After four straight losses—each more painful than the last—Giants fans have a right to be pessimistic. After two blowouts and two games that they let slip through their hands, the Giants let their lead in the NFC East slip away as well. They now sit at 5-4 and are on the outside of the playoff picture.
But despite all of this, there were still some positives to take away from their 21-20 loss to the Chargers. While everyone else is (rightfully?) panicking that the season might be over, I choose to look on the bright side.
The season is long, and it's not over yet.
Eli Manning's Accuracy
For one game at least, Eli Manning played like it was the beginning of the season. Manning was great, doing everything he could to move the offense down the field. He completed 25 of 33 passes (76%) for 215 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a QB ration of 112.6. This was the first time in four games that his completion percentage was above 52%.
It was arguably his best performance of the season (his game against the Raiders does not count because it was against the Raiders). Hopefully for Giants fans, this impressive performance signals the end of a mid-season slump. The Giants are going to need him to play this way for the rest of the year.
The Rugged Play of Kevin Boss
In between taking bone crushing hits directly to his helmet that are ignored by NFL referees, Kevin Boss has started making plays. Somehow he manages to hold on to the ball despite being laid out to dry every time he's targeted. After starting off slowly for the second year in a row, Boss has come alive, scoring touchdowns in back to back games.
Boss' emergence could not only give Eli his missing safety blanket, but it could also give him a go-to weapon in the end zone.
The Development of Terrell Thomas
Terrell Thomas is starting to look like the Giants' best cornerback. Note that I say he "looks" like the best cornerback, not "is" the best cornerback. Thomas is usually covering the team's #2 wide receiver (in this case, it was Malcom Floyd) while #1 corner Corey Webster covers the team's top threat (Vincent Jackson).
While Jackson is one of the game's top threats, I was a little disappointed with how Webster performed. He didn't give up anything deep, but he was just flat out beat on the game winning touchdown and he seemingly slowed down when he had a chance to make a play on the ball. Earler, Webster swatted at the arms of the receiver after the catch was made when he could have made a play on the ball before it was caught.
I still think Webster is the team's #1 cover corner, but he's going through a bit of a rough stretch. This is supposed to be a positive article, however, so back to Thomas.
Thomas looks great, and he continues to make big plays. No play was/ should have been bigger than his interception and return of a Phillip Rivers pass late in the fourth quarter. Had the Giants punched the ball in and won the game, his interception would have been one of the key plays in turning around the Giants' season.
With the hopeful return of Aaron Ross, the Giants can think about using Thomas as a safety, or they could move Ross to nickelback. But one thing that we will not see happen is the Ross moving Thomas back to the bench.
Run Defense Dominated
The Chargers are not the best running offense, but with guys like LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles, you figure they'd at least get something going on the ground. But the Giants' run defense did not budge.
Tomlinson managed just 22 yards on 12 carries, a 1.8 average. Sproles was only given one carry, and he only managed one yard.
The game was close all the way through, so it's not as if the Chargers were forced to abandon the run in order to make a huge comeback. They abandoned the run because they were getting nothing against the Giants' run defense.
As a whole, the defense played well (the last drive notwithstanding). They recorded two sacks and picked off two passes.
Defense Getting Healthy
Perhaps the best news of all is the fact that the Giants finally seem to be getting healthy.
Free agent acquisitions Michael Boley and Chris Canty made their returns this week, and both saw some significant field time. Boley had the bigger impact, recording seven tackles and defending a pass. He left the game at one point due to injury, but it was not serious.
Canty did not record a tackle, but the more important news is that he made it through the entire game.
With the week off, Boley, Canty and Aaron Ross get another week to rest their bodies and get back into playing shape. The Giants need them healthy and effective for the rest of the season.
The Rejuvenation of Brandon Jacobs
Although he hasn't topped 100 yards in a year, Brandon Jacobs is back to running the way he was last year when he seemingly couldn't be stopped. During the Giants' four game losing streak, Jacobs has put forth rushing efforts of 33, 76, 86 and 67 yards, for a total of 262 yards in four games.
These numbers by themselves are not overly impressive, but the fact that he garnered these yards in only 51 carries is very encouraging. Most people consider an average of 4.5 yards per carry to be pretty good, and Jacobs has been averaging 5.1 yards per carry during the Giants' losing streak.
For various reasons, such as playing from behind and negligent play calling, Jacobs has not gotten the ball as much as he should recently. But rest assured, Jacobs' workload will increase and the Giants will again establish their dominance through their ground game. Their season depends on it.