By Paul Dottino
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They are in this race.
The Giants may be limping, cramping, walking – and perhaps ready to become violently ill — but they have somehow gotten back into the race for the NFC East.
They have the division’s only three-game winning streak of the season, thanks to a 24-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders. Once again, the Giants (3-6) did not play very good football. However, they stopped the run, produced a pass rush, and got enough of a running game going themselves to squeeze past an inferior opponent.
Of course, the Giants still have the Aaron Rodger-less Green Bay Packers coming in on Sunday – and it will take a stronger effort to win that game – yet they cannot help but see that Philadelphia and Dallas are tied for first place at 5-5. And the Eagles will play the Cowboys on the final weekend, meaning one of them is assured of a sixth loss (barring a tie.)
So it appears 9-7 is a good bet to win the division and 8-8 has a chance at winning a tiebreaker.
Offense: RB Andre Brown. Are you kidding me? He set career highs with 30 carries and 115 yards while running for the go-ahead 1-yard TD late in the third quarter. Brown also carried five straight times for 21 yards and a first down as the Giants drained the final 3:21 of the game. And this came from a player who had been on short-term IR (fractured leg) and wasn’t activated until this past week. He admitted he was not in football shape and it was expected that he’d be slowly worked into the offense. However, Brandon Jacobs (knee) was unavailable, Michael Cox was not a wise option given Oakland’s quick and complex blitz packages, and Brown provided more speed than Peyton Hillis against the Raiders’ fast and active front seven. Hillis also did not help his cause with a first-quarter fumble.
Defense: CB Terrell Thomas and DE Mathias Kiwanuka. They both caused a turnover that short-circuited potentially game-changing scores. The Raiders were up, 20-14, late in the third when Thomas ran underneath a slant route and intercepted Terrell Pryor at the Giants 30 before taking it back to the Oakland 5 (to set up Brown’s score.)
And there’s no way to leave out Kiwanuka, who had his best game of the season. He capped his effort with a strip-sack of Pryor at the Oakland 40 with 3:21 to play and the Giants on top by four. DT Cullen Jenkins, who also played very well, fell on the loose ball and the Giants’ offense ran out the clock.
Special teams: DE Damontre Moore and Cooper Taylor. Oakland made a bad call on their punt protection (something Moore said the Giants’ coaches had picked up on tape), allowing Moore to race untouched up the middle and block a punt on their second possession of the game. Fellow rookie Cooper Taylor picked up the ball at the 21 and hustled into the end zone to tie the game at 7 and energize the crowd with 9:22 left in the first quarter.
On the opening kickoff, Moore also hustled and knocked Andre Holmes out of bounds at the Giants 5 after the Oakland receiver picked up a fumble (see below.)
Offense: RB Peyton Hillis. Hillis fumbled away the ball on the Giants’ second offensive possession. He caught a screen pass on 3rd-and-20 for no gain and got stripped by LB Lamarr Houston, who also recovered at the Giants 21. But the defense stiffened and Oakland was forced to settle for a 33-yard field goal and a 10-7 lead. Hillis has two fumbles in 52 touches over three games since joining the Giants. He had a career-high eight fumbles in 331 touches during his 1,000-yard season with the 2010 Browns.
Defense: DT Mike Patterson. As in the past few weeks, this was not an easy call. Offensive and special teams miscues were responsible for 17 of the Raiders’ 20 points. But we’re going to target Patterson for a neutral zone infraction on 2nd-and-8 from the Giants 11 early in the third quarter. But the defense stiffened and Sebastien Janikowski was forced to kick a field goal (24 yards) as Oakland cut the deficit to 24-20.
Special teams: KOR Jerrel Jernigan. Could the game started off any worse for the Giants? Jernigan had the opening kickoff knocked free from his hands by Taiwan Jones and Holmes returned the fumble 22 yards to the Giants 5. Two plays later, Pryor pushed into the end zone for a 7-0 lead just 46 seconds into the game.
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