Giants turned another hopeless start into win that might've saved their season

00:30 18.09.2023 - New York Post

GLENDALE, Ariz. - For much of Sunday afternoon, it looked like Dallas 40, Giants 0 last Sunday night was no aberration at all.

It looked like the damn truth.

The Giants fell behind the Cardinals 20-0 at halftime and trailed 28-7 in the third quarter at State Farm Stadium and looked like they were writing a script for a historically poor start to a season.

And then: Some way, somehow, they came alive.

Suddenly, a team that looked like it was playing with no urgency and - worse - no heart, was playing like it was trying to save its season.

And what do you know: The Giants did.

They rallied from an abyss that felt equal parts disgusting and hopeless and overcame the Cardinals 31-28.

The winning points came on a 34-yard field goal by Graham Gano with 19 seconds remaining to give them the utterly improbable but euphoric victory.

That field goal gave the Giants their first lead of the season, capping a stirring 24-point second-half comeback. It was the first time the Giants overcame a deficit of 20 or more points to win since 1950 against the Baltimore Colts.

But it was the body of work and anatomy of the comeback that was so impressive.

The Giants weren't just losing to the Cardinals, they were being outclassed, outworked and out-executed by a team considered to be one of the worst in the league.

A team that many believed was tanking the season for the top 2024 draft pick.

A team with a quarterback - Joshua Dobbs - playing on his sixth NFL team in seven seasons, having started only nine games before Sunday.

Instead, for most of the game it was the Giants who looked like the worst team in the league now, so soon after last year's unexpected feel-good playoff season under new head coach Brian Daboll.

The Giants' defense was being made to look inept by Dobbs, who led Arizona to scores on five consecutive offensive possessions en route to that 28-7 lead early in the third quarter.

The Giants' offense looked like it was lost, with quarterback Daniel Jones, the ink on the $40 million-per-year contract he signed in the offseason not having yet dried, the second-best quarterback on the field.

And it wasn't even close.

Tight end Darren Waller, who was supposed to be a "match-up nightmare" for opposing defenses, wasn't a part of the offense until he was, catching six passes for 76 yards in his first impactful moments in a Giants uniform.

For the second consecutive week, Giants running back Saquon Barkley was on the wrong end of a soul-crushing Jones interception that wasn't Jones' fault.

With the Giant trailing 17-0 in the second quarter, Barkley had a Jones pass graze off both of his hands and into the arms of Cardinals' cornerback Jalen Thompson, who returned it 35 yards.

Barkley, meanwhile, for several moments after the play knelt on the 35-yard line looking a combination shell-shocked, infuriated at himself and in disbelief considering that last week against Dallas he had a pass bounce off of him and returned for a touchdown.

The Cardinals converted that turnover into a 44-yard Matt Prater field goal to give them a 20-0 lead.

The Giants entered the halftime locker room trailing 20-0, which means for the season they were trailing 60-0 at that moment.

In NFL history, only the 1989 Pittsburgh Steelers began a season allowing more points before scoring their first points. It, too, marked the first time the Giants failed to score a single point in the first six quarters of a season since 1934.

This is where we were at - reaching back nearly 90 years to compare bad to bad and worst to worst in team history.

The Giants, to their credit, woke up after halftime, scoring quickly on their first possession of the third quarter when Jones connected with rookie receiver Jalin Hyatt for 58 yards, which led to a 14-yard Jones scoring run just 1:17 into the second half.

So, at 5:43 p.m. and with 13:43 remaining in the third quarter, the Giants scored their first points of the season. That was the good news. The bad news was they still trailed 20-7 and their defense was showing no evidence that it could stop a nosebleed.

Because the Cardinals answered by jammed the ball down the throats of the Giants' defense on the ensuing possession and took the 28-7 lead on a Dobbs touchdown pass to Marquise Brown.

The Giants cut it to 28-14 on a 1-yard Barkley scoring run in the third quarter.

Then came a dynamic catch and dive score from Barkley on a gotta-have-it third-and-goal from the 9-yard line. Jones threw it to him in the flat and he dove to the pilon for a touchdown to cut the Arizona lead to 28-21 with 8:51 remaining in the game.

