One game at a time, New York Giants. One ugly, gritty, somewhat unwatchable game at a time.
Take away the mistakes made and opportunities missed by both teams during Sunday's affair at MetLife Stadium, and you get a contest in which the Giants were considerably better than were the Oakland Raiders. As has been the case throughout 2013, New York was again its own worst enemy, flirting with near disaster in literally every quarter of play. The Giants were lucky to not have been hosting a better opponent on this day, and fortune may again smile on them next week.
That is, of course, unless the Green Bay Packers find a real starting quarterback before then.
Giants beat Raiders: Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes
You wouldn't have been able to guess that Jerrel Jernigan and the rest of the New York squad had an extra week to ready themselves for the game's opening kickoff. Jernigan bobbled the ball away on the first play of the game, setting up what was ultimately a five-yard touchdown drive that put Oakland ahead before a minute had ticked off the clock. It took quarterback Eli Manning and the offense of the Giants roughly a quarter and a half to settle in following that giveaway, the type of miscue that could, in this instance, have ended New York's season.
Manning himself won't avoid criticism following his team's latest win, nor should he. He has, when at his worst in 2013, been guilty of two sins: Staring his wide receivers down as he did in his rookie campaign, and not realizing when some extra zip on the ball is needed. Both of those issues reemerged on Sunday, and Manning came close to costing the Giants the game.
The pick-six that Manning delivered to Tracy Porter was essentially a pass to the Oakland DB. Manning looked at Cruz right from the snap, and he looked...and looked...and looked, before casually tossing the pass that gave Oakland a halftime lead. A wounded-duck wobbler thrown into double coverage during the second half was close to being another defensive touchdown for the Raiders.
The off week alone didn't cure Manning's woes, and that's concerning when you think about what New York needs to accomplish between now and the end of December in order to earn postseason football.
Giants beat Raiders: The game changed...
when the Terrell Thomas Comeback Tour continued on. The Thomas interception in the third quarter was a huge play on its own, one that gave the New York offense possession at the Oakland three-yard line and one that resulted in the Giants scoring what would prove to be the winning touchdown. You had to be watching the game, though, to understand just how massive a play that was.
The New York offense had, to that point of the contest, put together one good drive. Oakland was potentially a handful of plays away from going up by nine or even 13 points. 2013 was a little over a quarter of football away from being a lost cause for the Giants. Thomas, as play-makers are supposed to do, changed the fate of the game in an instant.
He is my 2013 New York MVP right now.
Giants beat Raiders: Welcome back
Joining Thomas on the New York comeback tour was running back Andre Brown, who looked strong in his return from a broken leg that cost him the first half of the regular season. Brown was the primary RB from the very start, and he rewarded his coaches by rushing for 115 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. His most important run, minus the TD, was the final meaningful play of the game, a carry for a first down that put the Raiders away for good.
The run offense of the Giants has been horrendous throughout the season. New York was, entering Sunday's game, averaging under 70 yards on the ground per game. Brown making an immediate impact could be the injection of life this offense has been looking for, and it could also open things up for a quarterback who is having a very rough go of things at the moment.