The last time the Giants opened a season against the Titans/Oilers franchise was in 1973, when they hosted the team from Houston at Yankee Stadium. It was a bit of a sour mood in the Bronx that day, the next-to-last home game at the big ballpark before they moved to the Yale Bowl a few weeks later, but the result was impressive: a resounding 34-14 Giants win.
A pretty great way to start the year.
Unfortunately for those Giants, they went on to win only once more that season. The 2-11-1 team became one of the worst in the history of the organization, a sad distinction it holds to this day.
Why bring up a forgettable game from an even more forgettable era now, a half-century after it happened? Because the lesson from it still holds true.
No matter what happens in Week 1 of an NFL schedule, it’s the next week that matters more. Opening games are notoriously bad barometers of future success, particularly when it is one between the Giants and the Oilers/Titans. So while Sunday’s 21-20 victory in Nashville was thrilling and tone-setting and a refreshing opportunity to see Saquon Barkley at his best and Brian Daboll roll the dice on the winning two-point conversion, it also was one game.
There’s another this Sunday.
On Monday, Daboll’s locker- room dance moves were going viral online, his brash decision-making and coaching cojones were being lauded on TV, and his phone kept buzzing with congratulatory texts from pals and relatives for his first win as a head coach (not to mention reminders from his 19-year-old daughter that it was her birthday). Daboll, though, was trying to remain oblivious to all of that and steer the focus of his team toward the Panthers.
“I told them today that our gas tank is empty right now,” he said of the physically and emotionally draining victory. “We have to fill that up all the way through the week and we have to empty it again against a good opponent on Sunday.”
It can be difficult to dismiss the upset over the Titans as “just one win,” not when those have been so rare in these parts for so many years. And it wasn’t just a good day for the Giants in the confines of the Music City. By the time the team’s charter flight returned to New Jersey, Jerry Jones was announcing that Dak Prescott needed surgery on his throwing hand and reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers looked lost without his cadre of receivers.
The upcoming schedule therefore looks far different now than it did just a few days ago. After the Panthers, the Giants host the Cowboys and Bears to end a string of three straight home games before playing the Packers in London. The only team that won on Sunday of those four upcoming foes was the Bears, which probably is the one game Giants fans would have looked at as winnable for their team before it beat the Titans.
Now, though, there are dreams of being 3-0, 4-0, even 5-0. First, however, they have to be 2-0 and not 1-1.
This is all new and heady stuff for most of the players. With the exception of Sterling Shepard, who was around in 2016, none of them had ever woken up and headed to work as a member of a Giants team with a winning record until Monday.
Daboll, though, has a much better grip on these things, having coached winning squads in Buffalo in recent years.
“I’m happy we won, but it’s one game,” he said. “If it was the other way around [and the Giants had lost on Randy Bullock’s last-second field-goal attempt], it’s one game. We have to get ready to go the next week. It’s the first week of the regular season. We have a long way to go.”
So did the 1973 Giants.
That’s a spiraling path this team does not want to follow.