There are plenty of high marks to go around after the Giants crushed the Redskins 31-7 on Sunday.
Quarterback (Eli Manning) – A mediocre performance [62.2 rating] from Manning was as much due to his poor decision making (see his interception in the end zone) as his lack of credible wideouts at his disposal. Just like big brother Peyton, though, Eli has needed name tags to identify most of his wideouts. The ill-advised pick in the end zone was certainly Manning’s fault, and he was hesitant to attempt anything over 20 yards, but since he didn’t have his full arsenal, he’ll get some leeway and avoid a failing grade.
Running backs – The dynamic duo had a very strong performance, racking up 200 total yards on the ground. Brandon Jacobs, game-high 103 yards on only eight carries, had two touchdowns and surpassed the 100-yard mark for the first time since November of 2008. Ahmad Bradshaw was just as solid, toting the rock for 97 yards on a game-high 25 carries. He also scored two touchdowns, both in the first half. This duo will need to carry the load until Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks return to lend some balance.
Receivers – The unit didn’t do anything to show future opponents that they have to gameplan for them, as no one scored and no one surpassed 70 yards receiving. The Giants had only two wideouts catch passes [Marion Manningham and Derek Hagan]. Manningham had two catches for 36 yards, while Hagan was the leading receiver with seven catches for 65 yards and a paltry 9.3 yards per catch. That average is something checkdown running backs should get, not starting wideouts.
O-Line – This mishmash unit is actually starting to dominate opponents, as for the fifth-consecutive week they didn’t allow a sack. They also opened up huge holes for Jacobs and Bradshaw and are now looking like the most cohesive – if not gutsiest — unit on the team. Credit goes to O-Line coach Pat Flaherty for getting guys ready each week because his group is the reason why the offense can move the ball even without its starting wideouts.
Front Seven – They attacked Donovan McNabb from all angles, dominated up front, and made the Redskins’ running game non-existent. Big Blue forced six fumbles, recovering four of them, sacked McNabb four times, and held the James Davis/Keiland Williams combo platter to 69 yards on 14 carries. McNabb, who has a history of making plays with his feet, was also held in check with five yards on two carries. The defense has yielded only 10 points in the last six quarters.
Secondary – The secondary pretty much had the day off, as the front seven did most of the work. McNabb’s numbers [26-of-44, 296 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions] might look passable but most of his numbers came when the game was already out of hand. Starting corners Terrell Thomas and Corey Webster each registered picks and the secondary didn’t allow a 100-yard receiver on the day.
Special Teams – One of head coach Tom Coughlin’s biggest concerns was this unit and how they’d contain Redskins’ specialist Brandon Banks. The elusive return man was held in check for the most part with a 19.5 kick return average and an 11.2 punt return average on five returns. The G-Men unit also downed two punts inside the 20 yard line, including one inside the five. As usual, the punt return unit wasn’t passable [Darius Reynaud’s two-yard return average] but rookie punter Matt Dodge posted a 44.1 yard punt average on seven attempts and Danny Ware had a nice kick return average of 26 yards, including a season-best 37-yard return.
Coaching – Coughlin could’ve coached this game on auto-pilot because the Redskins were never really a threat. As great a head coach that Mike Shanahan is, Washington came in with little fire and was basically waiving the white flag by halftime. Coughlin has had worse injury problems than Shanahan’s crew but has made it work. That was the difference, Sunday.
Overall – Considering the O-Line is physically in shambles, the remaining wideouts are a small step above Canadian Football League talent, and Manning showed skittishness in accuracy and decision-making again, this was a dominant performance. Both lines dominated and that’s truly where the games are won. If both lines continue to impose its wills, the Giants can put almost anyone at the wideout positions and continue to roll.