If Twitter had been around in 1981, it would have been interesting to gauge NFL Nation’s reaction to Detroit’s Eric Hipple lighting up the Chicago Bears defense for 300-plus passing yards (from only 14 completions) and six total touchdowns on Monday Night Football — which also served as the second-year quarterback’s starting professional debut.
For 38 years, Hipple’s out-of-nowhere domination of the Bears represented the gold standard of quarterback breakouts in the post-merger NFL, at least from an aggregate passing yards/passing touchdowns/rushing TDs perspective.
Sure, plenty of novice QBs have thrown for more yards (Cam Newton eclipsed the 400-yard-mark in his first two NFL starts); but for the longest time, Hipple — who might have been the prime reason why the Lions passed on Jim Kelly and Dan Marino in the 1983 draft (seriously) — didn’t have much competition in his single-game category of achievement.
That solemn existence ended on Sunday.
Not only did rookie QB Daniel Jones
Jones’ storybook Sunday had a happy ending, due to Bucs kicker Matt Gay missing a chip-shot-range field goal of 34 yards in the final seconds.
But even if Gay’s kick had sailed through the uprights, Giants fans would still be riding high today … on the confident belief that Jones can lead the franchise to prominence for 10-15 years.
Similar to Eli Manning, who watched Sunday’s back-and-forth shenanigans unfold from the Giants sideline.
A FEW WORDS OF CAUTION
The strong-armed, fleet-footed and remarkably humble Jones seems like the ideal fit for Pat Shurmur’s offense.
But that statement can only be confirmed through time … regardless of what the national pundits are squawking about in the afterglow of Victory No. 1.
For starters …
**The Bucs defense must have forgotten that Jones had nimble feet, just seconds before the quarterback scrambled for the eventual game-winning touchdown.
On the final play, Tampa Bay went all-out to defend every New York playmaker with ferocious one-on-one intensity. As a consequence, though, it left a sea of open land for Jones to roam.
Heck, even Eli Manning would have scored without incident, given the Grand Canyon-sized gap after evading the pass rush.
(Credit where it’s due: Leading up to Jones’ score on 4th and 5, the Buccaneers did a superb job of stifling the Giants playmakers, most notably tight end Evan Engram, who cruised for six catches, 113 yards and one touchdown.)
**Jones won’t have access to tailback Saquon Barkley for a few weeks, with the second-year star suffering a high ankle sprain in the first half.
For one glorious comeback, the Giants persevered without the dynamic help of Barkley; but will that trend carry over to Weeks 4, 5 and 6, once the opposing defenses can effectively game-plan for Wayne Gallman?
**This time last year, Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (currently sidelined to illness) was the toast of New York City; and now, he’s just a promising, but eminently flawed quarterback on perhaps the AFC’s second-worst team.
**The Giants defense can’t stop anyone.
Bucs wideout Mike Evans racked up eight catches, 190 yards and three touchdowns. Traditionally sluggish tailback Ronald Jones collected 121 total yards; and quarterback Jameis Winston (380 yards passing, 3 TDs) had zero difficulty rummaging through the New York defense during crunch time.
And these problems won’t be subsiding, as the season takes its toll.
On the plus side …
**The Giants draw the vulnerable Redskins next Sunday, giving Jones the chance to showcase his stuff in front of an adoring home crowd.
Actually, scratch that. If you watched at least one quarter of Giants-Bucs, you’d know the New York-focused cheers were twice as loud as the Tampa Bay cheers; and perhaps Jones fed off that ‘snowbird’ energy in friendly enemy territory.
**Hipple might have had an unremarkable career with the Lions (10,771 yards passing, 55 TDs, 70 INTs … 28-29 as a starter), but he fared rather well in NFL Start No. 2, dazzling the 1981 Packers for 300 total yards (271 passing) and three total touchdowns (two rushing).
So, there’s definitely hope for Jones carrying that sugar high of Sunday greatness into the following week.