Giants Offense Shows True Grit in Comeback Win, Injuries Pose Problems

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Sunday night’s last-minute comeback victory might illustrate the difference between this year’s embattled squad and years of playoff-missing past. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Eli Manning recapture the magic from the 2011 season in which he had 7 game-winning drives in the 4th quarter. When the Giants started their drive with about 1:41 left in this game against the 49ers, I’d tweeted that 2011 Eli would win this game, but the odds were against 2015 Eli.

Why? Because after firmly, matter-of-factly stating that Eli would lead game-winning drives in 2012 and 2013 only to be wrong on multiple occasions, I dialed back expectations in 2014 and further tempered enthusiasm this season. That cautious optimism was further diminished with 101 seconds on the game clock in this contest by the fact the Giants would be without Odell Beckham, Jr, and Rueben Randle, leaving them with a WR set of Dwayne Harris (originally #5 on the depth chart), Myles White, and Geremy Davis. I had probability of victory at about 5%.

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We see what happens when Eli tries to do too much and play outside of his skill set, he makes mystifying mistakes. He threw a devastating pick at the end of the first half that ultimately almost cost the Giants the game and he almost threw another pick on the final drive that would’ve sealed their defeat. You wonder what would’ve happened if Odell didn’t pull a Willis Reed and remained on the sideline; would Eli still have tried to throw to White or Davis on a seam / go pattern? Would the cornerback still have mauled White or Davis to keep from getting beat?

The pass interference call that gave the Giants the ball at the 12 bolstered Eli’s confidence. Entering that drive, Cris Collinsworth wondered how the Giants would manage to advance the ball. He suggested the Niners double Shane Vereen and was flabbergasted when Vereen’s catch-and-runs – due to soft man coverage – got Big Blue in a position to win. With the emergence of undrafted free agent Will Tye (from Stony Brook University), I think a lot of people – Giants fans and Niners defensive coordinators included – forgot about Larry Donnell. Larry Donnell made sure everyone would remember his game-winning catch.

While I’m ecstatic the Giants demonstrated grit in this win, spitting in the face of adversity, I have to wonder what the future holds. For once, the Giants D was able to hold on to the lead with 21 ticks on the clock, that unit is banged up and beleaguered after almost letting another win get away when they’d played so well for the first 3 quarters. But, the Giants offense might be in for some hard times. There’s a serious chance the unit suits up without Odell, Randle, and Cruz. You have to believe the Eagles watch the game tape of last night’s affair and blanket Vereen while playing aggressive bump and run against the rest of Eli’s options. That doesn’t bode well for Eli.

I have to commend the offense for performing much better on third down with an efficiency of 64%. It seems they finally got away from throwing to wideouts and tight ends well short of the first down marker and instead attacked down the field. And when they weren’t doing that they were leaning on Vereen to get into open space and do what he does best. More of that, please, and less of that mind-bottling 3rd and 7 draw. In what world does Vereen run for 7 yards in that scenario?

The offensive line allowed 0 sacks in 54 pass attempts, but I have a feeling that had more to do with Ben McAdoo’s quick-decision system and Eli’s ability to get the ball out quickly.

The major crux for the offensive side of the ball is their ineptitude in the red zone. They were 3 of 6, which is actually an improvement over their season average, but still not as good as last year’s, which came in at 60% and ranked 8th best in the league. They came into the game at around 45%, but they’re still third from last in the league in punching it in. Only the Browns (2-3) and Seahawks (2-3) are worse.

Rashad Jennings ran hard. I like how he’s streamlined his running style. Last year and early on this season, he wasn’t assertive, didn’t run downhill. Now, you’re see a more lean-forward, north-south approach and it’s getting him that extra 1-2 yards per carry. Over 10 or more carries that 10-20 more yards, math-heads! This is the face of math.

Eli wouldn’t be Eli if he didn’t have a handful of bizarre life choices. That interception before the first half is really unacceptable. As good as the game-winning throw was to Donnell, that’s how bad that throw was. You’d think after the debilitating turnovers and blunders in the red zone in the first 2 weeks of the game and last week against Buffalo, that Eli would play smarter in opponent territory, but no dice. Eli almost had 2 interceptions in the end zone and another 2 picks on other scoring drive if the Niners defenders could hold on to the ball.

Of all the impressive stats Eli generated, I think the distribution of wealth might’ve been the coolest. Four different receivers with 6 catches or more. In Madden, that would be mega bonus points / badges / medals.

Brad Wing continues to impress. Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oy Oy Oy.

The defense is straight up falling apart due to injuries. We knew Devon Kennard and Robert Ayers, Jr. were ruled out before the game started, then the Giants lose MLB and defensive Captain Jon Beason to a concussion. There’s a good chance all 3 of those guys miss the Monday nighter against Philly. All those scratches could lead to a really embarrassing blowout in primetime and a tie atop the division with the ‘breaker going to the Eagles.

The Sunday Night Football crew showed a graphic in the fourth quarter to illustrate just how bad this defense is down the stretch. Sure enough, they’re dead last in points and yards allowed in the final frame. And, it’s been like that every week. Week to week, the Giants defense softens and allows the other team to effortlessly score points. Their wins in Weeks 3 and 4 were seriously threatened by defensive letdowns and it nearly cost them again here if it weren’t for a dropped interception and Larry Donnell’s iron-clad hands.

Colin Kaepernick came into this game a shell of a man, his job security in question (Blaine Gabbert?), and his reputation at stake. He’s “not Russell Wilson, bro” as Clay Matthews pointed out last week. Yet, Kaepernick looked more like his old self.

The Bicept-kisser was 23 of 35 for 262 yards and 2 with 0 interceptions, though many would argue Giants safety Landon Collins should’ve snagged that 1 pass in the end zone. He also rushed 3 times for 23 yards and frankly, I’m shocked he didn’t scramble for way more. It was fairly evident the Giants weren’t keying on him, at least not with the Mike. Anytime there was a pass or play-action, Unga (replacing Beason) would bail out and sprint back to cover the middle. It’s nuts to me that the 49ers have abandoned designed runs for Kaepernick. Granted, many of his bootlegs were well-contained by Herzlich and Company, but it seems like the read-option is no longer a part of San Fran’s arsenal.

While much of the praise for the defense has come for the secondary – particularly Landon Collins and Prince Amukamara – without any pass rush, quarterbacks will be able to pick them apart. The Giants did get 2 sacks, but those were thanks in part to the coverage. And, they almost had 3 turnovers, 2 fumbles and a dropped INT.

You have to love Odell showing emotion in the post-game interview on the field, but I think he’s crying because he knows he’ll be out for a few weeks with that nagging hamstring injury. At the same time, how do you hurt yourself dancing? Cool it with the herky-jerk moves, brah. Stick to the salsa.

Also gotta love the Giants dedicating the game to Daniel Fells.


Before this past week’s performance against New Orleans, I’d say the Giants have a pretty decent shot at gaining another game lead in the division with a tight win against the Eagles, but after the show they put on Sunday against the Saints, I’m concerned the Giants might get humiliated. Sure, the Saints defense is among the worst in the league, but more than that, Philadelphia is healthy. DeMarco Murray, Darren Sproles, Ryan Mathews, Celek, and Ertz could have Big Blue’s head spinning. Granted, Philly’s receiving corps isn’t as potent as years past, but with a lackluster pass rush, the Giants could be in for a long night. Philly’s offensive line has come under fire, so maybe Spags dials up some intricate blitzing schemes, but with backups filling in, I don’t see that happening. Let’s just hope we don’t have another Cruz-like season-ender.

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