The New York Giants are riding the crest of a four-game winning streak, perhaps headed to their first playoff berth since 2011. With that in mind, let’s offer up a Week 11 version of “Five things I think I think” about the 6-3 Giants.
This is beginning to feel like a Giant team
Think about the good Giants’ teams going back to the Bill Parcells era. If you’re old enough to go back to the teams of the 1950s and early ‘60s, go ahead and include those.
What has been the common thread that bound those teams together? The thing that ends up being defined as “Giant Football?”
In my mind, that has always been teams that weren’t pretty. In many cases, they probably weren’t expected to be as good as they turned out to be. They were teams led by top-notch defenses, with offenses that weren’t great, but made just enough plays to get the job done.
This Giants team isn’t there yet. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves simply because of a four-game winning streak that has given them a chance. This team, though, is showing signs that it might be becoming that type of team.
The Giants can’t afford to stumble
The Giants host the 2-7 Chicago Bears on Sunday. After that, they travel to Ohio to play the 0-10 Cleveland Browns. These are not only games the Giants SHOULD win, they are games the Giants HAVE to win if they are going to end their four-year playoff drought.
“This is the National Football League. You have to prepare your best for the highest level. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing. Throw all the records out the window. Anyone can beat anyone, anywhere in this league,” Giants coach Ben McAdoo said on Tuesday. “We need to be at our best.”
McAdoo is right. You would hate to see all the progress the Giants have made, especially in their last two games, undone by a stumble somewhere in their next two.
The Giants have a difficult five-game stretch to end the season (at Pittsburgh Steelers, vs. Dallas Cowboys, vs. Detroit Lions, at Philadelphia Eagles, at Washington Redskins). If they can win these next two games they put a 10- or 11-win season realistically within reach.
Contributions are coming from the whole roster
The Giants have their star players for sure. Odell Beckham Jr. Eli Manning. Landon Collins. Janoris Jenkins. Olivier Vernon. Jason Pierre-Paul. All have made plays and contributed mightily to what the Giants have done in recent weeks.
Good football teams, though, get contributions from players at the bottom of the roster as well as the top. The Giants are getting those.
The outstanding work Monday night by offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse was a perfect example. Newhouse, though, wasn’t alone. Give some credit to guard Adam Gettis, who held his own coming in and out of the game and threw a key block on the game-sealing 25-yard run by Rashad Jennings.
Robert Thomas, heretofore best known to Giants’ fans as that guy the Giants claimed via waivers who never played due to some mysterious illness, had a sack. Coty Sensabaugh, signed off the street just a few weeks ago, played significant snaps — and played well — Monday with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie limited by a back injury. Sensabaugh also made a great hustle play, running down kickoff returner Alex Erickson to prevent a Cincinnati touchdown on the opening kickoff of the second half. Sixth-round pick Jerell Adams caught a touchdown pass. The week before, the Giants got huge contributions from reserves Trevin Wade and Brett Jones.
Then there is Andrew Adams. As Brandon intimated earlier today, you’re lying if you say you knew the undrafted free agent would step into the lineup due to injuries and become one of the best rookies in the league. Especially after his disastrous debut with a critical special teams penalty against the Washington Redskins that negated a Romeo Okwara blocked punt.
I feel good for Steve Spagnuolo
Let’s be honest. It’s been a pretty awful run for the Giants’ defensive coordinator since he left Big Blue after the 2008 season.
- A disastrous turn as head coach of the St. Louis Rams.
- An ill-fated stint as defensive coordinator of the historically defenseless New Orleans Saints.
- A 2015 return to New York where he warned that he wasn’t a magician and then proved it, coordinating the league’s worst defense.
Success or failure, though, one thing I have always felt about Spagnuolo is that he is an outstanding coach who knows how to use talent when he has it. More and more, we are seeing that this season.
Truth is, it didn’t matter what defense Spags dreamed up last season. Blitz. No blitz. Man coverage. Zone coverage. The Giants didn’t have the talent to execute any of it.
This year is different. The Giants have a quality front four. They have a talented, deep secondary. The linebacker play isn’t spectacular, but it’s been good enough.,
With tools to work, more and more we are seeing a return to the Spagnuolo we remember. A creative, aggressive guy willing to move his chess pieces around to take maximum advantage of what he has at his disposal.
The running game isn’t fixed
Undoubtedly it was good to see the Giants have success running the ball at a critical point in Monday night’s game. That, however, doesn’t mean the running game is “fixed.” It means that after several games of ineptitude running the ball the Giants put together one nice night, really two nice plays at the right time.
I asked Tuesday night whether or not the Giants should claim recently waived running back Christine Michael. Whether they do or not, the success or failure of the Giants’ running game isn’t about who is carrying the ball. Sure, we can argue that Paul Perkins needs more carries or wonder why Orleans Darkwa is buried on the bench. I’m not sure, though, that it really matters.
What we saw Monday, though, is that the Giants ran well when they blocked well. They got yards when there were holes to run through. The offensive line created a few of those holes against the Bengals, the first time in weeks they have been able to do so.
Can they keep that up, especially in critical late-season games? I don’t know. I still need to be convinced. Let’s just see how it plays out.