By Curt Macysyn
Ho hum. Another week, and another complete effort by the New York Giants (10-4) defense. This time, the Detroit Lions (9-5) became the victims for the “new” Big Blue Wrecking Crew. The raucous crowd at a sold-out MetLife Stadium sensed that the team was on a mission. Even without star defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, the G-Men have not missed a beat defensively. But, the difference on this Sunday, compared to other weeks, was that all three units were effective against the challengers from Motown. Together, offensive, defense and special teams combined to overwhelm the Lions 17-6 on a rainy Sunday afternoon at the New Jersey Meadowlands.
The Giants are on the cusp of a playoff berth, and the NFC East division title is still within reach as well. Regardless of what the naysayers think, this squad should be considered a Super Bowl challenger in head coach Ben McAdoo’s rookie season.
The wind and rain combined to make the passing game more difficult for both teams, but Eli Manning ignored the elements out of the gate, as he completed his first 11 passes. New York’s first drive ended with a Manning to Sterling Shepard six-yard touchdown hook-up, and the G-Men were on the board first. On the afternoon, Manning was efficient (20-of-28, 201 yards) and effective (two touchdowns). Seven catches on seven targets for the tight end tandem of Jerrell Adams and Will Tye was nice to see.
Paul Perkins led the ground attack with 56 rushing yards and a 5.1 yard per carry average. It seems like simply a matter of time before Perkins gets more of the time share carries than Rashad Jennings (18 carries, 38 yards). Odell Beckham had a beautiful one-handed TD grab to salt the game away late in the fourth quarter. He had six catches for 64 receiving yards on the afternoon, and one rushing carry for nine yards.
There was only one sack on the day, and that was shared by Johnathan Hankins and Olivier Vernon. The defense was clearly in bend-but-don’t-break mode, as points were going to be hard to come by. Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford could not get his team in the end zone, and that’s how the defensive unit should ultimately be judged.
Janoris Jenkins was knocked out by a back injury caused by the friendly fire of Trevin Wade, so Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie became the substitute lockdown cornerback. DRC had an interception, as well as a hustling tackle on Golden Tate that saved a touchdown. The Lions ultimately fumbled away that opportunity, so that play was critical.
New York threw a blanket on Detroit’s rushing attack, as fill-in Dwayne Washington had an ugly 14 carries for just 31 yards. Zach Zenner had two carries, and one resulted in a lost fumble. The Lions converted only five of 14 third-down conversions, as the G-Men have been effective in that area all season.
Special Teams: B+
The Giants have more clean up to do in this area. Brad Wing had a punt partially blocked, and that resulted in an 18-yard kick. Then, another unnecessary holding call on a special teams play negated a spectacular 63-yard punt return touchdown by Beckham. Robbie Gould converted both PATs and a 47-yard field goal, but he also kicked the second half opening kickoff out-of-bounds.
The continued strong work of gunner Dwayne Harris and Wing was the big news here. The Giants downed punts on the three and four-yard line in the game. The punting game caused the Lions to need extended drives to get into scoring position. With a one-dimensional offense, the Giants played the field position game effectively.
Shout out to Kerry Wynn for his bell ringer on a second half kickoff return.
It appears that Ben McAdoo may the type of coach who can put aside distractions and just coach. This element is critical against the background of noise that is the Big Apple. Kudos to him. Hopefully the return of guard Justin Pugh will signal the return of the Giants running attack.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has utilized his troops effectively. Already without Jason Pierre-Paul, the G-Men lost shutdown cornerback Janoris Jenkins to a back injury early in the second half. Spagnuolo called upon Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to fill in, and DRC had seven tackles and an interception this week.
The next-man-up mentality has served the team well, and they have positioned themselves right in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt. Anyone predicting a 10-4 record at this point, please raise your hand.
Up Next: Philadelphia Eagles (5-9)
The Philadelphia Eagles are next up for the Giants, as these NFC East foes clash on Thursday Night Football. The Birds dropped a close contest to the Baltimore Ravens 27-26 on Sunday, as they failed to covert a two-point conversion to win the game. Philadelphia has lost five games in a row and are 1-7 on the road, but the Eagles also sport a 4-2 record at Lincoln Financial Field this season, which is where these teams meet on Thursday.