*Three Giants writers discuss who stepped up with several teammates out due to injury: *
Down nine key contributors across all three phases of the game, the Giants needed some players to go above and beyond on Sunday night in Denver. Plenty of them did as Big Blue came away with a dominant 23-10 victory, the team's first of the year.
In this Cover 3, our writers break down which players stepped up against the Broncos:
The Giants don't win this game without Orleans Darkwa rushing for 117 yards on 21 carries. His 47-yard run in the second quarter helped set up the Giants' only offensive touchdown. Once they got the lead early and given the way the defense was playing, the Giants were able to play conservative football the rest of the game. Eli Manning only had to drop back 22 times and was able to get rid of the ball on an average of 2.21 seconds per dropback (third-quickest in the NFL this week), according to Pro Football Focus.
The lack of dropbacks and the speed with which Manning was able to release the ball was as much a reason for Von Miller being silent as anything else. The Giants' only path to victory in this game was to run the ball well against the best run defense in football, and Darkwa and the offensive line did just that.
The life of a cornerback is a fickle one. One day, you're the G.O.A.T. The next, you're a goat. Eli Apple is learning all about that. The second-year pro mirrored his team in the first five weeks and didn't play up to expectations. Things weren't going according to plan for the former 10th overall draft choice in his sophomore year.
The slump ended Sunday night. On the road. On a big stage. Against an opponent many predicted to walk over the Giants. Apple was tested early and often by the Broncos. He rose to the challenge each time and made everyone take note of No. 24 with three passes defensed. He also recovered a fumble that fellow cornerback Janoris Jenkins forced as the two played without Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who was suspended by the team. In Denver, the Giants looked like the team everyone thought they would be this season. The same goes for Apple.
The Giants defense entered Sunday night against the Broncos without three starters: Olivier Vernon, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Jonathan Casillas. Romeo Okwara was also sidelined, and even though Landon Collins played, he was nursing an ankle injury and wasn't 100 percent. Given the state of the depth chart, there was no more opportune moment than for Jason Pierre-Paul to put together his strongest performance of the season. JPP had 1.5 sacks in the first five games combined but collected three against the Broncos.
He also led the team in tackles with eight, including seven solo and three for a loss, tallied three quarterback hits, and forced a fumble. Pierre-Paul was extremely disruptive and his play was a big reason why the Giants were able to slow down the Broncos rushing attack, which entered Sunday night ranked third in the NFL, averaging 143 yards per game. JPP and company limited Denver to just 46 rushing yards. The defensive line set the tone Sunday night and Pierre-Paul was very much in the mix.