It is possible to win ugly, but for a franchise that has lost ugly for so long, any win at all is a thing of beauty and a sight to behold. Thus, the Giants outlasting the Panthers 19-16 on Sunday at MetLife Stadium looks like a work of art.
The Giants are 2-0 for the first time since 2016, giving Brian Daboll two wins to start his head-coaching career.
Graham Gano’s howitzer right leg was the difference, as he hit four field goals, including a 56-yarder with 3:34 remaining for the decisive points.
The Giants needed a defensive stop to secure the game and they got it when coordinator Wink Martindale dialed into his well-known aggression and called for a blitz on third down. Safety Julian Love stormed through and dropped Baker Mayfield for a 9-yard loss, forcing a Panthers punt. The Giants got the ball back at 2:06 and never gave it back, as Daniel Jones scrambled for 11 yards for a first down to seal the deal.
The Giants took all the positive reinforcement they created in their 21-20 upset victory in Week 1 over the Titans in Nashville into their home opener. This is a franchise that needs to turn around its fortunes in its building. In the past five seasons, the Giants were 12-28 at home. They are now 1-0 for Daboll at home.
Jones made his best throw early in the third quarter, under duress, on third-and-10, when he dropped the ball between Panthers defenders to find David Sills for a 24-yard pickup. That helped set up Gano’s 51-yard field goal with 12:31 left.
Jones finished 22-for-34 for only 176 yards and one touchdown pass. Saquon Barkley started slowly and ended faster with 68 yards on 20 rushing attempts.
Christian McCaffrey’s 49-yard burst set up Eddie Pineiro’s 38-yard field goal to make it 16-16 with 10:46 remaining. Oshane Ximines, playing with force as a starting outside linebacker with injuries keeping rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari on the bench, pressured Mayfield on third down to force the Panthers to settle for the field goal.
The Giants got the ball and stuck to the ground to move into a field goal range, but a holding penalty on center Jon Feliciano appeared to push them out of field goal range. Jones completed a 5-yard pass to Sterling Shepard, setting up a 56-yard field goal try for Gano. He drilled it and the Giants regained the lead with 3:34 left.
The Panthers finally located D.J. Moore against rookie cornerback Cor’Dale Flott — starting in place of injured Aaron Robinson — and when Flott slipped, Moore had an easy 16-yard touchdown reception to put the Panthers up 13-6. When Jones was forced into a throwaway and Barkley picked up only 1 yard, boos cascaded down on the offense. Jones then hit Richie James for 15 yards and Barkley followed with a 16-yard run around the right end. There were cheers when Jones tossed a short pass to Daniel Bellinger and the rookie tight end dove to the pylon to complete a 16-yard scoring play to give Bellinger his first NFL touchdown and pull the Giants even at 13.
The Giants dominated the first quarter and yet led by only 6-0, settling for Gano field goals after two stalled drives on offense, as turnovers by the Panthers twice handed the Giants the ball in Carolina territory.
A fumble on the opening kickoff, forced by Carter Coughlin and recovered by rookie Dane Belton, put the Giants on the Panthers’ 22-yard line before many fans settled into their seats. Jones completed two short passes but the Giants could not muster a first down for their first wasteful series.
Next, Darnay Holmes put a hit on Robbie Anderson to dislodge the ball, and the Giants went to work on offense on the Carolina 40. Jones ran for 2 yards and a first down on fourth-and-1 and Sills made a nifty move past safety Xavier Woods to set the Giants up on the 5-yard line. Still, no trip into the end zone. Jones lost 6 yards on a run and then was sacked for a loss of 7 yards.
From there, the remainder of the first half was offensive malfeasance. Barkley could not get untracked — he was dropped by Frankie Luvu for a 5-yard loss on a first-down play — and a 47-yard completion to Kadarius Toney was wiped out by an offensive pass interference penalty on David Sills. The Giants had no control of the line of scrimmage and finished the first half with 60 total yards. Jones completed 12 passes — for only 60 yards. Barkley had only 3 yards on five rushing attempts.
Clearly, Daboll is not using experience, pedigree or salary to determine his rotation at wide receiver. Last week, Kenny Golladay was on the field for 46 of the 60 snaps on offense and Toney got just seven snaps. Seven days later, Golladay did not start and was barely seen. He did not get on the field until the second series. Toney picked up his workload.
The Panthers were not exactly dynamos either. They managed two field goals to pull even at halftime at 6-6. On defense, the Giants twice turned aside the Panthers with third-down stops to limit the damage to two Pineiro field goals.
The Giants lost defensive tackle Leonard Williams to a knee injury midway through the third quarter.
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