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Things we learned from the Giants’ 17-9 loss to the Rams

What did we learn from the Giants’ week 4 loss?

NFL: New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Another week, another loss for the New York Giants, this time falling 17-9 to the Los Angeles Rams.

If there’s good news in a loss, it would be that this time the Giants didn’t embarrass themselves, despite facing a team predicted to blow them out by double-digit points. And once again, the found themselves with a chance to pull out a win in the final seconds of the game.

So what can we take away from the Giants’ fourth consecutive loss?

Daniel Jones needs to stop staring down his receivers

Daniel Jones lost this game.

The Giants had a slim path to victory, down eight points with a minute left on the clock, but there was a chance.

At least once a game we have been remarking that Jones has made a mistake he — and the Giants — just can’t afford to make. This time it was staring down a receiver in the red zone, leading Darius Williams to a game-ending interception. For third straight week Jones stared down Evan Engram on a curl route, nearly leading to his third interception on the same play to the same receiver, in the same part of the field for the same reason.

While the announce crew tried to point out Jones going through his progressions, time and again he never got off his first read. Even on 1 or 2 read progression he would stare down his receivers from the moment he got the ball in his hands, and lead defenders to them.

It has been a problem for Jones going back to his college days and fixing it might have to be one of the Giants’ highest priorities on offense.

Accurate, but not precise

Daniel Jones finished the game completing 23 of 36 passes — just shy of 64 percent. That’s not an amazing level of accuracy, it lands him between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Baker Mayfield on the weekend, but it’s good enough to win with.

The problem? Well, there’s actually two of them.

The first is that Jones had less than 200 yards passing for the second consecutive week, only averaging 5.3 yards per attempt and just 3 air yards per completion. We’ll get to part of the reason for that in a bit, and it isn’t all on Jones, but it just isn’t good enough.

The second problem is that while Jones completed a relatively high percentage of his passes, he was well below his expected completion percentage of 70.7.

Considering Jones’ average completion traveled less than 10 feet in the air and were essentially extended handoffs, he should have been a lot closer to that 70 percent mark. And watching him over the last couple weeks, he has made his receivers work harder than strictly necessary. We saw him fail to convert a fourth down when he overthrew Golden Tate. Evan Engram’s best catch of the night saw him double-catch a ball, just barely snaring it with his fingertips while fully extended.

Jones has been putting the ball outside of his receivers’ catch radius far too often, particularly when throwing outside the hashmarks.

The Giants receivers still struggle to get open, but Jones isn’t doing them any favors, particularly considering 1 out of 5 passes are targeting a receiver with a defender within a yard of them (per NFL NextGenStats).

The Giants’ offensive line had their best worst game ... Or was it their worst best?

It was a good news, bad news kinda day for the Giants’ offensive line.

The good news, the Giants finally managed to run the ball. Granted, it still wasn’t consistent, and the Rams were daring the Giants to run with light boxes — no Giant saw a heavy box per NFL Next Gen Stats. But they were able to find some success on the ground, for once a running back, Wayne Gallman Jr, broke some big runs.

Teams have been daring the Giants to run all season long and for once the game was close enough that they could actually take the defense up on the offer.

The bad news? The Giants’ pass protection was a problem all game long.

The Rams racked up 4 sacks in the first half, with another 2 in the second half (though one was nullified by a penalty). Any time Jones dropped back to look more than five or six yards downfield, there was a Rams’ defender in his face and he was going to take a hit.

That pressure (once again) forced the Giants to revert to a quick passing attack that allowed the defense to play downhill.

Great game for the defense, terrible game for Sean McVay

I don’t want to take anything away from the Giants’ defense after this game. They did a good job of defending most of what the Rams threw at them and kept the team in the game far longer than the Giants’ offense had any right to be. Dalvin Tomlinson, Kyler Fackrell, and Austin Johnson flashed and had good games, while Logan Ryan made plays as well.

And perhaps once the All-22 tape is (finally) released it will reveal schematic wrinkles the Giants used to throw the Rams off their game.

But for the overwhelming majority of the game, this wasn’t the same Rams’ offense I spent the week watching. When the Rams ran “their” scheme, they were efficient and able to move the ball without much in the way of resistance from the Giants — namely their first and second-to-last drives of the game.

Everything in between that was almost entirely lacking the substance of McVay’s offensive scheme. It was devoid of his usual misdirection and manipulation. He wasn’t sequencing his plays or layering aspects to slow the defense down. A team built on stretching a defense horizontally with outside and split zone concepts lined up with a fullback to play Power O, a formation they literally had not used at all in their prior games.

Perhaps the All-22 will reveal something. Perhaps McVay had outsized confidence in his defense, or perhaps he got cold feet after the Giants stopped his screen plays on the goal line in the second quarter. Perhaps he thought he could beat the Giants without showing any more of his scheme than absolutely necessary. Whatever happened, this was a bad game for McVay, but the Giants deserve kudos for dealing well with what the Rams threw at them. You should be able to win when you hold the other team to 17 points.

Graham Gano might be the Giants’ best offensive player

The Giants have a lot of problems on their squad, that’s plain to see from the fact that they’re 0-4. But one problem that seems to get lost in the shuffle — or perhaps is a byproduct of their other offensive problems at different times — is that the Giants just can’t score touchdowns.

The Giants have the worst scoring offense in the NFL, with just 38 points on the season and an average of 12.7 per game. Put another way, they have gone 8 quarters since scoring a touchdown, and have only gotten into the endzone 3 times in 4 games. After two weeks of scoring just 9 points, kicker Graham Gano has emerged as the Giants’ biggest offensive threat, with 20 of the Giants’ 38 points coming off of Gano’s right leg.

The Giants have plenty of issues to solve going forward, but their inability to score — for whatever reason, be it receivers not uncovering, poor execution by the offensive line, bone-headed penalties, or poor execution from the quarterback — is one of the biggest. It’s too easy to game plan against a team that can get blown out by a three-touchdown performance.