The Giants host the Atlanta Falcons in their home opener Sunday (1 p.m., FOX), and while Big Blue insists last Sunday’s meltdown in Dallas is a thing of the past, time will only tell if they are truly rid of any doubt and apprehension.
The Falcons (1-0) will provide a great test for the Giants (0-1), as they have one of the league’s most potent offenses, and a revamped defense that has been shaped in the mold of its first-time head coach, Dan Quinn. The rookie coach came over from the Seattle Seahawks, as he oversaw one of the league’s greatest stretches of defensive play in history. The Falcons obviously aren’t on that level yet, but if their Monday night win over the Philadelphia Eagles was any indication, Quinn has that defense on the right track.
Big Blue will need to regroup quickly and make sure they stay aggressive on both sides of the ball. And unlike the Dallas debacle, they’ll need to find a way to finish off the Falcons, should they be able to garner a late lead.
Metro takes a look at the key storylines to watch.
What to watch for:
1. Starting off fast.
The Giants made a point this week to start fast, on both sides of the ball. Last week in Dallas, the Cowboys won the coin toss, elected to receive, and then proceeded to control the opening drive for 17 plays and 10:27. New York, meanwhile, took its first offensive snap at the 4:33 mark. And while they eventually got warmed up and battled Dallas toe-to-toe, it took a while for the offense to gain traction and any kind of consistency early. Coughlin has preached to his team to get off the field as quickly as possible on defense, and sustain drives to take Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Co. out of the game early. Wideout Odell Beckham Jr. noted that when his offensive mates are idle on the sidelines, it makes it “hard to establish a rhythm … and do what we need to do.”
2. Can Big Blue slow down Julio Jones?
The Giants’ secondary didn’t do too shabby of a job on Dallas’ No. 1 option Dez Bryant, last week, even before he broke a bone in his foot. Big Blue managed to corral the explosive Bryant to the tune of five catches for 48 yards. But for Week 2, in comes another huge test for the Giants’ secondary, as Jones is coming off a Week 1 performance where he eviscerated the Eagles’ defense for nine catches, 141 yards, and two touchdowns. Quarterback Matt Ryan has great chemistry with his primary target, so look for him to target the Pro Bowler often. Jones was thrown to 11 times last week, and with sidekick Roddy White garnering a respectable 84 yards last week, it won’t be as easy to fully focus on Jones, which means he’ll see a lot of man-coverage. How well cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are able to handle Jones will go a long way in the team’s overall success.
3. Is there a pass-rusher in the house?
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was legitimately hit only once last week – and that only came off a block by a Giants defender following a Dallas turnover. Romo had tons of time to search downfield, and he made the Giants pay with 356 yards and three touchdowns – including the last two scoring drives that spanned 76 and 72 yards, respectively. Ryan cannot be afforded that same luxury, or else he, too, will scorch Big Blue. Ryan has a lot of weapons to target as well, so it’ll behoove the Giants rushers to get after him early and often and not make him so comfortable in the pocket. Jason Pierre-Paul isn’t walking through those doors any time soon, so it’s up to his lesser-known teammates to apply the heat on the Falcons passer.