Not only does the 7-3 start shed great light on the New York Giants offense, it allows fans to realize that the defense is back in Jersey.
The New York Giants won their seventh game on Sunday against the Chicago Bears, their fifth straight victory. Their 22-16 triumph also continues their one-possession win streak. That’s right, they have won every game by one possession.
The victory, important as it may have been, was not nearly as convincing as it should of been. New York had every opportunity to bury the Bears in the second half, yet were unable to do so.
After scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions, the Giants punted on their next five, picking up only two first downs in the process. Eli Manning and the offense, which looked ready to blow the doors off the Bears in the third quarter, faltered in the most important moments of the game.
Last year, the Bears probably would have won this game. Jay Cutler would have driven the Bears seamlessly down the field, leading to a last minute, game winning touchdown. However, this year, it is a different story: largely due to the Giants defense.
The Bears were completely hapless against Steve Spagnuolo’s unit. In their seven second half possessions, Chicago punted five times, missed a field goal, and threw an interception. In that period, they picked up only four first downs.
In particular, the defensive line was dominant. According to Pro Football Focus, defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon combined for 3.5 sacks and seven hurries. Damon Harrison and Jonathan Hankins were unplayable in the second half as well, holding rookie sensation Jordan Howard to only seven yards in the second half, after surrendering 70 in the first.
Landon Collins was also strong, racking up six solo tackles, three passes defensed, and the game sealing interception. Jonathan Casillas made several emphatic plays in the heart of the defense. Rookie first rounder Eli Apple led the team with nine tackles.
For a multitude of reasons, the Giants defense has taken a step from awful to near elite.
For one, the huge offseason spending spree.
Vernon, who started slowly, is finally exploding into life. His second half performance was breathtaking, as he tortured Chicago’s (albeit injury riddled) offensive line. Damon Harrison has been the difference in the run game — this season, they rank eight best in run defense in the NFL. Last season, they were 24th. Finally, Janoris Jenkins has been a revelation at cornerback — he draws opposing team’s top wide receivers every week, and has still been tremendous in pass coverage and on special teams.
Secondly, the homegrown talent is beginning to develop.
Eli Apple has been up and down, but his nine tackles were massive, including one that stopped a Bears first down, and his fumble recovery on Dwyane Harris’s muffed punt return was a huge difference maker. If Apple doesn’t get to that ball, the Bears would have had a great chance to take it all the way to the house.
Landon Collins, as well, as been incredible. After winning NFC Defensive Player of the Week in consecutive weeks, Collins followed up with another masterful display. He was targeted four times on Sunday, and only one of those passes was completed. He also came up with yet another game changing interception. Collins is turning into a true star at safety, which is incredible to see.
Finally, the Giants defensive confidence is back.
Last year, they had a poor mindset. After blowing so many late leads, including giving away double digit advantages in the fourth quarter in Weeks 1 and 2, it was expected throughout the rest of the season that the Giants defense would fold in key moments.
This, however, is not the case anymore. Even when Jay Cutler completed a 35 yard pass to Marquess Wilson in the dying minutes, putting the Bears into Giants territory, there was little doubt that the defense would hold. And hold they did, as Pierre-Paul sacked Cutler, and Collins picked off his pass to end the game.
New York’s offense has been pretty disappointing this season. Eli Manning has been inconsistent, the running game has, until the last two weeks, been dreadful. They also have not been able to put together a complete game, failing to score on their last seven possessions in the second half.
But the defense is flying, and after their second half shutout of Chicago, have all the confidence in the world heading into next weeks matchup with the winless Cleveland Browns.
After that, the Giants face, to end the season, Ben Roethlisberger, Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz, and Kirk Cousins. Some pundits still doubt New York’s defense, claiming they haven’t dominated good teams, and are feasting on a weaker part of the schedule.
But the Giants, particularly their defense, have all the momentum in the world heading into the back stretch of the season.
If they continue their dominance against bonafide starting quarterbacks, there should be no doubt that for the first time in a long time, the New York Giants defense is great again.