The Giants earned their third straight win, and unlike the previous two, it wasn’t due to veteran quarterback Eli Manning. Rather it was two of his newest mates in the huddle — rookies Andre Williams and Odell Beckham Jr. — who carried the Giants to a 30-20 victory over Atlanta.
“Words can’t describe it. The adversity I had and what I went through, I just have to praise God that I was able to score and play the game I love,” said Beckham. “It was good to get that burden off my chest.”
His deep-route ability was a presence for the Falcons, who often used a safety over the top of the coverage to nullify his big-play ability. The scheme opened underneath routes for his teammates. Rueben Randle, Victor Cruz and Preston Parker combined for 10 receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown — mostly on short and intermediate routes.
Manning said he was particularly impressed with Beckham’s football IQ, as he knew when and how to set up the Falcons’ defensive backs, despite rarely practicing with the first team.
“Odell did some great things and made some catches,” said Manning. “The touchdown route was good, but we never threw that in practice, so we have to work hard in practice and get on the same page. … I have to get used to his body movement and speed.”
Beckham’s touchdown, which proved to be the eventual winning points, was artistic as he beat Robert Alford for the score, despite the veteran cornerback being flagged for an egregious holding call as they were jostling down the field. Beckham was forced to readjust his leap mid-jump to outmuscle Alford, capping an 11-play, 64-yard drive.
“Every time we can throw routes, even before the game, we’ll get more on the same page,” said Manning. “The thing about practice is we can stay after and watch some film and gain some trust and knowledge for what he likes, and what I like.”
Head coach Tom Coughlin said he also liked what he saw out of both rookies.
“I was impressed. [Beckham]’s gonna add a lot to our weapons on the field. He made some nice moves in space for his first time out there. He could be a force to be reckoned with in this offense,” Coughlin said, before turning his attention toward Williams. “Andre is a hard-nosed runner. He drops his shoulder — you saw that on his touchdown. He knows how to get down low and deliver, and it was good to see that he did well in pass protection as well.”
Williams tallied 60 yards on a game-high 20 carries, while Beckham added five receptions for 44 yards. And it was evident from the quotes of their veteran teammates that they are already considered peers.
“When you’re getting new guys and rookies, that’s great [because] it’s more weapons,” said Manning. “Andre has been playing well the last few weeks. He plays hard. He ran hard and ran over some guys when Rashad went down. He even caught a few balls, which is good and didn’t happen during his college days much, so it’s good to see his work paying off.”
The guy who Williams replaced, veteran Rashad Jennings, had nothing but praise as well.
“I’m so proud of him. He’s a guy that came in and kind of has been under my wing as soon as he stepped in the door, so I’m happy to see him get his feet wet and continue to grow,” said Jennings. “He’s going to be a dominant player in this league.”
Naturally, Coughlin tried his best to temper expectations. But even he had a bit of excitement in his voice when discussing the dimensions his two prized rookies will add.
“We didn’t have a lot of numbers, but I like that we kept the ball when we needed to, made plays when we needed to. We won the fourth quarter, and they helped us have very few three-and-outs,” said Coughlin. “Here we are [entering this week] with three games left until the bye and I expect us to be focused — no more little mistakes and miscues at this stage of the season. They played well [and] did an outstanding job for us. ... It was good to see, but we all can certainly be better.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.