EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ— The Jacksonville Jaguars (1-0) spoiled Saquon Barkley’s debut for the New York Giants (0-1), and escaped MetLife Stadium with a 20-15 victory in what was a “grind it out” affair.
Defense was the name of the game for both teams in today’s match-up. However, it was a tale of two halves for both teams.
In the first half, the Jaguars played their normal ground and pound style against the Giants. Running back Leonard Fournette was off to a great start in leading Jacksonville’s run attack, but ended up leaving the game in the second quarter due to a hamstring injury and would not return.
In his absence, quarterback Blake Bortles proved that he could keep the Jaguars afloat. With Fournette going down in the first half, the fifth-year starter finished the half going 12-of-17 for 123 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. In addition, Bortles did a good job making reads in the pocket and trying to get the ball to an open man.
On the defensive side, the Jaguars, who came into this season as one of the top-ranked defenses last year, did a great job forcing the Giants into a lot of third-and-long situations. The Giants were forced to settle for field goals.
The Giants in the first half had a tough time trying to get the ball down the field. That was due in large part to Jacksonville’s smothering defense and costly penalties that forced the Giants to start their possessions further back than where they would like.
Quarterback Eli Manning, who started his 217th career regular season game, went 11-of-12 in the first half for only 98 yards and zero touchdowns. Manning finished the game 23-of-37 for 223 yards, one interception, and zero touchdowns.
Running back Saquon Barkley, who made his NFL debut on Sunday, had a tough go in the first half as well, as he only recorded 12 yards on eight carries. Barkley finished the game with 105 yards and a touchdown.
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was also a non-factor in the first half thanks to the Jaguars, as he only had five receptions for 45 yards. In addition, it seemed that the game plan for Jacksonville was to double Beckham and not allow him to make big plays down the field.
Coming into today’s game, fans wanted to see what had been the main storyline coming into this match-up, which was between Beckham Jr. and Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
The match-up wasn’t as exciting as fans might have hoped, as Beckham only had six catches for 86 yards when matched up one-on-one against Ramsey. Beckham finished the game with 11 catches for 111 yards.
Even though the individual matchup was not as exciting as you’d expect, the second half would make up for that.
The Giants defense came alive in the second half, and in the seven possessions that Jacksonville had in the second half, the Jaguars were forced to punt the ball seven times.
Eli Manning also started to come into his own as well. However, his accuracy issues came back to haunt him as he threw a huge interception in the fourth quarter.
Many Giant fans started to head for the door once Jacksonville’s Myles Jack took the ball 32 yards and scored off of the deflected Manning pass. However, Barkley breathed new life into the Giants and in MetLife Stadium after taking the ball 68 yards for a touchdown on the very next drive.
However, any momentum that Barkley collected was snatched away by Jacksonville after they recovered a muffed punt with 45 seconds left in regulation.
Jacksonville, without Fournette for most of the game, was able to come away with a victory on road and begin their season undefeated. Their defense, even though they weren’t “Sacksonville” in this game, seems to have not lost a step and Bortles seems to want to prove that he can be a pocket passer. The Jaguars hope to have Fournette back in action for Week Two.