Diary of a Giants Fan: Giants Stun Patriots – Grades
What can I possibly say about that game that has any chance of living up to the spectacle it was. I'm not sure Bill freaking Shakespeare could pen words brilliant enough to describe the game that just happened, but I'll give it a shot. The New York Giants, as injury depleted a team as there is, an unequivocal underdog, went into New England and stole a win from the mighty Patriots.
No Nicks. No Bradshaw. No Baas. On the road. Against the Patriots. How could the Giants win? Well the answer was pretty clear, pretty early. After a Steve Weatherford punt on the Giants' first drive the Patriots took the field looking to take control of the game early. They found zero success however, as the Giants secondary was not only showing a pulse, but looking alive with some great play early. They'd allow the Patriots to complete short passes, but would simply not allow anything else. Rolle, Boley and the bunch were tackling well (not even kidding) and keeping Tom Brady frustrated with coverage, pressure, a few sacks and even a Kiwanuka interception.
Offensively the Giants were not finding the rhythm they were expected to. Penalties, poor blocking, bad luck and general malaise left the Giants unable to take advantage of the horrific Patriot defense. It seemed that the absences of Nicks, Bradshaw and Baas were hurting the Giants. A bright spot for them was the play of Brandon Jacobs, however, who was using his extra playing time to show why he'd been whining like a stubborn child for the bulk of the week. Jacobs was running tough and looking like the punishing back that he once was. His play was only out-shined by the brilliance of Steve Weatherford. I wasn't sure they'd ever be able to replace the loss off Feagles, but finally this Giants team is back to a place where their punter may be their best player (that's a joke, people...sort of).
A defensive battle the likes of that un-Godly tough to watch LSU-Alabama game was developing through the two minute warning, though the Patriots were finally on the move. The Giants defense would toughen inside the red zone however and force a chip-shot field goal that was, of course, knocked right thro- HE MISSED IT?! HOLY ____! With that miss the Giants and Patriots would head into the locker room an unlikely 0-0 affair.
At half time you had to be cautiously happy if you were a Giants fan. To hold the Patriots and their dynamic Ugg-booted quarterback to zero points was an accomplishment that can not be downplayed. More pressure on Brady would be preferred, though staying the course would certainly get them the win. Why? Because the offense can't be shut out by this defense could they? I mean come on. Not even the Kent Graham led Giants could be shut-out by this squad. Right? Keep running the ball well with Jacobs and let Eli get some rhythm with his offense and you should be fine.
The second half started just as the first had ended for the Patriots, with disappointment. Deion Grant bobbled a Brady pass for about three seconds before he finally decided to intercept it, and though he did his best to fumble, he secured the ball and a possession for the Giants. Eli Manning would jump on the opportunity and move the G-men into field goal range with two of the more gorgeous passes he's thrown all season - over the cornerback, in front of the safety - to Cruz and Ballard. After a third down incompletion Lawrence Tynes would convert the field goal. 3-0 Giants.
The next Patriots possession again ended with ineptitude. Michael Boley - who is quietly having a Pro-Bowl year - hit Brady from behind, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Williams - the third turnover by the formerly lusciously-long haired quarterback. Big Blue wouldn't wait to punish the Patriots as on the next play Brandon Jacobs scored a well deserved touchdown. 10-0 Giants. A three and out followed on the next Patriots possession and the Giants looked to be ready to take control of this game.
Enter the Giants special teams - who had been playing well all game. Weatherford may have been the best player on the field early on Sunday, repeatedly pinning the Pats inside their twenty. Coverage was excellent and the Giants were smartly fair catching every punt...until Aaron Ross decided to try and return one, but refused to catch the ball first. The punt careened off his shoulder and into the arms of the waiting Patriots. The home team would absolutely convert on the muff, booting a field goal through to make it 10-3. After muffing the ensuing kick off (did I say Devin Thomas is awful? Dude is awful) the Giants would find no offensive success and they'd be forced let their best player on the afternoon - to this point - take the field. The Weatherford punt, a boomer, would be taken and fumbled by the Patriots.
The Giants would take the gift and drive deep into the red zone. Eli Manning would, however, show the one part of his game that makes him such a head-scratching talent. Feeling the pressure Manning would drop back, throw off of his back foot and float a pass to no one in particular. He was intercepted in the end zone, wrapping up some of the uglier minutes of football played this weekend. For some Giants fans this interception was the other shoe that they'd been waiting to see drop. Tom Brady took the ball, drove down the field and converted with a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. 10-10. Momentum had now firmly supplanted itself on the side of the Patriots. After a feeble Giant possession, Brady took his team back down the field and into field goal range. The Giants D would hold, as they've done so many times this season, and force the field goal. 10-13 - the first Patriot lead of the day.
