The New York Giants officially have one in the win column for 2019.
Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones is the hero of the game, throwing for more than 330 yards and four touchdowns in route to engineering a come-back drive after the Giants stumbled into halftime down 28-10. But one throw and a long catch-and-run later and the Giants seized the momentum of the game, took over the 3rd quarter, and managed to steal victory from the jaws of defeat.
So what did we learn from the Giants’ first win?
Daniel Jones got it done
Of course we have to start here.
Daniel Jones played a very good game, generally making quick decisions and throwing accurate passes to his receivers. The Giants tried to make things easy on Jones for much of the game, sticking with the quick, shallow passes which have made up the bulk of their offense since the start of 2018.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were committed to taking the running game away from the Giants — and were successful, Saquon Barkley had just 10 yards on 8 carries — and forcing Jones to beat them with his arm. At first things looked like they had all year long, with the Giants barely managing 10 points in the first two quarters. But then Barkley went down and any thought of the Giants running the football went down as well, putting the game entirely on Jones.
The Buccaneers clearly underestimated Jones, playing softer coverages in the second half and trying to run the clock out starting early in the third quarter. But the rookie responded well, finding open receivers, taking what the defense gave him and letting the Giants’ remaining playmakers make plays.
There are certainly still things that need to be cleaned up in his game. There were some “rookie moments” when Jones was either fooled by coverage or failed to accurately diagnose it. That was almost disastrous when rookie DB Mike Edwards stepped in front of a pass Jones forced to Bennie Fowler, but the ball bounced harmlessly off Edwards’ hands.
More importantly, ball security is still a major issue with Jones, fumbling twice and nearly fumbling a third time. Likewise, he needs to work on developing a sense of when pressure is imminent and learning to climb in the pocket — Shaquil Barrett nearly took the game over for Tampa and wrecked Jones’ whole night.
Jones, and the Giants, should feel good about his performance Sunday, but they will need to get back to work Tuesday and get started cleaning up those issues.
Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram make a difference
Jones played a great game, but he was helped out by some great play by his top two receiving options.
Sterling Shepard was running wide open all game long, presenting great targets for Jones to hit, including the huge catch and run at the end of the game to put the Giants in position to win.
Evan Engram put everyone on notice with this catch in the first quarter.
But then the Giants looked dead in the water coming out of the half, until Engram turned a routine catch over the middle into a 75-yard catch and run for a touchdown to start the second half.
Engram and Shepard were both reliable and explosive for the Giants’ offense, and it paid off with a win.
What’s up with Julian Love?
Many, myself included, expected Love to be the steal of the Giants’ draft and potentially their best defensive back before long. So far he hasn’t taken a defensive snap and wasn’t even active for today’s game. He might yet be that steal and a key piece in the Giants’ secondary, but we can only conclude that he is much further away than we thought for whatever role the Giants have envisioned for him.
Press coverage works
Whether it was the Buccaneers resting on their laurels after a 28-point first half or if it was a much more aggressive coverage scheme from the Giants, we saw a different defense from the Giants in the second half. The Giants played press coverage much more frequently in the second half than the first. The Giants’ defense seemed to respond and Jameis Winston struggled to find receivers open downfield. With Winston holding the ball, the GIants’ pressure finally got home and began to pay dividends.
After the Giants (Janoris Jenkins) got burned for yards and scores by Mike Evans in the first half, the big wide receiver wasn’t heard from in the second half. Jenkins is known to be a press-man corner and the secondary as a whole responded well to the more aggressive play calling... At least until the end of the game.
DeAndre Baker and Jabrill Peppers got off to rough starts again but evened things out later in the game. Jenkins, however, needed a good game to back up his locker room rant, but was very nearly the reason the Giants lost.
First the Giants lost Alec Ogletree to a hamstring injury on a fumble recovery that was called back. Then they lost Saquon Barkley to a scary-looking lower leg injury after which the superstar running back needed two trainers to help him back to the locker room. In the second half, the Giants lost linebacker Tae Davis who immediately went back to the locker room as well after a tough hit.
This was a great outcome for the Giants, but they could be depleted going in to a divisional match-up with the Washington Redskins.
The Giants had the worst kicker in the NFL two seasons ago, but they stuck with Aldrick Rosas and were rewarded with one of the best. The Buccaneers fielded a rookie kicker — their eighth different kicker in eight seasons — and paid the price.
Matt Gay left the door open for the Giants by missing a pair of extra points on the Buccaneers’ first two touchdowns. While that didn’t seem like much when they were up 28-10, those two measly points loomed large when Tampa needed a 34-yard field goal to win the game. Instead of — at worst — going to overtime, the Bucs lost when the rookie’s kick went wide right.