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What was beginning to look like a repeat of the New York Giants 2009 collapse is now taking on the form of a postseason. It was a picture perfect week for the Giants this week. The Cowboys lost to the New Orleans Saints on Thanksgiving night. The Redskins lost to the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Sunday's win could not come at a better time. The Giants were coming off of a two game losing streak that had everyone wondering if they were watching the demise of a team who was being hailed at the best in the NFL not long ago. The Giants won 5 consecutive games after the 2 losses earlier in the year…and that's exactly what is left in the regular season…5 GAMES! Can they repeat the winning streak that they had earlier in the year? It is certainly possible.
The road ahead has Big Blue going up a struggling Washington Redskins team, a bewildered Minnesota Vikings team who are in disarray, a Green Bay Packers team who may have seen their peak this year and a Philadelphia Eagles team who were manhandled by the Chicago Bears. There are a few variables to discuss regarding the chances of the New York Giants rising back to the top of the heap but first let's get to their latest victory.
It started out ugly and all too familiar. The Giants got down to the red zone twice in the first half and only managed to come away with field goals. Penalties, which seem like a member of the team at this point, stopped us from producing early in the game. In the first quarter, the Giants had a 3rd and 4 on their 45 yard line. Kevin Boss was called for a 5 yard, false start and the Giants couldn't convert. In the second quarter, Eli Manning hooked up with Mario Manningham on a 9 yard touchdown pass. That score was nullified due to a 10 yard holding call on, guess who, Kevin Boss. The drive ended with the second of the three field goals made by Lawrence Tynes for the day.
Incompletions, routes gone wrong and poor offensive play kept the New York Giants to 3 field goals, one in each of the first three quarters. The Giants defense seemed discombobulated and unable to stop Jacksonville's running game not to mention a very mobile David Gerrard in the first two quarters. The G-Men were 0-3 on third down conversions and 0-2 on red zone efficiency in the first half. The only thing going for them was a defensive stand to hold the Jaguars to 3 points instead of a touchdown. The football Gods were not smiling on the Giants by half's end.
With a few key speeches from Tom Coughlin, Perry Fewell, Justin Tuck and a few other players, the New York Giants came out of the locker room with a renewed purpose…to WIN! A defense that was relatively ineffective in the first half came out of the tunnel with a fire lit underneath them and intercepted the ball on the very first play of the 3rd quarter. That interception was Terrell Thomas' 4th of the year. He also leads the league, with 20, in pass deflections. The Jacksonville turnover started a New York Giants 10 play drive that ended in a field goal. It would be the only points scored in the 3rd quarter.
In the final seconds of the 3rd quarter, the Big Blue Wrecking Crew began a 5 play drive that started from their own 12 yard line that resulted in a 26 yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham and a 2 point conversion run by Ahmad Bradshaw. The following Jaguar drive had the team knocking on the door to put 7 on the board but the renewed Giants defense shut them down and contained them to only 3 points.
1 - three and out by both teams led to the final scoring drive of the game, which belonged to the Boys In Blue. The Giants only committed 4 penalties (excluding declined penalties) on Sunday, which is a low number for them these days. But 2 of the 4 penalties were attributed to Kevin Boss The BossMan was about to make amends for his errs. On the sixth play of the drive, Eli Manning threw a short pass to the left side of the field, hooking up with Kevin Boss who then shook a defender, made a move and found his way to the end zone for a touchdown! The offense outscored the Jaguars by a score of 18-3 in the second half.
The game wasn't over. Jacksonville still had some life left in them…and plenty of time on the clock. The Giants defense came out hard but couldn't stop the Jaguars from moving the chains three times. They did, however, put serious pressure on Gerrard. They sacked the once mobile QB three times on that drive alone. On the final sack of the drive, the New York Giants were given the green light to rain an ungodly thunderstorm down on Gerrard by bringing just about every man on the field in to put the Jaguars out of the game. Mission accomplished! Terrell Thomas got the credit for the sack and a forced fumble. Antrel Rolle recovered the fumble. The Giants ran the clock out and added a much needed win to their record.
