The Giants stepped back from the brink of yet another disastrous season with a 22-17 win in Houston on Sunday, as they put together just enough offense to improve their record to 1-2.
Here are grades for each specific position group...
Remember all those stories and that talk about Eli Manning being done? Yeah, those were fun. Manning was near-perfect against the Texans, completing 25 of 29 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. And his completion percentage wasn't inflated by dump-offs, either. The Giants took their shots down field and many of his passes were mid-range.
Despite all the cries for him to retire or get cut or whatever, he's actually been better than he's been getting credit for this season considering the circumstances. Why did it all come together this time? Because Manning had time to run his offense (see below). When he's not rushed, he's terrific. He even proved he could complete some big passes on the run, when rolling out of the pocket.
Saquon Barkley had more room to run than he's had in the first two games (see below) but he also did a much better job of creating runs out of nothing. Granted, he wasn't hit in the backfield as often as he has been and that certainly helps. But some of his runs were through the smallest of holes. And his touchdown run, where he hesitated at the line, allowed the hole to open, and then burst through, was a thing of beauty.
Overall, Barkley ran for 82 yards on 17 carries and caught five passes for 35 yards, including a huge first-down catch on the Giants' final touchdown drive when somehow he was single-covered by a linebacker.
Not to continue hammering the same theme, but it's amazing what the Giants' weapons can do when there's time for them to work. All of a sudden, the receivers were open now that they had an extra second to run their routes. The crossing routes and quick slants that didn't quite develop in the first two games were suddenly there. So were some of the downfield shots.
Odell Beckham Jr. (9-109) and Sterling Shepard (6-80) both had huge games. And Rhett Ellison filled in nicely as a receiver (3-39-1) after Evan Engram went down with a knee injury early in the game. Ellison's blocking was outstanding, too, particularly against J.J. Watt.
All that's missing is the big, breakaway play the Giants are convinced is coming at some point.
You're expecting an A+ here, right? Well, grading on a curve they probably deserve one. Compared to what everyone has witnessed the last two years, they deserve one. But a little perspective is necessary. The line was excellent for four drives in the first half and one drive in the second half. Other than that? Eh.
Sure, that's a little harsh. But those second-half drives when the protection and the run blocking weren't there were a reminder that the line needs to be consistently good for this offense to operate. In the second half, the pocket began to collapse and RT Chad Wheeler, making his first start in place of Ereck Flowers, began to have the expected trouble with J.J. Watt.
Overall, it was good. Better. Not great. But if last week was rock bottom, this is a promising start on their way up.
The pass rush was erratic. When it was there, it was good (three sacks, 11 quarterback hits). When it wasn't, DeShaun Watson had way too much time. They're still without Olivier Vernon, though, and that matters. And really, most of their issues came in the second half when the Texans mounted their comeback. So much like the offensive line, it was half-good, half-bad.
Where they were really good was against the run. What were the Texans thinking running up the middle so much against the Giants? Their running backs gained 23 yards on 14 carries. Did they see something on film that made them think they could get by DT Damon Harrison -- something no one else apparently sees?
Alec Ogletree had a terrific interception in the end zone and Kareem Martin continued to be an underrated force in the pass rush (albeit one who gets close to the quarterback, but doesn't often get all the way there). They also were strong in run support against a Texans team that couldn't get anything going on the ground.
But again, in this tale of two halves, the second half saw far too many receivers running free in the middle of the field. That was more on the secondary (see below) but the linebackers could've helped more.
In the first half of the game, the dangerous Texans duo of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller combined for three catches and 31 yards and it really looked like the absence of CB Eli Apple (groin) wasn't going to hurt much. But in the second half, the Texans passing game really got into a groove. Hopkins (6-86) and Fuller (5-101-1) were huge in the second half.
Now, they did need 21 targets to catch those 11 passes. Some of that was on DeShaun Watson and some of that was due to the coverage. But late in the game, they were open just way too much. It wasn't surprising considering the Giants' secondary is now pretty thin. But it wasn't good, either.
It was the definition of an average game. Their return game didn't do much. Their coverage teams didn't allow much, except for one 27-yard punt return that didn't do any damage. Aldrick Rosas made both his field goals from 44 and 30, but that was really the only impact the Giants' special teams had.