The New York Giants are back from their bye week, which this year fell precisely at the midway point of their 2013 NFL season. Although they didn't play last weekend, they still lost critical ground in the NFC East Division race thanks to victories by Dallas, Washington and Philadelphia.
Because of these Week 9 results, the Giants fell 2.5 games behind the division-leading Cowboys.
With eight games left to be played, the Giants do not have a lot of room for error against a second-half schedule that starts with a three straight home games against the Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers and Cowboys.
|Nov. 10||Oakland Raiders||3-5|
|Nov. 17||Green Bay Packers||5-2|
|Nov. 24||Dallas Cowboys||5-4|
“Every team is accountable for their own actions,” added safety Antrel Rolle. “Whatever Dallas does, or Washington does, or Philly does shouldn't have any effect on us, although we know it does. We have to go out there and take care of our own business; we can’t rely on anyone else.”
The good news for a Giants team whose first order of business is to beat the Raiders on Sunday is that under head coach Tom Coughlin, New York has historically done well in games following its bye. According to data gathered from Pro Football Reference, the Giants are 6-3 since 2004 when coming off a bye and have outscored their opponents 196-74.
The Giants are also on a five-game winning streak in their first game after week off; their last post-bye loss came against the Cowboys in 2007.
If New York plans to keep up that trend and remain in the hunt for the division title, its objective is very simple, according to Coughlin.
“We need to play better," he said. "We need to play better and we need to win more.”
Dallas 27, Minnesota 23
The Dallas Cowboys put together a late-game scoring drive that saw quarterback Tony Romo connect with receiver Dwayne Harris on a game-winning, seven-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys, who improved to 5-4 and who still remain in first place in the NFC East, saw their 20-10 third-quarter lead evaporate thanks to a 31-yard touchdown reception by Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph and an impressive 11-yard touchdown run by running back Adrian Peterson that put Minnesota up 23-20 late.
Romo, who the possession before had thrown an interception, drove the Cowboys 90 yards on nine plays on the game-winning drive. The big play was a 34-yard pass completion to receiver Dez Bryant with 1:30 left. Four plays later, Harris caught the game-winner on a slant pattern and kicker Dan Bailey added the extra point.
Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, who caught the first of Romo’s two touchdown passes, finished the game with eight catches for 102 yards.
Peterson, who over the prior three weeks had not run for more than 65 yards in a game, finished with 140 yards on 25 carries.
Washington 30, San Diego 24 (OT)
Washington fullback Darrel Young, who before this week had carried the ball only twice this season, scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime, to give his team a 30-24 triumph over the San Diego Chargers.
Washington overcame a 14-7 halftime deficit to take a 24-14 lead into the fourth quarter thanks to consecutive one-yard touchdown runs by Young and a 47-yard field goal by kicker Kai Forbath, which made it 24-14.
The Chargers managed to tie the game in regulation, as quarterback Philip Rivers tossed a one-yard touchdown pass to receiver Keenan Allen and Nick Novak added a 19-yard field goal.
The Chargers, who lost the overtime coin toss, never saw the ball in the extra period, as Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III drove his team 78 yards on 10 plays for the game-winning touchdown.
With 1st-and-20 at the Chargers’ 43, Griffin connected with receiver Pierre Garcon on a play that also drew a 15-yard personal-foul penalty against Chargers linebacker Andrew Gachkar.
With 1st-and-10 at the San Diego's 13, running back Alfred Morris picked up nine yards. After Morris came up empty on the second-down attempt, Young ran right for the four-yard winning score.
Philadelphia 49, Oakland 20
Foles, playing for the injured Michael Vick, became the seventh quarterback in league history to throw for seven scores and the second one this season, joining Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos, who did it against the Baltimore Ravens on opening night.
Foles also became the first quarterback in league history to throw for seven touchdowns and record a perfect 158.3 passer rating, according to Randall Liu, the National Football League’s NFC information director:
The Eagles scored on their first four possessions of the game, with Foles hitting receiver Riley Cooper on TD passes of 17 and 63 yards and tight end Brent Celek on a two-yard touchdown throw.
