Winning for the New York Giants never usually comes easy or pretty, but a Leonard Williams game-winning fumble recovery with under a minute to go was a welcome sight for Giants fans. Victories count all the same and Sunday’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals on the road was huge for the franchise on so many levels.
The Play of Leonard Williams Was Key in New York Giants’ Defense Fabulous Effort
The win was New York’s third in a row and as a result, the Giants are now tops in the NFC East (they are tied with Washington, but swept them, so they have the tiebreaker). It should be noted that it was Jabaal Sheard who was the one that forced the fumble on a critical sack of the Bengals quarterback Brandon Allen in the waning seconds of the game.
Between the play of Williams, Sheard, Niko Lalos, Carter Coughlin, Jabrill Peppers, and Logan Ryan, this unit stepped up when they had to. Given that Daniel Jones got injured in the third quarter, it was the effort of the defense that carried them past the finish line in a game the Giants just had to have.
And from the looks of it, Jones’ injury looks like it is a somewhat significant injury. Tests on Monday will reveal more on the severity of the injury. So the defense will have to have more games as they had on Sunday if they want to keep winning.
Getting back to Williams. He has had one heck of a comeback year. His showing on Saturday was a microcosm of his value.
Williams is now holding up his end of the bargain on the trade with the New York Jets that befuddled the New York media. In Sunday’s game, Williams had a sack, a tackle for a loss, and three quarterback hits.
Leonard Williams, 2017-2019 (47 games): 7.5 sacks
Leonard Williams, 2020 (11 games): 6 sacks pic.twitter.com/sVYLt37gjN
— Giants Videos (@SNYGiants) November 29, 2020
This season he has six sacks. In the prior three years, he only accumulated 7.5 sacks. Williams has been the Giants’ defensive MVP—and maybe even team MVP—this year and his presence up front has been a major factor for their resurgence.
It wasn’t only Leonard Williams who had a big day
Besides his game-clinching sack, Sheard also three tackles (one for a loss) and a quarterback hit. Not bad for a player who has only played four games this season.
Lalos had a beautiful, diving interception late in the third quarter to halt some momentum Cincinnati was generating.
Coughlin, Peppers, and Ryan were great in coverage, while not giving up many big plays. They combined for 13 tackles and three pass deflections.
Overall, the Giants limited the Bengals to 155 total yards (40 rushing yards) and 11 first downs, while finishing the game by forcing three second-half turnovers.
The Gelling of the Giants Defense Continues
By watching this defense from the first game, you can see the toughness and cohesiveness this team is building.
The veteran Ryan has been affiliated with winning for a good portion of his career. He knows this unit is building something special. He notices the team has a renewed passion as they hit the home stretch.
More from Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post:
“We’re starting to believe we can win each and every game,” said safety Logan Ryan, who has done enough winning in his career in Foxborough and Nashville that he qualifies as an expert on a team with few other similar résumés.
Giants head coach Joe Judge has this team playing some disciplined football. He, along with defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, has this team believing in one another. With this defense, the whole is clearly greater than the sum of its parts.
The Obstacles Ahead
Considering the Giants’ next four games are against teams with playoff aspirations (at Seattle, vs Cardinals, vs Browns, and at Baltimore), this was a game the Giants could ill afford to lose. And by sheer will, they didn’t.
With Colt McCoy taking over for Jones and only passing for 31 yards (6-10), the defense had to step up. The defense will definitively be the driving force in the Giants’ quest to lock down the NFC East crown. The defense will have to hold down the fort while Jones mends from his injury.
Giants Defense Will Have to Be the Torchbearers
The defense will have to be the guiding light of hope in December. With the way they are playing, you still can’t rule out the Giants, despite the expected absence of Jones.
Obviously, you want to have your starting quarterback available for an important stretch run. However, with the grit, toughness, and resiliency the defense has provided, you can’t count out the Giants.