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Recap: Giants drop opener to Steelers, 26-16

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AT A GLANCE

The Giants lost their season opener Monday night while learning the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense is as good as advertised. How good? The unit limited the Giants to 29 rushing yards, sacked Daniel Jones three times and intercepted two of his passes and made almost every snap a challenge for Jason Garrett's offense. The result was a 26-16 loss in Joe Judge's head coaching debut in MetLife Stadium. The Giants have lost four consecutive season openers. Ben Roethlisberger, who played only six quarters last season, returned to throw three touchdown passes, including two to JuJu Smith- Schuster. Big Ben was not intercepted.

UP NEXT

The Giants will play their first 2020 road game when they visit the Chicago Bears Sunday at 1 p.m. EDT. It is the third consecutive season they will face the Bears and the second in a row they will visit to Soldier Field. the Giants led at halftime, 7-3, but allowed 16 unanswered points in the third quarter and lost, 19-14. On Dec. 2, 2018, the Giants earned a 30-27 overtime triumph in MetLife Stadium. The Giants trail in both the regular-season (29-21-2) and postseason (5-3) series with the Bears. They are 50-40-5 in road openers.

View photos from the Week 1 matchup between the Giants and Steelers on Monday Night Football.

WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE OFFENSE

Saquon Barkley will not fondly recall this game. With few holes to charge through and a Steelers defense dedicated to stopping him, Barkley carried 15 times for just six yards, his second-lowest total in a full game (he ran for one yard vs. the Jets last Nov. 10).

Daniel Jones and Darius picked up as if they had no break from last season, as the two second-year pros hooked up for a 41-yard touchdown pass with 13:45 remaining in the second quarter, as well as a seven-yard score with 1:52 remaining. On the first touchdown, Slayton beat cornerback Steven Nelson and Joe Haden arrived too late to help. The play immediately followed a pass interference penalty on Hayden that kept the drive alive on third down. Slayton, who finished with six receptions for 102 yards, has scored two touchdowns four times in 15 career games.

The Giants wasted a great chance to score early in the game, after Devante Downs recovered the ball at the Pittsburgh three-yard line after Riley Dixon's punt was mishandled by Diontae Johnson. But after Saquon Barkley gained a yard on first down, Daniel Jones passes to Darius Slayton and Evan Engram fell incomplete. Graham Gano came to kick his first field goal with the Giants, a 21-yarder.

Jones made plays with his arm and his feet but threw two costly interceptions. The first, by T.J. Watt gave Pittsburgh the ball at the Giants' 36 early in the second quarter. Six plays later, Ben Roethlisberger threw a 10-yard pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster for the Steelers' first touchdown. In the third quarter, the Giants converted three third downs while marching from their own nine-yard line to the Pittsburgh four. But on second-and-three, Jones, under heavy pressure from Bud Dupree, floated a pass to Slayton that was intercepted in the end zone by Cameron Heyward, the defensive tackles first career pick.

WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT THE DEFENSE

Pat Graham is going to use all of his players. Before the first half ended, the Giants' defensive coordinator had deployed all of his linemen and each of his linebackers except rookie Carter Coughlin, and had called defenses using four, five and six defensive backs.

Dexter Lawrence picked up the Giants' first sack of the when he tackled Ben Roethlisberger for a nine-yard loss in the second quarter.

The defense surrendered an eight-play, 78-yard drive that ended with seven seconds remaining in the first half when Roethlisberger connected James Washington on a 13-yard touchdown pass that gave Pittsburgh a 16-10 halftime lead. Washington caught a 21-yard pass early in the drive.

WHAT WE LEARNED ABOUT SPECIAL TEAMS

The Giants' special teams capitalized on a Pittsburgh mistake (Diontae Johnson's muff of Riley Dixon's punt) and made a big play early (Devante Downs recovered the ball on the Steelers' three-yard line. Alas, the Giants settle for a field goal.

Graham Gano played a clean game in his Giants debut, booting a field goal and an extra point and allowing only one kickoff return.

Jabrill Peppers was installed as the primary punt returner and demonstrated his aggressiveness while returning three kicks for 39 yards.

INJURY REPORT:

The Giants reported no injuries.

PITT: RB James Conner suffered an ankle injury in the second half. Right Zach Banner (knee) and Stefen Wisniewski (pectoral), who started at right guard, were ruled out of the game in the fourth quarter.

INACTIVES:

NYG: wide receiver Golden Tate, defensive tackle RJ McIntosh and four 2020 draft choices: guard Shane Lemieux and linebackers Can Brown, TJ Brunson and Tae Crowder.

PITT: Starting guard David DeCastro, tight end Zach Gentry, running back Anthony McFarland, linebacker Ulysees Gilbert, defensive tackle Carlos David and quarterback Josh Dobbs.

LINEUP CHANGES:

NYG: With wide receiver Golden Tate inactive, the Giants lined up for the first offensive play with three tight ends: Evan Engram, Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo.

PITT: Stefen Wisniewski for David DeCastro at right guard.

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