Although it wasn’t completely ideal, the New York Giants’ domination of the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium in Houston on Sunday was close to being a “perfect 10” performance, fittingly on 10/10/10.
Big Blue was led by a stifling defense that held one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses to — appropriately for the date — ten points and by a passing game directed by who else on that same date? Number 10 himself, quarterback Eli Manning, in a 34-10 trashing that was over by halftime.
Despite two forced, second-half interceptions, Manning took advantage of the league’s worst pass defense, which entered the game allowing league worsts of 408 total yards and 337.8 passing yards per game, while having ranked second in rush yards allowed (70.3 per game).
After throwing incompletions on each of his first two attempts, Manning completed his next eleven passes, en route to 15-for-22 first half with 175 yards and two touchdowns (both to wide receiver Hakeem Nicks). Manning finished the game 27 of 42, for 297 yards, three touchdowns and the two picks.
It was also a big day for Manning’s favorite target, Nicks, who caught seven of Manning’s final eight completions during Manning’s streak of eleven straight completions. Nicks had 97 receiving yards by halftime and finished the game leading all receivers with a career-high 130 yards on a franchise-tying 12 catches, while reaching triple digit receiving yards for the second straight game.
After an initial three-and-out, Manning led touchdown drives (of 85, 40, and 85 yards) on each the Giants’ next three possessions to help New York (3-2) score the game’s first 21 points.
Those drives concluded with Manning touchdown passes of 6 and 12 yards, each to Nicks, sandwiched around a one-yard touchdown run by running back Brandon Jacobs (10 rushes, 41 yards) that gave the Giants a 14-0 lead after the opening quarter.
The first scoring drive was saved by an alert Chase Blackburn, who pounced on a fumble kick returner Daruis Reynaud at the Giants’ 15 yard-line.
With the Giants’ offense doing its job, the New York defense picked up where it left off in last week’s manhandling of Chicago.
Houston (3-2) ran only 13 plays, managing a total of just 28 yards over its first four possessions before finally going 35 yards on 10 plays on its fifth possession, leading to a 38-yard field goal by Neil Rackers that cut the Giants’ lead to 21-3 with 8:47 left in the first half.
New York got Rackers’ field goal right back, going 70 yards on 12 plays for Lawrence Tynes 45-yard field goal to give the Giants a 24-3 lead with two seconds left in the first half.
By that point, the Giants had 17 of the game’s 22 first downs, had allowed no rushing first downs, and had outgained Houston 254-74, including 78-9 on the ground.
Rushing ten times (16 for the game) in the first half, running back Ahmad Bradshaw had 58 of his game-high 67 yards before the break, to give Manning and the passing game the offensive balance they needed.
The Giants offense started the second half poorly however, going three-and-out before Manning threw picks on each of the next two possessions.
Manning’s second interception left the Texans a short 17 yards to travel in just two plays, as Houston cut New York’s lead to 24-10, on a one-yard touchdown plunge by former Giant, running back Derrick Ward, with 7 minutes left in the third quarter.
But, the Giants immediately answered with a 45-yard field goal from Tynes, to lead 27-10, with 1:22 remaining in the third, after marching 47 yards on 11 plays. Wide receiver Steve Smith (6 catches for 89 yards) had a key 11-yard reception on the drive to move the Giants into Texans’ territory.
Tynes’ second field goal was aided by new holder, backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels, who did a good job of getting down a high snap. That could be no small thing for the Giants if Rosenfels frees up rookie punter Matt Dodge to focus more on punting, and no longer on holding for field goal attempts.
That could very well be the case, if Sunday was any indication. Dodge avoided his previous problems of handling punt snaps while booting four punts for a 49-yard average.
From there, New York held Houston in check, and after a Texans’ punt the Giants put together one last scoring drive, going 73 yards on 9 plays, as Manning hit Smith on a 4-yard touchdown pass with 4:50 left in the game.
Though the Giants committed as many turnovers (two) as the Texans, and had one more penalty (9, to Houston’s 8), they more than doubled the Texans in total yardage (414-195) and first downs (25-12), and nearly held the ball twice as much (38:51 to Houston’s 21:09).
Given the Texans’ pass defense struggles, the Giants’ success in the passing game was of no surprise, yet Nicks’ career day could be a sign that the 2009 first-round pick from North Carolina might be on the verge of NFL stardom if he can remain healthy after missing a couple of games last season.
Even more encouraging for the Giants was their defense shutting down what had been one of the league’s most productive offenses and the NFL’s top running game.
Running back Arian Foster, who entered the game as the league’s leading rusher with 134.3 yards per game, was held to a barely noticeable 25 yards on 11 carries.
Foster removed his helmet and scratched the top of his head as he headed into the tunnel at halftime. Perhaps, he was perplexed at how the Texans, who had been so successful offensively, could be locked down so much by the Giants’ defense, which held the Texans to well under their average in several categories:
- Houston’s scored 17 points below their average of 27 points per game.
- The Texans has less than half (195) of their total yardage average of 415.5 yards per game.
- Houston quarterback Matt Schaub (16-34, 196, 0 TD, 1 INT) passed for more than 60 yards below his average of 259.3 yards per game, which had ranked 7th in the league, one spot ahead of Manning.
- The Texans, which had ranked 8th in passing yards (243.5 per game), were held to just 171 yards, thanks in part to a stout Giants’ pass rush which accounted for three sacks (two by defensive end Osi Umenyiora and another by defensive end Justin Tuck).
- And, perhaps the most impressive number for the Giants’ defense: limiting to league’s leading rushing attack (172 yards per game) to a measly 24 rushing yards.
After beginning the season with two losses in three games while allowing 28.3 points per game, the Giants have won two straight, allowing a total of just 13 points over the past two weeks.
Next up, the Giants will host the 1-4 Detroit Lions, at 1pm EST on Sunday, exactly a week after the 10/10/10 date that proved to be good luck for Big Blue.
The Lions have been far more competitive than their poor record suggests, as evidenced by the 44-6 pasting they put on St. Louis, for their first win this season on Sunday. If the Giants don’t beat themselves with penalties and especially turnovers, they should head into their bye week with their third straight win. But, as the dangerous Lions sleep tonight, the Giants would be wise not to wake them next week.