After a much needed bye week respite from hitting the Big Blue bottle, the New York Giants returned to action in Week 12 and in one fell swoop erased many a painful memory of ugly back-to-back losses: the Giants absolutely destroyed the Green Bay Packers, holding one of the league's most prolific offenses to one early touchdown in a 38-10 victory.
The Giants not only convincingly stopped their downward spiral and reclaimed a two-game lead over the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins in the NFC East, they played very well last night in some of the key areas that had been plaguing them. Let's take a look:
Offensive line/running game:
Although the likely season-ending broken for Andre Brown puts a damper on last night's success in the running game, the recent inability to run the ball was not an issue last night: Ahmad Bradshaw and Brown were really a dynamic duo, putting up 122 yards on 23 carries combined.
Much credit to Brown and especially Bradshaw for running hard, but the offensive line deserves credit both for the running performance (Martellus Bennett was a force sealing off the corner) and in the passing game (where Manning was only sacked once).
Much has been made of the Sean Locklear/David Diehl battle at right tackle, and Locklear did come into the game yesterday when Diehl suffered a burner, but regardless of who is in there the Giants need that unit to play like it did yesterday if they plan on making a run.
Run defense, pass rush, pass defense, umm, everything…
The Giants defense simply fell apart against the Cincinnati Bengals before the bye, as what had been "at-times" struggles of various units (a matador-like run defense, a nonexistent pass rush and a secondary prone to big breakdowns) all coalesced on that one day, making for a huge, all-around-ugly performance.
Yesterday, the exact opposite. The pass rush was humming again, leading the way with five sacks and countless hurries on Rodgers (did you see those meager shovel passes he tried in the second-half?). In the passing game, an early breakdown leading to an easy Jordy Nelson touchdown had us saying "oh no, here we go again," but the secondary really settled down and was probably responsible for a few of those sacks.
But boy, was it nice to hear names like Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul on the telecast again.
The Giants even turned their play on special teams around, as the Packers, who feature one of the game's most explosive returners in Randall Cobb, had a long return of only 30 yards despite seven opportunities.
Of course, not everything went so well…
The injury to Andre Brown is probably the big one here, and expect to hear names like Ryan Torain and Joseph Addai this week. But our heart still hasn't started beating after that beautiful shot NBC captured of Kenny Phillips and Jason Pierre-Paul both writhing in pain on the turf, although we haven't heard anything about either injury being serious.
One thing that still really concerns us is Eli Manning. Sure, he had a good day with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and he was never really forced to put the offense on his back. But something seems a bit off; the passes don't have their usual zip, they wobble a bit more, and some of them just come out funny. Although it was nice to see the offense as a whole take a step forward, we're not ready to say they're quite back to form: Nicks is still a step slow, Manning's balls are a bit sluggish and Victor Cruz still has his head in the clouds.
What's on deck?
The Redskins, in Washington, on Monday Night Football: a few months ago, who woulda thought that this would be perhaps the biggest game of the season? The Giants will have a chance to bury the 'Skins, who are pretty much the only legitimate competition for the division crown.
The Cowboys and Redskins are now currently tied at two games back, the Redskins have been playing a far better brand of football. If we beat the 'Skins, we can all but waltz into the playoffs.
Also…Ahmad Bradshaw, Andre Brown, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Eli Manning, Football, Green Bay Packers, Kenny Phillips, Mathias Kiwanuka, Monday Night Football, New York, New York Giants, NFC East, NFL, Washington Redskins