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Jameel McClain, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Jameel McClain – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (September 21, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Rashad Jennings kept reliving one play in the days leading up to the Giants match-up with the Houston Texans.

A week prior versus the Arizona Cardinals, Jennings caught a swing pass in the fourth quarter with the Giants trailing. As he put his foot in the ground and cut up field, Jennings slipped and fell to the turf. The ball fell out of his hands and rolled away, with it the Giants hopes of a victory.

Jennings replayed the moment over and over in his mind. There was only one way to get it out. Sunday afternoon would be the perfect eraser.

Versus the Texans, Jennings rushed for a career-high 176 yards on 34 carries and a touchdown as the Giants defeated Houston, 30-17, in East Rutherford.

“I took that play to heart,” Jennings said. “That’s something you’ve gotta move forward from. You need to wash it out of your memory and continue to move. I just prepared this week, like I do every single week, and try to understand the defense inside and out.”

New York’s offensive line dominated the Texans front from start to finish. The team rushed for a combined 193 yards, averaged 4.6 yards per carry and kept quarterback Eli Manning upright for the majority of the contest. Houston All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt was contained as the Giants limited him to just seven tackles and one sack.

“All week long, we were asked, ‘How badly is he gonna hurt you guys?’” Giants offensive tackle Justin Pugh said. “We didn’t wanna hear that. We didn’t wanna answer those questions. Obviously, we let up the sack, but we came back, we fought and we showed the mentality of this offense.”

Despite dominating in the first quarter of Sunday’s game, the Giants, early on, appeared to have reverted back to their old ways. At the Texans 7-yard line in the first quarter, Manning found tight end Larry Donnell open at the four. As Donnell turned to cut up the field, he fumbled the ball and Houston recovered.

Victor Cruz, New York Giants (September 21, 2014)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

A series later, New York again drove deep into Texans territory before the drive stalled at the Houston 12. The field goal unit trotted on, but a bad snap scooted past holder Steve Weatherford. Again, New York came up empty handed.

“We said we just had to finish,” Manning said. “We said to keep doing what we were doing, they hadn’t stopped us, they were getting tired, just keep going.”

After punting on their next series, the Giants finally punched it in the end zone. Facing a first and 10 at the Texans 26 yard line, Manning found Victor Cruz over the middle. The wide receiver caught the ball, made a defender miss and then darted into the end zone for a touchdown.

“It feels good to get the salsa back going again,” Cruz said. “It was deactivated for awhile, but now it’s back in full swing.”

Cruz caught five passes for 107 yards on the afternoon. After dropping two passes in each of the first two games, Cruz didn’t allow any that hit his hands, to hit the ground.

In the days leading up to the Giants match-up with Houston, coach Tom Coughlin preached the need for the team’s defense to force turnovers. On Sunday, the defense answered.

Antrel Rolle, New York Giants (September 21, 2014)

Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Against a Houston offense that was without running back Arian Foster, the Giants shut down the run and forced quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to air the ball out. New York’s highly-touted secondary then recorded three interceptions: one by Prince Amukamara, one by Antrel Rolle and a third by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The interceptions by Rolle and Rodgers-Cromartie’s led to 10 points for the Giants.

“Coach really challenged us to get turnovers,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “He put up a category and showed we had no turnovers and said we needed to be Zack Bowman-ish, who’s the turnover king with punching balls out and getting picks. I think we rose to the challenge.”

While the Giants built a 17-3 lead, Houston made it a one-possession game on a miscommunication in the Giants secondary in the third quarter. On first and 10 from the Giants 45, Fitzpatrick found Damaris Johnson for a score. Cornerback Trumaine McBride let Johnson go expecting safety help from Stevie Brown. Brown never came over and Johnson got behind the defense.

On the Giants next possession, Manning marched the team down the field for a field goal. On Houston’s next drive. Damontre Moore blocked a punt setting up a nine-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Fells. The score all but iced the game.

Manning finished 21-of-28 for 234 yards with two scores.

Daniel Fells, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Daniel Fells – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“Nice to win. Nice to win, nice to do a lot of good things in the process,” Coughlin said. “A lot of guys played. I’m looking forward to looking at this tape.”

The Giants will have a short week before traveling to Washington to face the Washington Football Team on Thursday night.

