The Giants have hope again. Not the manufactured kind they have deluded themselves with far too often over the last decade, but the real deal. And that is an even bigger victory than this whale of a 21-20 triumph over the Titans in Nashville.
No one should try to make this anything else than it is. It’s a Week 1 win. Just one of 17 games. And it is still more likely than not the Giants will struggle to accumulate many more wins over the next four months.
But before the Giants can contend again, they need to have moments again. And this — a 13-point comeback, Saquon Barkley’s revival, Brian Daboll’s guts and a little luck at the end — was most certainly that. The Giants have not played like this in some time. There has been little reason to believe in them for some time. But they gave their fans that again with this effort.
This was not a work of art by any stretch. Daniel Jones’ prove-it year began with his typical mix of big plays and mind-numbing turnovers. The offensive line was up and down. God knows what the deal is with Kadarius Toney. The defense was vulnerable at linebacker and in the secondary, as expected. Daboll botched the end of the first half before his bravado at the end of the second. And none of this would be written if the Titans don’t choke away a two-score halftime lead or if Randy Bullock does not yank his kick to the left as time expired.
These Giants will still likely end up being one of the NFL’s worst teams this season. They might hang around for a few more weeks — the next three games, against the Panthers, Cowboys and Bears, is not exactly Murderers’ Row. But the schedule will turn and this formula does not seem sustainable. The defense has clear flaws. The special teams were sloppy. Jones’ future here still feels doomed.
But that is all for another day. Because on this one, the Giants have hope again. And that is a powerful — and valuable — thing to have.
Other Week 1 thoughts …
This feels like a dangerous spot for Robert Saleh. The Jets were not supposed to beat the Ravens. But to be so incompetent against them? That is a major red flag. The Jets have been slowly leaking optimism for a while now. Injuries to Mekhi Becton followed by Zach Wilson followed by Duane Brown will do that. But this 24-9 debacle in the rainy Meadowlands let all the air out of the balloon. And that’s a bad spot for Saleh — who was already facing some skepticism — to be in.
The defense was solid. But it’s still not good enough to carry an anemic offense (don’t be fooled by garbage time stat-padding). The Jets have to ask themselves whether Joe Flacco’s mobility was the bigger issue than the offensive line’s performance. Because if it was, they need to go to Mike White immediately and hope he can hold the fort until Wilson is back. And then really hope Wilson is ready to make a jump, of course. But that cannot happen if the Jets are dead in the water at 0-3 or 0-4 when he returns.
The talk of a Saleh hot seat seemed silly entering the year. But if things collapse again, it will be very real. And quite understandable. Because the Jets were poorly prepared for this game and thoroughly outcoached by the Ravens. Plus the drops, the miscues, the turnovers. If it continues, this could go in a bad direction for Saleh. The Browns look a lot tougher next week, no? And things do not get easier after that.
New York must lead the league in enigmatic and/or unwanted wide receivers. The Giants’ use of Toney was mystifying, especially given he made things happen with his handful of touches. Is he that fragile? Do Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka just not trust him? Kenny Golladay is only still here because of the horrid contract former general manager Dave Gettleman gave him. New GM Joe Schoen made Darius Slayton take a pay cut to leave him inactive. The Jets want something good back in return to fulfill Denzel Mims’ trade request, but they won’t suit him up either. And Corey Davis trade rumors have also begun.
If Barkley keeps this up, the Giants should trade him sooner rather than later. It would be painful, sure. But it would be more painful if they try to wait until the deadline and Barkley gets hurt. Barkley backed up his preseason yapping on Sunday and was the best player on the field. A few more weeks of this and it’s time to deal him to a contender. He’s clearly not going to factor into the Giants’ plans long-term if he’s healthy. Their salary cap and long-term blueprint will not allow it. So add an asset that can help you and move on.
Cutting Blake Martinez was a tank-like move. To be clear, that does not mean the Giants are actively trying to lose games. But if they were going all-out to try to win them, Martinez would still be on the roster. Even if he is not the best schematic fit for defensive coordinator Wink Martindale’s system, he is still better than what the Giants have at linebacker. His loss is going to be felt. And will be a problem down the road. The moves to dump Martinez and Logan Ryan really feel like admissions the Giants are realistic about 2022. And fans should remain so while celebrating this win.
Greg Zuerlein. A missed field goal in a key spot and then a missed PAT. Can the Jets ever have a stable kicking situation? Plus Braden Mann shanked a punt that set up a Ravens touchdown.
Had Daboll’s gamble failed … The decision to go for two was inspired and won over the locker room and the fanbase. But had it not worked, the spotlight would have shifted back to the Giants’ clock mismanagement at the end of the first half.
First-and-10 from the Giants’ 9-yard line with 59 seconds left in the second quarter, down 13-0. All three timeouts. The Titans are going to get the ball to start the second half, so they want to make something happen.
Barkley starts the drive with a 13-yard run. He’s down at 52 seconds. The Giants then inexplicably let 19 more run off before snapping the next play at 31 seconds. They then call the first timeout at the end of that play at 24 seconds. Then a holding penalty on guard Mark Glowinski negates an 11-yard Jones-to-Barkley connection, then a 15-yard pass from Jones to Golladay, then the second timeout with eight seconds left.
Jones then hits Richie James for a 16-yard gain, but he can’t get out of bounds or down. The half ends with the Giants holding a timeout in their pocket. And having squandered 21 seconds as a result. Think they would have wanted them back if they had lost, 20-19?
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @JamesKratch