Finally, Daniel Jones had the ball, after watching Teddy Bridgewater control it for over eight minutes, and he was driving, and the first “Let’s Go Gi-ants” chant came from the MetLife stands on the day Giants fans returned.
It was Broncos 17, Giants 7, and Jones had moved to the Denver 22, third-and-2, when he saw an opening and employed his legs for the first time.
He already had the first down.
The competitor in him told him not to slide.
He didn’t slide.
And he coughed up the football on a hit by LB Josey Jewel, and Malik Reed recovered at the Denver 15.
Same Old Jones will mean Same Old Giants.
“We gotta earn the fans’ respect,” Joe Judge said.
Until Jones starts making wiser decisions, until he stops fumbling the damn ball, – – that’s 18 for his career – – the Giants will continue to lose the way they lost 27-13 to the Broncos in another Same Old Home Opener.
Of course, he remembered to slide on his next possession and drew an unnecessary roughness penalty at the end of the scramble, and he fell to the turf at the end of a fourth-and-4 quarterback draw for 8 yards.
It was 20-7 in the fourth quarter, and Jones, bless his heart, never stops fighting, and now he was first-and-goal and just 7 yards from getting the Giants to within 20-14:
First down: nearly intercepted.
Second down: Saquon Barkley around right end for 1 yard.
Third down: Incomplete throwaway high for Kyle Rudolph.
Fourth down: Incomplete in the right corner for Kenny Golladay, pass defended by Kyle Fuller.
But Jones was hardly the lone culprit.
Joe Judge, who is supposed to know better, lost a timeout because he threw the challenge flag on an Albert Okwuegbunam TD catch.
His team was undisciplined.
Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur got sweet revenge on his former team when he and Bridgewater got the better of Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
It was supposed to be different, this second season under Judge and Graham, this second season together for Jones and Jason Garrett, all these shiny new toys the Giants brass delivered for Jones, the return of Barkley, all that.
It wasn’t different.
The Giants showed no evidence that they have learned how to win.
The sight of Barkley back where he belongs, back in his 26 jersey, back with his Giants teammates, had sent a jolt of electricity through MetLife Stadium, and it was symbolic only in a comeback sense that on the day that followed the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a tough, resilient town that got back on its feet would recognize and celebrate a star running back who got back on his.
But this was hardly vintage Barkley, and no one should have expected vintage Barkley in his first football in a year since his reconstructive knee surgery.
Barkley? 10-26 rushing, 1-1 receiving.
Kadarius Toney? 2-(minus-2).
Jones (22-37, 267 yards, 1 TD, 6-27, 1 garbage time rushing TD) had one joyous moment: hopping and skipping towards the goal line, the sound of Giants fans exploding in his ear holes, leaping into the arms of Nick Gates, because he had converted three third downs on this drive, and the third one had become a 37-yard catch-and-run TD to Sterling Shepard that made it Giants 7, Broncos 3.
You can look at Broncos coach Vic Fangio’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the NYG 49 with 48 seconds left in the first half that set up a Bridgewater TD pass to Tim Patrick however you choose:
Shurmur had a bag of tricks ready to win the chess game with Graham.
He didn’t fear giving Jones the ball there.
Or perhaps both.
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