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5 things we learned in win over Panthers (9/18)


The Giants welcomed the Carolina Panthers to MetLife Stadium for the home opener in Week 2 and emerged with a 19-16 victory. Brian Daboll's squad is now 2-0 heading into next week's matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.

Coach Brian Daboll and several players spoke to the media after the game.

Here is what we learned in the home opener.

1. Giants start 2-0

Following today's 19-16 win over the Panthers, the Giants are starting the season 2-0 for the first time since 2016 and just the second time since 2009. The Giants were down 13-6 in the third quarter before Daniel Jones led an eight-play scoring drive in only three minutes and five seconds. Two field goals in the fourth quarter gave the Giants the lead as it marked the second consecutive week in which the Giants mounted a second half comeback to pick up the victory.

"Good, hard-fought game," Daboll told the media. "Another 60-minute game. Thought our guys competed well. I thought they were prepared; had a good week of practice, and these are the games in the National Football League. There's certainly a lot of things we need to do better, but I'm happy for the guys. Graham (Gano) made all his kicks. (There were) some big kicks there at the end for us, and (Daniel Jones) DJ led the team down to get some extra points there, which was a huge difference. (I) thought the defense played well; started out fast. Wish we could've gotten more points on the board early on after those two turnovers, but all-in-all a good team win. And (we'll) get ready for next week."

Daboll praised the Giants fans at MetLife Stadium for the noise they brought throughout the entire game.

"I thought the fans were great," the head coach said after his debut at MetLife Stadium. "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."

The Giants will look to extend their winning streak to three games to start the year when the division rival Dallas Cowboys come to town for a matchup on Monday Night Football. The Giants have not begun a season 3-0 since 2009, when the team won their first five games of the season.

View photos from the Giants' Week 2 game vs. the Carolina Panthers at MetLife Stadium.

2. Gano comes up clutch (again)

Graham Gano has been one of the most consistent players on the team since his arrival in 2020. Voted a captain by his teammates before the start of the season, Gano continued his dominant play with a perfect Week 2 performance.

The veteran kicker made all five of his attempts (four field goals, one extra point) on Sunday. He got the Giants on the board in the first quarter with a pair of field goals, one from 36 yards and the other from 33 yards, to give them an early 6-0 lead. Gano's next field goal attempt didn't come until the beginning of the fourth quarter, when he connected on a 51-yard attempt to put the Giants up three. After the Panthers tied the game a few minutes later, Gano once again drilled a kick from 56 yards out to put the Giants up, 19-16, with 3:36 remaining.

"It feels good," Gano said following the win. "It takes a lot more than just me kicking it, obviously. It takes the whole unit, the guys getting down there and getting in range. I don't see a whole lot that happens before the fourth down because I'm just warming up in the net. I heard there was some good effort to get us in range on both of those plays, so I'm just thankful for the opportunities and thankful that Coach [Daboll] trusting me to kick into the wind like that."

"He's done it a lot in practice," Daboll added. "I know he's played a lot in this league. And again, we'd like to be closer for him, but that's his job as a kicker and a snapper and as a holder – to execute those plays when we need it the most. A lot of time it's under pressure, and the three of those guys along with the field goal protection unit did a good job."

3. Defense steps up

The Giants defense put together a solid overall effort for the second consecutive week. Wink Martindale's unit held the Panthers to 275 total yards and only one touchdown. Baker Mayfield completed less than 50 percent of his passes for 145 yards.

"I have a lot of confidence in Wink," Daboll said about his defensive coordinator. "I think the players have a lot of confidence. They're playing fast. Give a lot of credit to the coaches on the defensive side, but to the players that are out there executing the assignments. But again, Wink's done this a long time. Wink's not afraid of failure, and that's really what we want for the entire organization is to not be afraid of failure, not to be afraid of the consequence. If you prepare the right way, you can live with the results. And I'll say that over and over again."

With Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari out for another game, the Giants once again saw outside linebackers Jihad Ward and Oshane Ximines step up. Ward made his presence felt in the run game yet again as he picked up two tackles for loss and brought energy to the sideline all four quarters. Meanwhile, Ximines recorded his first sack of the season and added a pass breakup (he had two pass breakups in Week 1).

"I've said this from the beginning. Again, I don't know where he was last year. I just know where he is this year," Daboll said about Ximines. "His mind's on right. He's been a big part of our football team. He's got energy. I think he has talent. I think Wink's getting talent out of him. He's a confident player. Look, we've got a long, long way to go as you saw out there. But our guys fought – not just (Oshane) OX should I say. X (Xavier McKinney) is X. There's power in preparation; there's power in believing. And there's, I'd say, power in toughness."

The Giants also saw two defensive backs play well against the Panthers. Julian Love finished with a team-high eight solo tackles, two tackles for loss, and a quarterback hit. He had one of the defensive plays of the game with his sack of Baker Mayfield late in the fourth quarter, forcing a Panthers punt just prior to the two-minute warning. Xavier McKinney also registered two pass breakups in addition to his five tackles (three solo).

"He did a great job of just seeing it," McKinney said about Love's late sack. "He was open and he made the play. I was happy for him. We were all happy for him, but we were happy we got off the field and he was the one to get it done for us."

4. Pair of rookies make big plays

Two Giants rookies came up with significant plays in the Giants' Week 2 win. After the Giants won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, Carter Coughlin forced Chuba Hubbard to fumble on the opening kickoff. With the ball loose on the turf, rookie safety Dane Belton, in his NFL debut, jumped on it to set the Giants up with great field position. While the offense was not able to punch it into the end zone, the Giants emerged with points when Gano made a 36-yard field goal.

On the other side of the ball, tight end Daniel Bellinger also made a crucial play for the Giants. After he did not register a catch in Week 1, Bellinger finished with just one reception against Carolina. However, he made it count. The rookie tight end reeled in a pass from Daniel Jones and dove into the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown to tie the game for the Giants in the third quarter.

Additionally, rookie CB Cor'Dale Flott and rookie DL D.J. Davidson each finished with one tackle, while rookie G Josh Ezeudu saw some time at left guard.

5. Injury updates; Leonard Williams hurt

Defensive lineman Leonard Williams suffered a knee injury during the third quarter of the Week 2 matchup and did not return. He finished with two tackles (one solo).

On Friday, the Giants ruled out CB Aaron Robinson (appendicitis), CB Nick McCloud (hamstring), S Jason Pinnock (shoulder) and WR Wan'Dale Robinson (knee). OLBs Kayvon Thibodeaux (knee) and Azeez Ojulari (calf) were ruled out before kickoff. OT Tyre Phillips was the only other player inactive.

Rookie S Dane Belton made his NFL debut after injuring his clavicle towards the beginning of training camp. WR Kadarius Toney was listed as questionable on the final injury report but played against the Panthers.