The New York Giants are heading into their bye week off an exhilarating 27-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills. They are 4-2, secure in the knowledge that they will return to action against the Miami Dolphins in two weeks no worse than tied for the NFC East lead.
Let's get right to this week's 'Kudos & Wet Willies.'
Kudos to ...
Eli Manning: Another outstanding performance by the Giants' quarterback, 21-of-32 for 292 yards with no interceptions. His quarterback rating was 94.8. His numbers could have been even better if Mario Manningham had been able to haul in a perfectly thrown long ball from Manning that would have been a touchdown.
Ahmad Bradshaw: Carried the load with Brandon Jacobs out, and had 104 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries. CBS announcer Jim Nantz used the words "anger." "force" and "intensity" to describe Bradshaw's running style. All are appropriate.
The Offensive Line: We have criticized them for weeks, but Sunday against Buffalo the line was outstanding. Manning was never sacked and was rarely hit, and there were quite a few running lanes for Bradshaw. Special mention to Kevin Boothe, who was oustanding in place of Chris Snee at right guard. On a number of occasions I saw Boothe clear out his initial block and get downfield into the Buffalo secondary to throw another one.
Jake Ballard: Umm ... Kevin Who? Ballard caught five balls for 81 yards. He has better hands than anyone thought, and he is a load to bring down in the secondary once he gets going. It is Ballard and not Travis Beckum who has become the tight end the Giants can utilize in the middle of the field, and he seemed to do a good job sealing edges while blocking on Sunday.
Mario Manningham: In the recent history about Victor Cruz and all the plaudits heading toward Hakeem Nicks Manningham has been largely forgotten. He played well Sunday, though, with five catches for 56 yards.
Hakeem Nicks: Four catches for 96 yards, including a 60-yarder. He spent the rest of his time forcing Buffalo's Drayton Florence into penalties -- Florence committed three while trying deperately to control Nicks.
Jason-Pierre Paul: It was the numbers (three tackles, one sack, one pass batted down) that were impressive. It was the monstrous presence. He was everywhere, rushing off the edge and forcing Ryan Fitzpatrick to scramble or turn into the arms of a waiting Osi Umenyiora. Helping to jam up the run. Playing nose tackle in a three-man front and requiring a double-team while doing it. This guy has got to be headed to the Pro Bowl.
Mathias Kiwanuka: We spend oodles of time arguing about whether Kiwanuka should be a linebacker or a defensive end. Well, he did both on Sunday -- and was tremendous all over the field. He finished with seven tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. The sack/forced fumble came as a defensive end, where he played a significant number of snaps and pressured Fitzpatrick a number of times. As a linebacker Kiwanuka made two brilliant, aggressive run stops when he shot gaps at the line of scrimmage to nail Fred Jackson, and one nice open-field tackle in pass coverage. He can do both, and do them both very well.
Corey Webster: Spent his day locked in a very competitive one-on-one battle with Stevie Jackson. In the end it was Webster who made the two plays -- both interceptions -- that mattered most. Truth is, Jackson beat Webster on both plays and Fitzpatrick threw bad balls that gave Webster a chance to recover and make a play. He made both, and they changed the game.
Steve Weatherford: For a guy who isn't supposed to have a big leg Weatherford certainly has been hitting some bombs lately. He punted three times for an average of 53.7 yards, and a net of better than 43 yards per punt.
Wet Willies to ...
Perry Fewell: The Giants are flush with pass rushers, even with Justin Tuck sidelined. So, what in the world is Fewell doing playing so much three-man line and dropping eight guys into coverage -- especially when one of those guys is Kiwanuka? I couldn't believe the Giants played all three-man rush on Buffalo's final drive. JPP bailed Fewell out by swatting down Fitzpatrick's final fourth-down pass when Fewell's call gave the Buffalo quarterback all the time he wanted to survey the field. Fewell has a great defensive line, a ton of pass-rushers and a group of aggressive corners. Yet, the defensive calls are often anything but aggressive. I just don't get it.
Deon Grant: The unbelievably bad angle Grant took on Fred Jackson's 80-yard touchdown run is just the latest example of how the popular veteran has become a liability to the Giants' defense. He's too slow to play coverage, and while his run support has generally been OK teams are looking for him and picking on him. The missed tackle on Sunday should not happen to a guy who has been in the league as long as Grant.
-- I will be back with much more throughout the day, so be sure to check back