Good afternoon Giants enthusiasts! Welcome to Week 5 in the NFL!
I'm Chris Mascaro and I'll be bringing you all of today's live game action, as the Giants (2-2, 0-1 road) take on Arian Foster and the rest of the surprising Houston Texans (3-1, 1-1 home) at Reliant Stadium in Houston.
Many thanks to Laura Albanese, who took over last week in my absence. I appreciate her keeping with Gameday Live tradition, except when she called me Christopher. Chris is just fine, thank you.
I had to attend a wedding, which caused plenty of angst among the males at church. No, not because we were required to give confessions, but rather we were frantically trying to check the scores of the early games on our phones without the bride seeing.
Much of the evening reception was spent looking for a T.V. to watch the Giants. What we saw was another marriage of sorts, one between a defensive line and a quarterback, as the G-Men had 10 sacks (nine in the first half) in a 17-3 win over Chicago. Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora had three sacks apiece.
Now the Giants must show they can take their show on the road, and the question everyone's asking is: Can they keep the momentum going?
Both of the Giants' losses this season have come against AFC South foes — a 38-14 decision in Indy Week 2 and a 29-10 mess the following week at home against Tennessee. In fact, the Giants' last win over an AFC South team was a 14-10 win over these very Texans in Week 9 of the 2006 season.
But this is a very different Houston team, one that believes it can make its first playoff appearance in franchise history. Last year was its first winning season (9-7), and the Texans are already off to a good start this season at 3-1 behind Foster, the NFL's leading rusher with 537 yards in four games.
In a 31-24 win in Oakland last week, Foster rushed for 131 yards, including a 74-yard TD to break a third-quarter tie, on 16 carries despite missing the first quarter due to disciplinary reasons. He also had three catches for 56 yards and a TD, his fifth trip to the end zone this year.
And in a reserve role, former Giant Derrick Ward, more commonly known as Wind in the old Earth, Wind and Fire combo of a couple years ago, ran for 80 yards and a score on 12 carries.
The Giants have allowed 469 rushing yards on the season (23rd in the league), but only 3.8 yards per carry (13th in the league). So the Giants' defensive line against the Houston running game is a matchup worth watching today.
Said Tuck of Foster and his hot start: "He's an undrafted guy who comes in and he's taking the league by storm right now. We have a great challenge and hopefully we can find a way to slow him down because obviously, no one else has."
Clearly stopping the run is crucial to the Giants' success, or lack thereof, this afternoon. Here are three more keys to today's game, and if you don't like them, there's always this stuff.
1. You didn't forget about me, did you? Four-time Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson was listed as questionable on the Texans injury report earlier this week. He had an ankle injury that caused him to miss last week's game against Oakland. But the 6-4, 223-pounder will give it a go today, giving coach Tom Coughlin even more to worry about. Even with sitting out last week, Johnson is 22nd in the league in receiving yards with 255. He has one touchdown on 19 catches.
Kenny Phillips is expected to play despite a knee injury, which is good because the Giants need all the help they can get in the secondary to contain Matt Schaub and this potent passing attack. However, Jacoby Jones will sit out with a calf injury; he's generally the "stretch the field" guy for Houston.
*Johnson finished with five catches for 95 yards, but that was all in the second half, which the Giants entered up 24-3. They held Schaub to just 196 yards, and it was his first game without a TD pass all season. Phillips only had one tackle, but the Giants secondary played a sound game.
2. Yeah, your pass rush is alright. But how you like ours? Clearly the Giants defensive line got the most headlines last week with its 10 sacks. But the Texans are pretty ferocious up front too, with nine sacks on the year (the same number of times Eli Manning has been sacked this year). They are also stout against the run, allowing only 70.2 rushing yards per game. Where they struggle is in the secondary, a spot they've allowed a league-worst 408 passing yards per game. So getting to the QB before he throws is obviously crucial to their success. Luckily for them, star defensive end Mario Williams, whose accounted for five of the team's nine sacks, will play despite a strained groin.
As for the Giants, Schaub is prone to taking sacks. He's been taken down 11 times in four games and has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long, a la Jay Cutler.
So pay attention to both defensive lines today, because whichever team wins the sack battle may very well win the game.
