It often wasn't pretty. It definitely wasn't perfect. But, Sunday's 34-31 overtime victory over the Atlanta Falcons was Big Blue's first 'W' in 42 days. 'Kudos' for that. The Giants are 6-4, and have assured themselves that they will continue to be a serious player in the playoff race.
For now, that's all that matters. Read on for this week's 'Kudos & Wet Willies.'
Kudos to ...
- Eli Manning: I can't believe this was Manning's first 300-yard passing game at Giants Stadium. But, whatever. It came at a great time. I didn't feel so good about Eli early when he threw that interception and was doing a lot of running for his life. Manning, though, settled in and threw the ball beautifully much of the game. He went 25-for-39 for a career-high 384 yards with three touchdowns (a 111.5 QB rating). Many of those throws were perfectly placed balls squeezed into small spaces. In truth, it is as well as I can remember seeing Eli throw the ball.
- MarioSmithHakeemManninghamSteveNicks: Yeah, that's a mess to read -- and to say. I am lumping all three young wide receivers in together, though, because the were all outstanding. And they have become a three-headed monster that teams around the NFL are going to have to deal with for a loooong time. So, yeah, forget all that stuff about the Giants not having any playmakers at the receiver position. They have plenty. Mario Manningham was tremendous, with six catches for 126 yards, including a beautiful 29-yarder in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal. Steve Smith (4 catches, 79 yards) was his usual reliable self AND busted loose for a 51-yard completion -- the missing link in his ascension to stardom. Hakeem Nicks (5 catches, 65 yards) is an absolute stud, who runs nice routes and has terrific hands.
- Kevin Boss: We have been waiting ... and waiting .... and waiting for the Bossman to become a primary target in the passing game. Well, Sunday that day arrived. Boss was the answer in the Green Zone, with two touchdown catches. He finished with five catches for a career-best 76 yards, as well. I hope we continue to see more of that.
- Michael Boley: You know this game meant a lot to Boley, who left the Falcons last season after unceremoniously being removed from the starting lineup. Sunday Boley showed the Falcons what they gave up, playing his best game as a Giant. In fact, maybe the best game by a Giants outside linebacker in a long time. He finished with 13 tackles and a sack. It also looked to me like Boley was filling some of that emtional leadership void left by the injury to Antonio Pierce.
- OsiTuckJustinUmenyiora: Like with the wide receivers, I am lumping the two bookends of the Giants defensive line together. Tuck had a huge game with four tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and a near interception the one time he dropped into pass coverage. Umenyiora had just one tackle and a fumble recovery, but I thought he was active and made Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan uncomfortable a number of times.
- Corey Webster: Webster was all over Roddy White most of the game. He had the kind of game this week we had hoped he would have two weeks ago against San Diego's Vincent Jackson. CW ended up with five -- yes, five -- passes defensed. What I can't figure out is why the Falcons kept testing him.
- Aaron Rouse: Nine tackles, including one huge run stop for a loss, and a pass defensed. A debatable penalty for a late hit, sure, but I thought Rouse played well. To this point, he has been a huge upgrade over 'Bad, Bad C.C. Brown.'
- Chase Blackburn: Once again proved his value by playing very well in place of Pierce. It's just one game, but so far, so good.
- Barry Cofield: It's a good thing Cofield (5 tackles) played probably his best game of the season. The other defensive tackles did pretty much nothing.
- Madison Hedgecock: The guy caught a touchdown pass. Shoot, when a fullback gets one of those you have to give him something. A 'Kudos' is the best I can do.
There are probably a handful of other guys who deserve 'Kudos,' but I think that's probably most of them. Let's get on to the bad stuff.
Wet Willies to ...
- Defensive tackles not named Cofield: I thought Chris Canty, Rocky Bernard and Fred Robbins were pretty much invisible. Bernard and Robbins might be in the process of playing themselves into different uniforms next season.
- Bruce Johnson: The rookie cornerback has been pretty good all season. He got picked on time and time again Sunday, though. On top of that, he had a silly holding penalty that helped Atlanta score a third-quarter touchdown.
- The Giants offensive line: I think we have to face the reality that this unit is not the dominant group we watched the past couple of seasons. The names are the same, but the results aren't. They eventually got the pass protection straightened out and Manning was sacked only once, but he spent much of the first half running for his life. And the run-blocking was very sporadic, which shows in the 26-carry, 88-yard (3.4 yards per carry) day the running backs had. The inability to run-block in the Green Zone is still a huge problem. It looks like General Manager Jerry Reese needs to start thinking about some changes to this group for 2010.
Kwillies to ...
A 'Kwillie,' for the uneducated, is a special award that goes to a player who did his level best to keep both teams in the game. I can only think of one Sunday, and he deserves special mention.
- Lawrence Tynes: Nailed the game-winner. As he always seems to, he made life harder on the Giants than it had to. But, in the end he got the job done.
One more thing
I didn't quite have a category for the Giants' fourth-quarter defense. That group played well for much of the game, showing energy, generating pressure and covering well.
For the second week in a row, though, they could not get a stop late in the game when they needed one. Some of you want to crucify defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan for that, but I don't. I thought Sheridan tried to stay aggressive with some blitzing, always sending at least four when he did not blitz and not sitting in anything remotely resembling a 'prevent' type defense. At crunch time, though, no one on the defense could step up and make a play. Tony Gonzalez simply made the kind of play at the end of the game that a Hall of Fame tight end makes. And the kind of play no one on the Giants defense seems able to step up and make when it matters.
All in all, though, it's a win. I will take it. Now, it's on to Denver to see if the Giants can get on a roll again.
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