EAST RUTHERFORD – The Giants have opened the season with two victories for the first time since 2016.
Graham Gano kicked four field goals and the Giants’ defense was outstanding when it counted, even after losing stalwart Leonard Williams, as Brian Daboll and Co. escaped with a 19-16 triumph over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.
I win hit his second field goal of more than 50 yards, a 56-yarder with 3:34 left, to put the Giants ahead by three.
Carolina threatened on its next possession, marching to just shy of midfield before a third-down sack by Julian Love turned the momentum in the Giants’ favor. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale dialed up the pressure and Love blitzed on the inside of rookie left tackle Ickey Ekwonu, racing into the backfield untouched and decking Mayfield.
The Panthers (1-1) went from facing third-and-5 to a fourth-and-15, and they opted, understandably, to punt.
The Giants (2-0) faced a third-and-5 with just over 1:30 left, and Daniel Jones made a good decision on a bootleg pass with the option to run. The entire middle of the field cleared and Jones tucked the football and run, scrambling for 11 yards and the game-sealing play by moving the sticks.
“I don’t think you ever get comfortable whether I was an assistant or a coordinator. This game will humble you really quick,” Giants coach Brian Daboll said. “There’s one week you can be on top of the mountain, and the next you fall right off. And what I just stress to the players and to the staff is, ‘Let’s just take it one day at a time. Let’s take it for what it’s worth.’ I told them in the locker room, ‘If we lost this game, I can live with it because I know what we’re doing during the week is the right thing.’ I think there’s a sound plan. I think the players are spending extra time together. I think the coaches work extremely hard of putting plans together. I think we go out there and practice the right way. It’s not always perfect, but the steps that you need to take in order to build a consistent program takes time.
Julian Love provided a key sack of Baker Mayfield, turning a third-and-5 into a fourth-and-16 that forced Carolina to punt with just over three minutes remaining. Mayfield never got the ball back.
Here is what you missed throughout the game:
Daniel Jones has an answer for Baker Mayfield
Maybe Daniel Jones shook whatever made him look out of sync to this point. He was aggressive, hitting Richie James on a pair of throws for first downs, and then the Giants had great play design to set up Jones’ touchdown strike to rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger. Bellinger came underneath with Kenny Golladay – on the field for just his second snap of the game – and he was uncovered. Jones hit him in stride for the 16-yard score.
Carolina picks on Giants rookie Cor’Dale Flott for TD
Cor’Dale Flott did an admirable job in the first half against Carolina star receiver DJ Moore. It’s as if the Panthers realized at halftime that Moore working against Flott might provide an advantage. Baker Mayfield ended up finding Moore in the back of the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown on which Flott appeared to slip at the top of the route.
Can the Giants get Saquon Barkley going?
The Giants led the NFL in rushing after Week 1. They don’t have a yard on the ground as a team in the first half against Carolina, and Saquon Barkley has been completely held in check. He dominated the Titans en route to NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors with 164 rushing years, but had just three yards on five carries, and was repeatedly hit in the backfield over the first two quarters.
Daniel Jones got away with a bad decision late in the second quarter when a potential interception sailed through the hands of Panthers linebacker (and former Jet) Frankie Luvu, who was great in the first half.
Barkley finished with 72 yards on 21 carries, finding a rhythm in the second half.
The Panthers gave up 217 yards on the ground to Cleveland in a Week 1 loss. So clearly they came in with that as a focal point of their defensive effort.
Setting the tone early
The Giants forced a fumble on the opening kickoff when Carter Coughlin punched the ball away from Chuba Hubbard. Then Darnay Holmes stripped the receiver after a catch. That gave the offense possession twice inside Carolina territory, but both series wound up culminating in Graham Gano field goals.
The one that hurt: Giants faced a second-and-goal from the 3, but Frankie Luvu blew up a Daniel Jones run for a loss and then Brian Burns sacked Jones, knocking the Giants all the way back. Television replays appeared to show Brian Daboll wanted a timeout before the play, but he didn’t get it.
Kenny Golladay only played one snap in the first quarter. Kadarius Toney has been much more involved than last week.
Inactives: Kadarius Toney played
Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney will play Sunday despite being added to the injury report with a hamstring issue that led to his questionable status. Toney worked out with Daniel Jones in early warmups and did not appear limited. Now it will be interesting to see how much the Giants integrate Toney into the offense, given his sporadic usage of him against the Titans with just seven snaps.
As expected, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari are inactive and will have to set their sights on returning next week against the Cowboys on “Monday Night Football.”
Inactive Giants: Thibodeaux, Ojulari, Aaron Robinson, Nick McCloud, Tire Phillips, Jason Pinnock, Wan’Dale Robinson
On defense, the fans could not wait for defensive coordinator Wink Martindale to bring the heat.
Which is fitting, given that Martindale promises the Giants are counting on the same from them if they’re going to “bring back great defense” to a franchise that lives and breathes its football, especially on that side of the ball.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism