By Curt Macysyn
If you are head coach Tom Coughlin, you may want to throw out the stat sheet and simply focus on the positive. After all, if this game was gut check time, and it was for Big Blue, then the 27-20 victory by New York tells you all you need to know. For the record, the New York Giants (4-3) not only needed a victory to maintain a share of the top spot in the NFC east, winning this game also had the byproduct of dropping the Dallas Cowboys (2-4) into the division basement. So in essence, mission accomplished.
Just as important as the win was the fact that the Giants proved that when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter, that they can muster enough intestinal fortitude to get the job done. And they were able to do so, with Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. playing a supporting role to the big play abilities of Dwayne Harris and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The team also received key contributions from Orleans Darkwa, Rueben Randle and Myles White in order to secure the 27-20 victory.
The Giants will not be able to count on winning games utilizing this offensive formula on a regular basis. Eli Manning was only 13-24 for 170 yards. At least he did not have an interception but did absorb two sacks on the afternoon. Odell Beckham was not incredibly dynamic, and he finished with four catches for only 35 yards. Given these types of statistics, the Giants should consider themselves fortunate that they won the game.
The rushing attack was solid, as the team ran for 132 yards on the ground (5.2 yards per carry). Orleans Darkwa got some rare playing time, and he responded with 48 yards on eight carries, including a beautiful 15-yard TD run in the second quarter. Shane Vereen had 56 yards on just four carries, including a 39-yard burst. Andre Williams had four carries for 13 yards, as his struggles continue.
Once again, the statistics were not pretty, but the defense battled all afternoon. Thankfully, the Giants will not see another offensive line that compares with the Cowboys unit, as Dallas racked up 233 yards on the ground (5.7 yards per carry). Oft-injured Darren McFadden may have had his signature game with 152 yards rushing, and Lucky Whitehead had 35 yards on four carries.
The biggest play of the game, and maybe it will be of the season, was Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie baiting Matt Cassel into thinking that Terrence Williams was open and jumping the route. Rodgers-Cromartie picked off the Cassel pass and scampered 58-yards untouched into the end zone to put the Giants ahead 17-13 in the third. DRC had another interception in the third, as did Brandon Meriweather, as Cassel threw three straight interceptions on successive drives.
Landon Collins lost Devin Street in the end zone and that ended up tying the game at 20-20 in the fourth, and Jayron Hosley continues to look like the second coming of Elvis Patterson. New York did have one coverage sack that was credited to Markus Kuhn and George Selvie, but the pass rush was non-existent for the most part.
Special Teams: A
The 100-yard kickoff return by Dwayne Harris won the game for the Giants, and Harris came through when Big Blue needed it most. Myles White’s recovery of Cole Bealey’s muffed catch of a Brad Wing punt put the game away for the G-men. In addition, Wing had a bounce back game with five punts for a net average of 47.0 yards.
Perhaps this goes unnoticed, but Josh Brown is perfect 15-for-15 on filed goal attempts this year. A couple of Brown understudies with the Giants, Chris Boswell (Pittsburgh) and Brandon McManus (Denver), have had solid beginnings to their NFL careers. Brown was successful on two more field goal attempts against the Cowboys.
This game plan was not the best work of Coughlin and company, but it did net Big Blue a win. For the past two weeks, teams have ridden one of their running backs with significant carries. Last week it was DeMarco Murray who rushed 21 times for 112 yards, and this week Darren McFadden ran the ball 29 times for 152 yards and a touchdown. Instead of trying to force feed Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams in the offense, maybe Ben McAdoo should simply play the hot hand, in this case Orleans Darkwa (6.0 yards per carry this week). The running back by committee system does not seem to be working.
Offensively the Giants need a strong rushing attack because with Victor Cruz out of action, and Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle slowed by injuries, the passing game is sputtering. More touches for Larry Donnell is not going to be the answer, and McAdoo needs to get more creative with Shane Vereen, perhaps splitting him out in the slot to get some touches in the passing game outside of dump offs from Manning.
Defensively, whoever is making the call of starting Jayron Hosley needs to rethink that strategy. Hosley continues to struggle in coverage, and he added a few missed tackles this week.
The Giants face two NFC south opponents in upcoming weeks, as the team travels to New Orleans for a contest against the Saints on November 1. The Saints have gotten hot, winning against the Atlanta Falcons and Indianapolis Colts in successive weeks. After that, the G-men will visit Tampa Bay for an important contest against Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers on November 8.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past four seasons for Examiner.com, and he is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Born and raised in New Jersey, Curt attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, N.J. and is a graduate of Rutgers University – New Brunswick. Follow him on Twitter @CurtMac23 for the latest NFL and New York Giants news.