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Giants-Texans ‘things I think’: The only thing pretty about the Giants is their 7-2 record

It’s never easy, it’s never beautiful, but for this Giants team their formula continues to be successful more often than not

NFL: Houston Texans at New York Giants
Dane Belton intercepts a pass on Sunday.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — You didn’t think the New York Giants were going to make things easy on Sunday against the one-win Houston Texans, did you? Yes, the Giants entered the game 6-2 and the Texans entered 1-6-1, but if you understand this Giants team you knew things would be interesting on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

The 24-16 victory, which brought the Giants to seven wins for the first time since 2016 and to their best nine-game record since they started the 2008 season 11-1, was not secured until Adoree’ Jackson recovered an onside kick with :07 remaining.

The Giants had opportunities to make life easier on themselves.

They started the game with an uncharacteristic 10-play, 73-yard touchdown drive for a 7-0 lead. They refused, though, to build on it.

Twice in the second quarter they got into scoring position and came away with no points.

In the third quarter, leading 14-3, Micah McFadden had an interception slip through his fingers and the Texans capitalized by scoring a touchdown to cut the deficit to 14-10.

The Giants survived three Texans drives into the red zone in the fourth quarter, getting two turnovers and only allowing one 34-yard Ka’imi Fairbairn field goal. They recovered two onside kicks in the final 2:26.

Honestly, it never felt like the Texans would win. The Giants, though, kept missing enough opportunities and letting the Texans do just enough to make it possible that Houston could win.

“You’re always happy. It beats the alternative. It’s hard to win in this league. There’s a lot of good coaches (and) a lot of good teams,” said head coach Brian Daboll. “Like I said earlier in the week, if you play well, you have a chance. It doesn’t guarantee you anything. If you do the things that cause you to lose, you’re probably going to lose no matter what team you are, who you play, where you play, what time you play.”

The Giants did just enough things that allowed them to win. And the Texans, honestly, were just bad enough not to be able to take advantage of the opportunities the Giants gave them.

“I think certainly after the game, you got to enjoy the wins and reflect a little bit on where we are,” said quarterback Daniel Jones. “Certainly, it’s a lot better on this side of it than how we’ve been in years past. You got to enjoy that and appreciate it, but at the same time, know there’s still a lot we need to improve on, there’s a lot still out there for us to do, especially on offense. That’s where we’re focused.”

This is what your New York Giants are. They are a team with some obvious deficiencies, but one that continues to — more often than not — make more plays at the end of games than their opponents.

As veteran defensive tackle Justin Ellis said after the game, the Giants just “grind it out.”

“We don’t listen to the outside noise,” Ellis said. “We know how hard it is to win in this league.”

It’s never pretty. It’s never easy. Sunday, though, was another example of the Giants doing just enough to win. Again.

Daboll comes through in the clutch

Sunday was Avery Daboll’s birthday, and the youngest daughter of head coach Brian Daboll had a request. She wanted a game ball from a victory over the Texans.

“I was asking her what she wanted for a present the other day. And she said, ‘A win. Give me a football with my name on it, dad.’” Daboll said. “That’s pressure more than anything else. So, I want to wish her a happy birthday.”

The victory on Sunday, of course, allowed Daboll to make his daughter happy. Maybe needing to satisfy his daughter is why the Giants’ coach was so livid after the Giants failed to capitalize on a couple of second-quarter scoring opportunities.

Kenny Golladay’s very bad day

Well, I don’t know who the dummy from Big Blue View was who made the bold prediction the other day that Golladay would have a productive second half of the season for the Giants. Maybe that guy should just not make any more predictions.

Golladay was targeted twice in the first half. Daniel Jones threw a pass out of his reach in the first quarter. Golladay got booed by the MetLife Stadium crowd. In the second quarter, a wide open Golladay dropped a perfectly thrown crossing route that could have gone for a sizable gain. He got booed again, this time vociferously.

He then got benched.

“We just decided to play Isaiah,” Daboll said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Golladay was terse after the game. Some examples:

Is he healthy”

“I’m good.”

Is the way he played Sunday unacceptable?

“It’s definitely unacceptable.”

Why haven’t things worked out with the Giants?

“I don’t know.”

Does he expect to have a role on offense going forward?

“We’ll see.”

I think Sunday might have been Golladay’s last chance to show he could be a contributor. It’s unfortunate, but I will be surprised if Golladay plays a big role going forward.

Next man up ... again

The Giants just keep digging deeper ... and deeper ... and deeper into their bench and into the depths of the NFL for players, and they keep finding guys who contribute to winning efforts.

Tight end Lawrence Cager, signed to the practice squad less than a month ago, had his first touchdown catch on Sunday and recovered an onside kick.

Hodgins, a waiver claim during the bye week, had two receptions for 41 yards. Both resulted in first downs and one, a 26-yarder on third-and-7, led to a Saquon Barkley touchdown.

The Giants were without safety Xavier McKinney Sunday, and might be without him the rest of the season. No matter, at least on Sunday. Rookie Dane Belton had a huge fourth-quarter interception in the end zone, and Jason Pinnock had 1.5 sacks and a pair of quarterback hits.

Jaylon Smith, a midseason signing, had a fumble recovery. Tyre Phillips again filled in for Evan Neal at right tackle. Defensive tackle Henry Mondeaux, elevated from the practice squad, played significant snaps with Nick Williams lost for the season.

“That’s our job as a coaching staff is to get these players ready, to find guys that are out there – like (general manager) Joe (Schoen) and his staff do and try to get them in here to see if they can help us. And if they can, great. And if they can’t, look for some more guys,” Daboll said.

Better than ever?

Before the season, everyone wondered if Saquon Barkley could be the player he was in 2018. After Sunday’s 35-carry, 152-yard performance, I think I would make the case that Barkley is better now than he has ever been.

Barkley didn’t do anything flashy on Sunday. He had runs of 27, 17, 13, and 12 yards. Mostly. he kept taking the football from Daniel Jones and grinding out hard, tough yards. The kind of yards that require slamming into the middle of the line and taking hits. The kind of yards that require playing physical, not dancing and looking for an escape hatch.

Barkley carried a career-high 35 times. This was mostly a grinding, workman-like game for Barkley. The kind of game some used to wonder if Barkley was capable of.

“He looked good to me,” Daboll said. “The thing, I think, with him is (he) takes a lot of shots. So, we try to do the best job we can – the medical staff, the sports science – of practicing him the right way. And this week, he was fresh. So, he had a really good week of practice. I thought that the stuff he did during the week carried over. Obviously, he’s having a good season for us. He had a good day.”

There were times when it looked like the Giants were employing a 1940s, throw only when absolutely necessary, game play. Barkley enjoyed shouldering the load.

“It’s really fun, to be honest,” Barkley said. “At the end of the day like I said, just want to a find a way to win games and today that was the mindset that we needed to get the job done and we were able to get it done.

At his current pace, Barkley will touch the ball as a runner or receiver 428 times this season, blowing away his 2018 career-high of 352 touches.

“It’s my job to be a pro, go in there, get in the cold tub, get in the hot tub and get ready for next week,” Barkley said.

I think that’s what I am appreciating about Barkley in his fifth season. He can still hit the home run and make defenders look silly. He is, though, doing other parts of the job better than he ever has.