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Cover 3: Takeaways from five-in-a-row

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Three Giants writers give their take on the team following Sunday's 22-16 win:

The New York Giants have completed the difficult task of taking a three-game losing streak and making it a five-game swing in the other direction. And they're not done yet.


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In this week's "Cover 3" on Giants.com, we asked our staffers how they turned the ship around to get back into playoff position at 7-3 with six games left.

Here is what they had to say:

HELP COMES FROM HEALTH
By John Schmeelk

You can lay the credit for the Giants' five-game winning streak at the feet of one group: the defense. There are a few different reasons the defense has stepped up and played as well as it has the last month and a half, but it starts with health. During the Giants' three-game losing streak against Washington, Minnesota and Green Bay, they had two of their top three cornerbacks hurt: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple. Both players were injured during the Washington game, missed the trip to Minnesota, and barely played against the Packers.

Against the Redskins, Cromartie played just 45 percent of the plays (32 snaps) and Apple was on the field for just nine plays. Neither cornerback played in the game against the Vikings the following week. Apple didn't play against Green Bay either, and Rodgers-Cromartie could barely walk and was a shell of himself for 62 plays. He deserves credit for gutting it out, but he wasn't the same player.

Giants.com hands out game balls in Sunday's win over the Bears

Rodgers-Cromartie looked much more like himself in the win against Baltimore in Week 6, and Apple returned to the field in London in Week 7. While the Giants didn't give up a ton of points against the Packers and Vikings, the lack of cornerbacks limited what defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo could do schematically, which in turn limited the chance for big game-changing plays on defense.

Having corners capable of covering one-on-one opens things up for pressure packages, which lead to takeaways. There's a reason Landon Collins started his interception streak against the Rams once both Rodgers-Cromartie and Apple were back on the field. It's also no surprise the Giants' defensive ends are getting to quarterbacks more in the past three games. The health of Olivier Vernon helps, too, as it appears his hand/wrist injury is improving. They are getting into the backfield quickly, but opposing quarterbacks have been forced to hold the ball a little longer because their receivers aren't open.

Finally, the health and play of the secondary has allowed the Giants' defense to get off the field in big spots at the end of games. In four of their five wins, the defense has ended the game when opponents are trying to pass it into the end zone. Credit the play of the defensive backfield for a big part of that success. 

Everything always looks better when the team is healthy. It all starts there.

BIG PLAY COLLINS
By Dan Salomone

It really all starts with the man who is making a legitimate case to be the Giants' first AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year since Michael Strahan in 2001 (Lawrence Taylor is the only other Giant to win the award, doing so in 1981, 1982 and 1986). Of course, that player is Landon Collins.

Let's look at his numbers over the Giants' five-game winning streak: 43 tackles (three for loss), five interceptions (one returned for touchdown), two sacks and seven passes defensed. He also became the first safety to win player of the week awards in consecutive games since Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu in 2010 and could be in store for another after his game-clinching interception against the Bears. The 22-year-old is currently tied with San Diego's Casey Hayward and Kansas City's Marcus Peters for the NFL lead in interceptions.

The Giants are allowing just 18.4 points over the last five games, and you only have to look as far as Collins. This is what general manager Jerry Reese envisioned when he and his staff pulled the trigger to trade up and grab the Alabama product with the first pick in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

PROTECTION UP, PENATLIES DOWN
By Lance Medow

Well-disciplined football will always give you a chance to win games, and that's been the biggest difference between the Giants' three-game losing streak versus the five-game rise.  During their three-game skid, the Giants had six turnovers and just three takeaways for a differential of minus-three.  On top of that, the team committed 25 penalties during this stretch.  To put that in perspective, in the Giants' first two games of the season (both wins), the team tallied just seven penalties.  It had 11 in the Week 3 loss to the Redskins alone.  During the five-game winning streak, there have still been turnovers and penalties but not nearly as many self-inflicted wounds that proved to be costly in the previous three contests.  Over the three-game losing streak, the Giants picked up numerous procedural penalties: two false starts, one delay of game, one illegal formation, three offside and four holding, so nearly half of their 25 penalties were unforced errors.

In comparison, during their current five-game winning streak, the Giants have collected 21 penalties.  That's four less than they had during their three-game skid.  While New York had at least six penalties in each of those three contests, they've had five or less in each game during the win streak with the exception of seven against the Ravens in Week 6.  As far as turnovers go, the Giants have eight overall during the five-game rise, so they're averaging just over one a game whereas during the three-game losing streak, they were averaging two per contest.  The defense collecting eight takeaways during the win streak has helped as well, given the team's turnover differential is even over the last five contests.

Sunday against the Bears, the Giants ended an 18-game stretch with at least one giveaway.  That was the longest active streak in the NFL.  Ball security goes hand in hand with wins and losses.  During the five-game win streak, the Giants have been on the right side of turnover differential.

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