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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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Connor Hughes/BBI

Connor Hughes has been working in both the broadcasting and journalism fields for the last seven years. His work has been heard on WMCX, WBZC and Lenape District Television, while read on the pages of The Star-Ledger and The Burlington County Times. Connor can be reached via email (Connor_Hughes@bigblueinteractive.com) or on twitter (@Connor_J_Hughes)

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