In the second half, the Eagles continued to pile it on as Foles connected with tight end Zach Ertz, running back LeSean McCoy, receiver DeSean Jackson and Cooper again before being pulled and replaced by Matt Barkley in the fourth quarter.
The Raiders, who saw injuries hit running back Darren McFadden (hamstring) and quarterback Terrelle Pryor (knee), scored their points courtesy of two Sebastian Janikowski field goals and a pair of touchdown runs, one each by Rashad Jennings and Jeremy Stewart.
Washington will visit Minnesota on Thursday night.
On Sunday, Philadelphia will visit Green Bay, who hosted the Chicago Bears on Monday night. Oakland will visit the Giants.
|RB David Wilson||Neck|
|CB Jayron Hosley||Hamstring|
|RB Brandon Jacobs||Hamstring|
|DT Shaun Rogers||Knee|
|TE Adrien Robinson||Foot|
|CB Corey Webster||Groin|
|CB Terrell Thomas||Knee|
|WR Victor Cruz||Burner|
|S Ryan Mundy||Hip|
via NY Giants
Receiver Victor Cruz, who had to have X-rays (results were negative) after being violently slammed to the ground in New York's Week 8 win over Philadelphia, is not expected to miss Sunday’s game against the Raiders.
Cruz, who eventually returned to the Eagles game, tweeted the following encouraging news the day after he was injured:
I appreciate everyone checking on me to see how I'm doing. I'm feeling great and the team is feeling positive going into our bye week!— Victor Cruz (@TeamVic) October 28, 2013
New York cornerback Corey Webster slowly continues to work his way back from what’s been a season-long groin injury. However, he remains a question mark for the Raiders game. With Trumaine McBride and Terrell Thomas playing so well at the cornerback position, the Giants don't seem intent on rushing Webster back into the lineup before he is truly ready.
Running back Brandon Jacobs has been optimistic about being able to return to the starting lineup despite dealing with a tricky hamstring.
Jacobs told Ralph Vacchiano of the Daily News that he “could have played” against the Eagles in Week 8, but decided to be cautious and take advantage of having a couple of extra weeks to rest.
Brandon Jacobs said his injured hamstring feels great and he expects to play in 2 weeks. He could've played Sun. but decided to be cautious.— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoNYDN) October 28, 2013
In some late-breaking news, Giants running back David Wilson underwent a followup MRI to assess progress in his recovery from a herniated disc in his neck.
According to an official statement released by the team, Wilson, who's been sidelined since Oct. 6, has made "significant improvement" with the herniation in his neck. However, he has not made enough progress to receive medical clearance to resume football activities.
The statement goes on to say that Wilson "will undergo another evaluation in several weeks."
Special Report: Temporary Injured Reserve and PUP
Running back Andre Brown is eligible to be removed from the temporary Injured Reserve list this week, and barring any unexpected setbacks to Brown's health, the Giants will make that move.
Brown, who insisted right from the start that he would be ready to go just as soon as he was eligible to return, will likely be eased back into the lineup. As of right now, he probably won’t get many touches in his first game back because he’ll need to get back into game shape.
But that’s subject to change should Brown prove to be the hot hand.
RB Andre Brown says he feels "great", is "ready to go," and expects to play in two weeks against the Raiders. #NYG— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoNYDN) October 28, 2013
“They’re going to let me know later in the week, I guess,” Brown said of the exact plans for his return.
Another guy whose status bears watching is defensive tackle Markus Kuhn, who spent the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list.
Kuhn’s three-week practice window is set to wrap up on Thursday, so the Giants will have to make a decision whether to add him to the 53-man roster, waive him or leave him on PUP for the season.
If New York decides to add Kuhn to the 53-man roster, the front could clear a spot for him by placing defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, who has had back and knee problems this season, on injured reserve.
Head coach Tom Coughlin was noncommittal about whether Kuhn would be added to the 53-man roster. When asked how the second-year defensive tackle was progressing, Coughlin said, “He’s been coming along well, too. He’s very anxious to get out on the field.”
