N.F.C. EAST DIVISION:
New York Giants...........5-2
NEW YORK GIANTS FOOTBALL: If Playing Ugly Gets You In First Place, Disgusting Is OK With Me.
I won't be taking time out to tell you how disgusted I am with Sunday's performance in this post. I'll save that for the week. There's other more positive things to ponder after Week Eight in light of the Herculean test the Giants are about to face starting next weekend.
Well..., they won, which is the only reason why I'd even consider this tact after an uninspiring performance against the Fish. So let's start there. The Giants improved to 5-2 and solidified their lead in the NFC Eastern Division. The Redskins lost to Buffalo and the Eagles defeated the Cowboys in the Sunday night game. All that factored into giving the Giants some separation between them, the second place team, and the rest of the pack. Elsewhere, the Steelers rumbled over the Patriots in New England. The Giants will be heading to Foxboro for next week's game against the Patriots. So I'm sure there will be very careful attention paid to this week's film by Coach Coughlin and his staff.
There are two huge reasons why the Giants are in the position there are in today. First, Eli Manning is continuing to have a stellar season throwing to a receiving corps who are proving more reliable by the week. And secondly, the Giants consistently come up with huge sacks late in games. As a matter of fact, the Giants ability to get to the QB in fourth quarters has been the biggest factor in the Giants' success this season by far.
Eli Manning is indeed having a "elite" type season. And there are many reasons why. First is his poise. I don't ever remember seeing him more relaxed inside a crumbling pocket. Long gone are the happy feet of Weeks One and Two this season, and many seasons prior to this. He once was one of the least sacked QB's in the League behind a superior O-Line. But these days he's getting hit far more than he used to behind a transitioning line and yet making better passes. That comes with maturity. He knows hits are coming but now the old mis-step of throwing off his back foot appears to be a thing of the past. Hence, more accurate passes. His throws are coming in lower and as a result we've seen little to no tipped passed this season; save the Seahawks game. Overall, his INT's are no where near last season's rate.
While this game was a complete regression for Kevin Gilbride's implementation of the running game; and I'll be ripping him up later about it; over-all this season, Gilbride has made subtle changes in his play calling. As a result, the running game has been setting up the pass; which is contrary to Gilbride's usual ops. This also contributes to bringing down Eli's interceptions because far too many times, Gilbride called for very unnecessary and risky passing when all that was needed was running the ball and better clock management when trying to protect late game leads.
Lastly, credit Eli for leading a consistently changing mix of receivers over the past recent years and turning them into a steady, reliable bunch. A few years ago, Plaxico Burress was just the first shot in a seemingly on-going string of injuries to the Giants' receivers. Yet, Eli never ignored an opportunity to throw the ball to whomever was filling the position. At some point with individuals, games, and seasons, confidence building becomes as paramount to winning as matriculating the ball up the field. Eli has helped boost the levels of Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Victor Cruz, and Jake Ballard most recently. The hope here is that Eli and his Boys are ready to strike against some of the League's more elite teams now. A quick note - Hakeem Nicks may have injured himself in Sunday's game.
The Giants got to Miami's quarterback five times Sunday. Four sacks came in the fourth quarter. And each and every one of them was game critical. All the usual suspects were involved. Osi, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, and Jason Pierre Paul all registered sacks against the Dolphins. This was Justin Tuck's first game back from a neck-stinger. But the other three members of Blue Devastation have made it a habit this season of sealing Giant wins in the fourth quarter with a series of sacks. And without getting too deeply into that aspect of this last game yet, Pierre Paul, Osi, and Kiwanuka have done more to secure the Giants first place position this season than any other aspect of the Giants' game. Additionally, all that work up from has directly led to the type of season Corey Webster is enjoying so far.
This last game was a win. It was nothing to be proud of. But it's still a win. Even Super Bowl seasons are speckled with games like this. Did we have problems? Hell yeah.
We had problems on Offense with the running game and the continued under-utilization of Brandon Jacobs. The first signs of wear and tear showed up with Ahmad Bradshaw. The Giants opening drive and giving the ball up on downs was a microcosm of everything that drives me crazy about Kevin Gilbride. And Hakeem Nicks may be injured. We also had problems Defensively as the Giants allowed yet another 100-yard rusher which is becoming quite routine now. Miami rushed for almost 150-yards against the Giants.
Those problems with be dealt with in my next post as I start to examine next week's opponent a little more closely. For now, it's suffice to say, without Eli carrying the Offense and the pass-rush carrying the Defense, the Giants would not be sitting in first place.