The Giants have been scratching their heads all season trying to figure out why they haven't been able to run the football, sack passers and put teams away in games.
Against the Bengals on Monday night, they finally saw progress in those first two areas but still haven't solved the third. Perhaps they will do that in their back-to-back games against two of the league's worst teams (Chicago and Cleveland).
Here's a quick rundown of the positives that came out of victory over Cincinnati on Monday night.
The defense is solidifying. The Giants held the Bengals to 264 total yards, 186 passing yards, and 12 first downs, which were all season lows for a Giants opponent. For the first time this season, defensive lineman led the team in tackles. Olivier Vernon had ten total and Damon Harrison had eight. Up to this point, the linebackers and defensive backs have dominated the stat sheet. A sign the front four is getting stout as the season unfolds.
Run the rock, own the clock. The Giants entered the game last in the NFL in rushing and next to last in time of possession. Against Cincy, they racked up a season-high 122 yards, averaging 4.5 yards a carry. Rashad Jennings had a 25 yard run, the longest gain on the ground by a Giant RB since Shane Vereen's 25 yarder back in Week 3 against the Redskins. Their time of possession of 31:23 was the second longest since Week 2 when they owned the ball for 34:07 in their victory against New Orleans.
The pass rush is finally getting home. The Giants tied their season high with three sacks of QB Andy Dalton. They also had three sacks in their victory against the Rams on Oct. 23. Olivier Vernon and Robert Thomas had sacks and Damon Harrison and Jonathan Casillas split the third sack. Thomas' sack was the first of his career. JPP had two QB hits and two passed defensed. The Giants are still 30th in the NFL in sacks with 14, but they rank eighth in QB hurries with 64.
Win the toss, take the ball and win the game. So much for deferring, which has backfired several times this year. The Giants drove 80 yards in eight plays on the game's opening series ending in QB Eli Manning's 10-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Jerell Adams. It was the Giants' first opening-possession touchdown since Nov. 15 of last year when Manning threw an 87-yard touchdown pass to Odell Beckham, Jr. on their first drive against New England. I think they will likely be taking the ball from now on.
The evolution at tight end is in full swing. For the second straight week, Larry Donnell did not see a target in the passing game. Will Tye caught five of eight targets for 53 yards with a long of 25. Rookie Jerell Adams caught all three of his targets including his first NFL touchdown. Unless one of those two gets injured, this trend should continue.
Cashing in on third downs and in the "green zone". Yes, the Giants were 6 of 14 on third downs (43%), 3-for-3 in the red zone and 2-for-2 in goal-to-go situations. They didn't get many opportunities but they made the absolute most of the ones they got.
Penalties. The Bengals were flagged nine times for a total of 60 yards. The Giants were well-behaved, only getting charged twice for a total of 15 yards. See what happens when you concentrate on disclipline and cut down on unnecessary personal fouls?