Let’s dive into our traditional ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’ review of Sunday’s 19-17 victory by the New York Giants over the Cincinnati Bengals. It wasn’t pretty, but these are the new York Giants and things are very rarely pretty. it was, though, effective enough to set up meaningful December football, so “Kudos” for that.
Now, the individual honors and dishonors.
Kudos to ...
Niko Lalos — I have to admit that when I saw the Giants were elevating the undrafted rookie from Dartmouth I figured it was in case of emergency and he would be inactive Sunday. Thankfully for the Giants, I was wrong. What a day for Lalos! A shout-out from LeBron James, who went to the same Akron, Oh. high school. A diving interception. A little help for Logan Ryan on Ryan’s forced fumble/fumble recovery.
Wayne Gallman — I can’t tell you how many times I watch Gallman run and think “wow, does that guy run hard.” The guy isn’t fast. He isn’t elusive. He isn’t overly big. He just runs with abandon. He runs hard. He gets every inch out of every run. It’s a joy to watch. Gallman had a career-high 24 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. That’s only 3.9 yards per carry, but he earned every yard by pushing piles and running through tackles. Gallman has been a savior for the Giants’ backfield.
Logan Ryan — Forced a Drew Sample fumble in the fourth quarter and recovered it, setting up a field goal that gave the Giants a nine-point lead with 3:58 to play. Nearly had an interception, except for Jabrill Peppers knocking it out of his hands. This guy is a terrific player, terrific person and each time he joins a videoconference with media you can see the leadership and why the Giants wanted him on this team.
Offensive line ... except for Cam Fleming — Give credit to whoever you want, whether that’s Joe Judge, Dave DeGuglielmo, the deposed Marc Colombo or the players themselves. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the Giants’ offensive line — aside from Fleming — played its best game of the season on Sunday.
Rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas didn’t surrender a single pressure, per Pro Football Focus. Thomas made Cincinnati’s best pass rusher, Carl Lawson, a non-factor. Shane Lemieux, who had previously struggled in pass protection, also did not allow a pressure. Neither Daniel Jones nor Colt McCoy were sacked.
The Giants picked up yardage in the run game when they needed it. I don’t care who gets credit or what techniques they are using, you can win games when an offensive line plays that well. Or at least when four-fifths of it plays that well.
Graham Gano — After spending more than a week in a COVID-19 quarantine he described as “terrible,” Gano picked right up where he left off a couple of weeks ago. He went 4 of 4 on field goals, is now 25 of 26 on the season and has made 24 straight. About the only thing you could complain about is Gano’s “tackling” effort on Brandon Wilson’s 103-yard kickoff return. That wasn’t so good. Gano tackles like a kicker. Who knew?
Jabaal Sheard — The game had disastrous loss for the Giants written all over it after Erickson’s 29-yard punt return set the Bengals up at midfield with 57 seconds left. One first down and they would likely be in range for a game-winning field goal.
Sheard, a 10-year veteran who started the season on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad, had other ideas. He broke through for a strip sack of quarterback Brandon Allen, his first sack as a Giant, Leonard Williams recovered and the Giants were winners.
Cam Brown — I have to put him here. Brown doesn’t make that game-saving tackle on Erickson’s punt return and the Giants don’t win. It’s that simple.
Colt McCoy — Yes, I’m going to put McCoy here. Even if he very nearly threw a disastrous interception three plays after relieving the injured Daniel Jones. McCoy, in his first action as a Giant and also his first action since breaking his leg last season, did just enough for the Giants to win. He completed 6 of 10 passes, including a couple of clutch throws for first downs. He protected the ball. He did what a good backup, first and foremost, needs to do. He did not hurt the cause.
Evan Engram — I thought about giving the tight end a “Kwillie,” but maybe the Giants winning has me in a forgiving mood. Truthfully, I can forgive his fumble. It was costly and unfortunate, but far from careless. Engram was off balance after catching the ball, trying to get a few more yards and defensive back Vonn Bell of the Bengals made an excellent play to knock the ball out.
The Giants don’t win without the two huge plays Engram did make, catches of 53 and 44 yards, the latter a high degree of difficulty catch with a defender all over him. Engram finished with 6 receptions for a career-high 129 yards, 21.5 yards per catch.
Wet Willies to ...
Special teams kick coverage — Joe Judge said the Giants’ kick coverage “wasn’t good enough” Sunday against the Bengals. He was being generous. The kickoff and punt coverage was abysmal, and nearly cost the Giants a game they dominated in every other way.
The Giants gave up a 103-yard kickoff return touchdown that placekicker Graham Gano tried to shoulder the blame for. They gave up a 7-yard run for a first down on a third-quarter punt fake. They very nearly gave up a game-losing punt return for a touchdown, with only a great effort by Cam Brown to trip up Cincinnati punt returner Alex Erickson preventing that.
Cam Fleming — in his “things we learned” column, our Chris Pflum called for Matt Peart to take over as the starting right tackle when he comes off the Reserve/COVID-19 list. It’s a move I have been championing for weeks now, and Fleming’s mistake-filled Sunday only reinforced the need for Peart to play.
Fleming, a veteran who should be more disciplined than this, had three penalties on Sunday. There were two holding penalties and a false start. Fleming’s final holding penalty, with 1:54 left in the game, cost the Giants a first down that would have allowed them to run out the clock and almost resulted in them losing the game.
It’s time for the Giants to return Fleming to the swing tackle role they signed him for.
Kwillie to ...
Leonard Williams — Williams had his sixth sack of the season. He also made the victory-sealing recovery when Sheard forced Bengals quarterback Brandon Allen to fumble in the final minute. And, yes, he had three quarterback hits.
Williams, though, had a completely unnecessary 15-yard roughing the passer penalty that helped the Bengals cut the Giants’ lead from 19-10 to 19-17. A veteran player needs to be smarter than that.