GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The New York Giants needed a big play. They had just gone the first 90 minutes of their season without scoring a single point.
Following a 40-0 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1, the Giants found themselves down 20-0 to the Arizona Cardinals at halftime. In the cramped visiting locker room of State Farm Stadium, coach Brian Daboll laid the groundwork that would help his team avoid an 0-2 start to the season.
He turned to his rookie third-round pick, wide receiver Jalin Hyatt.
“I knew when we came in at halftime [the first play would be coming to me],” Hyatt said. “[Daboll] came up to me and said, ‘Hey, we’re throwing shots to you the whole second half.’
“I knew at that point, ‘OK, let’s get the rhythm going.’”
On the first play of the second half, quarterback Daniel Jones unleashed a 58-yard pass into the waiting hands of the speedy Hyatt. The Biletnikoff Award winner was tackled at the 17-yard line.
Two plays later, Jones ran it in for a touchdown and the Giants had finally scored their first points of the season. The comeback was sparked by the jolt that the Giants had envisioned when they traded up to draft Hyatt with the 73rd pick.
“It was big because we needed a play like that. We needed somebody to set it off for us,” safety Xavier McKinney said. “We needed a big play. We needed that explosive play, and we got it.”
The Giants allowed 60 points before the offense got on the board this season, the most unanswered points to open the season since the 1978 Baltimore Colts. But after the big play by Hyatt, the Giants were playing like the unit that Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen thought they had assembled.
Jones was throwing darts and using his legs. He finished with 59 yards and a touchdown on nine carries in the 31-28 come-from-behind win. Before running back Saquon Barkley suffered an ankle injury in the final minutes, he was creating havoc running the ball and catching passes out of the backfield.
The play-action passing (specifically to tight end Darren Waller) was also lethal. Jones went 13-of-15 passing for 229 yards and eight first downs on the play action in the second half alone. Waller and Barkley tied for a team-high six catches. Waller finished with 76 yards receiving.
And the speedy wideouts, led by Hyatt, were making big plays downfield. Jones was 4-of-5 passing for 127 yards on throws of more than 10 air yards in the second half, according to ESPN Stats and Information. This was a much different offense than the one that the Giants employed last season.
“Exactly [what it’s supposed to be],” Waller said. "You see big plays from all the receivers. You see Saquon. I’m getting in the mix and making plays. It’s like that balance. I saw that from the jump. It doesn’t always come out the way that you want it early on, or right when you wanted it to, but when we needed it, it showed up. That’s just the character of this offense.”
The Giants, who had the fewest 20-plus yard passing plays last season (28), had four in the second half on Sunday alone. All 10 of the Giants’ longest plays in the contest came in the second half.
This is the blueprint the Giants hope will lead to success this season, especially with Barkley sidelined. The Giants will be without their star running back when they face the San Francisco 49ers on Thursday (8:15 p.m. ET, PRIME), as he is expected to be sidelined for three weeks with an ankle sprain.
“It’s always tough to see anyone go down, especially Saquon,” Jones said. “He's a huge piece of what we're doing. He's an important player on the team. So, I know he'll work hard to get back, get through whatever he is going through. Look forward to having him back as soon as possible.”
It can’t come soon enough. After facing a 2-0 49ers team on a short week in San Francisco, the Giants then host the Seattle Seahawks before road trips to Miami and Buffalo.
The next four opponents were all playoff teams last season and are a combined 6-2 this year. It won’t be easy, but at least the Giants have life -- and Hyatt.