Unconventional practice fuels Giants' win

Eli Manning finally had something to smile about in his postgame press conference with reporters and credited Tom Coughlin's punting contest and music during Friday's practice as a way to help his team forget its losing ways.

Staring at another disastrous September as they prepared for the 2-0 Texans, the Giants found an unexpected source of levity: head coach Tom Coughlin, who brought a team-wide punting contest and even some music to the Meadowlands for practice last week.

“I think we just stole it all off Coach Coughlin’s iPad, early ‘90s rap,” Eli Manning said with a laugh on Sunday, after New York put together an impressive 30-17 win over Houston to move to 1-2. “Coach kept his cool [during practice]. It said to us, ‘We know what to do, let’s just go play football. Don’t worry about being perfect or doing everything exact. Play the game you love and go play fast.’”

And after a sloppy first quarter, including a fumble near the goal line and a botched field goal, the Giants seemed to find the confidence and identity they’ve been trying to find since 2011. Manning put together his second consecutive solid game, the offensive line dominated, and Ben McAdoo’s new offense finally started to hum after encouraging signs last week against Arizona.

“That is the way [our offense] is supposed to work,” Manning said. “We didn’t get stuck in many third and longs. We didn’t have many third downs at all, it felt like. Receivers, we got the ball out quick. The receivers made catches. It was efficient.

New York was able to stay ahead of the chains and stick to their offense in large part thanks to a dominating performance from its much-maligned offensive line. The same five started for the third consecutive week — a departure from last year’s revolving door — and that group pounded Houston’s imposing front seven. Manning was sacked only once, by J.J. Watt on the fifth play from scrimmage, and Rashad Jennings consistently ate up yardage en route to a career day.

“The offensive line was dominant today,” Manning said. “I think we had the one sack early on in the first series, but besides that, I was held up and we were running and getting five, six, seven yards a pop. That is when the line is dominating. At one point we ran the same play three times in a row.”

New York still hasn’t accomplished anything, and they’re still stuck at the bottom of the NFC East. But Sunday marked the second consecutive encouraging performance (especially from the offensive line), one where the Giants simply got out of their own way and played. As for Manning, he’s just glad 0-6 is off the table.

“We didn’t want to go through that again,” Manning said. “You know it is a big win, but if you start pressing or stressing or telling everybody we have to win this game, then people will get tense and stressed. It’s always good to get that first win.”

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