Giant Takeaways: Daniel Jones Leads Giants to Comeback Victory Over Bucs
The first game of the Daniel Jones era for the New York Giants started off on the right foot, as they defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 32-31 on Sunday.
Entering halftime with a 28-10 deficit, the Giants woke up offensively and defensively, and it led to the much-talked about game-winning touchdown by Jones. Despite a huge reception by Mike Evans in the waning seconds of the game, the Buccaneers outsmarted themselves.
In the red zone with seconds remaining, head coach Bruce Arians took a delay of game penalty in what he believed would help rookie kicker Matt Gay. What happened instead, was Gay missing a 34-yard field goal (a la Scott Norwood in Super Bowl XXV) to give the Giants the W.
In what was the largest comeback victory for the Giants since 1970 (vs. Washington Redskins), here are key takeaways from the win.
Danny Dimes’ Time is Now
Daniel Jones has been the face of criticism around the NFL for the past five months after being selected sixth overall by the Giants. On Sunday, he had the opportunity to prove his doubters and skeptics wrong by filling in the shoes left by Eli Manning.
And did he ever.
Jones looked comfortable in head coach Pat Shurmur’s offensive scheme. From throwing on the run, scrambling on bootlegs, and showcasing poise in the pocket.
The rookie completed 23-of-36 pass attempts for 336 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. Both scores were impressive. The first coming on a 75-yard catch-and-run to tight end Evan Engram.
His second, was arguably the most impressive. Jones thread the needle to receiver Sterling Shepard who dove into the right corner of the end zone with two defenders on his tail.
But perhaps the most impressive was his ability to run. On New York’s second offensive drive, Jones hit the boost button and ran for a seven-yard touchdown.
Yet, what everyone is talking about is Jones’ game-winning score on fourth down and five. With Tampa Bay’s defense focusing on the Giants’ receivers, the path to the end zone opened like the Red Sea. That’s when Jones showed the presence of mind to use his wheels and get the 11-yard score, ultimately the game-winner.
While there were plenty of positives on Jones’ debut, there was one glaring negative: turnovers. Jones’s good preseason performances were marred by ball security issues. Those came up again, as he was bullied by Buccaneers linebacker Shaq Barrett, who forced Jones to fumble twice.
Holding onto the football is a typical growing pain for rookie quarterbacks, which is something Daniel Jones can improve upon. All in all, Daniel Jones won over plenty of individuals in his first career start.
Saquon Barkley Diagnosed With High Ankle Sprain
Amidst the excitement in Week 3 was over an hours-worth of despair.
In the second quarter of the game, Saquon Barkley caught a pass from Jones. In that process, Buccaneers defensive back Mike Edwards tackled Barkley by the right ankle, causing it to contort. Barkley was in clear and obvious pain, ultimately having to retreat to the locker room while being carried by medical staff.
Barkley returned in the third quarter…on crutches and wearing a walking boot on his right foot.
ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter revealed after the game that Barkley was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain and would receive an MRI on Monday to determine the severity.
While the Giants can breath a sigh of relief that it wasn’t a fracture, they can expect Barkley to miss some games. In fact, the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year revealed the injury is similar to pone he suffered in his freshman year at Penn State. Barkley missed just two games.
Even though the Giants got the win without him in the second half, victories are plenty easier with Saquon Barkley on the field. Now, it’s a matter of how long he’ll be out.
Janoris Jenkins Bullied by Mike Evans
It was a tale of two halves for the Giants defense. The first half is one they’d choose not to remember.
Quarters one and two were officially “The Mike Evans Show,” and it came at the expense of No. 1 cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
Jameis Winston, head coach Bruce Arians, and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich took advantage of the mismatch and utilized it to their advantage. With Jenkins tasked of covering, Evans exploded with seven receptions for 146 yards and three touchdowns…all in the first half.
Ironically, this came a week after Jenkins pointed fingers at the Giants’ lack of pass rush for the secondary’s struggles in coverage. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher couldn’t adjust, as Jenkins found himself one-on-one with Evans, and the former seventh overall pick won essentially every match.
This will be something to monitor down the line.
Defense Bounces Back in Second Half
The defense in the first half was brutal, looking like a repeat performance from the first two games of the season. Yet, the second half showed promise.
Bettcher adjusted accordingly, and after allowing scores on Tampa Bay’s first six offensive drives, New York limited them to just three points in the second half and allowed just 178 yards (44 of them coming on Evans’ reception late in the fourth quarter).
Despite linebackers Alec Ogletree (hamstring) and Tae Davis (concussion) leaving the game, rookie Ryan Connelly stepped up in a huge way. Taking over for Ogletree, Connelly assumed the responsibility of relaying Bettcher’s play calls, and there was a huge difference in on-field results. Not to mention, the fourth-round pick out of Wisconsin recorded a crucial interception on Winston in the fourth quarter.
Oh, and the Giants got to the quarterback in the second half. Veteran Markus Golden and rookie Dexter Lawrence both capitalized on Winston being uncomfortable in a collapsing pocket and brought him down once each.
There are still defensive issues that need to be addressed, don’t mistake yourselves. But James Bettcher stepped up in the second half with his alterations, and played a pivotal role in the Giants’ victory.
The New York Giants return home next Sunday, as they face the NFC East rival Washington Redskins at 1:00 p.m. ET. Can Daniel Jones put on a similar performance in his first home start? Or will Washington play spoiler?
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