Players and coaches can't walk very far without seeing signs that read: WIN AT HOME.
The Giants scattered constant reminders around the Quest Diagnostics Training Center and inside the bowels of MetLife Stadium leading up to Sunday's home opener against the Panthers. But it wasn't a one-way directive. From coach Brian Daboll to defensive coordinator Wink Martindale to quarterback Daniel Jones and outspoken outside linebacker Jihad Ward, the team implored fans to be loud as they kicked off a new era on their home turf. If fans did their part, the team would do its duty.
Both sides obliged in a 19-16 victory that gave the Giants a 2-0 record for the first time since 2016.
"I thought the fans were great," Daboll said. "Just driving over here from the facility and looking at all the tailgates and all the beverages and all the games they were playing, they were pretty rocked up. They had their jerseys on – some old school ones, some new school ones. They were great on third down. They know when to cheer, and it was certainly helpful to have them out there. And we look forward to next week."
View photos from the Giants' Week 2 game vs. the Carolina Panthers at MetLife Stadium.
IT WAS OVER WHEN
Faced with third-and-six at their own 40, the Giants needed one more first down to ice the game while holding a three-point lead with 1:50 left in the fourth. Jones delivered, scrambling up the middle for 11 yards.
"A situation like that, we get outside the pocket and obviously you want to throw a completion, stay in bounds or run the ball to keep the clock moving," Jones said. "I thought they matched Saquon in the flat, saw a lane to run, so I stepped up and ran. Obviously, I wanted to protect the ball, but I think it was a great call in a situation like that. You want to give yourself options to do both things, and I think that was the idea there. I thought it was a good call, and I thought the guys executed well."
"I thought he played a good game," Daboll said. "I thought he made great decisions with the football in his hands. He took care of it; he led the team down again to finish off a drive to win the game. So, that's two good weeks I'd say for Daniel. Made the right decision, took care of the ball when there was pressure on him, threw it away if he needed to throw it away, and then took off on that last naked there to get the first down. He could have done a lot of different things, and he made the right decision under pressure in a critical situation. And he's taken steps, and I'm happy for him."
Just as importantly, the coaches once again showed their faith in players a week after calling a gutsy two-point conversion to win the game.
"Well, I just told [offensive coordinator and play-caller] Mike [Kafka] throughout the game – calling an NFL game is an up-and-down thing sometimes," Daboll said. "And I think the most important thing to do is stay true to yourself and have confidence in the players. They feel that. So, we figured that was – not we figured, we talked about it – and Mike recommended that play. It was a naked play, so we had a couple different options. And he made the right one. If not, he probably would've taken a sack just so he kept the clock moving there. But I think it's important to show players that you have faith in them. They work their asses off during the week. They've worked their asses off during camp. They're the ones out there playing on Sunday, and you have to put it in their hands when it counts the most. And that's what Kafka did with Daniel, and Daniel made the right decision. We ended up kneeling on the ball."
Graham Gano already held the franchise record for 50-yard field goals made, but he added two more to his ledger on Sunday. But it wasn't just about the distance. It was about the clutch situations. Gano first gave the Giants a three-point lead with a 51-yarder early in the fourth quarter. After the Panthers, his former team, tied it back up, Gano made another from 56 yards to regain the lead with 3:34 left in the game.
"Dabs looked at me and kind of just pointed and said, 'Go out' and 'Hey, can you make this?' Gano said of the go-ahead field goal. "And I looked over and said, 'Yeah' and laughed. Then I got out there and I was like, 'Man, this is a long one. The wind is blowing our way.' But yeah, you just try to hit it the same and make sure you hit it pure. Those guys did a great job. It's like I was saying earlier, it takes a lot more; it takes good blocking, a good snap and a good hold."
FIGURING IT OUT
Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey spoke for every Giants fan this week coming off the win in Tennessee, where Titans kicker Randy Bullock missed a potential game-winning field goal as time expired: "It was good to be on the other side of that for once." Week 2 wasn't pretty – neither was Week 1 – but the Giants figured out ways to win.
"Well, I'd say whether you score a lot or not, it's important to figure out a way to win the games," Daboll said. "You can win a game a variety of ways. You can also lose it. Again, the object of the game is to have one more point at the end and to give yourself a chance in the fourth quarter. Right now, where we're at, we're a young team that's still developing. We've got a long way to go. But I'd say that again, we're shuffling guys in and out. We're trying to find the best combinations, but taking care of the ball and getting it goes a long way – tackling well and being able to figure out a way in the fourth quarter when it's close to grind out those yards you need to put yourself in a chance to win. These are close games; I anticipate most of our games being close. So, there's a lot of work to do. We'll get back to work here tomorrow and get at it again."
WHAT THE WIN MEANS FOR THE GIANTS
Before winning the 2022 season opener, the Giants were 3-14 in the month of September since their last playoff run in 2016. Instead of falling in holes that became too big to overcome, the Giants will look to join the 63.0 percent of 2-0 teams that have made the postseason since 1990. Meanwhile, teams that start 3-0 have made the playoffs 74.4 percent of the time. The Giants, who are in the middle of a three-game homestand, host the defending NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football in Week 3. During a special halftime ceremony, they will formally induct seven new members into the Ring of Honor: Joe Morris, Ottis Anderson, Rodney Hampton, Leonard Marshall, Ronnie Barnes, Jimmy Patton, and Kyle Rote.
WHAT THE LOSS MEANS FOR THE PANTHERS
Carolina, which started last season 3-0, dropped its first two games of 2022. Teams that start 0-2 have made the postseason just 11.3 percent of the time. That number decreases to 2.5 percent for 0-3 starts.
"Obviously a very, very disappointing game," Panthers coach Matt Rhule said. "My heart hurts for the guys in that locker room I know how much they wanted to win the football game. Made some mistakes early in the game. The defense bailed us out through that, took the lead in the second half only to see it slip away. Obviously for our guys that's two games in a row where we've come down to the very end with a chance to win the game and come up short both times. I take full responsibility for that. That's my job, that falls on me. I have to help these guys find a way to make just one more play and win the game. They're trying, they're grinding, they're working. They left it all on the field today and we are coming up just a play or two short and I know how frustrated they are."