Monday, September 19, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Giants 28, Rams 16
By Dan Graziano
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the New York Giants' eventful 28-16 victory over the St. Louis Rams on "Monday Night Football":
What it means: It's a win, plain and simple, and it's one the Giants needed to get. Were there issues with Eli Manning's accuracy and the secondary and more injuries at the receiver position? Oh, yeah, you betcha there were. But the Giants made enough big plays when it counted that they were able to take full advantage of a Rams team that couldn't get out of its own way. What it means is that the Giants are 1-1, and not 0-2, headed into next week's division showdown with the Eagles in Philadelphia.
Heart and soul: The Giants welcomed their best player and defensive leader, Justin Tuck, back after he missed the Week 1 game with a neck injury. The difference he made was clear. The Giants' defensive line may have played fine without him last week, but with all of the weaknesses they have right now in the secondary and at linebacker, they missed his difference-making plays up front.
Receiver shortage: Hakeem Nicks recovered from his midweek knee injury enough to make an early difference with a brilliant touchdown catch in the first quarter. But the Rams were able to contain him the rest of the way, and the final drive of the first half was costly to the Giants' receiving corps. Mario Manningham suffered a concussion making a key catch on a deep ball, and Domenik Hixon injured his knee catching the touchdown. Neither returned to the game. The good news is that Steve Smith will be active for Sunday's game. The bad news is that he'll be wearing an Eagles uniform.
Secondary depth: Aaron Ross has struggled since becoming a starting cornerback in place of the injured Terrell Thomas, and his struggles continued again Monday, to the point where he was benched for a time in the second half in favor of Michael Coe. The good news for Ross is that Coe was even worse, and he was back in the game soon thereafter -- even returning punts! The problem for the Giants in the secondary right now is a lack of depth. Ross is better suited to a backup role and finds himself overexposed as a starter. And with nothing behind him, the Giants have no one who can sub in for him or Corey Webster when they're struggling or need a break. They need to use Antrel Rolle as a nickel corner and mix and match with extra safeties. They need Prince Amukamara to hurry back, and hope.
What of the QB?: Manning was shaky early on, underthrowing Manningham on some deep balls and missing shorter-range throws. But he got into a rhythm and looked better late. I still think the Giants need to commit to the run game, but they didn't seem to want to do that fully, even though the Rams weren't stopping them. So we'll see what kind of offensive game plan they come up with against the Eagles. The passing game doesn't feel trustworthy right now.
Weak sisters: It appears as though playing the NFC West teams will be a benefit to teams in the NFC East this year. The division that failed to produce a .500 team in 2010 is off to a rough start once again, and is a combined 2-6 overall and 0-4 against the NFC East after two weeks. The Rams, a preseason pick by many to be a surprise team, have looked awful twice. Monday night they effectively handed the Giants two touchdowns while clearly outplaying them in the first half -- one with a muffed punt and one when Cadillac Williams failed to recognize that the lateral he'd dropped was a live ball and Michael Boley scooped it up and ran in for a touchdown. The Giants made some plays, but the Rams helped them win this game. It won't always be so easy.
What's next: The Giants travel to Philadelphia for a Sunday afternoon game against the Eagles, who have beaten them each of the last six times they've played. The Eagles have yet to announce who will start at quarterback, since starter Michael Vick left Sunday night's game with a concussion and backup Vince Young has yet to play since injuring his hamstring in the preseason. Mike Kafka could be the starter for the Eagles against the Giants' pass rush.