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Giants Gameday: Pat Shurmur says a victory is a victory

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota gets out of

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota gets out of the grasp of Jets inside linebacker Darron Lee in the second half on Dec.  2, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski) Photo Credit: AP/Mark Zaleski

The Giants have won four of their last five games and are 5-8, but there are a lot of “buts” in that status.

But they haven’t beaten a starting quarterback since Week 3, and two of their wins have been against third-stringers. But they’ve won only one game this season against a team with a winning record at the time they played them. But they’ve been outscored 61-20 in the fourth quarters of their past four games. 

Even with those caveats, Pat Shurmur insists there’s not a lot of smoke and mirrors to the Giants’ recent success. As the Giants prepare to face the Titans on Sunday at MetLfe Stadium, he said his team is legit.

“You can’t fake football,” he said. “There’s no ‘fool’s gold’ in my mind. You put a ball down in front of all those people and you’re on the field with 10 other guys, and you’ve got a job to do. You can’t fake that. There’s no fooling, there’s no golding, there’s nothing. You cannot fake football.”

ROSTER TURNOVER

Of the 53 Giants on the active roster heading into Sunday’s game against the Titans, only 13 were on the active roster at the end of last year. That doesn’t include the ones who are on injured reserve now, or were at the close of 2017. But that’s still the most turnover of any roster in the NFL this season according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Shurmur insists that the Giants won’t have that level of rebuilding heading into next season. In fact, at several times in the past few weeks, he’s made it a point to say that the majority of the players who are Giants now will be Giants in 2019.

“We like our team and we like what our team is doing, so yes, the bulk of the guys will be here,” Shurmur said. “I can say that with some certainty.”

That doesn’t mean there won’t be some changes.

“We all know this, though, no team is ever exactly the same,” he said. “Guys leave in free agency, you get free agents, you draft, we’re going to have a draft and get some new players. I think the important thing is we focus on the excitement of playing these games, and worry about that stuff later.”

BETTTER TO RECEIVE?

Alec Ogletree’s six interceptions this season tied the Giants record for a linebacker in a season set by Jerry Hillebrand in 1963. But Ogletree’s ability to haul in passes from opposing quarterbacks has launched the possibility of his playing a role in the Giants’ offense and catching one from Eli Manning.

“It’s definitely been in the works,” Ogletree said of playing tight end. “Coach said he is thinking about doing it, so we’ll see what we can do. I hope so. At least, that’s what he told me.”

It’s unlikely to happen. “Couple guys on defense make catches and now they want to play offense,” Shurmur eye-rolled. But Manning said he’d be open to exploring the possibilities.

“He’s made some nice catches,” Manning said. “We’re going to have to put him in there. I’m sure he could play a little tight end. Goal line, maybe. Catch a touchdown.”

Ultimately, the Giants are probably better suited to having Ogletree focus on what he’s been doing.

“He’s doing a good job getting catches on defense,” Manning said. “I like those, also.”

ROOTING INTERESTS

There is only one way for the Giants can be eliminated from playoff contention this weekend, and that’s if they lose to the Titans. A loss or a tie knocks them out. If they win, their microscopic chances will still remain viable as the NFL heads into its penultimate slate of games.

The Giants  still will need to win their final two games after Sunday for a shot at a wild card, and even then they’ll need plenty of help. If you want to go ahead and assume those victories, who else should you be rooting for — or, really, against — as a Giants fan?

In order for the hypothetically 8-8 Giants to advance they need the Panthers, Vikings, Eagles and Redskins to lose two of their last three — which could be tricky with the Eagles and Redskins facing each other in Week 17 — and the Packers to lose once in the final three weeks. Of those five teams, only the Vikings against the Dolphins are a favorite to win.

There are other convoluted ways for the miracle to occur, but that, believe it or not, is the most direct route.

X-FACTOR

The Giants haven’t faced a mobile quarterback like Marcus Mariota since, well, last week when the Redskins surprised them with Josh Johnson. The old veteran wound up leading a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives, scored one on a 8-yard run, and finished with a team-high 45 rushing yards.

It was a good tune-up for what the Giants could face on Sunday.

“The quarterback scrambling and creating plays that are off-schedule is certainly something we’re going to have to be great with,” defensive coordinator James Bettcher said.

Mariota has 339 rushing yards and two rushing TDs this season. He is 11 rushing yards shy of eclipsing his career best (349 in 2016). So what are the keys to stopping him?

“Number one is integrity of the rushes,” Bettcher said. “It happened to us in the game Sunday, we lost the edge and the quarterback scrambles in, and we really got a third-down stop. Great coverage, but the rushes have to have great integrity and that’s both on the edges and the perimeter, because he’s going to scramble both places.”

And the second?

“You’ve got to cover a few more seconds longer,” he said. “We use the word ‘plaster’ like a lot of people do. We’ve got to plaster in coverages and understand how and where different receivers are going to break. Everybody has a scramble thought process to them, where they want to break and how receivers want to break, and we’ve got to be aware of where those guys are going to do that.”

BY THE NUMBERS

96.6: League-high field-goal percentage for Aldrick Rosas this season. He’s connected on 29 of his 30 attempts.

31.4: Points per game scored by the Giants since they returned from the bye in Week 10. Only the Chiefs (39.3) and Rams (31.5) are averaging more, and they played each other in the highest-scoring game in NFL history during that span.

5: TDs of 50 yards or more by Saquon Barkley this season, the second-most by a rookie in NFL history. He is tied with Randy Moss and one shy of the record set by Billy Hawton of the Packers in 1952.

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