NYG 52 NO 27

What would you say if we were told before the game started that these would be the following stats:

  Giants Saints
1st downs 24 22
3rd down efficiency 5-11 5-13
Total Yards 394 487
INTs 2 2
DEF/Special Teams TDs 1 1
Time of Possession 29:42 30:18
Sacks 1 0
FGs 1/2 2/2

Pretty tight game, eh?

What if we shared these stats instead?

  Giants Saints
Penalties 6-55 10-81
Fumbles lost 0 2
Red Zone 4-5 2-4
Kick Returns 287 149

This blog is not a stat sheet blog.  But we try to analyze the team to figure out why the team is winning and losing.  The Giants have done a lot of both this year, unfortunately, leading to a 7-5 record going into this game.  In the past 4 games, the Giants went 1-3, and the reason why is that they simply did not play enough good football.  Versus the Steelers, they did not tackle well and did not play w urgency.  Vs the Bengals, they did not play with energy.  Vs the Redskins they committed too many penalties.  Versus the Saints, the Giants defense did not do a lot of good things, but when you combine an offense that was able to move the ball, a 4-2 turnover margin, less penalties and a special teams unit that undressed the opposition, it was a strong win.  The Saints are as enigmatic in 2012 as the Giants are, but the Giants have enough order this year plus a home field to get the W.

Antrel Rolle and David Wilson made impact play after impact play.  It took too long for the Specials coach of NO to adjust and stop kicking to Wilson.  Even Jerrel Jernigan got into the act with a great return of his own.  For his part, David Wilson has been ripping off many great kickoff returns this year, but so many were negated by the other 10 men committing penalty after penalty.  This time the penalties were cut out and each run was able to stand.  If this happened vs WAS (2 Cordle penalties negating huge returns), the Giants could have easily won the game.  If I am facing the Giants, I am very concerned about this rookie named Wilson killing me on specials.  He is that good.  He runs full speed through holes and he is hard to catch.  This "Hidden Yardage" is not so hidden when the Giants AVERAGED 48 yards per kickoff return.  Very big stuff.

Rookies are very big stuff in the NFL.  We have been talking on this NY Giants blog for many years about how important it is to have rookies get you over the top.  In today's Salary Cap League, you better get meaningful contributions from your rookies because these are the cheaper players making your roster that WILL be called upon to fill in when veterans go down.  In 2007, it was Ross filling in and getting meaningful playing time, Boss lighting it up when Shockey went down, Bradshaw stealing Jacobs' thunder, Johnson filling a huge role at Safety, Steve Smith on 3rd and 11 in the Super Bowl… In 2011, it was faux-rookie Victor Cruz who carried the entire team.  In 2012, we have the emergence of Wilson on specials and 3rd year player (but really his first chunk of starts in the NFL) Stevie Brown.  It is pretty amazing that Stevie Brown broke a NY Giants franchise record with most return yardage for a season on INTs.  These are impact plays, and you need them to win games.  The Giants were in an offensive dogfight until Brown blew the game open with a huge INT at the NYG 8 yd line that was returned all the way to the Saints 22.  That is a 70 yard return.  Add another 21 yards of INT return yardage on the first play from scrimmage in Q3, and you get a football field from this faux-rookie.

This is as good a moment to praise Antrel Rolle as I can think of.  That Q3 pick by Brown was created by great coverage of TE Jimmy Graham by Antrel Rolle.  Antrel Rolle has been as consistent a player as anyone on the NY Giants this season. JPP is up there in impact, but even the great JPP has been held silent in sacks the last 3 games (as well as victimized by edge/run).  Eli Manning, who threw two awful picks (again, 1 for a TD the other way) vs the Saints, has simply not been consistent.  Cruz has gotten more attention this year from defenses, and has dropped too many balls.  Nicks is the walking wounded.  Antrel Rolle caused one fumble, picked up another, caused an INT and made a key stop on 3rd down.  Did I miss anything? He plays Corner, he plays Safety. He guards slot receivers, he guards TEs. This defense needs a credible LBer to stuff the run and some revitalization on the DL.  Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown are making tons of plays for the defense.  They will make even more if the front 7 can stop the run and get to the QB.

So where are the Gmen right now? At 8-5, they are still in control of their own fate. They need to win out. RGIII (barring a positive MRI) is lighting up the Skins.  One game at a time for the Giants. Beat ATL in Atlanta.  Everyone says that ATL is vulnerable, and I am not buying their stock either.  They haven't shown the ability to beat the best teams, especially in January.  So next Sunday will be a good test for both teams. Because the Giants were sloppy enough earlier this season, they lost games they could have and should have won.  Now they need to win a few games they can lose. 

This is what the regular season needs to be.  For the NY Giants, they need to improve in order to win a title. Eli needs to protect the ball better and play 4 solid Qs.  The DL needs to play better.  Rivers and Williams need to help the LBer corps.  Hixon's huge grab is what the WRs need to do to take the pressure off of Cruz and a hobbled Nicks.  Wilson needs to learn his protections so that he can be used down the stretch in passing situations (the run keys are killing him and Gilbride).  There is still plenty of time to improve, win games and start peaking for the playoffs.            

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