Here's what we learned:
- Regardless of previous successes, Monday's game was a welcome benchmark for the Giants as they watched their first-year head coach win with a pair of definitive moves. We say definitive because they were not fly-by-night decisions that just happened to work out, but strategic, deep-seated calls that ended up lifting the team to 6-3.
On fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line with 14:12 remaining in the fourth quarter (the Giants were trailing 20-14) McAdoo opted to go for it. Eli Manning punched a short pass to a cutting Sterling Shepard, resulting in the winning touchdown. However, McAdoo made the decision long before the actual play. Before the drive, the offense approached the series with the knowledge that this would be four-down territory even though the game was not on the line and there was plenty of time left on the clock.
"We had talked about it, we had sort of addressed it at the beginning of the drive that we were going to use all four downs," center Weston Richburg said.
Flash forward a few minutes later, the Giants had the ball on their own 45-yard line with 2:50 left. The Bengals, trailing by a point, just exhausted their final timeout. The temptation, with Odell Beckham on the field and with the running game producing a mixed bag of success, would be to dial up a mid-range pass, take your chances and punt. But the call ended up being a pure sight adjustment put in the hands of Manning and the offensive line.
"It was an adjustment," running back Rashad Jennings said of the play, which ended up yielding nine yards to put the game away. "We wanted to take advantage of the opportunity."
Jennings said it was a special moment because it showed faith not only in Manning but an embattled offensive line. Even allowing the game to potentially come down to a seven-yard run can get a group fired up.
- The Giants (6-3) were backing off their injured offensive line all day but still had an incredibly difficult time containing a fantastic defensive line and Vontaze Burfict. With the run game almost completely out of question, it was open season for Geno Atkins who beat up on a wary group of backups.
- A random observation: Eli Manning has been playing in essentially one of two offensive systems for the entirety of his career and yet communication issues and puzzling deep throws have been prevalent throughout most of them. While it's easy to say this doesn't happen to A-list quarterbacks and be wrong (just ask Aaron Rodgers), it does put someone like Tom Brady and the Patriots offense into perspective. Both have cycled talented pass catchers in and out over lengthy careers but Brady seemed to grow out of many of the gaffes which still plague Manning.
- While the throw by Andy Dalton -- a wayward pass into double coverage to a backup tight end -- was puzzling in itself, Landon Collins' fourth quarter interception solidified the second-year safety as the Giants' defensive MVP this season. Perhaps the rest of their $200 million defense canceled itself out, but Collins hauled in his fourth interception of the year to go along with his multiple sacks and more than 70 tackles. I've never seen a supposed box safety break out and operate in space as quickly as Collins, especially after a fairly mediocre season in 2015.