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Giants 27, Saints 21: 5 things we learned from the Giants’ first win

What can we take away from the Giants’ first win?

NFL: New York Giants at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

It took a month, but the New York Giants won their first game on Sunday. The Giants beat a heavily-favored New Orleans Saints team on the road, 27-21, in overtime.

For the first time this year, the Giants finished a game and go into their week of prep for the Dallas Cowboys with something to feel good about. The team has a massively important week of prep ahead of them and little time to dwell on the emotions from the game.

The Giants have to get ready to visit a Dallas squad boasting one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses and a surprisingly dangerous defense.

But for now, let’s take a look at the game and see what we can learn.

The Giants are fighters

The Giants have played three close games in a row. In the previous two, the Giants collapsed at the end of the game.

The team looked on the verge of a much greater collapse this week than in the previous two until Sean Peyton handed them a golden opportunity (more on that in a bit).

But every team gets opportunities every week — not all of them take advantage.

Had the Giants not taken advantage of their opportunity, if they had gone down to New Orleans and suffered a 10, 14, or 18 (or more) point loss to slip to 0-4, things could have gotten very ugly indeed. Instead, the Giants seized their opportunity and fought back.

That bit of resiliency gave the Giants a chance. It gave them a chance to come from behind for the win, and it gives them a chance to right their season.

Of course, the Giants (and Giants’ fans) should still be taking this season one game at a time. They are still playing close games, and that isn’t sustainable. The Giants can’t build on games where one bounce or one call determines the outcome. But they showed today that they have some grit when they’re in those situations — and today that was enough.

Throwing downfield works

Don’t look now, but the Giants seem to have discovered a 21st century offense.

The received wisdom of the ages says that teams should lean on the run and use that to open up the pass.

For the first time in a long time we saw the Giants look further than 7 yards downfield on a regular basis. That allowed opposing defenses to play downhill and swarm to the football. It limited their opportunities for yards after the catch and allowed defenses to rally and stop the run while playing light boxes.

Somebody must have given Jason Garrett a calendar over the last seven days, because the Giants did something we haven’t seen them do since 2015 — they used the pass to set up the run.

The Giants’ offensive line was far from perfect. But they did enough, combined with the Saints’ respecting Daniel Jones’ mobility, to give the Giants time to look to the 10-15 yard range. That’s the area of the field where the best offenses operate because it has the best risk-reward ratio. It doesn’t take long for an NFL receiver to run 10 or 12 yards then make his break, and throws to that area of the field have a MUCH higher chance in (eventually) resulting in touchdowns than the quick curls and crossing routes the Giants have run since last year. With a quarterback in rhythm and on time, those plays are

Instead of “establishing the run to set up the pass”, the Giants looked down the field and eliminated the defense’s ability to rally in run support.

You know, like a modern offense does.

We’ll just have to see if the Giants keep it up, or if they take Saquon Barkley’s combined 126 yards from scrimmage as a sign they should run him into the offensive line’s backsides 20 times next week.

Mistakes and miscues ... Just not the Giants’

For the fourth time in four games, mistakes and miscues ruled the day. But this time it was the opposing teams’ mistakes and they benefitted the Giants.

This was, frankly, a game the Giants had absolutely no business winning through the first three and a half quarters. They couldn’t do much on offense outside of the occasional chunk play, and the Giants’ defense was getting gashed on the ground while getting no pressure on Jameis Winston.

Up 21-10 with less than 8 minutes to go in the game and an offense that was marching down the field, the Saints were firmly in control. They had dominated the time of possession, were up by two scores, and had converted seven consecutive third downs.

Then they burned a timeout and ran Taysom Hill on a QB power to the strong side of the formation. Granted, Hill scored a pair of touchdowns running the same play, trucking the entire Giants’ defense in the process. But that doesn’t mean Peyton should go back to the well a third time in an obvious situation. By that point the Giants were expecting it, and he gave them exactly what they were looking for.

The result was a quick 3-and-out with the Saints’ offense backed up on their side of the field. That forced punter Blake Gillikin to way out-kick his coverage, giving C.J. Board the opportunity for a 26-yard return, setting up Saquon Barkley for the 54-yard catch-and-run for the touchdown on the very next play.

Had Peyton stayed methodical and maybe played upon the Giants’ expectations with a quick play-action pass, they could have bled the clock and extended their lead. Instead, he outsmarted himself, and let the Giants’ back into the game.

That play was the turning point.

While this wasn’t a flawless game from the Giants, for once they weren’t the ones kneecapping themselves.

Things are looking up...

Before the game turned on the Saints’ failed third-down conversion, things were looking grim for the Giants.

It looked as though the Giants would stumble their way to a complete loss, with the offense sputtering to another sub-20 point game and the defense ultimately letting the other team have their way.

Instead, the Giants took advantage of a sliver of hope and came out on top. In doing so, they discovered actual offensive output and didn’t shoot themselves in the foot. An 0-4 start would have been absolutely disastrous for the Giants and effectively ended their season. Instead, they are sitting 1-3 with a win over a team widely expected to dominate them. They’re still in the basement of the NFC East with the Washington Football Team coming away with a win against the Atlanta Falcons, but being one game behind Washington and tied with the Philadelphia Eagles is a better proposition than winless, hopeless, and trailing them all.

This is an opportunity for the Giants to gain some confidence and build going forwards. They haven’t had many moments for optimism lately and they need to make the most of this one.

...But don’t get any easier

Fans were deep in the dumps before (and during) this play. And a big reason why was the Giants upcoming schedule.

The Giants face a murderers row of teams in the upcoming weeks. Over the next 6 (7, counting the bye) weeks, they’ll face the Matt Stafford Los Angeles Rams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Las Vegas Raiders, and the Chiefs. And of course next week’s trip to play the Dallas Cowboys. As of this writing, the Giants’ upcoming opponents are a combined 16-5.

The Giants will face some of the absolute best offenses in the NFL, as well as some of the most dangerous defenses. Even their next easiest game, the Pathers, could get tougher as it’s expected that Christian McCaffery could be back in time for that match-up.

This is a win for fans to feel good about, and for the team to try and build upon. But the Giants will be facing the cream of the NFL over the coming months. The sun might be a bit brighter at the moment, but the Giants’ path forward is uphill and thorny.