Week 5 served as an NFL mind eraser: We found out that teams were NOT what we thought they were.
The defending champs lost to Arizona, San Diego lost to the Raiders, Cincinnati lost at home to Tampa Bay, and Dallas reverted to their season-opening form after many thought they had righted the ship. Oh, and Peyton Manning failed to throw a touchdown pass at home. It’s the first time since 1970 that there isn’t a 4-0 team in the NFL, a testament to parity…and sloppy, mediocre play.
Despite that overall sloppiness and mediocrity, there were a few teams that looked sharp this past weekend. The New York Giants were one of them. They manhandled, throttled, steamrolled (choose your word, it’ll fit) the Texans in Houston, 34-10. Hakeem Nicks did his best Andre Johnson imitation, racking up 12 receptions for 130 yards and two touchdowns, while the defense held the Texans to 24 rushing yards and 195 yards overall. New York totaled 414 offensive yards—117 on the ground, 297 through the air—in what was perhaps the team’s best all-around performance since they beat the Redskins 45-12 late last season. That win was against a bottom-feeding team; this one was not.
On their second possession of the afternoon, the Giants got on the scoreboard when Eli Manning hit Nicks for a six-yard touchdown. The 85-yard drive included a long run from Ahmad Bradshaw, a 19-yard reception from Kevin Boss, a short grab from Steve Smith, and started with an eight-yard Manning-to-Ramses Barden hookup. The Giants were able to call their shots. The play calling was always one step ahead of Houston’s and there was a sustained sense of offensive rhythm.
Manning was able to hit Nicks at will, and the second-year receiver set up the team’s second score with a 27-yard grab. Brandon Jacobs waltzed in from there, and even he got caught up in the rhythm. Jacobs took off his tap-dancing shoes and replaced them with work boots, at least for one day, as he hit holes with a purpose instead of, well, tap-dancing. Execution is contagious and everyone on the Giants’ offense caught the bug on Sunday afternoon.
Defensively, the visitors turned Arian Foster back into the pumpkin he was before the season started: 11 carries for 25 yards and two receptions for just two yards. They shut Andre Johnson down for the first half and even when the All World wide out finally made a significant catch, Big Blue overcame it. On the Texans’ second play of the second half, quarterback Matt Schaub connected with Johnson for a 48-yard gain. The score was 24-3 at the time, but a touchdown on that drive would have made Giant fans uneasy and gotten the Texans back into the game. It wasn’t happening. Osi Umenyiora produced his second sack/strip of the day just one play later. Justin Tuck recovered the fumble and Houston was one more denied by the aggressive New York defense.
Eli Manning would throw the first of his two terrible interceptions a couple of plays later, but a penalty on Houston would kill their ensuing drive. It must have been a nice feeling for the Giants, seeing the other team committing drive-crushing penalties for once. The second Manning pick came on New York’s next possession and this time the home team cashed in to make the score 24-10. It would make little difference.
On Gotham’s next possession, Manning led the Giants on an 11-play drive and a Lawrence Tynes field goal made it a three-score game. The signal caller would add a four-yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith to put a ribbon on the game and the team left Houston with a 3-2 record. The performance maintained the momentum from the Chicago victory and kept the team tied atop the highly-competitive NFC East. It was a rarity—a game in which the Giants played extremely well on both sides of the ball. Too many times we’ve seen them execute to perfection on offense, only to watch the defense run around in circles. Not on this day.
The all-around effort was a thousand miles away from those put forth against Indianapolis and Tennessee, but it begs the question—which is the real team? We’ll find out soon enough as New York hosts Detroit and then travels to Dallas. If the Giants play like they did yesterday, they’ll be 5-2 heading into their bye week. If, however, they lose their focus, we’ve seen that they’re more than capable of falling to 3-4. The division is clearly up for grabs.
Go out, New Yorkers, and take it.
Ross Mandel has served as a writer and editor in a variety of capacities for over 20 years. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, the editor in chief of NFLDraftBible.com, and co-hosts a weekly online radio show, which airs at 8:30am eastern time live on the All Access Football Radio Network on BlogTalkRadio.