Giants Need Late Touchdown to Edge Dolphins

And yet, in a season in which little has come easily for the Giants, even beating the lowly on Sunday was a challenge. The Giants were inconsistent and erratic, taking their first — and only — lead of the game with six minutes to play. Victor Cruz’s 25-yard touchdown catch ultimately proved the difference in that was as uncomfortable for the Giants as it was satisfying.

“We weren’t as sharp as we thought we were going to be,” Tom Coughlin said. “I would have liked to finish the game better.”

What lies ahead is jarring. , the Giants face only one team with a losing record the rest of the season (the rival Philadelphia Eagles), a step up in class that is impossible to ignore.

Consider: the Giants’ first seven opponents entered Sunday with a combined record of 12-30. Their latest foil, the winless Dolphins, had played so poorly that Coughlin, during his weekly news conference, focused on the fact that Miami did not commit many penalties as one of its best attributes.

Publicly, the Giants paid proper respect to the Dolphins (0-7), but even they would admit that Miami was the perfect warm-up to the meat of their schedule: the Dolphins did not rank in the top 10 in any meaningful offensive or defensive category; were without their starting running back; and are led by a coach, Tony Sparano, who seems to know his time on the job is running short. If there had been a hotel bill slipped under the Giants’ locker room door Sunday — symbolizing the end of the vacation — it would not have been surprising.

But a familiar array of issues hindered the Giants (5-2), who have struggled to establish a running game and did so again despite the return of the injured guard Chris Snee and the backup running back Brandon Jacobs. Ahmad Bradshaw ran for just 50 yards on 13 carries, while Jacobs, who was booed constantly by the home fans, struggled to 10 yards rushing on four carries. Jacobs also fumbled once and dropped a pass.

The Giants have had a player rush for 100 yards or more just once this season, and with games against the Patriots, the San Francisco 49ers, the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers in the offing (the combined going into Sunday), it is an area that must be addressed.

“We didn’t have a lot of rhythm running the ball today,” Coughlin said. “And we’re going to need it.”

made up for the lack of a ground game by passing for 349 yards, while Cruz had team highs of seven catches and 99 yards. It was the 18th time Manning had led the Giants back from a fourth-quarter deficit, and the Giants’ fifth straight game in which the decisive score came with nine minutes or less remaining. The Giants have won four of the five.

“I don’t like that we keep putting ourselves in that position,” linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. “But we have a lot of confidence late.”

For much of Sunday, however, it was difficult not to think of the one game in that stretch the Giants did not win: the in Week 5.

That game, like this one, featured the Giants against an inferior opponent at home. Coming off wins over the Eagles and the Arizona Cardinals, the Giants were seen as a lock. Instead, they were a letdown.

This time, against a Dolphins team that is worse than Seattle, the Giants produced a similar opening — Miami led, 14-3, in the second quarter — but did enough in the fourth quarter to avoid another loss. The defense, in particular, stiffened after a rocky beginning. Miami’s Reggie Bush rushed for 103 yards in place of the injured starter Daniel Thomas, but the Giants forced four punts and recorded an interception on Miami’s final five drives.

Buoyed by the return of defensive end Justin Tuck from injury, the Giants also sacked Matt Moore five times, including four times in the fourth quarter.

“We knew if we got them in a passing situation that they were going to be in trouble,” defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. “We just have to keep on fighting. We have all the talent in the world.”

That may be, but there are still worrying signs. Beyond the running game (or lack thereof) and inconsistent defense, there was also a dearth of discipline.

The Giants were called for two personal fouls in the first half, both of which preceded Dolphins touchdowns. There were also the back-to-back penalties that stalled the Giants’ best first-quarter drive (they settled for a field goal), as well as the timeout Coughlin had to burn in the second quarter when the Giants had only 10 players on the field.

The thrill of Corey Webster’s game-sealing interception with about two minutes left surely helped erase some of the Giants’ concerns, but if the goal is to play deep into January — something the Giants have said since training camp — then they will need cleaner performances as they exit vacation and enter the gantlet.

Of course, like a beachgoer at sunset, Coughlin did not want to leave.

“Can we enjoy this one first?” he said when asked about the schedule. “Then we can talk about that another time.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.