Dave Klein was the Giants' beat
writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books
and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls.
Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.
AFTER THE FALCONS: THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY...
AND THE HOPE THAT GIANT FANS
USUALLY FIND IMPOSSIBLE TO RESTRAIN
Come from behind victory.
That may be the most important phrase to keep in mind in the aftermath of the
Giants' victory over Atlanta, the one that vaulted the team to a 3-2 record with
a pair of division games on the road up next.
another: Contain your excitement.
the season is done, this victory may not be viewed as a modern-day "4th-and-17"
moment, though this was still a turning point. We've all been waiting for the
new offense to come together, waiting to see if Jason Pierre-Paul could become
a leader on the field, if the defense could pick up where it left off and if Eli
Manning was done or not.
What we saw
Sunday was the team coming together and fighting back for the victory. Sure, they
stomped on a hapless Washington team in Week 4, but that only showed what happens
when everything goes right. Things went wrong this week. There were fumbles and
incompletions. There was a more than talented offense on the other side of the
field. There was a 10-point deficit with 20 minutes left to play.
Come from behind victory.
a long way to go. Don't start looking into the what-ifs, like, What if the playoffs
started today? Or, What if they beat the Eagles next week? If the Giants don't
win another game this season, they'll be 3-13. Again, there's a long way to go,
but they looked good Sunday. Those Eagles, who represent the Giants' next opponent,
came from behind to beat Washington on Sunday, a bit of a surprise that since
Philly seems to have been handed the NFC East title before the season began. In
fact, the Dallas Cowboys are tied for first place in the division with a 4-1 record.
The Giants play Dallas in two weeks on the road.
Contain your excitement.
So, how does
this game break down in terms of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly concept? Here
the ability to come from behind in the fourth quarter: In a league where the old,
clichéd, "Any given Sunday" mantra remains true, Atlanta is a talented group despite
the drubbing suffered against Minnesota in Week 4. Sure, they were down three
starting offensive linemen and a starting safety. They have Matt Ryan, Julio Jones,
Roddy White, Stephen Jackson and Devin Hester on offense, Kroy Biermann and Osi
Umenyiora on defense.
They have the
ability to score big and control games. So, when the Giants found themselves down
by 10 points midway through the second half, you could hear the whispers, the
ones saying that the two-game winning streak was a mirage, that they were still
the same Giants who were destroyed in the first two weeks of the season. That
they are all hype. Instead, the Giants quieted those whispers and instead kept
their heads in the game, staying within their game plan and fought back to win
a big conference game.
Over the last three winning weeks, Manning has eight touchdown passes, one rushing
touchdown, three sacks and just one interception. He rated out at 104.9 percent
for the Atlanta game and currently sits at 95.6 percent even with those first
two disastrous games to open the season. Against Atlanta, Manning's favorite receiver,
tight end Larry Donnell, was taken out of the game by the Falcons with double-
Instead, he found
other open receivers, like rookie Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle
and more. The system, which now seems to be falling into place – I still say it
should have been ready Week 1, but what do I know? – is built to spread the ball
around and take advantage of the open doors the defense offers in a given game.
Andre Williams: The rookie running back
saw increased action in the second half after Rashad Jennings left the game with
a knee injury. The fourth-round pick out of Boston College was an impressive,
big presence (beastly even) and tough to tackle with 65 yards and a touchdown
on 20 bruising carries as well as a pair of receptions for 17 yards on two targets.
Oh, his three-yard touchdown run? Williams plowed through and over linebacker
Paul Worrilow with violence.
has big job ahead as Jennings will be out for two to three weeks with a sprained
Medial Collateral Ligament (non-surgical). The team is confident in him, though
the Giants elevated Michael Cox from the practice squad as insurance, and you
should expect to see at least a spattering of regular offensive action for Peyton
Hillis next Sunday night in Philly.
Jason Pierre-Paul, Jonathan Hankins and the defensive line: Pierre-Paul notched
five tackles, a defensed pass, a pair of quarterback hits and a ton of pressure
Sunday, playing at 100 percent all the way and finally, it seems, quelled the
concern that he wasn't his 2011 self anymore. Hankins just keeps getting better
and is quite a presence inside the trenches. For his effort, he scored a sack,
four tackles (one for a loss) and plenty of pressure as well.
the second half began, the line really stepped on the gas, with Robert Ayers Jr.,
Matthias Kiwanuka and Cullen Jenkins adding to Ryan's woes.
