By Ernie Palladino
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In a division nobody wants to win, a division where the champion could well be 7-9 when all this is said and done, the Giants are looking pretty good right now.
Not that they have a legitimate shot at finishing on top, which is where Philadelphia most improbably sits right now at 6-5. Despite gaining their fourth consecutive win Sunday, 27-13, over the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay, the reality is that Tom Coughlin’s rehabilitated losers have beaten four teams whose starters were either hurt, hurting, or simply so new to systems that they couldn’t possibly have played effectively.
Add to that the fact that they still have surging Seattle on the schedule, as well as pass-happy teams in Detroit and San Diego. Take all that into account, and the idea of the 4-6 Giants running the table to 10-6, or even surviving a momentary stumble at 9-7 seems preposterous.
And yet, all that could be swept under the rug this week amid the good feelings of a fourth straight victory. And don’t think the quasi quarterback controversy that will undoubtedly swirl around their green-cloaked MetLife Stadium neighbors won’t help deflect any negative attention. Rex Ryan will have to answer at least a few questions about Geno Smith’s three interceptions and backup Matt Simms’ touchdown to appease the conspiracies.
At its heart, however, the Giants’ win did legitimately show a team on the rise. Not a great team, certainly. But a team that is finally having some good things happen to it. In Sunday’s case, two truly good breaks came their way.
The last, of course, was Jason Pierre-Paul’s pick-six, the second of his career. It happened just minutes after Eddie Lacy put the Packers within a touchdown at 12:43 of the fourth quarter. JPP, having sensed something special was going to happen in the huddle, made good on his prediction and stepped across scrimmage to pick off Scott Tolzien’s throw to Andrew Quarless and return it 24 yards to re-stretch the lead to two touchdowns.
“Honestly, I called it before it ever happened, in the huddle, and sure enough that was the play. I read the formation, the tight end, how he was set, and I caught the ball.”
Perhaps picking off Rodgers’ caddie didn’t carry the same juice as the one he brought back against division foe Tony Romo last season, but points are points, and the Giants need plenty of those these days.
It also basically ended the afternoon for Green Bay. Tolzien, rattled, had little chance of actually creating a legitimate threat after that, though he did move the ball well in the hurry-up until Antrel Rolle ended all the silliness with his interception at the Giants’ 14.
That was the capper. But things had turned well before that, in the third quarter. Louis Murphy had run into punter Tim Masthay on fourth-and-11 just as Rueben Randle settled under his fair catch at the Giants’ 16. The five-yard penalty reduced down and distance to fourth-and-6, a number Mike McCarthy thought favorable enough to call for a fake punt.
Instead, M.D. Jennings took the short snap and ran it up the right side, only to be met by linebacker Spencer Paysinger a yard short of the marker at the Giants’ 37.
In one, failed attempt, the Giants picked up 31 yards. From there, Eli Manning found Victor Cruz three times for 45 yards, Brandon Myers for eight, and ran Andre Brown for other small chunks. Soon enough, Brandon Jacobs took it in from the 1 for a 20-6 lead.
So good things are happening. Enough good things that this team will wind up in the postseason? Probably not. Despite their fortunes Sunday, their secondary would not have been a match for a healthy Rodgers, who makes throws like Tolzien’s 52-yarder to Jarrett Boykin or that 45-yarder to James Jones as a matter of course.
But they did do a good job of stopping the powerful Lacy and daring the competitive Tolzien to beat him with his arm. Indeed, Tolzien might have had a chance had the Giants not made those two good things happen.
They have to get better. Whether they can continue on the upward swing is the question.
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