By Steve Silverman
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Life is not always what it appears to be in the NFL.
When the Giants dropped back-to-back games against the Steelers and Bengals earlier this month, it seemed like the team’s weaknesses were about to overwhelm its strengths and the season was in danger of going down the drain.
However, taking a week off appeared to be just what Tom Coughlin’s team needed. They responded to an awful game against Cincinnati by bludgeoning the Packers 38-10.
It’s hard not to make a lot out of that victory. Aaron Rodgers is probably as good as any quarterback in the league and the Packers have a Super Bowl pedigree.
It would have been good enough to emerge with a victory. But the fact that it was a blowout and the defense played extremely well after giving up a 61-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Jordy Nelson gives the Giants a chance to look at the roadmap and realize they once again have a legitimate chance to fight for the Lombardi Trophy again this year.
But the Giants are not as good as they looked last night, much as they were not as bad as they appeared when they got punished by the Bengals.
Coughlin still has a lot of work to do with this team. The best parts of the Giants team are the play of Eli Manning and the defensive line. Manning put his slump to rest by throwing for 249 yards and three touchdowns, while the defensive line put plenty of pressure on Rodgers throughout the game.
Osi Umenyiora put the Packers in a deep hole when he got to Rodgers with a big hit and swiped the ball out of his hand in the second quarter. Outside linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka had 2.0 sacks while Chase Blackburn added another.
That pressure impacted the Packers in two ways. Not only did it keep Rodgers from getting comfortable in the pocket, it forced head coach Mike McCarthy to call for a lot of quick-hitting passes because he knew that he could not depend on his offensive line to give Rodgers adequate time.
Those quick hitters were not successful. When Randall Cobb was targeted, he simply was not ready and did not know how to make the adjustment to those throws.
On the offensive side, Manning was much better than he has been in recent weeks and exhibited none of the “tired arm” issues that he demonstrated in the previous four games. However, he was nowhere near as sharp as he could have been.
He completed 16-of-30 passes, and that’s not good enough in the modern NFL. A quarterback of Manning’s ability should complete 60-to-70 percent of his passes. He did not look good when throwing fade passes in the corner of the endzone – which is normally a pass that Manning throws as well as anyone in football.
While Umenyiora came on and so did Kiwanuka, Jason Pierre-Paul did not dominate the game the way he can. He jumped on the fumble that Umenyiora caused, but he did not roar around the corner and get to Rodgers himself.
Pierre-Paul should know that the game’s best pass rusher is Aldon Smith of the 49ers. A year ago, Pierre-Paul held that title. He has 6.5 sacks after finishing with 16.5 a year ago. Smith has already reached that figure and he will probably get to 20 or more by the end of the season.
Pierre-Paul should be a dominant player. He gets his share of double teams, but Coughlin needs more from him, especially with the Giants’ closing schedule that includes Washington, New Orleans, Atlanta, Baltimore and Philadelphia.
All of those games, with the exception of the finale against the Eagles, will require the team’s best effort.
The win over the Packers was a start, but Green Bay did not respond after getting punched hard in the mouth. Don’t expect that kind of reaction from the Redskins this week.
They have a young quarterback named RGIII (Robert Griffin III if we want to be formal) who has put together two spectacular performances in the last two weeks. He is primed for a third straight stellar outing.
It will take the defense’s best effort to slow him down.
Do the Giants still need to tighten up some in some areas to win the NFC East? Let us know…