Diary of a Giants Fan: Giants Earn Win Over Bills – Grades
Seeking atonement for their sinful loss to Seattle in week five the Giants took to the field against the surprising 4-1 Buffalo Bills. Indeed, it was atonement they would find as Eli Manning would lead his team to a gutsy and impressive 27-24 win. Redemption! Thy Name is Giants!
Last week's game was an absolute mess, to put it kindly. A loss to the porn-stache of Charlie Whitehurst and the rest of the Montreal Alouettes meant that the Giants would need a win against the AFC East leading Buffalo Bills to take a north of .500 record into their week seven bye - a tall task for a team that couldn't stop a swift wind from knocking down their quarterback last week. But with the schedule becoming SEC hard after the bye the Giants would need the win to give them a shot going forward.
The game opened with a great run for Bradshaw up the middle for a big gain; and from the opening kick off it seemed that some of the Giants blocking woes had been rel- called back for a hold...Here we go again. The ten yard penalty put the men of New York in too big a hole and they'd be forced to punt. Encouraging start. The defense would hold for the Giants however, with the defensive backs making impressive tackles for the first time this millennium.
Eli Manning would take the ball and begin his impressive day. Completions to Cruz and Bradshaw had the Giants moving. Two more completions to Manningham and my new favorite Giant, Jake "Kevin Boss Who" Ballard, would have Giants at the Bills' one yard line. Ahmad Bradshaw would punch it in from one yard and put the Giants on top early, 7-0.
After a touchback the Bills took over on their own twenty looking to engineer a touchdown drive. Well, it took all of fifteen seconds. Fred Jackson took the handoff eighty yards, juking out Aaron Ross - who was running BEHIND Jackson - on his way to the end zone. Forget the fact that the defensive line was parted like the Red Sea, forget that the defensive backs and line backers took such horrible angles to Jackson that it made me wonder if they'd ever played football before, and think about the fact that Fred Jackson juked Aaron Ross out of his jockstrap while running away from him. Depressing. 7-7.
Following a poor set of downs for the Giants, set up by another poor first down play (or penalty), Ryan Fitzpatrick would lead his offense back onto the field. Picking on Cory Webster, who - as is the Giants way - was giving far too much space to the wide receivers, the Bills would begin to march down the field. Big Blue, unable to get off the field on third down, would give up another big play touchdown. Shockingly, you can chalk up the catch and run to horrific tackling and angles taken by the Giants defense. 7-14.
But then something happened. The Giants found an offensive life. They found a rhythm. Eli Manning would begin to spread the ball around with completions to Pascoe and Nicks. Kevin Gilbride remembered that he has talented running backs as well, and with a good mix of run and pass the Giants would drive into field goal range and Tynes would convert the attempt. 10-14. The ensuing Bills drive would start with promise as Brad Smith ran the wild cat for a big gain. That's right, the wild cat, which hasn't worked for anyone in the league in like three years, blew up the Giants D. Embarrassed, as they should have been, the Giants would dig deep and with back to back sacks knock the Bills out of field goal range, a good hold.
Eli Manning took over and once again went to work. The apparently fleet footed QB was moving in the pocket, avoiding pressure and making big throws. Two big plays to Ballard and Nicks would take the Giants inside the Bills five. Bradshaw would once again punch it in and the Giants were back on top. 17-14. Poor work by the defensive backs, including inability to cover the back-up running back - THE BACK UP RUNNING BACK! - and a personal foul on Pierre-Paul, would put the Bills in field goal range. Lindell would hit a high, Tiger Woods-esq, draw, sneaking the ball inside the uprights. 17-17. That score would take us to half time.
Despite allowing 17 points in the first half, I'm not sure you could ask for a better half of football for the Giants. Aside from two big plays, the result of some dreadful tackling, the Giants defense had looked good. Offensively the Giants were looking the best they had all season. Eli Manning looked...well, brilliant. Bradshaw was running hard, the offensive line was blocking and the wide receievers were only dropping a few balls. It was an excellent half for Big Blue. It seemed that they'd just need to stay the course to get the win, keep the Bills from scoring big play touchdowns and continue to ride this un-Giant like rhythm on offense. Just stay the course.
The second half began with a bit of a break from the normal, however - albeit a welcomed break. Three great plays from the defense and the Giants were finally able to get off the field on third down - a merciful break from tradition that had had the Bills converting on far too many third downs. The Giants offense would take the ball and convert some third downs of their own on route to what would be a brilliant drive. Fancy moves in the pocket - clearly Eli is a leading contender for next year's Dancing With the Stars - would help Manning find space and make big completions down the field. Catch and runs from Nicks, Mannningham and Ballard - who slipped a defender with what was certainly the slowest juke move I've ever seen - had the Giants on the one. Bradshaw would once again put on the proverbial exclamation point with his third one yard touchdown run. 24-17 Giants.
