FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — He started the game and he took a few hits.
“Felt just like it used to be,’’ Daniel Jones said. “That’s football, right?’’
Jones after missing the final six games — all losses — to close out the miserable 2021 Giants’ season was back at it Thursday night. He said he did not think at all about the neck issue that curtailed last season for him and he was able to put together some positive moments in his two series in an eventual 23-21 preseason victory over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
The winning points came on Graham Gano’s 24-yard field goal as time expired, making a winner of first-year head coach Brian Daboll in his debut.
“Some good, some bad,’’ Daboll said. “I liked how they competed, I liked how physical they played. Certainly there’s a lot of areas to clean up.’’
It was a mixed bag for Jones and the Giants’ first-team offense. There were no starting defensive players on the field for the Patriots and yet there was nothing resembling dominance by a Giants’ unit that has a long way to go to make anyone feel confident about the real season. But at least this outing offered glimpses of what this attack can be.
The Giants would have felt better about the night’s work if Daboll pulled his offensive starters after one series. The net result in the two series: Three points.
Jones finished 6 of 10 for 69 yards and did more good than bad, operating a fairly vanilla attack, as Daboll was not about to show much of anything. Jones ran 7 yards for one first down and likely would have put his team in the end zone if his highest-priced target wrapped his hands around the football. Jones, after all, cannot do it alone.
“I thought it was clean, we moved the ball, converted some third downs,’’ Jones said. “Overall I thought it was good.’’
The opening was promising, as Jones picked up four first downs on a 13-play drive. He went 3 of 6 for 42 yards but things stalled after Kenny Golladay, having a sluggish training camp, dropped a ball in his hands at the 2-yard line, a real drive-killer.
“We’ll work on it, make sure we convert those,’’ Jones said.
Earlier, Golladay failed to get any separation on cornerback Terrance Mitchell on a deep pass down the right sideline.
Saquon Barkley, whose last preseason appearance came as a rookie in 2018, was busy in his one series, running the ball four times for 13 yards and turning the corner with a quick pivot on an 8-yard reception on third-and-5. This was a strong first step for Barkley and might be a portent of things to come, as he is expected to be a major cog in the offensive wheel.
“Lot of good, lot of bad — not a lot of bad, but a lot of good and bad,’’ Barkley said.
Jones was given sufficient protection on the opening drive, allowing him to hit Darius Slayton and Collin Johnson for matching 17-yard gains.
Left tackle Andrew Thomas was replaced by Devery Hamiton for the second series. Jones hit Johnson — who has enjoyed a strong summer — for 13 yards but then Jones’ protection broke down. He was sacked by linebacker Josh Uche, who got the better of tight end Chris Myarick, although rookie right tackle Evan Neal was also beaten on the play. Jones’ next pass, intended for Slayton, had no chance because his pocket collapsed.
Shane Lemieux, the starting left guard, was forced out with a toe injury in the first quarter.
Wide receiver Kadarius Toney was one significant starter on offense who did not take the field. Coming off of offseason knee surgery, Toney has had his workload monitored in training camp and he came out of last Tuesday’s practice early after tweaking his knee or leg.
Cornerback Aaron Robinson, lining up with the starters, with the expectation he will be able to hold up after the free-agency loss of James Bradberry, had a rough evening. Robinson was beaten by Kristian Wilkerson over the top for a 33-yard completion, broke up a pass in the end zone intended for Wilkerson and then was penalized for taunting for raising his arms after the play — an extremely soft call. Next, Robinson was beaten for a 2-yard touchdown pass to Tyquan Thornton on the last play of the first quarter. A flag was dropped and Robinson was called for defensive holding, the penalty wiped out by the scoring pass.
Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor showed why the Giants are so high on him as a roster addition. He led an 11-play, 86-yard scoring drive in the second quarter, ending with a 7-yard strike to Richie James for a touchdown.
Taylor, playing with the second-teamers, finished 12 of 21 for 129 yards. Davis Webb led the third group to a touchdown in the third quarter, a 2-yard run by Antonio Williams, and the game-winning points in the final seconds.