EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Saquon Barkley had one of his worst games for the New York Giants. The offensive line struggled against one of the NFL’s top front sevens and Daniel Jones showed turnovers remain his biggest problem.
Combine it all and the Joe Judge era as the Giants’ coach did not get off to a rousing start.
Ben Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes in returning from an elbow injury that sidelined him most of last season, and the Pittsburgh Steelers held Barkley to 6 yards on 15 carries in a 26-16 win over New York on Monday night.
“Obviously we have some things we need to clean up,” Judge said. “The mark of a good team is the improvement you make moving on from Week 1. We have to stop with the turnovers.”
The bigger concern has to be getting Barkley going with Chicago on tap Sunday. His longest run was 7 yards. More often than not, he was hit well behind the line of scrimmage.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin had said before the game his defense had to stop Barkley.
“That’s obviously a very talented front we played,” Judge said. “But look, we are going to stay aggressive with the run game. Saquon is a key part of our team and he is going to be a difference in how successful this team is going to be.”
Barkley said he simply has to be better.
There were some bright spots for the Giants. Jones threw for 279 yards and hit Darius Slayton for two touchdowns. However, the second-year quarterback was intercepted twice, and both were bad throws.
T.J. Watt jumped up at the line of scrimmage to pick off Jones at the Giants 36 with New York ahead 3-0. It led to a tying field goal.
The second interception was a backbreaker. With New York down 16-10 early in the third quarter, Jones took the Giants on a 19-play, 87-yard drive to the Steelers 4. On second-and-4, linebacker Bud Dupree pressured Jones on a rollout left and hit his arm as he threw. Defensive end Cam Heyward intercepted the fluttering ball at the goal line and the drive ended with no points.
“That was a play that I would obviously like to have back,” Jones said. “I would like to have a chance to look at it with the coaches tomorrow and look into it. It was a costly mistake. It’s something I have to work on and improve on.”
The Giants are coming off a 4-12 record that cost coach Pat Shurmur his job after two seasons. They have won nine games over the past three seasons and made the playoffs once since 2012.
Judge was hired in January and has vowed to make the Giants a tough, physical team. They did that for the most part in his first game, particularly on defense, but their mistakes led to a familiar result.
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