The ensuing Bills possession would be brilliantly brought to an end when Cory Webster atoned for earlier sins with a one handed interception. Redemption, thy name is Webster? Indeed. Manning took possession and once again began to move his team. He and Bradshaw carried the team into field goal range, though the drive stalled when Manning was unable to find the wide open 6'6, 318 pound Stacy Andrews. The Giants would settle for a Lawrence Tynes field goal attempt which, not shockingly, was blocked. Blocked. BLOCKED?!
With momentum now on their side Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills would begin the drive with good field position. Several third down conversions later the Bills had systematically moved the ball down the field. A Stevie Johnson touchdown reception would tie the game early in the fourth. 24-24. Clearly rattled, the Giants could do nothing on their next offensive possession. A holding penalty on first down left them in a huge hole and a Victor Cruz drop sealed the deal on the three an out, a Weatherford punt just made it official.
The impressively bearded Ryan Fitzpatrick took the punt and began to march his team down the field. Things were beginning to look bleak for the Giants. Their secondary was, once again, being torched like Chicago in 1871...too soon for a Great Chicago Fire joke? Anyway, the Bills had moved the ball deep into the red zone and as hope of a defensive stop had all but faded the unthinkable happened...again. Cory Webster made a leaping interception on the two yard line, and possession was back with the Giants.
As predicted, late in the game it would once again be the responsibility of Eli Manning, one of the best two minute quarterbacks in the league, to win this game. A few big runs by Bradshaw, including a few vicious stiff arms, would get the Giants rolling. A pass interference call would bring the Giants inside the red zone and soon enough the Giants were on the door step, threatening to take the game. With a fourth down forced just inside the two minute warning, the pressure fell to the foot of Lawrence Tynes to get the Giants the lead. And what a tenuous foot it is. Nerves a-plenty (mine, not his) Tynes would step up, shrug off the earlier block, and boot it through. 27-24 Giants. Redemption, thy name is Tynes.
The final Bills possession would be uneventful as Jason Pierre-Paul would knock down a fourth down pass and give the Giants the win. And what an impressive, important win it was. This was by far the best game the Giants have played all season. The defense looked good on all but two plays. Yet even including those demonstrations on "how to be a poor tackling team" the defense made huge stops when they needed to and held what is a very good offense largely in check. Offensively the Giants found a viable and consistent rhythm for the first time this season. They played with exceptional balance, successfully running and passing throughout the game. The Giants played today what I'd call their first complete game of the season. Both offensively and defensively they looked good and, for the most part, avoided the lapses and stalls that have cost them before.
Yes they had some poor tackling, yes they had some drops, and yes it was a struggle into the late stages of the game, but they got the win. They played well in all phases, rallied off of the horror that was last week and got a hard earned win against a quality opponent. Excellent game all around.
GRADES: Defensive Line - A: The unit got pressure, when Fewell decided to rush more than three, and made big plays when they needed to. Well done up front.
Linebackers - B: Boley and friends rallied off of some appalling tackling early in the game to make some big plays against the run. Fix those tackling problems, but all around a good game.
Defensive Backs - B: Webster's two picks were huge in the game, though the defensive backs' bad tackling and poor coverage led to some big plays for the Bills. In the end they answered the bell when called upon and turned in their best performance of the season. Well done.
Special Teams - C: Weatherford continued to punt well, but you can not have a blocked kick. Lock it up.
Offensive Line - B: The line was insanely improved coming off of their dismal performance last week. Eli was not sacked in this game and Bradshaw had his choice of big holes to run through. The grade would be better if not for some ill-timed penalties.
Wide Receivers - B+: They worked well with Manning throughout the game and earned a good grade despite more than a few drops. Well done overall.
Running Backs - A: What a game for Bradshaw. Three touchdowns and over 100 yards rushing. Ran hard, ran tough, ran into the end zone. He was also brilliant in blitz pickup throughout the game. Can't say more than that.
Eli Manning - A+: It's hard for me to say enough about the much maligned Manning's game today. This was a brilliant bit of quarterbacking from the man from Ole Miss. Manning showed some...agility (?!) in the pocket, avoiding pressure and giving himself time to make big throws. He made smart throws and impressive throws, leading his team on important scoring drives in the clutch. This is why you love Manning. Correction. This is why you should love Manning.
The Giants will head into their bye week 4-2, atop the NFC East. Follow me on Twitter @JoeBianchino and check back here during the week for some thoughts on the season so far.