GIANTS ONE STEP CLOSER
Giants on verge of playoff berth with victory over Lions.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Defense wins championships, and right now the New York Giants are convincing many that they might be the NFL’s best.
Forget that they are ranked in the middle of the league. In the past two games, Steve Spagnuolo’s group has limited division leaders Dallas and Detroit to a total of 13 points, and Sunday’s 17-6 win over the Lions came in a game where
top cornerback Janoris Jenkins left early in the second quarter with a back injury.
Add in another Odell Beckham Jr. one-hand touchdown catch to delight replay fanatics and the Giants have inched closer to their first playoff berth since 2011, and maybe more, with a win that snapped the NFC North-leading Lions’ five-game winning streak.
“This is really exciting, I don’t even know the word to use,” linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. “It’s starting to be a beautiful thing. Thirteen points the last two weeks, we like where we’re at now.”
The win was the eighth in nine games for the Giants (10-4) and it gave them their best record through 14 games since 2008, when they opened 11-3.
The formula was the one the team has followed in Ben McAdoo’s first season: Just enough offense and a tough stingy, pass-rushing defense that has now come up with big back-to-back efforts against two division leaders in Dallas (12-2) and Detroit (9-5), giving up 13 total points.
Eli Manning (20 of 28 for 201 yards) threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard on a 75-yard opening drive and then iced the game with a 4-yard TD pass that Beckham caught with his left hand and then pranced into the end zone for a 11-point lead with 5:20 to play.
“Norm,” veteran receiver Victor Cruz said of Beckham’s one-hander, which still paled in comparison to the fully extended TD catch against Dallas in his rookie year. “The norm. I wasn’t even surprised.”
Beckham said catches like that “just kind of happens” for him.
“You practice it and practice it,” he said. “That’s why you practice right-hand layups and left-hand layups. It’s just kind of, I don’t know.”
Beckham, who had six catches for 64 yards, almost wasn’t done. He reversed field about three times on a 63-yard punt return that brought the remaining fans to their seats less than a minute later. The electrifying return was nullified by an illegal block, but was simply a thrill to watch.
The Lions, who had rallied in the fourth quarter to win eight of their nine games, never came close to a comeback in this one as the Giants made them play on a long field all day.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford didn’t show any major issues playing with an injured middle finger on his throwing hand. He finished 24 of 39 for 274 yards and an interception, finding Golden Tate eight times for 122 yards.
“They’re a good team,” Stafford said. “Their secondary is probably the best we’ve played all year. They’ve got a really good defensive line. We knew it was going to be a challenge going into the day. We just didn’t make enough plays.”