*Eli didn't get sacked at all. His only two mistakes (read: interceptions) were pretty much all his fault as bad decisions/throws. The Giants didn't get 10 sacks like last week against Chicago, but they did get three, including two strip-sacks by Osi Umenyiora. One was recovered by the Texans, but the other was scooped up by Justin Tuck.
3. Does the weird Texas trend extend to Houston? Maybe I have too much time on my hands (O.K., waaaaay too much time on my hands), but there's a weird trend developing for the Giants with games in Texas. Since 2003, the Giants have alternated wins and losses in games in Texas (obviously all of these games came against division rival Dallas), and they are coming off a 33-31 win over the Cowboys Week 2 of last season. In 2002, they won Week 5 in Dallas and then lost Week 12 in Houston. They lost a second in a row in the Lone Star State Week 16 of the '03 season, and haven't lost two in a row there since. Does that spell doom for them today? Or does it mean a trip to Houston temporarily reverses the trend? Confused yet?
This is the Giants second ever game at Reliant Stadium.
*It could be that Houston does, in fact, reverse the trend. So does this mean the Giants will win in Big D two weeks from Monday? Time will tell...
Here are today's inactives, courtesy of Mr. Tom Rock, who reports the roof is closed in Houston because of the hot weather outside. As I said earlier, Kenny Phillips is in the lineup, as is Ahmad Bradshaw (ankle) and Umenyiora (knee). Mathias Kiwanuka (bulging disk) is out for the second straight week. Center Shaun O'Hara (Achilles and ankle) will also sit, and Adam Koets will start in his place.
Finally, here are a few notes on today's game:
-The Texans, who finished last season 9-7, were 4-4 at home. They've won seven of their last eight games dating back to last season, including three of their last four at home.
-The Giants are ninth in the NFC in points scored with 72 (behind, in order, Green Bay, Philly, Atlanta, Detroit, New Orleans, St. Louis, Seattle and Washington). They've allowed 88, which is tied for 13th best in the conference (ahead of only Arizona, Detroit and San Francisco). The three points the Giants allowed last week were the fewest they've given up since shutting out Tampa Bay Week 3 of last year.
-The Texas are fourth in the AFC with 108 points scored (behind New England, Indy and San Diego). They've allowed 102 (13th best in the conference).
-Houston was 3-1 against NFC teams in 2009, losing only at Arizona among NFC West opponents. The Texans are 1-1 thus far against the NFC East this season, earning a 30-27 overtime win in Washington Week 2, but dropping a 27-13 decision to Dallas at home the following week.
-Schaub has completed 66.2 percent of his 130 passes this season for 1,037 yards, and he's averaged 7.98 yards per attempt. He has seven touchdown passes and four interceptions, and his 95.6 passer rating is 10th best in the NFL. His 98.6 mark last season was 7th.
-The Texans are -1 in turnover margin (five giveaways, four takeaways), while the Giants are -4 (they are tied with Carolina for the most giveaways in the league with 13).
-Bradshaw is fifth in the NFL with 382 rushing yards, including a 129-yard performance against the Bears last week. He has scored rushing TDs in three of his first four games, and also has 61 yards receiving. That's the good. The bad? He's lost three fumbles, including one after a long run last Sunday night (pictured above). Don't worry though Giants fans, it's being taken care of by Coughlin, the rest of the coaching staff, and even Bradshaw himself.
-Brandon Jacobs finally came out of his shell last week, rushing for 62 yards and a touchdown on six carries, including a 29-yard scamper. The touchdown was his first trip to the end zone since Week 14 of last season.
-The Texans are 3-1 for the first time in their franchise's history.
-The Giants haven't won back-to-back games since Weeks 4 and 5 of last year.
Okay, that's all for now. But we've got plenty more to talk about today, so keep it locked here throughout the afternoon!
I'll be back after each quarter with updates.
We're about 15 minutes from football on FOX!
End of the 1st Quarter: Giants 14, Texans 0 ... The Giants scored just 10 first-quarter points in their first four games.
Giants' first scoring drive: 8 plays, 85 yards, 4:32
Scoring play: Hakeem Nicks 6-yard pass from Manning (Tynes kick) ... it was Hakeem's fifth TD catch of the season and Manning's sixth TD throw.
