Last week, one particularly enthusiastic Giants fan (see: threatens to break things after losses) referred to Justin Tuck as “Papa Defense.” I don’t like the title, mainly because the word “Papa” immediately makes me think of a creepy guy in a red button down shirt selling me crappy pizza. But I agree with it.
I don’t doubt Tuck’s toughness but his mounting injuries had rendered him nearly useless for much of this year. You obviously prefer your emotional defensive leader is suited up and ready to play, but I bet a significant portion of you wondered if his presence was actually improving such a weak pass rush. On Saturday, he finally looked like the dominant DE we know and love.
The athleticism he displayed will be needed Sunday night. Jason Pierre-Paul being the main event is all well and good, but he needs a mid-card behind him to get the job done. No support will come from Osi (how is he not on IR?) as he is slated to sit out once again. If the pass rush can match the intensity level of both the first Dallas and Jets matchups, the secondary will continue to be able to overcome its lack of depth/experience.
On the subject of pass rush, I do have a side comment about Mr. Sanchez. If you read the last installment, you’re already aware that I am not a Sanchez fan. He did little to calm his doubters in Week 16. Do I think he will eventually develop into a franchise QB? No. That said, right around the same point in his career, Eli Manning was hearing the boos rain down upon him from the upper decks of the old cement fortress. Whether he spearheaded the campaigns or not, Mark Sanchez has played in the AFC Championship game during both of his two seasons as a professional. Manning jumped out to a hot start during his first full season as a starter but was eventually shadowed by a cloud of inconsistency for the next year and a half. Eventually he earned himself Super Bowl MVP honors. I give credit where credit is due, maybe Sanchez has a brighter football future than we think.
Of course, it wasn’t all defense on Christmas Eve. Eli and his new top target Victor Cruz (see: Like a’ Boss) dropped jaws on their 99 yard TD hookup. But what else we saw from the rest of the offense also deserves attention.
The passing game is clearly better with Mario Manningham rounding out the top three WR spots. Manningham has been bobbing between the 2nd and 3rd receiving slots since 2009 and he has made several acrobatic catches and deep threat plays in his own right. But 2011 has been a season of inconsistency for the former Wolverine and thanks to Cruz’s success, he is now entrenched as the bottom rung of the revamped “Jet Blue.”
Ramses Barden has yet to earn his status as a 3rd draft pick. Add in the lack of a safety net TE due to Jake Ballard’s PCL injury and Manning often struggled to find a good spot to throw the ball. It doesn’t look great for Manningham’s return Sunday, but if either he or Ballard can get back in the lineup, it will do wonders for the Giants chances of holding off Dallas. Depspite their heartbreaking drops this season, both players stretch a secondary in ways Barden and Bear Pascoe simply can’t.
The yardage wasn’t stellar, but the rushing attack made its presence known. Yes Ahmad Bradshaw iced the game with his second TD run, but Wellington Mara would roll over in his grave if he knew that the New York Football Giants had plummeted to last in the league for total rush yards.
The argument has been made that keeping Kevin Boothe in at center would allow for a more effective and consistent ground game. I agree with that, but Boothe is atrocious at shotgun snapping. He more often than not places mid range snaps at Eli’s feet. Therefore, it is necessary to slide Mitch Petrus back to the bench and insert an underwhelming David Baas back into the lineup.
As Antrel Rolle would say, “At the end of the day,” the Giants overcame their flashy cross-town rivals. It was not exactly a smooth victory, but we haven’t seen one of those since Week 2 anyway. There is more to dissect and prod and annoy you with, but let’s just savor this one. Afterall, it may just be the final win of the season.