On Sunday for a Week 2 matchup against the Cardinals in Arizona, New York Giants rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt was keen on proving that his NFL debut against the Dallas Cowboys was an anomaly. In an embarrassing 40-0 loss, he had zero catches and a drop on a night in which quarterback Daniel Jones was sacked seven times and had no time to look downfield toward him.
“Last week, I didn’t do what I wanted to do personally. I had a drop,” the third-round pick out of Tennessee said. “Just the effort and everything I did in that game just wasn’t there. With a new week, when I came into this game I knew I had to change everything. My whole week of preparation was different. I actually was watching film 24/7, seeing who we were playing.”
But after the first 30 minutes down in Glendale, AZ, the Giants were mired in the same alarming rut as they found themselves in on opening night. They trailed the Cardinals 20-0, shutout for six consecutive quarters to start the season and Jones once again was shut down, having gone 9-of-16 passing for 62 yards.
In the locker room at the break, though, their plan to find a spark was simple: Go long for Hyatt.
“We came in here and drew some plays up and they were like, ‘We’re going to hit you on this post,’ ” Hyatt said. “I told [Jones] right before we broke out of the huddle, ‘Throw it. Just throw it.’”
On the very first play from scrimmage in the second half, Jones just threw it — and Hyatt showed just how dangerous of a weapon he could be. He burned two defenders down the middle of the field and reeled in his first career NFL catch for 58 yards to finally give the Giants a sign of life in 2023.
“I think it was important,” Jones said. “Big-time play by Jalin there to make it and it gave us some confidence and momentum going forward.”
“I think that changed the whole outcome of the game — that one play,” Hyatt said.
Two plays later, Jones scrambled from 14 yards out into the end zone for the Giants’ first points and the start of their largest comeback in 74 years in what already feels like a season-saving 31-28 victory.
“It was a huge spark at that point in the game,” Giants tight end Darren Waller added about Hyatt’s big play. “Playing in the National Football League, you don’t know when that spark may come. Of course, you want it to be earlier, but that was the opportunity for us in this game and we took advantage of it. That allowed us to build some momentum and sustain some drives because we were like, ‘OK, this is what we are used to, this is what we’ve been doing since April throughout this whole process.’ We know what we can do as an offense and it definitely gets you going.”
After the Cardinals responded with a touchdown to make it 28-7, the Giants reeled off 21 unanswered points to knot things up with Hyatt coming up big yet again on the game-tying drive.
On Arizona’s 49-yard-line with 6:52 left in the game and trailing by a touchdown, Hyatt out-leaped Cardinals cornerback Kei’Trel Clark on a deep shot down the left sideline for a 31 yard gain, bringing New York down to the 18-yard-line. Two minutes later, Jones found Isaiah Hodgins in the end zone to draw things level.
“A lot of people came up to me hitting my head — which I don’t like — but I love these guys,” Hyatt said of his second and final catch of the day, ending with 89 yards. “I love the leaders in the room. I’m best friends with all of them and it just shows how much trust they have in me. For me to go out there and make those plays, that’s just what I want to do for this team.”
And it’s just what the Giants need. Since the trade of Odell Beckham Jr., they’ve been starved of a legitimate playmaker on the outside to provide an imposing deep threat for Jones. The early returns suggest Hyatt can be that sort of guy.