All year, the New York Giants have been maligned for their inability to run the football and their inability to generate sacks. Late in the fourth quarter of their "Monday Night Football" win over the Cincinnati Bengals, they did just those very things in order to close the game out.
The Giants sacked Andy Dalton twice in a row on what turned out to be the Bengals' final drive of the game, with Jonathan Casillas and Damon Harrison getting to him on second down and Olivier Vernon screaming around the edge for a much-needed sack on third. The Bengals punted, and on the ensuing drive, Rashad Jennings picked up a couple of huge first downs to put the Giants in position to kneel on the football and run out the clock.
New York finished with three sacks on the evening, and had pressure in Dalton's face for most of the night. Per early tracking data from Pro Football Focus, they got a rusher to Dalton on a third of his dropbacks. Jennings, meanwhile, took his 15 carries for a season-high 87 yards. He added three catches and 22 more yards through the air. And of course, he sealed the win down the stretch.
The Giants had to overcome two brutal interceptions from Eli Manning to get the win, but they got there behind an increasingly stellar defense, yet another big game from Odell Beckham Jr. (10-97-1), and a gutsy fourth-down call.
Coach Ben McAdoo elected to go for it on fourth down near the goal line when down 20-14 early in the fourth quarter, and it turned out to be the difference. Eli found journeyman wideout Tavarres King for his third touchdown of the game, and what ended up being the game-winning score. The Giants moved to 6-3 as a result, and look to be in great position for a run to the playoffs.
Here are a few more things to know from the Giants' 21-20 win:
2. A little trickeration
After the Giants drove quickly down the field for a touchdown on the opening possession of the game, the Bengals started off their first drive of the night with a quick screen to A.J. Green. On the next play, they came out in what Andy Dalton apparently called a "goofy" formation during his meetings with Sean McDonough and Jon Gruden this week, and the result was a 71-yard strike to tight end Tyler Eifert.
The Bengals came out in a similar alignment a few more times throughout the game, but eventually shifted back into a more traditional formation before snapping the ball on all but one of them (a 1-yard quick screen to Tyler Boyd).
3. Odell Beckham makes history
Odell Beckham had himself quite a game, and made some history along the way. ODB finished the evening with 10 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown. The score was the 31st of his career, breaking a tie with Antonio Brown for most in the NFL during that time. He did a little dance to celebrate.
Odell Beckham has 31 Rec TD since entering the league in 2014, breaking a tie with Antonio Brown for most in the NFL over that span. pic.twitter.com/I1xyFpPIZa— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 15, 2016
Eli Manning had a 147.3 passer rating when targeting Odell Beckham Jr. in the first half— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) November 15, 2016
8 targets, 8 receptions, 79 yards, 1 TD
Beckham also surpassed 3,500 career receiving yards during this game, doing it faster than any player in NFL history.
Odell Beckham Jr. has reached 3,500 career receiving yards in the fewest career games (36) in NFL history pic.twitter.com/icZNatgyt7— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) November 15, 2016
The kid is a damn good football player.
4. Short-sighted short-yardage decisions
We're about process over results here at CBSSports.com -- or at least I am. And so I have to quibble with the Bengals' decisions on two different short-yardage opportunities.
- Fourth-and-1 at CIN 44 (4:35, 1Q) -- Punt
The game was tied 7-7 at this point, and it was early, but this play was really more like fourth-and-less than half a yard. You should be able to pick this up in your sleep. NFL teams average 5.5 yards per play. Just run any old play and you should get a first down here.
Of course, too often when teams get into "and-short" situations, they simply try to pick up the exact number of yards they need for a first down, which leads to failure. That brings us to:
- Third-and-1 at CIN 21 (10:05, 4Q) -- Run for no gain
The Bengals decided to bring in a jumbo set with six offensive linemen and two blocking backs, all but announcing to the Giants and everyone else in the stadium that they were going to try to run the ball right up the gut and pick up exactly 1 yard. The Giants stuffed Jeremy Hill short of the line and the Bengals punted it away.
They eventually got the ball back for one more possession, but the offensive line collapsed on itself and let Dalton get sacked on back-to-back plays. After a punt, the Giants then ran out the clock.
5. Ugly QB play
Eli Manning and Andy Dalton are not exactly well-known for taking excellent care of the football. Among the 27 quarterbacks that have thrown at least 2,500 passes since Manning entered the league back in 2004, they rank 18th (Dalton) and 24th (Manning) in interception percentage, respectively. But the picks these guys threw on Monday night were particularly brutal, with none of them really having a chance to be completed.
And here's Dalton hitting Landon Collins (who is not on his team) with a strike, marking the safety's fourth pick in the last three games:
Like I said. Not great. And it wasn't a great night for either quarterback overall. Manning finished 28 of 44 for 240 yards, three touchdowns and two picks. Sure, he had the scores, and he got the win. But he averaged 5.5 yards per attempt and turned it over twice. Let's not pretend this was some great performance.
Dalton, meanwhile, fell to 5-10 in his career in night games. He finished 16 of 29 for 204 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Take away the 71-yard trick play to Eifert on the first drive and he basically did nothing the rest of the way. This was a bad game in a big spot.
6. Giants stay in the hunt, Bengals fall back
The Dallas Cowboys are running out ahead of the NFC East and the NFC as a whole at 8-1, but the Giants are now 6-3 and pretty firmly in wild card position. With the defense looking much better over the last few weeks (they even got some sacks tonight so Ben McAdoo can stop talking about how stats are for losers), things are looking up for Big Blue.
Cincinnati is 3-5-1 now and it's increasingly difficult to make a wild-card case for them. The saving grace here is that the AFC North appears to still be winnable, as neither the Baltimore Ravens nor Pittsburgh Steelers has pulled away yet, either. The Bengals will have to turn things around fast, though.