Sports

Every Giants concern resurfaces in brutal Week 1 loss to Broncos

Say hello to the new Giants. Same as the old Giants.

The only difference from one year to the next was a glaring one.

There were no fans in 2020 to serve as eyewitnesses to all the crummy football the Giants put on the field at MetLife Stadium. There were fans in the seats Sunday, and so many of them, after having their enthusiasm for a new season blunted by so much lousy play from the home team, headed for the exits midway through the fourth quarter.

The trickle became a surge when Melvin Gordon raced through the semblance of a Giants defense on a 70-yard touchdown run and the parking lots were more populated than the seats as time expired on a desultory 27-13 loss to the Broncos that was even worse than that. Daniel Jones scored on a 4-yard run as time expired, for what that was worth, which is nothing at all.

“If the game’s out of control, beat traffic,’’ advised safety Logan Ryan.

Daniel Jones fumbles the ball during the Giants’ loss to the Broncos on Sunday.
Charles Wenzelberg/Gist Vile

“I hate seeing them have to leave the game early,’’ receiver Sterling Shepard, the Giants’ longest-tenured player, said. “You can’t help but see people lined up in the tunnels and it’s no fun seeing that.’’

Every concern the Giants carried into this season came bubbling to the surface. A lackluster offense, even with upgraded weapons. A defense that lacked an edge rusher to get off the field. The return of Saquon Barkley was no antidote. There was another example of sloppy ball security from Daniel Jones and a rare mental gaffe from head coach Joe Judge.

The Giants led 7-3 on Jones’ 37-yard touchdown catch-and-run to Shepard, but by halftime they were down 10-7 on the way to 17-7 after a 16-play Broncos drive to start the third quarter. A 20-yard pass to Shepard and Barkley moving the pile to pick up a first down created a glimmer of hope, but that was crushed when Jones scrambled to the Denver 15-yard line, had the ball punched out by linebacker Alexander Johnson and recovered by Malik Reed, Jones’ 40th career turnover.

“It’s certainly something I’ve got to improve on and I’ll learn from and keep moving forward,’’ Jones said.

That did not trigger the mass exodus, but it was not far off.

Giants
Sterling Shepard breaks free for a Giants’ touchdown on Sunday.
Charles Wenzelberg/Gist Vile

“Look, we got to earn our fans respect, point blank,’’ Judge said. “These people come out here and spend their hard-earned money, they sit in the seats, cheer for us, they give us energy. We have to give them something to cheer about. It’s not their job to show up and cheer just to cheer. Their job is to be entertained. They buy a ticket, that means they buy the right to cheer, boo, stay, leave, whatever they want to do. We got to give them something to stay for. We have to give them something to cheer for.’’

This is the fifth consecutive year the Giants lost their opener and the ninth time in the past 10 years that they sit at 0-1 after one game. The Giants do not have much time to dissect this stinker, as they head to Washington for a Thursday night game, trying to avoid going 0-2 for the fifth straight season.

The Giants had seven points, 111 total yards and 8 rushing yards in the first half and anyone hoping for some new stuff from offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was thoroughly disappointed.

On defense, the Giants made Teddy Bridgewater look like an MVP candidate. The Broncos converted 7 of 15 on third down and all three of their fourth-down attempts. Spanning the two halves, the Broncos ran 31 plays to the Giants’ four plays.

“Extremely backbreaking,” linebacker Blake Martinez said. “We had a lot of chances. It came down to us just executing the play call, and we didn’t do that. Obviously, they made us pay for it.’’

Barkley made a return from reconstructive knee surgery and had 10 rushing attempts for 26 yards, plus one reception for 1 yard. He will, no doubt, get better with time. No one knows if these Giants will be able to do that.

The Broncos got the ball to start the second half and kept it for 8:12. From the 4-yard line, Bridgewater was flushed out of the pocket and should have been dropped by Xavier McKinney. Instead, Bridgewater found Albert Okwuegbunam, who eluded a tackle attempt by Martinez for the touchdown to make it 17-7.

Judge threw the red challenge flag, wanting to know if Okwuegbunam stepped out of bounds before reaching the end zone. All scoring plays are automatically reviewed, though, and the Judge was not allowed to challenge the call, costing the Giants a timeout.

“That’s completely on me,’’ Judge said. “I know you can’t challenge a scoring play. That was a little bit more emotional, I was looking for feedback from the officials. I had to do something to draw their attention, I couldn’t get them to turn around so I threw the flag.’’

Consider it another thing the Giants did not get right in their opener.

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