Although the New York Giants have come up with a two-game winning streak to close out the first half of their 2013 season, no one in the locker room is pretending that what they have accomplished lately means their early-season problems are behind them.
“I feel good about what we've been able to accomplish the last two-and-a-half games on defense," said defensive end Justin Tuck.
“But we have a long way to go, obviously, not only just because of our record, but on defense, too,” he added.
“There are still things that we need to improve on, and we’ll go through this bye, get a little bit healthier, and hopefully come back and make sure we continue to improve.”
Safety Antrel Rolle agreed with his teammate, noting that the Giants now have a team identity that they are hoping continues to solidify in the second half of the season.
“We’re heading in the right direction, and there’s a lot of room left for us to grow,” Rolle said.
The problem is that the Giants will have to interrupt the forward progress they've started to make, as its time for their annual bye week.
Head coach Tom Coughlin said that he hopes the players come back from their extended break next Monday refreshed, healthy and refocused for the feedback the coaches will have for them from their upcoming self-scouting sessions.
“We’ll be into (the improvements) heavily, and when the players come back, that’s the first thing they’ll be offered in the meeting, which will be a worst-to-best evaluation of where we are,” he said.
As for being just two games back in the NFC East, the Giants said they’re not worried about anything else right now other than improving their football team.
“When it’s all said and done, we’re 2-6,” Rolle said. “We won our last couple of games, which is a great thing. Are we back? We’ll be back once we reach that postseason.
“We’re grinding, and we’re pushing ahead, and, more importantly, we’re staying together,” he added. “Coaches, players—we’re just looking forward to better days.”
“We’re certainly not blind to the issues that we do have, but by the same token, we’re excited about having an opportunity to improve on those areas, and excited about the second half of the year,” he said.
If 9-6 wasn't good enough to get the Giants into the playoffs last year, chances are that even if they finish a similar record—and they have a hard road ahead with their remaining schedule—they’ll probably still be sitting at home come January.
|New York Giants' Remaining Schedule|
|Date||Team||Record as of Week 8|
|Nov. 17||Green Bay||5-2|
|Dec. 1||at Washington||2-5|
|Dec. 8||at San Diego||4-3|
|Dec. 22||at Detroit||5-3|
|NFC East Standings through Week 8|
|New York Giants||2-6|
Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 488 yards and a touchdown, but it was his late-game, one-yard plunge into the end zone with 12 seconds remaining that gave his team a 31-30 win over the Cowboys.
Three hundred twenty-nine of Stafford’s career-high passing yards went to receiver Calvin Johnson, who was also the recipient of the two-yard touchdown strike thrown by Stafford in the first quarter.
Detroit battled hard to overcome a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit after putting themselves in the hole with four early-game turnovers.
Lions running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell each ran for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, as the Lions came roaring back from a 13-7 deficit after three quarters of play.
Peyton Manning led the Broncos to 38 unanswered points in their comeback against the Redskins.
The Broncos, who were down, 21-7, until 3:37 in the third quarter, had four turnovers in the game, including three interceptions and a lost fumble by Manning.
Two of those Manning turnovers resulted in 14 third-quarter points for the Redskins.
Denver took the lead on Knowshon Moreno’s 35-yard touchdown reception.
The Broncos' final points came on cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s pick-six of a pass thrown by quarterback Kirk Cousins, who came into the game for starter Robert Griffin III after Griffin injured his left knee in the fourth quarter.
The Giants are on a bye but will return to action the following week against the Oakland Raiders in the first of a three-game home stretch for New York.
|Giants Injury Report|
|Player||Injury||Most Recent Status|
|RB David Wilson||Neck||Inactive Week 8|
|CB Jayron Hosley||Hamstring||Inactive Week 8|
|RB Brandon Jacobs||Hamstring||Inactive Week 8|
|DT Shaun Rogers||Knee||Inactive Week 8|
|TE Adrien Robinson||Foot||Inactive Week 8|
|CB Corey Webster||Groin||Active in Week 8|
|LB Spencer Paysinger||Ankle||Active in Week 8|
|S Cooper Taylor||Shoulder||Active Week 8|
|CB Terrell Thomas||Knee||Active in Week 8|
|WR Victor Cruz||Burner||Injured but returned to game|
|CB Trumaine McBride||Illness||Active Week 8|
|via the New York Giants|
The Giants got a scare on Sunday when receiver Victor Cruz was slammed hard to the turf by Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher.
Cruz, who said he suffered a burner, got up and jogged off the field, but he had to miss a few plays in order to have X-rays done on his neck. The X-rays were negative, and he was able to return to the game.
