In a game in which the Giants had to win, they defeated Dallas at Cowboys Stadium. Snapping a FOUR game losing streak, the Giants are 7-6 and in first place in the NFC East. If it was not for the stellar play of Eli Manning and JPP, the Giants would have not won this game.
Eli Manning: Eli Manning has been amazing this season. Last night, once again, Eli put up gaudy numbers. Eli was 27 for 47 for 400 yards 2 touchdowns and one interception. All night long, Eli was hitting receivers in stride. Even with pressure in his face, Eli made big time stick throws. In my opinion, this was his finest regular season game. With the Giants trailing by 12 points late in the fourth quarter, he led the Giants on two touchdown drives. Think about how good he has been. The Giants have only one star skilled player. And that is Hakeem Nicks. Nicks had SEVEN catches for 154 yards. Yes, WR Victor Cruz has been a huge surprise. But he is not playing at Nicks’ level. Eli does not have a quality TE. Indeed, like Cruz, Ballard has been impressive. But teams do not game plan for Ballard. Factor this with the Giants woeful rushing attack (worst in the NFL) and quite frankly, Eli has been remarkable. If the Giants win the NFC East, a strong case could be made for Eli as the MVP of the league.
JPP: America saw a star in the making. DE Jason Pierre-Paul was our defense. His outstanding performance reminded all of us of how Lawrence Taylor played the game. JPP was dominant. He was all over the field making plays. He led all Giants’ defenders with 6 solo and 2 assisted tackles. He had two sacks. One of the sacks resulted in a safety. A forced fumble led to 3 points. And most importantly, with six seconds left in the contest, he blocked the game-tying field goal. With DE Osi Umenyiora out of this game with an injury and DE Justin Tuck playing limited snaps because of a plethora of injuries, JPP was our one-man wrecking crew. Like Manning, if JPP has three more superb games and the Giants win the NFC East, JPP very well could be the NFL’s defensive player of the year.
Giants offensive line and Brandon Jacobs: This is a huge uptick. The Giants makeshift offensive line was able to open holes for Brandon Jacobs and pass protect well. In recent weeks, Jacobs erratic play appeared to be an indicator that his career was going downhill. With last night’s performance against Dallas, Jacobs quelled his critics. Jacobs had 19 carries for 101 yards and two touchdowns. The tiptoeing was gone and the North-South running was back. Jacobs also had his longest run of the year, a 19 yard gain. Speaking of making gains, the Giants offensive line has been so much better. With William Beatty and David Baas out of the starting lineup, the Giants have made strides. Is it a coincidence? Time will tell. But with Diehl moving back to tackle, Mitch Petrus at left guard, and Kevin Boothe at center, the Giants have had two consecutive games in which they rushed for over 100 yards. Furthermore, the pass protection was excellent. The Cowboys had some pressures but ended with zero sacks. Eli’s pocket presence in feeling the rush has been fantastic.
Take away the play of JPP, and this Giants defense is the worst in the league. How many times do they give up big plays? How many blown coverages? How many times are guys wide open in the middle of the field? Time and again it is the same thing. It is the same thing over and over again. Under Coughlin without Steve Spagnuolo, the Giants’ defenses have been putrid. When Tim Lewis was defensive coordinator his defenses could not get big stops. Same thing with Bill Sheridan. And now Perry Fewell is an abomination too. After Bill Sheridan was dispatched after the miserable 2009 season, Fewell was hired as his replacement. When hired, Fewell said this about his expectations about his defense. “Disciplined, attacking, aggressive, eleven hats to the football.” Since he has been the coordinator, I have not seen a Fewell defense play with intensity for an entire game. Our credo here at UltimateNYG is Defense wins championships. Despite Eli Manning’s heroics and JPP’s emergence as a play maker, this Giants team is not going anywhere unless they get their defensive problems fixed. But at this point in the season, it is highly unlikely Fewell will get things corrected.
Kevin Gilbride. Early in this game, the Giants had an opportunity to take over this game. But what got in the way? Kevin Gilbride. The Giants red zone offense was horrible. After Hakeem Nicks made a spectacular 64 yard catch, the Giants had the ball on the Cowboys four yard line. What does Gilbride call? A fade to Nicks. Incomplete. Then he calls a fade to Beckum. Same result. And on 3rd and goal, a draw play gained NEGATIVE one yard. The Giants had to settle for a FG. On their next red zone possession, the Giants had the ball on the Dallas TWELVE yard line. On first down, Gilbride called a run. Jacobs fights for 3 yards. On second down, he called another run. Jacobs is stoned at the line of scrimmage. No gain. Then on third down, the Giants get a gift from the referees. On a pass which was uncatchable, one of the officials flagged Cowboys defender Gerald Sensabaugh for pass interference. Without question, Gilbride was bailed out by the officials. It was a borderline call. Thankfully with an assist by the refs, the Giants scored a TD. Then on their third red zone offensive possession of the first half, the Giants had to settle for a FG. For whatever reason, Gilbride does not use deception as a weapon. And we have talked about this ad nauseum. In these three red zone possessions, Gilbride did not use any kind of misdirection. Recall our Rules for Winning in the NFL- Number EIGHT: Do the unpredictable. Once you are predictable you are dead. Because of his feeble-mindedness, the Giants scored one touchdown and two field goals.
Two crucial plays:
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s errant incomplete pass to Miles Austin. On this third down play, if Romo throws an accurate pass, the Cowboys win the game and end the Giants season.
Mario Manningham’s dropped touchdown pass. Yes. Why was this crucial? Because, ironically, if he held onto the ball, more time would have been left on the play clock. Certainly, the way this game was going, if Romo had more time, Dallas could of scored a game winning touchdown. Or they could have gotten into closer FG range.
With this win, the Giants improve to 2-2 against NFC East opponents, 4-6 in the NFC conference, and in first place in NFC East with a 7-6 record. Now, the Giants control their own destiny. If they win their remaining three games, they will make the playoffs.