Joe Judge said late last week that “I think a team will win when it executes on the field for 60 minutes the way it needs to.”
The Giants are, quite obviously, not ready yet.
The San Francisco 49ers, the JV 49ers at that, handed the Giants a lopsided, embarrassing 36-9 loss on Sunday. The Giants and 49ers both play in the NFL. The Giants, though, are obviously not in the same league as the defending NFC champions. Even the replacement version that showed up Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
I don’t want to call it a comedy of errors. There is nothing funny about the number of points the Giants gifted the 49ers. Or about being 0-3. Let’s just say the Giants made a litany of mistakes that made it obvious they aren’t ready to win yet. Especially against a really good, even if wounded and vulnerable, team.
- A poor pitch to Evan Engram that resulted in a lost fumble. That gave San Francisco the ball at the Giants’ 42-yard line and led to a 49ers field goal.
- Darnay Holmes’ illegal contact penalty on a third-and-22 with the score tied at 6-6 in the second quarter was the beginning of the end of the Giants being competitive. Six plays later, Jerick McKinnon scored on a 10-yard run to put the 49ers ahead, 13-6, and, looking back on it, that’s where the game started to get away from the Giants.
- Daniel Jones continued to undo a lot of the good things he does by throwing an interception to Fred Warner at the Giants’ 32-yard line with 1:03 left in the half. That cost the Giants three more points.
- A third-quarter holding penalty by Darius Slayton negated a Daniel Jones run that, combined with a 49ers face mask penalty, could have set the Giants up with a first-and-goal when it was 16-6 and the Giants still had a chance to make it a game.
- On a botched 49ers extra point try, Lorenzo Carter committed a face mask penalty that ended up giving San Francisco a point. One point didn’t change the game, but it was yet another mistake that you just can’t make to be a winning team.
- Trailing by 14 points with :51 left in the third quarter the Giants went for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 30-yard line. The offensive line couldn’t get enough push, Jones got stopped on a sneak and the 49ers turned that into another touchdown.
- As Tom Rock of Newsday pointed out, the Giants couldn’t even do garbage time right. Slayton fumbled the ball away at the San Francisco 19-yard line after catching a 22-yard pass from Jones with roughly a minute left to play.
- Holmes’ penalty was one of three by the Giants ‘ defense that gave San Francisco first downs. The other two were offsides/encroachment penalties on Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams.
- Giants’ running backs carried 10 times for 17 yards, 1.7 yards per carry.
- The 49ers were 8 of 12 (66.7 percent) on third-down conversions.
- San Francisco never punted. Their possessions went as follows:
— Field goal
— Field goal
— Missed field goal
— Field goal
— End of game (mercifully)
The Giants aren’t looking for Super Bowl titles right now. They aren’t even looking for playoffs. They are looking for signs that things are getting better after going an NFL-worst 12-36 from 2017-2019.
Sunday wasn’t progress. In fact, it was a stark reminder of just how far the Giants have to go.
Jones isn’t getting better at limiting devastating mistakes. The defense isn’t getting better at getting off the field on third down or creating takeaways. The offensive line isn’t getting better at creating holes for running backs.
“We go back to work. That’s a simple answer, but that’s really the solution,” Judge said. “We go to work ... we keep grinding on a daily basis and we work to see the results. That’s where we go. We go back to work.”
Judge wouldn’t bite on the whole “step backward” narrative.
“I’ve gotta watch the tape and review everything thoroughly,” he said, offering up the obvious coach-speak response.
The coach also didn’t want to hear that the Giants just aren’t talented enough.
“We have players. We have players,” Judge said. “We have players in a position right now on our roster, on our team that were on that field today that can help us win games. We’ve gotta make sure that everyone coaches better. We have to raise our level of play, and we’ve gotta take advantage of opportunities and not make mistakes that put us behind.”
Obviously, you can point to the lack of an offseason. To the shortened training camp and lack of preseason. To the COVID-19-caused issues that took away all of the things that give first-year head coaches opportunities to level the competitive playing field.
All of those are valid points. Right now, though, they don’t matter. What matters is that right now, despite all the talk about attention to detail, the physical practices, the penalty laps and the optimism surrounding a bright young head coach we have yet to see any real signs of improvement. This just looks, feels and sounds way too familiar.
Maybe there are better days ahead. Maybe Judge is the right head coach. Maybe Jones is the right quarterback. As we digest the first truly embarrassing performance by the Giants of the Judge era, with the specter of games on the road against the los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys up next, it’s not easy to see those better days coming.
“There’s no magic formula to this. There’s no magic wand,” Judge said. “You don’t go out there and solve every problem in a day. It’s a day-by-day process of putting things together.”
In his post-game remarks, Judge returned to the idea he had expressed last week that a team will win when it earns the right to win.
“Winning is a result of preparation and then execution. It’s that simple,” Judge said. “It’s not easy. But, it’s simple.”
The difficulty now becomes not letting this spiral completely out of control and becoming yet another wasted season. The goal remains to be better at the end that at the beginning, and to end the season 14 weeks from now feeling like the franchise is — finally — pointed in the right direction. Judge, though, has a team filled largely with players who have not experienced winning. Who have, truthfully, been part of a lot of back football. How does it change? Can it change this season? With this group of players?
“Our focus has to be on a daily basis what we do to prepare, put ourselves into position and when we get into these games, these three hours once a week, that we execute as good as we can. We execute as coaches to put ‘em in the right position and we raise our level of play as players,” Judge said.
“Confidence is gained from practice, execution and then it’s affirmed by game execution. We’ve just gotta make sure we come back to work on Wednesday and put it together.”
Everyone had to know this wasn’t going to be easy for the Giants. That there was potential for this kind of start, especially with the circumstances and the difficulty of the schedule. There is the possibility this will get worse before it gets better.
Putting these Humpty Dumpty Giants back together again was never going to be easy.