We've got a condensed week going here, with only one real workday before the Denver game on Thanksgiving night. So we have to be a little flexible. You're getting the report card today instead of tomorrow, so that tomorrow we can jump right into those fearsome (not so much, maybe) Broncos.
You'll see that the grades are a real mixed bag. Some good, some very good, and others pretty bad. In all, a winning report card, but certainly nothing like what they're seeing in say, oh, Indy or New England, or Minnesota. And that's appropriate, considering the Giants basically had to beat Atlanta on the basis of Matt Ryan's bad call of the overtime coin flip.
That'll teach him to call tails.
Here are the grades.
QUARTERBACK: Eli Manning threw a first-possession interception two plays after a sack and a fumble, and nearly threw another the second time around. But he settled down nicely after that and went 25-of-39 for a career high 384 yards and three touchdowns. He spread the ball around, hitting eight receivers. But most important was his use of Kevin Boss, who has become a real and needed threat in the Red Zone. For the first time in more than a month, Manning looked good working the deep sideline. He hit seven throws of 20 yards or more, including a perfectly-thrown 51-yarder to Steve Smith and a key 29-yarder to Mario Manningham that set up the winning field goal. GRADE: A.
RUNNING BACKS: Brandon Jacobs jumped on that Manning fumble and ran in a touchdown, but otherwise the ground game was underused again. That's not entirely his fault, as he came out of the game in the third quarter with a thigh injury. Still, they could have used Ahmad Bradshaw to pick up the slack, but it didn't really happen. The sum total was 26 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown, with Jacobs accounting for only 12 carries for 39 yards. A huge part of the problem came on first down, where eight of their runs on first down netted them gains of three yards or less, or outright losses. GRADE: C.
RECEIVERS: Can't say enough about these guys this week. Manning found eight of them, and even stone-handed fullback Madison Hedgecock got into the act with two catches, including a three-yard touchdown catch on a sweet route toward the sideline. Kevin Boss looked like an absolute monster after a season of underuse as a pass catcher as he made five catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns, including a very tough four-yard scoring catch with two defenders around him in the end zone. Manningham looked a lot like Amani Toomer with his sideline work and finished with six catches for 126 yards. Smith laid out for Manning's 51-yard heave and reeled it in like Hemingway hooking a marlin. Hakeem Nicks had a 30-yard completion, but his biggest was the seven-yarder for a first down on the winning field goal drive. The routes were clean, and the separation was just enough to allow Manning to fit the balls into tight spots. GRADE: A.
OFFENSIVE LINE: You have to blame some of the running problems on their lack of overall push. Manning did see some early pressure, but they settled down later. The quarterback never had all day to search out his receivers, but he did have just enough time to make things happen. He was only hit twice, and sacked once. GRADE: B.
DEFENSIVE LINE: If anyone sees Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, Chris Canty, and Rocky Bernard, tell them to check in with Tom Coughlin. It's a contract requirement that they play in actual games when they can. That quartet was basically invisible, save for Cofield's late hit on Jason Snelling that set up Jason Elam's unsuccessful field goal attempt. No pressure up the middle, and Snelling made decent yards between the tackles. They were especially exposes on Snelling's first of two touchdown runs, when he started left, cut back right, and went untouched into the end zone. At least the ends did something. Justin Tuck had four tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble, and Osi Umenyiora had a fumble recovery to go along with two quarterback hits. Mathias Kiwanuka had two hits on Ryan and a pass breakup. But the effort was hardly consistent. The pressure hardly got there in the second half. The whole line seemed to run out of gas under Ryan's fast-paced execution. Their inability to at least pressure Ryan into premature throws the whole second half and make a couple of run stops on third-and-1 in the fourth quarter allowed the Falcons to continue exhausting scoring drives of 18, 12, and 12 plays as they stormed back to tie in regulation. GRADE: D.
LINEBACKERS: Michael Boley played a great game with a team-high 13 tackles, a sack, two quarterback hits, and two tackles for losses. But he was right there on Tony Gonzalez' tying touchdown and should have knocked down that end zone throw. Chase Blackburn had seven tackles, including one behind the line, in a good, last-minute performance in place of injured MLB Antonio Pierce. And Danny Clark had five tackles. That's the good news. The bad news is that the Giants blitzed quite a bit, and all but one of them were held up enough to let Ryan get off his passes. At times, the blitzing linebackers got there a click too late. At others, they weren't even close. GRADE: C.
SECONDARY: It was truly amazing how wide open Atlanta's receivers were in the fourth quarter as the Falcons came back from two touchdowns down. Forget about interrupting the flow with an interception. The defensive backs weren't even close enough to stop receivers from making yards after the catch. Eric Weems was wide open against rookie Bruce Johnson on his four-yard touchdown catch that narrowed the gap to 31-24. Michael Jenkins and Roddy White both caught 20-plus-yard passes down the stretch. Safety Aaron Rouse came up with a horrendous late hit on the third-quarter field goal drive. Aaron Ross did okay at safety in his first action of the season with four tackles. As the defensive line lacked pressure in crunch time, the secondary lacked coverage, and it nearly cost the Giants a game. GRADE: F.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Lawrence Tynes is going to make Coughlin lose what's left of his hair with his inconsistency. Another miss, this one from 31 yards, followed by overtime heroics on his 36-yard make that, were it two yards longer, would have sailed wide right. His worst performance came on the kickoffs, however, as Atlanta got consistent field position at the 35, 40, 37, and 35 that resulted in three touchdowns and a missed field goal. The kickoff coverage unit didn't help Tynes, either. Domenik Hixon looked better than he has in recent weeks, and came within a shoestring tackle of breaking a kickoff return for a touchdown. Jeff Feagles' punting was improved on three kicks for a 41-yard average, but the coverage allowed Weems a 17-yard return. GRADE: D.
COACHING: Have to hand it to Coughlin. He kept his team's heads together during the bye week when the collective psyche could have spiraled into despair. He obviously got on his coordinators, too, though only one seemed to absorb the message completely. Kevin Gilbride found out that amazing things can happen when you let your quarterback throw the ball into the end zone once inside the Red Zone. The offense had four trips there before the overtime and came away with three touchdowns and a missed field goal. It would have had four TDs if Manning had thrown to an open Hakeem Nicks on the sideline instead of a double-covered Boss. For once, this writer had no issues with the Red Zone playcalling. Still, when the Giants were still up by a touchdown with 5:53 remaining in regulation and they needed to run the clock down, what was called after the Giants got to their 41? A first-down pass, second-down run, third-down pass. Total runoff of the five-play drive: 2:09. The defense? That's another story. The worst Red Zone defense in the league continued as such, allowing four touchdowns and a field goal on six trips there. He dialed up plenty of blitzes, but most never got there. Judging by the number of open receivers in the second half, one must conclude the coverage schemes were flawed. The entire defense seemed to run out of gas, and even Antonio Pierce's emotional sideline pleas couldn't get them going. GRADE: C.