EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ -- Not even the magic and nostalgia of Eli Manning Day could bring out the best in the New York Giants, who, despite outgaining the Atlanta Falcons in yardage (346 to 296) were unable to outgain the Falcons, who beat New York 17-14 at MetLife Stadium on a 40-yard field goal by kicker Younghoe Koo as time expired..
The Giants had a golden opportunity to take a 14-0 lead over the Falcons, but mistakes in the red zone by both sides of the ball doomed two promising first-half scoring drives and aided one successful Falcons scoring drive.
The first came on the Giants' opening drive when on 2nd-and-goal from the Falcons 8-yard line, Giants quarterback Daniel Jones was sacked by Grady Jarrett for an 11-yard loss, a play in which left guard Ben Bredeson appeared to be the one beaten off the snaps.
The Giants, faced with 3rd-and-goal from the Falcons 19-yard line, could only regain 12 of the 19 yards needed thanks to Jones's scramble. The Giants then settled for the first of Graham Gano's two field goals in the first half, this one from 25 yards out.
The Giants' second score, a 31-yard field goal by Gano, also was a drive dotted with mistakes, the most blatant being a poor snap between center Billy Price and quarterback Daniel Jones that moved the ball back from the 17-yard like to the 28.
Two plays later, fullback Eli Penny was called for a false start that turned a 3rd-and-17 into a 3rd and 22 and forced the Giants to settle for Gano's second field goal of the afternoon and the 6-0 lead instead of a 14-0 advantage.
The first-half mistakes weren't just limited to the Giants and the red zone.
Second-year safety Xavier McKinney was flagged for a personal foul when his helmet made contact with Falcons receiver Olamide Zaccheaus's helmet after catching a 14-yard reception on a 1st-and-10 from the Falcons' 29-yard line.
The yardage gained and the additional penalty yardage gave the Falcons a 1st-and-goal from the Giants 7-yard line. Three plays later, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan connected with Zaccheaus for the go-ahead 4-yard touchdown and the 7-6 halftime lead on the Giants' defense's third straight touchdown before the half in as many games this season.
Want more mistakes? The Giants, with 1:33 left before the half, had a chance to drive down the field, but tight end Evan Engram, making his 2021 debut after missing the first two weeks with a calf injury, fumbled the ball and the Falcons recovered.
There were other mistakes such as a fumble and a drop by Evan Engram, a penalty against Will Hernandez that wiped out a 20-yard Jones to Barkley pass in the third quarter, and a missed pass to a wide-open CJ Board after the Falcons pinned the Giants deep in their own territory late in the second quarter.
And in the second half, the Giants wasted two timeouts when they were unable to get their player correctly lined up, time outs they might have ben able to use at the end of the game to stop the clock.
The Giants finally got their first touchdown of the day when Saquon Barkley punched it into the end zone from 1-yard out, and quarterback Daniel Jones's rush converted the 2-point try to cap a 10-play, 71-yard drive at the top of the fourth quarter, going back on top 14-7.
However, the Giants' luck was short-lived as the Falcons cashed in more Giants mistakes, this time by the defense. Cornerback Adoree' Jackson failed to come up with an acrobatic interception in the end zone that would have snuffed out a Falcons scoring drive. Then on the next play, safety Logan Ryan was called for pass interference which gave the Flacons a fresh set of downs on the Giants' 1-yard line.
Atlanta then knotted the score on tight end Lee Smith's 1-yard reception from Matt Ryan to cap the 15-play, 72-yard drive spanning 8:40 in the fourth quarter.
Koo's game-wining field goal as time expired capped a seven-lay, 58-yard scoring drive to give the Falcons their first win of the season. Meanwhile the Giants, who fell to 0-3, are a team that is so badly stuck in a rut, unable to get out of its own way as another season depressingly appears headed down the drain.
The Injuries Also Piled Up
The Giants will be holding their breath over the next 24 hours after several key players on both sides of the ball had to leave with injuries.
The most concerning is that suffered by defensive co-captain Blake Martinez, announced as having a knee injury that appeared to happen on a non-contact play on the Falcons' opening drive.
Martinez had to be helped off the field but was able to walk to the Giants locker room on his own for further evaluation.
Martinez was declared out of the game not long after leaving the game.
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Also leaving the game with injuries were receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, both of whom had hamstring strains.
Slayton was declared out toward the end of the first quarter; Shepard, meanwhile, was seen limping off the field and to the locker room in the second quarter and was ruled out.
And despite being active for the game, receiver Kenny Golladay spent time on the stationary bike in between series, even going so far as to not be on the field for the Giants' final drive of the first half.
Eli Honored at Halftime
The Giants gave their fans something extra to cheer about this week when former quarterback Eli Manning had his No. 10 jersey officially retired by the only team he ever played for.
Manning, whose parents, wife and children were also on hand for the ceremony, was led tot he stage by his offensive linemen from 2007.
The quarterback threw his final two passes on the MetLife Stadium field in front of Giants fans fittingly, to receivers David Tyree and Mario Manningham, both of whom made historic catches in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI.
After having his jersey retired, Manning was officially inducted into the team's Ring of Honor, his plaque going alongside of defensive end Justin Tuck's. Manning was given the Giants' Ring of Honor jacket and thanked a loud and enthusiastic MetLife Stadium crowd for their support though the years.
Before he left the field for one last time, Manning capped a moving ceremony by saying, “Wellington Mara always used to say, 'Once a Giant, always a Giant.' I’m glad I’m only a Giant.”
Kenny Golladay, Evan Engram Active for the Giants
Quarterback Daniel Jones has started 29 games for the Giants, yet amazingly, he's only had his full lineup of play-makers available to him for just one complete game, that being Week 1 of the 2020 season.
Until today, that is. Despite some late-week injury concerns about receiver Kenny Golladay and a hip ailment that popped up despite the extra time off following the game against Washington, Golladay is active for the game.
But once again, Jones's having a full lineup of playmakers was short-lived when receiver Darius Slayton left the game in the first quarter with a left hamstring injury.
The last time before today that Jones had his entire group of playmakers available was in Week 2 last season, a game in which Saquon Barkley tore his ACL early in the second quarter and receiver Sterling Shepard suffered turf toe later that same quarter.
Devontae Booker a Surprise Scratch
This week, the only mild surprise for the Giants personnel-wise was the team's decision to laver running back Devontae Booker inactive.
Booker signed to a two-year $5.5 million contract in the off-season, which carries a $2.5 million cap hit this year, played 30 snaps in the Giants' Week 1 game against the Broncos, a game in which starter Saquon Barkley was active but limited snap count wise.
Last week against the Washington Football Team, Booker's snap count dipped to 16 carries as Barkley's workload increased further.
This week, the Giants opted to carry six receivers, including C.J. Board, who was added to the 53-man roster Saturday.
That move was likely a result of the Giants having some uncertainties about the health statuses of Kenny Golladay (hip) and Kadarius Toney (ankle), both of whom were on the injury report this week and were active for the game against the Falcons.
And speaking of Toney, with his ability to carry the ball out of the backfield, that also likely factored into the coaches' decision.
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