John Ross was fast, Kenny Golladay was strong and Kadarius Toney was elusive.
The Giants’ receiving corps entered Sunday short-handed and emerged as the upper hand in a 27-21 overtime victory against the Saints.
With starters Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton sidelined by hamstring injuries, Ross, Golladay and Toney combined for 15 catches, 271 yards and one touchdown on Daniel Jones’ career-best passing day. If the numbers don’t say enough, the intangibles were even more impressive.
“All the receivers played so much of a part,” Golladay said. “Everybody in the receiving room did a great job, helped D.J. out, and he put it on us.”
Making his Giants’ debut, Ross showed why he is one of the fastest players in the NFL when he sprinted behind the defense for a 52-yard catch. But, when the ball was ripped out at the goal line, he hopped to his feet and dove on it in the end zone as defenders sulked. So, when replay reviews overturned the initial ruling of a touchdown catch, it still was a score because of Ross’s fumble recovery. After the game, the NFL reversed course and credited a Jones-to-Ross touchdown pass to negate the fumble.
Playing a big role for the first time as a rookie, Toney made six catches for 78 yards. He took a screen and converted a third-and-18 on a first-half drive that would’ve resulted in points if not for a missed chip-shot field goal. He made two catches for 16 yards on the late tying field-goal drive. And he wisely tucked the ball rather than forcing a potential mistake when given the opportunity to throw the ball on a well-covered trick play.
“I’m just executing the game plan … and that was just a product of what they were giving,” Toney said.
Battling through his own hip injury, Golladay looked the part of a $72 million No. 1 receiver. Among his six catches for 116 yards, two stood out: A 28-yarder to convert a third-and-7 in the final minute of regulation — when he caught a slant in traffic and bounced off Malcolm Jenkins’ tackle for a big run into field-goal position — and a 23-yarder on the second-to-last play of overtime.
“When my number is called, I want to be there to answer that bell and make that big play,” Golladay said. “I didn’t know I was going to break that tackle. I just knew I had to catch the ball and try to get it down there the best way I could. In that time right there, I’m not trying to do more than what I’m asked to do.”
When the 11-point fourth-quarter comeback was complete, a lasting effect on game-planning opponents was created: The speed threat posed by Toney and Ross was the missing element in the offense that prevented defenses from overloading the box and created space for Saquon Barkley to come alive.
It suggested both still need roles whenever Shepard and Slayton — historically, Jones’ two favorite targets — return.
“Those guys are always in my corner motivating me to go out and do what I do best,” Toney said. “Shep always turns up when I make a play or do something crazy. He will be the first one to celebrate with me. And Slay is always on me. We’ll be jawing, talking smack.”