EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On Sunday, the New York Giants' passing game awoke from its two-week slumber with a major roar.
Against the Saints' 30th-ranked defense, the Giants offense, led by quarterback Eli Manning, erupted for 416 yards (350 of it through the air), six touchdown passes (three to receiver Odell Beckham Jr.) and 49 points.
Unfortunately, the 49 points, which would ordinarily be more than enough to record a win, didn't quite get the job done for the Giants, who were bested by the Saints' 52 points, with the deciding margin coming on a 50-yard field goal by kicker Kai Forbath as time expired.
Still, if there is a silver lining it seems the Giants ended their offensive slump. After averaging 373.6 yards per game in their first five games, the Giants' average fell to 268 yards per game in Weeks 6 and 7.
Also during that time, Manning saw his average completion percentage dip from 66.5 percent to 61.3 percent.
So, what was behind the sudden explosion on offense that saw Manning complete a season-high 73.1 percent of his passes?
"I thought we protected well, the offensive line played well," he said. "Thought we had a good down and distance, had some good play action, receivers were winning their one-on-ones," Manning said.
"When the number one wasn't open, had time to get to my second receiver or check down. I think it was a lot of first- and second-down production, and we also had a lot of opportunities. Had a lot of possessions and we were able to take advantage of it."
Besides the protection, the biggest difference for the passing game was that both of Manning's top receiving weapons, Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle, took every snap in practice after finally coming off the team's weekly injury report.
"Two weeks prior to that, Rueben and Odell did not practice all week, so it makes it tough," Manning admitted. "The other guys, the other receivers are running a lot of reps, they're also maybe running positions that they're not actually in in the game.
"They might be doing other spots and moving all around. Come game time, they're back to their original spot, which maybe they hadn't been working at as much all week."
Practice did indeed make perfect, especially for Beckham, who has become Manning's primary target. Beckham finished with a season-high eight receptions for 130 yards, his yardage total being the second most this year.
Beckham also nearly doubled his touchdown production this season of four, missing that mark by just one score.
--Last week, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul returned to football activities with the Giants after being away recovering from a July 4 fireworks accident that left his right hand permanently damaged.
This week, there is a possibility of Pierre-Paul returning to the playing field if, in his second week of practice, he comes through the increased workload the coaches are planning to give him in the coming days.
"We'll increase everything. We'll increase number of snaps, we've had a couple sessions with him in pads when others are obviously not on the field, so we'll take a good hard look at that, but we'll have two good practice days with him and we'll push the envelope a little bit to test the conditioning level," head coach Tom Coughlin said.
Thus far Pierre-Paul has rapidly climbed back into the saddle after starting out doing some conditioning work with the team's trainers. He's since been able to take snaps with the scout team defense, where Eli Manning said he's been going against rookie Ereck Flowers in practice.
"Just the advancement of the player and the continuation of developing his conditioning in the uniform and then the ability to deliver a blow, to accept a blow, to have his hand placement be exactly where it has to be, and then, of course, the opportunity for him to gain his timing as he becomes a threat in the pass-rush game," Coughlin said, referring to what they still need to see from Pierre-Paul.
Should the 26-year-old defensive end manage to convince the coaching staff that he will be ready sooner than anticipated -- the original timeframe for his 2015 debut was thought to be Week 10 when the Giants host the Patriots -- Coughlin did not rule out the possibility of the team activating Pierre-Paul for Sunday's game at Tampa.
"If he practices and continues to advance in the way that he has over the last few days that he's been with us, if we feel good where he is physically after he goes through this, then that would be a decision that we would be confident in making," Coughlin said.