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Giants-Broncos final score: Five things we learned in Giants’ 23-10 victory

Playoffs might be a pipe dream, but Sunday gives reason for optimism

New York Giants v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Maybe we shouldn’t give up on Ben McAdoo, or the 2017 New York Giants, just yet.

After a tumultuous week in which the Giants put three wide receivers on injured reserve, including Odell Beckham Jr., and dealt with the fallout of suspending cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, there was a great deal of discussion about whether McAdoo was up to the task of coaching the Giants.

One inspired, unexpected victory does not mean the answer is yes. The way this one transpired, though, has to give fans — and the Giants’ organization — hope that perhaps the second-year coach can right the ship.

Maybe McAdoo got a gentle push from above to give up the play-calling duties he has fiercely held onto since becoming head coach. Maybe he didn’t. He said Sunday night that turning that job over to Mike Sullivan was “my decision” and was made “because the whole locker room needed me this week.”

Now, it’s fair to argue that, well, doesn’t the whole team need its head coach every week? Still, McAdoo — who I have often said is stubborn and who I said last week was acting with too much hubris — made the change. It’s a good thing simply because it shows recognition by McAdoo that there are other things a head coach needs to do besides pick the offensive plays.

The Giants didn’t do anything fancy Sunday. Somehow, though, when just a few day ago we were wondering if McAdoo’s relationship with players was fractured beyond repair, he got them to go into Denver and play hard. They ran the ball down the throats of the top-ranked run defense in the NFL. They defended the run. They tackled in the secondary. They pressured Denver quarterback Travor Siemian. For the first time this season they resembled the “physical, heavy-handed” football team McAdoo always claims he wants the Giants to be.

“Four separate incidents” led to DRC suspension

That is apparently the explanation for the suspension of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie that McAdoo gave to NBC. Why McAdoo couldn’t give that detail to the beat writers who were at the Giants facility covering the story all week is beyond me.

It may not matter to the fan base, but it’s an insult to the people at the facility every day just trying to do a job.

The passing game now goes through Evan Engram

No Odell Beckham Jr.? No Brandon Marshall? No Sterling Shepard? No problem. Just move Evan Engram around and throw the rookie tight end the ball. A lot. Engram had five catches for 82 yards and a touchdown Sunday. He was targeted seven times, while Giants’ wide receivers were targeted just a total of six times and had only two catches.

”He’s a rookie, but we can’t continue to treat him like a rookie,” McAdoo said. “He’s a guy that’s going to have to make plays for us and be a big part of our offense.”

Sullivan and McAdoo are going to have to continue to find unique ways to get Engram the ball. The cat is out of the bag now that he will be the focal point of the passing attack.

If Engram continues to be as much of a force as he was Sunday, that bodes well for the long-term future when Beckham returns to health in 2018.

The Giants have found a running game

We saw a glimpse of a successful running game last week with Orleans Darkwa and Wayne Gallman at running back, and D.J. Fluker helping clear running lanes from right guard. Riding Darkwa on Sunday night, the Giants had an outstanding night running the ball against a Denver defense that had been No. 1 in the league against the run.

Darkwa, hitting holes with authority, had a career night with 21 carries for 117 yards, including a 47-yard run. All of those were career bests for the fourth-year back who has had limited opportunities the past couple of years.

The once-again reshuffled offensive line — LT Ereck Flowers, LG John Jerry, C Brett Jones, RG Fluker, RT Justin Pugh — gave up three sacks, but the Giants averaged 4.6 yards per rushing play and won the time of possession, holding the ball for 30:36.

Pugh largely neutralized great Denver pass rusher Von Miller. He had a sack, but that was the only play he made all night.

By the way, when is the last time you saw a Giants offensive lineman bury someone the way Fluker buried a Denver defender on this play?

The defense can find its 2016 form

For the first time this season, the Giants’ defense looked like the group that was one of the best in the league last season.

Rodgers-Cromartie, Olivier Vernon and Jonathan Casillas didn’t play, and Landon Collins was in and out while playing with an injured ankle.

Still, the Giants got four sacks (three by a dominant Jason Pierre-Paul), created three turnovers, tackled well in the secondary and held the Broncos to 46 yards rushing on 17 carries (2.7 yards per rushing attempt). They played well on all three levels, and finally looked the way they were expected to from the beginning of the season.