Tennessee Titans kicker Randy Bullock pulled his 47-yard game-winning field goal attempt wide left and for the first time in six years, the New York Giants are winners in Week 1 of the NFL regular season.
And for the first time in what feels like forever, it seems as though there’s a spark within Big Blue.
The Giants used a furious second-half rally to defeat the Titans 21-20 on Sunday evening in Nashville as Saquon Barkley — who carried New York’s offense for most of the afternoon — converted the game-winning two-point conversion off a gutsy play call by first-year head coach Brian Daboll, who was making his Giants debut.
“Go for the win,” Daboll, who had his mind made up at the beginning of the drive, said. “We’re going to be aggressive.”
Trailing 20-13 after overturning a 13-0 deficit, the Giants drew within one point with 1:06 remaining in regulation when quarterback Daniel Jones hit fullback Chris Myarick for a one-yard score. But rather than play it safe and play for the tie, especially after missing an extra point earlier in the day, Daboll opted to go for the win — and after a quick drop back to fake the pass, Jones underhanded a pass to Barkley, who broke a face-masking penalty of a tackle attempt and bowled his way into the end zone.
It was a just reward for the Giants’ running back, who put together a brilliant showing to remind the football world of just how explosive he is when fully healthy with 164 rushing yards on just 18 carries (9.1 yards per rush) and a touchdown.
His first score of the year came on a four-yard rush to put the Giants on the board with 11:16 remaining in the third quarter to make it a 13-6 game, coming moments after he broke open a 68-yard rush down the left sideline to get a seemingly stagnant offense moving.
Graham Gano’s aborted extra point kept the Giants’ advantage at seven, but it would not stay that large for long. Just 2:28 later after forcing a quick Titans punt, Jones hit Sterling Shepard for a 65-yard touchdown to tie it.
The Giants quarterback put together a solid showing in what is expected to be the first part of a 17-game tryout for the organization’s new leadership group. Jones completed 17-of-21 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns, but he found himself on the hook down the stretch after turnover issues reared their heads back into the fold.
The Titans took a 20-13 lead on the ensuing drive following Shepard’s long touchdown when Ryan Tannehill found Dontrell Hilliard for a 23-yard score, but provided life for the Giants when Kyle Phillips muffed a punt at the Tennessee 11-yard-line to put Jones at the doorstep with 10:38 to go in the game.
Instead, Jones was picked off in the end zone while looking for Barkley by safety Amani Hooker in what looked like a golden chance wasted.
But New York’s defense remained resolute as they had despite falling behind by two possessions early. They quickly forced another Titans punt to set up what ultimately became the Giants’ game-winning drive — a 12-play, 73-yard march. Thirty-three of those belonged to Barkley on what explosive run up the middle, taking the Giants from their 38-yard-line to the Titans’ 26.
With the lead in hand for the first time all game, the Giants defense nearly coughed it up with two costly holding penalties to aid a Titans drive that wound down to New York’s 29-yard-line, setting up Bullock for what would have been the game-winner for the hosts. Instead, his effort pulled wide left.