Diary of a Giants Fan: Giants Rally To Beat Dolphins – Grades
Well...They won the damn game. What can you say? It was ugly. It was frustrating. It was harder than it should have been. It was as disappointing as a win can possibly be. But it was a win. They won the damn game. This is Diary of a Giants fan. Follow me on Twitter @JoeBianchino
Alright. This was a surprise. Even I, the most fatalistic of Giants fans, didn't see the Dolphins coming out and playing as well as they did. Reggie Bush said that the Dolphins "suck." I took him at his word, and while that's still probably true, they sure didn't look it early. They played well. In fact the Dolphins got an early look at what Andrew Luck will be as Matt Moore apparently decided to go as the Stanford quarterback for Halloween - and the Giants defense was kind enough to oblige for three quarters.
The Giants took the opening kick off and, after enduring the horrible return skills of Devin Thomas, looked to settle in on offense. Eli Manning had the Giants offense moving well through the air; completions to Cruz and Nicks had the Giants quickly in Dolphin territory. But some poor play led to a fourth down which the Giants were unable to convert and they gave the ball to the Dolphins in good field position.
And here we go.
Suddenly, as Giants fans have seen before, the frighteningly bad Mat Moore became an all star QB. Moore led his Dolphins team down the field and, with the help of the most egregious pass interference I've seen in a long time, they were first and goal on the one. Steve Slaton, who no one knew was still in the league, punched it in for the touchdown. 0-7 Dolphins. Crap.
Manning would have to rally the Giants, now. The Dolphins had come out energized and the longer they stayed in the game the harder they'd be to vanquish. Yes, I did just use the word vanquish. A bit much? Maybe, but I'm okay with that. Moving on. A good return for Thomas (I don't care, he's still awful) set the Giants up with good field position. The drive started with a great run by Bradshaw and two great completions to Manningham and Ballard. A penalty on the offensive line would help stall the drive, though, and the Giants would settle for a Lawrence Tynes field goal. 3-7.
After a run of three consecutive plays each followed by a commercial break that had me going all Ed Lover on CBS' coverage, C'mon son!, the Giants were back on defense. The result was no better, however. Apparently Reggie Bush had joined Moore in the costumed play, dressing up as a better NFL running back for Halloween, and their combined...skill(?) led the Dolphins back down the field. With no one in the Giants secondary bothering to look into the back field, Matt Moore would run the naked boot to perfection, running it in for the touchdown. 3-14. Mega crap.
After the offenses traded punts, thanks in part to a Lindval Joseph sack which he chose to celebrate like he had just won the Super Bowl (though I guess being down 14-3 to an 0-6 football team and having gotten pressure on the QB for the first time all day is dance-worthy), the Giants were back on offense and looking to get a score before half time. I've said it before and I'll say it again, people. Eli Manning is one of the best two minute quarterbacks in the game. A slew of big throws from Manning had the Giants driving with a real rhythm on offense. The big play on the drive came on a short pass to Ahmad Bradshaw which he was able to bulldoze into a big gain. The tough running of Bradshaw seemed to wake up this Giants team, as well as the home crowd. With new life Manning threw a perfect pass to Manningham to the back corner of the end zone, touchdown Giants. 10-14. As a side note: For a great passer, which I believe Manning is, he throws an awful ball. It may be thrown with perfect accuracy, but its dang near end over end. But whatever. Ugly as it may have been it was a touchdown that would take us to half at 10-14.
There's no way to put a positive spin on the first half. It was awful. I warned that they'd have some rust to kick off, but I didn't expect them to have more rust than that '84 Datsun that hasn't run since The Breakfast Club came out and has been parked, uncovered, in your Uncle's back yard for the last decade. The defense had come out and played inexplicably poorly. To me, that poor play had to be laid at the feet of the defensive line. With Umenyiora, Pierre-Paul and Tuck on the field together for the first time all season the Giants had almost no pass rush. Despite the fact that the secondary had, in fact, bothered to get off the bus that morning, they were giving up some bigger plays because of the time Moore had to find receivers and the space he had to run. The defensive line would need to come alive if the Giants were to have hope.
Offensively, Manning was having an excellent game. If not for his play the Giants wouldn't be anywhere close to in this game. At the end of the half the Giants had begun to find a rhythm and had been able to avoid the penalties, poor play selection and ill-timed poor execution that had gotten them into third and long scenarios early. If they could stay the course they would be alright.
