The Giants entered the locker room down 17–6 at halftime yesterday shortly after David Garrard capped the first half with a ridiculous late touchdown run. Perhaps fearful that they were watching yet another season spiral out of control, the Meadowlands crowd booed the Giants as the team left the field, and it’s hard to blame them: Following two straight losses, the Giants came out flat, allowing 90 rushing yards in the first quarter alone and settling for just two field goals on offense.
Then Justin Tuck spoke — an apparently moving locker-room speech about the Giants needing to protect their house — sparking a second-half comeback that, coupled with Philadelphia’s loss later in the day, would even the division race with five games remaining. Which isn’t to say the Giants won because of a speech: Mario Manningham caught a fourth-quarter touchdown pass, and Ahmad Bradshaw’s run on the two-point conversion tied the game at seventeen. (On the afternoon, starter-for-at-least-a-day Brandon Jacobs, who ran for 87 yards, did indeed get more carries than Bradshaw, though Bradshaw also caught four passes for 49 yards rushing and 34 yards receiving.)
Then, following a Jacksonville field goal, an under-pressure Eli Manning delivered the ball to Kevin Boss — the same Kevin Boss whose penalty negated a Manningham touchdown earlier in the game — who broke a tackle and ran the ball into the end zone with 3:15 remaining. (Here’s the requisite reminder that Eli Manning is a worthy franchise quarterback — though we’d kind of hoped such reminders would be unnecessary by now.)
Anyway, on Jacksonville’s final drive, with the Giants up 24–20, the defense would cap a much-improved second half with an impressive final stand, eventually causing the fumble that would seal the game. And speaking of fumbles — segue alert! — the Giants didn’t turn the ball over once yesterday (though we’ll admit that, whether this is fair or not, when Manning handed off to Bradshaw on first down in the closing seconds, with the Giants just looking to kill the clock, a couple of nightmare scenarios flashed through our mind). Emotional halftime speeches are nice; a turnover-free ballgame — given how the Giants have struggled this season with turning the ball over, and considering that the short-handed Giants can’t afford to make many mistakes — is even better. Next up: a meeting, finally, with Washington, next Sunday at the Meadowlands.