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Saturday, December 24, 2011
Halftime thoughts: One big play

By Dan Graziano

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Well, I'd be lying to you if I said the New York Giants have looked good. In most significant ways, they have been dominated by the Jets in the first half of their crucial Week 16 game here at MetLife Stadium. But no matter what happens, the Giants can always count on their passing game to save them. And so, with 2:27 left in the first half, facing a third-and-10 from his own 1-yard line, Eli Manning found Victor Cruz just past the first-down marker. Cruz juked two Jets defenders and was gone, 99 yards for what may turn out to be the most significant Giants touchdown of the year.

Of the 182 yards the Giants gained on offense in the first half, 99 came on one play. Other than that play, they have struggled to do anything against the Jets' defense. They have six rushing yards, and their efforts to pick on Jets star cornerback Darrelle Revis with Hakeem Nicks have resulted in frustration. Revis broke up a would-be touchdown pass on third down earlier in the game and the Giants had to settle for a field goal.

But when Cruz caught that ball at the 12-yard line, he found himself between Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie, and neither could bring him down. So the Giants took a 10-7 lead shortly before halftime.

They were able to hold it because their defense has been getting stops today, and got a big one toward the end of the half. Each of the Giants' past five opponents has converted at least 50 percent of its third downs. But the Jets are just 2-for-8 on third down Saturday, and Jason Pierre-Paul's 7-yard sack of Mark Sanchez just before halftime may have pushed Nick Folk out of field-goal range. Folk missed the kick that would have tied the game with time ticking off the clock.

All in all, the Giants have to be ecstatic with the way things have gone. They haven't been able to do anything on offense other than one play. They have allowed the Jets 185 yards but only seven points. And they are leading at halftime. If they can continue to play this bend-but-don't-break defense and get one or two more big plays on offense, then a couple of  hours from now they may well leave here knowing for sure that they'll still have a chance to win the division next week.