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Cardinals 27, Giants 21: Four ‘things I think’ after Giants’ third straight loss

Let’s talk about Sunday’s loss

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s do something I probably should have begun doing long ago. Let’s do a post-game ‘Valentine’s Views’ with some “things I think” regarding Sunday’s 27-21 loss by the New York Giants to the Arizona Cardinals.

Pat Shurmur and a confusing final 4:29

I have said for years that I don’t like questioning individual plays calls. That’s too easy. You can cherry pick any play that works and say it’s a great call. Conversely, you can cherry pick any play that fails and say it’s an awful call.

That said, overall game management by a head coach is a different thing. It’s an area where Pat Shurmur often draws scrutiny, and on Sunday both his handling of the final 4:29 and his explanation for it were equally befuddling.

The Giants trailed 24-21 and Arizona was getting ready to punt from its 46-yard line when Shurmur used his first timeout with 4:29 to play.

The coach explained that he didn’t want to lose 45 seconds there. Me? I’d rather save the timeout for my rookie quarterback. In a three-point game, that was too early to burn a timeout.

Then, once the Giants got the ball another highly questionable sequence ensued. Facing third-and-18 the Giants ran a shotgun draw to Saquon Barkley that gained only three yards. Shurmur said that was an audible by Daniel Jones based on the two-high safety look the Cardinals presented and he didn’t have a problem with it because the quarterback knew the Giants would be going for it on fourth down.

That, to be honest, is where the problem really lies. A week ago, Shurmur refused to go for it on fourth-and-7 from his own 33-yard line down two touchdowns with 7:08 to play. This time, he chooses to go for it on fourth-and-15 from his 33-yard line down three points with 2:35 to play.

The explanation, in my view, was as convoluted as the thinking.

“It was going to play out the way I thought. Stop ‘em, make ‘em kick a field goal at the very least and we go down and score a touchdown. Plus, I wanted to get a chance to make it on fourth-and-15,” Shurmur said.

“That’s the way it played out. We had the ball with a chance to go down and score a touchdown to win the game.”

That’s true. The Giants did hold the Cardinals to a field goal, but burned their final two timeouts in the process.

If it was me, I would have punted and used my two timeouts and the two-minute warning to stop the clock and try to get a better scenario for my offense than fourth-and-15.

Feel free, which I know you will, to agree or disagree.

I also wish Shurmur would just stop challenging pass interference calls. He is 0 for 5 this season on challenges and after Sunday I believe 0 for 4 now on pass interference challenges.

It’s been well established at this point that even if the call on the field is blatantly wrong the league is not going to overturn pass interference/non-pass interference calls.

Yet, Shurmur challenged anyway when Janoris Jenkins was incorrectly penalized 25 yards for a phantom interference call when Arizona’s Trent Sherfield fell on his own.

His only defense was that it was 14-0 Arizona at the time and a Cardinals touchdown there would have made it 21-0 and basically ended the game before the first quarter was even over. So, in that sense it was perhaps a risk worth taking.

“I thought it was a … I guess I am going to continue to do it. I know they are getting overturned at a low percentage, but I felt like there was a push there and it was a big chunk of yardage. It was in the first half, and I felt like it was worth challenging at that point. I knew we had jumped offside and it was kind of one of those free play scenarios. But, I thought it was worth the risk at that time. It just didn’t get overturned,” Shurmur said.

“I think it still makes sense in situations like that, where those are large chunks of yardage to give it a shot.”

Shurmur would be right, if the league was even pretending to have some interest in overturning those calls and getting them right. The way the league is officiating them, however, all he is doing is wasting a challenge.

Chasing their tails on defense?

I think that perhaps the most disconcerting thing I heard in the locker room after the game came from defensive back Michael Thomas. I’m going to give you what Thomas said to a small cluster of reporters and I will comment on it afterwards. I’m curious if you read Thomas’s remarks the same way I heard them.

“We’ve gotta execute better. We’ve gotta figure out, OK, they’re not doing anything that they were doing maybe the first five, six weeks of the season. They’ve transitioned to this, make those adjustments and go out there and just make plays. Tackle. Set edges,” Thomas said.

