You know, the scene in the movie where the teacher reads Ralphie's theme on his desire of a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas and she ecstatically writes A-plus-plus-plus, etc. all over his paper and the blackboard? That's kind of what the Giants' 45-12 win was like. A little gem after eight games of gobbledegook.
Yes, it was only against Washington, a 4-10 team that basically quit after that first 16-play touchdown drive, just like Oakland quit at the end of that five-game winning streak. But Washington had played well of late, up to last night, and the win did keep the Giants' playoff hopes well within reach. And let's face it, when was the last time the Giants put together a team effort like that this year? Answer: A long time ago.
And for those whose answer to all this is, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid," beating Carolina and Minnesota might just shut them up. Unless, of course, Dallas and Green Bay win out and eliminate any playoff possibilites.
"We'll just take them one at a time and try to do the best we can with our circumstance, and then we'll have to see what happens," Tom Coughlin said. "We have to win games. We have to win."
Meanwhile, this report card will do wonders for the GPA.
QUARTERBACK: Eli Manning looked like an All-Pro in waiting with a 19-for-26, 268-yard performance with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He engineered the Giants' first first-possession touchdown since Oakland, and he converted on his first six third-down attempts. Better yet, he scored touchdowns in three of the four trips into the Red Zone. And talk about spreading the ball around, he hit 10 receivers for completions. Great tempo, with a minimum of pre-snap fiddling. An outstanding job. Plus, he set a career high in touchdown passes with his 26th. GRADE: A+.
RUNNING BACKS: Ahmad Bradshaw did a good job running the ball, getting 66 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries. But he looked even better catching those little slip screens, including a 14-yarder on third-and-6 in the opening touchdown drive. He'd catch two more of those. And he made a great blitz pickup to give Manning time on his 45-yard, second-quarter completion to Hakeem Nicks. Brandon Jacobs added 52 yards on 16 carries to the 114-yard overall effort. We're going to dock these guys a point, though, because Jacobs stupidly got caught up in his emotions when he tried to belt out DeAngelo Hall and Albert Haynesworth. The Giants came out of it all right because Jacobs somehow went unpunished. But he put himself at risk not only of injury -- he gave away 84 pounds to the 350-pound Haynesworth -- but of severe league sanctions. Dumb thing to do, especially at this time of year. GRADE: B.
RECEIVERS: When Derek Hagan catches a touchdown pass, you know the offense is having a good night. Mario Manningham didn't have to venture too close to the sideline, so he wound up catching three balls for 44 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown on which he was wide open by five yards. Steve Smith grabbed his sixth touchdown of the year to go along with five catches, bringing his franchise-record total to an even 90. And how about this for diversity. Tight ends Kevin Boss, Travis Beckum, and Bear Pascoe each caught passes. Boss was especially effective with three catches for 57 yards. Nicks continued to forge a big-play rep, as he took one catch for 45 and then fancy-stepped his way around his defender to a 21-yard gain. He even minimized a potentially major loss on a failed end around with some great sideline footwork. The kid's just amazing. GRADE: A.
OFFENSIVE LINE: When Rich Seubert went out with a sprained right knee in the first quarter, it made two spots that were changed in the offensive front. Didn't matter. Boothe did a fine job, aside from the sack he gave up to Haynesworth. But Haynesworth has made a lot of interior linemen look silly. Over at right tackle, second-round rookie Will Beatty produced a winning level of play in place of injured Kareem McKenzie. The line itself did a great job in blocking the run and moving the Redskins' back. The pass protection gave up just two sacks and two other hits on Manning. Some of the evening's best work came at the tackles as Beatty and David Diehl neutralized the pass rush of Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo, who combined for no sacks and just three tackles. GRADE: A.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Who knows what next week holds for this pass rush. But for this game, the front four was awesome in their abusing of quarterback Jason Campbell. They got pressure and sacks, five of them. Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck got sacks from the edges. Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins, both rarely heard from this year, got sacks up the middle. And Mathias Kiwanuka played another of his solid games, making five tackles, one for a loss, and hitting Campbell three times. Given the circumstances, it was the best game the defensive line played all year. Concentrating strictly on passing downs seems to appeal to Umenyiora, who also had three hits on the quarterback in his most active game to date. The run game was a non-factor as Campbell provided the rushing high with 36 yards on two scrambles. GRADE: A.
LINEBACKERS: Jonathan Goff continued to make a great case for handing him the starting middle linebacker's job next season with a sack and two quarterback hits. As badly as that unit has played in the past, he has consistently played hard and added whatever spark there was since taking over the spot against Dallas. Michael Boley had a nice breakup, and Chase Blackburn had a late pick. But for the life of them, they still can't cover the tight end. This time it was Fred Davis, a second-year tight end who should by no means be mistaken for the injured Chris Cooley, who grabbed a team-high five catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. Might as well face it, this unit is always going to be vulnerable to that position. GRADE: B.
SECONDARY: No Corey Webster. No Aaron Ross. No problem. See what a little heat on the quarterback can do? It makes the secondary look that much better. Oh, there were flaws, like that 51-yard hit on the gadget play Rock Cartwright ran, and the 47-yarder where Kevin Dockery chased Santana Moss to the 25. But overall, can't find much fault with that unit. And it always helps when the defense produces a touchdown, as Terrell Thomas did on his 14-yard return of Campbell's pressured and botched screen attempt. It was Thomas' sixth interception of the season. Michael Johnson laid a great hit on Davis, knocking the ball out of his hands at the goal line for an incomplete pass in the waning minutes of the second quarter. And Bruce Johnson did a nice job positioning himself for the interception on that ill-conceived "Swinging Gate" play that wound up the half. GRADE: A.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C.C. Brown proved he's not totally useless to this team, as his one kickoff coverage tackle pinned the Redskins deep in their territory. In fact, the Giants stopped three kickoff returns inside the Washington 20, a nice job by a unit that had given up tons of field position the past nine games. Jeff Feagles knocked a 43-yard punt out of bounds and the coverage team stopped Santana Moss on another inside the 20. Domenik Hixon had a 30-yard return against the league's third-best kickoff return unit. Lawrence Tynes hit his only field goal try, a 38-yarder. GRADE: A.
COACHING: One thing about Coughlin-coached teams, they always know where they stand at each point in the season. He obviously told his troops that they're in a playoff mode now, and the Giants responded accordingly. Much-maligned defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan looked like a genius in calling for blitzes and drops at the right times when it still mattered. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride did a great job in calling 30 runs, though he could have done with a couple of more to run the clock down at the end of the first half. Can't get out of this without a little criticism, right? But remember, this was the fourth time in five games the offense has gone over 30 points, so Gilbride is doing something right. And, hey, it wasn't a Giants' playcaller who ordered that stupid Swinging Gate play immediately after the Giants called timeout because the Giants had seen that very formation JUST BEFORE THE TIMEOUT! Zorny greenlighted that one, and in two games Dan Snyder will greenlight poor that poor guy out of town. GRADE: A.
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