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Week 1’s MVP(s) Didn’t Have Stat Lines

What. A. Win. Week 1’s victory over last year’s #1 seed in the AFC was an improbable one to say the least, but it happened. The Titans gave the Giants a taste of their smothering defense and the Giants answered the bell. We saw the good, bad, and ugly from almost everyone on the team with a pinch of good fortune (thanks for shanking, Randy Bullock).  Though seeing the return of 2019 Saquon Barkley, the defense holding King Henry to under 4 YPC, and Jones doing just enough to keep it in reach; we cannot forget the real MVPs behind these great efforts that took place before our eyes yesterday afternoon. Giants fans, allow me to reintroduce to you the coaching staff that will lead the team back to prominence, because their combined minds helped bring Big Blue that “W”.  

Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka is the 1st coach who deserves kudos for the Giant’s win. He is relishing the opportunity to step out of Eric Bieniemy’s shadow and show he can put up a functional offense despite working with mostly spare parts. Tennessee’s front 7 made life difficult for Kafka with their physical play throughout the entire game. Anticipating this, Kafka kept things simple by providing Jones and company a healthy dose of Play action and 1st read checkdowns while mixing in Fiery Barkley runs to keep the defense honest.  It wasn’t always pretty, but games against defense 1st teams aren’t usually pretty. At the Titan’s best, we’ve seen prolific offenses led by the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Matthew Stafford look their worst last year on their way to L’s in their respective games…yet here are the Giants. Their lack of high-end receivers didn’t matter in the face of steady checkdowns, an opportunistic deep ball, and 2019 level Saquon Barkley exploits. Kafka wasn’t the only coordinator hard at work because the next coach had arguably the toughest job of all: Limit Derrick Henry.

The man behind the plan to stop King Henry was none other than Defensive Coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale. For all the injuries and deficiencies within this Giants defense, Wink kept the Giants in the game by keeping Henry out of the end zone. While the Linebackers had their hands full with receiving back Dontrell Hilliard and his 2 TD performance, they hunkered down and prevented Derrick Henry from grinding an endless waltz of clock eating 1st downs. These important stops prevented the time of possession battle from going too lopsided and kept the Giants in reach. We even had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Irrelevant (Tae Crowder) knock King Henry so hard, that we saw his feet in the air (an ultimate rarity). Wink’s constant pressure might not have produced a lot of sacks, but it kept Ryan Tannehill under enough duress to prevent the score from getting out of hand. The close score helped set the stage for the biggest hero of all…

While we cannot deny Saquon Barkley’s near 200 yards of offensive heroics, the man who made this win possible was Giants Head Coach, Brian Daboll. If anyone has ever heard this man speak publicly, they know he is a leader among men. Any remote notion of the man falling into the rookie stereotype of conservative play went out the window the second he held up his 2 fingers to go for the win. 1 shovel pass to Barkley and a missed Titan’s field goal attempt later, and his vision of victory came to fruition. Gone are the days of Joe Judge’s playing “not to lose” (he did anyway) and enter the era of “play to win, not a coin toss” courtesy of Coach Daboll. He didn’t win the hearts of Big Blue Nation simply by going for 2 or for his words to the public, he did it by unconditionally believing in his squad and properly holding them accountable in the face of errors. Screw running laps: he emphatically tells his players where they went wrong, how to fix it, and what needs to happen next time (ask Daniel Jones after his redzone INT). He doubled down on this faith by showing it in the go-ahead 2-point conversion. If this man can squeeze a “W” out of a 53-man roster filled with many practice squad level players, imagine once the team’s construction is complete!

All in all, this Giant’s win was truly an all hands-on deck approach, but without the wit and grit of this amazing coaching staff; this victory wouldn’t have been possible. This team has endured incompetence from so many leadership figures the past few years, id imagine they forgot what competitive toughness looks and feels like. Some may gripe at the win as a missed opportunity to secure draft position as early as possible, but one cannot forget that games are played to win. Competitive toughness and winning are some of the most vital building blocks to rebuilding this team’s culture. Without these on display, there’s no credibility to deliver to your squad that things can change for the better. This win against a credible opponent like the Titans will be a moment this group will remember the next time things get tough in a game… and its going to make all the difference in the development of this slowly budding team. On to week 2!

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