Daniel Jones was the obvious hero of the New York Giants’ 32-31 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There were others, though, and a couple of guys who could have been villains. Let’s get to the “Kudos & Wet Willies” and figure out who they are.
Kudos to ...
Daniel Jones — How much more is there to be said? Coach Pat Shurmur was steadfast last week in his belief that turning the reins over to Jones wasn’t giving up on the season, but about trying to make the Giants better. Sunday, Jones did that. The rookie did things with his legs that Eli Manning can’t, and the comeback he engineered from 18 points down at halftime was bigger in terms of point differential than any comeback Manning was ever part of. This was the Giants first victory when trailing by 18 or more points since Nov. 15, 1970,
Jones was anything but overwhelmed, and didn’t blink when an injury to Saquon Barkley put the game entirely on his shoulders.
“Probably the story of the game will be the rookie quarterback. I thought Daniel Jones did a pretty good job his first time out,” Shurmur said. “I think as he goes along, he’ll continue to get better. There were mistakes within there. There were a couple of times when we took a couple sacks, the fumbles, some of that loose stuff, we can work on that, there’s drills for that. There’s stuff that he did in the game, there’s not drills for that. We believed in him from the day we drafted him and first time out he didn’t disappoint.”
No, he did not.
Daniel Jones led a @Giants 18-point comeback to defeat the Buccaneers in his first NFL start, 32-31.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 22, 2019
Despite facing pressure on 51% of dropbacks, Jones finished 12/16 for 192 yards and 1 TD against pressure on the afternoon.#NYGvsTB | #GiantsPride pic.twitter.com/FX3FFAeGYp
Evan Engram — We have been saying for a while that Engram is the one true difference-making weapon amongst Giants receivers. Sunday, he proved it. His 75-yard catch-and-run on the opening play of the second half was the longest ever by a Giants tight end, and it drastically changed the momentum of Sunday’s game. There may not be another tight end in the league who could have scored on that play.
After three games, Engram is second among NFL tight ends in receptions (23) and yards receiving (277).
Sterling Shepard — Seven receptions for an even 100 yards. A touchdown. A two-point conversion. Yeah, the Giants miss him when he’s not in the lineup.
Darius Slayton — After a great spring it looked like the speedy fifth-round pick could make a difference in the Giants passing attack. For the better part of two months, though, a hamstring injury kept him off the field. Well, guess what? Slayton is healthy now — and he can make a difference in the Giants passing attack.
Slayton had three catches for 82 yards, an average 27.3 yards per catch. His 46-yard catch put the ball at the Tampa Bay 4-yard line and set up a score that brought the Giants within three points, 28-25.
All of a sudden the Giants receiving corps looks much different.
Dexter Lawrence — The 17th overall pick had the most impactful game of his young career. He got his first career sack. A week after being penalized for hitting the center on a field goal attempt, Lawrence blocked an extra point. He had a pair of quarterback hits. He looked like a young player who is getting better, which is exactly what you want.
Markus Golden — So, do the Giants have any pass rushers who can win one-on-one matchups? Well, after Sunday it sure looks like Golden can. He had a pair of sacks and now has three on the season. Golden also had four quarterback hits. He wasn’t quite Shaq Barrett, but it’s been a while since the Giants have had an individual performance like that from a pass rusher.
Michael Thomas — It was only one play, but what a play it was. And what a time to make it. Tampa Bay faced a third-and-2 at their own 30-yard line with 3:31 to play. The Giants already used two timeouts. If the Bucs got a first down they could possibly have run out the clock.
Instead, Thomas did this:
The veteran defensive back and 2018 Pro Bowl special teamer was the only Giant with a chance to deny Cameron Brate the first down. He did. He gave Jones a chance to be a hero, and Danny Dimes did the rest.
DeAndre Baker — The rookie cornerback had a nightmarish game a week ago against the Buffalo Bills. He was much better, and much more aggressive, against the Buccaneers. Progress is what you want from young players, and Baker showed that on Sunday.
Wet Willies to ...
Janoris Jenkins — Defensive coordinator James Bettcher didn’t do Jackrabbit any favors on Sunday, singling him up against Tampa Bay star Mike Evans most of the day. Evans has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in each of his five seasons. He’s 6-foot-5, 231 pounds and not an easy assignment for anyone.
These, though, are the matchups the Giants paid Jenkins $62.5 million over five years for, and why he is still on the roster.
This one did not go well for a completely overmatched Jenkins.
Janoris Jenkins' final numbers allowed when he was the nearest defender to the targeted receiver today: 8 completions on 13 targets for 191 yards and two touchdowns, per NFL Next Gen Stats. Most yards allowed as nearest defender in a game this year.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) September 22, 2019
A week after complaining that the Giants’ lack of pass rush was making it impossible for him to do his job, the pass rush was just fine and Jenkins didn’t do his job.
Evans torched him for 146 first half receiving yards and three touchdowns. He was better in the second half but in the final seconds Jenkins nearly wrecked Jones’ heroics by giving up a 44-yard pass to Evans that put the ball at the Giants 9-yard line. Fortunately for Jackrabbit and the Giants, Matt Gay missed the potential game-winning kick.
Nate Solder — Shaq Barrett of Tampa Bay entered Sunday’s game with four sacks, coming off a dominant three-sack game the week before. He was even better on Sunday. Barrett doubled his sack total, getting to Jones four times. He forced two Jones fumbles. He had three quarterback hits. He turned Solder, a good NFL left tackle for a long time now, into the Giants offensive version of Jackrabbit. Solder was completely overwhelmed. The mystifying thing was that the Giants never really gave Solder any help.