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Giants' aggressive play-calling pays off in 21-20 win


The Giants' offensive made some bold moves vs. the Bengals Monday Night:

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Ben McAdoo believes he must coach as aggressively as he asks his players to perform. On Monday night, his unwillingness to play it safe helped produce a Giants' victory.

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Trailing by six points and faced with a fourth-and-goal from the Cincinnati 3-yard line early in the fourth quarter, McAdoo had no interest in kicking a short field goal that could have halved the Giants' deficit. He was determined to take the lead.

"We were going to go for it," McAdoo said.

The gamble – though McAdoo likely would not consider it as such - paid off when Eli Manning found rookie Sterling Shepard alone near the goal line. The touchdown pass vaulted the Giants into a 21-20 lead that held up through the end of the game, thanks to strong finishes by both the offense and defense.

"We knew it was going to take touchdowns to beat this team," McAdoo said. "It's a good football team, and we felt like we needed to score touchdowns."

They got three of them, all on Manning passes, including 10-yard scoring tosses to rookie tight end Jerell Adams and Odell Beckham, Jr. The Giants have won four consecutive games for the first time since midway through the 2013 season. That streak followed an 0-6 start. This one has improved their record to 6-3, and put them in the thick of the NFC postseason race.

McAdoo's bold decision figuratively pushed them over the goal line. And he made his mind up early not to play it safe.

Rashad Jennings – who accounted for 87 of the Giants' season-high 122 rushing yards – was stopped for no gain on the final play of the third quarter, leaving the Giants with second-and-goal from the nine. As the players walked to the other end of the field, McAdoo made his decision.

"Coach McAdoo told me on second down, 'Hey, we're in four-down territory, just so you know,'" Manning said. "…I don't know about (ever hearing that on) second down. I've heard it on third down before. We had the quarter change, so I think he had some time to think and he just wanted me to know, wanted me to tell the offensive guys, receivers, everybody, to know the circumstances that they were in four-down territory."

The coach's resolve didn't pay immediate dividends. On second down, Manning threw a pass between Beckham and Will Tye, and it was hard to tell who was supposed to catch it.

"I had a little mental collapse," Manning said. "We had a play call; we were looking for a certain coverage and didn't get it. I just had to check to a play and my mind and my hands weren't on the same page, so I screwed up on second down."

Third down was more successful – a 6-yard pass to Tavarres King, but it left the Giants shy of the goal line.

"Third down, I tried a little boot to Odell, and they did a good job to hit him and get him off the timing," Manning said. "So I knew I had to get my check down to T.K. right there. Maybe he gets it and we have a chance to go for it on fourth down. Good job by (McAdoo) telling me that on second down, just so we know the plan and we're not trying to force things to get touchdowns. Get it to fourth and goal from the (three) is a lot easier than fourth and seven."

But they still had to score, or McAdoo's decision would have backfired. Manning, the 13-year veteran, and Shepard, the second-round draft choice playing in his eighth regular-season game, combined to make the big play. hands out game balls in Monday's win over the Bengals

"It was funny," Shepard said. "Eli and I talked about it just yesterday. We were talking about that exact same play. He was telling me different looks on what to do. The first look that we talked about, that was exactly what I saw. I'm just happy I have a smart quarterback in Eli."

"Shepard just had a shallow route," Manning said. "We kind of talked about it where if he needed to make a move, he could. If he could just run right by the MIKE (middle linebacker), then run right by him and I'll hit you. That's exactly what we did. We kind of flooded the area with the back in the backfield, took out Odell there, and he just ran right by the backer and I hit him for the touchdown."

Even if he hadn't, Manning would have endorsed the go-for-it approach.

"He wants to be aggressive," Manning said. "He tells me to be aggressive with my play, my checks and take shots when we've got it, so hey, that's what he likes and we like to get completions. But we like to get our shots and get to some things, and we got to a few of them today; didn't connect on all of them but a couple of them we did, and we've got to keep doing that."

The defense helped preserve the lead by holding the Bengals to 37 yards on three possessions. Landon Collins intercepted an Andy Dalton pass (Collins' fourth pick in three games), and Cincinnati was twice forced to punt.

The last time the Bengals kicked it away, the Giants took possession at their own 41 with 3:01 remaining. Having watched the Giants' 32nd-ranked rushing attack, Cincinnati likely thought it would get both a stop and one final shot to win the game. But Jennings picked up a pair of first downs, the last on a 25-yard run immediately after the two-minute warning, to seal the deal.

McAdoo's aggressive brand of football won in the end.

"Oh, that is huge," Jennings said. "We kind of knew and understood what the possibility might be (for) a 4-down territory, so we had a game plan for it. We knew what matchups we could possibly get, and we got to the play and the line did a good job of holding up and keeping Eli clean. Execution is everything. Everyone has a good game plan. It comes down to guys making plays. Hats off to them. That's a good team. It feels good to be able to close at home."

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