Inactive for the Giants were wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (hamstring), linebacker Jon Beason (foot/ankle), linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring), offensive tackle Charles Brown (shoulder), defensive end Kerry Wynn, offensive tackle James Brewer (back) and defensive tackle Jay Bromley.

With Beason and Kennard out, Jameel McClain started at middle linebacker for the Giants and recorded 11 tackles and a half sack. Mark Herzlich started at strong-side linebacker.

Jason Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka and Amukamara all came off the field at various points in time with apparent injuries. None appeared to be serious. Stevie Brown missed time in the fourth quarter. Rookie Nat Berhe filled in in his place.

Inactive for the Houston Texans were quarterback Tom Savage, wide receiver DeVier Posey, running back Arian Foster, safety Shiloh Keo, offensive tackle Jeff Adams, linebacker Jadeveon Clowney and nose tackle Louis Nix.

Alfred Blue started in place of Foster and rushed for 78 yards on 13 carries, highlighted by a 46-yard run in the third quarter.

The Giants improved their record to 1-2. The Texans dropped to 2-1.

Tom Coughlin’s Post-Game Press Conference: The transcript and video of Head Coach Tom Coughin’s post-game press conference are available at Giants.com.

Player Post-Game Media Q&A’s: Transcripts and audio of the post-game media sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Video highlights are also available at Giants.com.

 

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Antrel Rolle, New York Giants (September 21, 2014)

Antrel Rolle – © USA TODAY Sports Images

On Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium, the New York Giants defeated the Houston Texans, 30-17. Below you will find some of the best, and worst, performances from the Giants first victory of the season. Please note, these observations are made from an initial reaction and not after reviewing film. These are the gut reactions gathered from watching the game live, not with the use of instant replay.

THE STUDS:

Eli Manning
This is how it was all supposed to look. There was Manning dropping back, firing passes underneath to Victor Cruz, who then made people miss to gain extra yards. There was enough time in the pocket for Manning to go through his reads, scan the field and find the open receiver. There weren’t many ‘questionable’ decisions from Manning, aside from a deep shot down the field to Rueben Randle. In fact, it may have been the quarterback’s most efficient outing in Ben McAdoo’s West Coast offense. The numbers tell the story: 21-of-28, 234 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions.

Rashad Jennings, New York Giants (September 21, 2014)

Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Rashad Jennings
After Friday afternoon’s practice, Rashad Jennings spoke to reporters about how his fumble against the Arizona Cardinals was still in his mind. It was interesting to hear a player admit that, especially because so often players preach about letting plays go and moving on to the next play. It was a human aspect that Jennings let out. He showed he did care and that it was very much still in his mind.

Jennings played like a man possessed Sunday, rushing for 176 yards on 34 carries and a score. He continues to show that he’s one of the more underrated players in the NFL and a running back who is capable of doing it all. Not only can he run, but he can catch the ball out of the backfield and block like a lineman. On Manning’s touchdown to Cruz, the Texans brought pressure and Jennings stepped up to pick it up and given Eli enough time to deliver a pass.

Jennings is that bring-your-lunch-box-to-work kind of guy. He doesn’t talk much, but his play speaks volumes. He does everything without asking for the fame or glamour. He deserves every bit of the praise he gets on a week-to-week basis.

Victor Cruz
Few players caught more flack this week than Victor Cruz, and it was a bit deserved. Cruz complained about not having the ball thrown to him, then dropped three passes. Versus Houston, Cruz got back to being the Cruz of old.

There were the yards after the catch, the big plays down the field and, finally, a salsa endzone celebration. He caught five passes for 107 yards and a score and looked to find a home in McAdoo’s offense. The biggest thing? He didn’t drop a pass.

Offensive Line
After the game, right tackle Justin Pugh talked about how annoyed he and the rest of his offensive linemates were that the only questions asked to them in the days leading up the game were how bad they were going to get beat by J.J. Watt. On Sunday, it was the offensive line that did the beating.

Not only did the Giants run for 193 yards on the ground, but Manning was only sacked once. Watt recorded seven tackles and that one sack, but was contained throughout the majority of the game. Every player on the line deserves a kudos for their play. It was very, very impressive.

