Of all the phrases that were likely to describe the 2020 New York Giants, “first place” was certainly not chief among them. And yet, after Big Blue’s 19-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, they sit atop the NFC East standings. The Philadelphia Eagles can reclaim first place by beating the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night. But for now, the Giants can rightfully call themselves division leaders.
The pressing concern from this game is the hamstring injury suffered by quarterback Daniel Jones in the third quarter. On a read-option keeper from the Bengals’ 28-yard line, Jones appeared to clutch at his leg after gaining seven yards. Two plays later, when Jones could hardly move on a 2-yard completion to Wayne Gallman, he left the game for evaluation. Jones tried to return on the Giants’ following possession, but was forced to leave the game for good after just two plays. Head coach Joe Judge said after the game he’s optimistic Jones will be ready for next week in Seattle, but the full extent of the injury won’t be known until an MRI is done.
The final score may suggest that New York edged out a victory in an evenly played game, but in truth the Giants dominated on both sides of the ball. New York outgained Cincinnati 386 to 155 in total yardage, and controlled the ball for nearly 37 and a half minutes. The Bengals, playing their first game without injured rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, only had one true scoring drive. Aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty on Leonard Williams and a questionable pass interference call on Darnay Holmes, Cincinnati moved the ball 72 yards for a touchdown to bring them within two points with 2:33 left in the game. Other than that fourth-quarter drive, Cincinnati’s points came from kick-return touchdown by Brandon Wilson and a field goal following an Evan Engram fumble, which set the Bengals up at midfield.
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New York opened the scoring with a nine-play, 76-yard drive highlighted by a beautiful 53-yard pass to Engram down the right sideline. Gallman capped the possession with a one-yard touchdown plunge on fourth-and-goal. Cincinnati responded with Wilson’s touchdown on the ensuing kickoff, and the teams then punted the ball back and forth until they traded field goals at the end of the half.
The Giants kicked three field goals in the second half, two of which were set up by Bengals turnovers. A diving interception by practice-squad call-up Niko Lalos gave Big Blue the ball at Cincinnati’s 40-yard line, and a forced fumble by Logan Ryan set New York up in the red zone. The Giants had a seemingly comfortable 19-10 lead with under four minutes to go, but the Bengals quick touchdown drive made the score 19-17.
New York made two critical plays in the final minutes to secure the win. The first was a shoestring tackle by Cam Brown in punt coverage, when it appeared Alex Erickson was about to return Cincinnati’s game-winning touchdown. The second came on the very next play, as Jabaal Sheard strip-sacked quarterback Brandon Allen and Williams recovered the fumble.
BIg Blue pulled out a huge victory before entering a four-game stretch against opponents with winning records. Obviously, the health of Jones will be massively important, but if the Giants can get a couple more wins in December, they can put themselves in poll position for the NFC East crown.
Here are your Week 12 “Podium/Sodium Players”, i.e., three players Giants fans would like to reward for their performance, and three they might be feeling a tad salty about.
Gold Medal: S Jabrill Peppers
Peppers continues to flash all over the field. He tied for the team lead in tackles with six, including three solo and one for a loss. He made an impressive play in deep coverage by breaking up a pass to A.J. Green. The former Cleveland Brown has really upped his game the last handful of weeks, making plays wherever he lines up in coordinator Patrick Graham’s defense. He and Ryan have become one of the top safety tandems in the league.
Silver Medal: RB Wayne Gallman
The Giants once again rushed for over a hundred yards, and Gallman was the main producer. He ran for 94 yards on 24 carries, along with a touchdown. The Clemson product’s tough, straight-ahead style has suited Big Blue’s power-blocking scheme perfectly. WIth the tenacious way he’s been running, it’s a wonder why it took both Saquon Barkley and Devonta Freeman getting injured for him to get a meaningful number of touches.
Bronze Medal: K Graham Gano
Gano’s four field goals were responsible for 12 of New York’s 19 points. He hasn’t missed an attempt since Week 2, and was perfect again today despite still feeling fatigue from his recent case of COVID-19. He’s been the most reliable member of the team all year.
Salty: TE Evan Engram
It’s hard to get too down on Engram, as he led the team with 129 receiving yards on six catches. But his fumble in the second quarter led to at least a six-point swing, as the Giants went from having the ball in the red zone to giving possession to the Bengals at midfield. The tight end has picked up his productivity of late, but he continues to be a catalyst of negative plays for Big Blue.
I’m now pretty sure Evan Engram has been involved directly in 7 Giants turnovers this year. SEVEN
— Justin Penik (@JustinPenik) November 29, 2020
His explosive playmaking ability is evident, but Giants fans have grown impatient with his miscues.
Saltier: QB Colt McCoy
Jones’ injury forced McCoy into the game in the third quarter. His performance didn’t exactly inspire confidence. The eleven-year veteran completed six of ten passes for just 31 yards. New York’s playcalling skewed conservative once McCoy came in, but he also made some bad mistakes. He overthrew a swing pass to Dion Lewis on a third-and-7 in the fourth quarter, on a play that had a chance to go for a touchdown. He inexplicably ran out of bounds on a quarterback sweep late in the game when the Giants were trying to kill clock. Fans will be desperate for Jones to get well soon after watching McCoy in the second half.
Saltiest: WR Darius Slayton
The up-and-down Slayton was particularly down on Sunday, having his worst game of the season. He was held without a catch for the first time all year. He couldn’t quite track a deep ball in the second quarter, and was only targeted once more all game. For a player fans were hoping could blossom into a primary receiver, he too frequently pulls disappearing acts in games. If anything, Slayton’s inconsistency has underscored the need for the Giants to find a true number-one wideout in the offseason.