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Dottino: Giants Survive Fish Scare

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(credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

(credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

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By Paul Dottino
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The Giants’ satisfaction over their 20-17 victory over the pesky, winless Miami Dolphins may not last very long.

Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks is scheduled to undergo an MRI on his hamstring today after he was injured in the final stages of the win. But the way he hobbled off in the fourth quarter, there has to be at least some concern that he might be forced to miss some time.

As far as the game? There was a mixed reaction in the locker room as to why the Giants were sleepwalking through the first three quarters and needed to outscore the Dolphins, 10-0, in the fourth quarter to prevail.

The team wasn’t in sync? Check. They took the Dolphins lightly despite warnings from coach Tom Coughlin? Check. The Dolphins are more talented than their record indicates? Check. The Giants were a bit rusty coming off of their bye week? Check.

In the final analysis, the Giants improved to 5-2 while sitting alone atop the NFC East and have put themselves in position to be as they head into the most difficult half of their schedule.

Here are this week’s game balls and gassers:

GAME BALLS

Offense – QB Eli Manning. Mark it down. He’s directed 18 come-from-behind victories in the fourth quarter or overtime – four coming this season.

But here’s the most impressive aspect of this game: He was 31-of-45 for 349 yards and two touchdowns WITHOUT an interception on a day when he had to carry the team because the running game crawled its way to 58 yards. Manning connected with eight receivers and would have had a third TD pass if Mario Manningham didn’t get stripped in the end zone.

Defense – DE/LB Mathias Kiwanuka. Kiwanuka led the defense with seven tackles and a 1 ½ sacks, but was at his best in helping to snuff out the Dolphins’ final drive.

Down by three, Miami started from its own 16. Davone Bess caught a 24 pass against Aaron Ross, then got sacked by Osi Umenyiora and Kiwanuka on consecutive plays. Then, Kiwanuka stayed with RB Lex Hilliard and stopped him on a 7-yard pass play to set up fourth down (and an incomplete pass to seal the game).

Special teams – P Steve Weatherford. This is getting repetitive, but the guy has been really good.

He hit four punts for a 46.8-yard average and a 44.5-yard net while dropping three inside the 20. We’ve heard he wore down toward the end of last season with the Jets. To this point, he doesn’t look a bit tired, but there are nine games to play.

GASSERS

Offense – Offensive line. There’s no other place to place the blame for a rushing attack that was limited to 58 yards on 23 carries. That’s a 2.5-yard average.

Actually, that is ridiculous.

To be fair, Manning only got sacked once, so the pass protection was good enough to allow him to take the game on his shoulders. However, the Giants were hoping to build off their strong rushing effort against the Bills from the game leading into the bye week. It didn’t happen.

Defense-All 11 in the goal line defense. Call this a copout if you wish, but the Giants’ entire defense got caught reacting to a faked handoff on the Dolphins’ second-quarter touchdown that made it 14-3.

QB Matt Moore kept the ball and scooting around the left side – with no Giants in the vicinity to score on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 to put Miami up, 14-3 with 9:37 left in the first half.

Special teams-PR Aaron Ross. He’s wanted to return punts since he was a rookie – and was very good in doing so at Texas. But he was handed the job after Domenik Hixon suffered an injured knee and the best thing you can say is that he fields the ball cleanly.

Ross was held to 28 yards on four returns and one fair catch. The Giants needed to alter field position three times with a good return but rather had to start inside their own 20 twice and once inside the 25.

Your reaction to Sunday’s nail-biter? Let Dottino know in the comments below…

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