Two weeks ago, the New York Giants were a team in disarray. They were 1-2 and had come off two embarrassing losses to the Colts and the Titans. Two dominating defensive performances later, and the G-Men look like a powerhouse and a true contender in the NFC.
Eli Manning threw for 297 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Hakeem Nicks en rout to a 34-10 victory in Houston. The Giants scored touchdowns on three of their first four drives and never looked back, compiling 414 yards of offense in a game that featured a very balanced attack from New York.
Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs combined for 108 yards and a score on 26 carries, which seemed to keep the Texan defense on their heels just enough to give Eli holes to find in an already porous secondary.
Hakeem Nicks had a career day, catching a franchise record-tying 12 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns. He did drop a deep ball at the end of the first half, but he made a lot of tough grabs near the sidelines and is turning into the go-to-guy the Giants had hope they drafted two years prior.
On the defensive side of the ball, New York was nothing short of brilliant, holding the NFL's leading rusher Arian Foster to 25 yards on 11 carries and holding Andre Johnson to zero catches in the first half. Reminiscent of last week, Osi Umenyiora had another two sacks, including a strip of Matt Schaub immediately after Houston had gained a little confidence with a 48-yard pass to Johnson in the third quarter.
The beautiful thing about the Giants pass rush today was that they rarely needed to blitz, dropping seven men back into coverage while the front four for the Giants wreaked havoc. First year defensive coordinator Perry Fewell seems to finally have all of his guys on the same page and his unit looks relentless right now.
Two statement wins in a row for Big Blue has squashed all of the "Fire Coughlin" talk in New York—for now—and you have to be excited to see what they have to offer for the rest of the season.
For as lopsided as this game was, the Giants do have some things to work on, so here are three positives and three negatives from today's big victory.
For a team coached by a man who stresses discipline as much as Tom Coughlin does, the Giants commit way too many penalties.
They were penalized nine times for 87 yards, with about half of them coming on special teams. Because field position is so important, you cannot afford to make stupid mistakes that give the opponent a shortened field. If the defense wasn't so dominant today, Houston could have—and should have—taken advantage of the great field position it was given on multiple occasions.
If the Giants continue to get penalized this often, they will lose the close games in which they outplay the opposition. As a fan, this issue is very worrisome.
2. Special Teams
I am not going to be coy about this. The Giants special teams are awful.
They were responsible for most of the aforementioned penalties, and most of the mistakes could have been easily avoided. Rookie Brian Jackson—who was cut from the Jets earlier this season—had a terrible block in the back after the play was basically over.
Plays like that drive me crazy, and I'm sure it drove the coaching staff to a boiling point, despite the big lead they had for most of the game.
Darius Reynaud muffed a punt, and I'm not going to lie, I definitely saw this one coming. He bobbled one against the Bears last week that almost cost the Giants big time, and he really hasn't panned out so far since being traded from Minnesota in the preseason. Luckily, Chase Blackburn made the big recovery on that fumble, but if that ball is picked up by Houston, it changes the course of the ball game immensely.
3. Eli's Decision Making
This isn't as serious of an issue as the previous two, but on a few occasions I really questioned what the hell was going through Eli's head.
He forced two balls into coverage that were both intercepted in Giants territory. When you are up 21 on the road and your defense is playing as well as New York's was, why would you try and fit something in under pressure?
The second interception led to the Texans' lone touchdown and opened the door for them to make a comeback. They didn't, but that isn't the point. In that situation, a punt isn't a bad thing. When you have a big lead, play the field position game. Don't let a struggling offense back in the game by giving them a short field to work with. It is foolish and gives the other team confidence, which is everything in this league.
On a third down later in the game, Eli had a sure first down if he tucked it and ran, but he elected to fire it on the run and the ball sailed over Nicks' outstretched arms. Now, I know Eli isn't a speed demon out there, but when you have the space to get the first, you take it, especially when the man you are throwing to has defenders breathing down his neck.
The Giants played a great game, and I am not one to dwell on mistakes in a convincing victory, but New York needs to improve in these departments if they want to have continued success.
1. The Offensive Line
With starting center Shaun O' Hara out with a leg injury and David Diehl gimpy, New York had to do a lot of mixing and matching for this week's game. William Beatty, the Giants reserve tackle who comes in for jumbo packages was also out, and New York had to rely heavily on former Eagle Shawn Andrews, who they signed off free agency right before the season.
The line performed wonderfully, holding Mario Williams and the Texans defense to no sacks, while giving Eli plenty of time to pick apart the young secondary. They also opened up some nice holes for Jacobs and Bradshaw to run through.
2. Matt Dodge
Having plenty of struggles early in the season, rookie punter Matt Dodge had himself a solid performance with an average of 49.3 yards on four punts, with one being downed inside the 20.
He looked more composed and seemed to gain confidence with each kick. Hopefully he can keep improving and turn into a solid player. The special teams is much maligned so far this year, and if Dodge can stay consistent it will really help the Giants down the road.
3. The Offense
Although the Giants won last week, their offense really didn't get in a rhythm until late in the game. I know the Bears defense is better than Houston's, but not by much.
Eli—for all of his silly mistakes—made some great throws in big spots to keep this game out of reach. He continually found open targets and completed 64.3 percent of his passes in an efficient performance.
Brandon Jacobs played inspired today, which is something that Giants fans have been looking for since 2008. He punished defenders and grinded out runs for extra yardage.
Hakeem Nicks did drop a deep pass, but he caught 12, including his fifth and sixth touchdowns of the year. He is a great red zone target and seems to turn it up a notch when he can smell the end zone.
For now, rest easy Giants fans. The Big Blue are back and look better than ever. Confident football breeds success, and right now the Giants are playing with a chip on their shoulder.
If it was up to me, I'd keep that chip up there for a while.
Phil Lombardo is a Bleacher Report writing intern and a senior journalism/mass communications major at St. Bonaventure University.
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