The last time the Giants won four games in a row was 2013, and it came on the heels of an 0-6 start to the season. “That was a crazy year,” Victor Cruz said with a shake of his head.
So it’s no surprise that Cruz did not remember it or care to compare it to this team’s current three-game winning streak. Instead, he went further back in history.
“The last one that comes to mind is that last run going into the playoffs in 2011,” he said instead, recalling the victories in the last two regular-season games and then four playoff wins, including Super Bowl XLVI.
The Giants (5-3) have a chance Monday night against the Bengals (3-4-1) to win that fourth straight game. A victory would put the Giants three games over .500 for the first time since they were 8-5 in late 2012. It also has the potential of being significant as the team’s sixth win this season, which would match the total of the disappointing teams of the past two seasons have reached.
“We’ve got to get to those six wins and get past that threshold,” said defensive tackle Jay Bromley, who, like many of the current Giants, has never won a seventh in a single season.
For the first time in recent memory — or beyond it, if you ask Cruz — the Giants are exhibiting signs of consistent winning football. That should help a team that has struggled to learn to win the past three seasons. But Ben McAdoo isn’t buying the idea that winning begets winning.
“We’re looking forward,” the coach said. “November is about jockeying for position one game at a time. You have to focus on your preparation and find a way to get better each and every week and get a win.”
Still, for those who were here when the Giants were regular contenders in the final two months of the season, there is some familiarity with what’s going on now.
“It’s a great feeling,” Cruz said. “I remember that feeling. It’s starting to get into my belly a little bit now and it feels good, obviously, as a team to get into that mode. But we just have to remember that it is still a long season. There are still a lot of games left and we have to be able to be 1-0 each week and take care of our business.”
Cruz still hurting
Cruz might not be able to help the Giants get their fourth win in a row. The wide receiver sprained his ankle last week against the Eagles and participated in Sunday’s practice, but The Record of New Jersey reported that Cruz will most likely miss the game against the Bengals. Rookie Roger Lewis Jr. would get the bulk of Cruz’s snaps if that is the case.
Whether he plays or not, Cruz’s ankle injury is still not considered to be a long-term issue. Not playing him Monday night could be a way of allowing him to recover more fully for games the rest of the season.
Hall on Green: Giant threat
The Giants probably don’t want cornerback Leon Hall covering A.J. Green tonight, but when it came to preparing for the NFL’s leader in receptions entering Week 10 (59), it was Hall to whom they turned.
Hall played with the Bengals for eight seasons, the last four as a teammate of Green’s covering him in practices and watching his tendencies.
“I’ve talked to Leon Hall a lot this week about A.J.,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said.
So what has Hall been able to share? Mostly bad news.
“He’s a big problem,” Hall said. “There’s not a lot he can’t do. He can run the short routes. He’s agile enough to run some bigger routes and stuff like that. He can pretty much do it all.”
The key to slowing him down, Hall said, is to keep him guessing.
“You have to switch it up with him,” he said. “You can’t just leave him alone. With all the great receivers, I think that’s part of the recipe for success. You can’t just keep rolling up to him because he’ll figure that out. You can’t just play cover 2 or cover 1. You have to have a variety.”
Ultimately, Hall said, the best way to defend Green may be to simply antagonize someone else: Andy Dalton.
“It really starts with the quarterback,” Hall said. “You want to keep him on his toes, keep him guessing and hesitant to affect some of those throws.”
Did you know?
1990: The last time the Bengals won a Monday Night Football game on the road. It’s been so long, in fact, that it came against the Browns in Cleveland — the original Browns before they moved to Baltimore and were replaced by the new ones. The Bengals have lost six in a row since then.
5: Games in a row in which the Giants have rushed for fewer than 80 yards. It’s the first time that’s happened since official rushing records were first kept in 1933.
Home sweet home
The Giants are in the middle of three straight home games, the 127th time that has happened for an NFL team since 1990, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Giants are already 1-0, but history shows they are unlikely to win their remaining two. Here is how teams have fared on their three-game home stands over the past 25 1⁄2 seasons:
3-0 28 times
2-1 45 times
1-2 39 times
0-3 14 times
The hardest game to win on such seemingly hospitable stretches of scheduling? The middle one, such as Monday night against the Bengals. Here are the records of teams during three-game homestands since 1990:
First game 79-47 (.627)
Second game 65-61 (.516)
Third game 69-57 (.548)
Odell Beckham Jr. needs three TD receptions to tie Plaxico Burress as the most frequent recipient of Eli Manning scoring plays. A look at Manning’s favorite touchdown targets:
Plaxico Burress // 33
Odell Beckham Jr. // 30
Hakeem Nicks // 26
Victor Cruz // 25
Rueben Randle, Jeremy Shockey // 19