Lay off the panic button for another week. The Giants’ season is still alive thanks to their skin-of-the-teeth, 24-20 victory over the Jaguars.
If not for rough-and-tumble tight end Kevin Boss fixing his dropped passes problems at just the right time in the fourth quarter, we might be writing about the imminent demise of the Giants’ season right now. Instead, they’re 7-4 and right back on the cusp of the playoff picture.
With 5-6 Washington coming up next week at the New Meadowlands Stadium, the Giants could propel themselves right into the thick of things with a second straight win.
This one wasn’t pretty, and for an entire first half things appeared nearly hopeless. But at the end, the good outweighed the bad.
Kevin Boss: He dropped two passes early on, but he came up huge on the Giants’ final two scoring drives. His 24-yard completion to Jags’ 29 set up Eli Manning’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Mario Mannigham that tied the score at 17 with 13:42 left in the game. Two possessions later, after a throw and a run of 18 yards by Manningham and Brandon Jacobs, respectively, Boss caught a pass by the sidelines, shook off a tackle, and completed a 33-yard catch-and-run for the winning touchdown. With receivers Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks out, they needed the tight end to make good use of his experience, and he came up big at just the right time.
Justin Tuck: He really came alive in the second half and nearly had himself an interception. That said, he was in the backfield a lot, even though he came away with just half a sack. His work on the Jaguars’ final drive, where he shared an 11-yard sack with Antrel Rolle just moments after a penalty got the Jaguars a first down on the Giants’ 29, was outstanding.
Jason Pierre-Paul: The first-round defensive end used his big wingspan to swat the ball away from David Garrard on second-and-21 on the final drive. Garrard recovered, but the fumble gave him no chance to get close to converting.
Terrell Thomas: He made an interception, nearly had another, and caused the fumble that Antrel Rolle picked up on the final series, allowing the Giants to run out the clock. After a couple of rough weeks, it appears Thomas has regained his playmaker mojo.
Brandon Jacobs: Reinstated to starter after a season sitting behind Ahmad Bradshaw, Jacobs responded nicely with 87 yards on 14 carries. That’s a healthy 6.2-yard per carry average. For the most part, he ran with authority, the kind one expects from a 264-pound running back.
Eli Manning: He didn’t light the place up on 14-of-24, 220-yard passing. But he didn’t throw an interception, either. Considering his play of the last two weeks, that’s a huge step up and a big reason they were able to stay in this game.
RUN DEFENSE: For the league’s third-ranked unit against the run, it couldn’t have played much worse in giving up 145 first-half rushing yards. The 90 they allowed in the first quarter was the most first-quarter ground yards since 2002. Maurice Drew-Jones put together his fourth straight 100-yard game, and the Jags rushed for 207 yards in the Giants’ worst showing against the run this season.
Aaron Ross: What made him feel worse, the stomach virus that kept him out of practice for a day or the defensive holding call on a failed third-down pass that gave the trailing Jaguars life at the Giants’ 29 on Jacksonville’s final series. He’s lucky the rest of the defense bailed him out afterward, for Tom Coughlin was surely boiling over on the sideline.
Matt Dodge: Another shank, but he got away with it as it rolled about 25 yards to make it look like a 50-yarder in the scorebook.
First Half Defense: Besides not being able to defend the run, it couldn’t get off the field, either. The Jaguars put together scoring drives of nine, 15, and 13 plays to go into halftime on top 17-6.
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