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Thursday Night Football Preview: Fast start top of Giants' mind


TEMPE, Ariz. – Even as he celebrated the improbable comeback and thrilling finish to the Giants' victory against the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, Adoree' Jackson remained disturbed by the team's slow start.

"Always good to get a win, but don't like the fashion and how it happened," Jackson said. "Being down 20-0 and then being down 21 points, like I said, happy we won, but at the same time, it's not really much to be happy about other than we won the game. I don't like starting slow. I don't like being behind. The good thing is, you can see our resiliency, the type of guys that we have, backs against the wall, keep fighting. But honestly, just personally, I don't have to be happy about anything other than we got the win."

Jackson is on point discussing the Giants' unproductive first halves. The halftime deficits in their first two games were 26-0 to Dallas and 20-0 to Arizona. They never got off the mat against the Cowboys and lost, 40-0. But after falling behind by 21 points against the Cardinals late in the third quarter, they surged to a 31-28 triumph.

"We have to do better early on in games," coach Brian Daboll said.

The players are on board with that goal.

"We can't afford to start slow like that and miss opportunities early in the game," quarterback Daniel Jones said. "That'll be an emphasis of ours going forward. But we did show the fight and the resolve down the stretch, and we made a lot of those plays, and found a way to win. Definitely proud of how the team responded, but there's a lot to clean up, certainly, from that first half (of the Arizona game)."

"It's all about complementary football," outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux said. "As a team, we've been trying to work on that, and starting fast is everything, whether it's defense going out there getting a three-and-out or it's offense going out there and putting some points up."

Thursday night would be a good time to end their early-game blues. After just three days' rest, they will face the San Francisco 49ers, who are on everyone's short list of the NFL's best teams.

The Niners will certainly be greeted by a raucous crowd for their home opener in Levi's Stadium after thrashing the Steelers in Pittsburgh, 30-7, and edging the Rams, 30-23, in Los Angeles.

San Francisco is an imposing opponent. The Niners have won their last 12 regular-season games, easily the league's longest active streak (Atlanta is second with four). They have played in the last two NFC championship games. San Francisco's roster includes 11 players who have received All-Pro or Pro Bowl honors.

The 49ers' offensive standouts include Christian McCaffrey, whose 268 rushing yards through two weeks are 88 more than anyone else; four-time Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle; and wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. San Francisco is a perfect 9-0 when second-year quarterback Brock Purdy starts and finishes a game (including two postseason games). In Pittsburgh, he became the first quarterback in NFL history to win his first six career regular season starts and throw at least two touchdown passes in each of those games. Not bad for a player who was the 262nd and last pick in the 2022 draft.

"They have a really good offense," defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. "It starts with some of their skill players, McCaffrey and Deebo. They do a good job of playing in the backfield and being a wide receiver at the same time. They have a pretty good offensive line, (tackle) Trent Williams is a really good left tackle and I think Purdy's been doing a good job of stepping up as a quarterback. We've been describing him as like a point guard type of quarterback. He gets the ball out quick and knows where to go with it."

Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan expertly deploys his arsenal as one of the NFL's most creative play-callers.

"He's done this for a long time," Daboll said. "He has a ton of experience. He has, I'd say, a number of plays that he's run throughout his past and he's always evolving. That's what I appreciate about Kyle. He's a heck of a football coach. He creates, I'd say, a lot of issues, whether that's run force issues, whether that's making plays look exactly the same and setting things up. He's a timely play caller. He's an excellent coach."

The 49ers' defense is no bargain for opponents, either. End Joey Bosa was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2022 after leading the league with 18.5 sacks. Fred Warner has few peers at middle linebacker.

"(Bosa) was the defensive player of the year in the NFL for a reason," tackle Evan Neal said. "Just a really elusive pass rusher. Great technique, great bend, he has good strength, so it's definitely going to be a good test for me and I'm up for the challenge, I'm ecstatic."

Some defenses make it a point of pride to hold opposing running backs to less than 100 rushing yards. The 49ers have played 30 consecutive games without allowing a back to run for 70 yards. The last back to do it was Seattle's Travis Homer with 80 yards on Dec. 5, 2021.

"They've got a lot of good players on their team," Daboll said. "A team full of Pro Bowlers or All-Pros, whether it's McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, Aiyuk, Bosa, (defensive lineman Javon) Hargrave, Warner. I mean, the list goes on and on. I'd say their team is well constructed. (49ers General Manager) John Lynch has done a great job along with Kyle and there is a lot of challenges with this team in a number of areas."

The Giants will give themselves a better chance to succeed against them with a better first half than they've played thus far.

View rare photos of the history between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers.

*The Giants are 15-14-3 on Thursday, including 3-7 in Thursday night games since 2012 (2-6 on the road). They did not play a Thursday night game last season because they were in Dallas for a late afternoon Thanksgiving Day game.

*The Giants and 49ers have clashed in 42 regular-season and postseason games, with each side winning 21. Since the Giants' victory in San Francisco in the 2011 NFC Championship Game, the teams have alternated victories in their six meetings. They last faced each other on Sept. 27, 2020, when the 49ers won in MetLife Stadium, 36-9. The Giants are 1-1 in Levi's Stadium, where they won in their last visit to the Bay Area, 27-23, on Monday night, Nov. 12, 2018. How close is this series? In their 42 meetings, the victories are equal, and they are separated by only 22 points (49ers 874, Giants 852).

*The Niners are 41-30-2 in home openers, including 5-4 in Levi's Stadium.

View photos from the Giants' 31-28 comeback victory over the Cardinals in Glendale.