HOUSTON — The football was on the ground and Donte Deayon had one mission.
“I was just trying to get to the rock,” the cornerback said of his key third-quarter fumble recovery in the Giants’ 27-22 win over the Texans on Sunday. “I saw somebody jump on it and then it squirted out and I said, ‘Oh, I’ve got to go get it!’ I jumped on it and I was holding it and they were fighting and scratching and pulling on my ankles, twisting my ankles trying to get that ball out. But I wasn’t letting it go.”
It was one of two ultra-important defensive plays in the second half that kept the Texans from scoring points while the Giants’ offense went into a lull. Back-to-back Texans drives put them in scoring position while trailing 20-9, and both times a timely takeaway helped the Giants retain their command of the game. At a time when it seemed as if the Texans were gaining some momentum, the defense was able to kill that sensation.
The Giants had one takeaway in the first two games. “We knew if we kept being aggressive and hunting the ball, it would come,” linebacker Kerry Wynn said.
It was Wynn who forced the fumble that Deayon recovered. The Texans had just converted a third-and-8 on a 20-yard pass to DeAndre Hopkins and they threw a short pass to running back Lamar Hill. “He cut toward me, and as I was wrapping up, I felt the ball, so I just pulled on it a little bit,” Wynn said. “I knew it was out. I was just hoping that somebody in blue would get it.”
The Giants had a three-and-out after the fumble and the Texans marched downfield. Deshaun Watson threw a pass for Hill in the end zone from the 25, but it was intercepted by linebacker Alec Ogletree.
“I just plastered my man and turned around and saw the ball in the air,” he said. “It was definitely a big play for us at the time.”
The Giants’ defense did not have a superb statistical game. They allowed 427 yards and Watson threw for 385. But they held a team that entered the game as the top-ranked rushing attack to 59 yards, 36 of them on scrambles by Watson. Defensive tackle Damon Harrison controlled the line of scrimmage with seven tackles.
Wynn finished with five tackles — one for a loss — and batted down a pass to go with his forced fumble. He also made his first start of the season, replacing Olivier Vernon, who missed a third straight game with a high ankle sprain.
Besides the takeaways, the Giants found another defensive element that had been missing through the first two games: Sacks. They registered three of them, including the first career sacks for rookies Lorenzo Carter and B.J. Hill. Mario Edwards Jr. had the third.
“Shoot, we worked,” Carter said. “This has been a process, just trusting everything and trying to play ball . . . We came out here and we worked and we earned it. We earned this win.”