Palladino: Giants Walking The Tightrope
‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.” He’ll be covering football throughout the season.
Justin Tuck said it best after Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, and the defense engineered Manning’s 18th career fourth-quarter comeback victory in Sunday’s 20-17 win over the Dolphins.
“We’ll see where we are soon enough,” Tuck said, thinking more about next week’s matchup against the Patriots in Foxborough than savoring this win over the 0-7 Dolphins.
Tuck has a point, of course. The Giants can talk all they want about how tough the Matt Moore-led Dolphins were, or that 145-yard, two-touchdown rushing attack that gashed the defense for three quarters. But the fact of the matter is, the Giants still trailed 17-13 until 5:58 of the fourth quarter, when Manning connected with a wide open Cruz in a Cover-2 seam on third-and-12, Cruz then spinning out of former Giant Will Allen’s tackle at the 12 for the go-ahead score.
Where they will sit in the future has yet to be determined, as Tuck said. But where they are now is quite clear. With four fourth-quarter comebacks in a 5-2 record, the Giants stand as the Flying Wallendas of the NFL — tightrope walkers extraordinaire.
Until, at last, a stiff wind kicks up and sends them plummeting to the ground like Wallenda patriarch Karl and many of his daredevil family.
Then again, as Karl said, walking the tightrope is living; all the rest is waiting. And the Giants, apparently, are waiting for nobody.
They’re 5-2 now, happy with their fifth post-bye victory in Tom Coughlin’s last six years after so many seasons of suffering after the idle week. But the fact that this team couldn’t blow past the Dolphins to get a running start into this next, tough stretch of road, sends up questions about the future of a team that traditionally has started fast and tailed off at the ends of seasons.
Walking the tightrope doesn’t quell the doubters, either. What this squad needs is a stroll, and they’ll probably have to wait until Dec. 18 against disintegrating Washington for that. In the meantime, Giants fans will watch a team that once again failed to mount a decent running game (58 yards, with Ahmad Bradshaw getting 50 of them) and can’t stop the run (145 and two TDs paced by Reggie Bush’s 103 yards).
They’ll watch a team that forced its quarterback into the air 45 times, far from the run-pass balance Tom Coughlin seeks. But to Manning’s credit, he didn’t turn the ball over for a second consecutive game.
And they’ll watch a defense that has now given up seven runs of 20 yards or more in seven games. The big play — yesterday on a 35-yard Bush run that set up a touchdown and a 28-yarder that set up a field goal — continues to hurt them.
But as long as Manning continues to find receivers like the up-and-coming big-play specialist Cruz at the right time, and the defense rises up when it counts, as it did with four sacks and Corey Webster’s third pick in two games in the Dolphins’ last two series, the Giants can remain on that high-wire.
Tuck, back after missing three games with neck and groin issues, would love to blow somebody out.
“I’m starting to see gray hair,” he said. “If anyone wants to look, I’ll show you.”
But for now, he and his teammates will take yet another comeback win and look to the future with guarded optimism.
“We do have to play better,” Tuck said. “New England is a great football team and we know all about them. We’re going to have to play a tremendously better game, especially on the road in a place where they don’t lose a lot of games. We’re going to have to play a whole lot better.”
For now, though, they haven’t fallen off the rope. But it does tend to get awfully windy up Foxborough way.
Are the Giants due for a body blow? Be heard in the comments below…