sistaff
Tuesday September 20th, 2011

Michael Boley scored on a 65-yard fumble return to help the Giants jump out early. (Andrew Mills/US Presswire)

Sam Bradford and the St. Louis offense marched up and down the field on the Giants early Monday night. On the other side of the ball, Eli Manning struggled to get into a groove, starting off just 2-for-11 and throwing an ill-advised interception.

Through two quarters the Giants looked out of sorts. And they still held a 21-6 lead at halftime.

They never let the Rams get back within single digits in the second half, either, despite more than 300 yards passing from Sam Bradford. When it was over, the Giants had a 28-16 win that helped them avoid an 0-2 start and kept them right in the thick of things in the NFC East.

This might just be the modus operandi of New York this season: Forget about style points and find a way to win.

Other than playing stout redzone defense and finding some room for Brandon Jacobs to run, the Giants didn't do anything particularly well Monday night. They lost at least two more players to injury -- wide receivers Mario Manningham and Domenik Hixon left at halftime and did not return.

Despite all that, and despite struggling early with St. Louis' hurry-up offense, the Giants got the job done.

Some of that success came because of the Rams' inability to do anything inside the Giants 20, three times settling for field goals before finally connecting on a TD pass late in the third quarter. Steven Jackson being out due to injury helped too -- Cadillac Williams averaged just 2.8 yards per carry in his stead -- as did a boneheaded mistake by the Rams on a backwards-pass-turned-fumble that Michael Boley picked up and ran back 65 yards for a Giants TD.

Still, the Giants needed a victory in their home opener way more than they needed to give off the appearance of a Super Bowl contender. Now that they've gotten on the board, they can worry about patching things up.

New York might get a break in Week 3, too, as a trip to Philadelphia could find an Eagles team sans an injured Michael Vick. After that, the Giants get the Cardinals, Seattle, Buffalo and Miami in a five-week stretch that includes a bye.

In other words, the Giants not only prevented a fall to 0-2 Monday night, they may have set themselves up to be somewhere in the 5-2 or 6-1 neighborhood come November.

Considering the incredible rash of injuries they suffered in the preseason, that would be pretty remarkable.

The lesson learned Monday night, though, is that there's a good chance nothing comes easy for Tom Coughlin's crew this season. That will definitely be the case if Manning can't step his game up a notch.

The self-proclaimed elite QB had no touchdown passes in a Week 1 loss at Washington, then came out Monday looking lost. Like his team, Manning settled down enough to hit Hakeem Nicks and Hixon for a pair of first-half scores, even if it's hard to say he ever looked 100-percent comfortable.

The Giants also figure to find the road a little bumpy if the secondary doesn't improve, although the return of Justin Tuck on the defensive line paid dividends immediately.

Make no mistake about it: This is a Giants team with a lot more questions than answers heading into Week 3. But Monday's win will make those uncertainties a little easier to deal with, at least for this week. New York won a game it badly needed to win -- no matter how unsightly the actual product was.

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