Key play: Jacobs 5-yard run on third-and-1 from the Houston 26.
Giants' second scoring drive: 4 plays, 40 yards, 1:59
Scoring play: Jacobs 1-yard run (Tynes kick) ... it was his second rushing TD of the season.
Key play: Nicks 27-yard pass from Manning on first-and-10 from the Houston 28-yard line. Webster's interception gave the Giants the ball on Houston's 40-yard line.
Players who impressed for the Giants:
-Chris Canty didn't get to Schaub on his second-down pass on the first drive, but he did get his hand up in time to bat the pass down.
-Osi did get to Schaub on the next play, and forced a fumble. The Texans recovered, but were forced to to punt two plays later.
-Matt Dodge, who has struggled this season, got a nice bounce on his first punt and it netted 48 yards.
-Ramses Barden caught his first pass of the season for a gain of eight yards on an out route.
-Bradshaw made a nice spin move in the backfield and scampered for a 23-yard gain on the first scoring drive. It was his seventh run of 20+ yards, which is the most in the NFL.
-Jacobs converted a third-and-1 with a five-yard gain on his first carry. He also barreled in from a yard out for his second rushing TD of the season.
-Jonathan Goff stuffed Foster for a loss of three yards. He nearly picked off a pass later in the quarter, but it fell incomplete.
-Corey Webster picked off Schaub's first-down pass on the Houston 40-yard line, leading to the Giants' second score.
Players who struggled:
-Terrell Thomas was flagged for a block in the back on the Giants' first punt return, turning the Giants' starting position on their first drive from their own 18-yard line to their own 9.
-Bradshaw was stuffed in the backfield on his first carry. It wasn't his fault though, the blocking up front was horrendous. Bradshaw made a few nice moves to make it only a loss of three yards.
-The crowd at Reliant Stadium is very loud today. Before the Giants' third-and-13 play, Manning was forced to call a timeout because he was having trouble communicating with his receivers.
-The Giants first two drives started inside their own 20.
What to watch for in the second quarter: Can the Giants' defense keep the potent Texans' offense at bay? Foster has just three yards on four carries, and Schaub has thrown five incomplete passes.
End of the 2nd Quarter: Giants 24, Texans 3
Giants' third scoring drive: 6 plays, 55 yards, 2:58
Scoring play: Nicks 12-yard pass from Manning (Tynes kick) ... it was his second TD catch of the day and sixth of the season. Manning has seven TD passes on the year.
Key play: Nicks 14-yard reception from Manning on second-and-3 from the Houston 32. On the drive, Nicks had four catches for 49 yards.
Texans' first scoring drive: 10 plays, 35 yards, 4:09
Scoring play: Neil Rackers 38-yard FG
Key play: Owen Daniels 13-yard pass from Schaub on third-and-4 from the Giants' 36.
Giants' fourth scoring drive: 12 plays, 70 yards, 4:09
Scoring play: Lawrence Tynes 45-yard FG
Key play: Kevin Boss 6-yard pass from Manning on third-and-5 from the Houston 46.
Players who impressed for the Giants:
-At one point, Manning had completed 11 consecutive passes. His career high is 12 in a row.
-Barry Cofield batted a pass down at the line of scrimmage.
-Tynes' field goal was right down the middle, which was a pleasant surprise for Coughlin, since the kicker has already missed three attempts this season.
Players who struggled:
-Dodge's second punt was a low line drive and it netted only 31 yards after Kevin Walter's 17-yard return.
-On the punt, Michael Boley was flagged for holding, giving the Texans the ball on their own 47.
-Nicks, who already has two touchdowns today, dropped an easy pass down the left sideline that probably would have gone for a 51-yard touchdown.
What to watch for in the third quarter: Will Andre Johnson catch a pass today? The only play he's been involved in was his block in the back penalty.
Here are some halftime stats for your viewing pleasure...
