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5 plays that changed the game in Giants’ loss to Tampa Bay

Let’s take one last look at the Giants’ loss to the Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New York Giants Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The New York Giants lost another competitive bout on Monday Night Football against Tom Brady and the surging Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 25-23. The script was somewhat familiar; the Giants had a double-digit lead, like they did in the previous two weeks against the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, and the defense was able to force several punts and long drives that ended in field goals, while also forcing the Buccaneers to turn the football over in their own end. But at the end of the game, the Giants suffered yet another close loss.

The offensive line was able to open some holes for the rushing attack against a Tampa Bay defense that only allows 70 rushing yards per game, which is first in the NFL by a pretty wide margin; that’s impressive considering the lackluster nature of this offensive line, and the fact that there were starting two rookies on the left side. Jason Garrett pinpointed Buccaneers cornerback Jamel Dean and attempted to attack him with double moves downfield, while also being a bit more creative with his play designs. Sadly, the alarming story of the game is centralized at the feet of second-year quarterback Daniel Jones. To try and understand this game, I’ll highlight 5 plays, or clusters of plays, that may explain the outcome.

Play(s) 1: Reckless turnovers

The Giants received the football to start the second half with an 8-point lead. On second and 8, Jones is blitzed and the middle of the field safety rolls to the field side, leaving what would be a one on one outside to the boundary with Darius Slayton.

This is one of the many missed opportunities from Jones; Dean sits and doesn’t carry Slayton upfield, which leaves the receiver wide open. Jones’ eyes dart to Slayton after the snap, and Dean isn’t backpedaling. This post-snap defensive look upon the safeties rotation should have been an easy one-on-one matchup, but the corner didn’t even cover Slayton. Jones comes off the route, looks at the middle of the field, feels the pressure, and attempts to play hero ball, resulting in an interception. I love the competitive toughness in Jones, but you have to be smarter with the football and live to fight another day; Jones fails to do this, and it’s starting to become a disturbing trend. After the Week 1 interception on the goal line against Pittsburgh, I felt he would seriously learn from these types of mistakes, but the case can be made that this loss is because of Jones’ lack of awareness on when not to force footballs into tight coverage.

New York had a nice drive going with a lead, and Jones made another costly decision trying to force the football to Golden Tate. The Giants are in field goal range in the fourth quarter and Jones doesn’t like what he sees downfield, so he attempts to extend the play with his legs, gets caught by the Buccaneers defense and doesn’t throw it out of bounds. Instead, he forces a throw and gives the football back to Tampa Bay. Historically, the Daniel Jones turnover argument can be labeled a collective issue, but these two interceptions are on Jones.

Play(s) 2: Leaving plays on the field

Typically, Jones has been a solid deep ball thrower who uses touch, precision, and quality ball placement, but those were infrequently on display in key spots against Tampa Bay. This sluggo route was an excellent play call by Jason Garrett against Dean, who is susceptible to these types of moves. Dean bits down on the slant, and Sterling Shepard does an excellent job selling the route and exploding upfield. There’s an argument that Shepard turned around too quickly for the ball, but on sluggo routes receivers typically turn their head after the break in these short-yardage situations. Either way, it’s another offensive missed opportunity.

On both of these plays, against different types of coverages, Darius Slayton wins outside and gains leverage up field against the defender. Jones, who usually makes these throws in one-on-one situations, misses both. Is it possible that Jones was going back shoulder to Slayton on the second one? Maybe, but the missed throws all game lead me to believe that’s not the case. Luckily enough, a defensive offsides penalty extended the drive of the second play, but the Giants knocked themselves out of field goal range with this sack by the Buccaneers.

Devin White (45) fools the protection of the Giants by pulling a Kawika Mitchell and selling coverage before looping into the A-Gap untouched to sack Daniel Jones and take a three-point opportunity away from the Giants on third down.

Slayton finished this game with 5 receptions for 56 yards on 9 targets, but he could have had a huge outing, if Jones and him could have connected on plays they’re usually simpatico with executing.

The Giants move the pocket and have Jones roll to the right hash while looking for Slayton out of the slot on the deep horizontal cross. Despite being double covered, Slayton has separation and a well placed pass would have resulted in a big gain for New York. Jones sails the ball and it cannot be completed. A few plays later, Jones threw the interception targeted at Golden Tate.

