Joe Judge knows his team needs to play better in order to earn the respect of Giants fans, who returned to MetLife Stadium on Sunday. Ultimately, Big Blue didn't give them enough to cheer about in Week 1. The Giants fell to the Broncos, 27-13, in an inter-conference matchup to start the season.
"We didn't earn the right to walk out with a victory tonight," Judge said. "We've got to play better, we have to coach better and put our players in positions to make more plays. I'd like to go ahead and thank the fans for coming out and obviously this was an atmosphere that we've been waiting for for some time. They were great today. We have to earn their cheers, they were very supportive, they were great, it was great energy in the stadium. We got to do something more as a team to make them want to go ahead and stay into the game longer than they can and give us their support. Well, that's something we have to earn."
IT WAS OVER WHEN
Fans not wearing Orange headed for the exits when Melvin Gordon III broke a 70-yard touchdown run to give the Broncos a 20-point lead with 4:37 remaining in the game. The Giants' previous two drives ended with a Daniel Jones fumble and a turnover on downs – both inside the red zone as they tried to fight their way back into the game.
"Turnovers are always going to hurt you at any point in the game and they're big plays," Jones said. "We've got to do a good job of taking care of the ball, and you've got to do a good job. But we'll keep moving forward and keep improving."
"Like Coach Judge said, these people pay their hard-earned money to come see winning football," said wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who had his 10th career 100-yard game. "I mean that's what this franchise is all about, is winning. That's what the history has been all about. So, it's been frustrating the past few years and I understand the frustration. I mean, we're not happy about it as well. So, we got to dig our cleats in the ground and we've got to give the fans what they want. And yeah, it's frustrating. I hate seeing them have to leave the game early. That's something that I honestly really noticed. I'm locked into the game, but you can't help but see people lined up in the tunnels and it's no fun seeing that."
The Giants preach the importance of situational football, but they came up short in that department on Sunday. In addition to the Broncos converting all three of their fourth-down attempts, the Giants gave up a lead-changing touchdown with eight seconds left before halftime. Denver also controlled the ball for more than 35 minutes.
"Extremely backbreaking," linebacker and captain Blake Martinez said. "I think we had a lot of chances. It came down to us just executing the play call, and we didn't do that. Obviously, they made us pay for it."
Check out the best photos from the Giants' season opener against the Denver Broncos.
Saquon Barkley woke up with no nervousness on Sunday despite it being the morning before he played in his first game since last September. Barkley suffered a season-ending knee injury nearly a year ago and was brought along methodically in his rehab. He cleared his final hurdle this weekend and returned to game action. He took a handoff for five yards on the Giants' first play from scrimmage and finished with 26 yards on 10 carries. He also caught one pass.
"I saw him go out at there tonight and obviously compete," Judge said. "Saw a lot of energy in the game, thought he was moving well. There's some opportunities that we thought we could create for him. They did a good job matching up and eliminating some things we have to execute better as an entire team. But in terms of the step forward for him for the first time on the field since last year, I was pleased with what I saw there."
WHAT THE LOSS MEANS FOR THE GIANTS
The Giants start in a 0-1 hole for the fifth consecutive season and 10th time in 11 years. The good and bad news is they have a quick turnaround to get on track. They travel to FedExField for a Thursday night matchup with the defending NFC East champion Washington Football Team, which dropped its season opener to the Los Angeles Chargers. Big Blue has won its past five games against Washington and is 12-4 in their past 16 meetings. The Giants have won their past three trips to FedExField.
"We've got to do a better job as a team eliminating the penalties and turnovers," Judge said. "That's a team focus right there, so this isn't about any one player. It's about a team improving and, look, good teams improve week to week. As I talked to the team, that's what our focus has to be, to be a better team in Week 2 and a better team in Week 3. It's a long season. We literally have an entire season ahead of us, okay. Any other year, it was 16 games, we have 16 games ahead of us that we have to improve week by week and keep climbing and make sure we're the best team we can be, all right. So, obviously the first week's an important game, every game is an important game. We got to make sure that we take the lessons we've learned from this game and move forward and make sure that we keep putting a better product out there."
WHAT THE WIN MEANS FOR THE BRONCOS
The Teddy Bridgewater era in Denver began with a victory. The veteran quarterback beat out Drew Lock this summer in a competition under offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, the Giants' former head coach before Judge, and will travel to Jacksonville in Week 2 to face Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence, the first overall pick.
"Obviously, the facts are the facts, we've had bad starts here the last two years record-wise," Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. "And to get off to a good start at 1-0 playing a good team on the road in a pretty good environment in favor of the home team, I think it speaks volumes about the team we have and what we possibly can do moving forward. But it definitely was big. That would have been the story all week. Now, you guys got to throw away those stories and write a new one."