“We could’ve played way better today,” defensive end Olivier Vernon said. “I’m glad we got the win, but we still have a lot of work to do to play a full phase football game. All we can do now is look forward to Pittsburgh.”
Well, what better way to look at those things, both good and bad, that with our traditional “Kudos & Wet Willies” review. Let’s get started.
Kudos to ...
Jason Pierre-Paul — What is there to say about what Pierre-Paul did Sunday (a career-high three sacks, a 43-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown, a forced fumble, seven tackle, three quarterback hits) that we haven’t already said? Brandon named him Sunday’s “winner.” Yours truly wrote that it is clear now that JPP is still a dominant force, something that seemed unfathomable not that long ago. Pierre-Paul is headed to free agency at the end of this season, and after the last two weeks you have to think it is going to take a big pile of John Mara’s money to keep him in New York.
Olivier Vernon — Vernon had the unenviable task of going one-on-one all day Sunday with Cleveland’s All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas. It would have been understandable if Vernon had ended up having a quiet day, but that was hardly the case. He didn’t put up JPP numbers, but he had 1.5 sacks and five quarterback hits. He made his presence felt, even with a difficult matchup.
Johnathan Hankins — Big Hank is the only one of the four Giants’ starting defensive linemen who hasn’t had a free-agent opportunity. He showed Sunday why the Giants are going to have to pony up big bucks to keep him when he gets that chance this offseason. Hankins had 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and two hits on Josh McCown.
Damon Harrison — The Giants gave Harrison big money to dominate the middle. He did that Sunday with nine tackles, most right within a couple yards of the line of the scrimmage. Harrison also forced an Isaiah Crowell fumble that led to the Giants’ first touchdown.
Odell Beckham Jr. — Beckham had a huge day with five catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns, along with three punt returns for 35 yards. And those numbers don’t come close to the kind of day Beckham could have had witha little help from his friends. Eli Manning missed Beckham at least twice on deep balls when Beckham was wide open, once overshooting him and once throwing late. Beckham had a 59-yard punt return touchdown nullified by penalty, along with a 27-yard return that was also wiped out. His work that counted was, however, good enough to help the Giants get a victory.
Brad Wing — Seven punts, five inside the 20-yard line and three of those inside the 10-yard line. He barely missed one more. Wing’s net average for the day was 44.7 yards and his work ensured that Cleveland had to go long distances constantly. The Browns had 15 possessions, and they started 10 of them inside their 25-yard line.
Wet Willies to ...
Bobby Rainey — Subbing for Dwayne Harris, Rainey got an invalid fair catch penalty, muffed a punt that led to a Cleveland field goal and got replaced by Beckham. Rainey is an explosive returner, but his muff should be no surprise. He had eight fumbles while returning kicks for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season.
Robbie Gould — Another missed extra point? C’mon, man! That’s three in two weeks.
Concussions — The Giants lost Nat Berhe, for the second time this season, and Mark Herzlich to concussions on Sunday. In recent weeks it seems they have someone suffer a concussion nearly every week. There has to be legitimate concern for Berhe, who lost four weeks to a concussion earlier this season.
Janoris Jenkins’ Twitter foolishness — In case you missed it, Jenkins had some unkind, and largely unintelligible, words about Cleveland wide receiver Terrelle Pryor after Sunday’s game.
@TerrellePryor You a Sh*t Eater to me, u really sucks.. #— Mr.Clampz2.0 (@JjenkzLockdown) November 27, 2016
Whatever that’s all about it simply makes Jenkins look bad. No reason for it, no defense for it.
Kwillies to ...
Landon Collins — The safety had seven tackles, but he also missed a few tackles, which is unusual for him. Sunday wasn’t an awful game for Collins, but it wasn’t his best.
Eli Manning — With three touchdown passes he made enough quality throws to get the Giants the victory. Manning missed opportunities for big plays early, though, especially on a couple of plays where Beckham was open. Manning completed only one of eight deep throws (20 yards or more). He was good enough to win against a poor Cleveland team, but he will need to be better over the final five weeks.
Dallas Cowboys (10-1)
New England Patriots (9-2).
Oakland Raiders (9-2).
New York Giants (8-3).
Kansas City Chiefs (8-3).
One of those things is not like the others. The Giants are tied with the Chiefs for the fourth-best record in the NFL, but in many ways they certainly don’t seem like the fourth-best team.
That’s cause for concern because there are no more bottom-feeders on the Giants’ schedule. They are heading into a five-game season-ending stretch against teams who are all in the playoff hunt. It should also be cause for optimism. The Giants have yet to play a dominant offensive game. There always seems to be some glitch in the special teams play, a missed extra point, a muffed punt and two penalties that wiped out huge returns by Beckham being Sunday’s snafus.
The Giants have been outstanding on defense in recent weeks, but will have to be better in the other phases down the stretch. There is room, lots of it, for that to happen.
I’m going to disagree with Brandon. In his look at the NFC playoff picture, he pretty much put the Giants in the playoffs already. With their upcoming schedule, and the fact that the Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins and even Green Bay Packers hold head-to-head tie-breaker advantages over the Giants nothing is guaranteed. The Giants have put themselves in good position, that’s all. Now, they have to close the deal. And they will have to play better on offense and special teams to do it.