The New York Giants entered the 2023 season with a new pep in their step. The high expectations were quickly vanquished by the result of Week 1. Those expectations further soured after the Giants quickly found themselves down 20-0 at halftime against the Arizona Cardinals.
Bleak was an understatement. I was at the game on Sunday, and the discomfort among Giants fans was overt. There was a substantial fear that the season was slipping away in Week 2 of the regular season.
Brian Daboll and his Giants appeared meek and tiny until the script did a one-eighty, as Daniel Jones and the Giants' offense erupted from their slumber. After mustering only 26 plays with an interception in the first half, the Giants ran 42 plays and scored 31 points in the second half to spark one of the biggest comebacks for the Giants.
Jones was precise, decisive, and led an explosive offense to a resilient victory. He finished the game with three total touchdowns and 321 passing yards, with 59 additional yards on the ground. The defense also improved in the second half, but there are issues on that side of the football, for the Giants have yet to come away with a turnover or sack an opposing quarterback.
Those worries, though, are for another post, on another day. For now, let’s revel in a victory that was far too dramatic for the liking of many Ginats’ fans.
Play 1: Let Hyatt fly
The rookie has some real speed. SAF bit down on the over route and that just screws the CB in outside leverage over pic.twitter.com/GfqwqEwFOL— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) September 18, 2023
The Giants were last in total explosive plays on offense in 2021. To rectify this issue, the Giants traded for Darren Waller and signed several playmakers in free agency, and they also drafted a speedy wide receiver named Jalin Hyatt.
To open the second half, down by three touchdowns, Jones found Hyatt on a deep post. The safety was influenced downward on the Darren Waller cross from the stack on the other side of the formation. Marco Wilson (20) was in outside leverage on Hyatt and was expecting inside help that wasn’t there due to the route combinations and a misjudgment by the safety.
The Giants desperately needed a spark, and Hyatt’s speed was the incandescent particle that started the blaze to improbable victory. He also had this contested catch outside the numbers on a beautiful pass from Jones in the second half; Hyatt led the Giants in receiving yards on only two catches (averaged 44.5 yards per catch):
Dart outside the numbers from Daniel Jones to rookie Jalin Hyatt pic.twitter.com/RG7R30XWr4— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) September 18, 2023
Play(s) 2: Pair of touchdowns for Saquon Barkley
Daniel Jones to Saquon Barkley for a 9-yard touchdown.— Doug Rush (@TheDougRush) September 17, 2023
And the Giants are within a score of the Cardinals.
Saquon Barkley willed himself into the end zone on this pivotal third-and-goal. This is a staple red zone play for the Giants; they ran this play in the preseason against the Patriots last season, and they ran a variation of it against the Titans in the season opener. It’s a Double China concept. I’m not sure, but I believe Barkley has a choice route based on defensive leverage/personnel. I wrote about how the Giants run this concept in the red zone here.
One score. Saquon Barkley. pic.twitter.com/fAjorvgBWw— Justin Penik (@JustinPenik) September 17, 2023
The #Giants ran a T-Formation three times this year and all three were to the 6-Hole inside the BIG TE (Peart)— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) September 18, 2023
Love the design, the beef, and Bellinger leading the way with Brightwell taking the outside man...Expect something creative off this look in the coming weeks pic.twitter.com/rZel66eOPn
The T-Formation is a throwback to the 1950s. It was successfully employed by teams like Notre Dame, and Mike Kafka has now used it three times this season. All three of the calls were to the six-hole (between Evan Neal and Matt Peart). That’s a lot of beef in BIG personnel, and Daniel Bellinger (82) leads while Gary Brightwell (23) kicks out and protects the edge of the hole outside of Peart.
If the Giants go back to this well against the 49ers, they may want to run a misdirection, play-action, or something off this look that can catch the 49ers anticipating this run. It’s very unfortunate that Barkley got hurt on the final drive. He’s one of the true leaders of the team.
Play 3: Hodgins for six!
In full-comeback mode, the momentum in the stadium was shifting - it was palpable. The Giants operated out of empty with Barkley in a boundary stack behind Isaiah Hodgins (18). Barkley received attention from the nickel defender and the WILL, while only the cornerback - who had outside leverage - took Hodgins, who ran a slant inside.
Arizona is three over two to the boundary, but two defenders took Barkley. With Hodgins breaking inside, there was only Kyzir White (7), who could work underneath the slant to make a play on the football. White was held by the field receivers and couldn’t get underneath the slant - touchdown, Giants!
Play(s) 4: Daniel Jones’ legs
Daniel Jones continued to be a weapon with his legs by extending plays, picking up critical first downs, and with this rushing touchdown off the zone read below:
Defense flowed with Saquon through the mesh point and that's easy money for Jones off the zone-read pic.twitter.com/rJ5K6D4ET1— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) September 18, 2023
Zaven Collins (25) got greedy and cheated inside on the zone-read which gave Jones the easy decision to tuck the ball and run for a 14-yard touchdown - the first points of the season for the Giants. Jones used his legs frequently last season. He rushed for more than 700 yards and had seven touchdowns on the ground. He had multiple touchdowns on the ground against Chicago and Indianapolis. The moral of the story - stay disciplined, end man on the line of scrimmage.
Jones finished this game with nine rushes for 59 yards and this score. He also had a 13-yard gain on third-and-12 midway through the third quarter. That was a massive play and decision by Jones.
Play 5: Cherry on top
Great job by Darius Slayton to create space out of the break vs. tight coverage in a big spot pic.twitter.com/geFh4lpN1J— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) September 18, 2023
Here’s to finishing the job (raises glass). The Giants made the score even and forced a punt. With two minutes to go, Jones led an eight-play, 56-yard drive that resulted in a 34-yard, go-ahead, field goal from Graham Gano.
Jones did well to step up in the pocket and drive this football to the inside shoulder of Darius Slayton (86). The signal caller stepped up strong in the pocket and positioned the ball away from the defender, who was in good coverage. Slayton displayed great control on his route, and the play resulted in 18 yards. Barkley followed the play with a 16-yard run, and, by that time, they were well within range from Gano.