Giants quarterback Eli Manning passes against the Texans on Sept. 23, 2018, at NRG Stadium in Houston.

USA TODAY Images

Keidel: Manning Proves He Can Still Get The Job Done

Aging QB Comes Up Big In Giants' Win Over Texans

Jason Keidel
September 24, 2018 - 10:14 am
Categories: 

Staring down the twin barrels of another 0-3 start and subsequent September eulogy, the Giants avoided falling into the NFL abyss with a season-saving win at Houston on Sunday. 

Maybe they aren't quite one of football's big boys, but Big Blue at least dodged a galling start that, historically, would have all but assured them another forlorn winter watching the playoffs. They left Dallas 0-2 and left Texas 1-2, just one game out of first place in the NFC East. 

Watch every Giants game season this season with fuboTV -- click to start free trial now

And while the offense finally looked like the fine-tuned machine many of us envisioned before this season started -- with prized rookie running back Saquon Barkley among the key parts -- it was the old man who pulled them out of the quicksand. Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. surely contributed to the crucial road win over the Texans. But it was Eli Manning, who looked like a fossil in the pocket through two weeks, who led the Giants tantalizingly close to the elusive 30-point watermark that has eluded them for over two years. 

Manning completed 25 of 29 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns in the 27-22 victory over the Texans. It was only the second time in his career that Manning completed at least 80 percent of his passes in one game. Despite being sacked four times and toiling in J.J. Watt's shadow more than he would like, Manning still stepped through a time portal, reminding us why fans so admire the humble passer so much. Watt has made way better linemen than the Giants employ look silly, and if there's one monolithic quality we cherish in Manning, it's his toughness. Along with the stone-hewn family DNA, Manning is comically unflappable, like a Vulcan in pads. 

He may throw a grotesque, inexplicable interception one drive, but it's simply because he's Eli, not because he's rattled. Or he can drill a TD pass to a wideout snaking across the field. Just as he did Sunday, finding Sterling Shepard in the fourth quarter to stretch Big Blue's lead to 27-15, before a Texans rally fell five points short. 

Barkley has helped to fuel the offense, opening the season with three straight games of at least 100 yards from scrimmage. Beckham may not have found the end zone, or a reason for one of his dubious dances, but the electric wideout still had over 100 yards receiving. The O-line is far from perfect -- and seems to have waved a white flag on Ereck Flowers -- but largely blocked the Texans not named Watt. The defense forced some vital turnovers in the third and fourth quarters. And coach Pat Shurmur finally checks the win column in his maiden season as head coach. 

So if the game wasn't entirely won by Manning, it was still about the laconic, iconic QB who still has some life left in that right arm. How many times have we been ready to toss some dirt on the old man? How many times have we carved out his NFL tombstone? At times, Manning plays like he's shackled to an invisible pole, at times immobile, impatient and inept. Then he does this. 

So maybe this game sparks a run, infuses some mojo into the G-Men. Or maybe the Giants are as unpredictable as their quarterback and will lay a gridiron egg next Sunday, part of a sputtering 6-10 season. It may take their first 30-point effort since 2015 to outscore the nuclear New Orleans Saints, a club led by another heralded QB, Drew Brees, who just scored five touchdowns (two of them on his old legs) against Atlanta, while setting the all-time NFL record for completions. 

Sure, there are injury concerns over tight end Evan Engram, among other slots across the roster. But for one week, at least, we were reminded why the Giants were supposed to be exponentially better this year than they were last year. And though Manning, the last active link to their two Super Bowl seasons this century, is no longer a 22-year-old franchise savior, he did save Big Blue's season for one more Sunday. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel​.