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New York Giants 21 – Cincinnati Bengals 20
We’ve become unaccustomed to this. It’s mid-November and the Giants are still alive! Winners of four straight, the Giants are a serious contender for a Wild Card playoff spot, and the division crown is still not quite out of reach. This was a big game for the Giants. The Cowboys, Eagles, and Redskins all won on Sunday. The pressure was on New York to keep pace on Monday night. With seven games to go, and two very winnable games next on deck, Giants are in very good shape at 6-3.
Giants on Offense
The Giants had 13 offensive possessions, but four only really stand out: the first and last drives of the first half that resulted in touchdowns, the touchdown drive at the end of the 3rd/beginning of the 4th quarter, and the last drive where the Giants ran out the clock. These four drives accounted for 16 of the team’s 23 first downs and 238 of the team’s 351 net yards. The other nine possessions ended with two interceptions, one turnover on downs, and six punts.
The Giants remain heavily pass-centric. In 72 offensive plays, the Giants called 46 passes, 24 runs, and two kneel-downs. The Giants did not hit on any big plays. While the Giants had four plays over 20 yards, none was longer than 25 yards. The Giants were only penalized once on offense.
As Eli Manning goes, so goes the Giants offense. Eli was masterful on the team’s opening drive as he completed all six pass attempts and the Giants easily drove 80 yards downfield for an early touchdown. The Giants next four possessions resulted in 72 yards, two punts, one turnover on downs, and one interception as Manning went 9-of-16 with one pick. Manning then went 4-of-5 (with one drop) on the team’s final drive of the first half as the Giants drove 75 yards for their second touchdown.
Outside of the game-winning, 47-yard drive, Manning was pretty much a non-factor in the second half of the game. To be fair, however, Manning had a number of passes dropped. Manning was again 4-of-5 on the scoring possession, including the clutch 3-yard touchdown throw on 4th-and-goal. His second interception after the Bengals turnover was a terrible decision. Manning finished the game 28-of-44 (63.6 percent of his passes) for 240 yards (net 229 yards – 5.1 yards per pass play), 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. The Giants longest pass play was their first – the 25-yarder to Will Tye.
A “breakout” game for the Giants running backs as Rashad Jennings (15 carries for 87 yards) and Paul Perkins (9 carries for 31 yards) totaled 118 yards on 24 carries (4.9 yards per carry). Most of the damage came in the second half as Jennings and Perkins were limited to 37 yards on 12 carries (3.1 yards per carry) through the first 30 minutes of the contest.
Jennings had a number of key plays, including a 16-yard reception on the first TD drive, a 24-yard run on the game-winning drive, a 9-yard run on 3rd-and-6 late in the game, and then a 25-yard run to seal the deal. That said, outside of the 16-yard reception, the passes to the backs did not amount to much as Jennings caught 3-of-6 passes thrown in his direction (with two drops) for 22 yards and all three passes intended for Perkins fell incomplete.
Odell Beckham remains the centerpiece as he was targeted 11 times, with 10 of those passes being completed for 97 yards and a touchdown despite constant double teams. His sick double-move against Pacman Jones put the Giants up 14-10 at the break. While not putting up big numbers, Sterling Shepard is increasingly becoming a factor. He caught another touchdown this week – the game-winner on 4th-and-goal. He finished with 42 yards on five receptions. Shepard did drop a 3rd-and-4 pass, causing a punt.
Victor Cruz (ankle) did not play and was replaced by Roger Lewis, Jr., who had been a very pleasant surprise coming into the game. However, national TV spotlight seemed to get the best of of Lewis’ nerves as he struggled. Lewis caught 1-of-4 passes thrown in his direction for just two yards. Lewis dropped a perfectly-thrown 3rd-and-7 deep pass from Manning that led to a punt. In the 3rd quarter, Lewis wasn’t on the same page with Manning on an incomplete deep throw on 3rd-and-4, leading to another punt. Tavarres King was activated and played a lot of snaps (45). He caught one pass for six yards and also drew a 10-yard pass interference penalty.
Larry Donnell continued to ride the pine as the Giants move forward with Will Tye (5 catches for 53 yards) and Jerell Adams (3 catches for 18 yards). Tye started the Giants off with a 25-yard reception on the first TD drive that was culminated by Adams’ first touchdown reception (from 10 yards out). Adams did fumble and was lucky the ball bounced out-of-bounds. Tye dropped a pass.
