The Giants hushed all of the doubters on Sunday night with a dominant 38-10 win against the Packers. It was definitely the best all around game the team has played this season. (The rout of the Niners in San Francisco was impressive as well but the Giants scored 5 offensive TDs against Green Bay – as opposed to settling for 4 FGs and just 2 TDs at Candlestick). Eli and Coughlin are always fantastic off the bye week but I was definitely a little nervous going into Sunday night.
Coming off 2 losses, including a very bad one to the Bengals, Sunday’s win was vital not only to regain a 2-game division lead but also to beat a hot conference opponent. It’s so fun to watch the Giants when they click on all cylinders. Sunday was another example of how good this team can be when they want to. The upcoming schedule is still very difficult but this was quintessential Giants – a confidence-building win that fans have come to expect over the past 5 seasons. Right when you think they’re down and out, they play a game that leads you to believe they could make a deep playoff run.
As we get set to play December football, here are 5 facts that I and the rest of the league know about the Giants:
1. They are a better team on the road than they are at home. When simply looking at this year’s splits (4-2 at home, 3-2 on the road), it may not be obvious that this fact is true. But when you look at the individual games, the Giants have played much better on the road than at home this season. The only dominant home win was Sunday night’s. Prior to that the Giants eked out victories against the Redskins, Bucs and Browns. They trailed early against Cleveland and Tampa, needing to score 41 points in each game to win and Eli needed a late 77-yard TD pass to Cruz to beat Washington. The two home losses came against Pittsburgh (a winnable game in which the Steelers outscored the Giants 14-0 in the 4th quarter) and Dallas (1st game of the season and a game in which Kevin Ogletree had 114 yards and 2 TD).
Meanwhile, the Giants had dominant road wins against Niners and Panthers (outscoring them by a combined 62-10) and willed out a win against Dallas at Cowboys Stadium despite having trouble finding the end zone (5 Tynes FGs). They fell short in Philly but literally by inches as Tynes’ game-winning FG came up just shy of the crossbar. Eli and company were in position to win that game until Hixon committed an offensive pass interference penalty that made Tynes’ FG a lot more difficult. Then there was the blow-out loss at Cincinnati , which I view as an outlier due to the teams’ fatigue having not had their bye week yet.
Don’t forget about how well the Giants have played on the road during their playoff runs. During their two Super Bowl runs, they played just one home game. Coughlin knows how to prepare his team for road games. It’s great to have the home crowd and the comfort of your stadium but for some reason the Giants seem to be more comfortable away from MetLife Stadium (both this year and in year’s past).
2. They are nearly impossible to beat when they pressure the QB. The defensive line has been a staple of the Giants’ success in recent years. Teams know they have to prepare for it and the Giants have been hoarding sack machines. JPP is the latest freak athlete to terrorize opposing quarterbacks. He along with the rest of the D-line and linebackers didn’t give Rodgers any time to sit back and do his thing on Sunday night. The result was just 10 points from an offense that had been averaging 30 points a game during its 5-game winning streak. Actually, Rodgers threw a 61-yard TD to Jordy Nelson on his first offensive possession of the game. Then New York held Rodgers and the Pack to just 3 points over the next 55 minutes. The Giants sacked Rodgers 6 times on Sunday night and when they do that, they simply don’t lose.
The secondary is average. It has been like that for years and to be honest the way the rules are set up, there isn’t much a secondary can do if a QB is given time in the pocket. Any QB who is given time will eventually find an open receiver and great QBs will shred defenses when they have time. Luckily, the Giants front office realized the importance of pressuring the QB a long time ago. The defensive line can neutralize any deficiencies in the secondary. If everyone can stay healthy down the stretch, the pressure will make it very difficult for any offense to score against the Giants.
3. They are clutch. Any casual football fan knows that Eli Manning is clutch. He set the franchise record for most 4th quarter comebacks last season and he’s engineered 2 Super Bowl-winning TD drives. But it’s not just Eli who is clutch. He is a huge part of the team’s ability to perform when the game is on the line but almost everyone on the team has done the same. In the biggest moments, everyone seems to play their best.
Although neither is still on the team, Manningham and Tyree were clutch in coming up with amazing catches during those Super Bowl drives. Cruz has come up huge with long TD catches in key spots (against the Cowboys and Jets last season and the Redskins this season). The defense has come up with timely sacks (Tuck of Brady in both Super Bowls) and interceptions (Blackburn in the Super Bowl). It’s impossible to be clutch all of the time but the Giants and especially Eli Manning seem to have a propensity for being clutch and winning more often than not.
4. They are deep and well-coached. Like every NFL team, the Giants always seem to suffer a handful of devastating injuries. Terrell Thomas’ knee cost him a 2nd straight season this year. The offensive line, which used to be the same exact group game after game, has been mixed and matched due to injury. On Sunday night, Andre Brown was lost for year with a broken leg. He had been such a nice surprise and stepped into Jacobs’ old role better than Jacobs had when he was in New York. It happens to every franchise but the Giants always seem to have an answer.
Barden and Randle stepped up when Nicks missed a couple of games. Locklear, Boothe and Beatty all stepped up to fill in on the line when they were needed. Stevie Brown has been an amazing replacement for an injured Kenny Phillips and Prince and Holsey have both seen added responsibilities since losing Thomas. All of them have answered the call. This is a testament to those players and the coaching. The ability to call the next guy up on the depth chart and believe in their ability to get the job done stems from great coaching. Coughlin and his coaching staff know their team very well and the team believes in them as well. Good coaching is a necessity if you want to win in the postseason and the Giants have no shortage of it.
5. They have won 2 of the last 5 Super Bowls. This fact speaks for itself and was obviously a large part of the supporting arguments behind the other 4 facts. Nevertheless, the Giants have made themselves into constant contenders who have not had a losing season since 2004. That’s not an easy accomplishment in the NFL – the league that features such great parity.
Given these facts, I don’t know anyone can doubt the Giants as serious candidates to return to the Super Bowl.
A big division game coming up this week on national TV. Beating the Redskins on Monday Night Football would give the Giants 8 wins and put them in prime position to win the division. It’s going to be a tough game but I expect the Giants to take care of business. December football is when it gets serious and I’m liking where the Giants are at heading into the final month of the regular season.