Of course, in a bizarre game like this became, Barkley had to be helped off the field with an apparent ankle injury with 1:08 remaining in the game.

/ Monday, September 18, 2023, 12:30 PM /

themes:  Arizona  Maryland

Giants' refusal to panic spearheaded their incredible comeback

 ..... - The Giants could make a fortune on the black market selling whatever unknown magic elixir was passed around the halftime locker room.

The worst offense in the NFL to that point - held scoreless for the first 91-plus minutes of the season - became unstoppable and a fundamentally flawed defense became impenetrable, and the combination of the two turnarounds Sunday saved the Giants' season from a shockingly early point of no return.

Five straight scoring drives, four straight defensive stops and the closed-doors urgency expressed by head coach Brian Daboll at State Farm Stadium added up to a 31-28 win against the hapless Cardinals, whose 20-point halftime lead was a continuation of the avalanche pouring down on the Giants since their 40-point loss to the Cowboys in Week 1.

"Nobody was flipping tables, but it wasn't too soft," receiver Darius Slayton told The Post about halftime. "People voiced their opinions. In light of last week it was, 'We're not about to let this be, here we go again.' Everybody understood that there's only one way we get ourselves out of this hole: Players making plays."

Saquon Barkley scored one touchdown on the ground and another through the air, complete with a full-extension dive to the pylon, Daniel Jones rushed for one and threw another to Isaiah Hodgins, and Graham Gano kicked the tie-breaking 34-yard field goal with 19 seconds remaining.

The Giants' 21-point comeback (trailing 28-7) was their largest since 1949, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

"It's not always easy to be mentally tough when you're [down] 60-0, after a game and a half," Daboll said. "There's encouragement. There is detail in what needs to get done. Scream and yell, I don't think that's the answer. But you definitely place an emphasis on what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, with confidence and sternness."

The Giants still have big concerns because Barkley is headed for more testing on a sprained right ankle, but are not facing the biggest question of all - what to do with 15 meaningless games? - as would have been the case after an 0-2 start with a loss to arguably the least-talented roster in the league.

Jones threw for 321 yards - maybe none bigger than the 58 that came on a second-half-opening deep post to Jalin Hyatt drawn up during that seminal halftime locker room.

"It wasn't a riot act," safety Xavier McKinney told The Post. "You have to execute. You have to play fast. You have to make plays. We didn't have a whole bunch of rah-rah speeches. At a point, there's only so much talking anyone is going to do."

Even once the offense got started, there was no reason to think the Giants had the defense to make a comeback.

Not after the Cardinals scored three touchdowns and two field goals on their first six possessions and the only stop was aided by an overthrown would-be touchdown and a missed field goal.

Not after an interception by Jason Pinnock was negated because Bobby Okereke wrestled Zach Ertz to the ground for pass interference and the Cardinals capitalized with a touchdown to go up 28-7.

And then things changed.

The ankle grabs and arm reaches that James Conner was running through turned into tackles and those tackles led to three straight punts.

The easy completions for journeyman quarterback Josh Dobbs dried up.

"One thing we did say going out for the second half was, 'No more points on defense,' " defensive tackle Leonard Williams said. "The thing is we've done it before. This is a different team - we don't like to go back to last year under any circumstances - but we showed we could do that last year. One of our mottos is, 'Take them to the deep end,' and we did a good job. Once the offense started scoring and the defense started getting stops, we started to get a lot more belief."

The Giants were supposed to see the NFL's worst team Sunday in Arizona.

For a half, they might have just by looking in a mirror.

If the Cardinals were tanking for the No. 1 pick in the 2024 draft - as has been widely accused - how do you explain Dobbs running through McKinney at the goal line?

Or Jalen Thompson's interception off of Barkley's hands? Or Marquise Brown and Ertz running open all throughout the secondary?

Or any of the miscues that created a lopsided score as the Giants punted three times, committed a turnover and mercifully let the clock run out when Daniel Jones was sacked against a three-man pass rush during their five first-half possessions?

None of it sat well with Daboll.

"He's that fiery, passionate same message he always gives," Jones said, "and guys took to it."

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