Diary of a Giants Fan: Giants Win an Ugly One – Grades
It was an ugly, ugly, brutally ugly game in the Meadowlands Monday night. And not that great old time, bruising, smashmouth type of ugly typified by the '86 Giants, who's Super Bowl win was celebrated at half time. This was just good old fashioned sloppy ball. But hey, they got the win. So who cares what it looked like?
The game opened with a lot of questions. Could the Giants bounce back from last week's shellacking? Would the offense show signs of life for the first time all season? Do the Giants have a secondary and would they bother getting off the team bus, or just save themselves the embarassment? All would be answered in due time, my friends. In fact, we got one answer pretty early.
Yes, the Giants offense would show signs of life. Taking the opening kick off, the G-men began a systematic march down the field. Two great Ahmad Bradshaw cutback runs got the Giants rolling and big blue seemed to have some things figured out. All would be lost, however, when Eli Manning put an inexplicable amount of air underneath a pass to wide open Mario Manningham and was picked off. And with that, order had seemed to be restored...sigh.
As the Rams offense - well, the shambles of it that are left - took the field the ugliness of last week began to emerge. The Giants secondary had, in fact, bothered to show up, though no one seemed to notice. The Rams passed the ball at will, converting several third downs en route to a field goal and the lead. Again, the G-men corners and safeties seemed unable to look for the ball, on the rare occasion that they were covering someone. Poor coverage, poor ball recognition, poor defense.
An unspeakably inept second offense series for the Giants led to a punt. But wait. A fumble? A Giant's recovery? The Giants making a play on special teams? THE GIANTS MAKING A PLAY ON SPECIAL TEAMS?! That's worth one of these:
Big Blue would take advantage of the Rams mistake and, with the help of a pass interference call, drive down the field for a touchdown. Manning to Nicks. The touchdown was a brief and shining reminder of why I still believe in Eli Manning. Reading the defense perfectly, Eli audibled to a throw, then delivered a back shoulder strike that had more pepper on it than a [insert a food with a lot of pepper. I can't think of one, I like my food reassuringly bland and tasteless] to the talented hands of Hakeem Nicks. 7-3 G-Men. It was a fortunate turn of events, but credit the offense for making the best of it.
The ensuing Lawrence Tynes kick off was then caught by the Rams at the five. This play is rather inconsequential but I needed to mention it for one reason. Larry. Come on. Everyone in the league is booting that ball eight yards deep. COME ON! GET IT IN THE PAINT AT LEAST, EH?!
The Rams came out on this series and began to pressure the Giants D. Steve Spagnuolo's team ran a no-huddle offense that the Giants had no answer for. Sam Bradford was mistro-esq at quarterback, carving up the Giants all the way down the field. It seemed that the only thing that could slow the Rams down was their decision to run the ball. "Why in God's name would you bother running the ball against this team?" That questioned, posed so eloquently by my father, is a fair one and sums up a lot of this defensive performance for the Giants. However, like the first drive, the Giants held firm in the red zone and forced a field goal, 7-6 Giants.
After another muddling Giants offense possession the Rams took over and again began to drive. The Giants defensive line was not getting enough pressure on Sam Bradford, which left their secondary woefully exposed...more so than they were before. The Rams, looking poised to take yet another possession into the red zone, then made a key mistake that would prove to be the turning point of the game. Sam Bradford threw a quick screen to Cadillac Williams, which went straight through the hands of the weak-kneed RB. The pass was clearly a lateral, which was noticed by 0nly one player on the field. Linebacker Michael Boley scooped up the mistake and took it to the house for a score. 14-6 Giants.
Great play, Boley. Though hey, be careful with the celebration? No need to crush that dude's face with the ball after you score. Seriously, if you missed that, check out the replay. Boley gets into the paint, then fires a Randy Johnson fastball out of the back of the end zone which rocks this innocent guy in the dome. IN THE FACE! IN THE FACE!
