Before Sunday, maybe the only question that remained about the New York Giants was whether or not they could win a pass-first, big-play, high-scoring shootout.
After a 37-29 victory over the offensive juggernaut that is the Arizona Cardinals there is no doubt about the answer.
The 10-1 Giants can win any type of game. Against any opponent. Anywhere.
The full depth of the roster General Manager Jerry Reese and Coach Tom Coughlin have built, and the full arsenal of Giants weapons, was on display Sunday. No Brandon Jacobs. No Plaxico Burress after one series. Banged-up defensive linemen shuttling in and out. A Cardinals' defense stacked against the run.
No problem. The Giants have won six straight, five against teams with winning records. That is only the second time in NFL history that has been done. Jimmie Johnson -- yes, Jimmie Johnson -- summed it up perfectly in his FOX Sports column this morning.
This is a special team, one that is pretty serious about defending their championship.
Let's get to the traditional 'Kudos & Wet Willies.' There is a lot to say, about a lot of players.
Kudos to ...
|Domenik Hixon leaps over an Arizona Cardinal tackler en route to an 83-yard kickoff return Sunday.|
- Domenik Hixon: This is the only possible place to start. Hixon was the difference in Sunday's outcome. Why hasn't this guy been returning kicks all season? An 83-yarder, a 68-yarder and a total of 180 yards on three returns. He hits the hole on returns so much faster than Ahmad Bradshaw that it's ridiculous. Oh, and throw in six catches for 57 yards, one run for 11 and two punt returns for 15. That's 263 yards of offense on 12 touches for a guy Reese picked up on waivers. Thank you again, Denver Broncos. It is absolutely scary that the Giants have a guy this good, and he is a backup. I probably shouldn't, but I am starting to wonder if the Giants are just as good -- or better -- when Hixon is on the field and Plaxico Burress has a baseball cap on.
- Eli Manning: After five straight games of passing for less than 200 yards, some wondered if Eli could answer the bell if the Giants needed him to air it out. I'd say 26-for-33 for 240 yards, three TDs, no interceptions and maybe one off-target throw all day answered that question. Eli's message to the rest of the NFL was loud and clear Sunday. Stack the run and make me pass if you like, I will be happy to pick you apart.
- Steve Spagnuolo: The Giants got only one sack, but Spags devised a brilliant blitz package that had pressure on Kurt Warner all day and, eventually, force Warner into a couple of turnovers.
- Kenny Phillips: The rookie safety was tremendous. He led the Giants with seven solo tackles, pressured Warner numerous times on blitzes and knocked what seemed like a touchdown pass out of the hands of Larry Fitzgerald at the last instant. The guy is on his way to being a star in the NFL for a long time.
- Terrell Thomas: His first career interception and six tackles, including a brilliant one in punt coverage. Some questioned the Giants' selection of Thomas in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft, but we should have known better. In Reese We Trust. Thomas is aggressive, physical and -- along with Phillips -- could be a force for years to come.
- Rest of the secondary: Yes, the Giants gave up 351 yards passing to Warner. But, that is par for the course for the high-powered Cardinals offense and its resurrected quarterback. I swear I thought I was watching Dan Marino, or the St. Louis Rams version of Warner. Anyway, kudos to all the Giants DBs -- even the oft-penalized Aaron Ross -- for competing step-for-step with the best group of wide receivers in the league, for making tackles and not surrendering the big play.
Kevin Boss/Steve Smith/Amani Toomer: In the interests of brevity, I am lumping them all together. Each had four catches, and Boss and Toomer had touchdowns. Along with Hixon, their production is more evidence of the incredible cachet of weapons at Eli's disposal, with or without Burress. By the way, how does Smith keep managing to get open on third down when everyone knows that is where Eli wants to throw the ball? The guy is incredible.
- Madison Hedgecock: Gotta give the big fullback 'kudos' for his first career touchdown, scored on a pass from Manning.
- Derrick Ward: Had 99 yards of total offense carrying the load in Jacobs' absence. Totaled 69 yards on 20 carries, and caught four passes for another 30. This guy is going to get a ton of money from somebody next season to be their featured back.
- Giants fans: Our man 'jrs' wasn't the only Giants fan' in Arizona. The stadium was filled with pockets of vocal Giants fans, and I loved it.
- John Carney: I was a little surprised Carney was the kicker instead of Lawrence Tynes. It worked, though. The old man went 3-for-3 on field goals and his kickoffs -- save one bouncer -- were all inside the 10-yard line. The coverage stunk, but don't tell me that was Carney's fault. His kickoffs were fine, and the Giants have stunk in coverage no matter who kicked off or where the ball ended up.
Wet Willies to ...
- Kickoff coverage: How can a team with this much talent and depth be so horrendous covering kickoffs? The Giants gave up an average of 29 yards per return Sunday, including a 55-yarder and at least two other long ones. Like I said, I don't want to hear that this is on the kickers. It isn't. For whatever reason the Giants simply have not been able to cover kickoffs all season. They need to get that solved before it kills them in a playoff game.
- Plaxico Burress: Maybe I shouldn't pick on him, but I am going to anyway. Why was he even active if he was going to run down the field once and then take the rest of the day off? Admit how badly you're hurt, and let the Giants play with a full roster.