Say hello to the new Giants. Same as the old Giants.
Unlike last year, there were fans in the seats at MetLife Stadium on Sunday for eyewitness viewing of the unveiling of the 2021 Giants, a team that, remarkably and dishearteningly, looked stunningly similar to the crummy 2020 version.
Every concern the Giants carried into this season came bubbling to the surface. A lackluster offense, even with upgraded weapons. A smart defense that lacked an edge rusher to get it off the field. The return of Saquon Barkley was no antidote. There was another example of sloppy ball security from Daniel Jones, who added a rushing touchdown on the game’s final play. and a rare mental gaffe from head coach Joe Judge.
It all added up to a whole lot of nothing for the Giants, who were soundly beaten by the Broncos 27-13, a result that will not allay any fears that this might be another desultory Giants season.
This is the fifth consecutive year the Giants lost their opener and the ninth time in the past 10 years that they sit at 0-1 after one game. The Giants do not have much time to dissect this stinker, as they head to Washington for a Thursday night game, trying to avoid going 0-2 for the fifth straight season.
There was not much doing of any value on either side of the ball. The Giants had seven points, 111 total yards and 8 rushing yards in the first half and anyone hoping for some new stuff from offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was thoroughly disappointed. The defense gave up a touchdown to end the first half and to start the second half and made Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater look like an MVP candidate.
Barkley made a return from reconstructive knee surgery and had 10 rushing attempts for 26 yards, plus one reception for 1 yard. He will, no doubt, get better with time. No one knows if these Giants will be able to do that.
Jones had a few moments throwing the ball, but there was no crispness or flow to the offense.
The Giants went in at halftime down 10-7 and showed their fans a team on both sides of the ball that looked a great deal like the 2020 version. There was not much to feel good about on offense and a smart defense that yielded yards but not many points. The Giants trailed 3-0 after two poor offensive series before they finally got in gear.
A 17-yard dart to Kenny Golladay — his first reception for his new team — got things started and a Broncos pass interference call on third down kept things alive. Devontae Booker made a one-handed grab on a pass thrown behind him and then made a crunching chip block to give his quarterback the time he needed. Jones found Sterling Shepard at the Denver 21-yard line and Shepard did the rest, tiptoeing the left sideline while eluding rookie Patrick Surtain to complete a 37-yard touchdown connection.
It looked as if the Giants would take that 7-3 lead into the break, as the Broncos faced a fourth-and-2 at midfield with 48 seconds left. Denver coach Vic Fangio rolled the dice and was rewarded when Bridgewater hit Courtland Sutton for 14 yards. From there, Bridgewater proceeded to carve up what is supposed to be a rock-solid Giants secondary, and his 2-yard flip to Tim Patrick, just beating James Bradberry, made it 10-7 with only eight seconds left in the first half.
The Broncos got the ball to start the second half and kept it for 8:12, picking up four third downs and converting one fourth down on a play the Giants will not want to replay in the film room. From the 4-yard line, Bridgewater was flushed out of the pocket and should have been dropped by Xavier McKinney. Instead, Bridgewater found Albert Okwuegbunam, who eluded a tackle attempt by Blake Martinez for the touchdown to make it 17-7.
Judge threw the red challenge flag, wanting to know if Okwuegbunam stepped out of bounds before reaching the end zone. All scoring plays are automatically reviewed, though, and the Judge was not allowed to challenge the call, costing the Giants a timeout.
Trying to come back, Jones hit Shepard twice before disaster struck in a familiar way. Jones scrambled for 9 yards to the Denver 13, got hit, was stripped of the ball by linebacker Alexander Johnson and fumbled it away.
It is not easy to have a 42-yard completion on the first series and not even get a sniff of any points, but that is how the Giants opened their season. Jones on a free play — the Broncos jumped offside — hit Darius Slayton down the right sideline, beating Kyle Fuller to put the Giants on the Denver 30-yard line. The next two plays produced a loss of 6 yards (shovel pass to rookie Kadarius Toney) and a loss of 2 yards (Devontae Booker run) and Shepard slipped and then dropped a third-down pass that would have put the Giants in field-goal range.
The next offensive series was not much better. On third-and-2, Jones wanted to get the ball out quick to Barkley, but he was covered and there was no chance after that slight hesitation, as Von Miller cleanly beat right tackle Nate Solder on an inside move for an 8-yard sack.