If only because nothing else has made sense in this 2017 NFL season, the New York Giants, without their top healthy receiver, squeaked out a 12-9 overtime victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, leaders of the AFC West and victors over the Eagles and Chiefs.
The day was defined by redemption and trickery, as cornerback Janoris Jenkins and kicker Aldrick Rosas both overcame adversity prevalent throughout recent weeks. For Jenkins and the defense, it was a refreshing return to 2016, as they held the high octane Chiefs offense to only Harrison Butker field goals and forced three turnovers.
One of those was nabbed by Jenkins, whose was dogged all week by questions about his game day efforts after a poor performance last week in San Francisco. His interception of an Alex Smith pass in the fourth quarter in Kansas City territory with just over two minutes left allowed Rosas to boot a 26-yard field goal in the same end of the field where he missed an extra point following the Giants’ only touchdown. Kansas City would respond with another Butker field goal, sending the Giants to their first overtime game since December 2015.
In the extra period, the Giants defense forced the Chiefs into a punt before the offense embarked on a 10-play, 77-yard drive that situated them on the Kansas City 2-yard line. The possession was capped off on an exclamation point, as Roger Lewis Jr.,on top of being interfered with Kansas City cornerback Phillip Gaines, made a sliding to catch to set up Rosas’s winning boot.
Entering the game having missed four of his previous ten field goals, Rosas sailed the kick through to send the MetLife Stadium faithful home happy in quarterback Eli Manning’s 209th consecutive start, passing a streak his brother Peyton created in Indianapolis from 1998-2011.
The Turning Point
There were plenty of times throughout the game that the Giants could’ve succumbed to the silliness that has plagued them throughout this wacky season, but while the Giants bended, they never broke against Kansas City’s weaponized offense.
After Rosas’s fourth quarter field goal, putting the Giants up 9-6, the dormant Chiefs offense finally seemed to wake up, as a 34-yard Smith pass to tight end Travis Kelce got Kansas City into New York territory. They eventually reached the 12-yard line, and East Rutherford braced itself for yet another defensive collapse.
However, with 16 seconds to go, the Giants defense cracked down, shutting down passing lanes and forcing Smith to take time off the clock. They only made it to third down, but with five seconds to go in regulation, Kansas City couldn’t take the risk, and sent Butker out for his third field goal of the day.
The kick was good, and the Chiefs even won the overtime coin toss, but the New York defenders kept the momentum going, forcing Kansas City to punt the ball away. They’d never get it back, as Manning led the methodic drive leading to Rosas’s heroics.
Offense: C-plus — When we said that the Giants flashed back to 2016, that also meant that offense was likewise held in check, except Odell Beckham Jr. wasn’t there to make a flashy catch or two.
Credit must be given, however, to the offensive line, which opened up several holes for Orleans Darkwa and others. The Giants ended the day with 112 yards, 74 of which came from Darkwa, as he enjoyed running through holes created by tackle Ereck Flowers and guard DJ Fluker.
Most impressive, however, was tackle Chad Wheeler, an undrafted rookie making his first NFL start. Most would’ve trembled at the idea of facing off against fearsome Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston in their first extended game action, but Wheeler held his own, impressing both teammate and opponent alike.
In terms of pass blocking, Manning was not sacked at any point in the game. Perhaps the line’s only flaw came courtesy of guard John Jerry, who was flagged for an egregious unsportsmanlike conduct penalty while the Giants were trying to drive for the lead in the fourth quarter.
The Giants discovered mere hours before the game that they would be without receiver Sterling Shepard, and tight end Evan Engram was likewise a bit of a no-show. With just one nine-yard reception, the rookie’s touchdown streak ended at four games, and his day will likely be best remembered for a pair of crucial penalties that stalled two separate second half drives.
Several others, however, picked up the slack, as Lewis nabbed 55 yards on a trio of receptions. Also with three receptions were Tavarres King (48 yards) and Travis Rudolph (34 yards), the latter of whom performed well after being a healthy scratch in San Francisco last week.
Darkwa put in another nice day on the ground, providing the Giants’ lone touchdown and picking up 74 yards on 20 carries, but he had trouble with a couple of Manning passes, problems that likewise extended to Wayne Gallman.
In a day full of trickery, running back Shane Vereen got to throw a pass, but the ensuing interception, in Eli Manning’s words, probably ensure that it’s his last.
Defense: A-minus — Smith has gained MVP consideration with a newly found deep ball ability, but the Giants were to mostly shut down his speedy weapons. Bottled up was running back Kareem Hunt, who posted 73 yards, but nothing going further than 12.
They transformed Smith back into a check-down game manager, tallying 230 yards on 40 attempts. Smith had entered the game with just one interception, but the Giants forced him into two. Perhaps most impressive was the fact the Giants were able to shut down Kansas City’s offense despite missing starting cornerback Eli Apple, who was inactive after missing the entire week of practice with personal reasons.
For the second consecutive week, a Giants defensive lineman picked up his first career interception, as Damon Harrison disrupted a Smith shovel pass. Jenkins’s key interception made two of Smith on the day. Entering, Smith had thrown a mere one interception on the season.
Most impressive was safety Landon Collins, who played by far his best game of the season. He led all defenders with 14 tackles, laying down some big hits that stopped first down progress and nabbed a big interception when the Chiefs tried trickery of their own, taking away a throw by Kelce.
Speaking of Kelce, he tallied 109 receiving yards, but, like the rest of his teammates, failed to reach the end zone, ending a streak of regular season games in which the Giants let the opposing tight end score at 10 games.
Special Teams: C– With the Giants bringing in veteran kickers to work out this week, the pressure on Rosas, already immense as it was, intensified further when he not only missed an extra point, one that indirectly sent the game into overtime. But he made up for it with not only the game winner, but with the go-ahead kick in the same end of the field he missed the extra point.
The notable kicks may not save Rosas’ job entirely, especially with the long post-Thanksgiving break coming up, but they certainly helped his case to stay at least the rest of the season.
Punter Brad Wing may have booting balls directly to dangerous returners Tyreek Hill and De’Anthony Thomas, but the balls were deep, and the Giants coverage held them in check. On four returns, the pair only tallied 17 yards. Wing, who averaged just over 44 yards per punt, played a big role in the go-ahead field goal, as his 57-yard punt was downed at the Kansas City 5, setting up Jenkins’s crucial pick in their own end.
Recently waived Ed Eagan probably wasn’t the Giants’ solution for the departure of Dwayne Harris, but it probably isn’t Kalif Raymond either. The ex-Jet muffed a punt earlier in the game (he had three muffs in two games with the Jets), and tallied 14 yards on three combined returns.
Shockingly, the fake punt that led to a New York first down on their first possession was the Giants’ first fake since 2004, one game before the Manning era officially began. It worked to perfection, as long snapper Zak DeOssie got a perfect snap to Nat Berhe, expertly deceiving the Chiefs.
Coaching: B-minus–After this week’s “brutally honest” meeting, the Giants seemed to rally around embattled head coach Ben McAdoo, who was much more animated than usual on the sidelines. For perhaps the first time all season, the Giants looked like a true team, working together as a unit to achieve a rare victory.
Obviously, it’s not under the most ideal circumstances, but the Giants’ use of trickery and willingness to take risks (I.e. Lewis’ crucial fourth down grab) was a refreshing change of pace and ignited what Giants fans chose to make the trip to East Rutherford on Sunday. ‘