Saquon injured, but QB Jones shines in debut
GIANTS 32, BUCS 31
GIANTS 32, BUCCANEERS 31
The “Danny Dimes” nickname might not work for Daniel Jones.
The Giants’ rookie quarterback proved he’s worth a heck of a lot more in Sunday’s debut NFL start against the Buccaneers, an incredible 32-31 comeback win at Raymond James Stadium.
With Saquon Barkley (ankle) hobbled and out the entire second half, and the Giants trailing 28-10 entering the third quarter, Jones led a jaw-dropping and inspiring comeback complemented by a resilient Giants defense.
Jones threw the first two touchdown passes of his pro career to Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard, added a twopoint conversion to Shepard, and then led a game-winning drive with under two minutes left while down, 31-25.
Jones completed 5-of-7 passes on his defining drive, capped by his second 7-yard rushing touchdown of the day — on fourth down, no less — to go up by one with 1:16 to play.
Veteran corner Janoris Jenkins, who was picked on all day, surrendered a 44-yard pass to Mike Evans to set up a 34-yard Bucs field goal to win it. But kicker Matt Gay missed wide right, and the Giants celebrated deliriously on the field.
The Giants (1-2) outscored the Bucs, 22-3, in the second half.
In all, Jones completed 23-of-36 yards for 336 yards and four total touchdowns, two passing and two rushing. Jones’ first score 7-yard second quarter touchdown run on a readoption fake to Barkley, a play call Pat Shurmur couldn’t even use when Eli Manning was quarterback.
He is the first Giants QB to score two rushing TDs since Jeff Hostetler in 1991.
Dave Gettleman’s cap, draft and free agent mismanagement have kept the Giants in the NFL’s basement. But if Jones is the real deal, the GM will have delivered for Big Blue’s long term at the sport’s most important position with a franchise QB.
Jones did lose two fumbles, including a crucial one in the fourth quarter down 28-25, offsetting an interception by rookie linebacker Ryan Connelly. And then down 31-25 with six minutes to play, Jones and the Giants offense went
But he led them to victory on his final drive when it mattered most. And frankly, his performance makes you wonder how desperate Shurmur was to start Jones in Week 1.
Jones’ offense scored more points (32) than Manning’s had in the first two weeks combined (31). He converted more third downs (6-of-13) than Manning had in the first two weeks combined (5-of-23).
The overall takeaway from Jones’ first start was that he wasn’t overwhelmed. It wasn’t too big for him. He took some big hits, made some mistakes, even threw what should have been his first interception in the first half, which was dropped by a Bucs corner.
And he gave the Giants something they haven’t had in years: hope.
Barkley limped off wincing in significant pain with a second-quarter ankle injury, and Dave Gettleman’s defense demonstrated no ability to get a stop in the first half, with Jenkins picked on incessantly by Bucs QB Jameis Winston and Evans.
Evans made eight catches for 190 yards and three touchdowns.
The Giants also played without linebacker Alec Ogletree (hamstring) the whole second half and backup LB Tae Davis (concussion) the fourth quarter.
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher made excellent halftime adjustments, however, and after the Bucs scored points on all six of their first half drives, Tampa scored just three in the second half and Winston threw an interception to rookie LB Ryan Connelly, the Giants’ first forced turnover of the year.
Jones then put the Bucs away for good, and now the Giants not only have hope that they can win in the future, but that they also can win now.
The Giants’ Saquon Barkley looks on from the bench after suffering an ankle injury Sunday against the Buccaneers.
Daniel Jones (8) was the sixth overall pick in last spring’s draft out of Duke and the second quarterback taken.