Mathias Kiwanuka, New York Giants (September 21, 2014)

Mathias Kiwanuka – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Pass Rush
The Giants NASCAR package of Robert Ayers Jr., Mathias Kiwanuka, Damontre Moore and Jason Pierre-Paul may be their best front since 2007. While he was only sacked twice, Houston quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was under constant duress. Credit him for a few very shifty escapes because New York had the chance to bring him down on at least five other occasions. The pleasing thing about the way the front played was that the Giants didn’t have to blitz to get pressure. The Giants dropped back seven and rushed just four on numerous occasions with success.

Prince Amukamara
The former first-round pick is beginning to develop into quite the player for the Giants and it’s something to watch. His physicality has taken a step to the next level this year and versus Houston so did his coverage. Amukamara made a great adjustment to record his first interception of the year, then nearly picked off two others. There’s been talk that he’s better than Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but as DRC displayed himself Sunday, that’s a pretty nice compliment.

THE DUDS:

Larry Donnell
It’s actually tough to find any from the victory. The score was 30-17, but the Giants had the potential to put up 50. One of the reasons they didn’t were mistakes. One of those mistakes was by Larry Donnell.

As good as Donnell has been, he made a big no-no near the goal line. With the Giants deep in Cardinal territory, Manning found Donnell open at the four yard line. After catching the ball, Donnell fumbled. He made several nice catches afterwards, but it doesn’t excuse the mess up. Making mistakes against teams like the Texans won’t cost you the game. Making those errors against a team like the San Francisco 49ers or Philadelphia Eagles? That’s another story.

Damontre Moore, New York Giants (September 14, 2014)

Damontre Moore blocks a punt – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Zak DeOssie/The Special Teams
Same reasons as Donnell, it’s one uh-oh in a game that was filled with so few. DeOssie’s snap on the missed field goal was not pretty, and he can’t make that happen. It didn’t cost the Giants the game, but down the road against a better team it may.

Sticking with the same theme, on a five-yard return in the third quarter, Texans punt returner Damaris Johnson made about four Giants miss before getting tripped up. Had he not been brought now by a shoe string tackle, he was gone. Similarly, on a kick return, there was a huge lane for Johnson to run through.

There are things, like a botched snap, that a special teams coordinator should not take the blame for, but constant missed tackles and open lanes on returns? That they do. Maybe it’s the players, maybe it’s the coach, but how many more games are the Giants special teams going to cost them before a change is made?

They escaped Sunday, but this may not be the case next time.

Trumaine McBride/Stevie Brown
Not sure there’s another team in the NFL that has as many secondary miscommunications as the Giants. Again versus the Houston, there was another “I thought, he thought” meltdown.

On the deep touchdown from Fitzpatrick to Johnson, McBride appeared to let the wideout go and release him to Brown. The issue was Brown didn’t get the memo. This issue, similar to the special teams, didn’t cost the Giants on Sunday, but against a better team it will. These things just seem to happen once or twice a week, every week.

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Jon Beason, New York Giants (September 8, 2014)

Jon Beason – © USA TODAY Sports Images

September 19, 2014 New York Giants Injury Report: Not practicing on Friday were WR Odell Beckham (hamstring), LB Jon Beason (foot/ankle), and LB Devon Kennard (hamstring), and P Steve Weatherford (ankle). Weatherford is officially listed as “questionable” against the Houston Texans on Sunday while Beckham, Beason, and Kennard have been ruled out of the game.

“Our medical people, after listening to the conversation (with the specialists), just figured that this wouldn’t be a week to put (Beason) out there,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “He’ll probably have to fight through something like this for the duration (of the season), let’s put it that way.”

OT Charles Brown (shoulder) and OT James Brewer (back) practiced on a limited basis. Both are listed as “questionable” for the game.

DT Markus Kuhn (ankle) fully practiced and is “probable.”

Giants Waive OG Eric Herman: The Giants have waived OG Eric Herman, who returned to the team Wednesday after serving a two-week suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances (PEDs). The suspension was originally four weeks, but Herman was reinstated early as a result of the terms of the League’s new PED Policy. The Giants had been granted a two-day roster exemption for Herman that expired at 4:00PM Friday. Herman is eligible to join the practice squad.

September 19, 2014 Tom Coughlin Press Conference: The transcript and video from Friday’s press conference with Head Coach Tom Coughlin are available at Giants.com.

