EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – When it comes to winning football games, Tom Coughlin isn't afraid to get out of his comfort zone.
With his team feeling the pressure of a second straight 0-2 start and many worried about another 0-6 debacle, Coughlin did the unexpected with his players this week.
He played music at practice that his players liked, had a punt catching competition and got his players to relax. It worked.
Rashad Jennings ran for a career-best 176 yards and a touchdown, Eli Manning threw two touchdowns and the Giants' defense recorded their first three takeaways of the season in a 30-17 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday.
"He is aggressive at trying to make adjustments to get this team focused and to get this team motivated," Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said of the 68-year-old Coughlin. "This group reacted to that. Maybe groups in the past would not have gotten it done but he got it done for this group and I respect him for being able to change with the team."
After two dismal performances, the Giants dominated in the first half, taking a 14-0 lead on Manning's 26-yard TD to Victor Cruz and a 1-yard run by Jennings. Josh Brown added three field goals and Manning (21 of 28 for 234 yards) threw a 9-yard touchdown to Daniel Fells in the second half.
"It's always great to win," said Coughlin, who team will face Washington on Thursday night. "I wish we would have won a couple weeks ago and kept it going but we won today, let's just be happy with that for now."
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a 44-yard scoring pass to Damaris Johnson and ran for another score for the Texans (2-1), who played without halfback Arian Foster (hamstring). Fitzpatrick completed 20 of 34 for 289 yards but he threw his first three interceptions of the season.
"You play bad defense, you are going to get beat," Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said. "That is what happened today, we played bad football and we got beat."
The Texans came into the game with an NFL-best plus 5 turnover ratio. They were minus 2 against the Giants.
Some things learned from the Giants first win of the season:
GIANTS DEFENSIVE LINE: There was a lot of concern about the line after Justin Tuck and Linval Joseph signed with other teams as free agents. Facing a Texans offensive line that had not given up a sack, the Giants sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick twice and Jason Pierre-Paul short-circuited Houston's opening drive with a pressure that led to an interception by Prince Amukamara.
GAMBLING BILL: Houston coach Bill O'Brien isn't afraid to do the unexpected. The first-year head coach had punter Shane Lechler throw a pass on fourth-and-1 from his own 39 on the Texans' first possession. Alfred Blue caught it for 10 yards and a first down. The second game didn't pay off. Down 14-0 at the start of the second half, O'Brien went for it on fourth-and-1 from his 46 on the first possession and Blue lost a yard on a run. It led to a Giants field goal.
JENNINGS' CAREER GAMES: Jennings' two best games running the ball have been against Houston. He ran for 150 last year as a member of the Raiders and went for 176 on 34 carries.
The 34 carries were the most by a Giant since Dec. 5, 1999, when Joe Montgomery had 38. His 176 yards were the highest total by a Giants back since Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 200 yards on 30 carries vs Cleveland on Oct. 7, 2012.
"I had no idea what the stats were," said Jennings, who atoned for a key fourth-quarter fumble last week. "I wear a pacifier. The reason why I wear a pacifier — I just shut up and work."
NO ARIAN: There was some concern that halfback Arian Foster was being used too much after he got 55 carries for 241 yards in the Texans first two games. Foster was inactive Sunday because of a hamstring injury. Blue started at halfback and gained 78 yards on 13 carries, with a 46-yard third-quarter run being his big gainer.
MR SALSA IS BACK: it didn't' take Victor Cruz long to get back in the good graces of Giants fans. The popular 27-year-old was booed after dropping two fourth-quarter passes last week. His five catches for 107 yards had cheers of "CRUZZZ" echoing through MetLife Stadium and the fans loved his salsa after his 26-yard catch and run for a touchdown.
"It's been a long time since I got in that end zone," said Cruz, who had not caught a TD since Week 4 of last season. "It felt good to dance again, but my hips hurt from dancing."
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