Well, Eli Manning did it again.
Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
After an absolutely dreadful first half, perhaps one of the worst halves of football of Manning's professional career, Mr. Clutch came through in the final 30 minutes, leading the New York Giants on three touchdown drives to rally and beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a score of 41-34.
Eli finished with a career-high 510 passing yards, 295 of those coming in the second half, and the Giants accumulated 604 yards of total offense, the most since 1950.
That said, it wasn't all fine and dandy for the G-Men on Sunday afternoon. Let's break down the positives and negatives of the win.
1. Once again, Manning stepped up when it counted. It really is unfathomable how unbelievably clutch this guy is. He went from looking like 2005 Eli to a superhero in a matter of minutes. There isn't a single quarterback whose hands I'd rather have the ball in in a big spot. Not one.
Also, want to hear a ridiculous stat? Manning was 7-of-9 for 229 yards and two touchdowns in the final 7:41 of the game. Unbelievable.
2. The Giants may have found their halfback: Andre Brown. While Eli put up the gaudy numbers, Brown was the spark plug that got New York back into the game. After Ahmad Bradshaw left with a neck injury, the third-year player, who hadn't played a down in the NFL since 2010, rushed for 71 yards on 13 carries (good for 5.5 yards a touch) and scored the game-winning touchdown. He added two catches for 19 yards on top of that and provided some nice blocking as well.
3. Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz were nothing short of magnificent. Nicks finished with 199 yards and a touchdown off of 10 catches, although he did injure his ankle during the game. It didn't appear too serious, but it's certainly something to keep an eye on.
Cruz, just days after the death of his grandmother, put together one of his best performances as a Giant, catching 11 passes for 179 yards and a score. What a way to bounce back after his horrendous game against the Dallas Cowboys last week.
4. How about the offensive line? Many figured this unit would be New York's biggest issue heading into the 2012 season, but it was outstanding today, not allowing a single sack and opening up big running lanes for Brown. All that with a knee injury to David Diehl. Talk about putting it together.
5. Rueben Randle looks great on punt returns. He had a 53-yarder called back thanks to a block in the back on Jacquian Williams, but the rookie looks very impressive back there.
1. The defensive line generated absolutely no pressure on Josh Freeman at all. It seemed like he could have written a book in the amount of time he had in the pocket on Sunday afternoon.
The Giants clearly miss Chris Canty, who is out until Week 6 at the earliest due to a knee injury. He takes up so much space with his enormous size, and he also possesses unbelievable athleticism for a man of his stature. Don't think for a minute that he doesn't make the jobs of Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora much easier.
2. Corey Webster continues to get beat. He did come up with a key interception, but he was being torched for most of the game much like last week against the Cowboys. Now, Webster has been one of the league's best cornerbacks for the past several years, so I don't think this is a huge cause for concern, but it is still a bit troubling nonetheless.
3. Injuries, injuries, injuries. As if New York wasn't already beaten up enough coming into this game, it suffered even more injuries during it. Bradshaw (neck), Diehl (knee) and Domenik Hixon (head) all left the game, further depleting Big Blue's roster. Notice how I didn't even mention Nicks' ankle injury.
Plus, we would all like to think that the secondary would have looked much, much better these first two weeks had Prince Amukamara and Terrell Thomas been healthy.
4. David Wilson continues to be underwhelming. After getting benched thanks to a first-quarter fumble against Dallas, the rookie carried the ball three times for a whole six yards on Sunday against the Buccaneers. He also dropped a pass in the red zone in the first quarter. Wilson did have some nice kick returns, but the Giants didn't spend their first-round pick on him so he could return kicks.
5. Dropped passes. Drops killed New York against the Cowboys, and they nearly did them in again against Tampa Bay. Martellus Bennett was responsible for two, although he did have a spectacular touchdown catch that put the Giants up late. Still, the G-Men may have not even needed that had Bennett secured what should have been an easy touchdown grab earlier in the contest.
6. Red zone offense. As I stated earlier, New York's first four trips to the red zone resulted in field goals. That is absolutely disgraceful and is something that must change if the Giants want to have any chance at contending this season. Only one of Big Blue's touchdowns during the comeback came in the red zone; the other two resulted from bombs from Manning.
The play-calling must improve down there (for example, no second-down draws from the 5-yard line), and the performance must, as well.
This was an enormous win for New York. Given how difficult its schedule is the rest of the way, it needed this one dearly.
This is what you call a character win, as the Giants were down 14 in the second half and nothing appeared to be going their way. Their first four trips into the red zone resulted in field goals, and Eli was looking like a rookie in the game's early stages. Then, something clicked, and before you knew it, Big Blue was celebrating its first win of the season.
I guess the one thing to take away from this win is that as long as Eli Manning is your quarterback, you should never, ever give up.
Let's hope that second-half explosion woke the Giants from whatever slumber they may have been in. That, and let's hope guys stop getting hurt and the guys who were already hurt start getting healthy.
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