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Cover 3: Reasons for Giants' 3-game win streak


The crew discusses the biggest takeaways from the team's 19-17 win over the Bengals that produced a three-game winning streak.

John Schmeelk: The Giants' defense has been the driving force for their recent wins. In the Giants' four wins this season, they have not allowed more than 20 points. In their last six games overall, the defense hasn't allowed more than 25 points. In each of their last three victories, the defense has made crucial stops in the fourth quarter to seal victories.

Many of those stops have come with a takeaway. The Giants intercepted Alex Smith twice to seal the victory against Washington three weeks ago. The Eagles turned it over on downs twice in the fourth quarter in their game, and the Giants forced/recovered two Bengals fumbles in the fourth quarter.

In their four wins this season, the Giants' defense has forced 10 turnovers – they resulted in 30 of the team's 89 points. In those games, the Giants also won the turnover battle, 10-2. The offense has done their part, played at a competent level and avoided mistakes, but the defense deserves the bulk of the credit for having the team tied with Washington in first place atop the NFC East.

Now, everyone will find out if that can continue. The Giants' four wins have come against teams that rank 30th, 28th, and 27th in yards gained per play and between 24th-26th in points per game. Two of the teams (Washington and Cincinnati) did not have their starting quarterback against the Giants, though Alex Smith is not a standard backup.

In the next two weeks, the Giants will face elite quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray. Seattle ranks fifth in yards gained per play and Arizona 12th. Seattle is second in points per game, and Arizona seventh. These are explosive offensive teams with quarterbacks who are different than anything the Giants have seen this season with their ability to throw and run.

The Giants' defense has played very sound zone defense and done an excellent job disguising their coverages. They take advantage of the veteran secondary's intelligence and don't get caught in the wrong position. They'll get to see if their approach and execution will work against improved competition in the coming two weeks.

Dan Salomone: What is the hallmark of Joe Judge's mentors? Situational football. Just look at how the Giants won each of their past three games. In Washington, Logan Ryan intercepted Alex Smith on the final possession. Against the Eagles, the Giants pitched a fourth-quarter shutout and tacked on two field goals to put the game away. Most recently, in Cincinnati, Jabaal Sheard strip-sacked Brandon Allen, and Leonard Williams recovered the fumble to seal the win.

Judge hasn't been a believer in the "Giants need to learn how to win again" narrative, stressing the importance of playing tough and sound for the full 60 minutes and not just the final two. But you can't overlook the fact that the Giants are on their first three-game winning streak since 2016.

"I told these guys before the game that winning is a mentality, you have to wake up like a winner, move like a winner, practice like a winner" said Ryan, who won two Super Bowls with Judge in New England. "We're starting to move like winners, play like winners, starting to believe that we can win each and every game. I think that takes time; it has to be developed. I think we're developing it for sure, I'm proud of the group and I'm proud of the win [Sunday]."

At the end of the day, that's all that matters.

Lance Medow: Sunday's game against the Bengals proved once again why the NFL is defined by parity and the line between a win and a loss is extremely narrow, regardless of whether your team loses its starting quarterback. All three facets contribute to a game, but the Giants' defense deserves a lot of credit because their key stops and opportunistic plays proved to be huge difference makers.

Given a handful of special teams mishaps, this game was all about field position and with the game on the line, the Giants' defense denied the Bengals from capitalizing. Alex Erickson returned a punt 29 yards through several missed tackles to put Cincinnati at midfield with just under a minute to go and trailing by two. All the Bengals needed was about 20 yards to try a go-ahead field goal. On their first snap, defensive end Jabaal Sheard sacked Brandon Allen and forced a fumble, which Leonard Williams recovered to seal the win.

Cincinnati's other two turnovers came when it was a one possession game and stalled promising drives. Niko Lalos' first career interception came off a deflection after the Bengals recorded two first downs. And Logan Ryan's strip-recovery came on a 14-yard pass to Drew Sample to set up a very manageable second down. No drive can be overlooked when you win a game by two points.

The Giants' defense held the Bengals to just 155 total yards and a 30% (3-10) third-down conversion rate. Half of Cincinnati's third downs were for 8+ yards and they didn't convert any of those. That's what happens when you hold the opposition to just 40 rushing yards (with one run over 10). Without Joe Burrow, the Bengals knew they'd have to be creative in order to put points on the board and the Giants' defense was able to cover up some special teams issues. Over the last three games, the Giants are plus-7 in turnover differential, with eight takeaways and one turnover. In comparison, they were minus-5 in their first eight games combined. It's clearly a big reason why the team has won three games in a row.

View photos from the Week 12 matchup between the Giants and Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

View photos from the Week 12 matchup between the Giants and Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.


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