What a game. The New York Giants started out too slowly against the Atlanta Falcons and many were in panic mode after a lackluster opening half down 13-10. They turned the heat all the way on in the second half, as offensive and defensive dominance took over in a 30-20 win. Here's five things I took away from this game (and no, the special teams being awful is not one of them, we knew that already):
Andre Williams Is a Walking Tank
The Andre Williams pick by the Giants for me at the time was a questionable one. I had an issue with his vision, because it seemed to me that he just runs full steam ahead with his head down and isn't patient enough to cut back to find the appropriate seam. In college, his offensive line was good enough that he could follow his primary read and use his physical talents to do the rest. He certainly showed that for some time early on this game. However, and this is big, he got better as the game wore on. His vision got better the more reps he got and he made things easier on himself.
Bigger than that, though, was his physicality. He was brutal. We all saw shades of an explosive Brandon Jacobs during his second half reps as he trucked over and through anybody that got in his way. He was a tone setter for the offense and provided them with the steady power once Odell Beckham Jr provided them with a spark. Even more importantly, he didn't fumble the ball.
The Offensive Line's Domination Continues
The Giants offensive line show continued this week as they gave Eli Manning all kinds of time. They suffered allowing one sack to former Giant Osi Umenyiora when Manning held on to the ball too long, but other than that, they were a brick wall. They also produced in the run game, especially the left side with emerging rookie Weston Richburg, Will Beatty, and sometimes also with Larry Donnell. Plenty of players didn't play well this week, but you cannot blame the offensive line. Granted, the Falcons aren't an impressive pass rush group, but credit where credit is due, the OL did their jobs, especially in pass protection. Later, Richburg was dominant on a touchdown run by Williams.
This is a group that seems like it's going to get better as time goes on. If they stay healthy, this is a top five unit in the NFL. The comeback by Will Beatty is staggering. The steadiness of Justin Pugh is exciting. The rise of Weston Richburg is inspiring. The relative reliability of J.D. Walton and John Jerry are heartening.
Odell Beckham Jr. = Potential Game-breaker
In his first action all season, the league got a good view of why the Giants took the explosive Odell Beckham Jr. in the first round this year. While his stat line is nothing all that impressive, he flashed consistently. On his first deep route, he absolutely TORCHED Robert Alford and was open for a TD, but was overthrown by Manning. The next time he was targeted, he was held, still got open, and then drew an interference penalty as he got behind the defense again. On another comeback route, he got so much separation that he was alone for a good 10 yards. Finally, his best play was a beautiful drag on the outside where he gets great position on the corner, gets illegally contacted, and still plucks the ball out of the air for a touchdown. The Giants were looking for a number one wide receiver, and they very well could have one in their hands in O.D.B.
The Defensive Line Sometimes Forgets How Good It Is
Through one half, the Giants defensive line didn't appear to show up. Against a team that was starting three substitutes on the offensive line, they were having their way against the line. Continuously shoving them off the line of scrimmage and running at will. Since there was no pressure, Matt Ryan had a lot of time and as a result, Julio Jones ran rampant in the secondary.
Well that all changed in the second half. I don't know what Perry Fewell or Tom Coughlin said to the team, but something clicked. The Giants realized how good they were up front. Jason Pierre-Paul was nigh unstoppable on every snap. He was hustling, explosive, powerful. Words don't do his performance much justice. They started staying disciplined in their gaps as the Falcons had no where to run. The game essentially ended when a Falcon comeback attempt was squashed on a 4th down sack by Johnathan Hankins.
The Defense Is Desperate At Linebacker
Most of you will go ahead and say a "no duh" but it was especially evident in this game. Outside of Jacquian Williams (who I personally thought was tremendous), nobody had an answer for the RB leaking out of the flat and that led to huge gains. The Giants had no answer for screens. No answer for the mid-range passing attack. Too many times we saw Julio Jones lining up in the slot, away from Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and forcing a safety coming up because there was no linebacker in that zone.
Someone, be it Devon Kennard or Jon Beason needs to step up, big time. Jameel McClain is a very strong blitzer and good vs. the run, but don't get him backpedaling. The only good thing I can say about Mark Herzlich right now is he sometimes does well crashing down on his side against the run.
Let's hope Kennard is good enough to take a starting spot away. He was a competent coverage linebacker in the preseason, and that's something the Giants need badly.
Enjoy the win, friends. This was a good one. Next week we've got the Philadelphia Eagles. Let's extend the win streak to FOUR.