I said last week in analyzing the Cowboys game in week 17 (remember that game.... seems like ages ago, doesn't it?) that the Cowboys game was the Giants best game of the year. I meant that as almost a dig at the Giants and as a moderating force to chill the wave of enthusiasm that the was washing over Giants fans who were making reservations for a trip to Indianapolis. In other words - don't get too pumped up because the Giants played one good game this year. Well, that analysis lasted one game, because the Giants just played their best game of the year and knocked the Cowboys game out of the #1 ranking. They were weak on offense in the first quarter, but strong on defense all the way through. Once the offense got going in the 2nd quarter and especially the second half it was a complete, dominating victory. The encouraging things, if you're a Giants fan (and it you're reading this blog, I know you are) is that the Giants showed aspects of improvement to their team play that they had not shown all year. For one thing, while the defensive effort was clearly keyed by the pass rush and the play of the DL, there was excellent play by the LBs and very good coverage on the back end from the DB-field. This is something we have not seen all year. Perhaps the good coverage on the back end was at least partly influenced by the play calling of Atlanta. They were clearly spooked by the Giants pass rush, wanted to get the ball out of Ryan's hands quickly and barely challenged the Giants secondary deep with any down field throws. Nevertheless, the coverage was good with Webster having a particularity good game. Second, the Giants found their long lost running game on offense with 170 yards and more significantly with a few 30+ yard running plays. Jacobs ran very well.
Giants outcoached the Falcons on several fronts. I have been posting here for a long time that while Cruz has been a revelation, has had a great year and is a really dangerous player, it is really Nicks that makes the Giants passing game go. I guess the Falcons didn't read my blog, because they put extra coverage on Cruz, doubling him often, leaving Nicks often in single coverage and he made them pay. What I love about the Giants WR crew is that they are all great after the catch. We've seen Cruz do that all year breaking big plays after the catch and we saw Nicks do it yesterday on his 72 yard TD run. This is actually very important for bad weather games, because you can still make some plays even if you can't throw it deep.
Every game, it seems, Eli makes a few "wow" throws and he didn't disappoint us yesterday. For me there were three - the TD pass to Manningham was exceptional. It was Eli's 2nd or 3rd read and he had a window of about 6 inches to fit the ball into, hitting Manningham right in his fingertips with a throw that was about 40 yards in the air. That play was on my end of the stadium and I was watching Manningham on the play - when Eli let the ball go, Manningham was not open, was not clear of the defender. When the ball came down, he was about half a step behind the CB while the S was a step or two on the other side, literally a few inches to fit the ball into on a 40 yard throw. Like I said - wow. There was another one to Manningham on the next Giants possession, the 3rd down conversion where Eli lifted the ball over the LB and dropped it down into Manningham on the sidelines who kept his feet in bounds. Eli also made a perfect throw to Nicks on a 19 yard gain on 3rd and 8 in the first half. Nicks was completely covered on the play and Eli had to be perfect with his ball placement on a low throw to give Nicks a chance to catch it.
The refereeing was horrible on Sunday with several terrible calls that went against the Giants. The holding calls against the interior of the OL were all bogus. Snee (twice) Diehl and Baas all were called for holding when the DL they were blocking fell down. Giants also got a terrible spot on a catch by Nicks with about 1 minute left in the half. Play was a first down but refs marked it short of the first down. Eli thought it was a first down and threw the ball down the field instead of trying a short ball for a first down. The most egregious call was the failure to call PI when Nicks was held at the goal line in the 3rd quarter. The play should have given Giants 1st and goal from the 1, but was ruled incomplete and Giants had to kick a FG.