With two weeks to rest, Cruz, whom head coach Tom Coughlin said underwent additional tests as a precautionary, should be OK when the Giants host the Oakland Raiders on Nov. 10.
With Andre Brown (broken leg) expected to come off the short-term injured reserve list in Week 10, New York will probably trim a running back from a group that currently includes Brandon Jacobs, Peyton Hillis, David Wilson, Michael Cox and fullback John Conner.
Although Jacobs had to miss his second straight game last week with an ongoing hamstring strain, he told Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger that he didn't think he was in any danger of losing his roster spot.
The most likely scenario, assuming the Giants do plan to activate Brown when they return from the bye week, is that they will place Wilson, who has been sidelined indefinitely with spinal stenosis and a herniated disc, on injured reserve.
Wilson is supposed to be re-evaluated by doctors before the Giants return from their bye week. On Monday, he ran past reporters without offering any updates on his condition.
Coughlin wasn't of much help either in providing any new information on the team’s first-round draft pick from last year.
"No one has provided me with anything," he said.
The Giants will also soon have to make a decision on what to do with defensive tackle Markus Kuhn, who is currently finishing up his 21-day practice window after spending the first six weeks of the season on PUP while rehabbing from ACL surgery last November.
With defensive tackle Shaun Rogers having had some injury issues—he dealt with a back problem earlier in the season and most recently was inactive because of a knee issue—New York could place Rogers on injured reserve, which would allow for Kuhn and his fresh legs to get back on the field after the bye.
What Must Improve
1. Special Teams
Whatever it is they’re doing or not doing—and every week it seems to be something different—the Giants’ special teams performance has been awful.
The most glaring issue has been punt coverage. A league-high three punts have been returned for a touchdown so far, including two in a row (by Chicago and Minnesota).
Last week, against the Eagles, the unit had a botched snap by long snapper Zak DeOssie that punter Steve Weatherford failed to knock out of the back of the end zone for the safety. The ball was recovered by the Eagles for the touchdown, the Eagles’ only points in the game.
With that recovery, the Giants punt-coverage team has now been responsible for giving up 28 points in eight games. They are also ranked 31st in the NFL with a 35.4 net punting average and have given up a league-leading 424 punt return yards.
“It’s always something different,” said special teams coordinator Tom Quinn. “You’re shuffling guys in and out and trying to find solutions that way, (but) there are not that many guys to do that with.”
Another area of special teams that hasn't gotten as much attention but which has left much to be desired has been the punt-return game.
Rueben Randle has been the primary return man for the Giants. However, his decision-making and blocking has resulted in him not doing much despite having 17 return opportunities.
Out of punt returners with at least 10 returns in eight games, Randle’s 6.5 yards-per-return average puts him 19th in the NFL.
It goes without saying that if the Giants want to put themselves in the best possible field position situations, they have to get better production from both their punt-coverage and punt-return units.
2. Red-Zone Efficiency
The Giants have been completely shut out inside of the red zone twice this season.
Against the Eagles last week, New York made two trips inside the 20 but only came away with two field goals.
In their first eight games, the Giants have made 19 trips to the red zone but have come away with only nine touchdowns for a 47.3 percent conversion rate, which, according to Team Rankings, puts them in 25th place in league-wide, red-zone production.
It goes without saying that this type of production, obviously, isn't going to win very many games going forward.
Thus, this area will probably be one that the coaching staff thoroughly examines during the self-scouting process.
A hallmark of a Tom Coughlin-coached team is supposed to be discipline.
Yet, the Giants have been anything but disciplined when it comes to penalties, They’re averaging 6.9 penalties per game, which ranks them 20th in the NFL, as per Team Rankings.
Against the Eagles, the Giants had 11 infractions, their highest total since Week 6 against the Chicago Bears when they were flagged for a season-high 12 penalties.
Quarterback Eli Manning remains the top penalized Giant, having drawn six yellow flags. He is followed by cornerback Prince Amukamara (five) and safety Antrel Rolle and left tackle Will Beatty (tied with four).
Using data from NFLGSIS (log in required), here’s a partial look at the Giants' penalties through eight games:
|Most Frequent NY Giants Penalties Through 8 Games|
|Defensive pass inerference||6|
|Delay of Game||4|
|Neutral zone infraction||4|
|Roughing the passer||2|
|Source: NFL Game Statistic Information System|
What hurts the most with the penalty situation is that it’s resulted in 14 stalled drives, defined as a drive resulting in no points scored and no first downs earned after the penalty incurred.