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Giants-Texans “Kudos & Wet Willies” review: Time to hand out a lot of praise

Not much to complain about after first victory of the season

New York Giants v Houston Texans
Eli Manning and J.J. Watt after Sunday’s game.
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

It’s time to review the New York Giants’ 27-22 victory over the Houston Texans in our traditional “Kudos & Wet Willies” style. As you might expect, the list of “Kudos” is long, and the “Wet Willies” were hard to come by.

Let’s get right to it.


Kudos to ...

Damon Harrison — Why on earth did the Texans continue trying to run the ball right at ‘Snacks?’ That was kinda like trying to knock down a brick wall with a Nerf ball. It was never going to work. Harrison finished with seven tackles, one for loss. He completely engulfed the Houston running game as Lamar Miller carried 10 times for 10 yards and Alfred Blue had four carries for 13.

Saquon Barkley — Yeah, like Chris said, the rookie running back is good. Barkley had 117 yards from scrimmage (82 rushing and 35 receiving), his third straight 100+ yard game. Barkley is, in fact, average 117.6 total yards from scrimmage per game. He had a terrific stop and start 15-yard touchdown run, a 24-yard run and his fourth-quarter 21-yard pass reception while split out wide with linebacker Zach Cunningham helpless to do anything to stop him showed what a weapon he can be used that way.

Kerry Wynn — What has gotten into this guy? For four seasons, the former undrafted free agent has been a try-hard but nowhere close to dynamic play-making reserve defensive end. Suddenly, Wynn is everywhere.

Sunday, Wynn had five tackles, one for loss, a pass defensed and a game-changing forced fumble. His hustle to knock a ball loose from Houston running back Lamar Miller that Donte Deayon recovered snuffed out a drive at the Giants’ 27-yard line with the Texans threatening to cut into what was an 11-point lead late in the third quarter.

Eli Manning — Yep. Manning is done. Can’t throw the ball worth a lick. No chance the Giants can succeed with that old man playing quarterback. Oh, wait. Never mind. The old man had a 25-of-29 game for 297 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, the scores coming on terrific throws to Sterling Shepard and Rhett Ellison. Manning was sacked four times, but for the most part was able to set his feet and throw where AND when he wanted to throw. The results were spectacular. Nine completions in 10 throws to Odell Beckham Jr. Six completions in seven throws to Sterling Shepard. Not a single dangerous throw in the entire game.

Manning was on time and on target all day. What we saw Sunday, with Manning finding and exploiting mismatches in the Houston secondary, is what the Giants hoped to create. Manning showed that, given a chance, he can still deliver the goods. Through three games, Manning is posting career bests in passer rating (99.1) and completion percentage (73.6).

Sterling Shepard — The third-year wide receiver can be overlooked on a team with Beckham and Barkley, but he was critical to the Giants’ victory Sunday. Except for that whole taunting penalty thing. Shepard had six catches for 80 yards and came up huge on the critical fourth-quarter scoring drive. That began with Shepard catching a 23-yard pass from Manning. It ended with Shepard settling into the end zone and corralling a strike from Manning for a 7-yard score that gave the Giants a 12-point lead with 5:29 to play.

The offensive line — The Giants did surrender four sacks Sunday, and Manning has now been sacked 14 times in three games. They did enough during most of the game, though, to keep the quarterback comfortable. They also opened some holes in the running game as the Giants ran 27 times for 114 yards, 4.2 yards per carry. Admittedly, some of that was Barkley doing Barkley things, but there were holes. With two new starters, Chad Wheeler at right tackle and John Greco at center, there were also no obvious communication breakdowns. The line was, for the most part, good enough. That, to be honest, is all anyone can hope for at this point.

New York Giants v Houston Texans
J.J. Watt
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

J.J. Watt — It would be easy to give Chad Wheeler, making his first start at right tackle, a “Wet Willie.” I’m not going to do that, though, and if you want to criticize and say “well, had that been Ereck Flowers you would have given him a “Wet Willie” I won’t argue. You’re probably 100 percent right.

Still, I’m not going to kill Wheeler here. He did some good things in the run game and at times did enough to help Manning in the passing game.

Instead, I’m just going to marvel at Watt. Debilitating injuries have limited him to 8 games over the past two seasons, and it’s really been a very long time since he reminded us of just how good he is. The guy is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. He almost single-handedly destroyed the Giants on Sunday. Watt did what a great player was supposed to do to a former undrafted free agent making his first start of the year.

It actually would have been fun to watch had it not been against the Giants. Well, in all honesty, it was kind of fun to watch. Watt is an amazing player.

NFL: New York Giants at Houston Texans Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Giants’ defense as a whole — The Giants got a little help, maybe a lot of help, from the Texans. Houston kept shooting itself in the foot with offensive penalties that contributed to stalled drives. Perhaps you can say the Giants were a little bit loose in the secondary as Deshaun Watson passed for 385 yards, but the defense made plays when it needed to make them.

The Giants got a pair of second-half takeaways when it appeared the Texans were gaining some momentum as they tried to mount a comeback. They held Houston to 19 carries for 59 yards, 3.1 per attempt. Well, mostly Harrison did that. Rookies B.J. Hill and Lorenzo Carter got their first career sacks. Mario Edwards Jr. also had a sack as the Giants took advantage of an awful Houston line to generate its best pass rush of the season with three sacks and 11 quarterback hits.

Odell Beckham Jr. — Sunday seemed like a quiet game for Beckham. There weren’t any amazing catches or long touchdown plays. Look up at the end of the afternoon, though, and he had nine receptions in 10 targets for 109 yards. That included a 30-yard catch-and-run. When Beckham was single-covered the Giants got the ball to him on a lot of underneath crossing routes. When Houston paid extra attention to him Manning and the Giants went elsewhere.

Wet Willies to ...

Stacy Coley — Yeah, OK. I’m picking on the new guy. Somebody has to get a “Wet Willie,” though. I mean, c’mon, man! Coley, brought in to replace Kaelin Clay, who replaced Hunter Sharp, muffed his first punt return. He recovered it, but not a good start. He averaged 13.5 yards on two kickoff returns, including one that went for a measly 6 yards, and 3.0 yards on two punt returns.

Curtis Riley — The Giants still have a free safety problem. Darian Thompson wasn’t the answer. He’s gone. Andrew Adams wasn’t the answer. He’s gone. Riley is the guy with the job right now, but three games in I’m not convinced he’s the answer. His angles are often awful. His tackling is suspect — he’s a drag down guy, at best. He got trucked in the open field by Will Fuller, who isn’t exactly a physical guy. He got run through by Fuller a second time on a 6-yard touchdown pass. Maybe there is a reason James Bettcher generally lines Riley up about a million yards from the line of scrimmage — to keep him out of the way.