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Giants 17, Lions 6: “Kudos & Wet Willies” review

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Who deserves praise, criticism after another impressive victory?

NFL: Detroit Lions at New York Giants
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple celebrate a DRC interception on Sunday.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Ten wins for the first time since 2010! A playoff berth within their grasp for the first time since 2011! Another dominating defensive performance by the New York Giants in a 17-6 victory on Sunday over the Detroit Lions! More heroics from Odell Beckham Jr.! An efficient day from quarterback Eli Manning!

Let’s get to the “Kudos & Wet Willies” from Sunday.

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Kudos to ...

Eli Manning — The veteran quarterback responded to a few rough weeks with a terrific performance. He went 20-of-28 for 201 yards and two scores, compiling a 115.3 passer rating. Manning made an absolutely brilliant throw to Odell Beckham Jr. on third-and-10 in the fourth quarter, hitting him for a 25-yard gain that set up the clinching touchdown. He also made a terrific throw to Victor Cruz for 29 yards, and had great touch on a 6-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard. Perhaps most significantly, no interceptions — and not a single ball I can remember that was really in any danger of being picked off.

Odell Beckham — As the tweet below indicates, when the Giants needed a play Beckham made it. The 25-yard catch on third down in the fourth quarter with the game hanging in the balance. The brilliant one-handed touchdown catch. He ended up with six catches for 64 yards. And his best play, a dizzying, field-reversing 63-yard punt return for a touchdown didn’t even count.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie — DRC probably hasn’t gotten enough credit this season for what he has done, moving inside with Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple playing the majority of snaps on the outside and playing extremely well. Rodgers-Cromartie moved outside Sunday. His hustle play to chase down Golden Tate from behind was a game-changer, but that wasn’t all he did. DRC had an interception in the end zone to seal the victory in the closing moments, had seven tackles, three passes defensed and played 59 snaps, the most he has played since Week 7.

Justin Pugh — Returned to the lineup for the first time since Week 9 and played well. How happy were the Giants to have him back? The first two plays of the game, a pair of runs that gained a total of 12 yards, were behind Pugh. Besides, he gets props for being absolutely hilarious in the locker room after the game.

Olivier Vernon — A half-sack, a huge fumble recovery in the end zone to prevent Detroit from scoring, two hits on Matthew Stafford, five tackles. This guy just keeps making plays week after week.

Brad Wing — Can you place the ball any better as a punter than Wing has in recent weeks? Wing had seven punts Sunday and had a net average of 41.0 yards. He had four punts returned for a grand total of 11 yards, and had two more punts downed inside the 5-yard line. Coach Ben McAdoo often refers to Wing as a “weapon.” He’s right.

Dwayne Harris — This is one tough guy. Harris made a great heads-up play to blast a Detroit gunner out of the way just as he was about to catch a punt that would have pinned the Giants inside their own 5-yard line. The ball went for a touchback. He made a tackle on a return after being held and thrown to the ground. He returned two punts, including one where he skipped a fair catch despite having a Lions’ defender basically hanging on him.

The Giants’ defense — No Jason Pierre-Paul? No Janoris Jenkins for most of the game? No help from the offense for much of the game? No problem. The Giants just kept turning the Lions away. Vernon was terrific. DRC, Eli Apple and Landon Collins all made plays. The Giants got contributions from guys like Leon Hall, Coty Sensabaugh and Trevin Wade. The Giants have now given up 13 points in two weeks to two teams whose combined record is 21-7.

Wet Willies to ...

Rashad Jennings — Sunday provided perhaps the clearest evidence yet that rookie Paul Perkins needs more opportunities and Jennings needs to carry the ball less often. The two split series on Sunday. Jennings carried 18 times for 38 yards, a measly 2.1 yards per carry. Running the same plays behind the same offensive line, Perkins carried 11 times for 56 yards, 5.1 per attempt. While Jennings pitter-patters and hides behind his line looking for a place to go, Perkins hits the line with authority and has the ability to put his foot in the ground, make a quick cut and get defenders to miss tackles.

Eric Pinkins — Did you even know Pinkins, a safety, was on the Giants’ roster? He gets a “Wet Willie” for Sunday because it was his his illegal block in the back penalty that wrecked this play.

Bobby Hart — If I’m going to give Pinkins a “WW,” I have to give Hart one, as well. The second-year right tackle appeared to play a good game, but it was his illegal hands tot eh face penalty that nullified a Victor Cruz salsa. So, boo for that.

Final thoughts

As we look forward to Thursday night against the Philadelphia Eagles, where a victory would clinch a wild-card playoff berth for the Giants, let’s talk about the state of the 10-4 Giants.

We know how good the Giants’ defense is. We have seen the Giants’ $200 million free-agent investment and use of a first-round pick on cornerback Eli Apple help that group grow into a unit that knows it is a championship-caliber group.

Week after week we see solid special teams play. Punter Brad Wing and the coverage units have been spectacular. If the Giants would stop committing penalties when Beckham returns punts, spectacular things would be happening there, too. Robbie Gould hasn’t had a ton of opportunities, but he is a solid NFL placekicker — even with a couple of missed extra points along the way.

The question about the Giants remains the offense. Can the Giants continue to win games against good teams when they go for long stretches, sometimes entire games, and get little to nothing from that side of the ball? They have done that the past two weeks, but they will need more help from Manning and Co. to make noise if and when they do reach the playoffs.

I think you should feel better about the offense after Sunday.

I had back surgery a month ago. I know that it will take time for me to be 100 percent healthy. Each week removed from surgery, though, I look for signs of progress. Fortunately, I have been finding them. I look at the Giants’ offense the same way.

The offense isn’t fixed. It isn’t whole. There are still self-inflicted wounds and too many times when they get nothing accomplished. Over the past couple of weeks, however, there have been signs of healing.

The Giants’ first drive was gorgeous. Ten plays, 75 yards, touchdown. The drive included six runs, four passes and a terrific mix of personnel groupings. The Giants opened with two tight ends, used their “11” grouping with three wide receivers and even brought in Marshall Newhouse as a jumbo tight end.

That drive was a great sign and yours truly was particularly happy to see the mix of personnel. Unfortunately, and this admittedly makes me crazy, we saw “11” personnel almost exclusively the remainder of the game. I fail to understand why when the Giants have some success using something other than the three-wide receiver set they refuse to stick with it.

Regardless, the Giants did once again run more times than they passed (32-28) and won the time of possession (30:44-29:16). The efficient, at times spectacular, turnover-free, play from Manning was also encouraging.

Most impressively, the Giants put together a lengthy (eight plays, 71 yards, 3:23) fourth-quarter drive for a touchdown when they needed it most.

For me, Sunday was another step in the right direction for the offense.