It is a bitter Friday morning for the New York Giants and their fans after a 30-29 loss to the Washington Football Team. It’s hardly original to say this, but the Giants snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on Thursday night. They did so perhaps in ways that only a team with the worst won-loss record in football over the past four seasons can.
Let’s get to the not-so-much fun ‘Kudos & Wet Willies’ review.
Kudos to ...
Daniel Jones — The quarterback did everything he possibly could have on Thursday to try and earn the Giants a victory. He was 22 of 32 for 249 yards and a touchdown. He ran for a team-high 95 yards. He withstood an onslaught from the Washington pass rush, especially early in the game.
Graham Gano — The veteran placekicker continued what has been a tremendous two-year run with the Giants. Gano went 5-for-5 in field goals, including kicks of 55, 52, and 47 yards.
Sterling Shepard — The veteran wide receiver has becomes Jones’ most reliable target. He had nine catches on. 10 targets for 94 yards. Back in the slot almost exclusively, a spot Shepard admitted in training camp suits his skill set, Shepard has 16 receptions in 19 targets (84.2 percent) over two games.
Wet Willies to ...
Dexter Lawrence — Joe Judge wouldn’t blame Lawrence for the Thursday night loss. That was to be expected. A head coach should never do that. To be fair, Lawrence wasn’t the only Giant to make a devastating mistake on Thursday night. Still, despite all of their other mistakes, the Giants emerge victorious in a game they had to win if Lawrence simply stays onside on what should have been the game’s final play. Instead, lined up right next to the ball, Lawrence inexplicably and unforgivably jumped into the neutral zone to give Dustin Hopkins a second chance at a game-winning kick.
Giants’ defense — This group is/was supposed to be the backbone of the 2021 Giants. After two games, it is becoming one of the team’s biggest problems. Yes, James Bradberry made a play that coulda/woulda/shoulda turned the game in the Giants’ favor. That, though, does not obscure the variety of issues.
The Giants gave up 407 yards on Thursday, the second game in a row in which the opponent has crossed the 400-yard barrier. After a first-drive sack by Azeez Ojulari, the Giants’ pass rush didn’t get near quarterback Taylor Heinicke, registering just two hits for the game. The Giants could not, for a second straight game, cover the middle of the field. Worse yet, the defense again could not get stops in important situations.
- The defense allowed a 12-play, 84-yard drive at the end of the first half that turned a 10-7 lead into a 14-10 halftime deficit.
- Staked to two fourth-quarter leads, the defense gave them both back. First, embarrassingly allowing Washington to go 75 yards in two plays to turn a 26-20 lead into a 27-26 deficit. Then, allowing the Football Team to march down the field in 12 plays over the final two minutes to get into position for the game-winning field goal.
Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, ballyhooed by some as the ‘Black Picasso’ after a terrific first season, seems to have lost not only a tremendous amount of weight, but also his touch. He has, at least, misplaced it.
For two games now, Graham has had no answers. No difference-making adjustments. No brilliant schemes that have fooled quarterbacks or generated pass rush when his front seven players individually haven’t been able to get that done.
Let’s be real. When the Giants score 29 points, even if it could have been 40, when Daniel Jones plays like that, the Giants have to win those games.
The defense is a big part of the reason they did not win on Thursday.
Darius Slayton — Evan Engram isn’t off the hook for his drop against the Philadelphia Eagles last year that cost the Giants a chance to close out a game. He now has company, though. Slayton’s drop Thursday was, frankly, far more egregious than Engram’s. At least Engram could say his drop was somewhat contested. Slayton was in the end zone, probably 15-20 yards clear of the nearest Washington defender, when he couldn’t haul in a pass that likely would have provided the Giants with enough points to win.
Kenny Golladay — Cameras caught Golladay ridiculously screaming at Jones near the end of the game. for what, I have no idea. Jones said only that Golladay, who was not made available to media, was “frustrated.” Golladay shouldn’t be screaming at anybody. On Thursday, he had three catches in eight targets. He had a drop. He missed a chance at a huge play in the third quarter when he couldn’t haul in a deep pass from Jones. That wasn’t a drop, and would have been a terrific catch because he was tightly defended. Still, that’s the kind of play the Giants are giving Golladay $40 million guaranteed to make.
Kwillies to ...
James Bradberry — The Pro Bowl cornerback made one terrific play, which Washington contributed to by appearing to get the timing messed up on an attempted throw to Terry McLaurin. Otherwise, as Chris Pflum messaged to me “he got his lunch ate.”
McLaurin had 11 catches in 14 targets, many of those with Bradberry helplessly trailing in coverage, for 107 yards and a touchdown. The Giants trusted Bradberry to handle Washington’s best receiver, and he didn’t get the job done.
The bigger concern is that’s back-to-back poor games by Bradberry to start the season.
About Joe Judge
I usually refrain from directly giving coaches ‘Kudos’ or ‘Wet Willies.’ It is absolutely fair, though, to be critical of Judge after Thursday night.
Judge is being — I think correctly — lambasted for not being more aggressive after the Bradberry interception gave the Giants the ball at Washington’s 20-yard line, down a point, with 2:16 to play.
“There was a point right there we want to make them use their timeouts in a two-minute drive situation right there,” Judge said. “Third down we had an opportunity for a completion to extend it over the middle right there, thought it was a good shot.”
Thing is, you play for the field goal you leave the opposition two minutes — an eternity — to go generate a game-winning field goal of its own. Which Washington, of course, did.
Look deeper, though. It wasn’t just that last possession. Three times in the fourth quarter, including that last drive, the Giants had chances to go for the throat. Judge turned them all down.
- With a fourth-and-3 at the Washington 34-yard line and 20-17 lead and 14:21 to play, Judge chose a 52-yard Gano field goal rather than going for it and trying to extend to a two-score lead.
- On the Giants’ next drive, leading 23-20, the Giants had fourth-and-4 at the Washington 37-yard line with 5:36 to play. Judge again chose the field goal rather than trusting his quarterback and trying to make it a two-score game. This piece from Pro Football Focus is instructive.
Perhaps being more aggressive in those instances would not have paid off. We’ll never know. When you don’t play to win, though, you don’t win.