HOUSTON — The New York Giants found some offense to go with that powerful defensive front.
Eli Manning threw two of his three touchdown passes to Hakeem Nicks and the Giants held Houston to a franchise-low 24 yards rushing in a 34-10 win over the Texans on Sunday.
Nicks finished with career highs of 12 catches and 130 yards, another big day for a receiver against the Texans’ porous secondary. Manning went 27 of 42 for 297 yards passing, and threw his third TD pass to Steve Smith in the fourth quarter.
But Nicks was Manning’s true go-to receiver early on Sunday, catching seven passes for 97 yards in the first half.
“You never know who’s going to have the hot day,” Manning said. “I don’t have favorites and I don’t pick guys out. I’m reading coverages and throwing to the open guy. So they know that.”
Osi Umenyiora sacked Texans quarterback Matt Schaub twice and also forced a fumble, while the Giants (3-2) held NFL rushing leader Arian Foster to 25 yards on 11 carries.
Linebacker Brian Cushing made four solo tackles in his season debut for Houston (3-2). He was suspended the first four games for violating the NFL’s policy on banned substances.
His much-anticipated return was quickly forgotten as the Giants rolled to a 21-0 lead in the first 17 minutes. The Texans had no choice but to start throwing, and that played right into the hands of the Giants’ pass rush, which generated 10 sacks against Chicago last week.
“Our offense did a good job of getting off to that early lead and scoring points so they couldn’t run the ball,” Umenyiora said. “We just played off of each other.”
Manning faced little pressure in the first half and completed 15 of 22 passes for 175 yards, while Nicks dominated Houston cornerbacks Kareem Jackson and Brice McCain. The Texans were giving up 338 yards passing per game and their young cornerbacks had taken most of the blame.
Manning noticed this week while studying the Texans that their safeties often creep forward on play-action fakes, leaving gaps down the field. He told his receivers to watch for that, and Nicks was apparently paying attention.
“It’s fun when those things work,” Manning said. “It’s not really always what the coach had drawn up and what the coach wants, but you kind of do some things on your own.”
The Giants’ defense took care of the rest, holding Houston’s top-ranked rushing offense to 8 yards. The Texans came in averaging 172 yards rushing per game.
New York already led 7-0 on Nicks’ first touchdown catch when Corey Webster intercepted Schaub’s pass to Andre Johnson near midfield in the first quarter. Manning promptly threw a 27-yard pass to Nicks to set up Brandon Jacobs’ 1-yard TD run.
The Texans ran four plays for negative yards and mustered only two first downs in the first quarter. At one point, three Giants knocked down Schaub in the end zone after another incompletion, prompting boos from the sellout crowd.
“We just got our butt kicked and played undisciplined,” Houston coach Gary Kubiak said. “We never really even got anything going running the ball.”
The Giants led 24-3 at the break, and the home crowd booed the Texans as they trotted off the field. Houston had only 74 total yards at halftime.
Schaub threw a 48-yard pass to Johnson on Houston’s second play of the third quarter, but Umenyiora sacked Schaub and knocked the ball loose on the next snap, and Justin Tuck recovered.
Jackson intercepted Manning later in the third quarter and returned it to the Giants’ 17. Johnson caught a pass at the 1, and former Giants running back Derrick Ward scored on the next play. But Manning started the Giants’ next series with three straight completions to Nicks, and Tynes kicked a 42-yard field goal with 1:22 left in the third quarter.
Smith beat Jackson on a 45-yard gain to the Texans’ 28 in the fourth quarter, then outjumped second-year cornerback Glover Quin for New York’s last touchdown with 4:50 left in the game.
Notes: The Texans’ previous low rushing total was 25, set against the New York Jets in 2006. … LB Keith Bulluck (toe) and C Shaun O’Hara (Achilles’ and ankle) were among eight inactive players for the Giants. Adam Koets, limited in practice this week with a knee sprain, started in O’Hara’s place. … Houston WR/PR Jacoby Jones sat out with a calf injury. WR David Anderson fielded punts. … Texans RG Mike Brisiel left in the second quarter with a sprained knee.