“At the end of the day whoever’s out there execute the fundamentals. Set edges. Tackle. Get to your gaps. Then let’s make adjustments as soon as we get back to the sideline.”

There are two alarming parts of that for me. The “they’re not doing anything that they were doing maybe the first five, six weeks of the season” is first.

That tells me that defensive coordinator James Bettcher did not have the Giants prepared for what Arizona did on offense. Whether that was blocking schemes, play calls or whatever Thomas was referring to, that’s a big hint that what the Giants studied and prepped for is not what they got from Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals.

Perhaps that’s why Chase Edmonds, normally Arizona’s backup running back, gashed the Giants for touchdown runs of 22, 20 and 20 yards and gained 126 yards on 27 carries. Perhaps that’s why the Cardinals went touchdown, touchdown, field goal the first three times they had the ball.

It was also bothersome that Thomas seemed to ding some of his teammates for both a lack of fundamentals and perhaps a lack of urgency.

Here’s just a little more from Thomas:

“It’s no excuses there; other components, you can think of them: injuries, young players, stuff like that, but I’m not making any excuses for that. It’s man-up and rally and whoever is in there has to execute and that’s where we are at right now. We are going to find a way to make sure that the people that are out there are doing that from the jump and from the start of the game and it’s not going to be a ‘Oh, we’re down 14 and now let’s play with a sense of urgency’, no. We have to do it from the very beginning.”

Daniel Jones’ development hits a snag

Quarterback guru Mark Schofield always says quarterback development is not linear. That means it isn’t a straight line where you see the same amount of improvement, or any improvement at all, in each game.

Watch Jones right now and it’s not hard to think that his development has stalled, that he’s hit his first serious bump in the road in what the Giants are banking on will be an eventual climb to stardom.

Jones threw a terrible interception on Sunday. Facing a third-and-13 he threw late and into double coverage for Golden Tate, a ball that never had a chance to be anything other than an interception. The pick by Arizona’s Jordan Hicks was the Cardinals first of the season, and set them up at the Giants’ 32-yard line.

Jones now has seven interceptions, and his interception rate of 4.0 percent is higher than his touchdown rate of 3.4 percent.

Jones also fumbled three times. In five games, he has fumbled seven times, losing five.

But, those eight sacks, you say? I have already Schofield will break each of them down for us this week to figure out how many were the fault of the offensive line, the coverage and Jones himself.

What I will say now is that coming out of Duke one of the concerns about Jones was indecision once he gets out of the quick-game concepts that allow him to basically catch the snap and throw. The more he plays, the more we are seeing him hold the ball too long and be indecisive. Thus, the more we see him put the ball in danger.

If his development is to get back on an upward arc, this is right now the area to be concerned about. He’s got to more quickly recognize when a play is breaking down and get the ball out. If he can’t get the ball out, he’s got to do a better job protecting it when he does get hit.

Saquon wasn’t near 100 percent

I think that was obvious.

Saquon Barkley, statistically, had a decent game. He ran 18 times for 72 yards, 4.0 yards per carry. He caught three, albeit for only 8 yards.

Barkley, four weeks removed from suffering a high ankle sprain, wasn’t really Barkley. He did lose a 32-yard run to a Will Hernandez holding penalty, but he didn’t seem to have that big-play explosivenss. He also hobbled his way through the fourth quarter after appearing to tweak the ankle and missing a few plays to get it re-taped.

Barkley had a 7-yard touchdown run, but lost 8 yards on a pass reception and 6 yards on a running play.

“I felt like I was running well. I think I did a little too much on some stuff, but that’s part of my game. Sometimes it doesn’t work, most of the time it works, so just have to go watch film and see what I could do better to help my team win,” Barkley said. “I think you guys watched the game just as much as I played it, cutting was fine. I think I broke some long ones today, made some people miss. Even when I went negative, I made some people miss. I think I did fine, I know I felt fine. I didn’t do enough to help my team win.”

Barkley said “yes” when asked if he felt like himself during the game. That is what he should have said, of course.

It was just apparent that he wasn’t at full strength.