By Paul Dottino
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EAST RUTHERFORD – A dominant, workmanlike performance from start to finish. The Giants delivered exactly what the doctor ordered in thumping the Washington Redskins, 31-7, to keep pace with the rest of the postseason contenders in the NFC.
In the process, they may have bought enough time for their injured players to return and cleared up a rather intriguing running back mystery – we’ll get to the latter part in a minute.
From all indications, it appears Steve Smith (chest), Hakeem Nicks (leg) and David Diehl (hamstring, hip) are on track to play Sunday in Minnesota. Good news, given the Giants remain tied with Philadelphia atop the NFC East at 8-4, which is the same record as the Green Bay Packers in what would be the second wild-card slot.
In the meantime, the Giants prevented a sack for a team-record fifth straight game and created six takeaways (four fumble recoveries and two interceptions) in crushing the hapless Redskins. Let’s get to our review:
Offense –RB Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs ran eight times for 103 yards and two touchdowns, including a 28-yard third-quarter burst. He also showed some nifty moves with his 39-yard run (the third-longest of his career) on the second play from scrimmage before capping the seven-play drive with an 8-yard cutback into the end zone. This was his first 100-yard game in two years.
It appears Jacobs is playing on a different speed than the defense – and it was told to me this week that this is being used as secondary part of the Giants’ strategy, as a byproduct of making the dynamic Ahmad Bradshaw the starter and feeding the smaller back two-thirds of the carries for more than half of the season. Jacobs has never gotten through a 16-game schedule healthy and says he’s feeling better now than in any December of his career. That’s the point – Jacobs is much healthier and thus, stronger and faster than the opposition at this point of the year, allowing the Giants to maximize their advantage by utilizing his smashmouth style to the fullest during a potential postseason run. At this time of the year, Jacobs usually is beaten up, himself, and has been much less effective. Remember how during the 2007 postseason he was limited to 197 yards on 62 carries (3.2 avg.) over four games during the Super Bowl run?
Here’s the breakdown – and we won’t count his 2005 rookie season because he was not a key part of the offense at that time. Injuries have limited Jacobs to 21 of the 26 games the Giants have played in the December-January-February months since the 2006 campaign. He’s had just three of his 11 career 100-yard games (including postseason) and been held to less than 50 yards six times during this 21-game sampling, carrying 266 times for 1,081 yards (4.06 avg.) – which is far below his 4.5-yard career average (including postseason). In other words, he’s averaged 4.65 yards outside of this late-season window.
So before you ask yourself why Jacobs had only had two second-half carries against Washington in this victory – remember that the Giants were up, 21-0. Jacobs’ job in setting the tempo and softening the defense was done, so there was no need for him to deliver and/or take any further punishment. Bradshaw, the quicker and shiftier back, runs with a style that avoids contact, making him less of an injury risk. By the way, Bradshaw’s 97 yards on 25 carries put him at 1,013 yards for the season.
Defense –DE Jason Pierre-Paul. Teammate Justin Tuck said he challenged the rookie two weeks ago, asking the lineman why he didn’t have any sacks through his first 10 professional games. Mission accomplished. Since that time, JPP had two strip-sacks against the Jaguars and added two sacks and a fumble recovery against the Redskins. Both of JPP’s sacks against the Redskins came on third down, forcing them to punt on their first and third possessions of the game while the Giants built a 14-0 advantage.
Special teams –WR Devin Thomas. Revenge can be sweet as was the case here with Thomas going into the game promising himself that he’d show the Redskins what they were missing by cutting him earlier this season. He signed with the Giants less than two weeks ago after spending three non-descript years in Washington. So Thomas responded with a deflected punt, two special teams tackles and a downed second-quarter punt at the Redskins 5.
Offense –QB Eli Manning. Ok, it was a methodical blowout that did not require him to do anything spectacular – we get that. He went 15-of-25 for 161 yards. But he’s got to get his running shoes on for the horrific end-zone interception he threw toward Kevin Boss in the second quarter. On first-and-goal from the 4 (and after two straight 5-yard Bradshaw runs) Manning fired a pass over the middle to Boss, who was in the back of the end zone with three Redskins defenders around him. LB London Fletcher had the underneath coverage and made an easy pick.
Defense –S Kenny Phillips. We’ll reserve the right to excuse Phillips if we find out otherwise, but it appears he blew a coverage on Anthony Armstrong’s 33-yard TD catch in the third quarter, spoiling a potential shutout. We expected to see Phillips deep and over the top, but he got lost and Armstrong raced behind him on a post route to find himself alone for an easy score.
Special teams –PR Darius Reynaud. He gets the call, not because he did anything wrong in this game, but because Will Blackmon (chest) should regain the punt return duties this week and we may not have a chance to make Reynaud run again after he’s averaged 5.7 yards on 23 punt returns this season.
- Giants Set Tone From Start In Win Over Redskins (newyork.cbslocal.com)