The sloppy start to the game left head coach Brian Daboll irate. The first-year coach spent much of the second quarter visibly upset by minor errors that were preventing the Giants from putting points on the board.
New York made three trips inside of Houston’s 36-yard line in their first four possessions. Still, the Giants only scored seven points off the nine-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Jones to tight end Lawrence Cager to cap a 10-play, 68-yard opening drive score.
A Jack Anderson false start on fourth-and-1 and a Houston sack on third-and-15 resulted in two punts when the Giants were previously in Graham Gano’s field goal range.
New York wasn’t exactly sharp - and the Giants allowed Houston to hang around - but the Texans made critical mistakes in key moments to help the Giants earn a victory.
To little surprise, the Giants established the run against the league’s worst run defense; Saquon Barkley had a career-high 35 carries for 152 yards with a touchdown to end a 12-play, 74-yard drive in the third quarter.
Big Blue didn’t establish much of a rhythm while throwing the football, but Daniel Jones’ 13 completions on 17 attempts were efficient, and the end result was 197 yards and two touchdowns.
The Giants don’t always make winning look easy, but they are consistently finding a way to submerge opponents in the deep end of the pool - swimmies be damned. Here are the five plays - or sequence of plays - that helped the Giants in this 24-16 victory.
Play(s) 1: Strong opening drive
The Giants' defense forced a three-and-out, and New York’s offense responded with a 10-play, 68-yard touchdown drive. Starting strong against an inferior opponent and taking an early lead is a great way to impose one’s will. Before this touchdown, the Giants had only one opening-drive touchdown this season
Barkley recorded seven carries on the Giants’ opening drive. Jones did well to convert an early third-and-2 to Wan’Dale Robinson in the flat, but the catalyst to the Giants' eventual touchdown was a second-and-12 36-yard pass to Darius Slayton (86).
Houston bought the play action, and Slayton was wide open over the middle of the field. Slayton does a great job securing the catch and picking up a few extra yards with a stutter to freeze a defender before getting tackled at the 6-yard line. Two plays later after the Giants are flagged with an illegal formation, tight end Lawrence Cager (83) scores a touchdown:
Cager is a converted wide receiver who possesses excellent stride length and acceleration. New York runs play action to the boundary and brings Cager across the formation for an easy touchdown. The Giants' game plan was to run the football; the two biggest passes on this drive were off-play action and Houston over-pursued on both.
Play 2: Darius Slayton, making the rookie miss
New York started the second half with this impressive third-and-9, 54-yard touchdown to Slayton. Rookie safety Jalen Pitre (5) took a bad angle, and Slayton spun out of the tackle attempt before showing off his acceleration and speed to go the distance.
This is a great route concept against Houston’s pressure look. Slayton is the No. 2 in the 3x1 set. All three receivers angle inward; this prompts Pitre to work over the top of Derek Stingley Jr. (24); however, Slayton’s running a whip route outside. Pitre has to adjust quickly and angle himself back down towards Slayton, with the No. 1 taking himself and Steven Nelson (21) deep in the direction of Pitre.
Jones is hit but finds Slayton, and Pitre is too wild with his tackling attempt. Slayton makes Pitre miss, gets a good block from the backside over route (Tanner Hudson), and accelerates up the sideline for six.
Play(s) 3: Fourth-quarter turnovers
The Giants' defense is very opportunistic; they’ve relied on timely momentum-swinging plays all season, and it has worked well through the first 10 weeks. Houston out-gained the Giants, 387-367.
New York took a 21-10 lead after a second third-quarter touchdown drive. Houston followed with an eight-play, 67-yard drive, where 46 yards came on a tight end screen to Jordan Akins, who was with the Giants in training camp.
On second-and-goal at the 10-yard line, sensational rookie running back Dameon Pierce (31) fumbled the football with 14:17 left in the game.
