A 1-0 Giants team (that’s weird to say) entered MetLife Stadium for a Week 2 matchup with the Panthers Sunday — the 2022 home-opener for Big Blue. And after 60 minutes, New York won its second straight game to open a season for the first time since 2016. The Giants ultimately defeated Carolina 19-16.
The matchup started slow. And I mean incredibly slow. Neither offense is led by a trusted quarterback who can overcome various setbacks, that’s for sure.
At the break, the score was 6-6, with neither team having formulated a touchdown drive. This came despite the fact the Giants’ first two possessions began in Carolina territory. The Giants forced and recovered a Panthers fumble on the opening kickoff that set themselves up at the Carolina 22-yard line. Then on the Panthers’ first possession, a Robbie Anderson fumble gave the Giants the ball at the Carolina 40.
Still, both drives ended in Graham Gano field goals (one from 36 yards and another from 33). The receivers failed to gain any separation from the Panthers defensive backs, the offensive line wasn’t in sync, and the run game was non-existent, which prevented Big Blue from finding the end zone early.
Jones was 12-of-17 for only 67 yards at the break. Wide receiver Richie James caught three balls for 24 yards and running back Saquon Barkley racked up only three yards on five carries during the first half. Combine that with Jones’ negative-three rushing yards through the first two quarters, and the Giants had zero combined rushing yards entering the second half. Brutal.
The Panthers came out firing in the third quarter and executed an early touchdown drive that took just three plays and one minute of passion time. Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore took rookie corner Cor’Dale Flott to school and caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield to go up 13-6. The Giants answered rather quickly though, with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that looked tremendously better than any other Giants drive on the day. The possession concluded with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jones to rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger to tie the score at 13.
The rest of the second half was essentially a snooze fest, with either offense out of sync and needing to rely on its respective kicker. Gano booted another field goal at the beginning of the fourth before Panthers kicker Eddy Piniero responded with a 38-yarder to tie the game at 16 with 10:46 remaining.
The Giants then took over and set up Gano for a go-ahead 56-yard field goal (his fourth conversion on the day) upon an 11-play, 37-yard drive that lasted just over seven minutes.
It was the Giants’ game to lose after that. Wink Martindale’s defense took the field up 19-16 with 3:34 remaining. Four plays later, Mayfield and Co. were staring down a 3rd-and-5 from their own 47-yard line — that’s when Martindale’s blitz-happy reputation came alive. The Giants got in Mayfield’s face and the Panthers offensive line couldn’t contain safety Julian Love. The fourth-year defensive back recorded the sack and forced a Carolina punt with just over two minutes remaining (the Panthers had all three timeouts and the two-minute warning to stop the clock).
The Giants took over, and thanks to an encroachment penalty and a clutch conversion on a 3rd-and-6 scramble from Jones, Carolina used up its timeouts and the Giants were able to run out the clock.
Daboll and his team are now 2-0 — who could’ve seen that coming?
Some thoughts on Big Blue’s Week 2 victory:
Where’s Golladay? Remember when second-year wideout Kadarius Toney played just seven snaps in the Week 1 win over the Titans? Well, Kenny Golladay was the culprit this week, even with rookie Wan’Dale Robinson out due to a knee injury. The veteran was on the field for only two snaps. Yes — $72 million apparently equals only a pair of reps.
I understand his shortage of playing time could be due to the week’s game plan, as was possibly the reason for Toney’s lack of reps last week. But the idea of this being Golladay’s final year with the team becomes more and more realistic each game.
Don’t be surprised if Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen say goodbye to the expensive receiver in about 5-6 months.
Run-game issues. It doesn’t look like Barkley will be earning his second straight NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Last Sunday, against the Titans, the fifth-year running back racked up 194 total yards, including 164 yards and a touchdown on the ground. But against Carolina, Barkley couldn’t continue his early 2022 success. He finished the game with just 72 rushing yards (88 total yards) on 21 carries. He also failed to find the end zone.
The Giants aren’t loaded at the receiver position and Jones can’t be trusted to overcome the obvious offensive deficiencies. This is why Daboll’s offense must run through Barkley.
But on Sunday, the run game wasn’t a strength for Big Blue. Even against a Carolina front that allowed Browns running back Nick Chubb to rush for 141 yards a week ago.
Secondary prevails. The Giants secondary actually kept Mayfield, Moore, and Anderson in check. This came despite the defensive backfield depth being as thin as ever. The lack of inexperience within this unit was already glaring, and starting cornerback Aaron Robinson (appendicitis), reserve safety Jason Pinnock (shoulder), and reserve defensive back Nick McCloud (hamstring) all sat out the game.
So the rookie Flott, who’s more of a slot corner, got the start on the boundary opposite Adoree’ Jackson. And while he did allow a third-quarter touchdown pass from Mayfield to Moore, the secondary was solid for much of the day. Mayfield finished with just 145 yards, a touchdown, and a lousy 48.3% completion rate. Moore and Anderson combined for only six receptions.