When it was announced that Jason Pierre-Paul would be out for the rest of the season (unless the Giants make the Super Bowl), it looked like the Giants defense would take a major hit. Since then, they’ve held the Cowboys and Lions to a combined 13 points.
New York stifled Matthew Stafford’s Detroit offense in Sunday’s 17-6 win. The Giants finish 2016 with a 7-1 home record, the first time they’ve accomplished that since 2008.
“Just the mentality, we just got to win at home, I mean that’s really big in front of a home crowd and we just play really well at home,” said rookie defensive end Romeo Okwara on the importance of winning at MetLife Stadium. “I think the fans help also.”
It was the defense that did the heavy lifting as has been the case in most games this season.
The defense made some upgrades after the struggles of 2015 and after some early season issues, the unit has played well despite being new to each other. “We’ve been playing really good run defense and our back end has been really good also,” Okwara said. “I mean, that’s just us playing as a team, playing as a defense and it’s just really shown out there.”
With the Giants leading 7-3 early in the second and Detroit inside the New York 10, the best red zone defense in the league stepped up as Leon Hall forced a fumble on a Zach Zenner run which was recovered in the end zone.
A turnover wasn’t the first thing in Hall’s mind. “Just going for the solid tackle first and foremost, and then anything better than that is icing on the cake,” Hall said.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made a touchdown saving tackle prior to the fumble, after he had been burned by Golden Tate. The cornerback recovered in time to trip up Tate. Rodgers-Cromartie iced the win with an interception in the end zone with two minutes left. “I think our mindset is just always play relentless ball,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “Play as hard as you can for as long as you can, that’s one of the mottos around here.”
Eli Manning was 20-28, throwing for 201 yards and two touchdowns, although the offense was quiet in the second and third quarters. Odell Beckham Jr.’s one hand touchdown grab late basically put the game out of reach. “At some point you know what our offense can do,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “You know the weapons they have, it’s going to click when they need to click. Right now they’re doing just enough for us to win and we’re going out and we’re holding on. It’s still a team overall game. But what we do know is if we can stop and get them the ball, it’s gonna happen.”
Steve Spagnuolo’s defense has stepped up as the Giants offense has been quiet the last three weeks. The Steelers held them to 14 points, including a so what touchdown in the final minute. The Cowboys held them to 10 and Detroit only gave up 10 after an opening drive touchdown.
Head coach Ben McAdoo deserves credit as the offensive mind doesn’t feel the need to air the ball out, rather trying to “protect the duke” as he so often says, and letting the defense do its thing.
Now the Giants have a quick turnaround and will play in Philadelphia on Thursday. It’s away from the friendly confines of MetLife but a win will put them in the postseason for the first time since celebrating Super Bowl XLVI.