Dec 242011
 
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Staying Alive, Giants Are Kings of New York (and New Jersey): The New York Giants defeated the New York Jets 29-14 earlier today at MetLife Stadium. The victory keeps the Giants’ playoff hopes alive and sets up a winner-take-all battle for the NFC East divisional crown next Sunday at home against the Dallas Cowboys. The Giants’ win also officially knocked the Philadelphia Eagles out of the playoff hunt.

Statistically, it was a very strange game as aside for a few plays, the Giants’ offense did not play particularly well. The Jets had a huge advantage in offensive plays (89 to 55), first downs (22 to 11), and time of possession (36:06 to 23:54). But total net yards were virtually identical (332 for the Giants and 331 for the Jets). Turnovers in the game were a significant factor in the outcome (Giants won the turnover battle 3 to 1).

For once, it was the Giants’ defense that won the game for the G-Men. “I told our defense that last week we practiced with more energy and more enthusiasm and greater speed than we had in a long time,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “It was shocking, I looked up and said is that the same guys. I tell you they had great purpose and the way they practiced is the way they played. Tonight they were exceptional and regardless of the circumstances, kept turning the Jet offense back and that was the determining factor in the game.”

The first quarter did not go well for the Giants. The Giants went three-and-out on their first two possessions and only gained 17 yards on their third. Meanwhile, the Jets scored a touchdown on their first offensive series by driving the football 53 yards in 10 plays. The Jets did not score again in the first half as the Giants’ forced four punts and the Jets missed a 44-yard field goal as time expired at the end of the first half.

The Giants finally got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter when the G-Men put together a 9-play, 53-yard drive that resulted in a 21-yard field goal by PK Lawrence Tynes. Passes from QB Eli Manning to WR Hakeem Nicks for 20 yards and WR Victor Cruz for 29 yards were key offensive plays. Unfortunately for the Giants, they had a 1st-and-goal situation from the Jets’ 2-yard line and could not score a touchdown. Jets 7 – Giants 3.

The key play of the game came late in the second quarter. After a Jets’ punt pinned the Giants at their own 1-yard line and after two incomplete passes, the Giants faced a third-and-10 with 2:27 before halftime. Manning hit Cruz with a short pass for the first down, but Cruz avoided a tackler and was off to the races en route to a 99-yard touchdown – the longest offensive play in the 87-year history of the Giants.

“Just a great effort by him,” said Manning who only completed nine passes in the game. “We wanted to call something to have a shot to get the first down, but get the ball out of my hands pretty quickly when you’re backed up in your own end zone. Threw it to him and it was going to be close if we got the first down or not. I was just kind of hoping that he could maybe fall forward to get the first down in that situation. But he made two guys miss and then you saw a little speed. I thought the safety had an angle on him on the sideline, but he ran by everybody. A huge play in the game right there – we’re down, at that point we were backed up. If we were to punt there, the Jets would’ve gotten great field position, a chance to score before halftime and take a pretty big lead. Obviously that flip-flopped everything, We take the lead, they miss the field goal, we go into halftime with a three-point lead in that situation. So a great effort by him and a huge play.”

At the intermission, the Giants led 10-7.

The Giants’ defense really did a number on the Jets in the second half. The Jets punted five times, turned the ball over three times, and were victimized for a safety. The Jets only prolonged offensive series of the second half was a 13-play, 73-yard affair that fortunately ended with a fumbled snap by QB Mark Sanchez on 3rd-and-goal from the Giants’ 1-yard line. LB Jacquian Williams recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchback.

Meanwhile, the Giants were not experiencing very much offensive success for the bulk of the third quarter. Like the first half, the Giants went three-and-out on their first two series and then only gained one first down on their third. But late in the quarter, the Giants struck quickly, driving 81 yards in just four plays. After a 3-yard run by HB D.J. Ware, Manning hit Cruz for 36 yards to the Jets’ 42-yard line. HB Brandon Jacobs then broke off a 28 yard run. HB Ahmad Bradshaw finished the drive with a punishing 14-yard scamper up the middle for a touchdown and a 17-7 Giants advantage.

