By Paul Dottino
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EAST RUTHERFORD – Perfect? Nah. Pretty? Not that either. But it was a win and the Giants will take it.
The 28-20 victory over a the feisty Detroit Lions provided Tom Coughlin with the perfect complement to last month's loss to the Tennessee Titans should he want to put together a two-part video for a scintillating coaching seminar: "The Art of Survival in the NFL: Mistakes and penalties are unacceptable."
The Giants were flagged for only two penalties and – discounting punter Matt Dodge's fumbled snap – the offense did not commit any turnovers while making just enough plays and taking advantage of several Lions' miscues. Detroit (1-5) was penalized 13 times, lost two of their five fumbles and Antrel Rolle sealed the game by intercepting a high throw with 7 seconds to play. Does any of this sound familiar - as is how the roles were reversed for the Giants in Week 3 against Tennessee?
If nothing else, the Giants (4-2) have since gone on a three-game winning streak and their latest victory ought to further prove Coughlin's point about how self-destructive mistakes can be in this league. Let's get to our review:
Offense – C Shaun O'Hara. Ok, hold it right there. You're undoubtedly raising your eyebrows, thinking why we're not going with either running back Ahmad Bradshaw (133 yards) or Brandon Jacobs (2 TDs). Easy. O'Hara had a strong all-around game despite making his first appearance in four weeks following a battle with Achilles' tendinitis/foot bursitis. He started practicing this past week and said he got optimistic about playing after Thursday's session.
Our review of the tape indicates O'Hara had seven key blocks on running plays worth 51 yards – and the Giants finished with 167 rushing yards. (For those of you unfamiliar with our grading – a key block is a block at the point of attack on a running play of more than 4 yards or one that goes for a touchdown.) At the same time, we'd also be remiss if we didn't credit Bradshaw for holding onto the ball and Jacobs, who reached the end zone for the third consecutive week while returning to his powerful running style.
Defense – DE Osi Umenyiora. We'll take the obvious one here. The guy had two strip-sacks, giving him 11 forced fumbles over his past 15 sacks. Perhaps he was being humble after the game when he explained that he's always whacking at the ball because a sack is nothing more than a tackle for a loss if you don't cause a turnover. Rather than argue his point, we'll just give him credit for his two big plays.
The first sack short-circuited the opening drive of the third quarter and Justin Tuck recovered the fumble at the Giants' 39. Midway through the fourth, Umenyiora's other forced fumble was recovered by offensive tackle Jeff Backus (who was beaten on the play) at the Lions' 6. S Deon Grant was close to stealing this game ball for his forced fumble/recovery on WR Nate Burleson near midfield with 5 minutes left; but he missed tackles on a 20-yard scramble and a 10-yard pass on the Lions' final drive.
Special teams – P Matt Dodge. Wow, this was a very hard category to figure out. How do we reward a guy who had an outstanding game AFTER he twice fumbled his first snap and allowed the Lions to take over at the Giants' 43?
Because he then donned a tacky receiver's glove on his left hand and went on to average 46.7 yards on six punts while placing three inside the 20 and enticing two fair catches. Besides, the only other candidates were long snapper Zak DeOssie, who batted away a punt from the end zone in the first quarter, and emergency kicker Shayne Graham, who was perfect on his kicks only a day after being signed to sub for the injured Lawrence Tynes (ankle).
Offense – WR Hakeem Nicks. Look, somebody has to be the fall guy for an offense that produced just one drive of more than 60 yards and he's been the Giants' big-play star during the first part of the season.
He didn't drop anything, but was targeted seven times and limited to three receptions for 8 yards. Nicks also failed to follow through on a block against DB Chris Houston, whose hustle down the right sideline prevented Bradshaw's 45-yard jaunt in the fourth quarter from becoming a touchdown.
Defense – CB Terrell Thomas. He really didn't play poorly, but his stat line shows 2 TD passes and a dropped INT. Let's take these one at a time. In the first quarter, QB Shaun Hill hit Burleson with a perfectly-thrown 14-yard fade over Thomas in the left corner of the end zone.
Early in the fourth, Calvin Johnson beat a falling Thomas down the left sideline on an 87-yard TD. Thomas was playing underneath the receiver and tripped as the ball reached its target; meanwhile, Rolle was slow and took a bad angle while attempting to provide help over the top, springing Johnson for the score. With 1:34 to play, Thomas reached up and had a game-sealing interception go through his hands near the Lions' 35. Yet Thomas still finished with five tackles and knocked down two passes.
Special teams – CB Bruce Johnson. With under 4 minutes left and the Giants ahead, 28-17, he had the best chance to tackle KOR Stefan Logan, who raced 58 yards to the Giants' 40. The return allowed Jason Hansen's 50-yard field goal to keep the Lions alive. We also cannot forget Dodge's fumble, so we're going to tell him to do his sprints while holding his game ball.
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