ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 11: Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants walks off the field after the New York Giants beat the Dallas Cowboys 37-34 at Cowboys Stadium on December 11, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
"It wasn't pretty but…" How many times have you heard someone say this after the New York Giants put a win under their belt? How many times have you said it yourself? This is, undoubtedly, the single, most used cliche pertaining to the G-Men. There really is only one response to this overused banality - welcome to New York Giants football.
If you are looking for a sleek, stylish victory with two coats of Armor All caked all over it, I hear Green Bay is lovely this time of year. But if you love a hard-nosed, 60-minute battle riddled with electrifying offense and hard-hitting defense, albeit on an inconsistent basis, then you, my friend, are a New York Giants fan. Simply put, we do not have a choice. As Lady Gaga would say, "Baby, you were born this way."
To address the obvious, the Giants beat the Dallas Cowboys, flat out. The "if's" will do no good here, folks. It took Eli Manning and Co.. just under four minutes to march down the field on two immaculate drives that spanned 136 yards, resulting in 15 points, to put them in a position to win. It didn't take a rocket scientist to exploit the obvious weakness in our secondary. In doing so, it put the Cowboys in position to send the game into overtime. With the cunning of Tom Coughlin, wielding the power of the timeout and a rock-solid performance from Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants were able to secure a playoff seed and control of the NFC East, once more.
Let's talk turkey. Were the Giants able to stop the run? Not quite. They gave up 139 rushing yards. Was New York's pass defense effective? Not exactly. They gave up a total of 321 passing yards. It has been a very long time since the weakest link in the Big Blue chain was the defense. Sadly, this seems to be the case this season. That is not to say that the defense is not without its strong points. The two standouts, in Sunday's game at least, were Jason PIerre-Paul and Michael Boley.
JPP was everywhere. His performance, against the Cowboys, was reminiscent of Troy Polamalu out in space and Lawrence Taylor behind the line. Recording two sacks, eight combined tackles, one forced fumble and a game-securing field goal block should earn him the keys to the city. To put it simply, he looked beastly. Boley also had a tremendous game, making some very big stops. Boley sat out Weeks 11 and 12 due to a hamstring injury. Sorry to say, these two guys were the only defensive highlights of the game.
Now, the Giants offense has become a high-flying, aerial attack with a wealth of talent in the receiving corps. Eli Manning lead the league in passing yards this week, with 400. Hakeem Nicks had the 2nd most receiving yards in the NFL for Week 14. The shocker of the week, Brandon Jacobs broke 100+ rushing yards this week for the first time this season. He too, made it into the NFL weekly leaders list. As we are growing accustomed to, Manning is becoming a surgeon right before our very eyes. Can the Giants continue to win the games that they need to relying solely on their offense? I'm glad you asked.
This is a neat, or deplorable, little stat, depending on how you look at it. OK, the top four passing offenses in the league are the New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants. I don't think there is a football mind out there right now that doesn't think that, on some level, the Super Bowl will most likely be the Packers vs Patriots. This is where things get interesting. Watch this.
The worst passing defenses in the league right now are, wait for it, the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and the New York Giants. Ironic, is it not? That the most electrifying passing offenses in the league can be giving up the most passing yards is quite a conundrum. Incidentally, the Giants passing defense ranks 29th, higher up on the list than all the other mentioned. One other thing to note, three out of these four offenses are teams in the NFC. To make matters worse, none of these teams has a solid run defense. Is it possible to win a Super Bowl without a solid defense?
Each of these front runners have defensive individuals that are a cut above the rest. Green Bay has Clay Matthews. New Orleans has Roman Harper. New England has Andre Carter. New York has Jason Pierre-Paul. Each team has a few other bright lights on the defensive bench. Thus, at any given moment, these defenses are capable of making big things happen. While, the secondaries of these four teams may be lacking, their pass rush is adept at getting to the quarterback. No one, out of this group, is more adept at that than the New York Giants.
Any Giants fan, who has been keeping a discriminating eye, knows that the collective Big Blue defense has been good at times, God awful and/or great at others. It is almost as if someone on the sidelines has been pushing a button, turning their play level on or off at will. Therefore, we know that the Giants are more than competent enough to shut down a running game, get after the quarterback or shut down an aerial show. As dismal as the secondary looked Sunday night, it might be of some comfort to know that out of these four elite teams mentioned herein, the G-Men have the most well-rounded team of them all. It might not seem that way, given that our defensive backs seem to be controlled by The Clapper. In spite of some very poor performances, these guys do posses some talent. We will need them to show it more often if we expect to be the Giants Of January.
Fret not, fans. We are in a good position and have many things going our way. The remainder of our games are at home. We have a winning rhythm in the works. We are the fourth seed in the playoffs and we rule the NFC East roost. This is a great position to be in at this time of year. This is exactly where you want to be. Is there anything better than the frost bitten face of Tom Coughlin in December and January? I think not.