Well that was exhilarating, wasn't it? The New York Giants finally got their first win of the 2014 season against the Houston Texans, and they didn't even need 7 games to do it. What can we take away from this big win? Quite a bit, so let's get to it and explore:
This Whole Manning-McAdoo Thing Might Work
Eli Manning was excellent for the second straight week today as he went 21-28 (75% completion percentage) for 234 yards and 2 TDs. He was able to step into his throws and make quick, decisive decisions. He was accurate for the most part and took what the defense gave him. It was a stark difference from what Giants fans have seen over the off-season and against the Detroit Lions. Ben McAdoo called a brilliant game, once again taking what the defense was giving him. Houston was scared of the big throw down the field all game, so McAdoo was content to simply run the ball against that front with the safety being held back.
We also saw some new plays and a diverse amount of formations from the team. They ran a lot of 11 personnel, but we also saw some 2 TE looks. They utilized everybody, from Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings, to Daniel Fells and Preston Parker. We even saw a new play with Victor Cruz motioning from the backfield into the slot on a catch. I think I like this new look "dink and dunk" Giants offense.
Rashad Jennings and the Offensive Line Deserve All the Kudos
Both were absolutely tremendous all game today. Let's start with the offensive line. Aside from Justin Pugh getting whipped by J.J. Watt on the fifth play of the game for a sack, they were nearly flawless. The entire line of scrimmage moved forward two or three yards on each running play. Weston Richburg had probably his finest game as a Giant in his young career as he was executing seal block after seal block. Will Beatty had another monstrous game. It appears his demise was greatly exaggerated. John Jerry was once again perfect in pass protection. Even J.D. Walton got into the attack, with a couple very nice blocks on J.J. Watt. Manning had a clean pocket for most of the day. Even more impressive than the pass protection was the obliteration they produced as a run blocking unit. I suggested in a film study before that the Giants needed to stick with a group and run with it to improve chemistry. Well, this was the group's 4th game together (counting the New England Patriots preseason game) and I'd say they are doing pretty well.
Speaking of "pretty well," those wouldn't be exact words I'd use to describe Rashad Jennings' performance today. More apt words would be "tremendous." Maybe "relentless". Perhaps even throw in a "monstrous." Jennings ran it 33times for 176 yards and a TD. He was yeoman-like in his work today, breaking tackles, making the appropriate cuts, and driving his legs. He had a 5.5 YPC day and that was not inflated by a big run, he consistently ripped off 6, 7, 8 yard runs to move the chains. The Giants finally look to have a complete running back that can catch, pass block, and run effectively.
The Giants' Biggest Obstacles Are Still themselves
The Giants won this game quite handily, but the 30-17 score doesn't do it justice as it wasn't nearly as close. A tip of the cap to Raptor22, as he nailed it in his pre-game piece. With plays that can only really be classified as "dumb," the Giants could've cost themselves this game in the early going. The first "facepalm" moment was, of course, Larry Donnell's fumble near the goalline that cost the team at the very least three points. Then we have the gaffe by Zak DeOssie bouncing the ball past Steve Weatherford that cost the team another three points.
On defense, the drive where the Texans cut the lead to 7, making it 17-10 in the 3rd quarter, the Giants made two huge mistakes. On a big run by Texan RB Alfred Blue, the Texans set up an unbalanced line to the left side and for someone reason the Giants linebackers crashed on the right and tried to go backside. Blue simply ran straight and got a huge chunk of yardage. On the next play, Damaris Johnson got a big 40+ yard touchdown on a pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick because a secondary breakdown (for the 3rd week in a row). Trumaine McBride was expecting coverage from the safety over the top but Stevie Brown was sliding up and allowed Johnson to get behind him. Other than that, I counted 7, maybe 8, sacks by the defense. Of course, credit Fitzpatrick's mobility, but you have to get home just a little bit more.
The Defensive Line is Returning to Form
I mentioned all the missed sacks, but the silver lining was that the line was in position to make all those sacks in the first place. Officially credited with only two sacks, we'll likely see a huge number of pressures by that Giants front four. Robert Ayers continues to be a revelation as he consistently gets to the quarterback despite playing a limited number of sacks. Johnathan Hankins is blooming into a star right before our eyes, even if nobody outside of New York knows his name. He consistently made his presence felt in the run game, getting into the backfield on close to every snap and picked up another sack in this game. He looks better than Linval Joseph ever has, and still has room to grow even more. Finally, we come to Jason Pierre-Paul. The sack numbers aren't there but anybody who watched the games this year knows the kind of presence Pierre-Paul has been for this team. He's hustling, he's been relentless, he plays the run better than any edge defender in the NFL. Another fantastic game for the contract year player who's been everywhere.
The Giants Are a Team of Momentum
In fact, the offense is based on it. When Eli gets into a rhythm, it's difficult to stop. The offensive line seemingly fed off the pace that Manning commanded and caught the Houston defense off balance all game. Larry Donnell seemed like another guy that strings multiple good plays in a row. After a bad drop on 3rd down, Preston Parker came back and ran two beautiful routes to move the chains on the next drive. What this tells me is that it's crucial that the Giants manufacture "easy" plays to gain yards early on in their possessions to create rhythm.
That also applied to the defense. Known for blowing it on 3rd down, the Texans were 0 for their first 10 attempts on 3rd down (they ended the game 2-12). When the defense was playing well, they seemed nigh unstoppable, attacking relentlessly. One other thing I've got to mention is the crowd. These past two weeks have been the loudest I've seen the Metlife crowd, so a big kudos to whoever went. It definitely is becoming an advantage for our home team.