By Paul Dottino
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I’ve got to face up to it.
I thought so before the game and again about five minutes into it — this was going to be one of those days when the Giants really have to scrap against a struggling opponent.
But the players responded to coach Tom Coughlin’s challenge. The backups made the most of their opportunities and the offensive line rejuvenated the ground game.
Let’s get to our review:
Offense-RB Ahmad Bradshaw. Sometimes, these things are just too easy. Bradshaw put up career-highs with 30 carries and 200 yards to go with a touchdown.
The importance of his effort is magnified when you understand that RB Andre Brown – who was expected to share the workload – left the game with a head injury in the first quarter and did not return. The Giants did not feel comfortable relying on the inexperienced David Wilson or Da’Rel Scott, so Bradshaw was going to have to carry the load and he did. But don’t forget the stellar blocking he received, either.
The line, tight ends and receivers each had a hand in paving space for Bradshaw, whose day included runs of 37 and 28 yards.
Defense-SS Stevie Brown. An interception that quickly led to a touchdown and then a fumble recovery on the ensuing kickoff. Wow. Maybe even more important from a character viewpoint – he openly admitted to busting a coverage that left LB Chase Blackburn manned up on Josh Gordon’s 62-yard TD catch that made it 14-0.
Brown’s interception of a badly thrown ball (he returned it 46 yards to the Cleveland 40) was turned into a TD that tied the game at 17. Brown recovered a Josh Cribbs fumble on the kick return and returned it nine yards to the Browns 29.
Special teams-S Will Hill. He knocked the ball from Cribbs on the kickoff, allowing Brown to come up with a recovery with 2:37 left in the first half and the game tied. Five plays later, Eli Manning hit Victor Cruz for a 7-yard TD and the Giants couldn’t be caught.
Offense-WR Victor Cruz. He caught three touchdown passes but he’ll also have to admit to an obvious third-quarter drop and responsibility for a fourth-quarter interception.
Cruz (five catches for 50 yards) had a pass in his hands down the left sideline with almost 13 minutes remaining and allowed CB Sheldon Brown to knock the ball from his grasp and into the hands of Usama Young.
Defense-Front four. We know all about the schemes that are designed to stop these guys. Yet even coach Tom Coughlin said afterward that there were missed opportunities to get to the quarterback.
For the first time this season, the Giants did not have a sack. They also were credited with just two hits on the quarterback.
Special teams-Kickoff coverage unit. You can hold the entire unit at fault here. Josh Cribbs had a feast with six kickoff returns for a 36.8-yard average, including a 74-yard burst with almost five minutes left in the third and the Giants up, 34-17.
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