It was only fitting to see a last-minute, game-winning drive on the day Eli Manning was inducted into the New York Giants’ Ring of Honor.
The problem was that it was the Atlanta Falcons who, all-too-familiarly, was the latest team to dice through the Giants defense to provide another heartbreaking and embarrassing loss. Younghoe Koo’s 40-yard winning field goal as time expired relegated the Giants to a 17-14 loss and an 0-3 record to start the 2021 season.
New York held a 14-7 lead with just under 13 minutes remaining after Saquon Barkley capped off a 10-play, 71-yard drive with his first touchdown since December of 2019 before a litany of missed opportunities and poor management derailed things yet again.
The Giants defense, which had been ever-so-solid for most of the day, gave it right back. The Falcons answered with a mammoth 15-play, 72-yard drive of their own to tie the game with 4:13 remaining as veteran quarterback Matt Ryan hit Lee Smith for a one-yard score.
It came just moments after Giants cornerback Adoree’ Jackson let an easy interception — and a potential game-clincher — in the end zone bounce off his hands from a Ryan attempt at the 6-yard-line before a third-down pass interference call on Logan Ryan in the end zone put the ball on the Giants’ 1-yard-line.
The writing for a miserable Week 3 was on the wall almost instantaneously on the fifth play of the game after veteran linebacker Blake Martinez, who led the team in tackles last season, went down with a knee injury after trying to tackle Cordarrelle Patterson on a screen. It forced him out for the rest of the day.
After stopping the Falcons on a 3rd-&-short to force a punt, the Giants drove down to the Falcons’ 8-yard-line; sparked by a 38-yard reception down the right sideline to CJ Board one day after the receiver was activated from the practice squad. But the Giants’ offense reverted to its timid ways inside the red zone, including a sack on second down in which replacement tackle Ben Bredeson whiffed on Falcons rusher Grady Jarrett, who took quarterback Daniel Jones down on the 19-yard-line. It forced the Giants to settle for a field goal to open the scoring with 6:58 to go in the opening quarter.
Injury woes continued later in the first quarter when Darius Slayton’s day came to an end due to a hamstring injury.
With their first possession of the second quarter, the Giants moved into the red zone again behind a pair of receptions from Kadarius Toney, including a dicing run after the catch to convert a 3rd-&-7 inside Falcons territory.
But after getting to the Atlanta 17-yard-line, Jones fumbled the snap and lost 11 yards to create a hole the offense couldn’t dig out of. It prompted Graham Gano’s second field goal of the afternoon to put the Giants up six.
It didn’t come without its problems, though, as Sterling Shepard hobbled to the locker room clutching his hamstring while Saquon Barkley spent the last four plays of that drive being looked at by trainers on the sideline. Shepard was ruled out for the rest of the day shortly after.
The lead evaporated with 1:33 to go in the first half — helped by a controversial unnecessary roughness call on Xavier McKinney to gift the Falcons 15 free yards — when Ryan hooked up with Olamide Zaccheaus for a four-yard touchdown to put Atlanta up by one at the break.
After a third quarter that featured nothing but punts, the Giants pulled ahead with Barkley’s touchdown. The Giants grew their lead to seven after a rumbling run from Jones to convert a two-point conversion put the Giants up seven with 12:53 to go.