The Giants know where they are in the standings, but wins are wins. And they still feel good.
For the first time since September – and just the second time this season – the Giants had something to celebrate in the locker room after a game. Rallying from a 10-point deficit midway through the third quarter, they got another game-winning drive from their franchise quarterback in a 27-23 primetime win on the road over the 49ers. It was the team's first game back from the bye week, which fell directly at the midway point in the schedule.
"The takeaways, it's a victory, it's the first win in our little eight-game season here," coach Pat Shurmur said. "And we'll put all of our energy into playing Tampa [in Week 11] when we get back from the flight. We didn't have any injuries to speak of, which is good. This is the first time I've ever really been around, we had all healthy scratches so we're healthy as you can be. We had some new players in there contributing that will be good as we move forward. So, I'm happy for our guys. It's always fun to win a game and like I told them, I said that the ones that you have to fight the hardest for are the ones that should feel the best. I know where we're at, but this feels good to win a game and hopefully we can build on this getting ready for Tampa."
IT WAS OVER WHEN: Quarterback Nick Mullens threw the ball over the head of wide receiver Kendrick Bourne and a group of Giants defenders in the end zone as time expired, squashing the last chance for the 49ers, who had the ball at the Giants 21 with one second left on the clock. San Francisco was called for holding on the last play – which was a moot point – but Mullens initially thought the flag was for a personal foul on the defense.
"I actually was [expecting a penalty on the Giants]," said Mullens, who made his second NFL start. "We didn't get what I thought was going to be called, so people are probably wondering what I was talking about. But I didn't get what I thought was called. So, we lost the game."
THE GAME-WINNING DRIVE: Eli Manning, making his 235th overall start, rallied the Giants from a fourth-quarter deficit or tie to win the for the 41st time in his career, including postseason. After Robbie Gould's 30-yard field goal gave the 49ers a 23-20 lead, Manning and the offense took over at their own 25 with 2:46 remaining. A 31-yard completion to tight end Evan Engram moved the ball into 49ers territory, but then a host of penalties – two apiece for Big Blue and San Francisco in a five-play span – netted a first down at the 35. After an incompletion to Engram, rookie running back Saquon Barkley broke a short pass for 23 yards down to the 12. Another nine-yard hookup to Engram set up the game-winner, a three-yard touchdown to Sterling Shepard with 53 seconds left.
"It means a lot, and that's kind of what I told the guys this week," Manning said. "I said, 'We've worked too hard not to be rewarded with wins.' We've kind of stayed true to the course, though, and each week prepare hard, practice well, play hard in games and we just weren't able to get some of the outcomes or make some of the plays we needed to to win. And, today we were able to do that. We scored some touchdowns early instead of settling for field goals, a couple on third-and-long, which is tough. So, that was great. That was big, and kept the game close. Defense did a good job getting us some turnovers and then, did a great job making them settle for a field goal at the end, giving us enough time. A touchdown wins a football game, and we were able to come back and make the plays that we needed to to win."
"It frustrates me when people go at [Manning]," Shepard said in defense of his quarterback. "I see that from the media, but you wouldn't want a better guy with the ball in his hands. You saw what he did on that last drive. When we need him, he's going to come through for us."
TIME FOR ELI: The Giants gave up 31 sacks in the first eight games, matching the total number of times Manning was brought down all of last season. On Monday night, he was sacked only once and not until the fourth quarter. It came on a night when the Giants started their ninth different offensive lineman of the season in right guard Jamon Brown, who had a key block in giving Manning enough time to bounce around and find an untouched Odell Beckham Jr. in the end zone for a first-quarter touchdown.
"I thought we did a good job," Shurmur said of the offensive line's performance. "We had Jamon Brown in there and he did a good job. I think there was still some bad plays in there, but for the most part, I thought they did a good job protecting Eli. We had the one sack. We did some things to sort of protect him and I thought those guys battled. We found a way to make some yards running the ball as well. So, I think probably as a unit, that's probably their best performance."
ALL THREE PHASES: The Giants got contributions up and down the entire roster. Corey Coleman had a 51-yard kickoff return, the longest by a Giants player since 2015. Linebacker B.J. Goodson had his first two career interceptions. Riley Dixon landed three punts inside the 20, and kicker Aldrick Rosas remained perfect on the road this season. Elijhaa Penny saw extensive action in the backfield and added 12 yards on two catches, his first with the Giants.
"The good news about that is that was a team victory," Shurmur said. "You saw contributions to the plus side in all three phases. You saw Corey got some nice returns. He's got a chance to take it the distance and we're glad to get him going. We set ourselves back with penalties there, but we had positive contributions from all three phases, kicking game included. On defense, we got turnovers. For the most part, did a good job of keeping them out of the end zone."
WHAT THE WIN MEANS FOR THE GIANTS: The Giants are 1-0 in their "eight-game season" and will look to stay "undefeated" with an upcoming home game against the 3-6 Buccaneers. In a season that has seen starters released, traded, and signed while the front office keeps an eye on the future, players and coaches can only stay present.
"We are working on seven more games," Beckham said. "We are working on Tampa. We'll see what happens after that. I don't know about salvaging. I wasn't joking when I said we have to win eight games. That's obviously the goal. I don't come here to line up and lose. We come here to win these games."
WHAT THE LOSS MEANS FOR THE 49ERS: After losing franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a torn ACL, Mullens is the third quarterback to start for San Francisco this season. He had one of the best debuts for a quarterback in league history a week before in a victory over the Raiders, but now the 49ers head into their bye week with a 2-8 record.
"I mean, right now, I'm thinking all about this game," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "The assessment of the season so far is -- I would be much happier with a better record. I know a lot of things have happened. I expected to win this game. We expected to win this game. Right now, I'm disappointed we didn't and we'll figure out how to get our guys better. Hopefully getting some rest will help the guys and we'll have a good week of practice next week and come back and get ready for the second half of the season."