Manning: 15-for-22, 175 yards, two TDs
Bradshaw: 10 carries, 58 yards
Jacobs: 5 carries, 21 yards, TD
Nicks: 7 catches, 97 yards, two TDs
Boss: 3 catches, 33 yards
Smith: 3 catches, 29 yards
Barden/Travis Beckum: 1 reception for 8 yards each
Tynes: 1 for 1 on FGs; 3 for 3 on XPs
Osi: sack (the only one after nine in the first half last week), forced fumble
Schaub: 8-for-17, 69 yards, INT
Foster: 8 carries, 9 yards; 1 catch, -4 yards
Daniels: 3 catches, 45 yards
Vonta Leach: 2 catches, 18 yards
Walter: 1 reception, 10 yards
Rackers: 1 for 1 on FGs
*The Texans have only 74 total yards of offense.
End of the 3rd Quarter: Giants 27, Texans 10
Texans' second scoring drive: 2 plays, 17 yards, 0:32
Scoring play: Ward 1-yard run (Rackers kick)
Key play: Johnson 16-yard pass from Schaub on first-and-10 from the 17 on the first play after Jackson's INT (more below).
Giants' fifth scoring drive: 11 plays, 47 yards, 5:37
Scoring play: Tynes 42-yard FG
Key play: Nicks 14-yard pass from Manning on third-and-7 from their own 32.
Players who impressed for the Giants:
-Dodge's third punt netted 53 yards after a -2-yard return. The hang time was 4.7 seconds, not too shabby.
-Osi stripped Schaub and and Tuck recovered for the Giants on the Houston 47-yard line.
-Nicks has his fourth career 100-yard receiving game and second in a row.
Players who struggled:
-Eli threw an interception to Sherrick McManis on third-and-14 from his own 49. It was the rookie's first career INT.
-Later in the quarter, Eli made another bad decision, under-throwing a pass on third-and-15 from his own 15 that was intercepted by Kareem Jackson (his first career pick as well), who returned it 23 yards to the Giants' 17.
What to watch for in the third quarter: Can Houston make the comeback after Eli's silly decisions?
That's the end of game, as the Giants defeat the Texans, 34-10.
Giants: 3-2 (1-1 road)
Texans: 3-2 (1-2 home)
Scores by quarter for the Giants: 14, 10, 3, 7
Scores by quarter for the Texans: 0, 3, 7, 0
Giants' sixth scoring drive: 9 plays, 73 yards, 5:12
Scoring play: Smith 4-yard pass from Manning (Tynes kick)
Key play: Bernard Pollard offsides penalty on Tynes' field-goal attempt to give the Giants a first-and-6 from the Texans' 6.
Here are your three stars for today's game:
1. Nicks: 12 catches, 130 yards, two TDs
2. Manning: 27-for-42, 297 yards, three TDs, two INTs; 6 carries, 9 yards
3. Umenyiora: two sacks, two forced fumbles
*The Giants had a 38:51-21:09 advantage in time of possession and a 414-195 advantage in total yards.
Bradshaw: 16 carries, 67 yards; 3 catches, 22 yards
Jacobs: 10 carries, 41 yards, TD
Smith: 6 receptions, 89 yards, TD
Boss: 4 catches, 40 yards
Barden/Beckum: 1 catch for 8 yards each
Tynes: 2 for 2 on FGs; 4 for 4 on XPs
Rolle: 5 tackles
Rolle: 5 tackles
Schaub: 16-for-34 for 196 yards, INT
Foster: 11 carries, 25 yards; 2 catches, 2 yards
Ward: 1 carry, 1 yard, TD; 1 catch, 12 yards
Slaton: 2 carries, -1 yards
Johnson: 5 receptions, 95 yards
Daniels: 3 catches, 45 yards
Walter: 2 catches, 24 yards
Leach: 2 catches, 18 yards
Rackers: 1 for 1 on FGs; 1 for 1 on XPs
DeMeco Ryans: 8 tackles
Jackson, McManis: INT each
*The attendance at Reliant Stadium today was 71,110.
Okay, that's all for today's game. Please check back above for updates on my pregame keys to the game. Thanks to all for coming out!
As always, it was my honor and pleasure to bring everyone all of today's live game action.
See ya'll back here in next Sunday, as the Giants play host to the Detroit Lions at 1 p.m. Have a great Columbus Day weekend everyone!