By Steve Silverman
There is a tendency in sports to give greater weight to whatever has just happened and to discount what took place one, two or three months ago.
That’s especially dangerous in football, because it can lead to mistakes when it comes to building – or rebuilding – a team.
The New York Giants are a good example of this. The Giants are 4-3 in the second half of the season, and they have played quite well in wins over the Bears and Redskins in early December.
They may have played their best game of the year Sunday against the Colts, and while they came out on the short end of a 28-27 games after leading from the start until the final seconds, there are many reasons to be encouraged.
The Colts are playing as well as any team in the NFL right now, having won eight of their last nine games. They are fighting hard to make the playoffs following a 1-5 start (sound familiar?), and they have put themselves in a position to earn a spot in the playoffs if they win the final game of the season in a showdown with the Tennessee Titans.
The winner of that game in Nashville will at the very least earn the AFC’s No. 2 wild-card spot. If the suddenly hesitant Houston Texans lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the winner of the Indy-Tennessee game will win the AFC South.
The Colts did not play their best game against the Giants and Pat Shurmur had his team in a position to jump on them with a 14-point burst in the first quarter. It’s the kind of start that shocked most Giants fans, because they haven’t seen that kind of early efficiency from their team all season.
This game was encouraging for several reasons. The Colts have been very stout defensively and they poured most of their energy into stopping rookie running back Saquon Barkley and keeping the Giants from establishing the running game.
But in this game, the Giants coaching staff saw something else.
The Giants offensive line protected Manning and he was not sacked once. Based on what has happened earlier in the season, this development was something of a Christmas miracle.
Instead of having to run for his life, Manning was able to find open receivers and deliver the ball on time. He completed 25 of 33 passes for 309 yards with one touchdown and one interception. No, these figures are not Patrick Mahomes-like, but Manning once again looked like a very good professional quarterback, and one who was not on his last legs.
He had quite a bit of help from wideout Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram. Odell Beckham Jr. was not in the lineup.
But it gives one pause as to what this lineup could do if all elements were healthy and the offensive line was capable of playing like this on a regular basis.
Shepard caught six passes for 113 yards while Engram caught six passes for 87 yards. The athletic tight end was used on two reverses and both were successful. He had runs of 14 and 12 yards.
Okay, so the Giants looked good against a very good team. We are not even going to hold it against them that they could not win the game. Andrew Luck is simply playing too well, and the Colts are simply too motivated to drop a home game that they desperately needed to win.
But the rose-colored glasses should not be left on for more than a few seconds. The real evidence on this team came in the first half of the season when the Giants lost seven of eight.
The offensive line was not good enough and the quarterback was too old and slow.
They have shown they can play better than they did at their worst, but the big change must come at quarterback.
Quarterbacks must demonstrate mobility and the ability to escape pressure, if not the ability to run and make plays with their legs. The latter is preferable in the current environment, and the former is a must have.
Nobody should be fooled by a few good games or a competitive effort against a red-hot opponent.
If the idea is to win consistently and get back to championship form, it must be done with an athletic quarterback who is not going to be crushed by a mediocre pass rush.
The time to act will be upon the Giants in a little more than a week.