AT A GLANCE: The Giants wanted to start fast in Houston, and start fast they did. After scoring on the first four possessions of their Week 3 matchup with the Texans, who also entered winless after two games, the Giants rode the early lead to a 27-22 victory, the first of Pat Shurmur’s tenure as head coach of the team.
UP NEXT: After two road games in the state of Texas, the 1-2 Giants return home in Week 4 to face the New Orleans Saints. The away team has not won in the series since 2006, with Big Blue holding a 2-0 record against New Orleans at MetLife Stadium. The Giants are 12-4 all-time at home against the Saints (4-9 on the road).
WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE OFFENSE:
*Heading into a meeting with J.J. Watt and company, the Giants made two changes to the offensive line in Week 3. John Greco, an 11-year veteran, took over as the Giants’ starting center after Jon Halapio suffered fractures to his lower leg and ankle in Week 2 against the Cowboys. Halapio underwent surgery on Monday and was placed on injured reserve. The second move came at right tackle, where Chad Wheeler replaced Ereck Flowers. The ninth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft had started all 48 career games he had played in before Sunday, including two this season after he moved from left to right tackle.
“It’s more about giving Chad an opportunity, less about benching Ereck,” coach Pat Shurmur told NFL Network’s Kim Jones before the game. “Ereck needs to be ready to go if we need him, but we’re only going to go as far as that line blocks for us.”
Wheeler made the team last season as undrafted free agent out of USC and played in 13 games with five starts (three at right tackle, one as an extra lineman, and one at left tackle). He played in the first two games this season but only for three offensive snaps.
*After scoring only three first-quarter points in the first two games combined, the Giants once again emphasized the need to start fast heading into Houston. They made it happen this time. Eli Manning (25-for-29, 297 yards, two touchdowns, 132.3 passer rating) led a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive on their first possession, which was capped by a 15-yard touchdown run by rookie running back Saquon Barkley. Manning was in rhythm from the jump as the Giants scored on all four of their possessions in the first half (two touchdowns, two field goals) to open up a 20-3 lead and win the time of possession 19:09-10:51. But in the second half, the Giants punted on their first four possessions before Sterling Shepard all but sealed the victory with a seven-yard touchdown catch with 2:08 left in the game.
*After setting the franchise record last week for most receptions (14) in a game, Barkley didn’t have a catch until midway through the third quarter. Instead, he made his impact this week first as a runner, totaling 82 yards on 17 carries. Of course, they still utilized his receiving skills down the stretch. Barkley made a leaping 21-yard catch on third-and-two to keep the drive alive and help bleed the clock in the four-minute drill. He finished with five catches for 35 yards.
*The Giants lost dynamic tight end Evan Engram to a knee injury in the second quarter, but his position mate Rhett Ellison touchdown picked up the slack and scored his first touchdowns of the season with just over a minute left in the first half. Odell Beckham Jr. went over 100 yards for the second time this season on nine catches for 109 yards.
WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE DEFENSE:
*The Giants held the NFL’s No. 1 rushing offense to just 24 yards in the first half, 16 of which were credited to quarterback Deshaun Watson. The Texans, who were averaging 157.5 yards on the ground entering Week 3, had only 59 for the game. Defensive linemen Damon Harrison (seven tackles, one for loss) and Kerry Wynn (six tackles, one for loss) were big reasons for that.
*Outside linebacker Olivier Vernon missed his third consecutive game of the year with an ankle injury, and cornerback Eli Apple was also ruled out after suffering a groin injury in Week 2 at Dallas. Rookie Lorenzo Carter (three tackles, one sack, two quarterback hits) and B.W. Webb filled in for them, respectively. Michael Thomas and Donte Deayon took over the nickel cornerback responsibilities in place of Webb.
*For the third week in a row, the Giants won the opening coin toss, deferred, and gave up points on the opponent’s opening drive. Propelled by a 39-yard hookup between quarterback Deshaun Watson and tight end Jordan Thomas, the Texans kicked a short field go to take the early lead. The Giants had a minus-10 scoring differential in the first quarter entering Sunday, tied for 27th in the NFL.
*The Giants, who recorded neither a sack nor a turnover on defense in Week 2, had three of the former and two of the latter against the Texans. On the first, Wynn put an exclamation point on his big day by stripping the ball from running back Lamar Miller, and cornerback Donte Deayon recovered at the Giants 25 with 3:47 remaining in the third quarter. Inside linebacker Alec Ogletree later made a nice play in coverage, intercepting an underthrown pass in the end zone early in the fourth quarter. Big Blue gave up its first touchdown with 7:37 left in the game on a six-yard Watson pass to Will Fuller V. However, the Giants stopped their two-point conversion attempt as Watson tried to hit Miller on a shovel pass, preserving a 20-15 lead at the time.
WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT SPECIAL TEAMS:
*Kicker Aldrick Rosas remained perfect this season, connecting on attempts from 44 and 30 yards.
*Stacy Coley, claimed off waivers on Wednesday after the Vikings released him, returned punts. He muffed the first one but recovered it.
INACTIVES: NYG – OLB Olivier Vernon (ankle), CB Eli Apple (groin), WR/PR Kaelin Clay (appeared on injury report this week with an ankle injury but was a full participant in practice on Thursday and Friday), QB Kyle Lauletta, S Kamrin Moore, CB Mike Jordan, C Evan Brown. HOU – WR Keke Coutee (hamstring), WR Sammie Coates Jr. (hamstring), CB Kayvon Webster (Achilles), OLB Peter Kalambayi, OT Roderick Johnson, DE Carlos Watkins, DE Joel Heath.
LINEUP CHANGES: NYG – Lorenzo Carter for Vernon at WILL, B.W. Webb for Apple at LCB, Chad Wheeler for Flowers at RT. HOU – none.
INJURY REPORT: TE Evan Engram (knee), CB Antonio Hamilton (groin), RB Saquon Barkley (bruised knee, returned)