I think I should have known the New York Giants would go and do what they on Sunday. I should have known that the Giants would put together their best performance of the season and ruin the New Orleans Saints’ homecoming with an unexpected 27-21 overtime victory.
I think a lot of great things happened. A late-game comeback from 11 points down. A tremendous game from Daniel Jones. Big plays from Saquon Barkley. A breakout performance from Kadarius Toney. A big game from Kenny Golladay. A big play from John Ross. A pair of big late-game stops by the defense.
I think this was fun. It showed what the Giants can be with the pieces they have in place. It showed that they really aren’t terrible. Ultimately, though, I think they have to build on it by going to Dallas next Sunday and doing it again.
Head coach Joe Judge talks about “sticking to the process.” This was a nice step in that process of becoming a good team, but the Giants still have some early missteps to overcome.
I think that what was threatening, and still threatens, to be another wasted season at least just got a little bit more interesting.
Let’s go through more of the ‘things I think’ after Sunday.
Daniel Jones was fantastic
The Giants’ third-year quarterback made big throw after big throw on Sunday. Given time by an offensive line that deserves more credit than it will probably get, Jones completed 28 of 40 passes for a career high 402 yards and two touchdowns. It was really three touchdowns, but he won’t get credit for one on the 52-yard strike to John Ross as Ross fumbled the ball and recovered it for a score. That, though, was a beautifully thrown ball dropped right in the bucket to Ross.
Jones hit Barkley in stride, giving him a chance for his 54-yard catch-and-run score.
In my view, Jones has been outstanding so far this season. He played well enough to win in each of the past two games, but was let down by the players and coaches around him. This time, he got help.
If Jones continues to play as he has through the first four games of the season, I think questions about his future as the Giants’ quarterback should go away.
Saquon the receiver
When Saquon Barkley was a rookie, I can remember watching him line up at wide receiver with Janoris Jenkins in coverage. Then the Giants’ No. 1 cornerback, Jenkins had no chance to cover Barkley. I watched the running back beat him over and over.
I think that has always been in my mind, always leaving me to wonder why the Giants didn’t split Barkley out wide, isolate him on a cornerback, send him down the field and let him work more often.
Sunday, Jason Garrett did just that with 7:01 left in the game and the Giants trailing by 11 points. Barkley blew by three-time Pro Bowler Marshon Lattimore and refused to be denied a game-changing 54-yard touchdown.
A beautifully executed second-and-14 screen pass to Barkley from the Giants’ 48-yard line resulted in 18 yards and a drive-extending first down at the Saints’ 34-yard line.
Barkley ended up with seven catches for 54 yards. It was the first time in forever that I felt like Barkley was a real weapon in the receiving game. I think it’s something the Giants need to lean into more often.
Kadarius Toney breaks out
We waited ... and we waited ... and we waited some more.
Sunday, I think we finally saw what the Giants drafted Kadarius Toney for.
Kadarius Toney makes a few guys miss to convert 3rd and 18 pic.twitter.com/JScskD9xR6— Main Team (@MainTeamSports) October 3, 2021
They drafted him to make life easier for Daniel Jones. They drafted him to take short passes, break some ankles, leave defenders strewn in his wake and sometime just legitimately run away from guys. He did all of that Sunday. He even tried to throw a pass.
Toney ended up with six catches for 78 yards, 13.0 yrads per catch. He had receptions of 21 and 18 yards.
Give the offensive line credit
Yes, the Giants were starting their four-millionth left guard (OK, OK, their fourth) of the season. Yes, Nate Solder is old, a stop-gap, and not confidence-inspiring as a right tackle. Yes, nobody wanted to see Billy Price end up as the Giants’ starting center.
Give the Giants’ offensive line some love, though.
Jones was not sacked in 40 passing attempts. The Giants didn’t dink and dunk on Sunday, either. They took plenty of shots down the field, and plenty of mid-range shots in the 15-20 yard area, as well. Jones generally had plenty of time to deliver the ball.
The run blocking is still a work in progress which, I think, is to be expected with the many changes that have occurred.
The pass blocking, I think, has been better than many want to admit most of the season.
