The Giants mounted the franchise's largest comeback in the Super Bowl era when they overcame a 21-point deficit to defeat the Arizona Cardinals 31-28 in Week 2.
But Brian Daboll's team don't have much time to enjoy the victory. The team is staying in Arizona before traveling to San Francisco on Wednesday for their matchup against the 49ers on Thursday Night Football.
The 49ers enter this week 2-0. Following their Week 1 win in Pittsburgh, they went into Los Angeles and defeated the Rams 30-23 this past Sunday. Heading into Week 3, San Francisco ranks third in the NFL in both points scored and points allowed.
Here are five storylines to follow in the Week 3 matchup.
1. 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."
The Giants have compiled just 158 total yards and zero points in the first half through Week 2. Against a team like the 49ers, that might not get the job done. San Francisco outscored Pittsburgh 20-7 in the first half of their Week 1 matchup. While the Rams were able to score 17 points in the first half on Sunday, the 49ers responded with 17 points of their own to go into halftime tied. The Giants will have to get off to a faster start on Thursday than their first two games of the season.
View rare photos of the history between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers.
2. Another tough test for DJ
The fifth-year quarterback 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, Jones 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."
3. 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. It is unknown whether or not Thomas will be able to play on Thursday, as he was projected as a limited participant in Monday's injury report. 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 was projected as a non-participant on Monday's injury report.
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.
4. Scouting the 49ers
Selected with the 262nd and final pick in the the 2022 NFL Draft, quarterback Brock Purdy has proven to be anything but irrelevant. After getting his NFL career off to a strong start last season, Purdy has picked up where he left off. He has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 426 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 102.9, adding an additional touchdown on the ground. Purdy, who completed over 71 percent of his passes in his final season at Iowa, also finished with a completion percentage of 67.1 last season, and looks to be a perfect fit for head coach Kyle Shanahan's system.
"He's a good QB," Giants safety Xavier McKinney said about Purdy. "Obviously, they've got a lot of talent over there, just as a team. Offensively, they've got a lot of talent. They've got a lot of guys – a lot of weapons that he can give the ball to in space and make things happen but he's a good QB. He has a lot of good reads and it'll be a tough matchup for us but that's any matchup for us."
As McKinney mentioned, the 49ers' playmakers set them apart from most teams, and it starts with running back Christian McCaffrey. The 27-year-old back has carried the ball 42 times for 268 yards through the first two games, averaging 6.4 yards per carry, and two touchdowns while adding six receptions for 36 yards. McCaffrey is one of the most electric skill position players in the NFL with the ball in his hands and has averaged 5.0 yards per carry in his two career games against the Giants (both with the Carolina Panthers).
"His speed and acceleration are, I'd say really second to none," inside linebacker Bobby 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."
In the passing game, San Francisco boasts one of the league's most talented wide receiver duos in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, who have both caught 11 passes so far this year. Aiyuk leads the team with 172 receiving yards, while Samuel is second with 118, but the former was projected as a non-participant on Monday's injury report. The 49ers also have one of the top tight ends in the NFL with George Kittle, who has six receptions for 49 yards this year. Outside of McCaffrey, only four 49ers have registered a reception through the first two weeks (Jauan Jennings is the fourth).
We discussed some players in the 49ers front seven above, with Bosa, Warner and Hargrave leading the way. But San Francisco's secondary is also filled with talented players, including safety Talanoa Hufanga and cornerbacks Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir and Isaiah Oliver, all of whom have recorded an interception this season.
The 49ers' run defense enters this matchup having allowed just 130 yards on the ground this season, the third-best mark in the NFL. In addition to Hargrave, 6-foot-7 defensive tackle Arik Armstead also starts in the middle of the 49ers' defensive line.
5. Giants plan for Saquon injury scenarios
Saquon Barkley suffered an ankle injury when he was bent backwards by a defender late in Sunday's comeback. It remains to be seen how long Barkley will be sidelined, but the star running back was projected as a non-participant in Monday's walkthrough practice.
"Obviously we'll miss him," Jones said about the injured running back. "He's a huge part of what we're doing. Guys will have to step up, and it won't be any one guy. It'll be everyone elevating their play and stepping up, and I'm confident we can do that. We have lots of guys who can step in and do different things and help out."
If Barkley is unable to go, Matt Breida is likely to lead the backfield on Thursday. The seventh-year veteran registered 54 rush attempts for 220 yards (4.1 avg.) and a touchdown and added 20 receptions for 118 yards last year. 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.
The other player forced out of Sunday's game early was left guard Ben Bredeson, who suffered a concussion. Bredeson is in the protocol and also was projected as a non-participant on Monday's injury report.
Andrew Thomas missed the Week 2 matchup after hurting his hamstring in the season opener. Thomas returned to limited practice on Thursday and Friday, and was again listed as limited on Monday.
Outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari suffered a hamstring injury of his own during practice last week and was sidelined for the game in Arizona. Ojulari was also limited on Monday, along with inside linebacker Micah McFadden (neck) and wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson (knee).
"I'd say with really all the guys, like I said before, not having many live practices, we'll evaluate them every day and take it right up to game time," Daboll told reporters Monday.