Win over Lions has Giants thinking Super Bowl
East Rutherford, N.J. — Jonathan Casillas is starting to get a feeling about the Giants. He’s starting to get that feeling, in fact, the one you have when you think this could turn out to be something special. Something Super Bowl special.
Moments after the Giants outlasted the Lions, 17-6, to improve to 10-4 and edge ever-closer to their first playoff spot since 2011, the veteran linebacker offered as upbeat an assessment about this team as we’ve seen since that last championship season. After holding the Cowboys and Lions — who had a combined record of 20-5 coming into their respective matchups at MetLife Stadium — to a combined 13 points, Casillas couldn’t help but consider the possibilities in front of them.
“That’s what we’re looking at ourselves as, a championship-caliber defense, a championship-caliber team,” he said. “It’s starting to be a beautiful thing. Seven points [allowed] last week, six this week, that’s beautiful. We’re starting to put wins together, and we’re finishing. At the end of the day, December rolls into January, you want to be finishing these games.”
There hasn’t been a January for the Giants in five years, but they are closing in. It’s a win-and-in scenario for the Giants heading into Thursday’s game against the Eagles, and it would be an upset at this point if the Giants don’t reach the playoffs. It’s starting to get real, especially after Casillas and the Giants’ resurgent defense has held two playoff caliber teams to a touchdown and two field goals.
Here’s the thing to really like about these Giants: They’re able to think big because they’re getting the little things done.
There were no signature plays in Sunday’s win, not like that 61-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Odell Beckham that beat the Cowboys the week before. But there were a ton of smaller, yet significant moments that added up to the kind of collective win that will make any coach proud.
“Great team win versus a very good football team,” Ben McAdoo said afterward. “All three phases played a part.”
That really was the ultimate team win, where nearly every player that suited up contributed.. Consider:
■Brad Wing’s two punts inside the 5 in the second half were incalculably important. The Giants had a 10-6 lead at the time, and the defense forced a three-and-out on the first and didn’t let the Lions past their own 40 on the second. How big were those two stops? Consider that Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford had an NFL-high eight fourth-quarter comebacks this season.
“When it hit the fourth quarter, we started saying that this is where they get good at, this is where they start to thrive,” Casillas said.
■How about Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s touchdown-saving tackle on a deep ball down the right sideline? Golden Tate beat Rodgers-Cromartie badly, but the veteran cornerback caught him from behind at the Giants’ 11. “I tried to jump the route,” Rodgers-Cromartie said.
“I came out of my zone and was undisciplined. That play should never have happened, but I just kept fighting and made sure I caught him before the touchdown.” Good thing he did; on the next play, veteran cornerback Leon Hall, who had a key interception the week before against the Cowboys, forced a fumble on the next play, and the Giants recovered in the end zone.
■The five-yard sack of Stafford on third down by Olivier Vernon and Johnathan Hankins at the Giants’ 15, a third-quarter play that held the Lions to a field goal and kept the Giants in the lead at 10-6. It was the last time the Lions would score.
■Eli Manning’s mistake-free game was another significant part the win. He was 20 of 28 for 201 yards, two touchdown passes and no interceptions. Not dominant, and still room for improvement, but efficient and effective nonetheless.
“For the most part, that’s how it’s been all season,” Hall said of the Giants’ opportunistic play.
“We’ve been trying to focus on doing our job and a little bit more, so those little things come to account. We’ve been working on that week-in and week-out, and in games like this, those things show up.”
It’s the little things that can turn into the big things. And by the time it’s over, perhaps the big thing.