I made you guys wait an extra day due to Christmas (yes, even I take days off on occasion), but your 'Kudos & Wet Willies' review of Saturday's 29-24 victory by the New York Giants over the New York Jets is finally here.
Kudos To ...
Tom Coughlin: How can you not give the Giants' coach 'kudos' after Saturday's victory? As much as anything this was a victory for the way Coughlin and the Giants do business. Credit TC with showing class in the week leading up to the game, and in his post-game reaction to the victory and the Jets classless move in covering up the Giants' Super Bowl murals. Also give TC props for a private chat with Justin Tuck that resulted in Tuck's best game of the season. Oh, and for coaching hurt after D.J. Ware slammed into him in the fourth quarter. Somehow, Coughlin toughing it out in pain on the sidelines seems appropriate the way this season has gone.
Perry Fewell: For the criticism we have leveled at the Giants' defensive coordinator, you have to give him some credit for Saturday. What seemed like a simplified game plan helped eliminate mistakes in the secondary, as did a decision to stay with his base personnel most of the day (Prince Amukamara played three snaps). Fewell played more man coverage, and seemed to send extra rushers more often. Of course, when the opposing quarterback drops back to pass m64 times you get lots of chances to blitz.
Victor Cruz: What more can be said about this young man? A tremendous, game-changing play on the 99-yard touchdown, and a key 36-yard grab later in the game. He has 1,358 yards receiving on the season, breaking Amani Toomer's franchise record. Without this guy the Giants have no shot at being a playoff team.
Justin Tuck: Finally! It took 15 games, but the Justin Tuck Giants fans have come to know made an appearance on Saturday. What a difference he makes to the defense when he plays the way he did Saturday, when he was a constant force. He had four tackles, a sack and batted down two passes.
Jason Pierre-Paul: Fewell left Pierre-Paul matched up with Pro Bowl left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and Pierre-Paul more than held his own. He pushed his way through and darted his way around Ferguson for five tackles and two sacks, and lost a third strip-sack to the mysterious 'Tuck Rule' that somehow turns obvious fumbles into incomplete passes.
The Entire Secondary: Hard to single out one guy here. Corey Webster, Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips, Aaron Ross and Deon Grant all played well. There were no mistakes, and there were very few yards after the catch for Jets receivers.
Jacquian Williams: The rookie linebacker was solid in coverage, making a terrific stop on LaDainian Tomlinson on one pass reception. He also came up with a fumble recovery in the end zone to thwart a Jets' scoring opportunity.
Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw: Forget the numbers. Both of these guys ran with force, and in the second half when the Giants ran for 109 of their 115 yards they both made difference-making plays. It certainly was fun watching Jacobs rumble for 28 yards, then watching Bradshaw run through Brodney Pool for a 14-yard touchdown.
Jerrel Jernigan: Maybe you didn't notice, but Jernigan returned three kickoffs for 77 yards, a 25.7-yard average. He got the Giants better field position than they have gotten much of the year on kickoff returns.
Kickoff Coverage: With the exception of one return on which Lawrence Tynes hit a poor kickoff the Giants did a fantastic job bottling up the Jets on returns, which has been a Jets strength. Chase Blackburn made two stops inside the 20-yard line.
Chris Canty: Had a nice day in the middle of the defense and had a the huge sack for a safety.
Wet Willies To ...
Hakeem Nicks: Yes, he's a star. Yes, he was covered most of the day (and sometimes mugged) by Darrelle Revis. But, when you have opportunities you have to make plays. Nicks dropped two balls (not counting the one in the end zone where Revis should have been flagged for interference). The fourth-quarter interception by David Harris was really on Nicks. Sure, I think Giants fans would have felt better if Eli Manning had not audibled out of a run and gone to that pass while nursing a 13-point lead. But, Manning threw a good ball, Nicks had position and the ball should have been caught.
Ramses Barden and Travis Beckum: Given chances due to injuries to Mario Manningham and Jake Ballard these two came up small. Barden whimped out on a pass that should have gone for a 20-25-yard gain down the middle in the first half, dropping the ball when it seemed pretty obvious he was hearing footsteps. He also allowed himself to get run out of bounds on another ball Manning sent in his direction, and fell down on a third. Beckum dropped a ball at the goal line that should have been a touchdown, and could have turned into a disastrous interception.
Will Blackmon: A lousy day returning punts with three returns for seven yards. Maybe he had lousy blocking, but a 2.3-yards per return average is not good.
Kwillies To ...
Eli Manning: A lousy day statistically (nine-for-27, 225 yards, one interception, one TD, a 61.5 passer rating), but he wasstill the best quarterback on the field -- by a wide margin. He made a brilliant throw on the 36-yard pass to Cruz and had several balls dropped that should have been positive plays. Without Ballard and Manningham, Manning just didn't get much help receivers not named Cruz.
Offensive Line: Yes, I was wondering if the Giants would replace David Baas with Mitch Petrus after a first half in which the Giants' offensive line was a sieve. They did not, of course. As poorly as the line played in the first half -- and it was an abomination -- you have to give them some credit for the 109 yards the Giants gained on the ground in the second half and for getting the Jets' pass rush somewhat under control.