Despite Detroit twice leading by double-digits, this game was never really out of hand. There was good and bad from the Giants on the field — as there is in any game. Rookies and veterans alike showing positive signs as well as making some head-scratching mistakes.
What can we learn from the game as the Giants drop their fourth straight game going into a divisional matchup against the Dallas Cowboys?
Daniel Jones had a bounce-back game
Granted, the Lions had one of the worst defenses in the NFL before they traded Quandre Diggs and lost Darius Slay to injury. But still, Daniel Jones had a nice game after a rough stretch against the Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, and Ariznoa Cardinals.
Jones finished completing 28 of 41 for 322 yards and four touchdowns — two of which went to fellow rookie Darius Slayton. He did have that ugly lateral turned Lions’ touchdown early in the game as well as a couple near-interceptions, but he didn’t let the early adversity pile weigh him down. He executed better as the Giants simplified their play-calling sped up their offense, showing better decision making and ball security, as well as some nice throws down the field.
It wasn’t all roses and there were a few throws in which his receivers bailed him out, but this was an overall positive step for the rookie.
Darius Slayton needs to start
The rookie out of Auburn got the start with Sterling Shepard still in the concussion protocol and he made the most of his opportunity. The Lions had tight coverage on him throughout the first half, but he responded with a pair of huge touchdown catches to keep Detroit from walking away with the game in the first half.
He was known for his speed and explosiveness in college, but he flashed a level of concentration and ball skills that were simply impressive. He adjusted well to the ball in the air, looking it into his hands, and securing the ball through contact from defensive backs.
Yes, he had a couple drops after those touchdowns, but Slayton was still the Giants’ most dangerous receiver against Detroit.
We don’t yet know when Shepard will be back from his concussion, but Slayton needs to stay in the starting lineup until then. He should probably remain there even after Shepard comes back.
Dalvin Tomlinson is a rock in the middle of the Giants’ defense
The Lions were missing Kerryon Johnson, but even though he is one of the better running backs in the NFL, he probably wouldn’t have been able to do much with the blocking the Lions had this game. Detroit was able to get something from their running game early in the game, but production on the ground dried up as the first quarter wore on and largely disappeared in the second quarter. And in the middle of it all was defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson.
Tomlinson might not get the consistent pressure that gets people excited and is rarely on the field in passing situations — though he can make his presence felt. He is, however, one of the best in the NFL when it comes to controlling gaps, stacking and shedding blockers, and generally being a force at the line of scrimmage.
His brand of football isn’t as important as it used to be, but when offenses are set on running the ball, he’s a good guy to have on your side.
Pat Shurmur can’t win the new pass interference rule
Last week we couldn’t figure out why Pat Shurmur insisted on challenging pass interference calls (or non-calls) when they weren’t egregious enough to be overturned.
This week there were two more opportunities for Shurmur to throw the challenge flag, but he elected to keep it in his pocket. The first was a pass into the end zone on a third-and-11 to Darius Slayton. The ball was well in front of him, but he had the chance to make a play on it, but was held by Lions’ CB Mike Ford. It wasn’t a particularly bad hold with Ford quickly letting go, but he did grab the trail of Slayton’s jersey and it might have been enough to keep him from making a play on the ball.
The second one came on the next play, a desperate attempt at a touchdown on fourth-and- 11. Jones once again targeted Slayton, who was once again matched up on Ford. This time the flag was thrown as the receiver and cornerback found themselves hugging in the end zone as the ball sailed over their head. However, it was picked up as the pass was ruled uncatchable.
Considering the circumstances, either play would have been the right opportunity for Shurmur to throw the challenge flag. True, had he lost the challenge he would have burned the Giants’ final timeout, but had he won they would have found themselves with a fresh set of downs at the goal line and a real chance to win the game.
These situations seem to keep cropping up for the Giants and Shurmur needs to get a better read on what the NFL is looking for.
Saquon Barkley is looking healthier
Barkley had 143 yards and a touchdown today, which is pretty good for a player coming back from a high ankle sprain which he might have aggravated last week. He had a number of plays where the Lions simply couldn’t bring him down, with his strength and balance proving to be too much for would-be tacklers.
True, he only average 3.4 yards on the ground against a bad Lions’ run defense, and it certainly helps production when defenses don’t bother covering a running back out of the backfield. But even so, Barkley looked better than he had a week ago and his production helped the Giants stay in this game until the end.
He still isn’t completely healthy and didn’t quite have that same electric spring to his game that we are used to seeing. The good news for the Giants is that even at 80 percent, Barkley is still better than a lot of running backs and there were definite flashes of the player we all know him to be when healthy.