I know you are still celebrating the stunning events of Sunday’s 21-20 upset victory by your New York Giants over the Tennessee Titans. So, let’s help the celebration along with our traditional ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’ on this Victory Monday.
Kudos to ...
Brian Daboll — The Daboll era got off to a fantastic start with a come-from-behind upset victory on the road against a very good Tennessee team. The Giants gave the rookie coach a game ball after his first career victory as a head coach.
The most important thing about Sunday? We learned that trusting his players isn’t just something Daboll says. He is actually willing to do it, to be aggressive, to put games in their hands and let them win — or lose — them. His players admire him for it.
There was what I heard referred to as ‘F, yeah energy’ around the Giants Sunday night. That is absolutely a credit to the head coach.
Saquon Barkley — Barkley warned his critics all offseason that he was back to being SAQUON BARKLEY, and he took a huge step on Sunday toward showing it. Barkley ran for 164 yards, the third-highest total of his career. He had runs of 68 yards and 33 yards, both when the Giants needed big plays. He had a 4-yard touchdown run. He averaged 9.1 yards per carry. He had six receptions. He made a beautiful move to score the game-winning points on a 2-point conversion a Titans’ defender appeared to be in position to stop.
OHHHHH MY SAQUON!— New York Giants (@Giants) September 11, 2022
: @NFLonFOX & Giants App pic.twitter.com/pWExffHNTd
Sterling Shepard — In his return from last December’s torn Achilles tendon, Shepard caught a 65-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Jones. He played 43 snaps, second-most of any Giants’ wide receiver. On several occasion, he threw his 5’10, 201-pound frame into the fray to block for Barkley. Welcome back, Shep!
Richie James — You want an unexpected star of the game? James has to be it. He played 42 snaps on offense. He caught five passes in six targets for 42 yards, the most catches of anyone other than Barkley. The only blemish on his day was a drop on a difficult low fourth-quarter throw by Jones. James had punt returns of 18 and 17 yards, averaging 12.4 yards overall on five returns.
Giants’ defense — The Giants held Derrick Henry to 82 yards on 21 carries (3.9 yards per attempt). After giving up an early touchdown on a short field, Wink Martindale’s crew allowed only 13 more points. The Giants didn’t exactly stop Tennessee on the game’s final drive — a 47-yard field goal is one an NFL kicker should make more often than not in good conditions — but their overall effort ended up being good enough.
I have a difficult time singling out individual defensive players from this game, though Jihad Ward (six tackles) and Oshane Ximines (six tackles, two quarterback hits, a pass defensed) played with force. So, too, did Tae Crowder (seven tackles, including a massive hit that sent Henry flying).
Crowder and Austin Calitro both got burned for touchdown passes by Titans’ running back Dontrell Hilliard. There were a few unfortunate penalties in the secondary.
Overall, though, a quality effort.
Wet Willies to ...
Kick coverage — The Giants gave up a 46-yard punt return that set up the Titans’ first touchdown. They gave up a 52-yard kickoff return that was nullified by a Tennessee holding penalty.
The Giants struggled to cover kicks during the preseason. Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey downplayed that issue because of the personnel being used and the schemes not being employed. Well, the struggle has carried into the regular season. McGaughey needs to get it fixed.
Kwillies to ...
Daniel Jones — Jones completed 17 of 21 passes, a career-best 81 percent with a touchdown pass. Jones’ 115.9 passer rating was his best since his 2019 rookie season. He ran for 25 yards.
Daboll said he thought Jones played “a heck of a game.”
“Took care of the ball for the most part. But more importantly, was accurate make good decisions to lead the team down to score points when we needed to,” Daboll said.
There were blemishes. Jones threw a bad fourth-quarter interception, trying to force a back-shoulder throw to Barkley in the end zone that was intercepted by Tennessee’s Amani Hooker, snuffing out a potential game-tying drive. He also lost a fumble on a strip sack where the blame really fell on rookie guard Joshua Ezeudu, beaten cleanly on the play by Tennessee’s Jeffrey Simmons.
Perhaps Daboll’s reaction to the Jones’ interception was the most instructive thing. He immediately went to the quarterback on the sideline. Here is how Daboll recounted the conversation.
“I just said what’d you see. He thought he could potentially back shoulder it. And I said, ‘That’s not what I saw, but you’ve got the ball in your hands, so you’re going to get the ball back at some point. Our defense is going to get it to you. Let’s drive down and get it again.’”
Daboll might not have been happy with Jones’ decision, and was definitely not happy with the result of the play, but left the quarterback with a positive message. In the end, the quarterback delivered a game-winning 12-play, 73-yard drive in the closing moments.
Offensive line — I don’t yet know what the Pro Football Focus grades are going to be, but there were ups and downs for the line.
Five sacks allowed, including the Simmons strip sack. To the line’s credit, though, only one of those sacks came in the second half.
Andrew Thomas was solid, and PFF’s initial review had Evan Neal allowing just one pressure in 31 pass-blocking snaps.
There were problems on the interior, which is more or less where we had anticipated most of the struggles would come from.
Ezeudu, who played 28 snaps while rotating at left guard with Ben Bredeson (32 snaps), gave up the strip sack. He struggled at other times, but also did some nice work clearing space for Barkley. Bredeson appeared to get pushed back into Jones’ lap on a few occasions.
Mark Glowinski had a holding penalty. I’m curious to see the PFF grades for center Jon Feliciano. Without a second look at the game, I thought he struggled at times — especially early in the game.
Overall, the run-blocking was encouraging. So, too, was the fact that the early pass-blocking issues did not continue into the latter stages of the game.