Week 5 – Atlanta @ NY Giants: Becks steals the show

One thing I realized this week is that I enjoy being a fan of teams that are constantly doubted. It’s kinda fun and makes you refine your debating skills.

I’m a Hawthorn fan who just watched my team demolish the heavily favoured Swans in the AFL Grand Final and I’m an Arsenal fan who is desperately holding on to the days when we were relevant.

First and foremost, I’m a New York Giants fan.

If you read my Week 1 report you’ll find out very quickly that even I’d lost faith in Big Blue. I was wrong and I will gladly eat my humble pie (as should Matty Football).

What was recognized, but grossly overlooked early in the season was that the Giants had installed a completely new offensive system for the first time since 2006. For a proudly stable franchise like the Giants, any significant change is like watching the servants of Downton Abbey deal with the introduction of the telephone.

So while the world keeps doubting the Giants, they keep winning. The meshing of new and old was obvious right from the first drive with the first play call being old trusty: a run to the left through the B gap. Two plays later Eli audibled into a planned scramble out of the pocket, throwing on the run to Victor Cruz.

You read that correctly. Eli audibled into a play where he took the snap and deliberately scrambled. Deliberately. It’s a brave new world.

With all the new, there is still plenty of old. Make no mistake, with all the changes, this Giants team is still built on the principles that have served them well for generations: run the ball and have strong line play. Both were present on Sunday.

Most strikingly was the play of the defensive line which was circa 2011. Most notably, Jason Pierre-Paul looked physically unimpaired for the first time in a long time and was back to his disruptive ways. The unsung group of DT Johnathan Hankins, DE Robert Ayers and DT Cullen Jenkins got hot in the second half and consistently got pressure on Matty Water (That is Matty Ice when he’s got heat on him…get it?)

The star of the show, though, was a guy named Beckham. Big Blue faithful had waited a long time for the 12th overall pick to make his debut, with Beckham missing the entire pre-season and the first four games with a hamstring injury.

It was worth the wait.

Beckham’s sheer presence had a debilitating effect on Atlanta’s defensive backs and Eli was not shy to throw the rookie’s way. Speed kills in the NFL and while Beckham is certainly going to burn better secondaries before his career is over, his 4.4 speed and 10” suction cup hands caused immediate worries for the already flimsy Falcons defense. Four catches for 44 yards and the go-ahead TD catch in the 4th quarter was Beckham’s reward.

Eli Manning was consistent for the third straight week and what I’ve been most impressed by is his consistent inconsistency in using receivers. Five receivers have 10+ receptions and a different five have caught TD passes. One week it’s Larry Donnell, the next Reuben Randle, the next Victor Cruz. It’s the correct approach to keep the defense guessing in the analytical minefield that is the NFL.

Despite all the hoopla there are still some worries for this Giants team. Rashad Jennings left with a knee strain but was aptly covered by rookie Andre Williams. Matt Ryan and the Atlanta passing game racked up 300+ yards with most of those to the dominant Julio Jones. The pass defense is still vulnerable to big plays and the next two games are against Dallas and Philadelphia, who both have top 10 passing attacks.

Perhaps the most notable concern is the fumbling of return men Quintin Demps and Preston Parker, who both contributed a lost fumble on Sunday. NFL games are decided on turnovers and Tom Coughlin is wickedly harsh on fumblers. For Parker in particular, he has now contributed two return fumbles going back to the last game of the pre-season.

Luckily for both, the Giants just released return man Trindon Holliday who had been on IR, so they appear safe for now. Nonetheless, I’d expect to see more Beckham in the return game come Sunday night in Philadelphia and if you haven’t seen some of Beckham’s returns from his LSU days it’s worth a YouTube.

Finally, the last concern is mine. It’s with the coaching. Why do the Giants’ coaches persist with kicking and punting to the elite return men in the game? They tested Devin Hester on Sunday and while it didn’t hurt the team this time, the wounds are still fresh from the Miracle in The Meadowlands 3. OUT. OF. BOUNDS!

There is still much to work on for the Giants, and as the Patriots emphatically showed us this week, the NFL is a week-to-week proposition. New York is above .500 for the first time since 2012, so the team is headed in the right direction…up.

They head to Philadelphia for another prime time game (Washington on TNF, anyone?) with everyone still doubting them. As usual.

It’s going to be a fun week.

Oct 5
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford NJ (80,307)

Atlanta 7 6 7 0 – 20
NY Giants 7 3 7 13 – 30

Passing: Matt Ryan (ATL), 396 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Andre Williams (NYG), 20 car, 65 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: Julio Jones (ATL), 11 rec, 105 yds
Pigskin Almanac “Osi Umenyiora Memorial” award:  Odell Beckham, Jr. (NYG)

About Cody Royle

A Melbourne-native, Cody packed up and moved to Toronto, Canada in 2009 largely to be closer to the NFL and his beloved New York Giants. He now coaches the Canadian Aussie Rules team and can be found tweeting @codyroyle.

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