Anyway. Fast forward to the end of the half: When the Giants took over possession just outside of two minutes to go in the first half I was content to watch them go three and out and take the game to halftime. But then, something amazing happened. The Giants began to put a drive together. I almost couldn't believe it, but it was true. Eli Manning, one of the best two minute quarterbacks in the league (I said it, deal with it) was leading another two minute drill and matriculating the ball down the field. He'd cap off the drive, and what I think was the longest half of football ever, with a touchdown pass that was magic-ed out of the air by Dominik Hixon. 21-6 Giants, and we're at halftime. Mercilessly. I mean, there's a real chance that we set a record for possessions in one half of football.
At halftime, little could be taken from the game. The offense had largely looked lethargic, though was showing signs of life. They'd need to run the ball and control the tempo in the second half if they wanted to get the win. The defense had looked decent. The secondary was awful, as expected, though the defensive line was making plays. In what was an ugly game so far, it would be up to the Giants to play mediocre football and win this game.
The second half was really what you can hang your hat on as a Giants fan. Defensively the Giants pass rush began to get after Sam Bradford, keeping this Rams offense at bay. Offensively, this was the best that they've looked in a while. Tom Coughlin's team ran the ball well and used it to set up short passes and screens. They were taking exactly what the Rams gave them and not trying to do too much, just controlling the game. This led to a Brandon Jacobs touchdown, and despite a late Sam Bradford touchdown pass (a real beauty), a rare void of late drama win for the Giants. 28-16.
Overall, this was a sloppy game for both teams. I'm not sure the Giants' performance had as much to do with their decent execution as it did with the Rams horrific execution. Let's face it, the Rams gave the Giants a defensive touchdown and gave a stalling offense a jump by muffing a punt. However, the G-men took what the Rams gave them and did enough to get the win. And thank God. I don't think I could have handled going 0-2. With two losses, it's a long way to next Sunday when the Giants will play the Eagles in what should be a real blood bath unless our New York boys can dial up some pass coverage. But that's next week, live up the win this week. It wasn't pretty, but it was enough, and that's all that matters. Good win boys. Well, decent win.
GRADES: Defensive Line - B-: The D-line wasn't perfect, but they stopped the run and got some real pressure on Sam Bradford when they needed to. Still, there's room for improvement and they'll need to bring more heat as the season wears on to try and alleviate the pressure on that awful secondary.
Linebackers - C: Not bad. Not good. Boley had his second straight good game with a batted pass in the red zone and a heads up play that resulted in a touchdown. But other than that you barely heard a Giants linebacker get his named called all night. Good or bad.
Secondary - D: Well, it was better than last week. I guess. Giants secondary players made some good plays tonight breaking up a few passes and closing down gaps quickly to make nice tackles. But as a unit they still look bad. Really bad. They're giving too much space to wide receivers, not covering well and not recognizing where the ball is when they do cover well. Without a doubt, this is the number one concern for the Giants heading forward and into a game with the fastest team in the league.
Special Teams - B: They did cause (Cause? Does falling on a muff count as causing?) a turnover which led to the Giants first score, but other than that not a lot came out of this third of the game for the Gents.
Offensive Line - C+: The line opened up some big holes for the running backs tonight, though they gave up too many sacks, including a few on third downs which killed drives. Good work in the run game, but give Eli some help?
Running Backs - A: Once again I think this was the strength of the G-men. Both backs looked good tonight, in all phases of the game, running, receiving and blitz pick up. Once again they held onto the ball and looked strong. Good work Jacobs and Bradshaw.
Wide Receivers - B-: There were some bad drops again in this game, but they receivers as a whole were vastly improved. They even showed some hands at times, bailing out Eli on a couple of poor throws - looking at you Hixon and Manningham. Though those two both went down injured, we'll have to see how they recover during the week. Could the Victor Cruz era be about to begin?
Quarterback - C: Manning didn't have a great night throwing the ball. He threw a pick and his accuracy was iffy at times, though I think Eli did a superb job managing the game, especially in the second half. He called a great game in terms of audibles and moved the ball with the offense when he needed to. Better passing is necessary, but all in all a solid game for the Giants QB.
Make sure to check back at the end of the week for my preview of the week three game at Philly. Go Giants!