SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Matching the biggest comeback win in franchise history was cause for celebration for the New York Giants.
But they know it won’t be nearly as easy climbing out of a big hole this week when they take on the powerhouse San Francisco 49ers (2-0) on Thursday night as it was against the bottom-dwelling Arizona Cardinals.
"We can’t afford to do that against any team," safety Xavier McKinney said about falling into a deep hole. "We can’t keep having slow starts. We’ve just got to correct it. It’s only so much talking that we can do about it, we’ve just got to go out there and execute the things that we’re practicing and the stuff that we go over in these meetings. That’s what we’re going to be looking to do. But we definitely cannot keep doing that."
Accomplishing that for the Giants (1-1) will be a lot harder without star running back Saquon Barkley, who will miss at least this week’s game after spraining his ankle late in the win against Arizona.
That puts even more pressure on quarterback Daniel Jones to play the way he did in the second half against Arizona and not like the first six quarters of the season.
"Daniel has got his job to do, just like the running backs have their job, the receivers, the offensive line," coach Brian Daboll said. "It’s individually taking care of your responsibility, whatever that may be and doing your job at a high level."
The Giants didn’t do that to start the season. They got off to one of the worst starts in recent history in the NFL, losing the opener 40-0 to Dallas and then falling behind 20-0 at the half to the Cardinals and 28-7 in the third quarter.
New York was the first team in 45 years to allow at least 60 points before scoring for the first time in a season. The Giants then scored 31 points in the second half behind 317 yards of offense and three TDs from Jones.
The 49ers have struggled at times in recent seasons slowing down mobile quarterbacks and view the matchup with Jones as a big challenge.
"It starts with his legs," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "He’s willing to run. He’s physical when he runs. He’s got the skillset to run away from people. So anytime you have a quarterback like that, the challenge that does just schematically, unlocking your defense and making you have to play a certain way is always a pain. Then he’s got the ability to play in the pocket and beat you that way too. So he’s getting better each year."
The Giants will use three backs to try to replace Barkley. Veteran Matt Breida should get the majority of carries. Second-year running back Gary Brightwell and rookie Eric Gray will pick up the slack.
Breida has started only two games since leaving San Francisco following the 2019 season. But he topped 100 yards rushing five times in 18 starts in 2018-19 for the 49ers.
"We are comfortable with all those guys. Whether that’s run or pass," Daboll said. "Certainly things that we could all improve on, but they are all here for a reason."
The 49ers vaunted defensive line got a bit frustrated last week with how quickly Matthew Stafford got rid of the ball, limiting San Francisco to just one sack on a blitz by linebacker Fred Warner. Nick Bosa and crew see some opportunities this week against Jones, who holds onto the ball longer and has taken 10 sacks this season.
"It’s going to be pretty much opposite of what we just did with Stafford," Bosa said. "Definitely can hold it a little bit and we just have to keep him in the pocket. He’s going to try and get out any chance he gets. Just trying to close it in on him, be good in our rush lanes and we could have a good day."
Complicating matters for the Giants are injuries on the offensive line with left tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring) and LG Ben Bredeson (concussion) out this week.
Niners receiver Deebo Samuel had harsh criticism of his performance last season when he admitted coming into camp out of shape and never finding his stride. He vowed to change that this year and is off to a good start after posting his first 100-yard game from scrimmage in the regular season since Week 4 last season. Samuel had 68 yards receiving, 38 yards rushing and a TD.
"He’s in the best shape," Shanahan said. "He doesn’t have to come out as much, doesn’t have to take as many plays off and is playing as good as I’ve seen him play."
With only three days between games, the Giants stayed in Arizona after last week’s game to prepare for the Niners. Both teams essentially held only walkthroughs this week with the focus on installing the game plan and recovering physically.
"You’ve got to prepare hard in the meetings, and you got to treat those lighter practices with great detail and attention to the specifics of what we need to get accomplished," Daboll said. "It’s a quick turnaround, but everybody has to play them, so that’s what we will do
AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed to this report