Russell: Difference Between Coughlin’s 2015 Giants and McAdoo in 2016, Winning Close Game

There’s a fine line between winning and losing in the NFL. The 2015 Giants could’ve won the division but finished 6-10.

The 2016 team has started off 2-0 with a pair of wins by a combined four points. Josh Brown’s game-winning field goal on Sunday gave the Giants a 16-13 victory over the Saints, who are 0-2 with a pair of losses by a combined four points.

It was a defensive battle that few expected, especially because of the 52-49 result when these teams met last season. Eli Manning was 32-41 for 368 yards, and passed Drew Bledsoe for 10th on the all-time passing yards list. The special teams came through with a blocked kick return for a touchdown, the first for the Giants since 2008. And the defense kept the Saints offense in check, holding New Orleans to 13 points.

“It says a lot about our three phases,” head coach Ben McAdoo said. “Special teams made a big play. The defense stepped up all day, and the offense got it done at the end. All three phases came up huge for us.”

McAdoo is in a small class having won his first two games. The only two other Giants coaches to do it were Dan Reeves in 1993 and Joe Alexander in 1926. (Pat yourself on the back if you knew that one.)

It’s the first time the Giants are 2-0 since 2009. In a way, these close wins are even sweeter after the heartbreak of 2015. But McAdoo isn’t concerned with 2015. “Last season’s last season,” McAdoo said. “We’re not worried about last season. We’ve learned from last season. We moved on. We’re looking forward to Washington next week.”

McAdoo doesn’t seem to have any confidence issues or self-doubt as a first-year head coach. In the first quarter, McAdoo left the offense on the field on 4th and 2 at the New Orleans 3-yard line instead of taking a sure field goal and the Giants couldn’t convert. Here’s McAdoo’s complete answer when asked about his decision after the game: “I’d do it again.”

Remember in January when Tom Coughlin left Big Blue, there was an NFL Network report that Saints coach Sean Payton was monitoring the Giants situation. Well, New York went with an offensive mind but it was the one they already had. Manning has looked good in the first two games and thinks it’s nice to pull out the close games they faltered in last year. “No doubt. These last two games are very similar to the start of last year. Obviously the finishes is what’s the difference. We are able to find ways to make the plays that we need in crucial moments and a great job of guys making plays and communicating on the sideline.”

Manning thinks he knows why they’re making the plays. “Two-hundred million we spent,” Manning said to laughter from the media.

Not giving up a score at the end of Week 1 in Dallas, something they failed to do 12 months ago, helped the team believe they could close out the tight games. “That’s big,” said Manning, who threw for 300 yards for the 40th time in his career. “That’s big for the offense, that’s big for the defense, is playing fast. Now they’re not worried about ‘don’t lose a game’, they’re saying ‘hey, let’s go win this thing. Let’s go get a stop and win it. We’ll win it and get it back to the offense.’ We did our part this time. We had to go down and score, we went
down and scored.”

The NFC East title is there for the taking, especially with the Cowboys losing Tony Romo and the Redskins starting 0-2. Now McAdoo tries to win his first three as head coach.

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