By Paul Dottino
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The proof is in the pudding.
Did the Giants look like the same gassed team that lost two games in a row before their bye week? The evidence was quite startling. They played with intensity, aggression, confidence and swagger in belting the Green Bay Packers, 38-10, at MetLife Stadium.
The victory gave Tom Coughlin’s team some room to breathe at 7-4, with a two-game lead over the rest of the NFC East on a night when quarterback Eli Manning broke Phil Simms’ team record for touchdown passes.
Receivers were getting open and Manning found them. The running backs ran hard and forceful behind an energized line. The defensive line got consistent pressure. The tackling was very sound and the secondary tightened up its coverage. All of these things allowed the Giants to play up to their potential — their ‘A’ game, if you will.
On the down side, running back Andre Brown (13 carries for 64 yards and a TD) suffered a broken fibula in the fourth quarter, which will force the Giants to sign a replacement. RT David Diehl (stinger) and S Kenny Phillips (knee) also were dinged in the victory.
Let’s get to our review:
Offense – QB Eli Manning: You ask how can he get one after a 16-of-30 effort? Well, because he threw for 249 yards, tossed three touchdowns and — most importantly — didn’t throw an interception. His 13-yard scoring strike to Hakeem Nicks in the third quarter for the game’s final points put Manning at 200 career touchdown passes to take the franchise record from Simms. Manning’s 16-yard TD throw to WR Rueben Randle in the first quarter snapped the quarterback’s string of three games without finding the end zone — his longest since his rookie season in 2004.
It should not go without notice, though, that the offensive line ( Diehl left the game with a stinger in the second quarter and Sean Locklear finished up) protected Manning well and did a solid job for a running game that gained 147 yards and 2 touchdowns on 31 carries.
Defense – DE Osi Umenyiora: There were many ways to go here. DL Mathias Kiwanuka had two of the team’s five sacks, S Antrel Rolle almost suffocated WR Randall Cobb every time he went to the slot and MLB Chase Blackburn had a sack en route to his best game of the season. Did we tell you that the tackling was very sound and that the defensive backs closed the cushion on the receivers at the line for the first time in many weeks?
But back to Umenyiora. He may have been quiet with only two tackles, yet his patented strip-sack was the key play of the game. Green Bay, trailing 24-10 with about a minute left in the half, dropped Aaron Rodgers back to pass, and Umenyiora’s strip was recovered by DL Jason Pierre-Paul. Two plays later, RB Ahmad Bradshaw ran for a 13-yard TD and the Giants took what became an insurmountable 31-10 lead into the half.
Special teams – PK Lawrence Tynes: Tynes’ strong kickoffs were a big part of the reason that Cobb was not able to break off any game-changing returns. Give an assist to the strong coverage units, too. But Tynes also drilled a 43-yard field goal into the swirling winds to give the Giants a 17-7 lead with 23 seconds left in the first quarter, capping a possession that started with CB Corey Webster’s interception.
Offense – LT Will Beatty: There was not much to choose from, but Beatty — who played well throughout the game –allowed his first sack of the season and committed a holding penalty that nullified a touchdown. OLB Dezman Moses beat Beatty off the edge in the second quarter to drop Manning on a first-down pass play. Midway into the third period, Beatty was flagged on Bradshaw’s four-yard TD run, although Manning fired a TD pass two plays later.
Defense – CB Corey Webster: Again, we’re getting really tough here because there was not much to go on. Webster had a very strong night (including an interception late in the first quarter when he left his receiver to jump an inside route), except for when WR Jordy Nelson beat him on a stop-and-go down the right sideline for a 61-yard TD catch on Green Bay’s fourth snap of the game. Webster also got called for a light third-down holding penalty on the Packers’ second-quarter TD drive.
Special teams – PR Rueben Randle: Randle muffed two third-quarter punt returns, but the officials flagged the Packers with a questionable interference penalty.
Who gets your game balls for last night’s victory? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…