GLENDALE, Ariz. — New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones knew things had to change after the first half of Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. Just as they had in their 40-0 embarrassment against the Cowboys in the season opener, the Giants were held scoreless in the first half of their matchup with a Cardinals team favored to secure the No. 1 pick in the 2024 draft.

Trailing 20-0, things looked bleak. This was not the way Jones planned to validate the scrutinized four-year, $160 million contract the Giants gave him in the offseason. A loss to the lowly Cardinals would have led to an avalanche of criticism of Jones and his teammates.

Jones simply wouldn’t let that happen. Instead, he willed the Giants to four straight touchdowns to open the second half and then a field-goal drive to secure an improbable 31-28 win. It was the Giants’ biggest comeback win since they overcame a 21-point deficit in 1949.

“I thought he finished strong. Played a really good second half,” coach Brian Daboll said of Jones. “We had a couple of things we could have improved on in the first half, (and we) talked about those. But he is a resilient young man who went out there and played well.”

Jones’ second-half turnaround was remarkable. He completed 9-of-16 passes for 62 yards with no touchdowns and an interception, plus one rushing yard on one carry in the first half. After the break, he completed 17-of-21 passes for 259 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He added eight carries for 58 yards and a touchdown.

Everything the Giants did offensively ran through Jones. He made pinpoint passes from the pocket, including a 58-yard bomb to rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt on the first play of the second half to provide a spark. He later threw an 11-yard dart into a microscopic window to wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins for the tying touchdown with 4:25 remaining. Jones made the Cardinals pay for over-committing to running back Saquon Barkley on a zone-read, keeping the ball for a 14-yard touchdown to get the Giants on the board 1:17 into the second half.

Jones was at his most dangerous when plays broke down. After being robotic for two years under turnover-averse coach Joe Judge, Jones has discovered a play-making flair in the past two seasons under Daboll.

Jones rolled right to avoid pressure on the first play of a fourth-quarter possession before hitting wide receiver Darius Slayton for a 15-yard gain to get the Giants rolling on a touchdown drive that closed the gap to 28-21. And Jones made critical plays with his legs, most notably a 13-yard scramble on third-and-12 to extend the Giants’ second-touchdown drive of the second half and a 15-yard scamper to jump-start the tying drive.

“When people say they played with a special quarterback or a really great quarterback, that’s how it feels to me,” Slayton said. “He was just born that way. Some people just got it, and some people don’t. And he’s got it.”

Jones needs to play at that level more consistently to reach “special” status. But he now has five fourth-quarter comebacks in the past two seasons after having just two in his first three seasons. Though plenty of Jones skeptics remain, the locker room is full of believers.

“You see him on the sideline when things aren’t going that great and when things are going great — same demeanor,” tight end Darren Waller said. “That’s how you know we have a team that can respond like that, because the guy that’s leading the charge carries himself that way.”

Here are more takeaways from the dramatic victory:

A shift in responsibilities?

Daboll adamantly denied that he took over the play-calling from offensive coordinator Mike Kafka in the second half despite him being shown speaking with the play sheet covering his mouth repeatedly on the FOX broadcast.

“We always communicate like that,” Daboll said. “I always have a sheet with me. But Mike did a fantastic job.”

The play calling didn’t seem to change drastically in the second half — the execution did. But if Daboll did take over play-calling duties, it would show an understanding of how dire things were for the Giants.

It’s not dramatic to say the season was on the line. If the Giants dropped to 0-2 with a loss to the Cardinals, it would be hard to see a path to recover. They have a brutal stretch upcoming, leading off with a quick turnaround for Thursday’s game at the 2-0 49ers.


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Daboll didn’t hesitate to make lineup changes after the offensive line’s putrid performance in the season opener. Veteran right guard Mark Glowinski was benched in favor of 2022 fifth-round pick Marcus McKethan, who had never played a snap on offense in his brief career.

Left tackle Andrew Thomas was held out due to the hamstring strain he suffered in the opener. He was replaced by 2022 third-round pick Josh Ezeudu, who had only played 14 snaps at left tackle in his career.

