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Cover 4: What the win tells us about revamped Giants


On Victory Monday, the crew reacts to the wild 21-20 win over the Titans:

John Schmeelk: That's what it looks like when a player with elite talent takes over a game. The Giants had 394 yards of total offense and Saquon Barkley accounted for nearly half of them with 164 rushing and 30 receiving. Barkley made four of the Giants' 10 longest plays from scrimmage, including the longest (68 yards) and third-longest (33 yards). Barkley also had more than half of the Giants' second-half yards (135 yards out of 261 total yards).

Barkley turned what could have been mundane plays into special ones. On his 68-yard run, Amani Hooker had what looked like a good tackling angle, but Barkley turned on the burners and made what might have been a 15-yard gain into the biggest play of the afternoon for either team. Barkley's effectiveness also helped enable the play-action pass that led to the game-tying touchdown for Chris Myarick.

On the Giants' two-point conversion attempt, there were two Titans in the backfield, including linebacker Dylan Cole, who should have had Barkley dead to rights deep behind the line. Barkley used his quickness to scoot outside of the attemped tackle and into the end zone, making a play that wasn't there.

Barkley's offensive line also deserves credit for creating enough space for him to get his pads squared and upfield quickly. The Giants' running attack featured a lot of pulling linemen and plays where blockers were able to get to the second level of the defense. It looked markedly better than the past two seasons.

But without Barkley looking special, the improved blocking does not mean a whole lot. Barkley made the difference. Explosive plays and difference-making players (and plays) are necessary to win in the modern NFL, and Barkley checked both boxes. He looked like the guy from his rookie season and was the difference between a win and a loss.

Dan Salomone: A win is a win is a win. And the Giants, who started 1-0 for the first time since 2016, need all of them they can get. So when the opportunity presented itself on Sunday, Brian Daboll wasn't going to play for overtime in his first game as head coach. He signaled "two" after the Giants clawed back to within a point, and as we know now, it paid off. But Daboll knew it would have been a different story had it not worked. It didn't scare him in the slightest, even understanding that he will ultimately be judged by wins and losses.

"That's what you sign up for when you're a leader," Daboll said. "Being a leader is tough. It's not easy. There's going to be plenty of times that I fail, and I understand that. But I try to prepare the best I can along with the other coaches on the staff and that's what I want out of players, too. You've got to be able to take the good with the bad. And there'll be plenty bad. I understand that but I just have a lot of confidence in our players."

View photos from the Giants' Week 1 win over the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.

Lance Medow: A tale of two halves. Every second counts. It's not how you start; it's how you finish. All those clichés are very fitting to describe the Giants' Week 1 win over the Titans and they actually took a page out of Tennessee's playbook to help record the victory: relying on a heavy dose of the run game. New York averaged over seven yards per carry and had 12 runs for 5+ yards highlighted by six for 10 or more. On the flip side, just two of their 32 carries ended up as negative plays against a team that ranked second in the NFL in defending the run in 2021 and allowed the fewest 10+ runs is quite impressive.

The Giants' ability to pound the ball in the red zone is the most important aspect in this equation. They scored a pair of touchdowns in three red zone possessions. On the first of their two scores, Matt Breida and Saquon Barkley collected eight rushing yards in the red zone and on their second opportunity, which resulted in a touchdown, Jones and Barkley combined for 18 rushing yards on five carries inside the Tennessee 20. When you're able to run the ball effectively where you don't have the luxury to work with a large portion of the field, it makes a huge difference.

The fourth-quarter comeback doesn't happen without the defense forcing the Titans' into consecutive three-and-outs to start the third quarter. It helped set up the offense and kept the team within striking distance while remaining committed to the ground attack. Had the deficit been larger than 13, it's very possible they would have needed to abandon the run.

Matt Citak: There were several key areas to the victory, but none may have been more important than defending the run.

It was clear that slowing down Derrick Henry was the top priority and Wink Martindale's unit succeeded. Henry carried 21 times for 82 yards (3.9 avg.) and caught his only target. He also rushed for only one first down and was kept out of the end zone.

A stellar effort by a defense that was missing outside linebackers Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari. Jihad Ward saw significant playing time (88% of the snaps) in their place and did a tremendous job of setting the edge in the run game, finishing with six tackles (five solo). Starting inside linebacker Tae Crowder also did a strong job against the run with seven tackles (four solo). He was on the field for every defensive snap, and had one tackle of Henry in which he literally knocked the 6-foot-3, 247-pound running back off his feet.

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