EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Eli Manning has a new option for his improving West Coast offense and the New York Giants are starting to get a new attitude.
That left-over feeling of `what can go wrong next’ from last season is being replaced with that belief that somehow, someone is going to make a play to win the game.
In the 30-20 comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons (2-3) on Sunday, the Giants (3-2) had plenty of heroes in winning their third straight game.
The most noticeable was first-round draft pick Odell Beckham Jr., who caught a go-ahead touchdown pass from Manning early in the fourth quarter. Fellow rookie Andre Williams helped ignite the comeback from a 10-point second-half deficit with a 3-yard touchdown run, while Manning led four scoring drives and the defense shut down the Falcons in the second half.
”I think it says a lot about our team. I think it says that we’re resilient, we’re going to play all fourth quarters, and we’re not going to wait for things to get too rough for us to pick it up,” said safety Antrel Rolle, whose missed tackle allowed Atlanta to take a 20-10 third-quarter lead on a 74-yard scoring pass from Matt Ryan to Antone Smith. ”We hung in there for the first half without playing our best ball, and not even close to it. In the second half, I think we played lights out.”
Beckham was the story. He missed all five preseason games and the first four regular-season contests with a hamstring injury.
Every week coach Tom Coughlin answered endless questions about when Beckham would either practice or play. His debut finally came Sunday and he responded by drawing a pass interference call to set up Williams’ TD and his 15-yard go-ahead TD catch with 10:02 to play. It was Manning’s second touchdown pass of the game.
”To be out this long and to have to deal with the adversity I have had, I just I have to thank God for giving me the opportunity to play and for allowing me to score in my first game,” Beckham said.
Ryan threw for 316 yards and a touchdown playing behind a banged-up offensive line that held up until the very end. Atlanta dropped its second straight since dominating Tampa Bay 56-14 on Sept. 18.
Falcons coach Mike Smith refused to blame the team’s injuries or his players for losing a 10-point lead.
”It’s not anybody’s fault but mine,” he said. ”It is my responsibility as the head coach, ultimately. And I will, and do, take responsibility for that. It is not about those players.”
Fellow receiver Victor Cruz was excited after Beckham’s first game.
”He is a guy who can change the complexion of our offense and wide receiving corps, and make us that much better,” Cruz said. ”It’s big for us to get him back and going in the right direction.”
Atlanta never threatened after Beckham’s score, and Brown iced the game with his second and third field goals.
Here’s some things we learned from the Giants’ win over the Falcons:
ROOKIES READY: Beckham isn’t the only rookie on the Giants making a contribution. Second-round pick Weston Richburg has been starting at left guard since the start of the season and Williams, the fourth-round pick, gained 65 yards on 20 carries. Williams appears to have moved into the starting lineup with Rashad Jennings seemingly iffy after spraining his knee in the third quarter. Jennings does not believe the injury is serious but he will be evaluated on Monday.
DYNAMIC DUO: Ryan and receiver Julio Jones were outstanding despite playing with a makeshift offensive line. Knowing the Giants planned to test the unit, the Falcons resorted to getting rid of the ball quickly and it was almost enough to win. Ryan threw for 316 yards and a touchdown and Jones caught 11 passes for 105 yards to set up most of the Atlanta points.
OSI IS BACK: Osi Umenyiora could always deliver on the big stage and the former Giants star did it again, recording the Falcons’ only sack. He extended his arms and did a fly around to celebrate.
”I was just trying to help the team win,” said Umenyiora, who had 75 sacks in his nine seasons with the Giants. ”Anything I can do to help this team win, I’m going to do because they deserve it. It’s a good team, good coaches, good owner – they deserve better than we’re doing right now.”
FALCONS’ ROAD WOES: The Falcons needs to turn it around on the road. They are 0-3 this season and 1-10 since the start of last season.
GIANTS DEFENSE: The Giants defense stepped up in the fourth quarter with the game on the line, holding the Falcons without a first down on two straight series after falling behind 20-10. The second ended with a fourth-down sack of Ryan at the Atlanta 19 by Johnathan Hankins, which set up the second of Josh Brown’s two field goals in the quarter. The Falcons only second-half score was a 74-yard catch and run by Antone Smith after Rolle missed a tackle on a swing pass. Take the play away and Atlanta did little in the final 30 minutes.
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