Preliminaries are more important than final results. For most fans and members of the media, the preseason is a way to get a feel for teams and players before the regular season begins. Giants and Patriots fans learned things about their teams outside of the Giants’ 23-21 victory on Thursday night.
Statistically, the Giants dominated the first half. New York gained more than three times as many yards while taking a 10-7 lead into halftime. The two teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter before New York extended its lead to 20-14 less than five minutes into the fourth quarter. New England scored on a 20-yard touchdown pass by rookie quarterback Bailey Zappé to Lil’ Jordan Humphrey with 4:51 left. The Giants went on a late drive to win the game on a 24-yard field goal by Graham Gano.
Here are the highlights from Thursday night’s game.
Zappe strong at the start of the NFL
With Mack Jones out on the field, the Patriots’ fourth-round pick had a heavy workload Thursday night. The former Western Kentucky quarterback went 19 of 32 for 205 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The focus was on Humphrey, who led New England with 62 yards on six receptions.
The Giant O-Line shines.
Despite allowing a few shots against Daniel Jones (more on that later), the Giants’ offensive line was exceptional in terms of run blocking. The Giants rushed for 177 yards on 33 carries, compared to the Patriots’ 52 yards on 18 carries. New York was led on the ground by Antonio Williams, who ran for 61 yards and scored on nine carries.
Thornton scores his first NFL TD.
New England’s second-round pick Tyquan Thornton’s first NFL reception resulted in a touchdown as he broke free in the back of the end zone before hauling down Brian Hoyer’s pass. Expected to bring an element of speed to the Patriots’ receiving corps, Thornton caught 10 touchdown passes last season at Baylor. He averaged 15.7 yards per catch during his time with the Bears.
Return of the butler
Malcolm Butler became a household name following his game-winning play in Super Bowl XLIX. Butler’s penchant for big plans came true again Thursday night. The Patriots’ new No. 4 (Butler switched from his old No. 21) led to Terran Mitchell’s Giants’ forced fumble of Colin Johnson on New York’s third possession. Butler played his first game in two years after retiring before the 2021 season.
Barkley’s strong preseason debut
Giants running back Saquon Barkley looked good on his one possession. He had four carries for 13 yards and caught an 8-yard pass on third down to help the Giants move the chain. Barkley hopes to get back to form this season after spending the last two seasons with injuries.
Jones feels the heat
Jones has been solid in two consecutive episodes under center. The Giants quarterback went 6 of 10 for 69 yards while leading New York to a field goal on the game’s opening drive. His favorite target was Johnson, who caught both targets from Jones for 30 yards. Johnson finished the game with seven catches for 82 yards.
But Jones didn’t leave the game unscathed. On his final drive, he was sacked by Josh Uche before being hit on his final pass attempt. The first-round pick has been sacked 105 times in his first three seasons, but just 22 times in 11 games in 2021.
Call of the Patriots game
The looming question now that Josh McDaniel is in Las Vegas is who will call the plays in New England. The Patriots didn’t seem to know that answer when Matt Patricia and Joe Judge took turns calling the plays on Thursday night. Patricia appeared to call plays during Hoyer’s first half possession, while Judge called plays for Zappé.
Trey Nixon made his presence felt
New England’s young receiver caught passes of 36 and 32-yards against the Patriots to start the second half. A seventh-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft, Nixon caught 11 touchdowns and averaged 15.6 yards per carry in his two seasons at UCF.
New England has had a number of O-line injuries.
The injury bug hit the Patriots offensive line Thursday night. Justin Heron, Yodney Cajuste and Bill Murray each left the game with injuries. The Patriots’ patchwork offensive line did enough to give New England a 21-20 lead late in the game.
Taylor is still in.
Tyrod Taylor looked sharp in his first preseason game against the Giants. The 12-year veteran and former Pro Bowler went 12 of 14 for 118 yards and a touchdown to Richie James to give the Giants a 10-7 lead in the first half. The 33-year-old seems more than capable of leading the Giants’ offense if called upon to do so.
Taunting (unsportsmanlike) penalties have been a hot topic over the past few weeks as the NFL cracks down on taunts. Late in the first quarter, Giants cornerback Aaron Robinson was assessed a taunting penalty for head scratching. The penalty helped set up the Patriots’ first touchdown.
The Giants will play the AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals on Aug. 20, while the Patriots will play Baker Mayfield and the Panthers on Aug. 19.