The New York Giants are 2-0! So, it is a Happy Monday for Giants fans as they bask in being in first place in the NFC East after Sunday’s 19-16 victory over the Carolina Panthers. As we always do, let’s review in our unique ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’ style.
Kudos to …
Graham Gano — The man has been outstanding since he came to the Giants in 2020, and that continued on Sunday. A game-winner from 56 yards, another field goal from 51 yards, plus 33- and 36-yarders. Gano has been rock solid for 2+ seasons now.
Richie James — For the second week in a row, James was a major part of the Giants’ offense. He caught five passes for 51 yards. Two of those catches, 15-yarder and a 12-yarder, came in third-and-10 situations that resulted in first downs to keep the Giants’ only touchdown drive alive.
Oshane Ximines — Ximines had his first sack since 2019, taking advantage when Leonard Williams flushed Panthers’ quarterback Baker Mayfield out of the pocket. He had a quarterback hit, a pass defense and a pair of tackles.
This is back-to-back impact games for Ximines. No one has taken advantage of the clean slate offered by a new coaching staff more than the 2019 third-round pick.
“It feels great,” Ximines told me after the game. “Any time you can help the team wins and it’s a big deal. I love this game. I’m just happy I can help.”
Daboll praised Ximines in his post-game press conference.
“I don’t know where he was last year. I just know where he is this year,” Daboll said. “His mind’s on right. He’s been a big part of our football team. He’s got energy. I think he has talent. I think Wink’s getting talent out of him. He’s a confident player.”
Wink Martindale — No Kayvon Thibodeaux? No Azeez Ojulari? No Aaron Robinson? No Leonard Williams down the stretch on Sunday? No problem.
Martindale, the ultra-aggressive defensive coordinator, just kept dialing up creative pressure packages. None, of course, more important than the third-and-five zone blitz that led to a Julian Love sack and a Carolina punt with the Giants leading, 19-16, right before the two-minute warning.
Safeties Xavier McKinney and Julian Love were often aligned close to the line of scrimmage as pseudo-linebackers, with rookie Dane Belton playing single-high safety.
Julian Love — Made the biggest defensive play of the game, sacking Mayfield on the previously mentioned third down and allowing the Giants to get the ball back and run out the clock. Love finished with seven tackles (two for loss), a sack and a quarterback hit while constantly buzzing around the line of scrimmage. Love, a team captain, looks like a player taking advantage of the first starting role in his four-year career.
Giants’ defense — I have praised Martindale, Love and Ximines individually. The Giants held Carolina to 2 of 12 (16.7 percent) on third down. They got the big stop at the end of the game. Other than one lightning-quick three-play, 67-yard drive in the third quarter the Giants kept Carolina out of the end zone. Dexter Lawrence, McKinney, Adoree’ Jackson and perhaps even rookie safety Dane Belton all were impactful enough to perhaps deserve individual ‘Kudos.’ Overall, an outstanding effort.
Special teams — Gano was hardly the only special teams bright spot. On the opening kickoff Dane Belton recovered a Chuba Hubbard fumble caused by Carter Coughlin to give the Giants the ball at the Panthers’ 22-yard line. That set up Gano’s first field goal. Punter Jamie Gillan averaged 50.6 yards on five punts, with a net average of 43.6 yards.
Giants’ fans — It has been a long time since Giants’ fans had read hope, and you could that those in MetLife Stadium on Sunday felt that. The stadium was alive from the beginning, and while there were some boos for the struggling offense during the middle of the game, this was a lively, energetic, towel-waving crowd that had the players buzzing.
Wet Willies to …
Offensive line — The offensive line struggled with Carolin’a front seven all day. Quarterback Daniel Jones was sacked three times and was under duress constantly. While they finished with 103 rushing yards, the Giants had ZERO in that category at halftime.
Evan Neal and Andrew Thomas had their hands full with Carolina edge defender Brian Burns, who finished with two sacks and four quarterback hits.
When the Giants had reached the Carolina 29-yard line with the score tied, 16-16, center Jon Feliciano missed a block that led to a 4-yard loss by Matt Breida, then committed a holding penalty. Gano’s 56-yard kick bailed him out, but Feliciano cost the Giants 14 critical yards.
Rookie Josh Ezeudu had two penalties (only one accepted) and had an up-and-down day holding up at left guard as his NFL education continued.
Kwillies to …
Daniel Jones — Many will look at Jones’ 176-yard passing day, at the fact that the Giants had only 265 yards of total offense, at the fact that they scored just one touchdown and assume the quarterback deserves a ‘Wet Willie.’
I am going to beg to differ.
Jones, as I said above, was constantly hit and harassed by the Carolina pass rush. Yet, he never turned the ball over.
Jones made the two big throws to James, one of those after being flushed from the pocket, that I talked about above. There was the 24-yard fourth-quarter dart to David Sills on third-and-10 from the Giants’ 35-yard line with the score knotted at 13-13 that helped set up Gano’s 51-yard field goal.
Finally, there were the Giants putting the game in Jones’ hands on third-and-6 from their 40-yard line while protecting a 19-16 lead with 1:50 to play, and Jones making the right decision, tucking the ball away and running for an 11-yard gain to clinch the win rather than trying to force a throw to Saquon Barkley.
Barkley said Jones “made a whole bunch of big plays during this game.”
Daboll was pleased with his quarterback.
“I thought he played a good game. I thought he made great decisions with the football in his hands. He took care of it; he led the team down again to finish off a drive to win the game. So, that’s two good weeks I’d say for Daniel,” Daboll said. “Made the right decision, took care of the ball when there was pressure on him, threw it away if he needed to throw it away, and then took off on that last naked there to get the first down. He could have done a lot of different things, and he made the right decision under pressure in a critical situation. And he’s taken steps, and I’m happy for him.”
Obviously, winning games while throwing for less than 200 yards is not sustainable. Jones, though, made plays on Sunday that helped his team win. That is, in the end, what he is supposed to do.
Cor’Dale Flott — The rookie third-round pick did well matched up with three-time 1,000-yard wide receiver D.J. Moore during the first half on Sunday, holding him to one catch for -2 yards on three targets.
In the second half, though, Moore and the Panthers attacked Flott. The opening Carolina play of the third quarter was a 29-yard pass to Moore with Flott trailing. That began to a touchdown drive that ended with Moore beating Flott for a 16-yard touchdown, and saw Flott head to the bench in favor of veteran cornerback Fabian Moreau.