The beleaguered offensive line played its best game of the season on Monday night and the Giants won. Coincidence? Hardly.
“When you can protect a quarterback of Eli [Manning]’s quality, he can do good things,” coach Pat Shurmur said on Wednesday. “I told the line today, talking about the game, I said: ‘Don’t take offense to the fact that we’ll go as far as you’ll block for us.’ It’s the reality of it. It’s a compliment.”
Now that they’ve found some footing, the mission becomes topping that performance. Which is why none of them were taking bows or accepting kudos off the victory.
“Our focus has to be 100 percent on Tampa Bay,” left tackle Nate Solder said of Sunday’s opponent. “It can’t be what we did do and what we didn’t do . . . We have to keep getting better and I think we have gotten better. This is another week. We can’t stay stagnant, we can’t get worse, we have to keep continuing to improve.”
The Giants rolled out their fourth different starting unit on Monday, and it’s likely the same group that will play on Sunday. More than the personnel, though, rookie left guard Will Hernandez said there was a different mindset for the group.
“It was simple: We decided to come out with everything we had,” he said. “We felt a little better prepared and we came out and executed. We just basically said, ‘Enough is enough.’ We had to start somewhere.”
The Giants ran the ball 23 times for 97 yards on Monday. They dropped back for 32 pass attempts and allowed just one sack (“and there were reasons for that sack that didn’t relate to the quarterback or the protection,” Shurmur said).
There was room for improvement. Shurmur said the third-and-goal run by Saquon Barkley that was stuffed would have been a “walk-in” if it was blocked properly. Overall, though, the line offered something that they haven’t provided much of this season.
Not protection. Not pancakes. Just optimism.
“I was very encouraged,” Shurmur said. “It was their best game and we just want to build on it.”
Notes & quotes: The Giants hosted veterans from the Wounded Warriors program at practice on Wednesday evening as part of the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign. The vets and their families watched the workout and then played video games with the players afterward . . . It was not a full practice, but a jog-through on a short week. Safety Curtis Riley (shoulder) and fullback Eli Penny (back) did not participate, but Shurmur attributed that to “game wear and tear” and “nothing to be too concerned about.”