KEEP THE MOMENTUM GOING EARLY
The Giants were outscored 60-0 through the first six quarters of the 2023 campaign. With their backs against the wall, the Giants responded in a big way. The offense, led by quarterback Daniel Jones, scored on each of their next five possessions, including four touchdowns and the game-winning field goal. Meanwhile, the defense stepped up, limiting the Cardinals to a total of 48 yards and zero points on their final four possessions.
"I'd say just as a coach, you look at the things that started with you that you could do better, and then you evaluate the players' performances, whether that's technique, fundamentals, execution of scheme, and those are the things you try to correct," coach Brian Daboll told the media Monday. "You try to be consistent with that on a week-to-week basis. We competed hard for 60 minutes, but we executed better. So that's the number one objective every week, to really go out there and have a high level of execution. Every week is tough, every team you're playing is a good team. Every time you play, you're going to have to go through something. And your ability to play the next play with a positive mindset and attention to detail on the specifics of what you need to do on each play to make it successful collectively is really where our focus is."
In the first half of games this season, opponents have outscored the Giants 46-0, while the Big Blue offense has compiled just 158 total yards. Meanwhile, the 49ers scored 20 points in the first half of Week 1 and another 17 points in the first half of Sunday's game. Outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux knows the Giants can't afford to get off to a sluggish start on Thursday.
"It's all about complementary football," said Thibodeaux. "As a team, we've been trying to work on that, and starting fast is everything, whether it's defense going out there getting a three-and-out or it's offense going out there and putting some points up."
The Giants visit the 49ers for a Thursday Night Football showdown in the Bay Area. Kickoff is set for 8:15 p.m. ET on Prime Video.
In the Giants and 49ers' 42 regular-season and postseason meetings, the victories are equal (21-21), and they are separated by only 22 points (49ers 874, Giants 852). Since the Giants' victory in San Francisco in the 2011 NFC Championship Game, the teams have alternated wins in their last six meetings. The Giants are 1-1 in Levi's Stadium, where they defeated the 49ers in their last visit, 27-23, on Monday night, Nov. 12, 2018.
The Giants and 49ers have met once prior on a Thursday night on Sept. 5, 2002. The 49ers won in Giants Stadium, 16-13.
View rare photos of the history between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers.
Out: RB Saquon Barkley (ankle), OL Ben Bredeson (concussion), OT Andrew Thomas (hamstring), OLB Azeez Ojulari (hamstring)
Questionable: ILB Micah McFadden (neck), WR Wan'Dale Robinson (knee)
Questionable: WR Brandon Aiyuk (shoulder), CB Ambry Thomas (knee)
ANOTHER TOUGH TEST FOR DJ
Daniel Jones rebounded in Week 2, with almost all of his production coming in the second half. After throwing for just 62 yards in the first two quarters, the fifth-year quarterback became the first player in NFL history to throw for 250+ yards, run for 50+ yards, throw multiple touchdown passes, rush for a touchdown and not turn the ball over in the second half of a game.
"There were some plays out there in the first half that we didn't convert," Jones said. "I think we'll go back, and we've got to clean those up. We can't afford to start slow like that and miss opportunities early in the game to convert. So, that'll be an emphasis of ours going forward. But we did show the fight and the resolve down the stretch, and we made a lot of those plays, and found a way to win. Definitely proud of how the team responded, but there's a lot to clean up, certainly, from that first half."
For the second time in the first three weeks of the season, Jones will be faced with a tough challenge. The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers boast two of the top defenses in the NFL. San Francisco ranked No. 1 in both points and yards allowed in 2022, and is currently ranked No. 3 in scoring so far this season. The 49ers are tied for eighth in the league with six sacks, while their four interceptions are the second-most. However, they do rank 23rd in the league with their 247.5 passing yards allowed per game.
"I think these short weeks are always—the turnaround is quick, and you've got to be able to put it behind you and get ahead, get started on the week pretty much immediately after the game," Jones said. "It can be tough, but we've got to do it. San Francisco is doing the same thing. That's a challenge this week and we'll approach it like we do all the other challenges."
O-LINE BOUNCES BACK
Jones was sacked a league-high seven times in the season opener, while Pro Football Focus had the offensive line down for 27 total pressures allowed. Against the Cardinals, Jones was sacked three times while the O-line surrendered just eight total pressures. And the analytics show just how successful Jones can be when given time in the pocket. When not under pressure, Jones completed 73.3 percent of his passes for 286 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 125.1, according to Next Gen Stats.
