By Paul Dottino
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EAST RUTHERFORD – Coach Tom Coughlin likely wasn’t going to spend the rest of his night doing cartwheels over the Giants’ 28-16 victory against St. Louis in their home opener – and that’s okay.
The Monday night win evened his team’s record at 1-1 while proving that his team actually could beat a team that it was expected to beat. The formula was simple: Exhibit a tough run defense and make enough plays in the other facets of the game to keep the Rams from making it a game.
Perhaps the only negative to come out of this one is the lingering question regarding injuries to receivers Domenik Hixon and Mario Manningham.
Manningham said he injured his neck when he went to the ground while making a deep catch along the left sideline late in the first half. He did not return and the team said he suffered a concussion. Manningham spoke after the game, saying he simply had a stiff neck. Surely, more will be known today.
On the next play, Hixon made a spectacular juggling 22-yard TD catch that also sent him out of the game. The team initially said he injured his knee, but he explained he received a sore calf and planned to play this weekend against Philadelphia. This situation needs to be monitored as well.
So let’s get to our weekly review:
Offense – WRs Hixon and Hakeem Nicks. We’re breaking our rules by splitting this one, but how can we not after each made an acrobatic first-half scoring reception. Hixon beat former Giant Craig Dahl on a post route and used his left hand to tip the ball, which then deflected off his right hand and landed in Hixon’s grasp as he was landing on his back to put the Giants up at the half, 21-6. In the first quarter, Nicks made an incredible 23-yard left-handed stab to convert a fourth down chance down the left sideline (it was ruled interference so the play never went to video review) and, two plays later, adjusted to make a back-shoulder TD for a 7-3 edge.
Defense – LB Michael Boley. Coughlin always harps on being alert at all times. Play to the whistle. Every time a ball falls to the ground in practice, defensive players are to “scoop and score.” Boley executed the drill to perfection when Cadillac Williams allowed a backward pass to fall to the ground early in the second quarter. Boley picked up the ball and raced 65 yards for a TD and a 14-6 edge.
Special teams – DE Dave Tollefson. He recovered Greg Salas’ muffed punt at the Rams 38 after the Giants went three-and-out on their second possession of the game. Trailing 3-0, the turnover sparked the team on a five-play, 38-yard TD drive and they never looked back.
Offense – Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. Somehow he’s got to find a way to get his offense on track in third-down situations. It went 5-for-15 against the Rams after going 1-for-10 in Washington. Although it couldn’t possibly be true at this early stage of the season, it almost appears like the defense is a step ahead of the Giants’ offense on many of these plays.
Defense – CB Aaron Ross. The Rams clearly decided that he would be target throughout the evening. Yes, he made a few plays – he was credited with defending three passes. But he also allowed too many completions – including two to Denario Alexander (68 and 35 yards) that kept St. Louis’ hopes alive. Ross was benched in favor of Michael Coe in the third quarter.
Special teams- CB Michael Coe. Leading 14-6 midway into the second quarter, the Giants got a 51-yard punt out of Steve Weatherford that Salas returned 29 yards to the Rams 37. But the officials tacked on an additional 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct against Coe and placed the ball at the Giants 48. Although the Rams didn’t score, they tilted the field and the Giants’ ensuring trip started from their own 14.
Is a win or win? Where do the Giants need to improve?