Eli Manning wasn’t flashy but he also wasn’t the walking turnover he’s been of late. Manning, who went 14-of-24 for 226 yards and two touchdowns, didn’t commit a turnover and got better as the game went along. His 32-yard touchdown to tight end Kevin Boss with 3:15 remaining proved to be the game-winning score.
Neither Brandon Jacobs nor Ahmad Bradshaw set the world on fire but they ran with purpose, churned out yards, and moved the sticks when called upon. Jacobs, who was starting his first game of the season, had 87 yards on 14 carries, while Bradshaw added 49 yards on nine carries. The tandem was solid but what was really notable was what they didn’t do – commit any turnovers.
The receiving corps has been decimated by injury. Starters Steve Smith [pectoral] and Hakeem Nicks [lower leg] will be out a couple more weeks. That leaves the bulk to Mario Manningham and the little-used tight ends. Manningham [three catches, 61 yards, touchdown] acquitted himself nicely and Boss [three catches, 74 yards, touchdown] was the hero but other than that, no one else produced. The only other wideout to catch a pass was the newly re-signed Derek Hagan [two catches, 21 yards].
For the fourth-consecutive game, the patchwork line didn’t allow a sack. That’s a huge feat considering the starting center [Shaun O’Hara], his backup [Adam Koets], the left tackle [David Diehl], and his backup [Shawn Andrews] were all out. Regular starting left guard, Rich Seubert, was the center, and handled himself with aplomb. Other than the wideouts, no other unit has been as ravaged with injury.
They played uneven in the first half, falling behind 17-3 at the half and allowing the Jags to steamroll them for 227 yards on the ground. That’s a failing grade if they only played the first half. But a funny thing happened after the break – and following defensive end Justin Tuck’s inspired halftime speech – the G-Men came out with fire and harassed quarterback David Garrard into four sacks, including three-straight plays on Jacksonville’s final drive. Rookie Jason Pierre-Paul accounted for two sacks and two forced fumbles.
This unit was the weak link of the defense. Not that Garrard [20-of-35 162 yards, interception] lit them up but it was how Garrard was able to extend drives in the first half. The Giants allowed Jacksonville to convert on nine of its first 11 third down conversions – mostly through the air. Terrell Thomas registered the game-winning strip sack and had the lone interception and but also dropped at least two more. He gets paid more for his coverage skills than his sacking skills.
Rookie punter Matt Dodge was very solid, posting a 49.7 average, including one inside the 20 yard line. The usually anemic Giants’ return team wasn’t as bad this time, as Danny Ware registered a nice 22.2 yard kick return average. The Giants didn’t return a punt. Their coverage team was solid, allowing a 1.5 punt return average, which is a far cry from the usual ineptness.
Head coach Tom Coughlin joked afterwards that he was close to “getting on his knees” to plead with his team to play better after halftime. He didn’t but they did. Something must’ve went right for Big Blue since they only allowed three points after the break. Once again it seemed like Coughlin was able to rally his team.
A win’s a win in the parity-ridden world of the NFL. It was promising for New York that they didn’t commit a turnover for the first time all season but at the same time it was alarming that they couldn’t get off the field on third down in the first half. That sort of unevenness will catch up with them against the elite teams. But they’ll certainly take this win – especially now that they’re back in a tie for first place with the Philadelphia Eagles.