The Giants were caught between a rock and a hard place.
Two straight losses to division foes left them at 6-4 and in desperate need of a win to stay on pace with Philadelphia, as well as keeping themselves in the mix for a Wild Card berth. They were in a world of hurt—literally and figuratively—with five offensive starters out with injuries and a turnover epidemic that was clearly costing them ballgames. With a makeshift offensive line and a receiving corps consisting of Mario Manningham, Derek Hagan, Duke Calhoun and newcomer Michael Clayton, it was up to Eli Manning and company to come through against all odds when the team needed it most.
The opening half was rough for the G-Men, as they gave up points on all three first-half drives by Jacksonville and could only manage two field goals from a couple of long, methodical drives. The defense could not contain Maurice Jones-Drew and the Jaguars rushing attack. Even David Garrard and backup running back Rashad Jennings were breaking off runs for big chunks of yards at a time.
The Giants went into the locker room down 17-6, and it looked as if they were in store for one of those vintage New York Giant flops. You know, when Eli reverts to his rookie ways and the defense crumbles before our eyes, creating a snowball of negativity resulting in the downfall of our beloved Big Blue's 2010 season?
But, these aren't the same old Giants that have caused us unlimited amount of heartache and pain. This team has confidence in whoever they put on the field, and they don't dwell on what happened on the previous play, let alone the previous game.
New York came out a brand new team in the second half, immediately intercepting David Garrard, but the offense sputtered again and the Giants were only able to muster up a third Lawrence Tynes field goal. It wasn't until the beginning of the fourth quarter that the Giants saw the end zone when Manning connected with Mario Manningham for a 26-yard score. A two-point conversion tied the game up and really got the New York faithful at New Meadowlands Stadium back on their feet.
Following a 42-yard field goal by Josh Scobee with 8:26 to go in the fourth, the Giants trailed by three. They quickly went three-and-out, but forced Jacksonville to punt, giving them the ball with six minutes to go in position to tie or win the game.
Eli worked his magic again, hitting Manningham for a nice gain and finding Boss for the game-winning 32-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-10 to move New York to 7-4, back into a tie with Philadelphia for the lead in the NFC East.
Here are three thoughts on Sunday's key victory.
Through the first 10 games, the Giants led the NFL with 30 turnovers. Ahmad Bradshaw has contributed amplify to those numbers with six fumbles, losing five of them.
Bradshaw's fumblitis caused Tom Coughlin to make a move, giving Brandon Jacobs his starting job back and using Ahmad as a spell for Jacobs. The combination worked wonderfully this week as Jacobs carried the ball 14 times for 87 yards and Bradshaw added 49 yards on nine attempts.
This is no knock on Bradshaw—I think he is a great back with the ability to break long runs and gives the G-Men a change in tempo—but the turnovers are clearly New York's Achilles heel, and taking some touches away from Ahmad is probably for the best. I like Jacobs setting the tone with his bruising, power running style. He can tire down defenses, and when Bradshaw comes in fresh and running with fire, he is more likely to make a big impact against a worn down defensive unit.
Until proven otherwise, Jacobs should be the primary back with Bradshaw getting around 10 carries per game to switch up the pace and keep the opponent on their heels.
Prior to the game, my biggest concern was how the offensive line would perform after David Diehl, Shaun O'Hara and Shawn Andrews were all ruled out with injuries.
Will Beatty, Rich Seubert and Kevin Boothe filled in the starting spots and performed beyond expectations. They worked extremely well as a group, allowing no sacks, opening big holes for the backs to run through and committing zero penalties.
Jacksonville doesn't have the fiercest pass rush in the league, but Beatty did a great job out on the edge, keep Eli's blindside protected and not letting anybody getting near him. This is a great sign for Big Blue because not only are the backups getting some game experience, but they are playing well, hence giving Coughlin more depth to work with.
As I said before, the Giants defense had their fair share of problems in the first half, but they came out of the locker room possessed, forcing two turnovers and completely shutting down the Jaguars offense to allow Kevin Gilbride's bunch a chance to bring them back.
I love the adjustments Perry Fewell made at halftime. He started dialing up more blitz packages, as well as pressing the receivers a little more. The defense was a hundred times more aggressive in the second half, and it made the difference in the end.
Two young guys made the big plays at the end of the game, as top draft pick Jason Pierre-Paul and Terrell Thomas both forced fumbles on sacks of David Garrard on Jacksonville's final drive, with the second sack (Thomas') being recovered by Antrel Rolle to close the book on the Giants victory.
For as bad as they were in the first half, they really showed some grit to stick with it and fight until the end. Fans have really grown appreciate the effort this group puts in, no matter the field position the special teams and offense gives their opponents.
Phil Lombardo is a Featured Columnist for the Bleacher Report. Any comments/likes would be much appreciated! Be on the lookout for more articles to come!