For the first time since 2016, the Giants have started the season 2-0! It was by no means pretty, but a win is a win. Here are five things that stood out.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
When you win a game most of the time, you can assume it was because your team was a well-oiled machine and that all of the offense, defense, and special teams contributed. Well, for the Giants, that is not the case at all.
Watching the offence overall was not enjoyable outside of the touchdown drive. In the first half, the Giants had a total of 60 yards offensively, of which they had 0 rushing yards, and it could have been worse as a poor Daniel Jones pass went straight to Panthers Linebacker Frankie Luvu, who thankfully was unable to secure the catch. Luckily, in the second half, they flashed a few promising signs, including an 8-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that was the perfect response to Carolina’s own touchdown drive.
The defence did play well but were aided by Baker Mayfield’s erratic and often off-target throws. Outside of the touchdown drive and the three field goals, the Giants held the Panthers to an average of 12.6 yards per drive and an abysmal 2 conversions off 12 attempts on third down, but more about that later.
Field Goals? It’s Gano Problem
When your offence struggles, you need to take advantage of any and every opportunity you can get for points, and luckily for us, we have Graham Gano. Across the previous two years that he has been with the Giants, he has a 92.3% field goal conversion rate on 65 attempts and a 95.1% extra point conversion rate on 41 attempts.
The ex-Carolina Panther walked out five times to try and score points against his previous team, and not once was there any doubt that he would make every kick count. After the Panthers coughed up two fumbles to begin the game, Gano would make it 6-0 to the Giants after making kicks from the 33 and 36-yard lines. He would then make his lone extra point attempt in the third quarter before rounding out his perfect day with two field goals in the fourth quarter, one from 51 yards and what would be the game winner from 56 yards.
Third Down Defense
As mentioned in the first point, the Giants’ defence held the Panthers to a lowly 2 conversions off 12 attempts, and the biggest reason why is Wink Martindale’s aggression, which was mostly executed perfectly by the personnel on the field, and bear in mind that this is a unit without standout Edge rushers Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari.
The Giants swarmed Baker Mayfield time and time again, giving him little time to think and forcing him to panic. Of the ten attempts that the Panthers failed on, they had one penalty, one fumble, one sack, two short of the first down marker, and five incompletions. These were mostly caused by the constant blitzing from Wink, which at one point saw four safeties on the field, three of them on the line of scrimmage.
Oshane Ximines started his Giants career relatively well, recording 4.5 sacks, but he quickly fell out of favour with both the Pat Shurmur and Joe Judge regimes and was touted as a probable cut candidate throughout the offseason. However, Brian Daboll allowed him a fresh start and took advice from Wink Martindale and Drew Wilkins, who were both impressed with his work.
Ximines impressed them both so much that, due to the injuries to Thibodeaux and Ojulari, he was listed as a starter on the depth chart for the season opener, and he hasn’t looked out of place. He started the season against the Tennessee Titans by continuing his preseason success, and he’s followed it up with a stellar showing against the Panthers that has earned him a game ball.
He finished the game with a stat line of two tackles, one tackle for a loss, 1 pass defended, 1 Quarterback hit, and 1 sack, but in real time he seemed to be everywhere.
Big Play Rookies
When Dane Belton fractured his clavicle making an interception during preseason practise, there was an audible sigh from the Giants fanbase. The rookie safety had impressed both coaches and fans alike, but now he could be on the sidelines for up to eight weeks. Belton took to the field for his first ever NFL play seven weeks and a day later and walked off with the ball after recovering the fumbled kickoff that was caused by Carter Coughlin.
Belton wasn’t the only rookie that had a big contribution in the game, though. After not registering a catch in his first ever NFL game a week ago, Daniel Bellinger finally got his first one during the game against the Panthers. With the Giants needing to answer the Panthers’ third quarter touchdown, Bellinger secured the pass from Daniel Jones, sprinted towards the endzone and dove in to tie the game once again.