teams.
The defense is finally beginning to gel a bit. These simplified schemes are working. The secondary still struggles but there is improvement. But the strength of this unit always comes from the line, and these guys were dominant on Sunday night. Having the full group together with Osi back in the mix was exciting to watch and a long time in coming. This is the time that the defense needs to get hot, and they are doing it.
Overall these last two weeks have given the Giants, and their fans, reason to hope. To me the biggest concern needs to be keeping the passion and momentum going. They can no longer afford to come out flat like they are prone to do. When they are pumped up and ready to play, they minimize mistakes and capitalize on opportunities. This needs to be a major focus this week, and whatever they have been doing before the last two games needs to continue. Atlanta may not be elite, but they are a solid team who can win this game if the bad Giants show up on Sunday.