EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Start with Brian Daboll's gutsy call to go for the two-point conversion that ultimately won the game. A defense that limited the NFL's most punishing running back to 3.9 yards a carry and zero touchdowns. The offense executing a clutch 12-play, 73-yard drive for the deciding score that included neither a penalty nor a negative-yardage snap.
Those factors ultimately led to one of the Giants' most exhilarating recent victories, a 21-20 road thriller against the Tennessee Titans, the AFC's No. 1 seed in last season's playoffs. The triumph wasn't decided until Randy Bullock missed a 47-yard field goal attempt on the game's final play.
The postgame raucous locker room celebration included game balls presented to Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen, loud music, a lot of chanting, clapping and yelling and an odd kind of movement performed by Daboll.
"They brought me in the circle there," Daboll said. "I don't think I'd call it dancing."
It all made for a successful, enjoyable and memorable Kickoff Weekend for the Giants.
But as Daboll and others noted, it's just one game. The coaches are already on to the Carolina Panthers, whom the Giants will face in their home opener on Sunday.
In terms of the team's long-term prospects, perhaps nothing topped the performance of running back Saquon Barkley, who ignited and inspired the offense as he did in his 2018 Rookie of the Year season.
After three injury-plagued seasons, Barkley looked like, well, Barkley. He rushed for 164 yards, exactly double the total of Tennessee's Derrick Henry, the two-time NFL rushing champion and 2020 NFL Offensive Player of the Year. It was also Barkley's highest total since he ran for a career-high 189 yards in Washington on Dec 22, 2019.
Was he inspired by Henry's presence?
"I'm very competitive. At the end of day, I guess probably a little bit," Barkley said. "But the reality is, I'm not playing Derrick Henry. I have nothing but respect for him. He's a heck of a player, one of the best players in the league. It's not like just competing against him. I'm not looking to see what my numbers are, his numbers. It's more like, you're peeking a little bit more. Because you know that this guy, at any moment, can keep breaking a long one. That's more of respect, I guess you can say."
Barkley ripped off a 68-yard run to set up his five-yard touchdown that was the Giants' first score of the season and started a comeback after they trailed at halftime, 13-0. He also scored the game-deciding two-point conversion on a shovel pass from Daniel Jones with 1:06 remaining. If that wasn't enough, Barkley caught a team-high six passes, for 30 yards.
"He's a really good player," Daboll said. "I've said that since I got here and watched him take care of his business both on and off the field. And I don't think there's many runs that you – he looks good in a lot of different runs. And our job up front and on the perimeter is to get a hat on these guys, and it doesn't have to be for a sustained amount of time usually because he is quick and explosive through the hole. But he ran hard like he has all camp."
"He had a heck of a game and was big time for us," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "I think (it was) just giving him an opportunity to make a play."
View photos from the Giants' Week 1 win over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.
The coaches are working hard to create blocking schemes and call plays that will enable Barkley to find open space and maximize his impressive skills.
"(Offensive coordinator) Mike (Kafka) and (offensive line coach) Bobby (Johnson), (assistant line coach) Tony Sparano (Jr.), Bisch (tight ends coach Andy Bischoff), (running backs coach) Deandre Smith – those guys work hard and try to come up and develop a run-scheme each week," Daboll said. "And that's different week to week based on who we play and matchups, and that's what we need to be. And Saquon just has to trust the blocking and run the way he knows how to run."
About the only person who seemed unimpressed with Barkley's performance was the player who dazzled everyone else. He has acknowledged he's playing with a chip on his shoulder after hearing whispers his skills have diminished since he was the first back in Giants history to run for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons.
Twenty-four touches and 194 yards from scrimmage will not dissolve it.
"It's just one game, to be honest," Barkley said after the game. "That's how I look at it. Obviously, at the end of the day, I'm excited to get the win. Personally, just got to keep coming in. Something that just keeps tickling me that coach Dabs says, 'Just enjoy the process.' And that's something I've been battling in the last few years with rehabbing and injuries. That's been my mindset. So, no matter what – win, loss, tie – I just want to come here with the same mindset and just keep enjoying the process and come to work every single day. We had a great week of practice, and no matter what the result was going to be, we can't let that alter what happens this week. So, we've got to keep grinding and keep leaning on each other."
Barkley's physical skills are evident. But he said the success he had yesterday, and whatever good comes for him in the coming months, is the result of something greater than power, speed and a nose for the end zone.
"Mindset. More confidence," Barkley said. "An arrogant mindset, when you are coming from rehab and everyone is telling you, 'The first year is tough. But the second year is going to be better,' and you just put your mind – I'm not listening to all that. Especially when you see a guy like (former Minnesota Vikings running back) Adrian Peterson come back and blow up after his ACL. So, using a mindset you're just like, 'I don't care. I want to be different. I'm going to be different.'
"That doesn't affect me, but I'm human at the end of the day. I learned a lot from the previous year. Keep trusting that process made me be able to go out there today and not even think about it. I knew we were going to have a great game, and we were going to make some plays. It was just when the timing was right. It wasn't really just a mindset change, it's going out there and just believing in myself, trusting myself, and letting my God-given ability show."
If he keeps showing it as he did yesterday, the boost to the Giants will be huge.
*Daboll said rookie wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson is "day-to-day" with a knee injury suffered in the game.
*The Giants today signed tackle KC McDermott to fill a vacancy on their practice squad created Saturday when Max Garcia was signed to the Arizona Cardinals' active roster.
McDermott, 6-5 and 330 pounds, spent the previous four years with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who signed him as a rookie free agent in 2018 from the University of Miami. He was released on Aug. 29.
McDermott played 16 games for the Jaguars – seven in 2020 and nine last season, including a start at right guard at New England on Jan. 2.