EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- One moment, one exclamation, summed up this game. Both happened early on and as Eli Manning took one step away from center, turning to hand the ball off to Brandon Jacobs, one of the St. Louis players, Fred Robbins, had a surprise.
Robbins hit Manning before the Giants quarterback had a chance to deliver the handoff throwing a shocked Manning to the ground. It was a spectacular play for Robbins but also indicative of the problem the Giants were having at the time against a team they should have beaten to a pulp from the time the whistle first blew.
After the play Coughlin walked onto the field and in a moment of unintentional hilarity could easily be seen mouthing: "What the f--- was that?"
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What the f--- was that, indeed? Except I'm referring to the game, not the play.
The Giants said all the right things after they beat the Rams, 28-16, at MetLife Stadium. Winning is all that matters in the NFL. How it's done, the prettiness of it all or, actually, the lack thereof, is irrelevant. Nothing else matters. Just win. And you know what? That's completely fair and correct.
Then there's reality and subtext. What we saw, the most important thing we saw, was Manning get outplayed by Sam Bradford and Manning continue to look, um, just OK. Not horrible but nothing exemplary either. Then there's Bradford who had no Steven Jackson, a bunch of turnips at wide receiver, and a washed up Cadillac Williams as running back. He still put the Rams on his broad shoulders and made a game of it. It was an impressive thing to see. No, it was a beautiful thing to see.
Manning, meanwhile, at times looked like he was the second-year player, despite this being his eighth. This isn't Manning bashing. He's good, but also frustrating. For every strong-armed bullet there is a pass that leaves skid marks on the turf. His passes can be both accurate and death hazards to ground-dwelling mammals.
|St. Louis Rams|
|Despite losing 28-16, the Rams played admirably given their injuries at RB, WR and in the secondary. St. Louis outgained New York 367 yards to 300 and got remarkable performances from WR Danario Alexander, WR Brandon Gibson and WR Mike Sims-Walker, who combined for 266 receiving yards. The defense had its moments, but ultimately depth issues in the secondary allowed the Giants to pull away in the second half.|
|New York Giants|
|The Giants still struggled on third down and the passing game got off to a brutal start. However, after completing only two passes and throwing one INT in his first 11 attempts, QB Eli Manning connected on 16 of his final 18 passes, including two TDs. WLB Michael Boley’s fumble return gave the Giants defense its first TD since 2009 and seemed to breathe life into the unit.|
|By Alex Raskin|
He completed just two of his first 11 passes, including a nasty red zone interception. Those are the types of starts that must make Coughlin want to pull a spinning back-fist right into Manning's nose. Manning finished 18-of-29 for 200 yards, two scores and a pick. He's thrown at least one interception in each of his last seven regular-season games. This ties the longest such streak of his career.
This is a pattern with not just Manning but the Giants overall. Sometimes the Giants are dominant. Sometimes they're the opposite. Sometimes they do just enough to win. Sometimes they do all of the above.
"The thing I liked about what we did tonight was we showed resiliency," Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said. "In a lot of those situations, if they get touchdowns, that score is a lot different."
Now they're extremely banged up. Hakeem Nicks was already hurting. Mario Manningham said he suffered a neck injury and not a concussion, but the Giants said he failed a series of concussion tests, which is why he didn't return to the game. Domenik Hixon said afterward he suffered a calf injury. Meanwhile the team said it was a knee injury. That's when you know a team is having communication issues when the players and the franchise can't agree on what's ailing.
Bradford threw for 331 yards, one score and no interceptions. The accuracy of some of his passes cannot be overstated. On crossing routes Rams receivers didn't have to break strides. He threw jump balls in the perfect spot. He was always calm. The problem for Bradford was his surrounding cast, at times, was awful. Why Williams is even on the team is a mystery.
Once this franchise surrounds Bradford with more talent and it matures and commits fewer errors (all four of the Giants' scores were as a result of the Rams' mistakes) they'll be a force. Until then, they'll be sacrificial Rams.
Perhaps the biggest play of the game came not from either Manning or Bradford but Giants linebacker Michael Boley who returned a fumble 65 yards for a touchdown. Boley celebrated the score by aiming at a wall behind the end zone and throwing the football as hard as possible. Except instead of hitting the wall he hit a Giants intern smack in the face.
Typical Giants: suffering from self-inflicted wounds.