Rapid Reaction: Giants 28, Rams 16

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- Staring at the possibility of starting the season 0-2, an opportunistic New York Giants team beat old friend Steve Spagnuolo’s Rams, 28-16.

What it means: It’s only the second game of the year but this felt like something close to a must-win. The Giants are still very much a work in progress and an 0-2 start before facing NFC East rival Philadelphia next week could have been disastrous with a brutal second-half schedule staring at the Giants later in the year.

The offense is improving and the secondary coverage is still spotty but the Giants got a much-needed victory.

Welcome back: The Giants got a major boost before the game when defensive end Justin Tuck and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks were cleared to play. Meanwhile, Rams running back Steven Jackson tested his injured quad before the game but was held out.

The Giants, though, suffered a few injuries. Wide receiver Mario Manningham suffered a concussion and wide receiver Domenik Hixon injured his right knee. It appeared he hurt it while landing on his acrobatic juggling 22-yard touchdown catch with 21 seconds left in the first half. Hixon briefly returned in the third quarter only to leave for good.

Dee-fense: The Giants’ secondary had trouble slowing Sam Bradford at times as the Rams opened the game with no huddle. But Perry Fewell’s defense stopped the Rams three times inside its own 10-yard-line and forced St. Louis to settle for three field goals in the first three quarters.

But Bradford found Danario Alexander for a 19-yard touchdown in the third quarter after Alexander beat Michael Coe, who replaced a healthy Aaron Ross. Ross later was re-inserted early in the fourth.

Opportunistic Giants: The Giants took full advantage of the Rams’ miscues. Rookie Greg Salas muffed a punt return and the Giants recovered at the St. Louis’ 38. The Giants scored a touchdown six plays later, aided by a pass interference call on a fourth-and-4 that cost the Rams 23 yards.

Michael Boley later scooped up an errant backwards pass by Bradford and scored on a 65-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. Manning then later hit Hixon for a touchdown to send the Giants into the half, up 21-6.

Third-down woes: The Giants started the game with more third-down problems, failing on their first six third-down attempts until Manning hit Hixon for a seven-yard completion on a third-and-2 at the Giants’ 40 in the last minute of the first half. The Giants were 1-for-10 on third downs in the season opener against Washington. They finished 5-for-15 against St. Louis.

What’s next: Punt it out of bounds! The Giants travel to Philadelphia to face the Eagles for the first time since the Giants suffered that unforgettable collapse at home last year and DeSean Jackson took that Matt Dodge punt and darted through the Giants’ special teams for a touchdown to Tom Coughlin’s dismay. It remains to be seen whether Michael Vick will play after suffering a concussion but it will certainly be an interesting week with plenty of talk about Vick, Steve Smith and even Lady Gaga, aka LeSean McCoy.