By Curt Macysyn
Sometimes there really is no magic formula to playing winning football. The New York Football Giants’ (6-3) win against the Cincinnati Bengals (3-5-1) was quite simply a team effort. The offense picked up the defense to run out the clock at the end of the contest. The defense picked up special teams when big returns were given up. The coaching staff picked up everyone by dialing up the right mix on both the offense and defense. In a battle that represented a regular season playoff contest for these two teams, Big Blue out-willed the Bengals 21-20 before a nationwide audience on Monday Night Football.
The New York Giants rushing attack has been much maligned, and most of the criticism has been well-deserved. On a night when former general manager Ernie Accorsi and ex-head coach Tom Coughlin were enshrined in the Giants’ “Ring of Honor,” Big Blue played like their ancestors by finding a rushing attack that mirrored the best of O.J. Anderson, Tiki Barber and Rodney Hampton. Not only was the running attack productive (122 rushing yards), it was punishing as well. Rashad Jennings shook off the doldrums to pound out 85 yards all on his own.
Even when teams focus on Odell Beckham, Jr., they still cannot stop him. OBJ had 10 catches on 11 targets for 97 yards and a touchdown. This was not the explosive Beckham we’re used to seeing, but the dynamic receiver was effective as a short and intermediate target for Eli Manning. The two negatives on the evening were two Eli Manning interceptions and the spotty play of rookie receiver Roger Lewis. Lewis was clearly out of sync, and he was benched in favor of Tavarres King.
First of all, the Giants caused the Bengals to be one-dimensional. Jeremy Hill and company only had 63 yards on the ground, which put the game on the back of Andy Dalton. But the Giants’ defense never allowed Dalton to get comfortable in the pocket. The Cincinnati quarterback was held to a pedestrian 55.2 completion percentage.
When Cincinnati twice had a short field, Big Blue’s defense held the Bengals to field goals both times. Olivier Vernon was a beast with nine tackles and a critical quarterback sack. “We expect anybody on the defense to make plays,” Vernon said. “We’ve got a lot of playmakers that can do special things. To come out with a win, it was a great performance. We’ve got a lot to look forward to next week.”
Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green had a quiet 68 yards, even if he did have a touchdown. Green did not create the anticipated match-up problems for the Giants’ secondary. Tight end Tyler Eifert had one big play, but that was it for him.
Landon Collins seems to get an interception every week, and this week’s turnover was almost the final nail in the Bengals’ coffin. Unfortunately, Eli Manning threw an ill-advised interception on the very next play. Cincinnati’s 264 total yards, 186 passing yards, and 12 first downs were all season lows for a Giants opponent.
Special Teams: C+
Another off night for special teams. The unit allowed an 84-yard kickoff return and 18-yard punt return by Alex Erickson. Blown plays are going to bite the Giants in the end, so Tom Quinn will have some more clean-up to do. Robbie Gould only had point after touchdown duty, and he was a perfect three-for-three.
Brad Wing punted six times for a 51.8 yard average with three inside the 20-yard line. Return specialist Dwayne Harris left the game with a toe injury, but thankfully Bobby Rainey was in the mix.
Ben McAdoo is hitting all the right notes for the Giants right now. Opting to go for the go-ahead touchdown on fourth down in the fourth quarter was stuff that a team remembers down the stretch. But instead of focusing completely on the decision, we should not lose site of the play call. The Bengals were not going to let Odell Beckham beat them, so that left Sterling Shepard free over the middle. Eli Manning doesn’t miss many of those, and the G-Men forged a lead that became the winning margin. Last season, they likely would have kicked the field goal.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is conjuring up memories of 2007 with the defense’s ability to close out games. The AFC North likes to believe that they are the toughest defensive division, but the Giants took the Bengals best shot and gave it right back to them.
Up Next: Chicago Bears (2-7)
The Giants stay at home next Sunday as they face the Chicago Bears (2-7) at MetLife Stadium. The Bears have scuffled through another losing campaign under the leadership of head coach John Fox. The G-men should be at least a touchdown favorite against Jay Cutler and company. New York needs to accumulate wins in November because their December schedule gets more difficult.