Eli Manning, Giants offense wake up in time to save season

HOUSTON -- History shows that 0-3 is the death knell. Teams don't often recover from those types of starts, with just 1 percent of 0-3 teams making the playoffs since the NFL established its current playoff format.

Not only did the New York Giants avoid the dreaded 0-3, the offense showed signs in the first half on Sunday against the Houston Texans of being the unit the team envisioned heading into this season. Eli Manning was ripping passes to his variety of weapons behind an offensive line that was doing just enough to allow them to operate efficiently. Saquon Barkley was loosening up the defense with his ability to consistently put the Giants in short-yard situations, before hitting on a big run. Odell Beckham Jr. was being targeted often and making plays.

The Giants were shut down offensively in the third quarter and for much of the fourth. But hey, they'll take one strong half at this point. And when they needed it most when the game got close late, the offense drove down the field and used a Sterling Shepard touchdown catch to finish off a 27-22 win against the Texans.

"That's how I see playing offense," coach Pat Shurmur said. "You deal up a progression, you dial it up and the ball goes where it is supposed to go if it gets out on time."

Phew. The Giants (1-2) can breathe. Their season is not about to careen off the tracks.

It begins for the Giants' offense with Manning. He's the quarterback and they need him to make plays. He went 25-of-29 passing for 297 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions after being under fire this past week.

"I thought Eli played a good game," Shurmur said. "I should say a damn good game. ... Pretty fair day at the office if I might say myself."

It was the Giants' first September win in more than two years, after losing six straight. It was also the first time they reached 20 points this season. Even if all of those points were scored in the opening 30 minutes, it was still progress.

Beckham and Shepard tasted victory for the first time in almost two full calendar years. It's been that type of run for the Giants. But finally, there is a glimmer of optimism early this season.

The first half in particular can give the Giants hope that they can do the requisite damage moving forward, beginning next Sunday against the potent New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium. They're going to need their offense to do big things if they're going to compete with the Saints or be any sort of factor in a competitive NFC.

They did in the first half, when Manning completed 12 of 14 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown and Barkley ran for 69 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Beckham caught five passes for 75 yards.

"I love it. Being able to move that ball around, getting it into the hands of playmakers and letting them make plays and do what they do, that is what this offense is built for," Beckham said. "And we got to do that a bit [Sunday]."

The offense is what the Giants were hoping would carry them this season. Instead, it's what held them back the first two weeks.

For a week at least, they have evidence they're headed in the right direction. All those weapons might not be wasted after all.