After the Giants’ 27-22 victory over the Texans in Week 3, coach Pat Shurmur presented a game ball to general manager Dave Gettleman -- “the guy that has assembled all of us.” Gettleman has not traveled with the team due to his treatments for lymphoma since the spring, but his fingerprints were all over the win.
Eli Manning had the second-most accurate game (86.2 completion percentage) and 10th-highest passer rating (132.3) of his career at 37 years old. The Giants don’t win if not for the play of second overall draft pick Saquon Barkley. Odell Beckham Jr. was Odell Beckham Jr. and will be in a Giants uniform for years to come. The defensive line wore down the Texans and had two sacks in the fourth quarter to help close out the game.
“I’ve always known you were gritty,” Shurmur told his team in the postgame locker room. “And now you’ve made enough plays throughout the course of the game to beat a pretty good football team, so congratulations. And this feeling that we have has got to be like that weird drug you can’t get enough of, right, because that’s why we do this thing. Someday when you can’t play this game anymore, this is the stuff that you’re going to miss. So we need more of it.”
IT WAS OVER WHEN: Wide receiver Sterling Shepard caught a seven-yard touchdown pass from Manning to put the Giants ahead 27-15 with 2:08 left in the game. It was the Giants’ first score in nearly 30 minutes after they got the fast start they wanted and scored on their first four possessions with two touchdowns bookending two field goals. Shepard finished the game with six caches for 80 yards and the score, making the defense choose between him or giving increased attention on Odell Beckham Jr.
“Yeah, they were doubling Odell, they started doubling Odell a bunch on the outside, just favoring the safety over his side,” Manning said. “So, it gives opportunity for other guys to get open on that one. They were doubling Odell, so still just playing zone, kind of all over the place. We were able to hit Shepard over the middle.”
And that is why many people had high hopes for the offense entering the season. Defenses have to pick and choose between players like Beckham, Shepard and Barkley.
“It does a lot [for the confidence of the team],” Shepard said about the win. “This is what we were itching for, itching for a win. Guys had a great week of preparation, so it shows us how we should prepare, and if we want to keep this feeling, then that’s what we have to keep on doing.”
KEY PLAY: Barkley has made – and will make – plays longer than his 21-yard catch on third-and-two with 3:55 remaining in the game, but they don’t get much more clutch than that. 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 in Sunday’s game. He made his impact first as a runner, totaling 82 yards on 17 carries, but the offense utilized his receiving skills down the stretch. With the Texans closing the gap to five points with 7:37 left in the fourth quarter, the Giants needed one long drive to bleed the clock or put up points – or both. Faced with the key third down at the Texans 27, Shurmur spread Barkley out wide on the right side with no one in the backfield. “I had a play I liked from being spread out, that’s it,” Shurmur would say after the game. “The ball could come out quick in those situations.” Matched up with WILL linebacker Zach Cunningham, Barkley fought through the bump-and-run and ran a go route down the field, making a leaping catch for a first-and-goal. Three plays later, Manning hit Shepard for the clinching touchdown.
“In my mindset, no matter if it’s a linebacker, if it’s a safety or cornerback I believe in myself in that situation,” Barkley said. “It’s the NFL and those guys are going to make plays, too. But, at the end of the day, I believe I’m going to make more plays than they do and I went up to Eli and thanked him for trusting me in that situation and giving me a chance to go up and make a play.”
TAKE ‘EM AWAY: The Giants hit a lull offensively in the second half and “didn’t move the ball worth a darn," as Shurmur put it. But that is what complementary football is all about. The defense forced two key turnovers on back-to-back stands in the third quarter, the first a fumble forced by Kerry Wynn and recovered by Donte Deayon, and the second an interception by Alec Ogletree in the end zone.
“We got a little pressure on [Deshaun Watson], and he got out and my guy was running out to the flat,” Ogletree said of the interception. “He wheeled up, and we talked all week about plastering in coverage, so that’s exactly what I did. I just plastered my man and turned around and saw the ball in the air. We [are taught] to go get the ball at the highest point, and we were able to get it. It was definitely a big play for us at the time.”
WHAT THE WIN MEANS FOR THE GIANTS: It means they can stop hearing about the percentages of winless teams after X-number of weeks going to the postseason. Now they turn their attention to their toughest defensive test yet against Drew Brees, who on Sunday broke Brett Favre’s career completions record, and the 2-1 New Orleans Saints, who are averaging 34.7 points per game. The good news is the Giants will face them at home; the visiting team has not won in the series since 2006. Big Blue is 2-0 against New Orleans at MetLife Stadium, and the Giants are 12-4 all-time at home against the Saints (4-9 on the road).
WHAT THE LOSS MEANS FOR THE TEXANS: Houston has not won since Nov. 19, 2017, a drought that has now spread to nine games. After missing most of the last two seasons, three-time AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt looks like he is back to his old form and recorded his first three sacks of the 2018 season against the Giants. However, it was not enough for his team. Texans coach Bill O’Brien was asked after the game if this is a low point in his tenure in Houston despite the talent on the roster. The Texans, who open the season with three of their first four games on the road, travel to face the divisional rival Colts in Week 4.
“I don’t know, I think any loss is not good,” he said. “I don’t think I look at it that way. I just try to think of ways to get us out of this. I know that it starts with me, I understand that, I really do, I know that for a fact. I stand here in front of this team every day and I’ve got to try to figure how to do a better job. It’s as simple as that. We’ve got good players here, it’s not the players, it’s everybody in it together and we’ve got to figure it out.”