Surging Giants look to keep Cardinals grounded
The suddenly hot New York Giants look to record their fifth consecutive victory when they host the downward-spiraling Arizona Cardinals on Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J.
The Giants (5-7) are tied for first place in the meek NFC East and are brimming with confidence after last Sunday’s 17-12 road upset over the Seattle Seahawks behind backup quarterback Colt McCoy.
“This team, everyone wants it,” said running back Wayne Gallman, who rushed for a career-high 135 yards against Seattle. “From our coaches, to our owners, to the players, we really want it. We know what we have and we just have to keep on going every week. We can’t take any week for granted. We just have to put that work in for the next four weeks that we have and see what happens.”
The Cardinals (6-6) are hoping for a victory after losing three straight and four of their last five.
The only triumph they have posted since October ended came courtesy of Kyler Murray’s “Hail Mary” touchdown toss to DeAndre Hopkins on the final play of the game to stun the Buffalo Bills, 32-30, on Nov. 15.
Otherwise, Arizona hasn’t looked sharp like the squad that jumped out to a 5-2 start and appeared capable of winning the tough NFC West. The Cardinals are in third place in the division, two games behind the Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams.
Arizona has experienced issues countering the defensive approaches of teams adamant on keeping the athletic Murray in the pocket. Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury acknowledges that problem but sees other areas sputtering as well.
“These past three weeks, we haven’t hit a rhythm,” Kingsbury said. “Not only (Murray) not running, but other aspects of our offense haven’t been as sharp. We haven’t executed as well as we know we can. It’s a number of things that lead to where we are stalling out. When we’re playing in a rhythm and opening things up, then obviously it opens up him being able to use his legs more.”
Murray is certainly making good use of his legs with 10 running scores to complement his 22 touchdowns passes. He has passed for 2,987 yards and been intercepted 10 times.
But Murray was held to 170 passing yards by the New England Patriots two weeks ago and 173 by the Rams last week. His 53.8 completion percentage against Los Angeles — he completed 21 of 39 attempts — was his second lowest of the season.
“A lot of these games, we’re right there,” Murray said. “It’s just a couple things don’t go our way or we put pressure on ourselves.
“We make it harder than it has to be. If we just simplify these games, it’s pretty simple in itself, but at the same time it’s hard to execute at this level.”
Giants coach Joe Judge said he hopes to know on Friday whether quarterback Daniel Jones (hamstring) will return from a one-game absence.
Jones was injured during a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 29. McCoy finished that game and started in the upset of Seattle. He went 13-of-22 passing for 105 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
“My job is to do everything I can to get it ready to play,” Jones said on Wednesday. “Listen to what the trainers are telling me. Follow the program that’s been laid out. Just try to take every day and work to get it better and see where we are.”
New York has elevated its play on defense during the four-game winning streak by allowing an average of 16.5 points.
The unit regularly harassed Seattle’s Russell Wilson last Sunday and recorded a season-best five sacks. Defensive end Leonard Williams had 2.5 of them to increase his team-leading count to 8.5.
Linebacker Blake Martinez posted 10 tackles for his fifth double-digit outing of the season. He ranks third in the NFL with 111 tackles.
Safety Budda Baker has been Arizona’s top defensive player. He leads the team with 94 tackles and also has two interceptions and two sacks.
Veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list earlier this week and could return after a two-game absence.
The Cardinals have won four of the past five meetings against the Giants, including a 27-21 road win last season.
–Field Level Media