New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was elite in the team’s win over the Houston Texans. Was that a one-off or a sign of things to come?
Winning fixes everything, especially in September when the temperatures tease summer may hang around a little longer than what is listed on the calendar. A week before the typing of this sentence, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was washed and over the hill, those running the franchise whiffed by not drafting Sam Darnold and the season was lost before it really got started.
After a 27-22 victory over the Houston Texans, the Giants are alive and well and a winnable home game versus the New Orleans Saints away from being .500.
Manning, specifically, was nearly perfect in executing a game plan meant to keep him as safe as possible facing a Houston pass rush advertised to eat him alive. The two-time Super Bowl MVP completed 25-of-29 passes for 297 yards, and he matched a pair of touchdowns with zero interceptions.
While he was sacked four times, the decision made by head coach Pat Shurmur to bench right tackle Ereck Flowers in favor of Chad Wheeler seemed to spark the signal-caller and those around him.
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Wheeler had a rough second half, but the line, as a whole, enjoyed its best outing of the season, and Manning appeared far more comfortable in the pocket. Manning hit Odell Beckham Jr. on nine of 10 passes, and he connected with Sterling Shepard on six of seven throws. Most importantly, the offensive CEO played the role of closer when the Giants needed him to put the Texans away.
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With 7:31 remaining in the contest and the Giants ahead 20-15, Manning and company took control of the ball at the New York 23-yard line. Manning turned the clock back for a vintage performance, completing all six passes on the drive, including a spot-on call on a third-and-one that involved emptying the backfield to give rookie running back Saquon Barkley an opportunity to catch a pass on the right sideline and journey inside the opposing ten-yard line.
The touchdown throw to Shepard was a dart placed exactly where it needed to be, and it proved to be a game-winning strike.
Don’t look now, but it’s a new day for the 1-2 Giants. The New Orleans defense is unreliable, at best, and a shambolic unit capable of surrendering 50 points to a New York offense that is clicking, at worst. After the Saints were blown out by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they squandered a lead at home versus the Cleveland Browns before the Browns turned victory into defeat. 2-1 New Orleans could easily be 1-2 or even 0-3. This is a beatable opponent.
The MCL sprain suffered by Evan Engram is a concern even though the tight end has once again struggled catching passes. With Engram sidelined, more will be expected of Shepard, who flourished in the New York offense as a rookie and with Beckham healthy and on the field. Barkley, meanwhile, has shown what he can do when he doesn’t have to worry about would-be tacklers entering the backfield right as he receives the ball.
Perhaps there is something to be said about a new offense established by a new coaching staff needing more than eight quarters to adjust and find rhythm and chemistry. Pessimists would retort Manning’s game against the Texans is fool’s gold and little more. There’s hope for the 2018 Giants on the final Monday of September, something that couldn’t be proclaimed even before the team’s lackluster loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Obviously, the offensive line will continue to be a crucial and vital unit. Manning isn’t becoming mobile overnight. He isn’t Aaron Rodgers. Escapability is not a strength for the greatest QB in franchise history. A win doesn’t change that. One no longer needs to add the phrase “on paper” when describing how this offense can beat a solid defense. We’ve witnessed it, and New York has done it.
Surviving through the end of October and a brutal stretch of games was always the name of the game for the Giants. Getting to 2-2 is the next step of that process, and it’s one that is realistic so long as New York’s offense is headed in the right direction without the much-maligned Flowers in the lineup.