They say you get what you paid for, and for the first two weeks of the NFL season, the New York Giants had gotten exactly what they paid for when it came to their defense.
A year ago, the Giants defense was flat out abysmal. It was the reason why they lost five games in the last 90 seconds of games; games that the Giants should have won and could have drastically altered their 6-10 season into a 10 or 11-win season. They would have won the NFC East and a playoff spot and saved Tom Coughlin’s job as well.
But those defeats did happen, and that’s why it’s now Ben McAdoo and not Coughlin running things in East Rutherford for the 2016 season. The 6-10 season, the Giants second straight 6-10 season, and third consecutive losing season, was also why Jerry Reese was put on notice as the team’s general manager. He spent over $200 million in free agency and spent a good chunk of the 2016 NFL Draft to address the defense that was near the bottom of the NFL just one season ago.
And one year later, it’s already paying off dividends, as it has shown in the product on the field, in the record books and ultimately, has helped changed the frame of mind for the franchise as a whole.
Many of the Giants knew what was coming on defense last year when they tried to hold onto the leads especially in those games against the Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots and New York Jets. Again, all games the Giants could have easily won if they could make a stop on defense in the last 90 seconds.
Fast forward to a year later, it’s the Giants who have gotten off to a 2-0 start and a tie for first place in the NFC East and has already closed out two games in the final minutes.
The first, fending off a possible Cowboys rally and defeating them 20-19 at AT&T Stadium and defeating them for the first time in Arlington since the 2012 season. A win the Giants needed considering a year earlier; the Giants blew the lead to Dallas in Week 1 of the 2015 season and started what would be an awful trend of things to come in the season.
And the latest, a 16-13 win over the Saints in Week 2; a win that saw the Giants make key plays on offense, saw phenomenal clock management and kept Drew Brees off the field at the end of the game. This win came a year after the Giants blew a 49-42 lead in New Orleans and lost to the Saints 52-49 after the Giants let them march down the field for a game-winning field goal. This year, the Giants end up holding Brees’ offense to just 13 points and at the same time, kept his unit off the field for the end of the game, and it was the Giants who marched down the field for their game-winning field goal.
Sure, it’s still only September and the season might only be two games in, but the entire demeanor of the Giants team has drastically changed from a year ago. Instead of expecting a collapse at the end of games, the Giants are now looking to close out games, and thus far, are 2-for-2 in doing so. Little different from a year ago and those five games the Giants blew.
They’ve taken away team’s running attacks (both opposing running games didn’t get to 100 yards and the opponents featured backs didn’t gain more than 50 yards or more) and haven’t allowed a team to score more than 20 points; a year ago, they allowed 27.6 points per game and had allowed 20-plus points in 14 of their 16 games. This year, they’ve kept the points off the board early on, and it’s given the Giants a ton of confidence going into the early part of the season. They also haven’t allowed a big play of 30 yards or more to either team early on (something that often happened to them a year ago).
And the best part of it, the pressure. They might have only sacked Drew Brees twice in Week 2, but he wasn’t allowed to get comfortable and was in a hurry all game long; same thing for Dak Prescott a week earlier and he never attempted to throw deep on the Giants defense, mostly because he never got comfortable enough to try. A year ago, the Giants couldn’t put any pressure on anyone and was a big reason for the team’s failures in 2015, but that’s not the case this year. In his second go-around as the Giants defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo has been given weapons and players he can use for his high-pressure defense, which is another big reason why the Giants defense has limited the points for their opponents and are in the driver seat early on this season at 2-0 instead of 0-2.
It’s funny how a year can make a difference for a team, and that’s exactly what has happened for the Giants. Thus far, it’s been money well spent for the Giants, and if they keep up the pace, it will only continue to show in the results, which will have a few more W’s on the left side of the column for Big Blue.