Every September, fans of every team around the league approach the season with some level of optimism, as after all, every team starts with an identical 0-0 record. But every year, specifically, New York Giants fans are quick to predict that “this will be the year” the franchise changes direction and returns to the postseason.

If the Giants Week 1 showing against the Denver Broncos is any indicator, however, the Giants may be in for another long season in 2021.

The Broncos, now employing Teddy Bridgewater under center, could be a solid team this season, but going by last season, they finished 5-11. Apart from a Week 3 matchup with the Atlanta Falcons and a Week 7 game against the Carolina Panthers, this Week 1 opponent may have been one of the weaker teams the Giants face all season.

And the Giants could hardly put up a fight in their season opener at MetLife Stadium.

Recap

The game started slow as both teams traded punts an uninspiring drives in the first quarter. The Broncos struck first with a field goal in the second quarter, but the Giants responded with a seven-play drive ending with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Jones to Sterling Shepard. The stadium erupted as the Giants took a 7-3 lead in their first home game in front of fans in 623 days.

On the Broncos ensuing possession, Bridgewater and the Broncos offense marched the ball down the field, covering 71 yards on eight plays, but Albert Okwuegbunam fumbled the ball at the Giants 10-yard line and it was recovered by cornerback Logan Ryan. Excitement ran high once again for the reported crowd of over 74,000, but it would be the downhill for Giants fans for the rest of the afternoon.

Denver struck again right before halftime, moving the ball 57 yards in just over two minutes and scoring on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Bridgewater to Tim Patrick.

The Broncos got the ball back to start the second half, methodically driving 75 yards over 16 plays and over eight minutes. This set up another short touchdown pass, this time to Albert Okwuegbunam from four yards out to put the Broncos up 17-7 in the third quarter.

The Giants offense appeared to find some rhythm, threatening to respond as they picked up three first downs and moved the ball to the Broncos 22-yard line. But then Jones’ bugaboo, his knack for turning the ball over, reared its ugly head as the quarterback fumbled the ball away after scrambling for seven yards.

Denver’s next drive took the game into the fourth quarter, resulting in a 36-yard field goal from Brandon McManus. With 12:44 left to play, the Broncos took a 20-7 lead.

The Giants were down but not out, with enough time to theoretically score two touchdowns and hold off the Broncos offense. Desperately needing at least their first score, the offense drove 69 yards in 13 plays, aided by an unnecessary roughness penalty against the Broncos, some timely scrambles from Jones, and a 17-yard completion to newly acquired wide receiver Kenny Golladay.

New York had first-and-goal at Denver’s 7-yard line, but could only budge the ball one yard forward, using all four downs as Jones went 0-for-3 passing in this situation. With just 6:30 left in the game, the first significant wave of Giants fans headed for the exits at MetLife Stadium.

The remaining fans that held out hope were then crushed by a 70-yard Melvin Gordon touchdown run that put the Broncos up 27-7 with 4:37 left to play, expediting the mass exodus of Giants fans. The stands quickly emptied out, with mostly orange Broncos jerseys remaining visible in the stands.

The Giants were able to push forward to the Broncos 16-yard line before again turning the ball over on downs. On their final drive of the day, Jones was able to punch in a meaningless 4-yard touchdown run as time expired, and the Giants didn’t even bother attempting the extra point. Denver prevailed 27-13 in their first game with Bridgewater as their starting quarterback.

Statistics and Takeawys

Jones finished the day completing 22-of-37 passes (60%,) for 267 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He was also the Giants leading rusher, with 27 yards and a touchdown (as well as a fumble lost) on six carries.

In his first game returning to the field since tearing his ACL last season, Saquon Barkley had a pedestrian 26 yards on ten carries, with a measly 2.6 yards per carry and a longest run of 5 yards. He also caught one pass on three targets for a whopping 1 yard.

Seven of Jones’ 22 completions went to Sterling Shepard, who tallied 113 yards and a touchdown as a bright spot on the Giants offense. Darius Slayton had three catches for 65 yards, and Kenny Golladay hauled in four passes for 64 yards. Besides that, no other player had more than two catches. Rookie Kadarius Toney had a disappointing NFL debut, catching both passes thrown his way but finishing with -2 receiving yards.

All in all, it wasn’t a purtrid day for the offense, but there’s plenty of work to be done moving forward. The offensive line did a decent job keeping Jones upright (two sacks allowed,) but did absolutely nothing to support Barkley and the running game.

Defensively, there’s plenty of blame and opportunities for improvement to go around as well. The Giants defense allowed Bridgewater to go 28-for-36 for 264 yards and two touchdowns. New York also allowed 165 yards on the ground, and even if you took away Gordon’s 70-yard touchdown run on a Giants defensive breakdown, the Broncos still would have had 95 yards on 27 carries as a team.

Looking Forward

The Giants have a short week, traveling to play Washington Football Team on Thursday Night Football in Week 2. New York may catch a break, however, as Washington’s starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will miss the game and a few more afterwards with a hip injury. Taylor Heinicke wasn’t bad in relief of Fitzpatrick against the Los Angeles Chargers, but still, a team down a starting quarterback can be a vulnerable one. Washington’s defense is immensely talented though, so this will be anything but an easy game for the Giants.

NFC East Standings

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0)
  2. Washington Football Team, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants (0-1)

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