Gi­ants’ coach look­ing for a big De­cem­ber

In his rookie sea­son as coach, Ben McA­doo has taken the Gi­ants into some­what ne­glected ter­ri­tory.

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Tom Cana­van

In his rookie sea­son as coach, Ben McA­doo has taken the New York Gi­ants into some­what ne­glected ter­ri­tory.

The Gi­ants (8-3) are in the play­off hunt for the first time since 2012, a year they fal­tered down the stretch, win­ning two of their last five games to fin­ish 9-7.

De­spite riding a six-game win­ning streak and the sec­ond best record in the NFC, New York is go­ing to have to work to make the play­offs for the first time since win­ning the Su­per Bowl in Fe­bru­ary 2012.

It has the AFC North co-lead­ing Steel­ers (6-5) in Pitts­burgh on Sun­day. NFC East leader Dal­las (10-1), whose only loss is to the Gi­ants, is at MetLife Sta­dium on Dec. 11, fol­lowed by NFC North-lead­ing Detroit (74) on the 18th.

Four days later, the Gi­ants face the ri­val Ea­gles on the road, and close out the sched­ule at Wash­ing­ton on Jan. 1. The Red­skins (6-4-1) have the sec­ond-best record in the wild­card race, right be­hind the Gi­ants.

For a team that has not put it all to­gether this sea­son, es­pe­cially on of­fense, the play­offs are not guar­an­teed.

“As a team, where do we go from here?” McA­doo asked. “It’s De­cem­ber foot­ball. This is where the real foot­ball be­gins. All our hard work to this point has set the ta­ble for De­cem­ber. It’s an ex­cit­ing time against a lot of play­off teams and play­off en­vi­ron­ments. The mar­gin for er­ror is small. This is where

our iden­tity needs to take over.”

The Gi­ants’ iden­tity has been that of a team that gets things done. For the most part, it has been star play­ers step­ping up and mak­ing plays.

In the 27-13 de­ci­sion over the Browns (0-12) on Sun­day, de­fen­sive end Ja­son Pierre-Paul led the way with seven tack­les, three sacks, a forced fum­ble and a fum­ble re­turn for a touch­down. Eli Man­ning added three touch­down passes, in­clud­ing two to Odell Beck­ham Jr. The con­stant in the win­ning streak has been the play of the de­fense, which has been led by safety Lan­don Collins.

McA­doo in­sists the Gi­ants won’t be fo­cused on mak­ing the play­offs.

“I think it’s im­por­tant to ad­dress the ele­phant in the room, so to speak,” McA­doo said. “Ev­ery­thing gets cranked up a notch in De­cem­ber with ev­ery­one jock­ey­ing for po­si­tion. We just need to make sure we play our best foot­ball mov­ing for­ward.”

If any group has to step up, it’s the of­fense. It has been in­con­sis­tent most of the sea­son, es­pe­cially the run­ning game.

While the Gi­ants scored 27 points against the Browns, the de­fense set up the first touch­down with a turnover at the Cleve­land 31 in the sec­ond quar­ter. Pierre-Paul’s re­turn got

another touch­down.

Spe­cial teams also need to im­prove. Cleve­land got three points af­ter Bobby Rainey muffed a punt, and a Mark Her­zlich hold­ing penalty nul­li­fied a punt re­turn for a touch­down by Beck­ham in the fourth quar­ter.

“I think it’s great that we have play­ers that can change the game in one play,” McA­doo said. “We need to be men­tally di­aled-in to play a com­plete game at all three phases for four-plus quar­ters. We re­ally need to cash in on that in De­cem­ber.”

NOTES: McA­doo re­fused to say whether Beck­ham would con­tinue to re­turn punts down the stretch . ... Her­zlich and safety Nat Berhe were hurt in the game and are start­ing the week in the con­cus­sion pro­to­col. It’s the sec­ond time this sea­son for Berhe . ... Rookie re­ceiver Ster­ling Shep­ard not only failed to catch a pass for the first time this sea­son, he also was not tar­geted. McA­doo called it un­for­tu­nate. “We’re not com­plet­ing enough balls or mov­ing the chains as much as we need to move the chains for ev­ery­one to get in­volved . ... It’s too early to tell whether Gs Justin Pugh (knee), Brett Jones (calf) and Mar­shall Ne­w­house (knee) will be able to prac­tice this week, McA­doo said . ... McA­doo did not know if RB Shane Vereen, who has been on in­jured re­serve with a tri­ceps in­jury since Week 3, would prac­tice this week.

DAVID RICHARD — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Gi­ants head coach Ben McA­doo works the side­lines dur­ing New York’s vic­tory over Browns.

RON SCHWANE —THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Gi­ants wide re­ceiver Odell Beck­ham, left, cel­e­brates his touch­down catch with quar­ter­back Eli Man­ning dur­ing Sun­day’s vic­tory over Browns.

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