EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants were excited to play their season opener after an offseason highlighted by marquee acquisitions and in front of fans whose cheers they hadn't heard in almost 21 months. Then they disappointed themselves and the faithful by playing below their expected standards on offense and defense in a 27-13 loss to the Denver Broncos.
But the Giants have no time to dwell on their displeasure. They will return to the field Thursday to play NFC East rival Washington in FedExField.
Given those factors, coach Joe Judge instructed his players with the same honesty and pragmatism that has marked that relationship since his arrival.
"It's real simple for me. A win or a loss, you've got to come out and you've got to show your team the truth of what happens on tape," Judge said. "You've got to show them examples of winning football, what we did well, things we can build on and things that are going to help us move forward and win as a team. Then, you've got to show them things that you have to eliminate as a team, things you have to improve on, and you have to do it fast to make sure you don't eliminate opportunities.
"To me, it's not about going in there and giving motivational speeches or trying to get in there and embarrass anybody. It's just you put the tape on, you teach through it and you correct it. Our job is to be teachers. … We preach about being mentally tough and it can't be an emotional roller coaster. Win or lose, it doesn't matter. The emphasis every week is you come in and work to improve. That was the emphasis today, as well."
Check out the best photos from the Giants' season opener against the Denver Broncos.
The Giants rushed for only 60 yards and quarterback Daniel Jones led the team with 27 yards on the ground against Denver. Jones also threw for 267 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown to Sterling Shepard.
"First off, like I've been saying, this is Week 1 and guys are really just now starting to get back out there," said wide receiver Kenny Golladay, who caught four passes for 64 yards in his first game for the Giants. "I think we can be explosive, just pretty much what everybody else thinks. When you just look at it, you have a lot of guys that are on this offense that (have) made a lot of big plays, but at the same time we just have to put the work in. Yesterday was pretty much a day for us to continue to just grow. To be honest, the sky is the limit for us as long as we put the work in."
"We've got to run the ball better, which is the main point," center Nick Gates said. "You're not going to win too many games if you can't run the ball on the ground and be able to pound the rock. I felt pass-pro was a lot better than it was this time last year and we've got to keep excelling on that and keep moving forward when it comes to that."
But they must take care of the ball. Jones lost a critical third-quarter fumble. A subject that reporters addressed on Judge's Zoom news conference. Specifically, could the coaching staff instruct Jones to slide, which would sharply reduce the likelihood of a fumble?
"That's part of what we teach anyway," Judge said. "There are times where a guy's going to be aggressive and he's going to have to go ahead and lower his shoulder to get an extra yard in a got-to-have-it type of situation. There are other times as a quarterback where you go ahead and you slide, and you avoid the contact.
"Look, Daniel's a tough dude and I'm the one that's got to tell him to slide sometimes. I know he hates hearing that. He doesn't want to be treated like he's got kid gloves on, but that's part of what we teach him in terms of getting down and protecting. … I'd say the coaching on any of these situations is if it's not a got-to-have it, you want to protect the ball as best as we can, whether it's getting out of bounds or sliding and getting down."
While the offense had several key players miss large chunks of training camp due to injuries, the defense was largely intact. With the addition of cornerback Adoree' Jackson, lineman Danny Shelton and linebacker Reggie Ragland, the defense appeared capable of being one of the NFL's best. It might still be, but first must show improvement from its debut performance.
The Broncos gained 420 yards and had 24 first downs. They converted seven of 15 third-down opportunities and all three fourth-down tries, each of which resulted in points.
"Overall, we played pretty decent," lineman Leonard Williams said. "I think we just have to do a better job of getting off the field on third downs and fourth downs. We have high expectations of ourselves as a defense and there were a few plays that we left out there that we would obviously want to take back."
Denver quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed 28 of 36 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked just twice and had plenty of time to throw the ball on most of his dropbacks.
"What I've seen watching film is we were focusing on getting middle push and not giving Teddy a step-up area," Williams said. "I think we did a good job of collapsing the pocket in the front of him and not allowing him to step into his throws. But we weren't being consistent at making him feel uncomfortable. I think what we have to do is while we're getting that middle push and stopping the step-up lanes, we also have to get off the block and get hands on the quarterback."
The Giants have a firm grasp on where they need to improve. They'll have a chance in three days to show if they've done it.
*Saquon Barkley had 11 touches – 10 carries and a reception – in his first game in almost a year and Judge anticipates the star running back will play Thursday.
"I would say unless the medical team tells us something else, our intention is going to be to keep on progressing this guy throughout the season and playing with him, unless there's some kind of setback," Judge said. "Look, he came out last night, from all accounts, in a good position. Our plan to this point is to go ahead and include him in the game plan as we work through this next day and a half."
*The Giants did not practice today but were required to release an injury report because they play Thursday. Four players were on the list, which the Giants called an "estimation." Tight end Evan Engram (calf), who did not play in the opener, guard Shane Lemieux (knee) and linebacker Cam Brown (hamstring) did not participate. Barkley (knee) was limited.
*Rookie Azeez Ojulari had one of the Giants' sacks of Bridgewater and at 21 years and 88 days old became the youngest player in Giants history to record a sack. The record was previously held by Keith Hamilton, who was 21 years and 153 days when he notched his first sack on Nov. 22, 1992.