Coming into Sunday's game, the New York Giants had some serious adjustments to make in order to get their season back on track. It didn't appear that they had addressed the issues that they needed to early on. As the game progressed, we did see that they may have tweaked a thing or two. For one, they didn't turn the ball over against Jacksonville. That is a major improvement considering that they turned the ball over 14 times in the last 4 weeks.
Special teams was another area that needed major improvement. An unpredictable Matt Dodge had a consistent game. He didn't botch a snap, averaged 49.7 per punt and had a long of 53 yards. DJ Ware handled the returns against the Jaguars and did a decent job. He returned 4 for 89 yards with his longest being 35 yards, not great but as a wise man I know says, it's better than a poke in the eye. We didn't exactly stack the Jags back in their own end zones as far as starting field position goes but we didn't let any big returns get passed us either. I saw some improvements. Let's hope they continue.
Injuries were another factor that we had and still have to overcome. With most of our starting receivers out, we needed our active starters, 2nd and 3rd stringers to step it up. Boss had the best outing with 74 receiving yards and 1 TD. Manningham came in a close second with 61 and 1 TD. Bradshaw recorded 34 receiving yards. Beckum had 29. Hagan had 21 and Ware had 7. You can see that the Giants organization targeted the more experienced guys throughout the day but they saw to it that Eli got the ball to some of the inexperienced guys as well.
Our injury issues may start to find themselves letting up. Steve Smith is reported to be back in early December. Next week is early December and we could sure use him. Some of our other injured Giants should be making their way back into the starting lineup as well. David Diehl and Shaun O'Hara have been working out and doing everything possible to get themselves ready to play. Hakeem Nicks has sat out one of the three weeks that he is expected to miss. His injury may take more time than that though. We shall see. The injury reports are very critical tools to keep an eye on as these last few weeks roll by. The guys we have MUST stay healthy and with the upcoming games headed our way, that may prove to be a difficult task.
The New York Giants found a way to win today. The formula they used was…play hard! Play Giants football! Yes, it came a little bit late in the game but it did come and we have the win to prove it. Unfortunately, they will not have the luxury of waking up at the second half with the teams that they have to face in the upcoming weeks. While most would say that we should beat the Redskins without a fuss, you still can not take them for granted. When you look at what Donovan McNabb has done against the Giants over the years it makes it hard to simply dismiss him. While yes, he might not be the same QB that he used to be, he is still capable of great things.
The Vikings are a team that is going through many toils and troubles but they still have Brett Favre, the leagues 3rd leading rusher in Adrian Peterson and the leagues 3rd leading tackler in Chad Greenway. While Peterson did get injured Sunday and didn't return to play, his injury might not be as serious as it looked and in two weeks he'll probably be raring to go. Some might say that Favre is old but he is still quite capable of doing big things. We've seen that already this year.
The Packers have been pretty steady throughout the year. However, they are a very beatable team. Just ask the Redskins. They have two threats, Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews. Our defense is more than capable of handling Rodgers. Our offensive line should have Diehl and O'Hara back in action by then. I have no doubt that we will be able to hold back Matthews. We have been doing holding back the flood all year long and have the #1 offensive line in the league. We have allowed the fewest QB sacks in the NFL with 12. I think we're up to the challenge.
Then there is the Eagles, our biggest obstacle to overcome this year…maybe second to ourselves. They beat us once. We know what they are capable of. We heard all of the Vick praise. But it is highly unlikely that they will beat us again. Vick had one great game against the Redskins this year and everyone hailed him as the next Messiah. I doubt you will hear that this week after the beat down that he and his team took against the Bears.
What we have here is a hopeful outlook and the postseason in our sights. All we have to do is stay healthy, play smart and protect the ball. I know, easier said than done. We've all seen what we are capable of. We have accomplished great things this season. We have also done some downright boneheaded things that cost us a few games. Each week, we slowly find our players sliding out of the top 5 positions as league leaders. Yet as a team we still remain one of the best - #3 Offense, #2 defense, #1 offensive line. Through all of the "mistake football" that we have played, those stats still ring true. So the message is to the New York Giants. I hope you guys are still saying that mantra to each other because it was working for 5 weeks straight. Are we still "as good as we want to be"? How good do we want to be?
Next week we have the Redskins and Donovan McNabb in our house and Donovan…we don't serve Chunky Soup here! You better eat your Wheaties if you expect to compete at Giants Stadium!!!