This play action deep shot from a tight formation with a corner/post from Slayton has worked several times in the past, but the receiver and quarterback are not on the same page. Slayton doesn’t seem to track this ball well and Jones may have put just a bit too much sauce on the ball. This play may not all be on Jones, for it’s unclear if Slayton may have slowed down a bit due to losing the ball in the air; either way ... yet another missed opportunity from the offense.

There were other shots from Jones that were clearly inaccurate; there were a few passes to the flat that were high, the Evan Engram play 30-yard pass could have been placed better, if I’m nitpicking, and the two-point conversion (I’ll get into that) was just poorly executed. The Week 17 game against Philadelphia last season and this matchup in primetime television are easily the two worst games from Daniel Jones, with this one possibly taking the cake.

Play 3: Good design, poor execution

The tight BUNCH to the field creates so much traffic in man coverage for Dion Lewis who releases outside right before the snap. The play was well orchestrated; Antonie Winfield Jr. (31) is about four yards outside the hash, and he has to cover a lot of space to catch up to Lewis while fighting through traffic like an expert frogger player. Lewis releases outside and Jones waits for him to turn his head, which was a mistake; he double clutches a bit, sees Lewis turn his head, and then throws the football. By that time, the throw is late and poorly placed inside. Winfield Jr. runs into Lewis because of the bad pass and the flag gets picked up, effectively ending the game. A well placed ball here, a ball thrown outside towards the pylon, a ball thrown on time and within rhythm, would have forced overtime if Lewis just secures the catch and gets both feet in bounds. Judging by Jones’ foot mechanics, his lead foot seems to be a bit inside on the throw, which may be one reason the placement was off. The Giants can’t afford these types of mistakes in big moments, but they seem to make them week in and week out.

Play(s) 4: Jones game (almost) winning drive

The Giants have been in this situation several times in 2020. With the clock winding down, the team has to score a touchdown to either win or force overtime. Usually, this season, the Giants have fallen just short, but they were able to punch the ball into the end zone for six points against a good Tampa Bay defense with the clock winding down - they just couldn’t execute the two-point conversion.

\Jones doesn’t look as calm as he did in the subsequent fourth down here, but he still converts to Darius Slayton. The left side of the GIants line does a good job picking up the stunt; Jones panics a bit, takes his eyes off the coverage, restablishes himself, then starts to fall backwards and throws off his back foot to an open Slayton who does an excellent job getting open for his quarterback. Slayton comes back to the football, secures the catch, gets the first down, and picks up some yards after the catch as well.

The Giants had to convert two fourth downs on this drive, and this fourth and 16 was one of them. Jones does a solid job rolling right, buying time to allow Shepard to find a void in a zone, and then firing a hard pass into the talented receiver to convert for a first down. Jones steeps up in the pocket, keeps his eyes downfield, while looking calm, and fires the ball to Shepard.

This touchdown pass by Daniel Jones is beautiful. It gives the Giants a chance to tie the game, it’s well placed, with excellent touch. Jones waits the appropriate amount of time for the play side safety to engage the No. 3 receiver’s seam route and then fires a high pass over the top of the covering defender. Tate does a great job securing the catch, high pointing it, bringing it into his body, and toe tapping his way for six points. The Giants have failed to make this play in the past, but they did here on an unconventional type of drive, but it wasn’t enough to extend the game.

Play 5: Forcing turnovers

After an 8-play opening drive, the Giants had to punt the football back to the Buccaneers. Much like week one’s game against the Steelers, the Giants were given an excellent redemption opportunity to score points. Ronald Jonesput the ball on the ground and the Giants recovered, which led to the touchdown pass to Dion Lewis.

Final thoughts

The Giants are a good bad football team. They are 1-7, lose games in ridiculous fashion, and are very frustrating to watch at times, but the team plays hard. They’re a competitive bunch who are well coached for the most part. They need to find ways to win these close affairs; they’re able to stay in the games, not get blown out (omitting the 49ers debacle of course), and put themselves into a winning position, but they’re not good enough to finish the job yet. They are an inexperienced bunch who makes too many mistakes in key situations, which is one reason why they’re 1-7. The mistakes by Daniel Jones must be limited in the coming weeks. I’m typically not someone to rail against Jones, but this game is an eyesore for the young 2nd year quarterback. It was nice to see the Giants actually score the touchdown to almost tie the game, but it’s just not enough. I applaud the defense’s efforts against the Buccaneers offense, but the Giants’ offense continues to be the Achilles heel for the team; this time it wasn’t necessarily because of the offensive line, but the quarterback. With that said, the thought of benching Jones for Colt McCoy is silly.