Shortly before kickoff Monday night I did a radio spot on WSIA-FM previewing the New York Giants-St. Louis Rams matchup. The host of the show, Anthony Pierno, asked me for a prediction and I said the Giants would win -- but that they would make it much more difficult than it had to be.
It took just one drive to prove me correct. As soon as Eli Manning was picked off by Rams safety Quintin Mikell, killing a scoring opportunity, you had to know that Monday was not going to be as easy for the Giants as it should have been.
Isn't this the way it always is with the New York Giants, though? Go back decades and you realize this franchise has never had 'pretty' teams. The Giants have never done things the easy way. Shoot, even in the three Super Bowls the franchise has won the Giants trailed at one point or another in all of those games. In 2007, there was a point in the season where it looked like the Giants would not even make the playoffs.
So, Giants fans should be used to this. They should be used to ugly games won by defensive scores and ugly, inconsistent -- but opportunistic -- offense. Sure, it would be nice to see the Giants offense function like a well-oiled machine -- to see Eli Manning suddenly morph into Tom Brady or Drew Brees.That, though, is not going to happen.
What we saw Monday night is, probably, what we are going to see a lot of this season. Why wouldn't it be? If you have been watching the Giants long enough you know that what you saw Monday night is what you've always seen.
This is a team -- and a franchise -- that seemingly never does anything the easy way.
Now, on with the 'Kudos & Wet Willies.' Oh, and a quick admission here. Since my DVR spit up on me Monday night I am working without the benefit of being able to review the game a second time.
Kudos to ...
Domenik Hixon: What an unbelievable, athletic catch by Hixon to haul in a 22-yard touchdown pass from Manning near the end of the first half. Receivers have to make plays for Manning (see David Tyree and Plaxico Burress), and Hixon did. The play changed the tone of a game in which St. Louis had controlled the temp despite being behind on the scoreboard.
Giants' Red Zone Defense: Four trips inside the red zone for St. Louis, only one touchdown. The first half stand from the one-yard line was a huge turning point. Of course, some of this had to do with St. Louis's own ineptitude, but give the Giants credit.
Giants' Run Defense: The Giants stink defending the pass, but they definitely don't stink defending the run. The Rams ran 19 times for just 59 yards, and there really were not places for Rams' backs to go very often.
Justin Tuck: Five tackles, 1.5 sacks. What is there to say about how hard -- and how well -- this guy plays? Welcome back, Justin!
Kenny Phillips: The secondary might be struggling around him, but KP is playing at a very high level through two games. Four tackles Monday and some really great work in run support up in the box near the line of scrimmage. Extra 'kudos' also for running down Danario Alexander at the one-yard line when Aaron Ross and Deon Grant didn't bother to touch him down. That saved the Giants four points, and maybe a whole lot more than that.
Antrel Rolle: Nine tackles and a forced fumble. Like KP, his run support seemed excellent.
Michael Boley: A really alert play on the dropped lateral by Cadillac Williams. You see the Giants work on that over and over in practice, but how many times have you seen defensive players just let the ball sit on the ground? 'Scoop and score' is the drill, and that is what Boley did.
Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs: Not great numbers running for either guy. Bradshaw had 15 carries, 59 yards and Jacobs 16 carries for 50 yards. Both guys ran hard and made plays when they were there, however. Bradshaw had five pass receptions for 45 yards, including one on a fourth-down. Nice to see the Giants get Bradshaw into space. Also nice to see Jacobs carry the ball more often than Bradshaw. I will have to go back and look, but I doubt that happened at all last season.
Hakeem Nicks: When he goes up for a ball, or reaches out for one, he is simply a man among boys.
Wet Willies to ...
Aaron Ross: Please, please, please get healthy as soon as possible Prince Amukamara. No other way to put it other than Ross was AWFUL on Monday night. The Rams made it obvious right from the start they were going to pick on Ross at every opportunity, and he had no answers. Then he sulked on the bench when he was finally pulled briefly in the second half. Aaron, if you could get within 15 yards of the guy you are allegedly covering you wouldn't be on the bench.
The Giants pass defense stinks, there really isn't another way to put it. Corey Webster can't shut anybody down, either, and Antrel Rolle struggles covering receivers from the slot. Ross is the primary culprit, though. I hate to be this harsh, but Monday night it was sort of like playing 10-on-11 every time St. Louis passed the ball. It was like Ross wasn't even there. And failing to touch down Alexander on that long first-quarter play (Deon grant is also guilty here) made a bad night worse.
Kwillie to ...
Eli Manning: An awful 2-for-11 start, a much better 16-for-18 finish. Manning has to be better if the Giants are going to beat good teams. He can't misread coverages or underthrow guys running wide open down the field if the Giants are going to win games against good teams.