EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New York Giants got a reality check on Sunday afternoon.
After two victories, one fortunate and one overwhelming, that left the Giants giddy about the future of rookie quarterback Daniel Jones and thinking that maybe, just maybe they had a chance to do something this season the Minnesota Vikings brought the Giants crashing back to reality with a 28-10 victory.
It was a game that could have been closer had the Giants taken advantage of a couple of opportunities, but at the same time felt far more lopsided than even the 18-point margin of defeat indicated.
“We faced a good football team. There were times in the game we presented ourselves with opportunities. We didn’t take advantage of them,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “When that happens against a good team they take advantage of them.
“They (the Vikings) played well. We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities to give ourselves a chance to win the football game.”
The Giants’ victories the past two weeks came against a mediocre Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that gifted them a win by blowing an 18-point and missing what would have been a game-winning 34-yard field goal on the final play and a winless Washington Redskins team that is at least as dysfunctional as the city it represents.
The Vikings were a different story.
A talented, but struggling offense in the first quarter of the season the Vikings exposed the Giants’ defense on a number of levels on Sunday. Using play action effectively, often getting Kirk Cousins out of the pocket and abusing the Giants with everything from screen passes to deep balls the Vikings did everything with their passing attack they had been unable to do for the first four weeks of the season.
“Credit to them. They had a good day offensively,” said Giants linebacker David Mayo. “We understood that their offense is based on run and boot and play action off of it. That’s what they want to do. We just didn’t have our best day.”
Minnesota exposed the Giants’ weakness at linebacker, where Mayo, Nate Stupar and Josiah Tauaefa were playing because Ryan Connelly, Alec Ogletree and Tae Davis were not. EDGE Lorenzo Carter was also out of Sunday’s lineup, replaced by Oshane Ximines.
Slot receiver Adam Thielen had a field day with 7 catches in 8 targets for 130 yards and 2 scores. It was brutally apparent that Grant Haley couldn’t cover him. Unfortunately for the Giants, neither could anyone else they tried.
The Vikings ran the ball pretty much at will, attacking the edges of the Giants’ defense effectively. Cook carried 21 times for 132 yards, 6.3 per carry. In all, Minnesota ran 34 times for 211 yards, 6.2 per rushing attempt.
Minnesota, basically, made the Giants defense look like the overmatched, ineffective group it had been when it gave up 94 points (31.3 per game) the first three weeks. The Giants gave up only 3 points in beating Washington and, when you look at what happened vs. Minnesota, that really tells you a lot about the sorry state of the Redskins.
“Kudos to them for executing their game plan. We have to execute ours better. We have to tackle better. Get off the field on third down,” said defensive back Michael Thomas.
The Giants are well aware that the league’s best team, the New England Patriots, is next up on Thursday night. They understand what they will face, and that the Patriots will go to school on the play action, the crossing routes, the runs to the edges that the Giants couldn’t handle on Sunday.
“It’s a season. You’re going to have some great games. Can’t get too high. Gonna have some games like today where you’re frustrated, you’re pissed. Can’t get too low. Watch the film. Make the corrections. Don’t make excuses. Have thick skin. Don’t get sensitive when we start making corrections. Go to work.”
The Giants’ defense looked on Sunday like the work in progress that it is. Dexter Lawrence had a nice day with a sack, five tackles, a forced and a quarterback hit. DeAndre Baker made some good plays, but had a foolish taunting penalty that sustained a drive and led to a Minnesota touchdown Haley had a rough day. The linebackers got exposed.
The offense, which looked so promising with Jones showing poise and using his legs to make some plays the last two weeks, also got brought back to reality just a bit.
Without Saquon Barkley, the Giants weren’t going to have things go as smoothly every week as they did a week ago against Washington. When Wayne Gallman left with a concussion on the Giants’ first offensive series, he pretty much took any hope the Giants had of a running game with him.
The Giants ran 20 times for 64 yards, with Gallman’s 11-yard run on which he was concussed being their best run of the day.
Jones impressed the Vikings.
“I want to give a shout out to the rook (Daniel Jones). He’s doing really good,” said Minnesota defensive end Everson Griffen. “He’s shown courage. He’s a good player, so I see good things happening for him in the future.”
He couldn’t, however, beat them.
Unfortunately, for the first time in his brief tenure as Giants’ quarterback, he couldn’t even really give his team a chance. There was a brilliant 35-yard touchdown throw to Darius Slayton. There were, though, two devastating missed opportunities.
Jones missed Sterling Shepard on a deep ball that would have been a touchdown.
Jones also missed Shepard on a third down throw in the back of the end zone, sailing the ball too high for Shepard to stay in bounds. The Giants settled for a field goal.
“Two big missed opportunities. I think when you play a good defense like Minnesota you need to convert those,” Jones said. “I will certainly look at those, but I have to be better in those situations and we have to take advantage of those. You can’t afford to miss those against a team like that.”
Jones and the Giants certainly have hope. The future certainly looks brighter than things have for the Giants in a long time.
Chris mentioned it earlier, but the Giants showed on Sunday that they just aren’t ready yet to make that jump from up-and-coming team to contender.
They offer plenty of hints that their time could be coming. That time definitely wasn’t Sunday. It’s not likely to be Thursday night against the Patriots. In the end, it’s probably not 2019, either.