When New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck called the 24–20 comeback victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars "a tale of two halves," he wasn't lying. After a first half that featured the Jags offense pushing the Giants defense up and down the field, and an offense that couldn't find the endzone, the Giants came out fired up in the second half, scoring 18 points and holding the Jaguars to only a field goal.
Let's take a look at the morning after storylines:
Justin Tuck tells the defense to Man Up
The early credit for the demonstrative defensive turnaround at halftime goes to a rousing speech by Justin Tuck. Osi Umenyiora got the party started by telling his teammates to quit moaning and man up, but Tuck ripped into his boys about letting the Jags make themselves comfortable in Big Blue's own house.
"A halftime speech for the ages," in the words of the always quotable Barry Cofield (who had a pretty darned good game himself). "I was teary–eyed running back on the field."
Fairly or not, Tuck's been ragged on for his failure to become an emotional leader ever since Michael Strahan and Antonio Pierce left the team. After his own teammates credit his leadership with getting their head back in the game, we'll give him his due credit this week, although Tim Smith of the NY Daily News says it was the Giants' actions, not words, that did the trick.
The first half of the game was familiar: Giants team looking lackadaisical and undisciplined, giving away another game in a season that was starting to feel lost. By the end of the game, the Giants had proven they could stop the rolling snowball, win with a banged up unit, and were in the playoff hunt for good.
"And boy, did the Giants ever need [that win]. A third straight loss would have dropped them to the fringe of the playoff race. Instead, the 15th fourth–quarter comeback of Manning's career put them back in a tie for the final NFC wild card. They then moved into a first–place tie in the NFC East when the Bears beat the Eagles."
To be sure, this was no crowning moment, and the Giants earned nothing but the right to continue playing meaningful games down the stretch. But they did afford themselves that opportunity, and just might have mustered up enough confidence to make some noise in the season's final five games.
Running Game Smells Good
We're going to take two tracks here, the first being the left side of the offensive line, featuring bottom–of–the–barrel options Kevin Boothe and William Beatty.
Despite the duo's presence in the starting lineup keeping Giants fans sleepless leading up to the game, the left side of the line was pretty darn good. Beatty quietly had a solid day protecting Eli Manning's blind side, but he and Boothe really did some great work in the running game. There were more than a few wide open holes for Giants running backs to the left side, and with David Diehl and Shaun O'Hara still not guaranteed to return, that was a really comforting performance.
The second thing here was the flip–flop of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw in the starting lineup. The numbers weren't too gaudy, as the Giants only got to run the ball 23 times, but at almost six yards–per–carry they were doing something right. While a lot of that credit goes to the aforementioned left side of the line, Jacobs deserves credit for running hard all day, and Bradshaw for not fumbling.
We still see Bradshaw as "the guy" when push comes to shove, but look for yesterday's pattern to repeat itself as Tom Coughlin isn't one to mess with success.
JPP and The Boss Man
The Giants have been waiting for Jason Pierre–Paul to utilize his massive potential, and his two forced fumbles in yesterday's second half were a sneak peak at what the big guy can bring.
Kevin Boss, who has proven time and time again what kind of player he is, has been up and down since the injuries to receivers have turned more eyes in his direction. Despite two early penalties, one that nullified a Mario Manningham touchdown, and an ugly dropped pass, Boss made some huge plays in getting the Giants this win.
Return on the horizon?
Speaking of Diehl and O'Hara, the NY Daily News reported this morning that the Giants are "hoping" that Diehl can return this week, while there is no news on O'Hara except for the observation that he was on the sidelines without his trusty walking boot. The line played well yesterday, so this might slide under the radar more than it would otherwise, but the Giants have to be happy to be getting either one of these guys back.
As for the other walking wounded, Steve Smith is still looking to return for the Dec. 12th game against the Minnesota Vikings. No word on Hakeem Nicks. But with studs like Derek Hagan and Michael Clayton out there, who needs em?
No other injuries reported from the game, save an injured hand for DB Brian Jackson.Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, Eli Manning, Jacksonville Jaguars, Justin Tuck, Kevin Boss, National Football League, New York Giants, Osi Umenyiora, Philadelphia Eagles, Ralph Vacchiano, Tom Coughlin
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