Commentary

Giants rejoice over Christmas Eve win

After being insulted by the Jets all week long, Big Blue played with extra inspiration

Updated: December 24, 2011, 11:43 PM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants arrived at their own stadium to the type of frosty welcome usually reserved for a road team.

The mural of the Giants' Super Bowl trophies and logos on the wall in front of their locker room had been covered by black curtains.

Rex Ryan didn't just want the Giants to know that the Jets were better than them. He wanted them to feel like an outsider in the home they share with the Jets.

Unfortunately for Rex, it all backfired, playing right into Tom Coughlin's hands. The Giants, a team capable of flat-lining emotionally on any given Sunday (or in this case Saturday), played this game like it was an in-state college rivalry.

The Giants logged mental notes about everything said about them during the week. They heard about Rex's boast, Santonio Holmes' rip of the Giants' secondary, how the Jets defense plastered a photo of Eli Manning getting creamed on its playbooks, and even how New Jersey governor Chris Christie picked the Jets to win.

In all his years of coaching, Coughlin may never have had a more packed bulletin board than he had this week, courtesy of the Jets. It was the greatest Christmas gift one could ever have given the Giants head coach.

The curtains were the final straw for the Giants, and ended up leading to curtains for the Jets by the end of the day, as the fired-up G-Men kept their season alive with a 29-14 win.

"[Ryan] is a very disrespectful (b-------)," running back Brandon Jacobs said in an interview on the field after the game with ESPN's Sal Paolantonio. "I'm glad we came out here and gave it to him. I wish I got a chance to go over there on that sideline. He is disrespectful. I understand why [offensive coordinator Kevin] Gilbride and [Ryan's] pop got into it a long time ago because they all talk too much."

"They got a big-mouthed coach, a big mouth and a big-bellied coach that talks too much and now it's finally time to shut up," he added.

Jacobs said he and the Jets coach exchanged words on the field after the Giants' victory. According to the Giants running back, Ryan approached him and the two got into it verbally.

"I didn't really say too much to him," Jacobs said. "He told me shut the F up, wait till we win the Super Bowl. And I told him I'd punch him in the face."

The Giants came into this game acting like they had been insulted and had payback on their minds. The defense came to play, sacking Mark Sanchez five times and intercepting him twice. They held the Jets offense to 4-for-21 on third downs. The mental lapses that plagued Perry Fewell's secondary for weeks were cleaned up for the most part.

Victor Cruz provided yet another sensational play in his breakout season with a 99-yard catch-and-run touchdown late in the second quarter, which gave the Giants the lead for good. Cruz beat Kyle Wilson before breaking a tackle by Antonio Cromartie and hopping over a desperation tackle attempt by Eric Smith on the right sideline.

Manning didn't have a great game, with 225 yards passing and one touchdown with one interception. But he had help from the defense and his running game showed up in the second half, as Ahmad Bradshaw scored two touchdowns and he and Jacobs trucked Jets defenders.

Coughlin may have done one of his best coaching jobs of the season as well. The Giants had an outstanding week of practice. Several injured Giants practiced on Wednesday, even on a limited basis, to try to set the tone early, as Antrel Rolle had hoped for after last week's Washington debacle.

Coughlin also had a sitdown during the week with defensive captain Justin Tuck, who played his best game of the season with four tackles, one sack and two batted-down passes.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Jacobs
Ed Mulholland/US PresswireBrandon Jacobs was so fired up after the game, he got into it with Jets coach Rex Ryan.

And late in the fourth quarter, Coughlin took a shot to his left leg when running back D.J. Ware was inadvertently shoved into him on the sideline during a run. To no one's surprise, the 65-year-old coach who preaches about toughness sat out a couple of plays to get his leg checked but then returned to the sideline and finished coaching the Giants to a season-extending victory over the Jets.

"I say you have to kill him to keep him down," team owner and CEO John Mara said of Coughlin.

Mara might've had the urge to kill if the Giants had lost this game to the Jets and squandered their chance at winning the NFC East.

"Given everything that was at stake, given all the noise that was coming out of Florham Park, it means a little more," Mara said. "I try not to pay a lot of attention to [Ryan's comments]. It is difficult to ignore sometimes. I know [the Giants players] wanted this. They were jacked up all week."

"Let's just say I wanted this game," he added.

The Jets certainly gave the Giants a helping hand with 10 penalties for 95 yards, in addition to an offense that couldn't hit for any plays bigger than 15 yards all day.

But the Giants enjoyed themselves during this game. They showed swagger and life that they didn't have against the Redskins just six days earlier in the same stadium.

Give an assist to Ryan and the Jets.

"We had a fight scheduled for 1 o'clock on Saturday," linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. "You can talk all you want, but after school when that bell sounds, you gotta be ready to fight." Afterward, Lawrence Tynes, Zak DeOssie and David Diehl, still in pads, opened the curtains to reveal the Giants' Super Bowl mural on the wall in front of their locker room.

"This is Giants Stadium!" Diehl said after opening the curtains.

When asked about the curtains, Tuck replied, "The fact of the matter is, I have a Super Bowl ring."

And the Giants still have a chance to potentially play for another one. Their victory over the Jets ensured that next week's game against the Cowboys will decide the NFC East.

But first, the Giants will savor this Christmas Eve victory.

"We are going to celebrate this win," Jacobs said. "And I am going to let [Ryan] have the worst Christmas he can have."

Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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