3 Giants Takeaways: Defense stands tall and Graham Gano shines

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New York Giants
New York Giants’ Daniel Bellinger, right, celebrates his touchdown with Richie James during the second half an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J.
AP Photo/John Munson

After two weeks, the New York Giants are 2-0 with wins over the Tennessee Titans and now the Carolina Panthers. It came down to the defense and kicking game in Sunday’s 19-16 home opener win over the Panthers, with Graham Gano sending a 56-yard field goal through the uprights in what ended up being the winning play. 

New York’s offense took strides in the right direction, but still has plenty to improve with a Monday night showdown with the Dallas Cowboys looming. Wink Martindale’s defense has proven that it can bend but not break and get the big stops when needed. 

The Giants are still facing questions about their receiving core and have been without their top two edge rushers, but after Week 2 New York finds itself in a pretty good spot. Here at three takeaways from the victory over Carolina. 

Giants smothering defense

New York’s defense has survived two weeks without Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari on the field, as well as No. 2 corner Aaron Robinson while holding off two offenses that can put the hurt on teams. The Giants have held teams to 18 points per game so far this season, which has them in the top 10 of the league and they could move higher since Buffalo and Minnesota still needed to play on Monday.

Martindale has not been afraid of being aggressive on the defensive side of the ball and sending the blitz. The Giants got to Baker Mayfield twice on Sunday which included a huge sack by Julian Love late in the fourth quarter that stifled the Panthers’ last chance to try to tie or take back the lead. 

“He did a great job of just seeing it,” safety Xavier McKinney said about the Love sack. “He was open and he made the play. I was happy for him. We were all happy for him, but we were happy we got off the field and he was the one to get it done for us.”

One thing of note through camp and into this season has been the Giants’ decisiveness to not be afraid. Head coach Brian Daboll has preached that and it was evident when the Giants went for two late in the game in Week 1. 

They did it again in Week 2 with the aggressive nature of their defense. That included New York’s ability keep Carolina to a 16.7% (2-12) third down efficiency. 

“They tackled well. We didn’t get hit over the top of their head,” Daboll said. “I thought they did a good job. They stuck together. Again, it was a good team win. These games are going to be like this most of the time in this league, and I thought our guys showed grit and toughness and heart.”

New York Giants
New York Giants’ Julian Love, left, sacks Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J.

Keep your eyes on Richie James

For the second consecutive week, Richie James found himself as one of the top targets for quarterback Daniel Jones. The relatively unknown going into this season was the second most targeted receiver with five catches on six targets, but finished the afternoon with 51 receiving yards and an average of 10.2 yards per reception. 

James was also on the field for 42% (31) of the snaps on Sunday, which was down from Week 1 but still a significant amount considering Kenny Golladay was on for just two snaps and Kadarius Toney was on the field for 28 snaps. 

“Guys are stepping up in some big-time situations and making those plays. I think we got guys across the board who bring a lot of different things, a lot of different skill sets and we are trying to bring the best out of everybody,” Jones said. 

Giants battling through adversity

The Giants have had to battle for wins in two straight weeks and for a young team still coming together those are huge building blocks. New York battled back from a 13-0 hole in the first week and then rallied in the third after Carolina quickly took the lead in the third quarter on Sunday. 

The Giants had gone three and out in which Carolina responded by scoring the game’s first touchdown in three plays to take a 13-13 lead. Jones pulled his team together and marched his team down the field on the next possession to answer right back. The Giants won’t want to win every game in this fashion, but learning to win in tough spots is surely a valuable lesson early in the season. 

Giants Week 2 MVP: Graham Gano

The honor without question goes to Graham Gano for his incredible effort to help lead the Giants to the win. He was a perfect 4-for-4 on Field goal tries, including the 56-yarder that ended up being the game-winner. 

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