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‘Things I think’ after Giants 19, Bengals 17: Niko Lalos, Daniel Jones, unsightly special teams play, more

The Giants will play meaningful football in December, and that’s not something anyone saw coming

New York Giants v Cincinnati Bengals
Colt McCoy
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The 4-7 New York Giants are in first place in the NFC East by virtue of owning the tiebreaker advantage over the Washington Football Team. I think that’s pretty amazing after an 0-5 start.

I also think I LOVE the attitude of veteran defensive back Logan Ryan displayed when he was asked about being in first place.

“Who cares?,” said Ryan. “Who honestly cares, it’s like a tie. We’re in first place for a minute, and then someone else plays.”

He’s right. They are in first place because they play in a bad division. They haven’t accomplished anything yet. They will be playing meaningful football in December, though, and I think that’s a lot of fun to think about.

Here are some other things I think after the Giants hang on to narrowly defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, 19-17, on Sunday.

I think today was a good day to be Niko Lalos.

Make your NFL debut, get props from LeBron James. The two went to the same high school, St. Vincent-St. Mary, in Akron, Oh. Not only that, but get a diving interception that led to a field goal. What a day for the undrafted rookie free agent from Dartmouth.

“I’m happy for him. First career start, an interception, a shout out from Lebron (James), I don’t think it gets better than that,” said Ryan. “He works extremely hard. Niko is there early, he’s one of the early birds, part of the early riser crew. He puts a lot of work in, and I think he was elevated today because we needed him, I think he was elevated today because of his work ethic every day on scout team, he plays offense and defense. I’m happy he was rewarded today, it’s a great story.”

I think kick coverage will be a focus this week.

Joe Judge, former special teams coach, and current special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey will not be happy about surrendering a 103-yard kickoff return touchdown.

Or falling prey to a third-quarter fake punt that kept a Cincinnati drive alive.

Or giving up a 29-yard punt return with less than a minute play that was very nearly a game-winning 79-yard touchdown return for Alex Erickson of the Bengals. A diving shoestring tackle by Cameron Brown was all that saved the day on that play.

Coach Joe Judge recognized in the post game that Brown had made a “game-saving tackle” on Erickson.

“It [special teams] wasn’t good enough today,” Judge said. “We’re not going to be able to compete these next five weeks if we don’t raise our level of play. Look, we’ve played well to a degree for the entirety of the season. We’ve had a lot of progress made in that phase. But it doesn’t matter what happened before any specific game. It just matters what you do in that game execution-wise. We’ve got to play better, coach better; we’ve got to do a better job all around in that phase of the game. It has to be a strength for us.”

I think the Giants will hold their breath about Daniel Jones.

Colt McCoy did a nice job, except for that near interception on his second throw after taking over from Jones, an awful throw that very nearly cost the Giants points. McCoy did enough with his arm (6 of 10, 31 yards) and his legs to get the Giants across the finish line on Sunday.

Judge complemented McCoy after the game. Jones said the veteran backup “did a great job.” You know, however, that the Giants don’t want to go into a stretch of four straight games against teams who have winning records without their starting quarterback.

Jones heads for an MRI on Monday, and while he said in a post-game video conference that he was “not discouraged,” he certainly didn’t sound optimistic about being back on the field quickly. Jones said it was “tough to say” if the injury would put him on the shelf for a while.

“I’m certainly not discouraged. I think it’s tough to tell exactly what it is right now, so we’ll get back [to New Jersey] and examine it,’ he said. “I’m excited to win and get the win and be a part of that, so certainly not discouraged at all and understand I’ve got to do what I can to get healthy, recover it, recover from it and get back on the field. But certainly want to be out there and it’s tough not being out there, but feels great to get a win.”

I think this win symbolized what the Giants are becoming.

Winning teams get contributions from the entire roster. Lalos, Wayne Gallman, Jabaal Sheard, Cam Brown, Colt McCoy and Graham Gano were all major contributors to Sunday’s victory.

Nobody could have seen that coming. Some of those guys weren’t on the roster when the year began, and none — perhaps with the exception of Gano — were expected to be big-time contributors to the Giants this season.

“Guys’ hard work is paying off. They’re getting opportunities and making the most of it. We’re a bunch of underdogs, a bunch of guys who were written off in our careers, and that’s what Joe (Judge) wants; he wants guys with a chip on their shoulders, he wants guys who are tough, and we’re building a culture here where if you work in practice day in and day out, you’ll get an opportunity. And when you get that opportunity, it’s your job to make the most of it,” Ryan said. “A lot of guys, like you said, aren’t premier big-name players in this league, but they’re a bunch of guys who work hard and play like big players in big moments. I’m happy for those guys, and I’m proud of this blue-collar, chip on their shoulder, group that we have, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

When it looked like the Giants were about to fold, about to lose a game they shouldn’t have lost, Brown made a saving tackle and Sheard, signed off the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad last month, forced a game-ending fumble.

I think the offensive line was outstanding.

Well, Giants fans can stop worrying about the idea that the progress of the young offensive line might be interrupted with Dave DeGuglielmo taking over from Marc Colombo as that group’s position coach.

Whether DeGuglielmo had anything to do with it or not, I think the offensive line played its best game of the season Sunday. Per Pro Football Focus, neither Andrew Thomas nor Shane Lemieux allowed a single pressure. There were no sacks allowed in 38 drop backs, including the Golden Tate trick play.

The Giants averaged only 3.4 yards per carry, but they got 142 total rushing yards and they plowed the road well enough for Gallman and the other Giants’ running backs to get yards whenever they needed them.

“They’re a tough group,” Judge said. “It all starts up front for us and we knew to have success we needed to run the ball, get the ball downhill, physically move it, keep time of possession on our side, and we were able to do that. That starts up front as an offensive line. I thought they did a nice job today.”

I think Evan Engram must love rollercoasters.

Because the Giants tight end certainly is one. Engram had a 53-yard catch that set up the Giants’ first touchdown. He had a brilliant 44-yard catch that set up a third-quarter field goal. He sandwiched those plays with a fumble at the Cincinnati 15-yard line that killed a Giant drive and led to a Cincinnati field goal.

Engram ended his up-and-down day with 6 catches for 129 yards.