Giants outlast Panthers, 19-16, to home opener

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Daniel Jones finished Sunday’s game in victory formation.

The Giants beat the Carolina Panthers, 19-16, and improved to 2-0 for the first time since 2016.

Jones scrambled for 11 yards on 3rd and 6 from the Giants 40 yard line to ice the game up three. He made something out of nothing.

And he bounced back from a disappointing first half, once again getting support from a stingy Giants defense, to close out a win.

Graham Gano hit four field goals, including a 56-yarder for the winning points with 3:38 to play. And Julian Love’s third down sack of Baker Mayfield on the blitz forced Carolina to punt and never get the ball back.

Gano unforgettably beat the Giants with a 63-yard field goal at the buzzer as a Panther in Carolin in 2018. So it was nice to see him do it for the other side.

The Giants (2-0) host the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football in Week 3. They could be in first place in the NFC East entering that game. The Philadelphia Eagles still have to play on Monday in Minnesota.

Regardless, Brian Daboll’s team has two wins and that’s a great thing, even though Leonard Williams (knee) left this game with an injury and expensive wideout Kenny Golladay played only two snaps.

The Panthers took their first lead, 13-6, early in the third quarter on a three-play, 67-yard touchdown drive. Mayfield attacked rookie Giants corner Cor’Dale Flott for two completions to receiver D.J. Moore for 45 yards and a 16-yard TD on the drive.

But Jones and the Giants answered immediately with an 8-play, 75-yard TD drive of their own. Jones completed 4-of-5 passes for 58 yards on the drive, including a 16-yard TD to rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger.

His 15-yard, thread-the-needle strike to Richie James on 3rd and 9 from the Giants’ 26 jump-started the possession. Barkley made a solid block to buy the QB time. And Jones needed that completion badly.

He had failed to score a TD in the first half, threw a near interception late in the second quarter, and went three-and-out to open the third quarter.

The Giants’ defense mostly stiffened thereafter, with D coordinator Don Martindale benching Flott for veteran Fabian Moreau. Gano hit field goals of 51 and 56 yards in the fourth quarter, the latter with 3:34 remaining to go up 19-16.

That answered an Eddie Pineiro 38-yard field goal that had tied the game at 16 apiece with 10:46 to play.

Moreau got beaten by Panthers receiver Shi Smith on what could have been a long touchdown on an earlier drive that fell incomplete. But Moreau made a touchdown saving tackle on Christian McCaffrey after a 49-yard sprint by Carolina’s back to force that field goal.

For the second straight week, the Giants were in a close game in the fourth quarter

The fans booed the Giants as they trotted off the field tied, 6-6, at the end of the first half. They were reacting to a scary, near-turnover by Jones to conclude a half of squandered opportunities.

Jones threw what should have been a catastrophic interception into zone coverage that Panthers linebacker Frankie Luvu dropped with 26 seconds remaining. After a no-gain completion to David Sills on third and one, both teams just let the final 20 seconds run off.

The Giants should have had more first-half points. Their special teams and defense had forced two Panthers fumbles in the opening five minutes of the first quarter.

Rookie Dane Belton recovered Chuba Hubbard’s opening kickoff fumble, forced by linebacker Carter Coughlin, on the Panthers’ 22-yard line. And Adoree Jackson recovered Robbie Anderson’s fumble, forced by Darnay Holmes, at Carolina’s 40.

But the Giants only managed two Gano field goals off that field position. And Carolina answered with two Pineiro field goals to knot the game going into half.

Barkley’s Week 1 production and Daboll’s aggressiveness to beat the Tennessee Titans had injected hope into a season with low expectations – particularly on offense.

But Jones’ late red zone interception in Nashville had left a bad taste, and Daboll yelling at his QB after it had indicated the coach has low tolerance for mistakes.

The Giants had been shut out in the first half in Tennessee and now scored only six in their home opener. So the home crowd was understandably restless, eager for something to cheer for on offense in the second half.