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Giants 21, Bengals 20: Five things we learned Monday night

Giants’ offense takes big step forward

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at New York Giants
Tom Coughlin had the spotlight for a few minutes Monday night, and he wasn’t about to give it up.
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — What did we learn Monday during the New York Giants’ 21-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals? Let’s take a look.

The offense can close out a game

During the Giants’ last three victories, it was the defense that had to ride to the rescue of a sputtering offense with game-saving stops. Monday night, the defense did its job again, stifling Cincinnati’s final possession. It was the offense, though, that sealed the deal. Stunningly, the Giants did it relying solely on their league-worst rushing game on their final possession.

Taking over with 3:01 left the Giants handed the ball to Rashad Jennings five straight times. He responded with 38 yards rushing, including a 9-yard run on third-and-6 and a 25-yard burst that allowed the Giants to go into victory formation.

“For us to get the ball and to run out the clock right there; third and six and Rashad gets the ball and a big first down. Huge play right there. We can at least get it so they get the ball back with thirty seconds or something around there and then after that run to get another first down and seal the victory; big time football right there.”

Jennings, with a season-high 87 yards on 15 carries said simply that “We made some progress today.”

The Giants’ offensive line, down to six available bodies with Brett Jones having injured his calf and Will Beatty inactive, did excellent work. With Marshall Newhouse shuttling between left guard, a position he had very little experience playing, and jumbo tight end, the Giants allowed just one sack and created enough running room at the end of the game for the offense to run out the clock.

“It's something that we hadn't done previously this season ... you continue to hear the defense saved the game, the defense saved the game,” said right tackle Bobby Hart. “We wanted to put it on our backs for once, give the defense a break. They played a helluva game once again. To be able to keep them on the sideline and continue to finish the game is just awesome."

“That’s definitely a confidence-booster for us as an offense,” said right guard John Jerry. “For us an an offense it’s a special moment to go out there with a team knowing you’re going to run the football and to be able to run the football and sustain a drive.”

A week ago against the Philadelphia Eagles, in a nearly identical situation with third-and-4 and a chance to end the game with a first down, the Giants passed the ball. That nearly ended in disaster as a tipped ball was intercepted, forcing the defense to make a game-saving stand.

This time, head coach Ben McAdoo trusted his offensive line and his veteran running back.

"He had the faith in us on that last one to give us a run. That was awesome,” said center Weston Richburg. "Our guys up front were excited to get that run call on third down and make that happen, end the game with the ball in our hands."

With 21 points, the Giants are still searching for a breakout game offensively in terms of putting points on the board. Finishing off Monday’s game the way the offense did, though, was a huge step forward.

Don’t anoint Roger Lewis Jr. just yet

Entering Monday’s game yours truly didn’t believe the Giants would miss the injured Victor Cruz that much. After all, the Giants still had Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard, and rookie Roger Lewis Jr. had made some big plays in recent weeks. Besides, Cruz’s snaps were being cut back.

Then Lewis put up a stinker Monday night. First, he dropped a perfectly thrown go route on the Giants’ second possession. Lewis was then at least partially responsible for a second-quarter interception by Dre Kirkpatrick that ended up giving the Bengals the ball at the Giants’ 7-yard line. Later, he stopped short on another go route. Lewis was eventually replaced by Tavarres King.

Lewis is a talented young player. The Giants, though, did miss Cruz’s experience and route-running savvy.

TC didn’t get cheated

Tom Coughlin was the final speaker during Monday’s Ring of Honor ceremony during which Coughlin, Justin Tuck and Ernie Accorsi were honored. Even though there were less than three minutes before the game was supposed to begin Coughlin loudly proclaimed he wasn’t going to get cheated, and he didn’t. He was still thanking family and friends long after the clock hit :00. After the way so many Giants games ended a year ago there is a clock management joke in there. where. I will let you guys make it, though.

“I was like he is going to be a while,” said Jennings. “I am going to go and get my warm up in. He forgot about TC time.”

“I was just imagining what he’d be doing on the sideline if someone was up there at halftime going over the limit,” said Eli Manning. “He’d be going crazy on the sideline, but I guess we can’t fine him anymore for being late so we’ll give him an exception this time.”

Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul were monstrous

Vernon’s wrist must be improving. Back at his natural right end position he was monstrous. Vernon was tremendous against the run, finishing with a team-high 10 tackles, one for loss. He had a sack on Cincinnati’s final possession, when back-to-back sacks (see, they do matter) forced the Bengals to punt the ball away and hope for a defensive stop they couldn’t get. Pierre-Paul batted down two passes, one on that final Cincinnati possession, had five tackles and a pair of hits on quarterback Andy Dalton.

This was the kind of impact the Giants envisioned when they paired Vernon and Pierre-Paul.

That Beckham kid is pretty good

Beckham caught 10 passes in 11 targets for 97 yards and a touchdown. The move he made to get open on his second-quarter touchdown grab was just, well, in basketball they would call it “ankle-breaking.”

Beckham, as we mentioned in our game recap, is now the fastest player in NFL history to reach 3,500 receiving yards. He did so in 36 games, breaking Lance Alworth’s mark of 37.