Jason Garrett deserves some props
Garrett is the coach every Giants’ fan loves to hate. Many didn’t want him back this season as offensive coordinator. Through three games, cries for him to be sacrificed at the altar of bloodthirsty fans have increased.
Sunday, I think Garrett’s play-calling was terrific.
Yes, there was the obligatory head-scratching play call. Yes, of course it involved Evan Engram. A reverse to Engram, a horizontal play, from the New Orleans’ 2 yard line lost 3 yards and ended up forcing the Giants to settle for a third-quarter field goal.
Still, Garrett deserves a lot of credit. Joe Judge said Garrett did a good job “feeling the flow of the game” vs. the Saints. I would agree.
There were deep shots at good times. Excellent use of Barkley as a receiver, and some running plays called at the right time. Good use of Toney. Good use of Golladay. A couple of plays for Kyle Rudolph.
I think if you’re complaining about Garrett’s work on Sunday, you’re complaining just to complain.
Too conservative ... again
Sometimes things work out even when you don’t make the right decisions.
The analytics said the Giants needed to go for the first down on fourth-and-8 from the New Orleans’ 47-yard line with 10:07 to play.
NYG decided to punt to NO from the NO 47 on 4th & 8 with 9:31 remaining in the 4th while losing 10 to 21.— Surrender Index (@surrender_index) October 3, 2021
With a Surrender Index of 15.36, this punt ranks at the 97th percentile of cowardly punts of the 2021 season, and the 94th percentile of all punts since 1999.
---> NYG (10) @ NO (21) <---— 4th down decision bot (@ben_bot_baldwin) October 3, 2021
NYG has 4th & 8 at the NO 47
Recommendation (STRONG): Go for it (+1.2 WP)
Actual play: R.Dixon punts 30 yards to NO 17, Center-C.Kreiter, fair catch by D.Harris. pic.twitter.com/IzIjugfzr5
Joe Judge punted, giving New Orleans the ball at their own 17-yard line with 9:31 to play.
Wrong choice, again, on fourth down.
The Giants’ defense, and late-game heroics by Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay and Graham Gano made him right.
Still, Judge continues to be so conservative on fourth downs that, mathematically, he is not giving the Giants the best chance to win games.
On fourth-and-1 at the New Orleans’ 16-yard line in the first half? At 0-3, in a scoreless game on the road, needing momentum, you can’t kick the field goal there.
On Giants' 4th-and-1 field goal attempt: they needed a 51% chance of converting to justify going for it. Average conversion rate in that situation is 64%.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) October 3, 2021
An error by Joe Judge, regardless of the field goal attempt's result.
To make it worse, Graham Gano missed for the first time in 38 tries.
I actually agreed with kicking the field on fourth-and-goal at the 5-yard line in third quarter, down 14-7. The analytics did not.
That's another 4th down error by Joe Judge on 4th-and-goal from the 5.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) October 3, 2021
WP go: 27.6%
WP kick: 25.4%
Needed a 30% chance of converting to justify going for it. League average conversion rate there is 42%.
Jabrill Peppers can’t cover
You have to love Jabrill Peppers’ enthusiasm.
What you can’t love is Peppers’ pass coverage.
A week ago, needing a big play on their final drive, the Atlanta Falcons found Kyle Pitts for a big 25-yard play with Peppers hopelessly behind in coverage. Sunday, Peppers gave up a touchdown to New Orleans tight end Juwan Johnson on a third-and-15. That’s just inexcusable.
Entering Sunday, Peppers had given up 13 completions on 15 targets (86.7 percent completions against). Opponents know they have an opportunity when Peppers is manned up, and that is going to continue to hurt the Giants.
The defense finally came up big
The Giants couldn’t tackle. They wanted no part of Taysom Hill, who had two touchdowns and embarrassed them on this run:
The Giants gave up 170 yards rushing. They had no pass rush to speak of, neither sacking nor hitting Jameis Winston a single time.
Somehow, though, the Giants got two late fourth-quarter stops that gave their offense a chance.
The Giants got a third-and-2 stop on a Hill run with 7:59 to play that forced a punt, and led to the Barkley 54-yard score. Then, they got another stop to give the ball back to the offense with 3:01 to play.