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.
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.
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.
“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.
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:
- QB Eli Manning (Video)
- RB Rashad Jennings (Video)
- WR Victor Cruz (Video)
- DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Video)
- DT Cullen Jenkins (Video)
- LB Jameel McClain (Video)
- P Steve Weatherford (Video)
Video highlights are also available at Giants.com.