By Curt Macysyn
If the New York Football Giants get the type of offensive effort from their star players each week, like the team did today against the Houston Texans, they will be tough to beat. Eli Manning, Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings came up large when New York needed it most, and Big Blue dropped the Houston Texans from the ranks of the undefeated, with an inspired effort at the New Jersey Meadowlands.
The Giants shook off some early rust in the form of a fumble and botched field goal attempt and wore down the Texans’ defense in grinding out a 30-17 victory before a sold out crowd at MetLife Stadium. Big Blue closed out summer in style as they got their first September victory since 2012 and now face a depleted Washington Redskins squad on Thursday night at FedEx Field.
If the Giants can bottle this potion, the team can get right back into the thick of the NFC east race, as Ben McAdoo’s recipe for success was proven accurate. In the preseason, McAdoo wanted quarterback Eli Manning to complete 70 percent of his passes, and the offense to run 70 plays. Against the Texans, the Giants’ offense ran 71 plays, and Manning was 21-28 (75 percent) on the afternoon. Most importantly, Manning did not throw an interception this week, and his passer rating was a cool 123.2 for the game. The only blemish that lowered the offensive unit grade was Larry Donnell’s fumble that took away a scoring chance in the first quarter.
After the turnover and a botched field goal attempt in the first quarter, the team made a concerted effort to keep their collective heads in the game. “There was no lull. And we talked about that, we talked about being positive the whole day, including me. We got some things that went the way we wanted them but they handled it well,” Coughlin said.
While Manning was solid and turnover free, Victor Cruz finally looked like the game breaking receiver he has been in the past. His 26 yard touchdown on a catch and carry was a thing of beauty, as he juked Kareem Jackson and stretched out to get into the end zone. Cruz finished with five catches for 107 yards and a touchdown on the afternoon. Tight end Daniel Fells is fast becoming Manning’s go-to guy in the red zone, as he hauled in a nine-yard touchdown pass for the second straight week.
Despite his fumble, Larry Donnell was still productive with six catches on six targets for 45 yards. Wide receiver Preston Parker chipped in with three catches, as he replaced Jerrel Jernigan in the three wide receiver set.
As much as the passing game was in sync, however, the Giants rode the legs of Rashad Jennings to victory. Jennings rushed for 176 yards on 34 carries, and included a one-yard touchdown run late in the first half, as the Giants jumped ahead 14-0. Even though the offensive line held J.J Watt in check for Houston, the defensive end still had one sack and seven tackles for the Texans.
Coughlin was impressed with his new tailback and his workmanlike effort. “[Rashad is a] strong runner, he ran the ball very well, broke some tackles, made some plays when it didn’t look like there was anything left to be made,” the head coach said after the game.
This is a tougher grade to give out than the offense, as the unit did intercept Houston signal caller Ryan Fitzpatrick three times. Safety Antrel Rolle snagged a Fitzpatrick misfire late in the first half and took it down to the five-yard line. Rolle’s pick led to Rashad Jennings’s score and gave the G-men a 14-0 lead at the break. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie stepped in front of another ill-advised pass by Fitzpatrick for his first New York Giants’ pick. In addition, steady Prince Amukamara intercepted a Fitzpatrick pass, was credited with two defended and had five tackles in the win.
Jameel McClain, subbing at middle linebacker for the injured Jon Beason, has 11 tackles and half a quarterback sack (with Johnathan Hankins).
But the unit also gave up 411 total yards in the game, as the Texans averaged 4.8 yards per carry on the ground without the injured Arian Foster. Rookie Alfred Blue, subbing for Foster gashed the Giants’ defense for a 46-yard gain in the third quarter. Fitzpatrick then hit Damaris Thomas for 44 yard touchdown down the middle past safety Stevie Brown to get the Texans back in the game.
Also, the defense had no answer for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, as the second-year man from Clemson had 116 receiving yards on six catches, including a 49 yard reception. Hopkins also had a spectacular one-handed leaping grab called back because of a Houston penalty.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B+
The botched snap by Steve Weatherford on a first quarter field goal attempt, took a scoring chance away from the Giants, who were looking to put the Texans into catch-up mode from the get-go. The unit also gave up a 31-yard kickoff return by Damaris Thomas and had a holding penalty on a Preston Parker punt return.
Josh Brown was perfect on three field goal attempts and three extra point attempts. Brown also had four touchbacks in the game.
Damontre Moore certainly has a nose for the punt block. The second-year defensive end blocked a Shane Lechler punt and gave the G-men a short field to work with that culminated with the Manning to Fells touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
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Curt Macysyn has been covering the New York Football Giants for the past two seasons for Examiner.com. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, Curt has followed and covered the New York Metropolitan sports scene for 35 years. He attended Seton Hall Prep School in South Orange, NJ and is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick. His work can be found on aExaminer.com.