The cheers were deserved, saluting a job well done. Then the 2007 Giants left the field. Then the jeering and booing returned.
Living in the past was the way to go Monday night, as the 2017 Giants stunk up the joint in a home opener that was so abysmal the retired offensive linemen at MetLife Stadium should not have been allowed to leave. Would David Diehl or Kareem McKenzie — on hand to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Super Bowl XLII — hold up better than Ereck Flowers, the current left tackle? Perhaps.
The season is just two games old and already, the Giants are in crisis mode. They went down early, hung around but were mostly toyed with by the Lions in a 24-10 loss that was hard on the eyes.
Odell Beckham Jr. made his season debut, dealing with a high ankle sprain, and played sparingly, as the Giants did not want to overextend their star receiver. Beckham was targeted five times and caught four passes for 36 yards. He is not a miracle worker, though, and all the problems with this anemic offense cannot be solved with the return of one player.
Eli Manning was sacked five times, four in a brutal first half, and if the Giants do not do something with Flowers, the franchise quarterback is not going to last the season. Manning, under siege, was not as sharp as he needed to be, once again had no running game to lean on and has not had anything close to a connection with Brandon Marshall.
This was the eight consecutive game, dating to last season, in which the Giants failed to reach 20 points. That is prehistoric offense in the modern-day NFL.
On defense, the Giants were certainly not world-beaters and their special teams allowed an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown. Ben McAdoo has a mess on his hands.
History is not on the side of the Giants. Since the NFL went to 12 playoff teams in 1990, only 12 percent of the teams that started the season 0-2 qualified for the playoffs. Yes, we all remember the Giants in 2007 were one of the teams to pull off that feat, but these Giants seem to have all sorts of problems, especially with an offense that is out of sync.
A cascade of boos sent the Giants in at halftime, down 17-7 and looking dreadful. Their offense was so pathetic that the fans could stand no more. Manning was sacked four times, with Flowers getting embarrassed by Ziggy Ansah. Twice, Manning held the ball too long waiting for his targets to break free for coverage sacks, but this was another unmitigated mess up front.
Ansah got his third sack of the game — he had two in 2016 — plowing past Flowers on the second play of the third quarter. The Giants managed to botch a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line when Brett Jones, playing left guard, was called for a holding penalty, and an unsatisfying field goal was the result.
The Lions stuck the dagger in and twisted it early in the fourth quarter, when four Giants had a shot at stopping rookie Jamal Agnew and none of them got a glove on him as he darted 88 yards on a punt return for a touchdown that stuck the Giants in a 24-10 hole.
The start could not have gone worse for the Giants. Paul Perkins was dropped for no gain on their first offensive play and Manning was sacked by Haloti Ngata on a play where Manning should have sensed the pressure and released the ball. Manning fumbled on the play and was fortunate his knee was down before he lost the ball, or else the Lions would have had a gift touchdown.
As it was, the Giants were booed off the field after the feeble three-and-out, a series that cost the Giants their right tackle. Bobby Hart came into the game with a sprained ankle and lasted only two plays before exiting, in obvious pain. That forced a double-move on the offensive line, with Justin Pugh moving from left guard to right tackle and Brett Jones coming off the bench to play left guard.
Matt Stafford’s 27-yard floater to Marvin Jones gave the Lions a 7-0 lead, with Eli Apple running stride-for-stride with Jones but failing to make a play on the underthrown pass. Rookie tight end Evan Engram scored on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Manning, the first (and only) touchdown in two games for the Giants.
Jason Pierre-Paul forced a Stafford fumble for a turnover and what should have been a swing in momentum became more bad news for the Giants. On the next play, Manning threw short and, inexplicably, behind Engram, who reached back and tipped the ball with his right hand, allowing Tahir Whitehead to come up with an interception. The Lions cashed in when Stafford hit Eric Ebron, who easily beat safety Darian Thompson in the right corner of the end zone to make it 14-7.
What followed were three more sacks of Manning and Matt Prater hit a 56-yard field goal — knocking it off the crossbar — and the Giants limped off at halftime trailing 17-7.