Coughlin's Giants quiet the noise, move win away from division title

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Finally, a response.

After listening to the New York Jets insult their defense, their quarterback, their head coach and their integrity, the Giants fired back with a 29-14 victory that is bigger, much bigger than who owns New York. Nope, this one was all about who survives the season and goes to the playoffs, and the Giants could with a defeat of Dallas here next weekend.

Of course, the Jets could, too, if they played as well as they talked last week. But it didn't happen, and now they're going to need a lifeline to get in.

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That won't upset anyone on the Giants after what they heard last week ... or what they witnessed Saturday when the Super Bowl LXII logo outside their locker room was covered. Needless to say, that didn't go over so well.

"I won't mention what I thought," coach Tom Coughlin said.

And why should he? He didn't mention what he thought when the Jets' Santonio Holmes spoke last week about the holes he and his teammates would exploit in the Giants' secondary ... or what he thought when Darrelle Revis said he didn't know who Victor Cruz was ... or what he thought when Jets coach Rex Ryan said he didn't give a flip for Coughlin and considered his team better than the Giants this year and the last three years.

"Anything to say to Rex now?" Giants running back Brandon Jacobs was asked.

"Yeah," he said. "He needs to shut up."

Oh.

According to Jacobs, he and the Jets head coach had a brief run-in after the game, with Jacobs making his suggestion to Ryan and the Jets' coach responding by telling Jacobs -- at least, this is how he put it -- "to shut the 'F' up." I think you can imagine how that went down.

"I told him of all the Giants on this football team you're talking to the wrong one," Jacobs said. "I told him I would punch him in the head."

Yeah, well, there's no need. The Giants just did. The loss cripples the Jets, while it gives the Giants ... and their beleaguered head coach ... hope that maybe -- just maybe -- there is a Santa Claus. I mean, they weren't supposed to win this one, and they weren't supposed to survive another second-half collapse.

Only now they're one victory from their first playoff spot in three years and, presumably, a vote of confidence for Coughlin.

"He's never going to give up," team president and co-owner John Mara said of Coughlin. "He seems to be at his best when everybody puts his back against the wall. But he's got to do it next week, too."

Exactly. Because if the Giants can't close out the season with a victory ... and they stunk in this stadium just last week vs. Washington ... then Saturday's victory is virtually meaningless.

OK, so they beat their outspoken neighbors, but big deal if it doesn't get you to the playoffs. That was Coughlin's message last week during practices where he said players seemed to have "more energy," "more enthusiasm" and "greater speed" than he'd seen in weeks. One reason: They knew what was ahead of them, with Coughlin offering a quick course in math.

Two wins, he told them, equal one division title. Simple as that. Close out the Jets and Dallas, and you win the NFC East.

So the Giants took the first step, shutting down Mark Sanchez and the Jets so completely that they never had a play longer than 15 yards and misfired on 17 of 21 third-down conversions. Yeah, they made it close midway through the fourth quarter, but that was only after an Eli Manning interception on a play too stupid to get into. Let's just say the Giants opened the door, and the Jets finally walked in.

CBSSports.com Grades
New York Giants
New York Giants
B
This was the exact kind of game the Giants needed. The usually reliable offense struggled (QB Eli Manning completed just 33.3 percent of his passes), but the previously unreliable defense responded with five sacks (including one safety), two interceptions and one fumble recovery. After some early struggles on the ground, the Giants finished with 115 rushing yards on 26 carries.
New York Jets
New York Jets
D
Both offense and defense started out fast. However, in spite of the fact that they controlled time of possession, the offense quickly fell apart with inaccurate passing by QB Mark Sanchez and receivers coming off their routes. The running game never got off the ground. The defense proved unable to stop Giants QB Eli Manning & Co. for any length of time. Special teams, while not committing any fatal errors, didn't put forth any big plays that the team needed. Ten total penalties for 95 yards didn't help.
By Lisa Zimmerman
RapidReports Correspondent

But that was it. The Giants' defense looked like it was supposed to look, sacking Sanchez five times, intercepting him twice, recovering a fumble in the end zone and producing a game-winning safety. After listening to their coach last week remind them that "talk is cheap, play the game," the Giants responded as they were told.

They played their game.

So they weren't all that good on offense. Big deal. They didn't make mistakes. Plus, they did make the only plays that mattered -- with Victor Cruz's 99-yard touchdown catch atop that list. I guarantee you Revis knows who he is now because it was Cruz's catch-and-run that put the Jets behind for good.

"I knew they were going to fold the way they've been playing," Jacobs said. "I knew they were going to be the ones to crack because I don't think they have what it takes to beat us."

So we know that now. What we don't know is which Giants team shows up next weekend -- the club that was booed in its loss to Washington or the club that took it to the Jets? I mean, as big as this victory was, it still was only the second in the past seven games for Big Blue. Moreover, it was accomplished with Manning completing a season-low nine passes.

But that's where there is hope, too. Despite Manning's shortcomings ... despite the Jets' bravado ... despite the Jets' head games ... the Giants prevailed by plugging those leaks that Holmes talked about. And that's critical if this team is to go anywhere now or in January. Dallas hammered the Giants' defense in a loss earlier this month, and others have, too. Only the Jets weren't one of those others, and maybe, just maybe, this is the start of something new.

"I know how good we are," said cornerback Corey Webster, "and I know how good we can be when everybody puts this together. Enough was enough. We eliminated a lot of big plays. We didn't have any mental busts, and that goes a long way to getting a 'W.'"

Of course, this wasn't any W. This was the Jets, but this was much more than that. This was another test of survival for a team that was supposed to be finished ... but isn't.

"I was proud of how our players kept their emotions under control," said Mara. "They wanted this one all week."

So did Mara.

"Let's just say I wanted this game," he said.

Let's just say his coach needed it.

"He wanted this game badly, too," Mara said.

He should. His job and his team's future might've depended on it. Now, the Giants are down to a one-game season, with that one game here next Sunday. That is how Coughlin envisioned it, and this is how it will be. It is, as Coughlin said, the response he was looking for from his players, and it is the response he received.

"Does this victory make a statement?" he was asked.

"We won the game," said Coughlin, "and it keeps us in the playoffs. It keeps us in the hunt with destiny in our hands. That is the only way to look at it."

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