By Paul Dottino
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EAST RUTHERFORD – It was a step in the right direction and may have been the most important one of the Giants’ season, especially going into their bye week.
The Giants (4-2) proved they were capable of putting together three significant elements in Sunday’s 27-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills – and Tom Coughlin’s team will need to repeat these traits on a regular basis if they are to make some waves this season.
In no particular order of importance: The power running game showed up, with the line allowing Ahmad Bradshaw to run for three 1-yard touchdowns; the defense dug its heels into the ground and silenced the Bills with three textbook plays on their final drive; and the offense did not commit a turnover – despite Eli Manning throwing the ball 32 times against Buffalo’s NFL-leading takeaway defense.
No, this game was far from perfect. In fact, the Giants hurt themselves with seven penalties, and the offensive line fell apart at the Buffalo 1 (which forced them to settle for the go-ahead field goal). And the Giants gave up touchdowns of 80 and 60 yards in the first quarter.
So let’s get to our weekly review:
Offense – QB Eli Manning. This was a hard decision. RB Ahmad Bradshaw ran hard 26 times for 104 yards and three TDs – and his 30-yard burst around the left side jump-started the winning drive. The offensive line showed some gusto in blocking for him and didn’t allow any sacks. But we will consider that the Bills came in with a defense that was maligned for its ability to stop the run and get to the quarterback. However, Buffalo’s defense had been a takeaway machine, flooding the secondary with man coverages – and Manning did not throw any interceptions in a 21-of-32 effort for 292 yards. It was the first time the Bills did not pick off a pass in a game this season.
Defense – CB Corey Webster. The defensive linemen, who got noticeable pressure against Fitzpatrick and sacked him three times, gave high praise to the defensive backs for their physical play and ability to hold up the Bills’ receivers at the line. Webster did more than his part, coming up with two second-half interceptions – both were the product of Fitzpatrick being a bit hurried and not making the best of throws. But Webster played the ball correctly and came down with picks. Webster set up the winning drive by snaring a pass intended for Steve Johnson at the Giants 4 with 4:10 to play. In the third, Webster grabbed a ball targeted for Johnson at the Giants 27. We also have to mention, Johnson grabbed a back-shoulder throw on Webster for a 9-yard TD grab that tied the game at 24 with 8:57 left.
(Special mentions have to go to Aaron Ross and Antrel Rolle for their pass breakups on the Bills’ final drive, which ended with Jason Pierre-Paul (playing NT out of a three-man line) batting down QB Ryan Fitzpatrick’s fourth-down pass.)
Special teams – P Steve Weatherford. It was another strong game for the punter, who continues to prove every week that Coughlin made the right decision to keep him. He punted three times for a 53.7-yard avg. and a 43.3 net, unleashing his most important kick of the day with seven minutes to play. He drilled a 50-yarder to the Buffalo 25 that was nullified by offsetting penalties, then responded with a 56-yarder to the 19.
Offense – WR Mario Mannigham. Sometimes, we have to wince when making a call like this. But Mannigham was unable to finish a 37-yard touchdown catch with 2:01 left in the third quarter and the Giants up, 24-17. He made a running stab of a perfectly thrown post pass, got two feet down and then allowed Terrence McGee to knock the ball loose as they went to the ground. The drive ended with a blocked field goal.
Defense – S Deon Grant. He became part of the Fred Jackson highlight reel in the first quarter when Jackson blew by him for an 80-yard TD run on the first snap after the Giants had taken a 7-0 lead. Jackson broke Kenny Philips’ attempt at a side tackle at the line and darted through a gaping hole up the middle. Grant had Jackson line up with a clear path, but was slow to attack the hole and allowed Jackson to make a little move and sprint past him – with only a hustling Aaron Ross having any chance to track down the runner.
Special teams – OL Kevin Boothe. Once again, Boothe proved that he could step in and fill a hole – taking over for Chris Snee at right guard. But it was Boothe who allowed 6-5 lineman Alex Carrington to get high penetration and block Lawrence Tynes’ 51-yard field goal attempt with 1:10 left in the third and the Giants up, 24-17.
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