The New York Giants’ Daniel Jones became the 14th quarterback to make his first career start in a Giants uniform since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. The previous went a combined 7-6 before Sunday’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.
Jones certainly didn’t disappoint in his first career start. He led the Giants from an 18-point first half deficit to a 32-31 victory. He accounted for four Giants touchdowns, including the go-ahead score when he ran for seven yards on fourth down with 1:16 remaining in regulation.
“We had a chance there at the end of the game,” James said of the eight-play, 75-yard game winning drive. “We kinda struggled to move the ball there at points—just a great job, great job moving the ball down the field as a team. We got some guys open, and they made plays. So great job, love the fight and loved the grit of this win.”
Jones connected on 23 passes in 36 attempts for 336 yards and two touchdowns. He also had two rushing touchdowns. He showed what the Giants saw in him that compelled them to draft him with the sixth overall pick in April’s NFL Draft.
Giants co-owner Steve Tisch called Sunday’s game the beginning of a “new chapter”. Jones’ teammates were impressed with the rookie quarterback.
They marveled at the way he conducted himself in the huddle. Wide receiver Russell Shepard said there was a moment when the Giants were down 12-3 in the second quarter when Jones—who doesn’t usually swear—stepped into the huddle and yelled, “Let’s f****** score!”
“You can start to see—and as you get to appreciate him as a player—there’s plenty of things he needs to do better,” head coach Pat Shurmur said. “But as you get to—there’s certain things I knew about this kid when drafted him: he was tough, he was competitive, and in my opinion he’s a winner.
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“Now, the rest of it just pure quarterback stuff. And because of those first three things, that’s why he’s gonna have a chance moving forward.”
Jones rallied the Giants who down 28-10 at the intermission. He found tight end Evan Engram for a 75-yard touchdown on the opening possession of the second half. He also connected with rookie Darius Slayton late in the third quarter. A few plays later, he threw a perfect pass to Sterling Shepard in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. The score cut the lead to 28-25.
Jones’ career touchdown came on a 7-yard run early in the second quarter. It was a zone-read in which he kept the ball and simply outran the nearest the defender. Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians noted the main difference between Jones and Eli Manning is Jones’ ability to move the ball with his legs. Jones finished with 28 rushing yards.
The Giants scored more points against Tampa than in their first two games combined.
It wasn’t all rosy for Jones. Ball security continues to be an issue. He lost a fumble during mop up duty in the Week 1 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Jones lost a pair of fumbles against Tampa when he was sacked in the third and fourth quarters.
Still, the positives outweighed the negatives.
The Giants (1-2) won their first game of the season, topping 17 points for the first time this season. They scored more points against Tampa than they had in their first two games combined. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the Giants’ first victory when trailing by at least 18 points at the half since 1949.
Jones will start his first game at MetLife Stadium when the Giants face the Washington Redskins (0-3) on Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 PM EDT. The game will be televised on FOX.