Kudos to ...
Eli Manning — Of course. I don’t want to hear about the three interceptions, one of which was just an end of the half ‘let’s see what happens’ heave. Manning led the Giants to a victory, something they haven’t had in nearly three months. He was brilliant in the second half. ‘Kudos’ to him for the day, for the career he has had and for the way he has represented the Giants for 16 years. Class act, and whether or not it’s the final time we see him in a game he deserved the day he had.
Giants’ fans — Other than the goofball who ran onto the field (at least he had a Manning jersey on). MetLife Stadium wasn’t full, but it was lively. There was an ovation for Manning the first time he stepped on the field and chants of “Eli Manning” and “Thank you, Eli” throughout. Fans haven’t had much to cheer about in recent years and at times Manning’s play has been part of the issue. Giants’ fans rose to the occasion on Sunday, though.
Saquon Barkley — Barkley looked like Barkley on Sunday. Finally! Burst. Jump cuts that left defenders tackling air. Vicious stiff arms. Barkley ended up with 112 yards and two touchdowns on a season-high 24 carries. Credit to Pat Shurmur for not getting away from Barkley, and for getting him out of the game the last few minutes and letting Buck Allen finish up so Barkley wouldn’t take unnecessary pounding.
Young defensive backs — DeAndre Baker, Sam Beal and Julian Love all played big roles in this one. Baker had a defensive pass interference and gave up a meaningless touchdown late, but overall he played well. He had a pair of passes defensed and didn’t look overmatched by DeVante Parker, Miami’s best receiver. That’s three good games in a row for the rookie corner. Love was once again solid. Two tackles for loss as a run defender, a quarterback hit a a blitzer, a pass defensed and overall quality play. Beal was targeted by Miami early and gave up some completions. He ended up with 11 tackles and an aggressive, outstanding open field tackle of Miami running back Patrick Laird for a third-quarter safety.
Sterling Shepard — Bounced back from an early drop with his best game of the season. Shepard ended up with season highs in catches (9), targets (11) and yards receiving (111). This was a reminder of why the Giants gave Shepard a four-year, $41 million contract in the offseason.
Pass protection — The first Giants’ drive began with a standing ovation for Manning. It ended when he was sacked for the 411th time in his 16-year career. The Dolphins, though, barely touched Manning the rest of the game. Manning wasn’t sacked again and was only hit once. He had the kind of protection quarterbacks dream about, often able to stand in the pocket completely still and survey the field waiting for a receiver to come open.
The result? This was no ‘Checkdown Eli’ game. Look at the number of shots — and completions — down the field.
Makes you wonder what could have been over the past few seasons if the Giants could have protected him better.
Nick Gates — The second-year offensive lineman had an excellent game replacing Kevin Zeitler at right guard. Look at this block on Barkley’s 10-yard touchdown run:
Gates also did an excellent job earlier this season in his one start replacing Mike Remmers at right tackle. Just a guess here, but Gates might end up starting for the injured Zeitler the final two weeks. If he keeps playing like this the Giants — whoever the coach is — might have to find a place for him as a permanent starter.
Riley Dixon — Five punts and not a single return yard allowed with two of those downed inside the 20-yard line. Can you do it any better than that?
Defensive linemen — Leonard Williams (3 tackles, a forced fumble, 2 quarterback hits), Dalvin Tomlinson (sack, quarterback hit), Markus Golden (half-sack, 3 quarterback hits) all had impactful games.
Wet Willies to ...
Golden Tate’s backpedal — Why does the veteran wide receiver have to do that? Why can’t he run into the end zone and then celebrate? Tate made an excellent, juggling catch and turned it into a 51-yard touchdown in the second quarter Sunday. He nearly wrecked it by backpedaling the final 5 yards with a defender in close pursuit. He ended up lucky not to fumble when he got blasted backwards into the end zone at the 2-yard line. The backpedal is a taunting, DeSean Jackson move and I can’t stand it.
The Corey Ballentine slot experiment — The sixth-round pick out of a Division II school had never played in the slot until a few weeks ago. Ballentine has been picked on in recent weeks, and had no chance in a one-on-one matchup with Miami’s DeVante Parker on a 20-yard touchdown pass. Playing in the slot is at least getting Ballentine on the field, but it doesn’t look like it suits him.
Alec Ogletree — Yes, he helped separate Ryan Fitztpatrick from the ball on a third-quarter fumble but he also whiffed on a number of tackle attempts. The veteran linebacker can’t cover or tackle. Those seem like two requirements for the position he plays.
Aldrick Rosas — Another missed extra point, his fourth this season in 32 attempts.