Preseason games are more than just the bottom line. For most fans and members of the media, the preseason is an opportunity to get information about teams and players before the start of the regular season. Fans of both the Giants and Patriots learned things about their teams Thursday night aside from the Giants’ 23-21 win.
Statistically, the Giants dominated the first half. New York gained more than three times as many yards and went into the break with a 10-7 lead. The two teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter before New York extended their lead to 20-14 in less than five minutes in the fourth quarter. New England rallied to take the lead on rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Lil’Jordan Humphrey, 4:51. However, the Giants made a late-game drive and won the game after time ran out on Graham Gano’s 24-yard field goal.
Here are the key takeaways from Thursday night’s game.
Zap solid in NFL debut
With Mac Jones sidelined, the Patriots’ fourth-round pick received a major workload Thursday night. The former Western Kentucky quarterback went 19 of 32 for 205 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The highlight was his scoring pass to Humphrey, who led New England for 62 yards on six receptions.
Giants O line shines
While allowing a few shots at Daniel Jones (more on that later), the Giants’ offensive line was exceptional at run blocking. The Giants rumbled for 177 yards on 33 carries compared to the Patriots’ 52 yards on 18 carries. New York was led on the floor by Antonio Williams, who had 61 yards and nine carries.
Thornton scores first NFL TD
Tyquan Thornton’s first NFL reception resulted in a touchdown when New England’s second-round pick broke free in the back of the end zone before pulling down Brian Hoyer’s pass. Thornton, who would bring some speed to the Patriots’ receiving corps, caught 10 touchdown passes in his senior season at Baylor. During his time with the Bears, he averaged 15.7 yards per catch.
Malcolm Butler became a household name after his game-winning pick in Super Bowl XLIX. Butler’s penchant for big plans was proven true again on Thursday evening. The Patriots’ new No. 4 (Butler switched from his old No. 21) caught Terrance Mitchell’s forced fumble from Giants wideout Collin Johnson on New York’s third possession. Butler was playing in his first game in almost two years after retiring before the start of the 2021 season.
Barkley’s solid preseason debut
Giants running back Saquon Barkley looked good in his only possession. He had four carries for 13 yards and also caught an 8-yard pass into third to help the Giants move the chains. Barkley is hoping to get back in shape this season after being plagued by injuries for the past two seasons.
Jones feels the heat
Jones has been solid in his two series under middle. The Giants quarterback went 6-of-10 for 69 yards and led New York to a field goal on the game’s opening drive. His favorite target was Johnson, who caught both of Jones’ targets for 30 yards. Johnson finished the game with seven catches for 82 yards.
However, Jones did not leave the game unscathed. On his last drive, he took a sack from Josh Uche before getting hit on his final pass attempt. The former first-round pick has been sacked 105 times in his first three seasons but only 22 times in 11 games in 2021.
Patriots play calling
A looming question was who will call the New England games now that Josh McDaniels is in Las Vegas. It seems the Patriots don’t know that answer either, as Matt Patricia and Joe Judge took turns calling plays Thursday night. Patricia appeared to call games during Hoyer’s first-half possession while Judge called games for Zappe.
Tre Nixon makes presence tangible
New England’s young receiver caught 36- and 32-yard passes on the Patriots’ go-ahead drive early in the second half. Nixon, a seventh-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft, caught 11 touchdowns and averaged 15.6 yards per catch in his two playing seasons with UCF.
New England suffers multiple O-Line injuries
The injury bug hit the Patriots’ offensive line Thursday night. Justin Herron, Yodny Cajuste and Bill Murray all left the game with injuries. Despite those injuries, the Patriots’ patchwork offensive line was good enough to help New England take a 21-20 lead late in the game.
Taylor still has it
Tyrod Taylor looked sharp in his first preseason game with the Giants. The 12-year veteran and former Pro Bowler started the game 12-of-14 for 118 yards and a touchdown on Richie James that gave the Giants a 10-7 lead late in the first half. The 33-year-old seems more than capable of leading the Giants offense when called upon.
Taunting (including unsportsmanlike) penalties have been a hot topic in recent weeks as the NFL has cracked down on taunts. Giants cornerback Aaron Robinson was issued a taunting head-scratch penalty late in the first quarter. The penalty helped set up the Patriots’ first touchdown.
The Giants host the AFC champions Cincinnati Bengals on August 20, while the Patriots take on Baker Mayfield and the Panthers on August 19.