The Giants had a different combination of linemen up front on Sunday. Second-team All-Pro left tackle Andrew Thomas missed the game due to a hamstring injury, and is once again out this week. Filling in for Thomas at left tackle was Joshua Ezeudu, who according to PFF gave up just one total pressure against Arizona. Ben Bredeson started at left guard before a concussion forced him out of the game, which led to Mark Glowinski, who started Week 1 at right guard, to enter the game. Glowinski allowed only one pressure on 23 pass block snaps at left guard. Bredeson has also been ruled out for the Week 3 matchup.
John Michael Schmitz continued his solid play at center, as PFF had the rookie down for just one total pressure allowed. Marcus McKethan saw his first NFL action at right guard, while Evan Neal surrendered just two total pressures on 45 pass block snaps in Week 2.
Leading the 49ers in sacks through the first two weeks is second-year defensive end Drake Jackson, who has recorded three of the team's six sacks. Linebacker Fred Warner and defensive lineman Javon Hargrave have one sack apiece, while defensive lineman Kerry Hyder has San Francisco's final sack. However, you cannot discuss the 49ers pass rush without mentioning Nick Bosa. The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, who led the league with 18.5 sacks last season, has a team-high four quarterback hits.
GIANTS CONFIDENT IN RBs
Saquon Barkley was officially ruled out Wednesday, meaning Matt Breida is likely to lead the backfield against the 49ers. The veteran back carried the ball 54 times for 220 yards and a touchdown last season, good for an average of 4.1 yards per carry, while adding 20 receptions for 118 yards. Daboll is confident in Breida if the 28-year-old is called upon to lead the way against his former team.
"He's a pro," the head coach said. "He knows what to do, he knows how to do it, he's done it for a while. He's got speed, he's got some quickness about him. He's had some productive years as a runner, he was at San Francisco. He's just a pro and he knows our system well and we have confidence in him."
"I just want to go out there and play for my team," Breida added. "At the end of the day, I'm grateful to still be playing in the NFL, you know I came undrafted, so just to be here I am blessed and whatever my team needs me to do, I'm going to do."
Breida is not the only running back that will likely see touches. Gary Brightwell recorded 31 rush attempts for 141 yards (4.5 avg.) and a score in 2022, while Eric Gray, a rookie fifth-round pick, rushed for 1,366 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final season at Oklahoma.
"I'd say the three guys that we have behind Saquon, they are all here for a reason. We are comfortable with all those guys. Whether that's run or pass. Certainly things that we could all improve on, but they are all here for a reason and if he's out there, we have confidence in him."
WALLER, HYATT SPARK OFFENSE
Darren Waller showed just how big of a piece he can be in the passing game against the Cardinals. Waller led the Giants with eight targets, which he turned into a team-high six receptions (tied with Saquon Barkley) for 76 yards. Jones' first two passes thrown to Waller fell incomplete, but the two were able to connect on the tight end's next six targets, four of which resulted in first downs.
"He's extremely levelheaded and his demeanor is always the same," Jones said about the veteran tight end. "He shows up and does his work. He's the same every day. He's consistent in that approach and has been in the league for a long time, so he's seen a lot. Kind of a steady presence in the locker room that guys can look to as a leader and I think he's been a big help for us."
Speaking of offensive playmakers, coming out of the locker room for the second half of Sunday's game, the Giants knew they needed a spark on offense. Enter Jalin Hyatt. The rookie wide receiver made big plays throughout training camp and the preseason, and in Week 2, he stepped up when the Giants needed him most.
Hyatt used his speed to blaze past the defense and haul in a 58-yard reception from Jones. Two plays later, the Giants scored their first touchdown of the season. Hyatt came up big again on the final touchdown drive, hauling in a 31-yard pass to move the Giants into the red zone. The two passes thrown to Hyatt had air yards of 43.4 and 30.2, according to Next Gen Stats, which highlights the rookie's downfield threat.
"Obviously we're just two games into it, and he's made some big plays, so we'll see how defenses adjust. But we've got to continue to make those plays and take advantage of the opportunities…" Jones said about the rookie's big-play ability. "You want receivers that want the ball. He's had that same kind of confidence and desire to make the play. We've seen that since he got here really, so got a lot of trust and confidence in him, and he played well for us."
SHANAHAN 'AN EXCELLENT COACH'
The 49ers have enjoyed a lot of success under head coach Kyle Shanahan over the last few years. Over the last four seasons, San Francisco has made it to the NFC Championship Game three times, including a trip to Super Bowl LIV. In each of those three seasons, the 49ers have been among the best in the league on both sides of the ball. Daboll praised Shanahan and his football IQ on Tuesday.
