Tampa Bay Sports Day

Big Blue Review – Week 5: Giants Rally Past Falcons

THE VITALS

  • Final Score: Giants 30, Falcons 20
  • Giants’ Records: 3-2 overall (2-1 at home, 1-1 away)
  • NFC East Picture: The Giants sit in sole possession of third place, one game behind Philadelphia (which held on at home, to beat St. Louis by six points, after leading by 27) and Dallas (which blew a 10-point, fourth-quarter home lead before edging Houston by a field goal, in overtime). 

WHAT TO LIKE

  • A Winning Record Again: Thanks to a three-game winning streak, following two losses to start the year, the Giants are on the positive side of .500 for the first time since the end of the 2012 season. 
  • A Strong Finish on Offense and Defense: After an early 7-0 lead gave way to 20-10 third-quarter deficit, the Giants scored the final 20 points, over the last 17:05. Following their 10-point lead, the Falcons went three-and-out on their next three possessions, before running out of time on their last drive. Meanwhile, New York scored on each of its last four drives, going 81 yards on nine plays for one touchdown, then 64 yards on 11 plays for another, before tacking on a pair of field goals to seal the win.
  • The Balanced Attack and High Scoring Continue: The Giants began the season out of sync offensively, scoring just 14 points in each of their first two games. Since then, they’ve scored 30 points in each of their past two home games, with a 45-point outburst in between. As in its previous two games, New York struck a good balance between rushing and passing. Quarterback Eli Manning avoided a turnover and threw a pair of touchdowns while spreading the ball around to seven different receivers, for 200 yards on 19 completions, in 30 attempts. On the ground, running backs Andre Williams (20 carries for 65 yards) and Rashad Jennings (10 carries for 55 yards) totaled most of the Giants’ 124 rushing yards. 
  • Odell Beckham, Jr. and Preston Parker Stepping Up: All of that preseason talk about whether or not Tom Coughlin was right to have tried to push wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. back from injury before he was ready doesn’t matter much now. Finally making his NFL debut, the rookie whom New York selected 12th overall had four catches for 44 yards, including a clutch, jumping, two-handed grab for his first career touchdown, as he reeled in a 15-yard pass from Manning, to put the Giants ahead for good, 24-20, with 10:02 left. Before that, third-year receiver Preston Parker, hauled in a key 42-yard reception on 3rd-and-4, which helped set up the game’s first score, in the opening quarter. Parker ended the day as an unexpected Giants leader in reception yards, with 61. 
  • Jacquian Williams’ Tackling: On a day when New York struggled collectively to bring down Atlanta ball carriers, Jacquian Williams led New York with a career-high 14 tackles, 10 of them of the solo variety. 
  • Making a Stand: After a costly fumble that could have led to Atlanta scoring a second touchdown within a short time frame, the Giants’ defense held, as New York only allowed a field goal despite the Falcons taking over at the Giants’ 21-yard line.
  • Poised Check-Down: The Giants were on a nice drive that began at their own 19-yard line, and had moved to the Falcons’ 34-yard line late in the second quarter. After their old friend, Osi Umenyiora, recorded his only sack of the season (and the lone one on Manning for the game), to push New York out of field goal range, the Giants didn’t panic. On 3rd-and 16, Manning simply threw a short check-down screen pass to Jennings, who gained 10 yards, to set up kicker Josh Brown for a 49-yard field goal that tied the game, 10-10.
  • Brown’s Leg: That 49-yarder wasn’t the only nice boot by Brown. He also drilled a 50-yarder under pressure, that extended a precarious Giants lead to a full touchdown, 27-20, with 5:01 remaining. A 26-yard chip shot, to close the scoring, three minutes later, made Brown a perfect 3-for-3 on the afternoon.

WHAT TO DISLIKE

  • Poor Tackling, Especially On One Very Costly Instance: As mentioned above, the Giants’ tackling was generally poor. Although safety Antrel Rolle was right behind Williams with 11 tackles (eight solo), he did an awful job of trying to wrap up running back Antone Smith on what at the time, was a big play. What should have been about a three-yard gain on a screen pass to the left, turned into a 74-yard touchdown that gave the Falcons a 20-10 lead late in the third quarter, when Rolle simply missed what should have been a fairly easy tackle. Compounding that issue, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (who is accomplished enough in the league to know better) lazily watched the play before getting blocked, instead of hustling to Smith and trying to make an attempt to help Rolle out.
  • Long Scoring Drives Allowed: The Giants allowed the Falcons to go for long scoring drives – twice for touchdowns — on Atlanta’s second, fifth and eighth possessions. Those trips went for 80 yards on nine plays and a touchdown, 73 yards on 11 plays and a field goal, and 80 yards on three plays (helped by Smith’s 74-yard score), respectively.
  • Manning Out Of Sync With Top Receivers: While Manning did a good job of involving some others, he was off target when it came to his usual favorite targets. Wide receivers Victor Cruz (just 22 yards on three catches, while targeted six times) and Reuben Randle (33 yards on four catches’ targeted 10 times) had only 43.8 percent of combined catches relative to the number of balls thrown to them (even though Cruz had two big receptions in the final quarter). Tight end Larry Donnell also had no catches and was targeted just once after being a consistent bright spot for New York’s offense earlier in the season.
  • Special Teams’ Butterfingers: Although Parker had a big catch, he also made a critical mistake when he fumbled an Atlanta kickoff, following a Falcons touchdown that tied the game, 7-7. The miscue allowed Atlanta to grab its first lead, 10-7, on a second-quarter field goal. Like Parker, Quintin Demps also fumbled on special teams.
  • Jennings Hurt: Jennings left the game with a sprained knee in the second half and did not return. An MRI is scheduled for Monday. That could be a potentially big blow to a Giants offense that has been clicking well over the past three weeks, if Jennings is out for an extended period of time. 

TAKEAWAY

It took a while, but the Giants showed some grit and ultimately produced the type of game their fans hoped for in the end. A home loss to the banged-up Falcons, dropping New York back under. 500 would have been two steps forward, one step back. Instead, it’s a three-game winning streak, and what looked like doubts resurfacing about the offense and questions over whether the Giants are good enough to compete in the NFC East were answered over the final 17 minutes. A mere ten points became 30. And a looming loss became another confidence-building win as New York has put its two defeats at the start of the season far off in the rear view mirror. However, New York can’t afford to lose Jennings. The Giants will need him healthy and to keep contributing as he was before if they expect to challenge within the division.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Giants have a very tough test, but also a great opportunity next week, to put a positive stamp on where their season might be headed. New York will travel to face NFC East favorite Philadelphia (4-1) in what will already be the Giants’ third nationally televised game of the season, on Sunday Night Football.