Kudos to ...
Mike Sullivan — Ben McAdoo turned the play-calling over to Sullivan for the first time, under less-than-ideal circumstances with the Giants 0-5 and missing their entire starting group of wide receivers. Sullivan made it work. The Giants, entering the game averaging a league-low 20 rushing attempts, ran 32 times for 148 yards (4.6 per attempt). They found ways to get the ball to the only real weapon they had left in the passing attack, Evan Engram. The Giants were able to keep Eli Manning out of situations where he had to force the ball down field or where Denver pass rushers were able to tee off. Sullivan didn’t reinvent the wheel when it came to the Giants’ offense, but he helped them play a competent, clean game against a really good defense.
Orleans Darkwa — The former undrafted free agent has deserved a bigger role in the Giants’ offense for a couple of years now. For whatever reason, the Giants have been reluctant to give it to him. After Sunday’s career game (21 carries, 117 yards, 5.6 yards per carry) the Giants will have to continue to make Darkwa a featured part of the offense. Darkwa had runs of 47, 19, 15 and 14 yards. He’s not Le’Veon Bell or Ezekiel Elliott, but Darkwa runs hard and decisively. That’s good enough.
Jason Pierre-Paul — The Giants needed a big game from Pierre-Paul, and they got one. Taking advantage of right tackles Menelik Watson and Billy Turner, Pierre-Paul had three sacks, a forced fumble, two quarterback hits and eight total tackles.
Giants’ secondary — So what the Broncos passed for 394 yards, 376 of that by Trevor Siemian? Most of that was meaningless yardage that really didn’t amount to much.
- Janoris Jenkins was picked on early in the game by Trevor Seimian and Demaryius Thomas, but got the last laugh. In a big way. A pick 6. A forced fumble. A key role on a fourth-and-goal stop at the 1-yard line. Jenkins did commit two penalties, but his difference-making plays outweighed the negatives.
- Eli Apple played really well after a tumultuous week in which it was revealed that he had been benched for the first three series last week for disciplinary reasons. I wrote recently that the Giants, and the fan base, should not give up on Apple. The way he played Sunday is why.
CB Eli Apple in coverage vs. DEN:— Ryan Smith (@PFF_Smith) October 16, 2017
10 targets, 5 receptions, 38 yards
1 PD, 0 TD
59.6 passer rating pic.twitter.com/P9RFeTxIbc
- Landon Collins played only 52 of 81 defensive snaps due to his injured ankle, but had an interception and played exceptionally well when he was on the field.
- Ross Cockrell and Darian Thompson also played well. Cockrell, starting in the slot in place of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, surrendered one long play but held up fine. Thompson, who has struggled all season with his tackling, was sure in that department.
Justin Pugh — Drew the short straw Sunday night, being asked to once again move out to right tackle from his customary left guard spot, this time to face three-time All-Pro Von Miller. Pugh, often alone with Miller, did a phenomenal job. Miller had one sack, but that was his only tackle of the night. Pugh controlled him about as well as anyone could have been expected to.
Evan Engram — Without Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall, anyone with a pulse and a modicum of football knowledge knew the Giants were going to have to feature the rookie tight end in their passing attack. They did, and Engram still got open enough for five receptions, 82 yards and a nifty touchdown.
Damon Harrison — ‘Snacks’ was his usual imposing self in the middle of the Giants’ run defense, helping hold the Broncos to 46 yards rushing on 17 attempts (2.7 yards per carry). He also added a sack and a pair of quarterback hits, showing some uncharacteristic pass-rush prowess.
Wet Willies to ...
Al Michaels — For uttering this bit of stupidity during Sunday’s broadcast:
"The Giants came in having a worse week than Harvey Weinstein.”
What made him think going there was a good idea? Michaels did later apologize.
The Giants are still 1-5, and they wake up this morning with only a 4 percent chance of being the first 0-5 team to make the playoffs, but an awful lot of good things happened for them on Sunday night.
- The biggest is that we saw Ben McAdoo take a huge step forward as a head coach on Sunday night. Because he acted like a head coach. Yes, coaches can call plays and successfully manage an entire team and maybe someday McAdoo will be able to do both, but finally turning the play-calling over to Mike Sullivan and focusing his attention on the entire team was the right thing to do.
I have been critical of McAdoo for being stubborn, because he has been, and for perhaps letting his ego get in the way when it came to the Giants’ offense. He deserves “kudos,” though, for Sunday night. He recognized that the job of head coach is bigger than one task, and he helped the Giants to play an inspired, solid game after a week in which it looked as if the relationship between the coach and his players may have fractured.
- Mike Sullivan has long had a close relationship with Eli Manning, going back to 2010 when he was first named Giants’ quarterbacks coach. It is one of the reasons why Tom Coughlin brought Sullivan back to the Giants when the quarterbacks coach position was open in 2015. It is about time that the Giants took full advantage of the Sullivan-Manning relationship. No one knows Manning better, and no one else on the coaching staff was with the Giants when the veteran quarterback was winning Super Bowls.
- The Giants played efficient, effective enough offense without Beckham on the field. Over the past couple of seasons, including this one, the Giants’ offense has at times been too Beckham-centric. If he wasn’t there, or if the Giants weren’t able to get him loose for big plays, they couldn’t run effective offense. Maybe, just maybe, the silver lining of the Beckham injury will be that the Giants will become an offense that does more than simply wait for Beckham to be spectacular. Maybe they will continue to ride Evan Engram in the passing game. Hopefully, they will continue to reap the benefits of sticking with the running game. Perhaps Sterling Shepard will take a step forward when he returns to the lineup. Maybe, just maybe, when Beckham returns to the lineup next season he will come back to a team with a more more well-rounded offense.
- Eli Apple and Darian Thompson took steps forward. Both young defensive backs have struggled this season, but both remain key parts of the team’s future.
- The Giants finally found an offensive line combination that worked. I have long thought that Justin Pugh was better at guard than at right tackle, and I honestly still do. After the way he handled Miller Sunday night, though, it would be foolish for the Giants not to leave Pugh on the outside for the rest of the season. Oh, and when is the last time anyone saw a Giants’ offensive lineman obliterate a defender on a run play the way D.J. Fluker did Sunday on Darkwa’s 47-yard run? Fluker isn’t a great pass protector and he may not be the greatest athlete, but he is a physical presence.
There is no way to know what will happen for the Giants the rest of the season. Sunday, though, I believe we saw enough positives to think that some good things could come out of the season regardless of what the record ends up being.