Hey, it's a happy recap. The New York Giants won their first game of the 2015 season Thursday night, defeating the Washington Redskins, 32-21. Let's review in our traditional "Kudos & Wet Willies" style.
Kudos to ...
Rueben Randle -- It was nice to Randle remember that he needs to be a play maker for the Giants, and for the Giants to remember to make sure he had opportunities to make those plays.
"I felt like, you know, for a couple weeks he's been coming on and appearing more and more like himself and I told him I thought he'd have a big game tonight and obviously he did, so I am happy for Reuben," said head coach Tom Coughlin.
Randle caught all seven passes thrown in his direction for 116 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Eli Manning -- This was the kind of bounce-back performance you would expect from a two-time Super Bowl MVP.Manning responded to the Giants' 0-2 start and the criticism swirling around him with an efficient 23-of-32 night for 279 yards and two touchdowns. For the most part the Giants stuck with the quick, short passing game. Manning did crank it up for a 30-yard touchdown pass to Odell Beckham Jr. and a a 41-yard touchdown pass to Randle. Manning ended up with a 119.1 passer rating on what ended up as a mistake-free night.
"I felt bad for the first two games, we were right there. Games we could've easily won. Had leads in the fourth quarter and did not hold on to those and were not at our best in the final minutes of the game. It's frustrating. We had opportunities and we didn't take advantage of it," Manning said. "We have some downs, we have some bad plays, we have some bad games, we don't have success in those situations. If you start dredging them, it's going to get worst. You've just got to get back in that moment, get back in that situation, have some success and feel good about yourself."
Odell Beckham -- Just another ho-hum night for Beckham. Seven catches in nine targets for 79 yards and a 30-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to give the Giants a 25-6 cushion with 13:39 to play. Against Kirk Cousins and the Redskins that was too big of a lead for even the Giants to fritter away.
Nikita Whitlock -- Offense. Defense. Special teams. No matter what group was on the field, you looked out there Thursday night and this multi-talented, do anything to help the team win, rookie was part of the action. He played 14 snaps at his "real" position of fullback, nine snaps at his favorite position of defensive tackle and 20 snaps on special teams.
"He's a multi-task, multi-talented guy who can rush the passer, plays fullback as you all know, is on all of the special teams. He's got great energy, this kid," said Coughlin.
Whitlock actually had a hit on Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins as well as a hurry while being used as a fourth-quarter pass rusher.
I said way back in preseason that Whitlock is the kind of player teams win with, and he showed that on Thursday. Any questions why he made this team instead of Henry Hynoski?
Rashad Jennings -- The veteran running back showed up huge in what might have been an unexpected role, blocking a first-quarter punt that turned into a 2-0 Giants' lead when the ball bounded through the end zone. Coughlin said Jennings has a "unique talent" for blocking punts, and he showed it Thursday. Rushing off the edge he manhandled Washington linebacker Terrance Plummer to block the punt by Tress Way and get the victory-starved Giants started on the right foot.
Giants' run defense --So much for that unstoppable Washington rushing attack. The Giants held the Redskins to 88 yards on 20 carries. Take away a meaningless 26-yard run on the game's final play and the Giants gave up 62 yards on 19 rushing attempts (3.2 yards per carry). The Redskins entered the game averaging 171.5 yards rushing per game. There are flaws in the Giants' defense certainly, but the ability to defend the run gives Steve Spagnuolo something to build on.
Daniel Fells -- Returned to the lineup with three catches, including a brilliant one-handed grab (has he been watching Beckham?) that set up a Giants' field goal.
Prince Amukamara -- A first-quarter interception deep in Washington territory, three passes defensed and eight tackles. Yes, Prince had a really nice night mostly guarding Pierre Garcon. With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie sidelined by a concussion the Giants needed Amukamara, and he came up big.
Uani 'Unga -- Teams seem to try to pick on the rookie middle linebacker when he's in the game, and we know all too well that sometimes they have succeeded. You can't fault the young man's effort, though, and in three games he has shown that he is definitely opportunistic. 'Unga came up with a critical interception, his second of the season, after Devon Kennard tipped a Kirk Cousins pass. Unga also had a team-high nine tackles, two passes defensed and forced a fumble.
Wet Willies to ...
Marshall Newhouse -- Manning was never sacked on Thursday, but if it seemed like the quarterback spent a lot of time shuffling around in the pocket to avoid pressure coming from his right it is because he did. Newhouse had a rough night (I won't spoil Chris's upcoming PFF grades post), but the right tackle's numbers weren't good. He surrendered four pressures on Manning's 32 drop backs, and his run blocking wasn't good either. Hurry back, Will Beatty!
Larry Donnell -- I guess somebody has to drop passes, and Thursday night for the Giants the primary culprit was Larry Donnell with a pair of drops. One was a drop across the middle that forced the Giants to settle for a field goal rather than have first-and-goal. Donnell did have three catches, so maybe this should be a "Kwillie." This bit ridiculousness, though, clinches the WW.
Giants' kickoff coverage -- You've got to be kidding with this stuff, right? Just when the Giants are nice and comfy, getting a 41-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Randle to take a 32-14 lead with 3:21 to play, the dreaded special teams breakdown occurs. The Giants apparently forgot they were supposed to tackle Redskins kickoff returner Rashad Ross, and he went 101 yards for a score to make it 32-21 and put just a little intrigue back into the final 3:08. After having blown double-digit leads in the fourth quarters of their first two games the Giants didn't need that. They didn't need it at all.
Giants' running game -- While the Giants' defense was grounding the Washington the running game, the Giants seemed to forget that it would have been OK to run the ball effectively themselves. Aside from Andre Williams going all Brandon Jacobs on Washington safety Trenton Robinson there was nothing to talk about. The Giants had 31 rushing attempts for 84 yards, just 2.7 yards per carry. Maybe some of that was due to Washington crowding the line of scrimmage near the end of the game, but the Giants have to be better than that running the ball.
Dwayne Harris -- Harris needs to buy Orleans Darkwa dinner. Or a watch. Or, well, something nice. Darkwa bailed Harris out in the first quarter when Harris foolishly tried to make a difficult running catch of a punt and run with it rather than settling under the ball and fair catching it, and Darkwa got hurt doing it. The Giants led 9-0 at the time and had everything going their way. A Washington recovery around the Giants' 35-yard line could have changed everything. Darkwa did end up injuring a knee on the play, though we don't know if it was a severe injury. Harris also had just one kickoff return for 13 yards, no receptions (just one target) in 45 offensive plays, and one offensive pass interference penalty. Harris was replacing the released Preston Parker, who had been filling in for the injured Victor Cruz. Is there such a thing as a slot receiver jinx?