Like usual the New York Football Giants have played some heartbreaking games, and some ugly football this season. Unusual though is at the end of October the Giants are 2-6 instead of 6-2. Most of us fans, however, suspected an 0-8, and I will tell you why that nightmare was avoided: We have a great fullback. Since the addition of Jon Connor, Eli has been able to trust his protection and get the ball out, the opposing Defense has had to honor the run, which then opens up the Giants pass, and a decent run game has allowed the Giants defense to stay rested late into the game, allowing the pass rush to penetrate.
The run game, and therefore the dynamics of the Giants offense, were dependent on FB Henry Hynoski going into the season. When he played with an injury, and eventually went to IR they had Bear Pascoe filling in, and Eli was getting sacked, throwing picks and the run game was eliminated. A good FB is what this offense is hinged on. Without one they sputtered and floundered, affecting every aspect of the game including their defense with an over-performing DB corps and under-performing pass rush. But what the Giants have now is an offense that can put a couple of downs together by mixing good enough running with good to great passing. With their fullback performing well they've been able to control the tempo (and the clock) and have been able to force their will on the other team. The O is helping keep the D off the field, and in the last two games the Giants have won serious time of possession. When the Giants have a rested defense in the 4th quarter it's a different ball game.
The Fullback ties into the defense in dramatic way actually. In 4 of the 6 losses it was the Giants defense holding up more than their fair share of the bargain, only to have the rug pulled out from under them late in the game. A lot of the points opponents scored came late in the 3rd and in the 4th quarters. For the first half of each game, the D was responsible for keeping the Giants from being embarrassed early. They held Peyton to 17 points in the first half, only allowed Dallas 3 TD's, and they held the Bears to 20 offensive points. They have come up with a number of big plays and crucial stops, but when the offense couldn't stay on the field the tread wore off the D's tires. The Giants defense ended up playing 35 or more minutes in a few games. The offense let a well performing D down over and over. Not so, however, in the last 2 games.
Yes, we can point to poor quarterback play, but that's not the whole story. The Giants pass rush has 40 hurries 30 hits and 5 sacks over the last two games. Freeman avoided getting sacked by literally throwing the ball everywhere and anywhere, and later admitted to being nervous. And that is because the defense was in his face. Barkley and Vick threw picks under that pressure. The Giants shut down Barkley with sacks. A bigger tell though is that those offenses became desperate and had to throw because the Giants have a great run defense holding two of the top 5 rushers in the league to under 90 yards combined. They've only allowed something like 3 points in the last 10 quarters of ball.
If the special teams could have put something resembling football together, the last two games would have been shutouts. And with a run game that suddenly features 4 guys over 220 lbs, the Giants have gone from bottom of the barrel to embarrassment of riches (and that's not counting Connor as a runner). Coming off of the bye, the Giants are looking like they could be the scariest team in the NFC East. And it can all be traced back to Jon Connor's performance and execution. While we cannot attribute everything in this turnaround solely to him, we can confidently look to him as the cornerstone of this rejuvenated team. I know I am jumping ahead a little bit, but it is beginning to look like for the first time in a very long time, we will be having a battle for Fullback in training camp. Hynoski might just find himself fighting for his job.