Monday night’s doubleheader of football put the finishing touches on Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season. The first matchup of the evening featured two of the most traditional franchises in the NFL, the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The second game took place at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado where the Broncos took on the Tennessee Titans.
New York Giants vs Pittsburgh Steelers
The biggest headline of this game was the return of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethelisberger. Big Ben missed all of 2019 after undergoing elbow surgery. Meanwhile, the Giants had plenty of headlines of their own – new coaching staff, first year without Eli Manning. There were a lot of unanswered questions for both teams as they entered MetLife stadium on Monday night. After 60 minutes we had answers.
Daniel Jones and the Giants offense failed to capitalize on a Steelers muffed punt in the 1st quarter. The Giants took over inside the Pittsburgh 5 yard line, but had to settle for a field goal. It was one of several drives on which they failed to capitalize. The Giants defense looked much improved early on. It held Big Ben and the Steelers offense in check. The Steelers tied the game in the first quarter with a field goal, before Jones led the Giants down the field for a touchdown that he threw to Darius Slayton.
Pittsburgh Figures It Out
Pittsburgh proceeded to figure out the Giants’ man-coverage. They ran several crossing patterns that gave the Giants fits. Two touchdowns were scored in the second quarter as a result. They took a 16-10 lead into halftime.
The turning point in the game was the Giants first drive of the first half. Trailing by six, Dan Jones led the Giants down the field on a 19-play drive that chewed up nearly 10 minutes of clock. On second down and goal, Jones ran out to his left under pressure and was hit as he tried to throw the ball away. The ball was intercepted by the Steelers on the goaline, ending the Giants’ long drive. The Steelers had control of the game thereafter.
The game finished 26-16, but the new look Giants showed they could hang with the league’s best as they rebuild their franchise. A real positive sign for Joe Judge and his coaching staff.
The biggest disappointment for the Giants was Saquon Barkley, who carried the ball 15 times for just 6 yards. It was his worst game as a pro in his three year career. Jones finished with two touchdown passes, both to Darius Slayton.
Ben Roethelisberger finished with three touchdown passes. Running back Benny Snell ran for 113 yards on 19 carries. Pittsburgh will host the Denver Broncos this weekend, and the Giants will face off against the Chicago Bears.
Denver Broncos vs Tennessee Titans
A day after Tom Brady’s dud of a debut for Tampa Bay, Stephen Gostkowski had a dud of his own. He failed to put that Patriots pedigree to work in his first game with the Tennessee Titans until the very end. Unlike Brady, who lost his first game in a uniform other than New England’s, Gostkowski ultimately prevailed Monday night when he nailed a 25-yard field goal with 17 seconds left, sending the Titans past the Denver Broncos 16-14. This came after he missed four kicks for the first time in his career.
Gostkowski missed a kick in each quarter, including a blocked field goal and an errant extra point. It was the kind of performance that typically loses a game. This time, the Titans were resilient. They found a way to scrape out the victory at the very end in spite of their kicker.
Gostkowski, who had made 87.4% of his kicks coming into the game, a percentage that ranked fifth-best in NFL history, missed a 47-yarder in the first quarter and Shelby Harris blocked his 43-yarder just before halftime. Gostkowski’s 42-yarder in the third quarter missed wide left. And to cap things off, he missed the point after following Tennessee’s go-ahead touchdown on Jonnu Smith’s catch from Ryan Tannehill on fourth-and-1 with 13:49 remaining.
Denver replied with a 75-yard drive, capped off by a Melvin Gordon score. Brandon McManus’ extra point put the Broncos up 14-13 with 9 minutes left. The Broncos punted on their next two possessions. And the Titans made them pay with a 12-play, 83-yard, game-winning, scoring drive. Both teams scuffled to a 7-all tie after an eventful first half that included an ejection, a goal-line stand and Gostkowski’s dismal debut four days after signing with the Titans.
Drew Lock threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Noah Fant after Gostkowski’s first miss. The Titans then tied it on Tannehill’s 1-yard strike to MyCole Pruitt after a Denver turnover. Lock looked good in his first start of 2020. He fell victim to a couple of dropped passes by rookie receiver Jerry Juedy. Still, other than the drops, Juedy looked very crisp in his route running.
Fresh off signing his mega contract, Tannehill was very sharp, throwing for 280 yards and two touchdowns. Derrick Henry didn’t have much room to run, but still finished with over 100 yards on 31 carries.