EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – For a game that doesn't count in the NFL standings and will largely be forgotten a month from now, the Giants' 25-22 preseason victory against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday night in MetLife Stadium was replete with interesting, unusual and potentially significant storylines.
Starting quarterback Daniel Jones completed 14 of 16 passes for 116 yards and hit on each of his final eight throws on the Giants' first touchdown drive.
Third-stringer Davis Webb threw fourth-quarter touchdown passes of 22 and 15 yards to Alex Bachman, the latter accounting for the deciding points with 35 seconds remaining.
Kicker Graham Gano left the game with a concussion, forcing punter Jamie Gillan to assume the placekicking duties in the second half. Gillan kicked a 31-yard field goal, an extra point and three of his four kickoffs were touchbacks. The four-year veteran had last kicked in college at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, where he kicked 46 field goals and scored 215 points.
Gillan is normally Gano's holder, a job that was given to safety Julian Love, who had last held…well, never.
Unfortunately, Gano's injury was not the only one of concern to the Giants. Rookie edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, the team's top draft choice this year, stayed on the ground and grabbed his right knee with 11:04 remaining in the second quarter. Thibodeaux's leg bent awkwardly when he was hit directly on the knee by tight end Thaddeus Moss. The situation looked ominous when a medical cart was driven onto the field. But Thibodeaux got up and walked off without assistance. He was examined in the medical tent on the sideline before retreating to the locker room. The Giants soon announced that he would not return to the game.
"I think it was a pretty scary moment there," Jones said. "You never want to see anyone go down. We'll see and it was a tough play. You kind of saw the block and the collision there. I hope he's alright, I think he's doing better."
"I think it's a scare any time," Daboll said. "These players work as hard as they can possibly work to try to do as well as they can. Anytime you see someone on the turf, regardless of how they got here, it's hard as a coach to watch a guy go down."
Daboll wouldn't rule out anything regarding Thibodeaux, including the possibility the injury might be severe.
"I can't answer that yet," he said. "I think they'll do the tests tonight, MRIs and stuff like that, and get a better feel for it in the morning. You hope not, but don't know the answer to that yet."
Wide receiver C.J. Board hurt his ribs on a kickoff return on which he lost a fumble and did not return. And rookie inside linebacker Darrian Beavers, who has been competing for a starting job, limped off the field with a knee injury with 11:47 remaining in the third quarter. He did not return.
Daboll said he will know more about the injuries on Monday.
View photos from the home preseason opener between the Giants and Bengals at MetLife Stadium.
*Eight offensive linemen who have participated in camp were unable to play because of injuries. Because of that, Daboll considered not playing Jones, to keep the quarterback out of harm's way. But Jones played the first three series.
"I just thought he could use it," Daboll said. "Our offense could use it with him out there. He played really well. Was in good command. Played well."
Jones should have had just one incomplete pass. But on the Giants' second possession, his second down pass caromed off the hands of rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger and was intercepted by rookie safety Dax Hill. "We need to catch it," Daboll said.
When the Giants next had the ball, Jones' first pass, to David Sills, was broken up by Allan George. Jones immediately connected with Sills for gains of 12 and 20 yards, the first two of his eight consecutive completions. The last of them was a 12-yarder to Antonio Williams, which gave the Giants a first-and-goal at the six, a distance Jashaun Corbin covered on two runs.
Jones was asked if he believes the offense is heading in the right direction.
"I felt that way throughout camp," he said. "It's a process and we're constantly learning and improving day to day. I felt like we've had a good camp and we've done that through the first few weeks. We got to keep doing that. I think that's what is most important is what we do from this point on and how much we can still improve. That's what we're focused on."
*The Giants signed Gillan on Feb. 7 to be their new punter. But when Gano was forced from the game, he became the team's kicker and scored four points in a three-point victory.
"I did all three (punts, placekicks and kickoffs) in college," Gillan said. "So, it was fun.
