New York-Atlanta: Game Balls and Notes from the Giants' Overtime Win
There was a definite feeling of "here we go again" when Eli Manning had his duck of a pass intercepted on the first drive. But after that, Eli probably had his best game of the year, in the most important game to date.
He threw some of his best deep balls of the year, including some beauties to Steve Smith and Mario Manningham, and he continued to get Kevin Boss involved in the passing game.
Eli completed 25 of 39 passes for a career high 384 yards (somehow it was his first 300 yard game at home), three touchdowns, and one interception. He looked in control in overtime and he did a good job spreading the love, completing passes to eight different receivers. He even threw two completions to Madison Hedgecock, one for a touchdown.
The fourth quarter came around, and right on cue, the Giants' defense collapsed like a poodle on roller skates (I don't get the analogy either; let's just move on).
Watching the Giants defense blow it on the final drive of the fourth quarter yet again was like DeJa Vu, the mediocre 2006 Denzel Washington movie that combines elements of science fiction and romance. It suffered from poor direction, the story seemed familiar, and the featured players were just going through the motions.
When the opposing team needs a big first down, there's always someone open. The defense just cannot muster up any pressure when they need to, and they cannot cover anyone when they are not getting pressure. Thus, this defense cannot get a stop in crunch time. This is not a good pattern.
It seems as if Danny Ware is now the Giants' third down running back. I'm not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, it's great to see him finally contributing, after hearing about his potential for two and a half years. He showed great awareness picking up a fumbled snap and converting it into a 13 yard gain. He also did a great job on blitz pick-ups.
But on the other hand, is this a sign that Ahmad Bradshaw's injured foot is killing his explosiveness? Bradshaw has not done much damage the past five weeks, and he averaged only 2.8 yards on 12 carries this week. Getting Ware involved gives the offense another weapon, but if this is how Bradshaw is going to play for the rest of the season, it's a huge blow to the versatility of the offense.
Mario Manningham is healthy, and once again showing why one Giants writer once referred to him as "the best receiver ever, probably" (it was me). Manningham was unstoppable, hauling in six passes for 126 yards, including a couple of toe-tappers at the sideline.
Manningham also had the huge reception in overtime that set up the game winning field goal. I'm a little surprised he didn't try to cut in at the end of that run, as he only had to beat one defender and he would have scored. But I guess I just expect a little more from the best receiver ever, probably.
I think we can all agree that this is Lawrence Tynes' final season as a Giant. Yes, he won the game in overtime, but let's not be silly. He missed a 31-yard chip shot in the second quarter, and not one person was surprised. He's inconsistent and his kickoffs are less than stellar.
The refs weren't terrible, but there was a late hit called on Barry Cofield along the sideline that was beyond ticky-tack. I've certainly seen worse hits out of bounds that were not called, including one or two in this game alone.
Defensive game ball goes to Michael Boley, who recorded 13 tackles (11 solo) and one sack against his former team. Boley was everywhere and has played well in every game that he has been healthy enough to play in. If only he were able to stay on the field for the full season, he might be on his way to a pro-bowl.
So far, Boley easily looks like the best off-season signing the Giants have had in a couple of years, provided his injuries are behind him. In five games this year, he has 34 tackles. At that rate, he'd have almost 110 over a full season.
He's the kind of dynamic talent this team has been missing at linebacker for years; someone who can cover tight ends and rush the pass. He's just a playmaker. With the injury to Antonio Pierce, his presence is needed more than ever.
The way Atlanta's offensive line has been playing recently, I really expected the Giants' front four to do some damage this week, but they only recorded a pedestrian two sacks. With guys like Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Mathias Kiwanuka, I just don't get why they aren't wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
Bill Sheridan needs to get this figured out, because if the defense can't produce more pressure, this team will not make the playoffs.
The Giants have a short week, as they face the Broncos in Denver this Thanksgiving night. Let's all hope the Broncos don't suddenly remember how to play football.
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