Sitting in the same press box seat just one week after watching the New York Giants commit a comedy of errors The Benny Hill Show would have been proud of in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals, I sat wondering if anything would be different for Big Blue as they took on a Houston Texans team that was looking to continue their undefeated run to start the season.
The first half, despite New York domination in terms of yardage, was more of the comedic, Keystone Kops-like action. Tight end Larry Donnell fumbled on his way towards the goal line on the Giants’ second drive, letting Houston off the hook the first time. To begin the second quarter, Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie – you know something bad is going to happen when the long snapper is mentioned by name – unleashed a ground ball of a snap on a 30-yard field goal attempt that holder Steve Weatherford couldn’t handle, keeping the game scoreless.
Once again, what would make me think the fortunes of the 2014 Giants – a team almost halfway to the 0-6 start that derailed their 2013 season – would change?
Fortunately, New York found themselves right before halftime, and this was the team its fans had waited almost a whole month to see…and enjoy.
Victor Cruz, who lobbied for more touches after the season-opening Monday night loss in Detroit, made a breath-taking cut on Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson after making a catch to score the first points of the game with 3:30 to go before halftime. The next possession saw Antrel Rolle pick off a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass and weave his way down to the two-yard line, setting up a one-yard touchdown plunge by Rashad Jennings, giving New York a 14-0 lead at halftime.
Speaking of Jennings, the newly-acquired running back ran more like the Giants’ great running backs of yesteryear. His 176 rush yards in the game was a new career high and he was very egalitarian with his production, going for 88 yards in each half. That fecund run game allowed the Giants offensive line to not only control the line of scrimmage, but do a much better job at protecting Eli Manning and keeping the Texans pass rush – especially sack master J.J. Watt – off of the franchise quarterback. Manning had a turnover-free game while throwing for two touchdowns and 234 yards.
Not to be left out of the party, the Giants special teams also came through (as long as you don’t count that flub on the earlier field goal attempt) to help salt the game away. With the Giants up 20-10 and the game still in the balance, Damontre Moore blocked a Shane Lechler punt – after a successful Giants challenge wiped away a first down on a scramble by Fitzpatrick – to set up the Giants at Houston’s 29. After two carries by Jennings gained 15 yards and set up a first-and-goal, Manning hit tight end Daniel Fells in the left corner of the endzone to give the Giants a 27-10 lead and some breathing room.
All of that adds up to New York’s most complete performance in quite a while, something I could not have envisioned coming into the stadium a few hours beforehand. I’m sure many fans, if they were honest and saw what happened with Big Blue in the two week prior, would have said the same thing.
[Cover photo (Rashad Jennings) courtesy of Al Bello/Getty Images]