This game was now firmly on the back of Eli Manning. To bring his team back Manning would call upon his biggest and most consistent threat...the pass interference. I swear to God, it's like this guy tries to get P.I. calls. And you know what, if he does, he does it better than anyone. You think I'm joking but look back at all of the big fourth quarter drives this year. Each contained a huge pass interference that proved to be the catalyst for the drive - it has to be planned (it can't have anything to do with new rules that won't allow defensive players to, you know, play defense). Regardless of penalties, however, Manning came alive on this drive. Huge completions to Cruz and Ramses Barden of all people, took the Giants into the red zone where Manning would connect with Manningham for the touchdown. 17-13 Giants. Another clutch drive for one of the best two minute quarterbacks in the league.
A Mario Manningham celebration penalty after the touchdown gave the Patriots excellent field position in their attempt to pull off their own two minute magic. Magic they would indeed find as the Giants defensive line shrunk to nothingness and the secondary returned to the form it showed when the porn-stache of Charlie Whitehurst led the Seahawks on a late scoring drive. The infinitely better groomed Brady was finding all sorts of space in that Giants secondary. He soon had the Patriots inside of the fifteen and slowly twisted the knife into the heart of G-men fans, taking all four downs to find Gronkowski for the go ahead score inside of two minutes to play. 17-20.
Once again the game fell to Eli Manning. How ironic. The man who drew the scorn of the talking heads when he had the chutzpah to claim that he was in Tom Brady's league now had to once again lead his team down the field and take this victory from the very Ugg Boot model he compared himself to - alright I know that's the 3rd time in two articles that I've mentioned that, but the dude models Uggs. UGGS! Those gag-inducing eyesores worn exclusively by high school to college age women. Not that I should be telling an NFL quarter back to man up, but c'mon son.
Anyway. The stage was now set for the Citizen Watch endorsing Manning to prove that maybe he does belong. It was an opportunity Manning would not let slide. Say it with me folks, Manning is one of the best two minute quarterbacks in the league, and he proved it once again. Completions to Cruz and Ballard began to replay a movie that Giant fans have watched play out time and time again this year. Manning had his team driving for the win late. A big run by the fleet footed (?) Eli Manning took the G-men deep into Patriot territory, and he would look to his most consistent target to get them close. Just the way you draw it up in the dirt, a pass interference penalty gave the Giants the ball on the Patriots one - and after some nerve fraying first and second down plays (you knew they couldn't do it quick) Manning found Jake "Kevin Boss Who?" Ballard for the score, the lead and the win. 24-20.
This is normally when I'd take a minute and sum up the game, but again, what can I say? The Giants had no right to think that they should win this game. With the injuries they had, the team they were playing, the environment they were in, it would have been easy for other teams in this league to roll over and let Brady have his way with them (perhaps that's poor phrasing). But not this team. The Giants played a tough, gritty game here. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't dominating, but it was impressive. Eli Manning, with even less help than normal, once again led his team on a scoring drive late in the game - not once, but twice. This much maligned defense did a certainly better than expected job on an offense that has been nothing short of dynamic for much of the season. This was an impressive team victory and a much needed win stolen from this murderous gauntlet of a schedule the Giants will run. Well done, gentlemen.
Grades: Defensive Line - B: Despite their disappearance from the game in crunch time, the D-line had much to do with Brady's poor play early in the game. It wasn't a full 60 minutes of good football, but it was enough to get the win. I'll take it.
Linebackers - A-: Michael Boley is finally showing the promise that made him a huge signing for the Giants a few years ago. He led this corps well and they all did an excellent job of tackling and taking away the Patriots underneath passing game. Well done.
Defensive Backs - B: This corps is quietly getting decent. They've improved in each game this season and I really think they had their best game of the season today. Much like the line, they shrunk from the game late, but they should have been burned much more than they were. They picked Brady off twice and forced this Patriot offense into some awful play early.
Special Teams - C: This grade should be higher, it really should. I joked above that Weatherford is the Giants best player but he really may have been early in this game. He, and some great coverage, continually pinned this Patriots offense deep in their own territory. Grade should be higher - but you can not, CAN NOT, muff a punt. C'mon son!
Offensive Line - B: I guess? I don't have a lot to say on the offensive line except that I didn't really notice anything that bad, minus Boothe snapping the ball off of his own butt. Side note: Is it just me or could we be doing more to make Boothe look like an athlete in his uniform?
Running Backs - A: Alright, Jacobs. Maybe you had a point. I don't think you needed to be so petulant and whiny about it, but perhaps you had a point. Jacobs ran tough, ran hard and ran well in this game. It wasn't an overly brilliant game, but given what it could have been - well done.
Wide Receivers - B+: There were some electric catches in this game. Ballard, Cruz and Barden - no seriously, Barden - each made great plays to help their quarterback. In the end I thought Manning had to throw his receivers open some times. Great game, but against this secondary I think it could have been better.
Eli Manning - B: Manning once again proved to be one of the better quarterbacks in the league today. He made great throws and lead his team on not one, but two scoring drives to win the game. If I remember nothing but the fourth quarter this would be an A+, but you can not throw an interception in the end zone. Not anymore, Eli. Still. Well done, sir.
Check back here during the week for a preview of the Giants' matchup against the 49ers next Sunday. Go Giants.