Whisper it, but maybe the New York Giants are finally good again. This shock 27-22 victory against the Green Bay Packers was impressive enough. Doing it despite going behind 14 points early, and a team riddled with injuries, hinted at something even more substantial. Their reward is their best start to an NFL season in 13 years.
The Giants are not the most talented team in the NFL. But they are certainly among its most pesky and resilient. That toughness embodied by their star running back, Saquon Barkley, who returned after a shoulder injury to score the winning touchdown.
“It’s a great start,” Barkley said afterward. “But we can’t get too caught up in it. There’s a reason we’re 4-1. Because the guys and the coaches are setting a standard. And we are finding a way to win games.”
However, the Packers head coach, Matt LaFleur, was brutal in his assessment. “Obviously this is as disappointing as it gets for us,” he said. “Give New York all the credit. They outcoached us, they outplayed us. They definitely wanted it more. It was the tale of two halves. They kicked our butt in the second half.”
This was the 31st regular-season game to be played in London, dating back to 2007 – and, remarkably, the first between two teams with winning records. But while the Packers and Giants came in at 3-1, the betting line told a different story about their respective strengths – with the Packers heavy favorites.
Early on it went to script. Halfway through the first quarter the Packers were up 10-0, through a 46-yard Mason Crosby field goal and then through their quarterback Aaron Rodgers’s first touchdown with a four-yard pass to Allen Lazard.
While the Giants got themselves on the scoreboard with a 48-yard field goal, the Packers went on a 13-play 75-yard drive that ended with Rodgers faking a hand off before finding tight end Marcedes Lewis to make it 17-3 in the second quarter.
At this point the Packers’ fans were buoyant. Never have so many cheesehead hats – which retailed for £60 in the Spurs shop – been spotted outside Wisconsin, and they were making plenty of noise too.
They probably expected the Giants would wilt. Recent vintages would have done. Especially with the quarterback Daniel Jones nursing an ankle injury, their wide receiving core depleted and their best player Barkley unable to get into the game. Instead they launched a surprise comeback.
It started with a moment of magic from Barkley, halfway through the second half, with the Giants running back directly taking the snap, cutting inside the flailing Packers line and speeding into the open field. By the time he was pulled down he had produced an electrifying 40‑yard run and the Giants had momentum.
Soon afterwards the Giants had pulled it back to 17-10 through a double reverse, with Jones lobbing it to Barkley who then flicked it to Daniel Bellinger to power in from two yards.
The Packers scored a field goal shortly before half-time to make it 20-10, but the Giants kept plugging away. An early second-half field goal closed the gap. Then with 10 minutes remaining and with Barkley off the field to have his injury assessed, Gary Brightwell barged in from two yards to make it 20-20. Soon after Barkley applied the coup de grace.
There was still time for the Packers to mount a final drive. But Rodgers first had a pass batted away by Xavier McKinney and was then sacked on the final play of the game and the Giants secured a famous and unlikely win. Rodgers did not play badly, making 25 of 39 passes for 222 yards and throwing for two touchdowns. But, once again, he was unable to exhibit the unruffled class that secured back-to-back MVP titles in 2020 and 2021. The absence of Davante Adams, who has moved to the Las Vegas Raiders, is still keenly felt.
Watching on was the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, who suggested on Saturday that the league could introduce a European division, with London having two franchises. There was inevitably some playing to the gallery. But the demand is certainly strong – with a crowd of 61,024 fans enjoying another NFL nailbiter for a second week in a row.