Despite coming into week three with a 0-2 record, the Houston Texans had compiled the most rushing yards throughout the league.
Through the first two quarters of play on Sunday, Head Coach Bill O’Brien called 11 run plays that totaled only 24 yards.
On 10 first-half carries from the other sideline, rookie Saquon Barkley already registered 69 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown.
Quarterback Deshaun Watson ended up leading the team in rushing, accounting for 36 of the 59 yards by the final horn.
Coach O’Brien, who serves as the play-caller, put it on him, noting: “The play-calling has been terrible and we got to look at that.
I’ve got to do a better job of getting these guys into a rhythm. We’ve got a lot of good players, just haven’t been able to get them into a rhythm,” he finished.
Despite that, Watson still passed for over 300 yards and the team put up 22 points.
Too many of them were of the three-point variety from the foot of kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn, though, and for the most part, the touchdowns came too late or came off the board for a penalty.
By the time Houston finally carried the ball across the goal line, there were seven and a half minutes left in the game. Although Will Fuller’s catch brought the score to 20-15, Eli Manning led a 5-minute 77-yard drive to pay dirt in response.
The next Texan touchdown came with a lone second left on the clock; Watson’s second throwing touchdown, this one to Lamar Miller.
The running back played a bigger role in the passing game again this week, catching five out of six passes in his direction for 41 yards and the score. He toked the rock 10 times on the ground and managed only 10 yards.
His counterpart, Alfred Blue, rushed only four times but gained 13 yards, and caught the only pass thrown his way for 4 yards.
The lack of a running game was brought up in O’Brien’s press conference and the Coach supplied an answer from his sideline-perspective.
“They loaded up the box, they did a good job. We tried a bunch of different schemes,” O’Brien noted. “[We] basically abandoned it in the second half, went away from it, tried to do other things…Just never could get it going.”
On the opposite sideline, Barkley finished 17 carries for 82 yards, showing the elusiveness and power that made him the second overall pick in this year’s draft.
The team that ranked near the bottom of the rushing leaders through the first two weeks surpassed the top-rushing offense this week, with the Giants blowing past the 74.5 per-game average that ranked them 28th in the league, with 114 total yards on 27 carries from five different ball-carriers.
Barkley mentioned that he knew this game had a different aura around it far before the teams took the field.
“I kind of just knew we were going to win this game just [by] the way we were in the locker room before the game,” he said. “It was different than the first two games how the energy was different, the way we looked in warmups was different. It was just a different vibe.”
That difference flipped the script so far in the Big Apple, moving to 1-2 on the season.
In the Lone Star State, Houston drops to 0-3, the worst start in over a decade. Next week’s tilt will send the Texans on the road to face the division-rival Indianapolis Colts, who own a 25-7 advantage in the all-time matchup of the two teams.