Redemption. After last week’s embarrassing loss to Seattle, the Giants bounced back with a gritty and confidence building win. The headline for this game is turnovers. Webster 2 and the Bills ZERO. Late in the fourth quarter, Giants cornerback Corey Webster made a game saving interception. This interception snarled a Buffalo scoring opportunity. If Webster does not pick off Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald’s pass, this game could have had a different outcome. This Bills team has feasted off of turnovers all season long. Coming into this game, the Bills were a league best at PLUS ELEVEN in the takeaway/giveaway ratio. And the Giants were not careless with the football. No interceptions by Manning. No tipped balls by Giants receivers which led to any interceptions. And no fumbles.
Although the Giants got off to an inauspicious start, trailing Buffalo by 14-7 early, they were able to battle back. At one point in the first half, they had a lead of 17-14. But they battled all game long. They did not give up. They played 60 minutes of football. They finished!
Eli Manning: When Eli is in a groove, he is a top notch quarterback. Against Buffalo, Eli was impeccable. Throwing the ball with touch and accuracy. His 60 yard pass to WR Hakeem Nicks was on the mark. If it was not for Nicks “hot dogging it”, this could have been a touchdown. Another pass to Mario Manningham was on target too. Once MM landed in the end zone, he could not maintain possession. The replay official upheld the ruling on the field: an incomplete pass. Undaunted by the Bills pass rush, on a red zone possession, Eli was smart with football. Instead of forcing something, he wisely threw the ball away. He finished 21 for 32 for 292 yards. No touchdowns. But he did not thow any interceptions. After watching Eli play over the last eight seasons, this is the best game he has played. If the Giants are going to make a run, we need Eli to play at this level. Yes, he played like an elite quarterback.
Ahmad Bradshaw: All week leading up to this game, questions were raised about the Giants sputtering rushing attack. How come the Giants cannot run the ball? A Giants team 28th in rushing? Well, Ahmad Bradshaw took care of business on Sunday. Bradshaw rushed for over 100 yards today. The first time a Giants rusher eclipsed the 100 yard mark this season. Bradshaw, a workhorse, carried the ball 26 times for 104 yards and THREE touchdowns. His performance reminded me of the days of Rodney Hampton and Ottis Anderson. Plodding along all day long. Getting positive yards. Then breaking a big run late in a game. With 3:24 minutes left in the game, Bradshaw’s longest gain of the season put the Giants in scoring position. Eventually, they had to settle for a field goal which turned out to be the game winner. In addition to his overall rushing, Bradshaw’s runs in the red zone were so important. All of his touchdowns, were one yard runs. As with this Giants performance, Bradshaw finished off drives with touchdowns.
Offensive line: Much maligned all season, the Giants offensive line has not played well. The Giants were 28th in rushing coming into this game. The line was having its problems with pass protection too. Allowing Eli Manning to be sacked 14 times through five game. Last year, Manning was sacked 16 times. Even though their best lineman offensive guard Chris Snee did not play, the line was physical and provided Eli with excellent pass protection. Eli was not sacked at all. Beatty, Diehl, Baas, Boothe, and McKenzie deserve game balls for a job well done.
Kevin Gilbride: Usually a goat. Gilbride called an excellent game. His use of more two TE formations and sticking with the run allowed the Giants to maintain a rhythm for the entire game. Because they were in a rhythm, they were able to put together impressive scoring drives. Mixing the run and the pass, Gilbride’s offense was in sync. For example, on their first possession of the third quarter, the Giants had a 10 play drive. 5 runs. 5 passes. This is the balance head coach Tom Coughlin likes. This balanced drive culminated with an Ahmad Bradshaw touchdown run. More importantly, the drive took off about 5 minutes off of the clock. Moreover, Gilbride continues to use the TE. Throwing to a TE, helped the Giants move the chains. Giants TE’s caught SEVEN passes in this game. Five catches by Jake Ballard and two by Bear Pascoe.
Lowlights: If it was not for Corey Webster, the Giants defense would have been the culprit. Giving up big plays, unable to get stops especially after the Giants offense scored, and losing the battle on first down continue to be problematic for this defense. Untouched on his 80 yard scuttle for a touchdown, Fred Jackson blew by the whole Giants defense. Defensive tackles Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty were blown off the line of scrimmage. By misreading the play, linebacker Michael Boley took himself out of the play. And safety Deon Grant took a terrible angle. Then, one their next possession, the Giants defense allowed yet another big play. This time WR Naaman Roosevelt caught a pass and ran 60 yards for a touchdown. Just like that, the Giants were down 14-7. Even with wristbands, the Giants defense still could not get things corrected. Thankfully, for the remainder of this game, the Giants defense did not give up any more long gains. Bills running back Fred Jackson finished the day with 121 yards. So, they held him in check for the remainder of this game. But they had their problems with pass/run threat Brad Smith. Smith, the former Jet, gained 26 yards on 4 carries. So once again, the Giants gave up 100 yards on the ground for the fourth week in a row. With the Giants having problems stopping the run, the defense did not allow Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for over 300 yards. Fitzpatrick, efficient all afternoon, completed 21 passes out of 29 attempts for 244 yards. But Fitzpatick made critical mistakes at crucial times. Again, Corey Webster came to the Giants rescue.
Special teams: Another Giants game under special teams coach Tom Quinn. And another blunder. This time plackicker Lawrence Tynes 51 yard field goal was blocked. Late in the third quarter, the Giants looking to extend their seven point lead, the special teams could not block effectively. The result Tynes’ second blocked field goal of this season. Instead of the Giants going up by 10 points, they still clung onto a seven point lead. Subsequently, the Bills scored on the ensuing possession to tie this game at 24.
In summary, going into their bye, the Giants are 4-2 and all alone atop the NFC East. Fabulous news. Their next game is against a struggling Miami team. If they could get to 5-2 going into the meat of their schedule, they will be in a good shape. The Giants appear to have the offense on the right track. Eli, the running game, and the offensive line showed fantastic improvement. On the other hand, this defense needs tweaking. Star DE Justin Tuck will be back to play against Miami. This is welcomed news. As of now, things are looking positive. Let us hope the Giants can continue improving as this season unfolds. Prior to this season commencing, remember what Andy informed us. The season does not begin until we play New England in November.