I think Joe Judge played this game like he felt field goals weren’t going to be enough against a Browns team that scored 40+ points in each of its last two games.
The Giants got into the red zone three times in the first half. They came away with just 3 points. A failed fake field goal from the 8-yard line and a failed fourth-and-2 try from the 6-yard line ended good drives with no points.
“Field goals weren’t going to win this game,” Judge said. “I’m not afraid to call things aggressively. I’m not afraid if I think we have a good scheme in the kicking game to call a fake. I’m not afraid to run the ball on fourth-and-1.
“I’m not afraid to call it aggressively. We went into this game with that mindset.”
I don’t blame the Giants for being aggressive in those spots. A couple of field goals might have made the score look a little better, but they weren’t going to win the Giants the game. The Giants were the underdog, and they were under-manned. They needed to do something special to win the game. They tried, and it just didn’t happen.
Fake field goal
I think — no, I know — I don’t want to see the Giants try that play again. A center eligible fake field goal with punter Riley Dixon trying to throw down the middle to Nick Gates? Umm ... no. If you’re going to fake it, which the Giants probably should not have, you need a better play than that.
“We thought we had a chance at it,” Judge said. “It was worth rolling the dice right there and playing to our defense. They made a play. We didn’t. I thought the scheme was sound going in.”
The play ended up with Dixon trying to throw to a triple-covered Gates, which wasn’t going to work.
Again, no real problem with the idea of running a fake. Lord knows, I have waited years to find a Giants coach who had the courage to make calls like that. I just didn’t think Dixon ended up with any good options.
The NFC East is insane
The Giants missed their chance to take the lead — and control — of the NFC East. The Giants are probably not winning the division, but they are just a game out and it remains a possibility. No team in the division will finish the season with a winning record, but somehow they all still have hope. I think that’s kind of amazing.
As for the Giants, they need to go to Baltimore next week and find a way to upset the Ravens.
NFC East standings
1. Washington (6-8)
2. GIANTS (5-9)
3. Dallas (5-9)
4. Philadelphia (4-9-1)
I think we love to assign blame for things. There are things to nitpick from this game, especially the two fourth-down failures, but it’s hard to look at this game and assign blame to anyone or anything. The Brows were, in my view, just the better team.
Colt McCoy did what he could
Three points was not nearly enough, but I’m not pinning the lack of scoring on backup quarterback Colt McCoy. I thought McCoy did about as well as could have been expected, finishing 19 of 31 for 221 yards. There were two or three end zone throws where he gave receivers opportunities on what amounted to 50/50 balls, and the Giants couldn’t come up with them. Maybe a quarterback with a touch more arm strength squeezes those throws in there, but maybe not.
McCoy was pretty distraught after the game.
“It was frustrating to only come out with 3 points in the first half,” McCoy said. “We have to be better in the red zone. That’s the bottom line. ...
“Not scoring in the red zone is frustrating. That’s where we have to be better, and if we were better in that area today things would have been different.”
Whither the pass rush
The Giants entered the game without star cornerback James Bradberry and slot cornerback Darnay Holmes. Give the personnel he has, defensive coordinator Patrick Graham is heavily reliant on zone coverage schemes, and justifiably so.
Without two starters, you knew Graham was going to have to rely almost exclusively on zone coverage. You also knew that Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield would slice up that zone coverage if he had time to do so.
The Giants got just one sack (by Dexter Lawrence) and one hit on Mayfield. The result was predictable. Mayfield went 27 of 32 for 297 yards and 2 touchdowns, compiling a 126.2 passer rating.
Even with a third-string guard playing most of the game, the Cleveland offensive built a fortress in front of Mayfield. The Giants could not penetrate it.
As good as the Giants are on the interior of their defensive line, they aren’t going to be a complete defense until they are able to complement what they have with a dominant edge rusher.
Andrew Thomas played well
The Giants’ rookie left tackle gave up a sack to Myles Garrett in the game’s waning seconds. Other than that meaningless bit of stat-padding for Garrett, though, Thomas acquitted himself very well. That was a nice bounce back game for Thomas after a rough outing a week ago against the Arizona Cardinals.
Wide receiver woes
The Giants haven’t reached the 20-point plateau in their last four games. They don’t have Sauon Barkley. Daniel Jones has missed two of the last three games and was hobbled in the game he did play in.
It becomes more and more apparent each week, though, that the Giants have to put resources into upgrading the wide receiver position during the upcoming offseason.
Sterling Shepard was indignant when asked Sunday night about analytics showing poor separation by Giants receivers.
“I don’t know where people are getting that from, to be honest,” Shepard said. “I don’t know what the analytics say. You can go off that if you want to. I know what I see on film.”
Still, the Giants just aren’t getting enough from the wide receiver spot. Darius Slayton had four catches for a team-high 74 yards, but it took nine targets.
The Giants need to search for their Stefon Diggs or their D.K. Metcalf this offseason.
Judge has made this season about progress, not playoffs. Well, it’s less likely now that the Giants are going to find a way to make the playoffs. After being outscored 46-10 the past two weeks, I think it is also hard to argue that those two efforts looked like progress.
Against two winning teams that are almost certainly headed to the playoffs, the Giants just did not look competitive.
After a four-game winning streak that left everyone just a little giddy, I think the last two games have been a reminder that there is still work to be done in the construction of the Giants.