By Kimberly Jones
Who saw this New York Giants season coming?
Certainly no one predicted an 0-6 start. A month ago, only the most faithful of Big Blue supporters could have foreseen three consecutive wins. And it defies some sort of football logic that three players – one obtained via in-season trade for a seventh-round draft pick and two others who have battled back repeatedly from injury -- are big reasons the Giants are where they are today.
With a pulse.
Or, as Tom Coughlin said in the locker room after Sunday's 24-20 win over the Raiders, they have kept "the dream alive."
Hello, Jon Beason, Terrell Thomas and Andre Brown.
It's Beason, acquired Oct. 4 in a trade with the Panthers, who is credited by teammates for getting the defense organized, for commanding the huddle, for providing the force -- on the field and in terms of leadership -- that a middle linebacker is supposed to exert.
It's Thomas – who has three torn ACLs on his resume, the last two coming in back-to-back training camps in 2011 and 2012 – who has gotten stronger during the season, still isn't 100 percent and made the interception Sunday that, for now, saved the Giants season. The pick was Thomas' first since Dec. 5, 2010 vs. Washington.
And it's Brown -- since he was drafted by the Giants in the fourth round in 2009, he has spent time with four other teams and come back from a torn Achilles and twice from a broken left leg – who carried 30 times for 115 yards and a touchdown in his first game of the season Sunday. It was the best outing, by far, for a Giants running back in 2013. And the best career outing for Brown, who became the Giants' sixth starting running back in nine games.
Who could have predicted this?
Not Beason, who used to believe he would spend his entire career in Carolina. Not Thomas, who said he's only now rounding into the player he can be but "isn't close" to his ultimate potential. And not Brown, who said his 30 carries felt like 50 after such a long layoff.
Now the question is, where do the Giants go from here? Though it defies reason, and the road before them isn't even paved, it's all in front of them. Even at 3-6.
THE BEASON FACTOR
Beason has taken over the job at middle linebacker in the past three games. He was on the field for 55 of 71 defensive snaps against the Vikings. He didn't miss any of the 118 snaps against the Eagles or Raiders.
Justin Tuck calls Beason "a godsend."
"He has a lot of knowledge about the game," Tuck said. "There are so many times out there on the football field that he sees things before they happen."
The numbers prove that.
Thanks to some research from my other employer, NFL Network, we know that the Giants allowed 34.8 points per game in the first six games and 11.3 points per game in the past three. Opponents averaged 391.3 yards per game in the first six weeks; in the last three games, they've averaged 206.3.
Those are dramatic differences and, yes, the quality of opponent is another variable. But the Giants defense has something to do with it, too.
COWBOYS VS. GIANTS
A few weeks ago, the Giants could only hope that their Nov. 24 home game against the Cowboys would matter. They're a game away from making sure it matters – a lot.
In the meantime, the Giants have special teams issues to resolve, though that seems a daunting task in mid-November, and they have to try to convince Eli Manning not to throw the ball when he knows better.
But, if the Giants can defeat the Packers and, likely QB Scott Tolzien, they would be one game behind the Cowboys.
DOWN WITH JPP
Jason Pierre-Paul has a shoulder injury that likely will require treatment all week but shouldn't keep him off the field. Pierre-Paul was injured just as he started to play his best football of the season. He had his first sack Sunday since the season opener.
"This is the best I've felt," JPP said. "Coming out of the game, starting the game. You know, I was running to the ball every play. I just felt good out there. You know, all I can say, I'm not fully all the way back, but I'm getting there, I'm getting there."
JETS HAVE BYE, WIN ANYWAY
The Jets' bye week got better Sunday when every score that could help them in the playoff picture – that's right, the playoff picture – broke in their favor. Denver beating San Diego and Jacksonville upsetting the Titans helped most directly.
And now, at 5-4 – and with seven games to play, which is an eternity -- the Jets control their playoff fate.
The Jets have become a week-to-week operation under GM John Idzik, so it's hard to imagine Rex Ryan & Co. getting caught up in such a scenario anytime soon. But for a group that no one outside of 1 Jets Drive expected anything from, it's been a remarkable two months.
Think of it this way: If the Jets were basically eliminated from postseason by now, it wouldn't have been a surprise. And the chorus would have crowed, "Same old Jets."
These aren't the same old Jets. They decided in training camp that they could prove a bunch of us wrong. And they just might be right. Maybe they already are.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"There's only a few things you can control throughout the course of the game, and one of them is the effort. …Things weren't pretty at times, but we never broke, we stayed together, and, more importantly, we played with extreme effort." – Giants S Antrel Rolle, after 24-20 win over the Raiders.
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