The Giants were forced to scramble when left guard Justin Pugh’s replacement – Brett Jones – was injured on the first drive. He was replaced by tackle Marshall Newhouse. The line struggled a bit in the first half before settling down and playing decently against a good defensive line. Giants backs rushed for 118 yards on 24 carries (4.9 yards per carry). Manning was sacked once and officially hit six times. Newhouse deserves credit for being able to adjust on the fly. He was penalized for an illegal block. The low point came when Weston Richburg and Newhouse were beat by DT Geno Atkins for an 11-yard sack on 4th-and-2. Atkins also gave John Jerry issues at times; DE Wallace Gilberry also beat Jerry once for a big hit on Manning. Adam Gettis saw some late playing time and performed well.
Giants on Defense
The defense played exceptionally well. Coming into the game, the Bengals were 4th in the NFL in passing and 7th in rushing. The Giants only gave up 12 first downs, 78 net yards rushing, and 186 net yards passing (and 71 of those yards came on one play). After giving up a 3-play, 80-yard drive to start the game, the longest drive allowed was only 41 yards, which resulted in a field goal. The other 10 points were set up by an 84-yard kickoff return and an interception that was returned to the Giants 7-yard line. Holding the Bengals to a field goal after the interception was decisive. The defense was only penalized once.
The defensive line appears to be getting stronger as the season wears on. Olivier Vernon had a strong game, leading the team with 10 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 tackles for losses. Jason Pierre-Paul isn’t putting up the numbers, but he was a factor with 5 tackles, 2 QB hits, and 2 pass defenses. Damon Harrison had another strong game with 8 tackles (a very high number for a DT), 0.5 sacks, and 1 tackle for a loss. Johnathan Hankins only had one tackle, but it was for a loss. Reserve Robert Thomas was surprisingly productive with 1 sack and 1 tackle for a loss in limited action. Cincinnati running backs were limited to 63 yards on 22 carries (2.9 yards per carry). QB Andy Dalton was sacked twice and hit five times by linemen. The line also did a nice job of containing the mobile quarterback from doing damage on the ground (only one rush for 15 yards).
The high point for the line came in the 4th quarter. The Giants stuffed the Bengals on 3rd-and-1 to end one drive. On the next series, Pierre-Paul smashed into Dalton to cause one incomplete pass followed by back-to-back 7-yard sacks. Cincinnati never got the ball back.
Jonathan Casillas was questionable coming into the game with a calf injury. He played and finished the game with 5 tackles, 0.5 sacks, and 1 tackle for a loss. The other linebackers were pretty quiet in the play-making department: Kelvin Sheppard (3 tackles), Devon Kennard (2 tackles), and Keenan Robinson (2 tackles). That said, aside from one play where Casillas was beaten for a 71-yard gain by TE Tyler Eifert out of a bizarre formation, the Giants did a great job in coverage on the tight ends and running backs. Eifert only caught two more passes for 25 yards. Running back Giovani Bernard caught only three passes for 19 yards. No other back or tight end had a reception. Sheppard did miss one tackle but later did a nice job sniffing out a screen pass.
The secondary did a marvelous job. A.J. Green – one of the very best wide receivers in football – was held to seven catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. The other receivers? Tyler Boyd caught two passes for 12 yards and Brandon LaFell one catch for nine yards. That was it!!! Jenkins made a fantastic play by fighting off a block and tackling Green for no gain on a 3rd-and-goal pass right after Eli’s first interception.
Landon Collins is making a serious push for Pro Bowl honors with his fourth interception in three games. Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (DRC), and Trevin Wade were all credited with pass defenses. Wade’s hit on Boyd at the goal line on 3rd-and-5 dislodged the ball and saved a touchdown. Eli Apple rebounded with a strong game. He played every defensive snap as DRC was limited (14 snaps) with a back issue. Apple’s tight coverage on LaFell on 3rd-and-9 late in the 3rd quarter was a big play. Coty Sensabaugh actually played more than Wade and was the primary slot corner. He was very steady as was free safety Andrew Adams. The biggest negative was that Jenkins was flagged for defensive holding on an incomplete 3rd-and-15 pass.
Giants on Special Teams
The lowlight of night was arguably the 84-yard kickoff return that enabled the Bengals to take a 17-14 lead early in the 3rd quarter. None of Robbie Gould’s four kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. The other returns went for 23, 23, and 15 yards. Romeo Okwara flashed on kickoff coverage with two strong tackles. Brad Wing punted six times, averaging 46 yards per punt (40.2 net) with two downed inside the 20-yard line. The Bengals returned three punts for 35 yards, the longest being a decent-sized 18-yard gain.
The Giants return game was pretty anemic. Dwayne Harris returned two kickoffs for 21 and 16 yards, and Bobby Rainey one kickoff for 16 yards. Harris had one punt return for eight yards. Rainey returned three punts for 32 yards. He did have one decent 15-yard return.