TAMPA, Fla. — Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones had an impressive first start in place of Eli Manning, rallying the New York Giants from an 18-point first-half deficit to a 32-31 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Jones accounted for four touchdowns, including a seven-yard score that put the Giants ahead for the first time with 1:16 remaining in the game.
Jones finished 23-of-36 for 336 yards with two passing and two rushing touchdowns, flashing the poise and playmaking ability that made them fall in love enough to make him the No. 6 overall pick.
The Giants (1-2) topped 17 points for the first time this season against a Todd Bowles-led defense that had looked solid the first two weeks. They escaped with the victory after Tampa Bay missed a 34-yard field goal as time expired.
Manning had been the team’s full-time starter for all but one game since 2004, but coach Pat Shurmur made the switch after last week’s loss to the Buffalo Bills saying that Jones was the better option for the Giants. He proved him correct, at least in his first career start.
Jones led the Giants on four touchdown drives and flashed playmaking ability throughout. He ran for a touchdown in the first and second halves and used his legs on countless occasions to create positive gains on plays that would have otherwise been dead.
Jones rallied the Giants back from a 28-10 halftime deficit. He hit tight end Evan Engram in stride running across the field for a 75-yard touchdown on the opening possession of the second half. He made a brilliant throw across his body deep downfield to fellow rookie Darius Slayton after shuffling around the pocket later in the third quarter. Later in that same drive, Jones dropped a perfectly-placed ball into the arms of Sterling Shepard in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
It drew the Giants to within 28-25.
What Jones put on the field in his first career start was much the same of what they’ve seen ever since he stepped into the building earlier this year. He checked all the boxes this spring, summer and in the preseason, when he completed better than 85 percent of his passes.
The lone knock was ball security. After three fumbles in the preseason, Jones lost a fumble on one of his four snaps late in the season-opening loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He also lost a pair of fumbles on Sunday when he was sacked in the third and fourth quarters against the Bucs.
But the positives significantly outweighed the negatives in this outing. Jones displayed impressive composure and poise not usually seen from rookie quarterbacks in the NFL. It looked like he belonged, right from the start when he completed five of his first six passes in the first quarter.
Jones’ first career touchdown came on a seven-yard scamper early in the second quarter. It was a zone-read where he kept the ball and outraced the defender to the pylon. This is what Bucs coach Bruce Arians said in the week leading up to the game, that the biggest difference between Manning and Jones was the youngster’s “mobility.”
Jones finished with 28 yards on four rushes, but it was his ability to escape pressure on multiple plays that proved invaluable. As one coach told ESPN recently about Manning, when a play with him at the helm was off schedule, it “was over.”
That clearly was not the case with Jones as the Giants offense produced a season-high 32 points on Sunday.