The Giants have been flying by the seat of their pants this season, winning six games by a total of 21 points. Their losses have been close, too. They fell to Green Bay by six and Washington by two.
The offense goes out and gets a slim lead and then they rely on their defense to stand tall late in games. It’s working. But with the offense struggling, sometimes they need a little push to put points on the board.
On Monday night, with the Giants trailing the Bengals, 20-14, in the early going of the fourth quarter they faced a fourth and goal from the Cincinnati three. Instead of taking the FG to narrow the score, head coach Ben McAdoo decided it was time for his offense to make a statement. He kept his offense on the field.
“We were going to go for it,” McAdoo said after the game. “We knew it was going to take touchdowns to beat this team,” McAdoo said. “It’s a good football team, and we felt like we needed to score touchdowns.”
QB Eli Manning hit rookie WR Sterling Shepard on slant near the goal line for what would be the deciding score. The defense did the rest, keeping the Bengals off the board, preserving the victory.
“Coach McAdoo told me on second down, ‘Hey, we’re in four-down territory, just so you know,’” Manning said. “I don’t know about (ever hearing that on) second down. I’ve heard it on third down before. We had the quarter change, so I think he had some time to think and he just wanted me to know, wanted me to tell the offensive guys, receivers, everybody, to know the circumstances that they were in four-down territory.”
The Giants are only averaging 20.2 points per game this season and after scoring on an eight-play, 80 yard drive to open the game, the Giants struggled to get anything going until the final drive of the half, when they finished off another eight play drive with an Eli-to-Odell hookup to take a 14-10 halftime lead.
But they floundered in third quarter, going three and out twice and then getting stopped on the next drive after only five plays. That is when McAdoo decided his offense needed that little push.
The Giants could have gone to Beckham, but the Bengals were prepared for that. With Victor Cruz out, they decided to get the ball into Shepard, who had a drop earlier in the game and was hoping to redeem himself.
“I had to get that back,” said Shepard. “I dropped that third down, which I don’t usually drop. I love third down. I blew that one. I was trying to make a move before I caught the ball. I knew I had to get that one back and get in the end zone.”
He did, and by admission, was ready for that redeeming moment.
“I knew I had a possibility,” said Shepard. “I’m not the first read on that one but I knew there was a possibility that I was going to get that. It was funny. Eli and I talked about it just yesterday. We were talking about that exact same play. He was telling me different looks on what to do. The first look that we talked about, that was exactly what I saw. I’m just happy I have a smart quarterback in Eli.”
McAdoo showed faith in the offense to win the ballgame for him. It is a tuning point that perhaps could lead to bigger things.
“He wants to be aggressive,” Manning said of his head coach. “He tells me to be aggressive with my play, my checks and take shots when we got it, so hey, that’s what he likes and we like to get completions, but we like to get through our shots and get to some things and we got to a few of them today. We didn’t connect on all of them but a couple of them we did, and we’ve got to keep doing that.”