The inexperienced offensive line — Ezeudu and McKethan were joined by 2022 first-round pick Evan Neal at right tackle, 2023 second-round pick John Michael Schmitz at center and fourth-year veteran Ben Bredeson at left guard — held up reasonably well. The unit was delivered another blow when Bredeson suffered a concussion early in the third quarter. He was replaced by Glowinski, who hadn’t played left guard since the 2017 season.

“I’m proud of the way they competed for 60 minutes all the way to the end,” Daboll said.

Barkley’s roller-coaster day

For the second consecutive game, a pass went through his hands and was intercepted. That second-quarter blunder set up a field goal that gave the Cardinals a 20-0 lead.

Barkley powered in for a 1-yard touchdown on third-and-goal in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 28-14 and then made a tremendous effort to score a 9-yard touchdown on third-and-goal on the Giants’ next possession. Barkley caught a pass from Jones in the flat at the 6-yard line and then dove from the 3-yard line, extending the ball and reaching the pylon to pull the Giants within one touchdown.

Barkley also tallied a remarkable 16-yard run on the Giants’ final drive, spinning away from traffic and then breaking tackles as he bounced to the perimeter. But his day came to a premature end two plays later when his right ankle got rolled up in a pile on a run up the middle.

Barkley barely put any weight on his right leg as he was helped off the field by trainers and then slammed his helmet in frustration after being examined on the sideline. His right ankle was heavily taped on the bench, and he limped to the locker room after the game. He received an X-ray immediately after the game and then sat dejectedly at his locker as teammates recounted the thrilling victory.

The severity of the injury won’t be known until Barkley undergoes an MRI on Monday, although it seems safe to assume he won’t be ready for Thursday night against the 49ers. The injury is a tough blow as he makes a push for a long-term contract while playing on the franchise tag.

Defensive worries

The performance of the Giants’ defense was alarming in the first half. The defense mostly flew under the radar in the opener because the offense was such a disaster, but the Giants allowed the Cardinals to march down the field without resistance in the first half.

A Cardinals offense led by career backup quarterback Josh Dobbs, who was acquired in a trade less than four weeks ago, didn’t punt until the fourth quarter. Dobbs completed 12-of-16 passes for 146 yards in the first half, picking the Giants apart with crossing routes off of play-action.

Meanwhile, James Conner shredded the Giants’ supposed upgraded run defense. Conner repeatedly ran over Giants defenders on his 23 carries, which produced 106 yards and a touchdown.

The lowest moment of the first half came on a Dobbs scramble from the 23-yard line on the first play of the second quarter. He out-ran linebacker Micah McFadden and then trucked safety Xavier McKinney at the 2-yard line, lunging into the end zone for a touchdown to give the Cardinals a 14-0 lead.

It didn’t appear that the Giants defense would follow the offense’s lead in the second half, as Arizona marched 75 yards for a touchdown on its first possession of the third quarter to open up a 28-7 lead. But the Giants came to life in the nick of time, forcing punts on the Cardinals’ next three possessions before a last-second Hail Mary fell harmlessly incomplete.

It was an encouraging finish, but there’s still a long way to go for a defense that doesn’t have a sack or a takeaway in the first two games.

Here we go again

There was a feeling of déjà vu as Sunday’s game played out. The Giants trailed by double digits in three of their first five wins last season, but they showed resiliency to overcome slow starts and make big plays in crunch time.

There were no signs of that DNA in the drubbing against the Cowboys, and it looked like the Cardinals were playing harder in the first half of Sunday’s game. But somehow this group flipped the switch and avoided their sixth 0-2 start in the past seven seasons.

Now, it must be kept in perspective that the Giants just beat a weak Cardinals team that was missing All-Pro safety Budda Baker and two other defensive starters. Much more will be learned about the Giants after a four-game gauntlet against the 49ers, Seahawks, Dolphins and Bills.

“It definitely was an important win,” Slayton said. “If nothing else, it was just important that we went out there and we fought and we got back in the game. As a collective, we showed that we can be competitive and we can win games.”

(Top photo of Daniel Jones: Michael Owens / Getty Images)

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