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The New York Giants came to the nation’s capital Thursday night to knock Washington back down to reality. The Giants moved to 2-2 on the season while Washington sputtered to 1-3.
It was the second start for Kirk Cousins, who led a potent offense up against defending division champion Philadelphia last week. That strong performance did not translate well against the much-maligned New York defense, which brought the heat and forced the turnovers en route to a second straight victory.
Here were five takeaways from the Giants win (and Washington loss) on Thursday night:
1. Let’s not throw the towel in on Eli
Eli Manning was on the hot seat entering the 2014 season after a disastrous campaign the year prior. Manning didn’t get off to a strong start Week 1 against the Detroit Lions, but has made major strides every game since and has shined in each of the past the two weeks.
In the two Giants wins, Manning has completed 49-of-67 passes for 534 yards, six touchdowns compared to one interception, plus a completion percentage of better than 73 percent. In contrast, Manning completed 44-of-72 passes (60.61 percent) for three touchdowns and three picks in the Weeks 1 and 2 losses.
2. Kirk Cousins hasn’t won this job just yet
Everyone in Washington was ready to anoint Captain Kirk the full-time starter under center after going toe-to-toe with Chip Kelly’s Eagles last week. Cousins completed 30-of-48 passes for 427 yards and three touchdowns and came up just three points shy of getting the win. Robert Griffin III has never recorded a 400-yard passing game
But Cousins was sloppy when it came to controlling the football last night. He let the Giants’ defensive line pressure fluster him, and as a result he made dangerous throws in traffic that the Giants’ secondary picked on.
Griffin is out at least a few more weeks, so Cousins will have an opportunity to redeem himself against Seattle, Tennessee, Dallas and Minnesota before a Week 10 bye. That’s a mixed bag of talent, to say the least, and we’re anxious to see how he fares.
3. So much for the Giants not having a tight end
Entering the Giants’ season, everybody (including myself) ripped the team for not making any moves to improve the tight end position. Daniel Fells is not athletic. Adrien Robinson is unproven. And who in the world is Larry Donnell?
Well, Donnell has single-handedly proved me wrong, emerging as a true receiving threat at tight end this season. Donnell has 25 receptions through four weeks, and last night exploded for three touchdowns. At 6-foot-5 and almost 270 pounds, Donnell is a strong option for jump balls in the red zone and is a mismatch against linebackers and safeties.
4. The Giants pass rush looks formidable
The demise of the Giants in recent years has been largely due to the ineffective pass rush, one that has dwindled wildly with the losses of Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and injuries to Jason Pierre-Paul. A pass rush by the front four was the reason New York won Super Bowls in 2008 and 2012.
Injuries have riddled Pierre-Paul the past few years, but thanks to a cast of new, effective young defensive linemen, the pass rush is back in the Big Apple. JPP, Mathias Kiwanuka, Johnathan Hankins and second-year end Damontre Moore hit Cousins four times and sacked him twice last night. On the season, the Giants are up to nine sacks, which currently is tied for fourth-most in the NFL.
5. The most telling stat in football
With six more turnovers lost last night, Washington solidified its spot at the bottom of the NFL in terms of turnover differential. Washington ranks tied in 31st with the Kansas City Chiefs at -5, having four takeovers and giving away nine turnovers.
Cousins single-handedly put Washington in that position with four picks thrown last night. So if we’re comparing Griffin and Cousins, in one corner there’s Griffin who was unable to move the sticks, then Cousins who is unable to hold onto the ball.
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