Pierce ran into the back of Akins (88), who was struggling with Kayvon Thibodeaux (5), as Leonard Williams (99) swam over the top of rookie guard Kenyon Green (59). Thibodeaux and Williams sandwiched Pierce and Akins, and the rookie put the ball on the ground, which allowed Jaylon Smith to earn the fumble recovery.
However, the Giants went three-and-out on their next drive. New York punted the ball back to Houston, which started its drive with 12:11 left in the fourth quarter. Texans quarterback Davis Mills found Nico Collins for 13 yards, Brandin Cooks for 25 yards, and then tossed a 19-yard touchdown to Cooks that was negated by a Green holding penalty.
The Texans possessed the football on the Giants’ 29-yard line at that point with a second-and-15, and quarterback Davis Mills challenged the Giants’ Cover-1 defense with rookie Dane Belton operating center field.
Dexter Lawrence’s hit facilitated a poor decision by Mills on a double move route to Phillip Dorsett (4) against Adoree’ Jackson (22). Jackson stayed on top of the route and had easy access to the interception, but Belton was not fooled by Mills’ eyes and he displayed his range by coming down with his first career interception in the NFL.
Belton narrowly missed an interception on the goal line against Baltimore a few weeks ago and would have more than likely had a pick six against Seattle if Jihad Ward did not bat the ball down at the line of scrimmage. Belton is a ball-hawk who had five interceptions last year at Iowa.
Forcing two turnovers in the fourth quarter with a two-possession lead is one way to ensure victory.
Play(s) 4: Third-down conversions
The Giants had two important third-and-7 conversions on their 12-play, 74-yard drive that ended with a Barkley touchdown. Despite the Giants controlling the game, their lead before that drive was only four points, and the Texans just responded to the Giants' touchdown to start the second half with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a Nico Collins touchdown.
New York’s offense had to make a statement, and quarterback Daniel Jones responded with two gotta-have-it plays.
The Texans run Cover-2, and the Giants come out in a 3x1 set with the No. 2 WR running a clearout; Wan’Dale Robinson (17) runs the quick curl and sits between the two middle-hook defenders. Jones reads the initial end man on the line of scrimmage and sees him drop too far, so he quickly finds Robinson, who keeps the chains moving.
Five plays later, the Giants are faced with another third-and-seven. Lovie Smith runs another Cover-2 look; the Giants - in a 3x1 set - sit Robinson as the No. 3 to occupy two underneath defenders, which opens up the dig route from Isaiah Hodgins (18). The two-high shell gained too much depth, and the underneath defenders were occupied with shallow routes, so there was plenty of space for Hodgins over the middle of the field. Good read and play from Jones.
The drive ended with this 2-yard Barkley touchdown. Great to see Joshua Ezeudu (75) and Andrew Thomas (78) clear out the 3-technique and create a path for Barkley.
Play(s) 5: First-half mistakes
Ultimately, these plays weren’t impactful to the win-loss column, but the sloppy nature of the Giants was palpable throughout their win. Daboll was incensed after backup offensive lineman Jack Anderson committed a false start on a fourth-and-1 that eventually led to a Giants’ punt in Houston territory.
On the next drive, Jones was sacked on third-and-15. The Giants found themselves in that situation on a solid drive because Wan’Dale Robinson reversed field on a busted play and lost 5 yards, which honestly could have been a lot worse.
Despite the negative play from the rookie wide receiver, the Giants were still in field goal range, but Jones suffering the sack forced a second punt from Houston’s territory - not ideal:
These are two frustrating instances of offensive struggles that could have been prevented. On the next Giants’ drive, Kenny Golladay added to the growing frustration by dropping an easy open pass on second-and-5:
Golladay was benched for Hodgins in the second half. Just when the slate was seemingly wiped clean (relatively speaking), the negativity around Golladay continues to persist due to infuriating mistakes from a receiver who is drastically overpaid.
The Golladay drop set up this third-and-5 where Tanner Hudson (88) gained 4 yards. The Giants punt the football with three consecutive drives of back-breaking mistakes that followed a three-and-out and the Giants' opening touchdown drive.