Giant Takeaways: New York Earns First Win of Season Against Texans
It took until the third week of the 2018 season, but the New York Giants defeated the Houston Texans 27-22 at NRG Stadium to earn their (and head coach Pat Shurmur’s) first win of the season.
The first two weeks had Giants fans and NFL analysts writing a eulogy for the team in blue. Yet, on Sunday, something changed, and it seemed as though a new Giants team showed up in Houston, and for the better.
With all of that in mind, here are some of the key takeaways from New York’s victory on Sunday afternoon.
No Flowers = New Offense
Everyone awoke on their final day of the weekend to the news that the Ereck Flowers experiment was over. The 2015 first-round pick was benched in favor of Chad Wheeler, an undrafted free agent in 2017 out of USC. Starting at right tackle is nothing new for Wheeler, as he did so against five times last season.
The decision by Shurmur turned out to be a golden one, as the Giants looked revitalized and rejuvenated. Quarterback Eli Manning was essentially flawless, completing 25-of-29 passes for 297 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Perhaps the most visible was Manning targeting his receivers deep, a far cry from last week against the Dallas Cowboys. Not to mention, Manning spread the ball around evenly, hitting different receivers for receptions.
The most notable target was Sterling Shepard, who hauled in six passes for 80 yard, his longest coming on a 23-yard catch, and one touchdown. Odell Beckham Jr. doubled his yardage and reception total from Week 2, as he caught nine passes for 109 yards.
And then there was Saquon Barkley, who showed why the Giants selected him with the second-overall pick. Barkley rushed the ball for 80 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. His 15-yard score in the first quarter gave the Giants their first lead of the entire season. The rookie did something New York hasn’t done in recent memory, and that’s effectively run the ball and milk the clock.
The end result? New York earning a possession time of 35:30, as compared to Houston’s 24:30. That’s always a good thing.
The Pass Rush is Here!
The one glaring negative in the first two weeks of the season was the pass rush, or lack thereof. In Houston, it finally arrived.
Texans second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson gave the Giants everything he had, but not without getting banged up. Watson was bullied inside and outside the pocket, as he hit the turf after a majority of his throws. The Giants were able to get to him, as he was sacked three times in the game by Mario Edwards, Lorenzo Carter, and B.J. Hill. Watson was hit so frequently, that he mentioned after the game that he has bruised ribs as a result.
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher was known for his dominant pass rushing squad in Arizona with the Cardinals, and Giants fans got a glimpse of it on Sunday.
Wynn Becoming the Staple of Defense
Defensive end Kerry Wynn made a name for himself throughout the preseason with his game-changing abilities, abnd he showed them off against the Texans.
Wynn had three crucial plays in the day. His first came late in the second quarter, as he stopped a scrambling Watson just before he could break daylight in order to force a three-and-out. In the third quarter, Wynn would force running back Lamar Miller to fumble following a short reception, allowing cornerback Donte Deayon to recover. And then late in the fourth quarter, Wynn would block a Watson pass on their four-yard line to slow down a surging Texans offense.
Wynn played like it was still the preseason, and if he keeps it up, he could be New York’s secret weapon on defense.
Uncertainty Surrounding Engram
While there were plenty of positives for New York, all was not well in the heart of Texas.
Evan Engram would leave the game after Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson would go for a low tackle, resulting in his helmet hitting the tight end in his right knee. Engram was originally considered questionable to return, before being ruled out for the remainder of the game shortly afterwards. It certainly came as a shock, as he was shown standing on the sidelines, helmet in hand.
Rhett Ellison would earn the starter’s snaps, as he hauled in all three of his targets for 39 yards and a touchdown.
After the game, Engram was seen wearing a large brace on his knee, which is certainly a cause for concern, considering his play-making abilities at the tight end position. The team should know more about his health status at some point this week. For now, they must wait with bated breath.
While the Giants are celebrating their first “W” of the season, they will return home, as they face the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium next Sunday. The Saints offense, lead by Drew Brees, is an explosive one, especially with wide receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara at his disposal. However, the Giants will have the opportunity to replicate their offensive output against a lowly New Orleans defense, which has allowed a whopping 412 yards per game.
Shurmur and the “new-look” Giants will look to build off the momentum from Houston and bring it home, with the hopes of bringing the team to .500.
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