I'm not going to argue with his praise either. Beating the Dolphins might not be an accomplishment worth bragging about, but the fact that the Giants actually played a full 60 minutes of football, gaining a lead in the fourth quarter and ultimately winning the game on their own terms is a definite step forward.
But let's take a little bit closer look -- before Alex plunges us head-first into the deep end -- at some of the numbers and see how well the Giants really played.
The stories on the offense are Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. However, I'm going to start up front with the big boys. In particular I want to talk about Ereck Flowers, because as of Dec. 7,Flowers was dealing with a high ankle sprain and had to use crutches to get around the Giants' facilities.
On Dec. 14, Flowers played 56 snaps (85 percent) at left tackle against the Dolphins dangerous front four, and Olivier Vernon in particular. This wasn't the first time that Flowers has played through an ankle injury, missing a game with a sprained ankle earlier in the season. This year Pro Football Focus has largely bashed the rookie tackle, and this week is no different. They charged Flowers with allowing one of the Dolphins four hurries, and giving up all three of their QB hits, ultimately giving Flowers a -3.6 grade. However, considering the rookie was clearly hobbled and still didn't give up a sack, I don't think Eli much cares what PFF thinks. If there's one thing we can agree on, its that despite his mechanical flaws, Flowers is one tough SOB. Its an attitude that he obviously shares with Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, and Geoff Schwartz, and that's a good news for the offensive line going forward.
Okay, on to the stars of the show.
Eli -- obviously -- played every one of the offense's 66 offensive snaps, and he played them masterfully. It doesn't take advanced analytics to guess that when a quarterback finishes with four incompletions and four touchdowns on 31 pass attempts, he had himself a good game.
But PFF graded Eli accordingly with a +4.8. That happens to be his highest grade since he and Hakeem Nicks destroyed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense in week 2 of 2012. Perhaps even more impressive was the speed with which Eli operated. He topped the NFL time to pass with a release time of 2.25 seconds. And while Eli made good use of quick passes, seven of his 27 passes were thrown more than 10 yards in the air -- he completed all seven for 190 total yards.
Despite being sick with a stomach bug, and needing three IVs over the course of the game to stay hydrated, Odell Beckham played 62 of the Giants' 66 offensive snaps, an impressive 94%. He was targeted nine times, catching seven for 166 yards and two touchdowns, good for a +2.4 grade from PFF. Digging a bit deeper, Beckham is one of just four receivers with 25 targets of 20+ yards without a drop. How is that possible? In part it's due to Beckham's rare blend of speed, agility, and advanced route running which he uses to turn a sliver of daylight into separation. It also has something to do with his competitiveness to fight for contested balls and come down with the football. But also the rapport he has with Manning. His 84-yard touchdown catch and run was an impromptu "sandlot" play that the two had never really practiced before. This isn't the first time that we know they scored on an improvised play; the first touchdown of his career came on another play they had never practiced.
And finally, is there a question that Will Tye is the Giants' best tight end? He played 49 (74 percent) snaps, coming away with five catches for 30 yards and a touchdown. His 265 pound frame makes him a mismatch on a defensive back, and his 4.4-4.5 speed creates problems for linebackers. Since the Giants' Week 10 game against the New England Patriots, Tye has caught 19-of-24 (79 percent) of the passes to come his way, for 230 yards and SUNY Stony Brook's first touchdown in the NFL.
All told, the Giants missed seven (7) tackles against the Dolphins. It certainly seemed like more than that, but only Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie missed more than one -- he missed two tackles.
Of the front seven players, Jason Pierre-Paul played the most snaps with 57 of 66 (85 percent). And despite being called a liability after the game, JPP received yet another positive grade, his +2.6 being the highest grade on the defense. He was also the Giants' most effective pass rusher, recording four hurries and a QB hit.
While Pierre-Paul's maimed hand, and the protective club/mitten he wears over it, are limiting the plays he is able to make, it is obvious that he still is a rare and special athlete. His combination of length, strength, and first-step quickness are devastating to blockers. He has already amassed 29 QB pressures in his first five games back. PFF only credits him with 39 pressures for all of 2014. Hopefully his continued healing will allow him to eventually shed the protective club and a sleeker glove will let him finish when he gets to the quarterback. Hopefully he and the Giants will be able to come to an agreement on a long-term contract.
With Devon Kenanrd dealing with injuries, middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley played the most snaps among the LBs with 48 (72 percent). Over those snaps he -- quietly -- earned a +2.0 grade, good for second on the defense.
Lastly, I want to mention Cooper Taylor. Taylor started out the 2015 offseason as one of the Giants' starting safeties beside Landon Collins. Taylor slid down the depth chart over the course of training camp, before being cut on October 20th. He was re-signed in the beginning of November and finally got his chance with the injury to Brandon Meriweather. Against the Dolphins, Taylor was on the field for 18 (27 percent) defensive snaps, and recorded two total tackles, which were probably the two prettiest tackles of the night. He also held up well in coverage. We'll just have to see if the big, athletic safety earned himself more defensive snaps going forward.
Full Snap Count
Giants Snap Counts