Giants.com Q&A with Head Coach Tom Coughlin: The Coughlin Corner: Eliminating turnovers by Michael Eisen of Giants.com

September 19, 2014 New York Giants Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of Friday’s media Q&A sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Article on LB Mark Herzlich: Giants’ Mark Herzlich prepares to start by Jeff Roberts of The Bergen Record

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Eli Manning, New York Giants (August 16, 2014)

Eli Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

 

Houston Texans at New York Giants, September 21, 2014

It’s normally ridiculous to talk about “must win” games in September, but the 0-2 Giants find themselves in that situation against the Houston Texans on Sunday. An 0-3 hole would be extremely difficult to overcome if this team has any serious playoff aspirations. The problem for the Giants is that while the passing game did look sharper last week, the lack of overall talent at wide receiver (as demonstrated by the fact that Preston Parker and Julian Talley are now the #3 and #4 receivers on the depth chart), continued issues on the offensive line, and key injuries on defense (Jon Beason, Walter Thurmond) may sabotage the season.

FOUR DOWNS:

First Down
Can the defense get off of the field on 3rd down?
Everyone knew the Giants offense would struggle early this year. What everyone was counting on was for the defense to step up and carry the team while the offense adjusted to the new system. While the defense hasn’t been “bad,” it certainly hasn’t been “good” either. The biggest issue is defense can’t get off of the field on third down. The Lions were 67 percent on 3rd down against the Giants. Against the Cardinals, the New York offense only had the ball three times in the first half as the Giants defense allowed Arizona to maintain possession on drives of 11, 10, and 8 plays.

Second Down
Can the defense force some turnovers?
Somewhat related to our “first down” point, even better than forcing three-and-outs, force some turnovers. The Giants defense was supposed to thrive on turnovers this season. They have none in two games. Create a short field for the offense, or better yet, score some points of your own.

Third Down
Can the Giants finally get the ground game going?
The Giants have not been able to run the football yet this season against two very good defensive lines. This has made the Giants dangerously one-dimensional, something completely contrary to Tom Coughlin’s desires.

Fourth Down
Can Eli Manning build on his positive performance from last week?
Eli Manning played well enough for the Giants to win last week. The key now is to keep it going and build off of last week’s positive performance. Consistency is the key.

BREAKING DOWN THE TEXANS:

OFFENSE - Eric Kennedy
Strength?
The Texans can run the football. Arian Foster is a big, physical productive football player. He already has 241 yards on 55 carries in just two games. Foster can also catch the ball. And he is helped by a very solid offensive line, anchored by Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown. The offensive line has not given up a sack this season.  WR Andre Johnson, though older and affected by injury issues in recent years, is still a stud.

Weakness?
It’s tough to call a quarterback with 118.4 quarterback rating a weakness. But Ryan Fitzpatrick is with his fifth NFL team for a reason – historically-speaking, he’s been a very average to below-average historically in this league. If the Giants can shut down the Texans’ running game, the pressure will be on Fitzpatrick to make plays in the clutch. Fitzpatrick has not thrown an interception yet. He’s due.

DEFENSE - Connor Hughes
Strength?
There are things the Houston Texans do well defensively, but it starts entirely with J.J. Watt. The NFL’s newest $100 million man is a force against the run, the pass and just about everything in between. One of the things that makes him so difficult to defend is the fact he can overpower near anyone that gets in front of him.

This season, Watt is tied with Jurrell Casey as the No. 2 ranked 3-4 defensive end by Pro Football Focus, grading out with a positive 7.2 score. Rushing the passer, Watt is ranked No. 1 despite only bringing the quarterback down once. On 76 passing snaps, Watt has hit the quarterback eight times and hurried him six others. Group that with his one sack and he himself has applied pressure on 15.1 percent of an opponent’s pass plays.

During his four-year NFL career, Watt has never faced the Giants. Back in 2012, he faced the Green Bay Packers when Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo was the team’s quarterback coach. Watt recorded six tackles and two sacks in that game.

Weakness?
One of the bigger weaknesses for the Texans defense over the last several years as been its secondary. That hasn’t change in 2014.

Through the first two games of the season, Houston’s two starting cornerbacks (Johnathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson) are ranked No. 104 and No. 67 respectively by Pro Football Focus. Joseph has been thrown at 12 times, 10 of which were caught by the opponent’s receiver gaining 116 yards. A quarterback’s rating when testing Joseph is a staggering 106.9. Jackson has been thrown at 14 times, allowing seven completions for 63 yards. He intercepted his first pass of the season last week.

