The last time the Giants started 2-0 was in 2009. They actually started 5-0 that season. Then they finished 8-8. So the lesson is that it's not how you start, it's how you finish.
But to the Giants, after too many years of misery, a 2-0 start sure feels pretty good.
Can they keep it going? It's hard to doubt them after the way they shut down the Saints on Sunday in a dramatic (and defensive) 16-13 victory. Then again, there are some stats that certainly make you wonder how they're getting it done. I'll get into those shortly in my 10 takeaways from the Giants' win over the Saints on Sunday afternoon:
1.) Of the three big contracts the Giants handed out in the offseason, the one that raised the most eyebrows was the five-year, $62.5 million deal given to CB Janoris Jenkins, but he sure looks like he's been worth it. He smothered Dallas' Dez Bryant in the opener and was just as good against the Saints' speedy receivers, with eight tackles and two passes defensed. He has tremendous closing speed, rarely gives a receiver room to make the catch, and when he gives a cushion he doesn't miss tackles. He looks like the best corner the Giants have had in years.
2.) Speaking of corners, Ben McAdoo insisted Sunday that rookie Eli Apple "is a starter for us." Well, he didn't actually start but he played 59 of 62 defensive snaps (95 percent) while Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie saw his playing time dip all the way to 63 percent (39 of 62). It seems that had more to do with the Giants' defensive scheme than anything else, and their desire to rotate Leon Hall and DRC as the slot corners in nickel schemes.
3.) Tom Coughlin always preached that no stat dictates who wins and loses NFL games as much as turnovers. He's probably right. And yet the Giants are 2-0 and haven't forced a turnover yet. In fact, they're second-to-last in the NFL with a turnover ratio of minus-4. That's probably more of an anomaly and likely not sustainable. Of course, this revamped Giants defense isn't likely to continue to get shut out in the turnover wars.
4.) The Giants' defense has given up only two touchdowns and an average of 308 total yards and 237 passing yards in the first two games. It makes them a Top 10 defense. But … the odd part about that? They only have two sacks, and both of them came yesterday from Leon Hall and Landon Collins -- two defensive backs. Considering all the money they spent on their defensive line, adding Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison and re-signing Jason Pierre-Paul, and getting Johnathan Hankins back healthy, the pass rush was supposed to be the best part of their defense. So far they've been outstanding against the run (yielding just 71 yards per game) but the pass rush from the front four has been sketchy. Presumably it will get much better soon enough.
5.) If there is one thing that should be clear by now, Ben McAdoo is a more aggressive coach than his predecessor. And that's why I had no problem with his decision to go for it on 4th and 2 from the Saints' 3 in a 0-0 game late in the first quarter. The conventional wisdom is to take the points, but at that point it was hard to presume the game wouldn't be a shootout. And really, the Giants had four plays from the 11 or closer. They should be able to score from there. And if it weren't for a Larry Donnell drop in the end zone, they would have.
6.) I had more of an issue with McAdoo's game-ending play selection. Not the kneel-downs that set up the field goal. I agree with him. Run the clock out and win the game, don't go for the touchdown and give Drew Brees the ball back. My issue came after he ran the ball on first and 10 from the Saints' 38 and New Orleans used its second timeout with 1:54 left. His next two plays were deep passes -- one an Odell Beckham, Jr. drop and the other the great catch Victor Cruz made at the 2. I know, it worked. But I would've rather them throw shorter, less risky passes to keep the clock moving and set up a field goal in the 30-40-yard range. Can't argue with success, but if Cruz hadn't made that catch, Josh Brown would've been looking at a 53-yarder with 1:32 to go and the Saints would've still had one timeout left.
7.) This game was a step back for the offensive line. Marshall Newhouse, before he got hurt, struggled with Saints defensive end Cam Jordan. And he and Ereck Flowers killed a third-quarter drive with back-to-back holding penalties (though the way they were playing on that drive, they kind of had to hold). The worst performance, though, came early in the fourth quarter when they had 1st and goal from the 1. Two Shane Vereen runs went nowhere because of awful blocking. Then Newhouse let Jordan in too close and he tipped away the third-down pass, forcing the Giants to settle for a field goal.
8.) There shouldn't be any more doubts that Victor Cruz is back. Yeah, I know, he fumbled at the end of that 40-yard catch. But on that catch, and the 34-yarder at the end of the game, he showed his old speed, moves and hands. Four catches and 91 yards in his second game in two years? Not bad. And he, Beckham (8-86) and rookie Sterling Shepard (8-117) combined for 20 catches for 294 yards. That's a pretty impressive trio, and considering Cruz's fumble and Beckham's lack of yards after the catch, this was hardly their finest game.
9.) On a day when the offense looked out of sync, his receivers dropped far too many passes, and the running game didn't do much, Eli Manning completed 32 of 41 passes for 368 yards. Yeah, it's safe to say he's not a quarterback in decline.
10.) The Giants' defense just looks so much faster than it has in years. They are much more effective blitzing, as shown by the sacks from Hall and Collins, and pressure from many others. And the speed was clear on special teams too, where Rodgers-Cromartie very nearly blocked three field goal attempts, and Jenkins scooped up the one that was blocked (by Hankins) and returned it for a touchdown. The guys in the back seven can fly.