The New York Giants came away with their first victory of the 2018 season on Sunday, beating the Houston Texans 27-22 in a game in which they were 6-point underdogs. It wasn’t a pretty win, by any means, and the Giants very nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as they allowed the Texans back in the game in the second half.
They say that you learn more from failure than from success, but we learned plenty from the Giants’ first win.
The Giants have given up on Ereck Flowers
Okay, that more or less implies that they ever had any faith in Flowers to begin with. If we’re being honest with ourselves — and we are — Flowers’ days with the Giants were numbered anyway. Unless he stepped in at right tackle, completely reworked his game from the ground up, and somehow did in four months of playing right tackle what he hadn’t done in six years at left tackle for Miami and the Giants, he wasn’t going to be a Giant in 2019.
To Flowers’ credit, he did make some improvement at right tackle between Week 1 and Week 2, but that apparently wasn’t enough.
Saquon Barkley is #good
Saquon Barkley left the field in the first drive, only to come back and score a touchdown on a 15-yard run. He ended up with 17 carries for 82 yards.
But even more than his big runs, Barkley’s physicality and balance through contact on his short runs was impressive. In between runs which went for chunk yardage, Barkley had runs where he was met at the line of scrimmage only to jump cut and spin out of an attempted tackle. Those plays might only have gone for a couple yards, but they might have been more impressive than the long runs.
Of course, it should also be impressive that Barkley topped 100 total yards of total offense for the third straight week, racking up 117 yards and a touchdown.
Kerry Wynn’s calendar read “August”
Defensive lineman Kerry Wynn’s domination throughout training camp and preseason became legendary over the summer — to the point where Giants fans joked that the team took him off the field to give the other team a chance to evaluate their offense.
After a pair of quiet weeks to open the season, Wynn turned the clock back to August against the Texans. The former UDFA out of Richmond was in on seemingly every play in the first half, and forced a fumble to derail a promising drive by the Texans and get the ball back to the offense in the second half. He also helped create Mario Edwards Jr’s sack as well as batting down a pass near the end of the game.
The Giants’ entire defensive line played very well this game, with B.J. Hill getting the first sack of his NFL career, but Wynn is probably the defensive player of the game for the Giants.
The Texans have a suspect offensive line, but Wynn stepped up in a big way as Olivier Vernon still tries to work his way back from the high ankle sprain he suffered in preseason.
Eli Manning can still spin it
The offensive line wasn’t improved by replacing Flowers with Wheeler — the backup gave up three sacks to J.J. Watt, who entered the game without one in the first two games.
Manning was sacked four times, but remained on target both in the pocket and on the move, consistently putting the ball in his receivers hands and giving them opportunities for yards after the catch. The Giants’ showed much more of a willingness to attack down the field than in last week’s horizontal game plan, and the result was plain to see. Manning has consistently thrived when given vertical options in his passing attack, and hopefully Shurmur and Shula will keep them in there.
This was the Manning in whom Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur expressed their belief, and the Giants need him to stick around for a few months if they want to claw out of the hole they dug for themselves in the first two weeks of the season.
Also of note, Eli completed an incredible 25-of-29 passes, for 297 yards and 2 touchdowns. That last number put Eli at seventh all time in passing touchdowns, tying former Giant Fran Tarkenton.
The Giants still can’t defend running quarterbacks
The Giants spoke about the need to improve their defense of the read option in the week before Sunday’s game. It turned out that it wasn’t in Houston’s game-plan for the day, but the Giants were still gashed on the ground by DeShaun Watson. Four the third week in a row the Giants gave up more than 40 yards on the ground to the quarterback, with Watson scrambling for 53 (36 counting the yards lost to sacks). This time it wasn’t deception which hurt the Giants, but rather breakdowns in lane discipline on rushes and failure to keep contain on the athletic Watson.
While dealing with the New Orleans Saints’ offense in week 4 will come with a whole host of problems, at least having to worry about the 39 year old Brees racking up rushing yards is not among them.
This team has talent
Maybe it was looking like a JV squad against the division-rival Cowboys that finally woke the team up. Maybe the offense and defense are finally starting to find their groove in their new schemes and get used to all the new faces on the roster.
Whatever it is, the Giants finally seemed to click on both offense and defense, and the results were impressive.
Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson are a force up front, while Janoris Jenkins has largely returned to form as a cover corner. B.J. Hill began to assert himself in the final quarter of the game, Lorenzo Carter showed off his athleticism and is coming ever closer to being an impact player.
The Texans’ defense had no answers for Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Saquon Barkley. When Evan Engram went down, Rhett Ellison picked up the slack and the offense kept rolling.
The offensive line and defensive secondary are still problems which will need to be addressed ASAP. But against a talented Texans team which is far better than their 0-3 record suggest, the Giants showed that they can not only win games, but dominate them. There are still wrinkles to be ironed out on both sides of the ball, and the defense is still without Vernon and Apple, but the Giants have finally shown us something to feel good about.
The BBV staff sucks at picking games
Last week we were solidly in the Giants corner, only to see them run off the field by the Dallas Cowboys. This week not a one of us had any faith in the G-Men to mount any kind of an offense in the face of Houston’s defense, or slow down DeShaun Watson with Olivier Vernon and Eli Apple on the trainers’ tables.
We were wrong. So terribly, wonderfully, wrong.
The Texans still got plenty of pressure on Eli Manning, but he turned the clock back to 2011 and stood tall in the face of Houston’s pass rush and was surgical with the football. The defense stepped up, generating a pass rush and suffocating the Texans’ league-leading run game. The Giants gave up 59 total yards on the ground and just 23 yards to the Texans’ running backs. Nearly 100 yards fewer than Houston’s average coming in to the week.
I gladly eat my crow today, and this is one time I am happy to be wrong.