More than the victories, the Giants are learning about themselves
So … umm … yeah. About changing my pick after the Odell Beckham Jr, injury news and being the only Big Blue View writer to pick the Washington Redskins to defeat the New York Giants on Sunday.
That wasn’t a very good idea.
Washington, D.C. sports columnist Rick Snider tried to tell me during a ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast this week just how bad things were for the Alex-Smith-Colt-McCoy-less Redskins. Apparently, I didn’t listen closely enough, thinking the absences of Beckham and Landon Collins and the Giants being, well, the Giants would lead to a bad result on Sunday for Big Blue.
I didn’t realize how bad things were for the Redskins until I watched it with my own eyes. I guess maybe I didn’t quite believe how far the Giants have come in recent weeks, either.
Coach Pat Shurmur has talked since preseason about the Giants being on the right path. That path didn’t look right during a first half of the season that saw the Giants flounder around and throw away realistic playoff hopes by going 1-7.
Four victories in five games, albeit against a string of backup quarterbacks and mostly bad teams. Even the victory over the Chicago Bears, 8-3 at the time, has to be taken in the context of the fact that Chase Daniel was playing quarterback for the Bears instead of the injured Mitchell Trubisky.
Still, victories are victories. The Giants are 5-8, still have a shot at a .500 season and — mathematically — are still alive in the NFC East race.
After Sunday’s victory, Shurmur was again talking about the path the Giants are on.
“I think the locker room, I think the guys are listening. Teams beat teams,” Shurmur said.
“We’re getting better. We certainly did not start the year the way we wanted but we’re playing more in a way that’s evidence we’re getting better and we’re on the right track.”
The Giants won a game and scored 40 points — yes, 40! — without Odell Beckham Jr. suiting up. They probably could have scored 50, but Saquon Barkley and Eli Manning took the fourth quarter off.
“I’m happy for our team. It’s rare that you have these types of wins where you’re thinking about who you’re gonna put in the game in the fourth quarter. More than anything I’m pleased for our team,” Shurmur said.
“Sometimes when I say it’s about team and you keep playing and you don’t do the math … if you do that then we can have a day like today and you can build on that. Years are connected.”
The Giants still have a mathematical shot at the playoffs though realistically they understand that what they are doing — or trying to do — is lay a foundation for a brighter future that will hopefully lead them back to being a perennial contender.
Sunday, they added another impressive block. Even it was against a demoralized, weapon-less, injury-riddled Washington team it was impressive. It was a division victory, the Giants first. It was on the road. It was a game they were supposed to win, the kind of games 4-8 teams quite often don’t win.
“A game like today just kinda confirms what we all believe,” Shurmur said. “If you play hard and you play for the guy next to you and you’re happy for everybody making good plays it kinda feeds on itself and you can have a day like today.”
The Giants have now averaged 31.4 points over the last five games. Pretty amazing for a team that didn’t score 30 a single time over the two prior seasons, and still hasn’t changed the quarterback who supposedly stopped being able to play capably a couple of years ago.
Speaking of which, as this surge the Giants are on continues you have to think that with each quality offensive game the likelihood of Eli Manning being the starting quarterback for the Giants in 2019 increases. Especially after Kyle Lauletta showed in his fourth-quarter cameo that he isn’t ready for prime time.
“Everybody has to do their job ands we’ve done a better job of protecting for Eli, and running the ball and playing a better style of team offense. I think that helps every quarterback,” Shurmur said.
“I’m certainly pleased with the way Eli’s led us here.”
Manning and the Giants offense had fun. So much fun that the old, stoic quarterback even took part in a couple of team end zone photo poses after the Giants had scored touchdowns.
“Those don’t happen that often in the NFL,” Manning said. “It’s fun to be in those type of games when everything seems to be working.”
The Giants’ path has led them to the realization that the offense has to revolve around Saquon Barkley.
The incredible rookie had a 78-yard touchdown run, a 52-yard run and finished 14 carries for 170 yards and four receptions for 27 more.
“He’s (Saquon) a tremendous player. We’re starting to figure out this offense runs through him a little bit,” Manning said.
“When we’re running the ball well it just sets up everything else. It sets up the play action, it sets up so much.”
The defense got three interceptions and made Mark Sanchez, a third-string quarterback who wasn’t in the league three weeks ago, look the way he was supposed to look. Not very good.
The Giants took advantage of an injury-ravaged Washington line for five sacks and held Adrian Peterson to 16 yards rushing on 10 carries.
You can’t carry momentum from one season to the next. The Giants also have to replace Manning eventually, and even if he is back next season they would be well served to add another young quarterback to the roster as a potential heir.
What the Giants can do is build a foundation. The first half of the season made us wonder if perhaps the Giants were trying to build something while standing on the side of a hill in a mud slide.
Now, they are learning who they are, what they are and figuring out what their path to victory is. The Giants have a long way to go before their roster, especially on defense is complete.
It does increasingly, though, look like the Giants are indeed setting off on a good path.