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Giants-Texans ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’ review: Plenty of heroes for 7-2 Giants

Let’s talk about which Giants played well, and which ones did not

NFL: Houston Texans at New York Giants
Darius Slayton scores a 54-yard touchdown.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants did just enough to defeat the Houston Texans on Sunday, running their record to 7-2. There were several difference-making performances by Giants players. Let’s review the game in our traditional ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’ style to discuss them.

Kudos to ...

Saquon Barkley — Sunday was not flashy Saquon. This was workman-like, get the job done Saquon. I’m not sure Barkley would have a game like this back in 2018 when it was home run or bust. Remember that criticism that Barkley didn’t get north and south often enough and that he didn’t even really know how to play running back? He has made that look silly all season, never more than he did against the Texans.

It’s fun watching Barkley break big runs and make defenders tackle nothing but air. Personally, though, I have even more of an appreciation for what he did Sunday, shouldering the load with a career-high 35 carries for 152 yards.

Darius Slayton — Slayton’s 54-yard catch-and-run touchdown, taking advantage of a missed tackle and then using speed and determination to get into the end zone, was a play that finally gave the Giants a bit of much-needed breathing room. He finished with three catches for 95 yards.

Slayton now has 19 receptions for a team-leading 327 yards, despite not making his first catch until Week 4.

Isaiah Hodgins — The newest Giants’ wide receiver had two passes thrown in his direction on Sunday. He made big plays on both, getting first downs and gaining a total of 41 yards.

Dexter Lawrence — Kayvon Thibodeaux mentioned Aaron Donald when talking about Lawrence. That’s a bit of hyperbole from the rookie, but still notable. Julian Love called Lawrence “a top dude in the league” and said Lawrence “hasn’t been talked about enough over the past few years.”

Lawrence had a sack, five tackles (one for loss), five quarterback hits and, per Pro Football Focus, an incredible eight pressures.

Lawrence has said he wants to wreck games. It’s hard to imagine him doing more to wreck one for the opposition than he did Sunday.

Lawrence Cager — He isn’t going to be ‘practice squad tight end Lawrence Cager’ for long. Cager had a 9-yard touchdown catch, led Giants’ tight ends with 43 snaps played, and recovered an onside kick.

Leonard Williams — Big Cat was easy to overlook with the dominant performance by Lawrence, but he was outstanding in his own right. He had nine tackles (five solo), a quarterback hit, and forced a fourth-quarter fumble that ended a Houston drive at the Giants’ 10-yard line.

Daniel Jones — You can’t put up huge passing numbers, or rushing numbers, if you aren’t asked to. Jones wasn’t asked to on Sunday. Thing is, what he was asked to do he did extraordinarily well. Jones went 13 of 17 (76.4 percent completions) for 197 yards and 2 touchdowns. He ran for 24 yards. He ended the game with a 153.3 passer rating. Pro Football Focus listed him with an 88.7 adjusted completion percentage.

Jones continued to play quarterback the way Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka need him to, and he continued to help the Giants win.

Jason Pinnock — After playing just one defensive snap all season, the Giants called on Pinnock to play 23 snaps on Sunday with Xavier McKinney out. He ended up showing some pass-rushing chops, with 1.5 sacks and a pair of quarterback hits. ‘Kudos’ also to defensive coordinator Wink Martindale. Pinnock’s performance is just another example of the Giants’ coaching staff taking whatever players they have available, figuring out what skills they bring to the table, and turning them loose to do what they do best.

Dane Belton — The rookie safety played 64 snaps as the primary replacement for McKinney. He made a huge interception of Davis Mills in the end zone, snuffing out a potential touchdown that would have pulled Houston within four points with 9:55 to play.

That came one play after Belton, in centerfield, had been late to arrive on a 19-yard pass to Brandin Cooks for a touchdown, a play nullified by a holding call on Houston’s Kenyon Green.

One critique. Someone has got to teach the fourth-round pick from Iowa how to celebrate. Earlier this year, after recovering a fumble on his first NFL play, Belton made a rookie mistake and failed to keep the ball. Sunday, after his interception in the end zone, he ran all the way to the other end zone to celebrate, instead of turning around and mugging for the cameras right where he was.

“We got on him because he ran 100 yards the other way to get in front of the cameras, instead of turning around and running 10 yards and there’s cameras,” said teammate Julian Love. “So I didn’t chase him down. I was like, yeah, he can have it.”


Wet Willies to ...

Kenny Golladay — There isn’t a whole lot to say. Golladay had a huge opportunity to contribute on Sunday, and couldn’t get it done. His dropped pass should have been an easy catch for a significant gain. The play got him benched.

There’s no telling if, or when, Golladay will get another real opportunity. Golladay is frustrated — no one wants to play badly — and believes he can still be a productive player. He may, though, have run out of chances to prove it.

Jamie Gillan — NFL punters don’t just blast the ball down the field with no plan for where it should come down. They have to be able to hit various types of punts, placing the ball where it needs to be based upon the situation and the call. Gillan struggled to do that Sunday.

In the second quarter, Gillan hit two poor punts. The first was a 40-yarder that went for a touchback and was never close to giving the Giants a chance to down it. The second, again from the Houston 40-yard line, went only 14 yards. Gillan had punts returned for 13 and 10 yards and finished with a net average of just 34.2 yards per punt.

The Scottish Hammer can bomb the ball. The problem can be that you can’t be sure where the ball is going, or if Gillan can execute when touch is required. Those issues showed up on Sunday.