In a season filled with head-scratching clock and in-game management decisions by New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur, what happened in the closing moments Sunday against the Chicago Bears might be the most egregious misjudgment of them all.
If you watched the game you know what happened. Facing fourth-and-2 at his own 33-yard line with 3:48 to play, Bears coach Matt Nagy outmaneuvered the Giants and put Daniel Jones in a nearly impossible situation from which he could not extricate the Giants.
With the Giants already having burned all of their timeouts, Nagy left his offense on the field. He was never going to go for it, not nursing a 19-14 lead and with the Giants being able to take the lead with a touchdown.
The ploy, though, got the Giants to leave their defense on the field. That accomplished, Nagy ran his offense off the field and his punt unit on.
The Giants, though, never responded. Despite, by rule, being allowed to substitute at that point the Giants did not change personnel. The punt team did not come on. Nor did punt returner Golden Tate.
That might have been OK if Jabrill Peppers, an experienced punt returner who had a 40-yard return earlier in the game, was available. Peppers, though, did not play in the second half after injuring a hip.
That left Janoris Jenkins, with just 10 career punt returns (only one since 2012) back to return the punt from Chicago’s Pat O’Donnell. Jenkins didn’t field the ball and it rolled all the way to the Giants’ 6-yard line, a 61-yard punt.
Shurmur said the Giants “contemplated” putting an experienced return man (Tate) back in that spot, but chose not to.
“We could of (substituted),” Shurmur said. “We went safe punt there, that’s all. Just to make sure we didn’t have a substitution issue. We practice that and that’s what we intended to do.”
Like many of the in-game decisions we have seen this season there is no way to say that it directly cost the Giants the game. It made them look ill-prepared, however, and made trying to win the game more difficult.