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New York Giants Report Card: Grading Big Blue's Week 14 Performance vs. Dallas

Louis MustoContributor IIIDecember 13, 2011

New York Giants Report Card: Grading Big Blue's Week 14 Performance vs. Dallas

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    The New York Giants halted a four-game losing streak with an impressive come-from-behind victory over the first-place Dallas Cowboys once again led by quarterback Eli Manning and capped off by a blocked field goal in the final seconds of regulation by defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul inside Cowboys Stadium.  

    The victory came at a point of desperation for Manning and the Giants, who would have seen their chances at a playoff spot dwindle with a loss to the Cowboys. It was only their 10th victory in December in eight seasons under head coach Tom Coughlin.

    Despite struggles on defense throughout the game, Manning kept his team in contention with consistent play and leadership at the quarterback position—as has been the case all season. With 3:14 remaining and the Giants down by 12, 34-22 in favor of the Cowboys, Manning led his offense to two touchdowns and a 37-34 lead with less than a minute remaining.

    After a timely timeout called by Coughlin proved a successful Dan Bailey field goal worthless for the Cowboys, Bailey’s second attempt at the game-saving field goal—for the second week in a row—was a failure as second-year stud Jason Pierre-Paul got just enough on it to knock it dead.

    “I rushed the center, put my hands up and got the block,” Pierre-Paul said, according to NFL.com.

    Pierre-Paul also contributed two sacks and a forced fumble for the otherwise invisible New York Giants defense.

    Big Blue’s win is Eli Manning’s sixth fourth-quarter comeback victory of the season—the Giants are 7-6 on the season. It also changes the entire complexion of the Giants season as they now hold the tiebreaker for the NFC East division lead with three weeks remaining in the regular season.

Eli Manning

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    Eli Manning is an elite quarterback. If you want to dispute it, you are either delusional or someone who simply refuses to accept the truth.

    In typical Eli Manning fashion, Manning led the New York Giants back from the grave and placed them atop the NFC East in three minutes. As has been the case all season long, Manning played nearly as perfect as he could, even with DeMarcus Ware in his face on a consistent basis.

    Manning’s lone bad pass of the night—an interception by Cowboys inside linebacker Sean Lee—did result in points for the Dallas Cowboys, but Manning righted his wrongs with two quick strikes and another memorable game to add to his outstanding resume.  

    Manning’s 400-yard performance gives him 4,000 yards passing for the third consecutive season and delivered the Giants with their sixth comeback victory of the season.

    Grade: A

Running Backs

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    All season, the New York Giants have lacked a ground attack they so desperately needed. Thank God, it arrived in Dallas!

    Brandon Jacobs’ 101-yard performance is his first 100-yard game of the season and the Giants’ first since Week 6 against the Bills. Jacobs ran with more fire than he has all year and helped to spark an offensive onslaught against one of the NFL’s top defensive units for the Cowboys.

    Though Ahmad Bradshaw struggled in his second game back from injury—and sat out for the first half due to a violation of team rules—Jacobs was able to carry the load for the Giants and scored two big touchdowns on the ground.

    Jacobs’ performance is an optimistic sign for Giants sign looking forward in the final three weeks with the NFC East title at stake. The ground game will need to continue to succeed for the Giants to succeed.

    Third-string running back DJ Ware added 19 yards on three receptions, and Henry Hynoski had two receptions out of the backfield for 12 yards.

    Grade: B+

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

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    Eli Manning’s targets keep having huge games, thanks in part of course, to Manning himself.

    Hakeem Nicks had his biggest game of the season against the Cowboys, accounting for 163 yards on eight receptions, including a 64-yard reception that led to the Giants' first offensive points of the night on a Lawrence Tynes field goal.

    Nicks’ day put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season and marked the first time the Giants have ever had two receivers with over 1,000 yards receiving.

    Victor Cruz was a popular target as usual with six receptions, Mario Manningham added 62 yards and a score on just two receptions, while Jake Ballard continued to be a trustworthy go-to guy for Manning with four receptions for 52 yards and a key fourth-quarter touchdown.

