THE ROAD TO REDEMPTION
The Giants changed their playing style out of necessity last week. Now they will continue down that path out of success.
“We know our formula and we need to stick to it,” Ben McAdoo said of the run-first approach the Giants used to beat the Broncos and will bring into Sunday’s game against the Seahawks at MetLife Stadium.
It’s a far cry from the way the Giants thought they would operate offensively this year, and very different from how they have done it in the recent past. Last week was the first time the Giants won with more rushing yards (148) than passing yards (128) since 2013 when they beat the Raiders, 24-20. In that game, though, the statistical stray from the norm was a bit of a bookkeeping issue than a football philosophy one. Eli Manning threw for 140 yards but was sacked three times for a loss of 22 yards, leaving the Giants with 118 net passing yards. They ran for 133 in that game.
The key to it working, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said, was remaining patient. That meant dealing with a lot of bad situations early in possessions.
“We’re going to grind this thing out and it’s not going to be pretty,” Sullivan said. “We joked a little bit about having that game on the road might have been a good thing so that you’re not showered down with boos after a second-and-10 or a second-and-11.”
McAdoo said he thinks the players will respond to the change in direction.
“We have players who aren’t selfish,” he said. “I believe they all see the best way for us to win football games is to be physical in all three phases, heavy-handed, stop the run, run the ball, get timely conversions and timely stops on third down and play good special teams.”
Even, McAdoo said, the quarterback. While Manning has expressed his desire to throw the ball more, he said this week that he’ll do whatever benefits the team the most. McAdoo acknowledged that.
“Eli wants to win as bad as anybody in that locker room and he’s thrown the ball plenty in this league,” McAdoo said. “But wins are tough to come by, and we have to do what’s best for the team and we will.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT MIND CONTROL
The Giants spotted the rest of the league a month and a half, but after posting their first win of the season on Sunday many of them still believe there is time to salvage this season.
“It’s never too late, it’s never too late,” linebacker B.J. Goodson told Newsday. “It’s only too late for the weak-minded. We just have to keep the ball rolling.”
Rolling uphill. The Giants are firmly entrenched in last place in the NFC East, four games behind the first-place Eagles with a loss to them already in the books. They trail every team in the NFC but one – the winless 49ers – in the race for the wild card spots.
They’ll have to climb that mountain without Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall, too.
Offensive lineman Justin Pugh said last week that he was holding out hope of making a run. He noted that other teams sometimes get hit hard by injuries the way the Giants did, and that seemed to happen to the Packers this weekend with the loss of Aaron Rodgers. That, theoretically, could clear one of the playoff contenders out of the way.
For the Giants to maintain this sudden burst of optimism, they have to keep winning.
“It would be huge for us,” Pugh said of topping the Seahawks. “Winning the last two games going into the bye, everyone starts getting their bodies feeling right and we come back and try to make a run. Try to do something.”
With five losses already, they can probably only afford to lose two of their final 10 games to give themselves a chance.
That’s what they have right now. A chance. And that’s all they can embrace.
WIDE WORLD OF PASSING
It had been more 26 years since the Giants played a game in which their wide receivers caught no more than two passes. That happened on Sept. 22, 1991, when Mark Ingram and Odessa Turner each had one grab in a 13-10 win over the Browns, and it happened last week when Roger Lewis Jr. and Tavarres King each had one in the 23-10 win over the Broncos.
At some point, though, the Giants will have to throw the ball. Will they be able to?
“It’ll be there,” said WR Sterling Shepard, who is listed as questionable with an ankle injury for this game, said of the passing attack. “We have guys who can go. When you have Odell (Beckham Jr.) and you have Brandon (Marshall) and those guys, it’s kind of hard for guys like Travis (Rudloph) and Ed (Eagan) to showcase their talent, but everybody knows what they have. We’ve got guys who can go and they’re ready to step up.”
“I think it was just a case of how the game was going,” the quarterback said of the passing dearth last week. “Had a little lead in the fourth quarter, so I don’t know if we threw a pass in the fourth quarter.”
They did not.
“I thought the first half, we were pretty efficient when we did throw the ball,” Manning continued. “Got some completions, some big plays in the passing game.”
The key, Manning said, is not the number of passes but their impact.
“When we do throw,” he said, “be effective with it.”
WHEN YOU ASSUME...
The Giants defense is back! Well, almost.
After holding the Broncos to 10 points and just a late touchdown, the unit that was supposed to be the strength of the team this season finally played to that billing and seemed to get back to the form they displayed last year when it carried the Giants to the playoffs.
But safety Landon Collins wants to be certain before he makes any proclamations.
“We’ve got to showcase it again,” Collins said. “Once we showcase it again, then we can possibly say that, but not yet. We’ve got to just put it on film one more time.”
Collins said it would be a mistake to believe that the one strong performance against the Broncos signifies a return to prominence.
“Don’t assume,” he said. “We’ve got to showcase it. We’re not going to assume anything.”
SEAHAWKS IN THE SAME BOAT
If there is a team in the NFL that can commiserate with the Giants about the play of their offensive line, it’s the Seahawks. They come to New York with as under-performing and inconsistent a group up front as exists in the NFL. And that includes the Giants.
“We’re making progress, but it’s the process that we’re going through to just get tight and get clean and get sharp,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said during a week in which his left guard, Luke Joekel, had his knee scoped and will miss upwards of a month to further the unrest up front. “A couple weeks ago, we ran for 194 yards and then the next week we ran for 60. So, we’re not as consistent as we need to be.”
While the Giants seem to have settled on a lineup that works for them and paved the way to last week’s win – “The guys up front are playing physical, they’re playing with the right mindset, and that helps,” McAdoo said – the Seahawks are still searching for their winning combination.
“It’s really difficult because it’s the area of the game that needs to be so connected and that means the chemistry and the communications and the ability to talk to one another,” Carroll said. “It’s s really a challenge.”
So much so that the Seahawks are looking to – get this! – the Giants as an inspiration for being able to settle in and jell as an offensive line.
“(The Giants) did a fantastic job of moving some guys from different spots and still be able to find their way to execute and run the football,” Carroll said. “(The Giants) did it, did a great job, and we’re trying to do it, too.”
The Giants have their bye next week, which has traditionally been a good incentive for them. Although they have lost three of their last five pre-bye games, they have one of the league’s best overall records heading into the mid-season break. Here is a look at the most successful teams in the week prior to their bye:
Seattle Seahawks 23 6 0 .793
Dallas Cowboys 20 9 0 .690
New York Giants 20 8 0 .714
Minnesota Vikings 19 9 0 .679
New Orleans Saints 19 10 0 .655
San Francisco 49ers 18 10 0 .643
6: Interceptions returned for a touchdown by Janoris Jenkins, who had one last week against the Broncos. Only Aqib Talib (7) has more of them since 2012.
320: Passing yards needed by Eli Manning to reach 50,000 for his career. Only six other quarterbacks have reached that number in NFL history.
59: Regular-season wins for QB Russell Wilson, the fourth-most in NFL history for a player through his first six seasons. He needs one more win this season to join Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan (60) in a tie for second on that list and four more to pass Joe Flacco (62) as the all-time leader.