The safety position hasn’t been much better. Starter D.J. Swearinger is the No. 46 ranked safety.

If the Giants are able to slow down J.J. Watt, there are plays to be made in the secondary. The key is going to be giving Eli Manning enough time to throw the ball.

PLAYER TO WATCH:

Connor Hughes -
Corey Washington
There was one constant throughout the entire preseason, and his name was Corey Washington. The game-winning touching-catching machine reached the hype and myth level of Jonas Seawright during his first year with the team. On Sunday, there’s a good chance he’s given the opportunity to transition his training camp play onto the game field.

With Odell Beckham Jr. still sidelined with a hamstring injury and Jerrel Jernigan on the IR, there’s just one player ahead of Washington on the depth chart to see significant playing time. In fact, it could take just one hit for Washington to suddenly become a starter. Whether he’s the first on the field in a three-wide set, there’s a very good chance Washington sees meaningful snaps as a receiver.

If those snaps come, and Washington plays well, he could supplant Preston Parker as the Giants No. 3 receiver until Beckham returns from injury.

Eric Kennedy -
Antrel Rolle
The highest-paid member of the defense has been far too quiet. Rolle has been playing his “natural” position – a position that was supposed to lead to more impact plays. That hasn’t happened. Rolle called a player’s only meeting on defense this week and challenged his teammates to play with more aggressiveness and confidence. He wants them to make plays. Rolle needs to lead by example.

FROM THE COACHES’ MOUTH:

Tom Coughlin - “(The Texans) have led in their two games six of the eight quarters. Ryan Fitzpatrick has played very well, managed the game extremely well for his team. As you know, three touchdowns, no interceptions, he has a quarterback rating of 118 and he’s played very, very well. They run the ball extremely well. Arian Foster has 55 carries for 241 for 4.4 with a long of 40. He’s an exceptional runner, plus the offensive line has given up one sack throughout the course of the two games. Their defense is a physical front eight. Versus Oakland they did provide the ball for their offensive team at the plus-21 and plus-28 with turnovers, one fumble and one interception. Against Washington, Niles Paul had a 48-yard catch, run after the catch, was stripped, lost the ball inside the 10. Their defense provided, again, the Houston defense provided the ball, turned it over inside their own 10-yard line twice in that particular game.”

Bill O’Brien - (On if the Giants are a trap game for 2-0 Houston) “Absolutely not. I was just saying something to someone downstairs here, every week is a big challenge in this league. There are great coaches and great players on the other side that we have to be prepared for. Every week is a different matchup. Houston versus Oakland is a lot different than Houston versus New York. New York versus Arizona is a lot different than Houston versus New York. It is a matchup that is very difficult because of all the players that they have and the schemes that they run. It is a very difficult challenge for us on the road.”

FINAL WORD:

Connor Hughes - I took a leap of faith last week that the Giants would pull out a victory over the Arizona Cardinals despite everything telling me the wouldn’t.

Despite Arizona starting a quarterback that hadn’t played since I graduated high school, the Giant still managed to find a way to give away the game. With 10 minutes left, the Giants led by four points. When the game ended, the Giants lost by 11 despite allowing the Cardinals to gain just 37 yards offense those final 10 minutes.

Despite the fact the Houston Texans were the worst team in the league last year, they’re talented. They have J.J. Watt, one of the best receivers (Andre Johnson) in the game and a running back that is a threat both running and out of the backfield. Last year, the Texans simply quit on their head coach. The team wasn’t drafting No. 1 for lack of talent.

If the Giants want a chance in this game, they’re going to have to avoid the turnovers, get after Ryan Fitzpatrick and force turnover. If they do all three, they have a chance at winning. Offensively, I don’t think it’s going to be pretty, but if they can avoid the turnovers, the Giants still have a shot at the victory.

With that being said, I took a leap of faith last week and fell flat. Despite Antrel Rolle’s pleas to fans, I think the Giants drop to 0-3. Texans: 21 - Giants: 13.

Eric Kennedy - Until proven otherwise, the Giants simply are not a very good football team. The offense is averaging 14 points per game and can’t seem to run the ball. There are not a lot of weapons in the passing game. Defensively, the losses of Walter Thurmond (for the season) and Jon Beason (for at least this game) are going to hurt. The defense flashes, but can’t finish. Special teams continue to remain a sore spot. It’s going to be a long season. Texans 28 – Giants 14.