"He's done this for a long time," Daboll said about the 49ers' coach. "He has a ton of experience. He has, I'd say, a number of plays that he's run throughout his past and he's always evolving. That's what I appreciate about Kyle. He's a heck of a football coach. He creates, I'd say, a lot of issues, whether that's run force issues, whether that's making plays look exactly the same and setting things up. He's a timely play caller. He's an excellent coach."
While San Francisco has received strong coaching in recent years, let's not understate how good their roster is. The 49ers have numerous All-Pro players on both sides of the ball, led by running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive end Nick Bosa, two of the top players in the NFL at their respective positions.
"I'd say just on both sides, those two guys are heck of a players, they've got a lot of good players on their team," Daboll said about McCaffrey, Bosa & the rest of the 49ers' roster. "A team full of Pro Bowlers or All-Pros, whether it's McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Aiyuk, Bosa, (defensive lineman Javon) Hargrave, (linebacker Fred) Warner, I mean the list goes on and on. I'd say their team is well constructed. (General Manager) John Lynch has done a great job along with Kyle and there is a lot of challenges with this team in a number of areas."
SLOWING DOWN McCAFFREY
The Giants' defense struggled to contain the Cardinals in the first half of Sunday's outing. Four of Arizona's five first-half drives resulted in points, with the fifth ending in a missed field goal, as quarterback Joshua Dobbs and running back James Conner led the Cardinals to 266 total yards of offense. But similar to the Giants' offense, the defense clamped down in the second half.
After Arizona scored a touchdown on their opening drive, the Giants held them off the scoreboard for the remainder of the game. The Cardinals totaled 48 yards on their final four drives, including two possessions that resulted in negative yards. Okereke told reporters Monday that the defense knows they can't get off to a sluggish start in Week 3.
"We've got to start fast," the linebacker said about Thursday's game. "That is a reoccurring theme in the first game and the second game, but I think we are building off momentum like I said in the second half and responding to adversity, because we are going to face more adversity throughout the season, it's a long 17-week season, especially in the postseason. So, we are going to need to lean on the lessons we learn through this adversity."
Okereke's biggest challenge on Thursday will be trying to limit 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey. The 27-year-old leads the NFL with 42 rush attempts for 268 yards and 48 total touches. He has found the end zone twice already while sporting an impressive 6.4 yards per carry. In 17 games between the 49ers and Panthers last season, McCaffrey caught 85 passes for 741 yards and five touchdowns to go with his 1,139 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.
"His speed and acceleration are, I'd say really second to none," Okereke said about McCaffrey. "He runs with really disciplined angles, he's a downhill runner, he's a cutback runner and I think he has great vision, great speed, acceleration, so he will be a great challenge for us.
PURDY A 'POINT GUARD TYPE OF QB'
Quarterback Brock Purdy has played the majority of just eight regular season games for the 49ers dating back to last season. In those eight contests, all of which have resulted in victories, the 23-year-old has put up impressive numbers. Purdy completed 146 of 215 passes (67.9 percent) for 1,734 yards, 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions, while earning a passer rating above 110.0 in five of the outings. His lowest passer rating in that span was 88.8.
"He's a great quarterback," Thibodeaux told the media. "I actually played him way back when when he was in college in a bowl game. He's the same guy. He's obviously gotten better, but when you talk about his poise, when you talk about him just being able to deliver the ball and he doesn't really get off balance. He likes to really focus in, and he knows where to get the ball."
With Purdy under center, San Francisco has enjoyed a successful offensive start to the 2023 campaign. The 49ers scored 30 points in each of their first two games (No. 3 in the NFL) as Purdy has thrown for 426 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers. His 86.6 QBR is currently the best in the league, due in part to his array of playmakers. Wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk have each recorded 11 receptions on the season, while running back Christian McCaffrey and tight end George Kittle have six apiece.
"They have a really good offense," defensive lineman Leonard Williams said Tuesday. "I mean, it starts with some of their skill players, McCaffrey and Deebo, they do a good job of playing in the backfield and being a wide receiver at the same time. They have a pretty good offensive line, (tackle) Trent Williams is a really good left tackle and I think Purdy's been doing a good job of stepping up as a quarterback. We've been describing him as like a point guard type of quarterback. He gets the ball out quick and knows where to go with it."
View photos of the team traveling to San Francisco ahead of their Week 3 matchup against the 49ers.