The Giants re-gained their swagger on offense, and their defense tightened up when it mattered the most. But in the third facet of the game, special teams, the Giants left much to be desired.
Throw away the picture-perfect punt by Feagles and swat by Thomas. The special teams nearly lost the game for the Giants on Sunday night. After every Giants score, John Carney did his best to squander momentum the Giants may have gotten from a score by kicking a line drive to the 10-yard line, virtually guaranteeing that the Panthers would start at their own 35.
Against an offense like the Panthers that is unacceptable. Their offense can be so dominant that giving up merely one first down is considered a major success for the defense. Except if the Panthers started at the 35, which was the case every drive, one first down gets them around midfield. With a decent punt, the Giants would start the ball at the 11-yard line. And aside from a turnover, that’s the best-case scenario.
Carney’s kicks aren’t going any deeper. Considering the Giants defense doesn’t seem to be in January 2007 form in terms of dominance, giving up that type of field position is no longer an option. They must dress Tynes for kickoffs.
It’s tough to swallow that a team with a Pro Bowl kicker has to dress two kickers but the Giants no longer have a choice. Besides, what is Mario Manningham doing with his spot that outweighs the benefits of making a team start at their own 24, not 37? Nothing.
Meanwhile kickoff returns have been a problem all year. Ahmad Bradshaw has taken the bulk of the returns, and his long is 35. Hixon had a stellar returning game against Arizona but with his prominent role on offense, the Giants can’t afford to have him returning kicks (see Jason Sehorn). On punts, McQuarters is good for a ten yard return at best, and isn’t even reliable with catching the ball anymore.
Odds are the playoff game(s) the Giants play in are going to be close. In close games, special teams will be critical, especially in a game of field position at the Meadowlands. The only way to not make special teams an issue? Dress Tynes.