FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Daniel Jones and the starting offense’s two drives were characteristically up and down in Thursday night’s Giants preseason opener against the New England Patriots, a 23-21 win.
Jones drove the Giants 68 yards in 13 plays on the game’s opening drive before a Kenny Golladay drop stalled the possession and forced a Graham Gano field goal.
Then Jones was under siege by the Patriots’ pass rush on his second and final drive with left tackle Andrew Thomas, Saquon Barkley and left guard Shane Lemieux (toe) pulled out.
“There’s gonna be good, there’s gonna be bad,” Barkley said. “We gotta watch film and learn from it… Something that just keeps taking my mind, the first drive, find a way to get more than three. That’s all of us. We gotta find a way to do that.”
The plan was for Jones and the starters to play about a quarter, and that’s what they got. He finished 6-of-10 for 69 yards passing, with six yards rushing and a sack.
“I thought we moved it well and executed well,” Jones said. “So that builds confidence, and we’ll clean up what we didn’t do well down there.”
Daboll said there were “some good and some things we could have had back” with Jones’ first-string offense.
“We threw a couple vertical plays there [and] had a couple free runners relative to the protection,” he said. “But I thought he operated the offense well. He got them down there on the first drive. We stalled there in the red zone. Good start but certainly things to clean up.”
Backup Tyrod Taylor played the second quarter and completed 13-of-21 passes for 129 yards and a seven-yard TD pass to wide receiver Richie James.
Wide receiver Collin Johnson was active with seven catches for 83 yards, a drop and a fumble.
On the game’s first drive, Jones completed 3-of-6 passes for 42 yards running Brian Daboll’s offense and converted a first down with his legs. He delivered a pair of 17-yard completions to Darius Slayton and Johnson.
The bubble screen to Slayton, with Kenny Golladay and big rookie right tackle Evan Neal out in front blocking, was a creative call by offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and good execution by the players.
Saquon Barkley touched the ball five times in 12 offensive plays, highlighted by an 8-yard catch on third-and-five to keep the drive alive.
“I felt pretty good,” Barkley said. “I thought the O-line did a great job. We were able to move the ball. I was able to get a catch on 3rd and 5 to keep the sticks moving. Great ball by DJ, great read by DJ.”
But he gained only 12 yards rushing on four carries. And the drive ended with Kenny Golladay dropping a Jones pass on 3rd and 6 from the New England 7-yard line. Jones took a shot to the back from free blitzer Anfernee Jennings, a Patriots linebacker, immediately after he threw.
So Graham Gano booted a 25-yard field goal for the early 3-0 lead.
After a quick stop by the defense, though, the second drive was a struggle with Devery Hamilton at left tackle and rookie Josh Ezeudu at left guard.
Thomas, who is returning from offseason ankle surgery, seemingly had his snaps limited as part of the plan. Lemieux was pulled due to an injury on the first drive.
Ezeudu, Neal, Hamilton and tight end Chris Myarick all missed blocks on Jones’ second drive.
So after another Jones-to-Johnson first down, he was sacked by Josh Uche on first down, smashed by Raekwon McMillan driving a Giant into his lap on second down, and flushed from his left for an incompletion on third down before a punt.
Patriots QB Brian Hoyer, who started the game, then responded with an eight-play, 55-yard touchdown drive, picking on Giants corner Aaron Robinson all the way down the field.
He completed a 33-yard pass on Robinson to Kristian Wilkerson. Robinson was called for taunting after breaking up a pass in the end zone. Then he was flagged for holding on Hoyer’s 2-yard TD pass to Tyquan Thornton.
Johnson, a standout at receiver during Giants’ camp, then fumbled the ball away to New England on Taylor’s first drive replacing Jones.
Third-string QB Davis Webb mopped up in the second half. Running back Antonio Williams punched in a two-yard TD run on Webb’s first drive.
Linebacker Austin Calitro intercepted Patriots rookie QB Bailey Zappe, setting up a Graham Gano 40-yard field goal for a 20-14 lead.
But Zappe’s 20-yard TD pass to WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey with 4:51 to play gave the Patriots the lead again. Zappe fired quickly up the seam over the man coverage of corner Zyon Gilbert.
But Sandro Platzgummer carried three times for 21 yards during the final drive to set up Gano’s 24-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.
The Giants’ Lemieux, backup right guard Jamil Douglas (ankle) and rookie corner Cor’Dale Flott (groin) all left the game with injuries.
Jones and safety Xavier McKinney were the Giants’ captains for the game.
TONEY MISSES OPENER
Wide receiver Kadarius Toney, defensive lineman Leonard Williams, middle linebacker Blake Martinez, defensive tackle Justin Ellis and running back Matt Breida were among the injured or resting players that didn’t make the trip.
“Everybody that was injured or working rehabbing, whatever it may be, that weren’t able to play, they were going to stay home and rehab with the trainers,” Daboll said when asked about Toney.
Daboll said only “I hope so” when asked if Toney will be on the field next week.
“I’m just not going to get into the specifics of it really with anybody. He is working back,” he said.
Martinez is working his way back from a torn ACL. Williams had missed Tuesday’s practice with an undisclosed issue. Breida has missed a couple recent practices, too. Ellis’ situation isn’t clear.
Toney, coming off an offseason knee procedure, has had a reduced workload in four of the Giants’ 11 practices so far. He also appeared to possibly tweak something during Tuesday’s jog-thru in New Jersey.
Wideouts Austin Proehl and David Sills, tight ends Andre Miller and Ricky Seals-Jones, corner Rodarius Williams, safety Dane Belton and linebacker Carter Coughlin also didn’t make the trip.
Wideout Sterling Shepard and O-linemen Nick Gates and Matt Peart remain on injured reserve. And edge Azeez Ojulari is on the non-football injury list.
JUDGE SHOWS CLASS, CALLS SOME PLAYS
Former Giants head coach Joe Judge, now a Patriots’ offensive assistant/quarterbacks, appeared to alternate play-calling duties for New England’s offense with Matt Patricia, a senior football advisor/offensive line.
Patricia called the plays early with Hoyer in the game, and then Judge called some plays for rookie Bailey Zappe.
Judge exchanged handshakes and hugs with some Giants players and front office members on the field pregame.
Not many players were on the field yet, but linebacker Cam Brown and long-snapper Casey Kreiter both greeted Judge warmly. Director of personnel Tim McDonnell, senior VP Kevin Abrams and special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey also said hello.
Jones and Barkley then were among the myriad players who approached Judge for a hug after the game.
Daboll, meanwhile, was greeted by Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick prior to his first NFL game as a head coach against the franchise that jump-started his career.