The second half opened with a renewed sense of optimism for Giants fans, which quickly became the feeling of helpless woe that they'd felt at the game's onset. Three big plays from Dolphins offense, with Reggie Bush channeling his USC self, had the Dolphins set up. The defensive line would come alive, however, force and incomplete pass and a field goal. 10-17. Getting the ball back the Giants offense picked the wrong time to get a case of butterfingers. Manning's precision passing was wasted with drops by Ballard and Nicks, forcing a punt. The sting of yet another punt on the Giants' next possession would be negated by timely defensive play however, keeping the score where it was, forcing a punt, and, with Bradshaw in the locker room having his foot x-rayed, the Giants would begin to drive.
They'd find their rhythm despite terrible play by Brandon Jacobs. The man who made headlines this week complaining about playing time was showing no explosiveness, was dropping passes, fumbling hand-offs and tip-toeing to the line. Regardless, Manning would continue to bail the offense out. With two completions to Cruz and Ballard, he had the Giants in Larry Tynes' range. The Scottish sensation would boot it through and take us to 13-17. The ensuing Dolphin possession would stall on what was a very soft offensive pass interference call, though one that would certainly be called on a defender, and the Giants would have the ball back looking for the go ahead score.
Say it with me everyone. Eli Manning is one of the best two minute quarterbacks in the league. Alright, this wasn't exactly two minute, but it's close enough. Manning would lead the Giants down the field, helped by the impressive running of Ahmad Bradsahaw. Inside Dolphin territory Manning would find Victor Cruz over the middle who would spin out of a tackle and gallop his way into the end zone. 20-17 Giants, their first lead of the day. It was now up to the defense to avoid the let down that cost them the game against Seattle. In English? Don't let the truly horrific quarterback drive down the field and embarrass you en route to a win again.
They wouldn't. An impressive tackle by JPP and a Tuck sack would force a punt. Then, Tom Coughlin's genius plan to take absolutely no time off of the clock, presumably in case Matt Moore led the Dolphins on a scoring drive, and get his defense immediately back on the field worked to perfection (You get the sarcasm? That was a terrible possession). A Umenyiora sack, a Kiwanuka sack and a Webster interception would seal the deal. An ugly win. But a win.
Look. It's hard to look at this game in a positive light. The Giants beat an 0-6 team by three points at home and trailed most of the game. It's not good. But that doesn't mean you can't take some positive aspects out of it. Eli Manning, once again, played an absolutely stellar game. He won this game for the G-men, plain and simple. Ahamad Bradshaw, despite showing little statistically, had, I think, another good game. The secondary played well, and in the end the Giants won the game. It was ugly. It was underwhelming. They should have played better. But they've got an unbelievably difficult schedule coming up and they flat out needed a win, which they got. Don't be proud of it. But take it and move on. They won the damn game.
GRADES: Defensive Line - B-: This grade should probably be lower. The poor play of the defense in the first half had a lot to do with the line's inability to get pressure on Matt Moore. But hey. They dominated the last two possessions and sealed the win for the Giants - finally showing the dominance they should have shown all along.
Line Backers - C-: They just looked a little slow all game. They allowed a man who hasn't looked like an NFL running back since when he was playing in college to look dominant. Reggie Bush had, I believe, his second ever 100 yard rushing game. His first? Against the Giants. They need to tighten up that run defense.
Secondary - B: This may have been one of the better games that this secondary has played. They got burned a few times though they were being forced to cover for far too much time as the defensive line was getting no pressure. They did a good job keeping play in front of them. Overall, well done.
Special Teams - C+: Devin Thomas wasn't great in the return game. No one was great in the coverage game - except for one brilliant play by Justin Tryon late, but Steve Weatherford might be the best player on the team for the Giants. Hyperbole? Perhaps.
Offensive Line - C-: This was a big step back for the line. I'm not sure they opened a single hole for the running backs all day. They did give Manning some time to pass, but overall, poor game.
Running Backs - Brandon Jacobs - D: He looked terrible. Terrible. The man who spent some of the week saying that he wanted more touches did an excellent job showcasing the parts of his game that have him losing carries to Bradshaw. Drops. Poor runs. Poor play.
Ahmad Bradshaw - B: I really think Bradshaw played well. Despite a foot injury and little help from his line, he ran hard and ran well. Bradshaw also turned in what, for my money, was the turning point in the game - a tough, bruising run that proved to be a big play on the scoring drive just before half.
Wide Receivers - C: There were an awful lot of drops today. Cruz, Ballard, Manningham and Nicks all turned in big plays, but they almost all had big drops as well.
Eli Manning - A: Well done, Eli. He made big throws to bail the team out of third and long situations multiple times, didn't turn the ball over and managed the game perfectly. In what was a less than stellar day for the offense, Manning was a serious bright spot.
Check back here during the week as we'll check on the condition of both Bradshaw (foot) and Nicks, who went down late with a sore hamstring. The Giants will play the Patriots next Sunday and we'll have everything you need to get yourself ready. Happy Halloween everybody. Be safe out there. Go Giants.