Antrel Rolle (26) of the New York Giants intercepts a pass intended for Larry Fitzgerald (11) of the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 2, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. Giants won 31-27. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Sunday's 31-27 come-from-behind victory by the New York Giants over the Arizona Cardinals is one of those unforgettable games that -- should the Giants make the playoffs this season -- you will look back on and understand how important the Giants' gritty fourth-quarter comeback was.
Let's get right to the 'Kudos & Wet Willies,' which will be followed by some other thoughts on Sunday's performance.
Kudos to ...
Rule 7.2.1(e) -- I have looked at the Victor Cruz play a number of times now, and I think the rule was applied properly. Cruz does appear to go down on his own after catching a pass from Eli Manning, and he definitely simply puts the ball on the ground and attempts to get up and go back to the huddle. Proper application of the rule does not mean Cruz did not suffer a serious brain cramp here -- he should have waited to be touched or waited to hear the whistle before attempting to get up at all. It just means that, in retrospect, I think the call was correct.
Hakeem Nicks -- The biggest complement I can pay Nicks is that he is a man. A physical, strong, imposing, athletic man who can make catches no matter what defensive backs try to do with him. The Cardinals, particularly cornerback Patrick Peterson, tried to play rough with Nicks on Sunday. They beat him up at the line of scrimmage and hit him hard when he had the ball. Yet, Nicks came up with 10 catches for 162 yards, including the game-winner when he simply ignored Peterson's attempt to get physical and blew right past the rookie.
Eli Manning -- The Giants' quarterback was good for the first three quarters, and absolutely brilliant in the final quarter. He was seven-for-eight for 126 yards and two TDs on the final two drives and 27-for-40 for for 321 yards overall.
Osi Umenyiora -- Osi was Osi in his return to action, with a patented strip/sack of Kevin Kolb and then a big fourth-quarter sack as well. His run defense, as always, was suspect but Umenyiora turned in a game-changing play -- which is what he gets paid for.
Victor Cruz -- Cruz and the Giants caught a break with the ruling that he had given himself up, and since there was no harm to the Giants I can't hold that against him here. Besides, Cruz admitted on Twitter Sunday night that he had gotten scolded for the play by his mother. Nothing we can say here is worse than getting scolded by mom, so we'll let that go.
Cruz caught six passes for 98 yards, working both in the slot and outside. If Mario Manningham (one catch, 10 yards) doesn't step it up soon he might find himself working as the Giants' No. 3 receiver. Sunday showed that Cruz's effort against Philadelphia was not a fluke, and also that there is an increasing comfort level between Cruz and Manning.
Giants' Secondary -- Yeah, Larry Fitzgerald caught eight balls for 102 yards. Big deal. He made one great play, taking an interception away from a perfectly-positioned Deon Grant. That's why Fitzgerald might be the best receiver in the game. 'Kudos' to the entire secondary, though, for keeping Fitzgerald in front of them all day and keeping him out of the end zone. Let's highlight some individuals:
- Antrel Rolle -- Tremendous in his return to Arizona. A brilliant interception on a ball down the sideline for Fitzgerald. Rolle was playing center field on this play, where I would love to see him more often, and made a great break on the ball. Maybe overlooked was a tremendous play on third-and-four with the Giants trailing, 27-24, in the final minutes. Rolle stepped around Early Doucet on a slant that would have given Arizona a first down, batting the pass away and giving the ball back to the Giants. We know what they did with it. Rolle had two passes defensed and six tackles.
- Corey Webster -- 'Kudos' simply for the final play, correctly diagnosing the slant to Fitzgerald on fourth-and-two and breaking up the play, effectively ending the game. Webster gave up some completions to Fitzgerald, but kept him under control the entire game. Webster ended up with two passes defensed.
Will Beatty -- When I re-watched the game Monday morning I spent a lot of time watching the line play. I can't recall watching the young left tackle miss a block or get beaten off the edge in pass protection the entire game. Plus, on a couple of occasions when the Giants had to have a yard in the running game they chose to go behind Beatty. That tells you what Kevin Gilbride and the coaching staff think of the job he's doing.
Dave Tollefson -- Two sacks for the hard-working veteran. By the way, stay out of Tolly's way when he celebrates a sack with that crazy, spinning celebration. Get too close, somebody is going to get kicked in a very bad spot.
Jake Ballard -- Kevin who? Nice numbers for Ballard, three catches for 33 yards and one touchdown. It was how he got those numbers, though, that was impressive. A brilliant, athletic, twisting and tap-dancing touchdown catch for the 270-pounder. Good work on the throwback from Manning that nearly resulted in a touchdown. A nice play downfield working to get open when Manning was searching for a receiver. On top of which, as far as I can tell he is continuing to do a fine job as blocker.
Stacy Andrews -- Absolutely phenomenal work on Bradshaw's 13-yard touchdown run. Andrews, as a second tight end, caved in the entire right side of the Arizona defense. He got his initial block, kept driving upfield and ended up wiping out three Cardinals' defenders.
Wet Willies To ...
Kareem McKenzie -- A season ago McKenzie was probably the best lineman the Giants had. This season, he's been their worst and his struggles continued on Sunday. For the second time this season McKenzie missed a cut block on a bubble screen to his side, resulting in the guy he was supposed to block being able to bat the ball down. At least this time it did not go for a Pick Six. Also, how does a guy in his 11th year in the league get a penalty for lining up incorrectly? Again, I believe that is twice this season.
Chris Snee -- Three penalties for the Pro Bowl guard? C'mon Chris, you are better than that!
Brandon Jacobs -- Nine carries for just 18 yards, and a huge mistake on a missed blocking assignment that led to an Eli Manning fumble. Hey Brandon, you can't just run right by a 300-pound guy who is two steps from killing your quarterback!
Mario Manningham -- Just one catch, and a couple of instances where you could see that he wasn't where Manning thought he was going to be.
Here are a few thoughts that really did not fit into the 'Kudos & Wet Willies,' but that I wanted to mention.
- You have to be concerned about the Giants' running game. They averaged just 2.2 yards per attempt Sunday, putting pretty much the entire load on the shoulders of Eli Manning. That has to change.
- Aaron Ross was impressive returning punts. A 13-yard return and an 18-yard return. Ross has been secure with the football, and impressively gets himself squared and headed upfield quickly. I hope rookie Jerrel Jernigan is watching and learning.
- Linval Joseph had only one tackle, but the second-year player from East Carolina sure did seem to spend a lot of time in the backfield chasing Kevin Kolb.
- Osi Umenyiora's run defense has always been an issue, and as great as it is to have him back that reared its head again Sunday. Beanie Wells ran for 138 yards and it seemed that whenever the Cardinals went to Umenyiora's side they found running room. Umenyiora was not the only issue -- there were plenty of noticeable poor angles and mistakes by other Giants -- but Perry Fewell has to find a way to neutralize the run when teams try to attack Umenyiora's side.
- The Giants lose their first two fumbles of the season Sunday. They surrendered 10 points on turnovers. The Giants got two turnovers, but could not turn either into points. I am not blaming either Ahmad Bradshaw or Manning on their fumbles. Bradshaw simply got blasted and the ball came out. Manning was clearing tucking the ball away and trying to curl up to prevent a fumble when the ball simply got knocked out. Proper blocking, that doesn't happen.