The Giants took their first tangible step backward on Sunday. After an offseason and preseason that was mostly spent forging forward, accelerating toward the opener, the 20-15 loss to the Jaguars was the first time this team with so many new faces had to swallow defeat and regroup.
By all accounts, it went well.
“There’s kind of that fine line of not hanging your head but also not being OK with it,” Eli Manning said of the vibe in team meetings on Monday morning. “Guys were disappointed. Each of us knows individually that he has to play a little bit better. That’s going to push us and drive us.”
This was also the first time many of the Giants experienced losing a game that mattered with Pat Shurmur as the head coach. All eyes, therefore, were on him to set the tone.
“He told us he thought we fought hard and he wasn’t gonna yell and scream at us if he felt like we did,” receiver Sterling Shepard said. “You learned that this team has fight and it’s a totally different team from last year.”
Shurmur’s overall message to the team was to keep progressing.
“I’ve been involved in a lot of first games of the season and won about half of them and lost about half of them,” he said. “You just move forward. That’s the important thing is you move forward.”
TWO TALES ON THE TWO-POINTER
Shurmur said on Monday the Giants initially called a passing play for their two-point attempt after Saquon Barkley’s 68-yard touchdown run, but Manning audibled to a run play at the line of scrimmage when the Jaguars showed “a friendly run look.” Yet Manning, asked about the same play, said the Jaguars “had a pretty good defense” for the run play that went right into the teeth of the Jacksonville defensive line and was stopped short. Manning also questioned the logic of handing the ball off to Barkley in that situation after “he just had an 80-yard run.”
Later, when told Shurmur said it was an audible, Manning said: “It was an audible within the system. We made the right audible based on what we talked about and just didn’t make it.”
So the original pass play would not have worked? “You never know,” Manning said.
RB Wayne Gallman (knee) was the only injury out of the opener. Gallman wore a sleeve on his leg in the locker room Monday and said he will be fine … LB Olivier Vernon (ankle) said he is feeling better but gave no indication whether he will return to practice this week … Shurmur had praise for CB Eli Apple. “He was competitive in coverage, made a couple plays on the ball, and I liked it,” he said. “It was a good opening game for him” … Shurmur shot down those who suggest that the Giants can find some level of solace from playing a close game against a defense that is one of the best in the NFL and a team that may be the second-best in the AFC. “We don’t make excuses or let other people make them for us, and that’s letting other people make them for us when we say, ‘Well, we played a good opponent,’” he said. “Everybody’s good, and we expect to go out and win every game, so we don’t factor that in.”