By Curt Macysyn
The reason the Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin preaches discipline is because the team who makes less mistakes usually wins in the NFL. The Giants – Bills contest was a perfect case in point, as both teams played a mistake-plagued game, but the Bills were over the top with committing too many penalties. In the first half alone, the Bills had nine penalties, and they ended up with 17 penalties in the game, including back-to-back major penalties in the fourth quarter, as the Giants were grinding down the clock.
The Bills’ Preston Brown was the main culprit as his continued lack of discipline essentially handed the game to the Giants with nonsensical personal foul call with less than four minutes left in the game. The Giants were not exactly pristine themselves with 11 penalties for 85 yards. But the Giants did gain seven first downs via Bills’ penalties.
The offense clicks when Eli Manning has multiple weapons at his disposal, and wideout Dwayne Harris emerged as a receiving threat this week. Harris caught a 21-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter to give the Giants the lead, and he had five catches for 51 yards on the afternoon.
On the negative end of things, rookie tight end Will Tye dropped a sure first down on the first drive of the second half, which caused a promising drive to stall, and offensive guard Geoff Schwartz erased a 27-yard catch and carry by Shane Vereen by illegally being downfield. Right after the Schwartz’s miscue, the Giants and Manning committed a delay of game, negating stellar field position near mid-field. The offense also stalled in the fourth quarter when the defense could have used some rest.
Thankfully, the unit righted the ship in the nick of time, and if the Giants make the playoffs, they can thank Rashad Jennings for making the play that was their springboard to the post-season. Manning checked down to Jennings on third down and three yards to go, and the veteran running back broke a tackle and tip-toed the left sideline for a highlight reel touchdown that put Big Blue up by two touchdowns in the fourth.
Manning also threw brutal interception later in the fourth quarter, as Big Blue was trying to run out the clock. It was Manning’s first misfire of the season.
The influence of coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is beginning to take root on the defensive side of the ball, as strong pursuit and gang tackling has become the norm. Opposing receivers and running backs are no longer are running free in the secondary, and team toughness has re-emerged.
Second-year linebacker Devon Kennard was a force all afternoon with four tackles, a deflected pass and a beautiful interception of Tyrod Taylor in the first half. There were correctable mistakes like Jayron Hosley’s 28-yard pass interference call in the third, which did not cost Big Blue as Dan Carpenter missed on a 30-yard field goal attempt that killed the rally. Safety Craig Dahl whiffed on a clean shot at Taylor in the end zone on a play that would have resulted in a safety for Big Blue, which was disappointing.
Mistakes aside, no one can question the defensive unit’s effort for 60 minutes, and the gang tackling and ball hawking clearly paid dividends. In the third quarter, strong pursuit by Kerry Wynn, Uani Unga, Landon Collins and J.T Thomas thwarted the Bills along the goal line on successive plays. Later in the second half, Prince Amukamara and Collins stripped Buffalo wide receiver Robert Woods of the football after a catch on what would have been a first down, and Amukamara recovered the fumble.
Individually, defensive end Kerry Wynn continues to get the job done, and he ended up with eight total tackles. Linebacker Jonathan Casiilas has been a pleasant surprise, as he had seven tackles on the afternoon. Casillas was signed in the off season mostly to be a special teams performer, but he has asserted himself as a strong pass defender.
Special Teams: C
Uncharacteristically, kicker Josh Brown shanked an extra point, which could have been problematic for the Giants. Brad Wing has been good in the directional kicking game, but he could have helped matters with a big foot in the fourth quarter, but that did not happen with a 36-yard punt. Mostly, the Bills won the field position battle in the fourth quarter, but New York’s defense held tough.
Dwayne Harris had three punt returns for only 18 return yards, and he was not a factor on special teams, perhaps due to his repetitions as a receiver. Running back Andre Williams had a successful two-point conversion that put Big Blue up by 14 in the fourth.
The Giants won the coin flip and deferred to the second half. Putting the Bills’offense on the field first ended up being a stroke of genius, as Big Blue handed Buffalo a three-and-out. The ensuing punt gave the G-men good field position that ended up with a 47-yard Josh Brown field to get the Giants on the board.
Coughlin was also emphatic in sending the offense back onto the field when in the second quarter when the Bills lined up over center on a field goal attempt, causing a five yard illegal formation penalty, and an ensuing Rueben Randle 11-yard touchdown catch put Big Blue up 16-3 early in the second quarter, after Coughlin’s enthusiastic outburst.
Ben McAdoo dialed up a good distribution of running and pass plays, as Eli Manning continues to play within himself, and there was at least some life in the rushing attack (3.3 yards per carry). Extra credit to Spagnuolo for his effective use of Kennard, Casillas, Cullen Jenkins and Nikita Whitlock, as pass rushers Robert Ayers and Jason Pierre-Paul continue to miss time. Holding Bills’ running back Karlos Williams to 2.2 yards per carry, meant that quarterback Tyrod Taylor would have to win the game for Buffalo, which he could not accomplish.
Rookie defensive end Owa Odighizuwa made his NFL debut against the Bills, and he ended up with a couple of tackles. Dual threat Whitlock had a quarterback sack of Tyrod Taylor. The Giants face the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night at the Meadowlands next week, before back-to-back NFC east games against the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys in successive weeks.
Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past four seasons for Examiner.com, and he is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Born and raised in New Jersey, Curt attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, N.J. and is a graduate of Rutgers University – New Brunswick. Follow him on Twitter @CurtMac23 for the latest NFL and New York Giants news.