On the third play of the ensuing series, Sanchez was picked off by S Kenny Phillips who returned the football 31 yards to the Jets’ 14-yard line. However, the Giants lost four yards in three plays and settled for a 36-yard field goal by Tynes. Giants 20 – Jets 7.

Then came the one long drive by the Jets and the turnover in the endzone. With just under nine minutes to play, the Giants had all the momentum and a 13-point lead. However, on the Giants’ first play following Sanchez’ fumble, Manning’s pass to Nicks bounced off of the receiver’s hands and was intercepted by the Jets and returned to the Giants’ 11-yard line. Four plays later, the Jets scored from one yard out and the Giants’ held only a 6-point lead with just under seven and a half minutes to play.

“We weren’t having a very good night offensively and the thought to me was let’s just not turn it over and of course in that one situation, which was a crusher, we had a run called and we had too many people in the box,” said Coughlin. “We threw a simple pass and it got bounced up in the air and it was a great play by the linebacker.”

Things looked even bleaker after the Giants went three-and-out and were forced to punt from their own 8-yard line. But the Giants’ defense held, highlighted by a 4-yard sack by DE Dave Tollefson on 3rd-and-10. After the Jets punted, the Giants regained the field position war by moving the ball from their 18-yard line to the Jets’ 39. The key play on this drive was a 17-yard run by Ware on 3rd-and-3, followed by a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on the Jets. Steve Weatherford’s punt pinned the Jets at their own 8-yard line. With 2:24 left in the game, Sanchez was sacked in the end zone by DT Chris Canty for a safety. Giants 22 – Jets 14.

The Giants put the Jets away after a failed onside kickoff that went out of bounds. On the Giants’ very next play, Bradshaw broke off a 19-yard run for a touchdown right before the 2-minute warning. CB Corey Webster officially sealed the deal with an interception with under a minute to play.

Manning finished the game only 9-of-27 for 225 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. The only Giant to catch more than one pass was Cruz (3 catches for 164 yards and a touchdown). Bradshaw carried the ball 15 times for 54 yards and two touchdowns while Jacobs chipped in with 42 yards on seven carries.

Defensively, the Giants accrued five sacks, two by DE Jason Pierre-Paul and one each by Tollefson, Canty, and DE Justin Tuck. Phillips and Webster each had interceptions and Williams had a fumble recovery.

Highlights/lowlights of the game are available at NFL.com.

Video of the post-game locker room celebration is available at Giants.com.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Post-Game Press Conference: The transcript and video of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s post-game press conference are available at Giants.com.

Post-Game Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of post-game media Q&As with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Post-Game Notes: Inactive for the Giants were WR Mario Manningham (knee), TE Jake Ballard (knee), OC Jim Cordle, OT James Brewer, DE Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee), DT Jimmy Kennedy, and LB Mark Herzlich (ankle).

The eighth victory guarantees the Giants will finish with a non-losing record for the seventh consecutive season, the franchise’s longest such streak since the Giants had 10 in a row from 1954-63.

The Giants swept their four AFC foes this season, the first time they were undefeated in inter-conference games since 1989, when they were also 4-0.

The Giants won their fifth consecutive regular season game vs. the Jets and lead the series, 8-4.

WR Victor Cruz has 1,358 yards receiving yards on the season, a new franchise record. The previous mark of 1,343 yards was set by Amani Toomer in 2002. Cruz’s sixth 100-yard game of the season set another Giants record. He had been tied with wide receivers Del Shofner (1963) and Homer Jones (1968).

DE Jason Pierre-Paul has 15.5 sacks, the most by a Giant since DE Michael Strahan had 18.5 in 2003.

CB Corey Webster has six interceptions this season, the highest total by a Giant since CB Emmanuel McDaniel had six in 2000.

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Eric Kennedy

Founder and owner of BigBlueInteractive.com, which is now entering its 20th season. Follow Eric on Twitter @BigBlueInteract.

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