Odell Beckham Jr.: He got his first catch in the first quarter and that was it
for the half, but by the time the game was over, it was apparent that not only
did he not need any more time to get comfortable, but that the rookie was well
worth his first round selection. By the end of the season, you'll probably forget
that, too. Beckham Jr. adds size, speed and athleticism the team hasn't seen in
a long time, going back to the early career of Hakeem Nicks ... or is OBJ going
to be better? It's one game, you say. Right.
year, when Nicks mentally checked out, the team expected Randle to take over as
the big No. 1. It didn't happen. Why do you think they left this linebacker or
that tight end on the board and took Beckham Jr. with the 12th pick of the first
round in May? OBJ is what Randle was supposed to be. There, it had to be said
Offensive line: The group
was highly effective in both the running and passing games. The unit gave Manning
plenty of time and protection, yielding just one coverage sack all day. Extra
points for rookie left guard Weston Richburg right tackle Justin Pugh, left tackle
Will Beatty and center J. D. Walton.
Williams: A baker's dozen 13 tackles (nine solo, four assists). ‘Nuf said.
Trumaine McBride: Solid at the nickel corner spot against a variety of Atlanta
weapons. Quietly, he notched seven solo tackles and a forced fumble and didn't
make many (any?) mistakes. Again, solid.
defense: The unit held Atlanta twice in goal-to-go situations in the first half,
forcing the Falcons to go with a pair of field goals instead. That's an eight-point
swing (assuming PATs). That the team fell behind, 20-10, in the third quarter
was a result of a single missed tackle by Antrel Rolle that opened the entire
field for speedster Antone Smith on a swing pass under heavy blitz pressure that
left a wide open green pasture over which Smith cut a path to the end zone. Otherwise,
that eight-point Red Zone swing would have been the difference.
and kick coverage units: Well, good enough, at least. Hester accumulated yardage
and affected the field position, but the strategy of keeping punts away from him,
or at least making him work to get the ball, was successful. He didn't score or
manage any return for more than 25 yards.
Run defense: Should we be concerned? Probably not, but Jackson's first-quarter
touchdown run capped a strong Atlanta drive and exposed some defensive problems.
The unit was blown off the ball and blocked perfectly on his 10-yard score. The
play was a reminder that there are several good running backs still to face this
season, like Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy next week, Dallas' DeMarco Murray the
week after and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch and San Francisco's Frank Gore after the
Minor injury concerns: Losing Jennings
and again playing without middle linebacker Jon Beason is a concern with Philadelphia
and Dallas coming up on the schedule before the Week 8 bye. One might assume that
each will remain out of action until after the break. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
has been nursing an ankle injury and that might be a problem down the road. Though
Prince Amukamara is fine, DR-C's backup is Zach Bowman and he's just not as talented.
Rueben Randle: Well, he was not bad,
since he caught Manning's first touchdown pass and finished with four receptions
and 33 yards, but he was targeted 10 times in the game. In fairness, one target
was an end zone catch that was ruled out of bounds. Conversely, he seemingly turned
the wrong way on a fade pass late in the third quarter, risking a near interception
in the process.
Still, the Giants need
Randle to be a reliable receiver, not a home run hitter who strikes out too often.
Remember Dave Kingman? Like that. He can still scare the defense with his size
and range, but we are wondering when he will truly break out. He was born for
this offense, yet there is still a sore lack of separation.
Kick return game: A fumble each for Quintin Demps and Preston Parker
were only part of the problems. The kick return unit overall has been ineffective,
creating little if any room and seemingly moving at half speed. Punt returns were
only a little better, but over the course of 16 games, winning battle for field
position is crucial.
Have something to say? Ask a question?
Send it over to firstname.lastname@example.org
and follow me on Twitter @_AaronKlein_
Don't forget to follow us on Twitter
out Dave's website at E-GIANTS
where you can subscribe to his newsletters which
run much more frequently than what is available here.
- Team Giants
- Send a request to email@example.com
for a free week's worth of news!