    The Giants’ receivers, though generally reliable, continue to struggle with drops and allowed quite a few big plays to slip through their fingers. Manningham’s fourth-quarter drop in the end zone was probably the most notable drop of the evening for the Giants but luckily did not hurt them in the end.

    Grade: B

Offensive Line

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    Arguably one of the league’s worst offensive lines in the game, the bruised-and-battered gang came together to spark an impressive offensive showing on Sunday night vs. the Cowboys. The offensive line enabled the Giants offense to 510 yards of offense and racked up 37 points en route to victory.

    Despite constant pressure, veteran tackle David Diehl did a fantastic job handling the pass rush from DeMarcus Ware. The offensive line kept the NFL’s second-best sack man without a sack—Ware had 15 sacks in 12 games entering Week 14.

    The run blocking was also much improved, allowing Brandon Jacobs to rush for 101 yards on 19 carries—his first 100-yard game of the season. The Cowboys were the seventh-ranked run defense in the NFL coming into their meeting with the Giants.

    Grade: B

Defense

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    The Giants defense continues to be arguably the worst unit in the NFL.

    Tony Romo was 21-of-31 passing with four touchdowns, scorching the New York secondary all night long, and Felix Jones rushed for 106 yards on just 16 carries.

    Going forward, it’s clear the Giants and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell must fix the problems in the secondary. Aaron Ross was found tailing after his receivers on multiple occasions and is becoming a weekly routine as the Giants square off against the league’s best passing attacks.

    Meanwhile, blown coverages by Antrel Rolle, Corey Webster and Prince Amukamara enabled big plays by Tony Romo and his receiving corps.

    Jason Pierre-Paul was the lone bright spot for the Giants defense against the Cowboys. Pierre-Paul played with a fire in his belly all night, getting after anyone who had the ball—kicker included.

    He recorded two sacks on the night and stripped a fumble from Felix Jones’ grips when the Giants needed it most. Pierre-Paul then sealed the game with a spectacular field goal block that gave new life to Big Blue’s playoff hopes.

    Unfortunately, the second-year defensive end out of USF was the only positive on a defense full of negative play. Without Pierre-Paul, the Giants lose.

    Grade: F

Special Teams

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    Usually, the New York Giants’ special teams unit is an atrocity. There’s little to look forward to on kick returns, punt returns, even punts. For most of the game, this was true. But when it mattered most, when the Giants’ season hinged on it, the special teams unit stepped it up. Finally.

    Da’Rel Scott did little in the return game but kept the ball in fair field position for Eli Manning and the Giants offense to operate efficiently. Will Blackmon did the same in the punt return game.

    Lawrence Tynes continued to be one of the most accurate kickers in the league—granted he never seems to kick a field goal longer than 30 yards.

    Steve Weatherford was average at best, but that was all the Giants needed.

    The coverage teams were good on kicks and punts, refusing to let the Cowboys to break anything huge on special teams.

    And when the Giants needed their special teams unit to do something special, Jason Pierre-Paul delivered. The field goal block by Pierre-Paul may have given the Giants the momentum they needed to march to an NFC East crown and maybe—if the defense can step it up sometime soon—a run at another Super Bowl for Tom Coughlin and his team. 

    Grade: B

Coaching

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    At this point, Eli Manning may be winning games for the Giants in spite of his coaching staff.

    Kevin Gilbride continues to do his best to make baffling play calls, and Perry Fewell cannot get his defense on the same page. Amongst most Giants fans, these two men must go.

    If the defense continues to sputter, it’s almost certain Fewell will be out regardless of a playoff birth.

    If Tom Coughlin’s knows what’s good for his team, Gilbride will be, too.

    Coughlin guided his team to victory in Week 14 against the Cowboys. It’s an inspiring win for a team who only had nine wins in December in eight seasons under Coughlin coming into the game. Coughlin will need to lift his team up on this moment and use it as inspiration for the coming weeks.

    The Giants did pick up a victory in a tough game, and the offense had a great showing. That’s reason enough to be optimistic about the final three weeks forthcoming.

    Grade: C+

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