This was a win the Giants quietly needed coming out of their bye week. They couldn’t head into the home stretch of the season with a loss to a team sporting a 1-6-1 record, particularly with divisional play looming.
While the game might have been closer than the Giants would have preferred, the outcome of the game was never really in doubt. And the game ultimately answered some questions we had about the Giants and what they might look like heading into the second half of their season.
So what can we take away from the Giants’ win over the Texans?
First down: Barkley’s busy day
We heard earlier today that the Giants had talks with Saquon Barkley’s people over the bye week regarding a contract extension. The deal didn’t get made, but Barkley certainly earned his money today.
The Giants leaned into the run game from the opening whistle this week and he set a new career-high mark for carries with 35. Things started out slow for Barkley, as the Texans came in determined to not let Barkley beat them (spoilers, that didn’t work out for them). Likewise, the Giants used a very diverse run scheme to open the game to probe the Texans’ defense. As we’ve seen, the Giants were eventually able to find the schemes and plays that Houston struggled to defend the most. The result? Barkley’s 2 and 3-yard runs in the first quarter turned into 6 or 9-yard runs (or more) in the second half. And as the Giants fed Barkley, the Texans’ tendency to arm-tackle took over, leading to more yards after contact.
The Giants have leaned on Barkley all season long, to the point of averaging 25.2 touches a game, and is on pace for 429 touches this year.
Second down: There’s the beef
The Giants threw the ball more than we might have expected against the Seattle Seahawks. Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka decided they had just about enough of that noise over the bye week. This week they brought out their jumbo packages, heavy packages, and even some INDUSTRIAL strength packages.
We don’t know just how many snaps the Giants played with extra offensive linemen this game, but it was a common personnel grouping.
The Giants not only used six offensive linemen, but they used seven and even packages with eight offensive linemen. The Giants leaned hard into into the run game this week, so it made sense to put extra linemen out there to help open holes. Using extra linemen obviously helped the Giants’ running game, particularly with their limited tight end position. The Giants showed it enough that future opponents will need to study and account for the formation — which could lead to opportunities in the passing game.
Opposing defenses will likely use their own heavy defensive sets to account for the Giants’ extra linemen in the run game, which could create favorable matchups down the field off of play-action. One of Kafka’s greatest assets has been his ability to identify and exploit opposing tendencies. Not only does this personnel grouping help the Giants against the Texans, it could help create tendencies in defenses down the road.
Third down: Where’s Kenny Golladay?
We were excited for Kenny Golladay to finally be healthy and able to be on the field. We were hoping that the Giants would finally implement something like a traditional passing attack coming out of a bye week with Golladay back in the mix.
But it just wasn’t his Golla-day.
(No, I don’t apologize for that. He deserves the bad pun right now.)
I don’t know how many snaps Golladay played as of this writing, those won’t be published for a while yet. But I do know that the bulk of snaps played by Golladay came in the first half. He was one of the first players taken off the field when the Giants used a heavy personnel package. He finished the game with just two targets and no catches — and one inexcusable drop.
I’m not going to fault Golladay (much) for the first incompletion to go his way. That pass was not well placed, he had to extend fully just to graze it, and I’m not sure he could have gathered himself to leap for a pass he was expecting in-stride.
The second target was a complete drop and an inexcusable one at that. Daniel Jones placed that pass almost perfectly, and would have struggled to hand him the ball better. But the ball went right through Golladay’s hands and and turned what should have been a good pickup into a missed opportunity.
Golladay has said that he wants to be on the field, and I believe that the veteran wants to be a contributing member of this team. He will likely get more chances next week against the Lions, but if he doesn’t take advantage I’m not sure how much more we’ll see of him.
Fourth down: Rookie mistakes
In some ways, the Texans are a team that’s very similar to the Giants. They’re a team with talent and also some obvious deficiencies. They have a good coach (I’ve always liked Lovie Smith and thought the Bears did him dirty), play hard and compete for all 60 minutes, and are relying heavily on young players at key positions.
The difference between the Giants’ record and the Texans’ comes down to one word:
It’s a testament to the Giants’ excellent coaching staff that the Giants have largely out-executed teams all season long, despite their youth. This week we saw what might have been with the Giants, as Texans made their lives much harder with three key mistakes by three rookies.
First was a terrible missed tackle by safety Jalen Pitre on Darius Slayton. Had Pitre made that tackle the Giants would have been forced to punt as Daniel Jones lobbed the ball in the direction of Slayton to avoid a sack. However, Pitre whiffed badly on the tackle and Slayton took advantage to sprint down the field for a 54-yard touchdown to open the second half.
Next, rookie running back Dameon Pierce coughed up a fumble inside of the 10-yard line. Pierce had played a great game this week, continuing his campaign to be OROY. But in the biggest moment his ball security failed, allowing Leonard Williams to knock the ball loose. That fumble prevented the Texans from kicking a field goal or potentially scoring a touchdown.
Finally came the holding penalty by rookie guard Kenyon Green. That play wiped out a 19-yard touchdown pass from Davis Mills to Brandon Cooks. The Texans sprinted 38 yards in two plays to put themselves in scoring position and potentially bring them to within four points of the Giants. Instead, the penalty moved the Texans back by 10 yards and created the opportunity for Dane Belton’s interception.
The Giants were the better team — that much was obvious on the field. The Giants had their hiccups this game and the final score was closer than it probably needed to be, but there was never much question about what the outcome of the game would be. That was due in part to the fact that the Texans just haven’t figured out how to close out and win games yet, while the Giants have.
As great as the win is, the flow of the game helped to remind us just how fortunate the Giants are to have Brian Daboll and company.