NFL football has finally returned, and for the New York Giants, they've gotten off on the right foot. Although things were a bit sluggish at times, they hung in and eventually walked away with an 18-13 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Head coach Tom Coughlin seemed pleased overall, but acknowledged there are some areas — namely the run defense — that need drastic improvement. Safety Antrel Rolle and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins reiterated those statements, and said it's a good starting point for Big Blue.
Key to Victory: Cruzzzzinnnnggg
In his first live action since signing what amounts to a six-year, $45.879 deal, Victor Cruz didn't see much action … and he didn't need to. He caught only one pass the entire the game, but it was a play typical of what we've come to expect from Cruz: a gamebreaker. He got behind the defense, Eli Manning hit him in stride and then it was off to the races. And then when the races were over, it was salsa time. Ultimately, the 57-yard touchdown was the difference between a win and a loss to start the preseason.
- Damontre Mooore. DaMonster. The rookie made his presence felt immediately on Saturday with a blocked punt and then continued to disrupt things throughout the game. It seemed like he was routinely in the backfield, forcing the Steelers' quarterback(s) to flea the pocket and generally disrupting their offensive flow.
- As noted above, Victor Cruz needed only one play to change the game. His 57-yard touchdown was the difference.
- Fighting for a roster spot, safety Tyler Sash had a hell of a game. He was all over the place on defense, recording two tackles for a loss and a safety, and also made his presence felt on special teams, recovering a fumble.
- Adewale Ojomo has been quiet in camp, but apparently he's a gamer. Much like he did a preseason ago, he came up huge in the fourth quarter with 1 1/2 sacks — including one that all but ended the game.
- It won't get talked about, but Steve Weatherford punted the ball six times on Saturday night, averaging 49.5 yards with a long of 58 yards and two downed inside of the 20.
- Rueben Randle said he wanted to make one big play to show the coaches he's not just a practice guy, and he did. He hauled in only one pass for 16 yards, but it was off of a great read, a good adjustment and then made some people miss. It's a great sign for the second-year wideout.
- Brandon Mosley appeared to whiff on a block on the Giants' first series (forcing Eli to release the ball early), but that was about it. He wasn't loud, but he was solid starting in place of Chris Snee and James Brewer for nearly three quarters.
- Linebacker were, as many expected, an issue for the Giants on Saturday night. The first unit in particular failed to stay disciplined and were repeatedly getting beaten in their gaps. And despite an offseason focus on run defense, the Steelers carved the Giants up in the first half, and ended the game with 94 yards on 27 carries. And while the ypc average dipped as the game wore on, Pittsburgh did have seven runs of five yards or more.
- The Matt McCants experiment at center was a terrible idea, led to a bad snap and, ultimately, a safety.
- Ryan Nassib struggled mightily in his first NFL series, and ended up completing only one pass (a good catch by Julian Talley) for 29 yards. There's obviously a lot of room for improvement, but there's also a strong chance his nerves got the best of him.
- Da'Rel Scott led the Giants with 10 carries, but averaged only 1.2 yards per carry (lowest ypc for any running back on either team).
- If you were stuck watching the NBC broadcast of the game, you missed a lot of action. The camera work was downright terrible (they literally missed several plays), and there was the constant sound of an old rotary phone ringing throughout the entirety of the broadcast. At one point, there was also the sound of a loud engine idling for several minutes. A really poor job by NBC.
- Corey Webster didn't see much time on Saturday, but was the primary focus of the Steelers' offense on an early first quarter series. At one point, he got an excellent jam on a wide receiver who was attempting a double move (there didn't appear to be a safety over top) and it forced Ben Roethlisberger to throw the ball away. However, he was beaten on the very next play, but Antonio Brown couldn't keep get his feet down.
- If not for a missed 38-yard field goal, kicker Josh Brown would have had one of the best all-around performances on the team. He consistently booted the ball out of the endzone on kickoffs, and seemed solid on three of his field goal attempts; but that miss from 38-yards is a bit concerning.
- David Wilson did a good job making something out of nothing all night, but it was his pass protection and blitz pickup that were under the microscope. The verdict? He looked better than a season ago, but not quite all the way there yet.
- Andre Brown also had a solid game, but a non-contact fumble? That's the easiest way to find yourself in the doghouse.
- Defensive back Charles James made a lot of noise on Saturday night (two tackles, one tackle for a loss, one sack), but he also made a cardinal (football) sin: he returned a punt from inside the endzone. Tom Coughlin will not be happy about that.
PLAYER OF THE GAME – DE Damontre Moore
Is there really any debate about Moore being the player of the game? Sure, the argument could be made for Cruz, but this rookie loudly announced his arrival to the NFL. He ended the game with four tackles (three solo), one tackle for a loss, one QB hit and a blocked punt. However, it certainly seemed like a lot more than that as he was around the ball carrier on almost every play and was constantly disrupting the quarterback. It'll be interesting to see if he can follow it up with another good performance next week against the Indianapolis Colts.
OVERALL PERFORMANCE GRADE
Considering this was the first preseason game of the new year, expectations shouldn't be too high. Still, after an entire offseason dedicated to beefing up the interior line and focusing on linebacker improvement, the Giants failed dramatically in stopping the run. It's been a primary concern of head coach Tom Coughlin and his assistants, and there's no way in hell they are going to be pleased with Saturday's performance. Meanwhile, on the offensive side of the ball, they continued to struggle inside of the redzone and settled for more field goal attempts than Kevin Gilbride would like to see. Also, that shotgun draw … yeah, apparently it remains in the playbook. But, at the end of the day, a W is a W.
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