One of the things I heard some of the veteran New York Giants players talk about during training camp is that a team that has experienced a high volume of losing, which the Giants have more than any team in the league the last four seasons, has to learn how not to lose before they can learn to win.
Well, here we are. The Giants fell to 0-2 on Thursday night, suffering a gut-wrenching 30-29 defeat at the hands of the Washington Football Team.
This is a game the Giants absolutely LOST.
Daniel Jones was brilliant, maybe as good as he has been in his two-plus seasons with the Giants. Graham Gano was a perfect 5 for 5 on field goals, including kicks of 52 and 55 yards. A pieced together offensive line gave Jones opportunities to make pays in the face of a defensive front with four first-round draft picks. Sterling Shepard caught nine balls. James Bradberry made a tremendous play right before the two-minute warning that could have been a game-winner.
Yet, the Giants lost. They lost a game they should have won. They lost a game that in no way should have ever come down to a last-second field goal.
They lost because they didn’t make the plays that a winning team would make.
- Darius Slayton, with no defender within 15 yards of him, dropped what should have been a 43-yard touchdown pass. The Giants settled for a Gano field goal. If you had a flashback to Evan Engram and his drop against the Philadelphia Eagles a year ago, this drop was worse because of how wide open Slayton was.
- Jones had a 58-yard touchdown run wiped out by a questionable holding call against wide receiver C.J. Board. Again, they settled for a field goal.
- Leading 7-0, the Giants missed a chance for an early two-score lead. From the Washington 27-yard line, a false start penalty on Andrew Thomas and a sack pushed them out of field goal range.
- Holding a 26-20 fourth-quarter lead, a defense that was a top 10 group in the league last season, let Washington go 75 yards in two plays for a 27-26 lead.
- Holding a 29-27 lead at the two-minute mark, that veteran defense and its highly-regarded defensive coordinator could not keep Washington out of field goal range.
- Finally, Dexter Lawrence jumped offside on what should have been the game’s final play, a 48-yard field goal attempt by Dustin Hopkins that he pushed wide right. That should have given the Giants a victory. Lawrence was lined up right next to the ball. Yet, inexplicably, and inexcusably, he jumped. Of course Hopkins, given a reprieve, made the Giants pay.
So, mistakes cost the Giants at least 11 points. Lawrence’s mistake was the final nail in the coffin, giving Washington a mulligan on a missed game-deciding kick.
The Giants, undeniably, earned this loss.
Kill or be killed
After James Bradberry made what looked like it could/should/would be a game-winning interception, giving the Giants the ball at the Washington 20-yard line with 2:16 to play, the Giants had a decision to make.
They trailed by a point. Should they run the ball a couple of times, force Washington to burn timeouts, throw a conservative third-down pass and more or less play for the field goal and trust their defense? Or, trust Jones and the receivers by going for the kill? A touchdown and two-point conversion could have put them ahead by seven points.
They chose the former, and that wound up burning them. Timeouts or no timeouts, they gave Washington both time and a deficit that didn’t force them to play for a touchdown.
Many will want to vilify Jason Garrett for that. Not me. How a team plays that situation is a head coach’s decision. If Judge wants to go big there and trust Jones, Garrett would dial up a couple of shot plays. If he wants to play for the field goal, you get the play calls we saw.
If you think, like I do, that not going big there — not taking at least one end zone shot — was a mistake, that’s on Judge. It’s not on Garrett.
I think this about Garrett
Thursday’s performance should by the offense should quiet some of his critics — at least until the next time the offense plays poorly.
You can always quibble about a couple of play calls, and Thursday there was a pitch out to Barkley that lost 6 yards and a jet sweep to Sterling Shepard that lost 9 yards. The Giants, though, figured out a way to protect Jones. They figured out a way to push the ball down the field. They figured a way to allow Jones to use his legs to make plays.
I think Daniel Jones was fantastic
Jones did not throw for 300 yards. He did not rush for 100. He was, though, outstanding on Thursday night.
Early in the game, he was under pressure as the Giants patchwork offensive line tried to find its way. He still managed to both make plays and protect the ball. As the offensive line settled in, so did Jones.
The third-year quarterback was decisive. He was accurate. He completed four passes of more than 20 yards. He threw the ball 32 times, ran it nine times and swallowed four sacks. He never turned the ball over.
Jones did more than enough to win. What happened around him, though, prevented that from happening.
I think the defense has sprung some leaks
I think maybe we can stop with the “Black Picasso” stuff in reference to Patrick Graham. Maybe we can also stop with the idea that the Giants can depend on their defense to win games by itself.
This is back-to-back concerning defensive efforts to open the season.
Thursday, after a sack by Azeez Ojulari on Washington’s first possession, the Giants barely pressured Heinicke at all. They ended up with just the one sack and a pair of quarterback hits while Heinicke threw the ball 46 times.
The Giants haven’t had a clue how to cover the middle of the field for two games now. Aside from his interception, Bradberry really couldn’t cover Washington’s Terry McLaurin (14 targets, 11 catches, 107 yards, 1 TD.) Worse, Graham never found an adjustment that really helped.
The Giants gave up a 12-play, 84-yard touchdown drive at the end of the first half that cost them the lead, sending them to the locker room trailing, 14-10.
After they took a 26-20 lead in the fourth quarter, it took Washington two plays to go 75 yards and re-take the lead.
On Washington’s final drive, the Football Team churned through 11 plays and gained 50 yards to set up the game-winning field goal. Washington converted a third-and-8, a fourth-and-1 and a third-and-5 on that drive.
I think I feel awful for Nick Gates
Gates has gone from former UDFA to team captain and maybe being the Giants’ best offensive lineman. Now, he is going to IR and likely won’t be back until next season after a lower leg fracture on Thursday night.
From Nick Gates’ agent on Instagram: “I snapped that shit in half” #Giants pic.twitter.com/jYMND2BjDM— Pat Leonard (@PLeonardNYDN) September 17, 2021
Let’s hope Gates comes back strong and has a long, solid career.
The Giants, in case you are keeping score at home, have now placed two of the five guys they figured would be offensive line starters (Gates, Shane Lemieux) on IR. They have benched a third (Matt Peart).