"Things happen in football. It sucks for Graham. I can't wait for him to come back. But as a guy who has done all three, just go out there and do your job. And do it with the best you have. You just got to go and do it right. It was a great win by the team. Everybody sticking together. This is kind of the building blocks of what we're trying to build here is people that are reliable and we can count on and we build a unit."
Asked if he practices kicking in case he might be needed, Gillan said, "To be honest, no. I do some drop kicks."
While Gillan has some experience as a kicker, Love learned the basics of holding during a quick lesson when the team returned to the sideline for the start of the second half. "Never have held in a game. Ever," he said.
So, why him?
"I'm just tight with the specialists, honestly. And I'm always Johnny-on-the-spot. I told him to show me how to do it, took a few practice ones on the sideline."
Asked if he was nervous, Love said, "For sure. That's something I've never done. I don't feel nervous about stuff I've practiced for. But after that first one though, I was like, 'Alright. This is automatic.'"
Was it fun?
"So fun," Love said. "Are you kidding me? It was one of my favorite plays. Probably ever."
*Webb played the entire second half and completed 22 of 27 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 122.8.
"He was in pretty good command," said Daboll, who coached Webb in Buffalo the previous three seasons. "He's been in this offense for, again he hasn't been it for six months. He's been in it for years. So, who we're playing, when we're playing them, he has full command of what we're doing. He understands. Davis has a firm grasp of what we run, how we run it. We know what he likes. There's time invested. Right, three years' time invested with a player. That goes a long way."
*Bachman, who played in three games for the Giants last season, led all players with 11 receptions for 122 yards and had the only receiving touchdowns of the evening. He has a big fan in Daboll.
"All this guy's done is the right thing since he's been here," Daboll said. "He's showed up in the spring and worked as hard as he possibly could and got better each day. He's one of the first guys in the weight room each day. He was down, down on the depth chart, rep chart if you will, and all he does is compete and play hard. And I appreciate guys like that. I think his teammates do, too. It was good to see him have some success out there. He'll get more chances."
That's all Bachman wants.
"I've been on scout team kickoff for three years now," he said. "I kept my mouth shut and my head down and just try to give a good look for our kick return team. But also tried to improve my craft as well. Fortunately, those looks, and that hard work paid off for me tonight. I really wanted to go down, I actually get frustrated every time I don't make the tackle. I always want to be the guy, I'm the five, the penetrator, I'm supposed to cause havoc in the return game, so luckily I was able to do that tonight and I was fired up about it."
*Blake Martinez started at middle linebacker, his first game action since he tore his ACL on the same field against Atlanta last Sept. 26. Martinez was credited with an assisted tackle.
*The Giants had a lengthy list of players who were not in uniform or did not play in the game: running backs Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell; wide receivers Kadarius Toney and Darius Slayton; tight ends Ricky Seals-Jones and Andre Miller; offensive linemen Shane Lemieux, Jon Feliciano, Joshua Ezeudu, Jamil Douglas, Ben Bredeson and Garrett McGhin; defensive lineman Leonard Williams; outside linebackers Jihad Ward and Elerson Smith; cornerbacks Rodarius Williams and Cor'Dale Flott; and safety Dane Belton.
In addition, three players who count on the 85-man roster - wide receiver Sterling Shepard and offensive linemen Nick Gates and Matt Peart – remain on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.
*Barkley was the only healthy starter who did not play.
"I just thought it was probably best for the team," Daboll said. "He's had a really good camp. Gave him the night off, basically. I have a lot of confidence. He's taken a lot of reps. He's had some physical practices, so I wanted to see both Antonio and Corbin tonight running behind our first line, so to speak. So, the amount of plays if he would have been in there was only going to be a few anyways, so I made a decision to just hold him."
In Barkley's absence, first-year back Williams and Corbin, a rookie, split the rushing duties. Corbin had nine carries for 27 yards, including a two-yard touchdown, and caught four passes for 15 yards. Williams ran for 26 yards on five attempts and had seven receptions for 46 yards.
*The Giants and all NFL teams must reduce their rosters from 85 to 80 players by 4 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.