This game followed a familiar script for the Giants in the first half, with the game tight after two quarters and the Giants playing down to an opponent they should beat. But then, in a change from their play over the previous two months, the Giants were able to capitalize on their opportunities and walk away with the win.
So then, what did we learn as the Giants — finally — did what they were supposed to do and get a win over a team they were supposed to beat?
The Giants aren’t the worst team in the NFL
For the entire first half and a fair amount of the third quarter, an impartial viewer would likely have been hard-pressed to decide which of these teams was better. If anything the answer might have been Miami.
The two teams traded failed drives through the first quarter, then had big plays against each other in the second quarter. The Dolphins engineered a 94-yard drive for a touchdown while the Giants scored theirs on a 51-yard catch and run.
The teams continued to go back and forth in the third quarter, but ultimately the Giants’ roster proved to be less depleted than the Dolphins’. It was a series of events the Giants saw play out time and again this year, with a close game turning into a bad loss over the second half — but this time the Giants were on the winning side.
Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard finally showed up
It only took 13 games, but the Giants got the kind of production they have been looking for from them all year. The two have dealt with frustrating injuries all season long, as well as inconsistent play from the offense around them.
Granted it was against one of the — if not the — worst defenses in the NFL, but it all finally came together for Shepard and Barkley against the Dolphins.
Sterling Shepard was able to consistently create separation out of his routes and caught nearly everything (save one bad drop) thrown his way, hauling in 9 of 11 for 111 yards on the day. While he didn’t have any big game-breaking plays or touchdowns, this is the kind of production the Giants were envisioning when they signed him to an extension before the start of the season.
And with the passing game working and a rare lead established, the Giants were able to feed Barkley the volume of carries he needed to eclipse the century mark for the first time since week 2. Barkley only saw an 8-man box on one carry all game long as the Dolphins concentrated on trying to slow down the Giants’ passing game. And though didn’t have any game-breaking plays either, he was able to take advantage of the neutral (or light) boxes given him and consistently churned out four and five-yard carries.
The trick now for the Giants will be carrying this production over to the next two games.
Chase for Chase Young is in serious jeopardy
The Giants finally won a game, ending their nine-game skid and averting the worst losing streak in franchise history. But in doing so they put their odds of landing all-star EDGE Chase Young out of Ohio State.
The Giants are sitting at 3-11, as are the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins. Obviously the Dolphins lost, as did Washington as well as the Detroit Lions. The Giants still hold the second overall pick by virtue of their .461 strength of schedule — the fourth-lowest in the NFL.
This sets up the Giants’ Week 15 road game against Washington as potentially being for the second-overall pick.
It might wind up being a tough game as well, considering Washington played the Philadelphia Eagles hard today. Dwayne Haskins completed 19 of 28 for 261 yards and 2 touchdowns, while the ageless Adrian Peterson tied Walter Payton’s career mark for rushing touchdowns.
If the Giants wind up winning, they could lose the second-overall pick and perhaps wind up falling out of the top 5 completely.
Eli Manning is back to .500
This could be Eli Mannings’ last game in Met Life Stadium, and if it is, the Giants let him have a great curtain call. The Giants made good use of their time outs at the end of the game to give Eli as much time as possible to soak in the cheers of the fans as he left the field for what could be the last time. The Giants were also able to come away with a win, bringing Eli Manning’s career record to 117-117.
At this point we don’t know if Manning has taken his last snap as a Giant and the coaching staff seems to be eager to get Daniel Jones back on the field. Next week could see Jones start against the Washington Redskins.
Of course, the Giants still have one more home game left, the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles. Perhaps the coaching staff will see fit to let him finish out the season as the starter and he’ll have another last game in front of the home fans.
There are still questions to be answered
This was a game the Giants absolutely should have won, but it could also have turned out very different. Six of the Dolphins’ first seven drives ended on the Giants’ side of the field, with them missing a pair of scoring opportunities in the second half. The Giants also finished -2 in the turnover battle, and historically speaking, teams that are down two turnovers lose 60 percent of the time.
It’s good to get a win, great for Eli to get back to .500 on his career, and to give the fans in attendance something to cheer about. But we should also keep in mind that this was against a team which traded away most of their best players and has well over 20 undrafted free agents on its roster.
Against a better team, one which could take advantage of the opportunities the Giants presented, this game might have turned out differently.
We never want to turn away wins, but this win doesn’t erase the nine losses which came before it and it shouldn’t stop us from asking some serious questions of the Giants going forward.