Game #7: A Giant Test

Before he became a Washington icon Sam Huff was a star with the New York Giants. After losing the 1963 NFL Championship Game to the Chicago Bears coach Allie Sherman traded away five defensive starters including Huff. Sam never forgave Sherman, getting his revenge later. (Below)

There are no style points in the NFL. Just like there are no moral victories. A win is a win, ugly or not. As unsatisfying in some respects as the game in Atlanta went, it still put a “W” on the ledger. The Defense responded well — led by some new blood. After losing Safeties the week before the replacements played nicely. Atlanta lives by the run. Washington’s vaunted Defensive front stuffed it repeatedly. The old mantra that winning the turnover battle usually results in a victory held serve. This is a Defense that must produce turnovers. For one week they did just that. The offense took good advantage of those turnovers by producing 17 points off of them. More importantly they did not cough up the ball all game. Despite being basically moribund in the second half, the offense was good enough…for that game. It didn’t hurt the cause that Special Teams had a solid afternoon.

The usual mantra around a Coordinator change is that it takes six to eight games for the new system to be on full display. In Miami, the fanbase is clutching pearls over Vic Fangio‘s defense. It’s bad. But, the offense is on another frequency altogether. Fangio turned the Chicago Bears Defense from a League-Worst to a top-half in one year. The following year it was top-five. A sincere hope by the Fins’ fans is that he will replicate that. In parallel sits Eric Bienemy‘s first year with the WFT.

Washington’s offense has produced 133 points over 6 games (22.1 avg.) As unimpressive as it sounds, it marks the first time the team has exceeded 20 points per game in over five years. Last week, two thirds of the teams failed to score 20 points. Washington’s 24 look respectable against that backdrop. Young QB1 Sam Howell is exceeding expectations for essentially his rookie season. The nine touchdowns versus 6 interceptions is not all that impressive on the surface. However, since his four-pick fiasco against Buffalo he has thrown only one interception versus six touchdowns. Former Giants’ quarterback Phil Simms said of Howell, “He’s Billy Kilmer with a better arm.”

Howell’s leadership and toughness are lauded. Now he has to learn to stop holding the ball too long. It’s a common sin among young QBs. After 34 sacks and 39 pressures, including being knocked down 23 times Sam is probably a bit sore. If he has ambitions to stay on his feet until the end of the season now would be a good time to speed up things once the ball is snapped. That line he’s behind is not exactly a reincarnation of the famous “Hogs.”

The New York Football Giants were founded in 1925 by Tim Mara. He paid the princely sum of $500 ($8,700 equivalent in 2023). Throughout its history, that team has been in the Mara family. Like many New York franchises the team played for many years at the Polo Grounds before moving to Yankee Stadium in 1956. That year rookie Sam Huff joined the team in time for the last of the Giants’ four NFL Championships. Over the next seven years the Giants would go to the Championship game some five times…and lose every last one of them. In the Super Bowl era the team has won four Lombardi trophies.

Versus Washington the Giants have an impressive edge at 106-71-5. Over a ten-year stretch from 1956-1966 the “G-men” won 16-3-1 over the Burgundy and Gold. Some old division rivalries typically feature a split between two teams over the course of a season. Not this one. Over the 88-year course of the rivalry one team or the other has won both of the contests in a season some 47 times (53%).

Revenge served chilled
Charlie Gogalak kicks a field goal in the final seconds of the game; November 27 1966. This was hardly a walk-off win. The kick gave the WFT a score of 72 over the Giants’ 41. Coach Otto Graham asked who had called time out. It was Sam Huff rubbing salt into Allie Sherman’s fresh wounds.

This version of the New York Football Giants has been a disappointment to their fanbase. Last year the team produced enough wins to be in the playoffs…and win a playoff game. New coach Brian Daboll brought immediate improvement to a squad that had languished under Joe Judge. He also raised the level of play by QB Daniel Jones. The key off-season questions for Big Blue were the contracts of Jones and star Running Back Saquon Barkley. Throughout the League Running Backs have lost salary to Quarterbacks and Defensive Linemen. Barkley had turned down an offer the year before that would not be repeated this year. He lost money when settling for a one-year deal. Jones, on the other hand, got paid. His complicated contract could end up paying him a high of $46 million for the 2026 season. Then again, the Giants can move on from Jones after next year.

All of the positive buoyancy from last year has evaporated in a rash of injuries and poor play. Washington’s Offensive Line is poor. However, the unit is basically healthy. Not so for New York which is missing three starters. The Giants sit at 1-5. The one win came from an out-of-character half of brilliant football against Arizona. While Washington is averaging 22 points per game New York is averaging less than 12. Barkley, a WFT nemesis has been injured. So too with the QB. As of this writing Jones has not been, “Cleared for contact” by the medical staff. On paper this looks like a cake walk. Don’t be fooled.

Records mean nothing in divisional games. Last week the Giants, behind career backup QB Tyrod Taylor and a gimpy Barkley gave the Buffalo Bills fits in Orchard Park. They played hard. It is a safe bet they will do the same this Sunday. A win would push the WFT over .500. That would crack the door slightly ajar to the hope for a winning season. Ron Rivera‘s none-too-subtle message to his team last week was, “Do your job.” It would be a good idea to repeat it this week.

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