NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Brian Daboll promised his New York Giants he wouldn't coach scared and knew the play he'd call for a 2-point conversion even though it had only worked sporadically during training camp.
It worked when it mattered most, and now the first-time head coach and the Giants have plenty to celebrate.
Daniel Jones hit Chris Myarick for a 1-yard touchdown pass, then found Saquon Barkley on a shovel pass for the 2-point conversion with 1:06 left, giving the Giants a 21-20 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday and making Daboll a winner in his coaching debut.
“We’re trying to build something," Daboll said. "We have a long way to go, but it’s good to get that first W.”
Daboll didn't hesitate to keep his offense on the field for the 2-point conversion, which snapped the Giants' skid of five straight losses in season openers. Barkley gave Daboll and new general manager Joe Schoen a game ball apiece in the locker room.
Barkley, who averaged 9.1 yards per play, called the game ball “the first of many.” The running back was pumped when he saw Daboll put up the sign for the 2-point conversion.
“He’s a man of his word,” Barkley said. “He told us he was going to be aggressive and he told us he was going to lean on the players to make plays. In that situation, we did exactly that. When you have a coach like that, it definitely will make you go out there and fight for him and execute in that situation.”
The Titans, the AFC's No. 1 seed with a 12-5 record a year ago, had a chance to win as time expired.
But Randy Bullock pushed a 47-yard field goal wide left after making two field goals earlier against one of his former teams. Bullock played one game with the Giants in 2016 and made three game-winning kicks last year for Tennessee.
“Losing sucks no matter when it happens," said Tennessee's Ryan Tannehill, who threw for 266 yards and two TDs. “I never want to start off the season on the wrong foot, especially at home in front of your own fans.”
Barkley ran for 164 yards and a 4-yard TD, his best game since Dec. 22, 2019, after topping 100 yards rushing only once in 13 games last season. He got the Giants going with a 68-yard run to set up his TD.
“When you don’t play your gaps or you don’t tackle, it’s a very unforgiving league especially with a good back or an excellent back,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said.
The Giants forced the Titans to go three-and-out on the next drive. Jones found Sterling Shepard wide open for a 65-yard TD with Tennessee cornerback Kristian Fulton beaten badly on the catch-and-run, tying it up at 13 midway through the third quarter.
Jones finished with 188 yards passing and two touchdowns and was glad to see a vintage performance from Barkley.
“It was a lot of fun,” Jones said. “You saw the explosiveness. It was fun to watch him. He’s had a great camp. Seeing where he’s come from, he’s battled back from a lot of adversity, a lot of injuries, to see what he did today was a lot of fun to watch as a teammate and a friend.”
Tennessee answered with its longest drive to take the lead back. Tannehill capped the 75-yard march with a 23-yard TD pass to Dontrell Hilliard, his second score of the game, for a 20-13 lead late in the third quarter.
The Giants had a chance to keep it from going to the final seconds. They wound up outgaining Tennessee 394-359 in total offense despite being held to 133 yards in the first half.
Titans rookie Kyle Philips muffed a punt on a fair catch, putting the Giants at the Tennessee 11. But Titans safety Amani Hooker intercepted Jones' pass in the end zone with 8:50 left after the quarterback stared down Barkley. Hooker signed a contract extension Friday.
The Giants brought rookie outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux and defensive end Azeez Ojulari to Nashville only for both starters to be scratched before kickoff.
The Giants' longest rushing play last season was a 46-yard run by Barkley, and the longest pass play was a 60-yarder to tight end Kyle Rudolph. The Giants had six plays longer than 15 yards.
Giants rookie receiver Wan’Dale Robinson hurt a knee in the first half and didn’t return. He had one catch for 5 yards.
Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan limped into the medical tent after the first offensive play of the third quarter, but he returned for the next series. ... The Titans lost safety A.J. Moore late in the first quarter to an injured ankle. He limped to the sideline following a Giants punt return. ... OLB and special teams captain Ola Adeniyi hurt his shoulder late in the first half but returned.
Giants: Host Carolina for their home opener next Sunday.
Titans: Visit the Buffalo Bills on Monday, Sept. 19.
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