Fresh off a crushing defeat at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Giants found themselves down 14 points almost immediately Sunday night. They looked listless and ready to give up. Players were not tackling, the offense was not executing.
Then something clicked. The Giants roared back and the defense turned the tide of the battle. They held off a late Robert Griffin III rally to defeat the Washington Redskins by the score of 24-17.
Pro Football Focus, like every week, offered their view as to who the heroes and goats were this week. Let's examine them.
Justin Pugh (+2.2) -- For the 2nd straight week, MVP honors belong to an offensive lineman. While much of the group struggled against the likes of Brian Orakpo and Barry Cofield, Justin Pugh made sure Ryan Kerrigan's name wasn't called all night. He handled the star outside linebacker to the tune of allowing just 2 hurries. This has been the fifth straight game where Pugh has graded positively against the pass. Pugh earned most of his grade, however, run blocking. He had a key seal block that sprang Andre Brown for a 23-yard scamper, and another strong block that allowed Peyton Hillis for a 27- yard run. He has certainly become the player the Giants envisioned when they drafted him.
Key Offensive Contributors
Eli Manning (+1.5) -- Certainly easy to see why Manning makes this list. Apart from the normal stats that show him completing 78.2% of his passes (the best mark of his career when throwing for over 20 yards), Manning completed 6 of 9 passes under pressure. His grade would've been higher had it not been for the overthrow that led to an interception.
John Conner (+1.2) -- What is really impressive about Conner's score is that he accomplished a positive grade in only 17 snaps. Yes, he only played 17 snaps. Made every one count though, as he didn't allow anything in pass protection and provided some great blocks for Hillis and Brown.
Brandon Myers (+1.2) -- The much-maligned Myers makes an appearance here no thanks to his blocking, which as you can imagine was poor. It was his clutch receiving that pushed him over the top this time, where he graded out at a +2.2.
James Brewer (-3.9) -- Admit it. You didn't see this one coming. If any offensive lineman belonged here, it's Will Beatty or David Diehl, right? That certainly was my thinking. PFF evidently disagrees. Brewer actually gave up the same amount of pressures (four) as Beatty did. The difference was that Beatty plays left tackle, where more pressure is expected than at left guard. The other big difference is that the running backs were better running outside of Beatty rather than behind Brewer, as he graded out well into the negatives for run blocking as well.
William Beatty (-2.3) -- As mentioned above, Beatty deserves to be a villian this week. He allowed 4 pressures (3 of which were sacks) in only 32 pass blocking snaps. He did grade positively while running blocking which only partially mediated the abhorrent performance trying to keep Eli clean.
Kevin Boothe (-2.1) -- Boothe certainly has had a Jekyll & Hyde type of season, landing from offensive MVP to offensive villian in just one week. He didn't have many issues in pass protection, allowing only 1 hit by Barry Cofield, but he was awful run blocking, where he graded at -2.1. This was clear as I didn't see much room for Brown going up the middle.
Rueben Randle (-1.1) -- Randle had a quiet day, catching only a handful of passes for 20 yards. Howeve,r what pushed him into the negatives was the Eli Manning interception that went off his fingertips. It's questionable whether he was at fault for that play, but it explains the grade. Manning now has seven interceptions on the year when targeting Randle, which is a concerning number.
Will Hill (+3.9) -- Surprise! No, Justin Tuck is not the MVP this week, despite his virtuoso performance. Many BBVers will be ecstatic, however, to see Hill's name in his stead. Hill graded out strongly for both his run defense and pass coverage. His game-sealing strip of Pierre Garcon was just a microcosm of the type of player Hill has become for the New York Giants. Hill allowed only 3 catches for 18 yards all game.
Key Defensive Contributors
Antrel Rolle (+3.0) -- It's funny. According to PFF, the only safety in the NFL that could arguably be playing better than Rolle has over the last five weeks or so is his partner in crime, the aforementioned Will Hill. Over the past five weeks, Rolle has three interceptions, four passes defensed, two sacks, a forced fumble and hasn't missed a tackle in the past four games. He has had a renaissance season, as he also graded out positively in run and pass defense this week. Every time you heard his name, it was attached to particularly vicious hits with the biggest coming during the final Redskin drive where he laid Fred Davis out and forced an incomplete long pass attempt.
Justin Tuck (+2.7) -- I was as shocked as you, my friendly reader, probably are that Tuck is rated this low. He finished the game with four sacks, one QB hit, and three more hurries in 40 pass-rush snaps. However, Pro Football Focus was not impressed by the manner in which he got his sacks. They were actually kind enough to elaborate on why from their "Reaction Blog":
On one he legitimately beats Chris Chester, on the second he’s pushed past the pocket and after 5 seconds RGIII drifts into him. On the third late edge pressure from Mathias Kiwanuka pushes the QB into him and on the last he was completely unblocked. Good? Sure. Great? Not so much.
So, while Tuck received a positive grade for his pass rush prowess, it wasn't "outstanding." And, as usual, some strong work in the run game provided his grade with a boost as well.
Jon Beason (+2.1) -- Beason's inclusion in this list should be no surprise, as he was everywhere on Sunday night. He was chasing down RGIII en route to 17 tackles and positive grades in both pass coverage (+1.2) and run defense (+1.0).
Spencer Paysinger (+1.7) -- Paysinger is on this list for, as you can imagine, his run defense. As Perry Fewell and company prepared for a run heavy attack, Paysinger got the nod over Jacquian Williams and paid dividends as he was part of a group that limited Alfred Morris to only 26 yards on 11 tries.
Mathias Kiwanuka (-3.9) -- It's just sad to see at this point. Kiwanuka has become a fixture at this spot, as he graded out negatively in all areas. He wasn't terrible pass rushing, however, notching a QB hit and four more hurries. Still, it's clear he can be upgraded.
Nobody else graded at or below -1.0. This was a strong game for the defense.
Impact Special Teams Performers
Charles James (+1.5) -- For his strong work in punt return coverage.
Mark Herzlich (+1.5) -- Made key tackles and got downfield in a hurry on both kickoffs and punts.
Steve Weatherford (+1.5) -- Average punt of almost 48 yards with very few mistakes and good directional kicking.
Spencer Paysinger (-3.0) -- Missed two tackles on STs.
Let's take a look at which Giants are doing well/poorly cumulatively for the season:
Pugh is the second-ranked rookie offensive lineman, behind only Larry Warford of the Detroit Lions.
Diehl is the sixth-worst guard in the NFL, which is actually an improvement over the last few weeks due to his run blocking.
Before he got injured, Jim Cordle was the ninth-worst center in the league.
John Conner is the sixth-ranked fullback in the NFL.
Justin Tuck is the fifht-ranked 4-3 defensive end in the NFL.
Will Hill is the fifth-ranked safety in the NFL.