Just as Eli Manning was thrown in the water on November 21, 2004, Daniel Jones was given his first opportunity to start on Sunday, and from the results he did not disappoint! He can pass (23-36 for 336 yards), he can run (4-28) and he can win games in the end regardless of how bad the team around him is playing. Winning his first game, however, did not come easy.
Much like Game 1 against the Cowboys, the Giants could not stop their opponent on Defense in the first half. Passes to Tampa Bay Wide Receiver Mike Evans went virtually uncontested (8-190, 23.8 avg). One had to wonder whether the defensive game plan installed for this game was placing too much reliance on the skills of aging cornerback, Janoris Jenkins who, looked old during the game. Jenkins appeared to be overmatched throughout the first half against Evans. Having no safety playing behind him left him exposed and vulnerable. Again, one had to wonder whether the game plan installed was sound.
It was a strange day for the Giants. Down 28-10 at the half, only the most fervent believers could forecast that something special was about to happen. And then it began, on the opening drive of the second half, starting with a crossing route to TE Evan Engram (who had a monster of a game). After the long touchdown to Engram followed by a 2-point conversion, it was a 10 point game.
Enter the defense. The much maligned defense of James Bettcher began to make plays in the second half. After allowing 11 drives of 70 yards or more, the Giants forced the first punt of the game for Tampa Bay. Perhaps the tide was truly turning.
After another long drive by the GMEN capped by a touchdown to Sterling Shepard, the Giants closed the deficit to 28-25. Daniel Jones looked confident and appeared unflappable at times. Following a third straight Tampa Bay punt, the Giants pass coverage improved and was much tighter in the second half.
The half was far from one-sided. The Giants offensive line was repeatedly abused by Tampa Bay linebacker Shaq Barrett, who had his way with lineman Nate Solder to the tune of 4 sacks. He did his best to kill any thoughts about a Giants comeback on this day. Also notable in the second half was the lack of Saquon Barkley who would experience a high ankle sprain in this game and as a result was not a factor. Wayne Gallman came in as his replacement and was barely serviceable. A better solution will be required in Barkely’s absence, which is reportedly in the 4-8 week range.
After two more Tampa Bay field goals the Giants were down 31-25. If there was to be any magic finish for the GMEN, it would have to occur on this drive. Thanks to a long Darius Slayton reception, the GMEN were knocking on the door with the chance to score the go ahead touchdown. And then we were reminded why they drafted this kid. A seven yard scamper on fourth down gave the Giants a 32-31 lead. I need to remind readers that this was not a play that would have been made by Eli Manning. No way, no how.
Still, the game was not won. Tampa Bay marched back down the field putting their kicker in a good position to win the game. And then it occurred…wide left. Giants win! The comeback victory was complete.
Although this hard fought Giants victory was far from perfect, there are many players to credit for this win, starting of course with the Giants new quarterback, Daniel Jones. Jones brought a new level of excitement to the team and restored, even if briefly, the notion that winning is again possible. Jones finished the game 23-36 for 336 yards with 4 TD’s (2 running, 2 passing).
Engram was a beast and is becoming a true factor in the Giants offense. He had a huge touchdown to open the second half and finished the day with 6 receptions for 113 yards, averaging 18.8 yards with 1 touchdown.
Shepard stepped up big time with several big receptions. He had 7 catches on the day for 100 yards and 1 touchdown, averaging 14.3 yards per reception. Keep it up, Sterling. You are filling some big shoes!
The rookie made one of the biggest plays of the game in the second half. He had 3 receptions for 82 yards with a 27.3 average. Hopefully he will continue to establish himself as a deep threat this season and become a reliable second or third option on offense.
The Giants Defense
Somehow, someway the Giants D got the job done in the second half. DeAndre Baker was credited with shutting his receiver’s down, and the Giants ensemble of pass rushers including Marcus Golden, Oshane Ximinez, and Dexter Lawrence (5 hurries, 1 sack) provided some legitimate pressure on the quarterback.
Janoris Jenkins was able to salvage a rough day with a win.
It is clear that the Giants have much work to be done ahead of them if they are going to go anywhere this season. But this victory certainly felt good. There is magic in the air and until we are told otherwise, it resides in the hands of #8, Daniel Jones.
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