The Giants almost made head coach Tom Coughlin’s words prove to be prophetic by coming out flat against the hapless Browns, before dispatching the winless team in a 41-27 win.
Coughlin, who preached all week that the Browns were no ordinary winless team, could be seen cringing on the sidelines as New York fell behind by two scores in the first five minutes due to miscues.
Coughlin basically said “I told you so” during his post-game press conference.
“It was disappointing to start the way we did, obviously, with the fumble,” Coughlin said. “But that was not an easy win. We knew coming in that would be a tough football game.”
The Browns had the look of an upset-maker but quickly came back down to earth, as the Giants methodically chipped away, on the strength of a 20-point second quarter.
“Yeah, it’s almost like we like the fans to boo first, before we get going,” said Chase Blackburn, who was beat deep down field on the Browns’ second touchdown in the first five minutes. “It kind of gets us motivated. … We don’t want to do that too often; we don’t want to start in a 14-point hole very often.”
A quick three-and-out for the Browns on their final possession of the first half — and a costly pass interference penalty against them on the Giants’ final drive — allowed Lawrence Tynes to boot a 40-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Giants an improbable 27-17 halftime lead.
“We obviously have some things we need to shore up, particularly defensively,” said Coughlin. “But we always talk about finishing. And that’s what we did today, finished.”
Bradshaw acknowledged his fumble made him and the team refocus.
“We fight back [and] we play better with our backs to the wall,” said Bradshaw. “After that fumble I wanted the ball in my hand. And after that I ran angry.”
The Giants’ offensive line played angry as they finished off the Browns in the second half by tacking on 14 more points, including dominating drives of 95 and 80 yards. Big Blue held advantages across the board, including time of possession (35:24), first downs (30-15 edge), rushing (243-84) and total yards (502-375). Most of the damage was done by the maligned ground game, led by Bradshaw’s career-high 200 rushing yards.
“I was impressed with the running game,” Coughlin said. “Bradshaw had a big day. … David [Wilson], too.”
Bradshaw also added a touchdown, impressing not only the offensive coaching staff but his defensive brethren as well. It was his 30 carries that kept his defense fresh, which enabled them to get after Weeden in the second half.
“Coming off the first carry and fumbling like that, a lesser running back would’ve gone in the tank, but Bradshaw is one of those guys that’s strong physically and mentally. He’s a tough back, so we knew he’d bounce back,” said defensive end Justin Tuck. “The offensive line got him going, and I think this was one of the biggest [rushing] days in a Giants’ uniform, so we’re proud of that guy for bouncing back and helping us get a win today.”
Big Blue notes
»Cornerback Corey Webster led all Giants’ defenders with seven solo tackles — no small feat considering Webster is limited with a broken hand and cast. »Another guy who’s seemingly bounced back is Wilson.
»Browns’ rookie running back Trent Richardson didn’t dominate but he did run hard all afternoon. The third-overall pick showed his value by tallying 81 yards on 17 carries, including a 15-yard touchdown on Cleveland’s second offensive play. Richardson showed his versatility with the team’s second-most receptions (five) for 47 yards.
» Richardson wasn’t the only rookie
running back to impress. Wilson has been in Coughlin’s doghouse for most of the year, ever
since he fumbled on his second career carry in the opener, but he
took advantage of the extra playing time due to a head injury for
Andre Brown. He tallied 44 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown late
in the game.
» Fellow first-year player Rueben Randle led all Giants’ receivers with six catches for 82
yards. Randle even had a game-high nine targets, leading Coughlin to
espouse the bond that the second-round pick is beginning to form with
Manning. This was particularly crucial since Hakeem Nicks (foot/knee)
and Ramses Barden (concussion) were both inactive.
this all week that this would be Rueben’s opportunity to come through,”
Coughlin said. “He did that. He played well. He got us going.”
»The Giants’ pass rush failed to generate much, as they were held without a sack. Tuck said the trend is beginning to worry him: “I am [worried]. But like I said, we’ll just continue to pound it [because] guys are figuring us out. So, we’ve got to do some different things and try to free up our guys. It’s not about effort or anything like that. … But no excuses about it. We just need to get it right.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.