Well, that was unexpected.
The Giants suffered through one of their worst weeks in years, with their best player and two other receivers lost to the season with injuries, one player suspended, several other players hurt and a general sense of chaos, unhappiness and gloom hanging over the team. Going on the road to Denver against one of the NFL's best defenses seemed like an obvious recipe for disaster.
So, how to explain the scoreboard: Giants 23, Broncos 10?
First of all, don't try. Just give the Giants credit for going into a tough place to play without Odell Beckham Jr. (and Brandon Marshall … and Sterling Shepard … and Olivier Vernon … and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie … and Jonathan Casillas … and Paul Perkins … and … well let's just say they were very shorthanded) and coming out with a win. The fact that they could do that goes above and beyond any numbers or other parts of this game.
Credit the Giants' defense, which finally played like the dominant defense they were last season, and for finding a way to rally in the midst of their miserable week. Give some credit to Ben McAdoo, too, because he managed to turn his team into believers even though the wheels seemed to be coming off inside his locker room.
The Giants are still 1-5, of course, and still don't have much hope of making the playoffs. But this win is a reminder that they're two last-second field goals away from being, quite possibly, 3-3. They may be flawed, but they have the talent to play much better than they had been playing this season. They finally showed it.
Yes, it's too bad it's most likely too little, too late. But worry about that some other time. For now, here are a few quick observations from the Giants' long-awaited first win of the year:
- McAdoo made a huge and likely long-overdue decision when he relinquished the play-calling duties on Sunday night, letting offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan have his shot. Granted, McAdoo claimed it had nothing to do with the struggling offense. He told NBC at halftime, "The entire team needed me this week. I needed to be available to everyone." Whatever, it's not like the results were dramatic. The Giants totaled 266 yards of offense, their second-lowest total of the season. Eli Manning threw for only 128. Yes, they ran for 148, including 117 from Orleans Darkwa, and that's big even if 47 came on one, huge run and they were able to pad the numbers late when they were (finally) sitting on a lead. But honestly, the way the Broncos were turning over the ball, New York's offense should've produced more than one touchdown and a few field goals, especially since it got a much better performance from its much-maligned offensive line. But really, the Giants offense basically was one Darkwa run and Manning-to-Evan Engram (at least early in the game). Let's not get carried away, and instead let's see how the offense responds to a few weeks with Sullivan calling the plays (assuming McAdoo doesn't take the duties back). Maybe there'll be a spark, but the signs on Sunday night pointed to the fact that, at least offensively, the Giants are what they are.
- This was an old-fashioned Giants win, circa 2016, when the defense continually bailed out a no-show offense. The secondary wasn't thrilled with McAdoo's decision to suspend Rodgers-Cromartie (which also left them down a very important man) and the defensive backs seemed to be in a bit of turmoil back there. But they came up with three huge turnovers and scored a touchdown on Janoris Jenkins' pick-six. Considering the defense was without the defensive end Vernon, linebacker Casillas and Rodgers-Cromartie, it was a pretty impressive performance, capped off by a brilliant, fourth-quarter goal-line stand. The Giants will need many more of them if they hope to salvage anything out of this season this year.
- The new-look offensive line seems like a keeper. Von Miller was a non-factor in a game in which many thought he'd be a wrecking ball. Overall, Manning (11-of-19, 128 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions) had time to throw and there was obviously some room to run. No, it wasn't perfect, but the bar was low. And considering that they were without center Weston Richburg due to a concussion and that they shuffled every spot but left tackle, it was even more impressive. The Giants should stick to this alignment, with John Jerry at left guard, D.J. Fluker at right guard and Justin Pugh at right tackle in place of Bobby Hart. It does feel strange that Ereck Flowers at left tackle would be the only piece that remains in place considering no offensive lineman has struggled more than him. But there's no arguing with results. It worked.