EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Don’t bury Ben McAdoo just yet. Stop the shoveling of dirt on his coaching coffin.
This may not be what New York Giants fans want to hear, but McAdoo took a step in the right direction toward saving his job Sunday with a 12-9 overtime victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at MetLife Stadium. Aldrick Rosas kicked a 23-yard field goal with less than two minutes left in the extra session two plays after Roger Lewis made a diving catch near the goal line on fourth down.
McAdoo's team didn’t crash and burn as it had the previous two weeks and most of this season. The Giants didn’t lay another defensive egg. They were short-handed and overmatched talentwise against the Chiefs, yet put forth a solid effort in a game they weren’t supposed to have a chance to win. In fact, they thrived late in a close game, something they haven't done much this season. It was significantly better than the product they put on the field in recent weeks, which has put their coach under constant fire, to the point that the Giants’ owners had to put out a statement this week saying his job was safe until at least the end of the season.
“We kept fighting,” right guard D.J. Fluker said. “We’re going to defend our coach because, shoot, we only get one to play for. And play hard for him.
“I know people want to give up and all, but we ain’t quitting. We’re the New York Giants. We’re the Giants for a reason. If you don’t play with passion for this coach, something is wrong. You shouldn’t be here.”
The Giants (2-8) were 10-point underdogs on Sunday, according to Westgate. It was the fifth time in the past 39 years they were double-digit underdogs at home. They still managed to lead most of the game and responded well -- especially defensively -- to a meeting earlier in the week in which McAdoo was “brutally honest” in pointing out more than a few plays where the Giants didn’t show a consistent desire to finish.
They had allowed 82 points in the previous two games. The Chiefs and their fifth-ranked offense didn’t score a touchdown or top 300 total yards until late in the fourth quarter. The Giants played significantly better against Kansas City, even if it wasn’t their intention to try to save the coach’s job. That’s a fringe benefit.
“I’m trying to win games. I’m not trying to save coaches’ jobs,” defensive captain Jonathan Casillas said. “I’m trying to win games, save my own job. Make sure I have a job next year.
“Hopefully the better we do, the better it looks on the head coach. The worse we do, the worse it looks for the head coach. But I don’t think it’s the whole thing about us not playing for him, or us playing better for him. I think you have to take onus on yourself, play for yourself and your family and your morals and your values and your foundation and as a man what you were raised with. How were you raised? Are you raised to lay down or are you going down with a fight?”
Regardless of the motivation, Sunday was a step in the right direction in terms of McAdoo potentially saving his job. The Giants still have six games remaining.
As McAdoo has said before, he will not go down easily. Showing he hasn’t completely lost his locker room and the team hasn’t quit on him was Step 1. The Giants played hard on Sunday. There were some positive signs.
“The players responded,” McAdoo said. “Tremendous team effort.”
After a poor effort last week (especially with his tackling), cornerback Janoris Jenkins looked more like the Pro Bowl player he was last year than the liability he was last week against the 49ers. There was one play in the first half where Jenkins fought through a block and pushed Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill out on a screen play. It was an effort the team didn’t see last week. He later made a game-changing interception with just more than two minutes remaining. “I thought Janoris Jenkins played his tail off,” McAdoo said.
Olivier Vernon was twice escorted off the field by trainers. Once he was listed as questionable to return with a shoulder injury. He came back both times. There was no quit in Vernon or many of the Giants on Sunday.
Despite a lack of playmakers -- Sterling Shepard was a surprise inactive with an illness -- the Giants pulled everything out of the playbook in order to try to make something happen. Some worked (fake punt) and others didn’t (Shane Vereen’s halfback pass in the red zone was intercepted). Still, at least the 1-8 team that entered the game took some chances.
McAdoo had a strong first year (11-5 and ended a five-year playoff drought), but this season has been an unmitigated disaster filled with suspensions and drama. However, if he can salvage something late in the season, it will make the decision difficult for a traditionally loyal and patient ownership group.
It may be a long shot and there is significantly more to be done in order for McAdoo to have a realistic case to return, but he has a chance. And Sunday helped.