A Giant Win
A year ago, the NFC East was a joke. The Dallas Cowboys were lost without Tony Romo, the Philadelphia Eagles blundered about under coach Chip Kelly, the New York Giants were last in the league in defense and couldn’t protect a lead under Tom Coughlin and the Washington Redskins won the division with a 9-7 record.
Different story now. Every team in the division has a winning record, everyone appears to be better and there will be a hot battle not only for first place but for a wild-card playoff berth (or two).
The Giants (6-3) beat the Cincinnati Bengals 21-20 Monday night for their fourth consecutive victory. The Giants took the lead early in the fourth quarter on a short touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Sterling Shepard on a fourth-down play and then the Giants defense did what it failed so often do last year – protected the lead. Even after a mindless interception thrown by Manning right after the defense had taken the ball away from the Bengals on an interception.
The Bengals (3-5-1) finished with a meager 264 total yards. The Giants sacked Andy Dalton three times. The Bengals’ last five possessions ended this way – punt, punt, interception, punt, punt.
The Bengals have made the playoffs the last five years and the AFC North is not out of their reach yet. But they’ve been awful on the road (1-4) and have lost their defensive edge. The Giants, a terrible rushing team, ran for 122 yards and averaged 4.5 yards a carry even without two starting offensive linemen. It’s fair to wonder if the message from Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, in his 14th season, isn’t going a bit stale.
Three of the Giants’ final four games are against their division opponents. The NFC East will be fun down the stretch, and so much better than just a year ago.
Post By: Larry Weisman, a longtime sportswriter for USA TODAY, blogs for Twistity.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrLarryWeisman