Injuries can be a pain for teams, and it proves to be a difference in the first Monday Night Football of the 2020 NFL Season.
After a 4-12 record finishing 3rd in the NFC East, the New York Giants looked to rebound with their 2nd-year QB Daniel Jones taking the helm for his first season-opening start of his career, along Saquon Barkley and his wide receivers in Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, minus Golden Tate who was inactive for the season-opener after being questionable to play.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were also seeking a rebound season after their veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger was out for 14 games last season following a Week 2 loss to Seattle last year. After suffering a shoulder injury last season, Big Ben returned to action to seek dominance in the league once more with the help of his running backs in James Connor and Benny Snell, Jr. and his wide receivers in JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Dionte Johnson.
To start the game with fake crowd noise to fill the missing fans at MetLife Stadium, the New York Giants took advantage of Dionte Johnson’s muffed punt, which led to Graham Gano, the new kicker for the Giants from the Panthers, taking a 3-0 lead. After a good start for the Giants’ defense, featuring stars such as newly-acquired DB Logan Ryan from Tennessee, 2nd-year DT Dexter Lawrence, and former Panthers CB James Bradberry, the Giants looked good on offense early on, including a 41-yard touchdown from Jones to Slayton to take a 7-point lead early in the 2nd quarter.
Afterwards, the Steelers responded with a big drive off T.J. Watt’s interception that led to Smith-Schuster’s 19-yard touchdown from Big Ben, giving Roethlisberger his first passing touchdown since December 2018, despite Chris Boswell missing the extra point afterwards. After another stalled drive by the Giants, the Steelers had 1:32 left in the second quarter and eventually, James Washington found the go-ahead touchdown with 0:07 left in the 1st half, giving the Steelers a 16-10 lead at halftime.
Coming into the third quarter, the Giants found a statement to stay in the game by forcing a 3rd and out on Pittsburgh to start the second half and take the ball deep into Steelers’ territory near the endzone. However, Daniel Jones committed an error that led to an interception by Cameron Hayward, and the Steelers made it 23 unanswered points after trailing 10-3 in the first half to take a 26-10 lead late in the 4th quarter. The Giants would try the end zone one last time and Slayton found it again after the 2-minute warning, but a failed 2-point conversion and onside kick recovered by Pittsburgh would end the game.
In his return, Ben Roethlisberger posted 229 yards and 3 TD’s, while Daniel Jones did nearly as good with 279 yards and 2 TD’s despite throwing 2 INT’s. The Giants’ offensive line was nearly out-of-sync in the game as it did not provide enough blockage for Barkley, totaling only 6 yards on the ground but finding 61 yards from Jones, including a 38-yard screen pass. James Connor tried to stay clear of injuries for good, but could not as he only made 9 yards on 6 carries and left the game early with an ankle injury, leaving Benny Snell, Jr. to take the helm and contributed to the ground game with 113 yards. For the Giants, Darius Slayton led the team with 102 yards and 2 TD’s while JuJu Smith-Schuster had a big night too with 69 yards and 2 TD’s.
With the result of the game, the Giants fall to 0-1, joining the Cowboys and Eagles as the Washington Football Team takes a 1-game lead in the NFC East to start the season, while Pittsburgh jumps to 1-0 and ties Baltimore for first place in the AFC North to start the season with a 1-game lead over the Bengals and Browns. The Giants will travel to Chicago next week to play Mitchell Trubisky and the Chicago Bears, while the Steelers will play their home-opener next week against the Denver Broncos.