The Giants entered Sunday a maligned outfit due to an offense that had sputtered out of the gate. But thanks to a career-best performance from running back Rashad Jennings, Big Blue stomped its way to a convincing 30-17 victory.
Jennings, who came to New York from Oakland last year, by way of Jacksonville, was highly coveted this offseason by general manager Jerry Reese and head coach Tom Coughlin.
It looked like Jennings would be just another guy during the Giants’ 0-2 start — including a critical fumble in last week’s loss — but after his career-high 176-yard performance, it looks like Reese made the right decision.
“Last week was a hard pill to swallow, watching that film. Bouncing back was something I pride myself in, so we had to correct those problems,” Jennings said. “I know I took that [fumble] to heart. But I knew ultimately it was something I moved forward from and prepared for this week.”
Casual fans may not recognize Jennings’s skill-set, particularly since he spent a majority of his pre-Giants career as an understudy. He first toiled in anonymity in Jacksonville behind Maurice Jones-Drew and last year shared time with Darren McFadden.
His time in New York was different from the start, as he was essentially made the starter upon arrival. He rewarded them on Sunday by giving the Giants a time of possession edge and help move the chains on third down. So lopsided was the third-down efficiency that the Texans didn’t convert until the 4:25 mark of the final quarter. They were 0-of-10 until that point.
Jennings said all praise should fall on the guys up front, as well as the passing game that allowed rushing lanes to open wide for him.
“The O-line did an outstanding job of getting hat-on-hat blocking. Eli [Manning] did a great job, and the receivers did a great job at getting me open lanes because of all the damage they were doing in the passing game. Everyone played well. I was just doing my job,” said Jennings. “I truly believe when the offensive run game is effective, everything else is, too. And when it’s not it means I’m not making plays.”
“The offensive line did a great job of opening up lanes for Rashad. And Rashad ran hard to get us better down-and-distances,” Manning said. “It didn’t feel like we had any third downs at all really. That’s the way it’s supposed to go.”
The Giants used every bit of Jennings’s 34 carries — and six more from rookie Andre Williams — to keep the Texans’ defense off balance.
“They really didn’t do anything glaring on defense,” Jennings said of Houston’s usually complex front-seven scheme. “We just played with an attitude and the defense did a great job getting the ball back to us in prime field position. And the special teams also did a great job linking itself with the offense and defense. … It was a total team win.”
New York needed this win, as they certainly didn’t want to start the campaign 0-3 for the second straight season. But all that goodwill can certainly dissipate if they don’t use Sunday’s momentum as a springboard toward their next opponent. They head to D.C. on a short week for Thursday night’s prime-time matchup.
“It was a good win, and good to see us be able to put points on the board. It was needed and our guys played well,” said Coughlin. “We’re looking forward to looking at this tape and get ready for a short week.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.