Following the Giants’ 27-22 victory in Houston, our writers give their player of the game and the most encouraging sign from Week 3.
JOHN SCHMEELK: I’m going to start with the most encouraging sign from the game, and I’m going with the defensive front. The Giants defense shut down the Texans running game, holding their running backs to only 23 yards on 14 carries. Even though the Giants had only three sacks, there was fairly consistent pressure on Watson, forcing him to move off his spot and escape the confines of the pocket. When he was forced to scramble, he missed some open receivers down the field that could have led to big plays for the Texans offense. Connor Barwin, Kareem Martin and Lorenzo Carter all applied pressure off the edge, while Snacks Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson dominated in the running game. Kerry Wynn deserves a lot of credit for making a few plays in the red zone, including forcing Lamar Miller’s fumble, which kept points off the board. The Giants’ front is going to have to play that way moving forward to find consistent success on defense.
Lance and Dan have taken the low-hanging fruit below with Eli Manning and Saquon Barkey, and I already gave credit to the defensive front, so I’ll go off the beaten path a little bit. I thought Nate Solder, aside from his holding penalty, played an excellent game. Jadaveon Clowney had just three tackles, and didn’t bother Eli Manning. The offensive line was far from perfect, but they cleaned up their protection issues from the previous week, and there were no free runners to the quarterback. The line allowed the offense to function to the point that the Giants scored on their first four possessions of the game. It was the best offensive half of football the Giants have played all season.
DAN SALOMONE: Former Giants center and Super Bowl XLII champion Shaun O’Hara said it best on the postgame show – “It looked like football.” He wasn’t trying to be funny; his point was this is what football is supposed to look like. And it didn’t look enough like football for the first two weeks. Week 3 needs to be the standard going forward, not the peak. The encouraging sign is that there is no reason why that can’t be the case with the players and coaches in place. By no means was it perfect, but look at what the Giants accomplished without the mistakes that dogged them against Jacksonville and Dallas. In Houston, they played tough, together, and full of energy despite the 0-2 albatross.
Speaking of energy, the player of the game for me was Saquon Barkley. The chess match of how the Giants are going to use him in any given week is going to be interesting to watch. In Week 1, he didn’t have a target in the passing game in the first half but went on to a 100-yard rushing day. Week 2 was the exact opposite as Barkley set the franchise’s single-game record with 14 catches. On Sunday, they went back to the ground with the second overall pick because sometimes the best way to beat a dynamic pass rush is to run right at it. The Giants don’t have their fast start if he’s not gashing the Houston defense in the run game. As we all know, what separates him is his ability to catch the ball. He did that as well as any receiver when he split out wide and caught a 21-yard pass over linebacker Zach Cunningham on third-and-short to keep the clinching drive alive late in the fourth quarter. This was all after he took a hard hit that bruised his knee and caused him to miss the second series of the game.
“He’s everything that we thought he would be to this point,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He shows up on game day. He really, when you see it up close and personal, you see the way he’s into it and how competitive his spirit is, and how he wants to compete and get the ball in his hands. There’s a reason why he’s got a chance to be a really good player for a very long time.”
LANCE MEDOW: Following the Cowboys game when he was sacked six times, Eli Manning was the object of criticism and doubt in many corners. Well, a week later, he quieted the skeptics and the critics with one of the most efficient performances of his career. Manning completed 25 of 29 pass attempts (86 percent, second-highest mark of his career) for 297 yards and two touchdowns. He spread the wealth and helped lead the Giants to a score on all four of their first half possessions (two touchdowns and two field goals), and he saved his best drive for last when the Giants needed it the most. With just over seven and a half minutes to go, Manning engineered a nine-play, 77-yard drive that ate up nearly five and a half minutes. He capped it off with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard that proved to be the game-winner. Manning completed all six of his passes on the drive, with three going to Saquon Barkley, including a key 21-yard connection on third-and-two from the Houston 27-yard line. That kept the drive alive and put the Giants in scoring position.
Despite still seeing some pressure, Manning’s quick decision-making and accurate throws helped counter the Texans’ pass rush, a big reason why the Giants had a chance to produce eight big plays (runs of 10 yards, pass completions of 20 yards). They had four through the air and four on the ground. To put that in perspective, the Giants collected just six plays of those kind in the first two games combined. The team’s volume of big plays was by far the most encouraging aspect of Sunday’s performance. With so many weapons on offense, the Giants have the ability to put a great deal of stress on opposing defenses and that came to fruition in Houston. Now it’s a matter of duplicating that success consistently.
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