In other injury-related news, the Giants waived linebacker Dan Connor, who has been on injured reserve since Week 2 after twice suffering "burners" in his neck, from the injured reserve list.
According to ESPN insider Adam Schefter, Connor requested that the Giants waive him.
LB Dan Connor was waived off NY Giants injured-reserve list today at the request of he and his agent. Connor is healthy and ready to play.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 4, 2013
Connor, who signed with the Giants in the offseason as a free agent, was their 2013 opening-day starter at middle linebacker. He is now free to sign with another team.
What Must Improve
The Running Game
In the last three games, the Giants rushing game has shown some signs of life and has played a big part in New York’s ability to win the time of possession battle.
However, the actual yardage production hasn't been very Giant-like. Per Team Rankings, the Giants running game is currently ranked 30th in the NFL in rushing yards per game, averaging 69.9 yards per game.
There have been two reasons for that sluggish start. The first, obviously, has been the early season ineffectiveness of the offensive line, which has seen five different starting combinations in the first eight games.
The second has been the injuries to the running backs, most notably to Andre Brown, whose broken leg in the preseason finale landed him on temporary injured reserve. The absence of Brown, who should be coming off temporary injured reserve to play in this weekend’s game, really hurt the Giants' rushing attack.
Brown is arguably their most complete back in terms of being able to run the ball both between and outside the tackles. He also is good receiver out of the backfield and can pass protect on third down. His 5.3 yards-per-carry average in 2012 also stands head and shoulders above the Giants’ current 3.2 yards-per-carry average through eight games this year.
Where Brown, though, was a beast was on yards after contact. Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), 245 of his 385 rushing yards in 2012 came after contact.
Also worth noting is that, despite missing six games last year (also due to a broken left leg), Brown managed to record eight touchdowns on 73 carries, tying him for 11th in the NFL per Pro Football Focus. He also didn't have a fumble.
The Giants are hoping that Brown’s return will give their 2013 running game a much-needed boost to help move the chains in short-yardage situations.
Red-Zone Offense and Defense
Per Team Rankings, the Giants offense ranks 28th in red-zone conversion rate, recording just nine touchdowns on 19 trips inside of the opponent’s 20-yard line (47.4 percent).
Then again, the Giants offense has averaged only 2.4 red-zone attempts per game, putting them 29th in the NFL, a statistic that goes a long way toward explaining why New York is ranked 30th in the league in scoring (17.6 points per game).
On the defensive side of the ball, things aren't much better for the Giants in the red zone.
Of the 22 trips opponents have made inside of the Giants' 20-yard line, 13 (59.1 percent) have been converted into touchdowns, which ranks the Giants defense 20th in the NFL.
Not surprisingly, the Giants, who have allowed opponents an average of 27.9 points per game, are ranked 28th in the NFL as they enter Week 10.
Third-down Success Rate (Offense and Defense)
One of the keys to winning a game is to maintain the time of possession. So what better way to accomplish that goal than to run sustained drives?
Yet when it comes to the Giants offense, they've struggled to sustain their drives. Through eight games, the Giants are averaging just 4.8 third-down conversions per game, 26th in the NFL. (Green Bay and Denver were tied with a 6.4 average prior to the Packers’ Monday night game against the Bears.)
What’s more, the Giants have only completed 34.5 percent of their third-down attempts, which puts them 28th in the NFL.
By comparison, Denver, who leads the league, has converted 50.5 percent of its third-down plays.
On the defensive side of things, the strategy is to shorten the opponents' drives and thus deprive them of winning the time-of-possession battle. This is something that the Giants defense has not had much success doing in the first half of the season.
New York's opponents are averaging just 15.0 third downs per game, 28th in the NFL, and they’re converting an average of 6.8 third downs per game (30th in the league) with a 45 percent conversion rate (29th in the NFL).
The result of this is that the Giants defense is allowing opponents to hold the ball on average 31:03 per game, which is 25th-worst in the league.