This edition of 'Kudos & Wet Willies' is going to read a little differently because, well, because Sunday was a different sort of game. The Giants lost it, of course, but I think the entire Giants team deserves a 'Kudos' simply for the tremendous effort the Giants put forth on Sunday. There was passion, there were big plays, there was pressure on Aaron Rodgers much of the time, and there was a raucous atmosphere in the MetLife Stadium stands.
That doesn't mean that every player was beyond reproach, or that every decision was the perfect one. This 'Kudos & Wet Willies' will not only highlight players, but also try to open some discussion about specific plays or situations worthy of being talked about.
So, let's get on with it.
Jason Pierre-Paul: The stats show only three tackles and no sacks for Pierre-Paul, a game that looks pedestrian if judged by those numbers. If you watched the game, though, you know better. Pierre-Paul was a force, batting down two passes, constantly buzzing near Rodgers and making him move or hurry, creating a sack for Justin Tuck by forcing Rodgers to step right into him. The guy deserves to go to the Pro Bowl. Too bad he isn't on the ballot, since he is technically a reserve. Oh, and that reminds me. How much more comfortable does Pierre-Paul look coming off that right end than he does anywhere else on the line? It's where he belongs.
Chase Blackburn: An interception and five tackles for Blackburn in his return to the Giants. He made a terrific play to pick off Rodgers, was pretty good in coverage and was active on special teams. No offense to any of the rookie linebackers, but Blackburn showed the value of experience on Sunday.
Justin Tuck: Five tackles and a sack, but the numbers don't tell the story. The Justin Tuck who played on Sunday is the Tuck the Giants have been missing for 11 games. He played with energy, he played with force. He showed emotion. Welcome back, Justin!
The Two-Point Conversion Play Call: How many times have commenters here killed offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride for the shotgun draw? How brilliant was that play call when the Giants needed two points to tie with 58 seconds to play. As soon as you saw the handoff you knew it was a score -- the play broke wide open.
Eli Manning: Yes I know, you are cringing at this because of the Pick Six. Did you notice, though, that Rodgers also threw what -- essentially -- was a Pick Six. Manning didn't see Clay Matthews, but was otherwise tremendous. He stood in the pocket, took some fierce shots and kept getting the ball down the field and giving the Giants a chance in a game where you knew they had to score a ton of points. The high-low shot Manning took when he fumbled near the end of the first half might be the most vicious hit he has taken in a long, long time. Without Eli's poise and brilliance during much of the game, the Giants had no shot Sunday.
Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz: I have to put the two receivers together. Manning kept putting the ball out there for this dynamic duo, and they just kept on making plays. The one-handed touchdown catch by Nicks was as good a catch as you will see.
Travis Beckum: Three years, one big play. Hey, give Beckum credit here. His 67-yard touchdown catch and zig-zagging run is the kind of play the Giants envisioned him making when they drafted him. Too bad it took this long. And, you wonder if we will ever see it again.
The Defensive Front: As a whole, this group was terrific. Pierre-Paul and Tuck, of course, were forceful. Linval Joseph made nine tackles. Chris Canty and Dave Tollefson each made plays. The Giants got the kind of effort they need from this group, and that has been missing for a few weeks.
The Re-shuffled Offensive Line: Who would have thought that the Giants -- the worst rushing team in the league -- could run the ball 20 times for 100 yards with Kevin Boothe at center, Mitch Petrus making his first career start at left guard and David Diehl playing left tackle? They did just that, however. Extra 'Kudos' to Petrus. A terrific job by him clearing the way for Ware on the two-point conversion. Plus, not once did you hear Petrus' name called for a penalty or for completely blowing an assignment. Not bad for a guy who has spent most the season inactive.
Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs: Like Nicks and Cruz, I have to put these two guys together. The two Giants backs and best buddies ran hard. Bradshaw brought some attitude to the Giants running game, which was good to see. And Jacobs had some patented bulldozer runs, including a classic trucking on Green Bay safety Charles Peprah.
Wet Willies to ...
Kareem McKenzie: Clay Matthews is a great player, but he can't be as good as McKenzie made him look. The Giants' right tackle has been a good player for a long time, but he looks like a statue now when faced with speed. Matthews kept running right by McKenzie, seemingly getting into Manning's face before the tackle wa seven all the way out of his stance.
Tom Coughlin's Challenges: Coughlin is usually the master of the challenge, but he has not been as good this season. Neither one of his challenges on Sunday really had any chance of being successful. I sort of understood the first one because if you get lucky and win, you get six points. The second one was a total waste.
The Three-Man Pass Rush: Perry Fewell deserves 'Kudos' for how much passion the defense played with Sunday, and for much of the work the Giants did competing against arguably the league's best offense. His love for the three-man rush, though, reared its head at times in the second half and came back to bite the Giants in the fourth quarter. Green Bay's touchdown with 3:34 to go, a seven-yard pass to Donald Driver, came on a three-man pass rush. Rodgers stood in the pocket for an eternity, and probably could have stood in there for the remaining 3:34, before Driver finally found a few inches of separation from Corey Webster. You can't put that on the cornerback. You put that score on the three-man rush that gave Rodgers all the time in the world to wait for somebody to shake free.
Aaron Ross And The Fair Catch: You know, I don't mind Ross being the punt returner. He has, by and large, done a good job. Increasingly, though, it looks like he can't wait to make the fair catch and get off the field. He made one fair catch Sunday with no Green Bay coverage guys within 15 yards of him. C'mon Aaron, you have to try to make a play once in a while.
Will Blackmon Being On The Field In The Final Minute: I won't criticize Blackmon, the guy was out of the league until two weeks ago and was put in the situation of playing one-on-one coverage against a good receiver and a great quarterback in the final minute of a tie game. He got beat. What else could anyone have expected would happen? Coughlin was asked why Blackmon was in the game at that point instead of first-round pick Prince Amukamara, and he said only that Amukamara was "a little fatigued." I can't buy that answer -- there has to be more to it than that. Obviously, you want a first-round pick who has played well for the most part in the game at that point rather than a street free agent who hasn't played much NFL corner for the past three years or so. You know that. I know that. The Giants know that. So, what was the real reason?