By Brad Carroll
With its 30-20 victory over the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, the New York Giants have officially become contenders in the NFC East. With their third straight win, over the Texans, Redskins and Falcons, the Giants also put their early-season struggles behind them. After two weeks the Giants were thought to be one of the worst teams in football. Nobody is thinking that anymore.
The Giants offense put up a 30 spot against the Falcons, with quarterback Eli Manning passing for 200 yards and two scores and the running game piling up 124 yards and a touchdown. Even rookie Odell Beckham Jr. got in on the action, catching four passes for 44 yards and a touchdown. The defense did their part as well, shutting down the Falcons running game and hitting Matt Ryan eight times in the game. They got just one sack, but it was a big one.
That all added up to a big Giants victory, as they improve to 3-2 on the season. Here is a look at the three keys to victory we broke down in our game preview and how they played out on the field.
Continue Offensive Resurgence
Why It Was Key: "Against Atlanta, the Giants should find more success on the ground, as the Falcons rank 28th in the league against the rush, allowing 153.5 yards per game. If the Giants continue to pound the ball on the ground against a bad Falcons defense, and use that to set up the passing game, this should be another victory for Big Blue."
How It Played Out: The Giants scored 30 points and had an efficient game running and passing the ball. They rushed for 124 yards on 34 carries, even with Rashad Jennings being lost for the game due to a left knee injury early in the third quarter. Jennings was on his way to a big game before that, with 55 yards on 10 carries. Andre Williams filled in admirably, gaining 65 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown. The rookie added two catches for 18 yards as well. What Williams did in this game more than anything was prove he can be the lead back if Jennings has to miss any time. Manning threw for just 200 yards but had two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Giants scored the final 20 points of the game after falling behind 20-10. The offensive resurgence certainly continued against Atlanta.
Keep Heat On Matty Ice
Why It Was Key: "The Giants defensive front could have a field day chasing Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. The Falcons should be missing four of their starting offensive linemen, meaning Jason Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka and company should get plenty of pressure on the quarterback. If the Giants don't get pressure, and take Ryan down, the Falcons quarterback could have his own field day passing the ball."
How It Played Out: The Giants couldn't stop Julio Jones, who caught 11 passes for 105 yards, but overall they did what they needed to do to slow down Ryan and the passing game. Ryan completed 29-of-45 passes for 319 yards with a touchdown. But the Giants did bring the pressure, and brought Ryan down once. One sack doesn't sound like a lot against a patchwork offensive line, but the one the Giants finally got sealed the game. With 4:40 to play the Falcons elected to go for it on fourth and one from their own 29 and trailing 27-20. Giants lineman Johnathan Hankins shut down the pass play almost immediately, bringing down Ryan for a game-sealing sack. The Giants got just that one, but they did pressure Ryan eight times when he dropped back to pass. That would be considered a success. The Giants also deflected nine Ryan passes. The Falcons running game was shut down as well, with Steven Jackson gaining just 37 yards on 13 carries.
Keep The Ball, Take The Ball
Why It Was Key: "The Falcons have turned the ball over 10 times in four games, with six interceptions and four lost fumbles. The Falcons patch-work offensive line should give the Giants defense plenty of opportunities to force some takeaways, they just have to take advantage. Win the turnover battle, and the Giants likely win their third straight game."
How It Played Out: The Giants ended up losing the turnover battle, but this time it didn't come back to bite them. Both turnovers were of the terrible variety, if there is a variety of turnover. After the Falcons tied the game at 7-7 late in the first quarter, Preston Parker fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Atlanta recovered at the Giants 21. Six plays later, the Falcons had the lead after a 20-yard field goal. The next fumble came off an interception by Quintin Demps on the first drive of the third quarter. Demps intercepted Ryan at the Giants 45 on a deep pass intended for Roddy White. He ran it back six yards but fumbled and the Falcons recovered. Atlanta ended up gaining 16 yards on the turnover-takeaway. The Falcons ended up punting, but the Giants wasted what would have been a great chance to score, as they would have had the ball in Atlanta territory. So, the Giants lose the turnover battle, but on this day it didn't matter, as Big Blue won their third straight game.