Once again, the New York Giants felt good about their opening-drive touchdown. Then the rest of the game happened.
In front of their MetLife Stadium fans for the first time in 2019, the Giants ran right at the visiting Buffalo Bills, who boasted the No. 2 defense a year ago and showed no signs of slowing down in Week 1. The Giants rushed five straight times for six, 20, 14, eight and then 27 yards into the end zone by Saquon Barkley.
That’s how you set the tone in the home opener. Or so they thought.
The Giants didn’t score again until 11:56 remaining in the fourth quarter as they fell, 28-14, to the AFC East foe. A week ago, tight end Evan Engram caught a touchdown on the first drive of the season only to see it spoiled by a loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
So why wasn’t it sustainable again this week?
“That’s a great question,” Eli Manning said. “On that drive, we had great first and second down production. We ran the ball well, obviously. After that, we just didn’t do as well on our first and second down stuff. We didn’t convert on third downs. We got into some third and longs. They did a good job of batting balls, just causing us to not get positive yards early in the downs. … They’re a good defense. They don’t give up many big plays. It was one of those, you have to take advantage of it when you have good field position and get into those scoring opportunities.”
“I don’t think you could ask for any better start for the first two games that we had, but it’s the NFL,” Barkley said. “They’re going to make plays, and the Bills made great adjustments. We adjusted off of that and I think we were able to create some drives later in the game. We’ve just got to find a way to finish on third down and finish in the red zone. We continue to start great, and as the season goes on, we’ve got to continue to have that in our back pocket, but we’ve just got to find a way to execute better and win games.”
IT WAS OVER WHEN: Josh Allen bought time with his legs and found John Brown for a 17-yard gain on third-and-six midway through the fourth quarter. With the drive extended into field goal range, Devin Singletary broke a 20-yard run on the next play, and Frank Gore eventually punched it in from a yard out to give Buffalo a 14-point lead with 5:53 to play. The 13-play, 75-yard drive was in response to the Giants cutting the deficit to one score on the previous possession.
“It all works hand in hand,” linebacker and defensive co-captain Alec Ogletree said. “If we don’t cover well, then the pass rush won’t get there. If we don’t rush well, then we can’t hold in coverage that long. It takes all 11 of us to get the job done. It’s not we need more out of ‘this.’ We need more out of everybody.”
THIRD DOWN AND OUT: While the Giants defense did a better job on third down in the second half, the aforementioned play was residue from the first 30 minutes. Buffalo converted four of six third downs in the first half (five of 13 for the game), which allowed the Bills to control the ball for over 18 minutes as they scored three unanswered touchdowns for a 21-7 halftime lead. The game remained within reach, but the damage had been done. The Giants offense went two of six in the first half and three of 12 for the entire game. Last week in Dallas, they were two of 11 on third down.
WR SITUATION IS WHAT IT IS: With Sterling Shepard ruled out of the game because of a concussion and Golden Tate on the second week of a four-game suspension, the Giants suffered another loss to the wide receiver corps. Cody Latimer, who was already questionable heading into Week 2 with a calf injury, was forced to exit with a concussion after he took a hit from Jordan Poyer on a key fourth-down conversion that helped bring the Giants to within seven points early in the fourth quarter. Scoring that touchdown was TJ Jones, who was let go on the final cutdown day and re-signed by the team this week. Jones, the Giants’ leading receiver in the preseason, also broke a 60-yard punt return just before halftime. It was spoiled by an interception by Bills defensive end Trent Murphy on a batted ball by rookie defensive tackle Ed Oliver, the ninth overall pick in the draft.
“We came into this, obviously, we weren’t quite sure that Cody was going to make it until late yesterday, I guess it was,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “Played much more 12 and 21 (personnel) than I normally would do. Our receiver situation, it just is what it is, and guys have to go out there and step up. Some guys did.”
WHAT THE LOSS MEANS FOR THE GIANTS: The team started 0-2 for the third consecutive year and will look for its first victory on the road next week in Tampa. The Giants have won six of their last seven meetings with the Buccaneers, who improved to 1-1 with a victory over the Panthers on Thursday night.
“It’s very disappointing to start 0-2, but we still get to live another day,” Barkley said. “The season’s not over, our chances at the playoffs aren’t over, but you can’t keep having that mindset. You’ve got to come in and attack it. We’ve definitely got to execute better. We’ve got to come to practice. We’ve got to practice at a high level. Everything we’re doing, just try to turn it up a notch just so we can take care of the rest of the games in the season.”
WHAT THE WIN MEANS FOR THE BILLS: Buffalo is 2-0 for the first time since 2014 and did so with back-to-back wins at MetLife Stadium. The Bills rallied from a 16-point deficit and scored 17 unanswered points for a road win over the Jets in Week 1.
“I’ve mentioned that to you guys and I thought what an opportunity, we thought, to come out and go two weeks in a row on the road,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “There’s not a lot of teams, to my knowledge, that get a chance to do that and I’ve been around the league a few years and this is my first time going through it opening up, I believe, on the road two consecutive weeks, in particular in the same spot. It just gave us a lot of time as a team to continue to bond and continue to get to know one another and just watching the guys hang out is fun for me, to watch them have fun with one another and joke around a little bit and spend some time, whether it’s on the plane, the bus, in the hotel, so there’s some good team bonding moments there.”